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This is What “Freedom” Means to The Back Forty

Freedom

Freedom.

It’s a pretty powerful word. This word has inspired countless men and women to lay down their lives for what they believe in. This world is what our country has been built on. And it is because this word is so powerful that we are devoting this post to what freedom means to us.

Many people would argue that we have to give up some of our freedom as we grow older. We have more responsibilities now. We have a job where people count on us, we have a family to support, we have retirement to save for. There are so many things that we have to do, so it just makes sense that we have to give up some of our freedom.

Well, those of us at The Back Forty have a problem with that belief system. Why do we have to give up our freedom as we grow older? If anything, we should be gaining more freedom as we age, not the other way around.

We believe that midlife freedom means moving out of our comfort zone.

Whether you are on a quest to Find Your Bliss or just trying to Become Comfortable in Your Own Skin, you must be willing to move out of your comfort zone.

We believe that midlife freedom means letting go of our past.

It is easy to let our past define who we are today but we believe that you can Stop Investing In Your Viewpoints and Ditch Your Past Struggles to create a better (and freer) future for yourself!

We believe that midlife freedom means being willing to play.

Whether you need a reminder that your Midlife Crisis is Just a Game or if you have decided that you need a Fresh Start, we believe that you have to remember how to play along the way.

We believe that midlife freedom means finding our purpose.

Regardless of if you currently feel like you’re Failing Your Midlife Experience or if you just haven’t taken the time to Consider Your Purpose recently, we believe that your personal freedom has a lot to do with that purpose.

We believe that midlife freedom means believing in our future.

Wherever you are on your midlife journey you have to believe in your future. Whether you still feel that you need to Free Yourself From Your Past or if you need a reminder that You Are In Control, believing in your future is the first step toward freedom.

There are so many things that we believe freedom means but, however you define freedom, we hope that you CELEBRATE YOUR FREEDOM today!

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7 Cheap & Exciting Things to Do This 4th of July

4th of July

The 4th of July is right around the corner, and that means it’s time to break out those summer activities! Whether you plan to celebrate on the 4th this year or the weekend before, there are tons of cheap and fun options for making the most out of our independence day.

So, without further ado, here are seven cheap and exciting things you can do to celebrate our country this summer!

1. Host a BBQ or Potluck

Just because you’re hosting a party doesn’t mean you have to spend a lot of money. Make your 4th of July BBQ a potluck. You provide the backyard and make the burgers and have your friends and family handle the rest! What better way to celebrate than to spend time with those closest to you?

2. Watch Local Firework Displays

You could go out and buy your own fireworks, or you could just attend one of the many free firework displays taking place nearby. Not only is it much cheaper to go to a local display but chances are that their fireworks will also be much more impressive. Get there early with your blankets and chairs and spend time soaking up the summer before the show starts. You can turn this into a double activity by getting there early and…

3. Have Your Very Own Picnic!

Whether you are bringing a dinner picnic to your local fireworks display or packing a lunch picnic for a nearby festival (see #5!), picnics are always a great option for celebrating the summer. Pack some sandwiches and maybe even mix up some sangria and hit the road!

5. Explore a Festival

What summer would be complete without taking part in a festival or two? Luckily, the 4th of July is a prime chance to attend free festivals all over the country. Hop on Google and search for 4th of July celebrations near you, chances are you will find at least a few fun excursions the weekend before this great holiday.

6. Attend a Concert

The 4th of July is a prime time to get to watch local brass bands, symphonies, and philharmonics for free. See what instrument groups are performing nearby and take a trip to your local bandshell to take in the show (picnics are often a great option for these concerts as well)!

7. Watch a Patriotic Movie Marathon

Are you reading through all of these choices and just thinking, “eww. I don’t want to deal with all those crowds”? If so, what about hosting your very own Patriotic Movie Marathon in your own wonderfully air-conditioned home? Pick out some of your favorite patriotic movies, pop some red, white, and blue popcorn and settle in for a quiet celebration at home. Stumped on where to begin? Here are some movies to get you started: National Treasure, Saving Private Ryan, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, Glory, or Capitan America.

Regardless of how you choose to spend your 4th of July this year, I hope that you celebrate by enjoying the things that you hold most dear and remember all of those who have fought to keep us free.

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The Best of Colorado Springs: A Travel Guide

Colorado Springs title

This time of year, everyone seems to be dreaming of taking a vacation. Well, today I thought I would give you my current home as a travel suggestion.

I have lived in Colorado Springs for about two years and when I have friends and family come to visit I become an unofficial tour guide. So today I’ll be your tour guide and walk you through EVERYTHING that is worth a trip to Colorado Springs.

First, I’ll give you a little context on why Colorado Springs is so unique and then I’ll jump in and go into detail about the six types of attractions that I consider “can’t miss” and some of my personal favorite options in each of those categories. So, without further ado, let’s start exploring Colorado Springs!

Fun Facts

The first thing you will notice upon arriving in Colorado Springs is Pikes Peak. Nicknamed “America’s Mountain”, Pikes Peak is the only 14-er visible throughout the Springs. It looms over us wherever we go, and we love it. It isn’t the highest mountain in Colorado by far, but it is unique because it stands alone in the Springs, meaning it isn’t part of a range with lots of larger mountains and, therefore, sticks out more.

Speaking of the height of our mountain, the elevation in the Springs is probably much higher than you’re used to (no pun intended). Throughout town, the elevation fluctuates between 5,740 ft and 14,115 ft but averages out to about 6,035 ft (or 1.14 miles) in town. This means that you should remember to drink lots of water and moisturize because when you become dehydrated you will start experiencing altitude sickness, and no one likes that.

