August Beauty Round Up

We are officially back in the swing of things since arriving back home from vacation. Nestling our Kodiak Canvas under a canopy of South Carolina pines for a week was blissful and had me begging for Autumn. With the blanket of leaves and pine needles tucking in mother earth’s soil, one may think that fall was nigh until feeling the 90 some-odd degree heat hit you full force purging sweat from every pore on your body.

Each day at Huntington Beach State Park was spent cooling off on the beach, riding bikes, spotting alligators and swatting mosquitos. HBSP was a neat campground that offered just enough to keep our days busy without leaving the grounds. With turquoise iron gate windows and brick washed with weathered white paint, Adalaya Castle calls HBSP home and welcomes tourists to walk with her back into time. The castle offers tours during the day if you need a break from the beach or you can do a ghost tour at night. If you do this I recommend staying at the back of the line and walking through the black engulfed halls without the crowd.

Vacations are always highly anticipated but as they come to an end I am ready to get home and get back to our routine unlike my little girl who sobbed uncontrollably when she was told we were leaving that morning. Making time for myself is something that I don’t let slip through as an afterthought and with all of our hard work packing-unpacking-a week of tent camping at the beach-packing-unpacking I’m ready to soak in a bath with my favorite mask and a good book.

Once upon a time, I was an esthetician. Rubbing people’s faces with high dollar products and teaching them about skin care was what paid the bills. It was a dream that I made come true but with an economical hardship and watching space free up on my schedule, I realized that I needed to make a change. Another job and baby later, I’m a stay-at-home-adventure-loving momma.

A few years ago, after seeing friends on social media share pictures of these magical monthly cosmetic bags I decided to join in and this being a way I “treat” myself each month. I soon realized that I was getting more items that I would never use versus items that I could put in my me-time repertoire. Amongst these cheap imported products, I stumbled across a company that offers quality, made in USA products that happen to be vegan and made of all things good. Little did I know that this company would become my go-to in all beauty products and change my hair and skin forever.

Pacifica Beauty. Made in Portland, Oregon. Free of sulfates, parabens, SLS or petroleum. 100% vegan and cruelty free. Sound good to you? Here are a list of a few of my favorite products.

Let’s start with hair.

After having my son my hair became extremely dry, brittle and the home of tangles that seemed to have zero hope to wrangle. I bought product after product. I tried to only use those that were natural but my hair continued feeling like hay (that’s the best way I can describe it). Against my desires I started buying sulfate infused products hoping that it would help get control over the myriad of problems going on in my hair. They didn’t help either. I considered cutting my hair but wanted to try something else first. I decided to try Pacifica Coconut Power Strong and Long shampoo and conditioner all because it was on sale at Whole Foods during a beauty event. My hair changed immediately. It was the craziest thing EVER. My soft hair returned leaving no tangles and hair that one would want to run their fingers through. Since then, I’ve use their Salty Waves Texturizing shampoo and conditioner and the Pineapple Curls Curl Defining Conditioner. They are all amazing. If you have curly hair (my husband and son have tight curls) you HAVE to try the Pineapple Curls. You won’t regret it. Also, the Hairvana leave in conditioner and the Salty Waves texturizing spray are also must-haves. Might I add that each one of these products smell absolutely phenomenal. I haven’t used a product that smell as good as these.

My skincare go-tos…

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Pacifica Beauty Sea Foam Complete Face Wash – You only need a dot of this wash! It foams up nicely and removes ALL of my makeup
Pacifica Beauty Coconut Water Micellar Cleansing Tonic – I had this before the Sea Foam face wash. At the time I was using Burt’s Bees face cleanser. When I would get finished showering I could tell I still had grime on my face. With just a bit of this micellar tonic on a rag, I wiped of the remainder of the makeup and grime that BB left behind. Never again BB! Girl bye.
Pacifica Beauty Coconut Water Face Wipes – perfect for camping or any other travels! TIP: I keep these on my night stand for my lazy nights.
Pacifica Beauty Sea Change Future Youth Serum — I use this every night! It’s weightless and non-greasy and it’s currently on sale!
NON-PACIFICA ITEM  — Acure Brilliantly Brightening Face Scrub – I landed a sample of this scrub in a beauty bag from Whole Foods earlier in the year and fell in love with it. My skin feels so smooth and looks rejuvenated after using this. Pacifica also has an amazing scrub (I was needing a scrub in a pinch and Ulta, Target, nor Whole Foods carries their scrub– bummer) called Glow Baby Youthful Face Scrub. Both of these scrubs consist of micro granules buffing all of those dead skin cells away and lifting all of that gunk like a breeze. You can’t go wrong with either one of these. The Acure face scrub smells amazing (reminds me of spa days) and is 4 ounces versus the Pacifica 1.7 ounces. I am currently using the Acure and felt that I would be misleading if I didn’t share this item or if I solely recommended Pacifica.
Pacifica Kale Charcoal Ultimate Detox Mask – I love this mask. Once it’s dried you can wet your hands and rub it back into your skin loosening the dirt furthermore from your pores before you rinse. You can skip the scrub on these days!

