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An Exercise in Downsizing, Minimalism and Mindfulness

So here's the thing: I love things.Pretty things, useful things, things that hold sentimental value... I have always been a bit of a collector, staging my little treasures on shelves in rooms since I was a wee one.

Here's the other thing: sometimes the sheer number of things in life can start to weigh one down.

And that, my friends, is where the journey to be a bit more mindful begins.

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You see, my family has always placed a lot of value on things -- not in a greedy way -- but in a 'these are the things you need to live a full life, so you should probably have them' sort of way. Much of my family (myself included) also places an incredible amount of value on sentiment.

I'm a huge sap when it comes to the belongings of relatives. While this has always been the case, it was never more evident than when we were going through the events of a few years ago. That X-acto knife belonged to Papa? I'll take it. Nana's Pyrex bakeware? Sure. They're total duplicates of what I already have, but you can never have too much Pyrex, right? While the X-acto knife is of use to me, it turns out you can, in fact, have too much Pyrex.

And that's just one example. Throughout my 30 (okay, okay... 30 1/2) years on this planet, I have gone though so many stages of accumulation and simplification: going off to college, moving into my first apartment, inheriting things from relatives, buying a house, getting married, etc. The list goes on and on. I also know that those stages only continue as we move through life.

How do I know this? Well, my mom and I are going through this exercise together. That's right: my mom, who has been living in her childhood home amongst many of her childhood things, is downsizing her life. She, too, is attempting to remember the sentiment while letting go of the things.

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We've already begun the process. My mom has started selling things that no longer bring her joy on sites like ebay and craigslist. We've been cleaning out closets and cupboards in both of our houses and donating items to worthy causes, we've been prepping for a pretty substantial yard sale next month and I've even started selling items from my closet on Poshmark (you can sign up with the invite code HMJJH and earn a $5 credit, if you're interested).

That said, this isn't necessarily about having the fewest items possible either. I will probably never be the girl who can fit all of her belongings into one suitcase. I enjoy having a carefully curated place to live and work and my mom likes being surrounded by pretty and useful things that make her feel good.

No, this is about letting go of material things that we've been holding onto for the wrong reasons with the hope that they will end up in the hands of people who will use and cherish them.

Let me be clear: some of the items my mom is letting go of will end up with me because I find joy in them. Grandma and grandpa's wedding cake topper? So sweet! I'm sure I have room for that. My great grandmother's vintage salt and pepper shaker collection? Of course I want those!

What can I say? I may not be the best at living a truly minimalistic life, but I'm trying really hard to be mindful about what I keep. As more family heirlooms end up in my possession, I'll be letting go of items I no longer have use for or accumulated unnecessarily. I will also say "no, thank you" to items I may have said "yes, please" to in the past.

The goal is to let go of more than we hold onto. I'll keep you posted on how that all turns out, my friends.

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What has made this exercise easier (and even enjoyable) is knowing we're not alone. I have been completely inspired by people like Joshua Fields Millburn & Ryan Nicodemus (aka: The Minimalists), people who live in Airstream trailers full-time (and spend more time experiencing than consuming) and local gal Ashlee Gadd of Where My Heart Resides who has documented some of her journey here, here and here. They have all made a conscious decision to let go of the excess, separate the memories of loved ones from material things and put more emphasis on living than collecting.

I hope you'll find their stories to be as motivating as I do!

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Your turn: Have any of you been down this road before? Maybe on more than one occasion? I'd love to hear your thoughts in the comment section.

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My Mighty {fine} Life List

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So, here's the deal: I make lists regularly. I love ticking boxes and putting lines through items I've accomplished. For some reason, however, I found it difficult to finish my Mighty {fine} Life List. Created by the amazing Maggie Mason of Mighty Girl, the lists (and the movement that surrounds them) are meant to capture 100 things you'd like to do before you go.

