Monday, September 28, 2015

Hiking Boots and QForm

You guys I have been on the hunt for a new pair of hiking boots for sometime now. On our Labor Day trip, I realized my feet have been beaten up and I have felt a great deal of discomfort in almost any shoe I wear. Going to the gym was a struggle and walking around town has become increasingly difficult. I knew my feet took a real beating and I have been on the hunt for a pair of hiking boots for our upcoming AT hike and I know when we go camping in the fall and winter, I am going to need boots that can keep up with all we do. And, I think I finally found a pair.
I already mentioned one of my favorite local outfitters are like right up the street from me. I tend to get a great deal of gear from them. #ShopLocal So, it was no surprise that I would eventually find the perfect pair of hiking boots here as well. I had done some research online and found I needed a good supporting boot for all the issues I was facing. And, when I went in I explained I needed a boot that would help my problems. I was told to consider a pair of Merrell's. I have had a pair of Merrell's previously when I was younger and they were great but I had beaten them up so it has been years since I tried on a new pair. Boy, technology for hiking boots has greatly improved since my last pair.

Merrell has come out with QForm Comfort and these boots are designed specifically for women and how they walk. It helps improve the 5 ways we take a step and gives the absolute best support for each of the 5 areas to ensure maximum comfort and support we need. I grabbed a pair of the Merrell's Women's Moab Mid GORE-TEX and after trying them on, I knew I had to get these. I could feel the support with each step and I felt less impact on my heel and ball of my foot. They were snug without being too tight and after taking them to walk around on the rocks at the river was the ideal test to see how they would handle the mountains and trails. While this post is not sponsored, I would not mind shouting their praises after my test proved to be a success for not only the boot but my feet as well.

Have you guys found any boots you really love? Share them with me, as I always look for great products to try out!

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

A Long September Weekend

Happy Wednesday y'all! What an exciting weekend it was. I took some much needed time off and I am so thankful I did. We ended up going to our friend's cabin for part of the weekend and had such a great time. We spent most of Saturday kayaking up and down the Rappahannock River. It was such a wonderful experience. We were able to see a couple of osprey and eagle nests on the water. And, we were able to travel up the road to a great winery for local oysters and a glass of vino for lunch. Delicious! Between the great weather, amazing birds and our great kayaking trip, it ended up being a rather enjoyable weekend. We read our books and truly relaxed without TV or hardly any phone service. #Unplugged 
I was not ready to come back home but I am pretty glad we did. As soon as we returned home, the fall weather started creeping in. I mean guys we have had ZERO humidity and it has been truly wonderful. It is the beginning of fall here. I rather enjoy Autumn, when it is still quite warm but you have some cool scarf-wearing days. Since it is about that time of year, I knew I needed a pair of booties for the fall that are waterproof. So, I ran up to my local outfitters (one of my absolute favorite stores near my house- these guys are seriously in the know about all their stuff) and grabbed a new pair of these Leila Toms. I really love the entire line of Toms shoes- and for each item you purchase, you really are buying 1 pair for you and 1 pair for someone else in need. And, in the true spirit of fall, I grabbed this candle from my favorite store, Target. I really love the smell of sweet desserts in the fall and this was perfect.
Fall is such a perfect time of year for some new products. I always try to keep a good mask on hand and I have been meaning to try the Origins charcoal mask for some time now. I have seen such great reviews for those who suffer from breakouts and I do occasionally in the fall and winter time with the weather changes. I actually loved this product a lot. Origins is a great natural and organic product line and it feels really great on the skin. It is free of parabins and other harmful fillers most products have which can cause more damage in the long run. The other favorite of mine is Desert Essence. Their lines are really wonderful and they are also an organic, gluten-free and 100% vegetarian skincare line as well. This moisturizer has spf 15, which I require of all my moisturizers and makeup and it is absolutely divine without that "sunscreen" smell. My skin feels silky and smooth and I  always grab the smaller tube to carry in my purse and the larger ones to store bedside.

Happy First Day of Fall!!

