summer vibes

April 22, 2015

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There’s a joke that if you don’t like the rain outside your window in New Mexico, you can just wait five minutes and the sky will be clear and sunny again. Spring here is notoriously unpredictable, but lately we’ve been getting some gorgeous days that have felt much more like summer. Shaun and I took advantage of that by taking his son to the ABQ BioPark Zoo (I’ve been there for stories, but this was my first time going for fun!) and eating ice cream outside.

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I’ve also been sipping lots of iced coffee and sleeping with the windows open- enjoying every reminder that long summer days, evenings eating dinner on the patio and windows down while driving are almost here to stay. I already have a to-do-list for the months to come- filled with mini road trips, gorgeous trails to hike and ways to take advantage of the reliably sunny days Albuquerque always delivers!

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abq biopark botanical garden

April 9, 2015

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It’s hard to believe I was kicking my way through snow just weeks ago! Spring is now in full bloom, with warm but breezy afternoons and almost balmy evenings. I’ve been wanting to spend every moment outside, and today took advantage of an unexpected day off work with a trip to the ABQ BioPark Botanical Garden.

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The garden features seasonal displays (this month featured pastel blooms in the atrium) in addition to the regular landscapes. There were lily ponds, a butterfly garden and railroad miniatures, as well as a farm exhibit with berry patches and rustic barns. But what I loved the most were the endless rows of flowers, all with vibrant colors and whimsical designs. I’d absolutely recommend it.

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carlito springs

March 31, 2015

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In most places I’ve lived, people took water- both the water we use and big bodies of water- for granted. But New Mexico is in a well-known long-term state of drought- meaning any time it rains, we celebrate… and any time people hear about a new spot to get to water (a river path, a spring), it’s time for a road trip.

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This week at work, one of my co-workers (our fabulous meteorologist & environmental reporter) did a story about Carlito Springs– a newly opened trail on the southeast face of the Sandia Mountains. Immediately after seeing the story, Shaun and I decided we needed to make a weekend trip…and it turned out a lot of people had the same idea! (The upside and downside to sharing gems like this one on the news!)

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The trail was easy enough for me, Shaun, his mom, his sister and his three year old son to do in about half an hour (maybe even less). After a pretty easy trek through trees, cacti and yucca (with some spectacular views of homes in the foothills) we made it to the springs themselves, surrounded with places to sit, bathrooms (sounds like no big deal but if you hike a lot it is a big deal), little gardens and some spectacular views. There were also some old cabins that added a little extra charm.

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We had a great time- the perfect little morning trip- but I could tell the area must be even more gorgeous as spring goes on or, better yet, in the fall. We’ll definitely be back. One of the best parts was that it only took us maybe 20 minutes to get from our house, down the highway, off the exit and up to the parking lot at the trailhead! Other highlights of the weekend included donuts and a TV show marathon…the perfect way to ease back into the work week.

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snow patrol

March 19, 2015

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As a general assignment reporter, every day is different. Sometimes I’m covering upsetting crimes; other times, a heartbreaking tragedy; some days, a dramatic court hearing or city council face-off. But there are some days when the stars (and cold fronts) align and we reporters are gifted the loveliest low-hanging fruit there is: snow coverage.

Of course there is an important viewer-benefit element to coverage… tracking road conditions, watching how and when and where the largest amounts of snow are coming down and making sure people are okay… but the last snowstorms of the season treated me to some pretty calm coverage, focused more on beautiful landscapes than icy road closures and structural damage.

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For a few days, a photojournalist and I were sent up to beautiful Chama, New Mexico. I snapped the photo above behind one of the charming bed and breakfasts that sprinkle the main road into town. The not-so-pretty story behind it is that it had been snowing on and off for about a week so everyone in town had been working hard to keep up with it…. but let me tell you, driving around town with the clean blankets of perfect snow- nearly burying the Cumbres & Toltec Scenic railroad and then warming up by a fire with coffee in hand (and, okay, a few too many plates of carne adovada nachos) felt a whole lot more like fun than work.

On some stories, stopping people on the street and asking to talk with them can be tough. If it’s a touchy or controversial issue, it can be nervewracking. If it’s something obscure, it can feel like you’re annoying people and sucking up their time. But weather’s basically universal, and it’s easy to strike up a conversation when your opening line is, “wow, look at all this!” Trips out of town for snow coverage are a chance to meet new and different people and see new places — my two favorite things about my job, hands down.

