Tuesday, November 29, 2011

i love this time of year

The holiday season is in full gear.  Thanksgiving leftovers are devoured from fridges across the country. Christmas trees are decorated with tinsel and lights. Menorah's are placed on mantels. Resolutions of 2011 are evaluated for the creation of a new 2012 list. 

i love this time of year!

It's a time of hope and light. It's a time for the first dusting of snow. It's a time when heavy blankets are piled on my bed {making it harder to get up from the warmth  & comfort in the morning}. It's a time of hot chocolate, Home Alone, and Charlie Brown Christmas. It's a time for family. It's a time for friends. It's a time of late night evenings with red wine and spiked egg nog.

{did i mention, i love this time of year?}

i feel immensely grateful to lead the life i am.  A life of creature comforts. Loving faces. Travels and exploration. A life of dreams realized. A life of possibilities yet unknown.

Cheers & blessings to all this holiday season.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Judgement, Laughter, Gratitude

Laughter is truly the best medicine!
Photo Credit: Marcus Bernales (Creative Commons)

Picks to Ponder:
A weekly post featuring a few notable items I've found to be thought provoking, and/or a positive influence on my outlook on life. 
{Click here to see where it all started.}

"We condemn in others what we are afraid to see in ourselves."
-Deepak Chopra

On Judgement
I struggle with being judgmental.  I have condemed the materialistic behavior of others with fury and superiority, while watching this video of "Black Friday Mania". I have happily made fun of this pageant contestant without a second thought. And while riding Chicago buses and trains, I have found myself, one time too many, smirking and being dismissive of the behavior of other riders. 

I am not proud of this behavior. Thus, finding alternative view points and constructive ways of thinking about the world in which we live, is vital to my personal growth.

Below I've included some links that inspire me to move toward love and compassion, and beyond judgement. Enjoy!

On Laughter
It's basically an essential non-negotiable part of life. Here is what I've been laughing at this week:

On Gratitude
Most of my friends do not blog. And most of them lose interest as endless rambles fall from my lips concerning the beauty and inspiration I find among the blogging community. And as Thanksgiving came and went this year, blog posts were filled with candid moving thoughts of gratitude. Thus, I am sincerely grateful for all the amazing bloggers out there. You make me think, laugh, create, and grow.

Want to see some of my favorite blogs posts who helped me get into the Thanksgiving spirit? Click the links below!

  • Ashore {A lovely poetic Portland, Oregon blogger who truly has a way with words!}
  • the Flybird {Adorable couple, Spencer & Kylie, reveal why they are grateful to be alive via a wicked travel story! Love it!}
  • the Daily Muse {If you love animals, this link is for you. No Thanksgiving is complete without an amazingly cute dog video!}

I would love to read your thoughts on this weeks Picks to Ponder. 
Please leave comments & questions below, so we can discuss.

{Missed last weeks Picks to Ponder? Click here.}

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Adventures in Baking {the Thanksgiving edition}

Photo Credit: DrBacchus (Creative Commons)

A few weeks ago, I was very adventurous. I did something I had never done before...

{drum roll please}

 I made pumpkin pie!

{@ 24 years old, I felt I was a bit behind on this endeavor}

 And instead of using the canned stuff, I made it from a real live pumpkin.  I am not a baking connoisseur, so the thought of using a real pumpkin was intimidating at first. But after scouring the internet and finding an easy straightforward recipe, my fear fell to the sidelines. And despite forgetting to buy a second can of evaporated milk to properly double the recipe, my baking adventure was quite successful.

Hope this recipe proves helpful for all your Turkey Day needs.

Cheers to having a gluttonous Thanksgiving!


One sugar pumpkin {this is a smaller pumpkin than the carving kind}
One recipe pastry for a 9 inch single crust pie {substitute for your own pie crust recipe}
Two eggs
1 cup packed light brown sugar
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
2-1/2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
One (12 fluid ounce) can evaporated milk
Cut pumpkin in half and remove seeds. Place cut side down on a cookie sheet lined with lightly oiled aluminum foil. Bake at 325-degrees for 30 to 40 minutes, or until the flesh is tender when poked with a fork. Cool until just warm. Scrape the pumpkin flesh from the peel. Either mash, or puree in small batches in a blender.
Increase oven temperature to 450-degrees.
In a large bowl, slightly beat eggs. Add brown sugar, flour, salt, 2-cups of the pumpkin puree, pumpkin pie spice, and evaporated milk. Stir well after each addition. Pour mixture into the unbaked pastry shell. Place a strip of aluminum foil around the edge of the crust to prevent over browning.
Bake ten minutes at 450-degrees, then reduce the oven temperature to 350-degrees. Bake an additional 40 to 50 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean. Remove the strip of foil about 20 minutes before the pie is done so that the edge of the crust will be a light golden brown. Cool pie, and refrigerate overnight for best flavor.

