DIY Safari Necklace Rack

Warning: This post contains slight toy carnage. If you have any plastic animals in your midst, you may want to tell them to look away.

This was hands down THE coolest Pinterest project I’ve ever made.

Yes, ever.

Even more than the dinosaur toothbrush holder.

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The weather was extremely chilly this past weekend, almost unheard of in South Texas–45 degrees for a high? With wind chills in the 20’s? What is this wizardry?! So I cooped up in my apartment and decided to study/make crafts. When I came across this “Plastic Animal Craft Ideas” link on Pinterest, I immediately knew what I wanted to create.

A Safari-Themed Necklace Rack!

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What You’ll Need:

  • Fancy sanded wood board (I found mine at Hobby Lobby for $6)
  • Gorilla glue
  • Acrylic paints
  • Paintbrushes
  • Knife or mini-saw
  • Plastic animals
  • Hardware for hanging (found mine at Hobby Lobby for $1.99)
  • Optional: glitter, glossy paint, stickers, other decorations

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Instructions:

1. Paint your wood board whatever color your heart desires. I went for black with a lime green polka dot trim 🙂

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2. Attach the wall hanging hardware to the back of your woodpiece once it’s dry.

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2. Carefully cut your chosen animals in half with a knife or mini saw. I used a very sharp kitchen knife and, although it was an arm workout, it wasn’t too hard.

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3. Paint and/or decorate your animals. It took me 3-4 coats of paint for most of them, so if you want to speed up the drying process, you could use the cool setting on a hair dryer.

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4. Once dry, superglue your animal halves onto your wood. Make sure they’re super dry before proceeding. I let mine dry overnight to be safe.

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5. Hang on the wall and enjoy!

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Isn’t it awesome?!?! You can hang necklaces, lanyards, keys, you name it. All while enjoying a little smile from animals 🙂

What’s so great about this craft is that the possibilities are ENDLESS. Paint colors, wood shape, animal types, glitter–so many options! Also, I went with the front halves of the animals, but you could use the butts! I have other animals and saved my animal butts to make something else one day mwahaha

DSC_0038I can’t wait to brainstorm what to make next! 🙂

What’s your favorite zoo animal? Mine is hands down an okapi!! I love them SO MUCH!

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The GF Equivalent of Cloud Nine

Today, I thought I’d change things up and post a review of one of my favorite new-to-me products. I guess I have to live up to the “Gluten Free” chunk of this blog every once in awhile 😉

So I found some of these Glutino Blueberry bars newly on sale at my local grocery store…

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Ever since my Celiac-onset, I’ve been on the hunt for a gluten-free replacement to quell my cravings for a Nutrigrain bar. Those things are straight up heaven, am I right? These looked extremely promising, so I decided to bite the bullet and buy a box. Best decision EVER.

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Taste: Identical, and I mean identical to a Nutrigrain bar. The blueberry flavor is spot on, just like fresh picked berries or homemade blueberry jam!

Texture: The fruit filling was creamy and soft and the bar itself is reminiscient of a fresh baked cookie–very soft and doughy. It isn’t crumbly or cardboard-y in the least, like most other gluten free attempts at breakfast items.

Smell: Fresh blueberries! AMAZING! When heated, it smelled like oatmeal raisin cookies in the oven!

Gluten-filled counterpart: Nutrigrain Cereal Bars

Price: $4.50-$5.00 a box

Nutrition: Low fat (only 2 grams per bar) and not too shabby on the fiber for a gluten free product (3g). The sugars are a bit high at 17g per bar, even if some are from the berries themselves, but besides that, they’re a pretty healthy option for an on-the-go snack.

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Ingredients: BLUEBERRY FILLING (SUGAR, APPLE POWDER [DRIED APPLES, CALCIUM STEARATE], WHITE GRAPE JUICE CONCENTRATE, GLYCERIN, BLUEBERRIES, WATER, CORN STARCH, CANOLA OIL, CITRIC ACID, SODIUM ALGINATE, MALIC ACID, DICALCIUM PHOSPHATE, DRIED CITRUS PULP, SODIUM CITRATE, CARROT AND BLUEBERRY JUICE, SODIUM HEXAMETAPHOSPHATE, NATURAL FLAVOR), CHICK PEA FLOUR, POTATO STARCH, FRUCTOSE, PEAR JUICE CONCENTRATE, RAISIN PASTE, INULIN, CANOLA OIL, TAPIOCA STARCH, WHITE RICE FLOUR, WATER, SODIUM BICARBONATE.

