Be Still

Just a reminder* to breathe today. Take a moment. Call an old friend, or close family. Write a letter to someone or to yourself. Do something slow, like making tea or taking a walk. Cry if you feel like it. Or laugh if you feel like it. Appreciate the moments, the fleeting ones that you are worried you will forget, like that unexpected coffee with an unexpected friend. Just pause.

*Reminders for myself

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Sunday Check-In

Today is transitional!

I just got back from San Francisco. The time change is only two hours, but the lifestyle change is drastic. As I am settling back in to healthful habits and waking up after 4 hours of sleep, I am also re-packing for a rapid turn around. With less than a full night’s sleep at my apartment, I am heading out for the New Harmony Music Festival, where I will spend time with my family and deliriously blissful time with friends that are basically family. I am looking forward to this next trip, but I really have been going at full force. Going on vacation and to a festival and to visit family… but still, going! It may be late August before I’ve spent a full week at my apartment. Today is about getting myself in order and resetting to the pace of the rural midwest.

I am looking forward to a long drive with music, my thoughts, and my cat…actually, not especially psyched about driving alone with the cat, really, but I suppose it will be nice to catch up with him after the long trip away!

Hoping your summer weekends are lazy and restorative.


Extremely Related: Travel Snacks

Ideas for Staying Energized in the Grueling Heat

-drink a lot of water. drink when you’re not thirsty

-drink lemonade

– ~don’t~ drink alcohol

-lay down. take a nap. take a coffee nap.

-stand up. exercise!

-try and exercise early in the morning or later in the evening

-seek shade

-play board games. go rock climbing. complete other social indoor activities.

-swim and hike, and other things you likely don’t do if it is chilly outside

-break all of these rules at a music festival and enjoy yourself


Related: best lemonade and ice cream goals

The Skincare Routine That Helps Me Fall Asleep at Night

I am meticulous about maintaining standard skincare routines, such as washing your face before bed, applying various topicals daily, using masks several times a week, but there is one thing I realized I have been completely overlooking: my feet.

I rarely give second thought to the strain that my feet endure. I run most days, and then spend the rest of the day on my feet in some sort of flat or dress shoe while teaching. After school, I am often climbing, which has me in tight shoes that squish my toes, which I am then putting all of my weight directly onto those squished toes. As soon as I stop wearing a winter coat, I start wearing sandals, and I don’t look back until I need that coat again. At the end of the day my feet are always very tired, and in sandal weather, they are also dirty.

My mom has always recognized the value of foot care. When I was little, after a muddy soccer game in restrictive cleats, she would have me soak my feet in the bath tub and then she would rub an invigorating lotion on- usually grapefruit, or mint. This was a thoughtful and refreshing gesture, but somehow I have never been self-inspired to care for my feet myself.

Yesterday my feet were the usual after-school soreness, and really dirty from playing outside with the kindergarteners, so I soaked my feet in a bath salt/ baking soda combo.

Here is the DIY game changer: I filled a small bowl with sugar, and squeezed half a lemon into that bowl of sugar just before scrubbing my feet with said lemon-sugar. This was AMAZING. My feet tingled and my muscles relaxed; the dirt and dead skin was easily removed from my feet, and my legs and feet completely relaxed from the mini-massage. I used the whole bowl of my lemon-sugar scrub, and exfoliated my ankles and calves, too. Bonus: follow up with a tingly mint lotion for ultimate relaxation and easy sleeping. Sometimes I hesitate to lotion up because my feet still feel a little gross from the day (I am a morning shower kind of person) but I will no longer neglect my tired achey feet.

The only other times I have done this were in extreme situations, like right after finishing a hike in the grand canyon or after days of walking in a European city. My sister jokes that the dirt specs tan onto my feet, so my feet look perpetually dirty, even when they are clean. This lemon-sugar scrub minimizes that look!

Do you have a self-care routine that helps you relax instantly? I would love to hear about it!

Climb On

Today I hid a Resee’s in the teacher’s lounge freezer, so I would have a little pick-me-up later in the day. After an especially rough afternoon class, I went over to retrieve my treat and… it was gone! Someone had snatched my snack!

