Sunday, March 27, 2011

200 Hikes Day 13: Griffith Park, Los Angeles, California

Back in January I joked with an old friend that lives in Los Angeles that I WILL hike with her for one of my 200 Hikes in 2011. To my delight and surprise, I made that happen in one of the least expected places, Los Angeles. The day after we arrived, we hit the beach and after much shell hunting,  headed east to Griffith Park. There's an amazing observatory and a beautiful series of snaking trails that all have the famous Hollywood sign in the background. The views are breathtaking from the top.

The whole family joined in the adventure, my friend L's man, and her sweetie poodle Georgia Brown (a must have Los Angeles family member). I am happy to report, everyone did fabulously! May I add, hiking at sea level is such a treat.

Now, I have this photo to remember the day, certainly frame worthy:

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Upgrade My Mac & Cheese, Yes Please!

A couple of weeks ago when my husband was traveling in remote parts of British Columbia, I was graciously offered some comfort food in the comfort of my home. Meaning, a delivered meal to feed the girls and I. My parents just happened to be in town as well and I can't quite recall what project my father and I were elbow deep in, but I clearly remember when the door bell rang how incredibly excited I felt that dinner had arrived. To tell you the truth, I am sure my mom was even more thrilled because she cooked for us all week. She likes to spoil us like that, there's no replacing my mom's home cooking, or so I thought.

On to the Mac & Cheese...

We are no strangers to Noodles' Mac & Cheese, it's what the girls order every time we walk in the door. Even when I was pregnant I had cravings for the Mac & Cheese with broccoli and chicken. Really their classic Mac & Cheese can't be beat, but Noodles decided to kick it up a notch. For a limited time they are offering Bacon, Mac and Cheeseburger, Southwest Chili Mac, and Truffle Mac with Baby Portabellas.

We were delivered one of each of the new flavors, a portion of the classic, a family sized salad, and some focaccia to accompany the dinner. I love the family sized salad because it means my girls will dig in, for some reason whenever there is a huge bowl of salad in front of them, they have at it!

The photo right next to the salad is of our tasting plates. Everyone tried each kind and we decided to take a vote on which one was the favorite of the group. The winner surprised me because my daughter's run hot and cold with their willingness to eat beans, but the Southwestern Chili Mac was the top pick, receiving 4 out of 5 votes. I of course went with the Truffle Mac with Baby Portabellas because the combination of white truffle oil, delicate, but hearty mushrooms, and house made breadcrumbs was delicious. The SW Chili Mac was my second favorite, I particularly enjoyed the spiciness of the chili and the richness of the cheese with the macaroni was just perfect! We typically enjoy our chili over pasta, so this combination was especially delightful.

I almost failed to mention, five of us ate dinner and we even had enough left overs to freeze and send some with the girls for lunch! Mac and Cheese for the win!

The bad news is these dishes are in Noodles and Company for a limited time only and they don't deliver. It was a special exception for me. Although I have introduced the concept of curbside pickup before with my favorite local Noodles and Company! Isn't that a great idea?

Disclosure, Noodles and Company provided me dinner at no charge. When I enjoy a meal, I enjoy sharing my experience. All thoughts and photos are mine, Noodles was just kind enough to provide the inspiration! 

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Oh How I Love Traveling...

The act of traveling I don't quite love, the sweaty palms on airplanes, the inability to pay attention on long car rides, and the packing. Sigh, I always forget something. I just had a dream the other night that I went on a trip with my girls and we arrived with no luggage at the airport, so I raced back home to pack because I had one hour before my flight left. Which makes entirely no sense. I'm not quite sure how to interpret that one. 

I will actually be traveling twice in the next few weeks. A family trip and a solo trip, with both of my destinations being on the west coast. Seattle and Los Angeles, here I come. 

After deciding to sell our house last year, our summer was instantly consumed by preparing our house for the market. Then when Fall arrived, we were packing, moving, and settling into our new home. There wasn't much time for a leisurely escape when so much change was happening. We often talk about how we missed not going on vacation last year. Moving was certainly a trade off. Now that we've been in our new home for a few months and settled back into the city we love, the timing is perfect for a little getaway. 

