How to Explore Acadia National Park in Two Days

I have been dying to cross Acadia National Park off of my summer bucket list over the past few years. This summer we had a vacation planned in New Hampshire and took the chance to jump on a weekend trip!

Essentials to pack:

  • bikes, kayaks, paddle boards (we only have bikes so we hooked those up to our car)
  • rain coat
  • hiking boots
  • hiking pack with water sack
  • bathing suit
  • bug spray

Acadia is the first National Park I’ve ever visited! Alike to most trips I like to do my research. Unfortunately,  I found there was not much available as I was combing the internet for blogs with reviews. I did stumble upon one blog that was very useful, Musings of a Rover, with detailed information about the park!

Quick note: One cool app I found as a reference from a friend was the REI National Park App 

After the long car ride we had a general list of things to accomplish but no real game plan. Essentially, we tackled Acadia National Park by winging it and it actually worked out!

First things first, before you go over the bridge onto the Island you need to stop at the  information center, Thompson Island Information Center, on the right of the road where you can get a free map of Acadia(you will need this) and a weekly Almanac guide to Acadia with tide times and sunrise and sunset times – grab those too. Then buy your park pass here for $30 for your car – it pays for everyone in the car. If you are planning to bike ride – print out a separate Carriage Road Map before the vacation.

[Thompson Island Information Center: Hours open May 16 to Oct 12 are 8:30am to 5pm  Address: 1319 Bar Harbor Rd, Bar Harbor, ME 04609]

Map of Acadia National Park for ReferenceScreen Shot 2018-07-25 at 10.03.25 AM.png

Number one on your list should be to drive the Park Loop Road. This road is amazing because most of the major attractions are along the ride.

Note: the top half of the park loop is a two-way street and the bottom half is a one-way street so you will need to drive clockwise around the loop. We drove counterclockwise and got lost for a bit. It wasn’t the end of the world but it would have been easier if we had this information to start.

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We started our journey around the island around 1:30 pm by driving up Cadillac Mountain. It was full of switch backs and beautiful overlooks. When we arrived at the top there was a large parking lot fulls of cars and people. This is definitely a tourist spot but the view was spectacular. We stayed for no more than ten minutes and then decided to head back down the mountain.

Note: you can hike up the mountain separately & many decide to view the sunrise/sunset here.

Next we headed towards Jordan Pond – do not do this! Turn around and drive the opposite direction because you are driving counterclockwise around the loop.

I wanted to try the famous popovers at Jordans Pond Restaurant for lunch but the parking lot was packed. We had to wait ten minutes just to drive through it! When we eventually arrived back at the road we decided to skip this lunch spot and continue driving.

We ended up at Seal Harbor. This was a beautiful surprise….. once we realized where we were! We found parking was easy on the street and we were quickly able to bike around and explore the harbor at low tide. This harbor was a quiet, family friendly beach spot worth the extra couple of minutes of driving (this is not technically part of the park). After about thirty minutes of venturing we headed back out on the park loop.

At this point our time had been crunched. On our way back around the loop we stopped in Bar Harbor. We quickly dropped off our things where we were staying at The Central House. We were a little nervous as we were early for check-in but the owner didn’t mind at all and let us right up to our room!

The rooms were better than we had anticipated for the price and the location was the perfect spot to walk around the harbor.

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Note: I had read in a magazine and other blogs to stay in some of the lesser known harbors on the island because of overcrowding in Bar Harbor but I totally disagree! This is the perfect spot! There are endless side streets to choose from to explore. I felt like we could have spent an entire week here. At the same time it was nice because it was equally quiet due to the islands vegetation. The spot is a must stay, sorry not sorry.

A little past three pm we headed out to accomplish our hike. We had decided upon the Gorham Mountain Trail. We parked on the road by Sand Beach and headed towards the Beehive Trail head. Gorham Mountain Trail is tricky because it technically starts at the Beehive Trail head (so you could essentially do both). Honestly, we had some extra time at the end of our hike and I chickened out on the Beehive Trail. I regretted this choice later on as we talked with one of the locals at dinner about the trail. He said the Beehive Trail is fine as long as you are sure-footed and take your time. Note: Some trails are periodically closed during the year due to falcon nesting because they can attack people at speeds of 140 miles per hour.

