Wednesday, December 29, 2010

House Project 1: Creation Of A Pantry

Our new house has a 1960's kitchen. It hasn't been updated, except for appliances and even those could use some modernization. The cabinets are original and don't have the conveniences that we were accustomed to in our former remodeled kitchen, such as slide out drawers in the lower cabinets or a luxurious and spacious corner cabinet. Even counter top space is at a premium.

BUT, we aren't quite ready to take on a kitchen remodel. We've decided to wait at least a year to overhaul the kitchen, for many reasons. I want to do it right, settle into the space, figure out how we would like things configured in the future. Ikea is opening soon in Denver and we will probably take that route when we do the remodel. I didn't want to just throw things up here willy nilly or purchase a new appliance that wouldn't work as well in the new space. We love to cook, we want our kitchen done just right, which means having a little patience and a vision.

So in the mean time, we decided to create a pantry to help solve our storage issues. Plus I've always wanted a pantry, for years I've dreamt of having a pantry, and now I have one! For about $150 bucks, many of our 1960's kitchen dilemmas have been solved!

We have a rather large laundry/mudroom (around 7ft x 10ft), which just happens to sit off of our kitchen. We decided there was enough space to cut through the wall into the laundry room and create a pantry. First the washer and dryer plumbing and electrical were moved so we could place them into the corner of the room (for best utilization of the space). The pantry bump out takes up about 4ft x 2ft of space in the corner, which isn't much considering the amount of awesome storage we got out of it! With the changes, I feel like there is still plenty of space in the room to convert it someday into a crafting room.

Here's a photo story of the pantry!

That's my brother, measuring and cutting the opening of the wall for the pantry.

Voile! It's open, like magic. See my washer and dryer back there in the corner?
It's really a big laundry room!

Framed and drywall going up!

Painted, shelving in, next up door and trim!

Here's my unorganized pantry! My first goal was to get everything inside and well, the organization will come later. Where would I have put all this stuff?

Work in progress, but beyond delighted with the finished job!

Monday, December 27, 2010

The Post-Move, Settling In, Where Have I Been Post...

I've been itching to get back here and post, but then something comes up. Take for example the photos. Our new home has undergone so many transformations in the past three weeks, you wouldn't believe it. I can hardly believe it. I'm ready to start posting before and after photos, but first I had to charge the G10 battery, so I could download the photos. Before I could charge the battery, I had to find the charger, which meant digging for the bin of electronic stuff we had at our apartment.

So after that was all said and done, battery charger found, battery charged, photos downloaded I haven't taken the time to write a post. Because of course, I'm thinking that's going to mean some time playing around on picnik creating little before/after photo collages, but I download photos onto my desktop computer which is in the family room and currently occupied by my husband and brother (not exactly conducive to writing). I am on a laptop in my bed, comfy and cozy, retreating away from it all.

For now, I shall spew a list of transformations and happenings that have occurred in the past few weeks in my absence.

House projects:
  1. Moved plumbing and wiring for our washer and dryer in the laundry room.
  2. Put crown moulding up in our family room and three bedrooms.
  3. Retextured and finished the ceiling of our family room.
  4. All popcorn removed from the ceilings, which was done right before we moved in.
  5. Removed a built in counter/computer work area in our family room and added wainscoting to make the portion of the great room a dining room.
  6. Added a pantry closet, like BAM! hole in the wall and frame it, add sheetrock, tape, add shelving, door Voile!
  7. Removed linoleum in our bathroom and put down beautiful Italian marble.
  8. Painted both the girls bedrooms.
  9. New closet doors in Sj's bedroom.
  10. New cottage doors on my master bathroom (photos to follow, master is an understatement, stay tuned).
  11. Shelf created above washer/dryer in laundry room.
  12. Shelving put in our huge walk in cedar storage closet off guest bedroom.
  13. Garage door opener installed (with the cool keypunch entry).
  14. Architectural detail added to front of house 3 beams, railings, and balusters.
  15. Added new kitchen light fixture.
  16. Put down stick 'em linoleum squares in kitchen over old flooring until we do a real remodel in the future.
  17. I'm sure I'm forgetting something...

Beyond house, life goes on....

  • We moved into our new home, closing the chapter on house hunting, selling, and apartment life.
  • My brother flew out from NY to help us get work done on our house, he's still here due to blizzards and shut down JFK, his days in Colorado have passed 3 weeks.
  • I turned 37!
  • Plenty of hiking, our new neighborhood is just blocks from amazing trails. I did 8 miles on Christmas Day! The weather has been incredibly mild, like in the 50's-60's, which I have enjoyed but now it's making me a bit nervous.
  • My youngest turned 4 the day we moved (and she had a grocery store cake!).
  • Enjoying just hopping the fence to visit with friends (which are also neighbors) that have kids for the girls to play with!
  • Holiday parties (including one with Latkes and one with Bushmills).
  • A wedding!
  • A case of strep throat (not for me).
  • A massage (had a house guest that is a massage therapist).
  • Shopping and more trips to Home Depot than I care to admit.
  • Learning more about replacing a toilet than I ever wished to know.
  • Holiday decorating around the house, by far most fun for me.
  • Blogging event at my favorite place, Celestial Seasonings.
  • A few nights out on the town with my brother.
  • Gifting of a Wii to a friend as a surprise!
  • Unpacking of about 50 boxes, organizing closets, kitchen, pantry, clothes, while maintaining day to day daily life and chores.
  • Lounging, relaxing, and enjoying family time (it's J's downtime of the year).
  • Baking chocolate peppermint cookies.
  • Walking Sj home from school or bike rides! Woohoo!
Most importantly, feeling incredibly blessed to be onto this chapter of our journey. Our move has left me feeling content and grateful. We LOVE being back in Boulder.

