Back to Earth Tacos | Got To Be NC Beef

This post has been sponsored by the North Carolina Department of Agriculture & Consumer Services. I received both monetary and product compensation in exchange for my honest opinion and review.

Nestled along the banks of the Uwharrie River near Asheboro, North Carolina is the picturesque home of Tom and Janice Henslee. They share their home with Janice’s mother, as well as a number of bees, free-range chickens, three adorable Brussels Griffon pups, and a field of grass-fed cows. There is plenty of wildlife, too, on the 110 acres that is Back to Earth Farm.

I had the pleasure of spending a morning with the Henslees. They welcomed me into their home to chat about the history of the farm, explain how their farm operates, and share their plans for the future. As I hung onto their every word, I was excited to hear that we share similar beliefs in holistic health and nutrition.

Tom and Janice Henslee
(
photo courtesy of Back to Earth Farm)

In 2013, Tom and Janice moved to North Carolina from Texas to establish Back to Earth Farm. They wanted a place where they could regain and maintain their health: body, mind, spirit, and environment. They “walk to talk,” so to speak, by reconnecting with nature to promote a well-balanced life. Tom and Janice are passionate about renewing the health of the land through regenerative farming practices, connecting communities with a healthy food source, and offering a place for people to learn, rest, rejuvenate, and have fun.

Tom and Janice explained the details of their sustainable farm model. They focus on healthy soil, which produces healthy plants, that will be eaten by healthy animals. That combination makes for healthier people. I was fascinated to learn that Janice had acquired a microscope specifically for viewing soil samples. She explained that she would look for live microbes, which promotes a healthy environment.

These microbes are often nonexistent in farms that use artificial fertilizers, pesticides, and herbicides. However, the Henslees do not have a need for artificial fertilizers because they choose to utilize managed grazing. Simply put, their cows are contained to an area to feed for a certain period of time. The cows are moved before all of the grass is eaten, allowing the grass in that area to regrow before the cows return to that specific part of the pasture. Using this method allows the cattle to spread their own manure as natural fertilizer.

Did you know that grass-fed beef has 80% less total fat than grain-fed, along with more antioxidants and vitamins? Tom and Janice’s cattle are also GMO free and raised without growth hormones or antibiotics.

After our morning of great conversation, I received a guided tour of the property. There is a serene beauty the encompasses the still-growing farm.

Map of Back to Earth Farm

(image courtesy of Back to Earth Farm)

As we neared the river, the hidden gem of the farm appeared. It’s a hand-crafted cabin made from cedar and pine. The 2 bedroom, 1 bath retreat is available for rent, and includes a full kitchen, heating and air, fireplace, TV, wraparound lower porch, 2 upper-level porches, and a carport. It sleeps 6 comfortably but is not child-proofed.

BTE Cabin

I immediately fell in love with the charm of the cabin. From the gorgeous dining room table handmade by Janice herself to the hammock on the wraparound porch overlooking the river, guests are sure to fall in love with this peaceful getaway. Janice went on to share her dreams for Back to Earth Farm. In addition to their sustainable farm producing nutrient-dense food, she envisions one day offering wellness retreats and educational workshops. For now, she is focusing on growing her most recent inception – a wedding venue! [I plan to write a future blog specifically about Janice’s wonderful ideas.]

BTE Cabin Kitchen

When we arrived back to the house, it was time for me to become Farmer Tom’s chief farm hand. He and I headed out to the pasture to move fencing. The cows heard his whistle and hurried through the field to meet him at the fence line. Like well-trained pets, they knew what was about to happen; it was time for fresh grass to eat. As he reeled in the line, I removed the temporary fence posts from the ground. The cows were very interactive, and seemed just as interested to see me as I was to see them. Tom took the fence posts from me and started to reset them in their new location. I followed behind, securing the line to the posts. And just like that, I became a tiny part of their efforts to leave the land healthier than when they arrived. Restorative farming at it’s best.

BTE cattle
BTE newborn calf
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The newest member of Back to Earth Farm, a 5-day old calf.)

Before I said goodbye, Tom filled a bag with a selection of meat, from ground beef to filet mignon. I admit that I was a little sad to leave my new friends and the amazing farm that they have created, but I was equally as excited to head home and prepare something tasty with local, grass-fed NC beef.

I love simple, whole food recipes and from-scratch meals. I decided to make tacos with organic, non-GMO ingredients to pay homage to the Henslees and the holistic philosophy that we share.

