Best of Seattle-Snoqualmie Falls walking tour

If you are taking a trip to Seattle, budget in 2 hours to drive east and see Snoqualmie Falls. It is heralded as the most majestic & largest drop in North America, second only to Niagara Falls. It’s free, it’s easy, and it’s gorgeous. For travelers, the site has another feature–a 4-star rated hotel that sits on the edge of the cliff. The yoga room actually overhangs over the river leading up to the fall, and the spa is a Japanese/northwest theme. This small-ish resort is sought after for weddings and other special events.

So, since I’m a big believe pictures are better than words on this type of blog, I’ll give you the details.

Parking: Free. lot up top by the lodge (unless you valet) and a bridge connects to the falls. You can also park in a lower parking lot if you want to swim in the river. I highly recommend this if you have food or anything else you need to bring in.

Trail quality: superior. crushed gravel and wide. Some steep areas, but kids of most ages can make it up and down no problem.

Time: about 15 minutes down with children, about 20-25 minutes up depending on your level of fitness.

Travel time: about 30 minutes (no traffic) from Seattle -downtown about 40 min (no traffic).

Food: a small deli/ice cream and gift shop is also located on the site, so you have options if you don’t want to go into the lodge.

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A natural swimming area on the river- 5 min from parking

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the view to the west- downstream. perfect for swimming or fishing

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the lodge entrance

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the west face of the lodge–most of the rooms, restaurant and spa all look over the falls and the river

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the path is lined with signs of plants

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this area actual tubes used inside the concrete pipes that carry the water to the city

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the top of the falls, shot from below

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a view from the bottom of the falls

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the area offers a lot of grassy spots to take a rest

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the bridge connecting the upper parking lot- note- bikes aren’t allowed on the actual trail going down to the falls-

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the road from the lower parking lot to the water is paved

 

Fraud, identity theft & what happens in between

One my clients, a large organization specializing in anti-fraud an identity theft, took what was left of my rose colored glasses and smashed them against the wall moments after I walked in the conference room.
identity theft
“Let’s see what we can find on you,” said the CEO, inserting my full name. Completely unprepared was I for the plethora of data available. Address, phone numbers, employment. Some free, some at a cost. A dating site had information on my school history, all my past addresses and suggested names, numbers and addresses of former neighbors, just in case a prospective beau wanted to conduct a search.”There’s more,” he said, his fingers gliding across the keypad. “Watch this.” Within seconds, he pulled every single social community site I’d ever joined, active user or not. Facebook was a given, but many others, invitation and party sites, activity-oriented sites (e.g. book clubs) and more. It took him less than five minutes to construct the outline of my life. No wonder people are freaked about stalking and identity theft.stolen info used“The good news,” he told me, is that simple techniques help avoid, or at least “delay” the prospect of identity theft. Readers already know how a credit card app was stolen from our mailbox, and we had no clue until the FBI showed up at Rog’s office, telling him a nice Honda had been purchased in our name, courtesy of a credit card ring they’d been tracking.

I was happy we could afford a Honda, but I would have been thrilled if we could have afforded a Ferrari. So much for the AMEX black card.

I’m then informed that 6 out of 10 people will be victims of fraud (e.g. theft) of credit cards, social security numbers or some other data that turns into taking money out of an account or spending money without your knowledge or approval. When funds zip out of your checking account, you are hosed. When it’s on a credit card, you’re covered (usually). In the case of our above credit card issue, the thieves had the audacity to come back twice- the first time they came, they stole credit card applications that were sent in the mail (the ironic problem of having good credit). They applied, using information stolen from our other mail, and the credit card company issued the card. The thieves then came back and snagged the physical card. Once in their possession, they went wild.

Now we were somewhat saved by the admission of Citibank. When the card was activated, they should have asked some security questions, like mothers maiden name etc. This was information the thieves didn’t have. However, Citi still activated the card. They actually admitted this (and I’m sure they have gotten better about protocols. No really, I’m sure. Really.) Anyhoo, the theiver (like my word invention) must have been an amazing sales person because Citi did it anyway.

Internal checklist

  • Get your free credit report once a year. I used to do this just for me. Now I do it for Roger, and my daughter’s, since they have social security numbers. “The fastest growing segment for ID theft is kids under 16,” the CEO old me. The parents don’t bother to check the credit records until it’s time to get the child a credit card, about college. By then, the damage is hard, and costly to undo. If you do #2 below, it can be included as a part of the package!
  • Sign up for Lifelock I can say this now that my project with them has concluded. It monitors any tap into a credit reporting agency. Once an agency has been pinged, I get a call, email and/or text that someone has requested my information. Since I am well, me, I know if I have applied for anything or not. Sub note- I have signed up my husband and two kids for this, because I learned that kids are the number one targets for identity theft! Kids receive social security numbers, but rarely need them before getting a drivers license or going to college (unless you give them a credit card).
  • Put a lock on your mailbox. We purchased an industrial size/strength box and this worked, right up until the time the lovely postman decided not to close the lid all the way. Bam. What good is a lock when its wide open? We ultimately opted for a PO Box.

