Summer 2016 Reading Reviews

I've been really inspired by my friend Olivia's book lists so I thought I would write one of my own. These aren't by any means my favorite books of all time, they're just the books I've read recently, what they're about, and what I thought of them, just in case you care! :) 

Rating System

5/5 * Everyone should read this whether they like the genre or not
4/5 * I would recommend this book to someone who likes the particular genre
3/3 * Worth reading just to say you read it
2/3 * Not worth reading
1/3 * Hate this book

The Dog Stars
Peter Heller

"How you refill. Lying there. Something like happiness, just like water, pure and clear pouring in. So good you don't even welcome it, it runs through you in a bright stream, as if it has been there all along." 

Synopsis: A man named Hig survives a flu pandemic that kills everyone including his family and friends. He now lives in the hangar of an abandoned airport with his dog, Jasper, and gun-toting acquaintance Bangley. When he decides there has to be something more beyond his safe little bubble, he flies past his point of no return to seek out a random radio transmission. 

Opinion: *4/5* This was the first depressingly sad book in a long line of depressingly sad books I've read recently. Yes, it's about the end of the world, but it's more about loss, grief, and healing. If you like happy books and happy endings, don't read this. If you like quick read post-apocalyptic fiction, read this. It's well written, creative and definitely on my must read post-apocalyptic novel list.

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close
Johnathan Safran Foer

"I hope that one day you will have the experience of doing something you do not understand for someone you love." 

Synopsis: Oskar Schell's business card reads nine-year-old inventor, amateur entomologist, Francophile, letter writer, pacifist, natural historian, percussionist, romantic, Great Explorer, jeweler, detective, vegan and collector of butterflies. And yes, I did say he has a business card. Oskar's father is killed in the 9/11 World Trade Centre attacks and Oskar enters and wades through the grieving process by following a mystery key left by his father. It leads him through New York City to interact with lots of strangers. 

Opinion: *3/5* Don't hate me, I honestly didn't love this book as much as most people do. It's extremely well written, very creative, but it has several pretty slow points and it's painfully depressing. Given, I did read it sitting next to an idealistic pond when Nate and I were traveling for Country Jam, so I probably wasn't in the right mental place to read it. It truly highlights the depth and challenges of the grieving process in a beautiful way though and is worth reading, if only so you can see how much better it is than the movie. Also, my dog apparently liked it because he literally ate an entire corner off this book 

The Help
Kathryn Stockett

"All my life I'd been told what to believe about politics, coloreds, being a girl. But with Constantine's thumb pressed in my hand, I realized I actually had a choice in what I could believe." 

Synopsis: If you haven't already seen the movie, this book is a story about what it was like to be a black maid during the civil rights movement in the 1960's in racially conflicted Mississippi. With a light historical context, the very relational centered story shows the hate, abuse, mistrust, lovem attachment and dependence surrounding black/white relationships at the time.

Opinion: *4/5* I actually just picked this up after I ran out of books on a recent vacation. I was pleasantly surprised by how well written and engaging it was. It's surprisingly relevant, a quick read, and has some really amazing character development. I really really wish I had read this book before I watched the movie! 

Me Before You
Jojo Moyes

"All I can say is that you make me... you make me into someone I couldn't even imagine. You make me happy, even when you're awful. I would rather be with you - even the you that you seem to think is diminished - than with anyone else in the world." 

Synopsis: Lou Clark leads a fairly mundane life until she looses her job, realizes she doesn't love her serious boyfriend, and starts working for Will Traynor, an adrenaline junkie who was rendered paralyzed by a motorcycle accident. In caring for Will, Lou learns a ton about herself, while falling for this cynical man in a wheel chair. 

Opinion: *2/5* I hated this book. That cheesy quote up there pretty much sums it up. It's mediocre writing, I didn't like the characters, and I've never read a less redemptive ending in my whole life. I have nothing against depressing books, but there's usually some beauty or lesson or positive spin that comes out of the pain. This author seems to be trying to make the reader cry just to see if she can.  The only reason that I'm giving it even a 2/5 is because I believe that people sometimes need to read books just to be culturally educated. I'm glad I read it because now I can tell everyone how much I hated it. Still haven't gone to see the movie. 

A Man Called Ove
Fredrik Backman  

"He was a man of black and white. And she was color. All the color he had." 

Synopsis: A grumpy curmudgeon of an old man with strict principles, staunch routines, and a short fuse loves to be alone and organized.  When a boisterous young family moves in next door, we find that the below cranky exterior is a sad, but warm heart. 

Opinion: *3/5* I liked this book. It wasn't remarkable, and in fact, it really just seemed like a glorified version of the movie UP, however the cynical man in the book reminded me of Nate which I liked. It's a well written, quick read that has some funny and surprisingly charming moments. There's some good themes on grief and love and relationships, but they're shallow and underdeveloped. Another pretty dark and sad book (I told you I've read a lot of those recently), but worth reading! 

The Bronze Bow
Elizabeth George Speare

"Riches are not keeping you from the kingdom, he said. You must give up your hate." 

Synopsis: 18 year old Daniel is bent on revenging his father's death by joining the first century Zealots in forcing the Romans out of Israel. Throughout themes of friendship, home, love and community, Daniel encounters Jesus in a way that makes him doubt everything he believes about loyalty and love. 

Opinion: *5/5* This has been my favorite book for as long as I can remember so I picked it up this summer to make sure it was still my favorite book. It is. I read it in one three hour sitting and fell in love all over again with the characters, the plot, the underlying message and Speare's writing style! It's so basic, and obviously for children, but I just love the way Jesus is portrayed, how people encounter him, and how many parallels there are to our current politics. Even if you're not a Christian, this book is SO good. PLEASE order this book as soon as possible and while you're at it, read all of Speare's other works too. If you hate them, just don't tell me.

The Marketing Blueprint
Jules Marcoux

"I kept wasting my time trying to connect dots that hadn't even come to exist yet. Because I couldn't map my future, I would never take any steps forward." 

