Search Results for: label/new things

New Thing: See The Iditarod

Each year I make a list of new things I want to try. Some are easy, some are hard, some are shockingly mundane. You can read about past adventures here.


you can see more photos from my Alaska trip on Instagram

I didn’t go to Alaska just to see hundreds of dogs in tiny boots.
(But that was at least, like, 70% of why I went.)

Ever since I was a little kid, poring over White Fang and trying to strap the neighbor’s dog to my plastic sled I’ve been obsessed with the Iditarod. There are sled dog races in Minnesota but (obviously) none of them hold a candle to Alaska’s 1000 mile race across mountains, tundra, frozen rivers, rocky coastline – all in temperatures well below zero.
It’s all very Jack London. 
So when my cousin bought a house in Anchorage and sent out the obligatory “Hey, we’ve got a guest room now!” email, I couldn’t take her up on the offer fast enough. Especially if it meant I could see hundreds of dogs in tiny boots.
The race really, actually starts in Willow Lake, but the ceremonial start that I attended takes place on the streets of downtown Anchorage and runs through the city’s parks and greenway system. Imagine hundreds of yelping, eager sled dogs, mushers in bright, rustling technical gear, spectators in fur hats chowing on reindeer dogs, a main street packed with snow.
It was, of course, pretty magical.
Things that I discovered!

* I know a lot of of kindhearted, animal lovers (like me) get concerned about the safety and well-being of the sled dogs. There are vets at the race start and at various checkpoints on the route. From what I saw, the dogs – while certainly not pets – were treated well and taken care of, the way you’d treat any animal you depend on.
* Most mushers have ‘day jobs.’ The purse for the winner is only $50,400 and a new truck and the cost of living in Alaska is high. Many mushers subsidize their races by working with sponsors, running kennels, or giving sled dog tours to tourists.
* There are plenty of female mushers and Susan Butcher won the race four times.  There is even a pair of blond twin sisters from Wisconsin who race!
* Rather obviously, the sleds don’t stop for dog bathroom breaks so it can be rather unpleasant to ride in the sled behind them, as you can get covered in kicked up snowy dog pee.
* Alaskan husky (the type of dog most frequently used in to race) is technically a mutt and not recognized by the AKC.
* The dogs train for special positions in the team – just like on any sports team. The smartest, fastest dogs become lead dogs. Swing dogs direct the team around turns and curves and wheel dogs are right in front of the sled – they’re usually the largest and strongest of the team.
* Mushers are required to pack a sleeping bag, an ax, snowshoes, and a cooker or pot and fuel for boiling water. They also might pack ski poles, a gun (!) and a headlamp. They sleep very little during the race. There are designated sleeping areas at each checkpoint, but other than one 24-hour and two eight-hour mandatory rests, competitors push themselves to stay awake.Fascinating, right? Have you ever seen a sled dog race? Would you ever ride in one?

P.S. An interview with my friend Justine who vetted for the Iditarod for years!

Why You Should Read + Watch + Listen Outside of Your Comfort Zone

Stuck in a book/music/tv rut? Reading + watching + listening to things outside of YOUR personal norm is so good for you! Click through for tips on how to do that >>

With the piles of new things I’m always trying, it might surprise you know that I’m a creature of habit.

Does this song have a poppy hook?  I will download it immediately and listen to it 100 times.
Oh, is this a funny, self-deprecating memoir? I’m on the library waitlist yesterday.
Is this a documentary about some sort of subculture and/or an underdog?  NETFLIX GET OUT OF MY BRAIN.

I will search high and low for a solution/approach/writer/lipstick/pair of jeans that works and when I find it? I’ll ride it till the wheels fall off.

Last month my book club/dinner club read Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore. While I didn’t particularly like the book I was glad I read it because it was totally different than any book I would have chosen for myself. Left to my own devices I would never read anything involving codes, warlocks, or history. Super no.

But when I read this book – so far out of my comfort zone –  strange, wonderful things started happening in my brain.
I had new ideas for blog posts (like this one).
I thought of a different way to structure my business.
I remembered the pile of recipes in my desk drawer I’d been meaning to try.

As obvious as it probably seems, good things happen when you break out of your ruts – no matter how comfortable and well-written and funny those ruts are.

Reading different books, watching different movies and tv shows, listening to different types of music – they expose you to new ideas, new rhythms, new approaches, new people.  And you don’t even have to like those new ideas for them to have a positive effect on you!

So how can you go about finding good, useful, well-made things outside of your usual?

Ask for recommendations from your friends! I love music that has been mockingly called ‘Brooklyn elf music,’ so I’m going to ask for recommendations from my friends who love metal. And country. And punk.

The only shows I watch are half-hour comedies.  But I bet my friends who love dark hour-long dramas could recommend some stuff.  Or my people who like action movies.  Or war movies with largely male casts (uggggh, I hate those movies!)

