Our $200 vacation [The Lost Period]

Josh and I celebrated our four-year anniversary at the end of May. Instead of exchanging gifts, we decided to get away and take a nice vacation. Since I was unemployed and he was working evenings at the sporting goods store, our “vacation fund” was practically nonexistent. Were my dreams of an island getaway to lofty for Northern Ohio?

Nope, because we’ve got Put-in-Bay!

Put-in-Bay is one of several islands in Lake Erie that are part of Ohio. Along with Kelley’s Island, Put-in-Bay is Ohio’s most popular recreational island. While Kelley’s Island has a reputation for being a great place to take kids, Put-in-Bay attracts a younger, energetic crowd. (Read: bars everywhere.)

Josh and I had wanted to go to Put-in-Bay since we first started dating. So why wait any longer? Oh yeah, we don’t have any money. I did my homework and found the best deals on attractions in Put-In-Bay, taking into account not only cost, but how much time we would spend at each attraction. Since we weren’t staying overnight, we had to make the most of the limited time we were spending there. If I did my math correctly, we would have a full day at Put-In-Bay and spend no more than $200 between both of us. Josh trusted my logic, so off we went!

IMG_1115

The easiest way to get to Put-In-Bay is to catch a ferry in Port Clinton. We bought our tickets ($7 each) and loaded our bikes onto the ferry ($2 each). Typically, tourists get around Put-In-Bay via rented golf cart, but bringing our own bicycles was much cheaper. I will warn anyone who tries to bike Put-In-Bay: even if you’re in shape (which I like to think I am), it’s HARD. Maybe it’s because my tires were a little flat, but that two-mile ride into town nearly killed me. If we go again, we’re taking golf carts, but bringing your bike will give you a heck of a workout.

Our first stop was Perry’s Cave. Part War of 1812 landmark, part tourist hub, Perry’s Cave has a lot of activities to offer in one place. Josh and I bought a combo ticket ($22 each) and got to experience the Perry’s Cave tour, Butterfly House, War of 18 Holes Mini Golf, and Fort Amaze’n.

perryscave

This is supposed to be Perry’s Cave. Blurry, but we weren’t allowed to use flash.

IMG_1103

Most of our photos that day were of the Butterfly House.

amazenlyderpy

Outside Fort Amaze’n. Oh Josh…

The tickets broke down to four activities for a little over $5 apiece. And we spend a good three hours there! We then biked into town to get lunch ($15 each. I had a crab cake and lobster bisque – any chance to eat seafood two ways in one meal, I’ll take it!) then biked our way to Heineman’s Winery to what I looked forward most – the winery tour!

This is actually the Crystal Cave tour under Heineman's Winery. I apologize for the lack of relevant photos.

This is actually the Crystal Cave tour under Heineman’s Winery. I apologize for the lack of relevant photos.

crystalcave2

Crystal Cave. Imagine standing inside one of those crystal-growing experiments we all did as kids!

Both the winery and Crystal Cave tour cost $7 for each of us. As we waited for our tour guide, I decided to buy a wine sample for $2. By “sample” I thought I would get a shot’s worth of wine…nope, they filled an entire five-ounce cup with their Pink Catawba! Definitely the cheapest full glass of wine I ever bought, and it was delicious! Not overly sweet, and refreshing. I made a mental note to buy a bottle on the way home. Oh, and they also gave us a free sample of Island Chablis during the tour, so let’s just say the bike ride to our next destination was difficult…

Where to next? Josh’s favorite place: the arcade! While I relaxed and drank tons of water outside, Josh got $5 worth of quarters and played DDR for old time’s sake (he was a self-confessed DDR maniac in high school). He eventually emerged with a stuffed animal he won from the claw machine. I swear, he wins something everywhere we go.

It was getting late in the afternoon, so we walked around and explored the rest of town.IMG_1107 harbor monument

As I said before, Put-In-Bay is known for having a lot of bars. If we were to go back, we would bring a group of friends for a weekend getaway. There were a ton of options on where to get dinner, but we eventually settled on one.

IMG_1113

I ordered the salmon (yes, seafood three times in one day!) and a peach rum runner.

IMG_1118

Our bill came to $40.

It was nearly time for us to head home, but first we stopped at Heineman’s Winery and bought a bottle of Island Chablis and Pink Catawba ($10 each). Carrying a bottle of wine each in our backpacks, along with eating a huge dinner and biking all day, made the 2-mile trip back to the ferry feel like 10. We bought our return tickets ($7 each), and checked our bikes ($2 each), then relaxed on the sunset ferry ride back to Port Clinton.

