Freckles in April

Friday, January 13, 2017

Hiking in Arizona

If you follow me on IG you've probably seen a loooot of hiking pictures lately. Our weather isn't very comfortable for long so I try to get out a lot this time of year and enjoy it!

A few people asked about our favorite places to hike in Arizona. We live in the east valley so these hikes are all in our general direction but I know there's good stuff in the west valley too!

We took my brother-in-law and his new wife to Lost Dutchman when they were in town for Christmas

Lost Dutchman


This is our favorite place and the one we hit most often. It costs $7 per car to get into the state park.

The thing I like most about Lost Dutchman is the variety it offers. You can do a glorified nature walk OR you can climb a mountain and possibly die in the attempt. Both are options!

We do the Siphon Draw trail most often just because that's where we usually park and it has a very gradual elevation gain, which makes it a good one for kids. We've done the other trails and they're great too.

The kiddos in 2011
Siphon Draw is fairly easy and well marked. It takes you up to Flatiron, which is NOT easy and NOT well marked.

A few weeks ago I had a weekend morning to myself and decided I'd like to go for a hike. I ended up at Lost Dutchman and quickly found myself at the end of Siphon Draw contemplating the final mile to Flatiron and decided to go for it. It was a gorgeous overcast day and we've had a rainy winter so everything was all green and there were little waterfalls all over the place.


The hike was hard (borderline rock climbing in some places) but SO PRETTY. I couldn't get over how magical it was.

I told this story on Instagram but the weather closed in and I couldn't see 10 feet in front of me. I lost the trail AND my phone died (at 43% battery) right after I texted my husband "It's getting wetter and the hiking has gotten really hard." I was only 15 minutes from the top but a freezing rain had started and I kept thinking, "this is a 6 o'clock news story waiting to happen" so I turned around and painstakingly picked my way back down the soggy mountain. I walked in the door an hour and a half later just as my husband was getting ready to call the park service and ask if they could go find me.

So, you could do that, or you could go for an easy and flat walk through the desert at the foot of the Superstition Mountains. Either way you'll have gorgeous views- I have a million pretty pictures of the park from over the years! Lost Dutchman is just a really good "something for everyone" type place.


Spook Hill


I did this one a couple times in high school and remember thinking it was SO HARD and SO TALL. It is quite steep and rocky BUT it's short! If I do this one I usually do it 2 or 3 times. It's a great hike for when you just need to get outside and get your heart pumping.

I'd say it's semi kid friendly. I actually did it this morning with a couple friends. I had to carry my toddler up but my friend's energetic four-year-old hiked it just fine on his own.

That mountain in the background is The Superstition Mountains and Lost Dutchman State Park. 

The views from the top are SO PRETTY. Visibility today was only so-so but we could still see downtown Phoenix from the top. When it's clear you can see for ever. It makes for a good sunrise, sunset, or night hike. It's also quite popular- there are almost always people on this hill during the not-hot months. I drove by at almost midnight a couple weeks ago and saw flashlights up there.

The hill is located on the north side of Brown Road just west of Ellsworth in Mesa. Look for the cars.


Hieroglyphics Trail

This is way out in Gold Canyon. If you put it into Google Maps it'll pull up directions. You go through a neighborhood and you'll feel like it isn't the right way, but it is! Also, the navigation doesn't take you quiiite to the trail head. Just keep going straight until you hit the parking lot.



We took our kids here a few years ago and the 2.9 mile hike was a bit much for my then 4-year-old. Older kids could handle it no problem though. The elevation gain is very slight and the payoff at the end is SO GOOD.



The trail ends at a small stream with some waterfalls. I've heard of people getting in the water but I never have. There are hieroglyphs on some of the rocks- it's really fun to poke around and see how many you can find.


This is another popular one. I did it at sunrise last week and there was only one other group on the trail but by the time we headed back there were tons of people working their way up. We've been when it was crazy crowded though and it was fine. It's just hard to get good pictures, if that's your thing.


Piestewa Peak


Another "something for everyone" area. The summit trail is pretty brutal- basically like climbing stairs for 45-60 minutes for a 1200 foot elevation gain. I did it in December and kicked myself for not wearing a tank top under my long sleeved thermal (for the record, it was 37 degrees when I started out). The summit trail is work. It's also really popular so there are plenty of people around to commiserate with.



