Wanaka was low key as we spent the day wandering around the town and doing some grocery shopping. We grabbed our first meal since Queenstown at an Indian Restaurant in town and went back to our condo to do some much-needed relaxing and laundry. We left Wanaka the next morning to make our way to Punakaiki which was one of our longest drives of the trip. We made a few stops along the way to see Lake Hāwea, Fantail Falls, a Franz Joseph Glacier outlook and stopped at a beachside/roadside coffee cart for some much-needed caffeine. We arrived at the Punakaiki Beach Camp just before sunset and were able to get ourselves a very picturesque campsite. It was still a bit rainy but the location was just beautiful and we could hear the waves crashing against the coast all night. In the morning, we packed up camp and went to see the Pancake Rocks and Blowholes before making our trek to Abel Tasman National Park. I had booked us a campsite at Anapai Bay which required us to backpack in. As we hiked, we started talking about how early we would need to leave the next morning to ensure we arrived on time for our ferry to the north island. I should mention that nearly every drive we had taken at this point took about 2 hours longer than the GPS indicated. New Zealand roads are usually one lane each direction and many routes take you through winding mountain roads, so we were a bit worried as we had quite a few miles to cover to get to Picton and our ferry. When we got to camp and set up our tent, my anxiety about missing that ferry kicked into high gear and I decided that it would be best if we didn’t stay the night there. So we packed up our gear and hiked back out leaving one of the most remote and beautiful campsites behind.
Yesterday was the official start of the Mardi Gras season in New Orleans and we decided to make a king cake. While gathering supplies at the store, we decided to experiment and fill the king cake with Trader Joe’s Speculoos Cookie and Cocoa Swirl spread. The results were pretty delicious and as a result, I’ve updated my Vegan King Cake recipe (here, here) yet again so you can make one of these bad boys yourself!
– I didn’t do exact measurements on how much spread I used so I tried to estimate, I think we didn’t use quite enough so err on the side of more.
– We think this might be good if you also add cinnamon and sugar to the spread. You would need about (1/2 cup evaporated cane juice sugar and 2 Tbsp cinnamon)
4 1/2 cups flour
1 1/4 cups water (room temperature)
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup canola oil or neutral taste oil (we used refined coconut oil)
1/2 Tbsp salt
1oz yeast (we used 4 packets of Fleischmann’s RapidRise Highly Active Yeast)
1 Tbsp Ener-g Egg Replacer mixed with 4 Tbsp Warm Water
Cookie Butter filling:
1/2 cup Trader Joe’s Speculoos Cookie and Cocoa Swirl spread (I think we used half a jar in total)
1 pound of powdered sugar
1/4 cup non-dairy milk or water
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tablespoon Trader Joe’s Speculoos Cookie and Cocoa Swirl
- To make the Dough, add all ingredients to a mixer with the dough hook attachment, and mix on speed 2 until dough forms and is slightly warm to the touch (about 3-5 minutes). Cover the dough for 1 hour and let sit in a warm area to build humidity to allow the dough to rise.
- Once the dough has risen, find a workspace at least 3-foot wide and flour the surface. Cut the dough into two halves and sprinkle with flour. Roll dough into a 2-foot long strip about 12-16 inches wide.
- Spread Cookie and Cocoa Spread onto the dough evenly using an offset spatula getting the spread as close to the edges as possible. Cut the dough lengthwise into three equal strips
- Roll each strip (like a cinnamon roll) lengthwise forming a long roll. Braid the three rolls together and form a circle with the braids. Place on a baking pan and pinch the ends of the braids together.
- Cover with a large plastic bag (like a garbage bag) and let the dough proof for an hour.
- Heat oven to 350 degrees and bake on a cookie sheet covered with parchment paper for 15-18 minutes, until the top is golden brown. Take out and let cool.
- While king cake is cooling, it’s time to make the icing! Mix together non-dairy milk, vanilla extract, and powdered sugar until combined. You can add an additional 1/4 tsp of liquid to thin the icing if too thick. The desired consistency is close to paste or glue. Melt Cookie and Cocoa spread in a saucepan until it will run off a spoon.
- Pour and spread icing on king cake and use a spoon to drizzle melted spread on top. Hide the baby and enjoy.
Scott and I spent 11 days in New Zealand last month. It was amazing. Neither of us had done much internationally traveling so this was a big deal trip for us. We wanted to see as much of the country as possible during our short stay and opted to drive ourselves across the country and camped as much as possible. We arrived in Queenstown which ended up being the perfect spot as we spent our first three nights in the nearby areas of Fiordland National Park, Mount Aspiring National Park, and Wanaka.
