Motivation Mantra: Do it for Disney!

Motivation is the name of the game. When you find what gets you through, it can absolutely change your perspective, desire, and, in some cases, the outcome of whatever you’re striving to achieve. With my second marathon a mere 9 days away (but who’s counting?), I am trying to muster all the motivation I can find. Going into my first marathon I was motivated by the incredible feat, determination, time and training that went into it, and especially the sense of absolute accomplishment upon crossing that finish line.  Now that I have done it once, I know I can accomplish it, but I definitely need a little more drive to get me through.

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At least I do have some pretty spectacular views on the trail near my house. It could be worse.

Training this time around definitely felt different.  Early in my training I was wearing shoes that were causing pain in my shins (thankfully not shin splints). My legs were achy and tired after my runs, so I immediately switched back to my beloved New Balance 3190s, which are actually discontinued.  Thank you Amazon for having one of the last size 8 pairs of 3190s – your company saved the day!  After fixing that issue, I also had a few colds that bogged me down this year, and made fitting in the miles significantly harder. My body was definitely telling me to slow down while my training plan was telling me to speed up.

Once I got over the hump of October, training began to gradually fall into place. Maybe it’s because the marathon sparkle had worn off having already done one, or maybe my body was annoyed at the idea of doing it again, but it really took until my 20 mile run for everything to feel right.  Internally I was beginning to worry when my legs and my breathing weren’t in sync, and hoped that it would come together on race day somehow.  What made matters somewhat more challenging was all of the snow we had been getting throughout December, covering my trail with snow, slush, ice, and mud. Training on those surfaces is no picnic, and at this stage in the game I really don’t want to risk injury.  Which is why I completed my 18 mile run on a treadmill (I absolutely do not recommend this for anyone, talked about boring…) and thought about quitting at mile 11 of my 14 mile taper run last weekend… I didn’t quit, but it was a major mental struggle.

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It actually took until my longest training run for everything to feel just right.
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It looks a lot prettier than it actually was – mud, ice, and slush everywhere. I thought tapering was supposed to be the easy part!

Although I have been excited about the prospect of sea level running with 19 miles of Pacific Ocean views and a maximum elevation gain of 100 feet, it was hard to find the motivation I needed to get through this training cycle.  Now with one weekend left of tapering and the race in sight, it’s getting a lot easier to feel the pre-marathon excitement. Not to mention, DISNEYLAND!

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We are going back to Disney, but this time West Coast style!

So what does one do after a marathon in southern California?  Obviously you go to Disneyland. This Disney fan has always been a tried and true Disney World supporter, believing its enormity and plethora of parks made it better than it’s California rival. In the back of my mind, however, I have always wanted to go to Disneyland – to see the original, visit Sleeping Beauty’s castle, and get a sense for where it all began.  It will be my hubby’s birthday, so I wasn’t sure if he’d actually want to go. Thankfully I got home from work one day last week and he turned to me and said, “You know, it might be fun to go to Disneyland.” Done and done. Tickets are booked and reservations made – to Disneyland we go!

Here’s a little recap of the last two weeks of training:

Day of the Week Cross Training Miles Run
1/9/17 (Monday) Yoga Sculpt N/A
1/10/17 (Tuesday) Yoga Sculpt 3.18 miles
1/11/17 (Wednesday) Yoga Sculpt 3.3 miles
1/12/17 (Thursday) Yoga Sculpt 3.32 miles
1/13/17 (Friday) N/A 3.36 miles
1/14/17 (Saturday) N/A 20.05 miles
1/15/17 (Sunday) Yoga Sculpt N/A
1/16/17 (Monday) Yoga Sculpt 3.27 miles
1/17/17 (Tuesday) Yoga Sculpt 2.5 miles
1/18/17 (Wednesday) TIU Bombshell Booty, TIU Core on the Floor, TIU Sleek Arms 3.1 miles
1/19/17 (Thursday) Yoga Sculpt 3.13 miles
1/20/17 (Friday) N/A 3.1 miles
1/21/17 (Saturday) N/A 14.05 miles
1/22/17 (Sunday) Yoga Sculpt N/A
TOTAL 62.46 miles

Any recommendations for this Disneyland novice (we will just be doing Disneyland Park)? If you had one day in Disneyland, what would you do?  What motivates you to get through marathon training? Has anyone else ever run 18 miles on a treadmill – isn’t it terrible?

Disney and Harry Potter – Sans Race

Well that was a nice little reprieve from the blogosphere – but now I am back!  The month of March was an insanely busy one, and while I am glad it passed quickly, I am having a hard time keeping up.  This past October I was promoted within my office, but during the transition of the past six months, I have continued to do both my old and new jobs.  This has made balancing work and life rather more challenging when your work practically doubles.  Thankfully this week should mark the end of the search process for a candidate to fill my former position *finger crossed* at which point I will be able to gladly pass this torch of mine.  With that in mind, it’s relieved some of the stress of the piling work, but only marginally.  It’s not real until the newest employee of our office signs the paperwork and shows up!

