December 27, 2009

Is Resolution a Dirty Word?

In the past few years I have come to dislike the word 'Resolution'. Basically a resolution is just a declaration of one's determination to do or not do something. Common examples are to Quit Smoking and Start Exercising however when we make it a "Resolution" we often give up after one or two slips. The word resolution seems to have an 'all or nothing' feel to it.

So this year I invite you to set Goals and Intentions. Keep them small, simple, and set realistic time lines. Whatever your goals are step back and make sure that you're setting yourself up to succeed. Is it too much too soon? Is it a goal you truly want for yourself or is it being determined by an external pressure? Are you giving yourself enough time to take a few steps back and then move forward again?

I have various goals for this year but there are two that I will share.

First Goal: Play my guitar. I was teaching myself for awhile and then it got tucked in the corner. I love playing and teaching myself however if I don't use it someone else can. I don't have to be rock star and I don't have to share my playing with anyone else. However if I am not using the lovely instrument I have then it's time to let someone else. My intention is to practice playing 3-4 times a week. The goal is if I haven't learned one simple song (right now I am thinking Untouchable Face by Ani Di Franco) by the end of March then I will sell or donate the guitar.

Second Goal: Complete my first duathlon. I have made it easy on myself and picked a mini-du out for this coming May. I don't need to beat any time goals but I have to finish and I have to enjoy it. Part of enjoying the race will be training properly for it, after all injury or drudging through isn't fun. Registration opens in January and I will register and set my intention to complete this goal.

So that's my two cents. Whether you choose to use the word resolution, goal, or intention keep in mind they should all be reasonable, they should be achievable, and they should be important and personal for you.

Love Each Day.

December 21, 2009

Recipe Review: Power Scones

I love scones but they tend to be high in fat. When I discovered this recipe years ago in Shape Magazine I was delighted. The scones are still delicious but lower in fat and you can make them in smaller portion sizes than a standard scone. I like these particularly around the busy holiday times. They're great for a light breakfast with the family, as a gift, or to grab on the go.

1 2/3c all-purpose flour
3/4c rolled old-fashioned oats
1/3c sugar
1/3c whole wheat pastry flour
2tsp baking powder
1/2tsp baking soda
1/2tsp salt
6tbsp butter, chilled, cut into small pieces
1/3c lowfat buttermilk
2lg eggs
1tsp vanilla extract
additional buttermilk for glazing
4tsp brown sugar mixed with 1/2tsp ground cinamon

Preheat oven to 350F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or foil. Pulse dry ingredients in a blender until the oats are finely ground (I tend to throw in an additional teaspoon of cinnamon in the batter, it gives a little more flavor). Transfer to a large bowl. Rub in butter until the mixture forms a coarse meal.
In a small bowl, whisk together buttermilk, eggs and vanilla. Pour over oat mixture. Using a fork, toss until a moist dough just forms. Turn out onto a floured sugace and pat into a 7in circle. Cut into 8 wedges and arrange 1/2in apart on baking sheet.

Glaze scones by brushing lightly with buttermilk. Sprinkle with cinnamon sugar. Bake 18min, until scones puff and are pale golden.

December 16, 2009

Mindful Giving: Homemade Holiday Treats for Dogs

A few times a year I make my little guy some homemade dog treats. He loves them so that's huge incentive. I also love baking but this way I don't get stuck with dozens of cupcakes or cookies. In the past I have given the treats to my friends and family with dogs and they're always well received and appreciated. Whether put in simple container with a bow or a fancy dish they always make a good impression. I've been using this recipe for about ten years now and received it from a family member, so I can't cite the original source.

2 cups whole wheat flour
1 cup cornmeal
1 tablespoon salt
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1 egg
1 cup water

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Grease a cookie sheet.
In a large bowl, stir together the whole wheat flour, cornmeal and salt. Mix in the oil, egg and water to make a soft dough that is not too sticky. You may add more flour if needed. Roll teaspoonfuls of dough into balls, and place on the prepared cookie sheet. Flatten slightly. (or you can roll dough out and use a cookie cutter).

Bake for 20 to 25 minutes in the preheated oven, until nicely browned and firm. Cool completely, then store in an airtight container.

December 7, 2009

Review: Mountain Hardwear's Mistral Jacket

Mistral Jacket

When the weather began to cool I knew I needed a new piece of outerwear for my bike commute, outdoor adventures, and every day life. I wanted something that had room for a couple under layers but wasn't bulky and it had to be wind resistant. After a bit of research online and hitting the real life store I selected the Mountain Hardwear Mistral Jacket.

The Mistral had everything I was looking for. It is a close fit without being tight and it keeps out the wind. The zipper pockets are roomy and have a nice soft lining for warming my hands. The sleeve pocket is also helpful for keeping lip balm, ID, and other small items. What sealed the deal is the incredibly soft fleece. I feel like I am wrapped in a blanket however the articulated sleeves and women's cut also allow for full range of motion.

Now unfortunately our temperatures have dropped below freezing this last week. I was worried that my Mistral would have to go into the closet for a bit in lieu of my Columbia Bugaboo 3-in-1. While the Bugaboo has served me well the fleece inner layer is white which tends to show wear quickly and it also feels bulky. I feel like the little brother in The Christmas Story when I wear it (click here for a visual aid). Then I realized my Mistral is compatible to zip in to the Bugaboo or any other Trifecta System compatible shell. I love it even more now!

The Mistral is a great jacket that can take you year round. From the cool nights of summer to the cold temps of winter (paired with the right shell) the Mistral is a great all around jacket.

December 2, 2009

Book Review: Cirque Du Soleil The Spark Created by Lyn Heward and written by John U. Bacon

My interest in Aerial Dance began with my first Cirque Du Soleil experience. Quidam was their first touring show to come to Denver. It was the most amazing feeling watching the performers and being caught up in their magic. I have been to each touring show that has come to Denver since then. Six different shows in all and each time I feel a sense of awe and inspiration. After delving into Aerial basics and realizing how hard it truly is, I had more respect for the artists and wanted to know how do they keep that spirit alive and how can I incorporate that feeling in my daily life. Apparently I was not alone.

I came across a wonderful, yet quick read, called Cirque du Soleil: The Spark - Igniting the Creative Fire that Lives within Us All. Created by Lyn Heward and written by John U. Bacon the book details how one Sports Marketing Agent turns to Cirque Du Soleil to reignite the fire in his career and other aspects of his life.

