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Firefly Gathering

I’m not always the best with follow through. I completely own that flawed aspect of my personality.
So here I am, sitting on the couch, thinking about posts I would like to do for my little blog. And then it occurs to me, I have promised many blog posts in the past! I need to get on those and I need to stay motivated to continue with blogging.
Is anyone interested in this blog? I don’t know. But obviously no one will be if I don’t actually write! And writing is something I genuinely love to do, so more regular posting, starting….NOW!

Back in June I mentioned we had attended a gathering called the Firefly Gathering.

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Aww, look there we are!

Firefly Gathering takes place near Asheville, NC.  It’s truly an amazing event if you enjoy anything outdoorsy.

This is going to be a summary, so I’m not going to dive into a whole lot of detail.  So, to begin.

The ride to the event was quite long and tedious.  Road food included Beanitos chips, guacamole, and sliced up vegetables.  When you have Celiac Disease, you cannot always count on stopping somewhere to eat!  With that in mind, we did a full grocery trip for the event prior to leaving and packed it all in our giant cooler.  Our grocery trip included items such as string cheese, apples, bananas, carrots, eggs, bacon, coconut water, Applegate Farm deli meat, and trail mix in addition to our dinner foods.

Along the way we stopped at an Appalachian Trail crossing.  Doing the whole length of the trail has always been a dream of mine and I know someday it will be a dream come true.  For now, though, I satisfy myself with small little jaunts down the trail.

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Moving on from there, we finally arrived at Firefly as a storm was coming in.  We set up camp quickly and pulled the night’s dinner out.  Chicken breast and broccoli with mushrooms.  Our camp kitchen set up is fairly simple.  Camp propane stove with a cast iron skillet.  Heavy, but fantastic for when you can camp near your car!

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The next day came very early.  Workshops begin!  Our first class we decided to take together.  Tree climbing!  I will say, Dom was far better at this activity than I was!

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treeclimbingmirandaFrom there I went to a cordage making class.  It was pretty fascinating learning how to make rope out of the fibers from plants!  Dom headed over to the fire making class.

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This was a obviously a pretty proud moment for him.  Making fire by friction is not the easiest task!

Dinner that night was sausage kabobs around the primitive kitchen fire.

051The following day saw us taking classes in useful crafting plants, what to do when there is a medical emergency on the trail, and flint knapping.  For dinner I froze a batch of chili at home and we reheated it at camp.  Chips and chili, a perfect camping food combination!

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Classes the following day included how to start a Homestead, Primitive blacksmithing, tool sharpening, and a basic how to survive in the wilderness walk.  The walk was particularly interesting because it covered good plants for kindling, plants for shelter, plants for eating, and plants for medicine.  Kabobs for dinner again!  But this time we followed it up with roasted marshmallows for dessert.

Our last day was bittersweet.  Shoving all of this activity into just a few days is exhausting, but along the way you meet some incredibly interesting and amazing people.  Now, you maybe see these people in a year at the next gathering, but that’s a long time!

Classes on our last day included self defense, stick fighting, and natural exercises to deal with neck pain.  I was very grateful for the neck pain class, especially since we had a 9 hour drive staring us in the face once the class was over!

After closing circle we sadly packed up all of our belongings and headed down the road, only stopping for gas and food.  Our last dinner of the trip ended up being gluten free crackers and cheese.  Not exactly the most filling dinner ever!

All in all, though, I would give this trip 4 thumbs up!  Can’t wait for the next one we have planned for in February!

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What Are Primitive Skills?

Wikipedia calls primitive skills talents that relate to living off the land, often using handcrafted tools made from naturally gathered materials.

Totally true!  Well, primitive skills are a hobby of mine and the hubster’s and have been for years.  They are skills that at one time were dangerously close to be lost, but in recent years interest in them have been revived by many.  Now those that know and those that remember these vital skills teach those that want to learn.  I want to learn.  I want to know it all.  I want to be able to teach others.

What are some examples?

