26 May 2016

Things I Love: A-Z

My coworker Becca works with the 'leaders of tomorrow,' which is a fancy way of saying she spends a lot of time with kids and young adults. She gets to know them pretty well and vice versa. One year, as a joke, the kiddoes made her this book called Things Becca Hates. It includes hand-selected photos and clip-art, each on their own page listed alphabetically. It's terribly inaccurate and wholly hilarious. When I'm having a bad day, I just have to take a quick read through Things Becca Hates and all is right with the world.

Things Becca Hates got me thinking maybe I should make a list of Things Kristina Hates. I started, but kept getting stuck. I don't like olives or hangovers (does anyone?), onions and I share a mutual dislike of each other, and I could continue to write for years about how much I dislike parasites, but who really cares?

One of my favorite bloggers Brendan Leonard once wrote about why he doesn't write negative posts. Using his words as inspiration, I started a list of things I love instead of a list of things I hate. In 15 minutes I was done - proof that you can make it further with honey than vinegar.

Things I Love: A-Z

Accents: One of my party tricks is speaking in accents. Some of them are pretty decent, others not so much. I love hearing new accents and trying to learn them, and the surprise on someone's face when you can make a perfectly timed joke using the right dialect.

Beer: I don't think I need any explanation here.

Chocolate: Specifically dark chocolate. So creamy, so rich, so smooth. Milk chocolate is also acceptable (you know, in a pinch). Do not get me started on "white chocolate". It does not contain any cocoa and is a ridiculous marketing lie.

Wearing down. And drinking beer. With Jordan. #thingsilove

Down: In parka, skirt, and comforter form.

Exaggerating: I've recently discovered that people from Montana are especially prone to exaggeration. I swear, it's a thing - we exaggerate SOOOO much. See also: Italians, Tauruses, people who recreate in the outdoors, the Ciari family, Herman Melville.

Friends & Family: You are the best. Seriously.

Girafficorns and friends. #thingsilove

Girafficorns: A Girafficorn is the logo for SheJumps, a nonprofit founded to get girls into the outdoors to gain confidence, friends, and skills. I've met so many incredible women through this organization, and am excited every time I see a Girafficorn. When I do, I know I've found another member of my tribe.

Hugs: I have a few friends who are really amazing huggers. Most of them are from the midwest. I do not think this is a coincidence. Everyone from the PNW should have to go on a "Hugging Retreat" to a flyover state at some point in their life.

Intelligence: I'm drawn to smart people, specifically people who are smarter than me or smart in a different way. I like to be challenged and I enjoy learning new things. Most of us want to be interesting - learn a bunch of random facts about a Sea Cow and you'll definitely qualify.

Jordan: No, not the place (although maybe someday I will go to there and love it!), the man in my life. I know it's cliche to say you love your partner, but he's pretty great and I feel lucky to spend so much time with him.

Knots: As a (former) rock climber and (present) ski mountaineer, I know a knot can literally save your life. Knots have allowed me to play in all kids of places outside, and for that I will forever love them.

Lycra and Spandex and Moonboots, Oh My! #thingsilove

Lycra: And Spandex. Anything that allows you to move with freedom and stay warm in the backcountry. I was NOT onboard with the "leggings as pants" phenomenon of 3-years ago, but I do love a pair of LOUD leggings! On a ski trip the first week in May I wore ONLY leggings and I'm here to tell you, it'll will change your life.

Mountains: I grew up with the Rocky Mountains in my backyard, and now I live in between the Cascades and Olympics. I cannot imagine my life without my besties Mt. Rainier, Mt. Baker, and the North Cascades.

Nutella: While in Europe in 2006, Allison and I found a Nutella Jar bigger than my torso. We didn't buy it because the exchange rate at the time was terribly anti-American, and it's one of my greatest travel regrets of all time.

