Thursday, February 11, 2016

Winter 2016 Necessities

Though winters in Colorado tend to be sunny with swaths of unseasonably warm days, it is, nonetheless, around this time of year that I begin to tire of the season. For that reason, I've been making an even more conscious effort than usual to care for myself. Here are a few of the things and indulgences I'm finding necessary right now.
  1. A good book. I love browsing my Goodreads "To Read" list then sending several samples to my Kindle to read in the bathtub later. The only hard part is choosing which book to actually buy! I recently finished What She Knew by Gilly MacMillan, which was a perfectly suspenseful page-turner, ideal for curling up with on a chilly winter evening.
  2. And speaking of reading in the tub, a selection of bath salts is definitely a winter necessity. I rotate through different brands, but lately have been loving Soaptopia's Lavender Lullaby, Aura Cacia's Recover, and The Seaweed Bath Co.'s Eucalyptus & Peppermint. I also light a candle or two, and–if I'm feeling especially fancy–I'll make myself some spa water (i.e. tap water with mint and cucumber slices) to sip while I soak.
  3. My down jacket. I was due for a new jacket this year, so I did my research and decided to invest in Kuhl's Spyfire Down Parka (scored on major sale at REI). As I mentioned, we're lucky that it doesn't usually get too cold here in sunny Colorado, but on those chilly days, I sure am grateful for that 800-fill down.
  4. A slow cooker. There's something so cozy about having a delicious-smelling meal in the slow cooker on a wintry day, and it was a lifesaver during our Whole30. We made a big batch of bison chili recently (topped with chopped radish, scallion, cilantro, and plenty of avocado) and it was sooo nice having several nourishing servings ready to eat throughout the week.
  5. All of the moisturizing products. John Masters' Lavender and Avocado Intensive Moisturizer. Dr. Bronner's Lip Balm. Korres' Black Pine Serum at night. And Acure's Moroccan Argan Oil forever.
  6. Netflix and Hulu subscriptions. We don't have cable and try to limit TV in general, but enjoy watching certain series, especially during the winter when it's too dark or cold to be outside.
  7. My yoga studio and gym memberships. I absolutely love hiking and trail running during the Spring, Summer, and Fall, however I've accepted that I'm not going to be one of those die-hard people lacing up my sneakers at 6:00am when it's pitch-black and below freezing outside. I know it's super crucial for my mood to maintain a vigorous exercise routine during Winter, so to the gym I go, about 5x/week. Yes, running three miles on a treadmill is a bit of a grind, but I know, for me, it keeps the winter blues at bay. Lately, I've also been lifting weights and getting more into strength training, which has been really gratifying. I mix it up with a hatha or vinyasa class about 1x/week.
  8. Really good coffee. That first cup gets me out of bed on those cold, dark mornings! (Yes, my husband literally sets a mug of it on the nightstand to wake me up.) We alternate between using beans from local roasters Ozo, Novo, Corvus, and Doma.
  9. Vitamin D, both in the form of supplements and actual sunshine. Weather permitting, I try to step outside over my lunch break or take a few minutes in the afternoon to walk around the block. Sometimes, I'll grab a coffee or tea and sit on a bench facing the sun; even 15 minutes completely transformative to my mood.
What are your winter necessities?

Saturday, January 23, 2016

January Whole30 Check-In

Lettuce-wrapped burger with cucumber, sprouts, and avocado, with sweet potato fries and garlic aioli.
Hooray for Paleo-friendly restaurants!

As you may know if you follow me on Instagram, I decided to kick off 2016 with a Whole30. There were three main reasons behind my decision.
  1. In the past few years, I have begun consciously choosing to do the hard thing. (Not that giving up certain food groups is necessarily "hard" compared to other hardships in life, but it's definitely not easy.) Doing the hard thing is not the same thing as being hard on myself; rather, it's recognizing the areas where I might be tempted to do what feels easy/familiar and consciously choosing to do the opposite, trusting that the challenge of it will result in growth. I knew the sense of doing something difficult and succeeding at it would make me feel even more confident and empowered in other areas of my life.
  2. Speaking of other areas of my life, I have big plans for 2016. I have a vision and set of goals that are aligned with how I want to feel. And pursuing those vision and goals takes energy: the kind that comes from taking radically good care of oneself. There are as many different and valid modes of self-care as there are people on earth, but I know for myself, personally, I feel unstoppable–like the absolute most badass version of myself–when I fuel my body with tons of vegetables, nuts, seeds, herbs, and clean proteins and simultaneously avoid grains, sugar, and alcohol.
  3. Two of my Core Desired Feelings are "luminous" and "nourished." I feel both of these things when I'm eating paleo, working out regularly, and getting lots of sleep. So, why not kick those feelings into overdrive with a Whole30 for structure and motivation?
But enough about that. Let's talk about what's important–the food! I thought I'd share a round-up of some of the meals we've been enjoying. (Yes, "we." My husband agreed to do it with me this time!) 

