Our First Fourth of July in Arvada

MountainGoat^^^Mr. Mountain Goat says ‘Hi!’

Happy July, friends. I can’t believe that July is here, and even more so I can’t believe that with July comes the fact that my baby is due next month. I can barely even say that without getting my heart racing.

But for now, friends, Baby is safe and sound still where she still belongs, and we had a visitor over the Fourth of July weekend in the form of my stepdad, who tacked on a couple extra days out to Colorado to a business trip in Arizona. We did a lot while he was here — to include a pretty rockin’ backyard revival, which was totally unexpected but awesome — so it was nice having him visit for a couple of days.

One place I knew I had to take him was the Eagle Sanctuary at Standley Lake, because in college my stepdad actually used to raise baby Bald Eagles, so obviously I knew this was something he would enjoy.

And, luckily, he did😉

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^^^How completely adorable are these tipis which, by the way, you can rent to camp out in!?

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^^^ It seriously took my stepdad maybe about 7 minutes to spot an eagle. Then another. Then another. Of the four Bald Eagles that live at Standley Lake, we saw three … not too shabby!
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^^^ The cattle dog coming down the pathway should have tipped us off to what was ahead, but we were still caught off guard by this heap of goats in the field by the lake. So fun to listen to them chat to each other😉

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^^^ These geese, however … not so much fun! We tried sitting at this picnic bench by the water for a hot second after eagle spotting, but clearly the geese had other ideas. If we didn’t have any food for them, they made it pretty clear that we weren’t welcome!

9_BaldEagle^^^ I love that we also found where you can rent kayaks, paddle boards and the like at the lake … that seems like it would be so much fun!

On Friday night we ventured out into Denver to eat dinner at the Buckhorn Exchange, Denver’s oldest restaurant. While I’m not a meat-eater, I can still appreciate a fun steakhouse when I see one and this, my friends, was about as fun as it gets.

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^^^ Cheers’ing with my iced tea … always a good time!
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^^^ Not my meal, obviously (although the salmon I had seriously melted in your mouth, it was that delicious), but the boys really seemed to enjoy their meat which, I guess, is the most important thing at a steakhouse, right?!
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^^^ Grainy photo, but they had a live singer upstairs who was just about the cutest old man you ever could see.
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^^^ Again, not the best photo, but how funny is this sign outside the restaurant?

The boys left bright and early Saturday morning to check out Mount Evans, the highest paved road in North America at over 14,000 feet. When we went to the mountains a couple weeks back I found the altitude really affected me during pregnancy, so I decided to beg off on this adventure, but after seeing the photos, I definitely plan on making it out myself at some point.

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Despite all the hubbub, we did also manage to have Robert help us out with our backyard …

1_MannieFlowers^^^ All of these flowers are now officially in our garden!

… and we took a couple pretty nice walks around the lake, to include a sunset one the night before Robert left

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Robert will be back in August with some other family to meet our little baby girl, but until then, it was great having you, my dear!

Bis bald, my friends – I hope you all had lovely and safe July 4th weekends, as well!

A Final Weekend in June

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Hi friends,

Long time no write:/ Sorry about that. To be honest, 2016 has been a bit challenging so far, to say the least. Despite some of the biggest “ups” of my life [preparing for our first baby, for example], there have also been some of the lowest of the lows, like losing my mom. I haven’t felt much like writing here over the past three months, really, since that happened, but I’m trying to come out of my funk a bit, and this blog has always meant so much so me, so I figured I’d give writing here a shot and see how it goes … at least for now.

In other big news, Chris and I moved out of our downtown Denver apartment and into our first home in Arvada near Standley Lake, which is about 15-20 minutes from downtown Denver. So far, we’re really liking it out here in the ‘burbs, which is something that has come as quite a surprise to both of us [and our friends and family, too!]. Having the lake so close by certainly helps — Chris runs there multiple nights a week and it’s about all I can manage to drag my pregnant self on about a 10-20 minute walk most days, but whenever I do get out there, it’s simply gorgeous.

Like Saturday morning. We grabbed some coffees [decaf for me, of course ;)] and walked the five minutes to the lake entrance, then walked about 1.5 miles around the lake and back. It was the perfect length for me, and I really needed the change of scenery …

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^^ This photo is blurry because I zoomed in, but just look at those Flatirons! Gorgeous.

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We’ve definitely lived in some cities with some pretty spectacular views before, but I have to say, it doesn’t matter how many times we walk around this lake … it always stuns me with its beauty.

For Christmas my sister got me a membership to the Denver Botanic Gardens, and on Saturday we were finally able to get out there for a visit, which was really quite lovely.

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GardenGoddess04BotanicGardens05BotanicGardens06BotanicGardens^^ Just the three of us, out for a day at the gardens😉

On Sunday I met up with my cousin at Sassafras back in Denver for brunch, where I had the most delicious beignets and shrimp & grits that I’ve had since New Orleans!

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So friends, those outings — coupled with lots of outdoor porch time — made for a pretty nice weekend. I hope yours was as lovely … or that you’re at least finding some way to stay cool in the heat! My stepdad will be here for a visit starting Wednesday, so we’re really looking forward to that.

Until next time, friends … bis bald😉

My Birthday Weekend Getaway in Crested Butte

01 Road Trip^^ Country road views on the way from Denver to Crested Butte

This past weekend just happened to be my birthday [;)], and my husband decided to whisk me away for a couple days to the adorable little mountain town of Crested Butte, which is about 4.5 hours away if you don’t get lost (aka we did on the way there, no biggie!). We stayed at the Elevation Hotel & Spa, which is the perfect spot for either snowboarding (because it’s super close to the gondola) or snowboard watching (because it’s right at the bottom of the hill everyone comes down). It was also the closing weekend of the mountain, which meant lots of costumed skiers and snowboarders, as well as some shenanigans that were fun to watch and not have to worry about even pretending to take part in (thanks pregnant belly!).

Chris also treated me to my first ever pre-natal massage while we were away (thanks hubby!), which was truly a little bit of bliss.

Ah, Crested Butte .. thanks for a relaxing getaway. Now it’s back to the real world …

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^^^ We stopped for lunch in the cute little town of Salida on the way to Crested Butte. The Fritz had all kinds of tasty treats on their menu (and Shirley Temples were even listed on the menu!), plus they’re right across the street from the river, so it’s the perfect spot to stop for a while. 

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^^^ Crested Butte views

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^^^ We stopped by The Dogwood before dinner at Marchitelli’s Gourmet Noodle our first night. The Dogwood is a craft cocktail bar, which is fun even when you aren’t drinking, because you can really push the bartenders out of their comfort zone by asking them to create a special non-alcoholic concoction for you, such as … 

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^^^ This fizzy blueberry cream deliciousness that our awesome bartender made for me. I couldn’t finish it all, but it was sure fun trying …

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^^^ Chris’  spicy jalapeno drink. Not my ideal, but he seemed to like it.

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^^^ Just to prove that I was there too, since most of my photos end up being of Chris since I’m behind the camera😉

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^^^ Early morning mountain views on our way to grab coffee and bagels from Camp 4 Coffee.

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^^^ We squatted here for a while in the morning to drink our coffee, eat our bagels and take in the scenery. I like snowboarding and all, but this is seriously my favorite part of visiting the mountains. People watching!

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^^^ After my pre-natal massage, we headed up to the rooftop restaurant next to our hotel to watch the skiers and snowboarders come down the hill in their crazy outfits. And we did see some crazy outfits — in fact, can you spot the hot dog in this picture😉

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^^^ Our little family of (almost!) three (can you believe that belly?!)

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Bye bye, Crested Butte! I have a feeling we’ll be seeing you again…

Our Final Day in Kyoto: Bikes, Bamboo Trees & Beautiful Walks

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Hi friends,

So two Saturdays ago was our last full day in Kyoto before heading back to the states. Chris’ parents had gone back to Tokyo the night before to catch their super early flight on Saturday morning, and we had the whole day stretched ahead of us to finish up some final things we really wanted to see and do.

Then … that all got sidetracked for a couple of hours while we spent some time on the phone with American Airlines trying to figure out what to do about the fact that Chris had left his green card back in Denver. This is such an important topic for those of you with green cards, that Chris has said he’ll write his own little post on it and share here, which means I won’t go into a ton of detail on this post, other than to say … don’t do it!

