Hocking Hills Birthday

I can’t begin to write all of the things that Shane and I did this summer, but I can tell you that when we looked back at a calendar, our weekends were mostly all taken up by some sort of gathering or activity. This is a blessing as much as it is an annoyance; I consider it a blessing because it means we are healthy enough and able enough to do all these different things, but it is also annoying to think of how little we got done around our home. It is a funny thing because if we did more at home, maybe we would be more inclined to finish projects at home, but as it is, we are hungry for adventure. So even though we want to get things done with in our walls, we are out and about in God’s nature.

That all being said, we are well into fall and I have barely kept up with this blog, this glimpse into our wildly busy little life. But as rain drizzles down outside and lesson plans are finished for dance classes tonight, I feel I can take the time to express my pure joy over Shane’s little birthday weekend that I planned at the beginning of summer.

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Hocking Hills, Ohio has been on my radar for quite some time, and knowing we were going to have a puppy this summer, no big trips were planned. When I say there were no big trips planned, I mean on both sides of the family no trips were planned by either side, unlike last summer where we spent a week with Shane’s side in Put-In Bay, Ohio. This would make it seem like our calendar was left wide open for little weekend getaways, but in fact little things kept pushing out any free time we might have had. The idea of Hocking Hills stuck though and I booked far in advance a camping trip there over Shane’s birthday in September.

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This place was beautiful! I could go on about the falls there, but I am going to focus more on our camping experience.

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We got there on a Friday afternoon and set up camp. I had booked a primitive campsite, which I am so glad we did after driving through their crowded campsites later that weekend when we went to the bathhouse to shower. I had chosen the furthest primitive site from the parking lot which was almost a mile down a gravel path. We took two packs in and carried a soft-sided cooler and bucket of water for the dogs. The cooler was refilled each day with the food we were going to eat which prevented us from hauling back a huge cooler.

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I had chosen the farthest campsite, figuring we would have a puppy and who knows how he would act while camping. To our great surprise, he was so well behaved! Grizz and Jagger both slept under the tent at night and we never heard a peep from Grizz. Honestly, it was Jagger who was the loud one. From time to time he would catch the glimpse of a neighbors flashlight and start barking.

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By the end of the trip, the two dogs actually seemed to get along a little better. Shane remarked that maybe this was a good bonding trip for them!

But it wasn’t just a good bonding trip for them, it was another brick in the foundation of Shane and I’s relationship. We didn’t have to go to Hocking Hills to appreciate one another more for their strengths, but it gave us a chance to in a different way. I had begun the craziness of my job and was only on the second week of it by the time we packed up the truck and drove out to Ohio leaving behind a big wooly mess of my fiber sculptures all over the dining room because I had just done my first art festival with my fiber sculptures.

Needless to say, it was mainly Shane that packed and prepared for the trip! Normally I am on top of the food game, but again, was caught off guard because I was so sidetracked with fibers and dance. We had long ago signed up for one of those home delivery meal services and honestly hadn’t received any in a very long time, but God had perfect timing because that week I had forgotten to cancel it and somehow an order showed up at our door step. Basically ignoring their cooking instructions, we had amazing meals over the fire with their fresh ingredients.

For Shane’s birthday meal, we had his favorite, salmon! We cooked it in foil with a sweet mustard sauce. It was paired with green beans cooked in foil and a hasselback potatoes in foil with sour cream.

 

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Thank goodness Shane picked up breakfast at our little local meat shop and got the worlds best bacon that we enjoyed with some jetboiled coffee and eggs.

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We hiked all day Saturday, so it was a good thing we had loaded up on fat and protein in the morning. We grabbed a quick sandwich after the all day hike before returning to our campsite where we made my favorite meal of the trip of southwestern pork chops topped with cilantro lime sour cream, cheese and tortilla strips and a side of foil cooked squash and zucchini.

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We left in the afternoon on Sunday after we had an easy morning of oatmeal and coffee as we slowly packed up the whole site. Once everything was packed, we stood around the warm fire as the stuffed peppers Shane also grabbed at the meat market cooked. It was a perfect ending to all of our yummy meals.

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Everything that came in in one trip went out in one trip! And yes, I brought my felting things a mile hike in to a campground because I was in the middle of a pumpkin seed bluegill that I was really excited about!

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It was a wonderful birthday weekend slipped in between busy weeks and rushed schedules. Even though it was short, it was a great reminder of God’s creativity and how he has blessed us with one another! 

