An Ode to Whitewater

Do you have a place – a spot – somewhere you love to explore that you can’t seem to get enough of? It’s like that movie you can watch a million times – where you will always notice something new or catch a new detail.

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I have a place like that here. When we move away, I know it will have permanent place in the back of my mind. It’s brought so many adventures with so many people. It’s brought me a deep sense of clarity on my first hike alone (scary but good). It’s brought me a better understanding of who I am and how I feel towards the world I’m in.

Whitewater State Park in SE Minnesota relatively close to the start of the Mississippi River. It’s such a fun and magical place filled with endless adventures. There are creeks, rivers, limestone bluffs, hikes, views, deer, wild mushrooms, and a swimming beach. It’s located in a one-of-a-kind terrain where rivers once intricately carved bluffs throughout flat lands. “The rugged terrain is due both to the lack of glacial deposits, or drift, and to the incision of the upper Mississippi River and its tributaries into bedrock.” This Driftless Area also holds another one of my favorite places – Root River Park – but that’s for another post.

When I drive to the park, I’m surrounded by flat farmlands. All of a sudden, the elevation drops and I’m surrounded by sky-high bluffs peeking out of a dense forest. When I reach the top of my hike – I can look beyond the trees and see a silo and a barn – back at the farmlands. It’s a gigantic magical pit in the middle of rural Minnesota.

What I love most about Whitewater is that it is completely different every time I experience it. Just like my favorite movies. I can navigate the trails, but no tree, plant, or rock looks the same – sometimes covered brush or moss, or completely gone!

Highlights at Whitewater include Inspiration Point, Chimney Rock, Eagle Point, and the Dakota Trail. I’m hoping to get out there a few times this winter to see how it handles the fluffy snow and ice. I’m also planning to camp there in the spring before we say bye to MN!

September 1, 2017

I love that noise – wind in leaves
weaving through the forest
vibrant colors are the melodies and
bridges to the songs
soaring, cawing birds that are always content
never scared, understanding life to the fullest extent.
listening, observing, enjoying, living

different wind noises, louder, different trees
paths and mazes for all of us – or for none of us?

inhale – exhale with the trees
thank you

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Superfood Burgers

So I recently learned that superfoods are a hoax. Turns out the word “superfood” is just a marketing term to make you think you need it. But man, isn’t it a good word?

Apparently, these foods they call super are simply nutrient dense foods. Sounds good to me! So why not slap ’em all together, form a shallow cylinder, and call it a burger, right?

I’ve created a burger from my favorite superfoods. Make modifications if you’d like, of course – but I highly encourage you to try using the ingredients I listed here for the best superfood tastes and benefits.

Makes 10-12 burgers

Ingredients:

  • 2+ tbsp oil (coconut oil, grapeseed oil, or olive oil) for frying
  • 1 small or medium sweet potato in 1/2 in. cubes (keep the skin on)
  • 1 cup cauliflower in 1/2 in. cubes
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 3/4 cup oats
  • 1/4 cup flax seeds(roughly ground up / or flax meal)
  • 1/4 cup cornmeal
  • 1.5 cup pinto beans
  • 1 tsp each
  • 1 tbsp salt
  • 2 tbsp BBQ sauce (I used Annie’s)
  • 1 tbsp liquid aminos – Bragg’s Liquid Aminos is best
  • 1/2 cup cooked rice (or preferred grain)

Directions:

