Sabbath

One thing I have been learning a lot about recently, but have always done very poorly, is Sabbath or rest. You can ask the husband, but I am consistently running myself to the end. I have routinely been caught saying that sleep is a waste of time.

And, as Westerners, we often glorify the busy. If you’re not busy, you must be lazy. But that’s just not true.

When God created the world, He didn’t rest on the 7th day because He was exhausted. He was still creating. On the 7th day, He created rest.

He started this pattern so that we would follow it, working hard and resting well. In fact, He’s so serious about it that He talks over and over about how He will punish the people and cast them out of they will not rest (as well as letting their laborers, land, and animals rest). It’s not a suggestion.

So this past Saturday, we took Him at His Word.

The down side is that I do not have pictures to show you because it was a purely unplugged day. No cameras, nothing. It wasn’t perfect by any means, but it was the best day I have had in ages.

Here was our checklist to prepare for Sabbath Saturday:

  1. Clean all the dishes and unload the dishwasher
  2. Have enough clothes washed, folded, and put away so there is no hustle to find clothes for everyone
  3. Pre-plan and prepare all foods in advance so the microwave is the only cooking implement allowed
  4. Buy paper goods so that you do not make any dishes
  5. Look through all of your reminders, phone calls, etc to make sure their are no chores, no business, and no “to dos” to attend to on Saturday.

And then came Friday. The day that we shall not speak of because it was so so terrible. One of my kids literally threw a tantrum every few minutes. Please do not think I am exaggerating here because, sadly, I am not. I was at my wits end when I got prepared to go to work that night and there were still so many chores left to do that I felt Sabbath was already ruined. I started feeling like, “What’s even the point in trying?”

My husband was home while I was working and planning to get a lot done, but the kids, again, had other plans. You see when there are three kids, if one is not crying, don’t worry because there is another that is happy to fill that void for you. The days can be magical fun times, but they can also be so frustrating you literally lock yourself in the bathroom for 2 minutes to just take a few deep breaths before rejoining the chaos.

After I got home about 11:45, we set to work together. I finished a cake I was working on while the husband did dishes and swept the floor (he’d done the laundry while I was at work, bless him). We did not get all the food made in advance despite our efforts because it was 1am by the time we got everything else ready and in place. We went to bed and I was still not at all sure if all this effort was worth it.

You see, I think sometimes when we are intentional to plug back into something God intended for our good, someone else gets scared. That other power that’s fighting for control of you, me, and this whole world is out there pushing back. He wants to tell you those lies that this is not worth the effort, he wants to frustrate you to a breaking point, he wants you to check out instead of plugging in, and he wants you to be so busy that life never stands still. But we have to say no to those lies.

Saturday morning came and our people slept until 8am. Yep. You read that right. I began the day thinking, “Oh look at my little angels who sleep late!” I think God stepped in there and gave me a win to start the day. Let me tell you the rules for our actual day:

  1. No phones – phones must be left in the bedroom on silent so that even the vibration of it cannot distract you from the present
  2. Together time – we will eat all together for ever meal, we will play altogether during awake time
  3. Calm – we will attempt to slow down the speed of our activities and choose calm activities over chaos (reading, swinging, walking, talking, coloring, drawing, play dough, kinetic sand, etc)
  4. Battles – this is a day you pick as few battles as possible, you do not want to let your kid run crazy but this is not the day we worry about matching clothes, wearing socks, combing hair, and even *gasp* brushing teeth, battles will only be picked over larger issues (hitting, kindness, etc)
  5. Bible – we are going to start the day focused on God

So we walked downstairs that moment and I calmly asked my older two kids if they wanted to help me make breakfast (we had at least planned all the meals even if we did not get them cooked – next time). The youngest wanted to stay upstairs and talk with his daddy. Look at that, we already broke a rule of togetherness, but it was in the name of peace and bonding, so we went with it. Also, waiting for breakfast is one of the hardest moments of the day for the youngest and in the name of picking battles, distraction was welcome. My older two were so excited that they both got to help, they didn’t even care what we were having. All five of us sat down for breakfast and talked about what we were thankful for, and what God has given us.

Can I just tell you what a breath of fresh air it was to throw my dishes away after breakfast? This is not our normal thing because we are working hard on getting rid of disposable things on the whole, but for once or twice a month this is going to be how we do it. We did have the pans from cooking, but I gave us a pass and just put them in the sink.

We took everyone upstairs to get dressed, but ended up staying in pajamas for a little while because they wanted to read. So we read and read and read. So many books! All five of us in one room, reading books. It was so calm and so fun, I cannot even describe it. Life for us is usually loud and high chaos, but not on this day. We read books for probably an hour before deciding it was time to get dressed. For lunch we had something fun planned…food trucks!

If you’re thinking that taking kids to a food truck park is super stressful, you are missing out! Most food truck parks have a playground and shade! Plus, each kid can literally pick from dozens of foods to get something they love without complaining. The kids had pizza, the husband had Mediterranean, and I had a craft burger. Win. We played on the swings, we walked around and looked at some vendors they had, and got plenty hot and sweaty. We broke another rule! We were not entirely calm during this bit in that we let them run a bit and dig in the dirt and climb on tires they had submerged in the ground, but we were together and we were having fun. Plus, I think after sitting for so long, it was good for them to burn some energy. Maybe we will adjust that rule.

