Friday, December 31, 2010

The tops of 2010

As 2010 comes to a close, ending tonight at midnight, I can't help but to reflect back on the past year. While most people make resolutions for their New Year's, I always try to set goals to accomplish by the end of one year. This gives me not only something to look forward too but motivation to work hard for what I want. My husband often times scoff's that my goals are often travel related instead of say, focusing on eliminating debt or working towards another job. Being a flight attendant, however, I can't help but look forward to places I want to see and adventures to take on in the future. Last year a few of my goals included getting another stamp in my passport and climbing 8 14er mountains. Here are a few of the highlights from my 2010 and the obstacles I overcame to achieve my dreams for the year.

1. You better Belize it -

We were supposed to end up in Peru and hike Machu Picchu but an oversold flight and the joys of flying stand-by had us headed to Belize instead. If it's anything this trip taught me is that when you aren't buying a plane ticket you must be flexible in your travel plans. Without a clue as to where we would stay or what we wanted to do when we got there we hopped aboard a Belize bound flight and hoped for the best. My 29th birthday was spent snorkeling with sting rays and eating fresh caught conch kabobs. It was the first trip in my life I've ever taken where nothing was planned out and yet everything worked out. We slept where we wanted, took tours when we wanted and ate without ever consulting a website or lonely planet book. While we still plan on heading back to Peru (hopefully next year) at least we now know that missing a flight doesn't have to be the end of the world and there are hundreds of thousands of excellent travel destinations out there if you're just willing to take the chance to check them out

2. Keep Calm and Hike on -
It may have been 2010 but this was the year of the 14er. At the beginning of last year I set my sights on hiking at least 8 of Colorado's peaks that are over 14,000 feet. My first goal was to hike Gray's and Torrey's because they were close to Denver and we could knock them out in one day with minimal driving effort. I still remember waking up at the crack of dawn and driving up that rutted out dirt road to a make shift parking lot dotted with tents and packed with SUV's. There were groups of people huddled together waiting on friends, decked out in feather weight backpacks and hiking poles. I, in my yoga pants and camel bak felt out of place. "It's only a hike," I thought to myself. "How hard could this really be?"
It took us five hours round trip and 2 days for me to recover but after reaching the summit of both Gray's and Torrey's I was hooked on hiking 14ers. The wind at the top was bitter cold and my thighs have never worked so hard in their lives but the sense of accomplishment I felt had never been greater. I began devouring books about hiking and soon Gerry Roach and became my best friends. When all was said and done I hiked 6 more mountains than my original goal and introduced my friends to the world of hiking, the likes of which they had never seen. I upgraded my boots and attire, purchased a backpack and hiking poles as well as a tent and an assortment of camping supplies. I'm officially hooked and never been happier.

3. Steamboat Surprise -
For my husband's 30th Birthday I wanted to take him someplace where we both had never been. A surprise trip where all his friends could meet us there and enjoy the weekend and celebrate him. Finding a destination that met the criteria of being close, having a variety of activities to entertain us as well as being affordable did present it's own set of challenges. Luckily we live in a beautiful state where weekend getaways aren't hard to come by; so I narrowed it down and chose Steamboat. The weekend of Chad's birthday turned out to also be the perfect time to visit Steamboat. The hot air balloon festival was taking place and, being July, it was warm enough to tube in the river but cold enough at night to make a trip to Strawberry Hot Springs enjoyable. Most all of our close friends were able to attend and best of all Chad was surprised. The town of Steamboat did not disappoint and I can only hope we can return this winter to enjoy the ski slopes as well.

4. Hartman's Rocks Rocks-
Unfortunately the hiking season did not last as long as I would have liked. In mid-October we drove to Gunnison, Colorado in hopes of conquering Wetterhorn. When the weather didn't cooperate we had to find an alternative means to quench my thirst for the outdoors which led us to climbing at Hartman's Rocks. Because Gunnison lays in a valley, you are pretty much guaranteed dry weather even if Crested Butte and beyond are miserable. My brother in-law and friends Meghan and Neil are excellent climbers and Neil had all the gear and knowledge necessary to guide me up an intimidating rock wall. This was my first attempt at climbing in years and the only time I've ever climbed in Colorado. My arms and pecs were sore for 2 weeks after the climb but the experience opened my eyes to a new world of outdoor activities. Neil even gave me some climbing shoes which I vowed to use this winter in an attempt to build up my strength for more difficult 14ers. While I had never intended to climb that weekend, I was once again reminded at how sometimes being flexible in your activity plans can open you up to a whole new world of possibilities

I would say I can't wait to see what 2011 brings me, but in truth I know that it is myself alone who brings good things into my life. You can't just sit around and wait for things to happen you have to make them if you want them. But I've also learned that you can plan all you want in life and it's sometimes life that has other plans for you. Flexibility is key whether it involves your travel plans or yoga. I know 2011 will be yet another year of me trying new things and exploring new places and I know that these experiences will continue to change and improve me. It's only by challenging ourselves that we truly test our limits and it's only by facing what scares us that we see how brave we really are. I plan on doing many things that will frighten me next year but I plan to go into them with an open mind and heart. Odd number years have always been good to me and I'm sure 2011 will be no exception....