  1. Cook some rice if you don’t have any cooked yet.
  2. In a small pot, bring 2 cups water to boil. Add in sweet potato and continue on medium heat until completely cooked and soft – about 10 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile, sauté onion and garlic over 1 tbsp of heated oil in a frying pan over medium heat. Once onion is soft, but not browned, add cauliflower and kale. Reduce to medium low, add 2 tbsp of water, and cover. Allow to cook for 5-10 minutes – until cauliflower is soft and no longer “crunchy.”
  4. In a large bowl, add strained sweet potato & sautéed veggies. Mash together with a fork or potato masher.
  5. Mix in oats, flax, and cornmeal to the vegetable mixture.
  6. Mix & mash in beans to the mixture.
  7. Add all spices & salt and mix thoroughly so spices are evened out.
  8. Add all liquid. Make sure the texture is consistent throughout – no dry patches.
  9. Mix in rice and ensure texture is consistent throughout.
  10. Refrigerate your patty mixture for 15 – 30 minutes. This will make the patties easier to hold together when forming.
  11. Form patties about the 1.5-2 inches wide (size of your palm – I have small hands). Thickness should be about 1/3-1/2 inch (the thickness of your finger). I made 12 patties.
  12. Optional – freeze patties. (This will make them less likely to fall apart when sautéing). You can also do this to store them.
  13.  Heat 1 tbsp of oil in a frying pan over medium heat. Fry one or two patties at a time – they’ll be easier to flip around and maneuver. 6 minutes per side. Be gentle when flipping. Edges should be crispy and browned and patty should be fluffy and easily held together.
    Freeze extra patties if you want – they’ll be good for a few weeks if they’re staying in an airtight container. The best way to do this would be to separate them with squares of parchment paper.
  14. Serve over a bed of arugula or on a whole wheat bun with all your favorite toppings. Our burgers are pictured with a grilled wheat bun, arugula, avocado, tomato, red onion, and Todd’s special sauce (aka vegan mayo, garlic, ginger, and lemon – don’t tell him I told you).

“I Guess We’re Going to Denmark!”

I always think it’s really fun to try to see how cheap I can get things – plane tickets, lodging, food, clothes, shoes, everything. Just last month I found round-trip flights to Denver from Minneapolis for $39! Crazy, right? And don’t get me started on Gap clearance. I have a problem.
So last summer, Todd had some future PTO and we weren’t exactly sure what we were going to do, so I just started browsing flights to just about everywhere. Somehow I managed to stumble upon round-trip tickets to Copenhagen from Minneapolis for less than $400 each! So we had to take the opportunity. For us, financially, that meant taking extra on-call shifts and sub jobs, eating tons of rice and beans, and living frugally for awhile, but we knew it would be worth it. Years ago, we bonded over the fact that experiences have way more value than money or material things – so the choice to just go for it and get the tickets was an obvious decision.

There we were, sitting at breakfast, purchasing our tickets with absolutely no expectation and nothing in mind about where we were going – “I guess we’re going to Denmark!”

Months went by and then we realized “wow! it’s only a month away.” We had to start getting things together and organizing our trip. So here’s a guide on how to plan any big trip or expedition in and out of the country.

Prep 1:

Get a planner. I use Passion Planner, and I love it. It works perfectly for everything in my life – especially organizing adventures. or make one yourself (with a good ole straight edge, a blank piece of paper, and a good pen) – or print off a free and freshly googled weekly & monthly template (there are millions). You’ll need this to organize goal-oriented to-do’s and help you out on your trip, too. I prefer having an hard, paper planner because I like writing things down, personalizing, drawing, and adding photos – but I’m sure there’s some sort of trip organizer app or calendar you can get on your phone, too (not as special FYI!)

Prep 2:

IDENTIFICATION: Do you have/need a passport for your trip? If so, this is something you should actually get right after you make plans to get out of the cunch. You don’t want to put this off – for some reason government offices always have a way of making things take way longer than you anticipate. For instance, it took us 3 trips in a day to our city building because (1: initial visit 2: no additional picture ID, 3: no checkbook). Make sure you read regulations and things you’ll need to bring.
MONEY: If you’re smart and want to have your sh*t together on your trip, you might want to consider creating an estimated budget and ordering currency ahead of time from your bank. We did this – and it was really awesome. Paying to exchange in Denmark would have been really pricey and it would have made it hard to adequately keep track of our finances there.
Here’s an example budget for traveling. (tip – do some research about average costs in USD for things you’ll want, like coffee, public transportation, alcohol, street food, museums, etc.)

This example budget is for 1 person for 1 day.
Keep in mind – I exaggerated spending on everything. This was by no means how much I spent every day. Copy, paste, and edit according to your trip!

