Leave No Trace

After battling with the fact that the weather did not look promising enough to backpack 10+ miles into the heart of the High Peaks Region in an attempt to escape a majority of the complete and utter chaos of Columbus Day weekend in the Adirondacks, I took the break in the clouds as a sign to get up there for just a few hours of my Sunday.
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We decided to hike two smaller mountains that we knew would provide us with both beautiful views and plenty of people. We sucked it up despite pulling into two completely full and overflowing trailheads and decided to make the best of it. Our two hikes up Black Bear Mountain and Bald Mountain were nothing short of beautiful but also inspired me to get on my high horse here for a minute to share some important information with anyone who wishes to adventure into the outdoors but especially those who want to explore in my favorite, close-to-home playground.

Leave No Trace

…is a set of principles that we outdoor junkies live by. There are seven items here that basically allow us to enjoy nature in her entirety in a sustainable way that significantly decreases and often avoids human-created impacts. They come from the Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics which are explained below.

1. Plan Ahead and Prepare 

  • Know important information about the area you’ll visit. For example, in the Adirondack High Peaks region, there are a number of special concerns that you should be aware of before setting foot on the trail. Group size restrictions, no camping above 3,500/4,000 feet, no campfires in the eastern high peaks, and use of bear canisters are just a few of these special restrictions you should know.
  • Be prepared for extreme weather, hazards, and emergencies. Just because you don’t plan to be out longer than planned doesn’t necessarily mean you won’t be.
  • Schedule your trip to avoid times of high use; for example, trying to hike in a less busy area when the hoards of ‘hikers’ flood the mountains.
  • Visit in small groups when possible. Consider splitting larger groups into smaller groups. Your large group not only does more damage to the trail itself due to widening, and/or just overuse but it tends to change the experience of the other hikers around you in a not so positive way due to sound pollution, less space, having to wait potentially behind a large group, etc.

2.  Travel and Camp on Durable Surfaces

  • Durable surfaces include established trails and campsites, rock, gravel, or snow.
  • Protect water sources and wetland areas by camping at least 200 feet from lakes and streams; keep this in mind when doing your ‘business’ as well.
  • Good campsites are found, not made. In the Adirondacks, campsites are marked with a lean-to or tent marker for your convenience. Altering a site is not necessary.
    • Concentrate use on existing trails and campsites.
    • Walk single file in the middle of the trail, even when wet or muddy.
    • Keep campsites small. Focus activity in areas where vegetation is absent.

3. Dispose of Waste Properly

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    One of the many items we found and packed out along the way. Where is the nearest Dunkin to the Adirondacks anyways!?

    Pack it in, pack it out. Inspect your campsite and rest areas for trash or spilled foods. Pack out all trash, leftover food and litter. I don’t know why this is such a difficult concept but for some reason it is… bring a plastic shopping bag or a ziplock baggie to dispose of your garbage into and just carry it all out with you! The Adirondacks is NOT a national park; you will not find garbage disposals at every trailhead or along the way like you might in a Yosemite or Yellowstone. You must carry out what you carried in (this includes TP and hygiene products; pro tip: duct tape a ziplock baggie so you don’t have to look inside).

  • Deposit solid human waste in catholes dug 6 to 8 inches deep, at least 200
    feet
    from water, camp, and trails. Cover and
    disguise the cathole when finished. Because no one wants to stumble upon your business when they go to do theirs.

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    And glass cider bottles in the middle of the trail… just why? why would you?
  • To wash yourself or your dishes, carry water 200 feet away from streams or lakes and use small amounts of biodegradable soap. Scatter strained dishwater. <- Not even what I follow. If I want to clean myself it’s just the use of water in a stream or lake and a follow-up baby wipe on dry land. Dirty dishes? consume the grey water; cider/ cocoa/ coffee packet to drink the remains of your meal and leave NO TRACE behind for animals to find and infiltrate.

    4. Leave What You Find

  • Take only pictures and Leave only footprints. Seriously.

    5. Minimize Campfires 

  • Campfires can cause lasting impacts to the backcountry; even just the creation of a campfire if done improperly. Use a lightweight stove for cooking and enjoy a solar powered lantern for nighttime light.
  • Where fires are permitted, use established fire rings/pits and keep them small.
  • Only use sticks from the ground that can be broken by hand. Dead, Down and Brown only!
  • Burn all wood and coals to ash and put out campfires completely before walking away from them for the night or for good.
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    Like this little cutie, drawn to a summit full of people, due to what they’ve left behind. 

    6. Respect Wildlife

  • Observe wildlife from a distance. Do not follow or approach them. Especially wildlife that can be dangerous; I’ve come down off a backcountry trail to people literally running TOWARDS a bear by the river… dumb.
  • Never feed animals. Feeding wildlife damages their health, alters their natural behaviors, and exposes them to predators and other dangers. For example, Yellow Yellow was a small, shy female black bear that had to be laid to rest because she became too interested in human food and activity and therefore deemed unsafe.
    • Protect wildlife and your food by storing rations and trash securely. In the ADK High Peaks, there are specific Bear Canisters (called bear vaults) that you must use to store any scented items. They can be rented in many placed but also purchased here; any purchase made from the link provided will provide me with a small percentage of the sale at no extra cost to you.
  • Control pets at all times, or leave them at home. There are leash laws that differ depending on what part region of the Adirondacks you are in.

7. Be Considerate of Other Visitors

  • Respect other visitors and protect the quality of their experience. Don’t act like an idiot on the trail; ie. don’t leave your class or aluminum beer bottles and cans alongside the trail, don’t talk about repulsive or disgusting things, or use extensive foul language, don’t crowd someone who is already enjoying a specific spot, and don’t leave garbage behind for others to clean up.
  • IMG_7373.jpgBe courteous and yield to other users on the trail. If you are moving slowly, please move to the side and let people waiting behind you go ahead. When you come head to head with someone on the trail, communicate to see who would like to stop. When it comes to mountain hiking there are arguments for both sides; generally speaking I stop if I’m descending because it’s tougher to pick momentum back up for those heading up, however, many groups will look at it as an opportunity to take a quick rest and they might wave me on. It’s much easier for me to start moving again then it is for them!
  • Let nature’s sounds prevail. There is no need to yell and shout, or blare music along the trail or at the destination. Enjoy the company of nature and the ones you are with.

 

Please, please, PLEASE take these concepts into consideration before you venture out into the wilderness; whether you are 1 mile off the highway or 20, your actions make a difference.

Now I know that many of us who love the outdoors, and the Adirondacks specifically, follow these very important principles. This weekend, the weekend where the inexperienced and often, unappreciative, decide to take over nature by the masses, has shown me just how many clueless, selfish people there are who don’t care what they destroy just to get the views, the photos and the stories they’re searching for.

 

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Parks Project, ‘Leave it Better than you Fount it’ bracelet

 

Yosemite Tips and Tricks

A picturesque National Park and a must-see for any high-country nature lover. This well know landscape is home to some of the tallest waterfalls, sheerest cliff faces, and most beautiful wilderness. I want you to learn from my mistakes and misgivings so that you may enjoy Yosemite National Park to the best of your ability.

  1. Fill up your gas tank, and even some gas cans if you have room, BEFORE you enter the park. There are a few gas stations in the park, however, gas will cost you nearly a dollar more a gallon than just a few miles out from the park entrance. Also, know that many of the main points are quite a way from each other. For example, when we drove from our campsite at Tuolumne Meadows down to the Valley Visitor Center it took us an hour and thirty minutes, minimum, but often more with camper and RV traffic! So chances are you will need the gas.
  2. Public Transportation inside the park is a good way to save on gas, parking struggles and occasionally, traffic. In the valley the shuttle is free and if you take a look right HERE, you can see which lines stop where at what time of year! In much of the valley there is a bus only lane which is helpful for traffic purposes, however, be warned that in the summer months you may wait for 2 or 3 busses to load and/or drive by already full before boarding a bus to your destination.There is also a Tuolumne Shuttle that runs between Tuolumne Meadows and Olmsted Point every half hour between 7 am and 7 pm. This shuttle is not free, it can cost anywhere from $1 to $18. For someone with a “gas-guzzling” vehicle such as a diesel truck or a camper/RV, you could certainly benefit from taking the shuttle around Tioga Road in place of driving it!

