Winter Fun – Colorado Style

adventure of the week, colorado, Colorado Events, Environment, family, food, outdoors, Scotland, Travel

Colorado is shockingly mild in the winter months. Sure we have days or weeks of bitter cold or 6 feet of snow every year or two, but for the most of the winter, it’s not bad. This means that we get spoiled with having great days to play outside in the winter. While we can’t do all of the fun that summer usually brings, we have the option to play in the snow without being totally frozen. Of course, this can mean some innovation.

Between Dog Sledding and Ice Castles in late January we visited a family friend’s property. This Scottish-born gentleman has a nice spot of land outside of Breckenridge in a town that barely exists on the map (if a few houses along a dirt road count as a town…they do in Colorado anyway).

The landscape of the property hearkens to the dramatic hillscapes of Northern Scotland and while I talked with the owner and his lovely wife I learned that they chose the spot for that very reason. In fact, the snowy blanket that covered the hills was almost identical to that of what I saw in the area surrounding Glencoe four years ago.

Add to the landscape a homemade bar inside of a shed, as anyScottish transplant would have, and a fire pit, some beers, and a fewsnowmobiles and we had a winter party.

Only around 9,000 feet above sea level the weather was manageable, but chilly with a high humidity. Thus, a fire was built, via gasoline and broken pallets. We made beer slushies with the snow, and sippedcool ciders. The snowmobiles were taken into the hills and onto a small frozenlake, that perched delicately on the edge of the property. Avoiding unsettlingthe ice fishers we ran snowmobile circles on one part of the lake, draggingpeople behind on skis, snowboards, sleds, and a precarious pink flamingo tube meant for a more casual swimming pool life.

While the snowmobiling was fun, as any action sport is, thebest part was meeting new people and talking over a drink. It was great to talkwith friends new and old about their memories and new stories. My husband’sfamily is always full of laughter and love and a good tale or joke. While theydon’t always agree on politics and lifestyles, they always agree to love eachother and have a good time, which is something anyone can get behind.  

Sláinte!

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Travel Gear on a Budget

europe, France, italy, Travel, United Kingdom

Many people say that a good suitcase can change your life. This is undoubtably true. The appendix to that statement is that it doesn’t have to break the bank.

As someone that yearns to be in the road I travel several times a year and spend many weekend away. I need a suitcase that can hold up to planes, trains, and automobiles.

My main suitcases were a gift for graduating from my undergraduate degree. It’s a classic set from Samsonite, and it serves me well. This set details for around $200, but the quality makes it worth every penny.

I have gone through a lot of suitcases over the years. Sometimes bought, sometimes borrowed. Many times they come home from a month abroad with broken sides and ruined wheels. Yet with my adventures with my Samsonites I have found it still comes home as sturdy as when I left. It’s soft sided so I worry less on the smacks of careless baggage handlers and every scuff doesn’t show. It’s one of the best gifts I have ever received!

Yet for small trips I always go for my thrift store found leather duffel which is the perfect size and looks refined compared to most duffels. While it’s not high end, it’s effective and it looks nice for business or professional settings.

Nest in my list are leather bags bought on trips or collected over the years. All of them cost $130 or less and they have all been lifesavers. My laptop bag was an Italian market find that I bargained from $250 to $130 for, and I plan on it lasting me another 30 years. My purses are blends from The Sam, Italian Leather finds and clearance section bargains. All have over the shoulder straps and look nice for many settings. The best part is everything fits in them with room for a book and/or my DSLR. This makes them perfect for a plane or train… or automobile (ok I’ll stop).

For footwear, more times than not I pick my Toms or something equivalent. They’re lightweight and easy to wear for many an occasion. If it’s summer/tropical I throw in the Birkenstock’s or Chacos. If I have a dressy event I bring one pair of heels that match everything (always go black). I love blending lightweight with practical to reduce luggage but also look smart.

Men have it easy with the clothing game, but women need not kill themselves with unrealistic outfits. I always suggest making sure everything matches everything else in your suitcase. Pack less than you originally wanted to, and bring more underwear than you think you’ll need. When buying new items look for cloth that doesn’t wrinkle, and things that fold up small. Layers will be your best friend.

Most importantly, leave room in your budget to pick up stuff along the way that you see as practical for you. This will most likely be a neck pillow or blanket, that can then make the rounds for the next 20 trips!

Happy Travels!