And all those memoirs?  I’m going to give them a break in favor of some nonfiction, a few collections of essays, and (dare I say it?) sci-fi?

Stretching your brain + boundaries feels good. Opening yourself to new ideas fills you up. Click To Tweet

I might learn something from codes and warlocks yet.

Do you get into culture and media ruts?  How do you get out of them?  And (more importantly) what metal and country music would you recommend?  Are there any action movies I should see?

P.S. Why you need a New Things practice + How to start one

Photo by Alex Loup on Unsplash

Web Time Wasters

How was your New Year’s Eve and weekend, friends?  I party-hopped around the Twin Cities and attempted to impress people with raspberry champagne jello shots.  This weekend my dude and I crossed ‘sleep in a fishhouse’ of my New Things list by crashing is a swanky mini-house on the ice with North Country Guide Service.

Anyway!  Links!

I’ve got heaps of space in January’s Network of Nice.  What can we help you with?  Want to make new friends? Need advice about travel/school/etc? Anything that’s not Google-able is fair game!

I’m going to Alaska in February (!) to watch the Iditarod and I splashed out on a pair of these after hearing raaaave reviews from multiple friends.  I’ll let you know how they hold up!
This house tour of a tiny beach house is adorable!Well, isn’t this clever? A vending machine for art lovers on a budget Alex and I saw machines like this during our trip to Vegas!

This is haunting and interesting – short interviews with eight different people, of different ages, about their biggest regret.
But I find it horrible now that wherever I live, one set of grandparents will always be hopelessly distant. Expense, distance, and the awfulness of air travel sometimes making the journey seem impossible.

Let’s add this word to our lives + vocabularies.

I love the neckline on this dress.

As someone who travels every year to escape Minnesota’s six months of winter, I love the Danish concept of hygge and I’ve actively trying to incorporate it more into my life.
“you can hygge by curling up on the sofa with a good book” — and as an adjective by converting it to “hyggeligt” (HYU-gah-lee). It generally has a social component, but there are wide-ranging interpretations across Denmark, allowing it to describe anything from a person or a building to an abstract ambience or sentiment. And for Danes who travel or move to America, the lack of a clear English translation can feel linguistically limiting.


Listen to all the best songs of 2013 (according to Pitchfork) in one big playlist.

This would have been perfect for my NYE’s outfit!

Are you an idea-holic? Here’s how to harness all that energy and actually doooooo stuff.

Fascinating! A travel photo journal from North Korea. It looks totally different than what I was imagining!

I think one of the last forms of ‘acceptable’ bias is shaming southerners and people from rural backgrounds. This post made me grit my teeth. Based on the comments, I wasn’t the only one.

Hottest women who are also absolute geniuses! Hedy Lamar invented and patented a method of radio wave transmission that would aid in the guidance of radio-guided torpedoes?!

I’m going to see this in April and I’ll probably die of joy.

This is sad, interesting, helpful. How To Survive A Christmas With Your Hoarding Mother.

Do not go shopping with her. If you’re anything like me, you can’t say no to your mother wanting to buy you a wind-up music box of Snoopy and Woodstock doing some jaunty Christmas dancing because of the special place in your heart they hold from happier, cleaner times. On the surface, this seems like a totally okay thing: the hoarder gets the excitement of buying something, but the thing doesn’t add to the clutter, because you’ll be whisking it away to another state in a few days. Ha ha, says the universe, because what happens is, she asks to keep it. And now you and that darling music box have become part of the problem.

I loved this list of 101 resolutions you can actually keep.

If one of your resolutions this year is to engage in more ethical fashion choices, you should read this.

Some Yes and Yes posts you might have missed: The Fun of Failure, How To Help A Friend, True Story: I was a phone sex worker.

Hope you had a lovely weekend and NYE, guys!

15 Fresh Start Ideas For Your New Year

Want a fresh start this year? We all do! before you worry about resolutions, spend a few hours changing your screen saver and cleaning up social media! Click here for more ideas: //

New Year! It’s good to see you! You’re so shiny and new I’m checking my makeup in your reflection and parking you at the edge of the parking lot so no one dings you with their door.

Did you guys make heaps of New Year’s resolutions? I’m too much of a Virgo to limit goal making to just once a year (what.a.dork) but I do love a fresh start.

According to inspirational posters everywhere any old day can be ‘the first day of the rest of your life.’ Sure. Yes. But don’t you think the first day of a new decade is just a bit luckier than any other day? Let’s start fresh this year! How’s a human to do that?

1. Get rid of the clothes you don’t love and don’t wear

Now, you should know that getting rid of things? It’s, like, my second favorite hobby. But cleaning out your closet and getting rid of the things that don’t fit you, suit you or please you anymore – it’s a great thing. (Here’s how to pare down your closet without losing your mind.)

