Heather's Hangout

Sharing the people, places & little moments that make a difference.

Galloping into the giving season November 1, 2017

Filed under: Life Lessons,Random Travels & Exploring — Heather @ 9:00 am
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Shecky_HH

Visiting Horses’ Haven is inspiring.

As the year begins to wind down (where did time go?), it’s an important time for nonprofits that work year round to make a difference in our lives. From fighting diseases to protecting nature and animals to helping people with food and shelter, thousands of charities rely heavily on the generosity and kindness of others.

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I hope you’re considering a year-end, tax-deductible donation to a charity, if you haven’t already donated. I’ve written much about various charities over the years, those that touch my heart and I personally donate to and volunteer for as I support their mission, programs and services. Since November and December are big months for charitable giving, I wanted to provide an overview of some of my favorite charities. To be frank, there are so many that I could probably write posts every week all year!

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I’ll kick off November with the lovable animal charity, Horses’ Haven. Horses Haven is a local organization that rescues horses, donkeys and other animals who are abused, neglected, unwanted, aged or whose owners can no longer afford to keep them.

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Horses have ranked, along with dogs, as my favorite animal since I can remember. I think “horse” was one of the first words I spoke as a child. After years of begging my parents, they finally let me take riding lessons when I was 9 years old. I still remember dancing around the house singing “I’m so excited” by the Pointer Sisters.

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For the next 13 years, I lived and breathed horses. My first trainer spotted my talent for handling horses and riding so invited me to work at the barn every Saturday for a few hours to earn riding time. I rode hunter/jumpers, having no fear of riding a horse jumping 3’-5’ fences or riding the high-energy, mischievous horses. I switched barns when I was 15 to ride with a trainer who pushed me a bit more. I never owned my own horse, however, always had requests to ride others’ horses for lessons and at horse shows.

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When I went to college, I couldn’t get home often enough to ride at my regular bar so found a farm that bred and trained Quarter Horses near the university. I offered to work around the barn in exchange for riding opportunities. The owner happily accepted so I spent the next four years learning much about training horses. I loved spring time when the new colts and fillies would run around the pastures. Nothing brought a smile to my face faster. When I was 21, near the end of my senior year, I got a job exercising racehorses for a local trainer. It was at this farm that I finally stopped ignoring the growing pain in my left knee. I went to a walk-in clinic near school and discovered my bone cancer.

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Shecky52010

Such a handsome boy.

It changed everything. As scared as I was with the cancer diagnosis, I was devastated at the idea of not riding again. Since my knee and femur were to be replaced with titanium, I could very much jeopardize my leg if I fell off a horse. Despite that fear, I decided to try riding for pleasure after I finished chemo. I didn’t have the previous carefree attitude, however, I was thrilled to be back in the saddle. I unfortunately had to soon replace my titanium rod again after a fall at work and my surgeon said I would have to decide – continue to ride and risk losing my leg in a fall from a horse or stop riding.

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It wasn’t much of a choice of course. I was blessed and grateful to still have my leg. But I took giving up horses very hard. I became a little bitter and angry toward cancer, and hated those feelings. I cut my favorite animals from my life – sold my tack, took down pictures, gave away books and movies. I thought it was easier. For so many years of my life, horses were my escape from school, peer pressure, work and life in general. I relaxed the moment I crossed into the barn. I could stand in a stall with a horse, run my fingers through his mane, rest my cheek against his shoulder and enjoy minutes of peaceful quiet. I lived for these moments. And cancer took it away.

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About 10 years ago I decided to get those feelings back. I found Horses Haven. I attended one of their farm tours and felt an odd pull like I had come home. Horses Haven began in 1995 and is completely volunteer run – no paid staff at all. That fact still amazes me when you consider how much time and energy goes into feeding, watering, cleaning stalls/pastures, taking care of many animals who often have health issues, and just ensuring these well-deserving animals feel love. Dedicated volunteers work in shifts throughout the day, every day, to keep the farm running and the animals taken care of.

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Horses have been my passion since childhood.

I often wanted to volunteer to help at the barn, however, the farm isn’t very close to my home and my schedule fairly full so I decided to sponsor a horse – basically my monthly financial support helped take care of him.  I sponsored Shecky, a gorgeous chestnut Thoroughbred, for many years. He was neglected when Horses Haven first rescued him years ago, then adopted by a great family. Unfortunately, they couldn’t keep him so he returned to Horses Haven. He had bad knees at that point so couldn’t be ridden. I thought we were a perfect pair with my rod that prevented me from riding. He enjoyed a relaxing life with his pasture mates until he died (of old age) two years ago. I loved visiting him, and all the other horses. They each have special stories, of overcoming the odds. Some from neglect and abuse, others from kind owners who could no longer support them.

