winter weekend :: crested butte

Willa's first vacation was to the Black Hills, South Dakota. Last month, Cameron went on his first, to Crested Butte. We were so excited to have a weekend away from the city, and Crested Butte is such an idyllic Colorado ski town. We'd been once before, and were excited to get back there to enjoy snow, skiing, and a lot of bacon. (Okay the bacon wasn't exactly planned or essential, but we bought some and ate it for breakfast. Everyday. So it wouldn't go to waste. Worse things could happen. And yay for a VRBO with good pans!)

Cameron was a bit too busy being cocooned in his fleece inside the baby carrier to participate in much of the winter fun that CB has to offer, but I think he had a nice time nonetheless. And the rest of us had a wonderful time, so it was by all counts a success!

^^our rental house // the view of the butte^^

^^i was thrilled to have a chance to get out on the slopes despite cameron's bottle woes and thanks to help from my mother-in-law who joined us for the weekend (thanks again!). we debated whether or not to have willa try out skiing, but we ultimately decided to wait until next year. she had plenty of fun just playing in the snow!^^

^^the town of crested butte is great. to me, it's what i've always pictured when i thought of a colorado ski town. our rental house was easy walking distance to the main part of town, and one night we went to the brick oven pizzeria and pub. they had decent pizza and great beers on draft. (we'd actually wanted to go to the secret stash, where we'd been a few years ago, but we didn't realize they'd changed locations.)^^

^^walk home after dinner. CB, you pretty.^^

^^such fun in the snow! (the snow was not that fun, however, when we had to drive home through monarch pass. that pass, man. scares me every time.)^^

snowshoeing. with littles.

I took Willa for a winter hike when she was 6 months old. She slept a bit and then wailed a lot. We tried taking her snowshoeing at 19 months. More wailing.

This past weekend, we went for it yet again, and it was a huge success. Minimal wailing! Apparently 2.5 is the ideal age for riding on your parent's back and looking at the views between snoozes. Although, our 12-week-old rocked it too. He slept the entire 2 hours we were hiking.

I think outdoor adventures with little ones are the definition of hit or miss. Sometimes it goes wonderfully and other times it's a total disaster. But either way, as parents, you still get some fresh air and make some memories. We are always glad we gave it a try.

Cameron demonstrated that the easiest time to do these things is actually when they're super little. They just sleep! (Having a second has really made me realize/remember how easy infants are overall.) Once they're a bit older, they're less likely to enjoy being confined to a carrier. Until they get a bit older still, as Willa demonstrated, and they realize walking can be tiring and they'd rather be carried.

The only thing I've really learned about parenting is that nothing ever stays the same. Once you think you have it figured out, things change. So, last weekend was a great time for our family to go snowshoeing. Maybe next time it won't go as well. Or maybe it'll go better. You never know. It's all part of the adventure...right?

walkable sledding

When we bought our house in 2013, one of our main critera was "walkability." We wanted to live somewhere that allowed us to easily walk to the places we frequented. Park. Restaurants. Coffee. Library. Post office. Grocery store. One thing we didn't think of: sledding hill.

After the snow fell at the end of 2014, there was one thing on our mind: going sledding. At two and a half, this winter Willa is old enough to partake, and Dan had prepared us well by arranging for Santa to bring her a shiny, new, inflatable sled.

In the past couple weeks, we've been hitting up the local sledding hill on the regular. To walk there, I've been putting Cameron in the Beco on my front, snuggled into his Patagonia fleece suit, and Willa jumps on her dad's back in the ergo. (You can't trust a toddler to walk even a few blocks when they're cold from the snow. Last time she fell asleep on the way home and it wasn't even noon yet.)