It's been seriously gorgeous the end of March... when is the snow going to come in?
It’s been seriously gorgeous the end of March… when is the snow going to come in?

So beyond the incredible work load of the past months, March was incredibly fun and full of great memories.  The month started with my first half marathon of the season in chilling temperatures and snow covered trails, and is ending with beautiful, sunny 70 degree days!  Of course, living in Colorado, you know there could still easily be snow through May, but for the most part, the weather has made a delightful 180 turnaround for the awesome.

March is the month of Spring Break, and although I work at a university, the employees do not actually have off for the week.  My sister and sister-in-law work at the University of Maryland (GO TERPS!), and they both had a week off to enjoy the springtime, so my family decided to plan a trip to Disney World.  Needless to say, it is one of my favorite places to escape to, so I was on board all the way.  The hubs sat this one out, and I couldn’t stay the whole week with my family, but I did get to spend four amazing days in sunny, hot Orlando (yeah, it’s cheesy but I love it).

This was the first time I had been to Disney with most of my family since 2011,

The grounds are awesome, with golf courses all around.
The grounds are awesome, with golf courses all around.

so it was a fun time.  I left for Orlando on Friday, March 13th (I know, I was brave enough to fly on Friday the 13th! EEK!), and met up with my parents and sister at the airport.  Thankfully my dad’s 26 years of military service gets him access to the Disney military resort, Shades of Green.  We set off, made a few wrong turns on our way from the airport, but finally arrived at the resort in time for a little R ‘n’ R.  My folks relaxed in their room while I forced my sister to explore the grounds with me.  I knew I would want to get a few runs in while there, so I had to scope it out.  Afterwards, we gathered back up and made our way to Downtown Disney for dinner at the Wolfgang Puck Grand Café, shopping, and an impromptu viewing of the new “Cinderella” movie.  If you haven’t seen it, it’s truly phenomenal!

While I want that shoe, how in the world do you walk in it?
While I want that shoe, how in the world do you walk in it?
Mi hermana and I were SO EXCITED!
Mi hermana and I were SO EXCITED!

The next day, my dad and I went for a run around the Polynesian Resort, which was conveniently located across the street from our resort.  The trails and sidewalks weren’t all connected due to some major renovations, but it was otherwise a fun and easy run with my dad.  Afterwards, we got a delicious buffet breakfast and headed out to Universal Studios for, what else, The Wizarding World of Harry Potter!  So, lesson learned, apparently they have broken up the Wizarding World (Hogsmeade and Hogwarts) from Diagon Alley, which means you need a park hopper ticket to enter both.  We weren’t aware of this difference, and only realized it when I was trying to find my sorority sister (from Maryland) who also happened to be there the same day.  In order to go back and forth, you take the Hogwarts Express, but only with this ticket.

Otherwise, the Hogsmeade and Hogwarts section was awesome.  It looked like

Hogsmeade was so cute, I could have moved in.
Hogsmeade was so cute, I could have moved in.

it came out of the movie – snow covered, slighly leaning buidlings, wonky little shops, and the castle rising above it all.  Universal Studios does make me appreciate Disney World so much more, however, for the organization and attention to detail.  Although the park was fun, it was easily crowded and not very well laid out.  Once we made our way to Islands of Adventure, we headed through the world of Dr. Seuss (Seuss Landing) and the Lost Continent, until we passed through the gates of Hogsmeade!  First on the agenda?  Butterbeer, obviously!  And it did not disappoint.  This caramel, butterscotch concoction was so delicious, refreshing and sweet… I could have had several but limited myself to one.

Butterbeer with the fam!
Butterbeer with the fam!
How can you stop with just one??
How can you stop with just one??
It's the entrance to Dumbledore's office!
It’s the entrance to Dumbledore’s office!

Afterwards, we decided to check out the Hogwarts castle ride, Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey.  The line was about 45 minutes, although it didn’t take that long.  Once we got a locker for our purses (which was kind of a hassle), we meandered through the greenhouses, past potted Mandrakes, and into the castle, complete with interactive paintings, disappearing stairwells, and the Defense Against the Dark Arts classroom.  When you arrive in Dumbledore’s office, he is there to greet you with his Pensieve and Fawkes the phoenix.  The castle was very well designed, and made the waiting all the more worthwhile.  Harry, Ron and Hermione are waiting for you in the Defense Against the Dark Arts classroom and attempt to explain that you will be enchanted so you can fly on a broomstick like witches and wizards.  The ultimate goal was a little unclear, but then you make your way into the final passage, past the Singing Lady, and onto the ride.

