Hello! It’s time for another round of Midweek Sparkles…. But first, a few quick life updates. I’ve been a bit quiet on the blog recently – we’ve had a LOT going on life-wise recently. As I’ve alluded to before, there have been some changes at my company recently (we were acquired by another company). Today, I finally made a final decision job-wise and am excited to have some clarity. We also have a bunch of work being done in our den and basement from a slight flood that happened a few weeks ago. I’m so happy with our insurance company and that the work is getting done – but the process is a little disruptive.
Anyway, on that note, here are some Midweek Sparkles to get everyone through the week…
November 25! Miraculously, a date that absolutely no one in Stars Hollow has a conflict with. I can’t wait for the Gilmore Girls reboot “A Year in the Life”! And I will not be fast forwarding to the last four words…
I really wish I could be more into the minimalism… but it just doesn’t work well for me.
As a strawberry blonde, I pay close attention to this.
As I mentioned in my post on High Cliff State Park, I recently finished The Dirty Life: On Farming, Food, and Love by Kristin Kimball, a wonderful memoir that traces a self-professed “city girl” who falls in love and moves out to start a farm with her fiance. But not just any farm – a new concept in farming – a farm that can supply not only the farmers but their community members with a complete diet: fruit, vegetables, grains, dairy, meat and sweetener.
I don’t want to spoil too much of the story but I have to say that this was a truly touching account of life, love and learning. That sounds a bit cliche, but it’s true. I loved following the story because I loved to see Kimball’s journey as she fell further in love, not only with her fiance but with the land. As a reader, I learned not only interesting things about farming and food, but also, interesting reflections on community and society.
A confession; this book kind of made me want to leave our suburban house and go start a farm somewhere. Now, this is surprising to me because the book does NOT make farming look easy. It’s also surprising because – as anyone who knows me will attest – I am probably the LAST person who would be attracted by a farming lifestyle. I don’t like dirt or bugs or icky things. I’m not huge into manual labor and I like outdoors in a limited capacity with a side of air conditioning, sunscreen and bug spray. But truly this book was so inspiring that for a second, I seriously considered it… and even mentioned it to G who actually might like a farming lifestyle and he promptly told me that I was crazy and that I wouldn’t like farming. Yeah, he’s right.
Anyway, I would give this book a solid 5 sparkles and I encourage everyone to check it out, especially if you like memoirs and personal accounts.
Going to be a short and sweet one this week. We had a wonderful weekend at Devil’s Lake State Park this past weekend (I’ll share a full update/review shortly – as soon as I can upload the pictures) and are looking forward to spending this coming up weekend with G’s parents and sister and her fiance! In the interim, it’s been a roller coaster of a week with busy times and quiet times – I can say though that I hate things (especially important things) being up in the air. I’m ready for some closure. So anyway, onto this week’s Midweek Sparkles from around the ‘net:
As I previewed in last week’s Midweek Sparkles, G and I have been playing Pokemon Go! For those of you who don’t know what that is, I encourage you to check out the overview of the game here, or I’ll try to summarize in a few sentences. Basically, it’s an app for smart devices that put you in the role of a virtual trainer who’s goal is to collect Pokemon (animal-like creatures) that live in this virtual world.
Except the virtual world is actually an augmented version of our reality. You can’t find the Pokemon from sitting on your couch – they exist out and about in the world around you. For example, usually water-type Pokemon are by actual bodies of water. So in order to find Pokemon, you have to go out into the world and go places (especially if you want hard-to-find Pokemon).
As you start to collect Pokemon, you’ll notice that your stash of Pokeballs (the things that you catch the Pokemon in) will start to get low. This means you better visit some Pokestops to collect supplies. Pokestops are located at significant real-life locations (churches, stores, parks, gardens, etc.) and you have to be in a certain proximity to pick up the goodies they have!
After you collect the Pokemon, as a trainer, you work to build up the Pokemon’s skills, abilities and power, through collecting “candy” and “stardust” (see the link for more information), and then eventually through taking them to gyms to battle other people’s Pokemon. Again, the gyms are actual, physical places in our world – monuments, buildings, churches, landmarks, etc. And in order to battle at a gym, you have to be pretty close to it – no couch potato battles here!
The Good side of Pokemon Go!
Ok, well I’m a bit biased because I like the game, I also think that there are some very positive aspects of this game! First, it gets kids, teenagers and adults up off their couches and out into the real world. While I don’t think video games are bad – I think that it can be a bad thing for people to spend too much time sitting around. This game requires that players be active in order to be successful: visiting Pokestops, finding Pokemon, battling at gyms and incubating eggs (you have to walk for a certain distance to “incubate” Pokemon eggs and hatch new Pokemon).
