Seven Year Blog Anniversary and My Move to Boulder

It seems as if I’ve blinked, and seven years later here we are. Space and time is relative, yet so concrete when you step back from the trek up the mountain, and look at how far you’ve come; how high you’ve climbed.

Ironically, my move to Boulder coincided with my launch of this blog in August 2008.

You can find my first blog post when I moved to Boulder here. It was short and simple. I had no idea what was in store for me.

I had no job, no friends here, and nowhere to live. But deep in my gut, I knew I had landed where I needed to be.

Where I wanted to be.

I touted picking your place, and letting the rest fall into place over the years, and although it’s an idealist viewpoint it has held true for me.

Starting this blog – although it has been rather dormant the last few years – is one of the best things I’ve ever done. It launched my career, it’s how I found my first job, many friends and wonderful, meaningful relationships in my life, encouraged me to start Grace(full) Plate and my food writing, and ultimately, how I committed to keep writing year-after-year.

For that, I’ll always be thankful.

I think I had a Blackberry phone when I moved to Boulder, so the photo resolution isn’t strong, but I found this photo below which my mom took (my trusty side-kick) as I was actually driving West, with my car packed with everyone I owned, to make the move to Boulder.

Grace moves to Boulder 2008

I’m big into symbolism, and in general, feel very grateful for my time here. I’ve grown to love Colorado, and still feel like there are so many places and escapes to explore in this wonderful, colorful state. I think in some capacity, writing and blogging will always be a part of me. Even if I’m not here all the time, I purposefully keep the hosting and website up because it’s engrained into who I am. It has made me who I am.

So for now, here it stays.

I appreciate everyone who has been along for the journey, along the entire way and can’t wait for what it will be like even in one year from now.

Thanks Colorado for all you’ve given me.

I love your land and earth so deeply.

Posted in Blogging, Boulder, Change | 4 Comments

Magic Lessons with Elizabeth Gilbert

“What’s worth doing, even if I fail?”

This is the question Elizabeth Gilbert asks Brene Brown, on her latest Magic Lessons podcast.

These two women in a podcast together create enough inspiration for me, but the focus in this podcast is around uncovering “big strong magic” and discussing how essential creativity is for healthy living.

Although the entire 35 minutes are incredibly worth hearing, one of my favorite moment Brown shares in the podcast is this statement:

“I don’t leap for the landing, I leap for the experience in the air. Because you can’t predict the landing.”

I’m not sure what it is, but seasonal changes always invoke a feeling like I too, shed my skin. As the first day of Fall begins next week (September 23rd to be exact) I was reminded of the importance for us to do what really makes us feel alive, and to not hold onto the outcome or result so much.

I encourage you to listen to the podcast. I hope it inspires you today.

Posted in Honesty, Inspiration | 2 Comments

An incredible customer experience: Southwest

Since 2011, I’ve come to love flying Southwest Airlines because of the good fares, their friendliness and lack of stuffiness, no hidden fees, and their ease of changing flights. Things change at a drop of the hat here at work when traveling to see customers, and the flexibility they offer is helpful. Most of our customer success team flies Southwest, and most of us also rock the Southwest credit card (including myself).

This year as I’ve moved away from “owning” customers myself, I’ve traveled a little less than other years because of my Director of Operations role for our growing Customer Success team. I still travel to see customers and travel for fun (my TripIt tells me 21 flights/trips this year, it’s still a good amount), but it lessened this year which is probably good for my sanity.

Traveling with TSA-Pre and A-list makes for a traveling baseline, you don’t want to be without. I noticed I was shy a few points of achieving A-list this year and ensuring it rolls into 2016.

I spoke with someone at Southwest and upgraded one of my flights for a bit more, that would get me right to where I need to be. Ironically, I had two flights to see customers in December that helped ensure this accolade.

Then Denver had a snowstorm this week. My flight to the East coast was canceled. The Denver airport had almost 500 canceled flights on Wednesday.

We tried rescheduling but not everyone on my team could make it with the short time constraint we needed to arrive by, or with other airline options, the same day cost was astronomical. I hunkered down in the snow at home and we made the internal adjustments and onsite rearrangements that sometimes only weather can derail.

Then I realized, I’m 200 points shy of A-list without that flight!

And the only other way to get there, is to TAKE a flight before the end of the year OR purchase more points, which the lowest I could purchase were 2500, well above what I wanted and a hefty price. With the holidays next week and a (road trip) home for it, the flight wasn’t going to happen either.

