picks for fall 2016

My shopping carts are filled with the following this fall...

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Raffa's Third Birthday Party

Last weekend, we had a cactus themed party to celebrate 3 year old Raffa! Planned from Phoenix, but executed in Denver at a nice, quiet park (YAY! we are home in Denver for the summer!).

The day was overcast and chilly, but luckily it did not rain (see: last year). It was simple get together; a few cactus decorations, lots of balloons, some blueberry cake (made by Mimi!), and some Finklestein mini creature keychains as party favors.

Raffa had a blast playing in the sand with his sand toys, hanging out with Asher, his best bud, Becket, and his friends, and riding his new Wiggle!

It was a great day, most importantly Raffa had a blast! 

The invitations were cactus-themed, too ... and I will share those soon!

The Teapot // Phoenix, Arizona

A couple of weeks ago we went to The Teapot, a new cafe in the Roosevelt neighborhood of downtown Phoenix. It is family-friendly coffee shop, serving a few light food options and kid-friendly snacks as well. They have several corners throughout the beautifully renovated old home with books and toys for little ones. But perhaps the true gem is the backyard, with lovely shaded seating, a grassy area, and sandbox and play structure.

We really enjoyed our afternoon in The Teapot's backyard, and were lucky to go on day where the weather, which is becoming increasingly hot, was a perfect sunny and warm 75 degrees. I have quickly come to fall in love with this neighborhood and its residential architecture, and this little cafe is certainly one spot that will keep us coming back. John made this little video of our time there:

In all honesty, the coffee and food offering aren't much to write home about and could use some improvement, the atmosphere alone makes up for the menu's shortcomings. And, it is worth noting that, The Teapot just recently opened, so we are giving them time to iron our kinks in the menu and make improvements before offering any too harsh judgements.

Phoenix as some real gems, and this little spot is definitely one of them. Add it to your list if you are in Phoenix with kids.

Durango Adventures

Home away from home, Durango, Colorado. We spent the past ten days there and it remains one of our favorite places to be. The weather was pretty good, we had some good friends meet us there to hang out, and we moseyed around going to our favorite places and seeing some of our favorite people. Already planning our next trip down there!

more picks for spring 2016

Sometimes, ripped up jeans and holey tees just aren't what I am in the mood for. Did I ever tell you? I can be very fickle when it comes to fashion. I have to try on clothes at home many times, and often wear them around the house to get a feel for them before I can honestly say, "yes! it's a keeper."

I purchase items after a lot of consideration and have gotten much better (quite good) and choosing items I really love and will wear on repeat. It took long enough, but I realized no matter how many clothes I had, I always had "favorite outfits" - those were the outfits I wanted to wear every day. Finally, I made the shift to buying only pieces that are those favorites. It has been working well for me, with the exception of a few items here and there. Funny thing is - those pieces that are the exception ... if I think back to the purchase decision I could have seen it coming.  And then I list them on eBay. My goal is always to move anything I don't wear OUT of my closet, and to recoup some of the expense if I can.

And, as a little spring retail therapy continues, I have found a few more pieces I maybe cannot live without. Unfortunately, I am finding a lot of shoes I cannot live without (I usually get one pair of shoes and wear the shit out of them). I say unfortunately because $$$. But, I also have been finding some really great priced pieces. After avoiding Madewell for a while, I am finding a few things there, like the tanks above. I also found this great (GREAT!) priced pair of jeans after seeing them on a friend of mine. Just so happens that all of these items are also on the less distressed side, with fewer rips and holes.

Madewell Cotton Crewneck Muscle Tee This tank lives up to the reviews you will find on Madewell. It is super cute, but best of all has a great price point.

Rag and Bone Siggi Short I sized down one size for these. They are super stretchy and comfortable, but I will admit the price point leaves a little to be desired.

Sol Sana Cameron Sandal So cute, and a much better price point than similar designer styles I have seen.

Madewell Anthem Scoop Tank A great classic tank, and it comes in come great colors. I am digging the heather silver.

Vigoss Skinny Jeans I usually go for super-skinny and these have a slightly looser fit than my typical pick. But I love the length, and it makes the slightly bigger leg opening really work for me.

Vince Blair 5 Slip On Sneaker Investment piece alert! Okay, these are not affordable. That I admit. However, they are beautiful and well made. The similar Vans have a friendlier price point, but I preferred the little softer and refined lines of the Vince.

You can see and shop these as well as some more picks below! Please note, the gallery below is best viewed in a browser on your computer. Some devices that are not able to display Java Script will not display the gallery properly.


We had planned to be in Durango this weekend, but when we started out on our 7 hour drive from PHX to DRO on Saturday morning, we unexpectedly turned around just under 2 hours in to the drive. On Saturday morning, Raffa had woken up with a low fever, but seemed fine. As we packed up the car and got on the road, his fever worsened a little. By an hour and a half in, poor Raffa was not feeling too hot. He was such a trooper; he wasn't complaining or whining or anything. But it was obvious that he didn't feel to great and so even against his pleas of, "I want to go to Durango!" we turned the car around and headed back to Phoenix.

It was a good decision because he rested quite a bit on Saturday, got good rest Saturday night, and felt surprisingly good yesterday. We had a slow morning and by lunchtime Raffa was definitely feeling good enough to get out. So, we got to check out Agritopia, which I have been meaning to visit since before we lived here.