The premise behind the popular life lists is pretty great. You simply list out your goals - both big and small - and act upon them. The lists can change as we grow, which is key. Maybe an opportunity comes up that you could have never imagined... put it on the list and cross it off! Maybe you decide one of your goals is no longer as important as you once thought... remove it!

I started my own list years ago - long before I started blogging - and just let it sit unfinished. Well, not anymore! I finally took the time to write it all out and get it ready for public consumption. I feel like putting this out to the universe (well, at least to you lovely people who read this blog!) will help motivate me to really seek out new experiences and make sure they come to fruition.

Without further ado, I'd like to present:

My Mighty {fine} Life List

(Note: Accomplished items are in bold.)

  1. Visit all 50 states: Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin, Wyoming
  2. Take photos of iconic bridges in all 50 states
  3. Really understand the settings on my digital camera
  4. Run (and finish) a marathon
  5. Visit all 59 National Parks in the US: Acadia, American Samoa, Arches, Badlands, Big Bend, Biscayne, Black Canyon of the Gunnison, Bryce Canyon, Canyonlands, Capitol Reef, Carlsbad Caverns, Channel Islands, Congaree, Crater Lake, Cuyahoga Valley, Death Valley, Denali, Dry Tortugas, Everglades, Gates of the Arctic, Glacier, Glacier Bay, Grand Canyon, Grand Teton, Great Basin, Great Sand Dunes, Great Smokey Mountains, Guadalupe Mountains, Haleakala, Hawaii Volcanoes, Hot Springs, Isle Royale, Joshua Tree, Katmai, Kenai Fjords, Kings Canyon, Kobuk Valley, Lake Clark, Lassen Volcanic, Mammoth Cave, Mesa Verde, Mount Rainier, North Cascades, Olympic, Petrified Forest, Pinnacles, Redwood, Rocky Mountain, Saguaro, Sequoia, Shenandoah, Theodore Roosevelt, Virgin Islands, Voyageurs, Wind Cave, Wrangell Saint Elias, Yellowstone, Yosemite, Zion
  6. Take singing lessons
  7. Get on stage and sing again (even if it’s just karaoke)
  8. Take snowboarding lessons
  9. Live in a state other than California
  10. Start practicing yoga
  11. Teach a class on any subject (or be a mentor)
  12. Meet the President of the United States (it doesn’t matter who it is at the time)
  13. Go to a concert and hang out with the band backstage
  14. Go ice fishing in Alaska
  15. Let go of the material things cluttering up my life
  16. Go snowshoeing
  17. Figure out what it takes to do voice-over work and do it
  18. Take an extended (months-long) trip to anywhere
  19. Go back to England to visit family and re-visit places important to my family history
  20. Write a book
  21. See a moose (in the wild)
  22. See a grizzly bear (also in the wild, preferably from far away!)
  23. Road trip through Canada
  24. Sing at a wedding
  25. Become a tour guide
  26. Create a photo book of all of my favorite bridges
  27. Make my health a priority
  28. Foster a puppy dog
  29. Hire a stylist to tell me – once and for all – what not to wear
  30. Join a book group
  31. Be an extra in a show/movie
  32. Attend a Beastie Boys concert (Keeping it on the list. You never know. RIP Adam Yauch)
  33. Go to a grown-up summer camp like this one
  34. Travel somewhere beautiful by train
  35. Spend an entire day reading a good book on a tropical beach (without feeling guilty…like I should be doing something)
  36. “Pay it forward” at the coffee shop by paying for a stranger’s morning fix
  37. Experience the Aurora Borealis
  38. Go back to D.C. to re-visit the monuments/museums/etc.
  39. Write an article/story for a large print publication
  40. Learn more about creating and editing beautiful videos
  41. Visit Greece
  42. Visit Croatia
  43. Go glamping in the Swiss Alps
  44. Create a road trip around the world's largest everything (see unfinished Pinterest board here). Take said road trip.
  45. Eat baklava in Turkey
  46. Spend a week in a rental house with my best friends in Cape Cod
  47. Own an Airstream (and maybe live out of it for a bit)
  48. Join a CSA
  49. Take a backpacking trip
  50. Start painting again
  51. Skinny dip
  52. Travel through the Amazon rain forest
  53. Attend an awards show (preferably the Grammys)
  54. Go to Australia
  55. Visit New York City
  56. Learn another language
  57. Take a European road trip
  58. Take a Northern California road trip to experience the super cool things I usually just drive right past
  59. Sleep in a tree house or lookout station
  60. Spend hours wandering the High Line
  61. Take a Chicago girls trip
  62. Remove all of the grass from our property and replace it with a more sustainable ground cover
  63. Go geoducking
  64. Cook through an entire cookbook
  65. Find a reason to go to Antarctica
  66. Be present when my nephews experience something incredible in nature
  67. Re-vamp my print shop business model to better showcase my photography work
  68. Star gaze in the middle of nowhere with my husband
  69. Tour the White House
  70. Take a soak in the Blue Lagoon in Iceland
  71. Go hot air ballooning
  72. See Machu Picchu
  73. Change out all of the boring doorknobs in my house and replace them with beautiful ones
  74. Travel on a private plane
  75. Experience Germany’s Oktoberfest at least once
  76. Take a bicycle trip through Holland (tulip fields + windmills, please!)
  77. Attend Camp Mighty
  78. Cook lobster at home
  79. Take a road trip to see the fall colors
  80. Attend Sundance Film Festival
  81. Go sailing
  82. Be brave enough to cut my hair super short
  83. Take a helicopter ride
  84. Visit the San Juan Islands
  85. Go canoeing/kayaking somewhere beautiful
  86. Be an artist in residence in a national park (like this)
  87. Successfully grow fruit trees in our backyard
  88. Live outside of the U.S., at least for a short while
  89. Renew our wedding vows
  90. Travel to Easter Island
  91. Have dinner (and dessert, of course) with Nigella Lawson
  92. Visit Crazy Horse and Mount Rushmore
  93. Learn to can fruits and vegetables
  94. Go hunting with my husband
  95. Visit the Bonneville Salt Flats during Speed Week
  96. Photograph a ghost town at sunset
  97. Make pasta from scratch
  98. Feel the mist from Niagara Falls on my face
  99. Go to the top of the Eiffel Tower
  100. Take a photo trip to the Galápagos Islands

