Category Archives: Guidelines for Better Living

Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children

I have seen this book everywhere. Wal-Mart, the Library (of course), blog world, pinterest, Target…everywhere. So I borrowed it from a friend – I’m pretty sure she’ll never loan me a book again – upon returning her paperback it looked like it’d been in Oscar the Grouch’s trashcan for the better part of a month (it was only in my care for 2 weeks).

Here’s the synopsis (from Ransom Riggs’s website):

A mysterious island. An abandoned orphanage. And a strange collection of very curious photographs. It all waits to be discovered in Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, an unforgettable novel that mixes fiction and photography in a thrilling reading experience. As our story opens, a horrific family tragedy sets sixteen-year-old Jacob journeying to a remote island off the coast of Wales, where he discovers the crumbling ruins of Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children. As Jacob explores its abandoned bedrooms and hallways, it becomes clear that the children who once lived here—one of whom was his own grandfather—were more than just peculiar. They may have been dangerous. They may have been quarantined on a desolate island for good reason. And somehow—impossible though it seems—they may still be alive.

A spine-tingling fantasy illustrated with haunting vintage photography, Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children will delight adults, teens, and anyone who relishes an adventure in the shadows.

Again this was a junior fiction – if not it really really felt like it. I was quickly reminded of Sara Gruen’s Water for Elephants which also uses antique photographs to supplement, if not carry, the plot along.  Riggs’s story was interesting. This was a fantastical journey that included time travel and stretched my imagination. Fantasy isn’t usually my ‘thing’ but this book actually captivated my attention and kept it beginning to end. I’d say go for it, especially during Scare Month!

Have you read it? What’s your take?


Picture Perfect

Another book? IIII KNOW, Right?! I ripped through several books from May-August (several by my standards anyway) just a few more for you and then you’ll be caught up on my latest readings.

Here’s the synopsis (from Jodi Picoult’s website):

As Picture Perfect begins, it is daybreak in downtown L.A. A woman suffering from amnesia is taken in by an officer new to the L.A. police force, after he finds her wandering aimlessly near a graveyard. Days later, when her husband comes to claim her at the police station, no one is more stunned than Cassie Barrett to learn that not only is she a renowned anthropologist, but she is married to Hollywood’s leading man, Alex Rivers.

As Alex helps Cassie become reaccustomed to her fairy-tale existence, fragments of memory return: the whirlwind romance on location in Africa, her major anthropological discovery, the trajectory of Alex’s career. Yet as Cassie settles into her glamour-filled life, uneasiness nags at her. She senses there is something troubling and wild that would alter the picture of her perfect marriage. When she finds a positive pregnancy test in her bathroom, she is flooded with dark memories. Trying to piece together her past, she runs to the other person she trusts to keep her hidden– Will Flying Horse, the policeman who had initially harbored her.

I can’t say this is my favorite of hers or even in the top 3. It was more like one of those made-for-TV movies you let run in the background while doing housework. I didn’t find it captivating or noteworthy; it was just a decent read.

Have you read it? What’s your take?


The Fault in Our Stars

I this is my first John Green novel. I’ll fess up, I read it because the movie is coming out soon and well…I have a hard time watching the movie before I read the book. I was pleasantly surprised. Of course it’s junior fiction but, who cares?

Here’s the synopsis (from here):

Despite the tumor-shrinking medical miracle that has bought her a few years, Hazel has never been anything but terminal, her final chapter inscribed upon diagnosis. But when a gorgeous plot twist named Augustus Waters suddenly appears at Cancer Kid Support Group, Hazel’s story is about to be completely rewritten.

It made me hug my spouse and wax nostalgic for the days when we first met – those long phone conversations, reading the same books, listening to each other’s music, just learning & discovering who the other person was. It’s a beautiful and unique tale of love, allowing yourself to be wooed – not just by another person but life itself.

Have you read it? What’s your take?


Summer Reading

Reading was the 1st item on both of our Guidelines for Better Living this year.

Sadly we’ve dropped the ball. As of today I have finished only 2 books and I Jake’s still working through the first.

The ball is on the court, sadly rolling away.

This week we’re pickin’ it back up and have dreams of jaw dropping slam dunks by December 31st.

