Category Archives: Travel

A taste of Colorado this weekend

Notes made to myself prior to embarking on a weekend exploring a part of Colorado we had yet to visit: Grand Junction!

The title of this blog post could just as well be “We make plans, and God laughs”. 

Now, don’t get me wrong. Nothing completely horrible happened. It’s just that, because this is life, my plans didn’t fully pan out. Not complaining here, just reflecting.

Ahem…now onto my so called “plans” vs. reality:

Experiences to manifest this weekend in Grand Junction:

Morning coffee at a local coffee shop.

This was a super simple intention that didn’t materialize. No good reason why, other than the coffee at the hotel hit the spot good enough for me. 

A hike or two.

Check-big check, in fact! We hiked the Cap Trail, which was truly spectacular. We encountered different terrain, various members of the lizard family, and outstanding views of the mesas. Hubs got some great shots with his Nikon, too. Like this one. And we encountered 3 different types of lizards (see above). 

DSC_0036

 

Brew pub and winery and buying swag there

I didn’t come across any swag worthy of purchasing, but we sampled a couple of new beers at area brew pubs and enjoyed a lovely chardonnay at Two Rivers Winery following our hike. 

Hot tub:

Damn stinking kids were piled into the hot tub- that was about half the size of your typical hotel hot tub, mind you-every single time we tried to use it. So that made me a little grumpy. 

Lavender farm/store:

Not what I expected. But what did I expect? Turns out the place was a distillery too. Should visit again. Have a cocktail next time. Amongst the myriad lavender infused products was a full bar serving bloody mary’s and the like. 

Peach Distillery:

So this was “planned” for the second day, on our way home. Unfortunately, Hubs caught food poisoning somewhere along the way so peach infused alcohol and other peach what-nots were not exactly appealing to him, so we hightailed it home, enjoying the stunning views of rock formations and the Colorado River along the way. We decided to visit the area again, when it’s actually peach season. That’d be a better deal anyway. 

Shopping/keep my eyes out for:

Hats and bow ties.

I know, weird things to be looking for, right?! To explain, Hubs and I will be attending a church fundraiser on 5/5 called “Cinco de Derby”. It’s a combo of a Mexican shindig and Kentucky derby party. We discussed it and decided to forage for these items later in the week at Target and the Michael’s craft store that is conveniently located next to it. I’m sure we’ll come up with something. 

Greeting cards.

Ding Ding Ding! I scored 4 awesome ones for $1 each at a downtown book store. Lord knows who I will be sending them to, but no doubt figuring that out will be fun for me.  I felt good about spending money at this independent book store on “Independent Book Store Day”. I also snagged a book there entitled “The Kindness of Strangers”. Thought it may provide inspiration for my “Kindness Jar” project.

Visit the hotel bar.

Why, yes we did. And we got some great advice there from Annette Bening. Lemme explain: She was approximately the same age as Ms. Bening, dressed casually in denim, drinking a beer and wearing reading glasses. She was situated at the end of the bar, but not the very last seat; the one next to that one. So she had two empty seats on either side of her. She motioned for us to come and sit, scooching down a seat to allow us to sit side by side. She then engaged us in a lively conversation of all things Colorado. She laughed easily and urged us to check out Mount Princeton for our next Anniversary celebration. She shared that it’s pricey, but there are awesome views of the mountains and wonderful hot springs to soak in. She also enthusiastically encouraged us to check out Telluride for their music festivals and good vibes. She spoke lovingly of her son, who was playing in La Crosse tournaments in Grand Junction this weekend. Hence the reason she was chilling at the bar for a bit. Such a cool lady. 

Interesting that earlier in the day,  I had purchased the book about the kindness of strangers, no?

I now can’t wait for our next Colorado adventure! Maybe a George Clooney look alike will make an appearance at a winery or distillery.  You never know…..

YOLO in Colorado

This is how I feel, especially when I’m out exploring this state!

 

Our oldest and dearest couple friends and their two teenage daughters came to visit Hubs and I recently. This visit was so very good for our souls. The four of them are virtually world travelers, especially compared to us. They are curious, adventurous folks with seemingly boundless energy.  And this was the first time they’d visited Colorado together. We visited places here that Hubs and I had yet to see. Like an indoor hot springs spa in Idaho Springs and that famous and crazy Casa Bonita restaurant restaurant in Denver. Fans of South Park may recall an episode highlighting this unique place. We even partook on a tour of the Stanley Hotel in Estes Park, known as the inspiration for Stephen King’s “The Shining”, as well as a general reputation for being haunted.

