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Author: Zahira Houghtelin

I actively seek out potentially better futures and simultaneously motivate everyone around me to believe and desire the goal ahead. By motivating myself, being extremely positive and proactive, I can empower others and help them visualize achieving a goal that is simply sitting in front of them just waiting to be conquered and dominated. My favorite quote, again by Gen Powell, says it all: "Perpetual Optimism is a Force Multiplier."
Family Christmas 2019 – Planning and Executing

Family Christmas 2019 – Planning and Executing

When planning for this Christmas, I wanted to make sure that good times were had by all. In my opinion, the experience during a holiday will always trump the material things received, and I wanted to make this a memorable event for all. The planner in me wanted to have everything laid out with an itinerary that kept everyone entertained, not bored, but also not stressed. Over-scheduling is always exhausting and not scheduling enough will always have bored guests. We began an email thread for recipes and a text thread for open communication. For planning purposes, this was crucial. Everyone was able to provide feedback and suggestions. Of course, speaking with each family individually was important, but the group messages were also a way of ensuring everyone was on the same page and for communication during the holiday.

We had some dietary restrictions that everyone needed to be aware of. One of our nieces has Celiac’s disease and can not consume gluten without getting extremely sick. One of my sisters-in-law is vegan and we had to make sure that there was food available for her as well. As a family, we all came together and had some AMAZING meals!

The planning began with the idea of matching pajamas for the kiddos, watching the Polar Express movie, surprising them with tickets to the polar express and local tourism. I recommend booking reservations for anything you plan on doing, as far in advance as possible. This gives you more time to do things with everyone in the moment. Just before everyone arrived, we had the whole house cleaned and ready and I had to finalize all of the Christmas shopping. By Sunday afternoon, everything except stocking stuffers had been taken care of, reserved, purchased and set up.

Sunday 22DEC – First family arrives in time for dinner, relaxation and early bed times.
Dinner:

  • giant mixed salad
    • Spring mix and baby spinach
    • cherry tomatoes
    • cucumbers
    • green onions
    • sweet mini bell peppers
    • Raspberry vinaigrette, ranch, creamy french, avocado ranch, and oil & vinegar
  • baked potato bar with russet potatoes and sweet potatoes
    • shredded cheese
    • vegan butter and regular butter
    • salt & pepper
    • chives
    • bacon (cooked and chopped)
    • sour cream
    • cinnamon and sugar
    • mini marshmallows

Monday 23DEC – Lost Dutchman Museum and Goldfield Ghost Town. We chose to get out and see some local tourism today so that the kids could stretch their legs after being in a car for 2 days. The idea was to stroll through the museum and then go check out the ghost town. Everyone had such a fabulous time! At the museum, we walked around and checked out all of the old equipment that was used to mine in the area, then we sat down for a picnic lunch. After everyone was done eating, we drove over to the ghost town for a stroll, some coffee and a couple tours. The ghost town is actually a complete reconstruction of the previous 2 towns that had sprung up during the gold rush, in the same spot. If you ever find yourself in the area, it’s a great way to spend the day! My sister-in-law and I walked through Lulu’s Bordello tour and the whole family went on the Mammoth mine tour. GREAT experiences!
Breakfast:

  • hashbrowns w/ onions, garlic and peppers (vegan and regular)
  • eggs
  • bacon
  • avocado
  • fresh fruit
    • bananas
    • apples
    • tangerines
    • blueberries
    • COFFEE

Lunch:

  • smoked gouda and havarti
  • red grapes
  • gluten free crackers
  • chips and pretzel chips
  • hummus
  • Kind bars
  • Z Bars
  • apples
  • bananas
  • tangerines
  • wine and ciders for adults who were not driving

After the Mammoth Mine Tour, everyone was getting hungry and on our way home, we had a surprise for everyone. We took the fam to California Pizza Kitchen at Tempe Marketplace for dinner since they had options for all to include vegan options, gluten free options and everything in between. We couldn’t have asked for a better dinner experience! After dinner, we went home to collect our bikes and go tour some Christmas lights. We all rode bikes down to Scottsdazzle first, to walk around the canal convergence and experience all of the lights. After walking, running, racing the kiddos and taking a bunch of family pics, we got back on our bikes and rode over to the Christmas Wonderland House off of Granite Reef Rd. We walked through the display, drank some hot cocoa, roasted marshmallows and tried to stay dry when it was raining. We rode our bikes home, content with the day, knowing that as soon as we got home, we could get into dry clothes and go to bed. A successful day!

Tuesday 24DEC – Christmas Eve!!! We had family arrive Tuesday morning, and family arriving late that night, so the day was spent finalizing the decorations, finalizing the Christmas stockings, wrapping the final items and grabbing some last minute groceries for the next day. After the previous day, everyone was content to hang out, watch movies and make/eat food. We had a super late breakfast so everyone just snacked on salads and later, we had an early dinner.
Breakfast:

  • hashbrowns w/ onions, garlic and peppers (vegan and regular)
  • eggs
  • bacon
  • avocado
  • fresh fruit
    • bananas
    • apples
    • tangerines
    • blueberries
    • COFFEE

Dinner:

  • Vegan Lentil Pasta Bake
    • lentil noodles
    • tomato sauce
    • tomato paste
    • stewed tomatoes
    • plant based meatballs
    • herbs and spices
  • Cheesy meat sauce lentil pasta bake
    • lentil noodles
    • tomato sauce
    • tomato paste
    • stewed tomatoes
    • italian meatballs
    • herbs and spices
    • shredded cheese
  • giant mixed salad
    • Spring mix and baby spinach
    • cherry tomatoes
    • cucumbers
    • green onions
    • sweet mini bell peppers
    • Raspberry vinaigrette, ranch, creamy french, avocado ranch, and oil & vinegar

