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.

Making the Most of It: Pre-Trip Festivities!

Another amazing Colorado weekend in the books.  With my trip to the United Kingdom a matter of FOUR days away, I am trying to make the most of my last week in Colorado before we leave.  Over the weekend, other than prepping for our impending travels, the hubs and I were busy hosting the in-laws for a delectable home cooked meal, getting in some miles in preparation for our fall races, and I met up with some local sorority sisters for a hike and an unexpected adventure.

Saturday started off with a nice five mile run with the hubs, followed by necessary errands to prepare for our trip.  With all of the changes we have made in our diet and regular exercise routine, my hubby has lost quite a bit of weight.  It was definitely time, possibly overdue, to get him some new duds to show off his svelte figure.  Obviously we want to look our best abroad, and London is a classy city, so it was the perfect opportunity to take advantage of updating his wardrobe.  Besides, I love shopping for him… there’s something so enjoyable about dressing men!

That evening we hosted my in-laws for a home cooked meal as a thank you for taking care of our adorable pup, Rocco, while we’re away.  We’ve

I cannot begin to express how much I am going to miss my puppy boy!
I cannot begin to express how much I am going to miss my puppy boy!

had our puppy for just over a year and have never left him for more than 4 days.  This is going to be a big switch for us, and I can already tell I am going to have separation anxiety.  Luckily my in-laws also have a Chihuahua who is our pup’s best friend in the whole world.  Something tells me this will be a vacation for Rocco too.  On the menu for the evening was a delicious cheese plate with Manchego and Pecorino cheeses, rosemary olive oil crisps and crostini from Whole Foods, and black seedless grapes.  With this in mind, the hubs and I decided to go Italian.

We prepared homemade pork meatballs, which we seasoned ourselves, freshly made creamy polenta (my first time making it!), and topped with homemade San Marzano tomato sauce, Parmigiano-Reggiano and arugula.  I am a bad blogger and didn’t take a picture of the awesomeness.  The recipe was based off of a dish I used to order at my favorite little Italian restaurant in Boulder, Radda Trattoria.  The hubs and I were so spoiled because this restaurant was just across the street from our townhome, so it became a restaurant staple.  The meal is called Polpette e Polenta, and is too delicious for words.  Without fail, this was always what I ordered.  It’s also this restaurant where I first had a Martini Basilico, which my hubby has beautifully been able to recreate at home (YAY!).  We finished the meal with my mother-in-law’s homemade peach bourbon upside down cake.  Overall, it was a phenomenal meal.

Another perfect day for a hike!
Another perfect day for a hike!

The next morning I met up with two local sorority sister for a Sunday morning hike.  We drove west towards Morrison, the same place I had hike the weekend before, but this time we went to a trail on the opposite side of Red Rocks amphitheater.  The trailhead, Mt. Falcon, takes two paths.  One, the Castle Trail, is mountain biker friendly, so a number of adventurists passed us on the trail, impressively navigating the terrain on bike.  At the first summit, you can see beautiful vistas of the valley below and the Denver skyline in the distance.  Although we decided not to go to the top of Mt. Falcon, for timing reasons, we took the Turkey Trot trail around the back side of the foothill, which allowed for amazing views and a gorgeous woodsy atmosphere.

My hiking buddies, Kaitlin and Christie!
My hiking buddies, Kaitlin and Christie!
The Turkey Trot trail took us through some beautiful woodsy paths.
The Turkey Trot trail took us through some beautiful woodsy paths.
Love these views!
Love these views!
We found Red Rocks!
We found Red Rocks!

After hiking, we drove to downtown Golden for lunch.  We sat on the back patio of the Buffalo Rose bar and grill, and quickly realized we were in the middle of the USA Pro Challenge cycling race.  The main street of Golden was lined with spectators trying to catch a glimpse.  I’d never seen a cycling race in person, so when the hordes of cyclists passed a dizzying speeds, followed closely by pace cars, I was pretty excited.

Definitely an unexpected surprise for our day!
Definitely an unexpected surprise for our day!  Source

Shortly afterwards we tried to leave Golden, and realized the city was shut down for the race.  We managed to cross into the entrance to the Coors factory, and the guard at the gate allowed us to drive through their property

Fort Keg, it's a pretty formidable structure.
Fort Keg, it’s a pretty formidable structure.

to get back to the highway.  Having done the Coors factory tour four times now, I had absolutely no idea how HUGE the factory is.  We drove for quite some time through service roads connecting the facility together, interspersed with Coors’ own railway system.  It was impressive.  Then we saw the castle of kegs, and that was incredible.  I doubt they were full (that would not live up to the Coors cold-brewed standard), but it definitely made me wonder how much beer could fill all of them…  It was in every way a memorable day!

