Asian, Clean, Cooking/Food, Family, Quick, Recipes, Seafood

2014-10-20 18.28.39

I like anything I can get on the table for my family in under 30 minutes that is healthy, real food. Salmon almost always fits that bill because it cooks quickly and needs very little adornment to make it special. This dish is no exception and is a really great addition to any week night warrior’s repertoire. Add my summer squash hash and it’s a full, healthy, very yummy meal with leftovers for lunch the next day.

Ingredients

For the salmon:

  • 2 pounds salmon cut into 4-6 oz pieces
  • 1 lime
  • 1 T Sriracha hot sauce
  • 2 T brown sugar
  • 1 t sea salt
  • 2-3 green onions, thinly sliced, for garnish

For the Summer Squash Hash:

  • 2 cups cooked rice (brown is our fave)
  • 3-4 summer squash (zucchini or yellow squash) cut small or julienned
  • 1 T butter
  • S&P or salt and lemon pepper or garlic salt or … ?

Directions

Heat oven to 425. Start your rice cooking. Heat water on the stove or turn on the rice cooker and get it going. Then prep your summer squash. We use the mandoline on the fine grate setting and turn over 4 squash in just a few minutes. This is a good time to slice the green onions as well.

Next, cover a baking sheet with parchment or foil and place the salmon pieces on top. Zest the lime over it. Then combine the lime juice, Sriracha, brown sugar and sea salt together in a small bowl. Drizzle over the salmon and place in the oven for 16 minutes. We found this is the perfect cook time for us, but if you have very thin salmon or like it more rare, you should probably check after 10 minutes.

Now, use the next 16 minutes to cook your summer squash and finish up your rice. Heat 1 T butter in a fry pan and add the summer squash. Saute for 8-10 minutes until a bit soft. Don’t move it around too much, you want to move some moisture and start to get it a little brown if you can. Season with your desired spices and combine with the rice.

Sprinkle green onions over salmon and serve atop your delicious hash. Enjoy!

 

2014-10-20 18.31.22Notes: we do not find this to be a particularly spicy dish, despite containing Sriracha. The fattiness of the salmon seems to cut it nicely. Also, hash is equally delicious deconstructed (with rice and squash not touching) if you happen to have picky eaters.

 

Asian, Clean, Cooking/Food, Recipes, Seafood, Soup


2014-10-19 16.38.08

This is a recipe I’m posting at least half for my own record keeping as anything else. I still have some lingering questions about the recipe and I don’t have great photos, but I’ll share what I’ve got and try to update the next time we make it. But man, it’s too good to lose!

Backstory: Last week we went to Sweet Tomatoes as an atta-boy for Ben who had been struggling a bit with behavior at school and is now happily doing amazingly well, literally OFF-THE-CHARTS. Sweet Tomatoes (this is a salad, soup, pasta buffet with some baked goods and soft-serve ice cream thrown in) is a perennial favorite restaurant of the kids and Matt and I like it, but in a sort of we’ll put up with it for your sake kind of way. It’s generally not too innovative or interesting, but everyone can find something they like and it’s reasonably healthy if you’re careful with how much and what you pick.

So we got our salads and ate those and then Ben begged to go get mac ‘n’ cheese and I accompanied him, served his pasta for him and sent him back to the table. Then I wandered over to the soup bar where they had the usual array of 6 soups. They always have a bunch of the same ol’ but then have some seasonal offering … and this time, it was Lobster Curry Bisque. The seasonal soups are very largely hit or miss, but I almost always try them and this one was … OMG. Amazing. It was all I could do not to go back for seconds, thirds, fourths and bribe the people to send me home with the absurdly large vat of the stuff.

It was all the yummy stuff about regular lobster bisque but with coconut and curry flavors and just so so so good. It was kind of like a mixture between Tom Kha (a thai soup with a lovely coconut base) and regular ol’ lobster bisque. Awesome. I was already planning a return trip for this week when I realized that we were on the LAST DAY of the soup special. Disaster. Only if the soup is a huge hit do you ever see it again and even then, it could be easily a full year!