After dinner, we attended Christmas Eve service at Open Arms Church and came back with some early presents from Santa. Each child was able to open 1 present that Santa had dropped off early. They each received monogrammed red pajamas that they were able to put on immediately. When they came back downstairs, we all sat down and watched the Polar Express together. Everyone was so excited and it made me eager to see their reactions when they opened their envelopes containing the polar express tickets I made for them the next morning. After the kids went to bed, the hubby and a brother went to the airport to pick up the final wave of family joining us for Christmas. While waiting in the cell phone lot, they noticed a dog running around that appeared to be lost. They caught up to the dog and realized there were no identifying tags, however she was wearing a holiday collar and did not appear to be a stray. After getting her in the car, and picking up our guests, they came back home. The poor pup was really anxious but very well trained and groomed. We gave her food, water and a warm bed in order to provide her with as much comfort as we could since she was away from her family. The intention was to get her scanned in the morning for a chip.

Wednesday 25DEC – Christmas Day!!! Everyone was finally here!!! When everyone was awake, we all headed over to the clubhouse where all of the decorations, the stockings, the trees and the gifts were waiting. We had decided on booking the clubhouse to provide the space we would need for the day. It was PERFECT. Everyone had gifts to open, gifts to share and fun times to be had. The boys had wheeled over 2 grills to the clubhouse and breakfast was made there and at home in the kitchen. The hubby and I took the pup to a local vet hospital to have her scanned for a chip. Thankfully, she was chipped and within the hour, we were in contact with her family. We returned her to her home, wished them Merry Christmas and came back thankful and happy she was reunited with her family.

Breakfast: The boys took care of breakfast and it was amazing!

  • vegan & gluten free biscuits
  • vegan & gluten free gravy
  • regular sausage gravy
  • country potatoes w/ onions, garlic and peppers (vegan)
  • eggs
  •  bacon
  • avocado
  • fresh fruit
    • bananas
    • apples
    • tangerines
    • blueberries
    • COFFEE

Lunch: Salads to balance out all of the stocking candy, cookies and sweets

  • giant mixed salad
    • Spring mix and baby spinach
    • cherry tomatoes
    • cucumbers
    • green onions
    • sweet mini bell peppers
    • Raspberry vinaigrette, ranch, creamy french, avocado ranch, and oil & vinegar

Dinner: Thanks to my amazing sister-in-law, she took over this whole process and allowed me to take some me time that day. Thanks to her, we had this amazing spread for dinner and I owe it all to her.

  • giant mixed salad
    • Spring mix and baby spinach
    • cherry tomatoes
    • cucumbers
    • green onions
    • sweet mini bell peppers
    • Raspberry vinaigrette, ranch, creamy french, avocado ranch, and oil & vinegar
  • vegan sweet potatoes casserole
    • sweet potatoes
    • marshmallows
    • plant based butter (almond)
    • spices
  • salted caramel spiral ham
  • vegan green beans almondine
  • vegan & gluten free mashed potatoes
  • gluten free gravy
  • Kings Hawaiian sweet rolls

After the kids all went to bed, the adults all stayed up, drank, played board games and made some amazing memories. I am blessed to have had such amazing people around me all week.

Thursday 26DEC – Today, we began to say good bye to the first wave of family leaving. We had our standard breakfast, and said our good byes. After that, my sisters-in law and I ran to the store to get stuff for Lunch. After Lunch, the plan was to head up to Williams for dinner at the restaurant and ride the Polar Express.

Breakfast:

  • left over vegan & gluten free biscuits
  • hashbrowns
  • eggs
  • bacon
  • avocado
  • fresh fruit
    • bananas
    • apples
    • tangerines
    • blueberries
    • COFFEE

Lunch:

  • Thai Curry Soup (made w/Vegan substitutes)
    • 1 tablespoon olive oil
    • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
    • 3 garlic cloves, minced
    • 1 red bell pepper, diced
    • 1 onion, diced
    • bok choy (chinese cabbage)
    • mushrooms
    • 2 russet potatoes
    • 3 tablespoons red curry paste
    • 1 tablespoon freshly grated ginger
    • 6 cups vegetable broth
    • 1 (13.5-ounce) can coconut milk
    • 1/2 (8-ounce) package rice noodles
    • 1 tablespoon fish sauce (if we’re ok with it not being vegan)
    • 2 teaspoons brown sugar
    • 3 green onions, thinly sliced
    • 1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro leaves
    • 1/4 cup chopped fresh basil leaves
    • 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice
    • DIRECTIONS:
      Cook garlic, bell pepper, potato, bok choy and onion in olive oil. Cook, stirring occasionally, until tender, about 3-4 minutes.
      Stir in red curry paste and ginger until fragrant, about 1 minute.
      Stir in vegetable broth and coconut milk, scraping any browned bits from the bottom of the pot.
      Bring to a boil; reduce heat and cook, stirring occasionally, until reduced, about 10 minutes. Add in bok choy leaves.
      Stir in rice noodles, fish sauce and brown sugar until noodles are tender, about 5 minutes.
      Remove from heat; stir in green onions, cilantro, basil and lime juice; season with salt and pepper, to taste.
      Serve immediately.

Dinner:

  • Dinner at the Grand Depot Buffet

The Polar Express was awesome! Definitely recommend it if you have young children who enjoy train rides.

 

Friday 27DEC: Today was a rest and recover day since everyone else was leaving the next day. Meals were super simple today… kiddos played with their toys and took naps… adults vegged out and prepared for the next day.

Breakfast:

  • vegan pancakes
  • real maple syrup
  • blueberry syrup made from scratch
  • hashbrowns
  • fresh fruit

Snacks, salads and leftovers for the rest of the day.