The ride itself is INCREDIBLE.  I don’t say this lightly.  It’s a meaningful length and completely transformative.  The seats are the kind that strap you in over your head, allowing your feet to dangle.  There are 4 people in a row, and then you are off on your flying adventure.  The ride takes you through all of the scary, creepy, adventuresome moments in the books/movie.  You find yourself amidst a Quidditch game, launched into the forbidden forest surrounded by Aragog and his eight legged friends, being chased by Dementors and dragons, and so much more.  You truly feel transported into this magical world – I literally screeched a few times in surprise!

The castle, and the ride, are so on point!
The castle, and the ride, are so on point!

After the ride, we wandered into Honeydukes and purchased some goodies (Fizzing Wizzbees!  They exist!), and then took

Hagrid's hut was on point!
Hagrid’s hut was on point!

a gander at the wands available in Hogsmeade.  Finally we decided to hop on the Flight of the Hippogriff ride, which was easy and fun.  The life-size Buckbeak was really cool, nestled in his nest, occasionally peaking up to see what was going on.  All-in-all, it was so much fun.

It was a pretty toasty day, so we decided not to wait for the Dueling Dragons ride, and instead, in honor of my mama’s birthday, took her to Margaritaville for a few margs in the air conditioning.  I am admittedly not a huge Jimmy Buffet fan, but the margaritas at this place are awesome.  They don’t skimp, and they’re delicious.  Ironically, one of my sorority sisters and darling dear friends was also on a family vacay and happened to be at Universal that day!  They had spent much of the earlier part of the day in Diagon Alley so I couldn’t get over to see them, but after sipping our margaritas, she had popped over to the Islands of Adventure side of the park.  I went back in the park long enough to give her a big hug, snap a few photos (she was adorably adorned in HP gear), and quickly catch up.  Afterwards, we headed back to the resort to meet up with my brother and his wife, who had just arrived, and get a yummy birthday dinner for my mama.

Love you, Juliet!  So glad we found each other!
Love you, Juliet! So glad we found each other!
Um, how cute is she?
Um, how cute is she?
Happy birthday mamasita!
Happy birthday mamasita!

Be honest, how much am I missing from Diagon Alley?  Anyone else just love Harry Potter World?  It’s okay to still act like I am 8 years old as an adult, right?

For the Love of Love, Food, Running… and my Puppy

This is a big month for the ones I love.  Not only is it the month of Valentine’s Day, of which I have always enjoyed (I am one of those major saps, and have been lucky enough to have the very best Valentine eight years running), but it’s also the birthday month of the hubs, my best friend, and my puppy!  Big news, my pup, Rocco, is officially a real dog as of yesterday – he is two years old.  I have already made a promise to myself that he will forever be called “Rocco the Puppy,” aka “Rocco T. Yaco,” aka “Mister Taco.”  Nothing will change the view I have of my one and only perfect pup.  But I digress…

Who wouldn't want kisses from this sweet pup?
Who wouldn’t want kisses from this sweet pup?

Along with all the love flowing through me this month, I am amping up my training for the continuation of half marathon season.  Thankfully Denver has been absurdly mild this winter so far, and

Beautiful but snowy, slushy and icy run through Wash Park.
Beautiful but snowy, slushy and icy run through Wash Park.

the past few weekends, well except last Sunday, have boasted temps in the 50s and 60s, with some days reaching near 70!  It’s been ideal weekend running weather, and I am so grateful.  With this in mind, I completed the last two 5ks for the Denver Race Series.  On Super Bowl Sunday, I strapped on my Yak Trax (which have been the unsung heroes of my winter running routine), bundled up, and hit the roads of Wash Park the morning after a decent snow storm.  Of course all the snow melted within the next few days, but it was a gorgeous winter wonderland run nonetheless.  This past weekend, the hubby decided to join me for the Valentine’s Day 5K: Love on the Run.  It seemed so appropriate that he was there!  It was a stunningly gorgeous day and I was so happy to have the chance to run around Wash Park with him.  After the race, we did another 2.1 miles to round off at 5.2 miles.  We’re trying to pile on the miles each weekend as we near the March 1st That Dam Half Marathon.  When the weather is nearly 70 degrees, there’s really no excuse not to take advantage of it!

The month of January was a bit of a blur, after the death of my grandmother, preparing for and performing at her memorial, and making some big shifts at work.  I have been more than happy to welcome this next month and hope the year improves from here.  I know the old adage that when life hands you lemons, you make lemonade, but you surely hope you don’t have cuts on your hands and you have some sugar to make the lemonade sweet.  In other words, 2015 got off to a rocky start, so I could do with a sweet, lovely transition…

On a high note, the hubs and I have not only been running quite a bit more, but we’ve been trying out great eateries around the Denver metro area.  Denver really is an up-and-coming foodie fantasy land, so it makes sense that I run so I can eat.  Let’s be honest, don’t we all, really?  Given that the hub’s birthday was last week, we went to TWO restaurants in honor of his last year in his 20s.  First we dined at our favorite steak house, Del Frisco’s.  Although a chain steak house, it’s a constant delight.  We have found a favorite waitress, know the menu like the back of our hands, and always order the Del’s Delight dessert at the end.  In every way, we always have the perfect meal.

