Yurtcation 2013. A Gear in Review.

Our favorite gear from our road trip to Utah — tested, tried, reviewed by me and Karl (thanks for helping me with these reviews!).

Mira

The odds are pretty good that you don’t have a Mira. However, if you are lucky enough to have a four-legged friend like the Mira, take him or her on a road trip with you. How do you know if your dog is good roadtrip companion material? Here’s how we knew about Mira. She loves the car….seriously, she really loves the car. Walk her out back and she thinks she’s going on a ride. The excitement, it’s very real. But it dies down once in the car. She’s a very quiet and patient car rider. And she can wait hours between bathroom breaks, which makes her an ideal road trip buddy. She also provides great protection at sketchy rest stops and gas stations. If any questionable human gets close to the car, she politely lets them know that their jugular will be hers. Remember to pack poop bags and always pick up after your dog at rest stops and gas stations. We scheduled in a few longer breaks to feed Mira, that way she didn’t feel rushed to scarf down her food at a gas station while we were filling up. She’s a nervous eater, and that definitely comes out more when traveling. Know your dog’s quirks and be prepared for them to be magnified while road tripping.

Cons about Mira, and possibly about traveling with your four-legged friend. National parks. Whether they’re closed because of government shutdowns or not, dogs are not allowed in them. This means you’ll need to be staying in a place where your dog can spend his or her days while you explore the wildernesses that our great country have deemed worthy of protecting. The yurt provided a more permanent abode than a tent for the Mira to hang out in while we were gone. Remember that your pup may also be a bit anxious about traveling to a new place. Be sure to bring some comforts of home with you such as favorite toys and dog beds or blankets. Allowing the occasional treat such as bed snuggle time or wet food instead of dry food, may help make the transition to a different place a bit easier.

Kelty retro packs


The Kelty packs started out for us as a fun way to carry necessary items when we were having local adventures around our cities and to hold clothing as we travel back and forth between Milwaukee and Indianapolis. Even in this capacity the Kelty packs rock. One can hold an incredible amount of shit. I’ve packed all of my clothes for a weekend to Karl’s in mine. So of course they would be coming on the Yurtcation. One of our favorite things about this particular Kelty pack is the classic design. Kelty rereleased this design, which echoes the original Kelty daypack with modern updates. As unhipster hipsters we appreciate anything that suggests vintage and historical and classic.

We used our Kelty packs pretty much every day while hiking and exploring. At the parks we packed fleeces, water, my camera, lunches, snacks, and emergency items (i.e. headlamps and first aid kit) in them. The small inside organizer pocket, complete with zipper, is great for small items, like chapstick, drivers licenses, and money. We were shocked to find that the modest Kelty pack stands up to class II rapids, too! Our Colorado River rafting trip took us through a few rapids and Karl’s Kelty kept our few items (fleeces, Karl’s camera, and ids) perfectly dry. Now, I’m not sure just how much water this pack can withstand, so please don’t test fate.

Sleeping pads (trekker 1.75 REI)


Sleeping pads are a necessity for a few reasons. 1. Something insulating between you and the ground will keep you warmer, and as Bear Grylls always says, “One layer on the bottom is worth two on top.” 2. The ground is rocky. For years, like I’m talking 15, I had a ThermaRest self-inflating sleeping pad. When I finally admitted that the tiny hole somewhere in the pad was inconviently keeping the thing always inflated and set out to buy a new one, I figured I’d go ThermaRest again. Karl, however, convinced me otherwise.

Karl decided to replace his foam sleeping pad with a self-inflating one earlier this summer and ended up going with the REI brand trekker 1.75. Not only did it come in long (big points for us tall folks), but it was super soft and less expensive than a ThermaRest! Win. It didn’t take much for me to get the same one, but the women’s version. And I’ll tell you what, we have had nothing but fantastic sleeps on these things. They are incredibly comfortable and seem to be durable. The only downside? They take about an hour to self-inflate. We usually encourage them along by blowing them up ourselves.

Check back soon for our reviews of foot and legwear!

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Sweet Sweet(Vegan)Dulce De Leche

Some things go together. They just do. Peanut butter and chocolate. Miras and Lolas. Summer and sitting on blankets listening to outdoor concerts. Yoga and twisty poses and tears. (This happened last night, it did. I’d heard of people crying in yoga, and tonight I was one of them. Thank God it was  hot yoga and my tears were indistinguishable from the sweat pouring down my face.) Winter and furry boots. Cold mornings and hot coffee. Apples and caramel.

