Joni’s Diner is the real deal in Lake Geneva

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Diner’s are my thing. I love diner coffee — diner booths — diner front counters — diner baked goods — diner breakfasts — diner soups and salads — diner sandwiches — I love it all….well if it’s a good diner I do!

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I love everything at Joni’s Diner in Lake Geneva — so much so that I actually go there by myself when I’m out running errands. Joni’s is off the beaten path in Lake Geneva enough that it’s not overrun by tourists, but it’s so good and people know it — that it’s still always busy. I’ve only ever not had to wait during a lunch stop on a Thursday, otherwise I’ve always had to wait — but it’s worth it. Trust me.

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Joni’s is what you’d expect from a small diner inside an old  L-Shaped Jerry O’Mahoney (according to its website) — it has booths around the edges with window views and a counter along the back wall overlooking coffee pots, soda fountains and a bakery case.

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Let’s start with breakfast: I recommend getting one of their giant cinnamon rolls before your main breakfast — kinda like a breakfast appetizer. The dough has a great flavor, the cinnamon and sugar isn’t too sweet, the icing isn’t overbearing, and it’s huge! They’re made fresh so when they run out, they run out — do yourself a favor and claim one when you sit down!

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My favorite breakfast by far is their Homemade Corned Beef Hash — with pulled corned beef, sliced fresh cabbage, onions, green peppers and potatoes topped with swiss cheese and two eggs. It also comes with toast. This is truly a homemade version of the diner classic, and I love that it’s not greasy or mushy.

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If you’re a coffee drinker — Joni’s serves up hot, fresh coffee every time of day.

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Lunch time: First thing to note is they serve breakfast all day, which I love! But if you’re not feeling breakfast, their lunch options are also great. I can personally vouch for the Tuna Melt and BLT sandwiches — both were fresh, toasty and tasty. Recently I wanted soup and salad. Their homemade chicken noodle didn’t disappoint. It was flavorful, homey and had huge chunks of chicken with some veggies and noodles.

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The Chicken Caesar Salad was exactly what it needed to be — fresh, crunchy lettuce with grilled chicken, parmesan cheese and croutons. The dressing was a tangier Caesar than I’m used to, but it was good.

Joni’s is and will continue to be my go-to spot for breakfast or lunch — or breakfast for lunch — in the Lake Geneva area. Grab yourself a cinnamon roll appetizer and a cup of coffee while you peruse the menu and decide what to get.

Note: They’re only open until 3pm and have different hours in the winter vs. summer.

Stop in The Bay for great coffee, cozy place to work

I’m always on the hunt for a great coffee shop. I am one of those people willing to pay $4 for a great cup of specialty coffee, but I can also appreciate a fresh cup of gas station brew too — I’m an equal-opportunity coffee drinker. So in my travels, coffee stops are almost always included.

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Things I look for in a coffee shop:

  • Classic coffee options: Fresh brewed and  cold brew options, plus mochas, lattes and chais
  • Milk options: I’m recently a fan of oat milk (thanks for that Bryan — Oh Hey! If you like baseball, check out his website!)
  • Snacks: Baked goods or packaged snacks are always appreciated as options
  • WiFi: Free WiFi (so I can get some work done…obviously) is a must
  • Seating: I like seating options (comfy chairs and tables) — outdoor and indoor
  • Traffic: It’s always a plus when the coffee shop has other people there, but it’s not so busy that I feel like I have to hurry up and leave

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Steamers Coffee Shop in Williams Bay checked a lot of the things on my list. Steamers is located in the main building of businesses you see when you’re driving through The Bay on Highway 67. It’s attached to the Green Grocer — they serve soup and sandwiches, and also have a small grocery, wine and beer selection. On the Steamers side, they have a couple baked goods available (from Simple Cafe in Lake Geneva).

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The cafe side isn’t large, but there were plenty of seating options (including tables and comfy chairs) when we were there. It’s a pretty standard local coffee shops with cute decor, mismatched tables and chairs, and creeky wood floors — I loved it all!
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They also had free WiFi — hint: the password is on a framed piece of paper hidden up (kinda high for this shortie) closer to the front door. And we were able to sit at one of the tables and get some work done without feeling rushed or in the way. There were definitley people in and out, but it wasn’t crazy busy.