Synopsis: This is basically a step by step guide with practical ways to grow your brand. It gives lots of tips and ideas within the context of very clearly outlined chapters. Marcoux's own business story is weaved throughout. 

Opinion: *2/5* I read this book because someone gave it to me. After starting my own marketing business I needed to start collecting information so I just picked it up and read it all in one night while taking extensive notes. I actually learned a lot from this book, but I think that has way more to do with where I was at and the things I was wrestling with when I read it, than the actual literary value of the book. It's nothing revolutionary and the author is only 22 years old and speaks French as his primary language. How much can you really know about marketing at that age? 

Cripple Creek Days
Mabel Barbee Lee

"A miner has no choice but to go to where the mines are."

Synopsis: Mabel Barbee Lee tells her story of growing up in Cripple Creek, Colorado where she watched as the whole place turned to gold within a truly boom and bust economy. She tells of historical celebrations, fires, train wrecks and strikes in places such a Poverty Gulch, the Continental Hotel, and Finn's Folly, using a simple, engaging, childlike tone.

Opinion: *3/5* I never studied Colorado history in elementary school because I didn't grow up here, so I took a college level Colorado history course during my last semester and this book was assigned reading! It's a quick read and more suited for young kids, but it gives a really cool up close and personal picture of life in a Colorado mining town. I found the references to places and historical people incredibly fascinating and I feel like I have a better handle on the timeline of the state's "settlement." 

Wake Up // A Durango, Colorado Sunrise

This is a repost from Claire's blog, but it was just so good, I couldn't help but share! She did all the film and editing work! :) And you can find her blog over there >>. 

"Waking up for the sunrise is a usual occurrence in my group of friends. We send a group text and who ever feels like it or is town that day will get up and come. It usually isn't more than 3 or 4 of us at time seeing as waking up before the sun to hang out is pretty difficult. When we do actually get up and drive into the mountains, hike up onto cliffs, lay on beaches, climb up on rooftops, where ever we are its beyond worth it. As we try to capture glowing smiles, fat breakfast burritos and warm coffee with iPhone pictures, the sun comes up and the volume of the worries and pains from life are turned down and we're able to live in the moment and see a glimpse of God's face. 

Though this was just made to remember the moments shared with these three people, wasn't even one of my favorite sunrise spots, isn't even one of my better filming adventures and wasn't created to be shared, I decided to share it in hopes that it encourages you to wake up and take on the first moments of the day enjoying Gods creation, his warm rays and the people he gave you to share the precious moments of life with."

Crested Butte // 2015

Nate just got approved to take off for the weekend of Spring Break, I'm drowning in homework, and our trip to Crested Butte is only two weeks away. So... I decided to do a throwback post to the last time we went to CB, over Christmas break in 2014. I'm praying that this trip is just as filled with lots of Sophie and lots of soup (see above picture). Here's to hoping it snows before then! 


I'm still dreaming of how beautiful my birthday adventure was and I'm pretty sure that trains are made of magic. I'm also feeling so grateful for the lifelong adventure partner I have in Nate. Without any fear of being too cheesy, I'll just say that he makes all of my dreams come true - even silly ones where I want to ride the train for 8 hours for my 22nd birthday surprise.

All of these pictures were taken on my iPhone 6 or my Canon 7D which came out of hibernation for this specific adventure. 

Color Drive // Fall 2015

"There is a part of me that will forever want to be walking under autumn leaves, carrying a briefcase containing the works of Shakespeare and Yeats and a portable chess set. I will pass an old tree under which once on a summer night I lay on the grass with a fragrant young woman and we quoted E.E. Cummings back and forth." Roger Ebert

Artist Profile // Claire Kairalla

Every time I work on a film project I tell myself two things: 
1. I really don't like filming very much. 
2. I should really do this more often.
Film projects are always such a balance of too much attention to detail, oodles of time, and a ridiculous amounts of fun. 

Claire needed help with a school project and she was incredibly patient with my rusty filming skills. I really enjoyed helping with the script, storyboard, and filming most of this artist profile. AND I got to film my favorite subject! :) 

As always you can find all of Claire's brilliant work on her website,

Hailee Pritchard

My three best friends recently inspired me to relaunch my people series. I already wrote about my sister, Claire, (view the blog posts herehere, and here) so who better to write about next than this bundle of rainbows. 

Hailee Pritchard is loving and funny and one of the sweetest people I know. I've loved that through high school, the beginning of college, being long distance friends, and moving back to Durango, our friendship has never changed. Hailee is always there when you need someone to giggle, drive or talk with. Despite her uncanny ability to fall asleep during every single movie we watch, speed recklessly without getting speeding tickets, and have the busiest schedule of any person I've ever met, Hailee's genuine care for those around her is what stands out the most. My favorite memories of Hailee include hiking the Grand Canyon in a day (see blog post here), rolling in mud in her parents back yard (thank goodness I couldn't find any pictures of that), running on the golf coarse, baking gluten free cookies, and watching countless sunrises. 

{{{ Hailee, thanks for being the absolute best! Spending time with you is one of my favorite things (EVER) and I can't get enough. Your senior year is going to fly by so enjoy it! And don't worry about all of that crazy college pressure. Following your heart has never failed you in the past and I just know you're going to find the perfect college of your dreams and have an absolute blast! Although I'm a little pouty about the fact that you may be leaving Durango soon, most of me hopes that you travel the world, commissioning good will, and making all of your dreams come true! }}}

I wasn't planning on coming on Hailee's senior shoot! I know how intimidating it can be having people watch as you pose for pictures, but somehow I got roped in last minute. I'm glad I came along because they definitely needed the help four wheeling up a mountain and hauling the cafe set up a pile of rocks. We worked hard and laughed and cuddled with my puppy and took hundreds of pictures. It was so fun and I wouldn't trade a day in the mountains with my girls for the world! 