But there are a bunch of other really great (easier!) trails in the area. If you visit the website you can check and see how difficult each trail is before picking. One annoying thing to know: the trailheads don't necessarily share the same name as their parking areas/ramadas. Like the Freedom Trail originates from the Apache ramada. That frustrated the heck out of me when I went in search of a specific trail once so just make sure you check before you go so you know where to park.

Tonto Natural Bridge


This one is a little further afield (it's close to Payson, about an hour and a half from us) so it's not one we do all the time but we end up going every couple years. There are a few different options for viewing the bridge- you can take the easy, paved trail OR there's a hike that comes in the back way. There are also a couple other trails within the park. The Waterfall Trail (pictured below) feels like a random piece of tropical rainforest hidden in the desert.

From a trip in 2012. It was too warm to hike so we stuck to the paved trails that time. 


I have plans to try a couple new-to-me trails over the next few weeks and I can't wait! Locals- where are your favorite places to hike in Arizona?

(related: my friend has this book of 60 hikes in the Phoenix area and says it's fantastic. Birthday present for myself?)


Happy hiking!


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Saturday, December 31, 2016

Bring it On, 2017




I was rolling out cinnamon roll dough on Christmas morning and I asked myself, "What do you want to do in 2017?"

Surprisingly, the first thing that popped into my mind was

Blog

I had solid reasons for leaving blogging behind and I don't intend to take it up full-time again but you can expect some posts from me in 2017. I've missed it and there are things I'd like to write about.




Also on the list for 2017:

Keep on keepin' on at the gym

I got a gym membership in June and have been using it religiously ever since. I'm healthy, happy and the fittest I have ever been. The habit is there, I just need to keep it up!


Take a hip hop dance class

I'm already registered and start an 8 week class next month. It will be a train wreck but I'm looking forward to it.


Take Aaron on a surprise trip

He has never read my blog so I can safely put this here. I'm following some flights and keeping an eye on Groupon. We'll see if I can pull it off. I tried to take him on a surprise overnight trip to a place in northern AZ earlier this year but he woke up sick the day we were supposed to leave. Try try again!




Get another piercing

Back in the day the president of the Mormon church stood up and laid down the law about tattoos and piercings. The timing sucked. I was in the middle of getting up the nerve to ask my parents if I could get a second ear piercing. Seeing as I'm not particularly worried about Mormon rules anymore and I DO still want another pair of earrings, it's on my to-do list for 2017.


Be a better friend

In early December I lost a friend under tragic circumstances. When I sent my last message to him, I thought I was asking for a raincheck on a play date with our kids, not saying goodbye. That keeps coming back to haunt me.

A couple weeks later, another friend got a severe headache and ended up in the neurological ICU for a while (she just came home yesterday). Mercifully she'll be fine, but I found myself breathing a sigh of relief that, at the very least, I'd told her recently that I love her.

Life is fragile and fleeting and my friends mean so much to me. This year I'd like to be better about making phone calls, inviting, and doing thoughtful things for my friends. I'm not a hugger but I've done way more hugging. I've told people I love them. It's a bit outside my comfort zone but dammit my friends are going to know I care.

Christmas Eve ICU head buzzing


Get some more greenery

We remodeled our house in February/March and it's beautiful! But it's also very black/white/gray. It needs some green. I've been researching hard-to-kill houseplants and I'm going to add one or two every month this year. Cross fingers they survive my loving attentions.


Read

I waste so much time on the internet and that time could be far better spent in reading good books. I have a small stack of nonfiction on my desk ready to roll in 2017.


Are you a resolution maker? I love hearing what people want to change in the new year.

Have a happy and safe New Years Eve!


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Friday, October 28, 2016

Things I Need to Tell You About

A nice thing about being a blogger is that you have this awesome platform anytime you stumble across a really great product and want to tell people about it. A bad thing about retiring from blogging is that you suddenly have no way to tell people about things and it is seriously painful. Like, I have a thing! It's a great thing! But how do I tell people about it?? I HAVE NOTHING. HELP.

The things I need to talk about are piling up so I'm giving in and writing a blog post. It has to be done, mostly so my brain can rest knowing I spread the word. And because you probably need these things in your lives. And apologies for the length- these should probably each be their own blog post but I can only commit to this one so I'm just going to type away until I'm done or until I run out of dried mango (see #4), whichever comes first.


1. Incoco Nail Polish Strips

Ages ago Janssen and I banded together to review a bunch of nail decals. We each tried a few, some were bad, some were good, none were truly great. And then I kind of lost interest and haven't touched a nail decal since.

