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!

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!

The Start to a Crazy New Year

One of our favorite spots in Colorado — the Frisco Bay Marina

Friends. How is it that no one told me how hectic life gets when you have kids in school?! And in activities?!

O.M.G.

Lotte started kindergarten a few weeks ago (sob!) and Grace is back in preschool, while little Em continues to delight us from home. Lotte also started ballet/tap, and Grace is starting up with swim lessons and music classes in the month of September. And honestly, at this pace, I’m not sure how long I can handle it!

Sweetest little dancer, who forgave me for the fact that I didn’t have her ballet outfit ready in time for her first class 😉

I mean, I know we’ll get used to this as our life, and so-on-and-so-forth, but sheesh, I’m way more exhausted than the kids. I think the fact that we’re still coming out of a pandemic (which is so not over yet) adds to the exhaustion.

Anyway, I’m rambling. The point is, life is crazy busy right now, so when we get a chance to break away from the madness, I’m all-the-more grateful. This weekend we took a day to head into the mountains. We hadn’t been to Frisco in years, and I’m dying over the photos of itty bitty Lotte and Grace in this post! It was Em’s first trip to Frisco (only second trip to the mountains ever, actually, with this trip to Granby being her first), and it was an all-around success, I’d say.

I’m not usually one to climb on the playground equipment with the girls (I have Chris for that!), but something about that mountain air changes me, friends 😉
We adore the Frisco Bay Marina — it’s the perfect, low-key spot for families!
It’s also the perfect spot to live vicariously through people who rent things there, like kayaks and canoes.
Just look at that happy Frisco face!
Em is happiest checking out her surroundings … the older girls are happiest when snacking.
Checking out new places is exhausting!

After hanging in the bay for a while, we walked into town and headed straight for our favorite outdoor lunch spot, right next to Foote’s Rest Sweet Shoppe (because ending a trip to the mountains with ice cream is a must, obviously).

Em has started standing (with help), and even though it literally pains me how quickly she’s growing up, I’m so, so proud of her.
Like I said … ice cream! It’s a must …
Ending the day with laughs.

After our busy Sunday in Frisco, I wasn’t sure how I’d feel about actually getting out the door on Monday with all three girls like I planned, but Lotte happened to have the day off, and I was determined to make it work. So we packed up the car, and I headed to the Denver Zoo with my girlies.

Lucky for me, Lotte was more than happy to help push Grace, since I had Em strapped to me the whole time.

We had our ups and downs on this little outing, but overall, I’m so grateful that I have a flexible job that allows me to do fun and spontaneous things like this with my girlies.

Heading to the Zoo first thing in the morning is without a doubt the best time, we’ve found. It’s less busy, of course, but also the animals are always out and about!
We did something new on this trip, which was to feed the Lorikeets! So. Much. Fun!
Gorgeous!
We road the train, too, which as you can probably tell by these faces is one of our all-time favorite Zoo activities.
Happy place.

Anyway, a very happy and healthy start to the week to you, my dear friends! I hope whatever craziness you’re getting up to right now, that your able to take a beat and enjoy the little things, too.

Bis bald, friends!

Saying “So Long” to Summer 2021

The smoke from wildfires in the West have made it pretty gross outside in Colorado, but we still made the most of it when we had some besties visit from New York last weekend.

I used to think that it was preposterous to even think about school/fall/the end of the year before Labor Day, but as Instagram has taught me, it’s actually fairly common for schools around the country to start before then. Here in our little slice of Colorado heaven, Lotte will be starting kindergarten (SOB) and Grace will be back to preschool starting next Tuesday.

Le sigh. Summer, where did you go?

Besides our big ole’ road trip and Lotte’s 5th birthday, this summer has been but a blink. We’re looking forward to the girls getting back to school (even though they loved summer camp!) and seeing all their old friends, and we’re hopeful that this school year will see some semblance of normalcy. There will be masks, of course, but if we can just keep the kids in school, that would be such a blessing.

