Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Pacific Mountain Outdoor

Honestly, this review (yeah, this is a review - disclaimer alert!) took me a while to write. Not because I didn't love the boots, but because I couldn't quite find my voice. I kept feeling like I sounded less than authentic. I found a hiking boot review on another blog, and set out to make mine pretty, and fancy like theirs. And then I thought - whaaaat? Why would I do that!? I'm not fancy. I don't have a $5,000 camera, and I don't really know what I'm doing when it comes to snapping pics. I'm a self proclaimed frugal-ista, and hate spending money that I don't have to. But, what I do know is hiking.

If you've been around here for more than 5 minutes, you know hiking is my jam. You know it's one of Mr. Sass and I's favorite things to do, and our preferred method of exploring new places - obviously followed by eating.

But - serious confession. For as much as I hike, and as many big hikes as I've done, I'm a big baby when it comes to crossing creeks. My confidence is pretty low when it comes to hopping over rocks quickly to make it across creeks. Which, makes my life twice as hard because rocks tend to shift and sink the longer your weight is on them. My fear stems from the totally unrealistic vision that I might fall, hit both my front teeth on a rock and require serious dental work. Far from likely, but a strong enough fear to mean more often than not my feet get wet when I attempt to cross a creek.

In the summer, it's no big deal. Actually - I usually relish a chance to get my feet wet. In the winter though? It's a totally different story. Rarely on our winter hikes is the water frozen enough to WALK on. Instead the rocks are just more slippery, which accelerates my fear that I'll fall & bust all my teeth out. I have big, clunky, serious winter hiking boots. And they definitely have their purpose. Hiking Mt. Kilimanjaro? Yeah. Get out those heavy winter boots. But what about when there is little to no snow on the ground - no need to wear a boot meant for trekking through snow. All you'll be doing is lugging around weight you don't need.

What I've lacked for a while was a middle ground. I have my clunky hiking boots for crazy winter weather, and I've got my lightweight hiking shoes for easy summertime hikes. But I was missing something in-between, something with ankle support, but lightweight if I was going to lug it around on my feet all day and something waterproof.

Cue Pacific Mountain Outdoor.

| side note | When I first went to write this review I was alarmed that there was mud all over my boots. Wait, what? Yeah. You read that right. Trying to be like other bloggers, all fancy, and clean. Like, of course there is mud on my boots, I hiked in them. Like actual hikes. Where there was dirt, and mud, and sticks, and trees I climbed over. Like in the woods. Where there are hiking trails.

When Pacific Mountain reached out to me on Instagram, I did a little research & decided that we would be a great fit. I was offered a pair of boots at no charge - in exchange for my honest review.

I instantly picked out the Moraine. It's waterproof, fairly lightweight - especially compared to a big hiking boot, and well priced. While 5 years ago I would have scoffed at the price, one pair of bad shoes will quickly change your mind. One of the worst things that can happen to a hiker is to be miles away from the car, or your destination, only to feel a blister forming. I will gladly pay for quality shoes to save my feet.

The bed of the boot is made of memory foam, which feels a little rigid when you first put your foot in, but instantly warms from the heat of your foot, and then forms to it. I loved that these didn't feel like they would need to be broken in. They were ready to wear right away.

I know a lot of you are newer to hiking - or even total novices, but are interested in learning more. So here's a few things to know when buying boots.

1. Think of hiking boots like you would running shoes, or other specialty shoes. While you could hike many trails in regular old tennis shoes they lack the stability and grip that hiking specific boots will have. They also lack ankle support and rigid bottoms which can be nice on uneven or rocky terrain. 

2. In that same vein, hiking boots are not a one size fits all. What works for my foot may not work for your foot. This is why boot brands have different styles and cuts of boot. Don't be afraid to try several different styles or sizes if you're unsure what will fit best. Pacific Mountain Outdoor has free shipping both ways! Which, truly, is my criteria for buying shoes // clothing online. Buy a pair! And worst case, if they don't fit, you're able to return them, no problem.

The first few (okay, first 5 months...) were pretty much all consumed with wedding planning. Or going places for wedding related events. And while I don't regret one second of it (okay, I do regret the amount of time spent stressing about wrinkly tablecloths) I feel like I haven't soaked up nearly enough sunshine and fresh air yet this year.

You know one of my July goals was to spend more time outside. So bring on the hiking! There are lots of new to me trails on The Sass' must hike list. Not to mention, anytime someone hikes a new trail, they make sure to ask if we've been there yet. And if we haven't? It goes on the list. Needless to say, we are not short on places to explore this summer.

I'll have posts up in the next few weeks about what's in my daypack when I'm out hiking, some hiking basics, and some of my favorite Pittsburgh area trails for you local folks! Starting with my Mill Creek MetroPark review!