Ingredients:
1lb grass-fed beef
1/2 small onion (organic)
1/2 bell pepper (organic)
1 zucchini (organic)
3/4 cups water
1T chili powder
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp onion powder
1/4 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp paprika
1.5 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper
1T olive oil

Additional Organic Ingredients:
1 tomato (diced)
black olives (small jar, sliced)
shredded lettuce
guacamole
non-dairy shredded cheddar cheese
gluten free taco shells and/or gluten free soft tortillas

Instructions:
Prepare by dicing the organic vegetables. I love adding fresh veggies to any main dish. They provide extra nutrition as well as offering more flavor and texture to a meal.

vegetables

Add olive oil to a medium-sized saucepan; heat on high. Then add diced vegetables. Sauté until tender.

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Remove the sautéed vegetables from the saucepan and set aside. In the same saucepan, add the grass-fed ground beef. Brown thoroughly.

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When the beef has finished cooking, drain grease (if there is any; my Back to Earth beef had very little!) and return beef to saucepan, along with sautéed vegetables and taco spices.

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Side note: I use spices instead of a prepackaged taco mix. However, there are several great choices available if you do not have individual spices on hand. Check out: Wick Fowler’s Taco Seasoning or McCormick Organic Gluten Free Taco Seasoning. Both are available at local grocery stores.

Add water, mixing ingredients well, and heat to boiling.

taco mix

Reduce heat; simmering uncovered 4-5 minutes, stirring often, until thickened.

To assemble taco, select preferred taco shell. I used both a Garden of Eatin’ brand yellow taco shell and an Udi’s brand plain tortilla, which mimics a soft taco shell.

Add beef mixture, then layer with lettuce, tomato, olives, guacamole, vegan cheese, [I prefer Daiya brand cheese.] or any other topping of choice.

Back to Earth Tacos

There you have it! A simple, whole food taco that is delicious, healthy, and takes less than 30 minutes to prepare and cook.

I have had so much fun learning about local grass-fed beef. There are a lot of choices for consumers when it come to NC Beef, available throughout the state in farm stores, at farmers’ markets, and online. Back to Earth Farm offers online shopping, as well as scheduled deliveries. If you’re interested in learning more about Back to Earth, or scheduling your own farm tour there, please visit their website: Back to Earth Farm

As I mentioned earlier, this post was sponsored by the North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. It is an honor to be featured alongside eight amazing bloggers who also toured NC farms and shared their recipes. Please check out their posts below.

Got To Be NC Beef Farm Tours

And What To Make with Your NC Beef

Overhaulin’

Many people take advantage of the new year, and really stop to consider areas in their lives where changes can be made. January always seems full of opportunities to wipe slates clean. Just like the snow that falls during this time of year, covering all imperfections with a blanket of white, the thought of empty canvases and new beginnings offer a refreshing peace.

This blog has been through a number of re-inventions. What started as a technology and design blog in 2010, and transitioned to a faith-based blog before landing at its current state, Jenn On A Mission has been a labor of love and an outlet for my ‘jack of all trades’ personality. [There is just so much to see, do, learn, and explore in this life, y’all!] However, I have come to realize that the blog now is a bit like my home office — there is more “stuff’ in the space than the space is meant to hold. It creates Organized Chaos, which is not really organized or user-friendly. I may be able to walk into my office and, after shifting around several stacks of papers, locate the one thing I was looking for but my readers shouldn’t have to sift through numerous topics and blog posts just to find a local restaurant recommendation.

That said, my goal this weekend is to overhaul the website again.

overhaulin'
(photo borrowed from Red Rock Collision Repair website)

I have been doing research and have really put in a lot of time planning the new setup. The look will still be the same, for now… but I will be narrowing my menu topics and focusing on three specifically: Design, Health, and my home state of North Carolina. I still plan to blog on similar topics, from DIY projects to day trips, but my goal is to provide content that is easier to follow and find. If I’m going to work towards living a Minimalistic life, my blog should be uncomplicated too. It only makes sense. I’m excited about these changes and hope that you will be too. You should see the new menu options beginning January 15. New blog posts will be published every Thursday. The sponsored post that I’m writing for January 19 will actually be both health and NC focused, so stay tuned!

I am still unsure if I will continue the Motivation Monday posts. I would really like to put more emphasis on my design content, and plan to open my online store on the blog very soon. That is, as long as I don’t crash the site again. [My nerves still haven’t fully recovered from that fiasco yet.] Please bear with me as I work to finalize decisions and transitions.

As always, thank you for stopping by. {Please remember to subscribe!} Feel free to leave a comment below; I love hearing from y’all. What kind of overhaulin’ do you have planned for 2017?

