Be featured on Hope Engaged…

Friday, January 30

You may not know, but I have an incredible passion for incorporating traditions into both every day life as well as special holidays. I believe traditions enhance and enrich the sacredness of the ordinary, as well as commemorate and deepen a sacred holiday. Traditions provide safety and comfort, like the feeling of being wrapped in a familiar childhood blanket. Every year at Christmas I knew we'd eat Swedish food and drink root beer and exchange gifts by the fire. Every night as a child I knew my mom or dad would read a Narnia book to my siblings and I, and then sit by our bed while we said our prayers. Traditions gave us something to look forward to, and inspired creativity and family togetherness. More importantly, traditions reminded and centered me on what is most valuable in my life…God. For these reasons, I think our lives are more deeply lived when we are intentional about incorporating traditions of our own.

As Kevin and I begin to think about starting a family, I am ever aware and thinking about traditions that we want to adopt for the enrichment of our lives. This is where YOU come in dear friend! I want to hear your traditions. First…you should know that when I say "tradition" I don't just mean for a holiday. If you have a tradition of making waffles and singing songs with your kids every Sunday before church, I want to hear about it! And be creative…I don't want just 500 Christmas traditions. Do any of you do anything special around Valentines day, St. Patricks, Veterans Day, etc???

If you want to be featured on Hope Engaged, please see the instructions below to learn how to submit a post to my blog:

Submit a Tradition to Hope Engaged: 
1. Pick a tradition that your family celebrates {includes, but is no limited to family}
{whether it be holiday specific, or just an every-day tradition}.
2. Write 2-4 paragraphs on this tradition
{A few idea of what to include: How did your tradition start? How does it enhance your family life? How does it strengthen your faith? Any specific items people would need to try to recreate this tradition (like a recipe or craft)  etc. }
3. Include 3-5 DSLR pictures with your post.  Pictures must be 700 pixels wide. {If you do not own a DSLR camera, don't worry! I can always provide pictures to go along with your post! Don't let this stop you from submitting}
4. Include a brief bio of yourself and any social media links
5. Email your post and pictures to me at

While I am excited to receive many of your traditions, please keep in mind that I will not be able to post them all. If I decide to post your tradition, I will make sure to let you know. There is no deadline to submit a post…I will be collecting them all year! {If you have any traditions around Valentines day, submit it soon so I can post it in 2 weeks:) }

Thanks in advance for sharing your life with me! I just love this space of blogging because of the amazing community like you all! This morning I met with with the most adorable couple from England, whom I met through blogging. Esther and Matt are here in California for a wedding, and so we all had breakfast together! So fun! Who else wants to come visit me in the sunshine?!?!?

Happy Weekend dears!!

Swing at the End of the World: Casa de Arbol // Banos, Ecuador

Wednesday, January 28

Before we take a trip, I like to  pop on Pinterest and search a few of the destinations we are traveling to. When I typed in "Ecuador", over and over and over again, an image of people swinging out over a steep canyon kept coming up. I was intrigued, and slightly mortified. It's called the "Swing at the End of the World" which kind of sounds to me like impending doom…like swinging over Mordor or a boiling volcano of lava. Thankfully…it's just a swing… OVER A CLIFF! 

High atop a mountain in Banos, is a funky little place called Casa de Arbol. You pay an entrance fee of a few dollars, and then have access to the "swing at the end of the world" {see above sentiments}, and a mini ghetto zip line. Oh yeah, and a strange little cafe that sells boiled corn. So random. 

I digress. Corn gets me off track. 

Anyway, the swing was ONCE IN A LIFETIME! I mean really, when are you going to dangle your feet over a thousand foot canyon? Um…I don't know…NEVER! With adrenaline pumping, I was addicted to this swing. I rode it 3 times, and each time had to wipe the silly grin off my face after disembarking. I'm mean, come on…swinging on a swing-set at a local park is fun in it's own right. But add a tree house, and a CLIFF, and oh, I don't know…8,000+ feet of elevation and mountains and fog and that's what you get. Pure. Unadulterated. Awesomeness. 

From Banos, take a cab up to Casa de Arbol. It's about a 15-20 ride, and did I mention it's gorgeous? We were driven up with bikes so that we could ride down the mountain…but that's another story for another time. One that includes a lot of pain. Oh…but stay tuned for that exciting story:) 

PS- If you like my headband, you can purchase them here from the talented Christina! 

The Volcanic Thermal Baths // Luna Runtun Spa: Banos, Ecuador

Monday, January 26

There is SO much to do in Banos, Ecuador. After having our fill of a wide variety of adventures sports, we were feeling like spending a lazy afternoon in the famous volcanic waters the city is known for. There are many different venues to have a soak, but in my opinion, the volcanic pools at the Luna Runtun Resort and Spa are the most stunning!

