• The Denver weather has been crazy the past month. We have had rain almost non-stop ...
    Read more
  • Ben Turns 6

    Ben Turns 6

    Our little guy turned 6 a week ago. All parents know the feeling of watching ...
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  • Life is Full

    Life is Full

    Well despite my consciously trying to keep life as simple as possible, it seems to ...
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  • Tabby’s Birthday Part Un

    Tabby’s Birthday Part Un

    As I mentioned, we celebrated Tabby’s first bit of birthday at our favorite home away ...
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  • Planning Tabby’s Birthday

    Planning Tabby’s Birthday

    When the kids were little, we started the tradition of only doing birthday parties for ...
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  • Money Matters

    Money Matters

    When we were driving to AZ over Thanksgiving, we listened to a lot (LOT) of Dave ...
    Read more
Benjamin, Fitness/Outdoors, Tabitha

2015-05-25 10.06.55The Denver weather has been crazy the past month. We have had rain almost non-stop which is pretty unusual for our arid climate. We have all been making jokes about buying Nirvana albums and flannel. It’s great for the ground and the flowers, but has been pretty devastating for things like field day and keeping construction projects on schedule. Yikes!

So we were pretty happy to see a bit of sunshine in the forecast for Memorial Day Weekend. Matt and I have been running ourselves ragged and we had only minimal plans for the weekend, so we were really looking forward to it.

Friday we had Ben’s Kindergarten Celebration, so I worked from home all morning and then took off in the middle of the day for that. Since both of our offices closed early for the holiday, we could ease into our Friday night. We’ve been watching some of the classic movies of our childhood with the kids and so we watched the third installment of Indiana Jones. It was a big hit!

2015-05-23 14.58.48Saturday we did the karate thing and then we went to Denver ComicCon. It was a fun event and I’m glad we went, but it was mainly people-watching for us.

2015-05-23 15.14.27 2015-05-23 12.29.10

The kids got some fun souvenirs and really enjoyed it. But for $100 in tickets for the whole family, I don’t think we’ll be going every year. We were able to meet up with friends at ComicCon and then do dinner in the city, so that was a very nice bonus.

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Sunday was our get stuff done day. We worked on the pop-up, did some chores around the house, grocery shopping, etc.

2015-05-24 19.19.20Then we were invited to Dad’s house to celebrate this guy’s b’day, way late. Mother’s Day and a trip had gotten in the way of prompt celebration, but it’s always nice to drag it out anyhow, especially when my dad buys tons of crab and makes his delectable chocolate mayonnaise cake. Not a bad thing at all.

2015-05-25 11.02.55Monday we got up and went right to North Table Mountain to go hiking! It’s right in our backyard, but it’s always a great place to do some hiking or mountain biking or trail running. And it’s especially beautiful when it’s been raining like crazy as it has been lately because then instead of the more arid landscape, you get actual streams and even ….

2015-05-25 10.40.54A waterfall!!! My sister discovered this beauty on Saturday when she was hiking there and we had to see it for ourselves. This is pretty darn rare and we feel very lucky to have seen it because it probably won’t last long. In the way of waterfalls, it’s not super impressive, but it is really fun to find it in such an unexpected place. There are no snow-caps that feed this part of the terrain, so you can only get this with crazy huge rainfall.

2015-05-25 10.41.32Kelly was kind enough to go with us and we all had a great time.

2015-05-25 09.43.01Super super beautiful right now. It’s hardly ever this green and I love this part of the year. The kids were huge troopers, hiking over 7.5 miles!!! I’m so proud of them.

Afterward, we had to hightail it home for showers and refueling. I even stopped and bought them chocolate milk as a little reward for their hiking prowess.

 

Kelly and Tabby and I spent the afternoon shopping for some new clothes for Tabby who suddenly fits into NOTHING. She got really into it and picked out some very cute things. I had to steer her away from dresses and explained that she needs good playclothes for the summer and she got it and found some stuff she really likes.

We had dinner, worked some more on the pop-up and our long weekend was over like that!

 

Benjamin

7

Our little guy turned 6 a week ago. All parents know the feeling of watching their big, capable kids and barely being able to connect them to the snuggly little babies they were once upon a time.