For our first night, we were lucky enough to have a campground entirely to ourselves. We stayed at the Mackay Creek Campsite in Fiordland National Park which had a beautiful view of the East Eglinton River Valley in the distance and some beautiful flowers along the creek. The next day we drove Milford Road to Milford Sound which might have been one of our favorite drives as nearly all the mountains surrounding us had tons of waterfalls pouring down the sides of them. It was like being on another planet. We stopped off for a quick hike to see The Chasm which was pretty nifty. After we left Milford Sound we made our way to the Sylvan Campsite in Mount Aspiring National Park, unfortunately by the time we got there it was pretty cold and rainy but we had enough of a small break during the downpour to get our tent set up and kept relatively dry. It was so windy and rainy that night, the most stormy weather we have endured camping thus far, but our tent stayed dry and it was a quite an experience to hear the strong winds gust through the forest before hitting our tent. I had wanted to spend the next morning taking the drive to Skippers to see a spot used in the filming of THE LORD OF THE RINGS but the nasty weather was going to continue and it was a remote area that I was already worried about accessing with our rental car so we made our way to Wanaka early where we were looking forward to a warm meal and a room for the night.
For my birthday we took a trip that had been on my list for ages. We went up to the PNW to visit the town of Twin Peaks. Now of course Twin Peaks is a fictional town made up for TV but the real town exists in Snoqualmie Valley, Washington right outside of Seattle. We took the chance to visit our pal Kittee in PDX and rented a car so we could drive up to Snoqualmie on my birthday. Right before the trip, I finally got Scott to watch the entire show and FIRE WALK WITH ME so I was super amped for the trip. We spent our first night in Portland where Kittee accompanied us to Homegrown Smoker and Vtopia Cheese Shop and we stuffed our faces. The next morning we woke up early for breakfast at Blossoming Lotus and stopped off at Voodoo Donuts for the car ride. Along the drive, we spotted another famous PNW landmark, Sleater-Kinney Road! It was stormy as we arrived in Snoqualmie so we hurried to catch all of the sites and made our way up to the falls, they were spectacular at night but we were getting soaked so we got back into the car to finish our drive up to Seattle where we met friends for dinner. The next morning we decided to go back to Snoqualmie so we could see the falls and the weather was perfect so we hiked down to the bottom of the falls. It was the perfect way to spend my birthday and it was great to spend some time with Kittee. I’m hoping we can make another trip up to Portland soon and maybe sneak off to Snoqualmie again!
This past weekend we went camping with friends at the Princess Campground in Sequoia National Forest for our friend Kyle’s birthday. Our pal Shawn snagged 2 great campsites with ample space for 8 of us which allowed us to spread out a bit. We were able to see a few sites in both Kings Canyon and Sequoia National Parks including the Grant Tree, Roaring River Falls, Hume Lake, and Zumwalt Meadow, where we saw a mother bear and cub from a fairly close distance. We also attended a Birds of Prey presentation at our campsite which included a Red Tailed Hawk, Great Horned Owl and Screech Owl. I was super excited to see the owls close up as they are birds that have always fascinated me. Even though we explored many areas of the parks we also had some down time at the campsite where we told each other embarrassing stories, made lots of vegan food (Daiya mac and cheese…mmmm) and played a few games of Werewolf which we got super into and got yelled at by the campsite ranger for making too much noise. Ooops! On our way back home we stopped off at Pixley National Wildlife Refuge where we saw two jackrabbits from a distance. Besides a brief low point on Saturday night where my Entomophobia kicked into high gear after Scott spotted a spider on my shoe, this was a great trip shared with friends. I hope we can go another adventure in August before work takes over my nights and weekends.
We have done less adventuring than I would have liked this year but I figured it was about time I posted about our trip to Santa Cruz Island over Memorial Day weekend. We had been talking about taking a trip to Channel Islands National Park since maybe our first backpacking trip last spring and we finally made it happen. This trip required more preparation as we had to take a boat out to the island and we needed to carry all of our water with us, since there was no potable water at our campsite*. We left early on Sunday morning to catch our boat at 9AM in Ventura. The boat ride was choppy but luckily no one got sea sick. We made it to Prisoner’s Harbor around 11AM and had lunch at a picnic table right on the beach. After lunch, we made the 4 mile hike to the Del Norte Campsite. This was an intense hike for me, lots of steep climbs but we made it. The Del Norte Campsite has just 4 spots but overlooks the Pacific Ocean so the view is perfect. Once we got to our site, we set up our tents, relaxed and napped. We then took a short hike further along the main trail to see if we could spot any of the island foxes we were anxious to see. We spotted one down the road but he kept his distance. Once back at our campsite, we started to cook dinner and a little fox came to investigate the campsite next to us. We watched him from a distance, until he eventually left. We took a short night hike to blow off some needed energy without disturbing the other campers.