And then, a couple months ago, I was walking through Wal Mart and saw a brand I hadn't seen before and I liked the packaging. The price was right (under $5) and I liked one of the designs so I gave them a whirl. And Holy Hannah they were freaking amazing.



If you have the misfortune to follow my Instagram stories then you saw pretty much daily updates where I was like THIS IS DAY 9 AND THEY STILL LOOK PERFECT WHAT IS HAPPENING.

So here's how I make mine last forever- I swipe my nails with rubbing alcohol before applying. Then, every few days, I lightly file the ends of my nails (because that's where my manicure tends to wear) and do a quick coat of clear polish. And that's it. They look amazing for longer than any polish I've ever tried.

The selection at Wal Mart is under $5 and really limited (though I got a preview of the upcoming winter stuff through a blogger friend and it looks like they're bringing a bunch more and also they're all amazing). They have way more options on the website. They cost a little more ($9ish, depending on the style). However, shipping is free so it didn't feel too painful to order a few (stocking stuffers! for myself!). They're also on Amazon but not Prime so I haven't bothered.



2. VS Raw Cut Hip Hugger

My BIL got married a couple weeks ago and the night before the wedding I went out with my sister-in-law-to-be and her sisters. They're French and apparently there are no Victoria's Secret stores in the land that originated the word "lingerie" so they were really excited to go. SILTB picked up a couple of these raw edged hiphuggers and I thought they were cute but we weren't there for me so I didn't make too much of an effort to find my size in the colors I wanted. But when we got to the register the clerk told us we could buy two for $22 OR we could get 5 for $27.50. We ran back and she grabbed another pair and I found two for me. And I love them. The raw edge means they're no-show, They're comfy and make my backside look fantastic and I will be buying more.

I'd share a picture but my booty is not a Thing I Need to Tell You About so here's a pic from the ring ceremony instead.

So perfect, right?



3. Wunderbrow

A while back I made an appointment for eyebrow microblading. That same week, Amazon started advertising Wunderbrow at me but I was like, "In a couple months I won't need it, suckas!" But then my BIL got engaged (see above) and we suddenly were going to spend *mumble mumble* dollars on an unexpected Hawaiian vacation so I canceled my microblading appointment and went back to my normal eyebrow routine.

Months later I found myself on Amazon spending an absurd amount of money on dried mangoes (see below) and I was like, "Eh, as long as I'm being spendy..." and I ordered some Wunderbrow.

I'm wearing a shirt, for the record.

Amazon reviews are pretty mixed but I looove it. I honestly don't even feel the need to do microblading now. I'm sure it would look awesome but a tube of Wunderbrow is $22 and microblading was going to be more than 10 times that much AND require a yearly touch-up. Wunderbrow takes me two minutes and lasts a couple days (it's waterproof...if I'm careful when I wash my face at night then I've still got eyebrows for the next day or two).

Here's a little video I sent my sister the first time I tried it. One brow is done, one is sad (I disowned my right eyebrow a long time ago. Weird, patchy traitor).




These days my basic makeup routine is just BB cream, Wunderbrow and an eyelash curler. It takes me less than 4 minutes and I feel "done." As someone who made a habit of wearing a full face of makeup for many years, it's kind of nice to be a little more low maintenance.

You have to work fairly quickly because you're committed once it dries, but I haven't had any trouble getting them the way I want in time. I put a small amount of product on the brush and carefully paint it onto one of my eyebrows. Then I use the included spoolie to brush them out and distribute the product more evenly and quickly use a q-tip to clean up around the edges of my eyebrow before it sets. Easy.




4. 7D Dried Mangoes

For our flight to Hawaii I was super prepared- I packed a healthy lunch for each of us plus snacks to get through the 6 1/2 hour flight. We ate almost all of it and arrived feeling pretty good.

For the flight home I was significantly less prepared. We barely made our flight thanks to insane security lines and I was starving. I had nothing in the way of snacks for the kids and no guarantee that anything on the plane would be to their liking. Aaron ran to buy some stuff from an airport shop while the kids and I waited in the line to board. Among the stuff he found were these mangoes. I ate almost the whole bag in the first hour of flight. They were, without exaggeration, the best dried mangoes I've ever had. I don't know if there's more sugar in there than usual or what but SO GOOD.



