The Next Big Adventure(s)

I’ll be honest: when my yearlong van trip ended, I felt a bit of an adventure void. My epic climbing journey was over – so now what? For a while, I just recovered in the comforts of city life. I planned a two-week trip to Spain with my family, but other than that, my adventure agenda was wide open.

Somewhere over the last month, my adventure planning has taken a sharp turn – in a very positive direction. I got invited to backpack Conundrum Hot Springs, committed to road tripping out to Salt Lake City for OR Show, booked a ticket down to Miami, and then my old climbing friend Libbi called.

Libbi started saying things like: Puerto Rico, climbing, Spain, flights, Venice, trains, Australia let’s go.

And then I was all: YES.

When all was said, done, and booked, I realized that I’m only going to be home for 12 days from now until the end of September. My summer adventures quickly went from local playtime to hardcore exploration. I’m going to be climbing, hiking, surfing, road tripping, and writing all over the world for the next few months. My climbing + training is definitely going to kick up a notch in preparation. Let’s do this!

As you know, I’ve renewed my sponsorship with Teton Sports for another season, this time as part of their Mountain Adventurers project. I’m stoked to use their gear to haul my life around in a single pack while I travel abroad. You’ll also continue to see my photos and stories shared through Nature Valley’s social channels, and on the Sierra Trading Post blog!

photo1 2 1024x682 The Next Big Adventure(s)Here’s a rough schedule of my upcoming travel – shoot me a message if our paths will cross:

  • August 2-4 Backpacking to Conundrum Hot Springs in Colorado
  • August 6-10 Road trip to Outdoor Retailer in Salt Lake City
  • August 15-24 Flying to Miami, Florida (!!!) then road trip back to Denver
  • August 26-27 Routesetting Clinic with Women’s Wilderness in Boulder, Colorado
  • September 3 Baltimore, Maryland
  • September 4-8 Puerto Rico
  • September 9-18 Spain + Ibiza
  • September 19-20 Venice, Italy
  • September 21-23 Barcelona, Spain
  • October 11-19 Joe’s Valley, Utah for my birthday!
  • November TBA (Austrailia, New Zealand, Singapore, anyone?)

That’s a lot. Before I start jetsetting, I have a few little projects launching on The Morning Fresh. I’ll also be scheduling a few social media clients while I’m in Miami, and am thinking about putting together an Instagram workshop – so stay tuned!

PS: Anyone have the beta on climbing in Spain or Puerto Rico? Bonus points if you know where I can acquire a crash pad!

Five Adventurous Must-Reads for Summertime

Top 5 Adventurous Summertime Reads 1024x578 Five Adventurous Must Reads for Summertime Ah, summertime. The most magical time of the year, if you ask me. Mornings are cool out on the patio sipping iced tea, afternoons are perfect for lazy tanning at the park, and evenings just beg you to cozy up in your bed with open windows. And what better accessory for all of these sublime situations than a book?

I’ll be honest, I’m a horrible reader. As a writer, I’m pretty sure I should be reading 100x more than I usually do – so I’m trying to amp up my literary chops with five fantastic adventurous books. As I complete each publication (bear with me, I read at a sloth’s pace), they’ll get their own individual reviews, but here are the five books that will keep my nose buried deep in their pages throughout the summertime.

Great American Dirtbags by Luke Mehall

If you’ve ever dreamed of living in a van, eating canned beans for days at a time, and showering at a rate that would make your mother rather upset, this book by Luke Mehall will put you in the kind of mood where you seriously consider quitting your job to go live in the desert.

Here’s all you really need from this book to make you know you need to read it (okay, and there’s a video too):

Where do we look from hope, for America, the planet, for the human race? The dirtbags.

Slow is Fast with Dan Malloy, Kanoa Zimmerman, and Kellen Keene

When I think about writing my own book, I shudder at the thought of just cranking out a novel. It’s 2014, y’all – media is changing, and it’s wonderful when books adapt too. Slow is Fast achieves a balance of classic print form with the digital space – the book itself combines storytelling and compelling photography, all of which is complemented by an included DVD.

