Bark in the Park, 2022

Last week, my parents and I took Linley to his third-annual Bark in the Park—a dog-friendly baseball game at Detroit’s Comerica Park. We weren’t able to attend in 2020 or 2021 due to COVID, but it was great being able to take my little guy again this season! Plus it was my dad’s first time tagging along, which was also fun ☺️

Linley grabbed a seahorse toy, some treats and a bandanna at the vendor booths. The three of us grabbed some snacks, kicked back and relaxed as Linley took in all the sights and smells. We look forward to taking him again next year 🤗

Media taken Monday, September 12, 2022

Michigan Renaissance Festival

Last weekend, my dad and I were looking for something fun to do nearby. We were originally thinking a golf trip up north, but we were both exhausted from the previous week and wanted to spend more time doing something fun instead of driving far away. When I saw signs for the annual Renaissance Festival, I knew that’s where we belonged!

Although it was such a hot day and the humidity was making us unbearably sweat, we had the best time strolling around, grabbing a couple drinks, watching some incredible performances and of course—people watching. Oh man is the people watching great at the Ren Fest! We enjoyed a “wenches” show, where two women pulled men on stage to do embarrassing things, bought some attire (a corset and kilt to be exact!), mingled with vendors and even saw some jousting. My dad and I felt like little kids again, and it was awesome spending the day with him!

The following day, I wore my full attire and visited my friend Terry in the mermaid tank. Between visiting him and hanging out after his shift, I watched another wenches show, saw a little more jousting and witnessed some cute birds disobey a falconer—all while sipping on some peach lemonade. Even though I was having some health issues over the weekend, feeling like a kid again at the Ren Fest was the perfect distraction! ☺️

Media taken Saturday, September 10 and Sunday, September 11, 2022

Empire Bluff Trail and Beach

Knowing that Labor Day weekend was probably the last glimpse of summer we would see in the Midwest, I dedicated a day toward hiking and soaking of the sun with Linley. We traveled north to the Traverse City area and did our fourth-annual Empire Bluff Trail hike together.

Having had Linley for five years now, I’m constantly researching the best dog-friendly areas for us to explore. Empire Bluff Trail was a gem I found four years ago, and we’ve made it an annual tradition to do a hike and lounge at the beach afterward. This year, it was just the two of us and we slept on the the dunes AND on the beach this time!

Feeling the sun on our skin, the sand in our toes (and paws!) and soaking up the last bit of summer was the perfect way to spend Labor Day weekend. The hike and sun beating down on us tired both of us out, but we enjoyed the sunset and quality time curled up on the beach together. I can’t put into words how much I love this little fella—and all of these moments we share!

Media taken Sunday, September 4, 2022

Charmed by Charlotte, NC

I was expecting a nice, low-key weekend with two of my closest friends who just relocated from Asheville to Charlotte, North Carolina. I anticipated some fun at sporting events, some good eats and tons of laughs—but my weekend was much more than that. I had one of the best weekends of my life.

Last Friday, I flew to Charlotte from Detroit (my parents wanted to watch Lin!) and was exhausted. I was exhausted from the week I’d had—both physically and mentally. Although I was sleepy, I napped during my flight and couldn’t wait to be around Carolina and Matt again. They picked me up around 1pm then grabbed some lunch and margs at an amazing Mexican restaurant. Between lunch and our evening baseball game, I took an hour-long nap while Carolina and Matt ran some errands. As I got ready for the game, I decided to leave my phone at their place—to fully immerse myself in the moment and not feel anxious about incoming text messages.

The Charlotte Knights played two games downtown, and the three of us had the best time. We grabbed a couple drinks, some snacks, walked around and shared tons of laughs and stories. Carolina and I have been close since 2020 and I love spending time with her and Matt. The games flew by, and we even saw some fireworks at the end.

After the games and fireworks, we grabbed nightcaps at The Cotton Room downtown. It took forever for us to get our drinks, and while Carolina and I were waiting at the bar, Matt made a new friend. Nick, the one person who is as obsessed with their dog as I am, joined us for a drink and we all ended up making plans for the following day.

On Saturday, we hung out in NODA—the coolest neighborhood in my opinion. I felt like I was back in Asheville, Portland, Ann Arbor and Chicago all in one. Everyone had tattoos and dogs, and were super friendly! Nick brought his dog Jax along for the fun, and everyone was petting him as we grabbed coffee in the afternoon. We dropped him off and the four of us made our way to Optimist Hall, an old mill-turned-market where we enjoyed some tacos.

