A Short Trip to the Grand Canyon: Part I

A few months ago I was talking to my boyfriend late at night when I had the idea of going to the Grand Canyon. I suggested it, flights were booked, Airbnbs found, and a few months later, the trip was coming up fast! It was completely uncharacteristic of me, but I did not plan too much for our trip. During the two weeks before we left, I scrambled a bit to try and book tickets for a few different sites. Unsurprisingly,  most tours were completely booked; the tours of Antelope Canyon were full and we had little chance of going. In case you don’t know what Antelope Canyon is…you’ve likely seen it as a screensaver at some point:

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While I was disappointed we couldn’t score tickets, I would not change a thing. Antelope Canyon is about two hours North of the South Rim of the Grand Canyon so if you are short on time, this is one place to cross off your list. I like to think that everything happens for a reason–so I’m pretending we simply were not meant to go to Antelope Canyon. We were meant to have a great time with the little time we had so without further ado, I’ll share a play by play of our trip!

Day 1: Friday

We woke up in the middle of a night to a notification that our flight was delayed by 13 hours–perfect. Luckily, we both stayed upbeat, called our airline and rebooked for an afternoon flight so we would leave only 7 hours later than our original departure time. We spent the day lazing around, enjoying brunch, and, most importantly, not working.

Our flight landed in Phoenix around 5pm and we were on the road in our rental car by 6:30pm. It was a full flight and I was amused by the two (adorable) tiny companions by boyfriend ended up seated next to!

We enjoyed a quick dinner in the outskirts of Phoenix, stopped for snacks, then continued our drive to Flagstaff to our Airbnb.

Day 2: Saturday

We both crashed as soon as we walked in the door, but the next morning we woke up to this beauty.

The Airbnb had a skylight so we woke up to lots of natural light as well. We were a short 1.5 hour drive from the South Rim of the Grand Canyon and we were easily out the door by 8AM. We chose to stay in Flagstaff so we could enjoy more of our day at the Grand Canyon and it was definitely the right choice for us! We beat the crowds (more or less), snagged a great parking spot, and hopped on the bus to go to our stop for our hike on the South Kaibib Trail. After getting off the bus, we took tons of photos before even beginning our hike…

Then we began our trek. I was shocked by how chilly and how windy it was during our hike. We made it to the Ooh-Aah point which is only about 1 mile into the canyon, but the insane winds, small rain showers, and sand in our faces made us to decide to turn around and ascend back to the rim.

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We decided to go straight to the top during our ascent, no stopping, and we made it to the top fairly quickly (even if we were huffing and puffing). After our short trail hike, we decided to walk around the rim (~2.5 miles) to get a better look at the Canyon. We strolled leisurely around the rim and I was struck by how empty it felt; we came at a great time and it was unreal to see such a beautiful site in complete silence. We made it back to the visitor center, where I was suckered into a National Parks membership, and then we decided to explore other areas of the park by car.

We started out driving towards the Desert Watchtower and we stopped at a number of different places along the way. We pulled over at Grandview Point and caught some amazing views, plus we saw two elk!

After Grandview, we continued on to Tusayan Museum and Ruins. There were only a few other people there, but it was a wonderful (free) museum to learn more about the communities that lived by the Grand Canyon in the past. The ruins were definitely worth checking out too!

Afterwards we headed to our original destination: Desert Watchtower. The Desert Watchtower was designed by a female architect, Mary Colter, and was erected in 1932. It is in the Ancestral Puebloan Style and it is absolutely stunning on the inside and it offers  some beautiful views of the Canyon and the Colorado River.

By this point it was around 4:30pm and we were both exhausted. We made the drive back to our Airbnb, got cleaned up, and headed out for dinner. We ended up eating BBQ in the basement of a shopping complex–it was definitely a novel experience!

After dinner, we drove back to the Airbnb and took a few minutes to admire the night sky. Arizona is known for its dark sky, and Flagstaff is actually the first certified “Dark Sky Place.” It was breathtaking; I had never seen so many stars in my life!

