Tag Archives: outdoors

Get Outside in Virginia State Parks!

Virginia State Parks provide wonderful opportunities for those who enjoy being outdoors and are looking for ways to use their time outside to give back to the community. Although almost all of the volunteers are users of Virginia State Parks, there are groups that sign up with members who have never visited them before. Both levels of experience are welcome, as all volunteers go through orientation and are supervised.

“There are volunteer opportunities that work for different age groups,” says Andrea Hasenfus, Camp Host Program Manager. “Retirees may be able to do a Wednesday gardening at noon, while someone who works a full-time job may be available to do trail maintenance on the weekends.”

There are also opportunities for young people. The Youth Conservation Corps is a great program for teens 14-17 who want to learn about conservation and working in parks. They spend three weeks living and working in parks around the state, supervised by college-age adults. Although the deadline to participate in this program has passed, visitors to the park may still get to see the group in action this summer. This is a competitive program. In 2017, 800 applications were received to fill 170 spots. If your child is interested in being involved in the future, it may be a good idea to sign up to volunteer and get some experience before the 2018 application process starts on December 1.

Joining a Friends Group is another way to contribute. It takes a lot of work to keep up state parks, and Friends Groups play a huge part in building and maintaining trails, helping staff visitor centers, working on educational outreach programs, and raising funds for park projects and facilities. There are several parks with Friends Groups looking for members. Being part of one of these groups has the potential to create a lasting impact for generations to come, as they also help with advocacy for the invaluable resources offered through the parks.

“Sometimes the most help, if you can’t put your elbow grease in on the trail, is to be an advocate. Whether you are a member of a friends group, or used to doing advocacy in the community, advocates are always great to have on our behalf.” explains Andrea.

For those who want a more immersive and active experience, the AmeriCorps program engages its members in meaningful service in Virginia State Parks by providing extensive training and professional development opportunities. They go through grants, and work on natural resource management in the parks. Some of them last all summer, and those who complete them receive an education award at the end.

There will be a big opportunity for volunteers on June 3 for Clean the Bay Day/National Trails Day. In fact, every park in the Virginia State Parks system will have a need for help that day. Those who wish to volunteer will not have to sign up through the website to be a one-time volunteer for the event. Simply show up at your local park and offer to lend a hand.

Visit www.dcr.virginia.gov/state-parks for a full list of parks in your area. Click on individual parks to see what they need.

Bella’s Floyd Yoga Jam Adventure

We spent the majority of our Labor Day weekend at Floyd Yoga Jam. In the mornings, a calm fog settled over the mountain as we awoke to the sound of a flute playing in the distance. Slowly, we made our way out of our tents, in search of coffee and the perfect spot to spread out our yoga mats.

FullSizeRender-2A sign on the trail reminded us to “believe in magic.” But, what is magic exactly? In a world where all that stands between you and what you want is a search bar on a tiny screen, it is hard to remember what we identified as magical in younger, simpler times. We were, of course, torn from those tiny screens as we made the trek up the mountain. One by one, our phones began to read, “No Signal.” Our attention turned to the surroundings, the people, and then almost remarkably inward.

Somewhere between our Thursday night arrival and our departure late Sunday, we felt the release of tension in our backs, our shoulders, and our spirits. As beginners, we worried that we would not be welcomed with open arms by those more experienced with yoga its various forms. We couldn’t have been more wrong. The instructors and fellow Jam attendees not only welcomed us, they inspired us to keep learning once our time on the mountain was over.

IMG_8675We can’t wait to go back to Yoga Jam next year! In the meantime, we’ve checked out videos and books from the library and scheduled classes to keep learning. What was once intimidating is now a deeply intriguing subject that we can’t wait to explore further. Thank you to everyone at Floyd Yoga Jam who made these beginners feel at home!

Back to the Basics

At various points during the day, I check Facebook and my email like many of you— my feed flooded with products and programs promising happiness and fulfillment, for a price. The thing is— whether your happiness is temporarily increased by clothes, electronics, or fast food— the high is soon over. It is followed by the heavy burden of guilt over purchasing something you didn’t actually need or the feeling of pure exhaustion after a grease-covered meal.

