Ego? Check

Several years ago I was out on uneven terrain, trail running (I use “running” loosely) and decided to finish up with a graceful, downhill sprint (I use “sprint” loosely). About the exact moment I was feeling one with nature, like a deer in flight – I tripped and quite literally sailed upward, executing the most stunning jackknife dive ever witnessed by – absolutely no one. Thank you ego talisman. And when two unaware runners approached minutes later and greeted me cheerfully, I answered with a lofty wave and then tucked my hand behind my back as one finger was noticeably pointing the wrong direction, another was sideways. Final tally, one fainting spell in my firefighter neighbor’s car on the way to the ER, eight weeks in a cast, and a permanently bent finger but by golly, the ego was uninjured.

20 mile Big Sur backpacking trip w/ 2 kids, a cousin, and a cast

And this brings us to the experience of adventure and a wish for all travelers. A desire that the healthy (puffed up) ego of a mediocre runner, hiding radically broken fingers, not dictate your feeling about your excursion. A run or hike should be yours and yours alone, not a comparison to how someone else has done it. In other words, just do it, your version of it. Throw on some tennis shoes, find a lovely spot, and take stroll or jog or bike ride and just enjoy your time, on your terms.

We here at On A Dime have done some things that sound pretty exciting but what was not apparent in the photos most usually, were the moments of supreme stupidity or the breakdowns, the tiffs, the tantrums and then the way all of my compadres acted when I was not at my best. There is a reason I don’t let them carry the camera. The imperfect times are fodder for future laughter but, in the moment, they are not fun. I have slept in terrible sleeping bags (note to you, don’t sleep at 10,000 feet in any bag with Cinderella on it), worn ridiculous clothing, and been really hungry due to inane food choices (note to you, dehydrated Indian food at 10,000 feet is not pretty).

My ego survived the jackknife dive but was happily shelved the time the trail was lost in Yosemite. Navigating in snow, I am certain, is precisely why Hansel and Gretel wound up needing a dentist and a police report. The trips with the gorgeous photos have a witchy underside that thankfully fades a bit over time. And the second my ego starts twerking like a – not well thought out – Grammy performance, I usually face-plant in three feet of snow as I did while calling over my shoulder to two of my teens to “walk exactly as I am and follow in my footsteps”. Yes, that really happened and yes, they caught it in a glorious photo.

I now am lucky to encounter footsteps that I wish to follow in. The launch of On A Dime Adventure has opened up an entire world of fellow travelers that I admire and am inspired by. One such adventurer and writer, Lisa Beliveau, sails through life literally and figuratively and her beautiful essay on her initiation into rock climbing left me smiling and joyful.  PINK TOES is an account that celebrates the poetry of the journey as the pinnacle and the arrival as simply the outcome.

A friend who’d had taken the class said,

“Don’t worry. The first climb gets rained out. You’ll just go to breakfast.”

Twelve weeks in, I’d made it through the skills outings—though my inexperience had been noted. I was training but still worried about fitness, the weight of my pack, keeping up.

The day arrived. It didn’t rain. I had an hour. I’d packed, repacked, weighed my food, even purchased Dental Dots to replace brush and paste. Dan, our instructor, would soon arrive in his Escort, which, with five climbers shoehorned in and gear atop in a RocketBox, looked comical as a Volkswagen Beetle full of clowns.

Check out the entire essay. You will be happy you did and – if not inspired to sign up for rock climbing – you’ll most assuredly be donning pink nail polish and getting to know Lisa over at her blog I Sold My Pearls To Do It.

At 14, I convinced my parents to let me sell my add-a-pearl necklace to buy my first boat. The pearls versus the boat as means of 14-year-old-gal empowerment was no contest.    ~Lisa Beliveau

On A Dime Adventure was created to share ideas on increasing quality moments without spending a fortune but we want to take this opportunity to disclose that our motto “Life Is In Session” does not mean life is perfect. The next time you fall flat on your face, go ahead, make sure nothing is broken, that your ego is unharmed, and then take your pink toes and carry on.

We saved our blog post on regrouping for this coming Saturday as it feels to be part two of Ego? Check.

Photos below appear quite lovely but include a couple of lines revealing the ego fail. 🙂

Reading Your Way To Adventure

I recently ended a long-term relationship because it was just not working out. I left downtown Los Angeles one Sunday and found my way right into a completely unfamiliar neighborhood and realized I’d had enough. I gathered my nerve and calmly said, “We’re finished Mapquest, I am committing to Siri”. Mapquest’s silence was proof I’d made the right decision. I realize comparison is unfair but Siri is so expressive and really knows her mind. I called my guy and he – already engaged to Siri – did the electric slide in celebration, ok he thought about doing the electric slide… he does not possess a dancing gene like “Shawty Got Low” here. Another time and adventure.

