A New Mountain Adventure

Last Thursday, Curt and I closed on a deal for our next phase of mountain fun. As with most of our decisions, we had gone back and forth on whether we wanted our next purchase to be an empty lot to build on or a condo we can use, enjoy and then have as a base to build from when we do find that perfect lot. We had all along assumed we would need to sell our Breck cabin to be able to purchase our next property or start our next project, however our year of VRBO rentals has given us a little bit of edge with our savings. Curt has also had a couple of good years in real estate, even as a part-timer. We have continued to be aggressive with saving money, knowing that we’re hunting for the next opportunity and that we don’t want to wait five years. More like one year, in Curt’s book… 

So, we decided not to sell our cabin this fall (our two year anniversary of getting our certificate of occupancy!) and instead keep renting it out, emotionally detach from it a bit, reap the benefits of the passive cash flow and switch gears to something else. The cabin has turned into its own little machine and while we have had some headaches and hiccups with it and especially with some of the renters (that’s a whole ‘nother post…), it’s never been TOO much of a burden. The good far outweighs the bad. It’s now functioning as a business and we’re both fine with that. It took some adjusting and we will still use it for family and friend visits, but it was always much bigger than we intended and more than we need or use when we’re there. What we want has evolved as we’ve gone through the last two years of enjoying the cabin.

We looked at a few lots this spring and realized that financially we weren’t ready to pay for both an expensive lot and then build a home on top of it without some considerable wait time in between while we saved more cash, which would mean our money spent now wouldn’t get us much except practice being patient. That’s definitely not Curt’s MO, so he started looking at condos again. We looked at condos way back before we bought our lot in Breck in 2010 but the cost and size didn’t jive with what we wanted at that time. However, after experiencing the expense and maintenance of a nearly 6,000 sq ft cabin, in addition to learning to manage the constant back-and-forth between two houses on weekdays and weekends, which I think is our new normal, we’ve changed our minds a bit. The house or condo itself doesn’t seem as important. What we are prioritizing now is location and proximity to what we want to do.

This new condo really holds two purposes. First, it gives us a place slightly more centrally located among the ski resorts and 30-40 minutes closer to Denver for us to pursue our mountain activities. Second, when we do find our next lot to build our next project, we’ll have a place to stay rather than having to drive back and forth to Denver which we did for forEVER when working on the Breck cabin, or even worse, staying in a plywood shell with no power or water, which we also did for months. I see us using this condo for a year or two or three, through the construction of our next project, and then potentially renting it to a long-term renter. The previous owner had renters for a year or more and the location is prime for employees in Summit County. Silverthorne and Dillon, which are basically right on top of each other and the same town in my eyes, are where the working class live. They are not vacation destinations like the resort towns are. While this condo does offer very close proximity to Keystone and Copper, I don’t expect as many, or really any renters from all over the country to rent it out, like what happens with our Breck cabin. I think if anyone rents it short term, like on VRBO or airbnb, they will likely be from Denver. If we ever rented it long term, I’d guess it would be to an employee of a ski resort, store or restaurant. Even though we are buying this new place with the intent of using it just for ourselves, we are still going to list it on VRBO and airbnb eventually. It has the potential to carry some of its costs, but we will be more at peace with turning down rental requests when they only amount to a couple hundred dollars rather than a couple thousand.

A small but functional kitchen with nearly new appliances
Not pretty, but plenty of storage and could easily be improved with some small/cheap cosmetic changes
View of the living room and kitchen after walking through the front door (bathroom on the right, bedroom on the left
The tiled entryway is large and currently has a climbing wall installed. Removing this will give us a bunch of storage space for cabinets, lockers, shelves, benches, racks or whatever
Small living room with decently tall ceilings and nice wood beams (slider to a small gated deck on the first floor which is perfect for our dogs)
Bedroom that fits a king bed, thankfully

Hall closet and bathroom
Not a real looker but can be improved upon a bit
Beautiful views of the mountains and the valley below
Locked ski cabinet in the common area outside our front door