While taking a sabbatical from work, Frank tags along with one of his athletes and she begins the training program to see if she has what it takes to be a member of Cirque Du Soleil. During that time Frank stays at the artists' residence and goes through various trials of his own. His education and training are not limited to the performance elements but set design, costuming, make-up, marketing, and so much more. Frank learns how every member of Cirque from the receptionist and chefs to the performers and directors play pivotal roles. Without each individual spark there would not be a fire.

As Frank talks with each of his guides on the journey he, and the reader, pick up key lessons. These simple ideas can be brought to each of our lives. Some of my favorites are:

"Constraints on time, money, and resources can be motivators! Some of our most inspired ideas have arisen from the most Spartan situations."

"Most people hate deadlines. It hasn't occurred to them they can be a good thing"

"To relax I go hang gliding....When I jump off a cliff I cannot think about anything else now, can I? The world below melts away."

"You don't have to be an athlete or an artist to reinvent your life, your work, or your world."

Whether your curious about being behind the scenes at Cirque Du Soleil or you've been looking for a kick to revamp and evolve your life this book is an excellent read. Also a great holiday gift for someone ready to reclaim their own spark.

November 24, 2009

Boo Black Friday!
Hello Mindful Gift Giving!

I will be honest, I don’t like shopping. I have never understood Black Friday and find it frightening that so many people consider it the highlight of their year. While I am not a fan of that level of consumerism, I love giving gifts. There is nothing like the feeling of giving someone a mindful gift. Something meant for them that says “You’re special and I appreciate you for all that you are”. This season I thought I would put together a few thoughts on ways to be mindful in your giving. My ideas will tend to focus on the outdoorsy and crafty types because that’s what I know, but these ideas can easily transition to people with other hobbies and interests.

The term re-gift has a very negative connotation, considered something we do when we run out of time to buy a gift or don’t care enough to shop for someone. However giving someone something you love can be one of the most thoughtful gifts. This year I have asked my friends to not give me gifts however I have invited them to do a holiday book exchange. The rules are simple, it can’t be a new book, it has to be one from their existing stash and that they want to share with me. In return I will choose a book from my collection for them.

Make it with your own two hands (or pay someone else to)
Handmade gifts are mindful because they take time, effort, and love. You can knit for someone or take part in another craft. If they’re a baker or chef you can pull together a collection of your favorite family recipes. For the outdoorsy type you can make a batch of homemade trail mix paired with travel size reusable snack containers.

If you would rather support someone else’s handmade business check out There are so many amazing artists with so many various items from clothing to art for the wall to unique crafts like altered books there is something for everyone. You can search by color, key words, or category.

Perhaps these are a little too touchy feely for you. You want something simple, neat, and thoughtful. How about a poster of a favorite memory from the past year. I recently mentioned PosterBrain and can’t rave enough about their service. Take a favorite photo and they will quickly send you a poster at a very reasonable price. You‘ll have enough left over for a fancy frame.

A Gift of Support
My dad has no clue what Access Fund it or what they do. However as a climber I would be delighted if he gave me one of their Holiday Gift Packs for the holidays. While many organizations don’t offer such neat little packages they do have gift memberships. Check out the members of the Outdoor Alliance and you’ll most likely find an organization that is important to your outdoors lover.

Of course there are many non-profit organizations that may not have “memberships” per se but a donation in your loved one’s name would be perfect. One of my favorite organizations is Heifer International. With a variety of gifts at varying price levels, a donation on behalf of your family or friend would contribute to a developing community in a very special way.

A Gift of Learning
I have had an incredible year in my study of yoga, trying out Aerial Dance, and my amazing trip with Chicks Rock to Devil’s Lake (thanks again to Pemba Serves). By all rights I am not old, but I am old enough to think ‘I’m too old to try that’. However I have learned that’s just rarely, if ever, true. One of the reasons I am always able to try new things is because my family has never said “Are you kidding?” or “Really, aren’t you too old?”. If your special person, or child, or parent, or friend has been hinting at trying something new give them a gift certificate for a new class. Not only does this give them a jumpstart to make that leap but it says “I believe in you”.

But Cupcake…I just have to buy them something!!!
Mindful giving doesn’t always come in the form of a handmade gift or something philanthropic. Sometimes we can just go to the store and buy something and we’re still giving back and being mindful. For example two of my favorite brands are PrAna and Mountain Hardwear. While I love their products because they’re well made and last a very long time these are also organizations that give back to causes I believe in. Take a few minutes to compare brands when you’re shopping for gifts. While one item may cost a little more they may be supporting causes that you and/or the gift recipient believe in. Choosing mindful consumers shows you care and want them to keep on giving back. For more outdoorsy brands that give back check out my previous post here.

Thanksgiving is right around the corner so I want to take a moment to say thank you for reading my blog. Whether you’re a regular reader or this is your first visit I appreciate that you’re taking the time to check out my thoughts. Living a thankful and mindful life is a constant goal for me and I am grateful that you are exploring these ideas with me.

November 19, 2009

New Biking in a Winter Wonderland Winner!

Our original winner Bryan Kuhn, let me know he is fortunate enough to be surrounded by a bevy of knitters and already has enough woolen treasures to keep him toasty.

So through another random drawing we have a new winner, Laurel Fan! Congratulations! You get your choice of yoga socks, a hat, or a scarf!

November 16, 2009

The Cupcake Goes Aerial!
What are Aerial Dance and Aerial Yoga All About?

With the exception of tap dance at the age of four I have never been the type of girl to go out for dance classes. To say I was intimidated when I walked in the door of Aerial Dance Over Denver would be an understatement. I was there for Aerial Basics however prior to that class the Aerial Fabric class was wrapping up. The girls taking the class were young, tiny, and talented. I was wondering what I got myself into.

I was greeted quickly and immediately felt much more at ease. Our instructor Megan facilitated introductions while we went through a warm up routine. Megan explained that over the next four weeks we would be learning about fabric, trapeze, hoop, Spanish web, and harness. The Aerial Basics class is designed to give students a chance to explore the different types of apparatus while staying low to the ground and getting a great workout in the process.

