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.