Birthday Hike!

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Reverb10: Photo That Best Captures Me!

Who am I, who do I strive to be?
A photo based reflection by Tracey Clark (yes two separate links, click them both).

Of course I had to be difficult and find two photos. The first one was the one I knew I was looking for, but the second one I needed to share as well. It's all a part of my journey and reflection.

January 2010, an alley in London...
So, here I am standing in a random alley in London. Turns out it's not so random, but rather a place I was drawn to and had a "dream come true moment" captured by two fabulous friends. Those girlfriends were kind enough to indulge me in traipsing around the streets of London, until we found this exact alley. We spent hours walking London that day, the sun was starting to set, my toes were cold and my feet were tired, but we carried on. The building straight down the narrow driveway is the home of Coldplay's recording studio. The place I was standing I convinced myself was a spot that Chris Martin would turn around the corner at any given moment, bump into me and I could give a flustered hello as our eyes met for the very first time. That part didn't happen, but the moment was just as incredible.

Even though when I look at the photo I could name 1,001 things to nit pick about myself, I simply love this photo. It's a glimpse into many small moments of my life aligning to create one moment of pure joy. It reveals how incredibly awesome life can be when you have a little faith in yourself and let go of the things in life that can hold you back. I did it, I really did it...

My birthday, December 2010, Boulder, Colorado...
My brother was in town for the month of December, helping us settle in. I asked him to join me on a new hiking trail that's in my neighborhood. I was drawn to the mountains and needed to spend some time there on my birthday. It turned out to be a wonderful hike, the weather was perfect for December.

Spending time hiking, being nestled right under the shadows of large rocky outcroppings, leaves me feeling peaceful and content. This photo represents the happiness I found in taking a leap of faith (selling our first home and moving back to Boulder). It also reminds me of the pleasure I find in being surrounded by nature while working out, a combination that suits my personality just perfectly.

When I decided to choose both photos, I didn't quite make the connection until I started writing. After returning from London, we made the decision to move. The first photo really inspired the second. In 2010 I truly learned how to believe in myself again, even if it meant facing many of my fears.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

2010 in One Word: Opportunity

Prompt: Encapsulate the year 2010 in one word.


Circumstances that make it possible to do something is opportunity.

January started off with an amazing opportunity to take a trip to London with friends. That trip became a source of inspiration for many things that unfolded through out the rest of the year. One of the major things that was inspired by my trip to London, was selling our home. Three days back in the States and the seed was planted, I discussed with J my desire to move and it all unfolded. Selling and buying a home became one big series of opportunities. I would be kidding myself if I didn't admit, the home selling process was also an opportunity to know true exhaustion. With out testing the limits of my spirit, I'd never know what was possible.

In my personal life, this past year I really invited and embraced the opportunity to network and build relationships that took me beyond my small circle and comfort zone. Culminating that openness was a trip to San Francisco I had with a group of truly inspiring women. I also made a great effort to become more active, logging the most miles running, hiking, and hours in yoga class than I have in the past few years. I'm not quite at a place of harmony with my fitness, but I am certainly closer to where I want to be.

I feel it's important to recognize that every day we are presented with opportunities to embrace or turn down (and I also recognize there is a grey area in which some opportunities are not that cut and dry). I want to embrace the opportunity to become a better person, to continually learn, to remain a role model and inspiration to my daughters, to become a better friend and wife, to make a difference.

Lastly, a word that I would like to capture 2011 for me, content.

This post was written as part of the Reverb #10 project, more information here or check out what people are saying right now on twitter.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

An Unpaid Account From 10 Years Ago, Say What? Say What?

Sometimes the beauty of having a blog is that it's a wonderful opportunity to share stories about a simple interaction that goes south really fast. Today is a day that I must share one of those stories. I have no interest in blabbing the particular name of the company that I interacted with. I'm really not one of those gripe to get my way bloggers. I understand why some have to take that approach out of frustration. I'm not frustrated. I admit I was angry at first, but now I'm having a good laugh.

We closed on our house yesterday, but aren't moving in quite yet. I forgot to set up trash service so I called today to have our weekly trash service set up to start next week. After pressing a series of buttons, I was finally connected with a live account representative. We talked through why I was calling. She asked my name, my husband's name. Mentioned she didn't have us on record. I told her we had an account with them 10 years ago, but oh well. No big deal. Then she asked for my phone number (same number from 10 years ago).

She then proceeded to get very nervous, oh I see here... and asked to put me on hold. Maybe 5 minutes later she finally came back and proceeded to tell me that my former account had gone to collections! I was like collections, well for how much? Of course she couldn't tell me. BUT, her supervisor would allow me to start a new account if I put my credit card on file and paid for at least 3 months of service up front. My only choice was for direct payment to be set up. Apparently I was a former trash delinquent. But really I wasn't. We didn't leave our last house for 2 years after the time frame she said my account went to collections. There is no other trash service in Four Mile Canyon, so I had to have the account through 2002.

After she couldn't tell me the amount that I owed, I started getting agitated.

I then requested the collection agency's information so I could get to the bottom of it. The gentleman at the collection agency was quite delightful, which surprised me. He laughed, you want me to look up a trash account from 10 years ago? I agreed, it was absurd. He had no record of my name or address or my desire to scam the trash conglomerate of a month or two of service. He was even kind enough to call the company for me to clear my good name.