 So after the breakup, I quickly left a few cryptic – obvious – status updates on my Facebook about a certain online direction service, initials Map.Quest. that gets possessive when I innocently flirt. Next, Siri and I posted a joint profile selfie and headed off on our freebie adventure. Where, you ask, can you get an adventure – from beginning to end – for free? That’s right, not a single dime spent. Now don’t groan when I say, the library. I’m guessing if you are reading this blog then you are a “reader” and that perhaps, the library is your launch pad for soaring into all sorts of new terrain.

Books offer travel without packing luggage, however, the library is closed on Sunday and I wanted to take my new girl somewhere special which meant the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books. And people, I have to admit I derived some mischievous pleasure at Siri’s confusion over where to get a taco on a college campus filled with hundreds of eclectic food trucks. We skipped eating.

Gelato truck

Book-wise, I’ve traveled a long and winding road with a colorful bunch, from Larry McMurtry’s LONESOME DOVE gang, to Jurgis as he encountered multiple abuses in THE JUNGLE by Upton Sinclair. I’ve fallen in love with Calmer Ottosson in Pete Dexter’s SPOONER and laughed myself sick in my three week blitz of every David Sedaris book published. Books have taken me all over the world and, in the case of the HARRY POTTER series, beyond. They’ve shifted my way of thinking as in Shane Claiborne’s THE IRRESISTIBLE REVOLUTION; LIVING LIFE AS AN ORDINARY RADICAL and they’ve carried me through many of life’s storms, sometimes with answers but more often with distraction. Books offer the ultimate in adventure and allow you to experience these adventures at your own pace and on your own terms.

The Festival of Books celebrates the written word and also ponies up Kettle Corn and lobster in the process. Everywhere you turn, there are booths with kiddie yoga, author signings, mystery, humor, cooking, opera performances, speakers, gardening, culture… this truly is the melting pot of literature with stunning art, music, and poetry also thrown into the mix.

Yoga kids

Now friends, the On A Dime aspect of this event is both the free admission and the amount of freebie giveaways. We happened upon pumpkin seed power bars by KIND and insanely amazing Takeya iced tea. The tea sample rocked our palate so enormously that we’ll be ordering some bags online and looking for their recipe book coming out this summer.  And at this point we wish to state if it is profiled here, it’s because we loved it. Not getting any kickbacks. 🙂

Healthy snacks

Takeya Tea

The festival happens once a year and all events are no charge, however, some speakers require advance no-fee tickets. I lucked into inspirational new author Katherine Schwarzenegger being interview by her little-known mom, Maria Shriver, about her new book, I JUST GRADUATED… NOW WHAT?

Shriver interview

Also was grateful to see chef Scott Conant – every bit as yummy as his food – right before he tackled signing THE SCARPETTA COOKBOOK. His line of foodie groupies, books clutched in their arms as they waited anxiously, rivaled anything Mick Jagger ever inspired.


Fellow adventurers, the only money spent on my visit was $10 for parking but here at On A Dime we like to emphasize choice and there were some truly amazing cuisine masterpieces available as well as great deals on books for all ages. If you have not completely fallen under the sway of Kindle (my guy is two-timing Siri with Kindle), you can grab some great, discounted literature. And if you like gee-gaws (great word), there is everything from jewelry, made from books, to toys and stuffed animals.

As the weather grows warmer, the days longer, and cabin fever propels you out the door, throw a great book in your backpack and find a grassy knoll to pass the day away.


And finally we want to wrap this up with a new trend that seems to be taking hold, the little free library. In many communities, regular folks are setting up small displays of their used books at their curb, on the honor/exchange system. It’s quite simple, you see a book that interests you? You take it and leave one in exchange.

The main point of this post is to celebrate bookish adventures but also to encourage local community involvement so please share in the comments section any events and/or favorite books that rock your soul.

*We’re including a few adventure books that we’ve enjoyed immensely!


INTO THE WILD as well as INTO THIN AIR both by Jon Krakauer

The entire HARRY POTTER series by J.K. Rowling


LONESOME DOVE by Larry McMurtry

Boy Crazy

Yes, I am boy crazy. I admit it, I like the guys and – with only a few exceptions in my life – I’ve found them to be overwhelmingly authentic and noble. I’ve had the supreme luck of being surrounded by an entire posse of incredible men (some family, some chosen family, a great ex, loyal cousins, inspirational friends, a wonderful guy, and on and on) but there’s one in particular that has been a cause for celebration since day one. Well, when he’s not a cause for sending me to an island until he’s grown.

