Travel, United States

Road Trip Day 4-8: Exploring Colorado

My other half and I love adventurous vacations, which have taken us pretty much all over the world.  Several months ago, we decided that we’d stay in our “own backyard”, and explore what the areas of the Grand Tetons, Yellowstone, Mt. Rushmore/Keystone, and Colorado had to offer (click here to see all of our posts for our other days).

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Us at Keystone Resort

The ultimate goal of our vacation was to visit his family in Denver, and some of mine in Boulder.  However, we also wanted to explore Colorado as much as we could, while there.  Below are my recommendations, based on what we did.

Things to See

Loveland Pass – If you don’t have a fear of heights, and happen to have something warm to wear (it’s literally 40 degrees with wind, in July), then take the drive up Loveland Pass!  While it’s considered to be one of the most dangerous roads in America, it also happens to have some incredibly scenic views!

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At the top, reward yourself with a photo next to the Continental Divide sign, boasting the 11,990 ft. elevation number.

Keystone Resort – If you think ski resorts are only for snow activities, think again!  Almost all resorts turn into a BMX biker haven, and also have many different summertime activities, making it a great place to spend part of the summer.

We took the Gondola (about $30 per person with a $10 food voucher included), to the summit, which is 11,640 feet up.  The views were breathtaking, literally, as I got altitude sickness from the height (note, I drank four large bottles of water to prevent headaches, and instead, ended up being very light-headed/dizzy).  Still, the views were too amazing to leave!

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We decided to eat at The Summit House, which for those who are gluten-intolerant, will rejoice in the fact that they can serve all sandwiches and burgers on gluten-free buns!

When we finished with lunch, we headed back down to the resort, and walked around.  It happened to be kids’ day, so there were a lot of activities going on.  We played cornhole, went into some shops, and stopped at Mary’s Mountain Cookies, as they had very large, extremely tasty, gluten-free cookies in many different flavors.

Pearl Street in BoulderWalking Pearl Street makes for a great Sunday afternoon.  There are street performers, lots of restaurants, unique shops, and plenty of people watching!  Check out the Dushanbe Teahouse (see in the next section below), not too far from there, when you need an afternoon break!

Garden of the Gods (Colorado Springs) – I visited this as a kid, but really couldn’t appreciate it for what it was (back then, I felt like I was being forced to stare at rocks).  Going back now, put this as one of my top five favorite walks of all time.  It’s free to all, and a great way to spend an afternoon!  (The kid in me loved being able to climb the rocks.)

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Manitou Springs – After we finished at Garden of the Gods, we drove to this little town I had never heard of before, to stop and get ice cream.  I wish I had known about it, prior to our trip, because I would have booked a room in an old inn for a night.  It’s a very old mining town, with some historic inns (some of them are very haunted), amazing/charming restaurants, and a lot of little artisanal shops.  It’s also very close to Pike’s Peak, which means you can take the cog train to the top, from there.  Definitely check it out and stay a night if you can!

Red Rock Amphitheater – Red Rock is known for its natural acoustics, making it a great place to hold concerts.  At night, artists from all over the world make it a point to stop and perform there.  During the day, people use it for insanely hard workouts, hikes, and as a point of interest to take pictures of the Denver skyline.  Definitely make it a point to stop for a few minutes, and take in the view – it’s free to anyone.

Dinosaur Ridge – This place was a last minute addition to our trip, and we are certainly glad we made it a point to stop and take part of the walk.  There is a visitor’s center on one site, and a couple of different hikes from different parking lots.

The museum gives you a good background, as to what to look for in the rock, as well as the types of dinosaurs that were indigent to the area.

We took the main hike, across the road from the museum, which afforded us foot imprints from several different dinosaurs, fossils of prehistoric leaves, an education on the layers of rock and how old they are, as well as great views of Denver.

