Category Archives: travel

Celebrating New Heights in Aspen

Disclaimer: In 2016 I was a member of the Beef Expert Bureau.  This trip was sponsored by The Beef Checkoff.

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One common theme in my gratitude is the internet.  I’ve gained so much from the world wide web, and the opportunities and experiences that have come my way because of my love of interneting. This is an amazing privilege all around; the people I’ve met, the places I’ve visited, the opportunities for education, and experience, and deliciousness.

Last fall I took a trip to Aspen, Colorado with the Beef Checkoff that was filled with just that: great people, opportunities for education, experiencing local sites, and of course, delicious food!

The people! This was a great trip because it was about 50% being reunited with internet friends and “beef staff” I adore and 50% falling in love with the new friends I was meeting for the first time on this trip. I could absolutely go on and on and on about the wonderfully talented, encouraging souls with brilliant minds I’ve met through working with the Beef Checkoff over the past several years. This long list of smart and creative folk I have in my network is a bonus compliment to the seemingly perfectly mirrored personalities in my friends on the beef team.

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The places! Aspen is such a cool city. Landing was the most gorgeous of any air plane trip I’ve been on, dipping in between spans of mountains covered in bright yellow Aspen trees. The city was quite adorable with lots to see and do in the small space of town I explored.

We stayed at a terrific resort in the heart of Aspen, The Little Nell.  It was a gorgeous property and a fantastic room filled with luxurious comforts and beautiful details throughout the resort. We visited a handful of other great locations throughout our trip, too, including the Cooking School of Aspen, Elk Camp, and Lynn Britt Cabin.

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And the views! Holy moly was I spoiled this year with all the fall foliage colors I was able to take in.  I was in Aspen at the very end of the aspen peak season and these photos do not even come close to doing the beauty that is Colorado justice!

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the experiences! One morning we went on group guided hikes which was one of the most breath taking experiences of my life this far. I had such a great time moving along the trail with some of my fellow bureau members and other friends in our group.  I decided to leave my phone and camera in my room and focus my energy on taking in the views in real time.

We were also given the gift of time with the Executive Chef of Element 47 at The Little Nell, Matt Zubrod. Throughout our week together Chef Zubrod gave a cooking demo and lead food discussions during several of our meals.

Each and every meal we had during this trip featured a delicious plate of food and terrific food discussion with wonderful people.  This is usually the case when I’m traveling with the Beef Checkoff, but the food talk this trip was especially memorable and has had lasting effects on my approach to food, from meal planning to where I turn for celebration dinner menu inspiration.

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the opportunities! The theme for our time together was ‘Celebrating New Heights in Food and Health’ and was a combination of educational sessions and creative discussions on beef topics, health topics and blog/internet topics.

One of my favorite sessions was “Watch What Happens Live: Building Your Skills to Shoot Live Video and Interact with Food in Real Time.” This session took place at the stunning Elk Camp in Snowmass. One of my favorite women rocking the internet, Regan Miller Jones shared with the group the benefits of live video to communicate and along with Vijay Karunamurthy, co-founder of Nom.com, reviewed tools, techniques, tips and steps to get started.

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I learned a bit from each of the discussions and presentations throughout our trip.  Here are three main takeaways from other sessions from our time in Aspen:

3 Major Takeaways from the Celebrating New Heights in Food and Health LiveWell #KnowYourBeef Experience

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Takeaway: I want to give my future self the gift of health. 

Session: Aging with Vitality – Beef Throughout the Life Cycle

Early last year I was in a FUNK. It was nothing serious, but a simple lack of motivation to make healthy choices or do anything to make my life better. I was stagnant and though I knew I wasn’t happy, I wasn’t ready or willing to do anything to find the happiness I knew I was, if history was accurate, capable of finding and living with.

This session gave me a new perspective on motivation.  For the first time I really thought about the need to take care of things now to make it easier on myself in the future.

I’m no spring chicken now, but I am younger today than I ever will be in the future. I want to take advantage of every day and give my future self the gift of health.

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Takeaway: Lots of nutrition questions can be answered with meal planning.

Session: Building Beef into Your Family’s Weekly Meal Plan

The topic of meal planning came up time and time again throughout our week together, which was a great lead up to a session from Jessica Fishman Levinson, a dietitian and nutrition consultant who serves up healthy, delicious content at Nutritioulicious

I’ve been in a fairly regular habit of meal planning and food prep over the past several years, but it’s always nice to have a refresher discussion with my peers about tips and tricks they are using in their own kitchens to make the most of the habit.

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Takeaway: You have something valuable to share; don’t believe me? look outside your immediate community.

Session: Putting Our Work into Practice

During our last session, my friends Melissa and Toby presented on how beneficial partnering with other creators can be and Tera Miller lead us through creative planning exercises.  Collaboration can cover a wide range of involvement and interaction, and is a great way to show support for others’ work you appreciate and respect, while also taking the opportunity to work towards results for yourself, such as an introduction to an existing audience or working with an experienced creator of a specific field.

Cross collaboration can be such a powerful tool [and one I’ve been known to get preachy about from time to time!]  Of course, partnering with the bloggers/influencers in my close network who cover the same topics and have the same expertise and audience as I do makes sense.  Swapping guest posts, partnering for a twitter chat, or offering an Instagram takeover is an easy way to work your creative muscles and interact with a new following in a safe space.  But when I look beyond my immediate circle of influence I can reach much further potential.