Here are the stacks on our nightstands:




Deer Creek Canyon

7.8 miles - Deer Creek CanyonWaaaay back on March 22nd we went out with a few friends and hiked Deer Creek Canyon. Snow was in the forecast for that afternoon so we hit the trail early. E.A.R.L.Y. like at the trailhead at 6a early to avoid the snow storm. Well for us it was 6.25a because of yet another pre-hike breakfast fail.

Planning ahead after several failed pre-hike breakfasts I threw some oats, milk, raisins and bananas in the crock-pot before we went to bed on Friday night. Hoping to rise to a delicious and nutrient rich creamy already done and ready oatmeal we could chow down on before hitting the trail. Fortunately, I now know the difference between steel-cut oats and old fashioned oats. Yes OF oats take a while to cook when you’re in a hurry, but no, under no circumstances should you expect anything but gelatinous muck after cooking them for 8 hours – even on low. Actually i had a photo but it looked so gross I will spare you. I’ll tell you this, if you throw a banana in the crock-pot I highly recommend slicing it first.

IMG1320Second lesson learned: Panera is still slow as molasses in the wee hours of the morning…we were in the drive thru for more than 10 minutes for a sandwich and a cup of oats…

Third and most valuable lesson: loads of fiber isn’t really the best decision before a hike, especially if you’re interested in keeping friends. Crop dusting them the entire hike isn’t really nice.

Sadly, I’m not making these things up. Oh, how I wish I was.

On to real hiking knowledge gained:

  1. Carry a map & use it with a  compass; it’s really easy to get turned around.
  2. Micro-spikes are highly recommended.

Deer Creek Canyon 3.22 (9)

We were trekking along smoothly until we hit this:

Icy trail

I'm walkin layersa MAJOR Ice field.  This is where those micro-spikes or crampons would’ve come in very handy.  At this point we didn’t have any, left bare soled we would not have been able to conquer this slope, Jake tried and BOOM! his first hiking fall.  On a side note, as he fell something in his brain told him to punch the ICE WALL with all his might, causing the knuckle injury. We both still have no idea what spurred his act of violence.


Lucky for us we were traveling with seasoned hikers who have everything you could possibly need in their pack, including a spare pair of spikes. Jake and I split the pair. We were advised to wear them on the foot that landed on the ice more. Grateful for the loaners we were able to keep moving. If we didn’t have these our hike would’ve stopped right then and there something like a mile into the hike which would’ve been crushing.

Deer Creek Canyon 3.22 (12)

Deer Creek Canyon 3.22 (2)

Deer Creek Canyon 3.22 (11)

Jake - Deer Creek Canyon - 3.22.14It was getting so cold Jake’s camelback water tube started getting ice chunks!

 Rick Mapping the wayI’m receiving a lesson in orientating yourself on the map and finding north from the hiking expert.

This was one of the coolest hikes I’ve been on so far. Why? The fog, the cold, the snow. Providing the perfect backdrop to Tough Hiker Syndrome, where I paint myself as one really tough hiker, in my head…that is until we get back home and look at the photos…and reality sinks in. However, even seeing the reality can’t shake that feeling of empowerment, courage, and general “TUFF STUFF”.

As the wind & cold front rolled in it was beautiful watching half the scenery become cloaked in frost.

Deer Creek Canyon 3.22 (6)

Us atop Bill Couch Mtn which is at 7,082′.

Sumit - Bill Couch Mtn - 3.22.14

It started spitting snow on our way back down and by the time we hit the parking lot we were being slushed with massive snowflakes. it was AWESOME

Deer Creek Canyon- 3.22.14

Would I recommend this trail? Absolutely!! super bonus? The bathrooms have running water, which means real, flushable toilets!



Mt. Falcon – West

We (I) haven’t been keeping you properly updated on our hiking adventures and lessons learned. Back on March 16th we tackled Mt. Falcon West, the other side of this hike…the one where you start at the top…muuuuch easier on the legs and lungs. Cousin Katy joined in on this hike!

Jess, Kate, Natalie & Jake - Mt. Falcon West - 3.16.14

This was our fourth trip out. Things I remembered:

  1. Eat Breakfast
  2. Don’t leave the stuff you actually remembered to bring  in the car
  3. Wear layers and sunscreen.
  4. Have a destination and enjoy taking your time getting there!