Noah baby

This post is to celebrate adventuring with the guys in your life but most especially focuses on camping with a little guy. My “little” guy is now taller than I am and almost fifteen so this week when I casually mentioned camping, I figured he’d politely decline in favor of a 72- hour weekend playing Xbox – he’s falling behind in this and really needs to apply himself. Shockingly, he signed on for the great outdoors.

Noah and Mom

The Xbox fan’s sisters were the trailblazers in camping and backpacking in the family and he only tagged along when I bribed him with candy and they only tolerated their little brother when I bribed them with large amounts of cash.

On a particular trip with one sister and me, the little guy crankily agreed to abandon the campsite and sleep on the beach, under the stars – this was clearly not his idea. When we woke, I cheerfully chirped, “Wow! Sleeping out was great. It was not too cold or too damp or too uncomfortable” at which point the poor guy popped out of his sleeping bag and, in his prepubescent cracking voice, wailed, “It was ALL of those to me” He regretted this outburst about twenty times that day when his sister would hang over the backseat and squeak exaggeratedly, “It was ALL of those to me!”

As the little guy gained a foot in height, he discovered photography and this, coupled with the deepening of his voice, turned him into a stellar camper. We seemed to almost reverse roles when his bass overrode my soprano and he was able to keep me in line.

I am known far and wide for outdoor skills that include unexpectedly wandering off trail, the inability to see “do not enter” signs, and an enviable talent for sinking a car in clearly marked sand. It takes just the precise combo of ignoring warnings and strategic off-road maneuvering and voila! Tenacity At Mono Lake would be the title of that adventure.

Car + Sand = oops
Car + Sand = oops

Post Mono Lake car sinking – as I sprung from the car hysterically yelling “Oh no, oh no, it’s quicksand and the sun is setting” – the little guy never even blinked. He waited a moment and then gave me a withering look I recognized as the one I’d used on him during toddler tantrums.

“Mom, this is not 127 HOURS. We are four miles from town and you have cell service and an ATM card. We’ll have pizza delivered and I’ll take a photo, captioned “Saharan crisis” that you can post immediately because you also have WIFI here”

He then proceeded to dig the car out while I took photos of a glorious sunset that he pointed out to distract me.


With that trauma laid to rest, I noticed the reflective lake at a distance. As the sun sank, I tore out – camera in hand – with the boy calling after me. Darkness came swiftly and, photos taken, I turned back toward the car? Or uh toward the vast, empty, PITCH landscape! Ruh roh! This time around he just sighed, took the lead, and called over his shoulder, “I figured on this so I marked in my head where the car is, follow me”  As the responsible grown-up, I was happy to bring up the rear.

Sunset Mono Lake
Sunset Mono Lake

A few years ago on a camp weekend, I was noting the loss of the little guy’s babyhood and the onset of adulthood when I glanced over and treasured his infant face – sound asleep. In his hand he clutched a souvenir. One vial of instant snow.


So this weekend, as we hit the road for the Mount Whitney area, I am counting on him to make the fires, decipher the maps, and keep me out of trouble and in exchange I plan on gifting him with some instant snow.

Go camping with the kids, the memories are priceless. Below are photos, titled with the locales, of a few of our adventures.


Hike And Wine On A Dime

Wine tasting on a dime and as an adventure is possible as long as you do your research – that means watching the film Sideways. Not kid-friendly but then again wine tasting is also best sans tots. Sideways actually is just for fun and references might mark you as a newbie but that’s ok as bluffing your way through wine tasting is about as possible as passing yourself off as Tiger Woods at your first golf lesson.

At the winery
Girls day out

The true wine connoisseurs are onto the charlatans in the time it takes to uncork a Beaujolais or hear you mispronounce it. Going with a wine savvy friend, as I did, can buy a wee bit of legitimacy by proxy but it’s pretty short lived. On our first stop at the lovely Old Creek Winery outside of Ojai, my girlfriend delicately inhaled aromas and engaged in intellectual wine chat while I nodded sagely and followed her lead. Unfortunately, with only a slight bit of wine in me, I found it irresistible to share my rendition of tasting as an eye exam. While my friend silently meditated on obscure flavors, I made inverted finger eyeglasses and chirped “Is it this one or that one, is this better or that, now was the first one clearer or the second?”