This is where opting outside can take you (in pink). #thingsilove

Opting Outside: When REI came out with the #OptOutside campaign last year, I was beyond stoked. It gave everyone a platform to have a conversation about recreation and its importance in our lives. Spending just a few hours in nature can completely rewire your brain (thanks science). Everyone should Opt Outside more often.

Pink: I denied my love for a long time, now I embrace it and am a happier human.

Quitting: I've written before about the importance of quitting something when it no longer brings value to your life. Quitting by choice comes with a sense of empowerment and accomplishment. I encourage you to look critically at the things in your life and quit at least one that's not working for you.

Reading: I love reading. I have ever since I was a little girl. I don't get to read all that much, but this year I made it a priority (and had about a week where I was laid up with a cold, which helped), and I've read 6 books so far. Of those six, I really recommend The Martian, Code Named Verity, and Sixty Meters to Anywhere.

Skiing: You read this blog. You know I love skiing (here are 79 posts to prove it).

Team lycra tutu. #thingsilove

Tutus: I wear a tutu because it's an instant icebreaker - it invites people to have a conversation with you. It also screams "I AM HAVING FUN!" I don't care that it looks ridiculous. Tutus are fun and everyone should wear one.

Up: I like to feel like my life is going somewhere - I want new challenges and new horizons to chase. I think that's why I climb mountains and make life lists. I feel accomplished when I can check things off and see myself as "moving up" in the world.

Victory: I'll admit I'm on the competitive side. I savor the taste of sweet victory - be it at a ski race or in a game of Euchre. Who doesn't like winning?

Writing: Last October I made a pledge to myself to write a blog a week, and I'm proud to have kept that promise. For me, writing is necessary and cathartic. If I don't write, I have too many things swirling around in my brain and it's difficult to concentrate. Writing makes me feel centered and calm. This blog helps me celebrate important milestones, remember funny stories, and explore creativity outside of my job.

I heart you mama. xoxo.

XOXOs: My mom and I have always signed every email with "xoxo" for as long as I can remember. It feels familar and comforting and makes me feel close to home. All the feels.

Yelling: Not in an angry way, but sometimes you just need to shout your face off.

Zzzzzs: If I had one superpower, it would be the ability to sleep anywhere, any time. Seriously. I could fall asleep right now if you gave me a blanket and two minutes. I can sleep in a car, on a sweaty bus, in airplanes, or on a concrete floor. I have my twin sisters to thank. If you grow up with twins running around all the time on the floor above your bedroom, you can learn to sleep through anything.

What would you add to your list?

19 May 2016

Turns All Year: Months 53-54

In the Pacific Northwest, March-May are typically some of the best skiing months of the year. Most often you'll get new snow to start off the spring, then slowly it warms up and turns to spring corn. My favorite season of all is "Volcano Season" - the unofficial stretch of time in which all of the volcanoes around here have amazing corn.

This year, to celebrate March and April - my 53rd and 54th consecutive months of skiing - the weather was more atypical and didn't dump lots of fresh in March as expected. To get some freshies, I took a last minute trip to Utah to ski the Wasatch in March, then came home to find that volcano season had started while I was out of town! I celebrated by skiing three volcanos (and summiting two of them!) in April.

Here are my favorite pics:

March 6: Skiing at Crystal with SheJumps and adorable Rupert.

March 23: First time ever skiing at SnowBird. So, so good. Photo by @chasewinter.

March 24: Back in the pow of the Bird. Christy Pelland putting on a clinic.

March 25: Chasing turns in the Wasatch Backcountry, hoping my lungs don't explode.

March 26: Volunteering with SheJumps to get new Utah skiers on the slopes! What a privilege. These kids rock!

March 26: Hanging with some heros - Claire Smallwood, Christy Pelland, and Rachael Burks.

April 3: Anna Twohig crushing the Nisqually Chutes on Mt. Rainier!

April 3: Imran, Jordan, and Anna. Apparently Imran is having the most fun.

April 10: The crux of our Mt. St. Helens climb.

April 10: Looking at Mt. Adams from Helens. Finally above the clouds!

