a morning at echo lake

As I've mentioned before, going "out to the mountains" is a very Coloradan thing to do. Indeed, a huge advantage of living here is all the fantastically beautiful destinations that are just a short drive away. However, we sometimes struggle with just doing it. It always feels like a lot of work to pick a place to go and to pack lunches and to find all the water bottles and to put on sunscreen and to load up the car and to battle the traffic and to convince our kids to put one foot in front of the other...You know. (Or you don't know, and I'm jealous that you feel that way!)

Those are my excuses. You never (or, very rarely) regret just getting in the car and going. Even if you end up at a different hike than you'd intended, it's still going to be enjoyable and memorable. 

Before saying anymore, I must give a shout out to my dear husband Dan. He's wayyyyy better than I am about encouraging us to be outdoorsy (which is a bit ironic, since I'm the one who grew up as more of a "camper"). 

And, so, last Sunday, we loaded up the car and hit the road before 9am for Echo Lake. It wasn't exactly a hike, per se, but instead a nice path around a the lake that gave us a chance to stretch our legs, breathe the fresh air, give Bryna a swim, enjoy a picnic, and listen to few drones being flown overhead (grrr). 

And of course, afterwards, ice cream needed to be had. We headed into Idaho Springs and hit up the Georgetown Valley Candy Company. Their mint chocolate chip was divine. Spearmint, apparently. 

memorial day weekend highlights

// Willa had her last day of her first season of soccer. She did great with all the drills and practice, but had trouble with the scrimmages against other teams. Glad she tried it, but don't think we'll be signing her up for another season for awhile.

// We got bánh mì at Vinh Xuong Bakery 2. So good. I love the spicy tofu with added avocado. I think they're the best in Denver, but please correct me if you know better! Last time we were there the kids didn't love their sandwich, so this time we got them pork egg rolls and sesame balls, which were both a hit. Willa even asked us to order her a second egg roll! Dan also got a quail egg and pork bao from their refrigerator case to eat a couple days later and reported it was delicious. Also, if you go for lunch get their coffee! The best. 

// After Vinh Xuong, we walked across the parking lot to the Pacific Ocean International Marketplace. I was delighted to find frozen radish cake so I can make Char Kuih Kak soon, and then we bought way too many sweet treats. The best thing about Asian cookies, let me tell you, is that even though they have plenty of crap in them, they don't taste super sweet. They're just the right amount of sweet. The kids also loved looking at the live sea creatures for sale. Cam was squealing as he watched the crabs scramble overtop one another.

// On Sunday, we made a cherry galette and lots of other deliciousness for a BBQ with my sister. Dan grilled Colorado trout and corn, and Alison made a fantastic salad. Willa set the table and was very proud of her (plastic) flower arrangement centerpiece. We also made delicious cocktails and mocktails with cherry juice. The kids were floored when I rimmed their mini martini glasses with sugar. Livin' large! 

// On Monday morning we hit up a newish playground which was a ton of fun for all. Then in the afternoon I drove wayyyyy too far to get Willa a bike for her birthday (shhhhhh don't tell!) at REI. 

// 20.5 weeks! Told ya I was ready for maxi dress season ;)

Hope you all had a wonderful Memorial Day weekend! 

halfway! :: pregnancy update

How far along? 
20 weeks and 1 day. Past halfway, actually! Woot. 

How big is the baby?
The length of a medium-sized banana (6.5 inches) from head to heel. Apparently starting at 20 weeks you measure from crown of the head to the heel, not the rump anymore. Those legs have uncurled and are kicking me more and more!

Total weight gain/loss?
About 15 pounds. 

Maternity clothes?
Yes. Not many of my non-maternity clothes fit very well anymore. I have just few pairs of pants that are tight enough to stay up but not so tight that they make me uncomfortable. I seriously hate pants without waistbands though. I've heard that the over-the-belly panel works for some people, but they just doesn't make sense to me. They don't stay up! I bought a pair of maternity yoga pants and even those won't stay up (don't recommend!). It's getting hotter though, so maxi dresses from here on out.