I am going to soak up the family time and embrace a few days to myself. I'll be around here and there, but definitely be back into the swing of things come April. 

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

It's Spring Break, Green Smoothie Time!

We are on Spring Break, so I have some extra leisurely time in the morning and I love making smoothies (experimenting with different fruits and veggies). Even though they don't take very long, I seem to always be crunched for time on school mornings to make a smoothie. Typically I will make them for an after school snack instead.

From bottom up:

Frozen blue kale (from WholeFoods)
Orange juice
dollop of vanilla yogurt
no sweetener (mother nature takes care of that)

House Guests and Lots of House Work!

The last time I updated was the night before my husband went on a long business trip. He was in a remote part of British Columbia with no cell service and was flying in a helicopter daily, which means if he didn't call me I had no idea that he was back at the lodge safe every night. Let's just leave it at, he's not so great at calling, so I spent much of the week trying to distract myself from worry.  Lucky for me, my parents came to visit to help me out with the girls and around the house. We got so much accomplished.

I had a lot of little things that needed taking care of, I started a list on the chalkboard and we kept on updating it as we finished projects.

This is what we accomplished:

  1. Balance the washing machine, my whole house shook during the spin cycle because it wasn't properly balanced. If your washer does that, get out a level and adjust the feet until it's centered.
  2. Adjust the front door lock. Something so little, but annoying. My key was so hard to unlock the door and it frustrated me multiple times daily!
  3. We had a grey laminate end panel on our lower cabinets next to the dishwasher that stuck out like a sore thumb! I stained some wooden sheeting we had to match the cabinets and my dad cut and installed it. It looks awesome! Amazing what little changes do for overall effect.
  4. PAINT! Living room, kitchen, hallway, and guest room ceiling! Guest room and laundry room walls! Wow! It's amazing what a couple of days effort and how fresh paint can transform a space.
  5. Put up crown moulding in the guest room, lovely touch.
  6. Organize the garage. After the move the garage was stacked with boxes, bicycles were stored in various places including the patio because we just didn't have space. Now all the tools are organized, boxes have been emptied, bicycles hung, shelves put up! It looks awesome. 
  7. Patio organized, we have a huge covered patio off of our living room that housed all overflow of random stuff from our move and house projects we've completed. The patio is now free of debris, bins, and junk! The girls can play soccer out there now and even scooter around. 
  8. The oversized trash we had from projects couldn't be recycled because of it's material and I couldn't throw it away because of it's size. My dad was gracious enough to cut it all down for me so I can properly dispose of it. For example, my bedroom closet and 1/2 bath had 4 foot sliding doors on them, two to be exact and they were a pickle to get rid of! I am happy to report they are no longer an eye sore on my patio. 
  9. While my mom hung out with the girls, I was able to take some time to work in the yard trimming back bushes and trees that were very overgrown. Our yard is sort of terraced in the very back and the neighbor's bushes were taking over so badly we couldn't even walk back there. Now it's free and clear! I probably have a pile about 15ft x 15ft and about 10ft high to be recycled. Bonus, I got to use trimmers, an ax, and a saw! 

Here's a glimpse of the newly painted laundry room and guest room:

(sorry both taken with iPhone, will update with real photos soon)

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

The Fresh Bento

My 7 year old is a great eater, so I can pack whatever fresh produce we have and she loves it. This is a bento, I'd eat in a heartbeat.

Clockwise from top:
strawberries, blackberries, raspberries,
ww organic tortilla, sharp cheddar quesadilla,
broccoli, tomato, cuke, greens salad

little container: organic ranch

Packed in a Laptop Lunch!

Monday, March 21, 2011

Preschooler Bentos, Sandwich Alternatives

I've had house guests and a traveling husband, so not much time for updating on Colorado Bento! But the good news is, I've been updating bentos I pack on Instagram (a photo sharing application for the iPhone) so I have photos of bentos I've been packing for my 4year old. If you are on IG, my user name is EatPlayLove, i'd love to connect with you.