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Gorham Mountain gave us magnificent views all the same and only fell slightly shorter in height than the Beehive trail. It boasted the beautiful Maine coastline, wild blueberries, cairns, and a spectacular view of Sand Beach. The best part was that compared to the Beehive Trail there was saw very few people.

As we descended the mountain we decided we would check out Sand Beach. We had heard that the beach is typically jam-packed with people but were curious. The beach was actually the exact opposite. To our surprise when we arrived it was mostly empty. Walking off the trail onto the beach it felt like I was in a dream. This is the type of beach you see in the movies but don’t actually believe exists. If I had a week to spend in Acadia I would have spent an entire day here!

As the night was coming to a close we decided to cruise around the rest of the park loop. There are so many spots to pull over and walk around on the rocks! However, due to our time constraints we just enjoyed the ride and made our last stop at the Otter Cliffs before dinner.

 

As we finished the loop and made our way around back to Jordans Pond Restaurant. This time we were pleasantly surprised to see an empty parking lot. We were seated right away and enjoyed the popovers with the quiet of the pond looming in the background. The popovers were like nothing I’ve ever tasted. They tasted like a mash up of a croissant, eggs, and crepes. They were delicious! After dinner we took a walk around the pond too. The pond is as magnificent as the pictures, definitely one of the highlights of the weekend.

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After dinner we headed back to get drinks at Bar Harbor. There were so many cute places to stop to grab a beer and dessert. I can’t say this enough but we really enjoyed the nightlife here.

In the morning we walked to Thrive Market for breakfast. Kevin thought smoothie bowls might balance out our beer intake from the night before, lol. I of course loved all of the superfood ingredients and the presentation of the food!

After a nutritious breakfast we headed out to the Carriage Roads. We typically take our bikes on every vacation therefore this was the perfect excursion for us. We followed the Musings of a Rover  Aunt Betty Pond Loop. We ended up getting lost at first. because we didn’t have a map of the carriage roads, but we eventually found our way. We saw “Rockefeller’s teeth” and a grouse flew right above us at one point. The hills were challenging at times but it was a very leisure ride overall.

 

With only a couple of hours left to spare we headed to our last stop at Bass Harbor Head Lighthouse. The drive through the rest of Acadia was serene. The smaller harbors were quaint but much smaller than Bar Harbor. The lighthouse was majestic but alike to Cadillac Mountain it was very touristy. You definitely won’t be there by yourself. That aside we saw some crabs and sea life that were neat. As a last stop this was definitely fitting.

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Before we headed to New Hampshire we grabbed lunch at Seafood Ketch in Bass Harbor. This harbor was really cute! However, at low tide the smell of fish was so intense that I left extremely nauseated. This was a real bummer but the food was great.

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So that was our weekend trip! I hope you enjoyed it. If you have any cool experiences to share from your trip Acadia Trip – share below!

 

An Introduction to Solid Foods

“When should I start solid foods?”

While it’s a seemingly simple question it ends up with a wide variety of answers and how-to’s. Here is a short guide of why, when, and how to start your baby on solid foods.

How do I know when my child is ready?

Around 6 months your child will develop the skills to be able to eat, swallow, and absorb pureed foods. This is based on research of how the gastrointestinal tract of infants develops and what’s best for their short term and long term health. Organizations who support this are: The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, World Health Organization, American Academy of Pediatrics, American Academy of Family Physicians, and the list goes on. (If you’d like more details on the health benefits scroll to the bottom of the page)

Signs to look for around 6 months 

  • Your baby can sit up well without support
  • Your baby has interest in foods
  • Your baby brings hands and toys to their mouth for exploration
  • Your baby no longer has a protrusion reflex

Protrusion Reflex: also known as the tongue-thrust reflex, your babies innate choking reflex, is when your baby pushes its tongue out as anything comes into the mouth or pushes on the tongue

How to start foods (6-8 months)