 

The beauty of nature in the Springs really is awe-inspiring. For example, did you know that the woman who wrote the song “America the Beautiful” was actually inspired to write the song while she was visiting Colorado Springs by train in 1893? Beyond this example, countless authors and artists have been inspired to write some of their best work in Colorado.

Another fun fact, the US Olympic Training Center is in Colorado Springs (plus the headquarters to 24 US National Federations for various Olympic Sports). If this interests you, stop by the training center for a tour!

I’ll leave you with two other quick notes on the Springs and then we can get into the really fun stuff!

First, there are five separate military sites in Colorado Springs, although there are three main ones. There is the Fort Carson Army Base, the Peterson Air Force Base, and the US Air Force Academy. That being said, don’t be surprised when you see TONS of military walking around town, it is perfectly normal to see someone in uniform running into the grocery store to grab some dinner on their way home.

Second, be aware that you CANNOT trust the weather forecasts. There have literally been multiple days in the past few years where it has snowed, hailed, and rained and then has gotten up to 75 degrees and sunny all within the SAME DAY. One of the meteorologists in the Air Force told me that Colorado Springs is one of the hardest places in the world to predict the weather (because of our mountain) and even when they do the science 100% right, they still have a 50% chance of being wrong. How do we handle this crazy weather? We try to be prepared. Layers are your friend, try to keep an umbrella in your car, and, if the weather gets too crazy, remember that it never lasts long.

All that being said, let’s explore some of the most unique things you can see while visiting Colorado Springs.

Nature

There are endless trails, parks, and mountains to explore while you are visiting, but there are six places that I consider “can’t miss” above everything else.

  1. Pikes Peak – Obviously this mountain makes the list. But there are lots of different ways you can choose to explore this mountain.
    • The Cog Railway – This railway goes straight up the side of the mountain and has been running since 1891. The trip is a little bit over 3 hours and is a perfect way to learn about pikes peak while actually climbing to the summit in comfort.
    • 16695595113_e0c03f153b_b.jpgThe Incline – If you want something intense, try the Incline in Manitou Springs. It is a 1-mile hike to the top, but don’t let that fool you. During that one mile, you gain 2,000 feet and are climbing at a grade of 45% on average (although in some spots it gets as steep as a 68% grade). Depending on how fast you take the trip, it can take from 30 minutes to 2 hours to reach the top. At the top, you can connect with the Barr Trail and take switchbacks back down to the bottom. Or, if you’re REALLY ambitious…
    • Barr Trail – You could take the Barr trail all the way to the top of Pike’s Peak. Please note that this is rather difficult and is almost impossible when the mountain is still snowcapped.
    • Drive – If none of those options seem like the right fit, you can simply drive to the top yourself. It costs $15 per adult to take the drive yourself and takes 2-3 hours round trip.
  2. Garden of the Gods – The beautiful rock formations at Garden of the Gods will leave you in awe. You can simply drive through the park, stop at the gift shops and visitors center, or hop out and walk some trails. The most common trail (Perkins Central Garden) is paved and, therefore, easy to walk. It also has the most amazing views of the various rock formations. Another pit-stop must is the Balanced Rock which you can drive right past or park and take some fun photos.
  3. 100_0326.JPGSeven Falls – Seven Falls was bought by The Broadmoor after a flood in 2013 and took two years to reconstruct the roads and trails that had been destroyed. Now, when visiting the Falls, you must park at the Broadmoor and take a free shuttle up to the Falls. I describe the Seven Falls as a “pre-test for the Incline”. If you have a hard time hiking the 224 steps (with railings) to the top of the Falls, you probably shouldn’t try the Incline. But if you do make it to the top, don’t stop there! Keep on hiking and you will be able to take a trail to Inspiration Point. It is absolutely beautiful and worth it when you get there. After you’re done with your hike, go into the mountain and take the elevator to an overlook where you can view the falls that you just hiked.
  4. Cheyenne Mountain Zoo – This zoo is entirely worth the trip and is considered to be much better than the Denver Zoo by locals. The Cheyenne Mountain Zoo is the only zoo actually built on the side of a mountain. You can hike to the Shrine of the Sun at the top of the zoo, or just enjoy all of the animals. Be sure to bring your camera because you will have the chance to hand feed the Giraffes! Also, take a chance to look at the upcoming events to see if any line up with your visit. Personally, I love their 21+ evening events in the summer with food, drink, and live music!
  5. Manitou Cliff Dwellings – These dwellings are ruins from the Anasazi people that lived in Colorado from 1200 BC to 1300 AD. They are a truly amazing piece of history to explore.20160425_123032.jpg
  6. Cave of the Winds – This cave is full of amazing rock formations and gives countless tours each day. Take part in the Discovery Tour to explore the unique sights found in the cavern, try the Lantern Tour to hear local ghost stories and experience how the caves were originally explored, or try Caving 101 and get dirty by crawling through muddy passageways.

Food

WOW! After all of those adventures, you’re going to be hungry. Don’t fear, Colorado Springs is chock-full of amazing local food. I always tell my friends and family when they visit that we could eat out for breakfast, lunch, and dinner every day and still not have a chance to try all of my favorite restaurants in town before their trip is up.