My 4 year old isn't much for sandwiches, she will eat them, but I find she requests something other than a sandwich very often.

Applegate Pepperoni (she loves pepperoni),
tortilla chips,
vintage sharp cheddar,
blood orange,
and veggie booty!

Whole wheat tortilla w/sharp cheddar,
carrot flowers and organic ranch,

Saturday, March 19, 2011

200 Hikes Day 11 & 12

We've had some gorgeous weather and I was able to get out for a few hikes to decompress in between house projects and an early Saturday morning soccer game!

I have to admit, I love remembering the day with a photo. On the left I had wonderful company (always better than hiking alone). To the right, the sunshine was fading fast, but I was able to get a good hike in that afternoon). Thanks daylight savings!

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

2nd Grader's Hearty Fresh Bento

Cheese and tomato sandwich on ww bread.
Red pepper
Gogo Squeez applesauce
one thin mint

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Swelling With Pride

Last Friday report cards were sent home. I personally couldn't wait for Sj to hand it over so I could see how she is progressing. Having been an elementary school teacher I understand the necessity of report cards, but also take into consideration that it isn't the whole picture of how Sj is doing in second grade, it's one measure. Beyond reading through all the sections of the report card (3 printed pages), it's three years later and I am still trying to wrap my brain around the grading system. Or lack of grades. There are numbers coupled with either a check, plus, or minus for smaller bullet points. Gone are the A's, B's, C's, D's, and F's.

Most appropriately to top off report cards, tonight we had parent teacher conferences. It feels as if it's all coming at us at once! While it's hard to anticipate what exactly is going to come up in a private conference, I pretty much didn't expect anything surprising to come out. I, being her mother, would consider her to be doing exceptionally well. I can tell you, I was not doing long division at 7 years old, it still blows my mind that she is. She's reading above grade level and her teacher stopped testing her at a certain point, so we don't know exactly how far beyond a third grade level. Overall her strengths are well rounded, which pleases me to no end. What also delights me is that she is in a multi-age classroom. If she is working beyond grade level that's no problem, she just keeps progressing at a pace that suits her. In the past few months she has academically blossomed (more focus for longer periods is a huge factor), so her ability to just keep learning and not be held back by the generic whole class mentality is amazing!

Beyond the report cards and conferences, there's this...

I'm not quite sure the best way to share how I'm feeling, but lately I've been swelling with pride from the inside out as a mother. This has nothing to do with grades or school progress, these moments are all simply in the comfort of our home in a small moment or series of moments. My girls are growing up so quickly and although I dread the thought of them no longer being my babies, I am constantly amazed by their curiosity, kindness, their love of one another, and the happiness that they bring to my life.

Just this past week, GL on her own has been making me breakfast every morning. By making me breakfast I mean, moving her stool to get out the box of cereal, moving it again to reach the milk, then a bowl, gathering a spoon, putting it all on the table, taking the lid off the milk and pouring it in the bowl, putting it on a tray and bringing it to me. One morning she cut a bagel in 1/2 with a butter knife and filled a ramekin with yogurt (from a quart container) and served that to me. Seriously, how does your heart not multiple a million times over when your child is so amazingly kind and caring? I know she's just trying to assert her independence, but my goodness gracious, her actions are precious.

Sj has always shared her softer side with us, she has a big heart which also brings with it sensitivity. I adore how she still snuggles in bed with me every morning before we start the day, she carries in her oldest lovey and her silkie blanket to snuggle. She's allowed me to be completely open and honest with her about some things I am not sure other kids her age could handle. Just this week we had a huge heart to heart about friendships, being excluded, and how to be a better friend, even if that's not how the other person treats her. While sometimes my mind wants to come up with lame excuses for something to avoid the discussion that is about to unfold, I am amazed when I give her the benefit of the doubt and I'm just honest with her. With that I celebrate honesty, open dialogue, and motherhood.