Again, le sigh. The world we live in these days.

Anyway, we had one of my good friends and her daughter — Lotte’s best NYC friend, she informed me — visit last weekend, and today was the girls’ last day at summer camp. We’re soaking it in, and keeping our fingers crossed for the fall future.

Bis bald, friends!

Lotte had the best time trying out track this summer, and we had the best time watching her!
2nd and 3rd place in her races … wahoo!
We didn’t get around to our annual paddle out on Standley Lake yet, but we did pal around the lake quite a bit, which is always a delight.
There were a lot of porch hangs, as well <3
And a LOT of cuddles with this treasure…
Peak summer vibes right here.
We went to a children’s concert in Boulder when our NYC friends visited, and it was so stinkin’ cute!
Taking it all in while avoiding the crowds, something I’m sure you’ve all come to excel at, as well.
Smokey mountain views.
Someone thoroughly enjoyed her first concert experience!
Dad and daughter <3
Our “strolley” (as Chris lovingly refers to the collapsible Radio Flyer we have) is such a game-changer every single place we go. Fine, Chris, I admit here, in public, that it was a great purchase!
Fiona brought flower crowns for Lotte’s birthday!
The sweetest!
Nothing says summer quite like a run through the backyard sprinklers.
We headed into Golden and hit up the Golden Mill one of the days that Carla and Fiona were here. This place is quickly becoming one of our must-hit spots for guests.
The ice cream there is a must!
This trio agreed …
These guys were just the sweetest … even given the occasional complete meltdown 😉
Carla and I were roommates our freshman year of college, then worked one street away when we both started our careers in Manhattan. Now her daughter is five months older than Lotte and her son is two months younger than Grace. Love her to stinkin’ bits!
I don’t know what they were judging here, but something about this photo is very sweet to me.
We saw so many people tubing down the river while in Golden. It was very fun to sit in the park and shovel ice cream into our faces while watching other people exercise.
Last day of summer camp calls for cute summer dresses!
G sure does love a chocolate treat.
This one <3

The Drive Back: New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Missouri, Kansas and Colorado

On the road again!

After a glorious farm wedding on July 3rd, we were back in the car on the 4th to start our trip home!

As you can see from that first photo, most of us were unhappy about this …

Actually, Chris and I went back and forth quite a bit about extending our trip. We had booked refundable places to stay on the trip back, exactly for this reason. Ultimately, though, we decided to keep things as they were. We had jobs and summer camp and track practice and a home to get back to, as much as we would have liked to have stayed for longer.

It was Em’s first Fourth of July, and she spent it in the car! She didn’t seem to mind 😉

The Long Road Home

Rather than driving straight through — like we did on the way out — we planned for three stops on the way back home. We stopped at a Comfort Suites in DuBois, PA, an Airbnb in Vandalia, Ohio and a Sleep Inn in Oakley, Kansas. We would also be making some touristy stops throughout, to break the trip up even more.

After saying goodbye to our family (we hope to see you soon!), it was a “short” four-hour trip to our hotel in Pennsylvania. Even though we arrived late, a super-wired Grace caught some fireworks at the end of the night with Chris. The next day we took advantage of the awesome indoor pool and grabbed some breakfast before heading out.

One of my favorite photos from the trip was taken at a gas station on our way to a hotel … go figure.
This random pic at another quick rest stop was another gem <3
We love hotels! (And are also very excited to be out of the car!)
I mean, look at this awesome pool!
So fun!
Naturally, I enjoyed from afar 😉
Fun with luggage trolleys.

After pool time and breakfast in PA, we loaded up the car again and headed to our next stop — a playground/picnic and then a splash pad, both in Ohio.

This playground in Ohio was so cute, and totally empty!
We only stayed here for a quick run-around and to have a picnic, but Emilia approved.
We drove about an hour from the playground to this random splash pad in Ohio. It was on the smaller side, but on a 90+-degree day, it definitely got the job done!
Splash pads and playgrounds really take it out of ya!
And we were off … again!
Thanks Ohio … we’ll see ya later!

