100HappyDays…

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Last year was one of the most difficult years for me, and I want to let 2014 stay where it needs to be, back in 2014.  To keep things in perspective while starting this new year, I am finding something that brings me happiness in every day. (Even if it is just my cat or dog…)  I know there will be sadness and hardships in 2015, but I want to make sure that with each night, I fall asleep thinking about the one positive thing that made me smile that day.

I started the 100HappyDays challenge on December 22nd and here are my first 18 days.  This is my Happiness Project.  This is me choosing the present and living it.  I have already enjoyed good books, great winter weather, kitty snuggles, delicious java, tropical botanic gardens, 4 inches of hair loss, and the birth of my first nephew!  2015 has started off with a lot to be grateful for.

Looking forward to the next 82 days…

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The last books of my twenties…half way point…

 

Back in March I made my yearly bucket list of 29 Things to do Before 30.  On that list was to read 50 books.  Since September 1st has come and gone, I thought I would share my half way point on that list of 50.  

My beloved Nook at the Denver Botanic Gardens

My beloved Nook at the Denver Botanic Gardens

As I am reading my way through my last year of my twenties, I am obviously drawn to titles, themes, and thoughts on the great classics, self-reflection and growth, history, psychology, economics, and lots of fun fiction.  There wasn’t a single one that did not teach me something or allow me to transport myself into another place and time of fantasy.  I already can’t wait for the remaining 6 months of reading…

  1. Gone Girl – Gillian Flynn
  2. Mary Coin – Marisa Silver
  3. The Tea Room – Jennifer Donnelly
  4. The Great Gatsby – Scott Fitzgerald
  5. Ada Rules – Alice Randall
  6. The Paris Wife – Paula McLain
  7. 13 Reasons Why – Jay Asher
  8. Freakanomics – Steven D. Levitt, Stephan J. Dubner
  9. The Memory Keeper’s Daughter – Kim Edwards
  10. Finding Alaska – John Green
  11. A Break with Charity: A Story about the Salem Witch Trials – Ann Rinaldi
  12. The Happiness Project – Gretchen Rubin
  13. The Awakening – Kate Chopin
  14. The Light Between Oceans – M. L. Stedman
  15. A Most Dangerous Method – John Kerr
  16. Wedding Cake for Breakfast –  Kim Perel, Wendy Sherman
  17. Everything That Remains – Joshua Fields Millburn, Ryan Nicodemus
  18. Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking – Susan Cain
  19. An Echo in the Bone – Diana Gabaldon
  20. The Ocean at the End of the Lane – Neil Gaiman
  21. The Longest Ride – Nicholas Sparks
  22. Capitalism and Freedom – Milton Friedman
  23. Perfect Match – Jodi Picoult
  24. The Scarlet Letter – Nathaniel Hawthorne
  25. Brain on Fire: My Month of Madness – Susanna Cahalan
  26. Into the Wild – Jon Krakauer

On a side note, I only physically purchased two of these books in paper form.  The rest were all books I had previously acquired, or more importantly are ebooks.  Thus my continuing journey of minimalism. 

Knittin’ baby pacifier clips…

Knitted Flower Pacifier Clip

Knitted Flower Pacifier Clip

This year there are many new lives being brought into this beautiful world, which gives me a great excuse to start knitting baby goodies!  Recently I helped host my sis-in-law’s baby shower, which really got my mind going.  There were so many fun ideas that came to mind that it was hard to settle on just a few.  Time is precious after all.  I wanted to knit something adorable for my new niece, but also something functional.  After all, I am all about the functionality of things to align with minimalism.  I settled on a simple flower pacifier clip.

This past year has honestly been such a blur in the best way possible, but there was something missing…my knitting needles.  I dabbled with a few cowls and scarves, but nothing new and nothing that was fun or exhilarating.  (Not typically a word associated with knitting, I know).  What I needed was to test myself with something completely new and without pattern.  Often times the idea of “free knitting” can be intimidating to some.  No pattern to guide you, no instructions on what yarn and what needle size to use, no stitch counters to be used.   Well I don’t know about you, but for me that sounds just about right!  If you have ever read a pattern and you understand how to read yarn packaging, then essentially you can create just about anything through “free knitting”.  Do keep in mind that the end product often can and always does create something that looks more organic in nature.  For instance, in my petals above, not one is alike.  I did not want them uniform simply because in nature no flower petals are alike.

