Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Meal Planning With Great Outdoors Food

One of the most important things when we're planning a backpacking trip is food. And if you ask my family, who are usually my hiking partners, they'd just say: Is there anything else more important?! We love to eat. We'd shed anything we can cautiously shed in our packs just to make room for food, seriously… okay maybe alcohol, too.

Meal planning is fun, but it can be tedious and time consuming. And more often than not, we would end up over thinking and over packing on food. I think our fear to starve for a day (or any point in a day!) is beyond explanation. Ha!

Then I got directed to check out Great Outdoors Food. I thought I was in camping grocery heaven! It has a “Build Custom Meal” tool that lets you shop your way through a wide variety of camping food products while at the same time helps you be organized in gathering your food, watch your nutritional intake and police your wallet.

As you go through to build your custom meal, keep on clicking on those “Yes” or “Next” or “Skip” or “Add” buttons, all the data from the food you grab for your virtual shopping cart gets tallied and there’s a chart that shows you what you have already gather gathered and how much, be it in terms of nutritional value to how much your meal already costs.  It’s a great tool for those backpackers who are nutritional and budget conscious. Makes me wish my regular grocery shopping lets me do this!

You can label each meal that you create. I can see it being used to separate daily meals. It would be great to use when composing a resupply cache for those thru-hikes.  It can also be used to separate each meal for each person in your group or family and label each their names.

And at the end of your meal planning clicking extravaganza, you get to review you all the meals you have created in separate charts as exactly as how you've composed it. And they pack and ship them out to you the same way! All separated and labeled with the tally chart that you see when you’re shopping for your food. Great to double check what you've ordered!


I did enjoy shopping through their wide array of products, from freeze dried meals up to the last detail of condiments. I love the fact that I can purchase per piece of individual packets of certain things. Things that I know I will never use, if I ever buy them on my own, since they can only be bought in boxes of. Mayonnaises, sugar, creamers, salt, and pepper packets – I do confess, I usually get them for “free”. But hot sauce (in particular Cholula! Woot!), salad dressings, olive oil packets (I get these usually in mini bottles at Cost Plus World Market) and a cheddar cheese spread? Oh the possibilities.

I’m a bit partial to a certain company that produces freeze-dried food, mainly due to some taste testing we've previously done. If we’re packing freeze dried meals, we’d be packing Mountain House meals. Hopefully they’ll start carrying them sometime soon. But for now maybe it's time to try out the other company again. it has been a while.


Price-wise on the products, it’s pretty much within boundary. I’ve found some items they’d carry cheaper and some not. No biggie, I say things even out in the end. The individual packets I’d expect would cost slightly more than when purchased by the boxful, but that’s fine I’d rather pay a just few cents more than be stuck with a box of 97 packets of creamers.


Then there is the shipping cost that also needs to be factored in which kind of balances out when I make a separate trip to the store just to purchase food for an upcoming trip. They offer priority mail via USPS to my CA zip code. And when I got to test the site out with the help of a coupon, shipping was fast. I placed my order on a Thursday and it was already in my mailbox by the time I came home from work on Monday.

In the end, I’m glad Great Outdoors Food was created. The helpfulness and ease of use of it is making me look forward for my big trip in summer, 9 days’ worth of meal planning for 3 people – bring it.

For more information or you'd like to check it out and look around, visit:

Update: ended up shopping? Enter gof20off coupon for 20% off. Enjoy!

An Inside-Outside Weekend - Part II

Part Deux - The Outside Weekend

Got this day down to get my Sunday hiking fix that my better half usually does not like to partake of. But she surprised me today that she wanted to get outside with me. Got me thrilled! Little did I know that she already had something in mind. We hopped in the car and after a quick stop to get coffee, off we went to The Huntington Library, Art Collections and Botanical Gardens.

We both have never been here before and were utterly surprised how has this flown under our radar for so long, being so close to our humble abode. Our trusty mode of transportation did not even need to jump on, nor off any of the web of freeways! We vowed to ride our bikes here on our next visit.

Address, Location and such..

The Huntington is located in the small quiet city of suburban San Marino, CA. Sandwiched between the cities of Pasadena to the North and San Gabriel/ Alhambra to the South. And approximately about 12 miles NE of Los Angeles. For mapping purposes, here is the complete address:

1151 Oxford Road,
San Marino, CA 91108

There is free parking available, as well as bicycle parking, though we did not see them when we arrived, might be caused by a close off area for construction and/or maintenance.


  • Adults (Weekday) $20/ (Weekend) $23
  • Seniors $15/ $18
  • Youth $8
  • Kids below 5 years old are free!
You could also sign up for an annual membership, the lowest level will set you at $120.00 for up to 2 adult cardholders. KS and I already have plans of coming back here often and with 2 more weekend visits, we'd pretty much get our membership's worth already. Throw in 10% discounts on classes, books and stuff - it was something we couldn't pass up.

By the Children's Garden.


  • Weekdays: 12:00 p.m. to 4:30 p.m.
  • Weekends: 10:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
They are closed every Tuesday and major Holidays. They do have longer hours during summer time, which is about from Memorial Day till Labor Day.


You can't have a picnic inside the premises. However, there is a Cafe inside and a Tea Room by the Rose Garden area. The Cafe serves the usual American fare of salads and sandwiches. While the Tea Room is a buffet type of scones, pastries, fruits, cheeses and such. Reservations are recommended for the Tea Room online or by calling (626) 683-8131.

Library, Art Collections and Botanical Gardens

I was pretty stoked to check out the library. Without prior knowledge nor research about this place, I was slightly disappointed to not being able to see the actual library. It is, however, understandable, considering that they house the a wide array of books, from ancient to modern. In the area open to the public, we've even seen old publications of books and some scribbled notes on old notebooks from Mark Twain's display glass case, a copy of The Canterbury Tales circa 1343-1400, the Gutenberg Bible and that giant of a book, The Birds of America by John James Audubon to name a few.

