2021: A Year in Review

They can’t all be good photos, right?!

Welp, friends … there goes another year. As the photo above indicates, we’ve had our highs and lows. I think the year didn’t quite pan out the way most of us were hoping it would, but still, there were bright spots to be found.

Here’s hoping 2022 brings you and your family all the happiness and cheer that you deserve! And here’s what we were able to get up to in 2021 …

April

We dusted off our travel boots for the first time in more than a year (!) this past April for a trip to the mountains. We headed to one of our favorite low-key spots — Granby Ranch — and the older girls even tried their hand at skiing for the first time.

Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado
Lotte, Grace & Emilia cuddled up on our couch in the cabin.
Chris and the big girls posing on frozen Grand Lake.
They look a little weathered here because this was after their lessons … but I HAD to get a pic of the two of them with their adorable little set of skis!
We wrangled the kids to take a quick selfie when we got out on the lake in Grand Lake.

June

By the time June rolled around, Chris and I were fully vaccinated, and we were able to start hosting some of our favorite people at our house again. We also went on a fun mountain/lake hike, Lotte continued her adventures in skiing and started running (well, that was pre-June, but I blogged about it in June!) and we continued to find adventures everywhere we could in the great Colorado outdoors. We also spent Father’s Day in one of Chris’ favorite places.

Grandpa came for his first visit in more than a year!
Lotte started track!
Evergreen Lake, Evergreen, Colorado
Evergreen Lake, Evergreen, Colorado
Me and my JMU girls 😉
We sure do love a good splash pad!
Just a dad and his trio of ladies.

July

The end of June and beginning of July was a busy time for us, as we packed up the car and hit the road for our trip out East! We started in Colorado and made out way out to New Jersey and New York and then back, stopping in a number of states along the way. (You can find all the gritty details here, here, here, here, here, here, and here.)

Cody Park, Nebraska
Cody Park, Nebraska
The Bean in Chicago!
Brigantine Beach, NJ
These cutie cousins <3
With Atlantic City in the background
Staying at a real, working farm in Pennsylvania was … interesting!
One of the best stops on our trip home!
The Gateway Arch, St. Louis, Missouri
The Gateway Arch, St. Louis, Missouri
entering Colorado on the way home
Colorado State Line

Then, at the end of July, our firstborn turned FIVE!

August

We hosted more of our besties in August, Lotte started kindergarten, Grace returned to preschool and we managed to make it to Frisco for one final summer mountain visit.

Frisco, Colorado
Frisco, Colorado
Em’s first Frisco visit!

September

We hosted one of Chris’ good friends in September, and they hiked a 14er (a tradition they started years ago). We also spent Labor Day at Standley Lake with friends.

Kayaking on Standley Lake
Kayaking on Standley Lake
Standley Lake, Arvada
Standley Lake, Arvada

October

We spent October in our traditionally favorite way … with all the fall activities!

December

As the holidays rolled around, we were really looking forward to spending Christmas and New Years with family back in New York. Unfortunately, Covid had different plans for us. Perhaps we’ll have better luck next year. Still, we managed to get a day in Manhattan, and we did get to spend actual Christmas Day with family, which was an upgrade from last year, so we’ll call it a win.

Times Square is never not entertaining!
Grace was very taken with the Rockefeller tree 😉
Snow on Christmas Eve was a perk!
Christmas Day cuties
Merry Christmas to you and yours!

And that’s 2021, my friends. We’re looking forward to a quiet New Years Eve (and wedding anniversary, for myself and Chris <3) and planning for (hopefully) some fun travels to come in the New Year.

But until then … bis bald, friends!

The Covid Christmas We Should Have Seen Coming

Christmas Day was surprisingly joyful, considering what came before and after …

As the final days of 2021 wind down, I’m hoping that you and your loved ones are staying safe and healthy. Our trip to New York for the holidays got disrupted by an outbreak of Covid within our family (extended family, at least, so far the five of us are still Covid-free), so we ended up cutting it short by a week. Still, we managed to pack in a lot of celebrating before things turned ugly.