The most exciting selling points to us were that this condo is a couple thousand feet lower in elevation, closer to Denver, offers amenities like tennis courts/pools (2)/hot tubs (4!), has hiking and biking paths literally outside the door and also has a Summit Stage bus stop right next to the parking lot. This free bus travels from town to town in Summit County, including the ski resorts, but didn’t go as far as our Breck cabin. Even though our cabin is only 9 miles from the town of Breck, we were generally content to stay at home and as such, we never spent much time in town and never meshed with it like I thought we would. I envision spending  a lot more time out and about, with Silverthorne and Dillon both being barely a 5-minute drive from the Wildernest neighborhood this condo is in. We will only be 15-20 minutes further away from Breckenridge but closer to Keystone, A Basin, Copper and even Vail and Beaver Creek which is very appealing. I also hope with a 550 sq ft condo that Curt will not spend all of his time tinkering and working on little projects. Thankfully there is no basement and no garage for him to disappear to, because most of the time we're at our cabin, that’s where he is. Boo.

Five years ago, we rented a tiny old cabin in Summit Cove near Keystone for five months during ski season. The cabin was not fancy or large, did not heat above 50 degrees, was not insulated, had a useless fireplace with no blower, no internet, no cable, a tiny kitchen and a bedroom with a full size bed barely crammed into it. Curt took it upon himself to insulate the windows with foam because it was cold as hell in there. We’d go up on Friday nights, ski both days, spend our evenings under 10 blankets watching DVDs and we’d go to bed early just to be warm. We had three dogs back then and we all slept in that full size bed together. We had a few friends visit to ski but it was mostly just us and we loved it. My only real complaints were that the damn butter stayed rock hard even on the counter, and without fail our eggs got cold by the time it took to walk a few steps from the stove to the dining table at breakfast. But it was so relaxing and it was what convinced us to start looking for real estate in the mountains in the first place. Rustic and rough as it was, we both look back on that winter quite fondly and to have a new-to-us but old, tiny and kinda rundown place for us to enjoy makes us really excited :)  


Father's Day

I took a break from my blog because I’ve had a bit of a mental block during the last few months. Since my last post, we continued along with our winter goal of hitting 30 days on our snowboards, which we reached, which was a lot for weekend warriors like us. We hit seven mountains this year, two of which we'd never visited before. I skied down the run I named in Breckenridge and went down double black diamonds for the first time, at the very end of the season when I finally had the balls, which was a lot of fun and made me want more. We had friends come visit and we visited family and we worked on our Denver house and we worked on our Breck house. All good, all normal things. 

But since it’s Father’s Day, my brain has been occupied with something that was completely not normal for me – when my dad went to the hospital in early February - in an ambulance and in septic shock, I later found out. The long, crazy story seems almost hard to believe now, even though he's still recovering and will take some time to feel 100% and get around like he used to. In fact some aspects of his life have been changed permanently. But four months ago, I thought there was a chance my dad might die, out of the blue, and I might not be there, or maybe worse, that I would be there. I’m lucky to have never been faced with anything like that before in my life, but it has not been easy for me to swallow, even now that it’s in the past. It's difficult to describe how close I am to my dad. It's not the "we talk every day" type of close. I have a deep bond with him that, to me, isn't carried by daily casual conversation. The way my dad raised me and the things he made me think about and learn and question and appreciate - and most of all how staunchly he loved and supported me, and still does - it shaped me and it's rare a day goes by that I don't think about him or hear his words in my head. 

