HIKE & EAT: the Ultimate Dog Park (Fairfield, CT) and Food for Friends

29 Mar IMG_3120

This weekend was one of joy! Our very good friends welcomed their second baby to the family (giving me a perfect excuse to cook and bake) and the sun is actually shining!

Granted, the view from our living room is still this. If I could pay to melt the snow faster – I would.


Knowing I wanted to make some things to bring our friends and that we’d want dinner later but I likely wouldn’t want to cook in the afternoon, I scrambled some eggs for a hungry Hardtack while embarking on a dual mission.

A) Smitten Kitchen’s Big Crumb Coffee Cake and

B) “Make It Up As You Go” Slow Cooker Pulled Chicken (a Blue Bin original)

The coffee cake I made following the instructions to a T – with only minor substitutions. That means (for once) if you’d like to replicate these results – you need only follow the original recipe!

First – I made cake. Let me tell you – this treat will require that you use every single bowl, measuring cup and spoon in your kitchen. If that bothers you – maybe find another recipe. Once I saw the big crumbly photos – I was hooked and there was no turning back – so I persisted with delicious (if not effortless) results.

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It’s March 26th Already?

26 Mar IMG_0001

I hate when bloggers disappear for months or years and then make excuses for not blogging.

So, I will pretend I’ve been blogging all along, with no hiatus to speak of – because you don’t deserve to listen to excuses and I shouldn’t be making them!

So what’s up in the world of Blue Bin and Hardtack today?


  • Spring is here, but it’s not. We’ve had a fire in the fireplace 2 of the last 4 nights.
  • We’re coming up on 6 months married (amazing!).




  • I’m working on a travel bucket list for 2015.
  • We’re both in physical therapy for separate injuries (he’s recovering from surgery like a champ).
  • We took up cross country skiing this winter, and loved it (but have not yet purchased gear).



  • We have been cooking less than we should – let this be a public proclamation of intention to improve upon that.


So – look for some throwback posts over the next couple months as I share things worth sharing that I may have missed (our honeymoon!!!), some future planning posts to keep the fires of excitement burning for new adventures and new travels (island kayak camping with old friends!), and hopefully some guest posts (ahem, Portland cousin who shall not be named)!





Good to be back (not that I was ever away).

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The Long Trail – A Throwback Post Series by Hardtack

10 Jan

As we slog through the winter months, with temps dipping below comfortable hiking weather, we’re afforded the opportunity to travel back in time and take a minute to celebrate an accomplishment that never had it’s moment in the sun (no pun intended) at the time.

As you may remember, Hardtack decided to hike the muddy, rainy (not so sunny) Long Trail, through Vermont from the Massachusetts border to the Canadian border two summers ago. He just recently finished polishing up his trail journal, so now is a good a time as any to begin sharing his experience!

We’ll break it into pieces, so as not to overwhelm, but it’s fun to look back at the challenges he took on and how far we’ve come since then! Without further ado – the first installation. I am mighty proud of my now-husband, then boyfriend for achieving such a goal.

And with that, I hand the blogging off to him for a spell!


On Wedding Planning in the Year of Love

22 Aug photo 1 (3)

I’ve learned a few things over the past 6 months. And not about outdoor gear or survival techniques or even healthy cooking and baking. About weddings.

Here’s what happens. You get engaged. You VERY briefly enjoy that amazing phase. The planning somehow sneakily begins…and does not end until (I am guessing) the moment you leave for the honeymoon.

Here we are, waist deep in wedding planning with a date just under 2 months out. And all we can think is, where has our hiking time gone? When will we fish? Where do we fit in a bike ride? It’s not that we don’t fit it in…on occasion. We DO want to look good for this wedding, after all.

We’re sane people. We have taken wedding planning as calmly and in as laid back a manner as possible. But, that said, I laughed when my friends who were married earlier this year said, “I don’t care how laid back you are, you WILL cry during this process” – and then they showed me. Cried twice, yelled once, was yelled at once and overall have felt so much more stress than I ever thought possible!

I know it’s all because I have high expectations of myself, of  creating an event that is true to our values, our style and our overall vibe – and I’m lucky in that very little of that expectation comes from sources outside of me and HT. Our parents are nothing but supportive (though they questioned our guest list at times) and have basically stated their hands-off support of our plans – offering hands when we decide to delegate. It’s generally worked out well…but it’s meant a lot of work.

We’ve deemed 2014 the “Year of Love”. We attended 4 weddings rapid-fire at the beginning of the summer, had to decline invites to two, and will attend at least one more before ours in October.



