Autumn Bucket List

colorado, Colorado Events, outdoors, Travel

Autumn comes but once a year…. for around two months…with a lot of fun.

Autumn in Colorado attempts to replicate the feel of the Midwest and East coast. Yet because of dry, unpredictable weather, it sometimes lacks the brilliant nature of its contemporaries.

Colorado has a mind of its own when it comes to weather. Some years we have snow in September, and other years it hits the 80s through the end of October (looking at you 2018). At times it feels like autumn is being completely eradicated, and climate change is not helping.

That being said, I find it vital to make a list of desires for each season and try to do as many as possible. I even have an ongoing list for the future involving trips to eastern cities that drop with New England Autumnal wonders.

Here is the Colorado bucket list you should try:

  1. Visit a farm – Colorado is full of corn fields, pumpkins patches, and family-friendly farms that cater to a crowd longing for good, old fashioned fun. The last two years my Girl Scout troop has found Harvest Farms to be an ideal adventure.
  2. Carve a Pumpkin – do it with friends or family or all alone. And I mean a REAL pumpkin get your hands in the gunk and roast those seeds!
  3. Watch your favorite Halloween movie/show – I got Sleepy Hollow and a rewatch of Stranger Things done and done. We also got really into the Chilling Adventures of Sabrina!
  4. Don a Costume- Party or no I always dress up, even for work. I also ensure my stepdaughter has an awesome outfit!
  5. Snuggle – with longer nights and short days, and the chill in the air, it’s perfect to grab thicker pajamas and snuggle with a loved one. My cat and husband are the best!
  6. Consume Pumpkin Spice – this flavor is ideal in the cold. If you like it, enjoy it, you don’t need permission for the things that make you happy and hurt no one else!
  7. Eat Pie – see # 6 and know it goes for everything you love.
  8. See some leaves! – take to the wilds and find some changing leaves. I find a good drive or hike every year to enjoy some color changes and Colorado has some truly unique options.
  9. Find Romance – it’s a great time of the year to celebrate and reconnect with loved ones. It’s also the “off” or “shoulder” season for the travel industry. Enjoy some good deals and less crowds before Christmas and take off on a weekend away.
  10. Dress Up – my wardrobe is really just centered on fall and winter. Meaning this time of year means I can play with textures, colors, and layers. If you have the same options, live it up and find new options. Pretend you’re a kid raiding grandma’s closet for playing dress up and be surprised at the fun!
  11. Make some treats – I love creating treats for others to enjoy! Halloween through the New Year means an excuse to create and share, meaning I find new recipes and fun for each holiday.
  12. Craft – this year, and many years, have meant new craft projects. Try something for a gift or for home decor, and take a class if you don’t know how to do something. It’s a great time to try something different.

Most importantly, find some fun!

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Winter Hiking

adventure of the week, colorado, Colorado Events, Travel

I have lived in Colorado and until last week I had never been hiking in winter. At least not in the traditional hiking meaning of the word. Sure I had trekked through knee high snow to feed animals or to clean off our deck. Sure I had braved snow and ice to walk a dog down gravel roads. Yet, I had never been on a hiking trail in winter.

I had not even meant for it to be a winter hike. I had actually planned on everything to be pretty dry and easy going. Maybe home to a few snow patches. Yet as I journeyed into higher elevations at Rocky Mountain National Park, I saw snow, and more snow, and ice, and wind, and snow pack.

It was soon I realized at around 8,000 feet that I would be hiking in the snow if I chose to go. I hesitated some, worried about my clumsy nature on ice. Yet, being stupid, or stubborn, or both, I pushed forward with my hiking plans.

Luckily I had packed extra layers and I was wearing my thick athletic leggings. I had well- treaded hiking shoes, and thick socks. I put on my layers, made sure my pack was good, and off I went.

The trail proved to be somewhat snowy, but easy to trek. The blowing wind and ice from the trees made the journey cold but manageable, and if anything the floating ice crystals added a majestic charm I did not expect.

The wonders of nature hit me, even in the cold, birds hoped between trees, chipmunks scavenged in bushes, and the pine, mud, and earth released their elegant perfumes.

I crunched along uphill for a mile before the Bierstadt Lake trail plateaued by the lake. It was here that the muddy trail turned into a wondrous winter land, where the sun played gleefully through pines and aspens. The wind made the fallen trees, the victims of strong winds, had leaned into each other creaking and echoing a haunting tune.

The lake walk loop offered a two mile winter walk that offered solitude and relaxation, a chance to think, dream, and feel grateful to my home by the mountains.

