Cheap (ish)/healthy (ish) overnight camping food prep

Hey there! We are headed to North Georgia for an overnight backpacking trip and I wanted to share what a typical day of eating looks like on the trail. We use a Jet Boil Flash Personal cooking system and the GSI Outdoors Bugaboo Backpacker Cookware Set. This food is from either Sam’s Club or Kroger. I will (sheepishly) admit that my husband does all of the grocery shopping and cooking. He finds a way to buy healthy food, without breaking the bank and I am eternally grateful.

This post is set up in the order we eat once we set up camp for 1 overnight trip: lunch, snacks, dinner, breakfast. I would love to hear what your favorite backcountry meals are…please share in the comments!

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Lunch:

Starkist Tuna Creation packets and Dave’s Killer Bread. We got real creative with this one, folks.

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Snacks:

I am the definition of “Hangry.” I have a high metabolism and eat every 2-3 hours. The people in my life know, all too well, what happens if I don’t snack and it is REAL UGLY. What that being said, we always have a cornucopia of deliciousness available.

1)Orchard blend crunch dried fruit

2) Organic Apples

3) Organic Peanuts

4) Annie’s Organic Cheddar Squares (my kryptonite)

5) Organic Fig Bars

6) Lara Bars

I realized the whole “organic” thing has been discussed ad nauseam. It feels a little slimy and very millennial of me to strive to eat non-GMO/organic whenever possible, but…it works for us. It works for our bodies and feels right. So, we go for it.

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Dinner:

1) Organic chicken breast, cubed

2) 2 servings of Ramen Noodles (use 1/2 the seasoning packet)

3) 1 can green beans

4) organic, free range chicken eggs, scrambled

Cook all items separately and combine to enjoy a high energy dinner after a long day of adventure!

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Drinks:

1)Starbucks Via Instant Coffee. This is the first time we have tried these, but I watched a Youtube video about various coffees people drank on the Appalachian Trail…and this was the winner.

2) My normal night time routine consists of Yogi Honey Lavender Stress Relief tea and I love a cup by the camp fire

3) Beer (not pictured, because I’m keeping it classy)…’merica!

4) Water…I will write a future blog post on how we filter and what system we use

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Breakfast:

1)Organic Turkey Bacon

2) Organic, free range chicken eggs, scrambled

 

Love and Light to you and enjoy a fun-filled weekend!

A whimsical, wild wedding: An unconventional bride’s take on going rogue.

 

In the South, there is an expectation to do things a certain way. It is understood that (most) women are supposed to marry at a young age, pop out a few pups, and have a rampant Pinterest board. Is there anything wrong with that plan? Nope. If that is the trajectory of your life and it gives you fulfillment, that is beautiful. If we all chose the same path, the world would be pitifully boring.

When I was little, I never thought about my wedding. I dressed in scrubs and informed my mother that I wanted to be a brain surgeon. I ended up as a neuro-specialized nurse practitioner, so I guess that is close enough. There is photographic evidence of this that can be provided at a later time. For reals. A part of me wishes I spent time envisioning a special day filled with cake and whimsy, but it just never happened. I was not even sold on the idea of marriage until I met my now husband.

A lot of my time is spent trying to please other people. It is a large part of my job, but an even larger part of my personality. When I got engaged, the idea of an elopement weighed heavily on my heart. However, the reality of it seemed out of reach.

Could I really have a private ceremony with just my husband, a minister, and a photographer? What would people think? Would my family be hurt? Is that even “allowed” in Southern societal norms?

I had an epiphany during my semi-annual haircut and color with one of my favorite humans. I like to think of these interactions as a combination of heavy chemicals and two hours of free therapy. If you knew my stylist, you would want to steal her. I told her my idea of running off into the woods and she told me, “Sara…find what satiates your soul and forget the rest.” She did not actually use the word “forget”, but rather a saucier verb. And then it hit me. We would run off into the woods.

From day one, our families and close friends were great. We let everyone in on the proposed plan and received copious love and support. I hope I can gift my children the same unwavering love in the future. No questions asked, just support. Our families knew this was what we wanted and sacrificed to give us our dream day. In hindsight, we never really received any negativity about this untraditional adventure.

The biggest lesson I have learned during this process is this: Do what you want to do in life. The people that matter will support you. Following your dreams (so cliche, yikes) is a fulfilling and delightful way to find self love. I am so thrilled we stuck with the original plan and neglected to be influenced by societal expectations.

