Camping, Travel

The 7 Hiking Trails You Should Know in Ojai, California

When the downtown district of Ojai, California fills with shoppers, art enthusiasts, spa goers, and Los Angelenos looking to get out of the city for a few days, the hiking trails scattered in and around Ojai allow explorers to escape jockeying for a parking spot, swiping their credit card, and caring whether their vintage jeans are garnering envy.

If you’re such an explorer, head to Ojai to fill your schedule with swimming holes, wild flowers, water falls, nature-carved rock sculptures, an occasional skinny-dipper sighting, and so much more. You could spend a lifetime traversing these trails and not see it all. Here are the seven hikes that need to be on your radar next time you and your hiking boots tromp into town.

Read more on TripSavvy

Camping, Career, Mind-Body-Spirit, Self Love, Travel

The Journey of The Great Song Cycle: Interview with Joanna Wallfisch

Playful and poetic British vocalist and composer Joanna Wallfisch shirked the bus aspect of her latest West Coast tour in favor of a bike. The tour was aptly named The Great Song Cycle.

Joanna pushed through challenge and triumph while traversing the coast with only her body and two thin wheels propelling her forward; what transpired was a tour full of music made richer by the beautiful struggle Joanna intentionally created.

As you’ll discover in the following interview with this unique songstress, her journey was not passed through without contemplation and growth; it birthed it.

Why did you decide to pass on “traditional transport” in favor of a bike for this portion of your tour?

J: The main reason was freedom. Life on a bicycle is to be completely self-reliant and self-sufficient. I carried all that I needed for my multi-faceted month; my instruments, my home, my clothes, food, water, and myself. When traveling by car, train or plane one can easily forget that you have to carry yourself with you wherever you go. On a bike, you become so attuned to the body you live in and how mind, spirit and flesh can actually exist simultaneously together and also as separate entities. It was a complete thrill to know that the only way I was going to get from A to B was by the strength of my own body and mind…. Read more on Huff Post!

Camping, Childbirth, Pregnancy, Reviews and Giveaways

My New Go-To Mama-Baby Product Site: Lilly Pilly Baby Review

The site Lilly Pilly Baby has curated all the organic mama and baby goodies I spend hours searching for on the bottomless pit of the Internet. They offer goods for the interior and exterior of mother and baby’s body and have a simple website for you to navigate.

I was sent the Organic Shue Bug for Baby, Woman’s Balance Wellness Tea and Labor Ease Pain Relieving Massage Oil and have spent the last few months draining my supply because they’re so good.

Here are my thoughts on each.

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Organic Shue Bug for Baby

This spray has created an organic barrier between my self and son and the Zika infested mosquitos of Nicaragua, the insanely annoying flies in California and more skeeters in Central Texas. The barrier lasts about an hour before we need a new coat and smells better than the blend of essential oils I use as perfume- probably because it’s full of essential oils. I resisted taking my son to “buggy” locations when he was a baby because I had no desire to slather him in chemical-full bug repellent. But, baby number two will be going all the places, now that I’m armed with Shue Bug.

Woman’s Balance Wellness Tea

My uterus and immune system be trippin’ lately. Periods have been a rare form of torture since my son stopped breastfeeding, and I’ve been an eventual vessel of a majority of the germs that have passed through his preschool classroom- yay! This tea has helped on both fronts, creating a warm and soothing sensation in my nether regions when that egg is shedding, and a “good stuff” boost in my bod when the germs are marching through.

Labor Ease Pain Relieving Labor Massage Oil

While I have yet to use this oil on my own laboring body, I have used it on the backs, boobs and beyond of three birthing ladies and the feedback was good- real good. One woman reported the oil, in conjunction with pressure on two points in her lower back, replaced intense pressure with a pleasant tingling, another said she noticed her breathing deepen each time the oil was used, serving to release endorphins in her body and soften her cervix, and the last woman claimed, “That oil was the only f*ckin’ thing that made any difference during labor.” So yeah, good stuff!