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If Chama was charming, Las Vegas was lovely… and delicious. I know there’s probably lots of good food in town, but Charlie’s Spic & Span was amazing– comfort food at it’s finest! It was obviously a cold (but beautiful) day, so that could have been part of it… but homemade bread is one of my weaknesses and the giant grilled cheese (simple choice) I inhaled after we were done working but before we hit the road back to Albuquerque was likely the best I’ve ever had. Their donuts were also fabulous- they weren’t that sugary, like the Rebel Donuts I rave about… instead they were chewy and flavorful and different. They were also gigantic- the kind where you only take half…but then eat the other half… and maybe two more. :)

The trips out of town were a blast- I liked the work I produced, my photojournalist and I had a fun time and we got to meet lots of great people. But it was nice to come home to cozy couch time… complete with some sweet cinnamon rolls, straight from the oven.

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how to throw the easiest big birthday party ever

February 25, 2015

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This weekend, we hosted a big birthday party at our house. It was the first time we’ve had more than a few people over in the new place (we’ve only been here about a month), so I wanted the house to look cute and the party to be fun and I have to admit that for a second there, I was a little nervous. It was a big extended-family-and-friends party, but for a three year old’s birthday… which meant making things cozy for the grownups, fun for the older kids and memorable for the little ones. Luckily, there is a simple solution that I would recommend to absolutely everyone in this situation and that I will have to restrain myself from doing for every single party for every single occasion here on out…

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…and that solution is the Bouncy House. For obvious reasons. It was uncharacteristically cold and windy for Albuquerque on Sunday, so we butted the bouncey up to our house and kids just ran in and out and in and out. It kept everyone occupied and let the grown-ups talk. We got an amazing deal and got one for basically the entire day for $70- totally worth it. Plus, they threw in a cotton candy machine, as pictured above. Which brings me to my next point…

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Sugar. So much sugar, all of the sugar, and sugar to the point where you know every kid in your house is going to be bouncing off the walls and you are ready to embrace it, as opposed to bracing for it. If there’s anything I learned from a lifetime of giant Italian family parties, it’s that you should just get over “keeping your house cute” from the start and just let. it. ride. Yes, we put up a basketball hoop in the living room. Yes, we threw boxes and bins of toys everywhere and just let the kids go at it. Yes, we let things spill everywhere without flinching and were totally OK with finger paints getting used on our beautiful hardwood floors…it’s a party! And with kids, the point is for them to have fun. And they did.

(A couple other quick-tips: order pizza. No one notices your fancy homemade food when they’re chasing around their own toddler. Also, I got a giant party tray of mini donuts from the best donut place ever and those were a huge hit. Finally- fun plastic tablecloths- it made clean up soooo easy. Quick wrap ups and some sweeping- took us 30 minutes tops!)

It was the perfect first big party in our new home. The birthday boy had a blast, and we have some special memories. Also, leftover pizza. (But definitely no leftover mini donuts.)

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READ: I SHOULDN’T BE TELLING YOU THIS

January 19, 2015

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When I graduated from high school, my dream was to be a magazine editor. College opened up other doors and I obviously ended up somewhere much different, but my fascination with flipping through glossy pages and studying the names on mastheads had Kate White on my radar years ago.

I loved how she balanced her (fabulous) “day job” as editor-in-chief of Cosmopolitan with a sensational side hustle (writing murder mystery novels!). I love my job, but lately I’ve been feeling like I want and need to kick it up a notch. Plus, I’ve been looking for ways other women handle work-life balance – and am curious about how career-focused mamas are fitting it all in (not planning on kids for several years, but I like to plan ahead!).

I Shouldn’t Be Telling You This addressed all of those concerns and more, with a sassy, bold, take-no-prisoners tone.

The title highlights “asking for money” and “snagging the promotion,” but that’s not what the vast majority of the book is about. Rather, it’s about working hard, working smart, being assertive, planning your moves, and doing it all while still being someone you can look at in the mirror every night.

The sections are “Success: How to Get it,” “Success: How to Go Big with it,” and “Success: How to Savor it.” They cover everything from dealing with nasty co-workers to planning when and how to take maternity leave to orchestrating the right career path for you. It’s a refreshing, different take on the concept of “having it all.”

