Columbia Vixen 22 Pack Review

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I admit it. I’m a total backpacking gear geek. So it’s entirely normal for me to quote tent statistics, argue the benefits of down versus synthetic insulation, and gush about pack suspension systems. But when I was still waxing poetic about my Columbia Vixen 22L Daypack almost ten months after I bought it, I knew I was completely smitten.

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I purchased this pack from REI in the beginning of April. I was looking for a comfortable fitting pack that was large enough to carry the essentials for a day hike, without being overkill. Since then I have used it in a variety of conditions including: snow hiking in the spring, my trip to Valentines Flats, snowshoeing this winter, and even lending it to my sister to use. The pack has proved to have exactly the features I need, without any superfluous ones that I don’t.

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Using the Vixen at Valentine Flats this spring

Let’s break down what I love about this pack, and the few things that could use some improvement.


The Columbia Vixen 22L is a women’s specific daypack with a 22 liter capacity. It has one main panel loading compartment, a small zipper pouch at the top, a stretchy stuff pocket on the front, and two water bottle pockets on the sides. There is also a water bladder sleeve in the main compartment and two zipper pouches on the hipbelt.

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I read some complaints that the pack wasn’t divided into smaller sections for organization, but personally I found the compartments it did have worked well. I tend to use the small zipper pouch for important items like car keys, cell phone, money, ID, and a headlamp. The main compartment I organize by using a small dry sack for first aid & survival gear, and a medium dry sack for extra clothes. The outer stretchy pouch is perfect for frequently used items or wet and dirty clothes that you don’t want inside your pack.

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Small zipper pouch on the top of the pack: perfect for storing small items like car keys and your phone

The 22 liter capacity is not huge (especially when hauling extra winter gear), but it is sufficient. I like that the pack is hydration system compatible, but make sure you insert your water bladder before your other gear, otherwise it can be a pain to slide it into the sleeve.

The back of the pack is a “trampoline back” which means that your back is held away from the back of the pack by a piece of aerated material.

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The trampoline back creates a gap for increased ventilation and airflow

I love this feature because the resulting gap between the pack and yourself almost completely solves the uncomfortable “sweaty back” problem!

The shoulder straps and waist belt are also designed to keep you cool with Columbia’s innovative combination of comfortable Techlite™ foam and mesh.

A built-in whistle on the sternum strap buckle and a system to store your trekking poles when not needed were nice touches. I’m still a little dubious, however, of the Silverback™ reflective lining that, supposedly, “allows you to easily see inside your pack”.

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Back view of the pack


I would probably say that the comfort I feel while wearing this pack is its number one selling feature for me!

This was the first pack I ever bought that had a women’s specific design, and when Columbia says “women specific” they don’t just mean “shrink it and pink it”. The way this pack wraps around my curves and hugs my back without flopping, bouncing, or shifting makes me happy just to think about it! The weight is placed squarely on your hips so the shoulder straps don’t even touch the tops of your shoulder! It practically feels like it’s levitating when I wear it.

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Trying out the pack for the first time in April 2015…after one mile the comfort of the pack had me sold!

I do have a warning though, for my petite backpacking sisters… I have to wear this pack with the waist belt tightened almost as far as it will go; my sister Addison wears it tightened all the way. So if you are very slender you might want to pass on this pack…you won’t be able to tighten the waist belt enough and all of the pack weight will be placed improperly on your shoulders.

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Addison using the pack during our backpacking trip in September. She loved it so much I almost didn’t get it back from her!


While this pack has held up fine for me, I would be a little hesitant to recommend it to anyone who is rough on their gear or who will be packing in areas with sharp brush or rocks. The fabric of the pack is strong for holding gear, but quite thin, and I’m afraid it could be easily punctured. The stretchy front and side pockets make me suspect they could be snagged on bushes. Case in point, don’t drag this pack over scree or run through a briar patch with it (not that I would recommend doing this with any pack!) Let’s just say I am infinitely glad I chose not to take this pack on my caving expedition in May!