Honey Veracha Chicken & Rice

This post has been sponsored by True Made Foods in conjunction with NC Blogger Network. I received compensation in exchange for my honest opinion and review.

I’m not one to use Sriracha in recipes because my tolerance for super hot sauces is a bit lower than most folks. I love spicy foods but when things are too hot, I feel like they lose flavor over the heat of the spice.

That is why, when I was ask to give True Made Foods’ Veracha sauce a try, I was a bit reluctant at first. However, I quickly learned that Veracha stands for Vegetables + Sriracha. That’s right… the secret to True Made Foods sauces is that they contain vegetables! For a conscious eater like myself, I love the idea of products combining flavor and nutrition. The Veracha sauce contains carrots, butternut squash, and spinach. I know what you’re thinking, “But can they really hide vegetables in their sauces?” I had to find out!

True Made Foods was kind enough to send me a bottle of their Veracha sauce to sample, along with their Ketchup and BBQ Sauce. Since I was unsure as to how spicy their Veracha sauce was, I opted to make a slow cooker version of Honey Sriracha Chicken. [I’ll include that recipe below.] The combination of honey with the hot sauce cuts out some of the heat.

To my surprise, the Veracha sauce is not at spicy as Sriracha. Don’t get me wrong, it still has a kick to it, but the heat of the spices are not over-powering. It is packed full of flavor — delicious, mouth-watering flavor! There’s a hint of sweet to it just before it delivers a wonderfully spicy heat. It is incredible! And did I mention that it’s made with vegetables? This sauce is truly the best of both worlds. I will never make Honey Sriracha Chicken again. From this point forward, I only make Honey Veracha Chicken!

Since True Made Foods created such an amazing hot sauce, I knew that I couldn’t wait to try their Ketchup too. It also contains carrots, butternut squash, and spinach. Their ketchup has 50% less added sugar than most other brands! Y’all… this is amazing ketchup! It is tangy and sweet, and the perfect thickness. It makes other brands taste watered-down and bland. You have got to try it for yourself!

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You can find their products in a number of places. You can place an order online via their website, or you can find them in select Super Target and select Whole Foods. Their Veracha and Ketchup can also now be found in all Lowes Foods!

True Made Foods is making American food healthy, turning empty calorie foods into nutrient dense foods. Their hot sauce is pure Paleo, and their Ketchup and BBQ Sauce are also gluten free and vegan. All are non-GMO!

Fun Fact: The carrots and butternut squash used in these products come from family-owned farms in Eastern North Carolina.

Please follow True Made Foods on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

If you’re looking for an easy recipe for these products that highlights their incredible taste, consider Honey Veracha Chicken & Rice!

INGREDIENTS
3 chicken breasts
1.5 cups water
1/2 tablespoon olive oil
1/4 cup honey
4 tablespoons TMF Veracha sauce
1 tablespoons TMF Ketchup
salt and pepper to taste

INSTRUCTIONS
Place chicken breasts into the slow cooker.
In a medium-sized bowl, combine together the remaining ingredients.
Pour mixture over the chicken breasts.
Cook on high for 4 hours or low for 8 hours.

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When chicken is cooked thoroughly, remove from slow cooker and shred with a fork.
Remove 1.5 cups of the Honey Veracha chicken broth from the slow cooker and set aside.
Return shredded chicken to the remainder of the broth and adjust the slow cooker to warm.

ADDITIONAL INGREDIENTS
1 cup white Jasmine rice
1.5 cups Honey Veracha chicken broth
2 zucchini
small onion
coconut oil

ADDITIONAL INSTRUCTIONS
In a saucepan, bring Honey Veracha chicken broth to a boil.
Stir in rice, cover. Reduce heat and simmer for 15 minutes or until all liquid is absorbed.
In a separate saucepan over medium-high heat, sauté diced zucchini and onion in coconut oil.
When tender, add cooked rice to saucepan containing sautéed vegetables.

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Serve shredded chicken with rice, and enjoy!

*Because I absolutely love the flavor and can’t get enough of it, I drizzled a small amount of Veracha sauce directly on top of my chicken for an added kick of spices. 🙂

 

Fall Fashion with Style Encore

If you’ve been following my blog since summer, you’re likely to remember that I fell in love with the Personal Shopping Experience offered by Style Encore. Style Encore is a local consignment store specializing in name brand clothing and accessories. They sell everything from Michael Kors blouses to Tory Burch shoes and Kate Spade purses, among many other brands. All are in barely used, great condition — I have purchased several items with the original tags still attached — and all are sold for a fraction of their retail cost!