The classes were structured with a ten minute warm up and right on to the apparatus. Our warm ups consisted of tasks that reminded me of high school gym class including jumping jacks. On some evenings the warm up consisted of about 90 sit ups as well, that's something that stayed with me through the week (ouch). The first week we explored the Fabric. I have a new appreciation for Aerial performers after playing with the fabric. Getting yourself into postures in the air isn't terribly hard if you don't care how it looks. You will wobble and the movements will be jerky. It requires amazing control of your body and the fluid fabric to make it all look effortless.

The following week we explored the Trapeze. I actually loved it and I thought it would be the apparatus I liked the least. I used to love monkey bars when I was little but the Trapeze is much harder to hang on to. As with fabric you can get up and maneuver through but the bar shakes and every movement causes it to swing. It's the grace of slow controlled movements that make it look beautiful.

We then followed with Hoop, which is like the Trapeze but solid suspended hoop. This was not a favorite for me. While it's fun the apparatus was very hard for me to get up on because it is wide and my arms are short (like the rest of me). We did similar movements to the Trapeze including swing in a circle while hanging below the Hoop. That part I really enjoyed.

We spent a smaller amount of time on the Spanish Web and Harness. The Spanish Web is basically a thick rope with a hand strap at the top. Crawling up it is quite difficult, I got burnt out before I could get my hand secured at the top. The Harness was just like a climbing harness, then you're locked in via a carabiner to a suspended rope. This allowed for a lot of space to explore my movement and be fluid and I tried some supported yoga postures.

At the end of the session I had to decide if I wanted to call it quits, take another session of Aerial Basics, or choose an apparatus to concentrate on. I actually opted to explore their Aerial Yoga classes and fell in love with it.

Having taken the Aerial Basics and learning to use fabric was helpful but not necessary. The Aerial Yoga class begins with about 35 minutes of flow yoga on the ground. It's a great warm up and also gets my heart going. Then we move to the fabric and do supported postures. If you've done Iyengar yoga then Aerial will come pretty easy because you're used to props. If you're used to another yoga style you will be amazed at how the fabric support helps your range and inversions.

At this point I am going to keep Aerial Yoga as a part of my regular practice and I am considering exploring Aerial Fabric more after getting through the holidays. While I have no delusions that I will someday be performing in Cirque Du Soleil I do appreciate any workout that is fun and nontraditional.

If you're in the Denver area I recommend check out Aerial Dance Over Denver. If you're not in the area Google "Aerial Dance" in your location and see what you find.

Photo Courtesy of Aerial Dance Over Denver

November 11, 2009

Wednesday Playlist: Gratitude

Yesterday I was intent on making a playlist to celebrate Veterans Day, but then I realized I didn't really know many songs to use for that theme. So what was I really trying to say? I pondered that on my ride into work where I was presented with a flat tire. I have had a lot of a little bumps in the road lately. I notice they become more frequent when I am not practicing gratitude and thanks.

That is exactly what I wanted to express for Veterans Day is thanks. Regardless of what I feel about current wars or situations I will always be thankful that they're people willing to put their lives on the line. So I thank those who are willing and will work harder to incorporate being thankful daily for all that I have and for all the burdens I am free of. Some of the songs are a little silly but in my mind being thankful means celebrating and letting go. Be silly.

Get a playlist! Standalone player Get Ringtones

November 6, 2009

Recipe: Roasted Red Pepper, Corn, and Black Bean Salad

It's that time of year when we're running around like mad getting ready for holidays and sometimes eating healthy goes out the window. My awesome friend Momanine sent over this tasty recipe perfect for potlucks, parties, or just every day meals.

"Here’s a little taste of the harvest, vegan style. Take it with you to holiday parties; make it for dinner or to put over salads. It’s easy to make, healthy and most of all delicious! " ~Momanine

1/4 Cup Fresh basil leaves
2- 15 oz Cans Black beans, cooked, without salt or 2, 15 oz cans
1 - 15 oz Can Sweet corn, whole kernels
1 Tablespoon Olive oil
1 Cup Canned or Jarred Roasted red peppers
1/4 Teaspoon Salt
3 Tablespoons Balsamic vinegar

Dice the roasted red pepper. Add it to a serving bowl along with the black beans, corn, basil, and balsamic vinegar. Let the vinegar sink in for a few minutes if you have the time then add the olive oil and salt to taste. Feel free to add as much fresh basil as you like.

November 4, 2009

Recipe: Pumpkin Chai Coffee Cake

After making Hungry Girl's delicious Caramel Pudding Pumpkin Cupcakes I was feeling a bit like Betty Crocker. I had a bunch of leftover ingredients but not everything I would need for another batch of cupcakes so I improvised and came up with this Pumpkin Chai Coffee Cake. I baked mine in a 9 x9 baking pan but I imagine it would bake nicely in a loaf pan as well. This recipe can easily be made vegan with the right product choices.

2 cups moist-style yellow cake mix
1/2 cup canned pure pumpkin
1/2 cup fat-free liquid egg substitute
3/4 cup Chai Concentrate
2 teaspoons cinnamon plus 1 tablespoon for topping
1 tablespoon of brown sugar for topping (more or less based on your own preference)
Non-stick Cooking Spray

Preheat oven to 350 degrees

Spray Baking 9 x 9 baking pan with Non-stick Cooking Spray and set aside.

Combine all ingredients and blend thoroughly, making sure to remove all lumps. Pour batter into pan. Combine 1 tablespoon cinnamon and 1 tablespoon brown sugar for topping. Lightly sift topping over batter.

Bake for approximately 30 minutes. Use the toothpick method to determine if thoroughly cooked. Can be served warm or cooled.

October 29, 2009

Biking in a Winter Wonderland!
Part 2

I must start off by apologizing for putting this post off so long. Part of me wanted to test out the recommendations and the other part of me knew a lot of the tips were in the comments section making them easily accessible. Thank you to everyone who posted a comment or emailed me. I really appreciate all the great ideas.

That being said at the very least I need to announce the winner of the contest. From the emails and comments entered I drew one winner and that is Bryan Kuhn! Congratulations Bryan! He gets a choice of a hat, scarf, or yoga socks handknit by me! Now on to what I have learned.