All pictures were taken by Claire on her Canon Rebel. Most of the props, including the vase on the table and the cafe table and chairs, can be found at Urban Market in Durango. Follow them on Instagram at @urbanmarketdurango and #myurbanmarket.  And finally, many of the clothes Hailee's wearing can be found at JcrewMadewellFreepeople and Forever21

A Letter To My Peers


My Dearest Friends,

I love you all. 

You are all beautiful children of God who shine His light every single day. You've been there in times of need. You've made me laugh. You are inspiring, creative, hard working, caring people who are desperately seeking Jesus along with Nate and I. You are actively changing the worlds around you and it's epic to watch! I love the times when we go out for drinks, watch awesome movies, and go on epic sunrise hikes. Some of my best memories happened in your kitchens, in your cars, and in your parent's basements. 

But can I be honest with you? 

Today I feel like I’m swimming up stream, surrounded by people who are busy, rushed, overwhelmed, tired and flaky. I look around me and wonder if I'm the only one not exhausted or rushed, and then I deeply worry that everyone around me has boarded the train of goal accomplishment, business, and over commitment – a train that I’m fairly sure is going to lead them to the end of the line where they’ll crash and burn in a heap of exhaustion, overwhelmed-ness and lack of purpose. 

Okay… that may be a little dramatic.

But for real… Where is the time for community, real conversation, laughing and adventures? I long for true accountability and people who really know me. I long for relationships that fill needs and encourage hearts. 

I can hear you all now... You'll say I'm an extrovert. That I love hanging out with people, I love making appointments and coffee dates, and that my ideal day is full of back to back social engagements. You probably think that I'm here to propose you cancel all of your former engagements so we can hang out at least six times a week and share all of our deepest secrets. But I too need my alone time. I genuinely don't need people around me all day everyday. Not to mention, I have to go to work, and school, and be a wife, and eat, and sleep, and have my own quiet time TOO. 

So today I'm proposing we enter a new season of friendship. 

I want to keep adventuring and creating and laughing with you, but I've decided I also want to be there when you're trying to balance work and homework and working out. I want to be there when you're lacking sleep and have a sick kid, when you're moving out of your apartment and have no food in the fridge, and when you have to make fifteen dozen cookies for a church fundraiser. I want to be there when you've committed to too much and are over stimulated, and when you've committed to too little and are lonely. I've decided I want to be around when you're tired, frustrated, disheartened, struggling, overwhelmed, hopeless, and upset. 

I want to be that kind of friend and I want to have those kind of friends. 

You see, we live in the generation of the {I'm sorry. I may have something better to do?}s, and the {I'm sorry. I can come, but I’m going to be late and I have to leave early.}s, and the {I have to cancel, I’m so so sorry}s, and the {I’m sorry, I can’t today! Can we get together four Thursdays from now?}s, and the {I'm sorry. I just have to work. And do school. And sleep.}s.

My dear friends, stop apologizing for being busy. Stop apologizing for making prior commitments. Stop apologizing for having to meet your obligations. Please, instead, could you please just show up when you say you will? Could you maybe let me come over even if your house is a mess? Could you please be vulnerable and show your hurt and heartbreak and struggle? Could you please learn my goals and desires and hold me accountable? Can you eat with me on your lunch break? And stop by on your way home from work? Can you answer when I call and respond when I text? Be there in the daily grind? 

In return, I'll bring you soup when you're sick, clean your bathroom when you run out of time in the day, and walk your dog when you're hurt. I'll give you presents just because and tile your bathroom when you have to take a trip. I'll babysit for free. I'll stay up late studying with you. I'll force you to get up for your morning run. I'll make sure you come to church and I'll make you dozens of gluten free cookies. I'll stop being a weekend friend and start being a workweek friend.  

What do you think it would look like if we all learned how to be {Let your yes be yes.}s in a world of {I can’t today, can we re-schedule?}s? Don't you think it could be awesome?

Today I pray that God would give us the strength to say yes a lot, and to say no a lot, that we might be present and available for each other. May we love like Jesus loved - constantly and completely. 

“You’ll need coffee shops and sunsets and road trips. You’ll need airplanes and passports and new songs and old songs, but people more than anything else. You will need other people, and you will need to be that other person to someone else. A living, breathing, screaming invitation to believe in better things.”

- Jamie Tworkowski and Sidney Morgan and Amber Andrew

Summer Roadtrip // Week 10

We started off week 10 with one more work day at the farm where the boys finished the roof of the lean to and I packed up our car. We then drove to Asheville to spend a couple more nights before our trek home. Check out the finished product!! 

On Tuesday we slept almost the entire day away. After a 80 hour work week at the farm, I don't think we could have done anything else. Late in the afternoon, Nate, Gavin and Shawn made a quick visit to their Aunt Kylie and I went on a bike ride downtown. I treated myself to Rosemary lemonade and shoestring fries at Tupelo Honey as well as an Urban Outfitters shopping trip. That night we got to have one more night of grandparent conversation and veggie burgers. Our last day in Asheville. 

Wednesday, was our ONE YEAR anniversary! Can you believe it?! This year we got married, went to the Domican Republic, moved to our first home at Joshua Station in Denver, drove to Durango for my birthday, threw Sophie a surprise party, house sat a ranch, bought a gun, had four thanksgivings, took a trip to Mount Princeton Hot Springs for Nate's birthday, went to Apple Fest with the Hurts, moved back to Durango, slept on our parents' floors for a month, survived two different family Christmas celebrations, went to the Kivu New Years' party in Denver, went on a ski trip in Crested Butte, worked in Tennessee for two weeks, got new jobs, skied, climbed, fixed up and moved into our new apartment, saw Sophie dance in Phoenix, went to Mexico for spring break, dealt with two weeks apart while I went to California and Arizona with my sister, AND took a 10 week road trip across the ENTIRE country. And that's just the big stuff. It's been a year of... There's no words to describe how much I adore Nate and all of our adventures. 

Since we were on the road for our anniversary, we decided to take a day of rest. After saying a bittersweet good bye to the Koerbers and to Gavin, we took off to nap and watch TV. We slept and chilled and had microwave food for dinner and it couldn't have been more perfect. 


