Sometimes, All Roads Lead to IKEA

We did an ambitious thing yesterday—we took the entire family to IKEA. That means three kids six and under, one of them being an infant who likes to stop at the Milk Bar multiple times per day.

The two older girls salivate at the mention of the word “IKEA.” To them it means hot cinnamon rolls, a trip to Smaland (the free kids area where you can drop the little darlings off) and darting through the kid bedrooms.

All in all, it wasn’t a bad trip.

Since we were there to pick up a few floor lamps and little else, I could relax and enjoy the hustle and bustle of the place. I saw a too-old-for-this guy in his late twenties giving his granny the hard sell on what she needed to buy for him. I saw at least two couples fighting. And I walked behind a woman who held court with her five kids proclaiming, “IKEA is overrated. I guess it’s a status thing.”

Jonathan, who has a Scandinavian heritage, pointed out several designs in the textiles area that reminded him of his grandmother, Elsa. And then this ironing board cover caught his eye.

Photo by Jennifer Manske

Something simple. Something under seven dollars. We talked about design, artists, family heritage and the accessibility of good art (did I mention the kids were in Smaland? Because they were occupied, we were able to actually talk—you know, have a conversation. Which is a miracle.)

We’re not snobs—a high price on an object doesn’t mean it’s better. Sometimes, it’s worse. We have an overpriced bookshelf from a modern design store that’s quite frankly a mess. It’s poorly made and barely holds itself together.

I like looking at pretty things. And I like when pretty things are reasonable priced, which means more people can enjoy them.

I love these blocks my sweet friend F. gave us for the new baby. They are from Tiny Giraffe on Etsy.

Photo by Jennifer Fenske

One of those IKEA floor lamps makes a perfect accent to the girls’ room. The kids are delighted to have something new—and pretty. In fact, as I write, they are playing “IKEA” in the family room. I have been invited to attend the Grand Opening. Have to go!

Photo by Jennifer Fenske


The Joy Is Where You Find It

We’re on a deadline today for a fun project (we’ll share it soon!) and there’s stress and decisions and more work than we can handle sanely. But then I remember that nothing in life is easy–not parenting, not making books and paintings, nothing. Not one thing.

And for that reason, I can smile and laugh at the crazy.

Photo by Jonathan Fenske

Fenske Family Reading List

The day unfolded lazily after swim lessons—a long bike ride, frozen yogurt, more bike riding.

But at some point I noticed we all picked up books today, reading a few pages here and there between bikes, playing impromptu faux Pictionary and eating pizza and oranges for dinner. The windows were open on this gorgeous Colorado day which gave the house an inside/outside feeling.

What we read today: Flannery by Brad Gooch (Jennifer is big on all things Flannery); Corn Maiden by Joyce Carol Oates (Jonathan); The Reptile Room by Lemony Snicket; and a Bob book.

Reading is great for intentionally ignoring picking up a messy house. I was very happy to follow Flannery to Italy instead of sorting doll shoes and returning stuffed animals to their toy bin homes.


Art in the Suburbs

It’s kind of daunting to kick off a new blog, so I’ll just begin with some thoughts on nurturing and creating art in the ‘burbs.

Artwork by a small Fenske










We try to make our living creating beautiful things that might last for a while. We are writers and one of us is a visual artist, but we don’t live in a hipster loft or even an old bungalow. Nope, we reside outside of Denver in a thoroughly anonymous neighborhood. Chain restaurants abound and we have to drive at least twenty minutes for decent Indian food.

I love where we live, though, because we’re walking distance from the stellar Anythink flagship library. Mere minutes from a sprawling park complex. And steps from the bike/hike trail system that we could follow to downtown Denver or north toward Wyoming.Our spot of Colorado is safe and the schools are great.

Photo by Jonathan Fenske










Even in a sea of beige, we find our beautiful things: the fade of the day’s light bouncing off the mountains to the west. Vintage toys played with by countless hands. Dolls tossed into the air against a blue sky. Children playing with canvases and paint. We’re blooming where we’re planted and finding the gorgeous, the mundane, in the small places.

Photo by Jonathan Fenske