April 10: First day I met Sarah. I think you can see why we will be friends. #kittyontheprowl

April 10: In the PNW there's a tradition of climbing Helens on Mother's Day in a dress. We missed the permits, so we had our own tribute to Moms everywhere. My friends are the best.

April 17: Early morning sunrise on Mt. Hood, looking toward Mt. Jefferson.

April 17: Looking toward the summit of Mt. Hood. It's like the moon up here.

April 17: Looking down from the Pearly Gates on Mt. Hood.

April 17: Summit of Mt. Hood with my favorite adventure buddy.

April 30: About to head into the Kokanee Mountains in Canada. This overly dramatic shot captured by Tony Paquette.

13 May 2016

Sweet Serendipity - How I Bought A House in Seattle

I love birthdays. Christmas, Easter, the last day of school.... pretty much all of the holidays kids get excited about pale in comparison to birthdays for me. Birthdays are the one day where you are different than (most) everyone else. Everyone should enjoy feeling special once a year.

In my circle of friends, I'm known for being ridiculous about my birthday. I countdown - generally by month - to my big day, beginning with my 1/12th birthday on June 13 (you can thank my dad for this annoying/endearing tradition). The countdown culminates in a month-long celebration, including a huge theme party full of costumes and revelry. I love birthdays so much I wrote a 'How To Have a Kickass Birthday' blog a few years ago. 

This year, however, I slacked on the celebrations. I don't have any party plans, and I certainly haven't remembered the countdown. But it's for a good reason: this year for my birthday I bought a house! It closes today: Friday, May 13, 2016. My first day as a 32 year old I have become the owner of 1 stoop, 4 toilets, 2 decks with water views (one on the roof), 1 fireplace, 8 closets, 1 garage door, and 4 stories of Seattle Real Estate Glory!

The search has been really difficult. Seattle is not a buyers market right now, most specifically not a market for a single woman on a nonprofit salary. In an average market, if you stopped listing houses today, it would take about 6 months for all of the remaining houses on the market to sell. That's considered a "6-month inventory". Seattle has about a "3-week inventory". Because of this, people are doing crazy things. Pre-inspections, waiving the appraisal or financing, and all-cash offers are very common. Every open house I went to was packed. Each place received multiple offers. I made two offers that were not accepted, and in both cases the final sale price escalated more than 20% above asking price. I felt disheartened to say the least.

Then, something really crazy happened. I made an offer on a three bedroom, 3.25 bath townhome. It was the middle unit in a three-townhouse building. The owners - the "Smiths" - received 4 offers. Mine was not the one they selected. Wha wha.

Two days later, my agent and I got an email from Mrs. Smith. She said the owners in the south-end unit were also interested in selling, and wanted to do a deal off the market. I was apprehensive at first - why are TWO owners in a three unit building selling at the same time? Is there some kind of woodpecker situation I don't know about??? went to take a look anyway.

Because this as an off-market deal, the owner "Shauna" and her husband "Eric" met us at the door. We chatted for about 15 minutes and really hit it off. Shauna's also a runner and goes down to Carceek Park - just a mile away - to hit the trails multiple times a week. She loved that I already somewhat lived in the neighborhood, and that I want to live in the house instead of rent it out. I genuinely like her, and immediately wanted to call her place home. 

They were moving because Shauna had recently met and married Eric, each bringing a teenage son into the marriage - your classic "Brady Bunch" situation. The house was too small for four grown adults, and by the time the neighbors in the middle unit had listed their house, Shauna and Erica had already bought a house further north. Rather than go to the trouble of listing it, they figured, "here are three buyers that definitely want this place since they bid on the unit next door. Let's offer it to them".

After our chat with the owners, my agent and I took a look around the house. It was the same layout as the middle unit. A little less updated, but what it lacked in fancy sinks it made up for in extra windows and views. We decided to make an offer, and with the terrible market I just made the very best offer I could. I wrote a letter to Shauna, saying how much I loved the unique space and its warm spirit. That to me a home should be a sanctuary – a place where you can unwind, relax, and feel like yourself. That it was easy to picture myself sitting on the roof, drinking a glass of wine, and reading a book at sunset. We turned the offer in on Tuesday morning. 

