Dream House

2It occurred to me last night while typing up my post on our pallet flag that really, quite a bit has happened in the kitchen/dining/mudroom area over the past two months that I should share. I am really loving how this space is coming together. I feel like I’ve achieved the look we were going for and infused a fun bit of color – so so important for me!


Almost immediately after I hit publish on the last post about this area, our friends came over for dinner. This particular friend is a construction guy and when he found the pendant lights hanging around in our pantry, he insisted they had to go up right then and there. So they did!

The old pendants, apart from being pretty non-descript (white glass, brushed nickle, on chains) seemed way too dainty for  our long island. They were just 4″ wide whereas these beasties come in at a beefy 10.25″ diameter. And of course being my signature green color and just $23/ea made them a slam dunk.

We also were happy to replace the ancient bar stools that were both 12 years old (!!) and too high. Those puppies actually came from Shopko for a whopping $10/ea and were the first furniture we bought in our apartment in Madison, WI! They’d been recovered and abused and owed us nothing, especially after Ben smeared frozen berries all over one of them. Oy.

I searched LONG AND HARD for a new ones. I knew the ball park of what I wanted (modern, no upholstery, maybe slightly industrial) but it was hard! I refused to pay an arm and a leg for the darn things but even looking at IKEA revealed that bargain basement (i.e. nothing you’d want) were $70/ea and anything that would last more than a few months was going to be at least $150/ea. I gave up for a while and then on a random search for “wood and metal bar stools” turned these up. Don’t get your hopes up – they’re not cheap – but I did get them on decent sale and I was able to pick them up at the West Elm downtown so I at least didn’t have to pay shipping.

They look great and clean up well after the kids smear yogurt on them.

mudroomMoving right along, the mudroom is all but done. I added baskets for our junk and a nice throw rug and some other little touches (hooks in our cubbies for our keys, a fake plant and a coin can). We still need doors to close in the cleaning closet and we’d like shelves for our shoe cubbies, but we are not in a big hurry.

flagAnd one last up-close-and-personal look at our newest addition to the dining room – the CO pallet flag. LOVE IT!


2014-09-28 18.52.32

I know I’ve been a bad blogger. Like terrible. But man, it’s been NUTS. Work got nuts. Then I got sick (strep-AGAIN) making work even more nuts. And of course it’s not like all the regular stuff stops when I’m sick or busy at work, so on and on it goes.

We’ve been kicking butt around the house. You should see the cool stuff we did last weekend. It’s not super photogenic (like this project), but we started the weekend with one vehicle (our pop-up) in the garage and ended the weekend with all three in there. We are ready (though not anxious for!) snow. We got tons of cardboard and boxes and random stuff gone and hung everything up. Then to top it all off, we installed landscaping lighting in the yard because the landscaping is going in SOON.

Anyhoo, the project.

Labor Day weekend when we were in Vail, we had the pleasure of dining at Mountain Standard, the sister restaurant to one of our perennial faves there, Sweet Basil. It is the same awesome food, but more of a low-key casual atmosphere. And directly above our table was a very cool industrial-chic version of the CO flag made from reclaimed wood. I loved it immediately and knew we had to DIY one for our house. We started asking around about pallets and in a ‘hood still well under construction they’re pretty plentiful. So last week in the middle of crazy, Matt suddenly jumps up and goes “roofers!” and runs out of the house. Apparently that was code for the fact that our super had told him that roofers always had pallets and he was tracking them down. Just an hour or two later, we had 6 pallets all to ourselves! For free! Score!

The first thing we had to do was disassemble them. Pallets are a hot mess of semi-crappy wood and nails, so we went to the interwebs to figure out the best way to do it. We read all up on pallets as well and ascertained that ours were in fact free from dangerous chemicals (these were actually phased out around 2007 so if the ones you get are new, you’re probably safe). So after reading up, we decided the best option for us was the sawsall! Matt of course owns one and he and his handy demolition blade made relatively quick work of two of them so we’d have our pick of wood.

