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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Yurtcation 2013. A Photo Dump.

In September Karl, Mira, and I roadtripped out west to Utah to celebrate Karl’s impeding 30th birthday.

Our route out took us west on I70 through Illinois, Missouri, (never-ending) Kansas, Colorado, and finally Utah. The return route took us through Durango, CO and the Colorado mountains, and back to I70.

Our digs varied from a KOA campsite in Limon, CO, to four nights in a yurt in Monticello, UT (think Genghis Kahn goes glamping), to an inn in Ouray, CO that Mira and I are convinced was haunted after a hairy mountain drive in the dark, to my cousin’s house in St. Louis, MO.

We explored Moab one day as hail fell from the desert skies and questioned Utah’s low ABV content law.

We stood under arches, marveled at nature’s ability to balance rocks on top of each other, and scrambled up rocks at Arches National Park.

 

 

We rafted on the Colorado River.

We followed cairns through Canyonlands National Park’s Needles District and off-roaded with Karl’s Subaru Forester, Jake.

We had coffee in an Airstream in Cortez, CO., ate well and hiked in Durango, woke up in the mountains in Ouray, stood on the Continental Divide, and barely made it out of Kansas with our lives.

 


What do we wish we could’ve done? Spend more time in Denver and Colorado in general, camp and explore more in Canyonlands, and visit Zion National Park and Goblin Valley State Park (but we know that Leave No Trace applies to the boulders there, *cough* *cough* Boy Scouts of America).

 

Roast a Chicken for Me

Hello from the Philadelphia airport! I am on my way to Madrid, Spain to meet up with Michael, his sister, and his mom and stepdad! It’s been three long months since Michael left for Sweden. The wi-fi here is atrocious. This is 2012, people! Get with the wireless world. So hopefully I can get this post finished. However, when you read this I’ll be in Madrid already. So technically, hello from Madrid?

Traveling stresses me out only a little bit. Let’s just say this has been a long week, and I won’t drink coffee at night when I’m anxious anymore. The only thing I’ve had planned out for weeks is my travel outfit. Does that sound dumb? Comfort is of the utmost importance when you spend a day and night traveling. Plus, if you want to bring anything extra bulky (like boots), you should probably work them into your travel outfit so as not to have to squash them into your suitcase. Plus, hair gets flat, greasy, and unfortunate after hours on a plane. Thank goodness for braids and head scarves.

Two weeks ago Michael and I had another cooking date—a whole roasted chicken. While this may sound slightly intimidating, trust me, it’s not. And a roasted chicken is just about the best thing you can put in your oven on a Sunday afternoon. Why? Well I’ll just tell you.

A roasted chicken is super hands off. Prep it the day before you plan to roast it by spicing it up a bit. Put it in the oven for an hour to an hour and  a half. That is it!

If you are one or two people a whole chicken will feed you for at least a week. This makes the cost worth it. Chicken on salads, chicken in enchiladas, chicken on pasta….endless possibilities. Get creative with your leftovers!

Chicken parts (bones, innards, the back) are great for homemade stock. Freeze that business and use it once you’ve gathered enough chicken parts and vegetables.

Thanksgiving is right around the corner (how in the world did that even happen already?!) and maybe you don’t celebrate with a large group of people. A chicken is a great smaller alternative to a turkey.

Now, where do you get a whole chicken? I suggest you get yourself to a local butcher or venture to a nearby farmers market and make friends with a chicken farmer. Either of these places will sell you a lovely local whole chicken. Whole Foods or Fresh Market are also excellent options.

Michael did a great job with this recipe as a beginner cook. He even proudly pulled legs and a breast off of the cooked chicken, and was amazed at how the breast looked just like a boneless chicken breast he’d buy at the store.

I roasted some seasonal vegetables (oh so frickin fancy, let me stick my nose in the air, lalala)—cauliflower and potatoes. Put them in the roasting pan with the chicken when there’s about half an hour of cooking time left. Just sprinkle some salt, pepper, and olive oil over them! I also happen to like a little curry on my cauliflower.

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When Current Events Get Personal

Hiking in the Negev in the south.

Hiking in the Negev in the south.

I want to get a little current events with you, because this one current event has been heavy on my mind the last few days. In 2007 I went to Israel on a Birthright Israel trip (that’s a free trip for anyone Jewish ages 18-26 who hasn’t been on an organized trip to Israel yet). I was Jewish before I went to Israel. I’d been Jewish for almost 23 years. But I came home with this renewed passion for my religion, for Israel and for the connection I found there. Duh, that’s what Birthright is supposed to do. That’s what they tell you will happen when you go to Israel. I did not even believe them. But it did happen. I felt at home the instant I stepped off the plane in Tel Aviv.

