Saturday Small Talk

It’s Saturday! What are you up to? We had a campfire with friends last night to plan a summer backpacking trip. Yay summer! Yay backpacking! And tonight, we’re celebrating our adorable niece’s first birthday. What a great weekend.

IMG_20140509_192834In case you missed it, this week on Balance and Blueberries we chatted about the most delicious and easy to make summer salsa, as well as 3 islands worth the boat trip.

Other interesting things I found on the internet:

Gorgeous “sheds” for your work-from-home business. Yes, please.

How to make a great cup of coffee at home.

Home decorating ideas to steal from the Scandinavians.

Does your “flexible schedule” at work mean you need to be available 24/7?

10 things successful people don’t do.

You could buy a 94 acre, private island in Ireland for less than the average home price in the UK. Shall we crowd source this, friends?

Take a mental health day.

11 interesting things about Type A people.

If it’s chilly where you are, this Creamy Tomato and Basil Soup with Grilled Cheese Croutons looks delicious.

Bloggers and writers, this fun tool from CoSchedule will analyze your headline for you and tell you if it’s any good.

Enjoy your weekend!

3 Islands Worth Visiting this Summer

With average temps in the upper 70s and low 80s, ample amounts of sunshine, and an abundance of freshwater coastline, you can’t go wrong visiting Michigan in the summertime. It’s my favorite season, favorite place to explore, and (if you aren’t lucky enough to live here) makes a great vacation destination.

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With our 3,000+ miles of coastline, Michigan has many, many islands only a short ferry or plane ride away from the mainland. Last summer, I explored three of the more remote ones, and had a great time on each trip.

To celebrate my 27th birthday, we hopped on a ferry and went to North Manitou Island, off the coast of Sleeping Bear Dunes. We were there for 3 days and 2 nights, and backpacked the perimeter trail. It’s a great first backpacking trip to test your mettle and/or get your body in shape for a longer trip. The views from the West side of the island can’t be beat! Next time we go, we’re making a beeline westward, hanging our hammocks, and staying put for the weekend.

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Later in the summer, I explored Beaver Island with two dear friends. We stayed at Saint James Campground, only a mile walk from the ferry. If camping isn’t your thing, there are a bunch of hotels and vacation rentals on the island. Several homes on airbnb.com look great!

St. James, the town on the North side of the island where the ferry stops, is very walk-able or bike-able. Alternatively, there’s public transportation and cars available for rental. Pay attention to hours of operations–they’re limited! If you’d rather have your own wheels, the ferry will haul your car for a hefty fee. One afternoon, we rented bikes (with baskets!). We pedaled to the beach to sunbathe, did a loop back to town, and then out to the lighthouse.

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Close to the end of summer, Bob and I took a week off, packed our hiking backpacks, and flew (on a sea plane!) to Isle Royale. What an amazing trip! After 7 days of backpacking our way from West to East, we arrived in Rock Harbor, and spent the night at Rock Harbor Lodge. If possible, get a room with a killer view of the water and a balcony. You won’t get bored. There are plenty of hiking routes around Rock Harbor, kayaks and canoes available for rent, and guided tours to different places near Rock Harbor.

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Have you ever explored an island? Where did you go and what did you do?

If you’re interested….Backpacking in Virginia and the Smokies.

Corn and Black Bean Salsa

Chips and salsa is the ultimate in easy potluck offerings. It’s easy, it’s fresh, everyone loves it. If you have even a few minutes and want to take your chips and salsa to the next level, give this one a try.

The sweet corn, tomatoes, and black beans offer a delicious mixture in textures and flavors; the seasonings are just right, and the jalapenos add a bit of kick. You’ll be coming back again and again for more!

Corn and Black Bean Salsa

Adapted from Taste of Home

You’ll need:

  • 1 bag (16 oz) frozen sweet corn
  • 2 cans black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 2 cans diced tomatoes (or 6-8 tomatoes, diced)
  • 1 red onion, diced
  • 1 cup cilantro, minced
  • 4 jalapenos, seeded and diced
  • 1/4 cup lime juice
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. garlic powder
  • 1 tsp. cumin

1. Put the sweet corn in a pot, cover with water. Bring to just a boil, and drain. Prepare the rest of your ingredients by draining/rinsing/dicing/mincing.

2. Combine corn, beans, tomatoes, onion, cilantro, and jalapenos in a large bowl. Add 1/4 cup lime juice. Mix thoroughly.

3. Sprinkle salt, garlic powder, and cumin on top. Mix together until the spices are distributed throughout.

If you have the time, let it sit in the fridge for a couple of hours (or overnight) to let the flavors do their thing. If you don’t have that kind of time, no fear–it’s delicious right after you finish mixing. Serve with tortilla chips, and get ready for the stampede of people requesting seconds.

If you’re interested….make your own fajita spice mix and the most delicious cookies.