The Ocean Prime Berries and bubbles cocktail, which actually bubbles!! You must try it.
The Ocean Prime Berries and bubbles cocktail, which actually bubbles!! You must try it.

The second restaurant we tried out with our foodie Friday friends, Scott and Danielle.  Naturally we dined on Friday at a restaurant I have often overlooked, but pass by nearly daily: Ocean Prime.  Now I know what you’re thinking, “Isn’t Colorado a land-locked state?”  Well, yes… unless California, Nevada and Utah suddenly erode into the Pacific Ocean, we are still situated rather more in the middle of the country, albeit the west.  However, you’ve got to love the ease of moving fresh food quickly around the country, and there are some sensational seafood restaurants in Denver.  Ocean Prime did not disappoint.

Last week, as a pre-Valentine’s day dinner, the hubs and I trekked across town to the infamous Beast+Bottle restaurant, whose philosophy of utilizing the whole

Beast+Bottle has been one of my favorite Denver meals to date.
Beast+Bottle has been one of my favorite Denver meals to date.

animal (and vegetable/fruit for that matter) provides a most delicious experience.  We had previously gone for brunch with our dear friends, Peter and Ade, but decided this would give us the delectable dinner we’d been craving.  The past few years we had picked a new place to dine on Valentine’s Day and were constantly disappointed – by the service, the small portions, and the hurried atmosphere that stole the show of savoring a great dining experience.  This year we decided not to go out on Valentine’s Day but instead something before and after.  With that said, this was one of the BEST meals we’ve enjoyed in a LONG time.  I had the pork special, the hubs enjoyed the lamb special, we split a flatbread, and gorged on amazing desserts.  Need I say more, homemade strawberry Klondike bar.  Whoa.

What can I say, I like things in martini glasses.  "Your Own Pear-Sonal Jesus" cocktail from B+B infused with pear and creme de violet.
What can I say, I like things in martini glasses. “Your Own Pear-Sonal Jesus” cocktail from B+B infused with pear and creme de violet.
Perfect day to run with the one I love!
Perfect day to run with the one I love!

For Valentine’s Day itself, I think my hubby and I have a new tradition.  In November I registered for the Resolution Race series in City Park, and one of the races includes Le Cours de L’Amour (aka, the Course of Love).  Needless to say, my hubby was happy to join me on this one.  We ran really well together, finishing in just under 1:02 with a 9:58 pace.  This race is much like the Lucky Laces (which is part of the same series) 10K I completed last year.  It is 2 laps of a 5K through City Park, which is quite lovely, with some great views of the mountains in the distance, and a trail that hits exactly at a mile high.  The day was stunning, with a high of 65 degrees, a light breeze and wonderful morning sun.  After the race, the ladies were handed a pink rose rather than a medal.

Yup, Valentine's Day threw up all over me.
Yup, Valentine’s Day threw up all over me.
City Park really is a lovely spot to run, walk dogs, etc.  Worth wandering through on a nice Denver day.
City Park really is a lovely spot to run, walk dogs, etc. Worth wandering through on a nice Denver day.

Finally on Sunday, with winter storms looming, we went for a 4 mile run.  We wanted to go further, but the snow storm brought on some fearsome icy gusts of wind that made it quite a challenge.  2015-02-15 15.58.55With a few more miles logged for the weekend, we donned our Sunday best and headed for the Brown Palace Hotel in downtown Denver for a picturesque and perfect afternoon tea.  We were completely spoiled during our holiday in England and Scotland.  We enjoyed 3 afternoon teas whilst there, including the Pump Room in Bath, a Parliament tea along the Thames, and a Homecoming tea at the Edinburgh Castle.  This was our first afternoon tea since returning to the states in September, and it was just the perfect way to end a busy and eventful two weeks.  All I know is there is nothing better than exploring new places to eat, new races to run, and new adventures with my husband.  I am one lucky gal.

Gorgeous tea at the Brown Palace and my favorite date.
Gorgeous tea at the Brown Palace and my favorite date.
That is a good spread, complete with Kir Royal.
That is a good spread, complete with Kir Royal.
If you haven't been to the Brown Palace in Denver, go on a sunny day, stand in the middle and look up.  The stained glass ceiling is breathtaking.
If you haven’t been to the Brown Palace in Denver, go on a sunny day, stand in the middle and look up. The stained glass ceiling is breathtaking.