My all time favorite product of Pacifica Beauty is the Kale Brighten Enzamatic Overhaul  Mask. IT.IS.THE.BUSINESS.
I’m not kidding you.
My pores are smaller, my skin is brighter and my skin simply looks (and feels) happy. Unfortunately Amazon doesn’t have a link for that mask for me to share with you – so sad. But Target should have it! I dont know what I will do if they discontinue this item!

If you’re looking for something new to try check out one of these. I’m not sponsored in any way by Pacifica I just love the company, products and the results that I see from these listed.

Happy Tuesday ya’ll!

Medjool Date Loaf and September Paddle Trip

When Daniel and I decided to get married we didn’t tell anyone except immediate family and a pastor a few days before our desired wedding day asking if he was available. Frugal with vacation days and time off work, we crammed a lot into this one day like Daniels Lasik eye surgery. My dress wasn’t hemmed. I wore my hair down like I did any other day. My makeup was sub par I’m sure, as I did it myself. But it was perfect. I often think of how I wish we had of done things but in the end, things would be the same. We are married and that’s all we wanted. Just each other.

Things didn’t line up exactly like we wanted for a honeymoon. Being close to Mother’s Day, we decided to take a short local honeymoon (we camped, took our dog and paddled) and we would take our explorative trip to Mexico later that year. Each year there after, we have went on two “anniversary trips” one in May and one in the fall.

We haven’t had an anniversary trip without children. Our first anniversary trip we found out we were pregnant with Oaklee. Each one after I was either nursing or pregnant again and then nursing again. This is why our 6 year anniversary trip means so much to us. This much-needed alone time. Knowing all of the trials we will go through on the 7-8 day trip, the hardest will be having to go without seeing our children. That will be the hardest thing we will have to do. We are already trying to find ways to see them along the way. So don’t take me wrong and think that I’m asking or desiring a break from my kids because that is far from what I’m saying. I’m wanting alone time with my husband.

Our paddle itinerary is written out and ready to be printed and laminated. Broken down by each day and river miles to be paddled. Thankfully, it’s following the Mountains to Sea trail that’s being built throughout our state so planning was a lot easier going from this map. They have done an elaborate job on getting almost all of the information that one would need. I still need mileage from each camp to the towns. We plan to walk into each town and fill up on supplies, water and grab some grub. Hoping to meet new people, hear a story and maybe tell ours too.

Not including our last day (because we are only having to paddle 10 miles), we will be paddling anywhere from 23.4 to 33.2 miles each day. It’s surreal thinking of paddling that much at one time. The longest paddle we have made so far has been 16.2 miles and it took us around 4 hours.

We have scheduled a paddle trip in September to get some training in. On our last two days in our 215 mile paddle we will be paddling rougher waters. The river will be widening and welcoming boats along with waves and wind. For this reason we decided to plan a trip to get water of that nature under our boards. We have paddled inter-coastal  water, bays, and sounds plenty of times but how could one argue with getting more time under their belt?

In mid September we will be leaving out of Beaufort and paddling to Shackleford Banks to camp in solitude. Separating ourselves from the influential world for a few days makes for a good reset. We will paddle up the island to get an unparalleled view of Cape Lookout lighthouse. The island is just 9 miles long but full of wildlife and unscathed beaches. Waking up, making jet boiled coffee on the sand while watching the horses and water pull me into a daze seems like a day-dream. But I’m lucky enough to call this life. Just a few weeks and we will be doing just that. I can’t wait to share photos and stories from our trip.

Now, the real reason you clicked on this article.

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Medjool Date Loaf. This is where it’s at in the sweet loaf department. I make this typically on a Sunday night for us to eat on for the week. It never makes it past a few days. Its amazing nonetheless. With it’s almond flour grit, sweet chewy candy like date bits, and creamy peanut butter pulling it all together makes this loaf a total hit in my house. My kids can’t get enough and I’m ecstatic to give them something that’s not so terrible for them.

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Medjool Date Loaf

Makes 1 loaf

Ingredients:

2 overripe bananas
1 1/2 cups almond flour
3/4 cup organic cane sugar (If you’re paleo use coconut sugar)

1/2 cup creamy peanut butter (if you’re paleo use almond butter)
3 Tablespoons coconut flour

3 Tablespoons water
2 eggs
1 tsp baking soda

1/2 teaspoon vietnamese cinnamon

1/8 tsp nutmeg

pinch of sea salt
3/4 cup medjool dates (I get mine at Trader Joes), pitted and chopped PLUS 2 dates pitted and cut in half

Instructions:

1. Preheat oven to 350F degrees
2. Grease your loaf pan (I use coconut oil spray). I use a well seasoned stone pan and do not have to use parchment paper. Your welcome to line it with parchment to help get your loaf out of the pan.