Even though it's a bit of ordeal to bundle everyone up and strap each child in a carrier, it's so much more enjoyable to walk there than to take the car. (I swear, car seats and winter just don't mix. The coats are too bulky! The snow and slush get all over the place. The buckles won't tighten. Grrr.) It's just so nice to get some fresh air and (cautiously) catapult yourself down a snowy hill. I love the community it brings out: parents and kids of all ages, hot cocoa and other libations, dogs, smiles. Good times. Cameron even took one run with me. He was sound asleep. I'm sure it was memorable for him!

fall outings

Yesterday, someone posted on Twitter: "Did anyone NOT go to the pumpkin patch today?" Loved it. Because it was so true. Between Facebook, Instagram, and the blogs I read, it seemed everyone was getting their fall festival on. We, actually, did not hit up anywhere over the weekend, but that's mostly because weekend crowds scare me. But not to worry. We'd done our fall outings on weekdays earlier this month. In addition to driving out of the city for some pumpkins and farm animals, we've also been doing our best to enjoy time in Denver with just one crazy toddler (vs. a crazy toddler and an infant).  So here's a recap of recent fall fun in pictures!

^^a couple of weeks ago, our playschool met at sunflower farm in longmont, co. what a place! there were so many animals to meet and feed, and plenty of other fun activities like swings and a campfire and a silo turned into a giant sandbox!^^

^^i FINALLY decided about what to do for a double stroller situation, and so after a long drive to the 'burbs during tuesday night rush hour to pick up a craigslist find, we stopped at star kitchen for dinner. we'd had takeout before and had been underwhelmed, but this time two of the three dishes we got were superb. my absolute favorite chinese dish is dry-fried green beans (干煸四季豆 gān biān sìjì dòu) , and they did an awesome version; without meat too,  which is rare! also, as willa tried to use her chopsticks to pick up a piece of tofu, she kept saying under her breath: "come here little guy."^^

^^knock on wood, but we always have the best luck at uncle. we decided to try to get in a couple saturday nights ago, and didn't have to wait at all. it was willa's first trip and she was miraculously well-behaved. an open kitchen is always a toddler pleaser. and of course we had to hit up little man for ice cream afterwards.^^

^^a pre-baby to-do not to overlook: use up about-to-expire groupons! dan and i did just that on a date night last week. my groupons took us first to abyssinia ethoipian resaturant where we enjoyed a sampling of their vegetarian dishes as well as some lamb. and then, despite a high level of fullness, we went to high point creamery for an ice cream "flight" (genius idea!). the winner was the basil with blackberries, which we selected for our take-home pint. gotta love groupons. things you don't even know you need! (sidenote: i think the theme of this pregnancy is lots and lots of ice cream.)^^

^^we hit up rock creek farm with friends last week to pick our pumpkins. there were animals too (which willa loved) and bouncy houses (which scared her), as well as sugar pumpkins to purchase (so much pie in my future!). it was fun to pick out pumpkins, and luckily i had kind friends to carry them for me. it was a beautiful, fall day that started out cold and was in the 70s by the time we were leaving midday. willa was most pleased with that dead vine she found. it's currently disintegrating in the back of my car...^^

snowmass + aspen

Last weekend we packed up the car for another adventure. This month has been full of trips, which has been fantastic, but also totally exhausting. This time, we headed to Snowmass for a long weekend "in the mountains." Dan competed in the Tough Mudder with some friends, so we'd decided to make a whole weekend of it. We stayed in a perfect little condo in Snowmass Village (I love you, VRBO) and the weather couldn't have been better. It was blue skies and sunny the whole weekend (minus a quick shower when we arrived on Friday) with just enough coolness in the air to make you think of fall. Although...I did get pretty sunburned watching the race on Saturday, so I suppose the weather was actually mostly summer-like. That Colorado sun at altitude will get you every time! We also had fun exploring Aspen, just a few miles down the road. I loved the beautifully preserved historic buildings against the backdrop of mountain peaks. Willa's favorite part of Aspen was an art installation of three monkeys that appeared in a few different spots around town. She actually leaned in to one monkey and said, "I love you very much."