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There are many ways to support Horses’ Haven – volunteer regularly, on their farm work days or special events, sponsor a horse as I did, donate to the general fund, provide items from the wish list. Some of the horses are available for adoption as companion animals or for riding.

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This volunteer organization makes a wonderful impact on the lives of the animals they support and provide shelter and love to. Donate today.

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Creating pretty pottery at local studio October 26, 2017

unfinishedpotteryvase

Starting the project.

I’ve been wanting to head back to the local pottery studio to make something artsy. It was meant to be when my friend mentioned she wanted to try her hand at pottery painting. So we picked an afternoon for our outing, choosing to meet at Creative Arts Studio in downtown Royal Oak (I took my niece here for an aunt/niece outing).

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The studio is a welcoming, sunshine-filled location that offers pottery painting, mosaics, glass fusing and more (I’ve only tried the pottery painting). Walk-ins are welcome and you can bring your own drinks and snacks. This studio charges a flat studio fee for adults and children, in addition to the price of the item you choose (ranging from under $5 to over $100).

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There are a lot of pottery pieces available, from vases to serving dishes to seasonal items to tea sets and more! I spent (too much) time wandering the rows of items, picking up one item only to spot another that interested me. Should I paint a coffee mug? Turtle for my great room floor? Horse-shaped bank? Bookends? Maybe a Michigan-shaped platter? I finally made myself focus, settling on a small vase since I’m a lover of flower bouquets placed around my house (hint to future boyfriend), although I mentally logged some other items I want to work on at a later time. The studio was fairly busy, plus a small birthday party group arrived shortly after us, so it was fun to look around at what others were working on. There were some really great ideas and talent in that building!

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My new vase!

The staff was very friendly and helpful. We were directed to shelves of glaze colors. The glaze is food safe on the finished product. I selected a few colors for my vase, then settled at a table with my friend to start the creative process.

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Three coats of each color is required for a deep color upon finish (it’s helpful that there are sample color tiles of the finished, three-coat color). I discovered the only challenge to working at a table with another is you ‘might’ lose track of how many coats you’ve painted while talking. Ha! So one of my colors got an extra coat because I couldn’t remember and decided I’d prefer a darker color rather than lighter.

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You write your name or initials on the bottom of your item and leave it at the studio to be fired. Pick it up in a week and you have a great item to keep or give as a gift!

 

Jolly good time at new Jolly Pumpkin location August 6, 2017

CampCaseyHorse

Always stop to greet a horse

This weekend, I had the pleasure of attending a private sneak peek of the new Jolly Pumpkin location in Royal Oak. The event benefited Camp Casey, a local horseback riding program for children and teens with cancer. Horses, craft beer, good food and a good cause. It was a winning night all around!

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I’m excited to have a Jolly Pumpkin location in Royal Oak. I love the other locations (Traverse City, Detroit and Ann Arbor. There’s a tap room in Dexter, but I’ve yet to visit.). The location remains at the site of Bastone Brewery and Vinotecca, on the corner of Fifth and Main in downtown Royal Oak. The interior has been renovated – still the same open concept but more rustic and natural, similar to the other Jolly Pumpkin locations (particularly Traverse City, which is my favorite); the bar is now in the center of the area; and it’s a larger space since they took over Vinotecca’s space.

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Camp Casey had the brilliant idea to bring their well-branded truck and horse trailer, along with one of their Hero Herd horses, to the event. Parked in front of Jolly Pumpkin, a steady stream of people stopped to pet the pretty Queen B and learn about the organization. And, of course, I had to stop to greet my four-legged friend and the volunteers (I am a past board member of Camp Casey, and an equine therapist for the organization). My girlfriend sloooowly pulled me away from the horse so we could check out the restaurant.

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My friend and I snagged an open table shortly after arriving, a good spot near the front to check out the restaurant and of course people-watch. Our donation got us a beer and plenty of delicious food. There was a nice buffet available highlighting some of the menu choices. I loved the various flatbread pizzas, and while I’m not usually a mac-and-cheese fan, I really liked theirs! The steak bites and pasta were also good. I’m looking forward to trying more of their food menu.

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This Jolly Pumpkin serves craft beer from Jolly Pumpkin (do I need to write “of course?”),

JollyPumpkinmenu

Many craft beers to choose.

North Peak and Bastone’s. I heard that they will serve rotating beers from other breweries. They also have ciders, wines (I saw several Michigan wineries listed) and cocktails (many sounded delicious!). A nice variety of choices!

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Bastone Brewery moved into the Monk Beer Abbey space along Fifth Street. You can still access it from Jolly Pumpkin. I liked the interior update and the menu also looked good (they are focusing on Belgian food and brews).