What's a fairly unrealistic fear of yours?
When was the last time you bought new hiking boots?

Linking up with Amanda to share.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Mill Creek MetroPark - Gorge & Cohasset Trails

A few of you have mentioned to me that while you love the concept of hiking, you have no idea where to start. "No idea where to start" can mean different things - but I know even for me it can be hard to find good places to hike. Or, if I do hear mention of a trail, it can be difficult to find information.

Where is the trailhead?
Is there parking?
Are there bathrooms?
How long is the trail?
How difficult is the trail?
Is there anything neat to see (besides nature) along the way?

So, while I can't take the guess work out for everybody, I can help take it our for some fellow Pittsburgher's. As I complete more new hikes, or even repeat some local favorites I'll aim to create a post with the need to know information as well as my own personal thoughts & a few pictures.

Mr. Sass and I were looking for a hike Saturday morning - we were both wanting something different, but knew we would have some time constraints because we had a wedding to attend Saturday evening. After some google-ing I found Mill Creek MetroPark.

Located in Youngstown, OH the park is just over an hour from Pittsburgh via the Turnpike.
{Tip} - take the turnpike there, you'll spend just $.75 in tolls - but take 422 to 79 or some back roads home, the PA turnpike will charge you almost $10 just to roll your wheels on into the state. And the scenic drive will only set you back about 10 minutes.

Hike : East & West Cohasset Trail + East & West Gorge Trail (park maps here)

Parking : We parked here - by the Suspension Bridge.
{Tip} Map directions for Volney Rd & Parkview Ave, Youngstown, OH. Continue straight on Parkview Ave and into the park. When you reach Valley Dr. turn right, and continue until you reach a small lot on your right. If you cross the suspension bridge, you've gone too far. If you'd like to start at an alternate point, there is parking on E.Park Dr. near Lanterman's Mill

Trailhead : If you park at Lanterman's Mill, follow signs to the Mill. From there you can join the East Gorge Trail on the same side of the water. Alternatively, if you park where we did, cross the suspension bride, and the trail starts with a few rock steps just ahead of you.

Round Trip : 5 miles - if you park at the suspension bridge, each trail is about 2.5 miles with the ability to stop at your car in between.
Difficulty : Easy, these hikes could be completed with tennis shoes & are family friendly.
Hike Time : 2 hours
Elevation gain : Minimal, with gentle grades, and some steps.
Restrooms : Yes, at Lanterman's Mill

These trails are easy to hike  and follow the water.  Maps are available online, but show little detail, we started our hike on the West Cohasset Trail, which meant the water stayed on our right, even as we crossed the bridge to the East Cohasset Trail and headed back towards our car.

While the trail was well maintained, it was not marked. There were several intersections - all of which had no indication of which way the trail continued. Luckily Mr. Sass has an excellent sense of direction. Several of these trails went up and away from the water. I think if you stay alert and keep the water on your right you'll be alright.

We opted for a brief stop back at the car, which is possible by parking at the Suspension Bridge, but not by parking at Lanterman's Mill.We then crossed the Suspension Bridge again, this time turning left to enter the West Gorge Trail, which kept the water on our left.

A large field near the suspension bridge would lend itself well to packing a picnic - as there were no food options inside the park. But, if you're looking to make a day of it, the wineries of Lake Milton are only 20 - 30 minutes away, and would make the perfect cool down after a morning hike.

This is definitely a park worth spending time at - there are 15 miles of trails, of which we explored about 5. We saw many folks running on the trails - and many biking on the 20-ish miles of paves roads that run through the park.

Pittsburgh people - Are these hiking posts something you think you'll find helpful?
Especially if they're all aggregated into a new hiking tab?

What is some other information you'd want about each hike?

Monday, July 10, 2017

2017 Q2 Goal Update - We're Halfway There!

In 2016 I did a great job about writing out year-long goals, and then a terrible job at following up on them & making real progress. I still had monthly goals, and did well with those, but wanted to make sure that this year I didn't lose sight of my bigger goals.

There's still half the year left, and I'm not sure if that sounds like a lot, or sounds like nothing. But based on how the first 6 months flew by, I think I'll be making 2018 goals before too long. While that #MarriedLife isn't calm, I do have brain power to read books versus looking for god deals on tablecloths. Summer is notoriously busy - everyone wants to cram their activities into the few months of good weather, and we seem to have something happening every weekend 'til September. But seriously.

So, I posted my July goals last week & I'm combining this update to include my personal, fitness, and blogging goals for 2017. If I've made progress I've listed a + sign next to the goal, if not, I've listed a minus. I'm pleased with my progress so far in 2017.

