Category Archives: Life

Here comes the sun

After Tuesday’s doom and gloom post, I’m back with some great news. We’re still waiting on all the test results to come back, but the doctor was very optimistic about the tests that have come back, and it seems like Tuesday’s health scare was just that – very scary, but nothing to worry about.

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That coupled with the fact that I was able to get several work projects out the door and off my plate, plus knowing that my boss was boarding a red-eye flight to Hawaii last night made yesterday a pretty great day for me.

Hubby and I celebrated the good news by starting to plant vegetables in our garden boxes.

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Rosemary in the back, plus 6 different hot pepper plants. Hubby can’t get enough hot peppers.

Because there’s no better way to celebrate good health than by planting new life.

(Sorry. Sometimes my repressed inner hippie likes to come out.)

We also celebrated by opening a bottle of very nice wine my grandfather gave us when we got engaged. For almost four years now we’ve been saving it “for a special occasion”. But then we realized, life is short, drink the good wine. We spent Wednesday night cooking dinner, dancing around to Jimmy Buffett, and drinking an $80 bottle of French wine in our gym clothes. It was absolutely perfect, and while not exactly the “special occasion” we’d been envisioning, it felt pretty damn special to us.

 

Currently. April 16, 2016

This morning, when all weather reports indicate we’ll be snowed-in for the day, I’m poking my head out from under my mountain of work to catch up on the blogs I’ve missed over the past few months. Inspiration for this post comes from the Currently series I recently saw on Iowa Girl Eats.

Time and place: 7:36am, Saturday morning, in bed with a cup of coffee, watching the snow fall through my bedroom window. Since January 11th, I have spent precisely 16 nights in my own bed. Traveling for work is fun and exciting, at first, but it gets old in a hurry. I absolutely cherish mornings like these, when I can relax in my own space.

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Experiencing: the beginnings of hunger pains. I am ready for breakfast (and coffee) the second I open my eyes in the morning. It doesn’t help that breakfast is my favorite meal of the day or that my husband hates when I disturb him before 8am on weekends. I don’t blame him, but when do we get to eat?!

Craving: aside from this breakfast, a vacation. I have been working and traveling what feels like non-stop since mid-January, and I’m finally beginning to see the light at the end of the tunnel. My to-do list is now simply overwhelming, rather than absolutely paralyzing. My husband says I say this every year, but this has been the worst busy season yet. My firm fired a manager, and another one quit, leaving the rest of us to pick up the slack. Thank the heavens above that I’m getting paid hourly. I know all this work I’m doing is good for our family (we funded my retirement account for the entire year after only 3 months of work), but at some point, enough is enough, ya know?

Awaiting: my first shipment from Trunk Club. After reading a review on one of my favorite blogs, I decided to give Trunk Club a try. At face value, it’s just another personalized shopping service (which seem to be a dime-a-dozen these days), but it’s different in that it’s not a subscription service, i.e. you request clothes (“trunks) only when you want. I also spoke to my stylist directly over the phone, which I liked. I hate shopping in person, but frequently feel overwhelmed and indecisive when shopping online. I was able to preview my trunk before it shipped, and it looks like my stylist made good selections, so I have high hopes.

Reading: Natural Born Heroes by Christopher McDougall. I read Born to Run by the same author last year, and it inspired me to sign up for my first half-marathon. I’m only a few chapters in to Natural Born Heroes, but already I love it. It’s vaguely centered around the heroic Crete resistance forces during World War II, but also ties in other stories of unlikely heroes. It’s inspiring and helps me focus on the big picture.

I leave tomorrow for Pittsburg (weather permitting), followed by two weeks in Washington, D.C, followed by a week in Chicago. I’m not out of the woods yet by any means, but I do see the light at the end of the tunnel.

Currently

I saw this series on a food blog I love, Iowa Girl Eats, and thought this would be a fun prompt for a Friday when my brain is mostly mush.

Time and place. 6:16AM, curled up with a blanket and coffee on our new living room chair, waiting for the sun to rise.

[EDIT: as I was typing this, my husband (who usually does not wake up until 7AM or later), stumbled out of the bedroom and demanded that I cuddle him on the couch. So now I’m sitting on the couch in our living room, scratching his back with one hand while I try to type the rest of this post with my other. Is this what it’s like to have children?!]