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    Such a Busy Summer Day Required Public Transportation ONLY to Glacier Point 
  3. DinnerTimeThe campgrounds have fire pits, bear ‘lockers’, and picnic tables at each site. Any of the fire pits that experienced also had a grate for grilling on it. I wish I could have been more prepared for cooking over the fire (tin foil, BBQ tongs, etc.); I love myself a good s’more and I didn’t get to eat one on my entire trip because I didn’t know that I would have been able to. Also, know that the bear lockers are large and provide more than ample space to conceal all of your scented goods. Bringing some kind of item to organize your belongings in the locker might make your stay even more enjoyable and efficient.
  4. Traffic patterns in Yosemite can be a pain in the butt. The loop around the valley, mid beautiful summers day, is bumper to bumper with people trying to pull into parking lots that are full and zipping in and out of potential spots on the side of the road all while gazing off in awe of the beauty surrounding them.  So needless to say, it’s a shit show, but you can pretty much avoid it if you travel to the valley at or before 8AM. Find a parking spot central to when you want to explore and leave your car right there for the day.
  5. Have a plan for some days but leave a few days open to explore places you stumble upon or hear about from people you meet. The plan is a necessity for big driving days such as heading from Tuolumne Meadows to Glacier Point or Yosemite Valley but after talking to people on our travels I am so glad we left days open to suggestions or to simply just explore what we found off the side of the road.

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    This Beauty Was an Unplanned Hike that Someone Suggested to us! 
  6. Want to secure a campsite or a wilderness permit? Know where you’ll be staying and for how long with no hassle? Make sure you do so 6 months in advance to the day. Have everything ready to be submitted and send it over at midnight to greatly improve your chances of having exactly what you want during your stay. We tried for a wilderness permit about 4 and a half months in advance and we were turned down; we also wound up having to rely on first come first serve camping which turned out just fine, but not without a few bumps in the road (read below, #7)!
  7. First come first serve campsites can be tricky. We learned this first hand. Do not expect to arrive at noon on a summers day and still be able to snag a space; if you do you just might be one in a million. After missing a spot on Thursday, I arrived at the Ranger Station at 4:45AM to be met with a line 5 groups deep already! Isn’t that nuts? Bring a camp chair or a crash pad because I was the only unprepared individual sleeping on the blacktop, in my camp blanket with my head on my backpack for a pillow; everyone else was comfortable and warm. Bring breakfast, light reading, snacks, trail maps for planning, etc. because you will sit there for a long time. At 9 AM the ranger(s) will show up and give away available sites to the first groups. Anyone who didn’t make the first cut will place their name on a list to return at 2:00 PM for any sites that become available throughout the day and don’t fret, this is a majority of people. Make sure you show up by 1:45; once your parties name is called you have about 30 seconds to respond before the ranger moves down the list.

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    Tuolumne Meadows Ranger Station, approx 7:00 AM, Reading my Book & Waiting for a Site
  8. Night time in Yosemite (Tuolumne Meadows especially) is COLD in the summer. Considering you can spend your daytime sweating through a tank top and shorts in early August, in night time we bundled up with all we had. Being from the North East, we are generally very prepared for cold weather, especially chilly summer nights but didn’t think to pack for nights in the high 30Fs. For example, I would wear my warmest camp socks, sweatpants, a t-shirt, flannel, vest, and raincoat with my headband over my ears for warmth at night, and if I wasn’t near the fire, I was cold.
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  9. Swim. After a hot day of dirt and hiking, find a stream, river or lake to cool off and defunk in. We spent each of our four nights ‘bathing’ in Tenaya Lake, a short 20-minute drive from the Tuolumne Campgrounds. We would often set up our hammock, or bring our Jetboil for dinner and enjoy a beautiful sunset while freshening up before a much-needed rest. If you park in the pull off on the road and walk along the beach back through the woods you can easily find a more secluded section of the beach to set up at for a swim and dinner with a view.

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    Not a Bad View for a Post-Hike Bathing Session
  10. Utilize the parks employees! At each welcome center, there are knowledgeable individuals just oozing information. Tell them what you’re looking for and they can provide you with a number of ideas for your best day yet. At many of the popular trailheads during the busy season, PSAR (Preventative Search and Rescue) volunteers can be found as well; although they’re there to prevent illness and injury they are also full of pertinent information so ask away.
  11. Don’t be afraid to hitchhike if your happiness and well-being depend on it. We saw plenty of bilaterally abducted thumbs, signs, you name it! We helped out two guys after a long day of climbing who needed to return to their car and they were great conversationalists; just be cautious!

 

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Lembert Dome, Tuolumne Meadows, Yosemite National Park

 

If you have additional questions about this stunning natural wonderland, please don’t hesitate to ask in the comments below! 

Purple Carrot, a Plant-Based Review

Since Meal Services became a trend I have been itching to try one. Despite my concerns regarding freshness, cost, and variety, I decided to see if it was worth it for myself and heres my conclusion:

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After much deliberating, I decided on Purple Carrot. Known for their 100% plant-based meals, they pride themselves in knowing that they are helping you to do good things for your body and the environment. Purple Carrot’s team of chefs create unique recipes every week that will keep your taste buds happy and your bellies full all while learning new cooking techniques, and experimenting with a variety of cuisines.

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There are three different meal plans for you to choose from.

  • 3 meals for 1-2 people per week at $68 a week;
  • 2 unique meals for 3-4 people per week at $74; or
  • 3 high-performance (high protein & gluten free) meals per week at $78.

 

Being a relatively health conscious and highly active Physical Education Teacher I have debated the high-performance meals a time or two but am just so happy with my meal plan for 1-2 people that I won’t switch!


Let’s take a peek at the Pros:

  • Time: During the heart of a teacher’s anxiety, the end of the school year, I was spending less time thinking about what to purchase and prepare and significantly less time at the supermarket. I was only needing a grocery run every week and a half to two weeks as opposed to once a week. With all the ingredients measured out and labeled, I was saving time on meal preparation as well which meant more grading time, chill time and/or sleep time for me!
  • Product: With very few exceptions every item I’ve received in my Purple Carrot boxes has been incredibly fresh. There’s something so exciting about opening a box full of brightly colored vegetables! Each meal comes with a meal card that describes the meal and provides step by step instructions with photographs of how to prepare the meals. I hope to hole punch these and keep them all together in my own little plant-based cookbook; they include allergen and nutrition information per serving as well (calories, fat, carbohydrates and protein). Also, the ice packs used in the boxes are absolutely amazing. I suggest you save a few to use for personal use because they’re great for coolers.
  • Convenience: I came home to three of my main meals a week sitting on my front porch. Can you get any more convenient? Without any thought, I would unpack the box and meal cards. It requires absolutely no thought or decision making; pick a card, grab the pouch of ingredients labeled for that meal and follow the directions on the card. This also allowed me to share cooking duties with the other adult in the house. No more excuses such as, “I don’t know how to make that”, could stand in our way. We also found ourselves splitting meals up and each taking a chunk of tasks to make the prep go by faster.
  • Educational: Every meal I found myself learning something new about an ingredient or how to prepare a standard fruit/vegetable. It was fun to try new veggies and experience new tastes; this taught us both a lot about what we think items taste like and what they’re actually capable of! Personally, I found myself trying veggies as an adult that I had hated a child and enjoying them! I ate a handful of raw mushrooms after spending 24 years picking them out of any meal I may have found them in.
  • Variety: We were trying new veggies and meals we had never even heard of left and right. With maybe two exceptions in about 20 different meals, we enjoyed every single meal we ate. Mixing plant-based meals into our typical diet and social eating habits has been helpful in keeping dinner time fresh and exciting. It has also helped us to broaden our horizons in general when it comes to our meals.
  • Cost: At $11.33 per plate, I wouldn’t exactly call this meal service cheap but it is also not breaking the bank. the $68 a week I spend on three meals winds up cutting my spending at the grocery store nearly in half. I find myself spending less money overall and wasting so much less food on a regular basis. I’m not throwing food out at the end of dinner, throwing leftovers out weeks after they’ve been prepared or wasting fruits and veggies that just didn’t have the chance to be eaten.
  • Customer Service: I have had a few minor issues with my Purple Carrot deliveries such as an underripe avocado, expired sauce and a missing spice bag or two but Purple Carrots customer service ALWAYS wrongs its rights and takes amazing care of its customers with the help of their kind representatives.
  • The Feels: It feels good to know you’re doing something good for your body and the environment; even if it’s only three days a week. It has helped me to be more health conscious in my grocery and self-care purchases. Realizing that these two kinds of purchases directly affect your body has made a huge difference in my life. I find myself purchasing natural deodorants, shampoos, conditioners, and soaps because those things touch and are absorbed my body nearly every day! This whole process has provided me with a more positive outlook and truthfully, a lot more energy eating plant-based meals.