How I Almost Died and a Celebratory Weekend

Last week I decided to try out my friend Amy’s fitness class, LacyFit!  I know, two Amys in one space can get rather confusing, but she is a fabulous representation of the name, in my opinion.  I didn’t quite know what I was in for, but had heard about the class from my dear friend Danielle.  I have been wanting to incorporate more full-body workouts into my routine, particularly to focus on my core and my arms.  My legs get plenty of attention between running and the elliptical, but I very often neglect my arms.  In reading the class description on the LacyFit website, it didn’t sound too daunting…

“The toning circuits focus on a specific muscle group: arms, legs & abs. Light weights are used in the toning circuits to achieve high repetition, so your muscles become long and lean, rather than bulky. After each toning circuit, there is a cardio burst which is what keeps your heart rate elevated for the entire workout, getting you into the fat burning zone. The cardio bursts are intense, but short, so you can get thought it!”

Amy, our fearless leader (shown with the braids), is an incredibly inspiring instructor!
Amy, our fearless leader (shown with the braids), is an incredibly inspiring instructor! Source

The class incorporates barre, boot camp, pilates and a whole lot of fun (and shared groans and laughter), which is just what I had been looking for.  I thought I was in pretty good shape, definitely the best shape I have ever been in.  I was wrong, terribly wrong.

The class I attended took place in Denver’s Washington Park, more commonly referred to as Wash Park.  We began the class with a four minute warm-up run around a portion of the park.  No problem, I thought to myself, I can totally handle this.  We followed-up the run with barre-style leg circuits.  I wasn’t too worried about that, and although tough on the thighs, I can handle a little extra leg strengthening.  After the first circuit we did modified mountain climbers for 30 seconds followed by a one minute sprint.  Easy peasy.

The next circuit continued leg work, with a cardio burst of actual mountain climbers and another sprint.  Next we focused on our arms, using 3 pound hand weights, while engaging our core during some exercises.  I really enjoyed this section, as it’s an area I’ve wanted to improve.  Although I didn’t master the push up, I felt pretty confident with the rest of the exercises.  After the next cardio burst we began our abs circuit.  I thought I was going to die, and that I was indeed the weakest human being on the planet.  I have never had much issue with my core, and didn’t think much of my abs.  While I am not toned beyond belief with chiseled abs, I have always been pretty satisfied with my core.  In other words, I don’t have a 6-pack but I am comfortable in a bikini.  However, I apparently have no strength in my core and struggled through the last two circuits.  And I mean I really struggled…

All I want are some B Spears abs... I will have to work for it.
All I want are some B Spears abs… I will have to work for it. Source

I made it through, and I am definitely motivated to keep going.  Amy did an amazing job pushing us on, pumping us up, and making sure we knew why we were doing each exercise.  She explained the benefit of this workout format, how each movement contributed to our strength and our muscles, and made sure we had fun all the way through.  I cannot wait to go again this Thursday.  As she mentioned, each class is different, so you never get into a “routine.”  My goal is to be able to complete the core circuits easily (maybe not perfectly, but easily) by the time this summer is over.

To say that I could still feel my abs through the weekend would be putting it lightly.  It hurt to laugh.  Getting out of bed in the morning was an actual struggle, and not just because I was sleepy.  Hats off to fitness instructors – I dream to have your core strength one day.  And to not feel pressure every time I give a good chuckle.

Fabulously girly dinner for Danielle's birthday!
Fabulously girly dinner for Danielle’s birthday!

This weekend was all about celebrations!  Friday night I spent the evening with some amazing ladies celebrating my friend Danielle’s birthday.  We went to the 9th Door in Denver, a fancy tapas restaurant with a chic, mysterious vibe.  We all had a great time over tapas and drinks.  Danielle’s weekend was full of surprises, as planned by her boyfriend Scott (our Foodie Friday pals!).  She and Scott spent the day up in Boulder, doing all of her favorite things.  The day was topped off with AN ENGAGEMENT!!!  I am so incredibly excited for them both and can’t wait to celebrate with them soon.

Saturday, the longest day of the year, was my grandmother’s 92nd birthday.  She is one tough lady, and I only wish I could have been home to celebrate it with her.  On Sunday my parents celebrated their fortieth wedding anniversary in New York City.  I know they’re having a blast, and can’t wait to hear all about it.  Tomorrow will be another big day: the hubs and I will be celebrating our third wedding anniversary.  How time flies!  I cannot believe it’s been three years already, and that come July, we’ll have lived in Colorado that

Happy anniversary to my amazing parents!
Happy anniversary to my amazing parents!

long.  It’s been an incredibly beautiful whirlwind of a journey together, and I am so eternally grateful for all the blessings I’ve experienced in my life.  Have a great week everybody!