In one last attempt, I took to Twitter. I tweeted to @SouthwestAir, they’ve always been incredibly responsive and I was curious if there were an option to purchase less points (I was willing to!) or if they had any ideas.

In less than an hour I had a response from Manuel.

I explained the situation and asked if they had any ideas. Here’s his DM response:

Screen Shot 2015-12-16 at 11.23.40 AM

I went back to work while the snow fell outside. I was already impressed at their response.

Then, in the completely timely fashion he promised, Manuel followed up with the greatest news below:

Screen Shot 2015-12-15 at 6.11.58 PM


I was floored.

I’m in the business of client services, retaining customers, ensuring their happiness, and going above and beyond. I know it isn’t easy. I also know as a consumer and frequent traveler, there’s a lot of crappy service out there in general, so although my standards are high I’m usually underwhelmed.

I’m also aware that Southwest get hundreds and hundreds of tweets a day on Twitter alone. There’s a lot of juggling happening.

Manuel took the initiative, got creative with my unique request, found the right people in the timeframe he said he would, and probably saw that I have been a consistent customer, spent a lot of money with them, and wanted to continue to do so with A-list as I was just 200 points away.

This is what differentiates good from great.

I was happy with Southwest before, but I am a loyalist for life now.

I didn’t expect this response, so they truly delighted and wowed me. Sometimes little adjustments on the side of the brand can mean the world to the customer, and those that know the difference between those “adjustments” make the real impact. I know for sure I won’t forget this. I’m telling everyone I know, and I can’t thank Manuel and the Southwest team enough.

Posted in Customer Service | 1 Comment

The Efficient Traveler

I love to travel. I travel for work, and I’ve always lived far from home, so a plane ride away to friends and family is common. I’m big on experiential gifts, so I would way rather have an experience or trip booked than receiving a physical item. I love to see the world, and the adventure that awaits is so exciting.


Last year, with the help of my Southwest credit card and my (too) frequent work travel, I landed A-list premiere status. Miami Heat I was delighted at my early boarding, and premiere lines I would pop into at airports. Status, finally. Then I shortly realized, this wasn’t enough.

I needed TSA Pre and Global Entry. The travelers apex.

And I’m happy to say, now I have all three. Traveling is much more of a breeze, and besides things being more efficient you can find improved quality of life. I don’t have to get to the airports as early and I don’t deal with the other traveler shenanigans that totally get on your nerves.

That said, I’ve been preaching the good word about TSA Pre. I have friends that travel a good amount, and still don’t have it or don’t realize that it’s not that difficult to obtain.

Here’s what you need to know.

TSA Pre:

  • What is it? TSA Pre allows “low-risk travelers to experience expedited, more efficient security screening at participating U.S.
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  • airport checkpoints for domestic and international travel.” You do have to be a U.S. citizen and not been convicted of certain crimes to apply. Here are more details on their eligibility requirements.

  • How much does it cost? Here’s the kicker. It’s only $85 and it’s valid for five years! This in itself, is worth everything. cheap jordans uk What a price. If you travel even just four to five times a year, I think it’s worth it.
  • What’s the application center interview like? Mine was five minutes, I was approved, and given a known traveler number in the mail 2-3 weeks after my visit. It was official, but efficient (the meeting) and they actually didn’t even look at all the paperwork I brought.

Now, I hop right into the TSA Pre line at every airport. I never take off my shoes, I don’t have to remove my laptop or liquids, and I’m typically through security in five minutes tops. zonnebril ray ban heren When I travel with others who don’t have it, it might shave up to 20-35 minutes off your wait time. Breezy.

Global Entry:

  • What is it? Global Entry is a U.S. Customs and Border Protection program that allows expedited cleared for pre-approved, low risk travelers, upon arrival in the United States. There are essentially automated kisoks at select airports, and you head to baggage claim and exit. Read: If you travel internationally, why not.
  • How much does it cost? The cost is $100, and I actually went with Global Entry because in addition to getting this I also got TSA pre bundled in. Not too much more, but two benefits for that length of time.
  • What are the required documents for Global Entry? Here is how you apply.
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  • The process was the same as TSA pre essentially.

So hit the trails. adidas yeezy boost 350 hombre Happy traveling, and let me know if you have any questions.

