Lifestyle

#IStandForGirls

A few months ago I joined a community of female travelers and became connected with some amazing women. One of them, Elisabetta, runs the non-profit organization Kurandza.

Based in Mozambique, Kurandza is focused on the empowerment of local women. Elisabetta’s best friend and organizational partner Percina was the first woman from her village to graduate from high school, despite having to walk more than 10 miles to school each day. Her own experience sparked a passion in her heart for the education of girls, and now Kurandza is running a campaign to send 100 Mozambican girls to school. When Elisabetta reached out asking for people to help promote the campaign launch, joining was an absolute no-brainer.

There are a couple of ways you can help support this amazing cause.

1: Sponsor a girl directly for only $20 per month

2: Shop from vendors who are supporting the cause! Check #istandforgirls on Instagram to find them! (I am supporting through all purchases made on Etsy and NuSkin through the end of October)

We are facing so many issues in the world today, and direct charity is only a temporary help. We must invest in the actions that will result in long-term change, and educating girls is clearly one of the most impactful things we can do.

I stand for girls, and I hope you’ll stand with me.
KD

Lifestyle

Colorado Crush Art Festival

Every September the RiNo Arts District in Denver hosts a week-long festival called Colorado Crush, and it is one of the most unique things I have ever witnessed.

For 7 days a group of street artists descend upon a few city blocks in the heart of RiNo and cover the walls in incredible artwork that will remain until the next year’s Crush.

During the week you can walk around the streets and back alleys, watching the artists work and talking to them about their pieces. It’s amazing what they can do with spaces ranging from a little patch of brick between dumpsters to the full side of a 3 story building.

The festival may be over, the the beautiful artwork remains to be seen! Go check it out, and maybe grab a drink at the brand new Lustre Pearl, an Austin staple that just opened a location here in Denver!

Be sure to take a camera, because these murals are seriously Insta-worthy.

Happy Mural Hunting!
KD

Lifestyle

Reading Challenge Update

We are almost 3/4 way through 2017, and I can hardly believe it! What better time to check in on our 2017 Reading Challenge?

So far I’ve finished these books from the challenge:
The Alchemist
East of Eden
1Q84
Rich People Behaving Badly
Field Notes from a Catastrophe
Letters of Note
Hemingway in Love
Travels with Charley
The Essential Neruda: Selected Poems (Bilingual Edition)
Between the World and Me
Rich People Behaving Badly

Plus these from Book of the Month Club:
The Association of Small Bombs
The Nest
Modern Lovers
One Day We’ll All Be Dead and None of This Will Matter

I love having Book of the Month Club as a way to discover new literature that I might not otherwise find on my own! The best part is that they don’t ship my box or charge me unless I pick a book, so it’s not a big deal if I forget about it, as I tend to do with subscription services. Anyone else have that issue? I am seriously the worst at forgetting so skip a month. Fortunately I only subscribe to books, wine and more wine, and I’m never mad about forgetting to skip a month of wine.

Update us on your challenge progress in the comments, or share a book we should add to our list!

Happy Reading!
KD

Lifestyle

The Concept of Value Added

If you have known me for an extended period of time, and especially if you have ever helped me move, you know that I have long struggled with having a lot of stuff. I owned a condo and lived there for years before I married H, which meant that I had a whole life already set up. I had all the pots, dishes, towels, furniture, etc. When he moved in (along with all of our beautiful wedding gifts) my cute, spacious place became our crowded little place very quickly. Add that to the fact that I have never been a very organized person outside of my work, and I’m sure you can see how this quickly became an issue.

In the 4 years we have been married, we have moved 6 times. Each time I let go of so many things, and feel like I am making real progress- but it is never enough. Every time the next move comes around I discover the same problem. We have too much stuff- and I have had to recognize that aside from the things we had received as wedding gifts, most of it has been brought in by me.

We recently moved into a much smaller apartment, which is forcing me to be more aggressive about elimination. I have been toying with the KonMari Method (will be fully committing to that when I return from this long month of traveling) but I have been adding my own twist. With each thing that I examine, before I decide to keep it or release it, I ask myself, “Does this add value to my life? Does it fulfill a truly necessary function in my daily existence?”

