Novel Creature

Looking Glass Falls

Marissa Barrett

Last fall, my husband and I travelled to North Carolina unexpectedly due to the passing of his grandfather. We drove through the Pisgah National Forest, just outside of Asheville, NC on our way to his brother's house in Chattanooga, TN. We got lost in the forest on an access road, but finally found the attraction we had been looking for: Looking Glass Falls. 


The waterfall was right next to the road, so it was super easy to get to. After a very emotional trip, it was so nice to have some time together to just sit and reflect for a while. 


Fall Creek Falls

Marissa Barrett

In October 2016, my sister Lauren and I went camping at Fall Creek Falls State Park. Our friend Sydney came for the first night but left when the sun came up for work. Thankfully I got some snuggle time with her dog Fiyo before she headed out.

That entire day was really ruined because I had a terrible migraine, but Lauren was patient with me and did some exploring by herself. We went to eat some comfort food at the lodge's restaurant, which I'm so sad to hear might be closing. Even though I still had a migraine the next day, I was determined to cook one of the camp recipes I planned.


There's nothing quite like camp coffee.. probably because you're in the woods and desperate for coffee. 


Dutch Oven Breakfast Casserole

  • Frozen Seasoned Hashbrowns
  • Sausage (Lauren brought blueberry turkey sausage and it was surprisingly good in this casserole)
  • Shredded Cheese
  • 6 Eggs

Add the sausage to the dutch oven and break apart with a wooden spoon. Add the hashbrowns and cheese. Whisk the eggs in a bowl and add to the pot. Cover and place over the fire for about 30 minutes or until edges are golden brown.


We walked to the base of what would have been a waterfall had there been any rain recently. The landscape was otherworldly and the temperature was too warm for the end of October.


I was super excited to go on this bridge but it was so shaky and disorienting. Definitely scary but I'm glad I pushed through my fear and crossed it. While the waterfalls were low, the leaves were so beautiful that it didn't matter. 


Camp Cooking with TN State Parks

Marissa Barrett

In the Fall of 2016 I had the opportunity to work with Tennessee State Parks on a camp cooking video. At Henry Horton State Park, I headed out with some friends and made Turkey Apple Chili. Check out the video and recipe below:


  • 1 lb ground turkey
  • 2 apples, chopped
  • 1 sweet onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 jalapeno, seeded, sliced
  • 1 green bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 small can of tomato paste
  • 1 can black beans
  • 1 tbsp ketchup
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 2 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp sriracha
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 1/2 cup water

Find the original post here.

Foster Falls

Marissa Barrett

Last summer my husband Chris and I took a trip to Foster Falls, part of South Cumberland State Park over the Fourth of July long weekend.

Obviously, we had to put out a flag at our campsite. USA!


We had the hardest time starting a fire, despite me bring prepared and super excited with my new hatchet. The wood got wet during a sudden downpour, our lighter fluid ran out, and our matches wouldn't catch. It was rough, but we made it work by using all of the cardboard from our food packaging as tinder.


There's something so grounding about waking up in the woods. It felt great in the morning with the breeze coming into the tent. But it was still July after all and the air got really hot and humid as the day went on.


The second day was our hiking day, so we had a big breakfast skillet to fuel up... And also because *bacon*.

Breakfast Skillet:

  • Potatoes, cubed
  • Red Onion, chopped
  • Bacon, chopped
  • Two eggs per person
  • Salt + Pepper

Add potatoes, onions, and bacon to the pan and stir to evenly distribute then season. Cover with foil or a lid for about 20 minutes. Make sure the potatoes are soft before adding the eggs. Crack the eggs right on top of the other ingredients, then season the eggs. Cover again until eggs are cooked but not overdone, about 10 minutes.


The short hike down to the waterfalls was difficult and rocky. At the bottom of the canyon we realized that the waterfall may not be what we expected when there was no water under this bridge leading up to it.


So it turns out that we went to a waterfall in the middle of a drought and there was no waterfall. But the pool of water under where there normally is a waterfall was super cool and refreshing to swim in, if you don't mind swimming with fish! People were out with their dogs, and some brave souls were rock climbing on the other side of the pool. 