2014-09-28 19.13.58

Then we laid it out. The wood was 40″ wide and in a wide variety of condition. Some had gotten wet, making it wavy, some had gotten knicked by the sawsall, some had mold (ick). And it was different widths. Looking at flags on the ‘net to determine ratio, we decided between 25 and 27″ tall was best for us, and we ended up with a couple of wider pieces and 4 narrow ones. We then used some of the other bits of reclaimed wood to nail them together along the back (two pieces total).

2014-09-28 17.08.49

Next I had to make a stencil for it. Using my mad chops from the days of art class, I used the little projector we have to project an image of the correct size on the wall and then taped a piece of cardboard (we have TONS) that I tacked to the wall. Then I traced the outline of the flag with a pencil and then cut it out with an exacto knife, maintaining the pieces to use as mask as we worked.

2014-09-28 17.00.26Then came the fun part – painting. Well almost, Matt insisted on running over it with some coarse grit sand paper first.  He’s exacting like that.

So finally painting!!! As with all painting, you work from light to dark, so I did the white stripe first. I actually only eye-balled this, knowing I could easily paint over the overspray.

2014-09-28 17.09.25Next the yellow.

2014-09-28 17.10.45Then the red.

2014-09-28 17.17.36

And finally the blue! We were a little over excited so we didn’t take as much time as we should’ve between colors, but fortunately that only meant a leeetle bit of touch up.

2014-09-28 18.52.32

And just for funsies, we figured out what it would cost us to buy one of these on the interwebs. Bargain price as $100 and we saw them for as much as $200. I am also very grateful to my state for having a pretty simple flag design. NY or CA’s flags are simply out of my artistic skillz.



2014-09-12 16.42.45It was a fairly relaxed weekend by our standards. The kids had their fun-run and carnival on Friday (here they are in a giant hamster ball). Ben apparently ran at warp speed and was at the front of the kindergarten pack.

I had to work later than normal (for Friday) since we had an interview team going in first thing on Monday morning. But I was able to join Matt and the kids for the second hour of the carnival. The first year we stayed all night, but this year (as with last year) it was really crowded and we didn’t stay long. Our school has grown and it’s a bit sad, but it’s still a wonderful school and our kids are luck to be there.

After the carnival we met up at our friends’ house for pizza and game night with a few other couples. The kids ran off to play and we were left in relative peace to chill and drink wine and be goofy. They’re all great people and we loved hanging with everyone.

2014-09-14 09.50.46
This was Tabby’s adorable Saturday morning project for her beloved teacher.
2014-09-13 12.02.38-1

Saturday we more or less promised the kids a stay-at-home day, but there were a few things we had to accomplish. We had a great workout in the morning and even Ben came up to join us and “run” on the treadmill. This charming fellow got out at some point along the line and tracked in the motherlode of muddy pawprints. I cannot wait for grass!!!!

Anyhow, we had to go out to grab a bit of food and a card but then we cranked the music while we worked on organizing the garage. We got a few things done, but barely scratched the surface before we had to leave and drop the kids at my dad’s house. He had a date planned with them including a movie.

While they were there, we went to Best Buy to pick up a replacement TV (our original one was defective) and then to West Elm to pick up new bar stools (more on that later). The evening’s activity was a wedding shower for a family friend and his lovely bride. It was a nice gathering.

2014-09-14 14.26.44Sunday we made it our priority to get stuff done before the kids came home. A little grocery shopping, a run to Good Will and that sort of thing. Then Matt and Ben met up with my uncle and aunt in the afternoon so they could all go to the Broncos game – Ben’s first. The previous weekend we’d watched them play and Ben was rather taken. He talked all week about the game, asking if the Broncos were playing that night and could we watch football?

So when my uncle had tickets, I knew who needed to go. We bought him his own jersey and after his disappointment that his carnival hair had worn off, we stopped at the Halloween store to get some blue and orange hair paint. That is one happy boy. He loved the game and when I asked him what his favorite part was, he didn’t cite the ice cream sundae he got in the 4th quarter, he immediately said, “Watching them play!!” I hope my papa (the original Broncos fan) is smiling down from above on his great grandson.

Anyhow, he apparently did very well at the game, happily watching all the action. Meanwhile, Tabby and I hung at my Dad’s house. Tabby played nicely and I did some work and we helped my dad cook. That evening he hosted all of us plus my sister and aunt and uncle for a very lovely dinner.