Ultimately, the CEO of LifeLock told me over and over that “it’s not ‘if’, it’s ‘when,’ so just be prepared.” With those wonderful words of comfort, I urge you to be proactive on this one. It’s worth the 10 bucks to save thousands. Oh! I forgot to mention Lifelock covers outstanding fees/what’s been stolen if you are covered on their plan at time of theft. And no, I don’t get kickbacks, referrals fees or even a Christmas card in the mail. I’m just a serious believer in their product, and you know me, when I love something, I write about it.

Creating a Pond. Some How-to’s and What Not’s for water effects

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n my book, the Mother-of-all water effects for a private property is a ponds. I don’t care what size of pond you create, ponds are serious things and not for wusses. (that would be my highly intelligent phrase for the faint-of-heart, or those unwilling to work).

The Illustrious She told me to get out of the water long enough to write a few points

first rocks placed

first rocks placed

of learning for those who may be considering one or more water effects so a) you can get some inspiration, b) save yourself some heartache and money and c) get going tomorrow, on Mother’s Day, 2015, because as my husband says, and I quote, “there is nothing that makes a woman happier than the sound of running water that simultaneously impresses a lot of people.” Hmm. I’ll take the happy part and proudly admit that yes, I love the compliments the water effects provide.

Okay. To business and the backstory. The pond is the third water effect we put on our property, so we had some learning.

First, Rog pissed me off so badly one week that he decided to put a stream under our deck. I legitimately don’t recall what happened. I just remember that as penance, it donned on a full-body yellow rain suit on a Friday night and started working in a

rainstorm. By Sunday, he had it trenched, lined and it was operating the next week. The bid we received was four grand ($4K). He spent less than $200 on materials, and of this, the pump was $150. That stream lasted 8 years, and 2 years ago we had it upgraded by a professional outfit. That meant the lining was removed, the basin and water pump system improved, and the liner was a better quality. Because it was better sealed, the pressure, flow and sound was dramatically altered. The upgraded cost was less than $500.

From this we learned the value of

  1. the catch basin (the point at which the water starts).
  2. the water gauge. this is a white condom-looking thingy that regulates the water flow. It’s hidden under a flat rock. We never had one of these, so in the dry months, the water would evaporate and if we weren’t watching it, or went on a trip, the stream would run dry, thereby almost killing our pump. Get one of these. Important, like air.
  3. the seal. Anyone can purchase thick rubber to seal a stream or pond. The key isn’t so much tacking it down. It’s concreting the edges into primary rocks on corners and bends. Second to this is the concreting the ledges. Every good stream or waterfall has ledges. This is the #1 area where water seeps out, thus killing the entire reason for having a water effect in the first place.

rocks on the bottom of the waterfall

This is foundational information, and was used in creating our second water effect, which was a small pond on the drive-way into our property. This time around, Rog just up and one day, decided to “fix” what the original landscapers installed. What that really means is the landscapers dug a very shallow (18 inch deep) hole, lined it, placed crushed gravel, installed a lame water sprayer inside and then placed plants around the edge. Because the hole was shallow and the ridge too close to the center, much of the water left the pond. It was constantly draining. The small circumference didn’t allow for a water gauge and it wasn’t deep enough (or organic) to sustain plant life. That left us with a stinking, drying, mud heap that did no more than encourage the Red Nile Virus (a passing pseudo plague in the Northwest a few years back that killed animals, and was perpetuated by mosquitos that grew in bogs like the one we created).

headwaters- catch basin

headwaters- catch basin

The fix: Rog ripped it all out, dug down four feet, expanding the size, reinstalled a new liner (the dig had several shelves that are common in small ponds). He used an adjustable water prayer that had adjustable height and width levels. It also had adjustable types of sprays.

The pond

The granddaddy of the property has had three lives, the first was when the original owner expanded a natural pond. He put some rocks on one side, used a lot of bad cement and trenched a single, small hose to the top. It was simple and ugly, but we knew it was going to take a lot of work so we left it for about four years. Until the pump stopped running. For 4 years, the pond sat dormant, without running water. What we did do, however, was keep it stocked with trout that we fed everyday, and eventually grew to be the size of small salmon. No frogs (cuz they ate them all) but fun for catch and release.

 

the water splits around a center island with a palm tree

the water splits around a center island with a palm tree

Phase 2 was when we brought in the landscaping crew 2 years ago to overall the pond area. The ceo (and designer, really, a former marine who graduated in horticulture!) did a lot of work himself and said something I’d pass along to all of you considering a pond.

“Tie the major pieces of the pond into other areas of the property.” In this case, we live in the Northwest, so he suggested a few things.

  1. use native plants, slow-growing pines that are about 5′ tall, thin branches and be placed around the pond, but also in other areas. this is a ‘foundation’ tree. Also very impervious to illness etc.
  2. use large, native rocks. In our case, the blue stones that could be cut from quarries. These were/are enormous. Because we have (stupidly) elected to landscape 2.5 of 5 acres (ah, youth), these stones were quite large.
    1. the sub point here is that he used the back loader to strategically inset rocks into edge of the pond. this had the effect of making the pond look much bigger, although it wasn’t
    2. the elevation of the rocks around the pond. He recommend using these same rocks in open plant areas to tie it together.

