• Late January Things

    Late January Things

    We’ve been enjoying January. 26 days in, and quite a bit has happened! Last weekend ...
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  • Visits From Nashville

    Visits From Nashville

    We’ve had visitors from Nashville twice this month! First our friend Patrick and his adorable ...
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  • #girlboss

    #girlboss

    I had an experience right around Thanksgiving that absolutely set my teeth on edge. See ...
    Read more
  • Soup Time

    Soup Time

    We eat a LOT of soup. It is not unusual for us to eat soup ...
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  • 2016 Resolutions

    2016 Resolutions

    While I understand that January 1 (11th) is a pretty arbitrary time to look over ...
    Read more
  • 2015 in Review

    2015 in Review

    2015 was in many ways an excellent year for me and mine. The second full ...
    Read more
Misc

OrangeCrush-back-anthonyraelWe’ve been enjoying January. 26 days in, and quite a bit has happened! Last weekend we cheered our Broncos on to their 8th (I think) SuperBowl berth. I’m cautiously optimistic about their chances and I’d love to see Peyton go out at the top.

paleochili

For both playoff games, I’ve made the delicious slow cooker paleo jalepeno popper chili that was featured on Skinnytaste back in August. I first made it back when we went to Vail mostly because it is a dump in crockpot and leave alone for 8 hours kind of recipe, and so perfect when you’re going skiing all day. Everyone loves it and you can make it as non-paleo as you please by adding chips, etc. or keep it paleo with some avocado.

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I’ve also been making Iowa Girl Eats’ homemade chicken noodle soup frequently. It’s pretty easy, very healthy, and I’m not sure there’s anything quite as delicious on a cold day. Tabby has discovered she LOVES broth and likes to eat just that if we let her.

 

Ahh yes, the kids. They’re doing well. Tabby is reading everything she can get her hands on. I’m constantly researching new titles for her to enjoy. It’s somewhat hard because while she can read just about anything, she’s not quite ready for some more mature themes. So I’m trying to find her books to challenge her but that are still appropriate and will still be interested in.2016-01-18 19.50.41

Ben is doing well too. I’m pleased with how he’s tackling his piano lessons and how his reading is coming along. We’re struggling with school just now. His attention and need for movement are what are problematic at the moment. His teacher is investing a lot of her time trying to get him on task and she’s worried he’s not progressing enough to be ready for next year. He’s staying on track academically (probably because he’s pretty damn smart), but she’s worried that may soon not keep him with his peers.

So we’re having him tested. We’re researching. We’re looking at all our options. And so far it’s been frustrating and time consuming. But I am hopeful that we can find some things to really help him be the best he can be. He’s got tons of potential. Our job will be to help him tap into it.

Matt and I are keeping on keeping on. We are both busy with work and spending our off-work time on the normal things: cooking, exercising, socializing, housework and the kiddos. We don’t get a lot of time to just chill and really enjoy what we do get. We watched Big with the kids last weekend. Matt hadn’t seen it either and we all found enjoyed it. We’ve also continued our love affair with board games. Tabby has been hugely into Ticket to Ride, which it seems like she picked up in about a minute, and Ben has been kicking our booties at Enchanted Forest, a memorization game. This weekend we’re off with some friends to Vail to do some skiing. It’s good family time and I’m looking forward to it.

 

Life, Travel

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We’ve had visitors from Nashville twice this month! First our friend Patrick and his adorable son Tyler came out to ski with us the first week of the year. We’ve been doing this for about as long as anyone can remember – before we lived in CO full time and certainly before any of us had kids! It’s one of our favorite traditions and something we always look forward to.

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This weekend we had Matt’s sister and brother and our niece, Autumn visit for the long weekend. It’s fun to see how much Autumn is grown and nice to spend some time with everyone.

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Matt picked them up from the airport late Friday while I was working with some of our besties, planning a fun roadtrip for this summer (squeeee!). We spent Saturday chilling around the house and then went out for pizza AND ice cream. Once we got back, we played some games … Ticket to Ride with the kids and then Cards Against Humanity with the adults.

