Day #17: Living the Good Life – 30 Day Challenge (A New Hike)

As part of this 30-day challenge, I wanted to concentrate on not only trying new things, but also to stop wondering about places that I’ve always driven past but never had previously explored. Today, my Dad, Simon (the golden retriever) and I took a hike at Canyon Hills Open Space. If you are a Scripps Ranch kid, you’ve driven past it a million times. It sits on the corner of Mercy Road and the I-15. You can see the long trail carved into the side of the mountain from the freeway. I’ve always wondered what the view must look like from the top of the hill, so today we found out.

Hike is probably a more adventurous word to describe our experience than is really necessary. It’s more of a meandering walk that starts out completely up hill. The fire road is closed to traffic but offers a wide path for walkers, bike riders and the brave runner. At the top of the summit, you find a handful of picnic tables (who knew!) and a view to the ocean, the border and beyond. We commented what a perfect spot this would be to watch the air show.

Simon loved exploring new territory, with all the new smells. The walk took us about 40 minutes and according to my app was about 1.8 miles.

Now we can say, we know what the view from the top looks like! It was worth the walk straight up hill!

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Day #16: Living the Good Life – 30 Day Challenge (Indian Head Massage)

Most of my experiences thus far have involved some level of physical activity, so I welcomed the opportunity to try a new spa experience today. I have long been intrigued by an Indian Head Massage, a type of massage that focuses only on your head and scalp. It took me a while to find a spa in San Diego that listed this service but today I prevailed.

Located in Escondido is Bellissima Day Spa, which is short on modernism but long on size. The spa is over 11,000 sq ft. and offers 11 treatments rooms for their spa services. I’ve never seen a spa so huge. My appointment was for an Ayurvedic Scalp Treatment, and I couldn’t wait.

Ayurvedic Scalp Treatment (50 minutes)
Warm oil is applied to the third eye (center of the forehead) which profoundly relaxes and balances the central nervous system, creating a calming and soothing effect and nourishing the hair and scalp. Then stimulation of the scalp by a brushing method and scalp massage is performed, improving circulation and encouraging hair growth. An herbal mask is then applied, followed by a hot towel wrap to help the oils and nutrients of the herbs penetrate, nourishing the hair follicles, controlling dryness. A face, neck, chest, shoulders, and foot massage is included in this treatment for total pampering.

Although the staff is very friendly, I found the spa to be very dated. I could imagine the grandmother’s coming in to have their hair set and styled once a week. I was whisked into the lounge to change into my robe upon arrival. The furnishings within the lounge were old and reminded me of time spent in Sochi earlier this year. Upstairs, I met Gina, the therapist who would be conducting my massage.

For the first 15 minutes of the massage, warm oil was dripped onto my third eye. It also found it’s way to my first two eyes and ears. Occasionally, Gina would wipe the excess away, but after a while the dripping became less of a focus and the oil running onto my scalp became tedious. After the bottle of oil emptied, Gina spent the rest of the session brushing my hair and massaging my scalp. At this point, I became interested in the experience. I love the feeling of having my hair brushed so I was far more engaged once we had finished the turkey basting. Gina also massaged my hands, neck and feet while the oil saturated my hair.

The overall experience was mixed. I appreciated the hair brushing but found the oil dripping to be about 10 minutes too long. Following the massage, I made my way into the steam bath but could barely see the door because the steam was so intense. I only lasted a few minutes.

The photo below is a highlight – Gina turbaned my towel to intensify the oil penetration but I felt like a Smurf.

Day #15: Living the Good Life – 30 Day Challenge

I admit, I’m not a huge bird lover. The whole thought of them flying over head and swirling sort of creeps me out. I try to subtly always move out of the path of birds when they are flying. I do, however, appreciate a bird that can talk and sing, so that was my motivation for visiting Free Flight, an exotic bird sanctuary in Del Mar.  Part of my 30 day challenge is to push myself into doing things that will make me uncomfortable.

