Monday, October 10, 2011

Sweatshirt Camping & The Coolest Hike in NC

Summertime in NC is pool season, not camping season. Chris found this out the hard way last summer when he went backpacking in August with friends (though we all suspected that would be the case). So this year, we went once in the Spring (early, early Spring) and then we waited until the cooler weather arrived and killed all the bugs. Camping is a lot more fun when you aren't sweating buckets and being eaten alive my monster bugs. Hiking is even more pleasant under these conditions!

We arrived on a Thursday to make sure we got our favorite site and were still thwarted. However, we found a NEW favorite! It was perfect. The big kid tent was nestled nicely in the woods above the main site. Highs in the 50's during the day was just right! I love Sweatshirt Camping!

We'd heard it was Prime Peeping Season this weekend, but I think these trees still had a way to go. It was still beautiful everywhere we went!

Sillies at our picnic site at Grandfather Mountain. We had plans to visit in the Spring, but we got rained out that trip.

The famous Mile High Swinging Bridge. Not that it has a mile of free-falling space underneath it, but it IS exactly 5,280 ft above sea level. I could have done with a little more swinging, personally! Not too windy that day. ;) This was just a warm up for the REAL adventure of the day...hiking to McCrae Peak!

A shot looking down, we were gaining elevation fast! This hike was very much like what we were used to in meandering flat paths here! You are either headed UP or DOWN. In fact, some areas are so steep you need to use cables and ladders to make your way through. The kids were STOKED! (all 4 of them) :)

Almost to the crazy stuff!

First ladder! This was cool, right in a crevice.

See how steep it is compared to her little body? I wonder how many 4-year-olds have done this hike... People on the trail were openly telling us that we'd need to be turning around soon with "all those kids". The kids started replying that they'd learned to walk on trails like these!

More ladders. This is one in a series of four, back to back. I was a little disoriented at the top one that was out near the was sky all around me on three sides. I'm not gonna took me a minute to breathe and center. The kids were not even phased. It's a testament to how they've grown up! So proud of my little troopers.

See that ladder in the distance? Awesome.

Just about to the top! Me and my littlest.

We were so exhilarated to be on the top of that peak! I haven't felt that since Half's been a long time!

Having a snack and talking about the important things in life. All in a good day. Fresh air, family and trail mix! The hike down was just as hard, if not harder....ladders backwards? Yeah.

My knees were a little mad at me after running 10 miles on Thursday (my half marathon is in 4 weeks) and then doing a hike this technical the next day. So the rest of the trip looked something like this...

Barefoot fishing in the streams, rock-hopping, falling in, exploring caves, gathering firewood, nutella s'mores, maybe a nap or two...

...and whittling. Must not forget that.

May all your camping be Sweatshirt Camping!

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

In Memoriam

Today my hamster Tic died.We gave her a funeral.I am so sad and upset.Tac tried to wake her up but this time she didn't wake up.



Savannah sent this email out tonight, letting our family and friends know of our loss. Tic was the smaller hamster on your left. She lived for almost 2 years (her expected life span) but has been wasting away the last several weeks.

We loved her and she brought us a lot of joy while she was with us. Savannah is having the hardest time of all since she handpicked Tic from the batch of hammies at the pet store.

Tac seems pretty lonely, but the kids are loving her up extra, hopefully she'll be OK for the remainder of the time she has with us!

The kids like to think Tic is happy and healthy in Hamster Heaven!

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Back To School!

First Day of 5th grade for Savannah, 3rd for Gunnar. (she's still got a couple of inches on him thanks to a recent growth spurt, but I think he'll overtake her soon!)

These kids were up with the sun and ready to GO! I love that my kids love school. They both have stellar teachers this year, and with Sydney in Transitional Kindergarten (5 mornings a week) this year, I look forward to partnering with them in the classroom more than I've been able to in the past.

We hauled their HUGE boxes of required supplies into the classroom yesterday during the Teacher Open House...good thing, all that stuff wouldn't have fit in a backpack! It's also a good thing that they know exactly which room they are in and got to spy the other names on desks so they know where they are in relation to their friends from previous grades. Their little heads worry about those things in the anticipation on the night before and they were so relaxed this year!

YAY for school!

My little fashionista/ballerina/smartypants. She picked out her back to school outfit all on her own this year. did Gunnar! He was so excited, his shirt graphic changes color in the sun.

He is thrilled because 3 of his best buddies are in his class this year. I have a really good feeling about 3rd grade for Gunnar!

And look what these lucky little critters have tucked away in their lunch boxes for dessert....

PB Cup Brownies! Let's hope there aren't any peanut allergies in their class this year!

So easy, and my kids' favorite flavor combo.

And since you've been so patient with my blogging (bad) habits, I'll share the recipe with you!

1 box of your favorite brownie mix (I used Betty Crocker Fudge Brownie Mix)
1/2 cup peanut butter chips
1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
3/4 cup creamy peanut butter

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Use paper cups or spray naked muffin cups well. (makes approx. 24 standard cupcake sized brownies)

Prepare brownie mix as directed on box. Spoon batter evenly into muffin cups (about 1 heaping tbsp..or halfway) Bake for 20-22 minutes or until top is set and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out slightly wet. After brownies are out of the oven, wait for the centers to fall during cooling. If this doesn't happen, tap the centers with the back of a teaspoon to make a hole for the peanut butter.

Place peanut butter in a small microwave-safe bowl and nuke on high for 45 seconds, then stir. While brownies are still warm, spoon about half a teaspoon of peanut butter into the center of each brownie. Top with the mixed chips. Cool completely and enjoy! :)

What's your favorite thing about Back to School?