Get Your Mind in the Game
"The key to winter cycle commuting is just to suck it up and commit to it. If you give yourself an option, you won't do it. And, once you do it, you can't believe how easy it really is."- Brad Werntz

Many a cold and frosty morning Brad's words stuck in my mind. I could be car-free and take the bus or get a ride from someone but there is something about biking that makes my days better. My metabolism is revved, I am able to plan my day, and just be outside. It's easy in the summer, in the winter it really takes commitment. I have found prepping all my clothing and gear ahead of time makes the biggest difference. No excuses.

Remember the Outdoor Clothing Layering Basics
As with most outdoor activities, layering is the secret. I know that but I went overboard on my first winter ride. I was burning up after a few miles and stripping layers like people were throwing twenty dollar bills. Bryan's email and Technex's comment reminded me, you don't want to start off toasty. You're going to be cold at first and your bottom half doesn't need as much protection as your core. Once you get moving and warmed up you will be comfortable.

Base Layer
You may have heard the saying "Cotton is Rotten" when speaking of base layers. It's especially true in the winter. When choosing base layer fabrics wool or synthetics are the way to go. Recommended lines include IBEX Wool, Patagonia Capilene, and Mountain Hardwear Continuum.

Insulating Layer
I have yet to use an insulating layer on my bottom half. I just don't need it once these legs get going. For the upper body I pair my long sleeve base layer with a fleece vest. Honestly, many days I could probably go without the insulating layer, unless it gets below 35 degrees or so. However, the vest is so small and easy to throw in my bag get warm I would rather have it than not have it.

Shell/Windproof Layer
Even when it's not windy out you're going to feel the effects of wind while riding. A windproof shell makes all the difference when it comes to retaining the body heat your generating. I am currently in love with my Mountain Hardwear Mistral Jacket for milder days. It's a windproof fleece that is so incredibly soft that it's hard to believe it is windproof. It works well with just a base layer. When I am worried about getting wet I have been using my Marmot Precip Jacket to ward off wind and rain. It's fairly effective. However I have my eye on the Mountain Hardwear Transition Jacket for a waterproof and windproof layer, I have heard from friend it fits like a dream.

When the temperatures are dipping near freezing or the wind is particularly harsh you may also want to consider a windproof layer for the legs. Again, Mountain Hardwear comes to the rescue with their his and hers soft shell pants.

Head, Hands, and Feet
Let's start from the top! Make sure you noggin is protected. WHERE YOUR HELMET!!! However keeping the head warm under the helmet is important. I ordered a new helmet for winter from Bern. They make awesome multi-purpose helmets rated for snowboarding, skiing, skateboarding and cycling. What I love about these helmets are the Zip Mold Liners. They fit securely in the helmet while providing adequate ear coverage.

If you have a helmet you love consider pairing it with a low profile hat like the Mountain Hardwear Transition Dome. If you need face and neck protection consider the Buff in Merino Wool. I love my Buff and use it almost daily.

The fingers and hand are important to protect. I have found that a light liner type glove with my regular fingerless riding gloves works very well. If you need a little more protection make sure you're choosing gloves that are thin and allow for movement.

The feet! You're regular running shoes won't cut it. They freeze and aren't generally windproof. Look for windproof shoes or shoe covers. I actually wear my insulated boots most of the time or a pair of Keen trail shoes. Paired with a nice wool sock like those from Smart Wool keeps my feet at a comfortable temperature.

Keeping Your Valuables Safe and Dry
If you're going to get wet items in your bag or panniers can get wet too. Laurel Fan recommends regular Ziploc bags to keep small items dry. Great for valuable cell phones and other objects. Always take into consideration how well a bag is equipped for cold wet weather before riding with it. I use a medium size Timbuk2 bag for my day-to-day riding. It keeps most of my items dry though for precious items I pack them in a waterproof cosmetic bag for extra care.

Adapt Your Riding Techniques
Some great advice from Katie Levy, remember that when you're biking on the snow or ice small corrections are often enough. Exaggerated movements that may work well in the summer will find you slipping and sliding. Also brake softer than normal and don't lean into curves as much as you would on dry ground. There is often ice on the ground even when you can't tell it's there. Nobody wants winter road rash.

So when it all comes down to it bike commuting in winter is a personal choice. You have to have the desire, the commitment and plan ahead. It's not for everyone. From experience I can tell you it's an amazing experience especially when you're out on the road before the traffic hits. If you're going to give it a whirl please be safe.

October 28, 2009

Wednesday Playlist: Happy Halloween

Well I was going to put together a Halloween list but it looks like had the same idea! They have a lot of great songs I wouldn't have thought of. Check out the playlist here!

Also check out the playlist from OneFeistyGirl - Almost 200 songs!!!

Have a wonderful Devil's Night, a Happy Hallow's Eve, and Día de los Muertos.

October 23, 2009

Book Review: Die Trying:One Man's Quest to Conquer the Seven Summits
by Bo Parfet with Richard Buskin

Very few people are able to make it to one of the great summits in a lifetime, let alone the Seven Summits (the tallest point on each continent). So I was very intrigued when presented with a copy of Die Trying: One Man's Quest to Conquer the Seven Summits by Bo Parfet with Richard Buskin. The book documents Bo's journey to climb Kilimanjaro, Denali, Elbrus, Aconcagua, Carstensz Pyramid, Vinson and Everest. Now I am fortunate to know quite a few elite athletes and for them many of these summits would certainly prove treacherous. However Bo Parfet wasn't what you would consider an elite athlete when he began his journey.

While Bo comes from what would be considered a prominent or well-to-do family he struggled with dyslexia since childhood. Learning to adapt and not only get by but succeed in the competitive world of Wall Street was a huge achievement alone. Bo didn't settle for success in his career but continued to push himself by setting a goal to climb the Seven Summits and setting up scholarship programs to benefit the local communities along the way. He seems to be an amazing man with a lot of drive and a big heart.

The reason I really love this book is because Bo is brutally honest when he addresses his experience. From talking about his first summit when he was overweight and under trained, to talking about temper issues on the side of the mountain, and experiences where he was faced with injury and the potential for fatal injuries you sense a very human quality about him and what he's gone through. You see both the strengths and flaws in character and his evolution. For me this means so much because I am always encouraging my readers to not let age or lack of experience keep them back. I think this book is a good guide for the way some things go right, the way many things go wrong, and how even when you think you've prepped enough problems will arise.

