Sunday Hikes at Clear Creek Trail

Happy Monday, friends! Our weekend was filled with lots of house stuff (we haven’t been home together in four weekends … it’s amazing how things pile up), tons of Lotte time and a bit of finalizing stuff for our basement, which should, hopefully, be done by the time my sister and stepdad arrive on Tuesday – finally.

Amidst the mayhem, though, we managed to fit in a little hike at Clear Creek Trail near Golden. The Arvada hike entrance is only about 10 minutes from our home, and the loop that we took was totally flat and only about 2.5 miles roundtrip. (Although apparently this trail loops through many different towns and is more than 20 miles, all told.)

It was a really fun little trail to do on a Sunday afternoon, perfect for families. We passed tons of gorgeous lakes, two parks and a lot of picnic areas. Although we did see THREE snakes! If you’re not a snake person — which I am NOT — I might recommend sticking to the paved path above the river.

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^^ I told Chris that this meant the trail we were on was closed and that we needed to go up to the paved part (you could pick between the rocky area near the river, where we were, and a paved path that you would share with cyclers), but he swore it was for the area below.

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^^ As it turned out, I was right. Naturally 😉

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^^ This girl loves a good hike, all snuggled up against dad.

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I hope you guys all had a wonderful weekend. Bis bald!

Life Recently: The Gratitude Edition

Welcome to Friday, friends. My sister and stepdad will be coming into town for a few days next week because, unbelievably, it is already the anniversary of my Mom’s death. One whole year has absolutely flown by, and I can’t believe it. As I prepare myself for that day, I can’t help but realize how many amazing things I have in my life, in stark contrast to the sadness that thinking of this dreaded anniversary brings.

To honor my Mom — and to help cheer things up a bit, at least for the time being — I thought I’d dedicate this Life Recently post to being grateful for all the amazing things I have. There’s a lot I’m thankful for, friends, so sometimes it helps to take a second to remember that …

So without further adieu, I’m grateful for …

01Steph_Robert
^^ A sister and stepdad who love my daughter (and me, I guess ;)) unconditionally, and who basically will drop everything and fly out to Colorado because that’s where I think we need to be together on the anniversary of my Mom’s passing.

02Chris_Lotte
^^ These two together, all day, every day.

03LotteFlight
^^ All the trips we’ve been able to make with Lotte so far … may the ease of travel always remain the same!

04LotteHair
^^ Lotte’s hair in this picture!

05LisaLadybug
^^ This adorable decorative ladybug, gifted to me (and my sister and stepdad) by my best friend, who knows how ladybugs have come to symbolize my Mom and her continued presence in our lives.

06ColoradoSky
^^ The Colorado sky.

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^^ Speaking of signs, my Mom has been giving me plenty in these days leading up to my birthday and the anniversary of her passing. The biggest, I think, when when I accidentally clicked on the “credit” folder in my Gmail instead of the “coupons” one, and an email between myself and my Mom — a lovely one, too — showed up at the top. There was no reason for an email from my Mom to have been archived in “credit”, and clicking on it was completely accidental. It was just what I needed on the Friday heading into my birthday weekend. Later in the week the above ad showed up in my Instagram feed. The bottom left elephant journal was something my Mom was able to purchase for Lotte before she died, and I so treasure filling it out for Lotte now. Signs are not something I necessarily thought much about before, but I do have to say, they are everywhere.

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^^ This hat and baby sunglasses, which were both gifts and which Lotte hates, but which I continue to put her in because come on how adorable?!

08BackyardTree
^^ This insanely gorgeous tree in our backyard. This is the first April we’ve been here, so we had never seen it in bloom before. It truly is magnificent.

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^^ All the other glorious trees Lotte and I come across on our daily walks.

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^^ And all their glorious details.

11PrarieDogs
^^ The prairie dogs at Standley Lake, which simply do not care about humans and will not run away from you!

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^^ And Standley Lake views, of course.

13HyggeLamp
^^ This hygge lamp, which I became obsessed with after reading “The Little Book of Hygge.” Chris bought it for me as a birthday present and installed it in our hallway. I love it … and him, of course.