Sunday, September 20, 2015

What To Pack for a Camping Trip

One of the most difficult things to decide before a big camping trip is what to pack. Often times you have to figure out what activities you plan on doing so you can be sure to have enough energy as well to feed the appetite you are going to have. On our last camping trip, I knew a little pre-planning would go a long way. After the suggestion of a few backpacking and hiking magazines, I prepared my own list of essentials to keep on hand for our hikes and walks I knew we would be doing.
First and foremost, you are going to need a good pack. I mentioned in my last post my Osprey Daylite pack. It is a great pack for day hikes and it sits correctly to not add strain to your back if you have to cram a lot of gear and snacks inside. It is a great investment and while there are tons of great options and sizes out there, a good pack will help make the trip that much easier. I was able to carry an extra pair of clothes for both of us, two extra water bottles, map, first aid kit, snacks, and an extra pair of shoes for myself. 13 Liters is a lot of room for a day hike, so make sure whatever you choose works for the type of outdoor activities you enjoy doing. I plan on using a larger version of my Osprey for my AT hike (more on that later, I promise).
One of the biggest essentials for me is water. I get so dehydrated on hikes and walks I knew we would need a lot of water, but often times bottled water does not always cut it and carrying water around can get heavy. Besides the two jugs we brought for cooking and cleaning at our camp site, I brought my Nalgene bottle (sticker from here) and he brought his CamelBak to make sure we could always refill if need be (we also have this filtration system for our water as well).
Snacks are often the most difficult to choose for me. While we love energy bars, often times to calories are in the sugar and not in the protein we need. I tend to make my own so I can customize what I can put in it. This is one of my favorite recipe bases to start with. I like making my own with easy organic ingredients so I know exactly what is in each one. It makes for a healthier choice and are cheaper to make on your own instead of buying them for twice the price. If you have time, make your own. I also like these and these too! If you want to buy a pack, I recommend these mutli packs, as it is a great organic option with tons of protein and no added sugar!
There were a few items, however, i did purchase specifically for our hikes. One of my favorite new foods is nut butters. These have a lot of protein and gives you lots of energy, paired with crackers or fruit, they provide a lot of nutrients your body often loses while hiking or walking. I really love Justin's and paired well with organic green apples were a perfect combo. These pack ton of protein and are sure to please. Every hiking and camping trip I have taken a jar with me. It is a perfect snack.
When it comes to cookware and gear, always choose items that have multi-purpose functions. I love Stanley personally. They have been around for ages and their gear truly stands the test of time. I really enjoy the easy clean up and they are light weight enough to carry in a large pack if need be. For this trip, I brought my cast iron since we were camping for our main cooking pan. But, when it is backpacking only- we only use our small cook set and the mini cook set for our tea/boiling water for our on the go french press coffee. 
As far as dinner, we choose easy products we could make with simple add-in's like water or raw vegetables or fruits.  I really like boxed quinoa, or any rice blend will do. We always pre-cook our hamburger meat with spices before we leave home to ensure for quicker cook time - and dehydrate it if we know we cannot have a cooler nearby. I always have extra dried spices on hand to season anything and if we can fish nearby, that saves space in our bags and coolers for extra items we may need. Also, if you have not discovered walking tacos, consider making them beforehand to "test" the waters to see if you like them. They are super easy to make and it does not cost a lot to get all the items you need. 

Camp cooking is super easy and very healthy if you take a few steps beforehand to ensure you have everything you need. If you have tips or tricks or any recipes, I am always looking for new things to add to our list. Share away!!

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Ipsy: September Glam Bag Review

Hey All! So the September Ipsy Glam Bag is in! And I have to say I am in love with this little bag. One of the things that excited me about Ipsy was the bags all your products come in each month. This one is super chic! I am really loving it. It is a super cute bag and a perfect color to transition into fall. I think this one may stay in my purse or travel carry-on for our next adventure!

So let's get down to the products, shall we?