Avanchy Bamboo Stay Put Suction Bowl + Baby Spoon

Bless this bowl for preventing our almost daily occurrence of my son’s cereal slopping everywhere. The suction cup prevents the bowl from being pushed off the table with the thrust of an enthusiastic spoon, and the bamboo offers a great (and safe!) alternative to the “plastic kid bowl.”

To get 20% off products and free shipping, use coupon code Welcome

Get some 🙂

Camping, Reviews and Giveaways

I Found the Unicorn of Water Shoes: A Bzees Review

Water shoes are notoriously ugly- so ugly, I’m fearful the fish I’m trying to spot as I wade through the water will glide away in horror as they lay eyes on my clunky footwear. No more little fishies- no more.

I’ve found a pair so non-water-shoe-y I can wear them to drop-off and pick-up at my son’s school, where mom-style is on point.

These unicorns of the water shoe world were birthed by the brand Bzees. These shoes look like sleek sneakers, offer a bevy of colors offering an option for every type of shoe-wearer, and are insanely light and comfortable- oh, and they can be worn in water.

I wear these suckers to water my garden, navigate waterfall hikes in Costa Rica, trod up natural water slides in Sequoia National Park or just walk around town feeling fly- and ready to step into a puddle.

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My faves are the Wink Water shoes, but click here to view all the options.

Happy water walking!

*I was sent a free pair of these shoes, but waited three months to write the review, to ensure I could offer my honest opinion. I receive nothing if you buy these shoes- besides the satisfaction of knowing I improved the lives of your tootsies.

Camping, Travel, Uncategorized

How to Take Your Camping Cuisine to The Next Level

Food prep has always been the metaphorical poison oak rubbing on my leg when I go camping- my main criteria being “what will be the least fussy food to make?” After spending half a day using my mad-Tetris skills packing my car with half my house, I have no desire to be a short order cook of crappy food when I get to the camp site.

But, what if campfire food could be both easy and delicious? (I would go camping more.)

I spoke with Shane Hammett, avid camper and chef de cuisine at the Lone Eagle Grille in the Hyatt Regency Lake Tahoe Resort, to get the (beefed-up) skinny on how to make campout eating a (easy) fine dining experience- albeit fine dining a la fold out chairs, dust and bug spray.

Here’s how to jazz up your campfire cuisine without having to skip the hike because you need to clean up after lunch and start prepping dinner.

1. Build the Right Kind of Fire.

Trying to cook on a campfire without the right kind of fire is like trying to scale a mountain trail in heels- you can do it, but it will take a long time- and it will suck.

Read more on Huffington Post!

Camping, Parenting, Travel, Uncategorized

9 Insider Tips for Family Camping on the California Coast

There’s a rare form of magic in the crisp air along the California Coast, which is why it’s best enjoyed outdoors. Camping along these beaches rich with ancient trees, active sea life and a bounty of activities (for all ages!) will support you in creating the ideal vacation for your entire family. To ensure it’s more fun than frustrating, follow these tips.

1. Find the Perfect Spot.

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It’s hard to go wrong when finding a site to camp along the West Coast, but depending on your family’s specific needs, some locations will suit your family better than others. Take your preferences for sites (e.g., not near cliffs, activities for young children and a beach with a mellow break) and find a few spots that meet your needs.

Read more on Discount My Flights

Camping, Reviews and Giveaways, Uncategorized

Review: GOgroove Mood Light/ Speaker- Camping Hack for Parents!

k2-_cb170036-dafc-4915-beb9-e04d587bb751.v2Hey campers! (Wait- you hate camping? Maybe living room camping?)

My son is not into the whole dark aspect of camping. When the sun goes to sleep he loses his… He also relies on a nifty sound machine filled with faux raindrops and ocean waves to lull him to sleep. Camping with him is hard.

The GOgroove has granted me sweet slumber when I’m sleeping under flimsy fabric outside. It’s portable (a camping must- they have yet to install AC outlets in trees), gently changes colors and will play the “ocean waves” track on repeat I have on my phone (it’s a speaker!) A light-speaker, and a good camper.

If you’ve been trying to convince your kids to camp, bribe them with this.

Camping, Travel, Uncategorized

My Worst Fear Came True

IMG_5649I have a recurring nightmare of a tornado ripping through my house and sucking me up into its bowels.

