Friday, December 31, 2010

Happy New Year!

We hope everyone has a fun and safe night and that next year brings happiness and success!

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Best of Intentions

You know that old saying "practice makes perfect"? Well, it seriously does. For the most part. I mean there are probably some things I'll never perfect... like ballet, flying an airplane (I'll leave that to my husband), or speaking Mandarin, but I think that if I really wanted to do those things I would perfect them to the best of my abilities. That's where I think setting intentions for yourself really comes into play. When you do that, there's not a whole lot that will stop you from achieving your goals. Set goals and go for them.

I honestly find myself getting into trouble when I don't really know what I want to do... like now, for instance. My unemployment has given me a lot of time to think and reflect and figure out what it is that I really want to do for a living... although I don't think I'm quite there yet. I'm getting closer, and when I get there and decide what it is I'm going to set my mind to... I won't be stopped. That's just the way I am. When I know what I want, I go for it. Make the decision to do something, and then do it. Sometimes it seems like the hardest part is deciding what to do for a living. I know very few people who knew exactly what they wanted to do at a young age, and I know even fewer who love what they do. I think part of my problem with graduating from college with a degree in architecture is that I never really wanted to do it... I didn't enjoy it... and I could never really picture myself in that role. I think it's so important to set goals for yourself, reach for your dreams, and to not listen to what others tell you to do, because quite honestly your gut instincts usually know what's right for you. So make some decisions (that seems to be one of the hardest parts), set goals, and go for them.

Sometimes I think if I just followed my own advice I'd be in much better shape, but there's no time like now to start following it. I typically have the best of intentions, and I would like to have some great ones for myself. My goal for the future is to do less thinking and analyzing and more action! Now I just need to follow through with that. Instead of worrying about what might happen if I do things, I should worry more about what would happen if I didn't do them. I hope to become better at failing, because, to be honest, the more I fail the more I'll learn... about myself and my capabilities. I know I'm not a failure, but sometimes it sure feels like it. My strengths sometimes fade to the background when I get down on myself, and I hope to remember everything that I am good at... instead of focusing on what I'm no so good at doing.

The worst thing that could happen is never trying something that I could be great at, and I would never know how good I could be at it. So I hope to keep that in mind and try every and anything that sparks my interest. Why not, right? I'll end with some lyrics of a song from Rent.

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Lyrics from
"No Day But Today"

The heart may freeze or it can burn
The pain will ease if I can learn

There is no future
There is no past
Thank God this moment's not the last

There's only us
There's only this
Forget regret-- or life is yours to miss.
No other road
No other way
No day but today

There's only yes
Only tonight
We must let go
To know what is alright
No other course
No other way
No day but today

I can't control
My destiny
I trust my soul
My only hope
is just to be

There's only now
There's only here
Give in to love
Or live in fear
No other path
No other way
No day but today

Graduating... not a failure.

Studying abroad for 6 weeks... not a failure.

Happiness in love... definitely not a failure!

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I just might take a look at things that I have accomplished and remind myself that they are not failures. I've learned so much, and I don't ever want to stop learning. I want to keep growing. Here's to a new way of looking at failures and success! :)

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Time Flies

Here's to some obligatory end of year reflecting!

Yes, it's already that time of year again, and I just went through some of my old facebook posts... about three years worth actually. How quickly I was able to read through those posts blew my mind, because it was three years worth of words from friends and family. It seems like such a long time ago already! Looking through all of the old posts made me realize there are a lot of people that I've lost touch with, and that always makes me a little sad... to think about so many people who have been a part of my life but maybe aren't any more. There are also people who have remained my friends, and I'm thankful for them... because good friends are rare! Seriously. I've always been the person who would rather have one great friend instead of one hundred acquaintances. That is just who I am. I can be downright anti-social when I feel like it. It's those really great friends who bring me back to earth and remind me that they're still there for me, and thank God for them. Friends and family and love really do make the world go 'round.

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Nate and I early in our relationship

Us on our wedding day

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It's amazing how much, and how quickly, life changes. We meet new people and make new friends, we lose loved ones, and new lives come into the world. It seems like just yesterday that I met Nate, and we've been together for almost four years now! It's almost hard to believe. Last February we were married, and I absolutely cannot grasp that our one year anniversary is right around the corner. Time flies when you're having fun. I love every moment we spend together, good and bad. Everything shapes the person you are today. You never know what will happen tomorrow, so live for today.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Simple is not Easy

Life is not easy. I hate to say that, but it is true. There are struggles, pain, hurt... etc. Life also holds love, joy, excitement, and fun. Up and downs are part of life, and that's the way it is. It's amazing how simple it seems to accept that fact, but it's not always easy to do so.

