Dash of Rose

A dash of rosy positivity

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Hiking and Camping Alaska: Favorite Gear

Hiking and Camping is a great way to connect with yourself, nature, and others.  I just got back from an invigorating two week in Alaska, embracing sleeping and wandering outside.  Considering the weather conditions varied a lot, and I was pretty remote at times, good gear is essential! I'm pleased with what I brought along with me and here are some favorites (that definitely helped keep me comfortable)!

General Note: Technical gear is very expensive upfront and you often do get what you pay for.  Especially for backpacking, weight and effectiveness matter a lot.  Given that I'm not a very big person and it's not recommended to carry more than 30% of weight, it's important that equipment is light-weight.  Not all gear can just be "smaller" to reduce weight.

I fit pretty much everything I needed for two weeks in Alaska which included my tent, sleeping pad and bag, clothes, stove, emergency items, and more!
PROS: Light weight, easy to organize, very comfortable with a heavy load.  The one I specifically have also came with the waterproof pack cover in the hood!
CONS: Because the hip belt is so cushion-y, it can be a challenge to put it on to begin with because the hip belt often gets caught behind your lower back.  It's not a deal breaker for me because I eventually figured out a good way for myself to put it on.  Another con is that the hood of the pack (the top compartment that can be taken off) isn't conducive to becoming a daypack.  Some other technical packs do have that feature.  Also not a deal breaker because with some parachute cord + carabiner, I can turn it into a temporary daypack.

Super light weight and folds up really small, I found this really convenient to get out and put away, especially in my pack when I want to stuff it with my other gear.
PROS: Extremely light, durable, and pretty cute
CONS: Can be pretty expensive if you don't find it on sale

I wasn't able to bring enough clean clothes to only wear once or twice for the entire two weeks.  When I could, I'd launder some items by hand and then hang it up to dry outside.  If it was raining some, I'd also hang a waterproof "tarp" above it to keep the rain off to still give it a chance to dry while I slept.  The clothesline is also useful for hanging clothes to dry if they got wet from the rain.

Super excited that this style came back! 
PROS: I found these boots to be really durable and comfortable for all day hiking/backpacking.  They're plenty waterproof and easy to clean as well. They're also cute.
CONS: Without breaking them in, the boot is pretty stiff towards the front/side of the foot, pressing on the bone.  I noticed that immediately when I first put it on, so I used a shoe stretcher and now it fits perfectly!

I find that walking a long time in any shoe can be very hard on my feet and knees.  I swapped the original insole of my vasque hiking boots for these from Superfeet and it's made a big difference! 

PROS: Very comfortable, light, extremely packable.  I also like how I can inflate it without using my mouth (with the aid of a pump sack listed below) to reduce growth of germs.
CONS: Slightly slippery when sleeping on it in a sleeping bag

This pump sack makes it easy to inflate the above sleeping pad, AND you can roll up the sleeping pad to stuff it into this sack to turn it into a cushy stool!

PROS: Lightweight, easy to use, effective
CONS: Not waterproof and I'm not sure how durable it is next to really hard objects that might bend it to the point of breaking it.  I avoided breaking it by accident by just placing it as close to my back as possible when storing it without allowing any major hard objects to poke it while stored.

These are the most comfortable hiking pants I've ever owned.  It's like wearing pajamas!
PROS: Full range of motion, dries quickly, keeps me warm and cool, decent wind protection, resists abrasion when climbing rocks, and stays relatively clean.
CONS: A little bit long for me, but I cinched the bottom a bit and when I wear my hiking boots it's fine.

PROS: Lightweight, very easy to set up, durable, and an amazing company with great customer service.
CONS: Expensive... but you get what you pay for.

PROS: Versatile, lightweight, fast drying, wicks sweat, protects from sun, and keeps my hair out of the way! It doesn't look half bad on either.
CONS: I can't think of any.