Memento Mori

Throwback Thursday, Travel, United Kingdom

I have a habit of seeking out odd things. By odd I mean things like mummified cats (not the Ancient Egyptian kind), Surgeon’s museums, and Operating theaters.

I like searching out the oddities in the world, the weird places that get missed by the tourist trail. Some of it’s a love for seeking out gems that no one else knows, and then it’s the dark little goth girl from high school.

Since I began exploring the world on my own I have made an effort to see the odd spots that delight my heart.

No doubt just about every castle has its own horror stories. It’s easy to forget that castles were often involved in wars, jailings, beheadings, affairs, murders… you get the idea. Needless to say, the fairytales and kid’s history lessons play down these facts.

Yet, beyond the subtly macabre I have visited some outright dark museums.

Edinburgh Surgeons’ Hall Museum

I visited the halls and spaces of this museum in 2010. I missed it in 2015 due to its renovation but from all accounts it’s still as glorious as ever and reopening this year. For more information, click here.

The museum is attached to the historic and vital University of Edinburgh’s Medical School. Not only does it celebrate almost three centuries of work and education, but also medical marvels and a collection of items for educational purposes.

My personal favorite pieces were the vast selection of body parts in formaldehyde and wax preserved pieces with vein and other details.

(C) Surgeons’ Hall Museum

Old Operating Theatre Museum and Herb Garret

This fantastic museum is hidden in the attic of St Thomas’ Church in Southwark. The location is home to years of medical institutes and knowledge such as the original site of St Thomas Hospital, which was found around 1100.

In the 19th century the attic was made into the Herd Garrett and Theatre that has been preserved until today. The theatre was in fact used for students to learn from. All of those that were operated on were women and no form of anesthesia was used due to the lack of its invention.

While the history is dark, and no doubt people suffered, it was this work and the study of medicine, that helped us get to a much better today. For that alone, it’s worth a visit. For the fact it’s one of only a few operating theatres left in the world, entices further.

The Garrett itself is a magnificent display of what prescriptions, lotions, and potions looked like in centuries past. Some of the gems I most particularly love were are their collection of “tools of the trade” and old prints on how they were used.

What are your favorite macabre locations?

Cruise Room Secrets

colorado, geek, History, love, musings, Travel, United States

As a part of our anniversary escape my husband and I went to a Denver gem that is often missed, The Cruise Room.

I knew about this hidden treasure from an interview with Nick Urata I had read, and for years I had wanted to visit. Well our time in Denver meant we had the perfect opportunity for a night on the town. We gussied up and snagged dinner and then headed to the Oxford Hotel by Union Station.

Inside this other great historical hotel is a bar that has been open since prohibition ended I. 1933. In fact, it opened the day after prohibition was repealed nationally. This means its very existence is important, but wait there is more!

The entire bar is designed after the bar on the Queen Mary (located in California today). It has all of its original wall features that are made of plaster and are meant to represent different countries and locations from around the world. They still serve up classic cocktails, and an antique jukebox has a corner dedicated to its existence.

We loved every detail of the place and we found it to be a great place for chatting and a drink. We were the most dressed up people there, everyone else was in jeans, but it felt great to feel fancy. I even had my first real gin martini!

If hitting D-town at night, don’t miss a chance to visit this great historical treasure!

Happy Travels!

The World Isn’t Disney for Americans

adventure of the week, Caribbean, colorado, geek, musings, Travel

One of the biggest issues with myself, and with travel, is that so much of the exploration that is glamorized is done without really experiencing much.

With a world of Instagram and celebrity travel photos it’s hard to understand that the world is more than the elegance dripping from the web. This isn’t to say that everything is a lie and parts are ugly, but to say that the sanitized version we see is the air brushed version of a model.

So many Americans (and Europeans and Australians etc) flock to other parts of the world with one set of ideals of that place. In Africa it’s the Big 5. In China it’s the Pandas and Great Wall. In Mexico it’s cheap vacations and tequila. Yet while there is an immense amount of fun and cultural significance in all of these things, there is also a disconnect.

While thousands stumble off of cruise ships in Italy or Jamaica, how many people stop to talk to a local? How many have a beer from a little old lady’s restaurant or squid ink pasta? How many people take time to get lost and see something different? How many people care about the locals that live there.