 

 

Trout Season

Last year Shane teased about standing shoulder to shoulder on opening day, until on my first cast, I reeled back in a lovely, little rainbow. What really began, besides friendly competition, was Shane joining in on one of my traditions. I can’t believe that, with all the build up to the moment, that the time is now long passed by and it is May.

I had gathered snacks the whole week before, this included a desperate search for peach rings at a big, blue chain store. Did you know that there are no peach rings in the Clarion, Pennsylvania Walmart? At least they had Shane’s other requested treat, pull-apart Twizzlers, which were a huge hit with my nephew, Marcus. (Note to self: before they ever come visit, pick up chocolate milk and pull apart Twizzlers.)

So I had done all this searching for snacks and had even gotten sweet rolls from my favorite local bakery, which I promise to gush over in another blogpost, intended for a breakfast. Well, on our way to my folks, Shane and I stopped at a little local market, where, first off, we scored peach rings, but Shane asked if we could take the little camp stove to cook breakfast while we waited to cast. When it was agreed that we probably could, we grabbed some delicious, garlic bacon to fry up.

Saturday morning, we loaded up all the food, and oh, yeah, the fishing stuff and headed to Parker Dam State Park. We brought the sweet rolls, heated them in the camp stove, and ate them while we waited for the bacon to fry up next. It was a quiet, cool morning, with the sun promising to shine, which was good being that my brother and sister-in-law were headed up with the niece and nephews.

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The shore was crowded with family and friends of all ages. Groups sitting side by side, apologizing when their kid’s line crossed over three stranger’s own line. We cast for the kids in our own party most of the time, but now and again, we were the ones apologizing and correcting a crooked cast from a kid. Even my Grandma Hayes and aunt joined us that day, my grandma wanting to take advantage of her lifetime license.

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After the hustle and bustle of keeping an eye on the active kids, catching trout, and snacking all morning, my dad, Shane and I headed to the quieter creek setting and hit both Laurel Run in Parker Dam and Moose Creek on the mountain. Moose Creek was one of the places where I first got to see Shane and his best friend Scott in their truest form. It was good to finally go back there, remember that day with Shane and Scott, but also to make new memories.

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Something that my whole family thrives on is quality time. After listening to The Five Love Languages book with my parents and Shane on our way to Chincoteague one summer, we all decided it was one of the top, if not the top language of us all. I am so lucky that we all have that in common, it is easy to fulfill when you all have the same goal, shared, quality time. But, I also have to back up and say how fortunate I am to have a husband and parents who would all listen to that book together and enjoy discussing it afterwards.

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With out intending it to be so, I have to summarize this entry by saying it is one full of thankfulness. I am thankful we found peach rings and pull-apart twizzlers that the kids enjoyed and for the breakfast we had. I am thankful I got to see the joy on the kid’s faces as they saw trout pulled from the water at the state park I am thankful for, Parker Dam. I am thankful it was a sunny day after all the crazy weather that lead up to it. I am thankful for the quality time spent with everyone at Parker Dam and the quieter quality time at the creeks later that day.

Eating at a Soda

Shane and I had a goal in Costa Rica, and that was to have some really authentic food while we were there. This is one of those little reasons I love that I am with Shane. When we want to find the best burger, we know that the hole in the wall place normally has just that, and it neither scares or grosses out either one of us. So we knew that to have some real, local food in Costa Rica, we had to find a Soda.

We didn’t rent a car, and although our hotel had bicycles, we had the hotel drive us into town after figuring out it would cost about the same for a taxi to take us. As we went driving up and down steep hills, we were glad we took the hotel’s van instead of a bike! The curving roads slithered up and down the not yet green hills, I think the “short ride” might have turned into an all day event.

The Playa Del Coco was a twenty minute ride through the countryside. Our driver pointed out a grocery store across from a Hard Rock Cafe and proceeded to say something about a rodeo. Honestly, we were distracted and I got hung up on how he was saying rodeo, unsure if he really meant what I traditionally think of a rodeo as being, and began looking for some sort of stadium that could host a rodeo. Before he dropped us off we, despite him pointing out the Hard Rock Cafe, we asked where the best local soda was and he seemed excited to share where to eat.

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We wandered the sidewalk that lined the beach for a bit, taking in the kids laughter, music playing, and seeing plenty of food carts, and were never approached by someone trying to sell their goods. People were just out enjoying their weekend. There was even a skate park that had tents set up, music blasting and people watching maybe a small competition. Everything was small and condensed, so soon enough, we had walked what seemed to be the main part of the beach and we headed to the recommended soda.