Okay so here is where it gets interesting. The map we had was terrible and not marked with the same names of the trails that the trails were marked with. What was supposed to be a medium to easy hike to the lookout at the top of the falls was incredibly rocky and difficult because we went the wrong way. This could have been a little less bad if we had packed more water, hadn't been wearing shorts, and I had been wearing boots instead of Chaco sandals. We asked a rock climber what trail we were on and she convinced us that we were actually slightly off the trail and that if we hiked straight through the woods we would hit the trail and get back on the right path.. so off we go into the woods... in shorts and tank tops and I'm in sandals. Thorns, poison ivy, bees, and uncovered feet stepping into piles of leaves that could have had any number of critters underneath. BAD DECISION. After a mild breakdown we got back to what was, in fact, the trail that we had been on all along. We asked a different climber for help and he guided us to the right access trail to get on the easy path.. where I saw a copperhead! The whole ordeal was terrifying because I'm normally very prepared while hiking, but we didn't expect our trek to be that long or difficult at all.


Here we are, at the lookout on top of the falls very happy to be alive. Lessons learned: always prepare for a full day hike, wear actual shoes while hiking, and stay on the trail.


By this point I was ready to get back to camp and relax. I prepared some foil packs for dinner, stuck them on the grill over the fire, and in the middle of preparing our dessert rain came and forced us into the car. Thankfully the foil packs were done cooking and they were GOOD!


Shrimp Boil Foil Packs:

  • Shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • Corn on the cob, cut into 4 inch pieces
  • Red potatoes, quartered
  • Andouille sausage, chopped
  • Sweet yellow onions, chopped
  • Salt + Pepper
  • Foil

Foil packs are so easy: put all the ingredients on a sheet of foil, season with salt and pepper, fold up, and put either right on the fire or on a grill. You can even do this in the oven, but it will cook much faster since the heat surrounds the food in the oven. Since it's hard to check the ingredients, I always err on the side of overcooked, so you might not want to do this with something that dries out easily like chicken breast or pork loin. I cooked these for about 30 minutes over the fire and the andouille sausage seasoned everything else in the packet perfectly. It's really helpful to have a pair of tongs and/or heat proof oven mitts depending on whether you put these on the grill or in the fire. 


After the downpour we got the fire going again and I was able to finish my dessert. This is called a grunt cake, which is basically a bunch of fruit with dough on top. The acid in the fruit doesn't really mix well with the cast iron skillet, and will stick and burn... so you can use a piece of parchment paper to line the pan if you want an easier cleanup. 

Berry Grunt Cake:

  • Muffin or cake mix 
  • Fresh or frozen fruit (I used some of each)
  • Sugar
  • Mascarpone

Mix your fruit into your muffin or cake mix and pour it into your cast iron pan. Top with sugar and cover for about 20 minutes or until the dough is cooked. Serve in a bowl topped with mascarpone (ice cream would be great.. but it's so hard to keep frozen while camping). Enjoy!


Camping Packing List

Marissa Barrett

Sometimes I find it hard to remember all the little things you might need with camping. I made a camping list for a typical car camping trip (where you park next to your campsite and sleep in a tent or hammock. It's easy to keep your food secure from critters and your clothes dry this way.. but someday I want to delve into packing light and backpacking to a hike-in camp. This is just a starting point, so of course add anything you need or take off anything you don't. Hope this is helpful for your next camping trip!


Summer Solstice Party

Marissa Barrett

This summer I hosted a festival in East Nashville to celebrate the beginning of summer, the Summer Solstice Party, on June 18th. We had some really amazing vendors come out, including one of my social-entrepreneur hero brands, FashionABLE. We had vintage, jewelry, woodworking, body care, and more. I brought accessories and plant hangers to the party and we had a great turn out.. before the rain came. Thankfully, the rain cooled us down a bit before we had to pack up.



 Ellis Fine Jewelry

Ellis Fine Jewelry

 Novel Creature, with Shelving from Whiskey Stains Woodworking

Novel Creature, with Shelving from Whiskey Stains Woodworking

 Novel Creature

Novel Creature

 Novel Creature

Novel Creature

 Preserved Jams

Preserved Jams

 Paige Barbee Jewelry

Paige Barbee Jewelry



 Eternal Returns

Eternal Returns

 Eternal Returns

Eternal Returns

12 South Peach Festival

Marissa Barrett

One of the most exciting events of summer in Nashville is the beginning of Peach Season. I used to think I don't like peaches.. but I was wrong. There's something about the peaches that come from the Peach Truck... namely, they're from a regional farm in Georgia and get sold in brown paper bags that help them ripen up just enough to be juicy but not an absolute mess. On top of that, they're at every event worth going to and they have excellent customer service. 