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Anyone else have a life list they want to share? Feel free to link up in the comment section. I'd love to see how your lists are shaping up!

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North Coast Road Trip: Taking the Time

I'm back this week after another trip to visit family in Crescent City, California. You may remember a few photo-heavy posts (here, here and here) about the lovely little town in which I used to live.This time around I decided to mix work and play by taking the time to really appreciate the already long drive. I stopped often to capture fun places to explore along Highway 101 (which I hope to share eventually), had to take a detour along a road I've never traveled and spent some much-needed time with family.

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If you're heading from the Sacramento area to the north coast, I recommend taking I-5 to Highway 20 to Highway 101. That was my plan, but was turned back due to an accident that closed Highway 20. The nice Caltrans worker suggested I take CA 175 to get to Highway 101 instead. The road is pretty dicey in places and goes up (then down) a very steep grade, but the views made the detour totally worth the extra effort:

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Taking the time to stop at some of the beautiful areas along the way was also well worth it. I'm sad to say that I usually just cruise on by, too preoccupied with getting to where I'm going. I hope to stop more often in the future. Here's why:

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I spent some time tooling around Crescent City visiting tourist sites I haven't paid much attention to in years past. Here's a view of Battery Point Lighthouse from Crescent City's harbor (mermaid included):

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On the driest day (it seems we only get one or two whenever we visit), we decided to head to the nearest trail head in the Redwood National and State Park system to spend a few hours appreciating both old growth...

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...and new growth:

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Beautiful, right?

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I look forward to sharing more about the places I know and love in the coming months. So many Californians haven't experienced much of the north coast and I'm hoping to inspire at least a few people to keep on trucking once they get through wine country. I promise it's worth the drive.