3. In a medium bowl, mix all dry ingredients and set aside.
4. In a large bowl, mash bananas. Stir in peanut butter, water, and eggs.
5. In increments, add dry ingredients to the wet ingredients, stirring until well combined.
6. Fold in the chopped dates.
7. Pour batter into the pan.
8. Arrange your date halves onto the top of the loaf batter.
9. Bake at 350F for 35-45 minutes OR until center is firm.

Enjoy!

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Crippled Waters and Cherry Mocha Smoothie

We have finally nailed down details for our paddle, read about our epic upcoming 215 mile paddle here. With each days mileage, towns, campgrounds and such. Seeing it laid out makes it feel more real and the excitement feels child-like. Reading over our anniversary day sounds so awesome and can’t wait to experience a type of nature I haven’t had the opportunity to see.

Flowing through oxbows, cypress swamps on into an estuary there’s no telling what we will get to see. I’m hoping to see a clean river, but that’s something that we always wish. It breaks my heart to see the filth in our waters. But how can I continue to be surprised? It’s over and over again. When we went to Bryson City, read about our trip here, what pulled us there was Fontana Lake. On the edge of our seats to see this lake, we were in shock of all of the trash in the water. The worst I have ever seen.
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Seeing that had an impact on us and we decided at that point we would do better on reducing our waste and cracking down on our recycling. We are still trying to figure out how to become a zero waste home. If you have any tips on this please share them below.

Some people may not know, although it seems like a popular subject these days because the severity is real and the topic is becoming unavoidable, humanly trash its killing our rivers and oceans. Say you throw out trash going down the road. So does the next person and the next person. Now we have all of this trash on the side of the road. We get a hard rain pushing this trash where it shall go naturally, down. Down in a side ditch or maybe in a field. It may make its way into a small feeder creek at this point or sit stagnant waiting for rain. We may not get another hard rain for a while but eventually it will happen. Again pushing it closer and closer to water. It eventually makes its way into the river. Flowing with the current, inevitably into the ocean. As time goes on, plastic breaks apart, known as micro-plastic. Birds, fish and turtles see this as food and once they swallow it they have a 50% mortality rate. Trash will soon invade your beaches, creek banks and river banks. It has no mercy, filling up in areas claiming marine habitat. Moving fish out of their rightfully owned homes. It’s sad and also very real.

I hope at this point you may feel motivated to help your waters. You might be thinking… What can I do?

Here’s a few things:

1. Recycle. I leave a brown paper bag in my kitchen to put items in and once its finished I walk it to our recycling bin. Anymore (or at least at our dump), you no longer have to sort your recycling. It can all be put in one bin. It’s easy and has a huge impact.

2. Participate in river clean ups. These happen all the time. It’s a great thing to get involved it and normally they have a fun event held afterwards. Music, brew and eats. Check with your local river keeper if this is something you’d like to do.

3. Pick up trash during a walk. Maybe you take a daily walk somewhere. Carry a bag just incase you see trash. Clean up the pathways you enjoy walking on. Maybe someone sees you and you impact them to do the same.

4. Invest in reusable straws. If you like your cold brew just toss one in your bag or car and tell your Barista “no thank you” when they hand you a straw. From what I’ve read I believe Starbucks is already getting on board with omitting plastic straws from all stores.  America uses around 500 million plastic straws A DAY. Being too light to make it through the recycling sorter they fall through the sorter and land in the garbage. Per Strawless Ocean, by 2050 there will be more plastic in our oceans than fish. Ready to invest in your reusable straws? Here’s a few: here, here, I already have reusable straws but I will be ordering these– here, or here.

With these few things we can make a huge difference. Lets go out there and be a positive impact to others and our Mother Earth. Lets educate others and lead by example. Having said that I have a delicious smoothie recipe for you to enjoy while using your new straws!

This smoothie right here has blown my mind over and over again.

I’m not kidding you when I say this… it tastes like a chocolate shake. It’s SO good. It’s blended smooth and will go through your standard straw smoothie-ly. See what I did right there?! [wink] Enjoy!

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Cherry Mocha Smoothie

Makes 24 ounces

Ingredients:

1.5 cups frozen cherries (I get mine at Trader Joes)
1.5 cups vanilla almond milk
2 Tablespoons honey

1 Tablespoon ground chia seed
1 Tablespoon flax seed meal

1 Tablespoon cocoa

Instructions:

Put in blender (it’s on sale!) and blend until smooth.

