Spring Cleaning


Every year when spring comes around, we gain a cultural urgency to get rid of the old and bring in the new. Thrift store lots fill with spring cleaning piles, flower beds are ripped up and replanted, and winter sweaters are packed away in favor of flowy dresses and silk shorts. "Cleaning out" our stuff in general has become incredibly popular. White walls, limited decor, neutral colors and a "minimalist" lifestyle (whatever that means) have never been more trendy. "Clean eating" blogs have taken over the internet and "detoxing" has become a commonly used word in American households (or at least among women ages 18-40). 

I'm not going got lie, after an amazing spring break in Mexico, I returned to Durango ready to jump aboard the detox train. I committed to cutting refined sugars, excersising daily, taking epsom salt baths, and drinking gallons of cucumber-lemon water. It's been good. The beautiful Colorado weather makes it easy to get outside, my blender is living permanently on my counter, my bathroom smells like lavender, and the inside of my refrigerator looks like a farmer's market produce stand. Having friends and family who are always willing to try a new green tea or go on a bike ride helps too!

But... All of this detoxing has me thinking about how interesting it is that our culture finds it so easy to motivate ourselves to get rid of harmful chemicals and processed packaged food, while we leave the rest of our lives cluttered with toxins.

I have to wonder what it would look like if our culture took a break from focusing on "clean foods" and "an active lifestyle", and instead, even for a moment, focussed on detoxing other areas of our lives. What would happen if we put a hold on our ever-growing consumeristic wish lists and started enjoying what we already have? What would it look like for us to detox from over-productivity - to stop making lists and start reading books? What if we took a break from pride, selfishness and self-critisism, and instead of living with regrets, started living in the hope that HE gives? What would our culture look like if we allowed our spring cleaning and pre-summer detoxes to reach beyond our physical bodies and into our thoughts and actions? 

I mean COME ON! If I can convince my girlfriend to attend a six AM pilates class with me, then surely I can inspire her to also put down her cell phone. If I can talk my sister into spending an hour riding bikes, surely I can spend an hour talking about life with her. If I can stay ahead of my fifteen fitbit friends' walking distances (I wish), then surely I can spend some time praying for each of those friends. If I can force my husband to eat a diet consisting mainly of kale and chia seeds then we could probably also read the Bible together.

As we grow nearer to the end of holy week, I pray that we would allow G-d to come into every area of our lives and truly detox us from the ways of the world. I pray that we may seek out the only one who can truly make us clean. 

Leftover Indian Food And Hardware Store Returns



So I wrote the title of this blog post ages ago - right after Nate and I moved into our tiny little Joshua Station hotel rooms (read more about JS here). That was way back in August (right after our honeymoon) and I think I had elaborate plans to write about this amazing Indian food we ate that week and the big fight Nate and I had about the importance of returning unused items to the store.  

I honestly, don't feel like writing about that anymore, but I thought the post title was so good, that I might as well keep it. ;) 

Anyway, after our honeymoon, Grant, Nate's dad, and Maggie, my childhood best friend, put their own lives on hold and went out of their way to make our move easier. They sorted through our car sized pile, re-wired messy Internet cords, painted a bright red room a more reasonable color, helped to purchase a new mattress, got rid of an old couch, and helped keep us sane the week before school started. 

I meant to post pictures of all of their hard work that week, but I kept insisting that first... the maps needed to be hung, the blinds cleaned, the piles hidden, the bed made, the lights fixed, the furniture polished... You get the picture. 

About half of those things are done, but isn't that the nature of home renovations? They're never ending? 

I write the most roundabout blog posts. 

Anyway, here are some pictures I snapped on my IPhone 6 of our two little motel rooms. Finally.  

Mink Oil

So... Our internet has been down for the past two weeks. I literally have fifteen pending blog posts that I can't post, but for now, I figured I'd share a silly little storygram I wrote the other day. 


Mink oil does not come off with dish soap. So just in case anyone was wondering, if you douse your freshly conditioned leather shoes in Dawn, the shoes will remain unharmed. 

What was I doing in the middle of finals week conditioning and cleaning my leather shoes? Well, when your wifi is down, your printer runs out of ink, there's popcorn all over your house and you have an hour until you need to ride your bike to the last class of the semester, the only think to do in order to stay sane is to spend an hour conditioning your shoes with mink oil. 

So there you go.  


I've done a lot of thinking (and writing) about the nature of stories. That's probably in part due to Donald Miller's book A Million Miles In A Thousand Years (my all time favorite book), and in part due to the fact that my high school Bible teacher (now close friend) used to tell us the best stories. 