Anyway, after (sort of) sorting that out, we headed out into beautiful Kyoto for our first stop — the Arashiyama Bamboo Grove. I had been dying to do this ever since I started researching Kyoto about a month before our trip, and I’m so, so glad we made it there, because the experience really is incredible. Luckily for us we happened upon a bike shop on our way from the subway to the grove, though, because without the bike rental, I think it would have been pretty difficult for my preggers legs to do all the walking we would have done that day. So — that’s just something to keep in mind for anyone who maybe isn’t so into walking miles and miles. Even if you don’t mind the walking, though, renting a bike is a great (and super fun) way to take in the grove! It does get pretty busy, though, so there were times when maneuvering a bike through the crowds was tough. Still, overall, I’d say we were super happy to have had the bikes. Plus, riding bikes or taking bike tours on our trips (or even where we live) has become something of a traditional with us. We’ve done it in New York and Denver, Munich, Iceland, Berlin, New Orleans, London and now in Japan. It’s high on our list of recommendations for things to do when traveling.

Anyway, here’s a bit of what you’ll see at the Bamboo Groves. We spent a good two or three hours here, with a trip into the beautiful garden and temple area that’s right around the grove and a quick stop for a picnic lunch (meaning pastries!) that we had brought, as well.

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After the bamboo, we got back on the subway and headed back to the Ginkaku-ji (Silver Pavilion) that we had missed the day before with Chris’ parents. This place is gorgeous and serene, with its manicured rock gardens, temples, streams and foliage. There’s also a tiny hill you can walk up and get a pretty nice view of the city skyline.

It doesn’t take very long to see the whole park (if you don’t want it to, or you could spend an hour or so meandering around, it’s perfect like that), and afterwards there is a gorgeous little 1.7 mile walk called the Philosopher’s Walk nearby that I would suggest doing as well. The end of the walk will bring you pretty much right out to a bus stop that can bring you right back to the center of town.

thumb__DSC4021_1024^^^ The Silver Pavilion inside Ginkaku-ji

thumb__DSC4040_1024thumb__DSC4077_1024^^^ An artist making the most of Philosopher’s Walk

And that was pretty much our Saturday, friends. Dinner was out at a noodle restaurant, and then it was back to the hotel to attempt to pack up for our bullet train back to Tokyo to catch our flight back to the U.S. the next day.

Japan, you were everything I imagined you would be, and also so much more. Thanks for showing us such an amazing time. We hope to make it back here again to do even more!

Bis bald, friends!

One Day in Kyoto With the In-Laws

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Hi kids, I’m back!

So a couple Fridays ago, it was our last day in Kyoto with Chris’s parents before they flew back that night to Sydney, and we definitely wanted to make the most of it. Attending a traditional tea service in Japan was high on my mom-in-law’s list of things to do, but after breakfast we started our day out with a visit to Fushimi Inari-Taisha, a sprawling Shinto shrine with thousands of vermillion torri (gates) lining paths that crisscross into a mountain. It was unbelievably gorgeous, and definitely a must-see if you’re in Kyoto …

thumb__DSC3692_1024thumb__DSC3704_1024thumb__DSC3720_1024thumb__DSC3721_1024^^^ These torri … so mesmerizing!

thumb__DSC3724_1024thumb__DSC3733_1024^^^ The whole gang’s here!

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After spending an hour or so at the shrine, we hopped back on the subway and headed to the Kiyomizudera Temple area of Kyoto, which was this adorable, historical section of town, where we attended a traditional tea service — and learned how to make traditional Japanese tea! — at Camellia’s Japanese Tea Ceremony. Camellia (that was the woman’s actual name, my MIL asked!) was lovely and she explained to us the whole tradition behind the tea service in Japan and demonstrated herself first how to make the tea, before passing off the ingredients to us to make our own.

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After the service — which lasts about an hour, depending on how many questions you ask (we asked a lot!) — we finished walking around the Kiyomizudera area and grabbed a quick bite to eat (because preggers is always starved!).

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Kyoto_Snack^^^ Chris’s fried octopus hushpuppies, which he says were delicious. I’ll just take his word for it.

Then we tried to catch a train to Ginkakuji (aka the Silver Pavilion), but  unfortunately it closed at 5 and we were just a couple minutes too late to see it. Chris and I would actually head back there the next day — our last day in Kyoto — but alas my in-laws had run out of time. So it was back to the hotel we went for them to pack up and head out.

Thanks so much for spending the most amazing couple days with us in Tokyo and Kyoto, Connors! It’s been a real treat traipsing around the world as spectators together to watch Chris complete these World Marathons. Let’s hope something new and equally as amazing ushers itself into our lives so that we can continue to go on these adventures😉

After the Connors left Chris and I were starving, so we headed over to a sushi train restaurant in Kyoto Station, which turned out to be Chris’s favorite meal of the whole trip. I was pretty happy with it, too, since there was tons for me to eat and everything was clearly labeled. (Avocado, cucumber and cooked shrimp sushi … yum!)

FullSizeRender (23)^^^ Pure bliss! (And yes, that stack of plates next to Chris was all ours … and we weren’t even close to being done yet … )

FullSizeRender (24)FullSizeRender (25)FullSizeRender (26)FullSizeRender (27)^^^ The restaurant, should you feel so inclined to try to find it😉

And I will leave you with one final thought for this post, my friends, which is the below pic of me rubbing the head of a Buddha statue for good luck and prosperity.

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Is there anything more calming than that?

I’ll be back soon with our final day in Kyoto, friends. Until then, bis bald!

Countryside Trips to Kyoto

thumb__DSC3346_1024^^^ Here we are, all ready to hop our Japanese Bullet Train from Tokyo to Kyoto — yehaw!!

Hi friends,

Last Wednesday we were making the trek from Tokyo to Kyoto for the rest of our trip, but we were making it in style by riding the bullet train😉 We had booked our JR Pass before we even left the states, and we decided to go ahead and upgrade to first class which, as I mentioned previously, turned out to be quite nice. I only caught a glimpse briefly of what the regular seats would have been like as the train whizzed into the station, and while I’m sure they would have been perfectly fine, for someone who had just run a marathon and another someone who was pregnant, we certainly weren’t going to complain about the extra legroom, foot rest and spacious seats.

One word of advice here — even when you book first class tickets ahead of time, you still need to go into a Rail Pass station and book in tickets for your exact seat and train time. I’m not sure what would happen if you showed up to a train where you hadn’t booked ahead of time, but luckily for us my father-in-law figured out before that happened that we needed to book, so we did so for our trip to Kyoto from Tokyo, to Hiroshima from Kyoto and then back from Kyoto to Tokyo to catch our flight on Sunday.

The ride was pretty glorious, friends. Lots of beautiful countryside to take in, and small towns along the way to peruse. I know I’ve shared this photo on Instagram already, but it’s just too good not to post here, too:

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^^^ See? Ooooohhhhhh … pretty😉

Anyway, the 452 kilometer ride (aka 5 1/2 hr car ride) from Tokyo to Kyoto only took about 140 minutes on the bullet train, and it was far more comfy then any car ride would have been. In Kyoto the train arrives into Kyoto Station, which is such an amazing place I’d recommend checking it out even if you’re not catching a train. There are tons of restaurants (good restaurants!), bakeries and shops — there’s a lot to do there. The hotel we stayed at was the New Miyako Hotel,  which was literally right outside the train station and super convenient for exhausted, weary travelers who just want to drop their bags off in their room and take a quick rest before heading back out. (Not to mention how great it is to only travel a short distance when you need to hop the train to get back to Tokyo!)

Anyway, after resting up for a bit, it was pretty late, but we decided to hop on a city bus (again, thank you Chris Connor for showing us how to get around!), and went to check out the Gion District, which is Kyoto’s famous geisha district and is filled with shops and restaurants (and while we were unfortunately a tad early, I can tell you this area would be gorgeous with cherry blossoms probably right about now, too!). The Yasaka Shrine is also right next door to the Gion District, so you can easily knock both things off your list in one trip.

thumb__DSC3356_1024^^^ Entrance to the Yasaka Shrine. We thought the shrine closed to visitors at 5, and most of the stalls and things were closed, but you can still walk into the actual shrine area past 5, so seeing it at night (and then again later during the day) was special.

thumb__DSC3384_1024^^^ We were starving and decided to get sushi (no raw fish for me!) at a little place we happened upon in the Gion district. They had vegetarian noodles, so I started with those, and then gorged myself on veggie sushi, as well. Yum!