These have been some of our favorites:

Pork Carnitas (in a lettuce bowl with various garnishes like avocado, chopped radishes, scallions, cilantro, and jalapeno)
Cilantro Lime Grilled Chicken (skipped the honey to make it Whole30-compliant, served with Smoky Romaine and Avocado Salad, minus the agave in the dressing)
Lamb Sliders (wrapped in butter lettuce leaves and served with a Greek salad of cucumber, red onion, olives, cherry tomatoes, and pepperoncini)
Slow Cooker Chicken Chile Verde (topped the avocado, scallions, and cilantro)

Breakfasts have generally been some variation on eggs and greens or eggs and sweet potato hash, sometimes with avocado or smoked salmon on the side for healthy fats. Lunches have been mainly leftovers from the previous night's dinner or cold cuts wrapped with lettuce, cucumber, onion, and Tessemae's lemon garlic dressing or mayo. We are spoiled with health-conscious Paleo-friendly restaurants here in Boulder, so we've even managed to eat out a few times. As you can tell, there's been no shortage of delicious food! 

The biggest challenge I've faced so far was traveling for work this past week. I was a little nervous about sticking to the Whole30 guidelines while on the road, but it ended up not being a big deal. I contacted the conference organizer in advance and she happily accommodated my requests for the catered lunches (I got a salad with grilled chicken both days). I was able to get an awesome spinach-packed frittata at the hotel's bistro both mornings and I dined on yummy sashimi and salad at the hibachi restaurant where I went with my colleagues one of the nights. I was super thankful that I'd packed a stash of Epic bars and almond butter when my flight out of Denver was canceled and I had to wait 5 hours at the airport to catch another one. I will say traveling for work while doing the Whole30 wasn't ideal (there's nothing like explaining to a group of cocktail-swilling co-workers why you're only drinking green tea), but I stuck to it and it all worked out fine. One of my co-workers even told me that I'd inspired her to eat more healthily after I explained the program to her.

Physically, I've been feeling really great. Luminous, nourished...and yeah, pretty badass. I'm planning to write another post about the overall physical experience and the meal-planning strategy I used, but I'll wait until I've actually completed the 30 days for that.

Have you done a Whole30? If so, what were your reasons for doing it? What was the toughest part? And how good did that glass of Cabernet taste after 30 days? Asking for a friend.

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Welcoming 2016: Laying the Groundwork for the Coming Year

The LaSal Mountains, as seen from Arches National Park, one of my favorite adventures in 2015.

I'm sitting here in bed, my laptop balanced on a pillow and a cup of coffee by my side. From the window in my bedroom, I can see the morning light changing over the Flatirons, turning from pale periwinkle to a bright sky blue. I woke up this morning grateful that I've had time this past week to reflect on one year and prepare myself for the next.

A part of me resisted this week of quiet introspection (but there are real things to do! the mind insists, as mine always seems to do the second I slow my pace); however the replenishing of my emotional, mental, and physical reserves has me excited and energized, ready to fully inhabit my vision and goals for the coming year.

In past years, I have greeted Jan. 1 by setting traditional resolutions or choosing a word or theme. This year, I used a few different methods, mixing and matching different frameworks, perspectives, and techniques.

Here's what I've done so far:

  • Articulated my personal core values: Growth // Exploration // Creation // Wellness // Freedom
  • Revisited and refined my core desired feelings via The Desire Map. These have evolved in the past 1-2 years, most recently I have defined them as: Engaged // Luminous // Nourished // Affluent // Adventure-Bound (more to come on how I define these)
  • Revisited and refined my "absolute yes list" as outlined in Sara Avant Stover's The Way of the Happy Woman.
  • Rewrote my 3-Year Vision and used it to set Annual, Quarterly, and Monthly Goals (a variation of lululemon's Vision & Goal-Setting technique, scaled to a more near-term timeframe)
  • Gave myself an Annual Review (Note: I didn't follow Chris Guillebeau's format exactly, but I think he does a good job of describing the general idea. I made a list of What Worked In 2015, What Didn't Work In 2015, and What I Envision for 2016 in the areas of Health, Finances, Career, Relationships, and Personal Growth.)