He once told us of the time he and some friends drove a car on a sidewalk where they ended up getting it stuck. Another story was of how he almost got arrested, another of a missions trip to Mexico. Still another story (my personal favorite) was about how he and his wife had met, fallen in love and gotten married in a public park where they invited strangers and had a cake fight. 

As a freshman, I was amzed at how anyone could have so many GOOD stories. 

One day, I asked him how he had created and partaken in so many adventures that were worth telling. And then, how he remembered them all. 

He thought for a moment and then told me that everyone has good stories. You just have to take note of them and then remember them. 

That answer seemed way too simple at the time, but now that I've watched my own life stories pass by, I think I understand his reply better. There are a lot of "tell worthy" stories all around me. I guess it's just a matter of whether I take note and remember.  

I've told quite a few stories on this blog: the proposal, deciding to work at Kivu again, coming to live at Joshua Station, countless parties, and a billion travel adventures. 

But what other good stories haven't been told?  

Our first kiss story, meeting families through care.com, buying beer for the first time, marriage counseling and moving our wedding day, smuggling scissors into the Dominican Republic, my first bike ride in the city, loosing turkeys while house sitting. 


Someone told me once that you're not supposed to make blog posts longer than three paragraphs. You're "supposed" to mainly post pictures and let them speak for themselves.  

I understand that. Really I do. But since this blog is mainly for practicing (writing and photography) and chronicaling (an online journal of sorts), I'd like to keep posting stories. 

Actually, I'd like to post more stories.  

Stay tuned.  

Mt. Princeton Hot Springs // Nathrop, CO

I surprised Nate with a "surprise" trip to Mt. Princeton resort for his birthday. And when I say "surprise", I mean I booked it, and then told him three days later. 

It was one of those unfortunate years on which a birthday fell mid-week, so our trip was actually three days before Nate's 20th. But even though the celebration was premature, it was perfectly magical. We stayed in a tiny little cabin for the night and spent two days relaxing in the springs. We even woke up to snow covering the mountain peaks. It was an overall success if you ask me!

Can I just say how great it is to be old enough to book a hotel room?! Married life is the bomb. 

All pictures were take on my new iPhone 6 and edited with VSCOCAM. 

The original gallery can be found here. 

Cabin 5 // Kivu Term 3 // Ben Rector // Night On The Town

Oh hey! 

So, I finally got the export on Premier Pro to work (still not sure what the problem was) and I thought I would export, upload and post this short film I made for the girls of cabin 5. 

These lovely ladies deserve all the world best because they are fun, smart, beautiful, loving, ridiculous, and Jesus loving! That's what we tried to give them when the other leadership girls and I surprised them with a night out in Durango. We loaded up with Durango Joe's and headed to my favorite look out in Durango. There we giggled, told stories, talked about Jesus, took pictures and played with sparklers. It was certainly on of my favorite nights of the summer! 



PS: The title of this post is so long, simply because I didn't want to compromise any important information in the title. 

PSS: This entire movie was filmed on my Canon 7D and edited with Adobe Premier Pro. All music credits go to Ben Rector - who rocks by the way! :) 


I have made many trips to Telluride before, but none have been as memorable and adventurous as one that I took this past summer.

On a day off from working at Kivu, one leadership girl, two backpacking guides, a rock guide and a brother loaded up in my car to conquer the Telluride Via Ferrata. 

This is a view of the little mountain town that few ever see. 

We didn't know what was around each corner, but as we soon learned, there's only one way to find out. 

* All of these pictures were taken on my iPhone 4s. 

The Art Of Freedom

This weekend, Nate and I had the opportunity to help coordinate an amazing event for an amazing cause. The silent art show, working to end human trafficking in India, was the perfect balance of class and charity. Molly Hamilton and Jenny Freeman worked wonders on this event and it was a pleasure to work with them! 

To view the original gallery and to see other events I've helped to coordinate, please visit my events page!


I'm feeling pretty down today. 

I don't know if it's the rainy weather we had this week (though that usually cheers me up), the fact that my room is less than clean, getting too little sleep, getting too much sleep, or simply that I'm just having one of those days. 

I want to create. I want to be inspired. I want to rest. 

Instead, I'm working early and working late and sleeping too much in between. 

I'm tired of blog posts always being so positive. 

So I'm just going to leave this post as is. 

Looking for a silver lining. 