^^despite a passing rain storm, we had a great time checking out aspen on friday afternoon. we took shelter from the rain at the main street bakery & café, where we had a delicious lunch, and after we'd eaten the sun was back out!^^

^^once dan was registered for the race in snowmass village, we found bia hoi for dinner. sitting outside by the fire, we enjoyed surprisingly good (albeit not too authentic) southeast asian street food. the banh mi, sausage lettuce wraps, and vegetable fried rice were all fantastic! the pork potstickers? not so much.^^

^^race day! despite getting a bit sunburn in the beautiful weather, willa and i had so much fun watching the race. i got my own workout walking up and down the hills to see the different obstacles! willa loved looking for daddy at each stop, and it was so sweet to see them hug before dan continued on the course.^^

^^pretty views from our rental condo.^^

^^we made another stop in aspen on our way home on sunday for a quick bite and a stroll around town. such a fun town, full of cool restaurants and stores i can't afford to shop in. but hey, there's a lovely playground in the middle of town that's free! also, that's what i look like at 32 weeks preggers...^^

the land of 10,000 lakes

Last week, we piled the whole fam into the SUV and made for Minnesota. It sounded like quite the endeavor, but in the end, the roadtrip really wasn't that big of deal. Willa always surprises me with how well she does in the car (for the most part). At this age, she loves talking to us (repeating the same thing over and over again), especially about things she sees out the window. A train spotting can pass at least 20 minutes. She slept some, and we definitely utilized the iPad a decent amount this trip. Hour by hour, the fields of Nebraska and Iowa zoomed past and after a night in Des Moines, we were delighted to be in Minneapolis. We spent the week visiting good friends, and had the chance to go up to their cabin for a few days. It wasn't as hot as we might have hoped for a lakehouse vacation, but we still had a fantastic time. I went swimming several times, we cooked good food, and we encountered tons of wildlife. I slept so well in the dark, quiet, cool cabin. It was delightful. A good night's sleep when you're pregnant is THE BEST.

Back in Minneapolis we were able to go out for an adult dinner at a hip new restaurant, Hola Arepa, and ice cream at Sebastian Joe's. And if that wasn't enough to eat, the next day we hit up the Minnesota State Fair. Holy fried food. And big pigs.

As is the case with any trip, I learned a few things on the road:

At 2.2 years old, Willa's totally over the travel crib. But put her a "big girl bed" and she'll sleep like a champ. (Or perhaps she heard what I said about her in my recent post and was trying to prove me wrong with a few sleep hiccups.)

Super 8 went through a phase a few years ago when they were spiffing up all their hotels. I think that phase is over. We might need to upgrade.

Iowa isn't joking about the corn. We took a detour off the highway for awhile, and wow there were a lot of corn fields. And soybeans. We were listening to an anti-big agriculture podcast at the time. That seemed fitting.

You really can fry anything. Just check out the Minnesota State Fair. It's also a great place to check out strollers.

Wendy's frostys are still good. Oh and their fries are better than McDonald's. And there's no healthy food options off the interstate in Nebraska.

Des Moines had some of the most fantastic Thai food I've had in awhile.

Booking a last-minute hotel from your phone can result in a great deal. Check out the Hotel Tonight app!

Rest stops never appear when you want them to.

Starbucks milkshakes aren't nearly as good as their frappuccinos.

Arepas are hard to split but probably should still be split because they are super filling.

Vacation is great.

campers

I like to think of myself as a camper. You know, someone who camps. Like a girl scout. But not. A camper. Growing up near the Adirondacks, my family camped a lot. I also went to summer camp for almost 10 years. I can build a fire and set up a tent. I have some mean canoe skills too.

But, truth be told, I haven't been camping in probably three years. We went a few times in Washington, but since Willa was born, we've been scared. Sharing a hotel room with her is daunting enough, let alone a tent. Until recently, I just didn't really understand how it would work. Our tent is a backpacking 2-person tent that barely fits the two of us and our dog. As I've mentioned, Willa is a great sleeper in a crib of some sort, but she's never been much into the family bed idea. Where would she sleep? Squished between the sleeping bags and Bryna? That had to be a suffocation hazard, no?

But then a friend of mine organized a camping trip for a group of us and our littles, who are all about the same age. It seemed like the perfect chance to take the plunge! So, last weekend, we all headed up to a campsite near Pine Junction. Aside from the fact I ended up insanely exhausted the next day, the trip was a huge success! Much fun had by all. The city kids got nice and dirty, we swam in a (natural!) lake, and indulged in campfire cones after the littles went to bed. And apparently, I was really overthinking (or underthinking?) the sleeping situation. All we really needed was a tent big enough for a travel crib.