This piece from Patagonia Books is simply described as “A portrait of California only accessible via human-powered travel.” I adore flipping through the pages that offer constant coastal inspiration and lifestyle bliss. It’s the kind of book you flip through and think “man, I want to live like this.” And then you watch the ~30 minute film, and all you can think about is surfing, sand, and the characters brought to life by this story.

photo 1024x600 Five Adventurous Must Reads for Summertime

Unbridled by Barbara McNally

I’m not quite sure how it happened, but I’ve been really feeling the “woo, yeah women!” vibes lately. This book published by Balboa Press has totally continued to fuel that fire with a memoir chronicling one woman’s journey of self-discovery, personal acceptance, and learning how to roll with life’s punches.

I’m about halfway through the book, and McNally is currently (in the story, that is) traveling through Ireland on a mission to connect with her family history. So far there have been romantic horseback rides, sultry encounters, and enchanting scenery described with imagery. Every page evokes the misty magic of Ireland, and I’m looking forward to the next destination in McNally’s trip – which I believe is Jamaica.

On The Road by Jack Kerouac

No but seriously, I still haven’t read this book. Can you believe that? One of the most iconic adventure stories of all time – and I haven’t read it yet. As you can tell from the header image, Amble munched on the book cover a little bit, but it’s still totally readable.

Packing Light by Allison Vesterfelt

This is another book that has been on my to-read list for quite some time – I actually received it as a birthday gift from Justin Fricke last year while I was out climbing at Foster Falls. Written by Allison Vesterfelt, this piece combines my love of exploring America with a journey that ditches life’s baggage in favor exploring what we really want from our lives.

The back cover of the book pretty much sums up my own personal journey: Vesterfelt starts from a point in her life where the future is filled with visions of white picket fences and a stable relationship – and then it quickly turns into a reality of flailing to figure out your life and accumulating bills, emotions, and belongings.

My favorite part of Packing Light so far? After the last page, there’s a faux library card that invites you to pass this book onto others in the spirit of refusing baggage and spreading the art of packing light.

photo 2 1024x533 Five Adventurous Must Reads for Summertime

Summer is the perfect season to get lost in a good book ­– and I hope you join me in checking out a few of these paperbacks. Do you have a summer reading list? What’s on it? Got any additional must-read recommendations to share?

That time I was in a Backpackers Pantry commercial.

Oh my goodness. Remember that time I gave y’all a behind-the-scenes peek at my videoshoot with Backpackers Pantry at Three Sisters Park in Evergreen, CO? Well, the final video is finally up – and it’s hilariously wonderful. I had just a great experience filming this brand piece with Backpackers Pantry, give it a gander:

Let’s all just ignore that honker of a zit on my forehead. 

Too much. And those dance moves? Yeah, they told me to “be weird and outrageous and kind of tacky” – so I basically just danced exactly how I always do. No shame, folks. No shame.

A Guide to Climbing Balms

Here’s the thing about climbers: we have pretty gnarly hands. We spend all day grappling with slopers, shredding our skin on crimps, and cranking on underclings. From sandstone to granite (and yeah, sometimes plastic), our hands take a beating on a daily basis. Our most abused body parts also happen to be crucial for climbing – so climbers need to take proper care of our hands.

During my yearlong climbing trip, and throughout my five years spent training indoors and crushing outside, I’ve tested dozens of hand care products. My relationship with climbing balm has been through bleeding flaps of skin, fingertips cracked from the dry cold, random burns from campfires, blood blisters, you name it. This comprehensive review has been a long time in the making, and I’m excited to share my thoughts on what I consider to be the top three salve brands in the climbing industry: ClimbOn!, Joshua Tree, and Giddy.

climbingbalmreview A Guide to Climbing Balms

Joshua Tree

The first time I encountered Joshua Tree products was while climbing in Joe’s Valley. I liked it, but the little sample tubes I had quickly disappeared into the abyss of my van. Kati Peters is the one who really put J-Tree products back on my radar while climbing in Chattanooga this past winter, and I have since fallen in love with their balm – but I never use it for climbing.

Climbing50 large 300x300 A Guide to Climbing BalmsHonestly, I find Joshua Tree hand salve to be just a little too greasy for use on grubby climber hands – but it comes in handy for endless other uses. It saved my life when I caught a nasty cold and ended up with a cracked, runny nose and painfully dry facial skin. I use it on chapped lips, to sooth burns, and on any delicate wounds that would be irritated by the rubbing motion required by thicker balms.