In addition to the human experience I loved learning about the difference in the Seven Summits. Just because someone completes Kilimanjaro that doesn't automatically mean they're ready for the next summit. There is a lot of diversity in terrain, acclimatizing, gear needed and the type of training to be done ahead of time.

Whether you're a climber, an outdoor enthusiast, or just want to be inspired you should check out "Die Trying". It's a fairly quick read and will get you ready for your next adventure.

And The Winner Is....

I am so excited to award the contest winner with a poster from Poster Brain. If you have pictures that you would like to have enlarged in high quality format for a great price I recommend you check them out. Their work is excellent quality and the prices are amazing!

Now for what you've been waiting for, the winner. The best summer picture contest was really tough. So many amazing pictures were entered by some talented photographers. In the end there can be only one!

October 15, 2009

Contest: Show Us Your Best Summer Pic!


The awesome peeps at PosterBrain have given me a stellar prize to share with you, a 24"x36" Poster of your favorite Summer pic! However there can be only one winner so it's contest time!

We're going to move fast on this one so here's the details:
  • Pics must fall in the theme of Summer 2009. Examples include camping, hiking, climbing, and vacation pics

  • Submit your photo to by 5:00pm MT on Sunday October 18

  • I will place all photos in a Flickr Gallery for voting

  • Voting will be done Monday-Thursday and winner announced Friday, October 23.

The fine print, basically keep it tasteful peeps! If I wouldn't look at the pic with my dad in the room I won't post it for voting (this is a family show!).

October 14, 2009

Wednesday Playlist
Grab Your Hoop and Come With Me!

Awhile back my awesome friend Melissa recommend I do a playlist of songs to Hoop to. I love turning up the music, getting my hula hoop out and just having a good time for as long as I can. Some days it's ten minutes, some day's it's an hour. Here are some songs I like for hooping with a few great recommendations from Melissa too!

Get a playlist! Standalone player Get Ringtones

October 2, 2009

Reuse, Recycle, Get Crafty
Giving Your Gear a Second Chance

As the weather gets colder and the days get shorter many of us have a tendency to clean out gear that we’ve out grown or no longer use. Being outdoorsy folk we also tend to be concerned about our environment. So rather than throwing out old ropes, yoga mats, tents, and water bottles just to have them sit in a landfill there are ways we can reuse the items.

The easiest is way to get gear out of your way is to donate the items. MAJOR DISCLAIMER: If it’s not safe for use don’t donate it! If items are in good condition but perhaps a little old considering donating them to your favorite outdoor non-profit organization. If you don’t have a favorite organization or know of one in your area check out your local REI or outdoor outfitter. This month the Boulder REI is giving all donated items to The Women’s Wilderness Institute however there non-profit of choice changes every few months so it’s a great way to spread the love.

The next easiest way is to recycle items. For example Sterling Ropes, and Chacos, Patagonia, and Nike have recycle programs for their products. Check with the original manufacturer to see if they have a recycling program.

Now if you’re crafty like me you may want to find a way to reuse these items yourself. For items like old school water bottles with BPA minimal assembly is required. You just need to see the bottles in a different light, just because you don’t want to drink from them doesn’t mean they can’t be useful.

Around the house the bottles can be used to hold loose change, store detergent for cleaner trips to the laundry room, or filled with water or sand to be used as hand weights. If you’re a camper considering using the bottles to store first aid items, or throw a headlamp in them and they become lanterns. Also for the desperate times of needing to heed the call of nature in the middle of a cold night, well yes, they become pee bottles. You don’t have to leave the tent.

For retired climbing ropes you can you may have to get a bit hands on but you can make a wonderful rug for your front door step just check out the patterns available at It’s kind of like macramé without the wooden beads. If you have a dog or want to make a gift for a dog lover in your life considering making a custom leash.

When it’s time to let go of your favorite yoga mat you can make a pair of flip flops. You need a glue gun and a but of patience but when you have a mat that’s the perfect color or print it will be worth the time.

How about tents that have seen better days? If a rip or wear has made the tent unpatchable and no longer a solid shelter in the great outdoors you can still make use of the material. The tough but packable fabric is perfect for sewing your own ditty bags or shopping bags.

This is really the tip of the iceberg. I am sure there are lots of amazing ideas out there and I would love to hear them! Please share any new and fun ways to reuse and recycle gear in the comments area. Also, keep in mind, when shopping for gear choose brands that give back.

Wednesday Playlist on a Friday: Everybody's Working for the Weekend

When I was invited to participate in Necessary Cool's Indy Takeover I wasn't sure what to bring to the table. However I figured it's always time for a playlist, right? So this list is filled with songs for the weekend. Have a good one!

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September 22, 2009

Wednesday Playlist
Taylor Swift's Choice Mix

No, not that Taylor Swift. This playlist will not be interrupted by Kanye.

This Taylor Swift is an incredible talent all on his own. Not only is this fella an adventurer but a photographer as well. No I haven't turned into a photographer groupie. I have just been lucky enough to connect with some great Twitter friends who have a unique eye and make amazing playlists. Taylor is no exception.

So sit back, hit play, and check out his work.

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Biking in a Winter Wonderland!

It is barely autumn and some of you may shun me for bringing up snow...however preparing for inclement weather is important! Especially if you're a bike commuter. This will be my first year doing the winter bike commute so I thought what a great time for a contest!

Submit your best winter bike commuting tips and gear/clothing suggestions to by the end of the day Friday, October 2! I will choose a winner at random and the winner will receive a handknit goody from me. Winner gets their choice of a hat, scarf or yoga socks and input on the color selection.

All tips and suggestion will be posted in an upcoming post. If you would like your contribution to remain anonymous at time of posting please mention that in your email.

September 17, 2009

Gear, Girls, and Grit!:
Chicks Rock Devil's Lake Climbing Trip

When I entered the Pemba Serves contest to win a spot at the first-ever Chicks Rock Climbing Clinic I figured it was a long shot. However, after a little persuasion from my friends and realizing how much I needed a vacation I went for it. After all, how could I not at least try to be in on this amazing new adventure from the awesome ladies that produce Chicks With Picks ice climbing clinics? So I submitted the essay and put it to the back of my mind.