The next day we decided to hop back on the bullet train and head to Hiroshima and neighboring island Miyajima. I have to admit that I was hesitate to partake in the Hiroshima part of the trip. I knew it would be an emotional thing to see, and we only had a limited number of days in Kyoto and I just wasn’t sure how I felt about all of it, but after going, I’m so glad I did. Yes, the Hiroshima sites and museum are incredibly heartbreaking, but the area is so beautiful and there’s just so much history there, to go, you really feel like you’re a part of something, for better or for worse.

thumb__DSC3417_1024^^^ We caught the ferry from Hiroshima over to Miyajima Island first.

thumb__DSC3425_1024^^^ Chris & his dad about to chow down on some fried oyster donuts. Chris said this was one of his favorite things he ate the entire trip.

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^^^ The wild deer are indigenous to this island, and while they’re cute and friendly, they will try to eat any paper you have hanging around, if you let them!

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^^^ That’s the Itsukushima shrine on the island. It’s pretty incredible to see.

thumb__DSC3455_1024thumb__DSC3485_1024thumb__DSC3489_1024^^^ We also took the Miyajima cable car up into the mountains for the most incredible view of the area, including Hiroshima in the background. There’s also a beautiful walk that you can take back from the cable car area down into the village, which I would recommend. It’s a steep climb up, so we took the bus to the entrance of the cable car, but to walk down isn’t so bad, so that’s how I’d recommend doing it.

thumb__DSC3529_1024thumb__DSC3598_1024^^^ Back down on the island …

thumb__DSC3648_1024thumb__DSC3656_1024^^^ After Miyajima Island it was on to Hiroshima, where our first stop was this structure, now known as the Hiroshima Peace Memorial. As one of the only standing reminders of the atomic bomb, you can obviously guess why it would have been a controversial decision to keep it standing all these years later, but after much back and forth, the building was finally designated by the United Nations as a World Heritage Site and today is protected. There’s a really good explanation of this building and how it remained standing after the blast right here.

thumb__DSC3678_1024^^^ The city as it stands today. Incredible. While it’s obviously been a while since the attack, it’s still pretty amazing to see how the city has built itself up around the ashes.

Anyway friends, I didn’t take too many photos in and around Hiroshima, and I didn’t take any inside the museum, but I’d say if you are in the area (or in Kyoto), it’s worth a visit. Just brace yourself, because it’s as upsetting as you might imagine it would be.

After a pretty full day of touristing around, it’s safe to say we were pretty tired. So we headed back to the station, bought some food to eat on the ride home, and caught the bullet train back to Kyoto. The next day would be Chris’s parents last with us before they headed back to Australia, so you just know we had to jam pack that day full of goodies, too😉 I’ll have more on that tomorrow, my dears. Until then, bis bald!

A Final Day & Night In Tokyo

thumb__DSC3119_1024^^^ Hello! Do we look super excited to be up and out the door by 3:30 a.m. for a tuna auction? Good … because we were!

Hi friends,

So as I mentioned the other day, Tuesday was a pretty busy day for us, and it started before the sun was even awake when we all got up and were out the door by 3:30 a.m. in order to catch an Uber over to the Tsukiji Fish Market in time to watch the famous tuna auction.

The fish market itself is supposed to be the world’s biggest, moving about 1800 tons of seafood every single day. And the tuna auction — where prized maguro (bluefin tuna) gets auctioned off to the highest bidder — starts at 5 a.m. The line to register for the auction starts forming way before 5, though, and we were told to get there by 4 a.m. if we wanted in. Even arriving at 4, though, we were already in the second of only two groups allowed in, and there were only a handful of people allowed in after us — so this is one hot ticket, my friends!

And after going, I can see why. It’s so exciting! I mean it doesn’t last very long — they usher you out pretty quickly — but some of the best chefs in Japan come here to purchase their tuna, and one tuna can go for up to $10,000 each, so there’s definitely no funny business happening here — they take it very seriously. I have to admit, I’d never even been to an auction of any kind before, so to watch that whole thing go down was pretty fun. The auctioneer (is that the right word?!) closest to us must have been chosen specifically to be closest to the tourists who view the show, because he was some kind of fun to watch!

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thumb__DSC3143_1024^^^ Our auctioneer … so much fun!

After the auction — which probably lasts about 15-20 minutes for the viewing — we walked around the fish market for a while and took in those crazy sights. You can seriously find any and all kind of seafood here, from tasty looking to downright “Who would ever eat that?!” There was talk of potentially doing a sushi breakfast, but it was decided that, for as much adventure as we were down for, sushi breakfast after a big tempura dinner the night before just wasn’t going to be one of those adventures.

thumb__DSC3163_1024thumb__DSC3168_1024thumb__DSC3169_1024thumb__DSC3174_1024thumb__DSC3179_1024^^^ Pssst. Be aware taking photos at the market — some of the vendors did not take too kindly to it:/ This is actually true in quite a few places around Japan. Try to pay attention to any signs that might be posted asking people to not take pics … I was burned a few times, and I hate thinking of myself as one of those kinds of tourists …

After the auction we headed back to our apartment to rest for a bit and shower and get ready (attending a tuna auction at 5 in the morning means no one was quite prepared for the rest of the day). A little before noon we were back out the door and headed towards the Meiji-jingu shrine, which happened to be in Yoyogi Koen park, which was about a five to seven minute walk from our apartment. (Score!)

The Meiji Shrine is dedicated to the deified spirits of the Emperor Meiji and Empress Shoken. It was completed in 1920 and destroyed during World War II, but it was rebuilt soon after. According to my guide book, the torii (or gates) at the entrance mark the beginning of the shrine’s sacred space. It supposedly gets pretty busy here during the day, but I think we were lucky and caught it during a not-so-hectic time.

thumb__DSC3180_1024thumb__DSC3195_1024^^^ Right after you pass through the torii you’ll find this water well. (Once we saw this one, we started spotting them all over Japan). Visitors are meant to spoon cupfuls of water into their left hand, then their right hand, then cup their hands and gather water in to put in their mouth and then spit into the well. Please don’t quote me on any of that, because it’s simply what another tourist told us we were meant to do. So we did it. I hope it was right!

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thumb__DSC3243_1024^^^ These decorative saki barrels were all gifts to the shrine, and really beautiful.

After the shrine we meandered into lunch at a little noodle shop we found along the way [which, thankfully, catered to tourists and had an English menu and specific vegetarian options. Sometimes it’s nice to not have to worry ;)]. After lunch we made our way over to Shibuya Crossing, which is meant to be one of the busiest intersections in the world. All of Shibuya in general, actually, is awash with vibrant colors, large ads and hustling, bustling streets. Essentially it’s the Times Square of Tokyo … something definitely not to be missed.

thumb__DSC3251_1024^^^ See us there in the middle, walkin’ across the street all normal like😉

After Shibuya (and some fabulous sunglass finds for both myself and Chris’s mom!), it was a quick subway ride back over to Roppongi Hills (remember, we tried that area the day before, but the weather turned to crap?) for the Tokyo City View and the Mohri Art Museum. Although we started at the Tokyo City View around 4 or so and planned to check it out for a minute, then do the art museum and head back for sunset, there were so many other exhibits to see up there, and such an expansive view to take in, that we ended up staying up there the entire time right through sunset.

And the views were absolutely stunning.

thumb__DSC3261_1024thumb__DSC3277_1024thumb__DSC3284_1024thumb__DSC3296_1024^^^ That helicopter in the right-hand corner of the picture provided a lot of entertainment for us as it hovered in the sky before landing quite close to the building we were in.

thumb__DSC3298_1024thumb__DSC3311_1024thumb__DSC3320_1024^^^ Goodnight, Tokyo!

You can actually get out onto the roof for a view as well, which we didn’t know until after the sun had gone down, which meant it was frigid and our time spent up there was short and sweet. Still worth it, though!

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Back inside we tried getting into the art exhibit we wanted to see, only to find out we had purchased the wrong tickets. As luck would have it, the exhibit we wanted to see was closed already, but the exhibit we had bought tickets for was still open, so we took a quick walk through that one, instead.

It was right about halfway through this art exhibit that it hit me, friends — I was exhausted. Like more exhausted than maybe I’ve ever been in my life, and my wee tired little legs were simply about to give out. Apparently this preggers lady needed to make more of a habit of taking breaks throughout the day, since that was something that up until that point I had not been paying close attention to. Anyway, the tiredness was all-consuming, and there was no point in trying to avoid it. Luckily we were all somewhat bushed — seeing as how we had started our day at 3 a.m. — so no one seemed all too annoyed to pack ourselves into a cab (one of the few we took during the whole trip, but the situation called for it!) and call it a night. I didn’t even eat dinner, folks, that’s how tired I was. Basically as soon as I got back to the apartment, the pajamas were on and I was in bed. Done. Lights out. Goodnight.

