Year: 2011

Crafts, Pinteractive

Last weekend, as part of our weekend festivities, we made salt dough ornaments with the kids. I’m sure I made them a few times as a kid, but I saw this pin on Pinterest and of course grabbed it for future reference. The pin image looked so much better than the painted messes of youth and it seemed so simple: make dough, stamp, bake. But when I delved further and actually looked at the pin link, it turns out it wasn’t salt dough at all but some sort of ceramic material. That is one of the bad things about Pinterest … you only have the word of the original pinner on what it is until you follow the link and read. But that’s one thing that’s great about Pinterest too, ideas build off one another. And so I decided to try it anyway with the salt dough.

Salt dough is super simple to make: 1 part salt, 2 parts flour, 1 part luke warm water (our parts were cups and that yielded dough for plenty of ornaments). Mix it up, knead it into dough. Ours seemed a bit sticky, so we added a bit more flour and got it to be the right consistency. This is much like bread dough … should stick a little, but not too much.

We rolled it, cut it and used stamps to decorate. The key with the stamps is to not press too hard because of course if you do you end up with a black square instead of a pretty stamp. A nice benefit of this is that you get a shallow indentation as well as ink mark. The effect is very nice. Then we used a skewer to make holes (Tabby also used the skewer to make little dots in hers) and baked at 200 FOREVER. Seriously, they’re still in my oven.

They turned out really cute and pretty similar to the original Pinterest photo. I’d love to experiment with some textures and I’d also like to have parchment on hand next time … the wax paper was eaten up by the salt in the dough and we couldn’t bake on it, so getting them off the cookie sheet was a might tricky, although they’re pretty strong.

Last word of advice … keep them away from your dog. Tabby found out the hard way that Loki likes the taste of salt ornaments, followed by a long visit to the toilet for some water.


2011 isn’t quite done yet, but I know that my reading time will probably be somewhat diminished over the next 25 days. This year, I set a goal for myself to read 60 books (it was 52 last year, though I actually finished 62) and when I finish my current book, that goal will be met! This of course does not include random little reads I’ve picked up like camping books and crafting books and cookbooks and it also doesn’t include anything I re-read including about 5 of Susan Elizabeth Phillip’s books. I am incredibly grateful that our local libraries have kept their excellent levels of content, particularly audio, even in face of massive budget cuts.

I went through my list (I’m on GoodReads and Shelfari if you’re interested) and was pretty surprised to notice that out of the 60+ books I read this year just a handful were non-fiction. I really enjoy non-fiction – good non-fiction that is but I think it’s hard for me to find. So much of the “non-fiction” out there is so politically slanted one way or the other, it’s hard for me to get into it. I don’t really do politics, don’t’ really like politics and that kills off many possible reads in the non-fiction sector for me. I am also in some ways reluctant to read non-fiction because of the things that have happened with some non-fiction authors like Greg Mortenson. I really enjoyed his books and I as bummed and felt swindled when I learned that his non-fiction was really mostly fiction anyhow. But I’m determined to try and find some more good non-fiction and read it in 2012.

But enough about next year. Here are my superlatives for 2011: Read More

Benjamin, Tabitha, Travel

This weekend we endangered all the guests on Vail Mountain’s Bunny slope by taking Ben up for his first go. Just kidding … our little danger “baby” did very well and had loads of fun. He has been trying to get on skis since last year, hopping on Tabby’s whether she was currently using them or not and trying on his gear every chance he got. Undoubtedly, his beloved sister’s love for the sport influenced him somewhat, but he is naturally into anything physical, he probably would have been gunning to get up there in any case.

We did the typical things you do with a first timer his age … basically catch and release. We ride up the magic carpet with him and take turns catching and releasing. He had a huge smile on his face practically the entire time or at least until he got cold and tired. He was his typically fearless self and even a few minor spills didn’t flag his enthusiasm. But his balance was something to behold and he could right himself quite well 90% of the time he started to fall. He asked to go back later in the evening on his first day and again when we asked him the next morning, so Matt took him back for another go. He didn’t make it long, but he had fun.

Tabby had new skis to try out and whether it was because of rusty legs or the new skis and boots, she had a few more spills the first couple of trips down the hill than the last time she was up. But in no time she figured it out and she was doing really well, moving beyond the “pizza” or snowplow technique and well into a nice parallel technique, beginning to turn and stop in parallel. She was super excited for us to get her up on the big mountain and neither of us can wait to have a chance to do so, but this go-around it was about our friends and their boys and Ben having a first go. Beyond that, the snow was pretty cruddy and we didn’t want to use our own skis so we would’ve had to rend which is a pain. But we have every confidence that she will be tearing it up when we’re back in Jan.

The rest of the weekend was lovely. For years we have done a “cookie weekend” with our friends and then as kids came, the kids as well, and my parents and sister. This year we backed off the cookies (we only made one type) and mostly just played around, watched movies and relaxing. Matt’s travel schedule meant we had to cut out one evening, but it was still nice and we enjoyed ourselves immensely.