Sleep?
I'm feeling a tiny bit less tired, so I'm managing to get up at 6:30 most days instead of begrudgingly rolling out of bed at 7. It's hard to avoid back pain from sleeping on my side, but once I get to sleep at night I do ok. Thankfully the nausea has subsided enough that I'm not taking Unisom anymore so I wake up feeling well rested.

Best moment this week?
My anatomy ultrasound last Friday! It was so reassuring to see the baby wriggling about, and all my measurements matched perfectly with my due date (October 12). Afterwards we went out for Pho, just randomly trying the closest place with good reviews, and it was absolutely delicious. Check out Golden Bowl II if you're ever craving Vietnamese in Wheat Ridge or find yourself passing by on i-70! 

Symptoms?
The nausea has definitely eased, but it refuses to go away 100%. I still get pretty queasy at night, starting around dinnertime until bed. Eating dry cereal after dinner helps...But otherwise I've been feeling pretty good! No more headaches, and, as I mentioned already, I'm feeling a tad more energetic. 

On a more negative note, I've been definitely struggling with patience and emotions. Mindfulness is not something that comes naturally to me, and so I've worked in the past few years to cultivate that skill, especially in regard to parenting. I'm not sure if it's fair to blame hormones or fatigue, but whatever the reason, I've been very impatient and reactive lately. Deep breaths. 

Food cravings?
Not really...Dan actually mentioned recently that I haven't sent him out to buy anything. Gotta play that card before this pregnancy is over!

Food aversions?
I'm still not very interested in sweets...we went out for ice cream last weekend and I got a small cone (Side note: the sizes at Sweet Cooie's are totally out of whack! I ordered the "little dip" after seeing what size the gal handed Willa and Cam and Dan got the "kids size" which was HUGE.) but I didn't really enjoy it. Spicy food is tasting a bit better.

Gender?
Still thinking it's a boy...we thought we might have seen something on the ultrasound, but you never really know. Could have been a foot!

Milestones?
Getting to 20 weeks. A month or two ago that felt soooooooo far away, so I'm glad to be here. 20 more weeks does feel like a long time, but, summer!? 

Bump?
Oh yeah. A couple weeks ago I was feeling enormous, but now, for some reason, I just feel appropriately big. Here's to a healthy growing baby!

reducing waste :: groceries

Recently, a few friends have suggested I organize an information session or something similar to talk about ways to reduce waste. My initial response was, “Me? There are so many people who know way more about those issues than I do!” If you Google or search Instagram, you’ll find tons of “zero waste” blogs/feeds that are super informative. 

But. I'm very passionate about this issue, so maybe I'll definitely consider doing more... For now, I thought maybe I'd just share a bit more here on my blog about ways I try to reduce my own family’s household waste.

With that in mind, let's talk grocery shopping! Below is a picture of the groceries I bought in packaging on a recent trip to Safeway. Everything else was produce. I have a stash of washable organic cotton bags that I use for produce and bulk. I love that I can write the bulk number in a washable marker right on the bag and then it comes off in the wash. Most grocery stores (Whole Foods being the exception) won't/don't deduct the weight of the bag at checkout (the cloth is heavier than the disposable plastic bags stores provide) but sometimes they'll give you the 5 cents off per bag. I don't really do it for the money, but it's nice when they incentivize the behavior! 

Here's my rationale (or in some cases, excuses) for the waste I did purchase. I analyze this stuff constantly...to me it's not about aiming for "zero waste." It's about making informed choices as a consumer and using that power to maybe someday get manufacturing practices to change slightly.

1. Pasta. For some reason, pasta is rarely available in the bulk section. Occasionally I've found whole wheat macaroni at Whole Foods and tri-color rotini at Sprouts. But you can't count on it. So, I usually buy pasta in as much paper or cardboard packaging as possible (instead of in plastic bags). It's hard to find a box that's 100% recyclable, but most stores have pasta in boxes with just a tiny bit of plastic.

2. Alternative milk. I buy cow's milk in reusable glass bottles. I sometimes make nut milks at home. But as a family of 4, we go through a good amount of milk in coffee, cereal, etc. Tetra-pak (shown above, what many milks come in) is not at all a good choice. It's terribly difficult to recycle because it's a combination of plastic, aluminum and paper. Denver now has facilities to recycle it (as do most major U.S. cities), but it's questionable how many cartons are actually being captured and whether or not the material salvaged can really be used in any meaningful way. 

