Monday, April 10, 2017

Nursery in the Making

We have spent a lot of time over the past two weekends working on former guest room turned nursery and I'm happy to say we both agree the hard work paid off. I think I've heard Ben say every day since we started painting, "man, this looks awesome".
Nursery before; aka blue gu
Our house was built in 1908, so nothing is flat, nothing is level and walls certainly aren't smooth. The picture above was strategically taken to hide those imperfections.  If you were to look up, this is the ceiling. 
Hideous, right? It's worse in person!  When we first bought the house in Feb 2014, we paid someone to come out replace drywall ceiling of the main living/dining room. We also got quotes to correct the two guest bed ceilings (the above is certainly the worst of the two) but decided not to spend money at the time.

As soon as we found out we were pregnant, I told Ben, we have GOT to fix that ceiling. So we again got drywall quotes and unfortunately they hadn't magically lowered over the past three years ($1,200 to fix ONE room's ceiling; what?!). I have to confess, I was desperate enough to say let's suck it up and pay but Ben called me crazy.

Enter Plan B. Spring 2015 we had the exterior of the house painted and new gutters installed. When we were in Chicago, it seemed like every porch ceiling was wood. We loved the look but hadn't seen much of in it Denver. My father-in-law is much more handy than we are, so Ben and I stained and sealed tongue and groove pine then during once of their visits, my father-in-law and I installed the wood for the porch ceiling.
So we came up with the idea of trying to install a similar ceiling in the nursery. Thankfully my father-in-law said it was doable and we lined up the project to take place when they came to visit this February for our nephew's birthday. When we initially started talking about the project, I think MIL and FIL thought we were off our rocker, but by the time they got here, they knew about the pregnancy so it made more sense as to why we wanted it done.

I was still living in Vail at the time, so I can't say the guys were happy to see me when I walked in Friday afternoon (per my MIL's progress texts during the week, there was a lot of cursing).  Between Ben and my FIL, I think there was a lot of frustration, but the result is absolutely perfect (not to mention, a fraction of the price). To install, they first located the floor joists for the level above and then put up fur strips. This allowed the tongue and groove to have something to secure to. I cannot thank them enough for their hard work! 
Next step, paint. I'd always envisioned a primarily gray and white nursery, which goes along perfectly with our decision to wait to find out the gender. However, finding a true gray proved to be quite the challenge.  We put up seven samples, all from Sherwin Williams: (shown in order of) Repose Gray, Agreeably Gray, Worldly Gray, Light French Gray, Knitting Needles, Olympus White, and Lazy Gray.
We were told by SW that Light French Gray was the only "true", black/white mix gray (the first color on the left in the picture of four). Strangely enough, it appeared beige to us. We thought we had our decision made after putting samples up on the blue wall. However, there was a ton of prep work needed to sand out old cracks and fill divots (we're talking days and hours), so it made sense to work on wall prep and prime. After priming, we'd put samples back up to make the final decision. I'm glad we did!
I put the first coat of samples up Friday night. Saturday morning Ben came in while I was working on sample coat two and he said I already know which I like...thankfully it was the same color I wanted! We mutually agreed upon Olympus White. (Originally we liked lazy gray, but then it seemed to dark once the primer was up). So Saturday and Sunday were spent painting!
Furniture was ordered today (ahh! it's getting more and more real) and white crown molding will go up in the next month.  Meanwhile, I might just sit on the floor and take in what's already become my new favorite room in the house :)

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Sharing the News

Since we had been trying for several cycles, every month I would get anxious to take a test.  For Christmas we did our twelve hour drive to Illinois to see our families.  Last year we drove back a day earlier than planned due to impending snow and it ended up being really nice to have a day at home alone after the chaos of shuttling back and forth between both of our parents houses. So this Christmas, we intentionally came back with a day to spare before going back to work.

Since we've dated for so long (1999), we've always exchanged gifts after our family exchange. It's always been a moment I look forward to each holiday season. This year was no different, but I hoped we'd get a special gift to share, so I took a test on Tuesday and it was negative.  I knew it was a little early, but I was still upset not to see those two lines.  That day we drove to Vail. so that I could go back to work Wednesday and Ben would work from the apartment for the remainder of the week.

