She got a new ride

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She broke me down after weeks of looking for a new vehicle to help in our little adventures. We were driving a 2015 Jeep Cherokee, but needed a little more room. Even with the seats down it was a tight fit between the Yeti Cooler, our camping/backpacking gear, and the dogs. Plus let’s face it she had the Cherokee for a full year so her attention span had already began to wain. Sure it was maybe 10% my fault since in my spare time I just like looking at cars, it gives me something to do on a day off. I guess my error was actually bringing her with me. She saw the Jeep Wrangler and said “hey that would fit all of our gear with some room to spare plus we can get a hitch”, then I saw her eyes light up and thoughts racing. I tried to back track and tell her all the little things she would be giving up like the back up camera , a nice touch screen radio, heated seats and steering wheel. Alas I was to late it was over at that point and all I heard the next few weeks was how perfect a Wrangler would be.

So onto the second worse experience you have as an adult (the first being a colonoscopy) we went. You have to prepare your self mentally for the onslaught which is the new car shopping experience. We know its an all day ordeal and sometimes you just don’t make the deal. Here is how it went down. Our first trip was to a local Dodge,Jeep dealership in Salem, Ohio while we were home on a small break from work. Of course they were having a “Big spring blowout”… yeah sure they were. So we met our salesman “Jeff”. After talking for a bit we found out he actually travels around to different Jeep dealerships (I later found out these salesman are called gypsies, convenient name I suppose) when they have these big sales. To me this isn’t the best idea when buying a car because as we all know at some point you always need to go back to the dealership for some reason. Without a point of contact you could be stuck running around in circles for hours while they try to figure out what you need. But hey I kept an open mind and if they could get  me the deal I wanted then it is all good. They had several jeeps on the lot and we were looking for the newer colors. She liked the blue, I liked the green and this debate still rages on to today of which is better. Anyhow, we got in a 2016 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited in hyper green. For the options it had 4 doors, didn’t I tell you jeep wranglers don’t have a lot of fun options to add? She started it up, since this was going to be her daily driver, and off we went. It drives….well like a jeep wrangler, it floats and waggles on the highway at speeds over 15mph, and it is less nimble then throwing a brick thru the air. But hey again its not my driver that will be reviewed later. We arrived back at the dealership and of course she liked it, its hard to not like any car with that new car smell. We proceeded to chat several more minutes then headed inside where you get down to the real heart of the matter….price, the longest and most dreadful part of the whole process. After several hours we got close to a price but were about a 1000 off what I wanted to spend so we walked away from that deal. Now men you have to be strong against the many sad faces you will receive like I was, and telling her to be patient.

 

The next few days we talked about it some more, we were up in Cleveland doing some errands and we passed a Dodge/Jeep dealer in the area. Of course she gave me the look so in we went, she had her heart set on a 2017 Chief Blue Wrangler Unlimited. We talked price yet again and while this one had several more options….IE running boards, LED lights, and one of the few that had a touch screen radio installed. So of course the price was about 2k more then the less optioned 2016. So once again we were off on the amount I wanted to spend on a car. As we were about to call it a day once again when our salesman Todd, who seems like a really nice guy, said he thinks he could get us a hyper green 2017 for the price we (meaning I) were willing to pay. He brought out the window sticker it had the bare minimum options again, but at least we were getting closer so after a few more minutes of haggling we agreed on the price. He said it would take them an hour to get it from another dealer, and since we were stuck in Cleveland all day it wasn’t to big of a deal, we went to lunch, then dinner and about 10 hours later….no I’m not kidding….we were able to get the car and head home. She is very happy with it and we can’t wait to try it out on some trails, and also make a few visual mods to our cars. I will be making a post on my car in few weeks.

The best tent we have ever owned!

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This is the best tent we have ever owned….it is also the only tent we have owned. Now don’t get me wrong we have both camped but never with a tent we researched and spent some hard earned cash on.With outdoor camping season almost on top of us we went out and bought us some camping gear. We will be doing some reviews on what we bought and how they last as we use them this summer. The first review will be of our new tent. Tents, backpacks, and sleeping bags are the areas where spending a few of your hard earned bucks will pay off. Trust us since we learned first hand that the weather man is not right sometimes.