Agritopia is a unique community, an agricultural neighborhood community, nestled within the urban the Phoenix metro area. Located in Gilbert, Agritopia is all about preserving urban agriculture and integrating it into a community-driven, well-designed community. The design of the community and its lifestyle focuses on simplifying life with easy connections to friends and family. Part of the community is homes, obviously, and farms. But we visited two of the commercial ventures in the community - Joe's Farm Grill and The Coffee Shop.

I have heard rave reviews for Joe's Farm Grill - and everyone else must have too because there was a line out the door, literally. We were too hungry to wait so we hopped over to The Coffee Shop. The food was fine, but the setting is what we enjoyed the most. We hung around for a few hours enjoying the patio and grassy areas between Joe's and The Coffee Shop.

I definitely want to go back to try Joe's Farm Grill. The market was not open, but I hope to visit again to check that out.

The Invisible Change of Growing Up

Enjoy the little things in life, for one day you will look back and realize they were the big things. (Kurt Vonnegut)

When I went hunting for a photographer for our family photos in fall 2015, I was looking for something different, authentic, and timeless. I find a lot of the photography I see when I google "Denver family photographer" to be very period appropriate - there is a specific style of posing, shooting, and editing going around right now, and although it looks lovely now, I am fairly certain that in 10-15 years it will have that goofy, laughable quality that photos from the 80s and 90s have.

I think to myself, you know what photos don't have a goofy, cheesy quality to me? The real ones. When I see a neat vintage photo of my family, whether from my chidhood or even farther back from my mom or dad's childhood, I don't see a dated artifact. I see a glimpse in to the past; it is like a looking glass in to life back when. Even when they are family snapshots. So imagine if a professional took some of those photos that will one day become a portal in to real life back when. Honestly, it gives me goose bumps because what a treasure.

So, back when I was searching in September and October 2015, I started adding "lifestyle" to my googling, and I came across a lot more that was closer to what I was looking for. Then I found Rachel Greiman of Green Chair Stories, and hit the proverbial nail on the efing head. Rachel didn't end up taking our holiday card photos, more for my family's own logistical reasons than anything else, but fast forward to December 28, 2015 and she spent the morning with us capturing us. And it is what I hoped for and more; now we have this collection of photos that gives the intimate and authentic feel of who we are right now - our little family of three. John and I were both blown away by how much we love the photos Rachel took. I am like "we are totally doing this once a year" and then to my surprise John is like "twice a year even!"

Turns out, Rachel has this vision for these slice of life sessions and she is sharing this vision for how important this style of photography is to a family's story. Needless to say, I agree. Recently Rachel has been posting a series on her blog, her own posts and guest posts about the value of this type of photography and why it is such a treasure. One particular guest post, particularly resonated with me. Marie Masse guest posted The Invisible Change of Growing Up. Just the title of the post capture the feels I was having and described above - the feeling of capturing something intangible and fleeting ("the days are long, but the years are short" sort of a thing).

Specifically, Marie said:

It’s Saturday. 
The kids come into the bedroom, “It’s time to get up mom and dad!” The coffee is poured. Dad makes breakfast and the smell of bacon in the morning is an iconic scent of a day to be spent with family … and the rest of the day is your playground together. I want you to picture it right now: what would you likely do together on a day like this? Some chores and then maybe some TV and togetherness? Get out and go exploring? Attend one of the kids’ sporting events? Take a drive to Grandma and Grandpa’s? Whatever your answer is, there is no right or wrong, however make no mistake: your answer is important.  
Monday comes.  
You get back to work and a colleague asked, “What did you do this weekend?” 
It’s easy for us to shift into “Oh nothing much, just hung out with the family. How about you?” If this sounds familiar, with that simple response, you just unintentionally devalued the time with your family. You see, we put a lot of merit into the big things—such as birthday parties, when our kids begin school, going on vacations, and graduation. And yes, the big events and changes in life are meant to be celebrated. They are the easy way to recognize a big change and new beginnings. I think this happens, because we are spending so much of our lives working towards something. We forget that our lives, very important pieces of our lives, are happening right now each and every day.  
Now I want you to think back to your “just one mores” in life. If you could pick any experiences from your life to experience just one more time, what would that be? Would you want “just one more” birthday party? Start of the school year? Vacation to Sea World? Graduation? You may be thinking, “Well sure, Marie, that was all fun! I’d love to do it again!”  
Given the choice, my “just one mores” would look different and I’ll bet you can relate.   
The truth is, when I look back at birthday parties, vacations, beginning a new school year and graduation ... they were outside of the norm. All were certainly positive experiences, but they were new and full of change. When I look back at my life, the experiences that have really stuck with me, vividly for now, are the small bits of time shared with my family. It is in the slow, almost invisible changes we see with a case of the Monday, “We didn’t do much this weekend” that in reality filters our memory with the “just one mores.”

It's pretty powerful stuff. It give you those goosebumps I mentioned. And it puts things in perspective (at least for me). It is a reminder of something I think of often: my priorities. My priorities on a daily basis, to live in the now, to live intentionally. Not to miss a thing.

Read Marie's full post on Green Chair Stories' blog here

Rachel Greiman is a Denver-based photographer and tells stories with the photos she takes. 

The photos in this post are from our December 2015 session with Rachel; see more here.

Marie Masse is a Michigan-based documentary photographer and also helps other photographers learn how to shoot these types of sessions and run them as a business.


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