Weekend Wanderings

This weekend was yet another beautiful weekend in Colorado. The sun was shining, and except for some crazy wind gusts, the weather was perfect. That means everyone is out and about everywhere. Saturday the hubs and I had a relaxed “Spring Cleansing” day. I turned the house over from winter to spring, tidied our outdoor patio, and readied the guest bedroom for my parents’ visit this upcoming weekend. It was all about things that make us happy. For me, it was decorating for the spring season and being outside. For the hubs, it was golf and gin and tonic time. Sunday we were up early, I made a batch of blueberry pancakes (yum!), we completed our weekly trip to Whole Foods, and returned home all before 11am.

Mmmmmm delicious blueberry pancakes!
Mmmmmm delicious blueberry pancakes!

I decided to try a new (or at least new to me) running trail, to break out of my mold. Typically I either run through my neighborhood or along the equestrian trails behind my neighborhood. I kept hearing about the High Line Canal trail that spreads across 71 miles from Littleton almost to Denver International Airport. I read about it on Ramblen (of which I am a new ambassador!  Hooray!!) as I was looking for new places to explore. Little did I realize it is accessible just across the street from my neighborhood! Ironically I had always seen people on this mysterious trail running, walking and biking, but didn’t know where the entry point was. So rather than cross the road, I drove a quick 5 minutes to Castlewood Park, just south in Greenwood Village. I parked there and began my run through a neighborhood called the Preserve. You pass through an expansive greenbelt with trailheads interspersed everywhere, and the houses along this route are phenomenal. If I wasn’t so focused on the stunning mountain views, I probably would have creepily taken pictures of the incredible structures on either side of the trail.

The views along the greenbelt were gorgeous.
The views along the greenbelt were gorgeous.

The canal itself is fairly small, and dried up in portions (we need rain and snowmelt stat!), but the trail was well-groomed and enjoyable. As I got to my first cross-roads in the trail (to go left or right?), I chose right so I could head northwest and see the mountains throughout my run. There are some great vantage points from my running route through my neighborhood, but nothing like what I experienced on the High Line Canal trail. Every turn boasted better views. The trail twists and turns so you experience the entire range. About a mile and half into the run, the trail turns southwest and at that point, Pikes Peak emerges in the distance. That was definitely one of the most fantastic parts.

Just an amazing run and a must-do trail!
Just an amazing run and a must-do trail!  Oh, and the top right corner, that’s Pikes Peak in the distance!

Everyone out and about was in such a great mood. All the people I passed smiled and waved as I passed them on the trail, and bicyclists were kind and move around the runners and walkers. I love the congenial attitude of Coloradans when outdoors on a nice day. It was something I first noticed when living and hiking in Boulder. There is this mutual understanding that this is how life should be, so why not enjoy it and everyone get along?

Run and Done.  Enough said.
Run and Done. Enough said.
Purple rice, where have you been all my life??
Purple rice, where have you been all my life??

 

I was able to get in a great 10K with an easy 10:20 pace, mostly so I could take lots of pictures.  I was super excited, too, to sport my new running tech-tee, Under Armour Run and Done.  Brilliant. The only down side was that the wind broke my Sea Level is for Sissies visor… time to order another one!

After my run, Robbie and I relaxed the rest of the afternoon, took Rocco on a small walk, and made a delicious dinner of wilted spinach, purple rice (Yes! Purple rice! My favorite color!), and sesame crusted tuna.  Yum! I always love my Sunday Whole Foods run. We finished off the day with some planning for our trip to London and Edinburgh this September. Who’s excited??? This girl! To say it was the perfect weekend would be an understatement. And now I have my parents’ visit to look forward to this coming weekend!

A brief but beautiful walk with Rocco.  Proof I do take my dog outside... sometimes...
A brief but beautiful walk with Rocco. Proof I do take my dog outside… sometimes…

Hostess Extraordinaire and Golden Morning Honey Muffins

What is it about being a hostess that brings out the absolute domestic goddess in me? After talking honey sticks (if you haven’t had them, you must try them… it’s my new obsession) with my friend, Mrs. Bake N’ Burn, I started thinking about what I could make with honey. Luckily there is such a thing as Honey.com (terribly convenient, I know) with recipes, nutritional information, and the process of how honey is made (thank you bees!). While I am no honey expert, I know that it’s a fantastic element in baking. It serves dual purposes as an adhesive for ingredients and a natural sweetener. In Colorado, Madhava is a major honey producer, with delicious organic options that are truly Colorado’s forte. Of course they were founded just outside of Boulder, the health food capital of the world, and the word Madhava actually means “Born of Honey.” I promise I looked that up on their website. Sadly I am not that all-knowing.