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Now to the coffee — I got an iced non-fat mocha. This mocha was probably one of the best specialty coffee drinks I’ve ever had. It was smooth, creamy and super chocolately but not too sweet. Most of the time with mochas you can’t get all of those things at the same time. Usually if it’s chocolately — it’s too sweet. Or if it’s smooth and creamy it’s not non-fat. Or if it’s not too sweet — then it’s kind of bitter. This basically tasted like high quality chocolate milk mixed with espresso — it was amazing!

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And if you want to bundle up and enjoy a view of Williams Bay, or wait until spring, they have a nice little view from right in front of their shop!

Other coffee shops in the area I like:

TELL ME: I need to add more local coffee shops to my rotation. If you have a favorite coffee shop in Walworth or Rock counties…let me know!!

Local, unique cheeses featured at Lake Geneva Country Meats

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A couple of weeks ago I wrote a blog about Lake Geneva Country Meats. You can go read it here. I said their cheese section was a bit small and anyone looking for a large selection of Wisconsin cheeses could go somewhere else.

I’m sticking with my opinion that their are places you can go that have more options, but I will say that you might not want to go to those places over LG Meats. After trying some of the options LG Meats has in their cheese case, I can say that anyone will find something they love, something they maybe haven’t tried before, and something you will want to come back for again and again.

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The team at LG Meats has spent a lot of time curating their collection to have something for everyone, and to offer some really special cheeses. My favorite type of specialty cheese has always been any of the Sartori BellaVitano flavors, and they have that but they also have some other amazing cheeses you need to try.

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The bacon cheddar is made with LG Meats’ own bacon that they cook up and deliver to Hill Valley Dairy. Hill Valley is a true family operation — they make cheese with milk from their family’s farm. The bacon cheddar is amazing. It’s a good cheddar with amazing bacon (and A LOT of it), and some black pepper to bring it all together.

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Hill Valley’s Whiskey Cheddar is also something special. It’s a white cheddar finished in whiskey (from Great Northern Distilling, which is also owned by a family member!). Whether you love whiskey or aren’t a fan — you have to try this cheese! The creamy cheddar pairs amazing with the smoky whiskey. And if you don’t love whiskey, the flavor is subtle so it’s still worth trying. They also have a Whiskey Gouda.

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LG Country Meats also have some great cheeses from Carr Valley, Hooks and Uplands Cheese. You can’t go wrong with any of the cheeses in their case, and they’re always bringing in new options and adding new cheeses!

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A stop at Lake Geneva Country Meats should be on your weekly list

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When I moved here five months ago part of my transition was finding a new grocery store. When I lived in Madison, I was a die-hard Woodman’s shopper, but with Woodman’s about 30 minutes away it wasn’t an option for regular shopping anymore.

69603353_426709447961588_7979244603909865472_nI started going to Aldi and Piggly Wiggly in Lake Geneva, but it wasn’t quite what we were looking for. Aldi had all of the produce, dairy and dry goods we liked, and Piggly Wiggly had the deli we were looking for, but neither had fresh or frozen meat we were interested in. My boyfriend mentioned he’d been to Lake Geneva Country Meats a couple times, so we went to check it out. I was instantly sold.

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The larger-than-expected store out on Highway 50 east of Lake Geneva has fresh and frozen meat, canned and jarred goods, beer and wine, cheese and produce. During my first couple of trips, I picked up a couple canned goods along with our other items. All of the canned goods I tried (esepcially the pickled brussel sprouts) were super good, but a little pricey. They’re worth it for a fun treat, but not a regular purchase.

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I’d also say the same thing about their cheese. They have a lot of novelty cheeses like bacon cheddar and whiskey soaked cheddar. If you’re looking for a lot of options of Wisconsin cheese — there are other places you could go. [UPDATE: Read an udpated post about their cheese.]

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The produce section is surprisingly fresh. I’ve been getting most of my produce at Pearce’s recently, but earlier in the spring I was getting several items a week at LG Meats. The prices were similar to Aldi and usually cheaper than The Pig.