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The location opens Monday, Aug. 7 to the public. With Jolly Pumpkin’s good reputation and the location, this will be a popular spot.

 

The best date June 25, 2017

Filed under: Random Travels & Exploring — Heather @ 8:03 pm
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BT_plane62017

This pilot can’t quite see over the controls!

I admit it’s been a long time since I’ve gone on a date that truly excites me. It’s been some time since I’ve sat across from a guy who likes me as much as I like him, or vice versa. Dating isn’t easy, especially when you have a good idea of what you want, and, maybe more importantly don’t want, in a relationship.

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So it was a fun, refreshing outing today with…..my handsome, funny, goofy, smart, talkative nephew. 🙂 (sorry, family, for the tease.) I try to take my nieces and nephew on outings throughout the year, and also try to spend time on individual activities. It was my 8-year-old nephew’s turn so I picked him up for a special date. I love exploring the outdoors and being active with the kids. You may have read my other blog posts about our previous adventures in the woods, geocaching and more. I decided today we would explore the outdoors in the city…..we headed to downtown Detroit to wander through the Michigan DNR Outdoor Adventure Center.

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I visited the Outdoor Adventure Center a few years ago when it first opened (read the

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Learning how to keep forests safe.

blog), and it was BT’s first visit, so I looked forward to it. Plus, it was a gorgeous summer day, which added to my plan to walk Detroit’s riverfront after the center.

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The Outdoor Adventure Center basically brings all of Michigan’s awesome outdoor fun indoors to the city for residents and visitors to learn about and explore. There are hands-on activities, exhibits and simulators. There are also tons of interesting facts throughout the center to learn about Michigan’s outdoors, as well as protecting the environment in general. It’s fun for all ages!

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We checked out some live fish, relaxed in a yurt, “reeled in” a walleye and pike from a fishing boat (great simulator!), walked through a mine shaft, and wandered behind an indoor waterfall (Michigan has more than 150 waterfalls!). We laid down in a small tent to discuss the pros and cons of sleeping in a tent and what happens if it rains, then I watched BT climb a tree and slide down. We discussed the awesome ability of beavers to build such cool dams, and I delighted at his laugh upon seeing a hibernating bear inside of a den.

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Eek! Black bear behind us!

He loved the second floor of the center, where there are numerous hands-on activities and simulators. We discussed recycling and energy conversation inside a small mock kitchen and bathroom. Then we tested each other on the sounds of various frogs and birds. He refused to hold my hand across a suspension bridge (um, I wanted it for MY comfort) but did sweetly come back when I was mid-way to “help me.” He piloted a very small plane used by the DNR to monitor hunting and trapping, and I discovered I might stick with commercial airlines for a while!

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We kicked butt as a team in a hunting game, and I almost bounced out of a dune buggy that he drove (seriously, wear a seat belt!)! His huge smile while driving a snow mobile warmed my heart, and he actually congratulated me when I barely won a mountain bike race (he can be a little competitive). On the third floor, we talked about bald eagles, climbing trees and protecting nature.

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Back on the first floor, we sat around the campfire again while we discussed our next

HH_BTDetroit62017

Love our time together!

plan. With a decision made, we grabbed some sunscreen, snacks and water from my car and headed to the river. I love walking Detroit’s riverfront! Much work and improvements have been done over the past few years. Many people were using the ride share bikes, as well as sitting on benches and standing along the railing. We wandered a bit, then found a shady spot along the river to eat our snacks, watch the many boats coast by and talk. We discussed summer vacation plans, third grade, his book recommendations for me, when I might get married, Canada, birds, the Coast Guard’s duties, sailboats, Corvettes, his dog, my favorite candy, why I don’t like sour Skittles and much, much more. I truly have an adorable, charming, silly, sweet, intelligent, fun nephew (I’m not being partial, it’s the truth!).

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I knew the day was a success when, as we walked along the river front, BT took my hand and shared how much fun he had with me. And then added with his charming smirk, “My sisters are going to be pretty jealous.” Ah, yes, a successful day.

 

A few miles at a time reaches a goal April 9, 2017

bikeshoesGarminbottleSometimes our good intentions go….a little unplanned. For instance, I had plans to get up with the sun today, after a rainy, dreary week, to be on the bike trails so I could ride some good miles. However, those good intentions didn’t go as planned because I wrenched my back yesterday and could hardly move by the time I went to bed.

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So I woke up, iced my still hurting back, drank a cup of coffee and watched the beautiful sun rise in the clear, blue sky. And took some Motrin, rub a cream on my lower back and put on my biking clothes. I thought I could ‘just try it.’ If my back hurt too much on the bike, I promised myself I would stop. And instead of the planned 20-30 miles, I set a goal of five. Instead of the bike trail, I stayed closer to home in case it got too uncomfortable.