Tucked next to a veterinarian, near the Del Mar Fair Grounds, sits a little refuge for exotic birds. Upon entry, (a $5 donation is required), you meet Kiki, the house resident and welcome committee. You can even go in her cage and encourage her to speak. If you are lucky, she will squawk you a ‘hello!

As you wonder around the little sanctuary, you are met with endless noise and screeching from the winged residents on display. Frequently, one of them will break into a mimic and you will hear either a car horn, a door bell, a “how you doing?” or an opera! By far, the talking birds were the highlight of the experience.

Kudos to Free Flight for offering a refuge for these beautiful creatures. I highly recommend this experience if you have kids. It’s an easy way to spend an hour.

How great is this song?

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Day #13: Living the Good Life – 30 Day Challenge (Riding in the Dirt!)

Day #13 of my 30-day challenge has taken me out of my comfort zone. After seeing my cousin Steve at a recent family wedding, he pitched the idea of me learning to ride a dirt bike as part of my challenge. Since I have never had the chance to ride a dirt bike, it quickly was added to my list of experiences I wanted to try!

My Dad, my niece Elyse and I took off for Valley Center, where Steve and his family live. Their front yard (2.5 acres) was the perfect course for a beginning dirt bike rider. Elyse was an early favorite because she has a mini-motorcycle that she likes to zip through her neighborhood. I was more cautious as I hoped I would come back in one piece.

Steve could not have been nicer or more patient with the new kid. He walked me around my assigned dirt bike and familiarized me with all the necessary parts. I was most interested in how I would be able to stop! When the lesson was over, he told me me to suit up with my helmet. It was quickly obvious that I would have to lose the earrings since they wouldn’t fit under my helmet! Riding without accessories was going to be a tall order.

My first challenge was to start the engine. I saddled up on my ride and attempted to kick start the bike. I failed. I tried again. I failed. I tried a third time. My foot slipped, and I still failed. Steve had to rescue me by starting the bike, otherwise it was going to be a short lesson!  Once we were fired up, he reminded me to let out the clutch, while giving it some throttle. All I could think about was Elyse’s warning in the car when she told me not to rev the engine too high because I would be thrown off the back. With trepidation, I found the right combination of gear and gas, and the bike moved forward. I was on my way.

My first attempt lasted about 10 yards, when I was forced to make a turn. In the chaos of trying to get the bike to go east instead of south, I let go of something and the bike stalled. Thank goodness I had Steve as my pit crew! Luckily, it was a short walk for him to fire me up again. Once I got started, I was able to take on the track. Elyse, of course at this point, is already zipping past me like whoever is the Danika Patrick of motor bike riding. Who invited the 14-year old, no-fear kid?

For about 15 minutes, I made my way up and down the hills and valleys of Steve’s front acreage, proudly sporting my bobble head helmet. I learned quickly over confidence can lead to a demise. On the next lap, I found myself heading down the dirt hill, with Elyse Patrick quickly approaching. I do remember hearing her tell me that I needed to give it more gas or I would hit the soft dirt. She should have spoken up louder. Just as I was turning the corner, the back wheel met the front wheel and the bike bucked me off with abandon. Thankfully, I was able to hop off the bike as it was falling, which yielded only mild injuries. Once I realized I wasn’t broken, my focus turned to the bike, where I prayed that I had not just broke this angry machine in half. Looking up, I saw Steve and my Dad running towards the heap.

Thankfully, speedy was fine and I was able to get back on the bike. Steve was adamant that I had to ride again so I could shake my spook. After another few laps, I felt my confidence coming back and I decided this time to make a wider lap. My confidence bucked me once again and I found myself picking up a sideways bike. This sport is hard – unless you are Elyse.

Learning to ride a dirt bike was an unique experience, made doubly special because my cousin Steve and his family offered the education. I don’t think I will be spending my weekends at the track, but should I ever find myself in a horror movie and the only thing standing between me and the boogie man is a dirt bike, I might be able to hop on and get away. That is of course as long as I have Steve in my pocket to help me to jump start the bike!