I love fashion, but I actually hate to shop. I don’t like fighting crowds in busy department stores. I don’t like combing through racks searching for a style that I really am not sure even exists. If I do find something unique, I never know if it actually looks good on me. I do like the idea of boutiques but the prices are a big turn off. It’s hard to be a fashionista with all of these negatives in my way.

That’s why the Personal Shopping Experience is perfect for me. Style Encore reminds me of a boutique, only better with really great prices. Everything in the store is “one of a kind” since the items are purchased piece-by-piece from many individuals throughout the year. The store isn’t overwhelming in size. And I don’t have to fight the crowds or search the racks! The ladies at my local Style Encore in Winston Salem do that… and cater to me like I’m a celebrity. With a keen eye for current trends, they style numerous outfits in advance and I just show up and try them on! The best part is that I’m assigned a stylist who will give me her honest opinion. No more second-guessing the fit alone.

A Personal Shopping Experience will be perfect for you, too! This is a FREE service offered by Style Encore. Whether you’re looking for a specific outfit for a special occasion or whether you’re like me and just love seasonal updates to your closet, you should consider being styled at Style Encore. Going on a cruise and need cute dresses? Starting a new job and need business attire? Just started a new relationship and need some great date-night pieces? No matter the reason, the Personal Shopping Experience is your must-use styling service!

If you live in or around the NC Triad, you have two location options: Winston Salem and Greensboro. If you live elsewhere, click here to find a store near you.

Here’s how the Personal Shopping Experience works:
1. Stop by Style Encore to pick up a Style Guide (or give them a call, they will email it to you!)
2. Complete the style guide and return it.
3. Schedule your Personal Shopping Experience.
4. Show up and have fun trying on everything!
5. Don’t bother trying to narrow down your options. Their prices are too good to be picky!

Below are photos from my Fall Personal Shopping Experience. I am including three of my favorite outfits, and a summary of my purchases.

  

When you buy or sell clothing to Style Encore, you receive a punch-card. For every $10, you receive a punch. After 20 punches, you receive 20% off your next purchase. I used my punch card on this purchase and saved $46.


Old Navy blazer $10
Mossimo blouse $6
LuLaRoe skirt $12
New Direction shoes $12
Total outfit $40


The Limited blouse $12
Ann Taylor Loft slacks $13
Vince Camuto shoes $18
Total outfit $43


Jennifer Lopez blouse $13
Joe Fresh jeans $9
Naturalizer booties $18
Black necklace $8
Total outfit $48

All of the prices above do not reflect my discount. My final purchases were 18 pieces for $231. After my 20% discount, I paid a grand total of $185. That’s roughly $10 per item! And I received 18 punches on a new card. Over the course of the next couple of months, I should be able to sell back at least $20 worth of clothes so that when it is time for my Spring Personal Shopping Experience, I’ll have another 20% to put toward a new wardrobe! Win-win.

So what are you waiting for? Contact Style Encore for your Personal Shopping Experience today!!

I was not compensated for this post, and it contains no affiliate links. All opinions are my own and not influenced in any way. 

Aleia’s {a GFAF Event Vendor showcase}

Recently, I attended Greensboro’s first Gluten & Allergen Free Wellness Event. The event was coordinated by Nikki Everett, who has been directing this educational one-day convention in other cities since 2009. I am so grateful that she decided to include NC Triad in this year’s schedule.  The event was informative and fun! As a member of their Blogger Team, I had the opportunity to chat with the vendors and speakers before the event opened to the public. Over the next couple of weeks, I plan to showcase a few of my favorites.

Today, I want to introduce you to Aleia’s.

Based in Connecticut, Aleia’s is artisan food for those of us who have to avoid gluten. Their products can be found in select stores throughout North Carolina, and online. (Aleia’s is currently not in stores here in the Triad, but they’re working on that!) Online orders of $40 or more ship free within the continental US. Their foods include cookies, stuffing, breadcrumbs, croutons, and their brand new product, a gluten-free/dairy-free crunchy coating similar to a bagged coating made popular by its claim to be a less-greasy, baked alternative to frying.

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Of their products, I decided to try the new crunchy coating first.

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The directions are simple and it took about five minutes to prepare. I began with three thin chicken breasts, rinsed and then drizzled with coconut oil. I opened the box, which contains two coating packets and two bags, and removed one of each. I opened the seasoned coating and placed it into the bag.

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From there, I simply placed one chicken breast into the pouch and shook the bag a few times. I didn’t have to shake it vigorously; the coating covered the chicken really well. I removed the chicken breast from the bag and placed it on a cookie sheet. I repeated the process for the remaining two breasts.