I also think this game encourages social playing vs. solo playing. When you’re walking around searching for Pokemon, it’s much more fun to do in a group (and that’s normally how I see people doing it!). When you become a trainer, you pick one of three teams (Red, Blue, Yellow) to join. In order to hold onto gyms and be successful, you need to partner/join up with other members of your team! Being active and social are two great aspects of this game that are not always a part of video games.
The downsides of pokemon Go
Of course the game isn’t perfect. From bad connectivity to draining phone battery life – there are some logistical challenges. Also, it does encourage people to be ON their phones ALL the time – at restaurants, hospitals, etc. – in order to catch elusive Pokemon. And, I’ve seen numerous people run into things/people, trip or just generally be a bit unaware of their surroundings because they’re trying to catch a Pokemon on their phone. (Don’t Pokemon and drive!)
All of these things though, come down to responsible use (well except the battery life thing – yay for portable batter chargers!). You should play the game at appropriate times and in appropriate locations!
Tips and Tricks
So right now is a bit challenging because SO many people are still figuring out the game and SO many people are playing the game. G and I have talked about how after game play settle down in a few months, it’ll be easier to do things like capture/hold gyms. But in the meantime, if you want to play, here are a few tips/tricks:
Catch every Pokemon you can – even if you have 10 other Pidgeys: I made the mistake in the first day I played of not catching every Pokemon (thinking how many pidgeys or rattatas can one girl need). But that was a mistake. First, catching Pokemon give you things called “candies” which are specific to each type of Pokemon (e.g., “Pidgey candy” or “Spearow candy”). You need to collect these candies in order to “evolve” Pokemon into stronger versions (e.g., a pidgey evolves into a pidgeotto and then into a pidgeot). Also, every time you catch a Pokemon, you get “stardust” which is used to strengthen Pokemon!
Transfer extra Pokemon to the Professor: So if you’re collecting every Pokemon, do you really have to keep 25 rattatas in your inventory? No, of course not! It’s actually better to transfer extra Pokemon to the Professor (you can do that by scrolling all the way down on the Pokemon’s profile to the “transfer” button). Not only does this clean up your Pokemon inventory, but you also get experience points and candies for transferring Pokemon to him!
Pay attention to which Pokemon you keep: So if you have 25 pidgeys and are going to transfer 24 of them – which one do you keep? The first thing to pay attention to is the Pokemon’s CP (Combat Power). This is a summary of how powerful that Pokemon would be in a battle. Obviously, higher CPs are better. (You can raise a Pokemon’s CP by “Powering Up” with stardust and candies.) But you also want to pay attention to the characters attacks. Just because Pokemon are the same type does NOT mean that they have the same attacks. So while you can power up characters to improve their HP (hit points or health), their attacks don’t change. You may want to consider keeping a Pokemon with a slightly lower CP but higher attacks, you can power them up to get more CP!
Try “populated” areas to find more Pokemon: Not finding a lot of Pokemon where you are? Try going to a place where there are a lot of other people, and more importantly, a lot of other people playing the game! While this has not been confirmed by the game makers (to my knowledge), we have found a lot more Pokemon (and better Pokemon) in highly populated areas (like downtown Chicago) when compared to less populated (our neighborhood). Even among similarly populated areas though, try to go to areas where a lot of other people are playing – for example, we find a lot of Pokemon in a neighborhood around us that has a lot of kids and families, but we didn’t find many at all in a neighborhood that had a similar number of people but who were mostly older.
Add yourself to your team’s gyms: So it can be difficult to take over a gym and then hold it – but you can strengthen gyms that are already held by your team if you raise the “prestige” of the gym and then add a Pokemon. Just like trainers, gyms have “levels” based on the quality of the battles that have occurred there. Higher level gyms can hold more Pokemon (basically people who’ve won the gym leave one of their Pokemon there to defend the gym). If you see a gym that’s held by your team – consider battling it anyway. If you raise the gym level (say from Level 3 to Level 4), you also increase the number of Pokemon it can hold. You can then add one of your Pokemon – giving you points and experience, and making it harder for other teams to take the gym!
Anyway, I could go on and on – but I thought I’d share some of our tips and experiences. I hope everyone who is playing Pokemon Go is having a good time (and being safe!). Let me know if you have any questions on the game and I’ll try to answer to the best of my ability!
Another edition of Midweek Sparkles! As I mentioned in my weekend update, G’s sister and fiance are in town, so we’ve been excited to get to spend some time with them (well and more time with them coming up in the next week and a half!) and we’re looking forward to another weekend in Wisconsin this weekend! But between now and then, we all have to make it through a few more work days so I hope these Midweek Sparkles will help!
For this edition of Midweek Sparkles, I’m actually doing a theme. Because although it’s slightly embarrassing to admit it, G and I have recently become obsessed with Pokemon Go! I think it’s partly childhood nostalgia and partly because the game is just fun – but I appreciate that it’s something we can do together (collecting Pokemon, battling gyms, going on walks to incubate eggs or go to Pokestops). So this week, I collected a few of my favorite or most interesting Pokemon Go sparkles to share with you all!