The manufacturer’s suggested retail price for this pack is $129. Comparing it to similar models (like the Osprey Tempest 20) I would say this pack is comparably price for its market. Catching this pack while on clearance and combining it with a coupon, however, helped me to snag the Vixen for a cool $44.73, which for the comfort level and functionality was a steal in my opinion!


The Columbia Vixen is an extremely comfortable pack designed with women in mind. The pack has the perfect amount of space for an all-day summer hike, or a lightly packed winter snowshoe trip. The ventilation system is top notch, and the easily accessible stuff pouch, hip belt pockets, and trekking pole loops put this pack at the top of the line. However, petite individuals or gear abusers might want to steer clear.

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Using the Columbia Vixen while snowshoeing

Where to purchase

Most unfortunately, I bought this pack on clearance because Columbia was discontinuing it. Why they would scrap such an excellent pack is beyond me and I will be on the lookout to see if they start offering a new design with comparable size and features. In the meantime, if you see this pack on eBay or a gear swap I recommend grabbing it!

-Michaela “The Farming Daughter”

Note: This pack was purchased for my own personal use. I was not paid or compensated in any way to purchase, use, or review this pack. The views and opinions expressed are solely my own.

The “Bess” Bonnet

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And still of a winter’s night, they say, when the wind is in the trees,

When the moon is a ghostly galleon tossed upon cloudy seas,   

When the road is a ribbon of moonlight over the purple moor,   

A highwayman comes riding—


A highwayman comes riding, up to the old inn-door.

Over the cobbles he clatters and clangs in the dark inn-yard.

He taps with his whip on the shutters, but all is locked and barred.   

He whistles a tune to the window, and who should be waiting there   

But the landlord’s black-eyed daughter,

         Bess, the landlord’s daughter,

Plaiting a dark red love-knot into her long black hair.

-“The Highwayman” by Alfred Noyes

The nasty weather we’re having right now has at least one benefit I suppose…inspiring me to finally blog about my new quilted winter hood!

I began this project the beginning of October. I’d actually owned the pattern unused since last year, but I pulled it out hoping to whip up a hood before the Cedar Creek reenactment. Of course that didn’t happen, but c’est le vie. (Actually it’s more my procrastinating self’s fault, when will I learn?)

I used Anna Worden Bauersmith’s Quilted Winter Hood pattern. The pattern offers a regular size and one with a deeper brim. I went with the regular size. I’ve made various winter hoods before, but I love that this particular pattern is less utilitarian in shape and is instead modeled more like the fashion bonnets of the era. The pattern was clear and easy to understand, though I would have liked a few marks or notches to help match the pieces when sewing the bavolet to the crown.

The lining is a cream colored cotton sateen and the batting is wool. For the main fabric I chose a simple and versatile black silk taffeta. I made the bow and ties also from silk taffeta I had on hand. They are just tacked on to the bonnet, so if I get tired of them they can be easily switched out for a fresh color. I discovered the poem The Highwayman by Alfred Noyes while working on this project and didn’t realize until later that I unconsciously made the bonnet from two colors specifically mentioned in the poem!

“Bess, the landlord’s daughter,

Plaiting a dark red love-knot into her long black hair.”

For that reason I’ve decided to name it my “Bess” bonnet. 🙂

Using some suggestions offered in the pattern and inspiration from Sarah Jane’s version, I came up with a quilting design that pleased me. I quilted it all by hand. At first I didn’t plan on the final row of shell pattern closest to the brim, but I’m glad I added it because I think it balances out the design nicely.

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Quilted crown design
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Koda “helping” me quilt
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Hand quilting

The crown is stiffened with wire to help it hold its shape. The pattern recommends “20 gauge millinery wire”. I honestly have no idea how big that is, so I just used some jewelry wire we had laying around and it seems to work fine.

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A look inside the hood: all of the raw seams joining the pieces together are finished with a whip stitch
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Back view

I would definitely recommend this pattern to someone looking for a more refined, fashionable winter hood. The research and clear instructions are wonderful. I was a little leery of the price…$20. I thought that was a little much for a pattern that is basically only three pieces…but then again, the price didn’t dissuade me from purchasing the pattern when I did! I think the printing costs contributed to the higher price and I see that Anna now offers the same pattern as a digital download for the very reasonable price of $7 (you can buy it here). These hoods use so little material now that I have the investment of the pattern already I can see myself making quite a few in different colors!

