Benjamin, Life, Married Life, Organization & Home Keeping, Parenting, Tabitha

NicholsFam

A few weeks ago, I told Matt that I wanted to start having regular family meetings. I said I wanted to have an agenda and a family credo and snacks. This is exactly the variety of corny/cheesy stuff that Matt instinctively rolls his eyes at and internally GROANS. We’ve both been through way too many corporate team-building sessions with mission statements to be wary of this sort of thing and I get it. But to his credit, he heard me out.

I made the following argument: The kids are getting older. School, activities, friends, devices, etc. are encroaching more on our nuclear family and while that’s not wholly bad, it’s important that we are deliberate about protecting family time. We need to also be deliberate about communicating what values, activities, lessons, etc. are important to us and teaching the kids a few things. To his credit, he saw what a fabulously great idea it was and got on board. šŸ˜‰

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Asian, Clean, Cooking/Food, Family, Lighter, Lunchbox, Meatless, Recipes

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I’ve had a spiralizer for maybe a year now. I was pretty excited by it when I first got it but I rapidly figured out that while I love zoodles (zucchini noodles), the rest of my household does not.Ā I should have been pulling it out regularly to make myself zoodles for lunch, but I think I was kind of bummed.

Luckily, I spotted Organic Dietician’s recipe for Sesame Sweet Potato Noodles and I decided to give it a whirl. Who doesn’t love sesame noodles? It was a success, but it needed just a little tweaking to be perfect for me. Added bonus, Matt loves them too.

Ingredients

  • 2 medium to large sweet potatoes, peeled & spiralized
  • 1 T olive oil
  • 2 T no-sugar-added peanut butter
  • 1 T sesame oil
  • 2 T apple cider vinegar
  • pinch salt
  • 1 T sesame seeds
  • sliced green onionĀ (for serving)
  • sriracha (for serving)

Directions

Place spiralized sweet potato in a microwave-safe bowl and drizzle about 1 T water in the bottom of the dish. Microwave 8-12 minutes depending on how cooked you’d like your sweet potato. I like mine with just a hint of crunch and so I go about 10 minutes.

Heat olive oil in a skillet and add noodles. Saute for about 5 minutes. This removes some excess water and makes them a bit more noodle like.

Meanwhile, whiskĀ together peanut butter, sesame oil, vinegar and salt.

When noodles are cooked as desired, toss with dressing and top with sesame seeds and green onion & sriracha if desired.

These are great warm, but I like them even a bit better cold the next day.

Crafts, Dream House, Home Improvement, Married Life, Organization & Home Keeping, Woodworking

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This guy had a birthday last week.

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It was a pretty fun affair if fairly low key. He got new sheets and a new backpacking chair (which hasn’t actually arrived yet) and he got to hang out with these weirdos and drink homemade lemon cream soda (delish).

But my other gift to him was taking a whole Friday off to hang together. And it was pretty awesome.

See we needed a new patio table. We had one from our old house, but it was just a little too wide to really fit our somewhat narrow porch. And as “luck” would have it, a crazy windstorm picked up the tiles that made the top of the old one and smashed them into the railings and floors, breaking all but 2 of them. So while the table frame was fine, it needed a new top and we were ready to say bubye to that table.

I designed this new one sometime last summer before the other one was destroyed. It’s almost 12′ long and as we plan to have 4 benches (2 per side) and 2 chairs on each end, we can comfortably seat 14 people. Not too shabby.

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Matt and one of his friendsĀ have been working in his wood shop by night, toiling on our new patio set and on our friend’s new coffee table. We had friends coming over that evening and had created an artificial deadline of having the table done when they arrived, even though the forecast said it was supposed to be cold.

But artificial deadlines are great and we got down to business making the table. The guys already had the frame built, so we just had to add the top. ItĀ seemsĀ easy, but it was quite a bit of work, let me tell you.

I got a real appreciation for the work Matt puts in in his wood shop, that’s for sure. Each board has to be properly dimensionalized (made perfectly square and into the correct thickness) which is quite a lot of work, running it multiple times through two different machines since each pass can only take off a fraction of an inch at a time.

Then you have to cut it to size (on one of 2 or 3 different saws) and attach. The attaching part on this is actually “simple” compared with his normal work. He regularly uses complex joinery (not screws) to attach pieces. This one has carefully hidden screws instead since it’s less “fine” woodwork.

Finally, you must finish – that’s at least 3 rounds of sanding (everywhere!) and then using some variety of finishing solution on it – stain, sealer, oil, etc. then sanding again, staining again and sanding again. You can do this a couple more coats if you want to depending on the finish. This is the part I regularly help with, so I’m very versed in it.

