25 Things I've Learned at 25 (plus where we celebrated, what we did, and what we ate)
Yup, I turned 25! If you're following us on social media, you probably saw some pictures from our Mammoth/ Yosemite trip last month to celebrate. We've been so busy since we got back that I've barely had time to sort through pictures, let alone get together a post or even absorb the fact that somehow another year has gone by already. I'm almost 30! Okay, maybe not almost but it feels like that. 25 is definitely the first birthday that made me feel like I was aging - I'm midway through my twenties? When the hell did that happen? But it was a really great trip and we had a ton of fun and ate way too much good food. And now that I've got time to reflect, I thought I'd share a few things I've learned and hope to learn, and some of the photos and stories from our trip. Let's just dive right in!
We hopped in the car with Maddie early Sunday morning and made our way up to Lake Mary Campground. We sent up camp the first night, hiked around a bit with Maddie to stretch out our legs, and had a DELICIOUS dinner our first night of Beyond Meat meatballs in ariabatta sauce over pasta with a healthy sprinkling of nutritional yeast. My birthday wasn't until the 1st (Tuesday), so we headed to bed early so we could get up and hike the next morning.
On day two, we hiked and ate and hiked and ate and hiked...and ate! Seriously, it was a great day full of exercise, experimenting with fun camp meals in the JetBoil, hanging with the dog, bonding with my guy + spying some of the best views Mammoth Lakes has to offer. We cooked up a few dehydrated meals we had picked up at REI + were not disappointed. I particularly liked the Moroccan Bazaar meal from Made in Nature!
Day three was finally my 25th BIRTHDAY! I woke up to a chilly morning and a sweet snuggle from Alex + Madds. We layered up and hopped in the car first thing to drive into downtown Mammoth Lakes for a visit to our favorite, extremely-vegan-friendly café, Stellar Brew. As you can see in the picture below, we've made quite a few trips down to Stellar Brew over our visits (sometimes you just want food not cooked over a campfire, ya know?) and they some incredible food. Some of our favorites on the menu are the Golden Nectar smoothie (top left), the Ginger Tempeh sandwich with Lemon Tahini spread (top right), and the vegan breakfast burrito stuffed with tempeh & roasted veggies like kale and sweet potato in spinach wrap (bottom left). They also regularly sell vegan + GF baked goods and have CSA in the store. Its a really rad little place and totally captures the feeling of being in Mammoth; totally relaxed and friendly, but also really really good at what they do.
On the day we were driving up it was early and we had been packing late so I was totally scatter-brained when we were leaving. Alex had bought me cupcakes to eat on (or before, whatever) my birthday, but I left them on top of the car and we drove away and didn't notice until about an hour later. So yeah. Graceful, I know. Luckily I called Stellar Brew on our drive up and after explaining what happened, they offered to prepare a dozen vegan, GF chocolate cupcakes for me + Alex to eat and celebrate with. Which was amazing not only because it was SUPER short notice, but also because they definitely didn't overcharge us and they were quite delicious cupcakes. It really made my whole birthday feel like a birthday, so a HUGE thank you to them for saving the day! You can check out the cupcakes and my thankful/ excited-to-pig-out-face below.
After that, we drove up to Yosemite National Park, about an hour drive, and spent the day exploring streams, beaches, lakes, forests, meadows, the almost completely diminished Bridal Veil Falls, the bridges carved into the mountains over Yosemite Valley, the world famous Ahwahnee Hotel, and the the views to over Half Dome. We also saw a baby bear our exploring in the wild! We didn't see his mama, so we kept moving, but we did get a quick picture of the little guy!
After spending most of the day driving and hanging our in Yosemite we headed back to camp to snack on a cupcake and change into some warmer layers for an evening hike. It was my birthday and I wanted to soak up every bit of the day as possible! And Alex + Maddie were very obliging. We took the short hike up to McCleod Lake, which is mayyyybe my favorite place in California, and walked around the lake, letting Maddie play and snapping photos. It was a really fantastic way to finish up my birthday. The sun was setting just as we hiked back so were watching for emerging bears on the hike back but didn't see any activity besides ourselves. We had a really great dinner of rice, beans, and veggies prepared in the JetBoil with a side of Food Should Taste Good's blue corn tortilla chips. More cupcakes for dessert!