3. Bread. Thanks to my mom, I have an awesome recipe for homemade bread. I make it regularly. However, it's for white bread, and I have yet to delve into making my own wheat/grain bread. I need to learn. I like this Dave's bread because it's one of few on the market that doesn't have added sugar. Plus it has a good amount of protein per slice. The bags are recyclable; you can put them right in your curbside recycle bin if your city takes #4 plastics or you can return them to plastic bag recycling bins available in most grocery stores.

4. Tuna + Beans. Aluminum is one of the most sustainable forms of packaging. Cans contain more recycled content than plastic or glass containers. They are easily melted and reformed into more packaging. They're light to ship. If a type of product is available in aluminum I will chose that over glass or plastic 100% of the time. When I occasionally buy my kids juice, I buy pineapple juice that comes in cans.

5. Yogurt. This is the worst thing I buy! Even though I've started making yogurt at home, and my kids enjoy it, their favorite "special treat" at the store is a fancy yogurt. They love the novelty of it, I guess? I hate it. But I like making them happy, and yogurt is a lot better than many things they could pick, so I cave. I recycle the plastic...but that doesn't really make it much better.

6. Produce stickers and tags. Not much we can do about these unless the industry standards change. Even farmers' markets often have produce with stickers. I try to take the stickers off as soon as I get home so we don't accidentally compost them (on banana peels, avocado skin, etc.).

7. Tortillas. We eat a lot of tortillas. I really want to get a tortilla press and learn how to make my own, but in the meantime I reuse the resealable bags for storing food and produce.

8. Frozen peas. I mainly buy produce without packaging. But I like to keep peas in freezer for those times when there aren't any other vegetables in the house or I'm super tired or lazy. Also, who has time to shell peas? Excuses, I know.

::

Other things I regularly buy with problematic packaging:

  • Cheese
  • Meat 
  • Fish
  • Tofu
  • Flax seeds
  • Dates
  • Potato chips
  • Berries
  • Wine

Foods we love but I try not to buy because of their packaging:

  • Clementines
  • Grapes
  • Cherry tomatoes
  • Baby carrots
  • Rice cakes
  • Crackers

What about you? Do you think about the packaging on the foods you buy? What tips do you have to share? 

mother's day weekend

So many things about parenting have surprised me over the past five years. Stages have come way earlier than I expected them to, both in good ways and in bad ways. Willa's ability to express her appreciation and love for me completely caught me off guard this year. I, perhaps, might have expected that when she's 10, but not at 4. However, when she's 10 I might be sorely disappointed, eh? Parenting is unpredictable, that's for sure. 

I truly love being a mother. I always like a good challenge, and parenting is the greatest challenge I've found in life so far. I also love how my experience in this role has helped deepen my own appreciation for my mother. So often, I realize how my mother must have felt when I did or said something to her. Or I ponder how she might have parented in a certain situation. Or I just ask her! 

I wasn't able to spend time with my mom this Mother's Day, but otherwise it was a fantastic weekend:
The kids were delightful. We had family in town visiting. I got a massage. I ate lots of good food. I drank a smidgen of wine. Willa made me tons of artwork. I slept in until 7am on Sunday. Dan got me a completely unexpected and absolutely fantastic present. The weather was great. 

^^fancy family dinner @ north in cherry creek with grandpa and cuppy. willa filled up on calamari and didn't eat too much else until dessert. cam loved the tortelloni. and dessert. i liked everything.^^

^^"M" pancakes for first breakfast on mother's day. and brunch with friends at abejas for second breakfast. both delicious and highly enjoyable.^^

lessons from seattle

If you've hung out with me for even just a short length of time, I've probably annoyed you by talking about the "right way" to do something, or criticizing something I interpret as being done incorrectly. I think some of this tendency is just, for better or for worse, my personality (working on it, always). However, when I reflect on a lot of my values, I realize they are things that I picked up during the four years we lived in Seattle. 