What concerns me is not that people visit in droves, or that their focus is on a romantic ideal. For I have also been that person. No, the concern is the disconnect from the reality of a place. Like Disney World the grit of the world has been cleaned away in many places. Like a fairy godmother, tours select only the pristine and sanitized, something with fairy dust. It’s even more concerning when the most vulnerable populations are used as tourism props or ignored. This can be ignoring their humanity, their human rights, their rights to land and water and standards of living. For say, a new hotel, or a pool. For a new form of imperialism and colonialism to cheaply pad the pockets of the powerful.

This is not anything new. The spread of Colonialism is as old as civilization, with Greek, Roman, Germanic, and British Faces. Yet, we seem to fail at learning that these horrors are disgusting no matter there new mask. Indigenous people lose their homes for Olympics and World Cups. Communities collapse for resorts and waves of tourists. Yet, the real question is who makes it out on top? While “new jobs” help locals, do they really ever achieve a life they should? It’s hard to say yes when the heads of large companies live in gilded towers, while they barely can send their kids to school.

This is not to say “don’t travel, it’s corrupt” but rather to encourage an analysis of what one does when they explore. Do you stay at chain hotels helping the Hiltons and Marriotts of the world? Or do you seek out a locally owned gem with homemade food and warm smiles? Do you see end time with locals? Or do you shy away to American bars and hotel lobbies? Do you view locals as friends or possible enemies? And if you said yes to the last one, why?

Travel can be the life blood of a community, of a country, of a town. Yet, when we choose who and how we support that area, we need to better examine our priorities.

Happy Travels!

 

More Reading:

Must Love Mexico

Losing Bourdain

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I’m Your Fall “Basic Witch”

colorado, Colorado Events, love, musings, outdoors, Throwback Thursday, Travel

No shame in being Basic you all! I love the little things that come with fall.

Seriously, why do we mock the things that make the world a happier place? In a sea of crappy news and unsettling politics I am damn well delving into a sea of things I love, when I can.

That means enjoying some pumpkin pie spice flavored coffee and fuzzy pajamas. I will take my Girl Scout troop to a corn maze and I will go buy some pumpkins and carve them into some awesome designs. I will wear my black boots with skinny jeans and cute socks and all my scarves. Because these are things that make me smile. These are things that make my little life joy.

So this season I encourage you all to just love the things that bring you joy. If you love leaves, go roll in some. If you love pumpkin patches, frolic in one. Because, who cares? The reality is that your joy and helping small community farmers will bring happiness to someone else.

image-947

One of the reasons that I love this stuff so much is because I grew up in the mountains where fall was such a short amount of time we barely enjoyed it before it was all gone. At 9,500 feet above sea level, the leaves change in September and by October 10th they are gone. There are no pumpkin patches or corn mazes because nothing grows that high. And the journey to such a thing was at least two hours away, a trip my parents could not afford.

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Yet, with all of these restrictions my mom made the most amazing treats in the fall and winter. Caramels and leaf cookies with brown sugar. Pumpkin pies you wanted to sink into and die because they were so divine. Roasts and potatoes and carrots that were perfectly savory and bone warming after cold days feeding horses and cows. There was always sweet and spicy hot chocolate and apple cider. All of it brings me a smile just thinking about it now.

So while I dreamed of haunted carriage rides, I had the divine sweets to make up for it. So to honor the fun, and my earliest memories of golden aspens, I delve into the joys of autumn with a happy heart and a love of all things.

I hope you do too.

What are your favorite seasons? What do you love to do?

Playing Renaissance

musings

If you have gathered anything from my love and passions while reading this blog, it’s that I’m a bit of a history geek.

My first passions started with medieval and renaissance Europe as a teen. Which lead me, almost annually, to the Colorado Renaissance Festival. Since then, I go every year or two with a group of friends and a wad of cash to enjoy a fun and silly adventure.

Held every weekend in the summer, usually June to early August, the festival is all that a Renaissance festival can be expected to be.

It’s the perfect chance to dress up in a cute, sexy, ridiculous, or just funny costume. Over the years I have made, worn, and even bought some fun get ups. There was a princess or three, movie costumes, a pirate a couple of time, and most recently a maiden costume.

It’s not a historical trip I seek anymore, as I am fully aware of the inaccuracies and absurdity of the festival. Instead, I seek out the shows, frozen margaritas, and artisan goods. I enjoy a day of walking and talking with friends, and I love seeing the care and details taken with homemade costumes.

If you find yourself along the front range of Colorado in the summer, stop by for a turkey leg or two.

DNA Travels – Part I

History, musings, Travel

I love this commercial from 23 and Me. The one where this gorgeous young woman traverses the world to find her roots, all found in a 23 and Me kit. She’s freckled, all smiles, grooves and moves. She has a new identity from the test, and it’s something profound and beautiful.