 

All in all, a truly successful Christmas Family Gathering… one that my heart will remember for a long time. <3

Hosting the perfect family Christmas

Hosting the perfect family Christmas

I am usually one of those people who has to have everything happen on a schedule, in a very specific manner, and I feel like I should do everything in order to maintain the level of control needed to ensure perfection. Needless to say, that can become very stressful and exhausting when hosting enough people. And on top of all that, I have found in the past, that I miss out on everything since I am so busy making sure everything is happening properly. This year, we chose to host our entire family on the hubby’s side. I learned something about myself this holiday season, and a few things about hosting that will make all future occasions a little less stressful and far more enjoyable for me and everyone involved. My conclusion? It turns out, that the perfect family holiday (after all of the planning and preparation is in place), is the culmination of 2 words – Let Go. Let me explain:

When we stepped in and chose to host the family for Christmas, it was a whirlwind decision. The original plan had been disassembled, due to unforeseen circumstances, and we had to make new plans quickly. This family Christmas had been on the books since Christmas 2016 and fell apart in July… just 5 months before Christmas. So, after one family decided to make the trek to us, we just invited everyone else and chose to move forward with a new plan. I immediately began planning, budgeting and saving for the event but felt like I was completely unprepared. My brain clicked on and I began planning meals, activities, gift ideas, holiday decorations, space and sleeping arrangements. My first thought was, “How are we going to afford this?”… my second thought was, “where will everyone sleep?” Then, as my brain started to think of everything that needs to be done, I began to seriously plan and get things in order. I found that, I had just enough time to add this into our budget and just enough time to plan an entire week of food, activities and an epic celebration. This had to be a magical Christmas for the kids since the older ones are on the brink of not believing in Santa anymore.

I wanted to make sure that nobody was bored, everyone had enough food and everyone had a good time so I began to feel anxious about the whole thing. I am blessed to have an awesome family who helped make this an amazing experience. The plan began with the idea of matching pajamas, the polar express and local tourism. The first wave of family arrived on Sunday afternoon, then we had more arrive the morning of Christmas eve and the final wave arrived late Christmas eve. At the airport Christmas eve, the hubby and one of his brothers, found a dog wandering the airport. This little one was groomed and trained exceptionally well, had a holiday collar on and did not look like a stray. They brought the pup home and that was an adventure in and of itself. We were able to return little Roxie to her family Christmas morning, thanks to a vet being open and able to scan her for a chip. I will list all of the activities, and schedule we had, along with our menu, here.

During the whirlwind that was Christmas 2019, I learned that I didn’t have to do everything… I didn’t have to have the perfect decorations… I didn’t have to make all of the food. When I let go of having complete control during everyone’s visit, I was able to be a nicer person who wasn’t on edge. The most important thing was that I let go of control in my kitchen (BIG DEAL). When someone wanted to make a meal, I didn’t stand in the kitchen and force my help. I didn’t make sure everything was done my way. I ensured that they had all of the ingredients they needed, all of the utensils, equipment, and I stepped away to enjoy my time or take care of something else. This one little act must have been the most impactful of my lessons. Let go… just let go of control in the moment and allow others to help you. Let go and delegate. Let go and enjoy time with family members. Let go and take a moment to breathe. Let go and allow yourself to not be in charge. Just let go, because all of the planning you have done to get here, is done. Let go and enjoy the magic that surrounds this holiday. Everyone is going to remember how they felt and how you made them feel. Nobody wants a cranky and overworked hostess. By allowing others to help, especially when they have the desire to help, they feel good about themselves too! Cooking or baking is generally how many show their love… by allowing this to happen in your kitchen, you are letting them know that you appreciate them as well. My entire outlook on hosting has evolved. I know with more time to plan, i could have achieved more but… I would have to qualify this as a very successful Christmas. The kids had the times of their lives. The parents all had some adult time to celebrate and catch up on each others lives. And everyone will remember this Christmas as one of family, magic, and good times. WINNING!

Biking @ the Grand Canyon

Biking @ the Grand Canyon

This weekend, we decided to brave the cold temperatures (low 14/ high 42) and head up to the Grand Canyon for some camping and adventuring. We found some dispersed camping in Tusayan off of Forest Service Rd 302. The camping here is PERFECT! Each site has a fire ring ready for an awesome camp fire, snow covered space and pine trees galore. This area is impeccably serene, inspiring and invigorating. We sat around the fire for a couple hours, eating snacks, laughing and watching the stars, hoping to see something of the Unicorn Meteor Shower. We were lucky enough to see a few shoot through the sky before the temperatures started getting a bit too frosty for us, lol. Side note: there are no facilities here so make sure to bring TP, water and other essentials. After we were done with the fire, we spread out a bunch of blankets, sleeping bags and pillows in the back our trailblazer, so as to make sure our little one stayed warm, and we all slept well.

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The next morning, everything was far too wet for our morning campfire, so we headed out and entered the Grand Canyon for some fun. We entered in from the South Entrance and drove over to the Visitor Center. We walked through their museum because the Grand Canyon is celebrating 100 years! We checked out the book store and had some nice chats about the park with some of the rangers. After that, we decided to get on one of the shuttles just for kicks. We went to the marketplace, bought Max a Grand Canyon hoodie because her last growth spurt was a big one and her coat was a little smaller than I would have liked for a bike ride in those temperatures. After she donned her new hoodie, we decided it was time to return back to our bikes and head out for a bike ride. Our initial intent, was to ride Desert View but decided against it due to the icy roads. Once we grabbed our bikes, we headed East on the Kaibab Trail (B-E-A-UTIFUL!!) before turning around, heading back west to the marketplace and village, then back to the Visitor Center. It was a super fun ride with AMAZING views! The whole time we were on our bikes, we were telling jokes, laughing and smiling! How could life get any better?!