Now for the Cons:

  • Portion Size: I’m the queen of bringing my leftovers to work so I don’t have to eat school cafeteria food so not having leftovers is a bit of a drag. There are times where I have had leftovers, but many times I do not (a pro for most people!). The portion you are eating, however, is more than satisfying.
  • Menu: With many other menu services you get to choose your meals. With Purple Carrot, you get to view the menu for the week (up to about a month in advance) and choose if you want a shipment that week or not. Although I like this method because it forces me to try new things and truly, everything is delicious, I understand why people would not like the opportunity to pick and choose their meals.
  • Cost: For some people, $68 dollars for three meals a week seems outrageous and that’s understandable. In the current position, I am in right now it is more than worth it for sake of convenience and creativity. For example, $68 is more than fathomable, however, I really want to try the high protein and gluten free meals but I just cannot swing that extra $10 every week so I do understand where people may come from with cost issues.
  • Time: I have encountered a few meals that take upwards of 45 minutes to prepare. If you can scrounge up some help from others in your living space this time will be lessened and fly by but that’s not always a possibility. Many meals are in the half hour range and a few are even less, however, you do need to be prepared for a few long preps here and there. The meal cards do provide an estimated preparation time so you can plan accordingly!

Clearly, Pros win by a long shot 8 to 4. I could not be more happy with my decision to start this meal service and BELIEVE ME, as a serious carnivore I thought it would take a lot of adjusting to eat three entirely plant-based meals a week but it was soooooooo easy because the food is simply amazing. I’ve received about 5 weeks of meals at this point on and off; we had three really busy weeks where we weren’t around so we skipped those meals since they would have just gone to waste. I was angry about skipping them though because so many of them looked so delcious. I highly suggest you give Purple Carrot a try if a Meal Service is something you’ve been contemplating!

 

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My Favorite Meal Thus Far: Watermelon Poke Bowl

 

If you use this CODE  (<— right here!) you will receive $25 off your first order! What better way to try something right? It also provides me with a bit of a discount on my weekly meals every time it is used so we both get to benefit here. Any questions? Leave them here and let me know what you think if you try this service!

 

Happy Trails!

24 Hours in Helsinki

When I traveled from Stockholm, Sweden to Helsinki, Finland on Viking Lines, my cruise ship docked at 11:00 AM on a Wednesday and I was expected to board my cruise back to Stockholm by 5:00 PM the following day. We were determined to make the absolute most of our – approximate – 30 hours in Helsinki.

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Our walk from port to city center was FRIGID but short nonetheless; it should take approximately 5-10 minutes depending on your speed. We began by entering a tourist information kiosk and picking up a few pamphlets regarding the sights we needed to see. After brief conversation with each other and kiosk workers, we narrowed it down to a few ideas and headed to our hotel, Solo Sokos Hotel Torni which was an additional 10 minute walk from the information kiosk. We dropped our packs off at our hotel’s luggage room and made way for our first sight, the rock church. The Temppeliaukio Church (Rock Church) is a Lutheran church in the Töölö neighborhood of Helsinki. The church was designed by architects and brothers Timo and Tuomo Suomalainen and opened in 1969. I found it to be an incredibly spiritual place; I would not consider myself religious by any means, however, sitting in this church for 20 minutes or so really cleansed my soul. I left the church feeling very at peace and rejuvenated from the calming music and incredible architecture. One of our traveling companions actually fell asleep in a pew so I can insure you that she also left feeling revived as well! Group Consensus: A perfect cure for our cruise ship hangovers with peaceful music, positive vibes and stunning architecture.  

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From this point forward, it starts to get really fun! So to make sure you have all of the best information I’m going to get a bit more technical.


Suomenlinna Island (or Sveaborg)

IMG_0350You cannot miss this cultural treasure while in Helsinki. Construction began on sea fortress in 1748, on a cluster of islands off the coast of Helsinki, when Finland was still part of the kingdom of Sweden. Added to the UNESCO list of World Heritage Sites in 1991, this near perfect preservation of military architecture is a must see. From Market Square you can take two different forms of transportation to Suomenlinna. We took the Ferry from the east side of Market Square; the ferry service is part of the city transportation system so all HSL tickets are valid on this service. We purchased a round-trip ferry ticket from the booth in Market Square right next to where
you load and unload. This option will take you from Market Square directly to the Main quay in about 15-20 minutes. Another option is to take the JT-LINE WATERBUS which IMG_0093does not stop at the Main quay but does stop at 3 other island locations: Artillery Bay quay, Kings Gate quay and Lonna quay. The JT-LINE WATER BUS is not part of the Helsinki Region Transport Authority so HSL tickets are not valid on this service and only runs in the summer months.

 

IMG_0060This lively community of nearly 800 residents is responsible for the restoration, development and maintenance of the fortress so please be aware that this visitor attraction is also home to many peoples living, working and learning spaces as well. With this in mind, please realize that there are 7 restaurants open all year-round with an additional 5 open in the summer months, shopping, a grocery store, a library, museums (only 1 open in winter) and most importantly a tourist information building. I would advise the information building be your first stop; a map of the island will be helpful in your exploration of it.

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As you venture deeper into Sveaborg you start to feel as though you’ve time traveled. Personally, I felt like I was in an episode of game of thrones, exploring Winterfell to be exact. The blustery blizzard we were experiencing certainly had a hand in creating that feeling; without snow, you might get a more middle-earth vibe. If we had the time and the weather to explore the entire island, we would have, but seeing as we did not have either of those things we had to narrow down our viewpoints:

  1. The library, believe it or not, was a great warming station and completely adorable. As a teacher, it was really interesting to see the children’s books of another culture.
  2. The Suomenlinna Museum is located right before the bridge from Iso Mustasaari to Susisaari. The history shown here spans 240 years of historical events, including The Finnish Civil War, The Crimean War, World War II and the lives of those who lived and worked on island over the years. The gift shop also has some really original prints, post-cards and trinkets that we enjoyed viewing and also purchasing.
  3. Pipers Park is a really nice, well landscaped area to chill and potentially grab a bite to eat. Also be sure to explore the surrounding areas tunnels. We found some really cool spots exploring any dark opening we could find.
  4. Kings Gate is the farthest point from the Main quay and probably the coolest portion of the entire sea fortress. This iconic symbol was built between 1753 and 1754 as a ceremonial gateway to the fortress. There are a multitude of tunnels, walls, artillery and buildings to explore around Kings Gate so please take advantage of them all.

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Regardless of your HBO series, film or fiction, preferences, this place is truly something special. Leave enough time to explore every nook and cranny. Better yet, stay at Hostel Suomenlinna for a day or two and get a true feel for life on a sea fortress.

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Our best viking warrior in a blizzard poses…

Old Town Porvoo

IMG_0110We left the agenda for our last morning in Helsinki up to our oldest adventure partner. After reading around she decided we were going to explore Old Town Porvoo, a city situated on the southern coast of Finland about 50 km east of Helsinki. We took a double decker OnniBus, which had charging ports and wifi, from the Helsinki Transportation center (about a 3 minute walk from our hotel). **Be warned, this was the first time on our trip we had experienced people who did not speak english very well; the gentleman at the metro that we tried to ask a question to did not understand us well, however, he did walk away and return with a younger working man who was able to answer our question and point us in the correct direction to buy our ticket and catch our bus. We were told by multiple people in Sweden that the Finnish did not speak English well and were not kind to English speakers; only only mishap was at the transportation center and the gentleman was friendly enough he just didn’t understand us!** After about 45 minutes on board we were dropped off in the center of Porvoo, a very normal looking city, and left to find the Medieval, “old”, part of town on our own.

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From the bus station, walk North West up Rauhankatu two blocks until you meet route 170, Mannerheiminkatu Road, and turn Left heading West for two or three blocks. At this point you can head north along the Porvoonjoki River towards Vanha (or Old Town) Porvoo. We headed north until we reached Porvoo Cathedral, a small 13th-century cathedral that was originally made of wood before stone walls were added by 1420. The sculptures and artwork on the walls inside are beautiful. I really enjoyed the architecture of this parish both inside and out. IMG_0129We continued North to Iso Linnamäki; unfortunately, you won’t actually find a castle on castle hill, however, it is one of Finland’s best preserved fortifications. The views from the top of the hill of town and down into the valley of river porvoo are breathtaking. Follow the trails through mysterious pines and spruce, down towards the river, through a meadow rich in botanical heritage with species such as field wormwood, woodland draba, greater knapweed, Nottingham catchfly and field garlic.