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I placed the coated chicken breasts into a preheated oven set at 425-degrees, and baked them for 20 minutes. The breasts that I used were thin, so the time would need to be adjusted for thicker ones. While the chicken baked, I chopped and sautéed mixed vegetables.

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In less than 30 minutes, I had prepared an easy and delicious meal. Aleia’s new Coat & Crunch was seasoned beautifully – not too spicy! – and really took my typically bland baked chicken to a new level. My tastebuds were extremely happy. I highly recommend that you try Aleia’s.

You can find Aleia’s products near you by clicking here and entering your zip code, or by ordering online at aleias.com. I have a discount code (valid for online purchases only – save $1.00 on each item) that I am happy to share with you if you will:

  1. Click here and LIKE my Facebook page.
  2. Click here and LIKE Aleia’s Facebook page.
  3. Comment below that you have completed steps 1 and 2, and share with us what product you’re most interested in trying.

I also invite you to subscribe to my blog by entering your name and email address in the fields under my photo on the righthand side of the page. That way, you’ll know when my next blog will publish featuring another fantastic GFAF Event vendor!

Aleia’s is devoted to producing superior hand crafted, certified gluten free, Non-GMO and kosher products. Our commitment is to provide healthy, delicious options for living a gluten free lifestyle every day! Handcrafted and packaged in the USA in a dedicated gluten free bakery that also processes peanuts, tree nuts, milk ingredients and lots of smiles!

Disclaimer: I was given one box of Coat & Crunch Extra Crispy and one box of Coat & Crunch Crispy Spicy by Aleia’s to review as part of the Greensboro Blogger Team. This post does not contain affiliate links. All opinions are my own and were not influenced in any way. 

Gluten & Allergen Free Wellness Event

When I learned about my food allergies last year, my blog changed. I went from posting recipes of quick meals made with ingredients that I had purchased for next-to-nothing with coupons, to experiments made with new products that I had never heard of before. It has been challenging, but in a wonderful way.

Although I feel like I have learned a lot since my diagnosis, I also know that I have barely scratched the surface on all there is to know. That is why I am so excited (and extremely honored) to have been selected to be a part of the Blogger Team for the upcoming Gluten & Allergen Free Wellness Event in Greensboro on September 10.

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Key speakers for this event are: Dr. Nicole DiNezza, DC, NTP, Jennifer Cuevas, Tarah Jakubiak, Meg Huebner, Rodger Lenhardt, Beth Mincher, and Drs. Roosevelt Smith, and Clifton Mays. They will be discussing an array of topics including essential oils, traveling with allergies, and digestive disorders. There will also be many vendors on site, including some well-known brands. It is going to be an amazing resource for anyone with food allergies, whether you were recently diagnosed or have battled them for years. 

I will be posting updates throughout the event; if you’re unable to attend, be sure to follow me on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook. I will also post a blog with highlights from the event the week of September 11.

Tickets are only $10 and can be purchased in advance or at the door. Please comment below if you’re planning to attend. I would love to connect with you at the event!

 

As a Blogger Team member, I will receive free admission and possibly additional compensation for posts regarding this event.

Greensboro Science Center

As summer winds down and families prepare to head back to school, I wanted to share with you a hidden gem right here in the NC Triad that can serve as both a last-minute daycation and an educational field trip.

Welcome to the Greensboro Science Center!

GSClogo

The Greensboro Science Center is located on Lawndale Drive, just minutes off of I-40, and houses a museum, zoo, and aquarium. All can be accessed for one admission price of roughly $12. Also on site, but not included in admission, are a restaurant, a theater, and an outdoor adventure center. Hours vary between attractions, but all are open nearly year-round.

My family and I recently visited the science center, and had a wonderful time. These are a few of the highlights from our trip:

The Carolina ScQuarium is home to many animals, including sharks, stingrays, penguins, and otters! We began our day enjoying the stingrays and sharks; we were allowed to touch them! My niece said that the stingrays were very soft but the shark felt more like a lizard. At 10am, we ventured over to the African penguins where we listened to a presentation while they were being fed.


After we finished in the Aquarium, we headed over to Destination: Dinosaur. It was an exhibit of fossils and dinosaur replicas, which was both educational and fun! I knew T-Rex had tiny arms, but I guess I never really knew just how tiny until I saw the comparison between it and a smaller raptor.

Just around the corner from the dinosaur exhibit was HealthQuest. It was a room full of hands-on exhibits that covered everything from sneezing and gastrointestinal sounds to reflexes and nutrition.