Yeah, not sure we really should have been allowed back here... oh well!
Yeah, not sure we really should have been allowed back here… oh well!
The sunsets along my run are always so beautiful!
The sunsets along my run are always so beautiful!

This week, interspersed with packing, I have jam-packed in fun events and last-minute get-togethers.  Yesterday I fit in a 5K run in preparation for the Esprit de She 10K this Thursday.  The sunset was stunning, and the weather perfection (finally).  Hello 65º!  I hope Thursday night has similar weather.  Tonight, after Zumba, I am stopping by the Esprit de She Packet Pickup Party at the Athleta shop in Denver’s Cherry Creek area.  Not only can I get my bib, but as a participant we also get 20% off in store, snacks, giveaways and more.  Yes please!  Tomorrow evening I will be going to the Squeaky Bean with my friend Danielle for pre-trip cocktails.  The Squeaky Bean boasts one of the best professional mixologists in Denver, so the drinks are fabulous.  Finally, Thursday I will be running the Esprit de She with my friend Christie, and cannot wait for the post-race festivities.

Have a great week everyone – make every day an adventure!

How did you make the most of your last summer weekend?  Do you know how much beer could fill all of those kegs?  What are you looking forward to this week?

Waffle Doughnuts and August Adventures

I was not really aware, not being an expert in the field of doughnut creation, that such a thing could exist: waffle doughnuts.

Seriously - first cronuts, now wonuts?  Brilliant!
Seriously – first cronuts, now wonuts? Brilliant!

Mind blown. Tomorrow is my boss’ birthday so we celebrated today, and thankfully my cleanse is coming to an end. I may have partaken in the deliciousness. If you haven’t tried them, you should, preferably with chocolate icing. What can I say? I have a sweet tooth!

Other than the delightful world of doughnuts, August is shaping up to be a pretty fantastic and adventurous month! Last weekend the hubs and I had the pleasure of hosting some of our dearest friends from Washington D.C., Alex and Colleen. They flew out for a whirlwind of a weekend trip and we were up to the challenge. They arrived late last Friday evening, so we decided to have a relaxing evening in so we could rise early on Saturday and head into the mountains for a quick day trip. If you live along the Front Range and have attempted the journey up I-70 this summer, you know what a bear it’s been to get past Idaho Springs. Given the long winter months in the mountains, all road construction takes place in a short window, and a lot needs to be completed in a limited amount of time. In other words, it was slow going, but we finally arrived in Vail just before 11:30am. We wandered around the town a bit, basking in the mountain air and watching the Keen Kids Adventure Race (it was a pretty epic ordeal). The race was a series of obstacles, starting with a climbing wall, followed by a bike race, and ending with an inner tube race along Gore Creek. I cannot deny that it looked like so much fun. And because it’s Colorado, these kids were fiercely fit and very competitive.

Beautiful views from the Mountain Standard patio!
Beautiful views from the Mountain Standard patio!  The race is in full swing.

We had lunch along the creek, with full view of the festivities, at a fantastic restaurant called Mountain Standard. By 12:15pm the place was packed – a good sign in my book! We had a light lunch, mine consisting of a fantastic caprese salad with homemade ricotta and fried polenta “breadcrumbs”. It was delish! If you find your way to Vail, it’s a definite must, especially in the summertime.

After lunch we stopped by my all-time favorite Christmas shop (let’s be honest, Vail looks like an eternal Christmas card), The Gilded Spruce. They provide some incredible ornaments made in Colorado, as well as European treasures. I was born in Germany, so I grew up with traditional German Christmas ornaments, including handmade wooden German pyramids/windmills and smokers. This shop definitely takes me back to my childhood, and I love being transported to a Christmassy winter wonderland! Better still, I love visiting the shop to see my friend Peter’s mother, Betsy. Although I wasn’t sure if she’d be working that day, I had to stop in. Luckily she was there and the shop was quiet, so we were able to catch up and introduce our friends. The hubs and I will be returning to Vail in months’ time with our friends Peter and Ade, and Betsy is kind enough to put us up!

