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The first time I hiked Green Lakes, it was an early morning during mid-summer. While I was only hiking, I remember seeing trail runners and thinking it would be a great trail to run. We started at the Green Lakes trailhead, and once we got to the Green Lakes campground, continued on the Soda Creek Trail, that would eventually loop us back to the trailhead/parking lot. Originally we were looking for the trail to reach Broken Top summit, but couldn’t find it. This hike was very green, and butterflies were abundant (especially on Soda Creek Trail).

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Fast forward to late September, when I felt like doing a solo trail run and thought Green Lakes would be a great option. We had just experienced our first snow dump in the mountains. However, I didn’t know how Green Lakes would be affected. My trail run ended up being probably less than a half mile, before I came across mushy ground lined by ice. I thought it would clear up eventually, but soggy dirt turned into slippery ice that turned into deep snow. This trail follows Fall Creek, where you’ll encounter some waterfalls (one of my favorite things about Oregon is that there is no lack of waterfalls). It’s a fairly mellow/moderate hike, with only a few switchbacks towards the very end. On the last stretch you’ll be required to jump a few rocks across some streaming water. Once you reach Green Lakes, you will have stunning views of Broken Top and South Sister.

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I found this hike to be entrancing, especially in the snow. Since the snow was fairly fresh and other trails weren’t well identified (and I was also only wearing trail running shoes), I decided to make this an out-and-back hike and return the way I came from.

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Green Lakes
Entrance: Green Lakes Trailhead
Directions: Heading from Bend, you’ll drive on the Cascade Lakes Scenic Byway for 23.5 miles. Keep an eye out for the signage on your left and the parking lot/trailhead on your right. It is 0.6 miles past Sparks Lake, so be prepared as you’re driving.
Miles: 9.3 mi (Green Lakes via Fall Creek out-and-back) or 12 miles (Green Lakes to Soda Creek Trail)

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The landscape of the Oregon Coast is one of my favorites, with the rocky forest that meets the sea. It remains comparatively untouched to the California coast–sparsely populated and not impacted by houses brimming the cliffs.

Florence, OR – Immediately west from Eugene. Known for encompassing part of the Oregon Sand Dunes (largest expanse of coastal sand dunes in North America).

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Where we stayed – Carl G. Washburne Memorial State Park. This campground has 7 first-come, first-served sites. Tucked on the east side of Highway 101, our campsite was under the ultimate tree canopy (to the point where we had to watch for falling branches). Even though we were in the center of some campsites, we felt completely secluded (my kind of camping!). 3 tents fit perfectly in this space, and we probably could have fit a few more.

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Where we hiked – Valley Trail to Hobbit Trail/Heceta Head Trail, accessible from the Carl G. Washburne Campground. First you’ll come across Hobbit Trail, that will take you down through a vine canopy to the beach. If you go back and continue on the trail further, you’ll experience sweeping views of the Oregon Coast through towering trees. Around 2 miles you’ll make it to the Heceta Head Lighthouse and Heceta Head Beach. We made this a one-way trek and met the boys who were surfing at Heceta Head Beach.

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Oh hey, it me!

It’s been a long while since I’ve actually written something and haven’t posted a sponsored post. I’ve tried to blog thought about blogging but haven’t been able to nail the words down.

In fact, this was my start way back in July — “Moving to Bend has been nothing short of amazing. Every couple of days (or 30 minutes) I just have to tell Kevin, “I love it here!” Aside from having one of the last standing Blockbuster stores…” That’s right, one of THREE Blockbusters exists in Bend.

It’s been about 4-5 months since we moved, and we couldn’t have lucked out more. Our house is 2 miles from downtown/work, and I’m seriously spoiled. Driving 15 minutes plus seems like SUCH A TREK. Man, if only I could transport back to my Little Italy days commuting 1 hour or more, one-way.

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Right now, it’s 32 degrees and I’m sitting at a local wine bar with Kevin, down the alley from our work, working on a side hustle. We had our first snow in town this past Sunday that actually stuck. I love winter clothes, and feel like it’s easier to dress in layers than San Diego “fall” aka summer clothes.

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We signed up for 30 days of yoga at The Yoga Lab. I also signed up for Orangetheory Fitness (finally opening next week) a couple months ago at the Farmers Market for the “founding fathers rate” on one of those days when I felt “so fat.” I really got back into running, waking up at 6:15am and doing a 5 mile trail loop nearby our house. But then 1.5+ months of forest fires and hazardous air-quality ruined that. I bought a new-used mountain bike and I’ve been bouldering a few times, but other than that, just getting acupuncture and seeing a functional medicine doctor after experiencing excruciating and consistent abdominal pain. After a breath test, stool test and blood test, I’m still waiting to hear the results – SIBO, leaky gut, etc. For the time being I’ve been eating gluten-free, dairy-free and egg-free — so essentially GF and vegan plus meat.