It all went so well that I've been feeling really sad we can't get back the last two years of no camping trips and go a few more times. But there's always the future, right? More family camping trips! We just need to invest in an awesome "family tent" like the one our friends lent us. And some type of mattress pad! (Can I still call myself "a camper" if I don't sleep on the rock-hard ground? Maybe just for use when pregnant? Oconto ladies, what do you think?)

^^we drove to nearby wellington lake for an afternoon swim/play in the water. i wasn't wearing my bathing suit but i still couldn't resist a dip in the inviting lake. it was so refreshing! (plus we had to get our money's worth because they charge a steep $5 per person and $5 per vehicle to get in!)^^

^^i'd been saving this nescafé gold (straight from taiwan thanks to my dear friend bai) for a special occasion. and it totally hit the spot in the fresh air of the early morning. milk and sugar already mixed in? yes please!^^

^^future "camper"!?^^

Huge thanks to NM for organizing everything, GB and SL for being awesome camping companions, MH for lending the tent, and RKGB for the delightful coffee hook-up!

fourth of july weekend!

The past two July 4th holidays in Denver, I realized something: most people leave town. If ever there was a "let's all go to the mountains" weekend, this one must take the cake. The streets are deserted; many restaurants close for "vacation." It's a bit weird, but at the same time, kind of wonderful. We went to the pool on the 4th, and pretty much had the place to ourselves. We snagged a last minute dinner reservation at a place we wouldn't usually be able to book. However, come late night on the 4th, things didn't seem quite so quiet. Firework booms came from every direction until the wee hours of the morning. As if to say, "Don't worry! We're all still here! Happy 4th of July!"

Happy 4th, indeed.

^^cherry pie! dan made one around this time last year, and we decided it'd be a solid 4th of july tradition. he used about 1/3 tart cherries from the tree he planted last summer, and the rest were frozen ones from costco. we greatly enjoyed eating it all weekend long. with bourbon vanilla ice cream from brooklyn of course.^^

^^between thunderstorms we biked to the neighborhood pool for willa's continued swim lessons. ok, that's not true at all. we just let her do whatever she's comfortable with but it's exciting to watch as each time she gets more and more interested in the "big kids' pool."^^

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^^a virgin mule / date night dinner @ lower48^^

^^all dressed up for lunch out with friends.^^

^^ending the weekend with a splash (pad)!^^

a night in vail!

Last Saturday, Dan and I headed west on I-70. Destination: Vail. My parents kindly offered to watch Willa for a night, and after contemplating camping or some other more adventurous outing, we decided to just book a night in a hotel in Vail, and spend time relaxing and exploring the village. Let’s be honest; I needed some rest.

When we arrived in Vail, we first headed out on a hike along the Gore Creek Trail. The hike takes you to Gore Lake after about 4 miles, but we knew we wouldn’t make it that far. Still, it was a beautiful hike along the creek and it was kind of liberating to be hiking with no dog or toddler in tow.

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After the hike we made our way into town to the Tivoli Lodge, which we’d booked without much research, but it ended up being just perfect. Our room was quite and peaceful with a nice balcony and mountain views.

We went out for the most fantastic dinner. A quick search on Vail restaurants led me to the relatively-new Mountain Standard. When I saw the menu and the partitioned pig graphic on the website, I knew it was a good fit for us. They didn’t have any reservations available, so I wasn’t sure if we’d get in, but we easily got a table at around 6pm.

Every single dish we ordered was superb. We hesitated before ordering the $7 “coal-roasted” olives, but figured, “hey, we’re on a mini vacation!” And boy did we make the right choice. I’ve never had olives so good. They were piping hot, and served with toasted pine nuts and golden raisins. I honestly had no idea olives could be so delicious.