Detachable pacifier for easy washing

Detachable pacifier for easy washing

This pacifier clip only took about two hours to knit up, which should have flown by faster if I was not so out of shape, so to speak.  I did make the pacifier itself removable for washing by sewing in a rubber circle that secures the pacifier into place. Overall, it was a great foundation for me to use when I create these clips in various designs.

I had fun flexing my hand muscles and getting back into the therapeutic rhythm of knitting.  I look forward to the Spring, setting up my studio, and peacefully meditating through creation.  But…most importantly, I can’t wait to meet my niece soon and see her rocking this pacifier clip in the near future!

 

 

 

29 Things to Do Before 30

00I just entered the last year of my twenties.  Do I feel any differently?  Not at all.  Will I in 12 months? Doubtful.  One thing that helps with aging is to have goals to look forward to instead of dwelling on the past.

The most exciting thing about my birthday is the fact that I get to start a new bucket list for the year.  I get to daydream of all of the adventures I am about to embark on and the obstacles I will undoubtedly overcome.  Reflecting on last years 28 Thing to Do Before 29 list, I was disappointed in the few things I was unable to get crossed off.  This year I took more time.  I spent about a week just planning.  Looking over my all time life bucket list and fantasizing about things that I have always wanted to do.  Then I narrow things down to a realistic list for the coming year based on my state of mind, how much vacation time I will have, what our financial state is, and what are the most important things to developing myself as an individual.

So here it is…

29 Things to Do Before I Turn 30

  1. Overcome a fear
  2. Live in a cabin for a week
  3. 100HappyDays
  4. Do something out of my comfort zone monthly
  5. Complete my own Happiness Project
  6. Enjoy a Hot Spring
  7. Hike often.  Bike often. Walk often.
  8. Send snail mail letters
  9. Transform into a yogi
  10. Watch the sunrise & sunset in the desert
  11. Attend a festival
  12. Maintain a drop-in ready home at all times
  13. Take a ride in a hot air balloon
  14. Make a quilt
  15. Attend the ballet
  16. Interview my grandparents
  17. Discover the South
  18. Watch a meteor shower
  19. Take a class
  20. Obtain 3 new stamps in my National Parks Passport
  21. Rediscover my banjo
  22. Snowshoe to a yurt for an overnight trip
  23. Type something on a typewriter
  24. “Live” in my neighborhood for a month
  25. Become a “regular” somewhere
  26. Cook more ethnic food
  27. Give blood
  28. Read 50 books – Half Way Point
  29. Tour a whiskey distillery
  30. Continue my journey of minimalism

#17: Carve a pumpkin…

IMG_2941This is far far overdue and not even close to Halloween time, but I wanted to share as it was part of my 28 Things to do Before 29 accomplishments.  I carved a pumpkin for the first time since a kid living with my folks. 

IMG_2936Halloween is by far my favorite holiday so I decided to really decorate and get into this year.  After I took the Mr. to his very first ever haunted house, I managed to get him into the spooky spirit, too.  After decorating the porch with a few skeletons, witches, and other deadly ghouls, we set up our carving station.  Our kitchen table transformed to a paper towel covered butchers table.  We were fully equipped with a carving tool set, pattern books, spoons to assist with the pumpkin seed scooping, a cookie at hand, and the oven pre-heated for the seed roasting!  Let the festivities begin!

 

IMG_2985Our first pumpkin turned out perfect!  It was both frightening and meticulous.  Unfortunately, one thing we did not know, was that squirrels love pumpkin.  Within a week our first carved pumpkin had a hole through the back with fermenting pumpkin and mold growing.  Squirrels gladly took their bites and felt their high, night after night.  We started over, choosing a more difficult pattern this time around and ended up with another pumpkin that was more fun than frightening with a witch flying on her broomstick!  This complemented our porch wonderfully.  

IMG_2960Hours before trick or treating was to begin, I painted my face for Halloween and Dia de Los Muertos, candy skull style.  I made us both dirt for desert and had bowls over flowing with sweets.  We waited for the trick or treaters.  And waited  And waited.  We had maybe 10 kids in total and it was a bust.  Majority of these children were more scared of my face than excited for the candy.  Maybe next year will be better.  We live facing a street that is extremely dark and not many front porches face it.  Next year I will add lights and possibly music to draw in the trick or treaters!  Either way, it was a fun day.  