We moved to Seattle from Connecticut in 2008, and I lived there through my mid-20s. I went to graduate school, worked at a non-profit, had a baby, and all the while enjoyed much of what the city and surrounding areas had to offer. It was a really formative time in my life; a time of self-exploration and much personal development. That time in Seattle had a significant impact on who I am today. 

Just for fun, or perhaps to shed light on the fact it's not "just me" who's taking a stance on certain issues, I wanted to summarize some of the key things Seattle taught me:

Don't idle your car. There were signs all over the city with this message, specifically on the streets leading up to draw bridges or ferries where cars would often have to wait awhile. Just 10 seconds of idling uses as much gas as is needed to restart your car. 

Public transit is cool. So is biking. When we lived in Seattle we only had one car. People took the bus everywhere. And people biked a lot. Despite the hills and the rain, biking was where it was at. I was baffled when we moved to Denver and very few people I met took public transit. 

Know how to park! (Check out that amazing parking job of our silver Honda Civic, above.) One way Seattle has achieved such good public transit usage is that parking is expensive. We'd never drive downtown for dinner because even if you found a parking spot, it'd be super expensive. And since parking is at a premium, people know how to park. You park with only a few feet between your car and the one in front of and/or behind you. And you better be at less than a foot from the curb. 

Don't jaywalk. In Seattle, pedestrians rule. A driver senses you're thinking about crossing the street and stops just in case you go for it. Ok that's perhaps a slight exaggeration, but only slight! However, don't jaywalk. Especially downtown. The police are known to ticket.

Make less trash. When we moved into our first (tiny) apartment in Seattle, we found the trash and recycling bins out back. The picture above isn't great since it's taken through a screen, but the largest green bin in the middle was the compost bin, the slightly smaller green bin was for recyclables, and the small black tub was for trash. That was it. I don't remember it being a big adjustment for us. We just got in line. You pay by the size of your trash bin, while compost and recycling are free (well, covered by taxes). So they've incentivized creating less trash. If the city finds a significant percentage of food waste or recyclables in your trash, you get fined.

Get outside. Shortly after we moved to Seattle, I remember someone asking us what we typically did on the weekends when we'd lived in Connecticut. We were like, "uhhhhh." Seattlites are always up to something. Camping, skiing, hiking, dog park-ing, sailing... In our first few months there, we spent a lot of money on outdoor gear. Hiking boots, tent, skis, etc. And we used it.

You won't melt. The rain reputation Seattle has is tricky. It does rain a lot. But the total amount of rain isn't greater than in other major U.S. cities like Chicago or New York. But it's cloudy a lot. Like, a LOT. And the rain comes and goes. So you have to be prepared for it, but people don't freak out. Life goes on. 

Expect great food. Seattle has so many fantastic restaurants. People have a high standard for food. People care about food. It's totally reasonable and acceptable to ask where your food is coming from. I went back to visit last year and when we went out to dinner my friends had a lengthy discussion with the server about where the salmon was from. So Seattle. So awesome. 

Don't drink bad coffee. Life is too short. 

Wear whatever you want. + Shop consignment. Moving to Seattle from Connecticut was liberating. No more popped collars and pearls. Instead you could honestly wear anything. It was very freeing. Also, consignment and vintage stores were everywhere. As a poor grad student, it just made sense. Plus, check the awesome 70s vest I scored. 

It's never too cold for ice cream. I didn't own any shorts for the four years I lived in Seattle. I think I went swimming once. But despite the lack of hot temperatures, people like their ice cream. There was almost always a line at Molly Moon's.

Be progressive. Seattle is ahead of the curve on many issues. When you're living there, it's hard not to start thinking that this should be the norm...

And last, but not least: Doughnuts are delicious. No explanation needed. 

our easter treasure hunt

I do not have any pictures of my children in cute Easter outfits (spoiler: we didn't have any Easter outfits), but I do have some fun shots of us decorating eggs and completing an Easter treasure hunt! 

The treasure hunt is a tradition from Dan's childhood. We first did it for Willa two years ago, but then took last year off because we were in Mexico. This year, Cam was old enough to get in on the action, although Willa really carried the team. The clues we made were way too easy for her! I barely have any pictures of the hunt itself because she was too fast. Next year we're going to stump them!

