Final Days of Summer

This weekend marking the final day of summer and the first official day of fall.  While I’m excited to decorate with pumpkins and bust out all of my delicious fall candles, I have one final summer throwback blog to write.

We went late season camping in Nebraska and it was great!!

The Engineer and I drove down to meet his Sister and Bro in Law for a long camping weekend at Calamus State Park.  It’s about an even drive for all of us so it seemed like a good spot to try.  They spent the weekend telling me they needed good blog nicknames….but didn’t suggest any, so I’ll leave it as The Camping Pros for now!  Trying to get The Engineer to prep and pack for camping is almost useless….”If we forget it The Pros will have it so it’s not important.”

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Remember to pack enough food and supplies to provide adequate puppy lounging opportunity.

I think I’ve officially waited long enough to ensure that none of the camping participants….furry or otherwise…..caught West Nile.  The bugs down there were big and apparently impervious to any type of bug spray!  Coming home covered in bug bites was really the only downside of the weekend.  I had 18 on just my right ankle……JUST THE RIGHT ANKLE!  The Engineer and I spent days itching and scratching while trying to ignore the constant full body itching.

Besides the unrelenting mosquito blitz we picked a slightly questionable weekend to camp.  As The Engineer and I drove we watched a fairly severe thunderstorm brew up over the top of the park.  When text messages to the pros weren’t immediately returned we were sure they were hunkered down waiting out the storm.  Our suspicions of severe weather were reinforced by the gas station attendant in the small town neighboring the park.  We left with our 2 bundles of firewood and visions of hail and storm winds in our future.  Needless to say we were pleasantly surprised to find out that even though the radar system showed a huge red blob of thunderstorm death over the park, there wasn’t any rain happening at the campsite.  We actually lucked out and only got rained on early Monday morning before we packed up to head home.  All’s well that ends well I suppose!

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The trees were sadly not 10-12 feet apart, but we had hammocks to use!

 

Due to the predicted forecast of less than stellar weather I, being the only member of Casa Mishappenings who plans for things, began to stress over the fortitude of The Engineer’s bargain price tent.  Luckily, the Pros have several large, better tents, and they had one all set up for us when we got there.  Their’s held up much better to the wind and rain.  The Engineer, Puppachino, and I stayed nice and toasty dry and cozy!

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Everyone begging for dinner around here!

We also didn’t discover until we got there, but I had somehow managed to rent 4 separate campsites in a “Group Camping” area.  I had no idea!  I just rented what was listed as the only available site for the long Labor Day weekend.  It popped up site 09-12, but I just assumed that meant like site 12 inside of loop 9.  NOPE……the 4 of us had one whole half of a very large open glen area.  A large…..and somewhat odd family of rednecks took up residence on the other half, and for one night we did sublet one of our sites to a large Hispanic family.

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4 sites, but we can only have 4 occupants and 1 tent…makes sense I guess!

Mostly, we spent a pretty low key weekend just hanging in our hammocks and hanging out together.  Many naps were had and several beers were drank.  We did make a special trip out to one of the local breweries for lunch one afternoon.  If you’re ever in the middle of nowhere Nebraska I would seriously recommend the Ass Blaster Jalapeño beer from Bootleg Brewery!  Also, the sweet potato fries are bomb.com!  By this point in the weekend we had extra space in the coolers, so I actually ended up buying a whole growler of Ass Blaster!  It’s delicious….if I could buy it at a store locally I would keep it stocked in the fridge always!

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There was a slight blip of excitement when we thought we might have spotted a mountain lion.  I saw it first, The Pro Sister saw it second….in two separate viewings I’ll have you know!  I turned around from making bacon the first morning and saw something slightly redder than a deer off in the trees beyond our camping clearing.  It was moving in a way that caused the internal dialogue, “WTF was that slinking through the trees!?”  The Pro Sister saw a similar size and shape animal the next morning in about the same place.  I would like to point out that both of us are well versed in animals and their general style of movement.  I’ve never watched a deer move through a wooded area or field and thought, “Wow look at that deer slink around over there!”  The guys, and 2 park rangers, were quite sure that all we saw was a deer.  Ppppsssshhh it wasn’t a deer, but whatever I guess…..The Pro and I know what we saw!