Great day with friends and the hubby in my favorite mountain village!
Great day with friends and the hubby in my favorite mountain village!
Picture perfect day in the mountains!
Picture perfect day in the mountains!
This view needs no filter.
This view needs no filter.

After the Gilded Spruce, we wandered the town a bit more, checked out some shops, and walked by the gondola and the finish line of the kids’ race. The day was beautiful, and the mountains are utterly peaceful. We left around 3:00pm so we could get back with enough time to relax before dinner. The hubs made some signature cocktails before we got an easy dinner nearby. The next day the boys played golf, while Colleen and I got in some serious pool time.

The hubs got the Fort's Game Plate, complete with bison, elk and quail!
The hubs got the Fort’s Game Plate, complete with bison, elk and quail! 

That evening we went to dinner at the Fort. I have been hearing about this place since moving to Colorado, and although the hubs had been before, it had been many years. The Fort is a Colorado staple: it serves dishes more common to the region, including bison, elk, quail, and the occasional rattlesnake. The structure itself it a replica of Bent’s Fort, an old fur trading fort built in 1833, constructed by a family seeking the true western experience nestled in the foothills outside of Denver. Now it is a culinary collaboration of Native American and southwestern flavors, and boy is it good! The service is spectacular, the food awesome, and the portions are insane. We left with tons of leftovers and full stomachs. If you visit Denver anytime soon, you simply must go to the Fort.

Monday morning we dropped off our friends at the airport bright and early, and the rest of this week has been a blur. I can’t believe it’s Friday already! Last night after an awesome Zumba class I went to the Matador in the Highlands. I had recently read about the incredible Jalapeno Cucumber Margaritas from Chocolate Covered Race Medals, and thankfully some of my local sorority sisters had planned a happy hour there for Thursday. They did not disappoint whatsoever. I could have had way more than two, but thankfully I did not so I could get home safe and sound. I can’t wait to take the hubs and get some grub (we just munched on an awesome plate of nachos). Everything there looked awesome.

Tonight the hubs and I are hosting some of our friends for a couples date night at our house. They are thrilled as they have

I cannot wait for Yoga on the Rocks - watching the sun rise over Red Rocks while doing yoga, yes please!
I cannot wait for Yoga on the Rocks – watching the sun rise over Red Rocks while doing yoga, yes please!

two adorable little daughters, ages 3 months and 2 years. My hubby has some awesome brined grilled chicken, corn on the cob, sweet potato fries and arugula salad planned, and I will work on a sweet treat for dessert. Tomorrow morning I am rising before 6:00am so I can meet up with two of my gal pals for Yoga on the Rocks. Red Rocks is a stunning outdoor amphitheater carved into the red rock face of the foothills by Morrison. Starting at 7:00am during most Saturdays in the summer, they host a giant yoga class with people and their mats lining the many rows of seating all the way down to the stage. I cannot wait! Afterwards we plan on doing a short 4 mile hike nearby.

The most exciting part of this month is my countdown to London and Edinburgh!! The hubs and I leave in two weeks’ time for an incredible adventure, and it’s all I can do to make it through the day without wanting to drive to the airport and leave right now! Have a great weekend everyone – make it an adventurous one!

Any amazing weekend plans in your future?  Have you ever done a mass yoga class – what was it like?  Where is your favorite day trip?

Runbelievable BolderBOULDER and Jam-Packed Weekend

Well I feel ashamed I have not yet recounted the results of the BolderBOULDER yet.  It’s been nearly three weeks… but a fun and crazy three weeks it’s been.  After Samantha, aka Miss Bakenburn, and her hubby departed Colorado, the hubs and I hosted another guest, had an amazing weekend trip to Vegas, and continued preparing for another 10K.  I’ve decided our home is much more like a bed and breakfast than a home, which is perfect because I love being the hostess with mostest!

But back to the BolderBOULDER… I am easily distracted on Fridays.  This is honestly one of my favorite running events.  It is so much more

We were looking rather Patriotic ourselves!
We were looking rather Patriotic ourselves!

than just a race.  The BolderBOULDER, or BB for short, is a massive celebration for Memorial Day.  It honors our nation’s Veterans with ROTC running units, military personnel parachuting into the CU Boulder stadium, and an incredible tribute at the very end.  Even if you don’t run the race, watching the excitement and participating in the spectacle are well worth it.  50,000 people participate each year, so it’s a pretty big event!