The hunt was pirate-themed of course, because, why not? And Dan made them some awesome pirate explorer hats that they donned all weekend.

There were eggs, too. We decorate them the night before Easter, and charged the Easter Bunny with hiding them. (S)he did a decent job.

And they found the treasure! Paw Patrol figurines and vehicles, an automated train engine, and The Day the Crayons Quit.

 

spring break in texas:: the ranch

After our time in Houston, we headed out of the city to our friends' ranch. Prior to this trip, I didn't have a solid picture of The Ranch in my mind. I'd heard our friends mention it fondly several times, and I'd seen a few pictures on Instagram. 

It exceeded all expectations. What a magical place! We spent a delightful two days exploring the blue bonnet fields, watching the horse and cattle, admiring the bull's remarkable stature, eating good food, and laughing. Most importantly, it was supremely relaxing. 

^^we stayed in the "bunk house" which was the original structure on the land. well, dan, cameron and i stayed here. willa slept over with mae in the main house!^^

^^the main house was constructed more recently to be a family gathering place...the kitchen had me swooning and the porch was lovely. i'm feeling relaxed again just looking at the pictures!^^

^^blue bonnets! and, not pictured, willa freaking out after being bitten on the feet by fire ants. we were warned to wear closed-toed shoes but she and i didn't listen...^^

^^caroline had said one of her favorite things to do was to walk down to the pond, so one afternoon we did just that. the kids picked wild flowers on the way, and whined only minimally about the uphill walk back. the aroma in the air from all the flowers and trees was amazing.^^

^^a few more #ranchlife scenes. AND, the grand finale: a group picture with everyone looking at the camera. even the bull.^^

spring break in texas :: houston

Last month, we flew south to visit our friends Ted, Caroline, Mae, and Ewan. And their dog Casper! Dan and Ted went to college together, and we all lived in Seattle together at the same time (minus the kids!) so we have a lot of fun memories together. And, thankfully, we've kept the visits regular in the past few years so we keep making more memories together, too. 

We spent the first few days in Houston, checking out their favorite day-to-day spots, as well as the Houston Rodeo! 

^^we had so much fun checking out their local park, rec center, and pool! willa was so excited to swim, but as soon as she jumped in she exclaimed, "mom! my swim cap and ear plug!!!??!?!" yep. i forgot the necessities for ear tube prevention. #momfail. thankfully, willa was a great sport about it and had a ton of fun playing with her head above water.^^

^^dinner at goode co. taqueria. such good fish tacos! and a fantastic, laid-back, taqueria vibe. i heard the margaritas were divine, too.^^

^^RODEO! willa rode way more rides with mae than she ever would have solo (positive peer pressure!). meanwhile, cameron was disappointed to discover he was too short for most of the rides. the ice cream seemed to help him cheer up!^^

^^there was a cute "farm experience" where kids got to plant pretend crops, feed chickens, collect eggs, milk cows, etc. then they received money for their work and a snack. and then they rode ponies! we thought willa might be a bit nervous about getting on a pony for the first time, but she was so excited! cam too. he was happy he didn't have sit this one out!^^

^^after our lunch break (not pictured: delicious BBQ but a failed attempt to find a single vegetable in the food tents...), we spent some time inside admiring animals (longhorns!) but everyone was a bit worn out. it was time to head home for rest time.^^

^^for our last dinner in houston, we headed to punk's simple southern food. we ate on the patio which overlooked a miniature park/green space. the thing to do was clearly to bring your kids and let them run wild while you enjoyed your dinner. we happily participated, but i think the kids might have enjoyed things more when we all were playing after dinner. it was delicious food and a lovely evening all around.^^

We had so much fun in Houston, but were excited for our next stop: "The Ranch." Pictures coming in another post! 

pregnancy, take 3

If you follow me on social media (or if you just plain know me in real life!) then you'll have heard that I'm pregnant. Third go 'round! Somehow, I thought it might be easier this time. Turns out it's not. Hardest first trimester yet, as a matter of fact.

{11.5 weeks}

{11.5 weeks}

To keep my spirits up, and to chronicle this little one in a way I never did with my first two children (sorry guys!), I thought I'd do some cheesy pregnancy updates here on the blog. Even though this is most definitely my last rodeo, I think it's still worthwhile to keep track of things. But if you're not interested, just click the 'X'! Or, I suppose you probably wouldn't have even read this far...