The conversation that my husband and I had during the past few months consisted of the mantra, “small wedding, big marriage.” We wanted to go into marriage focusing on the thousands of days, not just one day. We desired to focus on the big picture…creating a relationship of long-lasting support, respect, and connection.

Our wedding day was a dream. Not because of the flowers or the venue or my dress, but because it was what my husband and I wanted. We chose to get married on the summit of a mountain because nature has an exquisite place in our relationship. Nature is home. It is a spiritual place where we have shared much love and vulnerability over the years.

This post is about learning to listen to that inner voice and respect it. Do what you want to do and be mindful to respect your gut. If you dream of a beautiful wedding with 300 people and 20 bridesmaids, do it! If it is what you want and what satiates your soul, go for it! Fulfilling what you want is a beautiful gift that we do not always give ourselves. In the words of my favorite Yogi, Adrienne, “find what feels good.”

Love and Light

Please enjoy pictures from our wild, woodsy wedding courtesy of our dear friend, Drew Oswald. You can contact him on @drewoswaldphotography on Facebook.

Healing Hikes.

Nature. It cured me.

My journey through anxiety has been encompassed by a larger journey…one of self-discovery through the wilderness.

My greatest healing happened deep in the woods, away from people, technology, and the chaos of busy life.

I fondly call these experiences my healing hikes.

Rewind 20 years. One might find me playing in the woods that was adjacent to my best friend’s house. I would be playing outside, regardless of the weather extremes. I remember watching the thermometer in our cozy Ohio kitchen, staring until the number went from 9 degrees to 10 degrees. The rule was you could play outside when temps reached double digits.

Nature has always been my safe space. When I was in the height of my panic attacks, I would often escape the environment by running outside. Grocery store meltdown? Quickly escape outside. Stuck in line at the DMV? Gracefully (or not) power walk out the door. Stuck in a stifling conference of 500 people? Get up and run to the parking lot. The end goal of my escape plan was to seek comfort in my true home: nature.

Being outside has always been a source of joy, but that joy became exponential as I realized the impact that wilderness had on my panic.

I started hiking with Kemp and it grew to be a large part of our life. We have been in our “explore” phase for almost 3 years. I keep a journal of every hike/camping trip/kayak trip we take. It has become a precious item in our home. It is a book of reflection, memories, and lessons learned. So far, we have hiked almost 300 miles together.

I believe hiking is a lot like anxiety. Hear me out. When you start hiking at a new trailhead, the path is foreign and new. Your heart races as you get accustomed to the new pace. Your breathing increases to compensate for this increased demand. You focus on the path directly in front of your feet so you don’t trip and fall, creating tunnel vision. However, after a few minutes on the trail, you sink into the pace of hiking. Your heart rate and breathing regulate as you adapt. You look up from your feet and gaze at the beautiful periphery. Sounds a lot like riding the wave of anxiety, right?

Hiking taught me to push through moments of discomfort and trust my body.

There is a program called “Walk off the War” and it is geared towards Vets dealing with PTSD. They are guided on hikes and taught to rewire the overstimulated mind. It is the same concept with anxiety.

Nature helps me rewire that hyper-responsive sympathetic nervous system that my body LOVES to use and abuse.

 

What activities have helped you overcome mental illness?

Love and light.

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At the highest point in Georgia!

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Our morning view from a bed and breakfast called “The Len Foote Hike Inn” in North Georgia

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Sitting on the top of Mount Yonah in North Georgia. The Rangers use this mountain for training…it was tough.

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Hiking and climbing our way around southern Cali

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Cloudland Canyon in Georgia

Hush Hush.

Nobody talks about it. Like, really talks about it. Anxiety is pervasive in our culture, yet we ignore it and continue to stigmatize its presence. I find this particularly popular in the world of women.  I personally have heard from many women who have reached out to me about anxiety, but we still deny that this is a public health problem.

 Anxiety Disorders affect 18.1 percent of adults in the United States (approximately 40 million adults between the ages of 18 to 54). – National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH).

Picture this: You are at a lunch with 5 girlfriends. Based on statistics, one of them has an anxiety disorder. That is pretty awe-inspiring in terms of prevalence. Here is my question, why are we STILL not openly talking about this?