I read it voraciously… and while I loved it and was hooked every moment, I feel like reading it in a couple days didn’t do it justice and wasn’t the right way to absorb all of the concepts, inspiration and words of wisdom White had to offer. My plan now is to read a chapter a day for the next few weeks… reflecting on what’s said, how it applies to my life and whether it’s something I can adopt to improve my performance at work, enhance how much I love my career, or better balance my work-life obligations.

I also plan to snag every other career book Kate White’s written!

playlist: snow days

January 16, 2015

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The holidays are over but chilly temps are here to stay- at least for awhile. Here are the songs I’m warming up with this month- you can hear the playlist on Spotify.

  • 1.) Shooting Stars, Bag Raiders
  • 2.) Famous, Charli XCX
  • 3.) Trouble, Neon Jungle
  • 4.) Retro, Childish Gambino
  • 5.) The Party Line, Belle and Sebastian
  • 6.) Inside Out, Spoon
  • 7.) From the Night, Tribe Called Red // Stars
  • 8.) Gold on the Ceiling, The Black Keys
  • 9.) I Can Make You Feel Young Again, Copeland
  • 10.) The New You, Jenny Lewis
  • 11.) Make You Better, The Decemberists 

MAUI SIGHTS, SOUNDS & SWEETS

January 15, 2015

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While the Road to Hana was a serious highlight of our trip to Maui, there were also a lot of other amazing sights and experiences (and food) that made the trip so memorable. We took in whale watching, snorkeled with sea turtles and dolphins, munched on lots of Hawaiian food and drank a few Mai Tais (and pina coladas!).

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We stayed in our friend’s timeshare at the Maui Marriot Ocean Club. They also have hotel rooms in addition to the timeshares. The grounds were gorgeous, with great landscaping and design by the pools and an open-air lobby. They had a restaurant we grabbed take-out from one night, which was good, and a seriously beautiful view of the ocean and two islands.

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The resort is in Ka’anapali, an area of the island peppered with hotels, resorts and tourist attractions (but still, a lot of beautiful nature). We stayed just a few minutes away from Lahaina, where you can find blocks of shops, restaurants and nightlife (and where there are a lot of boats docked). There was also a Long’s pharmacy (a CVS chain, and one of the cheaper drugstores in town), which I’d recommend you check out for essentials while there.

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Aside from the amazing Polynesian food we sampled at our luau and seafood/grill dinners we ate out… I ate a ton of snow cones (free at our pool), shave ice and these amazing Honolulu cookies…

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They’re basically shortbread feeling, with kind of a macadamia nut (big in Maui) taste… some also flavored like Kona coffee, chocolate and mango… often dipped in chocolate. We bought a bunch to bring back and I’ve learned they have a location in Las Vegas and also can be shipped. That might happen since I’ve eaten almost all of the ones I bought already…

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Since this was our first trip to Maui and I don’t know when we’ll back, we did a few of the planned, guided excursion tours. As I mentioned earlier, one was whale-watching- and it was amazing. We saw a ton of whales since it’s mating season- including a full breach from a gigantic mama humpback whale. It was magical. I keep saying that word but it really was. We also snorkeled near Turtle Town…we saw a turtle and even some dolphins swimming by the boat! I posted a video on my instagram. The third tour we went on…

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…was for the Haleakala sunrise. This is hyped up as one of the best sunrises there is. You have to leave really early to get a spot- we left our hotel at 2:50 in the morning- and it is freezing. Since we went in winter I wore yoga pants, a tunic, a hoodie, a jacket and a blanket and was still cold… but it was worth it as the sun began to rise and the sky was full of a million different amazing colors. There’s no filter on the picture above…that’s how good it was!

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We went to the Feast at Lele luau on our last night in Maui, and there was no more perfect way to wrap up our trip. They had food and dances inspired by Hawaii, Tahiti, Samoa and New Zealand…. and the most amazing drinks and dessert plates. The show was fabulous, and we capped off the night with a walk around the block, popping into galleries.