I actually originally brought the Outdoor Research Helium  to Alaska with me but I had forgotten to properly clean it to restore it's waterproof-ness before my trip so although I was not drenched from the constant sprinkles for a week while I was volunteering outside... I was definitely damp.  It dried fast anyway when it wasn't raining on me.  I had to make a stop at REI in Anchorage in search of a new rain jacket before spending a week in Denali where the forecast called for even more rain.  I opted for the Marmot jacket because it was light weight and used Gore-Tex technology to be waterproof so it's not as susceptible to reduced performance due to dirt/sweat/grime compromising the technical fabric (from my primitive understanding of how PerTex works...).  Gore-Tex is definitely more rugged, although slightly less breathable.
PROS: Very durable, light-weight, comfortable, very waterproof
CONS: Not super breathable... but, it's hard to be extremely breathable AND waterproof without compromising one of the two.  This jacket makes up for it with pit zips though.

PROS: Fully zips off/on so boots don't have to be taken off.  AND can buy for shorter inseam. Very waterproof and got a lot of good use.
CONS: Not cheap.

Really helpful for very cold days and nights.  Good to have them handy.

Good as a scarf, a hat, and a headband!

Keep your socks and pants dry! (and relatively clean...)
ALL PROS!  I hiked with plenty of people who ended up feeling uncomfortable as they trudged through boggy terrain with wet socks.

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Sunday, July 3, 2016

Adventure into the Amazon Jungle

From what I can tell from the internet, solo traveling is on trend right now.  That's not why I went ahead with it though.  Now that I'm in my late 20s and on my way to 30 I've been feeling a bit "old."  I KNOW that this is not old at all. I haven't done anything particularly adventurous in a long time yet there are lots of things I want to do, places I want to see... and I really have No Excuse not to do those things.  There is nothing holding me back besides myself.

Back in March I decided I needed to just get myself into gear and stop stalling my life.  After some back and forth between various destinations and travel-companion options I decided to go with the Amazon Rainforest.  I have wanted to go there since I was 7 years old and I didn't really care if anybody else wanted to go with me.  I realize that everybody has their own interests of where they want to go and where they want to spend their money.  Saying "someday I'll do ___" might turn into "I wish I had done _____."

Given that this would be my first international trip alone I felt more at ease given that I'd be joining a tour group.

On June 15 I arrived in Quito, Ecuador and would have a couple days on my own before my tour started.  I highly recommend the tour I went on: Local Living Ecuador: Amazon Jungle
Some of my favorites from my traveling include: Zip-lining upside down through the cloud forest in Mindo, waterfall hiking (climbing waterfalls included) through the Jungle, white water rafting in the Napo River and relaxing in the hot springs for hours and hours.  Such an amazing adventure and I am itching for more!

Beautiful butterfly from Mindo Butterfly tour

Mindo Butterfly Tour

Mindo Orchid tour

Mindo Chocolate Tour

Informal "middle of the world" stop

Playground stop on the way to Otavalo Market... best playground I have ever been to and played on!

Shopping in Otavalo Market

Parque Condor view

Official Middle of the World! 

Waterfall hike in the jungle with fellow travelers on the tour

Waterfall hike in the Jungle

Hang-out spot from Jungle home

Woolly Monkey on the way to AmaZoonico (where amazon jungle wildlife is being rehabbed)

On the last day before some of us went to the airport, we stopped at a nearby lagoon on our way to Papallacta Hot Springs 

View from lunch of the Papallacta Hot Springs spa

With our driver, Eduardo :)

Things that I'm glad I packed:

  • Travel clothesline (although in the jungle almost nothing ever dried fully, this at least helped get things to be damp and if lucky... dry): Sea to Summit Lite Line Clothesline
  • exofficio brand clothing that was super quick drying, with some of them repelling insects
  • Outdoor Research packable Helium II rain jacket (I could pack it into the pocket and just clip it to my purse and it's just so comfortable!)
  • Travel microfiber towel such as the Sea to Summit DryLite (given that it takes a long time for things to dry, this is one of the few things I had that consistently dried from being soaked).
  • Sea to Summit Citronella Wilderness Wash (helps repel insects, travel friendly, good for everything!)