Let’s just say we’ve been taking notes…and the weddings that impressed us the most had a few things in common. We’ve decided to prioritize a few key areas in planning our own wedding, and people love lists  so let’s call it…


Our Top 5 Priorities in Planning Our Wedding:


1. Authenticity.

A ceremony that screams “I was selected from a list of 3 options presented by the officiant” tends to feel like an exercise in going through the motions. The weddings that struck us the most had music that felt personal, traditions that felt grounded in something real for that couple, and religious elements that truly seemed to resonate with the bride and groom. One thing we were reminded of over and over was the impact of writing your own vows. Rest assured, ours will be original. My mom’s wedding featured an interpretive dance and let me tell you, no one questioned the authenticity of that performance!


2. Feed the People. 

I swear I am going to start packing Bobo’s Oat Bars in my wedding clutch. Why is it that on more than one occasion, we ended up eating three slices of wedding cake out of pure hunger? Our takeaway…food need not be fancy if it A) tastes good and B) there’s plenty of it. Now don’t get me wrong – there are exceptions to my observations. One amazing Summer of Love wedding in BK featured spectacular farm-to-table, extremely intentional and gorgeous food. There, we did not leave hungry or less than impressed by any course, “fancy funfetti” cake included. A friend’s wedding in Canandaigua featured fried, salted spaghetti at the bar. Yum. There are a million ways to go with food, but HT and I agree, feed the people, and let them eat cake.


3. Speaking of Cake.

Wedding cakes can be gorgeous, but they’re not for us. Never a couple to skip a good treat (when it’s been earned with a hike, of course), we put flavor over fancy when it comes to desserts, so the traditional, hulking, towering cake, precariously transported and occasionally dry and tasteless, though impeccable, is not our pick for the special day. We’re working on desserts that taste great and make you drool to look at them… and there may be ginger snaps.


4. Forget Tradition for Tradition’s Sake. Not one of the weddings we attended this summer featured a bouquet toss, or a garter toss, or tossing of rice or birdseed or lavender or anything else Pinterest suggests. And guess what, everyone survived! We say, toss traditions and expectations that mean nothing to you, keep the ones that do.  Thus, we’ll have a father-daughter dance but we’ll skip the receiving line. We’ll cut the cake, but only so we can eat it! Every element that makes it to our wedding will be the product of thoughtful intention to include it by choice. Nothing is assumed, and we love that when our upstate NY, Carharrt wearing “wedding planner” says “now where would you like us to place the arbor” we can say, “what arbor, we don’t want an arbor, we have these gorgeous pine trees, and each other. That’s all the backdrop we need.” We’re doin’ it our way and it seems to be working.


5. Take Care of Your Guests, but Remember They Are (mostly) Grown Adults

HT and I keep falling into a trap where we realize that one  or the other of the two of us is getting stressed out and wrapped up in where our guests will be staying, who is staying with whom, how they ‘ll get there or when they’ll arrive. Then we take turns reminding each other that we can only give the people the info they need; we cannot force them to follow through, show up or confirm their reservations. At the end of the day, with the exception of the kids we’ve invited ( and we’re psyched there will be kids!) – these people are trusted adults who can manage themselves, and we have to trust them to do so – we have enough going on!


Don’t get me wrong. We’ve enjoyed much of the planning process and we’ve slashed and vetted so many elements of the “modern wedding” that didn’t feel right or necessary for us. But an intentional, authentic, personal wedding takes time and effort to create. We’ve said to each other many times, we love and anticipate our wedding, as it’s shaping up, but it’s a good thing we love each other even more. It will be a refreshing, welcome change to just be two married people, enjoying each other again when this is said and done.


Stay tuned and I just might share some photos…wedding porn, as my dear Colombian Cuz knows I like to call it.



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Chocolate Un-Peanut Butter Treats

8 Aug



So I’ve missed a few holidays in the recent hype of our busy, bustling lives.

Way back – Easter brought with it Bells, a visiting sis who then lived in Brooklyn, and some natural treats worth noting. And making year round. Super yum. Good enough for me to post about them now, months later.

If you’re like me, the thought of chocolate and peanut butter together elicits drooling and high-powered cravings. Imagine the horror of realizing, like me, that peanuts (and most nuts) are no longer something my body likes to digest. In the past couple years I’ve developed some kind of nut sensitivity….and have thus transitioned entirely over to a nut-free diet…but thank GOD—there’s a loophole in the peanut-butter-chocolate universe.

In some recipes, many actually, it’s possible to substitute sunflower seed butter for peanut butter with pleasing results. Of course, the flavor is slightly different, and in my opinion, that has much to do with the brand of sunflower seed butter itself. My top three brands, in order?