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zhoughtelin

Max fell out 10 minutes into the ride so she napped during our ride but she had a blast before and after. I would totally tell any family, who is into having fun and adventuring, to check out this ride. It’s super short (less than 8 miles) with some of the most SPECTACULAR views! It’s amazing how inspiring and refreshing it is, standing on the rim with a bike and the canyon in front of you… I am in awe at this marvelous wonder and am super thankful to have been able to enjoy and appreciate it from this perspective! What a fun way to spend the weekend with my family! <3

zhoughtelin

Pacific Coast Highway Bike Trip – Day 7

Pacific Coast Highway Bike Trip – Day 7

RETURN HOME ON AMTRAK

Day 7!! WOOHOO!!! We took yesterday off to explore Dana Point and spend time with friends. Today, we head home. Thank you California for a wonderful trip!!

Would we do this again? ABSOLUTELY!! We are already planning our next trip! I think we might do some small day trips in the next few weeks. We’ll keep y’all posted!!

Keep on Adventuring! <3

Pacific Coast Highway Bike Trip – Day 5

Pacific Coast Highway Bike Trip – Day 5

Long Beach to Dana Point
Distance – 38.25 Miles
Elevation Gain – 1193 ft
Average Speed – 9.3 mph
Duration – 4:07:31

Day 5 was another successful endeavor! We began our day at another bike shop, for equipment solutions, and a park! Max had a blast enjoying yet another playground while we were at the bike shop. We had some serious ground to cover today, as well as our highest elevation climb of the trip. We made a couple of other stops for restrooms, snacks and such, and the playground on Huntington Beach.

Most stops were pretty short so that we can make our destination before dark. Once we neared Dana Point, the traffic began to feel congested and rushed. Someone rolled down their window and suggested we go one street up for a bike lane and way less traffic (THANK YOU!). So we did! We ended up climbing an additional 300 feet in elevation with the new route but we were very pleased with the few cars we came across. It was the perfect trade-off.

In the end, we made it safe and sound! We arrived in Dana Point and decided that we would take the next day as a rest day before returning to Santa Barbara.

Day 5 = SUCCESS
zhoughtelin

zhoughtelin

Pacific Coast Highway Bike Trip – Day 4

Pacific Coast Highway Bike Trip – Day 4

Venice Beach to Long Beach
Distance – 35.23 Miles
Elevation Gain – 750ft
Average Speed – 9.1 mph
Duration – 3:52:01

Day 4 we had a super late start due to equipment failure. We had to swing through a couple different bike shops to remedy the situation before the day’s ride. We stopped at a playground to start the day off correctly and began our trek. We were able to experience Venice Beach, Redondo Beach and Shoreline Village in Long Beach before settling down in a hotel again.

The air quality today was a little rough, due to the fire, and our ride to Long Beach required us to ride through Los Angeles until we got to the L.A. River. As overwhelming as it seems, to have to ride through Los Angeles traffic on a bicycle, we had absolutely no issues and had a very pleasant ride! No major winds today, beautiful sunny weather and agreeable traffic made the ride today awesome! The Redondo Beach Pier was super fun for a stop and stroll. We stopped, walked, ate and had a blast before heading out. When we arrived in Long Beach, we walked through Shoreline Village and had fun in their arcade, before riding to our hotel for the night. After taking showers, we ran out to the laundromat and did our laundry. All in all, another successful day!

Day 4 = SUCCESS
houghtelin

houghtelin

Pacific Coast Highway Bike Trip – Day 3

Pacific Coast Highway Bike Trip – Day 3

Thornhill Broome State Beach Campground to Venice Beach
Distance – 36.59 Miles
Elevation Gain – 884ft
Average Speed – 8.7 mph
Duration – 4:48:50

Day 3 winds were rough again, but we were able to enjoy the scenery of Malibu, Santa Monica and Oxnard before arriving at Venice Beach. Climbing those hills against the wind has to be one of the most challenging things we have done together. It was an amazing experience to add to our family timeline. <3

When we woke up, the winds were bad but the sunrise was STELLAR! We packed up and got out of the state beach as quickly as we could, in order to get started for the day. No showers at Thornhill so packing up was quick. We had to go 12 miles before reaching civilization (a.k.a. Starbucks). We took a nice long break, had some nibbles and coffee, charged our electronics and then set out again. The caffeine boost was just what we needed to get through the ride today. So much beauty in those climbs and so much wind! There weren’t many playgrounds on today’s route so we had to get creative and play games when we did stop.

Arriving in Venice Beach, we decided to grab a hotel for some comfortable beds and showers. We chose to stay at the Cadillac Hotel on the boardwalk. It’s a super cute and edgy little boutique hotel. The rooms are minimalistic and sleek with open windows and a view of the ocean.

As day 3 came to a close, I was relaxing and reflecting on the trip thus far… it was turning out to be an EPIC adventure and fueled my desire to begin planning our next trip as soon as we returned home.

Day 3 = SUCCESS

houghtelin

Pacific Coast Highway Bike Trip – Day 2

Pacific Coast Highway Bike Trip – Day 2

Carpenteria State Beach to Thornhill Broome State Beach Campground
Distance – 43.95 Miles
Elevation Gain – 920ft
Average Speed – 8.7 mph
Duration – 5:04:16

Day 2 was challenging as well as rewarding. Upon waking up, we packed up quickly, utilized the showers at Carpenteria State Park (coin operated and SUPER convenient), and set out to conquer the next section of our ride. Our goal for the day, was to make it to Point Mugu State Park for the night. We battled some rather strong headwinds, having us work to go downhill, and it was a rough day for our potty training toddler.