And that was Tuesday, friends! Long, exhausting, amazing, adventurous. It had it all!

The next day, Wednesday, we would be heading out on the bullet train to Kyoto, which is an experience all by itself. But more on that to come next time, friends. For now … bis bald!

Touristing Around Tokyo: Billboards, Shrines and Dancing Robots

thumb__DSC3005_1024Hi friends,

So last Monday after the marathon was really the first day that we had a chance to actually tour a bit around Tokyo, and we really made the most of it. Our time in Tokyo would be ending on Wednesday, when we took a bullet train to Kyoto for the rest of the trip, so we really wanted to pack as much in on Monday and Tuesday as possible.

We decided to start the day at the Senso-ji shrine, but even just getting to the shrine proved to be difficult for us, since we kept getting districted by everything else we were passing along the way. Tokyo is a riot of colors, excitement and impeccably dressed men and women (oh my gosh these women are so well dressed!), and we really just couldn’t get enough …

thumb__DSC2912_1024^^^ We took the subway to the Akihabara area and got off to walk around a bit. This vicinity is famous for its electronic shops (They sell toilet seats! Oh the toilet seats … how have I not talked about these yet!? They are INSANE. As in insanely amazing. They’re heated. They close and open on their own. They flush on their own or you wave your hand in front of a sensor and it flushes. Some have ocean sounds that come on when you sit … I mean?! It’s like visiting a spa every time you pee!), and in recent years has become well-known for its collection of anime and manga paraphernalia, as well. It’s so funky and fun, totally worth a walk through.

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We also found ourselves meandering through the streets leading up to the Senso-ji temple, which was much more traditional Japan, as I had imagined it …

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thumb__DSC2967_1024^^^ This guy … too funny!

thumb__DSC2969_1024^^^ This was our first view coming up on the temple. You can just tell right away that it’s going to be pretty amazing, and the surrounding area — referred to as Nakamise-dori — has streets filled with shopping for anything your little heart might desire, from food and trinkets to clothing and so much more.

thumb__DSC2971_1024^^^ Senso-ji, in all her splendor.

thumb__DSC2976_1024^^^ Senso-ji is known to be Tokyo’s oldest temple, and its referred by to locals as the temple of the Asakusa Kannon. Even though the temple receives 30 million visitors every year, it is still an important center of worship. There’s a great history of the temple and surrounding area here.

thumb__DSC2978_1024thumb__DSC2982_1024thumb__DSC2989_1024^^^ 100 yen (placed in an honour box) will get you an omikuji, or a fortune written on a small piece of paper. If your fortune is bad, tradition would have you tie the paper on a nearby string so the wind can disperse the bad luck. Above is the incense burner, which you’ll find in the temple forecourt. People come here to fan the smoke from the incense over themselves, believing it to have healing powers.

thumb__DSC3009_1024thumb__DSC3015_1024^^^ The area immediately surrounding the temple includes manicured gardens, Buddhist and other statues to pray at, and some other, smaller temple structures. The whole area is so alluring and you’ll feel like you never want to leave.

Of course leave you must, if you want to take in the rest of Tokyo! So after spending a couple hours at the temple and wandering around the surrounding streets, we decided to head off to check out the Roppongi Hills area of Tokyo, with its Tokyo City View, Mori Art Museum and Mohri Garden. Unfortunately by the time we got there the weather had turned rainy and cloudy, so the Tokyo City View didn’t seem like such a smart idea, and the Mohri Garden — which I had been pretty excited about based on information I’d read in my guide book — turned out to be pretty lame, as well. (Maybe it’s better in the spring when everything is blooming? Probably, I assume.) There are a ton of shops in this area, though, and it’s definitely one of the more affluent, contemporary sections of Tokyo, so it’s worth checking out. So we decided to grab a coffee (hot chocolate for me!) and rest our legs, and to come back the next day when the weather promised to be better to do the city view and the art museum.

In the evening we had plans to meet up with a friend of my sister’s who just recently moved to Japan with her husband who is in the Navy. Our original plan to see another temple didn’t seem like such a good one anymore because of the weather, so she recommended checking out Robot Restaurant, a restaurant in the Shinjuku neighborhood of Tokyo that she admitted she had never been to before, but that everyone had been recommending. Not quite sure what to expect (Vicky said “it’s mostly about the entertainment, it’s not really a restaurant!”), we were game for everything, so we hopped online, bought our tickets (they’re a bit pricey at about $50 per ticket — with a discount! — so I would definitely do your research before buying them to make sure this is the type of entertainment you’d be into) and were off!

So let me tell you about Robot Restaurant — it is quite a spectacle! There were little kids in our audience, so I would have been interested to gauge their reaction afterwards, but the basic gist of it is that this is not a restaurant (they serve popcorn, beer and some other goodies for an additional fee), and it’s really just a bright, loud, crazy, kitschy show of shorts, put on by both elaborately dressed actors and, ahem, robots. I think there was a plot line (good vs. evil, big scary robot wants to destroy pretty, blossoming world, people who live in pretty world fight back and win? Maybe?), but really, it’s not about the plot line, either. It’s all about the theatrics, the costumes … and the robots, of course! It actually turned out to be a lot of fun, but it’s probably not for everyone, so like I said, I’d do a little research before buying those tickets!

If you do buy the tickets, though, here’s a bit of what you can expect …

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thumb__DSC3068_1024thumb__DSC3072_1024^^^ That about sums it up!

thumb__DSC3082_1024thumb__DSC3096_1024thumb__DSC3106_1024^^^ Of course you don’t have to try on one of the costume heads when the show is over … unless you’re my husband😉

thumb__DSC3112_1024^^^ Thank you, Robot Restaurant, for showing us a crazy, wild side of Tokyo that we probably would never have otherwise seen!

After the show were all starving (because again, it’s not a restaurant!), so Chris hopped on, you guessed it!, Foursquare, and found an awesome little tempura place nearby that he wanted to try. Again, the name is in Japanese, which isn’t much help for you, but I did take a picture of the front of the restaurant, if that helps!

thumb__DSC3116_1024^^^ If you’re a tempura fan, this is a great place to try out. They have traditional seating, too (on the floor, legs crossed), if you want, and if you sit up at the bar area, like we did, you can watch the chefs cook your dinner right in front of you. So cool!

And that was our Monday, friends! It was jam packed, but as it turned out Tuesday would be even more full. We started our morning on Tuesday at 3 a.m. (!!!) in order to make it to a viewing of the famous tuna auction at the Tsukiji Market, so stay tuned for more on that tomorrow!

For now … bis bald, friends!

To Tokyo, With Love

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Hi friends,

So last Thursday we left for Japan, knowing full well that we would have quite the journey ahead of us. With Chris running a marathon on Sunday that he was not prepared for (an injury caused him to cease training almost as soon as he began), and with me and my preggers self, the 13-hour flight alone could have been problematic.

Luckily for us, it turned out to be okay. With my trusty pair of compression socks and tons of snacks packed away in our bags, we were ready! That’s not to say that the flight time just flew by, but it definitely wasn’t as bad as my worst-case scenario mind was imagining it to be. I will take a hot sec to complain about one thing regarding the flight, though, which was American Airlines’ inability to get me a vegetarian meal. Chris had signed me up for that option when we first booked our flight, and heading out to Tokyo they didn’t have any set aside for me (luckily for the first meal there was an extra laying around, but for the second there wasn’t, which meant I went without dinner, and preggers me does not like going without meals!), and for the flight home we called to double check about that and were told we had to sign up for it within a 24-hour timeframe of the flight leaving? What kind of craziness is that? So I didn’t have the veggie meal heading home, either. Major bummer.

Anyway, once we arrived (around 5 p.m. Tokyo time), we set off to find the apartment where we would staying with Chris’s parents, which was this cute little place in Shibuya, which really turned out to be a great location not only for the race (Chris said it was a short warm-up jog to the start line), but also for our general touristing later in the week, since it was close to two major subway lines.

