Mark and Lauren Go Places: A Northern Michigan Adventure!

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A scene at Sleeping Bear Dunes, in the Northwest of Michigan’s Lower Pennisula.

Hi all,

While summer weather is here, it can still be difficult to get outside and enjoy it. Work and other obligations can be overbearing, but it can do a lot to take some time for yourself and your loved ones and go on an adventure. Even if you are limited in funds, there are pockets of greatness everywhere! Personally, I love hiking and camping. Its a great way to see beautiful places and experience the world on a budget. This summer has started off with a bang, as Lauren and I made our annual trip to one of our favorite locales: Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. We also made a brief excursion to Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. While we have been to Sleeping Bear Dunes several times, we continue to go and be awed by the scenery and great wildlife sightings. Here are some of our favorite photographs!

Enjoy,

-Mark and Lauren

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Gulls in the sunset over Platte Point

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A firewood vending machine!

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Lauren looks into what seems to be infinity

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On the Good Harbor Bay trail

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A Sandhill Crane, Michigan’s largest bird!

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Can you spot our friend?

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A deer along the Platte River

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View from our campsite in Hiawatha National Forest

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An old ferry in the port of St. Ignace

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Try Cast Iron Cooking!

Hello all,

Hope everyone is enjoying the summer (which starts tonight!). We have been slacking on posts over here at Urban Hermits so I figured it was time to hit the interwebs again. Ahh…feels good. Anyways, I recently purchased a cast iron skillet for $33 dollars today. It is something I have been thinking about doing for a long time but never got around to it. Now that it is all seasoned and ready to go, I’m going to share some reasons why cast iron is great, as well as demonstrate how to get your skillet cook ready!

Cast iron skillets ofter a stylish option that heats evenly, lasts longer than many forms of cookware (as opposed to Teflon, that can peel over time), can allow you to cook with less oil, and still can be found at very reasonable prices. However, most importantly, a lot of non-stick cookware has chemicals that can release toxic fumes. While these amounts may be low and not particularly harmful to humans, they can impact nonhuman animals in your home. Being a bird owner, I have become aware of PTFE toxicosis, the technical term for teflon poisoning. This results from the overheating of teflon cookware that releases potentially lethal chemicals. Be aware that birds are not the only animals affected by this. Cast iron, on the other hand, is chemical free!

Before you can cook with cast iron, you need to season your skillet! This will help protect your cookware, make it non-stick, and get the most out of it! Ladies and Gentlemen, I will now present the proper way to do so.


1.) Start by scouring all sides of your cookware with hot water to wash off any grime and material that it may have accumulated in the place of production or store: 
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2.) Wash your cookware with dish soap and hot water. Use a pad or brush to deep clean the surface. NOTE: DO NOT CLEAN your cookware with soap and water once it is seasoned. This will remove the non-stick surface. Simply clean it with water between meals. Soap and water should only be used when seasoning/re-seasoning:

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3.) Throughly dry your cookware:

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4.) Rub a thin layer of oil into the cast iron. This includes the bottom and sides, not just the depression for cooking. Vegetable or canola oil work best. Use a cloth or paper towel to even distribute the oil (excuse my broken finger and stint!):

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5.) Heat your oven up to 325 degrees and insert the oiled skillet upside-down onto a sheet of aluminum foil. This will allow any excess oil to drip off. Put the skillet in for one hour. Afterwards, you are ready to get cooking!:

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Sources:

http://www.eatingwell.com/healthy_cooking/healthy_cooking_101_basics_and_techniques/3_health_reasons_to_cook_with_cast_iron?page=3

http://www.peteducation.com/article.cfm?c=15+1829&aid=2874

http://www.petinsurance.com/healthzone/pet-articles/pet-health-toxins/Teflon-Poisoning-in-Birds.aspx