The girlfriend, in an attempt to distract me, offered the sheet of wine descriptives but ended up regretting that when I bypassed the lovely flavors of cherry cordial, vanilla bean, and Herbs de Provence and asked to be served cigar box and light tar so that I might be able to correctly identify and compare those flavors in the 2011 Primitivio and 2010 Barbera (dead serious, look it up). And then there was the 2010 Sangiovese – taste number six – with its burnt sugar and red currant not nearly as interesting as the organoleptic stuffing that would allow it to age gracefully. By taste seven I could no longer pronounce organoleptic (ok fine, I could not pronounce it to begin with). I soon absconded with the steward’s tip jar and began a stand-up routine reciting flavors such as hints of wet stone (go ahead, check 2012 Albarino de Moto), organic wood shingle, and fair trade fireplace ash – my own inventions.


Finally, my girlfriend sweetly pointed out that only she and the wine steward were in the room and they would tip $10 if I would stop. I told her she should thank her lucky stars she was not with my guy and me a month earlier when, at another tasting, I remarked that a certain wine reminded me of one we’d had the night before only to have my guy innocently respond “the one from 7-11?” Talk about silencing a wine tasting. She might’ve been really embarrassed.

So how exactly can you enjoy tasting if your budget leans more toward grape juice than wine? We’ll be straightforward and cut to the chase. Share the tasting. Yes, you each get glasses, they just pour a teensy bit less. The staff we encountered enthusiastically promoted the shared taste – the Sideways jokes – not so much.

Wine Tasting
Amazing staff make the tasting great

The staff at a winery make the entire experience a pleasure and it is worth noting here that a previous tasting on the harbor in Morro Bay at The Morro Bay Wine Seller by my guy and myself was fantastic and made so by owners Ley and Rachelle Vaughn . They pretended not to hear the 7-11 remark and even took my guy on a tour of their incredible renovation that will enlarge the wine tasting area to fully take advantage of the view of lofty sailboats and frolicking seals in the bay. At every tasting, we have found the cliché wine snobbery to be nonexistent and instead been welcomed by genuine, laid-back staff, happy to share their love of wine.

Wine view
The Morro Bay Wine Seller

The financial outlay for tasting comes in around the same price as a movie with snacks. At the Old Creek Winery we spent $20 total ($10 each) for our tasting and that included 7 different wines. If you opt to not share, it is $15 per person. I limited myself to the 1/2 tasting, as I was the chauffeur while my friend moved on to vintner Michael Meagher’s private label, VINO V. Michael gave an overview that was both informative and entertaining and his wine was stellar as my friend’s purchase attests. Old Creek’s entire operation, from experts on hand to country setting, exudes casual energy. We were even invited to bring our own picnic and make use of the ample tables outdoors amongst abundant orange poppies, cherry blossoms, and beautiful blue skies. The amenable staff is more than willing to sell a bottle of wine to go with your picnic with the least expensive bottle on our tasting at $20 for non-wine club members.


Our next stop was in the quaint community of Ojai, at a gorgeous tasting room located in the main section of town.

Casa Barranca

Casa Barranca’s (all organic wines) tasting room, with its cozy couch, long bar, and generous group seating area in the back, is not only beautiful but also practical. They can hold a large number of people comfortably and the on a dime crowd can opt for single tastes at $3 each. This is peachy or should we say grape-y on the wallet and comes in handy when dealing with someone lightweight enough that they’ll say “grape-y”. My girlfriend appreciated the single taste choice when – on my second –  I referenced an event taking place “a week from tah-now” The patient and polite friend did not even bat an eye – as if she heard people say “tah-now” daily –  so I owned up and whispered “I know tah-now is not a word but then again organoleptic is suspect also”

Post tasting, be sure to stop in somewhere for coffee. We headed for the highly rated and individually owned Ojai Roasting Company in the center of Ojai. Been there several times and it is both a lovely atmosphere as well as delicious coffee.


And what about hiking? Fellow adventurers, we were only able to explore carefully on this little foray as the daredevil girlfriend was recuperating after viewing the highest peak in the Swiss Alps, leg hyper extended and flat on her back while yelling “this place is gorgeous, take photos!” My kind of gal! Luckily, I had hiked Ojai before and those photos are included in this article. Here at On A Dime we encourage you to incorporate hiking and tasting as a joint getaway and we implore you to take it on in that order. Hike up a storm, sweat it out, and then kick back with a tasting.