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Sunday we went to the Denver Museum of Science and Nature. It was unfortunately not everyone’s favorite, but Tabby and I had a nice time looking at the gems and minerals and we all enjoyed the mummies. Afterward, we came home and helped cheer the Broncos on to victory over the Steelers. It was not the most fun game to watch, but it was successful. I also went crazy and made pretzel dogs (wrapped hot dogs in Alton Brown’s Pretzel dough) and delicious paleo chili.

The kids had Monday off for MLK and so Matt and I took most of the day off as well to be with them and our guests. We (and apparently the rest of the furloughed children and adults in the area) went to our local pool to blow off some steam and then we had lunch and a lazy afternoon filled with naps, followed by finishing up homework, piano practice, making lunches, doing laundry and all those other things one has to do before the week starts.

Guess it’s our turn to head to Nashville next.

Misc

girlboss
I had an experience right around Thanksgiving that absolutely set my teeth on edge.

See back in September, we signed up with a local photographer to do a “mini shoot” at a nearby park. This is a promo that our school does every other year to get their “photo directory” accomplished. Local photogs vie for the job of photographing around 300 families and putting the best in the directory. Families then have the option of purchasing their shots if they like them for a set price.

We did our pics and we looked at the proofs. I was a bit underwhelmed by them (not bad but not great). I was considering purchasing them anyhow (cuz it’s a hassle to get the family together for pics) and life got busy, and I forgot. So fast forward to around Halloween, I realize that I either need to buy them already or do my own shoot. So after some humming and hawing, I decide to bite and I sent the photog an email apologizing for my tardiness and saying we’d like to buy our photos.

I get a fairly curt-sounding 1 line email that reads something like, “You missed the deadline so I have to take them out of the archive. So now it’s $120.”

Honestly, I had no idea there’d been a deadline, and I got a little irritated. But after talking to some pals at the school, I decided to do it anyhow. And I realized that had the email been better worded (maybe something like, “Awesome! I’m so glad you want to purchase your pics. Since you’re outside the stipulated period for the $100 offer, it will now be $120. Here’s a link to your invoice.”), I probably would never have thought twice about just paying it and being done with it.

So I replied that that was fine and waited a few days to receive her digital invoice. Now here’s where things really start to go downhill. She wants CASH or a CHECK to be dropped off at school or her house. This person is utilizing technology for her business (camera, website, online invoicing) yet cannot extend the courtesy of that sort of convenience for her clients. Or she’s trying to be cheap and avoid fees and/or taxes. This was a huge inconvenience for us because we could never get in touch with her and it took us almost a week to get her paid.

Then we wait.

We paid her on a Friday and by Tuesday, I was getting curious about my email with my download code. So I checked my bank account and sure enough, check had been cashed SAME DAY as we paid her. But no download code. So I emailed (did I mention no contact phone number was provided???).

Waited. Friday rolls around, still no code. I emailed again and also bugged a buddy at the PTA for some further info and to report my growing displeasure.

Waited some more. It’s the Sunday after Thanksgiving by this point and I want to get Christmas cards, calendars, etc. going. Sent another, rather curter email, tried to call the number PTA friend had given me. Has a man answering voicemail, no info identifying her business. Wrong number? Finally, I track her down on Facebook and tell her to answer my freaking email and get me my code already (I was actually way nicer than that).

She finally responds with “Oh. I don’t check email in November. You should have called me.”

Then my head exploded. Ok, not really, but it felt for a minute like it did.

It was all I could do not to go totally #girlboss on her right then and there. If I had had an actual working contact number for her, I probably would have. The whole thing incensed me on SO. MANY. LEVELS.

  1. I was genuinely annoyed with the poor service I received. I know there is post-processing time, uploading time, etc. but I believe it’s a pretty liberal estimate to say that she spent probably 2 hours max on our shoot (10 min) + photos. That’s $60/hr. I don’t know about you, but that’s not bad bank.
  2. I was thoroughly annoyed that she is giving ladies who are trying to do side-businesses while they stay at home a bad name. I have a few friends who do VERY PROFESSIONAL businesses out of their home and she is making them look bad by association. “I don’t check my email in November.” WTF? Seriously??
  3. I was really mad that she’s giving business women in general a bad name. If you’re not a professional and wish to comport yourself as one, DO NOT TAKE ON AN OBLIGATION LIKE THIS.
  4. And finally, I was incensed as a person who makes her living in marketing at the HUGE OPPORTUNITY that was squandered here. An informal survey of other families at our school revealed that most weren’t much more pleased with her than I was. She had access to 300 families, most of whom make really good money and have friends who make really good money that could have called upon her once or twice a year for photos. She had the opportunity not only to chat with them, but to show them what she could do for them … and potentially get paid to do it!! The last guy who did this gig told us that he estimated that 80% of the families bought their photos!!! It’s really a pretty sweet gig and something most people in services marketing would KILL FOR. And this is what she does with it.