Our day began at 6:00am, when we left for Boulder.  Typically it is a 45 minute drive from my home south of Denver to Boulder.  Given the enormity of the BB, I gave myself plenty of time.  We hit some unnecessary traffic due to a cop car on the side of the highway, but made it to the parking garage on CU Boulder’s campus by 7:30am.  Our wave, FL (one of nearly 100 waves), was set to depart at 7:39:50am, but after the walk to the start line and stop at the bathroom, we arrived 5 minutes late.  Luckily you can always start in a later wave than your assigned one, and so we were off with group GA!

Before starting the BolderBOULDER, on the way to our start wave!
Before starting the BolderBOULDER, on the way to our start wave!
We found the start line- ready to go!
We found the start line- ready to go!

We started the race at a good, easy pace, taking in the sights and sounds.  There are bands and performers located all throughout the course.  Seriously though, there are 36 groups performing over 6.2 miles – that’s pretty amazing!  Each kilometer and mile are marked, including the highest point of the race, Casey Hill, at 5,391 feet located just after mile marker 4.  We ran fairly steady with our friends until just about mile 3.  Elevation can be a beast when you aren’t used to it, and because you can’t “see” elevation, you don’t really think about it until it is hard to breath.  On a vacation to Colorado before moving here, I experienced elevation sickness, and I felt absolutely horrid.  We didn’t want them to go through that mid-race.  At that point the hubs and I went on ahead so our friends could get into a comfortable rhythm and ease their pace a bit.

We really enjoyed the race this year!  We had a bit more practice this time around!
We really enjoyed the race this year! We had a bit more practice this time around!
Aren't our ensembles super cute?
Aren’t our ensembles super cute?

The hubs and I ran all the way through to the finish, constantly commenting on how much easier it was this year.  Last year’s BB was our very

You definitely feel like a rockstar crossing the finish line!
You definitely feel like a rockstar crossing the finish line!

first race, after only discovering running 3 months prior (and starting a running career at altitude no less)!  While we had a blast, it wasn’t easy.  This year, however, was a breeze.  We were able to enjoy the belly dancers, local bands, Irish Step Dancers, the group of fiddlers, the cupcake break, doritos, and slip-n-slides so much more.

By far, the best part of the race is the end.  You run up Folsom Road into the side entrance of the CU Boulder stadium, then loop ¾ of the way around the stadium with spectators and completed runners cheering you on.  It’s a barrage of sound, excitement, and glory.  In that moment, you feel like a pro!  Needless to say, the hubs and I locked hands and sprinted through the finish line.  After crossing, you work your way through perfectly calculated post-race check-points: first timing tag removal and finisher photos, then Gatorade and water, and finally lunches in bright green lunch bags and beers for those of age.  You emerge from the stadium into an impressive post-race expo with local and big-name vendors scattering the campus.

Yeah, we were that couple - holding hands through the finish line!
Yeah, we were that couple – holding hands through the finish line!

After meeting up with Samantha and her hubby, we wandered the Expo for a bit and then decided to head back to Denver for a delicious barbeque and cocktails.  Ultimately it was the perfect Memorial Day weekend, and I cannot wait to run it again next year!

What an awesome accomplishment!!
What an awesome accomplishment!!

As I mentioned, the very next week one of my hubby’s dearest friends from high school and college came to stay for a few days before throwing his other friend’s camping bachelor party.  It was a great visit, and was the perfect way to kick off my birthday week!  He arrived on that Wednesday and we went to Barolo Grill, an incredible Italian restaurant nestled in the Cherry Creek district of Denver.  What makes this restaurant so phenomenal is the dedicated wait staff.  Each year, the restaurant sends its staff, and of course chefs and line cooks, to Italy to learn more about the cuisine, the wine, and the culture of food in Tuscany (makes me want to be a waitress again!).  The service is excellent, the food divine, and I got an amazing little treat for my birthday.  What can I say?  I don’t celebrate the day, I celebrate the month!  The next month we went to my favorite steak house of all time, Del Frisco’s, home of the best filet Oscar and the VIP – Svedka Clementine Vodka infused with fresh Hawaiian pineapple. INCREDIBLE.  May and June are turning into some amazing months for friends, fun and food!