1. A mystery brand that eludes me. It had a white label. Had it once on vacation and it was THE BEST ever.

2. Sunbutter brand

3. Trader Joe’s Sunflower Seed Butter

4. All others stink.

I’m just being honest! Challenge me if you may, or enlighten me if your favorite brand did not make my list.


Either way, make these Chocolate Un-Peanut Butter Eggs (or any non-denominational ballish shape you please) soon, even though in the summer they are not exactly seasonally appropriate. But frozen – ohhhh la la good luck keeping them around for long.

PS- the challenge with Bells around is all must be gluten free. Imagine two sisters, craving a treat from childhood, one no longer able to eat graham crackers (the darn gluten!) and one no longer eating nuts. The two MAIN ingredients. Luckily, we’re resourceful when the motivation is treats.


Un-Peanutbutter Balls (GF) 


2 c. crushed gluten-free cereal of your choosing (usually, graham crackers) 
1 c. powdered sugar
2 c. sunflower seed butter
1 bag dark or semi-sweet chocolate chips
  1. Mix the cereal crumbs, powdered sugar and sunflower seed butter together with a wooden spoon.
  2. Roll into balls.
  3. Melt chocolate in microwave, stirring every 15-30 seconds, taking care not to burn.
  4. Dip balls in chocolate and lay on waxed paper covered cookie sheets.
  5. In the summertime or warmer months, place in freezer to harden.
  6. DEVOUR. Try to eat just one.

We decorated with Easter-colored sprinkles and the like. Make sure to do that when the chocolate is still soft and a bit sticky.

Too bad these don’t pass as a durable trail treat. I’d eat them on a mountaintop ANY day.


I gotta fever. And the only prescription is less cabin.

27 Mar

I’m sick of the indoors. Even our charming love shack. Sick of the cold. Sick of the exorbitant cost of oil heat. Sick of making tea instead of smoothies. Sick of wet wood in the fireplace and dirty snow on the sidewalks.


But I’m trying to channel happy. Spring, my usual least favorite season, is coming. It has to be. ‘Tis the season for eyeing new outdoor gear, making hike hit lists and planning excursions!

Allow me to share our trip list for 2014 (a work in progress).

  1. Block Island, RI
  2. Indian Lake, NY
  3. Baton Rouge, LA (sis just got residency placement down south!!)
  4. Ithaca, NY
  5. Richmond, VA (it’s a NASCAR thing)
  6. Honeymoon TBD!!!!! (out west is the plan)

And our hike list:

  1. Devil’s Path
  2. Breakneck Ridge (a holiday tradition)

What have we missed?

We Snowshoe Now. On Date Night.

15 Feb

Winter won’t leave us alone.

So instead of deprived and freezing hikers we’ve become enthusiastic snowshoers, embracing the never-ending snow and making tracks in all weather!


In fact, yesterday, we took a lovely loop at Topstone Park in Redding, CT (of previous post fame) for a little Valentine’s day celebration and it was just beautiful in the almost-setting sun. It was my idea of a perfect V-day….a morning spent shopping for a very important dress with my sis, breaking a sweat snowshoeing with my man and our pup, an evening spent cooking and drinking moscow mules in the comfort of our love shack cottage. I just don’t think life gets better.

Back to the woods…We’re currently renting some MSR Lightning Ascents and are liking them…certainly an upgrade from my much lesser Red Feathers of the past and we both throw snow baskets on our trekking poles, and voila! The only one that struggles a bit is Miss P. Her paws are small and her enthusiasm doesn’t quite match her efficiency in inches and inches of snow and ice. But she does look badass, or cute, in her Ruffwear jacket. There’s something about a snowshoe trail with just the right amount of pack, just the right softness of snow and the untouched nature of the rest of the woods that make it a special way to experience the woods in the winter. Plus, it kind of makes me feel like those hardcore survivalists who live off the land in Alaska, trapping and snowshoeing and fending off bears. Except I’m wearing DriDown and Gore-Tex instead of fur and leather. I guess they have me beat.

photo 1

photo 3

photo 2


Also, we’re in the midst of also researching xc ski trails and rentals in the area. It’s the next winter sport on our list, as I refuse to go ice skating, considering HT’s pro hockey history and my relative lack of coordination on slippery surfaces and hip injury…we’ll see how long it takes him to wear me down. XC skiing though is something I enjoyed in the past and would really like to get better at, and something HT hasn’t yet tried.

Sounds perfect for 2014, the year of change and trying new things!

How do YOU get outdoors in this oppressive winter weather?


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