Puppy Brother

Mashup7Anyone that frequents this blog recognizes this face.

It’s the face that Miss Finley Hart has been absurdly lucky to be blessed with.

That mug of hers has been seen here, herehere and many times in-between.

PuppyBrother-57How it’s possible for her to get more adorable by the day I have NO IDEA.

That. Face. Kills. Me.PuppyBrother-58

Dead.

Well hang on to your ovaries ladies because if you think THAT is adorable…you have no idea what you’re in for.  For that face was just given a brand new puppy brother and the combination of the two should be ILLEGAL!

PuppyBrother-44Meet Shamus Hart.

I warned you.

Mashup6PuppyBrother-50Mashup4PuppyBrother-51 PuppyBrother-53 PuppyBrother-52Mashup3PuppyBrother-11 PuppyBrother-30 PuppyBrother-31PuppyBrother-20PuppyBrother-5PuppyBrother-6PuppyBrother-8PuppyBrother-17PuppyBrother-18Stop.

Just stop.

I can’t take it.

Mashup2 PuppyBrother-9 Mashup5 PuppyBrother-41 Mashup1PuppyBrother-25 PuppyBrother-26 PuppyBrother-27

Good.

Grief.

I don’t know what else to say.

Thanks for stopping by and enjoy the new puppies you all go out and immediately buy after viewing this.  PuppyBrother-43

Cañon City, Colorado.

GrandpaPete-4This post is mostly just for my mom.  : )

Her dad, my grandpa, came to Colorado recently for a funeral.  He stayed with us the few days he was here, and while in town we took him to Cañon City to visit his big brother Virgil.  These are just some snapshots from the lovely spring day we spent with the pair of geezers.  : )
GrandpaPete-5GrandpaPete-2GrandpaPete-3GrandpaPete-7 GrandpaPete-6 GrandpaPete-8GrandpaPete-1GrandpaPete-11 GrandpaPete-12 GrandpaPete-13GrandpaPete-19 GrandpaPete-14 GrandpaPete-15GrandpaPete-16 GrandpaPete-17 GrandpaPete-20 GrandpaPete-21 GrandpaPete-23GrandpaPete-22 GrandpaPete-27GrandpaPete-25 GrandpaPete-24 GrandpaPete-18GrandpaPete-26

Punta Mita

PuntaMita-7Jon and I went to Punta Mita back in early February with his company.  Last year, the trip was in Costa Rica (read parts one and two) and we had such a great time.  This year was no different.  The resort was breathtaking and we both got some incredible R & R.

I decided to only bring one camera with one lens to avoid feeling tethered to my camera bag.  It worked out great!  I didn’t even take my camera out of the room, except for once.  The third or fourth day Jon had an early golf round, so I took the morning to watch the sun rise, wander the grounds, and snap some photos to bring home.  It’s a pretty refreshing way to do it.  The company has hired photographers at the resort and they are pretty great about getting photos of us, which gives me the freedom to leave my camera behind.  I don’t have any great stories like last year, so I’ll just let the photos do the talking.

PuntaMita-17PuntaMita-11PuntaMita-8 PuntaMita-3PuntaMita-15Mexico2 PuntaMita-19PuntaMita-4PuntaMita-30PuntaMita-18PuntaMita-29Mexico1PuntaMita-24Mexico3PuntaMita-27PuntaMita-31PuntaMita-10PuntaMita-35Mexico4PuntaMita-36PuntaMita-28PuntaMita-2PuntaMita-33PuntaMita-37

Here are some iPhone photos and the shots from the photographers.  I should mention, we were there over Bronco’s Super Bowl weekend, hence the football photos.

PuntaMita-19PuntaMita-18The only four in the whole place from the Denver office!  PuntaMita-1PuntaMita-8PuntaMita-3Cheering what I think was the ONLY good thing the Broncos did the entire game.PuntaMita-5PuntaMita-6Things are starting to get ugly at this point.  Well, cheers to next year?PuntaMita-7PuntaMita-2IMG_5941IMG_5943PuntaMita-17They always do an excursion day where you can choose from about 30 options and go have some fun.  We chose whale watching and snorkeling and this was the only time I wished I would have had my beautiful zoom lens because the whales were out of control.  It was incredible.IMG_5952PuntaMita-10PuntaMita-11 PuntaMita-12 PuntaMita-13PuntaMita-14PuntaMita-16What?  Don’t tell me you’ve never been tempted.  : )PuntaMita-15IMG_5926IMG_5928IMG_5929IMG_5951Mexico5

Fancy dinners and cocktails parties filled the evenings with a costume party to send us out with a bang on the last night.   PuntaMita-22 The theme this year was Prohibition Era.  I went the flapper route and Jon, utilizing his creative juices, went as a speak easy bartender serving ‘moon-shine’.  PuntaMita-23He’d moon ya and then shine a flashlight in your face.  Some people got it, most just thought he was wearing a butt.  I thought it was hilarious and it only matters what I think, right?PuntaMita-24It was a fun week and more important it was filled with fun new experiences with my favorite guy.  Thank you for reading!  I’ve got a few more posts in the works so check back this week! PuntaMita-9IMG_5943IMG_5918

Without further ado…Paris, part deux.