 

IMG_0118Walk along the river towards old town Porvoo until you must head back uphill. Please check out the museums, shops and cafes while you walk through Old Porvoo’s charming streets. Many of the museums were not open when we were exploring the city but the cobblestone streets, and bright colored buildings made us feel as though we were exploring one life-size museum the entire day. Stop at every storefront that intrigues IMG_0146you. We stopped at Petris Chocolate Room to satisfy our sweet tooth with their homemade recipes; other suggested chocolate related stops include Pieni Suklaatehdas and Brunberg’s Chocolate Factory, where you can find reasonably priced, delicious chocolate. I also suggest you take a peek in Porvoo’s intimate interior design stores. With varying styles, they are famous throughout the country for their beautiful and practical home decor. On more than one occasion I found myself wishing I had the means to ship a few items back to my apartment in New York. 

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Charming, even in the dead of winter

Kiila Food & Bar

 Kalevankatu 1, 00100 Helsinki, Finland

IMG_0169 A great lunch stop in the city of Helsinki! For 10 Euro I purchased a chicken and goat cheese salad. This purchase included a soup and salad bar with bread. If you’re travelling the city and looking to get the most bang for your buck, as most travellers are, I would certainly suggest the downstairs of Kiila for lunch. My soup and salad were both delicious and filling and I even grabbed a piece of bread to eat later on in my travels (shhhhh!). My travel companions were also very happy with their sandwiches and salads. Most everything on the lunch menu was about 10 euro and included the soup and salad bar. With a modern look and set-up, we grabbed a seat alongside the window and were able to watch the hustle and bustle of the Helsinki sidewalk throuout our dining experience. 

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Kosmos

Kalevankatu 3, 00100 Helsinki, Finland

IMG_0095A more upscale choice of dining when looking for traditional Scandinavian/Finnish meals. Certainly a bit pricey, but the food was delicious and our service was top notch. Our server was very knowledgeable, helpful and prompt. Please know that in winter at least, you will be required to check your jacket so make sure to wear an additional layer if you want to be warm at your table! Their were plenty of items on the menu and with our waitrs help we were able to settle on a few items. Our table shared Finnish antipasto for an appetizer which included herring, salmon, mushroom salad, grapipolis and vineyard cheese for 15. I am certainly NOT a fan of IMG_0096herring however, the rest of the dish was delicious. I thoroughly enjoyed a duck dish for dinner and a camembert and raspberry jam for 12 Euro as my dessert. All three courses were exquisite. My only complaint is that the center divider was filled with plants and one of them was drooping over in my face for the entirety of dinner. 

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Solo Sokos Hotel Torni

Yrjönkatu 26 00100, Helsinki

IMG_0045What a beautiful hotel right in the center of town. Service at the front desk was friendly, informative and prompt. We were unable to check in the first time we arrived, so we were able to store out luggage in a secured luggage room so we could epxlore the city without any extra baggage, literally. Hotel Torni houses three bars; The Ateljee Bar, American Bar and Irish-inspired O’Malley’s. Ateljee Bar can be found on the top floor of the hotel and will provide you with delicious, but pricey, beverages with a stunning view of the city. The hotel is also home to Restaurant Torni which is open Mon – Fri 11:30 a.m. – 2:30 p.m. for lunch and 5:00 p.m. – 11:00 p.m for dinner; On Saturdays from 12 noon – 3:00 p.m. and 5:00 p.m. – 11:00 p.m.; closed on Sundays.

Our room was clean, functional, stylish and all around incredibly nice. Our Solo Up Queen, Extra bed possibility consisted of two separate rooms; the front room had a mini fridge, window, pull out couch and television img_0104.jpg
with access to a beautful bathroom. The back bedroom housed a Queen Size bed with a chair, and television. After a comfortable sleep we enjoyed complimentary breakfast like I have never experiences before. Nothing was spared with this breakfast! A cold spread like you would never believe included spreads, breads, fruit and cold-cuts (not an american breakfast staple but still incredible).  The hot breakfast had eggs, oatmeal, meats and potatos that looked delicious as well.


There so many things to do in Helsinki that we simply did not have the time or weather for. Other recommended attractions include:

Allas Sea Pool: A one of a kind oasis in the midst of a city. Ocean-side saunas with a swimming pool and restaurant.

Ateneum Art Museum: One of the Finnish National Gallery’s art museums.

City Hop on Hop off Tour: See the best sights of Helsinki in 10 different languages. Tours depart every 20 minutes to explore 20 different stops.  

Haltia: A place I wish I could’ve visited! Experience the Finnish forests and lakes at the Finnish Nature Center.

Helsinki Zoo: Korkeasaari is an island in Helsinki, Finland where the country’s biggest zoo is situated. It is one of the few zoos located on an island. It is the perfect place to visit due to its natural environment, animals and history.

Kaivopuisto Park: Helsinki’s oldest and best known park is surrounded by embassies and villas. The nearby sea, rock cliffs and green lawns offer many opportunities to relax and enjoy the outdoors.

Kankurin Tupa: Scandinavian gifts and handcrafts. Like their Facebook page for a 10% discount on all purchases!

Linnanmaki Amusement Park: A jam-packed with fun amusement park owned by non-profit Lasten Päivän Säätiö, which operates the park in order to raise funds to Finnish child welfare work.

Löyly: Public and private saunas on a beautiful stretch of waterfront Helskini.

Market Square: A central square in Helsinki, Finland, and one of the most international and most famous market places. The booths here sell traditional market foods and treats, as well as handicrafts and souvenirs.

Panoraama Observation Tower: Found within Linnanmaki and free of charge to customers all season long!

Vallisaari: An island 20 minutes from Helsinki, where you can experience unique urban nature recreationaly.

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Additionally, there are 9 allotment (community) gardens, 5 different Frisbee Golf Courses to choose from (3 of which are free of charge!), 4 different Bicycle rental opportunities, 2 places to go horseback riding, 2 opportunities to climb and a multitude of fishing, skiing and paddling options. Everyman’s Rights allows you to walk, ski, ride horses or cycle freely in nature; pick wild berries, mushrooms and flowers as long as they are not a protected species; fish with a rod and line; and use boats, swim or bathe in inland waters and the seas. Please check yourself for ticks after spending time in nature in temperatures about 5 degrees Celsius and enjoy all the urban wilderness has to offer!

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I hope you get to spend adequate time in Helsinki!
If you have any questions, as always, never hesitate to ask.

Cafés of Gamla Stan: who to avoid and where to frequent!

One of the many highlights of traveling is certainly all of the food experiences that come along with heading somewhere new; Gamla Stan, Stockholm is no exception. In a country where fika, enjoying coffee with a pastry, is a common workplace practice, cafès litter every street. In a world where every dollar and second matters, why waste your hard earned money and limited travel time on cafès that are simply not worth it?

Top Three Favorite

#1 Grillska Huset can be found in stortorget, Gamla Stan. Our host shared this Cafe with us as ‘the best’ cafe in Gamla Stan and I must say, I wouldn’t disagree! The pastries looked amazing and the menu had many options. From delicious sandwiches to soups and CafePost12salads and all at a very fair price. Included with my beet and chèvre sandwich was a salad bar containing various beans, fruits, sprouts, fresh bread and dressings for around $11.00 US Dollars. For a rather inflated city such as Stockholm, and even more specifically on the touristy island of Gamla Stan, this was an incredible price for delicious food, attentive staff, and a cozy atmosphere. The line may be out the door, but it is certainly worth the wait!

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CafePost2# 2 Chokladkoppen is a cafe that will receive some mixed, but mostly positive reviews from me. Our very first meal in Gamla Stan took place here, in stortorget. Our first experience was great! Despite the space being small and many of the tables being filled with customers, we were seated and attended to quickly. I enjoyed a large Chai latte and a chicken salad; our table shared a Valrhona chocolate ball for dessert, which cost about 5 US dollars. Overall, our experience good enough that we had hoped to return before we left Stockholm.