  • Small spoon and bowl (never put food in the bottle)
  • Start small, 1-2 tablespoons at a time (their stomachs are only the size of an egg)
  • Introduction of new foods every 1-2 days 
    • It’s recommended to start a variety of foods from 6 months on to reduce the risk of allergies.
    • Acidic foods like, berries, tomatoes, citrus fruits, and some vegetables may cause a rash around the mouth or buttocks that goes away relatively quickly. This is not an allergic reaction just a common irritation from the acidity.
  • Texture to start should be pureed
    • Gradual introduction to textures increases neck and swallowing strength from 6-8 months to reduce the risk of choking
    • Gradually transition over two months from pureed -> mashed -> lumpy -> soft finger foods
  • Foods to start are pureed meats, beans, vegetables, fruits, baby cereals, whole milk yogurt (click the link to go my favorite handouts and books from Nutrition Matters) 
    • If you are fully breastfeeding having cereal, meats, and beans are important because they are the only food sources your baby will have that include a quality source of iron.
    • Most people start with cereal as a first food but the order of first foods doesn’t necessarily matter. As a rule of thumb I recommend vegetables before fruits because your baby’s taste buds will be primed and ready for anything sweet.

Feeding From 8-12 Months 

  • Remember, breast milk and formula should still be the main source of nutrition until age 1 to support healthy brain and central nervous system development. Your baby should have 24-32 ounces a day or breastfeed every 4-5 hours.
  • Your baby may still have pureed foods but soft, chopped up table foods with established mealtimes should now become the main routine.
  • If you haven’t already, introduce the sippy cup and cup. I recommend 360 cups as they have a lip on the cup, which supports the strengthening of the cheek muscles needed to speak, and are better for your child’s teeth. They are also relatively spill proof, which is good for mom too.
  • Introduce finger foods (crackers, bread, cereal, cooked pasta)
  • No added honey – this food that may cause food borne illness in your baby
  • Yogurt melts and infant puffs are non-essential foods. They are relatively new on the market and should not replace whole foods as they provide little nutritional benefit and no variety in texture.
  • Skip the salt, juice, water, whole milk, cookies or goodies (while they won’t hurt your baby they just aren’t nutritionally needed at this age)
  • Avoid hard foods or round foods that your child may choke on

 

Health Benefits of Waiting to Start Foods Until Around 6 Months of Age 

  • Your baby will be physiologically able to swallow and chew pureed foods without the fear of choking.
  • Your baby will be better protected from illness. The greatest immunity benefits come from exclusive breastfeeding. This is because exclusive breastfeeding promotes the development of “good” bacteria within the gut.
  • Your babies gut will have the time it needs to mature. Your baby is building its digestive system as it grows. Before 6 months your babies gut is “open” and allows for the passing of pathogens and macromolecules directly into the bloodstream. This is beneficial when its just breast milk but can be harmful when other foods and bacteria are introduced. Introducing foods early can also cause spit up, upset stomach, gas, diarrhea, and constipation.

 

 

Tackling Tofu

So I am getting married in June and I’ve been really trying to choose healthier options at every meal. I’ve found that trying new things has really helped keep me going and I’ve tried to branch out and try more vegetarian options. One food in particular that I have been curious about but have never tried to make at home has been tofu. I also have wanted to try it since I work at WIC and we give out tofu as a substitute option for milk so I should know some ways to cook it.

The jury is still out whether I feel confident about with cooking with tofu. I personally feel like I might benefit from taking a cooking class with it. That being said for just googling recipes they haven’t been all that bad but not something I would keep in rotation yet. One thing I did learn is that tofu is very bland and takes more seasoning than normal to make taste good in comparison to cooking meats. You will definitely want to pick out spices and flavors with a punch of flavor.

What I made:

Baked TofuScreen Shot 2018-04-27 at 12.33.43 PMI love tofu in salad I get at a local restaurant. I wanted to recreate this so I found a recipe through another dietitian Sharon Palmer that I follow on Instagram. Her website is sharonpalmer.com. She has tons of good stuff on there. The tofu came out baked and edible but it didn’t have the pop up flavor or the crunch I loved from the local restaurant.