As a lip balm fanatic, Joshua Tree gains an upper hand in my book with their impressive chapstick collection. Not only do they offer a range of seasonal flavors – I have pumpkin pie – ladies can get Joshua Tree lip balm with a bit of shimmer! The real kicker for me is the SPF 15 protection. I also appreciate the slightly flattened tube design that keeps my lip balm from rolling off rocks.

Other notable products include their biodegradable body washes, arnica recovery lotion, and sunscreens featuring organic ingredients. The body wash’s fresh tea tree and mint scent was a welcome smell when I was bathing rather infrequently while living in the van – and I never had to worry about using the soap in a river.

COST: $5.75 for 15 ml

PROS: Joshua Tree hand salve is extremely versatile, gentle, and effective. If I had to pick just one product to always have on hand, it would be this hand salve (even though I don’t use it for climbing/hand purposes). It works wonderfully for chapped lips, burned skin, healing tattoos, and soothing irritated skin. I keep  on me at all times.

CONS: Honestly, I really just don’t love using Joshua Tree as a climbing hand salve. 

ClimbOn!

I’ve been using ClimbOn (aka SKINourishment) products for years – and for good reason. It was the first climbing balm I ever experienced, and I’ve since sampled just about every product in their line-up. I’m a fanatic for products like their body creme and cucumber rose facial moisturizer (which I’m currently addicted to).

33f52ed8 e4db 4934 beb0 a2ea00b16a5a 609x609 300x300 A Guide to Climbing BalmsThere is no contest that ClimbOn is my favorite salve for treating beat up climber hands. Made with yellow beeswax, it’s the perfect thickness, rubbing on easily but not getting too messy. My favorite trick is to slather it on my fingertips, and cover my hands with socks before going to bed. You definitely look a little goofy – but it’s effective! ClimbOn is great for every day skin healing after climbing, intensive flapper care, and soothing cracked cuticles.

Throughout my travels to different climbing areas and rock gyms throughout the country, ClimbOn seems to be the overall most popular choice for hand salves. They’ve built a great community, and have been the most receptive brand when it comes to tailoring products to user feedback. I’ve watched their logo, branding, and ingredients evolve over the past few years, always improving.

I would easily say that SKINourishment has the most extensive line of skin care products – Polly whips up everything from men’s aftershave to cucumber rose facial moisturizer (currently my favorite skincare product, I’m addicted). The range of their product line makes it easy to stay consistent with using good-for-you body care. Fair warning: After I started using Skinourishment products, I am now acutely aware of how awful most generic beauty products are – and it’s kind of scary to think about! 

COST: $6.35 for a .5 oz bar

PROS: In my opinion, SKINourishment’s ClimbOn! balm is the best salve for climber hands. It has the perfect consistency, travels well, and is great to use on puppy paws. Their overall product line continues to impress me, and my skin has never felt as good as when I am strictly using Skinourishment.

CONS: The only thing I have ever not loved about a ClimbOn!/SKINourishment product is the way their deodorant used to stain – but they have since changed their formula.

Giddy Balm grande large 300x300 A Guide to Climbing BalmsGiddy

Of all the climbing balm companies, Giddy Organics easily has my favorite branding and merchandise. From bright neon chalk pots to tank tops I am constantly coveting, Giddy excels at selling their company as a lifestyle.

When it comes to skin care, Giddy boasts all natural products that are 100% made in America and Fair Trade certified. Bonus points: their packaging is all either recyclable or made from post-consumer recycled materials. I love when a company aligns its products with consumer values – and Giddy does a great job of really tuning into their audience.

The Giddy Organics climbing balm comes in .5 oz tins that are easy to toss into any pack or pocket. This is easily the thickest balm I’ve ever used, which was a negative in my opinion yet heavily contested at the crag amongst my male cohorts who appreciated how aggressive they could be with it. Interestingly, Giddy was a favorite amongst the male climbers I asked to test it out. They all really enjoyed the scent and texture of the balm. The thickness of the product also made it a great choice for the hot crags of the south – it didn’t melt quite as easily as its competitors.

COST: $5.95 for a .5 oz tin.

PROS: Giddy is the most resilient balm in hot conditions, and it is the least “greasy” of the balms. Climbers can order different scents like cedar mint, lavender, and cooling mint. Bonus points: The cedar mint balm smells like mint chocolate chip ice cream if you ask me!

CONS: It’s thicker than I prefer, and I wasn’t a fan of how hard it was to open up the tin, especially if my fingers were already a little greasy from the balm.

