Archive | Details RSS for this section

Why National Forests Are Better Than National Parks

National parks are one of our nation’s treasures, but I’d like to introduce you to national forests. Our forests, with the tagline of “Land of Many Uses,” are in many ways better than parks.

Here are 5 reasons you should visit a national forest instead of a national park.

1) DOGS ALLOWED!

If you’re a dog owner, you might know that the National Park Service doesn’t really roll out the red carpet for our pups. Most parks don’t allow dogs on trails and basically only allow dogs on paved roads and parking lots and in some campgrounds. National Forests, on the other hand, are extremely dog friendly. Your dogs are invited on trails and most forests have very few dog-related restrictions. You and your dog are free to explore the lands of many uses.

DSC_6279

Happy boy hiking in the Eldorado National Forest

Honestly I could end the post here (because dogs!), but I will keep going…

2) No Crowds

Last year, there were 331 million visitors to national parks. The top ten parks had between 3 – 11 million visitors. That equals a lot of crowds. Lines for spots in parking lots, traffic in Yosemite Valley, elbowing your way around large groups on trails – these aren’t really things you’d expect when visiting protected natural lands. National forests on the other hand, had an estimated 140 million annual visits (and more than double the amount of acreage of the national park system). When you visit a national forest, chances are you won’t see another soul. Or you’ll only see a handful of souls (and several of them will be furry!).

DSC_6283

Desolation Wilderness – we hiked for 7+ hours on this trip and probably saw 5 people on the trails?

3) Save Money

Personally I love paying the entrance fee to a national park. It’s a simple, monetary way for me to show my appreciation for the work of the NPS. But, those fees can add up so if you’re looking to save some money, a national forest is a free option.

4) More Adventurous

Similar to point number 2, the lack of crowds lends itself to a more adventurous feel than, say, driving the south rim of the Grand Canyon. But not only are you often by yourself, you will also come across slightly less groomed trails. Sometimes the markers won’t be clear or you might take a wrong turn or two. If you like the idea of “getting lost” you’ll probably enjoy hiking a national forest more than a national park.

DSC_6204

Sequoias, man. The Trail of 100 Giants is on the side of the road in Sequoia national forest.

5) It’s Basically the Same as the Park

The greatest thing about national forests is that they often surround national parks. Love Yosemite but hate traffic? Head up to the surrounding national forests and you’ll get the same exact rock formations, waterfalls, and views of valleys. If you’re visiting a park this summer, check out some of the national forests nearby and give it a try.

DSC_6099

This is the trail to Mount Whitney. The first part is through the Inyo National Forest. The second half is in King’s Canyon National Park. You literally walk into a national park from the national forest. Fun fact: Dogs cannot be on the national park portion of the trail, but can do the first portion in the forest (go figure…)

What national forests have you visited? Why do you love the land of many uses?

Advertisements

Picture + 100 Words: Walking Through the Valley of Death

DSC_6021 (1).JPG

Death Valley National Park boasts the highest air temperature ever recorded (134°) and routinely hits 120° in summer in the shade. Why would anyone go here? Well, it’s your closest chance of experiencing Mars on Earth. Cracked salt flats flanked by colorful striped hills and badlands. A valley that you both want to walk farther into and also run far away from. In December we thought the park would be empty. It was packed, parking lots teeming. But on our way out, we pulled off the perfectly paved road and watched dusk descend on the valley without another soul in sight.

For Skincare, It’s the Habit That Counts

I used to be solidly in the I-don’t-get-it skincare camp.

Although I didn’t have the delusion that people being interested in skincare was a novel thing (cough…the outline…cough).

I took awful care of my skin. In fact, I barely took care of my skin.

After a conversation with my dermatologist I started washing and moisturizing my face twice a day with Cetaphil and Cerave AM and PM. That was more than a year ago and my skin has never been happier (or smoother, or brighter, or cleaner, or more moisturized).

I recently stumbled upon a breakthrough of sorts when it comes to skincare that I wanted to share with all of you. It’s simple.

If you make any skincare routine a habit you will see improvement. No matter how much (or how little!) you spend on the product. 

Here’s what happened:

I have always had dry, chapped lips. Just always. Like so chapped that I can’t wear lipstick or gloss because it gets all cracked and ugly.

I was reading a newsletter (because I love newsletters) and Kim Bui mentioned in passing that she had started using a Korean lip mask that had gotten rid of her chapped lips.

Intrigued that there might actually be a solution to my chapped lips, I put the mask in my online shopping cart.

But I just couldn’t convince myself to spend $20 on something that was not even an ounce.