Now mind you, I've bought two homes now in the past 10 years. You can't have any unpaid collections accounts or a mortgage doesn't fly. We also have close to near perfect credit.

An hour later I received a call from my friend at the trash service. The supervisor changed her tune, our account had a balance of zero, and she would like to set up my service.

Only problem with that? I had already called another trash service in town. Same exact service was $30 cheaper a month. That made me feel a bit giddy inside. I never did like that other company and dreaded giving them my money. Now I don't have to.

Friday, November 26, 2010

How Much Is Enough? I'm A Retailers Nightmare...

I suppose it was all the chatter and hoopla surrounding the day after Thanksgiving that sent me into heavy reflection. The notorious Black Friday didn't fill me with any urge or desire to run out to my local big box store in the wee hours of the morning fighting crowds, waiting in line to save some money. Now don't get me wrong, I love a good sale. But, the stuff that I am wanting to spend money on right now wasn't exactly Black Friday hot items.

Here's what I'm hot for, a new sofa, a pantry cabinet, a hutch with great storage, french doors for my family room, a teepee for the backyard. Are we sensing a theme here? I'm still head over heels in new house mode, we close on Monday and move next weekend. I'm dreaming of nesting, dreaming of unpacking boxes of my possessions, some of which have been stored since this summer. I packed 5 huge boxes of the girls toys in July before staging my house, they are going to be so excited to see all their stuff again! In just a couple of weeks, once we are unpacked it's going to feel like Christmas.

But what about December 25th?

The magic of a new home is filling me with excitement. I can't wait to decorate our house, bake cookies, hang our stocking on our mantle above the fireplace, fill the home with holiday joy, but...

The stuff part is leaving me disenchanted.

The process of moving our home that we comfortably settled into over the course of eight years has brought about much reflection. Living in a small two bedroom apartment with only 1/3 of our belongings has really impacted my desire to want more stuff. Honestly I try to fight that notion I mean everyone loves more stuff, isn't weeding out and downsizing a thing you reserve for Spring? Apparently not for me. Don't get me wrong, I've done plenty of purging in the past six months, but I fear bringing on the holiday glut.

I want my girls to have a wonderful memorable holiday, which is always attached to gifts in their minds. I love buying them toys that make their eyes light up and fill them with joy. In this very moment, I'm at a loss as for what toys those are this year which is an awful feeling. Sj's letter to Santa requested her two front teeth and a bouquet of flowers. I joked that I wish it was 1983 and I was fighting tooth and nail for a Cabbage Patch Doll to make my girls' Christmas fantastic.

This year, I'm on a hunt for toys and gifts that will be memorable. We already have bins of polly pockets, littlest pet shops, barbies, american girls, baby dolls, kitchen playset, legos, wooden blocks, a closet of games. In my opinion my girls have enough already.

So the mental debate goes on, how much is enough? What makes a gift memorable? How will Christmas 2010 play out in our home?

Friday, November 19, 2010

It's Not Starting Over, It's Returning Home...

It's hard for me to believe, but we've been back in Boulder for three weeks already! One morning I was brushing my teeth, about to head out to meet a friend when this thought entered my mind:
It's not starting over, it's returning home.
When we first decided to move back to Boulder, part of the process for me was thinking about leaving the place we considered home for eight years. Did I really want to give up all we created just for the location? I would think to myself, are we REALLY doing this? Then BAM! It happened in a flash, house on market, house sold, move cities.

Since the move, I have felt incredibly grounded and content. It's so wonderful to be back in the place that lured us to Colorado 16 years ago. There has been so much change around town, but it's delicately balanced by so many things that are the same. That familiarity has made me realize that our decision to move back to Boulder (or "town" as I casually say) was one of the best decisions we've made.

It feels damn good to be back. Now in just two short weeks, we'll be in our new home and I can nest away like nobody's business. I'm beyond delighted. The holidays are going to be incredibly special for us this year.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

The Carrot Seed Recreated in One Drawing

Yesterday my 3 year old was busy drawing at the kitchen table. She holds up the picture and begins to explain what she drew. I loved it, so I thought I would share it, deconstructed a little to better see the components of it. As always, you can click on the photo to enlarge it.

The original drawing.

Planting of the seeds, complete with sign.

Then, one day a carrot came up

just as the little boy had known it would.

The end.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Nintendo, San Francisco, and Ten Memorable Women...

Last month I was invited by Nintendo to participate in an advisory group panel at the Nintendo offices in San Francisco. It was almost one year ago I was asked to be a Nintendo Brand Ambassador. I jumped at both opportunities with out hesitation, as Nintendo is a brand I've always been fond of for over two decades. A couple of nights in San Francisco sounded like a nice getaway from being entrenched in all things house (selling and buying). I knew four of us from Colorado would be traveling out together, so that eased my comfort level with being thrown into a new situation solo. Unfortunately my seat mate Julie was stuck next to me on the flight out, so even though she pulled out her laptop to get some writing done mid-flight I basically gabbed her ear off the entire way. Please accept my apology for that Julie, but our conversation helped me suppress all the neurotic thoughts and fears I had while flying. Before I knew it, a dense fog was out my window cascading over the mountain tops, a welcomed hello San Francisco style.