This weekend of course also marked the anniversary of my mom’s passing and the worst couple of days of my life. I definitely felt the sting more acutely a couple of times, but overall, I was OK. I had wonderful thoughts and messages from many loved ones and of course, that helps immensely. She is still held dear by many.


Life, Mom

6579186493_304d36d3b4_oToday marks the one year anniversary of the worst day of my life, the day my mom, the embodiment of all that was good, kind, special and amazing passed from this world and into the next.

Just a few days later, my sister and I spoke at her funeral, words that I still believe and am committed to honoring today.

We spoke of the honor and blessing that it was to be her daughter and the wonderful lessons she taught us: to work hard, to enjoy the hell out of life, to laugh much (at ourselves as well) and to not take life too seriously.

We spoke of all the things we’d miss about her … her presence, so lively and fun … her foibles like over packing for everything and indecisiveness … the wonderful times we had together … the great conversations, great meals and great fun we shared … her amazing spirit and how she cared for everyone in her life.

We said that we could spend a long time being very angry at the injustice of it all, or we could choose to be grateful for all the wonderful time we had together.

So we made the commitment to be grateful and resolved to do some things that honor and preserve her memory: read my kids bedtime stories and raise them well, work hard for the company she loved, buy myself some nice clothes now and then, continue to travel, explore and experience, ignore our housework and have fun … and perhaps most importantly, take care of each other and love our family and friends fiercely!

And so, 365 days later, I think I can say I’m a better person than I was this day last year.

I can’t ever see mom’s death as anything but a bone deep, cutting loss. I still think of her every day and it still hurts. I still hate to go anywhere near her office. And I still have terrible moments when I re-realize that she is gone and it’s almost overwhelming to bear.

But I can see that I have allowed some positive things to come from it. I’m a better, more patient mom than I was a year ago. I am a bit less concerned about the long term “good” of the kids and more interested in making sure they feel my unconditional love right now. I have gained perspective in my life. While I work damn hard for the company we both love, I will not allow it to interfere with what’s really important – the relationships in my life. I have been able to loosen up on some of my control freak ways and live in the moment a bit more. Our family, including my dad and sister, are closer than ever and we take great care of each other and really really appreciate each other … And MAN have we read the bedtime stories!

I will always wish I had more time with her. But I take huge comfort in the fact that not much of the time we had was wasted. We did, we saw, we lived it up … we loved. If not quantity, we got QUALITY, and I know how incredibly blessed that makes us.

Beef/Pork/MEAT, Clean, Family, Lighter, Mexican, Recipes

2014-09-09 17.23.15I had to post this recipe, because this is another one of those that has reached the vaunted “family favorite” status. I know, from the photo, it kind of looks like a hot mess, and even when I reveal the ingredients, you’ll probably think we’re nuts, but seriously, TRY IT. It hits all the right notes and when I serve this, EVERYONE licks their plate clean.

The original idea for this came from Iowa Girl’s Smothered Sweet Potato Fries and that recipe is AWESOME in its own right (it’s even got a great trick about stretching ground beef with mushrooms). But we like the health of the plain ol’ sweet potatoes and we so often have regular ol’ taco meat left over, I just usually use that.


  • 1 lb lean ground beef (soy crumbles? you decide)
  • 4 sweet potatoes
  • 1/2 C shredded cheddar
  • 2 avocados
  • taco seasoning (we use garlic salt, cumin and chili powder)
  • guacamole seasoning (garlic salt + cayenne pepper for us!)


Bake the sweet potatoes however you do … partial time in the microwave? Use your crockpot? Whatever works. We usually just shove them in a 350 oven on a cookie sheet lined with foil (they leak sweet potato juice, yo) for about an hour. They need to be tender.

Towards the end of sweet potato baking, brown the ground beef and season with the taco seasoning. Then halve the avocados, pull out their flesh and mash it in a bowl. We actually  have a mini-sized masher just for this job. It works swell. Season it as you do any old guacamole. We are very basic with the garlic salt and cayenne but I know lots of folks who do lime juice, onions, tomatoes, salsa, siracha, and on and on.

