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Archive for 2010 Line

A little obvious, a little too best-seller-y . . . a few things I thought upon being recommended to read “Three Cups of Tea” by a friend. But, it kept coming up and there was a copy lying around and there is this Christmas catalyzed reading binge to feed. So, I did it, AND, I am glad that I did. “Three Cups of Tea” tells the story of a pretty regular guy who is deep down a radical feminist and international bridge builder.

The subject of the book is also the co-author, regular guy Greg Mortenson teams up with journalist David Oliver Relin to tell his incredible life-story. Greg is raised in Tanzania by missionaries (the nice kind, who instead of getting pumped about conversions and soul-saving, get pumped about joint humanitarian efforts within the communities in which they live and work) but that is pretty uninteresting compared to what this type of upbringing gets Greg into in his late 30s and early 40s. “Three Cups of Tea” tells the story of a smart hard-working guy who takes a detour as a free-wheeling Bay Area super climber bum that leads him to try (and fail) to summit K2. Pretty cool. BUT, NOTHING compared to what this small failure leads to, he winds up in a tiny isolated Pakistani mountain village, sees little girls sitting outside in the wind teaching themselves to write using sticks and dirt and vows to come back and build a school.

And boy does he! The Maverick-y climber dude writes unanswered letters to Oprah Winfrey and other deep-pocketed types but ends of up gaining the interest of just one rich climber dude from Seattle and TADOWWW! He heads back to build the school. Everyone is stoked. BUT, this process takes years and ultimately results in Greg Mortenson growing into a sophisticated peace-building, money-raising, girl child educating, model American, super guy! It is AWESOME! He is TOTALLY inspirational, if I had read this book in high school my head would have blown off, I would have gotten like twenty tattoos of inspirational quotes from his Pakistan-y mentor and I would still be riding the “hey, people are truly very brave and universally deserving of LOVE” high. Now that I am a sage old thirty-year-old, the book nevertheless manages to inspire a great deal. In a world where not having the exact right carafe is disturbing, (my world) Mr. Mortenson’s tireless and dogged determination to provide opportunities for self-worth for young girls and boys and dealing with the real cause of the world’s problems . . .abject poverty is absolutely thrilling. As someone born and raised in the Wild West the book really drew me in with Greg Mortenson’s convention dodging ways and the his co-author tells the story in an engaging and sensitive way. Leaving in the USA it is hard to turn away from the negative depictions of the Muslim world, but this story steers very clear of any major doses of haterade going East to West or West to East. I’m not sure if it is Mr. Mortenson’s true nature or Relin’s telling of the stories and it is most likely a combination of the two but this book while being about politics and poverty and family, and overcoming all odds and all that touchy feel-y stuff is a REAL ADVENTURE BOOK. Dude is cool as a cucumber during a full-on kidnapping, being held hostage sitch, has similar NO BIG DEAL reactions to all kinds of tea parties with warlords, practically getting killed by landmines, walking into firefights, eating dirty sheeps brains or whatever and the general BADASSERY of riding around in the shadow of the second largest mountain on Earth all alone. He is a real adventure roll model with his learn on-the-go language skills and earnest desire to respect difference.

But, of course, this is all an oversimplification of this adventurer’s mission. If I were a full time adventure book reviewer I would focus more of my time and attention on developing a plethora of time-tested and well-worn analogies for climbing the mountains both within and without oneself, but since I am full time entrepreneur, I will just mention that when he set out to honor his deceased sister by leaving something of hers on top of a big mountain and failed, he found another MUCH BIGGER BADDER MOUNTAIN than K2 to prove himself on. Mortenson’s quest as an ultra-feminist, peace-loving, burly mountain man to build as many schools as possible for one of the most used and abused people’s on earth is one of those stories that can turn a dark day bright. Get to reading, this love-fest is over, I have to go write a proposal to try to get yet another awesome The Adventure School gig. HAPPY NEW YEAR!

Here’s some more info from Greg Mortenson’s organization, the Central Asia Institute. Through their work in creating and funding a diverse gamut of poverty combating programs like Scholarships, Women’s Centers, School buildings, Teachers, Public Health Programs and the like . .  Greg Mortenson and CAI have (from their website), “As of 2009, . . . successfully established 130 schools in Pakistan and Afghanistan, which provide (or have provided) education to over 51,000 students, with an emphasis on girls’ education”. DAMN!!! WOWEE ZOWEE, that is a lot OF KIDS DUDES! All is right in the world. Go out there and do something nice for someone.