I grew up in Austin, Texas where the threat of tornadoes was present, but not looming — we have a lot of hills.

Memorial Day 2015 my family camped at our property by the Pedernales River, outside of Austin. The Super El Nino had begun to make itself known, and it had been raining in Austin the entire month of May — but no severe storms.

Our first day camping was dry until dark clouds pushed in around 2:00 p.m. The rain began and the adults hunkered down under tarps with Cards Against Humanity and jumbo bottles of wine, while the kids played soccer in a progressively expanding mud pit.

Read more on Huff Post!

Camping, Mom Humor, Uncategorized

Camping in a Thunder Storm….. with a Baby

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Flash! Pop! Crackle! Rumble! Downpour! Oh greeeat. We are in the woods, with a hypothetical tornado raging towards our flimsy tent; I win Worst Mother of the Year award. This all runs through my head as I sit on a hot sunny Texas porch, gazing at the weekend’s weather report on my phone. We will be camping over the weekend; real tent camping, away from running water, and storm shelters.

A tornado transporting baby and myself to the Land of Oz would not be ideal, but I could also be a candidate for Worst Mother of the Year if I tried to shield my child from all literal and figurative nasty weather. I decide to go for it, and hope for cool gentle showers when I’m hot, and blazing sun when I’m ready to dip into the chilly water. Wishful thinking.

Day One:

We drove out to the river with the sun blazing through the car windows and that precious AC blasting. All seemed good, but the weather report was not shifting, and there was a sheet of darkly ominous gray glaring at me on the horizon.

We arrived at our stomping grounds for the weekend and settled in. As dusk descended, the storm was upon us. Not the storm you’re expecting, oh no, something much worse, a storm of mosquitoes. I think I would prefer a tornado. They came in clouds and were the highly evolved skeeters that found the most poisonous of bug spray to be simply scrumptious. They also loved baby blood, specifically blood drawn from the head. Because I am adamantly against smacking my baby on the head, regardless of any honorable intentions, I rugged up my sweaty baby from head to toe; and the mosquitoes penetrated his clothing, they were insatiable. After an hour or so of being the helpless victims of flying vampires, the little devils dragged their full bellies back to wherever mosquitoes live; I suspect the bowels of hell. We were itchy but alive, and the baby seemed to care less about his quickly rising red welts.

This proved to be the only storm of the night and we spent the next few hours zoning out on the fire, brilliantly vibrant shooting stars, and live fiddle music; the calm before the real storm.

Day Two:

The clouds had settled in and there was menacing thunder in the distant, taunting us with occasional rumblings. Well, we in the Gaddis clan are no fair weather campers; so we brewed the coffee, popped the top on some champagne, and donned our river bikinis, even the men, just kidding. We were in it to win it, rain or shine.

We reached the river and went about optimistically setting up our sunshades, chairs, and various colorful floating objects. Hudson and I stuffed his baby chub into an ultra sun proof body suit, covered his noggin with an adorably blue sunhat, complete with earflaps, and smothered his remaining skin with absurdly expensive organic baby sunscreen. Yes, it was sprinkling by this point, but the sunrays are most intense when it’s cloudy, right? With Hudson in his full sunny summertime getup, I plopped him down on the edge of the shallow sandy bank and handed him a bucket full of exciting new beach toys. Happy as a baby with a boob in his mouth!

We have snakes in Texas. Rattlesnakes are usually the biggest concern, but on a Texas river we have an even more unnerving slithering creature to contend with, water moccasins. Rattlesnakes have no desire to go head to head, or mouth to foot, with humans, but will strike when startled. Water moccasins are nasty brown territorial serpents that will spot you from across a river and swiftly come over to not so kindly tell you you’re on their turf. Because of my rational, but paranoid fear of snakes, the brown swimmers in particular, I consider myself truly blessed to have not seen one of these slimy devils at this river in over ten years. My blessed luck was about to change.

