Monday, February 20, 2017

Climbing the Devil's Marbleyard- Q-band fitness tracker review. #getoutside

This weekend we decided to explore another area of the Appalachian trail.  Devil’s Marbleyard is a boulder field near Natural Bridge Virginia. 

The landscape is covered in huge rocks, many that are the size of cars. Picture really do not do this place justice. Can you see that pink dot in the center of the photo? that's my daughter.  This place is really wild!  We really didn't know what to expect when we decided to come here and hike. Kenan said it was 1.5 miles to boulder field, 3 miles round trip. So i wore, a skirt and crocs which is what i typically wear hiking.

i did not realize we'd be climbing to the top of the boulder field, or i would have dressed much different. There isn't a trail through the boulder field, although there is one off to the side. We chose to climb the boulders. We really had no idea what we were getting into. Can you see the three black dots along the edge of the rocks in the back? i'm the one in the center. i was a bit behind everyone else, trying to scale rock faces in an ankle length skirt. 

The view is absolutely amazing.  This picture is quite misleading, as it looks like the top. However, once you get to this point, there is a whole other  boulder field on the other side.  i truly wanted to cry.

Those trees up ahead? Yeah, that's the top.  

Usually i'm the one to take all the pictures, but i had Kenan hold my camera so i could finish the climb easier. i'm almost at the top here, and my legs have almost turned to jello. i really didn't know if i was going to make it.

Not only did i make it to the top, but my fitness tracker gave me a thumbs up!! i've been wearing it for about a week to track my steps. Since i don't move much in the winter time i'm lucky if i get 50% of my steps in on a regular day. So as silly as it is, i'm very proud of this.

The view from the top, is incredibly beautiful. There were so many trees at the top, that we couldn't really see the boulder field we had just climbed. There were a few cliffs and places that overloaded it, but there were quite a few people up there already occupying those spots, so we didn't bother trying to get closer just for a picture.  Honestly, by the time we got to the top i was just ready to go home.  Rather than climb back down the boulders, we took the trail on our way down. It was challenging as well, because the ground was soft and sandy and very steep.  

So now that we are starting to have a few nice days, we plan to be out hiking every weekend possible. i thought this would be a great opportunity to review my new Q-band fitness tracker!  It has Wireless Bluetooth Synchronization with iPhone & Android Devices. It keeps track of steps, calories burned and a sleep tracker. It uses the i-gotU Life app, it can also sync to Apple Health or Google Fit. i'm still figuring out all the features. It notifies me when i get fb notifications, emails, phone calls etc and also tells me when i've been sitting for too long. lol.   The app is easy to use, and keeps track of steps, calories and sleep. So far it seems to be a pretty good step counter, and i'm having fun keeping track of my steps and creating fitness goals.  My only criticism is that it doesn't keep track of heart rate. This is just the basic model, but they do offer a more advanced model that does have the heart detection.  i may end up investing in that one later on, so far i am really enjoying keeping track of my steps, and it motives me to do more when i'm not being active enough.

This one is  available on amazon for $49.99 shipped free with prime.

i'm already getting excited about the spring. We have so many places we want to hike, kayak and camp. Our weather has been unseasonable warm for February, so i'm really getting the spring fever itch.  This year being more active is a huge goal for the whole family. We all spend too much time online, so getting outside and offline is really important.  We hiked parts of the Appalachian trail last year, and plan to hike several different parts this year.

The Devil's Marble yard is definitely an experience!  Make sure you are wearing good hiking/climbing shoes, bring a water and snacks! We were so unprepared for it. The pictures make it look like relatively flat, but rocky terrain. It's actually very steep, with huge boulders and deep crevices. Although you probably won't fall to your death climbing the boulders, breaking an ankle or cracking your skull are real possibilities! My kids absolutely loved it though, and we all had a pretty amazing time. Definitely one of the more challenging hikes we've done, but very worth it!