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But let’s be real…I’m not going to LG Meats for the produce. Some of my favorite purchases:

  • Thick cut bacon
  • NY Strip Steak
  • Ground Beef
  • Marinated boneless skiness chicken breasts (Italiano Romano is my favorite flavor)
  • Green pepper, cheddar brats
  • Butterflied porkchops

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We also love their chicken wings and their twice baked potatoes. They have a lot more things, including a more flavors of brats, deli meat and salads, cuts of meat, and fresh and frozen items. Oh and did I mention the wine and beer?

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Ice Cream Store Round-Up: Straw Hat

Summer and ice cream go together like peanut butter and jelly. I could keep going with great pairings (like oreos and peanut butter) but I’ll move on with this post.

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In the summer, my boyfriend and I like to go on motorcycle rides. Now some riders will say you don’t need a destination, you just ride. But I like having a destination or something fun to do to break up the ride. That’s where my “Ice Cream Store Round-Up” posts will come in. We like checking out little ice cream stands on our rides.

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Our first (definitely not first ice cream stop of the season…just the first one I’m writing about) is the Straw Hat in Twin Lake. I was in Twin Lakes for work a couple weeks ago — missed my turn and found this place!

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The Straw Hat is a little roadside walkup stand that has all the standard ice cream options plus some food. You can see Lake Mary from their front benches, and it’s a good place to sit and people watch in the summer. We were down there on a Thursday and the main road was pretty busy for mid-week. We both got a shake — rootbeer, and peanut butter chocolate (seeing a trend here?). The sizes are very generous and the flavors were decent…almost a little too much peanut butter and not enough chocolate in mine (almost!).

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It’s definitley a cute place if you’re down in that area…which is basically Illinois!

Bring a few extra $$ when visiting Pearce’s in Walworth

68751617_341582940061867_3346971213799882752_nI love a good farm stand. Most of the time farm stands are on the side of the road and have a handful of items — mostly fresh produce — to choose from. Sometimes there’s someone manning the stand and sometimes it’s a self-service stand. I’ve found that produce from these stands is usually the same price or cheaper than the grocery store, and it is always better. Then there’s Pearce’s. Pearce’s is much larger and way more involved than most farm stands, but that’s what makes it so great.

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Pearce’s is on the corner of two county highways between Walworth, Williams Bay and Delavan. It’s a large building, but it only took me about 15 minutes to get in and out. It was mostly what I expected, except for one thing — there was an adorable older man singer old-school country music off to the side. It definitely made my time there way more memorable than it would have been without him. Hats off to whomever at Pearce’s thought of that!

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Based on their Facebook page, I’ve learned that they sell a lot of homemade products and products they bring in, but they don’t open for the season until their own sweet corn is ready to be picked and sold.

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What they sell (based on what I saw this weekend):

  • Canned Goods
    • Jam
    • Salsa
    • Pie Filling
  • Pickled products
  • Baked Goods
    • Cookies
    • Breads
    • Donuts

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  • Maple Syrup
  • Honey
  • Homemade beer cheese dip
  • Cheese curds
  • Tortilla chips
  • Decorative gords
  • Flowers
  • Kettle Korn
  • All. The. Produce.

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I’m sure there’s more that I’m forgetting or that they’ll start selling as the season continues, but it’s got a lot of options. I went there expecting to buy some corn and tomatoes, and ended up buying so much that when they were packing up my stuff — they pulled out a box to start filling up. I definitely spent more than I was expecting but I got a lot of quality stuff. I wouldn’t say Pearce’s is expensive — I’d say bring extra money because you’ll end up wanting to buy more than what you expected!

Pearce’s isn’t exactly a secret, but it’s still worth checking out if you’re in the area.

Daunting Lake Shore Path on Geneva Lake wins Round 1

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Path in Williams Bay

A couple months ago I learned about the Lake Shore Path that goes all the way around Geneva Lake. I was very curious about the 26 mile route that puts you between the lake and the million dollar homes…literally right on the Wrigley, Stone Manor and Casa del Sueno properties. After doing some research and recruiting some friends…I decided to try completing the route in one day (Gulp!).

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Lake Geneva Walking Path rules

Well…to not keep you in anticipation…I failed. I started at Pier 290 in Williams Bay and made it to the library in Lake Geneva. I’m not sure how far that was (didn’t start a distance tracker…whoops!), but I was over it by the time we got to LG. I do plan on attempting this again, but during a much cooler time of year. Here are some of my mistakes, tips, observations, and the sights from my partial lake shore path walk.

