Best. Banana. Bread. Ever.

If you try googling the “best banana bread recipe” you will probably find dozens, if not hundreds that tout their recipe, family recipe or recipe they found on the internet or magazine is ‘the’ best. I have been making banana bread in dozens of different ways for years. I make it gluten free, paleo, healthy and decadent. But last week I took a recipe I found online, added a few things to it and also adjusted some of the measurements and came up with the best banana bread I ever made and have ever had… hands down!

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1/2 Cup Salted Butter

2 Eggs

3-4 Bananas

1 1/2 Cups Flour

1 Tsp Baking Soda

1 Tsp Vanilla

Chocolate Chunks (not chips)

Crushed Walnuts

Not only is the ingredient list short, its easy to pull all this stuff right from your cabinets. No last minute desperate runs to the market to get the one or two ingredients some of us rarely keep at an arms reach.

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Cream together butter and sugar. Add in eggs, one at a time, and then the mashed bananas. Combine well. Add vanilla. Add just under 1/4 cup of whatever combination you want of chocolate chunks and walnuts into the dry ingredients. You could choose to throw neither of them in, or omit one or the other. Gradually add them and your cream mixture until well combined. Pour into greased and floured loaf pan, I like to use coconut oil spray. Bake at 350 degrees for 60 minutes. Leave covered on a wire rack for 10 minutes before cutting.

What I Wore, Quail The Motorsports Gathering

This is one event I look forward to all year. Given my primary line of business my friends and I travel to Monterey and Carmel every year in the month of August for Monterey Auto Week. This week consists of a barrage of luxury, classic style and cars both new and old. If you’re looking for the vest best in style and craftsmanship, this week and all the events in encompasses should not be missed. Seriously, add it to your bucket list.

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This dress, by Erin Featherstone was perfect for the occasion. Granted that I am awfully petite I opted to go short this year having learned that a long dress will get trampled by not just myself but other bystanders. This dress is made of white neoprene with a floral print that really stood out amongst the crowd and the cars.

English Rose Dress by Erin Fetherstone

Horsethief Trail, Trabuco Canyon California

What a day. Living in Orange County can be a little tough when seeking out places to hike. Most people frequent trails in Los Angeles and San Diego County, so the spots in Orange County aren’t as frequented and less researched making going a reluctance. However, we in Orange County share a huge area of the Cleveland National Forest. Over the last few years, Holy Jim Falls has been much frequented. I have hiked Holy Jim over a half a dozen times in the last year. The drive back here requires either a high profile vehicle. Luckily, my vehicle can handle the rocky dirt road and it’s a blast just driving to the trailhead.

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Holy Jim shares the same trailhead as a few other hikes that can be made in the Trabuco Canyon and Cleveland National Forest. So, I decided to venture up and try Horsethief Trail and some of the Trabuco loop which will take you to Holy Jim and back to the parking lot.

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Most of the trail is shaded and after just 2 short miles you will come up on pines and lush greenery. Given that I am a frequent hiker, I cannot believe I have not been up here before. The wilderness features sure make you feel like you’re a long ways from suburbia which make me feel thankful to live in Orange County amongst many hidden gems.

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Info On Horsethief & Trabuco Trails

What I Wore, Everly Fringe Jacket By Cleobella

Last year I bought this Cleobella Everly jacket in a brown suede. If you’re a follow of fashion blogs or Free People lover, you may have seen this in white as shown below or a deep red. After much consideration and it being summer, I decided to take the plunge and add a second to my collection. Hoping to add the deep red just in time for Fall!

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Everly Jacket By Cleobella

Chocolate Zucchini Bread

I really try and eat healthy. Most of the time I follow a paleo routine but there are some things that require ‘the real thing’. This recipe is good enough to fool anyone into thinking its healthy and its cake. So, its a real crowdpleaser.

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Ingredients List

2 cups coconut sugar

3 eggs

3 teaspoons vanilla extract

2-1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 cup baking cocoa

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon baking powder

2 cups shredded peeled zucchini

In a large bowl, beat the sugar, oil, eggs and vanilla, stationary mixer is best. Combine the flour, cocoa, salt, baking soda, cinnamon and baking powder in a separate bowl, to be added to the sugar mixture later. 

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After sugar mixture is well blended, gradually add in the sugar mixture until blended. Fold in zucchini until batter is evenly mixed. 

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Transfer to two 8-in. x 4-in. loaf pans coated with coconut oil spray.

Bake at 350° for 45-50 minutes. Cool for 10 minutes before removing from pans to wire racks to cool completely.

Valley Of Fire In Las Vegas, Nevada

I am currently writing this post 24 hours since my second visit to Valley Of Fire, near Las Vegas, Nevada. It’s near the end of July so if you’re wondering how hot is was, it was damn hot… like, quite literally I felt like I was on fire in the Valley. Pun intended. There are a few things I had wish I had known before visiting this park for the first time. I tend to do these hikes on my own the first time out and had visited back in May on a Friday morning before it saw the usual weekend tourists.