I’ll admit that it took us a few days to get over the “culture shock” of being in Paris.  Although I guess if I’m being honest, it was more a combination of exhaustion and confusion than it was straight up culture shock.  There are differences in culture obviously, but not many.  Paris functions similarly to any large American city, just in a different language and with MUCH better dressed people.   But when you spend your first few days in a foreign country, after traveling all day and night to get there, and are up at the crack of dawn to be on foot until the late, late night…things  can get weird.

The biggest struggle for Jon and I was food.  The finding it and the eating it.  You make a plan for the day and it’s full of grand things to see and the energy to see them all.  You depart the apartment with zest, take the metro to successfully arrive at your destination (nailed it), walk your ‘American in Paris’ self all up and down the museum and then…you nearly collapse of starvation.  It’s suddenly 2:00 and you’ve consumed nothin’ but culture.  You and your travel companion begin glaring at each other as you peer down the streets for something to eat.  The problem is, you don’t speak French and you’re both ‘Minnesota Nice’ and are so afraid of upsetting some snotty Parisian waiter that you’re paralyzed with indecisiveness.

It’s a real bitch of a cycle.

The other problem is that, as a tourist, the areas you frequent are ‘tourist areas’ and the restaurants, service and food in those areas are total crap.  Even by American standards.  The first three days we were there I was so let down by the French food that I thought my heart would break.  Where was the exquisite cheese?  The decadent wine for lunch?  The chocolate and pastries and bread?

Finally, the last straw had arrived.

Our third night, we used the magic of the internet to look up a nice place for dinner in our neighborhood.  Jon made me call for reservations because I was able to bullshit French a fraction more than he could.  Whew.  Exhale.  We have a reservation.  They know we only speak English.  They hate us for it, but at least they won’t be surprised.

We arrived cloaked in nice clothes and great attitudes.  Nothing could break our spirits.  LET’S EAT!  We were starved after two and a half days of pieced together nonsense.  Right inside the front door we found ourselves smack in the middle of a baseball analogy…

Strike one: confusion over reservation and therefore sat at a communal table with real live French people.

Strike two: Ali reads the menu and slightly panics when she realizes it’s all red meat (which she can’t, won’t, and doesn’t eat).

But wait!  The waitress points out the prawn entree.  Whew.  We’re saved.

NOPE!

Strike three: chef says they’re sold out.  It’s all bloody, chewy steaks from here on out!

YOU’RE OUT!

Ali’s out.  Ali is SO out.

I’m ashamed to admit this but I was so hungry, so trying to be in love with Paris, and so disappointed that I welled up with tears and quickly excused myself to the bathroom where I had about a three day overdo sob-fest.  It felt fantastic.

I gathered myself, went back to the giant farm table, and got a GD grip.  The waitress waved her arms around in such a beautiful and elegantly Parisian way while suggesting some vegetable dish for the train-wreck American and I just nodded my head.  Jon’s meal was incredible, mine was mushy, and we carried on.  It’s why wine was invented.

One point during the meal a new guest was seated at our table next to me.  At this point I was so deprived of the English language that I noticed her book right away.  IT WAS IN ENGLISH!   I decided to say hello.

“Hi my name is Ali and we’re visiting Paris and are eating here at the same table as you and you’re reading a book and it’s in English and will you please talk to us and can it please be in English and it’s so nice to meet you!!!”

Or something.  Something like that.

She was downright LOVELY with a Scottish accent so thick I could barely understand her.  But I didn’t care.  Her voice was that of an angel.  An English speaking angel.  The evening ended on a good note (because of the wine) and we walked home with our arms around each other (wine) and decided that tomorrow would be even better (wine).

Let me wrap this up.

The next evening (after a day full of more food disasters) we found our way to Montmartre where a wine a cheese class that I’d signed us up for was being held.  Finding this place was a stressful nightmare.  Map-quest didn’t understand French any more than we did.  It also didn’t help that the streets in Paris are just like the people, they’re really difficult just for the sheer fun of it.  This class was the ONLY event of the entire vacation that was ‘scheduled’ and time sensitive.  Thankfully we arrived just in time and ready for a cocktail.

We are greeted in English.  Thank God.

The woman is so kind and lovely and directs us downstairs to the wine cellar where the class will be held.  Our host speaks English.  Double thanks be to God.  How could this get any better?

Wine Human: Hey guys, where are you visiting Paris from?

Sad Humans: We’re from Denver.  You know where that is because you’re clearly American!  Where are you from?

Wine Human: Well I’ve lived in Paris for 9 years, but originally I’m from Minnesota.  Minneapolis actually.

I LITERALLY had to stop myself from crying of relief.

No Longer Sad Humans: NO WAY!!!!!!!!!  WE LIED ABOUT DENVER!  SCREW DENVER!  WE’RE TOTALLY AND ORIGINALLY FROM MINNESOTA!  LET’S TALK ABOUT THE COLD AND BE BEST FRIENDS!