Day #11: Living the Good Life – 30 Day Challenge (Learning the Trade!)

For my 11th experience, I reached out to my event colleague, Sharon Mintz, Owner of Organic Elements – an award winning and regularly published – floral and design studio, and asked if I could shadow her team for a few hours. She was very gracious to have me pop over to her new studio and let me get my hands dirty! I’ve also been in awe of floral design and after seeing what amazing floral art Sharon and her team regularly produce and design, it was easy to know who I would want to train under!

As an event planner, my involvement with a floral team is to talk about a design and place an order. I really had very little knowledge about ordering, flower production, design and execution. On the day I shadowed the Organic Elements team, I was able to help prep a few upcoming projects.

My first assignment was to clean a dozen vases. Like many parts of the event industry, these are the tasks that are not overly fun but very necessary. The behind the scenes prep is what most people forget is necessary. Instead, they walk into a ballroom all set-up for the event and have little knowledge on what it takes to get it from a blank slate to a visual cacophony. It was very evident that the Organic Elements team is well prepared and organized. They have a very efficient system that enables them to work proactively versus re-actively. Kudos to Sharon for taking the panic out of event production!

My next task was to place gorgeous purple orchids in the clean vases. Kaitlyn, OE’s manager, was overly warm and generous in educating me about the process and why flowers need to be processed before they can be used in a design. She was also very complimentary of my ability to be a quick learner! Maybe a career in floral design awaits me in my next life!

My final task was to process a huge bunch of white roses. Thanks to Kaitlyn’s education, I now know that in order to get roses to open up, you must strip them of their leaves because the leaves hog the water as it moves up the stalk. Removing the leaves allows the roses to open and in this case, would make turning these beauties into petals to be tossed at the weekend wedding, a lot easier.

Here I was a novice being tossed into a team of professionals and they couldn’t have been more wonderful and supportive of my willingness to learn. What struck me, beyond their talent and beautiful designs, was the camaraderie amongst the staff. Sharon has designed a team that clearly works hard but plays hard together too. What a joy to be amongst professionals whom truly love what they are doing and they respect the team they are working with. I loved my time at Organic Elements and hope that my future blooms with another opportunity to work behind the scenes with floral designers.

Your take away from this experience should be to think about an industry you know little about but would love to learn and ask for an opportunity to shadow. Most companies always need an extra set of hands and they are very generous with their time!

Thanks Organic Elements team – experience #11 was amazing thanks to you!


Day # 9 – Living the Good Life – 30 Day Challenge (Pilates Reformer)

I have long practiced yoga and have taken an occasional mat Pilates class, but I have never taken a Pilates reformer class. Day #9 of my challenge took me to Poway Pilates, a charming little Pilates studio in Old Town Poway.

A reformer is a machine that aids you in your Pilates’ workout, offering the user resistance to focus on core strength, posture and flexibility. In another setting, you may think it looks like something used in Fifty Shades of Grey!

Upon arrival at Poway Pilates, I was met by the instructor, Jill, a darling little woman, who apologized that the power was out in the neighborhood so class would involve no music or air conditioning. The class began with some off reformer exercises including lifting with weighted balls and a circular thigh master. We spent the majority of the class on the reformer, which is quick to buck you off if you aren’t using the right level of tension. Half way through, the lights, music and air conditioning turned back on. Thank goodness! The reformer does provide an all-over workout which I enjoyed.

The reformer adds a very different dimension to the workout. I found the class moved very quickly and offered a lot of variety; which is super important to me because my mind wonders.

All in all, I would certainly go back for another Pilates class. At Poway Pilates, new members can take unlimited classes for $29 for 2-weeks.

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Day #8: Living the Good Life – 30 Day Challenge (Find the Bull’s Eye)

Taking advantage of a Living Social deal, I went to archery class on Sunday for Day #8 of my Living the Good Life – 30 Day Challenge. Located way down in Otay Mesa, adjacent to the Olympic Training Center, is the Roadrunner Archery Club. My Dad and I found our way to the range for an early morning lesson.