I don't think of myself as a downer for saying that life is not easy. I actually am learning again to be quite the opposite. My attempts at finding and looking for good typically do end in finding what I thought was there all along... some searches for good might be tougher than some... but it's pretty much always there. Making the choice to look for good is typically all that it takes to find some. It may seem like such a simple choice, but it's not always easy to do. So many times people feel knocked down in life, and you begin a dangerous cycle of seeing bad and finding bad in life. I strongly believe that there is good in everyone... some just might be harder to find than others, and sometimes it may seem near impossible to find it. Just remember that it's there. I have recently experienced a few let downs from friends and people that I care about, but I cannot let those mishaps make me forget that life is good! Simple... but not easy.

There are so many things in life that are simple but not easy at times: loving unconditionally, caring, thinking for yourself, not judging others, seeing good in people, and the list continues. I would love to get to a point in life where many, or all, of these things come to me easily... sort of like breathing, you don't have to think about it. I definitely know people who struggle with the above mentioned 'easy' tasks in life, and I am definitely one of them. Hey... I'm not perfect, and I have yet to meet a perfect person. We're all experiencing this journey called life, but none of us have perfected it. The best you can do it attempt to perfect it, and the second that you get close... you'll learn something new that will change the way you live. That can be a good thing! Never stop learning and growing, and don't forget... Simple is not easy. If it's easy, you're probably not doing it right. ;)

Monday, December 27, 2010

Our Not So Traditional Christmas

Our Christmas plans didn't exactly go the way we wanted this year. I should have known better than to try and plan for anything while flying standby. I had planned on being at home in northern Michigan on Christmas day, but that didn't pan out as planned.

The prices for airline tickets were crazy high over the holidays (like they normally are), so I thought I'd chance it and fly as a non-revenue passenger. That was a great, good, and bad idea all at the same time. It's much cheaper to fly that way, but you're also at the mercy of so many unpredictable factors like weather, flight loads, holiday travelers, etc. Unfortunately, I ended up buying a last minute one way ticket back to Denver (which was surprisingly cheap for such a last minute purchase), because the flight was filling up and flying standby wasn't happening. If the flights hadn't looked full for days on end during the holidays, I would have stayed in Michigan. However, I wanted to spend Christmas and New Years with my husband, so back to Colorado we went.

That being said, Nate and I flew back to Denver extremely early on Christmas morning. We woke up at 2am (that was my bedtime in college) in order to return our rental car and make the 4 hour drive to the airport in Detroit. Nate made an earlier flight than me, so I had some hours to kill at 4am in the Detroit airport. What better time than 4am to wander around the airport taking pictures with a borrowed digital camera, right? After killing a few hours taking photos and chatting with the gate agent in Detroit, I boarded my flight (which was crazy full due to lots of passengers re-routing their flights due to cancellations through Atlanta) and headed home to meet Nate in Denver. Thank goodness I bought that last minute ticket back home.

Due to sheer exhaustion, we had a quiet and sleepy Christmas this year. After spending all day traveling, we both napped during the afternoon. Feeling the need to do something Christmas-y on Christmas day, we took a drive to see an amazing display of lights. By chance, Nate had heard on the radio about two houses that went in on a display together. We made the drive on Christmas evening, and enjoyed a light display set to music. Unfortunately our camera's memory card was full, so I only had room for one video of the lights... but, I did get a pretty good video!

After getting our Christmas light fix, we decided to eat dinner out since our refrigerator and pantry were barren after being away from home for so long. I thought for sure that it was going to be easy to find somewhere to eat dinner, but boy was I wrong. We drove around a couple of towns, and Nate was running low on patience and his tummy was rumbling. It took some convincing to try one more area, and low and behold we found ourselves not one but two Asian food restaurants that were open on Christmas evening! A little pad thai and sesame chicken on Christmas never hurt anyone. We both had a good laugh, because the family in the movie A Christmas Story ate at an Asian restaurant on Christmas evening too. They really are the only places open on Christmas. :)

We had ourselves a nice little Christmas, even though it was not the most conventional one ever. It was definitely a fun and interesting Christmas this year.

Do you have any Christmas stories of a not so traditional Christmas?

Sunday, December 12, 2010

This holiday season is a little different than most that I've spent with my husband... or maybe I have a bad memory? First off, this is actually our first Christmas together as a married couple. Pretty exciting if you ask me! Also... we're spending way too much time apart from each other. More than I would like any way. Guess that's just the way it goes sometimes.

