Monday, January 30, 2012

31 Days of Adventure ~ Week in Review

Day 19 | January 19

More than a trillion choices

Our world is full of many colors. Have you noticed lately?

Choose your favorite color for the day and head outside to take note of all the places and ways it shows up in your world. What are the different shades? Where do they appear? Be sure to look up, down and under. Take a picture of your favorite.

If you're feeling extra adventurous, take at least five pictures of your color and share them with others.

Day 20 | January 20

Get your blood flowing

Today we're going to get our bodies moving.

Try a new sport or outdoor activity today (or one you haven't done in years). Run one mile. Rent snowshoes and go for a hike. Maybe there's an ice skating rink or perfect hill for sledding near you. Ever tried curling? Bicycle polo? Skijoring?

What sport have you always wondered what it might be like to try? What are you waiting for? Go try it!

I'm still working on this and mood has not cooperated much. I've also been working on completing a 10,000 Kettlebell Swing Challenge this month but I'm eager to really open my mind up to trying something crazy!

Day 21 | January 21

Wish upon a star

For your adventure today, set your alarm for 1:00am. Head outside and check out the constellations.

If you're in the city (or it's too cloudy) and you can't see the night sky, see how many constellations you can name. Grab a constellation book (or consult the Internet) to learn more.

Oh cloudy days...after an inordinate amount of unseasonably dry weather wouldn't you know that it finally rained, right when I was supposed to go star gazing. While I did go outside and was able to pick out the North Star and Venus between the clouds it got too cold and started to drizzle, so my outing was short lived.
But do not fret! I already own a star chart and have used it on many occasions while camping. One thing that I noticed right off is that the clearer the sky, and the more remote the location, the harder it is for me to find some of the constellations and stars. Seems that there really are so many stars it can be overwhelming...beautiful and awe-inspiring though.

Day 22 | January 22

Get out the play

Today's adventure brings us our last guest contributor, the women of Chicks Climbing. The Colorado-based Chicks promotes self-reliance by teaching and focusing on technical skills to help women become more equal climbing partners. They also promote empowerment, the spirit of service and giving back to the community.

The Chicks hold ice and rock climbing clinics for women all across the country, so they know a little bit about adventure.

From Chicks Climbing:
"Play outside for 30 minutes today! Need inspiration? Pretend you're a kid again and remember the outdoors is full of "natural" toys waiting to come to life with a bit of imagination." 

Big Fail...putting on list for next month.

Day 23 | January 23

Dance 'til you feel better

When's the last time you danced with pure abandon? When you turned up the music and let the rhythm sink under your skin and into your blood?

Today's adventure invites you to dance for no reason. Pick your favorite song, crank up the music and get down.

Yep, right there in your living room.

Great, as if it wasn't already bad enough that my husband thinks I'm a little strange, now my cats and dog are giving me weird looks. Perhaps next time I will refrain from trying to make them dance with me. 
I must have worn them and cat sleeping together!!

Day 24 | January 24

Roll out the red carpet

It's time to grab a drink and make some popcorn. Today's adventure takes us to the cinema. (Or the comfy sofa in front of your home theater.)

Watch a movie in a different language. Feeling extra adventurous? Leave off the subtitles and try to figure out what's going on. Make up your own story.

See...NAKEDNESS!! Source

I absolutely love foreign films. Admittedly, when I was younger, it was the only way I could get away with seeing naked guys without getting into too much trouble (although I've seen Gerard Depardieu naked, full frontal, way too many times) ...after all, foreign films often come across as more intellectual and therefore, okay for young people to watch. I always felt so cultured. When I started working it was in the theater and video stores where I continued to watch almost any film I could get a hold of my favorites Motorcycle Diaries. But, I also love films from England...and even though we speak the same language there are so many differences it often feels very foreign. Favorites: Run Fat Boy and Death at a Funeral (BBC version).

Sunday, January 29, 2012

No, I'm not a Whack Job...

