Vistas and Visitors

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Shoe Therapy and Wednesday Giveaway

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Foodie Fridays

Foodie Friday is possibly my absolute favorite Friday of the month!  Fridays already have a fantastic connotation, but add a foodie experience and you’ve got yourself an ideal weekday and start to the weekend.  While we were still living in Boulder, a few couple friends of ours asked if we would like to join them for their Foodie Friday tradition.  The group had formed a few months prior and the idea was to try one new or favorite restaurant each month, picked by a different couple, for a chance to delight in some of the local hotspots and enjoy some wonderful company.  We quickly realized this was an awesome tradition, and have kept it up since.

Luckily my dear friend Danielle is in the food business and always knows the best little places to go in Denver and Boulder.  She’s always got a great recommendation, and she’s never led me astray.  I would promote any of the restaurants on this list, but have highlighted* a few!  I’ve also indicated a few pre or post dinner bars that we really enjoyed!

Some of the restaurants we have sampled in the nearly two years we’ve participated in Foodie Friday:

Enjoying a beautiful meal at Brasserie Ten Ten!
Enjoying a beautiful meal at Brasserie Ten Ten!

Although most Foodie Fridays we are out and about, some we stay in and enjoy one another’s skills in the kitchen.  Regardless of where we are, it’s the perfect excuse to see some of our favorite people while simultaneously trying something new and always delicious.  Tonight we’ll be going to the adorable French bistrot, Z Cuisine, and its neighboring bar, A Cote.  I love being able to check these great local restaurants off my list and discover which ones I simply must return to!

Do you have a Foodie Friday tradition, or something similar?  Do you like to go to one restaurant continuously, or try new places?  How do you learn about new restaurants?

Perfect Princess Half Marathon Magic!

*Cue trumpet fanfare*  I am officially a half marathoner.  I hope that’s a word, but if not, oh well!  This past weekend marks my very first half marathon.  Even better, it was in Walt Disney World.  Better still, it was a Disney Princess themed half marathon.  Genius.  Having dreamed of being a princess from a small age (and coming to terms with the fact that I am a princess regardless of royal bloodlines and inherited tiaras), this was a dream literally come true.  Running the race with my best friend was the only way to make it the best race ever run.  To be perfectly honest, I didn’t truly know what to expect.  Keeping in mind that this was a Disney event, however, helped me realize it would be a sensational spectacle and experience like no other.  I maintain that if Disney took over the world, it would be a better place.  Needless to say, it was glorious.  If only they could also control the weather, but alas, some things are still just beyond our reach.

We actually did cross the finish line hand in hand!
I am pretty sure I was smiling like this the entire time.

The weekend started with Friday with the Disney Half Marathon Weekend Expo.  Because the Royal Family 5K took place Friday morning, the Expo actually opened on Thursday.  Arriving a day after it first opening, you could tell it had already been slightly picked over.  There were still plenty of products and merchandise to peruse and purchase.  And boy did I purchase.  How could I not?  It was a massive Expo Center full of princess inspired athletic gear.  I was in girly running heaven.  The piece de resistance, however, were the signature New Balance RunDisney (NB 860v4 and 890v4) inspired shoes.  Of course I had my eyes on the Cinderella shoes.  No detail was left unaccounted for: the glass slipper at the base of the laces, the pumpkin coach on the inside tongue of the shoe, the extra blue satin laces to “princess-ify” your shoes even more… And the list goes on.  These shoes were perfect.  The problem was that quantities were so limited last year and demand so high, that New Balance had instituted a pick-up policy.  You were to sign-in online the day that you would be attending the Expo, beginning at 6:00am EST, and select a time slot in which to try on and purchase your shoes.  Friday morning, my friend and I logged on at 8:30am and all time slots had been taken.  We assumed we would be unable to purchase them, but would try again Saturday morning to select a time.  I set my alarm for 5:59am on Saturday morning just to log-in, and got a very disheartening message: “Due to limited quantity of runDisney shoes we will be forgoing the online runner signup and on-site virtual queue process in favor of a first-come, first-served standy line.  The standby line will form at the New Balance tent outside the Josten’s Center and we will begin accepting people when the Expo opens on or before 9:00am.”  I felt right then and there our shoe dreams were dashed.

Enjoying the beautiful chaos of the Expo!
Enjoying the beautiful chaos of the Expo!

My friend and I wanted to do a short warm-up run Saturday morning, then leisurely get breakfast and get ready to head to the parks.  We decided to just try for the New Balance shoes, and headed first to the Expo.  At this point it was already 11:00am so we weren’t terribly hopeful.  We walked right into the New Balance tent, found a representative, and were told there were shoes in our size and we could try them on right then and there.  Now that’s Disney magic for you.  So I can happily say I am the honored owner of Cinderella athletic shoes!  Who needs a Fairy Godmother when you have magical shoes?