So I did what any sensible person would do. I googled. And I came up with the delightful recipe for Coconut Curry Lobster Bisque by a Ms. Natalie Paramore. I’d never been to her site before, but she showed a pretty good method and so I decided I’d give it a whirl. And just a couple of days later, I stuck it on the menu for Sunday night … along with another tried and tested soup (Beef Barley with Mushrooms) just in case.

Acquiring the ingredients was a bit more hassle than normal and included a trip to an Asian grocery store. But happily, an H-Mart has just cropped up on one of my more frequently traveled paths and Ben in tow, we were able to get lemon grass, lemon thyme, coconut milk and coconut cream powder (as well as some other Asian grocery store treats) while Tabby was testing for her orange belt on Saturday.

So Sunday was the regular crazy Nichols affair. We had a swim birthday party in the morning that we followed up with lunch with friends and then we met up with other friends back at our house shortly after that to do a little crafting (they wanted to make a CO pallet flag as well). They’d offered to bring dinner (after I’d already menu planned and done most of the shopping) but since I had something in the works, I said I’d just go ahead with that.

So while the wife was working with Matt on the pallet flag, I was in the kitchen cooking it up … and watching some football. I basically followed the original recipe with some modifications:

Ingredients

  • 4 Lobster tails (I forgot to see what weight I used, but they were small and I’m betting they totaled in the 3.5 lb range)
  • 6 cups water
  • kosher salt
  • 4 cups chicken stock
  • 2 stalks lemon grass
  • 2 sprigs lemon thyme
  • 1 T peppercorns
  • 3 teeny onions
  • 9 cloves garlic
  • 3 T red curry paste
  • 1 can coconut milk
  • 1/4 C coconut cream powder
  • 1 lime
  • cilantro for garnish

Directions 

As I said, this was all a bit on the experimental side. To my knowledge, I’d never even cooked lobster before, but what the heck! I’ll try anything.

So first step was to steam the lobster. I placed them in my soup pot with the water and about 2 tsp of kosher salt. Then, as the recipe directed, I brought them to a boil and covered to steam for 12 minutes. While that was in the works, as suggested, I chopped up the veggies. Lemon grass is no joke! It was crazy hard to cut and I ended up more or less sawing it with my serrated bread knife. Since the recipe said we’d be blending these things up, I just did the rough chop.

After the 12 minutes had elapsed, I removed the lobsters to a plate to let them cool. Once they were cool enough to handle, I dug out all the meat. I did this over the plate to capture the juices and dumped the juices and meat back into the soup pot. Then I added the chicken stock, lemon grass, lemon thyme, peppercorns, onions and garlic back to the pot and set it to boil for 45 minutes to make the stock.

Though this step was obviously not difficult, it is what would keep me from making this on a weeknight. In this case it worked out beautifully because I could prep everything for my other soup while the stock formed.

Once the stock was done, I strained it back into another pot as the recipe called for and here’s where it got a bit jinky. The author said to remove the whole ingredients and the lobster tail shells, but then it clearly showed those things being blended up and had referenced this fact before. Not wanting to lose out on any flavor, I opted to just remove the lobster tail shells and blend with my immersion blender. That technique works wonderfully on many of the soups I make, but the crazy lemon grass was really resistant and it was clear that ingredient would not blend nicely into soupiness. It just more or less ground it up. Therefore, I decided to run it back through the strainer once more. I was very happy with this move because it was clear that this fiborous stuff did not belong in there. I ended up squeezing it out to get all the liquid back out.

From there, the finish was easy. Stir in some curry paste (I just did a bit over half the jar, an estimated 3 T) and the can of coconut milk. The author had suggested that coconut cream was preferable but even at the Asian grocery store, there was none to be had. So I picked up the powder. The directions said to make it by putting the whole packet in a cup of water. But rather than do that, I stirred in about a 1/4 cup into the soup for just a little extra creamy. Next time I’d like to order the coconut cream off Amazon to see what difference it makes. Then I stirred in the lobster and squeezed lime over the whole thing and served it up!

 

All 10 of our guests (my dad and sister had joined us by this point) agreed – it was amazing. The kids all gamely tried it and ate at least half of their bowls. Any leftovers the adults were glad to bat clean-up on.

Work wise, this was honestly very manageable. I would guestimate that my hands-on time was around 1 hour and then add in the cook time around 1 hour. As I said, the only hard part was the uncertainty in straining the soup. I think I would be much quicker making it next time around, probably cutting my hands-on time to 30-40 min.