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Barcelona (photo source)

Reading. Spain guidebooks. Although we originally planned to visit Spain and Portugal this fall, I finally looked at a map and realized that Spain is a freaking big country. In order to spend more time in each destination, we’re focusing just on Spain and will save Portugal for another trip (although I am trying to sneak in a few days in Paris at the beginning of the trip).

Cooking. At the moment, nothing. Usually, I cook eggs and some sort of leafy green for breakfast, but recently I’ve been turning to smoothies instead. We are having homemade pizza for dinner, though, which reminds me – I need to take the dough out of the freezer to defrost.

Awaiting. News of the winter storm that’s supposed to hit the East Coast this weekend. I originally planned to fly to Washington, DC for work on Sunday, but at the “strong recommendation” of the airline, I moved my flight to Monday. Here’s hoping they have everything sorted out by then and I can make it across the country without being stranded in any airports.

Experiencing. Warmth! After learning (the hard way – i.e. sky-high electric bills) that our house (built in the 60s) had minimal (as in, 1 – 3 inches, we’re supposed to have 18) insulation in the attic, we bit the bullet and paid over $2,000 to have the proper amount installed. That’s a lot of money, but I can already see a huge difference in the way our house holds temperature, and I know it’ll pay off in the long run. Owning a house is expensive, y’all.

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Isn’t he the cutest? (photo source)

Listening. To a “Hive Management” seminar from our local garden and agricultural club. That’s right, folks, we’re getting bees in our backyard this spring! Even though we’re in a neighborhood, our county has very relaxed rules on which animals you can raise in your backyard. We eventually plan to add ducks and maybe even a goat, but bees are the first step. In addition to feeling good about helping offset the declining bee population, we are thrilled to have fresh honey at our fingertips.

Craving. May. My work schedule is extremely hectic from February – April, and normal to slow the rest of the year. I’ll be traveling for work every week from now until the end of April, flying out on Sunday and back on Friday, with only 1 full day at home. Since I’m an independent contractor paid hourly, I make the bulk of my salary during the next few months, but that doesn’t make it much easier come March when I’ve seen too many airports to count and just want to sleep in my own bed.

Hating. The state of American politics. I’m just going to leave that there.

Loving. Agriturismo Cretaiole. As soon as we returned from our honeymoon, I informed Adam that, for our 5th anniversary, we would be renewing our vows in Italy. Since we’re about to celebrate our 2nd anniversary, obviously the time has come to make concrete plans (kidding). I recently stumbled upon this magnificent agriturismo in the middle of two of the most famous Tuscan wine regions, and it looks like a dream come true.

Anticipating. My next cup of coffee! (And maybe some leftover fried rice for breakfast, because there’s nothing better than cold leftovers in the morning, am I right?)

Hello, it’s me

Since I deleted the Facebook app from my phone as part of my goals for 2016, I’ve become so out of touch with popular culture. We don’t have cable (nor do we miss it), so I’m pretty oblivious as far as celebrities are concerned. But every once in a while, my husband, who is much cooler than I am, shows me an internet video that makes me smile.

I’m no Adele superfan, but I do enjoy her music and think she has an amazing voice. On top of that, she seems to actually be a nice person. (How rare.) If you haven’t seen her Carpool Karaoke with The Late Late Show host James Corden, I seriously recommend you take 15 minutes out of your day to watch. It. is. HILARIOUS. If you do nothing else, skip to minute 10:15. You won’t regret it.

Yesterday, (Saturday) I received 7 work emails from my boss. After working long hours every day last week, I needed one day to recharge, so I ignored his emails, and Adam and I, rather than being responsible adults and doing things like laundry or dishes, went downtown and accidentally got drunk at 5pm. I can take down a bottle of wine with the best of them, but give me a whiskey cocktail (ok, two), and I’m done for. The advantage of afternoon drinking is that I was in bed by 9 and awake by 6, without any traces of a hangover. That’s a victory in my book.

Saturday was my “play day” and today will be strictly business. I have a mountain of laundry to tackle, a suitcase to unpack, and a house to clean. I’d also like to get a jump-start on food prep for the upcoming week.