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Shane got a fried red snapper, and I got my favorite Latin American dish of ceviche. Locals were basically the only other customers around us in the bright pink space. Air and sounds flowed through the walls from outside since there were no windows, only stacks of rectangles out of cement. With Catholic images, silk flowers, stacks of glass coke bottles and a beautiful hand painted mural on the wall surrounding us, we had one of our yummiest meals.

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It is so fun exploring with your best friend, laughing that our bright pink room that we have yet to renovate was the same color as the soda, and trying each others lunch choices. I love that a year has trickled by, and there is no less charm to our relationship. We both enjoy similar things and still surprise each other and introduce each other to new things. I love spicy things, and Shane has pointed out, since being with me, he hasn’t ever not liked spicy things, but finds himself searching it out and enjoying it more. So one thing we discovered during lunch was this tabasco sauce, Lizano Tabasco.

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It was so much better than any tabasco sauce we had ever had, it was thicker, more flavorful, and we knew we had to bring some home. After our lunch, we walked to the grocery store as live musicians played on the streets with horses trotting up and down the road. We passed vendors and shops, again, never approached about buying things we weren’t looking at, which left a big positive impression on us. We left the tiny, but vibrant town with some fresh avocados, delicious Lizano Tabasco and some soda-pop and juices since we weren’t at an all-inclusive kind of hotel and drove back in our hotel van pointing out monkeys dotting the tops of trees excited about our new discoveries.

 

Costa Rica

It was a busy fall week for Shane, a stressful week, and one night he came home and said, “Plan a trip!” The trip wasn’t going to be for that week or weekend, we looked ahead to our anniversary and decided now was the time to book something for January. So I spent a whole day comparing prices, points, and flights and decided on Costa Rica. If we were going to use some points, might as well go big.

We flew into Liberia, a small airport about twenty minutes away from our destination, the El Mangroove hotel in Guanacaste, Costa Rica. We arrived in the afternoon and walked out of the airport, following our hotel driver in winds that could knock a toddler over.

“Ah, yes,” our driver said with a smile when we commented on it. “It is our windy season.”

Our drive to our hotel took us past sugar cane fields, fields with horses and cows and strange trees. The road was winding and wove up and down hills. Motorcycles zipped past us in the other lane. We soon found out that having a fast motorcycle there was the thing to have, and when it wasn’t tourist season, you could have fun flying on these winding roads, but it was less safe to do that during tourist season.

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We were greeted at our hotel with a cool cloth and a passion fruit juice and as we waited for our room we had our first meal of ceviche and fried chicken skins. The fried chicken skins were so amazing, fatty, and flavorful. When we ordered them, our waitress lifted an eyebrow, and we reassured her that they sounded delicious.

“Not many people order those,” she said.

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We ordered them multiple times on our trip. We had them for lunch, dinner and breakfast. Considering our fat-fueled diet, they seemed like a good fit and were delicious.

After discovering our beautiful welcome to your anniversary get-away treat from the hotel of chocolate covered strawberries and champagne, we took a walk on the beach, just enjoying the water and the black sand. Shane’s mind ever on fishing saw a fisherman and had half a notion to ask him how he was doing but passed. The fisherman had his car right in the trees on the beach, a hammock set up, and a kid digging a hole in the dark sand. It was a public beach, and almost immediately Shane and I agreed this was a kind of vibe we were good with.

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Laid back.

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Relaxing.

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It was a good start to our anniversary trip.

Meal Preps with Olive Oil

I feel most at ease when I have prepared and thought out meals for the week with this diet. It is difficult to do things on a whim, because nutritional values are really taken into account. There isn’t a quick way around most meals, and it seems that maybe, despite how cumbersome it can be, that is one of the big positives to this diet. It makes you think about what you are putting into your body.

For the most part, I can do fine with no salty snacks around. If you have followed my blog for a while, you might have noticed that sweets are more my thing. Bread is Shane’s weakness. In general, we both love food, and we love a variety of it. So when he and I wandered into our local olive oil store, we were in for a tasty surprise.

