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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The Runner and the Stuffed Animals

This past weekend, we took a little trip up to Winter Park, CO to celebrate Jonathan’s birthday. We scored an awesome deal on a beautiful, modern condo in the heart of WP’s Village. It was the last weekend of summer activities in the resort, so there were things for the kids to do and the weather was gorgeous.

I don’t think I’ve ever blogged about Jonathan’s running, but it’s a serious hobby of his. And when we travel, he always finds a race to do. He calls this “fun.”

This past Sunday in Winter Park found us at nearby Granby Ranch for the Run the Ranches Series. Jonathan and the other racers competed in pouring rain and sloshing mud. He did the long race, which was 7.6 miles. He finished second, and we were really proud of him. But the best part (for me as a mama) came after the race.

Jonathan Fenske runs the Run the Ranches trail race

Jonathan nears the 7.6 mile finish, carefully picking his way down the steep hill (in the rain!)

Jonathan’s prize was a gift card to the Granby Ranch resort. Since we knew we wouldn’t pass that way again anytime soon, he decided to pick up a little something for himself to remember the race. We entered the gift shop with our three girls, ages 7, 4 and 1. And when we emerged, Jonathan had claimed his prize:

A picture of three Ty stuffed animals

Three super cuddly stuffed animals…thanks, Daddy!

Jonathan would groan if he knew I posted this, but he’s not here (so lah!). This is exactly the type of thing Jonathan Fenske does. He’s a gift giver. And there are three little girls who are clutching new stuffies, happy as clams.

And their daddy only had to run down mud-soaked trails at over 8,000 feet for 7.6 miles in the pouring rain, besting every runner, save one.

When the girls get older, I’ll show them this post and just say one thing: When you are ready to marry, make sure it’s a man as awesome as your father. That’s what I did! (Sending love my own Daddy, who reads this blog.)

Summer Blog Bloopers: The Cutting Room Floor

For Monday’s post, I thought it would be fun to throw a bunch of pictures on here from the summer. These are shots that just didn’t quite make the cut for the blog or just didn’t fit a particular topic I wrote about that week. Enjoy!

This shot is from our trip to Twin Lakes this summer to camp with three other families. It was fun and not-so-fun. Like, the kind of trip where Daddy says, “I will pack this tent up if you don’t stop fighting and we’ll go home RIGHT NOW.” It all evened out, however, with this jaunt to Twin Lakes on our last day. Too gorgeous for words. I love Colorado.

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For the first time ever, I grew my garden from seeds, using the wonderful stock from nearby Broomfield’s Botanical Interests. I started the broccoli too late, so it struggled to make it in the summer heat. We did get one glorious head, hurray. Here’s a bite:

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This little bit of graffiti was found by my eldest daughter at Wal-Mart in a cardboard display for s’mores fixin’s. I was delighted. Kaisy, somewhere, is blushing. What a lucky fella.

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This summer, we had the pleasure of visiting friends in Breckenridge. I snapped an action shot of our middle girl. She’s dancing, laughing and obviously enjoying something sweet.

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Another shot of Twin Lakes. The girls trashed their clothes within minutes…perfect! We had dry duds ready to go for the ride home.

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This shot didn’t make it into the blog about redoing a Craigslist Queen Anne-style table for our family room makeover. I think I thought our garage was too messy. That seems silly to me now. Who cares?

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We also traveled to Wisconsin over the summer to celebrate my parents’ 50th anniversary. The trip was delightful and chock-full of don’t-forget-this moments, like watching your baby toddle on the shore of Lake Michigan for the first time.

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And I never could work a blog around this photo, but it’s definitely one of the best of our summer. The backstory: our sweet baby got her very own booster seat after rejecting her highchair. (If you are a new parent, this might not make sense. But eventually, your little tot decides they have had enough of the highchair, thank you very much.) When we installed the seat, both of the baby’s older sisters insisted on dragging their chairs around to join her at her new spot at the end of the table. They did this for days. I think they really love each other, and if they do, I am thankful. So very thankful.

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Racine, WI in Pictures

We just returned from an awesome week in Racine, WI (my birthplace!) to celebrate my parents’ 50th anniversary and my cousin’s 25th wedding anniversary. We stayed up too late, ate a ton of food (including some of Racine’s famous Kringle) and did the nostalgia tour. This involves going to lots of places I remember from my visits to Racine when I was a child (we moved to South Carolina when I was two years old, so all of my memories of Racine are from visiting family, not actually living there). We also drove past my parents’ childhood homes. We loved every minute of the trip.

Here are some iPhone photos. I took a ton of pix with my good camera, but I haven’t downloaded them yet.

This is Wind Point Lighthouse. We spent a gorgeous few hours here, playing on the beach and enjoying the best breeze and sun Wisconsin had to offer that day.

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We drove to Wisconsin from Colorado, echoing my trips with my parents as a child when we would make the long haul from South Carolina. We traveled on mostly rural highways and were moved over and over again at the beauty of our great land. Here’s a snap crossing the Mississippi River, right outside of Dubuque, IA.