215 mile Paddle

Yea, you read that right.

A few weeks ago I posted about our trip to Bryson City, North Carolina. If you follow me you may have read it but for any new visitors or those who may have missed it you can read about it here. On our first day at camp we met two other fellow primitive campers who were also camping along the river bank. Once we were set up we had time to ask if they’d had any luck fishing. From that simple question a friendship formed.

Isn’t it funny how some things work out? I do believe that some things are just meant to be. Sometimes my husband will get behind a slow vehicle on his way to work. Naturally he will get frustrated because promptness is his strong suit. But I will explain to him that it’s probably for good reason. Take it as a blessing. Accept it. Everything will be fine. Just be careful.

So for our trip to Bryson City… we weren’t supposed to leave for the mountains until that Friday but last-minute we decided that my husband would take off work Thursday and we would head up early that morning. As we were talking to these two guys we found out they weren’t even supposed to be there at that moment. They were paddling the Tuckasegee River (a week-long trek) and was a day ahead of schedule.

We soon realized these two aren’t your typical paddlers. Not the ones we come across at least. We are standing on the river bank chatting with one as the other dressed in trunks walks down to the river. “Going for a swim?”, my husband asks. Really? I thought he was joking because the water was so chilly. “Yea I think I will.”, He replied. His friend who we were talking to said, “Yea that’s kind of his thing. He swam across Lake Michigan”. Wait what?? Not only did he swim across Lake Michigan, he refused a follower boat and requested that he do it alone pulling his SUP behind him. My goodness, these are people you watch documentaries of. Chris Lechner (his site can be found here), a hand surgeon who successfully reattached a severed hand, also paddles full rivers for fun, swims Lake Michigan for fun and understands the water and how it changes you.

John Sherman, a hospital helicopter pilot and a neurology dept NP, also paddles full rivers for fun. Accustom to tackling these journeys solo, this trip was their first full river paddle together. As we talked we learned more about each other and realized that these guys are doing exactly what we want to be doing. My husband has always been on the river. Ever since we met he was taking me into some kind of adventure like spending my birthday on Davis Island. Leaving our vehicle behind, we commuted by ferry and our rzr, solitude had a new meaning. There weren’t people just doing this. Where we crazy? We slept on the beach, took showers by pouring water for each other, and stood in pouring rain to get relief from the noseeums. We had the shore to ourselves along with the sea. These are the kind of trips we love. The lonely waters.

Where there are lonely waters there are also like-minded people who are brought together by the flow of nature.

We waved good-bye as they got back on the water. Yelling, “Stay in touch!”, we all agreed. Somehow through the rest of our trip, Chris and John continued to come up in our conversations. We talked about how awesome they where, what they were doing was awesome, found out more about their trip, how they walked into town, and how we want to do this same very thing. We want to paddle a complete river in one trip. My excitement is unreal but there is some fear behind it too. Maybe that’s why it’s so exciting.

For our 6 year wedding anniversary we have decided to paddle the Neuse River in its entirety in just one trip. Roughly around 215 miles. 215 miles of just him and I, the river and whatever it brings. We are in the very preliminary planning stages. Deciding daily mileage and over night take outs. We have a lot of phone calls to make, emails to send, and training to do. It’s something that I’ve heard my husband talk about doing for years. And I’m so excited to make this a reality for him. We are looking to make this trek in 7-8 days. But with the right touring board we may be able to do it quicker. The other day we paddled 16.2 miles in 4 hours and could have easily put in 3 or 4 more hours. The boards that we are using aren’t touring SUPs which are heavier and wider. There is no telling how our timing will change once we are paddling a touring SUP.

To our knowledge, the Neuse river has not been SUP’d in its entireity in one trip. It has been kayaked multiple times but we are hoping to be the first to SUP it. Although, someone could have done it and not told anyone. Another reason this is super exciting.

I look at our change of arrival date to Bryson City as a blessing. We wouldn’t have met Chris and John otherwise. We wouldn’t have a better understanding of what a trip like that would look like. From meeting them we now realize our dreams don’t have to be dreams. We can make them a reality and do something that we have always wanted to do. It’s going to be extremely hard and have already agreed not to get divorced at the end — haha! We have run all of the hardships and negatives through our heads and are okay with them and feel strong enough to welcome them and fight through it.

Theres something about a river. It’s magical. It changes you.

I will be documenting all of our planning and training down to the actual paddle. You can follow me on my Instagram @ashehardison for these updates as well. I plan to break down all of our gear set up, what the inside of our bags look like, talking safety and what-ifs, what we’re going to do for food, and our daily schedule. I think writing about this may help me not forget anything. So join us on this crazy wild trip! We would love your support!