We didn’t get past the first three rounds of sanding (still not done) but it was fine to eat off!

You might notice the middle looks kind of strange – that’s a trough that runs up the center. You can put ice in it for drinks (like so), or add river rocks and sterno cans (like so) for table top s’mores. Also, if we end up hating the idea, we can pretty easily run narrow boards down the center and just finish it off.

Anyhow, that was day 1. I fully expected to be done, but inclement weather caused our friendsĀ to cancel the hike we had planned and so we decided to get going on 1 of the 4 benches.

2016-05-14 18.26.47-1So we did. More dimensionalizing, cutting to size.

And then gluing! It seems so strange that something that we sit on (several of us, actually) could be held together with glue, but that’s the deal. I suppose there’s also some dowels and strategic structure choices, but mostly, it’s glue. Crazy.

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But it turned out great! Check it out!
2016-05-14 21.03.27This guy actually required even more sanding than normal because we were sanding several disparate pieces of wood to perfectly flat and it’s not much difference (less than 1/32 in most cases), but it’s a lot of sanding.

Love how it looks though!

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And here’s the other little thing I worked on … a little sign for Matt’s shop. My woodgeek. šŸ˜€

 

Brekkie, Clean, Cooking/Food, Family, Lighter, Quick, Recipes

2016-05-15 18.24.55

If you look at anything food related, particularly clean/healthy food related on the internets, you can’t help but have seen a post (or 100) about overnight oats. And it’s obvious why – they’re great. They allow you to make really quality food very quickly, so long as you do it early, and they are really really tasty. I’ve tried many, but here are my favorites, adapted from Marin Mama Cooks.

Ingredients

  • 1/4 C steel cut oats
  • 3/4 C almond milk (unsweetened)
  • 2 T chia seeds
  • 1/2 T maple syrup
  • pinch salt
  • 1/2 t vanilla extract
  • fresh fruit, cut in bite-sized pieces

Directions

Place oats, milk, chia seeds, maple syrup, salt and vanilla extract in a container with a lid. I use the wide-mouth pint mason jars. They’re cheap and sturdy. Give the the mixture a quick stir and top with the fresh fruit. I’ve done berries of all type, cherries and apples. They’ve all been delicious. Then place the jar in the fridge overnight.

Grab the jar the next morning on your way out the door and enjoy! You can also pop the jar in the microwave and heat for about 90 seconds for a warm breakfast.

And that’s it. Couldn’t be simpler!

Benjamin, Travel

1

A few months ago, we decided to be really good bad parents and take the kids out of school for a full week for a vacation. And not to anywhere very cultural … Disney World!

Happily, the best dates coincided with the weekend of Ben’s 7th Birthday. What better place to spend your birthday than The Happiest Place on Earth? Amiright?

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My life has changed a lot over the past few years. A few things have happened that mean for all intents and purposes, my life in 2016 doesn’t really closely resemble my life from 2012.

  1. I changed jobs. My Ā new job is much more demanding and demands much more of my creative energy than my old job. Though this happened in 2013 and I am more adjusted, I am still left with less time and left creative energy at the end of the day than before. It’s also much more manic than my old job. It is not unusual for me to put in 50-60 hours a couple weeks in a row and then have a couple of less crazy weeks. The feast or famine nature of this is problematic for me because when I’m manically busy at work, there is little time for anything but work and the bare necessities. Then when I’m not manic at work, I’m playing catch-up or, honestly, wondering what to do with myself. Switching gears easily is something I’m trying to improve at.
  2. The kids have grown. On the surface, this would seem to make things easier and in many ways it does, but it also complicates things. Some complications occur because their lives and persons are much more their own and I always think twice before sharing. Additionally, the logistics are more complicated because their lives are now more complicated. They each participate in scouting, swimming, karate and piano. They both have homework and mandatory reading time. All of this requires at a bare minimum some oversight Ā from me or Matt and can require chauffeur services andĀ volunteering as well.
  3. Matt’s job has changed. He recently took a more rewarding, but more demanding role at his same company and as a result, he travels a bit more and works slightly longer hours. This just leaves us more to cram into fewer outside work hours but doubled.

And what it means also, is that I don’t blog like I used to. And all the good intentions in the world don’t seem to be changing that fact. It also has made it challenging to spend time with Matt, have family time and exercise regularly. So I’m working to restructure my days. And while blogging isn’t at the top of the “make time for” list, it’s on there.

I miss it. I miss the nice record of our lives. There’s lots of good stuff. And some not so good stuff. But mostly, good stuff.

Life, Tabitha

2016-03-06 19.08.00Miss Tabby had a crazy good birthday. I’ll skip the drama about how I can’t believe she’s 9 (I can’t!) and tell you all about her big days.