I also used this past week to practice radical care of my physical body and ensure I am entering 2016 with the energy and nourishment (one of my CDFs!) to pursue my vision and goals by leveraging the luxury of time to get in some really solid workouts, attending my favorite yoga classes, and preparing for another Whole30.

Finally, because I believe it's important to make room for what you want (both literally and metaphorically), I used this week to make serious progress on an ongoing goal to simplify, declutter, and re-imagine my living space. It feels incredible to let go of belongings that no longer serve me or have relevance to my vision, goals, and desires. In that spirit, I waved goodbye to ~12 bags of clothes and other random items and hello to more physical and mental space.

Now I'm sitting here, sipping my coffee, feeling so glad that I granted myself the gift of this week – but also a little bit stunned at how easy it is to become disconnected from this stuff in the hustle of our daily lives. That focusing on myself for a few days felt like an insane and luxurious indulgence tells me that one of my priorities for 2016 needs to be re-examining whether I'm spending my time in the way that matters most: noticing, for example, when I am choosing an easy distraction like Netflix over my journal and scheduling time for intentional reflection the way I would any other meeting or appointment. 

I'm wishing – for you and for me – a rejuvenating and reflective end to 2015 and hopes for another year that thrills and fulfills in all ways possible. Cheers!

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Read // Watched // Listened // Savored: October & November Edition


It's been a few months since I did one of these posts (six, to be exact). It's hard to believe it's already December! October was filled with birthday celebrations, including a weekend trip to the Great Sand Dunes (pictured above) and Santa Fe, while November passed in a blur of holiday preparations.

Read
All of the books! I've been taking advantage of the winter weather and shorter days to spend more time cozied up on the couch (or bathtub) with my Kindle. I read about 20 books these past few months. Favorites included: BigLaw // Big Magic // The Underwriting // Fates and Furies // A Window Opens

Roots, Wings & Wanderings' wonderful Portland-made gift guides: His & Hers

12 Adorable Tiny Houses You Can Rent. I'm eying that one in Jackson Hole for our vacation next summer.

This recipe for Chamomile & Turmeric Evening Tea. #musttry

Watched & Listened
This Words of Wilderness video. It includes several of the quotes that inspired the name of this blog!

This interesting interview with organization psychologist Adam Grant about the concept of generosity in the workplace.

In a definite departure from my usual podcast style, Hunt the Truth, a fictional investigative podcast set in the universe of HALO (and narrated by the fantastic Keegan-Michael Key). Given my typical preference for non-fiction audio content and total lack of interest in HALO, I was shocked by how entertaining I found it.

Jessica Jones. I just started watching. So far, it's seriously addictive.

Savored

Hatha Yoga classes at Little Yoga Studio.

The crazy-beautiful sunrises that seem to occur more often this time of year.

White Bean & Ham Hock Soup (I skipped the bay leaves and added sage.)

Cilantro Lime Chicken Thighs

Yogurt Breakfast Bowl with Toasted Coconut, Walnuts, Blueberries and Chia (I subbed toasted almonds for the walnuts)

Spiced Sweet Potato and Goat Cheese Egg Skillet

Ground beef lettuce wraps: local ground beef sautéed with onion, garlic, and tamari, wrapped in Bibb lettuce leaves and topped with scallions, cilantro, avocado, and Sriracha mayo.

What did you read, watch, listen to, and savor this month?

Sunday, November 15, 2015

A Catching Up: Summer and Fall


I haven't written in this blog for awhile, but feel myself pulled back to this space again.

There is much to catch up on and I briefly considered trying to retrospectively write posts on the various happenings of late Summer and Fall:

Celebrating our 5-year anniversary with a week-long trip to the Pacific Northwest. Completing the Boulder Sunset Triathlon in late August. Completing the Snow Mountain 5K in Granby, CO in September. My in-laws visit to Colorado and our day trip to Rocky Mountain National Park filled with incredible wildlife sightings. My parents' long-awaited move to Colorado(!). Celebrating my birthday with a long weekend (with my husband and my parents) in Santa Fe, NM and Ojo Caliente Hot Springs. The nearly 20 books I've read since the beginning of last summer (and the many blog, music, podcast and other discoveries I've made since then – far too many to document). The numerous beautiful hikes and trail runs I enjoyed this Summer and Fall (the view from one of which is pictured above) – and a few new-to-me trails. My forays into creating a capsule wardrobe.

