Adventures in Backpacking (with kids)

On August 6th all of our collecting (dare I say hoarding) of backpacking gear was finally put to good use and we hiked to Upper Loch Leven Lake in the Tahoe National Forest.  For our first loaded outing it was a hell of a hike, and we learned some valuable things.

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David and the girls hiking in.

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Where did the summer go?! (and a PSA)

Awhile ago I swore up and down I would start blogging as soon as summer rolled around.  And then summer rolled around… and we went to the water park, the library, and David started scuba diving courses.  We spent quite a bit of time up at Tahoe when he did various dives.  Then I decided that I too would become scuba certified.  So as of this past weekend I am now open water certified with NAUI.  David… well he went a little crazy with it all and he’s now a certified rescue diver with NAUI.  We have yet to go backpacking, but we have 2 in the works before fall hits (along with more dives, naturally).

The girls are slowly ramping up their homeschooling, and only whining about it roughly half the time.  As stated before that slice of hell will be documented more in depth on my homeschooling blog, where I can assure you I will have a colorful metaphor laced vocabulary.

I’m really hoping to be in the swing of things soon though, and hopefully I’ll have pictures of some of our adventures to share!!  :D

As for my PSA…

I was cruising around on Pinterest, as I do often, and came across a recipe I decided to look at.  In the comments section someone commented how their food didn’t look the same as the picture.  The blogger made a remark about how it took a long time to fashion the food for pictures and that’s why it likely doesn’t look the same.  While I am a photographer and I understand the whole concept of food styling I frankly don’t have the time nor the energy to spend forever making my food look picture perfect.
The pictures I post are of the food I am actually about to put into my face.  Sometimes the lighting is sketchy, and if I’m really hungry you’re likely to get a picture from my iPhone.  What you see is what you get.

The place setting you see is what is at my table that moment.  Sometimes I may angle it if it’s totally heinous non-coordinating.  Although maybe I shouldn’t since most of the time that is care of my 8 year old setting the table to look beautiful.

I’m all for people who do take their time to be meticulous for their blog, but that’s not my style.  If you enjoy that much reality in your face on a food blog, then yay!  If not, that’s cool too.  :)

 

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Finding my Groove

I realized not too long ago that I actually miss blogging.  I miss trying new things, taking pictures, and sharing it with others.  Between getting a job, being struck down by my GI disease and having part of my colon removed due to it, getting married, kids, my husband being back in school, and actively losing weight to reverse other things I’ve been diagnosed with in the last 24 months (PCOS and Hashimoto’s)  … I have been worn out.   I’m trying to get back into making as many things homemade as I can.

We (by we I mostly mean I) decided to homeschool this coming school year, and that slice of irreverent chronicling will take place over at Coffee Until Wine.  Please be aware that my use of colorful metaphors there is substantially higher.  There are a lot of homeschooling blogs that are very faith based and I am kind of the antithesis of all that.  In an effort to keep Gingham Apron a little more friendly, with fewer colorful metaphors, I have created the separate blog for homeschooling. 🙂

Since things will be changing a lot for us with me ceasing to work in order to homeschool I have to hop back on the frugal make-all-the-things-at-home train.  I’ve already begun making my own laundry detergent again, and I’m trying a new dishwasher detergent recipe as well.  Food wise I have been filling my pails with gamma seal lids full of dried goods, and making more things from scratch – sourdough crackers, sourdough english muffins, sourdough pancakes, bread, yogurt, kombucha, “refried” beans, ricotta .. and pretty much anything else I can do on my own to cut costs.

Between now and summer I want to post once per week.  Once traditional school it out I hope to post more often.  I just need to find my groove in all this craziness.

 

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Adventures in Pinterest Fails: Super Smooth Legs

Let me begin by saying that I live in a desert. Anything that helps hydrate skin is welcome, because my skin is not what it used to be. I also loathe shaving. Killing two birds with one stone seems like a no brainer.

I was relaxing with a yummy Snapshot beer by New Belgium and looking at health and fitness pins (yes, I realize what I just wrote) when I came across a pin touting the smoothest legs. It’s pretty much summer here now and my legs need serious help. I also figured I deserved a relaxing bath for Mother’s Day so I whipped up a batch and lit some sandalwood incense.