Our next stop was the Animal Discovery Zoo! My youngest nephew enjoyed the goats and chickens in the petting zoo, while his older brother and sister checked out the wallabies. My favorite part of the zoo were the gibbons. They looked like they were having so much fun!

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As we looped around the zoo’s path, we stumbled upon Davis Kelly Fountain. It was not only beautiful (and entertaining to the younger kids) but was a refreshing spot for such a hot Carolina day. The fountains played music and the water sprayed to the rhythm of each song!

Adjacent to the fountain was the Discovery House. Here, you could see (and pet!) animals like the domestic rabbit, ferret, guinea pig, and this adorable chinchilla below. There were also armadillos, porcupines, snakes, and an Egyptian bat!

As you can imagine, we worked up quite the appetite with all of our adventures, so we heading back inside the main building to grab lunch at The Fresh Market Cafe. I was impressed by their selection of food; there was truly something for everyone. My mom and youngest nephew enjoyed hot dogs, my sister-in-law had a turkey and cranberry sandwich on wheat, another nephew has pizza, and my niece enjoyed mac and cheese. The Fresh Market Grill is very allergy friendly, so I had delicious gluten free chicken strips and hummus with carrots.

Once we had our bellies full, we played a bit in Sciplay Bay. There were several rooms with a mixture of interactive elements, stunning special effects, and live- action adventures.

We finished our day with the TWC Extreme Weather Gallery, learning about record rain falls, variances in hail sizes, and feeling hurricane-force winds.

We didn’t make it downstairs to the Herpetarium Exhibit. We were all tired and ready to head home. But I feel certain that we’ll go back. In addition to the exhibits we did not see, the science center is expanding! They’re on a three-phase plan with final construction scheduled to be completed by 2020. I highly recommend visiting the Greensboro Science Center on a regular basis over the next four years.

 

I was not compensated for this post, and it contains no affiliate links. All opinions are my own and not influenced in any way. All photos © 2016 by jennonamission.



 

NC Blogger Network Triad Meetup

UPDATE: This event is being rescheduled. When a new date is available, I will update everyone with a new post. Thank you!

Hello blogger friends! I am hosting a fun meetup next month, and I hope that you will join me. It will take place on Thursday, September 1 at 6:30pm.

This will be the first NCBN Triad Blogger Meetup of 2016, and my first meetup hosting as NC Blogger Network’s Triad Ambassador.

The event will be held at the newly re-branded Wolfgang Puck Kitchen + Bar at Friendly Center in Greensboro. Enjoy an evening of socializing, free appetizers and a drink special* (complements of the restaurant), and the chance to win a door prize.

NCBN Triad Meetup
During our event you’ll get to mingle and network with area bloggers and their influential friends, gain insight about the NC Blogger Network (if you aren’t already a member) and learn who is blogging practically in your own backyard.

The meetup is open to all members, non members, and bloggers in general. Seating is limited, so be sure to grab your tickets early, and please bring a friend! Click here to RSVP.

*You will be responsible for purchasing your own drinks and any additional food.

Ladies, It’s Time to Get: Outdoors!

After my failed attempt to paddle down the Yadkin in a tiny kayak a couple of months ago, I was in search of two things: someone who could fit me for the right sized kayak, and someone who could teach me how to maneuver it correctly. I was told that Great Outdoor Provision Co. would hold demos but when I checked their event calendar online, all local demos had already passed. I was starting to convince myself that it would be springtime before I would get to be fitted, when out-of-the-blue, a friend told me about a Demo Day in Greensboro through a company called Get: Outdoors. It was scheduled for July 23, and I already had plans for that day, so I jumped on the company’s website hopeful to find more Demo Days scheduled. What I found was even better.

Get: Outdoors has an amazing program called Women on the Water. (I love that the acronym is GO WOW.) The program is lead by JoAndra Proia, an ACA Certified Kayaking Instructor/Guide and Yoga Instructor. GO WOW offers women encouragement, support, and training for paddling flat water and beyond. Jo is passionate about unplugging from the digital world, sharing her knowledge of wildlife and nature, and teaching outdoor safety from kayaking to camping skills to first aid. Not only does GO WOW offer instruction, but they have many opportunities to utilize the skills that are learned in class with both day trips and overnight adventures. And it’s all for women only. How empowering!

I picked up the phone and immediately called Get: Outdoors to register for two classes that were being held on the same day, Intro to Kayaking and Foundations & Fundamentals 1. They were both held at the same location, one right after the other. The classes were only $35 each for two hours of instruction. The cost included kayak, life vest (PFDs), paddle, and lake fee. When I registered, I explained my previous experience and what I was hoping to find in a kayak. I was told that there would be several options of kayaks to choose from that day, and that fitting/demo was part of the class. I was ecstatic!