We headed home and all three of my kids took a nap. Plus, the husband. He took a nap too. We attempted to read together, but we stayed up so late the night before and he does not do well on little sleep that Catch-22 just could not hold his focus. He fell asleep. I read Percy Jackson and The Olympians: Titan’s Curse and finished the book while he was sleeping.

Everyone slept so long that by the time they all woke up, we needed to start making dinner! I had my helpers in the kitchen with me again while the youngest sat nearby building with the husband. We sat together for dinner and had a lot of fun talking to each other. I love talking to my kids. It is in these un-rushed moments that they say some of the most hilarious things, ask the most serious questions, and tell me what is really on their hearts/minds. This slow down frees them up to think.

We did a little more playing with legos and reading books, but before you know it, it was sleep time.

We had one tantrum at bed time because the day had just been so good our middle one did not want it to end, but everyone slept in the end. The husband and I hung out for a little while talking before we decided to call it an early night too.

I went to bed Saturday feeling refreshed and thinking that, if this is how my family could be, this is how I always wanted it to work. Peaceful, loving, and together.

See You Outside.

The Quietest Day

So recently I had a birthday! And while I had an amazing party and so much fun having dinner with my husband, what I wanted more than anything (and my husband totally gave me) was one day all all alone. Camping all alone.

So I did it! I went out to Lake Livingston all by myself and camped. My friends thought I was legitimately crazy for going alone, but it was the best weekend I have had in ages.

For starters, I packed up all my stuff.

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Not only did I bring a water bottle, backpack, ground pad, etc but I also brought my laptop (fully charged – just enough for 1 movie), a ton of CD’s for the drive (early 2000’s alternative rock anyone??), a coloring book, and a TON of books to read. Who knows what I would be in the mood to read?

Now the one super un-campy thing that I did this weekend was…I didn’t cook at all. In fact, I didn’t even light a fire. My least favorite chore at home, that I consequently do every day multiple times a day, is dishes. I was feeling like if I had to do one more dish or prepare one more meal, I might EXPLODE. So, I didn’t. I bought a bag of egg rolls for dinner that first night – side note, cold and slightly limp egg rolls are not the best meal, but I digress. I had cereal, pop tarts, popcorn, granola bars, pouches (the baby vegetable and fruit ones), peanut butter filled pretzels, dairy-free chocolate chips, and some other snacks. No cooking for me. I WIN AT LIFE.

I did bring a tiny backpacking stove, matches, and a pot just in case I was in some sort of emergent situation where hot water was necessary. Or if an apocalypse happened and I would need to hunt for my own food as I walked the several days journey back toward home, hoping to find my family….I may read too many dystopian novels. Anyway.

Here is my beautiful campsite!

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Picture A from when I got there, picture B from after I went to the bathroom and had a snack. It’s crazy how fast the sun setting was changing the light thanks to all of those trees.

I got out my tent and set to work. I was a bit nervous that after all the times I have pitched a tent alone, but had someone nearby in case I had problems with wind or something, that doing this solo would somehow be a disaster. I’m not sure where this smidgen of nerves came from, but it was there. I was all prepared to write here and tell you how it was super hard, but hahaha let’s all laugh together at my expense because this is a funny anecdote. Good news, it was easy. No laughing required.

The only difficult came from Dante’s ninth circle of hell – mosquitoes. (Although realistically they would probably be from the fourth circle since they are so greedy.) The mosquitoes were so thick it was hard to see what I was doing. I was covered in bug spray thankfully, but quickly realized that I had not sprayed my entire back and they were biting me all over that section through my t-shirt. That just should not be a thing. Biting through my clothes feels over the line.

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Ta da! Look at that beautiful tent. I even managed to get inside with only one mosquito that promptly met its maker.

That night the only thing I did all night, and I mean all night, was read. I read the most thought provoking literature that only the highest minds would ever dare to attempt. Just kidding, I read Divergent. I really like that book and the second book, but I will not read the third book again. Spoilers: You just do not kill off your best character at the end! You just don’t! Injustice! #justicefortris should be trending on the same level as #justiceforbarb and #bobdeservedbetter. After I read the third book, my husband came home to find me lying on the floor with the book nearby. When he asked me what was wrong I was just like, “I hate everything right now!” I felt betrayed.

So I frequently reread the first book because it was so good, but will not go on because I do not want to relive the story line that led to that awful moment. I can’t even read the second book because it’s not complete enough for my brain to feel like it got closure!

So I read. First by light, then by lantern, and eventually by headlamp. Then, I promptly went to bed by 11. Did I mention I don’t usually get enough sleep? Yay, me.

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Okay I did read The Hobbit for a tiny bit, but Divergent was just calling my name.  Don’t worry though because I am reading The Hobbit now alongside the Percy Jackson and the Olympians series so all was not lost.

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Good news! Directly outside my tent, I had the most amazing view of the moon! Bad news, neither my phone camera nor my fancy new camera captured it well. I’m still super new to the fancy camera so I just could not get the adjustments quite right to capture it. You’ll have to settle for a phone pic. In fact, this entire blog is the phone pictures because I have not yet figured out how to get pictures from my fancy new camera onto my computer. I’m sure it’s not difficult, I’m just lacking motivation at the present. So…more pictures soon!