Breakfast : $7
Lunch: $13
Dinner: $15
Attractions: $20
Transportation: $11
Total: $66
$66 x 1 person x 4 days = $264 round up to $300 (or tack on $50 extra worth for souvenirs, etc).

So, we called up our bank and ordered our budget’s worth of currency for Denmark (the trusty Danish Kroner). They called us about a week later, and we went and picked it up! Easy enough! When we traveled, we split our currency into 2 – half for each of our carry-ons, just in case.
Tips for spending during trip: grocery shop, farmer’s markets, street food, stay somewhere with a kitchen.

LODGING: Figure out where you want to stay! We used Airbnb because it was the cheapest option for us. It was a lot of fun – and it opened a lot of doors for our experiences abroad. If you are considering using it, use this $40 credit towards your first booking! Pretty sweet, right?

Right Before the trip:

Go to the library and see if they have guidebooks for traveling to ______. We did this and it was a complete game changer and lifesaver. They include must-sees in all of the different areas, how to get around, public transportation maps, and other information, like important phone numbers. Also, consider downloading Google Maps – you can download maps offline (great if your phone is out of service and you don’t have wifi).

During the Trip:

  • During your stay, plan each day as it comes. Don’t have tight agendas and/or schedules. We simply made a rough to-do list throughout our time before the trip and we added to it as we thought of / discovered more things to do. Make sure you bring your list on your trip, though! Your Passion Planner is a great spot to write all of this.
  • Daily Rituals. At the end of every day, we made sure to do a few things.
    • Write down all expenses (it helps to keep it as an email draft or as notes in your phone throughout the day). Compare to daily budget, count remaining money, record.
    • Write down everything you did and all of your activities. Have a keepsake bag or designated pocket somewhere to hold tickets, stubs, postcards, receipts, etc.
    • Plan out the next day & check the weather. Every day, we were discovering new things to do and we were always able to do them!
  • Get up early, don’t go to bed too late, and don’t drink. That last one… I know, but really – it’s a lot of money and it alters your wonderful memories of your adventures! We tried buying alcohol a few times, and we realized we just weren’t into it there! Just consider it 😉
  • Take a nap if you want to. It’s vacation, right? Don’t feel the need to stuff 5 million things into each day. And don’t over-exhaust yourself. Give your body and mind time to recover and prepare for your next adventures.

That’s all I’ve got for you! Hope these are helpful. Please don’t hesitate to email me or contact me for questions or comments about all of this.

Winter Blues + How I Stay Active

I don’t know about everyone else, but I’ve been feeling particularly sad about winter this year. It seems colder, darker and I feel a lot less motivated to do just about anything. I’ve really had to push myself to get out and get things done. The main thing that motivates me and makes me feel a sunshine-y mental state of mind is exercise. When I get in a quick workout or achieve a physical milestone for the day, I feel like accomplishing anything else is a lot more approachable.

For those of you who don’t know this about me, I grew up in a huge, warm, suburbia in central California. Todd & I moved all the way to Minnesota last July (2016) – practically at the drop of a hat – not really knowing what we were getting ourselves into. Needless to say, the inability to go outside and do something active is not always an option for us anymore – and when it is, you really have to pile on the layers!

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I’m one of those people that easily get’s bored with activities; I can’t force myself to do things when I’m tired of them. I try changing up my routine every day and always try to listen to my body and what would feel best. Sometimes, it’s a 15 minute at-home strength training session, and sometimes its a 6 mile run. It all depends and varies based on what want. Sometimes I do more than one a day and sometimes I don’t do anything at all – again it just depends! Here’s a list of all of the activities I switch between.

  • GET OUT: get your snow pants on (figuratively but maybe literally) and go outside! I like to give myself a temperature limit – if it’s about 10, I know I have the gear to feel comfortable. I like challenge myself to go for a walk, run, or hike. As seen in my previous post, there’s always a silver-lining… even if it was miserably cold!
  • INDOOR CARDIO + HIIT WORKOUT: There are millions of free, online, guided workout videos all over youtube. Personally, I like using Fitness Blender. They offer tons of online videos like this, plus some yoga, stretching, pilates, etc. The also have plenty that don’t require any equipment.
  • YOGA: I love stretching it all out at home and pushing myself out of my comfort zone with yoga. It also teaches me how to control my breath better and it improves my horrible posture. Sometimes I freestyle, but I usually use YWA for free, guided practice.