Madhava honey is so delicious... thank you bees!
Madhava honey is so delicious… thank you bees!

After making my delish granola for the Disney Princess Half Marathon, I had plenty of leftover honey that I was slowly making my way through. But with honey on the brain, I wondered what easy recipes I could conquer involving honey. I found a great, simple recipe for Golden Morning Honey Muffins, and as usual, made them my own! I was even able to use the other leftover ingredients from my granola, but you can play around with the filling to suit your preferences.

 

Golden Morning Honey Muffins (with Oats, Almonds and Dried Cherries)

Yield: 12-16 muffins

Ingredients

2 ½ cups of unbleached all-purpose flour (if baking at altitude, I recommend Hungarian High Altitude Flour)

1 ½ teaspoons of baking powder

1 teaspoon of baking soda

I love finding recipes that work with what's already in my pantry!
I love finding recipes that work with what’s already in my pantry!

½ teaspoon of kosher salt

½ teaspoon of ground ginger

½ cup of butter softened

1 cup of honey (I prefer Madhava)

2 eggs

½ cup of milk (I used skim, but 2% works just fine too)

1 cup of dried cherries

¾ cup of almond slivers

¾ cup of oats (plus extra to sprinkle on top of the muffins)

Cinnamon sugar to sprinkle on top (optional)

Directions

Grease muffin tin or line with paper baking cups. In small bowl, mix the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and ginger. In large bowl, cream the butter with honey until it is light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs and milk. Stir dry ingredients into wet mixture until just moistened. Stir in the cherries, oats and almonds. Pour the batter into muffin cups, about 2/3 full.  Sprinkle with cinnamon sugar and extra oats, if desired. Bake at 350°F for 25 to 30 minutes or until golden brown and a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool on wire racks.

Blend all the liquid ingredients together and add the dry ingredients slowly, mixing until just incorporated.
Blend all the liquid ingredients together and add the dry ingredients slowly, mixing until just incorporated.
You can change the filler ingredients to suit your preferences.
You can change the filler ingredients to suit your preferences.

It was another productive Monday evening and I was able to send our friends off today with some muffins for the plane ride home. There’s nothing better than enjoying the company of friends, basking in a beautiful Colorado day, and finishing it with something fresh out of the oven. Have a great week everyone, and I hope your morning was as golden as mine. But for now, I am going to enjoy my muffin…

These muffins do rise, so don't fill the baking cups up all the way!
These muffins do rise, so don’t fill the baking cups up all the way!
Golden and delicious!
Golden and delicious!

 

Do you have any good honey recipes? Are you as obsessed with honey sticks as I am? What is your favorite muffin? Do you play hostess with the mostest or prefer being the eternal house guest?

Vistas and Visitors

Happy Spring!  Yesterday truly felt like spring time in the Mile High City!  It was nearly 70º and perfectly sunny.  Today, although sunny, gave way to cooler temps and a threat of wintery weather for tomorrow.  Regardless, it is technically spring, so there!

This spring guarantees to be an exciting time here in Denver.  The hubs and I will be hosting a slew of people within the next 2 months, and have a number of great adventures in store.  Beginning tomorrow, we will officially have our first house guests in our new home.  I am one of those people who gets far too excited about houseguests.  I buy flowers, clean sheets like it’s my job, and plan out activities to my heart’s content.  We have friends coming to town from our home town of DC, which is always so exciting.  I really enjoy showing off this beautiful state, particularly along the front range, to our East Coast pals.  Alex and Julia, whose wedding we were blessed to attend this past October, are friends from the DC area.  In contrast, Colorado is the perfect dose of modern western mountain culture.  We’ll roam the city tomorrow and end the evening with drinks at the Hyatt sky bar, Peaks Lounge, and dinner at Colt and Gray (one of 5280 Magazine’s top 25 restaurants this year).  I think there’s no better way to see the city than to see it from above.  Without the mountains, Denver would look like any number of mid-sized cities.  But the stunning views of the mountains mixed with the urban setting make this place truly spectacular.  Sunday we plan to partake in some beer tours, focusing in Boulder, and dine at Brasserie TenTen (one of my absolute favorite restaurants).