In the morning, we got up and had breakfast. While the other campers, broke down their tents to catch the early boat at 11AM. Our boat wasn’t coming until 4PM so we had a lazy morning reading and relaxing. Once some of the other campers left, we got visited by 2 adorable island foxes and took 1000 pictures. Around noon we packed up our gear and made the trek back to the dock. We had lunch while waiting for our boat to arrive and relaxed on the rocky beach. The boat ride back was much smoother and we met a pod of dolphins which we watched swim along with us from the front of the boat. It was amazing! Once back on the mainland, we stopped for a much-needed meal at Pizza Cookery and gorged ourselves on vegan garlic rolls and pizza.
This was by far one of my favorite trips we have done, if you live in Southern California you should absolutely do this! I’m anxious to explore some of the other islands and eventually want to camp at Santa Rosa island, which requires some intense hiking and a 2-3 night stay!
*As we arrived to the boat on Sunday morning we discovered that Scott’s camelback sprung a leak. We made several attempts to fix the leaks but eventually gave up and did our best to drink from his water first. This gave me tons of anxiety about running out of water during our hike to camp but it all worked out and we had enough.
Last weekend we hiked up to the San Antonio Ski Hut on Mt. Baldy for Shawn‘s birthday. I was very worried about this hike because even though it was on the shorter side, only 3 miles, it was all up hill with a 2200’ foot elevation gain the biggest elevation gain I have done. Luckily we were sleeping at the Ski Hut which means we had less gear which meant a lighter pack. The initial ascent was rough but after that it wasn’t too bad and Shawn even commented that it was the most chipper I have even been on a hike (aka normally I am a huge complaining mess). It was a really cool hike. It was misty and rainy and there was large patch of snow we had to trek through which was definitely scary but we all made it. Once we got to the Ski Hut we hung out and played a variety games while we relaxed and had dinner. Alix made Shawn a vegan cookies and cream cake which she assembled on site and was delicious. In the morning when we woke up it was snowing, so I ran outside to enjoy it for a moment before making breakfast and packing up for the hike back to reality.
It’s a new year! While I roll my eyes often at the idea of new year’s resolutions, I do enjoy making lists! These are the personal goals I hope to achieve over the next 12 months.
- ADVENTURE – I went camping for the first time on NYE 2014 and have since been on 7 other camping trips. I want to do more in 2015 and with my goal being to go on 10 or more adventures this year. We are already off to a good start as we have two trips in the works.
- TINYLETTER – a few months ago I started a TinyLetter to try to stay in better communication with friends back home or in other places that I don’t communicate with enough. I try to be a bit more personal there but I haven’t sent them as often as I would like. Hoping to get myself on a schedule this year.
- SEWING – Scott got me a sewing machine for my birthday in 2013 and I only made one skirt. I bought patterns and fabric to make other things but just haven’t made the time for those projects. So I’m setting myself a goal to make at least 3 items this year.
- EXERCISE – I got a gym membership in August but only went 4 weeks total in 2014. We are canceling the membership to save money but my goal is to start working out at home until we can afford to reinstate my membership. My fitness goals are to correct my posture and increase my stamina for when we go on backpacking trips and long hikes.
What are your goals for the new year?
To celebrate my birthday this year, we decided to take a trip to the Salton Sea. The weather was perfect and the campsite was nearly empty so it was like we were all alone out there. We stayed at the New Camp in the Salton Sea State Recreation Area and found a great campsite beneath some trees so we got plenty of shade in the morning once the sun came up. We went and explored the beach by the campsite which is covered in barnacles and fish bones. It’s the most bizarre thing to see so many whole dead fish just sitting on the beach. And then took a trip down the highway to Bombay Beach where we explored some abandoned houses and watched a beautiful sunset over the water. Back at our campsite, we made dinner, gathered wood for a fire, told stories and ate donuts from Donut Friend in lieu of cake. The next morning we made breakfast, packed up camp and drove to the Sonny Bono National Wildlife Refuge in Calpatria where we hiked the 2 mile Rock Hill Trail and saw many sea birds as well as some Desert Cottontail rabbits. Once we left the refuge, we headed to Niland to see Salvation Mountain. It was a really nice laid back trip and is a great weekend adventure not far from Los Angeles.
You can see more photos from our trip here.
To celebrate Alix’s birthday we went to Death Valley National Park. It was the perfect time to go, there weren’t big crowds and the weather was lovely. We stayed at the Furnace Creek campsite which offered a bit of shade and greenery considering we were in the desert. We visited the Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes, Natural Bridge, Badwater Basin, Zabriskie Point and Artist’s Drive. Artist’s Drive was absolutely my favorite. It’s a 9 mile drive through beautiful multi-hued volcanic and sedimentary hills. I really didn’t want to leave it was so beautiful. I can’t wait to go back and see the rest of the areas and sites in the park.