The 365 Gratitude Photo Challenge

For 2014 I took part in a 365 Gratitude Photo Challenge on Instagram. The basic premise is that you take and post a picture every day for a year of something for which you are grateful and tag it with #365grateful or #365gratitude. It has been a great reminder of the many blessings I have.

Amazingly enough, I haven’t missed a single day this year (knock wood!). Even on days that I felt like crap with a migraine I’ve found something for which I am thankful. There’s so much for me to appreciate in my life, even on the hard days.

It’s been an eye-opening experience and looking back at the photos I’ve shared over the past year, it’s been super cool to see how much we’ve done as a family. Ya know how some days you feel like you don’t ever do anything? Or maybe that’s just me. But anyway, seeing all of the pictures I’ve shared over the past year, specifically part of the 365 Gratitude Photo Challenge, has made me realize just how much we do.

Over the past year, we’ve taken several trips — a weekend getaway to Estes Park, a few days trip to Moab, a week-long trip to Crested Butte, an overnight camping trip with friends and a week-long trip to the Los Angeles-area, where we went dolphin-watching and spent a lot of time at the beach. We attended ComicCon in Denver dressed as characters from Adventure Time. We also saw Ellie Goulding in concert at Red Rocks and attended the Folks Festival in Lyons.

Estes Park trip, January 2014  Moab - May 2014

On the gondola at Mount Crested Butte - July 2014  Crested Butte - July 2014

California - October 2014  Dolphin watching - Oct. 2014

Adventure Time for ComicCon  At Folks Fest 2014

The kids have been involved in many activities including: farm school, parkour classes, art classes, ice skating, sledding, trips to the Denver Zoo and Denver Botanic Gardens, horseback riding, entering exhibits in the county fair, lots of time with friends, weekly park days, reading books, hiking, playing lots of board games and computer games (Minecraft FTW!), raising baby chicks, doing lemonade stands, and swimming – lots of swimming. The kids also learned to ride bikes this year which meant some family bike rides as well.

Ava's self-portrait  Julian- parkour  Horseback riding  At Blue Mesa Lake


Bike riding

I ran a handful of races — including a 5K with my mom, two 10Ks and a 1/3 marathon — and accrued numerous miles in my running shoes. I also attended the first annual ShiftCon — an eco blogging conference and spent many hours in my garden.

Running in Moab  Chickens in the garden

Jody got a new Jeep and we did some off-roading as a family. We also all went paddle boarding for the first time at Jody’s company picnic over the summer at Boulder Reservoir.

Jody's new Jeep  Paddle boarding at Boulder Res

In other words, when I wasn’t blogging much all year, I was doing other things and taking LOTS of pictures (and posting them on my new favorite way to document our lives – IG!). :)

It’s been fun to look back at all of the pictures and I’m not only grateful for all of the memories made, but for the fact that I documented so many of them. I’m thinking of getting a photo book printed of many of this year’s Instagram pics. Anyone have an app or site for that purpose they know and love?

While I can’t say I’m going to commit to doing another 365 Photo Challenge, I do, however, plan to continue to take and post lots of pictures of our day-to-day activities and adventures in 2015. I’m looking forward to many adventures and things for which to be grateful in the year ahead! Follow me on Instagram. I’m @crunchygoddess.

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Ups and downs and random thoughts

I was recently in Michigan for another memorial service for my sister Carrie. Michigan is where we were born and raised and I have a lot of family back there. I hadn’t been in MI for more than two years and November wouldn’t have been my first choice weather-wise when to fly back, but there really was no other option. So the skies were gloomy for most of our trip, but we caught some glimpses of sunshine here and there (kind of like life recently).

I’m trying hard to look at the positives that have occurred lately, but I struggle with that. I try to be grateful for the good things that have come from Carrie’s passing, but I just want things back the way they used to be. I want my sister to be here talking to me about politics, laughing with me about silly things, complaining about the injustices in the world, hugging my kids, hugging me.

As fate would have it, the hotel we roomed at for about half of our stay was located right next to one of Carrie’s favorite stores — Walmart. When I say favorite I really mean LEAST favorite. I’m not a big fan of Wallyworld either, but I have been known to stop in there once in a while. Since we stayed there for Thanksgiving and Black Friday, I had the opportunity(?) to observe some of the Black Friday Walmart madness. I am happy to report I didn’t witness any trampling, but I did see a steady stream of people heading to and fro to snatch up the deals.

I find it hard to take fault with anyone who’s trying to save some money, especially considering the current state of Michigan’s economy. I talked with a few friends and relatives while there about the pay cuts, the job loss, etc., and it sounds pretty bleak.

Where am I going with this post? I don’t know. I guess what I’m thinking is we (I) have no right to judge anyone because we have no idea what is truly going on in their life. I can’t judge the people bargain-shopping at Walmart any more than the person at the bank can judge me because my hair is a mess and I haven’t showered today. I don’t know what the Walmart shopper’s financial situation is like and the bank clerk doesn’t know that I just spent time out in the cold and wind at the cemetery talking to my dead sister.