Recipe adapted from Fitness and Freebies

Monday, November 21, 2011

A Marathon Must

Photo Credit: dawnzy58 (Creative Commons)

 Taper. Taper. Taper
{the last 2-3 week period before race day.}

training. you don't always push. you taper.
decrease mileage. kick up feet. relax. 
 eat protein. grains. fruit. drink water. drink Gatorade.

training. you don't always push. you taper.
 restless. nervous. worried less isn't more.
 run easy. run light. cross-training no-more.

training. you don't always push. you taper.
 press snooze. increase snuggle time in bed.
introduce nothing. the familiar is best.

training. you don't always push. you taper.
be positive patty. be calm. boost confidence.
remembering goals. remembering fun.

12 days til my big day in Memphis! 
{Holy Crap!}


Want to learn more about my marathon training? Click here.

Have advice concerning the tapering process? I would LOVE to hear from you!
Please leave comments below.

Thursday, November 17, 2011


Picks to Ponder:
A weekly post featuring a few notable items I've found to be thought provoking, and/or a positive influence on my outlook on life. 
{Click here to see where it all started.}

On Relationships
This week I was honored to write a guest blog post on Story Wrought. My post addressed my decision to leave Alaska, and the importance of developing deep interpersonal relationships in my life.

The video below features world renowned yoga teacher John Friend discussing the impact deep long term relationships can have on our lives. His words echo my sentiments, and greatly inspires me.

On Lifestyle
The Shelby is a storytelling project created by Todd Shelby. The project works to share stories of creative interesting people {artists, writers, designers, etc.} through video and photographs. Below is a video featuring Rockaway Taco and its co-owener Andrew Field. Field's narrative is an example of living life unconventionally with great quality and meaning.

It is my hope, I can continually find ways to do the same.

{Note: The Shelby recently produced a video for Zara featuring Lucy Chadwick. The video has been quite popular among bloggers. Personally, I absolutely adore it and highly suggest checking it out.}

I would love to read your thoughts on this weeks Picks to Ponder. 
Please leave comments & questions below, so we can discuss.

{Missed last weeks Picks to Ponder? Click here.}

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Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Guest Post: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly of Travel

Photo Credit: Elizabeth Hudson
Ireland, 2011

As many of you know, I LOVE traveling! If you're in need of inspiration to purchase your next plane ticket, look no further. Today I am proud to feature a guest post by Elizabeth Hudson.  Elizabeth offers witty wonderful insights on travel through her latest trip to Ireland. 

Three weeks ago, I boarded a plane and landed on the west coast of Ireland, 6:25am local time. In the dark and rain of early morning, my companions and I managed to maneuver a little black Skoda along back country roads, hearts in our throats and white knuckles on the wheel as we stayed to the left of the center line.

There is nothing more unnatural than driving on what you have always thought of as the wrong side of the road.

We could have chosen safe and sound and less stressful alternatives: train, tour bus, an entire vacation in the city and its suburbs. But I didn’t want that. And I argued until both my companions agreed to a rental car [with full insurance, of course]. Even if it meant shifting gears with the left hand, learning to navigate sign posts in Irish, and driving on two-way roads scarcely wide enough for one car.

But it paid off.

Travel is nothing without risk. It’s about throwing off your own habits to embrace a culture vastly different from your own. It’s about learning to go about life differently.

The truest travel is not spent poolside at resorts but on the side streets, in the open markets, shoulder to shoulder with the locals.

And it changes you – for better and worse.

Let me explain . . .

The Good
Whether you find yourself in an advanced English-speaking city or the middle of nowhere in a developing country, sooner or later, you will be pushed from your comfort zone.

That’s the beauty of travel.

Though, it may hardly seem beautiful at the time.

In Blarney, we took a wrong turn out of the pub (too many pints, perhaps?) and found ourselves lost in a maze of dead ends and dark streets, with only the moon to light our way.

The beauty? That night we met the sweetest two women in the world. They refused to point us in the right direction, instead seeing us all the way back to our accommodation, lively stories and conversation along the way.