It was so bizarre and so amazing and so necessary.  That night was obviously one of our favorite nights.  If you ever visit Paris, please look this company up.  The Minnesota part aside, it was spectacularly informative and wonderful.  It’s called Cook’n with Class and Preston was our host.  He was marvelous.  When we ate every single thing he put in front of us with animalistic vigor, he asked us what the hell was going on and we told him our sad, sad story.  He explained everything and made the whole debacle so simple for us.  In American culture, dining out is about the experience.  The decor, the ambiance, being entertained by the waiter, the whole show of it.  In Paris, it’s all about the food.  The end.  The waiters are working, not entertaining, and they stay out of your way.  It’s ALL about the food and the interaction of who you’re dining with.

It all clicked.

After that, Jon and I adapted a ‘we don’t give a rats’ attitude and it was the best decision we made.  We stopped being self conscious and started having fun.  We just acted how we wanted, ordered what we wanted, dressed how we wanted and ate INCREDIBLE meals.  Getting out of the tourist areas helped, but being selfish and self involved helped even more.  It was the turning point for us and the trip was pretty smooth sailing after that.

Anyway, enough tourist trauma.

Let’s start with the day we went to Montmartre.  What a different animal this place was than where we’d previously been.  Classic Paris up on a hill.  If you’ve seen Moulin Rouge than you can imagine this neighborhood.  We hopped off a metro stop and wandered up the winding streets to the Basilica of the Sacrè Coeur.  It’s perched upon the highest point in the city and provides spectacular views.

Paris-69Paris-71ParisMashup5(basilica)From below, on the blissfully sunny day were there, it looked like a white castle in the clouds.  No cameras were allowed inside, so the stunning exterior will have to do.Paris-77 Paris-76 ParisMashup6(monmarte) The neighborhood was visibly older than others and so full of charm.  I wish we had spent more time there, but we had to rush off to the above noted wine and cheese class.  Paris-75Farewell Montmartre!

Hello Louvre.

Listen.  I know I’ve said ‘I just can’t describe this that or the other’ over and over.  But this?  THIS!  I can’t describe this at all.  Except with this one word: GARGANTUAN.  Overwhelmingly gargantuan.  Paris-116 ParisMashup4(Louvre)Paris-42 Paris-79Paris-45 Paris-44 Paris-115Paris-78 Paris-80Paris-113 Paris-91Paris-114The exterior and courtyard are so iconic that it was bizarre to even stand there.  I kept having to remind myself that yes, you’re actually here.  Soak it up girl.

If I had taken photos of every beautiful thing inside, I’d still be there.  Instead I tried to pull my camera out sporadically.  When inspired or when I wanted to remember a specific piece of art.

ParisMashup10(louvre) Paris-108 Paris-107 Paris-106Paris-81ParisMashup9(louvre) Paris-112Paris-84Paris-103 Paris-102 I mean….

Do you know how old that is?!?!?!?!  It’s MESSED UP!  Awesome.  Mostly the ‘awe’ part.Paris-101 Paris-96 Paris-89 Paris-90 ParisMashup8(louvre)Paris-82Paris-110 Paris-109ParisMashup7(Louvre)We walked at a clipping pace throughout quite a bit of the Louvre.  It was a long morning and afternoon.  I kept feeling panicked to see everything we could while there.  I had this need to lay my eyes on it all because it might be my only shot and it’s certainly my only life.  It sounds silly, but it’s a hard feeling to shake.  It’s all so marvelous and inspiring and I just didn’t want to take my being there for granted.  I kept trying to slow my roll and just enjoy what I was looking at.  It worked out pretty well in the end.  We saw all the major exhibits and didn’t leave feeling like we had to return.  The truth is, a lot of the smaller museums were just as good if not better.  Certainly less crowded and with equally incredible works.

One of our last days in Paris didn’t actually take place in Paris.  We jumped on an early morning train to Versailles with very low expectations and a readiness to bail if it seemed too touristy and lame.  Instead, I was provided with my favorite day of shooting photos that I have EVER had.  Paris-124 Paris-126As you can see, our arrival at the estate was cloaked with a thick and beautiful fog.  It added such a cool and otherworldly feeling to the property, which was the definition of otherworldly.  Paris-130 Paris-129 Paris-131Paris-127Paris-132 Shortly after our arrival, the fog began to lift and I was gifted with the most beautiful and soft overcast light.  It took away any garish quality the palace could have (and typically does have) and instead it gave it a romantic and mysterious quality.  It was so cool.  Paris-133 Paris-134 Paris-128 Paris-186Paris-138Paris-140Paris-136Paris-139 Paris-182Paris-146 Forget the “house”.  Just forget it.  It’s ostentatious, mindbogglingly huge and totally worth going inside to see, but…the real reason to visit Versailles is the grounds.

Be still my heart.

It was magic.

