Weekend Highs and Weekday Lows


High: Bachelorette Party in Michigan


Including…best friends, tasty wine, funny stories, yoga, delicious treats, lazy beach days, cheese plates, continuous laughter, (too much) tequila, meaningful conversations, and more! 


I seriously could not have asked for a better group of women to share this memorable weekend with!  I returned home on the highest HIGH!  I mean, there is love, which is amazing, but true friendship is priceless.  My heart was so full of gratitude and appreciation when I returned home!  I mean, they went to a yoga class with me on Saturday morning…love this crew!



My HIGH lasted throughout my Monday off…which included a strength session, trip to the dentist, shopping, rehydrating, and living in the moment.



And then my work week began…

LOW: World’s Busiest Work Week


(recycled picture…but I look official)

Consisting of…multiple evaluations, exhaustive paperwork, emails, and more.

The week continued with a mix of HIGHs and LOWs.

High: Awesome Dinner (and leftovers)


Low: Running in Humidity

High: Hump Day Packages (wedding shoes!)


Low: Missing the Last Day of the Tour de France (darn DVR)

High: Wedding Invites were Mailed Today!

All of these ups and downs and it’s only hump day : )  My last low is that I am exhausted and going to crash…or maybe try on all of those shoes, so let’s count this as a HIGH!

What are you HIGHs and LOWs this week?

One Beautiful Breakfast

I woke up on Labor Day at a crowded camp site.  It wasn’t as calm as we might have liked, but the Dam did provide a marvelous backdrop for one last breakfast before hitting the road.


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These steps were directly behind our camp site.  Making my way down proved harder than you would think after hiking 23 miles.




And because I had 2 nasty blisters on my feet from hiking in gym shoes.  Note to self…check out REI for hiking boots stat!


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On to a much more beautiful view…




The Tippy Dam, where we had warm morning beverages and whatever food was leftover for breakfast, with this adorable new friend.


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It was the perfect way to end our 3 day trip!








I’m looking forward to our next adventure!



More Manistee River Backpacking Posts:




Hiker’s Grub

Day 1

Day 2

Backpacking Recap Day 2

You can tell that I am in class this weekend because my mind is too fried to come up with more creative blog titles…ha ha!  In case you missed it, here is the Day 1 Recap and the homemade Hiker’s Grub.




We woke up Day 2 in our tent along the river.  We heated up some more water for tea/coffee and then ate breakfast while discussing our plan for the day.  We repacked up our gear and headed back out on the trail.




Only one slight problem…we had no idea which way to go!  Somehow the day before, we found our way along a side trail with no suspension bridge in site and weren’t exactly sure if we were north or south of the bridge.  Our map was not so helpful, but luckily during breakfast some kayakers paddled past our tent and were able to point us in the right direction.  We easily made our way back to the main trail laughing at how hard it would have been to miss the well marked trail, but all agreeing that this was the BEST mistake ever because it led us to our stellar camp site.




Back in the forest…along the trail…and making our way to the suspension bridge….



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The first sighting…




Brought much excitement!  We crossed the bridge and began our hike south along the Manistee River Trail.


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At the north end, the trail followed closely along the river and then zigged and zagged through the forest and back to the river.  We joked about all of the ‘ecosystems’ that we saw throughout our hike.




One of my favorite sites was the waterfall!




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Midday, we stopped for lunch along a ledge overlooking the river.




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Don’t you wish your lunch view always looked like this?




After lunch, we proceeded north.  This side of the river was filled with stunning views and interesting people!




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We kept our eyes open for the perfect camp site, but didn’t find anything near the river.  Instead, we found ourselves 11 miles back south right where we started, feeling tired and hungry.  We were able to trade some muffins for a few beers and set up our camp site for dinner. 


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And a little more Beth Cooper with Peanut Butter Chocolate deliciousness!




After hiking ~23 miles with all of our gear in 2 days, we were pretty exhausted.  We slept well although our popular camp site near the Dam was not nearly as peaceful and serene as Day 1’s river site.

Backpacking Recap Day 1

I love camping!  It has been years since I have slept under the stars in a tent, which is why I was so excited for our Labor Day backpacking weekend.  I should explain that I spent 8 summers at overnight camp in Wisconsin, and the highlight was always our canoe and camping trips. 





Somewhere (most likely in my parents basement), I think that I have these memorable trips documented in non-digital pictures, which would be fun to share.  However, I do have this old picture of my BFF and I at camp, circa 1994-ish.  Man, those were the days!


Back to 2012, I was super excited to hit the trails with my girlfriends.  My brother had some gear for me to borrow.  Although his first question was…how did you convince the BOY to go camping?  Like that would ever happen…the BOY spent the weekend comfortably in his lazy boy while the girls and I roughed it in Michigan.




We drove up Friday afternoon, stopping for dinner and beer at the New Holland Brewery.  We arrived at the trailhead late on Friday night and set up our camp site under the blue moon. 




Early Saturday morning, we awoke to a crisp morning with steam hovering over the river.