Once the potatoes are baked, halve them and mash on a plate to form a nice bed of sweet potato. Top with taco meat, cheddar cheese and let it melt a bit (you can nuke it if you don’t have enough residual heat from meat/potato). Then serve with the guacamole.

It’s filling, satisfying and pretty darn good for ya!


2014-09-05 19.29.20We headed out last weekend for what we think is probably our last camping trip of the year (maybe one more? we’ll see!).

Right up until that morning, we didn’t know if we were going because the weather looked grim. We had a family back out and others were talking about it. Plus two families needed to come up late and another needed to leave early leaving us kind of iffy, but we decided to press on and go for it.

Between moving and school and work, it wasn’t one of our more organized efforts. I also went waaay bare bones on everything from clothes to food. We ate dinner in Dillon on Friday night, leaving me needing three meals + cereal and milk on Sunday morning. I just did a bunch of chili, some sandwiches and easy eggs. We didn’t even take a cooler – just filled the little fridge in the pop up. The simple was nice and I want to do more of it.

Friday night we arrived and got a fire going. Just one other family showed up before bedtime but we had a great little fire going and all sat around reading Little House on the Prairie (our current read-aloud book). It was so apropos to the setting and everyone really enjoyed it. The kids went to bed right about the time another family showed up so we had 6 adults for our late night campfire and wine drinking.

DSC_9882The next day, we randomly chose a hike off a google search and unlike the weekend before, this one was gorgeous! Perfect distance, perfect difficulty, and gorgeous views everywhere!

DSC_9912The destination (1.6 miles in) was Lily Pad Lake which as you can see, lived up to its name.

DSC_9889But along the way, we found beautiful  meadows, scenic vistas and this totally random field of rocks. We were all pretty sure the trolls were going to pop up any moment and start singing “He’s a bit of a fixer upper!”

DSC_9927We even had lovely tree cover and sweet little bridges meaning no one ever got too hot or had to jump streams.

DSC_9926Best of all, the kids were AWESOME hikers. There was little complaining and they sang songs and did math problems and were super fun the whole time. We all feel like our hard work is paying off. They’re FUN!

After the hike, we went back, had lunch and spent the rest of the day chilling at the campsite. The two remaining families showed up and their kids joined our kids, running in their pack. Dinner, more reading around the campfire, some marshmallows and late night adult fun and it was over. We had to pack up early the next morning to get ready for our week and our Sunday night guests.

It all went too quickly … not just this camping trip, but the whole summer. Maybe we will try to sneak one more trip in ….

Photography, Travel

DSC_9854We went to Vail for Labor Day Weekend. Owing to moving and camping and LIFE, we had not been there since ski season, and since I actually like it better in the summer, I was happy when my sister proposed we go.

After a long fight with traffic, we got there and crashed.


The next morning, we tried to go to Hanging Lake to hike, but there weren’t any parking spots!!! At 9 am!! yeesh.

DSC_9489So we found another hiking spot in nearby Glenwood. It really wasn’t our favorite and didn’t have much to recommend it besides some pretty wildflowers ….

DSC_9493And a nice view of Glenwood. Not much tree cover, near a water treatment plant, pretty meh. But that’s OK.

We had a nice lunch at The Pullman, a charmingly casual but very nice restaurant in Glenwood Springs. Dad and I split a peach bourbon BBQ pork sandwich. Yum.

DSC_9644Afterward, we drove on to Paonia (just 1.5 hours away!) and went peach picking at this cool little farm.

DSC_9602The peaches were GORGEOUS! We bought 35 lbs of them.

DSC_9585The kids had a wonderful time running around outside …

DSC_9620And playing on the cart …

DSC_9567And hanging with Daddy


And checking out the grapes.

DSC_9547They make wine there too and the grapes were looking good!

DSC_9557They also grow flowers, more fruit, a ton of veggies and apples! Wish it were just around the corner instead of 4 hours away (from Denver).

DSC_9670They definitely had the “cute farm” thing down, complete with vintage truck for Ben to drive.

DSC_9690We saw this beautiful little water fall on the side of the road on the way back to Vail and had to stop and check it out. It was a very cool hidden gem. We got back to Vail late after having dinner at Moe’s Original BBQ in Eagle and played games and chilled.