 

And we were able to enjoy our pumpkin seeds…

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Roasted pumpkin seeds

#2: Plant a garden…

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My first garden!

Last June, the Mr. and myself decided to plant a garden.  At least that is how I like to believe it happened in my imagination, when in reality what happened was that my parents came out to visit one weekend and I had the idea that I wanted to create a pallet garden for our front porch.  I had only seen images of this done and naturally had not read any “how-to” or instructions on creating such project.  As when people do such things, it turned out to be a disaster.  

In short, the Mr. found me two pallets from craigslist for free, I went and picked up soil, small plants, and landscape cloth.  In the first trial, the entire thing fell apart on us and ripped through the landscape cloth.  Round 2:  my dad stepped in with his gardening expertise and helped to salvage things.  In the end, we did have a pallet garden!  It looked so adorable and I was so hopeful that it would prosper and provide for us.  That was my naiveté coming out.  

We did have a few things thrive!  We learned that we are really great at growing squash and mutant cucumbers that we are fairly certain bred with the squash.  We had a few different types of peppers that did grow, but our tomatoes couldn’t make it.  Then we had a few various vegetables including asparagus and eggplant, that seemed to just give up the minute they were surrounded by the new unknown soil.  

Playing in the dirt kind of therapy

Playing in the dirt kind of therapy

What did I learn?  I learned that I did have a blast getting all dirty and playing in the dirt.  I learned that we have a perfect spot in our front yard with just the right amount of sunlight for anything to make it.  I learned that I planted our garden way too late.  I learned the Mr. has more patience with me than I knew and he will support me in my wild haired adventures like randomly seeing a picture and wanting to recreate it on my own without guidance.  I didn’t think about the fact that I should have some sort of a plan for a garden when I added it to my 28 Things to do Before 29 list.  Most of all, I learned that I am now determined to try it again this year the minute it gets warm, and I am going to do my research this time.  

Kitchen herb garden with mason jars

Kitchen herb garden with mason jars

On a bright side, I was able to successfully grow an herb garden in my kitchen with mason jars!  The how-to for these, since these really do work, is to layer about an inch of rock at the bottom of the mason jars, then layer the soil and the seeds.  The rocks help with the irrigation so that the herbs don’t drown.  Water these once a week and they will thrive.  I placed mine in my kitchen window that faces North.  This window allowed perfect lighting and added a certain element of natural decor.  I chose parsley, thyme, basil, rosemary, and catnip for mine.  Yes the catnip was for the kitty and I will tell you that plant grows like a weed.  

Stay tuned for the next garden and I hope you all try the kitchen herb garden at home!

#26: Attend the Denver Rockies’ Opening Day

IMG_0149Last March, I was fortunate enough to attend the Denver Rockies’ Opening Day as part of my 28 Things to Do Before 29.  Now that all the teams are attending Spring Training for this year’s baseball season, I feel like I have to post about last year’s Opening Day.  

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The entire city was full of Purple and Black, people and vendors filled the streets, and all of the street side bars were filled with overzealous fans ready for another year of promise and hope.  There were families decked out in their favorite player’s jersey, signs abundant with encouraging words for the team, men on stilts, animals, I even saw a purple mohawk with the Rockies logo painted on it.  Everything you could think of declaring the pride for the hometown team, it was there.  

You see, I learned something while attending Opening Day for the Rockies.  I learned what it must feel like to attend my own team’s, the Oakland Athletics, Opening Day.  IMG_0152That is how it feels to start off the season excited, believing that this year will be different, the hope that for one year your sports team will be good and make it all the way.  There is no bitterness, no discouragement that your team has lost half its games in the season, and nobody brings up the prior year’s failure.  For this is a new year.  This is The Year.  I think that only comes from rooting for a team that year after year struggles and disappoints.  

Well, I am ready.  I am ready for the new season and I am ready for this year to be The A’s Year.  I am hopeful.  

2013 in review…

I know that I have been incognito for the past year or so, but not due to lack of adventures.  On the contrary, my world has been hectic, exciting, and at times a struggle.  Here is 2013 in review to explain:


Here is the long and short of all that I have accomplished, completed, grown through, and enjoyed!