Paris-137Paris-143 Paris-160 Paris-158 ParisMashup14(versailles)Paris-163 ParisMashup15(versailles)Paris-164ParisMashup16(versailles)Paris-147Paris-145 Paris-150Paris-151 ParisMashup12(versailles)Paris-175 Paris-173 ParisMashup17(versailles)Paris-170 ParisMashup13(versailles)Paris-171Paris-172 They just went on, and on, and on.  I could have gone back ten times and not seen it all.  You are completely transported to a different world.  I couldn’t get enough.  We ended up roaming around like 5 year olds goofing off and taking photos.  Most of the tourists stayed inside the house so we felt totally alone while wandering the same paths as Marie Antoinette and Louis XVI.  It was a photographers dream.  Shooting an engagement, family or wedding there would be absurd.   I can’t even tell you.  Paris-174 Paris-149ParisMashup18(versailles)Paris-178 Paris-177 Paris-180 Paris-181Paris-184 Paris-187Paris-179 Paris-183 Paris-189 Paris-188 Paris-190Paris-193 Paris-194 Paris-195 Paris-196We left Versailles feeling so refreshed and under the spell of France.  We had a day or two left that we spent being in love, shopping for Christmas gifts, and relaxing into the city.  Just in time to leave of course. : )

I said it at the beginning of my first post, but I’ll say it again…it still doesn’t feel real.

It’s tricky with places like Paris I think.  Maybe only Paris actually.  There is all this lore and mystique about it.  You hear about it your whole life, or thanks to my parents, I did.  Whenever anybody asks where you want to go before you die, typically Paris is at the top of the list.  It’s just one of those places.  It’s THE place for a lot of people.  So when you get there, it’s a jumble of expectations, movie scenes, dreams coming true, and pinch me moments.  It’s taken me a really long time to let it sink in and wrap my brain around.  But the truth is, Paris is pretty damn spellbinding.  It’s certainly not perfect, but It didn’t disappoint nor exceed my expectations.   My expectations weren’t even in the ballpark of what the experience was really like.  It was totally different than I could have imagined, and I’m so tearfully grateful to my husband for taking me.  It was pretty remarkable to spend a week living out a dream so big I never thought it would happen with my favorite person on earth.

The end.  : )

(kinda)

Paris couples/love shootParis couples/love shootParis couples/love shootParis couples/love shootParis couples/love shoot Paris couples/love shoot ali-jon-paris-037Paris couples/love shoot Several people have asked about these photos that were CLEARLY not taken by me.  Lend me your tired ears and I’ll explain.  Without going into too much detail, our wedding photographers didn’t show up at our wedding.  Thankfully, my baby cousin Nicholas was geared up and ready for his first wedding gig.  He did a great job being given about an hours notice, but I was pretty heartbroken about the whole situation.  That fact combined with the other unfortunate truth that I am the photographer on these trips and therefore always behind the complicated camera.  Give it to Jon and bless him he tries, but I’m usually a blurry mess.

I just wanted some beautiful photos of us.  Both of us together.  That’s all.

So I hired Rhianne Jones, we met her bright and early on a freezing morning, and I got my one souvenir from the trip.  I’d say it was worth it.  Paris couples/love shoot Paris couples/love shootThey have already proven to be such a beautiful keepsake and I am so thankful that Jon understood my desire to have them taken and was a total non-complaining trooper.

I will treasure them.

If you haven’t had enough yet, I’ve thrown up (interesting choice of words) the rest of our iPhone photos if you’re interested.  Thank you so much for recapping this trip with me.  It’s been really fun and I hope you enjoyed my reminiscing.  : )  Thanks as usual for reading!!
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I found it!  I found the exquisite cheese!!!IMG_5154 Sadly, the only photo I have of our Minneapolis savior, Preston.IMG_5153 IMG_5151 Jon’s favorite souvenir from the trip, his favorite wine of all time.IMG_5150 IMG_5160 IMG_5144 IMG_5143 IMG_5141 IMG_5146 IMG_5149 IMG_5148 IMG_5194 IMG_5185 No wonder Marie Antoinette had a bee in her bonnet, sleeping in this anxiety room.IMG_5186 IMG_5204IMG_5138 IMG_5175IMG_5226 I did forget to say how bomb dot com it was to be in Paris with all the Christmas decorations.IMG_5218 IMG_5067 IMG_5213IMG_5214 IMG_5220 Paris version of a shopping mall.  We’re doing it wrong.  IMG_5222No filter, no nothing.  This place was insane.IMG_5243 We watched the Eiffel Tower come to life with sparkles three different nights and it was teary eyed and goosebumpy ever single time.

Go go go go go go go to Paris.

Go.  IMG_5263

Kinkade Christmas 2013

KinkadeChristmas-1 We had such a fantastic week back in my hometown over Christmas.  It was one of those trips that I knew was going to be special, and it was, in a way that I fear won’t be duplicated for quite some time.  It helped that it was the first Christmas Jon and I had been in Ada since before we got married, which felt like forever ago!  All of the stars seemed to align and everyone was able to get away from their responsibilities to spend the week together.  Jon and I didn’t feel torn in a bunch of different directions, my brothers were all able to take time off from work to spend time there, and my Grandpa Pete flew home for his first Minnesota Christmas in 13 years!  We made a lot of great memories and it will go down as one of my favorite Christmases ever.