Luna Runtun is situated on top of a huge mountain, overlooking the entire city of Banos. And what's even more incredible is that the pools literally hang over the cliff, giving you the most spectacular views while you heat your body in the bubbling pools!

While we could have never afforded to actually stay at the resort, the pools were in our budget! For $20 a person, Luna Runtun provides a towel, swim cap, all bathroom and changing room facilities (which are AMAZING!), and of course, 3 hours of using any one of their 7 thermal pools {all of them range in temperature}. Honestly, it was the perfect way to spend an afternoon. And…we were the only people there for most of the time {cue the confetti!}…which kind of blew our mind. I think it's a bit of a hidden secret that you can pay to use these pools!

The other really cool thing about spending an afternoon on the Luna Runtun grounds, is that they have an amazing restaurant that also hangs on the cliff. After a 3 hour soak, Kevin and I cozied up in the restaurant and ordered some snacks! {food is very cheap in Ecuador!} It was the perfect way to end our time there.

 So…moral of the story…if you happen to find yourself in Banos, hail a taxi (for $5), ask them to bring you to the resort, and spend your day soaking and admiring the view. You will NOT regret it…I promise:)

Banos, Ecuador

Thursday, January 22

Even though I hate picking "favorite" places on each of our trips…I kinda sorta think Banos inched its way up as a top contender for our South America trip. Maybe it was the stunning natural beauty that surrounded us with its grand waterfall making a huge splash on the southeast side of town, or the majestic Tungurahua volcano looming high above us up in the clouds, or maybe it was hundreds of  adventure activities that were within our budget that made me fall head over heels for this little spa town? It also could have been the massage I got, or maybe the hot springs? All said and done, Banos made me a believer…I think the volcanic waters may have had something to do with it:) 

If you go to Ecuador, Banos should be on your itinerary (no ifs, ands or buts about it!). Banos, named for its natural volcanic hot springs, is a charming little town in central Ecuador. It sits on a plateau surrounded by mountains and a huge volcano, and has more than 60 waterfalls in the surrounding areas. Every where you turn is a huge gorge, a cliff, a river below, and a waterfall within your view. It's spectacular, really. 

Part of the charm of Banos, is that you'd be hard pressed to run out of things to do. Kevin and I were in Banos for 2 1/2 days, and still we were begging for more time in this sweet little city. Below i've listed some of the activities we participated in…don't worry, I will be blogging about each activity individually, so you can get more detail! Today's just an overview!! 

Day 1 included a drive up to Casa de Arbol, where the infamous "swing at the end of the world" lies. You may have seen my picture on IG {@hopeengaged}, but essentially you swing out from a treehouse over a canyon that lies thousands of feet above sea level. It's exhilarating. We then took bikes, and rode down the steepest and most gorgeous mountain ever. It was a blast. Once we arrived at the bottom, we decided to go zip lining….can I just say WOW! The views from this zip line were off the charts! Later that night, we headed to Las Piscinas de la Virgen, the town's public thermal baths. It costs $3 to get in, and $1.50 to buy a cap. While it was PACKED with people when we went (because we were there over the New Years holiday), and I was cozied up alongside more locals that I could count, it was a great cultural experience! For $3, you gotta go! 

Day 2 included a one of the craziest things ever…Bridge Swinging! Yes, it was as heart-pounding as it sounds. We then spent the rest of the day soaking in the volcanic waters at a local spa that overlooked the city. #bestdecisionever

Besides the activities we did, Banos hosts a wide variety of adventures sports such as paragliding, bungee jumping, amazon tours, white water rafting, horse back riding, etc. so it really appeals to everyone. And each activity is about $15-30, so very affordable. Being a spa town, they also had tons of places that offered full body massages. Kevin let me splurge and for $20 I got an hour massage. It was incredibly heavenly. Beyond the activities, the town is actually really cute. It centers around a large square and church, as well as the thermal baths. Try the taffy…it's hand stretched right in front of you…as well as the sugarcane, a local favorite! And, as a Ecuadorian specialty, try the "cuy" {guinea pig}…I wasn't quite brave enough! 

If the activities, thermal baths, and natural beauty aren't enough to tempt you, there's also some incredible dining in Banos. We ate at Cafe Hood (western and Ecuadorian food) & Cafe Marianne (french food, with the best ambiance including a roaring fire place for those chilly nights!) and both were delightful! 

Lastly, we really enjoyed our hostel, Hotel Marianne. For the price, you can't beat it.  It has a beautiful garden, is secluded from the noisy downtown, and is within walking distance to everything (Banos is a very small town!). The rooms were basic but clean and it had a gorgeous view of the city and waterfall! 

I hope this gives you a peak in the quaint and bustling little town of Banos. This next week you'll get to see a glimpse of each of the activities we did!! Enjoy!