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^^ A husband who continues to make the most fabulous, personalized birthday wrapping paper for me each and every year. This was only one version of this years’ …the other featured Lotte prominently, of course.

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^^ The beautiful birthday hike we went on to Gem Lake in Estes Park last weekend.

16OldFriends
^^ Old friends and new. After we got home from Estes Park last weekend we had a little barbecue back at our place with two other couples — all four of whom had gone to college with Chris — and their kids. I love Lotte’s cheeky face in this picture, as well as how many pictures we actually had to take to get one decent one.

17BackyardBunnies
^^ Squint really hard and look at the top right of our deck. Can you see the two baby bunnies?! A couple months back Chris and I were pretty sure the main bunny in our yard had picked up a Mrs., and she appeared to be with child, as well. Now we know we were right! (Also repurposing the indoor/outdoor rug from our NYC apartment to use on our back deck … that makes me happy, too ;))

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^^ This awesome tree wallpaper in our basement bathroom — I love the way it looks!

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^^ Friends who buy Lotte the cutest clothes and hats!

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^^ All these goodies, which make it much easier for me to work. (Of course checking on Lotte frequently while she’s “napping” — which she clearly isn’t doing here! — is just good for my soul .. not necessarily my work.)

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^^ And lastly, this little girl, all by her lonesome, day in and day out. I could never have imagined what it would be like to be a mother, but it’s something special. She’s my heart and soul, that’s for sure … even when she’s screaming her head off 😉

Bis bald, friends. I hope you all have a lovely weekend.

Estes Park, Colorado — The Place Where Birthday Dreams Come True

I will provide you with fair warning my friends — I’m about to overload you with baby and beautiful scenery photos. If that happens to be the kind of thing you enjoy (ahem, who doesn’t?!), then please keep reading.

As I mentioned yesterday, this past weekend was my birthday, and Chris planned a weekend getaway to Estes Park for our little fam. We stayed at this Airbnb, which was two blocks from the Lake Estes walking path, about a four-minute drive from our hike at Gem Lake on Saturday and an easy walk into town, too. There was a cute little kitchenette which was perfect for our beer-stocking, baby food-making needs, and they had games and puzzles and the perfect Wi-Fi password. (It had something to do with going outside, but Chris says I shouldn’t give the actual password … fair enough.)

We had take-out from Thai Kitchen  on Friday night (delish), made a lunch to bring with us on our hike Saturday and had Mexican for dinner Saturday night at Ed’s Cantina & Grill.  The food was fantastic, and the town — which we walked through on Saturday evening after our hike — was really cute, but really what you come to Estes Park for are the awe-inspiring views. We had planned to do two hikes on Saturday, but the Gem Lake trail ended up taking us about four hours total, because we took the long way back and it had snowed the day before, so it was a bit icy in patches, which meant we went super slow with the little one in tow. Chris was carrying her in the Ergo, so I was really glad that he rented spikes for our shoes from Estes Park Mountain Shop, which we had never used before but which I thoroughly believe I’ll be using for every hike from here on out … they are so helpful!

Anyway, the Gem Lake hike was definitely difficult in parts (check out the All Trails info on it here), but it was absolutely worth it.

Here’s a bit from our weekend getaway ….

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^^ A bit blurry, but OMG I love this pic 😉

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^^ A fridge full of Michelob Ultra … that’s my kind of birthday celebration!

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^^ Lotte was very excited to help dad set out the puzzle pieces for a puzzle that we never actually did. Turns out when your 8-month-old goes to bed at 7 p.m. and you’re sharing the same room, there’s not much you can do but watch Parks & Rec repeats on your iPad in the dark, which, as anyone who knows me at all will know, was totally fine by me.

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^^ This is definitely a photo of some of my favorite things, but I actually took a picture of it because last year I was pregnant with Lotte and couldn’t have beer or soft cheeses. My how things change in 12 months.