While I enjoyed just walking, I found that winter hiking was a much needed discovery compared to my summer and fall excursions. It was nice to have the stillness and solitude away from the summer crowds. It was glorious to feel a freedom only deep-seated trails offer. It was refreshing to breath in the scents of an ancient land, untamed and wild.

So, if you are thinking of a winter hike. Do it. Just be smart. Take warm clothes, gloves, hat, jacket, boots. Take water and matches. Take a solar lamp if you can. And bring an emergency device to try to reach help (cell phone). Tell people where you are going. And try to visit a trail that others are likely to be on. If you can, take a buddy, if you can’t, make sure several people know where you are going and when you should be back.

Happy Travels!

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!

Victorian Horrors

adventure of the week, colorado, Colorado Events, Travel, United States

This month has been a busy one, but I made sure I took some time to go to an event I had been longing to experience since I was 11.

When I was 11 my great aunt died right around Halloween. Saddened by her passing but overwhelmed with visiting family we somehow ended up at the 19th century home of Margaret Brown. AKA the Molly Brown House.

What I remember, apart from everything I saw on that tour, was all the magical looking Halloween decoration. The decorations were for their evening Victorian Horrors, and I knew then that I muse return for this experience.

Flash forward 16 years and I finally made it and it was worth the wait and the journey to visit. The Victorian Horrors tour delightfully blends the macabre nature of the Victorians, with many detailed decorations of bones and creatures, with the stories that made the time iconic. An actor a room shares a dark tale from their collection, and you are enraptured and transported to another time, and another world.

Table setting (from the Molly Brown House)

It’s well worth a visit or two, and best enjoyed with costume and some friends. If offered, don’t miss the free tarot readings, and fabulously kooky gift shop.

Happy Travels and Happy Haunting 💀🎃 👻

A Few of my Favorite Things (USA Edition)

adventure of the week, musings, Travel, United States

No doubt, when out in the world, there are differences along the way. The most noticeable for me tend to be food. Yet, when you go out and explore enough you start to realize the nuances of the world are just different.

  • Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups
  • Grocery Stores with EVERYTHING
  • Good, Cheap, Mexican
  • Decent Wi-Fi
  • Casual Outfits (I can wear pajamas to the grocer or coffee shop)
  • Hiking shoes as normal wear
  • A Website for Everything
  • Gym Clothes as errands clothes
  • Labels I can fully read (google translate helps with this) note: this is due to food allergies and specific needs I have for consuming things.
  • Halloween
  • Epic Wildlife

What are your favorites?

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?

My Favorite City

History, Scotland, Throwback Thursday, Travel, United Kingdom

A lot of people have favorites, and while I try not to discriminate, Edinburgh will always be my favorite.

I fell in love with the city at first sight. Literally. I rolled myself out of Edinburgh Waverly Station and when I walked out I was facing Princes Street, totally unimpressed and then I turned around. And of my god I will never forget the chills I felt taking in the magnificent gothic spires and alleys that make up Old Town Edinburgh.

I fell. Truly. Madly. Deeply. In love with the city.

I loved waking up to the sound of tourist music and the earthy smell of centuries of rain, Moss, and people. What Victorian London loss in the Blitz, Edinburgh has retained.

My first time in the city was one filled with new experiences, people, accents, food, art, culture, and hundreds of moments that propelled a small town girl (Pop. of Florissant, CO 100) into a completely new world.

I tried clubs and hipster coffee shops (when hipster was hardly a thing). I shopped for woolen goods, and went clubbing. I met friends and another male love interest. I had my heart broken, and found new passions. I visited ancient relics, I drank scotch for the first time, I went to my first U.K. Castles, I even did tombstone rubbings at Greyfriar’s Kirkyard. I got my first tattoo. I absolutely absorbed every misty breathe I could of the city.

In the last eight years I have been to more cities and have had more experiences. I added places to my scrap book like Rome, Venice and Florence, San Francisco, Orlando, and Frankfurt. Yet still, my heart craves the cobbles and Georgian basements of Edinburgh.

I returned in January 2015 and found new treasures such as Dean’s Village, and Mary King’s Close, and my new favorite, Sandy Bells. I found more music and a local Edinburgh than early tourist season had revealed. I loved the city even more in winter’s chill, even when it cut me to the bone. This time, five years wiser (I hope), I found the city as charming and lovely as before, just with new layers. My friends now haunt real bars and appreciate some tunes, they work professional jobs, and they don’t live with their parents. We all moved on and upwards, creating some blend of lives in the cities we have landed.