About the subway. Chris had purchased our PASMO cards (for the subway) and our Japan Rail Pass tickets (for the bullet train to and from Tokyo and Kyoto, as well as between Kyoto and Hiroshima) ahead of time, so we had those in the mail to bring with us to Japan, and it was amazing having them. We even opted to upgrade to first class for the JRAIL Passes, and I’m so glad we did. The bullet trains travel at about 200 MPH, but we were still on the train from Tokyo to Kyoto for about 2 hours and 40 minutes and for 1 hour and 40 minutes from Kyoto to Hiroshima, so it was nice to have that extra leg room, a foot rest, and a nice quiet ride. Another note about transportation in and around Japan — subway is definitely the way to go. We took cabs a few times (and they are super fancy cabs, at that! The doors even open automatically for you!), but they are expensive, so it’s not really economically feasible to use them for all your transportation if you’re in town for a while, like we were.

Anyway, moving on! It was late when we arrived at our apartment on Friday, but we ventured out with the Connors for our first (of many!) noodle dinners in the cute little surrounding neighborhood. A town that loves noodles? I can get behind that😉

Saturday and Sunday of our trip were marathon-themed, as we went to the Expo Saturday for Chris to register and get his race bib, and Sunday was the actual race.

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^^^ Vending machines are everywhere in Japan, and they dispense mostly (if not all) drinks, even HOT coffee and hot chocolate! They’re pretty amazing.

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^^^ At the expo, gettin’ geared up!

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^^^ Signing his name into history on the Abbott World Marathon Majors sign. As we would come to find out later, Chris is one of only about 600 or so runners to have completed all six world marathons in the World Marathon Series so far. Ummmm … you’re pretty impressive, my dear.

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^^^ Honestly, all credit for getting around during our trip goes to this guy. The Connors and I were all too happy to give up transportation control to Chris, and we were well taken care of in his hands.

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^^^ Our little family of three was ready on race day!

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^^^ Chris will tell you this wasn’t his best race (because it wasn’t a PR, and it was a struggle to finish since he wasn’t able to train at all), but he finished in 3 hours and 36 minutes, which for any normal person would still be an insanely fast time. He’s now a six-time World Marathon Series Marathon F.I.N.I.S.H.E.R! Way to go, Chris Connor!

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^^^ Unfortunately a lot of the restaurants we ended up eating at had Japanese names (obviously), so I don’t envision that my posts will be a lot of help in the food department. However, I think it’s pretty hard to go wrong with food in Japan, and we ended up using Foursquare a lot to find places to eat, which is fast becoming my food app of choice when traveling. It has yet to let us down! So for dinner after the marathon, we found this adorable hole-in-wall (thanks Foursquare!) noodle shop that sits about 15 people max and had the most insanely delicious noodles I probably ate the entire trip. We waited about 40 minutes to get seated, but they take your order while you wait, so pretty much as soon as you sit down the food was at the table. Pretty genius, if you ask me!

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^^^ One of the things I loved most about restaurants in Japan was that at pretty much all of them the chefs making the food — and particularly the fresh noodles — were on display to watch. So. Much. Fun!

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^^^ And … the delicious meal. Yum!

And that was our 2-day marathon experience in a nutshell, folks! It was perhaps the final time that the Connors and I will be marathon spectators for Chris (another reason the trip was emotional for me!) — although I would never say never with that one!

I’ll be back tomorrow to start chatting about Monday and beyond, when we got really down and dirty with the touristy part of our trip😉

‘Til then – bis bald, friends!

Returning From Tokyo

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Well friends — we’re home. In the blink of an eye, our 10-day trip to Japan is over. This trip was so many things, and to be honest, it was sort of emotional. This was my first (and last) international trip while pregnant, and our last international trip as a couple before becoming parents.

This was Chris’s final trip to complete the six marathons in the World Marathon Majors series (have I mentioned how proud I am?!). It was the first and last time (probably) that I’ll have seen my in-laws while pregnant. This trip was amazing and eye-opening and exhausting and yes, at times, stressful (that can happen when you’re pregnant and vegetarian and traveling in a country where you don’t speak the language!), but all-in-all, I’d have to say it was every bit the life-changing experience I thought it would be.

It will probably take me a while to download and edit all the photos from my camera (as I try to fit that in with getting back into the swing of things with work … don’t you just hate that part of coming back from a trip?), but I’ve been trying to stay pretty up-to-date on my Instagram page, and in the meantime, here are a few additional photos from my iPhone to tide you over😉

So for now, bis bald, friends! I hope March is treating you well …

Hello From the Other Side …

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Hey there friends! Remember me? Your friendly Weary Wanderer? If not, I don’t blame you, since it has been a while since I’ve posted. I’m sorry for that. I’ve been taking some time to reenvision what I see happening for this blog in the future (more on that later), to work on some other professional goals (I finally attended this amazing children’s book writing conference in NYC the other weekend — I cannot say enough how much I loved it and how I want to go to every single conference they offer!), and perhaps the most important reason I’ve been busy is because — drum roll, please — Chris and I are expecting our first little baby!! Hence the above photo, which my husband so lovingly took after schlepping into the backcountry mountains at both Keystone and Breckenridge to find the perfect spot for the photo opp — good job, love😉

Anyway, besides all of the above, we have an amazing trip coming up to Japan, where Chris will be completing his sixth and final World Marathon series race in Tokyo THIS SUNDAY! We leave tomorrow, and I could not be more excited! (Except, you know, for the 17 or so hour long flight to get there:/ Normally I wouldn’t mind as much, but as a preggers, well this could be interesting. Stay tuned for a post on the things I (hopefully!) did to make it go smoothly.)

We’ll be back the second week in March, and I’ll be here to blog about everything we saw, but in the meantime, here’s a bit from this year, which has been both amazingly relaxing and crazy busy, all at the same time.

IMG_0253^^ Homemade cinnamon buns from my stepmom. Best. Gift. Ever! (And yes, they were every bit as delicious as they look … )

IMG_0327^^ So exciting getting this in the mail!

IMG_0358^^ Chris and I found out a few weeks ago the gender of our baby. We took the paper with the gender on it to our local bakery and had these cupcakes made up with pink or blue frosting inside to let us know. It was just the two of us, but it was really fun to find out this way, and I’m so glad we did. [I’ll keep it a secret on here for now … some things are more fun when you wait for them ;)]

FullSizeRender (1)^^ The most delicious (and addicting!) ginger cookies from Trader Joe’s, sent as part of a ‘first trimester in pregnancy’ package from a best friend and her (three-times-a-momma!) sister.

FullSizeRender^^ I mean … could these fortune cookies be more accurate?!

FullSizeRender (2)^^ A snowy day in downtown Denver.

IMG_0416^^ Chris and I planned to fly into Newark on our last trip back to New York because it was easier for my stepdad to pick us up there. Unfortunately that meant we had to have a layover at the Cincinnati airport, and when we landed we were given the unfortunate news that all flights into New York had been canceled because of weather. So that meant we spent the night at a hotel near the airport, which at first we were super bummed about, until my stepdad pointed out that the Cincinnati airport is actually in Kentucky, not Ohio (go figure!), and neither one of us had ever been to Kentucky before, so hello that totally counted and we can add it to our list of states visited! Of course we were so exhausted from the day (and our flight out to New York was at 6 a.m. the following morning), so we ended up doing nothing but relaxing, watching television and ordering in (which was delicious, by the way, see above). Still, we were in Kentucky for a night and a meal, so that counts!

IMG_0417^^ Not exactly the best picture, but flying into New York will always send my heart a flutter😉

IMG_0429^^ Celebrating my grandmother and her twin sister on their 94th birthday. Could there be anything cuter than these two?!

IMG_0433^^ Still in love, after 94 years together. That’s some soul mate action, for ya.

FullSizeRender (3)^^ Although I spent the majority of my time in New York with family upstate, I did get to meet a friend in the city for a couple days (we stayed at The Paul Hotel, which offered these incredible views and was close to the Empire State Building, as well, which was a lot of fun for us as former-NYC-residents-turned-tourists). It was so much fun to eat good food, roam around the city (although it was frigid that weekend!) and to just catch up in person. Sometimes I forget how much I miss my friends until I actually get to see them.

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IMG_0457^^ Catching up with another preggers friend of mine was definitely a highlight, but it got even better when she had her baby on the Friday before I spent all weekend long at the writing conference, which meant I actually got to meet little baby Fiona, which was beyond amazing!
IMG_0463^^ Lisa likes to jazz up photos we take when we’re together, and I like to look at ’em😉

IMG_0461^^ Ahhhhh, registering for baby shower stuff. Can we all admit that this is fun for about an hour or two, and then by hour three and four all you want to do is sit down and eat cake?