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Path near Pier 290 in Williams Bay

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MISTAKES

  • Trying to walk the entire 26 miles in the humidity of July
  • Not using a distance tracker
  • Not spraying down with bug spray

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Path in downtown Lake Geneva

TIPS

  • Start early in the day
  • Make note of where bathrooms are…and use the ones you see no matter what! Once you’re on parts of the path, there’s no getting off to find a bathroom.
  • To go along with the first one, drink water even if you’re afraid of having to pee too often (I think this is why I got so tired so fast)
  • Wear sunscreen and bug spray
  • Bring extra socks to change out your sweaty ones (thanks for the tip Angie and Clare!)
  • Bring chapstick and gum
  • Pack snacks/lunch
  • Be prepared to get wet: There are sprinklers that directly cross the path and if they’re on, you can’t avoid them.
  • Know where you’re going to stop and take breaks, but have a time limit…otherwise you might never get back up and keep walking.

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OBSERVATIONS

  • There’s a lot to see on the path, make sure you pad in some time to take it all in.
    • Ex. There are cute spots to take pictures (remember: stay on the path!) and there are a couple interactive spots — like the “Mystery Mailbox” in Williams Bay.

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  • Keep an eye out for sights on the lake…like Steam Yatch Louise from Lake Geneva Cruise Lines!
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Steam Yatch Louise
  • Be prepared to walk on anything from grass and mud to rocks and boardwalks.
  • On some properties, it is very hard to tell where the path is..don’t feel bad about “trespassing” and just keep following the lake. You’ll find a marking eventually!

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  • You can’t help but stare at some of these homes…whehter you like the big guys or the cute “little” cottages.
  • There’s one home on the north shore very close to downtown Lake Geneva that makes you walk behind and around their fenced in home…I have many questions about this property. How are they allowed to do this? Who are these people? Why do they think they’re special and can do this? I was annoyed with this house…if that isn’t obvious.

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Have you walked the Lake Geneva Walking Path? Have you walked to entire thing in one day? Tell me how!

Secret slingshot hidden along lake shore

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It’s the little things in life right? Well it’s also the really big things that are meant to make a little statement…like this hidden slingshot. I’ve seen this dead tree, turned pumpkin slingshot dozens of times, but today while out on an afternon walk it just made me smile!

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I don’t know the history of it and I don’t know how long it’s been there, but if you aren’t paying attention or know where to look, you will definitely walk, drive or boat right past it.

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It’s located on the north side of Lake Como on Lake Shore Drive, but I’m not telling you exactly where. You have to go find it on your own of you want to see it!

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RECOMMENDED ACTIVITIES (on Lake Shore Drive)

  • Walking
  • Running
  • Biking
  • Boating
  • Go on a slow Sunday drive

Under dated, dusty chop house lives classic, quality supper club

You’ll have to look past the stained carpet, dusty windowsills and dated furniture to see just how great the Watertower Chop House in Sun Prairie is. You’ll also have to look a little harder to actually find the Watertower Chop House because it looks a little rundown on the outside and there isn’t really a sign. We walked in through the back and, after getting past the musky smell, I fell in love with this place.

The drinks are strong here!
The drinks are strong here!

The front room where the bar is needs a facelift and way more seating, but then again the entire place needs both of those things. The dining room is small so we had to wait for a table, but it wasn’t a long wait.

My plate from the salad bar
My plate from the salad bar

As for the menu, it’s a traditional supper club — steaks, seafood and a salad bar (my favorite). We went on a Saturday night, so obviously both of us got got the prime rib. They have three sizes of prime rib and they all come with two sides (one of which can be the salad bar). The salad bar had all of the goodies I was expecting from a good supper club — traditional salad toppings, potato salad, macaroni salad, beets, pickles, soup and rolls. I’m not sure what it is about supper clubs and salad bars — it’s probably because I used to get to go to the salad bar when I was a kid — but I love them and everything they come with.

