Love. This. Quote.

Play quote by Dr. Stuart Brown

With a new school year ahead of you, how will you incorporate play (or playfulness) in your classroom - both in a preK-12 and/or your college classroom?

According to Dr. Stuart Brown, an expert on play, play is essential in learning for all ages and stages. Essential!  Funny how most USAmericans think of play as something completely separate from learning or completely separate from working.  What if play co-existed with either of those - learning or working?  Would you believe me if I told you the research says your learners and workers would be more productive?

More productive?  Yep.  We need play.

Now, go and add some playfulness into your students' (or employees') day.   Leave a comment after you do and let me know its impact.

All the best,

Jen - master of play :)

Sometimes You Have to Go Big

Bald Mountain, Breckenridge, Colorado

Recently, Lil O, Mr. UpCyclist, and Jedi hiked a 13er - a mountain over 13,000 feet.  The mountain they hiked, called Bald Mountain, is one our family is very familiar with as we stare at it daily from our balcony in Breckenridge, Colorado.  See?  I think it is so pretty and grand.

Bald Mountain, Breckenridge, Colorado

I'm guessing the summit is obvious to you, but in case you think the ridge line is an optical illusion, here is the highest peak (the summit) circled.  Actually, I just wanted another reason to get fancy with my Studio app on my iPhone.  Do you love that app like I do?

Bald Mountain, Breckenridge, Colorado

Lil O, Mr. UpCyclist and Jedi hiked all the way to the summit.  To date, this is the highest mountain Lil O has summited.

Bald Mountain, Breckenridge, Colorado

Jedi, a pretty seasoned hiker himself, apparently loved all the rocks and chipmunk chasing opportunities.  I love how his coat blends into the environment.  That Mother Nature sure is sophisticated, isn't she?

Bald Mountain, Breckenridge, Colorado

Our family loves cairns - they are those piles of rock that mark trails and summits.  It feels like you are part of this universal communication system when you spot cairns or build them.  I think there is a lot to learn from cairns (I'm feeling another blog post coming on....).

Bald Mountain, Breckenridge, Colorado

This photo of Lil O is one of my favorites.  I love the view and vantage point, but mostly how gingerly her body placement looks while hiking.   Just an aside:  Can you see the Breckenridge Ski Resort in the background?

Bald Mountain, Breckenridge, Colorado

This summer is (or should I say "was" since the summer is ending) the summer of new hikes.  I am way proud of Lil O, Mr. UpCyclist and Jedi's trek up Bald Mountain.

After all, sometimes you have to go big....


PS - My sabbatical is off to a great start.   I will be laptop-free for a bit because of our upcoming road travel, but thankfully, I still like to use paper and pen for writing projects.  It is the happy, old-school in me :)

It's Sabbatical Time

Sabbatical drawing Jen Lara

Time to celebrate and get down to business.  My sabbatical starts today!  As you know, I am a teacher and college professor.  Engaging others in learning is my business.  The book I will begin researching and writing during my sabbatical will be about just that - engaging others.  I won't be actually teaching this semester, just researching and writing.

And writing some more.  And some more.  And then some.

Though I still have about two weeks of travel left this summer (follow my Instagram account to see where I'll be), the drive times will be fantastic for brainstorming chapter themes and mapping out the table of contents.

I certainly will miss teaching this semester, but I'll be back on campus in 2015!

Let's do this.  I'm totally psyched.

All the best,


PS - I am incredibly grateful my college supported my sabbatical request & wild dream.  My dean, director, and department chair have all been over-the-top amazing and my department colleagues are fantastic supporters.  Thank you all!

Why Jedi is a Starbucks Fan

Today's blog post is dedicated to Sue's sweet dog, Chester, who passed away this week after a magical 13 years of life.  This one's for you, sweet Chester!

Puppuccino for Jedi

When Jedi was just a puppy and we were in Breckenridge, our family stopped by Starbucks to get drinks.  Mr. UpCyclist jokingly (or so I thought) asked me to get Jedi a puppuccino.  I ordered our three human drinks, but did not order a puppuccino for Jedi.  I mean, really?

When I came out with the human drinks, Mr. U and Lil O were quite disappointed in me.  What?  You were serious?   So, I marched back in and ordered Jedi a puppuccino - a free cup of whipped cream from Starbucks.

Jedi's been a fan every since and it seems like he's not the only dog who digs a puppuccino (see more photos of other dogs enjoying their puppuccinos here).

Puppuccino for Jedi and Lil O

By the way, I swear Jedi recognizes the Starbucks logo all over the US.

xo to all the amazing dogs out there and remembering Chester,


PS - Breckenridge's Starbucks is rated as one of the top coolest Starbucks in the world by USA Today. See the original article here.  Just another reason to adore Breck.

More PicMonkey Love + Jedi

As you know, PicMonkey and I have a love affair going on for about 2-3 years now.  Since I use their Royale product often, blog about it, and they are a cycling team sponsor, they are kind and gift me a yearly subscription to PicMonkey (the Royale upgrade).  You can use the regular PicMonkey for free, but I like all the fonts and effects that come packaged in the Royale upgrade (which costs a mere $33/year).

On our roadtrip out to Colorado, Mr. UpCyclist took this photo of Jedi at one of our stops.  I love how this photo tells a bit of our roadtrip story.  In it, Jedi is yawning outside of Freddy's in Hayes, Kansas, which was a great, local place to pick up burgers, fries and milkshakes.  Though, I like the photo and the story behind it, I don't like the wet spot, french fry, dog bowl and extra space on the right side of the photo.   All those things "have" to go, in my opinion.  Plus, the photo is a bit dark.  See?

Jedi Yawning Original

So, I cropped the photo, cloned out the wet spot & fry and lightened it up with PicMonkey's awesome effects.  If you don't know how to clone, see my post about cloning here. It really is so easy, plus you feel like a graphic designer superstar when you clone.

Here is one version of the cloned Jedi photo.  I used the Lomo effect for the photo below.  I love how the texture of his hair is emphasized in this photo and the color now pops.  Notice the wet spot and fry are gone from cloning!

PicMonkey and Jedi Yawning Lomo Effect

I also tried the Fancy Focus effect to really concentrate on his face & neck (my favorite body parts of his) and make the photo less color saturated.  See how his legs and the bikes/car are slightly out of focus and blurred? 

PicMonkey and Jedi Yawning Fancy Focus Effect

This next one was created with the Film Stock effect.  It probably is the most natural of the effects I used.  No blurring, no color saturation.....

PicMonkey and Jedi Yawning Film Stock Effect

I wanted to see Jedi in black and white, so I used the Focal Black and White effect.  Notice how you can still see his pink tongue.  Cutie pie with a pink tongue....

PicMonkey and Jedi Yawning Focal Black and White Effect

To achieve a more artsy look, I used the Posterize effect below.  This one reminds me of a Warhol piece.

PicMonkey and Jedi Yawning Posterize Effect

And lastly, I thought a touch of sun would be fun on sweet Jedi, so I used the Sunglow effect.  It looks like he is yawning towards the sun (even though it was super overcast that day).  I wish I would have lessoned the orange tint in this photo, oh well, next time.

PicMonkey and Jedi Yawning Sunglow Effect

From this....

To my favorite one, this....

I heart PicMonkey, all its cool effects and this dog.  Oh, I love this dog.

How do you like to use PicMonkey?