Wild Wild West: Our Utah Ski Adventure

(To note: our trip took place in late January, only a month before the Coronavirus shut down mountains, towns, many businesses and drastically changed our lives….so feel extremely lucky to have had this time!)

Living out west, deciding to head where the mountains were in reach, has been one of the best decisions we have ever made.  The joy that we both get, during all seasons, really can’t be matched and wouldn’t be possible had we not decided to take a leap of faith and pick up our life to move to Colorado. In the winter, we find ourselves giddy each time a forecast calls for the fluffy white stuff and for the past two years have bought the Ikon pass, which allows us to adventure to other mountain towns all over the state and country to explore. This year, our beloved ski crew decided to head to the mountains of Utah, where several mountains we had never experienced beckoned. We found a fabulous home at the base of Brighton ski resort to rent for the first half of our trip, where 13 of our closest friends would snuggle in to mountain living for the weekend. Mike and I had decided to extend our stay for 11 days – as I would be able to work from wherever and our Investment property was finished. During the middle of the week, I had planned to stay with a long-time friend who lived in Park City, and then a second fleet of friends would head out for another long weekend. Our mountain adventure would be epic!

Mike and I left Denver on a Thursday, early afternoon to head to Brighton, where we’d meet 13 of our closest friends. Our buddy Zach, was heading out from the east coast to ski with our crew, so we scooped him up from the airport, stayed in Salt city for the night (experiencing some of the Utah bar scene at Squatters Pub). The next morning, we had continental breakfast and fresh POW for breakfast at Alta. This mountain, with it’s jagged peaks, steep chutes, plush trees with deep, deep powder between, could not have promised more. There’s really something to experiencing a brand new mountain, one you’ve never set skis on, that amplifies your excitement, gets your adrenaline flowing. Especially with fresh snow to float around on. Our #powningtown group explored the steep, steep terrain, zigged through the trees and lapped the zero line resort all afternoon, smiles permanently fixed on our faces!

We found our way to Brighton, where our house (The Great Western) sat at the base of the mountain, for a ski in ski out treat. It wasn’t quite time to check in yet, so we headed to Molly Green’s, the Apres A-Frame mountain bar. Complete with a moose-head and waitresses with dreads, we got some beers and cheers’ed to an amazing first day. At 4pm on the dot we went over to the house to check out the digs. Literally a 30 second drive over to the house, the ski in ski out feature was super clutch! Within 30 minutes of us arriving, the rest of our Colorado crew started showing up, piling their ski gear, food and lots and lots of beer into our mountain chalet. The weekend had officially started!

That night, we feasted on a soyrizo veggie bake, got silly over a game of fishbowl & discussed which slopes we’d slay in the morning. Solitude won out and we all agreed to get up and at em’ around 8 to hit it. I had breakfast duty, so as soon as I awoke, threw in my pre-made egg bake and we hit it. The crew walked over to the Millie D lift where we were able to ski all the way from Brighton over to Solitude, where the blue bird skies and great snow kept us smiling all day. Mid-afternoon, we all met up at the lodge where snacks and beers were drank. There were 13 of us, so it was pretty impressive that for the majority of the day, we all stayed and skied together. The terrain was extremely impressive, something for everyone, and the terrain was as aggressive as you wanted it, with shoots, bumps and steeps. An awesome day had by all, with amazing weather. By early afternoon, Mike, Zach and I decided to call it and head back for some apres & hot tub goodness.

The next day we awoke early and got out in the Wasatch mountains for some back country goodness with a good friend from back east. He had lived in Utah for the past 15 years and knew the area well, plus had been a guide. Utah had very different canyons with parking lots for all the back country fanatics. We parked, booted up, and crossed the street to Mill D North Fork trail. When we got to a fork in the path, we chose to go the route less traveled and wow, it was a slick boot packed trail, that gave us a run for our money with our AT gear. Finally, we found the trail that shot up the mountain, straight up it seemed like, to extraordinary views.  The day was perfect, amazing blue-bird skies, a steep approach (about 2,000 feet of vert) and an awesome crew. In total, we got 5.35 miles in and the pow was fluffy and light. After heading back to the car, we headed to The Silver Fork Lodge and Restaurant, where beers were drank and the biggest plate of nachos were eaten.

That evening we were pretty beat, so headed to the house to hot tub, headed to the Brighton Store to check out the goods, then drank a few before hitting the hay early. The next morning, we awoke to snow, so headed into Brighton where we had fresh trees all day! I had never been to Brighton and the mountain didn’t disappoint. That night we went back to the Silverfork Lodge for this first crew’s last meal together before most headed out. It was a beautiful evening, with great friends and good food!

The next day, I had to work, so we headed to Park City where we spent the next few days with a buddy of mine who I’d been friends with since middle school. That night he took us on a night skin up Deer Valley Resort, where he told us casually ‘to duck if we saw a cat’. Yeah, it was super cool! We skinned up, trying to stay close to him (he’s fast AF!) and found ourselves at a fort tucked into a tree halfway up a run. A buddy of Patterson had built it years ago, spent every Sunday there, and it was a cherished place. Patterson fired up the small stove and we cheersed to one of the coolest dinners I’ve ever had! The night got better when after dinner we skied down into a posh lodge in Deer Valley and listened to a free concert with Young the Giant. Epic night in Park City!