How far along? 
13 weeks 5 days. Each and every day matters!

How big is the baby?
The size of a pea pod...which isn't that easy for me to conceptualize. Or the size of a peach is another reference, but is that a GMO-ed peach? Or a local organic one? I tend to overanalyze. Anyway! The baby is about 3 inches long. 

Total weight gain/loss?
Loss? I've gained somewhere between 5 and 10 pounds. Luckily I've been able to eat mostly healthy foods, but I need to eat every hour or two to keep the nausea at bay, so I'm consuming a lot each day! 

Maternity clothes?
Yes. I invested in these Madewell maternity jeans, and have been wearing them nonstop since they arrived. I got out my box of old maternity clothes, too, but it made me nauseous. Oh, pregnancy associations. 

Sleep?
Been sleeping pretty well. Although I've been taking Unisom a lot for the nausea, so that of course helps. I'm sleeping in much later than I was before being pregnant.

Best moment this week?
Going to the symphony with Dan on Friday night. The tickets were my Christmas present from him but we'd had to reschedule because the day we'd been set to go was the day my eardrum burst (two days after I found out I was pregnant!). My ear is now totally healed and despite it being a little hard for me to sit still for 2 hours, the music was delightful! 

Symptoms?
Hunger and nausea. Early in the day I feel ok as long as I eat regularly. Yesterday, I tried to postpone my morning snack and ended up throwing up as a result. By evening I feel pretty nauseous and it gets worse till bedtime. It is slightly better than it was a couple weeks ago, so I'm trying to maintain a bit of optimism...but it's hard. 

Food cravings?
Eating mostly the same things as I ate pre-pregnancy. Definitely craving healthy foods more than I did in either of my other pregnancies. Lots of eggs and citrus. All the grapefruits!

Food aversions?
Super spicy food. Sugar and sweets. Greasy food. At my book club last week I passed on ice cream sundaes, and then last weekend we went to Larkburger I didn't even order fries. Who am I?

Gender?
We're not going to find out, but based on my nausea, I think it's a boy. I felt awful in the evenings with Cameron too. 

Milestones?
I've been able to watch TV with Dan after the kids go to bed. Is that a milestone? Couldn't do that at all a few weeks ago.

Bump?
Yep. Gets bigger as the day passes. Definitely bigger earlier with each subsequent pregnancy! 

mountain getaway. fantastic rental house.

Do you ever discover something so awesome that you want to tell everyone you know about it, but then at the same time you don't want to tell anyone because you want to keep it just for yourself? 

That's how I feel about the house rental we found in Dillon, Colorado.

We try to go away for a weekend in the mountains every winter, and this year my sister, my brother-in-law, and my mother-in-law (not to mention our dogs) all were keen for a weekend away as well, so we needed a couple few beds. We decided to try to keep it close to Denver so we didn't have to spend too much time in the car. We looked at ski condos in Breckenridge, Keystone, and Beaver Creek, but everything was either lackluster or super expensive.

But then I stumbled upon a house that was a bit farther from the ski resorts, all by itself on lots of acreage. It had the perfect number of beds for our group, so we decided to just book it.

It was the best decision. The house, "Moonrise Mine," was PERFECT. It's about 6 miles from Keystone, up a country road and a crazy driveway. We felt worlds away from the city, even though it took less than 2 hours to drive there. The owner, Erik, and his wife built it themselves over a few years, and everything has that one-of-a-kind charm. 

We enjoyed a weekend of snowshoeing and sledding on the property, making delicious meals in the well-equipped kitchen, playing many of their numerous board games, strumming musical instruments, and just relaxing on the comfortable furniture and beds. 

DSC02890.JPG

Willa spent a lot time outside playing in the snow and exploring the property. One morning, she hiked with Dan all the way to the top of a ridge to see the view. I wish I could go back in time and tell an earlier version of myself not to worry that she didn't want to play in the cold snow. Times change! 

