Fired up and ready to go

We’ve been off the air for a while. 2016 went downhill really, really fast. I always try to step back and have some perspective to truly be thankful for all that I have in my life, but 2016 was a year of trial on my mental capacity to wade through shit. It felt like a continuous line of kicks in the gut. We got the news that we had to move with short notice, long-planned and anxiously awaited trips were cancelled last minute through no fault of our own, apartment-hunting was not fun, and then, of course, the election, which was the final punch in my face.

I gave myself these last 4 months to really wrap my head around it; I can clearly remember going through each of the stages of grief, and I mean that without exaggeration. One thing that I’m so fervently holding onto now, and choose to carry with me from now on, is the extreme feeling of optimism and gratitude that filled the arena at University of New Hampshire where President Barack Obama spoke on November 8th, 2016. It was supposed to be a celebratory speech the night before an historic election. Looking back on it now, everything he said holds true, and even more so now that we see what life is like in our new reality under a racist, aloof, narcissistic wannabe dicktator. (In case it’s not apparent, this is not a partisan blog. I will not apologize if you’re offended.)

And so, I’m getting serious about this; about changing my life, so that I can positively impact my country and the lives of others. Some big changes are coming this year, and I’m hoping to share them with you.

Here are my goals:

  1. Move to a life that is as close to zero-waste as possible. One of my next posts will be on the switches that we’ve already made towards a zero-waste life. The environment is in danger, and even more so now than ever; it might not be much, but having just our one household make this switch means less impact on our planet.
  2. Buy local. We try to do this as much as possible, but we’re getting serious about it now. We have some essentials that we’re purchasing from Amazon to help us in our transition to a zero-waste life, but as of March 1st, we will only be making purchases from small businesses in our local community. Exceptions may include purchases through sites like Etsy or rarely Amazon, but we’re hopeful that we can find everything we need right here.
  3. Get fit. I’m a shell of who I used to be; I’m tired of feeling slow, of not enjoying hikes to their fullest because I’m frustrated with my inability to move as quickly as I used to or running out of breath when I shouldn’t be. I’m hoping that following goals towards #1 will therefore help me eat a little better, as most processed (and unhealthy) food comes in plastic. I’m hoping to share some of my changes (and therefore, hopefully, improvements) with you as I make this move forward.
  4. Be more active in my local community. Since the election, I’ve signed up to be a monthly donor to NRDC and Planned Parenthood Action Fund, and I’ve long been a member of the ACLU and monthly contributor to National Parks Conservation Association (as well as Lucy’s Love Bus). I can’t donate much, but as someone in the nonprofit world, $5-$10 per month of guaranteed cashflow really means SO MUCH to nonprofits. Find one or two who are fighting for causes you care about, and find out what you can do– whether that’s monetarily, if possible, or by volunteering in some way. I try to make time each week to contact my legislators. I’ve signed up to be a Big Sister. I’m determined to make positive changes in the world, and there’s no better place to start than at home.
  5. Practice and prioritize self-care. I’m burnt out. It’s time to re-center, feel whole again, and get my anxiety into check.

These 5 goals are my priorities for 2017, and should carry on beyond that. I’m hoping to make lots of listicles along the way for helpful tips for other people wanting to make similar lifestyle changes in any of these areas. We’re still working towards a tiny house, but more changes this past year have pushed that to the side for a while. Saving is still priority #1, and if we come up with any tips or tricks for that, we’ll be sure to share.

So that’s it, that’s my brain dump of goals. Incoherent, but so is life right now. More specific articles to come 🙂

5 things to keep in mind when planning camping stops on roadtrips

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Wes comes from a roadtrip family. To him, a “day trip” can be to somewhere like, 5 hours away, with still a full day of sightseeing before a drive home… Me? Not so much. But, he LOVES driving, like really loves it, so it works for us. We try to do roadtrips, two weeks long, and camp along the way. These tips are pretty specific to camping roadtrips, but #5 applies to nearly all long-haul roadtrips. These are just a few things that we really didn’t take into account when planning, but definitely could’ve made a huge difference in a) where we stopped, and b) what we packed.

Get plannin’!