What about you? Any north coast adventures you'd care to share? Let's chat about them in the comment section, shall we?

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A Look Back: 10 Years Ago

So much can happen in a decade. People grow. Interests fade. And yet, we march on. We connect with communities, nurture relationships and seek inspiration. In the spirit of the upcoming "holiday" associated with love, I'd like to remember a few events from 10 years ago that will forever inspire me to appreciate the people, places and things I love most.


In February of 2003, I went to England.

In fact, 10 years ago today I was waking up in another country for the first time.

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I had decided to take a semester off between junior college and university and, if I'm being honest, the opportunity to visit England with my aunt and nana was a big reason for that break. We were only going to be there 12 days, but I didn't want to lessen the excitement of travel by lugging along giant text books and prepping for make-up exams.

We visited every tourist spot we could find: Westminster Abbey, the London Eye, the Tower of London, Buckingham Palace, Shakespeare's Globe, Harrod's, you name it. We also had a chance to visit family. My napa, papa, dad, aunt and uncle came to America by ship in the 1950's, but we still have family across the pond. Meeting some of them for the first time was definitely a highlight.

I'm sad to say that I haven't traveled outside of the United States since then -- not even to Canada or Mexico! We've had such a great time visiting places here in the U.S. and haven't really felt the pull from far away places -- yet. That said, we're in the process renewing our passports. We're always watching the travel deals and you never know when an overseas travel opportunity might present itself, right? Right.


I opened my first email from my husband 10 years ago.

This guy. I'm not sure that I've really written about it here, but my husband and I met online 10 years ago. Mmmmhmmm... that's back when we had dial-up, ya'll.

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I specifically remember heading to the lobby of our London hotel to check my email because I only checked it once the entire trip. I paid the nominal fee to use the computer, logged on and there it was: a match.com email from the man I would marry. A few short weeks after my return, we went on our first date and the rest, as they say, is history! We got married in 2008 (photo above) and have been attempting to live life to the fullest ever since. It's hard to believe that we met nearly 10 years ago, but I'm so glad we did.

Can we take a moment and raise a glass to the internet? People thought we were nuts to be searching online for love. Yes, we were young and everyone else was meeting in bars (I'm not even going to begin discussing the success rate of those encounters), but we gave it a shot... and it worked.


10 years ago, I had no clue how studying literary greats would shape my future.

If you told me 10 years ago that I would be reading and understanding Chaucer's The Canterbury Tales in Old English or delving into the authorial intent behind the works in Didion's Slouching Towards Bethlehem, I would have called you crazy.

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While I was taking a semester off from school 10 years ago, I was also preparing to finish up my English degree at California State University, Sacramento.

You must know this: I have terrible handwriting, I can't speak in public to save my life and I produce fairly crappy first drafts. However, I have read great works.

I learned more about Native American history through literature than I would have ever learned from a textbook. I had time to absorb both the classics and contemporary works. I studied authors who dedicated their lives to the appreciation of nature (they've had a profound influence, if you hadn't noticed).

I was also a writer 10 years ago. I wasn't paid for my work and the results of my efforts were often questionable, but I wrote everyday -- in notebooks, on the old Compaq, in the margins -- and I loved it.


It's amazing how much can change in 10 years, but what really strikes me is just how much remains the same. While there have been bumpy roads and uninspiring moments, I'm still exploring a love of travel, building a true partnership with the man I love and aiming to read and write as much as possible.

Here's to discovering what makes us happy and sticking with it!

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Your turn: How have you all changed in the last 10 years? How have you remained the same? What "loves" have you found that stand the proverbial test of time?