I started writing a haiku about Carrie on the airplane back to Colorado. It’s not finished yet, but I will share it when it is. Writing, even haiku, is therapeutic. I also was inspired to write haiku because my mom had come across a haiku that Carrie wrote while on a plane to MI a few years ago. She wrote the whole thing 7-5-7 until at the end she realized it’s supposed to be 5-7-5 and she swore upon making this realization. That makes me smile.

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One thing I don’t have to stress about – my Stonyfield BlogHer sponsorship

It’s no secret that I’ve had a lot of stress and anxiety in my life lately. In fact, I’ve tried to write about it pretty openly in hopes that, if nothing else, my story might help someone else who may be suffering from something similar.

I decided several weeks ago, despite my anxiety at the time, that I was going to sign up to attend the annual BlogHer conference this year for my very first time. Of course I have been and still am anxious about a lot of it – traveling by myself, leaving my kids for three nights (for the first time ever since Ava was born), being unsure about what to wear (are cute shoes a must?), and meeting so many women for the very first time. But there is a lot I am excited about too like rooming with Annie from PhD in Parenting, as well as the opportunity to learn a lot, have a great time, and meet so many women who I currently only know virtually. (Yes, I’m both super nervous and totally excited about meeting everyone.)

Another thing I thankfully don’t have to stress about is how I’m going to pay for my trip. When I signed up to attend BlogHer I had considered looking for a sponsor or two to help me fund my trip, but then with everything I’ve had going on I never found the time to actively look for one.

Of course, for me the decision to take on a sponsorship means it would have to be from a company I could morally and ethically support. As with the ads I accept on my blog, I need to feel like I can honestly endorse the company without any conflicts of interest.

Luckily for me, fate stepped in and I was contacted by a PR person representing Stonyfield Farm who said they were looking for bloggers to sponsor to BlogHer! You can imagine my excitement that a) a company reached out to me and b) that the company is one I know and love, is organic and cares about the environment!

Stonyfield is a company founded on the belief that business must be part of the solution to our environmental problems. Some of the ways Stonyfield is involved in the environment that I feel are particularly noteworthy are:

  • All of their yogurts are organic.
  • In 1997, Stonyfield became the first company in the country to offset 100 percent of its CO2 emissions from its facility energy use, and has been carbon neutral since.
  • Stonyfield works hard to reduce amount of packaging they use, and use #5 plastic since it’s the most lightweight.
  • They’ve also partnered with Preserve, which takes their excess plastic cups, and the one’s their consumers return to them to create toothbrushes and razorblade handles.
  • Stonyfield Farm donates 10 percent of its profits to efforts that protect and restore the Earth. Since the program’s inception in 1993, the company has contributed $7 million to environmental efforts around the corner and across the globe.

Stonyfield recently started making Greek yogurt called Oikos Organic Greek Yogurt. I wasn’t familiar with Greek yogurt until recently, but basically its thicker, creamier yogurt with more protein than regular yogurt. One of the really nice things about finding a thicker yogurt when you have a yogurt-loving toddler in the house is that thicker means doesn’t fall off the spoon and make a huge mess the way regular yogurt does. Nice! The kids and I tried it the other day and thought it was delicious (and Julian didn’t turn into a yogurt-covered mess after eating it!).

Oikos is the only organic Greek yogurt among the three leading Greek yogurt brands, and is available in plain, vanilla, honey, blueberry and strawberry flavors.

FREE OIKOS YOGURT! If you’d like a coupon to try a free 5.3 oz. container of Oikos Organic Greek Yogurt, please leave me a comment telling me which flavor you’d like to try. I’ll randomly (using draw three names on Friday, May 22. Be sure to include a valid email address so that I can contact you.

Thank you, Stonyfield Farm. :)

**In the interest of covering all of my BlogHer expenses, I am still seeking other sponsorships. If you are interested in discussing a possible sponsorship with me, please send me an email.**

A bright light, boat, and beautiful flowers

Here are a few more pictures from our vacation to Mackinac Island. There were some breathtaking views and gorgeous flowers on the island. I only wish I would’ve had more time to take pictures of them all.

If you missed the other vacation pictures I posted last week, you can see them here.

Lighthouse Mackinac Bridge

Freighter in the straights of Mackinac Roses
The last one is my best shot. Which one is your favorite?

Head over to Mother May I to see everyone else’s best shots.

Our MI vacation: the good, the bad & the ugly (with pictures, of course!)

On Saturday, Aug. 9, we returned home to Colorado after spending two weeks on vacation in Michigan. Most of our trip was spent in Oscoda (where my parents live), but we also spent a little time “down state” in my hometown of Clawson and the surrounding area, and Jody, the kids and I spent three days on Mackinac Island.

There was drama even before we left for our trip when I discovered (as I went with the kids to our car in Borders parking lot) one of our tires had gone nearly completely flat. This happened the day before we left. I got the tire fixed (actually, got all 4 tires replaced since we were due to do that anyway after having another flat just two weeks prior) and I was thankful that it happened and was discovered that day instead of the following morning as we scrambled to the airport to catch our flight. (Small favors and all that.)