This approach has been working wonderfully for me so far, and I am expanding it to examine my life outside of my material possessions. When I consider how to spend my time, in whom to invest my energy, and what I consume for entertainment/knowledge, I consider these questions.

I have added a page to the top of this site called Favorites, where I will be listing the things that I find truly add value to my life. Feel free to scope it out if you are curious about incorporating this practice into your own life! I would also love to hear about the things that add value to your life! Share in the comments below!

Seeking Value,
KD

Travel

Travel Diaries: Tokyo

Japan has been on my bucket list for years. It has long been one of those places that has held a special fascination for me. I can’t explain it- but it’s like that Carly Rae Jepsen song, “before you came into my life I missed you so bad…”. I missed Japan before I ever set foot there.

This visit was attached to a business trip for my dad, and we were also escorting my aunt & uncle (who have never traveled outside the US) to see their son, who is currently stationed at Yokota. Because of this our visit was strictly confined to 8 days and we divided our time between Tokyo & Kyoto.

Day 1: We arrived into Narita Airport around 3pm. Passed through customs quickly & easily, then went to the Japan Rail Office to exchange our rail vouchers for our passes. I strongly recommend purchasing this pass if you will be in Japan for more than a few days. We easily got double the value out of our passes, especially considering that they cover reserved seats in the premium car on the Narita Express (to/from the airport) and select Shinkansen (bullet trains connecting major cities) lines. In Tokyo we also found that we could get almost anywhere we wanted to go using the JR Yamanote Line combined with a short walk. It certainly helps that all the signs are translated into English and the JR attendants are extremely helpful when you are looking for a line to your desired destination. After receiving our passes we boarded the Narita Express to Shinagawa, where we checked in to the Tokyo Marriott there. I certainly would not recommend this hotel for budget travelers, but for anyone who uses Marriott rewards or is traveling for business, this is an excellent option. They have a wonderful breakfast that includes western and Japanese items, and the location (an easy walk from Shinagawa Station) can’t be beat. Quick dinner at the hotel with aunt/uncle/cousin (hotels are generally a safe bet to please less adventurous palates), then they departed for the base and we met a strict bed time to fend off any jet lag.

Day 2: Here I made a critical error. I have this rule about not taking organized tours, but I saw online that there was a half day bus tour that had great reviews and it went to 4 of the sites that were on my Tokyo list! Having never been to Tokyo before, I had no idea that the two of us could have easily traveled between these 3 sites by rail much more quickly and efficiently… so I signed us up for the tour. Honestly it was a bust. We spent more than half the morning on the bus and less than 30 minutes at each of the Meiji Shrine and the Imperial Palace Gardens. It felt like we were racing around just to try to see everything- there was certainly no time to explore or really soak up the experience. When we reached the 3rd stop, Asakusa, we bailed on the tour and spent the rest of the day exploring on our own. No hate for this tour, it would have been great for people who are not comfortable using public transport in a foreign country or who have trouble getting around for health reasons. It just wasn’t a good fit for more independent travelers who can get around via rail/foot quite easily.

For lunch we stopped into a tiny ramen shop in Asakusa, a long narrow room with a counter for 7 people and 4 options on the menu. For 2 huge bowls of fantastic ramen we paid a total of 700 yen- less than $7.

After finishing in Asakusa we were super sweaty (Japan in July is HOT) so we decided to head back to the hotel to shower and find a place to eat dinner. We opted for tempura and I found a local place, but we failed to make a reservation and so ended up having ramen again at Kimi Ramen in Shinagawa. This place was so cool- you order and pay through a machine, which prints you a ticket. You then put the ticket on the counter and the chef takes it as he is ready to prepare your bowl. Since the whole machine was in Japanese we required a little assistance, but the guys who worked there were very kind and helped us with just one small error in translation- we didn’t realize at one point when he asked us “small, medium or large” that he was asking my dad about how many bean sprouts he wanted on his bowl. It ended up being a mountain of bean sprouts! Hilarious.

Finished the day with a cold sake, feeling very satisfied.