Our little one has been potty training… so we thought we had it figured out when we chose to bring her little potty with us on the trip. The idea behind this was: there were stretches of road that didn’t have any facilities… we thought, in case she needs to go, we could hop over to the side of the road, provide a little privacy, and voila! This worked out PERFECTLY when we could hear her tell us she needed to stop. The winds were so severe, there were times we didn’t hear her in time. This caused some emotional outbursts (understandable), and it required some creative solutions. As soon as it became available, we pulled into a beachside playground for her to run off some energy. This turned the whole day around and we were back to smiles. Two playgrounds, a rocket museum, 3 popped tires, and many many laughs and tears later, we were nearing our destination.

The views we experienced during our ride today were absolutely spectacular! My goodness.. the scenery made every obstacle totally worth it! In the end, we pulled into the state park, set up camp and enjoyed the most beautiful sunset! Those pesky winds, on the other hand, made for a memorable night, lol. Our tent almost flew away, with us in it, and then continued to collapse on us every time we were sandblasted. Long story short, the winds were so rough, we woke up to the Sahara Desert in our tent (j/k.. just an inch or two of sand).

Day 2 = SUCCESS

Houghtelin

Houghtelin

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zhoughtelin

Houghtelin

Pacific Coast Highway Bike Trip – Day 1

Pacific Coast Highway Bike Trip – Day 1

Santa Barbara to Carpenteria State Beach
Distance – 12.31 Miles
Elevation Gain – 314ft
Average Speed – 9.0 mph
Duration – 1:20:33

For our first day, we decided to keep it simple and only ride to the first camp ground we could find hiker/biker camping. We left Santa Barbara, embarked on our first family bike tour with our two year old, and rode south to Carpenteria State Park. There, we were able to secure a hiker/biker camp site for only $10/person. Since Max is only 2, she was able to get through for free and we only had to pay for ourselves.

Day 1 was super simple and enjoyable!! We left Santa Barbara with fantastic weather and excitement. We set up camp and meandered along the beach until we were ready to make dinner and crash out. We all had a blast playing with the sand, running to and from the water, and just enjoying the beautiful setting.

Houghtelin

The plan was to get up bright and early, eat some breakfast and head out for our first day of serious riding.

MISSION ACCOMPLISHED

Greeley Annual Tradition

Greeley Annual Tradition

Friday, we got to participate in Downtown Greeley’s annual tradition of Greeley Lights the Night. Greeley Lights the Night is a time honored tradition that dates back 21 years to 1995. The 21st Annual Greeley Lights the Night Parade took place on November 26th from 5:30 – 7:00PM. The parade began at 9th Avenue and 15th Street and ended at Lincoln Park with a lighting ceremony and a visit from Santa Claus. Over 60 lighted entries highlighted the parade, which was presented by the Greeley Chamber of Commerce/Visit Greeley in addition, to the lighting ceremony in Lincoln Park, presented by the Downtown Development Authority and the City of Greeley. It served as the official holiday kick-off for the City of Greeley and surrounding areas.

It was a chilly November evening but the floats and the lights were spectacular. We snagged a spot right in front of the Lincoln Park sign and watched the parade from there. There were so many people and most of the good spots were snagged by 5PM. A note for future events: This gets packed and busy quick so make sure you arrive early. Be prepared for cold weather and fidgety children, lol. Here is a compilation of some videos from the evening.

HAPPY HOLIDAYS!!!

Fresh Air is a Fundamental Right

Fresh Air is a Fundamental Right

WARNING: RANT AHEAD~

When I step outside, the LAST thing I want to smell is the smoke coming out of somebody’s cigarette. Everywhere you look, buildings have signs asking patrons to kindly PLEASE refrain from smoking within a 15 ft radius of the front door… there is very sound and logical reasoning behind this! By refusing to adhere to these standards and smoking right next to the front door, you are essentially saying, “FUCK YOU” to anybody who doesn’t want to inhale second hand smoke. All of the healthy individuals who do not smoke, growing children who should NOT be around cigarette smoke, pregnant women in ALL stages of pregnancy, individuals with asthma, and so many more do NOT want OR need to inhale secondhand smoke! For those of you who smoke, I am not saying you shouldn’t have the right to smoke, not at all. If that is what you want to do, then please, go right ahead! However, forcing those of us who do not smoke to inhale those cancerous fumes because you are too lazy to walk just 15 feet further, is extremely disrespectful and RUDE!!

We live in a 10 floor apartment building with apartments on the first floor. By not complying with these simple rules, you are forcing all of the tenants on the first floor to be exposed to that smell as well. People walking in and out of the building have to breathe in those toxic fumes because you are too lazy to walk 15 feet! HOW IS THAT FAIR?!

You absolutely, 100%, have the right to smoke.

Everybody else absolutely, 100%, has the right to breathe fresh air.

Don’t be a dick about the rules… PLEASE refrain from smoking within 15 feet of any entrance to any building. Have some respect for yourself, for others and for the RULES.

According to the American Lung Association, secondhand smoke is a serious health hazard causing more than 41,000 deaths per year. It can cause or make worse a wide range of damaging health effects in children and adults, including lung cancer, respiratory infections and asthma.

Key Facts about Secondhand Smoke

  • Secondhand smoke causes approximately 7,330 deaths from lung cancer and 33,950 deaths from heart disease each year.1
  • Between 1964 and 2014, 2.5 million people died from exposure to secondhand smoke, according to a report from the U.S. Surgeon General. The report also concluded that secondhand smoke is a definitive cause of stroke.1
  • There is no risk-free level of exposure to secondhand smoke and even short-term exposure potentially can increase the risk of heart attacks.
  • Secondhand smoke contains hundreds of chemicals known to be toxic or carcinogenic, including formaldehyde, benzene, vinyl chloride, arsenic ammonia and hydrogen cyanide.2
  • Secondhand smoke can cause heart attacks; even relatively brief exposure can trigger a heart attack, according to a report by the Institute of Medicine.

