Uncharted

Friends forging a course together through the unexpected

The Mile High City June 18, 2014

The Mile High city of Denver was my home over the weekend. Matt and I flew in to visit fellow Uncharted author Sarah. We had a “loose” itinerary for our visit. Meaning, we had a few things we’d like to do but we didn’t have to do all of them.

Denver Capitol building

Denver Capitol building

Sarah picked us up from the airport and we headed straight for the Capitol building tour. The free tour explained the history about Denver as well as fun facts about the beautiful building. One fun fact is that the building is the only one in the world with beautiful rose onyx. Why? Because the quarry was wiped out to use all the onyx for the Capitol building!

Keeping with the tour theme, our next stop was Stranahan’s distillery tour. Once again we learned a lot of fun facts that none of us knew about whiskey. For example, did you know that to be considered an American whiskey, the distillery must use virgin American white oak barrels? And they can only be used once. Our tour guide was awesome and explained their process as well as how to properly taste whiskey. I learned with a little drop of water I can actually tolerate it!

Where whiskey is made

Where whiskey is made

Running ahead of schedule, we stopped in at Breckenridge Brewery for a few beers and to catch up. Before we knew it, dinner time arrived. We headed to the heart of downtown Denver, Larimer Square. My sister-in-law recommended Bistro Vendome from a previous trip. The French style restaurant was amazing! Our waitress was very knowledgeable and made recommendations for our meal. My favorite part of dinner was not only the incredible food but our adorable table location right on the patio under the Italian style lights.

Friday was hike day in Rocky Mountain National Park in Estes, Colorado. Everyone had a blast exploring different paths, bouldering and climbing over snow paths. Pretty quickly I found out it’s time to invest in some hiking shoes and not just gym shoes, at least if I wanted to play in the snow and not get my feet wet. The views were breathtaking at every turn. From seeing the mountain peaks to roaring falls you were not disappointed. We completed two hikes and then Sarah drove us up 12,000 feet to one of the highest peaks in the park. We were able to walk around despite the crazy wind and even caught a glimpse of a marmont.

Enjoying the view

Enjoying the view

Mountains!

Mountains!

Saturday we took it easy and hit up a few local breweries. On the brew stop list included Crooked Stave, a brewery known for its sour beer. The tap room is in The Source, a recently renovated building featuring restaurants, a florist, baker, cheese and sausage shop as well as a wine store and art gallery. We grabbed a few snacks from the bakery and cheese and sausage shop to enjoy with our beer while watching the World Cup. Our next brew stop was Prost. The German style brewery offered a great selection of beer as well as delicious warm pretzels with mustard horseradish. I almost forgot to mention their outdoor patio is dog friendly and has spectacular views of downtown Denver.

Beer anyone?

Beer anyone?

2nd brew stop

2nd brew stop

Pretty soon it was time to head over to the Red Rocks to enjoy the sounds of Phillip Phillips and O.A.R. The venue was AMAZING and so was the show. I kept looking around at scenery. From jagged stones leaping out of the ground to cute little valley towns off in the distance. The best was watching the sunset hit the rocks and turn them purple, amber, yellow and orange. Once darkness fell, it was beautiful to see an almost full-moon rising and the glow of the towns in the distance. If you head out to Denver, definitely try to catch a show!

The Red Rocks Venue

The Red Rocks Venue

Sunday was organize day. It was time to repack and of course go to brunch. Fellow Uncharted author Kelly visited Sarah and recommended going to Jelly. After a 50 minute wait we understood why so many people would put up with an hour wait. What helped was getting fresh donuts. We picked out maple bacon and lemon curd flavors. The donuts were warm and melted in your mouth. I had to hold back from ordering more! Once inside, I ordered an eggs benedict with spinach and turkey over artisan bread. It was scrumptious! My favorite part of the meal was the homefries served with a side of sour cream and chives. With a full belly it was time to say goodbye to Denver.

Brunch!

Brunch!

We accomplished a lot but we didn’t get to do everything on our itinerary which is a great reason to visit again!