It’s amazing and humbling to watch him grow from the Very Hungry Caterpillar who couldn’t get enough milk into his big, almost-done-with-kindergarten self.

This has been a transformative year for Ben. I suppose they all are, but he has had by far the biggest challenges so far this year and it’s been wonderful to watch him work to overcome them. Ben is a typical little boy with lots and lots of energy. He has had to work hard this year to tame that energy and direct it into his school work. It has been an uphill battle and I really appreciate the effort his teacher has put into helping him develop strategies to work through his boundless energy. It’s made a huge difference.

Outside of school, we have fits and starts, but the overall arc is good. He listens better. He picks up well. He is learning to control his temper and his err… smart mouth. His natural bend is to be the class clown and he truly is very funny. I swear he makes us laugh each day. Sometimes it’s accompanied by shaking our heads. He is very inquisitive and extremely intuitive about mechanical and mathematical things. If we can keep him busy, we can keep him happy.

3
We had a small family party for him at home. His “big” party isn’t for another week, but we asked him to pick what he wanted to do on the very special day and it was super simple – pizza rolls, fruit pizza and a movie at home.

4Papa and Gaga got him Legos.

1Tabby made him an adorable book entitled, “The 10 Things I Love Best About Ben.” Our present to him will be a Russian Tortoise that we will pickup sometime this week. We were going away for a long weekend and so wanted to wait to get the tortoise until we could be home for a couple of weeks in a row. We do have a name picked out though, “Taco.” Yep, I don’t know either.

5He got his wish for his night in, pizza rolls, movie and fruit pizza. I love that his requests are still so uncomplicated. For his party, we will be having a water gun fight in the back yard followed by some cake and ice cream. We’re all looking forward to a good time.

6Happy birthday to my darling little guy. Here’s to many many more years of Benji fun and snuggles.

Misc

2015-04-01 19.30.11

Well despite my consciously trying to keep life as simple as possible, it seems to fill up no matter what I do. This blog and my photography have been the casualties lately and while I regret this and would like to fix this, these things will always come behind quality time with friends and family and often behind my job and my mental well being.

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The kids are doing well. They are probably the single biggest reason I have found so little time to blog lately. We’ve been busy most every evening with homework, music practice and just having time to ride bikes and go to the park. We are coming up on their spring recitals, so there is a very concerted effort (see what I did there?) to get everyone poised and practiced and ready to go. It’s hard to believe that a month from now we’ll be about done with school. It’s crazy!

We are also in the throes of planning Ben’s birthday. After much debating and negotiating, Ben decided he wanted a bigger party at home. We will be supplying the kids with squirt guns (also their party favors) and letting them go crazy in the back yard. There will also be cake. Apparently, whatever Costco wants to draw on the cake is also no longer good enough. He wants a Minecraft cake. We’ll see how inventive Mommy is feeling in a couple of weeks. Ahem.

2015-03-16 22.25.54Matt and I have also been busy doing many little projects around the house. Or some not so little. We hired our favorite contractor/handyman to frame and drywall in Matt’s shop in the basement and then we have been finishing that off, adding electrical to it.

2015-03-21 19.09.22We’ve also worked quite a bit on our outside living area. We added fairy lights ….

2015-03-14 20.42.54… and mounts for our projector and speakers …

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… and a curtain to block the blinding sun that comes our way from the west every evening. And a fair few more things. We’ve got just as big a list to tackle when the shop’s done too.

2015-03-12 16.09.42And then there’s work. Work is a huge time suck and I have to actively work to set boundaries. There are weeks when little can be done but just getting it done and this sometimes means bringing work home with me to do after the piano is practiced, the bedtime stories are read and the kids are in bed. Fortunately, this is an exception, not the rule.

There are times that are frustrating. When I work my tail off and get literally nothing for it. Usually this is due to factors beyond my control and it is maddening to not be able to overcome those. But overall, we have been winning lots of work and as that is the main function of my department, it is great to see us doing our job well. I do love to win.

2015-03-29 19.17.18So that is life right now. A blur of family, work, friends and piano practice. It’s wonderful and I know how lucky I am.

 

Tabitha

2015-02-28 20.03.51As I mentioned, we celebrated Tabby’s first bit of birthday at our favorite home away from home, Vail.