The 12 South Neighborhood is home to some of the best local businesses (imogene + willie, Frothy Monkey, Burger Up), has the cutest houses, and a great community center in Sevier Park. Its proximity to Belmont University, Downtown, and Green Hills makes it a great location to live or visit and their farmer's market is one of the best (maybe THE best) in town. Throughout the market season (Spring-Fall), the 12 South Farmer's Market hosts festivals with food trucks and live music to celebrate the fresh food being brought in. For the Peach Festival (June 28th of 2016), the Peach Truck was there and local vendors were encouraged to incorporate peaches into their products. The Nashville Jam Company had an amazing Peach Habanero jam and the previous year I got to sample a macaroon of the same flavor from Le Macaron. 

One of my favorite tents at the 12 South Farmer's Market is Humble Flower Farm. You can buy bouquets as needed or sign up for a flower CSA and pick up your fresh bunch of local flowers from Bell's Bend, just north of Nashville.

Visiting the Peach Festival with my husband Chris was such a sweet way to spend an afternoon eating local food and hanging out with vendors. Cannot wait for the market season this year in 12 South!

Petite Retreat

Marissa Barrett

This March I went with some girlfriends to Harrison Bay State Park near Chattanooga. We rented an RV, did some exploring, and stopped in Chattanooga for brunch. It was a much needed retreat for us just to get away and sleep in the woods for the weekend.

Photo Feb 03, 3 22 47 PM.jpg
 Abrielle heroically climbed in the window of our RV after getting locked out.

Abrielle heroically climbed in the window of our RV after getting locked out.

 Abrielle stokes the fire.

Abrielle stokes the fire.



Cast Iron Pesto Pizza:


Pizza dough (I like Namaste Foods for gluten free)

Red onions, chopped

Goat cheese, crumbled




  1. Mix pizza dough and cook one side in the cast iron over the fire
  2. Flip dough after 30 minutes
  3. Spread pesto sauce, then top with red onions, goat cheese, and spinach
  4. Cover pan with lid or foil
  5. Cook for 30 minutes or until cheese melts
 We stopped in the Farmer's Daughter, one of my favorites that is sadly no longer open.

We stopped in the Farmer's Daughter, one of my favorites that is sadly no longer open.

 Obligatory Lookout Mountain selfie!

Obligatory Lookout Mountain selfie!

 Yummy lattes at Milk and Honey before heading home!

Yummy lattes at Milk and Honey before heading home!

Adventure Guide: St. Louis

Adventure GuideMarissa Barrett

Early this Spring, my husband Chris and I took a short 3 day trip to St. Louis. I went to the City Museum years ago with friends and have always wanted to go back. St. Louis is only 5 hours away from Nashville and has so much to do so it was pretty difficult to narrow down what we would see in the time we were there. 

Nashville to St. Louis

Our first stop was the City Museum, a must-see for anyone traveling to St. Louis. It's a giant art installation, event space, circus school, and playground made of repurposed materials from around the city that has multiple restaurants, a bar, interior cave system, and artists' residence located in an old factory downtown. Sounds crazy/perfect right? It's unbelievable and magical and I love it. 

City Museum Outdoor Tunnel
City Museum St. Louis Outdoor Playground
City Museum St. Louis Outdoor Bridge
City Museum St. Louis Outdoor Jungle Gym
City Museum St. Louis Egypt Mirror
City Museum St. Louis Egypt Room
City Museum St. Louis Museum of Mirth, Mystery, & Mayhem
City Museum St. Louis Castle Bridge

Our next stop was the adorable Airbnb we stayed at. The prices to stay in St. Louis are great compared to Nashville and the surrounding areas. We got to stay in a beautiful brownstone in the trendy Benton Park for under $100 a night. 

The Green Room St. Louis Airbnb
St. Louis Benton Park Brownstone
 I loved these "Hilda" pin-ups next to the mirror. Cute, full-figured pin-up always getting into trouble.. read more about her  here .

I loved these "Hilda" pin-ups next to the mirror. Cute, full-figured pin-up always getting into trouble.. read more about her here.