We bought the REI Quarter Dome 3, this tent is one of the higher priced tents out there, but like I said you want a tent that will hold up to the weather. The first thing that got my attention is this tent weighs in at 4lb 1oz, yes a full 3 person tent for the weight of butter, OK maybe a bit more. This is considered an ultralight tent which is my  favorite thing to hear when I have a backpack on and know I am about to walk for miles. How we came about this decision was standing in the store staring at all of the choices. We did actually do some research prior to the store visit but the final choice was made there. To narrow it down you have to look at material vs size and cost. The material is nylon, ultra light and waterproof, its called the 3 quarter dome because well I am guessing its made for 3 people. Now you may be thinking but are only 2 of you guys, and yes there are 2 humans but surprise  we have one 4 legged friend that is about to start his hiking career with his family. We have been doing some small hikes to break him in until he is old enough for the long hikes. Anyway that is the reason we needed some extra room plus we will have our gear and other necessities. The tent only comes in red and a gray color but its appealing to the eyes , so in pure girl form Rebecca said “ohh its pretty lets get that one” so off we went to the cashier. This tent retails for $399 and if you become a REI memeber you then get a 10% member dividends. This brought the price down but you only get the dividend once a year so you have to wait for that money.

We got the tent home and figured it was probably a good idea if we actually set the tent up before our first trip just to make sure we don’t look like those rookies. We have all seen those people that get out on the trail then decide to try things out for the first time, next thing you know they are tangled up and then somehow tied to the tree asking for help. My help was Rebecca and Gannicus (our golden retriever) who I think both have the same experience setting up tents.  While she tried, and will get better, I was working mostly by myself. Out came the tent which comes with 3 bags, one for the tent and all supplies packed up, one for the poles, and the last for the spikes and tie downs for the rain fly. I laid out all 3 bags side by side so somehow one doesn’t roll under a blade of grass and gets lost forever. We grabbed the tent and unfolded it (which weighs next to nothing), unrolled it, flapped it a few times in the air and like magic it floated down on the ground and was ready to go. We proceeded to pin down the 4 corners with the spikes and then we stared at what was left the tent itself. It was ordinary enough looking but then there was this thing…it looked like 2 spiders threw up and made this tangled mess of carbon and fibers. Sadly I relented to my never looking at directions attitude and had Rebecca read away After hearing the words “match the colors” it was all I needed. The poles are color coded in orange and blue and the tent was easy and pretty straightforward to set up. It was a decent size and looked good when set up. The mesh forms the largest part of the tent so all  the condensation that forms overnight?! Well when you wake up in the morning that may not be a problem here.  The rainfly was next and it attached in the same simple manner with the color coded poles did. So a few simple snaps and it was set up and ready to go. With two entrances on the tent it doesn’t matter which way you face it you can get in and out rather easy, the zippers worked well and did not snag when we were setting up. The floor of the tent is the same lightweight material made from the rest of the tent. This is both good and bad. It is thin and very lightweight but on the downside I am sure it wouldn’t take much for a twig or rock at the wrong angle under it to puncture a hole in it. This is why we bought a REI footprint to place under the tent and also a thick tarp for inside the tent,to protect from doggy paws, for when we will be car camping.  We tested the size of the inside by climbing in and unwrapping our queen size air mattress, again for luxury during car camping trips, which fit and left about a foot or so of room at the end of the tent. Due to the unexpected weather of our first camping trip the pictures of the tent with everything inside was not possible at this time. The tear down was just as easy as the set up and while it never looks as pretty in the package when you put it away there was plenty of space to get it put away.

As we said before our weather was a little off for our first overnight stay in the tent. This works to your benefit because we can say a few things for sure. First off the tent is definitely waterproof! The rainfly kept us dry while also blocking the cold wind that was brought in with the storm. Second, while Sasha (aka big dog) will not be doing a lot of camping trips with us due to allergy issues she was with us on this trip. So two humans, a 40lb puppy, and a 70lb dog all fit comfortably in this tent with the air mattress set up as well.

