House to Home Day 17: Zoo Day!

I love taking the boys to the zoo, so I was excited to see how the Denver Zoo compared to the Fort Worth Zoo.  It did not disappoint!  Especially the weather.  I still think I’m a little partial to the Fort Worth Zoo, but hey, you can’t have everything.

Tanner hated being in the stroller and was a little cranky because he wanted to walk around like his bubba.  The camels got his attention though.

camel

Jace was our tour guide (it was like he was living in an episode of Dora the Explorer…map and all)

elephants

Both boys thought the sea lion was their Texan chocolate lab, Max.  The only dog I know who dives to the bottom of the pool.  I tried to explain that Max lives at GiGi’s house and not at a Colorado zoo.

sea lion

Jace was enthralled with the tigers.  Or maybe he just liked swinging on the rails.  Probably the rails.

tiger

Their favorite part was probably the Dippin’ Dots.  My favorite part and least favorite part was the Dippin’ Dots.

FAVORITE:  We had to wait a little while for them to open so we got them ALL for FREE.  That would have been at least $15 in zoo bucks.

LEAST FAVORITE:  Tanner’s white shirt transforming to rainbow tie-dye before my eyes.  He rode home in a diaper.

tanner dippindots

jace dippin

 

Although it was a pretty warm day for Colorado, it was super nice to not have the Texas sun and humidity beating us down.  We enjoyed the day and it wore the boys out enough for some extra long naps.  Bonus!

 

 

House to Home Day 15: Top of the World

One thing about living in Colorado is that there is never a lack of something fun and adventurous to do.  As the newest members of this great state, we wanted to break the norm from our typical Saturday of hanging around the house, and go on a “Mountain Adventure.” (that’s what we called it for the boys)

Carter had heard, or probably researched, about the highest paved road in North America that takes you to the top (literally) of Mount Evans.  Here is an excerpt from their website:

 Drive from 8,700 feet at Idaho Spring where you turn off Interstate 70 to 14,240 feet to the summit, and you will pass through 3 life zones, passing ancient trees, lakes and forest to the land above timberline. It can be 90 degrees in Denver and 40 degrees at the top of Mount Evans. Mountain Goats and Bighorn Sheep will greet you as you climb to the top of the world.

We were excited to do something that we never could have done in Texas, so we gathered up our crew and started driving.  I’m still in awe on the mountain view…it never gets old.

on the way

Upon arriving at the base, we discovered that it was actually National Get Outdoors Day!  (i.e. “get in free day”)  Coincidence?  I think not.  Destiny is more like it.

get outdoors day

This is the moment that our true Texan nature was revealed.  You see, we had been hanging out outside all morning in summery clothes given that it was a nice 75 degrees.  Naturally, I wore my same outfit: a tank top and my workout stretchy capri pants.  Perfect for doing something outdoorsy in nature.  I mean, I didn’t really know WHAT we would be doing, but I assumed it would require workout attire.

HA.

As we were driving away from the little booth with the Colorado native, she casually mentioned that there were some snowstorms on top of the mountain.

Say whaaaat???  You mean my boys’ t-shirts and shorts (with a fleece jacket thrown in last minute) won’t suffice?

What she failed to mention was the death trap of a road that led up to the top of that mountain.  I was having a slight panic attack at times, fearing that we would fly off the side of the mountain with even the lightest gust of wind.

drive up

We finally reached the top.  And Carter took a 5 minute nap for lack of oxygen.

sign

And here I am in my mountain attire.  I got out of the car for approximately 5.4 seconds to snap a pic.

selfie

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Carter was equally unprepared for the cold weather.

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The views made it so worth it…even if they were mostly taken from the comfort of our warm vehicle.

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view

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On our way home we stopped in the quaint mountain town of Idaho Springs and had pizza.

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daddy and tanner

jacie

It was such a perfect day.  We had a blast, and it got us excited about other adventures we can take in the mountains.

Next time we spend equal effort researching the weather as we do the location, however.

 

 

House to Home Day 13: New Girl

I recently posted about how continuing things that were familiar was one thing that really helped me feel at home in my new state.  Well, have you ever watched a show and you felt like you were friends with the characters?  Where just by watching it brings a sense of comfort?

Let me introduce you to my friends:

Jess.

jessica day

Nick.

nickquote

Winston.

winston

And of course, Schmidt.

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In other words, let me introduce you to New Girl.  It’s like the new Friends and it makes me laugh out loud on a regular basis.