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Quite on a whim, we stopped at a rest area on eastbound I-80 and discovered the most amazing public art installation called “Iowa’s Written All Over It.” The rest area is really close to Iowa City and the famous Iowa Writer’s Workshop. (I am proud to have a rejection letter from the mid-1990‘s signed by Frank Conroy.) The installation was designed by RDG.

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Part of our trip included a little jaunt to Burlington, WI where several of my ancestors lived in the 1800’s and early 1900’s. My ancestor Jacob Muth built a brewery in Burlington, which is now a theatre.

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We toured the very cool Racine Art Museum which is dedicated to contemporary crafts. The photos I took are not good, but here are a few works that grabbed me.

Mary Smull’s work is genius. Through her Society for the Prevention of Unfinished Needlework (SPUN), Mary rescues cast-off and forgotten incomplete needlework projects. She then finishes the project but with white thread, so you can see her work and the work of the unknown needlepoint artist.

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This is Kim Cridler’s Footed Bowl with Apples.

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Matt Eskuche’s Eat Your Heart Out Versailles, We Got Wal-Marts. 

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I am a fiber art junkie, so I swooned over Joanne Kliejunas’ reclaimed damaged quilt and vintage lace pieces. Love!

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It’s good to be home, our second grader heads to school tomorrow and our summer is officially over. What are you doing with the last hours of your summer?

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.

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A wildflower in Breckenridge CO

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

The True Tale of the Millionaire’s Silver Chandelier

Our story begins like all good tales do: with a mystery.

What would await us at the millionaire’s home?

A little backstory: Three Thanksgivings ago, my brother and sister-in-law invited us to their house in Santa Fe for the holiday. We love visiting their very lively family which includes my three young nephews. There is always punishing physical activity to enjoy: hikes, skiiing, mountain biking; even one year, hula hooping.

As we prepared to leave our Denver suburb, my brother Eric casually informed us by phone that he had found us a really great place to stay. We were intrigued because normally we would crash at his house (at that time, four of us plus dog). It turned out that Eric’s wife had family who were leaving town for Thanksgiving but really wanted someone in their house to keep an eye on it. We would be that someone, and I was happy to help. Eric said only: “They have a really nice house. We don’t bring the boys over.”

{We made the trip to Santa Fe, stopping as we normally did for the girls: sippy cups, potty breaks, screaming breaks (us, not them). Looking back, we thought two kids were hard, hah!}

We followed the directions to a swanky area of Santa Fe and then turned into the drive of a lovely home. The houses in Santa Fe kind of run together in my head (adobe, adobe, blue gate, adobe) but I could tell this home was gorgeous and a cut above the rest. But it was when we walked inside that we did the jaw-drop thing. The house was a stunner. A huge, long gallery connected both wings of the house. The gallery was like an art museum with paintings, southwestern artifacts, indigenous instruments. We broke into an immediate sweat, glancing down at our two little wild-child girls (who were 3 and 1 at the time).

The zebra-striped leather chair: off limits.

The fragile glass vase on the coffee table: super off limits.

The 100-year-old drum skinned with something priceless: so, so off-limits.

The master bedroom was huge, spa-like and uber gorgeous. The two pre-teen girls rooms were fantastic and gave me ideas for our girls for the future. The garage floor was heated and painted. I couldn’t figure out how to use the coffee maker. Our absent hosts thoughtfully left us the password for their Mac. All in all, it was a wonderful, pampering and out-of-this world experience. Miraculously, we broke nothing.

Our second day there, we drove away from the house and spied something plopped on top of a neighbor’s trash can. We’re frugal people, so we did the usual double-take and discovered some swanky-type neighbor had thrown out a silver chandelier. Brakes applied, Jonathan got out and gave me the thumbs’ up. The chandelier was dirty, but we could see it was very, very pretty. We decided to grab it, and none too soon, as a garbage truck rumbled down the street toward us.

It’s been almost three-and-a-half years and this week, we finally decided to hang the chandelier. I had almost forgotten what it looked like. When Jonathan got it out of the basement, I was dazzled. It’s really, really lovely with curved arms, delicate-yet-strong decorative finishes and a luminous silver glow. Jonathan took it apart, rewired it, added a chain and the chandelier was ready to go.

But first, we had to say goodbye to the chandelier that came with the house six years ago. Nothing against this light fixture, but it’s not really our style.

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Then Jonathan spent a little time getting the new chandelier to hang just right. It reminds me of old Hollywood glamour. Kind of fun for our suburban home.

Silver chandelier

The chandelier is really well made. The screws are straight screws and the UL tag looked very vintagey. Anyone know how old it might be?

Detail of a silver vintage chandelier

At our next house (someday, the Dream House!), I want to hang this in our bedroom. It wouldn’t work there now—there is no light installed in the ceiling and to do it retroactively would be kind of nuts (we’ve looked into it).

Silver vintage chandelier

And, so there you have it: a true tale of a chandelier destined for the trash heap but recycled into a certainly more humble abode. We love  it, every sweet silver curve.

Cost of chandelier project: 

Chandelier: Free

Assorted parts to rebuild chandelier including six new socket covers, six bulbs, wiring kit with silver chain: $32

Ladder: Borrowed from neighbor, free