At the beginning of the year I spoke of a few intentions that I hoped would set me on a more productive, yet less stressful year. It has always been important to me to move towards a more mindful lifestyle which has included recycling, using my reusable shopping bags and reducing my dependance on material things (i.e. shopping).

I also mentioned that I wanted to simplify and save money. So, over the past month I have been using up half used bottles of shampoos and conditioners, as well as items in my pantry that I bought for some recipe or another but never used.  My hair hasn't fallen out and I've enjoyed some really great breakfasts following this rule.

But now, I've taken things one step further. Since it's always been a struggle to buy quality beauty products that are not only environmentally friendly, not tested on animals, work with my hair/skin type and are still affordable I decided to go back to basics. Yes, I am making some of my own products.

It actually started off when my friend and fellow blogger, Sheri, over at Motivation For Health and Fitness posted her sister-in-law's Esty shop on Facebook. That's where I picked up my Shampoo Bar and a body soap. I then went online and compiled a few recipes for a facial toner and hair rinse. After a week of using these items I am happy to report that my hair and skin look and feel great. I plan on updating my results later this year after I've had some time to really see how these work in the long run.

Shampoo Bar ~ JillsNaturalSoaps
via JillsNaturalSoaps

Homemade Hair Conditioner
1-4 TBS Apple Cider Vinegar
1 cup water
Mix and apply to hair. Let sit for 1 minute and rinse. Vinegar smell disappears as hair dries.

Facial Cleanser
Cold-pressed Extra Virgin Olive Oil (use sparingly)
Warm wash cloth
that's it...

Homemade Toner
1/2 ounce apple cider
3 ounces mineral water
5 plain (uncoated) aspirin, crushed

Mix all ingredients and use sparingly. Keeps for 1 month in refidgerator.

Reusable Shopping Bags
Most of you know I am a firm believer in reusable shopping bags. This is mainly because I'm lazy and always forget to take those pesky plastic bags back to the grocery store for recycling. After 2 years I've been able to train myself to have my shopping bags ready and available for 99% of my grocery store trips (I also take them to Target, Costco and pretty much anywhere I plan on making a purchase).

As an added benefit I noted this on my receipt after a recent trip to Raleys:

Using my bags is helping our public parks and wilderness programs...Win-Win!

In addition, I've been experimenting with homemade cleaning products via Elephant Journal and The Good Human. I'll let you know how that goes in a future post.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

31 Days of Adventures ~ Week in Review

For more information about 31 Days of Adventure please visit or Expand Outdoors and WanderLydia.

Day 14 

What do you know?

Today's adventure is about learning. And sharing. And gaining knowledge. But it's really about sharing that new knowledge with others.

Choose a topic you know nothing about (maybe you've been curious about this topic for awhile) and find information or an article about it. Read it. Then tell someone what you learned.

It may seem a bit like a cop-out to talk about food again, but I have been on a two-fold mission this year. First, to simplify my life via eating simple, whole foods and second, to declutter and save money by using what I already have in my house...this includes food in the pantry.

Well, it just so happens I not only have kasha (buckwheat groats) but millet as well. I suppose that somewhere along the way I came across recipes requiring these items but my lack of organization has left me with unopened packages and no notes on what on earth I was going to prepare.

Now, about the only thing I know about kasha is that it's really not wheat. At one time it was the largest crop in Russia and popular in Polish food, and after finding out recently about my Prussian heritage I feel 'at home' trying this out. It's also being studied for treating Type II diabetes (ahem, may a new Paula Deen recipe in the making??) and binds with cholesterol, which would be good for my hubby!

And now I present to you the recipe I'll be making for breakfasts this week:

Mixed Whole-Grain Breakfast (W/Gluten Free Option)

Thanks Yummly!
P.S. It was delicious...added a little maple syrup and Almond milk...very yummy!

Day 15 

Embrace the elements

From Kim Kircher of Strength From the Top of the Mountain:
"Feel the weather on your face today. Whether it's snow, rain, sun or wind, go outside and expose your cheeks to whatever the day brings. in the winter, it's easy to bundle up and bury our chins in scarves.