Overall: Delicious! While a bit pricy, I have definitely made these a staple in my pantry. As an athlete looking for gluten free sources of carbs, I find this to be a wonderful option that not only meets those requirements, but tastes superb! You’ve knocked it out of the ballpark with this one, Glutino!

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Have you ever tried these bars? What’s your favorite flavor of Nutrigrain bar?

DISCLAIMER: All reviews are solely my opinion. I was not paid or compensated in any way to speak of the products featured, unless otherwise noted. All reviews are objective and for general information purposes only. The thoughts and opinions expressed are intended to help and inform people looking for information on vacation locations and gluten free food items.

Wanderlust Wednesday: Sydney Harbor Bridge Climb 2010

Sydney Harbor Bridge Climb

June 2010

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If someone asked me, “What’s your favorite travel adventure thusfar?” Hands down, Australia.

A little background: Ever since I can remember, I’d wanted to go to the Land Down Under. So, my parents surprised me with a trip there as a high school graduation present. My dad and I were blessed to spend almost 3 weeks seeing Cairns, the Great Barrier Reef, Ayers Rock and the Outback, and Sydney. I kept a travel journal while we were there to remember every tiny detail! (mostly for my mom since she couldn’t come because of the long plane ride)

I really hope to go back there one day…maybe even get a job and live down there with my marine biology degree….fingers crossed!

Anyways, back to the purpose of this post.

One of the most unique experiences I had during my time Down Under was climbing the Sydney Harbor Bridge.

My dad and I started out that day (June 3rd) a little worried since the forecast was rain, rain, and more rain. Guess that’s the one drawback of traveling to the southern hemisphere when it’s summer back in America haha

Rain couldn’t keep us away from our scheduled appointment at the Bridge Climb facilities, though! My dad had signed us up for the Discovery climb about a month in advance, just to make sure we secured a spot. Pre-booking is a necessity!

We arrived about an hour early (9:00am) to check things outs, and we managed to snag an upgrade to a sooner time! HUZZAH!

So, we headed upstairs to be briefed on safety, harnesses,and  jumpsuits, and met our leader, Maria, as well as our fellow climbers: a couple from Tasmania and an older couple from New Jersey with their 25 year old daughter.

Once we were decked out in our climbing gear and warm hats and gloves, we were ready to go!

You begin underneath the bridge, almost at street level and gradually ascend a multitude of steps/stairs. No need to worry about falling though–you wear a large harness that locks onto a sturdy cable. Probably one of the safest climbs around. Our tour leader told us cool facts about the bridge and pointed out landmarks whenever we would pause to take a break. The couple from Tasmania  evenpointed out the harbor homes of Keith Urban and John Travolta!

When we reached the top, the sun randomly decided to pop out and shine down on us, presenting with it a GORGEOUS rainbow– we all remarked at what a miracle it was! Our tour leader quickly snapped the group pic of us– you can faintly see the rainbow just above my thumbs up in the air haha

The Aboriginal flag and Australian flag were flying for a special festival when we climbed, so it was a gorgeous thing to witness! Those flags were massive–you can kinda get a sense in this pic I took from shore.

Sadly, you couldn’t bring personal cameras, so I wasn’t able to get any pics while we were climbing, but our leader took some for us!

After admiring the views of the harbor, we heard a massive clap of thunder and saw some lightning. YIKES! So, we hit the road and started our descent. The rain started to pour like the dickens and cold wind nipped at our faces and gloves– it was a far cry from the rainbow we had just witnessed. Later we learned that the time we were originally scheduled for was cancelled because of the freak tornado warnings and bad weather– God works in mysterious ways, we sure counted our blessings!

After we made it back to the main climb office around 12:30pm, we stripped off all our soaking jumpsuits and changed back into regular clothes. It sure felt nice to be warm and dry!

