Recipe: Sara’s Campfire Nachos

Last year, I told my husband (then-fiance) I was planning to make nachos during our camping trip, and he looked at me like I was crazy. Fast-forward several months to my bridal shower, and the “can she guess his answers” game my bridesmaids planned, and I learn he has dubbed the campfire nachos the best thing I ever made him.

Campfire nachos are now a regular on our camping trips.

Other recipes abound on the interwebs, but here’s my tried-and-true take, which is designed for convenient cooking on the go.

Sara’s Campfire Nachos

campfire nachos1Ingredients:

  • 1 bag of tortilla chips
  • 2 packages of Foster Farms Southwestern Chicken Strips
  • 1 bag of shredded Mexican-style cheese
  • 1 bundle of green onions
  • 1 can of Rotelle diced tomatoes with chiles (or your choice of salsa)
  • Sour cream

You’ll also want to bring a throw-away metal baking pan & heavy-duty tin foil.


Before leaving the house, dice the green onions and finely chop the chicken. Bag each ingredient separately.

At your campsite: Assemble the nachos in layers in the metal baking pan. Start with an even layer of chips, sprinkle liberally with shredded cheese, then add chicken, onions, and salsa. Repeat until all ingredients have been used.

Cover with tin foil and place on the rack of your campfire, over hot embers. (You do not want flames licking the tin.) Cook until cheese is melty and nachos are warmed through.

Serve with sour cream.


The 5 Things I’d Do Differently on My Wedding Day

082When you get engaged and start planning a wedding, everyone (and I do mean everyone) will tell you to be prepared for things to go wrong. For all your well-laid plans to fall apart. For disaster to strike. My mother even went so far as to question why I was even making such specific plans for every little detail, since things were going to go So! Horribly! Wrong!

As a former TV news producer, though, I was prepared to take it all in stride. I treated planning my wedding much as I would have treated producing a newscast. You make your plans, down to every last detail. Get everything in place well ahead of time. Then when “breaking news happens” (ie, things go wrong), all you have to do is simply address the new problem because everything else is already done.

But as fully prepared as I was for things to go wrong on our wedding day, when that day finally rolled around … well, it was all kind of perfect. I mean, the only “problem” is that there was a small smudge on the front of the cake, which had occurred in transport. But guess what? The cake was still delicious. I really didn’t care about a smudge.

There isn’t much I would change about our wedding day, but now that a few months have passed, my husband and I did discuss the tiny things we’d do differently, if given the chance. Perhaps take these into consideration when planning your own nuptials:

1. Eat more.

I was pretty proud of myself for managing to sample all of the hors d’oeuvres served at our cocktail hour. They were delicious, and as it happened, I was able to squeeze a few minutes by myself, even while I was in the middle of all my guests. Sure, I was the bride snarfing down steak bite skewers and brie en croute, but so what? I ate at my own wedding!

For the lunch, we had a buffet — and my husband and I were the first ones to go through. So unlike some horror stories you hear, where the bride and groom never eat, we did eat. I just wish I’d taken the time to go back for seconds. I think a lot of my hesitation was having to navigate getting up and down from my seat in my ginormously poofy wedding dress – but our food was really good, and I wish I’d had just a little bit more. Also, I would have gone back for a second piece of wedding cake.

2. Drink more.

Following up the first thing – DRINK! We had an open bar for three hours during our reception, and a catering manager from our venue who offered multiple times to fetch us drinks. But I was just so dang dehydrated, all I wanted was water. I did manage one glass of wine, and some champagne with our toast. But by the time I was finally ready to grab another drink, the bar had closed.

Similarly, we offered up a hot chocolate station for our guests – one that my husband and I never actually saw until we got the photos back from our photographer. It looked amazing, and we both wished we’d taken the time to partake.

3. Hair Pro


I made the decision early on in the wedding planning process to do my own hair and makeup for the wedding. This was less about budget (though it did save us a good chunk of money), and more about my own personal comfort. I hate having other people do my hair and makeup. I’m very particular and I know what I like and how I like it.

On the makeup side, I’m still 100% pleased with how everything turned out. I used the perfect combination of products, and love how I looked. Plus, it lasted the entire day. From 7am until the after-party that went past 9pm — my makeup held up. (Here’s a look at what I used!)