Now, don't let my happy gushy mothering moments wrong here, we do have complete chaos quite often and screams of, "Both of you, get to your rooms right now, it's quiet time OR don't you dare pull your sister's hair again or else." There's kicking, dirty looks, stealing of things right out of the other's hand, and even some verbal meanness, like you are a B-A-B-Y, well you're a poopy head, yeah well you're a butt. Oh yeah, they are something those two.

These incredible tender moments have just exceeded any of the rewards I dreamt of reaping when I became a mother. My life is so complete with my girls and my husband, I feel so blessed.

*Original art by Sj

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

I Thought I'd Never... Ski?!?

Thank you to P&G’s Have You Tried This Yet? program and Kroger for sponsoring my writing about trying new things and breaking out of my everyday routine. Click here to find great savings on high-performing P&G products at a Kroger store near you. I was selected for this sponsorship by the Clever Girls Collective, which endorses Blog With Integrity, as I do.

I'm not quite sure where to start with my story. First, let me begin with my husband makes a living in the ski industry, he's passionate about skiing and snowboarding and has been hitting the slopes since he was a young boy. He travels the world to find the best snow and resorts under the sun. One would naturally assume that being his wife and living in Colorado, where the skiing is world renown right in our backyard, that I am a skier as well.

Well, I'm not. 

In my twenties I tried snowboarding a couple times a season, but honestly it was so much work to feel successful or let's just admit it, even comfortable that I always felt defeated. Before we had the girls, I'd send J on his way for the day trip up to the mountains and find ways to keep myself busy. I never really gave much thought of us not spending the day recreating together, I mean we don't have to like all the same things. After we had the girls and now they are skiing, I feel the divide. We could be recreating as a family, traveling up to the ski resort for the day or weekend, but "mom" doesn't ski. So instead we tag team, J takes one of the girls and I stay home with the other. Being apart is not a great way to spend much coveted weekend time together when J is actually in town.

Then recently I was offered the opportunity to take ski lessons. Me, ski lessons? At thirty-something? Oh did the flood of thoughts and scenarios race through my mind. Ultimately, I decided to accept the opportunity realizing that I had nothing to lose. I could try and not like it or maybe I would surprise myself.

That's exactly what happened, surprise! I had a fabulous and very patient ski instructor. I took group lessons with just a few other adults that were on skis for the very first time. We started out slow and practiced a lot on the bunny hill. I mean there is something cute about the bunny hill, compared to double black diamonds, isn't there? I proved to be slow and steady on the hill. Most of all, I laughed a lot. I would even go as far to say that I enjoyed myself. There's something very empowering about challenging your MIND and BODY to try something new, especially when my mind is easily convinced to back out of new and potentially fear inducing scenarios.

The best part of the day for me, my 4 year old took her very first ski lesson as well. We will always have that story to tell others. Funny enough, my 7 year old was riding the chair lift up the mountain when she looked down and caught a glimpse of me. I could hear her yell and excitedly wave, "Hey that's my mom!" I know my girls will always remember that weekend, which makes me swell with pride. Honestly, I never really thought I'd be a skier, but there's hope for me yet. I imagine I'm going to be ripping it up on the hill in my forties.

Here's a photo of me, taken by my husband. He was proud of me, too. 

Monday, March 7, 2011

Maybe If I Write It Down...To Do List or Is It To Try List? (and haircut update)

Most nights before bed, I remind myself tomorrow is a new day. Seize the day! Sometimes my follow through is fabulous and other times, I don't quite accomplish what I had hoped to, so it's tomorrow is a new day (aka I'm disappointed in myself). Mainly I'm referring about my to-do list or personal goals, like hiking or eating healthy.

Today I thought, maybe if I write it down, I'll have a better chance at follow through. So here's a list of thoughts swirling through my head, things I believe will make me feel more accomplished, when I lay my head on the pillow at night.