We were met with by our instructor, a slight woman who could clearly handle a bow and arrow, but had a no-nonsense approach to teaching a group of Living Social students. She was quick to remind us that any unsafe behavior would result in being kicked off the range. I can only refer to her as “she” because she never introduced herself to the class. She just started in with the fact that we had to sign the waiver, and we couldn’t touch anything without her direction. She gave us about 10 minutes of instruction on how to hold the bow, how to place the arrow and the best form for trying to hit the target. With that limited instruction, she invited us to the line to start our own practice. She never smiled during the class in spite of the fun-nature of the students.

My Dad and I, along with our fellow Living Social’s, enjoyed the experience in spite of the luke warm reception from the instructor, who apparently was put out for having to teach a class on a Sunday morning. Some shots would end up on the target, while others would sail far past. We hoped to not hit anyone on the walking trail behind the range.

Overall the experience was a lot of fun in spite of grumpy pants being our instructor. Highly recommend!

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Day #7: Living the Good Life – 30 Day Challenge (Swing Dancing)

My great adventure around San Diego took me back to the San Diego Central Library yesterday but this time for a swing dance lesson under the dome. The very talented team from Swing Dance San Diego hosts free swing dance lessons at the Central Library a few times per month. In honor of the Library’s 1st anniversary, they hosted a special lesson under the dome on a Saturday morning.

I took along my parents, experienced dancers and graduates of Mr. Benjamin’s Cotillion School, to help bridge the gap between my inexperience with swing and my dread of possibly dancing with a stranger. I have to give it to the instructors – they offer a very friendly and approachable process for learning the basic steps. They make all students rotate partners so I did have to endure a few wet fish hand shakes and beat-deficient dancers but all in all, the experience was a lot of fun. In just 30-minutes, they were able to teach us a few steps, in an entertaining and engaging manner. I was impressed that the 30 participants were all ages, shapes and sizes.  Like my parents, there were a few ringers in the group, but generally speaking, most attendees were new to the dance.

After 30-minutes of lessons, and a performance by the professionals, there was an open dance session where we could try out our new steps. Taking a swing lesson overlooking San Diego was an unique way to spend a morning!


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Day # 6: Living the Good Life – 30 Day Challenge (How Did I End Up in the Circus?)

On my schedule for today was an aerial yoga class, which I assumed meant a hearty yoga session using a silk hammock. It felt the perfect mix of working out, while dreaming of being in a swaying hammock on the beach in Mexico with a Corona in hand. I had researched aerial yoga classes online and seen the pictures of the flowing poses harnessed above the ground so thought I might be successful at this experience. Off to Aerial Revolution I went this morning.

I should have known I was in the wrong class when I didn’t see any silky hammocks suspended from the rafters. Instead, I found silks of fabric hanging from a rig point at least 30 feet in the air. I thought maybe part of the class was going to be tying off our own hammocks in the pools of silk – at this point I still have a zen mind. My fellow yogi’s were busy stretching and talking about the latest tricks they had tried in a previous class. Tricks? I don’t remember my yoga instructors referring to tricks, but rather poses. Maybe Aerial Revolution has their own lingo. The only other newbie in the class is an overly spirited flower child that was singing while she stretched. She announced how excited she was for the class after giving herself a round of applause. I’m giving myself a round of applause for just being there.