Frozen lake in northern Michigan

I am pumped to visit family and friends in Michigan, but then worry starts to settle in when I think about my husband. Will Nate be okay while I'm gone? What is he going to eat... will he cook? I sure hope he doesn't just eat Chick-Fil-A every night (even though it is quite tasty), because if he has a fast-food-induced heart attack I'll feel like the worst wife ever. I could cook him a bunch of food that he can warm up, but we're a little short on cash after Christmas gift shopping... and he doesn't get paid until after I leave. Dang. Then I start wishing that he could come with me to Michigan. He'll be there for a few days, but I'm going to my friend's Christmas party without him... and he might have to leave Christmas eve or Christmas day due to really heavy flight loads the day after Christmas. This is when I need to remember to breathe and go with the flow, because everything will be fine. :)

Under dressed for Mich. winter weather
... yeah we were freezing. December 2007

Don't get me wrong, I'll enjoy time spent in Michigan while I'm there! Not to mention, northern Michigan was blanketed by a bunch of beautiful white now... and I cannot wait to play in it. The Denver area doesn't really get much snow, and the brown landscape is starting to make me a little homesick. This will be the first time in a long time that I spend more than a few days in Michigan, so I am looking forward to it. It's sort of bittersweet. My husband will probably survive too... he made it 25 years without me. (Although I have no idea how) kidding!

Stay warm this Christmas!

Saturday, December 11, 2010

All About the Gifts

Last night I read the daily entry from a book that I read each night, and it caught me a little off guard at first. The reading from last night said that Christmas is all about gifts, and at first I thought "Umm... excuse me what?!". Then I read a little further and understood better why Christmas really is all about gifts.

A small piece of the entry that I read from Simple Abundance: A Daybook of Comfort and Joy by Sarah Ban Breathnach reads as follows:

"Oh, yes. Christmas is all about gifts. Nothing but gifts. But such gifts! Gifts tied with heartstrings. Gifts that surprise and delight. Gifts that transform the mundane into the miraculous. Gifts that nurture the souls of both the giver and the given...
Unconditional Love. Selflessness. Trust. Faith. Forgiveness. Wholeness. Second Chances. Comfort. Joy. Peace. Reassurance. Rejoicing. Generosity. Compassion. Charity. Wonder. Acceptance. Courage."

Quite often the best gifts that you can give to someone are not the material ones. People tend to forget how just a little bit of their time and energy can really turn around the day of a friend in need. We can give so much to people each and every day, but we often forget that we can give gifts like love and our time. Sometimes it is so easy to give, but we forget that it does not take as much energy as we might think. I mean... I still have not shopped on Black Friday... ever. That definitely takes a huge effort on the shopper's part, but so many gifts take little to no effort... don't forget about the free gifts that you can give. Out of all of the gifts I've ever received, I would say that the best ones are usually ones that create memories.

I mean... don't get me wrong, I like getting material gifts as much as the next person, but it's often some one else's time and energy that I appreciate the most. I am going to have to agree that Christmas is all about the gifts! Don't forget to give with your heart... after all that is free.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Happiest Place on Earth

You thought I was going to say 'Disney World' didn't you?

Well... I'm. Although I won't argue with the fact that Disney is probably 'the happiest place on earth' when it comes to theme parks for families. However, the happiest place that I'm talking about this time is New Belgium Brewery (NBB) in Ft. Collins, Colorado. It's become a tradition for me to visit there around the holidays... and I have been quite a few times now. Every time I go it's always exciting and new.

How is NBB the happiest place on earth you might ask? I just have to answer that question with an upbeat, "How is it not?" The pictures and descriptions below help answer that question as well.

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The exterior is rather inviting if you ask me...
"The Beer Inside is Delightful"

Inspired Decorations
... made from beer labels and 6 pack boxes.

Fun for all
 ... be careful how many beers you drink

How many work places do you know of...
 ... that have a slide just for fun?!

And of course I can't forget the beer.
 It's the reason for all of this...

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The story of New Belgium is great. Their Fat Tire beer is sort of what started it all. It was the first beer brewed by NBB, and it most definitely put them on the map. Check out the story of NBB here

I challenge you to find a happier place... sort of. No seriously... just go and try it for yourself. Ft. Collins, Colorado! You'll see all of the smiling faces and never want to leave. (At least that's how I felt...) Happy happy joy joy!

Monday, December 6, 2010

Christmas Favorites: Decorations & Wrapping

I love the holidays. More importantly though, I love holiday decorations! I obviously also love design (seriously my architecture degree isn't just going to waste) and inspired interiors. Combining my love for holiday decorations and making things by hand, this year I decided to DIY some decorations for our dining area. I couldn't really help myself.

So with a few things I bought, a lot of things we already owned, and a whole lot of silver spray paint and rocks from outside, we have ourselves a nice little Winter Wonderland inside our apartment. Our white porcelain snowflake candle holders glow so much brighter with white lights in them instead of candles. I think I love them! Can I get away with keeping it up all year? If not, we'll surely enjoy this until the New Year. :)

Again this might sound weird to some, but I also enjoy wrapping gifts. To me it's another way of expressing my artistic and creative side. I usually never ever use just one color of ribbon on a gift, and choosing which paper to use on a gift is like figuring out which outfit to put on each day. Seriously. During my high school years, I used to lay out my clothes the night before, or else I would have stood in front of my closet for hours trying to figure out what to wear every morning. Gift wrapping takes about that much thought too.