While I’m grateful for the positive things that came this year — vaccines, three healthy daughters who turned five, four and one, a husband who loves me and takes care of us in this roller coaster of a life, a career that I really love, and so much more — I also won’t be sad to see it go.

Here’s hoping there’s even more to look forward to in 2022. Bis bald, friends … and happy New Year!

The “Calm” Before the Storm

The week heading into our trip was crazy for us, as well, with my stepdad flying in for a visit, Grace turning four and Emilia turning one. We managed to get in a lot of partying before we even boarded the plane.

My sweet, sassy middle daughter. I hope you never, ever change <3
She insisted on having her dinosaurs with her in this picture. Just one of the many reasons I love her so.
My last baby. Emilia turning one has been bittersweet for me. It’s the most fun to watch her grow, and also the saddest to leave the baby phase behind.
Never. Not. Happy.
We took the family to see the holiday lights at Chatfield Farms before we flew out to New York, which ended with freezing cold kids and lots of tears … but it was pretty while it lasted!
Early Christmas at home before we left meant another excuse to wear our matching Christmas pajamas … not that I ever need an excuse.
Thank you, Denver Airport, for having all the fun holiday entertainment! Emilia hadn’t met Santa yet, so this helped me tick that item off my bucket list 😉
As a surprise to no one, Emilia is a champion traveler.
At Grandpa’s …. pre-Covid confirmations :/

New York City for a Day

We had always planned to head into the city for a day during this trip, but we got spooked by Covid numbers the morning we were meant to catch the train. So we ditched the public transport idea and decided to rent a car, instead. I’m so glad we did, because it ended up being a highlight of the trip. It was the first visit for Emilia, and seeing the city we love all decked out for the holiday … well, there’s really nothing quite like it.

We stuck to the touristy parts of midtown — Grand Central, Bryant Park, Rockefeller Center, Times Square, and the Saks Fifth Avenue holiday window displays — and seeing these things through the kids’ eyes, for the first time, was so much fun.

Ah, the allure of a mini-van. I won’t lie … it was definitely nice having this extra room! We love our Highlander, but a mini-van … let’s just say I get it now.
There is nothing like that skyline.
This is the building where it all started for me. My first real job in magazines — an internship at More and then a full-time gig at Parents — was right here, and I must have walked these streets hundreds of times. To be back there, taking a photo with my girls, really meant a lot to me <3
Of all the places in the city to visit on a holiday trip, Bryant Park is my absolute favorite.
And of course no NYC trip is complete without a big ole’ street vendor pretzel!
Times Square was freezing! But the ball was up, and the girls thought the craziness was so much fun!
Grace was very excited by the Rockefeller Christmas Tree 😉
We spent a lot of time in front of these window displays, and Lotte would have stayed even longer! She was so thoroughly entranced by them, and it was the cutest thing in the world to see.
We ended our visit with a trip to Grand Central, where Chris showed the girls the parabolic curve (where you can talk to people on opposite sides!) and the pretty main hall.
And the Grand Central Market for treats, of course!
Love ya, NYC. Until next time …

Christmas and the Days Before It

We learned the day after we got back from the city that my stepdad had Covid, so we hightailed it out of his house and went over to my sister’s (after we all got negatives on our rapid tests, of course). This ended up being futile, since our Christmas morning tests were negative again, and by the next day my brother-in-law and then sister had it, as well. Still, for those couple of days, we continued on, waiting for the other shoe to drop. Chris and I had already decided that we would be leaving early, and we had already cancelled our Airbnb trip to a lake house in PA (THANK YOU AIRBNB FOR ISSUING A REFUND!) and had moved our flights up by a week to return home (THANK YOU SOUTHWEST FOR ALLOWING US TO DO THIS FOR ONLY THE COST OF THE FLIGHT CHANGE, A MEASLY $150!). We figured if we’re going to get sick, we’d want to be at home when that happened.

Plus, we had nowhere to stay. We officially had Covid cases in both of the family homes where we could go.