World’s Biggest Things — The Stop We Never Knew We Needed

The rest of the trip — about four hours — to our Airbnb in Vandalia — was a bit rough, if I’m being honest. We were all pretty over the car, somehow both tired and wired, at the same time. Luckily, about an hour outside of Vandalia, we saw a sign for some of the Big Things in the Small Town of Casey, Illinois, and made the split-second decision to pull over.

Man, oh man am I glad we did … because how much fun are these?!

Who knew big things could be so much fun?!
It was late, and starting to get dark, so we couldn’t see everything, but what we did see was so. much. fun!
World’s biggest rocking chair! (Allegedly …)
This is the world’s biggest wind chime!
Next was the world’s biggest golf tee!
Then onto the world’s biggest mouse trap?! I don’t know, but we loved it all!
What would it be like to write with the world’s biggest pencil?
I don’t think this was part of the actual attractions, but at this point in our trip I sure didn’t mind seeing my kids contained somewhere I wasn’t 😉
Checking out the world’s biggest mailbox!
There was a fountain behind the mailbox where you could throw in coins and make wishes. Bet you could guess what my wish was! (Hint: Getting to our next destination quietly was involved …)
Such an adorable town, and definitely worth a stop on your way by it!

Coffee, Dragons and Arches

After our pit stop in Casey, we still had a couple hours to our Airbnb in Vandalia, but luckily the stop did what it was meant to do — wear the kids out! They all fell asleep on the ride to Vandalia and, luckily, this Airbnb was glorious. Three bedrooms, two full bathrooms and a fully stocked kitchen with drinks and snacks. It was exactly what we all needed after a full day of travel.

This cutest little drive-through coffee shop — Shimoji Coffee — on the way out of Vandalia was so lovely!
The Kaskaskia Dragon is easy to visit on your way out of Vandalia! You can grab some coins at the store across the street to make him actually breathe fire!
About an hour later, we were at The Gateway Arch in St. Louis.
Chris and I visited the Arch on our drive out to Denver from New York when we moved here, but it has since gotten an upgrade to National Park status. The museum is amazing now, and the grounds have even gotten an upgrade. It’s definitely worth revisiting if you haven’t been back in a while!
The museum is so much fun!
There are a lot of fun things for kids to do and see, too.

After our Arch pit stop, it was back in the car for a few hours, until we stopped for gas and went for a quick detour for treats at the Ozarkland General Store

One of each, please!
After Ozarkland it was on to Topeka, Kansas, where we stopped for dinner at The Pennant. This restaurant was perfect, because it had games and bowling and plenty of run-around space for the girls. Plus, it was right downtown, which was fun to check out!

Downtown Topeka, Kansas fun!

After dinner we had a couple hours to our hotel in Oakley. We picked that particular hotel because it was just a few hours from there to our home in Colorado, and we needed to leave early Wednesday to get back.

Grace, exhibiting perfectly how we all felt waking up early on Wednesday to head home after our whirlwind trip.

And that, as they say, was that, friends! After countless miles, five hotels/Airbnbs and 11 states, we were back where we started! Being home felt lovely and completely odd, all at once. We are so grateful that we were able to have this experience, to see our people and to check out so much of the U.S.

At the end of the day, we wouldn’t have done anything differently … except maybe pay more attention to the rules of Dramamine earlier on in the trip. Sorry, Grace!

The Details

Here’s a quick look at all the places we stayed, visited and ate at during this leg of our trip:

The Finances

Now for the super fun part … the money! We likely would have spent less money on this trip had we flown, even factoring in the cost of the flights. Gas is incredibly expensive right now, which was one factor. We also decided ahead of time that we didn’t want to scrimp on this trip. After not traveling for more than a year, we wanted to stop where we wanted to stop, eat what we wanted to eat, and stay where we wanted to stay.

