Monday, November 25, 2013

The American Riviera Woman Entrepreneur Of The Years Awards 2013

*Enjoy the slideshow at the end of this post!  The Arwey Awards were founded by Executive Director Tia Walker here in Santa Barbara, California. This year's awards were held on Saturday, November 16th 2013 at The Bacara Resort and Spa

I learned a few years ago that basically anything that Tia Walker touches usually turns to gold and sparkles with magical and powerful intention in the world! Being in the room and sharing an afternoon with such incredibly motivated and inspiring women was a powerful experience for all of us. She miraculously brought together a diverse group of heavy-hitting women from around the country in order to both celebrate each of their achievements and to inspire all of us towards more intentional living in this world.

There is an indelible strength that comes from supporting each other in moving towards our dreams and giving back to the world. 

From listening to the work that the panelists are doing in the world to being treated to some fantastic music including a humorous "Tiara Song" by Penelope and then a surprise performance by Rickie Byars Beckwith of the Agape Spiritual Center it was difficult to not feel spiritually uplifted by the end of the afternoon. 

We can't merely walk our own paths with purpose, we must support our sisters in walking their own as well. And this is where we will get our fuel to continue on and our inspiration to always aim higher. 

I couldn't have put it better than Sister Janet (another award recipient) put it, "No one has it all together but together we have it all." 

Amen, Sister! 

Enjoy the slideshow that I put together from this beautiful event! Please feel free to share the link with all of your friends and anyone else who was involved with this beautiful day. A big thanks to Tia Walker and all of her hard-working volunteers who helped make this day happen. 

May you all continue to walk the walk. 

With Love And Blessings,
 Rachel ☆⋰⋱★⋰⋱☆⋰⋱★۰̮̑●̮̑۰

A Message From Tia….

The Bigger ARWEY Vision ~ by Founder Tia Walker

Thanks to the brilliant photographic talents of Rachel S. Thurston (of r.s.thurston photography), there is a slideshow of the event that will delight your heart and you'll receive a joy blast :) just by watching.

Your support of the ARWEY Awards extends beyond the borders of Santa Barbara and reaches remote areas of Tanzania and Ghana. Together with our sister city of Monaco, we are building a bridge to help women through the sometimes harsh reality of oppression and lack of access to capital through micro loans, training and mentoring. Our intention is to partner with existing organizations and support their efforts both locally and globally.  We feel no need to start something "new" as there are many organizations that are established to meet the needs, we simply support those efforts.

As we gather with our families and friends this Thanksgiving and holiday season I ask that as a community we take a moment to support the very life changing gift of economic development through entrepreneurship. These micro businesses, feed families, bring women out of oppressed situations and change communities. Imagine a world where everyone on this planet is fed and has fresh drinking water and a means to sustain themselves. That is a very real possibility as we shift our focus to a global connected community and assist those with less access to capital.

You may help by making a donation or bidding on the beautiful Shona art piece "Reach for your dreams" by Zimbabwe artist Marion Nyanhongo which supports the micro loan programs and local organizations who are taking the charge with community changing work. For auction visit:

For individual donations contact us at ARWEY:

Thank you! Sending you warm holiday wishes and welcome to the ARWEY Circle of Light community.


*Enjoy the slideshow below! Be patient and wait for the grey box to show a circle with an arrow in the middle appear. Once it appears click on it to "play." If it doesn't load, try refreshing your browser and waiting a few moments. 

~If the music doesn't come on at first, try refreshing your browser and clicking "play" again. 

~You can make the slideshow full screen by clicking on the rectangular box in the lower right hand screen of slideshow. Voila!

~Feel free to leave your comments below and share the link with your friends~ ;-)

1) If you would like to order any of these prints please visit this gallery here:

2) If you would like to order any digital downloads of these photos please visit this gallery here:

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Alpha's Diamonds & Denim 60th Anniversary Celebration!

*Make sure to enjoy the slideshow right below! 

Location: Santa Barbara Carriage House Museum
Saturday, November 2 2013

I've been working with Alpha Resource Center for the past three or more years. They are one of my favorite SB organizations to work with b/c of the heart they put into everything that they do. It's impossible to attend or participate in one of their events without feeling buoyed by the love and support in this community.

Their 60th Anniversary Celebration "Diamonds and Denim" was no exception. From Gabe and Jerry Donovan's beautiful rendition of "Upside Down" by Jack Johnson to watching an entertaining auctioneer--Zachary Krone--spin his magic and rally for some very generous sponsorship from major Alpha Supporters to enjoying a super fun dance set…it was difficult to not smile and feel celebratory!