If you want to take control over subtle influences in your daily routine (and live life just a little lighter) consider the following options:

  1. Live below your means.

    Coupon queens everywhere are about to really hate me, but understand that I do mean well. Stocking up on items you will definitely use with coupons is a fantastic idea— as long as you really do use them. Otherwise you end up with a large amount of food you have to throw out because it expired, and the money you thought you saved becomes money you could have put towards existing debt or a vacation.

    Do some research on minimalism and see what parts of it you can apply to your own life. Minimalism gives less power to the objects that surround us— but it doesn’t take away the meaning of the important things in our lives. Instead, it allows us to consciously choose what is important and why without being bogged down by meaningless objects that hurt our health, relationships, and hold us back from reaching our full potential. Visit www.theminimalists.com to see if you can benefit from any of their suggestions and tailor them to fit your needs!

    Donate items that you don’t use to people who really need them. The obvious choice is Goodwill, but you can also post free items on websites like www.freecycle.org. They have a specific section for Roanoke already, so it is as easy as going on their site, creating an account, and posting what you have to give away.

2. Take charge of your diet.

Organize your kitchen to encourage your family to spend more time cooking, cleaning, and eating healthy. Place items in drawers where they will be convenient to reach when you need them and get rid of extra dishes, cups, and utensils that no longer serve a purpose. When you have more space, your kitchen looks clean and welcoming after a long day of work or running errands. You may even look forward to getting there and spending time with your family rather than waiting in line at McDonalds to pick up dinner.

While we are talking about fast food, it is also important that you try to spend your food budget wisely. Make a list of things you need before you go grocery shopping and stick to that list. We have fallen into a habit in which we place very high value on convenience. Therefore, if it is on an end cap and on sale, we are far more likely to add $3 here and $5 there to our basket without thinking twice about it. Unfortunately, many of those products are not healthy and can include chemicals and preservatives that leave you hungry, tired, and even sick. Commit to the list— accounting for every meal during the week. You’ll save money AND feel better at the end of the day.

61VWkE9iEPL._SX419_BO1,204,203,200_Consider growing your own fruits and vegetables— it’s possible, even in the city! Look into making some of the staples in your pantry by yourself. With a little practice, you can make your own cheese for 1/3 of the store price and bake your own bread for about fifty cents per loaf. No matter how committed you are to the idea of sustainable living, Woman-Powered Farm by Audrey Levatino is a great book to add to your library. From teaching you the basics on raised garden beds and farm animals to operating farm machinery, it is perfect for the woman who wants to become more self-sufficient.

3. Reorganize your schedule

Completely banning electronics from your house is unreasonable, but cutting down on your TV time and opening a book is better for your brain. Get out of the house with your family, or on your own, and hike one of our area’s beautiful trails. See the world around you without a camera phone lens. Choose activities that will inspire you to be a healthier, happier version of yourself. Very often, happiness is just outside of your comfort zone.

Make time for energy-saving activities like hanging clothes on a line or chopping wood for a wood stove this winter. Not only will you stay active, but you will save money on your electric bills. If these ideas are too extreme for you, ease yourself into it. Bike to work or carpool if you can, keep those lights turned off, and set the temperature in your house to a comfortable but reasonable number. Little changes now can make a huge difference over time.

Choose any of these suggestions and tweak them to apply to your circumstances. At the very least, you may find that it is easier to identify the subtle influences that challenge your happiness and follow your own path instead.

Let’s Go for a Ride!

When I was a kid in Southern California, “let’s go for a ride” usually meant a long family drive through the mountains or skirting the desert basins far outside of the city. Sometimes, we would take curving cliffside roads that afforded a view of the Pacific. The vistas were incredible, though generally relegated to the opposite side of a window, and came at the cost of a few gallons of gas and the risk of motion sickness.

Now, “let’s go for a ride” has a different meaning. Once spring finally muscles winter out of the way and everyone is eager to get outside, my daughter and I strap on our helmets and hit the Roanoke River Greenway on our bicycles. Each year, there’s more of the greenway to explore. It is as if small, secret parts of our city are constantly being revealed, opening themselves up for adventure.

jeremyPenelope loves the freedom and speed of the bicycle. She loves moving under her own power, and she loves the real sense of growing stronger she gets each year as she’s able to ride faster, for longer distances, and up steeper hills. I, of course, simply enjoy being along for the ride and sharing these experiences with her.