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You will be surprised to know that Valley Of Fire is merely a scenic byway with a few short trails just off the main road. If you are feeling adventurous though, you can spend the day hiking for miles throughout the land and even set up camp in designated campground throughout the park.

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Lately, the most popular landmark at Valley Of Fire is the Wave Trail. If you’re going to do anything first, complete this to avoid burning up later on in the day. It’s the longest hike of the most trekked landmarks around the area. The Wave Trail is a also newly minted trail that opened up earlier this spring. Its a beginners trail, but be warned that in warm temperatures it is a struggle, especially on the way back. Bring water. Lots of it. There is one shady spot near the beginning of the trail that many people stop and seek solace at, which we did going in and coming out yesterday.IMG_8617After completing the Wave Trail, visit Mouse’s Tank, Domes and Elephant Rock. There is also some arches located near the entrance of the park, but I have never been. The rangers at the entrance are super helpful as well as the workers in the Visitors Center.

More Info on Valley Of Fire Here

What I Wore, Stone Cold Fox Ziggy Romper

Anyone who knows me knows that I am a sucker for anything Stone Cold Fox. This brand was actually started by two childhood friends here in Orange County and their clothes are made in LA.

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All of their pieces have an indie, boho vibe and with their limited stock of pieces like this, they quickly fly off the shelves. This piece for example, the Ziggy romper is unfortunately sold out but from time to time, they will do a piece like this in another fabric.

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See Other Rompers from Stone Cold Fox

Devils Slide Trail in Idyllwild, California

I put this hike on my ‘saved’ list on the app, All Trails months ago and finally had a weekend on my calendar with nothing to interrupt the 90 mile and 1.5 hour drive from Orange County. Truth be told, I have not hiked to these elevations for quite some time so wanted to clear the day for this 9 mile trek out and back.

I got into town a little late and was lucky enough to get the LAST adventure pass for the trail that day. They limit passes to 30 to keep the trails from becoming too crowded on the weekends. This does not mean 30 people… you can have a dozen+ in your group if you’d like but for the most part I saw just couples and solo hikers. All of this officialness had me a bit intimidated, even before I stepping onto the trail. When you arrive here on a weekend you will find the parking lot PACKED. But don’t worry, a lot of these people are rock climbing and they do not need to obtain passes.

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I have to say, this is one of the best groomed trails I have ever been on from start to finish and early on I wish I was spending the night here which I plan to do this summer. You can set up camp anywhere with a pass which I learned are easy to obtain. Set up wherever you want, just as long as you are 200 feet off trail. There are some magnificent places to put a tent and I already have mine picked out.

Once I got past Grand Junction, which is about 3 miles up I ventured off trail and found myself along the Ridge. This had to be the highlight of the trip… so much so, that I stopped for over an hour, had lunch, and took in the view.

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The rest of the trip up to Tahquitz Peak is a steady climb. Once you are there say hi to the Volunteer Ranger and get your squirrel card. You’ll know what that means when you get there…

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Smith Rock State Park In Bend, Oregon

I had been itching to do this hike/trail for some time now, even more so because it is near my hometown of Eugene, Oregon. So on the tail end of my stay in Oregon to see family and friends, I went for it. Thanks to nwhiker.com I got some tips on where to start and where to end which is crucial, especially if you’re not an experienced hiker. There are nearly one dozen  named trails that send you in and around the famed ‘Monkey Face’ rock which was recently featured in the movie, ‘Wild’ starring Reese Witherspoon.

Upon entering Smith Rock, you will see three main parking lots and depending on how busy it is you want to park as close to the yurts as possible. This is also a picnic area that can be utilized pre or post hike. If you want to start on a scenic and leisurely hike and save the highlights and tough stuff for the end, start with the River Trail.

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This will send you alongside the water and loop you around towards Monkey Rock. First timers who opt to go the other way always say the rock ‘doesn’t look much like a monkey to me’ …well, thats because they came from the other end. Also, coming from the other end starts you out at a steep elevation climb which takes some of the fun out of it. The River Trail merges to the Mesa Verde trail where you get a clear shot of Monkey Rock. We also got to see a few climbers scaling the rock as well. Not me. Not ever. I’ll stick to keeping my shoes on the ground here. But it is quite spectacular to see and you get a great view of it along this trail.

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Continue on and up to Misery Ridge which is a somewhat steep climb and then you will be level and looking downward at Monkey Rock. There’s a single bench at the top to take it all in. I highly recommend stopping to do so. You’ll end on the other side of the mountain, nearly right where you started at the River Trail. The total hike as we did it was just under 3 miles but felt like so much more because there was so much to see including a variation of terrain, landscaping and wildlife.

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If you happen to be anywhere near Bend, Oregon I highly suggest taking a half day to make the trip and the hike. It’s great for beginners as well. More details can be found at oregonstateparks.org

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