On our last morning we woke up early, packed up camp, and started the 5 hour drive back down the 395 for home. We stopped at a really great little juice shop in Bishop called Eastside Juice for acai bowls with lots of fruit + chia seeds. They were SO GOOD and the whole place was just such a great find. They had plenty of raw, vegan + GF homemade or locally-made snacks for sale and a bunch od cute t-shirts featuring slogans related to completing the challenging 220 mile John Muir Trail that ends after summiting nearby Mt. Whitney. Alex and I are hoping to do the JMT next year and would LOVE to stop here for our first real meal back! After hearing it was my birthday the day before, they even generously gifted us a piece of REALLY good raw cheesecake for the road. It was the perfect end to a great birthday weekend! So what have I learned now that I'm 25 and wiser than ever? You'll just have to keep scrolling for that!
Okay, I've given a bit of thought 'cause 25 feels like a big year for me. I got a COOKBOOK DEAL this year! Its exciting. Here are 25 things I've learned after 25 years of fumbling through life:
1. You really are in charge of your destiny. Work your ass off for what you want.
2. Never count on or hope for handouts - you and your work ethic are better off without them.
3. But don't be afraid to take help when you need it. And ask before you get to the breakdown-and-cry-from-stress stage, because you'll be way less embarrassed asking for help when you don't have mascara streaming down your cheeks.
4. Crying isn't a weakness, but respect yourself enough to know when it is a waste of time.
5. Everyone in your life that sucks is optional.
6. Don't be afraid to say NO. Also, don't be afraid to say YES. Whatever the answer is, it needs to be right for YOU.
7. Happiness is the ultimate goal. But to borrow a line from Christopher McCandless, 'Happiness only real when shared' - so don't be afraid to be happy with someone, too.
8. Try anything you want, you're the only one that cares if you fail or look stupid doing it.
9. Don't do things to impress other people, its a really great way to start hating who you've become.
10. Love your body and learn to appreciate each part of it. We all hate our thighs sometimes, so why stress about it? Confidence will affect your appearance more than changing the way it looks.
11. Treat other people the way you want to be treated, even if they don't always deserve it.
12. Be a good role model for kids and be nice to animals. That's just common sense.
13. Your body, your diet, your happiness: don't worry about other people judging what you eat. Having a good relationship with food can be hard, but really all that matters is how it makes YOU feel.
14. Fuck that boy in high school who slept with your frenemy. The second you leave high school and start to exist in the real world, you realize that you can choose to be around way better people than that and that real relationships should never involve being treated so disrespectfully.
15. Work your ass off in real life so you can go to your high school reunion and just be a straight up badass.
16. If you travel, do what the locals do. You'll have a way better experience not being a tourist.
17. Eat good food, and always try new food. Let other peoples recipes inspire you to create dishes you'll LOVE eating.
18. When you find someone who gets you - like just really gets you- let them know. And then spend as much time with them as you can.
19. People always say they wish they'd started saving younger. I'm 25 now and barely have a savings. I wish I'd started younger, too. SAVE!
20. But also spend money on travel. Life experience in priceless and will make you a better person.
21. Respect other people cultures, views, opinions, and rights. No one deserves any less.
22. Stop giving a fuck about things that don't matter. Let the small stuff slide and don't do anything you don't wanna do.
23. Someday you'll realize your parents aren't perfect, and they're just sometimes crappy human beings like the rest of us. Don't fault them for that.
24. Maintain relationships you appreciate, and don't bother with the ones that feel like work. True friends are hard to come by and well worth investing in.
25. Just do you. Be who you want to be, love who you want to love, and make yourself as ridiculously happy as you can, 'cause thats really all there is.
That's all the wisdom I've got. At least until 26. Thanks for recapping my birthday with me! If you're over 25- you probably know all this stuff already. If you're NOT, trust me. Alright, I've gotta get back in the kitchen. I have a cookbook to work on!
1. ENO Doubleneck Hammock + Straps We bought our ENO hammock at REI after seeing it advertised a few times. We were super curious and love to snuggle so it seemed like it would be a nice addition to our camping gear. Priced at about $70 for the Doubleneck - or 2 person - hammock, we figured it was worth it. We also bought the ENO brand attachment straps for the hammock so we could still string it up in areas with few trees or hanging spots. We first used our hammock on our Big Sur camping trip 4th of July weekend (above), and we've been hooked on it ever since! We even brought it with us on our most recent trip to Maine and I didn't think my younger sister was going to let us have it back. She loved it! It is made out a parachute-type material and spreads to fit two bottoms or two people laying down side by side. It was a great way to catch a breeze on top of the mountain we were on and a nice way to unwind and watch the sunset after a long day of hiking. The best part? The whole hammock folds up into that attached bag shown at the center of my back in the picture above, which is only about 4x6 inches. Seriously- best camping purchase we've ever made!