On our second visit to Chokladkoppen we showed up about 5 minutes prior to opening. The door was unlocked, and we were unaware of their opening time so we walked in. We were met with angry employees who were short of being polite when telling us they were not open yet. After being ushered out the door, we returned 10 minutes later, CafePost3hopeful for an experience like we had our very first day in Stockholm. The small space was not filled to the brim like it had been previously so we chose to sit in a cozy back corner. My Chai Latte was watery and not as delicious as it had been previously, however, my Salmon and Spinach pie (approximately $10.00) was delectable! Catching the attention of a server to have our coffees and waters refilled was difficult, despite the small cafe being empty, and our server was quite rude to us when we asked to each pay separately. Now understand, I spent 3 and a half years as a waitress and completely comprehend the difficulties associated with waiting on tables and providing pristine service, however, our first dining experience had been a walk in the park compared to this one. The food here did not disappoint, either time so I will leave it up to you! This cafe can also be found in the Stortorget, directly across the square from Grillska Huset and it has a walk-up/takeaway window as well. You have to try the Valrhona chocolate ball. 

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CafePost10#3 Our third favorite cafe stop was Cosy Cafe located at Stora Nygatan 42, Stockholm, Sweden. The decor was bright and cozy. It was certainly a tighter space, but there was more than enough room for the four of us to sit and maneuver around a table. The older woman who I am assuming is the owner, or at least in charge of the joint, was a tad rude and quite honestly, unfriendly, however, the rest of the staff were incredibly kind and personable. I ordered a sandwich and a ‘healthy plate’ to share with a friend and the food was really, really good; we felt as though there were ample options for us to choose from on the menu and that everything sounded pretty delicious so it was difficult to pick just one. We enjoyed a corner seat, with a cozy cubby, good service, tasty food and great people watching!  

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Least Favorite

Cafe Nova was by far my least favorite cafe in Gamla Stan. Located right outside our Air bnb in Järntorget. We stopped here for breakfast before heading out for the day to explore Djurgarden. The gentleman behind the counter was terribly rude and went as far as to tell us false information after realizing we were clearly tourists; after we finished our stale pastries and drank our weak coffee we walked up to the counter and kindly asked the worker what we should do with our trays. He told us to dump our trash and bring the trays up to the counter, separating dishware and silverware; as he told us this a gentleman waiting to order started shaking his head and proceeded to exit the line and leave the store. The more time we spent in Stockholm, the more we realized why that gentleman in line seemed so upset with the workers actions; in every other cafe we dined in, the locals leave the items stacked neatly on their tray on their table and it is the worker’s job to clear the table (similar to any restaurant in the United States).

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Café Gråmunken takes a very close second to my least favorite cafe. Located on the busiest street of Gamla Stan, this cafe doesn’t have to do much to earn customers and it is obvious. The staff seemed irritated that they had to serve guests their overpriced food. We were specifically looking for a place to get waffles and Nutella after seeing them in so many store windows and we settled on this storefront. Looking back, we wish we had kept on walking! The crepes and waffles had clumps of sugar in them and the portions were exceedingly small for the amount of money paid. The downstairs architecture is relatively cool, however, not enough to make dining here worth your time.

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We also didn’t love Cafe Cronan. The gentleman behind the counter was warm and friendly, however, the decor and overall atmosphere felt cold and unwelcoming. We stopped in briefly after a ghost walking tour for coffee and a pastry before heading in for an early night and were only mildly satisfied. I enjoyed my berry pie, while my travel companions could not say the same for their desserts. The cafe was fairly empty, however, where we decided to sit provided us with a continuous, foul ‘bathroom odor’ filled breeze. We finished our food and beverages quickly and left!

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The Outskirts of Gamla Stan

All of the above-mentioned Cafes are located right on the small island of Gamla Stan and it is crazy to think that there are at LEAST a hundred more that you may stumble upon as well! We also made quite a few stops outside of Gamla Stan whilst exploring all the city has to offer and there are cafes we feel are certainly worth a mention!


We hit up Cafe Pascal on our walk back from Haga Park located in the District of Vasastaden. It appears to be a hot spot for local students and has a very laid back, hipsterCafePost16 vibe. The staff was friendly and helpful as well! My friends enjoyed Semla, a traditional Swedish pastry consisting of a wheat flour bun flavored with Cardamom and filled with almond paste and whipped cream, while I went for a more substantial chia pudding. Not a single complaint about any of our food or beverage choices here! The only negative we found was that despite the space being fairly large, it was difficult to find seating arrangements once our food was ordered!

 

CafePost6A quick stop at Lofbergs Stockholm on Kungsatan street to warm-up led us to enjoy 20 minutes of incredibly charming peace and quiet. The style of this cafe was just too cute! Woodgrain tables with a bench full of comfortable pillows lined the wall closest to the window. We enjoyed light items such as coffee and yogurt parfaits while people watching and planning our next step for the day. The staff was friendly and the atmosphere was welcoming while providing a quiet place to think and escape the hustle and bustle out on the busy streets!

 

Make sure you enjoy your Fika somewhere that is worth your while! Because life may be short but a good cafè can help make it sweet for certain…

 

Hint: The farther off the busy, touristy roads you travel, the better your experience will be… always. This includes Cafès! 

Tasty Trail Treats

image7With Spring right around the corner in the North Eastern United States, I’ve been itching to get out on the trail again for some extended overnight hikes! All of my hopes and dreams were crushed this week when Stella blew in leaving over two feet of the white fluffy stuff in her path. The silver lining of the storm is that it allowed me to spend an entire hump day perfecting my favorite homemade trail snacks when I should have been finishing up my second period high school pickle ball tournament.

I love to eat just as much as I love to hike. Finding quick and easy snacks to eat on the trail is the key to a successful day; when I’m not fed, things don’t normally go well. Finding trail-worthy snacks is easy enough, any supermarket shelf will do, but making energetic, wholesome decisions that can withstand being squished into a bear can for days on end is slightly more difficult. Peanut butter is a daily staple in my diet; by the spoonful, spread across toast, on a protein bar or alongside fruit are just some of my favorite ways to consume this protein rich, fatty nut butter. No Bake Energy Bites are my go-to peanut buttery trail snack and take no more then 25 minutes to prepare and serve.

image6.JPGIn a large mixing bowl, combine

  • 1 cup dry old-fashioned oats
  • 2/3 cup toasted coconut flakes
  • 1/2 cup natural peanut butter
  • 1/2 cup ground flax seeds
  • 1/2 cup chocolate chips
  • 1/3 cup honey or agave nectar
  • 1 tbs chia seeds
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

with a spoon. I usually don’t have too much trouble using a spoon, however, if it’s giving you a hard time, hands work well too! After the the ingredients have been evenly dispersed, cover and refrigerate for 10 -15 minutes. Cooling the ‘dough’ makes it easier to ball; you can ball into whatever size works best for you and store in a sealed container in the fridge for ultimate staying power.

There are many ways to alter this recipe as well! Using vegan chocolate chips, cinnamon chips, dark chocolate chips, or simply cocoa powder is an easy way to satisfy your specific sweet craving. You can also change up the nut butter, make it chunky or test different sweeteners depending on what your personal preferences are when consciously snacking. For the trail, pressing the mixture into parchment paper and creating ‘energy bars‘ is sometimes easier to wrap and store for the long haul but bite sized dollops have their perks as well. The recipe above creates between 20 and 25, 1″ no bake, energy treats!

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Another daily favorite is granola. I often eat it with fruit in my cottage cheese, sprinkled atop yogurts, with almond milk or sprinkled on top of cinnamon, peanut butter toast! On the trail I like to mix it into my oatmeal in the morning for some addition nutrients and flavor and to sprinkle on a PB and J ‘summit’ wrap for a little extra something. Granola is another one of those items that can be found in any supermarket but it is going to cost you an arm and a leg and/or be loaded with unnecessary sugars. Making it at home is incredibly easy and you can easily personalize it to your liking.

image3Start off with

  • 4 cups of raw, whole old-fashioned oats
  • 1 cup chopped nuts (pecans, almonds, cashews, etc.)
  • 1/2 cup raw seeds (sunflower, pumpkin, chia, etc.)
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened dried fruit, chopped (optional)
  • 2-3 tbs maple syrup or honey (or a combo of both!)
  • 2 tbs coconut oil
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract or almond extract

in a large bowl. Use your hands to combine all of the image2-e1489614172625.jpgingredients. Your hands will help to melt the coconut oil if it is in solid form and will really be the best tool to work all the ingredients into one another. Spread across a baking sheet and bake at 300 degrees Fahrenheit for about 10 minutes. After 10 minutes use a spatula to flip and spread the mixture before baking for an additional 5 minutes on the reverse side. Let the granola cool before storing in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks. This amount of ingredients fills a mason jar and I do not include dried fruit; I also use a combination of maple syrup and honey. I drizzle an additional tablespoon of honey over the mixture before baking as well. If you suffer from seasonal allergies, try using local, organic honey in your recipes to help lessen the sensitivity to your local pollen and ultimately, experience less allergy symptoms which will certainly help you on the trail as well!image1


As much as we all want to be as natural as possible and know exactly where our food came from, anyone with a chaotic schedule knows that it’s just not practical to be on top of your game 24/7, 365. There are plenty of times where I run out the door for a relatively last minute, unplanned hiking adventure or just didn’t have the time to make tasty trail treats before my departure. I am also a full time teacher and a 3 season coach with a very busy schedule that keeps me away from home for a majority of the day with intense snacking needs. In these cases there are a few specific brands and items that I turn to: #1Clif Bar.

img_0719.jpgMy significant other loves Clif Bars on the trail; regular cliff and cliff builder bars are his go to trail snack when he needs some sustenance and energy. I really don’t like how they taste and don’t love the high sugar content and the high number of calories associated with something I’m not thoroughly enjoying. They have a ton of potassium, protein and fat which your body needs on a strenuous multi-day hike though so if you enjoy Clif Energy Bars , this is a great grab and go option. You can often find Clif Builder Protein Bars in his pack with all of 20 grams of protein while maintaining a low glycemic-index food, which is ideal for prolonged levels of energy.