While wrapping gifts, I have to think about who the gift is for, the scale of the pattern versus the size of the gift, I need to choose coordinated colors, and I surely have to top off the gift with a fun name tag. Wrapping is pretty serious business here. Don't laugh. I know that my husband doesn't mind... because quite honestly I think if he never had to wrap another gift he'd be okay with that. It would be all out war in this place if he loved wrapping gifts as much as I do. Thank goodness we don't have to fight over it. That would really put a damper on the holiday spirit.

Does anyone else out there like to decorate or wrap as much as I do? Honestly... I don't know if anyone out there loves to wrap like I do... I'm just saying...  ;)

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Lost and Found

"Not till we are lost... do we begin to find ourselves and realize where we are and the infinite extent of our relations."               --Thoreau

This may seem a little strange, or difficult to comprehend if you're someone who has never experienced seasons in this way, but it seems that since I moved to Colorado something (possibly an internal gps of sorts) has been a bit off for me. As much as I don't mind the 'mild' Colorado winters, I'm definitely missing Michigan's easy to distinguish seasons. Mind you I am not always missing the blistering cold of Michigan winters at times, but Colorado lacks seasons that I can discern from one to the next. I feel like Colorado has two seasons... summer and winter. This bothers me because I grew up in a place where each season seemed to serve a very different purpose. The thawing and warming of the spring, the euphoric and careless summer, the crisp and colorful fall, and the silencing and hibernating of winter. I am going a bit crazy without those markers of time, and let me tell you that I for one took the uniqueness of Michigan's seasons for granted while living there. The dark, dreary, and sometimes cruel Michigan winters made spring and summer feel like a reward. One that you did not want to take for granted, because before you knew it fall was knocking on the door. I find it almost difficult to appreciate sunshine every day in Colorado. I'm beginning to believe that I could never ever live in Hawaii or Arizona. Luckily for me, Nate loves seasons too. A lack of change seems so unnatural and not comforting at all. Dare I say that I need the changing seasons to help keep me from getting lost in time. I'm beginning to wonder if Michigan's change in seasons helped keep me from getting too stagnant... I can't help but wonder if there's something almost therapeutic in the seasons changing. I have definitely learned the importance of not taking things for granted.

I know time isn't standing still, but one does begin to wonder when things feel like they never change. These thoughts could help explain why I love a change in scenery every once in a while... a little travel to new places never killed anyone. If anything, travel to somewhere new is always an eye opener for me.

Just like the Thoreau quote suggests... being lost isn't necessarily a bad thing. It just might help you come to realizations and discoveries. However, I'm not saying that if you're lost and you find yourself that you won't get lost again. Getting lost every once in a while is part of life, and I'm beginning to think it's not as bad as people might make it sound. Now... I mean this in the nicest way possible... Get lost!

Friday, December 3, 2010

Lessons in Love

One of my new all time favorite movies, even though it's a fairly new movie, is the Blindside. I'll admit that I shed a tear (actually lots of tears) every single time I watch it. The movie portrays an incredibly inspiring story that shows us what a lot of love and determination can do for someone in need.

I recently finished reading In a Heartbeat, which was written by Sean and Leigh Anne Tuohy. They were the family that created the real life inspiration for the Blindside. The book gives you a much deeper look into their lives, their origins, and the whole story that inspired such a wonderful movie. I cannot possibly narrow down the most important messages that I took from reading that book, but they all revolve around love and giving more than you get. Those two issues are things I think you could practice your entire life and still not perfect, but the Tuohy family sure seems to come close.

I want to share a small piece of In a Heartbeat that I loved, because I think it's often too easy to dismiss people in life... this might change the way you look at strangers:

"Love, we've learned, can come into your life in a heartbeat. But the people who are your family aren't always the people who are blood related to you, and loving someone unconditionally is a lot easier than we make it out to be.
Give love and you will always get it back. That's our story, that's our message."

The definition of family for me is a rather loose definition. Like the book quote above says, family is so much more than just relation by blood. Family is about giving love to others, and your family could essentially include anyone who you love... and maybe they'll even love you back. Some families don't even give love to their own blood, and to me that goes to show that not everyone gives love to others. It really is a lot easier than we would like to believe at times.