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Did you know that cameras do not like to take pictures through tent mesh? I did, but I took this one anyway. Good morning, world! I woke up around 8am (count those beautiful hours of sleep) on my own. As in my body decided it did not need more sleep and woke me up. No alarms, no children, no screaming, no car horns, no trash truck. Just me and the sounds of pleasant birds.

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Here is my book stack that I was staring at when I woke up. I was tempted to change books, but decided I wanted to finish the one I started. So I laid in my sleeping bag, read Divergent, and ate Pop Tarts and Oat Squares. Friends, I never buy Pop Tarts. I love them too much. I will eat them all and make myself sick. But this was vacation! Strawberry Pop Tarts with icing. Who even buys the ones without icing? If strawberry with icing is not your favorite, don’t even start with me. Those are fighting words. I don’t care how passionately you feel about brown sugar and cinnamon, I know the truth.

I literally read the entire book before thinking about what I should do for the day. It was amazing. I read a whole book in two sittings. Now I frequently read a whole book in a day or two, but it’s always in a thousand sittings. This was so awesome and kind of cathartic to take the book from beginning to end with almost no interruption. I had not done that since the Harry Potter books were coming out and I would read the new book all at once without sleep. Worth it.

After the book, I still was not ready to face the day. I had done a little walking around the day before just to get my steps in and I knew I wanted to explore today, but not yet. So what does a girl do?

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If you’re me, you watch Harry Potter. But, then again, if you’re me you are always thinking about Harry Potter. Things like, “What would you say if you got to meet Professor McGonagall?” and “How would you feel if you got sorted into Ravenclaw vs. Gryffindor?” or “How is it that some wizards seem to be able to do magic without their wand?”

So I got out my coloring book and watched Harry Potter. It’s my jam. Now I would like to tell you that I watched the whole thing and it was amazing blah blah blah, but, in fact, it got too hot in my tent for even my little fan to keep me cool. I stepped outside my tent and realized, it was cooler outside than inside my tent.

I went straight to the camp store because, in the frenzy of the night before, I had used all of my bug spray. I may have panicked a bit from all the mosquitoes and sprayed myself more than once. I grabbed some bug spray and a Sprite! It was cold too! Exactly what I needed after sweating in my tent. The day was gorgeous. People were swimming in the lake. There were kayaks, paddle boards, canoes, and rafts serenely drifting across the water as many families picnicked all around the perimeter. I walked around the lake with my nice camera taking photos, but in lots of places just enjoying it – no phone, no picture, no record. Just taking it all in. I am the only one that has a copy of that memory. It felt special. It also felt nice not to be recording every moment, but to just be enjoying it. It turns out that flowers are more beautiful when looking with your eyes and not through a lens. Who knew? Too many of us do not. I “hiked” through several trails and just enjoyed nature to its fullest.

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When I got tired of hiking and walking (my fitbit was so proud of me for getting in all my steps before 2 in the afternoon), I head back to camp and took everything down. You have to “check out” of your camp site by 2pm, but you are allowed to stay in the park until 10pm. It was just in time too because my loop that had been empty except for me had many occupants setting up for the day and it was feeling a bit crowded for my solo weekend.

I parked my car full of stuff at a day use area and put up my hammock. Guys, I love my hammock so much and I cannot believe I haven’t given it a name yet. I mean so many of my favorite things have names at this point, how has my trusty hammock gone without? I will be taking suggestions. So, I put up my hammock in a nice spot and finished watching my movie! The battery made it right to the end and then my computer shut off at the end of the movie, it felt almost poetic that it was timed so well.

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I read The Hobbit right up until it was time to head back. I was sad to leave, but I had stayed until the last possible moment. I was surprising the husband with a babysitter and plans to see Avengers: Infinity War that night after him watching the kiddos all weekend, letting me have such a special time. I got home in time to tuck everyone in, and have a fun date with the husband at Alamo Drafthouse.

It’s crazy how fast life returns to normal after a weekend like this. I spent the whole weekend feeling quiet, serene, and whole. Getting outside, getting closer to Creation, always makes me feel connected and complete. I prayed, I read, I watched a movie, I walked, I hiked, I sat. It was deeply peaceful. Getting back into the day to day felt…exhausting after such a relaxed pace.

But why does it have to feel this way? I don’t think it does. So, I have started getting up before the kids, exercising a bit, reading outside alone, listening to music, and just starting my day peacefully. It really changes the pace and feel of the whole day. I hope you find ways to slow down and be intentional about rest. Until later,

See You Outside!

Healthy Transitions

So recently I have been thinking about how I can make some healthier transitions in my life. I mean eating healthy or whatever has become incredibly subjective and I am very poorly doing my best, but I have been trying to find other ways I can make changes. I started buying free range eggs (someone help me convince the husband that I need chickens), hormone free meat, and two weeks ago I bought…healthy deodorant!

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It smells delightfully of Vanilla and Lemon, a combination I was not sure I would like, but has proved to be really lovely. I will say that the smell is not that pervasive which you could love or you could hate. I was hoping it would be a little more intense actually, but if you wear perfume or something, this would not be strong enough to overpower it.