The next day, we had a leisurely morning and picked up Matt’s brother who was in a nearby town for a wedding. Then we had the birthday lunch at Mountain Standard in Vail. This is a sister restaurant to one of our other local favorites, Sweet Basil. We had super super yummy food an exchanged gifts and had dessert. We all agreed we didn’t have to eat for a long time to come.


After lunch, we took a walk to Betty Ford Garden which is crazy beautiful no matter the season.

DSC_9860We got some family shots of the four of us, none of which turned out, despite the fact that my sister snapped 20!! Seriously, they’re all either out of focus or I someone is looking off to the side or something. Grr.

But I snapped this one of everyone else and it’s pretty nice, despite Ben’s goofiness.

A little more chilling and it was time to head home and back to our regularly scheduled lives. Ah well.

Clean, Family, Lighter, Recipes, Seafood

buffaloshrimppoboyThese po’ boys originally came to me via Mother Thyme. Buffalo?! Shrimp?!? Sandwich?!? Yep, you got me. I had to bite.

I have no idea what the original recipe says. When I went to find the link, I didn’t even bother to look, because it’s now in my brain the way I make it and that’s what I’m sharing with you.


  • shrimp! peeled and defrosted – however many your family will eat and/or will provide adequate leftovers
  • buffalo sauce – maybe a cup or so? you need it for basting on the grill and drizzling on the sandwich – WE USE (and love!) FRANK’S
  • blue cheese crumbles
  • baby arugula
  • bread! You can use what you like, but in my opinion, crusty is good. Ciabatta has been really good for this, but you could use french bread, possibly bollio, or something else you prefer
  • butter
  • garlic salt
  • onion powder


Heat grill to medium. Prepare shrimp by peeling and defrosting as necessary. Thread on to skewers and brush with buffalo sauce. Prepare bread by splitting in the middle and cutting into sandwich size pieces if necessary. Then spread/brush with butter and sprinkle with garlic salt and onion powder.

Bring prepared shrimp skewers and bread to the grill. Grill shrimp skewers until they have changed color properly, about 2-3 min per side. Depending on the configuration of your grill, you can grill the bread at the same time, or you can do it once the shrimp are done. Go buttered side down and about 5 min if it’s on an upper rack (this is what we use) or only a minute or so if it’s on the main grilling surface.

To assemble, layer arugula and a skewer and a half or so of shrimp on top of the grilled bread. Sprinkle with blue cheese crumbles and drizzle on more buffalo sauce, then add the top bread.


We’ve made these two or three times now and they are almost universally a big hit, at least with adults. The kids are wary of the spicy buffalo, so we leave that off for them and just give the shrimp a little S&P. They come together VERY quickly and I like that you don’t have to heat up the oven or stove to make them. They are a great picnic food and we’ve served them with our apple/cucumber slaw.