"But today, at least for a few minutes, wake up your soul and your skin by basking in the day's weather. Be present to the weather today and pay attention. There's nothing like a little weather to keep you in the moment."

I don't know if we've been blessed or cursed with the weather here in Northern California. Like much of the nation (excluding Alaska) it's been dry and unseasonably warm. If you've read the blog from last month you know that we went to Tahoe to get married and celebrate Christmas & New Years all with the idea of skiing and playing in the snow. But, there was no snow (ok, maybe a couple of piles of man-made stuff but not enough to justify $100+ per lift ticket). 

Tahoe in December...note the lack of snow but abundance of sunshine.
The good thing about this weather is it allowed me some time to get outside when I normally would have been stuck on the treadmill, staring at the walls. During one of my afternoon walks I really took the time to feel the sunshine on my face. Pushing my sleeves up a bit I allowed my body to soak in some much needed natural Vitamin D.

It may look sparse but allows for ultimate sunshine absorption! 
This time of year it is interesting to observe the sun's pattern and how quickly it moves across the sky. I think that the 5 years I spent in Alaska really opened my eyes to such things. Being so aware of the sun's position I could feel the imbalance on my body, like an side bathed in glorious sunshine and the other in shadows. Fortunately, I chose an out-and-back route allowing the other side to get nice and toasty once I turned back.

Day 16

Witness the painting of the sky

Good morning!
Today's adventure is in three steps:
1. Today: Scout out a nice spot to see the sunrise.

2. Tonight: Before you go to sleep, set your alarm clock extra early.

3. Tomorrow morning: Get to your spot before the sun does.

Watch the sun rise.
Where did you choose to go? What colors do you see? If this was a familiar place, was it different than usual? In what way? If it was new, what did you love about it? Why did you choose it?

Sunset from my backyard.
Okay, so I DID find out that sun rises here at 7:21am...however, I have not yet gone anywhere to capture the sunrise. But I compromised and snapped this beautiful sunset in from my backyard. I absolutely love the colors in the California sunsets. I am still going to catch the sunrise and I promise to post pictures!

Day 17 

The birds and the bees and the flowers and the trees

Today's adventure takes us outside (sensing a theme yet?): Find a nearby trail to hike and notice the nature/wildlife.

Can you identify the trees? Which ones still have leaves on them? What's growing on the ground? Are the nests in any of the trees?

As my lunch break approached I was faced with a dilemma, stick to my normal routine of going to Peet's Coffee or Starbucks in order to take advantage of their free wi-fi (all social networking sites are blocked at work), or head out for a little hike on what might be the last nice day of winter. Since my walking shoes had been stashed under my desk all year (I used to take lunchtime walks at a nearby park), I decided to head out to tackle a monstrous hill near my job.

For the past few weeks I've watched walkers and runners going up and down this hill, vowing the "one day" I'd hike up it to take in the view (and to say "I did it"). Finally, 'one day' arrived and I headed out of the parking lot towards my destination.

This area is actually part of Open Spaces, public land set aside as a greenbelt, perfect for enjoying nature, fresh air and conservation. 

Although this Open Space area looked quite sparse I was so excited to find a very confused plant had bloomed, thanks to our crazy spring like weather.

The lack of trees made for great views of the surrounding mountains but the sunshine certain made the only 2 trees in the area look stunning...even if they were 'naked'.

Day 18 

Throw away the directions

So you think you know your neighborhood? Today we invite you to explore your hometown (and beyond).

Take a drive (or a bike ride) without a map. If you're with someone, take turns choosing which direction to go when you reach an intersection.

Bonus: Park when the feeling is right and go explore on foot.

Extra bonus: For a different kind of adventure, try this on a trail. (Just remember to bring a map and compass!)
Somehow, donkeys in a field can erase the stress from a bad workday almost instantly. And even faster when the little guys are hanging out with a draft horse to boot!
While driving home from work, I decided to continue on the little country lane I was on rather then turning to go home. I really enjoy my back roads commute and all of the little surprises it brings so I was eager to see what else was out there.