Some of the best parts of the trip, though, having nothing to do with riding, but come from the spontaneous moments of discovery that being on a bicycle allows:

  • Coming across a bridge and deciding, all of a sudden, that what we really want to do is hop off the bikes and explore the banks along the stream that runs underneath it.
  • Stopping to watch a heron stalk a stretch of low water, dipping its head under the surface as it hunts for fish.
  • Making friends with a tailless stray cat who has taken up ownership of nearby playground.
  • Drowsing in the grass, helmets still on, watching the clouds drift past the tree branches high above.

What you can do on a bicycle that you can’t do in a car is stop, right where you are, and explore. You never have to worry about your kids spotting something fascinating, only to have them struggle to describe it long after you have driven past. You can take a moment to appreciate the small and sudden. Best of all, you can let your child take the lead, and their curiosity take the wheel.

Visit http://www.ridesolutions.org to see how you can get out and ride this summer!

Written by Jeremy Holmes

Life at the Middle: Opposites Attract

My husband and I are close, but we don’t always agree. The first four years of our marriage, we lived in a house with bare white walls, because we couldn’t settle on even one single picture. Over time our tastes have converged. We can now buy a couch or decorate a room without busting into an argument. But there is one thing about which we still disagree.

Despite my love of running, I am not an outdoorsy person, and I accept this about myself.  I’m a city girl, a New Yorker in fact. I moved there when I was 17, and it never occurred to me that I would live anywhere else.

I stay pale all summer. I love to walk too, but on city streets thank you, with shop windows, restaurants and street lights at night. I get nervous when the concrete ends. Plants are pretty (although don’t make the mistake of trusting me with yours); flowers are lovely, and I love trees. But I do not care for moving nature. What I’m trying to tell you, is that nature is fine with me, as long as it stays in place.

My husband, on the other hand, is a bona-fide nature boy. Having grown up a scholar, with most of his time spent reading and writing, he loves the outdoors.  He’s a self-declared friend of nature- and all those who live in it. He stops to admire frogs, or marvel at the geometric simplicity of certain bugs. And as often as the not too bright squirrels in our neighborhood fling themselves under the wheels of the car, he always swerves to avoid hitting them. 

His true weakness however, is turtles. My husband fancies himself a friend of the turtle, and like every nine year old boy, he loves to touch them. Driving with him is an adventure because whenever possible, he brakes for turtles.  If they’ve wandered into the street, he jumps out of the car and moves them to safety. And although I have tried to make my position on moving nature clear to him, this once almost became a problem.  

Out for a drive one day, my husband spied a turtle in distress. He put on his turtle saving super hero costume and leapt out of the car. But instead of delivering the turtle to safety, he decided to present it to me as a gift. As the turtle’s tiny head got closer and closer to mine, it’s wrinkled neck craning up to see me, I got more and more nervous, until I finally shouted, “I do not need to meet that tortoise!”

Seven years have passed since that near tete a tete encounter. While we now have clarity regarding what constitutes cute (puppies) versus gross (amphibians), my distaste for moving nature remains unchanged. I still do not appreciate turtles, frogs and the dreaded S creatures. On the issue of bugs, a division of labor has been arranged; I spot the nasty critters, and my husband disposes of them.

Beth Herman in an artist and essayist. She enjoys running the hills of Charlottesville and the city streets of Washington D.C., in almost equal measure.

Serve it up Sassy! ™: A Pond-side Picnic

RECIPE DEVELOPMENT, FOOD STYLING, PHOTOGRAPHY, and ARTICLE BY LIZ BUSHONG

In late afternoon, the sun begins to slowly melt into the horizon, like butter on a warm southern biscuit. That’s the time to grab a comfy old quilt, pack a picnic basket and head to the pond for a pond-side picnic.

Setting the tone for this spontaneous alfresco picnic begins with a vintage picnic basket and a red plaid thermos. The classic red, white, and navy, with a pinch of black creates the simple but sassy color scheme. Brightly colored boxes, take-out containers and buckets are filled with pre made picnic fare. This menu features a mouth-watering muffaletta that is packed with flavor. Tangy olive relish and layers of cold cuts are neatly stacked in a hollowed round loaf of crusty bread or as a wrap, tightly rolled in a flour tortilla. A plate of soft Brie with cracked pepper water -crackers are served with a cluster of green grapes that will refresh the palate from the tanginess of the sandwiches. In a star-studded navy cooler, soft drinks in small glass bottles are chilled to perfection. Last, but not least, is the dessert. Dark chocolate cupcakes with ‘ant’ candies remind us that summer will soon be arriving. These cute candy ants are made from plain and peanut M & M’s ® with chocolate frosting as legs and antenna. Kids of all ages will enjoy these cute cupcakes.