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Places to Eat/Drink

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The “Paloma” from North County

North County (Denver)– There are days I really miss San Diego, so it was amazing to see that someone opened a restaurant, dedicated to the vibe and fare of one of my favorite places on earth.  The food is Cali-Mex, and the drinks are hand-crafted – a big nod to the growing craft cocktail experience in the SoCal area.  If you happen to go there, sit outside and dine on the fish tacos or the chicken salad.  Also, be sure to try each of their bottled alcoholic beverages – none of them will disappoint.  When you’re done, head over to the biergarten and ice cream stand, located next to Hangar 1 by the Air and Space Museum.  It’s a fun little place in the suburbs of Denver.

Boulder Dushanbe Tea House – This tea house has just about the most amazing story I’ve ever heard, and I am kicking myself for not taking more pictures.  As you can see in the video snippet below, the ornate columns and tile work were not fabricated.  Instead, in 1987, the Mayor of Dushanbe, had all of the materials packed up, and sent to Boulder, along with 40 skilled workers form Tajikistan, to put together this tea house, using no tools.  It took three years to be built, and has been open for almost 30 years.  There is an exact one in Dushanbe, with only two in the world.  Click on the link above to read the full story. (Note: Reservations are a MUST – it books up fast.)

I ordered the Hibiscus Mimosa (it’s a must-have) and the Spicy Indonesian Peanut Noodles (if you don’t like spicy food, you might want to skip it).  Truly, it’s a must-experience at least once in your life!

El Five (Denver) – I cannot say enough good things about this restaurant!  It sits in my top five restaurants I’ve been to in the world, accounting for food/drink quality, ambience, decor, and view.  The dishes are tapas from Gibraltar, with modern spins such as vegetarian paella with quinoa. The drinks are crafted into works of art, such as mine that came with an orchid (name not included, since their bar menu changes frequently).

The decor is reminiscent of old Israeli comic books, coupled with chic dining decor and lighting.  But hands down, what completely sold me on visiting there, was the view.  From the deck (which you can dine on), you have an unobstructed view of downtown.

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T Street Roadhouse (Denver) – Nestled in a town center in the suburbs of Denver, is a place called T Street Roadhouse.  It’s a great happy hour/casual dining place, offering an American menu of fares, including gluten-free flatbread pizzas!  If you’re looking for something casual/relaxed to do, go there, and then head over to the movie theater, or Lucky Strike for bowling!  The Town Center has a lot to do!

Travel, United States

Road Trip Day 3: Driving to Crazy Horse, Mt. Rushmore, and Keystone, South Dakota

My other half and I love adventurous vacations, which have taken us pretty much all over the world.  Several months ago, we decided that we’d stay in our “own backyard”, and explore what the areas of the Grand Tetons, Yellowstone, Mt. Rushmore/Keystone, and Colorado had to offer (click here to see all of our posts for our other days).

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In Ten Sleep, South Dakota

The Drive to Keystone, South Dakota from Cody, Wyoming

From Cody, Wyoming to Keystone, South Dakota, you have about a 5 1/2 hour drive.  It’s definitely one of the most beautiful drives we took, thanks to Google Maps’ “fastest route” filter, which took us on roundabout ways through back roads, and other National Forests and Parks.

Check out the slideshow, as well as a short video, of our road trip to our next destination, below:

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Recommendations:

  • Take a picture of the town sign of Otto – they have a population of 50 – it’s probably the smallest number of inhabitants I’ve ever seen on a town sign, although it is predominately known for its farms.
  • Stop at the Dinosaur Dig in Manderson, Wyoming.  There’s been a hotbed of dinosaur digging going on in that state, and while we didn’t have time to stop, you definitely should!
  • Ten Sleep is a beautiful historic town with a lot to see.  Had I known this town existed, I would have made it a point to stop there for a few hours.  I definitely recommend you take your time to drive through it, as well as explore it (if you can) – even if just for lunch.
  • Big Horn National Forest – if you are taking the drive from Cody to Keystone, you will be driving through it anyway.  Definitely take your time to view the beautiful scenery – there are a lot of picture-worthy spots!