The Enchanted Olive sells olive oils, balsamic vinegar and white balsamic vinegar. You can get just the normal, non-flavor infused ones, but I promise they still pack a punch. Or you can get ones that are infused with a rainbow of flavors. Currently, I am obsessed with my recent purchase I made when my mom came to deliver to me my new Hoosier cabinet. I told her we had to go to this shop, and she wasn’t disappointed, walking away with several oils and teas herself. My purchase from that day is now my newest obsession in the kitchen, I got the cara-cara orange and vanilla white balsamic vinegar, the coconut white balsamic vinegar, and the Persian lime infused olive oil.

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These flavors all mesh so well and are so fresh tasting; they are very inspiring for these cold winter days, bringing to mind bright beaches rather than the sepia tone, cold nature outside. So I planned out four meals using all three of these robust flavors that would be keto friendly.

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Citrus Prosciutto Salad

  • Two cups coarsely chopped lettuce of choice
  • 8 oz can of artichoke hearts, rinsed, coarsely chopped
  • 1 cup chopped baby tomatoes
  • 1/4 cup sun dried tomatoes
  • 2.25 oz can sliced black olives
  • 2 oz prosciutto
  • Bunch of basil, coarsely chopped
  1. Tear prosciutto into smaller pieces
  2. Combine above ingredients

For the Dressing

  • 3 tablespoons Persian lime infused olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon cara-cara orange and vanilla white balsamic vinegar
  • 1 garlic clove minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard

Shake together in jar dressing ingredients and drizzle over salad

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I included tilapia fillets, sautéed in the lime oil for about two to three minutes per side, depending on the thickness. Then I drizzled those with the coconut white balsamic vinegar. In the other two meals, I used salmon, sautéed skin side up in the lime again for about three minutes before flipping and finishing the cooking in my preheated oven for a few minutes at 450 degrees. The salmon were drizzled with the cara-cara orange and vanilla white balsamic vinegar. Now I have four keto-friendly meals awaiting me in my refrigerator for this week!

 

Keto Diet Snack

The truth is, I never figured I would walk into one of those weird fad diets. One that had you eating coconut and almond flour willingly, cooking with ghee, or containing the words “gluten free”. It is funny what you will do for those you love though, and Shane and I started our journey with the ketogenic diet after repeated, long lasting gout attacks that would practically cripple Shane.

In the middle of summer, we began and stuck to a keto diet. We did so pretty well for about four months. Heading into the holidays, we weened off of it and still ate healthy, but Shane admitted to feeling better when on the diet, and he was the reason we were doing it in the first place. So, we are weening ourselves back on, which is difficult to do during the holidays, going to peoples houses and eating what they serve. We almost always come across I am sure as picky eaters and often times, if headed to my moms, I will redirect the menu to include things such as bacon wrapped asparagus and side salad instead of just sweet potatoes, beets, and cornbread.

Honestly, when you first undertake this diet, it can be pretty depressing. I am being totally honest, I wish I could say after a week, I stopped craving sweet things, but I didn’t. I just really love sweet things, and stevia is not the same tasting. There is no, “Oh, just use natural honey instead!” or “But, maple syrup is a safe sweetener!” Sweets are pretty much out of the picture, and that pretty much even means fruits. About the only thing that saved Shane and I the first time around was that I do genuinely love spending time in my kitchen, so I was getting to do a lot of that on this new diet plan.

You begin to figure out things that work for you. You find favorite recipes, and because your body is craving correct fuel, we have yet to grow tired of these favorite recipes that I often make once a week, like our chicken breast pizza in the crockpot, of course no bread like substance included, and our venison crustless pizza in the crock pot. On occasion, we stumble into a snack that is delightful, and this is one that I wouldn’t even hesitate to bring to a party.

Snack

Salmon Cucumber Sliders

  • 1 cucumber, sliced
  • 8 oz smoked salmon
  • 1-2 avocados, depending on size diced
  • 2/3 cup mayonnaise
  • 2 tablespoons Persian lime infused olive oil, available at places like The Enchanted Olive
  • 1 tablespoon chopped flat leaf parsley
  1. Mix mayonnaise, lime olive oil, and parsley until combined
  2. Top cucumbers with avocado, followed by salmon and finally a small dollop of mayonnaise dressing

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If anyone would like the nutritional break downs of this bite sized treat shown, I can take the time to do so. For the most part, I discovered I do better not tracking my macro’s like a mad woman. I have a sense of how much protein I should be having a day now and know if I am irritable or tired, often times that means I need a little more fat. Oddly enough, I feel like I can go much of the day eating very little, then a big dinner feels good, but Shane is the opposite, eating small all day and a small dinner.