There are pockets in the tent to keep things in one spot, like your cell phone and Rebecca’s ever present tubes of …..which you have to remember to take out before you take the tent down. Overall we were very pleased with our purchase and recommend it for your camping adventures.

 

Tomato, Spinach, Quinoa Casserole

When we get ready to head out for a hike a hearty breakfast gives us the fuel to make that happen. Even though he doesn’t eat breakfast much he will gulp this one down. That means it is perfect for those picky eaters in your family. This recipe is protein rich and has the carbohydrates you want to keep you going on the trail. Sometimes I throw ground sausage in this recipe or just add some links or bacon on the side.  This is also one of my favorite make ahead and freeze recipes for the work week.

 

My time for this recipe does vary some because I will only cook my quinoa with the rice cooker. If you haven’t invested in one of these magical inventions you need to! I use it for all my rice, quinoa, couscous, and steaming veggies. Once you try it you will never be able to have any of these grains cooked on the stove again. 

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Tomato, Spinach, Quinoa Casserole
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 35 minutes
Servings
servings
Ingredients
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 35 minutes
Servings
servings
Ingredients
Instructions
  1. 1. Heat oven to 325 degrees 2. Lightly coat a 9x12 inch baking dish with cooking spray and set aside 3. Combine quinoa, eggs, cottage cheese, spinach, tomatoes, garlic, and basil then season with salt and pepper if desired 4. Pour mixture into baking dish and back for 30-35 minutes or until the center comes out clean when you stick it with a knife.
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Visiting Salem, Massachusetts on a budget

Posted on Posted in Guides, Photos

This past weekend we headed into Salem, the location of the famous witch hunts, where legends arise. 20170422_122434 Everyone recommended the House of the Seven Gables so we decided to start the day there. Having a little time before our tour began we decided to check out the other buildings on the grounds. The birthplace of Nathaniel Hawthorne, which we learned on our tour was moved to the grounds to be protected, was neat with all the quotes on the walls. There was also this cool half boat for pictures, or to amuse children, that I had to take advantage of since this is the closest I may get him to being on a boat.20170422_120636We don’t want to ruin the tour but I will say that there is a hidden passage involved. That made the whole tour worth while, plus it was pretty interesting.

Just across the road from the House of the Seven Gables is the Ye Olde Pepper Company, which is a must for your visit. We were honestly expecting it to cost a small fortune, because of someones love of chocolate, but found the prices to be within reason. I had also read somewhere to try the old fashioned clove candy and were pleasantly surprised.

We decided to head downtown for lunch at a place called the Scratch Kitchen. As we walked into the cafe we were greeted by 2 servers. After several minutes of them talking to themselves while we looked on, wondering if maybe we were invisible, they did actually acknowledge us. We followed our hostess around the corner and were placed at a 2 seat, rather small table, in the back. We were given a couple menus and told our server would be with us in a few minutes. We both gathered our menus, being ready to eat two of everything on the menu, made up our minds and were ready to give our order. There was probably 7 other people in the cafe, but set up in three other tables, so not over busy. Our minds started to wander to what else we were going to do for the day. We realized we had been sitting there for 10 mins or so with no signs of our server. Rebecca said she was ready to eat the table if somebody didn’t wait on us soon, so off she went to look for our server. She did find her sitting at the front not even aware of us being there. She was very apologetic when she arrived to take our order. I got my all american burger, it is my go to when I am really hungry, I mean how bad can you mess up a burger. Rebecca got a grilled cheese sandwich and some clam chowder, she is the brave one when it comes to ordering new things. We were intrigued by something I have never heard of…bacon dusted fries. I mean its bacon on fries what could be bad about that. The first thing to arrive is her order of clam chowder.20170422_140309 She did her famous smile and went for the first scoop, at this point she usually says ahhh that is good. Those words did not come from her lips today,  instead they were replaced by a mere OK expression. I know she was less then impressed because she never leaves her soup unfinished, but half the cup was remaining when we left. My bacon cheeseburger was typical, maybe a little under cooked, but it was OK. Ready to try those bacon dusted fries, they arrived golden brown with a light white powder coating them. I placed several on my tongue and waited for that heavenly bacon taste to overcome my taste buds but sadly it was replaced with a sweet tasting smoky flavor. Don’t get me wrong it wasnt bad, it was actually pretty good, but when your heart was ready for what only bacon can give you it was just more of a surprise. 20170422_140524 (1)