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The ever elusive……BAT EARED PUPPERS

Cleaning out the Freezer and Hauling in the Veggies

Hunting season has started in states all over the country, and you know what that means?!  You need to get all the old meat out of your freezer before you start adding fresh stock!  Annoyingly, The Engineer and I didn’t draw any deer tags this year.  Frankly we should probably be hoarding our meat for the upcoming winter, but I guess if we have to go vegetarian over the winter that’s what happens.

To go along with our meat, we suddenly had a small surplus of fresh tomatoes out of the garden.  Late summer is a strange time like that.  Surpluses of fresh veggies, fruits, and herbs are all at your disposal, but you freezer might be less with just huge roasts and some less than stellar cuts of meat.  Since discovering that my Kitchenaid is more than capable of grinding up a large elk roast, we’ve become less worried about using up all our pounds of burger meat….we just make more!

I decided it was time to whip up a new recipe, and I really couldn’t have been happier with how things turned out.  It seemed like it had been weeks since I’d spent anytime in the kitchen making dinner, so I decided to really do it up this week!  Due solely to the fact that I don’t every decide to do things until late, prepping dinner actually took 2 days!  Don’t panic, it’s not hard nor does it take that long….I just didn’t have a plan going into things!

STEP 1:  Homemade Spaghetti Sauce

I had probably around 2  or 2.5 pounds of large tomatoes out of the garden.  We have two heirloom varieties, Cherokee Black and Siberian Prince, and they seem to have suddenly kicked production into high gear.  I simply blanched the tomatoes whole until the skin started to split and then peel and rough chop.  I didn’t bother to deseed the tomatoes, I just tossed the rough chunks into a medium sauce pan.  If you don’t have access to fresh, garden tomatoes, start with a quart of canned tomatoes.

To my quart of tomatoes I added:

  • Half a yellow onion, chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, chopped roughly
  • 2 tablespoons each fresh minced thyme and oregano
  • 1 tablespoon dried basil….our basil plant had a rough go of things this summer 😦
  • Salt and Pepper

Cook on medium until just before boiling before dropping the temperature to low.  Let simmer for 20-30 minutes.  If you’re going to eat it immediately, you may want to let it simmer longer…..longer is always better!  I of course started this whole process around 9pm….so after it simmered I placed it into the fridge for use later!

STEP 2: Elk and Herb Meatballs

I didn’t have a plan for using my tomato sauce when I made it, I just didn’t want that many tomatoes to go bad before I had a chance to use them!  The next night I was sitting around thinking….and it occurred to me….we need meatballs!  After consulting a variety of cookbooks I had laying around I settled on a variation of  Anthony Bourdain’s recipe of meatball sandwich meatballs and Steven Rinella’s recipe for wild game meatballs.

Anthony recommends a blend a veal, pork, and beef….and while I’m sure that makes a delicious, more traditional Italian meatball….those aren’t the meats I have hanging out in my freezer.  Steven’s recipe calls for raw onions and milk soaked breadcrumbs in your meatballs, but Anthony says to sweat the onions and add dry crumbs…..so I sweated some onion and added crumbs and milk!

In a small pan heat a drizzle of olive oil over medium heat and add:

  • Half a yellow onion, chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, chopped roughly
  • 2 tablespoons each fresh minced thyme and oregano

Sweat the onions, garlic, and herbs together until the onions to translucent and soft.  Set aside and allow to cool slightly.  You’re maybe sensing a theme here, but trust me you really can’t over do the Italian flavors!  See what I mean when I say if I had planned this out better…..just chop double once and you’ll be able to whip up meatballs and sauce together in no time flat.

In a large bowl add:

  • 1 pound ground elk
  • 1/2 cup breadcrumbs
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 milk
  • Cooled onion and garlic mixture

Mix lightly until everything seemed combined and the herbs, onion, and garlic seem evenly sprinkled throughout.  Form into golfball sized balls and set on a lightly greased baking sheet.  I got 13 meatballs from the pound of meat.  Also, I know it’s probably slightly controversial…but I didn’t add any fat to my meat mixture.  I still think they turned out great, but I feel I’m making Italians grandmas the world over shudder in terror!

My next step might also be slightly controversial…..but just stick with me.  We weren’t going to eat the meatballs that night because once again in was much later than one should be making meatballs.  Third day simply had to be the charm for enjoying this meal so I decided I would toss the meatballs and sauce in the slow cooker so everything would be ready to enjoy right after work.  Sounds fine, but I was suddenly overcome with fear that my glorious, raw meatballs would dissolve in the crockpot and leave me with a delicious meat sauce.  Meat sauce after I had ‘slaved away’ making meatballs wasn’t something I was willing to risk…..so I broiled my meatballs!