I know I’ll make it back to Edinburgh one of these days, a few more years wiser, a more aware version of myself. Yet my curious and naive mind will wander over dark closes and Scottish identity. I’ll learn new slang, and ghost stories, I’ll hear new tunes and make new friends, and once again I’ll be in love with the ancient walls around me.

The Cult of Bootstraps

musings

I am a strong believer in personal work and development. I am living proof that determination can actually attain goals and do things. I’ve been able to achieve a lot in 25 years of living, and 26 brings more goals. Yet, there is also a wall that exists that many of us hit and only a few can crawl over. I’m banging my head on that wall right now.

The reality is that outside factors play largely into whether or not someone will succeed in the way they want. These outside factors come in many forms. They’re income-based, education based, socio-economic based. Sometimes it comes down to sexism or racism. And even though we all want to believe that we have to tap into some type of well-spring that will fix our lives the reality is out of our control.

One applies for jobs they really want, one is maybe perfectly qualified and ready for the commitment. Your write a stellar resume and provide great references and update your website and you pray for the job. Yet 70 people apply 50 are just as qualified as you but 5 are more qualified and have more experience. Guess who gets the interview? Guess who stands out. Probably not you.

It raises the point that for every job in a certain field there are possibly hundreds trying to break into the field. Add onto it a later retirement for most people, which isn’t opening up jobs like it once did, and less jobs to go around in many industries and one is stuck in a bubble of underemployment.

For people in the millennial generation our wages are low and our potential to move ahead is harder. We buy homes less, because we can’t afford them. We’re loaded down with student debt, buying into the idea that our education was worth it. We don’t have benefits with many jobs we have, and we are having a harder time breaking into the fields we went to school for. If we ever get there. Many of us are still slinging pizza and selling clothes at Kohl’s to try and make it.

Many of us that went to school for a try at the middle class are facing an existence that has had wages stagnate for our lives and that of our boomer and gen-x parents. Add on the great recession which knocked a lot of people out of careers and into a downward spiral and we have a hot mess.

While I admire the idea of creating happiness and creating wealth in little things it’s also important to understand the crunch that basic survival takes on those living it. So much of one’s energy is placed in how to pay all the bills and come out with enough to buy food. A lot of energy is placed on figuring out summer camps and how to afford it and stressing about credit scores and if one can ever get ahead.

The increments are tough too, we might get a new job and make more, but then we lose our medicaid or other benefits such as income-based rent. So one has to earn significantly more to make a difference permanently in their lives. If you live somewhere like Fort Collins it’s even harder to pull ahead as the cost of living and cost of rent is harder to afford. 

The reality is that every single person living in the lower class or lower middle class, is literally pulling themselves up every single day by their bootstraps, just to get out of bed. The reality is that it is often so hard to want to even be alive. I believe this feeds into the drug epidemic and why so many people rely on medications of various kinds.

Much of this is compounded by a lack of well-paying and benefit-heavy jobs. Which I also understand. When a business is trying to employ people but it lacks significant profit it’s hard to pay raises and insurance and taxes and vacation and everything else. Sometimes companies can’t even fathom employing people full time, or only employ a few people full time for these reasons.

So what do we do? As the gap between rich and poor grows so wide.

A few ideas that would help would be single-payer healthcare for everyone, education for everyone, improved high school education that is heavy on teaching valuable skills, more corporate taxation and oversight, and more programs to even the playing field. Of course this comes down to taxation and taxing either everyone equally, say 20%, or a higher tax rate for those that earn more.

Historically, the United States had it’s largest economic boom in the post WWII years as a result of higher taxation and more education with the G.I. Bill. We also held onto manufacturing jobs and “built” the United States and much of the world. While globalization has changed much of where we manufacture, we also have opportunities to create more equality and affluence. Perhaps those that worked on the oil rigs could be recruited to work with renewable energy sources?

Much of this starts as early as high school and is a goal of lifetime improvements and learning. It also has to be backed by money going to actually helping teachers and educators and not for-profit systems. We also could take a look at higher education and why the hell it has skyrocketed (administration costs) at such a horrifying rate.

While I respect the idea of self-improvement and fighting for what you want, there is also a lot to be said for the people that can’t afford to meet their basic needs. It’s expensive to survive and to have kids and when a family can barely pay their bills month to month, it’s hard to see where the next spa day and yoga retreat are coming to calm the mind.

There are little things every day that improve one’s mindset when facing hard odds, but at the end of the day we must ask if this is the continued existence we want and want for our children, or are we going to fight to make sure everyone has more opportunities?

Watch these for more information:

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.