Breakfast

○  Mountain Shadows Restuarant – This is a great little place, but get there early because the locals love it! My suggestions: the cinnamon roll (featured on Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives) or the Reuben Omelette – it might sound weird but it is delicious!
○  King’s Chef Diner – There are two locations for this place, one is smaller but shaped like a castle and very cute, the other is downtown and a little bigger. Regardless of which location you go to, there is almost guaranteed to be a wait. But it is so worth it! When you look at the menu, pay attention to the different sizes you can order. Keep in mind that a 1/4 order here is about equal to a normal-sized order anywhere else! My favorite is The Grump while my husband jumps back and forth between The Thing and the Breakfast Burrito (be sure to get the green chili – locals will put green chili on everything).
○  Paris Crepe – They have both sweet and savory crepes so you can really eat here for whatever meal you wish. Plus, it is a great place to stop in when you are shopping downtown. My favorite is the French Crepe, it’s like a Nova Bagel!
○  Omelette Parlor – This is a unique find. The Omelette Parlor is actually the home where a movie star, Ruth Etting, retired in 1893. Since then it has been turned into a restaurant, but you can still tell that it was once a home the second you step inside. I love their skillets, try the Continental Divider Skillet or the Mount Elbert Skillet for something truly delicious.20160420_095402
○  Bonus: Snooze – So there are no Snooze’s in Colorado Springs, but I make a point to stop at the one in Lone Tree whenever I am picking someone up from the Denver Airport. I actually make my family and friends fly in early in the morning so that we can get breakfast at Snooze on the way back to Colorado Springs. If you are flying into Denver, I strongly suggest you do the same. What should you get if you stop in? The Bella Bella Benny. Hands down. That being said, they have some pretty out of this world pancakes as well!

 

Lunch/Dinner

○  Mona Lisa Fondue Restaurant – When was the last time you went out for a fondue dinner? Chances are, it has been a while. Mona Lisa Fondue is located in downtown Manitou Springs and is a great choice for a fancy night out. Make sure you make a reservation, don’t be afraid to upgrade your courses, and don’t skip the dessert! It is promised to be worth it.20160513_195555.jpg
○  The Rabbit Hole – This is a truly unique dining experience. First of all, it is underground. The entrance looks like a subway entrance with a door. After winding down the staircase, you reach the restaurant, which is entirely Alice in Wonderland themed. From the paintings on the wall to the menu, you will find references to Alice in Wonderland everywhere. Be sure to get a reservation if you want to experience this – they fill up VERY fast. If you want a good cocktail, try The White Rabbit. After all, who doesn’t love flaming marshmallows?
○  TILL Kitchen – The Till is a relatively new addition to Colorado Springs and my husband and I absolutely love it. It is highly environmentally friendly, even their tables are made out of local pine trees that were killed by beetles. They also try to get all of their food from local farms that are committed to sustainability. Not to mention how delicious all of their food is. This place fills up pretty fast on weekends so I would suggest a reservation here as well. What’s my favorite thing on the menu? A drink called By Way of Bees – I promise you will be in for a pleasant surprise.
○  Edelweiss Restaurant – Are you German? Or do you at least enjoy German food? If so, you cannot miss Edelweiss. This family-owned, authentic German Restaurant has been around for over 50 years and lives up to its name. You dine among endless German decor and they even have strolling musicians on the weekends. It fills up fast, so get a reservation here as well. If you want an appetizer, both the Brie and the Potato Pancakes are amazing! However, all dinners come with a German side salad so you won’t be going hungry if you skip the appetizer.
○  Briarhurst Manor – Okay, this is my last suggestion that requires a reservation (and probably needs a reservation the most of all of the places I’ve mentioned). This is another place that used to be a home and has been transformed into a wonderful restaurant. It is also located in Manitou Springs but is a bit separate from downtown, so there is plenty of parking. This home was built in 1876 by the founder of Manitou Springs. A little-known fact is that this fancy restaurant and popular wedding venue is also considered one of the most haunted houses in the area. The good news, all of these spirits seem to be friendly and, if you ask, you may even be allowed to explore the manor after dinner looking for your own spiritual encounters.
○  Alchemy – This is a small pub in Old Colorado City with unique food and even more unique cocktails like the Cotton Candyland or the Walking Dead. Stop in for a bite (or just a drink) while shopping.
○  Bad Daddy’s or Skirted Heifer or Bingo Burger or Crave – So there are a LOT of good burger restaurants in the Springs and, honestly, you can’t go wrong with any of the ones I listed. Bad Daddy’s is a sit-down place with a sports bar feel and create-your-own burgers. The Skirted Heifer and Bingo Burger are right next to each other in Downtown Colorado Springs and are very small (you might want to get your burgers to go). Finally, Crave is located in a shopping complex on the north side of town. If you want to see burgers as big as your head, Crave is your best option. So, regardless of what atmosphere you are craving, we have a great burger place for you!
○  Rudy’s BBQ – If you didn’t know any better, you would drive right past Rudy’s.  It almost looks like a truck stop with a gas station attached and everything. But don’t let its appearance deceive you, it is the best BBQ in town. I always get the Pulled Pork Sandwich, while my husband always gets a few Breakfast Tacos.20160422_211221.jpg
○  Jack Quinn’s Irish Pub & Restaurant – If you want some good Irish food, look no further than Jack Quinn’s. Located in Downtown Colorado Springs, it is a great place to enjoy the evening. Their food is delicious (I especially love their Irish Nachos) and they have live music almost every night of the week.
○  Thunder & Buttons – Located in Old Colorado City, this is a delicious local pub. The pub was named after two elk that used to drive around a local to the various bars in town in the 1880s. This is a really friendly place with various weekly events to check out in the evenings.
○  La Baguette – Last but not least, if you look right next door to Thunder & Buttons you will find La Baguette. This is a perfect place to grab a quick lunch in between shopping. If you want to feel like you stepped into Paris, look no further. I personally enjoy their French Onion Soup.