Unconditional love should not be saved for a select few; it's meant to be shared. No one should ever have to earn love... it's deserved by all. Change a life by giving love. A little bit of love can go a long way, and it sure is great to give!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Growing Pains

I'm not sure that I can put my finger on where a lot of my recent thoughts have been coming from (although I have some ideas). Recently I've been doing a lot of thinking about 'problems' in life and how to look at them differently. Just like any person in life has probably been through some sort of struggle, pain, loss, suffering, etc... I have too. Hey, I am human after all. Life is not always perfect. I think the one thing that makes people grow and mature the most can be pain, and I'm not talking about physical pain. The kind of pain I'm talking about is the kind that makes your heart hurt and your head reel. That's the kind of pain that makes people grow the most. Growing pains are painful for a reason. You grow from dealing with the pain, but you can also move in a backward direction by not dealing with the pain at all. Isn't this what the saying "what doesn't kill you makes you stronger" is getting at? If it doesn't kill you to deal with the pain, then it will probably make you stronger (not physically stronger, but mentally and emotionally).

Don't be afraid of dealing with pain in life, because avoidance can set you back a few steps. Take the bull by the horns, push through the pain, and come out a stronger person. You'll thank yourself for it later.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Practice Thankfulness

I cannot take credit for the idea behind this blog, because that belongs to my husband. Today he asked me if I wrote a blog yesterday and I told him I had not. That made me ask him for blog ideas, and he came up with this blog idea for the holiday season. It might be a little clique, but we don't care. Thank you, Nate :)

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It's often too easy to look at your glass of milk and think "jeez, I already drank half of it and it's all gone now." The trick, which is not always easy, is to focus on the fact that you still have half a glass of milk left! (You know, the whole glass half full, optimistic outlook on life). The really tricky part is getting to the point where you're ecstatic that you have one drop of drink left in the bottom of your glass, and you're going to enjoy it. Practice makes perfect, right?

The holidays are obviously a time when people begin to think about things they're thankful for, but I'd really love to unconsciously do that every single day. That might sound really simple, but I'm not sure that I know of a single person who exhibits thankfulness perfectly... I'm just saying. Also, there's a big difference between being thankful and bragging about what you have in life. I definitely want to work on being thankful every day... I just might have to start a new gratitude journal. Together though, Nate and I both want to work on being happy with what we do have in life. There are a lot of people who probably have it worse.

As easy as it might be for my husband and I to look at our life together and get frustrated, we really want to push through and learn to love what we have. Earlier today, Nate mentioned that at times we both get a little too focused on the following issues: we don't own a house, we have loads of combined student loan debt and credit card debt, we live in a tiny apartment, we don't feel that we can start a family yet, and many other things. At times, those things seem overwhelming and we're not sure how we'll ever get out of debt, own a house, and start a family. However, it's crazy to think that we'll never do those things... because the thing is... we will some day. For now though, we have compiled a list of some things (which are not always things) that we are thankful for.

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Starting out vaguely, we both give thanks for:

* each other
* a roof over our heads
* completing college educations
* food in the refrigerator
* clothing on our backs
* our good health

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Ashley is thankful for:

* a wonderful husband
* loving/supportive parents, family, & friends
* opportunities to live and learn
* a warm place to sleep at night
* friends who I can call when I need them
* having had the chance to live in many places
* having good books to read
* warm cups of coffee and tea
* Nate's job... because he loves it
* music and its healing powers
* coming from an artistic family
* having the most loving parents ever
* nature's beauty
* Burt Lake
* time to reflect and then to grow
* people who make me laugh and smile
* life

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(I have Nate more directly involved in this blog, so this comes from him)
Lastly, because he came up with this blog idea, Nate is thankful for:

* an amazing wife who takes care of me
* a job that I enjoy each and every day
* being close to family and friends
* skiing in the mountains
* having a warm place to live
* a place to rest my feet at home
* a job that allows me freedom
* living in a great country
* people who fight for our rights
* homemade meals
* parents who taught me well
* every blessing in life

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We hope that you'll find things to be thankful for this holiday and each and every day beyond that. Thankfulness is much appreciated, and we're pretty sure that people never get mad when someone thanks them for something. So give thanks! Look for things to be thankful for in life.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Rocky Mountain High

I have an architecture degree, but I really love to draw and create more than I love sitting in front of a computer and drafting. I also love the hands on part of architecture where you draw by hand, model, and build. Unfortunately, that seems to be a very very small part of most architecture projects. More often than not, time is spent in front of a computer screen drafting floor plans, details, sections... etc. Then even more time is dedicated to fixing/re-drawing errors or changes to previous mentioned drawings. Not really what I had expected of the architecture profession. My strengths lie much more in hand drawing, sketching, and other outlets for creativity. As a kid I loved colors, clothes, reading, painting and drawing, legos, and building things. I was never ever very much into video games, computers, or technology. That's something that I need to learn to embrace... or do I? The jury is still out on that idea.

One thing I love but have not done enough of in recent times is draw. I feel that I've lost a lot of my technique and skill for drawing since taking a 6 week drawing class in Europe in 2006. Wow, that was quite a while ago... and I haven't really been keeping up with my drawing since then. It's such a low maintenance hobby too! I still have my pencils, sharpener, gummy eraser, and drawing pads.... what is stopping me?! Nothing, really. That would be the correct answer. I would love to draw/sketch more often, because it's one of my favorite things to do.