We ended the adventure with some lunch and had fun chatting about the beauty from the top. :)

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If you’re interested in doing the climb, here’s some quick fun facts:

  • There are 3 climbs to choose from– Basic, Discovery, and Express
  • The Discovery climb takes roughly 3.5 hours, including all the prep.
  • The top of the bridge is 134 meters above the water.
  • You get a complimentary group photo and a “I climbed it!” certificate
  • The gift shop is HUGE and amazing
  • Your calves will be so sore the next day from all the stairs and ladders haha

To learn more about the climbs, prices, and plans, click here to visit their website!

It was such a fun experience, I definitely recommend it if you’re visiting Sydney!!

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(photo credit– bridge climb)

Pinterest Kidnapped Me…Again

After classes yesterday, I got in a crafty mood.

Cold front + free time + pj’s + Pinterest = Craft bonanza!

I came across this cool project and immediately fell in love. A serving tray covered in constellations?!?! SIGN ME UP!
Seeing it felt like “parachute day” during gym in kindergarten–you know the magical, rainbow-colored, circular chunk of parachute that everyone would run under with squealing laughter? You gotta admit those were the best days at school. 😀
Anyway! Back to the craft!
I’ve always been intrigued by the night sky–it’s just so magical, humbling and awe-inspiring. Needless to say, I couldn’t wait to make it! I was lacking some of the materials in the original craft, so improvised, but it turned out just as awesome.
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DIY Galactic Serving Tray

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Materials Needed:
  • Sharpies
  • Cross-section wood slice (I found mine at Hobby Lobby for $6)
  • Picture of the constellation(s) you want to copy (I chose Orion and Leo)
  • Tunes to jam to while you create your masterpiece (I went with Katy Perry’s Prism album heehee)

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Instructions:

1. Sketch the constellation pattern on your wood slice with a pencil

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2. Grab your sharpies and trace over your pencil markings lightly. Don’t press too hard or the sharpie may bleed beyond your intended path.

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3. All that’s left to do–stand back and admire your new work of art!

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Hope you have as much fun as I did! Enjoy!

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I mustache you a question: what’s your favorite constellation? 🙂

Wanderlust Wednesday: Pensacola Blue Angels Show 2008

Blue Angels Air Show in Pensacola, FL.

July 2008

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As you take a seat in the grandstands, the tiny hairs on your neck stand on end.

You feel a frog in your throat as Van Halen’s “Dreams” blares on the speakers.

Out of the corner of your eye, you see an intimidating brigade of bright blue slowly wheel across the runway. The colors shimmer in the daylight. Your senses barely have time to take in the beauty before being overpowered by the powerful engine noise streaming from the planes. As their afterburners light up with an orange intensity similar to the sun, your instincts tell you to hold on to the edge of the bleachers.

Goosebumps shroud your body as you prepare for what’s to come.

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Welcome to a Blue Angels airshow.

This Wanderlust Wednesday, I’m going to reflect on one of the most intense, thrilling venues I’ve ever visited: a Blue Angels airshow.

But before I begin, if you don’t know about this amazing Naval flight team, here’s there website!

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Back in 2008, my parents and I drove to Lexington, KY and Pensacola, FL for our family summer vacation. The Kentucky portion was for a model horse show called Breyerfest (I was REALLY into collecting them) but the Florida portion was all about the beach and witnessing a Blue Angels air show at their main home.

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I remember driving up that morning thinking about the Dallas air show I’d seen them perform in a few years prior; so many wild tricks, “turn on a dime” acuity, and exhilarating blasts of exhaust from the plane engines.

Needless to say, I was beyond excited to be at another show; especially one at their main Navy base.

My dad has always been an avid lover of flight and military jets, so as we sat in the bleachers, he told my mom and I about what different air traffic control signals meant, where they’d take off, and runway details. It was neat to be able to have that kind of knowledge whispered in my ear as I sat gearing up for the show.

But when my dad stopped mid-sentence, I knew something was coming, You could just feel it in the atmosphere of the audience. Then I saw it. BOOM. The planes drove right past the bleachers on the way to the take off area. They were MASSIVE and intimidatingly loud.

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They slowly made their way down to their destination. The engines fired up, the sound was loud enough to make you clench your teeth and cover your ears.

And then…it began.

I’ll let the pictures do the talking 🙂

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One word can sum up the show: Spellbinding.