*i received the Q-band fitness tracker in exchange for my honest and unbiased review, my opinions are my own.

Friday, February 17, 2017

Time to order seeds!

So it has started. The planning of the garden and the buying of the seeds. This has always been a bit of a problem for me. :) i'm completely addicted to buying seeds. i love a garden that is full of color and variety. i especially love unusual color, which is why i tend to plant an entire bed full of all purple vegetables. :)

Although i'm not much of a planner, i'm trying to sit down and get a handle on my seed stash.  i don't like buying all my seeds at once. i like to collect them over time, purchasing a few here and few there. Picking up a pack or two each time i leave the house. i purchase some online, and some impulsively when i pass the seed racks at the store. i saved a few seeds from last year, but not my usual amount so i have a lot of seeds to buy this year. i do have some scarlet runners, October beans and soy beans that managed to save.

Since i have 5 small gardens, i'm always trying to rotate our crops to avoid diseases like blight.  Last year our potatoes didn't do very well, so i'm planning to move them to a different garden this year. i'm going to try corn where we planted potatoes last year. i've had any luck with corn, on the few occasional that it matures enough to produce ears, the deer, raccoons or my own goats end up getting before we do. Going to attempt it again anyway. 

Tomatoes are my weakness though, and so i have about a dozen varieties so far and i'm sure i'll have a dozen more before the garden is tilled.  :)  i've only purchased heirloom varieties. So far i have seeds for Blue beauty, Yoder's German Yellow, Cherokee Purple, Black Krim, Golden Jubilee, Blueberry, Violet Jasper and San Marzano.  i'll definitely be picking up some Brandywines, Hillbilly and Mortgage lifters too.  i love all the colors, shapes and flavor differences that the heirloom tomatoes offer. 

Most of my seeds this year were purchased from Baker Creek, Botanical Interests and Southern Exposure seed exchange.  

i picked up several packs from Botanical Interest.. They are one of the few places i can find the Redbor Kale, which is a favorite. It's not heirloom, but it's a beautiful purple kale that is delicious, makes the best kale chips and grows all season long. The Redbor sells out quickly and can be hard to find so i was thrilled to find it there! Baker Creek's now sells a Scarlet kale with is very similar:)

It's still a little early to start seeds inside for my area, but with the greenhouse i'll be able to start them earlier than i had in the past.  If you are unsure of planting time for your area, i recommend checking out The Farmer's Almanac Planting Guide.  These are the dates for my area, but you can plug your zipcode into the location box and it will customize for your area/climate.

i'm super excited to get back out in the garden again, but we have a possibility of snow again this week, so right now i'm am only dreaming.

One of the most delightful things about a garden is the anticipation it provides. ~W.E. Johns, The Passing Show

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Eat Well, Be Well - Influenster campaign

Sometime last year i signed up for Influenster and then sort of forgot about it.  Influenster allows you to  test out and review products, share honest opinions with brands and the community.  Last month i received an invite to their Eat Well, Be well campaign.  i filled out the survey and then a few weeks later received an email saying i was accepted into the campaign and would be receiving my Voxbox soon.

i really had no idea what to expect. i've received freebies through Bzzagent, and figured this was similar. When my Voxbox arrived, i was super excited to see what was inside!  My box was full of good stuff!

My box contained a sample pack of gluten free pretzel twists by Glutino, recipe cards, free product coupons for Udi's Gluten Free, Evol. foods and Earth's Balance.  It also had a Eat Well notebook, evol foods sticker and information about how to complete the campaign.

i had a hard time finding local stores that carried a selection of the products. i thought i'd do best at Kroger, but their selection was pretty small.  i was able to find Earth Balance products at both Kroger and Foodlion, and i ended up finding the Evol and Udi's at Target! They actually had a very nice selection of both.

Evol foods had several products that looked delicious.  