The prime rib was great and I ate it so fast I forgot to take a picture of it before I had inhaled it. It was cooked to a perfect medium rare and the outside had a great char on it. I got the mashed potatoes as my other side. They also offer some healthier options like veggies, but who wants that! Oh…well my mom got the asparagus so I guess some people order the healthier options!

slightly melty grasshopper
slightly melty grasshopper

And just in case our visit to the chop house wasn’t old school enough, we ended our meal with a grasshopper. I think our waitress left ours sitting somewhere because it was slightly melty when we got it, but it was still tasty — not too minty, not too sweet and just the right amount of alcohol — and she comped it from our bill, which was not necessary but very good customer service.

FOOD NOTES: Once you get past the old building and the old smell, Watertower Chop House is really a hidden gem. There’s nothing better than a good supper club in my book and this one tops my list in the Madison area. There are a lot of supper clubs in the area, but not all of them are worth the trip. The chop house looks like it hasn’t changed or been updated in 60 years, but maybe that’s why it hasn’t changed…because it hasn’t had to. The dining room was full on a Saturday night, so this place must not be a secret. I will definitely be back, and like all supper clubs I go to, I’ll probably get a steak, salad bar and mashed potatoes because it’s what they do best!

Mission #fallbucketlist complete

If fall isn’t your favorite season…you’re basically wrong. The weather is great, the clothes are great, the food is warm and comforting, and then there’s Halloween and Thanksgiving. My friend Riju loves Halloween and in an effort to keep me very busy during the month of October, she sent me the “31 Days of Halloween to do list” to do. This blog will be my recap…with one caveat: some of the items were modified but totally still count!

Screen shot 2015-11-14 at 11.15.17 AMNo. 1 – Bake Halloween cookies. Krista, Nicole and the cookie-decorating master Avery helped out with this one.

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The master at work
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Our cookie-decorating work zone
The best of the best
The best of the best

No. 2 – Drink cider

I chose the adult version...
I chose the adult version…

No. 3 – Watch a classic monster movie. This one was completed…just not documented. I watched some freaky movie about Halloween.

No. 4 – Make pumpkin bread with fresh pumpkin. This one was also completed with help from Krista.

Krista doing some baking things
Krista doing some baking things
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Pumpkin bread pre-bake
Pumpkin bread
Pumpkin bread

No. 5 – Collect different color fall leaves. I didn’t know what I would do with a handful of leaves, so I just took pictures during a hike.

Blue Mounds State Park
Blue Mounds State Park
Blue Mounds State Park
Blue Mounds State Park
Blue Mounds State Park
Blue Mounds State Park

No. 6 – Eat a caramel apple. I got this one at Treinen Farm in Lodi.

Caramel apple
Caramel apple
I didn't want to lose a tooth, so I cut it.
I didn’t want to lose a tooth, so I cut it.

No. 7 – Build a fire. This one was very unconventional…but fire is fire right?

Watching the Packers game and I "lit a fire."
Watching the Packers game and I “built a fire.”

No. 8 – Go on a hay ride. The hay ride at Treinen Farm was pretty interesting. It was one of the only cold and rainy days in October, but Nicole, miss Avery and I made the best of it!

Cute boots for hayride in the rain!
Cute boots for hayride in the rain!

No. 9 – Eat a Halloween Oreo. They don’t taste different, but I feel like they should!

Halloween oreos
Halloween oreos
Orange oreo
Orange oreo
Orange you glad I didn't make a joke!?
Orange you glad I didn’t make a joke!?

No. 10 – Wear orange. I don’t own anything orange, so this scarf will have to do.

This picture also qualifies as No. 21, which is eat a caramel apple Milky way…but they don’t make those anymore, so I had a caramel apple pop instead!

Orange scarf while eating a caramel apple pop!
Orange scarf while eating a caramel apple pop!

No. 11 – Watch Hocus Pocus. Thanks to Mary and Kevin Arbuckle for the movie access and the prop!

Hocus Pocus at the Arbuckle's.
Hocus Pocus at the Arbuckle’s.

No. 12 – Drink a pumpkin spice latte.

Strayed from my "regular" to get this.
Strayed from my “regular” to get this.
But coffee is coffee!
But coffee is coffee!

No. 13 – Eat candy corn. This nasty Halloween treat goes pretty well with coffee!