Wait, I thought. I have never, ever tried anything habitually to get rid of my chapped lips. Sure, I use chapstick but that was basically it.

I did some searching and found a similar product (Rosebud Salve) that cost only $6. I told myself – buy this. Try it every night until it runs out. If it doesn’t work, buy the lip mask.

Guess what?

It worked!

IMG_20180202_161736404_HDR

Basic.

Just the simple act of moisturizing my lips every night has made a tremendous difference on my lips during the day. I didn’t need to spend $20. I just needed to make it a routine.

So whether you’re trying to rein in your skincare spending or you aren’t convinced that skincare “works,” I recommend that you try this out on just one thing: buy a less-expensive, affordable product and make using it a daily habit. Give it time and see if it makes a difference.

I bet that it will.

The Day We Gotcha: One Year With Our Bouvier

A year ago today we drove three hours through the mountains of Maryland and West Virginia. It was a drab December morning, but we were filled with anticipation.

Santa was riding on a fire truck near your home, so our first shared moment consisted of listening to you whine at the sound of sirens while you had a dingleberry removed.

We didn’t even know what a dingleberry was back then.

Now we do.

And we also now know that whine of yours can range from frustration to discomfort to just looking for some attention.

Back on the ground and out the door you took off, running on impossibly short legs through the grass, jumping, weaving around our feet, latching on to loose pant legs. Within 20 minutes you were passed out in the car and basically slept through the 3-hour ride to your new home.

Played a bit. Now we're headed home!! #bouvier

A post shared by Balthasar the Bouvier (@bouvierbalth) on

A year with Balthasar. It has consisted of taking you to 12 states (plus D.C.), to four national parks, and you’ve already dipped your paws in both the Atlantic and Pacific.

PhotoGrid_1502326741931Your living quite the charmed puppy life.

Some things haven’t changed much over the past 12 months – you still have puppy dreams and make adorable noises before falling asleep. You hate closed doors (especially to the bathroom when one of us is in it) and you don’t want us to be in separate rooms. You love running on grass and cleaning out peanut butter jars. You have been tearing up cardboard boxes with zeal since day one with us.

Other things have changed – you now love cuddling and getting “scritches.” You’ve developed quite the obsession for tennis balls and got rid of your habit of stealing other people’s newspapers. You love the water now and can’t imagine not at least testing the temperature by getting your tummy wet (it’s never too cold).

This past year you’ve wowed us with your intelligence and the speed that you pick up new commands. As you’ve grown into an adolescent we have found ourselves questioning our positive-only, force-free training.

PhotoGrid_1512262731348

But then you’re so polite, ask permission for everything, and are kind with every human you meet. It’s been a challenge, but the training is working.

We hope to have many many more years with you and celebrate many many more “gotcha days.”

But today we’re thinking back about the 365 days with a bouvier named Balthasar. We’ve gone through thousands of poo bags, had hundreds of ear licks (your “kisses”), taught you dozens of commands, and you’ve taught us to be more forgiving, curious, loving, responsible, and to cherish the moments when the herd is all together.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Seven Things That Surprised Me About Raising a Puppy

Our puppy Balthasar turned 7 months this week. In honor of that I’m sharing 7 things that I didn’t anticipate about raising a puppy.

1) Your Heart Will Feel Ripped Out Every Time You Leave

DSC_4197

I mean, this is his face when you get home. Why would you ever leave him?

We are lucky that both of our jobs allow us to work from home a lot. We’ve been able to sync up our schedules mostly so that at least one of us is home during the workweek. Of course, we do have to leave the pup alone from time to time (in fact, we even have to make up reasons to leave so that he can get used to being home alone). But it hurts our hearts every time we have to be away.

2) Walks Aren’t About You

When you take your dog for a walk, it’s not a time for you to relax or decompress. It’s a constant training opportunity and you have to be on alert—rewarding good behavior and modifying when he’s being impolite. If you want to take a stroll and be lost in your thoughts, you should leave the pup at home (but, also, see lesson 1).

3) You Will Always Wear Crappy Clothes

DSC_4288

So excited about cows. Doesn’t notice your jeans.

The first several months (year?) of your life with the puppy you’ll want to always be in clothes you don’t mind getting ripped or dirtied. Just keep the nice outfits in your closet.  The pup will ruin you clothes. So don’t set yourself up for disappointment.

4) Your First Routine Will Become THE Routine

Dogs thrive on routines. So that routine that you start up when you first get the pup will most likely become the routine. Make sure you can stick with it! Can’t do mid-morning walks usually? Then don’t do those when you first get your pup and you’ve taken time off from work. Jump right into the routine you want to have and try to stick with it as often as possible (even on weekends).