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Approaching Guadalupe Mountains National Park

1. Showers

16 days, 101degree heat… TWO showers. That’s the biggest thing most people remember about our 2015 summer roadtrip, because it is a bit shocking. So just go ahead and trust me here- if you’re going the camping route, make sure to check if your campground has shower access! Since we were in the desert (in the summer), most campgrounds didn’t have shower facilities. Some parks will have several campgrounds, and some will have showers and some won’t. A lot times, you can find tips on local places to shower (check TripAdvisor for these sorts of tips); but for this trip, were in the middle of nowhere, so there were no options nearby. We don’t need to shower everyday, but especially if you’ll be covering yourself with sunscreen and bug spray, in addition to sweat… you’ll want the option more often than not. We’ve made it a rule that a shower facility must be planned every 3-4 days during any and all future trips, whether that’s a specifically-planned campground with showers, or even a hotel/AirBnB.

Now, a note: many truck stops will have shower facilities. I have been to some very nice and clean truck stops. I have also been to some terrifyingly disgusting and creepy truck stops. At a pretty decent truck stop this past summer, as I sat stewing in a week’s worth of sludge, I seriously considered whether or not to bite the bullet. Combined with car rides averaging 7 hours, I was cheesy, to say the least. My advice is, do what’s comfortable, and be smart. I’m not saying I’ll never use a truck stop bathroom, but I’m saying that I’ll likely push a little more for mindfulness in planning!

2. Shade/time of year

Shade (or lack thereof) was not something we really thought about when planning this roadtrip through southern Texas in the middle of August. Yeah… not many trees in the desert! And the few campsites at Big Bend that had some sort of covering were claimed by the time we rolled in. So I would suggest being mindful of this—we saw many tarps strung up in creative ways, whether people used their cars, cacti, or even brought their own tall poles to twist into the hard ground… but we were pretty exposed when we were at the campsite. One savior: our hammock. This small Eno hammock fits nicely in our pack, and we strung it up between whatever trees we could so that we had a makeshift nap place at our fingertips. One of the sweetest (and most practical) gifts Wes has ever gotten me, as I always talked about wanting a hammock.

3. Liquor laws

Obviously doesn’t apply to everyone, but something we definitely regretted not thinking of during our travels! We love trying out local beers, and so usually plan on getting some beer to bring to the campsite as we’re getting closer to our destination, to crack open after camp is set up. What we didn’t factor in is that liquor laws vary not only by state, but by county as well. If you’re like us and want to kick back with a cold one after a long day driving or hiking or whatever, look up the local liquor laws at your destination to ensure that’s doable! At Big Bend, you can’t buy alcohol on Sundays -but they have a ton of other weird and random laws to keep in mind. Mammoth Cave is situated in a historically dry county that only recently started to sell. Carlsbad, New Mexico doesn’t sell alcohol, so if you’re camping at nearby Guadalupe Mountains, it’s quite the drive into NM to find anything!

Also a good tip- if you’re into local beer like us, check out any breweries on your route and confirm hours before your trip. Cell service was minimal most of our journey, and even then, some breweries only had hours posted on Google, which proved extremely unreliable. We’ll be double checking everything before we head out this summer! (Related: don’t ever go to Marfa.)

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River Rat Brewery in Columbia, SC (close to Congaree NP)

4. Drinking water

To state the obvious, the desert is a dry place. But it’s important to keep in mind wherever you go: there’s no guarantee that there will be water, or that it’s potable. Make sure to do your research ahead of time, and be conservative in what water you take if there are options to save water! We stopped in Hot Springs, Arkansas before we made our way into the desert for a week. Hot Springs has an abundance of water for free throughout the city at public taps, so we filled everything we had before making our way into Texas. We filled two 5-gallon jugs, our 2-liter pack bladders, and the 10 or so water bottles we had with us. We only had to fill the 2 liter bladders on the last day in the desert.