 

Have you ever taken a boot camp style class?  What do you think about them?  Any big celebrations in store this week?  Is anyone else bummed that our days are now getting shorter? #summersolsticeproblems

 

How to Have the Best Birthday in Vegas

This summer is shaping up to be my best one yet in Colorado!  Wonderful hubby, great home, awesome visits from friends, incredible getaways

Yup, that's right, we WON in Vegas!  All thanks to the Walking Dead slot machines.
Yup, that’s right, we WON in Vegas! All thanks to the Walking Dead slot machines.

and adventures, all topped off with a job I love and a city to call my own.  This past weekend was my birthday weekend, and I requested one thing from the hubs: a trip to Las Vegas.  Given its proximity to Denver, unending food options (I am a foodie, that often plays a part in my decision making), plethora of shops, non-stop shows and performances, and as my coworker put it, a chance to be glamorous, I knew it’d be the absolute perfect weekend getaway.  So the hubs took my lead and made all of the plans, from the hotel, to the shows and restaurants.  He planned the best birthday vacay possible – boy am I one lucky lady.  And to top it off, we actually won money (yes, that’s right, we left Vegas in the positive monetary direction).

Birthday Chai!  Best boss ever.
Birthday Chai! Best boss ever.

Given that my university hosts New Student Orientation each Friday during June and July, I wasn’t able to take off work that day.  So instead, we planned to leave late Friday evening, at 9:05pm.  I arrived to work in a daydream of the weekend to come, but was pleasantly, nay delightfully surprised by the incredible outpouring of birthday surprises from my coworkers.  My boss brought me a birthday chai latte from Starbucks (she and I share a love of chai), while my coworker picked up Denver’s famous Duffeyrolls (light, fluffy, perfect cinnamon rolls – you simply must try them).  Finally, my boss’ boss arrived later that morning with a lavender plant in hand.  I adore lavender, as does Robbie, for a number of reasons.  Lavender lemonade may be the best invention ever, but lavender itself, I think, smells so wonderful and herby.  It was simply the best pre-birthday birthday celebration ever.  Orientation went smoothly and the duration of the day flew by.

What great coworkers I have!
What great coworkers I have! You must try Duffeyrolls – too delicious!
I foresee this lavender ending up in beverages... mmm...
I foresee this lavender ending up in beverages… mmm…

The hubs picked me up from work and we went straight to the airport.  Typically traffic on a Friday at 5:00pm is positively horrendous.  The stars aligned, however, and we arrived quickly, parked our car, and were through security with hours to spare.  We found Mesa Grill on the top floor of Terminal A, order margaritas and dinner, and enjoyed the ease of evening.  A few hours later, we boarded the plane and had a smooth flight to Vegas.

We decided to stay in City Center for our trip.  Our last adventure in Vegas was our mini-moon, shortly after moving to Colorado.  This was the

Pre-birthday drinks at the lobby bar, combined with epic people-watching.
Pre-birthday drinks at the lobby bar, combined with epic people-watching.

first time we’d experienced City Center, which is comprised of the Aria, Vdara and Cosmopolitan.  All modern, luxurious-looking hotels with great amenities, close to the Bellagio and Mandarin Oriental, as well as Crystals, the shiny new shopping center.  The Aria is an awesome resort, with a series of fantastic pools, good spa and salon, fun bars, and all styles of restaurants.  I personally love the innovative air filtration system – you can barely smell smoke, even if the person is next to you (I am picky like that).

The first night there we grabbed a drink at the Lobby Bar and people-watched like crazy before calling it a night and heading back to our room.  The next morning, we got Starbucks and headed to the pool.  Keep in mind that the temperature that day reached 102º.  We spent some time lounging, but the rest of the time directly in the pool.  After about 3 hours, we

Catching some rays at the Aria pool! Shortly before submerging myself in the delightfully cold water.
Catching some rays at the Aria pool! Shortly before submerging myself in the delightfully cold water.

headed to the gym and spa before getting ready for the evening.  We had reservations at CUT, Wolfgang Puck’s unique steakhouse in the Palazzo.  We arrived early so stopped into dbBrasserie at the Venetian.  We have already decided to dine there the next time we visit, based upon the cocktails alone.  Once the hubs saw they had quite the selection of champagne, he knew it’d be up my alley.  I ordered a flight of incredibly delicious, unique champagne cocktails and sipped them in utter delight.  Afterwards we had our delectable dinner at CUT, which started with phenomenal steak tartar, followed by a perfectly cooked filet (for me) and amazing macaroni and cheese, and ended with the most perfect jelly filled donuts and crème fraiche ice cream.  Whoa.  So good.  We followed up dinner with a short walk over to the Mirage to see Kevin James’ standup.  He was spot-on and so funny.  It was later that we found out that Billy Joel was performing at the MGM that night that we kicked ourselves a bit, but still a great evening overall.

Best pre-birthday dinner drinks ever.  I will be trying these at home.
Best pre-birthday dinner drinks ever. I will be trying these at home.
The desserts on this trip were legendary.
The desserts on this trip were legendary.