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The three main pieces: crown, tip, and bavolet

Overall, I’m very pleased with my finished Bess bonnet. I think proper accessories can really help to complete the believable “look” of the period…and they’re great conversation starters with the public! I also love how this piece can easily be incorporated in a wide range of personas. Of course the shape and materials are fine enough for a more well to do impression, but it requires so little fabric that an enterprising farm wife could have easily afforded the small bit of silk required to make herself a nice winter Sunday piece of headwear.

I’ll be excited for the next cold weather event so I can try out my new winter hood! Have you ever sewn a winter hood? Do you have a favorite piece of historic clothing or gear that transcends several social classes?

-Michaela “The Farming Daughter”

Just the basics:

Fabric: black silk taffeta from Originals by Kay, cream cotton sateen from Joann’s, red silk taffeta from Fabrics Universe on Etsy, wool batting

Notions: black cotton quilting thread, 2′ wire

Pattern: “Quilted Winter Hood” by Anna Worden Bauersmith (the pattern is for sale here in her shop)

Year: 1860s

How historically accurate is it?: Fairly good I’d say. The pattern is modeled after designs of original bonnets and all of the construction methods are period correct. The lining should possibly be a printed cotton or a polished cotton instead of cotton sateen. I’m quite pleased with the finished results though!

Hours to complete: 10 maybe?

First worn: Just to try on when finished

Cost: $5 (black silk taffeta), $3 (cotton sateen), $1.5 (red silk taffeta), $2( wool batting) $1 (notions-thread & wire), $20 (pattern)

Total cost (with pattern): $32.50

Total cost (without pattern): $12.50

The Bible Poem

On Thursday the 11th, as we sat talking to Mother…some one asked for Miriam. She went down, and presently I heard her thanking somebody for a letter…I ran back, and sitting at Mother’s feet, told her Miriam was coming with a letter from Lydia. “Mother! Mother!” a horrible voice cried, and before I could think who it was, Miriam rushed in, holding an open letter in her hand, and perfectly wild. “George is dead!”, she shrieked, and fell heavily to the ground.

-“A Confederate Girl’s Diary” by Sarah Morgan Dawson

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Photo by Emily Ann Putzke

While now we think of handwritten letters mainly as a quaint form of correspondence, during the Civil War letters were much more important. Letters were cables of communication connecting apprehensive families at home with their men far away at war. They were lifelines of relief, reassuring anxious mothers that their boys had survived the deadly battle. And all too often letters were the messengers of death, telling the sad tale of the fallen. Imagine waiting, possibly for weeks, between letters, never knowing what those sheets of paper would contain when they arrived.

I wrote this poem to include in a Civil War letter I was writing to a friend. I was inspired by the common practice of sending the remaining possessions of the dead back to the their families. Usually a letter would be written to a family by the deceased man’s commanding officer or comrade. The letter would explain the news of his death, and often times contain some trinket from the departed. A silver watch, a last letter, a lock of golden hair, a brass coat button, all offering one last tangible link with the loved one who had died, and was probably buried hundreds of miles away.

I also wanted this poem to depict the sentiments of death and dying held by most people in the 19th century, while also reflecting my own personal faith. Somewhat unconsciously I explored and juxtaposed the widely differing effect words have. How strange that the same twenty-six characters can be arranged to plunge a heart into the depths of despair, or raise their souls in glorious hope! I hope you enjoy reading The Bible.


The Bible


With bloodless white lips and ashen pale cheek

She took the small bundle, unable to speak

As cold premonition’s sharp claws gripped her throat

She steadied herself and read the short note


The letter was writ in a thick, unknown hand

And she sank to a chair, unable to stand

For Joseph, her dearest, ‘midst the thick storm of lead

Had not conquered triumphant, but was struck down instead


She glanced at her hand and the dainty gold ring

How bitter the blow and full cruel the sting!