It is not the most intense part of the summer yet, so I will be excited to see how it handles the Houston heat. So far, 80-90 degree heat and some humidity, and it is holding up really well! My two older kids actually told me I smelled nice the other day when we were at the park. I’m a little nervous that I may have smelled less amazing before this moment, but since you can’t make a case from silence…we will just assume that I smelled like magic rainbows and that they just enjoy the change in scent. That’s what I’m going to assume. Magic. Rainbows.

So, if you are looking for some small victories in the health department, this is a great investment! Next stop, reusable bags. I have reusable grocery bags, I just bought some reusable cotton rounds instead of using disposable cotton rounds, and am hoping to buy reusable bags for produce as my next stop.

I’ll let you know when the cotton rounds come in and I will let you know how it goes!

Until then…

See You Outside!

The Worst Granola Ever

So today I decided to make a big batch of granola for the next few days of breakfast. I’ve been sick this week and have wanted to do absolutely nothing. Nooothing. The sunshine outside has just been mocking me, begging me to go on a jog or hang in the hammock, but instead I was lying on the couch, wrapped in blankets, wishing someone would bring me some broth. Or DayQuil.

But today I was feeling a touch better, still exhausted and drooping, but at least I am walking around. So, I made a big batch of granola. And I changed it up. And guess what!?

It was bad.

I mean it. It was not good. It was not sweet enough and it was too dry.

So I tried to fix it. I sauteed it with faux butter. This made it less dry for sure, but it actually diluted the sweetness even more. Ew. I mean, no one would eat this. No person or child. I can already imagine my kids literally spitting this out, partially chewed, onto the floor.

Granola

So I added more honey. And now it’s…. PERFECT. It’s sweeter than usual, but I still like it (it’s not overly sweet) and since I added the honey afterward, it was much more clumpy which I love!

So for now it’s solved, but I think what we learned is that my recipe is not fool proof. Also, maybe I should not do projects when my brain is still super fuzzy from sickness and cold medicine. I kept accidentally typing the wrong thing yesterday when I was trying to finish some emails – maybe pregnancy brain and cold brain are related? I’m not pregnant, but my brain felt similarly fuzzy.

Anyway.

Now I at least do not have to make breakfast for the next few days! Let’s just hope my taste buds are not also compromised and I find out tomorrow that the granola is actually disgusting. Here’s hoping!

Hopefully I’ll get better soon and then I will See You Outside!

Give Up Your Gear

So I follow this excellent company called Wylder Goods and this month they are doing something that I love. Love. They are partnering with The Greening Youth Foundation to collect new or used (in good condition) gear for their 2018 programs. This drive will go on from April 5th – May 5th and I hope you will participate!

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c/o wyldergoods.com

About The Greening Youth Foundation:

“This Spring, we’re running a special campaign in partnership with The Greening Youth Foundation and Patagonia. GYF is the leading youth service organization in the United States focused on natural resource management careers for diverse young people that has been historically underrepresented and underserved in these spaces. Every year they manage over five hundred interns and service crew members in paid positions throughout our public land agencies in 48 states and US territories. They’re actively changing the demographic in the field of conservation, and providing career paths in environmental stewardship for disadvantaged youth.

Great, right? Well the problem is, their crews are often stretched thin when it comes to having the most appropriate gear and equipment for life in the field. So here’s what we’re going to do: during the month of April, we’re doing a gear drive on behalf of GYF, and will be collecting donations for new or used gear (in good condition) for their programs in 2018. If you have any of the following going unused in your gear shed, garage, or closet, make an impact in a young outdoor stewards life, and donate it to GYF!”

And all kinds of gear is needed! Check out this list:

 

  • Water bottles
  • Back Packs
  • Work / Climbing Helmets
  • Safety Glasses
  • Gloves
  • Carabiners
  • Jackets (Technical, Snow, Rain, Workwear, etc.)
  • Pants
  • Vests
  • Work Boots
  • Hiking Boots
  • Fire Boots
  • Waterproof Shoes
  • Hats (caps, bucket, etc.)
  • Tents
  • Hiking Backpacks
  • Bookbags
  • Water bottles
  • Sleeping bags
  • Sleeping pads

 

Condition: Please make sure your gear donation is clean and in good condition.

So, where do you send it?

Please send all donations to the Wylder Headquarters at the following address. Include a note with your email / instagram handle so they can properly say thanks, and share the story of your gear throughout the season! The bonus? They’ll give $10 towards your next Wylder order.

WYLDER
Attn: Gear Drive
150 W Commonwealth Ave
Salt Lake City, UT 84115

Don’t have any used gear laying around, but still want to help? You can make a donation to GYF here.
Thank you for outfitting our future land stewards! #livewylder

Worried about shipping costs? Why don’t you get some people together and you can all chip in to send one flat rate package or something with the gear you gather. If you’re in the Houston area, you’re welcome to include your purchases with mine!

For more information, check out their page: https://www.wyldergoods.com/pages/greening-youth-gear-drive

See you Outside!

Palo Duro Canyon

Last weekend we finally went on “Spring Break”, taking the whole family on a road trip to meet my brother-in-law, Daniel, and his wife, Sarah, at Palo Duro Canyon!

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We originally planned for this trip to be grown-ups only, but some changes happened and we ended up taking all the kids. We were a little daunted by the task at first, but made the best of it. What’s better than sharing your love for hiking and camping with your children? Almost nothing.

