Ringing in the New Year//Camping in Ocala National Forest

I woke up New Years Day to Craig on the computer looking at camp sites. Let's go camping, he said. OK. So I packed up the blankets and a duffle bag of clothes. 2 hours later we were in the car heading to Ocala National Forest. The kids had been talking about camping for months, so they were beyond excited.

Ringing in the New Year camping was the best decision we could have made. No technology, just nature and a fire. I was able to read an entire book by the campfire in one day. (WHAT?!) The kids did not miss the TV or their tablets, they ran around with their walkie talkies, collected wood for the fire and looked for bears. Best part- they slept like babies (I was worried about this!), I don't know if it was the cold or all the outdoor activity, but they were all snuggled and sleeping before 9PM each night.

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It was colder than we had planned for. But for our very first camping trip as a family, it was perfect. We camped at a primitive site. Which means there was no running water, no electricity and no bathroom- just 1 outhouse (gahhhh!). But we made it 3 days/2 nights. And I think we prefer the primitive sites- less people. We brought left over enchilada's and heated them over the fire with hot dogs for the kids. PB&J's + s'mores for the kids and they were happy campers.

We were able to relax and really reconnect as a family. Putting our priorities in line and do some goal setting for the new year- which includes camping as much as possible. The thing I loved most about the primitive campsite is that it breaks you down to your most basic needs of survival- Food, Shelter, Water. It's really all we need.

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I compiled a list of my top 5 must-haves for next time. Of course you have all your other things that are must haves- like the tent, chairs, food & jugs of water. But these are the things we wish we had or things we did have and don't want to forget next time.

1. Lantern- we did not have one- a lot of campsites have lamp posts (at least the ones we went to when I was younger did)- but since we were at a primitive site, when the sun went down, it was DARK, and flash lights just don't cut it with little ones walking around a fire. This lantern is on my MUST HAVE list, a candle lantern will help warm up the tent a few degrees too. We definitely should have grabbed the headlamps also- slackers.

2. More blankets- we don't have sleeping bags and we definitely did not bring enough blankets. When you grab all your blankets- grab a few more. You can't have too many blankets!!! Eventually we'll get sleeping bags + sleeping pads are on the want-list. Northern Florida gets pretty damn cold at night in January, FYI!

3. Cookware + Drinkware- A Steel Cookset for boiling water + French Press. We can't live without our coffee and these two things were necessities. And some pots, like these- grab some rice & beans + tortillas, some noodles + pasta sauce. BAM! You're all set to eat like Kings over a campfire.
The Yeti Tumbler came in handy- we got these from my parents for Christmas- and they are amazing!!! They keep your coffee HOT for hours, as well as your ice beverage cold- it takes forever for the ice cubes to melt in this thing! We also have SubZero metal water bottles for the kids that are amazing.

4. Hatchet- we did not have this, and Craig kept saying how much he wished he had one. We had the knife- but you can only do so much with a knife.

5. Wipes + Toilet paper- ya never know if the campsite will run out of toilet paper or you might just have to pop a squat- always good to be prepared! And the wipes came in handy- one gets pretty dirty out there in the woods. Also, no running water = whore bath.
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As soon as we got home, Craig was online looking for our next site. Everglades National Park, here we come!

Brought my must-have oils with us. And good thing, since Stone got a tick! Tea Tree for the WIN!

Brought my must-have oils with us. And good thing, since Stone got a tick! Tea Tree for the WIN!

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"A snapshot of my littles almost every week in 2015."

Stone has it good. She's such a protector of him, and Abel, well... Abel will be the one to put every kid in their place if they have something cross to say. He's like the bodyguard.

Sometimes I feel bad that she's the only girl. No sister. I'll have to make up for that somehow.

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"A snapshot of my littles almost every week in 2015."

I have PROOF! They are not always fighting with each other.. Normally it's 2 against 1, but I captured a rare moment when they were all three getting along.. and laughing to boot!

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"A snapshot of my littles almost every week in 2015."

Stump Pass is probably my favorite beach.. I've posted about it before. It was scorching walking out there, pure sunshine. Like always, we walked the trail out to the point, then the beach back. By the time we got to the water, I didn't even stop, I peeled off my dress and jumped in. Within minutes- it started down pouring. We walked for a bit, and then set up camp under our beach umbrella and some brush to wait out the heaviest rainfall. 
I would have never thought at the beginning of this walk, that I would be shivering, wet & cold by the end.
The kids enjoyed playing in the rain- but they're not used to any sort of coldness either- so we were all over it pretty quick- fighting for towels to warm up with. 

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"A snapshot of my littles almost every week in 2015."

If you're ever in my neck of the woods, I highly suggest heading down to Fishermans Village. Stroll through the covered walkway, peek into some of the fun shops and end at the bar with a few drinks. You're welcome.

If you have kids, I recommend leaving them at home, as the store owners are sort of yuppity- and don't take kindly to kids touching $200 hand-blown glass fish.

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"A snapshot of my littles almost every week in 2015."

Drawing is a MUST in this house! Imaginations are required to run wild.
Clothes are always optional.

It's a struggle- keeping their minds untouched. Encouraging green sky's and purple horses. Art has no rules- which is what makes it perfect for everyone. Adelyn is a perfectionist, and if Stone's picture isn't turning out just like he imagined it- well- a tornado erupts. Abel likes to torment them by taking their perfect picture and quickly scribbling all over it. Even when they cry and I explain it's wrong- he always wears that devilish smile, as if he's saying "I know mom, and I don't care- it's fun".

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"A snapshot of my littles almost every week in 2015."

This horse. OMG! a;lskdjf;alsdjf It's the size of a dog, you guys. And it's full grown. I mean, c'mon- those Build A Bear shoes- I want them all! I love that we live by a horse rescue! The kids were in love with this girl, and they want one almost as much as I do!

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"A snapshot of my littles almost every week in 2015."

We hiked through Myakka State Forest. We walked the canopy walk- twice. It was hot & sweaty, filled with lots of complaining. Towards the end, Craig would run ahead and hide to pop out and scare the kids... it's the only thing that kept them going.

CHICK-N-UGGETS // vegan

This recipe is a lot like my black bean burger recipe.  And in true Kristan form- I didn't measure anything... so these are approximate measurements. It yields around 30-40 nuggets, although I did eat quite a few heaping spoonfuls of the mixture prior to forming. hah. I was going to add in some wheat germ, but couldn't get the jar open (Craig tried too). You don't HAVE to add in the nutritional yeast, I just try to add it into whatever I can because it's a great source of Vitamin B12 and folic acid and it's high in fiber & protein.

Let's be honest- before we made the whole vegan switch- my kids lived off of chicken nuggets. Especially Stone- it was only form of meat they would eat. They devoured these nuggets and didn't miss the real thing at all.


INGREDIENTS

1 C uncooked brown rice
3-4 C chickpeas (garbanzo beans)
1/2 onion, chopped
3/4 C hemp seeds
1/2 C rolled oats
Bread Crumbs 
Herbs and Spices

DIRECTIONS
Cook your rice.
Combine chickpeas & 3/4 of the rice and onions in a food processor; mix well.
Pour mixture into a large bowl and add the remaining rice, hemp seeds and rolled oats; mix well.
Take a scoop full of mixture and roll into ball.
Press the bass between your hands to form a 'nugget'.
Add bread crumbs with chosen herbs and spices into a shallow dish. This would be a good time to start preheating the oven.
Coat each nugget in the bread crumbs.

Bake @ 375ยบF for 15 minutes on each side; or until golden brown.