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IT WORKED GREAT!

Simply turn your broiler on Low and give your meatballs 8-10 minutes for form a nice crust.  Turn them every couple minutes to prevent burning and provide an even caramelization.

I put a thin layer of sauce down in the bottom of my crockpot, layered in my meatballs, and then tossed the whole thing back in the fridge.  The next morning I topped them with the remaining sauce and set them to cook on low while I went to work.  8 hours later I came home to delicious smells and a crockpot full of happy meatballs and a sauce that had slow cooked to thick, robust perfection.

Serve with your favorite noodles, or in my case spaghetti squash from the garden, and enjoy.  I added cheese, a hefty slice of garlic bread, and a class of wine.  Perfect easy dinner to come home to, and I promise it won’t take you 3 days to get there!

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Expanding Small Spaces

The Engineer and I have been on a bit of a home improvement kick.  Fitting two people’s stuff and design tastes into a single home isn’t always easy.  In an effort to make keep the house somewhat organized, and preserve my own sanity, we’ve really had to try and maximize all the storage opportunities in the house.  I’ve been meaning to write this blog for awhile, but it seemed like we just kept doing projects so I kept thinking I’d wait.  I think we finally wrapped up all the little projects, and several of the big projects are well on their way!

Our biggest summer project was expanding the patio!  The slab that was poured for my patio is only 6ft x 8ft.  Some of the units in my HOA have big, expansive patios….I guess that just wasn’t in the cards for my specific unit.  It was fine when it was just Scout and I at home, but even for just us it had always been small and crowded.  Then The Engineer came, and then we bought an umbrella, and then we got a big grill….and pretty soon we were sitting on top of each other trying just trying to spend time outside on the patio.

 

Lucky for our bank accounts, The Engineer can occasionally snag sample concrete mix color and finish pavers from his employer!  Plenty of precast buildings are grey, so we decided to extend the patio slab out with two rows of 1ft x 1ft pavers on each side.

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Such style he’s got that man of mine!

Honestly, the hardest part of the whole project was getting the landscaping rock out of the area.  In my brain I would just be able to scoop it right up with a shovel and move it to other areas of our landscaping that were a bit light on rock.  I’m not sure if you know this…..but rock doesn’t really shovel.  It turned out one of the sides was severely lacking in dirt, but a layer of pea gravel below the paver base brought it back up to grade.

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Actually placing the pavers was pretty easy.  Pour out and smooth a think layer of paving base and smash it down firmly.  They make a tool for this…..or just use your feet in heavy construction boots…..that’s the method we used!  After its smooshed down evenly, use a garden trowel to sprinkle down another thin layer of paver base.  Set your pavers down into the base and press or stand on them to settle them down into the base.  You might have to trial and error adding some base or maybe removing some to get everything level.  I think we did quite well for having never laid pavers before.  Everything seems level and graded to drain correctly….time will tell though, they may settle over the winter and we might have to adjust them in the Spring.

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So much space for activities….and a lurking pupper in the doorway!

Inside projects have been centered around keeping spaces organized, and keeping things from exploding out into the living room and dining room.  Single me was a chronic “toss wet laundry out onto stair railing and chair back to dry”.  It was always annoying to me, but somethings just don’t belong in the dryer so I just ignored the fact that I was annoying myself.  Cut to my laundry, The Engineer’s laundry, my hats, The Engineer’s hats and a shared closet and I was slowly loosing my mind at the general disheveled state.

Step one was a closet clean out!  Nothing will help you get rid of unwanted clothes faster than the feeling of not giving someone their fair share of the closest storage.  I still feel bad about this…..my crap still takes up way more than half of the closet space.  He tells me it’s fine, but I feel bad in spite of that. So, every month or so I go in and try and purge a few more items.  To further assist we build some strategic storage….a hat rack for the closet, and two drying racks for the laundry room.

I had previously bought one of those back of the door hat hangers….it was garbage.  The hats fell off all the time.  Matters were made worse by the fact that it made opening the closet door impossible.  The hats took up so much space behind the door, plus I already have scarf storage behind the door.  The whole thing was just a mess.  Some on sale hooks and a stained 1×4 later and we have easy, out of the way hat storage!  The rack we installed matches two very small hanging racks that were installed in the closet before I moved on.  No more falling down hats and no more me throwing tantrums cuz the hats are always all over the closet floor!!