You’ll also want to ensure that if there is water, that it’s potable. We go to Isle au Haut in Acadia in Maine every year. In 2014, the water from the tap just outside the campground was good to go. In 2015, it was undrinkable. We hadn’t checked ahead to make sure the water would be safe, because we’d assumed it would be fine since we’d been there the year before. But the crazy weather saw a rise in mercury in groundwater, so thankfully we always have tablets in our packs. There are lots of different types of filtration systems or tablets to ensure you can make drinking water out of nearly any water source. This summer, we’re backcountry camping in Isle Royale and Voyageurs, so we’ll need to bring our water with us as well as filtration systems.

5. Time in car and of arrival

Now, this is a crucial piece where Wes and I disagree. To him, a “long day” in the car is anything over 12 hours. Seriously. For me, 7 is a stretch. So decide for yourself and talk with any travel companions about what’s reasonable for you, and how you’ll make it work. For me, we’ll need to plan some sort of stop to stretch our legs. If there isn’t a historic site or brewery along the drive, than I factor in a stop for a real lunch or a scenic walk or SOMETHING. Make sure to download new music or audiobooks, create playlists, or lineup podcasts. We also read a lot of Trivial Pursuit cards to each other. Sometimes, there’s just not much to look at along the way, so finding ways to stay entertained is crucial.

It’s also important to keep in mind your time of arrival- if you’ll be camping and arriving after dark, make sure to have light sources at the ready for easy set up as soon as you pull in (shout out to our headlamps!). We arrived after dark a few times, and the deal was I would make a fire and get dinner started while Wes set up camp.

 

 

A long roadtrip (and especially camping along the way) isn’t for everyone, but it can be ridiculously fun. Keeping these tips in mind will help everything run smoothly!

Needless to say, I think I’ll roadtrip with him again ☺

Ground Turkey and Pepper Skillet

 

So I’ve been trying to jump on board the meal planning train, and it’s actually going really well. I figured I’d do a few posts about things that I’ve done, but I think it’s important to introduce a few things that determine how/when I make the meals.

I only get paid once per month, on the last business day of the month. This was suuuuper annoying when I first started my job, but I’ve gotten really good at planning and budgeting for the most part now. So at the beginning of the month, I buy all my bulk stuff for the month, and make a ton of freezer and crockpot meals. I still end up going grocery shopping once per week for the rest of the month, but for a smaller amount of things.

This month I seriously went all out. I’ll do a post about that next, but the real guiding force for this post is that by the end of a month, before my shopping spree (and paycheck), I’m getting pretty desperate trying to scrape together meals. And with the hectic-ness of life lately, quick is also the way to go.

I usually have one type of protein left at the end of the month- at the end of February, all I had left was ground turkey. I nearly always make this Ground Turkey and Sweet Potato skillet from Primavera Kitchen as my go-to… but, mortifyingly, I had neither sweet potatoes nor mozzarella cheese in the house. Actually, the last bit of mozz cheese ended up in a corner of the fridge and went bad, which led to a pretty funny text that I sent to Wes. He randomly showed me this screenshot without knowing I was writing this, which is really weird and sometimes we freak ourselves out with how we do that kind of thing, but anyways, here it is.

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So, this led to a need to branch out. And, it also led to me sort of developing my first recipe. I ALWAYS wonder “how do these people come up with this” when searching recipes on Pinterest, so it’s great to be in the group of people that actually made something! But of course, I didn’t get any photos during the process, so I’m kicking myself now. Part of the “new blog” learning process, I guess!

So, here’s my “ground turkey and pepper skillet” which is based on One Pot Wonder Stuffed Pepper Skillet from The Wholesome Dish. I thought there were enough major differences to warrant my own recipe. recipe new

If you make this, pleeeaaaase let me know how it goes! And make sure to follow @BLikeBarley on Pinterest, Twitter, and Instagram!

Enjoy!

Building like what?

Breaking down what’s to come

Wow, I’m a liar. To say this year has FLOWN BY is an understatement. So obviously, I have not kept up with posting. So I’ll really try this time…? Yeah, I will. I promise! I’ll make some posts about our trips, what I packed, what we want to bring next time that we did not bring this time, etc. I figure since “third time’s the charm” in getting this thing started, I’ll use this as an introductory post into who we are, and what sort of things you can expect to see from this blog!