I promise you’ll feel so much better once your closet is pared down to things that look great on you and bring a smile to your face. You can even make a few bucks off your old clothes at a consignment shop!

2. Clean out your car

Goodbye, empty Cheetos bags, two extra ice scrapers and orphaned mitten. Vacuum out the sand left over from this summer, splash out on the $8 automated car wash that includes a wax and switch to a new air freshener. I did this after I went through a bad break up and, it was oddly cathartic. Well, that and getting rid of all his old mix cds that were still in the glove compartment.

3. Organize your email/photos/online profiles

Do you have email folders? Dude, you need to. Even if those folders just consist of ‘friends,’ ‘work,’ ‘misc. important’ and ‘funny pictures of cats’ I promise you will feel so clean and smug when your inbox is not 254 emails deep with spam and emails about Christmas presents.

Spend a bit of time organizing your various online haunts. Weed out a few Facebook friends you don’t recognize, adjust your privacy settings, delete your Vine account, print out your favorite Instagram photos. Again, you’ll feel all clean and smug, I promise.

4. Change up your fitness routine

I’m talking to you, self. Sure, 30 minutes on the stair climber listening to Beyonce is awesome – and better than nothing – but how about a ballet class? Or aqua aerobics? kettle balls? hot yoga? You’ll work different muscles, meet new people and probably have heaps of fun wearing that awesome flowered swimming cap.

Related: 9 fun activities that also happen to be exercise

5. Take stock of all the relationships in your life

This is something that I don’t think we do enough. Are you happy with your partner? Are you headed in the same direction? When you look at them, do you think “How’d I get the best one?

Is everything pretty good, but a bit boring? Take stock of what’s working and what’s not. Think about ways that you can spice things up and re-connect. Have adventures. Try something new together. Have Big Important conversations.

And what about your friends? Do they inspire you and support you? Are they full of life and fun? Do you look up to them and respect them? We all know people that drain us and suck the joy out of any interaction.

Maybe it’s time to let those friendships go? I’m not suggesting some epic break-up conversation, but maybe limit yourself to hanging out with them in groups, or allow them to initiate plans for once.

How about those people that you’ve met and would like to be better friends with? Make it happen! I’m totally the girl who will meet a person once, recognize a kindred spirit, and announce to them that we will now commence being friends. Really.

And you’d be amazed how often this works! If you meet someone you like – tell them! Friend them on Facebook and suggest an adventure! The worse they could do is ignore you.

6. Clean out your cupboards and fridge

Not unlike your closet, you surely have things wallowing in the depths of your fridge and cupboards that are never going to see the light of day. Canned beets, anyone?

Commit to eating them up, toss them or donate them to a food shelf. Give everything a good wipe down and then stock up on yummy, nutritious food that you love – feta! Nutella! mandarins!

And this would be a great time to take on a No Grocery Challenge. You’ll be AMAZED by how much time and money you’ll save!

7. Update your resume

When you have a job, it’s easy to let your resume rot in the depths of your hard drive, but why not spend a few hours spicing it up? Update it with new skills you’ve learned at your current job, experiment with different fonts and layouts, make sure that all the dates, emails and phone numbers are current. You never know when you’ll need it!

Related: 8 steps to take (finally) get serious about your professional life

8. Clean out your bathroom cabinet

I won’t bore you with those statistics about how makeup’s shelf life is supposedly three weeks or some such, but why not toss those old prescriptions, the frosted lipstick and that shampoo that makes your hair weird. Give everything a wipe down, wash out your makeup brushes and buy yourself a few new products you’ve been meaning to try.

10. Change out your ringtone/alarm/screen saver

Yes. Download something new and fun. Why not wake up to sound of Josh Ritter or Rhye? Wade through the gillions of gorgeous photos on Unsplash and find something new for your screen saver.

11. Try a new scent

Aromatherapy is for real. Why not try a completely new scent for your home? Or a perfume that’s completely outside of what you normally go for?

I’m usually all over what I call ‘cougar scents’ – musky, spicy things that make me smell like a 50-year-old woman who flies first class and drinks too many martinis. But I’m going to give something light and floral a try!

12. Switch up your surroundings

You don’t need to engage in an extreme home makeover to get the feeling of a new space. Switch out the shams on your pillow cases and put some different pictures in those frames.

Put something different in that decorative bowl, replace the Venetian blinds with some thrifted curtains, paint an accent wall a color you love. You don’t need to break the bank to see a huge difference.

13. Make a list of new things you want to try

I’m in the process of trying 25 new things, but you can try any number of new things. And they don’t need to be epic, expensive, life changing things. ‘Cook something with lemongrass,’ ‘Watch Citizen Kane,’ and ‘Try Hip Hop Karaoke’ are all equally valid. It’s just important to try new things!