I'm not sure what prompted me to take a test on Wednesday (12/28/16) and it was positive (at what was 3weeks, 5 days along)!! I was stunned! I was worried it was somehow wrong and I didn't want to get Ben worked up, so I decided to wait until the next morning to take another test. Sure enough, Thursday's test was also positive. I had butterflies in my stomach all day thinking about telling Ben.

I got back to the apartment that night and pulled out a gift bag. I told Ben I'd forgotten about a gift I'd had at the apartment. First I handed him a bottle of Love Child (one of our favorite sour beers). A smirk crossed his face but I didn't say anything and prompted him to open the bag where he found:
Needless to say, we were both a little stunned that it finally happened!

We waited to tell our families until after our first appointment (which was Friday, 2/3/2017 at 9 weeks). Growing up my parents belonged to a nonprofit organization and every Valentines the group would make and sell Valentines cookies as a fundraiser.  Every year February rolls around and I crave these cookies!  I whipped up a double batch and decorated them to send to our families after our first OB appointment.

I watched the tracking for our parents (we'd strategically overnighted so they'd arrive on a Saturday; since I was still living in Vail during the week, we wanted to be together when we shared the news).  My parents reaction was so funny. Over FaceTime, they opened the package and said "hey! you made us cookies!" Then they started to pull out of the box "Cutie", "Stud Muffin", "We Sept?" What's "We Sept"?!  It took what felt like forever, but they finally got it!
Those first few weeks of knowing and waiting to tell family and friends went by so slow! It's hard to believe that tomorrow is already 17 weeks!

Monday, March 6, 2017

Our Biggest Adventure Yet!

On Saturday, we announced to social media that we are expecting our first child in September! I can't tell you how much I was shaking when I hit "post". It's been so hard to keep the secret, but at the same time, by keeping it a secret, I felt like we were somehow protecting us and the baby from the world. I'm going to be a nervous-nelly the next 18+ years, aren't I?

Not to go into all of the details, but it involved trying for six cycles, and both of us driving through the same snowstorm in one day, but our little blizzard baby is on it's way! During our period of trying, I learned that not all women's bodies are the same (I mean, duh). At my annual gyno exam (Nov 2016), I was upset that it had been five cycles and nothing had happened (If I'm being honest, I was really hoping for an Italy/Cubs are going to the world series baby!). My dr said we were doing everything right, but to make sure we were using ovulation predictor tests.  I had bought some in September but didn't really understand/used them haphazardly, and wouldn't you know, my next cycle rolled around, peeing on those little sticks and interpreting them made all the difference! (It turns out I ovulate 2-3 days earlier than most apps "suggested" time frame).

I'm in the 13th week of my pregnancy and things are going great!

First Trimester Recaps:

  • Morning Sickness: Yep. I never got physically sick, but did experience some waves of nausea during weeks 6-8. I was originally trying to do Whole30 as a coverup for not drinking, but also because I really wanted to do another round, but once nausea hit, I kept a supply of Ritz Crackers and Crystallized Ginger with me at all times.
  • Lack of Energy: This was my biggest symptom. I had a few nights where I turned out my light around 8pm and slept solid until my work alarm at 5:45am. I could have taken a morning and afternoon nap everyday. I was proud of myself for the few times I actually made it to the gym or out for a run (which honestly, was maybe 5 times before I hit week 10; that's when my energy levels started rising)
  • Food Aversions: Ugh, terrible! I eventually gave up on doing a true Whole30 because I.could.not. tolerate the smell of cooked vegetables. Or worse yet, I would make something like brussel sprouts, eat them for dinner, go to the bathroom and walk into the living space, smell them and gag!  It was easiest to try to eat kale caesar salads or raw bell pepper for my veggies for a few weeks.
Other than the above, first trimester went really well. Looking into the future...
  • Due Date: September 8th! It's crazy to think I'm already 1/3 way through my pregnancy.
  • Gender: I've always been such a classic Type A person. I'm the extreme planner and organizer. But for whatever reason, before we were pregnant or even trying, we had conversations about waiting to find out the gender and now that we are pregnant, I still feel that way. Mr HaHa is so easy going that he has not had a strong preference to find out or keep the surprise, so as of right now, our baby's gender will be a surprise!
  • Living Situation: The timing for this pregnancy has seemed to work itself out.  Not only did Mr HaHa get away with not living together full time during first trimester (I swear I wasn't crazy, but he or my coworkers may say differently), but before announcing my pregnancy to my company, my departure from Vail back to Denver full time was scheduled for mid-March.  My apartment lease ends March 16 so over the next week, we're in the process of moving me back to Denver, to our house! 
  • Work-life: As you may recall, since moving to Colorado, I work for a contractor in construction. I've always been on a construction site (yea, portapotties do not mix well with pregnancy, thank goodness for public bathrooms in Vail Village!).  When I told HR, they were extremely excited for me, but also recognize that we need to work together to find a project/position that will work for both me and the company. I really don't want to be walking around a construction site in July or August, ready to burst and in the field required jeans and short sleeved shirt. I'm confident we'll find the right fit for me.