“In Gods wildness lies the hope of the world” — John Muir

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Gardening Tips with Pros and Cons

Each year we add and take away from our garden. It’s a fun way to experiment with where we plant and how we plant each plant. Learning and building off of each others ideas to decide what works and what isn’t worth it. We’ve made cinder block beds, wooden raised beds, metal raised beds, pea/cucumber trellis, and even removed all of our raspberry canes to make a pumpkin patch. We have a wall of sunflowers that shade tomatillos and our cucumbers climb our pea trellis to cover a couple of tomato plants and those tomato plants shade a bed of radishes. With each bed I try to build a relationship between plants becoming companions. While one may ward off a debilitating insect the other plant may attract a “good” one. It’s fun and you’re able to create beautiful spaces for flowers, herbs and vegetables to all coexist.

Gardening is something I grew up doing. As far back as I can remember, each summer was spent walking the rows of the garden and standing at the edge of the yard shucking corn and giving a good “eww” over each worm we uncovered. Maybe I’m forgetting but I never felt it as work. I enjoyed being there, playing in the dirt amongst the vegetables and watching our pantry grow.

When I  met my now husband, I was quick to ask him for a garden at his house. He too was raised picking beans and shucking corn but didn’t exactly have the same feelings about it as I did back then. But as we took on our own garden I believe his feelings began to change and bloom again. Desiring a place to raise our own food and seeing how successful we could be at it we thought, “Gosh this is too simple”. At the time we didn’t really care how we got them to grow… it was more like an at-all-costs type garden. It was going to be successful no matter what. We applied Miracle-Gro to our plants however so often (maybe even more than directed) and would cover them with pesticides to ensure nothing other than us harvest our plants… What is it called 7 Dust? Our first year garden was resilient, hardy, and bared more food than what we could eat fresh and me to can or us give away. BUT… (there’s a big but here) what were we really consuming??

Our views on using fertilizer changed. Our views on pesticides changed. We removed our railroad tie raised beds and switched to cinderblock beds. We decided if we’re going to use fertilizer that we would only use organic; We have only used soil conditioner this year. We DO NOT use pesticides and instead plant Marigolds, cover crops, herbs, other flowers amongst our garden. Playing around with companion planting becomes fun, requires a creative mind, research and paints a pretty picture in the garden.

Omitting the unnecessary, gardening has become harder trying to understand the plants and what they’re telling us that they need. By that statement you may be thinking, “Sounds like it is necessary”. No, it’s not. That’s the problem. Nowadays its seems like people want it easy. Less work. Things handed to them. Lets put in minimal effort to reap maximum reward. No and no. It doesn’t work like that. And frankly it gets frustrating seeing that mentality in people these days. We work for what we have and if it matters to us, we will do the work to figure out what may be wrong with our yellowing leafed plant. Maybe its over watering or is it not enough? Or that tomato plant that isn’t producing large fruit. Maybe we should experiment with suckering? Or maybe my plants are getting ate up with aphids. Maybe I should sow some buckwheat.. which attract aphids and just so happen to be the home of hover flies that feed on aphids.

I love figuring things out. I don’t even mind failing. It’s all a process and so rewarding. When I look at our home-canned food I know exactly what hard work went into a single jar and also what DIDN’T go into them. The investment shows and makes the jar taste so much better. It can be done naturally you just have to start and learn your space. Your plants will talk to you showing you signs of what you may need to show more attention to. You just have to be present and listen.

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New in my garden:

As I mentioned on Instagram the other day, I have tried a few things this gardening that seems a little unorthodox. So far all plants seem to be loving their environment and everything looks healthy.

1. I pulled raised rows.

I pulled rows like you would for sweet potatoes, knocking the peak down and planted all plants in these. Burying a few leaves of peppers and tomatoes praying for a strong root system.

Pros: I have found that weeding is much easier with these raised rows. I literally take the weed-eater and knock down the grass in-between the rows. That’s it. I do pull weeds in-between the days that I choose to weed-eat this is just preference as I wouldn’t have to. I also have found that rows have made it much easier to weed-eat as the rows protect them.

Cons: Initially, I was concerned with how they would absorb water. I had gotten discouraged once I planted my garden. Stepping back and looking I thought all of the water will run off meeting in the walkway. So I pulled back the mulch from the base of the plant, creating a well. Hoping to ensure that water would make it to the roots. Since then the wells have been pushed back and the plants are thriving. I guess my “con” would be for unsurety

2. I covered the rows in brown paper grocery bags.

I decided to try to suppress weeds with some Trader Joe bags that had been accumulating. I knew it would do so and also add organic matter back into the soil. Aiding in keeping it nice and loamy.

