The last two weeks have brought a lot of change (good change), travel, and celebrations. I accepted a promotion at a new store, turned 29, and went on a week long 3,300 mile road trip through the southwest!
I kept my birthday low key and spent it at home with my family and boyfriend. Later we went kayaking at sunset (I’d never gone before) and enjoyed a few beers on the water. I’ll save the big celebrating for next year when I’m turning the Dirty Thirty. And why is it dirty? Can anyone explain that one?
Then last Tuesday we hit the road for our big road trip. We drove south through Missouri and Oklahoma so we could drive parts of the old Route 66 and camped overnight in Oklahoma. We were plagued by heavy rains the first few days, but managed to finally out-drive it to the southern part of New Mexico.
We camped all but one night (a Travelodge feels like The Ritz-Carlton when you’ve been camping all week). We ran around the white sand dunes in New Mexico, hiked Red Rocks State Park in Sedona, AZ, and finally got to enjoy the great wonder that is the Grand Canyon. I even fulfilled my goal of yelling, “PENIS!” as loud as I could which is what I wrote that I wanted to do at 17 years old on my original bucket list. I clearly had some great goals back in the day.. haha
It was perfect timing to take this trip before starting my new position and heading into the busy holiday retail season. We got to explore a lot in a short amount of time and managed to not get sick of one another or think homicidal thoughts after being in a truck or tent 24/7 for 6 days straight. I’ve been wanting to make this trip happen for many years and felt very fortunate that our finances, schedules, and planning all came together for a once in a lifetime trip. Although I don’t know if it will be a one time kind of thing because we’re already talking about plans to go back and see some of the places we missed the first round!
Reflecting on everything that has happened this year up until now.. I can’t help but feel an overwhelming sense of gratitude. I have a wonderful and supportive group of people around me, every day I’m a few steps closer to my goals, and my entire perspective has shifted. All of which have resulted in dealing with stress better (okay.. I still swear like a sailor and have a few glasses of wine before calming down), and I’m able to curb that negative downward spiral thinking much quicker. I’m able to appreciate the good moments while I’m in them rather than focusing on where else I could be or what else I could be doing.
Life is just really good right now. Cheers to being another year older and wiser!
Summer is officially over, but I’m still collecting tomatoes, peppers, and squash every few days from the garden. And if you couldn’t tell by all the recent recipes.. I’ve been putting it all to good use! I thought it would be fun to share some before, during, and after photos of this year’s summer garden, what I learned, and plans for next year.
My dad had gotten on the roof to clean out the gutters and had snapped this first photo while the garden was in it’s beginning stages.
A few months later he got back up there and snapped this second one to show how much change had occurred in the garden.
The squash quickly vined across the fence we put up, the tomatoes are growing wildly outside the tops of their cages, I added a second trellis for the cucumbers, and the green beans engulfed the archway. We’ve already consumed, canned, or frozen most of what we harvested which will be nice to enjoy in meals during the winter.
A few battles with pests that I encountered were the Japanese beetles and Cabbage Worms. The Japanese Beetles were all over the green beans and basil, but seemed to leave everything else alone. We used traps to attract and kill them as well as neem oil to deter them from eating the plants. The cabbage worms attacked my kale… and still are! Good old soapy water seemed to do the trick with them, but left the leaves of my kale dried out and the plants stunted in growth. I planted a ridiculous amount of marigolds bordering the tomatoes and peppers which helped repel aphids and it seemed to do the trick.
Hooking two water barrels up to the pump in the basement helped us water (for free!) during this extremely dry summer. When we weren’t able to get enough water out of the basement we utilized an old well on the property that had plenty of cool clean water for us to refill the barrels.
All in all it was exactly what I wanted.. a beautiful and functional space for me to learn new skills and sustainability, break my curse of having a black thumb, unwind after a long day, and have a safe place for the cats to explore. Next year’s garden I want to focus on more companion planting (keeping specific plants and flowers together) which seemed most effective in keeping pests away and adds more variety to the layout of the entire space.