Secret finds...
Of course it was beautiful...however, I managed to get a little lost (not so much so that I couldn't just turn around though). I do plan on going back in the spring. There is an Iris Farm out there that would be a great place to picnic and photograph.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

31 Days of Adventure Week in Review

Connect the old-fashioned way

Many of us have family and friends spread all over the globe. Emails, Facebook updates, texts and blog comments are all great ways to stay connected. But think about the joy that comes from a hand-addressed letter in the snail-mailbox. When's the last time you sent a handwritten letter just to say hi?

Today, go analog and send a card (or letter) to someone far away. Or heck, send a postcard to your next door neighbor.

Find a card laying around the house. If you don't have a card, use a piece of paper, or you can get creative and make your own. Then write a nice note, address, stamp and send!

I used to write letters all the time. Being a military brat meant constantly leaving my friends and family at a time when there was no email, text messaging and long distance calls were too expensive to run up massive bills over the silly conversations little girls have. 

I remember drawing a dot on the back of the envelopes I sent to my cousin Wendy with the phrase "Postman's peep-hole" written under it. =) And to my BFF Heidi, I would try to come up with 'new' and exciting stationary which included letters written on toilet paper and a barf-bag from a flight I took once.

While it's been a looooong time since I've hand-written an actual letter I did snag a couple of postcards at Squaw Valley (while we were in Tahoe getting married) to send to a couple of friends but it took this adventure prompt to finally get around to sending them. I also got a few more at Moaning Cavern this past Friday...they'll be in the mail tomorrow!!

Pull out a $10 word

Today we bring you a linguistic adventure:

Learn a new word and incorporate it into a conversation with a loved one or colleague.

Bonus challenge: Strike up a conversation with a stranger and use your new word.

Extra-extra bonus: Make up your own word, teach it to someone else and use it in a sentence with a stranger.

Total fail on this one...I have no new word. 

Ideas that are twice as nice

Friends and loved ones can add an element of spice to any adventure.

Today, why not invite a friend to join you on a creative endeavor? Here are a few ideas to get you thinking: make a meal together, paint a picture, sing a song, read a story aloud, build a sculpture or script a screenplay.

How does including another add to your experience?

I really like the idea of reading stories out loud but I also suck at it...often stuttering or reading in a monotone, which is neither entertaining nor romantic. But nothing thrills me more than to watch a mushy chick flick with the characters reading poetry to each other while they enjoy a picnic next to a babbling day, perhaps.

Instead, my husband and I do crossword puzzles together. Sometimes we just pass the paper back and forth and other times I lean over his shoulder and we work on it together. The best part about this is he doesn't even get annoyed! It's become our 'thing'.

Listen to the voices in your head

Here's Sara Lingafelter's (RockClimberGirl) prompt for today:
"Listen to the voices in your head. We all have them (right? Or is it just me?). Throughout the day, they tell us what we should and shouldn't eat, who we should or should't talk to, and what we should and shouldn't do with ourselves. We don't even notice them most of the time—we just carry out their orders.

"Today, stop and really LISTEN to those voices with intention—as if they're coming from a friend or family member. Which messages or instructions really stand out? Are there ones that you might need to defend yourself against? If so, stick up for yourself to that voice.

"And, if there's a quiet little (or not so quiet little) voice that pipes up that you identify as your creative self—consider DOING what it asks of you rather than putting it on a shelf for another time (or worse—to be forgotten)."

Oh boy, the voices, the voices. There are so many!! Okay, truth be told I have the same voices many of us have...the old "I'm too fat, I'm not pretty enough" sort that I've been working on tuning out. But the one that lingers and, perhaps, could be the grand-daddy of them all is "you're not ______ enough...", not good enough to write, not strong enough to summit Mt. Shasta, not fast enough to break my marathon P.R., and of the other "enoughs" that keep me doubting my abilities.