I felt pretty blue not long after I got home which has led me to conclude that I really need to reprioritize things in my life if I want to continue feeling invigorated.  The traveling taught me that there are so many different ways to be happy and people around the world have a lot to teach us about life.  On the second full day in Quito, the driver had persuaded his college-aged daughter to accompany us because we were not able to communicate.  Watching them interact with each other was just so sweet, to see that strong sense of family and so much affection.  I want more of that in my life.

My fellow travelers came from all walks of life and they did not lead a completely "Traditional" lifestyle in the sense of...get married young, have kids, stay home, etc.  They are happy, well-rounded individuals with a great zest for life and adventure and I loved spending time with all of them.  There is no set timeline of what we have to do and when, it's important to be happy with what we have, live in the present, and breathe in the love and live life with gratitude.

I feel more confident in myself having had this trip and felt that I embraced just doing things on my own because I discovered that I'm never truly alone, there are people around the world who find their way into our lives and accompany us if we let them.  We only feel alone, unhappy or any other negative feeling if we let ourselves.

Choose happiness.

Where to next?
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Thursday, March 10, 2016

Osprey: for the "do it all" commuter

Life moves quickly, you want to multi-task, be healthy, work hard, play hard, find time to work out, look good, feel good.... Expectations are set pretty high!

I don't currently commute because I now work remotely from home, but I do travel occasionally for recreation or for work.

This week I've been spending most of the work week back at the corporate office and working from the new, more agile/modern space my organization just moved to.  Even the space has a lot of high expectations... There is space to be able to work quietly in more secluded cubicles, standing desks, little rooms with giant screens, large open tables with built in outlets, booth areas... Open space with a lot of different areas to accommodate all sorts of working styles, all in one place.  

Many people  strive to do that with life.

This week I noticed that one of my coworkers was coming into work carrying two backpacks, one for gym gear, and one for work stuff. These bags were stacked on top of each other and it looked a bit awkward to walk around that way, with the weight going side to side a lot.  I really admire his commitment to prioritize his physical health while working really hard (I can attest to the fact that he is super work committed too!).

I thought about what it is that I would have done if I wanted to bring workout stuff and figured I would probably opt for some cute weekender-style bag and end up with two bags on my shoulders.  Then I realized... Just because that looks more stylish... It doesn't exactly promote good physical health when concerning my back and shoulders!! I totally get why he wanted to use backpacks.

What's out there to solve this?

I pointed him to the osprey farpoints and they come in multiple carrying capacity sizes.  They are two backpacks with the larger one being appropriate for much bulkier items. The smaller bag has a laptop sleeve and is more like a typical backpack.  The small back straps onto the large one.  The large bag has good support to distribute weight easily and be easiest on the back. 
The small day pack is only available for the 55 and 70 liter sizes.

It might be a bit much for most people to get a 55 liter for work but if you really want to tote around a ton of stuff... It might warrant it.  I definitely recommend seeing these bags in person before purchasing though, and trying then on.  The smallest size which is more like a larger day pack does not have a laptop sleeve but it is quite roomy and can hold a lot of items while being easier on the back than just any other large back pack without moving into more technical backpacks typical for hiking and backpacking in the woods for a week.

osprey  farpoint series

Work hard, workout...look relatively stylish ... And save the back and shoulders!

I think the farpoint is actually a great option for people who want to do a lot and carry a lot daily... Probably more appealing to men, but I think they still look fashionable enough!

I am such a big fan of this brand and love their day packs and technical packs. It is one of the best for outdoor enthusiasts and backpacking with wonderful quality, customer service, and warranty! It's also great for trekking and work! You really feel a difference on your back with its support and design.

You know what else is great about it? It's perfect for a trip backpacking in Europe or hiking Machu pichu. 

A bag that meets a lottttt of high expectations for people who want to do it all.

On the way out of work, he informed me he is going to order it tonight! 

My work is done here.
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Friday, February 12, 2016

Lovely mini pouches

I wanted to sew something quick and enjoyable so mini pouches were put together!