Several rocks were placed on one side of the pond and in between, he created a flat area for a “beach,” which isn’t really large, but is wide enough for a rubber boat and 4-6 people.This had the result of providing sitting areas for people by the pond.A note on the materials. Sand wasn’t used, because he said the rain washes the sand away (into the pond) and sand also encourages grass to grow. Use the soft pebbles instead. Soft on the feet. No weeds. No erosion. After 2 years, no deterioration at all. What wasn’t necessary.

A pond liner.

This pond is naturally fed from underground water but that doesn’t mean it always remains full. It has a natural water table that sits at about 3 feet tall, or about waist height. This is way too low, because the center of the pond is nearly 6 feet deep.

Now, if you have a flat area that is in a back year, isn’t on a slope and you don’t have water table issues, you will take the traditional route of digging, putting in a liner, and to the degree you deem necessary, you will need to put down 3 levels of rocks. Big ones to keep the liner in place (in strategic locations), then what is commonly referred to as ‘river rock’ to for weight, (and to keep the liner from bubbling up) and then finally, you will put down heavy sand. This seeps into all the cracks and crevices, and is the basis for supporting the plant life you will eventually grow. Remember that the goal of any pond, no matter how small or large, is a self-sustaining ecosystem. Unless you do this properly, you will just have a big mud-bog, or a pretty water effect that is dead.

In our case, we actually drained the pond (we transferred the dozen pre-historic-size trout to our hot tub, which we had also drained and put in fresh water, because we were assured it would be a one day project and the animals would live). It took two huge sump-pumps but we flushed thousands of gallons of water over the edge and down the hill. The landscapers were rushing to put down the liner, place the rocks etc, and after a week, realized it was an exercise in futility.

They had failed to run the numbers—velocity of the underground water, the force of the water table, and the simple fact that nature would not tolerate a condom on its tummy. No matter what they did, they could not control the bubbling of the rubber (which we wanted to prevent water evaporating in the summer). After a week, the trout weren’t happy, and so we decided it was time for them to meet their maker, and they served as dinner for some of the workers.

Round two of this experiment then was to work with what we had. In other words, we installed a hose, ran it to the center and just accepted the fact that in the summer months, we would fill the pond to the level we desired. Conversely, in the winter months, when the Northwest Monsoons began, we’d end up taking our chances that the darn thing didn’t overflow.

The process

  1. Removing existing structure. That was the ripping out of the original waterfall
  2. Creating a ‘head basin’ nearly to our fence line. This was intended to replicate the headwaters of a waterfall. Nearby is the underground pump.
  3. Three-level waterfall that split in the center. This was done to provide an interesting look, but also increase the flow and sound.
  4. Large stones (stones are supposed to be bigger than rocks- ha), around the property and then around the pond. This of course meant that our lawns were completely destroyed by the loader, and we just realized it would take a few months to grow back. It was worth it.
  5. The trench for the intake valve that in near the side of the pond, trenched up alongside the waterfall, and then into the pump at the top.
  6. Electric. This was accessed by the electric that operates the gate, and we already had the property outfitted with some power. However, we had to upgrade the power, and at the same time, we bit the bullet and laid underground wiring for the lights on the path. Since everything was all tore-up, it was the best option.

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The timeline

After that, the process went super fast. The large rocks were in place in 2 days. The waterfall itself was trenched and layed out also in about 2 days (I was taking pictures). The only delay was when they had to use the concrete. This was essential (oh, they laid the ultra-thick rubber underneath of course). The concrete needed 2 days to dry. (don’t forget the power that must be installed before its complete. We had the spotlights placed in the center of the waterfall, and then on certain features to highlight the waterfall and basin. On day 6, the pump was running and the waterfall tested. The crew spent several days testing the waterfall to make sure it had no leaking. Once this was done, then it was time to landscape with the plants.

The money

I know you are wanting to get an idea of what this cost, but it’s rather tough, because we had other things done. However, our landscaper “guestimated” that the pond part would normally be “about $20,000.” Now, I know from the cost of the rocks (1-2K) and the labor (a week) they probably make $10K on the pond part. Perhaps a little less if you subtract all the trees and plants. However, we have other landscaper/contractor friends, and every last one of them said that they’d have charged $60k for the pond alone.

Talk about getting scalped (them, not us).

the final result

the final result

Finding the right person

Now, I also have to give you another bit of advice. When I was first bidding this project, I stopped in at 4 places. Three of the four used the same process. 1. Create “the plan,” for 1-2 thousand. 2. Scope the project (another thousand). 3. Buy the materials (flat fee, they don’t show you the cost). 4. Half up front, then pay the rest. 5. The rest when its done.

I had no problem with steps 3-5. It was the 1, 2 and 3 that got to me. Remember, I come from a business background. That means I appreciate scope of work, and I appreciate the need to pay. What I don’t like is lack of transparency. I want to see what’s being spent and I didn’t like the notion of playing for a plan when they had no responsibility for implementation.

