D O I N G | an IKEA hack

I bought an IKEA STUVA shelf for Rain’s bedroom, one that was small, simple and white. This shelf has 4 predrilled screw holes under the base of the shelf, allowing you to customize and build with other STUVA series furniture. I chose to customize this shelf with a new set of legs. Well, actually, the legs were salvaged from an old, red painted mid century credenza my neighbor was tossing out. I unscrewed the legs from the credenza knowing I can use them for a future project. Now, 1 year later, I dusted off those red legs to create my own IKEA hack.

NOTE: I’ll eventually sand and paint the legs white, but for now, I kind of enjoy the fun, bright red legs for my little 5 year olds room. I think it suits her well.

D O I N G | in Surry, Va

This weekend we ventured outside the city of Portsmouth and into a more rural area of Southern Virginia, to College Run Farm in Surry county. College Run Farm is a pick-your-own farm that allows customers to the enter the fields and harvest their own crops. We have made it a tradition to visit the farm for a couple seasons now and I’m always impressed with their outstanding farm production. They maintain an ambitious picking schedule, rotating their fields with seasonal fruits and vegetables. From strawberries to pick in May, blueberries in June, sweet corn in July, followed by their last pick-your-own crop of the year, pumpkins and gourds in October.

The farm is run by the founder, Farmer Steve, his wife and their two kids. It’s open daily from late April through October and are closed for winter months. This place is sincerely worth sharing, as it’s given my family many reasons to keep coming back. It’s allowed us to teach our kids more about agriculture in ways we cannot do in the space of our own garden. College Run Farm is not too far from home. It’s about an hour away, but it makes it worth the drive knowing we’re supporting a great place with honest staff, a day filled with adventure and coming back home with freshly picked seasonal crops.

The farm has an impressive corn maze. You can choose to use the map they provide or have a little fun and opt from using it. We chose to take the long route, by running in circles and hitting many dead ends, but after about 20 minutes we pulled through and made it out. The weather was very overcast Saturday, the temperatures were cooler than we planned for, but the running and excitement of the corn maze helped warm things up.

We spent a couple of hours on the farm that day. After the corn maze we headed over to their fields for pumpkin picking. Normally, you could drive your vehicle through the paths between the rows of pumpkins. However, the weather wasn’t favorable from rainfall that morning. The farm includes a few acres of pumpkins and gourds with over 30 different varieties to choose from.  We parked as close as we could to the patch and walked until each of us found a pumpkin to bring home.

After trekking through acres of pumpkins, Rain decided she was most happy with the plain, small, perfectly bright orange, “Neon” pumpkin. Caelen chose one of the large varieties, the “Hercules.” With a little help from their Papa, they cut their pumpkins straight from the vine.

Now, we all knew walking into the pumpkin patch, that whatever cut we’d have to carry back. Though Caelen insisted he was happy with the large pumpkin he wanted, despite it’s weight. He was a champ and carried his Hercules pumpkin all the way back to the car by himself.


K I T C H E N | one pan pasta

From garden to table. I picked every ripe cherry tomato I could find out in the garden today, along with a couple stalks of basil from plants that have grown wild. Which inspired me to try one of those “one pan pasta” meals I’ve read about. I didn’t believe it was as easy as it sounded: an entire meal, made in one pan, under 10 minutes. The closest meal I know how to make, in one pan, under 10 minutes is Ramen Noodles (and that’s not exactly a meal to be bragging about making). But this recipe really is as simple as it’s name.

One Pan Pasta adapted from Food52
12 ounces linguine
4 1/2 cups water
12 ounces cherry tomatoes, halved
2 small onions, thinly sliced (about 1 cup)
4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
10 basil leaves, chiffonade, plus extra for garnish
2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp ground black pepper
parmesan cheese, for serving
METHOD combine first 10 ingredients in a large straight-sided skillet, with the linguine laying flat in the pan. Bring to ingredients a boil over high heat. Boil mixture, turning the pasta frequently with tongs until pasta is al dente and water has nearly evaporated, about 10 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper, garnish with extra basil and serve with parmesan.
NOTE the pasta will result a silky, creamy sauce during the boiling method.