Part of me really wanted to as kindly and gently as possible point this out to her. To try to impart some of my (very incomplete) wisdom on this subject. When we met, she struck me as fairly young and not very educated, and I wondered if I could help her. She also struck me as fairly arrogant, so I decided I was probably wasting my breath. But I would not recommend her and I would not give her a good review and no WAY would I use her again.

I just hope she figures it out on her own.

Cooking/Food

2016-01-11 18.10.52We eat a LOT of soup. It is not unusual for us to eat soup two or three times a week, and the vast majority is home made. It’s easy and usually quick (or crock-pottable), generally healthy, a complete meal and … delicious.

Some of our favorite soups:

Things that I find invaluable in frequent soup preparation:

ninjaThe Ninja Slow Cooker – This is the slow cooker we have. It’s listed on Amazon for $132 but I’m pretty sure that’s not what we paid for it. I recall we got it on clearance at Target for under $70. It’s got some silly sear function that stinks, but the slow cooking feature is perfect, it’s completely non-stick and it holds a TON. Highly recommend.

immsersionCuisinart Immersion Blender – You only need one, but this is a super cheap investment to make. I LOVE this thing. It superbly simplifies making marinades, dressings and especially soups. It allows you to easily blend soups right in the pot. Soooo much easier than transferring them to the blender. When you’re done, the blending end separates for easy cleaning.

ikea bowlIkea Small Bowls – It may seem silly to have a favorite bowl, but these are mine. These are a really good size, not so ginormous and they stack and wear very well. We have at least a dozen and they’re a great size for kids, ice cream (not too much of that!) and sampling multiple soups on soup night.

soupspoons

Soup Spoons – This may be just as crazy as having favorite bowls, but these little guys make it easier on the kiddos to eat soup and they’re fun and pretty. Mine came from Pearl River Mart in Chinatown (NYC) and they’re delightful. I shall pick up some more when we get back there.

Let’s hear it for SOUP.

Life

resolutions

While I understand that January 1 (11th) is a pretty arbitrary time to look over one’s life, assess and resolve to change, there is a part of me who likes the “clean slate” of the new year.

Once again, I don’t really feel like I have any truly hard fast resolutions … and maybe that’s probably setting me up for failure (goals are supposed to be specific, measurable and come with a time limit), but I don’t really feel like hard fast goals are where I’m at right now.

But a few ideals I want to strive for:

  • be kind, to myself and those around me, slower to anger, to judgement, to assume
  • less work (work work and house work) and more leisure … and I don’t mean planned leisure (camping, having friends over), I mean leisure leisure … doing NOTHING!
  • more blogging and photography and creating in general … I didn’t do so much of these this year, and I missed it
  • more treat yo self – walking at the park during lunch, a nice hot shower before bed, a walk around the ‘hood, hot tea
  • run my half marathon

I’m overall really happy with the way life is going. I feel blessed beyond measure and I’m very very grateful.

Benjamin, Camping, Home Improvement, Life, Married Life, Organization & Home Keeping, Tabitha, Travel, Woodworking

20162015 was in many ways an excellent year for me and mine. The second full year following Mom’s death had it’s own pitfalls and moments of sorrow, but it went on and was definitely more happy than sad.

Family

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We soaked up lots of family time, skiing, hiking, camping, backpacking, cooking, walking, reading, playing and just hanging together. It’s odd – I thought things might get quieter as the kids got older – I think because I thought they’d take less of my time to manage, and they do! – but we do so much more together.

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Tabby is turning into a young lady right before our very eyes. She’s worked hard at school and at home and generally has a great attitude and work ethic. She reads like it’s breathing and impresses me constantly with her artistic abilities and insights. She got her ears pierced over Christmas break after working hard for this all semester, and it makes her look even more grown up. She’s enjoying learning piano and getting pretty good and has fun with karate and swimming.

