Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Winter garden

Every winter we try to make it to Red Butte Garden to enjoy the sun and the snow. However, some years the garden feels more like spring rather than the middle of winter. I sure wish we had piles and piles of fresh snow, but if not, sun and high forties makes up for it.

The magnolia had already budded out and was covered with soft little "bunnies".
Snowdrops are always the first to bloom and are so fun to see in early March. Never have I seen them as early as January. We have had such a mild winter.
Juliet has been obsessed with her "Queen hat" as she calls it, and being called Elsa. She corrects us all day long when we forget and call her "Juliet".
Even with the warm temps the pond was frozen solid. We went over to a shallow area and checked to see how sturdy it was. Luckily it was nice and thick and there was no hope we could crack it. Both the kids loved skidding around on it.
 Oops!
 Happy for sun and ice.
 So love the winter garden.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Blue skies and deep powder

Every weekend the kids beg to go to the mountains. "Let's play in the snow!" they cheer. Or "we want to go sledding!"
And every weekend we oblige. Nothing is better for the heart and soul than fresh air, sunshine, and exercise. Raising these little people to agree with our brainwashing theories seems to be working.

This photo is straight off my camera. No adjusting saturation or levels. Nada. Sky was almost purple!
James's snowball maker is always close in hand. The Utah powder makes horrible snowballs (you can never seem to pack it tight enough to make a decent one) but he doesn't mind.
Juliet didn't want to walk far, not because she's anti walking, but because the "snow was so yummy" and she needed to sample it every second step.
The powder was deep. E and I agreed that we will get the kids snowshoes next winter.
Most of the day we were in the shade (which was fine because we still had blue skies!) but for a moment the sun broke behind the mountain, only to hide again minutes later. Nice face Juliet. ;)
James has "snowshoed" here a couple of times before. Once when he was two months old (yes, we were those parents!) and another time when he was a year.
Tips for taking your kiddos into the outdoors in the winter:

1. Invest in great clothes. Nice snow clothes are not inexpensive, so I try to make them last as long as possible. However, I don't buy name brand snow clothes, my kids don't need a North Face jacket that they will only fit in for two years.

  • I always buy coats two sizes too large in hopes that I'll get two winters out of them (both kids are wearing the same coats they did last year!). I always try to buy real down filled coats for the kids. The poly stuff is just not nearly as warm. Luckily, for the last two years Costco has sold real down coats for kids for only $25 (which is unheard of). They are the best coats they've ever owned. Brand is Snozu.
  • Hats and gloves can last more than one year, as long as they don't get lost. Always make sure you've got them when you leave. Obvious, I know, but sometimes when you've got crying kids a lost glove isn't a big deal. Always keep track of their gear. Our rule is not letting them take them off while we are out, unless we stop and stow into a pack. We got our kids' mittens at Costco and love them. Warm and easy to get on and off. 
  • Snowpants I always buy big. Once they have their boots on it doesn't matter if there is extra fabric at the bottom, again, try to make them last more than a year. And hand-me-downs are so easy. Juliet's never had new snow pants, they've all been hand-me-downs from James. 
  • Boots, I said above I don't buy name brand but for boots I do. I have found Sorel boots on eBay for 60% off what the stores sell them for. I buy gender neutral so Juliet can grow into James's outgrown boots. "Cheap" boots from Target or Walmart aren't that much cheaper than name brand Sorels if your willing to buy on eBay. 
2. Lots of snacks. We always get hungry when we are out and about and a handful of trail mix does wonders to everyone's attitude. Plus, an M&M bribe sometimes is the only thing that helps get a cranky kid to walk. Also water. Sometimes when it's cold you can't imagine you'll be thirsty, but we are always thirsty. Bring water for sure. 

3. Make it fun. We don't hike far with the kids. We mix it up with sledding, throwing snow and ice into the river, and letting them choose the path. It's all about exploring and being outside more than a set route. 