Lately, I’ve been really trying to convert some of our favorite dishes to vegan. I’m not a strict vegetarian, but I do feel better when I eat a mostly plant-based diet, and truly don’t miss the meat all that often. When I feel like having a steak or some chicken wings, I go for it, but I also actually like vegetarian protein staples like tofu, beans, lentils, etc.. Although Adam protests whenever I use the term, if I don’t tell him something is vegan, he dives right in. Basically, what he doesn’t know won’t hurt him.

A few weeks ago, I made a huge pot of Red Lentil Soup with Lemon and froze it in batches for easy reheat meals when there’s nothing in the fridge or I don’t feel like cooking. I tweaked it slightly (adding smoked paprika and cayenne for some spice, decreasing the amount of lemon, and throwing in kale that needed to be used up), and Adam hasn’t stopped raving about it since.

Other vegan successes have included cashew cream sauce (which freezes well) served over regular (vegan) pasta noodles for Adam and sweet potato noodles (à la this recipe) for me, and vegan parmesan cheese (which I told Adam was a “cashew topping” and he devoured).

Up on the vegan menu this week is more soup (can’t stop, won’t stop) and Coconut Curried Kale and Sweet Potato. This will be my last week at home before I start traveling for work again, and I want to take advantage of being able to cook my own meals as much as possible. If you have any favorite soup recipes, please send them my way! I can’t seem to get enough.

 

Insanity or perseverance?

Last January, within weeks of moving into our new Denver apartment, my husband signed me up for skiing lessons. I’d been once or twice on the East Coast, but Colorado skiing is not East Coast skiing, and I was grateful for the instruction. My husband has been skiing out West all his life and is comfortable on any mountain, but we both agreed that me getting lessons from someone else would be the best way to preserve our marriage.

On my first lesson, I progressed quickly and the instructor recommended that I was ready for intermediate lessons. A month later, I took intermediate lessons and “graduated” with flying colors. I was ready to move from the easiest green runs to more difficult, steeper blue routes.

And while I am not a fan of moguls (nor do I have any interest), I am now completely comfortable on all blue runs, and even some of the difficult blacks. All this progression in just one season, about 15 total days of skiing. This is not to say that I’m headed to the Olympics any time soon (ever), but to illustrate that learning to ski, that getting better at skiing, was neither particularly difficult or time consuming for me.

Skiing is a progression of cause and effect – do this, and you will turn; do this and you will stop; do this and you will speed up. While skiing, I’ve taken a few tumbles, but nothing serious. If it weren’t for the actual ski equipment, skiing would be downright enjoyable. Ski boots are tight and uncomfortable and cause my feet to go numb. Skis are heavy and cumbersome and difficult to transport. Ski poles are just annoying to have to carry.

So when my husband suggested that we learn to snowboard, I thought it would be perfect. Compared to ski boots, snowboarding boots are a dream. Comfortable, easy to walk in, cushioned; like a slightly-tighter pair of your favorite Uggs. Snowboards are light as a feather and a joy to carry around. In theory, it’s a wonderful sport.

But I’ll be damned if I can figure it out.

My husband and I signed up for three snowboard lessons in early December. The first two days were terrible. Awful. No good and very bad. I cried after each lesson because it just. wasn’t. clicking. Each time I fell (which was about every five seconds) I swore I had just given myself a concussion. Despite hearing from everyone (instructors, friends, the internet, chair lift operators) that the first two days are hell, I convinced myself that I was never going to learn, that I was an utter failure, etc. (I tend to be melodramatic like that.)

It doesn’t help that I have very little patience for learning new things and I arrogantly and stubbornly dislike doing this at which I am not inherently and immediately successful.

The third lesson was better. I made it down the beginner “mountain” (really, more of a hill) without falling and ended the lesson without crying. I was no expert, but I thought maybe – MAYBE – I could unlock the secrets of this mysterious sport.

We just got back from a week-long trip to Steamboat Springs, a small ski town about 3 hours northwest of Denver. Since one of my goals for 2016 is to stick with snowboarding, I diligently put aside my skis for several days and resolved to work on my snowboarding.

Day one of snowboarding, I fell so hard that I thought I shattered my tailbone. I checked with my mother (who’s a nurse), and since I exhibited none of the scary symptoms (lower-leg numbness, inability to put weight on either of my legs, pain shooting down to my feet), we concluded that it was just bruised. Yay! No emergency room trip required.