2015-12-11 14.32.42

Benji is still our darling little guy. I’m so glad he’s not too big or cool to give me lots of hugs and kisses and snuggles. School can be a struggle for him with all the requirements to sit down and concentrate, but he does well academically and we’re grateful for that. At home he’s a huge ball of energy. He spends his freetime building either with legos or in Minecraft. We’ve also gotten him interested in running on the treadmill and we’re hoping to help him beat some winter blahs that way (fully supervised of course). He’s a force to be reckoned with on the slopes and so so much fun. He also had a major puncture this year, but it was of the unscheduled variety – he had his finger slammed and badly injured in a door at school and a few hours at the emergency room later and minus a fingernail, he is much improved.

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Matt and I are doing our usual balancing act, making sure everyone’s fed, bills are paid and the house doesn’t look like too much of a disaster zone. We bought a second treadmill on a crazy sale in early December so we can workout together in the evenings … important because we’re training for another half marathon in April! We sneak away just the two of us whenever we can manage it – date nights when dad takes the kids or sometimes a day off when the kids are at school and occasionally, we hire a sitter to watch the kids so we can go for a run or a bike ride. It’s a nice little luxury.

Work

Matt took on a new and extended role about halfway through 2015 and it’s making him happy and keeping him busy! He goes to the office about once a week and traveling more (none of us loves this, but it’s good for him and his career).

Work has been going great for me as well. I work long hours sometimes, but usually it’s very manageable. We’ve picked up a ton of work this year and really gotten our “hit rates” up – that’s marketing speak for how often we win work. Some of it is the improving economy, I’m sure, but I fancy that some of it has to do with some cool new things we’ve been doing. Cheeeeeers!

Travel

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It was a fun travel year. The coolest trip we took, was probably the surprise trip we took in May! It deserves its own post (which it never got), but I won (!!) a trip to San Francisco to go to MakerFaire! So Matt and I took off while my dad watched the kids and we flew to CA and did it up right! It was a blast!

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We also had a few ski trips throughout the winter and filled up the summer with camping trips and our first ever family backpacking trip.

Our longest trip was from Denver to Nashville, with some stops along the way. We pulled the pop-up to Missouri and dropped it off at my mom’s cousin’s house. Then we went onto Nashville, spent a few days there, including a great trip to Mammoth Cave in KY, and then picked it up, took it to family reunion and came home. Exhausting, but wonderful!

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We finished off the year with an amazing trip to Big Sky, Montana over Christmas to ski!

Home Improvement

We did lots of little projects around the house throughout the year. We organized our laundry room and some kitchen drawers. We did a bunch of yard work. We planted a garden.

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But probably the biggest project of the year finished up right before Christmas when Matt installed our new barn door!!! He and a family friend worked for HOURS on it and it turned out so amazing. And trust me, it’s even better in person.

 

There are probably another load of things I could and maybe should talk about, but those are some of the highlights. It was a good year.

This parenting gig is hard. I think (hope) that Matt and I are pretty good parents. We don’t do it all right by any means, but I think (hope) that we get to the heart of what matters and pick the important battles. I think (hope) we find balance between homework, activities, family time and free time. I think (hope) my kids greatest memories from childhood will be of fun times spent with us and not of the few times when one of us really lost our freaking temper and hit the roof. I think (hope) they’ll remember the time when we pulled them out of bed at 9:30 to drive up the hill and look at a particularly beautiful full moon. Or our many many camping and ski trips. Or the hours we spend cooking and playing games together.

But there are those days when you just wonder if you’re doing anything right at all. When, after taking them on an amazing adventure (one, that, coincidentally, put tons of stress on you to achieve), they get home and completely break down over not getting one tiny little insignificant thing. And you wonder, “Am I raising a totally entitled brat?” We’ve had a couple of those days recently, and like a lot of bad things, they tend to stand out in your mind more. It’s probably some sort of instinctual mechanism to produce change.

Then there are those other times when you see the person your child has become and you are just. so. damn. proud. And that’s what I’m going to focus on.