Going to the soccer game was so much fun, and I didn’t think my weekend could get any more exciting! Boy, the atmosphere with the crowd and the booing and the throwing things was so much fun. We all got right into it!

The game ended, but our night certainly did not. We grabbed dinner and drinks nearby, and made our way back to The Cotton Room. We cried laughing and shared stories just like the night before. It was so fun to spend time with two of my best friends—and make a new one who is so much like me. We all went back to Carolina’s and Matt’s place, where we stayed up until 3:30am (about five hours past my normal bedtime!). What a great night.

Sunday was also great, mainly because I had a later flight home. The four of us were extremely lazy in the morning, but eventually grabbed even more tacos (see the theme here?) for lunch. Before heading home, we went to a dog park/bar and were joined by Carolina’s brother, Matt’s parents and his sister. The eight of us – plus Koko and Matt’s parent’s dog – had the best time. Nick and I hugged goodbye, followed by Matt and Carolina hugging me at the airport. Once I made it through security, I teared up because I missed them already—and can’t wait to make my way back to this amazing city with even better friends.

Media taken Friday, August 5 – Sunday, August 7, 2022

Kayaking in Chicago

Crystal and I were finally able to get on the river and kayak downtown last weekend. When I say we had the best time and shared tons of laughs, I’m not kidding! We walked around downtown with our Vitamin Waters and Kettle One peach vodka mixes and headed to Urban Kayak. We were definitely the rule-breakers and tipsiest ones out there – and we may or may not have been reprimanded a couple times – but had the best time and really needed it.

After kayaking, we took ourselves to Caffe Oliva, a beach restaurant right on Lake Michigan with the best view of the city. We instantly felt like we were transported to Miami or something, and of course grabbed another peach vodka cran.

Crystal and I have both been struggling with relationships – and our dynamic with Chicago lately, due to said relationships – and really needed a girls day and quality time together. We’re going through heartache now, but we’ll both be okay in the end. ❤

Photos taken Sunday, July 31, 2022

South Haven with Mom and Linley

“First my mother, forever my friend.” – Unknown

…this may not have always been the case for my mom and me, but all in all we have overcome some difficult times together. And despite whatever we have endured together and apart, we have always had deep love for one another. Boy did I need her last weekend!

A few weeks ago, my mom called me and left a nearly two minute-long voicemail (if you were born in or before the 90s, you probably have a parent or parent-figure who does this as well, haha!) about this dog dog-friendly “resort” in South Haven, Michigan. We love spending time together with my dog Linley, and we had the best weekend at the Sun and Sand Resort.

Friday was our busiest day with the nicest weather. We met at the resort, where my mom’s huge pieces of luggage exploded all over the room, then headed to Pilgrim Haven Natural Area for some swimming and relaxing on the beach.

Pilgrim Haven was quite rocky compared to other dog beaches we’ve visited together, but the three of us enjoyed it nonetheless. We strolled the beach which led to a cute “pool” and scenic river, found some cool rocks and camped out in a sandy, shaded spot for Linley. He spent the majority of the time in the water, but surprisingly splooted (what dogs do when they lay on their belly with their arms and legs stretched out) in the warm sand for a while. As simple and easygoing as our time was, we had so much fun and I really needed it – almost as much as Linley needed the stick from Lake Michigan!

The rest of our evening was spent in downtown South Haven and at the lighthouse. We ate at a cute local restaurant – where my mom even brought some cooked chicken for Linley. After some great cheesy bread, caprese salad, good conversation and the waitress giving Linley some love and attention, we quickly drove to the lighthouse to watch the sunset. This is where things got interesting…!

Without further ado, my mom face planted on a hill full of sand! She wasn’t hurt and is totally okay, but it was hilarious and had both of us laughing so hard we almost peed! Linley laid in the sand as though we were burdening him by making him wait for us to gather ourselves, which made the “incident” even funnier! Once we wiped sand off of my mom’s face and ears, we laughed our way to the ice cream stand for a much-needed treat. I continued laughing about my mom’s fall the entire evening, and my mom did too! I’m just glad she was okay and a good sport about all of it. A couple summers ago, we were walking Linley near her house and I completely wiped out – making us even now.