Apples and caramel. Mmmm. That’s fall, right? I remember going to the Feast of the Hunters Moon as a kid in the fall and eating caramel apples. I always had a really hard time taking that initial bite. The caramel coating the apple the way it did made the whole situation very sticky and overwhelming. But I loved that combo. I still do. The tart juiciness of the apple and the sweet sticky caramel.

I love caramel in general. (Are you counting how many times I say caramel in this post?) I could eat it straight out of a jar with a spoon. And recently I did just that standing over my kitchen sink, completely shamelessly. See, until recently I had battled with caramel and never won. Regular caramel is more or less sugar with some water that’s heated up til it’s liquified and crystalized. I could never pull the sugar and water comob from the heat fast enough. Nobody likes burnt caramel. Trust me.

Dulce de leche is traditionally sweetened milk and sugar heated up. It’s like a super creamy awesome caramel. Plus, if you cook it a little longer, you end up with chewy caramel candies. Oh heaven. I was ready to conquer this bitch.

Oh wait. I’m lactose intolerant. Bring in the sad trombones. Waah waah.

NBD. Google to the rescue. Found: One awesome, amazing, easy recipe for dulce de leche WITH BOURBON (extra bonus!) that your friends probably won’t even realize is vegan. Result: Jar of sweet goodness to spread on bread, apples, and baked goods … that is if you can actually stop eating it straight from the jar.

The trick with this recipe comes in the cooking time after  you add the salt and confectioners sugar. (That’s powdered sugar, FYI. Make the mistake of using regular sugar instead of confectioners sugar once, and you won’t make it again. Swear.) If you want the dulce de leche to be a smooth pourable sauce consistency, cook it for less time here, about 10 minutes. If you want more of a candy consistency, cook for 15 to 20 minutes.

Oh yeah, and use a bigger pan than you think you’ll need. You don’t want this business boiling over and into your burner. This will only cause fires the next morning when you make your oatmeal.

So, let’s go! Indulge in fall-time combinations!

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This or That … Chocolate(vegan) Cupcakes

This is a face I am certain about. This Mira, I know, it’s an easy decision. I don’t waver. It’s never, “Should I love this dog or not?” It probably has something to do with those ridiculous eyes.

With most everything else in life I am a very indecisive person. I sit on the fence a lot. Doesn’t that sound painful? Who even came up with that phrase? I want to be more decisive just so I don’t have a fence up my butt.

Anyway.

I like to have things both ways, because most of the time I can’t decide which way is best, tastiest, most advantageous. For instance, would I want to make my home in the city or the country?

Right now my home is in the city. I’m 10-15 minutes from great restaurants, a grocery, the cleaners, parks and museums, the highway … When I say I’m going to run to the store, I mean I will be there and back within twenty minutes if I know exactly what I want (which, let’s be honest, rarely happens). I can ride my bike to the farmers market.

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I love living in a neighborhood. It’s got character. I smile at people as I walk the dog along the tree-lined sidewalk. We gossip about the yard work the couple up the street is doing, and we curse the damn lady who walks her dog without a leash.

At the same time, I crave long and quiet roads, houses with huge yards, big inky black night skies filled with endless stars. I think this side of me stems from camp in the mountains tucked away in a stoplight-less town of Tuxedo. I want to sit in my house with the windows open and not hear cars drive by. I want to not have to close my curtains at night to block out the street lights.

Biking north of the city with friends.

This or that?

I’d like to be a vegetarian, to make that commitment, that decision. I don’t love meat (besides bacon, oh dear God), and I am sure OK with eating lots of vegetarian foods, such as tofu, beans, lentils, and vegetables. I just can’t make the decision. Because what if it’s wrong? What if one day I want a burger? What if one day I want to run to the grocery five minutes away to get a pound of chicken salad? (I may or may not have done that this weekend.) So I go back and forth. I rarely cook meat in the house. Chicken or fish, the occasional beef. I only buy meat when I know how and where it’s been raised. Then I feel better about eating it. Always in moderation. Does that make me a semi-vegetarian?

This or that?

If making decisions was as easy as eating these chocolate(vegan) cupcakes, then I’d have bought a house somewhere totes rad and would be a super vegetarian.

Yeah, they’re vegan. That means no eggs, no butter, no  milk. That means in my mind kinda healthier. That means in my mind that I am being a vegan for the two minutes it takes me to eat one of these. So I feel good. Like I’ve made a good decision.

Now, don’t expect these cupcakes to taste like regular chocolate cupcakes. They don’t quite. The texture is all around different, and that’s not a bad thing. They’ll stay tasty and edible for a week before they start to dry out/get weird. And they have a secret ingredient in them—avocado! I’ve made them a couple of times for audiences of mixed varieties, and everyone has enjoyed them.