I'll be back for another post about how I found out, how I told Mr HaHa and how we told our families.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

In Love with Italy

We talked about going to Oktoberfest this year, but Ben had a company retreat (to Mexico, poor guy) pop up that was the same time frame. If you recall, we went to Ireland with a Travelzoo trip, so I always keep my eyes peeled on deals.  There had been a lot of Groupons for Italy popping up. Italy has been on my bucketlist! But none of the trips I was finding were the time frame we wanted or the cities we wanted.

One day while browsing Travelzoo, I came across Trip Masters. I was skeptical about their low priced packages and flexibility, but after doing some research, I found them to be a legit company. Trip Masters is unlike the other package sites I've seen. Trip Masters allows you to select your flights, city orders and duration, select your hotels and transportation in between.

After messing around a few days, I finally narrowed down the perfect trip itinerary for our allotted time frame:

  • Rome: 3 days
  • Cinque Terre: 2 days
  • Florence: 1 day
  • Venice: 2 days
After booking the trip, I realized I had Ben's name wrong from his passport and also decided that the hotel we'd booked for Cinque Terre area was not ideal (we were to stay in the "suburbs", if you will). Trip Master's customer service is outstanding! They're available by chat which is so convenient, that I was able to easily update the name information.  They also allowed me to cancel our Cinque Terre hotel and gave a refund so that we were able to book our own separate accommodations in one of the Cinque Terre Villages. 

Pricing wise, the trip was more reasonable than I ever thought possible.  For our flights, 8 nights hotel (original booking) and 3 trains between cities, we paid only $200 more per person than the cost of our flight outright. Amazing! I highly recommend Trip Masters and will certainly use them in the future!

Monday, October 10, 2016

Mexican Riced Cauliflower

I'll be the first to admit this is not the best picture to blog, but trust me, this recipe combo is worth sharing!

Since finishing Whole 30, I've gotten really into substituting riced cauliflower for previous diet staples like quinoa and rice.  I usually cook at least one meal a week (which ends up being three servings for me) with cauliflower.

Mexican Riced Cauliflower
  • Head of cauliflower
  • 8 oz can tomato paste
  • 1/2 yellow onion (chopped)
  • 1 cup water
  • 2 tsp chili powder
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp ground chipotle
  • 1 jalapeno
  • 2 Tbsp lime juice
  • 1/2 bunch cilantro
  • 1 tomato (diced)
  • 1 Tbsp coconut oil
  • 1 garlic clove (minced)
To start, rice your cauliflower. Sometimes I'll chop it up finely with a knife and other times I'll throw it in my Ninja Express to rice.

In a large skillet, warm the pan over medium heat, add coconut oil.  Add cauliflower and mix with cauliflower. Add 1/2 cup water and mix rice.  Stir in can of tomato paste and add spices. Stir in remaining 1/2 cup of water.

While this is coming to a soft boil, chop up the onion, jalapeno, tomato and cilantro.  Stir into rice.  To let the flavors blend, let it simmer for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.

I decided to add some leftover Slow Cooker Mexican Pulled Pork I had. Mixing this in was a great idea! The flavors compliment each other nicely.  I topped the dish with a guacamole jalapeno salsa I found at the grocery store.

I eliminate the brown sugar called for in the pork recipe, which makes this meal entirely Whole 30 and Paleo compliant!