4. Leave before everyone melts down. Oftentimes we are having so much fun the kids don't want to leave. If we push past lunch time when everyone is hungry and cranky we leave with sobbing kids saying "I don't ever want to do that again" instead of happy kids that can't wait to go back. 

Anything I missed? What do you do to keep kids happy in the outdoors (especially in the winter)?

Monday, January 12, 2015

James says, Juliet says

Last weekend was full of gray inversion days with no new snow to be had. One day we escaped to cleaner air in Park City and visited our favorite blue door, but the rest of the weekend was spent lying low, playing hours and hours and hours worth of Legos.

So instead of a weekend post, I have a long list of the hilarious things these kiddos have been saying.

James - Age 5
  • "You are the greatest mommy I have ever had!"
  • We were talking to him one day about how dangerous cars can be, and how you always need to watch, even on driveways. After thinking about it for a moment he responded "cars are not the most dangerous, wolves are!"
  • "I'm thankful for giving you hugs and kisses."
  • "Good thinkin' sister!" This came out of nowhere and it was so cute and funny.
  • "Did you know that red liquid fire is the hottest fire? It's hotter than blue liquid fire. And it's really hotter than green liquid fire. Green liquid fire is cold."
  • "Do you know why one reindeer is named Fixen? He's the one that fixes stuff!"
  • After fighting with robot toys, Me: "Robots aren't aggressive, they help people." Him: "What do they do to help people?" Me: "Well there are robots that help build cars." Him: "Or they could help me fight bad guys that are trying to get me!"


Juliet - Almost 3
  • "My bum is a diarrhea fountain." Sorry dear, you said it, not me. 
  • "I learned that from my best friend brother James."
  • "Me love you so much James. Why we love each other so much?"
  • Whenever she tells a story to her dolls: "Pada pada time" (once upon a time).
  • "My eyeballs still look sad."
  • Looking at this baby photo of James "I like his hair and his beautiful blue eyes"
  • "My feelings are feeling sad."
  • "Mommy you are the cutest mommy I have ever seen!"
  • "I thankful for snuggling you."
  • Pointing at her nose, "This bugger factory is all gone."
  • Me: "Were those tooters (farts) I feel on me?" Juliet: "Yes, but it's ok because those tooters were warm!"
  • And then later the same day "Oh that feels good! Warm tooters!"
  • In her most threatening voice "I'm going to break you! Break you into a baby sister!"
  • To a nice lady at a store, Juliet: "Hi! It's almost my birthday." Her: "That is wonderful. How old will you be?" Juliet: "My sweet best brother is named James and he's at preschool and I love Peso penguin."

Thursday, January 08, 2015

Sledding with the family

We have turned a huge corner this year in regards to our love for the outdoors in the winter. Now, E, James and I have always loved the outdoors in the winter. With the right gear, and willingness to get out, it is amazing. But a year ago, the littlest bunny in the family was not having it.

Last year we struggled to get out for even an hour without a huge meltdown from her. I think she was just too little. Being under two, it is just so hard to walk and move in heavy winter gear. Even small clothes add up to a lot of weight.

But this year, this year she LOVES it! I already posted this happy news last time we went to the mountains, but this visit was colder and snowier, and she loved it even more, if possible!

Her new little alpaca wool hat was hand knit by the owners of our Lava Hot Springs hotel. It is so soft and sweet.
I asked E to bring his camera (all these photos were shot by him) because it is quite a bit smaller than mine. Plus, it's so nice to see me in photos once in awhile. That's me, in the deep fluffy snow.
Plus, E has a great eye.
My sweet boy. He's decided he loves this closed mouth smile. I love it too.
When it's 12 degrees you must lie down in the snow, don't you know?
Lots of snowball fights.
Lots and lots of happiness. And thank you honey for capturing the perfect photo above for the winter header. Happy winter!