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Vail on the cheap…well, almost. December 4, 2011

Filed under: Sarah — Uncharted @ 9:56 pm
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My friend Mike likes to make fun of me for buying so many Groupons.  He says they make me buy things that I wouldn’t normally buy because I think they’re a good deal, therefore costing me money I wouldn’t spend.  Sometimes he’s right.  But more often I feel that my Groupon obsession leads me to buying things that I would normally do anyway, simply leading me to new places that I may not have known about or wanted to try until I saw the deal.  I frequently find this about restaurants.  I know Jonathan and I are going to want to eat out anyway, so I figure if I get some Groupons to places that look fun and interesting to me, we might be more willing to use our stockpile to adventure a bit more when we get the itch to go out for a dinner date.

This weekend a Groupon purchase really worked out for us.  A few months ago I saw a Groupon for Vail Cascade Resort and Spa, and knowing that Jonathan and I would want to go skiing a few times this year in our new Colorado home, thought it would be a good investment.  This little weekend trip also doubled as an anniversary present for each other (even though Jonathan didn’t follow the rules and decided to get me another present as well, in which case I looked like a shmuck by sticking to the plan, but that’s beside the point haha).

Groupon started our ‘cheap’ weekend off right by scoring us a sweet room with a killer view of the mountain directly next to our resort and a rocky stream outside.  I say cheap in quotes because spending the weekend in a ski town can’t ever be cheap cheap, but you can do your best to make it more affordable than usual.

Sitting on the balcony of our resort room

Our resort had a private ski lift that was included with our stay, which saved us about $200 in lift passes (normally $100 each per day, but we skied for free our first day).  The resort lift took us to a limited amount of runs, but it was perfect for the first half day we were in Vail.  The second day of our stay, we shelled out for the day passes for unlimited lifts so we could see a bit more of the mountains.

Our resort lift took us right through the winter aspens

Another great thing to consider when you’re looking to go on a ski vacation is doing it during what locals and pros consider the ‘off season.’  It is already December, but not that much ‘powder’ has fallen yet, so the people who really know what they’re doing might consider the best part of ski season approaching over the next couple of months.  We really lucked out and still had 9 inches of powder while we were in Vail this weekend, but even without it there was enough snow to ski some awesome runs and get our money’s worth.  The point is that during this ‘off season,’ a lot of nice restaurants have deals to attract more business.  We were able to have an amazing French/American dinner at La Tour including half price entrees (normally ranging from $20-44, luxurious steak and fish dishes were more reasonably priced at $10-22).  Our dinner was delicious, the staff was friendly, and the atmosphere was very appropriate for a ski town like Vail.

Our tuna and avacado appetizer at La Tour

The approach of Christmas doesn’t have to force you to shy away from taking a getaway.  Just do it savvy-style and explore your money saving options before you plan your adventure!

We had a great trip, Vail! Can't wait to see you again!

 

Herbage. July 13, 2011

I know that’s not a real word, but it describes what I’ve been projecting lately.  On Sunday, Jonathan and I decided to explore the Pearl Street Farmers Market to see what it had to offer.  Let me just say, we will certainly be returning, since the variety and cutesy-ness of it all was almost too much to handle.  We started at the far end of the market for a quick brunch at the Pajama Baking Company, where the brunch was not only delectable, but surprisingly affordable {always a plus for me}. 

Inside Pajama Baking Company, a repurposed garage

 

We browsed the market, finding everything from handmade soaps and shampoos to your typical home-grown produce to homemade pestos and sauces.  One of the most unique things we saw at the market was the ‘truck garden,’ there to promote growing your own herbs, fruits, and veggies…even if you don’t have a backyard!  That got Jonathan and I thinking, we should start growing some herbs to use while cooking.  We have really deep windowsills in our apartment, and the bedrooms get an unreal amount of sunlight, so we knew we could make it work. 

We started by picking up some herbs we knew we wanted to grow…basil, garlic chives, and rosemary.  We thought we would want to add dill later {they didn’t have it at the market}, but I later found from my neighborhood greenhouse owner that most of Colorado doesn’t even try to grow {much less sell} dill because it’s too ‘delicate’ and herb to survive the lack of oxygen and water that most parts of Colorado experience.  So instead, a unique ‘hot and spicy oregano’ joined the mix. 

Our entire collection of goodies from the day

Then we got a plain wooden expandable planter {I was pulling for this particular planter to be our winner, since I knew it would be easily customizable to our space}, and took everything home.  I painted the planter a simple beige, adding some spice with white polka dots…we went with neutrals so we can move the planter when we feel it’s necessary so our herbs can get all the right sunlight,  but it won’t clash with the decor in any room.