Shopping

First of all, if you’re still holding on after all of those restaurants, I’m impressed. Now, food and nature aren’t all that the Springs has to offer. If you enjoy shopping, you’ll love it here – you just need to know where to look. Sure we have endless shopping centers as well as two malls, but the really great finds aren’t in any of those places. Here are my five favorite shopping areas:

  1. Old Colorado City – This is my favorite shopping spot. Almost all of the shops are privately owned, there are tons of local artists being featured, they have great events throughout the year, and four of my favorite restaurants are located here! Take an afternoon to stroll down Colorado Avenue and enjoy, not only the shops, but the great atmosphere of the town. Like many places in town, furry friends are usually welcome and many restaurants have water bowls on their patios for your four-legged friend.
  2. The Promenade Shops at Briargate – If you’re looking for some middle to high-end chains, this is the place to go. Here you can find places like Athleta, Eddie Bouer, Loft, Pendleton, Williams-Sanoma, and much more. Like all of the best shopping in the Springs, this is an outdoor complex. Plus, if you would like to take a break, one of my favorite burger joints is just around the corner (Bad Daddy’s Burger Bar).20160607_111346.jpg
  3. Downtown Manitou Springs – Of all of the different shopping options I’m mentioning, Manitou Springs is probably the most “tourist-y”. You will find countless t-shirt shops and tiny souvenirs; but if you can look past all that, it is a really beautiful and historical town. Manitou Springs is where you go if you’re heading to Pikes Peak. This is where you will find the Cog Railway, the Incline, and Barr Trail. The Cave of The Winds and The Cliff Dwellings also reside here; so, chances are you will spend some time in Manitou no matter what. Manitou also has tons of cute shops and great food (three of my favorites reside here as well as the Swirl Wine Bar). When you stop in Manitou, be sure to stop and fill up your water bottles at one of the eight local mineral springs around town. Each spring tastes a little different, but many of them are naturally carbonated and have a sweeter taste. Shoshone Spring is right downtown at the corner of Navajo and Manitou.
  4. The Outlets at Castle Rock – If you are always looking for name brand items at discounted prices, the Outlets at Castle Rock are worth the drive. If you are driving in from Denver you will pass these outlets about 30 minutes before reaching Colorado Springs. With over 100 name brand stores, you will be sure to find something to your liking.
  5. Downtown Colorado Springs – Last but not least is Downtown Colorado Springs. With over 50 privately owned shops, there is plenty to see. Stop by Josh & John’s Ice Cream for a cool treat, peruse through Zeezo’s costume shop for some fun, and stop by Poor Richard’s for used books or a nice coffee shop or some pizza (this shop is actually three shops that are all connected)!

Adventure

By this point, you might be wondering, “what doesn’t Colorado Springs have!?!”. Well, to be honest, I’m not really sure. You can have just about any experience you want here and what better way to show that then for me to share my six favorite adventures that you can have while here?

  1. Rock Climbing – Are you the type of person that looked at those amazing rock structures at Garden of the Gods and found yourself thinking, “I want to climb those”? Well, you can! Front Range Climbing Co. will gladly schedule either half or full day, private rock climbing trips in the Garden of the Gods for you! Don’t worry about being part of a large group of people where your trip is tailored to the 5-year-olds, this will be perfect for you.20160605_162841.jpg
  2. Horseback Riding – Maybe instead of climbing those rocks, you just want to experience them as the pioneers did when they first found them in the 1860s. Pick either a one or two-hour ride and enjoy a ride through the many horse trails in the Garden of the Gods park with the Academy Riding Stables.
  3. White Water Rafting – Do you want to get your adrenaline pumping? Maybe you should plan a half or full day trip down the Royal Gorge with the Whitewater Adventure Outfitters. Not only will you get the chance to see the beautiful and historical gorge and race through the rapids, but you will also get a chance to race the historic Royal Gorge train.20170204_132127
  4. Riding the Rails – Speaking of the Royal Gorge train, you can book rafting and a train trip as a package, or just enjoy this wonderful train trip. Sit in the Vista Dome to see above you as well as out the windows or sit in either the dining car, the club car, or in coach. You can choose to take a lunch or dinner trip or just grab some snacks. Regardless of where you choose to sit, there is on open air car where you have access to take in the beautiful views. If you would prefer to stay a little closer to town, don’t forget about the famous Cog Railway up to Pikes Peak.
  5. Zipline Tours – Hop in a Jeep and drive out to a local zipline course to enjoy the sights from the sky! Adventures Out West has zipline tours all summer from 8:00 am to about 4:00 pm. With their Colo-Rad tour, you will take part in five separate ziplines over Manitou Springs, the longest of which is over 600 feet long.
  6. Hot Air Balloons – Another fun option that Adventures Out West has to offer is hot air balloon rides. You can choose to fly as part of a group of 10 people or pick a private trip. Get ready to get up early, most of these flights start at dawn, but it will be worth it to spend 3-4 hours flying over the sights with a champagne toast and breakfast in the field after your beautiful morning flight.