Masada at sunrise

Masada at sunrise

Now I work for an organization that promotes Judaism in my city, that promotes Israel, and that helps remind people why it’s awesome to be Jewish and help each other. I have been glued to the news the last few days. Glued, you guys. I felt sick when words of rockets streaking towards Tel-Aviv and Jerusalem streaked across my screen. I can’t fathom the thought of having to sprint to a bomb shelter multiple times in a few days. The anxiety-ridden worrier inside of me can’t breathe thinking about how I would round up my animals, keep them safe, how I would keep track of my loved ones. This is happening in Israel. Way too often. Israelis (and Palestinians in Gaza, too, to be fair) are living in fear.

Women at the Western Wall in Jerusalem.

Women at the Western Wall in Jerusalem.

This whole situation has become very real for me this time around. I know people in Israel now. I have developed a much more personal connection, deeper than I even had after Birthright, through my involvement with Israel at work. So here’s the deal. I do not care where you stand politically on the situation between Israel and Gaza. If you are a good, kind person the thought of people suffering, being in danger of dying for just being who they are, their lives being disrupted because of where they chose to make their homes, the country they love and live in being threatened to be wiped off of the map because of hatred, please just send some love, some thoughts of peace, some strength to this part of the world.

Song of the Week

Here I am. Back from Spain. Refreshed. Tan. (OK sunburned.) Happy. No further rundown here. I’ll give you a brief trip summary with photos later this week.

As for now, I’ve been desperately trying to catch up on my Google Reader. Joseph Arthur caught my eye in my NPR First Listen feed. He’s a singer/songwriter from Ohio and his new album The Graduation Ceremony comes out May 24th.

I’m sitting here at work, catching up, reading through layouts as deadlines approach, getting high on carpet glue fumes that float through the office hallways today, and listening to this album. It’s enjoyable. Typical singer/songwriter pleasantness. Perfect for a too-cold-and-rainy-for-May day. Then the last song plays. One line leaps out at me.

Love never asks you to lie.

Hey, turns out that’s the name of the song! And that line is repeated again and again. I listened over and over again.

Love is not having to lie, not wanting to lie, not being too scared to say the exact thing on your mind, even if that thing is scary. You have no idea what a relief it is to be able to be open, to feel comfortable saying everything and anything. The best loves, whether they’re friends, family, or significant others, don’t ask you to lie. They allow you to be completely honest.

Oof. Deep for a Wednesday afternoon? The post-vacation days have been kind of rough. I’m glad we had vacation time when we did.

So anyway, here’s your song. Love Never Asks You To Lie, Joseph Arthur.

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.

North Carolina feasting

Last weekend I went to North Carolina. Oh yeah, I already told you that. I’m obsessed with North Carolina, particularly the mountains. Hm, told you that already too. Oh well, it’s good to reiterate the important things. I drove down to Tryon, NC, this magical little horsey community just almost tipping into South Carolina. Ivey, one of my best friends Bette’s mom, has a house there. The front porch looks west towards the mountains and sunsets. There’s a three stall barn next to the house where Bette’s retired horse Johnny, Ivey’s superstar Joseph, and her newest addition Gus, live.

Renée picks tomatoes for gazpacho

And this summer, Ivey’s planted a little garden filled with okra, tomatoes, basil, and marigolds, too.We spent many of our days off from camp at this house. It’s like my summer retreat. I love it. So I could hardly wait to spend four days there with Bette and Renée, a fellow Green Cove counselor, and Bette’s friend Jennifer. (There was a fifth girl, but I’d prefer not to mention her as she put a big fat blotch on the weekend.)

We rode ponies, went to Bele Chere, visited camp (where I got to hug Lee, the riding head, and my summer momma), and cooked so much good food.

I’ll go in the order we cooked these items.

blackberry peach pie

1. Porch Swings, our beverage of choice. Pimms (a tradition for us in Tryon), gin, cucumbers, 7Up, and lemons.

2. Gazpacho. Tomatoes from the garden, cucumbers, avocado, spices, jalapeños, green peppers.

3. Blackberry-Peach pie. Peaches and blackberries in a buttery crust. Oh and a little vodka.

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