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Tofu Scramble. This is how I typically recommend to try to use tofu at work for as a substitute for eggs. I just googled tofu scramble and I found a blog called the Minimalist Baker. It’s a very cute blog with recipes and beautiful pictures. I used the Southwest Tofu Scramble recipe. It was good and hearty but I still prefer the taste of eggs.

 

What would I still like to try to make? A Chipotle sofrita copycat recipe. I found one on a blog called a Pinch of Yum that I may be trying soon.

Please share any easy ideas to use tofu and recipes you love below!

 

 

 

 

Lazy Girl Meal Planning 101

Meal planning recently has become a new healthy habit that I can check off of my list. I never really thought I needed it because I had budgeting tools and tricks I learned from school and work. However, all of the sudden it felt like Kevin and I started to get sick of our normal routine of meals and this sprouted up organically.

The reason I am sharing some of the tools we use weekly is because I always thought meal planning was mundane and too time consuming and I really wanted to show a meal planning process that is realistic and easy to use.

Here are a couple of things to know before you fill in the Meal Planning Sheet:

  1. Count how many times you normally cook a week, not how many times you’d like to. This is essential! We cook 3-4 nights out of the week due to our busy schedules and eating out once per week for dinner. So we plan for four dinners.
  2. Just meal plan for dinner. Most people have their breakfast and lunch routines down or can mix it up relatively simply without any planning at all.
  3. Write down your leftovers. They are so important. They help you reduce your waste by using up what you have first and save you from avoiding buying duplicate foods at the store.
  4. Aim for each meal to include a protein, fruit or vegetable, and whole grain.
  5. Have the recipes ready. We have a recipe section under our bookmarks tab on our laptop and save it so both of us have access to the recipe.

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How do we actually meal plan?

First, we have a notepad on the fridge and when we run out of a staples like butter, frozen fruit, coffee or any food that we don’t typically need to buy weekly we write it down.

Second, we go over what meats, fruits, or vegetables we have as leftovers. Write these down in the leftover section.

Third, we Pinterest, Google, or think of recipes we know that could use up the leftovers. Put those meals down first.

Fourth, figure out new meals you will need to make from scratch. Cue in more Pinteresting or frantically searching through recipe books for inspiration for something else to cook this week.

Fifth, after you have the recipes write down only the ingredients you need to buy on the Ingredients section.

Sixth, add the foods from the first step to the Ingredients list.

Now take that paper to grocery store to shop. Then take it home and stick it on the fridge for the week.

What do I leave out of meal planning?

  • Having rigidity of what days to have what meals. This is the time consuming part of meal planning that I just skip because you don’t need it. Everyones appetite ebbs and flows. I like having the freedom to decide on that day, what meal I’d like to make.
  • I do not include staples we buy weekly on the ingredients list like eggs, milk, juice, etc.. Writing these down are a waste of time and unnecessary as most of us go on autopilot and just grab and go in those sections of the grocery store.

How long does this take us?

Literally, ten minutes or less. This is so easy that Kevin does this even when I am not home…..

Is this cost efficient?

At first I honestly did not think I was going to save any money. In my head I already knew all the tips and tricks about grocery shopping…. I was dead wrong. Kevin and I typically spend $70-100 a week for groceries for the two of us to eat a very healthy diet. When we meal plan we notice that we have less food waste at the end of the week and we spend closer to the lower end usually $70-80 a week! That saves us $80-120 dollars a month with minimal effort. Not to shabby.

I hope you love this easy guide to meal planning. Let me know any tips or tricks you use at home that saves you money at the grocery store!

 

 

Our Vacation to Charleston South Carolina

This February we were lucky enough to get to visit my future brother in law while he was snow birding down in Charleston, South Carolina. We had the most beautiful weather for the time of year and were able to explore all of Charleston’s southern charm and food.

We stayed at a friends home on Johns Island which was a beautiful spot on the river off of the ocean. We were able to explore the channel via kayak and paddle board. The homes were breath taking and the docks were full of character.