  • Went on my first Cruise to Belize and Cozumel where I met up with two of my favorite people and rode of a horse for the first time
  • Attended the Colorado Rockies’ Opening Day
  • Felt how small I really am while hiking at Garden of the Gods
  • Built and planted my first garden (I was successful with mostly squash)
  • Supported Wendy Davis with my pink running shoes while she filibustered for women’s rights
  • Witnessed two amazing people get hitched in San Diego
  • Hung out with the hippos at the San Diego Zoo with great peeps
  • Went camping at RMNP
  • Took my bachelorette party to the river – literally, while white water rafting
  • Frolicked about at my first Renaissance Fair
  • Prepared, created, canned, and then some for my best day ever
  • Go Married to the Mr. at the Arbor Day Farms
  • Hung out on the beaches of Dominican Republic
  • Grew a window herbs garden with mason jars in our kitchen
  • Carved our first pumpkins together
  • Took the Mr. to his first ever haunted house
  • Watched the Nuggets dominate
  • Visited NYC and enjoyed a ghost story tour
  • Walked across the Brooklyn Bridge
  • Hiked in the snow in RMNP with my family
  • Photographed the entire month of December
  • Learned the heartache of losing of a loved one
  • Was reminded of all of the love and compassion in the world thanks to Nelson Mandela
  • Loved.  Loved every single day.
  • Oh yea….and ignored my blog for too long!

A minimalist’s suitcase…

I recently flew to Kansas City for a week for work and found myself debating my wardrobe.  I knew that I needed clothing for a multitude of activities; work, exercise, travel, leisure, and possibly a night out for drinks.  This was my wardrobe.

Minimalist luggage

My minimalist wardrobe for a week in Kansas City.

The Items:

  • Black cotton short sleeved dress from Patagonia

  • White and black striped cap sleeve blouse from Loft

  • Gray knee length cotton skirt from Loft

  • Taupe wool wrap sweater from Loft

  • Yellow polka dot 3/4 sleeve top from Lululemon

  • Light gray polka dot tank from Lululemon

  • Black cropped leggings from Patagonia

  • Black Chaco flip flops

  • Yellow Soloman XR Mission runners

The easiest way to pair down your wardrobe, especially for travel, is to choose a base color.  Your base color should be a neutral that all of the other accent pieces match.  By choosing one neutral color you automatically eliminate the need for multiple pairs of shoes or bags to match.  No more needing to pack a pair of brown and black shoes along with a brown and black purse to match!  You can literally cut your suitcase in half just by choosing a base color.  For my week-long wardrobe, I chose back as my base color.  Black is great for traveling because it doesn’t show dirt or wrinkles as badly as browns, tans, or even navy.  Black is classic and tends to unintentially lean towards the more professional and put together side.  I knew that by choosing black, all of my other accent pieces would match, giving my finished wardrobe a more cohesive look. 

The next thing to focus on is individual pieces that make up a whole.  What that means is to step back and stop thinking about your wardrobe in the terms of “outfits” and more in the way of “items” that can be mixed and matched.  We are trained, when we pack for a trip, to look at our entire wardrobe and pick out specific outfits that we feel great in.  The problem that we run into is then packing too many items that we wear only once, as that specific outfit.  Instead, look at your wardrobe, choose your base color, and then choose specific articles of clothing you feel great in.  Maybe it is that pair of jeans that always makes you feel sexy, or even that lightweight wool sweater that you get complimented on every time you wear.  Those are the “items” you want to pick out.  

Then you need to go through all of those individual items that are your favorites and piece them into a whole wardrobe.  This can be a done a couple of different ways, but the easiest way that I have found is to choose two more accent colors that go well together along with your base color.  Examples are green and orange, yellow and cream, or blue and yellow.  For my wardrobe, I chose bright yellow and light grey.  Now you can eliminate all of the other items you picked out.  This should narrow down your individual “items” significantly.  Lastly, you pick out the staple pieces you will need; pants, skirt, dress, long sleeve top or sweater, short sleeve blouse, tank, shorts, etc.  Now look at the “items” you have left.  Look at them from afar as a an entire wardrobe and you will see that they are cohesive, they are manageable, they are simple yet still your own style.  Voila!  You have your packed wardrobe!