Their Mission is to inspire people to care about where food comes from and how it is
 produced, making REAL FOOD that tastes delicious.

i tried the portabella, goat-cheese ravioli and was not dissapointed! It really is delicious for a frozen
pre-made meal. We do not usually purchase pre-made meals, so i found it a bit of a treat. 

i also had the opportunity to tryout Udi's Gluten-free products. They make all knds of gluten-free items including breads, cookies, pizza, pastas and more.  i tried the sweet potato ravioli. The sauce was really delicious, and the ravioli has a delightful sweet potato flavor. i found the pasta to be slightly tough, and just not as tender as regular pasta. For a gluten free product it was very good.

Udi's mission is to provide you with the best gluten-free food on the planet.

Earth Balance is most known for being the country's fastest selling, most popular vegan buttery spread.  They make many other delicious vegan, gmo-free, plant based foods.  i tried out the coconut peanut butter. It's so good!!  i like to have it on toast sprinkled with  flax seed and hemp hearts. So yummy!

The last product i tried out are the Glutino gluten-free pretzel twists. i just had a little sample bag, so i tried a couple and then chocolate covered a few for Valentine's day. The gluten-free pretzels had a slightly different texture, almost crispier than regular pretzels, and the flavor was delicious! My daughter said she preferred them to the regular pretzels we buy. Gluteno offers a wide range of products for those that are gluten free, so you can live fully everyday and not feel restricted by a gluten free diet.

i really enjoyed participating in this Influenster Voxbox, and loved getting to sample the different products. Although i don't often buy a lot of prepacked food, it is nice to see that their are so many options available forprepackaged foods made with real ingredients, options for those eating #plantmade foods and #glutenfree.  i'll definitely be recommending these brands to my friends and family.

*i received these products for free to review, i was not compensated. My opinions are my own.

Monday, February 13, 2017

Fall's Ridge Preserve #Getoutside

Spring temps in the Blue Ridge this weekend, so we took advantage and made it out to a new local hiking spot we have never been to. Falls Ridge Preserve  in Christiansburg, VA. 

The area is managed by the Nature Conservancy. The land originally belonged to  Mr. William P. Bradley, a photographer and publicist, who bought the Falls Ridge Preserve area from a local family. Mr. Bradley used the property as a retirement home, eventually deeded Falls Ridge to the Conservancy in 1974.

The area has a very heavy limestone content and the limestone is carried in the creek and then calcifies the organic materials in the water. So, the green rock formations are actually calcified moss and the stone formations provide the solid ground for very cool waterfalls and deep blue reflection pools. It is known as a "travertine" waterfall / pools. 

The waterfall was more impressive than it looks in the pictures, and the Travertine cascades,  cliffs and caves were all really neat. It was totally different from anything we had hiked before.The total height of the cascades is roughly 50-60 feet high. 

The upper cascade  was full of  large boulders and travertine deposits. It really made for an enjoyable hike.  The Chamberlain loop, was a bit challenging if you are out of shape, but was a nice trail and gave a lovely view of  Ellet Valley.  

It was so good to get outside and hike again. We all really enjoyed it.

The caves at the base of the limestone cliffs were really neat. It's hard to gauge the size from this picture, but we could walk inside without having to duck our heads.   The Travertine caves,  looked like a giant face.

i took this photo of my boy while i was inside the cave and he was in the doorway.  Give a little perspective to the size of the cliff face and caves.

It was a fun 3 mile hike. There is a cool old timey limestone furnace, near the falls.  i'd like to come back in the spring when the wildflowers are blooming.  We have hiked trails all over Christiansburg and Blacksburg before, i don't know how we never knew about this one.  The Appalachian Blue Ridge is consistently surprising and awesome.

i'll be posting a lot of #getoutside themed posts this year, as we really try to be more active.  Last year we started kayaking, this year we have plans for kayaking, biking, hiking and more.  The older we get the more we realize the importance of staying active and keeping fit.    So #getoutside and enjoy the week!

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Get outside! Koob- The Viking Game! Review and Giveaway!