 Adorable, yet unfriendly, neighbor dog.

Adorable, yet unfriendly, neighbor dog.

Next we headed out to the Schlafly taproom for dinner. Chris used to work for Whole Foods and a beer distributor, so before I found out that I'm gluten intolerant craft beer events and brewery tours were a favorite hobby for us. Thankfully, Schlafly not only makes a cider (naturally gluten free) but they also have a gluten free dinner menu. This was the first of my discoveries that St. Louis is an incredibly allergen-free friendly town! 

St. Louis Schlafly Taproom
St. Louis Schlafly Taproom Dinner

The next morning we slept in pretty late and then went to get coffee at Sump (coming to Nashville soon! Yay!) which was delicious and strong.. just what we needed to get going.

 Image from  Sump on Facebook .

Image from Sump on Facebook.

I read a lot of reviews for Pi Pizza, where we went for lunch that day and it did not disappoint. They're famous for their deep-dish cornmeal crusts, but they also have gluten-free crust with a ton of good topping choices. I read that President Obama had it brought to the White House because it's his favorite pizza place. We went to the Central West End location because it was closest to where we stayed but there are several.

Pi Pizza St. Louis

After lunch we went to the St. Louis Zoo which is FREE! Originally built at the turn of the 20th Century, there's beautiful architecture all over the zoo, and it's right in the middle of town in Forest Park, which is home to other museums and the location of the 1904 Summer Olympics. The zoo had Polar Bears (my favorite),  Rhinos, and really well planned out exhibits that made it so easy to see the animals. I loved the underwater tunnel that went beneath the sea lions.

St. Louis Zoo Rhino
 Gorgeous garden in the primate house.

Gorgeous garden in the primate house.

St. Louis Zoo Butterfly House
St. Louis Zoo Butterfly House
St. Louis Zoo Butterfly House
St. Louis Zoo Butterfly House
St. Louis Zoo
St. Louis Zoo Aviary

Next we stopped by the Jewel Box, an art deco greenhouse and event space located in Forest Park. Absolutely beautiful.

St. Louis Jewel Box

For dinner we went to the Delmar Loop part of town to eat at Salt + Smoke for some famous St. Louis barbecue. We skipped the wait to sit at the bar and got a couple of really well-made cocktails. For dinner we got a brisket plate and it was probably the most delicious brisket I've ever had.. and I eat a lot of barbecue. The fat was perfectly caramelized and crispy and the meat was savory and just fell apart when we put our fork in it.

Salt + Smoke St. Louis
Salt + Smoke St. Louis

The bartender at Salt + Smoke was really friendly and recommended a social club/bar/cigar lounge to get cocktails later so we headed back to the Central West End to go to Brennan's. When we first came inside it looked like a regular high-end bar, but we soon found a PING PONG ROOM downstairs in the basement that we had all to ourselves.

Brennan's Ping Pong Room St. Louis

After several games that neither one of us could say we won, we ventured upstairs to explore some more. We passed through the room that displayed all of the cigars available, and up a staircase. There was a members only lounge for playing records and another full bar upstairs.

Brennan's St. Louis

The next morning we went to Rise Coffee House in the Grove neighborhood.

Rise Coffee House St. Louis

Total HGTV nerds, we looked up an awesome house from House Hunters Renovation that used to be a firehouse and drove past. The couple has a blog about their renovations called A Fire Pole in the Dining Room.

A Fire Pole in the Dining Room St. Louis

Next we stopped in the Historic Soulard Farmer's Market, the oldest market this side of the Mississippi, but not many booths were open since we went during the middle of the week. We did see a sign for some interesting meats though...

Soulard Market St. Louis

For brunch we drove out to the suburbs for a very highly reviewed gluten-free restaurant, New Day Gluten Free. We shared blueberry muffins and biscuits & gravy and it was so worth the drive. I wish there was one here in Nashville- I seriously couldn't tell that our food was gluten-free at all! So good.

Our final stop was the Malcom W. Martin Memorial Park for a good view of the St. Louis Gateway Arch. It started pouring when we got there, so our photos were gray and gloomy but it was such a cool view of the city from across the river.

St. Louis

We started the drive home after that,which seemed much longer than the drive there. I really didn't want our little trip to be over so quickly, but there's no place like home, especially when you live in Nashville. I can't wait for our next road trip adventure! 