Our other appetizers were shrimp and grits and a stone fruit salad. Both were fantastic; one in a hearty, rich, and spicy sort of way while the other was light, fresh, and sweet. We had Rocky Mountain trout for an entrée, as well as a rotisserie chicken salad. The salad was perhaps the lowlight of the night, but by no means bad, just lacking that something special. The trout, on the other hand, was splendid. For some reason it’s hard to find local-ish trout in Denver restaurants, so it was a nice treat.

We hesitated about ordering dessert. We were pretty satiated and thought about just walking around town and finding some ice cream, but the peanut butter pie sounded pretty good, and we definitely made the right call. It was the perfect end to a perfect meal.

On Sunday morning we slept in a bit, and then hit up the Vail Farmers’ Market. We scored some goat cheese curds to eat with a fresh bagel on the way home...quite good, but I think I’ll stick to cow’s milk ones. Goat cheese is too soft! But I of course still had no problem eating them.

We got home Sunday just in time to deal with transitioning Willa to a toddler bed. Of course she would decide to start climbing out of her crib the night we're trying take some time off. Parenthood!

lair o' the bear

A few weekends ago, we headed up to Morrison, Colorado for a morning hike at Lair o' the Bear Park. It's always so nice to get out of the city and enjoy the fresh, mountain-y air.

The hike was prefect for Willa, who likes to walk a bit and then be carried for a bit. The first mile or two is a flat path with only slight elevation gain as it runs along the river. Once it ends, you can continue on a more challenging trail that climbs upwards. We didn't see any turtles as Willa hoped we would, but it was still a beautiful day.

When we lived in Seattle, we always felt like we should be doing more outdoorsy things, even though we did do a good amount. In places like Denver and Seattle, the culture is such that people are always "going out to the mountains" and doing some type of activity. We love being outside, but sometimes life seems to get in the way. There are always so many things that need doing on the weekends, right? For us, the key is planning ahead. If we pick out where we're going to go the night before, and decide on an approximate departure time, we are usually all set.

I read recently that the average American spends 95% of their time indoors. Yikes. I've been holding that in the back of my mind. It's always a great idea to spend time outdoors.

vashon island

When we were in Seattle last month, a main stop on my itinerary was Vashon Island to visit my dear friend Brenna and her family. They'd moved out to Vashon after we left Seattle, and I'd never otherwise made the trip, so Vashon was a total mystery to me. (Ok, "total" is probably an exaggeration, since I'd heard lots about it from Brenna and others, but I was still very excited to check it out.) Brenna's daughter is the same age as Willa, and we were so happy they'd have a chance to play together for a couple days. Vashon was beautiful. The island itself, and in particular my friends' house, made me feel like life had slowed down. Everything felt calmer. Quieter. More relaxed. It was lovely. I was super excited to be back in the Pacific Northwest. So green! Moss! Trees and flowers of all types! Friends and fresh air are quite rejuvenating.

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^^ferry riding^^

^^coffee, pastries, and steamed milks @ the vashon island coffee roasterie. it was the birthplace of seattle's best coffee. and they now "specialize in heirloom coffee." (i love seattle.)^^

^^just look at all that green! don't you feel more relaxed?^^

^^around town. we had the most fabulous lunch at snapdragon. it was so hard to pick our sweet treats; such options! and, how cute are the little ladies?^^

^^beach time. breakfast time.^^

^^this is what trying to do a self-timer shot with two toddlers looks like.^^

Thanks for everything, Brenna!

recently enjoyed moments

Life has been really good lately.

Life is always good, and often really good, but lately things have just been comfortably wonderful. Good food, family, fun outings, a lovely new house we're settling into... I feel very lucky. Very happy. And even more are ahead: we have good friends coming to visit for the long weekend. And we got a new table so we can dine al fresco. I'm tellin' ya, so much goodness. Happy Labor Day weekend!

{denver brick. always makes my eyes happy.}

{beer tasting at odell brewery in fort collins // note the bib in my hand. classy.}

{gnocchi at root down.}

{"happier hour" with littles at BookBar}

{hiking at white ranch park in golden, co}

{these pancakes for weekend breakfast}

{a trip to the botanic gardens with nana and bobo. // photo by my mom.}

{vintage shopping. i just had to make her sit in the car, and i'm so glad i did.}