D O I N G | traveling

When my family is traveling, we’re always in a rush. The more time we spend driving, the quicker we can arrive at our destination. We fill up our gas tank and drive as long as it will take us to the next gas station. Within the same stop we stretch our legs, take a bathroom break, and gather our snacks for the next 400 miles. This last road trip, we made the spontaneous decision to explore an exit, “Historic Durham.” I wanted to see more of the places I was traveling through and not just passing by their signs on the interstate. We discovered an abandoned building next to a baseball field. We parked our car and enjoyed our almond butter and jelly sandwiches. Come to find out, there was a little history behind that old abandoned building.


Catsburg Country Store   July 17, 2014

 Catsburg Country Store April 7, 1987

Built in the 1920′s, still functioning in the late 80′s. [1] This part of town is called Catsburg as a tribute to the late Sheriff Belvin, whose nickname was “Cat.” Belvin was an extremely popular sheriff in Durham County who earned his nickname through his ability to sneak up on bootleggers and moonshiners in the 1920s. Little to nothing is known of “Cat” but some say that his knack for finding local stills had much to do with him being a Distiller and wiping out the competition. [2]

photo credit Open Durham courtesy of The Herald-Sun Newspaper

K I T C H E N | camp meals

Over the weekend my family went camping at Mt. Mitchell State Park in North Carolina.  For me, getting outdoors is always a way to break old routines and find a new perspective. And especially when camping, it forces you to leave your luxuries behind and bring only the most important things. I can live without phone service, television, a hot shower, a soft bed, and internet connection. My hardest obstacle was planning camp meals.

I’m accustomed to cooking on a stove top or in the oven. I had to minimize my regular cook times of 30 minutes-1 hour, to preparing an entire meal for a family of 4, in less than 10 minutes. Our meals included non-perishable items, such as McCann’s Irish Oatmeal for breakfast, Ramen for lunch, and Amy’s tomato soup for dinner. I left behind my refrigerated essentials, like butter and cheese, along with my cast iron pans, glass pots, Kitchen Aid, and wooden spoons. But this camping trip has made me realize that it’s not about what’s being cooked or how you cook your meal. It’s about being with family at meal time that makes those home cooked meals feel special. Every variable of our ordinary meal plans changed, except eating with each other. There wasn’t any expensive ingredients, fresh items, or ambitious recipe. Our meals cost less than a quarter to feed each of us and were cooked using a simple canister stove, but felt just as special as a home cooked meal.

Camp Cooking Essentials
• MSR SuperFly canister stove
• MSR IsoPro fuel
• GSI Outdoors tea ketttle
• Bodum Bistro Mug Press
• Klean Kanteen insulated bottle and mug
• GSI Outdoors Pinnacle Dualist cooking + eating solution
• Light My Fire spork

NOTE: this is not a sponsored post. All items posted are my personal favorite items I own, love, and recommend.

A B O U T | day hiking gear

Years ago, when I started finding more interest in the outdoors, I had trouble figuring out what gear was really essential.  It took a few outdoor trips to realize what was necessary and what really isn’t. I also had trouble bringing myself to make the purchases of “hiking gear” because it can be very expensive. But consider it an investment. All my day hiking gear has made my outdoor trips very comfortable, as well as finding use in my day-to-day lifestyle.

NOTE: this is not a sponsored post. All items posted are my personal favorite items I own, love, and recommend.