All ten of us agreed to meet downstairs for dinner after we settled into the hotel. I felt comfortable knowing half of the group and I also felt lame for not stopping by the other writer's blogs to do a little background reading before meeting them. I say this with some hesitation, but it's sometimes hard to read how a dinner may go with a group of ten women just off traveling. Everyone had varying levels of relationships with one another from just meeting to deep friendships that have developed over years. I most happily admit, all of those notions I held in the back of my mind walking into the room quickly faded once we all sat down together. I couldn't of been more honored to sit, converse, and laugh until my cheeks hurt for hours with everyone in the group. It amazes me how empowering it is to be in the company of brilliant women who openly discuss their lives and passions. That evening I will always remember with great fondness.

The next day, off to Nintendo we went.

There was some game playing, Wii Party to be exact. I enjoyed seeing how my dinner mates from the night before handled themselves gaming. They all faired pretty well, some of them were even more competitive than I would have imagined! We then had lots of conversation, engaging talks with plenty of honesty in a very comfortable and relaxed atmosphere. Maybe it was because we were in the Mario's Galaxy 2 conference room??? A couple of times I sat there day dreaming and thinking to myself, is this really happening? Am I really sitting at a conference table in San Francisco surrounded by such incredibly progressive thinkers? Yes I was and with that, how lucky am I?

Life is sometimes magically unpredictable and visiting Nintendo was definitely a full circle moment for me. An opportunity I will never forget.

Photos: Dreaming in Progress was the sign outside of the incredible Kirby's Epic Yarn room, dessert at the hotel which made the evening even sweeter, inside Kirby's Epic Yarn room, and the Nintendo offices gaming area.

Bloggers, starting one in from left to right:
Gwen, Amber, Janet, Marsha, Sizzle, Aimee, Me!, Julie, and Tracey

A post I wrote about my fondness for Super Mario Brothers, two years ago, click here.

Disclosure, I was paid a stipend, as well as travel expenses to serve on the advisory panel for Nintendo in San Francisco.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Welcome To Our First Home of Eight Years

Finally I'm ready to share our home of eight years, these photos were used for our real estate listing. I enjoy looking at them because it reminds me of all the things that made me happy about our first house (plus it looks so sparkly and well kept). We went under contract after 31 days on the market, I've never felt so lucky in my entire life! I came across photos from when we moved in and I have to admit, we really did leave a special touch on the place. I love this house and I always will. I actually cried at closing, sitting at the table with a group of people around us! I had no idea it would be that emotional for me. I really liked the woman that purchased the home, I can tell she loved the place already which made it easier for me to say goodbye.

The house was a split level built in 1959. Most of the homes in the neighborhood were brick ranches, so I loved how our two story stood out. We painted all the soffit and gutters before putting the house on the market, they were originally grey but the tone I chose was much softer and matched the garage door. The front door was white, I had never painted it over the years. I was wavering on what color to choose, but went with a green tone that tied everything together nicely. Of course I had one of those a-ha moments walking inside one day, like why didn't we paint this years ago? It's hard to see, but my brother did the wood working where the ceramic sun is hanging in between the two windows out front. We had it just the natural wood over the years and I just painted it when we did all the other exterior painting. It was some cheesy looking grey grate when we moved in, his design just spruced things up wonderfully. My father put his touch on the front of the house as well, the front entryway was sunken in concrete which made the step an awkward height. He put a Trex deck on the front when I was in labor with Sj seven years ago! It was just big enough to hold two Adirondack chairs and one of my antique crocks, I loved it. Click here to see photos of how the house looked for years!

The entire house with the exception of the bathrooms was painted this khaki/yellowish tone when we moved in. I never changed the paint in the main living space and hallways, but we painted almost all of the other rooms. This living room was tricky to arrange furniture in, I was always fighting the "bowling alley" feeling by having everything flow like one narrow track in the room with the focus on the television. With the chairs grouped together on the opposite end of the space, it created a nice place for conversation.

The dining room was one of my favorite rooms of the house. My father added the crown moulding, chair rail, and split pea soup green paint (so my parent's called it) the first few weeks after we moved in. We lightened the tone of the paint right before putting it on the market on the top half of the wall above the chair rail to lighten things up. The far end of the room had French doors which both opened up to create a wonderful way to bring the outside in on a nice day. The oak hardwood floors were really the center piece of the house, you can see a peak of them in this photo. The dining room and kitchen both had pocket doors which closed off those rooms from the living room. We didn't use them much, but I loved that feature.

The kitchen was redone and brand new when we moved in. We had always spoken about putting in a gas range, but we never did. The counters were granite tile, which gave the appearance of an upgraded kitchen with out the cost. I will admit cleaning the grout on a kitchen surface was really a pain, I would never choose to put tile counters in any home! There was a plethora of countertop space in the kitchen and keeping appliances on display to a minimum really helped feature them. The wall where the print hangs was a wasted space, there really should have been more cabinets there. I thought one open cabinet or glass doored cabinet would be a nice touch. We replaced the refrigerator a year ago, one of the items the experts say to upgrade if you are going to do anything in the kitchen because it's so big and catches the eye!

Our bedroom, very simple. I rearranged the furniture about twice a year in there. The bed always had to be under a window, which bothered me because I could never create a focal point above the headboard. It was spacious and had a great wall length closet with built in shelves. We never outgrew that closet.

