Weekend Coffee Share — Cute Pets, Açai Bowl, Picnic in the Park

I’ve been splurging on Dunkin Donuts iced coffee (not pictured) this weekend, but the mug above, even though it doesn’t belong to me, represents two doggy friends that I was watching over the weekend.

My weekend was a really full one. I don’t think I could have squeezed much more in if I tried. I’m joining Natalie the Traveler and friends with her Weekend Coffee Share and jumping on a couple more applicable linky wagons. (Is “linky wagon” even a phrase? If it’s not, I think I just coined it.) I’m pinging Restless Jo and her Monday Walks, because my weekend involved a beautiful walk with friends in nature and Lisa Coleman of Birds Weekly because I got some photos of a swan and peacock in the park.

I watch French bulldogs, Theo and Remy, in their home from time to time. They are lovable doggies. Theo, though he looks so peaceful in this photo (and often is), is a little more exuberant and goofy.

Theo having a snooze <3

His Frenchie housemate, Remy, is just a little lady. I was noticing just by the way she prances through the grass in the backyard that she carries herself like a lady. Where Theo will tackle me with doggy kisses, Remy will just quietly look at me as I sit on the couch to tell me, “Pardon me, I would like uppies please. Give me a boost?”

Remy <3

They are good doggies. One of their owners told me once that she loves this breed, because Frenchies are lazy and snuggly. That certainly describes these two lovies.

I’ve also been dropping in to take care of a cat named Shultz, (a female in spite of the name.) She is a Scottish fold cat, and that breed is new to me. You can notice that her ears fold forward. Her owner told me that there is a Scottish straight breed and a Scottish fold breed that are closely related. They don’t know until kittens are born if they will have the fold or not. According to petfinder.com, it was discovered that “Any cat possessing one copy of the fold gene produced about fifty percent of Fold kittens.”

Shultz, the Scottish fold cat

Saturday, I went out and explored a relatively new smoothie place, Market 509 in Cedar Grove, New Jersey. One of the employees told me that they have been there since November 2020, but I only became aware of it a few weeks ago.

The unique shop is hard to define. They serve smoothies, ice cream, juice and bubble tea, but they also sell refrigerated vegetarian foods, Japanese snack foods, teas, tea sets and mugs and Japanese kawaii merchandise.

Japanese snack foods at Market 509

Some cutesy “kawaii” merchandise …

I tried an açai bowl for the first time. Well, previously, I tried a Dole brand version from the frozen food aisle, but it wasn’t quite the same experience. Açai berries are one of those trendy superfoods that have a lot of health benefits. They have a lot of antioxidants, fatty acids similar to olive oil, anthocyanins that can help lower cholesterol, Vitamin C and phytochemicals that can fight the growth of cancer cells.

I have never seen fresh açai berries sold in the U.S. My smoothie bowl was a mixture of berries and banana with açai powder added to it. There were two choices of açai bowls, Berry Blast and Pacific Twist. With it, you could choose four toppings and a drizzle. I ordered the Berry Blast with a mixture of banana, blueberry, blackberry, strawberry, apple juice and açai powder. For my toppings, I chose strawberries, bananas, coconut flakes and mochi. Mochi, for those who might not be familiar, is a sweet Japanese snack made from glutinous rice. I thought mine had the look and texture of marshmallow. I chose Nutella as my drizzle.

This was the work of art that was delivered to me.

My Berry Blast açai bowl at Market 509

And it came on a cute little tray …


This was my Saturday lunch. It was refreshing in the hot weather, full of nutrition and, very likely, had enough calories in it to make it a meal.

