Has anybody else been out of their minds busy this summer? I feel like almost every weekend my husband and I have been gone. We’ve gone to different places together and spent a few weekends apart traveling to different states with different time zones. Traveling is always an exciting part about summer, but the downside is that before you know it, it’s over.
We have a little less than a week left of August, which in my mind signifies the end of summer and the beginning of my absolute favorite season, fall. In my efforts to live more in the present, let’s not focus on fall just yet. Over these last three summer months I’ve learned a thing or two, tried some new things and seen some new places and I think they’re worth sharing.
When in Doubt, Go Backpacking
Two of my close friends and I picked a random summer weekend to spend two days backpacking in Mt. Rainier National Park. We chose a trail that was said to be a moderate elevation gain spanning 14 total miles. The drive to Mt. Rainier from downtown Seattle is about 2 hours and 45 minutes. We all left after work and met up at a campground inside the park by 8PM.
Bonus #1: You can go from the heart of the city to a campground nestled next to Mt. Rainier in under 3 hours. You’ll be drinking wine and eating burritos by 8:30, guaranteed.
The following morning we ventured out on our 9 mile hike to a peak called Gobbler’s Knob. About 4 hours later we stood face to face with a mountain that, from 4 hours away in Seattle, towers over the city. A 360 degree turn offers endless views of mountain ranges and even a glimpse of Mt. St. Helens in the distance.
Bonus #2: The view. Indescribable.
The next few hours found us eating a pretty pathetic meal of tortillas with cold cheese (no fires allowed in the wilderness), wine and peanut butter pretzels. Did we care about the food? No.
Bonus #3: The company. Hiking with 40-50 pounds on your back through beautiful, steep wooded forests is probably the best way to bond, reconnect and laugh until you physically have to stop and pee by a tree.
If you have nothing planned next weekend, I highly recommend a backpacking trip with your closest friends. Also, good luck with the bear pole.
Summer is for Salads
Summer can be hot. When it comes time to eat, nothing sounds better than a cool, fresh, crisp salad piled high with delicious toppings and a zesty dressing. Here is a recipe for one of my favorite salad combinations:
- 1 head of lettuce (romaine, red leaf or green leaf are best)
- 1 carrot, shredded or diced
- ⅓ cup chopped kalamata olives
- ½ can of chickpeas (garbanzo beans) or go big and use dried ones from the bulk section!
- 1 tsp olive oil
- pinch of paprika
- 3 oz. of feta cheese
- ¼ cup chopped almonds
- Balsamic-Dijon Vinaigrette:
- ⅓ cup olive oil
- 3 tbsp balsamic vinegar
- 2 tsp dijon mustard
- pinch of salt and black pepper
- Roughly chop or rip lettuce and use a salad spinner to rinse and dry.
- In a small frying pan on medium-high heat, add the 1 tsp of olive oil, chickpeas and paprika. Cook the chickpeas for about 5-7 minutes until they get slightly browned.
- Add the lettuce, carrot, olives, feta, almonds and chickpeas to a large serving bowl.
- Whisk together the vinaigrette and dress appropriately (the salad, not you). Serve immediately.
- I like to pre-dress my salad because it makes it easier to eat, but if you think you'll have leftovers, then don't pre-dress the salad. Leftovers with dressing will get soggy and gross. If you want to make this more of a meal, put it all into a wrap or add a meat of your choice!
DIY Wedding Gifts
This summer has been full of weddings for us. We have more to come, but so far, when it comes to wedding gifts, I have found that homemade gifts are not only budget friendly, but more sentimental. Here are a few ideas:
- Monogram Cloth Napkins. Find out the bride and groom’s color scheme for their home and make them some great reusable napkins! You can never make too many of these.
- DIY Infused Olive Oils. If you have an empty wine bottle or two sitting around, fill them with herbs and olive oil for a simple, but delicious wedding gift.