Melissa and I have partnered with one another a handful of times in the past.  As a Registered Dietitian and award winning, nationally recognized food and nutrition expert, Melissa brings the smarts and science to the table, along with her winning personality, creative ideas, and brilliant communication skills.  I bring my willingness to share my real-life experience of trying to fight for my health that Melissa’s clients and followers may also be facing, along with a tiny bit of know-how about internet tools and the power of online community.  When we work together, we are building each other up and offering more to the work we are doing together, because we are doing it together.

Happy 100th Birthday, National Park Service #FindYourPark

100 years ago today, President Woodrow Wilson signed a bill from Congress, instating the National Parks Service “to conserve the scenery and the natural and historic objects and wildlife therein, and to provide for the enjoyment of the same in such manner and by such means as will leave them unimpaired for the enjoyment of future generations.”

This has been a summer of taking in American history and along the way I’ve visited a handful of National Parks. How has it taken me this long in life to realize what a treasure I have all around me, preserved for my enjoyment and education?  I went on and on about this on Snapchat earlier this summer, but it’s worth repeating:

  • An annual pass to the National Parks Service is currently $80/adult and gets you into more than 2,000 federal recreation sites and covers entrance fees at national parks and wildlife refuges.  Your pass also waives standard amenity fees at national forests and grasslands.
  • If you have a 4th Grader, take advantage of Every Kind in a Park!!!  The pass admits all children under 16 and up to three adults for free, but you have to have a paper pass with you upon arrival, so BE PREPARED!
  • US Military and their dependents get free annual passes and once you turn 62, you become eligible for a $10 LIFTIME PASS.

There are National Parks in every single US State, Washington DC, and our four US Territories, Guam, American Samoa, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands. How close are you to a National Park?  Find a Park by location and determine which location you can get to quickest, because you don’t need a pass to visit a park this weekend!  

In celebration of NPS’s 100th Birthday, admission to ALL 412 NATIONAL PARKS is FREE August 25 – August 28!!!! 

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If you live nearby-ish and are willing to road trip, I HIGHLY recommend a trip to Hyde Park, NY.  [also: look who I spy on their IG feed!] There is A LOT to see and do in Hyde Park, and our 9 hour visit barely touched the surface. It was an incredible experience and I would DEFINITELY go back.  Here are some snapshots and highlights from our trips to the Home of Franklin D Roosevelt and Val-Kil Eleanor Roosevelt National Historic Site.

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Long Summer Days [and a few snapshots from DC]

My favorite thing about this time of year is that the sky is still bright with light at 9:03 PM. 
The days seem to last for.ev.er and I can fit in SO MUCH of whatever it is I want to spend my time on.  Sometimes that means long podcast-filled walks followed by conversations with friends old and new over bottles of brews on a patio or porch.  And sometimes that means grocery shopping and food prep followed by four episodes of Rizzoli & Isles in front of the air conditioner with Nick while I debate markers vs. crayons for my next coloring page.

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Long summer days are also perfect for traveling, especially when you want to indulge in every bit of tourism you can.  It’s a very POTUS summer over here; Nick’s mom Kathleen is coming to visit next month and we’ve got a trip to nearby Hyde Park for lots of FDR goodness on the agenda. This has been a road trip on the “yeah, I’ll do that eventually” list since I moved to the area in 2008, and no one was surprised over my thrill when she mentioned wanting to go while she’s here. 

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Also accomplished this summer: my first trip to DC. Our site seeing took place on Monday evening and Tuesday morning [I was in town working a trade show for the week] and I was delighted with the experience. Monday evening I was a tag-a-long with a group of about-to-be Freshmen high school tour thanks to an invite from their teacher, and I soaked up all I could from the very knowledgeable tour guide. We toured the Pentagon 9/11 Memorial, the Vietnam War Memorial, the Korean War Memorial and the Lincoln Memorial.  I also spent about an hour at the National Mall without the group. I really enjoyed taking a moment to notice the grandeur of the monuments around me and think over-romanticized writer-brain thoughts what they represented.

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My favorite memories of Monday night were definitely the time spent on the back side of the Lincoln Memorial.  I first ventured back on my own, before meeting with the group.  I stood alone at one of the back corners, taking in the view of the Washington Monument and US Capitol Building through the column cut out of the fortress surrounding the giant Lincoln sitting inside. 

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Later after catching up with the group, the tour guide led us to the back of the memorial, asking us to sit as she pointed to a residence and spot of land in the distance before beginning a story of Mary Lee’s Rose Garden at Arlington National Cemetery. I loved this space and have decided that if I lived in DC, I would try to start a dinner picnic club that meets on the back wall once a month.

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There was a LOT I didn’t get a chance to see when I was in DC, but I have a strong list of priorities going for our next trip [the memorials around the reservoir are a MUST for me next time!]  I’m not at all disappointed in what we covered in the short tourism time during this trip.

We also managed 90 minutes of the National American History museum, which was in no way enough time and I can’t wait to go back.  The American Presidency: A Glorious Burden exhibit is the literal definition of AMAZING and I barely took time to read a thing, the American Stories pop culture exhibit was a fantastic rush through, and we completely skipped out on the FOOD: Transforming the American Table exhibit

There are also several exhibits being built for future openings and several exhibits we didn’t even get a chance to glance towards, which explains why revisiting this museum when I have several more hours is definitely on my Next Visit To Do list. [and then, you know, every other National Museum, too.]

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