Super Smooth Legs

The recipe goes something like this … 1/2 cup of coconut oil, 1 1/4 cup sugar, and 3 Tbsp of lemon juice. The directions say to apply, shave, apply again, shave again.

It tastes amazing, and coconut oil is really good at moisturizing (which I knew).

I started with my lower left leg. Not too bad. By the second round of shaving I decided that I might only do one pass on each section. It’s pretty time consuming. 1/4 of the incense was gone by the time I finished my lower left leg.

I question the use of lemon juice. I cut myself shaving every time without fail. Lemon juice and cuts sucks.

Moved on to lower right leg. Only made one pass. At this point I start to wonder about all the melted coconut oil in the tub. My legs were pretty smooth.

Upper left leg. I’m a little concerned about sugar being in such close proximity to girly bits. Sugar and girly bits just don’t mix.

By now more than half the incense is gone. I’ve been forced to stand to properly apply the scrub to my upper legs, and it dawned on me just how fucking slippery the tub was. Regret was setting in.

Upper right leg. At this point I think Helen Keller could have done a better job with a straight razor. My right kneecap was bleeding pretty badly, and of course lemon juice. I was sliding around the tub attempting to not fall. Dropped the razor a few times, and spilled at least 2-3 tablespoons of the scrub right into the tub. It was like the Exxon Valdez in my tub. At that point I said fuck it and gave up.

I drained the tub, poured a 1/4 cup of shampoo in and tried to break up some of the coconut oil. There was sugar all over me. I jumped out to grab the blue sponge scrubber from my cleaning supplies tucked behind the toilet. Tried to scrub with that, and may have tried to scrub myself a bit too. Rinsed myself and the tub off and got out. It still looked like a greased pan, so I grabbed the bleach spray and scrubbed some more.

I apologized in advance to David and issued a warning about his shower in the morning. I really don’t want to be responsible for him nearly falling in the shower ………… again.

Sure, my legs feel softer, but I could shave like normal and then put some coconut oil on afterwards and get the same results. Because to be honest I don’t want to have to scrub my tub like that every time, or spend nearly an hour shaving.

This endeavour officially takes the #1 spot on the “Beauty Tricks I Regret Trying” beating out attempting to do OCM on my back, because there was WAY more oil involved this time around.

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Shredded Beef Tacos

In the last few weeks we’ve had dinner over at a friends house a couple of times. Specifically the person who was my best friend in middle school. We’ve known each other for somewhere around 20 years. A really long time when you’re 32. Crockpot cooking seems like it might be a staple since her husband does freelance video work, and she’s currently a producer at a local TV station and will soon to be a 911 operator in training! The last dinner was shredded chipotle pork tacos, but she fried the corn tortillas and sprinkled them with the powdered parmesan like a local taco stand does.

It. is. amazing.

David typically doesn’t eat pork out of personal preference, so I got a nice looking chuck roast on sale last week. Now it’s insanely easy, but I did manage to mess it up, but I’ll explain that after the fact in the form of a “Do as I say, not as I do” type warning. Also my friend used the Dr. Pepper method for her pork. Being a total lush as of late, I used beer. Okay and we don’t drink soda typically. David got an amazing coffee stout that I divided in half for the 2 roasts I got (one went into the freezer to be used next week).

Gingham Apron // Shredded Beef Tacos

Shredded Beef Tacos

1 Beef chuck roast, about 2-3 pounds
1 Bottle of beer, a good dark stout is best
3 Chipotle peppers and adobo from container

Corn tortillas
Oil
Powdered parmesan cheese
Shredded cheddar cheese
Chopped romaine lettuce
Black olives
Refried Beans
Sour cream

Place the roast into the crockpot.

Use toothpicks to secure the 3 chipotle peppers to the roast

Pour beer over the chipotle adorned roast.

Cook on high for 6+ hours, or until the roast shreds easily.

After the meat is shredded use a frying pan to heat enough oil to generously coat the bottom of the pan. Place a tortilla in the pan and place a few tablespoons of shredded meat on one half of the tortilla, quickly fold the taco in half before it start to crisp up. Let the taco get golden and crunchy on both sides before moving it to a tray with a towel to absorb excess oil. Sprinkle with parmesan, and keep making delicious tacos! Add cheese, lettuce, refried beans, black olives, sour cream, or more chipotles if you’re deranged (or David).