That cut down their hopes so recent in bloom

Now laid like her sweetheart in the black of the tomb


Intensely, but softly she wept in her grief

And the rivulet of tears found no relief

Her thin shoulders shook and she let out a moan

As she thought of her Joe dying unaided, alone


At last, sorrow spent, she shuddered a sigh

And chancing a look down something appeared in her eye

In her haste she had forgot that in the bundle was more

And when sorrow struck, it had dropped to the floor


Curious, she picked up the ponderous thing

And gently unloosed its wrap of paper and string

And lo! In her lap fell a small leather book

That she herself bought and with him Joe took


Tenderly she stroked the cover, smooth from much use

And fingered the thin pages that were starting to loose

A few of the leaves were smudged black with powder

And she thought of him reading as the cannon boomed louder


Tucked ‘tween the pages she found something there

A photograph of her image and a lock of her hair

These three treasured possessions that he carried always

On march, into battle, and in the last fray


Holding a passage was a silk ribbon of red

That she had pulled from her tresses, her heart full of dread

The marked verses were spotted with the salty tear’s stain

Mute evidence of the hope ‘midst the deep sorrow gained


And inscribed near the front in two simple lines

She read what she had written in happier times

“I commend thee to God, Joseph my love,

We shall soon meet again, or else meet above.”


These simple words, the work of her pen

Like bread on the water had come back again

For God knew the hour, the minute, the day

When her Joe would be taken and carried away


Then the promise of the Lord gave strength to her heart

And she knew those in Christ would not long be apart

For on that bright morning when the last trumpet will sound

The dead will arise, and the lost will be found.


-Michaela Richmond

October 20, 2015

Angelica Civil War Reenactment

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The biggest Civil War reenactment doesn’t necessarily make the best. While I’ve enjoyed attending the large and exciting sesquicentennial events the past couple of years, this weekend reminded me just how nice the smaller, local events can be too.

Mason, Addison, and I went to the Angelica Civil War reenactment hosted by the 136th NY. The first reenactment I ever participated in was actually this same event four years ago. It was special to be able to come to this event for the fourth time and camp in the exact same spot where my reenacting adventures began! Tenting next to us were also my good friend Emily, her sister Haley, and their friend Aidan.

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We were all very serious…
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…but not for long!
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This was Aidan’s first reenactment! (photo by Emily)

One of the reasons I enjoyed the smaller event size was it afforded better opportunities for interacting with the spectators. On Friday we helped run one of the education stations that local school groups toured. Our station was “Children’s Games and Toys of the 19th Century”. I gave a short talk explaining some the things children during the Civil War entertained themselves with and then we had various toys, including graces, hoop and stick, Jacob’s ladder, drafts, ball and cup, etc., for the kids to play with.

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Our educational station (photo by Emily)

We also ran the same station the next day for the Boy Scout troops that came. I was talking to one of the scouts later and was shocked to learn that they drive each year all the way from Massachusetts for this event!!

I brought the orphan kitten that I’m raising, Koda, to the event. She also had fun playing with the toys!

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(photo by Emily)

The combination of kitten and toys at our camp attracted several children, and Haley, Mason, and Aidan had a nice time playing with them all.

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Bobby was adorable in his accurate 19th century attire
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(photo by Emily)
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(photo by Emily)

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Mason hauling wood like a true 19th century gentleman (photo by Emily)
Mason hauling wood like a true 19th century gentleman (photo by Emily)
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I had a nice time discussing the Battle of Cold Harbor with one of our guys, Mr. John
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Civil War selfie 🙂

Another opportunity I had for sharing some of my knowledge of the period was Saturday afternoon. I was working on preparing a supper of chicken pot pie and a group of spectators stopped by to watch. I was able to have a very nice conversation with them about what I was doing, how my pie differed from an actual 19th century pie (not killing the chicken myself, for one thing), and food preservation during the 19th century. I love how smaller reenactments help you to get “up close and personal” with the public.

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Addie assisting with supper

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Part of supper cooking

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Made from scratch chicken pot pie ready to be baked in the dutch oven
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Baked to perfection

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Saturday evening we attended one of our favorite events, the dance! I had asked Addison to do a simpler style for my hair the previous days, but she insisted on making it fancy for the dance. She did a lovely job!