The only way to squash that voice is to just go after my dreams...submit the article, attempt the climb, run my best race and accept the outcome knowing that I gave it my best. Surely that beats not even trying and always wondering.

The gift of vulnerability

Sometimes it can seem like we're alone in the world. And that we need (or it's easier) to do everything ourselves.

We're here to challenge that assumption with today's adventure: Ask for help.

It can be hard to ask others for help. (It's usually much easier to offer to help others.) What do you need help with today?

Lunches made for your kids? Input on a project at work? Painting your living room? Moving furniture? A shoulder to cry on? Shoveling a drive? Holding yourself accountable for your goals? Brainstorming a new idea?

Go ahead. Be brave. And vulnerable. Ask for help.

I'm dangling right in the center of this picture!
So, thanks to Groupon I had the ultimate opportunity to ask for help while I tackled a huge fear I have...heights. Several months ago I purchased vouchers for my husband and I to do a zip-line adventure at Moaning Caverns. Since they were close to expiring we planned a spontaneous trip to Calaveras County spending the night in Angels Camp and tackling the Cavern the following day. 

The ropes coming out of "The Chimney".
While we were there, we decided to add on the rappel into the cavern. This is a 165 foot hair-raising, nerve-racking descent into what appears to be a black hole...terrifying for someone with a fear of height or claustrophobia. There are sections of the rappel that are called a free descent, meaning you literally are hanging from your harness by the rope, no where to grab and no where to put your feet, over 100 feet in mid-air.

The Hubby on out way back up. 
Inside the cavern...there are beautiful formations and it's HUGE!
With the help of my husband, and a pep-talk from the wonderful staff at Moaning Cavern, I was able to complete my rappel without needing a rescue. There were times when I started to freak out and just wanted down but my husband encouraged me to take a deep breath and look around. It's not often you get to see such amazing formations that are perhaps millions of years old.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Hate-Loss Challenge Week 2

This week's Hate-Loss topic is about self-acceptance and living our lives in the "now". For a more detailed explanation please refer to this post at Fat Girl Wearing Thin.

Exercise for the week:
Think about the answers to these esteem-deflating questions.  How often do you carry these thought around with you on a daily basis?
My life would be so much better if I were only:
I’d be so much happier if I had a better:
I wish I weighed:
When I look in the mirror, the first thing I criticize about myself is my:
The one negative word that I use about myself over and over again is:

Now, answer these questions so that they can be seen by everyone reading your update:

I often receive the most compliments on my hair, eyes and smile.
What I admire most about myself when I look at my reflection is I look damn good (for a 40+ year old). {Okay, I might have a little bit more work to do here.}
I take pride in my work ethic and ability to challenge myself.
I love the fact that I can get dirty and play hard yet still look pretty in a dress.
My greatest quality is I'm easy going and easy to get along with.

Over the past couple of years I have been working hard at taking it easy on myself. Yes, I still set goals and challenge myself with difficult endeavors (like Tough Mudder, running a marathon, and now Climbing Mt. Shasta) but my approach has been one of celebrating my body and what it can do rather than punishing it

In the past I've joined in many different challenges, most of them focusing on weight-loss or physical challenges that seem more about quantity over quality. For someone like me, it is easy to become so wrapped up in these challenges that I will do almost anything to accomplish that goal...even things that are truly harmful (like fasting, over-exercising and exercising when injured). All the while, my desire to achieve these goals has been based on my dislike of my own body, focusing only on those parts of my body I 'hate' was a sort of punishment.

Perhaps it's my age or the fact that this past year I have been face-to-face with other people who are just like me that I've been much more aware of the harm I've been doing to myself, both physically and emotionally. I found myself getting irritated with a few friends because I felt they were either training incorrectly and ignoring their nutritional needs, or both. I found them extremely competitive and their ego's were out of control. Because I had such a strong reaction I decided to really explore where these feelings were coming from and what they were really about. What I found not only surprised me, but caused a bit of embarrassment. It was as if I was looking into a mirror...the things I was so pissed about were the very same things I was 'guilty' of doing...basically an on-going reward and punishment system that not only kept my weight yo-yoing but also was emotionally draining. I was constantly stressed out and often took my frustrations out on myself or my loved ones.