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This is one of Tabby’s favorite traditions and far be it from us to deny her time skiing. It’s something we all love. Even if we can’t get a halfway decent family skiing selfie.

2015-02-28 18.06.23Our festivities were very simple. Matt grilled steaks. I baked sweet potatoes in the crockpot and cooked up some asparagus. Tabby wanted banana pudding for her dessert.

2015-02-28 19.48.45And she got some gifts. A book and some Shopkins from our family.

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A new doll and some clothes and accessories from Gaga and Papa.

2015-02-28 19.56.50And plenty of 8-year-old snuggles from everyone.

This kid is great and we’re her biggest fans.

Tabitha

2014-07-13 17.43.35-1

When the kids were little, we started the tradition of only doing birthday parties for them on even age years. Sometimes I wish we’d done one on odd and one on even so I’d just do one party every year instead of 2 every other year, but such is life. This means that last year they did not have parties except for the little ones with our family (we always do those), so you better believe they are raring to go this year!

Tabby wanted a sleepover and after some back and forth, we chose the theme of “camping” for her party. I did some searching around and looked at what’s been done, already thought of, etc. and we had a kind of funny discussion before I sent out her invites.

Me: “Do you want a camping party or a glamping party?”

Tabby: “What’s glamping?”

Me: “It’s like camping, but glamorous.”

Tabby: <blank stare>

Me: “You know, like pink and cute and girly and fancy.”

Tabby: “Why would I want that??”

Me: “Just checking!”

Got it. No glamping for this girl, even if she does wear dresses 9 days out of 10 and scream at spiders. She also hikes and mucks through the woods with the best of them and LOVES digging in the dirt. Maybe I should have known better.

So with that distinction made, we started planning the party, camping theme in mind. We very typically eat chili while camping and since it’s a pretty well-liked kid food, I suggested this. Tabby has apparently put this on her list of things she will eat but doesn’t really like (this annoying list is growing, BTW) and eschewed that idea. Then she suggested salmon, which I reminded her many kids, including her BFF, do not like. So I suggested hot dogs. She didn’t want plain hot dogs, but thought pigs in a blanket would do fine. We would never have this camping because we make them in the oven, but whatever. I figure those, chips and a fruit salad and dinner will be served.

tabby_5_dirtcake

The cake was already decided, even before the theme – dirt cake. She had it for her birthday three years ago and still remembers it.

Then on to activities. Tabby has been obsessed with charm bracelets lately, so I found a seller on Etsy who sells camp-themed charms and I bought a bunch for about $12. Those plus some beads and string and we’re good to go.

I also found canvas backpacks on Oriental Trading + a set of fabric markers that I will have the girls decorate. And I got a pack of LED flashlights for them to put in their bag.

Lastly, we will be watching Troop Beverly Hills, which I showed to Tabby a few weeks ago and she LOVED. For this purpose, we are rigging up an outdoor theatre in our outdoor living room for this purpose.

Hopefully after the girls sleep for about 11 hours straight (ha!) they will arise to pancakes and bacon (what we almost always eat the first morning of camping). I think we’re in for a lot of fun.

Life, Organization & Home Keeping

moneyWhen we were driving to AZ over Thanksgiving, we listened to a lot (LOT) of Dave Ramsey and Suze Orman – that is a LONG DRIVE – among other podcasts. We are truly pretty good with money and for the most part always have been, thanks largely in part to my fiscally conservative upbringing and personal OCDish tendencies. We use credit cards only for convenience and points and we pay them off every month. We save for rainy days, college and retirement FIRST, before we even think about luxuries. We budget and save for big purchases. We know what kind of life insurance to buy and have good estate planning in place.

But we were far from perfect and we are certainly not doing as well as we could be. We could have been putting more money into paying off our mortgage early, or more into retirement and college savings. We should have been working harder to stick to our monthly budget (noun – a document with fictitious allotments for our monthly income that we never ever actually hit). To be perfectly honest, we just weren’t really paying a lot of attention to what we spent and we made dumb excuses about spending it.

So for the past two months, we’ve been really buckling down on hitting our budget numbers. It’s been a good exercise for me to do this weekly (usually on Sunday) instead of whenever the heck I get around to it (i.e. once a month or so) and instead of me doing most of this in a bubble, I’ve been involving Matt more. We’ve been a lot more careful with how often we eat out and how much we allow ourselves to spend when we do so. Fortunately, splitting a meal behooves our waistlines as much as it behooves our bottom line, a win-win.