+ Pay my library fine & read 30+ books  
 I begrudgingly paid my fine - and am 20 books deep for the year. I should hit 30 no problem, but considering I didn't read a single book in May, or most of June, I'm glad my reading mojo is back. If you want to be my "friend" you can find me here on Goodreads.

+ Complete a gallery wall in the living room 
 We're far from being able to call this completed - but I made progress these last few months. My SIL got us a map and push pins so we can track our travels - we hung that up, as our goal is to make our gallery wall travel oriented. I also purchased a big galvanized "M" to hang up - and am hoping Mr. Sass can use some of his restless energy and power tools to make some simple frames for us as well. Or copy cat pretty much everything I see in Hobby Lobby.

+ Try 2 new recipes each month 
I remember making a dill pickle dip we loved. Similar to this recipe. Other than that? I can't remember if I made anything new. So like, maybe I did, maybe I didn't...I did get a totally free Blue Apron delivery (not sponsored, my friend just had a code & shared it with me) so I'll make 3 new recipes from them. But already I canceled my subscription - the cost and time listed for each recipe is just too much for me!

+ Cross 2 items off my 30 before 30 
 Ohhhh yeah - I ran HM#10 & traveled my ass all across Switzerland on a train!

- Go to Kansas 
Nothing booked - I feel like this will be a bust. There is still time to make it happen, but I haven't taken the initiative.

+ Set up a cleaning schedule 
It's posted on the fridge & no one is following it...I'm going to revamp it because I hate it, and I would rather clean the bathroom every week forever than sweep the floors. So, I think we should look into "specializing" in certain tasks.

- Find a church 
NOPE. Haven't been to one since our wedding. Oops.

+ Travel somewhere new
While my November trip to China is still a go, I spent 4th of July weekend up at "camp" - about 2 hours north of Pittsburgh. Where we met some friends and headed further north to Kinzua Bridge. The original bridge spanned this HUGE valley, but after getting wrecked by a tornado, it's now an observation deck, and the rubble is intact, so we were able to hike to it. Pretty cool, and I would love to go back in the fall.

+ Intentional monthly dates 
I know we nailed this in June - taco night again for the win. I'll say that pretty much the whole second half of May was a date - a la our Honeymoon. We definitely need to get back to this. It'll be easier for July // August because Mr. Sass will switch to a daylight schedule shortly, so we'll have similar work hours.

+ Take 4,000,000 steps in 2017 
 Despite sitting on my ass for what felt like ALL of June - I'm just past the 2,000,000 step mark, precisely where I should be to meet my goal. I've made stepping up my step game a July goal, so I'll give myself some wiggle room if  I stay on track there.

+ Track my 2017 running mileage 
 There really wasn't much to track for May or June - in fact, in my 2 days at Ragnar PA I ran more miles than I did in ALL of May, including my HM. I've added a few more miles though, and am sitting at 318.1 miles - a little more than halfway to my unofficial goal of 500 miles.

+ PR in 2+ distances (HM & 5K)
I have not PR'd in either the HM or the 5K - but there is still a lot of year left. Calling it good regardless, because I did PR in the 10 mile and 8.1 mile distances.

+ Race another TRI 
Still on the books for August. And I have a friend trying to rope me into one in September too, which sounds great, especially since I feel like my accident cheated me out of the chance to do a few this summer.

- Give The Sass a facelift
Guys, I thought my motivation to blog would get stronger post hasn't.

- Consider buying .COM 
Ditto. I'm just meh about the whole thing. It even crossed my mind to stop blogging entirely. For no real reason other than I just didn't feel like typing big posts anymore.

- Hit 5,000 monthly pageviews (or 15,000 on blogger) 
My apathy for blogging has been reflected in my pageviews.

+ Reach out to 3 brands for collaboration
I had previously reached out to one brand, and have another I am interested in working with, and am planning to work on my "pitch" so to speak to them.

+ Grow my Instagram       
When I checked in during April I was sitting around 445 Instagram followers - I'm up around 670 right now, which makes me happy. It's the social platform I've been loving the most lately. Like a little mini blog of sorts. So I've been checking in there daily, even if I'm not here. My unofficial goal is to make it to 1,000 followers by the end of the year. 

What's the best book you've read recently?
How do you snap out of a blogging slump - I'm sure we all have them.
What was your last date night?

Linking up with Holly & Tricia for Weekend Highlights

Thursday, July 6, 2017

July 2017 Goals + June Goal Recap

Hiiiiii, I'm baaaaack! Did you miss me, Internet Friends? It has certainly been weird not logging in here a few times each week to catch up with you all, but sometimes a break is nice.

