Pajama Crush

For some period of 5-10 years growing up, every Valentine’s Day my family would have a nice meal together, a special dessert, and then we would receive a special gift. Pajamas from Mom, and plants from Dad! This was a tradition that just… emerged. I think that plants are the frugal version of flowers, they keep on living, and they are easily found at the grocery store, but MAN receiving a live plant always feels like a special gift. And February is so cold and dark there is nothing more comforting than new pajamas! Some of these PJs are inspired by my family’s Valentine’s tradition and combine my affinity for plants and pajamas. Since I am still holding off on personal spending, this is a wish list or hard hint to my family or boyfriend.

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!

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Speckled pink and a classic robe

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The Leggings List

One thing I like about blogging is that it allows me to organize my elaborate wishlist. I very much “curate” my possessions, even those as basic as a pair of leggings. Here is a roundup of leggings I have my eye on. (And, admittedly, I just ordered another pair from lamixx).

 

Back to Black
My first debate: Which pair of basic black leggings will prove superior? I hate to drop $100 on these three pairs, but I really can’t decided.

Tried and True by lamixx    $26
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I have probably bought a pair of these each year and I keep going back because I keep LOVING them. The thick fabric is soft and has shine instead of sheer. Downside: the thighs wear out (along the stitching, not through the fabric) and the waistband is minimal so I am always hiking them up. I realize that these may be problems only for curvy girls.

The Infamous Live In by Zella    $54
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Their name precedes them: the live in is supposed to be a flawless pair of leggings that you can just… live in. The secret to the Nordstrom brand Zella is that they have a former Lulu designer on their team. I am skeptical about the texture of the fabric, although the 3,100 reviews assure us that it is a thick and supportive fabric, and I wonder how true the shade of black is (the photo looks a little grey). I am really looking to live in my leggings, not just work out in them.

Essential by Lou and Grey     $24.50
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Another name implying that this pair is all we need. From a brand built on lounge and comfort, it’s worth a try.

New Year’s Sparkle
I’m thinking of ringing in the new year by matching the American symbol: the New Year’s ball. Then again, where would I really wear them and how much am I really willing to spend on leggings….

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Bronze

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Rose Dipped

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Disco 1

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Disco 2

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Disco 3

 

Powerhouse
Here are leggings I would (and do) actually workout in, and feel like a badass while doing it.

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Sweaty Betty

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Outdoor Voices

Four Things

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Who knew that Meatloaf is the great voice of reason among politicians, or at least among upper middle class white men.

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Reminder for you and your partner: you already know a Love Spell.

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We are halfway through Hanukkah! Here is a musical Dose of Hanukkah.

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I can’t stop thinking about this sweatshirt, only because I touched it while at Madewell and it was SO soft and I would have bought it right then if they had a medium in store. Christmas is right around the corner…

 

 

 

My Fall Recipe Playlist

Do you find your eating habits shift seasonally? If we’re not careful, that means sweets and chex mix all winter, doesn’t it? I had been drinking delicious green goddess smoothies since spring and then one day I woke up and it was so cold I couldn’t bear the thought of a frozen drink. That is probably the same day I started making soups and using only orange vegetables. Here are the fall recipes that I keep going back to.

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Avgolemono 
A greek lemon-dill soup that takes 15 minutes to whip together, and uses mostly handy ingredients. This soup is for when you are sick (or just cold), and is bright and reminiscent of summer. This can be made with chicken, but I have been using this recipe by Dinner a Love Story and skipping the meat. Next time I will try the heartier family recipe from Jojotastic, also using a vegetable base. The onion, celery, and carrot will give it a flavorful base. To make this a meal worth sharing, butter up some fresh sourdough and serve a crisp salad on the side.

 

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Corn Chile Chowder
This recipe calls for jalepeño, but I decided to add a little New Mexico heat with a load of green chile. Creamy and spicy, this chowder hit the spot. Tamp the heat with sweet cornbread and apple cider.

 

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Kale and Butterbeans
This has become a weekly default, for when I want to eat healthy and have warm comfort food. I add as much kale as I can stand, am generous with the lemon juice, and always skip the parmesan and optional eggs. We recently used up some breakfast sausage by adding it to the mix, and it was very good.

 

 

 

 

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Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Muffins
I made these because in college, I bought one of these from my favorite coffee shop like, every other day. This batch came out even better than my coffee shop inspiration- they were soft and fluffy on the inside, and the chocolate chips held their shape. Brown butter glaze is always good, but honestly, I could have skipped it and felt better about my breakfast habit!

 

 

 

For other ideas, consider these amazing sweet potato options: stew, noodles, and egg boats.

Coming soon: Stuffed and Curried Sweet Potato

In the mean time: The Meal that was SO Good I Forgot to Take Pictures

Sweater Wishlist

I have been so cold, lately! I guess the changing of seasons sort of snuck on me. As a result, I’ve been keeping tabs on the sweaters that I want the most… and I can’t afford any of them! I am looking for sweaters that are soft and not itchy, breathable but not flimsy. So, here are the sweaters I wish I had to keep me warm.