Our house had two full bathrooms. When we moved in this bathroom, which was upstairs and had a pocket door off the master bedroom desperately needed updating! It had a huge oak cabinet that consumed such a small space, a peeling re-painted tub, lovely linoleum flooring, it felt like 50 square feet of hodge podge gone wrong. My father and I re-did this bathroom in a weekend during one of their visits from New York. Everything in the room was purchased off the shelf at a big box hardware store. We put in travertine floors, the vessel sink, wainscoting, and even replaced the green tile that bordered the shower with white to tie the tub area in with the new sink and toilet. After the remodel I had painted the room a Tiffany blue, but repainted it a friendly neutral tone to get it market ready. I laughed because the paint I had laying around was a left over quart from when we were originally deciding on a dining room color. My best advice, always use what you have. Click here to see before and after photos!

The girls' bedroom, a simple lavender. Pretty much speaks for itself. This room had two awesome closets, one was full of amazing built in shelves so no toys were out cluttering the space. I did take down these curtains before it went on the market, as they are darkening drapes from Pottery Barn and replaced them with sheers from Target. All curtains are a part of the contract, so it's worth buying $5 panels if you want to take your expensive ones with you.

The guest room. We took GL's dresser from upstairs and put it in the guest room to stage it.

Our office, playroom, and potential fourth bedroom. A truly conforming bedroom has to have a closet and if it's in a basement a full window. Our lowest level had full windows in them, as it was just a garden level, not a basement. The cabinets were there when we moved in, but my handy contractor brother put in the built in shelves which I loved. I got rid of most of our bookshelves after he did the work and now I am scrambling to find more! Funny enough that track lighting was in the downstairs hallway when we moved in and the office had a ceiling fan. I moved all of it around, ditched the ceiling fan, and just bought a simple light fixture for the hallway. This is one of the only rooms we never painted, but the walls wiped up nicely before it was market ready.

Lastly, the monster backyard. If you don't know most yards in the area where we live in Colorado are on the smaller side. We fell in love with the mature trees and spaciousness, which is a bonus in the older neighborhoods. The mature trees, aka the cottonwood that canopied the backyard was a blessing in the summer, but a curse every Autumn. We were still raking leaves well into Spring and averaged about 60-80 huge black bags every year. J and I took out the buckling concrete patio that as once out the French doors and put in a tumbled Pavestone patio. My father built the jumbo shed off there in the back left corner, attached a little frame to it for swings, and even built a sandbox.

There you have it, our first home. A place that will always leave me warm inside with wonderful memories. Can't wait to embark on the journey in our second house...

Monday, November 8, 2010

Packing Lunch Again... Post Move!

Oh boy, moving has put a real speed bump in my bento inspiration! Most mornings we are trying to get something nourishing out the door in a flash and a few days it was even in a brown bag! The majority of my bento supplies are in storage, so we are down to the absolute basics. Two laptop lunches and a couple Japanese bentos are all I have in my 1000sqft apartment. In a month we'll be settled into our real home and I'm already devising ways to organize my bentos in the new kitchen!

Whole wheat tortilla gently melted in the toaster oven, cukes, baby carrots, pirate's booty, and some raspberries.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Munchkin Masquerade with a Haunted House Chaser...

Quick update: I'm writing from an apartment that we moved into following closing. I will write about everything once we close on our home at the end of the month. I feel a bit superstitious writing about the entire process of selling and buying before it's a real done deal! As you may imagine packing and moving the contents of a home we settled very comfortably into over eight years was a ton of work, then multiply that by a three and that's really how much work it was. We still have one more move ahead of us, but at least 2/3 of our belongings are in storage and I don't have to repack them, they just need to be hauled.

Now onto more fun things, we spent our first Halloween in Boulder! Pearl St Mall had a great event called Munchkin Masquerade, where some businesses even provided great "green treats". Some of the loot I was delighted to let my girls dig into after the event were bags of trail mix, organic fruit leather, organic fair trade chocolates, and pretzels. Of course there was other candy at the event, but I personally loved the alternatives. Only in Boulder.

After the masquerade we stopped by a haunted house which was done up quite deluxe. We sat out front in the car oohing and aahing from the street. Then the girls asked to get out, so we walked around a bit, then they asked to go on the porch. That was a mistake. Luckily this photo was captured before GL was terrified by the motion sensor creepy masked dummy started screeching and rocking.

We ran off, I had a brave but scared daughter in my arms...

Friday, October 22, 2010

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Nature's Cupcakes, For Lunch?

Left over pasta from last night's dinner with some made on the spot vinaigrette (honey, olive oil, rice vinegar, some salt and pepper). Shredded mozzarella, carrots, and grapes. I hollowed out the core of a local colorado organic apple, filled it with peanut butter, and put some sprinkles on top to make it look like a cupcake! Lastly, for a treat a couple of mini burgers from Japan.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

More Bunnies Bento

Bunny, moon, and circle sandwich (good ol' organic peanut butter and jelly on whole wheat). Broccoli, red peppers, snap peas, orange peppers (left over from dinner stir fry mix), grapes, bunny crackers, and some japanese biscuits/crackers for a treat.

I haven't been doing much lunch packing lately, as we are packing our home to move in a couple of weeks. Hot lunch has been my go to when I haven't been to the store or I just run out of time in the morning. I am fortunate enough to have a great hot lunch option at my daughter's school, her district is a part of the School Food Project. They've eliminated all processed foods, high fructose corn syrup, have bulk organic white milk (just pour into cups), a harvest bar, and a vegetarian option every day.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Sometimes I like to pretend that everything is just fine...

With those words I will see all of you on the flip side. The flip side of not knowing where I will be living in just two short weeks. The flip side of saying goodbye to my home of 8 years. The flipside of having most of our possessions in some concrete storage space. The flipside of now having a po box as my address. The flipside of this process sucking worse than I ever would have imagined.