Arriving at Crazy Horse Memorial and Mt. Rushmore

I say this with the utmost respect but if you are trying to save money, skip Crazy Horse.  While he was certainly a very important historical figure, the Memorial isn’t even near completion (they are about 10% of the way there, and have been for close to 30 years).  For $22 (for 2 people), we walked through the Visitor’s Center and Museum, and out to the viewing terrace, to see the progress of the memorial, from a few miles away. The only way to get closer is to take their bus (for an additional fee), which only gets you about a mile further in.

As for Mt. Rushmore

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…it was AMAZING! As a kid, you study these types of monuments in history class, almost as if they were fictional stories.  After 38 years of being on this planet, I finally got to see something that has been on my bucket list!

For $10 per vehicle, there is so much to do!  We took all of the hiking trails around the monument, stopped for ice cream at their large grill/ice cream place, shopped in the gift shop, viewed the small museum, dedicated to the creation of this; and sat on a bench to take in the view, one last time.

Note: The geologists are worried that this monument won’t last much longer, as the rock has become unstable.  Definitely see it before it’s too late!

Heading Into Keystone, South Dakota

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I am a total sucker for old, historic, touristy towns, and this was my “Disney World” of the midwest!

What started as a small mining town in 1880, has been revived as a place to relive history with various restaurants, saloons, shops, lodging, and even a train ride to Old Hill City and back!  Check out my photos, videos, and recommendations, below:

Where to Stay

K Bar S Lodge was absolutely wonderful.  For about $174 a night, it was like being at an upscale summer camp for adults with pristine walking grounds, beautiful log-built buildings, and a wonderful free breakfast in their glass gazebo. Our room was spacious, comfortable, and included a balcony, overlooking the forest.  It was also just 1/2 mile from downtown Keystone.

Where to Dine

For dinner, I wanted something authentic (okay, downright touristy).  Thus, I dragged my other half to Ruby House and Red Garter Saloon for dinner and drinks (I recommend the Red Garter – it’s an alcoholic Shirley Temple, and you get to keep the garter).  The food is pretty decent, and the atmosphere is very cool (see the video below).

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While much of the original memorabilia and other decor were lost in a flood in the 1970s, and a fire in 2003, it was rebuilt again to emulate the early 1900s, still leaving you with a sense of awe, as though you stepped back in time.

For lunch the next day, we swung by Teddy’s Deli, which is on the map for the best Reuben Sandwich in the U.S.  Note that they also have amazing salads and soups, for those of us who are gluten-intolerant.

Things to Do

We literally walked into every shop (which I recommend because there are some fun things to see), and as we were leaving to go back to our hotel, I heard/saw the 1880 Train, whistling as it was leaving the Keystone station.  I don’t know why, but I’ve always loved train rides, and with the wonderment of a five-year-old child in my eyes, my other half suggested that we take the roundtrip ride to Old Hill City, the following morning.

The open air train cars have come from all over the U.S., almost all of them from the early 1900’s, which have been restored.  It’s really cool to think that almost all of the cars were used to carry passengers, over 100 years, to and from mining destinations.

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The trip itself is 2 hours and 15 minutes long, and costs about $34 per adult.  On board, they sell snacks and drinks (cash only), but you may also purchase them at the station.  I will strongly encourage anyone, who happens to be staying in Keystone, to do this!

Check out more pictures and videos below:

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Travel, United States

Road Trip Day 2: Driving Yellowstone in One Day, and into Cody, WY

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Lewis Lake

My other half and I love adventurous vacations, which have taken us pretty much all over the world.  Several months ago, we decided that we’d stay in our “own backyard”, and explore what the areas of the Grand Tetons, Yellowstone, Mt. Rushmore/Keystone, and Colorado had to offer (click here to see all of our posts for our other days).

They said Yellowstone couldn’t be done in one day… but if you get up early enough, and take the faster way around the Grand Loop, it can!

Per our day one post, we traveled from Denver to Moran, WY to not only stay at the Jackson Lake Lodge for a night, but to also arrive in Yellowstone at the South entrance as well.