I think the photos say it all…Alpha is truly giving so much to this community and you can feel the sense of "family" when you attend their events. I'm grateful to be a part of the Alpha "Family" as their photographer and as a proud supporter of all that they do!

Bravo to the Alpha Staff, participants, participants' families, the Alpha volunteers, and all of the generous families and sponsors who have been such a vital part of keeping Alpha going all these years. 

It's a pleasure to know each of you! I hope you enjoy this slideshow~ Feel free to leave your comments below and share this link with your Alpha friends and supporters~

r.s.thurston photography

*Enjoy the slideshow right below. Be patient and wait for the grey box to show a circle with an arrow in the middle appear. Once it appears click on it to "play." If it doesn't load, try refreshing your browser and waiting a few moments. 
*If the music doesn't come on at first, try refreshing your browser and clicking "play" again. 
**You can make the slideshow full screen by clicking on the rectangular box in the lower right hand screen of slideshow. Voila!
***Feel free to leave your comments below and share the link with your friends~ ;-)

Wednesday, November 06, 2013

Tia and Kaylin's Wine and Social Meetup Halloween Party!

I love October and I LOVE MILKING EVERY LAST DROP OF HALLOWEEN! This year was no exception. Among a few other wonderful gatherings, I had the pleasure of attending Tia and Kaylin's SB Wine and Social Meetup Halloween Party at 240 Studio (a beautiful space run by fellow photog Michelle Lee).

I really enjoyed mingling with some wonderful people...a mixture of familiar faces as well as many new peeps to the SB Scene. Big Thanks to Tia, Kaylin, Michelle and their many helpers for a wonderful, Halloween-ey evening!

I took so many fun photos from the night that I coudn't resist putting them into a slideshow! Enjoy and feel free to share this link with your friends~

Monday, November 04, 2013

BEST FILM FESTIVAL EVER!! ;-) The Flagstaff Mountain Film Festival 2013

My Brilliant, World-Traveling Mother discovered this incredible gem of a film festival about ten years ago and brought me onto shortly thereafter. Over the past several years we have watched this lil ole home-grown film fest grow into a 5-day affair featuring movies from 70 countries.

Today we are absolute adventure travel film junkies. The Flag Mountain Film Fest features almost all documentaries on outdoor adventure, cultural and environmental causes, as well as humanitarian issues. You can go to a ridiculous number of movies for a ridiculously little amount of $. Each 3-hour session costs only $10 but you can buy a Film Fest VIP Pass (just love the way it sounds actually!) like The Thurston Girls and get into every session you want for five days as well as attend multiple special events.

How much does the VIP Pass cost? $60. That’s it!

We attended a total of 30 hours of films and special events during a four day period. Every year I come out of the film festival feeling like my LIFE BATTERY HAS BEEN RECHARGED! ;-) In addition, we've become friends with a couple of the film festival directors as well as some of the filmmakers whom we have met over the years.

By the end of the week it feels like we have traveled the world and had a taste of these amazing “moments” of adventures, been inspired by men, women, and kids doing incredible work in the world, and been educated on issues we had no awareness of beforehand.

I basically come out of it wanting to go do AWESOME THINGS IN THE WORLD!

This year’s highlights for me spanned everything from young Norwegian guys doing  Arctic Surfing in a recycled shelter to spending Christmas without Chinese Goods to climbing Pakistan’s K2 to trying to break the world record for rowing across the Atlantic Ocean.

I’m hoping many of these movies will make it to other film festivals where you live. Most of these films are also available to purchase through the filmmakers. A select few will be picked up by tv networks like HBO and PBS.

Here are just a few of our favorites from this year…..Because many of the sessions were occurring simultaneously we weren't able to see all of the films offered but we did manage to about 80% of the films this year. 

Fav Adventure Films:

“North Of The Sun”
46 Minutes, Norway, 2012
Directors & Producers: Inge Wegge, Jorn Ranum

This is one of my favorite docs from the festival this year b/c it’s a hybrid (part-surfing, part-environmental) and b/c it has the three elements of a truly wonderful film. Great story, great characters, and fantastic video work.

North Of The Sun follows two young Norwegian guys who decide it would be fun to camp out in the Arctic during THE WINTER on a remote beach without any tents or supplies. They make a pact to subsist on free expired food from groceries and to build a shelter out of only items they can find washed up on shore.