From the dozens of people I know that have taken the 23 test or similar most of them have this idealized reaction. Okay maybe there is less dancing in the streets and swimming in Fjords, but they are happy. They’re happy because they find out pieces of themselves that were lost and now found, thread to the tapestry of them.

My own thread had unexpected backgrounds. I went into both my Ancestry and 23andMe tests pretty aware of what the results would be. Mostly British Isles and sprinklings of Northern Europe. I had a paper trail to Scotland and England by some 17th century puritans and 16th century Stuarts (yes those famous ones). I had paper trails to German peasants and Swedish great-great grandmothers.

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I’ve always loved going to places my family supposedly came from.

Then there were gaps in the story. Gaps that had no paper trail. Gaps that were legends with no proof. More than a few family members told me we were part Native American (Cherokee Princess type of story(more on this another time)), and others touted we were CLOSELY related to the Royal Family of England (also questionable). Yet when I began digging the records showed some falsities, the DNA had no reason to lie (but more on this later).

The problem with records and paper trails is that they are not sure 100% truth. The problem is that means we don’t have solid evidence of familial bonds, and paper trails are the best we’re blessed with. They’re the best historical evidence we have, and even DNA is only solid for about 500 years.

Why are records not 100% ? Well people are people and sometimes lies are told. Sometimes women slept with other people than their husbands, sometimes children were adopted and it was never recorded. Sometimes kids die and then another child shares the same name, but sometimes these dates get jumbled. Sometimes records are digitized incorrectly. Sometimes the records are illegible. Sometimes records are totally falsified. Then many times records are totally destroyed, we’re never created, or have gross mistakes.

For instance, if you look at even one family’s census records over 50 years (taken every ten years) you will see changes in the information. In 1860 someone’s age may be 25, but in 1870 it may be 32. Or a birth place may change from Germany to Alabama. These are examples of sometimes lies that were told to protect the person being interviewed, because of social stigmas, or sometimes people forgot information. The older I get the harder it is to remember my age and those around me, if it weren’t for Facebook I think I would be in big trouble.

So when I went into my DNA tests I assumed I would get some surprises and even inconsistencies between the two.

More in Part II

dnatravelspart1

The Confusing 20s

musings

Hi, I’ll be 26 in a few weeks and I’m in the phase that I’ll call “The Confusing 20s”.

I always thought I wanted to do a certain thing….or certain things. I always wanted to do something creative, I do creative things every week. I write and cross-stitch, sometimes I knit and paint. I put together crafts. I play with a lot of hobbies and artistic endeavors. For myself it is a chance to make something happy in a time of chaos or stress. Really it’s peace in that which is the constant reality of the chaos of life.

I never thought I could make a career from “art” so I chose something practical. Something I also enjoyed. I consider myself intelligent and able, I learn quickly and I like challenges. I want to be a lifelong learner. So I chose to go with journalism and programs that meant that I learned a huge variety of skills. This meant a B.A. where I also majored in History, just for fun, and graduated with a 3.2 GPA, not perfect, but I was proud.

I then took on a M.A. program with a school and program that had a 90% employment rate 1 year after graduation. There I would learn from internationally recognized journalists on how to be a better journalist. It was what I wanted in a very exciting and passionate field that I really love. Once again I didn’t graduate with honors, but I finished on time, and got really good marks on my work. Which, 2015 was a hard year due to losing my grandmother, but I did it, I pushed through.

The reason why I went for the M.A. was so that I could be a better journalist and walk into a role somewhere as prepared and enthusiastic as possible to do a job I was passionate about. Within a few days of finishing the work on my M.A. I was applying for jobs. That was December 2015, and here I am in January 2017 and I have yet to land the dream job. Or really, any job that is full time, has benefits and offers me some financial stability.

This has been a growth process for me. A scary and hard growth process. It has meant I have really had to grow up this last year and not just in jobs but in what my habits and actions have been. While working and jumping around with part time jobs here and there, I have had to cut back on my spending, refinance my debt and even skip paying bills so that we had groceries. Student loans and being behind on them has meant bombing my credit score and that I probably won’t be able to buy  a home any time soon or if ever. It’s really stressful and upsetting.

See my expectation was that I would get through college and get a great job. I always TRULY believed this would happen and I have never had trouble finding a job to get me through what I need to get through. That’s from High School to age 25, I always had a job and something to do. Sometimes it was to save and travel, other times it was just to have extra income. I’ve worked hard to have that.