Long story short: I think these are all great products that offer something for every climber out there. I’d recommend sampling them all and figuring out which brands works best for your body, your style, and your climbing. If you want a versatile one-product-heals-all, check out Joshua Tree. Wanna pair healthy skin with badass tank tops? Head for Giddy. And if you want to launch yourself deep into a product addiction that’ll leave your skin glowing and your shopping cart full? I dare you to give Skinourishment a gander.

*Disclaimer: I received samples of Giddy, ClimbOn!, and Joshua Tree from their respective brands for the purpose of this head-to-head-to-head review.
As always, opinions are my own. 

Get Lost on the South Platte River in CO’s Rampart Range

Here’s the thing about Colorado: there appears to be an endless supply of outdoor gems just a short drive from the heart of Denver. Choosing a new trail to explore brings out the worst in my inability to make decisions. There are just too many options! You can literally just pick a general direction and drive until you hit a trail — and that’s exactly what I did when my college friend Marisa came to visit from Key West.

We woke up, slathered on some sunscreen, filled up our water bottles, and hopped in the car with no particular destination in mind. After a quick pitstop for bagels, we found ourselves leaving Denver city limits and heading towards Sedaila. I had visited the area once before, so I looked for the only road I knew, Rampage Range Road, and started driving towards the mountains.IMG 0737 1024x597 Get Lost on the South Platte River in COs Rampart Range

After winding along intimidating drop offs and steeply graded hills, the road turned to dirt and we had to make a decision: should we turn my little hatchback around, or should we cross our fingers that the road is navigable and go for it? In the spirit of adventure, we went for it. Spoiler alert: my little Scion is a total badass.

Eventually, we came upon a fork in the road, and followed the South Platte River upstream until we found a trailhead. At first, I had no idea exactly what trail we hiked — my only clue was the rickety old South Platte Hotel building that sat across the street from the parking lot. Eventually, I deduced that we hiked along the South Platte River to the Strontia Springs Reservoir.IMG 0739 859x1024 Get Lost on the South Platte River in COs Rampart RangeIMG 0814 1024x473 Get Lost on the South Platte River in COs Rampart Range

Marisa is a true island gal, so it was wonderful to take her out into the mountains. She loved every minute of being on the trail, even when I insisted that we scramble up random gullies filled with spiderwebs, or when I made her perch precariously on a rock over the river to feel the cold rush of air from the gushing waters.IMG 0866 1 768x1024 Get Lost on the South Platte River in COs Rampart RangeIMG 0769 1 1024x490 Get Lost on the South Platte River in COs Rampart Range

IMG 0773 1 1024x616 Get Lost on the South Platte River in COs Rampart RangeSure, we ended up wandering a bit further from home than we initially anticipated, but deciding to get lost ended up leading Marisa and I to a wonderful new adventure we would have never discovered otherwise. By taking a few risks (mostly our brazen confidence that my hatchback would be able to handle the dirt roads), we opened ourselves up to the opportunity to explore somewhere off the beaten path.

When is the last time you got lost down a dirt road?
What’s stopping you?

Trip Report: Firefly Music Festival in Dover, DE

My ears are still ringing, my suitcase smells like dirty hippies, and I’m pretty sure I pulled a muscle in my foot — which means that my trip to the Firefly Music Festival in Dover, DE with the Nokia crew was an absolute success. Honestly, I’m struggling to get back on the grind after such an incredible weekend. I love y’all, but if I could spend the rest of my life in a Silent Disco, I’d probably never come back.

So, how was my first ever music festival experience?

WP 20140619 14 36 06 Pro  highres 1024x577 Trip Report: Firefly Music Festival in Dover, DE

It all started with a little solo airport time — one of my favorite ways to travel. There’s just something really exhilarating to me about strutting through an airport, all wrapped up in a little bubble amongst thousands of strangers all on their way to different adventures. I was one of the last people to arrive in Philly, and had a mini-squealing session with Heidi when we reunited at baggage claim. Our Nokia crew instantly connected, and were deep in the friendship zone by the time we hopped into our van and start road tripping out to Dover.