Sound a little masochistic? It is yet the two guys seem to keep upbeat through the darkness of an Arctic Winter and will surprise you with their inventiveness.

Beautifully filmed as well from both the ground and the air (one of them just happens to be a bada$$ paraglider as well…is there anything they can’t do?!). ;-)

“Naked Ambition”
87 Minutes, UK, 2012
Director: Joe Wihl
Producer: Oliver Gray

Rowing across the Atlantic. Another two guys (why does it always seems to be the young guys?) charged with testosterone attempt to beat the world rowing record for crossing the Atlantic Ocean.

Like many great adventure tales, you see these guys go from being a little cocky and sure they will be the world record to many days later realixing they won’t but just looking forward to making good time and having a great story to hoping they will just survive the trip.

Rowing unsupported across any great ocean is a fine line between keeping your boat light but having enough food and supplies to sustain the trip. If you run into bad weather it can cost you time and possibly, your life.

“K2: Siren Of The Himalayas”
75 Minutes, USA, 2013
Director: Dave Ohlson
Producers: Jason Reid, Andy McDonough

Mom and I are gluttons for mountaineering movies...maybe it's b/c we love high altitude and pushing our bodies to the extreme but we also know that we're not masochistic enough to get into extreme mountaineering yet are drawn to it nonetheless. 

We especially enjoyed this film on the world's most dangerous and mercurial mountain.
"K2" weaves together archival footage from The Duke of Abruzzi's expedition on K2 along with footage from a 2009 summit attempt by some of the most skilled mountaineers in the world while skillfully examining the difficult and humbling decisions that mountaineers must face in giving up summit bids in order to stay alive. This film showing was also a special treat as three of the guys behind the film were there in person to talk about the trials and tribulations of distilling a story down to its essence....after editing through100 hours of footage.

81 Minutes, USA, 2013
Directors: Jillian Schlessinger, Emily McAllister

I love bigwater expeditions…whether they’re on the world’s longest river or across one of the Great Oceans. Maidentrip follows Dutch teenager Laura Dekker’s attempt to break the world record for the youngest person (and woman!) to sail around the world solo. She started the trip at 14 years old.

It’s no wonder that people were up in arms. It’s scary to imagine a 14 year old driving a car let alone womanning a sailboat alone. Yet she proves herself to be among history’s strongest sailors…not only does she have the technical skills to do it but she is at her best and calmest alone and facing the ocean’s worst. It’s when she’s around people that you see her nerves start to fray.

Accompanied by a beautiful musical score by Ben Sollee? And subtly done animation by The Moth Collective, Maidentrip is an enjoyable and gentle ride. The one issue with following someone like  Dekker at sea is that a solo trip around the world almost appears easy and effortless. Which I know it isn’t. It might have been helpful to have other sailors talking about how scary it can be at sea or how difficult some of the situations can be.

Yet Dekker seems to be having her own sort of slumber party on the boat without much mention of how close you can be to death when you’re alone at sea.

I still very much enjoyed the film. Makes me want to go try it out.
Hopefully it won’t encourage many 10 year olds to try it, too.

*Other Noteworthy Adventure Films to check out….
“The Ridge” 81 Minutes from Spain

Favorite Environmental Films:

“Growing Cities”
90 Minutes, USA, 2012
Director: Dan Susman
Producers: Dan Susman, Dana Altman, Andrew Monbouquette

Super fun road trip following Susman and his buddies as they travel around the U.S. looking at how normal folk are turning unused public lots in large cities into farmable land that both provides job opportunities for urban dwellers while providing healthy, organic fruits and veggies to locals while simultaneously connecting people with the earth and improving the aesthetics of vacant lots. Really enjoyed this one!

81 Minutes, USA, 2012
Director: Maxine Trump
Producer: Josh Granger

An elegantly rendered film on a complex battle over the rights to use and/or protect one of the largest unbroken stands of temperate rainforest in the world…situated in remote Alaska. The leader of Greenpeace rallies the world’s top three guitar makers to travel to Alaska to try to convince the indigenous leaders of a corporation to move from clear-cutting to a more sustainable form of logging.

"The Human Scale" 77 Minutes from Denmark
“Tiny: Story Of Living Small” 63 Minutes from the USA
“Bidder 70” 73 Minutes from the USA

Favorite Cultural Films:

“The Only Son”
78 Minutes, The Netherlands, Belgium, 2012
Director: Simonka de Jong
Producers: Carolign Borgdorff, Suzanne Van Voorst
This is one of the best films I have yet to see which illustrates that difficult clash between a family that is transitioning from a subsistent agrarian culture to an urban and global one.