Next month my parents will be coming to town for their annual Colorado trip.  Perfectly enough, my dad has a conference in Boulder every April (Space Weather, very exciting stuff!), which was absolutely ideal when we were living there.  Although we’re not in Boulder anymore, we’ll have my folks over the

Estes Park and Rocky Mountain National Park are among the prettiest places in Colorado!
Estes Park and Rocky Mountain National Park are among the prettiest places in Colorado!

weekend before and after.  We’re hoping to visit Garden of the Gods, definitely one of the most spectacular natural formations in the state, and take the train up to Pike’s Peak from Manitou Springs.  The last time my folks were out to stay, we visited Rocky Mountain National Park and Estes Park, where we toured the Stanley Hotel (the birthplace of “The Shining”) and meandered through the charming little town.  After the floods this past September, Estes Park is still rebuilding, but it’s always a place I recommend.  You are seconds away from some of Colorado’s best, most stunning hiking trails, and it’s a great getaway in both summer and winter!

The beautiful Stanley Hotel!  Too bad the movie version was filmed in Canada...
The beautiful Stanley Hotel! Too bad the movie version was filmed in Canada…

Finally in May, Samantha and her husband Michael will be joining us for the BOLDERBoulder, but this will be their first time visiting us in our new home in Denver, and during the springtime. Our last visit consisted of a tour of Coors (it is a quintessential brewery tour after all, you actually do get to taste the Rockies) and a near-death January hiking in Chautauqua’s Gregory Canyon… adventure.  Luckily with warmer weather, hiking won’t be an issue this go-around.  We may venture to some great trails surrounding the city of Golden and hit up some local Denver breweries.

January hiking can be a dangerous business...
January hiking can be a dangerous business… Luckily Samantha and her hubby were all smiles!

To say the least, I am proud of my home.  Being able to “staycation” in your own state and discover something new each time is a real blessing!  It’s been a phenomenal transition from the hustle and bustle of mid-Atlantic living to a calmer, more appreciative life-style.  No matter the time of year, there is always something to do in Colorado.  From hiking and biking, to skiing and snow-shoeing, the outdoors is our wonderland.  To top it all off, we live in the Napa Valley of beer with outstanding eateries to boot!  Now if only we could improve the standard of attire, and add easier access to an ocean, then this would be my heaven.

What do you do when you have guests visit?  What are your favorite aspects of where you live?  Anything fun planned for the weekend?

The Sweeter Side of Giveaway Wednesday

On the inside, I am secretly a chubby little kid.  I love treats, the sweeter the better!  This is probably why I never purchase snack food to keep at home.  At first I would want to devour it all, and later I would totally forget I bought it.  Not a good use of calories or money.  The one thing that I do love, and always keep in my freezer, is Cheryl’s Buttercream Cookies.  My mother-in-law, such a dear, sweet woman, introduced these to me shortly after Robbie and I moved in together while still in Maryland.  I’ve been in love ever since.

Although not a great contributor towards health benefits, Cheryl’s cookies are always delightful and delicious.  The texture is perfect and the frosting is sublime.  The best part is a trick that the hubs showed me.  Freeze the cookies shortly after getting them (if you have more than you could should consume in one or two days), and when you want to pull one out as a snack, place them on a plate or paper towel, stick them in the microwave, and heat for about 15 seconds.  It warms them up just enough but maintains the consistency.  It’s the perfect treat (and I mean treat, not everyday snack)!

I may or may not keep a Cheryl's cookie at my desk... You never know when you might need one!
I may or may not keep a Cheryl’s cookie at my desk… You never know when you might need one!

Every Friday Cheryl’s has a weekly cookie giveaway.  Check out their Facebook page tab labeled Free Cookie Friday for more information, but even if you don’t win one, I recommend sending yourself a little $5 box of cookie love.  You get a cookie and a coupon, and no one needs to know that you are your very own secret admirer.  Eat up!  Num num num…

Happy St. Patrick’s Day! PR’s for Everyone!

Happy St. Patrick’s Day everyone – it’s a day for cheer and a day for beer!  I am a quarter Irish so I am absolutely allowed to say that with all the pomp and circumstance.  And I am wearing green today, so no pinching!  But don’t worry, I am not drinking beer at work.  Although a snake bite black may be in order this evening (I am willing to break my New Year’s goal to appropriately celebrate a holiday in honor of my lineage).

