Hi All…

So I know it has been ages since I’ve written a new post, but I’m back, this time to ask for a little bit of support. As many of you know, I’m working on my MA in Foreign Languages, Literatures & Cultures, focusing on Spanish. I’ve also been taking some amazing anthropology classes where I am learning soooo much about ethnography writing. Believe it or not, this last semester I’ve been doing something I never thought I’d do for a class…play an MMOG (massive, multiplayer online game). Yep. It’s called Guild Wars 2, and I’m actually enjoying it! The goal of the class is to learn how to take field notes, partake in participant observation, interview and ultimately write an ethnography. I have learned SO much!!

It’s a good thing that I’ve been learning so much, because all these valuable skills that I’ve been gaining I will have the opportunity to put into real-life action this coming January. It has always been my dream to travel to Cuba. During an Ethnopsychiatry and Spiritual Healing course I took at CSU, I began to learn more about different cultural ways of healing and,  combined with my interest in Cuba and Spanish, I began investigating Santeria. It is a syncretic religion that was formed by the merging of Regla de Ocha, a religion brought to Cuba from Africa during the slave trade, and Catholicism. The topic of my master’s thesis is Santeria as an ethnopsychiatry, and after lots of back and forth I recently received permission from the U.S. government to travel to Cuba under an educational license. (Woop woop!!!) I really can hardly believe it….it’s actually happening!! While in Cuba I will be staying with an older, local woman who is a friend of my professor. She will be helping me to find contacts to interview about their personal experiences with Santeria. This really is a once in a lifetime opportunity. With locals personal narratives I will weave together the story of Santeria as a way of healing, told from the Cuban perspective.

Travel to Cuba, even though it is only 90 miles off the coast of Florida, is quite expensive. For that reason I have created a gofundme account and am asking for financial support. I estimate the trip total to be around $2,600, which I unfortunately cannot afford on my own. If you are able, or know anyone that might be interested in supporting my research, please check out my account at http://www.gofundme.com/rileygoestocuba

Thank you so much and I’ll definitely keep you all posted on my travels!!!



For Valentine’s Day this year I woke up a little  earlier than usual so that I could, rather than buying flowers, make my own roses!….out of bacon! I used bbq skewers, bacon, and some spinach and voilà… Bacon roses for my love. I wish I could have gotten a video of his reaction…he immediately ate one right off the stick. Bahaha…Priceless.

photo 1

pretty yummy looking right?

photo 2

the special breakfast…omelet complete with an edible arrangement and coffee!

Not that I don’t like to receive flowers on occassion…but to be honest I’ve never been the biggest fan of Valentine’s Day. I love the idea of showing love and appreciation to those people who are dear to our hearts, but shouldn’t we do that daily? Plus, have you ever thought about where your flowers come from?

Did you know that most of our flowers come from Columbia and then Ecuador??? When I traveled to Ecuador several years back that was one thing that stood out to me…how cheap red roses were there and the crazy price that we pay for them here. If you’re interested check out this USA Today article here.

I’m not sure exactly what I’m getting at…but it was something I thought about a lot today, and even used for discussion in my Spanish classes. I brought in an image of one of Diego Rivera’s paintings to spark conversation and to hopefully bring some thought to the workers…creating the link between process and product. In many of his paintings, although esthetically pleasing and elegant, we are unable to see faces…as if to parallel the fact that often times the workers go unrecognized.

Screen shot 2014-02-13 at 8.36.10 PM

El vendedor de alcatraces, Diego Rivera

Anyway, I’m not trying to put a downer on V-day….my  point I guess is to just a simple reminder to be aware and to always be thankful for what we have in life. I am so thankful for my loved ones, and even though this holiday may not always bring out the best in people (I can’t help but think about all the chocolates, jewelry, and silly stuffed animals purchased today just for the sake of giving someone something) I am thankful that the holiday has brought with it  some reflection.

Happy Valentine’s Day!!