Right now even though I like to pretend, I can't.

See you on the flipside, when that will be I truly don't know.

I've decided to close comments, you can find me on twitter or email me!

Thursday, October 7, 2010

I Think You're The Most Beautiful Girl In The Whole World...

Today I sat in on a classroom birthday celebration for Sj. They have a very special ritual where the birthday child walks around the sun for each year of their life. The sun is a candle, placed on a orange wooden cut out, with twelve rays representing each month of the year. All of the students sing a song counting up the numbers for each year as she circled the sun. After each year the birthday child tells a short story about that year of their life. I first told the story of her birth (the very edited quick and painless version), years one and two. She filled in the rest.

After the traveling around the sun ceremony we passed out a fruit snack to her classmates. Then Sj's teacher asked each student to give her a compliment. I was a part of the circle, so I sat and listened to the students go in order. Lots of girls said you're a great friend, the boys said she was awesome with cheddar cheese on top, many of them were very grateful for their fruit snack. The compliments began to just fade into one another and the students some what distracted by their treat.

Until we came to one boy in her class.

He paused for a moment, took a deep breath, and looked Sj straight in the eyes. This young 7 year old boy then said, "I think you're the most beautiful girl in the whole wide world." Right there in front of the entire class, with a sincerity beyond my belief. I felt the, I don't care what you think I'm speaking my mind energy, come rushing from him.

Then my eyes proceeded to well up. I was floored as I experienced one of those moments in my daughter's life that I am sure she won't forget for years, if ever. There's no greater gift I've been given than to experience the bountiful richness that I call motherhood. Sweet blessings all around.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Honoring the feeling that the house, just wasn't right...

The chaos that has become our housing situation has simply taken over our lives. I would love to write about what I made for dinner or about a hike I took on Sunday, but I can't because we are all house, all the time. Yesterday we returned to a house that we were going to write on for a second time. We did our homework and knew the problems that came with this particular house. We've spoken to contracting companies, studied structural engineer write ups and drawings, and tried to read through air quality testing results.

But most importantly, I didn't feel it.

J and I showed up to the home for our fourth time. I walked around out back admiring the flagstone patio and identifying the plants that were growing around the property. I peeked in the windows of the almost perfect oversized garage in the backyard. We went inside in search of evidence of things we now knew were in the home, but they were all hidden. Property disclosures are an amazing thing people. I do feel lucky the owner was so open and honest about the history of the property because from a walk-through you would have no idea.

We were standing in the kitchen and I tried to convince myself I wanted this house. I stood there looking for qualities that I loved or more honestly that I liked. For this particular house my favorite things about it were the location, the garage, and the wood floors. The only thing in the house I liked were the hardwoods.

I just couldn't justify buying a house for the hardwood floors. Hardwoods are easy enough to put into any house eventually, it's the floor plan or main living space that I want to fall in love with. It doesn't have to be cosmetically perfect or to our aesthetic, but I really do want to be giddy with excitement about the house we are buying. I never felt excited about this house, it was practical and so we went for it.

After we left the house, our realtor asked if we wanted to write an offer. We said yes. J and I returned to pick up Sj from school just about 5 minutes away and we sat on a bench chatting about if this was it. In that moment I was honest. Honest about how it was perfect in so many ways, but the reality was this particular house came with a ton of baggage (from issues over the years). We decided to close the chapter on this house and not put in an offer.

Now I am actively seeking out apartments. Temporary housing so we don't have to settle on a house we wouldn't buy if there were other options. I just don't know how long it's going to take for that other option to come into our life. I never imagined being in this position, heading into the holidays with no home.

Chin up and moving forward!

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Six Layer Rainbow Cake with Mario!

This morning I woke at 6:30 and began to construct a cake. Well, not just any cake, but a six layer rainbow cake. I made enough batter for two cakes, simply put 1.5 cups of batter into a smaller bowl, colored it individually, and baked (for less time, win win). Technically the layers were not full size, but the cake was still grandiose.

My now 7 year old requested sky blue icing and while I was at it, I decided to add some clouds by keeping some homemade frosting aside before coloring it blue. The cake was fun and whimsical so we added Mario. My favorite part about this particular cake was that the rainbow cake on the inside was a surprise!

This is how it looks now. Apparently it was a hit!

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

I Couldn't Tell You What Is In My Daughter's Lunch Today...

Even though I could have posted a photo of a bento I packed a few weeks ago, I have decided to refrain. The title of this post isn't a joke, my husband packed lunch for our daughter this morning. Truth be told, I didn't even open her Laptop Lunch to see what was in there.

We sold our house this month and will be moving in a month. Let's just say life has become a little bit hectic and overwhelming as we are still with out a home to move into. To top off the chaos my one year old refrigerator decided to frost over in the freezer affecting the air circulation to the refrigerator. A light bulb went off in the morning when the milk in glass bottles I pulled out of the refrigerator was warm to the touch. Glass in the refrigerator is never warm to the touch.

Anyway, life does go on, but my bento packing is on hold. I am off to San Francisco for a few days and when I return my collection will have grown and I am hoping so will my inspiration.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

The Deal Breaker...

I believe it's the French Silk Pie that's digesting in my stomach, which is allowing me a moment to just relax. I'm lazing in my bed, the girls are asleep, and my husband is off schmoozing at a preview screening of this year's completed film. There are so many things I should be doing, but most simply put, I'm not...