So through blind luck, I went to a nursery, starting talking with a “billy-bob” type of guy who happened to be the owner of the place. I tell him my plight. He tells me, through somewhat of a half-whistle that emerged from the gape in his two front teeth, that “the fella I need to speak with is the person standing over there.” The man happens to be the 6’4 Marine I mentioned in the beginning of this novel-like blog.

Here is HIS process. 1) assess the area. 2) listen to his vision. 3) trust him. 4) pay him as he goes. If we don’t like the work, he stops. If we do, we keep paying.

Boy, was it nice. (by the way, after graduating, he trained under the company that puts in the Four Seasons waterfalls, so when people joke that we have a “Four Seasons-type pond” they have no idea they are actually right!).

Transparency

We saw the costs for the plants. We agreed to a 10% mark-up with the contractor for his time and effort, knowing that he was purchasing at wholesale and we were getting a great deal.

Okay. That’s the end of this blog. Leave me comments or questions and I’ll try and delve into more details as asked for by readers.

 

Need an Upper? Everybody does

Before you throw in the figurative or literal towel on your relationship, try this. Start the day by recalling as many items that fall in to the category of grateful. ‘What’s the point’ you ask, of reciting items of gratitude. Let me tell you. It begets a certain amount of appreciation. Here’s how my list went..I am grateful:

  • I have a home (the recent Occupy Seattle-whatever-space-is-available protests depict folks living in tents)
  • It has clean toilet seats (did you see today’s data of public toilet seats? Mom always did know best)
  • My kids are healthy

Clean fannies and a roof aside, I was still a grump. I kept going, thinking about a story from a few years ago.

would you do this?

would you do this?

.
  • I was able to have healthy children and live. (see photo and caption)
  • We weren’t robbed a few months back like our neighbor four doors down. Side note-Our quiet little row of 16 homes on a hill is nary a stones throw from the local Sherriff’s office. Of course, had they tried to pry open the gate,  Rog was home alone, w/our pitpull and the guns were loaded (interestingly I’d just asked him to clean them yesterday). I feel badly for our neighbors, who had their door busted open and every bit of portable goods, including cash and jewelry, were taken. 45 yrs of acquired goods gone. This is potentially the only upside of our home with a street view–it makes it a bit harder for theives trying to jump the fence (their home was down a curved road and completely out of view from the street.
  • We haven’t had a natural disaster, drought or a heat wave, thereby giving us enough water and electricity.
  • The large rock that rolled down from our pond didn’t hit our driveway (whew)

I could go on, (and I did, for about another five minutes). It didn’t take long for me to raise my thick head out of the ground, have a whole new perspective and say ‘wow, I really am very, very blessed.’ All in under five minutes. The grey on my day turned to a much nicer, warmer color.

My mom refers to incidences where we are saved from irritations large and small as life’s tender mercies. The cynic in me refers to them as ‘near-misses.’ Whatever you call them, and whatever the impetus for the exercise, try it. Grey days are overrated.

Dude, Where’s my Gun?

“It’s time you let it go,” said my husband, his voice conveying the weary, “I’m-dreading-this-subject” tone that he uses when referring to old baby stuff. Our daughter has been out of the crib since she strattled the wooden prison wall and let herself down. It had been four years. It was time.Instead of arguing, I relented, posting the crib and dresser to Craigslist, the last bastion of all the was once free on the Internet. After reading through the new caveats, warnings and bold, red labels that practically screamed “you may get assaulted, robbed or otherwise taking your life in to your own hands,” I wrote out a great description, uploaded the pictures and called it a day. (have you seen that cops are now referring to Craigslist as “robbery-by-appointment?” egads).Within minutes I was received queries about the French-made set that I can’t pronounce, and for good reason. We paid $3,200 a few years ago, and I listed the set for $450.

“You are inviting a mugger,” Rog pronounced. Bah, I scoffed. We’ve sold a refrigerator to a nice couple, a washer and dryer and other major appliances. Why not a crib set?

“It’s not like a diamond,” I reminded him, referring to the sad incident that resulted in a robbery and death. “Don’t worry.” I told him. How many Bonnie and Clyde’s are out there, ready to pull out the shotguns if we don’t throw in a hamper?

It only takes a few hours for the serious buyers to identify themselves. They are all men. Men don’t negotiate when it comes to baby items. They buy.

“It’s first come first buy,” I wrote back, and sure enough, just as the sun was setting, a youngish couple in their mid twenties (we guessed) drive up in their pick-up. It takes about five minutes for them to inspect, fall in love, and offer us the money. We tell them to wait until its all loaded up on their pickup, that still has the temporary licenses.

They were definitely nesting. Rog and I share a look. Ahh, a new family. Pretty soon, we have thrown in an entire French-country bedding set, the mattress, a brandnew, never-been-used, Graco portable bed, a booster seat, and just about every other item that was new or brandnew we saw and could fit in their truck.

After they leave (I’ll skip over the part where their yelping, mini-dog locked the doors, the man had both sets of keys in the car, we had to get a locksmith (Rog wouldn’t allow him to break a window) and then helped pay the $300 highway robbery price of the locksmith), I go upstairs.

