Goodbye, 2017!

I struggled to recall my favorite moments / memories of 2017. After spending several minutes scrolling through photos and reviewing my calendar, I decided on the highlights from each month. So, without further ado…

January – Hiking at Hurricane Creek park: HurricaneCreek

February – A driver ran a stop sign right in front of me as I was taking my daughter to school. Though there was not enough distance for me to stop, I was able to slow down so that no one was injured. Our insurance company totaled our trusty minivan, and we had to purchase another vehicle. It was a significant event, but I shouldn’t say it was the highlight.

Wood Badge was the highlight for February and March. Karl and I both had two wonderful weekends making new friends and learning more about the scouting program.

March – Hannah turned 18. My baby grew up. Hannah001

April – I ran in a 5K and we took a trip to Blue Springs BlueSprings001

May – We graduated the first one. HBNA

June – Noah enjoyed his first job on staff at summer camp. I snapped this pic as he slept on his way home after the first week. Noah asleep

July – I took my girls to the historic Alabama Theatre to see Steel Magnolias. In this picture you can tell that my nose is still puffy from crying. SteelMagnolias

August – This month was more eventful. I had my wisdom teeth removed. IMG_2027.jpg

I took the girls on a quick get-away to go kayaking on the Hiwasee River. Also, at the end of our float down the river, Abbey and I jumped from the bridge over the river.


September – Nothing. Absolutely nothing. Football season started.

October – I saw my favorite band in concert. DAWES.

Also, I backpacked to Walls of Jericho in a hurricane. The rain started around 10:30pm Saturday night and did not stop. The hike out of the canyon the next morning was windy and wet, to say the least. wallsofjericho2wallsofjericho

November – I met one of my closest friends in Birmingham for a short get-together since she moved away. Margaret Atwood visited Tuscaloosa, and Abbey and I went to hear what she had to say. Bama lost the Iron Bowl. Karl and I went camping together. paynelakecamping

December – It snowed. I thoroughly enjoyed spending time with family during the holiday break. I ended the year the way I began it: with a hike. This time I went to the Sipsey Wilderness. And it rained! But I have to learned not to allow the weather to get in the way of a good walk in the woods. snowWoodsQuad

BordenCreek waterfall

And that’s my 2017.


Review: July 2017 Cairn Box

We were stopped for the night, sitting around our campfire, when I crouched to the ground to blow a little air at the base of our fire. My new backpacking friend, however, whipped out a little something called a Pocket Bellows. It sounds exactly like what it is: a pocket-sized tool one uses to apply oxygen to a fire. I watched as she extended the telescoping wand from 2 to 24 inches, put one end at the base of our fire and the other end to her lips, and blew…while sitting upright. One concentrated breath on the embers, and our fire began to grow.

“What is that?! And where can I get one?!”


Cairn. She was a few months into a Cairn subscription box and couldn’t say enough fun things about it.

After our weekend in the wilderness, I decided to look it up. For almost a year, I read reviews and watched customer unboxings. Finally, in December 2016, I signed up for a subscription. I received my 7th box yesterday; and, I’m still happy with the service.

The main thing I love about my Cairn subscription is that it introduces me to cool camping gadgets/tools, delicious (sometimes) and healthy backpacking meals/snacks, and companies doing good things around the world.


There were four main items in this month’s box: sunglasses, sun screen, peanut butter, and a towel.



Nectar sunglasses35849389066_e70da42612

Lightweight. Polarized. Top-notch UV protection. Metal hinges. Comfortable. Stylish. Each purchase from Nectar helps save the bee population. This pair came with a soft storage bag (maybe it will make them easier to find in my purse). I’ve been wearing them for a couple of days, and they are so much more comfortable than what I had been wearing. Full disclosure: I NEVER spend more than $20 on a pair of sunglasses. I buy a cheap pair; they break; I buy another cheap pair; repeat. So, this pair from Nectar is already a higher quality than I’m accustomed to wearing. They feel great! like them.



Little Buddy’s Nut Butters


One of my all-time favorite snacks is a Ritz cracker topped with peanut butter and raisins. I tore into the Cinnamon Raisin flavor first. I’ll just say this: I’ve already placed an order. Both flavors are SO.GOOD. They also make a chocolate peanut butter flavor, which I’m sure is delicious. Buddy’s sells regular sized jars of peanut butter, but the Little Buddy’s are the perfect size throw in my pack. LOVE THIS ITEM.