Secondhand Smoke in the Workplace

  • Secondhand smoke costs our economy $5.6 billion per year due to lost productivity.1
  • The health of nonsmokers exposed to secondhand smoke at work is at increased risk. Levels of secondhand smoke in restaurants and bars were found to be two- to five-times higher than in residences with smokers, and two- to six-times higher than in office workplaces.
  • Being employed in a workplace where smoking is prohibited is associated with a reduction in the number of cigarettes smoked per day and an increase in the success rate of smokers who are attempting to quit.
  • Casino workers in particular are exposed to hazardous levels of toxic secondhand smoke at work, including tobacco-specific carcinogens that increased in their bodies as their work shifts progressed, according to a report from the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health.

Secondhand Smoke and Children

  • Secondhand smoke is especially harmful to young children. Secondhand smoke is responsible for between 150,000 and 300,000 lower respiratory tract infections in infants and children under 18 months of age, resulting in between 7,500 and 15,000 hospitalizations each year. It also causes 430 sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) deaths in the U.S. annually.
  • Secondhand smoke exposure may cause buildup of fluid in the middle ear, resulting in 790,000 doctor’s office visits per year, as well as more than 202,000 asthma flare-ups among children each year.7
  • More than 24 million, or about 37 percent of children in the U.S. have been exposed to secondhand smoke.

Learn about the American Lung Association’s programs to help you or a loved one quit smoking, and join our advocacy efforts to reduce tobacco use and exposure to secondhand smoke. Visit Lung.org or call the Lung HelpLine at 1-800-LUNGUSA (1-800-586-4872).

 

  • Sources
    1. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The Health Consequences of Smoking—50 Years of Progress: A Report of the Surgeon General. 2014.
    2. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The Health Consequences of Involuntary Exposure to Tobacco Smoke: A Report of the Surgeon General. 2006.
    3. Institute of Medicine. Secondhand Smoke Exposure and Cardiovascular Effects: Making Sense of the Evidence. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. 2009.
    4. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Report on Carcinogens, Tenth Edition 2002. National Toxicology Program.
    5. National Cancer Institute. Population Based Smoking Cessation: Proceedings of a Conference on What Works to Influence Cessation in the General Population, Smoking and Tobacco Control Monograph 12. NIH Pub. 00-4892, Nov. 2000.
    6. National Institute for Occupational Health and Safety. Environmental and Biological Assessment of Environmental Tobacco Smoke among Casino Dealers, May 2009.
    7. California Environmental Protection Agency. Identification of Environmental Tobacco Smoke as a Toxic Air Contaminant. Executive Summary. June 2005.
    8. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Vital Signs: Disparities in Nonsmokers’ Exposure to Secondhand Smoke — United States, 1999-2012. Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. February 6, 2015; 64(4):103-8.
Camping & Presidential Rally

Camping & Presidential Rally

This past weekend was nice and action-packed, lol. We started the weekend off with Camping at Jack’s Gulch, in Poudre Canyon, with Uncle Scott and Aunt April. It was the last weekend that this campground was open for the season. They will reopen next year on May 26th. “Jacks Gulch Campground is located adjacent to the Pingree Park Road (CR63E) and the Old Flowers Road. It is situated in a ponderosa pine forest setting with scattered clones of aspen. It is also an area that has abundant wild flowers at certain times of the camping season. The Columbine Loop has 27 sites with electrical hookups. This loop also provides access to 10 walk-in tent sites. The Yarrow Loop has 28 sites without electricity. A unique feature of this campground is an equestrian camp which has 5 sites, each with four horse stalls and room to accommodate a horse trailer. Each site contains a tent pad, fire grate, and picnic table. There is a hiking trail that circumnavigates the campground. A portion of this trail serves as a self-guided nature hike and offers a stunning view of the Mummy Range. Popular activities in this area include hiking, stream fishing, mountain biking, scenic driving and some four-wheel driving.” Josh and I camped in our tent, as we normally do, but this time we had Keeda in the tent with us, so we had to make sure she was warm as well. We purchased a small space heater from the store on our way in. Since we were going to be camping at an electric site, we figured it would work out perfectly.

When we first arrived Friday night, we began to set up our tent while we waited for the remainder of our party to arrive. We laid down one tarp under the tent, one inside the tent, and one we draped over the tent, in order to maintain a warmer temperature inside. We brought an inflatable bed this time in order to have that extra layer between us and the cold ground. After setting up the airbed and the sleeping bags, I had to set up Keeda’s sleeping area. We brought her orthopedic bed and a bunch of blankets. I laid the blankets down in a way that I can simply wrap her up in them like a little cocoon in order to keep her warm, in case the heater idea didn’t work out. Utilizing a carabiner, we hung the space heater from the ceiling of the tent and turned it on so that we can test it out and warm up the tent. This idea worked out PERFECTLY!! Once we were ready to go to bed, we removed it from above us and placed it on the ground at the corner of the tent. The space heater had a tip switch that would turn the heater off instantly if it was tipped over by accident during the night. It was warm enough in the tent that I did not need my beanie or hoodie for the night; being in the sleeping bag was sufficient in order to be comfortably cozy and snugs.