After the sunset and some scoops, we went to the front desk of our resort for some fire starters. We were craving smores and some time in front of a warm campfire. Of course we’re amateurs and didn’t use the fire starters correctly, so my mom grabbed a lighter from home. After smore laughs (see what I did there?) we called it a night.

The next day, we headed north about 20 miles to Saugatuck Dunes State Park – a place where I’ve taken Linley once before. It has a beautiful hiking trail to one of the prettiest dog beaches in Michigan, full of sand dunes and warm water. Although the weather wasn’t as sunny or warm as the first day, we enjoyed some our time lounging, hiking and people watching on the beach. After a few hours of that, we made grilled cheese over the fire for a later lunch, then repeated our first day by revisiting Pilgrim Haven and the lighthouse before the rain came in.

Instead of my mom wiping out again, we walked the pier and met some really friendly people along the way. Once we were near the car, it started to rain and we headed back to our resort for the evening. Even though it would’ve been great to see another sunset, we were content with calling it a day and playing cards in the room. The funniest part is when my mom wanted us to look at all the rocks we found from Pilgrim Haven. She pulled out this huge stone and said, “And here’s yours!” I, dumbfounded, said, “That’s not mine, it’s yours…” She used the rock to hold our sheet down in the sand, and had been carrying it around in her beach bag for two days! What a goof…

Sunday, our last day together, we pretty lowkey. It was another overcast day, but still nice enough to have a lazy morning and do some hiking. We found a nice trail nearby, where Linley made a new friend and peed on everything his heart desired. It was bittersweet because as nice as our walk was, I knew our weekend together was coming to an end. We wrapped up our two-mile hike with Linley not wanting to ride in his bike basket, and jumping out of it in the parking lot!

In 2020, we had taken two trips up north: Empire and Petoskey. In 2021, we had a falling out due to tension between my brother and me – with whom I still don’t have a relationship. Being able to spend time with my mom again this summer really meant a lot to me, and I hope we continue to navigate our relationship and a better path forward!

Warm Weather, Warm Heart

Spending so much time outdoors last week made me exponentially happier 💛

Linley and I spent five days at the dog beach, including one morning at sunset. We also met some new neighbors on our block – both human and dog! – and enjoyed some lemonade stands along our afternoon walks. These kids are gets salespeople around here! Chasing Lin at the beach and watching him play with other dogs and kids was incredibly heartwarming—and exactly what I needed 🙂

Here are several photos and videos from our week:

Missing Montana

During Linley’s and my road trip to Washington state last month, we passed through Montana. I’ve heard from a few friends who have been there how beautiful Flathead Lake, Glacier National Park and Whitefish are, but never expected to feel like I was back in Norway—or even in a place like Alaska. Montana blew me away in natural beauty.

Linley being too salty to appreciate the view!
Lake McDonald, Glacier National Park

What blew me away even more was the kindness of its residents. I stayed at three Airbnb’s (two heading west, and one on the way home to Chicago) and everyone was incredibly gracious. And yes, I know that Airbnb hosts “need” to be kind, but these Montanans weren’t just hospitable—they were true, “salt of the earth” people who treated you like family from the start.

My favorite Airbnb was our first one in Billings. Our hosts, Jennifer and her dog Izzy, were two of the greatest hosts I’ve ever stayed with (and I’ve been using Airbnb in Europe since 2014!). I enjoyed my time with them more than anything. It was especially nice after a LONG multiple-day drive without many people to talk with, excluding Linley who wanted nothing to do with my bad singing 😂

The only downside of my trip is that I woke up with a nasty head cold the next day (not covid, thank goodness!). Jennifer was so kind and took Linley and Izzy on a walk down by the river because my head felt like a bowling ball. Again, reiterating how amazing and warmly I was treated there. ❤️

This week has been a struggle: learning a new role in a new industry AND at a new company, my marriage falling apart, my happiness in Chicago fleeting, a major fight with my mom and resurfaced PTSD, a general sense of not being able to find my footing… it’s been draining to say the least. But I’m grateful for my road trip memories and want to think about positive moments that have occurred recently. I hope to make and find more of these memories soon…

If you’re ever considering visiting Montana – or are simply passing through – please reach out and I can send you my Airbnb info and travel highlights from Billings, Glacier National Park, Flathead Lake and Helena.