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The closet isn’t well lit….but you get the idea.  A lot of things happening in a small space!

The hanging racks on the laundry room have honestly made a huge difference!  I can hang things, I can lay things on the rods, hook smaller items on the ends….it’s just such a space saver!  I did add a small dowel inside the hanging bar to help it hold up against the weight of all the wet clothes, but depending on the length you decide to use that might not be needed.

There is a large hanging bar installed under a large shelf on the opposite wall of the laundry.  I used to use that for all our shirts that needed to be hung to dry, however The Engineer’s gun safe has taken up a home under the hanging bar……so that sort of ruined that hanging spot.  There is still a bit of room above the safe….so all my bras get hung on hangers above the safe!  I’m sure it was always his goal to have a mid-sized collection of bras perpetually hanging above his gun safe!  🙂

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More stained 1×4 and just some cheap curtain rods…HANG ALL THE THINGS!

The garage is a whole different world of organizational nightmare.  There was a period of time when my 2 car…..very small for 2 cars but still technically can fit 2…..garage barely had room for my GMC Terrain.  There was just a giant horseshoe shaped ring of stuff around the edge and a section in the center that I could park in.  IT DROVE ME BATTY!  I’m a bit crazy about feeling organized I know, and I know that my weirdness about the issue drives The Engineer nuts sometimes.  I can be perfectly fine living in disorder and chaos….until one day when I’m not.  The house can be filthy for weeks and then one day I will just snap and start power cleaning like a wild Tasmanian devil…..

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Get outta my way I have shit to clean!

So…..we built a shelf….a really big 6ft x 3ft hanging shelf in the garage .  It made me feel better to get stuff up and off the ground.  We will have more shelves to put up and some reorganizing to do…..I would like if all my Christmas decor could be in one spot instead of scattered around on different shelving.  But, getting this stuff up and organized has made a huge difference.  I think that’s how you know you’re becoming old and lame…..when cleaning and organizing a garage becomes a major source of calm and happiness in your life.  Ughs

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JUST LOOK AT IT….IT’S AMAZING!

It’s so much stuff up and organized!  Do you even know whats up there?!  Well let me give you the run down…..

  • 24 duck decoys in bags….if you don’t hunt you might not know….but these are full sized ducks….24 DUCKS!
  • 2 tents
  • 2 sleeping bags
  • air mattress
  • 2 storage totes of our hunting clothes and camping supplies
  • 4 hunting bags and backpacks
  • other small hunting and camping accessories

Now imagine all of that strewn out all over a garage floor…total garbage!  It’s so pretty and organized…..AND I LOVE IT!  And would you look at that….more stained 1×4 with hooks!  We added easy storage for our hunting boots and his waders.  We also have hooks we can use for things when we use them more frequently.  For example, now that hunting seasons are kicking back into gear, the backpacks will get moved down onto the hooks so that we can access them without a step stool whenever we’d like to head out to the field.

I’m totally sitting here nerding out about how excited I am to have gotten all this organized.  Look at it this way….I’m so excited about getting organized that I felt the need to tell you all about it!!  It’s not like anything we’ve done to try and keep the house organized is crazy or a brand new idea.  Maybe it will show you that you don’t need to hire a professional organizer or spend a ton of time and money on supplies to get started organizing a space that’s a source of frustration for you.  Just pick an area you’d like to improve, break it into small pieces if need be, and then just go for it.  In our case it was just making the decision to get started and then making a trip to Menards for the supplies.  Just create a place for things to have a “home” in….hooks, shelves, cubbies….whatever fits your style or needs.  And don’t forget your new mantra…..ain’t nothing a 1×4 and some stain can’t remedy!

Making Mornings Easy

A couple weeks ago I discovered something amazing.  Sadly, if you were hoping for a quick new breakfast recipe, this blog isn’t about that.  My intermittent fasting has really put a damper on good breakfasts around here.  If it isn’t coffee, it doesn’t much happen before noon around here.  It’s the worst part of fasting….I love a good breakfast.

What I discovered is how good my eyelashes could look, and how sad they have been looking despite my best efforts to perk them up with mascara.  I’ve always know my lashes were short.  If I wanted my lashes to look like anything, or if I was wearing a heavy makeup look and wanted to actually see lashes, I had to throw on a set of falsies. Despite their obvious length challenges, in my brain they had always seemed quite curled.  Sure, I applied multiple coats of multiple mascaras everyday, but that certainly got them looking on the up and up.  I was wrong….. Even at maximum level makeup my lashes still never looked like much.