Y’all have already given me hell about the glamping set-up we had out at Firefly, but here are the facts: it was awesome. Our little compound, set up by Solid Ground Shelters, was the perfect way to do a music festival. We got the outdoor experience, but were able to retreat to full sized beds with plush comforters every night after dancing our faces off. These tents even had power strips! WP 20140622 10 25 08 Pro  highres 1024x577 Trip Report: Firefly Music Festival in Dover, DEWP 20140621 10 39 34 Pro  highres 1024x577 Trip Report: Firefly Music Festival in Dover, DE
When I try to reflect on everything that went down at Firefly, my mind becomes a blur filled with flashbacks of massive crowds dancing in dusty fields, running from stage to stage in messy darkness, and screaming at the top of my lungs whenever “my jam” would come on. (Apparently, a LOT of songs are my song. I must have yelled “Oh my god, this is my song!” a hundred times.)

The line-up at this music festival was sick — Foo Fighters killed it, Weezer brought me back to my glory days, Outkast redefined the bliss of a throwback, and the sets from Pretty Lights, Girl Talk, and Martin Garrix left me drenched in sweat from dancing. I have to admit, I was pretty disappointed by Iron & Wine. I was so excited to finally see them live, but they totally lacked energy. Or maybe I was just too psyched to get on their low-key level.

IMG 1102 1024x537 Trip Report: Firefly Music Festival in Dover, DEIMG 1167 1024x581 Trip Report: Firefly Music Festival in Dover, DENokia hooked us up with VIP passes for the weekend (thank you!), which I would highly recommend for future music festival experiences. We had access to prime viewing areas, free massages, and the cleanest toilets around. The VIP crowd was a little lacking in the energy department during a few performances, but being so close to the stage for every show made up for it.

The most impressive part of this weekend was the group of people Nokia brought together. A few of us knew a handful of other influencers prior to the trip, but by the end of the festival we were all heartbroken to be saying our goodbyes (Danny Williams, I’m talking to you!). I have no doubts I’ll be reuniting with these folks again. It was a hodgepodge of photographers, entrepreneurs, beauty bloggers, tech dudes, and a little dash of the outdoors — and it was perfect.  WP 20140620 005 1024x576 Trip Report: Firefly Music Festival in Dover, DEIMG 1200 1 Trip Report: Firefly Music Festival in Dover, DE

I have never danced so much in my whole life.

Before flying out to the east coast, I was a little nervous about being able to let loose in front of total strangers — but it turns out, Nokia put together a group of influencers who enjoy rocking out as much as I do. I knew I was in for a good weekend the moment my new buddy Juan busted a move at camp without any music playing. Add a few shots of whiskey to the mix, and we all dropped our inhibitions by the time we made it into the festival gates.

Have you ever been to a Silent Disco?

If you have, high five! If you haven’t, you need to. Picture this: you walk into a thicket of trees, someone hands you a pair of wireless headphones, and you slip into a reality where all that exists is music, movement, and whoever happens to be grooving beside you. There are two DJs, and your headphones can switch between their respective channels. It’s pure euphoria in there. Drew from Selfmade Threads and I stumbled upon it one night, and we ended up spending as much time as possible there for the rest of the weekend. We ditched performances early, rounded up the rest of the crew, and even closed it out on the last night.

If I could spend the rest of eternity in the Silent Disco with the #ListenWithLumia crew, I’d gladly ditch the real world. It’s seriously that good.photoc 1024x638 Trip Report: Firefly Music Festival in Dover, DE

*Sigh* What an adventure. I used to be such a hater about music festivals, but I get it now. It’s not just about a bunch of people doing drugs and getting dirty — it’s a life-changing experience (for me as a first-timer at least). I have never felt so alive and so free in my entire life. Bonus points: hanging out with three gorgeous men who blinded me with muscles inspired me to get back to training for climbing. Game on!

Next time someone invites you on an adventure with one day to book flights and pack your bags, you should absolutely say YES! I’m so glad I did.

Full disclosure: Nokia sent me on this wonderful trip, but all opinions expressed here are 100% my own as always. Especially the part about abandoning my life and becoming a Silent Disco groupie. I’m still fully considering that life change. 

Refresh Urban Outdoor Spaces with Sierra Trading Post (on a budget!)

Moving into my new place in Denver meant I had to give up one of my favorite things about living in Florida: outdoor space. I went from a sprawling backyard with enormous garden, chicken coop, and big patio to a tiny upstairs stoop and a shared courtyard. It’s an undeniable downgrade, but I love my new city digs — the only solution is to work with what I’ve got!