So this is love, so this is what makes life divine.
So this is love, so this is what makes life divine.

Saturday we spent the day primarily in the Magic Kingdom, meandering through the crowds and enjoying a few of the sights.  We rode Thunder Mountain (which I always forget is amazing), sipped on LeFou’s Brew at Gaston’s Tavern, commented on massive lines at Under the Sea and the Haunted Mansion, and found a fabulous tiara to don on race day.  We ended the day back at the hotel and completed Christine’s tutu in preparation for the main event.

Disney Magic at it's best!
Disney Magic at it’s best!

Sunday morning we rose at 3:00am (just so you know, this was 1:00am MST…) and I was surprisingly energetic.  We got dressed in our terrific tutus and tiaras, attempted our best running princess faces, and headed to the bus stop.  I cannot thank the running gods enough for the sheer luck of it all.  Our resort was made up of numerous small buildings, rather than one large hotel.  We were located almost furthest from the main building and dining hall, but just a stone’s throw to the first of 4 bus stops at the resort.  Within minutes of arriving at the bus stop, the 4:00am bus drove up and picked up our group.  Race planners had warned that the last bus of the morning would arrive at 4:00am.  After our stop, there were 6 seats left, and a line of at least 30 people at the next stop.  Many of the ladies there had been waiting 45 minutes or more.  I had waited maybe 4 minutes… By the time we got to the third stop we had to turn on our lights and drive by slowly, indicating that there was no room.  We didn’t even go to the fourth stop.  We later heard that a few more busses arrived about 20 to 30 minutes later, but I cannot imagine having that amount of stress before having to run 13.1 miles.  We made it to station, took some pictures, grabbed some goodies, and made the 15 minute walk to the corrals.

We looked good for 5:30am.
We looked good for 5:30am.

I was in corral K out of P, and I was thankful not to be last.  Although you need to be lined up for the start at 5:30am, we didn’t begin our run until 6:00am.  Corral K was full of life and cheer by the time we all made it to the starting line.  “I Will Survive” blared over the speakers and we all sang along.  Finally, we were given the go ahead and began our run with fireworks and fanfare.  On the route you pass by costumed characters, high-flying kites, ChEAR Squad members with white-gloved Mickey Mouse hands waiting to give you a high-five (or would that be a high-four?).  Music plays all along, and tutus abound.  It’s really just an energetic, exciting race.  Women, and men, of all ages, body-shapes, and experience levels crowd the course.  It’s truly an opportunity for all to be a part of a magical moment.  The start of the race is just outside Epcot.  You run along the service roads, under the sign for the Magic Kingdom, traverse through a cast member entrance, and are suddenly transported onto Main Street USA.  After making a congested right turn, the castle is in sight (well, it kind of was… it was really foggy).  You run up Main Street and turn right into tomorrow land, where you loop behind Cinderella’s castle.  Once you run underneath, there is a line of photographers waiting to capture this moment.  Afterwards you make your way through Frontierland, and out another cast entrance.  You follow more service roads along, until you return to the original course and head straight into Epcot.  There you follow your way around Spaceship Earth and past the fountain, then back and through a cast entrance into the parking lot for the finish.  To say that it was a surreal experience would be a massive understatement.

Beside my favorite fictitious royal, Belle!
Beside my favorite fictitious royal, Belle!

This was possibly the best first half marathon you could do.  Everything is perfectly thought out, and no detail is left unnoticed.  I may have actually over-trained, given the amount of people walking and the congestion that can build up during the race, but it’s never bad to have built-in walk breaks.  Besides, it gave me plenty of time to take ridiculous pictures along the way.  I thought I would tear up more throughout the race than I did, but mostly I was exuberant and giddy.  My friend told me I just had this little girl smile on my face the whole time.  When I was given my medal, however, reality sunk in.  I did it.  And I cried.

I was so gosh darn happy!  And yes, we held hands as we crossed the finish line!
I was so gosh darn happy! And yes, we held hands as we crossed the finish line!

Afterwards, we were able to snap a few more photographs, head back to the hotel for Mickey Mouse waffles, get cleaned up, and return to Epcot with tiaras and medals (we left the tutus at the resort this time).  Again we meandered through the park, enjoying some of our favorite spots (including Figment, adorable!), took pictures with Belle (my trip was complete!!), and sipped on some Snake Bite Blacks from England.  We ended the day with the Illuminations fire work show (my favorite!), and traveled back to the Magic Kingdom for Space Mountain, Under the Sea, and pictures with the illuminated castle.  It was the most perfect princessy weekend ever imaginable.  I wouldn’t have changed a thing.