5) You Will Spend Inordinate Amounts of Time Talking About Poo

My friend Molly warned me of this, but I didn’t quite realize how much poop talk there could possibly be. Has he pooed yet? Was the poo soft? When was the last time he pooed?  Did you see x in his poo? (being that thing he shouldn’t have eaten / isn’t edible).

6) You Will Think You’ve Broken Your Dog

Put your vet’s number on speed dial. You’ll be calling them a lot. (And paying them a lot). (Hello, stool samples!). (See? Poo again). Your puppy’s behavior will be completely new the first couple of weeks and just when you get used to it all of a sudden he’ll start doing something super odd—like walking around in the evening with his mouth open. When Balthasar did this we thought we had broken the dog. We hadn’t. We called the vet, he said don’t worry. Just know that sometimes there are reasons to worry. So pay attention and note those behavior changes. And don’t be afraid to call the vet.

7) You Will Feel Amazing When the Puppy Falls Asleep

Our puppy, since day one with him, has made this cute little licking noise right before he falls asleep. We call it the “nap noise.” Whenever we hear him make that noise it’s such a good feeling. Finally! You’ll think. He’s going to sleep! Yes, puppies sleep a lot, but when they are awake it’s a lot of work and you have to pay close attention so you will look forward to those long sweet naps. Good night, sweetheart!

Want to follow more of Balthasar’s adventures? He’s on instagram: @BouvierBalth

DSC_4527

I can (and will) sleep anywhere. Even on the beach! With sand on my nose!

Picture + 100 Words: Container Garden Inspiration

One of Cordoba's famous patiosIf you find yourself with a garden space that is horizontally challenged, take a tip from the Spaniards and go vertical. In countless courtyards throughout Cordoba, gardeners are not deterred by limited space. Instead they put plants in containers that climb up the walls toward the sunlight. No need to get fancy with the pots, simple terra cotta will do. Add in some blossoming flowers in coordinating colors, mix up the textures of the foliage, and just keep rising higher and higher. One more thing: consider drought-resistant plants because watering all of these regularly would be bothersome.

Picture + 100 Words: Nature’s Simplicity

Trees growing in a straight line? This is not coincidental. This is what happens when trees grow out and on top of dead, fallen trees. A concept called the nurse log. As you hike through the Hoh Rainforest in Olympic National Park everything feels very alive – the greenery all around is teeming with life that supports more life. And if that weren’t enough to inspire, the local library placed signs with poetry along the trail (including the poem below).

Nature is what we know –
Yet have no art to say –
So impotent our Wisdom is
To her Simplicity.
-Emily Dickinson

A Stack of Seven Links

Lists are the best. As I was reading Emily’s 6 on the 6th list over at Curious Iguana’s blog, I was reminded how much I love reading lists of things other people are enjoying on the Internets. So I am going to share a few of mine.

1) As a woman with a master’s degree and the wife of a professor I have read lots of academic writing (most of it lately in the form of free copy editing services for my husband’s papers). I have always said that the lack of plain language wasn’t because these academicians are so much smarter than us, it’s because it’s harder to write clearly. And now The Atlantic is backing me up in this piece about unnecessarily complex academic writing.

2) I was driving listening to BBC earlier this summer and heard Tope Folarin read an essay about his obsession with creation stories. It was so compelling that I scrambled to record an audio note to myself with my smartphone (because that seems so much safer than typing, but it was still pretty dangerous tbh). Thankfully my app caught most of my note and I was able to decipher it plus do some googling and find the audio clip (now only available via the BBC free media player app). Not only was I introduced to Folarin’s writing, but I also learned about the Caine Prize. It was a win win.

3) Oh, hey, have you been participating in the Social Justice Book Club? We’re on our third book (it’s one book every other month) and maybe you’d like to join us? Kerry is the hostess of the club and has more info about the August bookThe New Jim Crow.

IMG_20160809_2141004) When I saw the illustrations on the covers of Flannery O’Connor’s books in Curious Iguana earlier this year I was mesmerized. I bought O’Connor’s Everything That Rises Must Converge because a) I had never read her and b) the cover was so darn beautiful. I decided to find out more about the illustrator, June Glasson, and came across this lovely interview she did (the best part is you get to see lots of examples of Glasson’s work).

5) I don’t know why it took me so long to read Flannery O’Connor, but one thing that pushed me over the edge was Francine Prose’s Reading Like a Writer. She’s used O’Connor as an example several times. I’ve been slowly taking Prose’s book in and already find that my reading has more depth.