I love accomplishing things like this and being able to check it off of my daily mental checklist. Not only does a little bit of exercise make me feel really amazing afterwards, but it also really helps me put my priorities into focus for the remainder of my day.

 

Tangy Sweet Potato Curry

Anyone else craving all the steaming hot soups, stews, and curries this winter? I am. Although, I do severely miss the brightness and lightness of summer foods! I created a perfectly warming, comforting, but energetic curry that pairs wonderfully with your favorite grain + protein.

Sweet potato, the food that gives your insides a big hug and warms you up.
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Spicy heat, it keeps you alert and awakens your soul!

Here’s an easy, quick, go-to recipe for some citrusy, sweet, aromatic, savory, and spicy goodness for this crazy winter weather.

serves 4-6
Ingredients:

  • ½ white onion, sliced
  • 1 cubic inch of ginger, minced
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 carrots, finely chopped
  • 1 large sweet potato, cubed (or 2 medium)
  • 1 teaspoon:
    • cumin
    • paprika
    • curry powder
    • turmeric
    • onion powder
    • coriander seed
    • black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne (or ¼ for a more mild curry) (or 3/4 for extra hot!)
  • 2 cups vegetable broth
  • 1 canned coconut milk
  • 1 lime
  • 1 cup cilantro
  • 1 diced tomato

Mine is pictured with brown rice, tomato, cilantro, and lime.

Directions:

  1. Heat coconut oil in a large pot at medium heat. Add onion, garlic, carrot, and ginger.
  2. Once onions are soft, but not browned, add sweet potato and sautee for 5 min
  3. Add in all spices and mix in and sautee until aromatic
  4. Add broth. Reduce to simmer and let sit for 10-15. Check the largest potato’s consistency with a fork – it should be slightly less than fully cooked.
  5. Add coconut milk and continue simmer for 5 min
  6. Try the broth of the curry to taste – add any additional spice for preference.
  7. OPTIONAL – blend ½ of curry or lightly pulse the whole batch so that ½ of it still remains in chunks.
  8. Right before serving, add the juice of 1 lime.
  9. Serve with diced tomato, cilantro, brown rice (or another yummy grain) and some protein, like chickpeas or tofu. There’s a cheap & easy recipe to cook dry chickpeas here.

Braving the Brisk

After a lengthy holiday break with subzero temperatures, it finally got to 9 degrees! So what did Todd & I do? We seized the opportunity and said, “let’s go for a little hike!” I know, it sounds crazy (it was crazy), but the thought of actually being able to enjoy outside for the first time in weeks seemed so good. It would be worth being a little cold.

So, off we went to a county park outside of our city. To be honest, it wasn’t the best hike. My forehead might have gotten a little frostbitten and the skin around my thighs was completely numb! Nonetheless, it was a sunshine-y day and I was so grateful to be out there. Although I appreciate it more than I used to, I really dislike being cooped up at home – only leaving to go to the store or work (even that’s difficult with these horrible temperatures). We hiked about 3 miles and we had a great time. I love our walks and conversations we have when we’re following a trail surrounded by nature. I feel like those are the moments when we really decide what we want together and what our future will look like.

We have a lot of exciting things happening for us this year. We plan on moving a lot and traveling all over the country. We’re also hoping to get a dog (finally!). There’s a huge pot brewing with all of our ideas and dreams for our life together and I love that they all line up and work together. I really don’t think I could have picked a better partner.

About 2/3 of the way through our hike, I realized how physically miserable I felt. My cheeks were insanely numb and he continued complaining about his toes being numb, too. Needless to say, we were not prepared. He mentioned, though, that we need to suffer in order to enjoy. And man, is that true. I feel like I’ve been hearing that my whole life and it is always relevant. I can look back at any suffering – mild, medium, hot, or fire* – and see that it was so crucial to my enjoyment. They just go hand in hand. We love Minnesota and what it has given us, even if half of the time it was an excruciatingly cold winter (compared to central CA where we grew up).