Just in case anyone would like to re-live our wedding day, here's the links to ALL the pictures... 

Once Wed
Brumley and Wells
The Wells Makery

Thursday, we finally began our long trek home. We drove a quick five hours to Lexington where we visited our friends the Hatfields. We ate some delicious food, took Shawn on a walk to Pet Smart, and watched Pitch Perfect 1, 2 AND Mamma Mia. Stacy, Isaac and Leo are always a treat and we miss them already. 

Our sweet little puppy got pretty sick and Nate had to make a late night run to the store to grab some pumpkin, chicken and white rice which soon fixed him right up. We're thinking it may have something to do with him still transitioning to his puppy food, or just being in the hot car so much. Anyway, we now have a very spoiled little puppy who refuses to eat anything but his gourmet chicken-pumpkin-rice mixture. For those who know me well, you know that I always said that I would never become a dog person. Well, here I am, letting the entire world know... I'm smitten!!

Friday, after being treated to a lovey breakfast, we drove the seven hours to west St. Louis where my uncle Lance is working on the St. Albans golf coarse. He treated us to dinner and the cutest little cottage during our visit. We got to see his house, his goat neighbor, the sweet little town he lives in, and all of the hard work he's put into building and rebuilding sand traps on the coarse. Shawn loved running along side the golf cart and jumping in the pond near where we stayed. 

Saturday was a long blur of puppy walks at rest stops, repeat county music, exhausted to-go food, and cramping legs as we made the long trek from St. Louis to Denver through a very boring Kansas. BUT never have I been more excited to cross into Colorado! This mountain girl is back in her home state and couldn't be happier. 

Did I mention we'll be home on Thursday!!?!??? I'm uncontrollably excited!! 

Summer Roadtrip // Week 9

Wayne and Christy Smith have been family friends with the Andrews for as long as anyone can remember. Every year Nate, and oftentimes his two siblings, travel to their farm in Tennessee to get some work done around their family farm. In the past the boys have built a barn, maintained the yard, worked in the garden, put in several fences, worked with the animals, and lots more! This summer, Nate and I, along with his brother Gavin and two other farm hands, farm-sat while the Smith family went to the beach on vacation. I cleaned the house and cooked three meals a day while the boys built a lean to onto the barn, nearly doubling it in size. It was a week of goat milking, weeding, building, cleaning, painting, scraping, mowing, scrubbing, dishes, baking, laundry, cooking and organizing. After putting in an eighty hour week, we were so happy with the finished product and I think the Smiths were too!  

The Barn // The Process

Stripping the kitchen ceiling // The Process

Meanwhile... back in Durango...

Summer Roadtrip // Week 8

After being in New York for a week, we decided to take a quick trip north to Maine and Vermont, and WOW was it beautiful!

Although both Nate and the puppy were feeling pretty sick on Sunday, we had so much fun exploring York Beach, visiting the light house and eating salt water taffy. We ate fish and chips, visited the Kittery Trading post and nearly scared Shawn senseless when he almost got swallowed by a crashing wave. Sunday night we drove in a torrential downpour to Vermont where we stayed in Nate's great grandmother's sweet old house. 

On Monday, we slept in and then spent a lazy morning walking Shawn and swimming in the lake. We tried really hard to get him into the water, but it didn't really work. That night we had dinner with the Wright family (Nate's great Uncle, Aunt and cousins). We had the most amazing dinner, got to play with their tiny little Goldendoodles, and were blown away by the Vermont scenery. 

Tuesday we drove back to New York to spend one last night with the Mitchells and say a very teary goodbye. We've decided we'll have to make trips to New York an annual thing from now on! We're thinking maybe a winter ski trip? 

Wednesday and Thursday we drove all the way back south to Tennessee, spending one night in George Washington National Forrest where we got poison ivy and countless mosquito bites. We picked up Gavin from his grandparents in Asheville and headed to the Smith farm in Tennessee to work for the next thirteen days. 

Summer Roadtrip // Week 7

Oh hey! Well, I know I kind of fell off of the blogging train during week 7 (I'm blaming it on our new puppy), but I figured it wouldn't hurt to share the rest of our trip with you. 

This week was another week at Nate's grandparents in New York. We relaxed. We fished. We played Mini Golf. And we ate! A lot! Spending time with this side of Nate's family has given me a whole new perspective on where the other side of Nate came from. The Mitchells gave Nate his handyman nature, engineer brain, love of fishing, good stewardship, republican ideals, love for all things boy (cars, guns, and machines), and his absurd and extreme love for popcorn. I feel so blessed to have finally gotten to spend some time with this side of the family. They're the best! 

Nate has wanted his very own puppy for as long as I've known him, but he always insisted that we needed to wait until the right time. Well, we had gotten our hopes up that Nate's great Aunt and Uncle who raise Goldendoodles would have a puppy available when we finally got to Vermont, but the timing wasn't right. So, we ended up searching on for all of the Goldendoodle and Labradoodle puppies on the entire east coast, an extremely daunting task I assure you. We contacted a guy in southern PA who had two little black Labradoodle puppies available and all the details worked out! 

We were planning on picking him up once we made our trek south, but the Mitchells insisted on meeting the little guy so we decided to go pick up "Rexy" the next day! We made it all the way to southern Pennsylvania (with a quick stop at Cabella's - it runs in the family) and back in a whopping 13 hours! I'm so glad we ended up picking him up early. He was worth every minute of the long drive! 

His puppy family lived in the middle of Amish country in souther Pennsylvania on a beautiful little farm nestled in the trees. The family was happy to chat with us and we were excited to find out that the little guy had already been raised around little kids, water, chickens and horses. He was also crate trained! Although we were a little sad to take him away, it was love at first sight and there was no way we were leaving him behind. He curled up and slept for the entire ride home.