So it’s been one of those days.

I find climbing, my newest interest, so restorative. This hammock floating where most people can’t bother you is symbolic of the catharsis that comes from climbing.

hammock wall

I am getting really burnt out at work, and feel underutilized, and really just need some solid chill-time. The kind of evening where the hours fade away and you feel relaxed and content, surrounded by friends. I chose these images from the Earth Day campout at Brooklyn Boulders Chicago to represent that fun-chill vibe I’m longing for. Whether it is climbing and camping or breaking bread (or chips and salsa) with pals while playing a good record, I’m after the low-key relaxation that only good friends and good vibes can bring.



Spring Break Planning: The Wild West!

Last year, I lived in the Wild West for a little over 4 months. I was learning and teaching on the Navajo Nation, living in New Mexico near the four corners area. When my roommate and I ended our stay, we had already started our job search in the Midwest, but felt like we had so much more to do and see out West!

Since leaving, I have had vivid dreams of my stay there. Often times my dreams will be technicolor canyon memories, like the photo below.

These dreams are accompanied by the regret I have not seen the Colorado River, despite having visited the Grand Canyon twice, along with several other canyons formed by the river.

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Hiking and exploring is so meditative. I have not really taken a break during my first year as a full time teacher, and certainly haven’t taken any special trips like this one. This spring break, I am determined to see finally see the Colorado River. I am also determined to relax and savor my time outdoors in the sunny canyons.

Below is my itinerary and budget for this trip. I am trying to be very transparent with my anticipated spending, and including prices of gear and food in addition to the expected cost of travel and lodging.

Since I lived out West for four months, I have a lot of places I want to visit again, along with photos from my most memorable experiences. Unfortunately, after spending four months out there and still not crossing everything off my list, I find that in one week I can barely scrape the surface of amazing experiences!

Spring Break Out West

The italicized expenses have already been paid.

The day before we leave:
We have to board our kitten at the nearby kennel! We are still getting settled in Chicago, and really don’t have any close friends that could house him for an entire week. We decided dropping him off the night before our departure would make goodbyes and last minute packing a little easier, since we plan to catch an early flight the next day.
Cost: $12 a day, 10 days

Daily Total: $120
Paid: $0
Left to Pay: $120

Day 1: Fly into ABQ
Today we fly into Albuquerque at 10:25 a.m. and begin our journey out West! We will rent a car at the airport and head on our way. First stop is Canyon de Chelly. We will check into our hotel (Best Western is THE budget hotel when you are out West. Seriously: they are the Best when you are Western), and then do a warm-up hike. Canyon de Chelly is a sacred Navajo site and the only hike available without a hiring a guide is the Whitehouse Trail, which about a 6 hour day hike. Since this is the first day of our trip, I wanted an easy hike in a scenic location.

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A bonus to this stop is the delicious diner attached to the hotel that serves authentic Southwestern and Navajo cuisine. Also attached to the hotel is a small trading post/ gift shop with some local wares from several nearby tribes. Last year I bought some silver and turquoise Zuni earrings there.

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Last year, I had an official meeting with the director and participants of my education program at this restaurant and canyon. We had breakfast and our class discussion together that morning, and continued our meeting on a 6 hour day hike. It was amazing, and is definitely the best way to have a meeting!

My food memories from that visit last year include a breakfast of a massive breakfast burrito loaded with green chile, and a post-hike piece of mutton folded into a piece of dry bread (fry bread cooked dry on the skillet instead of fried) with a whole roasted green chile!

Expenses include:

Flight: $911 for two tickets through Southwest Airlines
Rental Car: $30 a day
Hotel: $117.85 for one night at the Canyon de Chelly Best Western
Navajo Park Fees: the Whitehouse Trail is free!
Food: For at least 2 meals, $50 per person 
Trading Post Allowance: ___

Daily Total: $1,281
Paid: $961
Left to pay: $320

Day 2: Travel to Grand Canyon, attempt to get backpacking permit (oops)

If we get an early start that day, I would like to take a detour to the Hubble Trading Post or the Petrified Forest, two sites I have driven past and not yet visited.