  • House, picked up, dishes done, laundry put away, toilets scrubbed, beds made. Immaculate, no. Harmony, yes. Baby steps. 
  • Internet, time limits. Do I need to say more? I've got until 9am, then it's focus around the house time. FB to get my attention only once per day. Laptop, out of sight out of mind? iPhone, well that's a completely different animal. 
  • For some reason, I've decided to give up dairy this week. I don't know why. Sometimes I feel like dairy brings my energy levels down. Also keeping an eye on sugar consumption and carbs. Bring it on fruit and vegetables. I will still be eating meat, so I wouldn't say I'm going vegan. I worry too much about filling my diet with meat substitutes which are full of a bunch of processed crap. I'd rather have lean organic chicken breast, pure and natural. 
  • Possibly painting the laundry room?
  • Organize guest room, I have guests coming next week! Yeah GUESTS coming!
  • Yoga, I've been longing to bust out the yoga dvd's I have. No excuses, just need to take the time. 
  • Play, laugh, and be silly with GL (she's home with me today). 
  • Do my best, know what I want to accomplish and work towards it. It's not perfection, it's effort. 
  • Pick up tax forms, it's tax time! Library!
  • A few bills, bank trip with GS money, post office.
  • Plan dinner menu for week and shop for it. (That's one I really strive for)

I'm curious if writing this down will make any difference in what I truly accomplish.


In completely unrelated news, here's a photo of me with my new haircut and color (which has more dimension than you can see in the photo). It's the best I could do considering I seem to hate every photo of me I've tried to take in the past few weeks. Thanks to instagram, the awful case of acne I have on my chin is not visible. Oh and it's just not possible for me to have Hollywood hair, which I am fine with.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Winner: Noodles & Co Bowls!

The winner of the Noodles & Co coupons for 2 free bowls was:

The Parsons Family!

I'll be mailing your coupons this week.

(comments closed)

Thursday, March 3, 2011

200 Hikes Day 9 I Return To Identify The Pricker Culprit & Day 10 Tanktop Hike In March

The first free day I had, after the annoying pricker in my bottom incident, I returned to the trail to identify the culprit. I believe it's some form of Prickly Pear Cactus. Rumor has it, they make good jam. I'm sure I'd feel much satisfaction putting that puppy into a Cuisinart and hitting pulse for like 5 minutes. I've also learned they have those nasty pokey spines because they are full of water and that's how they protect themselves from being eaten. But once again, I have Wusthof knives and a Cuisinart. Bwahaha. 
No cacti were harmed in the writing of this post. 

One of the downfalls of warm weather in February or March is that it typically comes with strong winds. For some reason when I hit the trail, it was a sweet spot in the afternoon and the sun was intensely shining, the wind dramatically decreased. I had to hike in my tank top because I was sweating on the trail in my long sleeve t-shirt. For some odd reason I felt compelled to trail run the way back down halfway through my hike. It was delightful, I hadn't run in quite sometime. 
I like running, I miss it. 
Running on the trail is even sweeter. 

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Why I Adore Noodles & Company: Fast, Fresh, & Healthy! Bonus, 2 Noodle Bowls To Giveaway!

Noodles and Company was founded in Boulder back in 1995, but opened it's first location in Cherry Creek, Denver. Shortly after with such success in Cherry Creek, they opened in Boulder. J and I quickly became fans because we were vegetarians at the time and didn't have to worry about fish or chicken stock sneaking into our meal. Did you know we were very strict vegetarians for over 10 years? Oh, the good old days.

Fast forward to fifteen years later and we still adore Noodles & Company (the company came from the addition of soups, salads, and sandwiches to the menu). Noodles has turned into our go-to for a quick and healthy meal on a week night, when the last thing I want to do is cook and everyone is starving. Lucky for me, there's a location within 5 miles from my house and it's always the girls top pick when I ask them where they'd like to eat.