After a few days of skiing, I determined that I was sufficiently recovered to snowboard again. The morning went well. I worked on my toe-turns, fell but didn’t die, and generally managed to swallow my terror and made it down the mountain without falling off a cliff.

That afternoon, I sprained my ankle, leaving me sidelined for the rest of the trip.

WHAT IS THIS DEVIL SPORT AND WHY DO PEOPLE ENJOY IT?!

Is it too early for me to break a resolution? At what point do I throw in the towel? Should I keep trying and risk breaking a limb, or do I call myself a quitter and preserve my general well-being?

Is continuing to snowboard insanity or perseverance?

 

2016 Goals

I have never been much of a New Year’s Resolution person. In general, I feel that I’m leading a pretty decent life, and that any vices I have at this point are vices I have by choice. That’s not to say that I’m perfect, or that there’s not room for improvement – there is. Plenty. But, mostly, I’m too lazy to do anything about it.

My husband, however, is the opposite. Each year, he sets goals. And what’s more, he tracks them throughout the year and crosses them off as they’re accomplished. Basically, he gets shit done. In the past, I’ve managed to avoid being drawn into his over-achieving plans for self-betterment, or I’ve been able to slide by setting “goals” that I knew I could get done, or that wouldn’t require much effort.

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This year, though, my husband’s inner Richard Simmons has emerged in full force and I’ve been tasked with setting no fewer that 5 goals that will “actually challenge me”. Keep in mind that, in the words of the Goal Nazi himself, they must be SMART goals (Specific, Meaningful, Action Oriented, Realistic, Timely), which is something we were taught in business school but that I promptly dismissed as irrelevant marketing jargon. I tried to wiggle my way out of actual goal setting by listing “be a better person”. That didn’t fly.

In return for his unbearable enthusiasm and encouragement, my husband has resolved to cut his sugar intake from 2+ sweets a day to 1 a month, and to increase his water intake from about 16 ounces a day to the recommended 100.

Although I’m not big on goal setting, I am quite the fan of making lists, so this whole thing might not be so bad after all.

In order of personal importance, here are my goals for the upcoming year:

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Photo from the 2015 Bridge of the Gods race. (Source)

  • Delete Facebook app from phone (and keep it deleted). This basically translates to: do something more valuable with my time than creep on other people. Although my dear friends and family are on Facebook, my account is also full of people I haven’t spoken to or seen in years. I’ll keep my account active, but I don’t need the temptation of pulling up the app every time I’m waiting in line or am “bored”.
  • Stick with snowboarding & get more comfortable going fast. Learning how to snowboard is easily the most frustrating/difficult thing I’ve done in my adult life. I am not patient, and I don’t like failing. Which is silly, I know, especially because virtually no one is good at snowboarding the first time. Or the second. Or the third. It takes practice (ugh, imagine that) and time. We’ve had 3 lessons and I can see dramatic improvement, but hot damn I just want to be good already.
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Shit snowboarders say. (Source)

  • No cell phone use after 9pm or in bed. Like most people these days, my cell phone is the last thing I put down at night and the first thing I reach for in the morning. It’s my primary source of news, entertainment, and connection to the outside world. For years, I’ve seen articles popping up that tout the dangers of cell phone use before bed. And for years, I’ve ignored them, reasoning that I don’t have problems falling asleep. But now, I’m realizing that getting good sleep is not the same as falling asleep quickly. The older I get, the more sleep I seem to need, and putting down my phone and actually reading a book at night seems like a win all around.
  • Learn Spanish in preparation for our Fall 2016 Europe trip. After much deliberation, and an afternoon on Google Flights, Adam and I decided that our 2016 trip will be to France and Spain (flying into Paris and out of Madrid). We contemplated buying Rosetta Stone for French, but then my mom told us about Duolingo, which is free. Since free is hard to beat, we gave it a shot and are totally sold. Adam learned French as a child and I studied Spanish in high school, so we agreed that he’d learn French and I’d brush up on Spanish. Duolingo isn’t perfect (some of the sentences are wacky, and occasionally you repeat exercises), but again it’s free and I think it’s actually a lot of fun. I downloaded the app to my phone which is really going to tax my above resolution regarding cell phone use at night.