The day the winner was announced I was at the zoo with my friends and they can tell you when I received the email (thank you iPhone for prompt delivery) I was in disbelief. I actually emailed David at Pemba Serves a few times, just to make sure I understood correctly. After confirming my win I immediately went into logistics mode. The trip was a week away, I would need to arrange travel on Labor Day, get the time off work, coordinate a ride to Devil’s Lake, Wisconsin from Madison, find a pet sitter, well the list goes on. However after some amazing help and generous offers from people in Wisconsin and overwhelming kindness of my father (time off work, air miles for a plane ticket and hotel room, AND dog sitting) I was ready to go.

I woke up at 3:00 am on Labor Day morning to catch my early morning shuttle to the airport and took the ride time to think about what my expectations were for the trip. I have been to climbing camp before with Women’s Wilderness Institute however that experience is a little different. So I tried to consciously be aware I wouldn’t be repeating the same trip, I would be doing something new. I also figured at this point I would be one of the older or mid-aged ladies on the trip. Turn out I was the baby surrounded by wonderful accomplished women from various backgrounds and experience levels.

When I arrived at Madison I met the first amazing woman of the bunch, Amanda. She had graciously offered to shuttle myself and Eileen (@rockgrrl) to Devil’s Lake via her rental car. Since Eileen would be arriving in a few more hours we left the airport and grabbed some lunch. Then we swung by and grabbed Eileen and we were off to Devil’s Lake. The drive from Madison was gorgeous with rolling hills, cute towns, and lots of farms. When we finally arrived to Devil’s Lake State Park I was blown away. The area is so well maintained and huge!

Finally we arrived at our campsite happy to meet our guides: Kitty Calhoun and Angela Hawse (courtesy of Patagonia and Marmot respectively), base camp managers Vera Naputi and Anne Hughes, and the Head Chick: Kim Reynolds. We also got to meet Brad Werntz from Pemba Serves and his munchkins.

It felt so good to relax and just take in the scenery and the best part? Our Marmot tent and sleeping bags were ready! Eileen and I got settled into our space and then we awaited the arrival of the other attendees. As they trickled in we had a nice meet and greet then a formal introduction of one another and what to expect throughout the week as well as pizza! That’s right, you can have pizza delivered in Devil’s Lake, who knew?

We then broke into our teaching groups and the ladies who needed gear were fortunate enough try out awesome demos. Petzl provided helmets, harnesses, belay devices and ropes. Scarpa provided various styles of climbing shoes. While I love my gear very much I was considering trying out a few of the demo items myself.

After climbing for 3 years it is a little disheartening to be put in the Level One group, though with my lack of consistency in training and areas for improvement it was a great fit. Not to mention the ladies on my team and my instructor Angela, rocked! We had time to talk with Angela about our personal goals for the week. My goal was not to push to a higher grade but to perfect more fluid movement so those next grades will come easier, more naturally.

After some time by the campfire we all headed to the bathrooms to clean up (yes, real bathrooms with running water and showers) and then headed to bed. However being a little giddy and exhausted Eileen and I proceeded with GiggleFest 2009. We finally fell asleep and I crashed hard.

The next morning we were woke to the aroma of hot coffee made fresh with the sassy JetBoil systems provided by Pemba Serves. Before indulging in the coffee and breakfast I did a little yoga to get centered and stretched for the day. We chatted a bit around the breakfast table, packed up sandwiches and snacks and headed to the crag. The approach was relatively short and consisted of some very large steps of large rocks. My tush and quads had quite the warm-up.

When we reached the climbing area we broke into our groups. My group consisted of myself – a good foundation of climbing principles and safety but in need of more application to improve, Amanda- a climbing virgin, Carrie - a former Outward Bound river guide who was ready to bringing climbing back into her life, and Rita - a climbing accident survivor/runner/amazing hostess with a car trunk that resembled Mary Poppin’s carpet bag (seriously amazing and delicious treats just kept appearing!)

Now at this point I could get all technical on the climbs, but that’s not my style. Now I know for my climber friends you want the details so if you want more email and ask me. For the sake of not boring my non-climbing friends to sleep on their keyboards I will give an overview.

We started out with the basics of tying in and belaying. While this was not new to me I was happy to see the way Angela teaches these skills because new perspective and tips are always beneficial. We worked on routes that weren’t very challenging technically but they were great for people new to climbing, revisiting climbing, or first-timers to this area and particular rock. I don’t get outside nearly as much as I should. It was good to work through the easier climbs to work on my route identification skills.

After a full day of climbing it was time to head back to camp and get cleaned up to head to the town of Baraboo. I had no idea what to expect in this small town, it turns out it could have been the town in the movie “Back to the Future” completely with the clock tower in the center of town. We had dinner and a cute little restaurant that was part diner part supper club. The food was delicious, portions hearty and I was a full girl ready for a good night’s sleep. We made our way back to camp and after some more girlie chatting with Eileen I was off to dream land.

Day two began with another round of yoga and breakfast then off to the crag. We dove right into climbing on some great routes including an easy overhang (actually I think that was the name of the route). I love overhangs and high-step moves so this route was a lot of fun for me. We then moved over to a nice easy chimney. I never know whether I am going to enjoy a chimney. They can be uncomfortably narrow, darker, or just made of sharp rock. This one was nice, easy and a lot of fun. We had some lunch and continued moving on to more routes. Day two was really packed with climbing, just sticking with it, offering each other beta and working to gain more balance and fluid movement.

Back at camp that evening we had an awesome catered dinner. While part of me really missed cooking on camp stoves and getting creative it was also a treat to have time to shower, relax and just sit back and be taken care of. Again dinner was filled with great conversation and even a week later I can’t believe how lucky I am to have been in the company of such extraordinary women. From the guides to the base camp managers to the attendees each woman had an amazing unique history. These women also shared a common fire to push themselves to work hard, play hard and enjoy every moment of it.
That evening at the campfire we were encouraged to ask questions, have an open dialogue and just explore our fears and desires when it comes to climbing. Kim also surprised us with a tasty campfire classic, S’MORES!!! I have never been terribly big on sweets (except cupcakes!) but I am a sucker for S’MORES!

The next morning was the same routine with the added task of packing our bags for our late afternoon departure. Just as we were ready to head to the crag James Edward Mills from the Joy Trip Project joined us and we were off. By day three we were all a bit tired so the approach was mellower and we took our time getting on the rock. It was a great day of climbing though. This was the day we really pulled it all together. First, Angela took us up for a demonstration of anchor systems which was great!