If these six adventures aren’t enough, there are even more options out there. Adventures Out West alone also offers Jeep Tours, Segway Tours, Guided Hikes, and Van Tours.

Events

Regardless of what time of year you choose to visit, there is bound to be a great event going on. Check the Colorado Springs website to find out what is going on in town when you visit, but, if you can, here are my favorite events that happen in each season in Colorado Springs.

  • Spring: Territory Days – Each Memorial Day Territory Days takes over Old Colorado City. They have almost 200 different booths, live music and so much more. Stop by for a gunfight re-enactment, watch Native American Dancers, or stroll through the various local craft vendor booths. Entrance is free, so what’s stopping you?20160717_131924
  • Summer: Renaissance Festival – The Colorado Rennaissance Festival is my absolute favorite event each year. It is open for eight weekends each summer and is a sight to see. It is located about 30 minutes north of Colorado Springs in the small town of Larkspur. I make sure to attend the festival at least twice each summer and always look forward to next year. Beyond the endless shops with beautiful wares, the shows are outstanding. See comedy shows, watch jugglers and acrobats complete amazing feats, watch the jousting tournaments, see endangered cats perform, or take a ride on the back of an elephant. All of this and much much more is at the festival each summer.
  • Fall: Emma Crawford Coffin Races – Remember when I told you that Manitou Springs has some amazing history? Well, the story of Emma Crawford is just another piece of the history of Manitou. Emma Crawford passed away in 1890 from tuberculosis. Emma’s dying wish was for her fiance to bury her on top of Red Mountain which her fiance honored. However, in the early 1900s, her casket was forced to be moved to the south side of the mountain when the railroad began to be built. After some harsh rain, Emma’s casket slid down the mountain and some young boys found her at the bottom of the mountain. Now Manitou Springs celebrates this crazy event each year with the annual Coffin Races in October. Where else can you see 70 teams in crazy costumes racing coffins down Mainstreet?
  • Winter: The Classic Broadmoor Holiday Show – The Broadmoor is a luxury resort at the base of the Cheyenne Mountain. It was built in 1918 to be the “Grand Dame of the Rockies”. To this day, it is rated a 5-diamond resort and continues to own much of the Springs including Seven Falls and the Cog Railway. It also gave the city of Colorado Springs the gift of the only mountain zoo in America in the 1930s. Today, The Broadmoor is home to almost 800 rooms, 26 retail shops, 10 full-service restaurants, and 10 smaller cafes and lounges. It even has its own movie theater and bowling alley. As you can tell, I could go on and on about The Broadmoor forever, but let’s get to the actual event. Each winter, The Broadmoor hosts their own Holiday Show. Dinner begins at 7:00 and the entertainment begins at 8:00. Expect music, dancing, fun, and (above all else) a night you will never forget.

Beer

Another fun fact about Colorado, we love our beer. There are literally HUNDREDS of breweries in Colorado and almost 50 of them are located in the Springs. If you love beer, spend a day jumping from microbrewery to microbrewery, but even if beer isn’t your thing, there is one brewery that you should make sure is on your list of things to see in the Springs.

The Bristol Brewing Company was founded in 1994 and today their beer is available almost anywhere in the state. But that isn’t the cool part. The Bristol Brewery has a pub inside their facility. That’s not the cool part either. Their facility is an old elementary school built in 1916. Now, that’s the cool part! You can stroll through the old school and still see the children’s murals on the walls. Stop by the Principal’s Office for a mixed drink or bring your furry friend to the Bristol Patio to enjoy some of their newest (and most famous) types of beer. As a bonus, make sure you stop by the bathroom when you’re there (trust me, it’s worth it)!

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Whew! There you go. You are now prepared to not only visit Colorado Springs but also to truly soak in every unique aspect of the area that you wish! If you want a cheat sheet for the area, click on the infographic I made for you below – each suggested activity is hyperlinked to its website!

Have fun planning your trip and make sure to enjoy yourself!

Colorado Springs

34cebb037210ff256ce631d854da8490If you’re still hanging in here, I’ve got an extra surprise for you.

You know that Bishop Castle I mentioned at the bottom of my infographic? It is a very fun trip. You can climb to the very top of each tower (although it isn’t the safest and is at your own risk).

Some people even use the main room on the second floor for their wedding ceremonies! The owner/builder is currently working on adding an elevator so everyone can see this sight. And it will always be free to the public.

It really is something you should see if you don’t mind the trip. Here is a picture of the castle for you to get a better idea of the amazing feat of building this by hand.

Now, go enjoy yourself!

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Why You Need to Celebrate National Smile Power Day

Smile Power

Have you smiled yet today?

Today is National Smile Power Day – so it’s time to start smiling!

“But why?” you might ask. Well here are 5 startling statistics about smiling:

  1. Smiling can boost your immune system by making your body more relaxed.
  2. Forcing a smile can put you in a better mood (mind over matter)!
  3. Smiling is a universal sign of happiness.
  4. Babies have to learn almost everything, but they are born with the ability to smile.
  5. Smiles are proven to make you seem more attractive, confident, and social.

If you’re looking to kickstart your smile, here are a few of our previous posts that are guaranteed to put a smile on your face:

Wherever your day takes you (or has taken you) today, just remember to smile and that everything really will be alright.

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Source: PickTheBrain

3 Easy Ways to Make the World a Better Place on Earth Day

World

Did you know today is Earth Day?

To be honest, I was completely oblivious to this until yesterday. Here at The Back Forty, we have been feverishly preparing for the California Women’s Conference to the point that May 10th and 11th are the only dates floating around my head (if you’re interested in learning more about the California Women’s Conference or want to attend, click here).