Let’s just say this visit with our friends energized us in a major way. 

This visit coupled with my suspicion that our days living in this great state are likely numbered (I’d guess somewhere between 444 and 888, but hey, I’m no psychic), inspires me to embrace that beautiful concept and not to mention fun acronym, “YOLO”.

That said, it’s clearly time for Hubs and I  to start thinking about planning the places we want to go and experiences we want to enjoy while we still live in Colorado. There are so  many of them!

Such as….

A concert at Red Rocks

Image result for images of red rocks amphitheatre
With a little luck, we will be closer to the stage than this photographer was!

I actually think it may be somewhat beside the point which musical artist we come here to see. The scenery and acoustics are going to be the main draw for me.

A trip to an outdoor hot springs  spa. Where Hubs and I will partake in a couples massage and I will succeed at convincing him to get  pedicures together. I suspect he will enjoy this as much as I do.

Image result for images of colorado hot springs
Once I get in this, I may never want to get out!

Grand Junction

This is considered Colorado’s wine country and yes, I do enjoy my wine. Beyond the adult beverage scene, there are numerous sites to behold there, like the Colorado National Monument and hiking trails I’ve been checking out online.

Moab, Utah: while it’s not actually in Colorado, it is merely a day’s drive away and features so much natural beauty. Hubs will need to bring his Nikon.

Image result for images of moab utah
A place to meditate in Moab, perhaps after a hike

 

Next winter, I’d like to take a ride on the Winter Park train and spend the weekend dog sledding and sampling craft beers in a cozy mountain cabin. I realize this area is known for wicked good skiing, but I value my limbs too much so I think we’ll skip that part.

 

Image result for images for winter park colorado cabins
A cozy little cabin for us to enjoy.

 

We might just need to continue living in Colorado beyond 888 days to cross everything off the list!

 

Surprises and Songs by the Hiatt’s

For one of our wedding anniversaries, Hubs surprised me with a trip to Madison, WI. He was very tight lipped about the itinerary. I went along with it, because I am one of those oddballs that actually loves surprises. And boy, was I surprised. In the best possible way.

Once we arrived in Madison and checked into our hotel, Hubs instructed me to get in the car with him and drive to our surprise destination. I seriously had no clue whatsoever what was in store. He slowed the car down as we approached our destination and he directed me to look to my right. We were directly in front of the Majestic Theater. As I looked up at the marquee, I was beyond excited.

We were there to see the inimitable John Hiatt perform. 

download (19)

Now, for several years prior to this, Hubs and I had been fans of this prolific, soulful, uber talented singer/songwriter/guitarist/performer. Mr. Hiatt is one of those artists who has had more critical success than commercial success. That seriously confounds me, because his music-the lyrics, the melodies, the beats, the feels it evokes-is just, well, everything to me from a musical standpoint.

And I learned recently, while live streaming MPR’s The Current that Mr. Hiatt also has a mighty talented singer/songwriter daughter. Her name is Lilly.

download
Lilly Hiatt

First, however, for those of you who may not be familiar with Mr. Hiatt’s work, or for those of you who have an unabashed appreciation for him as I do, I’d like to highlight what IMHO are his truly best AF songs. Then I will introduce you to the music of his daughter.

 Thank you, Google Play. You rock. You have given me the best toy a girl could ask for. The joy I get from creating playlists of my favorite artists, like John Hiatt, is immense. 

Here are my top picks from Mr. Hiatt’s collection:

“Thing Called Love” was written and performed originally by Hiatt, though most folks likely are only familiar with Bonnie Raitt’s cover of it. Both versions are great, but I personally prefer Hiatt’s. My favorite line in this song is “But Baby, we can choose you know, we ain’t no amoebas”. And I love when he sings/screeches out “just a crazy little thing called love” towards the end. Supercool.

Thing Called Love

Most likely my “favorite” favorite John Hiatt song is “Feels Like Rain”. It is simply gorgeous. It is sensual. It is soulful. It is tragically beautiful. It is best appreciated during a moment of solitude. You don’t have to take my word for it. Here it is. You’re welcome.

Feels Like Rain

“Perfectly Good Guitar” is a stand out for me also. It features some seriously tight guitar riffs and an extraordinarily catchy melody. And it pays homage to Mr. Hiatt’s appreciation for the instrument. And I found the below video of him and his band playing it live. John Hiatt is probably the best performer I have or ever will see live. For reals.