Posted in Travel | 8 Comments

What you learn from 30 days of no booze, sugar, gluten, or dairy

On January 12th, I embarked on a 30 day food challenge.

It was pretty strict. At a high level, I couldn’t have:

  • Gluten/Wheat
  • Dairy
  • Booze
  • Sugar

That eliminates a lot of things we enjoy in our daily consumption of food. But ensures for a lot of clean eating, and it also promoted points for sleeping eight hours, five days a week of working out (I didn’t always get five, but always worked out like I do anyway) and 10 minutes a day of meditation or some sort of quiet time without technology.

Today is the last day of the challenge, and I’m happy to say I stuck to it. I’m most happy about the no booze and no sugar.

The biggest win for me, was about reforming new habits. There are a lot of two week cleanses or 10 day challenges, and for me, I knew I needed to do the 30 days. I feel like anyone could do anything for 30 days and I needed to commit to it all or nothing. No point to skimp here or there, might as well do it all the way. Which besides a few little hiccups, or probably not being able to control what my food was cooked in when I ate out, I was strict as could be.

What I learned:

  • Clean food can be good. I scoured Instagram, Pinterest, magazines, etc. to find delicious recipes that were clean eating/paleo inspired and when I cooked for people, they all enjoyed it. It wasn’t like I was limiting myself from all good food, because whole and healthy food is good too. This is a misconception that you have to eat bland food to eat clean.
  • I cooked a lot more. And I love cooking, which was great to get back to. Especially in the winter, I’ve gotten into habits being so tired after work or working out, so we would resort to take-out or throw away meals, because it was easy (frozen pizza anyone)? Not only does it save money, but it’s good to cook together and find that balance of being creative in the kitchen.
  • I slept better. I don’t sleep well even with a few drinks, so I slept really well the last 30 days.
  • I felt very clear. I think it’s largely to do with gluten, but I generally didn’t feel foggy. Your food and diet has such a big impact on this.
  • Self-control is an amazing thing. I felt powerful and love knowing that I don’t “need” anything and that I’m not addicted to anything. It’s a good feeling, that I could say no and put my foot down, and that’s that.
  • Muscle weighs more than fat – go by how you feel. The point is to feel good. I don’t own a scale, and with all the heavy lifting I do at Crossfit, my weight doesn’t really reflect what I look like (or feel like). I did weigh myself near the end of the challenge at a doctor appointment, and I was let down to realize I weighed the same as I remembered, perhaps even more. After talking myself off a ledge, I reminded myself that I feel good and fit into clothes far better than before. I also measured inches before and after, and lost a total of 7.5″ (waist, bust, thighs) which is where it really matters for me. In my waist alone, I am down 3.5″.
  • This particular challenge eliminated not only sugar but healthy ones like honey for instance, so the amount of strict in this challenge, isn’t quite sustainable. I still want to have flexibility to go out and enjoy with friends, but I think I’ve swung the pendulum back. I think a large majority, I will eat clean, and a smaller percentage eat when I feel good and right without being stressed. Now that I saw that I can do it, that you feel better, you’re more apt to try it more often than not.
  • If you set your mind to it, you can do it. The biggest fear I had, was that I would fail and that I wasn’t strong enough. That I’m just that fat kid who wants to eat a bag of cookies and can’t restrain myself (parts of this may always be true, I love food). I held off on similar challenges at my own Crossfit gym, because of the pressure and I felt too overwhelmed. Finally with other co-workers doing this with me and feeling stuffed from the holidays, I decided to take the leap. It’s a huge resurgence for me to remember that my physical and mental strength is strong. I did have a few freak outs during the day 30 days, I can admit that, and there were times where I had to forgo social outings, I missed certain foods a lot, or watched everyone indulge in cheese and wine while I chugged soda water, but it was worth it. And I made it. Unscathed even!

Although today is the last day, I’m not rushing off to get a bottle of wine and I will keep cooking more and probably eating like I have for the last 30 days (with some windows for fun). For now, I’m going to give myself a hug and relax a little though. ‘Cause, I did it!

Posted in Change, Honesty | 3 Comments

Podcast Love: Call Your Girlfriend

My roommate and dear friend Anne told me about Call Your Girlfriend – a “podcast for long distance besties everywhere” and I cannot get enough of it.

Call Your Girlfriend

In their own words:

Call Your Girlfriend is a podcast for all the long-distance besties out there, brought to you by Gina Delvac, Ann Friedman and Aminatou Sow. Every other week, tune in as we discuss Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the beauty of caftans, menstruation news, Kimye, Pitbull, Hillary Rodham Clinton, California, rom-coms, and so much more.