On the bright side, my dad is still here, and the experience with him in the hospital made me appreciate how much more I've gotten to see him in the last couple of years. It also made me look at my little brother in a different light. After spending a long horrendous day traveling together to see my dad in the ICU and not knowing what exactly we were going to find out when we got there, we finally got to my dad’s room in the evening and we were both speechless. It felt like a good 15 minutes before either of us could say anything, though I’m sure it wasn’t that long. Everything looked so much worse than I expected. I have not spent much time in hospitals and I certainly had never seen anyone in the mess my dad was in. It made me realize that the only other person on earth who could feel exactly the same way I did was standing right next to me. I was so thankful my brother was there. He was too scared to leave my dad's ICU room so he stayed through the night, sleeping on the padded bench under the window, while I was way, way too scared to stay. 

I realized my brother has a strength that I did not see before and one that I do not yet possess. He has both parents to thank for that. While all kids know at some point they will lose their parents, that fact had never truly felt possibly until a few months ago. And while that reality is still something I would rather deny, I know I can't. I'm relieved I didn't have to come to grips with this because my dad toughed it out in the hospital. But I did realize someday my brother and I will just have each other, and I'd never have found that comforting until we went through this together. 

There was one thing my brother and I felt differently about. We were talking in the airport and he got a little choked up because he felt there were things he'd yet to achieve in life and he wanted my dad to see these things happen in the future and be proud. Like maybe he'll own his own studio or label one day. This was a stressful day where my dad's prognosis was not really known and the fact that we were even having this conversation freaked me out. But my main consolation during the previous 48 hours of my dad going into the hospital was that even though I still have things in life to achieve, hopefully a lot of things, my dad may not see them all but I know he has no doubt I CAN achieve them. It would not surprise him. He has such faith in the both of us to do whatever we want in life. I don't live in fear that he'll miss anything. 

There was also something a little funny (at least it seems funny now) that also happened at the Denver airport. While we were waiting in the security line at 6am on what felt like the beginning of the weirdest and possibly worst day of our lives, a security guard tried to make small talk and he asked us where we were going and what the weather would be like. He asked us if we would be doing inside or outside activities. He probably thought we were going on a ski trip like most people in Colorado in February. Then my brother deadpanned "Our dad's in a coma." I felt bad for the guy because he looked like he wanted to crawl under the floor. Claaaassic Paul.

Happy Father's Day! :)


Powder Fun Time

We had our deck shoveled in Breck yesterday and this was the photo Curt received:

And this was the snow report I woke up to this morning:

Son of a! It's supposed to continue dumping snow all day today and tomorrow! We'll be slumming it up and back in I-70 traffic tomorrow with the rest of the weekend warriors because our house is rented. What a bummer, especially since last weekend we were up there and conditions were less than stellar - extremely icy and windblown. I've never been in fresh powder anywhere near this deep so I'm pretttttty excited to rub my face in it!

And on Sunday, we'll be pulling for these guys.

Go Hawks! :) #bandwagon #12thman


New Red cb2 Triumph Chairs

The room off our kitchen/dining area, the non-tv living room, has been the most unloved room in our house since we moved in last June. We have gone around and around about what to do in there...what type of furniture, what layout, what makes sense for our use? We've never had a "sitting" room and I'm not into formal rooms anyway, but I DO like having this room without a tv. There is enough space over the fireplace for a tv, but we've been going strong with just one tv in each house for the last few years and we don't really want another one, especially just around the corner from the tv we already own.

When we moved in, I put a newly craiglist-purchased leather and nailhead couch against the longest wall which looked terrible. I was trying not to block any of the windows. That lasted about a week before I moved it under the front window. We moved a chair and ottoman from our loft area to this room which didn't go with the nailhead couch at all. We finally moved that chair, ottoman and couch up to Breck before Thanksgiving and then this room had no furniture at all other than the bowling lane coffee table Curt built. This was unfortunate, because I really like this room. I get home from work before Curt and I never go into the other living room with the tv. In fact, a couple Sundays ago while trying to catch the Seahawks play-off game, I realized I didn't even know how to turn our tv ON... 