So when the day is over and Carter is snoozing next to me in bed and I can’t go to sleep, I turn on Netflix and watch reruns with these crazies.  (And wake Carter up with my laughing.)

Somehow, it just makes me feel at home.

 

House to Home Day 11: Gym Time

workout

I joined 24 Hour Fitness during my Unplugged Experiment (see here) and loved having that “me time” back in Texas.  Now I had a lot of help with my kids there, seeing as both my parents and my in-laws lived in the same city.  But there were still those times when I just wanted to clear my head and do something that was kid free for an hour or two.

I knew once we moved to Colorado there would not be any GiGi or KK days where I would have time to work or rest or run errands.  It would be all me…unless I wanted to pay for a sitter.  I also knew that there was a 24 hour fitness (or 5) very close to our new home, and I suspected that this would be my new outlet for rest.  And I was right.

Since I had been regularly going to the gym back home, returning once we moved here really helped with the transition.  There was something comforting about continuing routines and doing something that had been familiar.  I also really loved being able to watch a show or two while on one of the machines, especially since we signed up for a very limited cable package.  So basically, even if I didn’t feel like breaking a major sweat, I could drop the kids off (at the amazingly huge and fun kids club they have) and walk at a snail’s pace while watching HGTV and drinking a Gatorade.

Or maybe sit in the hot tub or steam room or sauna.

Hey, no one ever said you have to actually WORK OUT when you go to the gym.

It’s not too bad that beyond that TV screen is an amazing view of the Rocky Mountains.  Can’t ever beat that.

 

House to Home Day 9: Be Still

By far the most significant thing I can do to feel at home, no matter where I am, is to be still and spend time with Jesus.

To me this means a lot of things.  It means reading God’s word out of my Bible or from a devotional plan on my Bible app.  It means journaling, in the form of writing things that are on my heart to pray for and things that I am thankful for.  A lot of unloading of worries and questions and stresses.

I also love to read books that teach me and inspire my faith.  My current read is Love Skip Jump by Shelene Bryan.  I’m only a few chapters in, and it’s already rocking my world. (Contemplating how to incorporate it into a future experiment)

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I love the fact that we have a really big master bedroom that allows for a sitting area.  I never really thought the size of my bedroom mattered, but now I’ve changed my mind a bit.  All of the windows bringing in the natural light, plus the views of the trees make this little corner so quaint and homey to me.  It’s the perfect setting for me to curl up with a cup of coffee and spend some quiet time in prayer.

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My favorite time to do this would be in the mornings.  Carter leaves pretty early for work, so if I get up around that time it gives me a good hour and a half of quiet before the chaos of motherhood begins.  If I just can’t get myself out of bed then I will attempt the same during the kids’ nap time.  Unfortunately, that is very unpredictable (Jace either takes a 2-3 hour nap…or none at all) and by mid day there are so many other tasks that have made their way to my “to-do” list.  It makes the idea of sitting before God and being still seem unrealistic.  Today was interrupted by this cutie.

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The truth is, I need this time more than I need anything else.  When I try to take on every worry and self-help my way to happiness, it fails miserably every time.  I need Jesus every day.  Especially during big transitions.  It’s so good to know that no matter what changes I go through in life, God is still the same.  Here’s an insert from my devotional Bible that I read yesterday.  It seemed pretty applicable to this experiment and this journey our family is on.

It is comforting to have God,

Who is as much at home on one end of the earth as the other.

When I come to the end of myself,

wherever I am in the world,

God is there.

And from that seeming dead end He can create new life,

and give new strength.

I never need fear that I have not taken Him along.

-Gladis and Gordon DePree

 

House to Home Day 8: Backyard Adventures

I love our backyard.  That was one huge wish of mine:  to have a great backyard with LOTS of trees.

Well, wish granted.  And guess what?  The boys love it.

The yard at our new home is far from perfect.  It wasn’t taken care of by the previous owner so there are weeds in place of grass.  The patio has a sunken area where every time is rains, which has been a lot since we’ve moved here, the water pools and creates a shallow pond-like scenario swarming with bugs and dirt and leaves.

Like I said…the boys LOVE it.

In spite of our yard’s shortcomings, it has so much potential for an awesome retreat.  In the meantime, the boys love to go tromping around through the trees, finding pinecones and sticks.  They love watching the birds and butterflies.  They especially love the hole in part of our fence that allows them to pet our neighbor’s dog Lucy.