Anyway, back to the topic at hand. Earth Day.

Even though I forgot about Earth Day, it doesn’t mean that there is nothing I can do to make our world a better place and what day would be better than this beautiful Saturday to do just that. So without further ado, here are 3 easy ways to make the world a better place today!

1. Plant a Tree

field-858650_1920.pngThis is one of the easiest things you can do for the environment and it will probably take less than an hour. Decide to get in your car and drive to your local garden or hardware store and pick out a tree you like. It can be a baby tree (my local Lowes has trees in stock for as little as $8) or it can be a bigger tree, just go pick one out and bring it home. The next step is to plant it. Find a spot in your yard and give your tree a new home. This one tree can produce 260 pounds of oxygen each year! Beyond creating oxygen, your little tree cleans the air, cools your yard, and conserves energy in your home (if it offers shade to any windows), along with so many other things.

Can’t plant a tree? Do you live in a condo or apartment? No worries, contribute to The Canopy Project hosted by the Earth Day Network. Each dollar you donate plants one tree. It takes 500 trees a year to get rid of the carbon dioxide your car creates each year, so why not help combat that and give back? Donate here!

2. Reduce Your Footprintworld foot circle.png

We are consuming natural resources faster than the Earth can replenish them (1.5 planets’ worth of resources each year to be exact). Figure out exactly how much you are contributing to this problem by taking this Ecological Footprint Quiz.

After completing the quiz, you can explore different ways to reduce your footprint. Want a few simple actions you can take today? Buy a water bottle and stop buying bottled water, bring your own grocery bags to the store, or go through your mail and see which items you can choose to receive electronically.

3. Save Endangered Species from Your Own Backyard

The US Fish and Wildlife Service has an interactive map that shows you which species are endangered in your home state. Click here to explore the map!

After picking an endangered species to save, click here! This takes you to the World Wildlife Fund’s endangered species directory. Click “Ctrl+F” to pull up a search option and then simply type in the name of your chosen endangered animal (note that the WWF doesn’t include birds in their directory). I live in Colorado and chose the Black-Footed Ferret.Black-footed-Ferret-plush-z1.png Once you click on your animal you can learn more about it like why it matters, why it is threatened, and what the WWF is doing to help save it. Then, when you scroll to the bottom, you can choose to adopt your very own endangered animal. The adoption kits are $55 each and you get a 10′ plush of the animal you’re helping, a photo of the animal, an adoption certificate, a species card, and a gift bag.

adopt-a-lynx-plush.pngI admit that you can’t find all of your local endangered animals on the WWF website, but there are plenty of animals you can help! If you have your heart set on an animal the WWF isn’t currently raising money for, simply search for the name of your animal with the word donate and you can find an organization that is working to protect that specific animal. For example, the WWF isn’t currently accepting donations for the Canada Lynx which is currently threatened in Colorado. I searched “Canada Lynx donate” and found Defenders.org where I have the option to adopt a Lynx. Defenders.org has multiple adoption levels anywhere between $20 and $200 depending on the animal. If you want to scan through the different adoption options they offer, click here!

However you choose to help the Earth, you can feel good knowing that you’re making an impact. And think of the difference we could all make if everyone who read this picked even one of the above options to help save our global home!

Are you reading this late in the day on Earth Day, or even after the fact? Don’t worry, as the Earth Day Network says, “every day is Earth Day”. You can still help! And if you don’t want to participate in any of the above options, you can help the Earth Day Network reach their Global Environmental and Climate Literacy Campaign. Earth Day turns 50 in 2020 and the Earth Day Network is already planning to celebrate in a big way by dedicating to ensure that every student around the world graduates high school knowing the importance of environmental and climate change. Watch their video below, or learn more by clicking here!

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5efkV0dt4mc]

Want to hear what other “National Days” Earth Day shares April 22nd with this year? Girl Scout Leader’s DayRecord Store Day, and Jelly Bean Day!

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3 Opportunities to KISS Happy

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“If you want to be happy, be.”

-Leo Tolstoy

If we wanted, we could just keep-it-simple-stupid (KISS) the quote above and that would be that.

But sometimes the simplest of truths call forth our complication-making machinery.

We entertain this reason or that, compelling “evidence” that it’s just not possible. The more legitimate the reason, the more we negate the simple truth.

For example, I woke up this morning with that nagging feeling that something just wasn’t right.

First, I looked to see if there was some hold-over issue from yesterday that I may have carried into my today.

Then, I looked to see if I could remember my dreams: was there something that went through my mind during the night still in my head?

Or – and here’s an even deeper cut to take: since our dreams access our most subconscious thoughts and feelings, IF I DID HAVE A BAD DREAM which left its remnants, what does that mean? Should I be worried about what’s going on in my subconscious?

It’s truly amazing how far down the rabbit hole one can go!

Harvard Business Review described a study in which folks were monitored for how their morning mood impacted the rest of their day.

And there’s some evidence that one of many external factors can play a part in the setting up of one’s mood at the outset of the day.

Yet, outside of any external factors, the real value is in the development of internal happiness control.

Aside from a healthy self-awareness and any good life-skills techniques we employ to embrace living, maybe it’s as simple as the choice to be happy.

At least 3 Points to KISS Happy daily are (feel free to add more):

1. Morning – Choosing to Be Happy Anyway

Despite the rabbit hole of quandary as to what could be the culprit behind the questionable mood, exercise the power of your will and choose to be in a good mood today anyway.