Cooking at home is a big part of that too.  Of course we’ve been pretty good for years about cooking at home most weeknights, but things get a little dicey when we’re out and about so much during the week with kid activities or on the weekends when we’re again out and about. And it all went absolutely to heck when we were commuting back to our own suburb from the rental house.

So we’ve redoubled our efforts. All this has really meant is bit more discipline- more planning ahead to make sure we have leftovers and options for breakfast and lunch and quick dinners for crazy nights – and reminding ourselves that there’s good food at home to eat for (usually) a fraction of the cost and that it’s OK to be hungry for the 20-30 minutes it takes us to get home from lessons. It’s also cut down at least some on our food waste.

It hasn’t always been 100% smooth sailing of course, but we’ve been pretty good about defaulting to things we have on hand like sandwiches and quesadillas and not using it as an excuse to order up pizza.

Thanks to these, and other “sacrifices” we had money leftover in December (probably a first) and even more in January. It is good to see these fairly small changes having an effect on our bank account. It’s one of the areas we feel like we were forced to give up some control when the kids were small just to keep our heads above water. And now they’re older, more self-sufficient and we’re getting them back. I’m a fan.

Life

2015-01-18 14.17.38
Can’t believe we’re over a month into 2015, but so far, I’m cautiously a fan. We’ve had far more days like this than icky sticky days (though we did have one that was a doozie).

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So we’ve spent a lot of time outside just loving life.

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And it’s been a bit slower, so we’ve been enjoying hanging out and doing little projects like this friendship bracelet. And all of our home projects.

2015-01-26 17.38.36We’ve been cooking more than ever, having greatly trimmed our eating out budget (more on this later).

2015-02-02 18.12.46

Easy things like easy Korean Beef with Broccoli (and tons of Sriracha) and Chicken Tagine and Hamburger/Chili Mac with Crack Broccoli.

It’s been nice. It’s been fun. I love our family. I know how lucky I am.

Asian, Beef/Pork/MEAT, Clean, Family, Quick, Recipes

2015-02-02 18.12.46I fully realize I’ve been rather terrible about posting new recipes. But really, maybe it’s just that I’ve been more selective. I’ve wanted to make sure that we really really LOVE something and it’s truly ingrained in our family dinner repertoire before I post it. But I have to say I was a little surprised I hadn’t already posted this. We make it very frequently. At least once a month. And for us, that’s huge.

The original recipe came from Damn Delicious, a favorite recipe blog. And her’s is amazing, so it was the foundation for this, but I always need to soup things up a bit, usually with VEGGIES and this was no exception. I also moved the heat out of the dish so adults could add it to taste later with some Sriracha and nixed some fat and sugar.

Ingredients

  • 2 lbs 93% lean ground beef
  • 6 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
  • 1 T sesame oil
  • 1/2 C brown sugar
  • 1/2 C soy sauce
  • 1/2 t ground ginger
  • 2 packages frozen broccoli (I like the kind that steams in the bag)
  • Sriracha for serving (optional)
  • rice for serving

Directions

Note: If you’re going to have rice with this, you probably need to get going on that before you ever start the beef because this is quick.

Start by browning the ground beef, breaking it into small pieces as you go. As that’s heating up, toss in your sesame oil and garlic cloves (I just push these through the press so I don’t have to fuss with them before I start). As the ground beef browns (you’ll have to stir it occasionally as you work), steam your broccoli in the microwave. Then combine the brown sugar, soy sauce and ginger in a small bowl. Whisk together.

As soon as the ground beef is brown, add the sauce and broccoli and stir to thoroughly combine. Allow to simmer for a couple of minutes and serve on top of your rice with as much or as little Siracha as you can handle.

 

2015-02-02 18.06.35This is by far one of the easiest things I cook. I can get it on the table in probably about 20 minutes. This is partially due to the fact that we love minute rice and that can cook alongside it in about the same time. Everyone in the family LOVES this.

Dream House, Home Improvement, Organization & Home Keeping

2015-01-11 10.40.37-1We’ve been on quite a roll with getting some little projects around the house done. It’s a nice side effect of the aforementioned actually BEING at home more often. I love seeing the results of these little projects.