This summer I went to a guitar festival at Copper with my uncle and cousin. While sitting in a folding chair listening to music, I drew the elevation of a condo building that I thought had some nice architectural qualities. Maybe my lack of inspiration for drawing is partly due to a lack of inspiring architecture... but I digress. It felt nice to hand draw for a little while, although it was a far cry from drawings I created while learning to "see things differently" in Europe. The mountain architecture at Copper did make me feel inspired to draw. It helped to remind me that not all architects are thoughtless and careless with what they design to be built in the environment. I think that something about the small mountain town of Copper took me back to my time spent in Europe. Mountain towns in the Rockies exude a feeling of friendliness toward pedestrian friendly design. I really appreciate how the geography limits construction and development, and the confines of valleys typically make people more thoughtful about what's built in the small space available. Did I mention how I love mountain towns?

I wrote the following while sitting and thinking about my surroundings at Copper Mountain:

There's something about mountain architecture that inspired me. It might have something to do with the inspired designs of the buildings themselves. Each building beckons nature to be a part of it, as if reminding the earth that it is a part of its construction and makeup. Everywhere I look, there are sturdy and strong wood beams. Not to mention the earth tones of most of the condos surrounding the base of the mountains. So many of the buildings blend into the surroundings and lack the obtrusiveness that so many structures today seem to thrive on.
Each building has a gracious number of balconies, suggesting that someone understood the importance of the interior and exterior being equally important. Without outdoor living space, people are discouraged to take in the beauty that surrounds them. Where better to bask in the natural beauty than from a balcony overlooking the Rocky Mountains?

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The sketches below are from the drawing class I took in Switzerland. The top sketch is the covered bridge in Luzern and the lower sketch is at a castle in Bellinzona.

I have a love for artistic and creative outlets. Architecture may not be the best outlet for me, and I'm trying to find the best outlet for my strengths. It's not always easy being unsure of your direction, but I am working on it.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Mixed Feelings

Yesterday the Broncos beat the Kansas City Chiefs, and I was thrilled! The past few weeks have been tough for Denver fans, and this was a much needed win. I know that Nate was happy with the Bronco's victory too, even though he missed out on attending the game due to being called in to work. There's that unpredictable pilot schedule we've been missing. (He was basically just short of fuming!) To make matters worse, I told him that he missed out on a stealth bomber flyover to boot. Even though there was much reason to celebrate, there was a little bitterness to that sweet for him missing the Bronco's win.

 I took my friend Laura in Nate's place

The Broncos started out strong this week, scored first, and continued working hard until the end of the game. I'm not sure that any professional team should just give up (or be forced to let up for the sake of not "running up the score" and humiliating the other team) when they're ahead, because you never know when you'll lose a lead... and the game. It's happened to the best teams. It's not necessarily considered running up the score if your team just plays like crap and the other team plays well.... is it?

Previously forecasted snow stayed away for the game

 Even Tim Tebow scored a couple TDs

Incredible view of the Rockies

If there was one person who had a really crappy night, it was the Kansas City coach, Todd Haley. After the game, he refused to shake Josh McDaniel's hand, pointed and shook his finger at Josh while saying something, and walked away. Not sure I've seen that before, and people can only speculate what Haley said. He's not telling.

(source: Justin Edmonds/Getty Images)

Last time I checked, many football teams beat their opponents by 20 points or more. As embarrassing as this is, the Broncos lost to the Raiders 59-14 a few weeks ago. The coaches still shook hands after that game.

Even though the Chiefs coach made headlines with his bad attitude, there sure were a lot of happy people last night. In football... when one team loses, another team wins. Even when you lose, the way you can win is by at least being a good sport about it. Maybe Haley was just trying to create drama and motivation for his players when they play the Broncos again in a few weeks? The world may never know. 

Go Broncos!!

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Blood Is Funny?

I have done the near impossible task of finding something that my husband is not good at doing. Blood. He gets faint at the sight of it... not on the television so much, but in real life for sure. The scene that unfolded last night made for, what I think, was a rather entertaining evening. It was funny after Nate panicked, I realized I would live... and I did not need stitches. (at least I don't think I do) I hear super glue works just fine for some cuts. I'll let you know how it works.