  1. Garnier Fructis Sleek & Shine Sleek Primer Style Prep. $4.29. Now, I think we all know that Garnier is not organic nor gluten-free at all. According to this product, it should protect your hair from heat styling. After having my girlfriend use it (who is an actual hairstylist), she noted that while the smell was nice, it still made her ends frizzy and she noticed it really did not protect her hair well. She said the sprayer is more for foam-based products so the spray did not go on as evenly as she expected from a heat protectant. 
  2. NYX Cosmetics & Ipsy Eye shadow Trio. $N/A. Typically I go for more higher end eye shadows for their pigmentation. I find NYX, E.L.F, Revlon and even CoverGirl do not have a lot of pigmentation, and thus the product has to be reapplied a few times. That was the case with this trio. I love the colors, they are perfect for fall and the transition of weather. The palette colors make for a great fall smokey eye, but sadly the thin pigment will have you going through the palette twice as fast. 
  3. Elizabeth Mott Queen of the Fill Tinted Brow Gel. $20. I always love getting full sized items in subscription boxes. This is one of those products that you just love. This product is cruelty free. A brow gel is new to me as I typically use powder or pencil for my eyebrows but this was actually easy to use and the light medium color was perfect for my ash eyebrows. It was a great color for my fair skin tone as well. 
  4. J. Cat Beauty #MOTD Eye Pencil. $2.49. Another full sized item and cruelty free. This was actually a really lovely champagne color for an eyeliner, which makes my blue eyes pop compared to the Pixi duo I have been using recently. And, for the budget price, I am happy to find a new pencil to use. 
  5. First Aid Beauty Ultra Repair Cream. $12. While I have often times seen this at the checkout lane of Sephora, I have never picked it up. Typically, my lotion needs tend to be higher in the colder months when the air is super dry and cold. Otherwise, my skin is typically moisturized naturally. I am happy to have tried this product, and while it is too heavy for my face, I look forward to using it during the colder months that lay ahead. As I have kept Nivea's version of this in my purse, I think this is sure to be a new favorite I will continue to get.
You Guys! I have to be honest. I have been really disappointed with Ipsy these days. A part of most subscription boxes, they ask you to fill out a small survey beforehand so they can gauge what type of products to send your way. Each time I fill these out honestly to ensure I always get products which fit my needs or something I would actually like. With Ipsy, I was careful to make sure I only selected products which were organic or gluten-free. I have very sensitive skin and I know what does not work well for me. Ipsy has not been sending all organic products (like this bag for example) and as a result, I have had to pass these items onto to friends or relatives who enjoy them instead of me. Now, while $10 may not be a lot for a subscription box, I felt my money was being wasted. So, this will my last review of Ipsy. Stay Tuned since I have a couple of other subscriptions to share coming up!

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Labor Day Weekend

Hey Everyone! I hope everyone enjoyed their Labor Day weekend. I had a fantastic time. We decided to take to the mountains and go camping over the long holiday weekend, especially since there are not many great warm weekends we will have left to go enjoy the great outdoors before fall really starts to settle in. I am not a fan of the cold at all, and from what they predict, this year will be especially cold and snowy here. So, I am soaking up as much great weather as possible.
AT sign at the cross trails on Punch Bowl Mountain
I love my state; Virginia has so much to offer. One of my favorite weekend trips has always been The Blue Ridge Parkway, which is why on this particular weekend I wanted to go camp in the mountains. It is actually a goal of mine to hike the AT, so hopefully I will be trained well enough to do that (more details to come as the time gets closer). Since I knew we would hit a few parts of the AT, this made for an ideal time to see the trail first hand - before any weather changes the actual trail itself. And, thankfully we were able to spot at least 4 spots along our drive that hit the AT.
Enjoying the views of Sharp Top Mountain
Our last vacation spanned from milepost 45 to milepost 1 (which is the start of The Blue Ridge Parkway) and the beginning of Skyline Drive, so we knew this round we were gonna venture south. Between milepost 45 and 114 was our section to explore during this trip, which starts at Buena Vista and ends at Roanoke. Before we settled in to camp, we decided to hit a lot of the highlighted stops along the way and there was a lot to see. We hit 4 AT markers along the stops, hiked a mile on each of them and continued along the way. It was a great morning and start to day 1 of our trip.
View from Sharp Top Moutain
Sunday was one of the more active days of our trip, and one which has the most crammed in it. We woke up super early to have breakfast, prep our Osprey and CamelBak bags for our difficult morning hike up Sharp Top Mountain. If you have never hiked up a steep mountain before, this one will surely be a test. Compare it to the elliptical at the gym on the toughest setting. My calves were on fire but after the hike, I felt great. The views were spectacular and I was thankful that we had left so early to start our hike as it started to warm up. We even ventured the extra mile to Buzzard's Roost and spotted a very sweet young deer grazing along the trail. It was a very magical moment and worth the entire full hike we did.
Young deer on the trail to Buzzard's Roost
The rest of the day was spent hiking around Peaks of Otter and exploring various smaller hiking areas. It was a fun-filled day. Monday was spent packing up the campsite and heading home. If you have a long weekend, I suggest visiting The Blue Ridge Parkway, or at least the Peaks of Otter section to get the most out of the weekend. And, if you are not into camping, the lodge is just as wonderful to stay at and there is a really amazing winery nearby that not only has some award winning wines but boasts great views of the mountains as well.