As always, it’s a bit hard to come back to reality. Oh well.

Crafts, Home Improvement, Woodworking

We have had a couple of advent calendars … a string of mittens and stockings that you can fill with things and an angel one with pockets from my childhood. But neither was utilized very well and neither really fits the aesthetic of our house. So this year, inspired by (as usual) Pinterest, I conned Matt into helping me make an advent calendar. My  first idea was to use a piece of metal and get a few of those nifty magnetic tins and stick ’em to it. I’m sure it would have been easier, but those dang tins are EXPENSIVE (at least any I could find). But 24 of these from Hobby Lobby were ~$20. The board and spray paint another $20. For $40 it isn’t the cheapest, but I do hope to use it for years to come. Here’s how we did it.

Read More


Well it just wouldn’t be the holiday season without a trip to the Denver Zoo for Zoolights. They deck out the whole zoo with amazing Christmas lights, play beautiful music, and have some fun exhibits for the kids … animals, ice carvers, fire dancers and SANTA. The last two years we’ve taken advantage of the member’s preview weekend right after Thanksgiving. It’s been a bit warmer than mid December and a bit less crazy and generally awesome.

The kids, as usual, had a wonderful time. This was the first year Ben really got into it all, clamoring for “Mo Kissmas Lights!” – Matt is thrilled as he sees Ben as his future accomplice in Clark Griswold style Christmas light displays. He loved seeing all the animals and would grab our hands and pull us from exhibit to exhibit.

The kids got to ride on the train and the carousel. They got to check out their favorite animals at night. They got to have a lovely later-night sugary snack … and, to top it all off,

they got to meet the big guy … Santa himself.

Desserts, Pinteractive, Recipes, Snacks

Since Tabby was born, we’ve been going to Zoolights every year. And as is tradition, we bring a warm beverage in our thermoses (pretty much the only time we use them) and a treat to go with them. This time, inspired by a pin on one of my boards, we made these s’more “cookies” they were super simple and turned out really cute. They were a nice change of pace from cookies and we’d make them again anytime.


  • graham crackers
  • marshmallows
  • chocolate almond bark
  • white sprinkles


Lay out a sheet of wax paper on a cookie sheet or counter before you start. Then begin by breaking the chocolate bark into squares. In a microwavable bowl, microwave 30 seconds or 1 min at a time then stir. Repeat until melted. Then place a few squares of graham crackers on a microwaveable plate and marshmallows on top of them. Microwave for 30 sec – 1 min then top with another graham cracker. Push the crackers down to spread around the marshmallow. Some came out the sides and I found it worked best to scrape this off on the side of another plate. Then dip the sandwiches in chocolate to the desired depth and place on the wax paper. Decorate with sprinkles if desired. Allow to harden for 30 minutes or so and then store in an airtight container.


Tomorrow I will be busy. I will be doing my normal Wednesday thing and then be busy all evening hanging with my family and cooking food for the big day. I will be encouraging Tabby to help and trying to keep Ben out of mischief. I will be counting eggs to make sure there are enough for all dishes and measuring out spices and chopping onions. I will (hopefully) be drinking wine and having a bite to eat and listening to music, or more likely, whatever DVD my son has selected.

So now, before I get too busy and forget, are 30 things (one for each day in November) that I am grateful for.