Here we are 20 days into a new year, a new chance, and more is moving. I’ve had interviews and interest in me as an employee and things are going well with the part time job I currently have. I have backups to my backups, but it’s still hard. I never thought I would be making so little when I have so much education, when I took the “safe” bet on my education. The jobs I am finding and interviewing at also have no direct relation to my education, some overlap, but nothing direct. Which I find confusing and frustrating.

I feel like I have done everything “right” in this attempt to build myself up from a childhood in poverty, but I am finding that the road out of the hole is really slick, really steep and full of holes and drop-offs. All around it’s confusing and frustrating and extremely tiring.

I often ask myself “what am I meant to be doing?” and my gut tells me that I’m doing what’s right and what I’m supposed to. I want to “do more” but I also have to eat and pay bills and find a way to survive. While my fiancé has helped us keep the boat afloat, he supported my school endeavors so that I could do more.

Maybe this is all part of the longer journey in which I better understand poverty, achievement and the financial plight of my peers that are college educated and working poor-paying retail jobs. Sometimes it’s the location of where we are living, but other times it’s the reality that there is not a job or that one is overlooked. I have been told that maybe I’m overqualified and that maybe people see me as too expensive. Which is possible and maybe I’m not presenting myself as strongly in my cover letters. Maybe it’s a lesson in how to assert myself and demand recognition and try new techniques.

I think the biggest lesson is that it’s easy to believe the narrative we’re told in school of “graduate, college, graduate, good job.” “Keep your grades up, work hard and you’ll be great” “try your best and things will come through”. All of these narratives are great for encouragements and great for driving people to carry on, myself included. However, they are not the only truth and they ignore the complexities of what is actually existing on this planet.

For instance, how can you say this to a child that’s starving in Yemen? They might be trying their hardest but it doesn’t change the reality that civil war and too little water for crops. Just something to chew on.

While I bite my nails every time I see a less-qualified peer get a job I wanted and sometimes shed a few tears, I am fighting very hard for the right fit and the right job and my instincts tell me something will come along.

If You’re Mourning Carrie Fisher- Laugh

geek, love, musings, United Kingdom

Carrie Fisher the very big Star Wars actor that we knew and loved. The Princess that didn’t needed saving, and that could fire a gun and actually hit her enemies….. well she passed away this week.

Huge Star Wars fan, or not, many of us have taken time to reflect on her contribution to film and women in film. She was also the daughter of another iconic performer, Debbie Reynolds, who they say died of a broken heart the day after her daughter died. Reynolds contributed a hell of a lot in her life too, and the loss of both this week is a blow to film nerds around the world.

Yet, while I am saddened by these losses, I know there is something really cool we can all do right now. It not only honors the memory of these performers, but it also cheers the soul. I did this when Bowie and Rickman died in January, I took to their art and I devoured it. I watched movies and listened to music and loved their art. I’m doing this right now with Fisher.

I just read her book Wishful Drinking over the last 48 hours and I laughed my ass off. It’s a hilarious book, full of comical  (intentional) stories and moments from both Fisher and Reynold’s life. I plan on reading more of Fisher’s work and just enjoying her contribution to the world. Ya know what, she would have wanted it that way.

Weirdly Wishful Drinking is almost prophetic of her own death and passing, but in a loveable way. In a “it’s gonna happen” way. Because, that’s the end for all of us.

Because that’s this planet, this universe, and not so far far away or long long ago. We’re all mortal, and we’re all trapped in that truth.

So, wipe the tears (don’t deny them) and enjoy what artists made when they pass. That was the whole point, a lasting contribution on a world that’s ever changing and temporary. Laugh at their jokes and their writings, and love that we get to live NOW and enjoy these pieces of humor and life. Also cry if you must, that’s okay too. We’re laying to rest and saying goodbye to some friends from our own journey.

From Wishful Drinking:

George comes up to me the first day of filming and he takes one look at the dress and says, “You can’t wear a bra under that dress.”

So, I say, “Okay, I’ll bite. Why?”

And he says, “Because. . . there’s no underwear in space.”

What happens is you go to space and you become weightless. So far so good, right? But then your body expands??? But your bra doesn’t—so you get strangled by your own bra.

Now I think that this would make for a fantastic obit—so I tell my younger friends that no matter how I go, I want it reported that I drowned in moonlight, strangled by my own bra.