The poor little guy didn't really seem like a "Rexy" so we spent the entire next two weeks coming up with a name for the little guy. Our options included Parker, Canyon, Huckleberry, Summit, and 1000 other puppy names, but none of them seemed right. We finally settled on the name, Shawn, two weeks later when we were working at the farm. In the meantime, he became extremely good at responding to the names "Puppy" and "Little Man," so we're now working on name training. :) 

Here are way too many puppy pictures because I just couldn't resist! 

Summer Roadtrip // Week 6

After leaving the lake on Monday, we made a quick stop in Asheville to pack up our things for the next leg of our journey. We drove six hours to Nate's cousin Chris' house near Washington D.C. and headed to bed early to prepare for our big tourist day. 

Tuesday we toured D.C. as fast as we possible could! We biked 9 miles from Chris's house, through Arlington and into downtown, with a quick stop at Trader Joe's for breakfast. We quickly rode by the Marine Coorps Memorial before locking our bikes up and walking around Arlington cemetery. Even though we were only there for about twenty minutes, the cemetery was Nate's favorite part of our day.  Next, we did a whirlwind bike tour of the Lincoln Memorial, Vietnam Veterans Memorial, Korean War Memorial, MLK Memorial, FDR Memorial, Thomas Jefferson Memorial, Washington Monument, the White House, the Supreme Court and the Department of the Treasury. We're not really "tour" people so being on bikes was a good way to drive by all of the popular places. After lunch, we walked through the Library of Congress (my personal favorite) and the Air and Space Museum. Next, it was a very long nine mile ride home! 

Neither of us did a very good job of anticipating the large amount of riding, locking up our bikes, and walking we would have to do, but overall we were glad we got to see so many historical places in one day! I was also glad we went right after July 4th. We got through the entire day with only a few arguments about where to find food. :) We get pretty grumpy when we're hungry. Next time we'd like to spend more time at the Smithsonian museums, the Library of Congress, and Arlington National Cemetery. We also didn't get to go to the National Archives Museum, the National Botanical Gardens or the National Zoo. Next time I guess! 

On Wednesday, we drove through Maryland, Delaware, New Jersey and Pennsylvania to have lunch with Nate's great aunt, Lynn. She fixed us the sweetest lunch (and picnic dinner) and we had the best time visiting and catching up. We also got to meet her daughter-in-law and cute grandkids! After meeting Lynn, I've now met all of the living Koerber siblings!

Also, side note, it's true! It really is illegal to pump your own gas in New Jersey! 

Late Thursday night we arrived at Nate's mom's parents' house in Fort Ann, NY. While here, Nate's been in early-morning-fishing, four-wheel-driving, lawn-mowing, food-eating paradise!

Saturday morning, we packed up and 4-wheeled into the Mitchell camp, four miles into the Adirondacks. Camp is this beautiful little cabin right next to stream where Nate and his uncle, Andy, fished to their hearts' delight. The cabin is outfitted with generated electricity, running water, five beds, and more. We grilled, fished, hiked, read, relaxed, and made smores, and it was SO fun! We spent the night and drove back on Sunday night. 

For those who care, I just finished book number four. Only twenty-six to go! 

Summer Roadtrip // Week 5

The week started out with a quick visit to Hendersonville where Nate's aunt lives. Kyli and her family of six, own two dogs, a pet pig, chickens, a bird, two cats and a new kitten. You can imagine how fun it is to visit their house! We went on a walk around the property, pushed tricycles up the driveway, went to dinner at Blue Sky cafe, went out for frozen yogurt and had some much needed cousin time! I had never met the Demirjian family and it was so fun to get to know them! 

Nate's dad's parents, Richard and Audrey, live right in the heart of downtown Asheville. They normally rent out a small apartment attached to their house to short term guests, but they let Nate and I stay there during our visit!

Our first morning there, Tuesday, I woke up a couple of hours earlier than Nate. I think I need to do that more often because it was so peaceful to tiptoe around, make tea, and then read for an hour or two with the beautiful Asheville rain pattering outside. Nate laughs at me when I rave about how much I love Asheville, but I truly feel so at home there. Around ten, I crept into the bedroom to wake up my very frustrated and confused husband who could not even fathom why in the world I would want to be out of bed. We had a wrestling match, then cuddled the morning away. I know the cheesy romantic stuff can get really annnoying, but I've absolutely loved having so much time with Nate this summer. I've loved seeing and watching his interactions with my family, his family, our friends, and strangers. I've loved seeing him get comfortable and open up, and then watch him jump out of his comfort zone with a determination characteristic of the Andrew family. After wrestling Nate out of bed (yes, I won), I rode my bike down to City Bakery Cafe for some much needed alone time. Journalling. Music. Blogging. It was a great and relaxing afternoon while Nate spent the day cleaning the inside of our car and changing the oil. :) 

The next day, Nate and I rode our bikes about three miles to The Grove Park Inn. My grandfather used to work at the hotel, and Audrey and Richard gave us tickets to see the place for ourselves! We spent the whole day soaking in the pools, reading, relaxing in the steam rooms and saunas, and really loving the contrast pools - with only one quick break to bike home and juice the entire contents of the Koerber's refrigerator. The whole spa was underground with really amazing rock work surrounding all of the pools. One of the prettiest spas I've ever been to! That night, we ended the day with dinner at Rosetta's and hard cider at Urban Orchard. 

On Thursday, the rain foiled our initial hiking plans so we set out to walk downtown instead. We toured the French Broad Chocolate company, drank chai tea, bought (more) postcards, ate Asian noodles for lunch, and went to Mass General. Next, we took a quick break at the house before driving up the Blue Ridge Parkway to hike Kraggy's Gardens. The clouds rolled over the mountain just as we reached the peak! We finished off the day with a walk at the Biltmore where we picked fresh blackberries and Nate carved a bamboo spear. 