My mom always does such an incredible job decorating her house for the holidays so I thought I’d share some photos of her skills that she decided not to pass down to me.  : )

Mashup4 KinkadeChristmas-8 Her Christmas trees are consistently some of the most beautiful I see every year.  It makes my pathetic tree look like a 5 year old decorated it.  KinkadeChristmas-20Mashup3Mashup1

She’s amassed a pretty cool collection of decor over the years and I always look forward to seeing how she puts it all together.  She doesn’t just decorate the main areas of the house either, she makes sure every bedroom has their own little holiday touches as well.  She turns the house into a warm and inviting place that you never want to leave…and we barely did!  Partly because of the freezing temperatures, but mostly because it’s so enjoyable to be there.

KinkadeChristmas-7 KinkadeChristmas-15 KinkadeChristmas-24KinkadeChristmas-17 KinkadeChristmas-18 KinkadeChristmas-19 When she can’t buy the kind of centerpiece she wants, WORRY NOT!  She’ll craft it out of ice, throw it on a pizza pan and turn it into a glowing work or art.  What the hell.  I am SO not good at this stuff.Masup5 KinkadeChristmas-3 KinkadeChristmas-5 KinkadeChristmas-6KinkadeChristmas-31Mashup6 KinkadeChristmas-29My brother Tyler has turned into a pretty skilled chef and he was kind enough to give my Mom and Dad a bit of a break from feeding everyone all week.  He made us some delicious pasta Christmas Eve while we all waited in angst for Grandpa Pete to arrive in the tundra.
KinkadeChristmas-26KinkadeChristmas-16Just to prove how much more skilled my mother is at creative things, I made that hideous bloody ‘A’ in Grampa (spelled that way on purpose), after which she kindly fired me, and then finished the rest by herself.  KinkadeChristmas-27 KinkadeChristmas-28 Even the pups were quietly and patiently awaiting his arrival.KinkadeChristmas-32 KinkadeChristmas-33 IMG_5384 Livi was texting Jon, Chad and Greyson wondering why they were taking so long to deliver her favorite houseguest.  Before we knew it, the headlights rolled in the driveway and out popped a frozen Grandpa.  Forgive the terrible iPhone photos but I had to act quickly to capture the moment!  IMG_5388 IMG_5391Once he had arrived, everyone was home and all felt right in the world.  KinkadeChristmas-35 KinkadeChristmas-36 Mashup7KinkadeChristmas-37 To me, there is nothing better in the entire world than when the Kinkade house is filled with the commotion of food being prepared, people arriving, and drinks being shared.  It’s the greatest.KinkadeChristmas-38KinkadeChristmas-41 KinkadeChristmas-43 KinkadeChristmas-40 We carried on our tradition of opening one gift on Christmas Eve.  Our entire lives it’s been new pajamas to wear to bed and on Christmas morning, but this year my mom went rogue and got us deliciously comfy blankets instead.

Genius.  KinkadeChristmas-44 KinkadeChristmas-45 Walking around that house the rest of the week you could, at any given moment, find at least one of us curled up somewhere with those blankets.  They were a hit.
KinkadeChristmas-50 KinkadeChristmas-49KinkadeChristmas-46 KinkadeChristmas-47 KinkadeChristmas-48Before too long, everyone shipped off to bed anxiously awaiting what came next…Christmas morning!!KinkadeChristmas-60 KinkadeChristmas-53 KinkadeChristmas-59I have to say, Christmas is always better when there’s a little person involved.  Livi makes it all even more fun.
KinkadeChristmas-51 KinkadeChristmas-54 KinkadeChristmas-55Mashup10 KinkadeChristmas-67 Grandpa Pete has a history of dolling out questionable gifts, but he hit the nail on the head for Jon this year.  ; )  Take a close look at that t-shirt and consider recent laws passed in Colorado.  KinkadeChristmas-66 KinkadeChristmas-71 Mashup8KinkadeChristmas-56 KinkadeChristmas-52 KinkadeChristmas-68Mashups9 Mashup9KinkadeChristmas-70 KinkadeChristmas-74 All the boys in their Vikings gear.  At least they feel the pain of being Vikes fans as a family.  KinkadeChristmas-75 KinkadeChristmas-76 So, I’d like to pause here and point out my Grandpa’s shirt.  When going through these photos I realized that we MAY be a crazy cat family.  They appear everywhere.  I think we can see who’s to blame here…KinkadeChristmas-69KinkadeChristmas-84KinkadeChristmas-78 KinkadeChristmas-79Typical picture taking shenanigans out of those two.  I believe that move is to ward off the infamous ‘double chin photo’.
KinkadeChristmas-80 KinkadeChristmas-83KinkadeChristmas-93 KinkadeChristmas-85 KinkadeChristmas-86 KinkadeChristmas-87 KinkadeChristmas-88 KinkadeChristmas-89 KinkadeChristmas-90 Later in the afternoon, once our extended family arrived, we all gathered to watch Grandpa Pete open his ‘big present’.  It was a series of small hints leading him to a gift certificate which gifted him with his life long dream of driving a steam engine train.  Do you drive a train?  Captain a train?  Direct a train?  I don’t know.  He gets to drive a train.  In Nevada.  We all cried.  Well, all the girls did.  He tried to be stoic and it was a very cool moment.Mashup11 Mashup12 Mashup13KinkadeChristmas-99 KinkadeChristmas-98 KinkadeChristmas-100 This is basically what the week looked like.  Everyone eating.  Constant and relentless eating.  It was blissful.  : )KinkadeChristmas-102 KinkadeChristmas-101 KinkadeChristmas-103 KinkadeChristmas-104KinkadeChristmas-105 Greyson had to leave Christmas night for stupid work, so he wanted to get a few photos with Livi first.  As usual, she didn’t want to smile.  Thank goodness my mom was there for the assist.  KinkadeChristmas-107 KinkadeChristmas-108It worked!
Mashup14 KinkadeChristmas-106 KinkadeChristmas-111 KinkadeChristmas-112 KinkadeChristmas-113We spent many nights in the family room playing any number of games.  Once or twice we decided to brave the elements and head ‘up town’ to the Ada bars for some fun.  Fun it was.  Every minute.IMG_5399 IMG_5408 IMG_5413IMG_5401 IMG_5486 IMG_5455 IMG_5489 IMG_5485 IMG_5430 IMG_5447Sometimes we use things like blogs and social media to try and present our lives more perfect than they really are.  I’m guilty, you’re guilty, we all are.  Who wants to see the nitty gritty reality all the time?  Nobody does.  I have to be honest and say that this trip wasn’t perfect.  But if this post makes it seem like it was, that’s because it was as close as it’s ever gotten.  Looking back at this post makes me smile the whole way through, but at the same time gives me a tightness in my heart because I know how rare weeks like that can be.
IMG_5448I just feel damn lucky that I get to share my life with all these people…cat crazy as they are.  I’m not sure Morely shares my sentiment.  : )  Mashup15 KinkadeChristmas-124 KinkadeChristmas-125 KinkadeChristmas-126