IMG_0526^^ Chris was only with me on this trip for the first weekend (for my grandmother and her twin’s birthday party), and not for my jaunt out into the city and for the writer’s conference, so when he picked me up at the airport when I flew back, he was waiting with these amazing flowers. What a hubby, am I right?!

And now we’re on to Japan, friends! We’re spending about six days in Tokyo and then four days in Kyoto, which I’m beyond excited for. Can’t wait to be back here with an update, and, oh, by the way, it’ll be March when I do! Crazy. How fast is this year going?!

Bis bald, friends!

Year In Review: The 365 Days That Were 2015


Welcome to the end of 2015, friends. Each year seems to go by faster and faster, doesn’t it? Chris and I had a heck of a 365 days, including a move halfway across the country, new jobs and lots of states crossed off our bucket list. So without further adieu, here’s a bit of what we got up to this year:

January
Jan. started with a bang when Chris and I loaded up our Toyota Matrix with Penny and Nugget and hit the road to travel from New York to Colorado, and our new life. We made stops in Columbus, St. Louis and Kansas City along the way, and blogged about the adventure here.

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February
The month of Feb. was spent hosting our first guests out in Denver, as well as getting settled in our new place, checking out Denver a bit more, hitting the mountains as often as possible and hanging out with family that came to town.

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March
In March I headed back to the East coast for a surprise visit with my family in honor of my nephew’s 2nd birthday. (It didn’t hurt to be able to check back in with friends and former colleagues in Manhattan, either.)

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April
April saw my little blog getting nominated for a Liebster Award (amazing), as well as celebrating my birthday, Denver style.

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May
What a jam-packed month, May was. Chris and I checked out Colorado Springs and Garden of the Gods for the first time, my mom and stepdad came for a visit and we toured them all around, and we spent the most amazing Memorial Day weekend camping in Moab, Utah.

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June
June started out with a bang when my bestie came to visit for a week (blogged about here and here), and Chris attended snowboard camp in Whistler (which he wrote about here).

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July
In early July I headed back to the East coast (Again. There is a theme to this year, friends, you’ll see …) to celebrate my mom’s 60th birthday, for two weddings and to get the ball rolling on stuff for my sister’s bridal shower. My sister and I also spent one particularly gorgeous day exploring Lake Minnewaska, which I would highly recommend. When I was back, Chris and I took a day to check out the Coors Brewery tour and Golden, which was a lot of fun. We also headed to Aspen to check out the Maroon Bells on our way to Glenwood Springs to hike the Hanging Lake trail.

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August
August saw us heading to Rocky Mountain National Park, as well as taking in our first Rockies game and trying out some great new restaurants.

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September
September was pretty fun, friends. For starters, we were invited out to Jackson, Wyoming, to try out a tiny cabin near the Grand Tetons. We took advantage of the invite to check out Jackson Hole and Grand Teton National Park, as well as Yellowstone, which is now one of our all-time favorite places. (Not for nothing, but our first-ever Red Rocks concert was in September, as well!)

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October
Oh, October — how busy were thee. We ended September and started early October with a visit from some of Chris’s Aussie friends before I headed back to the East coast (yes, again!), this time for pretty much the entire month. We celebrated my sister’s bachelorette weekend in gorgeous upstate Ithaca, I attended a cousin’s wedding in Long Island, made it back into the city for a couple days to visit friends and attend a press event, I visited the Poconos and did a gorgeous hike with my bestie … oh and, you know, my sister got married! Plus my dad took the in-laws for a little tour of West Point the Sunday after the wedding … hangovers and all😉

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November
November was jam packed as well, friends. After my sister’s wedding, Chris’s parents flew back with us to Denver and we hit the road for a little trip out to South Dakota to see Mount Rushmore.  Later in the month Chris and I took a sneaky little trip out to New Orleans (blogged about here, here and here), and the end of November saw Chris being a sneak again, when he was in cohoots with my sister and brother-in-law for them to fly out to Denver to spend Thanksgiving with us here.

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December
Chris & I packed up the car and drove up to the mountains to spend the holidays. We rented an amazing condo in the woods with gorgeous mountain views, made lots of fires, watched a lot of movies and ate until we couldn’t eat anymore. Oh, and spent a lot of time facetiming with our families, of course😉

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And that, as they say, is that, my friends — 2015 in a nutshell. On tap for 2016 will be a trip back East in February for my Grandma’s birthday and for me to take a class in the city, and then we’ll head to Tokyo at the end of the month so that Chris can complete his sixth and final World Marathon in the series. After that … the future is ours to plan, friends.

Bis bald to you all, and I wish you a happy and healthy New Year!

A Holiday Getaway In the Mountains

IMG_0109^^ A blurry view of the snowy trees whizzing by on our way up to the mountains on Christmas Eve.

Hi friends,
As I mentioned yesterday, Chris and I headed up into the mountains for the holiday where we stayed at The Pines Condominiums in Keystone. The condo was splendid, with a fireplace, gorgeous mountain views from every window and a full kitchen with everything we needed to make a delicious Christmas dinner. I thought I’d share some pictures from our stay here.

_DSC2710^^Our dining room looking into what we came to affectionately refer to as our “Christmas nook”.

_DSC2711^^The kitchen

_DSC2716^^ Our Christmas nook, pre decorations.

_DSC2720^^ Chris spent most of his time stoking the lovely wood fire.

_DSC2725^^ Our Christmas nook, all decorated and lovely.

IMG_0132^^ Christmas Eve dinner was at the Black Bear Grill.

IMG_0139^^ Christmas eve entertainment was a roaring fire and some Christmas classics.

_DSC2731^^ Christmas morning Christmas nook views.

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_DSC2741^^ I thought this photo was artsy, with the Christmas lights in the foreground, but Chris just said it was confusing.

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And that was our lovely, snow-filled Christmas holiday, friends! I hope you all had a relaxing, fun time filled with friends, family and lots of delicious foods … now on to New Years!

The 52 Project: December 28, 2015

FullSizeRender (93)^^ I can’t even begin to believe that later this week I’ll be posting my year in review. Unbelievable. I hope everyone had a fantastic holiday with their loved ones! The above photo is from the mountain cabin where Chris and I holed up in front of the fire for three days through Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and the day after. That was one of the views from our windows. It was splendid. I’ll be back later to blog a bit more about it, as well as post the year that was 2015. Until then – bis bald, friends!

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The 52 Project: December 21, 2015

IMG_3762.JPG^^ Well, friends, Christmas week is upon us, and I am beyond ready for some rest and rejuvenation.  Chris headed to the mountains this past weekend (where he sent me the above photo), while I stayed home and relaxed and caught up on my magazines and Netflix. We’ll be heading to the mountains again for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, since we rented a cabin there. It’s our first Christmas without any family, and while I’m excited for our plans, I’m ready to feel a bit nostalgic for the Christmas’s of yore with family running around, as well. My big ole’ year-end update is coming up soon (we took in a lot of these beautiful United States the past 12 months), so I look forward to putting that together and moving on to 2016. Bis bald, friends!

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The 52 Project: December 14, 2015

IMG_9998^^ Well Christmas is most definitely on its way, but if you ask me, it can’t get here soon enough. Still, I enjoy the way that Denver really goes all out to celebrate the holiday. I grabbed coffee with a friend in Union Station on Saturday morning and got to check out these cute little carolers on my out. Hope you guys are all enjoying this festive season, as well. Bis bald!

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The 52 Project: December 7, 2015

IMG_9968^^ I love how ridiculously red this photo is, and the fact that you can barely even tell that Penny has plopped herself down right smack dab in the middle of the most comfortable chair in the room. She’s no fool. Anyway, this week and weekend was spent getting things back in order after my sis and bro-in-law left and putting the finishing touches on some holiday decorating. Even though Chris and I won’t actually be in our apartment for Christmas, it still feels nice to have it all dressed up and fancy. Nighttime is my favorite right now when I can turn off all the big lights and just turn on all the holiday stuff and relax. Bis bald, friends — hope your holiday season is going well!

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Our First Thanksgiving in Denver — and the Best Surprise Ever!

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Well friends — my husband, sister and brother-in-law pulled off the best secret ever when my sis and bro-in-law flew to Denver last Wednesday to spend Thanksgiving with us. We had such a great time with them here, and while I was sad to see them go, it certainly helps to have the next visit planned (February, here I come!) before saying goodbye.