IMG1310Things I learned:

  1. Don’t leave the bacon on the stove and walk away to get dressed…it will turn to ash and the apartment will smoke up like it’s on fire. Not wise to do this with the eggs either.
  2. The early morning crew at Panera isn’t fast.
  3. If you have a destination in mind share it with the group, plans my change and you may be out of the loop!

Mt. Falcon West 2 - 3.16.14

First things first. The west side of Mt. Falcon is beautiful and has 3 distinct spots to rest, hangout and take lots of photos: a Fire Lookout Tower, Castle Ruins and the Summit. My goal was to see all three, and take a nice little sitting rest while enjoying my Cliff bar at the tower or the summit. My mind was set. This is what we were going to do.

Kate & Jake 2- Walker Home Ruins - 3.16.14In my opinion the big bonus to hiking this side of the Mountain was the breath-taking views begin almost as soon as you get out of the car. Also, the Castle Ruins were just a short walk from the parking lot, nothing like getting the ball rolling quick! One down, two to go.Kate & Denver - 3.16.14 As we hit the fork in our trail we found out the more scenic trails were still snow-covered and fairly impassable without the proper boots. This caused a plan change I didn’t realize (I’m still working on my navigation/critical thinking skills here) that, duh, those trails led to both the summit AND the fire tower…boo!   Instead of rationally coming to this conclusion I kept walking, following Natalie and Jake, thinking they would take us, on another trail, to these sites.I kept walking, feeling a little hungry, anxious for a cool down and rest, thinking “where IS this fire tower?! That’s where we’re taking a Cliff Bar/water/rest break!” at one point, I’d had it. I wanted a break, to sit, to rest my feet so I plopped down on a stump and declared I would be resting.

Jake - Mt. Falcon West - 3.16.14Poor Cousin Katy. Poor Natalie. Poor Jake. Trying to motivate me to keep moving because the car would be close and we’d grab a bite to eat in Morrison. No. I wasn’t having it. This was the worst display of my fatigue ever. I’m not kidding. I sat my rump on the stump and told everyone to move along with out me, eventually when I felt like moving I’d catch up. Of course I’m mortified by my actions NOW but at that moment I had no shame. BUT I can say I have a wonderfully patient husband who will no doubt make an excellent parent to toddlers, and tremendously patient, kind, and non-judgmental friends in Katy and Natalie. They waited patiently with words of encouragement “you can do it!” “Let’s finish this!!” “awwww, you’re doing so great!”. Those two are seriously wonderful people.

Needless to say, even without the other 2 ‘attractions’ we had a good time, this was a beautiful hike. I’m sure we’ll give it another go this summer…for the summit and that fire tower. Whether or not Katy has the patience left for me I’m not sure but I can promise I’ll try to be less of a whiner. Jake & Jess - Mt. Falcon West - 3.16.14


ps. almost forgot Katy & Natalie took us to “the BEST Mexican food” in Morrison at the Morrison Inn …they were right it was delicious. Jake looked like he had a harem at our table of 3 ladies! HAHA.


Mt. Falcon – East

Mt. Falcon, East 3.9.14Last weekend we took on the East side of Mt. Falcon.  WORD this was a killer beast of a hike. I remembered tips from last week and we had a hearty breakfast, I grabbed the camera, we packed a couple of cliff bars, I had better socks (boots will have to wait for birthday time) and I tight-rolled my jeans like an 80’s pop-star.  EXCEPT I forgot to apply sunscreen and left my extra water bottle  in the car with my camera AND Sunglasses. Miserable!

IMAG0586Never-the-less the hike was a massive success for us! We used our the camera on our phones and I gulped water from Jake’s pack, he appreciated me lightening his load I’m sure.  We were both a bit pink from the sun but…meh we’re not dead.

IMAG0583As for the trail: We took Caste Trail and took the switchback Walker’s Dream Trail. Starting at 6,400′ we gained 1,213′ (taking us up t0 7,613′). Most of that was gained in the first 2 miles which made for a killer incline. It felt like death. On the way up all I could think is “Breathe…breathe… breathe” and “On the way back this will be AWESOME!” the latter is what I think got me to the top. We saw some insane people RUN.NING! that dreadful first 2 miles…UP! I can only imagine the strength of their hearts! I had to remember to slow my pace and to be okay stopping whenever I wanted. Although, after a while I learned to set a little goal “I’ll take a breather at that big dead tree” and once I arrived to take 5 good deep breaths – otherwise I’d have sat and stayed a little too long. This method worked really well for me. My heart rate stayed up but I wasn’t feeling the pressure to keep up with those crazy runners.