What did you enjoy about your summer garden most? What are your plans for future gardens? Leave your thoughts and comments below!
I’m not one for birthday cake so I celebrated with doughnuts instead! Head over to Dream A Little Bigger for my Cream Cheese Glazed Pumpkin Spice Doughnuts!
Sometimes a pumpkin spice latte is just not enough to get through the day. For something a little stronger to unwind with after work, try this Harvest Pumpkin Beer Cocktail. As simple as it is strong and full of that pumpkin spice flavor we all hate to admit that we love! Head to Dream A Little Bigger for the recipe!
After one last gasp from summer in the form of a 3 day heat wave in the 90’s.. we’re finally into fall with gloom, rain, and falling leaves. I don’t know about anyone else, but it makes me want to snuggle up with Punk (my 17lb cat), marathon the last season of Game of Thrones (again), and make a big pot of spicy chili. With my garden still producing a ridiculous amount of peppers each day, I’ve got the spicy part covered! I also have an abundance of butternut squash which I’ve been waiting for patiently all summer to use in this autumn-inspired chili recipe.
A hearty mix of fresh peppers, onions, tomatoes, and butternut squash are simmered with spices, a pinch of cinnamon, and some pumpkin beer to really bring out the fall flavors. A perfect blend of sweet, spicy, and savory that makes enough to feed an army of White Walkers.. if they ate chili and not humans that is.
I’m still making tons of pickles out of all the cucumbers I harvest from my plant each week, but I whipped up a new recipe to use them in a different way. Head over to Dream A Little Bigger to get my recipe for this zesty and spicy Cucumber Mint Greek Yogurt Dip made with fresh cucumbers, mint, and serrano peppers!
Oh Mylanta! I actually have a day off and a moment to write! I took a few weeks off from the blog at the beginning of this month while I was working extra hours at my full-time job before traveling and then of course a week off to enjoy said travels, so it’s nice to finally play some catch up.
So let’s get to it!
Any time the seasons change I feel like we have a need for change as well. Whether it’s a tattoo, hair color change, exploring a new hobby, or traveling.. there’s just something we need to shake up a little bit so we feel like we’ve evolving as well. I opted to stick with the tattoos and hair color I have and instead booked a trip back to Oregon for a quick visit.
Since the trip was short we made sure to make the most of it and packed in several of my remaining Oregon Bucket List items and then some. Within 72 hours I had been to the ocean, hiked through the Painted Hills, hiked Smith Rock, explored a mile long underground cave, hiked to Paulina Falls, walked through obsidian filled trails around a lake, and then sat in hot springs so hot they could poach an egg! I had one full day in Portland to see friends and then flew out the next morning.
When I flew into Oregon I had this sense of coming home. It felt like I had just been on an extended trip and was finally returning, but that’s also how I feel now when I fly into Iowa. Neither place is better or worse, they each have people that I deeply care about, and they both hold memories that have shaped me into who I am now. They’re both just home to me.
It was bittersweet to leave, but I know I’ll be back again soon and hopefully for a longer period of time. Next up on the adventure list: The Grand Canyon! All that hiking around the high desert in Oregon got me excited for hiking the desert around the southwest. I’ll keep you all updated on my preparation for the trip and of course you can follow along during the journey on my personal Instagram!
If your garden is like mine and producing mass amounts of summer squash and zucchini, I’ve got a brand new recipe for you to put them to use in, Herbed Zucchini and Summer Squash Pasta! This vegetable and herb filled pasta dish is loaded with fresh flavors straight from the garden and is as hearty as it is healthy. Head to Dream A Little Bigger for the recipe!
Last month I shared a recipe for some basil simple syrup on my Instagram and now I’m sharing the perfect cocktail for you to use it in! Freshly juiced watermelon, citrusy lime, and the fragrant and sweet flavors of basil blend together in one delicious thirst quenching summer drink. And for my non-drinkers or soon-to-be-moms.. I’ve got you covered with tips on how to make a booze-free version as well!