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If you’ve never been, there are four entrances into the park, all of which are varying distances from lodging at each.  In doing my research, the south entrance was most appealing, not just because it was only 1 1/2 hours away from where we were staying, but also because you drive through the Grand Tetons as well, marking it as the prettiest drive (see short video clip below).  What we didn’t expect was that taking the loop clockwise (starting at 7am), from the south entrance, would result in us not getting stuck in traffic, and always having a parking space at the hot spots!

What to See

Below are the image and video highlights of the most fascinating things we were able to see.  Below these, are my recommendations.

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Videos (for more, click here)

Recommendations of things to see:

  • See Old Faithful – it’s worth it to walk the grounds, grab a bite to eat, and wait for the next eruption.  Note that the General Store has gluten-free sandwich options, as well as a ton of picnic items for a scenic picnic anywhere in Yellowstone! Also note that there is a gas station – definitely stop there to refuel, as it could be a few hundred miles before you see another station!
  • Do not miss a single waterfall!  Wyoming (as well as its surrounding states) has seen a significant amount of overall precipitation, resulting in some of the most spectacular (and ferocious) falls I’ve ever seen.
  • Paint Pots and Grand Prismatic springs – both are very beautiful, and an out-of-this-world reminder that you are, in fact, standing on a Super Volcano.
  • If you are tempted to pull off and take a picture of some of the most beautiful scenery you have ever seen, pull off the road and do it!  No two scenery are alike.  Note they have a lot of wide shoulders to pull over onto.  Do no block traffic to take a picture!
  • Hike the 600 ft. to the Lower Falls to be as close as you can to them!  It was our favorite part of the day!  Note that the trek is not for the faint of heart.  It was steep on the way down and very strenuous on the way back up – especially in the heat (note to bring a lot of water).

Other things to note:

  • If you see wildlife, be respectful.  Don’t try to feed them, and stay at least 100 ft. away from them.  We saw some beautiful bison, deer, a moose, and prairie dogs.  Unfortunately, too many people were getting a little too close.
  • BUG SPRAY and SUNSCREEN – at one point in our drive, it sounded like it was raining on our windshield… it wasn’t rain… the bugs are everywhere, as is the sun!
  • Leave all food and drinks (other than water), in a sealed car.  Wildlife will find their way in otherwise, if they want something bad enough.
  • Buy the National Geographic Guide to National Parks – the maps were invaluable!
  • People tend to come from the north and east entrances and go counter clockwise from there.  Reversing this drive will allow to you continue to move at the full MPH without a long line of traffic (which we saw coming in the other direction).

Cody, Wyoming

We did Yellowstone (and the drive to Cody) in about 10 hours, allowing us time to settle into our hotel, and explore downtown Cody for an evening.

Where We Stayed

While there are many charming hotels in Cody, I signed us up for Irma Inn – the most historic and iconic hotel in downtown Cody.  I love history, and the fact that Buffalo Bill not only built this hotel, but also hosted a whole range of famous (infamous in some cases) people, made this even more appealing.  To make this adventurous, I chose the historic section of the hotel, which meant famous figures actually stayed in those rooms, and in some cases, still haunt them.  (Note: Rooms 20 and 35 are the MOST haunted, with rarely a guest actually sleeping in #35.)

Some notes on Irma Inn:

  • It’s historic, not modern.  This means the inn’s floors are dark, old, and decorated with furniture and art from the 1880s – the wallpaper, lighting, and all other features are restored to take on that era feel as well.
  • There are no elevators – this means you’re hauling luggage up creaky stairs
  • They do have free wi-fi and free parking
  • There is a restaurant and bar (the bar itself is original) in the hotel, along with a large porch with live music. We were eager to explore the town, so we didn’t really experience any of this.
  • It’s relatively inexpensive at about $160 a night for a historic room (and a lot less for a more modern one)

Things to See/Eat/Drink/Experience

While there are plenty of modern conveniences about 1/2 mile down the main strip, we chose to experience some of what downtown Cody had to offer.

City of Cody Mini Golf

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For $5 a person, you can learn a little bit more about the City of Cody, while playing 18 of the most difficult mini golf holes I’ve ever played.  It’s a great early evening activity (and yes, I won).