My favorite things about Noodles & Company:

  • Each meal is made fresh, to our liking. The girls always request adding broccoli to the macaroni and cheese. Fast food, brimming with fresh vegetables, hello my dream come true! 
  • It's fast, if I'm doing take out, I'll phone in and it's ready by the time I get there. If I order at the counter, it's never much of a wait. 
  • We don't all have to be in the mood for one kind of food, one child wants Thai, the other American, I go for Italian. We all get what we want. 
  • Options, adding on lean protein is simple. Having a perfect sized side salad is awesome. I'm typically order the Trio which is a small noodle dish, soup/salad, and a protein! I love to pick and choose whatever I'm in the mood for. 
  • I order a large macaroni and cheese and it's more than plenty for both of the girls, a great way to save money!
  • No tipping! If you eat there you order at the counter, they drop off your meal, and even bus your table. 
  • When I say healthy I mean it, food allergies, no problem they've always had a handy list of ingredients and what dishes to avoid if you have a food allergy or dietary restrictions. Nutrition guide here
  • 400 Calorie cheat sheet! If I've had a long hike that day, I don't necessarily want to ruin the great workout I had with overeating. Noodles has developed a cheat sheet, so you can enjoy a meal with out the guilt. I'm always left feeling satisfied. 
  • I love their organic iced tea! 
  • We usually pick up a fresh baked dessert to split after our meal. My favorite is the Snickerdoodle cookie, but the girls always request the rice crispy treat! Yum. 
The one thing missing for me at Noodles and Company:
  • Curbside pickup. Gosh, would I love that! It's not so much a big deal now that GL is 4, but when she was a baby, oh I couldn't count how many times I wished for curbside pickup!
(photos by me, look at that fresh cilantro, YUM!)

Lucky for you, I have 2 Free Noodle Bowls to giveaway! How to enter:

Leave a comment on this post telling me which 400 calorie or less meal you'd love to try, just click on this link:

Giveaway Rules:
  1. One entry per person.
  2. Comment must answer the question or it will be deleted.
  3. Contest ends, Friday March 4th 9pm, MST. I will close comments, when contest ends.
  4. I will draw a number from eligible comments, via
  5. Please leave a contact email in your comment if you do as anonymous, so I can reach you!
  6. I will mail out the coupons personally, so you have 24 hours to respond to my email with your address if you are the lucky winner. 
  7. Open to US residents only. 
Noodles and Company is located in 18 states now, so click here to find out if there is one near you. 

Disclosure, Noodles & Company have provided the free bowl coupons for this giveaway. They also provided a coupon for my family of four to enjoy dinner. All information provided was my own opinion and was not "suggested" to me by Noodles and Company. We've patronized Noodles and Company for 15 years and I was more than delighted to do this giveaway. 


Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Tuesday Tips: How To Create A Circle Chalkboard Wall Feature With Paint!

I had a huge empty wall that simply had a wire with clips to rotate out a display of the girls' artwork, postcards, or anything we were finding visually pleasing. I felt like it needed something, so I decided to create a chalkboard feature on the wall using chalkboard paint. Of course I didn't just want to make a simple rectangle, I wanted a circle. I set out to find a resource online of how to make a 6 foot circle with chalkboard paint on my wall, but came up empty handed.

Basically I just had to go for it. There was no way to make a huge stencil for the circle. I decided I was going to paint it by hand, and if I wasn't happy with how the outer edge turned out at that point I could turn it into a rectangle. Tips and tricks after the photos!

Here are the visuals of my process:

Tips and Tricks:

  • During the pencil drawing stage, double check the placement of your circle and make sure you are happy with it. I actually erased mine so it would be centered better in between the wire clips. It's much easier to erase pencil than to repaint  a wall. 
  • Have a wet rag ready to go once you start painting the outer edge by hand. Sometimes the paint globs up and it's very easy to correct while the paint is fresh and wet. 
  • Purchase a special high density foam roller, I had no problems with it covering or creating a smooth, even surface. 
  • I did not paint a second coat on my edge that I painted by hand, I just applied the paint thick at that point. 
  • Follow manufacturer's directions on the paint can for drying times in between coats and how long it takes for the paint to actually cure before you can use it. You need to cover the entire circle with chalk and wipe with a dry rag before actually drawing. 
  • This paint was purchased at a big box hardware store, in black. They do make a version you can have colored with about 12 color options. 
  • I painted this 6 foot circle in one night after my girls went to bed, both coats. 

Enjoy! Questions, please feel free to ask.