1. ALITE Hikari Pack

2. nalgene 32oz wide mouth bottle

3. Black Diamond Gizmo Headlamp

4. Burt’s Bees Bug Bite Relief

5. Patagonia Women’s Torrentshell Jacket

6. Teva Original Sandal

1. The ALITE Hikari pack, is very multi-functional. It can be used as a backpack for hiking, biking, or walking in the city. It also converts to a shoulder and tote bag with many pockets to organize your trips essentials.  Not only does it accommodate all your travel needs, but it looks awesome too.  2. The nalgene wide mouth bottle has been my most used item on the list. I use it everyday. It’s easy to toss in your bag or use the cap attachment, with a clip, to hang anywhere. 3.  The Black Diamond Gizmo Headlamp is one of those, “you can’t miss what you never had” things. It’s great for it’s obvious reason, to help see if it gets dark. But It’s been great to use around the house for power outages, working under the house, in the attic, or even play hide and seek with the kids at night.  4. Burt’s Bees bug bite relief stick has been my favorite itch stick for many years. It’s always an essential to pack for hiking trips. When I’m home, I like to keep it in the medicine cabinet to have ready, after those summer evenings playing outside. It’s shaped like chap stick, so it makes it easy to apply and is not wet and sticky like other brands. 5. The Patagonia Women’s Torrentshell Jacket, has been my favorite investment. I purchased this jacket a couple years ago and it’s still as great as it was when it was first purchased. It’s great for day hiking, but I still use it year round on rainy, windy, and snowy days. It’s a great breathable jacket to wear alone or as a waterproof shell over other layers.  6. Teva Original Sandals are an affordable pair of comfortable sandals for hiking, but still functional and fashionable to wear everyday.

K I T C H E N | quick pickles

From garden to table. A freshly picked bunch of dill and a handful (armful) of kirby cucumbers for today’s recipe. For 2 weeks I’ve collected enough kirby cucumbers in my garden to make 4 jars of pickles. My first attempt to make pickles was great, except too salty. My second attempt, I accidentally used the wrong salt (you need pickling salt or I’ve read kosher works too). My third attempt was perfect! I made a fourth jar just to give my recipe another run and I’d say this recipe is locked in, I’m ready to share. This recipe was adapted from my own experience of trial and error, with the perfect blend of vinegar, sweetness, and flavor. The pickles can be ready to eat within a few hours, I prefer to eat them after they are fully brined and chilled overnight.

6 kirby cucumbers
2 cups water
1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
1/2 cup rice vinegar (I used NAKANO – no sodium – no sugar)
2 tbsp sugar
1 tbsp + 1 tsp pickling salt
1 tbsp coriander seeds
1 tbsp pickling spices
1 tsp mustard seed
1 pinch red pepper flakes
4 garlic cloves
1 fresh bunch of dill


METHOD cut and discard top and bottom of all cucumbers. Slice cucumbers lengthwise to desired size. I cut large cucumbers into 1/8 and small cucumbers in 1/4. Place in a shallow pan in an even layer and reserve for pickle brine.

 METHOD place all brine ingredients in a small pot. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer 5 minutes. Pour hot brine in shallow pan, evenly covering cucumbers. Let cool at room temperature before storing. Pickles will last in a sealed container up to a week.

K I T C H E N | ratatouille

From garden to table.  We have been very fortunate this year with our garden, all thanks to a couple of helping hands, good weather, and having the time it takes to maintain. It’s been very exciting, as all the vegetables are steadily growing and we can now provide ourselves with our first complete, home grown meal of the season (with just a few ingredients from the store). A recipe shared from a book I am currently enjoying, the smitten kitchen cookbook.

smitten kitchen ratatouille

1 long, thin eggplant
1 long, thin zucchini
1 long, thin yellow squash
2 red bell peppers
1 small yellow onion
1 cup canned tomato sauce
1 garlic clove, minced
salt (optional)
2 tbsp olive oil
pinch red pepper flakes
1 tbsp thyme
METHOD prepare vegetables: trim ends from the eggplant, zucchini, squash, red pepper and onion, and, slice with a very sharp knife into 1/16 inch thick pieces. Preheat oven to 350°. Spread tomato sauce into a 2-quart baking dish. Stir in onions, garlic, 1 tbsp olive oil, salt, and red pepper flakes. Arrange slices of eggplant, zucchini, yellow squash, and red pepper so that they overlap. Drizzle 1 tbsp olive oil over the vegetables and sprinkle with thyme. Cover dish with foil, bake 45 minutes. Remove foil, and increase oven temperature to 425°, bake 15 more minutes.

RATATOUILLE + CHEESE SUB yields: 4, 6 inch subs. (or 8, 3 inch subs)
cheese (I used provolone)
1 24 inch baguette (or 4, 6 inch sub rolls)

METHOD preheat oven to 425°. Cut baguette into desired size. Split bread, making a top and bottom. Place the cheese on the inside of the top portion of your bread.  Toast 5 – 10 minutes, cheese side up. Assemble sub by carefully sliding a knife under one section of the fanned vegetables of ratatouille, and slide onto the bottom half of the toasted bread. Close each sub with the top half, cut into manageable lengths to eat, and serve.