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.

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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.