For those playing along at home, Josh and I spent a full day-cation in Put-In-Bay for $191.

IMG_1120

My parents have an album from when they were dating of their week-long vacation to Mexico. But with the way times have changed, that kind of trip is financially impossible for a twenty-something couple like Josh and I. We have no room to whine or fruitlessly wish, especially when we have great mini-vacation spots all around Ohio. And for less than $200, we can afford to do Put-In-Bay every summer.

What was your best frugal vacation?

Adopting Auglaize [The Lost Period]

In September, I started to browse PetFinder on a whim. I’ve always wanted a cat, but was never allowed to have one; my mom and sister are allergic (at one point, my mom tried to convince me that I was allergic too, but that’s another story). I tried to convince Josh we should adopt one after I lost my job – I was going to be home all day and needed someone to keep me company! It wouldn’t have made sense with my paltry unemployment check, and then what happens when I do get a job and the cat is suddenly alone all day?

This time was different, though. I’m not living with my parents anymore and finally found a full-time job, so why not add a cute little fuzzbaby to our family? PetFinder showed me a large group of cats at the Cleveland Animal Protective League who had numbers attached to their names. Like 25-Putnam, 21-Scioto, and 30-Defiance. These cats – 33 in total – had been taking from a hoarding situation two months prior. Since there were so many of them, they had been named after the counties of Ohio. A good portion of the group was gone, but twelve cats remained at the shelter. And the one who caught my eye was 13-Auglaize.

Auglaize

Pronounced “Aw-glaze.” Auglaize County is located in Northwestern Ohio and translates to either “frozen water” or “at the clay banks.”

After some nudging with Josh (who was completely on board!), I drove to the APL the next day and went in to the playroom where the “County Cats” stayed. I hoped that little Augalize was as sweet as she looked on PetFinder.

Low cat on the totem pole. (Her place was at the bottom of the incline.)

Low cat on the totem pole. (Auglaize is at the bottom of the incline.)

She had her cat friends…

Auglaize and her sleek friend Defiance.

Little Miss Auglaize and sleek Mr. Defiance.

But when I sat down, she came right up to me and purred.

IMG_1351

I tried to keep an open mind and consider some of the other cats. But the others I played with were either too feisty or too relaxed. (I’ll let you guess how Defiance acted.) Josh played with her as well and agreed she was the perfect cat for us. Besides…

How could I resist a cat with a WHITE FOOT?

How could I resist a cat with a WHITE FOOT?

So we signed the adoption papers, cancelled our weekend trip to Cedar Point, and scheduled to pick her up the following day. The only problem? …we had absolutely no cat supplies. After an emergency Petco run (and learning that Josh’s mom had an unused litter box the whole time), we “prepared the nursery” for our new cat:

IMG_1357

The golf clubs that normally occupy that corner got demoted to the closet. Sorry Josh…

After work the next day I drove to the APL and brought her home in a box. Seriously, it was a cardboard box with holes in it. I’m pretty sure she got claustrophobic judging by her sonic meowing the entire 20-minute drive. But soon enough, I opened the box, and she was home.

IMG_1442

It’s definitely adjustment being a pet owner. Five weeks later, she still likes to think night time is climb-on-sleeping-human time. I have to watch out when I leave the bathroom so I don’t step on the self-appointed Supreme Guardian Cat. And coffee, despite what she thinks, is not a treat!

Even though there are cat toys all over the apartment (I really should pick those up…), and neither of us can take a shower without being howled at, Josh and I love Auglaize with all our heart. I’m so glad I finally got to save a shelter cat and give little Auggie a home. :)

(You can see the rest of the Cleveland APL’s adult cats here. All “County Cats” start with a number. Six of them still need homes!)

When did you adopt your first pet? What was the adjustment period like?

The lost period ends.

Eight months ago today, I lost my dream job and entered a too-long period of unemployment. Seven months ago today, I said, “It may not seem like I have much to journal about….There’s no need to wait for something to start, whether it be a new job, season, or birthday.”

When will ever listen to myself?

Although I may have said otherwise, I believed that my life was at a standstill until I found a full-time job again. I became completely inactive. Nothing I did during those six long months of unemployment and rigorous job-searching would be interesting enough to post.

But what about finally running my first 5k? A surprisingly frugal day trip to Put-In-Bay? Buying a car on my own? Adopting my first pet? Blogging wasn’t even on my mind when these events happened. So now, I’ll be going back through this “Lost Period” and posting some of the things I’ve learned in my eight months of inactivity, including what I learned spending literally half a year searching for a new job.