And it worked out because, like I said, we wouldn’t have changed a thing. Here’s how our finances broke down. We spent:

  • Hotels: $1581
  • Gas/Tolls/Parking: $770
  • Food/Groceries/Entertainment: $1112
  • Miscellaneous: $250

The grand total on this trip was almost $4,000 which, of course, is a lot of cash. Considering everything we did, though — including places stayed, food ate, things visited — for five people, it really wasn’t all that bad.

Plus, as the kids say, YOLO, my friends … YOLO.

And that was our trip! I hope each and every one of you — who has made it this far in this post! — has something equally as adventurous and amazing planned for the summer. Until next time, friends … bis bald!

The Sweetest Farm Wedding in Upstate New York

This was the gorgeous view from the hilltop at the wedding we attending on July 3rd.

The night before we started our trip home, we attended my brother-in-law’s sister’s wedding at her fiancee’s family farm.

Wright’s Farm is the sweetest little family run farm in Gardiner, New York. They don’t typically hold weddings there, but they do have a brewery, apple and pumpkin picking and a farmer’s market. It’s definitely worth checking out if you’re in the area.

Cute as it is normally, attending a wedding there is next level! Unfortunately they don’t normally do events, but fortunately for us, we were able to attend this one because the bride just happened to be my brother-in-law’s sister. Lucky us!

The cocktail hour started at the bottom of the farm in the brewery, which is run by the groom (and his now-bride!). They had live music throughout the day, which was very on-brand 😉
After the cocktail hour, guests were sent up the hill to the tent for the ceremony. Although the forecast for the day was dreary, the afternoon/evening ended up being gorgeous, with no rain and, maybe even better, no beating sun. It was a perfectly lovely, overcast evening for a perfectly lovely wedding.
Wrights Farm wedding view
There’s nothing like a beautiful wedding with some of my favorite people.
Every last detail of this wedding was so pretty, from the location and music on down to the table settings and the food.
I love a good tractor picture!
My younger sister was in the wedding, and my older one attended as a guest, as well.
Grandpa Robert was there, too!
We loved the venue, what can I say?!
Andddddd … we like to party!
The perfect ending to a wedding that takes place the night before the Fourth of July? Fireworks, naturally!

That, my friends, was the farm wedding in a nutshell. There were so many more amazing details I could have captured, if I weren’t too busy having fun 😉

Bis bald, friends! I’ll be back tomorrow with this road trip finale … our 3-day car ride back home!

Our Road Trip Continued: The Pennsylvania and Upstate New York Edition

Paddle boats on the lake behind our Airbnb in Pennsylvania were definitely a perk.

Welcome back, friends! After our delightful stay in Brigantine, we were ready to hit up our next destination — an Airbnb attached to Billy’s New Hope Barn in Honesdale, PA.

I should start by saying that the ride out to the farm was less than optimal. (Think lots of things going wrong, including traffic and car sickness … it wasn’t our best ride …) So by the time we arrived, we had all about had it. The farm itself was very sweet, with lots of rescued animals for the girls to fawn over and fall in love with. I, however, was ready for a delightfully decadent shower, or perhaps even a lovely bath.

That wasn’t going to happen here.

Staying on the farm is a unique (and ultimately worthwhile) experience, but it’s important to know what you’re getting into. I’d liken this stay to “glamping,” since there was a roof over our heads and running water, but it wasn’t fancy by any means (nor is it advertised as such … that’s just what I was hoping for at that particular moment in my life.)

Once we started to get over the effects of our gross ride, things got better. It was actually very sweet to see the girls react to the animals, to eat a picnic dinner on the table by the lake, to watch the fireflies outside next to a campfire and to fall asleep to the sound of bullfrogs, and all the other nature surrounding us.

The farm is right next to the cabins on the property, so we walked over pretty much as soon as we arrived.
After this trip Grace won’t stop asking for a cat, while Lotte has her heart set on a dog. Either way, I’m not ready for a new pet, so here’s hoping they forget soon!