Let’s go to Paris…

Settle on in people, this is a big one.  ali-jon-paris-001Jon and I have been back from our “we have no kids, we can still do whatever we want, we better do it now” trip to Paris for over a month and it still feels like a dream.  I’m sure part of that is because I was given 13 days to plan the trip and it was all a bit of a whirlwind.

We had talked and talked all late summer about taking a trip to Europe before Christmas, but as everyone knows, time flies and before we knew it we felt out of time.  We decided we would wait and so I put it out of my mind.

One day Jon suggested we walk up the street to my favorite Denver spot, Z Cuisine.  The fact that he was suggesting a glass of wine instead of myself should have been my first hint.  The second hint should have been that Z Cuisine is a French restaurant.  We ordered our wine and before I knew it Jon dropped two tickets to Paris in my lap.  Surprise!  We leave in less than two weeks!  After a day or two the shock wore off and then I was left with little more than 10 days to find us a place to stay and plan a 10 day itinerary.  Boohoo right?  I know, I know.

Well we I pulled off all of the planning and a few days before Thanksgiving we were flying into Paris!

Paris couples/love shoot

Pinch me.

Since our return, friends and family have been asking how it was, and I never know quite what to say.

What can I say?

Yes it was amazing.  Of course we had fun.  Obviously it was beautiful.

It’s PARIS!!

It’s just that I can’t find a way to describe the experience of it all.

People we spoke to before our trip about what to expect were correct when they told us that Paris just feels different.  “There’s just something about it”, they’d say, and they were right.  I thought it felt like a dreamworld that couldn’t possibly be real.  But then we would run into a modern convenience or a current movie poster and realize that…oh yeah, this is a real, modern and BUSY city and we are in fact not starring in a romantic comedy from a different century.Paris couples/love shoot

I wish I could find the words to tell you what it feels like to be in Paris, but it’s been a struggle.  It’s like I either have to tell every single thing in my brain with incredible and annoying detail, or just let the photos speak for themselves.  I’m not really happy with those options, so I’m going to do my regular routine of lots of photos (probably too many) with sporadic blips of storytelling here and there.  I will be including some photos from our phones as well.  Hopefully they stand out as obvious iPhone photos, but if not, don’t tell my expensive camera.

Ahh…Paris.  A photo-op at every turn.

Paris-122We arrived very early in the morning on a Monday.  So early that it was still dark when we landed.  We retrieved our luggage, bought metro passes and found our way to the train that was going to take us into Paris.  We thought we were being adventurous by navigating our way there without help, but in retrospect, we should have hired a driver as we were the only people on the train with luggage.  Regardless, we made it to our little flat, took a nap, and then headed out to see the sights.Paris-2Paris-117Paris-46Paris-230Paris-118ParisMashup18(aroundtown)Paris-226ParisMashup19(aroundtown)Paris-220ParisMashup22(aroundtown)The city of Paris is like an enormous interactive museum.  Everything around you is a work of art worth admiring.  What’s great about that is you don’t have to ‘seek out’ any of these photo opportunities.  It’s literally all around you at all times.  For a photographer it can be overwhelming, the temptation to try and capture it all, but I was pretty good about shooting in spurts and then putting my camera away for a bit.
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If you run out of things to admire in any given room you enter, simply look up.  There’s a good chance the ceiling will end up being the most beautiful thing in the room.