Breakfast was served and water was heated for coffee and tea.


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We took down our camp and prepared for our first day of hiking…which meant filling water bottles and applying temporary tattoos.




We drove to the trailhead where we parked our car, arranged our bags, and studied the map.


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With bags in tow, we began our backpacking adventure…but first, we had to decide which direction to go!


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We decided on the NCT trail heading north through the woods along the switchback hills and through the dense green woods.


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We stopped for lunch at a scenic part of the trail.  We made PB sandwiches with fig jelly and bananas.  They were super tasty and  satisfying!




And then laid back to relax with a some ‘I Love You, Beth Cooper!’, a hilarious book even if you aren’t from Illinois!


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We returned to the trail making our way north in the direction of the suspension bridge.


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There were some beautiful views of the forest, creeks, and bridges along the way…and I was happy to have my camera ready!




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After walking through the forest for ~12 miles, the trail finally made its way to the river bank.  We followed a path down towards the river, which was gorgeous, still heading towards the suspension bridge where we would cross the river.






There were people fishing and camping along the other side of the river, but our bank was quiet.




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We discovered the perfect camp site at the edge of the river, and decided to stay for the night, especially since the suspension bridge was no where in site.




In the next few hours, we set up our tent, went for a swim, took a nap, collected fire wood, made dinner, did some yoga by the river, read more Beth Cooper, made a fire, and then ate one of the best desserts EVER, chocolate peanut butter Jello No-Bake.






By the end of the day, I collapsed into the tent and slept wonderfully with the sound of the river lulling me to sleep!  Which was good…because we had a whole another day of hiking ahead of us!

Hiker’s Grub

As I mentioned earlier in the week, my friends and I went on an exciting backpacking trip in Michigan over Labor Day Weekend.  The views along the river were gorgeous and the company was funny and inspiring.  All in all, it was the perfect girl’s weekend!




We split up the food responsibilities, and I was in charge of breakfast.  I brought along one loaf each of Dark Chocolate Covered Raisin Banana Bread and Zucchini Almond Butter Bread for the road.  I also made one of the best trail mixes ever.

I’ve titled it…Everything Left in Jen’s Pantry Trail Mix.


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What is in this crazy looking mix?

dark chocolate covered raisins

pumpkin seeds

golden grahams

date slices covered with oat flour


mini teddy grams

dried cranberries



Sounds odd…but I promise you it was amazing and our favorite snack along the way!





Other breakfast highlights included…


Baked Oatmeal from Kath Eats Real Food

In my search for the perfect portable breakfast, I rediscovered this recipe. I had actually made it last Memorial Day for dessert.  Although I loved the flavors, especially all the dried fruits and seeds, it wasn’t sweet enough for dessert (for me anyways).  It does, on the other hand, make the perfect hearty and flavorful breakfast!




I followed the recipe as written using Almond milk because that is what is in your fridge.  For dried fruits, I had a fantastic combination of figs, apricots, cranberries, and cherries.  The nut and seeds were plentiful including pumpkin, chia, and flax.  To sweeten it up a bit, I covered the top with a sprinkle of cinnamon and turbinado sugar.





This breakfast did not disappoint!  Easy to eat by hand and full of healthy ingredients guaranteed to power us through our day, we ate it Day 2 of our camping trip right along the river.




Of note, we did not eat ALL of this food for breakfast Day 2, but we did have to tie it up in a tree overnight to keep away the critters, so it all came out to be redistributed in the morning.




Also of note for those on the go…the oatmeal bars tasted wonderful Day 2, but did not stay as fresh without refrigeration by Day 3 (like many of the other foods), so if camping, plan accordingly!




Fig and Date Energy Bars

These bars are quickly becoming my all time favorite energy bar EVER.  You should check out the full recipe HERE and just an FYI, they stayed fresh without being refrigerated the entire trip and were sweet and tasty for (Day 3) Monday morning’s breakfast by the dam.


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2 Ingredient Muffins

Exactly like THIS recipe except, I subbed in a carrot cake mix instead of a spice cake mix. 




If possible, I think that the carrot cake had more ‘spices’ than the spice mix.  And…because I had some leftover sweet potato in the house that I knew the BOY would not eat, I mashed it up and threw it into the batter.


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These muffins were a huge favorite amongst my crew.  We even shared traded them in for a beer on the last day of our trip.  If traveling, use a tuberware container or be prepared for the muffins to form one big block of muffin in a plastic bag, which is just as tasty, but looks a little funky!



Coconut Energy Date Bites

And last, but certainly not least.  I loved seeing Emily and her family hiking in Washington this summer, and I have been drooling over her Coconut Energy Date Bites.  I knew that they needed to be part of my weekend.


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My energy mix was a tad try so I drizzled in a smidge of agave, seriously maybe a tablespoon at most, into the food processor, which was exactly what it needed.




The balls formed easily and I rolled them in more coconut.




Then packed them away in a container for our hiking trip, eager to eat them on the trail.


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Which is exactly where we enjoyed them during a hiking break!