Happy New Year's!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

What to Give this Holiday Season

Ten days left until Christmas. I can hardly believe it, but it's true. And if you are like me you probably only have half your holiday shopping completed. This year I decided I would start spreading cheer in November and succeeded with putting lights up on the trees outside the house, making and mailing Christmas cards and putting together photo books to send to the grandparents. Shopping early means less stress in the days leading up to Christmas and the more thoughtful your gifts will be. If you are like me, you want your gifts to mean something, and so I've put together a list of items which will are not only thoughtful but in some cases, help others out there as well:

1. Feed Bags - Last year my sister bought me the feed one bag from The organization was started by Laura Bush and the proceeds of their products go to the United Nations World Food Program. The proceeds from the bag I got, for example will provide one child in Africa school lunch for an entire year.

The project has grown and the website has even more of a variety of products you can buy at a variety of retailers. I really like the Feed Bracelets which you can get at Forever 21 which come in an assortment of colors with each color representing the country designated to receive the 2 school meals that are provided with the purchase of every bracelet.

They also have a gorgeous feed Kenya scarf which are handcrafted in Kenya by a co-op of women and deaf artisans and provide 10 school meals to children through the United Nations World Food Programme’s School Feeding program.

2. - This website has become my best friend this holiday season. You can upload your photos (even directly from facebook) and use them to make personalized gifts for the ones you love. Since the beginning of December they have featured a Merry Deal Reveal deal of the day where anything from water bottles to photobooks will be on sale. There was an offer for buy one photobook (at $19.99) and get two free so I used that to make an album for my grandmother, chad's grandparents and my aunt. You can also use websites like to find extra coupon codes for snapfish for free shipping or a discount on your order. Check out to find out the specials they have going on right now and start crafting!

3. - Another website which I have signed up for and receive daily deals. I was able to buy 4 tickets for $20 for the Denver Botanic Garden Trail of Lights. I figured it would be something fun for my family and Chad's to do on Christmas eve and a nice gift for us to give them. I am all for giving experiences to people which is why this website is so great. You can also browse other cities and buy say, a massage or cooking lessons for those family or friends who live out of state. Groupon also lets you do a gift certificate in any amount so if you aren't sure what someone would like you can purchase an online gift card which will be emailed. It may seem a little impersonal giving a gift through email, but trust me there are so many great gifts on this site no one would be disappointed in your gift to them!

4. Etsy - If you have never visited you will be overwhelmed the first time you visit the site. There's everything handmade you could ever ask for from art to furniture, vintage accessories and hand knitted items. I like to support small business owners and I've always had good results with everything I've ordered from the earrings I wore in my wedding to stenciled wall art. I could spend hours browsing through the sellers list items and unlike ebay I've never had a problem with getting my items in a timely manner or having payment problems. If you like browsing farmer's markets or boutiques for unique handmade items this is the website to turn to when Christmas shopping.
I love these necklaces:

featured by:

5. Mercy Corps - I've advocated for before but I really can't say enough good things about this charity. I donated money to them for Haiti and immediately began receiving emails and mailings about how my donation was being put to use. Year round they feature gifts you can purchase that are perfect for that person on your list that has everything and would rather have a gift in their name that benefits others. This year I am loving their gift of yoga. Mercy Corps incorporates yoga classes into their youth programs in places like Columbia which can help kids recover from the trauma and violence they have experienced. For only $65 you can give the gift of "OM" to those who really need a little serenity in their lives.

6. Harry and David - With my schedule as a flight attendant I really don't have the time to hand bake tasty treats and send them off to family like I wish I could. This is where Harry and David ( come in. For $24 I can send a tower of treats that includes their famous Moose Munch as well as yogurt dipped pretzels, truffles, waffle cookies, fruit candies, and mini mints:

They are known for their Royal Riveria pears so if you have someone on your list who can't have sweets you can send them a beautiful box of pears and assorted cheeses instead. I've used Harry and David as a thank you gift as well for a gracious hostess.

The true spirit of Christmas doesn't come from a store or involve how many things are wrapped under a tree but the time you spend together with your friends and family. I am truly grateful to have my in-laws and my mom, dad and brother spend the holidays with us in Denver and that's all the gift I could really ask for. I do believe though, that if you are going to take the time and money to pick out a gift it should come from the heart and feel as good to give the gift as you know it would be to receive it. After all you should be excited to have someone open your gift, not embarrassed! I try to take the time to look for sustainable and organic gifts as well because if my purchase can benefit someone else who really needs the help, I feel that much better in my gift giving.

Happy Shopping!