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The cashmere crew in donegal is a workhorse I would wear for years.

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I love how this cat print is a neutral and is a wild pattern at the same time.

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This is the emerald knit of my dreams. I have been looking for the perfect chunky/oversized/mossy sweater for years. This looks pretty close.

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This waffle knit looks like it has a little more structure than the sweater above, but… the one above is so fuzzy!!

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I love how slouchy and textured this yellow number is. It would be perfect for wearing on dreary days walking around at the museum.

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Loving the cross-back. My sister has this piece as a part of her going out capsule. How mad would she be if I bought one in the same color…?

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I am completely obsessed with Misha and Puffs popcorn sweater in confetti cake (and other amazing colors), and I can get behind their cause and would love to support the makers but I just cannot swing that price. I could buy a trip to the Caribbean for the cost of that sweater. I could buy all of the sweaters pictured above for that price! In my desperate longing for this unique puffy piece, I found these similar styles:

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A perfect pick for a teacher during the holidays… except that kindergarteners would have a field day with the pom-poms, not to mention my cat!

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This dusty pink one is a little more sophisticated than the festive one above. Both are simplified versions of the Misha & Puff, though, with pom-poms just stuck on the front, not knitted all around. Admittedly, this sweater is the closest to my price point.

 

I’m going to be honest. This post is an excuse for me to save all of my dream sweaters to one page, so that when I have some extra money to spend, I can go for it. Do you have a favorite sweater that never fails? There seem to be strong opinions about fabric and how great merino and cashmere are in the case against acrylic. What do you think?

Related: Fall Outfits in Three Moods

Game Changing Workout Gear

In the spirit of resiliency, I am trying many new hobbies and trying to stay extremely active. Here are some workout accessories for an active lifestyle.

Biking

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Wall Mount
Easy access, wall art, and home security for your bicycle.

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Phone Bracket
From here you can operate maps and track your speed and distance.

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Stationary Adaptor
So that you can bike and watch tv at the same time!!! Very good for winter exercise.

Running/ Walking/ Hiking

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I love my Allbirds and I love their versatility. They make me feel lighter and bouncier!

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The Gokey is a really convenient way to hold your key while running. I have lost my keys out of my shorts key pocket or off my shoelace before. This would have been very handy!
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Everest Fanny Pack
Affordable and in like 20 different colors! I am sold on the classic Everest fanny pack, and I order one in a new color whenever the need arises. (I actually wear one while I teach, to keep my emergency radio and student rewards accessible!)

 

Accessories

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Foam Roller
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Resistance Band Rainbow Set
Life Hack!!!! If you can’t do a full pull-up, you can attach a resistance band to the bar, place one foot inside of the resistance band, and go! It is amazing. I am using this trick to try and achieve one pull-up by the end of my four week rock climbing training session!

Workout Leggings

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Stirrup Leggings
Perfect for protecting ankles from the cold while biking, running, or keeping pants in place during yoga.

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Oxblood Mesh Leggings
Now that I am doing all sorts of new exercises like biking and rock climbing, I feel I need some variety in my workout clothes. I also feel like quality and durability is increasingly important, as these activities involve more friction.

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Hunter Leggings
A perfect shade of green. I could live in these on a camping/ hiking trip, for sure.

April Showers bring chilly hours!

It’s getting warmer outside, but it is also getting… wetter. So we all want to expose our kneecaps and elbows… but the rain brings along a bit of a chill!

If you have ever come in from the rain in your light spring clothes only to sit in front of the A/C with no jacket… you know how important it is to have some spare spring sweaters- for your bag, your car, even to keep at your desk! As we are anticipating a drizzly week in the midwest, here are some mood and shoulder warmers to the rescue!

 

Each cardigan below is $25!
For pulling over a light denim dress when you want warm arms and a place to store your phone…. we need some millennial pink with pockets!

But I ALWAYS need a green option, and the mossy short-sleeved choice adds some nice color to my otherwise hunter green choices.

Hygge Goals

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My kitten staying very warm and cozy on a cold and snowy night! He is maximizing his sense of hygge, a Danish word essentially meaning “winter cozy.”

Roswell’s advice? Light a candle, and chill on the couch near some warm weather plants and the radiator. I think I’ll join him!

How do you achieve your “winter cozy?”

What’s your #MondayMotivation?

Last week, I had Monday goals. This week, I am just looking for a little motivation to help me through a cold and snowy week!

I ordered this hat for my trip, and it help to keep my eyes on the prize. Good vibes every day! Scrolling through photos of the destination of my upcoming trip leaves me with warm and sunny feels!

What is your #MondayMotivation?

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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Expenses:
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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Expenses:
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.

Expenses:
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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Expenses:
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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Expenses:
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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Expenses:
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.

Expenses:
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.

Expenses:
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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