We all really enjoyed spending time outside. The views were breathtaking you you truly felt like you were in the middle of nowhere. Dan and I got out one day to ski/snowboard at Keystone, which, as I mentioned, was just down the road. It was a really cold, cloudy day, so we didn't stay out as long as we might have in different conditions, but it was still so nice ski.

DSC02936.JPG

As always seems to be the case with these types of trips, it went by much to quickly. I can't wait to go back to this house someday...maybe in the summer for hiking. It was truly a special place!

healthy snack :: date balls

Hungry?

I don't know about you, but this is what happens to me on the regular: I'm in a rush to leave for somewhere and I need to grab a snack for me and/or my kids that will be healthy, portable, minimally messy, and delicious.

In an effort to address this situation that seems to arise fairly frequently in my life, I've started keeping our freezer stocked with "date balls." It's my homemade version of a LÄRABAR, produced in a ball form for ease of eating. They do take a bit of time to make, but once you make a big batch, they keep well in the freezer, and are easy to grab on your way our the door. Or when you're making a school lunch. 

A few friends have asked for the recipe recently, so I thought I'd post it out here in case you are in need of a new snack idea. 

And, important side note, they're zero waste! All the ingredients can be bought in bulk. 

Date, Cranberry, and Cashew Energy Bites
makes 20-30 small "date balls"

2 cups raw, unsalted cashews
1 1/3 cups lightly packed pitted dates
1 cup dried cranberries (or dried cherries, if you're feeling spendy!)
1-2t cocoa powder
1/2 cup raw pecans
1 or 2 pinches fine sea salt, to taste

1. Process the cashews in a food processor until they are finely chopped. Leave a few bigger pieces, but take care not to process the nuts so much that it becomes flour.

2. Remove 2/3 cup of the processed cashews and set aside for the final step.

3. Add the dates and cranberries to the food processor and process until finely chopped. The dough will start to become sticky.

4. Add the cocoa powder, salt, and pecans and pulse a few times. 

5. Add in the reserved 2/3 cup cashews and pulse as needed to incorporate.

6. At this point, the dough should be sticky enough to roll into balls. If it is too dry/crumbly, add a teaspoon of water at a time until it reaches the desired consistency.

5. Roll the dough into small balls and place on a plate or cookie sheet. I use a 1T cookie scoop. (Unlike cookies, though, it doesn't matter if the balls are uniform in size since you won't be baking them.)

6. Freeze balls on the cookie sheet or plate. Once frozen, store in a jar in the freezer. Leave out at room temperature ~20 minute before eating.

ohana island kitchen :: hawaiian eats in lohi

One of my unofficial goals for 2017 is to try new things. Go new places. Try new activities. Eat new food. Get out of my comfort zone. (Although now that I'm stating it on my blog, I suppose this goal has become somewhat official. I'm okay with that. Tell me if you want to do something new together!)

I love our neighborhood so much, and it has almost everything one needs to live life: School. Grocery stores. Restaurants. Library. Parks. Post office. Exercise studio. Friends.

As a result, I often go weeks without leaving the 'hood. This is great overall. I don't love driving places, and I love the small-town feel of our community.

But sometimes I get antsy. I need to go somewhere new! With that in mind, last week my sister, Cameron, and I jumped in the car and headed to Lohi for lunch at Ohana Island Kitchen. As I understand, it started as a food truck, then became a take-out window, and more recently has become a full-fledged brick and mortar restaurant. Although make that almost full-fledged. They don't have a dishwasher, so all their food is served in to-go containers. That is the one negative of the place.

The food, service, and vibe were all FANTASTIC. It was such a great lunch spot. Casual enough for kids but also hip enough for a date. Therefore also perfect for a lunch date WITH your kids! (Although, I'm pretty sure they didn't have highchairs. Just something to keep in mind if your child won't sit on your lap.) 

We tried the spicy poke bowl and the kale side salad. The salad was delicious, but the poke bowl stood out as exceptional. Just the right amount of heat. We ordered the side salad size, and it was quite large, so definitely a good option if you're getting something else. We also got the macaroni salad, thinking it'd be for Cam, but we all really liked it. Not spicy at all, and light dressing. The pasta could have been a bit more al dente for my liking, but that's just me nitpicking.

