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

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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

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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).

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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.

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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.


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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.

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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

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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.

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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.

Life

resolutionsI think it’s always a good idea to reflect on the year that’s passed and make plans for the new year. It gets a bad rap, but I think without this conscious pause to reflect and plan, the passage of time loses its gravitas.

2014 was an interesting year for me. There was truly much good in it – wonderful times with family and friends, success and happiness, a  new home – and yet there was much that was difficult as well. I was sick a lot. I felt overwhelmed and over burdened frequently. I gained weight. I didn’t feel in control.

There were, I know, many things that contributed to this state of affairs. The decision to move so soon after Mom’s passing was possibly ill-advised. I was still in a grief-stupor when we made that decision and though I still think it’s a good one and love our new house, it was a hard time to do it. I also didn’t say “no” as much as I should have. And this led to much of the overwhelm. It’s only been the last couple of months that I think I’ve started to feel close to being back to my old self. Though I know it’s not the same, it’s better than it was and I’m hoping it will continue to get better.

So … with that in mind, I have just 4 goals for 2015. These may, over time, develop their own more specific sub goals, but these big-picture items are where I want to spend my energies and I want all of the things I do to come from these places.

  1. Be kinder. To myself and to everyone around me. I want to yell less at the kids. I want to give myself breathing room and space. I want to appreciate all that Matt does for our family without getting frustrated about what he hasn’t done. I want to have more patience with the kids when we do homework together. I want to work harder to visit my grandma more often.
  2. Keep it simple. I want to say “no” more. I don’t want to be gone every other weekend or to over schedule us so crazily that we can’t breathe and the few scant hours we’re at home are spent running 100 miles an hour catching up on housework and laundry. I want to spend more time at home, use the stuff we have and spend time reading, cooking and playing video games with the kids.
  3. Take care of myself. Continue to do the good things I’m doing and work on banishing the things that don’t serve me and my health well. Less sugar. Less processed. More hiking and biking. More meditation, relaxation and sleep.
  4. Create. I want to create more … any type of creating: blog posts, journal entries, food, photographs, sewing, doodling, crafts, ads posters and brochures for work whatever. With others or on my own.

In some cases, I have some more specific goals that maybe I’d like these areas to culminate in … like running another half marathon and/or doing another triathlon. But as part of numbers 1-3, I’m not committing to anything like that right now. I want to work on these and see where I am in a couple of months.

I hope 2015 is a great year for myself, my family and friends and all of you. Happy New Year.

Misc

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Obviously, I am a terrible blogger these days. but I really make no apologies for that because we’re just too darn busy enjoying … or at least getting through … life most days for me to think about blogging. But our little world is humming along and I don’t want to miss writing down the good stuff and even a bit of the not so good stuff.

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Well the kids are doing well. We got Ben’s sinus infection cleared up and it’s like he’s a new kid at school. He’s been bringing home mostly 3s (the max) on his daily reports and I’ve seen such an improvement in his reading and coloring and writing. So so proud of him.

And as shown in the first photo, he has successfully earned his next karate belt. This is so huge for him. He has had the skills since summer (since before Tabby even started back at karate) but couldn’t focus well enough in group class to move up. But his sensei has seen real improvement in him and he was allowed to test the first weekend in December and he got it!

2014-12-15 19.10.33Tabby is doing amazing as well. I cannot believe the stuff she is able to read, ALL ON HER OWN. And all she wanted for Christmas was BOOKS. So she’s probably getting quite a few of those. This is actually a photo from last night. I was working on a little Christmas project and she wanted to come in and sew. She was sewing tediously by hand (which I am TERRIBLE at) and so I showed her how to use the machine. She picked it up in no time flat. She’s also hitting piano and karate hard and having a really good year.

She gets frustrated sometimes that she’s “good all the time” (she’s not) and doesn’t get the same rewards for her continuously good behavior that Ben gets when he masters himself and does well. So we have been explaining to her that she does get rewards in the form of special privileges (staying up 15 minutes late to read, getting to use my sewing machine, etc.) and that we want to reward them for their hard work. Behaving and being on task is hard work for Ben and practicing piano is hard work for her, so she is rewarded for that. But man, she wants her money’s worth! which I really appreciate, actually.

2014-12-06 23.47.51-1Matt and I have been lucky enough to have a couple of date nights. One (above)  was at my company party and the other was back down town to look for a new engagement ring for me since I lost mine this summer while we were camping and we finally claimed the insurance on it. Oy. We never really got to actually look at rings thanks to some timing issues, but we got to hang out and have fun and that is just as nice.

2014-12-08 13.23.06We’ve been crazy busy at work, with everyone wanting last minute THINGS before the new year. Lots of budgets and reports and proposals. It’s a bit draining, but I like being busy and feeling like I’ve really earned my paycheck.

Plus, for the first time in A WHILE, I’m feeling pretty good (knock on wood). No sore throat, sniffles, headache, earache or anything else. I’ve been hyper careful about my sleep and after chatting with my doc last week, I’m finally getting out today to pick up some probiotics for myself and the whole household to work on getting some “good” bacteria back in our tummies. And fingers crossed … we can stay this way for a while. I want to really enjoy my time off after Christmas!!!

Matt’s dad and stepmom got in last night and now we get to have a great pre-Christmas weekend with them, enjoying some wonderful Christmas festivities and their excellent company. The kids are crazy excited.

 

 

 

 

Travel

1In a very round-about, long-story kinda way, we ended up going to Arizona for Thanksgiving. It is very rare for us to travel on Thanksgiving and honestly, it wasn’t numero uno on my to-do-list. I’ve been working like a rented mule and driving 10 hours twice over 4 days (as opposed to lying around in our jim jams for four days) didn’t sound awesome, but we had the opportunity to see my dad’s sisters and their husbands and it really doesn’t happen often, so we went for it.

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The trip out was happily quite uneventful. We made quite a few stops thanks to driving with six people two of whom were small kids with small bladders.

3The scenery south of Colorado Springs into Arizona through New Mexico is not my favorite, but we got to see some cool things, including some “Javiers” or cacti as normal folk call them.

9We got in super late on Wednesday and had dinner at my aunt’s house. The kids were falling asleep at the table, but rallied nicely the next morning for Thanksgiving. We had a nice day together with breakfast and cooking and thanksgivings. And really, that’s how most of our time in AZ went. It was lovely hanging out with some family that I hardly ever see and seeing old photos and hearing some new old family stories. Ben and Tabby had a nice time getting to know some of that branch of the family too.

One highlight for me was getting to try out the brand new Rummoli board I made just before we left for AZ. Since I didn’t have time to gather up poker chips, we used glass marbles, which worked great in a pinch!

6But the big highlight for the kids was our critter encounter. My aunt and uncle had bid on and won a critter encounter from a reptile rescue at an auction the summer. So the critters came to visit on Friday afternoon. Both my kids are big into animals and this was an extra special treat.

4Ben’s favorite was this baby box turtle, Benny, who not only shares his name, but is also the pet he is very desirous of.

5My personal favorite was this super chill iguana named Tamale (because apparently they use iguana meat for tamales!) and Tabby’s was this pair of cool geckos, one of which is perched on Ben’s head.

7It was great because of the small group, the kids could really hang out with the animals. They just wondered around with us. I was less fond of this with the snakes, but I loved the tortoise (Sequoia) and Iguana. It was such a cool thing for the kids. What a treat!

10Heading home early Saturday morning was  a trial for all, especially this bed hog (his sister is pictured as well if you can find her!), but we made it. And now we’re spending the last day of break mostly just chilling.

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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