National Park Service: An Appreciation

The U.S. National Park Service is one of the best things about America. It is America. 100 years old, it’s a national treasure to learn about our nation’s history and lands. I really love visiting different sites, from urban memorials to remote parks. See a list of National Park sites.

While I don’t want to get political, as a NPS lover and free-speech advocate, what is going on now is breaking my heart for the group I love. In January, the new president restricted the speech of parks employees via official social media accounts and talking to the media, for things like climate change, publishing reports and things like that. A group of parks employees are resisting and continue to get information out via Alt National Park Service.

The parks really provide so much value culturally and educationally to me. Aaron and I plan our trips with the National Park Service in mind, and enjoy our time at the sites. I love all the social media accounts for the park services, as the beautiful photos and informative captions always brighten my day and make me proud to live in a wonderful country.

While I’ve been going to National Park Services sites since before I could walk them without getting tired (so, at least the toddler years), I want to share some of my favorite photos from recent trips.

You can follow Alt National Parks. Get involved with the National Park Service, including donating.

I would love to see your photos and hear about your favorite park. If you have something to share, please leave it in the comments below. You are welcome to share or use my photos on this blog post for non-commercial use, don’t manipulate the photos in any way and credit Valerie Dennis at KaleAndAle.com. These photos follow Creative Commons license.

Aaron and me hiking a small portion of the Appalachian Trail in the Great Smoky Mountains. Near the highest point in the park, Tennessee on one side, North Carolina on the other.

Grand Canyon | Kale and Ale

Entrance to Grand Canyon. I’ve been here once as a teen and once last year, 20 years later. Much more appreciation when I’m older.

San Felipe del Morro Fortress is part of San Juan National Historic Site in Puerto Rico.

Golden Gate Park | Kale and Ale

15-year-old Valerie looking as thrilled as any teen not fully appreciating escaping an Iowa winter to see the Golden Gate Bridge.

Blue Ridge Parkway | Kale and Ale

When in North Carolina we headed north out of Asheville and went up the Blue Ridge Parkway. Beautiful drive and tons of lookouts.

Mississippi Minneapolis | Kale and Ale

The view of the only waterfall on the Mississippi and the Stone Arch Bridge is beautiful at the Mississippi National River area in Minneapolis.

Zion beer | Kale and Ale

Enjoying a hard-earned beer at the lodge in Zion National Park, perhaps our favorite place we have visited yet.

Creative Commons License
U.S. National Park Service Kale and Ale by Valerie Dennis at Kale and Ale is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.
Based on a work at kaleandale.com.

Looking to 2016

 

2016 goals | Resolutions | Kale and Ale

Flickr user Maurice took the original image, which has been modified.

How can it be 2016 already? 2015 was the year I’d been working toward for many years, so as long as 2016 stays about the same, I’ll be happy. What about you?

To get caught up, I’ve shared my 2015 recaps on food, drink and fitness. Looking forward to 2016, the main theme is to keep bettering and improving myself from within. I’ve never been one for resolutions, but with continuous growth comes evaluation and deciding if one is on the right path, or if the path needs to be adjusted. A new year is a great time for that assessment.

The key things I want to focus on are as follows. What do you hope to accomplish or improve?

Fitness

In 2015 I ran one race and fewer miles than any year since taking up running. I don’t have friends here that run races like I did in Florida. This year I hope to find a running community or make a point to run a longer-distace race (10k or above) to challenge myself.

With that, I want to work on weight training. The past few months I’ve been going to the gym three days a week and hope to devote one of those days to weight training. The goal is to lose some stubborn pounds that cold winters have brought on, and to tone and strengthen my body by adding an element to my workouts that cardio alone isn’t providing.

Food

This big thing here is to grow and expand my garden, both in physical size and what is being grown. Last year I ended up with a lot of tomatoes and peppers and hope to add more variety this year. What might you suggest I grow that works well for the upper Midwest?