If you are a parent, then you know that nothing makes a house feel more like home than seeing your kids play and laugh and live in it.  That is so true for me right now.  Being far away from all our family can be tough, and I wondered how the boys would adjust.  Seeing them have so much fun and be so excited about their playroom, bedrooms, and backyard just warms by heart and makes this transition so much easier.

jace and tanner

Tanner and Jace both love to “mow” our lawn/weeds.  If only it really worked…

lawn mower

Jace collects pine cones, sticks, and rocks.  They have also found the random mushroom here and there.

pinecone

I love this area in the corner of our yard under a big evergreen tree.  They have their playhouse and some chairs – it almost feels like a little kiddie campground in the middle of the woods.

tanner car

Tanner’s favorite thing to do is walk along the retaining wall like it’s a balance beam.  So basically he loves to make his momma nervous.  I ended up moving our outdoor furniture against it so he has something to grab on to.  Here he is trying to pick bark off one of the trees that backs up to the wall.

tanner

When Jace isn’t going on a nature scavenger hunt, he is jumping.  Either on his mini “jumpoline,” as he calls it, OR…

jace jump

On our bounce house.  Yes, that’s right.  We have a bounce house.

bounce house

We’re Texans.  Go big or go home.

So glad we could bring a little bit of that Texas mentality to our new abode. ;)

 

 

 

House to Home Day 7: The Heart of the Home

The kitchen.

The first place of priority when searching for a home. (For me at least)

There is something about that space that is so central to the life that is lived in a house.  I think about breakfasts with my boys both sitting at the island waiting for the pancakes to be delivered (and devoured).  I think about cooking with friends over and all congregating in the kitchen, taste testing the dishes as they are being prepared.  I especially think about baking, which I LOVE to do.

Because I love carbs.  Carbs + Sweets = My kind of cooking.

The first weeks in our home were so filled with unpacking and decorating and getting settled in, that there was no cooking.  Only eating out or grabbing a pizza or some other form of fast food.  There was the occasional sandwich made, but it hardly consisted of any culinary skill.  And it was weighing on me.

It’s like I knew that I wouldn’t feel completely at home until I was able to get in the kitchen and cook something.  Once I did, it just brought that feeling of comfort.  I’ve since made many meals in our new kitchen, but it’s the baking that brings me the most joy.  Today I’m going to share a recipe for homemade blueberry muffins that are huge and delicious.  They are really fast to throw together and taste much better than the packets where you “just add water.”

blueberry muffins

We go through blueberries quick at the Stark household, mostly because Tanner loves them.  We had some extras so I thought it would be the perfect opportunity to take this standard recipe for Big Beautiful Muffins and make my favorite variation: BLUEBERRY Muffins.

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You mix the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a large bowl.  In a separate bowl, mix the eggs, yogurt, and here’s my twist:  3-4 drops of Lemon essential oil.

lemon oil

This adds a wonderful lemony twist to the traditional blueberry muffin.  If you don’t have any lemon oil, you could always grate some lemon zest into the mixture.  After combining the dry mix with the egg/yogurt mix, you fold in the melted butter.  Last but not least…the blueberries.  About a cup and a half, tossed with 1 T of flour to coat.

Divide the batter in a large, greased muffin pan (makes 12).  Don’t freak out if they seem to be really full.

Cook for 25-30 minutes at 375 degrees.  I took mine out right at 25 minutes and they were perfect.

out of oven

Let them cool.  Or not.  I prefer to eat them immediately and potentially scald my tongue.  But they’re soooooooo gooooood.

cooling rack

Just look at that deliciousness.  Ignore my husband’s man nails.  He was in the middle of refinishing our basement, so I’ll allow it. ;)

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They were definitely kid (and husband) tested and approved.

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So much so that Carter tried to swipe Jace’s muffin.  Jace was all like, “Nuh uh Daddy, no you didn’t!”  Well, sort of.

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Twelve large muffins.  Gone in less than 12 hours.  That’s good cooking, folks.

And I’m feeling right at home.

{Recipe adapted from The America’s Test Kitchen Family Cookbook.  A great cookbook to have in your collection for everyday cooking}

 

House to Home Day 5: Pool Day

Here is the last post for getting to know our neighborhood, and what better way to do that than visiting the community pool.

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It’s a short walk with the stroller (or a long walk if you let Jace ride his bike and get too tired halfway through) and a great way to meet other moms in the area.  I love that they  have a small, gated kid pool that is only a foot deep.  The boys LOVED it and enjoyed playing with other kids there as well.