You can always get more technical and look at specific types of fabrics and whether they wick dirt, are wrinkle and/or water resistance, have sun protection, or even have simple washing instructions that you can do in a hotel sink with soap.  I feel as though this is an entirely different blog post that I fully intend to write later as I continue along my minimalism journey in part of my 28 Things to do Before I’m 29.   So don’t worry, I won’t bore you now with that! 

Lastly, keep in mind that ultimately you want to feel like yourself and be comfortable.  Although my wardrobe above is nine items (including shoes), and some may even argue that is too many, I am not here to tell you what your magic number is.  You will ultimately determine that based on where you are going, for how long, and what all you need to be prepared for.  Just know that your number is most likely more than half of what you are typically packing now.  Eliminate the clutter in your suitcase and never pay a checked bag fee again!

Happy packing and light travels! 

Feeling inspired in the Garden of the Gods…

This only encompasses a fifth of the entire view of the Garden of the Gods

This only encompasses a fifth of the entire view of the Garden of the Gods

With the snow melting and the sun welcoming us with his warmth and rays, we decided to get outside and explore.  Since moving to Denver, the Future Mr. and myself have not done much in the way of adventures.  We have both been so busy with work, wedding planning, and just settling in that we have completely neglected the great outdoors!  The forecast called for mid 60’s, partly cloudy with a chance of rain.  Basically the perfect day to get outside for some vitamin D.  

A lovey rock.

A lovey rock.

We packed up the truck, water, treats, and hit the road.  (Ellie Mae came along of course).  Driving south 80 miles away from the city, we hit no traffic or construction.  In light of wanting to get away from winter and snow, we decided to visit Garden of the Gods and skip the mountains.  It is amazing how just 80 miles south of Denver completely transports you into the Southwest.  The landscape was fairly flat despite the large bluffs and tumbleweeds.  The dirt slowly transformed into red and yellow dust.  Small cactii littered the earth.  Sunshine and spring felt plentiful in Colorado Springs and beyond.  

Robert Frost styled pathway.

Robert Frost styled pathway.

  Arriving at the Garden of the Gods, we were both in awe.  It had the same feeling as the Arches in Utah, where these huge rock formations surround you on a vastly open and flat plain.  The park is set up for tourists of all kinds with manicured and mostly cement paths to follow.  There are some trails that are off the main pathway for those who want to do more hiking than walking.  I can see why runners and cyclists would be drawn to this beautiful park with its inspiring scenery and lack of inclines.  

Climber + Mother Earth. Beautiful.

Climber + Mother Earth. Beautiful.

The weather could not have been more perfect with the clouds blocking sunlight just often enough to keep yourself from really heating up.  With Spring in effect, the park was filled with families, couples, those with dogs, and more specifically, climbers who were eagerly enjoying a day of warm weather.  Each rock formation you walked around, you spotted a climber embracing Mother Earth.  The park allows climbers with proper gear and permits.  We saw beginners who were just learning to climb, who were overcoming some fears, as well as more advanced climbers who were just enjoying themselves and the sunlight.  Quite inspiring.  

    While walking around, the greatest part of being in the Garden of the Gods is the impact that the enormity has on you.  You feel yourself surrounded by the earth, where all signs of city and civilization (aside from the park signs and the cement pathway) are blocked from sight and mind.  I was reminded just how minute I am in the entire scheme of things.  That humbling epiphany is one of my favorite feelings that I strive for and I search for.  I found it hidden between the enormous rock formations inside this park.

Perched bird.

Perched bird.

One thing about the Garden of the Gods that has drawn me into returning on a less crowded morning or evening, is the array of birds!  I saw so many unique birds that I had never seen before.  It made me wonder just how many other flying species inhabit the park that were not out and about during the hottest of the afternoon hours.  IMG_0038

In the future when I return, I will return early in the morning to see the lighting and shadow play of the rock formations, as well as try to spot some new birds!  I also plan on not bringing Ellie Mae, as she was fussy and over all not impressed.  Maybe a bike would be a nice addition, as well, in order to get around the park faster so as to spot a nice area to sit and relax for a while.  Who knows, maybe I will be signing up for the upcoming 5k through the Garden of the Gods in May.  All I can say is that I don’t plan on missing out on this place for more than a few months.