Pros: This method helped wonders with weed control! I would do it again and again. When I do pull a weed, it doesn’t even feel like its attached to the soil. It pulls up perfectly with all of the roots intact. You’re recycling your paper bags also and giving back to your soil. 

Cons: It’s more work but so worth it.

3. Mulch, mulch, mulch.

We mulched all raised rows in the garden, every raised bed and new in-ground garden spots throughout our nook. Mulching also aids in weed control and acts as a barrier to bacteria in the soil that can harm your plants and vegetables. It also acts as an insulator keeping your soil cool which also keeps it loose. I was shocked to feel how cool the inside of the rows where especially in the 95 degree heat that we’ve been having. And on-top of that, all of that the mulch keeps your soil hydrated. We went quite sometime without rain and left for vacation without any means of watering other than hopes for rain. No rain, but our garden still looked healthy and hydrated.

Pros: It gives a nice aesthetic touch while being functional. Plants seem to be happy, hydrated, and healthy. Also may I add, so far minimal bites and spotting on leaves (the only plant that does is my tomatillos).

Cons: More expensive. It’s going to cost you more but I think you’d be happy that you did. Pass on the box store single bags of mulch. Find a landscaping business and buy it by the scoop. Its much cheaper and goes way further. If you’re dealing with hard soil mulch would be a great thing to add to your garden.

4. Tomato Trellis.

I know tomatoes aren’t your climbing vine but this year we were going to experiment with putting our wire wall at an angle. Allowing the tomatoes to lay on the wire getting some support. We still tied them to the wire. This also allows us to companion plant a little differently too. Having our plants at an angle we now have shade in our garden allowing us to plant on the opposite side of our tomato wall in that very shade, lettuce and herbs maybe. I haven’t planted yet because I need the tomatoes to get a little bigger to give ample shade.

Pros: Opens up walkway and allows companion planting. With the tomatoes laid back at an angle the stems aren’t covering my walkway leaving it easy to walk through and work.

Cons: It’s the unsurety thing again. I’m not sure if this will affect the yield of my plants. I wouldn’t think it would but I just dont know. So this is still up in the air.

5. Soil Conditioner

With any new beds or with soil that didn’t feel like we wanted it, we added soil conditioner. This is extremely rich organic soil that is high in nitrogen.

Pros: Gives your soil nutrients that it may be lacking. Loosens up hard to manage dirt. It should promote healthier plants and higher yields.

Cons: More money. Its high in nitrogen so you wouldn’t want to put this directly on your plants.

I’m loving the direction that our garden is headed in. With time we shall see if these changes and hard work was worth it. Until then I’m going to enjoy the process and watch my garden unfold and listen every time they talk. I hope you find something from this article that you can apply to your garden or homestead. Let’s keep gardening fun and help each other make hard work easier.

A Few Camping Essentials and Our Latest Trip

Bryson City, North Carolina has been on our list of “top places” to see for quite sometime. I remember us talking about visiting years ago being drawn in by the history of Fontana Lake and reading about this town in Our State Magazine solidified the plan to go.

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As a family on a budget, we search for the most affordable places but also centered around awesome things to do that doesn’t rip the money straight from of your wallet. Typically you can find campgrounds close to a body of moving water for a decent price. These places tend to be “no-frills” campgrounds. We have found several of these over the course of camping for 8 years. These very campgrounds typically do not require a deposit on your site and simply ask for your name. This time we found Grumpy Bear Campground. It was right on the Tuckasegee river. Our kids had a river-stone beach and we spent many hours picking up river glass and flat stones that will end up our shower floor. Standing on this beach we could see the metal from the cars sticking out of the water that were placed along the banks to prevent erosion. I hear Oaklee say, “Look mama a car!”. Waking up to fog filled mountains and hearing the river rush over the rocks was exactly how I wanted to start my day

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We were just a few minutes from town. The cutest town ever… Fishing shops, microbreweries, cafe, book store, small restaurants (that were ALWAYS full) with front porch seating, unique mountain shops, ice cream shops, and of course outdoor gear shop (Bryson City Outdoors which also had a taproom). We had conversations with almost every worker in The BOC and everyone was so friendly even Lager the store pup gave the kids ‘hello’ kisses.

Shopping isn’t really my thing but I do appreciate a good stroll though a pretty town and seeing what it has to offer. But if you’re like me and would rather go on a hike or see wildlife and read about history you’re in luck because Bryson City has all of that. Right outside of town you have one entrance to the Great Smoky National Park which leads to a trailhead splitting off into a few different trails and you can continue on the pavement to The Road To Nowhere. This was probably my favorite part of Bryson City. We left our campsite due to it pouring down rain. We were standing under our Kodiak Canvas awning and decided to drive to the national park just to look around and we ended up at the venue that was meant for Day 2 (and yes we always have an itinerary). It was perfect and meant to be because we pulled into an empty parking lot.