* If you have a weak stomach proceed with caution. No, I am not including pictures with this blog *

Anyway, I find it amusing that my husband, Nate, could land a full plane with both engines on fire without even breaking a sweat, but when he catches a glimpse of blood it sends him into a full on panic. I say this because that's what happened when he glanced at the inside of my fingertip last night. I screamed while slicing sweet potatoes (wedges are considerably more difficult to cut than just chunks), because I cut right into the side of my middle finger and nicked my ring finger, all at the same time, with a chef's knife... the sharpest chef's knife you've ever cut with too! Crud! The fact that I had just cut myself scared me more than anything, because I had no idea what I would see when I looked down at my finger. Then came the blood. Gallons of it. (That may be a slight exaggeration.) Nate jumps up from the computer to see what happened. (I knew he shouldn't have done that.) The first thing he did was freak out at what looked, to him, like a chunk of finger nail hanging from my fingertip, but I quickly pulled it off and showed him it was just a small piece of sweet potato. No harm there. After assessing the situation, I realized that I needed something to stop the bleeding... like paper towels for instance. While I'm thinking about stopping the bleeding, Nate is running around the apartment trying to figure out what to do. I asked yelled nicely "get me some paper towels please?!" I mean my finger is bleeding profusely, and it's about to get all over the place. First things first! Stop the bleeding. While I put pressure on my finger, Nate was online trying to find out if I needed stitches. Nothing like a little self diagnosis from the internet. The following discussion went a little something like this:

"Can you see bone or yellow, fatty tissue?"
"I don't know but I'm not going to look... I'd have to pull the cut apart. That would hurt."
"Oh gross." ( I think he almost puked here)
"Come and look."
"No way! I'm not looking."
"Me either. It's fine."
"Do you think we should go to the emergency room? We have insurance."
"No. I think it's fine."
"Are you sure?"
"No. (I meant yes.)"

After this going back and forth, Nate called him mother, who's a volunteer EMT. (Of course... there was a lot of panic and no action for the first few minutes after I chopped my finger. Why didn't we think of calling her sooner? Seriously, Nate would never panic if there was an emergency on an airplane under his watch!) Nate's mom pretty much talked us through the evaluation of the cut, and I decided no doctor was needed. Why call the doctor when you can just use super glue? I hear it works just fine... can't wait to see the results.

I quickly resumed helping finish dinner, which was so abruptly delayed by my awkwardness while cutting tubers. Always protect your fingers! Nate acted as if I had just lost a foot or something. If I even glanced at the knives he said "no, sit down", but I refused to be useless for the rest of the evening because of a "little" cut. He barely even let me use the grater to zest some lemon for the green beans. I mean when you fall off of a horse, you're supposed to get right back on it. Right? Nate can fly metal tubes in the sky for a living, but if I so much as slice my finger with a knife he panics. Funny how that works. I think I'd rather cut myself with a knife than have to fly a plane with a disabled engine any day. But hey, to each their own. I get my thrills by cutting with sharp chefs knives.

My thrill of choice

Nate's thrill of choice:

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Nate told me later that he thought the sweet potato under my finger nail was a piece of finger hanging off of my hand. Nice imagination.... I like it! This is the second time I've cut a finger badly while cutting a vegetable from the tuber family. You win some, you lose some. I'm hoping not to lose a finger one day. :)

Tuesday, November 9, 2010


Spur of the moment, Nate and I took a little day trip to the Denver Zoo. The experience was a lot better than any other trip we've taken to the zoo before. Part of that might have been due to us visiting on Friday afternoon only a couple of hours before closing time. The crowds were minimal and the animals were active. I swear I've been to the zoo previously on days where the animals are sleeping/hiding/in the back rooms eating/snoring/flat out ignoring visitors. I might ignore people though if I was stuck in a small cage with only a couple of toys too?! However, on this trip the animals seemed to frolic, play, and just enjoy the nice weather. Kind of like Nate and I did. Well, I might have been the one frolicking (I really like that word), and Nate enjoyed the nice weather... and a concession stand hot dog.

I made friends with a gorilla while at the zoo!

Sleepy sea lions.

We did encounter some sleepy animals at the zoo, but for the most part... they were out and about on the beautiful day. Nate and I had a good laugh at the geese and peacocks that wandered the zoo freely. One peacock came within feet of me as if I was in its way. I'm convinced it was mad that I did not move aside for it. The geese also made their way along the zoo's pathways. I wonder what their favorite zoo exhibit is? We did cross paths with them near bird world. Hopefully they were not taunting the parrots. Nate and I both wondered if the other zoo birds get jealous of the geese coming and going as they please. We may never know.

Visiting geese.

I definitely got in the way of this beautiful bird.

A security guard ushered us out of the Tropical Discovery building, because it was closing time and they wanted us to leave. We did get a chance to see some fun things though before that happened. The mudskipper gobies really amazed me. It's not every day that you get to see a fish with "arms". I wanted to see the little guy (at least I think it was a boy) move, so I blew on its face. Not sure that was the nicest thing to do, but I wanted to see that little thing scoot along the sand. Sure enough, I blew some air it's way... and it blinked a few times. I blew again, and that little mudskipper scooted along with its arm-like fins. That might have been my highlight of the day. It's hard to choose though, because I was pretty amazed the entire time we spent traveling through the zoo.