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I then did Addie’s hair. She has such a large amount of hair, that any style ends up looking epic!

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Sisters ready to dance their shoes off! (photo by Emily)

Every year the dance is held in the Grange building. The low levels of light, crowd of dancers, and wood floors make for the perfect 19th century atmosphere.

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The dance (photo by Emily)
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Cooking breakfast Sunday morning (photo by Emily)

Sunday after church I had a lovely time visiting my friends Allison and Stephen at their new sutlery (what the shops in tents at reenactments are called). Allison sold me a lovely belt buckle that perfectly suits my tastes, pretty and nice without being too flashy, and Stephen helped fulfill a dream of mine by selling me my own bound copy of Godey’s!! The book is from 1857 and contains all of the issues of Godey’s Ladies’ Book from that year. I can’t wait until I have some time to sit down and explore it thoroughly!

It was a lovely weekend, and a good reminder that smaller events can be fun too!

Many of the pictures in this post were taken by my friend Emily. Be sure to check out her blog post here about the weekend to see more of her beautiful pictures!


-Michaela “The Farming Daughter”

Last Days of Summer Dinner

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When summer’s end is nighing
And skies at evening cloud,
I muse on change and fortune
And all the feats I vowed
When I was young and proud.

From hill and cloud and heaven
The hues of evening died;
Night welled through lane and hollow
And hushed the countryside,
But I had youth and pride.

The year might age, and cloudy
The lessening day might close,
But air of other summers
Breathed from beyond the snows,
And I had hope of those.

So here’s an end of roaming
On eves when autumn nighs:
The ear too fondly listens
For summer’s parting sighs,
And then the heart replies.

-Selection from A.E. Housman’s “When Summer’s End is Nighing”

Only one week until the Autumnal Equinox! Last night I decided to make a meal in honor of the end of summer with grilled kabobs, roasted sweet corn, and a skillet chocolate chip cookie. Everything turned out so delicious I thought I would share the recipes here.


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About eight hours before you want to cook you should start marinating the kabob meat. The marinade I used is a my own variation of the marinade that you can find here. I used chicken, but any meat you prefer would probably work fine. This was enough marinade for about 4 chicken breasts.

Cube your meat into chunks about 1.5 x 1.5″ square. For the marinade you need:

1 cup oil (I used 1/2 cup canola oil and 1/2 cup cilantro and roasted onion infused EVOO)

3/4 cup soy sauce (I used Bragg Liquid Aminos)

1/3 cup lemon juice

1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce

1/4 cup southwest spicy mustard

1 1/2 teaspoons black pepper

1 teaspoon seasoning salt

4 cloves minced garlic

1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

Mix all of the marinade ingredients together. Put the cubed meat into a gallon sized Ziploc bag and pour the marinade over top (make sure that all the meat is covered). Seal the Ziploc bag and place in a glass container (in case the bag accidentally leaks). Marinate in the refrigerator for 8 hours.

When you are ready to cook the kabobs cut up some of your favorite grilling veggies (I used onions and sweet peppers). Alternate threading a veggie and a piece of meat onto your skewers. Cook on the grill using medium heat. Halfway through cooking flip the kabobs over so both sides get a nice sear.

Roasted Sweet Corn

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About eight hours before you want to start cooking you need to start soaking your ears of corn. Leave all of the husks on and put the corn in a waterproof container (I used a large, plastic Rubbermaid tote). Fill the container with enough water to cover the corn. The corn will float, so you’ll need to put a heavy weight on top to keep it under the water. A cinder block did the trick for me.

If you’re having trouble finding fresh sweet corn at the grocery store this late in the season try looking for a roadside stand that sells it. Most commercial sweet corn growers plant their sweet corn under rows of plastic and use irrigation to have it ready as early in the year as possible. This also means that the sweet corn is done sooner. If you can find someone local who just grows a little bit of sweet corn in their backyard you might be able to find it this late in the year.