Fire Making.  That’s a huge one.  Fire making is a skill that everyone should have if they ever venture into the woods for any reason.  It’s surprisingly easy to get lost in the woods and stranded and fire could be the difference between survival and dying.  Sure, you could have a lighter.  But it may fail.  A back up plan is essential.  I’d say that Fire Making is the most important primitive skill one could possibly learn.   The bow drill method is my favorite.

Wild Edibles and Medicinals.  Hey, you have to eat!  Of course you could not eat for 3 weeks and probably be fine if you are just lost in the woods.  You aren’t likely to be stuck out there for that long.  But, it’s nice to know anyway.

Water!  Drinking is important, of course.  How to find it and how to purify it is an essential skill.  Your bottle of water that you took hiking isn’t going to last long.

Hands on skills such as cordage, basketry, shelter building, and skinning and tanning of hides are all primitive skills.

See how varied these skills are?

I find them to be fascinating.  That is why for years now we try to make it to at least one primitive skills gathering.  For a few days many people interested in these skills comes together, camp out, and go to a variety of different classes each day focused on these skills.  This past week hubster and I went to the Firefly Gathering in near Asheville, NC.  It was our third year attending this gathering and we are already looking forward to next year.

I wanted to do a really long post about this gathering, but I thought that might be a little overwhelming.  So instead over the course of the week I’ll do a series of posts.

I’ll talk about the classes we took, the (gluten free and mostly paleo) food that we ate while camping, and a  post about the experience in general.

I know that many of you might not be interested at all in hearing about these things, but I hope that least someone out there reading this will be!

Up in a tree

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A Gluten Free Cruise: Our Recap of the Carnival Miracle Part 3!

And finally…Part 3.  Where I will talk about the last two days at sea before arriving back in New York an give my overall impressions and tips.

Part One and Part Two

Given the gap between those two parts and this last one, I will admit that certain details such as what we ate on what day and everything we did has become a bit fuzzy.  It could also be because I am a bit sick, hence the gap in time!  I apologize and will strive to make a post at a minimum of twice a week.  That’s my goal!

Alrighty days 7 and 8!

Day 7 started to get colder again.  We were already at the Carolina’s by morning.  More smoked salmon and melon for room service as we went up on deck to enjoy the last little bit of time outside.  Of course we went for second breakfast later in the day and I had my gluten free eggs Benedict while he enjoyed his steak and eggs again.  We wandered around the ship for a while, did goofy things…

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But by later that day we were starting to get really worn out, in need of just some peace and quiet and a whole lot of room time.  So we watched tv for a while and lazed about with a gluten free pizza.

Guess what was on!

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Oh only my favorite movie series!  No problem watching tv for a while that day!

Later in the evening it was another elegant night.

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D’aww….

All I can safely say as far as what we had for dinner is that there was definitely shrimp cocktail, fish, and a melon plate for me and some steak dish for him with sherbert.  Beyond that…well..like I said…it’s getting hazy there in the memories.  I can say with absolute certainty that it was good!  It was also on this night that our table mates ordered a special order of creme brulee for the next night’s dinner.  Yep, you’re allowed!

After dinner we went back to the deck to moon bathe for a while, but it was starting to get really windy outside so we were shooed away in very little time.

Day 8!

I could almost talk about this day entirely in pictures, but I wont.

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Our favorite area closed off!  Unable to go outside!  10 foot waves!  It was a miserable day for me.  I was pretty seasick on the last day.  Oddly enough, so was some of the crew.  We hardly did anything on the last day.  We did go to the dining room for breakfast, but despite having ordered gluten free french toast the night before, I cancelled it and just had a melon plate and juice.  Heavy foods were not my friend.

We wandered around the ship for a while, making sure to tip extra to the people that made the vacation extra special.  Our favorite photographer, who let us do goofy poses for her while everyone else wanted us in awkward positions that did not feel natural.  The guys at the pizza place who always had a gluten free pizza for me.  The hostess in the dining room who came around every evening to take my order for the following day.  And our room steward who kept our room tidy and made us cute little towel animals every evening.

Most of the day was spent wandering, then sitting when I got too dizzy, then wandering again when not being able to go outside got to me.