For me, taking the time to be introspective and question my own thoughts has revealed a new acceptance of my self. Sure, part of me would still love to lose 10 or 15 or maybe even 20 pounds (that's the side of me that wants to wear a skimpy string bikini this summer) but the other side of me wants to be able to celebrate my life without always feeling like I'm not quite good enough to celebrate. My body is amazing. I'm so fortunate to have full function of my limbs, I'm healthy, injury free and have a love for adventure. How on earth would it make sense to try to put life on hold until I feel I meet some ideal weight goal??
After spelunking down 165 feet!!
Either way, the days, weeks, months and years will pass. I can weigh 8 pounds too much (by whose standard anyway??) and have a great time hiking around Calaveras County with my new husband, or I can sit at home, making meal plans, counting calories and opting to not to go on any trips (I'd just spend all of that time, surrounded by beauty, worried about how my muffin top might look in the pictures anyway) until I reach some arbitrary goal. When those thoughts creep in (and they do) I ask myself "will this matter in one year? Five years? 20 years? When I'm dead?"...

That spec is me on the zip-line...1500 feet of zipping over the tree line. Weeeeeeee!
I'm healthy, and other than vanity, there is no logical reason for me to worry about losing weight. There is no one out there in this world whose judgement of my weight has any sort of impact on my life. I won't make any more money if I lose weight, I won't magically become happier if I weighed less, I won't become rich and famous nor will my quality of life improve. What am I waiting for? Nothing...

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Small Stones Days 4, 5 & 6

Day 4: Notice a person

Tell me about them. Not what you think about them - but how they are.
We so often find in other people what we expect to find. We so often see in other people what we expect to see. Really look today - what is true?
Step 4
  • Pay attention to other people today.
  • Write your small stone about one of them.
  • Make it as specific an observation as possible. ~ Kaspalita

    A well loved Ayn Rand novel sits on the table in front of her but it's sudoku that occupies her attention. She casually sips her espresso, looks up and engages her neighbor in idle chat, her accent betraying her intelligence. He is dismissive, unaware that she helped bring forth the first test tube baby.

    Day 5: Keep going

    Doing something everyday can be hard. It’s easy to lapse. I’ll just finish this email before I write my small stone. I just want to watch the end of this movie. I need to sort out the kids dinner…
    Be kind to yourself. Make space to notice the world, and to write everyday.
    Step five
    • Notice something.
    • Write it down.
    • Polish what you have written. ~Kaspalita

    The Nursery
    The calves are rambunctious...five playmates jumping and galloping oblivious to their elders who patiently wait, chewing their cud. The afternoon sun luring the two sitters to nap while energizing the young ones.

    Day 6: Peace through writing

    We’re nearly at the end of this experience. How are you doing?
    Putting pen to paper can help me cut through the forest of my own thoughts so that I can really see the world.
    The Japanese word seijaku is usually translated simply as calmness, but perhaps a more accurate translation is ‘calmness in the midst of busyness’.
    It’s easy to be calm when you’re on a beach watching the sunset, and listening to the waves gently lapping the shore. It’s less easy to find that space in the midst of our ordinary working lives. Creating a space for writing poetry in the middle of my busy life helps me to find some calm. Some seijaku.
    Step six
    • Pay attention to world
    • What springs out at you today?
    • Write about it.
       ~ Kaspalita

    The hot water raw on my cold hands, the smell of lemon floats from the bubbles in the basin, the timer beeps to remind me to turn the chicken on the grill as the scent of cinnamon permeates through the cracked oven door. Hoping I don't burn the squash still I linger, my hands in the hot water.
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