ParisMashup21(aroundtown)Paris-217This is a photograph of a busy Sunday in the wonderful neighborhood we stayed in.  I’d love to take credit for choosing the Marais but it was quite a bit of chance.  From the minimal research we did on the different neighborhoods of Paris we were able to eliminate those in which we did NOT want to stay.  Out of the remaining areas, the Marais became our choice mainly because I fell in love with the apartment we rented, which I found using Haven in Paris.  As luck would have it, the perfect choice.  I simply cannot recommend this area enough.  The boutiques, the restaurants, the markets, the location…we just loved it.

Here are some iPhone shots from our apartment and neighborhood…with notes:

Processed with VSCOcam with m5 preset-Living Room View-
IMG_5024 -First Macaron-IMG_5027 -First Baguette-IMG_5053 -Cafe Creme-IMG_5054-Pellegrino-
IMG_5256-Rest Stop-
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-Marais Boutiques-IMG_5228 -Window Shopping-IMG_5158-Simpleton on the Metro-
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-Window Shopping-IMG_0289

-Winding Apartment Staircase-IMG_5234 -Stalking Jon from Living Room-IMG_5244 -Best Falafel in Paris.  The sign said so.-IMG_5076 -Nightly Ritual-IMG_5078

-French Pour-IMG_5176 -Dinner Cooking-IMG_5211 -Thanksgiving Date Night-IMG_5253 -Local Salad….I die-IMG_5265

-Best Gelato in Paris.  Again…the sign said so.-

Finishing the tour of our neighborhood, below is a photo of our go to breakfast spot which was right down the street from our apartment.  Cafe Creme and a chocolate croissant to start every day, as God (should have) intended.

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IMG_0253That’s just me in chocolate croissant bliss.  : )

We won the lottery with a metro stop right outside our front door and if instead we chose to walk anywhere, the path usually brought us right up the street past the Seine and the Cathedral of Notre Dame.

Speaking of…Paris-16…talk about being transported to another world.  I challenge anyone to walk into that building and not be completely overwhelmed both visually and emotionally.  It instantly feels magical and there is absolutely NO WAY to capture its enormity nor beauty with a camera.  Forgive my feeble attempts.Paris-12First of all, the building is stunning from the outside.  Very gothic and almost ominous, especially on the gloomy day we went.  It also pays to keep in mind that construction on this behemoth was started in 1163.  Mind boggling.

Paris-18 Paris-14 Paris-22 Paris-23 Paris-19 Paris-21Paris-15ParisMashup2(notredame)You walk out of the chaotic streets of Paris, in through the massive doors, and an immediate hush and cool falls around you.  Then slowly your senses begin to take it all in, your eyes rise up and up and up and then your jaw drops and you stand there frozen for about 10 minutes.  It’s such a cool moment, possibly worth the trip to Paris in itself.

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Paris-5 Paris-6 Paris-11 Paris-13ParisMashup1(notredame)After getting our fill inside, we put on our extra big tourist caps and climbed the twisting stone stairs up one of the towers and got some of the best views of Paris we got all week.  Paris-33

Sigh.  It was so beautiful.  THAT VIEW.  That’s why you feel like you’re on a movie set.

Paris-39 Paris-35 Paris-37ParisMashup3(notredame)Paris-26 Paris-38 Paris-34 Paris-28Paris-36 IMG_5077We could never get our fill of that view, but we had to make room for other tourists, so we headed down.   On the way down I ran into the infamous ‘Hunchback of Notre Dame’ so that was pretty cool.  : )IMG_5051Notre Dame was one of our fist stops and was definitely one of many trip highlights.

We’ll never forget it.

Another thing I’ll never forget are the macarons from the famous Laudureè.

Paris-206 Paris-207It was DUMB how delicious these things were.  Yet another thing I can only describe with photos.

Paris-211 Paris-213 The beautiful pale pink one in the bottom corner was called Rose and it was my favorite.  These macarons don’t simply taste like the flavor they are, they smell like it too, and when you put them in your mouth they do some weird ‘invade your brain’ thing where it’s as if you’re eating the exact thing they’re supposed to taste like.  Bizarre.  In a delicious way.  I would have bought out the entire store but they’re were about $5 a piece and only stayed fresh for a couple days.  Paris-212 Paris-216Paris-224Paris-208Paris-209 Paris-210ParisMashup20(aroundtown)Paris-222Paris-47 Paris-48Paris-49Paris-40ParisMashup11(gardens)Paris-200Paris-231Paris-52 Paris-51Paris-53 Paris-50Now that we’re back and I’ve had time to reflect, it’s impossible for me to choose a ‘favorite’ thing we did.  However, before we went, I was definetely looking forward to Palais Garnier the most.  IMG_5133Jon had to drag me out of there before I photographed every square foot of the building.  It was exquisite.  Again…not a museum.  People still get to attend ballet and opera there!  I would love to experience that. It’s perhaps the most famous opera house in the world, partly due to its use as the setting for the 1910 novel The Phantom of the Opera.  It was also used in the 1986 Phantom of the Opera film.  It’s ridiculously beautiful.
Paris-67Paris-65 Paris-64Paris-57Paris-62 Paris-55 Paris-56 Paris-58 Paris-60 Paris-61As usual, the ceilings were absurd.  I had a neck ache by the time we left.  Also, I didn’t have the right lens with me to capture the enormous ceilings works of art on my camera, so we used our iPhones to try and get them all in one frame.IMG_5109 IMG_5100

IMG_4458IMG_5115 IMG_5125 IMG_5110IMG_1769More iPhone photos from Opera Garnier…IMG_5095 IMG_5108 IMG_5091 IMG_0262IMG_5116 IMG_5121 As far as I’m concerned this is a can’t miss in Paris.  If you want an incredible demonstration of opulence and detail, this is your stop.