keeda
Keeda’s Cocoon

Saturday Morning, we started off with an awesome breakfast of potatoes, eggs, and sausage with toast and OJ. After hanging around the campfire for a while, we went for a short hike to explore the area. We walked the trail that loops around the campground and then went exploring. All in all, a nice relaxing day out in the wilderness. 🙂

zhoughtelin, zahira houghtelin

Saturday Night was a bit frosty and we were very thankful for the space heater… we woke up to a frozen windshield and a layer of frost on EVERYTHING. Sunday morning, we packed up everything, had breakfast, said our goodbyes, and headed back home to get ready for the rally. We had a full day planned for Sunday.

zhoughtelin, zahira houghtelin

zhoughtelin, zahira houghtelin

We had reserved two tickets for the Governor Gary Johnson Rally in Denver at 3:00PM and were super stoked about it. We got there early and watched the Liberty Comedy tour before heading over to where the Rally was going to begin. At the rally, we listened to several speakers before listening to Governor Gary Johnson. We are huge fans and were super happy to have been able to make it. We got to meet Governor Gary Johnson and chat with him for a moment before taking some selfies with him. It was incredible and we are looking forward to rallying again next election season.

Since the Broncos were playing, we had to make sure to get to our destination by the time the game started. We hopped in the car, ran home to grab Keeda, and then headed out to watch the game. The game was a bit of a disappointment but hey… we all have our good days and our bad, right?

After all is said and done, it was another successfully wonderful weekend! Here’s to another adventure next weekend!!

 

Blue Agave – 16th Street Mall

Blue Agave – 16th Street Mall

Friday, Josh and I went with some friends and family to the soft opening for the Blue Agave in Downtown Denver on 16th street. It is located next to the Cheesecake Factory at the 16th Street Mall in LoDo.

The Blue Agave is a contemporary southwestern grill that operates out of a scratch kitchen. They currently have two locations: one in Fort Collins  and another in Downtown Denver. Josh and I have been to the location in Fort Collins, and LOVED it, so checking out their downtown location was a treat. Their menu for both locations offers several Gluten Free items, Guacamole made to order, a large Tequila selection, Sangria made in-house, thirteen different kinds of Margaritas and a beautiful and classy atmosphere. The servers are top-notch and strive to provide their patrons with the BEST experience. They have Happy Hour Specials Monday through Friday and a Weekend Brunch Menu.

Happy Hour Specials Include:

– Monday thru Friday 3pm to 6pm
– $1.50 off all Margaritas
– $1.00 off all Beer
– $2.00 off all Wine and Spirits

Brunch Menu Includes:

Saturdays and Sundays from 10am-2pm
With BOTTOMLESS mimosas and house-infused Bloody Mary’s

We had the pleasure of having Abbie (Abbey?) as our server and she was absolutely incredible. None of our drinks were empty before we had a fresh drink or a refill. The entire server team was on-pointe and helped each other take care of all the tables by emptying plates, refilling drinks, and checking on us to see if we needed anything else. When a restaurant focuses on teamwork and not individual success, a restaurant’s organized chaos flows so much more smoothly. Flowing smoothly offers the restaurant the opportunity to take care of its patrons as well as its servers. When the servers are stressed, the patrons don’t enjoy the experience as much… however, when the servers are happy, they take better care of the patrons, who in turn, take better care of the servers.

I ordered their Muy Macho Margarita which is made with their Jalepeńo-infused Tequila, cucumbers, lime and salt on the rim… OMG that is a tasty Margarita! It’s only spicy in the beginning, with a flavorful spice that does not linger on the tongue, and finishes with a fresh and crisp aftertaste, thanks to the cucumbers. I believe I had three and enjoyed every last drop. We started off with their Lobster Street Tacos appetizer and then ordered the Pan Seared Sea Scallops and the Lobster Mac and Cheese. The street tacos are absolutely incredible and didn’t last 5 seconds. They are artfully presented and taste DELICIOUS! The combination of flavors compliment each other and leave you wanting more. Josh ordered the Lobster Mac and Cheese, which is his favorite on the menu. I ordered the Pan Seared Sea Scallops and was absolutely amazed. The Lobster Mac and Cheese is not your ordinary entree in the fact that you don’t normally witness seafood, dairy and pasta generally combined. The chef at the Blue Agave masterfully made this a local favorite. The Pan Seared Sea Scallops had the PERFECT texture and were served with their new signature Goat Cheese Chipotle Mashed Potatoes. The mashed potatoes had a creamy texture with robust flavor that did not need anything extra. For dessert, we ordered the Caramel Blondie Brownie with Ice Cream. WOW… The crispy outer shell gives way to a moist, decadent blonde brownie and the ice cream on top solidified this as Josh’s new favorite dessert.

All in all, our experience was fantastic and we would totally recommend checking it out, enjoying a meal, then meandering along the 16th Street mall for a nice & chill evening. Bon Appétit!!

Oh, To Feel Like A Kid Again <3

Oh, To Feel Like A Kid Again <3

Fright Fest at Elitch Gardens and Zombie Crawl Downtown Denver? Yes, Please! This past weekend, Josh and I had some friends over from out of state. We decided to hit up Elitch Gardens on Friday night and then The Zombie Crawl in Downtown Denver on Saturday. We were going to kick it like we were teenagers again.