2015-01-11 10.08.26The first photo is the fruits of these labors … the kids putting together a storage cart from IKEA. The idea is to store their school/homework supplies in it and then they can wheel it out into the living space when Matt is busy on conference calls, etc. We have yet to stock it, but that is the IDEA.

2015-01-10 20.27.37Another project we tackled was turning this unholy mess on top of the washer/dryer into something you might want to actually use.

2015-01-10 21.37.12Like so. That’s a $16 piece of melamine mounted on 4 brackets from IKEA. It’s not gorgeous or anything, but it really does the trick. We actually have a second shelf waiting in the laundry room for later when we have brackets to mount it. We somehow thought we bought enough for 2 shelves, but that wasn’t the case. At some point in time, I’d like to add a spot for line dry/flat dry items, but for now our beds and closets work just fine.

2015-01-18 09.45.11_crop

Moving right along. In the playroom we installed these shelves specifically to hold Ben’s Lego collection. These are at great peril when we have small-fry company so this system keeps them out of small hands until we can grant permission.


2015-01-18 09.39.35_fixed

We also decided to doll up the spot in the office above the big work desk with shelves (months ago) and now a triptych of magnetic boards. These will hold kid artwork and papers, particularly of the  “here’s the instructions and password to log onto this textbook’s site” variety.

2015-01-10 20.26.27Lastly – and this is probably the project I’m most proud of – we reorganized some of our kitchen drawers. I don’t think this looks awful, but the functionality was TERRIBLE. That tray thing is about to fall apart and it raised everything up just enough that it continuously caught when we shut/opened the drawer.

2015-01-10 23.55.17

For about $30 we bought supplies from Home Depot, 4’x2″x1/4″ craft board that we cut to size and some loc-tite adhesive that we put everything together with. They’re not attached but just slip into the drawer so we can easily remove them if we want to. And they look AWESOME.

2015-01-11 12.03.11It is amazing too how much better things fit in the drawers. Without the bottoms and extra sides to hold them together, we can get 24 sets of flatware in this drawer that only used to hold about 16. We wanted to do a couple more drawers, but ran out of materials. Maybe next weekend.

 

Misc

2015-01-06 10.13.46
We had a lovely Christmas followed by an even lovelier vacation. The photos of that time are still trapped on the “big camera” and I’ll get them off at some point and maybe even share them. But post Christmas was a lot more eventful.

2014-12-26 17.54.02We did a lot of hanging at home in the few days that followed Christmas. Video game playing. Popcorn eating. Chilling. Relaxing. It was awesome. The boys built a bunch of Lego. Tabby and I danced for hours. We each pretended to be a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle and beat up bad guys. We all seem much more inclined to hang in the new house. I think because it functions better than the old one did. The space is better for doing what we want to do. I think that’s  a good thing.

2014-12-29 19.00.09We also got a few things accomplished around the house. We hung up these cute little prints we got the kids for Christmas in their bathroom. They serve to mark each kid’s brand new towel hook (so useful for keeping wet towels off the floor!).

2014-12-27 10.13.51We also went to IKEA and got a few other things handled around the house – like a new desk chair for the office and some shelves for the playroom and a media cabinet (locker style) for the work out room.

2014-12-28 14.37.51We were lucky enough to be able to take in a Broncos game (they won!) and afterward we took the kids to Stubens, home of

2014-12-28 17.39.04ginormous poutine!! Yowsa.

We hosted a huge (28) crowd for New Years and then left the house in shambles, heading up to Vail for a real break.

2015-01-06 10.47.21

Matt and the kids did a lot of skiing, but I was laid up with the dumbest of all injuries, a bone bruise on my shin that I acquired falling UP the stairs. Seriously. It didn’t hurt a bit unless I tried to cram my foot into a ski boot and then the worst pain imaginable. So I didn’t ski much.

But I did a lot of other things, including playing games on my computer and some little photo projects I’d been wanting to accomplish. Since I couldn’t ski, I exercised by doing Just Dance and maybe I’m getting better at it. Ha.

It was lovely to be with my family and friends, doing quite a lot and simultaneously nothing at all. I really need to do more of it.

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


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