While waiting outside of a Galway store, an older gentleman, who spoke no English, only Irish, cornered me for half an hour, a conversation played out in hand gestures and an awkward moment where he wanted to touch my hair.

The jewel in this story? At the end of the half hour, the man’s [insanely] attractive [ginger] grandson met us on the street, blushing as he admitted his grandfather’s intentions: he thought his grandson needed an American girlfriend. I couldn’t have agreed more.

In Clifden, after checking into what seemed a pleasant B&B [on a poorly lit road], we realized too late that we had, in fact, checked into the Bates Motel, Norman Bates’ Irish doppelganger included. After a restless night and a few quick showers later, we moved on. Only then did one of my companions admit to waking up as someone had tried to get into the room around 3am. What she had sleepily attributed to a tipsy tourist at the wrong room, we suspected Norman of later.

The bright side? We checked out.

An adventure is never complete without a night of worrying whether you’ll make it to daylight. As I said, the best parts of travel are rarely planned.

The Bad
Traveling abroad helped me to realize one thing ever so clearly: as an American, you can never outrun the stereotype of the American.

As soon as we opened our mouths, our reputation preceded us.

We apologized for allowing both the Kennedy family and George W. Bush into politics.

We apologized for our extravagance, driving large cars and trucks and vans.

We apologized for our brash manner of living.

In every stereotype, there is a bit of truth, sometimes a great deal of truth. And when traveling to foreign locales, it’s important to remember the stereotypes of your culture, and it’s essential to travel with awareness. After all, we want to be the ones who prove the negative stereotypes wrong.

The Ugly
There is nothing uglier, nothing I tell you, than the post-travel blues.

Since I’ve been back on home soil, I’ve been unbearable, family and friends only too happy to point this out. And I know it.

Blame it on my personality, blame it on my age, but settling back into routine after the excitement of travel is akin to death. I assure you, there is no melodrama here.

Too often travelers are prepared only for the trip and not for the period that begins once the plane touches town and bags are unpacked. The period when you realize that your next vacation is a year [or more] off. 

The period when you realize you don’t know when the next trip will be.

I’ve spent the last few days in denial of being completely home, dreaming of another trip, a longer one, while my lap is full of MFA applications and my desk stained with coffee rings.

But there’s always the hope of plans going awry. And so far, 2012 is an awfully empty year.

Perfect for a little [or a lot] of travel.

Guest Blogger Bio:
Elizabeth Hudson is a freelance writer 
and professional dreamer in pursuit of 
professional author status. She speaks
with a slight twang, has no problem 
incorporating chocolate into breakfast,
 and will argue to the death that U2 is 
the single greatest band since the dawn
of creation. 

Learn more about Elizabeth by visiting her blog!

Monday, November 14, 2011

5 Things I've Learned via Marathon Training

Photo Credit: Shawn Rossi (Creative Commons)

I've made it!

I've made it alive through my three longest runs for my marathon training. No repeats of my 12 mile disaster. And after a 16, 18, and 20 mile run, I am more excited than ever to tackle the big 26.2 mile race in Memphis. Wahoo!

I am injury free and in good spirits.

{And if you're wondering, my sore ass ankles are still tired, but nothing to worry about.}

I really couldn't ask for anything more at this point!

So without further delay, below are a few things I've learned from the last three weeks of hard training.

1. Bring on the Hydration & Shot Bloks
With hot muggy summer days behind us, training during this amazingly mild mid-west autumn has been a blessing. The only glitch, water fountains on Chicago's lakefront trail are slowly turned off for the winter this time of year. During my 20 mile run, I only found one working water fountain around my mile 14. When I finally made it to that fountain, I practically made out with it.

Despite hating extra bulk on my runs, I will be placing a handheld water bottle or hydration system on my "Things to Buy" list in the near future.

Also, I am loving the strawberry flavored Cliff Shot Bloks at the moment. Totally yummy!! Totally refueling!!

2. Chocolate Milk + Bananas = Better Recovery
When I trained for my half marathon this past spring, chocolate milk was not consistently part of my post-run recovery regimen. During my marathon training, I have followed every long run with chocolate milk {and a banana}.My experience with soreness and fatigue have been greatly reduced in the days after those runs.

3. I've got a Sweet Spot!
Miles 7-13 are my favorite. Muscles are warm, a rhythm is established, and movement feels effortless. It feels like I'm flying.