This weekend marks 2 big things: Father’s Day and the US Open (golf of course people).  The hubs began watching the first round yesterday, and is so thrilled for the weekend.  I see gin and tonics in our future… But besides that, the hubs and I are running the Denver Father’s Day 10K this weekend!  We wanted to get a 10K in the books together, and as it is also puppy daddy day, we thought it’d be fun to do something together that we both enjoy.  This race will take us through north Denver, in the Stapleton area.  It’s looking like it’ll be a perfect weather day – mid-80’s, partly cloudy, and a light breeze!

Any plans for the weekend and Father’s Day?  Have you ever run the BolderBoulder – what did you think?  Are you going to watch the US Open?  Any predictions on the victor?

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?

Memorial Day Weekend Recap

It’s crazy to think how last week and this week flew by.  My birthday is this Saturday and I don’t even know what happened to the month of May!  Two Thursdays ago I flew home from Jackson Hole, WY and shortly afterwards our friends Samantha and her hubby arrived in Denver for a long weekend stay.  It was a much needed respite from work, and a welcome visit from some of our favorite people.

The first time Samantha and her hubs came to Colorado, we were living in Boulder, and had only been in residence for about 6 months.  Colorado was still very new to us, but we were able to showcase some of our favorite things, including Snooze.  My sister and brother-in-law introduced us to the restaurant a few years before moving there.  Snooze is an AM Eatery, with an old school diner vibe infused with unique flavor combinations.  My all-time go-to, hands down best order?  Red velvet pancakes.  No lie.  To be sure, our friends fell just as in love with Snooze as we did.  The first order of their second trip to Colorado?  Snooze, duh!

Delightful Snooze beverages!
Delightful Snooze beverages!

We went to Snooze Friday morning, and only waited about 40 minutes (there are no reservations, and people will line up outside to wait, so anything less than an hour is a blessing).  Thankfully they were still on East Coast time, so it was easy to rally early and head out for a delightful breaky.  I ordered their epic breakfast burrito smothered in green chili.  If you aren’t from Colorado or New Mexico, proper green chili sauce is hard to come by.  Having fresh roasted hatch green chilies makes all the difference in the world.  YUM!  I was tempted, however, by a new pancake on the menu: Strawberry Rhubarb Pie pancakes.  Needless to say, we got one to share for the table.

After gorging ourselves with Snoozey goodness, the boys went off to play some golf while Samantha and I went shopping.  Our first stop was the Run Colorado store in Greenwood Village.  I absolutely love the Run Colorado store.  Their Nike pullovers and running tanks, with great Colorado logos, make my day every time.  I bought some items for my friend Christine’s birthday, but knew that Samantha would love this store too.  To say we did some damage would be fairly accurate.

After hitting a few more stores, I took Samantha to Lark Burger for a small lunch.  She’d been hearing about Lark Burger for some time, and I often rave about it.  We each got a Little Lark and split a side of their legendary Parmesan Truffle Fries!  So fabulous… I am pretty much always sold when it comes to truffle anything.  We jetted home and met up with the boys before going downtown for drinks at Peak’s Lounge and dinner at Osteria Marco on Larimer Square.

The next morning we woke early and readied ourselves for a hike.  The last time Samantha and Michael came to visit was during the month of

This is the map of Castlewood Canyon State Park - beautiful views of Pike's Peak!
This is the map of Castlewood Canyon State Park – beautiful views of Pike’s Peak! Source

January – not prime hiking season.  But we obliged anyway!  By the end we were practically scooting on our rears all the way down due to slick, steep ice and packed snow.  This time was significantly better.  We headed southeast to Castlewood Canyon State Park, south of Castle Rock, CO.  We parked on the east side of the park, started on the Lake Gulch trail, connected with the Rim Rock trail, taking us along the top of the canyon, and then continued on the Creek bottom trail before hooking back up with the Lake Gulch to head back to the car.  In total, the entire hike was about 6 miles and we made great time.  We tired out Samantha and Michael by the end but they were in great spirits.  Samantha and I spent the rest of the day relaxing by the pool, strawberry mojitos in hand, and had a nice easy evening.

Yay hiking selfies!  And photobombing!
Yay hiking selfies! And photobombing!
Yup! That's Pike's Peak behind the adorable couple!
Yup! That’s Pike’s Peak behind the adorable couple!
Don't jump Samantha!
Don’t jump Samantha!
Gorgeous day in Garden of the Gods!
Gorgeous day in Garden of the Gods!