Personally, I prefer the Clif Nut Butter filled bars which contain approximately 7 grams of protein in a USDA approved organic, non GMO, delicious, easy to handle snack. They do have a high fat and high caloric content but they’re still considered a low glycemic-index food and they’re especially delicious while also nutritious on the trail. Especially when you may not have consumed very manny sweet-tooth-satisfying items in a few days. Clif crunch bars and the Clif Kid collection are also some of my go-to trail or on-the-go day options. Pre-wrapped and easy to stuff into any nook or cranny, near or far, Clif Bars are a no brainer for my adventures!

#2OATMEGA grass fed whey bars are my second favorite option. Oatmega not only has a really touching story behind its creation but amazing ingredients; Omega-3s, grass-fed whey, and non-GMO all in one amazing nutritious bar. My favorite flavor, brownie crisp, boasts 14g of protein, 7g of fiber, 300mg of Omega-3s, and only 5g of sugar in less then 190 delicious calories. I even go as far as to dip my brownie protein bar in natural Peanut Butter if I’m really looking for a treat and a meal substitute all in one!

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Happy Trails & Happy Snacking!

 

 

 

LuLaRoe Jade, a review

lularoe-3Hey Ya’ll! I’m back here with another review for you. I know I’ve been missing in action the last few months and I apologize; teaching and coaching get hectic around the holidays, but I’m back! In these last few months, I have been introduced to and have ultimately fallen in love with a fashion line called LuLaRoe. There are so many amazing reasons to love the company and I definitely dove head first into quite a few of their many, many styles. If you are new to LuLaRoe, please stick around and hear a quick backstory. If you’re a seasoned veteran looking to hear what’s up with this amazing style (Jade!), you can skip the next paragraph!

LuLaRoe was created by DeAnne Stidham when she found herself raising 7 children on her own and desperately wanting to spend more time at home while still providing for her family. After meeting a pair of dress wholesalers, DeAnne felt inspired and started liquidating end of season dresses to her friends and family. With time and experience, she launched her own clothing line; as it grew and grew DeAnne realized she could not do it all herself, turning to talented individuals to help her company grow. These individuals are the consultants who provide us with the very best styles and work tirelessly to provide the very best customer service. Consultants often look for lovely ladies to host in-home pop-ups, where they bring their inventory to the hostesses home for all her friends to shop and enjoy. They also do online parties through ShopThe Roe and sell inventory through their VIP Facebook pages. LuLaRoe carries fashionable clothing in fun patterns and colors for women sizes XXS – 3XL, men, and children. Although best known for their buttery soft leggings, LuLa also carries a number of tops, dresses, and skirts.

fullsizerenderBilli Sobel is one of my local consultants here in the greater Utica area of Central New York. She is absolutely amazing and has asked me to review a great style for you all! LuLaRoe Jade’s are a capri style athletic legging that lets you get your sweat on comfortably and in style. They are created with a moisture-wicking fabric that draws sweat away from the skin and to the exterior of the fabric.

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Seeing as my profession, a Middle School Physical Education Teacher, keeps me active every day and my favorite hobbies involve hiking, running, and working out, Billi thought my active lifestyle would be able to provide everyone with some great feedback. If there are any questions you have about the product that have been left unanswered please leave a comment and I will get back to you as soon as I can with the best answer I have!

I have now worn these leggings on two separate occasions.

First to teach; second to get a great pull workout in.

PROS

  • Stretchy and comfortable but stays where you need them to. They were not constantly falling down as many other athletic leggings I’ve tried have. I think you can owe it to the thick, yoga style waistband; it’s effective and flattering.
  • Bright and fun patterns and colors! This always helps motivate you to start your workout. Look good, feel good, ‘play’ good as I say to my athletes. 
  • I love the material. It’s thick, which helps to hold you in place, well made and perfect for all your athletic endeavors due to their sweat wicking technology. 
  • There is a hidden waistband pocket for money, keys, ID, etc.
  • I found this item to be true to size: Medium = size 8-10. Although, I wear an 8 and these fit quite perfectly so I’m not sure how they would fit a size 10. 
  • They moved with me! Whether I was dancing, running to ‘capture the flag’ with a student, doing plyometrics or stretching they never limited my movement or became uncomfortable. 
  • These are definitely compression leggings/tights. They’re thick, solid and not see through. They do not restrict movement but they are not a super light and airy material which I prefer! If you’re looking for that flimsy material these are not the leggings for you.

CONS

  • Upon first putting the leggings on I found them to be tighter in the thigh area than the waist. However, they did stretch out comfortably throughout the day. After washing and air drying, I did not have this issue a second time. 
  • The leggings do need infrequent adjusting after getting up from the seated position, a lot of jumping repetitions etc.
  • The patterned portion of the leg is not a very flattering cut (in my opinion of course). It makes the leg look wide. As much as I love the pattern and love how much of it is visible, I think a smaller ‘side stripe’ or a side stripe that stayed the same width all the way through would be a more flattering look. I have been informed, however, that they make them in full pattern as well which would certainly eliminate this problem altogether. 

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Overall, I would give the lularoe Jade’s 4 out of 5 stars.

They perform really well, but I don’t love the cut with my large, muscular legs!

I will still be wearing them and who knows, possibly purchasing more…

 

 

If you are interested in these leggings please fill out the contact form below! The availability of these leggings will be based solely off their popularity amongst goup members. Don’t forget to join Billi’s group for amazing LuLaRoe styles and giveaways!

 

 

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Love something? Share it with the world.

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I fell in love with the outdoors just weeks before my 21st birthday. I was required to take a course titled PED 308: Outdoor Education for Teachers. The purpose of the course was to not only teach outdoor survival skills, but important affective qualities that successful teachers must have. The situations that the course puts teacher candidates in are often unfamiliar and therefore stressful – this causes these indivuals to display and hone affective qualities that successful educators must possess.

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Growing up in suburban Long Island, just 45 minutes east of New York City, my outdoor experiences (besides distance runs in Connetquot State Park and spending hours on summer days along the sandy shoreline) were very limited. I was excited for the experience but never could of dreamed how it would change my life.

 

 

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While many of my peers were dreading spending two weeks without any connection to the outside world, eating camp food and going a few days too long without a shower, I couldn’t wait to see what the class had in store for me. I learned to canoe, kayak, climb mountains, properly pack my backpack, orienteer, set up camp, and most importantly, the importance and necessity of disconnecting.

 

I took this class in May/June 2013. I returned this past summer, to spend the first two weeks of August 2016 giving back to the class that taught me so much about myself and
about what I want out of life. I returned to Raquette Lake, NY to see a few familiar faces,
such as Rob, the camp director, Ian, the intern assistant director, a few friends from my 20160731_201834college years who have returned as instructors themselves, and many new faces. Spending two weeks away from home, after having only been home for 40 hours between my return from Canada and my departure for Camp Huntington, was not always easy but it was an experiences that I will remember and cherish for a life time. I spent hours grading work, participating in ice breakers, organizing first aid kits, cleaning equipment and sharing my past experiences with the students. Additional hours, 5 nights and 6 days worth to be exact, in the wilderness with my backpack, 7 other people, and a massive smile on my face.