Life has definitely changed for Josh and I – ultimately, for the better. We both started new jobs within five days of each other back in August. Even though we have a lot less free time than before, we managed to go out on a downtown date to Noodlecat and Horseshoe Casino (besides, I actually have an income now!). I’m still cooking, that’s for sure – and if things go the way I think they will, I might be hosting Thanksgiving for the first time this year. And preparing for that should make for an interesting post in itself!

When was the last time you were unemployed? How did you manage?

The Lost Period

When someone asks, “Where have you been?” there’s always a good story behind it.

A lot has changed since January, and yet only one thing in my life is actually different. I’m unemployed. Although it hasn’t been long since I left (four weeks ago today, actually), it feels impossibly long ago. Like the people I worked with for one year are like high school acquaintances. Like my desk was some residence I occupied, now empty and waiting for whoever will be next. And now my apartment, where I spent less than a third of my waking hours (I may or may not have calculated that a month after I started work…), forms the perimeter of my life.

Before I left, some of the people at the firm advised me to enjoy my time in between jobs, for it may be the last time in my career I have this much time on my hands (“Go to the park!” “Catch up on TV!” “Explore your town!”). Easier said than done when you’re constantly wondering if you’re doing enough to find work, calling the unemployment office multiple times a week to see if you’re even eligible for unemployment, and trying to block out the downstairs’ neighbors kids when trying to write your fifth cover letter of the week.

Still, it’s been nice to go to the rec to run at 10:00 a.m. on a weekday (I will run that 5K this year!). I’ve started DJing again at my college radio station. As for blogging…well, I definitely want to start posting again more regularly. I also bought a journal yesterday. I haven’t journaled regularly since junior year of college, and I’m sure my child self is not pleased. Part of the reason I journaled so much as a child is because I knew if I didn’t write my memories down, I would forget what my life was like at age seven, ten, thirteen. As an adult, it may not seem like I have much to journal about, but I already know that there are memories of my work achievements, dates with Josh, and nights out with friends that are being lost to time.

There’s no need to wait for something to start, whether it be a new job, season, or birthday. Life floats on no matter where you are. One day I’ll miss having enough time to watch an entire Sex and the City marathon. Or maybe ten years from now I’ll need a reminder that my early 20s might not have been the best time of my life. Whatever I end up learning from my memories, I’ll need something to draw on. And although I’m dying to get a new job (four interviews so far!), I’m not going to wait around for my life to start – it’s already begun.

What’s there to do in January?

I’m dusting the cobwebs from my blog here. It’s been a while (22 days, to be exact) since my last post. Whatever happened to three posts a week while writing a novel while working full-time? How come I’ve hit such a blogger’s block? What was so different then, than now?

Like many Clevelanders, I could blame the weather. This winter has been strange in the fact that we’ve had 50 degree days interspersed with 15 degrees and one inch of snow. Not ideal for that ski weekend to Brandywine Josh and I dreamed about all summer. Our cabin fever isn’t from being snowed in – it’s from being on the receiving end of Mother Nature’s mood swings.

Or I could blame the month of January. Sunday blues are a lot bluesier this time of year. After the holidays pass, what’s there to be merry about? The Super Bowl, maybe, but this is Cleveland. (I think I’m most excited for artichoke dip and puppies.) But until then, I’m sitting here watching Sex and the City marathons while Josh (finally) puts together his photo collage.

only took him ten months! (but hey, it took me eight...)

only took him ten months! (but hey, it took me eight…)

Maybe a slow season in life is a good thing. I can only imagine that our future together holds a lot of gymnastics classes, church fellowships, and weekend chores to keep us busy throughout the unpredictable Cleveland winters. This stage of our lives – early 20s, not many responsibilities, not much to do – is a blessing in disguise. Aside from our downstairs neighbors, it’s quiet here. We don’t have much going on in our lives. And I know this won’t last. The whole purpose of starting my blog was to learn to slow down and appreciate the moment I live in. In this moment, we have stillness. And that’s okay with me.

Maybe there is a such thing…

…as too much chocolate.

Okay, let me explain this absurdity. Josh’s family (bless their hearts) had no idea what to get me for Christmas, so I gave him a few ideas to pass along. “Well, I like Forever 21, H&M, Marshall’s…oh, and dark chocolate.”

I came home on Christmas evening to find gifts from his mom, dad, brother, aunt, grandpa, and grandma under the tree. As I unwrapped everything, my thoughts went from “Ooo, chocolate!!” to “Hey, more chocolate!” to “…did everyone get me chocolate?”