My hair, on the other hand … not so much. I’d done plenty of trial run-throughs of my hair style ahead of time, and was relatively pleased with the results. But I’m less confident in my hair-styling skills than I am in my makeup skills — and my nerves took over BIG TIME on the day of the wedding, as I was trying to do my hair. It looked okay for our pre-ceremony photos, but even as I walked down the aisle, some of the curls had started to come undone, and by the time the reception started, it was a limp, frizzy mess.

I wish I’d had someone more skilled and less nervous to do my hair that day, so it might have held up better.

4. Pause


Everyone warned me this would happen — and unlike the “unavoidable disasters” advice, this one did hold true. And that is your wedding day will go by so fast. I wish my husband and I had taken just a little more time to be together away from the crowds during the day. There was one particular moment, where we snuck away with our photographer to take some more photos. And I just wish we’d taken more time then. I wish I’d bothered to go back to my room, fix up my hair and powder my nose. And then have a more leisurely time with our photographer taking some photos away from the reception crowd.

Likewise, I wish we’d spent more time immediately following the ceremony alone, just the two of us. Of course, we were followed by our coordinator, our photographer, our videographer, and our entire bridal party — to take off mics, sign our marriage license, and head down to cocktail hour for the formal introductions. If I could do it over again, we’d have kicked them all away and made them wait somewhere else, so the two of us could have had just a few minutes alone together to bask in our new marriage.

5. Forgotten Photos


It’s hard to get every photo you want on your wedding day, no matter how meticulous you are. And believe me, I was meticulous. But even with the detailed list I’d given my photographer, we all got swept up in the big day and a few photos never happened: our rings, my something old/new/borrowed/blue together, a photo of my husband and I with BOTH sets of parents, a snapshot with my aunt and uncle. Nothing major, but just a few images we wished we’d remember to have taken.

As for my desire to have a few more photos of the two of us? I’m thinking perhaps we’ll get dressed up in our wedding clothes again for an anniversary photo shoot.

For the comments: What are some things you’d do differently at your wedding?

All photos in this post by May Gunsul Photography


Camping Makeup 101

As I stated yesterday – I’m a glamor queen when I camp.

Well, not really a glamor queen … but I do wear makeup when camping. I feel more comfortable with makeup, I like the way I look in vacation photos better, and in general, it just makes me happy.

But that doesn’t mean I bring my full arsenal of cosmetics when I go camping. I mean, I’m not completely ridiculous. Here’s how I’ve simplified my beauty routine for camping – though keep in mind, this is what works best for me, and it’s still a work in progress.

camping makeup11) Foundation. In the last year, I have discovered the joys of BB cream, and this is particularly great when camping, because it combines all the stuff you WANT (moisturizer, SPF, etc.), plus a little tinted coverage to even out your skin tone — all in one nifty tube. I have sensitive skin, so I’m particular about my BB cream, and have been really happy with Tarte Tinted Treatment 12-Hour Primer, which includes an SPF 30 sunblock.

2) Contouring & color. Too Faced’s “The Secret to No Makeup Makeup” is actually one of my favorite go-to items for camping and other low-maintenance makeup days. Sometimes I’ll even skip using the BB cream (though I still slather on a moisturizer with SPF if I do), and just use the concealer and highlighter from this palette to even out my skin. (Blotchy red spots, dark circles, etc.) Then, I use the blush for color on my cheeks, and the bronzer works for a little definition on my eyes.

In lieu of packing this palette, I’ll bring a cream blush that I can blend in with my fingers and a matte bronzer that I can use on my cheeks and my eyes.

3) Finishing Touches. I’m a sucker for eye makeup, and while I can forgo fancy eye shadows when camping (I’ll just swipe a little bronzer over my lid and blend into my crease for some definition), I can’t live without eyeliner and mascara. For camping, I’ll stick with a waterproof pencil that I can work into my lash-line (no fancy winged eye necessary when camping), then finish with a few coats of waterproof mascara. Waterproof is great for camping, because it will stay put regardless of whatever activities you get into, and won’t give you that oh-so-attractive raccoon eye effect.

Waterproof mascara is notoriously wimpy compared to regular mascara, but I’ve been relatively happy with Sephora’s Full Action Waterproof Extreme Effect Mascara.