American culture, especially southern culture, encompasses female perfection. You will be the perfect wife, friend, mother, sister, daughter and you will do it with luscious blonde curls and a Michael Kors watch. I suppose this facade of having it all together makes it difficult to discuss the burdens of perfection. Social media is also pretty damn toxic to our mental health. Trust me, I’m just as guilty of spending too much time stalking people from high school and gawking at the fraudulent perfection. Because we fill the internet with controlled happiness, it shifts reality. No one has it all together, but social media tricks us into thinking the opposite.

My wish is for women to be genuine with the struggles of life. It is hard to wear so many hats and it is ok to be anxious at times. Life is daunting, but also blissfully exciting. So, I challenge you…peel back the layers and share what is permeating through your spirit. There should be a community of support for anxiety, instead of silencing it. If I have a patient specifically come in to the practice to discuss mental health, I often share my own journey. Creating that tangible and emotional connection truly opens doors and leads to a better course of treatment. So this week, be open and honest with your struggles. You might find a charming community you never knew you had in life.

Granted, some people find that vocalizing anxiety magnifies its power. If you know this about your soul, then verbalizing it to others might not be an ideal journey for you. The anxiety adventure is unique to us all and it takes time to figure out your relationship with it. I am an open spirit, often sharing my story with furry Starbucks baristas and yoga class dwellers. Just find what works for you to alleviate the burden and find peace. In the words of my favorite yogi, Adriene, “find what feels good.”

Love and light.

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I find that nature is one of my favorite places to process anxiety. It puts a lot in perspective.

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My healthcare community of patients and coworkers is pivotal is this journey.

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Find your one sounding board. For 20+ years, we’ve been swapping ideas and sharing trials/tribulations. Love you.

 

 

 

Travel.

Anxious people and travel often do not mix in the wanderlust-themed soup of life. For the anxious soul, travel is too unknown to be comprehensible. New roads, cars, rooms, restaurants, people, and spaces…the unfamiliar territory is daunting. I want to let you in on a little secret: the joy of adventure always outweighs the fear.

“I would rather have a panic attack on a beach in Brazil, than in my living room.”

Let’s say you are at a crossroads, (the travel-themed metaphors are just TOO easy) and your options are to stay home or go on an adventure. I guarantee most anxious people will be consumed by option A.

“Well, if I just stay home and rest this one time, I’ll be better prepared for next time”

“I’m tired and I think I’ll just watch a movie at home”

“I don’t have the right clothes/gear for that, so I’m going to pass”

“I’m swamped with work, I just can’t get away for the afternoon”

Guess what? I call bullshit on all those answers. Anxiety likes to dictate the initial response to questions and call the shots. After years of dealing with panic, I still catch myself slipping into the default mode of “oh, no thanks…not this time.” CHALLENGE THAT THINKING.

Travel is this beautiful gift that allows up to pause reality and submerge into a hidden world where the potential is limitless. If you want to be a carefree hippie-wood nymph and traverse throughout the woods, you can. If you want to get a tattoo in Myrtle Beach (not recommended based on personal experience) then go for it! Traveling allows you to shed that timid shell and explore your true persona in a new environment.

The next time someone asks you to travel (an afternoon/day/week), pause before you answer. Reflect on this idea: Anxiety does not have to travel with you. What if you could leave her at home to veg on the couch while you explore the world. She doesn’t deserve to come on an awesome trip.

At the height on my anxiety, long car rides would be difficult. I would ruminate on all of the things that could go wrong once we got to the destination. Now, I focus on enjoying uninterrupted time with my fiance. I focus on being mindful and present on the experience instead of catasterbating (patent pending on that word…kinda).

Here are a few tips that I use to make traveling an awesome experience:

  • Prepare
    • If we are hiking, we map out the trail and share the latitude/longitude with friends so if we get eaten by a bear, they can find our gear and fight over the good stuff
    • Use google maps to see a “street view” of where you are going. Visualizing the new location can alleviate some bad vibes
    • Check the weather…duh.
  • Stack the deck
    • There is nothing wrong with bringing parts of your toolbox (see previous post!)
    • essential oils, a favorite mantra, a book are all great supporting objects during travel
    • Be rested, stay hydrated, eat well…when your body is healthy, your mind will follow along
  • Embrace
    • Be mindful to focus on the experience, not the anxiety
    • You are having a beautiful moment in a new place, simply enjoy it

 

I finish with a caveat. We love to travel and 80% of the time, I’m a badass travel buddy. There are still times I get overwhelmed. I HATE flying and I drink myself into stupor to board the flying germ tube. I also still deal with occasional anxiety while driving on the highway. I ignore the feeling and zone out to some nerdy podcast instead of trying to figure out what I’m feeling. Is that therapeutic? Nope. Is that the healthy, hippie way to cope? Hell no. Is that the yogi-granola way to heal? Naw. But, it’s a process and a journey. I’m striving for integrity and raw writing…not perfection.