Wyoming Rib and Chop House

If you’re a meat eater, there’s no way you can pass through Wyoming and not have a  steak!  We headed into Wyoming Rib and Chop House for a steak and a loaded Idaho Baked Potato – both of which I highly recommend!

Rawhide Coffee Co.

There are many places to go for breakfast in downtown Cody however, we were looking for something quick, since we had about a six-hour drive ahead of us.  We stopped into Rawhide Coffee Co. for some gluten-free oatmeal, pastries, and coffee, before heading onto our next destination.  I strongly recommend going here, even if it’s just for freshly brewed coffee – it was excellent!

Travel, United States

Road Trip Day 1: Driving to Moran, WY

My other half and I love adventurous vacations, which have taken us pretty much all over the world.  Several months ago, we decided that we’d stay in our “own backyard”, and explore what the areas of the Grand Tetons, Yellowstone, Mt. Rushmore/Keystone, and Colorado had to offer.

On July 4th, my other half and I embarked on a four-hour flight, and eight-hour Jeep ride (shout out to Avis for the sweet Jeep Wrangler), from Denver Airport, to Jackson Lake Lodge, to begin our eight-day vacation in the Midwest and Rockies regions.

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I’ve always wanted to drive one of these!

While I’ve driven this part of the country before, my other half had not, which meant stopping for a lot of great photo opportunities!

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There were two reasons why I chose the eight-hour drive: 1. I knew the South Entrance into Yellowstone would be the entrance less-traveled, resulting in less heavy traffic 2. Jackson Lake Lodge’s view (see link at the top of this post to see their site) was going to be unparalleled both in the evening, and in the morning as well.

Built in the 1950s as a high-end mountain getaway, celebrities and foreign dignitaries, alike, have stayed there, with plenty of photos and memorabilia lining the walls of the main building to prove it.  However, what sold me on staying there for one night was The Mural Room.  Hands down, this five-star restaurant (as well as it’s surrounding terraces) has the best unencumbered view of the Grand Tetons, as well as sunset!  It is an absolute must on your itinerary!  See below for travel tips, from our Day 1.

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Recommendations for taking this part of the trip:

  1. If you are coming from Denver International Airport, I’d suggest taking an early flight in.  We landed at 9:15am (local time), and were on the road by 10:30am.  We hit no traffic, allowing us to enjoy the drive more.
  2. A Jeep Wrangler or any SUV is recommended.  For 5 days our total came out to just under $500 pre-paid.  It was completely worth it to drive around a bit higher up, being able to take in more scenery, as well as feel a bit safer on some of the 85 MPH roads!
  3. If you choose to go to Jackson Lake Lodge in the summer, make sure to book MONTHS in advance!  They sell out quickly, especially for the months of June and July.  For one night, our cottage room was a little over $250 for the night.
  4. The lodge and cottages are rustic from the outside (I felt like I was back at summer camp).  Inside, they are beautiful and quite large!  They do not have TVs in them, as they assume their guests will only be sleeping there.
  5. Book the Mural Room for dinner FAR IN ADVANCE.  It’s hard to get reservations there.  My recommendation is to book it for sunset, and request a window table.  Sunset is a little after 9pm in early July.  We requested an 8:45pm reservation, which was perfect. (Note: Both the strawberry salad and prime rib were excellent.)
  6. Eat breakfast in the Pioneer Grill.  It’s the original 1950s diner, and you feel like you’ve entered a time capsule.  The food is great too (I hear the sticky buns are out of this world)!
  7. Leave early to get to Yellowstone, but don’t miss the sunrise!

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Date Ideas, Fun, Travel, United States

Date Night: Iron Gate and St. Yves

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This past weekend, in what felt like the first time in forever, my other half and I got out for date night.

As most of you know, I love trying new restaurants/bars/clubs in D.C., as there are so many, it’s practically impossible to repeat!  So, we ventured out to a D.C. favorite, and a new spot that just opened a month ago: Iron Gate and St. Yves.