Time is of the essence though, because in January I submitted a permit request for backpacking in the Grand Canyon… when I needed to submit the request in November. My request was denied, I’m kicking myself for the late application because now I need to spend all night at the Grand Canyon Registration office in line for a backpacking permit. I will try for Bright Angel or South Kaibab, but if you have advice as to another trail that can be done in three days and won’t kill us, please share!

If we want to start our hike on Day 4, then we need to be there overnight on Day 2/ Day 3 to apply for these very competitive slots. I made my camping reservations for Day 3 on before I received my permit request rejection. The plan is to park somewhere and just sleep outside of the office or in the back of the car until we can go line up. Or stay awake outside of the office and have a thermos of coffee to share with other hikers? I’ve learned on other last minute attempts to acquire a permit that this line is a good way to make outdoorsy friends.

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Gas: $60
Food: $30 per person
Trading Post allowance: ___
National Park Pass: $80
Cost of permit: $42

Daily Total: $212
Paid: $80
Left to Pay: $132

Day 3: Free Day in the Grand Canyon

After camping outside the registration building all night, we will probably want some downtime, and we will need to get our packs ready for the next day. We could take a helicopter tour or mule train, but that’s not really in our budget or quite our style. I’m thinking we might take a short South Rim hike. Something easy before the grueling journey ahead of us.

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Camping: $18 per day (paid for duration of Grand Canyon visit)
Food: $8 per dinner for 2 people 
Gift Shops: ___

Daily Expenses: $80
Paid: $80
Left to Pay: $0

Day 4: It begins!

At this point everything is paid for. We will have bought our permit and while we already owned most gear, there are a few essentials we purchased before this trip.

My sister and I purchased a cheap water filtration device for our backpack treks we take with our brother, but we decided for as much water as we go through with two or three of us it is time for an upgrade. I am planning to buy this filter to maximize efficiency. I think I am also ready for a dromedary, in addition to a couple of hydration reservoirs that we already own. I am going pace my water intake carefully by moving water from my dromedary to my hydration pack at my rest stops. Otherwise, I will leave myself high and dry for the last three hours and wish I was dead!

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Regarding food, we wish we had the tools to dehydrate our Green Chile Green Chili. Since we are not yet at that level, we are packing a few tried and true meals to have for our hikes and other nights spent camping. This beef stew is definitely our favorite! I also really like the Mountain House breakfast options, although we may take the cheaper route down and just pack baggies of oats with dehydrated milk and dried fruit. My lunch plan is crackers and salami, plus GORP and Clif bars. What is your lunch strategy for backpacking trips like this?

We already own our tent, backpacks, sleeping bags (although I may upgrade before this trip), and stove, but my parents are insistent that we have an emergency power source so that we could maybe communicate if we happen to get cellphone signal from deep inside the canyon. I will probably go big or go home.

Today we will descend all the way into the canyon and camp at the Colorado River. Ahh! I have already experienced the first 1/3 of this hike on two different trails.

The asterisks indicate gear upgrades we may make before the trip.

Food: $4 per meal x 2 people x 3 meals+ astronaut ice cream!
*Water Filter: $112
*Dromedary: $49.95
Fuel: $15.90
Charger: $169.95

Daily Total: $24+ 347.80*
Paid For: $24+ 347.80*
Left to Pay: $0

Day 5: Climbing out part one!

Ahh, wasn’t that first day fun? I mean, I’m sure my quads are killing me my shoulders are burning, it was worth it for the amazing views! Today we are hiking halfway out, and camping at Indian Gardens. There is a day hike there, so we can drop our packs and just take water and snacks if we get there early enough for the day hike. This is all assuming we get the permit for the Bright Angel trail, and not a different trail. Maybe I should order a Grand Canyon Hiking Guide right now? Just in case? I think I will. Yeah, I should.

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Grand Canyon Hiking Guide: $14.63
Food: $4 per meal x 2 people x 3 meals

Daily Total: $38.63
Paid For: $38.63
Left to Pay: $0

Day 6: The Home Stretch!