The trip itself went quite well for the most part and what follows are some of the memorable moments – the good, the bad and the ugly (in no particular order).

The Good
* Watching the kids delight in the waves and sandy beaches of Lake Huron or discovering interesting rocks and minnows in the Au Sable River
Julian on the beach at Lake HuronJulian on the beach at Lake HuronAva in the Au Sable River
* Eating s’mores (or, in Julian’s case, plain chocolate graham crackers) at a campfire in my parents’ backyard
Julian and a graham cracker
* Going with my sister for a walk down memory lane, or more specifically the street we grew up on
* Watching the kids read books, get pulled in the wagon, and play with their grandma & grandpa
Reading books
* Seeing Ava perfect her bike-riding skills
Ava riding her bike at Grandma&pa’s house
* The kids smearing sunscreen all over my back for me
* The surreal feeling of watching my kids play at two of the parks I used to play at as a child
* Communing with nature.
Wild flowersAt the marshes
* And trying to catch the little frogs
A frog on a log
* Everything about Mackinac Island – the flowers, the clean air (no cars on the island), the horses, the biking, the fudge, the history, the nature and beauty
The harbor, Mackinac IslandThe kids on Main Street, Mackinac Island
* Watching Julian pass out kisses and the kids beg for more bites of dessert from grandma & grandpa
The kids with grandma and grandpa
* Witnessing Ava drive her first boat at age 4
Ava driving her first boat
* Seeing Julian eat the rind off a lemon slice, twice
Julian eating a lemon
* Zen biking riding around Mackinac Island and discovering the perfect place to have lunch (Turtle Park) – with sandwiches made by Jody right at the picnic table – and let the kids play
Jody with the kids in the Burley on Mackinac Island
* Watching Ava and my mom’s excitement over the butterfly kit my mom got as the chrysalises hatched and butterflies emerged
* Seeing extended family members and watching Ava bond with her 15-year-old cousin Claire
Ava and cousin Claire (taken by cousin Ryan)
* Getting to float on the waves of Lake Huron alone with Jody for about 30 glorious minutes
* Capturing the look on Ava’s face as she saw a rainbow
Ava spots a rainbowRainbow

* Having an opportunity to take Ava’s 4 year pictures
* Spending time playing with the kids without having to worry about blog posts needing to be written, the house needing cleaning or dinner needing to be made
* Seeing the kids, especially Julian, enjoy strawberry shortcake for the first time
Julian enjoying his first strawberry shortcake
* Never tiring of Julian requesting “more horsey” after seeing yet another horse on Mackinac Island
* Assembling a rock family with Ava on Mackinac
Mommy, Ava and the rock familyOur rock family
* Water as far as the eye can see
Looking out at Lake Huron from Arch Rock
* The opportunity to take lots of pictures
Me and Julian at Fort Holmes
* Listening to the kids play grandma’s piano
Tickling the ivories
* Beautiful sunsets
Sunset behind the Mackinac Bridge
* Watching Ava make a new friend at our resort. They went from “flying” around together, to collecting seagull feathers, to talking, hugging and kissing in the span of about 30 minutes. It’s amazing how simple it can be.
Ava and her new friend Lily at Mission Point Resort (Mackinac Island)
* Eating ice cream, ice cream, and more ice cream.
Mmm, ice creamIce cream
* Watching my little beach combers
Ava and Julian on the beach of Lake HuronJulian - “Giddy-up!”
* Having my whole family together (mom, dad, me, li’l bro, li’l sis), even if it was just for one dinner
My brother, mom, dad, sister and me
* And a new picture of me with my siblings. Not sure when the last one of the three of us together was taken.
Me with my li’l sis and bro (taken by my cousin Ryan)

The Bad
* Iceburg lettuce. Seriously, what is up with iceburg lettuce?! I’d forgotten that it seems to be a staple in MI and that it’s nearly impossible to get a salad without it.
* Discovering we’d also left our wireless router at my parents’ house. Oops!
* Wearing my new sexy sandals for 10 minutes only to have them leave my feet looking like this:
Ouchee feet

* Discovering we’d also left our Mackinac Island fudge from the Murray Hotel in my parents’ fridge. D’oh!

The Good
* My mom saying she would mail the fudge to us. :)

And the Ugly
* Having one of our three suitcases stolen out of my sister’s car.
* Finding out insurance won’t cover any of it since the amount of items stolen (clothes, shoes, bike helmets) is just under the amount of our deductible

The Good
* Realizing my evil sandals were in the suitcase that was stolen.

The Bad
* Realizing my brand new tennis shoes were also in there, as well as one of Ava’s favorite dresses.

And more of The Good
* Getting a family picture using a tripod and the timer
Family photo on Mackinac Island
* Making wonderful memories
Daddy’s little girlAva and Julian at Fort HolmesMe and the kids at sunset on Mackinac IslandJody and the kids at G’ma & G’pa’s houseThe kids at Mission Point Resort