IMAG0584I’m learning hiking can be a very task oriented past-time if you let it. That’s not what we’re looking for. This take in the view, enjoy being in the sun and smelling pine (or skunk) mentality is what we’re aiming for – that and getting off the sofa! For Jake this comes a little more naturally, he has the laid back take it in approach down pat. Not so much for me, if someone is behind me or in front of me I feel like I need to keep up. “The journey is the destination” – Cliche but true.

IMAG0587We saw a family of deer, cool birds, some butterflies you know – outdoorsy stuff. From half way up we were awarded with awesome views of Denver and could see all the way to DIA and we even spotted Buckley Air Force Base – those massive golf balls are pretty easy to identify. We snacked at the remains of a President’s Summer White House which afforded sweeping panoramic views of the majesty of the Rocky Mountains.

IMAG0589I was the first in the gang to actually fall…slip and meet the ground really. No biggie. There should be a badge or ribbon for that achievement. First down? Maybe I’ll start making buttons! HA

Lessons learned this go round:

  1. Don’t leave the stuff you made a point to remember in the car!
  2. Even if you don’t think you need it, use SUNSCREEN
  3. Carabiners are handy for easy/quick access to stuff (rifling through my pack for stuff that fell to the bottom was a pain)
  4. If you put your wallet in your pack, don’t forget to take it out when you’re done – otherwise you’re driving illegally the next day.

Next Hike: Mt. Falcon West. This side of the park is ‘a walk in the clouds’ by comparison from what I hear –we’ll see what kind of clouds they’re talkin’ bout!


New Hobby

Denver Bead Renissance 2aI’ve recently been trying my hand at a new hobby: Beading. or in my case more aptly called: Jewelry making (I haven’t dabbled in intricate tiny bead designs/work yet). It’s like a whole new world, an entire subculture of folks who make their own wearable art. I’m still a novice and getting the hang of things. However to be honest it’s really neat. Being able to look at something on a rack in nearly any store and know I have the ability to make it, in the colors or materials I choose! It’s pretty empowering.

Denver Bead Renissance Seads 2aIt can be a little overwhelming for me too though. As with any hobby, there are varying quality points and price points that accompany it. Also what determines the value of each item varies as well – for instance I love emeralds. I can think up a design for say a necklace and when I head into a store for real emeralds I’m faced with what feels like 90 different options. Do I want natural emeralds, natural but dyed gems, or synthetic man-made stones? Then I can take into consideration where in the world do I want them to have originated? Okay after that myriad of decisions now what size, what shape fit best into my design? wow! The options are endless!  This is where it gets overwhelming for me. Sooo many options.

Denver Bead Renissance beadsShortly after picking up the hobby, I attended a bead show. Vendors from all over, selling all types of tools and supplies. This show was medium in size but still overwhelmingly awesome.  Even better? at these bead shows one gets to purchase at wholesale…waaaaay better on the pocketbook!

Denver Bead Renissance chains 1I’m always taken aback by how cool my new hobby is and how friendly and helpful most bead store owners are. Walk in, ask for a pointer or tip and they’ll let you use their tools to test and learn, right then and there at no cost –sometimes. Even better? I’ve wrangled Jake into this endeavor as well; he has a terrific eye for style and design. His finished items receive compliments all the time!

When was the last time you picked up a new hobby?

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Castlewood Canyon

Jake & Jess @ Castlewood CanyonLast weekend we hiked Castlewood Canyon.  This state park is great, beautiful views, a cool broken down dam, a waterfall and a historical homestead. Jake’s taken me out to this park for a good hike twice before. The first time was a good quick little hike, the second was more challenging: I encountered a rattlesnake and on the hike back to the car I thought I was having a heart attack–no really–I was about to yell for a medic.


THIS trip was much different. We asked a friend to come along and planned it out to leave Sunday at 10a. Sunday 9 am rolled around and I was already on the ‘let’s just relax and craft’ train of thought when she texted “dude, I’m already dressed!”  okay okay, let’s dooo this! It was great having someone outside our relationship holding us accountable.