When planning your picnic think of foods that will travel and pack well. Avoiding foods prepared with cream sauces or egg based items will keep everyone safe from bad bugs, aka unwanted food borne illnesses. Here are a few helpful tips to keep bad bugs at bay:

  1. Avoid leaving prepared foods in the danger zone: 40-140 degrees F. more than two hours. You can expose them to 90 degree temperatures for one hour.
  2. Wash hands before and after handling food. Pack sanitized towelettes.
  3. Pack chilled food in an insulated cooler, with plenty of ice or ice packs to surround the food. Consider two coolers, one for food and for beverages.
  4. If you are serving chicken and meats, place in separate tightly sealed bags or containers at the bottom of your cooler.
  5. If grilling, designate separate plates for the raw meat and cooked foods.
  6. Keep grilling and eating utensils separate to avoid cross-contamination.
  7. While grilling, use a meat thermometer to make sure meats reach a safe internal temperature. That is 170-180 degrees for chicken. Beef, steaks and roasts should be 145-160 degrees F. Avoid partially cooking or grilling food with the intent of finishing the cooking later.

A little bit of common sense and planning ahead about picnic food safety will keep everyone healthy and allow you to create wonderful memories. Knowing you have prepared the best and safest menu for your family and friends will give you peace of mind.

When the sun has melted into the horizon and the orchestrated evening concert from the sounds of spring has begun, gather ’round to relax for one more moment at the pond, taking in all the delights of the afternoon and thinking about your next pond-side picnic.

 

Muffaletta-Sandwich or Wrap

 For Sandwich:
1 large round Italian loaf of bread or Hawaiian sweet bread round loaf
1 1/2 cups olive relish
10 thin provolone cheese slices
10 slices hard salami
10 thin Swiss cheese slices
1/2 pound black forest ham, sliced thin
1/2 pound peppered turkey, sliced thin 

Olive Relish
1 cup Spanish olives, drained and chopped
1 cup black olives, drained and chopped
1 cup pickled vegetables, drained and chopped coarsely
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon dried oregano
Salt and pepper to taste 

Instructions:
1. Cut upper third of round loaf in half. Hollow out top and bottom of loaves to make a pocket. Reserve bread pieces for other recipes
2. Spoon 1/4 cup of olive relish into bottom loaf, then 1/4 cup inside top loaf.
3. In bottom loaf, layer cheese and other ingredients in order listed above.
4. After turkey slice, repeat with provolone cheese, then go backwards with turkey, ham, Swiss cheese and end with hard salami if desired.
5. Place lid of sandwich on top of round loaf.
6. Wrap entire sandwich in plastic wrap and refrigerate until ready to serve.
7. Slice into wedges to serve.

To make a wrap: Same ingredients, except for cheese and tortilla wrap. I used a cheddar/mozzarella cheese stick in the middle of the tortilla wrap for added presentation when sliced in half. Spread relish on wrap, then layer ingredients and roll up. Also refrigerate until ready to serve.

Yield: 4-6 slices

 


Dark Chocolate Cupcakes with Candy Ants
 

Ingredients:
1-18.25 ounce package dark chocolate fudge cake mix
1-3ounce package chocolate instant pudding and pie mix-dry
1 1/3 cup water
½ cup vegetable oil
3 large eggs
½ cup mini chocolate morsels
1-teaspoon vanilla
2 cups vanilla butter cream frosting
72 peanut M & M’s
1 cup dark chocolate frosting
½ cup white sprinkles or jimmies

Instructions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 F. Prepare cupcake pan with liners. Combine all ingredients except frosting. Beat batter for 2 minutes to blend.
  2. Fill plastic zip lock bag with batter, clip end of bag to ¼ “. Pipe batter into cupcake liners.
  3. Bake cakes 20-25 minutes. Remove from oven.
  4. Frost cooled cupcakes with vanilla butter cream frosting.

To make candy ants: Place 2 peanut M &M’s in a row in center of cake, add regular sized M & M for head, and pipe legs using chocolate frosting on the center M. Then add eyes and feelers to head of ant.