1. Lego Generosity
Recently, my inlaws were in town and they generously gave each of the kids some money to spend as they chose. Tabby went to the American Girl store and made a couple of purchases and after that, Ben went to the Lego store. He saw a Lego set that he really really wanted, and not only that, but it is one they claim they will soon be retiring, but he didn’t have enough money to purchase it. Seeing how much her brother wanted it and that he would likely not have time to save the difference before it was retired, Tabby generously volunteered her remaining money to make up the difference. She wanted him to have it and was excited to get to build it with him. Ben was very grateful and thanked her profusely.

2. Give, Save, Spend
A while back, we started the kids on a new allowance/chore system. I won’t bore you with the details, but they get $5/week and have to complete a couple of chores every day. This $5 they divide into give ($1)/save ($2)/spend ($2). “Spend” is spent freely, “save” goes for specific goals, and “give” is to help others. Extra money they earn for extra chores ($1/basket of laundry folded) they can choose to put in their “accounts” as desired but if they choose “give” for extra money, we reward them by doubling this generosity towards others.

“Give” has been fun for the kids. When they give, we match dollar for dollar what they give. We got to pick out school supplies for our favorite local charity back in September. They were both giddy imagining the other kids with new backpacks and calculators. And this month, a family friend who teaches at an impoverished school in our area requested help and we got to purchase new winter coats, pajamas, and other fun things for her students. Tabby and I also got to involve her Girl Scout troop and give back in a pretty big way (two cars, totally packed with clothes, books, gifts, etc.).

We were just as proud to see that this past Sunday when we celebrated Christmas a little early (we will be traveling over the holiday) that when my dad gave the kids cash, they each ran right to their give/save/spend boxes and put money appropriately in each category. We had not really addressed what to do with gifts but just on their own, they knew.

3. Inclusiveness
I can count at least three times I have seen Tabby gently persuade friends who were trying to exclude others that this wasn’t a kind thing to do. She is not pushy or mean about it, but she goes all mother hen and says things like, “That’s not nice. She can play with us,” and, “Everyone can play. She’s not too little.” I am so proud of her and hope that this is a good sign that I’ll see this behavior into the tween and teen years.

 

I think (hope) they’re growing up pretty good.

Misc

ummnoWe entertain a lot. For example, this past weekend, we hosted dinner at our house every single night – Friday, Saturday, Sunday – of the weekend. Extra space for entertaining was one of the biggest reasons we moved. This probably sounds about half insane – and maybe it is – but I think we have a slightly different definition of what it means to entertain than most people.

You will not find any carefully curated tablescapes at my house. You will most of the time find it relatively neat, but mostly because I personally like a neat house, not because I feel it necessary to have my house in perfect order before I have people over.

You will also not find elaborate multi-course meals, at least not most of the time (if it’s your birthday, or another special occasion, I will pull out all the stops). I will generally have at least one dish that I prepared myself and that took at least a modicum of care. The rest will be store bought or brought by guests. A pot of soup with bread and salad or apples is a frequent menu. So is something grilled or slow-cooked with chips, fruit salad and four bean salad from Costco. Homemade pizza with fun toppings is usually a hit.

Sometimes we will eat off our every-day dishes (we don’t own china or “good” silverware). Sometimes we will eat off paper. There is always a box of wine in the corner bar and usually a few soft drinks in the fridge (I favor LaCroix water these days, but Matt usually has Coke around too). We usually have a few cans or bottles of beer somewhere. Matt always has whiskey to pour. Our guests frequently bring their own if they want something different We always have the electric kettle ready for tea and a ridiculous selection of teas.

But really, none of this stuff is the point. Sure, I want the meal to be enjoyable for everyone, but the point is to be together.

The kids go do what kids do best – play. Sometimes we have to handle “situations” and they usually make a mess, but those are easily cleaned up. Sometimes we setup the outdoor theatre for the kids and pop them some popcorn. They cluster together in age or gender divisions. They usually look out for and help one another. They’re typically very kind.

The adults hang around our big island or at our long kitchen table – we don’t have a dining room table – and chat or maybe do dishes. When everyone’s fed, we sometimes break out the games – Cards Against Humanity, Trivial Pursuit, Cranium, or Settlers of Catan – sometimes we just chat. Sometimes we have a project going on and game play or chatter is punctuated by people running off for short periods to put another coat of something on something. We drink many cups of tea and maybe whiskey.