  1. My husband who is my best friend and better half. I love what a great team we make and I love that we compliment each other so well. Of course there are moments when we drive each other nuts, but it’s always short-lived and we both know we love each other beyond any silly arguments.
  2. My daughter, who is suddenly such a young lady. I love the stories she tells me, real and imaginary. I love the effort she puts into everything she does. I love the way she gets totally attached to stuffed animals. I love the way she is so patient with her little brother.
  3. My little man, Benji. He is a ball of energy and keeps me on my toes in the best way possible. I love his utter BOYNESS full of bigger, faster, louder! I love the way he wolfs down a plate of fruit in no time flat and the way he cuddles with mommy and daddy whenever possible.
  4. My original family; mom dad and sister who are numbered amongst my best friends and who give me support (including CHILDCARE) like no one else. I love that I get to share all the bits, good and bad, with them. I truly enjoy their company and feel so lucky to have them in my life on an almost-daily basis.
  5. My extended family, near and far … some are related by blood, some by marriage and others by friendship. Some I see frequently others only occasionally. All I laugh with and talk with and enjoy being with.
  6. Our wonderful sitter who takes such amazing care of our kiddos.
  7. Our sweet doggie, Loki, who minds the children very well, cleans up messes, keeps our house safe and accompanies us on our adventures.
  8. My running buddies who show up almost any given Sunday and many other days and make my long runs so much more fun.
  9. My Bunco girls and Mommy Friends and their families who provide me with many hours of fun and friendship.
  10. My gym and my awesome coach Robyn who kicks my ass in the best possible way and shows me how to be a better me than I was yesterday and pushes me gently but firmly to excel.
  11. My coworkers who make up my exceptionally pleasant and fun work environment.
  12. Good jobs for myself and my hubby that not only pay the bills but that we also enjoy!
  13. Good health for myself and those I care about and the means with which to maintain that health.
  14. The opportunity to live in Colorado, home of 300 days of sunshine a year and incredible scenery.
  15. An imperfectly wonderful country in which we live where we can pursue our dreams.
  16. A lovely, happy home.
  17. A hot shower and clean drinking water whenever I want them.
  18. Good schools for my kiddos to spend time making friends and expanding their minds.
  19. A wonderful local library system that provides me and my family with almost unlimited free entertainment and edification.
  20. Good reliable even comfortable transportation.
  21. Good, healthy food and the skills to prepare it for myself and my family.
  22. Our cleaning people who help me keep my head above water and my marriage happy.
  23. The material goods that make my life easier (mobile phone, music player, Tivo, treadmill, laptop!).
  24. Audio books – because otherwise I might never read (for reals).
  25. My excellent camera that captures lots of wonderful moments.
  26. Time spent with the people in my life.
  27. Time spent all alone.
  28. The ability to create whether it be Crystal reports, appliqued tshirts, web pages, or tasty food.
  29. Date nights with my darling hubby.
  30. A wonderfully full and busy life.
Benjamin, Tabitha, Travel

After a totally crazy Friday, Matt and Tabby left for their very first daddy-daughter weekend. They flew to Nashville to meet our new niece and cousin, Baby Autumn. They had a great weekend, filled with baby snuggles, fun outings, and plenty of attention for Miss Tabby. It also made us realize that there will be a day in the not too distant future when air travel with the kids will be a helluva lot easier. Like when Ben is Tabby’s age (or maybe a bit older). I missed having them around like crazy, but I’m so glad they had a nice trip.

Meanwhile, back in CO, Ben and I had a wonderful time together too. Friday night we had a Team Umizoomi mini marathon (2 eps) and CHICKEN NUGGETS for dinner. Saturday we went to the gym (always a hit), ran some errands and then he had a very long nap while I got some things done (cleaning). He was my date at a dinner party with our friends and their kids and he had such a nice time being one of the big boys, running around playing with toys and dressing up in costumes.

Sunday we went grocery shopping together and then Christmas shopping with my mom and sister. We finished up by having dinner with Papa and GiGi as well and then straight home for bedtime. He was pretty exhausted.

He was super cuddly this weekend and kind of unsure about not having Daddy and Sissy around. He only wanted Mommy to hang out with him and hold him and help him. A bit exhausting, but sweet. It was so nice to be able to focus only on him and really hear what he has to say (a lot) and sing (Jingle Bells!). He is coming along so well developmentally and I think sometimes I don’t notice it as much because there’s so much more going on around us. I also noticed his behavior was somewhat improved. No doubt the extra attention had something to do with that.



Well the Nichols family has officially succumbed to the tablet virus. We didn’t go iPad … we’re generally Apple agnostic around here (no judgment – it’s a nerd thing) … but we’ve been anxiously awaiting the arrival of our Kindle Fire. I’ve said for a while that Amazon was pretty much the only force around that could seriously challenge Apple, especially on price point, selling it as a loss-leader for their Android App Store and streaming music and video. They went a couple better and added their free (with Prime) streaming video and lending library.

So it arrived on Wednesday and it’s an immediate hit with our family. The kids, quite accustomed to playing games on our phones are really digging on its big screen. I am loving the bigger screen and better speed for looking up recipes and web surfing around the house in the evening. It plays our Netflix streaming like a dream and reading books on it is so so much nicer than on my phone’s kindle. I was also excited to see a really good selection of magazines available, including my fave, Everyday Food. I think I can get the digital for free too since I’m a paid print subscriber … just haven’t figured it out yet.

Of course there are some shortcomings. I don’t care about a lack of a camera or bluetooth and I think the 8GB memory will do us for quite a while, but I am bummed that they chose not to include the SWYPE keyboard. I have it on my phone and it is a vast improvement over the hunt-and-peck touch keyboarding. I sincerely hope it’s included in a firmware update soon. There are also a few apps we have on our phones that either aren’t compatible with the fire or not available from Amazon’s app store (the only place you can buy apps from w/o jailbreaking the device) – Our Groceries is numero uno on that list. I also wish they’d allow you to download the free Prime movies for at least a little while since you don’t always have a wifi spot while traveling.

But overall, especially for $200, the thing is fan-freaking-tastic and we’re really enjoying it.


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
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Simply Unforgettable
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The Parenting Breakthrough: Real-Life Plan to Teach Your Kids to Work, Save Money, and Be Truly Independent
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