Day 3: We woke up early to start our day at the Tsukiji Fish Market. We didn’t wake up as early as some, who arrive at the market around 4am for the daily tuna auction. They only allow visitors (non-industry folk) in for the auction on certain days and even then they only allow a few. I’ve heard it’s quite the spectacle but we didn’t feel like waking up that early to maybe or maybe not get in. We spent the morning wandering through the rows of stalls, purchasing beautiful Japanese ceramics (I fulfilled my mission of buying some ramen bowls), teas and street food. My favorite find were these shrink wrapped dried octopuses, which had faces drawn on their wrappers! So funny! The fish market was easily one of my favorite experiences of the entire trip. It definitely tops my recommendation list for Tokyo, and is a great place to buy authentic gifts to take home.

For dinner we ate at Inakaya in Roppongi, and it was one of the coolest things ever. I imagine that restaurants like this one were the inspiration for Benihana and some other westernized Japanese restaurants. We sat at a long table that faced two chefs, who were separated from us by several feet of fresh foods resting on ice. There were all kinds of fish, squid, crabs, mushrooms, vegetables, etc. We would tell the chefs which of the foods we wanted and they would cook them, then pass the food to us on long wooden paddles.

It ended up being a bunch of small plates extended throughout the evening, and we got to try quite a variety of things! One of the coolest details of the dinner was drinking sake from a wooden box. The waiter set the little box onto a ceramic dish and poured sake into the box until it overflowed into the dish, representing abundance. The belief is that the spirit from the tree infuses the sake. To drink it you first have to lean down and slurp out the first bit so the sake won’t spill when you lift the box. Once you have made enough room in the box, you pour the overflow of sake from the dish back into the box, and keep drinking!

Day 4: I had read online that the Samurai Museum in Tokyo us supposed to be wonderful, and it did not disappoint. It is a small museum but I found it to be quite spectacular. They have dozens of suits of original samurai armor (one even had bloodstains on it) and our English-speaking tour guide was incredibly knowledgable about the history of the samurai and the way the changing shoguns (samurai leaders) affected the culture of Japan throughout history. It was fascinating to learn about how the armor was made differently from European armor in order to be more light and flexible. I also enjoyed the guide’s stories about the personalities of the different samurai and the significance of their crests.

We also spent some time in Harajuku, walking around and just witnessing the general spectacle. It was quite a lot to take in- this is the area where, from what I gathered, Japan’s teenagers go to dress up, wear colored contacts and wigs, eat tons of sweets (there were literally 6 crepe stands) and bask in anime culture. This is also where we found a Daiso, which is a 100 yen store (equivalent of a dollar store in the states). A great place to buy cheap souvenirs if you have kids in your life back home.

In the afternoon we took the Shinkansen to Kyoto, which turned out to be one of my favorite cities in the world. More to come…

Happy Exploring!
KD

Travel

Elevation and Acclimatization

While living in Colorado I have become accustomed to hearing one phrase from visitors- “It’s so hard to breathe here!”

Denver is famous for being the Mile High City thanks to its elevation of 5,280 feet above sea level (a nickname that now has multiple meanings due to the legalization of recreational cannabis). Much of Colorado, however, is actually higher in elevation than Denver! Colorado is home to 53 fourteeners (mountains over 14,000 feet high) and the average elevation is 6,800 feet. To someone coming from sea level, the air feels pretty thin up here!

When we have visitors from lower locations, I always impress upon them the importance of acknowledging the change in altitude. Some people come here and think they can get by acting exactly like they do at sea level, and that’s just not the case. Here are my best tips for having a great time without getting altitude sickness!