“We’re Coming Here Often”

Is what I told my other half when we were half way through our meal at Iron Gate.  It’s on par with our favorite restaurant in Reykjavik, Grill Markadurinn, in terms of impeccable service, beautiful atmosphere, and absolutely incredible food.  In the case of Iron Gate, it celebrated my Greek/Sicilian roots with beautifully plated Mediterranean food.

The above are three of the five dishes we ordered, not realizing the meat and potatoes platter could have fed us for the night!  Pro tip: If you get the platter, order one more dish, per person, to try, or save room for dessert (which we didn’t get to).

As for drinks, both the Greek orange wine and rose were amazing!

St. Yves

St. Yves is a tough one to review, because the owners are friends of mine.  We attended a birthday party in the “Cloud Room”, before heading into the main room.  It might have been the sheer amount of people there for the birthday party however, the spaces were hard to move around in, the other clientele there (not part of the party) were a bit undesirable, and the sound system was far too loud for the space.  If you want to get a drink at the main bar, it’s not navigable with the large ramp (complete with railing) that takes up a lot of available foot space.  On a positive note, the decor is beautiful!  Pro tip: It’s great if you can rent the whole space out for just your party.

SO – my recommendation is to definitely try Iron Gate and perhaps, skip St. Yves if you’re looking for a club with elbow space and good music.

Events/Performances, Fun

Dreamscape Festival 2017

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I have never been to a music festival, as typically, larger crowds of people (for more than an evening or afternoon) aren’t my thing.  Friends of mine that have made this a side hobby, say that it makes you appreciate not just what you have in your own life, but those around you as well.  They weren’t wrong.

Naturally, the “stigma” associated with a festival, especially an EDM one, is that it’s drug and alcohol-fueled, which many chalk up to dangerous behaviors, and unsafe environments.  While the first two were present, the last two weren’t seen even once.  Instead, this is what I saw:

  • People dancing everywhere, smiling and laughing
  • These same people celebrating themselves and others, for who they are, not what they looked like
  • These same people bringing their artistic talents to life
  • These same people actually said “excuse me” or “I’m sorry” if they bumped into you (politeness)
  • More security than all rappers combined
  • Enough music in every direction to not feel as though you’re being overcrowded

Sure, there was a lot of people watching, and the majority of the festival-goers were not my brand of style.  However, there wasn’t a moment of feeling unsafe, judged, or otherwise bothered.

As for the Music

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My friends and I were there to support DJ MLEM, which if you are an avid reader of this blog, know who he is.  He played three sets in two days, which allowed us to not only spend time listening to his great mixes, but also allowed us to meet (and hear) some of the most talented EDM artists, such as Chris Lake, Destructo (thanks for letting me dance on the stage – I finally got to check something off my bucket list), Autograf, Keys n’ Krates, Bad Ginger, and many more.

Take a look at some of the videos from their performances below, as well as a slideshow of pics.  At the bottom of the post are some recommendations.

DJ MLEM and Julius Jetson B2B in the VIP Lounge

Chris Lake at City of Dreams, Hosted by Nu Androids

Keys n’ Krates on the Main Stage

Autograf at City of Dreams, Hosted by Nu Androids

Note: For a full set of Dreamscape videos, click here.

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Recommendations:

  • If possible, either book a cabin early or book a room at Days Inn Perryville.  The hotel is a 14-mile drive, but if you have a DD, it’s worth it.  It’s also about $70 a night.
  • The parking passes are $40
  • Get the open bar VIP package, skip the food (Super VIP package).  They never listed cafeteria times, so we always missed the food.  They have a food pavilion instead – you can also bring your own.
  • Take out lots of cash, and do it off site.  By Day 2, one of the ATMs was broken
  • Bring extra toilet paper, or even the travel rolls – you will thank me later
  • If you end up booking a room in Perryville, the Hollywood Casino is one mile away.  The Green Turtle restaurant is 24 hours.  (You could also win some cash like I did!)  Walking distance from that hotel is also Denny’s (breakfast) and a large Exxon Tiger Mart.
  • Bring a battery pack to charge your cell phone – one of the smartest things I did!
  • Definitely attend at least once – while it’s different than most festivals (so I’m told), the music was worth the attendance
Events/Performances, Fun

The Weekend Comes to the Verizon Center

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6lack warming up the crowd

(Note: There is an image slideshow at the end of this post.  All videos can be found on my YouTube channel.)