Here are some of my favorite pics from our pool day.  You will notice that Jace is in his pirate gear, of course.

jace closeup

I love how dorky he looks in this picture.  With his pockets hanging out of his swimsuit, his little ears being pushed down by the pirate bandana, and his dumfounded look up on his face.  To his momma all it reads is PRECIOUS.  Straight up.

pirate j

I love this one of Tanner.  Pure joy.

tan smile

tan splash

Jace swim

Look at that glare.

jacie glare

And of course you need pool snacks.

tanner cheetos

tanner 2

jace cheeto

 

A fun day at the pool, indeed.  We will be back!

 

Next week’s posts are all about bringing back those old comforts into your new home.  See you then!

 

 

 

House to Home Day 4: Where Everybody Knows Your Name

They might not know our names yet at Doug’s Day Diner, but they will!

Nothing feels more like home than having that neighborhood, hole-in-the-wall restaurant that you love to go to.  And we found ours.

I would never have noticed this place at all, as it’s exterior does not demand any attention.  I’m so glad our realtor mentioned it to us in passing while we were house hunting, or I would have never have gone in.  I’ve been to some places that called themselves “diners”  expecting some home cookin’ grandma style, only to be served food that tastes like it came straight from an elementary school cafeteria.

Diner pic

When we went to Doug’s, that was not the case.  It has the charm of a diner, with friendly servers and a hometown atmosphere.  The best thing about this place is they aren’t joking about home cooking.  Check out the menu:

menu

EVERYTHING from scratch baby.  My kind of place.  The boys loved it.

tannerman

Jace had to bring his entourage, of course.

jace diner

Don’t be fooled by his face.  He was just a little cross. (His words, not mine)  He still devoured his chocolate chip pancake that was the size of his head.

jace is cross

And that’s a big head, folks.  Check out the creepy smile and crazy eyes.  Love that kid.

jace is happy

The times before when I’ve gone to Doug’s, I have always gotten the “BG” – Biscuits and Gravy.  Today I branched off and got a plate with some more variety, obviously including their scrumptious biscuits.  The bacon (another all time fav of mine) was super thick and awesome.  Oh, and notice that little paper container in the top right?  That’s their homemade blackberry jam.  This aint IHOP, people.  No little prepackaged jelly containers to be found.

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And just to make you drool a little on your keyboard, here is a close up of that biscuit.  Perfectly soft in the middle with crisp, buttery tops (from being placed on the griddle), they are both sweet (maybe some honey in there) and savory.  Pair that with the jam and you’ve got a little piece of heaven.  If you’re into that sort of thing.

biscuit

 

We haven’t tried their lunch/dinner yet, but if it’s anything like their breakfast, it’s got to be great.  There are many more little restaurants in our neighborhood that I’m excited about trying.  If you know of any in the Denver area, let me know!

{Will drive for fab food}

 

 

House to Home Day 3: Water Water Everywhere!

Splash Pad.  Free.

Those are three words that every mom of little ones loves to hear in the summer.  Why?

1.)  At the splash pad, you don’t have to worry about your toddlers drowning.  There is no such thing as a “relaxing” day at the pool when your kids are 1 and 2.  You are constantly on lifeguard duty.

2.)  When you are at home all day, any chance at entertainment that allows you to get OUT of the house is appealing.  You throw the word FREE in there and it’s almost irresistible. (This is also why I go to Barnes and Noble.  Not to buy books, but to let my kids play with the train table in the kids section.)

If you didn’t catch it in yesterday’s post, there was a {FREE} fountain/play area right next to Tutti Frutti!  How awesome is that?  Two birds, one stone.

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The boys loved it!

fountain run

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Except when they were cold.  Or when water got in their face.  Or when they unexpectedly stood on a fountain head that was three seconds away from spewing water 12 feet in the air.  Or when Tanner found the lid to someone else’s sunscreen and thought it was a toy, only to have Jace take it away.

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{Note to self:  Bring water toys next time.  All the other kids have them and my kids try to steal them.  Save everyone the struggle.}

We also discovered another free splash pad and met a friend and her kids up there.  This place was huge, and pretty crowded (read: FREE) but it had some great parks in addition to the water area.  I think the boys enjoyed the variety of this location a lot:  splash areas, multiple playgrounds with rock climbing walls and all sorts of mountainy stuff, sand areas, the works.

playground centennial copy

wagon splashpad

boys at splashpad

Lots of fun new places discovered right in our neighborhood.  Lots of new memories being made.

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