  1. HYDRATE! I don’t mean to yell, but this is the most important tip I can give. You need water to help get oxygen to all the tissues in your body. When operating at a higher altitude, you need to drink more water than you normally would. When I first moved up here, my doctor actually recommended that I drink twice as much water as I was accustomed to while my body adjusted to the altitude. This is especially important if you are drinking coffee, alcohol or other beverages that will dehydrate you.
  2. Be mindful that alcohol will hit you harder up here. Yep, at higher elevations you will get drunk more quickly! Alternate your drinks with water or plan to drink less than normal.
  3. Consume nutrient dense foods. You want to support your body as it is working harder in this environment. When we have visitors, I start them off first thing in the morning with some sort of greens boost- either a morning pack of Onnit Total Primate Care or the Alkalising Greens mix from WelleCo mixed into coconut water.
  4. Be gentle with yourself. Move more consciously, pay attention to how your body is feeling. Altitude sickness is a real thing, and trying to push through it only makes it worse. If you start to feel poorly, it is better to back off and rest. Hike more slowly, look up and enjoy the views rather than racing to your destination.
  5. Consider a mushroom-based oxygenation supplement for any truly strenuous activity. ShroomTech Sport from Onnit is the one my husband and I use, it helps your body to utilize oxygen more efficiently. I’ve also heard great things about the Four Sigmatic Organic Mushroom Elixir Mix with Cordyceps.

If you have any more tips for handling an elevation change, share them in the comments below!

Happy Hiking (or whatever you’re doing),
KD

Lifestyle

Coffee Protein Shake

I have a drinking problem in the morning, but it’s not what it sounds like! I have too many liquids in my morning routine. I start with hot lemon water, then I like to have my Yogi Skin Detox Tea, alkalising green juice, a breakfast smoothie, and of course my coffee. Unless I want to spend the first half of my day peeing or carrying around a bunch of different cups, I have to find ways to consolidate!

One of my favorite ways to cut down on my number of cups is to combine my coffee into my morning smoothie. The healthy fats in this recipe also help prevent a caffeine spike & crash by giving you a sustained energy boost.

4 ounces Bizzy Cold Brew Coffee Concentrate
4 ounces Califa Coconut Almond Milk (available at most grocery stores- I prefer this brand because they use minimal additives)
1/2 frozen banana*
1 handful of ice cubes
1 serving of your favorite vanilla protein powder (I use this one but also really like this vegan option)
1/4 tsp Organic Cinnamon
1 scoop Vital Proteins Pasture-Raised, Grass-Fed Collagen Peptides (great for nails, hair, joints and bone health!)
1 tablespoon ONNIT emulsified MCT oil (vanilla, cinnamon or coconut flavor)

*Keto/low carb, use extra ice cubes instead of the frozen banana)

Combine all ingredients in a blender and blend on high until smooth. Garnish with a sprinkle of cinnamon, some banana slices and cacao nibs, or just drink it up on the spot!

Have a wonderful day!
KD

Lifestyle

Community Finds: Pablo’s on 6th

Denver has an amazing coffee scene. From pretty much anywhere in the city you can walk a block and find an independent coffee shop ready to fill you up with fresh ground, fair trade, locally roasted goodness. Who needs Starbucks in a city like this?

As the tech and digital nomad crowd has grown in Denver, many coffee shops have become hubs for remote workers. While I love these places as much as the next girl (who can say no to free wifi?), it’s not always easy to sit with a friend and have a meaningful conversation when you’re elbow to elbow with fast-typing coders and stressed out virtual assistants.

Enter Pablo’s, a wifi-free zone in the heart of the city. There are two locations, but my personal favorite is the one on 6th. The windows are filled with plants that block out the noise from the road and make the cozy interior feel like a rainforest retreat. At the register you will see stickers with the phrase, “Free Hi-Fives, No Wi-Fi”.

If you are a non-dairy person, ask for your drink to be made with the house-made nut milk. It’s a combo of almonds and macadamia nuts, sweetened with figs instead of sugar. Holy guacamole, it’s delicious.

Do you have a favorite coffee shop in your city? Let us know about it in the comments!

Happy Sipping!
KD

Travel

Travel Diaries: Taos

The last stop of  my epic New Mexico road trip was Taos, a town I have wanted to visit for years as it was a favorite haven of my late professor and mentor, Harald Becker.

When I am visiting a walkable town, accommodations in the heart of things are my top priority. In Taos this meant staying at the Historic Taos Inn, right on the main drag and easy walking distance to all of the shopping and restaurants in the area. The building is full of southwestern character and is home to both a restaurant and a bar featuring live music on a nightly basis. I totally scored on a great rate at this place because I went in April, which is not a busy time. If you can make it around that time I highly recommend it- the weather is beautiful and the area is not flooded with tourists.