A couple of people have mentioned to me that they’d like to hear more specifics about some of the places that we travel – more of a review – so that they can determine if it’s a place they might want to go. With that in mind, I’m going to start posting both recaps of trips (fun anecdotes, etc.) and also reviews of locations, restaurants, etc. as relevant.
I’ve already posted a recap of our holiday weekend at High Cliff State Park, but now want to share a bit more about the actual park and some of the places we went.
High Cliff State Park and Camping Facilities
First off, the actual state park and camping facilities. Overall, we’ve been really happy with our experience with Wisconsin State Parks. We’ve found them to be clean, well kept and have large/private camp sites. High Cliff State Park was no different.
We were at Site #69 – chosen mostly because of availability when we booked at the last minute. Our site was large and private – with LOTS of shade and trees. (I don’t have a picture – but I promise I’ll get better at this!) Although I wish our site had had electricity – many of them at the park do, but remember, last minute booking! – overall I was really pleased. The picnic table and grill area were well maintained, and we were only a few sites away from the onsite volunteer managers, who were always around checking on things and keeping everything clean/picked-up.
We did have a chance (while walking Buddy!) to check out many of the other sites and I think if we had our choice, we would probably pick one of the southern/eastern sites on the outer ring. Those seemed to have the most privacy and best views. (All of the sites seemed to be very well shaded!)
The park is relatively small compared to many Wisconsin state parks – we felt like we were able to experience most of it during the course of one weekend. But even given the size, there were some nice trails (our favorite was the Lime Kiln trail) and the beach did look beautiful (if not sandy)! There are definitely hills to contend with though – so something to keep in mind if you (or your puppies!) are not so athletic.
The bathroom facilities were very clean and well maintained. In the campground there were pit toilet/outhouse type facilities spread throughout the sites and then one modern restroom/shower facility. My only complaint about the modern facility was that there were only three shower stalls each for men/women – two of which were extremely small in each – so there were frequently lines to get into the showers. We solved this by using the showers during non-peak times, but something to keep in mind for scheduling!
I didn’t use the pit toilets/outhouse facilities so I can’t speak to them.
High Cliff State Park is near the small town of Sherwood but really the closest large town/city is Appleton, Wisconsin. We didn’t tow a car or rent a car, so we really didn’t do much in the are (it’s not easy to drive the RV around and then re-set up camp all the time!).
But, as I mentioned in the other recap, High Cliff Restaurant (associated with the High Cliff Country Club) was walkable from the campground as was The Chubby Seagull. High Cliff Restaurant is a nice mid-scale restaurant with pretty standard American options. My favorite thing here was definitely the cheese curds! G had the shrimp wrap and I had the fish sandwich, both of which were fine but not spectacular. But it was a nice option to have within walking distance. We didn’t go to the Chubby Seagull, but have heard good things about their ice cream! (And they do have limited non-dessert options.)
On Friday night, we did brave driving the RV into Appleton to get Stuc’s Pizza. (Side note: the roads in Appleton are AWFUL for driving the RV. Probably fine for a car, but we would not recommend driving through the city in an RV…) The pizza was really good! Very delicious sauce and lots of cheese! They also had good pasta marinara! (We wouldn’t recommend the spinach bread… although the 30 minute trip back to our campground before we ate it may have been a factor contributing to our dislike of it…)
From what I saw in Appleton though, if we’d had a car, we would have had a lot more options of places to eat and things to do! Also, the campground wasn’t that far from Oshkosh, WI, which has even more things to do and another Lake Winnebago beach!
Overall, I think High Cliff State Park would be a wonderful weekend trip, especially for a family. There were TONS of kids riding bikes around the campground, lots of family friendly activities and beautiful trails.
We had a wonderful weekend (helped by truly gorgeous weather!) and before I get bogged down in the work week, I wanted to share some quick updates. (Note, it was such a wonderful weekend that I completely forgot to take photos… I apologize and will work on this! 🙂 ).
First, on Friday night, G and I went to Mi Mexico for dinner – it’s one of my favorite local Mexican restaurants! (Their cheese enchiladas are awesome!) That always sets a fun tone for the weekend. We also “discovered” the addictive game the is Pokemon Go… And yes, I’d admitting in public that we’re playing it. More on that in a future post, but it definitely added to the fun of the weekend.