Friday, October 7, 2016

Piney Lake

Living in Vail has proven to have several perks.  Towards the end of September, my coworkers and I decided we should do a little team building.  Given the fall colors were changing prime time, we wanted to take advantage. So one Wednesday night after work, we grabbed some beer and made our way to Piney Lake.

Mr HaHa and I had been to Piney Lake area earlier in May to camp, but to be honest, we hadn't even gone to the lake because we had Oscar in tow and understood the lake to be on private property.  We missed out. I mean, look at this view!
To get to Piney Lake, it'd be recommended to have a four wheel drive vehicle. From Vail's north frontage road, turn onto Red Sandstone road.  Don't be fooled by it's initial paving, it will turn into a red sandstone road.  Follow the road and at the first fork, go left and follow signs for Piney Lake.  You can also put Piney Lake into navigation (do it before you leave Red Sandstone Road, you will loose cell service!). It takes about 45 minutes once turning off the frontage road to get to the lake.

Piney Lake Ranch is private property, but there is a parking lot available. If you're feeling up for more than just taking in the view, there is Upper Piney Lake trail to hike.  The trail is about 6 miles round trip and will take you to water falls. It's the perfect spot to take in Colorado's beauty as it's finest!
Piney Lake is well worth the drive and a gorgeous spot! As I mentioned above, there is camping in the area and because it's National Forest, it's free!  Until next time Piney!

Thursday, September 15, 2016

West Maroon Pass

This past weekend was so incredible, it calls for a post.

I told Mr HaHa, I never want to forget this weekend and after all the rigmarole to coordinate it, I hope this will help other hikers as well.
I don't remember where I stumbled across the West Maroon Pass Trail hike, but once I did, it was immediately added to our bucket list.  The idea of hiking from Aspen's Maroon Bells (a place so stunning in itself) to Crested Butte (which has become a favorite mountain town of ours), couldn't be beat. 11 miles didn't sound that bad and living in Vail, Aspen is just two hours away. 

However, there are quite a lot of logistics to figure out:
  • Where to park in Aspen? How to get to Aspen trail head?
  • How long would it take? (Aspen to CB is slightly harder due to elevation gains; the hike trailhead to trailhead is 11 miles with ~3,000ft gain)
  • Should we camp?
  • How could we get from the CB trail head (located at Schofield Park, approximately 13 miles from CB)?
  • Should we hike back from CB to Aspen the next day?
  • If we don't hike, how should we get back to Aspen from CB?
While Google is great, I couldn't easily find all of the answers to my questions.  We originally settled on the general plan of hike, camp, hike back.  Then I realized that Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness area currently requires bear canisters and it was a unanimous decision that we would just get a hotel in Crested Butte.  

So, Saturday, September 10th, we were on the road at 5am, to get to Maroon Lake by 7am. During the hours of 8am - 5pm, the only vehicles allowed to drive directly up to Maroon Lake are shuttle buses, which be picked up at $8/person from Aspen Highlands ski area and parking lot (which is $5/day). However, outside of these hours, there are an allotted number of day-use and overnight parking spots for public. At the Aspen Ranger Welcome station we were told that overnight parking was full; which I had anticipated but hoped to squeeze in. Because the shuttle doesn't start until 8am (and we wanted to be on the trailhead before), we drove back to Aspen Highlands and called High Mountain taxi for a ride (I'd confirmed the day before that they would be available). 

They took about 10 minutes to arrive and 20 minutes after that (and $41 later with tip, youch!), we were at Maroon Lake trailhead, departing at 7:40am and ran into this big guy.
Can you see him in there? We were scared to get to close; but there he was. A beautiful (and huge) male moose to start the beginning of what would be a wonderful hike.
This is only our third fall living in Colorado and we typically make it a priority to get out a weekend or two and drive from Denver to the mountains for fall colors; but this year living in Vail and watching the action in progress is what I've been looking forward to since I signed my apartment lease last December.
Of everything we've experienced living in Colorado, for me, you can't beat standing in the middle of a forest surrounded by a golden glow and magical flutter of aspen leaves. It is the bee's knees!
I'd been to Maroon Bells only once before, last July. We'd hiked to Crater Lake, which is 1.7 miles one-way from Maroon Lake.  It's listed to have 629 ft of elevation gain; but it warmed us up quickly (which is good because it was about 37 degrees!)
Looking at Maroon Bells from Crater Lake
We progressed on from the lake, making really good time (about 22 minute miles) towards the valley. We passed several campsites and made mental note of how cool it would be to wake up with this kind of views. Next summer!