As the planes whizzed by the stands, the “ooh’s” and “ahh’s” coming from people’s mouths were almost uncontrollable–it was like a gut reaction to just say “WOW!” with each trick. Their low passes, flips, tight formations, hair-pin turns, surprise fly-overs–all of it left the audience simply gasping for breath

All I know is, if you ever have a chance to see the Blue Angels, or any air show for that matter, you should definitely go! I promise, you won’t be disappointed! 🙂

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No-Fuss Mexican Rice

I think I have Mexican in my blood.

But since I’m whiter than sour cream, I blame osmosis.

Funny Cat Undergoes Osmosis Picture

Growing up in Dallas and going to college in South Texas (basically 2 hours from the border), I’ve definitely been exposed to more Mexican culture than the average Joe.

And with Mexican culture, comes Mexican food.

As a kid, I never thought twice about seeing jillions of local, authentic Mexican restaurants. Or the fact that fajita and taco ingredients were always dirt cheap at the grocery. I just figured it was everywhere. But now, whenever I travel, I’m shocked to see how much people go BONKERS for Tex-Mex.

You could say I was plopped in the wrong part of the country, because I’m genuinely not a fan of Mexican food. *enter gasps*

Yep, fellow-Texans, shun me now. The spice, intensity, saltiness; it just never got along with my tastebuds.

BUT, I do have one exception.

Mexican rice.

Oh man, I could live off that stuff. And when it’s made true to Mexican standards? My kryptonite.

So when I started getting a hankering for some, I decided I wanted to try to make my own. I started looking into recipes and realized how intricate the process actually is! I’m about the laziest kitchen bum ever, so of course I wanted to try to recreate genuine Mexican rice with the least amount of effort. 😉

After some trial and error, I managed to come up with a no-fuss, rice cooker recipe that’s insanely close in taste to the real deal! So, if you’re a lazy chef, lacking lots of kitchen equipment, or just a fan of Mexican food, this recipe has your name written all over it! Enjoy! 🙂

Easy Rice Cooker Mexican Rice

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Easy Rice Cooker Mexican Rice

(gluten free, inspired by this awesome recipe)

Ingredients:

  • 88g (~3/4 cup) uncooked white rice
  • 1 small jalapeno pepper
  • 1-2 garlic cloves chopped (taste preference)
  • 1 cup frozen fajita vegetable blend (onion, green bell pepper, red bell pepper)
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • Salt/seasoning to taste
  • 1 cup water

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Instructions:

1. Dice bell peppers, onions, jalapeno and garlic. Take seeds out of jalapenos if you want less heat.

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2. Pour rice and water into rice cooker.

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3. Dump in tomato paste, salt, and vegetables directly into rice cooker. Stir well.

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4. Turn on rice cooker and let cook according to your machine’s instructions.

5. When rice cooker finishes, leave rice in machine for a few minutes to cool off a tad.

6. Pour into a container or directly onto your plate. Fluff it up with a fork and enjoy!

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Wanderlust Wednesday: Mount St. Helens

Mount St. Helens

August 2013

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This past summer, my life was filled with college classes. Genetics, Philosophy, Literature, and African Biology consumed my brain lobes.

BUT it wasn’t all bad! During my brief 3 week pre-fall-semester-break, my parents and I went on a trip to the Pacific NW: Flying to Portland, driving through Mount St Helens and Mt Rainier, and ending up in Seattle. It was an amazing trip, one of my favorites yet!

Of all the adventures we had out there, one of my fondest memories was a hike I took with my dad.

…I guess I have an unintentional theme with my Wanderlust Wednesdays…What can I say, I have an affinity for hiking! 😀

So where was this magical hike?

Mount St. Helens!

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Similar to Half Dome, there was a lottery system to be able to climb the actual volcano. We didn’t luck out this time around, but we weren’t too disheartened because the weather was overcast and semi-rainy. But despite that, we managed to get in a really great hike! 🙂

First up, some quick background facts:

  • Mount St. Helens is about 50 miles northeast of Portland and 96 miles south of Seattle.
  • If you don’t know the history of Mount St. Helens, it’s mainly known for its catastrophic eruption on May 18, 1980. It was the deadliest and most economically destructive volcanic event in US history. 57 were killed and the pyroclastic flows and massive debris avalanche triggered by a 5.1 earthquake destroyed 250 homes, 47 bridges, 15 miles of railways, and 185 miles of highway. The eruption also reduced the elevation of the mountain’s summit from 9,677 ft. to 8,365 ft., replacing it with a 1 mile wide horseshoe-shaped crater.
  • It’s still an active volcano dun dun dunnnn

My dad and I left our hotel (WHICH WAS AWESOME) around 7am with backpacks stocked full of snacks, drinks, and toilet paper.

