Sunday, September 2, 2018

How to Beat the Heat AND Get Your Nature Fix Over Summer

There is nothing I love more than being outdoors. I love trails and trees and fields and open skies and well, you get the point. It's our family thing. We hike.


Summer hiking is just not our thing. For many reasons. First, many (not all) trails become really overgrown in the summer. Also, because the trees have their full foliage, many of the beautiful views we love are blocked. Not that that's a reason to not hike. But you know what is a reason? Summer bugs. And also the heat. What I don't like is walking in the heat of the sun, through knee high weeds, surrounded by bugs. 


I couldn't possibly go all summer without a nature fix. I crave the outdoors, so fortunately we have figured out some outdoor things to do in the heat of the summer.

1.) Go where the water is.

Hello there creeks, ponds, rivers, and backyard sprinkler. We love going to the creek and have spent a few afternoons there swimming, skipping rocks, and looking for wildlife. The best tip I can offer about going to the creek is to bring water shoes or shoes that you can wear in the creek. It just makes it easier to get around. We usually don't stay in one spot - we will walk up and down the creek bed looking for places to explore.

2.) Sunsrise, Sunset

Obviously it's going to be cooler if you're up early or out later when the sun isn't right overhead. One of our family's favorite things to do in the summer is to go to the river and watch the sunset. It's just the perfect way to end a summer evening. After we hang out and watch the sun set, we head home with the windows down, playing our favorite music, and enjoying a nice, cool, country drive home in the moonlight.


3.) Night Sky

I'm a sucker for all celestial things. Two of my favorite apps on my phone are Daff Moon, which is simply a moon phase tracker, and Sky Map, which acts as a hand held planetarium. One of our favorite things to do in the summer (or anytime, really) is to wait until the boys are in their pajamas all ready for bed, and then surprise them with a night excursion to the country to look at the stars, the moon, the sky. We have a couple of favorite spots, away from any light pollution, where we can just park the car and sky gaze. Recently, there was a meteor shower on a night when the skies were supposed to be really clear. We waited until dark, surprised the boys with a nighttime adventure, and headed to the country. We laid a mattress and blankets on top of the van, laid back, and saw one shooting star after another. It was one of the best nights of the whole summer.

4.) Find Nature Indoors!

We are fortunate to be so close to an amazing nature center.  We visit there often. We've gone early in the morning to walk the trails before the sun is blazing, and we've gone in the heat of the day to do some indoor bird watching and learn about conservation in Missouri all in the comfort of air conditioning.

On one of our visits, it must have been just before feeding time, because the snakes were all incredibly active. I've never seen them so restless! Eeeek.

5.) Watch for perfect hiking weather and be ready to roll. 

Even the hottest summer months usually offer at least a little reprieve from the heat. We are constantly watching the weather for that break from hot weather so we can hit the trails at just the right time. When we do hike in the summer, we look for wide trails that we know are well maintained through summer months. Either that, or we look for trails that go straight to the creek.

We have a hiking backpack ready to go at all times. If the weather dips unexpectedly, we are ready to grab our gear and go. Must haves for summer hikes include bug spray and sunscreen. And of course, lots and lots of water.

The point is, there is no excuse to go all summer without appreciating what nature has to offer, even when it's hot, humid, and miserable. Go in the morning, go at night, go indoors, go outdoors - just go.

Here's to looking forward to cooler weather and more comfortable hikes! 

Sunday, August 26, 2018

What I've Been Doing This Summer (Besides not updating the Blog)

Sometimes when I haven't updated the blog very often, I start my new blog post by saying, "Sorry it's been slow around here," or something to that effect. But then recently I read a meme that went something like this: "Dear blogger, you don't have to start a post with 'sorry I haven't written in a while.' Nobody explitive cares!" Awesome. Because while I was wasting away summer, and not writing blog posts, I was wondering to myself whether anyone was wondering about my blog. And apparently they are not. So yes, I haven't updated very frequently this summer, but hopefully no one cares and we'll just pick up where we left off back when I was on a roll with writing posts all the time.