 

The first day we went to breakfast at Sunrise Bistro. It was a cute little breakfast joint with exquisite food. I ordered the smoked salmon bagel and Kevin ordered a grits scramble. I did not get to take a photo but the dishes delicious and presented beautifully. I had never had grits before so this was a first! The kind waitress even took the time to explain how they made their grits. I learned that grits are ground corn that make a porridge. The corn creates a starchy base and heavy flavor that can be easily swapped out for potatoes at breakfast. I loved the texture and hearty taste overall. The texture and heaviness reminded me of “Cream of Wheat” which is one of my breakfast staples already.

IMG_7702After breakfast we went to James Island County Park to bike and rock climb. The park had paved pathways and dock you could walk out on about 100 feet. There we saw many little crabs in the sand and laughed every time they saw our shadows and hid into their little holes. After a little biking we adventured into the outdoor wall rock climbing area. It was so much fun but of course I did get slightly hurt. Word to the wise don’t push off too hard at the top because you’ll come back at the wall just as hard. Either way its quite the workout.

That night we went on a Valentines Date to Frothy Beard and enjoyed some home IMG_7722brewed beers and pizza. They had some funky beers to try that we loved and a unique atmosphere. There was also a trivia night that we thoroughly enjoyed coming in last at. We blamed it on the brews…

The next day we got an early start and hit up a new drive through breakfast joint called Southern Brews Coffee. I got the Chai Tea Latte with almond milk and it was amazing! Then we headed off to do some dog training on an old plantation that had been converted into a hunting field.

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It was a gorgeous day out and we were able to soak in some sunlight and ride the four wheeler around the plantation. It was so much fun! We also got to check out a plantation just up the road from this one and it looked like it was taken straight from a scene in a movie. Just driving down the streets on Johns Island was quite breath taking as the trees arch over the street form a canopy above you.

The rest of the day we went to SEWE the Southeastern Wildlife Exposition  on the IMG_8092Charleston harbor. We got to drive around downtown and we were able to see the historic section of Charleston and learn about The Battery. If we had had an extra day in Charleston we would have liked to rent a boat and travel around the harbor or visit Fort Sumter where the American Civil War began.  Nevertheless SEWE was a blast and we had the opportunity to chat with so many other gun dog owners and meet other gun dogs like Birdie.

That night we celebrated Kevin’s brother’s birthday at a local brewery that is unique because it allows dogs and has a nightly rotating food truck. We relaxed for the rest of the evening at Low Tide Brewery and enjoyed some IPA’s in combination with homemade wood fired pizzas.

On our last day in Charleston we wanted to explore the beach. We had heard that Folly Beach was amazing but that day happened to be “Folly Gra” so the beach unfortunately was packed with people so we impromptu changed our plans. Besides Folly Beach we found there were plenty of other beach options around Charleston to explore and it was hard to chose between all of them. We ended up choosing to go to Kiawah Island for the morning.

The beach was amazing! While we couldn’t swim (little kids were but not us – too chilly) we could bike the beach. The beach is so flat at low tide and sand is hard enough that even my road bike did not have an issue biking! The beach went on for miles too so we

didn’t even come close to exploring it all. There was so much room on the beach that even though there were people you never really ran into anyone. It also would be a great place to run in the morning if you are a runner!

IMG_7767After we hit up a little seafood joint called Lokals Seabar and I got fresh shrimp tacos by their local marina. The only downside we found to Kiawah Island was that you couldn’t explore the whole island as it’s a gated community so our adventure ended here.

On the last night there we were treated to a Low-County Southern Boil. The Low Country Boil IMG_7847is a one pot wonder where they seamlessly combine water, shrimp, sausage, potatoes, corn, onions, and wide variety of added spices and flavors to your personal liking. It cooked down for a couple of hours and we finally enjoyed it while sharing stories in lawn chairs surrounding a small bonfire. It could not have been a more fitting end to our trip. With new flavors and friends it was a trip to remember.

 

Feel free to share below any of your favorite southern dishes or recipes!