On Friday, we hosted a family get together and all the Koerbers came to welcome me into the family. I've never seen better potluck food in my life! This was the week of our summer road trip when we made the jump from my family to Nate's family and it's been so fun to see where the man I fell in love with came from. The Koerbers obviously gave Nate his love for mountain biking and the outdoors,  a genuine care for the earth and the people in it, a love for late nights and ethnic foods, the desire to care for his body, a curiosity about other cultures, and a boundless adventure seeking energy. The family resemblance is uncanny and I'm eternally grateful to Audrey and Richard (and the rest of the Kuerbers) for their part in shaping my wicked awesome husband.

Also, who needs to take pictures when you have grandparents to take lots and lots for you? :)

Saturday morning we cleaned the apartment, packed way too much food and got an early start for Fontana lake. Despite the rain, we stopped at the Bryson city fourth of July festival to eat some boiled peanuts and kettle corn in honor of being Americans. At the lake, we loaded up the pontoon boat and drove across the water to the Koerber's lake house (which is literally a house on the lake). I had been to the lake before, but I had never spent the night. For two days, we watched fireworks, grilled fish, kyaked, swam, read, watched movies, did pilates, and slept. We had a super fun holiday weekend - me relaxing, and Nate building a new deck for the house. 

Other random thoughts of the week: 

  • My summer goal was to read thirty books this summer. Sadly, I've only finished three, but I'm in the middle of five others. I'm planning on writing a quick review of my summer reading at end of our road trip because I was inspired by {this} article by my friend, Olivia. Any suggestions? I have a long way to go to get to thirty! 
  •  I called Pistachio (our Subaru) "Stacy" this week and Nate was having none of that girly nonsense. Therefore, Pistachio now has the gangster name of "P-Stach."
  • Earlier in this blogging series I mentioned that Nate and I started running together. Those of you who know Nate, know that this is nothing short of remarkable considering Nate absolutely hates to run. Well, we've both kept up running, but we decided this week that we both have considerably different running styles, so we're now only occasional running partners. :)
  • The south has LIGHTING BUGS and they're pretty much the coolest thing ever. I always kind of forget those things actually exist. I've added catching lightning bugs in a mason jar to my summer bucket list so I'll keep you posted.
  • During our week in Arkansas, I remarked how incredibly green everything was. Well, here we are two weeks later and I think I'm getting really tired of the color green. Don't get me wrong! I can totally understand why people would consider the west a "dull shade of brown," but all of the green here is extremely overwhelming. Every single road around here is surrounded by towering trees that block the view, loom over the road, and give everything a muted green tone. Imagine being chased by a zombie and having to run through a North Carolina forest; there would be green vines, green swamps, green trees, green bushes and green snakes all impeding your chosen route. It's awful! Just yesterday, I was telling Nate that I couldn't wait to drive through Kansas where you can see farther than ten feet. Ha! 


Summer Roadtrip // Week 4

This week I think we’ve finally settled into a steady travel rhythm. Nate has loading and unloading our car down to a science. I download new music whenever we have wifi and head up planning when we go where. Nate drives and I navigate, mostly because I suck at driving stick shift (this works really well until I try to do my navigating job at the same time as my itinerary planning job and get distracted). We’re exercising more regularly and learning to take our individual alone time. The newness has worn off and we’ve settled into a slower and more relaxed summer pace. I’m loving it!

Forewarning: We did a lot of jumping, or driving, around this week so this post may be a little long.

On Monday (the 22nd), we got a late start out of Little Rock, heading to Memphis. It’s a quick drive, but we weren’t in a hurry to drive into another huge city. I was desperately craving a Taco Bell burrito so we stopped there on our way to the Memphis Pyramid, the new Bass Pro headquarters. Oh. My. Gosh. I’ve been in a lot of Bass Pros (thank you, Nate), but this was SO cool. When you walk into the Pyramid, which is literally like straight out of Egypt, it looks like a swampy amusement park. It’s like a cross between the Pirates of the Carribean exhibit at Disney Land, and Dollywood. There are fifty foot trees with moss hanging down throughout the whole place with a real size river filled with fish circling a giant 25 floor freestanding elevator. We walked around, giving special attention to the guns section, and then rode the tallest freestanding elevator in the world to the top. Even though it cost money to ride, the sunset view at the top was worth it.

That night we stayed with my mom’s cousin, Chris, and his wife, Lauren, who were perfect hosts! It was fun to catch up with them, as well as my cousin, Hayden the next morning. 

On Tuesday, we drove to Nashville where a good friend’s mom, Marjo Benten, was waiting with a packed picnic for us to take to the Grand Ole Opry. The picnic was so thoughtful, complete with dessert, iced tea, plates and silverwear, and some seriously delicious salads. The picnic was so amazing that it, as well as its maker, deserved an honorary blog mention.

My Aunt Becky’s wedding gift was front row tickets to The Grand Ole Opry, the “theater that made country music famous.” Since we’re such big country music fans, it was such a thoughtful and fun gift! Before the show, we walked around the Opry hotel which is filled with (another) fish filled indoor river and beautiful plants. After waiting in line in some serious Nashville heat, we saw Jeanne Sweeny, the Swon Brothers, Del Mccury, Corey Smith, Hunter Hayes and Rascal Flatts. It was such a surreal experience to see performers on such a historic stage. After the concert, we went on a short walk around downtown Nashville to admire all of the pretty lights and country music. We took lots and lots of pictures at Becky’s request!

Wednesday, Marjo made us breakfast before we headed off to meet our friend’s Hannah and Eva for coffee. The Frothy Monkey is this cute little café and coffee shop in downtown Franklin, TN. The Holbrook girls were so sweet to make time in their schedule to come meet up! Our time with them was so refreshing. Not only did the familiar faces brighten our day, the authenticity and joy that these girls exude is contagious. If you haven’t heard these girls’ music, please look up SHEL on Spotify or Itunes

Also, for a quick throwback moment, you can view this silly video my cousins and I made in 2011 to one of their songs. 