Perfectly Good Guitar

I could seriously go on for eons about all the other John Hiatt songs I love (like “Riding with the King”, or “Crossing Muddy Waters”, or “Real Fine Love”), but I don’t want to miss the opportunity to highlight Lilly. I was very pleasantly surprised when I learned of her existence. She surely has her father’s musical genes. She has her own sound nonetheless, which to me is an interesting cross between Liz Phair and Lucinda Williams. She, like her father, writes tremendously thoughtful, raw, and beautiful lyrics. Here is a sample:

If I’m lucky, one day I’ll be able to see her perform live as well. I know I’d jump at the chance to see her dad perform live again.

 

Islamorada, the trip of a Lifetime

For most of our married life, Hubs and I aspired to take a dream vacation to a tropical locale. I think the seed was planted in our romantic brains when we were newlyweds and adopted the Beach Boys song “Kokomo” as our anthem.

 

When times got tough like when our two spawn were expressing their teenage angst by slamming bedroom doors or reminding us how many days till they turned 18 when they could fly out of our godforsaken coop,  or when the demands of work and keeping our home functioning in good order amped up our stress levels, we would often partake of sharing our daydreams of the perfect beachy vacation for two.

Funnily enough, and despite the lyrics of this song clearly commanding us to visit the Florida Keys, this was not actually our first choice. We first considered a trip to Hawaii (still very much on my travel bucket list). That was determined a “no go” once we saw how long the flight would be and how freaking expensive it would also be. I mean, we had surely saved up ample money over the years for this vacay, but we were most certainly not willing to spend the bulk of it on a flight to get to and fro.

That’s when we did a little search on the Internet and found Islamorada. We booked 4 nights at Ocean House, a small but beautiful resort with great amenities, the best of which was the close proximity to the Gulf of Mexico.

Their couldn’t have been a better location for us to celebrate our 25th wedding anniversary. For reals. 

This vacation was beyond wonderful. The staff greeted us upon our arrival with a cold adult beverage and chatted with us about where we were from and what types of experiences we wished to have while in Islamorada. The cabin we stayed in was spic and span and featured a sliding glass door that led to a covered patio, complete with two oversized lounging chairs overlooking the property and the Gulf just beyond it. We seriously enjoyed our personally delivered breakfasts of fresh fruit cups, freshly made  pastries, and hot coffee each morning while lounging in these chairs, pondering that day’s itinerary.

20150322_193457
Looking at the Gulf on Ocean House property

During the day, we spent time lollygagging on the beach at the Ocean House and swimming in their spacious pool. At night we would sit around the fire pit on the property and chat with other couples vacationing there from places like New York state and the U.K. Or we’d take a soak in the hot tub, which was next to that beautiful pool.

When we were feeling more adventurous, we went out exploring the Keys, like the day we swam with the dolphins or the day we visited Key West and got our picture taken next to the southern most point in America. Or the day we went on a charter boat for some deep sea fishing.

20150325_104120
Hubs looking fine with his dimples and new hat while deep sea fishing
20150324_152536
So glad we got this pic. God only knows why I felt the need to carry such a big purse.

Since this vacation, Hubs and I have often talked about going back there someday. We aren’t necessarily the type of people who vacation at the same places we’ve been to before. Because we like exploring places that are brand new to us, together. We think it makes life much more interesting. However, Islamorada is one of two places (the other being Washington D.C. but it almost doesn’t count because Hubs has to go there twice a year for work and I’m a really good “tagalonger”) we both would happily visit again.

Except it wouldn’t be as magical or special as it was the first time. It just wouldn’t. Especially now. 

Present Day Islamorada

Hurricanes suck. Climate change sucks. My heart goes out to all of the people living there now. I am eternally grateful that Hubs and I got to experience it when we did.

I am equally grateful that despite the horrific damage Irma left in it’s wake, the dolphins seemed to have come out unscathed.

Theater of the Sea animals safe

 

 

 

Solo in D.C.

Recently, I had the good fortune of visiting one of my favorite cities, Washington, D.C. I tagged along with Hubs, who had to be there for several days for work.

Whilst Hubs was occupied with giving presentations, attending meetings, and working his IT magic to serve his agency’s mission of saving American lives from weather calamities, I took the opportunity to explore the D.C. area solo despite my anxiety about getting lost in the city or getting mugged or kidnapped.