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SO…I have A LOT to catch up on — hikes, camp spots, coastal trips, restaurants, recipes, etc. This blog isn’t dead it — not when I’m still paying for the domain :-P. More to come…

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The air is getting crisp, the leaves are starting to change, and PSL’s are in full abundance. It’s officially fall! To me, there’s nothing better than a warming meal at the end of the day. Especially one that incorporates one of the most symbolic flavors of the season — pumpkin. When Bruegger’s came out with their Pumpkin Cream Cheese, I knew I had to try and work it into a savory dish. The first thing that came to mind was a creamy Pumpkin Pasta, topped with sage to complement the rich flavors. This is the perfect dish to share for any fall parties or pumpkin-themed festivities, and really stands out as unique.

Creamy Pumpkin Cream Cheese & Sage Pasta
INGREDIENTS:
8 oz pasta (penne or other tubed pasta)
1 Tbsp. unsalted butter
1 Tbsp. flour
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 cups 2% milk
1/2 cup unseasoned pumpkin puree
4 oz Bruegger’s pumpkin Cream Cheese
1 Tbsp. chopped fresh sage leaves, divided
1/2 tsp. kosher salt
1/4 tsp. black pepper
1/8 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/8 tsp. ground nutmeg
Pinch ground cayenne pepper
1/2 cup shaved Parmesan cheese, for serving

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DIRECTIONS:

  1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and cook the pasta to al dente, according to package instructions. Reserve 1 cup of the pasta water, drain pasta, and set aside.
  2. Melt the butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Once hot and sizzling, add the flour, then whisk constantly until it turns a golden color and smells nutty.
  3. Add the garlic and cook for 30 seconds. Pour the milk in slowly, constantly whisking to remove any clumps. Increase the heat to medium high, then let cook, stirring constantly, until the sauce bubbles and thickens, about 8 to 10 minutes.
  4. Remove the pan from the heat, then stir in the pumpkin, pumpkin cream cheese, half of the chopped sage leaves, salt, pepper, cinnamon, nutmeg, and cayenne. Continue whisking until the cream cheese melts and you have a smooth, rich sauce. Taste and add additional salt and pepper as desired.
  5. Add the cooked pasta to the pan and gently toss to combine. Thin the pasta with a bit of the reserved pasta water as needed if it seems too thick or sticky. Serve immediately, topped with Parmesan and the remaining sage.

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This is a sponsored post written by me on behalf of Bruegger’s Bagels. All opinions are entirely my own.

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The key to camping is simplicity. And when it comes to packing, less is more. This was especially true this past weekend when Kevin and I kayaked into a camping spot. We knew we’d have limited space to transport all of our goods, so we tried to economize. This included planning our meals in advance and finding meals where we could re-use supplies. We decided to bring Bruegger’s Everything Bagels and Bruegger’s Garden Veggie Cream Cheese. With these ingredients, we were able to make a traditional breakfast with eggs, bacon, and bagels with cream cheese. And for lunch, we made a bagel sandwich with cream cheese and salami. Super easy and minimal, yet completely satisfying! Bagels and cream cheese also make the perfect pre-hike fuel, and the perfect packable lunch.

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For Labor Day weekend we’ll be camping again with friends, and plan to pick up a bundle of bagels and a variety of cream cheeses. Whether you’re camping, or celebrating Labor Day weekend at home with friends, make sure to grab up your bagel bundle, too. Starting August 31st, Bruegger’s is offering $3 off their Big Bagel Bundle (13 freshly-baked bagels and 2 tubs of cream cheese). You can claim your offer by visiting here!

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This is a sponsored post written by me on behalf of Bruegger’s Bagels. All opinions are entirely my own.

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One of my favorite things to do in the summer is to ride bikes to our local farmers market and load up a backpack of all the fresh produce. This includes finding the brightest and sweetest berries that literally pop with sugar. This, to me, defines summer.

Also finding inspiration from the farmers market, Bruegger’s Bagels has created a special limited time Whipped Blueberry Greek Cream Cheese & Greek Yogurt spread that perfectly encompasses the flavors of summer.

I think what makes this French toast casserole so delicious is the freshness of the berries mixed with this unique spread. The addition of yogurt to the cream cheese creates a lighter texture, while also adding 4x the protein and cutting half the fat of regular cream cheese.

This sweet casserole is perfect for a relaxing Sunday brunch or even a weeknight dessert. Allowing for this dish to chill overnight gives it a much appreciated lazy and low-maintenance factor.