Wednesday night and Thursday night were absolutely unreal because we got to spend them with one of the sweetest couples I’ve ever met. My friend, Jake, and I met at Kivu two summers ago and went on lots of awesome 24 hour adventures together (the grand canyon, the sand dunes, and telluride). I was so excited to finally get to meet his fiancé, Maggie. On Wednesday, we met up for dinner at The Terminal in downtown Chattanooga. That night Maggie offered to host us at her home in Ootlewah, even though we had just met. The next day, after camping Wednesday night, we took her up on her offer, and got to meet her awesome family and two dogs. They let us use their jetskis to drive to a restraunt on the lake for dinner, and made us an amazing breakfast the next morning. We had so much fun hearing all about their engagement, wedding plans, and current adventures.

Back to the whole camping experience: On Wednesday, we camped in Prentice Cooper State Forrest. Although it took us a little bit to fall asleep in the hot humidity, it was nice to use all of the camping gear we lugged all the way across the country. The campground was also near a shooting range, which doubled as a great early morning alarm and a fun Thursday morning activity. 

On Friday, we drove to Brassleton, a suburb of Atlanta, GA, where we stayed with one of my really good family friends and her family for the weekend. Hannah, Amy and Sam were the greatest hosts and cooked us delicious meals, let us sleep in, and gave us a quick tour of Atlanta. We went out for beers, toured the High Museum of Art, ate crepes in MidTown, visited the new Ponce City Market, and lounged by the pool for an entire afternoon. I read “How To Be Perisian Wherever You Are” and Nate got sunburnt as a potato chip (his words, not mine). It was so good to catch up with Hannah and her family and I can’t wait until they finally make the trip to Colorado to visit. 

While in Atlanta, we also saw our good friend Seabass who we met at Kivu this past summer. It’s been way too long since we got to see him last. He’s always an absolute pleasure to be around and I’m already counting down the days until the next time we meet up.

This Monday (the 29th), we drove north into North Carolina and for the next ten days we will be in one of my favorite places in the world, Ashville. We’re so excited to hang out with extended family and go on a whirlwind tour of the Blue Ridge Mountains that only the Kuerbers can give! Not to mention, we’re staying in the cutest little apartment in the trees!

Our entire trip, we’ve had the most gracious hosts, but this week we have been blown away! Monday we stayed with cousins that we hadn’t seen in four years. Tuesday we stayed with a friend’s mom who we’ve only met once. Thursday, we stayed with a friend’s fiancé, who we had never met before, and her family. And during the weekend we stayed with my long distance pen-pal and her family. The generosity and kindness has been UNREAL and we can’t express how thankful we are to have people like you guys in our lives!

Side note: Everywhere we go people ask us to recite where we’ve been and where we’re going. We’ve gotten pretty proficient at it, though I still think I need to write a poem and rap it for people. It’s funny to see everyone’s faces when we list locations in the middle of Texas, Arkansas, Tennessee and Georgia. Since we’re from Colorado and like outdoor adventures, I think people expect us to be travelling only to the most glorious locations. What they don’t realize is that we truly are on this trip to visit our family and friends. This trip is awesome and we’ve gotten to see a lot of cool parts of the country, but wherever our people are, that’s where we’ll go. If that means swallowing our mountain-loving spirits and driving into the city during rush hour then that’s what we’ll do. 

Summer Roadtrip // Week 3

I'm so so sorry for the late post, but hey, it happens. Instead of writing the post along the way, I'm now three days late, cramming to write in a coffee shop without wifi. Ha! But here you go... If I could sum up our second week in Arkansas it would be this: GREEN. 

On Monday, we spent most of the day relaxing and we were treated to Popeyes. On Tuesday, Babbie hosted a family picnic for the aunts, uncles and cousins in the area. We ate BBQ to our hearts' delight and caught up with family I haven't seen in years. They played a round of the newly wed game where they asked me (and Nate) questions they didn't think we could answer. We got them all (though I had a little trouble remembering Nate's mom's maiden name - Mitchell by the way). I also included a picture of the puzzle we worked last week.  

Wednesday, Babbie, Nate and I took a little road trip that began with a trip to the shooting ranch and ended with a quick afternoon sailing in Russellville. My cousin Samuel, just bought his own sailboat and we were some of the first people to get to go out on the lake! I spent most of the time laying on a paddle board being pulled by the boat.

We then drove on to Eureka Springs, a little Arkansas town known as "little Switzerland." The town is comprised of several large switchbacks filled with natural springs, hundreds of rock walls and cute store fronts. It's probably one of the coolest places I've ever been. We got a book from a free library, saw two baby deer nestled between houses, bought some Rocky Mountain Chocolate (ironic, I know), drove by the famous Crecent Hotel, ate amazing fajitas and tacos at Casa Colita, and stayed at the Quality Inn (thanks to a discount from Matt and Madison Hurt). On Thursday, we went to Thorncrown chapel and convinced my grandmother to climb the eight story Razorback Observation Deck. 

That same day, we drove on to Fayetteville (another part of Arkansas I had never been to) through some extremely beautiful rainy country side. In Fayetteville we stayed with my mom's Aunt and Uncle who gave us a quick tour around town, stuffed us to the brim with Tomato pie (it's as amazing as it sounds) and Blackberry Cobbler, and let us visit with their bird dogs. We also visited some friends from Camp Kivu (Katie and Hannah), though I didn't get any pictures (sad day). On Friday, we toured Crystal Bridges, the most amazing art museum I've ever been to, and the very first Walmart, a tiny little 5 and dime store located on the Bentonville square. 

Saturday, back in Conway, we went on bike ride, ate turkey pitas, and visited with my Uncle Lance who we're going to visit in St. Louis later in the trip. We then drove back to Little Rock (I know, we drive a lot) to stay with my Aunt Becky who we only got to see a little at the beginning of our time in Arkansas. She treated us to fresh smoothies, a mani/pedi date, Brazillian food for lunch, steam showers, and golf cart rides (none of which I got pictures of sadly). We woke up to Jack Johnson, burning candles and my cousin Camp begging us to go to Starbucks. Nate and Camp spent most of the two days together driving the golf cart around, playing catch, and playing Nate's very first 9 holes of golf (another thing I'm sad I didn't get pictures of - where are grandparents when you need them)!