My advice? Make the decision to make these for the vegan in your life who can commit to a lifestyle, the on-the-fencer who wishes she could commit to a meatless life, and the lover of all things non-alternative who you think should branch out. They’ll all love these cupcakes.

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The Girls I Love

I have some pretty amazing girls in my life.

My Mira dog loves car rides. Pure bliss. She may have enjoyed the car ride more than our destination, a park in town with mountain bike trails. Us girls walked through the woods while Michael tore up the trails on his new cyclocross bike. You know how dogs are supposed to attract cute guys orgirls? Well, Michael’s bike seems to do a better job of that than Mira. It got a cute Irish guy to come over and chat up Michael after his ride. He ignored Mir, who was conked out in the grass. I’d take Mira over a cyclocross bike any day.

Lola kitty has an uncanny ability to make any item into a toy. The bathroom trash can is basically her toy box. We’re not phased when we find used cotton balls and Q-tips scattered around the house anymore. Lola got lots of amusement out of the box that Michael’s new bike came in. (Yes, that damn cyclocross bike again. Trust me, it’s popping up just as extensively in my life as it is in this post.) She played hide-and-seek with us from behind it for awhile.

A lot of my ladyfriends have started blogs as of late. I would like to invite you to take a look.

Seriously though, they’re all awesome and all really different, which is one of the things I love about my friends, they’re unique!

That’s me, Tim, and Samantha at a Black Keys concert this summer. Samantha and her dude, Tim, blog over at 104days. There are 104 weekend days in a year, and Sam and Tim write about how they spend theirs. They do seriously cool stuff like visit Cape Cod, do the Warrior Dash, watch buildings explode, and camp. Oh and Tim skateboards and plays with his motorcycles a lot, too!

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This picture is a throwback to 2003, the first summer Bette and I organized drill team at Green Cove. We dressed up as pink princesses the day our campers performed the drill team. After this summer, dressing up in pink dresses became a somewhat regular occurrence for us at camp. If you are a horse person you should add Bette’s blog, Riding to B, to your daily reading list. If you are not a horse person, you should add it to your daily reading list. Bette has been riding horses basically ever since she could walk. She events, teaches lessons, trains whichever horse she is riding at the time, and helps to care for a barn of horses. She’s currently training a cute guy named Gus. Sometimes she writes about random things, too, like movies or weird fashion, and usually with a horsie twist. She’s a funny girl; check it out.

Days 24 – 28 – Photo time!

I was out of town this past weekend. We drove to St. Louis to visit some of Michael’s family. No time to update the blog. Had to get creative with being creative! Oh my goodness do I love Instagram. If you have an iPhone, download this app. Between discussing Dick’s (and what it’s like to be inside one) with Michael’s aunt, uncle, and cousins, eating ice cream, playing kickball, and meeting grandparents, I was happy to have an easy way to be creative with my phone.

Day 24


Ted Drewes in St. Louis – delicious and apparently highly sought considering the lines custard.

Day 25 

I was missing my girls on Saturday. I took this picture just with my regular phone camera last week. On Saturday I played around with the various lenses on Instagram.

Day 26

We may have gotten a little turned around trying to leave St. Louis on Sunday, but I’m glad we did, because our detour took us right by the Arch!

Day 27 I made a pair of sandals, but I’m not satisfied with them just yet so no picture to show.

Day 28 I did some creative writing type work for the magazine. Yay work creativity!

And now you must do something for me. Go to HomeFries and download the Joy the Baker podcast. Do you know who Joy the Baker is? She lives in California and has a website where she writes about food she makes, her cat, boys, flashing people, and all kinds of other hilarious and awesome topics. HomeFries a project she’s started with a friend. The site has four podcasts, one of which is Joy’s. She’s joined by Tracey of Shutterbean, whose blog I only started reading recently. Anyway, Joy and Tracey talk about blogging, baking, and other random stuff like Pinterest (did you know I’m obsessed with Pinterest these days?) and work pool parties (a terrible idea!). Check out their podcast. It’s LOL good.

Days 17, 18, 19, & 20 a.k.a. I am behind

Creativity is hard to document!

I have also been a bit of a slacker lately. Probably at least half of my creative endeavors have involved cooking, something I do on a regular basis. The whole idea of this month was to stretch my wings and let some creative juices flow. So I’m pacting to do stretch and flow more the second half of this month.

Day 17 

Mira attended a picnic at 100 Acres at the Indianapolis Museum of Art with Michael and me. The summer sun and extensive playing and exploring wore the pup out and she stole some drinks…many drinks…from Michael’s plastic cup. Luckily I had my water bottle with us, too.