Stellar scenery
Stellar scenery

Not willing to totally forego a trek, my friend included on our list a magical place that yet another friend had turned her onto. The Ojai Foundation. This non-profit is not on the radar at all as it is about 6 miles outside of town and into the hills. A dirt road and a small, humble sign are the only clue to the entrance of what, you quickly come to realize, is an opportunity to decompress and leave behind technology, as in cell service and WIFI. This foundation fosters community connection, meditation, permaculture, and a whole host of other seminars for those seeking enlightenment. One cost-sensitive program (work exchange) is listed as “bring your own tent and the fee is $250 for 12 days, in other words about $20 per day and includes daily meditation, yoga, and movement practices. This particular retreat is unique and a reminder that so much exists off the beaten path and often not heavily promoted. When striking out for the day on an adventure, look online at what is in the area and then seek out locals within the community for favorite insider tips. We have discovered everything from choice spots to view sunset to free camping under the redwoods by simply asking employees and residents in small towns.


Don’t wait another second, hike a beautiful area and then if a winery is nearby, complete the day with a beautiful unwind. If no winery exists, bring your own favorite beverage and picnic and relax into the close of the day. Who knows, the flavor of cigar box and tar just might be the thing you’ve always been missing.

*On a final note of advice, please taste responsibly. Have a designated driver as well as someone in charge of cutting you off before one too many Sideways jokes – in other words – after one. Non-alcoholic beverages are fantastic after hiking as well and the times that we’ve thought ahead and had the cooler loaded for our return have been the best. Consider the following – all iced down – water w/ any of these infusions from a local Farmers Market, cucumber, strawberries, oranges, lemons, limes, mint and juices, sparkling juices, teas and yep, iced coffee!

*Friends, please leave your favorite tasting location in the comments section below and a link to their site as well.

Grape Lovers Unite

A recent California dreamin’ return to beautiful Ojai uncovered a winery in the country as well as a gorgeous tasting room in town. So whether you are a city mouse or a country mouse, stunning locales are yours for the asking.

Casa Barranca
Casa Barranca located in the heart of Ojai

On Saturday we will have a full article on tasting on a dime as well as combining the great outdoors with the products of passionate vintners. If you consider yourself an oenophile er-uhm, this might not be the article for you. If you are, at this moment, looking up the word “oenophile” – I did – or you have perhaps purchased wine at 7-11 (cough, cough) our article will rock your inner grape-lover.

And if you prefer non-alcoholic, we will joyfully cover that as well. Also check out our previous article on Farmers Markets for your picnic basket prep!

*Tweet, Follow, and Subscribe ’cause we are marching all over Twitter, Facebook, and email.  😉

Old Creek
Countrified tasting at the ranch
Road to the winery
Beautiful road leading to the winery

Magical Mediocrity/Day-Hiking

 I love ice cream, popcorn, and mediocrity and I don’t love exercise. Even the word exercise has me recoil and just try throwing in some slogan like “no excuses” and I immediately start making excuses. I am terrible at all competitive sports as well as games. And fit, as in physically? I was previously so sedentary that I got a side-ache walking to my mailbox. No, you are not about to hear that beautiful turnaround story to the theme of We Are The Champions.

 My theme would be Another One Bites The Dust and over the course of a few years – I did bite the dust – for a variety of reasons that ultimately required soul-searching. So one day while at the beach, looking around for my soul, I miscalculated the time to pick up my son and had to run to the car. I arrived breathless but realized I had completed a mile with no side-ache. I was shocked and, seeing this as a convenient omen, put the misplaced soul aside and began a mediocre physical quest instead. I started half-heartedly running, hit and miss, and eventually topped out at an average of 4 miles a day. I finished – not ran – the LA Marathon. We stopped for photos, dead serious. And people, truly I am sure my time was in the lackluster 8hr+ range but the photos were fantastic. I never hooked into PRs (personal records) and I paid only fleeting attention to form. The running was good but I lacked any real determination and kept  catching a whisper of a feeling that something else was out there, something powerfully different, waiting. There was – it was Whitney.

 Mount Whitney (the highest peak in the lower 48 at 14,505 feet) became the turning point toward hiking and backpacking and also toward a love of mediocrity or what I now term as magical mediocrity. I hiked Mount Whitney solo, beginning at 11:30 at night. I was terrified just getting out of the car, absolutely certain I could hear grizzlies sharpening their teeth with their claws. There are no grizzlies in the Sierras (black bears, yes) but that did not stop my headlamp from becoming a laser show as I jerked back and forth – eyes darting – on high alert for lions and tigers and bears, oh my! The only real danger for me was whiplash. About nine or ten hours after courageously exiting the car, I summited with a crashing, altitude-induced migraine, took Excedrin, and knew that something had changed.