Some therapists suggest anchoring the thought with 5 deep breaths…and then finding times throughout the day to take those 5 deep breaths again and remember that choice.

2. Daily Reason Points – Choosing to Be Happy Anyway

The day will no doubt present as many viable reasons as possible to choose to go to the dark side.  In the face of the reasons, it adds so much to our inner confidence and sense of power over our life every time we can choose to choose a happy thought anyway.

What technique can you employ to pivot? Step away from the machine for a moment and do your 5 breaths? Play a mind game of counting of your blessings?

Here’s a little mind trick I like: Envision the Negative!

Think back to one of the best things that ever happened to you – a fortunate break, an unexpected gift, a chance meeting, a wonderful opportunity, an amazing relationship – and then imagine for a moment that it HADN’T happened…and where you’d be now.  Sounds like it’s pointing toward the negative, but it’s a great way to jettison yourself into humongous gratitude and happiness in short order!

3. Evening – Choosing to Be Happy Anyway

When it’s all said and done for the day, if you worked your KISS Happy muscle, a lot of “evidence” might already be in place to justify going to bed happy.  However, if any slip-ups occurred, you might engage in a late-night, rest-prep workout.

What were the BEST things that DID happen today? How did they make you feel?

How DID you grow and expand today, and what are your intentions for doing so tomorrow?

I like the thought that the way to be happy is to choose every morning that I’m in a good mood, and to keep choosing that choice throughout the day.

I also like the thought that sometimes happiness is a feeling, and sometimes it’s a choice.

All feelings aside, what’s the biggest choice you can make today?

Choose KISS Happy.

“Happiness is a choice, not a result. Nothing will make you happy until you choose to be happy. No person will make you happy unless you decide to be happy. Your happiness will not come to you. It can only come from you.”

-Ralph Marston

DIY Valentine’s Day Ideas That Will Make You Feel the Love

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I don’t know about you, but when it comes to thinking of the perfect Valentine’s Day gift for my husband (or even the perfect things to do on Valentine’s Day), it often feels impossible.

First, there is the question of if I even want to attempt to brave the crazy world of reservations and official activities. Then it’s the question of if I want to celebrate on Valentine’s Day or if I want to celebrate the previous or following weekend. By that point, thinking of an actual gift is absolutely exhausting. It seems as if we’ve done everything already. Romantic dinner? Check. Flowers? Check. Chocolates? Check. By the time you are in the midst of midlife it often feels like the day is hardly worth it and (usually) pretty unsurprising. But, with the right commitment and a little time, you can create the perfect DIY Valentine’s Day present to show your significant other exactly how much you appreciate them – regardless of the day of the year (which brings me to today’s post).

How to create the perfect DIY Valentine’s Day gift to make you (and your significant other) feel the love!

Today I am going to bring you four DIY Valentine’s gifts for him (although, these gifts would also be perfect for her). My inspiration? The DIY Valentine’s Day gifts I created for my husband five years ago (to this day, this is my favorite DIY Valentine’s Day gift I have ever made).

Take a look at my assembled gift below, and then I’ll go through all of the DIY ideas you can choose to re-create!

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The gift included (1) a pop-up Valentine card, (2) paper fortune cookies, (3), a paper rose, and (4) a pop-out memory box.

I’m going to start with the easiest and quickest parts of my gift and work my way up to the more complicated/time-consuming ideas. Pick and choose the ideas that you like the most and then make them your own!

1. Paper Fortune Cookies

As I mentioned above, these are the easiest part of the gift. All you need is paper, scissors, and glue! Quickly fold the fortune cookies, write whatever fortunes you would like about the love of your life and your future together, and slide your fortunes into the cookies. Voila! You have cute little fortunes to share with your significant other!

See how I made them by clicking on this link!

2. Pop-Up Valentine Card

dsc00250This card is a little more complicated than the fortune cookies, but not much. You will need paper, scissors, and glue like the last craft, as well as a ruler, pencil, and stencil knife (and of course a pen to write your own love letter inside). My tip? Use a light pencil and have a good eraser on hand so that you can erase all of your lines you made to know where to cut your great pop-up design. Also, pay attention to the colors you use (for example, I had to create paper cut-outs of the letters for the front of my card because pen didn’t show up very well on the red background. So, start thinking about what you want to write because you will be done with this craft before you know it!

Make your own by following the directions at this link!

3. Paper Rosedsc00247

This is my favorite part of my gift to this day! This rose is still wrapped around the edge of our standing mirror in our bedroom today. That being said, this is also the gift that caused me the most stress. I carefully picked out pages from an old dictionary where words like “love” and “kiss” were defined and then carefully cut out the petals to make sure the right words were visible…and then I completely failed my first attempt making the flower. Turns out, it’s pretty hard to make a rose out of nothing but paper, hot glue, ribbon, wire, and scissors. That being said, after a few failed attempts, I finally got it right and I still find it absolutely gorgeous. If you’re ready to put in some time and effort, I can guarantee that this gift is something that you significant other will cherish for years to come. Plus, it lasts much longer than regular roses!

Get the tutorial here!

4. Pop-Out Memory Box

This gift idea is the most time-consuming, and the most personal. This is a box that you make from scratch and is actually almost like 3 boxes in one. As your significant other opens the box, they will be unfolding the story of your life together. On each side of the box, I put a story or a picture of me and my husband and as he unfolded the box more and more, he went further and further back into our past together. It is a thoughtful gift that takes so much time to make simply because you are putting so much time into picking the right moments of your life together to remember.