Friday was the official birthday. She got to open a couple of presents before school – the ones her grandparents in Nashville sent and then it was off to school. She likes school anyhow, but she totally lucked out – they had a field trip at school and not just to any old museum or park, but to the Celestial Seasonings Tea Factory! Tabby loves tea almost as much as I do and this was, of course, a perfect birthday trip for her.

She had a friend come home with her after school. When she got home, we let her open our gift to her. We’d already given her her major gift a bit early (a watch) and so she just had a couple random fun little things …

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… Rey’s Story, some washi tape (she’s a bit obsessed with this), a 3-lb bag of gummy bears, some new earrings, and some $$ to spend on a movie for her sleepover and some new graphic novels for her kindle.

 

Within a couple of hours, 3 more friends arrived to play. Matt picked up Thai food and though none of her friends had eaten pad thai before, they all tried it and 2 of 4 liked it and wanted more. I had buttered noodles for the others and for Ben, who used to like it but now claims he doesn’t (whatever).

They ran off to play again after dinner and we cleaned up and got ready for stage 2 – cake. I had undertaken the crazy Momofuku Milk Bar Funfetti Cake and it was in the fridge, ready to go.

2016-03-04 19.35.09This cake is ridiculously fixy with many pieces and many steps and even odd ingredients I had to order off the internets like clear vanilla extract and glucose. But, honestly, it was really darn good. My biggest beef with the cake is that it was very tall and only 6″ in diameter, so it was kind of hard to divvy up in a pretty way. Oh well.

Everyone enjoyed it though no one could finish their piece. With kids, that’s saying something!

2016-03-05 11.07.49After cake, Tabby opened her presents. She got nice gifts from all her friends – Shopkins, a hedgehog love tshirt and a couple of craft kits.


2016-03-04 20.05.46The last act of the evening was watching Mary Poppins (Tabby’s choice) on the back porch with her friends. The weather was pretty nice and we ran the fireplace to keep the chill off. They got to have popcorn and root beer and, of course, gummy bears.

I was exhausted and went to bed around 10:30 but most of the girls were up ’til around 12:30 (oy) and then up by 6 (double oy).

I finally got up around Ā 8 and we made them crepes (a huge hit) and let them play until around 10 when I’d deemed it be officialĀ pickup time.

 

Tabby got a reprisal with Papa and Gaga on Sunday night but aside from the cake picture (first one in this post), I was too exhausted to remember to take any other shots. It’s what happens when you run 7 miles, hike 2.5 more and generally get too little sleep over a weekend. But I think it’s safe to say that Tabby’s 9th birthday was an unqualified success.

Cooking/Food, Life

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I’ve loved Broncos football since I was a little kid and my grandparents would take my sister and meĀ to Mile High Stadium to cheer on our Broncos. It was a cool experience for a little kid and though the games were frequently pre-season games, it didn’t matter, it was great to be with my grandparents and that was where I learned about football – sitting beside my grandpa and asking him questions about the game.

I still remember Superbowls from when I was a kid (all losses) to those late in my high school years (both wins). It was a real bummer two years ago when we got to the big game and did not have a good showing. Broncos football is just about the only sport (Olympics gymnastics + swimming aside) that I am excited about. And it’s been fun cheering Denver on with my kiddos, particularly Ben, who gets really into it.

A large crowd gathers in Civic Center park during the Denver Broncos Super Bowl championship celebration and parade on Tuesday February 9, 2016. (Photo By AAron Ontiveroz/The Denver Post)

A large crowd gathers in Civic Center park during the Denver Broncos Super Bowl championship celebration and parade on Tuesday February 9, 2016. (Photo By AAron Ontiveroz/The Denver Post)

So of course, it was a huge thrill to cheer on our Broncos to victory on Sunday (though you couldn’t get me near that crazy parade downtown!). It was even sweeter coming in as the underdogs and proving everyone WRONG.

2016-02-07 16.49.31We made Chicken Parmesan sliders (Chicken parm, you taste so good!). We made both the buns and chicken from scratch. Chicken using this recipe (not sure we were fans, but they weren’t bad or anything) and the buns using this recipe (just made smaller for sliders), which was great and pretty easy.

2016-02-06 23.17.43We also made some jerk chicken and then our guests brought food. Sufficed to say, no one went hungry. Best of all, BRONCOS VICTORY! I’d like to think our Chicken Parm had something to do with it. šŸ˜‰

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.Ā 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 watchedĀ 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 intoĀ Ticket to Ride, which it seems like she picked up in about a minute, and Ben has been kicking our booties atĀ 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.

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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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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