At least two hours before you’re ready to cook the sweet corn start building your fire. Your object is to get a bed of nice hot coals to cook the corn over. Roast the corn on a grate over your bed of coals, turning it once with a pair of tongs to make sure both sides of the corn are evenly cooked. When ready to eat, husk the corn and serve with butter.

Skillet Chocolate Chip Cookie

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The recipe for the cookie is just the original Nestle Toll House chocolate chip cookie recipe, but I’ll put it in so all of the recipes are together.

1 cup of butter (2 sticks)

3/4 cup brown sugar

3/4 cup white sugar

2 eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla

2 1/4 cups flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon salt

1 package (2 cups) semisweet chocolate chips

Cream the butter and sugars together. Add the eggs and vanilla and mix. Add the flour, baking soda, and salt and mix. Stir in the chocolate chips. Spread the dough in a greased 10″ cast iron skillet. Bake in a 350°F oven for 25-30 minutes. Use a toothpick to test for doneness. You wan the edges of the cookie to be golden brown. It’s OK if the center is still slightly gooey because the cast iron retains heat for a while and will continue to “cook” the cookie even after you take it out of the oven. Serve warm with vanilla ice cream.

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-Michaela “The Farming Daughter”


Full Circle

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I went backpacking for the first time about eight years ago. Some friends of our family, the Maybrays, kindly offered to take me along with them on a trip and I enthusiastically accepted.

Looking at photos from that trip I see a lanky, twelve year old version of me smiling a mouthful of braces. I didn’t have hiking boots (still don’t, actually) so I wore a pair of sneakers. My outfit consisted of a pink synthetic shirt and a pair of jogging pants found at Target. My pack was an old external frame thrift store find and didn’t even have a hip belt, so we jerry-rigged a fanny pack and piece of nylon webbing to go around my waist. We didn’t see any animals more exciting than a chipmunk and probably hiked less than five miles, but you know what? I had a blast. And ever since that trip, I’ve been hooked on backpacking.

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Me on my first backpacking trip

I’ve gone on several more trips with the Maybrays, and last year my brother Marcus was able to come along too.

Last week I had the opportunity to bring three of my siblings on a short overnight backpacking trip. This was Mason’s first overnight hike, and just like I was, he is only twelve years old.

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Marcus (14 yrs.), Mason (12 yrs.), and Addison (16 yrs.)

As I was reflecting on the trip I realized that my backpacking adventures have come “full circle”. I started out as the inexperienced novice, hungrily soaking up information. Then, I was knowledgeable enough to give some gear and packing advice to my brother for his first trip. And now, I was able to do what the Maybrays did for me, take an excited twelve year old on their first backpacking trek! It felt wonderful, and a great tribute to what the Maybrays did for me, to take what they had taught me and “pay it forward”. Maybe someday Mason will be able to use what he’s learned from me and introduce another person to backpacking!

We hiked a section of the North Country Trail/Finger Lakes Trail that winds through the Stevenson Forest Preserve, Rieman Woods, and Robert H. Treman State Park. The terrain was fairly easy, with some steep ascents that were moderately challenging. Our biggest obstacle to overcome was the heat that soared into the nineties!

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I told Mom we should take a group picture before we headed out and she thought it was a good idea. “Plus,” I said, “then you can use the photo for identification purposes in case we get lost and don’t come back!” (Note: not the best thing to tell your mother.)

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We ate a lunch of cheese sticks, beef jerky, crackers, trail mix, and peanut butter cookies in the Rieman Woods camping area. Backpackers can bivouac in this spot, but there is no water nearby.

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About 2.6 miles into our hike we came upon this sign:

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Just take note that if you’re hiking this trail the detour adds almost a mile onto the hike. 

The detour also forced us to walk off the trail and along the roadside more, but since we were out of the woods we also saw some better views:

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While hiking past Hines Road we crossed a field with a beautiful historic barn that has been renovated into an event center known as the Treman Center. (For more info click here.)
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Anybody know what kind of flower this is?