Anyway, I like sitting in the non-tv room after work because I often have something going on in the kitchen and it's always where the dogs hang out on their bed. I can read the mail (I just learned which mailbox is ours!) or my Kindle or iPhone which is usually in my purse from my bus ride (I'm too lazy to go upstairs to get the iPad). But oh how this room has vexed me. Then I saw this picture on Pinterest and loved the cozy library-ish feel and the style of the low-slung leather chairs. That's the vibe I've wanted in our room ever since. 

Our room doesn't look a whole lot like that other than the corner fireplace, but it gave me some direction. We bought a different couch for our tv room and moved the one in there to this room so at least we had somwhere to sit. We hung a big world map from IKEA on the wall which made it feel more library-ish. Then I read on this blog post (the before) and link (the after) the idea about using the front/formal sitting/living room as a "reading room." That's totally what I want. It's what we do already in there, even if "reading" means staring at our iPhones/iPad. It gets nice light from three windows and has a cozy fireplace. It hasn't gotten a ton of use yet because we weren't settled on what we wanted furniture-wise in there, but after living in the house about six months, I finally purchased some chairs for this room. These red leather Triumph chairs went on sale at cb2 for $129 apiece and we saved $60 on shipping since cb2 recently opened a warehouse in Aurora where one can pick up purchases. Pretty sweet. Curt was a little skeptical about how comfy they'd be but there were dozens of reviews on their site stating how unexpectedly nice they were to sit in.

He picked them up Thursday at lunch and we put them together on Sunday evening.

The bare orchid was a gift from my coworkers and the succulent is in a pot made by a friend who brought it to our house-warming party. It matches the wall color exactly!
They are super bright and modern and the angular lines go great with the bowling lane coffee table, but probably don't match the style of the couch at all. I kind of like that; what can I say, I know nothing about furniture! Our room doesn't look anything like my Pinterest pic above and actually looks a lot like a typical sitting room after all, but I'm still relieved to have this area slightly more furnished and colorful because it's the first thing I see every day when I come home from work. We sat on the new chairs, along with the dogs, last night to watch a show on the iPad so they passed that test. Maybe we need a rug too? Next up in this room is redoing the tile and mantel on our fireplace, which is directly behind the red chairs. I deliberately/awkwardly left it out of these photos. But...small progress! 


Somewhere New: Steamboat!

I already mentioned that my plans and goals for this year mostly revolve around adventure, trying new things and going new places. One of the things Curt and I talked about when we realized that our cabin was likely going to be rented much of the ski season (helping to chip away at our ginormous annual property tax, insurance, HOA, snowplow, heating and cleaning bills) was that we wanted to venture out to other resorts in our state. This provided the perfect opportunity to get out of our routine - we want to be outside playing in the snow, but we no longer have the option of being at our house in Breck every weekend. Knowing that holiday weekends are no fun at the five very busy mountains on our Epic Pass anyway, not to mention the ridiculous I-70 traffic jams, we took advantage of a friend with a relative in Steamboat Springs to take a little road trip where we hoped we'd find smaller crowds.

In spite of really wanting to go to Steamboat, I will admit that I dragged my feet big time last week. I was still feeling crappy from bronchitis and was overall tired from constantly coughing for the last two weeks, not to mention it hadn't snowed in almost a week. Steamboat has a reputation for the best powder in the state and I was okay with waiting until February or March to take this trip if it meant better snow conditions. I'd also wiped out on a patch of icy sidewalk near our house and bruised both palms and smashed my pinky finger so I wasn't looking forward to snowboarding at all. I debated having Curt go with our friend by himself, but in the end he talked me into going, and as usual, I was so glad I went.

We were lucky to stay with a family member of our friend so we dropped the dogs off at a kennel, drove up Friday after work and basically went straight to bed. Steamboat Springs is only three hours away and we thankfully didn't hit any traffic. We got up early Saturday, ate a quick breakfast at The Shack in town and headed right to the mountain. What we learned right off the bat was that even on a prime holiday weekend, Steamboat was a lot more mellow than any mountain I've been to in Colorado. People were not in a rush at all. Lines were short. It surprised me that many of the runs were pretty flat, especially on the far right side but even on the back side where we only took one run because the lines were longest back there. Steamboat has slow lifts and a bunch of them were 2-man. It all added up to a super relaxed time and I had a blast. 