Just as promised, on the day of the class I was given the opportunity to demo any of the kayaks that Jo had brought. After chatting with her, and checking out the different makes and models, I ended up falling in love with the Perception Prodigy 12.0. It handled so easily, was just the right speed for me, and was surprisingly comfortable. At 12′ long, it only weighs around 50lbs. It includes knee/thigh pads around the open cockpit, slide lock foot braces, and an oval stern hatch.

The Intro to Kayaking class began at 10am. Many of us had very little paddling experience; some of us had no experience at all. Jo was thorough in making sure we were prepared well before we launched our boats. We had a PFD demonstration followed by how to enter and exit our kayaks. Once we were in the water, we covered the basics: forward paddle, reverse paddle, side sweep, and how to raft up.


Here are the participants from the Intro to Kayaking class at our first raft up. That’s me on the far right, at the end.


We’re working on our paddle grip in this photo. I have a tendency to hold my paddle too tight. The correct grip allows you to be able to wiggle your fingers. It took some getting used to, but I finally got it!


Jo had us team up to work on our side stroke. It’s hard to tell if you’re moving sideways without a stationary kayak beside of you. One of us would sit while the other paddled away. That way, we could better tell if we were actually moving to the side or forward.

At noon, class dismissed. Some of the ladies left. The three of us who were staying for the 1pm class had a nice lunch under the lake’s picnic shelter with Jo. We were able to ask additional questions and chat about paddling in general. It was fun learning about the history of Get: Outdoors, and all of Jo’s adventures!


At 1pm, the Foundations & Fundamentals class got underway. Those of us who had attended the morning class helped the “new” students with prepping. We grabbed a partner and shared our new-found knowledge with step-by-step instructions for PDFs and foot brace adjustment.

Once everyone was ready and boats were selected (I remained in the Prodigy), we headed back out on the water to learn more advanced maneuvers like “rainbow” sweeps, edging, steering with our hips, and spinning the kayak.

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Our afternoon raft up. 🙂


We even got in a little kay-yoga!

When class finished, we helped Jo load our kayaks back onto the trailer. I whispered “see you again soon” to the Prodigy, since Jo wouldn’t let me take her on home with me. haha [Get: Outdoors has an end-of-season sale in September where they offer their used boats at a discounted price. I am hoping to attend the sale and find my new-to-me kayak just in time for some last-minute fall paddling.] I left the marina around 3:15pm with a huge smile on my face. Yes, I had just received four hours of very educational training… but I also gained so much more. I had a new-found confidence, met some great people, and even had a sun-kissed glow on my arms and legs. (Hey, I don’t tan very easily so that’s a big deal to me!) It was such a wonderful experience. I just wanted to find a kayak that fit me but instead, I have found a new community of women with whom I can be adventurous.

Ladies, if you live in or around the NC Triad area and have ever considered paddling but aren’t sure where to begin, I highly recommend GO WOW. It is an experience that you will not regret. I hope to see you all on the water soon!


Happy Paddling!

I was not compensated for this post, and it contains no affiliate links. All opinions are my own and not influenced in any way. Photo credit: JoAndra Proia

Beat the Heat: 5 Tips for Runners

A Guide to Running During the Summer Months

Here in North Carolina, it’s quite common for our summers to be very hot and humid. This summer in particular, we have had a record number of days over 90-degrees. It’s no secret that I love warm weather (And by warm weather, I mean that triple-digit temperatures makes me happy!) but even I struggle with enjoying outdoor workouts during this time of year. If you’re new to running, it’s usually the first week of consistently warm days that is the hardest, and makes you question if you want to continue running at all. PLEASE DON’T GIVE UP! Ask around and you will quickly learn that the most seasoned runners struggle in this kind of heat too. It’s harder on our bodies to adjust to warm weather, but with the right approach, you can beat the summer heat. Here are five quick tips that are sure to help.

1. Hydrate — Make sure that you’re drinking plenty of fluids. The recommended 64 oz of water per day won’t cut it. You’re going to need more. You’ll want more than just water. And you’ll need to drink more often than the day of a run. For me, I have found that during the summer months, I drink around 100 oz of water per day. Additionally, I drink a minimum of 16-20 oz of Nuun the night before a run, as well as immediately after a run. It is important to drink an electrolyte – Sodium, Potassium, Magnesium, Calcium – replacement to replenish what is naturally lost when we sweat. I recommend Nuun because it has no sugar and no carbs. {Compared to Gatorade, which has over 20g(+) of sugar per serving!} Nuun is a gluten free, soy free, vegan, nonGMO, made in the USA tablet that you simply drop down into a bottle of water. The tablet immediately starts to dissolve, creating a fizzy, flavorful beverage. I love that Nuun is completely portable and can be adjusted to your liking. (I often break tablets in half and mix two flavors to customize my drink to the perfect taste.) If you’d like to learn more about Nuun, click here.