IMAG0579We did the FULL loop, 6.67 miles, up some steep hills, down some very muddy trails and this time we were able to see the waterfall. Beautiful.  4 full hours of moderate to intense cardio for Jake & I. Our friend, on the other hand, was trekkin’ like we were in a mall or walking through a parking lot!

Natalie & Jess @ Castlewood CanyonI didn’t have any heart attack scares but at the farthest point out I would’ve cried like a little girl if it were just Jake & I. It felt exhausting and a little much for me; however when I heard the phrases ‘It’s all down hill from here.’ and “We’re headed back now.” I was so relieved and ready for some Hot Tub time back home that I found the motivation to pick myself up off the picnic bench and move on.

I’d like to say Jake & I finished strong but I don’t think bent in half, dragging our feet, whining about a possible aneurysm (me) and feeling pain in the knees (Jake) could be called a strong finish. Instead I’ll say we finished with pride. Proud that we did get off the sofa, proud we took steps in the right direction and proud we were making strides in meeting our 2014 guidelines for better living.

We ate lupper at Red Robin (they have a great cobb salad!) and afterwards all three of us were stoked to hit the hot tub. We had our suits on, we were ready to walk out and to my chagrin the tub was closed due to a burst pipe earlier in the week. This was the second time I was near tears. Nothing sounded better than a hot bubbly soak after such a long and painful hike; maybe next time.

Lessons learned from this treck:

  1. The right shoes are imperative.
  2. The right socks are just as important as the right shoes.
  3. Layering is awesome – at the top of the canyon the wind was whipping so strong and it was a little colder than chilly, however as we started moving those jackets & hats were goners.
  4. Don’t ever start a hike without eating breakfast and Sunchips aren’t a sufficient snack for a 4 hour hike on an empty stomach.
  5. ALWAYS take a camera. always, ALLLLways, ALWAYS. I didn’t insist on taking one this time and really really regret it.
  6. Short girls should wear short pants; mine were caked in mud. CAKED. When I uncuffed the hem at home it looked like someone had made a mud-pie or three IN MY JEANS!

Next hike: Mount Falcon – apparently suffering at 11,531′ isn’t high enough and we need MORE altitude.


Winning Respect


“[Live] so that your daily life may win the respect of outsiders”

Today’s daily mediation was focused on 1 Thessalonians 4:12. When I read this I began wondering what causes me to respect others? Why do I interact with some people and esteem them above others, and what in or about others keeps me from honoring them or holding them in great regard? The devotional I read (Today’s Word with Joel & Victoria Osteen) aptly answered my question:

“Notice this verse doesn’t say, “Go out of your way to do something major so that everyone will respect you.” … No, it says that your daily life should win the respect of others. That simply means to always take the high road and live a life of excellence. It means doing the right thing even when no one is looking. It means finding common ground in order to be a peacemaker.”

Interesting. As a highly competitive person it’s not always easy for me to take the high road…I looove being right and telling people about it.  Yet when I think about it, I don’t really respect people who do the same–at all. In fact, I pretty much detest people who insist on being right all the time and don’t fess up when they’re wrong. Holy smokes, I’d much rather live a life that gains respect from others through the simplicity of how I live and the choices I make daily.

Additionally someone just taking the high road doesn’t really win my respect. It’s a way of life; the conglomerate of being kind to others and trying to find and make peace. Notably this isn’t a passage about building yourself up it’s about becoming a better person as a whole, and one that earns admiration from others through honorable living. Which became really clear as I read verses 10-12.

When I expanded the scripture to read verses 10, 11 & 12 and at first thought it was a little…demeaning?…until I began typing this. Minding your own business, doing your own job isn’t to belittle people, it’s saying don’t meddle, or be all up in someone else’s business; pay attention to your own responsibilities. Not that your co-worker comes in late or isn’t as good at some tasks as you. It’s shifting the focus to yourself (or myself). ME: my job, my responsibilities, my choices and how each of these is an opportunity for me to ‘life a life of excellence’ which is what really truly wins the respect of others, right?

Hrmmm. Just the things I’m mulling over today…

In other news: Izzy’s really cute


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