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Mixed Berry French Toast Casserole
INGREDIENTS:
1 1lb. (16oz.) day-old loaf of French bread, cut into 1-inch cubes (discard ends)
1/2 cup (4 oz.) Bruegger’s Whipped Blueberry Greek Cream Cheese*, softened
2 cups mixed berries (raspberries and blueberries), divided
6 large eggs
1 1/4 cups whole milk
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/3 cup clover honey
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

Streusel Topping:
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1/3 cup packed dark brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
4 Tablespoons unsalted butter, cold and cubed

DIRECTIONS:

    1. To make the streusel topping: in a medium bowl, combine the flour, brown sugar, and cinnamon together. Cut in the cubed butter with two forks. Set aside in the fridge.
    2. Prepare a 2.5-quart casserole dish with cooking spray.
    3. Place half of the bread cubes in the bottom of the pan.
    4. Drop spoonfuls of the softened cream cheese over the bread and top with half of the mixed berries.
    5. Layer with the remaining bread cubes.
    6. In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, milk, cinnamon, honey, and vanilla.
    7. Pour evenly over bread cubes, pressing down on the bread cubes to ensure they absorb the liquid mixture.
    8. Top evenly with remaining berries. Sprinkle the streusel topping over top.
    9. Cover pan with foil. Allow to chill in refrigerator for an hour or overnight.
    10. When ready to bake, remove French toast from fridge. Preheat oven to 350 F. Bake covered with foil for 30 minutes. Remove the foil and bake for another 25-30 minutes or until bubbling, golden and fluffy.
    11. Remove from oven and allow to cool for 5 minutes. Serve warm with syrup and additional toppings (berries, whipped cream, honey) if desired.

*Cream cheese flavor available only for a limited time.

 

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This is a sponsored post written by me on behalf of Bruegger’s Bagels. All opinions are entirely my own.

IMG_8908For our move to Oregon, Kevin and I sold most of our belongings and caravanned/road-tripped up with only what fit in our 2 cars. Our route included 1 night in Santa Barbara, 2 nights in the Sequoia National Forest, 1 night in Modesto and 1 night in Crater Lake. While in the Sequoia’s, I had the chance to field test both the Katya Top and Kayla Jean from the prAna summer line. Both of these items are made of organic cotton, creating a functional, and eco-friendly product.

IMG_8910 The Katya Top proved to be lightweight and breathable, and didn’t cling to my skin even when I started to break a sweat. While the Kayla Jean was thick and substantial, warding off bugs and any prickly shrubs. Both pieces were perfect for hiking and exploring around the Sequoia National Forest, and I definitely plan to wear both of these to work. I love that prAna creates versatile clothes perfect for indoor and outdoor activities, that are also sustainable, recycled and fair trade certified.

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Suit up for your next adventure at prAna.com. Use promo code “MSS17DA” for 15% off your next purchase, good until July 13th!

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This post is sponsored in partnership with prAna and Mambo Sprouts. However, as always, all thoughts and opinions are my own.

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Big announcement: we are moving! As part of our farewell tour, Kevin’s parents hosted a going away brunch party for us. We thought it would be fun to contribute a DIY bagel bar into the party with a variety of bagels, spreads and toppings. This ended up being a simple yet creative way to serve brunch and hit everyone’s unique taste buds.

DIY Bagel Bar
What you need —
A variety of Bruegger’s Bagels:

  • Muenster Cheese
  • Onion
  • Sesame
  • Jalapeno Cheddar
  • Plain
  • Rosemary Olive Oil
  • Everything
  • Sun-dried Tomato

A variety of Bruegger’s Bagels Spreads:

  • Garden Veggie
  • Whipped Plain
  • Onion with Chive
  • Herb Garlic
  • Jalapeno
  • Plain

Toppings:

  • Smoked Salmon
  • Heirloom Tomatoes
  • Radishes
  • Cucumbers
  • Capers
  • Red Onions
  • Lemon
  • Dill
  • Chives

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Hosting a bagel bar allows for 100% creativity. Feel free to have fun with the flavors! We decided to keep everything savory, but you could also incorporate sweeter flavors with bagels such as cinnamon raisin, cinnamon sugar, etc. with plain or strawberry cream cheese, light honey drizzle and fresh berry toppings.

We incorporated this bagel bar into a larger brunch spread including frittatas, fruit salad and mimosas. It ended up being an easy but great addition to the brunch party!

Bruegger’s Bagels Catering can be ordered online or by calling 1.855.776.0660. See the full menu here!

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This is a sponsored post written by me on behalf of Bruegger’s Bagels. All opinions are entirely my own.