Well, this is where I’ll bid you adieu for now.  I’ve got part two coming soon.

Yes, I have more photos!  Don’t act so shocked.  I’ll be taking you through the Louvre, to Versailles and down more Parisian streets.  Thanks for reading!

Paris couples/love shoot

Pine to Palm

It’s my party and I’ll blog when I want to.

Hello everyone.  Is the holiday season crazy or WHAT?!?  I even started early this year!  I don’t know what happens.  Whew.  I think I’m done though.  I mailed Christmas cards and shipped my last bundle of packages today, baked cookies and finished shopping yesterday and have now moved on to cleaning our place before we leave for 8 days.

My mom seems to blame some mythical ‘missing week’ between Thanksgiving and Christmas this year.  I feel like it’s the same every year.  There’s always one more gift to get, one more errand to run, one more christmas party to attend…blah blah blah.  Regardless of the mayhem lately, I’m very excited to be going back to Ada for Christmas as we’ve missed the last two.  I know everybody says this about their childhood home, but Christmas is magical at my house.  Especially since we still have a little Livi around.  I credit my parents for having a beautiful snow covered cozy yard, a beautifully decorated cozy house, and deliciously prepared cozy meals.

Also because my family is awesome.  Except for that Livi.  She’s a real jerk.  : )

The biggest downside (maybe the only one) about going back to MN for Christmas is the flipping weather.  More so than ever, Jon and I have realized what huge wimps we are about the cold.  It seems to get worse every year.   I feel that we are in NO WAY prepared for what we’ll be encountering when we arrive in the tundra.  Here is some perspective on why we have such wimpy attitudes.  I was wearing a light long sleeve t-shirt and jeans two days ago and actually rolled down my window for some air because it was so warm out.  It creeped right up on 70 degrees.  Beautiful December day in Denver.  People were wearing skirts!

Do you know how cold it’s been in Ada!!???  Barely creeping up on ZERO degrees. Most days it’s so cold that the thermometers just give up.  Last night the high was 0 degrees and the low was -1.  It’s like make believe of the worst kind.  Today Jon and I played hooky and snuck up to Keystone for our first ski day of the year.  I was bundled head to toe in my usual layered masterpiece and at one point declared I was ‘a bit chilly’.  He should have slapped me because it was around 40 degrees and sunny.  I’m shivering just thinking about getting off the plane in Fargo.

Back to the blogging.

I think that due to all this talk about winter, and the fact that I don’t declare it being winter in Denver until I’m on a ski slope (which happened today) I will welcome in my official first day of winter with my official last post about summer.  Things have gotten very official around Midwest Mountainess lately.

This should warm my thoughts up nicely.
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Every year the same question hangs on the lips of the entire world:

“When will Ali and Jon be at the cabin this summer?”

Every year the same answer comes from our mouths.

“We have no idea.”

We end up picking and choosing different dates due to work schedules, deals closing, weddings happening, babies being born, etc.

Somehow those dates almost never fall on Jon’s favorite week of them all…

…Pine to Palm week.  (golf claps)

It comes and it goes and he’s usually in Denver moping that he didn’t get to play AGAIN THIS YEAR!  THE INJUSTICE!

Well…things changed this past summer and we made it happen.  It was a highlight of our entire year and we had such a blast.

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Gotta admit, I love a man in golf gear.
2013Lake-65As you can see it’s a fairly relaxed tournament.  : )  Which is also why it’s SO AWESOME!2013Lake-83 2013Lake-61Don’t let anyone holding a styrofoam cup fool you…it’s full of a bloody mary.  Every time.  2013Lake-58 2013Lake-63 2013Lake-76 Part of what made the week so special is that all the ‘cabin boys’ made it up there as well to watch the golfers play.  Even Max made it back from Dubai.   Jon had never gotten to play with his cousin Tyler and they organized it so that the first day they all were in the same flight.2013Lake-80 2013Lake-842013Lake-79 2013Lake-772013Lake-62 2013Lake-72 2013Lake-70 2013Lake-86 2013Lake-742013Lake-73 2013Lake-82Cuties.  2013Lake-68 The golfers may not have won any hardware for the mantle at the cabin, but the rest of us won big time getting to sip on Bloody Mary’s and bask in the Minnesota sunshine with our favorites.2013Lake-75 2013Lake-78All in all and as usual, it was a fabulous week spent with even more fabulous people.  Jon and I always leave weeks at the cabin with such warm fuzzies that we start to contemplate maybe moving back to Minnesota.  That is until it snows in September, hits -50 with windchill in November and remains dark from then on until May.

Happy Holidays!  Hope you’re warm wherever you are.  Paris posts coming soon.  : )