One might wonder though, how it compares to its Sweet Tomatoes inspiration. The answer is … quite a bit different, but possibly even better. The main difference was the texture. Sweet Tomatoes’ was much more thick creamy and this was definitely thinner, but still creamy. This had more the consistency of a thai coconut soup (Tom Kha). The flavors in this were a bit more subtle as well. You tasted everything, all at once, and nothing overpowered anything else. Lobster, coconut, curry, citrus.

To top it all off, the Broncos won, Payton captured the TD pass record, our friends have their very own CO pallet flag and we all had a very lovely evening.

 

Misc

2014-10-01 11.00.54Life has been getting in the way of my posting on here. I can’t really make any apologies for that. It’s been a fun and (as usual) crazy couple of weeks.

Last week we had a particularly stressful rush to finish and  drop off a proposal on Wednesday morning. After the eagle had landed, I coaxed my reportee into going to brunch with me so we could do his (very late) yearly review. It was great timing and we had a lovely brunch at Snooze, one of my favorite breakfast restaurants, in their new location – the newly renovated Union Station. The renovation was well done and they decided that only local restaurants could set up shop there, so we have some wonderful Denver restaurants there and it’s a great vibe.

2014-10-06 18.39.01It’s been great cooking lately. Fall/winter food is my favorite. Lots of comfort food and soups and pastas. We’ve made meatloaf cups (with baked sweet potatoes), some yummy skillet lasagna, and a really great peach salsa chicken in the crockpot. And of course soup! Broccoli cheese, lentil and chicken gumbo. I still want to recreate an awesome frozen meal (!!) I had – Evol’s Chipotle Chicken Mac ‘n’ Cheese. Maybe next weekend.

2014-10-07 18.24.25

We’ve been going on some lovely walks in the ‘hood. We figure we better get it in while we can. Already, it gets dark pretty early making it hard for us to get out in the evenings. Snapped this shot at the top of a hill in our ‘hood – wish it was a bit less street, but the sky was gorgeous and I’m glad I captured that. there’s also a big moon hanging over the lake, though it’s a bit hard to see in this view.

I almost hate to write it, lest I jinx it, but … in semi-related news, I’ve been running more. I finally gave up trying to work out early in the morning like I did for years. It just hasn’t been working since I frequently need to get myself to work very early these days and just getting presentable is enough for me. So Matt and I have been regularly using our workout room in the evenings and it’s been great. I actually spent 70 minutes on the treadmill last night. No idea how long since that’s happened!

2014-10-09 19.56.45-1School and activities are in full full swing. Tabby has homework every night and Ben is getting it on a weekly basis. We are fortunate to not have “crazy” level homework. Tabby gets a math worksheet every night and a spelling-related task  and Ben has a poetry folder with activities and sometimes some math every week. Tabby also has a take-home book, which at her reading level are pretty long and she rarely completes in a single night.

We have condensed karate into a single night where they both have a private lesson (though not together) for 30 minutes followed by the 60 minute group class. They would progress faster, I’m sure, if we’d take the time to get over there for another group class each week, but I can only take so much and so can they. Even with our limited karate time, Tabby is testing for her orange belt next weekend. We were hoping Ben could test a while back, but he still hasn’t reached the level of attentiveness his senseis are hoping for and he’s stuck at yellow belt ’til he can get that resolved. It doesn’t seem to bother him and they say he is making progress.

In our down time at home, we’re doing a lot of reading together. We’ve finished off three Little House books and are in the midst of the fourth (On the Banks of the Plum Creek). Out on the deck by the fireplace is a great spot for reading these books and both kids are enjoying them. I’m planning on reading some more classics to them after this – A Girl of the Limberlost, Old Yeller and Where the Red Fern Grows. Eventually I want to read The Hobbit and of course, Harry Potter. Cuddled up on the couch with them is one of the best parts of my day.

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!

1

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!

Crafts

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.

 

Misc

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.

Ingredients

  • 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!)

Directions

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!

Camping

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.

DSC_9477

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

DSC_9544

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.

DSC_9776

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.

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!

Snapshots

Blast from the Past

Recipes by Category

I ♥ Pinterest

Follow Me on Pinterest

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 »