On Thursday, May 18th, 15,000 people were treated to a dance party by Belly, 6lack, The Weeknd, and some surprise guests, including Rae Sremmurd and Gucci Mane, to perform “Black Beatles”.

One to make an incredibly strong entrance, the crowd went positively insane when The Weeknd appeared in the middle of the runway stage, to perform “Starboy”.

His set list included all of the crowd’s favorite hits, including “Party Monster”, “Often”, “I Feel It Coming”, “Six Feet Under”, “I Can’t Feel My Face”, “Reminder”, and “Secrets” (amongst others).  Which, whenever he began another song, he had to shush the crowd, due to the deafening roar.

But the special touches are what made the show amazing – he performed along with a live band the whole time, which when you look at the overall stage shape, made you realize he was walking along a futuristic guitar.  The floating stage morphed into so many different origami-ish shapes, including a spaceship, a plane, and an X (amongst others).

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Overall, I kind of wished I had bought floor seats, as opposed to my 200-Level ones, as it would absolutely have been worth the ticket price.  If you’re on the fence about spending the money, do it!  If I had the chance to do it all over again, I would!  (Click here to access his tour dates.)

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Fun, Other Things I Like, Style

OMG – I Bought a Home!

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March 16, 2017 – greatest/scariest day of my life

Okay, so this post is a couple of months late, but that’s because there was no way I could share any pictures until my home had all the furniture I ordered, actually in it. 🙂 Plus, there’s a lot I learned about the “joys” of homeownership, that I’d be remiss not to share.

45 Days of Impatience

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As you saw in previous posts, on my home buying experience, if there’s two things I don’t have much of, it’s patience… and eyeballing measurements.  When I put an offer on my home, and it was accepted, it took 45 days for closing, which is a short amount of time, compared to the standard (60 days).  This meant I was moving out of my apartment a full two months early, which meant breaking my lease (guess who won, financially, from that situation – hint: wasn’t me).  It also meant having two weeks to pack up as much as I could, trying to sell almost all of the furniture that wouldn’t fit (note: I sold more than I needed – who doesn’t like new stuff anyway), and buying all of the paint I needed to begin painting, the minute I had my keys in-hand.  Being a planner, it was the most painful experience, having to wait close enough to closing, to make absolute sure all of the financing went through.  If you don’t have thick skin (mine is still in development), you’ll end up with a few breakdowns, panic attacks, and bouts of “I want to buy that couch before it’s gone, oh my god, it’s gone”) impatience.

To add to this, the last time I got to see the place was one week after I put the offer in, which meant the proper thing to do would be to take great measurements and pictures.  In my excitement, my handwriting was chicken scratch (with the notes I took anyway), and no photos were taken because at the time, I though “I can totally eyeball this”.  Thank God for the MLS listing, and being able to save the seller’s photos!

Moving Week

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If there was any time to have a reality show, it would have been “moving week”.  First, I never should have said the words, “Watch it, it hasn’t snowed all winter, and it’s gonna snow the week of my move.”  Guess what happened?  Second, I grossly underestimated the amount of time it would take to paint extremely old walls.  My house was built in the 40s and while cozy and charming, the layers of paint, spackle, divots, holes, and bumps, were no match for my paint rollers and brushes.  (The upside, going up and down ladders for days, made for a tighter glutes.) And while I was cursing up a storm, getting paint everywhere, my saint of a boyfriend underestimated the time/strength it would take to move my stuff in simultaneously (which he thought he could do alone).  After some reinforcement was called, and everything was in one place, we survived the following:

  • Snow, ice, mud
  • One back injury
  • One old knee injury flare up
  • A few hundred man hours of moving help
  • 16 hours of painting
  • 8 coats of paint
  • A lot of junk food consumption because the kitchen wasn’t unpacked
  • One sad pup who was passed off to family for a week, coming “home” to a different place than where he started

That Moment When you Realize You’re Responsible…. for Everything…

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I knew that when I bought the place, I’d be responsible for anything that broke, needed maintenance, renovating, etc.  However, like anyone that brings home a baby, a puppy, or anything else delicate for the first time, everything freaks you out at first, and I mean EVERYTHING.