{x} Fill An Entire Room With Balloons

I've kept a running bucket list for as long as I can remember. One of my friends' favorite things to do is to read my bucket list and then help me check off as many as they can. "Fill an entire room with balloons" has been on my list for a while, but my sisters waited until the absolute PERFECT occasion to make my wish come true. On the night before my wedding, while I was running around eliminating the smell of wood stain from our living room (a story for another time), my siblings and cousins (with help from our friends, Adam and Hailee), filled our entire bathroom with 500 balloons. We called it the anti-stress room on the day of the wedding, and the people who came to deliver the cake, set up the place settings, and arrange the flowers found it to be stress relieving as well :). 

Thanks guys! One more item checked off, 438 to go... 

These photos were taken on my iPhone 4s or Canon 7D - unfiltered and unedited. 

I also made a STELLER for this adventure under our @mountainsapart account. Check it out!

// movie and tea for the bride to be //

These pictures speak for themselves.

I had the most beautiful bachelorette party, with the most beautiful friends. I'm so blessed.

All photos were taken on my Canon 7D, my iPhone 4s, or Claire's Canon Rebel. The original gallery can be found in my picture portfolio, here. 

My sister, Claire, blogged the invite she made for the party, here

My friend, Hailee, also made a STELLAR about this adventure which can be found on our @mountainsapart page. 


The conversation happens every single time I go home to Durango: 

Claire: "Wanna start a blog together?"
Hailee: "That would be soooo fun!"
Maggie: "What should we call it?"
Amber: "What if we started an instagram instead?"

It's always been a roundabout conversation that is repeated every month or so, and in which nothing ever gets done. However, the last conversation resulted in this super fun group project! 

Yes... My three best friends and I launched a STELLER together.

What a funny group of friends we are.

There's Hailee, who is a Junior in high school, kicks butt at every school sport she does, and never stops smiling; Claire, who picked up and moved to Laguna Beach where she lays on the beach, creates art constantly, and continues to eat copious amounts of ice cream; Maggie, the free spirit, who tromps around the country, exploring and adventuring as she goes; And Amber (me), the recently newlywed who escapes the inner city as often as she can to climb mountains with coffee in her hand. 

It's so fun being able to share projects even when we're miles apart! 

So... Go! Check out our STELLER stories!

And even better, get out there and create your own great stories! 

Wandering And Wondering

Today, I'm feeling overwhelmed. I can feel it. I have homework to do, a work schedule I'm still figuring out, a budget to re-work, dinner to cook, and a messy room awaiting me at home. But for some reason, that overwhelmed feeling is overridden by a complete feeling of joy and gratitude. More than overwhelmed, I feel teary and sentimental and like I want to text everyone I know just to tell them that I love them. 

I'm sitting here next to an open anthropology (and not the cute store, anthro) book and my dirty lunch dishes, and all I can do is wonder why I don't ever make time to just sit and listen to music.


I wonder what would happen if we always made time for candlelit dinners, kissing in the rain, talking for hours, late night drives, watching sunrises and staring into each others eyes.

I also wonder what would happen if we not only made time for those things, but also for cheering our husbands up after a bad day at work, late night grocery store runs, tickle fights, getting up early to make his lunch, swimming in the ocean together, laying still and listening to music, long bubble baths, staying up late to watch one more episode, taking selfies, building and sleeping in a tent in the living room, filling up the car with gas so he doesn't have to, playing with his hair, praying for each other, praying with each other, cuddling even when you're running late, and doing the dishes for the third time in a row. 


On Friday, Nate and I drove towards the mountains until we found a forgotten cemetery nestled in the woods where we could tromp around in the damp underbrush to heart's delight. If helped make the long week worth it. You should try it sometime. 

All photos were taken on my iPhone 4s and were edited with VSCOCAM. This cemetery can be found in the mountains surrounding Central City, CO. 

I also made a STELLAR about this adventure that you can view here. 

The original archive of these photos can be found in my photography portfolio, here

Sister With A Blog

Last time I was home, my youngest sister was watching a show about a talking dog. I soon found out that "Dog With A Blog" currently leads as one of Disney Channel's top shows. I personally think that a show about a talking dog who blogs is absolutely ridiculous, however, I have a ridiculously talented sister with a blog, and THAT is most certainly worth checking out. 

"I want to be an artist for a living: designing pretty logos, illustrating whatever might need to be illustrated, painting magnificent scenes with oil on canvas and one day I hope to create beautiful layouts for a magazine company. 