Linley enjoying our Airbnb in Billings!

Photos taken Tuesday, April 19 and Wednesday, April 20, 2022

Welcomed by Washington

Linley’s and my final destination was Washington state—to spend quality time with our friend Bethany for a long weekend. We were graciously welcomed by her, the wilderness surrounding us, light breeze and warm sunshine every day of our visit.

Our weekend together was worth all the money for gas and Airbnbs, time on the road across numerous states and nasty head cold I caught along the way. Having Linley and Bethany finally meet in person was beyond touching—and of course I’d missed her immensely, too!

Until next time, Washington 🙂

Don’t forget to follow us on Instagram:

@westiepoo.linley and @adventureinspades

Media taken Wednesday, April 20 through Sunday, April 24, 2022

It’s always sunny in South Dakota

Hello from Billings, Montana! Linley and I are heading on a road trip to Seattle, and we’ve had some interesting stops along the way…

Me changing oil at a gas station in Minnesota, while Linley stares in judgment as I punch a hole in a styrofoam cup for my makeshift funnel…

En route to Washington state, I decided that Rapid City, South Dakota made the most sense as our first overnight stay. I’ve heard by several that South Dakota had an abundance of national beauty once you get past the horrible, incredibly boring jaunt of I-90 West, including the Badlands and Black Hills National Forest. I’ve seen a lot of sunsets in the most breathtaking places, but the sunset driving through the Badlands is one that cannot be ignored.

After a relaxing night at a local Airbnb and an official oil change in the morning, we headed west to visit the Black Hills National Forest—which engulfed us in its natural beauty and crisp mountain air. Linley and I are both avid hikers and thoroughly enjoyed our three-hour trek. Our adventures in South Dakota oddly reminded me of my times in Estonia: sometimes the places you have no/less expectations of can quickly become your favorites!

Don’t forget to follow us on Instagram: westiepoo.linley and adventureinspades

Media taken Sunday, April 17 and Monday, April 18

March Adventures

This month has been *a rollercoaster* to say the very least. But I’m incredibly proud that I lived by my core values in my actions and in my words: Empathy, Expression and Courage.

Now that I can breathe, let go of the past and dive head-first into my exciting future, I’m proudly taking a pause from work until May 2—planning some much needed and well deserved adventures for me and my wonderful travel buddy, Linley.

All things considered, I’ve had a really good month. I attended MerMagic Con with my best friends in Virginia and saw another best friend who lives in D.C. I also spent the weekend in New York City with my cousin/sister—which was long overdue and insurmountably fed my soul. Traveling this much again and spending time with my best friends is something so sweet to me, I can’t even put it into words.

The week I was liberated from my previous employer, I also landed a position at a company I deeply admire. What better way to celebrate than see one of my favorite indie rock groups in concert? Seeing Glass Animals was a total riot—Dave Bayley certainly delivered and didn’t disappoint! Live music is something I’ll never take for granted because I’ve missed it oh so much…

These moments and everything in between — including some nice meals, days at the dog beach and get togethers with friends — made March a wonderful month in the right direction for me.

It’s only up from here! 🙂

Don’t forget to follow my dog and me on Instagram!

@westiepoo.linley and @adventureinspades

Photos taken March, 2022

Life’s a (dog) beach!

My beloved dog-turned-best friend, Linley, and I are blessed to live so close to the most popular dog beach in Chicago.

Note: “Close” in Chicago terms means either ~an hour walk, or a ten minute walk plus two train stops followed by another twenty minute walk (Or an 11-minute drive…).

Regardless, it’s nice being so close to what we love: Lake Michigan, the sand and the sun!

I’m taking a little sabbatical from work—giving Linley and I more opportunity for fun in the sun. Over the past five days, we’ve gone to the dog beach twice. Watching Linley smile and make new friends, prance around the shore, get the zoomies in the sand and let the sun hit his face instantly warms my heart. I forget about all my problems when I’m around him 💛

On Monday, my friend Andrea met us at the beach—followed by a lovely stroll around Uptown, her soon-to-be new condo and an outdoor dinner. We ordered burgers (mine was vegan of course!) and I asked for a plate of grilled chicken for the little guy. Linley was such a good boy—per usual. I’m also lucky that he’s great on long walks and the CTA trains.

Photos and videos taken Wednesday, March 16 and Monday, March 21