The two tutorials I referred to: Heart Shaped Pouch Mini & Circle Zip Earbud Pouch

Hooray! Now, the little items that get lost in my purse are much easier to get to :).

Hoping more quick little projects help keep me a little more upbeat during this slightly gloomy winter weather.  Stay Warm!

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Saturday, January 23, 2016

2016 New Years Resolution: Be Your Best Self

January is coming to an end and I'm already feeling really good about this year.  At the end of last year I decided to make new years resolutions, ones that I feel really strongly about and am committed to see through.  I've wanted to do resolutions in the past but I was not ready and was not serious about them.

As I've gotten older I've learned that many good things in life require a lot of effort and conquering challenges promote growth.  I really want to grow this year and be a healthier, happier, and better version of myself.  This is important to carry through all of life.

Resolution #1: Exercise regularly
This is probably on everybody's resolution list (when they decide to make any) and it's not something I find easy.  In the past, I've not consciously made the effort to improve on this because I used to be generally active and busy walking around with school, activities, and just life stuff.  Now that I am out in the "real world" (I don't think being stuck inside on a computer is really being a part of the world...), I've been a lot more sedentary.  I'm naturally rather petite so I've never felt the "need" to really lose weight but I'm learning more that it's not about what I look like.  I don't feel as energized as I used to and it takes exerting energy to feeling energy.  I tend to go through phases of being good about regularly exercising if there is an event I am preparing for (i.e. a big outdoor hiking vacation) but I really need to just maintain good physical shape throughout the year, regardless of a specific event.  I want to feel good about myself, and feel energized... every day.  To feel that every day, I need to exercise just about every day in some way.

I have begun this year with Adriene.  I've been using Yoga with Adriene's yoga videos off and on for probabably half a year and I just love her videos.  They are light-hearted, challenging, encouraging, and fun!  I don't respond to feeling like I'm being bossed around or intimidated to do anything so I really appreciate Adriene's approach to "Find what feels good" because that is truly what I want in my life.  Adriene's "30 Days of Yoga Camp" has been amazing and I've only missed one day so far (on the worst day of my sinus infection) and feel so much better about myself.  The first week was easy to feel really pumped, the second week started off with my forcing myself to partake in the video...and then I started really looking forward to taking a break from work (perks of working from home!) and spending some time on the yoga mat.

Having a new video uploaded every day makes it so easy because I'm not making the effort to go and search for what I want to do that day.  It feels more like going to a class in person where the teacher is leading me towards better health...and not so much me leading myself.  At some point, I believe I'll be able to be more self-motivated... but it's nice that it's like somebody else is helping motivate me.

To measure my progress, I check off every day in my planner whether or not I completed my daily exercise (right now it's just yoga).

After 30 days I'm thinking of doing Barre3 Online courses... or maybe going through Blogilates? Regardless, I think this will be a great year of energy!

Resolution #2: Eat more "Clean"
Yes...another resolution that is so popular right now.  To summarize, Clean eating is cutting out really processed food and eating foods that are as close to directly from the nature as possible.
Some foods I have been loving...Millet Chia bread from Udis, Noosa yogurt, Spaghetti Squash, Egg+ Avacado on Toast... eating clean is much easier than I thought it would be! I've been inspired by two books: Everyday Detox & 100 Days of Real Food.  The recipes are SO DELICIOUS and easy!  Makes eating at home so much healthier.  And when I eat out, I'm not strict with myself about eating all "clean" food... but I aim to make better food choices such as portion control, not adding all the "extras", and opting for some better alternatives.  I believe that health is largely driven by what we eat and as long as I'm eating quite healthy approx. 80% of the time, I believe I'm making good decisions for my body.

To measure and motivate myself, I write down on each day in my planner a score out of 5 as I'll approx. be eating 4-5 small meals a day.