Read more about our Grand Canyon trip next week…

 

Colorful, Quick Vegan Dinner for One

I love choosing vegan options when I can; it has numerous health benefits, plus benefits for the environment. Here are just a few of the health benefits:

  1. Your diet will likely include more nutrient-dense foods like fruit, veggies, and whole grains.
  2. Plant-based diets are associated with a lower risk of certain types of cancer.
  3. Vegan diets are correlated with decreased risk of heart disease.

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The environmental impact is just as profound; the fewer plant-based products we eat, the less we contribute to the generation of methane and carbon dioxide–two greenhouse gases that impact climate change. There is a misconception that we need to make big changes to make a difference, but that is simply not the case. Making the effort to eat a plant-based even once or twice a week can be powerful. A study from the University of Minnesota found that swapping out one beef-based meal a week for beans or another plant protein, you can decrease your contribution of carbon dioxide by 730 pounds every year.

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Health benefits, positive environmental impact, and cost savings–what’s not to love? I try to whip up a plant-based meal at least once a week and I actively avoid eating beef. Plant-based recipes can be easy and simple. I made this meal in less than 20 minutes!

Ingredients:

  • 1 bag Spinach Angel Hair Miracle Noodles
  • 1c cauliflower florets
  • 1/2c chopped bell peppers
  • 2 tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 vegan burger (I like Boca Burgers)

Directions:

1) Prepare Miracle Noodle according to instructions on the bag.

2) Combine all ingredients except burger in a skillet and simmer on medium-high heat for at least ten minutes.

3) While your noodle mix is simmering, prepare your burger (I microwave it because I’m lazy as all get out). Once cooked, chop the burger into small chunks.

4) Add chopped burger into noodle mix and stir well.

5) Enjoy!

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Don’t forget to use code HANNAH for a discount when you order from Miracle Noodle!

 

Ted Talk Friday: An honest look at the personal finance crisis

I found this talk to be a fascinating look into the challenges of personal finance. This talk shares the new experience of aging, retirement, and financial security–with a dose of humility. I was lucky enough to take a personal finance class in high school, but no amount of education can address the challenges so many individuals face today. I live in the Bay Area, which is one of the most expensive areas in the US, and it is incredibly difficult to save–even as a young, unmarried professional with no dependents. I have actively tried to save for about a decade now, but it’s not easy…and it’s far from linear. Luckily, the younger you are, the more time you have to start saving–even if it’s putting 1% of your paycheck away each month. White breaks down the challenges we all face and provides action steps for those who are closer to retirement.

 

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What do you think of White’s talk? Do you think about personal finance regularly?

Sincerely Silver: building strength through stories

I was so excited to partner with Sincerely Silver and try a few of their amazing products. This brand is unique in that it not only sells high quality products, but it also has a powerful brand mission: feminism. Their website includes tons of great historical information, followed by how they incorporate feminism into their mission as a company. Here is a short description from their site:

“The people of Sincerely Silver believe that feminism is and should be a form of equality for all sexes, in which a person is free to be whoever they want to be without economic, political or social limitation. We believe that feminism is still relevant today, but not in the way it was understood in its inception and not in the way it is understood by its modern definition (third and fourth wave). Feminism is still important today because, individually, women are still in need. We believe that feminism was an important historical movement since it addressed the disadvantages of women as a group in society. However, we believe that feminism today should focus on the individual stories of women, and not on the idea that women as a group are oppressed. As a company, we are focused on building each other up through encouraging one another: we believe there is strength in every woman’s story.”

I love partnering with brands like this; brands that focus on a larger goal rooted in social justice and advocacy. Like this brand, I also believe in the immense power of personal stories/narratives. Now, on to the fun stuff: the goodies! I opted for a rose gold name necklace and a “Be Kind” necklace.

I almost never buy any rose gold jewelry because I typically lean towards silver, but I went out on a limb and ordered my name in rose gold. I’m so glad I did!

 

The rose gold is beautiful in this delicate personalized name necklace. It is made of sterling silver plated with 18k rose gold so it is very high quality–and you can tell.