Yield: 24 cupcakes

 

 

Liz Circle 2013 small - CopyMake a Statement, Make it Sassy and Make it Yours!

Liz Bushong is an expert in the three-dimensional art of entertaining. She transforms simple dining occasions into beautiful and memorable moments by adding a touch of her own “sassy” style. She makes elegance easy for her audience and encourages them to add their own Sassy touch to make it unique. Liz is famous for creating her own version of a beautifully presented tablescape – which she calls a

Sassyscape ™ -and she also creates magic beyond the dining experience. In 2009, 2010, and 13, she was selected from thousands nationwide to be part of an elite team of 100 professionals entrusted with decorating the White House for the Holiday. In 2011, she was part of seven-person team selected to decorate the Tennessee Governor’s Mansion for the holiday.

Liz has been featured as the monthly guest chef on Daytime Tri-Cities, television show on WJHL, the CBS Affiliate for the Tri- Cities Area of Virginia, Kentucky, Tennessee, West Virginia, Daytime Blue Ridge in Roanoke, Virginia and Daytime Tampa, Tampa Florida. She is also the creator and host of her own one-hour seasonal television show called “Serve it up Sassy!” for the same market, which aired in 2011. She is also a contributing writer for the regional magazine VIP Seen and Lovely Bella magazine in Roanoke, Virginia.
She has a Bachelor of Science Degree in Consumer and Family Sciences from Purdue University and an Associate in Applied Science degree in Fashion Design from The Fashion Institute of Technology in New York. She is also certified in Decorative Finishes and has been trained as a volunteer Master Gardener.
Liz is the author of the Just Desserts and Sweets & Savories cookbook. Liz turns dessert into the fifth basic food group and features recipes for her signature specialty, delicious “mini-desserts and appetizers.”
Liz makes her home in Johnson City, Tennessee. She continues to perfect her sassy approach to turning simple dining occasions into beautiful and memorable moments. 

 Liz Bushong, Serve it up Sassy! ™

To purchase cookbooks, find recipes, cooking, and decorating demonstrations, go to www.lizbushong.com.

 

 

DIY: Creative Kids’ Activities for Fall

Each year autumn marks a time for change – leaves turn colors, the air becomes crisp and parents everywhere prepare for their children to return to school. The new season brings with it a shift in rhythms and patterns, including a new weekly routine for families as children go back to school.

For young children starting school, it’s important to maintain a learning environment even after the last school bell rings and they return home. Spend this time building family traditions and making learning fun by incorporating some of these fun indoor and outdoor fall activities into your seasonal routine.

EXPLORE THE OUTDOORS

* Set up a scavenger hunt with your kids to teach them about the differences between the tree; this activity allows children to run around the neighborhood learning about the wide variety of living things in their environment.
*Collect fallen leaves to create a beautiful fall collage. This is a fun activity for young children as they can use their imagination and creativity to design a unique image celebrating the fall season.
*Use a metallic marker so kids can write on the leaves, creating patterns or images, then place the leaves on wax paper and apply Mod Podge to keep the design in place as it hangs.
*Visit a local pumpkin patch: One of the most cherished fall traditions for families is spending a day at a pumpkin patch. Full of fun and games, the pumpkin patch is a perfect place for young children. Whether you’re making your way through the corn maze, interacting with the animals in the petting zoo, or enjoying a hay ride around the grounds, your family is sure to have a blast.

HALLOWEEN PREP

*Use the pumpkins brought home from the patch to design a spooky Jack-o’-lantern with your children. Let them design a face on the front of the pumpkin and cut it out for them.
*As Halloween approaches your little one will need a costume. Whether it’s shopping for the perfect costume or making one from scratch, use this time to learn more about your child’s likes and dislikes while encouraging them to express their creativity.

Make this fall season unforgettable and continue to help your children grow by introducing these lifelong family traditions.

Rock’n Women

We’ve all had some sort of meaningful connection to the outdoors-it’s part of our intrinsic makeup.  We are pulled to discover, explore, find and create relationships with the natural world.  Maybe it was making mud pies with the boys on the playground, searching the lawn for four-leafed clovers, attending camp in the summer. Through outdoor play, young girls begin to form a sense of wonder and the confdence they need to continue their personal and physical growth.

Written by Dustin Eshelman

To find out more about outdoor recreation in the Roanoke Valley and The River Rock Climbing Gym, pick up our latest issue, on stands now!