4) All the rest. I don’t go anywhere without lip balm, and camping is no exception. I also bring a good moisturizing lotion, because I have notoriously dry skin, and of course sunscreen.

5) Hair. This isn’t really part of the makeup routine — but I pretty much let my hair do whatever it wants when I go camping. I do bring a hair dryer, because I always seem to get sick if I let my hair air dry. But I keep the product to a minimum. After washing with shampoo and conditioner, I work a little Moroccan oil into my hair while it’s still damp (it helps condition and prevent tangles), and then blow dry upside down. That’s pretty much it.

A salt spray can also be great for letting your hair’s natural curl take over. I love this look, but tend to steer clear of salt spray unless I’m due to re-color my hair soon after getting home from a camping trip, as it is VERY damaging to colored hair.

For the comments: What are your camping beauty tips?


Yes, I wear makeup when camping. Here’s why …


The husband and I are getting ready to go camping this weekend, and as I tend to do before any sort of travel, I made a packing list. I’m a big fan of lists. Lists are great. Lists are gravy. Lists are life.

I love lists.

For the camping trip packing list I included our gear, my clothes, shower supplies, food, etc. … and makeup.

Yes, I wear makeup when camping.

A lot of people cringe at the very notion of wearing makeup while camping. I am familiar with the judge-y, disdainful glares from other women in the shared campsite bathroom when I’m flicking on some mascara. But I just don’t care. They can camp however they want, and I’ll camp however I like. And my way includes makeup.

Here’s why (a list, because I love them):

1) Photos. I like to take photos – everyday, on vacation, just because. I’m shutter-happy. And I don’t want to look back on a photo from our camping trip and wonder who that stranger is who snapped a selfie with my husband. I want to look like myself, and the “myself” I love and recognize wears makeup.

2) Comfort. You may be thinking, “If you want to be comfortable, then WHY are you wearing makeup?” But here’s the thing about comfort: it’s different for everyone, and my level of comfort involves makeup. I feel like myself when I have makeup on; it’s part of my morning routine. Without it, I feel sluggish and sloppy and out of sorts.

What’s more, camping isn’t my forte. I never camped growing up, and I wouldn’t camp at all now if my husband didn’t love it so much. I go for him. So to make the entire experience more enjoyable for myself, I partake in various indulgences that hardcore campers would scoff at for my own personal comfort. Like makeup.

3) Because I like it. The biggest and main reason I wear makeup ever is because I like it. I wear it for me. Not to impress anyone, or attract anyone – but because I enjoy it. I like the art of putting makeup on, and trying new techniques, new eye shadow colors, new styles. I like the way I look with makeup on. I like enhancing my favorite features, covering up my blotchy skin, and piling on globs of eyeliner and mascara just because I can.

For the comments: So do you wear makeup when you camp? Why or why not? Tell us in the comments below!

TOMORROW: My camping makeup routine (because I DO simplify).



Welcome to Novel Novice Distractions

Hello friendly readers, and welcome to Novel Novice Distractions — the official, and totally (mostly) non-book related sister site of Novel Novice.

For a while now, I’ve been mulling over ideas I’ve had for various other blogs and blog posts, but none of them quite fit within the parameters of what I’d already created over at Novel Novice. And I still love and adore Novel Novice … but I’ve been wanting an outlet for some of my other interests. I have an urge to share things like life advice, wedding tips, party ideas, and DIY projects. I considered starting a new blog for some of these specific topics – but wasn’t sure I’d have the energy or motivation to maintain a dedicated wedding blog, or a dedicated crafting blog. I considered writing for another website, but ultimately wasn’t thrilled with the idea of giving up the control I have running my own site. (Yeah, I’m one of those.)

And then it just sort of came to me one day. Why not create a lifestyle blog that sort of combines all of these different topics? Let it be a mish-mash. That’s what life is, right? A mix of all the things we love!

When it came time to name the blog, I labored over different options, even making attempts to set up a blog design with some of those options. But I was never truly happy until I realized I needed to stick with my roots. With Novel Novice.

And that’s how Novel Novice Distractions was born. I hope you’ll join me for the ride, and share any thoughts or ideas of what you’d like to see in the comments below.