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Obviously hunting after work means I had all the mascara on my short little baby lashes.  The Engineer totally out lashes me….boys are blessed with lashes they don’t deserve!

Enter Laura McElroy Beauty and the Elleebana Lash Lift….and of course an after lift tint job!  You might be thinking to yourself, I love waking up extra early so that I can curl my lashes and coat them with mascara, plus my lashes are dark so why bother tint them.  Well, wanting to wake up early when you could stay in bed makes you insane.  Let me tell you what, I would give almost anything to spend an extra 2 minutes in bed, and dark tint still makes dark lashes look.  I’ve seen Laura for a variety of waxing and beauty treatments over the years, but this was my first time getting a lash treatment.  She’s the best around and offers a wide variety of services.  She had been telling me for years that I would like a lash lift, I just thought I knew better……don’t be like me!

All the photos are curtesy of Laura, and I can attest that there was no photography trickery afoot.  I know we can all get skeptical of before and after photos, but the only difference in the after in my curled  lashes!  Also, please ignore the snaggle brow….they were desperately in need of a wax at the time of the photos. :/

 

Think of it in simple terms as a hair perm for your lashes.  A small rod is temporarily attached to your eyelid at the base of your lashes, and your lashes are then combed and curled up over the top of the rod.  It takes about an hour and a half for the whole treatment, and the results should last about 3 months.  It’s only been a few weeks like I said, but so far my lashes are still cute, curled, and needing very little upkeep.  I was also amped that my lashes were long enough to the medium sized rod.  I don’t have the smallest lashes!!

I do still swipe on mascara occasionally, but mostly just to plump the hairs up a bit.  Even putting on mascara on days I feel like I want more oomph has become easy.  Since my lashes are already curled and shaped a couple quick swipes is all it really takes.  Applying falsies is easier too since my lashes blend more seamlessly.  It really is an all around win in my book.  I wake up everyday with perfectly curled, flared, and dark lashes.  It’s so easy, especially for week days when I head off to work with minimal makeup effort.

 

I’ve you’d like some low maintenance lift and tint beauty in your life and you’re in the area you should definitely check out Laura at her salon.   I love her, I’ve gotten one of my coworkers hooked on her for a few different services, and you’ll love her too!  Plus, she is gracious enough to offer a referral discount of $10 if you see her for a service and mention this post!

 

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5 Years: Remembering and Moving Forward

Saturday, July 28th marked the 5 year anniversary of my Dad’s passing.

It seemed oddly fitting that I spent most of last week out in the Black Hills.  It happened to be that the interns my family sponsors in Dad’s memory were doing their final presentations on Thursday.  We made our annual family trip out West to honor Dad by attending the presentations.  I always feel a bit awkward about all the attention we receive when we go, but I suppose that’s just a bit of my Dad showing himself in me.  He wasn’t ever one for the spotlight really, and even after his diagnosis he just wanted our lives to continue on as normal as possible.

I was partially left to my own devices while I was there, which I secretly sort of love.  Anymore, feeling like you’ve escaped the hustle and bustle of everyday life seems to be a rarity for people, but I think it’s important to be okay being alone.  If you’re going to be stuck in a place without a car, I would strongly recommend Lead, SD.  I had what amounted to about 24 hours essentially on my own without a car.  I was staying with Lil B, but unfortunately she had to work both Thursday and Friday.  I spent the time reading, hiking with her Momma, and generally just enjoying the outdoors.  I  had a wedding and bridesmaid duties in Rapid City on Saturday, in case you were confused as to why my Momma and Sister left me in the Hills. 🙂

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Cute little twins and their momma just off the trail

Friday morning, while waiting for The Engineer to arrive in town and the start of the wedding activities, I went for a 6 mile jog/hike on a new trail that runs between Lead and Deadwood.  The trail is gorgeous and is perched high above both cities with stunning views of the mountains and hills surrounding the towns.  Out here on the prairie, we would say the towns are nestled in valleys.  Out in the West…they don’t have valleys…they have gulches.  They are sharper, more severe, and create a much more nerve racking albeit amazeballs view when you stand on the edge.  It really can’t even be described in a way that does it any manner of justice, and my photography skills will never capture the true feeling of standing on the rugged edge of nature.