All of my anchor building education has been using natural anchors or bolted anchors. Angela showed us various anchors using cams and nuts and then we put them to the test. It was time to rappel down. While this wasn’t my first time rappelling I always get nervous. It’s the walking off the edge that gets me. Angela helped me get past that by encouraging me to take in more slack on the rope, finally I found my technique!

During the last day of climbing we worked on some climbs that I couldn’t finish. I was pumpy tired and they featured a lot of cracks and jams which aren’t my strength. However I worked them as long as I could and took a few falls. While that isn’t normally something to be proud of it is for me. It means I went outside of my comfort zone and took some risks.

Back at camp we did a final closing circle. Our instructors took a moment to tell us their observations and then we were able to share our thoughts and feelings. Angela’s assessment of me was both light-hearted and insightful. She recognized and brought to light my strengths and flat out told me that cracks and jams are the barrier I have to break through if I want to improve.

After we said our goodbyes Amanda, Eileen, and I head back to Madison for the night. We piled into the hotel room, got cleaned up and headed out to dinner. We were fortunate to be joined by Darren (aka @canoelover) for a bit. Then we stopped for ice cream and headed back to the hotel. Not much longer after we got back and I was fast asleep.

I awoke early, snuck out as quietly as possible, and headed to the airport. On the plane I thought a lot about what an amazing week it had been. I learned so much about myself and was exposed to such a high caliber of people. I am so thankful to Pemba Serves and my father for making this trip happen for me, to the great sponsors Petzl, Marmot, Scarpa and Patagonia for supporting women’s programs, and of course to those spectacular women that made the trip a magical adventure.

Thanks to Brad at Pemba Serves for snapping this pic of me. For more pictures and coverage visit!

September 9, 2009

Wednesday Playlist
Chase Adams Climber's Choice

I have been wanting a guest DJ for awhile and what a great time when I am out of town! Even better Chase Adams was talking about great climbing songs on Twitter and when I asked him to make a playlist he was down.

Not only is Chase a fabulous guest DJ but also an amazing photographer. Check out his work at here.

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September 6, 2009

I'm Out of Here!

I am on my way to Chick's Rock climbing camp in Devil's Lake, Wisconsin courtesy of Pemba Serves. I have made a little travel playlist for you to enjoy while I am gone. Some of the songs are traditional, some not so much. I hope everyone has an excellent week!

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September 2, 2009

Confessions of a Reformed Bitch: The Making and Tempering of the Mafia Side

You know how when you were little there was the bully at school and your parents always told you, "He only picks on you because he's insecure"? Well the same can be said of that snarky bitch. I know because that bitch was me. Now I can already hear some of my friends jokingly say "What do you mean 'was'?" but I am going to let that slide. Because I will concede we all have our moments of snarkiness and ill behavior but I am talking about really difficult to deal with bitchiness.

Now I certainly wasn't born a bitch but I was always very sensitive. Being an only child without siblings to pick on me I was easily flustered when teased. In addition to my already delicate nature I had the trauma of a dog attack complete with scarring and was thrown into Gifted and Talented class in Kindergarten. So while other little girls were known for their beauty or charm or talent I was known for a few scars and my brain. I got picked on and teased often. As early as fourth grade I developed aggression disguised as assertiveness to handle the pain. It's so much easier to give people a reason to dislike you, like being snarky, hard to approach, condescending, and dark than to let them choose their own reasons.

As I grew into my high school years the approach became more dramatic. That's right, I became Gothic. I was more than content to have people think I was an evil witch or blood drinking vampire wanna be than to let them in and make up their mind whether or not to like me. While I softened up a bit my senior year in anticipation of college I still kept my edge. In college I realized people were as quick to judge as "adults" as they were as children and adolescence.

Rather than take the high road and evolve into someone who I felt comfortable with I became the bitch. In classes I was a know-it-all, in social interactions I dismissed anyone that bored me, and I prided myself on being verbally scathing. I associated myself with a very close knit group of people who allowed this behavior to continue. Upon graduation I not only had the bitch thing working for me but also that naive recently graduated entitlement that some people in their early 20's get. Then life gave me the smack down.

I realized most of my relationships were superficial. I would have "best friends" that last six months and then I would be quick to judge something they did and never speak to them again. My romantic relationships were also lacking. I became somewhat of a narcissist and then I was alone. Nobody wanted to play my reindeer games. Finally I realized being the bitch is a sad place to be, an ugly place to be.

The first step was to admit I had a problem. Quite simply I didn't like myself. Part of this stemmed from depression suffered since puberty and part of it was the monster I made myself. Not to say I didn't have a good heart but it got overshadowed by my brash callous nature. I didn't want to be the girl that was hard to approach. I didn't want to be hurtful. I wanted to find happiness, find peace, share my light and not my dark.

So through quite a few years of work in therapy, self-assessment, through discovering yoga, and true friendships based on common ground rather than common hate I have become the Cupcake. I still have a Mafia side, but rather than channel that tough edge into the negative I use it to find my strength in challenging moments. Being tough isn't about being a bitch, it's about rolling with life's problems with grace and resilience. I am so honored to now share my life with such amazing people both in real life and my online communities. At times when the bitch tries to creep back in having such amazing people in my life reminds me of how far I have come and I love you all for it.

August 31, 2009

The Little Cupcake That Could:
My First 5K Race

Last weekend I was the park knitting with a few friends when Lynn asked me if I wanted to do the SkirtChaser 5K with her the following weekend. This was the first time in my life when I didn’t immediately think of a million excuses of why I couldn’t do it. Since I began bike commuting about three months ago my running has gone out the window, and it wasn’t anything to write home about prior to that. However, I knew I could finish even if I didn’t run the whole time and that was something.

Knowing I had a good friend in town that weekend who runs races gave me that extra push. I decided if Paul-Baptiste says yes I am in. If he decides he doesn’t want to, then I won’t do it. Lucky for me, he was in. So I signed up, got in a few runs the week prior and waited for race day.

In the SkirtChaser women start the race and men follow three minutes later. The energy pre-race was contagious and there were a ton of great sponsors at the event so it helped me work through the nervousness and self-doubt that was starting to creep up.