Well those are my ramblings for last week. This week, we've already visited Memphis, Nashville, Chattanooga and are driving on to Atlanta tomorrow. It's definitely already been a week of wandering. Everyone keeps asking if we're tired of traveling, tired of people or tired of each other! Actually, we're still having a great time. Nate says that reminding himself that this trip is once in a lifetime really helps, but I just think we mentally prepared really well. We see different people and places nearly every day and that helps keep us motivated and fresh to drive to yet another town every morning. 

Summer Roadtrip // Week 2

I know it sounds cliche, but I really can't believe that we're already done with week 2 of our road trip! All of the texted plans, calendar re-arranging and local attraction googling is finally being put to use and we're having a blast. To be completely honest, I was the absolute worst at taking pictures this week, but I'll share what I did get and hopefully, next week I'll be better. 

Monday, Nate and I left Texas and drove the short five hours to Little Rock, Arkansas, where most of my mom's family is from. My mom's dad, his wife Bridgett, and their new puppy, Yaz, hosted us for four days. On Tuesday, they served as our tour guides as we ate Thai food at the River Market, stumbled upon the Little Rock Nature Center, and toured the Clinton Presidential Library. We also went to Bass Pro Shop (Nate's favorite next to Cabela's), visited Bridgett's sweet mom, and had a movie night on the back porch! My favorite memory of the trip so far was when the AC went out and we decided to camp out on the porch. It was nice and cool and as you can see, their porch is picture perfect! 

Wednesday, we toured Heifer International, a non-profit that partners with families in poverty, giving them the tools they need to succeed in sustainable farming and livestock practices. The headquarters are located in this gorgeous sustainable building surrounded by ponds filled with fish, roofs that catch rain water and lots of pretty landscaping. Papa set us up with a friend who gave us a private tour around the whole place, complete with a lunch at a fresh cafe where I ate the best kale salad I've ever had. Later that night, we ate at the country club where we met lots of friends and ate at a delicious pasta bar. So much good food! 

Nate and I are both getting fat on all of the good food everyone is buying and feeding us. We've started trying to run, hike and bike as much as we can. Hopefully, we won't come home heavier than when we left! I'm not sure our little weighted down car can handle the extra pounds! Yes, Nate really has started running. I can't even believe it! While at Papa and Bridgett's, we went on a quick bike ride, several runs, and even talked Papa into hiking up Pinnacle mountain, a small mountain just outside of Little Rock.  We hiked up the east side, down the west side and around the base trail back to the parking lot. It was mid day so it was a tad hot, but the three mile round trip was worth braving the heat! 

While in Little Rock, we also spent time with my mom's sister and my cousins (the cousins we went to Cabo with for Spring Break). Of course, we didn't get to spend as much time with them as we would have liked, but we'll be back at their house later next week to get our fill of the Norris family. My Aunt Becky hosted us for dinner one night and we got to catch up with our cousins (everyone is a cousin or aunt here), the Harris'. They're the ones with the cute girls you see below! Cynthia also works at Heifer and met us for the tour (mentioned earlier :)). 

On Thursday afternoon, after our hike up Pinnacle, we reorganized the car and drove to Conway to stay with my mom's mom, who we call Babbie. While here, she's shown us around the entirety of Conway and told us all about our family lineage. I've learned on this trip that no matter how many times you tell people that you've come to see them, not see every local landmark, they'll still want to show you around the place they call home! We've seen industrial neighborhoods, local high schools, friends' sisters' childhood best friends' homes, progressive city roundabouts,  the best cheeseburger joints, downtown hotels that used to be banks, new turning lanes on small town backroads, Aunt Lindsay's flower gardens, trails with the highest crime rates in the state, friends' storefronts, and hospitals where cousins were born. The beautiful thing about whirlwind tours of each person's hometown is learning about seemingly insignificant details that make up the people and places we're visiting. There's so much family heritage here that we just don't get in Durango and we're learning that no story is insignificant when it's meaningful to the people we love.

In our first four days here, Babbie and her husband Bill have checked off working a 1000 piece puzzle (with classic books all over it), eating blueberries by the handful, eating fish from an authentic fish fry, shopping to our heart's delight, spray painting an entire set of back porch furniture, and binge watching our favorite tv show (Royal Pains), from our summer bucket list! We again, drug another semi-willing grandparent up an Arkansas "mountain" and spent Sunday hiking at Petit Jean, a local park with beautiful views and a splendid waterfall. Our time here has been so restful! Although we've slept in until nine or ten every morning, our days have been full of beautiful summer fun. 

After our hike, we decided it was a good time to make homemade crackers, hummus, blackberry appetizers and 10 DOZEN chocolate chip cookies! We spent all of Sunday evening chopping, blending and baking. We were SO full, but we're glad we got to bake with our master chef grandmother. 

On a completely different note, Conway, Arkansas will forever be known as the place where Nate learned the beauty of athletic shorts. Aparently, in his mind, shorts have been deemed irrelevant in the dry Colorado summers. I've never seen him wear shorts even on our hottest Colorado adventures. However, as soon as we had our first taste of the humid Texas heat, he was begging for a trip to TJMaxx. When we arrived in Arkansas, he compared the weather to that of a mosquito filled sauna and declared he was so hot he was about to put on my nike shorts! Babbie took us to the local mall where we proceeded to buy Nate three new pairs of shorts which he hasn't taken off since. The days following that shopping trip, Nate could be seen prancing around celebrating the airy goodness that is wearing shorts in southern heat. 

This has already been such a good summer of front porch sitting, long evening runs, fresh blueberries, family meals, sightseeing and adventure. Most of all, it's been a summer of people. I can't help but think that relationships and adventure are truly the "best things" that God has planned for our lives, and I feel so blessed that Nate and I have the chance to focus solely on those two things for the next couple months.