“Rog, what is the safe doing open?” I’d opened the door to retrieve something from this location, where the safe is hidden among other things, but it’s an electronic lock, the lid was open and the pocket empty.

He walks in to the closet and brings back the gun. I freak.

“Are you crazy?” I nearly shout, “It’s loaded and you had it in there?” He waves down my temper, telling me it was on a top shelf, and he’d taken it out ‘just in case.’

“I needed it handy,” he explained calmly, “just in case we had a crazy couple.”

I shook my head. For as smart as Rog is, he was being a complete moron.

“If that was going to happen, the altercation would have been outside, you and he would have wrassled, and then I’d go running for the gun, only to find it gone. What was I going to do if I needed it? Say, Dude, where’s my gun? right in the middle of an assault?” I think I mumbled the word idiot under my breath, but I’ll never tell.

He recognized the slight error in judgment, returned the gun to its rightful place and smiled.

“We didn’t need it anyway.”

Thankfully. It’s like all those gun stories you hear about. When you have it, you don’t need it, and when you don’t need it, you have it.

Perfect Wedding Gift

Creative freedom is the ability to move from a memorandum for financing a movie to the right gift for a bride to be with the tapping of a thumb. Believe you me, my eyes glaze over.
It’s spring. It’s time for marriage and this spawns a whole lot of thought about gift giving. While I was at Macy’s buying mom a new set of placemats,  waiting for the salesclerk to round up the napkins, I roamed the crystal section. Lo and behold, I found an item I didn’t have, and never knew existed! Yes, friends, this can happen at 42. Keep the faith.

Cat Ring Holders, Set of 3
great for the 8 yr old

Ring holders. Sure, I’d seen the tacky, quasi-jewelry ring holders, usually in the form of a Bhudda or something, or the ones sold at the joints where piercings can be had for eight bucks. I’d also seen little holders that look like soap dishes for munchkins than an actual elegant ring holder. The very worst ring holders are oddly shaped cat ring holders, but I suppose these are fine for an eight year old.

 

Waterford Round Ring Holder
The adult version that
now sits by my kitchen sink

No, I’m talking a Waterford crystal ring holder, that came in two versions at Macy’s. The heart-shaped and the round version.

To show what a complete idiot I’ve been all these years, I actually asked the salesperson what it was. She looked me over head to toe, as though trying to determine if I was kidding her or not. No, I said, pre-empting the thought. I really had no idea what it was for. When she told me, it was with the undiluted pity of someone who had more money than sense. Well, I guess when I got married, I was gunning for the Quisinart, not the ring holder.

“Where do you put it?” I asked, thinking it redundant with a jewelry box. Once again, she looked at me askance. “By the sink, or the dishwasher or the breadboard. Any where you take the ring off.”

Well, there it was. My problem is I never take my ring(s) off unless I’m in a cooking frenzy. Doesn’t matter what rings I’m wearing. I’m one of those women, so paranoid of losing my jewelry, that I’ll do anything with them on, include painting and making cookies. I’ll extract them off my hand for dough, but that’s about it. No wonder they look dirty and grimy half the time.

Then I got to thinking about it. I’d spend a lot less money on jewelry cleaner if I took my rings off.

“I’ll take both,” I said, disappointed when she told me only the round version was available. Then she looked around her, perhaps to see if any other women were about. “I like it better anyway. It’s less femmy.” Spoken like a strong woman. No sense in shouting love and kisses with a heart-shaped ring holder by the sink.

When Rog returned from his hockey tournament, he was in the kitchen not five minutes when he had to wash his hands. “What’s that?” he said, picking the thing up. “A ring holder,” I responded, as though I’d always been in possession of the knowledge. I refrained from telling him it was $65.00 at Macy’s, and 20 bucks cheaper through Amazon (why didn’t I write this blog before I purchased. Will I never learn??).

“Nice,” he said, putting the thing down and wiping his hands. “Great for a wedding gift.” Ahh. But can still work as an anniversary, birthday or Valentine’s Day gift. (or Mother’s Day).

Mind and body hook-ups, just in time for Mother’s Day

It’s fascinating to read how many people tie a healthy heart rate to an active, healthy libido. Am I the only person who doesn’t get this? I have never, in my Swedish-I-never-say-no to that, felt more interested in getting Olivia-Newton-John when I exercise a lot. In fact, when I over exercise, you know what I want? Sleep.