This past weekend I participated in the Lucky Laces 10K in Denver’s City Park.  The event was more about the 5K than the 10K, but I am holding true to that extra lap.  It was an amazing event, particularly for a local race.  My friends Samantha and Christine have determined that runners fall into two categories when it comes to preference of races: you either prefer the “Big Box” races with large registration numbers and premium sponsors, or you love local races that are more intimate and unique.  I will freely admit, particularly after the BOLDERBoulder and the Disney Princess Half Marathon, I am a big box fan all the way.  I don’t have to think about a thing for these races.  Everything is planned out to a tee, and all elements are carefully executed.  It’s an experience more than just a race.

Although Lucky Laces was a large local event, it had all the makings of a great big box race.  The day started around 8:00am, but I arrived around 8:20am.  To kick off the morning, there was a bagpiper playing, welcoming the runners and families.  Once I arrived at the main venue, there was a Celtic group, Pandora Celtica, singing traditional songs, free coffee, hot cocoa or cider (it was around 35 degrees with an icy wind), massage chairs ready for post-race relaxation, and a fantastic stand with cup of noodles.  I grabbed a free cup of joe and sipped it slowly as I waited for the start of the race.  The Little Leprechaun fun run kicked off at 8:30am, which was so fun to watch.  The kids and their parents all looked so happy!  As I lined up for the start of the race, an instructor from Camp Gladiator led the crowd in fun warm-ups, much appreciated due to the cold.  I was running on my own, but some of the exercises were to be with pairs, and the great folks around me joined in spiritedly.  Finally it was time to go and we were on our way.

The race was fun even before I began running!
The race was fun even before I began running!

The race itself was great.  It was a nice big loop around Denver’s City Park, with a maximum elevation change of 68 feet.  Much better than my giant hills at home.  Although a grey day, the runners were so jovial and friendly.  I was listening to the “Book of Mormon” soundtrack during the run (how PC of me I know…), which made me spontaneously burst out laughing, so I am sure I looked like a lunatic at parts.  As I reached the 5K mark, I had a moment of complete jealousy of those veering off for the 5K finish.  At that point “Man Up” began playing, so I carried on with a renewed sense of vigor.  My only complaint was that there were 2 water stations for the 10K and none for the 5K.  Granted, I brought my own water bottle so as not to have to stop along the way, but for those without, and particularly at elevation, there should have been at least one more station.  As I pulled up for the finish, “I Believe” began blaring through my headphones, so I unknowingly timed my music far too appropriately for my needs.

I flit, I float, I fleetly flee, I fly!
I flit, I float, I fleetly flee, I fly! You know you like my argyle socks. Don’t lie.

After the race, I happily trotted over to pick up my medal (medals make me so happy!) and realized I had PRed in the process!  I was shooting for a 60 minute 10K (I am not that fast, but for me that’s great), but ended with 1:04.  Not too far off, and potentially without such an icy wind, I may have gotten there.  Regardless, I was quite excited.  I knew that I needed something warm so I went over to the cup of noodles folks and happily accepted a steaming cup.  From the main venue, we “followed the rainbow” signs to a mansion across from City Park.  Inside, Delilah’s Revenge was performing, Odell’s Brewery was serving delicious beers, and Flippin’ Flapjacks offered steaming hot pancakes fresh off the griddle.  I was one happy camper.  I chatted with a girl who had also run the 10K and she ended up winning 3rd for her age group.  She and I agreed that she needed to wear that medal to work today, and I hope she did!

Race medal, Cup of Noodles, and Odell's brew make for one happy running lady!
Race medal, Cup of Noodles, and Odell’s brew make for one happy running lady!

I would love to do this race again.  It was supremely well organized, easy to manage, and just a fun, exciting environment.  Although I still love those big box races, there’s definitely something to be said about local runs with a lot of flair!

Do you prefer smaller, local races or the big box events?  Did you do anything fun in honor of St. Patty’s?  Do you listen to music when you run, or prefer the sound of your feet on the pavement? 

Lucky Laces Cheer and Beer

Tomorrow morning I will be running the Lucky Laces 10K in Denver’s City Park.  I’ve been wanting to do a longer local race in Denver.  I’ve really only participated in Denver 5K’s up until this point, and although fun and easy, you never get a great feel for the truer running community.  The BOLDERBoulder, being such a large 10K event, is really more a giant party with people from all walks of life, and from all over the world.  Again, not a true indicator of the region’s running community.  I also was yearning for an opportunity to run a distance race on my own, simply to see what I can do in a race setting.  This is my shot, and I am extremely excited!