Love and light.

 

Enjoy some pictures from my travels over the last month

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Our ‘hotel’ for the night during a camping trip

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Watching the waves in Sunset Beach

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Braves game! 

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Exploring downtown Wilmington, NC

 

Toolbox.

The most daunting part of anxiety is the sneak attack. Anxiety might decide to come play while you are buying bruised organic avocados at the grocery. It might miss you so much that it decides to rear its head during a coffee date with friends. She (I’ve given my anxiety a sassy female alter-ego) might decide to stop by and say hey while you’re 12 episodes deep into Orange Is The New Black. Anxiety is overwhelming simply because it pops up unannounced. These annoying sneak attacks have given me the opportunity to learn how to combat that unwanted wave of panic.

The biggest thing I have learned is to always be prepared. Build a physical, mental, emotional, spiritual toolbox that you always carry. This can be a gray area because some people use items to distract from anxiety or associate certain items with stopping panic. I don’t want you to try to stop it. I want you to ride the wave and have tools that will make you more comfortable during the journey.

Here is my 4-part toolbox:

Physical

  • Lavender essential oil
    • I carry it in my purse/in my car/etc for instant zen
  • My engagement ring
    • My fiance told me to always look at it when I feel anxious and remember I’m never alone in this journey
  • A stone that says “let it be”
    • I bought this from a Crystal shop in Laguna beach. It helps ground me and put things into perspective

Mental

  • Positive self-talk
    • Tell yourself how awesome you are!
  • Mantra
    • Choose 2-3 mantras that you can repeat to yourself if the anxious thoughts are pervasive
    • “Feel the fear and do it anyway”
    • “All is well”
    • “Just keep swimming”

Emotional

  • Feelings are feelings and thought are thoughts
    • Really, though…it is simple! Focus on what your body feels like, not the chaotic shit storm inside your head
  • Reach out to someone around you and verbalize your anxious feelings
    • Telling someone how you feel and creating that connection will make you feel less vulnerable

Spiritual

  • Lift up these feelings to a higher power, whoever you believe in
    • You have God, many gods, the Universe…the possibility to have so many people on your side
  • So much pressure can be relieved when you send up anxious thoughts to the sky

 

Plan ahead, use your toolbox, and dominate life. Over the years, I’ve learned that I can lessen the extent of my anxiety by preparing. If I’m nervous about an interview, I might type the address of the office into Google Earth to see a street view of the building. I might lay out my clothes the night before and have my tea mug laid out. I might drive to the location an hour early to prepare for traffic. I might bring an extra pair of clothes if I spill something on my interview attire. This literally happened in the past (insert long sigh). I might prepare answers to common interview questions. Another example of the benefit of preparation is going out for a weekend hike. I will meticulously plan what supplies, clothes, food I need. I will look at the weather and prepare extra gear. I will carry supplies that could last me a few days if something happens.

You have to stack the deck, make the odds in your favor. Anxiety does sneak up and you can’t always be ready. But…you can be better prepared to journey through the fear.

 

 

Balance.

Life is like riding a bicycle.

To keep your balance,

you must keep moving.

-Albert Einstein

Maintaining balance between life, love, jobs, friends, family, etc can be a delicate act. The feminist side of me embraces the fact that women wear so many hats. We have the ability to serve many roles, while maintaining a fierce sense of individualism. However, life is not a perfect balance. Certain roles will pull at your heart strings with a ferocious energy. A lot of my roles have shifted over the past few weeks. We officially announced our engagement, my future mother-in-law was hospitalized, and I started as a nurse practitioner student at a new clinic. During the past few weeks, the delicate balance of my roles shifted. My anxiety loves these scenarios. Anxiety feeds off of external chaos.

Here are my pearls of wisdom from the past month (not sure I’m qualified for that, but we are going for it!) :

Life will never be perfectly balanced. You can not control everything. When you are spinning all of your plates eloquently above your head, you will get an arm cramp and they will crash down. AND THAT’S OK. Or, you might maintain the balance but you will become physically and mentally exhausted. It is ok. It is always ok.