We also realized that our littles have grown up quite a lot! Guess what? No one screamed the whole way there or back! I was honestly worried because we did not have much room in the car for the normal toy bag and snack bag. Usually we load up with toys and snacks to try and make the drive doable. But this time the car was just too full of all the necessities. So we had just a little bit snack-wise, and the world’s smallest toy bag…like under 10 toys/books. It could have all fit in a shoe box. Upside: we had three toys that they had not gotten to use in about a month so the kids were really excited to have those. (They each had a ziploc type bag that had little felt shapes where you can sew around the edges. I feel like this is a horrible explanation haha!)

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We had some amazing barbecue at Leeper Creek BBQ outside Decatur, TX. It was such a great place because it has this back patio where you can sit, your kids can run around (praise the Lord for fenced in patios), and there’s a waterfall with some beautiful nature around it for everyone to enjoy! This was a much needed break from all the driving.

We got to Palo Duro around 5pm and set about making camp. Good news, it was much hotter than it was supposed to be and it was incredibly windy! Perfect conditions for pitching a tent. We ended up really needing our little people because they stood on the corners of our footprint while we staked it down. Even after that, the tent kept trying to fly away as we put it together – our smaller tent actually did fly away after we got all the poles attached, but had yet to put on the rain fly/stakes. It’s a good thing Daniel and Sarah were there because they helped catch the tent as it was flying away. How many adults does it take to stake down a two person, backpacking tent? Apparently it takes 4… and 3 small children. Ha. Goodness, it was so windy.

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That one in the middle – that’s the one that had an escape plan.

When we got up the next morning, can I tell you how excited I was to realize the kids had slept passed 7am? Even with the sun out! Day one was all about climbing and caves. It turns out Sarah has a deep love for caves, so we could not miss an opportunity to climb up to the one nearby.

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Again, the life saving power of an aunt and uncle. Who wants to hike with mommy and daddy when you could have your aunt and uncle? No judgment, they are some of my favorite people too.

We also hiked some smaller paths, and hike/climbed up and down the area near our campsite. The hike up was a little challenging, but really pleasant. The hike down was… let’s just say the husband received some well earned jabs for choosing the most difficult path down the canyon. Louis and Clark (the names of my Chacos) felt right at home as they navigated a new path through the brush and rocks.

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Look at that attractive couple. Wow. We are killin’ it at this point. This is also before we started the descent so…

One of the best parts of all the climbing was discovering that our youngest is a natural Spiderman! We knew he loved to climb, much like every child we have ever met, but he had such a natural gift for climbing up the rocks. He was rarely scared, he took risks, and he found footholds naturally. He may have earned himself a new nickname.

At night we put the kids down to bed in the tents and played games. We brought a ton of games, but one of our favorites is Bang! Although we all played several rounds of Guess Who? with the oldest because she got to stay up a little later. She felt so grown up!

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Alas, this is the only picture we got of the two ginormous bags of trail mix we made to bring because we are awesome. Or possibly because we accidentally left the cooler unlocked one night and left our food box out (which we thought was secured shut) the next night and special critters enjoyed our trail mix even more than we did. The night we did get to eat our trail mix, all the dark chocolate covered almonds had melted during the day in my backpack creating huge clumps of trail mix that were connected by the, now cooled, chocolate. This was my best life now.

This was also the squirrels’ best life now.

Trail Mix Recipe: Pretzels (we used the sticks, but they were actually too big to get a good handful of things so I would recommend either the grid shape or the braided circle shape), Dark Chocolate Covered Almonds, Raisins, Dried Cranberries, Dried Strawberries (the husband did not appreciate this addition, but I did), Peanuts, Cashews

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The next morning, we had chorizo, potatoes, and scrambled eggs for breakfast. When there are 7 people to cook for and two tiny burners, you have to get creative. We have wanted this cast iron griddle/grill for years, years and we finally had a reason to buy it! Thank you, Palo Duro!

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I’m not sponsored by Lodge or anything, but I can tell you that they are the only brand we buy. I have tried other brands, but none of them hold up to Lodge. This thing is not a short term purchase, it is a life purchase. All of our Lodge products look as good as the day we bought them.

A little steel wool, season with oil, and you’re done. It will change your life. But for real this time.

 

 

The next day we took on the mother lode of hikes. One of our party decided that we should shoot for the moon and head to the lighthouse. When getting ready for this trip, we were told over and over that a trip to Palo Duro Canyon was almost not worth it if you do not go see the Lighthouse, and, in truth, pictures of it were everywhere. It was about three miles there and three miles back. So, we loaded up a backpack of water and all the snacks any small human could ever desire, put the youngest in the Tula, and set off.

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There is a thermometer at the entrance to the trail telling you that if it is 90 degrees or higher, jogging/running is not allowed on the trail. It was already 85 degrees with no shade to be found, this was our warning. A warning we did not take.

On the way there, was one of the more excruciating hikes of my lifetime. It was incredibly hot, sunny, dusty, and rather uninteresting for most of the hike. The first long portion is rather flat too. The kids were not impressed. Nor did they think this hiking thing, which was so fun the day before, was very fun today. All they wanted to do was stop, be carried, and eat snacks. I felt like everyone walking past us looked at us with a little sympathy, but also were secretly thinking YOU WERE WARNED.