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A great morning on the Low Ropes spotting my boys and helping them problem solve!

img_8941After spending a week in camp, as a Teaching Assistant, educating Junior and Senior Teacher Candidates on hard skills and important knowledge regaring the rules of the land, I was paired up with Bre, a lead instructor, and 6 male students. Although some were more eager to get out there, there were others that we worried may not complete the full 5 nights in the Wilderness. We planned for 8 high peaks, 5 of which I’ve hiked on my own time, and three new ones that I was eager to conquer and add to my list of completed 46ers. Our students ranged from 6 plus feet tall to a mere 5′ 5″; football players and fraternity boys alike. To say we all came from a different place in life is an understatement… but we all had one major goal in mind: Survive and make the best of it.

We spent long days on the trail, playing various games and learning about one another from both our unspoken actions and our words. We enjoyed celebrating our accomplishments at each summit and peaceful time away from one another during our 15 minute ‘summit solos’. We survived disagreements, nights without dinner, ‘shinjuries’, bee stings and aches and pains. We lost some sanity on our hottest day and a waterbottle from the highest point in the state of New York but we gained a whole lot of pride and self-empowerment. We sang countless country songs as a group and were sung to sleep each night by a talented member of our party. We spent our nights sharing a lean-to, giggling at the stars and recapping on the days’ often commical events. We spent early mornings having conversations with a distant Owl. We became a family of explorers, some with more passion then others, but all with a mutual understanding and respect for eachother and the great wide world we are backpacking through.

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Reasons Why You Should Teach What You Love

  1. You become better at it. Because I had to teach others skills such as canoeing, orienteering and packing a backpack, I became better at them. Someties, no matter how knowledgeable you are about a topic, you find yourself taking short cuts that in reality probably make your life more difficult. By going through and teaching my students what they need to know in order to be successful on their 5 night extended backpacking  trip, I practiced what I preached and found that I became better for it.
  2. When you love something, it shows and this inspires. Passion speaks volumes. Think about all the people you can inspire by simply sharing with them what you know about something you love? For example, I love backpacking and hiking mountains. Unfortunately, there are many places that are in need of some enviornmental conservation efforts due to individuals’ lack of knowledge regarding appropriate behavior in these places. By sharing my love for these natural places, and my knowldege about how they should be treated, it educates others on a topic that they may need or that they may share with someone who needs some enlightenment on.
  3. You’ll never work a day in your life if you love what you do. This statement couldn’t be more true. I love what I do, as a physical educator, coach and an outdoor educator; yes, every job has its frustrating moments, but the good certainly outweighs the bad. I never dread going to work and am so lucky that I make a living doing something I love every day. And even if teaching what you love isn’t your full time 9-5, it may just be something you get to look forward to; a nice break from the day to day.
  4. Networking. Think about all the people you meet? Not only are you meeting other professionals with the same passion and drive as you but you’re meeting students who are interested in what you love. These students may be willing to help you with future research, projects or pilot programs. The instructors you teach alongside are not only professionals in a field who may be able to help you get your name out there but they’re also lifelong friends. Next time I want to go hiking and I my go-to hiking partners are unavailable, I have 5 people I can call whom I met through teaching outdoor education.
  5. Who knows what doors might open for you. Do you have a desk job that you hate meanwhile travelling is something you love? Start a travel blog (lol), post webinars on planning adventures/vacations, start marketing for travel gear and other travel companies… you never know what opportunities might rise up to meet you! In my case, I’m hoping to one day teach Outdoor Education in a gnarly area other then New York and/or be an adventure tour guide. I can’t do either of these things without the experiences I receive from teaching Outdoor Education. So for now, I’ll keep my hopes up and continue to teach what I love in the high hopes that it opens great big doors for me in the future!
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Their first of 4 peaks on a VERY HOT 96 degree day. Proud of the 4 who wanted to tackle all 4!

I LOVED teaching outdoor education this summer up in Adirondack park. The people I met taught me so much about the great outdoors and allowed me to share my passion with them. I hope to return again this year as long as it doesn’t interfere with coaching Cross Country, because unfortunately, our full-time jobs sometimes have to come first. 

Enjoying some of these stunning views? Check out my page Adirondack Park for more information on specific mountains and towns to visit!

An Adirondack Mountain Guide is in the works as well!

Must Meander with Moose Bus Network

The only reason I was able to see all the beautiful places I practically drooled over in Canada was because I booked with Moose. Their amazing staff members and clientelle, along with perfectly chosen sights and locations, made this trip one for the books.

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Moose offeres a number of guided tours through Western and Eastern Canada. Although there were quite a few that seemed amazing we settled for the Tomahawk, which is ultimately the first portion of the Big West, and we’re so glad we did! The Tomahawk starts in Vancouver and ends in BANFF, stopping in all the big cities and at all the beautiful sights along the way. The beauty of Moose is that these fairly long drives between cities are broken up by amazing sight-seeing spots, fun excursions and lots of singing/napping.

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Our first leg of the tour began in Vancouver and brought us to Whistler. Our tour guide, Marshall, was knowledgable and funny. Highway 99, or the sea to sky highway, was amazing in itself however we stopped along the way in places like Porteau Cove, Shannon Falls and at Whistler Bungee to hike from the Cheakamus River to Brandywine Falls on the sea to sky trail. These stops really break up the drive an allow you to see beautiful parts of British Columbia that you might otherwise miss. You also have the opportunity to Bungee Jump before arriving in Whistler. After group members Bungeed the entire group hiked about a mile to Brandywine Falls; the hike lent itself to beautiful views. From here Marshall picked us up and we were on our way!

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IMG_1378We arrived in Whistler village with time to plan our following days excursions, grab a bite to eat and shop around. Our tour included dinner at HI Whistler which provided four delicious options (the chili was amazing). After dinner Marshall drove anyone who wanted to go down to the village and instructed them all on how to take public transportation back to the Hostel. The following morning the group was dropped off by 9AM in the village where we had the day to complete our excursions and explore! For more information on Whistler click HERE. An afternoon pickup brought us to the HI Jericho with ample time to hangout on the beach and make a hostel dinner with the crew.

The HI Jericho Beach had an incredibly laid back vibe. We rented a volleyball and made way for the beach where we enjoyed some fun in the sand, a quick dip and a beautiful sunset.

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For the next leg of our tour we had a new tour guide who was amazing from the very beginning; the trip would not have been the same without Mike as our guide! (If you click his name it will take you to his guide page where you can see what he’s all about!) He really brought us all together with his thoughtful gestures and passion for travel. Our destination was set for Kelowna. We stopped along the way at Bridal falls, for a picnic lunch at a park in the town of Hope, and at Othello’s Tunnels before arriving in Kelowna where we took a speedboating adventure that was included in our Moose Tour. We spent another beautiful, sunny afternoon on the beach IMG_6737before devouring a salmon dinner at the Samesun (included in the tour). We spent the evening conversing (and drinking) on the back patio area of the Samesun before a small group of us made our way to Level Nightclub; we entered into a whirlwind of electronic music and sweaty dancers before we were whisked away to the upstairs country bar where we ‘learned’ how to two-step. We are all still amazed that everyone knew this dance and at how men actually asked women to dance.


DCIM100GOPROG1360485.The following day we were up and at it early! We stopped in Revelstoke for lunch and kayaking, which can be done at an additional cost. My party opted out of the kayaking and instead explored the town of Revelstoke. Revelstoke has many cafes and shops to entertain you for quite some time, however, the walk into town from the drop off point (a park next to a few fast food restaurants) is a bit of a walk. From there we continued on to Roger’s Pass and the beautiful Emerald Lake. Since it was later in the day Emerald Lake was practically tourist free, calm and serene. With the time change, we arrived in Banff fairly late. Mike gave us a half hour to check into our Hostel (HI-BANFF ALPINE CENTRE ) and then drove us down into town for dinner OSSZ6126at Wild Bills (where he was kind enough to reserve us a table). Wild Bills had delicious BBQ food and a live country band. We never thought we’d travel north and into another country and listen to more country music then we already do in NY. We wound up staying out for a few drinks, where we again, learned/ were whisked away into two-stepping, before exploring the Dancing Saquatch. We were packed into a techno nightmare. Needless to say we exited rather quickly.