The following day we went to Whole Foods in the morning to prepare for the evening’s meal (light protein and carbs in preparation for Monday’s race) and our Memorial Day barbeque (Robbie’s famous burgers!).  Afterwards we drove south to Colorado Springs, meandered through Garden of the Gods, and then hopped on the Cog Railway train in Manitou Springs to head up Pike’s Peak!  The train was packed, but we made the most of it.  We made it to the top this time, although it was surrounded in clouds, and just as we were departing the clouds broke for a few moments, and the rest of the world (it seemed) lay below.  You could see all the way to the state of Kansas, so that in itself was pretty awesome.

The top of Pike's Peak!
The top of Pike’s Peak!

With the BolderBOULDER the next morning, we prepared fish and sausage on the grill with a side of purple rice.  Monday morning we were ready to leave by 6am.  We got to Boulder around 7:15am, parked at CU, and walked to the starting line.  We missed our corral by about 5 minutes, but given that there are nearly 100 start waves, it wasn’t an issue.  We started the race in red, white and blue style!  Samantha bought us all patriotic sunglasses to wear during the run and they were so fun!  Robbie wore a Captain America shirt, Michael had Superman, and Samantha and I decked out accordingly.  We ran the first three miles with Michael and Samantha, but separated after that point so they could take a bit more time due to the altitude.  The hubs and I ran straight through to the end, noticing how much easier it was this year versus last year.  We are a bit more in practice this time around!  Shortly after finishing, Samantha and her hubby joined us and we wandered through the after-race expo.  The crowds were pretty enormous, so we grabbed a few things here and there, and then headed home.

BolderBOULDER awesomeness.  I love coordinating outfits and Patriotic sunglasses!
BolderBOULDER awesomeness. I love coordinating outfits and Patriotic sunglasses!
Another awesome year running the BolderBOULDER!
Another awesome year running the BolderBOULDER!

That afternoon was spent on our back patio, eating hatchamole (guacamole with hatch green chilies!) and chips, mixing up delicious cocktails, and dining on my hubby’s homemade burgers (hello pretzel buns!).  It was the perfect Memorial Day weekend celebration.  I couldn’t have asked for a better visit!

We celebrate in delicious style.  Strawberry and blueberry mojitos and watermelon slices!
We celebrate in delicious style. Strawberry and blueberry mojitos and watermelon slices!
My boys chillin' outside - still rockin' the shades.
My boys chillin’ outside – still rockin’ the shades.
I worried Samantha and Michael would try to take Rocco with them...
I worried Samantha and Michael would try to take Rocco with them…
Perfect weekend!
Perfect weekend!

How was the start of your summer (okay so technically it starts on June 21st, but it’s the symbolic start to summer, right?)?  What are your go-to’s when friends come to visit?  Don’t you just love our Patriotic ensembles?

May Margaritas and Go-to Quiche

I have been on a bit of a baking and cooking kick as of late, and I think it’s due mainly to this bizarre weather that Colorado has experienced during the past few weeks.  This cold snap may be getting to me – I refuse to think that it actually snowed on Sunday and Monday.  Luckily everything melted off yesterday, and it’s climbing into the 60s today (okay, it’s going be 60 degrees, semantics…).  But given this odd shift in the weather, I have had more time inside, planning meals and finding some good new recipes and revisiting great old ones.

Homemade waffles with strawberries and maple syrup. I am one lucky puppy mommy!
Homemade waffles with strawberries and maple syrup. I am one lucky puppy mommy!

Sunday was Mother’s Day, but given my newfound role as a puppy mom, the hubs decided to rise early and prepare waffles with strawberries.  It was the perfect way to start the day.  We spent much of it playing with our pup, going to the gym (thanks a lot May snowstorm!), catching up on our favorite shows (“Game of Thrones” and “Mad Men” really make Sunday nights amazing), and concocting cocktails and making a lovely fish dinner.  Robbie grilled (in the snow!) halibut with a Cuban rub and I prepared my all-time favorite salmon recipe, grilled salmon with a lime butter sauce.  We prepared sweet potato fries (with a drizzle of honey and a sprinkling of sea salt) as a side.  So good, I tell you, so good.