On Sunday, I fit in a lot and did a lot of driving all over creation (or, at least, parts of New Jersey.) I took care of doggy breakfast, pills and potty time back at the house where I was staying, drove about 20 minutes to take care of Miss Shultz and get her breakfast and then drove almost an hour (normally a half hour drive) to Sunday morning church. I thought I would be late, but I was actually early. 😛

My friend Adrienne planned a picnic lunch with friends at the James A McFaul Environmental Center in Wyckoff, New Jersey. Although this park is in the vicinity of church, first, I had to drive back to the doggies, give them some lunch, another potty break and bye bye kisses and then pack up my things, as the owners were due home that afternoon.

I was on a bit of a tight schedule, so I had half of my picnic lunch at the house. I thought I would be too late to picnic and might just join friends for the walk afterwards. It wasn’t too convenient to do “home-made” while house sitting, so I picked up some things at the Kings Supermarket: a tomato, mozzarella and basil sandwich on ficelle bread (I would have called it a baguette,) some Stacy’s pita chips and a Mash soda made with natural pomegranate and blueberry juices.

tomato, mozzarella, basil sandwich

It turns out friends were still picnicking when I arrived. There were six of us girls altogether: Adrienne, Sabrina, Iris, Jin, Cindy and me. I ate half my sandwich there, some cantaloupe that my friend Iris brought and a frozen snack from Adrienne, a blob of vanilla ice cream encased in strawberry mochi. It was a bit of a challenge to eat as the ice cream was melted, but I managed.

The James A. McFaul Environmental Center is a lovely park that has 81 acres of land with walking trails, a pond and observation deck overlooking it, various gardens, a picnic area, a few animal enclosures and a building with educational nature exhibits. The building was closed, but we were able to enjoy the trails, observation deck, picnic area and more.

I saw this lovely peacock in an enclosure.

It’s too bad he did not fan his tail for me.

Before we even hit the trail, we saw this beautiful swan in the pond right outside the picnic pavilion.

I liked the looks of this foot bridge.

I ended up getting a few shots of my friend Cindy on the trail, because we were leading the pack.

I enjoyed these log borders on the walking path. For a bit, Cindy and I tried balancing on the logs just like we would have done as kids.

I noticed several trees with tangled jumbles of roots.

Cindy identified these interesting plants in the foreground as skunk cabbages. The area is sometimes swampy.

After we walked the loop, we took this boardwalk up to the observation deck overlooking the pond.

Lovely friends

We got some more views of our swan friend.

Sorry, Lisa. I missed the photo op to capture the swan along with ducks and geese in one photo. I guess the point of the challenge was to capture birds of different species together. Just as I was ready to do that, my phone announced that my storage was full.

Human friends are important too. We had a rest from the heat at the top of the observation deck.

So my phone storage was up to capacity at the end of our time there, and I missed the opportunity to photograph an adorable fawn on our way back. Thankfully, my buddy Sabrina did not have the same problem.

A Walk Among the Flowers

Lenape Trail and Presby Memorial Iris Gardens

Photo taken at Presby Memorial Iris Gardens

Today, I took a walk at the Presby Memorial Iris Gardens. First, I made a silly little mistake which turned out to be what Bob Ross would deem a “happy little accident.” The garden is situated between two parallel streets in Montclair, New Jersey, Upper Mountain Avenue and Highland Avenue. I wanted to park my car on the top side of the garden, on Highland Avenue, and walk down. Instead, I made a turn too soon, onto Edgecliff Road which turns into Old Quarry Road. I drove down to where there was a little gravel parking lot on the side of the road and thought that might be related to the gardens.

Right by the parking lot was a sign for the Lenape Trail, a 34 mile hiking trail that connects many parks and winds all around Essex County in New Jersey. I like walking in the woods, and I have walked other sections of the Lenape Trail, so I thought I would take the trail for a bit, assuming it would intersect with the streets where the garden is situated. I was wrong.

I talked to a couple of other hikers on the trail who informed me otherwise. I still explored a little bit further, and though the hikers suggested a way I could go to reach my destination eventually, I decided to walk back to my car and drive to where I had intended to park initially. It turns out I had entered Mills Reservation which I just blogged about, but in a different entrance from where I had ever approached it before. It gives me ideas for future walks and exploring a different area.