I can’t appreciate and enjoy how much we have grown and matured without acknowledging some suffering we’ve gone through during our time here.

Cheers to sub-zero temperatures making you appreciate life!

*gotta use the taco bell references when ya can

The Edge of (twenty)Seventeen

In my past, my self-image has crippled me. It’s kept me from being with people I love, acting the way I feel, wearing the clothes I like, and being who I am.

At the end of 2017, I was reviewing my planner and my priorities. I looked back on how I spent my time, my weekly goals, and what I seemed to focus on. The main priority always seemed to have something to do with changing who I was, but never once mentioning acceptance or self-love. The amount of time and energy I put into changing myself is the most exhausting thing about 2017 (and that’s saying a lot, right? **insert ur favorite2017 meme that everyone’s seen here**). It seemed like I constantly had some sort of monthly goal to look like w, be like x, appear like y, and think like z.

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I was always asking myself “what could I do to make _____ look better?” “If I just did ____, I wouldn’t be having an issues with _____.” “Why do I look like this?” “Why do I make destructive choices?”. At first, I realize the main things that use to fill in the blanks here were most definitely about my body-image and fitness goals. I even wrote this at the end of December:

This year felt like a roller coaster, a battle, a failure maybe? But at this point I feel like I accomplished something bigger than losing weight, grasping my health, etc. I think I’m finally done trying to be someone I’m not or trying to have a body I’ll never have. I felt a lot of pressure to do that. To reach a “normal” BMI. To hit “goal” on the diet plan I did. To visit people and look different or better somehow to them. To look like all of these people all over social media <– seriously why does that effect me so much?! I hate it. It ruins me and any positive feelings I have about my physical shape. I hate admitting this, but it makes me judge other people <- -EVEN WORSE. So destructive – right?

Anyway – I’m finally sick of it and just want to feel normal. As of lately, I’ve been doing Fitness Blenders five days a week and taking rest days as needed, doing yoga when I feel like it, and going on walks. I just restarted that old diet plan again but I don’t think I want to anymore. It’s making me feel obsessed with seeing progress on the scale. For example, yesterday I tried  something on in a changing room and thought –  “Wow!  I look toned and strong” – and then this morning I weighed myself and thought “What could I do? How did I let this happen? I messed up by eating ___ last night.” SO HARMFUL. So sad, right?

So here’s to freaking 2018 – the year I stop giving a shit about progress and numbers and ratios and before-and-afters. Here’s to just feeling good each day and finding what feels good!

That was nuts. I really cracked open and let it ooze aaaallll out.

So recently, I made this vow to solve this horrible, addictive dilemma i’ve been stuck in for way too long. At first, it seemed like this was all about body image. Then I realized – this is about everything. This is about all of the doubts and hurtful things I’ve said to myself. The critical thoughts I’ve said about my body. The inner-scolding about my finances and spending habits. Wounding my ego about how my priorities are all out of order. How I’m ruining and scarring my relationships with people in my life.

..but you know what? I’m really awesome. I can hike, run, enjoy nature, breathe clearly, stretch, sing, dance, and create. I can travel the world at ease and experience as much or little as I desire.

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So the vow I’ve decided to make to myself is to not have anymore painful, unattainable goals. Because making these plans to change who I am is just looking at myself and saying “this is wrong. you’re doing it wrong.” It’s to take each day at a time (everyone and everything points to this but its so hard to listen). To enjoy the present and take baby steps. To ask myself, “what can I do to enjoy myself today?” rather than, “what could I do to make myself feel good in x amount of days/months?”

I came up with a few methodical tactics to keep myself on track for this whole radical self-love, easy-going year ahead of me (P.S. this year is going to be so fun – lots of traveling, moving, and changing everything is what’s in store for me and Todd). I’ll be sharing these fun details soon.

But for now? I’m just focusing on today and respecting the journey ahead of me. Here’s to the vows and my new marriage to the acceptance of my true, present self.

Peace + Love + Present Moments

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