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You know what? My back felt great! I cruised through a new neighborhood I recently discovered, enjoying the early morning hour that kept the streets fairly quiet. My body felt so good that my Garmin registered 10 miles before I knew it. I decided not to push my luck and headed home. Off the bike, I was pretty sore so I showered, iced my back again, stretched, ran errands, ate lunch….and decided to head back out on the bike because my back was feeling a little better and had felt fine on the bike.

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So I rode another 10 miles. This time was a bit more difficult as the wind had kicked up Rubybikeso it took more energy and effort to get the miles done. But I did it. I got home, stretched my legs and back, iced my back. I relaxed, read some of my current book, talked with friends….and got back on my bike. This time I did stick with five miles! And admittedly, the five miles might have pushed my back a little too much. I’m pretty tight and sore tonight.

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But I’m proud that I was still able to hit my mileage goal. It was a good lesson of breaking down a larger goal into smaller, manageable goals. It was also a good reminder that we need to listen to our body as to what we’re able to do, be happy with what we can accomplish, and not beat ourselves up if we don’t quite hit the original goal.

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I hope you all had a wonderful weekend and accomplished whatever goal you set!

 

Riding into spring April 2, 2017

HHBike32017It was a long, physically tiring week. I pushed my leg (with a titanium rod) too much and the days of rain didn’t help. I felt exhausted enough that I assured my body a weekend of rest if I could get through it. And I had very good intentions to honor that assurance. Except then I didn’t. Because it was SO beautiful this weekend! Sunshine, warm temps, no rain, soft breezes. How can a nature lover be expected to stay indoors and not be active?? I needed some fresh air to clear my mind anyway.

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And Ruby needed some loving. Um, yes, Ruby my bike. It’s been a few weeks since we shared a ride so today seemed like a wonderful day to get fresh air, test Ruby’s gears, and stretch my legs. The great news is that despite my leg aching all week (I mostly blame this on the ongoing rain and chilly temps, not the heavy lifting), it felt fine while riding. No pain, no ache. And I didn’t completely beat myself up….I stuck with a shorter ride of 10 miles. I didn’t even wear my cycling shoes so there wouldn’t be any pressure on my leg when I unclipped from the pedal (although my brain must be wired to clip now when I ride Ruby because I caught myself doing the motions every time I came to a stop! I’m sure I looked funny to passing cars).

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I recently discovered a nearby neighborhood and school are great for biking. The school is empty on the weekend and has a large parking lot and straightaway so I like to do some loops as I practice higher speeds, turning quickly and clipping/unclippping (not today). The neighborhood is usually fairly low on traffic, which makes it safer for biking. It was wonderful to see so many people outside enjoying Michigan’s spring weather. Neighbors were doing yard work, children were playing basketball and riding bikes, dogs were lounging on the lawn. I love this time of year when people start venturing outdoors and become a community again.

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It’s supposed to rain again this week so I’ll be sure to give my body some rest time. As long as Mother Nature doesn’t change her mind……

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What fun activity did you enjoy this weekend?

 

Kicking off my best year ever January 2, 2017

hh_2017Happy New Year! I hope you all had a wonderful start to this new year. I celebrated with some great friends and also reconnected with old friends.

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I’m excited and ready for 2017! As I wrote in my previous blog post, I’m keeping my goals simple yet personal. I already feel like I’m on the right path, especially in finding happiness and health. It was a beautiful sunny, not quite balmy but not quite bitter cold day yesterday, on January 1, the first day of the new year (my best year ever keep in mind!). So what did I do? Went on a bike ride of course! It seemed like the perfect start to this year that will be filled with fun and sunshine.

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It was a pretty easy decision to go on a ride. My road bike has been sitting sadly in the corner while it snowed, rained or was just blah winter weather outside. The snow melted enough that the roads were clear. The sun shone. The air was a crispy 37 degrees. But the outdoors and my bike beckoned. So I simply bundled up, pumped up my tires, charged the Garmin and headed out. Glorious decision. I caught myself smiling ear to ear by the end of the drive. Me, biking outside in Michigan on Jan. 1. So grateful. My plan had been a quick ride, maybe five miles, just to enjoy the fresh air and the feel of my muscles riding. Five miles turned to seven, then 10, then a little more.

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And the first day of my best year ever ended with my Detroit Lions making the playoffs. Okay, I know we didn’t win last night’s game, but let’s be thankful for what we have. And the Super Bowl hasn’t been decided yet!

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I welcomed 2017 with open arms and an open heart. I have big plans for this year. So far, it’s been a great start. How did you start the new year?

 

 
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