The next day we started our morning with some epic shopping back at the Palazzo and Venetian.  I promise that I single-handedly helped stimulate the economy this weekend.  I was most thrilled about the Kate Spade store, given that the closest one to me is in Aspen.  We decided

Lunchtime champagne cocktail - what could be better?
Lunchtime champagne cocktail – what could be better?

to grab lunch at dbBrasserie (it was really that good, I cannot wait to go back for dinner), with another champagne cocktail of course (honestly named “The Perfect Champagne Cocktail”).  We headed back to the Aria for more pool time, again followed by the gym (we are trying to be good, even on vacay), and prep for another amazing dinner and a show.  That night we headed to the MGM Grand for dinner at L’Atelier.  It was fabulous.  The dining experience is much like eating at a sushi bar, watching the prep in the kitchen which is entirely open to the restaurant.  Everything was so delicious.  And rather than one dessert, we got three!  Gosh I love my birthday…  We ended the evening with my all-time favorite Cirque du Soleil show, Love.  The entire show is set to songs from the Beatles, and therefore has a very British storyline.  Many of the songs begin with in-studio recordings of the band telling jokes, working on songs and lyrics, and silly renditions of their greatest hits.  It’s spectacular and I recommend it to anyone who loves the Beatles.  This was my second time seeing it, and it still wowed me all the way through.

Three desserts, not just one!  All amazing, especially the Green Chartreuse Souffle!
Three desserts, not just one! All amazing, especially the Green Chartreuse Souffle!

The next morning we had an 11am flight back to Denver, so we leisurely woke and packed before heading to the airport.  The only downside was having to leave our puppy for the weekend, but luckily my hubby’s folks and their pet Chihuahua were a great substitute family in our absence.  I wish we could have had one extra day, but something tells me I may be going back again soon… Although it’s good we left when we did.  An excessive heat warning was issued Monday morning.  Temperatures exceeded 111º… Yikes!

What a great hubby I have!
What a great hubby I have!

What did you do this weekend?  Where’s the one place you love going to for long weekend getaways?  What’s your favorite thing to do, see or eat in Vegas?

Rocco the Puppy

Today is my Chihuahua puppy’s FIRST birthday!  I know, you are super excited just like me.  Obviously.  Well let me tell you, I am pumped.  I never thought I would love a dog as much as I do (okay so he is kind of a fake dog, but still).  I grew up with cats, and I still love them so much.  But in marrying the hubs I knew I would have to forgo cats for the rest of my life.  He is direly allergic, and as I love my hubs much more than the feline species, I realized we would someday own a dog instead.

Rocco looking so dapper with his black and white bowtie.  He's a fancy pup.
Rocco looking so dapper with his black and white bowtie. He’s a fancy pup.

I had unpleasant experiences with dogs growing up.  I thought they were dirty, smelly, slobbery, lumbering beasts.  Literally all dogs looked this way to me.  I absolutely abhor when large dogs jump up, scratch my legs, and think I want to toss around a filthy, tattered tennis ball solely for their enjoyment.  It’s definitely not for my own.

And then I met my husband’s family.  They all own Chihuahuas.  Literally they have a proud line of Chihuahuas.  At this point there have been four total, and now Rocco makes five.  They are clean, manageable dogs, who love to cuddle like cats, but have that playful side only dogs really have.  They’re loyal, but also full of personality.  These dogs are the perfect compromise.

So when the hubs and I moved from Boulder to Denver, we knew the idea of a dog was not far off.  We had seen a picture of this adorable black and white spotted Chihuahua puppy from a pet shop near our new home in Denver.  At the time we hadn’t yet moved and were in the middle of the hub’s MBA graduation, packing for the move, training for the BOLDERBoulder, and my frantic search for a different job.  The timing simply wasn’t right to bring a dog into our chaotic world.  We were finally getting settled by the end of June, and one Tuesday night in July, the hubs received a text message from his mother with a picture of the very same black and white spotted pup.  It was a sign.  He was still there, even after two months.  We were hooked.

Rocco looks excellent as a turtle for Halloween.  He is a Terrapin after all.  Go TERPS!
Rocco looks excellent as a turtle for Halloween. He is a Terrapin after all. Go TERPS!

The next evening after returning from work, the hubby looked at me when I walked through the door with such intense purpose, I knew what he was about to ask.  “Want to get the dog?” he said.  We had absolutely nothing ready to prepare for this little bundle of excitement.  But off we went.  In the car on the way to the shop, Robbie asked me if I would want to name him Rocky.  I had no clue what to name a little male pup, so I went with it.  We walked into the store, headed straight back to his cage, and quickly asked the shop clerk, Joel, to play with him.  He could tell we were there on a purpose.  He opened the cage and brought this little bundle of excitement over to the play pen.  The hubs and I could tell instantly he was a fun little dog, full of energy and so irresistibly adorable.  Within 30 minutes, we adopted our puppy, gathered as many supplies as possible and were in the car on the way home.  As soon as we were buckled in, Robbie called the pup “Rocco” instead of “Rocky” and I realized that was his name.  And so, on July 10, 2013, Rocco found his way into our home and our hearts.