We finished our lunch and headed out to get to the bottom of these witch stories. Now the nice thing was the red line on the road, yes there is a red line on the sidewalk, as you walk around the town. For me all I could sing in my head was follow the yellow brick road, so off we went our eyes constantly searching for those famous pictures of those churches and stables where you heard of all the stories of where the witches were burned alive and the trees where some of them might have been hung. None of the Salem witches we burned of course that was the European Witch trials. We traveled on that red line for an hour so and about the only thing we saw was store after store, more of an open mall feeling then a spooky old era witch hunt, and several museums ranging in price averaging around $20 for both of us. The were some neat looking buildings and a old cemetery right in town that caught our attention.

Now I guess to some people $10 for a museum is not to bad, but what if you are traveling with a family? Or even decided to check out multiple exhibits? You could easily wander around Salem and spend a small fortune on the tourist trap. We were working with a budget so we decided to head out of town and find a cheaper alternative to the past.

We drove a bit out of town and headed to Winter Island, the home of Fort Pickering. As a history buff I was pretty intrigued even though I had no idea what it was at the time. Its basically an island connected by a causeway that was used as an early settlement in the 1620’s. During its early years it was used for a fish drying and had Salem’s first shipyard and tavern. However the interesting part is during the civil war it was fortified and several bunkers still remain, that were used by the north to store weapons.

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After leaving Winter Island we headed into the town of Danvers, which was known as Salem Village at the time of the Salem Witch trials. The infamous Witch Trials ended the lives of 19 by hanging on Gallows Hill, one man was pressed to death by a stones, and many others died in prison. We stopped to visit the memorial that was erected in 1992. There is a sadness and injustice that surrounds this event in history like so many others.20170422_154736

There was one more stop in Danvers that we had to find..the old Danvers State Hospital. This place was renamed many times during it years of operations but this is the most friendly name so we will stick with it. The Danvers State Hospital was operational from 1878 until it finally closed it doors in 1992. It then stood empty until 2006 when it was purchased by a company to build apartments and condo’s. The hospital, which from old photo’s we found online here, was an enormous campus looming way up on a hill.

Now I don’t know about you, but even my enjoyment of all things creepy has its limits. These include what happened in this so called “mental hospital” it just goes to show how far medicine has progressed. Unfortunately now all that remains is a growing cemetery of the forgotten souls that met their end while residing in this hospital. To get to the cemetery you drive  straight, instead of turning into the parking lot of the creepy remains from the past, to a small parking lot on your right. Here is where Rebecca had to do some convincing that she had a clue where to find the cemetery. You follow the sidewalk toward the condo’s and just before they begin there is a gravel path, that I thought was someones drive. Continue down the path toward the woods until you find the opening of the cemetery. There are a growing number of markers being placed with names, instead of just a number, now being connected to the decaying remains that lay beneath. It is somewhat encouraging that there is now a committee that meets to recall the patients name and match them with a grave in the cemetery. While we were there nothing supernatural was spotted, much to her delight and my dismay, but don’t get discouraged we will always try and find something out of the ordinary and maybe other worldly on our trips.

 

Overall we spent around $60 for the day, now we could have saved money by packing a picnic lunch or doing some research for a cheaper meal. But blame it on those bacon dusted fries…..we couldn’t say no. But for the day the only things that we of any cost were the House of the Seven Gables and lunch. The remainder of our trip was free. I do believe that to park on Winter Island during the summer months may have a fee associated with it. We lucked out that there was no sign of needing to pay on the day we were there.