The next two days were uneventful for me, as I worked, while Mike skied Deer Valley – although we did have a great dinner with Patterson’s little girl. We said our goodbyes and thank yous for letting us crash and headed into Salt Lake to finish out the weekend with the second crew! We rented a house in Salt Lake, about 40 minutes from the slopes, and it was super cute with a hot tub. And the girls who drove out had brought Winnie!!

Next few days were bluebird, full of great fun (no fresh snow) and lots of laughs. I even got to see my cousin and his kids for dinner one last time.

Looking back, now in May 2020, with the ski season cut short, this trip has new meaning to me and I appreciate the time I spent in the beautiful mountains, with the best ski crew ever. Cheers to skiing in 2021!

Happy Homes: 100+ Days into Our 6th Investment Property

It’s been 100 plus days since we purchased our 6th investment property, Dudley Court, in Arvada Colorado and we are very close to putting this beautiful home on the market. As a small business owner of a real estate investment company (Happy Homes), it’s easy to get caught up in the grind of the project, not reflect on the progress, as you’re dealing with just getting it done. Hence not writing an update in a few weeks (I wrote a post one week in, then three weeks into the project, then 40 days working on Dudley Court…..and here we are!)

In the past few weeks, as the progress has moved swiftly, I’ve thought about the rolls Mike and I play in our company. I’m the ‘front office’ of the business, dealing with the costs, budget, receipts, bills in as organized fashion as possible. It’s seemingly easier than Mike’s gig, but can be overwhelming if I don’t keep up with it. Mike on the other had deals with the physical act of building (he typically does all the framing and support or structural things needed) putting in the windows, doors, trim, custom cabinetry or craftsmanship, on top of having to manage all of the logistics presented when you’re dealing with sub-contractors. I try to look at what we both bring to the table objectively, not become to attached to how much I do or don’t do, vs. what he brings to the table, as we are both vitally important to making this work. That being said, realistically it can be hard not to feel overwhelmed by your own bubble of responsibilities. Here’s how I think both Mike and I can think….

Me: “I not only have to work a 40+ a week, high stress job, but do most of the grocery shopping, cleaning, all of the cooking, dishes, folding of the laundry and walking the dogs, plus manage our household bills and inventory (aka do we have toothpaste)….then use my after work hours to help at the investment property with demo, mixing cement, cleaning the job site, tile and floor shopping, helping to carry heavy material onto the job, and managing all of Happy Homes finances.”

Mike: “I’m on my feet 8+ hours a day, problem solving the entire project, including not only how to build the best home for someone, but having to solve and decide on things my subs are bringing to me on an hourly basis. I don’t have any helpers we employee, so all skilled carpentry, framing, structural issues are mine to solve and execute. On top of that, I manage the problems that come with sub-contractors moving their timelines, which shift multiple elements when you’re on projects the size of ours, in turn pushing the on market date. Then come home and tend to all of our gardens, whether that’s planting or feeding the food we grow the nutrients needed, on top of mowing the grass and taking care of the yard.”

Sheesh, we are both BOSSES! And after a few shouting matches about stresses both of us were feeling, I had to map it out in my head. In stopping to truly consider what each of us are bringing to the table it allows for appreciation and conversation. Again, when you’re SO in the thick of the items on your to-do, it’s really hard to have perspective.

So, in the past several weeks, we’ve accomplished a lot…..

Old brick patio had to be taken out

We tore up the backyard to replace the sewer main going into the house, then had our amazing landscaper sod & put in sprinklers. He even tore up the cracked cement walkway.

Sewer main replaced, now time for sod
New Brick walkway & sod

Our kitchen layout and cabinets got selected, then we went to select our quartz counter tops. The island counter would be used on the master bathroom sink counter tops as well – super sharp.

The windows got ordered and were supposed to be delivered, but our Breckenridge vacation took place, so we had the company we use hold them while we enjoyed a week up in the mountains with Mike’s family.

When we got back from the mountains, Mike got to work installing them, all 17 of them, and trimming the interior windows out. Up and down the ladder, lots of scraped knuckles and long days. I even helped put in the huge front window, as it was an expansive three-tiered window. It was HEAVY!

We have walls!

After the windows went in, drywall went up, making the space look like an actual house!

Drywall in the garden level!

We selected tile for all of the bathroom floors and shower surrounds. Choosing different floors for each bathroom, but going with a simple and clean subway tile for all of the showers, each space would be unique but have a common element.

Weekend Warriors

Before we headed out for vacation, we needed to lay the hardibacker for the tile that would happen in the bathrooms, so a weekend was spent laying floor and cleaning out buckets.

Laying HardiBacker

While we were in Maine, the tile got installed, so when we got back we didn’t feel as bad for leaving in the middle of a project, as progress on the house was still happening.

Garden Level Floor!