We finally made it to the end of the trail and were expecting the magnificence that is the Lighthouse, but guess what…the trail ends BEFORE YOU GET TO THE LIGHTHOUSE. We were warned! Well not about this, but we should have just taken the heat as a warning that everything could and might go wrong.

The youngest was asleep in Tula at this point, so the husband just turned around and walked back to the car. Sarah and Daniel felt good about the trail and mercifully took the middle one back because the oldest and I wanted to summit this rock. We were determined.

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It was a difficult hike up, but we really enjoyed it. The oldest said that climbing the rock was the best part! We were coated in red dirt, and we haaated the walk back, but we survived! We have so much character because of this hike.

We were all pretty much done for the day after this hike so we just hung out and tried to rest that afternoon. I found out during this weekend that I love hammocks. It was deeply relaxing to hang out each afternoon and read in the world’s most amazing swatch of blue.

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Excuse my legs and the dirt, but I was in a good place here. The breeze was just right and the book was awesome. I read Artemis by Andy Weir and Talking As Fast As I Can by Lauren Graham – both excellent. Find me on Goodreads if you want my thoughts on those! (I have since read another book and just started The Golden Compass, the verdict is still out.)

Monday morning we made the long trip home, but not before heading to the look out at the top of the canyon and enjoying the view. We hope we will come back to Palo Duro in the future because there is so much we did not get to do. Until then…

See you Outside!

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The Day I Felt Famous

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Friends, I met the most amazing woman recently when I was at a holiday event. She is hilarious, full of life, and incredibly talented. So imagine how excited I was when I found out that I had won her drawing for a free session!

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It took us a little while to get our schedules together, but the day we got to hang out was like getting to be with a good friend! I kept forgetting she was taking my picture because we were enjoying just hanging out, laughing, and talking together! Her photography business YG&Co. Lifestyle Photography is incredible. Please go visit her page to see more of her talent – http://www.ygcostudio.com/ – also go like her page on Facebook and/or follow her on Instagram!

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You’ll notice some of my favorite gear, and if you look closely you will see my favorite book. Can you guess it?!

Now I have a deep itch to go be alone outside…we have an upcoming family camping trip (Who voted for Palo Duro Canyon? You won!), but I am already planning for my first solo trip. Who are my veteran strong women who solo camp?

See you Outside!

Granola

So as I continue to figure out what the best trail foods and camp foods are, I have begun making my own Larabars and…. granola! I’ve had so many people swear by recipes that have then failed me or have contained so many ingredients I don’t like, it was not worth the effort. But then I found this amazing base recipe that is helping me a ton!

(I did not come up with this recipe or graphic, it is all from here: https://www.recipetineats.com/homemade-granola-muesli/ enjoy!)

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I love this because you can use whatever you like and it works. Boom. I used oats, pecans, pumpkin pie spice mix, honey, salt, vanilla, and cranberries. Delicious.

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You are looking at the world’s oldest box of pumpkin pie spice, so I ended up using way more than recommended because the spices had lost some of their pizzazz. Have no fear, it all worked out in the end. If granola does not smell like cinnamon when it’s baking, don’t waste my time.

My kids were OBSESSED with watching it in the oven (plus it was the perfect thing for them to “help” me make, all you do is stir pretty much) and my oldest, who has a super sensitive nose, proclaimed it to smell “exquisite”. Yes, she’s 5 and she says things like “exquisite”. She’s cool and we all know it.

Now, I did not add the dried fruit later like she recommends above. I put everything in a bowl and stirred. It’s delicious. I wouldn’t worry too much about this, it is not fussy.

Now it is sitting in a container on my counter where I grab spoonfuls throughout the day and my children beg for a taste or a bowl full. Did I mention it was delicious?

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Excuse my reflection, my only regret is that you cannot see my already forming Chaco tan or the fact that I actually painted my toenails this week. It’s a red-letter day.

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What do you like in your granola? Let me know!

See you Outside!

Camp Grub

One of the most important things to consider when you’re camping is…food. Whether you’re glamping in an a-frame or primitive backpacking, you still have to eat. The internet is full of ideas for what you should eat on your camp out and they range from camp-gourmet to MREs. So what should you eat?

The first thing you have to consider is – what kind of camping will you be doing?
Is there a fire ring, will you need to bring your own wood, is there a grill, do you need charcoal? What sort of space do you have for bringing supplies? If you’re car camping, you could easily bring a dutch oven, skillet, camp stove, and almost any food you could think of in your cooler. If you’re in a cabin, you might even have the luxury of a refrigerator. However, if you are doing a campsite that you have to hike to, you will not want lots of heavy pans or a cooler. This is probably the most important deciding factor about your food.

Once you’ve decided all that, though, you still have to decide what to eat!

So here is what I am going to do. I am going to give you a list of food that I know works and tastes good here. Second, I am going to start trying more of these foods and posting my reviews for you on this blog!