Tertiary History of the Grand Canyon District
With Atlas - Dutton/ Holmes (1882)

We didn't get to check out the Art Collections. We're reserving that for later visits and intend to allot that visit just for the art galleries. Checking out the map that was given to us, the European Art are in a separate building from the American Arts. And they have, as well, a separate building for changing exhibits. Pretty clear, there'd be lots to see!

So not really pressed for time and with lots of re-visits planned already in our heads already, we took our time strolling along the front part of the gardens and the huge conservatory. There is a Children's Garden located next to the conservatory. The garden looks a lot of fun for the kids. It reminds me of a garden the Queen of Hearts would have on the Disney version of Alice in Wonderland.

The Conservatory housed different species of plants divided in different climates. Couldn't stay far too long in the tropical one, KS was having the time of her life though scrutinizing every leaf, moss and flower she could get close to.

We arrived on a weekend that they were holding the Clivia Festival in the Botanical Center and got to vote for the People's Choice category! The lady who was assisting us with our admissions had asked us if we were there for the Clivia Festival. We had to confess, that not only was this visit spur of the moment, we do not even know what a Clivia is! She was right though, by the time we left, we'll know what (and then some) are Clivias (Off note: I can't help singing the Activia jingle and replacing "Activia" with "Clivia".. lol).

We're glad we found this place. Now we have another choice of a botanical garden on our side of Los Angeles County, the Los Angeles County Arboretum is the others. And this one is closer, too! Not that the Arboretum is far though. Can't wait to spend a day here with our moms and have some tea! Should we don some fabulous hats and white gloves and spend a lovely day at the gah-dehns? haha.

An Inside-Outside Weekend - Part I

Part Un - The Inside Weekend.

The L.A. Weather has lately been great for any outdoor activities, and last weekend was no exception, but on Saturday, we were bound to spend it indoors.

Had this corner to ourselves.. almost all day.
Santa Cruz cousin, who recently went full forced in pursuing climbing when she moved to Santa Cruz, was in town for a family visit and with a handful of text messages and phone calls, she managed to convince her bike-every-weekend brother (Chris), to cancel the Saturday morning bike ride to get in early and avoid any weekend crowd to a climbing gym she had found previously in downtown L.A. Having only been to a climbing gym once and liked it but never got around to going back to one by myself, I tagged along to their little excursion.

In condition to Chris' agreement to cancel the bike ride and try climbing, he's only willing to climb with ropes and harness attached to him. Reading up on the climbing gym we were originally headed to, it seems to be more focused on bouldering. Scrambling to find an alternative on the morning of, we found Stronghold Climbing Gym in the eastern side of Los Angeles. We were first skeptical if this gym exists at all, as it only comes up on Yelp and not even on Google maps for directions, had to type in the address. We found out soon enough after arriving why it was so. They barely opened about 2 weeks ago, according to the gentleman behind the front counter, who was helping us.

Address, Directions and Parking

The Stronghold Climbing Gym
650 S. Avenue 21,
Los Angeles, CA 90031

To get an idea, the area they are located in has several landmarks. Within the 1 mile radius, they are surrounded by Lincoln Park (East), the L.A. County/ General Hospital on the (SE), and the San Antonio Winery (a block or 2 to their West).

Coming from the West side along Main St., turn right onto Avenue 21 (East turn Left). You'll see a giant Horse sculpture on the corner. Do not be discouraged by the black metal fence that's missing an actual gate, keep going along Avenue 21, and from this point on you'll see several parking spaces on both sides of the street, pick a spot and continue to walk beyond the black gate straight to the gym's front door. Parking beyond the gate is for resident artists only of The Brewery.

Also, there are bike racks located by the gym's front door.

Rates and other 4-1-1's

  • Day Pass is $20
  • Shoes rental - $4
  • Harness rental - $2
  • Chalk bag rental - $2
  • Packaged Equipment Rental is $5 (including harness, chalk bag, shoes..)
As soon as you walk in through their front door, you'll notice several iPad minis installed to your left. If you haven't filled out and signed their waiver before you came over, the tablets are there for you to do so. We arrived there just a bit after they opened, plus they're quite newly opened, so the waiver station was empty and we breezed through it. But one can tell that this joint will be popular soon enough, so I'd suggest filling up a waiver before arriving. All participants must fill this out. As always, if a minor is participating, a parent or legal guardian must sign for the minor.

After filling out the waiver, go ahead and walk over to the counter ahead of you to pay your dues and pick up rentals, if you need any.

There are a lot of cubbyholes available to stash your stuff in, installed alongside the wall between the doors to the Men's and Women's bathrooms, past the front counter. You won't miss 'em - they're painted in a lovely red!

They've got a couple of shower stalls in the women's locker room (not sure about the men's - didn't get to check! On hindsight tho... haha). There are more lockers (with locks! Don't need to bring your own) located in here, too. Do completely read the instructions first, if you're unfamiliar on how to operate those types of lockers, they're posted.


Their bouldering routes can be found on the front part of the facility. From mid way, all the way to the back, you'll find the top rope climbs (they've got lots!).

I think this newbie, (me!) has gotten enough free taste of this climbing situation to seriously take a formal class to climbing. Don't get me wrong, the cousin was really awesome in teaching.. knots, harness, safety, commands. But she lives too far from me and consistency is the key. Good thing I found out, Stronghold Climbing does Intro to Climbing classes every Mondays and Wednesdays at 6:30 p.m. and Saturdays at 12:00 p.m. for $35, but free for members.

This way I could get certified to belay at this gym, too! Win-win!