As I continue the journey of becoming a professional at the practice of various creative arts and search for my very own unique style, I hope to share my many personal projects, commissions, school assignments, disasters and adventures with you in my little corner of the internet along the way."

Check out her art, writing, photography and more at clairekairalla.com

The Toast

Hello all!

I can't believe life has finally slowed down enough that I can sit and write a blog post. Well, when I say slowed down, I mean that we've unpacked enough that I can find my computer and somewhere to sit before I have to start school in a little under 48 hours. I guess you take what you can get.

If you haven't heard already, I am now married to the most amazing husband in the entire world (in my opinion) and we had a dream of a wedding.  A perfect bachlorette party, perfect cake, perfect location and perfect people (don't worry, the pictures are coming) made for a week full of blogging material.

The toasts that concluded our wedding blew us away and were the topic of conversation for many days following. Having all of the people we love encourage and celebrate us brought tears to our eyes and butterflies to our hearts. Every single toast was so special, but my youngest sister Sophie put so much thought into her toast, that she wrote out the entire thing. The copy she gave me as we left the party is now one of my most treasured possessions. I want to share it with you, partly because of how charming and cute the words are, but also because this toast has some pretty epic pictures to accompany it. 

The Toast

When I first met Nate he gave me donuts and let me sit in the front seat.
That's when I knew we would get along. 

The second time I saw nate, he interrupted our quality Sophie-Amber-Sister time. I was a little bitter about him joining us, but when we decided we were bored we made it an adventure. It was fall and there were lots of leaves. We parked in front of some person's house and we started shoveling leaves into the car. We made it our goal to fill the car completely with leaves - so full that when you sat in the car you were buried in leaved and you couldn't see us. After we were done swimming through our car full of leaves we emptied as much as we could and vacuumed the rest out. We then decided to make it quality Sophie-Amber-AND-Nate time. We also decided after that we needed to keep it a secret from everyone so we wouldn't get in trouble... but now that it's their wedding day and we can't get in trouble, I made it my business to make it not a secret anymore. 

The third time I saw Nate, he pushed my brother in a shower.
That's when I knew I wanted him to marry Amber. 

Overall, Nate and Amber have been great role models and I love them both dearly. I'm so glad to welcome Nate into our family. 

So now that the secret is out, below you will find proof that, yes, we did fill my car to the very tippy top with leaves. I have to say, even though the occasional leaf still blows through the AC vent, I have never once regretted that quality Sophie-Amber-Nate time!


You get asked a lot of questions when you decide to get married young.  

Are you excited to be married? // ummm... yes.
Do you feel like you're ready? // ummm... no.
Are you nervous about having sex? // are you?
What do your parents think? // they like nate.
Do you have a job? // yes. three actually. 
Are you pregnant? // ask me in about 9 months.
Where are you going to live? // in... an... apartment...
Do you think you will enjoy being married? // *blank stare*

Can I just say... I would not be getting married if...
>> my parents didn't support it
>> i hadn't spent coutless hours thinking and praying about our decision
>> if i wasn't prepared to work hard
>> if i wasn't madly in love with a man who loves me well and who i feel like i can love in return
>> if i hadn't spent considerable time thinking about what it means to be married and not just planning my wedding 

So my answer is YES, I can't wait to be married! 

We'll be happy. We'll fight. We'll travel and have kids. We'll make our own money and finish school and meet cool people and throw the best parties. We'll laugh and cry. We'll have the cutest little house/apartment/room. We'll disagree and struggle. We'll have the best ever sex and the worst ever sex. We'll make mistakes and overcome problems. We'll have dreams come true and dreams crushed. We'll grow up together and grow old together, cook together and clean together, pray together and study together. We'll listen to good music and stay up late. We'll watch sunrises and sunsets and eat breakfast in bed. We'll walk on beaches and climb mountains. We'll celebrate holidays and create new traditions. We'll take lots of pictures. We'll buy new things and get rid of more things. We'll argue about silly things and argue about important things. We'll fall in love more and more each day and one day we'll wake up and wonder at all of our good stories and dream about even more adventures to come. 

Call me crazy. 

Camp Kivu 2014 // Staff

I was roped into working at Kivu this summer. 

Well, I guess not really. Even though I had made up my mind to spend my summer traveling with my family and fiancé, when Jamie Jo called to ask if I would become Kivu leadership, I couldn't turn it down - it''s my dream job after all! 