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We pushed through eerie fog and rain escaping it all within the black tunnel of The Road To Nowhere. I’m not going to lie, I didn’t exactly want to walk through this tunnel. I didn’t at all. Except our three-year-old begged us to walk through it. So we did and so did she… she walked the entire way through and back not scared at all. Just a few yards in a bat collides with my head. I really didn’t want to go now. With the light from just my Nikon we walked snapping pictures to make sure nothing and no-one was ahead of us. We could see a foggy silhouette of the exit on other side. Or was it? This place was spooky and gave us a good thrill. Whether the story, storm or the fight against darkness it gave a good rush. The walls had been dipped in graffiti and one part seemed to stand out more than the rest reading, “Have less. Be more”.

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As we started walking back through we heard a group of people at the entrance that were also reluctant to walk The Road To Nowhere. The storm has passed at this point. We hear them yell to hear their echo and we returned the favor with a good “ooo”. They laugh unsurely saying “There’s someone in there!” and decided to walk through. As we pass we exchange hellos and keep walking. This tunnel echoed like nothing I had ever experienced. This place is a true gem and a great [free activity] to add to your list when visiting Bryson City. You seriously shouldn’t go home without doing this.

You can continue driving through town passing through “tubing town” to end in another entrance to The Great Smoky National Park finding trails to hike, tubing, public bathrooms, places for picnics, and waterfalls. This place was awesome and I had never seen so many people taking advantage of a park. It was humbling seeing thousands of people opting outside. We parked and had a secluded picnic and then decided to take a hike. It was more of a stroll. With a wide open trail and with minimal effort we were able to push our jogging stroller to two waterfalls. Perfect. [free activity]

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Our last day in Bryson City and the kids needed a nap we just decided to drive and see where the road took us. We started seeing signs for the Nantahala National Forest. At this point I may have begged to go, I’m not sure. Another place we had wanted to see, so we did. We drove and took turns getting out and feeling the water, walking across swinging bridges, and breathing the crisp mountain air all while the kids slept. There is just something about the mountains and water that we’re drawn to… we just can’t help it. When I was younger I always wanted to go to the beach but the mountains is just a special special place to me and that’s where I want to be.

Camping has become very popular over the past few years as it is a cheaper way to vacation (per night I’ll add). The initial cost of your gear can be pricey and it takes planning and hard work. But to be sitting outside by a fire or laying in a hammock under the stars listening to natures third-shift is so worth all of the effort and money that is invested. You meet like-minded people who may develop into new friendships, have conversations that are forever held to your heart, and learn about yourself and each other more-so than you would if staying in a hotel room in-front of a tv. Being outdoors changes you all for the greater good. Everyone becomes involved whether it be for collecting firewood or for getting dinner ready and soon that translates into home life becoming how everyone works, together.

If you’re interested in opting outside for your next vacation you’re going to need to think of a few things to make your trip smooth.

I’m going to list a few ideas but certainly aren’t limited to just these. These few things have helped our camping trips (if you know us then you know we travel frequently) and hopefully if you’re already into camping or maybe just starting out they can help you too.

So when thinking of camping you may ask:

How am I going to prepare our meals?
— We often take our baby weber and cook on charcoal, sometimes we take our Coleman propane stove and Baking Steel, and others we take our compact jet stove. Each one has its pros. Consider your packing space and what you can allow. And even plan out your meals ahead of time. This will help you decide what cooking appliances you will need and hopefully not forget something. When we take our Coleman camping stove and Baking Steel we sacrifice little space and everything packs together nicely. Our Baking Steel fits perfectly on both eyes and we are able to maximize our cooking surface cooking multiple things at once, which I absolutely love. When using our charcoal grill we tend to have less dishes to clean. You can prepare foil packet meals and throw them right onto the grill. With aluminum foil acting as your plate, all you have to do is toss it and wash your fork. Let me clarify– you can also do this on your Baking Steel. AND the Coleman and Baking Steel pack together tighter and smaller. We really love our Baking Steel and is the main surface I cook on at home. This trip to Bryson City we took our weber and jet stove. Weber for food and jet stove for coffee. The jet stove has a pitcher of water ready in just a few minutes. I’m really not one to want to wait for coffee when I wake up. So if you’re like me you will appreciate this!

How will I keep my items cold?
— We purchased a Coleman Marine cooler off of Amazon that does the job! It’s a fair price in comparison to other coolers at that size and is made in USA. When we buy bagged ice we have to “re-up” every 3 days or so. But we recently switched to freezing our LeBleu water bottles to act as our ice. Allowing us to skip on paying for ice, we’re not dealing with a ton of water in our cooler seeping into our other items, we have bottled drinking water as they thaw and we can reuse the bottles again next time. Just fill them up and toss them into the freezer for your next camping trip.