Scene: Kemp’s dad called us panicked on a Sunday morning. Kemp’s mom couldn’t breathe and was rushed to the ER. Kemp hangs up. He looks at me and I know it is time to shift my balance from 50/50 partnership to 100/0 partnership. It is time to carry him in this moment. Guess what happens when you shift your mindset from panic brain to compassion brain. Anxiety dissipates. Everything is better with his mom and I did not let anxiety dictate the situation. In that moment, I led with love, not fear. As a healthcare provider and anxiety goddess, I found the balance.

As someone who journeys with anxiety in my passenger seat, I feel compelled to tell you (and myself/ego/id/superego/all those other undergraduate psych vocab words) that it all will be ok. Balance is possible. You might have anxiety and it might debilitate your spirit. But, you might find moments of relief throughout the day. Maybe that is your balance right now. Life is not black and white. It is a journey of greys that seep into some mixture that we call life. You will never simply be an anxious person. You are a balance of a beautiful soul who has an occasional dark cloud. Keep moving forward through the stress and the change. Do hard things. Find a healing balance. Stressful situations are just opportunities for you to show yourself strength.

I intended for this piece to be fluid and encapsulate the concept of balance. I’m not sure I ended up there. I guess that’s what I get for writing a piece after eating nothing but sugar and sitting at a carwash in 30 degree weather. Eh, I’ll take it.

Love and light

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Life is not black and white. Except, I guess it kind of is if you look at my meditation corner. AWKWARD.

Googlephobia.

I am the queen of Google.

I have removed the Google app from my phone because I morphed into the Dictator of Google.

I feel anxious, therefore I must Google the shit out of these feelings.

Scenario:

I was sitting on a beach with Kemp last summer. We were paddle boarding, drinking cheap beer, and having a blissful time. I left anxiety at home for the day…or so I thought. All of a sudden, I got a cramp in my right calf. The logical side of my brain should have processed the fact we went running earlier and I was probably dehydrated. But the logical side of my brain is boring so clearly I spiraled down the black hole of catastrophic thinking. I immediately took out my phone and started googling “cramp in calf.” Guess what came up? Something along the line of blood clot, cancer, imminent death, etc. Let me casually reiterate something. At this point, I had been a nurse for a few years and had 4 years of medical courses. My logical brain knew that these google revelations were wildly inaccurate. My panic, freak the fuck out, brain had other plans. Five minutes had passed and I was attempting to convince Kemp to chug his beer and take me to the SeaCoast Medical Building. He looked at me, smiled, took my hand and led me into the water. And that was that. I bounced up and out of the dreaded Google hole.

End scene.

I write this in jest, but I imagine a lot of you have been there. The anxious thoughts arise and we seek validation from an external source. My logical brain knew I did not have a blood clot, but my panic brain thought that was reasonable and wanted support by googling ridiculous things on the internet. I also have googled “anxiety quiz” numerous times to simply confirm that I am not losing it. My results always indicate mild-moderate anxiety and that gives me a few minutes of relief, knowing I must be ok compared to others. Why can’t I just process these thoughts without external validation?

We all need someone to look at us and say, “you are calm, you are fine, you are doing well.” I often use Google as that voice, because I’m too broke for therapy every week. Cheers!

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Status post the blood clot meltdown of 2014. Yes, I do have full formed legs. I have not mastered the art of the standing ocean paddle board experience. I can’t help but laugh at that one 🙂

Where Are You Being Led?

Keep close to Nature’s heart… and break clear away, once in awhile, and climb a mountain or spend a week in the woods. Wash your spirit clean. -John Muir

I am feeling extraordinarily landlocked.

Kemp and I are lucky enough to lead a life that involves a lot of travel and adventures. However, this whole work/grad school/clinical rotation thing is not exactly conducive to my wanderlust spirit. Traveling, ironically, brings me a great sense of calm. I feel serene and grounded when we are on an adventure.

I’ve never had a panic attack in the woods. That concept makes me giggle a little bit. I’ve been miles away from civilization with minimal supplies and never once been anxious. But, I want to crawl out of my skin waiting in a long line at Target. Life is weird and funny and keeps me on my toes.

I bought this compass for Kemp as a gift last year. It has very special coordinates and our favorite quote on the back. We felt led towards each other during vulnerable times. He is my compass, a guiding light back to the path. 12347981_10153756035629841_5584649096648018747_n

We are planning a weekend trip to Wilmington, NC in January. I always find life a little sweeter when there is an adventure on the horizon. Do you have holiday travel plans to see family or friends? Do you feel a calling to explore a new place?

 

Love and light.