How was your weekend? Was there any outdoor adventures in your long weekend. Tell me!

Tuesday, September 1, 2015


You guys, Chicago was absolutely beautiful. I had an amazing time out there and I am here to share with you some of my tips for a budget-friendly time in the Windy City!

First off, Chicago can be expensive. After all, she is a bustling big city. But, there are certain things you can do to avoid paying the hefty costs. Here is what I did to save on my spending.

  1. Don't splurge on sports tickets- there are many other options! I found out it was smarter to go to the Friday game than the Saturday one. Prices for tickets were over 65% cheaper. And, instead of buying tickets directly at the ballpark, search for other secondary sellers. In Boston, we also scored great seats for $40/each on tickets that costs $130/each simply by buying from a secondary company. You can still enjoy the game without splurging your entire trip funds on one event.
  2. Find fun alternatives to the big 'tourist trap" spots. I am a huge fan of seeing a 360 view of any city I visit. In Chicago, you can go atop to Willis Tower at The Skydeck for $40/person to get a 360 view of the city- and get to literally walk on top of it. BUT, instead of paying for a ticket for Willis Tower, I grabbed cocktails with friends at The Signature Room is a Lounge in the John Hancock building. Considering our drinks were less than one ticket to Willis Tower, we felt this was more than fair!
  3. Be your own tour guide! A little research can go a long way, especially when it comes to going to a new city. Instead of going on the Architecture Boat Tours (that will set you back $42/person), opt for a Water Taxi ride instead! For $8, you may not get someone telling you the historical significance of each building, but you will still get the show down the riverwalk. If you have a pamphlet or read up on each building already, it can save you a ton in money and time.
  4. Go sightseeing at off-peak hours. While this may not work for everyone, especially those with small children, it is wiser to go to large city landmarks like Cloud Gate (at Millennium Park) or Navy Pier when most people are not around. In Chicago, it was better to visit Navy Pier at night and Cloud Gate in the early morning. These are times when a majority of the crowds will not be there - which can allow you to enjoy the scenery a lot more.
  5. Bike Shares and Transit are your BFF's! One thing I have appreciated visiting larger cities is mass transit. When you have walked mile after mile, sometimes the last thing you want to do is continue walking. Using the local mass transit is the way to go. Each city has their own week/day passes that allow you to get a great amount of trips in without spending so much. Same with the bike share program- these allow you to get you exercise and enjoy the city as if you are a local yourself! I have done the bike share in DC as well, and it make sightseeing a lot more fun. There are alternatives to taking a taxi, so look into what is available where you go!

Well, I hope this helps everyone on their next trip out to Chicago- or any big city you travel to. Remember, with a little pre-planning, you can save a ton and have a lot of fun!