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They were just as amazing as I thought they would be and traveled VERY well!  All of our food was incredible, and these breakfasts can be made and devoured whether you are on the road, on the trail, or just sitting at home enjoying the morning!


What is your favorite Hiker’s Grub???


It was a busy week back at work and I am back in class this weekend (Friday through Monday), so I have been a little slow getting my backpacking pictures and recipes up to share.  But I promise…they are coming soon!





Coconut Date Energy Bites

From Daily Garnish

Makes 12-14 balls


1 cup rolled oats

1 cup unsweetened dried coconut

1/2 cup roasted pumpkin seeds

12 pitted dates, chopped

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/4 cup water (you might not need quite this much!)

zest of one orange

pinch of salt

extra coconut for rolling (optional)



Honestly, it doesn’t get much more simple than this. Make sure your dates are pitted, and then chop them into bite sized pieces.

Add dates, oats, coconut, vanilla, salt, and pepitas to a food processor. Zest one orange over top of the food processor, and then let it spin. The mixture will be dry and crumbly – let it process for a minute just to break down some of the bigger ingredients.

Slowly add about 1/4 cup of water – add just until the mixture becomes wet and a bit sticky. Scoop out tablespoon sized portions and roll into balls. They will have a bit of stickiness to them, so I like to roll them in dried coconut to help prevent them from sticking together.



Baked Oatmeal

Form Kath Eats Real Food


1.5 cups rolled oats

1/2 cup chopped walnuts [or any nuts you like]

1/2 cup dried fruit (any you like – raisins, cranberries, dates, figs)

1/4 cup seeds (any you like – sunflower, pumpkin, flax, sesame)

1 tsp cinnamon

1 tsp kosher salt

1.25 cups skim milk

1 egg

1 tsp vanilla



Preheat oven to 350*

Mix dry ingredients.

Mix wet ingredients.

Pour wet into dry. Stir to combine.

Pour into a 9×9 baking dish either coated in cooking spray or lined with parchment.

Bake for 40 minutes.

Cut into 9 squares.

Makes 9 servings

Each bar is appx.

170 calories, 3 grams fiber and 5 grams protein.

[Cut into 12 squares reduces calories to about 125 calories per square]

Notes From KERF: While delicious, the only sweetness in these comes from the dried fruit. Add in 1/4 – 1/2 cup brown sugar if you like. The variations are endless: cranberries, coconut, all kinds of dried fruit, nuts, etc.

Almond Butter + Zucchini = Bread

A few friends and I have been talking about a camping trip all summer.  A few weeks ago, we determined that Labor Day Weekend was the only weekend we were all free to get away.  My brother lent me his hiking pack, a sleeping bag, a head lamp, and some other outdoorsy type stuff.  My most experienced camping friend suggested that we do a backpacking trip in Michigan and we were all for it! 




We decided to split up the food responsibilities.  The goal was to pack non-perishable, light weight foods since we had to carry everything with us on our backs.  Along with some granola and trail mix, I am in charge of breakfast.  That’s perfect because it is my favorite meal, and I had some blog inspired ideas already brewing.


The first was Tina’s Zucchini Almond Butter Muffins.  I’ve had my eye on these for awhile and was just waiting for a few minutes to shred up some zucchini.  The time came on last Monday and I decided that I would make the muffins into loaves for my Labor Day camping trip.  My only hang up…I didn’t want to use one of my farm fresh eggs which I absolutely LOVE for baking.  I know…sounds crazy, but I only have a few Wisconsin eggs left.  So…I did a little online research and decided to substitute in a flax egg for binding and applesauce for flavor.




It created a thick dough that fit perfectly into 2 small bread pans.




The bread baked up nicely, which I was excited to see after my egg experimentation.




I was eager to try this bread, after drooling over Tina’s muffins for weeks, so I sliced off a warm slice.



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Believe it or not, almond butter and zucchini taste GREAT together!




I ate one mini loaf of bread during the week and froze one for our camping trip.  It froze, thawed, and traveled really well.  We ate it morning one of our trip smothered with almond butter and fig spread and still had a few slices left for the trail.




I have many more backpacking photos of the stunning Manistee River and a few more camping recipes to come.






Paleo Zucchini Almond Butter Muffins (or Bread)

Recipe from Carrots N Cake



1 cup almond flour/meal

3/4 cup almond butter

1 tsp cinnamon

1 tsp baking powder

1 cup grated zucchini, pressed and drained

3 eggs (or 3 Tbsp flax with 6 Tbsp warm water and 1/4 cup applesauce)

1 tsp vanilla extract

2 tbsp honey



Preheat oven to 350*F.

Combine all ingredients in a large mixing bowl and blend well.

Coat muffin tin with non-stick cooking spray (or use paper liners) and divide batter among nine cups.

Bake for 18-20 minutes or until muffins are cooked all the way through.

Allow to cool before serving.


Makes 9 muffins

Note: To make into bread, follow instructions as written.  Pour into 2 mini loaf pans and bake for ~30 minutes.