 The change was mediocrity. No, I did not suddenly shake off being average and make the cover of Sports Illustrated. Rather, I purchased the Whitney bumper sticker, drove my screaming muscles home, and made friends with my averageness and when I embraced it, I realized it was quite beautiful. It meant I was showing up and it also meant that this new thing was mine – my own imperfect/perfect experience – not some goal-oriented fitness program. No miracle occurred that day, however, I did catch a tiny glimpse of my soul and I became a hiker. I spent the next few years walking trails while stumbling around literally and figuratively until a good friend asked “and how’s that working out for you?” Unspoken was “and everyone else you might be impacting”. And what I have come to know is that hiking was working out just fine but the soul part is ongoing.

I recently read Cheryl Strayed’s account of soul-searching in Wild: From Lost To Found On The Pacific Crest Trail and found myself relating as I alternated between weeping and laughing at her journey toward magical mediocrity. Reese Witherspoon plays Cheryl in the movie, sans makeup. THAT’S what I love about not being an above average actress like Reese. I would’ve been very happy to play Cheryl and, in the spirit of mediocre actresses, I would’ve eschewed perfection and worn makeup. Cheryl’s story turns the crazy drive for perfection upside-down as she takes her messed up life and naively loaded backpack, and embarks on a wildly imperfect yet magical trek of the Pacific Crest Trail. Along the way, she transforms her own averageness initially into magical mediocrity and finally into a powerful sense of self-worth. Her story grabs your heart and squeezes it in an invigorating embrace and, in the process, assures that you have kindred and they are out there.

 I found mine. Kindred. They enrich my life beyond measure and a good number of them share a passion for hiking but how does all of this really apply to something as simple as a day-hike? Striking out on a trail heals, it clarifies, and it empowers. Flat out, that is the truth. Though I have done multi-day backpack trips, a day-hike can take me to the “zone” on a regular basis. The zone being that stripped away, all the muck left behind, joy. I have hiked with Christians, Atheists, and dog worshipers (this is Los Angeles). And what I’ve discovered is that whether the experience is purely nature-based as in Neil deGrasse’s beautiful passion for science or connected to a celestial entity like Joshua Becker’s mission to deepen spirituality through minimalism and a return to non-monetary moments, everyone seems to meet on a level playing field. Hikers all agree on a love of the outdoors and seeing the magnificence of what Mother Nature has gifted us with. Most of my hiker buddies report coming away feeling renewed, experiencing a sense of reconnect, and certainly a bit of empowerment when conquering nature-made bathroom activities while trekking with a love interest. So friends, hit the trail and take – not a power hike – but a highly personal, magically mediocre, exploration of where the wild things are.

“Between every two pine trees there is a door leading to a new way of life.”  ~John Muir

*See our article on day-hiking and send us your favorite day-hikes so we can add to our list.

Day hike 3Day hike 4Day hike 2

Farmers Market Fete

It might be time to take a hiatus from Taco Bell – we can hit it again tomorrow for breakfast – yes, they serve breakfast now! Coffee and these sassy breakfast burritos… oops, back to hiatus from Taco Bell and spotlight on the Farmers Market.

 Go ahead and do it. This very  week, hit up your local Farmers Market and grab some veggies and fruit. We are tying this in with hiking but it is also fun to plan for recipes like chicken tacos, a favorite from The Pioneer Woman. Her fabulous photos, that accompany the delicious recipes, make chef duties a pleasure. And while we’re on this subject, also check out her chicken tortilla soup which we add hominy to for a little Okie flair.

 Now on to hiking and the Farmers Market. There are unlimited options with the fresh and local approach when you are packing for a hike. Grab apples, grapes, cheese and crackers or fresh bread and a flat sheet – we’re talking linen closet – to sit on and throw the whole beautiful potpourri in your backpack because life is in session and we don’t want to miss a minute.

 To our fellow “champagne on a beer budget” kindred, when creating your hiking meal, go ahead and get a little fancy-pants. On a sunset hike to Arches in Utah we brought along a bottle of chilled white wine, fruit, and cheese and crackers. We’ve also been known to tote a single burner stove with a canister of fuel and make coffee and oatmeal with dried fruit and nuts on sunrise hikes as we did on a Half Dome trip.

 And finally, a few items for your “don’t forget” list: wine/bottle opener, silverware (cutlery for the posh crowd), cups or glasses (camping stores sell plastic wine glasses), napkins, and drinks.