IMG_0911

They did. Pictured above is the final count:

  • Chocolate covered sunflower seeds
  • Two Malley-Ohs (chocolate dipped Oreos for you non-Ohioans)
  • A Crockpot recipe container that clearly does not belong in this photo…
  • One bottle of Chocolate Shop dark chocolate-infused wine
  • Two bags of milk chocolate coins
  • An Aero 2-in-1 bar
  • Two Malley’s dark chocolate pretzel crunch bars
  • One Malley’s crunch bar
  • One Malley’s Santa bar (aka a Malley’s crunch bar with a Christmas wrapper)
  • Two Godiva dark chocolate bars
  • One box of Godiva dark chocolate pearls
  • One box of Pocky
  • A snowman jar stuffed with hot chocolate packets
  • One bag of Malley’s dark chocolate coins
  • One bag of Lindor dark truffles
  • Two Malley’s dark chocolate-dipped pretzel rods
  • One GIANT Malley’s milk chocolate pretzel bar
  • And a diabetic partridge in a pear tree.

It’s not like I don’t appreciate it. I’m flattered that Josh’s family all thought of me and got me things they knew I would really enjoy. The only problem is, nearly two weeks later, I’m sitting here noshing on a Malley-Oh and still wondering “Now what?” It took Josh until last week to eat his chocolate bunny from last Easter. How can we possibly eat through all this? I’ve got a few ideas for the solid chocolate – melting it down and making chocolate kale chips, chocolate-covered strawberries for Valentine’s Day, and re-freezing some to make homemade chocolate chips.

Other than that, I can’t think of much else. Josh knows to not get me any chocolate for Valentine’s Day, and that bottle of chocolate wine is long gone (burp). I might be having Wonka nightmares in the near future.

Maybe next year I’ll just say I like kittens and hope for the best…

What would you do with this much chocolate?

Silver Bells…

Silver bells -

IMG_3785

It’s Christmastime in the city.

IMG_0795

Ring-a-ling, hear them sing -

IMG_3776

Soon it will be Christmas Day.

IMG_0802

Working in downtown Cleveland has given me a new appreciation for the song this year. To see Tower City and the heart of Cleveland all lit and decorated in the spirit of the holidays was something I’ve been waiting for ever since I moved back here in February. (So I guess it makes sense that I was planning my holiday party since then, too.) I was able to walk along the city streets and listen as Christmas music played from the shops and restaurants, as well as the Public Square saxophone player in his spring-loaded Santa hat. Our office got together to donate toys to United Way (pictured above). Some of the women in the office formed a cookie exchange, so we all now have 9 dozen assorted cookies, and my mom does not need to do any baking when I come to visit her :)

Yet strangely, it doesn’t feel much like Christmas this year. I really think Sandy Hook certainly played a major role in stifling the Christmas spirit across the nation (but maybe a certain Twitter movement is bringing it back…?). Yet even before that, Clevelanders were faced with an unusual quandary – it’s been mild, dry, and completely snowless the entire season so far. For a city where snow in October or two feet overnight is barely out of the ordinary, yet we gripe, shovel, and slog through it until April, a green Christmas is no Christmas at all here in Cleveland. Everyone I’ve talked to has been confused – even anxious – over the lack of snow that Northeast Ohio has been getting. Even when West Virginia was getting pummeled with snow during Hurricane Sandy, we got 80-mile-per-hour winds, and tidal waves on the highway. What kind of holiday season would it be without revving up our snowplow? Screaming at ODOT for knocking over your mailbox? (this happened to my neighbor twice, by the way.) Or even skating in Wade Oval as the snow falls gently on our puffy jackets? Or a Winterfest that feels like…well…winter?

Today, though, we got hit with all the wind and snow we were supposed to get these past two months. And everyone in Cleveland, at least for the time being, is glad to have it back. People are saying it finally feels like Christmas now that we’ve had our first real snowfall. It’s only a few inches in accumulation, but it’s enough to cause three accidents on the highway, me to listen to Cleveland’s Christmas station, 102.1 the entire hour ride home, and for the city, just for this one day, to believe that the holidays are truly upon us. Although Josh and I won’t be venturing out to look at Christmas lights (earth to ODOT!), we’ll instead be spending the evening tucked in and drinking hot cocoa while the snow falls outside. I think it’s a fair trade. I’m leaving town tomorrow to visit my family out of state, but tonight will be the one night I spend here where it truly feels like Christmastime in the city.

Are you getting a lot of snow where you live? Does it feel like the holiday season to you this year?