So here we are, skidding into September. We have attended open houses at both boys' schools, met their teachers, dropped off supplies, and picked out awesome lunch stuff for the first week of school. And now, we just relax away our last weekend and reminisce about summers past.

I told you in my last post about how lazy a summer it's been, so you get the point.  I'm going to use this post to seek a little redemption by sharing what things I (we) DID accomplish this summer.

1.) New recipes. I have practically memorized the cookbook section of our local library. Not that I have checked out every book or anything, but I probably opened every single book and either checked it out, or deliberately not checked it out for one reason or another. As a result, I have found some great books and some great recipes.

One of our absolute favorites was this blueberry cream pie. We made it four times this summer and will continue making it forever. It is seriously one of the most delicious things I have ever eaten.

Another favorite were these cheeseburger pretzel bombs where the recipe wasn't nearly as mind -blowing as the fact that I learned how to pretzelize anything... and now I will. And they were really yummy. A great comfort snack and one that would pack nicely in school lunches.

Another new recipe that I didn't photograph because we ate them up too quickly was lemon glazed cookies, courtesy of Martha Stewart (via Pinterest). If you like lemon, and seriously who doesn't, then you will loooooove these. There's grated lemon peel, fresh lemon juice, and a yummy lemon glaze. I made a quadruple batch and Jeremy and I both took some to work, gave a few to a neighbor, and devoured the rest. Definitely making this one again.

We are definitely ready for some fall soups and flavors if the weather would just cool down a bit!

2.) Netflix binge watching. This is something I just can't do during the school year. I love it during the summer when I can just get through entire series of shows that I've been wanting to watch. My top three series of the summer by far are as follows:

The Crown - I could not stop watching this drama. It chronicles the life of Queen Elizabeth starting with the death of King George and Queen Elizabeth's subsequent coronation. I couldn't stop googling which plot lines were fact and which were fiction. And do you know what? Almost all are based on true stories (with creative liberties taken of course). Also, I couldn't stop speaking in a British accent by the time I got to the end of the series (I was watching 3-4 episodes a day, and may as well have been living at Buckingham Palace with how into it I was). I'm a little nervous that the entire cast is being replaced for season 3, but I'm just hoping that Netflix gets it right and it continues to be awesome.

Orange is the New Black - Season 6. I look forward to the release of the new season every summer (although it came a little late this summer, didn't it?). I loved season 6. My rankings of the seasons so far, best to worst are as follows: 1, 2, 6, 5, 4, 3. My prediction is that next season is the last.

Kim's Convenience - I just started this one a few weeks ago, then finished it a few days ago. This one is a Canadian sitcom about a Korean family running a convenience store. I love every single one of the main characters. The episodes are short, and the whole family can watch it.

Aside from these series, I've also rewatched some of The Office and Parenthood, and some documentaries. So see? Totally productive in the Netflix department.

3.) Yoga with Adriene - You guys. How have I not heard of this before this summer? It was actually last spring when it was recommended to me and I started trying out videos here and there. Adriene is an incredible yoga instructor with a mission to make yoga accessible to everyone by posting free yoga videos on Youtube. She is funny, easy to follow, and there are loads of videos to choose from. I completed the 30 day Yoga Camp series, as well as other videos and have recently started on the 30 Days of Yoga series. By the third video, I didn't even have to watch her because she does such a great job of explaining each move and encouraging you to just "find what feels good."  Just look her up on Youtube. I promise you won't be disappointed. Summer exercise... check. 

4.) Pool - Ah, the pool. This has been our number one favorite summer activity this summer. We have never really been a pool family. It's just not my thing, probably because I didn't grow up going to the pool. I grew up with a pond in my backyard where we went swimming whenever we wanted. We spent summers jumping off the boat at the lake in Kentucky. Occasionally we would go to the city pool (usually because we were invited to go with someone else). So I caught myself by surprise this summer when I found myself LOVING lounging by the pool while the boys played for hours in the water. When it's 100 degrees out, or even 90 or 85, I can't think of a better way to spend the afternoon than to be in cool water. We did not get passes this year, but probably will next year. And honestly, I'm going to have a hard time choosing which pool to buy passes from because we found more than one that we loved. Both boys chose to go to a water park for their birthdays, and the entire family loved it (I'm purposefully leaving out the part of the story where I almost got knocked out on one of the most mild water slides in the park - whatevs.) So now we are a pool family and I totally did not see that one coming.