I will give the theory one point of merit, and that has to do with being seen sans clothes. Or, as my husband says, when I do exercise, my skin tone changes so dramatically that my personality is different. He doesn’t need to tell me. I feel it. I’m more confident and frankly a loss less encumbered by the confines of clothing when I feel tight in the muscle, not in my pants. Maybe it’s the running around with a bit of nakidity (that would be my own Don-King-ism), singing “I’m a free-bird.” Not sure.
Here are a few of my 20 minute tips to get your groove on, your clothes gone and your inner American Idol going for the Free Bird tune.
When watching TV: lie on either side and crank out 50 leg lifts, inner and outer thighs. It will knock off and out that yucky skin and get you into skinny jeans (even men). (quick workout refresher)
Get on the elliptical: Read 20 minutes of your favorite magazine. It’s approx 2 miles if you are working hard. Great for lifting up the butt. Less painful than P90X.
Take the stairs: up and down at the office, at the dentists appt. Think about it as an elliptical replacement. I think it’s less about burning calories that lifting up the butt and getting cellulite off the back of the legs.
Don’t forget the ballet butt-ups. A perfect, 200 second experience with the devil, but in a good way. What’s @3 minutes out of your life anyway?
Go for some yoga. It stretches the inner and under arm flabs, and as we know, batwings are about as attractive as the turkey-gobble. But whatever you do, do NOT go on Sundays or Mondays. Know why? The men–the professional athletes that tend to live around my area, hit the yoga on Mon after a weekend of getting beat up and drinking. Beyond stretching, yoga rids the body of toxins, esp the hot yoga, which is my choice. Know what that means? All the badness that has been internalized must now get out of the body. gerr-roose. Stinky. Smelly. Farty. It’s disgustingly bad. If you must go, go in the morning. Your sensibilities will thank you.
With Mother’s Day coming up, give your man the body he deserves (and by the way, you do to). You’ve got a potential to tighten up, slim down or at least get mentally confident that this V-Day experience will be better than in years past. I have faith that you too, can be a ‘free bird.’

Be like Bey: Smart travel tips to see the world like a celeb w/out the premium

It’s Friday. The day that Jupiter Communications reports is the least productive day of the week (preceded only by Wednesday afternoons between 1-3 Eastern Standard Time). Apparently, more than a few of you are jacking around, reading blogs like this one, hoping to be entertained until the clock winds down and you can get the hey out of there and start the weekend.

So I am here to fulfill on that promise of both time wasting while educating you on how to travel like a superstar without paying the premium. The person I love to reference is Beyonce, she of the other half of Jay-Z, and while not a close personal friend, is oft-referenced as going on yachts, renting villas and generally speaking, traveling like the multi-hundred millionairess that she is. I then discovered (thanks to my honcho entertainment friends) that she likes a deal, particularly whe

travel like Bey

travel like Bey

n it comes to travel. Wouldn’t ‘cha know, we both follow some general guidelines when it comes to travel savings. Pre-hundred millionaire status, she flew on commercial airlines, and that’s one part of two primary travel savings: Airfare and hotel. I’m going to focus on the airfare part in this blog. I am actually on deadline myself and only have so much time before my weekend starts:-

Ok. First things first. 3 things to know.

1. Avoid primary airports, particularly on coast-to-coast travel or overseas. According to AFAR Magazine (for exotic, adventurous traveling-which I read in the bathtub and dog-tag all the pages), the four most expensive European cities to fly direct are London, Paris, Rome and Zurich. There are others (like Helsinki) but really, what American wakes up and says, ‘I’m going to Helsinki for my summer vaca).

food on plane

course 2 of 5 on the plane

Tip: instead of flying to Zurich (direct), last summer we booked our connection throu gh Frankfurt. Yes, we had to walk half a mile, but the pastries were awesome, the airport stocked with luxury brands and we got to explore the newest BMW model that wouldn’t hit the shores of the US for another 9 months. Result: saved us nearly $500 per ticket. Extra time- 3 hours. Deal.

2. Go secondary carriers. This doesn’t mean flying bit bats or old equipment. What I’m really saying is let go the snobby, ego part that wants the bragging rights of saying “I flew first class on Virgin into London.” When someone says that to me, you know what I think? “So you spent $10K on a ticket instead of $2,500 on flying Condor, thereby saving thousands?” Yeah, that was harsh, but we seriously have friends-using that term loosely- who love to say that kind of **** and we pleasantly smile and think they aren’t going to be the ones we ask to manage our money.

Tip: Skip the primary carriers– like Virgin or Luftansa for transatlantic and go with Condor. What that means is you pay a whole lot less for what is essentially a first-class experience. (Condor has business, then three levels of economy- so business is first by default). If you are dead set on your own suite, and money is no object, really, spend the $25K and go Emirates. If you have that kind of cocondor taking offin, why not? (don’t forget you get a chauffer when flying biz or 1st on Emirates. That’s got to be worth an ego stroke or two). Otherwise, I can think of seven thousand five hundred reasons where I’d rather spend my money.

3. Fly off-times. For some reason, this is the hardest for people to come to terms with. They want to work most of the week, leave on a Thursday or Friday, and then return for the Monday to begin work again. The fact is that better deals are usually to be had flying during the middle of the week. To this, I’d add that you should avoid US holiday travel- particularly prior. Last summer for example, we are went to Europe, flew Condor into Frankfurt with a connection to Zurich, left mid-week returned the day after the fourth of July. That meant we saved about $7K on airfare. Business was first class service and accomodations (granted, it wasn’t the Emirates or Lufsthansa experience) but again, I took some of that money and spent it elsewhere. The other part I “saved,” I just kept in the bank. Had we returned just prior to the 4th, the cost went up $500 per ticket.