I know a lot of people had their holidays ruined or changed due to Covid this year, and I can only hope that by next year, we’ll be in a better place. Who knows, really, but for now, like I said, I’m counting my blessings …

At least there was snow on Christmas Eve!
Christmas Eve gifts from elves, courtesy of my sister <3
At-home manicures were a big hit!
The cutest.
Also the cutest!
Christmas morning cuties!
Grace’s face pretty much says it all … does it not?!

And that was our trip in a (shortened) nutshell, friends. We made it back home in one piece, which is pretty much all that I can ask for at this point, and we’ll be ringing in the New Year together as a family of five <3

See you all in 2022 … and BIS BALD!

Keep the drinks coming!

The Best Fall Activities Around Denver for Kids

Peak fall is happening over at Anderson Farms right now!

Welcome to October, friends! Technically, it’s been October for a while, but this past weekend was the girls’ fall break from school, so it really feels like we’re in the midst of the season now! Over the past four days we’ve really laid it on thick with all the quintessential things. We managed to:

  • Finally attend the Fall Festival at Anderson Farms, out in Erie, Colorado
  • Hit up the girls’ favorite park — Paco Sanchez Park — for a Mom/daughter date with Lotte
  • Get in lots of outdoor time for scootering and bike riding
  • Check out the Halloween decorations at the Denver Zoo with Grace’s little bestie from preschool
  • Pick up some supplies from the local library for a marathon afternoon of Halloween movie watching (and, while we were there, checked out Lotte’s kindergarten artwork on display!)

Have I mentioned we love fall?

Day 1: Anderson Farms Fall Festival

Thursday was Day 1 of the girls’ fall break, and we met up with my cousin and her three cuties at Anderson Farms for their fall festival. This place was awesome, and I have a feeling that it’s a pretty good thing we went on a weekday (tickets are cheaper on weekdays, too!). I imagine weekends might be a madhouse. But we got lucky, and on a random Thursday there were no lines for things like duck races, hay rides, bouncy castles, corn mazes, barrel rides and so much more.

I HIGHLY recommend this place if you’re looking for something fun to do with the kids!

Ready for all the fall activities!
I have truly never seen such fun pumpkin displays, except for The Great Jack O’Lantern Blaze in the Hudson Valley.
Duck races!
There was a long and spooky corn maze for adults, and then this shorter, kid-friendly version for the littles.
Ask me how much I wanted to jump on these inflatables?!
The tractor ride out to the pumpkin patch was definitely a big hit!
This cutie loved it all <3
Pumpkins, as far as the eye can see!
And … the best part … they were already picked! At our usual pumpkin patch (which I still love), you have to cut the pumpkins yourself, which can sometimes be tricky.
Grace took her pumpkin picking very seriously.
It was the first time this little one visited a pumpkin patch and, as no surprise to anyone, she rocked it!
Our cute little crew.
One of these things is not like the other.
Chris enjoyed this ride as much as the kids, I think.

Day 2: Paco Sanchez Park

On Friday, Lotte and I stole away from the rest of the crew for a bit to visit a park that Chris had introduced the girls to, but that I had never been to before. According to their website, “the giant 1950s microphone-inspired tower heralds the horizon, but the built-in play value is what really makes this park honoring local radio DJ Paco Sanchez truly extraordinary.”

Well, no kidding … take a look at this place!

I won’t lie — the first time Lotte started doing stuff at the playground I had a quick momentary thought of, “Can she handle this?!” I mean I’m her Mom, I worry, okay!?
I quickly learned that she was more than capable, though, and it was so amazing watching her climb, swing, run and slide.

I love some good family time, of course, but it’s also awesome to get away with just one girl every so often.

One quick note: If you do come here, the playground is recommended for kids from five to 12, but of course it’ll be up to you decide if your kid is ready for the dexterity that all the play equipment requires.

Day 3: Boo at the Zoo!

On Saturday, we met up with one of Grace’s preschool friends to check out the Halloween decorations at the zoo. We didn’t actually spend a lot of time paying attention to the animals, but the kids had a great time together, and it was so lovely getting to know Judah’s parents a bit better, too.