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My 2012 Highlight Reel

In response to this WordPress prompt, I thought I'd take a look back at some highlights from the last 12 months. In all honesty, I feel like this entire blog has become a highlight reel of sorts. Every person, place or thing I've posted about has held a special place in my year, so picking just one photo and post for each month is a tough task! Regardless, I'm always up for a trip down memory lane... so here it goes:

January:

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Last year at this time I was secretly driving from Helena to Missoula, MT to surprise my best gal pal, Jamie, for her 30th birthday. We got to ring in the new year and celebrate her birthday all in one SUPER fun visit. Just looking back makes me grateful to have started 2012 with some of my favorite people on the planet. You can read more about the trip here and here.

February:

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In February, I started looking for recommendations from friends and family for local electrical companies that could help us remove this unsightly beast from our kitchen. More on the lovely results in a bit.

March:

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In mid-March, I happened to read this article reviewing a new app called Everplaces and was so excited about the app that I launched right into my own review. That review led to amazing opportunities on the content creation front (I'll cover that in a bit) and created what I can only hope will be lasting friendships with the crew at Everplaces.

April:

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In April, I posted an interview with the lovely people behind the {now} well-known Gypsy Mobile Boutique. If you were anywhere near Sacramento this past summer, you probably caught a glimpse of Gypsy around town. That truck is everywhere! You can read the full post here to learn more.

May:

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In late April and early May, I wrote a series of posts about a wonderful weekend trip to Pescadero, CA with my mom. The trip was equal parts fun, adventure and relaxation and we can't wait to have many more excursions like this in the future! Read more about it here, here and here.

June:

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Okay, so we actually took our road trip to Montana in May, but I was so busy with all kinds of real life goodness that I didn't get to post about it until late May/early June. Ahhh, the life of a working blogger. The trip was short, but incredibly sweet and we covered a lot of ground. Have I mentioned that after about six hours in the car, my husband and I get a bit loopy? Well, it's true. This trip was full of loopy, good times, which you can read about here and here.

July:

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In July, we finally finished our kitchen lighting project! We found a great company here in town to set us up with beautiful lighting and we've been enjoying our kitchen ever since. You can read more about the project here.

August:

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In August, this here blog was a bit quiet. I was super busy enjoying not sharing every. single. thing. I even posted about not sharing. Ironic, right? :)

September:

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In September, I hopped right back on the over-sharing train. Just in time too... I was able to capture and share what can only make me a huge nerd: the Space Shuttle Endeavour flyover here in Sacramento, CA! Luckily, I was far from being the only nerd in town. You can see more snaps here.

October:

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In October, I was incredibly excited to announce the launch of my first travel guide app in partnership with Everplaces. I've since launched another travel guide app for the U.S. Northern Rocky Mountains. I couldn't be more thrilled to have the opportunity to create content, work with such talented developers and designers and share my favorite spots with people all over the world.

November:

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In November, I met up with friends for a fun-filled weekend in San Francisco, CA. The trip started with concert tickets to see Grace Potter and the Nocturnals and turned into 72 hours of amazing times. Don't you love when things work out that way?

December:

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This month, I've had way too many highlights to truly pick just one. Wrapping up the year surrounded by close family and friends has been perfect in so many ways. If I had to pick one defining post for this month, however (since that is the task at hand), I'd say it's the post about changing things up on the social media front. As a former marketing and PR junky and all-around lover of the internet, I started my involvement in social media loooong before anyone even called it social media. I'm always checking out the newest websites and apps, but I often forget to let go of what's no longer working. That's going to change in 2013. The most notable change for me will be saying goodbye to Facebook. It's been a handy tool over the years, but I'm finding it less and less useful. Even more so, I'm finding it to be less of a positive experience. I'm not alone in this, either. This post from the New York Times is pretty right-on in terms of how I'm feeling about the social media giant. We'll see if I can really give up Instagram, though. I'm sticking with it for now, but I'm guessing the ad-integration that is sure to come will be clumsily executed and rather annoying. As always, I'll keep posting this blog to various platforms and see what sticks!

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Anyone else taking the challenge of summarizing your year in one post? If you are, please feel free to link up in the comment section!

Happy New Year's Eve, all! Be safe!

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