Where will we sleep?

— You’ll need a tent or a hammock. There are so many options so do your research and read reviews. Thats the biggest tip I can give. Read about other peoples experiences with the product and company. We use a Kodiak Canvas tent and have waited out a lot of rain and even storms and we have never gotten wet. It is seriously the best tent that we have ever used. It’s also a breeze to set up and take down. We purchased our hammocks off Amazon. They come with a mosquito net built-in and are a fraction of the price of an Eno.

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What will be our sleeping arrangements?

–We have spent many nights sleeping on the ground only wrapped in a sleeping bag. Doable for sure but investing in a sleeping mat will make your night’s rest just that, rest. You’re going to sleep well and be charged and ready to tackle your day come morning. When camping for long trips it will serve your body way better than the ground or your typical air mattress. We use a KingCamp Deluxe self inflating camping mat and its super comfortable. Once your tent is up, throw your mat into your tent and untwist the caps, walk away and continue getting things set up. It will inflate itself and all you have to do is tighten the caps back up once you’re finished setting up. You can even top the air off by blowing into the valves before you secure them. This item is well worth the purchase and you’ll be happy that you did!

What if it rains? Where will we hangout?

It’s a real bummer being rained on in the middle of the day and being cooped up in the tent. Especially for multiple days. Having a tarp to throw over a guyline and secure around some trees will make your rainy days dryer and more enjoyable and give you relief during those super hot and sunny days too. Our Kelty Noah tarp has been such a game changer for our trips. I wouldn’t go camping without it.

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These are just a few things that have made our trips easier and more enjoyable. If you’re new to camping but kinda clueless on where to start this should help you get going in the right direction. I’ve had several people mention to me how they would like to start camping but didn’t have the first idea on what they needed which is what prompted this post. I will continue to make posts about exploring/camping and giving tips that we have learned on the way. Sometime soon I will make a post on some of my go-to camping meals.

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To make things even easier, I have provided links to products that we love and confide in. I may receive a small percentage from the sale of these affiliate links. This will help provide for my single-income family.

Coconut Herb Crusted [WILD CAUGHT] Salmon Fillets

Happy monday morning! I would like to preface by saying how amazing this rub is and how you need this for this weekend. Our 3-year-old loves fish. It doesn’t matter what type of fish, she crushes it every time I bring it to the table. Since she was little she would eat fish better than any other animal protein. It blew our minds!

I never liked fish growing up (my husband was the exact opposite). I would stick to the basic crustacean, deep-fried and doused in tartar sauce. When it was time that I get a job, I even went to the extent of working at a seafood restaurant because I knew I wouldn’t eat the food… The hush puppies were delish though!

As we get older, our taste buds change, as do our views. We slowly weave between the many definitions of healthy and how health matters to us. Then we develop our own idea of healthy and try to fit it to our lives and to our own bodies. We learn what our bodies need and what cripples us. I remember in school learning about the food pyramid and what was “healthy”, Fish and other animal proteins fell just below sugar and grains and pasta supported the pyramid as the primary foundation.

Ultimately, you will have to do your own research to find what best suits you and your family in terms of diet and healthy eats. I will tell you the Whole 30 books and cookbooks are AWESOME. And if you’re new to any diet change and completely lost in where to begin eating healthy, that is a great place to start! So, we try to eat fish regularly. Especially for our kids because they love it so much. I always shop wild caught. I’ve made the mistake and bought farm raised by accident. The “how an where” labels are not as clear or easy to find as they should be. And after reading Paul Nicklen’s post on Instagram a while back about farm raised fish, I made a point to never buy it again no matter how long I’m holding people up trying to figure out where its caught. This topic will have to be another post because it’s eye-opening and it needs to be heard. But Trader Joe’s has made it super simple by labeling their fish WILD or FARM RAISED right on the front of their package and even color coding the label which makes it even easier to double-check yourself.

Any who, this recipe is the bomb and I pair it with my Garlicky Coconut Milky Baby Potatoes. It was so so good!
Ingredients:

2 WILD caught salmon fillets

For crust:
1/4 cup almond flour
1/4 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
1 tsp dried parsley
1 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp sea salt

1/4 tsp black pepper
2 teaspoons coconut oil

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.

Grease a small baking sheet, I used coconut oil spray, and set aside.

In a shallow dish (I used a pie dish), mix flour, coconut, and spices until well combined.

Add coconut oil and mix in with a fork until crumbly.

Take fillets and press meat side into the rub, lay skin side down onto the pan. Pat remaining rub onto fillets.

Bake fillets for 12-15 minutes.

Enjoy!

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