On Saturday, G’s sister and her fiance flew in from California and it was wonderful to see them both that afternoon. G and I caught up a bit with her and grabbed dinner in Chicago’s Little Italy neighborhood (where, oddly enough, we had delicious Thai food!). We don’t get to see them nearly enough so we’re looking forward to seeing them over the next couple of weeks while they’re in town! Although we had a long drive home from the city, it was some prime Pokemon catching…! 🙂
Then on Sunday, we went back into the city and spent the afternoon with G’s sister and parents! It was wonderful to have the whole group together (well minus sister’s fiance who was with his parents – but we’ll be spending some time with him later too!)! We all had lunch at Brown Bag Seafood Co. – one of the staples near G’s parents’ condo in the city. Semi-mixed reviews of the lunch, G and his sister had the Pestobellos (basically pesto portobello mushrooms) and G didn’t love them. His parents both had soups (clam chowder and minestrone) with lemon broiled whitefish salads which got rave reviews! I had a salad with the crispy fish – also delicious! So I think the net is that for that restaurant, it depends a bit on what you order and what kind of mood you’re in. (Note, I usually get the blackened daily catch and really like it, but Sunday’s was swordfish which I don’t prefer.)
Anyway, that was our weekend – it was really great to spend time with family and we’re looking forward to getting the whole gang together again several times over the coming weeks!
So a very belated Happy 4th of July to everyone! We had a wonderful weekend at High Cliff State Park on Lake Winnebago in Wisconsin. So wonderful in fact, that my intended blogging didn’t happen!
We left on Friday to head up to High Cliff State Park – we had Buddy with us, his second-ever RV trip! The drive went pretty smoothly – although not road-wise. We’re still trying to figure out the shock situation to try to decrease the bumps (and how to get the microwave to not make a super annoying high pitched squeak). We arrived at the park in the early afternoon and found our spot pretty quickly. It was a beautiful spot – lots of shade and trees, giving us a pretty good amount of privacy from the folks around us.
After getting settled in a bit, we hiked back to the entrance to register (something we’d missed on the way in). Now Buddy is a dog who loves his walks… but his walks tend to be less than a mile and on flat ground. The hike to/from the entrance was a bigger deal. It was about 3.5 miles round trip and involved going both down and then back up a HUGE, steep hill. He was a trooper on the first half – although the down hill helped 🙂 – but on the way back Buddy got a little bit more difficult…
So, when we got to the uphill portion on the way back… Buddy refused. He tried to turn around, turn right, turn left, basically any direction except uphill. Which meant that G had to carry him. (I also have to admit that I was a little jealous… I wouldn’t have minded a ride up the hill!)
That evening, we drove into Appleton to get Stuc’s Pizza. Now, we had to drive the RV in, but this trip really taught us that we need to get a tow dolly so we can start bringing a car with us (or at least make sure we rent a car where we go!). But back to the pizza. It was really good! We got extra sauce (as usual) which was fantastic, a super savory sauce – and lots of cheese. G also liked his spaghetti marinara. (We weren’t such huge fans of the spinach bread.)
The next day, we had a lazy morning and early afternoon with Buddy at the campsite. We did some reading outside (I finished The Dirty Life: On Farming, Food, and Love, a book I truly enjoyed, more on that later!) and in general relaxed. The weather was perfect and we had a great time just chatting and enjoying the fresh air.
Later in the afternoon, G and I took a hike on the cliffs (leaving Buddy back at the RV!) and enjoyed the beautiful paths and lake views.
We made it down to the beach area – and while we didn’t get in the water, I definitely think we’ll have to take a dip next time!
While we were down by the beach, we had an early dinner at High Cliff Restaurant. Although not fantastic, it was pretty good – really good cheese curds!
We walked off our cheese curds on the way home to our campsite (back up the giant hill!) and then we relaxed with Buddy in the evening. I really wanted a camp fire for ‘smores but we were REALLY full from dinner and, again, no car to drive to get the firewood. Priority for next time though!
I’ll provide an in depth review of the campground, but overall, it was a small, but lovely park and we had a really good time enjoying the great weather and wonderful company for the holiday weekend! We’ll definitely head back to High Cliff State Park sometime soon!
It feels like I just did one of these Midweek Sparkles posts… oh yeah, because I did! Due to my unplanned blogging break over the long weekend – it really hasn’t been that long since I pulled together a list of fun links to share. Sorry about that! I had every intention of posting some updates on our trip to Wisconsin and 4th of July festivities – but life got in the way! Stay tuned tomorrow for some pictures from our weekend and information about the campground we stayed at! In the meantime, it is Wednesday – so even though it’s not technically the middle of the workweek any more, here are some Midweek Sparkles!
I’m always looking for good reading inspiration and this list caught my attention (especially The Magician series!)
Being tall, I’ve never been super into high heels and these stories just confirm why that’s probably a good thing!
Can’t wait for the Olympics! And I particularly love all of the stories of the athletes leading up to and during the events… like these triplets.
Somewhat heartbroken by this news… (ok, not really, that’s being slightly dramatic but it’s still sad!)