The warm-up solidified that I was indeed in the wrong class. The instructor asked us to run laps, do walking handstands and down dog worm stretches the length of the gym. At this point I’m longing for my Core Power yoga class, which always starts in child’s pose. After the grueling “warm up,” the fiercely  strong instructor, Megan, invited us to chose our silk. I felt virgin white was the right choice since I was clearly experiencing something new, and I felt divine intervention was going to be necessary. The first directive, given to the flower child, the aerial mermaids and me, was to climb the silk, Russian style. That required us to wrap our foot around the silk and then climb up using the wrapped foot as a base for the other. There was nothing Russian about my first attempt other than hoping I was a Russian doll, and my aerial rock star was deep inside waiting to be discovered. The flower child climbed her way to the top of the rafters on her first attempt. I’m now less enamored with her daisy-filled life. Moving on to more advanced techniques (which for me was simply learning how to tie the knot that was going to decide if I was going to survive or fall face-first onto the mat) came with instructions to hook both arms around the silks and then flip our legs over our head. It made me think back to days spent on the playground, where I had no fear and was thin enough to fling myself around the monkey bars without hesitation. The 41-year old version of myself wondered again if my knot was tight enough, if my feet could actually get over my head and how I would possibly try to keep up with the daisy chain that took to the silks like white on rice. With the instructors encouragement, and lots of help, I was after 12 attempts, able to get my feet to heave themselves over my head and invert myself like an airplane. The instructor commended my effort and I think secretly expressed her delight that the hippo did not kick her in the head during the inversion. The silks at this point were so wrapped up that it was like waking amongst tangled bed sheets after a bad dream. I wondered if I just lay down amongst the silks if anyone would notice.

Our final exercise was to do an elevated split, which required us to create a foot hold using the silks on both feet. The darn foot hold requires you to weave the silk around your calf and then zig zag back and forth with the silk. I can’t decide at this point if my legs are now longer or my arms have become shorter because I can’t seem to get my hands and feet to reach within the forest of silk. The teacher keeps offering positive affirmations and reminding me that all students have to start somewhere. Daisy child has mastered the technique and has already moved on to the splits. Her first timers luck is now getting on my nerves. The foot hold offers a new challenge – loss of circulation in your foot. I ask innocently if feeling like the silk is a tourniquet is normal and the instructor confirms that it is. How do these aerial stars not have missing toes since they surely must fall off without any blood circulation? I pretend at this point to be in such awe of my classmates that I would rather watch than participate – the truth being that I couldn’t feel my feet, I never mastered the right technique for wrapping the foot hold and I was too embarrassed to ask for the 40th time, nor did I have the upper body strength to suspend myself any longer. The only joy that comes over me is the fact that we only had 6 minutes left in the class. I decide striking up a conversation with the teacher is better for my shaking muscles and lack of coordination than trying the candy cane pose all the fancy yoga pants are attempting.

The instructor does confirm that I am indeed in the wrong class, that this is an introductory circus arts class and not the “om” yoga experience I was attempting to have. She reassures me that aerial yoga is much easier, which I know translates into her attempt to tell me that I will prefer the harness of the hammock more than the jaw clenching experience of Russian foot holds and candy canes. A more experienced student pipes in that aerial yoga is a better place for me to start – was this her way of saying that every circus has a clown and I was indeed the clown of this class? Well, someone has to feed the elephants in the circus!

If you have profound upper body strength, have every confidence in a 30 foot silk being your life line and you have no fear of heights, then Silks 1 at Aerial Revolution is for you! I think I might stick to a hammock on the beach, sipping a Corona! Namaste!

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Day #5: Living the Good Life – 30 Day Challenge (Leo Carillo Ranch)

On the list for today’s experience, was a visit to the Leo Carillo Ranch in Carlsbad. I decided to combine my morning hike with the opportunity to explore this hidden gem in North County. Located smack dab in the middle of a neighborhood with cookie cutter homes and an elementary school across the ravine, Leo Carillo Rancho is a step back into time. Across the 27-acre historic park, visitors are invited to explore adobe buildings, antique farm equipment and blooming flora and fauna. The mascots for the Ranch are the strutting peacocks that meet you around every corner. I even had the joy of seeing a Mama peacock tend to her 4 little chicks.

It’s easy to see why so many photographers use Leo Carillo Ranch as the backdrop to their photo shoots. There is visual abundance every where you look.

I’ve always driven past Leo Carillo Ranch and mentally thought I should one day drive down the street to check out this piece of history (and beautiful event venue), but it was always on the “I should list!” Today, I made a point of making the drive and enjoying a morning hike in a unique, historic setting. Well worth the trip!

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