Resolution #3: Be more creative
I have not been nearly as good about keeping up with my hobbies of crafting/sewing/drawing/etc.  I keep making excuses for myself about time, not being inspired, etc.  Sometimes you just gotta do it.  To help motivate myself I bought some new fabric recently (excited for them to arrive!) and have come up with a new space set-up.  There isn't a great place for me to sew where I don't HAVE to clean it up sometime that day (i.e. kitchen table).  I also have limited space in my apartment (or I just have too much stuff).  Recently I purchased the IKEA Norden Gateleg table.  It's sold as a dining table that folds away but I felt it was perfect to put along the wall, and then set up to have a lot of space for all sorts of creative endeavors!  It does not come with casters which is something I really wanted to be able to move it around with ease without damaging either the table or the floor.  My boyfriend helped with that and installed some 2" casters (4 of them have brakes so they don't roll around) and now I have a great craft table!

To measure: I've made goals to have at least a certain # of hours each month on crafts, to increase a bit over time and at least be maintained.

Resolution #3: Live a more Simple Life
Gosh...I'm pretty bad about this...which is ridiculous to me.  In my mind, I spend way too much money and have way too much stuff.  I've set goals to reduce my expenses by a certain percentage each month (Thanks to Mint app for helping me keep track!).  I've also started reading Marie Kondo's The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing.  

Yes, I am WAY LATE to this...I just wasn't ready...I'm still not sure I'm ready.  I'm a bit intimidated to apply her methods of really committing to taking everything out category by category, and going through them and keeping ONLY items that "spark joy".  I do not agree with everything she says so far in the book, but that may also because I have not committed to applying her methods (yet?).  Although, I wouldn't go as far as to say all items have potential to "spark joy" in me, I do agree that keeping things I only feel "okay" about doesn't make me feel great about my surroundings.  She talks about how having things (fewer things) that really fit us and please us naturally promotes tidiness.  I really see this with my living room where I only have furniture that I REALLY like/love.  They're investment pieces and are a lot more expensive that I felt comfortable spending, but my living room feels so put together, tidy, comfortable, and cozy.  I'm not actively putting much effort to maintaining tidiness in this space...It just happens.  

Over the past few weeks I've been pulling out items all around my home that I just either feel meh about, only kept "just in case I need it" but I've had for years, duplicates of items, things that I want to upgrade to investment-quality pieces... and have been donating them.  I don't know why I was keeping this stuff around...because I feel so much more free now.  My closet feels less chaotic, my space feels like there is so much more air (weird, I know).  Maybe I'll find myself really applying the KonMarie method sometime in 2016...but for now, purging things I don't really like/love, and only keeping and investing in great quality items... already feels better.  I just need to keep myself in check and prevent this from completely going against my goals of being financially more responsible... A good problem to have.

Final thoughts
I believe that some real changes will be made this year... and it'll take incorporating better habits in my daily life.  Outside of those official New Years Resolutions... I want to be a better person.

"If you want something you've never had, then you've got to do something you've never done" 
I have no idea where that quote really comes from but it's a perspective I have not consciously held before.

I want to be more...
Understanding, Spontaneous, Kind, Supportive, Encouraging, Appreciative, Confident, Accepting, Trusting, Resilient, Happy, Bold, Selfless, Caring towards myself, Tenacious, Genuine, ...

I don't want my fear of "what might happen" to prevent me from being my best self and having my best life.  I don't want to be content with just being content, I want more out of life, I want to pursue happiness and adventure...I want to chase life. Hello, 2016! Hello to a better me :)
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Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Project Life

Happy New Year!

I've been feeling extra nostalgic lately...I suppose now that I'm a year older, I have a little more years to be nostalgic about.  Sometimes this nostalgia turns into feeling a bit blue and during these cold winter months I believe it's important to make more of a conscious effort to be happier and brighter.

The weekend after Christmas, Josh & I drove up to Illinois to visit his grandparents.  I always enjoy these visits because they are such lovely people and have lived so much (not just with age) and have so many stories to tell about their past, their family's past... they have so many documented memories.  It's such a joy hearing them tell these stories, show me the many, many albums... walk through nearly every photo...