This is still the beginning of the season, so the gardens were not as full of blooms as they will be a little later. According the garden website, they have 10,000 irises of 1,500 varieties that will produce 100,000 blooms over the course of the season.

The garden is so vast that the blooms seemed sparse, but I still found plenty of pretty flowers to photograph.

Below is one of them. Introducing … Empress Ann.

And Lady Emma …

The names of these irises are so interesting. As a lover of words, I’ve always felt so. So, I took note of them. I think that should be my new vocation — naming flower varieties.

Now, this little frilly guy has a really funny name.

This one is Footnote. I really love its shimmery purple bottom and its white ruffly top.

These next ones are my favorites from this time … Santa’s helper. I’m not sure why they are Santa’s helpers. They are not red or green.

And this next delicate beauty must belong in the North Pole with Santa’s helpers. It’s called Baby Snowflake.

I’m not sure how these irises would feel about decorating a church altar. The name of this variety is Pagan Butterfly. They do look delicate and exotic, so, perhaps, that is the thought behind the name.

Starwoman iris — I love this intense purple and ruffly flounces.

Autumn Elf irises. These must belong in a fairy garden.

And my second favorite from this trip … Fantastic Blue.

Which of these are your favorites?

If you are not tired yet of irises, you should visit Cee Neuner’s page where she took some beautiful photos from Shreiner’s Iris Gardens in Salem, Oregon.

10 Fun Indoor Things To Do When You’re On a Budget

Here are some ideas of …

Fun, inexpensive indoor things you can do even in the winter months.

This post has Amazon affiliate links. If you purchase through links, you may help me get a little commission. There may also be one other shameless plug in this post as well as a freebie game sheet to download. These are all fun things which I honestly recommend.

1. Have a board game night.

Photo by Robert Coelho on Unsplash

Board game nights can be loads of fun, and they provide inexpensive entertainment. You can supply all the games yourself or have friends bring their own games. If you do the second, you’ll soon find you have a lot of varied choices.

One of my favorite board games is Cranium. It has a little mix of everything: knowledge/trivia questions, word-related challenges such as spelling backwards, a little bit of Charades, Name That Tune, Pictionary and Sculptionary. You can see the slogan on the box reads, “Everyone shines,” because there is a challenge to suit everyone in this game.

Amazon Prime members can get the game for $14.99. Check out the image link below.

What I have noticed with this game is that, if you don’t happen to like all of the categories like I do, certain players will have a strong preference for one or two of them. Some introverts may feel uncomfortable with humming or acting. This is a team effort game, and it works best when you arrange the teams so that they’re made up of people with differing talents and personalities.

I’ve also recently been introduced to the card game Blink, a fast-moving game that has elements similar to Uno and Dutch Blitz. I reviewed it here. Check out the image link below. It’s $7.73 for Amazon Prime members.

2. Have a movie night at home.

Photo by Charles 🇵🇭 on Unsplash

You can pop popcorn or serve classic movie snacks like Goobers and Raisinets. You’ll still save money over movie theater snacks. You can even get creative to make your snacks fit the movie theme. Watching Jaws? How about some gummy sharks? Watching a mystery? How about some “red herrings,” aka Swedish Fish?

You can theme your snacks around an ethnic cuisine style that fits the setting or culture in the movie. (If you don’t cook or don’t feel like cooking, you can find a lot of frozen appetizers in the grocery store.) Try samosas with Slumdog Millionaire, spanakopita (little spinach pies) with My Big Fat Greek Wedding or antipasto with The Godfather.

Sometimes, with any group of people, it’s hard to find a movie that everyone will like. Here’s a suggestion. Charade stars two of my favorite Old Hollywood actors, Audrey Hepburn and Cary Grant, and features adventure, romance, comedy and a really perplexing mystery. I thought, for the longest time, it was a Hitchcock movie. It’s not, but it’s in Hitchcock’s style. The DVD is $9.96 with Amazon Prime and is also available for streaming with Amazon Prime Video.