My dinner was light that evening.  I stuck with only shrimp cocktail and my trusty fruit plate while he had the Indian Vegetables dish for dinner along with sherbert.  We kept hoping that they would open up the decks again before morning, but it never happened, so off to bed we went.

Debarkation day went fairly smoothly, if a bit depressing.  All morning we heard alarms for the crew’s version of fire drills.  Of course we found out later it was likely because the Triumph had an engine room fire that same day.

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Sad….

Well back in New York and off the ship we went to pick up our car and dig it out from the snow…oops.

All in all, a very good vacation.

Now look, I know that Carnival cruises have been in a bad light lately.  but do you know how many cruise ships leave on their voyages every single day?  All in all the cruise industry is an incredibly safe vacation.  Yes the Triumph was stranded.  But never at any time were the passengers in danger.  I’ve read recent accounts of people that were actually on that trip and it seems to me that the hardship was hyped up a lot.  Food shortages were because people in line earlier were taking meat off of sandwiches and hording food.  Shoot, some people apparently had steak and lobster during their camping at sea adventure.  I’m not saying it’s a trip I would enjoy, especially since a lot of what was available were sandwiches and I’m not sure how they handled food allergies during that problem.  But their cruise was fully refunded in addition to a free cruise later on and extra money for the hardship.  In my opinion, which may not be worth much considering I wasn’t on that trip, that seems pretty fair to me.

I am glad that with the recent problems that some of the ships have been having that they are going work on upkeep more.  That’s never a bad thing.  But what bugs me are the people that cringe when I mention I like going cruises, Carnival one’s in particular.

In my experience, no, they are not a booze cruise.  Mostly they seemed like a family friendly cruise line and a good choice for an inexpensive vacation.

And they way they treat food allergies?  Fantastic!   I was really worried going on this trip that I would have a loss of control over what I’m eating.  That is something very scary for people with food allergies.  Not being able to control exactly what is going into your food is frightening.  But, Carnival delivered on that front for sure.

So, bottom line, if you’d like to go on a trip that takes you to a different destination each day without having to drive, I’d highly recommend cruising!

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A Gluten Free Cruise : Our Recap of the Carnival Miracle Part Two

This post was delayed by a day due to a lot of errands we had to run!

Part One : Days 1-3

By day 4 we still had no idea what we were going to do for our day in Florida.  After a late room service breakfast of smoked salmon, we ran down to the excursions desk and booked a shuttle to Cocoa Village and Cocoa Beach.

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We’re on a bus…woo!

He wanted to go to Nolan’s Irish Pub near the beach for a beer.  While there he had a beer and cheese soup, which I of course did not have!  He said it was delicious though.

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After talking to the barman for a while I realized how lucky I was with my gluten problems.  Apparently they had someone come in not long ago that couldn’t even kiss their boyfriend after he had a beer.  I’m glad that’s not the case for me, as my husband’s beer is his one gluteny treat.

After the pub, we wandered to the CVS and grabbed sunscreen since despite being quite sure I packed it, I never found it in my luggage.  Oops!  Then we hopped back on the shuttle to head to Cocoa Village.

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I did an internet search on my phone for “Gluten Free Cocoa Village” which took me to a cafe called So Good! Cottage Cafe.  Yummy Gluten Free bread sandwiches!

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And that my friends is a smile when your mouth is full…

We wandered around the village for a few more hours before heading back to the ship.  We went swimming in the pool and then watched sailaway before dinner.

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For dinner I had prosciutto ruffles with melon and sushi and salmon as my main.  He had the meatloaf, which is not available as a gluten free dish.

We again spent time in the piano bar before retiring to bed.

Day Five!  Nassau, The Bahamas.

When we finally got up the next morning we were pulling into Nassau. We wandered down to breakfast.  He had an omelet while I kept it very simple with fruit and cheese.  We lazed about for most of the morning, waving at passengers on the other ships in port.  Our snorkeling excursion wasn’t until the afternoon, so we had time to be lazy.