Lynn and I got in position to start and as we took off I was surprised to see all the different types of women in the race. Pre-run all I could focus on were these amazing athletic goddesses with their tan skin and figures boasting about 8% body fat (if that). However when immersed in the group I saw all kinds of women tall, short, skinny, curvy, girls in their teens, women with their daughters, and women in their retirement years. That to me was the best part. It was really cool seeing all these different women out there for fun with different goals and different motivating factors.

As I worked through the course alternating walking and running I felt I was in excellent company. The groups of people cheering on the street made a huge difference in the moments I felt alone and talking with fellow race participants was helpful too. Getting close to the finish line I felt special to be apart of a great group. Knowing Paul-Baptiste and Lynn were there waiting for me gave me that extra push to run the last portion. After crossing the finish line I ticked off my check list for the race.

Goal One: Finish the Race - Check
Goal Two: Finish within my Goal Time - Check
Goal Three: Have Fun - CHECK CHECK CHECK!

I know sometimes I may sound like a broken record but once again what I am sharing with you is a story of throwing your fears aside and just trying something new. Rather than think about all the reasons you can’t do something think about all the reasons you can. Be realistic in your goal setting but keep trying new things. You never know what you’ll experience along the way. Today’s a rest day but tomorrow I start training for my next 5K and I hope to see you out there!

August 25, 2009

Wednesday Playlist:
The Realtionship Life Cycle

I recently had a break up and a good friend suggested I make a "break-up songs" playlist. At first I thought "Not a bad idea" but then I realized that's not me. I don't dwell on the bad elements in life. I like balance and without dark there wouldn't be light.

This list includes a lot of guilty pleasure songs so I hope it's not too much cheese for you all. However knowing my audience, I know you love the guilty pleasure songs too. So enjoy, rock out, and remember all endings are really beginnings in disguise.

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August 19, 2009

Recipe Review: Vegan Pumpkin Scones

I have recently embarked on a quest to eat vegan eighty percent of the time which has helped me to look outside my normal recipes and try new things. I was looking for new breakfast option and came across Pumpkin French Toast at the Post Punk Kitchen Blog. While I am sad to say I wasn't able to try the recipe yet it did get me thinking I love pumpkin and would love to incorporate it in an portable breakfast item. Then it hit me, I love the Pumpkins Scones at Starbucks, maybe there is a vegan option.

I was lucky to find the Two Vegan Sisters Blog filled with mouth-watering recipes that I can't wait to try. One of the sisters happened to make a coffee-house style Pumpkin Scone and I baked a batch up. The original recipe can be found here, complete with a glaze and icing drizzle recipe. I made a few modifications to the spices and the liquids and left out the icing to make the caloric intake a little lower. The scones are delicious (even without the glaze) and go great with coffee in the morning.

4 cups whole wheat flour
½ cup sugar
2 tablespoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
½ teaspoon salt
½ cup Earth Balance margarine
1 cup pumpkin purée
3/4 cup soy creamer

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

In a large bowl, mix flour, sugar, baking powder, spices and salt. Use a pastry blender to add in Earth Balance until thoroughly mixed. In another large bowl, whisk together pumpkin and soy creamer.

Add combined dry ingredients to pumpkin mixture. Mix, then form into 2 balls of dough. Pat out one ball of dough onto a lightly floured surface and form it into a 10-inch circle. Use pizza wheel to cut dough into six wedges. Transfer wedges to a parchment paper-lined baking sheet. Repeat with second ball of dough.

Bake until golden for 15 minutes. Transfer baked scones to a wire rack to cool, with parchment or wax paper underneath to catch drips.

Makes 12 scones.

August 14, 2009

Women Rock Wisconsin!

If you're a climber, aspiring climber or outdoor enthusiast you're probably familiar with Chicks with Picks. Celebrating their tenth anniversay, Chicks with Picks focuses on awesome adventures while teaching women ice climbing from beginning lessons to advanced skills.

Lucky for us Chicks with Picks have expanded their offerings to include Three-Day Climbing Clinics in Devil's Lake Wisconsin. With five clinic levels there is certainly something for every gal. With their 4-to-1 guide to climber ratio you know that you're in good hands. Learning to climb or improving your existing skill set is a great way to start the autumn. What a great time to build confidence and make new friends!

To sign up for their September 7-10 course visit or to learn more the website.

Happy climbing Rock Stars!

August 11, 2009

Wednesday Playlist (on a Tuesday!):
Let's Hear it for the Boys!

My dearest @katiebeth is obsessed with boy bands and has inspired this list. What I love about boy bands is they remind me of a simpler time when it seemed like love and good hair product would conquer all. Hopefully this will bring back some great memories for everyone.

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August 10, 2009

Doughnuts and Dialogue

Some people like to ride their bike on wide open roads, others prefer paths, when I ride I like side streets and communities. I love taking my time and really taking in my surroundings. Today I noticed something while biking through the neighborhood, I was reminded that random kindness still exists.

Throughout my ride I passed people on the sidewalks, in their yards, and riding bikes. Majority of the people actually smiled, nodded a hello, or said hi. It was so refreshing to see that people still reach out to others, even if for only a thirty second exchange. You see this often when hiking (outdoorsy people are super friendly) but not so often in the urban streets. That's why getting into the neighborhoods is so enjoyable to me.

Beyond the casual hellos I was also treated to a heartwarming exchange at the doughnut shop. I stopped in to get a little fuel (aka gluttonous treat) and sat down with my doughnut and coffee. A few tables down sat four friends. All in their 60's or so you could tell they had been friends a long time. I also gathered from their conversation that the breakfast gathering is something they do every day. I smiled to myself as I was leaving, feeling lucky to observe what a cool connection these people seemed to have.

As I was picking up my tray one of the gentleman looked over and said "You're not leaving so soon, are you?" and from there they asked all kind of questions and I got to know them if only for a brief time. At that point I recognized that when people let down their guard and just say hello rather than judge or put up barriers we are able to reclaim our sense of community.

It was a good day.

August 4, 2009

Wednesday Playlist:
Melvin the Bird

I wasn't going to do a playlist this week but I was talking to a friend and telling her about my bird collision when she recommended I make a bird-themed playlist.

Now I am still not clear if I hit the bird or the bird hit me but while riding a bird took off from the ground and boom. We both shook it off and went our separate ways. I have since named the bird Melvin and this playlist is in honor of his brave little soul.

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