3. Have a mystery party night.

Photo by Craig Whitehead on Unsplash

You may think that hosting a mystery party is an ambitious undertaking, but it doesn’t have to be overwhelming. It is up to you and your group of friends how elaborate you want to be with costumes and props. You can have minimal or even no costumes at all and still have fun sleuthing and puzzling. You can download my humorous “Chocolate Bomb Cake” Mystery Party Game Kit for $10 here. It has been friend-tested and approved.

My test group of friends used little to no special costumes and still had fun. Most clue items are included in the kit. Others are objects you can find around the house or a firecracker prop you can put together using a toilet paper tube. (Craft instructions are included.)

4. Meet up at the local coffee shop.

Photo by Nathan Dumlao on Unsplash

Great coffee and conversation might be fun enough by itself, but some independent coffee shops are supporters of the arts and host a variety of interesting activities. Independent coffee shops in my area are a meeting space for book clubs and host local author events. They also display paintings or photos from local artists and host free concerts from bands and musicians in the area. If you attend some of these things, you will have fun and also be a supporter of the arts yourself. They may even host Open Mic nights which you can enjoy as a spectator, or, if bold enough, share your own talents.

5. Check out events at public libraries in your area.

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Many public libraries have similar offerings to those mentioned above. You might expect a library to have literary activities like book clubs and author events, but many offer a variety of activities which are not directly literary. They may have movie showings for adults and kids, concerts of all sorts, art exhibits and many other artsy, cultural and educational activities, all free to the public. In the past, I have enjoyed a classical piano concert, informal opera performances, a classic rock concert, a Shakespeare play and even an educational presentation from a woman who impersonated Eleanor Roosevelt. While not all of these choices might appeal to you or your particular group of friends, you never know what you might find. Check out the schedule for library activities in the newspaper or on library websites.

6. Go on a historical house tour.

Photo by Jessica Furtney on Unsplash

Old houses have wonderful architecture and often have interesting stories behind them. Friends and I have enjoyed historical home tours in our own county in northern New Jersey or at New Jersey shore towns like Ocean Grove and Cape May. Homes like this might not be accessible at any given time you may be looking for something to do, but keep your eyes peeled at your local events calendar. They may have free open houses from time to time as well as special events that might include musicians, historical reenactments or other creative possibilities.

7. Go to a school play or concert.

Photo by Jonas Jacobsson on Unsplash

So, going to a school play isn’t quite the same as seeing a play on Broadway or at a professional arts center near you. Still, high school and college students have talents to exhibit, and you don’t have to be a student or a parent of a student to enjoy these kinds of events. Show your support for budding artists and have fun while saving up for more big-time tickets.

8. Go antiquing, thrift shopping, flea marketing or just plain window shopping.

Photo by Lina Castaneda on Unsplash

Antiquing might seem to be an expensive hobby, but, what I’ve found, is that many antique shops sell vintage collectibles that are less than one hundred years old and are somewhat affordable. It really depends on the particular shop however.

I love visiting antique shops but have yet to buy an antique. I tend to treat the experience like visiting a museum where I’m just enjoying seeing interesting items on display. If you can enjoy “just looking,” this is certainly an inexpensive entertainment. It also might be possible to find an interesting item that won’t break the bank.

10. Have a digital scavenger hunt at the mall.

Photo by Marcin Kempa on Unsplash

You might know what a scavenger hunt is. You look to find a particular list of items and collect them. A digital scavenger hunt involves taking digital photos of the items instead of collecting them. Below is a free download for a list of scavenger hunt items which you can find in the mall to photograph.

Print a copy of the list for all participants. Break up into teams and race to the finish. You might even creatively present and compare the photos later.

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image of fun things to do, a board game with dice and people enjoying coffee.