The “Be Kind” necklace is made of sterling silver and comes on an 18” chain. It is such a beautiful, simple piece that brings me joy every time I look at it. This would be a fantastic gift for a friend or for Mother’s Day, which is coming up soon! I love jewelry that has a positive message; it serves as a simple, constant reminder throughout the day. Sincerely Silver has a number of necklaces like this with positive messages; my other favorite is “Be still.”

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I will definitely buy more jewelry from Sincerely Silver; they have some really unique products. I love the idea of their custom sound wave necklace–you can have a custom sound wave (from a song, poetry reading, etc.) imprinted on a necklace! I’ve never seen a necklace like this anywhere else. One more detail I forgot to mention: all of their products are very reasonably priced and they arrive quickly (huge plus in my book).

Use code SINCERELY15 for a discount when you order from https://www.sincerelysilver.co!

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Disclaimer: I received this product from Sincerely Silver, but all opinions, thoughts, and photos are my own and represent my own experience.

 

Ted Talk Friday: 8 Lessons on Building a Company People Enjoy Working For

I am interested in workplace wellbeing from a number of different perspectives: as a lover of psychology, as an employee, and as an employee of a wellbeing technology company. I love how McCord breaks down her lessons into eight simple ideas. A lot of these ideas echo the lessons I learned in Brené Brown’s most recent book, Dare to Lead. I think lesson #6 is the hardest lesson for most companies…watch the video and let me know if you agree!

 

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Do you agree with these 8 lessons? Are there any other lessons you would add?

The Hard Work of Self-Compassion

If you’re a perfectionist, or recovering perfectionist, like me, you know that self-compassion is far from easy. I still remember reading Kristin Neff’s book on self-compassion and feeling complete shock at how unkind I was to myself. I remember reading, “Treat yourself like you would treat a good friend” and I’m sure my mouth dropped. I would never think or say things I say to myself to a friend, or even my worst enemies.

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Self-compassion, as defined by Dr. Kristin Neff, is made up of three key elements:

  1. Self-kindness vs. Self-judgement: We are all imperfect and self-compassion requires us to both acknowledge and accept those imperfections with kindness and love rather than judgment.
  2. Common humanity vs. Isolation: Imperfection is part of what makes us human–no one is perfect!
  3. Mindfulness vs. Over-identification: Be mindful of what you are thinking and feeling, but do not let those thoughts and feelings control you or become part of who you are.

I’ve been working on my self-compassion for the past three years since I read the book–and it’s not a simple change. Yesterday I found myself thinking, “It’s ok, babe. You’ve got this.” I paused and realized that this was my new internal voice; what a beautiful moment that has come after years of putting in work and changing my narrative. That is how I talk to my friends and those I care about, and I’m finally using that confident, compassionate, and loving voice for myself as well. I stopped what I was doing and nearly felt like crying because of how proud I was.

That voice does not come naturally to a lot of us, particularly those of us who have perfectionistic tendencies. I know many in the world of academic research see self-compassion as a bit “fluffy,” which has always bothered me. While it might sound fluffy in that it focuses on self-love and accepting imperfections, the science is loud and clear about the benefits that come with self-compassion. Researchers have found that self-compassion can increase immune function, lower the heart rate, and increases overall wellbeing.

Self-compassion is a skill we can build and it can help buffer us against the kind of self-directed negativity that accompanies depression and anxiety. Research shows that self-compassion can weaken the association between perfectionism and depression.

I’ve always been on the more anxious side; I primarily worry the most about my future and my performance, whether at work or school or in an interview. Building my self-compassion practice hasn’t made these anxious feelings go away, but it certainly helps when things go wrong or I make a mistake. I’ve developed mantras like “You’re ok” and “This is not on you” that help me get through difficult times. These mantras aren’t excuses to avoid taking responsibility for my mistakes, but they are ways I can minimize how my mistakes impact my mindset. You can still own your mistakes and learn from them while practicing self-compassion!

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Curious about how self-compassionate you are? Take the quiz here!

Ted Talk Friday: What I learned from 2,000 obituaries

I was immediately drawn in to this talk during the first minute; my dad actually does the same thing that this speaker, Lux Narayan, and reads through obituaries quite frequently. Narayan’s talk is a beautiful testament to having a life worth living–a life that is focused on what matters and having a positive impact, no matter how small. I also love that someone whose career focuses on data can develop such an interdisciplinary talk that ties in to some many important themes.