Candy corn
Candy corn
Candy corn in a candy corn!
Candy corn in a candy corn!

No. 14 – Play in the leaves…see No. 5.

No. 15 – Drink spicy tea. The Trader Joe’s version I got was not good.

Spicy tea
Spicy tea
Pumpkin spice rooibos tea from Trader Joe's.
Pumpkin spice rooibos tea from Trader Joe’s.

No. 16 – Bake an apple pie. I thought this was going to be one of the hardest ones on the list…but Krista and I made a pretty great pie!

Pie part 1
Pie part 1
Pie part 2
Pie part 2
Pie part 3
Pie part 3
PIE!!!
PIE!!!

No. 17 – Carve a pumpkin. Steph and I carved Frank the Pumpkin…harvested at Treinen Farms for No. 23.

Soon-to-be Frank
Soon-to-be Frank
Frank in progress
Frank in progress
Frank's insides are gone
Frank’s insides are gone
Frank is emerged!
Frank has emerged!
Frank is officially a jack-o-lantern!
Frank is officially a jack-o-lantern!
Love me some Frank!
Love me some Frank!
Hannah, Frank, Steph and Dunkin!
Hannah, Frank, Steph and Duncan!

No. 18 – Host a spooky movie night. I’d say mine was technically a movie afternoon…but it totally counts.

No. 19 – Eat Frankenberry, BooBerry or Count Chocula. I chose BooBerry…

BooBerry cereal
BooBerry cereal
Sugar and purple dye...ick.
Sugar and purple dye…ick.

No. 20 – Drink pumpkin ale or beer. Thanks Marissa for sharing your pumpkin beer!

Pumpkin beer at Chicks with Picks!
Pumpkin beer at Chicks with Picks!

No. 21 – Eat a caramel apple Milky Way. See No. 10.

Caramel apple pops...because Milky Ways don't come in caramel apple flavor anymore.
Caramel apple pops…because Milky Ways don’t come in caramel apple flavor anymore.

No. 22 – Roast pumpkin seeds. Steph and I roasted the shit out of Frank’s seeds!

Cleaning the seeds
Cleaning the seeds
Seeds...
Seeds…
Seeds!!!!
Seeds!!!!
Seeds pre roasting
Seeds pre roasting
Oven time.
Oven time.
Roasted to perfection!
Roasted to perfection!
Yum!
Yum!

No. 23 – Visit a pumpkin patch. Nicole, miss Avery and I braved the rain and cold to find Frank the Pumpkin at Treinen Farm.

Pumpkin patch
Pumpkin patch
I have found Frank!
I have found Frank!

No. 24 – Dance to Thriller. Mary Arbuckle and I got our groove on. A short, yet extremely entertaining video, is available on Facebook.

Thriller!
Thriller!

No. 25 – Visit an OctoberFest…was replaced with “drink an OctoberFest beer.” Thanks Kevin Arbuckle for the beer!

OctoberFest beer...this is my "I don't love beer" face!
OctoberFest beer…this is my “I don’t love beer” face!

No. 26 – Collect cool pumpkins. Thanks for the pumpkins dad!

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Pumpkins from dad!

No. 27 – Sit on the porch and smell the rain…this one seemed odd, but here’s a rainy picture from my balcony.

Cold and rainy October day.
Cold and rainy October day.

No. 28 – Visit a haunted house. I hate haunted houses, but Mary Arbuckle found one for little kids…so I consented. Favorite quote of the night: “Hannah…stop screaming, you’re scaring the giraffe (who was probably about 2 and being carried by her dad).”

Haunted house selfie!
Haunted house selfie!

No. 29 – Make a Halloween playlist.

These are the only two songs you'll ever need!
These are the only two songs you’ll ever need!

No. 30 – Decorate the house – inside and out. Thanks to the instigator of all of this, Riju, for the new Halloween owl!

Pumpkin inside
Pumpkin inside
Decorations inside
Decorations inside
More indoor decorations
More indoor decorations
'Outdoor' decorations
‘Outdoor’ decorations

No. 31 – Go trick or treating. I gave away candy at Kevin and Mary’s…I also got trick-or-treat candy at the haunted house…all of this counts…none of it is documented.

SUCCESS! #Fallbucketlist complete!