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^^ Traveling with a baby is, as I’ve mentioned before, a lot of fun, but there is something to be said about having to be on baby’s schedule. It actually turned out that it was better we had to wait for Lotte to wake up from her morning nap before heading out, because it warmed up nicely before we hit the trail.

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^^ Chris is frequently annoyed with my trail mix eating habits, which include picking out all of the M&Ms and leaving pretty much everything else behind. This time he decided to hedge his bets and set up a make-your-own-trail-mix bar, that way I could put in as many M&Ms (and as few peanuts, yuck!) as I wanted!

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^^ Hiking shoe spikes! So dorky … and so worth it!

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^^ And so the trail begins! It was about 3.3 miles round-trip, but we took the Twin Owls loop back, which added an extra 1/2 mile or so.

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^^ These two 😉 My loves.

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^^ Rocky Mountain National Park usually costs $20 for a day pass to enter, but this trail technically takes you through sections of the park … for free!

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^^ We seriously could not get enough of these views!

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^^ The higher we got, the snowier it got. Thank goodness we had our hiking shoe spikes! That was $16 well spent.

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^^ Just before you hit Gem Lake you’re blessed with this gorgeous view. I would have been happy with just this alone, but then …

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^^ You get to the lake, and it’s simply spectacular.

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^^ These icicles are gorgeous, but I really love the blurry Chris & Lotte in the background.

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^^ We hiked around a bit and ate our sandwiches on the other side of the lake, then started to make our way down. I swear it had been a bit cloudy and chilly on our hike up, but as soon as we reached the lake the clouds cleared and the sun was shining. It was stunning.

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^^ This little muffin even fell asleep on the way back down – why not, all comfy, cozy snuggled on dad!?

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^^ Checking out the Twin Owls View Trail on the way back was definitely worth the extra .5 miles!

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After our hike we took a brief rest back at our Airbnb before heading out on the walk into town. The River Walk is super cute, and you pass by a bunch of fun shops and restaurants to browse.

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^^ This sign on our walk had me cracking up. I mean I guess aggressive elk isn’t something to laugh about, but it certainly seemed funny to me!

_DSC7606On Sunday — my actual birthday 😉 — we planned to get up and get breakfast in town, then check out the downtown area a bit more, but Lotte had other ideas. Namely, she was super grumpy and just wanted to go home, which was fair enough because we’ve kept her pretty busy over these past couple weeks. We did manage to stop by the Estes Park sign on our way out and snap a photo though:

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Thanks for an amazing time, Estes Park, and thank you for being so close to our home. We will definitely be back.

Bis bald, friends!

Birthday Celebrations in the Mountains

Hi friends,

Well we certainly got lucky with the weather this weekend. I turned 34 yesterday (Yikes? Or not? I haven’t really decided yet … ), and we spent the weekend in Estes Park to celebrate. Despite the fact that it’s only a little over an hour away, we had yet to really explore Estes Park and everything it has to offer, but now that we have I’m sure we’ll be back. The hikes are glorious, the town is adorable, and it’s right next to Rocky Mountain National Park, as well, so there’s no end to the number of outdoor things you can do. I’ll need a day or two to download my photos and write up a post, but I wanted to share the above pic we took yesterday on our way home. This was my first birthday as a mom, and my first birthday without my own mom. So many feelings. But having my own little family with me to celebrate was certainly lovely, and Chris did such a good job making me feel special. I’m very lucky, that I know.

Happy April, friends – I hope your spring started with some sunshine.

My First Solo Flight With the Little

 

Well friends, Lotte and I were meant to leave today for our little east coast adventure, but because of the snow they got I decided to change our flight to Friday to avoid any potential delays or other issues. The main reason I did that was because this is my first flight solo with my babe, and to be honest, I’m a little nervous! I just hope all goes well – and if anyone has any tips on traveling with littles (even though I’ve written my fair share of articles on the topic, I feel like you can never have enough advice!), please do feel free to share in the comments.