 

 

DIY Starbucks Shaken Iced Tea

In college I was first introduced to Starbucks and fell in love with many of their non-coffee drinks. I remember budgeting $20/wk for this just to survive those long nights of studying. When I moved back home there was no Starbucks and I was bummed out that I couldn’t find the drinks that I loved so much. A couple of months after college I found that Starbucks sold their teas in tea bags at Wegmans for only $3. Needless to say now a couple years later I regularly make my favorite drink the “Shaken Iced Tea Lemonade” for a quarter of the price I paid before.

What do you need to buy upfront?

2 Quart Glass Pitcher (Target) $6.00

1 Liter Electric Tea Kettle (we got ours at Marshalls) $10.00

1 12-16 ounce Clear Glass Tumbler with Straw (got mine at Five Below) $3.00

1 Box of Tazo Tea, Iced Passion or Green (includes 6 steeping bags that make 64 ounces) $3.00

32 ounces of Water or Lemonade $0-4

Torani cane sugar syrup $5.00

Total upfront cost: $27.00 made with water or $39.00 made with lemonade

(lemonade is usually sold in 64 ounce containers so you would need 3 bottles of lemonade total to prepare all tea bags following the recipe below)

How to make:

At night fill electric kettle to 1 liter with water and heat water. Pour hot water into 2 quart glass jar and throw in 1 tea bag and let steep for 5 minutes. Pull out tea bag and fill remaining jar with 32 ounces of water or lemonade.  Cool off in fridge for at least 5 hours. In the morning pour into glass tumbler with 4-5 ice cubes and add 1 tsp of simple syrup. Mix together and put on top.

One tea bag makes 64 ounces of tea so you could have four 16 ounce drinks per week for the first 6 weeks for $39.00 this comes out to $1.65/drink and then in the future without the other costs it would cost $15 for 6 weeks of drinks and that comes out to .63 cents a drink.

A size grande(16 ounces) Shaken Iced Tea Lemonade is $3.00. If you bought the same amount of drinks per week for 6 weeks at Starbucks it would come to $72.00.

I could not believe the cost savings when I did the math! I can’t believe I ever paid as much for these drinks before. While I wish I had done this during college I am happy now that I can enjoy a cool refreshing drink and have more money in my wallet.

Feel free to share your copycat drink recipes that you love below!

 

 

 

Composting 101

With Spring upon us I’ve been getting more excited to finally put our compost pile to good use. Since we have been composting for almost six months I wanted to share my experience and hopefully debunk the theory that composting is difficult! Like most people composting always scared me because I just assumed it was hard but come to find out its actually super easy. Cost wise it is very inexpensive and saves money down the road because you don’t need to buy fertilizer for your garden. Composting also lowers your carbon footprint which is good for mother natures sake.

How we got started –

$20 Compost Bin (Aldi) with lid

$0 old plastic cereal container

Surprised? So was I. Now mind you I have been tempted to buy the cool looking composting bins for your kitchen a million times but alas this is really all you need.  What we found to be the most essential is to have a top for our compost bin to keep away pests. Unfortunately, we live in a suburb and there are a million rabbits so we needed something to keep them out. We also wanted a covered container in the kitchen to stop any foul smells from leaking out.

What do we do-

Basically what we do is collect scraps of fruits, vegetables, egg shells, and coffee in our cereal bin throughout the week and then dump it in the compost bin at the end of the week. As simple as that! If you fill it up sooner then you just dump it sooner. [Hint: Don’t put any meats or dairy into your compost pile or animal poop for that matter]. Egg shells are important because they provide calcium for the soil and coffee grounds are important because they provide nitrogen to the soil. Both of these nutrients fertilize your garden! Once a week we also have a pitch fork and toss whats in the bin. In the fall we even added our yard leaves into the mix. Be patient it does take a while to start to fill your bin. It has taken us about six months to fill our bin halfway.

Using the compost-

We start our garden after Memorial Day weekend so at the end of February we will stop adding any new scraps from our kitchen and turn the compost more frequently. One month before we will add earth worms to help speed up the process if needed. In the meantime we will continue composting by buying another bin and using that one to throw out our leftover scraps from the kitchen.

So thats it. If you have any cool scraps you gather from your kitchen that add life to your compost pile feel free to share below. Happy spring gardening!