We moved backwards across the mountain - starting in the center and then heading to the far right, then to the back, back to the front and then to the left.
At the end of the day, we finally made our way to the far left side of the mountain where the runs got steeper and that was where I had the most fun. Steamboat is known for their trees and even I could go in and around plenty of trees on almost every run. It's not every day you get to ski through aspen groves! The views were incredible and quite different than in Summit County, because Steamboat is surrounded by flat land unlike any of the resorts on our Epic Pass. Many times I had to stop to take in the surroundings because the views were so beautiful. The weather started out frigid and near zero in the morning but warmed up to over 30 degrees later, so we were all really overdressed.

Curt took his first picture of me snowboarding ever, on our first run of the day, and I am barely moving down a cat track. In fact I think I'm about to sit down right here. Not exciting.
At the top of Sunshine Peak
Lunch (drink) break at the mid mountain lodge Four Points
People offered to take our photo all day long everywhere we went

Best bacon bloody ever!
With our buddy Stephen who hosted us at his uncle's house. Stephen is an old friend who moved to Boulder last year. I met Curt and Stephen on the same night back in Seattle in 2000!
At this point in the afternoon, I was sweating buckets in my down parka, double base layers, turtle fur and brand new leather mittens
At the top of Pioneer Ridge, my favorite area of the mountain based on our first day here

We were able to hit every area of the mountain because it's on the smaller side. I think we rode every single lift. When we go back in a month or two, I know where I will spend more time. We boarded all day, making our way across the front side as the lifts closed behind us, one by one, staggered every 15 minutes. Some days, I can't wait to get off the mountain because I'm cold, but this was such a gorgeous day that I truly did not want to stop. We headed to town for happy hour at Cantina and then ended up at an awesome divey Cajun bar called Sunpie's that I can't wait to eat at on our next visit. 

The best part about our weekend in the 'Boat is that we bought a ski pass that includes two days there and two days at Winter Park. So not only am I looking forward to our next (hopefully powder) day at Steamboat but we will also get to check out another resort we've never been to when we hit up Winter Park. It was awesome to get out of our normal surroundings and see more of Colorado outside the I-70 corridor. It was one of those perfect days where I almost can't believe I live here. I never ever pictured myself living in this state or loving the snow or even being able to stand upright on a snowboard much less ride one down a mountain. I used to cry cross-country skiing. Sometimes I wonder how this all happened!


2014: Choose Your Own Adventure

I have not wanted to log into my blog recently. I was not ready to end or recap 2013, much less start thinking about goals for 2014. I'm behind on all sorts of updates and info. Well, too late. 2014 is here! Unfortunately, we both started off the year with bronchitis which hasn't left us yet. It didn't stop us from snowboarding in more than a foot of fresh powder over the very first weekend of this year, which was pretty awesome, but we are paying the price this week for sure. What were we thinking going out in subzero weather, already feeling sick and sucking air? I'm not quite sure, but I guess we were both excited to be back in Colorado after a week and a half in the Pacific Northwest visiting friends and family.

I was surprised to read many FB posts and hear elsewhere during the last few weeks of the year that many of my friends were happy to see 2013 go. Every year sees ups and downs, and while the last year brought some stress and sadness to us and those around us with a little bit of family turmoil, friend/family changes and moves, loss of a family member and a family pet, what struck me about 2013 was how positive it seemed to me, overall, in spite of these things. We were able to spend a lot more time with family and friends back home in the last year compared to any year we've lived in Colorado, and that had a big impact on me. One on hand, I feel more rooted and happy in Colorado than I ever have, but on the other hand, I feel as close to and appreciative of our friends back home in OR and WA than ever before. This is good and bad. Happy and hard.