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2. Clothing — I have known so many new runners who have rushed out to their local department store to buy running outfits. They’re excited to finally start running and want to look the part. I was guilty of it when I first started. How can you blame anyone? Have you seen some of the running clothes available? They’re so cute! But there’s a big mistake that many of us make: I didn’t like the way my legs looked in shorts, and I certainly wasn’t going to show off my jiggly arms! So, I bought clothes based on how much they covered and how well the outfit matched. What I ended up with was a dresser full of clothing that made me feel miserable during workouts. The material wasn’t moisture-wicking or cooling, and the capri pants were causing me to overheat. Did you know that when you run, you should dress for a 20-degree increase? That means, if it is 70 degrees outside… you should dress like it is 90! Although it was a struggle, I finally learned to put my self-consciousness aside and buy/wear clothing that is appropriate for summer workouts. Here’s a photo of a typical summer run outfit. It’s still cute, right?

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I love the pop of color in my Nike shorts. Running shorts can be tricky. I highly suggest trying on several different styles to find the right fit for you. There are many different lengths and fits to choose from. In my three years of running with strangers, I can honestly tell you that I have never paid attention to anyone’s legs. Stop thinking that everyone will be paying attention to yours. They won’t. Do yourself a favor and buy shorts! They even make shorts with a skirt over them. I own two pair of those. Adorable, functional, and NOT form fitting. You have options!

The same goes for arms. I have never paid attention to, or even compared, others’ arms to mine. All it takes is wearing a tank top to one 90-degree run and you’ll fall in love. My favorite tank is this Brooks black and white geo print tank. The busy pattern camouflages and distracts, and is so much fun! This tank top is also quite long in length, which I love.

And friends, let’s not forget our feet! It is so very, very important to wear good socks to prevent blisters and provide support. I recommend Feetures! They’re a North Carolina-based, family-owned company that offers a lifetime warranty on their products. (Seriously… a lifetime warranty!) They’re the only sock that I wear in the summertime. I even recently wore them on vacation. I was the only person out of our group of six who did not get a single blister. Coincidence? Nope! That’s just how great Feetures! are. Click here to learn more about these great socks.

3. Sunscreen — It’s an easy oversight. When I first started running, I wanted to make sure that I had my earbuds, my cell phone, and my Garmin. Anything else was an afterthought. All it took was one 5K in early June to help me realize that there is more to summertime running than good music. I was sunburned! So now, before I even dress in my cute (yet weather-appropriate) outfit, I apply sunscreen. I personally use Banana Boat Sport 30SPF because it is water resistant… and I don’t sweat it off! I like to take the UltraMist in my bag for touch ups, especially since it also cools and refreshes.

sunscreen

4. Accessories — Sometimes, it’s the small things that can make all of the difference. Some of my favorite small items that help make summer running more bearable are:
A hat or visor
Sunglasses
Chapstick

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And my all-time favorite accessory…. the Nathan Insulated Handheld water bottle. It slides right on my hand without the worry of having to grip it the entire run, and with one quick squeeze, I can have cold water at my fingertips. Literally. Nathan also makes waist paks, vests, and hydration belts, too. Check them out by clicking here.

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5. Early Morning Workouts — Early birds will rejoice and night owls will cry, but the number one way to beat the summer heat is to get your run in as soon as the sun comes up. (Maybe even before, if you have a safe, well lit place to run.) Even on the hottest days, most morning temps are considerably cooler. For example, the highs for this week have been in the mid-90s but the morning lows have been around 68-degrees. Much better, right? You’ll have an easier run, and you’ll have your workout in before your day even gets started. Think of the extra time you’ll have in the afternoons, too!

If the thought of waking up early to get your run in is absolutely against everything you believe in… there’s always an indoor run on a treadmill. But where’s the fun in that? 😉

Are you new to running? Comment below if you’ve found these tips to be helpful. Are you a seasoned runner? We’d love for you to comment below with any additional tips that you may have to share. Happy Running!

 

Disclaimer: This is not a sponsored post. I did not received compensation from, nor am I affiliated with any company listed. All products were purchased by me, including giveaways. Opinions expressed here are my own and were not influenced in any manner.