When the folks at Sierra Trading Post asked if there was anything I needed to help settle into my new place, I was a little confused. How could a gear company help me with household needs? Well, I quickly came to find that Sierra Trading Post is secretly a killer place to score home goods! Crazy, right? They have everything from small kitchen appliances to decorative throw pillows — and they ended up providing the perfect solution for re-vamping my small outdoor space on a budget.sierratradingpostpatio 682x1024 Refresh Urban Outdoor Spaces with Sierra Trading Post (on a budget!)

The first thing my patio area needed was somewhere to sit. The Picnic Time folding travel table with chairs was a great choice for the main piece – it doubles as camping furniture too! The lightweight folding table is surprisingly sturdy, and the two small accompanying chairs fit perfectly in their tiny stoop nook. A seating area outside has led to new habits of eating lunch al fresco, reading in the sunshine, and taking more breaks from sitting inside all day. I have left the set outdoors for a few months now, and it’s held up well through rain, hail, and even a few late-spring snow storms.

I’m a firm believer that there is no such thing as too much greenery — so I ordered a few planters to give me an excuse to buy new plants. The matching plastic pots were quickly filled with young tomato plants (which have since all been relocated to my second-story windowsill to protect my veggies from greedy squirrels). My four little tomato stalks aren’t exactly impressive, but they still help fill the void of not having a garden anymore. I love that taking care of my plants gives me another reason to spend a bit more time outside each day.IMG 0338 e1403158224241 1024x682 Refresh Urban Outdoor Spaces with Sierra Trading Post (on a budget!)

Bonus: If you’re an addicted plant collector like I am, check your local thrift stores for cheap pots and planters — then head down to the local farmers market to snag some plants like these gorgeous heirloom tomatoes I got in Denver!

PS: How gratifying is that feeling of getting dirt caked under your fingernails while gardening? Ugh, so good.

My tomato plants all started out on the main stoop near our front door, but I quickly came to realize two things: first, that squirrels are really sneaky little sons of guns who cannot be trusted; and two, that having a touch of green in your bedroom just makes every day a little bit brighter. After Randall, our resident bushy-tailed kingpin, managed to swipe my prized baby green heirloom and felled my biggest plant, it became pretty clear that I needed to move my tomato plants off the stoop. They live in my windowsill now — and I love it.IMG 0937 965x1024 Refresh Urban Outdoor Spaces with Sierra Trading Post (on a budget!)

I wake up every morning amongst the trees — okay, it’s more like amongst four foot-tall plants that might never give me a real tomato, but I still love it. It’s like I have a little slice of nature surrounding me at all times. When you live in the middle of a big city, even the smallest touch of the wild can make you feel more in touch with the outdoors. Try it, get a plant, put it by your window, and see how quickly you fall in love.

As much as I adore sunshine and daytime adventures, I also wanted to make my outdoor space more inviting at night. The Pine Top Mounted Solar Stair Lights set offered an affordable way to add a little brightness and decorative style to the otherwise plain steps leading up to the stoop. The miniature solar panels on the lanterns provide a reliable charge and perfect little glow, but my lack of patience with proper installation (read: instead of screwing the lights into a wall, I just propped them on random steps) led to the lights getting knocked off the staircase by squirrels. I shattered two solar panels, but the rest are still working despite multiple two-story tumbles.IMG 0400 e1403182485294 768x1024 Refresh Urban Outdoor Spaces with Sierra Trading Post (on a budget!)

For less than $150 total, I managed to entirely remodel my second-story stoop, create a living space that my entire household actually uses — and now I have a badass little micro garden dangling off my bedroom windowsill. All it takes is a little imagination, a little dirt, and a little help from Sierra Trading Post. Need some inspiration? Check out Sierra Trading Posts’ Pinterest page!

Full disclosure: Sierra Trading Post provided me with the supplies to re-vamp my little urban outdoor space — but my opinions here are 100% my own, especially all the stuff about how much I hate my neighborhood squirrels. I should have never fed them those tortillas! 