Benjamin, Cooking/Food, Tabitha

2014-08-23 19.45.39Well lots has been going on, but not in the orderly, organized way that lends itself to blogging and photo taking (although I’ve done quite a bit of that). We’ve been settling into the school routine. It is pretty different from when we had one kid in “real” school, I’ll say that. It’s probably not quite double the work, but close! Lots of papers that need reviewed and signed and homework that needs a help-it. And while it would have been smart for us to stick close to home, probably, we went away for the weekend last weekend and we’re doing the same this weekend. I never really regret doing these trips, but they don’t exactly make my weeks easier either. Truly, it’s a good “problem” to have. So in between the school stuff, here’s some of what’s been going on. 2014-09-01 20.09.34We’ve been taking lots of walks around our new ‘hood. It’s something we LOVED to do in our old ‘hood and I sort of thought I might be giving up when we moved to the new ‘hood, but not so. It’s like the old hood on steroids! There’s tons of trails already built and there will be more. 2014-08-23 09.17.36 And where the old ‘hood was mostly neighborhood, this has some excellent wild, open elements to it as well – less landscaped and manicured with fields of cows and amazing vistas. We even found a ton of crawfish in the stream (drainage) that runs through our neighborhood. All this wildness will diminish somewhat as the neighborhood grows, but our northern side is bordered entirely by a wildlife preserve (above) that will always be wild! 2014-08-16 20.19.49We even spent a good hour of our date night walking around the ‘hood together. It was very nice. 2014-08-24 12.28.40Moving along … We took these two on an outing in Downtown Denver the last weekend in August. I wanted to see the Maya exhibit at the Denver Museum of Science and Nature and we did it on literally the LAST DAY of the exhibit. 2014-08-24 10.21.46It was a really great exhibit with plenty to read, but also a ton of cool interactive features like this rubber ball simulating the ones the Maya played their ball games with. Sucker is HEAVY! Afterward, we went to Biker Jim’s for gourmet hotdogs (wild boar, rattlesnake, etc.) – photo above – which is always a huge treat (even if it’s a huge pain to park near there!). 2014-08-28 19.04.11School is going along pretty well. The transition for Ben has been a little harder. He has had some trouble listening and keeping his hands to himself, but has already made huge strides correcting these peccadilloes. Most importantly, he LOVES school. Yay! I went to “curriculum night” at their school to hear the spiel about what they’ll be learning and enjoyed his cute poster (above) about himself. As he states, his favorite thing about school is hot lunch in the cafeteria. He also likened his iPad (and beloved Woofie!) to Owen’s yellow blankey, complete with picture showing its green case (and his doggie!!)  … in a truly cringe worthy parenting moment. 2014-08-28 18.52.58Tabby is LOVING second grade as well. I was able to pick her minion out from across the room (its the patterned glasses that tipped me off) when I went to back to school night. Her teacher is awesome as well and she’s in for a great year. She’s super excited as well to have leveled out of the little kid take-home books and now gets to read chapters from chapter books every night. The honor is not lost on her, that’s for sure. 2014-09-02 17.16.34I’ve been doing a lot more cooking at home than I was able to this summer as well. I suppose if you have to take a season off cooking, summer’s a good one. I don’t BBQ much (though I am able) and about all I really like to make are salads. But fall is the best for cooking – I love making soups and stews and that sort of hearty fare. I’ll have to post one of my new favorite recipes, Buffalo Shrimp Po’ Boys here pretty soon. We’ve made them twice now and they’re a huge huge hit. And also the Chicken Gumbo from above. No one can say no to that soup!! So all in all it’s going pretty well. Work’s been a bit crazy, but nothing I can’t handle. I also signed up for a 15k (9.3 miles) which we’ll see if I can handle the first weekend in October. I am feeling like life is coming back together and I’m so immensely grateful for the good people and wonderful blessings all around.

Benjamin, Life, Tabitha

It was an exceptionally CRAZY first week of school.

All the things happened, practically at the same time.

The kids started school – but not even on the same day – on two different days, which led to me going to work late two days and then taking off early to pick them up two days.

Matt got sick – like actually take-a-vacation-day sick (and the other reason I was doing drop off and pickup).

I got a completely out-of-the-blue, totally-last-minute project for work that I handled while watching an entire season of Downton Abbey.

The photo shoot I had scheduled went from an estimated 3 hours long to an estimated 7 hours long to an actual 6 hours long.

I had to spend two hours on Wednesday evening at the kids’ music orientation.

Family came in from out of town.

We almost didn’t get a proposal in.

I sat on a panel (which sadly did not involve any sitting). I did not get my pedicure. I had bunco. I avoided Matt’s icky bug and so did the kids.


SO ANYHOW, SCHOOL: The kids are super happy with their new teachers. They are off to a great start for the first year. We haven’t even screwed up too much/many paperwork assignments and they have more or less been on time.

Ben is most excited about the cafeteria, specials (art/music/gym) and recess! Tabby is most excited that her BFF is in her class. Also, they have a field trip soon!

The kids have been crazy tired in the afternoons. I expected Ben to be a bit off, but Tabby has been just as tired if no more so! And me too. Lots of adjustments, lots of fun. The kids start music lessons tomorrow to add to the crazy. And we have more out-of-town guests for the next couple of weeks and a couple of weekend trips.

Life is good.



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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Notes from a Blue Bike: The Art of Living Intentionally in a Chaotic World
When He Was Wicked
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
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Unlimited: How to Build an Exceptional Life
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