Finally, it was time to go!  We had been in Nassau before, so we mostly just wanted to get to the snorkeling.

The water there was gorgeous as we walked down the pier, heading to the catamaran that would take us to the reef.

Finally, our snorkeling trip began!

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I honestly can’t wait to go snorkeling again!  I wish I had gotten more clear pictures of this adventure, but next time I’ll spend more time under the water.

As we headed back to land they passed out punch and rum punch.  Not really knowing anything about it, I avoided it.  But he certainly enjoyed his fill!

576We got back to the pier and did some small shopping.  We picked our Christmas ornament for the trip, a lovely bunch of shells in the shape of a star, and he insisted on a necklace of hematite for me.  It’s his favorite!

Back on board and very exhausted, we went swimming again and then relaxed in a clam shell chair with books until it was time to get ready for dinner.

Two shrimp cocktails and Red Snapper for dinner while he had Chicken tenders marinated in Thai spices and filet Mignon, two orders!

The next day was going to start early, so we passed out shortly after dinner.

Day Six: Freeport, The Bahamas!

666Today we decided to go kayaking.  This turned out to be our favorite part of the trip.  Unfortunately the nature of kayaking doesn’t leave a whole lot of room for picture taking.  Kayaking as a team for the first time causes a lot of arguments.  “Turn left, LEFT!” “I am! You’re turning the wrong way!” Haha, good memories.  But seriously, it was a blast.  We found out that usually when we got stuck it was because we both were doing it wrong.  Once we figured that out it went smoothly from then on.  Our guide told us that it’s always funny when couples on their honeymoon do the kayaking portion of the trip.  They start the trip very romantic and sweet with one another but once the kayaking begins all hell breaks loose.  Now that I’ve kayaked as a couple, I can definitely see how that could happen.

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After the kayaking portion we took a nature hike and ended up on Gold Rock Beach for lunch.  Unfortunately the lunch provided was lunch meat, vegetables, and bread.  Not knowing what was in the meat I avoided the whole meal other than an apple.  I would have had tomatoes, but people were stabbing the meat and then the vegetables with the same fork so I didn’t want to risk it.

We had company for our lunch…

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We spent the next hour swimming.  Gold Rock Beach was the most gorgeous beach I have ever been to.

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752I can’t wait to go back there.

Once swim time was over we were bussed back to the port and went back on board.

869We caught a nice sunset a few hours after sail away, then we headed to dinner.

I had a seafood platter with tiger shrimp, ahi tartare, and smoked salmon with grilled shrimp for my main dish while he had many servings of Chateaubriand for dinner.

After dinner we spent hours on the Serenity deck relaxing with our books, enjoying the last few hours of warmth as we headed back up the coast towards New York once again.

Two days to go…..

To be continued…yet again.

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A Gluten Free Cruise : Our Recap of the Carnival Miracle Part One

With the snow falling outside, I figured it would be nice to recap our anniversary cruise.

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One of the things we promised to each other when we got married was that we would go somewhere to celebrate our anniversary every year.  This year we decided to take a cruise!

We had gone on one cruise before on the Carnival Pride out of Baltimore.  It was close and convenient, but this year we decided to take the Carnival Miracle out of New York and enjoy one extra day at sea.

We left on February 1st.  The drive from Maryland to New York was about 5 hours, which wasn’t a bad drive, and spent the night at a friend’s apartment.  Very sleepy the next day, we made our way to the cruise port.  We stopped at a gas station for breakfast, grabbing things like string cheese, yogurt, Naked smoothies, and fruit.  It was filling enough, and gluten free.  It’s such a relief that gluten free items are more common place now and easier to find.

So, to the cruise port!  We arrived at the port at 10:45 and we were able to board the ship at 12:30.  We headed straight for the buffet and grabbed our first meal on board.

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I stuck with salad, just in case.  From there we searched out the Bacchus Dining room to talk to someone about my gluten free needs.  That proved to be easy.  They had a time set up to talk to them about dining issues such as allergies, special needs, and the desire to change either your set dining time or your assigned table.  Very nice!  I talked to the hostess who had me choose a meal for that night and informed me that every evening before dinner was over, someone would come and talk to me to get my order for the meals of the next day.  With that chore done, it was time for the Muster drill and then to the very cold sail away!