Yikes! It has been an eternity (or at least it feels like it) since I last wrote a blog!! I have been busy, busy, busy since last August! People are not kidding when they say that grad school is a lot of work. Add teaching on top of that (which I’ve found that I really love!) and I have zero social life!! Haha I pretty much live at home, on campus, or in the yoga studio.

Looking back it really is hard to believe the greatness, as well as handful of challenges, that this past year has brought me and my family, but I wouldn’t change a thing. Everything happens for a reason right? Here’s a little photo tour of the past year. Cheers to 2014!

Exactly one year ago I was still living in Costa Rica as a Peace Corps volunteer. The month of January saw me working on my favorite project…teaching English to 20 incredible youth who were selected to participate in the fully donation funded JumpStart English camp. One of my favorite memories was encouraging them all to participate in a little ‘strange thing’ called yoga! February brought with it many ‘see you laters’ as I made my way back to the U.S. to begin the next stage in my life.

Back home my main focus was on family! I love spending time with my Mom and am so proud of her!! We were all happy to see her finish her treatments, celebrate her 50th birthday, and to see her healing…the new year has even brought her a wonderful new job! Congrats Mama 🙂

I was also accepted to grad school at CSU and was offered a Graduate Teaching Assistant position where I am the instructor for an introductory Spanish class at the undergraduate level. I love teaching this age group! In March I celebrated another birthday and not too long after fostered an adorable puppy, but quickly learned how much work having a puppy is! Ultimately Anthony and I were unable to adopt her…womp womp.

One of my favorite parts of entering into the spring/summer season was becoming a working member at Native Hill Farm. I loved being outside getting my hands dirty and it’s definitely something I hope to do again!

number 3

This past summer brought with it more exciting life changes…Anthony and I moved in together! I loved getting the house all decorated and cozy feeling. One of the highlights of the summer was definitely our roadtrip to the Oregon coast. Can you believe that we (cough, cough…Anthony) drove all that way in one straight shot? Pretty crazy right?

August meant Anthony’s birthday and getting ready for grad school. I was able to get all of Anthony’s family and friends together to help me get him a Macbook Pro for his birthday and throw him one heck of a surprise party. It was great!! August also meant registering for classes. I took Spanish Word Formation and Morphology, Teaching Methodology, and Ethnopsychiatry and Spiritual healing.  Before the start of school I opted to take on a bootcamp…which was awesome! I felt so incredible after working out 1 hour a day for 6 days a week. Unfortunately, with the start of school came the end of my social life (and working out time), but I feel very accomplished after one semester. To finish the semester I turned in, among other things, a children’s story accompanied by a 100 page glossary of words (documenting etymology, definitions, synonyms, metaphors, you name it we included it!), and a 30 page research paper on Santeria in Cuba. The biggest reward of the semester, though, was to receive amazing compliments from my students….such a great group!

number 4

The holiday season was filled with many interesting stories to say the least. In November we celebrated my brother’s 21st  by taking him out to an arcade bar. In the same month my Dad was in need of TLC after going through a major surgery. Apparently 2013 wanted to go out with a bang (haha) because one morning I woke up to find that my car had been hit in the parking lot, the only evidence being $50 and a cop card left on my windshield….womp womp for November.

Sticking to the theme of 2013 going out with a bang, Anthony and I rang in the New Year right….coming home at 1:00 am to Izzy dashing out the front door….us chasing her around the buildings and trees hoping she wouldn’t dart into the road just as she booked it back inside our house… She loves to play tricks on us.

After a busy whirlwind of a  2013 a quote that I found fitting for 2014 goes something like this…my goal for 2014 is not to stress…everything will happen in it’s time…

“Worrying does not empty tomorrow of its troubles, it empties today of its strength.” – Corrie ten Boom

Cheers to 2014!


Happy birthday to you. Happy birthday to you. Happy birthday dear Annnnnnthonyyyyy! Happy birthday to you!!!

I think I almost had as much excitement/fun planning this special guy’s birthday as he did celebrating it! My heart feels happy.


About three months ago I started scheming…his laptop was stolen during the previous school year and he somehow needed a replacement…..hm….