2. Jet Boil Flash Cooking System
This system has changed the way we camp. Before we were always concerned about having a fire ring so we could cook, but now we can dispersed camp anywhere we want and always have hot meals on-the-go! We're thinking about hiking the 220 mile JMT next year and owning a Jet Boil is an absolute must. We've made oatmeal, pasta, pho soup, and even just boiled water for hot drinks and to do dishes with. The setup is easy and about 2 cups of water is boiling in less than a minute. Plus, if you're into attachments (Alex is), Jet Boil offers a ton of other cool things like portable pots + pans, a stability system, canister cozies, and a range of other cooking attachments. If you spend a lot of time outdoors, do yourself a favor and invest in a Jet Boil. The fuel is cheap and it is so, so worth it to have steaming hot chocolate in under 2 minutes after a rainy 9 hour hike. Trust me. You can check them out at JetBoil.com.
3. Squeeze Pod Travel Toiletries
My biggest issue with travel - of ANY kind - is always dealing with the toiletries. Packing them into travel-sized bottles for convenience, only to have them explode or pop open and leak all over everything. So then you start wrapping them in plastic sandwich bags but then you're just left digging the exploded bottle out of the goop it's swimming in. Ick. Enter SQUEEZE PODS! When I was first emailed about these I was skeptical, but as soon as I received the product I realized how genius it really was. The creator was a huge traveler with as much frustration as I have over toiletries, so he aimed to make something better. These little pods come in 9 toiletry types: shampoo, conditioner, body wash, hair gel, lotion, shave cream, hand purifier, facial cleanser + toilet odor eliminator. They are made with pronounceable ingredients you can trust like coconut oil, aloe vera and shea butter and contain NO parabens, phthalates, sulfates, phosphates or other harmful preservatives. All of Squeeze Pod's products are made in the USA, 100% vegan and TSA compliant! They even offer cute kits for 'Girls Getaway Weekend', 'Guys Getaway Weekend', and 'Sleepovers' that contain a bunch of toiletries into an easy-to-share kit. We really loved taking our Squeeze Pod toiletries camping, especially on our super rural Big Sur trip, because we often didn't have access to facilities of any type, so having small, easily dispensed amounts of product became key. Plus, there is so little waste, it's easy to pack in the toiletries and pack out the trash without it being an issue. We're taking our Squeeze Pod's everywhere now, and we want you to be able to, too! Scroll all the way to the bottom for a chance to WIN the kit pictured above! 9 travel-sized, leak-proof toiletries in one TSA-friendly carrying case could be yours. Details below. Good luck! If you don't want to wait, you can check out their full line of products at SqueezePod.com!
4. A Sharp Knife
There is just no better thing you can ever have in life than a really great, sharp knife. I spend a lot of time in the kitchen, and when we're camping it's no different. We like to eat as much fresh food and home-cooked style meals while camping as we can because it's cheaper than buying everything pre-packaged and its way healthier. Don't get me wrong, I am all for some packaged mac n' cheese and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, but there is really only so much that food will do to power you for an 8 mile hike at camp. Start throwing some fresh veggies and fruit into your meal ideas and that knife will come in seriously handy. Plus, if an axe murderer is roaming the woods at night, you got this. We even bought a knife we keep specifically in our camping gear, which you can find here. (pictured above)
5. Vegan Snacks!
On top of meal planning for our trips to conserve space and wasted food, we are always sure to bring plenty of snacks. Between the drive to where we camp (usually about 5ish hours) and the downtime spent at camp, plus packing for hikes and adventuring, we like to bring a variety of goodies - both sweet and savory - to munch. Above is a photo of the haul we took on one trip, but its a pretty good representation of what we normally bring with on smaller trips, too. Lots of granola + power bars, faux jerky, granola, oats, chips, fruit, and PB + J for when you want to feel like a kid again. Oh and of course, S'MORE stuff! Of course you could just bring these S'mores cookies, instead. And if you're like us and go camping year round, be sure to check out the monthly snack boxes from Vegan Cuts + Urthbox! They both offer great deals on fun and creative snacks that get shipped to your door monthly. We always end up with leftover snacks in our box that we toss into our camping tote for trips. It's perfect and always snack sized!