The first sighting was made by my father while walking through the young vegetation that had popped up along the river’s edge, since the last time we had dipped our toes in this slow moving water. Dad was in search of rocks to pelt over to the thickly forested other side of the river, where our rope swing and the snakes hung out. As he was slogging along, a brown biter wriggled in front of him and slipped into the water, to alert his buddies on the other side; ‘the people have arrived.’ WTF, why is there a snake on our side?! This is not good. They now had a source of shelter on our usually sandy side, which had never before existed, at least not in the past 30 years.

I tried to eradicate the panicked hormones coursing through every inch of my being and focus again on splashing around on the edge of the water with my little man. But, because I’m now a mother, I could not shift out of high alert. Sure enough, after 20 minutes of obsessively scanning the dark green water, I spotted a thick and ugly golf ball size head traveling across the water, about 15 yards from my baby, and traveling in the wrong direction. My voice then adopted a foreign shrill tone as I asked my impeccable rock throwing abilities brother, to do something. He quickly gathered a few warning rocks; not big enough for a kill, but big enough for a ‘holy s*** these walking creatures mean business’ reaction. He got in a few good shots and just to show us that he, or she, was no sissy, Mr. or Mrs. Snake would go under water for a frightening amount of time, and would pop up a few feet closer to us. As this horrifying dance was playing out I spotted another moccasin crossing the river. They’re closing in for battle, save the baby! Brother continued his rock blitz, getting just close enough to threaten them, but not close enough to thoroughly piss them off. Then, a miracle happened, they turned, and swan back to their side of the river. Thank the river gods, there was no second act to the snarling snake dance.

As my panicked hormones slowly seeped out of me, probably through all the water I was peeing out, a traditional storm rolled in. As a large group of us huddled under the non-waterproof sunshades, being thankful that the storm was not accompanied by lighting, a terrifying bolt of lighting struck, accompanied by an even more terrifying immediate crack of ear splitting thunder. I was not holding my baby at this time. I assumed he was in safe arms, but I was quickly re-saturated with panic. I waited for a shrill baby wail to closely follow the BOOM, but was met with something even worse, silence. I then looked three feet to my right and saw my dad holding my smiling baby. In that moment, I swear he gave me a ‘What? Chill out mom’ look. My baby was braver than I was; don’t tell anyone.

This ominous snap, crackle, pop rattled us all enough to cause a mass scamper up to the higher and “safer” ground of our campsite.

After battening down the hatches we waited, and waited, and nothing came. Murphy’s Law wins again. We all emerged from our caves, I gave my muddy baby a freezing solar shower hose down, that he was unfazed by, and commenced to stuff myself with sinfully creamy potluck food. Goodnight.

Day Three:

I awoke to a jump-evoking clap of thunder. Here it comes, duh duh dunnnn. The wind quickly picked up, the temperature dropped 5 degrees, and we scurried about, building a makeshift “water proof” fort we could breakfast under; because by golly we are going to feed our faces. Again, baby Hudson proved to be more of a trooper than his mama. As I huddled in the leaking corner of the fort, he giggled as the rain spattered his fuzzy head.

As quickly as it came, the rain whizzed away, and left gloriously sparkling sunshine in its wake. Quick! Dry everything out and smash in every non-card playing activity we can before the next wave of rain surges in. Spring pool hike, check. Canoe rides full of snake mimicking turtles bobbing their heads up and down in the water, check. Snake free rope swing flips, check check. Laying solar shower out, praying it gets warmer than ‘frigid,’ check. We did it, and made it all the way to dinner, downpour free!

As we sat around the campfire, receiving our karmic revenge from the mosquitoes for throwing rocks at the snakes, I felt the sense that everything was too calm. Then it happened, the burst of light on the horizon. One, two, three, four, five……eighteen. The storm is eighteen miles away. Another burst of light on the horizon. One, two, three, four, five….ten. Oh great. Here it comes. Save the coconut cream pie, and the baby.

It was not a drill, the storm descended upon us and rained down with the fury of a den of water moccasins stirred up by a raging flash flood. Cold solar shower clean baby snored through it as I lay in wait for the railroad train roar of a tornado that never came, go figure.

Day Four:

Torrential downpour, Cards Against Humanity, chocolate, and beer; in our rain fort.

Moral of this story; watch for snakes and rinse your baby in a solar shower every evening, when camping.