It is likely that the book “A Short Walk in the Hindu Kush” by Eric Newby has given me the wrong idea. I don’t want to end up with a fruit roll-up, wearing some Michael Kors hiking boots in the mountains of Afghanistan but something like that could happen if I take a cue from Mr. Newby and just set out on a grand jaunt overwhelmingly under-prepared but with a heart for ADVENTURE. The plot of “A Short Walk in the Hindu Kush” is just that, a former dress salesman and a small-time British diplomat decide, what the hell, let’s get into it and travel to Afghanistan and try to climb a mountain. The ‘hilarity’ that ensues is sometimes life-endangering, sometimes life-affirming, for our two protagonists, but is always a fresh snapshot into a region cloaked in mystery to your average Seattle-born party planner. An area that is know known to be the geographic center of population of the world, the Hindu Kush existed and was doing its majestic mountain thing long before Osama Bin Laden got kicked out of the Sudan and made the caves of the region his HQ. It is really nice to read this book because it is not told through a Cold War lens, Soviets aren’t mentioned, Mujahideen, Taliban, Al Qaeda are all equally non-existent. The real combatants that threaten our protagonists are cold toes, biting winds, lack of language skills, various “bathroom issues” and having only brought one book on the arduous journey, and The Hound of the Baskervilles at that. You should read this book if you want to make 2011 a year of adventure and hop on the Pacific Crest Trail or hit the open seas to sail around the world or something. “A Short Walk in the Hindu Kush” is number 16 in National Geographic’s list of the 100 greatest adventure books of all time, (I will be reviewing all 100 right here on the adventure blog, so settle in, gentle reader, this could take awhile). In crawling around on the internet I thought this was a really funny, brief, accurate synopsis that just happens to be the wikipedia ‘article’ about the book in its entirety: “In 1956, at the age of 36, Newby ended his London career in fashion and decided impulsively to travel to a remote corner of Afghanistan where no European had ventured for 50 years. He was ill-prepared and poorly-experienced, but Newby and his friend Hugh Carless vowed to climb Mir Samir, an unclimbed glacial peak in the Hindu Kush of 20,000 feet”. Newby is hilarious and they get into lots of jams and get out of them by lying, and just plain trusting to luck. The book investigates the loving and sometimes hating relationship between two friends who experience high-altitude dementia, dysentery and having to eat tinned soups together as well as the inspiration of the majestic and unparalleled beauty of one of the world’s most enchanting mountain ranges. They encounter a cast of fierce and kind characters and eat a lot of stolen fruit. The book is very English, but it is not overly colonial explorer/cultural rapist entitlement chic at all. Newby and Carless are just the type of adventurers your average citizen can hope to be, fearless-ish, excitable and willing to give anything the good old college try and trust that everyone is basically good. Stay tuned . . . I will be reviewing Three Cups of Tea and the Ra Expeditions next. Christmas is a great book-reading season and I am taking full advantage.


From all of us here at The Adventure School to all of you!


These are extremely overdue but I thought I should share them anyway. Here are a handful of pictures from my personal Thanksgiving table in Arizona this year.

I purchased:

  • two yards of burlap, a 12 pack of votives & 2 green candle sticks from Michaels
  • assorted squash from the Phoenix Farmer’s Market
  • colorful corn from the local grocery store

Everything else, we already had. This was insanely inexpensive, and understated!  I just LOVE Thanksgiving! Until next year…Enjoy!


Book Review: NEW COLUMN!! is a column where we review BOOKS!!! Yes, kids, it is holiday time. TIME TO CURL UP WITH A GOOD BOOK. Today’s book is a business book! Or at least WE consider it a business book. I think for the most part, I will be reviewing adventure books up in here but I have recently taken the plunge into reading a bunch of books about innovation, what business is now, and the intertwining of everything in our internet/twitter/i-chatting age.

The book of the hour is Steven Johnson’s Where Good Ideas Come From: The Natural History of Innovation. The book is fun to read, if you like reading books by Malcolm Gladwell and Michael Pollan then you will like Johnson’s easy breezy science-y mish-mash of the histories of chemistry, geography, the internet and more. I read this book over the holiday weekend and its chapter titles: The Adjacent Possible, Liquid Networks, The Slow Hunch, Serendipity etc. etc. really lend themselves to a simple examination of one’s OWN business life! Awesome, an unexpected side-effect of reading this book. Other unexpected bonuses include appendices that include a Chronology of Key Innovation from 1400 to 2000. Invention of pencil (1560). The story of the creation of GPS? See page 183, you’ll never guess how that got cooking (unless you actually think about things like satellites a lot, which I definitely don’t). Besides simple histories, the book asks us to look into the potential unlocked by each and every connection we make, by the inspirational quotes we jot down and good old fashioned long coffee breaks talking about solutions to work problems with colleagues.