It’s always nice to be together. And I’m almost certain no one minds that my house isn’t perfect and there isn’t a giant fancy spread in front of them or that I said “a salad would be great” when they asked what they could bring. They’re happy to be hanging with people they enjoy talking about tribulations and triumphs and catching up on each other’s lives. It’s a great sense of community. We get and give advice. We make plans for other adventures. We google endless things to end squabbles and share funny videos. We laugh a lot. We feel very lucky to have such great people in our lives.

Life

SymbolsI listened this morning to one of my favorite podcasts, Happier with Gretchen Rubin (author of such excellent books as The Happiness Project and Happier at Home) where she and her sister (and co-host of this podcast) discussed personal symbols. I love this idea and the graphic nerd in me immediately thought of a poster with my symbols (once I figured out what they’d be). So when I got to work, I spent the next 15 minutes coming up with this fun graphic. The meanings behind it below ….

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Life

2015-08-08 18.17.04-1Six days have come and gone since my 35th birthday, but despite my blogging hiatus, I wanted to take just a minute and remember a few things about my 35th birthday.

I got up early. I’m pretty sure I worked out, but I’m not sure if it was a run or a random Jillian Michaels video. I had a granola bar for breakfast. Then I went to work.

Work that day was particularly crazy. I just turned in two proposals for projects this morning. This is not typically part of my day-to-day, but we were hit with an exceptionally crazy couple of weeks where 5 had to go in and so I took some of the heat off my colleague and wrote two of them. So on my birthday, I was busily conducting my work, making sure that all of the pieces of my two proposals were in motion.

At lunch time, I had a strategy meeting for one of the proposals. I’d asked our receptionist to order in lunch. I was a bit puzzled when my box lunch contained a chocolate croissant instead of a cookie like everyone else’s. I found out later when our receptionist dropped by my office that she’d remembered it was my birthday and asked them to give me something special. It was delicious and it was very sweet of her.

I had nice text messages, phone messages and Facebook posts throughout the day from lots of great people.

I reconnoitered with a friend on the way home to collect Tabby and she talked cheerily to me about her day the rest of the way home.

When we got home, I was feeling pretty weary. But I discovered that Matt and the kids had cleaned up the house for me. We had spent the whole weekend “organizing” which of course makes the underbelly cleaner an the surface a disaster, so it was very welcome to see a clean house. I also saw that some very dear friends who I hadn’t seen in way too long had already arrived for our evening together.

Matt made jerk chicken (one of his best executions ever!) and corn on the cob for dinner. Our friends brought a delicious salad and chocolate cake. I made up some green beans with bacon.

It was a nice evening. I even had a couple glasses of red wine. I really enjoyed seeing our friends, my sister and being with Matt and the kids. Both kids were very sweet to me and gave me snuggles. Tabby personally collected hand-washed the dessert dishes.

Our friends stayed late by current standards and we didn’t get to read a chapter of our current read-aloud book, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. But I got to give the kids hugs and kisses before bed and snuggle down just a few minutes later in my own bed with my best friend.

It was a good day.

About


Hi! I'm Jess, a 30-something Colorado native making the most of life with my husband and kiddos. By day, I run the marketing department of a local contracting firm and in my ridiculously scant spare time, I love to run, ski, cook, travel (camp!), photograph and read. Thanks for stopping by!

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What I’m Reading

Notes from a Blue Bike: The Art of Living Intentionally in a Chaotic World
When He Was Wicked
Delicious
It Happened One Season
First Comes Marriage
Simply Unforgettable
The Fine Art of Small Talk: How to Start a Conversation, Keep It Going, Build Networking Skills--and Leave a Positive Impression!
The Naked Duke
The Rites and Wrongs of Janice Wills
Grace and Power
The World of the Ancient Maya
On the Way to the Wedding
The Parenting Breakthrough: Real-Life Plan to Teach Your Kids to Work, Save Money, and Be Truly Independent
Rose Harbor in Bloom
The Pearl of Bengal
Surprising Lord Jack
Unlimited: How to Build an Exceptional Life
Anna and the French Kiss
The Lady Most Willing...: A Novel in Three Parts
Gone Girl


Jess's favorite books »