Monday, August 15, 2011

Last Hurrah

With the end of summer quickly approaching, we hurried and made plans for a quick get away to the Land Of Waterfalls! Brevard, NC is sandwiched between Pisgah and Dupont State Forest and is basically a rain forest! If you are hiking in the afternoon here, you WILL get wet.

So we put on our swimsuits and quick-dri clothes and armed with ponchos, set out!

Hooker Falls, only 1/4 mile walk from the parking lot. There is a short slide under the falls on the end that puts you right into a swimming poor sunglasses on top of my head were pounded off, never to be seen again! (luckily, they were the $12 variety) This swimming hole was SO DEEP in the center, I couldn't find the bottom. Clear, cool water...just about perfect. Much like the Terminator," We'll Be Back!"

Across the highway (where Sydney just about became a pancake as she darted in front of a Yukon in her excitement, and her Mom scrambled to grab her, succeeding in snagging her by the END of her should have seen her face!) were two MORE waterfalls. It is about a 1 1/2 mile hike to High Falls, with Triple Falls along the way. Gorgeous, gorgeous, but we DID get caught in the rain!

Triple Falls

Sheltered look out, High Falls

Trail mix snack under a shelter, waiting out rain.

The next morning, we checked out of the hotel and went to OP Taylor's right as they opened! The kids were armed with their spending money and the expectation that they could find just about ANYTHING at this awesome toy store. And they were RIGHT!

Two stories, tons of separate rooms that feel like a's never-ending.

You could play for HOURS in this store! Again, this will become a traditional stop whenever we pass through. SO FUN!

Next, we took the kids to Sliding Rock. It is State Park Service operated, $1 admission per person, under 6 yrs free. No food allowed inside anywhere because of Bears, so plan your picnic accordingly!

I have fond memories of doing this in the wild as a kid in Oregon when I visited my grandparents. I also got to do this during girl's camp this year, which is how we found out about it.... It was COLDER than I remember as a child though.... 43-48 degree water! That'll wake you up in the morning!

One last stop at some falls accessible from the road, Looking Glass Falls. Gorgeous! There is so much more to explore in this area, I know we'll be heading that direction again and again!

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Girls On The Run 5K

Savannah decided she wanted to participate in GOTR this year. It's a great program that teaches healthy habits and self-esteem promoting topics to young girls starting in 3rd grade. They also run each time they meet as they train to run a 5K as the final event of the 12 week program.

She made some good friends that were in other classes at school and had a great time running twice a week.
Today was RACE DAY! (Despite having to wake up at 6am, it's the BEST!) Mom gets to be the running buddy/mentor.

Look at all those fabulous little ladies! It was so fun to talk to some of their parents who were nervous because they haven't ever run 3 miles at a time. ;)

Savannah ROCKED it! She kept a positive attitude the entire time and really enjoyed her first race experience.

Right before I snapped her picture she said, "This is my FIRST medal, EVER!" I know it won't be her last! :D

Friday, May 6, 2011

Strawberry Season

May-Early June is Strawberry Season here. In fact, there is a Strawberry Festival going on this weekend. I received an email from a friend with little kids that she was heading over to a local farm to pick her own berries with the kids this morning and thought that would be a fun Sydney and Mom activity.

It was only about 5 minutes away from home, tucked in between suburban neighborhoods!

Strawberries are $2.09/lb and chasing the chickens is free. ;) There was a white hen that kept escaping the plastic fencing. We named her Houdini.

Turns out this little perfectionist is a REALLY awesome berry picker!

She loved every minute!

I don't think I've ever had fresh-picked Strawberries before, but they taste SO different from store-bought. I think I will have to go back again a time or two before the season ends.

Here are my tips:

*Go EARLY! We showed up around 9:15 and there were only a handful of people there. By 10 the parking lot was FULL! (we picked all the good berries by then)

*Explain very clearly what is a RIPE berry and what is NOT to your helpers. You pay for whatever they pick. ;)

*If you are planning to dip them in chocolate (don't judge me), pick them with a long stem. Super fancy!

It's ALMOST summer, bring on the berries and melon!

Friday, February 4, 2011

White Chili

OK friends. Here is an oldie AND goodie that I forgot about for a while. I received the recipe from a neighbor back in 2005 (thanks Barbara!) and loved it to death for a few years. I recently hosted a birthday lunch for a girlfriend and pulled it back out. OH BOY, was it better than I remembered!

So, because I love you all.. I'm going to share. Print it out and give it a try. Or just pull it up on your iPad if you're an early adapter, which I am not, but sometimes wish I were. :(


  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 Rotisserie chicken - highly recommended (or 3-4 chicken breasts, cooked and cut up into bitesize pieces)
  • 1 small sweet onion, chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, chopped
  • 1 small can green chopped green chilies
  • 2 cans chicken broth
  • 2 cans Great Northern beans (I rinse half my beans and add the entire contents of the other can, the extra starch thickens the soup nicely)
  • 2 tsp cumin
  • 1 Tbsp chili powder
  • 1/2 bunch cilantro
  • juice of 1 lime

Heat olive oil in large pan. Add onion, garlic and green chilies. Cook until onions are soft and clear.

Add chicken broth, beans, cumin, chili powder and cilantro. Simmer for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. While simmering, chop rotisserrie chicken into bite-size chunks. I used about 1/2 the chicken for 1 batch, the whole thing when I'm doubling for company. Add chicken at the end of simmer time.

Add the lime juice just before serving. (this MAKES the soup!) Serve with tortilla chips, cheese, sour cream and any other Mexican toppings you like! It also tastes fabulous with a side of cornbread!

SO easy, yet SO satisfying. I ate it several days in a row this week for lunch. You could even omit the chicken, add more beans and use vegetable broth if you're trying out a vegan diet like so many people I know are right now.