I can have 3 folded tacos in my medium frying pan with no issues at one time, because doing one at a time would be painfully long.

As I promised … a warning … Do NOT use the whole can of chipotles. That’s like 8-10 chipotles too many, and it makes the sauce almost unusable. The girls in no way appreciated the spice level of the sauce, so the taco meat was a little drier than it should have been. David managed to make my fuck up tolerable by adding some tomato sauce. That guy is always saving my ass in the kitchen. 😛

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Homemade Skyline Chili Recipe

I lived just outside of Cincinnati when I was little. My first real concert was at Riverfront Stadium. Yes, it was New Kids on the Block. I was like 9 or 10. Which frankly scares the crap out of me since Nola is the exact same age, but I digress. I distinctly remember Ollie’s Trolley from visiting my dad at work downtown, but honestly I don’t remember Skyline. Horrible to admit, I know. Somehow in the past few years David has come to like the only variety available to us here in Nevada… cans. Specifically 8 cans for $60. That’s $7.50 a can! O_O

By the time you’ve fed 4 people that devour Skyline Chili you’ve used 2 cans. That’s $15 and you’ve not even gotten the spaghetti, onions, or shredded cheese. I have most of the ingredients on hand at all times already. There is one big change I’ve made to the recipe I found, and that is the type of meat I use. Ground turkey has become more of a staple around here and so that’s what I used. I don’t think it made that much of a difference in taste, and visually you can’t tell either. It still gets consumed at break neck speeds here.

Skyline

Skyline Chili from Tornado Ali @ Food.com – Slight changes by me. 😉

1.25 lbs ground turkey (Jennie-O packs are 1.25 pounds)
2 cups chopped onion
4 cups beef broth
15 ounces tomato sauce
2 Tbsp chili powder
2 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
3 Tbsp cocoa
2 tsps instant minced garlic
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper (I omit this, kids and all)
1/4 tsp ground allspice
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1 bay leaf

1 package spaghetti noodles

Toppings
Onion, finely chopped
Cheddar cheese, finely shredded

Chop 2 cups of onions. I usually use an entire onion and call it good.

In a large pan, I use my enamel dutch oven, cook turkey meat. Brown if at all possible, and do *not* drain. Add onion an cook a few minutes longer.

While turkey is cooking measure all dry ingredients into a bowl. I use Better Than Bullion for the beef broth, and add the vinegar and Worcestershire sauce to that.

Add all remaining ingredients to cooked meat and tender onions. Let simmer until sauce has reduced quite a bit. It can take 60 to 90 minutes. I do use 3/4 of a pound LESS meat than what the original recipe states, so the liquid has to cook down more, but it turned out quite good. David really likes how the sauce cooks down and there is more flavor.

Once the chili is nearly done simmering down, get your spaghetti cooked.

Top spaghetti with a scoop of chili, then top the chili with the finely chopped onions, then top the onions with finely shredded cheese. This my friends is what is called a “4-way”. Sophia prefers the “3-way” since she does not like raw onions (she somehow fails to realize there are onions IN the meat… don’t tell her). I know you can get beans with it, but frankly that just seems sacrilegious.

Try not to become too addicted.

I know that for some spaghetti and chili might seem weird. Okay, chili with cocoa powder might be really weird too, but it’s awesome. It’s not always a dish that is loved instantly. It’s taken Sophia two years to get to the point where she enjoys eating, and is still kind of ambivalent if I try to pretend I don’t want to make Skyline for dinner. Nola … well, she’ll go into near hysterics at the notion of making something else. At least it’s something everyone will eat without complaint I suppose. 😛

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Roasted Chickpeas

We like chickpeas in this house. Curry and hummus are the two standard methods of consumption. I’d had roasted chickpeas come across my Pinterest a time or two and thought nothing of it.  After soaking and cooking up a batch for curry a few nights ago I decided to extras would make a good test batch.

Aside from the fact that I think I let them go in the oven a little too long (15 minutes longer than I say in the directions), they were really good. My advice would be to play around with the seasonings! I bet curry would be lovely.

RoastedChickpeas

Roasted Chickpeas

1-2 cups chickpeas, cooked
1-2 Tablespoons Olive Oil

Seasonings – All to taste
Salt
Pepper
Smoked Paprika

Heat oven to 425° F.