The floor in the garden level also went in, a really beautiful water resistant style that makes the room feel warm, yet modern.

Front door on point

Mike got to work hanging doors, trimming out base boards and building the cabinet unit down in the garden level.

Hanging the doors

There is a brick wall that used to have an old wood-burning stove, which we pulled out of there. Mike used a custom wood top he had from another project to outfit the cabinets and it turned out gorgeous – and functional!

Cabinet Craftsmanship

Landscaping continues, with sprinkler systems and full on sod – the yard is beautiful! The mulch around the edge, along with a new brick patio, along with a new stone border in the front of the house gives it massive curb appeal. Our landscaper isn’t finished yet, but hopefully within the next few days.

The Beautiful Backyard

Our kitchen counters went in last week and the kitchen is looking amazing! We selected a darker quartz for the counter tops and a light marble looking piece for the island and master bathroom vanity. I love it and hopefully someone else will as well!

Kitchen counter tops in!

Mike headed to Wisconsin at the end of last week (horrible timing, but the trip was already booked!) but before he went, he oversaw the exterior paint (of which I had to go get more of while he was away!) and put in a really cool barn door slider in the guest room.

Barn Door Slider
Exterior paint on the brick

The house looks amazing and will be ready to list in the next week! It’s been a ride so far, with a ton of lessons learned both as a business owner, a hustler, and the wife of a contractor. Will definitely be writing a post about the lessons learned for future flips.

Happy House Flipping!

Adventures in Maine: The way life should be, continued

Our Maine adventure continues…

Day 5 on Lower Goose Island 

Today, Luke was on his way to spend the Labor Day weekend with us – Yay, more of the Lawrence crew! Since he lives in Boston, he left super early and made great time.

While Robin and Scott headed out to grab him from the main land, Mike and I kayaked around Lower Goose, heading counter-clockwise, towards the Goslings. The tide was going out, and the back side of the island had a number of boats docked, supposedly a party spot. We pulled up to a small beach to check the shore out, but it was a protected area for birds, so we headed out, passing the Dugas’s, our neighbors to the east.

We would take a property path hike to his compound later that afternoon and what he had created was nothing short of incredible. Paths that were covered in wood chips, there were no piles of fallen trees, as they had been put in the wood chipper. His home had solar power, built only several years ago, not several decades. Now, don’t get me wrong, I love our rustic cabins. But when we strolled past his cabins and peaked in the window at the gorgeous wood, bright and cheery kitchen with what looked like butcher block counters, it was hard not to get cabin envy.

The afternoon was spent continuing camp closing, taking down and scrubbing our gutters, storing pots and pans up in the crawl space in the kitchen, and cleaning. We were going to get lobsters and steamers that evening, so most of the crew headed out on the boat to grab lobsters.

Robin stayed back to enjoy the quiet, something that was truly unique to our precious island. We zipped around to the backside of the island, to a very bare bones, but awesome lobster joint where we got lots of good lobster and some steamers.

The guys decided to tackle the brush situation that was trickling down the side of the hill onto the beach. As trees and branches fall, or chopped down due to rot, they’re just thrown onto the pile, awaiting a good old fashion bon fire. Which is exactly what happened!

Beers were cracked and the flames flew! My Uncle Scott ended up getting attacked by a bee hive that the guys had been trying to pull into the fire, and he fell down the hill, thankfully not getting injured.

That evening we feasted inside, as the winds had changed suddenly, so it was a bit gusty and had even cooled off quite a bit. After the feast we shot some of the firecracker mortars my dad had left. A great day, filled with everything glorious Maine has to offer!

Day 6 on Lower Goose Island

The next day we woke, had a big pancake breakfast with fresh blueberry jelly my cousin had made. Fuel for the day, which was filled with more closing fun. That afternoon, we headed to Dolphin’s Marina to have a delicious lunch, gorgeous cocktails and a lovely day at sea.

Luke had to head back to Boston afterwards, so they dropped us off and we scooted around the kayak before putting it up for the winter. It was a beautiful afternoon, the grey coast of Maine whooshing by with each paddle. After our spin, we carried the kayak up and put it in the basement for the winter. Robin and Scott came back, so we hung on the porch, as the weather had turned a bit drizzly. That evening, since we had had such a late and big lunch, we munched on cheese, veggies and drank good wine. It was our last evening on the porch, so we savored it!

Day 7 on Lower Goose Island  

The sun rose on our last day in Maine and I couldn’t help but feel a bit sad, although we had had a wonderful time on the island. We spent the last day packing, sweeping our cabin, taking our shutters down, and closing up more of the main cabin. Even though the day was grey, it still held such beauty. Maine has been ingrained in my memory since I was young, and every year I get to spend time on the island, it become a more a part of me. Knowing we had to leave and I’d not set foot on the island’s soil for a full year had me a bit sad, but we had had an amazing trip, full of adventure, history (my Uncle Ted had written a biography that I read during the rainy afternoon), work, and beauty. As the Goosecraft, the boat named after my poppa, carried us back to the mainland, I waved goodbye to camp Lawrence and couldn’t wait to get back next year.