“Xmas Without China”
63 Minutes, USA, 2013
Director: Alicia Dwyer
Producers: Alicia Dwyer, Tom Xia

This is a fantastic look at a cultural juxtaposition….an American Family trying to celebrate a month of Christmas without any products from China and the filmmaker’s  (Tom Xia) Chinese-American Parents embracing an American Christmas. A provocative and often humorous look at what it means to be an American and Chinese-American, America’s dependence on Chinese products, what Christmas means to us culturally, and how blurry line can be between cultural and national identities can be.

“I Learn America”
92 Minutes, Australia, 2013
Director & Producer: Nicholas Covelli

A very endearing and heartfelt film following the lives of several teenagers trying to navigate their way through high school as immigrants from extremely disparate backgrounds (Latin America, Asia, Eastern Europe, and the Middle East). In addition to facing the normal challenges of teenhood, they are faced with their own mix of additional personal and cultural challenges (ranging from extreme religious upbringings to gender identity and languages barriers). 

“Vultures Of Tibet”
21 Minutes, USA/Canada, 2013
Director: Russell O. Bush
Producers: Elisabeth Oakham, Annie Bush

Doing any film on Tibet within the boundaries of China is a difficult and dangerous undertaking yet an important one if at the very least to document how the Supernation is impacting ancient Tibetan traditions within its borders.

Bush took three years to carefully take undercover footage (with the blessing and help of Tibetan monks and refugees) of a sacred ritual and how corrupt govt officials are selling tickets to Chinese Tourists to watch it without Tibetans’ approval.

Bush delicately conveys the ritual and its participants and outside voyeurs in a respectful and careful manner. He also protected the identity of the featured monks by doing voiceovers recorded by Tibetan Refugees in Daramsala, India.

“After Effects”
29 Minutes, USA/Haiti, 2013
Director & Producer: Denise M. Stilley
Super heartwarming film by Flagstaff local filmmaker Stilley which highlights the relief efforts in Haiti by the non-profit Northern Arizona Volunteer Medical Corp (NAVMC). NAVMC makes regular trips to help the men, women, and children of this Caribbean Nation in the aftermath of the 7.0 earthquake which impacted 3 million people (and was estimated to have killed anywhere from 100,000 to 300,000 people). 

“Blood Brother” 93 Minutes from the USA

“Tales From The Organ Trade” 82 Minutes from Canada
“Narco Cultura” 102 Minutes from USA/Mexico
“Running Blind” 31 Minutes from the USA

Favorite Extreme Films:

“Petzl Roctrip China”
23 Minutes, France, 2012
Director: Vladimir Cellier
Producer: Petzl

I have seen A LOT of climbing movies over the past ten years between films that have appeared at the Banff, Telluride, and Flag Mtn. Film Fests. Trust me on this one.

I’m always looking for some film which has a unique and refreshing approach to climbing and this one does not disappoint. Focusing on a climbing event in rural China in a giant limestone waterway arch, the film editor of “Petzl Roctrip China” is the unsung hero here (they often are!). He or she has a mesmerizing, rhythmic approach to stitching scenes and dialogue together to a fantastic soundtrack. It becomes a dj-like symphony that you can’t help but bob your head to.

There’s a small story here—which is true of many short climbing movies--but the lyrical ride is a beautiful one and takes you into the heart of a very special place in China.

“Honnold 3.0”
32 Minutes, USA, 2012
Directors: Peter Mortimer, Josh Lowell
Producers: Peter Mortimer, Josh Lowell, Nick Rosen, Alex Lowther

Okay, if you’re not familiar with the world climbing phenom Alex Honnold, then watch this film or any film on him. He’s a tall, wholesome-looking, and unassuming young American guy who just happens to be the boldest climber in the world. Among other feats, he takes on a speed record for climbing the three greatest walls in Yosemite (each of which can take up to a week to do for skilled climbers) in less than….24 hours!

It’s nerve racking to watch Honnold free climb (no ropes, folks) for much of these three climbs. The only thing missing from this is an interview with his mother sharing us how she must cope knowing the risks her son is taking everytime he climbs.

He is ridiculously good and it is ridiculously scary watching him take these chances. There is no margin for error if he slips when he is unclipped.

Does he make it?
Watch for yourself.