Plus, the zoo is always one of our favorite spots around Halloween!

Can’t even take this one …
Grace, never not running places.
The “strolley,” as we lovingly call our foldable Radio Flyer, turned out to be quite the draw!
It’s become a tradition to hit up the train (which only lasts about five minuets, if that) while we’re at the zoo, and Judah was happy to oblige.
The girls had their first Carousel ride (at this particular zoo, at least) AND their first fruit roll-up on this trip! Not a bad day …
This guy was certainly creepy, but Em didn’t seem to mind!
This spot is always a crowd pleaser.
My girl <3
Too. Much. Cuteness.
The new penguin exhibit proved very exciting!

And that, my friends, was our fall break in a nutshell! Oh, plus a photo of Lotte and her dot at the library, because, duh …

Bis bald, friends! Hope you’re all getting into the festiveness of the season, as well!

Life Recently: Hello, Fall! How I’ve Missed You …

Just a dad and his daughter, ready for a fall run!

I’ve never pretended to be a lover of the summer, but this year I feel like we definitely made the most of it! (See posts about our cross-country drive and trip to the beach, visits from east coast besties and water activities out on the lake for proof!) Still, I’m never sad to see summer go.

Blasphemy, I know 😉

Now that fall is officially here, and the weather (for the most part) is changing, I’m looking forward to all things fall and cold-weather related. I’ve already got this this fall festival booked for us for next weekend, along with a trip out Paint Maines Interpretive Park to celebrate Chris’ birthday. We’ve had our Halloween costumes planned since the beginning of September (there’s no shame in my game), Lotte has a season ski pass and lessons awaiting her, and our flights back east for the Christmas season were booked months ago.

In other words, we’re ready!

Grace and I started decorating the house for the fall last weekend. These little trinkets — which were my Mom’s — make me so happy.

I won’t lie, there is a small part of me that feels an inkling of sadness when I compare this year to last. As Halloween and Thanksgiving rolled around last year, I was very pregnant and we were very excited to meet our little nugget (and find out whether she was a boy or a girl!) at the end of the year. There is no excitement that can equal that of waiting for a baby to arrive.

But this year … she is here! She can celebrate with us, and that, I have to remind myself, is even more fun.

This little smooshkin will be adorable at Halloween, I can promise you that much!
Outdoor birthday movies are even better with blankets in the chilly fall air!
The joy that is Grace twirling. Luckily, this happiness is not contained to one season.
Fall is just THE BEST season for clothes!
Our first figs from our new fig tree!
I am probably one of the few people on the planet who doesn’t mind the sun going down earlier at night. More snuggle time, if you want my opinion!

I hope you guys are all gearing up for a super fun (and super safe!) fall and winter season, as well. I don’t know you personally, but I can say without a doubt … we all deserve it <3

Bis bald, friends!

P.S. I started an Instagram account for Chris’ culinary shenanigans — if you’re interested, check it out @the_au_chef !

Hiking Two 14,000 Foot Mountains in Two Days (Is Hard!)

Hitting above the tree line on the way up when hiking Mt. Belford.

Chris and his friend from New York have made it a tradition to climb 14ers in Colorado together, and while the pandemic derailed any plans for that tradition last year, they were back at it in full force this year! Below, Chris shares all the deets!

While 2021 is far from fantastic, thank goodness there are some freedoms restored from 2020. One of my best friends from New York traveled out to Colorado in early September and joined me for two days of hiking 14ers in the Sawatch Mountain Range. We had our eye on three 14ers, specifically:

*Mt. Belford and Mt. Oxford, a joint hike we were planning on tackling on Thursday

*Mt. Elbert, which we tackled on Friday with some fellow running club teammates

Here’s our itinerary, in case it helps anyone else interested in doing something similar:

Wednesday

I picked Gavin up when he flew in on Wednesday and we drove straight to Buena Vista, a little town that’s about 2.5 hours west of Denver. Buena Vista is a great central location that gives you access to a wonderful mountainous playground. It was fun to spend the time in the car catching up and making up for lost time. We stayed at this great one-bedroom Airbnb (I crashed on the couch), and we checked out the Eddy Line Restaurant, a local brewpub I had remembered from a birthday lunch years ago. We prepped for the hike on Thursday by getting our food, drinks and gear ready and went to bed early. The AirBnB actually didn’t have a smart TV (the horror!) but they did have one of the best DVD collections I have come across, and we were able to rewatch some classics like Snatch, Fight Club and Dogma.