For now though, I’m allowing myself to bask in the extra two days of packing, which perhaps is a bad thing! (See below.) We have quite the itinerary for this trip — Lotte and I — including cousin Rory’s 4th birthday party in Pennsylvania, a trip to D.C. (Lotte’s first!) to visit Lisa, and a fundraiser for my mom next Saturday that my sister and I are hosting, among other things.

So I guess all of this is to say … pray it goes well for me, friends!

Bis bald!

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Welcome to the Winter of 2016

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Well friends – winter has arrived in Colorado. And this winter is special, since it’s Lotte’s first one. Of course at the first sign of flakes yesterday I grabbed my camera and my child, shoved her in a snowsuit that is still way too big for her, and rushed outside to snap some shots.

This holiday season will be filled with mixed feelings for me – my first baby’s first Thanksgiving and Christmas … my first Thanksgiving and Christmas without my mom. How do you even deal with those conflicting things?

For now, I’ll deal by spending as much time in the winter wonderland with Lotte as I can. Next week we’re off to New York (baby’s first flight!) to spend Thanksgiving with the family, and then only a couple weeks after that Chris’s parents and sisters, as well as my sister, brother-in-law and stepdad, will be heading out way to spend Christmas with us. I’m looking forward to hosting our first holidays in our brand new house.

Have a great weekend, everyone!

1lottefirstsnow^^ Snowflakes in front of my face … love it!

2lottefirstsnow^^ Oh you know, just sittin’ on a bench in the snow. No big deal 😉

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8lottefirstsnow^^ I’m sorry Chris didn’t make it home from work before it got dark (at like 4:30 p.m., mind you!), because we couldn’t take pictures with him in them. Something tells me we’ll have plenty more opportunity, though!

Touristing Around Tokyo: Billboards, Shrines and Dancing Robots

thumb__DSC3005_1024Hi friends,

So last Monday after the marathon was really the first day that we had a chance to actually tour a bit around Tokyo, and we really made the most of it. Our time in Tokyo would be ending on Wednesday, when we took a bullet train to Kyoto for the rest of the trip, so we really wanted to pack as much in on Monday and Tuesday as possible.

We decided to start the day at the Senso-ji shrine, but even just getting to the shrine proved to be difficult for us, since we kept getting districted by everything else we were passing along the way. Tokyo is a riot of colors, excitement and impeccably dressed men and women (oh my gosh these women are so well dressed!), and we really just couldn’t get enough …

thumb__DSC2912_1024^^^ We took the subway to the Akihabara area and got off to walk around a bit. This vicinity is famous for its electronic shops (They sell toilet seats! Oh the toilet seats … how have I not talked about these yet!? They are INSANE. As in insanely amazing. They’re heated. They close and open on their own. They flush on their own or you wave your hand in front of a sensor and it flushes. Some have ocean sounds that come on when you sit … I mean?! It’s like visiting a spa every time you pee!), and in recent years has become well-known for its collection of anime and manga paraphernalia, as well. It’s so funky and fun, totally worth a walk through.

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We also found ourselves meandering through the streets leading up to the Senso-ji temple, which was much more traditional Japan, as I had imagined it …

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thumb__DSC2967_1024^^^ This guy … too funny!

thumb__DSC2969_1024^^^ This was our first view coming up on the temple. You can just tell right away that it’s going to be pretty amazing, and the surrounding area — referred to as Nakamise-dori — has streets filled with shopping for anything your little heart might desire, from food and trinkets to clothing and so much more.

thumb__DSC2971_1024^^^ Senso-ji, in all her splendor.

thumb__DSC2976_1024^^^ Senso-ji is known to be Tokyo’s oldest temple, and its referred by to locals as the temple of the Asakusa Kannon. Even though the temple receives 30 million visitors every year, it is still an important center of worship. There’s a great history of the temple and surrounding area here.

thumb__DSC2978_1024thumb__DSC2982_1024thumb__DSC2989_1024^^^ 100 yen (placed in an honour box) will get you an omikuji, or a fortune written on a small piece of paper. If your fortune is bad, tradition would have you tie the paper on a nearby string so the wind can disperse the bad luck. Above is the incense burner, which you’ll find in the temple forecourt. People come here to fan the smoke from the incense over themselves, believing it to have healing powers.

thumb__DSC3009_1024thumb__DSC3015_1024^^^ The area immediately surrounding the temple includes manicured gardens, Buddhist and other statues to pray at, and some other, smaller temple structures. The whole area is so alluring and you’ll feel like you never want to leave.