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I’m not much of a runner honestly, but while pounding my way down the pine lined trail, I think I finally began to understand why my Dad liked to run so much.  Normally, I consider the thin mountain air to be a major struggle factor when I try and exercise out in the Hills.  In fact, Thursday afternoon I tried to jog up a large hill and across Lead to the grocery store…..I didn’t even make it halfway up the hill before I was doubled over and trying to pull all of the oxygen out of air that seemed too thin for my lungs to even hold.

For probably the first time ever, I didn’t feel like I was struggling to get enough oxygen to fuel my legs down the trail.  It was cool, breezy, and clear….and I just ran.  The air out in the Hills has a specific smell about it.  It’s pine, but such a subtle, delicate pine that you’d have a hard time recreating it.  Take every Christmas Tree candle you’ve ever smelled and toss it out the window.  It isn’t like that at all….not that I don’t enjoy a good pine scented candle during the holidays!  There’s a slight sweetness to the air, but I find that I only notice it when I focus on it.  It’s something to be discovered and savored, and is probably lost on people who don’t take time to pause and enjoy the surroundings.

Before I’d even realized I had ran almost 2 miles straight…..with brief pauses to carefully traverse down a particularly steep or gravely section of trail.  I’m no running expert, and I’m certainly not well versed in trail running.  Better safe than sorry….sorry being hands and knees scraped up and full of dirt, gravel, and pine needles.

I RARELY…..EVER…..MOSTLY NEVER RUN MORE THAN A MILE AT A TIME.

It was glorious.  Honestly, for how ever brief a time I think I really understood what my Dad always saw in running.  It cleared my mind and was just such a nice time to reflect.  It was easy…I just ran.  I’ve only ever felt that way one other time running, that I can remember.  The first Father’s Day after Dad passed I headed to my townhome’s gym and ran a 5K….but it didn’t feel natural, I’m sure it was fueled purely on sadness, anger, and stress.  This run felt different, it felt natural….like I was put out there specifically to go on this run, and have this time, and feel a connection to my Dad that I haven’t felt in a while.  That’s the thing about being raised by parents who taught me to move forward, even in times of difficulty, and to never quit.  I sometimes  forget that moving forward doesn’t mean I can’t pause and take time to reflect.

I’m not sure when I’ll have another run that feels comfortable and easy.  I might not ever, and I came to terms with the fact that running just isn’t my jam a long time ago.  But, I might try again next time I’m out in the Hills on a high up mountain trail.  Worst thing that happens is it’s horrible and I end up walking….which out there isn’t all that bad either.

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I ended up doing more walking than jogging most of the way back to Lead once I got to the end of the trail in Deadwood.  Turns out that the whole trail, even the “flat” parts had an ever so slight downhill trajectory….which suddenly explained why going to Deadwood felt so glorious, and why going back to Lil B’s house felt less than stellar most of the time.  Also, about a mile from the end of my run/walk I got distracted and forgot to check where my feet were landing.  I took a rather large rock right to the side and/or arch of my left foot and ended up with a rather swollen and bruised foot.  Still not the worst thing….I ended up walking  back to Lil B’s house and came upon a cute little buck in velvet hanging out on the edge of town.

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So close I almost could have touched him!

 

New Finds and Old Favorites

I went shopping in Omaha last weekend, and really just spent way too much money.  The Engineer was working on getting a wort hog taxidermy mount sown up…..TRUE LIFE STORY, so I took his truck and drove into the big city for some shopping.  It’s probably a big relationship step when you get to leave town and drive into Omaha with your boyfriend’s truck!!

I’ve occasionally taken the truck around town at home, and usually end up driving it to the gym on weekends because it blocks my car in the garage.  This was the first time I’ve taken it out of town, down the highway, jumped on the interstate, driven in congested traffic, and had to park it in relatively crowded parking lots.  I also had to navigate a sudden lane merging around a burning semi truck that did actually cause a couple accidents around me when cars didn’t stop quick enough!  Turns out the smoldering semi trailer was full of hot dogs.  Would have been so delicious to stop and grab a snack had I known what it was at the time!

Rest assured, I didn’t hit anything!  I really only vaguely know where I’m going in Omaha, but I know just enough to get myself to the mall and to Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods.  First stop was Trader Joe’s to restock some of our favorite things and try out some new finds.

Our must have items from Trader Joe’s!