Enter our giveaway below to win 1 loaded Squeeze Pod Travel Toiletries kit with 9 different types of portable, spill-proof toiletries and a cute zippered pouch to carry them in! US entries only please. Winner will be chosen 8/19/15. Good luck!
Camping in Big Sur + Cooking Vegan WITHOUT a Campfire!
[Just a brief warning before we get started: this post is pretty picture-heavy, but I promise they're worth it! Also, I compressed the files but if you have trouble loading the page, try refreshing it. Thanks!]
This 4th of July weekend, Alex, our pup Maddie and I traveled 5 hours north to Big Sur, on the California Coast, to do some camping. Now before we go any further, I'm going to be honest with you: I'm not going to be honest with you. That was confusing. What I mean is that I can't / won't tell you EXACTLY where we camped in this post because there are a few really great secret spots we know of that have remained nearly untouched, even in a state with nearly 39 million people, and frankly, we want to keep them that way. If you REALLY REALLY are itching to go here, I could maybe tell you. If you pinky promise to never litter or start a campfire there and if you send me a super convincing email about what a great environmentalist you are. Seriously. I like this spot too much to let it get trashed by unknowing or unruly campers. Snobby camping etiquette aside, this place was a serious gem. After a 4 hour drive up route 101, one of the most beautiful scenic coastal drives in California, you have to drive an hour up a twisty dirt road to the top of a small mountain (really large hill?) to get to the area we camped in. We found a place where it looked like someone had set up before, then hiked down and up another hill about 500 yards back to get to this primo spot. Lugging the stuff in kind of sucked, but it was so worth it to have our own super secluded, above-the-clouds campsite. Plus, we started our vacation a day before most people so we were lucky enough to have the place almost completely to ourselves until our last day. Also, we had originally planned on a 3 night stay, but the bugs were incessant, our sun burns (being above the protective loud layer and all) were crisp and our poor puppy was chewed alive and sore from hiking so we went home on day 3 instead. Plus, sleeping in your own bed is always a welcome comfort after ANY amount of time sleeping on the ground.
The view from the top of our campsite, looking onto our new favorite purchase: our ENO 2-person hammock. This hammock may be my favorite purchase like...ever. It gave us a comfy place to chill off the ground and under the shade of the trees for most of the day, and was big enough for both of us to comfortably sit inside. We would've loved to have slept there but the bugs were so awful that we couldn't stand it. It provided a lovely view of the clouds and fog that formed in that valley and over the ocean though, and we were happy to have it with us. Below you can see the view in the afternoon, once the fog and clouds had cleared.
Since we arrived in the early afternoon we had eaten breakfast and had a munchie lunch of chips, hummus, and fruit. For dinner, since there no campfires allowed (CA is in a serious drought and as you'll see in the pictures, the land was SO DRY), we brought our Jet Boil. We acquired the JB about a month ago at the REI used gear sale for like $30 (it usually sells for $100ish) and were hesitant that it might not work. On the contrary, after attaching our fuel to the bottom and adding 2 cups of water to the insulated cup, we turned up the heat and literally had boiling water in under a minute. It was awesome. Since we like to camp, we had invested in some just-add-water dehydrated camping meals to test out in the JB so our first night we made up the Santa Fe Black Beans + Rice combo. After added the hot water and resealing the pouch, you wait ten minutes and voila! Dinner was served. We even added a few of our own tortilla chips for crunch, and we enjoyed it WAY more than we thought we would. Definitely pleasantly surprised and would definitely purchase again for camping + backpacking trips.
I way overpacked for our trip (As usual. I have a portion control problem.) but this is what we brought with. Everything was ready-to-eat or a just-add-water type of thing, and we ended up never even opening 2 of the freeze-dried meals, the Daiya mac, the soups or the oatmeal. Being in the sun so much definitely suppressed our appetites, but thats okay. More food for our next trip!