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Where we began and ended our trip, of course, was the airport. It’s open air, which gets you in the spirit right when you get there. On the day we left, my family’s flight was eight hours before mine and we learned when we got there that you can only check in three hours beforehand…so I spent a lot of quality time reading, drinking iced coffees and just enjoying the outdoor sitting areas they have. It was a peaceful, relaxing way to end the best trip I’ve ever been on!

MAUI: THE ROAD TO HANA

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Most of Maui was magical, but the Road to Hana was incredible. You could spend an unlimited amount of time exploring all of the sights along the road, but we only penciled in a day to do it all. Still, it was beautiful, inspiring and totally worth it.

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We followed the advice in Maui: Revealed, which turned out to be a pretty good guide to the island overall. The tips took us to several waterfalls and gorgeous pools of glittering water– as well as some gorgeous scenic overlooks.

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Because we only had a day to drive the road and we wanted to see as much as we could, we bought tickets to the Garden of Eden– it was totally worth it. The pull-off leads to a botanical garden full of flowers and trees and sights you’d see across Maui, curated all in one place. It may seem like an inorganic way to see everything, but it wasn’t like that at all- it felt like we were walking through a magical rainforest.

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One of my favorite finds: rainbow eucalyptus! This picture makes it look like a painted trunk- but that bark is all-natural. Unbelievable! I also loved the banana, lemon and lime trees, which may be common to some people but were new to me.

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The garden wasn’t built out of nowhere… it was speckled in with existing water, trees, peaks and views. This was one of them. I loved the way they arranged the flowers and trees to frame the outlooks. We spent a couple hours at the garden before heading off to our next destination…

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Wai’anapanapa State Park! This was one of my favorite views in all of Maui. The park has amazing trails, some caves where brave people in wetsuits jump in (I skipped that part…), and a view of the bluest ocean I’ve ever seen. It’s so clean and clear… very little’s been done to commercialize or taint the landscape.

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And one of the most spectacular and unique things I saw on my whole trip: a black sand beach. They’re rare, and beautiful. The sand felt just like the soft white sand near our resort in Ka’anapali, but obviously all the more magical.

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Once we got to Hana, we ate at the Hana Ranch Restaurant- which for whatever reason I can’t find a website for, but it’s really easy to find. The food was fresh and fabulous after a long day of climbing, wading, hiking and exploring. In all, the road was gorgeous, and the experience is totally up to you. I’m so glad I got a chance to see it, and I hope someday I’ll be back!

breaking tradition

December 22, 2014

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Growing up, Christmastime was always my favorite part of the year. My parents did a spectacular job of making the season magical and building traditions for our family. Every year until I graduated from college, I remember waiting at the top of the stairs with my three younger brothers, all dressed in our pajamas, for our dad to get ready with the video camera and for the coffee to finish brewing before we could come down to the family room. I also remember, every year without fail, bundling up in the car with hot cocoa to drive around our neighborhood looking for the best Christmas lights- and, when we got home, my mom beaming at my dad and saying ours were the best.

Since finishing school, I’ve moved around a lot and spent a few Christmases apart from my family. This will be my second in a row- both spent in New Mexico, with frosty mountains swapped in for Chicago’s snowy roads. No doubt I feel a little sadness missing out on the Zucco fun, but I’ll FaceTime with them in the morning and will see them for vacation soon, so it’s been pretty easy to be positive about the situation, and Shaun’s been good about reminding me that I still talk with my family plenty during the season. With all that said… it’s been nice to start building new traditions here.

The way Shaun phrased it to me yesterday was that now, as adults, we’re creating the Christmas magic in ways that “grown-ups” did it for us when we were kids- and it helps that Shaun has a lot of family here, so there are plenty of kids around to create the magic for. We’ve passed on the excitement of chocolate-a-day Advent calendars, explained the Nativity, made gingerbread houses, bought little Nutcrackers (which Shaun’s mini me insists on using for even roasted peanuts), baked cookies and packaged them in little Santa tins, and thrown snowballs with the little bit of snow we got this month.

It’s a bittersweet feeling being on the other side of Christmas in that way. But “grown-up” or not, I still feel the magic, and I get it in different ways now – appreciating decorations in town plazas, snuggling up with cocoa and movies, insisting on corny Christmas carols in the car, and knowing that I have new friends and loved ones to spent the day itself with.

Wishing you and yours a Merry Christmas, with all of the magic the North Pole has to offer. :o)

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