The morning will start with some great Celtic music, in honor, of course, of St. Patrick’s Day weekend.  Around 8:30am kids and families will line up for the fun run, and by 9:00am, the 5/10K will start.  Initially I was just planning on doing the 5K, but if it’s just me running, why not push myself?  The 10K will take 2 laps around Denver’s City Park, and end with pancakes, sausage, and yes, Odell’s Brewery beer!  Who wouldn’t want to drink a delicious brew at 10:00am?

The course for the 5/10K around Denver's City Park.
The course for the 5/10K around Denver’s City Park.

Not only do you get fame and glory for this race, but there should be some good swag.  I love swag in a sad way.  The tech-T was already mailed to my house (which of course I cannot wear until the race is over, bad juju people!).  Beyond that, participants are promised a T-shirt, medal, goody bag, and event pictures.  Not too shabby for a smaller race!

One thing that I am very intrigued about regarding this race is the use of an app called Bibs.  This app is supposed to allow you to check your time directly upon completion of the race, check the course map, and provide family a friends a way to track you on the course.  I am hopeful that this will be a great tool, and will report back on its usability and accuracy post-race.

It looks like the weather will hold out for tomorrow, with partly-cloudy skies and mid-40 degree temperatures.  Regardless, I am prepared for the ensemble.  Yet again, the outfit played a major role in my preparation for the event.  I’ve also requested a snake bite black later in the day.  It is St. Patty’s Day weekend after all, and I am Irish.  Partly.

Yellow, green and grey argyle socks will be my statement piece.  Rocco also approved.
Yellow, green and grey argyle socks will be my statement piece. Rocco also approved.

What are your St. Patty’s Day weekend plans?  Do you like to party like those crazy Celts or stay in and sip green beer?  Any upcoming races that you cannot wait for?  Do you know of any other great running/tracking apps being used in the race community?

Shoe Therapy and Wednesday Giveaway

I hate feet.  I hate my feet and I hate other people’s feet.  I have felt this way nearly all of my life.  It wasn’t until the past few years that I realized pedicures aren’t terrifying.  It could explain why I am so devoted to shoes.  I won’t even attempt to count how many shoes I own… it would be astonishing even to me.  Growing up, however, I tormented my feet with inappropriate shoes.  It wasn’t until I moved to Colorado, quickly followed by my dear friend Tessa from back east, that I realized I needed shoe intervention.

Tessa was working part-time for Clarks in Colorado Springs.  Every time I went to visit her I met her at the shop, and always managed to leave with something in hand.  I would get home and think, “Self, why were you wearing such horrendously ill-supported and ill-fitting shoes before?  Time to purge!”  From then on, Clarks and a few other select brands are my go-to’s.  I rarely consider other shoes because I know how incredible my feet feel in Clarks.

I know what you’re thinking… “Isn’t Clarks a ‘comfort shoe’ brand?  Aren’t they… dare I say it, unattractive?”  Well the answer is no.  Granted I am selective in the styles I purchase (I always steer clear of the comfort walking sandals of our older generations), but there are so many cute options!  My favorite oxfords (both heeled and men’s style) have come from Clarks.  I adore their wedges all summer long.  I am not sure if I could have survived this winter without their meticulously crafted boots and wedge booties.  Even better, everything is so incredibly comfortable, with ample arch support and cushioning, and lasts.

Um, hello snake print wood heel wedges! LOVE them and so versatile!
Um, hello snake print wood heel wedges! LOVE them and so versatile!

The icing on top of this very large cake is their sock policy.  Sounds strange, I know, but it’s what keeps me and the hubs coming back (oh yeah, I have converted him too, as well as some of my coworkers…).  Buy a pair of socks from Clarks, and you can return them when they’re worn out and get a new pair, wait for it, for FREE, and even better, for LIFE!!  Incredible, isn’t it?

So on that note, now that I have converted everyone to happy footwear heaven, you’ll definitely want to check out the Clarks Soho Chic Sweepstakes styled by Lucky Magazine!  You could win a trip to NYC to shop and strut your stylish stuff.  You can get a customized shopping trip tailored to your personal style courtesy of a Lucky style expert, along with airfare, hotel accommodations, and $2,000 to shop ‘til you drop!  And Lucky magazine will also magically appear in your mailbox for a year, so style and read on!  All I know is that if this shopping trip includes shoes, I so want to win.  Cinderella, after all, is proof that a pair of shoes can change your life.  Words to live by, ladies, words to live by.

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