Magical Santa Fe

We just spent a few days in Santa Fe, visiting my brother and his family. I know it’s trite to say, but Santa Fe is magical. The light is warm, the landscape wild and uneven. Even running to get a cup of coffee can be beautiful. We love coming here.

Traveling with young kids is never easy, but it’s starting to get slightly (perhaps) a tad more simple. Our youngest is 20 months so she still has lots of gear, but she takes things in stride really well. Jonathan and I have gotten into a groove and try to give each other down time (trail runs for him; walks for me). Of course, being small business owners, we’re taking care of clients and doing work on the road. Jonathan even was able to visit the gallery that’s been showing a handful of his paintings this past year. We’re a mobile studio!

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A Walk in the Breckenridge Woods

When I was in middle school, my best friend Elizabeth returned from a skiing vacation with a bubblegum-pink sweatshirt with white letters that spelled out Breckenridge.

I grew up in South Carolina where most people spent their vacations at the beach (just three and a half hours away) or perhaps driving to some distant relatives’ stomping grounds (my family was partial to Wisconsin). To ski in as foreign a place as Colorado was reserved for the most adventurous few. I remembered reading Elizabeth’s sweatshirt letters and letting the word sink in: Breckenridge. It sounded to my twelve-year-old ears other-worldly and a little bit dangerous.

Now that we live in Colorado, Breckenridge is just about two and a half hours away from our suburban Denver home. We go up there at least twice a year and for the past four years, we have spent time in the summer with our wonderful friends, Gina and Kris and their family. (Gina is a blogger who writes the popular The Daily B.) They are the most gracious of hosts: they open their vacation rental and invite us to spend lazy hours on top of a mountain with kids and dogs and the glorious fresh, hot mini-donuts we pick up in town.

While we were in Breck, we noticed the kids’ toys we brought and the books we toted up the mountain were tossed aside in favor of this:

Girls run up a trail in Breckenridge CO

The children played in the woods. The little ones adventured on the edge where watchful eyes could observe. The older ones danced off to build forts.

I know I work hard to build a comfortable home stocked with interesting toys, great books and comfy places to play. But maybe, just maybe, I’ve missed the mark. Children need to find themselves walking in the woods, searching for great adventure.

A girl looks at a homemade fort in Breckeneridge CO

They need to stumble on a forgotten tree house deep in the forest.

A wooden green chair in a treehouse

And just when they turn to go, their surprised eyes meet a mama bird watching carefully over this:

A bird nest in Breckenridge CO

When they exhale from this discovery, they tiptoe quickly away for more of nature’s gifts, however tiny and precious.

A wildflower in Breckenridge CO

A wildflower in Breckenridge CO

Girls on a mountain in Breckenridge CO

Jonathan and I are remembering that we did this always as children: we allowed the woods to absorb us, shape us and then send us on our way. Long live the forest and our children playing within until they head with happy steps back home.

Girls walk in Breckenridge CO

How to Be Happy

My twenties went something like this: graduate college; try to write a novel in a cabin for a year, fail; go to graduate school in N.Y.; return to S.C. and fall crazy, crazy in love. Get married. Move a few times. Start real jobs, making real money.

A man hikes to Mills River, RMNP

Jonathan hiking Father’s Day in Rocky Mountain National Park.

My thirties were a beautiful mix of career building, novel writing, national parks camping and then parenthood, something that I thought was waaaay too mundane for Jonathan and I. Turns out, it’s awesome. And so we had two girls, and as I was inching into dried-up-egg territory, having just turned 40, we gorgeously, blessedly welcomed a third daughter. She eased into the world in a simple tub of water at Mountain Midwifery Center. She was almost ten pounds, and floated up in the water like a chunky, swollen little monkey, one eye cracked to meet me, and the world.

A woman walks through Bishop Castle CO

Me and my sweetie baby in Bishop Castle last week. This place is breathtakingly insane. Trust me, just Google it. Terrifying and amazing.

I think of the years I have been an adult, and by far the best is my 40’s. I am just a year or so in, but a lot of things are coming together. I think, mostly, because I know how to be happy even when life isn’t perfect.

Simply, I have learned how to be grateful.

A pot of succulents in Colorado

I have a thing for succulents now. I picked up these three for $6 at Wal-Mart. I already had the pots and dragonfly dish.

Grateful for what I have, and even for what I do not have, because it teaches me patience, peace and contentedness. For an amazing book on the subject, check out Ann Voskamp’s One Thousand Gifts. The subtitle of the book is “A dare to live fully right where you are.” I met Ann a few years ago when I was newly pregnant with that fat, gorgeous baby mentioned above and roiling with ante-partum depression, working a job that provided for us but was not my true calling, and desperate to see my husband’s talents finally recognized. Yep, it was the right book for me and I took it and ran with it. To say that her dare to live fully even when life is grinding on your back resonated with me would be an understatement. I panted for the message she brought on paper.

A picture of a blooming chive

This is a gorgeous chive flower that my friend Rebecca gave me. LOVE.