MOST IMPORTANTLY: a manager (owner?) was there when I went in, and she was super receptive to my (constructive, hopefully) complaints about the single-use plastic situation. She encouraged me and others to BRING YOUR OWN CONTAINERS. They're happy to fill them. In the meantime, they do have a well-definitely recycling system, so at least there's that. 

Try it out next time you're in Lohi and have a container with you! Healthy and delicious.

christmas in the north country!

For Christmas, my sister and I, and our families, headed east to our hometown to celebrate together with our parents in our childhood home. The opportunity to do that hasn't arisen many times in our adult life, and we're not sure if it will happen again, so we were extremely excited to make it happen this year. (So excited, in fact, that we got t-shirts! Well, Dan did. Thanks, Dan!)

My parents were the most gracious hosts; welcoming our chaos into their house with open arms, and providing abundant food, drinks, and hot tub access. It's always good to be home, and it is extra special to take my kids back to where I come from. The special place that shaped who I am. That's what home is, right?

^^the day after we arrived, my mom surprised alison and i with massages. i've said many times that i'm not that into massages, but i really need to stop saying that, because it's just not true. it was such a nice treat, and it was even more delightful to experience it on a rural sheep farm.^^

^^our first day home, we decorated the tree. with our family tradition of spinach balls. the one time my kids will eat spinach.^^

^^cam awoke from his nap on christmas eve to find us decorating cookies. he wasted no time jumping in on decorating too. errr, eating his fair share!^^

^^this was the best we could do for a sibling picture. she's tickling him to make him smile...i think?^^

^^christmas eve dinner. fish and spicy noodles.^^

^^this year we enjoyed my brother-in-law's family tradition of rice pudding with a hidden almond in one bowl. the "winner" with the almond got a prize. and it was me! chocolate truffles galore. thanks, jakob!^^

^^excited littles on christmas eve!^^

^^christmas morning! both santa and my family were kindly generous, but not overly so. i worry about the kids getting "spoiled" with gifts, and i really appreciated the thoughtful gifts they received this year. a beautiful sweater knit by my mom, a light bright from auntie al and uncle jakob, a SLU sweatshirt, a "frozen" microphone, a miniature mermaid, a blue truck...^^

^^two sisters on a christmas day walk with our dad and dog. in the freezing cold.^^

^^family shot! we tried.^^

^^my dear friend cat and her husband sean made the trip down from ottawa to visit and meet the kids. cat lives in south africa, so i don't get to see her as often as i would like (although i was lucky enough to see her another time, earlier this year!). it was so fun to visit and watch her and sean play with the kids. they were delighted to meet them and willa thought it was super cool to see where south africa was on a map.^^

^^a trip home is not complete without a stop at the bagelry, in the center of town. the original bagelry was founded in 1982, just before my parents moved to northern new york (and i was born!) and their delicious bagels were a mainstay of our childhood. the canton location came and went over the years, but newest location opened a few years ago with newfound trendiness. cam approved.^^ 

^^the kids were obsessed with going in my mom's hot tub. i told willa she could go in anytime she wanted as long as an adult was willing to join her. she succeeded at getting herself in there at least twice a day.^^

^^we knew traveling to northern new york at the holidays would be exhausting. we flew in and out of montréal, and on the way home a snow storm got us. our 1.5 hour light to newark ended up being over 4 hours, and by the time we boarded our 4.5 hour flight from newark to denver i wasn't sure how we were going to make it. thankfully, both kids fell asleep during take-off, and the rest of the flight was smooth sailing. it was totally worth it for the fantastic week we had.^^ 

MERRY CHRISTMAS!

it's beginning to look a lot like christmas...

The past two weekends have been delightfully festive!

Last weekend, we went out to a holiday dinner downtown with friends one night, and the next day we went to Skyline Park to figure skate before hitting up the Christkindl Market for mulled wine, European fare, and live music + dancing.  

We threw a holiday "open house" last night with mulled wine (more!) and a fantastically wonderful amount of child-induced chaos. As the party was ending, snow began to fall, and before long there were inches of accumulation. By the next morning, we had almost a foot of snow! The kids loved playing outside, and really nothing makes you feel more festive than snow, right?

IMG_5756.JPG