Step 1

Step 2

Step 3

Once we had purchased our final addition, the oregano plant, I went to getting my hands dirty and putting our little herb babies in the planter together.  I hope they grow, and I can’t wait to use them in many recipes!

Our complete mini herb garden!

 

Lists of Likes July 6, 2011

I constantly find myself going places, discovering new things, and thinking about how I want to add adventures to my lists of ‘to-dos’.  So this first week in Denver, when I’ve been thinking about wanting to revisit something, I decided to write it down.  Before I left Chicago, one of my coworkers gave me a purse-size notebook entitled “Great Ideas.”  I figured what better things to record in the notebook than great ideas of things I want to do or come back to?!

Here’s what my “great ideas” consist of so far…

Page 1: Restaurants…The Market: a converted grocery store turned into a deli and sweet shop, with everything from a full homemade dinner to a chocolate croissant and tea for breakfast.  Osteria Marco: an amazing restaurant that will be loved (I’m sure) by friends and family, with a wide array of menu items and a huge variety of wines, with great locally restored furniture items arranged in a dark and romantic atmosphere.

Page 2: Places to Visit…includes a few randoms that I was afraid I might forget, but thought would be fun, nonetheless…Colorado Railroad Museum: mainly because I love hearing stories about how Jonathan used to love trains (like my own brother, Sam) and think it will bring him a bit back to childhood.  Continental Divide: because it’s just a really cool thing that Mother Nature has created all on her own, and I’d love to see it in person.  Denver Art Museum: somewhere I envision taking my little brother in a few weeks when he visits, especially for the MudArt exhibit!

Page 3: Books to Read/Buy…funny enough, this list includes mostly children’s books right now, after a visit to Tattered Cover Bookstore today and spending some quality time in the children’s section…Otis by Lauren Long: an adorable story about a little construction vehicle that does something wonderful.  Cloudette by Tom Lichtenheld: a tale of a small cloud who does great things.  Pigs Over Denver by Kerry MacLean: they were out of this one today, but based on the description of it teaching kids something fun about Denver geography while being a fun souvenir makes me want to read it for sure!  The Help by Katheryn Stockett: need to read this book before I see the movie version that comes out soon…looks like an adventurous yet interestingly historical read.  Murder at the Brown Palace by Dick Kreck: sort of strikes me as a Denver-esque Devil in the White City, which really excites me as a reader!

So stay tuned for updates on any of the above adventures and explorations, and keep checking up for more additions to the lists 🙂  For those of you back at home, miss you like whoa, but can’t wait to share fun new things with you out here when you come to visit!

 

“It’s like the end of an era…” June 3, 2011

…that’s what one of my coworkers said when she found out I wasn’t coming back to my school next year, since I’ll be in Colorado teaching 3rd grade.  For those of you that haven’t already heard or didn’t see on Facebook, I got a job!  So now you won’t have to hear me whine about how stressed out job hunting makes me anymore.  It makes me feel good that people are going to miss me, but I have mixed emotions about the whole move.  I was thinking about things {big and little} that I’m going to miss, and a lot of things {again, big and little} that I’m looking forward to.

I’ll miss getting to see a lot of my friends and family pretty much whenever I want.

I’m looking forward to getting to spend time with Jonathan and new friends whenever I want.

I’ll miss my coworkers and a team that has been amazingly supportive of me in my first job.

I’m looking foward to meeting new coworkers and learning new things about education teaching 3rd grade in Aurora.

I’ll miss the pen pal field trip my mom and I organize every Spring.

I’m looking foward to having long distance pen pals with lots to share, and scheduling a Skype meeting with our pen pals each Spring.

I’ll miss Lake Michigan and the beach.

I’m looking forward to the Rocky Mountains, hiking, cycling, snowshoeing, skiing…

I’ll miss Chicago style pizza and downtown sushi restaurants.

I’m looking forward to exploring new restaurants and finding new ‘favorites’ with Jonathan.

There are more things I’ll miss and more I’m looking forward to, of course!  But I won’t bore you with all of them 🙂 I will say one thing I won’t miss about Chicago: all the gloomy.  To replace it, I’ll have what Colorado natives claim as one of their state’s finest features: ‘300 days of sunshine per year!’

 

 
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