Combine the olive oil and chickpeas in a Ziploc bag and shake to evenly coat chickpeas with. Add some salt, pepper, and smoked paprika then shake again to coat the chickpeas with seasoning. Dump the contents of the Ziploc bag onto a cookie sheet lined with tinfoil. Make sure the chickpeas are in a single layer to ensure even cooking.

Bake for 15 minutes then shake the pan to move the chickpeas around, bake for 15 more minutes.

Allow to cool as not to burn your tongue (like I did).

Enjoy!

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Lego Friends aren’t hurting my girls…

I woke up yesterday morning to my daughters playing. It’s pretty typical of a weekend that they are up well before David and I, and likely already gone downstairs and helped themselves to breakfast. I love how capable they are at doing things for themselves now! Sometime around 8am I realized they were “going to the moon” and then Nola launched something down the stairs … The distinct sound of Legos coming apart was the only sound followed by a nonchalant “whoops” and some other very dry comment. Nola’s sense of humor and attitude is quickly developing and she’s already got smartass nailed.

That comment was quickly followed up with a small voice saying “Heeey that was special! Daddy and I made it.” Nola assured Sophia that it could be remade, which sounded exactly like what I had said to my friends son Friday night when he broke a Lego ship. Nola had attempted to help him rebuild then too.

This is Sophia's room - Spongebob is sleeping, Princess Peach is clearly being a stalker, and a Lego Friend is cruising in her custom ride.  Also there's a totally destroyed bookcase in the back, with books that have been consumed with gusto - at 9pm when Sophia *should* be sleeping.  :P

This is Sophia’s room – Spongebob is sleeping, Princess Peach is clearly being a stalker, and a Lego Friend is cruising in her custom ride. Also there’s a totally destroyed bookcase in the back, with books that have been consumed with gusto – at 9pm when Sophia *should* be sleeping. 😛

A few hours later the girls were playing Harry Potter. Sophia was apparently in Hufflepuff. An hour after that Nola informed me she wanted to learn how to sew a waistband into a skirt. And another few hours later involved some Rainbow Loom ties being created. In all there were creations “sewn” from Kleenex, a braided necklace made, books about Titanic and penguins were read, and Rainbow Loom creations came into existence (and rubber bands were scattered around the house, again). You know … A very normal day in a house with two little girls with imaginations that clearly can take them to the moon at 8am.

I’m writing this in part because I want to remember the details, and because it was amusing and I loved it. Also because it made me think. A few weeks ago I read something about how horrid those pink and purple Legos are. How girls 30 years ago didn’t have pink Legos, just the “normal” ones. 30 years ago was the start of my pre-school years, and those toys they speak of were my toys. Now granted there is no way in hell anyone could confuse me for being overly girly, and those who know me well are deeply amused by my having two VERY girly-girls. 10 years ago when I was pregnant with Nola I vowed no pink and no princess.

We see how far I got with that. *sigh*

This is a little snapshot of Nola's room.  Harry Potter, a jewelry box, a tiara, and a microscope.  I didn't stage any of that, it's how she had it on her toy organizer.  If you were to turn around you'd see a super tidy bookcase, a ukelele, and a chess set.  I had to avoid stepping on the ukelele on the floor though.

This is a little snapshot of Nola’s room. Harry Potter, a jewelry box, a tiara, and a microscope. I didn’t stage any of that, it’s how she had it on her toy organizer. If you were to turn around you’d see a super tidy bookcase, a ukelele, and a chess set. I had to avoid stepping on the ukelele on the floor though.

The thing is – my girls don’t like Ninjago (did I spell that right?). They don’t care about Minecraft. Nola would love to have Star Wars Legos (holy crap are those things expensive) and Sophia has a few Spongebob Lego sets. The Lego Friends sets give them Legos in their favorite colors, and they love all the animals that come with them. Except for the first time the sets were put together I don’t think they’ve been in the intended forms. They build homes, cars, towers … All sorts of things. David even discovered a Lego “bed” on Sophia’s dresser a few weeks ago. It was rudimentary, but she proudly put “Tinkie” to bed on it.