Web sites to check out:

  • The 25 top cheapest airports to fly into.
  • Yapta.com is awesome because it collects the information from a flight of your choice, sends you an update when the cost fluctuates. It will also send you an e-mail alert when it’s a good time to buy and track the fare after you book, right up until the day of departure. If the fare should drop after you pay for your ticket, you can use Yapta’s information to get a refund from the airline for the difference.
  • sign up for lists.smarttraveler.com. This ensures you get a non-stop stream of great deals from cruises to flights and accommodations.

 

Two months already

My readers know that when I go dark (e.g don’t blog), life is brutal. Ironically, good things can actually serve like lights in the midst of a blackout; little points on the horizon that reminds me life exists outside my own microcosm of a universe. So since the Illustrious She and my cousin Nance have both now given me swift kicks in my be-hind, I’ll write a few notes on the last 60 days.

In 2 months:

1. I’ve had a relationship enema. I’ll blog at some point about the true-isms of finding renewed peace, energy, love and sex with your spouse/partner, but anyone in a relationship knows that those things don’t come without massive emotional constipation, tears, fury and the ultimate decision made famous by The Clash, Should I Stay or Should I Go. Children of the 80’s know that to stay means trouble to go means double. Tip. If you wake up and state 5 great things about your life, family, your partner, the day goes a little better, the sun seems a little brighter, and then a day passes, then its a week, then its a month. Then it’s a way of being. Do clouds come? Oh yeah. Thunderstorms? of course. But the lightening hurts a little less (or doesn’t make a direct hit).

2. Physical pain brings enlightenment. Why is it that God chooses to divert my angst and simultaneously humble me through physical travails? The day after I returned from Mexico last wk w/the family, I crushed the bones in my left hand. Who does this happen to? (me) Why? (clearly, I need it). Last wk I read in the Times a journalist who espoused that God doesn’t love the wealthy more and yet doesn’t love those who suffer any less. We are responsible for our own success, happiness and injuries. Ok. Then I’m an idiot for pulling out weeds in our pond, stepping on a rock, slipping and in an attempt not to get freezing water inside my chest-high waders, I thrusted my hand forward, thereby hitting another set of rocks and cracking my hand. I’m all about self-love now. Good thing I’m right handed.

3. Family vacations are great for kids and tiring for parents. 6 wks ago went to Puerto Vallarta with Rog. It was relaxing, got lots of time at the gym, and went to clubs/shows every night. I slept in. It was glorious. I thought-my kids will love this. For spring break, we went back down. It wasn’t relaxing. I spent zero time at the gym, but we hit shows every night (my kids are like that). It wasn’t relaxing. What it was however, was family-unit building, wherein the girls played, swam, made crafts, waterslided-their-hearts-out, and ate food from 10-10, all amongst mostly Mexican nationals, which had a side effect of improving their Spanish. The nt before we returned, daughter #2 got an earache, thus I was up all night, holding, comforting and administering Menthal (a natural earache healer I got at the local Pharmacia), fervently praying she’d be well enough to go on the plane. I came home needing a vacation.

GerdesKomnaty

Chambers in Poland. to be releaed May 2015

4. Authoring is no longer a hobby. Two days ago I approved the cover for Chambers in Poland. The book comes out next month. This is four countries now, and while I’m happy about it, honestly, I still feel like a complete loser. The largest publishers in 3 foreign countries have taken on this book, but no major US publisher (they are apparently still pissed that I gave the film rights away thereby cutting them out of the deal). I’m like David Haselhoff without the chest hair. I’m really big in countries where I don’t speak the language. In the interim, 2 books in my adult fiction line are almost done, and I’m constantly battling with Rog who is convinced I’m having mental affairs with the men I write about (some who I kill off, others who are completely hot. I can hear my mother-in-law laughing about the truth of this). Finally, in exasperation, I retort “Right, and I’m the lead girl in all my books, like just a schizophrenic-Sybil-like person. Gah!” (Us intelligent author-types can say that).

5. Billionaires like my food. I’ve been telling a particular person “No” to a project for some time. Said person flies west to call on me (sounds very 1800’s does it not?) brings spouse to my home, gives us amazing host/hostess gifts (exotic food and jewelry). I make food my family will eat and not offend my guests sensibilities (which I’ll detail in another blog, along with the recipes) and in the end, after 4 hours, I still say no. We all ended friends (they particularly liked my crab cakes and chocolate mousse). Said billionaire came back later and said-“I’m not interested in anyone else. I’ll wait for your schedule.” In my ever eloquent way, I said to myself, Holy crap. And this is why this person has billions. Perseverance. Patience, and the ability to wear others down.

Beyond these uber-level highlights:

zeolite

comes in either capsule or liquid form. use 2x a day on an empty stomach. unreal results in 30 days but can see results in 2 wks

1. I’ve proven that the Omica brand Super Zlite Zeriolite capsules really do improve hair quality and thickness (it has ash, which strips the body of metals, which in turn increase hair and nail growth).

2. I desperately miss my chocolate ice cream. I want it. I can’t have it. I think about it all the time. Fondly. I daydream about it. Yes. I’m that pathetic.