Saturday, January 03, 2015

Lava Hot Springs

This year it was unanimous. We have too much stuff. Nobody wanted or needed anything else for Christmas. We wanted time, time with those we love. So my dad took that to heart and started researching mini vacation get-aways. He wanted it close enough to feel easy to get to, but far enough to make it feel special.

Finally, he decided on Lava Hot Springs, a tiny town in Southern Idaho that nobody had ever been to. The town is tiny. But it has a handful of restaurants, quite a few hotels, and the glorious hot springs, open every day of the year.

We arrived around 1:00 pm on Sunday and were thrilled to see quite a few restaurants open. Everyone was freezing, the air temperature hovered right around 12 degrees. Luckily, our awesome hotel (it really was spectacular!) let us check in three hours early so we could change into suits.

Everyone was so excited to get soaking! And taking a vacation with my siblings and my dad and his fiancée is seriously the best. Everyone arrived happy and ready to play. We quickly changed, drove less than a mile from our hotel to the hot pots, and started our soak.

This was the first dip, and oh it was amazing!
All the pools are stone, some with a hard stone bottom, others with a loose stone bottom. And the water is crystal clear. Most beautiful water I've ever been in (this photo of my feet is looking down through the water!).
Some pools were hotter than others, but even the coolest pool was hardly cool. Everything felt amazing, and everyone was having a wonderful time. This is my sister in the hottest pool.
The water bubbles up all over town, so lots of hotels have their own private pools, and there are pools in the river you can explore, but these suited us just fine. We were all in heaven.
E and I remarked later at how happy the kids stayed. Splashing wasn't really allowed (we sneaked a few in!), and there wasn't slides or diving boards or anything. But for two days of soaking (three hours each day!) both kids just happily played, visited with family, and stayed generally happy.
After we were fully soaked we headed back to our hotel rooms for appetizers and wine. My dad surprised everyone with wine, cheese and fruit awaiting in our rooms when we returned. Then we gathered in a central room and ate a few more appetizers before heading to dinner.

The town is so tiny that it was easy to walk to dinner. Some small towns are closed down on Sunday, but we were happy that almost all restaurants were open. Even restaurants with tables for eleven (we were a big party).
The snow was gently falling, the town was so old fashioned and quaint and everyone remarked that it felt so magical and special. 
The next day we started with a diner breakfast and ended with more soaking. The mineral water made my skin feel amazing, and so soft. Nobody wanted to leave.
Part of our group. Tracie, my dad, Chandler, Jess, James, Brandon. Missing from this photo is Melissa and Witt, E and I, and Juliet.
The drive home was gorgeous and easy. Everyone agreed that it was an amazing trip and we need to go again next year. So my dad made reservations for Christmas 2015, can't wait!

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Same Spot Calendar

Way back in January last year I started a project called Same Spot Calendar on Instagram (#samespotcalendar). The idea was to take a photo in the same spot each and every month for the entire year. I loved the idea, particularly since we take so many walks, and I adore the shift of the seasons.

And I made it the entire year. We had such a mild late winter last year, that January was the only month with snow. I was worried that December we wouldn't even have snow (it was so mild in early December!) but finally it snowed on Christmas and I was able to have a snowy December scene.

Such a fun project. Seeing my kids change and grow, and seeing the changing of the seasons. Love it.

To follow me along next year (because I'm excited to do this project again) check #jjhandholdcalendar on IG. And play along too!

handhold

Monday, December 29, 2014

Christmas Day!

Christmas Day may be the most magical when you have kids that believe. Our kids went to bed so excited and woke up ready to peek into the living room. We told James not to peek, and to come right to our room, but the first thing we heard out of his mouth was "there is a HUGE pile of presents!"
We lit the fire, turned on the Christmas tree, and started Christmas music playing. And before I could even grab my camera the stockings were down and dumped out. Squeals of joy echoed around the dark living room as they dug through candy, suckers, bath fizzies, and fruit pouches. Juliet couldn't wait for her rainbow lollipop, and struck a pose when she saw the camera.