I recently watched the Rush documentary, Beyond the Lighted Stage. In the special features section, the documentarians take us on a whimsical- almost boring- but not quite, examination of the hobbies of Geddy Lee, Alex Lifeson and Neil Peart (Baseball memorabilia collecting, golfing and motorcycling in that order). While for Rush ultra-fans this hobby-based, mini-film is the chance to see what Geddy Lee’s study looks like, but for me, a light bulb went off . . . to be an innovator in your field, you need to open yourself up to the expansiveness of the universe and train your mind and heart to wrap around as much stuff as possible, get obsessed with the stuff you love the most and then stick with that stuff forever, weaving information from all of the things you know and love together forever. Steven Johnson and Geddy Lee are on the same page! If Tim Berners-Lee wants to learn to really shred (or invent the internet) then he needs to take advantage of Google’s Innovation Time Off (or work at a firm that allows him time and space to tinker with his own highly intricate projects). In other words, be your own Charles Darwin and connect the dots! See you guys next time for BOOK REVIEW: NEW COLUMN!!


We were really happy to contribute some excellent party survival tips to Nordstrom dot com. Partying all the time is so fun . . .. but, it takes work. Just ask Eddie Murphy. On a barely related note, you should seriously read this wikipedia article about his song, Party All The Time. Back to the real news, the tips found in Nordstrom’s guide are excellent. I have taken out an excerpt here to show you my tips.

1. EAT WELL (between parties)

2. TOAST THE HOST (throwing parties ain’t easy, give ‘em some love)

These tips are crucial! Holiday cocktail parties are delightful and if your gracious host has made  . . . cooking a brisket, holding a white elephant gift exchange, decorating the house, inviting all of your friends, buying wine/beer/schnapps, making cookies, squeezing fresh lemons, creating a holiday play list, pressing festive outfits, shoveling the walk, greeting guests, making drinks, putting clean towels in the bathroom, stocking still and sparkling water, wiring the house for surround sound, tracking RSVPs and buying a few extra gifts for your plus ones and genuinely listening to you about your family Thanksgiving horror stories look and decorating the tree LOOK EASY (all while probably working a full-time job on the side) then he/she is a true HOSTESS WITH THE MOSTESS. And he/she deserves your gratitude. Bring wine, an ornament, compose a poem, SAY THANK YOU!

Other tips include but are not limited to: drink clear liquids – no one wants a party frock bummer on their hands at the beginning of the season, invest in some excellent party gear and recycle it–strapless plaid dresses DO MATTER–they look great. TAKE CABS! CARPOOL WITH A DESIGNATED DRIVER! (No one likes a drunk driver. Don’t ruin Christmas!) DO go to as many holiday parties as you can. DON’T party too hard– it’s a long season, stay consistent. But seriously, holiday time is such a wonderful time to realize how truly full your friends and family make your life. It is a wonderful time to give thanks for all the warmth that community creates. DO be generous with hugs! DON’T underestimate the deliciousness of hot cocoa STRAIGHT UP.

Without further ado . . . an excerpt from the Cocktail Party Survival Guide.


Hello, holiday lovers. We hope you are all drinking cider and getting ready to party down with some pies and loved ones tomorrow! Seriously, what a wonderful time of year!!! Recently, The Adventure School teamed up with Seattle Metropolitan magazine to create a holiday tabletop. Our concept was it’s a Plaid, Plaid, Plaid, Plaid World. I mean, the holidays come every year, why not spice them up with some mismatched plaids this year. Nothing says, THANK YOU like plaid-o-rama. Check out the pics!

If you haven’t decided on how to decorate for tomorrow, check out this video for some tips. Start at the 1:29 mark if you are in a hurry to get to The Adventure School tips, another lady is first.

That being said, we are thankful for all of our friends, we are thankful for adventure and we are thankful that we can keep on adventuring with you throughout the holidays and beyond!!

All Photos by Ryan McVay

Other Major Deets:

You can email us at for free plaid menu and place-setting templates! (DO IT! Perfect for Christmas!)