The view from our apartment balcony was gorgeous to say the least.


Thursday

We woke up at 4:30 am and left to hike at 5:00 am. The trailhead for Mt. Belford and Mt. Oxford is just a 33 minute drive from Buena Vista. The road to the trailhead is a pretty intense dirt road, but the All Trails directions got us directly there. We were hiking by about 5:45 am, which is way darker than I remembered. Still, a lucky flashlight in the car made it less intimidating (bringing a headlamp or flashlight is a must).

It was too dark to take this photo at the start, so here it is with a couple of busted dudes at the end of our hike.
Following the signs is essential when hiking 14ers!

This hike was IMMEDIATELY hard. Usually, there is a gradual climb or a chill portion, but this hike was pretty hard the entire way. It also didn’t help that we somehow got off the trail and ended up semi-rock climbing up a waterfall and steep, rocky surface of a mountain. It was hectic, to say the least. Finally, we were able to find the trail, and almost kissed the ground when we did.

Pointing to the top of Mt. Belford on the way back down.
Mt. Belford geographical marker.
Well thought-out hiking infrastructure 😉

The rest of the summit was a slog made up of steep switchbacks, as it goes with 14ers, and we reached the top … only to see a thick, heavy cloud cover and some light sleet. 

Cloud cover at the top of Mt. Belford.

Feeling a little defeated by what we dubbed “the situation,” and seeing the sleet/cloud cover, we decided to bail on Mt. Oxford, the second peak we had planned to hike. Luckily, there was a truly mellow trail off the back of the mountain that was a Godsend. There was even a pretty magnificent rainbow that showed up around 13,000 ft.

Nothing like a good rainbow to make up for a cloudy view.

The rest of the way down did feel never-ending, but it was very rewarding when we got back to the car.

Details: All told, we hiked 9.5 miles. This was the hardest 14er we have hiked to date (and it is only a Class 2). I would also do this later in July or early August to help avoid any cloud cover. We have unfinished business with Belford and Oxford, so we will be back!

Friday

We packed up and left the apartment at 4:30 am and made it to the Mt. Elbert parking lot by 5:20 am Friday … and it was already packed! We were lucky to snag the last parking spot (!) and began hoofing it with our running team friends, Joe and Zach.

Mt. Elbert was two miles longer than Mt. Belford, but the trail is better marked, and is very easy to follow, some hikers refer to it as the ‘gentle giant’. The weather was also incredible on the way up, chilly but sunny. We hit the summit by 8:50 am and took the obligatory pics, though there was some cloud cover that had rolled in.

Sun rising above the tree line at Mt. Elbert.
Just a couple of guys, ready for a hike.
Obligatory top-of-mountain photo, with clouds.
Not to brag, but … Mt. Elbert is the second highest mountain in the continental U.S. No big.
It was pretty.
From whence we came!

After that we booked it back down, and we made it back to the lot by 10:50 am. From there we drove to Idaho Springs and stopped at Westbound and Down Brewing for some delicious (and well-deserved!) sandwiches and beer.

Details: All told, we hiked 11 miles and it was well worth it. It is certainly long, but the effort is paid off by the achievement.


After our hikes, Gavin hung out for some fun adventures in our hood including a pool and barber visit, a tap house, and a canoe ride. Overall, these hikes were hands down the hardest we have done to date (we’ve now done TK), but it was terrific to spend some time in nature and catch up on life after 2020. 

Bis bald, friends!