Best weekend of 2013 at the Gorge - Curt's cool iPhone pic
Another thing that stands out about 2013 is that I felt more inspired by others than in years past - especially by women, and even more so, the women around me. Maybe I just paid closer attention. Not only do I feel surrounded by interesting, smart, courageous, funny, risk-taking, healthy, generous and kind women in my daily life, but I read a ton of non-fiction books by women last year that each had a different impact and stuck with me throughout the whole year (some standouts were Wild, My Life in France, The Happiness Project, Lean In and A Homemade Life). They were all thought-provoking, motivating or made me more curious about something or willing to change something about myself. I've talked about them a lot because they've been on my mind a lot. I also read a lot of other blogs that inspire me and give me ideas, but last year I discovered even more women out there that I can learn from or be challenged by or can just relate to.

Wise words from this woman
We started off 2013 by talking about a potential move, and that finally happened midway through the year. It was not without hiccups and delays and expense and annoyance, the least of which was not getting the house we originally wanted (a running theme), but moving just one mile away into a better neighborhood made a tremendous impact on my quality of life. My daily routine is so improved, and as someone who spends a lot of time outside in the neighborhood hitting the pavement by taking the bus to and from work, along with walking our dogs, the little parts of my days that got nicer all added up to me being a lot happier. It was not an outcome of the move that I expected, but has been delightful nonetheless. One of the best parts about walking home from my bus stop is the gorgeous unobstructed view of the city skyline that on most nights is graced with over the top colors reflected from the unbelievably gorgeous sunsets over the mountains to the west. Sometimes the little things in life make the biggest difference! A good lesson. We are also slowly making over room by room of the house to fit our personalities more.

Revamped kitchen
My favorite things in the new house, or any house. Penny and Greta!
Updated master bath
We closed out 2013 with as much snowboarding as we could handle with as many friends as we could cram into our cabin each weekend. We also celebrated three wonderful holidays - Thanksgiving in Breck, Christmas at the Oregon coast and New Year's Eve in Seattle. Many of these pics are borrowed from friends.

homemade tofurkey
Our friend Jamen, who I went to junior high and high school with back in Twin Falls, Idaho - small world!
3rd year in a row celebrating Thanksgiving in Colorado with my little brother Paul, Boulder's finest resident!

Pacific City, my favorite place on the Oregon Coast
NYE dinner in Seattle
Obviously VIP! ;)
Now, it's the beginning of 2014, and Curt and I have talked about our plans for this year - this fresh start with 12 new months, all a blank slate. We have set some goals real estate wise to change things around a bit and give us more flexibility and unload some debt, but beyond the practical and financial and boring things, we've spent more time talking about the fun trips we have planned or still want to plan. We want to get out into some new places, see some new sights and have some new adventures. All of the boring financial steps we've taken over the last 10 or so years - things that kept us home and tied up our money - have finally started to reap some benefits (especially thanks to renting our Breck house out on VRBO, which had its ups and downs). This lets my practical to a fault husband relax his purse strings a TINY bit. He has already seen a lot of this world; I have not. Doing it together makes me excited. Just exploring more of Colorado thrills me and we've acquired backpacking gear to make this summer likely full of fun (and many mishaps, I'm sure). We hiked our first two 14ers (Sherman and Quandary) last fall and can't wait to tackle more this year.

October trip!
We have a few house/DIY projects on our plates too. Bigger projects this year include finishing our basement in Denver and adding a kitchen and built-in dining area to our basement in Breck. Smaller projects include re-tiling our fireplace in Denver (starting this weekend with demo!) and adding a new reclaimed wood mantle to that. I also want to make a starburst mirror out of pine beetle kill scraps. Just something I saw online and liked.

We might even build a more lodge-looking reclaimed wood bunkbed for our basement in Breck after seeing some very cool ideas in the new modern/rustic hostel that just opened in Breck.

I'll get right on all of this as soon as I stop hacking up a lung every few minutes :)