14. Spend 15 minutes thinking about your finances

Check your credit score, see how much money you still owe on school loans and think about upping your automated payment. Even just $30 more a month can make a big difference over the course of 10 years!

Make sure you’re actually using all those monthly services you pay for – Hulu+, Netflix, the gym, etc. Could you do without them? Take a minute to look at your 401k – are you topping it out? And if you don’t have a 401k, get a Roth IRA. It’s soooo much less intimidating than you’d think!

15. Try something new with your appearance

I don’t know about you, but I’m inclined to stick with something when I know it works. And then keep doing it for a million years, well past its expiration date. These days that means actually styling my hair, NYX liquid liner, Revlon Lip Butter in Candy Apple, Old Navy Rockstar jeans and a pair of weird black boots I found at an antique store on my birthday.

Anyway! Let’s break out of the rut! New lipstick colors! New eyeliner! Hairstyles that are not a top knot or big, loose curls! (That last one’s a note-to-self). And if you try it and don’t like it? You can just go back to what was working.

What fresh starts are you making this year? Tell me all about it in the comments!

P.S. 11 end-of-year traditions that will make next year amazing

Photo by Daniel Lee on Unsplash

New Thing: Shoot A Bow

Every year I make a list of new things I want to try. Some of them are difficult, some are shockingly mundane. You can read about previous adventures here.

Shooting a bow seems kind of awesome and badass, right?  I sure thought so when I added it to my list for this year.That badassery sort of evaporated when I discovered that I lacked the upper body strength to use my friends hunting bow.
And when I had to use the bright pink renter bows usually reserved for kids.
And when a nine-year-old girl showed up with her own emeffing quiver and bow and shot five arrows into the bullseye while I fumbled around with sighting and finger placement.
And when I thwacked my inner arm three times resulting in some pretty impressive welts and bruises.Ah, well.  That’s what this whole post series is about, right?  Trying new things and being comfortable with mediocrity?

And really, I did have a good time.  It’s hard to overemphasize how gratifying it feels to release that string and the pleasing sound of the arrow ‘thwumping’ through the paper target and into the Styrofoam backing.  It feels good to use new muscles and feel stiff with effort.  And there’s even kind of fun to shrug and say “I have no idea what I’m doing; I’ve never done this before”  when someone corrects your form.

Did you hear that?  That’s the sound of me being okay with being mediocre!  Or bad even!

Have you ever shot a bow?  Would you? 

New Thing: Write To An Inmate

Every year on my birthday, I make a list of new things I want to try. Some things are difficult, some are weird, some are shockingly mundane.  You can read about past adventures here.
Here’s something that might surprise you:  I’m quite passionate about prison reform.

I even applied for a job teaching ESL to male inmates a few years ago!

If you’re not sure why you should care about prison reform, here are a few things to consider:

24% of inmates have mental health issues
Despite a lower occurrence of violent crime, we have more people in jail
Non-violent offenders make up 60% of the prison and jail population
State correctional spending is estimated at $52 billion per year
60% of prison inmates are functionally illiterate
61% of Minnesota’s inmates will be convicted of another crime and return to prison.  Most states have a recidivism rate of about 40%

Shocking and sad, right?

I don’t really have any answers, but I wanted to do my part to make things a little bit easier for someone in a tough situation, so I used this website to find a lady inmate who seemed like she’d be a good match for me.  I found a woman who, pre-prison, worked as an accountant, has two kids, and was looking for letters from either sex.  Seems pretty legit, right?

It was a little bit weird putting pen to paper in a letter to someone I’ve never, ever met.  I told her a little bit about myself and my life, but didn’t want to err too much on the side of “and then I went to Europe for six weeks and it was greeaaaaaat!  PS whatsprisonlikeanddoyouhavetowearthoseorangejumpers?”

I settled on a middle ground of asking her about her kids and if she’d liked her previous job.

I’ve just dropped my letter in the mailbox and I’m interested to see if I ever hear from my new penpal.  I sure hope so!

Edited to add: On November 27th, I received a return letter from my pen pal!

First, let us acknowledge that getting a handwritten letter is The Actual Best, regardless of its source.

My penpal wrote about her kids (a boy and a girl, ages 5 and 7) and how much she missed them while they lived with her mom for the time being.  She wrote about her job in the prison, helping cook for 1,300 other female inmates.  She talked about preparing the Thanksgiving meal desserts “7up cake, peach cobbler and sweet potato pie :)”

Really, she seemed super sweet!  I totally plan to write back.

Have you ever written to an inmate? Would you? Has anyone in your life ever been in prison or jail?

If you’re interested in helping but not comfortable writing a letter to an inmate, consider Books Through Bars. Thanks for the suggestion, Jesse!

P.S. More new things to try: go to a monster truck rally, take a pole dancing class, try White Castle.