Other minor goals include:

  • Take a yoga class at least 2 times a month. Because sometimes I need to slow down and breathe. Also, I need to work on my flexibility.
  • Eat a fully vegan meal dinner at least once a week (as a family). Adam was not thrilled when I announced this goal, but little does he know that some of his favorite meals – stir fries, Indian lentil stew – are already vegan or easily adaptable. Now that I have a killer cashew “cream” sauce in my wheelhouse, I’m pretty confident that this won’t be a significant challenge.
  • Simplify weeknight meals – prep more on weekends and utilize the freezer. Truthfully, I love to cook. Even after a long day, cooking is my stress relief. I have no problem spending an hour each night making dinner, but sometimes that just isn’t feasible. Because of sports and my dad’s work schedule, I grew up eating dinner at 7:30 or later, so it’s not an issue for me to come home from the gym, spend an hour cooking, and sit down to dinner at 8:30. But my poor husband doesn’t enjoy that as much. This year, I’m going to work on building my repertoire of 30-minute meals and prepping ingredients ahead of time.
  • Reduce food waste and find new ways to use leftovers. Did you know that the average American household throws away $2,000 of food a year? That equates to 35 million tons of wasted food in our country. Y’all. That. Is. DISGUSTING. Just yesterday, I thew away 4 perfectly good acorn squash because I had ignored them in the pantry for too long. Time to stop. It’s a waste of money and it’s a slap in the face to the 795 million people around the world who don’t get enough to eat. This year, I resolve to do better.
  • Get back on Weight Watchers and lose 5 pounds. With Thanksgiving and the Christmas holidays, suffice it to say I have not been tracking my food or alcohol properly (pretty sure I would have broken the app with all the cheese and wine I consumed). Starting tomorrow, I’m getting back on track. (Tonight, though, I’m making queso dip.)

Hrm, that was longer than I expected. I told you I had plenty of room for self-improvement! What about you – do you make New Years resolutions?

 

 

 

 

Things I’ve been doing other than blogging

  1. Traveling for fun. We took our family trip to Germany and Belgium back in October (over 2 months ago – how crazy is that!) and I promise I will get around to blogging about that soon. Traveling with my parents was different, in a good way, as our budget was rather higher than what Adam and I usually have when we travel on our own. I discovered that Germany wasn’t my favorite country, and that I never care to go back to Brussels. But Bruges – that my friends is a magical city. I’m already planning our next trip; I’m thinking either Spain/Portugal or back to Italy (the country of my soul).

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    In summary, we did a lot of this.

  2. Traveling for work. In addition to my normal trips to DC, my company picked up a new client in Las Vegas, and I was there for two weeks – which, as you can imagine, is a looooong time to spend in Vegas. It’s hard for me to complain though, as the flight to Vegas is less than half of my flight time to DC, and Las Vegas restaurants are exponentially more enjoyable when someone else is picking up the tab. While we didn’t eat on the Strip every night, we did get to try several highly rated restaurants in different casinos, which is an experience in and of itself. One night my boss came to town and took us to Emeril’s Delmonico restaurant which was over-the-top delicious (with a price tag to match – not something I could ever afford on my own dime!) and served me the absolute best ahi tuna I have ever had in my entire life. I’m still dreaming about that meal.

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    I also got to drunkenly spend time with this stud, who is an exact replica of the original David, even down to the marble used. #onlyinvegas

  3. Hiked my first (and possibly last) 14’er. In Colorado, hiking a 14’er is a rite of passage. These routes are so named because they climb to an elevation of at least 14,000 feet. The “easy” 14’ers take about 5 hours round trip and are only 5 miles in distance. They go up in difficulty from there, with some covering 10 miles and requiring an 8+ hour time commitment. Because, in the words of my husband, “hiking is just walking, but for longer” (wrong – nothing is ever “just” at 14,000 feet altitude), we were over-ambitious and chose Mt. Bierstadt as our first mountain (ranked 38 out of 53 in terms of difficulty), rather than the much friendlier Torrey’s Peak (ranked only 9 out of 53). As we quickly learned, a 6-mile, 2,000 ft. elevation gain is nothing to laugh at, and 1/2 way into the ascent, neither of us were remotely pleased with life. But we stuck it out, were rewarded with Clif bars, buffalo jerky, and excellent views at the top, and I can cross it off my bucket list.