I had sent the hubs a recipe earlier in the week for a drink I wanted to try.  I found a recipe for a fresh strawberry margarita on the Anthropologie blog, and decided this would be my beverage for Puppy Mom day, regardless of the snow.  It’s definitely worth it, not too sweet, and full of fresh ingredients.  I learned early on that fresh orange juice makes a world of difference in margaritas, and that is proven true in this awesome libation.

Fresh Strawberry Margarita

Ingredients

2 oz. strawberry puree (see below)

2 oz. tequila

Such a tasty treat on a cold snowy day!
Such a tasty treat on a cold snowy day!

1 oz. Cointreau

2 Tbsp. lime juice

Sugar/Salt for the rim

Lime slices and additional strawberries for garnish

Directions

Strawberry Puree

Combine one pound of hulled strawberries and the juice of two oranges (preferably Valencia oranges) in a blender. Blend until very smooth and strain through a fine mesh sieve or cheesecloth. Store the puree in a tightly-lidded jar in the refrigerator.

If you only want to make enough puree for one drink, combine ¼ pound of strawberries with the juice of half an orange.  This should equal the 2 ounces needed for the cocktail.

Margaritas

First, prepare your glassware: With a slice of lime, wet the rim and dip into a plate of sugar (the recipe calls for salt, but it made the drink a bit too savory, so next time I will make it with sugar), and fill the glass with ice. Then, in a cocktail shaker, combine the strawberry puree, tequila, Cointreau and lime juice.  Add ice and shake vigorously. Strain into the salt-rimmed glasses and serve with a lime wedge and a fresh strawberry with the stem removed.

If you need additional sweetness, add a touch of simple syrup or agave.  Drink up and enjoy!

 

This week I made my tried and true spinach and bacon quiche, which is always a favorite given the prospect of leftovers.  It doesn’t involve too many ingredients, can be used as a base for other fillers, and always turns out perfectly.  I initially took the recipe from Kraft, but I tweaked it to mix up the cheese and add sautéed mushrooms for additional flavor.  I know you’ll like it!

Spinach, Bacon and Mushroom Quiche

Easy to make, but easier to eat!
Easy to make, but easier to eat!

Ingredients

1 ready-to-use refrigerated pie crust (1/2 of 15-oz. pkg.) or homemade pie crust (see my recipe below)

2 – 2 ½ cups grated cheese of your choice (I use sharp white cheddar, mozzarella, gruyere, and Parmesan)

2 Tbsp.  flour

1 10 oz. package of frozen chopped spinach, cooked, well drained

1 cup skim milk

2 eggs, beaten

3 – 4 slices of cooked bacon, chopped into ½ inch pieces

½ pint of sautéed mushrooms of your choice, or small can of canned mushrooms drained

½ tsp. salt (or less, depending on the saltiness of the cheese you add)

A dash of pepper

Directions

Heat the oven to 350°F.  Line a 9-inch pie plate with the pie crust and flute or fork the edges.  Toss the cheese with flour in medium bowl.  Add remaining ingredients and mix until fully incorporated.  Pour the mixture into the pie crust and disperse evenly.  Sprinkle with additional cheese if desired.  Bake for one hour or until knife inserted in the center comes out clean.  Serve for breakfast, brunch or dinner.  Enjoy!

Photo May 12, 7 33 05 PM

 

Pie Crust Recipe

Ingredients

1 ½ cups all-purpose flour

1/4  teaspoon fine salt

1 teaspoon granulated sugar

8 tablespoons cold unsalted butter (1 stick), cut into small pieces

4 to 5 tablespoons ice water

Directions
Combine the flour, salt, and sugar in a large bowl. Using a pastry cutter, fork or your fingers, cut the butter into the dry ingredients until it’s in pea-size pieces that are slightly yellow in color, about 4 to 5 minutes.  Add 4 tablespoons of the ice water and mix just until the dough comes together.  Only add the last tablespoon of ice water if necessary, but don’t overwork the dough or it’ll become tough.  Shape the dough into a flat disk, cover it in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes, then use it in the pie or tart recipe of your choice.  You can also freeze the disks for up to two months for future use.  Place in the refrigeration prior to using to allow the dough to defrost slightly.

What are your go to recipes?  Any fun alternatives for margarita mix-ins?  What did you do for Mother’s Day?  Am I crazy for celebrating Puppy Mommy Day – my pup is my fur-child after all?