We had to cross Fish Kill Creek, so we stopped for a short break to allow me to soak my still-recovering sprained ankle in the cold water. Marcus entertained himself in the meantime with taking funny pictures on my phone 🙂

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Mason and Marcus

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“Bridge Unsafe”
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Ya’ think?! 😀

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Photo by Addie

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This was my first time using my new Osprey Ariel 65 pack. After I use it some more to thoroughly test it out I’ll do a review post, but so far I’m really loving it 🙂
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Cooking dinner, on a cat food can stove no less.
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Pack explosion while making dinner.
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Me and the boys
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Since it was just one night we left he tents at home and stayed at the Sierra Shelter.

Trail hiked: North Country Trail/Finger Lakes Trail from Stevenson Forest Preserve to Robert H. Treman State Park

Miles hiked: 10

Temperature: 90° F

Maps used: Finger Lakes Trail Conference Map 16 (liked the actual map in this), CNY Hiking trail description (liked the land mark descriptions in this)


CNY Hiking FLT – Free topo maps of the trail and land mark descriptions

Finger Lakes Trail Conference – They have standard maps for purchase, as well as instant downloads. The one you want is Map 16.


-Michaela “The Farming Daughter”

Jurassic World

The Farming Daughter: Jurassic World movie review (

As administrator of Jurassic World, Claire Dearing has a lot on her plate. Maintaining a 90% approval rating for a park of twenty thousand people isn’t easy, especially when T. Rexs just aren’t wowing the crowds like they used to. And, of course, we don’t want an incident like “the last time”. Not to worry though, the park’s newest attraction, a lab created dino hybrid, is sure to scare the kids…and their parents.

When Zach and Gray come to visit, Claire is a little too preoccupied to have quality auntie/nephew bonding time. Besides, it’s not like she hasn’t seen them in seven years. Oh wait, she hasn’t. Ah well, with VIP passes and Claire’s English assistant to act as nanny, the boys should be fine, even if Zach tends to be rather overbearing to his enthusiastic little brother.

Everything does seem to be going well, until Indominus Rex decides she isn’t content to simply sit back and attract the tourists. The dino begins displaying attributes and intelligence far beyond what her creators ever imagined, and is soon running rampant through the park, with the expected ensuing destruction and chaos. It’s then up to Claire, Zach, Gray, and raptor-handler and former Navy man Owen, to stop I. Rex before it’s too late.

My granny took Addie, Mason, and I to see Jurassic World and we really did enjoy the classic Jurassic experience of chills and thrills. The movie also makes some good points about family and priorities. Self assured Claire is completely consumed with her job, leaving little time or respect for others (on Claire and Owen’s first, and only, date, Claire wrote an itinerary for them to follow). As dinosaurs begin to rampage, however, she learns the importance of depending on and accepting help from others. Likewise, Zach is churlish and impatient with his exuberant younger sibling. It’s only until his and Gray’s lives are at stake that he realizes how much he loves his little brother and begins to defend and comfort Gray.

I also appreciated the parts that pondered the ethics of creating such a fearsome creature as Indominus Rex. When Claire is hesitant to use real bullets on the berserk dinosaur, saying she doesn’t want to turn the park into a war zone, Owen points out, “You already have.”

 Of course the movie has its share of issues, not least of which is the amount of violence subjected to the audience. A film whose basic plot is a dinosaur running amok in an amusement park is bound to contain destruction and mayhem, but Jurassic World seems to delight in showing us every possible way a human can be killed by a dino. People are crushed, tossed, smashed, clawed, and eaten at a frightening rate, many of them unprotected park goers. And while I’m sure the young man sitting next to us appreciated the excuse to wrap his girlfriend with a reassuring arm, it left me thinking.

Does the movie really need that much brutality and bloodshed? I know it’s an action/adventure dinosaur film, but the makers seemed to delight in showing us gratuitous violence. “It’s just a movie,” some people might say, and they’re right. But the things we feed our minds will shape who we are. Maybe watching an overly violent film isn’t going to hurt us, but what happens when violence in films becomes accepted and even expected? Aren’t we in danger of being left desensitized and calloused?

Claire explained how people were no longer satisfied with normal dinosaurs. Consumers want them “bigger, louder, with more teeth”, she says. Maybe we’ve become the same with our movies. But when will we say enough is enough? And will it be before we get consumed?

-The Farming Daughter