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    Reached the top! Finally smiling.

  4. Hosted my first Thanksgiving. Although I’ve done Thanksgiving cooking for Adam and I for the past 4 years, it’s always been only the two of us, so the quantity of food isn’t that different and the pressure was never very high. Usually, we just grill Cornish game hens rather than doing a full turkey. This year, though, my parents came up from Florida, and even though they have to love me no matter what, the stakes were raised a bit. Fortunately, the turkey turned out wonderfully – even I thought so, and I’m not a turkey fan. I dry-brined and spatchcocked it for more even cooking. Served along with traditional Thanksgiving sides, it was a wonderful meal, and of course it meant so much that my parents made the journey out. My mom spent most of her time cleaning, reorganizing, and helping me complete house projects I’d been meaning to get around to, but we also took some time to play in the snow, grab Starbucks peppermint mochas, shop, and pick out a Christmas tree. It was a pretty perfect week of vacation.

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    My mom is loving this. My dad is wearing long underwear, two sweaters, a scarf, a hat, gloves (with hand-warmers), extra-thick socks, and is tolerating this.

  5. Waking up earlier to enjoy morning coffee and sunrises in a quiet house. I used to be a huge morning person – even in college I was up before the sun (and everyone else) 98% of the time. I was that weirdo who purposely scheduled 8AM classes – and liked it. But since I started working from home, I slipped into a bad habit of sleeping until my husband’s alarm clock went off at 7:15. I make him breakfast every morning, and he needs to be out of the house by 7:45 to make his daily 8AM meeting. Waking up that late kept stressing me out, and even though getting out of a warm bed while it’s still cold and dark isn’t easy, I’m so much happier overall. My alarm goes off at 5:45AM and I have time to make coffee, do some dishes, catch up on emails, and watch the sun rise. It’s the perfect routine for me and I’m glad to have rediscovered my inner morning person!

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    Trees on fire

  6. Trying to compose a Christmas list like a gosh-darn adult. Here’s what I should be putting on my Christmas wish list: a new faucet for the kitchen, snow tires (as we just got another foot of snow here in Denver and we’re on track to have one of the snowiest winters in recent memory), furniture (right now our TV is propped up on a chair from the kitchen table and we have a spare mattress doing stand-in duty as a couch in the basement), Home Depot gift cards, money to pay someone to put insulation in our 50+ year-old home (see the part about the snow), a snowblower, and so so many other things we need for our first home. What I want to put on my Christmas wish list is a little different: a jewelry subscription from Erin McDermott (you know, because I toooootally get dressed and wear jewelry when I work from home #not), overpriced gym clothes (but they’re SO CUTE – send help), money to put towards our next Europe trip, cozy sweaters, and a gift card to our favorite pizzeria in Denver, plus a bajillion other superficial things that I just don’t need, dammit. Adulting is overrated.
  7. Ordered new blinds. The front of our house has two large sets of windows – my husband pulled one set of blinds down within 2 weeks of us moving into the house, and a foster dog shredded the other set when we left her alone in the house for too long and she escaped from her crate. They were the cheap, plastic variety, so I don’t mind replacing them, but talk about the least fun thing to spend money on in the history of ever. I suppose it’s a small price to pay to spare our 80-year-old neighbors the shock of seeing us walk around less than fully clothed.h5qsgltx6rzmzr9y8xvrwc1dcuspc2itfdldryckbpaizqd4mvgbj-dvjwqhs3gtwbaaemf1bi-q_5-2po_td3zdfnch_6sxda68ttvhzh-tc_gy5x49c3rrva1

And that’s about it! I was trying to get to 10, but I simply haven’t done enough fun/cool/blog-worthy things. We leave for Florida next week to spend Christmas with my family, which will be a weather change from this snowy tundra, to say the least. Denver is predicted to have a white Christmas while Florida is….predicted to be 85 and sunny. I never thought in a million years that I’d be saying this, but after spending the past week bundled up like an eskimo and shoveling snow from our driveway, sidewalk, and walkway, I might not might a bit of warm weather.