The most important food to pack if you are doing anything other than primitive backpacking (and even then you may decide it’s worth the weight) is S’mores. I have said it before, but I will say it again – it’s almost not camping if there are no s’mores. What’s the point of even building a fire if there are no marshmallows to roast! (I am partially kidding)

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Some other foods that we have found successful:

Hot dogs
So this may sound self-explanatory, but hot dogs are such an easy thing to bring with you. You can eat them up over a fire, a camp stove, or pretty much any heating element. You could probably light a match and hold it over a match for a little bit and it would work. I mean these are just so easy. Plus, you can use them in many things. You don’t have to bring buns to use hot dogs. You can put them with beans, packs of ramen, or add them to chili.

Chili
This can seem a bit more difficult because some people like to make chili more complicated than necessary. But if you have ever seen a western movie ever, you know that chili is a camping staple! There are many options you could use to make chili on a camp fire (cast iron dutch oven style) or on the camp stove (small pot style).

One option is the “all cans” style, the easiest I think. You add a little oil (those travel shampoo things at Target are perfect for bringing a small amount of oil), a can of…14oz black beans, 14 oz red kidney beans, 14 oz can diced tomatoes (or Rotel for a kick or just tomato sauce for the tomato haters out there like my husband), 1 can chipotle peppers with the seeds removed (or green enchilada peppers or leave out), 1 cup of broth (or a 12 oz lager). If you feel fancy, add salt, garlic, chili powder, cumin, and all spice.
Stir it all together and let it boil until it looks and taste how you like it.

Now maybe you don’t want a more vegetarian style chili and you are willing to put a little more work into it. I suggest using the above method, but here is what I would add to it.
Ground Beef, Hot Sausage (Breakfast or regular), and Onions
If you are looking to save time or to avoid carrying raw meat with you, you can always cook these in advance and bring it in ziploc bags or plastic containers. I would also pre-chop the onions, but not cook them until you are ready to make your food. Soggy onions are no one’s friend, but you will never get all that onion juice off your hands if you chop it at your campsite and you will inevitably touch your eyes, causing you to cry buckets. #imnotcryingyourecrying This is definitely not first hand experience…

Foil Packets
You could put almost anything inside a foil packet, I am convinced, and it would be delicious. Pick your favorite meat, your favorite vegetables, and a sauce if you’re feeling fancy then put it all in foil and throw it on your coals.

I have done:
Chicken, Asparagus, and BBQ sauce
Chicken, Squash, Zucchini, Bell Peppers, and BBQ sauce
Chicken, Potatoes (slightly pre-cooked at home), Carrots (julienned), and Salsa
Chicken, Tomatoes, Onions, Squash (the tomatoes are juicy enough to become the sauce)

Kabobs
I won’t lie that eating kabobs over the fire when we were at Enchanted Rock felt so fancy. They were delicious and actually much easier than so many things we have made before. Major key to it going well – soak your skewers in water if you’re using disposable skewers. We have metal ones now so this is less of a deal, but we still occasionally bring the other and have to soak them. So what do you put on your skewers?
Chicken, Bell Peppers, Onions, Tomatoes, Mushrooms – anything that strikes your fancy

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Sometimes all the wood gets wet, so you make dinner on the stove instead of the fire.

Homestyle Breakfast
I looove eating this for breakfast at the campsite. It is so filling that I am all set to go climbing or hiking after its deliciousness. So what is this magic? Potatoes. Eggs. Chorizo. I tend to eat Mexican Chorizo, but there are so many types from Spain, Philippines, Mexico, and many other countries that you could do a taste test of only Chorizo. But bring the water and some crackers or rice because most Chorizo is spicy! If it’s long and narrow there is a chance it is more sweet, but most Chorizo that is sold in the every day grocery store where I am is quite spicy and will stain your hands red.
Secondary option that I have started eating with everything – Kimchi. Our youngest is Korean and as we make every attempt to incorporate his country and his culture into our lives, Kimchi has become a standard food for us. If you’re going to bring it, though, make sure you keep it in plenty of its juice because you do not want it to dry out.
Feeling nervous that the potatoes will take forever to cook? A good trick is to cook them in advance. Now do not go and cook them all the way then try to cook them again, they will be mush. Not that mashed potatoes aren’t good for breakfast, but it’s not the point here. Cook them until they al dente, or just a little crunch in the center. That way, it’ll be much faster during the real deal.

Omurice
This is another amazing food we have gotten to try because of many amazing people who are teaching us about South Korea. Omurice came to Korea from Japan, but can now be found in many places! I have cooked it myself several times, but also had it at a little place in Seoul and let’s just say it changed my life. Now I do not have my own recipe. You are going to have to head over to Maangchi’s website to get it. (I’ll give you the link here in a minute) But here’s my advice on how to make it camping friendly.
Chop all the vegetables in advance and bring minute rice. You can definitely bring traditional rice, it will taste better, but if you are worried about time or trying to bring less pots/pans, minute rice is easier. Combine them together with the cooked meat in a bowl. Traditionally, you would use a bow to make a dome for the egg pancake to go on top of or you would make it look sort of like a burrito; however, you’re camping and you do not want to use a 1000 dishes. So cook the meat and vegetables in the pan, and put in on the plate/bowl. Cook the rice at the same time if you can, if not cook it first. Then combine it on the plate/bowl. Then use the very same pan to make scrambled eggs and put them on top. It is ok if you do not want to make a pancake. It would be better with an egg pancake, but there will be no police here.
https://www.maangchi.com/recipe/omeu-raiseu
This dish is a bit complex for camping, but it is so so good, highly filling, and contains so many nutrient dense foods that will last you until lunch no matter what you are doing. This is definitely a food for car camping or glamping.