I looked to family and friends for help, and amazingly after a little persistence and a few obnoxious, coaxing emails/phone calls I had received enough spare change to purchase his dream computer. A huge thank you to everyone that pitched in to make this all come together! Anthony had noooo idea.

We threw him a little birthday party with lots of good friends, family, delicious food, and plenty to drink. It was marvelous.

Yummy kale salad...the kale is from the farm where we volunteer!

Yummy kale salad…the kale is from the farm where we volunteer!

More veggies from the farm

More veggies from the farm


strawberry infused vodka

strawberry infused vodka

A friend making her famous egg rolls

A friend making her famous egg rolls



After lunch we opened presents…he says it still hasn’t really sunken in yet. I wanted to share some pictures from the party and a video that I took of him opening his gift!



From one of his buddies



And no birthday is complete without some cake…or in this case ice cream cake! mmmm…


Ohhhhh….and did I mention the other “birthday present”?…We adopted a kitten from the humane society! I’ve never been much of a cat person…but she is sooo gosh darn cute! Her name is Izzy…she’s snuggly, loves to play, and is always chattering away about something! Maybe cats are growing on me…


Meet Izzy!


All in all I’d say he made out pretty well for turning 27, wouldn’t you say??


Sometimes Cajan sounds amazing right? Here’s my rendition as far as I remember! I didn’t write the ingredients down..oops, but it turned out pretty delicious…great texture, and just the right amount of spice!

Paleo Jambalaya




Package of wild caught, deveined, detailed shrimp

Andouille sausage, sliced

2-3 garlic cloves

1 bell pepper

1 onion

1 head of cauliflower

1 small can of tomato paste

1 can of diced tomatoes

1 cup of vegetable (or chicken) broth

Olive oil (for sautéing)

Salt and pepper

About a tsp of paprika

1/2 of cayenne pepper


!. Defrost the shrimp (follow the instructions on the package!)

2. Dice up all the veggies, cut the sausage into slices, and “rice” the cauliflower (I guess that was like 3 steps in one huh?…oh well!) To rice the cauliflower I took big chunks and threw them into a Ninja blender and pulse until they reached a “rice” like texture.



3. Saute the garlic, onion, and bell pepper in the bottom of a large pot. Add the sausage and allow to cook for a few minutes. Toss in the cauliflower, broth and shrimp. Cover and let cook for like 5 minutes or so.

4. Add in the remaining ingredients, cover and allow to cook for another 10-15 minutes so that all the flavors combine.





I also happened to be craving some dessert…but dessert that I wouldn’t feel guilty about eating. So for that I turned to my handy, dandy Practical Paleo cookbook. I made a dairy free chocolate mousse, and you can see the ingredients here. Who knew avocados and chocolate could taste so amazing??!! Give it a try!



Life is so busy these days! When did that happen? I think I’ll blog a quick photo summary of the last few weeks….they’ve been packed!

I finished with my summer job. For my last day of work I drove a group of kids to a Denver amusement park, rode a bunch of rides with them, said goodbyes and then got in the car with Anthony to begin our 17 hour road trip to the Oregon coast; our mission being to arrive there the next night in time to go out for our friend’s bachelorette and bachelor parties. It was a LONG drive, but we made it!


After spending a day-ish in Portland we headed to Cannon Beach, where our two close friends had their INCREDIBLE wedding.



Driving, driving, driving…



I had PLENTY of time to do my nails...

I had PLENTY of time to do my nails…


Columbia River

Columbia River


We went to a coffee/motorcycle bar called SeeSees in Portland.

We went to a coffee/motorcycle bar called See See in Portland.


Neat helmets

Neat helmets


Exploring Portland

Exploring Portland


Woohoo!! We made it to Cannon Beach

Woohoo!! We made it to Cannon Beach



Bliss :)

Bliss 🙂


It was chilly...but oh so majestic!

It was chilly…but oh so majestic!


Anthony and me in the sunset

Anthony and me in the sunset


Haystack rock

Haystack rock


Indian Beach

Indian Beach


Bonfire on the beach!