Nashville to St. Louis

Coffee Soda with Grapefruit, Rosemary, and Vanilla Syrup

Marissa Barrett

Spring has arrived and it's finally beginning to feel like it here in Nashville. I absolutely love visiting our local coffee shops for their warm weather seasonal drinks and even though I drink iced coffee year round, this new twist on iced coffee has had me head over heels for a while now. The thing is, you can't buy it all year long. I first got a taste for coffee soda at Crema, one of the best coffee shops in Nashville. It was toward the end of the summer and when I went back in Fall I was so sad that it was no longer on the menu... but it only made me want it more and long for the day it would be back! Over the past couple of years some other coffee shops have done their own twist on the drink and so I wanted to do my own. My husband (former barista and bartender) and I got to brainstorming and came up with an interesting flavor profile that I hope you enjoy! It's not too sweet, and super refreshing.


What you'll need:


The Drink

  1. Fill glass with ice.
  2. Add 1 oz syrup (see below for directions).
  3. Add 4oz coffee
  4. Add 4oz soda water.
  5. Stir
  6. Grapefruit twist and rosemary sprig to garnish.


The Syrup

  1. Combine the sugar and water in a saucepan.
  2. Bring to a boil on high heat.
  3. Stir until sugar is dissolved.
  4. Lower heat to medium-low and add the grapefruit peel, vanilla bean*, and rosemary.
  5. Let simmer for 5-10 minutes to extract as much flavor as possible.
  6. Take off heat and let cool.

* For best results, use a pairing knife to cut open the vanilla bean top to bottom, then scrape the seeds out from inside and put them into the pan. I went ahead and threw the cut bean in as well.



Cast Iron Pizza: Smoked Salmon

recipes, cooking, cast iron cooking, gluten free cookingMarissa Barrett

Every now and then, usually in winter, I long for a bagel with smoked salmon. I'm gluten-free, so running to the bagel shop isn't exactly an option for me. I've recently fallen in love with making pizzas in my cast iron skillet, so I created this recipe combining my craving with this cooking technique.

*Cooking in the cast iron brings so much flavor to your food since it absorbs the fat and oils from meats that you cook. I didn't even need to oil the pan for this recipe, but if you do it on a baking sheet or porcelain pie dish, you'll want to grease the surface first.

I used:

Namaste brand gluten-free pizza crust (one box will make 2 crusts), but use any crust you want. I would suggest something thin-crusted or even a flat-bread for this pizza. *not a sponsored post, I just like it!

olive oil

3/4 cup chopped red onions

3 tbsp. capers

1 cup arugula

1 package cream cheese (8 oz.)

4 oz. smoked salmon

2 tbsp. chopped fresh dill

sea salt

course ground black pepper

garlic powder

1. Preheat your oven to the directions on the pizza crust you're using.

2. Prepare your crust. If you're using the Namaste one, I suggest using olive oil for the recipe to compliment the flavors of the herbs in the crust and so it will get super crispy.

3. For the crust I used, I spread it really super thin across my cast iron. It shouldn't be more than 1/4 inch thick, even if you have to use less of the crust mix you've made. The amount you use will depend on the size of your pan.

4. Bake the crust for about 20 minutes on its own.

5. While your crust is baking, soften your cream cheese. I prefer to use the microwave as little as possible, so I did this by just setting it on the stove still in its package.

6. Chop your onions and dill. I just gave my onions a rough chop into about 1/4 inch pieces and left the stems in the dill while I chopped it finely.

7. When your crust is done, pull it out of the oven and flip it over in the pan.

8. Spread the cream cheese on your crust, then salmon, then onions, then capers, then dill.

9. Sprinkle the pizza with a small amount of salt and garlic powder. The salmon and capers are already pretty salty so before you decide on how much, taste a small piece of the salmon and a caper. Each brand varies so it's hard to give a suggestion for how much to use.. just don't overdo it. 

10. Bake your pizza with toppings for at least 10 more minutes. Your cheese should be slightly browning with you pull it out. 

11. While your pizza is baking, dress the arugula with a small amount of olive oil and black pepper.

12. When your pizza is done, top it with the arugula, slice, and enjoy! I love this pizza paired with a vinho verde wine. 

Close-up Salmon Pizza