I hope you'll catch me up on a little bit of what you've been up to these past few weeks in the comments! I've missed you!

^It turns out the intro to my May goals post is perfect for this month too.

June.Was. Rough.

The first few days were a total whirlwind as we adjusted to life post-honeymoon & I ran Ragnar. Then, when I was busy being outside & riding my bike, I fell off it and broke my hand, cracked a rib & busted my face. Cool. So, that brought my blogging and workouts to quite the halt. I feel like I totally dropped the ball on my goals at that point. This injury put me into a slump for sure. So, the theme of June was meh.

More outdoor workouts | Meh.
I was doing really great with this. In fact, I was outdoors, working out when I broke my hand. So, obviously this goal was going great. My workouts in general have suffered post fall, and have mostly been indoors. I've been using the spin bike, the weights, and the treadmill. But have even been inconsistent with that. It's hard to motivate myself to get up early to walk slowly on the treadmill for 45 minutes.

More outdoor time | Tan line game strong.
I may not be working out, but you best believe I am enjoying adult beverages on the back porch. Mr. Sass and I have eaten many dinners outside, and grilled as many of them as we can. I proved my love for Aldi knows no bounds & bought a kiddie pool there recently for $20. We finally blew it up & filled it up & the MacMod Community Pool is now accepting applications for new members.

Portion Control + MFP | Hit or Miss
Like some days I dutifully tracked things in My Fitness Pal, and felt well nourished & then some days I had pizza & cookies for lunch, followed by Chipotle for dinner. I'm not sure if that's a shining example of balance, or my general lack of self control...

Bust out thank you notes | Hard with only one hand...
I was crushing this goal. Honestly, it was really working out to my benefit too. Mr. Sass hates writing thank you notes, I hate cleaning the house, so we traded. Until I broke my dominant hand. There are 16 left to write, which isn't a lot, but also isn't none. And many still to address. He's graciously addressed some, but this is still hanging over our heads until I either bust out of this brace or become a bit more ambidextrous.

Start TRI training |  I fell off the wagon - literally.
Too soon for the joke? Nah. I was getting a feel for running & biking post honeymoon, until I literally fell off my bike. I've been on the spin bike a time or two, but haven't yet been able to run post fall, which I believe is due to a cracked rib, also from said fall. I speed walked a 5K for the 4th (like 13:52 // mile average sat whatttt!?) so I plan to try running again in the next few days, so at least I'll have that I guess.

July goals...I'm really not sure where to start, it seems like many of my June goals, which I had planned to continue through the summer were cut short, by - YOU GUESSED IT, my broken hand! I'll be stuck in this thing until July 21st - ish.

85,000 steps weekly | I really fell off my step game in June - and if I want to make it to 4M by year end, I gotta pull it together. This goal should also force me outside for more walks. I can only roam the halls of the office so many times before people start to notice.

More outdoor time | Ain't nothin' gonna stop me from reading books on the back porch, or drinking margaritas in the pool.

Start (modified) TRI training | Honestly, while I plan to try running again tomorrow to see if I can do so pain free, I don't know when I'll be able to run. I have plans to get my bike fixed this week. But in the meantime, it's the spin bike, some walking, and no swimming for me. How's that for some sad tri- training. I'm trying not to wallow, and just make this tri my comeback to racing!

Waste no food | If you caught my mini meal prep on IG, then you know we're skipping the grocery store this week. We have tons of odds and ends around, and while we won't be eating our favorite meals, we'll do well to clean out the cabinets, fridge & freezer. We have plenty of fresh & frozen veggies to last us the week, but we'll definitely be a little short on fresh fruit come Saturday, but no one will die of scurvy. I want to continue being mindful in my shopping to make sure we're using up bits from last week before I go buying more food for the next week. Or figure out a way to freeze // use. Especially as our garden starts to produce!

Make a budget | Wait, what? The budget queen over here doesn't have a budget? Honestly, the past 2-3 years of my "single" life. I was on auto-pilot. I got to a place where I wasn't wasting money on things I didn't need, and months where I went over certain categories like restaurants were expenses I felt were worthwhile because I was enjoying time with friends. But now that the Sass house has combined budgetary forces, we need a budget. Honestly, our rough goal is to put 25% of our monthly income towards the mortgage, 25% towards saving for a down payment on a new house, 25% into savings // stock market, and the final 25% for living expenses. We think it sounds bold, but that it's totally doable. But, we need to officially run the numbers on expenses, while I have a great grasp on our grocery spending, I am pretty much clueless about what our normal electric bill is.

What are your July goals?
What do you do when you're injured to stay active?
What's your favorite flavor of margarita?

Linking up with Amanda +  AngeGretchen + Kristen