4. Moisture from My Eyes is Inevitable
On my 16, 18, and 20 mile runs, I cried right before embarking upon the last two miles. As my body moved into unfamiliar territory each week {as this is my first time running these distances}my eyes weld up with tears. The tears didn't stem from physical pain. Rather, I felt as if my body was cleansing itself of tensions and emotions from the past. Running really has become therapeutic.

5. Yelling, Grunting, and Mantras.
When combating fatigue, yelling and grunting are go-to tricks to psyche myself up to finish strong. Shouting "You can do this," and a simple "Come on!" can snap me out of any rising doubts about finishing. It may attract a few stares now-and-again, but it totally works for me!

I also combat fatigue with simple mantras. Recently, this quote has really helped me keep my spirits up. I also will repeatedly say "leave nothing out here," to remind myself to always give it my best.

Have any tips, tricks, or revelations about running? I would love to hear from you. Leave comments below!

Thursday, November 10, 2011

The Loss of a Living Treasure

Photo Credit: images of life -Chris Pike

Picks to Ponder:
A weekly post featuring a few notable items I've found to be thought provoking, and/or a positive influence on my outlook on life. 
{Click here to see where it all started.}

In Alaska
The Loss of a Living Treasure.
When I lived in Bethel, Alaska {a town of 6,000, only accessible by plane}, I had the privilege of attending Cama-i, a traditional native dance festival. Each year, the center piece of this festival is Maryann Sundown, a Yup'ik native elder from Scammon Bay {one of 56 villages surrounding Bethel}. At 91 I saw her dance. She commanded the stage with energy and enthusiasm, sitting front and center surrounded by fellow Scammon Bay dancers.

A few weeks ago, at 93, she passed away. The news of her passing greatly saddened me, as I know she was a source of light and wisdom in her community. The best way I can express the meaning of her loss is through an African proverb; "When a knowledgeable old person dies, a whole library disappears."

According to Anchorage Daily News, Sundown is survived by ten children, 60 grandchildren, 161 great-grandchildren, and 19 great-great grandchildren.

To learn more about Maryann Sundown click here.

In Music
Putting it on repeat.
A brunette New Yorker, put up this video from the The Non-Commissioned Officers on a recent blog post. It is so freakin' catchy, I can't help but keep it on repeat!

On D.I.Y.
Simple Crafts Only!
I love the D.I.Y movement. I love perusing Etsy, attending Renegade Craft Fairs, and adding D.I.Y. blogs to my Google reader. The only thing I don't love, is my lack of dedication to developing my own crafty skills. I find, when embarking upon a new craft, I get frustrated by step two. Then after over analyzing the situation for a while, I give up. Thus, I've decided to stop "book marking" just any craft that catches my eye, and note only ones that are relatively simple {until my skills and patience improve}.

Click here to see the first project I plan to embark upon!

I would love to read your thoughts on this weeks Picks to Ponder. 
Please leave comments & questions below, so we can discuss. 

{Missed last weeks Picks to Ponder? Click here}

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Running is Pure Flow

Marathon Training Inspiration {continued}
Excerpt from Christopher McDougall's Born to Run
Note: The person quoted from this excerpt is Jenn Shelton, an American record setting Ultra-Marathon runner.

"When I'm out on a long run," she continued, "the only thing in life that matters is finishing the run. For once, my brain isn't going blehblehbleh all the time. Everything quiets down, and the only thing going is pure flow. It's just me and the movement and the motion. That's what I love-- just being a barbarian, running through the woods."

Are you digging today's inspirational quote?  Read another excerpt from Born to Run here.

Clueless about my marathon training? Click here and here and here to learn more!

Monday, November 7, 2011

Running is Romantic

Marathon Training Inspiration!
Excerpt from Christopher McDougall's Born to Run
Note: The "Ann" mentioned in the excerpt below, refers to Ann Trason. Trason is an American Ultra Marathon runner. She is considered to be one of the best of her time.

 ...Ann insisted, running was romantic; and no, of course her friends didn't get it because they'd never broken through. For them, running was a miserable two miles motivated solely by size six jeans: get on the scale, get depressed, get your headphones on, and get it over with. But you can't muscle through a five hour run that way; you have to relax into it, like easing your body into a hot bath, until it no longer resists the shock and begins to enjoy it.

Relax enough, and your body becomes so familiar with the cradle-rocking rhythm that you almost forget you're moving. And once you break through to that soft, half levitating flow, that's when the moonlight and champagne show up: "You have to be in tune with your body, and know when you can push it and when to back off," Ann would explain. You have to listen closely to the sound of your own breathing; be aware of how much sweat is beading on your back; make sure to treat yourself to cool water and a salty snack and ask yourself, honestly and often, exactly how you feel. What could be more sensual than paying exquisite attention to your own body? Sensual counted as romantic, right?