The farther along we moved, we'd occasionally look back at the views we'd left behind. Absolutely stunning!!

 A few hours in, at 9:30am, the ground was still frozen solid and covered in frost.  We were in jackets and a comfortable temperature, but ready to get in the sunny meadow that laid ahead.

We hit the sun just before 10am and immediately were ready to remove some layers.  This part of the hike had gorgeous yellowing bushes and several small streams to cross over.  Thank goodness for waterproof hiking boots!

Looking ahead, it was hard to see exactly where we'd summit the pass but there were inclines to be seen and a few switchbacks to get us there.
The final ascent
When we made it to the summit of West Maroon Pass my Garmin watch clocked us at 6.47 miles in three hours, which is a pace of 27 minute miles; not bad considering the approximate 3,000 ft elevation gain. The views were 360-degrees of pure natural beauty!
The trail up the valley from Aspen
The wind on the top was a little brisk, but there are enough rocks to block it for a comfortable sit for a snack and to take in the views.  After a fifteen minute break, we were on our merry way down.
The trail from the Crested Butte side is less steep and also shorter (4.5ish miles from trailhead to summit instead of Aspen's 6.5) and in itself is breathtaking.  We were a bit late in the season for wildflowers, but caught a few on their way out.
While going up was shy of 3 hours, coming down took about 2 hours.  Very easy terrain and almost all sun exposure to the sun. At the base/trailhead, there was a parking lot (and if you are desperate for a portapotty, there's one another half mile at a second lot), a stream and some logs for a shuttle "waiting area".

There are two shuttles allowed for pick ups: Dolly's Mountain Shuttle and Alpine Express.  Both run scheduled group pick ups ($15/head to get back to Crested Butte, drop off location of your choice).  I found a lot of recommendations for Dolly's but found their communication (lack thereof) to be terrible, so we ended up booking at 2pm pick up with Alpine Express. Another option is to pay to have your car driven over for you by Maroon Shuttles, but this is pricier than other methods of getting around/back.

We got to the base at 12:30p. We'd planned on the hike taking six hours and it took us under give. With plenty of time to spare before our 2p pick so we relaxed by the stream and in the shade of the trees.  There's no cell service so we used the time to just chat and unwind.  By 2pm; we had plenty of other hikers waiting with us for a ride.  (We'd joked at 12:40p about hitchhiking into town and while the lot was full, we didn't see anyone leaving to ask).
Alpine Express dropped us off directly at our hotel, Elevation Hotel and Spa.  I booked the hotel two days prior to our hike using  I would highly recommend using them as there are limited hotel options in CB/Mount CB area and with Hotwire we saved $30 off the nightly rate compared to other sites.

The room was awesome and the hot tub views couldn't be beat.  We were skeptical about staying on the mountain base instead of downtown, but the town's shuttle, Mountain Express, runs every 20 minutes and is a quick (10 minute or less) ride downtown. As always, Secret Stash was a must-have with the appetites we worked up!
The next morning we were picked up by our driver and headed back to Aspen via Kebler Pass.  To get back to Aspen, Dolly's, Alpine Express and Travel Crested Butte all offer shuttles, at $60/person. Some have minimum people or price requirements. We booked with Travel Crested Butte, primarily because we could book online but it turned out to be a convenience that we didn't have to worry about meeting a minimum price. We entirely lucked; no other travels had booked so we had a pimped-out Yukon to ourselves!

The drive back to Aspen Highlands took around 3 or so hours. We took the time to sit back, relax and enjoy the views!
The majority of the other hikers who got picked up with us at trailhead were hiking back the next day.  Honestly, neither of us had thought of this.  As mentioned above, we had originally thought about camping (which I'm glad we didn't, we didn't see any sites near Schofield Park) and hiking back; but we never thought about hike, hotel, hike. Another option to consider next year! 

Overall, this tops the charts as one of our favorite hikes,. It was gorgeous from start to finish.  I'm so glad it came together last minute (Although I'd done my research, I did all of our booking Thursday and we hiked Saturday). I'd highly recommend adding this hike to a bucket list!

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