Two weeks later, when she called again to ask if I would consider being women's director for the summer, one thousand reservations flew through my head. Doubts about age, experience, judgement and loneliness persisted but after urgings from my friends and family, I accepted. 

This summer has been phenomenal already. Going into week seven, I can't help but look back on a summer filled with amazing campers, silly stories, times of conflict and resolution, and many conquered challenges. But as always, the staff is what truly makes this place special. 

We had a near perfect staff team last year and so I was rather hesitant at the prospects of sixty new college students entering the Kivu gates. However, the staff this year, as always, has blown me away. I'm so incredibly blessed to work over and alongside such joyful, servant-hearted, fun men and women of God. 

These pictures were captured during our fifth of July celebration with my new 50mm lens. It was nice to finally have a real camera back in my hands. 

I love this place. I love these people. 

The full gallery of these pictures can be found (as always) on my photography page

To Hyphenate Or Not To Hyphenate


"Mom, I'm soooo sad about having to take on a new last name," I whined over the phone. Although I think double names are a ridiculous and I would never consider keeping my own last name after Nate and I get married, I am a little bit sad about giving up my maiden name. 

"Amber, stop being dramatic," my mom said in reply, but I could hear her smile over the phone. I knew it was a phone conversation she would share with my dad later that evening. 

I know it's a little dramatic, but what can I say? Kairalla is a cool last name! Plus, there's only one Amber Kairalla in the world, while there are about 136 Amber Andrews. I know I shouldn't care, but it's something I've been thinking about a lot lately. 

Grant, Nate's dad, frequently talks about how the nature of marriage calls the man to leave his family and become one with his new wife's family. Often times, this has been a point of reassurance when I feel guilty for pulling Nate away from his own home. However, whenever I put aside my affinity for foreign last names, and really think on what it means to take Nate's last name, I get incredibly excited. 

The Trio of Doom_A.jpg

Taking the name Andrew means gaining a new brother who is honestly a cooler, sassier, and smaller version of Nate. Although he denies any sort of hipster leanings, Gavin spends most of his time climbing, playing with pocket knives and dressing remarkably well for a fifteen year old. His confidence, since of adventure, bravery, humor and wisdom have him on his way to being the next Alex Honnold (if he doesn't kill himself first) . I'm also pretty sure that he'll never let me live down the fact that I couldn't remember where the water glasses were kept for the first year that Nate and I dated. He'll be lucky if a girl is ever cool enough to date him.

Taking the name Andrew means gaining a new sister to dream, adventure, talk and party with. It's rare to find someone who is so full of talent, beauty, strength and passion as Olivia. She makes me laugh with her ability to tell twelve different stories without taking a breath and makes me cry with her heartfelt and genuine musical talent. Plus, she manages all that while being entirely authentic and true to her Colorado mountain girl self. Also, I'm not sure I've ever met anyone who thinks Nate is as cool as I do. She'll have to tell all of her girlfriends that her hot brother is most definitely taken.

Taking the name Andrew means gaining a dad whose wisdom, humor, passion and intentionality result in dreaming big, beautiful music, hard work, meaningful late night conversations and a high priority on people and their stories. It means gaining a mom whose whose love, care, strength, beauty and practicality result in care packages of herbal remedies, slow mornings, reassuring smiles, remarkable thrift store finds and warm hugs. When I look at them I see two people who taught and grew the man I love, I see two people who set an admirable and sometimes intimidating picture of marriage and parenthood, and I see two people who will make the best of grandparents. And yes, I really just wrote this post to see if I could make Grant cry. 

Taking the name Andrew means gaining several more loving grandparents and adventures on the eastern side of the United States. It means learning to like yeast on my popcorn, be more of a night person, avoid meat and drink more coffee than I ever thought possible. It means gaining an entire group of family friends who are inspiring, encouraging and so very fun. It means gaining two fluffy, friendly and fun puppies. It means eating the best tomato soup I've ever tasted and dreaming bigger with every consecutive day. It means appreciating good music and it means a lot more input on wedding plans. It's a blessing and honor to become part of their family and join their journey toward a more authentic and beautiful life.

I guess you could also say it's pretty cool that it means gaining a husband too ;). 

Now, there's only one thing left: It's Andrew NOT Andrews. 

These pictures were taken with my Canon 7d and a 50mm f/1.4 lens - ironically at the same place where Nate proposed. They are unedited and unfiltered and a perfect representation of the uniqueness of the Andrew family. 

The original archive of these photos can be found here (you'd better enjoy them while you can because I have no intention of ever becoming a portrait photographer).