For step-by-step directions (and pictures) click here!

So, there you go! Four DIY ideas for making your Valentine’s Day gifts extra special this year!

However, if you’re reading through these ideas and you’re saying to yourself, “I don’t have time for this,” don’t fear, below are a couple easy Valentine’s Day gift ideas for him (and gift ideas for her) that you can complete in an instant (no shipping required)!

For Him

For Her

For Both of You!

  • Go out! Now, I’m not saying to brave the crowds on Valentine’s day, but use the previous or following weekend to go out on a date (dinner and a movie? I know it’s cliche, but it’s always fun) or book a room (get the romance package) at a nice hotel in town for a night. You don’t have to go far to make the holiday special.
  • Stay in! Sometimes staying in the house is just as nice as going out. Cook a special dinner, pull out a favorite movie, change into your comfiest PJs and cuddle on the couch. If your kids are still at home, don’t forget to find an overnight activity for them (my local Zoo even has an overnight scheduled for children on Valentine’s Day)!

 

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Our 100th Blog Post!

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The Back Forty has officially posted 100 blog posts!

To celebrate this occasion, here are our top ten performing posts of all time (as well as a few rising stars)! Check them out and pick your favorite.

  1. The Gift Inside My Fear
  2. I Am In Love with My Wrinkles
  3. Expert Tip #5: See Midlife Crises as opportunities
  4. The Real 12 Days of Christmas (Plus a Strange Family Tradition)
  5. Free Yourself from Your Past and Fulfill Your Future
  6. An Interview with Alexandra Levin
  7. 5 Myths about Sex During Midlife
  8. No More Little Miss “Good Girl”
  9. The Difference between Men and Women in Midlife
  10. This Midlife Crisis is Just a Game: Want to Play?

And here are our top 3 rising stars in the past two weeks:

  1. Going Gray? Here’s How To Do It With Style!
  2. Get Ready NOW to Fulfill on Your New Year Resolutions
  3. Expert Tip #6: Consider Your Purpose

We hope you enjoy these top posts of the past and we look forward to bringing you much more content in the future!

A BE-Annual New Year Commitment

 

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“You are not limited to the person you wound up being, the person you think you are. You can create a way of being for yourself that currently would be unrecognizeable for you as really being you, and have that way of being be authentically who you are.”

-Werner Erhard

The quote above goes against the grain for many folks in their second half of life.

It implies that the first half didn’t already carve you into the stone YOU that you know yourself to be.

That’s what The Back Forty is all about.  The YOU you know yourself to be is just as create-able, design-able and great-able as it ever was.  No stone.  Only ongoingly invent-able form.

At 40, I was sitting in a meditation chair one morning watching my son sleeping in my bed because my parents were sleeping in his bed.  They had come into town to loan me money in fighting a half-million dollar custody suit.  I was pretty clear that my first half of life had not been worth much: broke, in debt, and possibly about to lose the opportunity to raise my son.

A thought then came to me: What if the first half of life is simply R&D, research and development?  What if what we really came here to do and be came in the second half, after all that research?

That insight, and the possibility of re-BE-ing my SELF, has resulted in a second half which continues to become unrecognizeable to the first.

If we look at life as a growing up and “finding ourselves” process, we lose out on the real opportunity of living.  Finding our greater SELF is a continual process.

The first half of life, if mined for what it has told us about our passions, proclivities, and tendencies, will render us amazing insight and direction as to what we’re here to do and be.  This is the work we do in The Back Forty programs and community.

However, the whole point of that analysis of our past is to show us that we are experimenting in the laboratory of life ALL THE TIME so as to continue to discover who we’re here to be and what we’re here to do.

If we ever get “fixed” on some idea of who we are, then the ever-evolving growth process towards what we’re here to do gets thwarted.

Perhaps you have plans for the results you intend to accomplish in the New Year.  

What if the true source of the results you’ll achieve is not what you’ll do, but who you’ll BE in the fulfillment of them?  Sure, actions must be taken. Yet BEING shapes and colors those actions.

Personally, I’m intending some way-out-in-the-ethers results for 2017, and I’m getting more and more clear that the achievement of such unrecognizeable results must come from an unrecognizeable me.

“Come on! New York Times Bestselling author of ‘The Back Forty’?  Me?  You’ve got to be kidding!”

It’s only a joke if the me I am now continues to be recognizeable to myself.  The aim is for the BE of who I am to be recognizeable to my SELF.  Big difference

Therefore, who I will be BEING in 2017 is where I’m placing my primary focus.  From there, I’ll take action.

If BEING precedes results, then consider putting your annual ritual of creating New Year possibilities focus there.

If you are so far gone into recognizeability that you don’t even have a ritual of creating New Year possibilities…WAKE UP!  Get in the game of the life you came to live!

Who can we BE for the next 12 months that will have our next January SELF be unrecognizeable to who we are now?

It’s a be-annual opportunity.

“For what it’s worth…it’s never too late, or in my case too early, to be whoever you want to be. There’s no time limit. Start whenever you want. You can change or stay the same. There are no rules to this thing. We can make the best or the worst of it. I hope you make the best of it. I hope you see things that startle you. I hope you feel things you’ve never felt before. I hope you meet people who have a different point of view. I hope you live a life you’re proud of, and if you’re not, I hope you have the courage to start over again.”

-F. Scott Fitzgerald

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