KOOB The Viking Game® (also known as Kubb) is the fun outdoor game for both kids and adults. Legend has it the very first KOOB players lived all the way in Scandinavia. In fact, it is said that Vikings themselves played KOOB more than 1,000 years ago with sticks and firewood gathered through their many worldly voyages.

i recently had the opportunity to try out the game Koob. Yesterday we had a beautiful 60 degree day, and when the kids got home from school, i kicked them outside to play and we set up the game. My son, who loves Vikings was really excited to try the game.   The game is simple in concept, but really quite challenging and a ton of fun! You use the 4 wooden stakes to set up your playing field, then place the koob on each end and set the king in the center.

You need two or more players, and each team takes turns trying to knock down the other teams koobs. It really requires a lot of skill and practice to knock down the koob. My daughters competitiveness really came out while we were playing.  She was determined to win!

  i was thrilled to see them playing outside together! During the winter we all spent too time on our media devices.  Koob is great way to get everyone outside interacting together.  

It was a close game, but my son knocked down all the koobs and  then took out the king! We played several rounds and  really had a blast!

The game is ideal for BBQs, family get-togethers, birthday bashes, camping trips, beach trips or staff parties. KOOB® can be played on grass, sand or even snow, making it a year round good time.

  • Produced in Canada
  • Durable hardwood from beautiful white birch
  • Untreated wood = 100% natural and chemical-free
  • Includes a sturdy eco-friendly bag for easy storage and handling
  • The bag is recyclable and made of recycled materials

  • The game is made of white birch, harvested from sustainable forestry practices. White birch is hardwood which gives you durable, long-lasting game set. i really love that the game is completely manufactured in Canada from local untreated hardwoods and no chemicals or preservatives are used in the process, allowing for a completely natural product.

    Koob is available on Amazon for $34.95 here

    Now that spring is in the air, it's time to get outside!!  Koob is the ultimate lawn game for family get together and backyard fun! The awesome people at KOOB The Viking Game have generously offered to giveaway a set of  KOOB-The Viking Game to one lucky blog reader!!

    The giveaway is open to US readers only. To enter please use the Rafflecopter form below. It may take a minute to load.

    a Rafflecopter giveaway

    Friday, February 3, 2017

    January 2017- A Look Back

     January is my least favorite month, for obvious reasons.  It's the month the winter really begins to show it's face and the cold and snow settle in. The first week of January we received about 6 inches of snow.  It was just enough for the kids to go sledding, have a snowball fight, miss almost a week of school and then it all melted.

    The goats didn't seem to mind the snow, but the chickens wouldn't even get out of the coop. We were finally able to catch up all the feral  barnyard mix birds that were hatched out over the summer and had gone rogue.  i was able to give away 8 pair of chickens. :)

      My baby boy turned 15, this January. He requested a Portal cake, which is from the video game Portal.  2 days after his birthday is my mom's birthday and also the anniversary of our house fire. So January is always sort of a roller coaster of emotion.

    This January started off with a snow storm, but seemed to be ending pretty mild. Then on the last day of January, it decided to remind me of why i dislike this month. We had crazy wind that 'blew up' my greenhouse. It literally blew the front doors in, and then blew all the panels off the back and roof.  

    We were able to collect all of the panels, which were blown into the chicken pen and thankfully trapped by the fences.  One of the doors was bent in a number of places.  i think we'll be able to put it back up, but it will no longer slide along the track and function as a door.  i believe all the panels are undamaged, so we do need to get them put back in place. 

    i hadn't even thought to look for other things damaged by the wind, but when i went out to collect eggs the next day my goat Delilah walked right up to greet me.  i was totally surprised and went over to her pen to find out how she had escaped, and found a large pine tree had fallen and taken out part of the back fence.

    Kenan got out his chainsaw and cut up the tree and then was able to repair the fence, and i got the goats back in the pen. i have no idea how long they had been out, but they seem to be okay.  Not a great start to the year, but it definitely could have been worse.