All too often, vigorous exercise is only discussed in juxtaposition to weight and beauty. If you want to look like THIS, you must do THAT {and it isn't going to be fun, let alone romantic}. Having been a victim of this thinking myself, physical activity has felt like punishment; a curse rather than a blessing.

Thus, finding people who can convey a different narrative are nothing short of heroes to me. 

McDougall's Born to Run is filled with passages that describe running as an intimate beautiful experience. I LOVE thinking of the act of moving my body in this way. It stirs-up an overwhelming sense of gratitude in my heart. Gratitude for having time in my days  to cultivate a mind, body and soul connection . Where trivial worries and hang-ups fall away. Some days it's just me and the pavement. Other days it's just me and my yoga mat. And on a great day, it's both.

Be sure to check Underlined and Bold tomorrow! A second passage from Born to Run that's been inspirational for my marathon training will be revealed!

Until then, 
Happy Monday Everyone!!

Clueless about my marathon training? Click here and here and here to learn more!

Friday, November 4, 2011

Creativity, Halloween, & Jobs

Halloween 2011.

Picks to Ponder:
A weekly post featuring a few notable items I've found to be thought provoking, and/or a positive influence on my outlook on life. 
{Click here to see where it all started.}

On Steve Jobs
Two Sides to Every Story
Since Jobs' death, his name, famous quotes, accomplishments, and gadgets have penetrated my world at an unprecedented level. Whether I'm reading a small time blog on WordPress, or engaged in my daily perusal of the New York Times, his influence seems to be everywhere. I am not necessarily sad that a "genius" has left our world. I am sad to think of a man's life taken prematurely by cancer, leaving family and friends behind knowing there will be no more birthdays, weddings, or holidays in which they can make new memories together.

Beyond discussing the meaning of his death, I am most intrigued by how the media is analyzing his life; his legacy. His story, at least the one being told in print at the moment, reminds me that there are always (at least) two sides to every story.

Click here to read Ryan Tates' article discussing Jobs tyrannical leadership style, lack of interest in philanthropy, and un-American execution of censorship. 

Click here to read Mona Simpson's (Jobs' sister) loving eulogy. {Get the Kleenex ready!}

On Artistry
Anyone can be an Artist
This link is for all those who write, paint, and create. Click here, enjoy, and be inspired.

On Halloween
A Time for Creativity
Each year Halloween arrives, and the only thing I'd have ready is criticism. "Another holiday of excess and overindulgence," I'd moan. This year I put my negativity aside, prepared my ZOMBIE doctor costume, and "partied" with friends.  This year was much more fun. 

This year I also took my head out of the sand, and truly looked around. Friends, roommates, and fellow bloggers were bringing out their creativity rarely seen throughout the rest of the year. In a society focused on efficiency, profit, and scores on standardized "bubble" tests -- it's nice to see a holiday widely celebrated, that promotes creativity and fun. I'll drink to that any day!

Below features links illustrating how people got creative with Halloween in 2011. Enjoy!

I would love to read your thoughts on this weeks Picks to Ponder. 
Please leave comments & questions below, so we can discuss. 

{Missed last weeks Picks to Ponder? Click here.}

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

A Zombie's Halloween Story

This is the story of one doctor. 
Killed and risen from the dead. 
Then returned to the world on Halloween night 
as a ZOMBIE in search of
brains, blood, and revenge.

  Wandering through the urban jungle on Halloween night, no one suspected the doctor zombie to be a vicious creature. 

She mingled with celebrities...

Popeye & Olive Oil

Tina Turner

Russel Brand & Katy Perry

John Travolta & Uma Thurman of Pulp Fiction

peace loving hippies...

the French...

and even the 1% corporate elite.

Until she could not withhold her urges for blood, brains, and revenge.
And began to attack!

But just as the ZOMBIE doctor was truly enjoying the blood, brains, and revenge-- 
Mrs. Lovett stepped in-- beating the ZOMBIE into a final grave.
And saving Halloween!

Everyone rejoiced! And the party continued!


I hope everyone enjoyed the Halloween festivities over the past couple of days!
Chicago was truly a fun place to be this weekend.

If you dressed up this year, I would love to know about your costume. So please leave a comment below. 
Happy dias de los muertos!

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