Soon it was onto gifts, and oh there were some fun ones. Juliet opened the big pink one first, and found a new dolly inside.
Meet Emmalia. She is an American Girl bitty twin, and anyone that knows me well knows that having an American Girl doll under the tree is something I've been looking forward to for far too long.
James asked Santa for two things "a beautiful rainbow cup" (which was a gay pride shot glass that we did not get him!) and "legos!"
And then the monster gift of all, a HUGE bin of Legos from my childhood that has been tucked away awaiting such a need. The kids were thrilled to find over 5,000 Lego pieces, to build whatever they wanted.
Lots of building right from the get-go (and that little house in the foreground Santa built and left for them!).
They both also received a huge magnet board ($11 drip pan from Walmart's auto section) with pipes that have attached magnets, with little balls to roll down. Such fun!
Such happiness!
Every single Christmas each kiddo gets a new book. This year James got "The Book with No Pictures". HUGE hit. It is hilarious! If you have any child between the age of 2-12, get this book, we've read it a dozen times since Christmas day and it's amazing.
And just like last year, after all presents were opened at our house we went to E's family's house for a PJ brunch! And guess what? It was snowing! Finally! Not just a dusting, but it was actually snowing and sticking! Everyone was so excited.
Here is heading to jammie brunch last year. Don't think I'll be able to hold both kids next year, this year was hard!
When we got up to E's family's house it really got snowing! We had to carry the kids in because the big fat flakes were coming down fast and they were only in their pjs. So picturesque!

Three little cousins in matching pjs, heaven! 
James trying to hold onto Emilia before she could escape.

The stockings at E's family's house are something to behold. They are AMAZING. Drinks and fruit and candy and presents. The list goes on and on. Stockings over there have always been one of the best parts of Christmas.
Kid one, digging for gold. Kid two, digging for candy.
There was lots and lots of checking on the snow fall.

Soon brunch was consumed and we moved to presents. Everyone, especially James, was so excited to finally be opening presents!
E's family got each of our kids sleeping bags because this is the summer we are finally going to take them camping. Both kids LOVED their presents and wanted to test them out pronto.
Presents presents all around.
My favorite photo from the entire day.
At the end of the pj party Juliet threw a huge fit that she wanted to "go camping RIGHT NOW" even though it was snowing and she was in her pjs. We assured her that she could have her sleeping bag at home, but boy was she mad. Finally, at home, in her new sleeping bag, she took a long nap. Getting a nap out of this girl is such a rare occurrence that it feels like I've hit jackpot once it happens.
After naps Tracie and my Dad came over for a visit and to give a few small presents to the kids. Our present was a trip (!!!) to Lava Hot Springs, that would happen a few days after the holiday.
They both kept going outside to play in the snow. First snowfalls are so magical, and although we had a few small ones already, they'd always been at night. This was our first full day storm, and having it land right on Christmas day was so exciting for everyone.
Christmas dress was a gift from Damma. She found it in perfect condition at an antique store!
Lots and lots of snow play. In all these photos she eating snow, hence the handfuls of snow in her undoubtably cold hands.
Such a goof!
Inside the party was growing larger. We had hot wassail with spiced rum for everyone that walked in the door.
My Grandma, Uncle Mike, cousin Taylor and Aunt Laura. Such fun!
The party was huge! Both my family and E's family attended (most with significant others) and the living room was packed with happy chatter and lots of laughter.

I don't think we could have hosted many more people, but more and more kept coming, and we always found space for them.
Uncle Chandler mostly wanted to play Legos with James.
Soon dinner was served! Smoked turkey, au gratin potatoes, rolls and cranberry sauce.
And all the while this little elf kept going out to stomp in the snow. Such a fun day! Enjoyed by everyone. Merry merry Christmas.

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