My offer prompted the other two parties to make offers as well (Mrs. Smith received 4 offers, accepted 1, and emailed the three "rejected" parties about Shauna's unit). Waiting was nerve wracking. In addition to being unsure if I had offered enough, I'd also asked for the close-date to be extended by 2-weeks, meaning they'd have to wait longer to get their money (The close date would have been April 29, the day I was set to leave on a 10-day ski trip to Canada. I had asked them to extend it to May 13, the first Friday after I was back....which also happens to be my birthday).

Review day came. By 9:15pm I still hadn't heard anything. Then, I got a text from my agent saying "I don't know anything yet, but we should know soon." Fifteen minute later the phone rang, and I answered, "Hey Adam, what's the word? Just spit it out!" He started singing Happy Birthday.

I was flying high until he said, "They have one stipulation.... just go with me on this." Greeeaaaat, I thought. Let's hear it. "They were fine with the close date on the 13th, but they crossed out your price. They LOWERED IT by $5,000."

After I picked my face off the floor, I asked him why? Apparently they just really liked me. Even in this crazy Seattle market a personal connection makes a difference. Later Shauna told me she wanted me to have a story to tell. BOY DO I EVER!!!! Happy Birthday to me!

Mama and me on zee roof.

12 May 2016

Your UNpacking Persona

You get home from a big trip and you’re exhausted. You really need a shower. The VERY last thing you want to do is unpack your crap, but you know you should.... 

You weigh the pros and cons: unpacking is a 20-minute commitment at minimum, putting off the shower and the glory of falling into bed; not unpacking means you’ll have to deal with the mess later, and you know that gear STINKS! You'll make the decision based off of one question: Who do you want to suffer more - the right-now version of you, or the tomorrow version of you?

Packing is so much sexier than unpacking.

Unpacking is generally less complicated (and certainly less thought-out) than packing. Your main concern is emptying the bag, laying the wet stuff out to dry, and throwing the rest in the laundry pile (even if you didn't wear it, you know it's not clean, so wash it anyway). In last week's post, we explored the six different Packing Personas

Post-trip recovery is different for everyone, but generally you will fall into one of three UNpacking Personas: 

  1. The Immediate Man: You got after it this weekend, and you know your stuff is rank. Leaving it in the bag will only worsen the smell for the next day, to say nothing of the potential mold-situation. Fearing the future repercussions of NOT unpacking, you do it immediately, laying everything out to dry, tossing dirty clothes in the laundry, and putting away the things that can be put away. You reward yourself with a hot shower at the end of your efforts. Water falling from the sky never felt so good.
  2. The I’ll Do It Tomorrow. And By Tomorrow I Mean The Next Day Guy: Your stuff always smells. You can never figure out why, but I’m willing to guess it’s because you’re too lazy to unpack, instead favoring the sweet serendipity of a shower (probably with a shower beer) before silently slipping into bed. You know the problems of today will still be there tomorrow. You get up in the morning with big ambitions to unpack, only then you remember you have to go to work and isn’t Sharon having her thing tonight? okay oh well you’ll do it tomorrow. This is a problem future-you can worry about. 
  3. The Repeater Unpacker: Unpack? Why would you unpack? You have another trip planned. Gear is always in play, and your only job is to reorganize what you have for the next adventure. You do this for a living – you probably live out of your car – so the concept of unpacking doesn’t even make sense to you. You live in a perpetual state of packed readiness. The rest of us wish we could be this cool.

Personally, I’m definitely an immediate woman. I won’t let myself shower until I’m unpacked, because water is the only thing that will keep me going. And then sometimes I unpack but am too tired to take a shower and fall into bed all sunscreen and salt-sweat covered. But don’t worry, I promise to wash my sheets. Tomorrow.