But I felt slightly exhausted at the mere prospect of trying to give each of these events their proper written due, so I will have to settle for the summary above and my memories of each.

And now it is mid-November! More and more, I find myself marveling at how quickly the months and years seem to pass by. Cognitive psychologists believe a major factor in our perception of time's speed is the number of memorable events that occur in a given amount of time; essentially, the more important and vivid events we recall having occurred during that period of time, the longer it seems to be. In order to slow the speeding train is modern life, we must notice moments as they happen. We must be present and intentionally cultivate "a focused attention on the here and now." Mindfulness is not a new concept, however, it may be a particularly critical one as we head into this busy time of year.

Anaïs Nin said, "We write to taste life twice, in the moment and in retrospect." I look forward to returning to this blog to document the noticing, to savor the moments as they happen.

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Read // Watched // Listened To // Savored: June Edition


Hello and happy summer! I hope yours has been off to a good start, that you've been spending lots of time outdoors, that you've been making time for your goals–but also for a lot of relaxation.

June seemed to be over just as quickly as it began. I could hardly believe yesterday was already July 4th! Jason and I spent most of the day at my friend's cabin in Nederland, a little mountain town about 20 miles from Boulder. We sat on her back porch with our dogs, enjoyed stunning lake and mountain views, and cooked up a Middle Eastern-themed feast from this cookbook. It was lovely and lazy, the way a holiday should be.

Here's a little peek at what I read, watched, listened to, and savored this past month.

Read

I was looking for a light summer read to kick off the season, so I started reading Laura Dave's Eight Hundred Grapes, a novel set against the backdrop of the protagonist's family vineyard. While the plot is a bit predictable (though not in an unpleasant way), I find myself particularly intrigued by the descriptions of biodynamic winemaking and the history of the Sonoma Valley which are interwoven throughout the book. After a few false starts, I'm about halfway through now and enjoying reading this on the patio in the evenings with the waning summer light and a glass of Pinot Noir for company.

I also started reading Laszlo Bock's Work Rules!, a compendium of sometimes counter-intuitive insights on attracting and retaining top talent from Google's head of People Operations. Blending data-driven findings with his inspiring vision for a better, more human work environment, the book reads like a manifesto for anyone who believes that work can be a positive and meaningful aspect of the human existence. Sample quote: “All it takes is a belief that people are fundamentally good—and enough courage to treat your people like owners instead of machines. Machines do their jobs; owners do whatever is needed to make their companies and teams successful."

I loved this reminder from Alexandra Franzen. I'm so totally guilty of deliberating over silly little decisions like this.


Watched & Listened
The Weeknd's "Can't Feel My Face" // Leon Bridges' "Coming Home"// Hozier's "Work Song" // Halsey's "Hold Me Down" // Bon Iver's "I Can't Make You Love Me" // Lots of The Avett Brothers and Lake Street Dive (in anticipation of their upcoming show at Red Rocks this coming Friday!)

Podcasts, podcasts, and more podcasts. In current rotation are: ReWild Yourself! with Daniel Vitalis; Bulletproof Radio with Dave Asprey; Startup; and Criminal.

The start of Season 2 of True Detective. (I'm mostly reserving judgment for the time being.)

Savored

Morning coffee on the deck.

Sunrise at the Boulder Reservoir, watching some of my coworkers crush the (aptly named) Boulder Sunrise Triathlon.

A day trip to gorgeous Rocky Mountain National Park to do a little wildlife-spotting (which, based on the nine moose, herd of big horn sheep, and countless elk we saw, was a smashing success).

An incredible dinner at OAK to celebrate our 5-year wedding anniversary.

Planning our anniversary getaway to the Pacific Northwest (we're going to spend a week exploring Portland, Seattle, and the Columbia River Gorge and Hood River area). I had such fun choosing where to stay, and found the most adorable AirBnB rentals for Portland and Seattle and booked a room here for our stay in Hood River.