First of all, I’m borderline obsessed with Robyn. And their theme track is the best.

Second, I have so many long distance besties. We have a lot of FaceTime, phone calls, group texts, and IRL trips to sustain my lady friendships and thus, I love the concept they’re driving toward.

Third, Ann (who is also from Iowa, what, what) and Amina are brilliant, hilarious, and their cadence and dialogue is very relatable.

Awkwardly, I feel like I could see us sitting together over a big (generous pour) of wine, and conversing about all the topics and agenda items they cover. Whether it’s depth-filled topics that are newsworthy, hilarious rants, or just straight “menstruation news” as they call it – I’m always learning something and I usually find I’m laughing out loud.

They keep it real, and that’s really more of what I want in my life. So go ahead,

Posted in Business, Career, Community, Current Events, Digital Media | Leave a comment

10 Truths My Mom Taught Me

My mom’s birthday is in April. It’s also on Earth Day – which for her, is perfect. She’s a matriarchal mother nature of sorts, and is an avid gardener. Then with Mother’s Day just past us, she’s been on my mind.

Mom and Me

I’ve written about my parents before and I’m eternally grateful for their love and support. Now, I want to share 10 truths or pieces of wisdom I’ve picked up from her over the year.

1. Always have organic, extra-virgin olive oil in your kitchen: I remember one year when she came to visit, she was appalled at my olive oil choice selection (or lack thereof) in my kitchen. In my early 20’s I wasn’t too concerned about that and it’s expensive. We’re very Italian, so she came back with two high quality bottles, clucking her tongue at me. Now, I’m always cognizant of my olive oil selection.

2. Perseverance for what you want (oh, and our cultural heritage on being Italian): My mom started the process for us to gain our Italian Citizenship and we all weren’t sure how it would unfold. As the journey began, I couldn’t believe how many hours, paperwork and quite literally years, that it took for her to complete the process. She researched online, she made friends with others going through the same process, she connected with a judge and ensured our grandparents confirmed that the last name was changed in the immigration process (no one could understand those Italian names and accents), and she uncovered the needed paperwork in hidden hope chests. We went / flew to the Italian Consulate in Chicago multiple times, and she never gave up. For things she believes in, she takes it seriously and this story alone always reminds me that we don’t give up. We persevere.

Italian Citizens

3. What a self-defeating belief means and how it doesn’t serve anyone: Try growing up with a mother as a life coach. Actually, I feel lucky but I often joke being 10 and my mom demanding, “That’s a self-defeating belief and doesn’t serve you,” when I was lamenting about how bad I was at math or that I wasn’t good enough.

4. How important friendship is. My dad has always traveled for his business and as a gemologist. My mom told me she knew in marrying him, that she had to be “okay” with it, and accept he may be gone more than other husbands (physically that is). Over the years, my mom has always had a steady group of girlfriends. She is committed to cultivating those relationships and now as “empty-nesters”, she’s having a ball with girlfriends. She has had master-mind groups (discussing their vision for their life and career), women’s groups, walking groups, writing groups, Italian group, etc. I’m not kidding, she regularly has gone to these groups and friendships for years (often 10-15+ years with the same friends). She has her hands in many different worlds and as I look at my life, I’m just like her. I love how engaged she is and how much fun she is having in her life with friends.

5. Fresh flowers brighten any room. In college or my younger years, I couldn’t be bothered to have a bouquet of flowers in my apartment. Now, I love how they brighten up the room. My mom and her dad (my grandfather) are longtime gardeners. She’s constantly working on our yard, the garden plots and beautifying things around her. She cares about those aesthetics and there are always interesting flowers (she knows all the names) in our kitchen at home. Now, I love buying flowers or picking some up at the farmers market. Especially in the warmer months, you’ll now usually see a bouquet of fragrant flowers on my coffee table or kitchen. It’s the little things and my mom passed that onto me.

6. The centrality of the kitchen table and dinners together, nightly. Growing up, up until my last day of high school my mom insisted on dinners together as a family. We never watched TV while we ate, we sat at our dining room table, and quite often it was a homemade meal (both my parents are great cooks). We even would do encouragement feasts that my brother and I would whine about, but who gets to go around the table and talk about what we loved about the other as a youngin’?! Now, I can look back and feel warm and fuzzy about it. Now, I know it’s something within reason, that I want in my own family someday. We ate good food to fill our belly, and family is so central so our life I know it’s how I want to operate always.