 

Cuban Mojo Chicken Sandwiches with Garlic Aioli

My best friend from college, Marisa, is visiting from Key West this week — and when she asked me if there was anything she could bring from Florida, I nearly exploded begging her to bring me some freshly baked Cuban bread. You see, there is literally nowhere in Denver to buy Cuban bread. My favorite restaurant, Cuba Cuba, even has to fly theirs in daily from Miami. Not cool, right? So when Marisa showed up with a massive supply of Cuban bread, I knew I had to make some mean sandwiches for everyone. There wasn’t time for my usual lechon asado — so I improvised a little with chicken!

The first step to cooking delicious Cuban meat is making your own mojo to marinate it in. Our household recently acquired a really gorgeous mortar and pestle, so I’ve been going a little crazy with my mojo experiments. It’s just too much fun mashing garlic and onion and spices together — the whole kitchen smells like savory heaven!

mojocanva Cuban Mojo Chicken Sandwiches with Garlic Aioli

The other “sauce” necessary for this recipe admittedly intimidated me at first — the garlic aioli is mayonnaise-based (and I am not a mayo fan). I was worried it was going to be too mayo-ish, but mixing in the fresh herbs and tangy mojo created the perfect flavor and texture. My mayo-phobia caused me to be cautious when lathering the sandwiches with the aioli, but we all ended up going back to dip our bread in more and more sauce — it was so tasty! But back to the mojo chicken:

cubanmojo 682x1024 Cuban Mojo Chicken Sandwiches with Garlic Aioli

Here’s a little secret that I must confess: I was so diligent with taking pictures of every step of the recipe and taking notes on my ingredients — but once I plated all four sandwiches, I totally forgot to snap a photo of the final product! I improvised a bit and tried to arrange my plate so you couldn’t notice that I had totally already eaten half of my sandwich, oops. It’s the thought that counts, right? 

IMG 0930 232x300 Cuban Mojo Chicken Sandwiches with Garlic AioliThis Cuban sandwich recipe became an instant favorite. I’m finicky with my meat, so the traditional Cuban sandwich with deli ham (yuck!) isn’t quite my cup of tea. The mojo marinated chicken is lean yet so flavorful. If you want an extra Cuban kick, try adding pepperoncini or pickles to your sandwich.

Let me know your thoughts on my Cuban mojo chicken sandwich with garlic aioli recipe! What’s YOUR favorite Cuban sandwich recipe?

 

Cuban Mojo Chicken Pressed Sandwiches
 
Pulled chicken marinated in homemade mojo, pressed on Cuban bread with swiss cheese and garlic aioli.
Author:
Cuisine: Cuban
Serves: 4
Ingredients
  • 2 loaves Cuban bread
  • two heads of garlic
  • sliced swiss cheese
  • 2 lbs. chicken tenderloins/breast
  • 1 small yellow onion
  • 1 avocado
  • 2 limes
  • 1 orange
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1½ tsp salt
  • 1½ tsp pepper
  • 1 teaspoon oregano
  • 1 tablespoon fresh chopped cilantro
  • 2 tablespoons fresh chopped parsley
  • ½ cup mayonnaise
Instructions
  1. Prepare the homemade mojo: Finely dice the garlic and onion. Mash together with salt, pepper, and oregano. Squeeze the juice from the limes and orange, and mix together. (I use a mortar and pestle, but any other method will suffice.)
  2. Prepare the garlic aioli: combine one part chopped parsley, one part mojo, and three parts mayonaise. Add additional mojo to taste.
  3. Pour the mojo over the raw chicken -- then marinate in the refrigerator for one hour.
  4. Over medium heat in a large cast iron skillet, cook the chicken in the mojo juices. Once the chicken is cooked all the way through, use two forks to shred the chicken in the cast iron. Continue to cook until the chicken lightly browns. Remove chicken.
  5. Prepare the sandwiches by slicing the Cuban loaf in half. Spread aioli on one side, add a thick layer of shredded chicken, a slice of swiss cheese, and a few slices of avocado. Butter the outside of the sandwiches.
  6. Melt a teaspoon of butter in the cast iron, then add the sandwiches. Using a large, flat pot cover, firmly press the sandwiches as they heat up. **If you have a few bricks easily accessible, you can use them to keep the sandwiches pressed.
  7. Enjoy!