05 May 2016

Your Packing Persona

As I write this, I'm in the car about to begin a 10-day ski trip into the Canadian backcountry. It'll be my first time in a helicopter, my first time backcountry skiing in Canada, and the first time without cell phone coverage for more than a day in who-knows-how-long. I've been looking forward to this trip for months, but am still in this mental state of 'overworked disbelief' that the time has finally arrived to head out.

It's no secret that I am 'pro-vacation', and that I'm a planner who loves spreadsheets. I'm the type of person who needs something on the calendar - anything really - to look forward to. But I don't anticipate a trip in the way you might imagine. Having plans make me feel calm. It checks something off of my "mental list" if you will. But once that box is checked I just don't really think about it anymore, not until the departure date is looking me in the face screaming, "hey lady, you should probably start thinking about getting your poop in a group looming."

Trip preparation for everyone is different. In general, you'll fall into one of six categories:

This looks like chaos, but it's sort of mostly kinda organized. 

  1. The Extreme Over-Prepper: Your trip may be two months off, but you are already making lists and laying your clothes out in neat piles. Who cares if you'll want to wear those pants between now and your departure? You need them for your trip and so they sit ready to go at a moment's notice. You have a daily itinerary and don't like it when someone throws out a new suggestion because it means you need to rethink your packing strategy, and that is just. not. acceptable.
  2. The Packer. Repacker. Repacker Packer: Similar to the Extreme Over-Prepper, the Packer Repacker, Repacker-Packer puts a lot of thought into what comes along, but does so in an overthinking way. Where the Over-Prepper is assured in his decisions, the PRRP struggles, constantly changing her mind. Pulling things out, putting things in, and going back to square one. She runs the risk of both bringing too much and not enough, and being late for the meet up time, because the self-doubt will plague her long after the trip is over.
  3. The Ounce Counting Guy: You have a spreadsheet with each piece of gear and how much each piece weighs. This allows you to calculate your pack weight to the ounce. You spend hours debating between this puffy or that one, mulling over their weight to warmth ratio. You'll never make the right choice, and it won't matter because you'll throw a titanium flask of whiskey in there at the last minute anyway.
  4. The Overpacker: Opposite of Ounce Counting Guy, the Overpaker brings all of the things you could ever possibly need. She can protect you in case of a Zombie Apocalypse, feed you during a famine, has enough layers to clothe everyone in your party+, and has everything to basically perform surgery in the field. She will carry too much and complain about the weight, but refuse to take one thing out. You never know when you might need a portable DVD player with tape-deck for an emergency!
  5. The Last Minute, I'll Pack at the Trailhead Man: What's that? You're supposed to be at the park and ride in an hour and you haven't even started packing? No worries! Throw what you think you'll need in a bag or six and head out, weaving through traffic and swearing at the guy sitting in the left lane going only 4 miles an hour over the speed limit because you are late and now it's his fault! If you forgot something your friends can just stop on the way - you aren't in a hurry afterall - and everyone will want to repack at the trailhead anyway.
  6. The Expert: Your gear closet is immaculate. Everything has a place and is in it's place. With the calm confidence only gained through experience, you approach your gear closet, grab what you need, place it in a neat pile, take one of those coveted pre-trip gear photos, and pack your bag neatly and succinctly. You don't take more than you need. You use everything you take. And you never forget anything at home. The rest of us hate you.
The good news: Regardless of your packing profile, we all make it to the trailhead eventually!

Personally, I fall into a few categories: On the one hand I've done this a lot and my gear closet is pretty darn organized. I keep a running list of things I'll need in my head and using Evernote so I at least have a good idea of what I might want to take. But I tend to wait until the last minute before I get motivated enough to throw everything into a pile before shoving it in a bag and running out the door. In my universe, there's always time to repack at the trialhead. 

The one thing I ALWAYS do though is clean my place before I leave. No one likes coming home to a disaster area!

What's your packing story?