My cute little mudskipper

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It's probably easier to just go ahead and show you the pictures of the animals we encountered while at the zoo. Hope you enjoy them too.

curious horseshoe crab

 mighty lion

birds swimming

monkey with a mustache

majestic elephants

gigantic giraffes

interesting bird

warthog pacing

camels resting

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There is an extraordinary uniqueness to every creature on this earth. The zoo serves as such a great reminder of diversity. There's so much to learn from our differences. The zoo would be such a boring place if every animal there was a zebra. Incredible!

Monday, November 8, 2010

Falling for Cookies

** Disclaimer: after that last blog I had to follow up with a more sweet blog. Life is all about balance, you know? **

I've never ever ever considered myself much of a baker. Usually my cookies would turn out tough, and my cakes would be gooey in the middle. That was the story of my life... well, just when I baked things it was the story I guess. I typically enjoy cooking a good meal (I still do) rather than putting something sweet in that dreaded oven.

Recently though, I think I've been bit by a baking bug. First it was a cake for Nate's birthday, followed by the best chocolate chip cookies ever, and then the most recent delicious molasses spice cookies. The cookies came out with a crunchy sugar coating on the outside and soft in the middle. Win for team Ashley! Actually everyone involved won, because I hear people enjoyed eating them too.

 * Molasses spice cookies with an orange 
sugar coating = yum *

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These have been what I think is the perfect fall cookie, because they contain tons and tons of delicious spices that make you feel a little warm on the inside. The bowl below contains unbleached flour, ground ginger, cinnamon, ground cloves, salt, pepper, and allspice. Hellooo spices!

The only complaint I have about the cookies is that they seem a little too sweet. Hello tummy ache (if you eat too many, which Nate has done at least once already). I guess worse things could happen.

Next up on the baking list is oatmeal cookies with chocolate chips! What's happened to me?!

P.S.  The really fun part of making the molasses spice cookies was making the orange sugar in this bad girl! We got her as a wedding gift, and I really like finding reasons to get her out of the cupboard every once in a while. :) It's really fun to put stuff in there and press the on or pulse button! Oh the simple things in life.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Happy Halloweeeeen

Usually Nate and I would be living it up at a Halloween party while dressed up all silly, but this year we're being much more low key. Are we getting old or something?! Heck, I don't even like scary movies any more!

This was from a Halloween party last year. We were feeling like 20-something year olds at that point. :)

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Halloween parties or not... the one thing I cannot live without is pumpkin carving! I'll never get too old for that. Pumpkin carving is the best!

I love picking out the perfect pumpkin. 
I love finding a fun design that fits perfectly.
I like sticking my hands in the 'guts' and 
squishing my hands around. 
I love carving carefully through the 
pumpkin, so that the design stays intact. 
I love lighting up the freshly carved 
jack-o-lantern for the first time! 

This year, Nate and I joined Annie & Mike for pumpkin carving. The more carved pumpkins... the better! I've decided that next year I'm carving more than one pumpkin, because one just wasn't enough. There are too many fun designs, and I want to carve at least 2 pumpkins next year. Nate might think I'm a little crazy, but I just like to be artistic and make things. Pumpkins are a once a year thing! Maybe I should take up carving oranges and apples the rest of the year?

Did anyone else enjoy their pumpkin carving experience this year? We did!

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Here's a look at mine and Nate's Halloween pumpkins over the years:

* 2010 Pumpkins * 

 * 2009 Pumpkins *

* 2008 Pumpkins *

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Happy Halloween!!

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

The Little Things

Recently I ordered myself a few little holiday decorations online from Crate & Barrel. I love to decorate for the holidays, and I also really love the little details that make a space your own. How a person decorates, or does not decorate, their house can say a lot about them. I hope that people will find things scattered around our place that might make them smile... you know... the little things. Like turkey tea light holders.

Are these little guys not the cutest things ever?! Look at the fun shadows they cast too.

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Yesterday I had lunch and coffee with my friend Laura, and I told her about my turkey tea lights (I adore them so much that I might have to keep them out all year). Then I started laughing, because included with the tea lights was a nice little card that also arrived in the mail with my cute turkeys. The surprise card read as follows:

"Yay! Happy Fall, Ashley"

The slightly embarrassing part is that after making the order online I also sent myself this nice note for the fall too. Why not? I asked Laura if she ever did that, and she informed me that she indeed does send herself cards as well... so we had a good laugh about sending ourselves sweet messages when we make online orders. There's really no harm in sending yourself a nice card once in a while.

If I'm good at one thing, it's making myself laugh. Even if I am not able to make others laugh... I have the power to at least lighten my own mood. What a fun thing. Sometimes it's the smallest gifts that people love the most, and it's the littlest things that can make the biggest difference.