I actually tried another brand right after we got home and I only ate one piece. It didn't taste bad (at all!) but it just...wasn't as good.

I was worried they might be a Hawaii-only kind of thing but Amazon has them! With Prime! They're not exactly cheap- $33 for 6 bags of dried mangoes puts them firmly into "special treat" territory- but I ordered some and they really are just that good. They are currently fueling this post.

Me, working on this post (META)




5. Knock-off Rodan + Fields UNBLEMISH

I kept hearing about R+F and then I had this crazy breakout situation for a couple weeks and I was like, shrug, maybe I'll check it out. And THEN I saw the price point.

Sweet mother of all.

Each of their lines is between $180 and $200 for a 3 month supply. Per day that's about $2, which isn't terrible. And I'm sure it's totally worth it! But I just. couldn't. do it.

So I took a closer look at the active ingredients and they were all things I was familiar with and knew I could easily find in other (more budget friendly!) products. So, take this for what it's worth since I haven't tried Rodan + Fields and thus can't speak to just about anything about it except for the fact that these products share similar active ingredients. But my version has worked really well for me!

Cleanser: Sulfur Soap. Yes, sulfur. The soap itself just smells sort of earthy but, if you caught my Instagram story about this, it CAN make your face smell a bit like fart. Just a heads up.

Toner: Witch hazel and glycolic acid. You can also go super cheap and go with straight witch hazel- I got a bottle for less than $3 at the drug store and my skin loves it.

Acne Treatment: Benzoyl peroxide [Link fixed!]. The R+F version is way fancier with some kind of dual chambered pump thing but it's also $102 while the Clean and Clear version is $4.49. So.

Note: I use the benzoyl peroxide every other night. In between, I use my retinol serum. In the mornings I use my vitamin C serum. Because I am blessed with both acne AND wrinkles. Also, be aware that benzoyl peroxide will bleach the crap out of your towels and linens. 

Moisturizer: Oil Control with SPF. I'm SURE the R+F version is better because lotion quality really does vary with price but I was shocked at what a difference this made. I used to get really shiny partway through the day and now I don't. Oil control ftw!

Total cost: $41.63 if you get the fancier toner, $27.67 if you're lazy and just use witch hazel (which I had laying around anyway). Again- I'm sure R+F is way better but, for a quarter of the price, I'm pretty happy with my knockoff version.



6. Diastasis Recti 

I heard of diastasis recti (ab muscle separation after you have babies) at some point between my first two kids but I did the test for it and mine was super minimal/borderline nonexistent so I never worried about it. But I've always had a mom pooch- even before I had kids, my mom reminded me a while back, I complained to her about my fluffy lower belly. I finally just decided it must be my body type or something.

Obligatory gym selfie


Then a couple months ago I saw this article from Babble on my FB feed and decided to add the exercises into my regular gym time. I've been working out fairly consistently for like six months now but I didn't really see major changes until I added those exercises. From my very unscientific Googling it looks like it engages deep core muscles and apparently mine were pretty crummy because tightening them up has made a huge difference and my belly has gone down significantly. At last measure I'd lost an inch and a half from my waist, which I think is just because those muscles are all pulled in tighter now (my weight is the same as 6 months ago, though I hope there's been some fat loss and muscle gain in there). They're pretty easy exercises- sometimes it feels sort of anticlimactic to go from squats and dead lifts to laying down on a mat and doing these fairly gentle core exercises but they've been good to me.



7. Recipes I Need to Tell You About

Chicken Fajitas - I often make these for company because they're so good. The leftovers reheat pretty well too, which I love because feeding myself lunch is ridiculously difficult.

Chili Garlic Chicken Skewers - These are actually borderline too spicy for me but I eat them anyway because they're delicious enough to be worth the pain.

Mac and Cheese with Roasted Chicken, Goat Cheese and Rosemary - I've been saying for years that I don't like goat cheese but turns out I DO like it...as long as it's a really subtle flavor like in this mac and cheese. This is a holy grail recipe for me- super fast and easy (if you use a deli rotisserie chicken, which I always do) AND my whole family devours it. I usually halve the recipe and we eat all of it.

Tandoori Chicken- not fast or easy and my kids won't touch it but Aaron and I freaking love it and I make it semi-regularly.

And yes, we eat a lot of chicken. Protein! Or something.