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We saw that most hikes began at the Johnston Ridge Observatory, so we took the winding mountain roads and headed there in our car. The journey to the Observatory was an adventure in itself! The volcano would pop in and out of the rainclouds and cast an ominous, spooky shadow over the landscape. It was amazing to witness forest damage still in the area almost 30 years after the eruption.

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We arrived around 8am to an empty parking lot. It was overcast and a bit chilly, so we were glad to have worn jackets.

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After snapping a few pictures at the Observatory and checking out the monument for those that lost their lives in the eruption, we hit the trails.

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We joked about how we could see the observatory on almost the entire hike. I was scared people could see me pee in the wilderness on the high powered telescopes! 😉

We decided to take the Windy Ridge trail, and my dad turned on his little GPS so we could track our progress.

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One of the most amazing things about this hike was the utter silence. Think of yourself in one of those padded jail cells, or a snorkeling under water– absolutely NO sound. It was the epitome of peaceful and yet, with the giant volcano looming overhead, it was kind of creepy. Occasionally, we’d hear a bird or two, but there wasn’t an abundance of fauna.

However, the hike made up for its lack of fauna with its landscape. My dad and I would be left speechless, or find ourselves constantly repeating, “WOW!!” to each other at the sheer magnitude of the volcano and the path of its destruction.

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There were fields of fallen trees, varying substrates (giant boulders, to fine grain volcano ash, to black volcanic rock, to green grass), and babbling brooks all along the path. There was only one difficult, narrow part of the path that skirted a sheer cliff face, but besides that, the hike was relatively easy.

After stopping for snacks and a chance to take some pictures at viewing points, we continued down the path to overlook Spirit Lake. This iconic lake was STILL filled with trees and debris from the initial blast. It was truly a sight to take in!

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We descended further into the valley and heard some bizarre sounds in the distance that managed to break the silence. We looked around us to see it was a big herd of elk coming up from the lake! They kept their distance, but it was neat to witness nonetheless. We were also greeted by a flock of Canadian geese coming out of the marsh grass.

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The trail led further toward the volcano, but we decided to turn around because the weather was looking worse as the hours ticked by and we didn’t want to risk lightning. I managed to snap some last minute pictures of the happy little flowers all over the Spirit Lake valley before hitting the trail, though!

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On the journey back to the Observatory, we were led by a multitude of chipmunks who accompanied us for lunch. They were stealthy little ninjas! So hard to photograph!! We ended up finishing around 1pm.

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The strange thing is, we only saw 4 other people on the trail during our entire hike. It was nice to be free from a congested path and just enjoy the silence though. Very peaceful 🙂

After enjoying the Observatory displays, we headed back to our hotel, kicking off our hiking boots in the car. And right at that moment, it started to POUR! My dad and I looked at each other and smiled, saying, “Just in time!”

In all, we hiked 10.6 miles in about 5 hours. Such a unique, almost outer-space-like hike. One that I’ll never forget!

After unloading our stuff back at the hotel, we checked out another visitor center for the volcano with my mom, and walked a neat nature path out back.

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But soon, our tummies were grumbling for some mountain food. So, for dinner, we found an AMAZING little roadside restaurant near the volcano called Patty’s Place. They had Elk burgers, chicken and dumplings, and homemade cobblers, along with and I had to get an elk burger and MAN it did not disappoint! I got the elk burger (sans bun) and it was one of the best burgers I’ve ever had. If you happen to see it while you’re up there, you HAVE to stop in. I promise, it does not disappoint! The waiters were so sweet and the down home atmosphere was extremely welcoming. They even had a neat little gift shop, an outdoor eating patio with a great view, and a fireplace!

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Truth be told, it was one of the best days ever. Spending time with my parents, breathing fresh mountain air, standing in awe of God’s nature, and eating some FINE grub–it was just incredible. I can’t wait to return one day. Thank you Mount St Helen’s for being such a lovely hostess!

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