Searching for the perfect cucumber-themed cocktail. So far, I've enjoyed OAK's Monk's Garden (Basil and tarragon infused Grey Goose, Green Chartreuse, Cucumber, Lavender, and Lime) and Salt's Waterspark (Spring44 Honey Vodka, Cucumber, Carpano Bianco, Fresh Lime juice, Tonic). I've also been making 

Fresh vegetables and herbs from the garden: basil, parsley, chives, mint, kale, and cherry tomatoes. Grilling anything and everything. Recent favorites include: Fiona's Green Chicken, Cheddar Jalepeno Chicken Burgers, and Mint and Cumin-Spiced Lamb Chops. All the stone fruit I can get my hands on, sometimes prepared like this.

Lots of hikes and trail runs with some gentle vinyasa yoga to balance things out.

What did you read, watch, listen to, and savor this month?

Monday, May 18, 2015

The Care & Feeding of a Human Soul: 7 Steps


First of all, read the books that crack you open: the ones that leave you short of breath and stunned at the incomprehensible rarity, the unbelievable fortune, of our time here together, with one another and on this green earth. Start with Whitman or Ed Abbey. Start with Anne Lamott or Joan Didion or Cheryl Strayed or a Holy Book or anywhere at all. Read a lot. Read in the morning, the window open so just a slip of the sound of spring rain graces your ears. Read on your lunch break, if only for ten minutes, a sunny park bench your personal paradise. Let the moon be your crescent companion at night.

Second, come to the subversive conclusion that you needn't exercise to feel happy. Decide to engage instead in movement that feels good, that feels right in your body. (Hint: if your body is moving, you're doing it right.) If the cool air prickles the beads of sweat on your brow, you're doing spectacularly. If you can't bear the simplicity of sweat as barometer, just begin to walk and then maybe hike or run, but beware: sustained forward momentum has a way of changing your outlook, making fluid your once-set perspectives. Watch your life expand along with your lungs, fresh oxygen infusing blood and brain with new ways of thinking, of seeing. Recognize the sensation as joy. Recognize that joy is, after all, the point.

Third, come to this even more insane realization, the understanding that (are you ready for it?): you needn't be thin to be happy. Be startled by the sudden understanding that no person's soul has ever been redeemed by the size of their jeans. Laugh in the streets. Let your hysterics become tears as you mourn the years you worshipped at the false altar of skinny, bowed down to its glittering, idolatrous gods. Tuck the knowledge of your liberation like a smooth stone into the front pocket of your mind, its presence a pleasant weight. The signs telling you to be smaller, to take up less space have been turned off. Stretch your legs. Arise, arise. You are now free to move about your life.

Fourth, look around you and see that every person is likely doing their best. See that some peoples' best is shit, but still, by definition, their best. Grant grace, because you can, because there are better things to carry in your heart than the acidity of resentment. Forgive if you can, but remember the outline of the hurt; know that empathy springs from the fissures in the rock.

Speaking of rock, find the oxidized sandstone dust of the American West in your shoes. Find it in half-remembered dreams and memories you can't be sure are your own. Find it gritted to your heart, deposited like sediment, an alluvial fan arrayed across your left ventricle. Find that it feels like home, and make it one. Insert the salt spray of the ocean. The scent of pine. The humid languor of the bayou. Or the rolling fields of the country's middle, or anywhere else, as needed. You will have to write your own bodily metaphor to describe how it feels to have place be a part of you. This is the fifth easy step, but it may take up to ten thousand.

Writing! is sixth. The odds are good that your soul craves expression. Practice believing you have something important to say, letting the possibility roll like a taut-skinned grape on your tongue. Come to see that writing is not always accomplished through words on a page; that the story of your heart might be a song or a painting or a pot of soup on the stove. That it might be a house cared for, a garden tended. What matters is that you open the channel. Worry not about talent or even creativity. Know that being alive in the world is a creative act.

Seventh and last (on the list anyway but not, if you're lucky, in life), examine your relationships. To others. To yourself. To the quotidian details of your life. Love what loves you back (dogs are particularly nourishing in this regard), and pay close scrutiny to the rest. Where there is stickiness, allow space. Where darkness exists, shine light, gently or harsh and clear. Where darkness persists, decide if it's a dark you can live with, want to live with. Belong to a community, but first to yourself. You are your own! Tattoo it to your skin, maybe not literally or maybe in black permanent ink. Let the thrill of your freedom strum quick as a hummingbird's flutter in your chest.