After dinner and a sunset snuggle in the hammock, we (and that adorable sleepy puppy) crawled into the tent for an early night. The next morning gave us a little reprieve from the hot morning heat with a bit of cloud cover. We spent some time in the hammock and then noshed on some cashew yogurt with mango, plums, and granola with a side of chia drink for breakfast. We did bring a small cooler so things like our yogurt and fruit would stay as fresh as possible in the heat and that was a huge help. We also saw our first other campers across the ridge this morning, and realized our complete aloneness was coming to an end so we decided to get out and hike while we could without crowds. After a little yoga-ing to stretch out (warrior pose!) we packed some water and sunscreen and headed out to explore.
It was super dusty and dry on our hike, but well worth the exploration. There were some beautiful vistas and plenty of little shady inlets to stop for water breaks, but after the hike we were dusty, dirty, and exhausted. The temps were in the high 80's and poor Maddie had to be carried the last quarter mile or so home by Alex after her legs started getting super shaky. Poor pup! We all probably drank less water than we should've, but we did our best to recoup through the afternoon. We were pretty pink with sun exposure so we avoided it the rest of the day and camped out in the hammock for the better part of the afternoon.
That night we did another Jet Boil meal, this time heating some Vegetable Phó Broth we found at Whole Foods with black rice ramen noodles. It was quick, easy, and a little boring. I enjoyed it more than Alex but we agreed that next time we would bring some dried mushrooms and maybe some spices to make it a little more interesting. The sunset that evening was gorgeous, as the sun and pastel clouds dipped behind the thick, foggy cloud layer. It felt like we were at the top of the world. The moon wasn't as bright on night 2 either, so we had a seriously gorgeous view of the night sky filled with stars from our hilltop perch. We look a little silly and sunburned, but it was one of my favorite weekends of the summer so far.
The next morning we woke up to a bright blue, cloudless sky- which meant the sun got hot FAST. We were definitely feeling sunned out at this point, so we each ate a granola bar and some fruit and then started packing up our gear. We didn't have much, mostly we broke down the tent and made sure we left no remnants of our visit, then hauled it all back up to the car. We decided to take our time coming back down the California Coast, stopping to enjoy everything that looked interesting (or yummy!) since we had planned on being gone that day anyway. The next few pictures are from stop on the side of the road out of Big Sur and down as we traveled into San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara.
Maddie had never been to the ocean before, and she loved it! Well, kinda. The incoming waves freaked her out a little but she for sure liked splashing around the beach anyway. The drive was lazy and wonderful, and we stopped at least 6 times. For lunch we decided to stop in beautiful Morro Bay at a vegan joint called Shine Café, a small place offering local, organic ingredients, gluten & soy-free options, kombucha on tap, and a menu packed full of goodness. They offered everything from pancakes to soups and salads, jackfruit tacos, sandwiches, and spring rolls. And if liquids are more your style, they also have a full juice bar + offer smoothies and acai bowls, too. Next door to the café is Sunshine Health Foods, the store that started it all. The place is small but packed with fun vegan treats and bulk bin yummies. We loved it. AND we FINALLY found Miyoko's cheeses! We'd tried them them way back at ExpoWest and had been drooling over them since, so when we found both the smoked farmhouse (my favorite flavor) and the double cream chive, I knew I had to get one of each. And while $10 seems like a lot for a product like this, its definitely comparable to other brands and this store was selling them for the same price advertised on Miyoko's website, and of course we didn't have to pay shipping. Score! For lunch at the café we ordered a trio of jackfruit street tacos, and a tempeh reuben that was packed with veggies + a side salad. Alex loved the sandwich, but I preferred the tacos. I could've eaten like 20 of those babies, no question.
After lunch we continued cruising down the coast for home and stopped at The Farm Stead, a great farm that sold their own organic produce off the side of the road. They offered U-Pick for some fruits + veggies too, but we were just too sunburnt to stay outside any longer than necessary. We grabbed some berries, white peaches, and cucumbers, and headed back out to the car. Once out there we realized that attached to the barn was a table-filled area to sit and munch in the shade, plus some super cute animal friends for company. Maddie made friends with the albino donkey, and we munched berries and relaxed in the shade. Oh - also cute, this farm had a little charging station for vehicles. We loved how eco-friendly they were! We'll be camping again next week in Maine and can't wait to find more cozy, underutilized camping spots when we're back in California in August. Get out and explore where you live - there are so many great places to see! Just always remember to remove any trace of you being there so awesome places stay awesome for everyone for a long time. Got any great camping spots? We'd love to hear about them! And we're always looking for new things to cook up in the Jet Boil, so suggestions are most welcome. Thanks for going virtual camping with us!