Day 18

Homemade bread requires some planning to make. It’s certainly not difficult, but between hours of multiple risings and baking, the whole thing must be planned into the day. Due to bad planning on my part, we had no bread in the house on Saturday morning, and all I wanted for breakfast was some runny eggs with bread. So I made biscuits from Smitten Kitchen. They’re quick and fairly easy. My tips are these: the dough is quite sticky. Add maybe 1/2 cup extra flour. Make sure to bake them until they are truly golden. Slightly underbaked biscuits are not as delicious as fully baked ones. Breakfast was consumed too fast for photos.

Day 19

Happy Father’s Day! I have a…weird…awesome…hilarious…inappropriate dad. He dresses up in drag to raise money for Alzheimer’s, he tells me he needs a classy place for his whores to host more high-profile customers (my father is not a pimp), and he misses my mom when she leaves town for multiple weeks. So, on Sunday, my brother, his girlfriend, Michael, and I made dinner for him: Salads and stuffed shells from 101 Cookbooks.

The secret to these stuffed shells? Lemon zest. It’s mixed into the ricotta filling and spread across the bottom of the baking dish. Trust me, it really adds a unique flavor to the whole meal.

The beauty of this pasta is that you can make it in advance. This would be a great dish to make on a Sunday afternoon, freeze, and then make during the week after work. Scroll down to find the recipe after the jump!

I also went up to Zionsville for the annual pet parade and took a few photos for Robert Goodman Jewelers’ Facebook page. My favorite

Day 20

I hung my shelf in the living room! Finally the photos that have been tucked away all hidden on my bookshelf have a real home. And now I have a place to put flowers that is Lolacat-proof! The white roses are from my parents in honor of Oma.

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Muffins, Races, and BFFs galore!

I got an iPhone about a month ago. God it’s worlds better than the LG Ally I had. And universes better than the HTC Eris before that. I can confidently say that I am an Apple girl all the way! I’ve been snapping lots of pictures with my iPhone. It’s not the world’s greatest quality (like I won’t be taking tons of pictures with it when we go to SPAIN! More later.), but it’s so nice to take photos when I’m out and about.

So here is a brief tour of the last week in my life via photos.

Two weekends ago we went to Chicago for the Shamrock Shuffle, an 8K that starts and ends in Grant Park. This was my first race since I’ve gotten serious about running. Marnie and her boyfriend Jannson have done it the past two years I believe. The weather was perfect on race day. I ran the 5 miles in 44 minutes. So proud of myself!

The 717 totally tore it up!

Coffee always tastes better with two of your best friends. Especially after steak dinner at 11pm the night before! This was one of my favorite trips to Chicago yet.

One of my visiting people rules is Never Show Up to a Friend’s House Without a Baked Good in Hand. This weekend we were runners, so I picked a healthful baked good that would give us fuel.

These ginger-cranberry oatmeal muffins from Everybody Likes Sandwiches were perfect. Made with only whole-wheat flour, oats, and no butter or oil, I really felt OK about eating these muffins. And they were not heavy or dense. Nicely the opposite in fact. I think my favorite part was the chewy candied ginger bits and tangy cranberries. Click over to Jeanette’s blog for the recipe. The only thing I did different was replace the oil/melted butter with a mashed up and very ripe banana, per Jeanette’s suggestion.

This past weekend my bff Bette came up from Charlotte to visit. Bette and I have been friends for 16 years. I have been down to North Carolina to visit her (in a non-working-at-camp visit) about five times in the last three years. Oh and plenty of times before that too. Bette, on the other hand, had visited me in Indiana twice in the past 16 years. Granted, North Carolina is like 20 times cooler than Indiana. But I was ecstatic when she finally bought a plane ticket to see my city.

We ate crepes, drank local beer,  went to Luna Music for National Record Day (OMG The Head and the Heart album is to die for!), hung out in Zionsville, and ate cupcakes, despite less than ideal weather on Friday and Saturday.

We even found some sunshine time to take Mira to 100 Acres at the Indianapolis Art Museum.

I hope she comes back sooner than 11 years from now!! I do love the girl.

And in news that I cannot yet document in photographs, Michael and I are going to Spain for 10 days in May. In fact, we leave in 2 1/2 weeks!! We’ll be staying six days in Granada and two days in Madrid. Hopefully there will be some site seeing, beach going, hiking in the Sierra Nevadas, lots of delicious food and wine consuming, and merriment!

Have you been to Spain? I’d love to hear favorite places, recommendations, and general input.