 *A little trick is to pre-chill a thermos with ice water and then replace the water with the beverage of choice. This is easier to manage than glass bottles and keeps the spirits cold. Other drink ideas are lavender lemonade and cucumber mint water as well as any assortment of juices that call your name.

 Whatever you decide upon for your Farmers Market/hiking day, whether it is fresh produce, local cheese and bread or maybe some exotic olives, the overall experience  will be exponentially enhanced by adding in food – glorious – food!

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Pack Only Your Zen

Dear On A Dime travelers, I am an almost rehabilitated over-packer. Like a celebrity’s “clean and sober” weekend with twins, I tend to teetotal pack only to fall off the wagon by loading twin pieces of souvenir granite into the backseat of my car, of course only where it is permissible. It’s hard to outrun rangers with boulders slowing vehicle movement, not that I would know about that personally.

 And speaking of movement, there is an interesting one sweeping the land and we’re applying it to travel. Minimalism is the new kid in town and it feels in sync with On A Dime Adventure’s mission to travel simply and without breaking the bank although the mantra of Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus of The Minimalists might – at first glance – seem frivolous to the financially conservative crowd. Their 20/20 rule goes something like this, “Most everything can be replaced for $20 within 20 minutes”. These guys assert that the possible, small amount of money spent in a moment of “oops” outweighs the insanity of an overstuffed suitcase as well as an overstuffed life. They also make the point that, barring the extreme; generally people are within 20 minutes of a business that can replace for $20 or less whatever is needed. Socks, underwear, a pair of sweat pants, a blender…

 …Blender? Guilty. Yes I have been tempted to take along luxury items on camping trips. Fine, I have taken luxury items on camping trips. A cousin once considered poisoning me after I pranced to the top of Clouds Rest in Yosemite and bragged loudly about being first. He quickly busted me down to size with “Hey there Champion, does this ring a bell, ‘first is the worst, second is the best, and third is the one in the polka dot dress’. It’s your favorite chant when you’re in the polka dot dress.” And then to add insult to injury – in front of many other hikers – he tossed a large throw pillow at me that oddly resembled one from my couch back in the city and declared, “you’re first because someone else was carrying what fell out of your pack, Kim Kardashian.” I briefly considered trying to deny it but was afraid he’d demand a thorough inventory of my pack at which point the matching pillow and personal massager would give me away. So sue me, I have an irritable back and I like my pillows in pairs. And if I ever climb Everest, I will educate my pair of Sherpas on the seriousness of neck support. This dream is but one of many.

 In another fantasy, I pack only the exact amount of clothing I will wear on a trip, leave behind my aromatic oils, and return from the outback with slight body odor and a small wallaby. In this dream I am relaxed, joyful, and fully experiencing every second as my many – in the moment –  Facebook selfies with the wallaby attest.

Some fantasies may require an intervention and luckily help is out there. Courtney Carver creator of Be More With Less, Life On Purpose gave this descriptive of a recent getaway to France in her article 5 Ways To Make Anything Easier.

“I spent the last leg of my trip last month in Paris alone. I didn’t have wifi outside of my apartment, and had no idea where I was going or what I was doing. I was excited about the trip, but I also thought it might be hard and it was sometimes. I got lost and delayed, and sometimes felt a little unsure about myself.  In between the very few hard parts though, were the amazing experiences pictured above. I had time to start to my day slowly and drink espresso while writing in the most beautiful parks and cafes. I saw amazing works of art in the Louvre and the L’Orangerie and enjoyed watching artists create new works of art by the river. Being alone gave me time to appreciate the simple things in one of the grandest cities of all.”

Courtney Carver is not alone as fellow minimalist, Tammy Strobel, of Rowdy Kittens (see her tips and stunning photos in our Tahoe article), also celebrates simplicity every single day and the stunning feeling of a large exhale is both palpable and seductive. These innovators walk a walk that is not about going without but rather shines the light on deliberate choice. They pack into their suitcases and into their lives only what is meaningful. And friends, if you really want to get radical, check out Colin Wright. This minimalist pared down everything he owns to 51 items and spends his time traveling the world. He journeys to a new country every four months and has visited the 48 contiguous states not once but twice and this guy is not yet thirty.