Barley: The Man, The Myth, The Legend

First thing’s first: Building Like Barley. Name of the blog, named after a dog. Aka Señor Barlos, Sir Barlington, BAR!, BarButt. To see so much personality in such a small package is truly incredible.

Barley is about 16lbs (he’s put on some winter weight) but thinks he’s closer to 150. Continue reading “Building like what?”

Aaaand here we go (for real this time!)

Soooo things picked up like crazy, and needless to say, I have not been as “on top of this” as I’d originally hoped! Since my last post: Wes and I have moved in to a new apartment together in Kittery, Maine. We had our biggest fundraiser of the year for Lucy’s Love Bus! I went to Israel, had a few more Love Bus events… and all of a sudden, here we are, at the end of May! Whew.

So, I guess first thing’s first: we have an awesome new apartment! It was a total mess for the first month and week we lived here, and then all of a sudden, my mom was coming up North from Baltimore with her friends, and was coming to visit! Mother’s Day weekend was like a whirlwind of trying to pretend like we’d actually had our sh*t together the whole time we lived here. I hung up all the decorations, unpacked and put things away, and we made SEVEN trips to Goodwill and Salvation Army to donate alllll of the things that we didn’t need!

The great thing about our new place is it’s a great size for us– it’s a “one bedroom,” but there isn’t a door, so it’s kind of a studio? But it’s just big enough to be a perfect stepping stone to tiny house living. We’re sharing one dresser and one closet. There’s no pantry, just a few kitchen cabinets that really are incredibly small and also falling apart. The apartment was an addition on the house when it was decided to be separated into apartments, so things are all kind of hodgepodge but pretty “Wes and Jackie” to be perfectly honest!

I was hoping to have photos for this post, but laundry (like life) just got away from us, and everything is a work in progress. June starts tomorrow, and I’m hoping to really try to turn over a new leaf and stick to a plan of posting at least once per week! A few other life changes on my end: I’m attempting to cut out all processed foods. Yikes. But the nice thing is that since I do most of the grocery shopping and all of the cooking for the most part, I’m hoping that with the method of only having “good” things in sight (with a few secret things stashed away for Wes) I’ll be able to control myself! I’m also hoping to work on training with Barley so that by the end of the summer, we’ll be 100% comfortable taking him off leash! He’s nuts, so who knows! (He’s running laps around the apartment at the moment, including underneath the bed. I’m thinking he might be going to daycare tomorrow…)

The hope with weekly posts is to update everyone on super great recipes that I’m doing, and a few DIY attempts I’m making around the apartment! Wes and I have our first trip of the summer to Acadia in 2 weeks, with this trip planned to ride bikes on the carriage roads! I’m aiming to take lots of pics for the blog and be regular about posting, because I’d love to turn this into a great resource for everyone interested in similar things, and also as a tool for reflection when life moves fast and to look back on, y’know, when we’re rich and famous and stuff 🙂

For my first “attempt” at this, before I sign off to focus on the umpteenth time I’m rewatching The Office (Jim just asked Pam out on a date! eeek, get me every time) this weekend was a crazy one, and Saturday started with an early morning jaunt to Portland, Maine (one hour north of us in Kittery, ME) to stop for donuts quickly at Holy Donuts (holy moly, worth the name… LIFE CHANGING) and then over to Allagash Brewing for a limited beer release! SO WORTH IT. We only ended up waiting in line for about half an hour but got there at a perfect time that we were about 70th and so made it for the 120 bottle release! Then, we swooped down to Smuttynose in Hampton, NH (30minutes south of our home) for yet another limited release, and were remarkably about 6th in line! Another great beer…. here’s a pic of the 4 beers together!

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Ok… so this is the second post! Whew, it took forever to do and was kinda lame, but hey, I did it! Practice makes perfect, and expect to hear from me in the next week for an update on how June has started off, and the long-awaited explanation of what the heck this blog means!

And a few questions for all of you as I send this off: do you make a schedule to keep up with posting? Do you use an app/site like hootsuite to make sure everything is scheduled and goes out on time? Any tips to share to keep motivated?

Have a great first week of June… check in with you soon! xo