- Mail Organizer. I used to make and sell these on Etsy, but anyone can do it. Go to a used building material store, buy a single wooden window shutter and 3 or 4 hooks. Paint the shutter the color you like and spray with a clear sealant to keep it from scratching. Attach the hooks along the bottom and nail in 2 picture hangers; one in each top corner. Adjust the slats upward so that mail can slide in. Make sure the center bar is in the front, otherwise it will not sit flush against the wall and mail will fall through. Distress it with sandpaper before the sealant for a different look. People love these!
- Mixes in a Jar. Search for recipes like this one: Cookie mix in a jar. Most of the ingredients can be found in bulk, which means you can buy only as much as the recipe calls for. Even without ribbon and bows these look nice sitting on anyones kitchen counter.
- Terrarium. Most large stores with a floral department will have a succulent selection. Purchase the ones you like, some soil and go on a walk to find some different rocks. You should never need to buy rocks! To find a vase either go to a second hand store or be creative with what you have around your house. Mason jars, old light fixtures, tins, etc. all work well. Throw in a quick how to that’s easy to follow like this one.
I love the zoo. I go a few times a month to get my much needed dose of animal time. Not only is it great exercise to walk around for a few hours, but it always reminds me that there is an incredible wild world out there waiting to be seen. My favorite exhibit is the bear habitat. Our zoo has a large room with two big thick paned windows that look directly into the pond of the bear habitat. The pond is full of fish, so from time to time the bears come within inches of your face to catch fish. It blows my mind how big, yet gentle they seem. If I saw one in the wild, however, I’d probably want to be a little further away and would think less about how much I want to cuddle it.
As much as I love the zoo, I think it’s important to find places where you really do get to see animals in the wild. I’m not saying you have to go far to get a glimpse of some rare species, but rather the animals that are native to your area. On a hike around a park in Anacortes, WA we saw bald eagles soaring over the ocean and landing on the tops of pine trees. While running around my parent’s neighborhood I passed within 10 feet of a doe and her new fawn. While hiking through Discovery Park in Seattle my husband and I have seen sea lions, bats, snakes and hawks. These aren’t animals you’d see at a zoo, but they’re animals that keep our local ecosystems thriving and functioning.
What wildlife have you seen this summer?
Snapshots of a Greener World
I’ve done a fair amount of traveling this summer and I was excited to see that beyond Seattle, other cities in our country are pushing the green lifestyle. Forgive me all of you Midwest folks, but I was under the impression that environmental concern, well, wasn’t really a concern of yours. I’m happy to say I was proven wrong. While visiting family in Indiana I was excited (probably overly excited) to see signs pushing people to think about their environment. We drove through Indianapolis and while sitting at a traffic light I noticed a sign to my left in the middle of a median saying “Adopt a median” for the SustainIndy initiative. You could plant a garden or keep clean this small area of grass between busy streets.
In Chicago at the airport I noticed a sign on the back of a rental car shuttle stating that two rental car companies had combined to use one shuttle instead of two separate ones in an effort to reduce their carbon footprint.
I’ve been to several street fairs and festivals around Washington which contain at every other intersection a large area for compost, recycle and trash. The best part of this is that they’re educating everyone walking by about what goes where; knowledge they can take home with them.
Alaska Airlines has pamphlets in every seat back pocket stating their efforts to reduce waste by separating out recyclables from trash. Windmills stretch for miles across farmlands along a busy road from Chicago to Indiana which offers a renewable energy alternative. There are signs in certain hotels that ask you to reuse your towels to reduce water consumption and offer both recycling and trash bins in order to reduce waste. I could keep going, but I think I’ve made my point. For fun, keep your eyes open for the restaurants, coffee shops, hotels, buses, schools, grocery stores and malls in your area who are taking steps toward sustainability!
As much as I love the warmth of summer and the longer days of sunlight, my heart yearns for the colors and flavors of fall. This summer was a busy one, which was evident to me in my lack of time to sit and write, but that only means I was out there doing and learning more! I look forward to more time to write this fall with bowls of soup in the evening and my laptop on my lap! Cheers to you, cheers to summer and cheers for what’s to come!