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For dinner that evening I had Cured Salmon and Candied Tomatoes as an appetizer and what was originally a chicken pasta dish, but was served gluten free for me.  For dessert I had Creme Brulee, an option offered to me every day as it was one of the few gluten free options.

The hubster had Beef and Barley soup and the Beef Brisket.  His dishes were not gluten free.

The next day came, and with it we had room service!  Yum!

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Lox and cream cheese, hold the Bagel!  We went up on deck to watch the sunrise after eating, but sadly found we missed it.  We spent the rest of the morning relaxing in one of the clam shell chairs on the adults only deck.  Ah, being on a cruise is pure relaxation.

After a while we headed down the dining room for our second breakfast!  I had ordered my food the day before, Eggs Benedict on gluten free toast and fresh melon with cottage cheese.  287

I ordered the fresh melon every day Brunch was going on in the dining room from then on.  The eggs Benedict was delicious, though it was very filling and rich.  Hubster ordered the steak and eggs and was quite pleased with his choice.

We lazed around for the rest of the day, hitting a future cruise talk and browsing the shops.  Since we had late dining at 8:15, we found ourselves getting hungry earlier than planned.  Luckily the pizza place on board offered up gluten free pizza, which we both decided to partake in.

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From there we spent time in the hot tub before heading to a nice nap before dinner.  Something about being on the ocean is very relaxing and fantastic for sleep.

I ordered the night before smoked duck and a salad as my appetizers (on a cruise you can order as much as you want, no extra cost!) and a pork steak dish as my main.  He ordered Tom ka gai (a thai soup) for his appetizer and flat iron steak for his main.  We both had tropical fruit for dessert, and that remained my dessert for the rest of the trip despite the hostess pleading with me to try the gluten free melting chocolate cake or the crustless cheesecake.  I just wanted fruit!

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We spent the rest of the evening in the piano bar, and then up on deck to the enjoy the very dark night and the quiet before retiring to bed.

Day three!

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We brought our room service breakfast outside to enjoy the sunrise, which we managed to catch this time!  I was still tired after eating, so I went back to the room to nap while he headed to the gym.  Once I woke up we decided it was a good day for mini golf.

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Playing mini golf on a ship is an amusing experience.  Imagine a slight swaying and a little ball not going exactly where you wanted it to go.  Or that ball on course for the hole when a slight listing happens.  Oops, your hole in one just got ruined!  It was pretty amusing!

Later in the day a Mexican buffet was going on.  I figured that the tortilla chips that seemed corn based and the tomato based chili would be safe bets.  I was wrong.  I spent the rest of the day before dinner dealing with skipping heart beats, anxiety, and severe indigestion to the point of not being able to stand up straight.  We still aren’t sure where the problem came from, though the suspicion is that the “corn” chips were probably very cheap and had wheat added to them.  I never ate from the buffet again.

Before dinner, we managed to catch the sunset from our balcony.

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I felt a little better by the time dinner rolled around, but not by a lot.  As luck would have it, it was elegant night.  I chose to wear a loose fitting skirt rather than the fancy dress I had planned to wear because my stomach was still hurting quite a bit.

At least at dinner, having ordered already, I knew everything was safe.  I had shrimp cocktail and lobster while he had the pumpkin soup and prime rib.  No complaints there!  I should probably mention that every day at dinner after the waiters would offer bread to my table mates, they would bring me two slices of gluten free bread on a separate plate.  The first night I hated it.  Thought it was gross.  Then I slathered it in butter and suddenly it was better!  My taste for it grew over the week.

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I unfortunately would remain overly cautious about everything I ate for the rest of the trip because of the buffet fiasco.

After dinner we cuddled up in our clam shell chairs and just relaxed until we grew too tired to stay awake.  We crawled into bed and slept until morning, day four, and Port Canaveral Florida!

To be continued…..

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