  • Peanut Butter Filled Pretzels…..the salted kind!
  • Pork Pot Stickers
  • Hatch Chili Mac and Cheese
  • Cold Brew Coffee Concentrate
  • Roasted Pumpkin Seeds

Last weekend’s new finds that we’ve tried!

Image result for trader joe's iced coffee concentrateIt’s such a delicate, light coconut flavor, but it’s delicious.  I wish it came in an large bottle like the regular coffee concentrate.

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Honestly, a big flavor let down.  It sounds so good, but it’s quite bland.  Not spicy, not really smokey.  It’s very sweet and does have some good peach flavor, but I wouldn’t buy it again.  Stick to the Roasted Tomatillo and Mango salsa….you’ll be happier!

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It was too cute and funny not to buy, and The Engineer likes Corona so I thought I’d give it a shot.  He drank a few, but I’m not sure he’d request I go back to the store for more.  I bought the regular, but it also comes in light and dark.

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Mostly I bought these cute little taco spice packs because I thought they would be good for camping.  They come in pretty sturdy feeling plastic baggies and seem like they would survive being tossed in with our camping cooking gear.  We tried a pack the other night for some nachos and they aren’t bad….aren’t great but like I said they will serve a good purpose for camping ease.  The instructions say half a pack of spice per pound, I’d say just use the whole pack.  It wasn’t overwhelmingly flavored at half a pack.Image result for trader joe's dog treats

Scout-A-Roo seems to have no complaints about these.  They are most dry sausage textured than jerky, but her emergency stash of treats in her travel bag needed to be filled

Things I bought but haven’t tried yet!

  • Jarred Pizza Sauce
  • Fire Roasted Diced Green Chiles

After Trader Joe’s I was off up the road a couple blocks to the Whole Foods.  Now, I had never been to a Whole Foods so I didn’t really know what to expect.  Now having gone to both I think I prefer Trader Joe’s, but only situationally.  I will say that the food court area of the Whole Foods all looked amazing, and if I had actually needed food for lunch or something to take home to make for dinner I would have been all over that area.  I did pick up a Carmelita bar from the bakery for a snack and a loaf of the Cinnamon Raisin Brioche Bread.  The Carmelita was a bit….chocolatey for my liking?!  It didn’t really taste like caramel at all which was a big disappointing, but it was still a tasty little snack.  The bread is so fluffy you might almost die!

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My actual reaction when I picked up the loaf of bread!

 

Not really as oomphy with cinnamon as I would have expected.  I bought it with intentions of freezing it and pulling it out in the future to make french toast.  I’ve since proceeded to eat most of the loaf toasted up and slathered in Kerrygold butter.  Whoops!

My best Whole Foods find was a Rebbl protein drink that I only tried because Juli at PaleOMG talks about them all the time!  I was really feeling like a health food blogger after spending most of the morning wandering around Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods getting my shopping on.  I think it’s a sign that I’m getting old and lame that buying potentially overpriced, healthy, and organic food is a major source of weekend excitement for me!

 

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My little protein pick me up was so good!  Thick and creamy, but not chalky like some protein shakes.  Little bit of coffee, little bit of protein, little bit of coconut milk which i love with my coffee…..perfect little snack to get my through my power shopping adventures!  The only major bummer is that I can’t find these at home.  Several of the HyVees in town carry Rebbl products, but I can’t find the protein drinks.  Ugh…..major buzzkiller.

If like me, you don’t live in a place big enough for a Trader Joe’s and a Whole Foods….but big enough for a Costco…I’ve got a tasty little find for you!

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Seriously….proceed to your nearest Costco and buy as many as your deep freeze can hold!  My only criticism is that it is a little heavy on the roasted veggies.  Great that they don’t skimp you, but I’m a roasted veggie eating machine and I could see how it could be a bit overwhelming for some people.  The Engineer and I added some frozen pepperoni before baking, because who doesn’t love a pepperoni pizza?!  If you don’t love pepperoni on your pizza we probably can’t be friends.

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#judgingyou

The pizza bakes up really nice and the crust gets nice and crispy.  If you didn’t tell someone it wasn’t a regular pizza crust I honestly don’t think they would notice.  If I had kids, this seems like an excellent way to get more veggies into them without them even knowing.  Milton brand makes several other pizza “flavors” but roasted veggie is all my Costco had stocked.  The Engineer said, “It’s not the best pizza I’ve ever had…”.  Well….it’s a frozen pizza…..none of them are ever going to be the best pizza you’ve ever had!  But, it does make a good freezer item to have on hand for rushed nights when you want pizza and you need it quick!  Would 100% buy again!!