 Our quest to become gentle and lightweight travelers is still in its infancy at On A Dime but this week it appears we’ve been handed a challenge. In addition to a streamlined backpacking excursion in Yosemite slated for June, in December we will travel Europe for an On A Dime Adventure totaling about 15-16 days and we will only be carrying backpacks. My guy is joining and he has been known to check extra shoes, golf clubs, and a charcoal grill. In other words, he is a fellow packing-addict and enabler and this – being a winter trip – has his love of high-end backpacking clothing and gadgetry being severely tested. The gauntlet has been thrown and we will document our attempt – once we find an airline that will accommodate multiple cameras, tripods, and reflectors as we hear light can be a problem at the Eiffel Tower.

 Want more simplicity? Check out the site links in our article as the minimalists are living a dream and it’s available to all of us on whatever level syncs with our psyche. And if you crave some extra Zen, check out Tammy Strobel’s new book My Morning View. It is a healthy dose of relaxation and a reminder that life is in session all over the place, every single day.

 *The photos we chose for this article were taken during moments of abundant tranquility and not much luggage.

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Let There Be Fire

This article is for those unfortunate souls who find themselves in charge of making the fire on a campout. Go ahead, admit it, it’s war and made no easier by the ungrateful compadres calling out directions as they duck the smoke and sip their wine from a safe distance while you spray lighter fluid over newspapers, grocery bags, a dismembered box, and the last scrap of the entire weekend’s allotment of paper towels. With eyes watering uncontrollably, you call out that the grocery store wood must be damp and then you blow and blow and blow into the insanely, abundant smoke until finally a whisper of a flame appears. And IT FLARES! Everyone cheers, there is fist bumping and a little victory dance and then the flame dies. It is at this point that you send the smallest and most compliant child into the tent for “extra” socks and underwear but not the irritating flameproof pajamas.

There is a lot at stake with campfires. Guys and gals, we’re talking heat, cooking, and most importantly, your manhood. Even more serious if you are a man. Your fire-making prowess is in the hot seat and you employ every means necessary to conquer this elusive, Neanderthal rite of passage. Like golf, if you can just master it, you have the respect of all men. Like the “toilet ring down” concept, if you grasp the enormity, you have the devotion of all women. Producing a fire, for frigid and ravenous campers, keeps you squarely out of Donner Party danger and assures you of some heavy flattery even from the small, sock-less child.

 On a trip to Half Dome, in response to flattery of his fire, a fellow trekker dropped his voice an impressive two octaves and responded,”I’m an American”. Uhm yeah, obviously. Smokey the Bear ain’t Swedish. There’s some pretty credible evidence that fire was invented in America. And kudos to the patriotic camper who masters fire-making without any lighter fluid. This is the MacGuyver adventurer who is convinced if he had a good piece of flint he’d have no need for the three lighter sticks and four books of matches in his arsenal. One half of the On A Dime team recently, proudly declared that he had not used the store-bought “fire-cheats” (fire-starts) to create a robust fire. His (latte swigging) partner was responsible for that purchase and she is now known far and wide for city-slicker foolishness while his rugged beauty and stunning fires are fast becoming legendary. He was, for one shining moment, the Wild West of fire creators. And then came Alex.

 The Wild West had nothing on Alex when it comes to fires. The dexterity, the calculation, and the sheer cunning on display, renders all other fire warriors obsolete. You can almost hear the proud murmur of Indian forefathers as a fire – by Alex – catches and dances to life.

 Alex? Just who is this strong, mystical warrior? Alexandria Susan Barrett, 5 feet, 4 inches of tenacious, flame-producing fury. Any day now she will appear on You Tube with a tutorial but until then, here are her steps along with photos. She is available for consulting and guys, no need to use an assumed name, she ensures confidentiality.

 1) Gather twigs of varying lengths. Size does matter.

2) Place 2-3 (no more) paper towels or crumpled newspaper in the center of your fire ring. *or 2 child’s socks.

3) Create a pyramid shaped structure over the paper towels, starting with the tiny twigs and moving upward with the larger ones. She also says you can do this with a criss cross box-like structure if you prefer. This seems more “American” than the pyramid, which is a bit suspect to some.

4) Light the paper towels

5) Allow the fire to catch and move upward and light the pyramid.

6) When the pyramid is blazing add a few small pieces of wood to begin the main body of the fire.

7) Add larger pieces of wood and when the fire is very hot and stable and place a large (longer burning) piece of wood in the ring when the fire is rocking along.

 Now you are set. Whether at home or on a campout, life is session so burn baby, burn.

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 *All humor aside, DO NOT EVER make a fire without first observing campground rules and fire/burn regulations (especially in the backcountry). Check with the ranger station on seasonal restrictions. The 2013 Yosemite fire, set unintentionally and illegally by a hunter, cost $100,000,000. Yes, million.

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