There are hours spent with Daddy on the weekend building from time to time, and it’s loved by them all. I usually use the quiet time to take a relaxing bath, or catch up on cleaning, but I love to watch the 3 of them laying on the bedroom floor creating random works of art. The color of the blocks really doesn’t matter in those moments. If it gets my girls, or any girls for that matter, into building and dreaming things up then who cares that they are pink and purple?

My life is filled with pink and purple… And skirts, dresses, hearts, play jewelry, stuffed animals, baby dolls, Barbies, flowers, doing hair, and fending off requests for nail polish and ear piercings. There are also bumps, bruises, scrapes, stitches, fighting, screaming, hitting, kicking, sports, and holes in knees of jeans … And I wouldn’t trade any of it.

Okay, the fighting and hitting each other can go, I’m over that … And the dramas … So over that.

I’ll keep the Lego Friends, and my two little Hermonie Granger’s, because they are smart, funny, creative, and have awesome imaginations that are not impeded by the color of plastic building blocks.

A Geronimo Stilton book, microscope slides, and Nola's wooden chess set.

A Geronimo Stilton book, microscope slides, and Nola’s wooden chess set.

Every morning a few stuffed animals get tucked in when Sophia makes her bed.  Maybe they're nocturnal and they're keeping Sophia up at night... telling her that she must read.  :P

Every morning a few stuffed animals get tucked in when Sophia makes her bed. Maybe they’re nocturnal and they’re keeping Sophia up at night… telling her that she must read. 😛

Yep. I love those girls.

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I’m back!

Kind of.

We got all the big stuff moved on Saturday and slept here for the first time that night.  Sunday was spent in part getting the last of the big stuff upstairs while we still had the appliance dolly.  The moving truck was returned around noon.  David made another run with the van on Sunday to get the electronics, and I’ve done smaller runs the last 3 days as well.  There is perhaps another small-ish van load worth still in the garage, and a few things in our bedroom left to grab and then we are done moving stuff out!

Tomorrow with the help of my parents (again) I will start cleaning the old place.  I don’t want to leave the evil bag in the office any reason to charge us.  Though due to how much she hates me I’m pretty sure she will anyhow, but I’m going to photograph everything so if she tries to come at me I will be prepared.

David is not loving his longer commute.  I on the other hand already feel so much more relaxed at home even with the moving mess still *very* evident pretty much everywhere.  The girls are loving their own rooms.  I have made dinner every night since Sunday, and I am loving all the extra kitchen space I have.  We’ve had to improvise a bit on some things – like not having an actual pantry, and our bedroom being too small for David’s desk.  I was hoping for a desk free living room, but that didn’t happen.  I’m sure I’ll get over it.  He did put my computer on the desk as well, so I get to use the proper computer chair, so really I can’t complain too much.  :P

Once I’ve got all the crazy tamed I’ll post pictures.  It may be a few weeks.  Girl Scout cookies arrive on Friday, science fair projects are due in just under 2 weeks, we have to officially be out of the old place on the 28th, and the very next day cookie booth sales start for my troop.  Somewhere in there I’m going to squeeze in a sunrise shoot with some of the most awesome photographers I’ve had the pleasure of becoming friends with.

Speaking of… please click the picture below to see my photography blog and our most recent Photowalkers adventure.  :)

American Flat

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I should be packing…

… and not writing a blog post.  Whoops.

In my defense I’ve been productive!  I will be loading up the van and taking some things to the thrift store in a little while.  I also need to be on the computer for a bit to write up the minutes from last months PTO meeting, because we have one tonight and I apparently have a job that I am tasked with accomplishing.  O_o

I’ve been attempting to keep track of my 2014 in 2014 numbers, but I’ll be honest with as many bags and totes I’ve filled to trash or donate my numbers are likely to be off, and likely not in my favor.  Unless it’s a jar of cinnamon gummies I can’t guesstimate to save my life.  :P

Last post I was at 1,186 items left to go…

I’ve put 3 bags into the trash, 1-2 totes worth of stuff to donate, and 2 stacks of books (one stack to send to my sister, the other to head to donation).

I’ll estimate 250 items total for everything thus far.  My “side table” drawers and closet were small object gold mines.  Also I’m going to finally be taking like 5 years worth of dead batteries to recycling, and like a dozen old prescriptions to the local police department to drop into the med waste bin.

I’M PAST THE HALFWAY MARK!!!!

936 items left to go // 1,078 purged!!

 

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