In this moment I realize I naively decided to put a for sale sign up in my yard just last month. We decided it was time and of course told ourselves, it will all work out. I know in my heart it will, but in this very moment things are a bit up in the air for us. Our home sale is going through in October, but the house we were under contract on fell through.

Today we walked...

It's very odd to say, we walked on a house that we had mentally moved ourselves into. I was eyeing a new sofa for the living room, we had dinner in the neighborhood brewpup, the girls and I would drive by daily after school pickup, friends came and checked out the house with us, Sj put dibs on her room, we had grandiose plans for a party deck on the oversized garage in the backyard that had gorgeous mountain views, my parent's decided that within a couple of years we'd turn that space into an apartment for them. The schools were perfect, the location was great, and we walked.

There's deal breakers for every situation and we encountered one.

So now we move on. Chin up and embracing the old mantra, it wasn't meant to be, everything happens for a reason. What else can you tell yourself? Oh and universe hear my gentle whispers, send me that kick ass house I've been hoping would magically appear. If I can ask for a little favor, have it be empty because closing in a month would just make my life simply wonderful.

Like Father, Like Daughter....

If I'm packing one lunch, it just makes sense to pack another. I guess I got into a groove packing three lunches for a short stint. I didn't mind it at all. Even got my wheels turning a bit about something that has potential for the future. Today J is eating exactly the same lunch that Sj is. Like father, like daughter or is it vice versa?

This morning, Sj requested tuna in her lunch. I only purchase 365 Brand (whole foods private label) Tongol Tuna, if you click here you can read about their testing methods and the level of mercury found in the specific type of tuna. Tongol Tuna is not white meat tuna, but "chunk light" and a tuna that is typically found to have lower levels of mercury by nature because of it's size. I put sliced cheddar on the bread first to avoid it from becoming soggy. Grapes, strawberries, broccoli, tomato, and booty. For a special treat, I gave her a pack of Annie's organic bunny fruit snacks. The yellow container has balsamic vinaigrette for dipping her broccoli.

This is J's version. I wonder how the booty is going to go over in the kitchen at work, sitting around with the guys.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Tuesday Tips: Fast and Free Way To Watermark Photos With Picnik (and other fun easy photo editing)

Have you ever clicked onto a blog post and found the author using a photo you took? Photos get picked up by google images, people search on a subject, and simply (borrow) a photo many times with out ever giving credit to the owner of the image.

An easy way to avoid that is to watermark your photo. Some people may pass on using a watermarked image, but at very least you are still being given credit where credit is due. I always try to link back to where I found an image, unless it's one of those silly photo memes where I just do a general google image link back.

If you aren't into photo editing, I have a very simple way to watermark a photo. I use Picnik. I use the premium version of Picnik (1 month, 3 month, or yearly subscription), but the majority of Picnik features are free. How I watermark this photo, is free.

Upload an image to Picnik (click on any photo to enlarge):

Click on the CREATE Tab:

Click on TEXT, add text to the text box, upper left corner, click on a font of choice:

Click and drag text to the place in the photo you want watermark. Then you can change the color of the text (default is white) in the text palette.

Important step: In text palette there is an "Advanced Blend Mode" drop down menu, click on OVERLAY. That makes the text blend into photo, even gradient for values of photo.

I chose to keep my watermark in the lower right corner of this photo. When I do bento photos, I prefer the center so people can't crop out my watermark.

Click on save and share, has options to resize at this point as well. You can share to friends on FB, twitter, Flickr as well with one easy click!

For FUN! After adding watermark, I click back on CREATE tab. Then Effects, I chose "Cross Process" which gives the photo a really fun feel. Under CREATE there is also a frame tab, so I turn it into a polaroid. Then I add some more text, a butterfly in stickers, and voile! A really fun easy photo!

Enjoy Picniking! The possibilities are endless!

Disclosure: I have been a fan of Picnik's since I made my first blog header for free back in August of 07! All follow up blog headers have been made in Picnik as well. In the spring, I was offered a free trial membership to check out premium features. I was not asked to post about my experience, I just felt the need to teach an easy way to watermark.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Easy How To Watermark Photos For Free!

I know, I know. Why in the world is a lunch packing blog talking about watermarking photos? Well every lunch creation we share is ours, in this day and age of accessibility to everyone's content it's nice to protect yourself by watermarking your photos.

Over at EatPlayLove, I have a shared the few easy steps on how to watermark a photo in a Tuesday Tips post! Enjoy.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Hello Blogosphere, It's Me Denise...

I received an email today from a bloggy-friend asking me what in the world was up, where have I been, and more importantly am I okay?

Yes, I am doing just fine. The last few weeks have been a surreal whirlwind experience. My house went under contract this week, followed by a mad search to find a new home. The first night after the we sealed the deal, I got absolutely no sleep. My mind raced all night wondering where in the world we were going to live come October! Now the excitement has settled down a bit and we've come to realize that everything will work out just fine. Please tell me it will work out, right? We aren't under contract yet on the house we like, but we shall know by tomorrow.

To top off the fun of house showings in 45 minutes, PTA meetings, and school functions, my husband was out of town for two weeks. Luckily the technology exists now where you can electronically sign documents, so getting out counter proposals were a snap with us being in different locations. I am even more grateful for the last minute arrival of my parents to come help me out during J's business trip. I think I would be a weepy puddle on the floor tonight if they weren't here for 10 days.