I was inspired to embark on sightseeing in D.C. solo in part through reading Caitlin Kelly’s blog, Broadside.  Caitlin is far more worldly than I, to say the least.  She inspired me to get out into D.C. all by my lonesome, instead of staying in the safety of our hotel room in Silver Spring, MD, where I would no doubt be reading, writing, taking a dip or two in the pool, and watching movies on cable. All things I can do at home. I figured, if she could travel solo outside the U.S., I could certainly manage a couple of days on my own in D.C. And…YOLO, right?

I, of course, took a number of pictures on my D.C. adventure. So here’s my little “show and tell” of my time spent in our nation’s capital:

This is a picture of a picture in the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History. I happened upon it in the Nature’s Best Photography Windland Smith Rice exhibit. It appears this lovely sea otter is praying. Or perhaps simply meditating?  Either way, this picture speaks to me spiritually. It’s very Zen, don’t you think?

 

 

20170814_122615

 

This one is from the American Democracy exhibit found in the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History. As a proud feminist and firm believer that women should play a much larger role in American politics, I couldn’t not share this picture.

 

20170814_134223
Let’s please put a woman in the white house in my lifetime mkay?

 

This is the first regal looking building I laid my eyes on after stepping off the metro. When I realized what it was, I wished with all my heart that I had a dozen eggs on hand.

 

20170814_113726 (2)
Trump International Hotel

Anyone recognize this staircase I’m about to climb? I was told on good authority (our friend John with whom we were dining in Georgetown that evening) that this was the staircase from which the priest was thrown at the end of the movie “The Exorcist”. It’s safe to say that I was more than happy to be climbing up it as opposed to down.

20170816_182841
My backside as I approached the famous staircase

This picture was taken from my perch at a nearby table in Martin’s Tavern. It has a rich history and is known to be the oldest dining establishment in the D.C. area. JFK proposed to Jackie here. The host, Mike, mingles around the tables of diners telling tales of the place. Dining here was indeed one of the highlights of our trip.

20170816_204344
Martin’s Tavern, Georgetown. Standing is Mike, the host with the most

This one was taken as I, covered in sweat due to the ridiculous heat and high humidity (not to mention having just reached 11,000 steps on my fitbit by 3 p.m.), leaned against a cement block and delighted in watching the youngins playing in the water feature without any cares in the world. A delightful break at that moment in time. I was thisclose to jumping in and frolicking around with those kiddos. But I figured it was weird enough for the parents of these children that I was all by myself taking this picture. 

20170816_160519
Georgetown Waterfront Park

And then there are those pics I only took in my mind. Like the one I saw through the window on the metro of graffiti framing the foliage on the other side of the track. To me it represented the beauty of nature and the grit of the city living in harmony. Or the one of my fabulous meal of lump crabmeat, fresh mushrooms, and squash in hollandaise sauce atop english muffins (known as the “Tavern Treat”) at Martin’s Tavern. Or the one of the beautiful mahogany bar housed at J.Paul’s in Georgetown. The bartender shared that the bar itself was formerly housed in the Chicago stockyards and rumor has it that Al Capone himself had enjoyed a beverage or two at it back in the day. J.Paul’s also features antique brass elevator doors brought over from New York’s Waldorf Astoria Hotel. Simply gorgeous.

Frivolity and dark chocolate

Anyone who truly knows me knows that I have an abiding love for dark chocolate. And words.

In my nerdy heart of hearts, I love words. Mostly because of the power they have to evoke an emotion or convey a thought. And partly because some of them are just plain fun to say.

Like the word “frivolity”, for instance. It’s not a commonly used word in our vernacular (another word I love). Wikipedia tells me that frivolity means: “lack of seriousness; lightheartedness”. Methinks this is an important word given the current state of affairs in our world. I am choosing not to expand upon that last line. Today is Friday and frivolity is the word of this day for me.

The other night, I received a message from my piece of dark chocolate. It implored me to buy something frivolous.

So this is what I bought on my Target run yesterday, because when chocolate speaks I listen. 

20170810_113827

 

As a means to maintain my current state of frivolity, I told Hubs that we are playing Mad Libs on our plane ride to Washington, D.C. this week. I cannot fathom a more frivolously fun activity to engage in while I am sipping Chardonnay in a plastic cup 35,000 feet up in the clouds.

Maybe my frivolous spirit will continue into the week and I’ll be able to take a selfie with this dude:

download (4)

We shall see.

Happy Frivolous Friday, my friends!