Of course leave you must, if you want to take in the rest of Tokyo! So after spending a couple hours at the temple and wandering around the surrounding streets, we decided to head off to check out the Roppongi Hills area of Tokyo, with its Tokyo City View, Mori Art Museum and Mohri Garden. Unfortunately by the time we got there the weather had turned rainy and cloudy, so the Tokyo City View didn’t seem like such a smart idea, and the Mohri Garden — which I had been pretty excited about based on information I’d read in my guide book — turned out to be pretty lame, as well. (Maybe it’s better in the spring when everything is blooming? Probably, I assume.) There are a ton of shops in this area, though, and it’s definitely one of the more affluent, contemporary sections of Tokyo, so it’s worth checking out. So we decided to grab a coffee (hot chocolate for me!) and rest our legs, and to come back the next day when the weather promised to be better to do the city view and the art museum.

In the evening we had plans to meet up with a friend of my sister’s who just recently moved to Japan with her husband who is in the Navy. Our original plan to see another temple didn’t seem like such a good one anymore because of the weather, so she recommended checking out Robot Restaurant, a restaurant in the Shinjuku neighborhood of Tokyo that she admitted she had never been to before, but that everyone had been recommending. Not quite sure what to expect (Vicky said “it’s mostly about the entertainment, it’s not really a restaurant!”), we were game for everything, so we hopped online, bought our tickets (they’re a bit pricey at about $50 per ticket — with a discount! — so I would definitely do your research before buying them to make sure this is the type of entertainment you’d be into) and were off!

So let me tell you about Robot Restaurant — it is quite a spectacle! There were little kids in our audience, so I would have been interested to gauge their reaction afterwards, but the basic gist of it is that this is not a restaurant (they serve popcorn, beer and some other goodies for an additional fee), and it’s really just a bright, loud, crazy, kitschy show of shorts, put on by both elaborately dressed actors and, ahem, robots. I think there was a plot line (good vs. evil, big scary robot wants to destroy pretty, blossoming world, people who live in pretty world fight back and win? Maybe?), but really, it’s not about the plot line, either. It’s all about the theatrics, the costumes … and the robots, of course! It actually turned out to be a lot of fun, but it’s probably not for everyone, so like I said, I’d do a little research before buying those tickets!

If you do buy the tickets, though, here’s a bit of what you can expect …

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thumb__DSC3068_1024thumb__DSC3072_1024^^^ That about sums it up!

thumb__DSC3082_1024thumb__DSC3096_1024thumb__DSC3106_1024^^^ Of course you don’t have to try on one of the costume heads when the show is over … unless you’re my husband 😉

thumb__DSC3112_1024^^^ Thank you, Robot Restaurant, for showing us a crazy, wild side of Tokyo that we probably would never have otherwise seen!

After the show were all starving (because again, it’s not a restaurant!), so Chris hopped on, you guessed it!, Foursquare, and found an awesome little tempura place nearby that he wanted to try. Again, the name is in Japanese, which isn’t much help for you, but I did take a picture of the front of the restaurant, if that helps!

thumb__DSC3116_1024^^^ If you’re a tempura fan, this is a great place to try out. They have traditional seating, too (on the floor, legs crossed), if you want, and if you sit up at the bar area, like we did, you can watch the chefs cook your dinner right in front of you. So cool!

And that was our Monday, friends! It was jam packed, but as it turned out Tuesday would be even more full. We started our morning on Tuesday at 3 a.m. (!!!) in order to make it to a viewing of the famous tuna auction at the Tsukiji Market, so stay tuned for more on that tomorrow!

For now … bis bald, friends!