7. The importance of a bed skirt. Now this one, I might not agree with, but it’s too funny to not include. Similar to olive oil and flowers, my mom laments when she comes to visit that I don’t have a bed skirt for my bed. Honestly, just not a priority in my life right now and it’s not my style. I get texts from her with pictures of a bedskirt while she’s shopping saying, “What do you think of this one?” Or asking, can she even just send me one if she buys it would I use it? I think it’s all about putting forth the way you want to look and be, and dammit, having that bed skirt matters (to her at least). Note: I have yet to rock a bed skirt. Shh, don’t tell her.

8. The power of thought. My mom is constantly reminding me that what we put out in the universe, is quite literally, what we’re requesting and manifesting. She has countless stories of ways you can manifest and create what you want in front of you. I cringe when I think negatively, and it happens to all of us, and although we can’t say that in X amount of days, if you “want” it enough, it will just appear, we at least know that it’s better than thinking of the alternative. She is a big vision board advocate, and this year I created one for the house I desire and the life I desire. She still says, she willed our beautiful home through her vision board and didn’t even think a house like ours existed. The vision down to the colors of the walls were the same.

9. You are what you eat. My mom is proactively non-GMO, eats organic, has gardened our whole life and even as little kids we ate high quality food. She cares so much about the way we eat, she would go out of her way to ensure it was possible. There was rarely frozen or canned food in our house, and far before it was trendy or even well-known, we were learning about how to eat, what to put into our bodies, and why it was important. Our body is a temple, let’s be careful there.

10. Snail mail. My mom taught me to send hand-written thank you cards, and that care packages always brighten someone’s day. She still sends my brother and I Easter packages and every birthday we still get a hand-written card. I believe so much in the power of mail and even as a digital person, hope to carry that throughout my life.

Posted in Honesty, Inspiration, Love | 2 Comments

Book Giveaway: Uprising – A New Age Is Dawning for Every Mother’s Daughter

Women used to be viewed as victors of poverty and illiteracy, of violence and seemingly unbreakable cultural traditions. Dont’a Hightower – Alabama Crimson Tide Melanie Verveer, the U.S. scarpe adidas italia ambassador-at-large for global women’s issues says, “Promoting the status of women is not just a moral imperative but a strategic one; it’s essential to economic prosperity and to global peace and security. Nike Air Max 2016 Dames Zwart It is, in other words, a strategy for a smarter foreign policy.”

As I paged through Sally Armstrong’s new book, Uprising – A New Age is Dawning for Every Mother’s Daughter I scribbled notes in the sidebar, underlined quotes and shook my head in disbelief. Armstrong, a humanitarian and journalist, gets right to the core and heart of women’s plight, struggles and successes – all around the world and as she laid out facts, stories and new future visions, I rode the wave right alongside her in awe.

Uprising Book

Some of her stories of women are appalling and hurt my heart. nike tn bordeaux But they must be read. We can no longer ignore what’s happening around us. Sometimes, it was hard to read and sometimes, you’re so inspired you want to jump out of your chair. She take a holistic view at historical evolution, cultures, careers, and uncovers many women’s personal stories. By giving these women a platform and voice, it is time that these issues of race, rape, inequality, war and fear no longer be ignored or turned a blind eye to.

What was always evident, in every story, these women never seemed to falter. Fjallraven d’Occasion By going through some of the worst situations imaginably, they still have hope. adidas zx 700 femme bordeaux They still are brilliant and shining with vision. Tom Brady Michigan Jerseys It’s also a balancing act and it’s not about bashing men. At all. Air Jordan Future It’s about opening up our eyes globally to equality.

As Margot Franssen, a businesswoman who brought the Body Shop franchise to Canada says in the book, “When women aren’t included in the conversation, in equal rights, when they don’t have the whole menu of opportunity, it affects the entire world. We need to invest money in women and girls so they can sit at the table and bring their voices to the table. WE need the men too.”

I think this is a book every woman (and man really) should read. I’m excited to be giving away two copies of this newly published book to Small Hands, Big Ideas readers.

To enter the giveaway, just leave a comment here sharing the story of a woman you respect and admire most in your life.

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Posted in Books, Giveaway | 8 Comments