Great end to a magnificent day!
Great end to a magnificent day!

I can go the distance!

Here I sit at the Denver International Airport waiting for my flight back to the DC area, the start of my long awaited journey to run the Disney Princess Half Marathon with my best friend. In case you haven’t noticed, I’m secretly 5 years old and am obsessed with all things Disney. Particularly princesses. In one weekend I will combine some of my all time favorite things, and complete my very first half marathon. I’ve been incredibly lucky to have amazing support along the way from my hubby and friends. I’ve probably driven them crazy with questions, concerns, and ridiculous notions, but I’m a cautious person driven by preparedness. So of course I wanted to be prepared for my distance running debut.

The first thing I considered, of course, was what to wear? I mean this isn’t your ordinary half marathon. It’s Disney and just for princesses (c’est moi!). My favorite princess, possibly harkening to my experience as an English major, is Belle from Beauty and the Beast. She is intelligent, strong willed, opinionated, and independent. These are attributes I appreciated at a young age in my gender, and most I try to emulate. Sometimes I’m a little too strong willed for my own good, but oh well! Belle’s signature ensemble is a gorgeous golden gown. The storyline is symbolized by the beauty of a single red rose, designed to serve as a reminder of the fleeting nature of youth and beauty, but the eternal importance of love, kindness, and friendship. With this in mind, I turned to an expert to outfit my princess running vision: Race Junkie.

I discovered Race Junkie’s Disney tutus in November when frantically searching the web for something manageable to wear for my first half, while still maintaining the fanciful royal façade. Some folks run in full synthetic costumes that you can purchase from costume shops and party supply stores. I value my comfort and breath ability too much for that. With a tutu as my statement piece, the rest of my outfit could be yellow yet runnable. I bought bright yellow Under Armour running capris and a yellow Nike running racer back. The final piece are my shoes. I’ve already gushed over my shoes, but my buttercup colored 3190s are truly the perfect end to a princessy performance ensemble.

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The best part of this whole event, of course, is not my outfit, but running it with my best friend. We both adore all things Disney! Furthermore, this will be our first time reunited in almost a year. I couldn’t think of anyone better to run this with, and can’t wait to share these memories with her!

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I will report back post race and can’t wait to recap this magical weekend on which I am about to embark. So for now, my mantra this weekend comes from Hercules: I am on my way, I can go the distance! I don’t care how far, somehow I’ll be strong. I know every mile will be worth my while. I can go most anywhere to find where I belong.

Parisian Getaway Giveaway

Bonjour!  C’est Mercredi!  Some have described me as fancy.  This is a word that I try to embody in all aspects of my life.  It’s not that I don’t love the occasional Saturday spent in yoga pants, but on a whole, I live life to its most fabulous potential.  With this attitude, I often stick out in casual Colorado.  Shortly after starting my new job at the University of Colorado Denver, one of my coworkers hit the nail on the head.  I am a verified Francophile.  This was one of the greatest compliments I could have received.  I hadn’t even told him about my collection of berets yet!

Enjoying a beautiful day outside the Louvre Museum.
Enjoying a beautiful day outside the Louvre Museum.

After my freshman year of college, before transferring to the University of Maryland, my family went on a trip to France and Germany.  We spent the majority of our trip in Paris, and I could have remained there forever if given the choice.  The charm and romance of Paris is present in every aspect of the city.  There’s an air of elegance, a deep enjoyment of life, and serves as a daydreamer’s paradise.  It’s a place to which I long to return, even though I don’t speak the language.  Needless to say, I admire the French culture, fashion, food, and lifestyle.  Julia Child’s experience as portrayed through Julie and Julia, and my current book of the moment The Sharper Your Knife, The Less You Cry both depict the delicacies and intricacies of the art of French cooking.  My favorite movie growing up, French Kiss, showcased a comical storyline of a woman’s long awaited dream of going to Paris interrupted by a fight to regain who she thought was the love of her life.  All of these stories and experiences have built up this French philosophy in my mind, and I will ever more be entranced.

My absolute favorite shot of the Eiffel Tower.
My absolute favorite shot of the Eiffel Tower.

White House Black Market has always been one of those stores I wander past in malls and shopping centers, and occasionally enter.  I typically find items I like, and their pieces can be easily interwoven into my wardrobe.  When I learned of their Passport to Paris giveaway, I definitely started paying more attention.  I emulate a French flair for living, and a free trip would simply be icing on top of my Parisian style cake.  So I wish you good luck, and happy travels.  Maybe we’ll meet in Paris one day!

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.