I want that for myself too.  Compared to them, and probably my parents generation included... my life is so full of "instant" documentation.  Social media, smartphones... instagram... it takes such little effort to just snap a photo and it's done.  To go through these memories I have to take out my phone (I am way too attached to it) or laptop to scroll through photos.  This is adding to the excessive screen time that is already a part of my life (from work, from keeping in touch with friends and family, pinterest, netflix...television...).  It feels so much less personal when I go through these photos, it feels less tangible and I don't necessarily feel as much joy from looking through them as I think I should.  20 years from now, will I really want to rely on these photos to reflect back on? Not really.  I want to feel that personal connection.  I want to someday show my future children something tangible and personal.

Traditional scrapbooking is daunting.  I don't "think" I have enough time to go through all that cutting and pasting.  I've done it before and was REALLY into it for the first hour or two, getting very intricate and detailed with stickers, nice writing, paper cut-outs, etc.  A few more hours in I was getting really worn out.  It was taking so long to see enough results to motivate me further and towards the end my work was looking more haphazard and minimalist... not cute anymore.

That's why I decided to get into ProjectLife by Becky Higgins.  Print some photos, order photo album layouts and pre-designed decorated cards for accents & notes... and voila! Documented memories, with a personalized touch ... and in a snap!

I ordered a 12x12 album, a large set of album pocket sheets, and a core kit (the design cards) from the website.  I bought some more decorative items from Hobby Lobby and picked up some bits from Wal-Mart.  I didn't realize this stuff is sold everywhere!

I printed out a ton of photos after I organized them by year ... So far, it's been really enjoyable and I'm excited to continue filling out my album!

Here's to a happy, healthy, and memorable 2016!

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Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Festive and Cozy DIY for Christmas

I wasn't feeling very festive when December first began, even though I had already started purchasing presents.  Christmas shopping was festive activity #1.

Festive Activity #2 was brought on after visiting with a friend where they celebrated Christmas early (day before Thanksgiving) as that was the only time until 2016 that my friend (& his new wife) and his brother would be home.  We helped decorate a beautiful Christmas tree with some Christmas Pandora in the background.  This led me to start searching around for a tree.  As much as I like real trees I wanted an artificial tree because it is reusable and can be pre lit!  Even though it is pre lit I didn't want to sacrifice allll authenticity.  I scoured the internet for realistic looking artificial trees that weren't too big, but I couldn't bring myself to purchase any of them because I couldn't see them in person and I wasn't convinced they'd look as real as I'd hope for.  One evening, wandering Menards with the boy as he was looking for some home improvement related things I stumbled upon this tree and just knew it was it.  It's the 5' pre lit Carson Pine tree.  I sought it out because it looked the most real, yet I don't think a Carson Pine is an actual type of pine tree... heh.  Festive Activity #3 Accomplished!

I was rummaging through my craft-closet and found some remnant of some buffalo plaid flannel that I originally purchased to sew a dog-bed cover for the puppy dog.

Festive Activity #4:
I drew out a star and cut out pieces of the flannel and sewed them inside out (with one small section not sewn), flipped them right side out ... stuffed the stars with pieces of fleece, inserted some tied up red yarn to hang the stars with, and sewed it up! I was on such a roll because I could hand sew these on the couch and still be able to watch some Netflix (Highly recommend the show "The time in between" which is based on a novel of the same name.  It's in Spanish with english subtitles, but it is such a good show once you get about 2 episodes in...a seamstress...espionage... what's not to love?).

Once I covered the tree in the red/black stars I wanted to continue with a cozy theme, like sitting by a fireplace.  I had trouble finding copper/rose-gold tinsel/garland as gold and silver just weren't "warm" enough for my taste.  I found some great tinsel roping on Etsy from the shop : AllTheMakings.

Decorated tree with the extra tinsel on the tv stand!  Living room was feeling pretty cozy... now I just needed to really feel it.

Festive Activity #5:  I found some more fleece that I had ordered last year and wanted to make a super warm and comfy blanket.  I used the tutorial here for a braided version of layering two fleece pieces.

It may not look very wintery outside, but I can still make the inside of my home all ready for winter and Christmas!
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