 

The Art of Fresh Starts

freshdefinition The Art of Fresh Starts

I was always warned about the aftermath of my year of adventure: returning to the “real world” after extended travel is rumored to leave you with a nasty case of post-trip blues — but I never really admitted that it was happening to me. After my year of the van, life kind of started happening really fast. I spent a month back in Florida, abruptly packed up everything and moved to Colorado, settled into a new life, and fell into a funk. I’ve been in Denver for almost three months — and I’ve only climbed once (but it was awesome). I stopped writing, and fell out of love with my website and social media in general. It sucked, but I needed it.

It was difficult to cope with all of the change at first, and I felt like I was selling out in a way — after a year of being the adventurous girl who lives on the road, it didn’t feel okay to become someone who spends most of her time getting outdoors by way of rooftop patios, city parks, and my little second-story stoop. Would everyone think less of me? Wouldn’t it be shameful to admit that I wasn’t out hiking or camping every single weekend? I was pretty unsatisfied with it all initially, but I’ve come to realize that this is all just part of the process. This is just a new chapter of adventure in my life — and hopefully you still want to join me for it. 

Taking a hard, cold look at what I do and don’t love in life, what makes me happy, what I miss when it’s gone, and where I want to go ended up teaching me a lot. And after semi-accidentally deciding to change my blog’s entire look, I fell back in love with everything. I re-vamped my workspace, and dove into the task of bringing The Morning Fresh back to life in a way that I adore.

So much has changed since my life has gone from living in a van in the woods to waking up every morning in the heart of Denver. Adventure doesn’t always come quite as easily, and my priority list now includes things like keeping my tomato plants alive, cooking big Cuban meals for my housemates, and finding satisfaction through my work. Finding adventure will always be a huge driving force in my life, but I just have to work a little harder to find it now. And I’m up for the challenge! 

What do y’all think about The Morning Fresh’s new look?

PS: Seriously, go look at this site on a smart phone — it looks so good now. 

Behind The Scenes: Backpackers Pantry Video Shoot in Evergreen

When an email from Backpackers Pantry showed up in my inbox inquiring about casting me for a video shoot, all it took was the words “we’re shooting at Three Sisters Park” to instantly grab my attention. I was in.

I arrived in Evergreen a few minutes before 7:00 AM, and loitered around the dirt parking lot until the rest of the crew arrived. I instantly knew it was going to be a fantastic day as three bearded fellas hopped out of Subarus, and two spirited ladies pulled up with pups in the backseat. We shot a bit of footage out in the parking lot to establish the scene, then quickly hit the trail. photo53 e1401730606745 819x1024 Behind The Scenes: Backpackers Pantry Video Shoot in Evergreen photo51 1024x385 Behind The Scenes: Backpackers Pantry Video Shoot in Evergreen

The first scenes were shot in the parking lot, establishing the dichotomy between the two characters. My persona was the “expert hiker” – a know-it-all, done-it-all gal who knows every trail in Colorado like the back of her hand. My counterpart was played by Patrick, who did an incredible job portraying a novice hiker. Throughout the day I was constantly impressed with his dedication to his character. He smeared sunscreen all over his beard, sprayed himself straight in the face with bug spray, snapped tent poles, threw himself into a river – you name it, he was down to try it.

The shot below is a little peek at one of my favorite scenes for Patrick. It opens with him looking like he is dangling off a cliff – but you quickly realize he’s just trying to summit a small boulder.

photo54 1024x682 Behind The Scenes: Backpackers Pantry Video Shoot in Evergreen

As for my character, the crew kept encouraging me to channel my inner Patrick Swayze (in Point Break, to be specific). I ran around the trails doing push-ups on logs, karate-chopping dead tree limbs, and high-stepping like a hotshot. I frankly made a total fool of myself – all while rocking’ the most ridiculous neon green headband – and I can’t wait to share the footage.

One of my favorite parts to shoot was the “camp” scene. I happened to have my favorite Teton Sports tent in my car, and it ended up creating the perfect contrast between the experienced hiker and the novice.  I set up my tent in less than 10 seconds, while Patrick’s character spent minutes fumbling with fabric and snapping tent poles – and everyone on the crew is now dying to get their hands on a Teton Sports tent like mine. photoa3 e1401730617798 819x1024 Behind The Scenes: Backpackers Pantry Video Shoot in Evergreen

It’ll be a few weeks before the footage is all edited and goes public, but I’ll be sure to share it with everyone as soon as it goes live. Big thank you to Backpackers Pantry for casting me and to the film crew for keeping me on my toes all day. (And thank you to Elaine, who took those photos of me!)