8. Books I Need to Tell You About

Outlander by Diana Gabaldon. Yes it's been out for like 2 1/2 decades but I just read it for the second time and was reminded how much I really love it. The first one is the best (MO) out of the 5 that I've read but I love the whole series. Also, the newish show is excellent, if you're not too offended by naughty scenes.

Let's just say I'm not too bothered.


Bread, Wine, Chocolate: The Slow Loss of Foods We Love by Simran Sethi. Fascinating look into the loss of genetic diversity in the foods we eat and what we can do to help (hint: buy fancy chocolate from small growers. I've tried so much good chocolate since reading this book).

A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness. If you enjoyed Twilight but wished it was like...good...you'll love this one. Similar idea, much better execution with depth of idea and backstory. Plus it's a trilogy, which is nice if you find you aren't ready to say goodbye to the characters after the first book.


Aaaand I'm out of mango so that's it for me. Miss you, blog friends! What have you been up to? Anything you need to tell ME about?

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Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Lark Skirts



Oh hey there, long time no talk. If you've visited my blog any time in the past 10 months you'll have maybe seen a note at the top saying I was enjoying my time at home with my sweet baby while exploring other projects.




Definitely enjoying the baby part. She's so adorable, I just die.

As for the "other projects" part? Well, let me tell you about Lark.




If you've been around for a bit you know I'm a skirt person. One spring I sewed myself a ton of skirts and blogged them. A lot of my outfits include skirts. I like skirts of all kinds but what I've really been wanting is an everyday type skirt with pockets. You know, the kind of skirt you can wear with a t-shirt and flip flops and feel pulled together but not overly fancy.

Right about the time I decided I needed to retire from blogging I made a couple sketches of what I wanted from a skirt. Roomy pockets with plenty of room for my iPhone. A flat front waistband so I could tuck in my shirt and not look like a 5-year-old but elastic in back so I could eat a burrito in comfort. Knee-length so I could sit on the floor with my kiddos. Pretty patterns that would hide graham cracker shmutz and boogers.

Next thing I knew I was registering for a domain name and ordering fabric. Which makes it sound a lot easier than it really was (so many months and lots of road blocks. I get why more people don't do this). But this morning, Lark Skirts officially launched! My little dream is officially a little reality!


I carry two pocket styles- patch and inset- and they're both great for carrying everything you need. I have 6 different fabrics and they're all super pretty. The whole thing is exciting and terrifying and I'd love if you'd hop over and pay a visit to Lark's website (that I built myself! Look at me go!).

You can also follow Lark on Instagram, twitter, or FB.

I miss you guys and your comments! I hope you're all having a lovely summer and life is treating you well.



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Friday, December 4, 2015

That One Time We Were on Good Morning America



On Tuesday morning I got a tweet from a girl who said she was a producer for ABC news and asked me to give her a call. I was skeptical...she only had a few followers and her profile picture seemed too pretty for a news producer...seemed scammy. I tweeted back asking for more information and she told me they were doing a segment on holiday gift giving and wanted to chat with me. As a blogger I sometimes get approached about stuff like that so I told her I'd call her soon.

I didn't get a chance to call her until noon while driving to meet a friend for lunch. She told me she was a producer for Good Morning America, she had seen my tweet about my husband buying me a paper shredder for Christmas a while back, they wanted to include us in a segment about gift giving and were we available to film that afternoon?

Uh wha?

Surprisingly, Aaron was down with it and a few hours later a film crew showed up at our house and took over the rest of our day AND our next morning. The piece morphed over the day until they had us Skyping in at 6:15 on Wednesday morning so I could open a gift on air (NO PRESSURE).

And so it was that we were on GMA this week with an announcer asking if my husband might be "the worst gift giver in America" (he's not, by the way. He's given some pretty terrible gifts but he's also given me some awesome stuff. That part of my interview unsurprisingly didn't make it in).

Note: the video doesn't seem to be showing up in some feed readers but it's embedded in my blog so hop on over if you'd like to see our segment.




ABC Breaking News | Latest News Videos

I'd like to disclaim that they couldn't get permission to film in a bunch of stores so he was totally stuck when it came to picking out my on-air gift. He was pretty embarrassed by it but he legitimately did well- the body lotion was unscented because he knows I'm crazy sensitive about my body products being perfumed and the candles were a nod to the fact that I burn candles like crazy this time of year and I was just complaining that I'm going to have to go get another batch. He was as thoughtful as he could be within the very limited scope he was given! I was impressed.

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