Today we get OUT of the canyon and I am sure we will be desperate for a shower and a hot hot meal. We may just do the camping version of “Netflix and chill” by heating up another dehydrated meal and passing out in our tent… but if we are out early enough we could have the energy to go buy a hot dinner after we’ve showered.

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Food: $4 per meal x 2 people x 2 meals + HOT MEAL UP TOP 

Daily Total: $66
Paid For: $16
Left to Pay: $20-50 for hot meal

Day 7: Shonto Trading Post, Monument Valley

This should be a lazy hazy drive with plenty of stops along the way. We will drive through the quiet and spacious Southwest, hopefully finding a roadside tamale stand for lunch. Mmm. I LOVE tamales. We will definitely buy some piñons and maybe some jewelry or RUGS at the hidden little trading post in Shonto, a “census-designated place with a population of 568.” I have some friends, and friends of friends, who have taught at this school and fallen in love with this community and lived there for years. It is a life you choose if you are content with a quiet, small town life.

After our visit to Shonto (and maybe the weird Burger King/ Code Talker museum ???) we will head on to Monument Valley. We may visit Page, AZ if we have extra time.

Our end goal, though, is monument valley, where we don’t even have to hike if we hurt too bad, but if we do want to hike it is actually just a walk with wild horses.

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This is the anticipated view from our tent:

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Camping: $20.95
Food: $25 per person
Trading Post Allowance: ___
Gas: $30

Daily Expenses: $75.95
Paid: $20.95
Left to Pay: $55

Day 8: Visit With Friends or Continue On

Today we may visit the town I lived in, and the families we befriended while living there. I want nothing more than to connect with the students, teachers, and members of the community that made sure we had a welcoming experience. However, the school district is closed on the day we have allotted for this! Another example of me not checking all of the details soon enough. If we are not able to plan a visit with anyone, we will move on ahead and spend a day in Albuquerque or Santa Fe. I love Santa Fe.This city is made of adobe clay and piñon smoke.

Gas: $30
Hotel: $80-150
Food: $60 per person

Daily Total: $240
Paid: $0
Left to Pay: $240

Day 9: Homeward Bound

We have an early flight back on Day 9, and we be back in our apartment with our kitten early in the afternoon. We will probably take a nap, order deep dish pizza, and do laundry.

Laundry: $10
Pizza: $25

Daily Total: $35
Paid: $0
Left to Pay: $35

Total Cost of Rest and Relaxation in the Wild Wild West: 

Trip Total: $2,172.58
Paid: $1,220.58 (could add $347.80 in gear)

Left to Pay: $952 + Whatever I am able to save for trading post purchases

Rough Breakdown of Weekly Expenses: 
Food Expenses:
$300, 2 people for 9 days
Lodging: $450.80+ $120 for kitten
Ground Transportation: $270 rental + $120 for gas
Flight: $961

This post really sheds some light on where money really goes when traveling! Because most of this trip is dehydrated meals and campsites I did not expect food and lodging costs to be $300 and 450, respectively. However, about $1,000 per person for a 9 day trip including a flight, rental car, and kitten lodging is not too bad.

Besides, the true cost of being in a warm canyon, thousands of miles from my students? Priceless.

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Solo Friday in Chicago

Image: Chicago Field Museum

Thinking ahead to the weekend, and I am psyched to have a couple of days to kick my feet up and relax. I have been dreaming of using skyscanner’s everywhere feature to just get away, but recent vet bills and concerns for our kitten’s health are keeping me local.

I am seriously tempted to stay in and exist solely on popcorn… but I do live in one of the greatest cities in the world! So, here is my exploration plan.

How cool is the Field Museum’s tattoo exhibit? Running through April 30th, the exhibit shares cultural histories of tattoos from many times and places, and even has live demonstrations of tattoo artists at work!

There is also this orchid show at the Chicago Botanical Garden. I haven’t been to the Botanical Garden yet, but a greenhouse is a great place to be on a cold day!

Of course, it might not be cold in which case I will default to laying on the lawn at one of the many great parks and reading!

How do you spend your weekends when your friends are out of town?