3. I truly enjoy my readers from Russia (who, might I add, have great taste in watches and sportscars?) Who cares if the president is off his rocker? So is ours.

4. I’ve discovered Mulco Swiss watches. (My readers know that watches to me are like crack. I can’t get enough. And as my husband points out, crack is a lot cheaper, but at least this way, I have my teeth).

chumlee for president

my favorite episode in recent months is where Chumlee makes a coin. mighty fine looking president

5. I fear for Comedy Central.Can they lose any more good hosts (actually, are any left?) and finally, What. In. The. World. has happened to my favorite people of Pawn Stars? The shows success has made what was great complete crap, esp Rick. He’s now stilted and boring. Make Chumlee and Big Hoss the leads, please. And BTW. the last time I was in Vegas, I saw “the Old Man” driving a stinking Bentley! Show up to the actual store and learn that he and Rick are never actually there. Just come in on “show times.” Ugh. I hate it when something goes from pure to completely manufactured.

6. Bowing to publisher-pressure, I’m now on Instagram under my own name, sarahjgerdes. I haven’t really figured it all out- as in, what’s interesting and what’s not. My publishers want me to revert everything back to my blog, and I’m not interested in posting what I ate for breakfast. I’ll probably offend as many people as I entertain, but then, that’s me. (I do have to say I like following Ducatistas and Porsche and airplanes. very cool images and satisfies my penchant for  machines and speed). I do have to say I wish I knew the last names of people I’ve met. I’d follow them and keep tabs but alas, I’m so caught up in the person I don’t get it. sigh.

7. Vancouver BC was fun, esp given that we found a new place to stay for the hockey tournaments. It spurned me into becoming a travel reviewer, because the place we stayed at got such bad reviews, I had to dispute it. Thus, now you can find me in Trip Advisor under Sarah G. (I know. You can’t get quite enough of me, but this is solely reviews of places, nothing more).

Shamans, gambling and throwing bad energy

Last winter, I’m on the massage therapists’ table, and the big, bespectacled man says, “I’m feeling something like grief…right here,” as he touches a part of my foot. He traces “a line of grief” he says, and asks me if something has happeShaman picned but quickly says I don’t have to tell him anything, only noting “that it’s rising to the surface, so that indicates it’s been in the last few months and you have been suppressing it.” Shocker. Not me.

At that point in my life, I’d only had one item of grief to note, and it was my dog dying (cue sad country song as you dig deep and try to empathize). For those without dogs or children, think about it as the closest living being that you have spent more time with than anyone save yourself, and if you like yourself even a little, you might get the picture. In any case, I feel rather stupid, but I tell him my dog. This begat silence as he worked my body “Through the pain,” as he called it, which meant that I was emitting physical and emotional pain for the rest of the session. It hurt. It was exhausting, but I felt like a million bucks when I left.

As a part of this experience, I asked how he knew, because this wasn’t the normal massage-therapist “I felt something in the muscles,” experience. “I’m an energy worker,” he answered. My response was more than an understanding. I immediately guessed he’d been working with Shamans, or those that in the US, are typically of Native American descent, but can be from anywhere in the world or any race etc. Over the course of his life, he’d trained himself to be more receptive to the energy forces around him. He revealed he could tell something was up the moment I entered the room (by something is up, he meant that he knew I ‘was bottling negative energy and a lot of pain).

Fast forward a few months, I have a conversation with Susan, a woman of Native American descent who is in fact, a Shaman. From her early years, she could see and speak to spirits on the other side (they don’t call them spirits, they are called ‘ancestors,’ for they came before her, not those who are yet to come). We got to talking about my latest book and I was asking her if some individuals who are gifted in the area of energy use their talents for evil.

“All the time, unfortunately,” she answered, catching me by surprise. She then told me of a man who, like she, was born with natural gifts. Apparently it is rare that a male can retain these gifts as they age, because ego and passion get in the way- and when it does, the energy talents are used for self-benefit. Me being me, I ask- “Like what can/did he do?” She told me that as a youth, he would throw bad energy on his classmates to ensure they failed a test and he got better scores (by this time, apparently the elders were onto him and had to watch his every move). He would take a bet and then throw energy on two guys who were friends but suddenly get into a fight and he could win a bet. This graduated into full on stealing (a passerby would grab a woman’s handbag out of the blue and then drop it a block later), and this guy would pick it up. She kept detailing a life of progressive crime that eventually landed him in jail, and I was fascinated and appalled.

“How can anyone protect themselves?” I wondered. She basically said that a person has to have a strong internal core: immovable values and a pure mind, not one that is easily swayed by outside influences, and generally good.

“If a person has a persuasion to live life on the line, or can be moved to tell a white lie now and then, or realize that an item at the store wasn’t paid for and they don’t go back, that alone is the crack in the exterior. It makes then vulnerable.”

I’ve since used this general theme in my latest book (the time/travel action adventure series), but I think about it often. “Just a crack” is all it takes, but doesn’t that apply to so many things. Give me a bite of chocolate and I want the whole candy bar. Give me a kiss and I’ll take the whole body. So many temptations, so much discipline required.

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