We started off our Friday at the Tilted Kilt in Greeley from some drinks, appetizers and some games. Zech, Josh and I played a couple games and got our drink on before we headed out to Elitch Gardens. Once we arrived at Elitch Gardens, it was definitely interesting. Josh and I purchased our Season Passes at the beginning of the season and went throughout the whole summer. It was cool to see the transition the park makes once Fright Fest is happening. The decorations inside are very well done and they have actors roaming the park for those who want to be scared. The actors will run up on you or chase you with costume style chainsaws and do everything they can to get you to scream. For some, it was hilarious while for others, it might have been too much. We did notice that some of the kids who were cornered with the chainsaws were not thrilled with the experience. Most would run away and laugh after screaming but there were some who honestly looked terrified. It’s a fine line but you can’t come to Fright Fest and not expect to be scared. We had a couple actors sneak up on us and just follow one of us till that person noticed they were being followed, lol. Josh, Amber and I decided to get in as many rides as we could before the end of the night. We started the evening off with the Ferris Wheel just for fun. The Denver cityscape is absolutely gorgeous at night and you can see the whole thing from the top of the Ferris Wheel. From there, we rode the Tower of Doom, The Dragon Wing, The Half Pipe, and The Twister 2. When I say, “It was awesome feeling like a kid again!”, IT WAS!! The adrenaline rush on each of the rides was great! The Tower of Doom is a ride that plunges about 200ft all at once, the Dragon Wing is a simple aerodynamic ride, the Half Pipe is a snowboard style ride where you are spinning in your seat while the snowboard shreds up and down a half pipe, and the Twister 2 is most likely the most rickety ride I have ever been on, but FUN!!

zhoughtelin

zhoughtelin

On Saturday, we started the morning with some local artisan coffee and laid back attitudes. We spent the morning getting ready and headed down to the Zombie Crawl in Downtown Denver. Zech and Amber went as Zombies, Josh went as a Zombie Doctor named Dr. Shots and I went as a Cheerleader turning Zombie. People really get into the whole Zombie thing, it’s AWESOME! We stopped into Mellow Mushroom downtown and were able to nab a spot right on 16th Street to enjoy our pies with the meandering population of Zombies outside. The pizza was incredible and being able to sit and watch the parade was amazing. It’s always fun to dress up and have a great time! We walked all over before heading back to Greeley and finishing the evening off back at the Tilted Kilt. All in all, an excellent weekend!! Josh and I are definitely looking forward to dressing up for Halloween next weekend and parading around somewhere… we haven’t decided where yet. Feeling like a kid will keep a person’s heart feeling young. The best part of it all is being able to feel like a kid while also enjoying all of the perks of being an adult… Alcohol and Thrill Rides and Zombies and Alcohol and Costumes and … you get the idea lol.

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zhoughtelin

 

Moving In

Moving In

Earlier this month, Josh and I moved into our new apartment in Greeley, CO. We actively made the decision to travel, explore and experience as many places as we can while we try to start a family. Greeley is the first of many since we have already lived in Colorado Springs, Aurora, Littleton and Wellington, among some other places outside of Colorado. After Greeley, we are definitely trying out some new states and maybe some new countries. 🙂

The apartment we moved into is a cute little 2 bedroom with only one closet in the entire unit. It’s a large walk-in closet but the only storage space for the whole apartment. This past weekend, I finished unpacking and organizing everything other than our books. Looking at our new space, we realized we needed to come up with some creative storage ideas. Effective storage was needed for: under the sink in the bathroom, the walls of the kitchen, shelves for tech in the office, and shelving for books and frames in the living/dining room. We checked the local thrift stores and department stores for stuffs, then went to IKEA for lunch and browsing.

Bathroom
For our new bathroom, we decided to go with a Denver Broncos theme (GO BRONCOS!). We acquired the shower curtain, the bath mat, the trash can, a toothbrush holder, soap dispenser, a poster and towels… complete with an official NFL football for added effect. The thing about the bathroom however, is that it has a large vanity, one sink, no medicine cabinet and no storage under the sink. Obviously, we like the blue and orange motif so we kind of wanted to stick to that. We saw several ideas at IKEA that would have worked and we ended up choosing the VESSLA crates that fit under the sink perfectly. They roll out when you want to grab something, then roll back under for efficient storage and the blue compliments the rest of the bathroom. We will probably add more storage to the counter at some point but for now, the bathroom is complete.

Kitchen
For our new kitchen, we needed super efficient storage. The kitchen in the unit is super small and can only allow one person at a time. One of the activities Josh and I truly enjoy is cooking together. We like to go out for our morning walk, come back, exercise, and then cook breakfast together. Unfortunately, for our time here, the kitchen only has room for one person while the other can sit on the other side of the counter and chat. There are a total of 1.5 cupboards above the counter, one cupboard under the sink, and only one tiny drawer that is too small for the silverware caddy. So naturally, we decided to go with a space efficient style for storage. Anything that would sit on the floor against the wall would make an already cramped space feel smaller and that wasn’t what we were hoping to achieve. We found a shelving unit that mounts right up against the wall. We decided to go with the VÄRDE shelving unit for optimum storage and clean appearance. We installed the shelving unit high enough to add items underneath and against the connecting wall. On the wall under the cupboard, to the left of the stove, we installed a rail shelf to hang cooking utensils from. We went with the GRUNDTAL and the GRUNDTAL S-HOOKS to hang the utensils from. This allowed me to have all of the utensils within arm’s reach without the added clutter on the counter. And finally, in front of the wall, suspended from the bottom of the cupboard is a drawer that will hold the silverware caddy. So now, we have space on the counter to prepare our meals, without it feeling so confined and everything still there within reach.

Office
For the office, we chose a few of the LACK for our shelving system. These shelves mount like floating shelves so they aren’t overwhelming in the small space. They allow all of the tech necessary to be organized on shelves in a classy, simple and efficient manner. The room now has a very crisp and clean look to it.

Living Room / Dining Room
We decided to see if we can find Box Frame Shelves that we can mount in the shape of two gliders along the center wall. They would have to withstand the weight of the books and appear floating. We haven’t found the proper shelves for this room yet, but the hunt continues.

We are still in the beginnings of our modifications for our time here. We are planning on making some more changes in order to make our time here as comfortable as we want 🙂

Life is meant to be lived, not endured, until the end so LIVE and BE HAPPY <3

Good Morning Greeley