If you’re looking for a different spin on traditional egg salad, then this is your recipe. The unique flavor of Bruegger’s Bagels Cucumber Dill Cream Cheese upgrades this egg salad, and the diced cucumber plays off this flavor infusion while adding some crunch. Make this as a dip for some veggies or bagel crisps (see recipe below) — but do it quickly because the Bruegger’s Bagel Cucumber Dill Cream Cheese is only available for a limited time!

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Cucumber Cool Egg Salad
INGREDIENTS:
6 eggs, hard boiled
4 oz Bruegger’s Cucumber Dill cream cheese*, room temperature
2 Tbsp. mayo
1 tsp. granulated sugar
½ tsp. lemon juice
3 Tbsp. cucumber, peeled and minced
1 tsp Kosher salt, ½ tsp black pepper

DIRECTIONS:

  1. For hard boiled eggs: Place eggs in a medium saucepan. Cover with 1 1/2” of water. Bring to boil, then immediately remove from heat. Cover and let stand for 10 minutes. Transfer eggs to a bowl of ice water to cool.
  2. Once the eggs cooled, peel them and chop them roughly.
  3. In a bowl, combine the cucumber dill cream cheese, mayo, sugar, and lemon juice.
  4. Add the chopped eggs and minced cucumber, and mix well. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  5. Cover and chill for 1 hour or longer.

*Cream cheese flavor available only for a limited time.

Homemade Bruegger’s Bagel crisps
INGREDIENTS:
2 Bruegger’s Bagels
2 Tbsp Olive Oil
Sea salt

DIRECTIONS:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Cut bagels into quarters, and then slice into ¼”-1/2” pieces.
  3. Toss bagel slices with olive oil.
  4. Spread out bagel pieces on a parchment lined baking sheet.
  5. Sprinkle with sea salt.
  6. Bake for 15-20 minutes (depending on how thin and freshly baked your slices/bagels are).
  7. Let cool and place into re-sealable container.

 

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This is a sponsored post written by me on behalf of Bruegger’s Bagels. All opinions are entirely my own.

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Calling all San Diegans. If you’re looking for an inexpensive getaway to somewhere not Southern California, Alaska Airlines offers direct tickets to Monterey for $130 RT in winter/early spring! Jen and I visited late February for a work conference that we extended into a weekend stay. Here are my suggestions for visiting the Monterey Bay Area.

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Where to Stay in Monterey: Jabberwock Inn. This bed and breakfast, located in New Monterey (and only 4 blocks away from Pacific Grove), is named after Lewis Carroll’s Jabberwocky poem from Alice in Wonderland’s Through The Looking Glass novel (I actually had to memorize and recite this poem in 4th Grade). Everything at this Inn is tied to this poem— from the names of the breakfast dishes to the names of the rooms. We stayed in the Tum Tum Tree, which was a quiet little cottage separate from the main house with ocean views, patio hangs, and a pot belly stove fireplace. The sunroom in the main house has expansive windows that look west with ocean views. Every morning you’re prepared breakfast by the innkeepers (it alternates from savory and sweet every other day). And every night, there’s wine and cookies sitting out for you.

Where to Eat in Monterey: Pacific Grove was my family vacation spot growing up, so visiting now makes it very familiar. Red House Cafe is one of my favorite brunch spots. Although we didn’t have a chance to visit there this time, it’s where I developed my “sophisticated” taste buds for marscapone cheese and berry crostinis. You should also stop by the Espresso Bar at Crema, serving up Verve Coffee Roasters espresso and the best baked goods (scones, cheddar biscuits, etc.)!

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Where Else to Go: Unfortunately when we visited, sections of Hwy 1 were closed leading up to Big Sur due to mudslides from the recent big storms. Instead, we drive from Pacific Grove through the scenic 17 Mile Drive, which led us directly to Carmel. When you’re in Carmel, don’t miss walking along the rocky, forested coast. It is probably one of the most peaceful things you could ever do, and you’ll feel like you’re on your own secluded retreat.

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Where to Stay in Carmel: We stayed at Hotel Carmel, formerly the Dolphin Inn, that was recently remodeled into a hipsters hotel paradise. The lobby is decked out with a marble table, indigo dyed pillows and leather butterfly chairs. They also serve a complimentary bagel bar in the mornings.

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Where to Eat in Carmel: Also, don’t miss lunch/dinner at La Bicyclette. This cute French/Italian bistro serves up some of the best salads, pizzas, entrees, rose, etc. We hit this spot twice during our 2 day stay. There are also a ton of wine tasting rooms (like 15+) in Camel, so you’re guaranteed to never go thirsty!

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