The beautiful flatware is from friend-of-adventure, Seattle company, Rosanna.

Assorted bread loaves available locally at Macrina Bakery!
Gorgeous fall floral from our friends at Fleurish.
All other food available locally at Nettletown, 2238 Eastlake Ave E, Eastlake, call them at  206-588-3607. They are having a big feast called Nettlemas on Friday. Let the good times roll!


One thing I strongly believe in is to ALWAYS find a way to reuse things! Last week I was sitting in my nice little “living room” corner (at the office) thinking about the hundreds and hundreds of near expired votive candles we have out in the hall. I had some jute twine sitting next to me and decided to wrap a votive with it.

I am so excited with my final product because I have found a way we can reuse these votives AND they look cool!!! You can stick a little tea light candle in there since you can’t see in. No one will ever know!

Jute Wrapped Votive By Misha

When illuminated, there are just enough small gaps between each row of jute that the glow of the candle shines through. It’s beautiful!



One of the first things I noticed when I got to Mexico City (right after noticing the immense scale of the city) was the abundance of hand painted signs, called ròtulos, in lieu of printed signage. I can only assume that I’m seeing the ròtulos more in the outlying neighborhoods than in the borough centers because they are still cheaper than digital prints. As with most handicrafts, the lessening cost of digital and technological processes will eventually put them and their makers at risk of going the way of the dodo, but from the little information I could find on the internet about ròtulos, I suspect that they exist in part because of an appreciation for this craft. (I would just go ask around but my Spanish is highly limited at best.)

I have a very small sample of photos below of some ròtulos near where I am in the borough of Tlalpan. I hope to collect many more, as soon as I get over being that tourist-with-a-camera. Sometimes it takes a bit of bravery to be a tourist.

First a view of Mexico City, taken just down the street from where I’m staying. It’s a very, very big city. The third most populous, anywhere. The city and the people go on and on.

And now some ròtulos…

The craftsmanship varies wildly from sign to sign. Some are amazing in their precision, some are simple and crude, but at any quality, big letters on a wall grab your attention and do their work. There is no doubt that for a lot of the ròtuladors, care is given to the basics of good design: color, type and information hierarchy. These things are then coupled with steady hands and craftsmanship, and as a designer who spends all day behind a computer screen, I feel like a bit of a phony when looking at some of this work. This disconnect from (and romanticization of) the handmade is a growing cliche in the “technological age”, one that bubbles to the surface while walking around the neighborhoods with a digital camera taking photos of handmade signs on crumbling buildings. The irony as I upload the photos to my Apple laptop is not lost on me.

My appreciation and interest in these ròtulos, and the general resurgence and interest in the handmade boils down to this: These signs are graphic design in a very pure form, beautiful and effective and free of any pretense.

For more information on ròtulos, with an emphasis on those in Yucatan, visit:


I was just reading a fav blog of mine, Design*Sponge, and she was talking about this most awesome of events. The amazing trio who designed THIS WEBSITE have created an amazing book called The Exquisite Book and to celebrate they will party! From the ALSO website about the book, “The Exquisite Book is a project based on the Surrealist game called the Exquisite Corpse. The book is a modified version of the game, played by one hundred contributing contemporary fine artists, illustrators, designers and comic artists”. The collaborative trio of Jenny Volvovski, Matt Lamothe and Julia Rothman also known as the ALSO design agency have long inspired The Adventure School and asking them to design our website remains one of the first and best(!) ideas that Aviva and I had when starting out on our journey of adventure in The Adventure School.

The Exquisite Book from The Exquisite Book on Vimeo.

In other words it’s all coming together for you New Yorkers, if you like The Adventure School, and if you are reading this I know you do, then you most likely love to go to this event! Go check it out and please report back to me as I am in Miami and will not be able to make it to DUMBO. All 100 of the artists in the book will have their page hanging at the show/party.

The deets cribbed from Design*Sponge:

What: The Exquisite Book Party and Art Exhibition
When: Friday October 22nd, 6–9pm
Where: Powerhouse Arena, 37 Main Street (corner of Water & Main St.), DUMBO, Brooklyn
Details: Authors and artists will be signing books, artwork from the book will be on display and for sale and drinks will be served.

*P.S. If you’re out of town or unable to attend, all of the prints from the book will be available to purchase ($60 each) online starting today. They will be available for one month after the show, click to check them out and shop online.