The best part of this entire process, is imagining the possibilities. Talking about the future, riding by the house we hope to soon call home from school and relishing in the fact that it was only a 5 minute drive. We currently live 2 towns away from school and our commute is something I've never complained about because we love our daughter's school, but living 1/2 mile away is like sweet buttercream icing on the cake.

Speaking of cake, I'm off to enjoy a Sprinkles Cupcake my wonderful husband was kind enough to bring home from Beverly Hills for me. It's a tradition that makes his return much sweeter.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Food Cutters Make a Happy Bento

A cookie cutter, some Japanese cutters (great for harder vegetables), and Hello Kitty cutters that also press a cute little face into the bread. Just add a little special touch to everyone's lunch.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Feeding Friends, Because A Homemade Lunch Is Comfort Food...

Our friends have been displaced by the Four Mile Canyon fire. One of the first things that came up was that the kids needed lunch boxes, so instead of buying lunch boxes I simply offered to pack lunch for the kids until they are settled into their new living arrangements. I wouldn't have it any other way, a homemade lunch is a simple way to keep things consistent for the children while they face so much change in their lives.

Then Laptop Lunches stepped up and graciously offered to donate two Bento Kits to my friend's children. A huge thank you to them for their generosity.

So now I am packing 3 lunches in the morning! Right now it cuts into my creative side because I'm figuring things out, but I am getting more into a groove. You will see my creativity come out next week.

This is what I've packed this week:

Monday, September 6, 2010

I Left A Piece of My Heart In Four Mile Canyon...

***Please note, I live 8 miles outside of Boulder, I am not evacuated. This post is about my connection to the area.***

I should be asleep, but I can't sleep. The place I called home for 4 years is at the center of a 3,500 acre wildfire. My day has been consumed by the magnitude of the loss. A simple lunch time outing turned into a wave of emotion from the wall of smoke that formed from the canyon to the town I currently live in. I tried to wrap my brain around the exact location of fire from a distance, talking myself down from the worst case scenario, that it was Four Mile Canyon. But after a text, a search on twitter, my fears were confirmed. It was Four Mile Canyon and yes, my friends were safely evacuated. (insert expletive)....

I've seen posts of "great photos" from the fire. I know it's natural in this day in age to share media, video clips in an instant, of course the size of the fire is immense the smoke billowing. But in those great photos all I can imagine is my former neighbor's home or the house I passed day in and day out. We have friends whom have suffered great loss in this fire, friends that I have cried for and will go above and beyond to support them in this time of need. Because in a community that's what you do and I know they would do the same.

There is nothing like living in the mountains, in a small canyon. You come to be intimate with small curves and nuances of the road, give directions like take a left down the dirt road after the collection of mailboxes at the second switchback, but if you get to the Fred's propane tank on the right you've gone too far. I could give you a description of 90% of the homes I passed on my way home, 3.33 miles up Four Mile Canyon Drive. The scanners called out dozens of street names, all of which I had a picture of in my mind. Many of them I cycled numerous times, always enjoying wildflowers on the side of the road or a creek that cascaded under someone's deck. Poorman's, the road between Fourmile and Sunshine Canyon that I dreaded riding my bike on, but screamed a loud hallelujah the day I actually made it after so many attempts turning around. Gold Hill, the quaint mountain town that made me feel like I stepped back countless decades, yes it is complete with a general store. Wall Street, the rumored epicenter of the fire, a road that felt like you could just ride on forever, I loved it because it felt like it was flat compared to Fourmile Canyon Drive.

Don't let quick snippets of generalized conversation fool you, it's not all well to do people living in gorgeous homes. It's the whole spectrum of folks, like the little couple that have called the canyon home since 1963. They added on a room here and there and over the years they made it their home. Shirley was always happy to see me, when I made the hike up her driveway to borrow a cup a sugar. She probably lived the equivalent of 3 city blocks away from me, but I knew her name, her car (she always waved when we passed one another), and her smile. I didn't hesitate to go ask her for a cup of sugar or an egg because she always had a story to tell and I spent the time listening.

There are so many beautiful animals that call the canyon home. Foxes, bears, mountain lions, deer, chipmunks, lizards, hummingbirds. All of which I hope found an escape route to a safe haven, instinct giving them the drive to carry on and flea the flames.

I'm turning off the Boulder County Fire Scanner now and going to try to turn in for the night. I have three lunches to pack in the morning, doing my part to make life normal for two sweet and caring small children that may not have a home to go back to, once the roads are opened. I hope to wake in the morning to news that the fire is contained and the loss that has been suffered does not extend any further. I fear the emotion that will overwhelm me the first day I drive back into the canyon. I feel grateful thousands of lives were saved and so many honorable men and women put their own lives on the line to protect others. Special call out to the pilots of the tankers that dumped numerous loads of flame retardant. Humanity amazes me once again.

Big smiles and a tear in my eye, there will always be a special place in my heart for Four Mile Canyon...

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Fruit Kabob & Turkey Baloney With Heart!

Last night I popped into Whole Foods to pick up a chicken (they put them on special on Wednesday) and while I was there I grabbed some fruit kabobs as well. So really, I didn't get all fancy this morning, I just had a kabob leftover from dinner!

Heart sandwich made with 100% whole wheat organic bread, Applegate Farms uncured turkey baloney and Cabot sharp vintage cheddar, a bit of mustard, and Sj's initials in fruit leather. Some snap peas, barbecue Pirate's Booty, left over fruit leather cut into bunnies, and a 365 brand sandwich cookie.
Disclaimer all items were purchased by my family, not a free sample or paid endorsement!