Hopefully my little shopping adventure has given you some ideas of staples and fun new things to stock your pantry with.  I always think it’s fun to go and try out new versions of the foods we eat everyday.  You won’t find your favorite new beer or salsa if you don’t try something new.  Plus side, even less than amazeballs beer and salsa are still better than no beers and no salsa!

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Outdoor Adventure

A couple weeks ago Lil B bought herself a pop up camper, so of course we all had to go test it out! I snagged what appeared to be the only open campsite in the Black Hills for the weekend, and The Engineer and I, his sister and brother in law, and Lil B and her girls all met up to have some fun in the sun and a few days without cellphone service!

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Lucky for The Engineer and I it didn’t rain, though for awhile on Saturday night it did look a bit dark and stormy.  We were just in a tent……a small tent once you put all our stuff……and Scout a Roo and her things…..into the tent.  The tent came from the premier retailer of outdoor equipment…..Menards :/

I wasn’t sure it would actually keep us dry if it needed to. I’m not sure that I’d want to be in that tent for anything other than a warm, sunshiney weekend….but for the $20 The Engineer spent on it it got the job done. Scout spent more time in the tent than anyone.  Having only briefly recovered from a 4th of July filled with death booms courtesy of our neighbors, the crackle of a nice campfire was more than her delicate nerves could take.  She spent the first night wedged between the tent wall and the air mattress, nose pointed as far from the fire as she could get.

My purchase for the trip was a percolator, and I was maybe more excited about it than a normal person should get! Come to find out, Lil Bs camper had several percolators stowed away inside, but better to have too much coffee than not enough! Actually, Lil Bs camper came with all sorts of forgotten camping accessories: roasting sticks, veggie roasting baskets…..it seemed like anything anyone had forgotten Lil B could scrounge up in her camper!  The cost of everything that was left inside the kitchen of her camper maybe totals more than she paid for the camper….it’s in great shape for it’s age and a bottomless supply of all things outdoor adventure related.  She found a great little buy!

Saturday morning we just made coffee on a camp stove……it wasn’t really my ideal camping experience, but it was fast and the girls desperately wanted to walk down to the lake. We all spent the day drinking and relaxing in the shade on the shore.  Well, the girls swam, and I did take my newly purchased giant unicorn float for a lap around the lake, but mostly we hung out and enjoyed the breeze. Our campsite, while it did have plenty of shape, did have a severe lack of breeze. Even Scout got in the camping spirit with several unforced dips into the lake. She doesn’t like to swim, but did spend some time walking around in chest deep water investigating things, so I was pretty proud! I became less proud when she discovered that campfires create lovely, crunchy, charcoal cube snackies and proceeded to hoover them up at an alarming pace.  Plus side it got her over her fear of campfires and she spent all of Saturday night out by the fire with us.  Down side…..she pooped…..a lot. :/

 

 

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Floating away from life’s bullshit on my mystical unicorn Misty!

I actually started a fire to make dinner that night, even though everyone said, “Just use the camp stoves, it’ll be so much easier.” No! We hauled The Engineer’s Grandma’s cast iron pan all the way out there, and God created cast iron so that mankind could cook directly over a smokey fire in nature!  So I made deer nachos over a campfire and they were amazeballs!  I think I’m just more down to rough it than maybe The Engineer is.  I’m willing to work a bit harder for some extra smokey flavoring!

Sunday morning I was the first one up, and I was determined to use my percolator over a fire……so I did!

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And then……I made bacon….and it was fantastic!  I think coffee tastes better slow brewed over a fire, but I will admit it does take some time. Having only used a percolator once, I spent several minutes in a panic and readjusting the pot over the fire being quite sure we had just experienced beginners luck the day before.  Suddenly…..percolation…..coffee was within my gasp! And, I only burnt one pan of bacon before I figured out the proper fire to pan placement!!

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We finished up our camping adventure with a trip to Lewie’s for beer and a burger for lunch, and I almost killed The Enginner making him hike up to Seth Bullock’s gravesite…..plus side he made his activity goal for the day in his new Apple Watch! I’m just trying to be helpful like that!  All in all it was pretty successful for our first camping trip!  The tent survived, Scout concurred some fears, no one got food poisoning, the camper didn’t roll spontaneously down the hill, and there were no major injuries!

 

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