So see. We've done some things this summer! I don't regret our lazy summer full of cooking, Netflix, yoga, and pools for one second. Goodbye, summer. Hello fall!

Monday, August 13, 2018

Eagle Bluff Lookout

Goodbye lazy days. We (and I, especially) will miss you. The boys don't go back to school for a few weeks, but I'm back in the office already and slowly transitioning back to full time work. I'm not complaining, believe me. I don't take take my summers for granted for one second. I know how fortunate I am to spend 3 months out of the year with the boys. I also know how fortunate I am to have a job that I love in a district where my kids attend school. It's all about balance, amIright?

Every summer has its own unique personality. Some years, summer is all about the big vacation. Other years, it's about day trips and bucket lists. This summer has been all about full time lazy days and days at the pool. We've spent more time at the pool that any other year, and have also made two trips to a water park. This summer has been about lounging in the sun, catching up on Netflix, and checking out giant stacks of books at the library (mostly cookbooks, some memoirs for me, but lots of graphic novels for the boys). We have stayed up late, and slept in late. Nothing to complain about here as we switch gears and head back to school.

We did recently put our Netflix, reading, and swimming on hold for a day and went on a day excursion to one of our favorite places, Eagle Bluffs lookout. It's part bike trail, part stair climb, and part hike. A few years back, I wrote about it here after we searched for 3 days to find this spot. We weren't really sure what we were looking for, and weren't yet familiar with the area. On this trip though, we knew right where to go.

Last time we were here, we hiked the bike trail. But since then, both boys have started riding on 2 wheels, so were able to haul the bikes and bike the trail instead.

One and a half miles on this beautiful bike trail right along Perche Creek on one side and giant bluffs on the other side.

After a nice easy bike ride, we pulled off to the overlook trail head.

I love trail signs.

We locked up the bikes, drank some water and started this climb.

You guys. Seriously, I feel like I am generally in good shape. I mean we haven't hiked much this summer, but typically I can get on any trail, and not have a problem. We've done these stairs before, and I remember flying up them (although my memory may totally be wrong).

But this time... this time the struggle was real. I made it, but I had to stop twice on the way up for a breather. Ugh!

And of course this guy makes everything look like a breeze.

Looking back down the stairs literally gives me vertigo.

My memory must have failed me on this part too, because as I remembered it, it was just a tiny little trail connecting the stairs to the lookout, but actually it's an uphill climb! Huff and then puff and then huff...

But this magical bridge was exactly as I remembered it.

Everybody stopping for a breather.

And then finally we arrived at our destination. The lookout.

And it was just as amazing as we remembered it. Once again we had the whole place to ourselves.

We are so lucky we live here. Missouri is just full of these kinds of hidden treasures. 

We sat around and had a trail snack for a little bit (oatmeal peanut butter energy bites - recipe coming soon!) and then hiked on.

Sitting on the shady stair. 

This time we hiked a little further than we did last time. We crossed a different bridge and hiked on into the woods.

But we didn't stay long. We were tired. I didn't mention that the boys had both been at a sleepover the night before and were running on only a few hours of sleep. But Jeremy and I wanted to hike so badly that we pulled them along with us anyway. As always, there was barely a complaint once we got on the trail, but we can tell when they are wearing down.

So back down the trail we went.

Beside the magical bridge.

Downhill trail this time...

 And then down the billion stairs, which believe me, are actually fun when you're going down.

98, 99, 100, ...

 The enchanting stairs...

And finally, FINALLY, we made it back to our bikes.

Back on the trail, jello legs and all.

All in all, an amazing outdoor adventure!

Until next time, happy hiking!