And so, in my 40’s, I am thankful for so much. My gratitude for this imperfect life is messy and frequently uneven. I have been known to have temper tantrums with God. But happiness? It’s the joy in the smallest of the small.

Pie! Birds! Buds!

Happy Memorial Day to you and your family! We are relaxing today around the house and will head to a BBQ with friends later on. Meanwhile, there are new, tender plants to tend. I currently have a peony obsession which I blame on the Denver Botanic Gardens. You see, I saw the paeonia “Fernleaf Double Red” getting ready to bloom a few weeks ago at the Gardens. I decided right then I had to have my own, must have my own! And then I found out that they are pretty rare, and tres expensive (about $30-50, bare root). So, I thought it wise not to kill a $50 bare root peony on my first go-round, so I picked up paeonia “Sarah Bernhardt” at the Home Depot for about $14. Here she is: Welcome, Miss Peony.

Further blog posts will tell if I become one of those crazy ladies who is devoted to one type of plant or another. Actually, maybe it’s not so crazy at all. I have mentioned my new-found peony thing to a few friends and they all tell me stories of their grandmothers’ peonies. So, if my kids remember my peony bushes, maybe that’s not so bad?

Picture of Peony

This is my perennial bed I’ve been stocking with free, divided plants from friends. I did add a $13 (also from Home Depot) Spirea. Also stuffed in this bed is Shasta Daisy, Jupiter’s Beard and a ton of sedum from my dear friend Rebecca. More on her later—she’s a very talented landscape architect. The willow structure was Rebecca’s idea. I still have to weave in more willow branches. Hope to get to that next week. The kids love playing in it.

Picture of willow house

Our yarrow is getting ready to bloom. This variety is “Paprika.” I have divided it three times already, and it’s headed for a fourth after it blooms. It’s a monster bloomer and grower.

Picture of yarrow in Colorado

Nothing much to show in the vegetable garden bed yet. I raised my plants from seeds this year, to mixed results. I’ve lost all the cucumbers (rats!) and have reseeded those, ever hopeful. You can spy broccoli in the middle and spinach to the far left. Carrots are in the foreground, too tiny now to see yet.

Early garden bed in Colorado

Our much-abused bird feeder is hot to trot this year. We are visited by dozens of (fat) birds each day.

Picture of birdfeeder in Colorado backyard

And here is today’s Peach and Blueberry pie. The crust I make without fail each time just wouldn’t come together today–it was super crumbly, so I couldn’t even roll out a top crust. I scraped and rerolled to make a ghetto lattice crust. Here’s hoping it tastes good. Or that our friends at the BBQ are forgiving.

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We hope your holiday is special and full of love and laughing. Thanks for stopping by!

We’re Jennifer and Jonathan and we are delighted you are reading our domestic art and home ramblings! We create books and modern art canvases for kids at Fat and Appy. Follow us on Twitter or Facebook. Send your peony advice to Jennifer

Summer Arrives, Parents Hyperventilate

School is winding down, summer gymnastics and dance are upon us, there are some camping days ahead. Parents (that’s us) are terrified. What to do with three girls home all day, all summer? We’ll figure it out, I guess.

So far, we’re making water balloons.

Bucket of water balloons

Girl playing with water balloon

We’re gardening, from seed. This is a dicey undertaking. At this early juncture, some of the seedling have given up the ghost. But we’re hopeful. Our seeds came from Broomfield, CO-based Botanical Interests. Come on, babies, you can make it!

Broccoli plants from Botanical Interests

Wherever we go, whatever we do, we’ll keep on adventuring and exploring. And we’ll wear lots of sunscreen. May your summer-to-be be awesome.

Baby in polka dot dress walking

Blue Gate: Snapshots from Santa Fe

We spent Thanksgiving with my brother and his family in Santa Fe. I love the architecture there, the courtyards, the light. Our hosts for Thanksgiving Day own a beautiful house and we had a blast playing horseshoes, looking for wild ponies and just wandering around. Earlier in the week we were able to stop in to the William and Joseph Gallery where Jonathan shows in Santa Fe. Awesome trip.

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A Colorado Christmas

We’re just back from the library. A chicken psole cooks in the crockpot, courtesy of my sister-in-law who is visiting from Santa Fe. The house is full with six kids, 10 and under. To say things are in an uproar would be an understatement. But it’s a good kind of chaos, the kind where adults carefully plan an outing to Which Wich, Starbucks and then to Anythink.

I love Colorado. I don’t think I’ve ever written that here, but it’s true. For several years, we longed for the South, our home. But now, six years in, we are Coloradans. We have found the right neighborhood, school, church and we are blessed with more friends than we can carefully tend to. And then there’s the beauty that is Colorado. In about an hour, we can be in Rocky Mountain National Park, flash our annual pass, and be off into the wild.

Last month, before we were laid low with influenza, strep throat and pneumonia, we took visiting Fenskes to RMNP. Here are a few shots of the snow, the hike and the gorgeousness that is Colorado. Happy and blessed to be here.

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