I opted to stay in the main building, which had its advantages and drawbacks. On the positive side, I felt extremely secure and had easy access to the hotel amenities. The staff was friendly and they gave me great recommendations for things to do in the area. The walkway outside my door looked down over the bar area and there was a small table there, so I was able to come out in my sweats with a glass of wine and watch the musicians perform, which was a great way to wind down at the end of each day. The downside was that my door and windows might as well have been made of tissue paper for how well they blocked out noise. The music from the bar and the noise from the road outside were pretty loud. Even still, I had a great experience and will definitely stay there again- I’ll just opt for a different building next time.

For my first day I stuck to the town. I walked around the shopping areas and dropped into the tasting rooms for the El Chipara and Black Mesa wineries. Both were excellent and I ended up taking home a few bottles- particularly special was the Chocolate Caliente from Black Mesa, a spicy, chocolatey red dessert wine that is supposedly even better when warm. An absolute must-visit was Chokola, a small bean-to-bar chocolatier offering sipping chocolate, truffles and mousse. The place is really cute and I was seriously in chocolate heaven watching the amazing artisans make everything and getting to taste the fruits of their labor.

The next day I took to the roads to explore. My stops included the Taos Pueblo, the Rio Grande Gorge Bridge and Earthship Biotecture.

The Taos Pueblo is the oldest continuously inhabited community in the United States. Archaeologists believe that the current buildings were constructed between 1000 ad 1450AD, making them approximately 1,000 years old! Many of the native people who live there continue in their ancestors’ traditions of intricate beadwork, pottery and other crafts. Some of them operate shops out of their homes, and when you visit the community they will welcome you in to see their products and view the inside of these remarkable structures. Be sure to only enter into homes to which you are invited. While the community is open to visitors, the homes of individual residents are, of course, private. Make sure you get cash, as most of the shops and refreshments don’t accept cards.

One lovely woman I met was selling fry bread, which I’m pretty sure is still clinging to my hips but was super delicious and worth every bite.

On my way to Earthship Biotecture I passed over the Rio Grande Gorge Bridge, and I couldn’t resist stopping to take some pictures. The gorge is massive and so deep that I couldn’t actually see the water running at the bottom. The pedestrian walkway allowed me to stand right over the center, which was simultaneously awe-inspiring and terrifying.

After managing to not fall into the gorge, I was on my way again. Earthship Biotecture was only a few miles down the road and it was the place in Taos I was most excited to visit. H and I have long dreamed of building our own net-zero home, and earthships have been a major source of inspiration for us as we have considered our future plans. We even have a friend who interned there for a few months and has always raved about the wonderful community there.

The experience of actually touring a functioning earthship and learning about how the different components work was absolutely fascinating. The builders of these homes have found ways to regulate temperature without using electricity, ways to grow and dehydrate food in the windows using the sunlight, and ways to re-use water for 3 different purposes before finally surrendering it.

The homes themselves are built mostly from recycled material and adobe, which are both easily attainable and extremely affordable. The colorful circles you see on the tan and green buildings above are all glass bottles, and many buildings incorporated dirt-packed aluminum cans that functioned as bricks when building walls. Rainwater collection provides water, and is ingeniously built into the roofs of different structures.

When I was driving back into town I saw Taos Mesa Brewing and pulled off to grab lunch and a pint. The beer there was great and I was really excited to see that a new vintage trailer hotel, El Mystico, was being built right next door! It looks a lot like El Cosmico in Marfa, which is HIGH on my desired trips list. Hopefully El Mystico will be finished the next time I come to Taos so I can give it a try!

I wrapped up my visit to Taos by spending some time in the nearby community of Arroyo Seco, which is home to some lovely art galleries, pottery studios and restaurants. Some friends of ours from college live near there, and I was able to enjoy dinner with one of them at the absolutely amazing Aceq restaurant.

Overall Taos was a delight. I wish I could have spent a few more days there, but with only a 5 hour drive separating us I know I will have many opportunities to return. Hopefully next time I can get in some snowboarding!

I would love to hear about your favorite road trip destinations! What makes them so special?

Happy Trails,
KD