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Do you often read obituaries? If not, do you plan to start reading them after hearing this talk?

Ted Talk Friday: Want to be more creative?

I have been facing a lot of creative challenges at work recently. Some of these challenges have pushed me far out of my comfort zone so I’ve been interested in exploring why some of these creative tasks have been so challenging for me. I love creativity and coming up with new ideas, but recently I’ve been forced to get creative with tight deadlines…which means I’m likely not giving myself the time and space to come up with good ideas. I enjoyed the practical tips in this Ted Talk and plan to put them to work in the coming weeks! Plus, there’s the added perk of getting more steps in each day!

 

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What do you do to get creative? Will you try Oppezzo’s tips?

Book Review: The Deepest Well

I bounce back and forth between reading non-fiction related to my academic interests and more fun novels (like Where’d You Go, Bernadette). I’ve been on a non-fiction kick recently so I can keep up with the research I’m most interested in, and I wanted to share one of my recent reads with you.

I am passionate about adverse childhood experiences, particularly experiences of trauma, and The Deepest Well is all about how adverse experiences influences our lives in ways we never could’ve imagined. Not only does it lead to increased risk of a number of different mental illnesses, but it also leads to increased risk for heart disease, diabetes, cancer, and many other diseases. It is not an issue that only effects those of low socioeconomic status, but it can effect anyone. If you had a parent with a mental illness or had a family member go to prison, your risk goes up.

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A higher ACE score means higher risk the board; it’s a dose-response effect. ACE scores don’t dictate your health, but those scores provide insight and can indicate you might be at higher risk.

The author, Dr. Nadine Burke-Harris, describes her work on ACEs and her creation of a non-profit in the Bayview-Hunters Point neighborhood in San Francisco. I live in San Francisco so Burke-Harris’ descriptions of the wealth disparities, and health disparities that accompany them, hit close to home. Two neighborhoods, defined by zip codes, in San Francisco can have an average life expectancy difference of 22 years. Twenty-two years.

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Facts like this blow me away and strengthen my dedication to research and making positive change. Change does not mean we can eliminate adverse experiences, but we can help build resilience, educate parents, and provide positive interventions to minimize the negative impact of those adverse experiences.

ACE scores do not tell the whole story, but it provides powerful evidence and a simple, tangible metric for us to understand how early experiences influence us for the rest of our lives–both mentally and physically. I highly recommend The Deepest Well if you’re interested in learning more about chronic stress, adverse experiences, and health outcomes.

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Have you heard of ACE scores? Does the correlation between ACE scores and heath outcomes surprise you?

 

 

Plant-Based Tomato Garlic Noodles (+ a secret ingredient)

First off, I have not been posting as much as I would like. I am going through some exciting changes in my life–details to come soon–so I have not devoted as much time to this blog. Luckily, I still make time to cook so today I’m bringing you my newest recipe!

I was so excited when I saw jack fruit on the shelves at Trader Joe’s. I have been dying to try it for a few years. I have seen quite a few fake prepared jack fruit-based BBQ mixes at the grocery store, but I wanted to play with jack fruit from scratch. I decided to experiment with the ingredients I had on hand and ended up making a delicious tomato garlic mix.

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Ingredients:

-3 tbsp tomato paste

-1 tbsp olive oil

-1/2 c marinara sauce

.-1 can jackfruit, drained and chopped

-12 oz zoodles (2-3 medium zucchini)

-12 oz cauliflower rice

-3 tsp minced garlic

-1 bag Miracle Noodle fettuccini

Directions:

  1. Prepare Miracle Noodles according to instructions on the bag.
  2. Combine all ingredients except zoodles in a large pot and let simmer on low-medium heat for at least thirty minutes. This is a very important step to make sure all the flavors blend.
  3. Add in the zoodles and stir the mixture well. Let cook for an additional 5-10 minutes.

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4. Remove from heat and enjoy! This recipe makes 3 large servings and 4 smaller servings.

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Don’t forget to use code HANNAH for a discount when you order from Miracle Noodle!