6) The Man Booker prize announced the 2016 longlist and while I recognize many of the authors, I haven’t actually read any of the books on the list. What about you? What do you think is going to make it to the shortlist?

7) I LOVED Donna Tartt’s Pulitzer-winning Goldfinch. I’ve often wondered when (and if!) it would be made into film. If you didn’t already hear, the director of Brooklyn, John Crowley will be adapting Goldfinch into a movie. This is promising news to me, because I thought Brooklyn was such a sweet and well done movie.

Old & New: Four Pieces of Active Gear I Can’t Run Without

I’ve been running for 10+ years, and over the years I’ve gone through lots of active gear and clothing and shoes. When I think about my favorites, there are two pieces of gear that have been with me for years and two new ones that I am really loving. Check them out.

Two Things That Changed My (Running) Life

Spibelt

How did I ever run without my spibelt? I’ve had this thing for years and it’s probably the single best piece of active gear I’ve ever bought. Basically it’s a svelte fanny pack that is just big enough for your smart phone and a key and maybe a few other things. I don’t even notice that I’m wearing it, and I always have my essentials on hand.

Body Glide

Oh, body glide, how I love thee. Running would be much more uncomfortable without this little stick of happiness. Swipe it on anywhere you’re prone to get chafing and be amazed.

Two New Pieces of Active Gear I’m Loving

IMG_20160728_170558220-01Bottle band

I am not a fan of running in super hot heat (who is?) and in past summers I would use the treadmill at the gym. I’m no longer a gym member (plus I never really loved the treadmill) so I’ve been running outside in the heat this summer. I tried carrying my water bottle with me and it was awkward holding on to it the whole run. I checked out some options and happily came across the Bottle Band. For just a few bucks, the band will latch on to any sized water bottle and provides you with an insta-handle. I love running with it now. It’s comfortable and I can change the way I grip it throughout the run.

Bellabeat’s Leaf

PhotoGrid_1470348053253

Photos courtesy of Bellabeat

I always liked the idea of the Fitbit, in terms of the data I could get from it, but was never crazy about the idea of the plastic band. Enter Bellbeat’s Leaf. It’s made for women and made to look beautiful and can be worn four different ways (as a necklace, bracelet, clipped on your shirt, or on your pants). I got the Leaf earlier this summer and enjoy trying to get to 10,000 steps a day (harder than I imagined!). The app that goes with it is easy to use and it’s been fun keeping track of my health data. I wear it when I run and with all my outfits every day. So far so good!

What are your favorite new and old pieces of gear that you recommend? Tell me in the comments.

How Others Deal With the Heat

If you haven’t heard, it’s going to be hot the next few days and into next week. H-O-T hot. Like 99 degrees hot here in Frederick. But it’s not just Maryland, a heat wave is in the forecast for much of central and eastern U.S.

I grew up in Louisiana, so I’m no stranger to heat (and humidity!). But how do others handle the heat? Here are a few clever ways I’ve come across.

Dubai

We were in Dubai in January and it was hot. It was about 30 degrees away from summer weather, but it was 85 and I was wearing lots of modest clothes. So how do you escape the heat in Dubai? You go to the mall.

The wonderfully air-conditioned mall.

Let's go to the mall

We joked that Dubai was one huge mall because there were so many of them, but it makes sense. Isn’t there nothing better when it’s ridiculously hot out than stepping into a 65 degree climate-controlled space?

Spain

The other week we were complaining about the heat in Maryland. We were dealing with low 90s here and I decided to check the weather in Southern Spain. It was 110 degrees. Spain was one place where we were fascinated by how they’ve handled hot weather.

You have table misters that keep you cool while dining alfresco or just walking by.DSC_5225

Sun shades that stretch across streets do you don’t have to walk in the sun.DSC_5224

And kissing lanes that are designed to be so narrow for more shade.
DSC_5272

This is also the culture that has perfected the art of the siesta – a midday nap that coincides with the hottest part of the day.

Greece

I was thinking of all of the places we’ve traveled when it was hot, and the only thing that I could think that Greece really got right about the heat was having the sea RIGHT there. You just jump in and immediately cool off. Genius. 😉

DSC_0438

Phoenix, Arizona

When we were in Phoenix this past January it was warm (for January!) and sunny. At one street corner I happened to look up as we waited to use the cross walk and saw the ingenious shade structures on all four corners of the street. It was this convenient little tree-shaped plastic fan that spread out over us and provided shade from the relentless Arizona sun.

I don’t know if it necessarily makes me feel better to know others are dealing with hight temperatures, but I do hope that some of these heat-beating solutions will be implemented more widely here in the U.S.

What other smart ways have you found to beat the heat?