Pre-made trail bars/trail mix
So trail mix is pretty self explanatory about how to make it and take it. Buy what you like, mix it up. I like to use these snack bags instead of a ziploc bag because they are really durable and will not rip in my day pack. Plus, if I finish the trail mix, I can use the bag for other things because it does not become crinkly and useless after one use.

As far as trail bars, I make my own version of a LaraBar that my kids have started calling “mommy bars”. They are legitimately delicious and easy to pack with you to take on a hike. No afternoon slump here! Make these in advance.
Ingredients:
2 cups (roughly 1.5 packages at my local Randall’s)
1 cup slivered almonds (I have also done half and half almonds and walnuts)
1/2 cup dried fruit (I use cranberries and raisins)
2-3Tbsp unsweetened cocoa

Grab your food processor! Please do not do this in a mixer or blender, it just does not do as well. I have heard one person having success with a Vitamix, but the risk is yours!
Put the dates, nuts, and dried fruit in the mixer and get to it! As your mixing, add 1 Tbsp cocoa at a time and taste it to make sure you get the right flavor. Too little and it will not taste at all like brownies, too much and it will taste like powder. Gross. You want it to be sticking together pretty well. You can add a little water if needed, but no more than 2T or it won’t blend together. Pat everything onto a parchment paper lined casserole dish and refrigerate. Cut them into squares, wrap them up, and they are ready to go!
These can be frozen if you’re really trying to make them far in advance.

Quick tip: If you have trouble with your dates or are nervous because you are trying them in a blender, blend up just the water and dates first to make a paste, then add in everything else.

Pancakes
Pancakes! Deliciousness! Please please please do not bring all the ingredients to make pancakes from scratch when you go camping. Please make the batter in advance, store it in a milk carton or something like that, and bring it ready to pour. You’ll love the pancakes and you’ll appreciate the lack of hassle. Are you wishing you could have pancakes and kabobs? You totally can! Make small pancakes, put them on kabobs with strawberries, other fruits, small sausages, or bacon. Then drizzle the whole thing with syrup from your trust travel sized squeeze bottle. Boom. Pancake Kabobs. Enjoy.

Eggs
Because you definitely hadn’t thought of making eggs already…
My only tip here is that if you do not have room or are worried about breaking eggs, you can prescramble some eggs and put them in a container to bring with you. You could use a mason jar if you’re feeling fancy, but you could also keep the container from some heavy whipping cream or something else small that has a twist cap and store them there.

Let me know if you have any good meals to add in and send me an recipes you’ve seen and would like to see someone try out!

See you Outside!

Where Should We Wander?

Welcome to another day!

We over here are so “over” this crazy dreary weather. I need sun. I need my backyard to stop being a mud puddle. I need to stop bathing my kids multiple times a day so that my floor is not covered in mud and grass. This feels very not me. I usually do not care about this kind of thing – the rain is turning me into a cleaning mom! Someone save me!

I needed to go somewhere else and do something, get out some pent up energy. So I headed to the gym!

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Here’s my warm up walk just so you know I actually made it to the gym and am not all talk. You’re welcome. I joined a gym because I keep needing to exercise late at night and didn’t feel comfortable being outside alone that late. Yay, womanhood! Also, I joined a gym because Houston is so flaaaaat. A girl needs a treadmill to get hills here. There’s also a crazy stair climber thing, but I’ll be honest that I have not been brave enough to try it yet. I’m afraid I’ll look stupid. Judge me. I’m okay with myself.

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This is my post workout face. My baby hairs are on point. Between the gym, my baby hair powers, and my stair climber at home (it’s a feet only thing made by Gold’s Gym), I will be ready for all of our backpacking adventures.

We are also in the midst of planning our next camp out! Spring break here we come! We are between two options right now. If we get to go with my BIL and SIL, we may go to Palo Duro Canyon.

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Images Courtesy of the Texas Parks & Wildlife

This beautiful place has incredible views, hike-in campsites, and an epic hike to “the lighthouse”. I. want. this. hike. in. my. life. For real, y’all. Did I say that this canyon is one of the most beautiful things? It’s the Grand Canyon for Texas, because Texas will not be outdone. But we may be bringing three kiddos along with us and the hike might prove a bit strenuous for them. If we go sans BIL/SIL, we are going to go a bit more kid-friendly…

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Images Courtesy of Houston Culture Map

Can I just say that this park has the coolest looking cabins? It is actually the only City of Houston park that allows overnight guests! The Houstonia informed me that, “…these aren’t just any cabins; designed by local architectural firm MC2, these modern marvels come with all the creature comforts of home, from screened-in front porches with rocking chairs for enjoying a quiet evening outside to microwaves, refrigerators and air conditioning inside.”

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Images Courtesy of MC2 Architects

And these are not even how all the cabins look. We would be using a walk-in campsite, but I still thought these looked too incredible to ignore. This campsite has kayaking and 20 miles of bike/hike trails as well as a playground for the smaller people in your group. The ones that wouldn’t be excited at all about hiking twenty miles. Amiright?

What are you planning for spring break?

See you Outside!