The first day we brought Rocco home.  He was so nervous his whole body shook!
The first day we brought Rocco home. He was so nervous his whole body shook!

Since then, we’ve never looked back.  He’s the perfect dog for us.  He cuddles on the couch in the evenings, but plays through the day.  He is feisty and ferocious (for a little dog), but sweet and affectionate.  For me, it’s the best way to ease into the idea of a dog.  And even though he’s a Chihuahua, he’s big for his breed.  We didn’t expect him to exceed 6 pounds, and here he is, definitely over 8 pounds.  It’s the best welcome to come home to, and the perfect way to end the day.  Our little puppy is more than just a dog, he’s family.

I love my little puppy family!
I love my little puppy family!

So here’s to my puppy, who is now officially a full-fledged dog.  I love you Rocco!  Check out Rocco’s virtual photo book!

Isn't he the most handsome Chihuahua?  He loved his Christmas sweater.
Isn’t he the most handsome Chihuahua? He loved his Christmas sweater.

Happy Birthday to My Hubby

Today is my hubby’s birthday.  I may be more excited about it than he is.  Basically, I love birthdays.  They are like holidays to me, and I simply adore holidays.  To him, it’s just another day indicating yet another year added to his existence on this earth.  To me, it’s a joyous occasion worth celebrating, and often warranting glorious fanfare, breaking out into song, and all around celebratory cheer, without hesitation or explanation.  After all, is that ever really a bad thing?

The hubby and I hiking in Boulder in January 2013.
The hubby and I hiking in Boulder in January 2013.

I am rather generous with the duration of birthday celebrations.  It’s not just your day.  It’s your month.  Live it up.  The hubs, however, has to share his month with Valentine’s Day (which luckily is still partly about him, it does take two to tango, and this other half needs her Valentine) and now our puppy’s birthday.  Not to mention my best friend’s birthday from back home.  It’s steep competition for the shortest month of the year.  That is why I always do my best to make at least this week a birthday extravaganza, while still remaining digestible to his anti-celebratory ways.

It's hard to be angry sharing a birthday month with this funny pup!
It’s hard to be angry sharing a birthday month with this funny pup!

I began my celebratory preparations last night, which were already botched slightly before I even got home.  The hubs loves key lime pie, but particularly the key lime pie from our favorite steak house restaurant, Del Frisco’s.  I called ahead yesterday, placed a takeout order for a slice of the pie, and was on my way after work to pick it up when I got the call.  “For the month of February the chef likes to make a chocolate tart instead,” the hostess explained, “because it’s better for Valentine’s day.”  I am pretty sure I then gave her a five minute panic speech about the hubby’s birthday, and this being his favorite dessert in the whole-wide-world, pretty, pretty pleeeeeeeeease.  It was verging on incredibly pathetic.  But that was that.  I stopped by our local fresh fair grocery store on my way home, found some lovely looking little key lime tarts, purchased two for good measure, and rushed home.  Robbie was at a meeting until about 9:00pm, at which point I prepared the tart with a single candle, grabbed our puppy, and sang happy birthday to him.  Of course only after telling him my sad state of pie affairs.

The almost ruined Key Lime Pie (or tart in this case) birthday surprise.  Phew!
The almost ruined Key Lime Pie (or tart in this case) birthday surprise. Phew!

My hubby’s other love (besides me, of course) is gin.  If we weren’t trying to be healthy and didn’t care for the state of our livers, I am pretty sure he would have a gin martini every night.  Except for Master’s weekend; that is the start of gin and tonic season after all.  Between golf, Scotch, and gin, I wonder sometimes why my Anglo-Saxon spouse doesn’t just up and move to the British Isles.  But at least we get to visit in September (YAY! And more on this later), so that’s something.  I have taken it upon myself, being the avid baker that I am, to make him Gin and Tonic cupcakes.  I found a promising recipe courtesy of B.U.I Cupcakes (thank you!) that I will be attempting this weekend.  Trying regular baking recipes at altitude is always a risk, but this is one worth taking.  I will report back on my (keep those fingers crossed) success.

In the interim, we are off to a delightful dinner at Elway’s Steak House tonight (you know, the Denver Broncos QB that actually won the Superbowl for us… sorry Peyton, we still love you), and Robbie will have a pre-dinner cocktail using his crystal clear giant ice cubes.  Oh yeah.  That’s been his project this week.  Try it out!  He recommends boiling distilled water twice before letting it cool and transferring it to the giant ice cube trays.

So here’s to the love of my life, my best friend of 7 years, husband of almost 3, soul mate, confidant, and the greatest puppy daddy of all time. I love you so much.  You are the oldest 28 year old I know, and I love you more every day!

Here's to my hubby on his birthday!  I love you!
Here’s to my hubby on his birthday! I love you!