Personal Growth

2015 brought me together with the Twin Cities blogging community, and I want to get more involved in 2016. The connections and support this group has is great. I also want to learn one new thing a month I can apply to my blog and communications overall.

Beyond that, I want to foster more in real life connections I have, meeting up with peers, making it a point to set aside time to see friends, and Skype those far away more often. This is where I get a lot of satisfaction, having a few well-developed friendships.

What are your goals/hopes/dreams for 2016? Please leave them in the comments below.

2015 In Review: Fitness

2015 year in review: Fitness | Kale and Ale

This is the second in a series featuring highlights from 2015. Today I take a look at activities and trips I’ve enjoyed this year. Monday we discussed food and Friday looks at drinks I’ve had and made this year. Share your highlights of each topic in the comments below!

Biking

This spring I bought a used bike when my old bike (and I mean old–its the only bike I’ve had since middle school) was damaged beyond repair. This hybrid bike serves my needs and then some, taking me on nice summer bike rides and getting me to and from beer events nearby. I love living near bike paths and having another alternative to a car.

Hiking

This year I took up hiking, in preparation for my summer trip to the Grand Canyon and Zion national parks! I have wanted to visit Zion for a while and go somewhere new, so when Aaron and I were looking for a trip we could fly direct from the Twin Cities and do something different, we decided to go to Vegas and visit the parks, making a big loop.

But first, we had to break in our hiking shoes, so this summer we went to state parks around the Twin Cities, hiking in the morning and stopping at a brewery or winery after. I hope to do more of this in the spring/summer of 2016, as it’s a great day trip and way to explore Minnesota. See write-ups of various day trips.

Back to Zion and Grand Canyon: the trip was amazing. There are no words, so I’ll leave a slideshow right here.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Running

I only ran one race this year-something I need to change in 2016. The race was fun and unique: a trail run using nature as its obstacle course. It coincided with Oktoberfest, so at the end runners were rewarded with, as you can guess, a beer! Read more about my adventure running the Timber Trek.

Timber Trek end | KaleAndAle.com

A muddy, wet and hay filled mess. It was fun.

As I said, I hope to partake in more races next year. I don’t have the group who runs events here like I do in South Florida, but I want to push myself at a fun event. I think I’m going to run a Spartan Race [note: affiliate link] in 2016, specifically probably the short event in Minnesota next June. Who’s with me!?!? Seriously! To prep, I plan to do some weight training this winter.

If you want to run with me in June or another race in 2016, Spartan Race is giving away a free event to one reader of Kale and Ale! And even if you don’t win the giveaway below, there are deals going on now.

image

Giveaway: Now closed

Spartan Race is giving one reader of Kale and Ale entry to a 2016 Spartan Race in the continental U.S., valued between $75 and $225, depending on the style and length of the race. The giveaway is good for open heats only, which is a non-confirmed start time.

You must be 18 or older to enter. The contest starts at midnight Wednesday, Dec. 9, 2015, and runs until the end of Monday, Dec. 14, 2015, Central U.S. time. Winner will be picked at random via Rafflecopter. Learn more about Spartan Races [affiliate link] including styles, location and what to expect.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Joining My Tribe: Twin Cities Bloggers

Joining My Tribe Twin Cities Bloggers | KaleAndAle

Community is important for any blogger

When I moved to the Twin Cities I knew just enough people to stay busy in my comfort zone. Having moved to South Florida when I was 25 and staying for 7.5 years, I forgot what it’s like to be in a new place. However, I moved in with a good friend from high school and got settled into my new life. I was busy with work, my blog, exploring my new home, visiting family and finding a house of my own.

As things settled down, I wanted more. To meet new people. To be a part of this community I was making my home. As an introvert communicator, I naturally take to social media. I had started to build a group of others in the Twin Cities who enjoy social media, many with blogs as well. I started following more bloggers, learning about events and the Twin Cities blogging scene. It reminded me of the South Florida social media and tech community, something I enjoyed being on the outskirts of and was a thriving place to be with other like-minded enthusiasts.