Bonfire on the beach!


Doing some yoga on the beach

Doing some yoga on the beach


Anthony and I at the wedding!! Lookin' good

Anthony and I at the wedding!! Lookin’ good





So, so pretty

So, so pretty


One of the wedding gifts I made for the couple.

One of the wedding gifts I made for the couple.








Last day in Cannon Beach

Last day in Cannon Beach




Last stop in Portland before heading home...

Last stop in Portland before heading home…


Voodoo Donuts! mmmm...yes, there is bacon on that!

Voodoo Donuts! mmmm…yes, there is bacon on that!


Eating on the go

Eating on the go


Proof that I did do some of the driving!

Proof that I did do some of the driving!


We made it back to Colorado just in time to get Anthony all moved out of his old rental and into our new home!!! I can’t wait to post pictures of the furniture that my Dad made for us! He is incredibly talented!!

We are so happy, and now the goal is to relax a little before the school year starts!


Yikes!! How the time has been FLYING!!! I can’t believe we’re already into July. Life has gotten so busy lately, hence my lack of blog posts! Oops. Since the last time I wrote I have started a new job as a Day Camp Leader….which is fun (most of the time). I’ve had a little work drama as of late, though, and I am not really sure how the rest of summer is going to pan out….we shall see.

On another note, I’ve also been keeping myself busy searching/ making stuff for the new place (almost time to move in!!) Like, just the other day I lucked into a really nice couch for only 20 BUCKS! Not to mention the awesome tea kettle that I bought at a yard sale for a dollar. I’m on a roll! My Dad has even been helping me make some of our own furniture. I’ll post some pics of all that goodness later on!

Family things have also been good lately. My Dad celebrated a birthday last week, and since his birthday is on the 4th of July I couldn’t resist giving him a bucket full of fireworks.

Hope he doesn't mind me using this silly picture!

Hope he doesn’t mind me using this silly picture!

Anthony and I rode his motorcycle up toward Horsetooth Reservoir to watch the firework show….turns out we left before the actual show even started (oops), having been deceived by a neighboring town’s show. The week before that my Dad’s family was out visiting from Mississippi, Missouri and Kansas…had fun hanging with my cousins, doing rad things like going on spooky ghost tours!

Standing outside a "cursed", abandoned garage

Standing outside a “cursed”, abandoned garage

Fort Collins Ghost Tour

Fort Collins Ghost Tour


Okay, okay, enough with the updates and onto the craft project! I’ve been meaning to post this one for awhile actually. Anthony and I are planning on doing something similar for a friend’s wedding gift here in the near future. I made these photo canvas prints way back in May for my Mom’s birthday. They are very simple to make and will save you a lot of money compared to actually buying a photo printed on canvas.

Photo Canvas Print

Materials needed:

Photo of your choosing (in this example I used an 8×10 photo, but I’ve also done it with a poster size print and large canvas)

Canvas (sized to match your photo)

Mod Podge

Black Acrylic Paint

Paint Brush

Foam Brush

Newspaper if you’re messy like me!

canvas 1

Step 1. Paint the edges of the canvas. I chose black, but really you could use any color.

Step 1. Paint the edges of the canvas. I chose black, but really you could use any color.

Step 2. Apply Mod Podge to 1. Front of canvas. 2. back of photograph and 3. front of photograph once it's placed on top of the canvas.

Step 2. Apply Mod Podge to: 1. front of canvas. 2. back of photograph and 3. front of photograph once it’s placed on top of the canvas.

Once the first coat of Mod Podge was dry I applied a second coat to make sure the picture was sealed in nicely. It will look streaky, but don’t worry it dries clear!

Done! :)

Done! 🙂

What a great, easy, personalized gift, right?

Oh, one last thing I wanted to share. This last week there was a crazy wind/hail/rain storm at my house….but it appears that the weather gods were on my side! For years now our neighbor’s tree has been dead, but nothing was ever done about it. Well, during all the wind last week it finally fell over…luckily in the opposite direction of my car! I really just wanted to share. That’s all 🙂


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