Here’s a bit of what we got up to:

01_TurkeyTrot^^ All geared up and ready to run the Washington Park Turkey Trot! It snowed … like a lot … on Thanksgiving, so Steph and I sat this one out in the car and chatted while we waited for the boys to finish😉

02_Roof^^ See what I mean — snow! From our rooftop, downtown Denver looked like a snow globe.

02_ThanksgivingMeal^^ Not a bad little Thanksgiving meal we made for ourselves, if I do say so myself!

03_Prost^^ Game time at Prost Brewing.

04_InfiniteMonkeyTheorem^^ Cuddles at The Infinite Monkey Theorem.  We also visited Ratio Beerworks and had dinner at Park Burger.

05_TreeShopping^^ On our way to King Soopers to check out their tree selections (sad, I know), we passed The Big Wonderful night bazaar, and low and behold, they were selling trees! (Happy!) So of course we stopped and picked out a great one, which we affectionately named Esmerelda. 

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08_Mannie^^ Loaded on Mannie and ready to go home.

09_Ezzie^^ Okay, so our tree is half icicle lights and half regular lights — I think it gives her character!

10_Distillery^^ We attended a going away party Saturday night at Mile High Spirits,  where the couple that is moving actually got engaged, as well. It turned out to be a pretty special night.

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12_Distillery^^ These two😉

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14_Distillery^^ We got mad love for you kids — you’re welcome back any time!

And that was Thanksgiving in a nutshell, my friends! Bis bald — and and hey … happy December!

The 52 Project: November 30, 2015

FullSizeRender (93)^^ Happy first week of December, folks! So I had the most amazing Thanksgiving ever when Chris conspired with my bro-in-law to have he and my sister fly to Denver for long weekend. Amazing. It was seriously the best surprise ever, and we had so much fun. Now we’re through with Thanksgiving and moving on to Christmas and then the New Year … it’s just insane! I hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving with loved ones, and is gearing up for the festive holiday season. Bis bald, friends!

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A Final Two Days in New Orleans

_DSC2583^^ We sure do love a good bike tour😉

Sunday in New Orleans was a great day, because we actually hopped on a bike tour with Buzz Nola that took us into some really gorgeous parts of the city that we hadn’t seen yet. We stopped at P.J’s for coffee first (because we saw locals drinking this, so we figured, why not?!), and then met up with our tour, which covered:

  • The French Quarter: Where we learned about the city’s founding in 1718, the architecture, Jackson Square and the history of the French Market.
  • Esplanade Ave.: A historic oak-lined boulevard where the Creole elite live.
  • Faubourg Treme: A centuries old neighborhood, home to artists, musicians and history makers.
  • Louis Armstrong Park & Congo Square: The heart of New Orleans’ jazz tradition (and where the jazz festival was being held that we stopped by the day before).
  • Lafayette Cemetery No. 1: One of the many above ground cemeteries in New Orleans, where we learned about the tradition of interment and New Orleans’ funeral traditions.
  • The Lower Garden District: Where the original city of Lafayette, LA begins. Americans were the first to begin building their homes here when the they weren’t welcome in the areas where the French were already living.
  • The Mansions of the Garden District: Gorgeous homes abound in this area, and many architectural trends influenced the whole neighborhood.

Here’s some of what we saw …

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_DSC2609^^ This is Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop Bar, which has a really interesting history that you can read on their site. We came back here later Sunday night to grab some drinks.

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_DSC2634^^ Look at this beautiful mansion in the Garden District part of our tour. We saw Sandra Bullock’s house, the house where Eli and Peyton Manning grew up, John Goodman’s house, and a whole bunch of others.

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_DSC2668^^ Lafayette’s Cemetery. It’s a somber experience to be taking a tour through a cemetery, but just look at these gorgeous structures. It’s really a nice way to be remembered.

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_DSC2695^^ This sign was pretty much across the street from our hotel, and it made me laugh when I first saw it, so I figured I should take a pic😉

IMG_3681^^ Sazeracs at Dominica in the Roosevelt hotel for happy hour before heading out on the town.

IMG_9752^^ Hurricane’s at Lafitte’s on Sunday night before catching an Uber to dinner.

IMG_2801^^ This. A very scary creepy statue of Jesus that projects onto a church in the French Quarter at night. 

IMG_9760^^ Dinner Sunday night was at Baccanal Wine, which is totally off the beaten path, and totally worth it! The first part of the store is a wine and cheese shop, then you can go and sit in the backyard under the twinkle lights, listen to live jazz and order drinks and food from the little window over there to the left. It has a really laid back, low-key, homey type of feel — exactly what we were hoping for on our last night.

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Monday was our last day in New Orleans, and we were lucky that we had most of the day to hang out. We went back to Cafe Du Monde for breakfast, and this time we actually sat in the cafe, which was a lot of fun.

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Then we walked over to Canal St. and caught the Streetcar back to the Garden District, where we would be having lunch at Commander’s Palace.

So remember the other day when I said the Streetcars were cute, except for when you want to ride them? Well the truth is they’re pretty unreliable in terms of timing (ours showed up about 10 minutes late and took about 20 minutes longer than we thought to get us to our destination). If you aren’t strapped for time, though, it’s a pretty fun (and cheap) way to ride around the city at least once.

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IMG_9770^^ Us, totally badass after a delicious lunch at Commander’s Palace. My mushroom risotto was some of the best I’ve ever eaten in my entire life.

And that, my friends, was that! New Orleans in four days in a nutshell! It was fun and funky and splendid and wonderful — and I’d highly recommend it for history buffs, music lovers, those who enjoy fine food and/or drink, and party revelers alike.

Bis bald, friends! I’ll leave you with this – one last video of the amazing orchestra due we fell in love with and who we lucky got to see twice before we left. P.S. I do realize this is the same song as I posted before, just a longer version. I thought we taped them both nights, but unfortunately we didn’t. Oh well — it’s still a damn good show.

Day 2 in New Orleans: Food, Frenchman’s Street & Fun Outdoor Markets

_DSC2484^^ Ahh New Orleans … could you be any prettier?

Saturday was a splendid, exploratory day for us in New Orleans, my friends. We decided to walk the distance to try brunch (which was actually more like lunch, by the time we got there) at Elizabeth’s, followed by a stroll along Crescent Park (the photo above) and a wander through the French Market, where we bought some really amazing art work and I got a new pair of sunglasses and a fun face mask (hey, when in New Orleans, right?!).

On our way back to our hotel, we were trying to find St. Louis Cemetery (which we did, although unfortunately it was closed for the day) and we stumbled across Basin St. Station (definitely worth a look on your way to the cemetery for information on the evolution of transportation in New Orleans) and the New Orleans Jazz and History Festival, which was really fun.

Here’s a visual journey through our day …

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_DSC2472^^ We don’t have a dog, but I need this sign!

_DSC2473^^ Walking through the Marigny section of town to get to brunch.

_DSC2476^^ Beads are everywhere in New Orleans — be sure to  look in the trees, too, that’s a favorite spot for them to hang.

_DSC2481^^ Well deserved Bloody Mary’s after a long walk to Elizabeth’s.

_DSC2482^^ My eggs florentine, which were good, but I definitely had food envy over Chris’s …

_DSC2483^^ Crabby eggs (basically eggs florentine on top of crab cakes) and cheesy grits. Yum!

_DSC2488^^ Walking along the Crescent Park pathway, which gives you some amazing views of the city, and pretty much brings you right up to the French Market.

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_DSC2511^^ These kids playing right near the French Market were so awesome, we just sat and listened to them for a good 15 minutes.

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_DSC2548^^ Another second line parade that happened along our path.

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_DSC2564^^ Basically there are brides and bridal parties everywhere you turn in New Orleans. And who can blame ’em … what a backdrop!

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_DSC2579^^ A bit of a view from the Jazz and History Festival.

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IMG_9714^^ You can’t help but love these guys, right? They aren’t even getting married — they’re just celebrating life.

After a quick rest back at the hotel, we headed back out onto the town for some food, live music and art. We had been hearing great things about the po boys at Verti Marte, so we obviously had to check it out, and they did not disappoint. If you can get past the super sketchy feel of this place (it’s basically a small convenient store with a deli at the back where you order), you’ll be impressed with their po boy options, and even more impressed with the taste. Plan to either get yours delivered or eat it out on the street while you people watch on your way to your next destination (which is what we did).