Joining My Tribe Twin Cities Bloggers MnBlogCon | KaleAndAle

From a Minnesota Blogger Conference session, Nov. 14, 2015.

As I went to one event, I learned of others. I would follow a few bloggers and hear about the groups they are involved in, resources they know, other bloggers they follow. Twin Cities bloggers pride themselves on being part of a shared community, and it shows through networking events, conferences and resources. This fall, I feel like I’m starting to grow my tribe of others in the community who blog and use social media for brand management.

Blogging is a hobby for me. For some, its their livelihood. It’s great to hang out with like-minded people (mostly ladies) with eclectic interests showcased on a blog, share war stories or bounce ideas while having a drink and exchanging business cards. To have a blog, even as a hobby, is time consuming. It’s not just throwing a few hundred words online. It’s planning, taking photos, formatting and marketing for each post. It’s connecting with readers, sharing expertise. I do it because I love writing my passions and connecting to others with the same interests of a healthy, balanced and active lifestyle. Sharing and communicating information is my hobby and my career. I really enjoy all aspects of blogging and love finding my tribe of ladies that feel the same for everyone to succeed and thrive. Being part of the community helps me stay creative, energized and motivated.

Because we are a tribe, I share some of my favorite resources below. Please share yours in the comments; I would love to check them out!

Blogger Resources and Communities

Minnesota Blogger Conference: One-day conference in St. Paul, it has speaker presentations online
WordCamp: Worldwide conferences focusing on WordPress, the platform this blog is on. I haven’t been to one but hope to go to the next one near me.
Twin Cities Blogger Collective: Hosts events and opportunities for bloggers in the Twin Cities to have resources and network with one another
Minnesota Blogger Bash: Bloggers connect with one another and brands at events every few months
Midwest Bloggers: I don’t know much, but said to be a place for bloggers throughout the Midwest to learn and connect

First Time Brewing Beer

Valerie Bitter Birthday | KaleAndAle

Enjoying the first brew, it was a tasty success!

If you like Kale and Ale on Facebook, I have posted pictures of my first homebrew adventure. I won’t post much now because I hope you have been following along, but if not, here are a few thoughts!

I attended a class a few years ago about brewing my own beer. They kept saying you can both mess it up and not mess it up, and the risk seemed too great to lay down all the money to get equipment. In steps a boyfriend with equipment, a science mind and experience! OK, I’m in.

We went to Northern Brewer and picked out an extract kit, which gave detailed directions, and even if you have questions, Northern Brewer is there to help, as they asked if we had any questions, had the right yeast, etc., before leaving. We opted for a bitter pale ale based on the temperature where it would be stored and our tastes in beer.

Sterilize beer | KaleAndAle

Had to realize when things had been sterilized. Don’t be that guy who ruins the beer, Val!

The hardest part of brew day was that it took some time and that everything had to be sterilized and it was so hard to remind myself what had been sterilized and to not touch it after the fact. But it was great adding hops smelling them and knowing how when they are added in the boil process will affect the outcome. At the end of brew day I was really giddy. Each step along the way was quick and another step closer to beer. Every day I would run to the carboy and look at the progress as it was moving along.

First ferment | KaleAndAle

First fermenter is active.

Second ferment | KaleAndAle

Moving to the second fermenter and dry hopped the beer.

Opening the first bottle and hearing the carbonation escape was a relief, and I loved tasting the hard work that we made.

Bitter Birthday bottle | KaleAndAle

Capping it old school.

Since then, we have talked about what style we might make next, creating our own recipe based off what we know about beer, what we have read and our preferences. As a recipe developer, this is very exciting for me and sounds like the perfect winter activity.

Do you brew beer? If so, how did you get into it and what memorable experiences do you have?