 

DCIM100GOPROG1510502.Now, in the Canadian Rockies, the true fun begins. Our first stop on our way from Banff to Lake Louise was Johnston Canyon. It’s about a 45 minute ‘hike’ to the Upper Falls. I quote hike only because it is a designated, easy to follow path which doesn’t necessarily count as hiking in my book. The Canyon is unique and beautiful but I suggest an early morning or late evening trip to avoid the hoards of visitors. Our next stop was my absolute favorite of the trip; lake Moraine is one of the most beautiful sights I have ever seen. Blue as blue can be and peaceful. We ate lunch here and enjoyed the stunning view, however, I wish I had the opportunity to spend a bit more time exploring. I’ve read of a few really great hikes from this location (especially the rockpile/shoreline hike) that I would have loved to try. It can get a bit chilly up at the lookout point so be sure to pack some layers! I put everything I had in my bag on my body for this stop. Also, look out for small, furry friends if you plan to eat lunch here! My cousin picked up a hot date; who says guys don’t appreciate girls who eat salads?

13680569_1167992333251859_7451793699954145747_nThe adventure did not stop here! We continued on to Lake Louise, and although beautiful and picturesque, I found it significantly less majestic then Lake Moraine. At the time we arrived it was  packed with people and in my opinion too commercialized; there is a gorgeous hotel right off the shoreline and I feel that some places are meant to stay wild… this is one of them. With that being said, the hike to Lake Agnes Tea House was strenuous and rewarding. I would have enjoyed the opportunity and time to hike to the Beehive or grab tea from the tea house but I can save that for 13631600_1167992306585195_5595207412760044413_na future adventure.

Our Lake Louise travel day was short which made our Hostel enjoyment long. We made a lovely dinner, drank quite a bit of wine/beer/liqour and enjoyed the most amazing conversation with members of our tour and some friends we met a long the way. We ended the night with a full-tour-group camp fire which included plain chocolate AND reese’s cup s’mores by yours truly, the Americans, while we drank, sang campfire songs and laughed.


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Day 6 of the tour is for Ice Fields! Up and away to Jasper with our first stop being Bow Lake. Bow lake was practically glass, reflecting a mirror image of the mountaneous backdrop. We had 45 minutes here to walk around the lake and enjoy its beauty. Be sure to follow the pathway into the bush towards the backside of the lake. It will bring you away from the clutter of people and provide you with a more rugged feel for such a beautiful landscape. From here, our tour guide challenged us to an ‘ice swim’ at Waterfowl Lake. Most of us accepted the challenge, changed into our suits and took the plunge into the icey waters. It’s only cold for a minute before you simply can’t feel your submerged limbs any more! From here we went for lunch at Mistaya Canyon; a short downhill hike to a rocky shoreline proved to be an amazing lunch stop. There’s nothing quite like peanut butter and jelly Sandwiches with a view!

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We made a few roadside stops on our way to The Columbia Icefield at the Saskatchewan river crossing and the big bend, but our main excursion for the day was walking on a glacier! The Glacier Adventure was a lot of fun. It wasn’t an overly long experience, or incredibly thrilling, however, it is so inspiring to walk on the surface of the Athabasca Glacier. You can also fill your waterbottle with fresh glacier water, which I took full advantage of. Also, the all-terrain iceIMG_6898 explorer that takes you onto the glacier is pretty gnarly in itself! There are other glacier experiences that you could partake in if you were to travel here on your own such as the Glacier Skywalk; through moose our tour was discounted to $50.00 where it is $85.00 otherwise. If you have time at the Discovery Centre before your Brewster Bus takes you away to the glacier, head downstairs to the museum and sit in on the glacier film.  From here we headed to the town of Jasper for dinner. There were plenty of options from fast food like A&W and Subway to Indian buffet to Steakhouses. We found a quaint Mexican Cafe called Cafe Mondo/ El IMG_6893Mondo Loco where they have $3.00 Taco’s and $4.00 Margaritas on Sundays. We stayed in the HI Athabasca Falls which is different from many hostels in that it is AWESOMELY located in the middle of nowhere. It is the most rustic, quaint little place that I’ve ever seen and we LOVED it! We all (18 of us) slept in a cabin together after enjoying yet another night of a fire and drinks! There is also the opportunity to see wildlife on this portion of the trip due to its remote location!


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Our drive back to Banff was our last day with Moose, and was referred to as ‘Waterfall Day’. We spent 45 minutes at Athabasca falls exploring its many paths and more remote beauties. Next we stopped at Tangle Falls where a decent portion of the group did some minor rock climbing and/or scrambling to the top! The view was beautiful from both ends and the climbing adventure was exhillerating. Next up was Moose Falls, an unamed waterfall named by our tour guide upon discovery. This short hike is on a narrow path that leads you to the side of a waterfall where the sheer power of the water will leave you in awe. Our final stop before coming into Banff was at Peyto lake. This is the lake on a lot of the Moose Flyers. We just 13781911_10153991861739317_3699045494633852648_nbeat the rain, so our view was slightly overcast, but beautiful nonetheless.We spent about 45 minutes here taking photos, enjoying the view and playing hide and seek with a cute little Marmot! It was terribly sad to leave the tour group upon our arrival in Banff but we did manage to plan an excursion with our tour friends for the following day (white water rafting) and enjoy the included dinner at Samesun Banff with everyone!


Our trip would not have been as memorable if it had not been for Moose tours, our group members and most importantly our guide. We would have never seen all of the beautiful sights, acquired the amazing memories or made beautiful friendships without the Moose Network. Not only was our tour affordable, but the Moose discounts and included meals and excursions along the way kept our 10 day adventure costs to a minimum. If you’re looking to explore Western Canada I suggest booking with MOOSE and leaving a few extra days for yourself in Vancouver and Banff to see more of what you’d like to see!

IMG_6880 Moose is the G.O.A.T

(Sorry for my terrible pun)

((For all of you who do not teach Middle School: GOAT stands for “greatest of all time”))

Why Weekend in Whistler?

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Whistler was a MUST SEE on my list of Western Canadian cities. As a host to the 2010 Winter Olympics and a hub for hiking, biking and skiing this recreation loving Physical Education teacher couldn’t resist exploring the pedestrian village of Whistler, BC.

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IMG_6640The quaint pedestrian village of Whistler is full of shopping, restaurants and night life. Our first stop upon our arrival was wherever we needed to go to book an excursion for the following day. Ziptrek Ecotours was suggested by our tour group, therefore, our decision making was easy. There did seem to be several different companies offering a number of nearby excursions including the Peak to Peak Gondola, Mountain biking and 4×4 tours. Ziptrek has the highest, longest, and most ziplines around while offering an entertaining combination of aerial adventure and exploration. There were several tours to choose from and we decided on the Eagle which includes 5 ziplines, 4 tree-top bridges and lasts about two and half to three hours. Our tour was AMAZING. Our guides were great and we had a blast flying through the tree-tops, flipping upside down and racing eachother. We learned a lot about the surrounding natural area which caused the four of us to eat some lichen off a massive tree, and also IMG_6644some nearby olympic structures which caused us to question our conversion of miles per hour to kilometers per hour when discussing the speed of the bobsled track that was visible from our treetop platform (the fastest track in the world!). I 100% suggest Ziptrek Ecotours if you want to soar through the tree tops of Whistler.

IMG_6602Zogs Dogs in the center of the village has a variety of delicious Poutine options. We sat in the rain and devoured two trays, way too fast, which wound up making me sick. Do not
fret, it was not the food! The remaining three females in the party were absolutely fine. Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory is a must if you have a sweet tooth. The aura of fresh chocolate is unbelievable. Stop in and grab the best chocolate covered _______ (insert item here) of your life; you will not be disapointed. We also stopped at Great Glass Elevator Candy shop which had a great selection of the super sugary, fruity, non-chocolatey candies (team chocolate!). A great lunch stop was Mongolie Grill, which we grabbed to go so we could sit GSNE1426outside. Although a little pricey, building your own stir fry is one of the greatest ideas ever. It is priced based on weight, and rice comes on the side, therefore my suggestion is to use the small bowl; do your best to fill up on veggies and meats – the less noodles the better off your price will be. In my opinion, it was worth every penny because it was delicious and easy to bring to a beautiful outdoor seat. There are PLENTY of places to eat in Whistler, many we weren’t able to try due to time constraints but every place we walked past was busy. A friend did eat pizza and said it was horrendous, however, why would a New Yorker eat pizza elsewhere and expect it to taste the same as home? I’m sure to anyone else, it’s good.


I wish I had more time in Whistler to explore the outdoor world, mountain bike and go to the sliding center! One day was not long enough. There are so any different ways to experience Whistler; whether you’re a thrill seeker, a peace keeper or  a total foodie you cannot pass up a weekend in Whistler if you’re in British Columbia!

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Explore town, the tree tops and enjoy the culture. 

Whistler, BC