After dinner we tried to get into Three Muses, but they weren’t taking any more people for the night. This is supposed to be a really fun place for tapas and live music, so if you can make it work, I’d recommend trying it. Lucky for us, though, there was a fun bar about two doors down (30/90) which had good drinks and a live band. So we snuck in there for a while, then wandered around Frenchmen Street for a bit, including the Frenchmen Art Market, which was so romantic with its white string lights and tables and tables of local artists selling their wares.

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FullSizeRender (97)^^ This picture doesn’t do it justice, but we walked home along Bourbon Street that night, and you can only imagine the insanity that ensues here.  Bourbon Street is not for the faint of heart, my friends. Keep that in mind😉

And that was our Saturday! I’ll be back tomorrow with Sunday and Monday (since Monday was a short day). Sunday included a bike tour, which was so much fun, and checking out a new section of town, as well.

But for now … bis bald, friends!

Let’s Talk About Amazing New Orleans: Day 1

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Well friends, we’re back home after a crazy couple of days in the Big Easy! We landed late Thursday and really hit the ground running Friday through Monday night, when we flew back. I feel like we got a good lay of the land from just those couple of days, but New Orleans is definitely a place I would say I’d like to head back to.

I figured the best way to go about blogging for this trip is to break it up by days. Friday morning we really wanted to just take our time and meander around the city, being sure to hit up some of the spots our many, many friends who have been before suggested we see. Here’s what we got up to:

Breakfast was take-away beignets and coffee from Cafe Du Monde, which we ate by the river while we listened to some locals jam away. Chris kept saying how the one thing he really loved about this city was how it seems to have a soundtrack of its own, and I couldn’t agree more.

_DSC2334^^ The Streetcars that ran along Canal Street were so cute — until we took one! More on that later, though …

_DSC2338^^ I took a lot of pictures of buildings people, because … I mean … come on! So gorgeous!

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_DSC2348^^ We decided to do take away from Cafe Du Monde Friday, but we were able to sit down at a table on Monday morning, and it was fantastic. The people watching alone is worth it, but to sit at a table and dunk your beignet in coffee — you’ll think you died and went to heaven.

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_DSC2381^^ Check out the beautiful St. Louis Cathedral in the background. Our tour guide on Sunday told us that Walt Disney modeled the Magic Kingdom castle after it, after coming to New Orleans and being blown away by its beauty. I could definitely see that.

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_DSC2395^^ There are no open container laws in New Orleans, which makes for a pretty interesting time. You can’t have glass bottles on the street, but there’s a lotta paper baggin’ it happening around here!

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_DSC2407^^ Look at this little kid, just playin’ his drum as he crosses the street. This is quintessential New Orleans, if you ask me.

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After breakfast we wandered around the French Quarter, down Bourbon Street and happened upon Cafe Beignet, where we sat to get some drinks and listen to the live band.

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_DSC2420^^ The first of many Sazeracs😉

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Lunch on Friday was at Lüke’s, which was close to our hotel but also happened to have some amazing food. We had oysters (but of course), Court-bouillon with redfish, crab, shrimp, oysters and Louisiana popcorn rice. Chris also had the seafood gumbo, while I opted for the Lüke salad. It was a spectacular lunch, to say the least.

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After lunch we took a quick rest back at our hotel. I should take this chance to talk a bit about where we stayed — The Whitney Hotel. This former bank has kept many of its old banking structures, which makes it super quirky and fun, and its location is enough removed from the madness to be quiet, but also just blocks away from where all the fun is. I’d highly recommend it for anyone’s stay!

_DSC2450^^ The front lobby.

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Our Friday evening consisted of some more exploring, with stops at The Carousel Bar in Hotel Monteleone (an actual spinning carousel — don’t worry, it’s sloowwwww — and live music make this place so. much. fun!), drinks at The Golden Lantern [which Chris says was his favorite bar out of all those we visited … even if it was a gay bar ;)] and a bit of a walk to Mimi’s in the Marigny, which is, as the name suggests, in the Marigny section of town. We had some delicious tapas for dinner there.

FullSizeRender (94)^^ One of the many second line parades we saw while in town. Anyone can register with the police department for any reason to have a parade, and they will be given real police escorts and everything. Of course you have to hire your own band, though — but those aren’t hard to come by in New Orleans. See the bride in the back? So much fun!

FullSizeRender (93)^^ Checking out the scenery at The Carousel Bar.

IMG_9652^^ So much fun!

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IMG_9665^^ The band in the background could be heard all the way up the carousel part of the bar, which was really cool.

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^^ Delicious dinner at Mimi’s. Tapas rock.

IMG_9695^^ My husband, up to something at Mimi’s, that’s for sure.

And that was our first jam packed day in New Orleans friends! I’ll leave you with this, amazing orchestra duo which we went back to see the following night as well, because they were just that good. Bis bald, friends — and I’ll be back tomorrow with more!

The 52 Project: November 16, 2015

Bacchanal_dinner^^ Hey there, friends! So Chris and I are still in New Orleans, headed back to Colorado later tonight. It’s been an amazing time, as anyone who has ever been here can I’m sure agree. We had our last dinner last night at Bacchanal, this amazing little backyard venue with live jazz music (gotta have the live jazz music!) and delicious eats. I’ll be back later this week with more of a New Orleans update, till then – bis bald, friends!

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A Quick Trip to South Dakota to Visit Mount Rushmore

01_SouthDakota^^ Holy cow does it look cold or what?! Well it was!

Well friends, unfortunately it’s been about two weeks since we actually made the trek out to South Dakota to visit Mount Rushmore, but I’m only now getting the chance to post some photos from our little adventure. After arriving back into Denver late Monday night with Chris’s parents from New York after my sister’s wedding, we hopped in the car early Tuesday and headed off to add a new state to our list of visits this year — South Dakota. We booked a hotel in Rapid City called Adoba, which was awesome for its proximity to Mount Rushmore and also for the fact that it had a bar right across the street that afforded us the chance to watch the Mets game while we chowed down on some grub after a long day of checking out the sights …

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03_OregonTrail^^ Passing by markers for the Oregon Trail during our drive brought me right back to my American history days!

04_CrazyHorseMemorial^^ Our first stop in South Dakota was the Crazy Horse Memorial. Can you kind of see the face carved into the side of that mountain on the right? This landmark has kind of a crazy story in that it’s pretty much being entirely built by one family who refuses to take contributions from the government. You can read more about the monument here, but essentially the memorial is meant to protect and preserve the culture, tradition and living heritage of North American Indians. If you’re in the area, I’d recommend checking it out, if only for the museum and the awesome amount of information you can find there.

05_MountainGoat^^ Yes, these are mountain goats, my friends, and guess who was super excited to add this animal to our list of animals we’ve seen this year …

06_MountainGoat^^ My husband was … that’s who😉

07_MountRushmore^^ Entering the Mount Rushmore area was a sort of out-of-body experience for me at first. I mean you spend your whole life growing up, knowing that this place exists, seeing photos of it in history books and reading about what it represents, and then you see it in person … and you’re just blown away.

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11_HotelSunrise^^ The sunrise view from our hotel Wednesday morning certainly wasn’t too shabby.

12_TrailView^^Wednesday morning we drove through Custer State Park and took the Wildlife Loop Road, which was amazing.

13_TrailView^^ We saw bison — hey bison!

14_TrailView^^ A vulture …

15_TrailView^^ You can’t really see it too well in this picture, but there’s a coyote a little right of center in this photo …

16_TrailView^^ There he goes, off to the right and into the woods!

17_TrailView^^ Prairie dogs!

18_TrailView^^ And more bison, super up close and personal.

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21_TrailView^^ Look at these little cuties! We sure do miss them when we’re not with them.

22_TheNeedles^^ We also got to quickly check out Needles Highway on our way back to Mount Rushmore on Wednesday (we didn’t have much time to check out the museum the day before), which was pretty stunning.

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30_MountRushmore^^ And then it was back to Mount Rushmore one more time to finish up with the museum and check out the monument again before heading back to Denver.

It was a super quick little two-day trip, but totally worth it. We were hoping to hit up the Badlands as well, but we definitely didn’t have time for that. Oh well, it’s on the list, still!

And we’re off to New Orleans tomorrow, friends! I cannot wait to check out this city that I’ve heard so much about. Be sure to follow me on Instagram for daily updates, and I’ll be back next week to post an update on the blog.

Until then, bis bald, my friends!