Zealios Sun Barrier


This is a sample box of 4 of Zealios’ SPF 45 zinc oxide sunscreen packets. Click the link above to read all about their line of sunscreens and other body care items. The research behind their formula is quite interesting; it certainly explains why I can get a sunburn even though I cover myself with sunscreen. I gave it a test run and found that it is not greasy; it did not run into my eyes when I sweat; it did not irritate my skin; it has a pleasant scent; it is easy to apply. Their products are for athletes and others who are outdoor activity seekers. They have a new customer. 😉

PackTowl Nano

35849170606_f39cfea655On my very first backpacking trip, our group encountered two water crossings on the trail. Being a noob, I packed the “camp towel” sold in the camping section of WalMart. You know, the yellow felt square piece of fabric billed as a super-absorbent towel for camping? I bought that piece of garbage. And when I attempted to dry my feet after crossing the river, all I managed to do was smear yellow bits of fuzz all over my feet. The PackTowl is not like that.

I like that it is lightweight, quick-drying, and packs away to a small size. I really like that the towel can be clipped to the inside of the little pouch which can be clipped to the outside of my pack. Love it.


In addition to the items in the box, Cairn includes exclusive discount codes for subscribers. In this box, I have codes for Rinsekit, Groove Life, and North Drinkware.

Rinsekit- Neat thing, but I don’t foresee myself ever needing one of these. I’ve never been backpacking and thought, “If only I had a waterhose…” It’s backpacking; I want it to be difficult. When we go car camping? YES. But we usually bring our hose from home because we reserve a campsite that has a spigot.

Groove Life – There’s a 80% chance I’ll order a couple of rings as The Husband is joining me more and more when I go adventuring. We’d hate to lose our real rings.

North Drinkware – Super-awesome designs! I can imagine ordering a set of glasses as a gift for someone who has a special place in his/her heart for a specific mountain range, but I don’t know anyone who loves a specific mountain range. I mean, Karl has fond memories of his time in the Colorado Rockies, but he only drinks from Mt. Dew bottles.

So, that’s the box for this month. The total retail value of all the items in the box comes to about $60. I like everything in this month’s box, and I’m sure I will use all of the items. Still worth it to me.

Chasing a Sunset

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Do you every have one of those days when you wake up ready to go on an adventure, but instead you end up sitting in an over-sized chair watching new episodes of Planet Earth all day? David Attenborough telling stories of the plants and animals inhabiting our planet never get old to me.

Today, I found myself a little envious of the photographers who get assigned to exotic locales to capture images of cheetahs chasing down zebras and polar bears climbing cliffs. How many hours did he/she have to sit in a blind in order to catch a few minutes of the leopard hunting the deer? I wondered if I would have the patience to withstand the bugs, discomfort, danger, and inconvenience of being a photographer for the BBC or National Geographic.

Late in the day, I received an email alert from our local library that Abbey needed to return some books. She threw on her shoes, and I grabbed my camera with fresh inspiration from the Planet Earth and my instagram feed (@natgeotravel, @paulnicklen, @CristinaMittermeier, @michaelclarkphoto if you’re interested).

We made our way through the Rod Stewart & Cyndi Lauper concert traffic to the library so that Abbey could drop off her books. Then I high-tailed it to the outskirts of town to the huge sunflower fields which are usually in bloom in July.  To our dismay, we found the petal-less heads of the sunflowers sad and drooping near the end of their lifespan. Not only that, the farmers didn’t dedicate as much land to the flowers this year. It was disappointing all around.

So, with about 20 minutes to spare, I decided to keep driving until I found some open space to photograph the setting sun.



That was fun.


Wow, only two posts published and I’m already at a loss for what to write next.

Perhaps I am struggling to write nowadays because I have read so little. I am embarrassed to admit that I have only read 7 books this year. S-E-V-E-N. 7. I, who once could easily reach her goal of reading 50 books in a year, have struggled to finish 7 in 2016.

The Christmas break is approaching, and I will have two weeks to relax and read. And I actually want to read for a change. Yes, there was a period when the last thing I wanted to do was read a book. But, thankfully, that dark time has passed.

So, please, if you’re reading this, leave a comment with some recommended reading for my holiday break.

Many thanks!

Emma & Josh

A friend called this past week to see if I’d be available to photograph her daughter’s engagement. Well, of course! I love these types of happy events, plus it gave me a good excuse to visit with friends I hadn’t seen in about 13 years. Emma was just in elementary school when our families last hung out together. She’s a junior at UA now and such a beauty, inside and out!

Josh’s plan was to propose at the same place he asked Emma to be his girlfriend a couple of years ago – by the fountain in the engineering quad. So, I found a bush to hide behind and tried not to get in the way until it looked like they were ready for me to interrupt them for some more photos. The University of Alabama is a good place to fall in love, folks.

Click on any image to launch a slideshow.




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