When is a Leak a Catastrophe?!

Week two and I find a tiny drip coming from the hot water heater, and you would have thought I thought it broke.  “What if that slow drip turns into a bigger leak?  And, what if that leak turns into a puddle, which turns into a flooded basement?”  Were the questions I asked to my mom, before getting the name of her plumber, and calling my dad. My dad (who is the BEST Mr. Fixit), took one look and said, “You just need to tighten it.  Go buy the wrench and some Teflon tape, just in case.”  After I got over the shock that I didn’t even think of that, I took my ninth trip to Home Depot in two weeks (side question: When do they start customizing carts for repeat customers?), bought what I needed, and fixed it.  I was proud of myself for being responsible (and now having enough tools to be the community’s handy-woman).

I Hate Bugs, No Seriously…

One and a half months in, and it’s spring, which means unwelcome “visitors”.  Anyone ever seen a Centipede?  Anyone see one RUN on 100 legs, about 5 feet from your bedroom?  Yep… mama Centipede was squashed (by my own personal hero, my boyfriend, because I ran to my room and shut the door, screaming) but it turns out… she had kids, which when I found one in our bedroom, it went something like this:

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Thank God my sister is my Realtor, and she could hand me the name and number of the Pest Control Inspector (Pest Now) we used for inspection.  They have become my own personal heroes.  For $89 a quarter, Pest Now is coming out and spraying because God knows I don’t want to wake up in the middle of the night with a scene, straight out of Arachnophobia.

Realizing If You Break a Window, You Have to Pay For It… So Move Furniture In Gently

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Not an exact depiction… but it did take four people to get it in…

If I was renting this place, I’d never give a second thought to popping out a window, in order to move furniture, in.  I’d chalk it up to being part of the deal with moving into an old house with tight corners, and if it broke, no big deal.  BUT, since this is MY place, I’ve twice had to enlist the help of three people to carefully remove the windows, so two couches could come in through it… which begs the question of why I never thought to do it, while moving…

P.S.  I’m pretty sure two sets of furniture delivery men hate me now.

The Fun Part…

Regardless of all the money you “bleed”, the sweat, tears, swear words, ripped/stained clothing, and physical pain you go through, to start turning a house into a home, it’s so completely worth it!  I’ve already got renovation projects and small touches, on schedule for the next two years (take note of boyfriend’s total patience and encouragement, here).

In the meantime, while still a “work in progress”, I’ve managed to make our house a home.  Below are before-and-afters of the rooms I’m sharing for now.  Stay tuned for the myriad of decorating ideas, renovation projects, and any mental breakdowns that will come with this 🙂

Guest Bedroom to Chic Office

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Design Notes: Still searching for just the right artwork to complete this room.  The paint is by Behr in Island Aqua, lamps from Safavieh, rug from Houzz, desk from Overstock, bookshelf from Overstock.

Drab Bedroom to Cozy Bedroom

 

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Design Notes: Pain by Behr in Espresso Martini, nightstands form Pottery Barn, lamps from Home Goods, bedding from Pottery Barn, fur throw from Z Gallerie, area rug from Home Depot, artwork from Home Goods.

Comfortable Living Room to Cozy Chic 

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Design Notes: Floor lamp on order, followed by two side tables, a mirror, and centerpiece display.  Pain by Behr in Perfect Taupe, Dryden couches custom made by Crate and Barrel, coffee table, drapes and rug from Z Gallerie; painting by Maggie O’Neill, media console by Z Gallerie, travel books made by me on Shutterfly.

Multifunctional Dining Room to Dedicated Space

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Design Notes: We are refinishing this dining room wall with stone next year!  Table by World Market, dining chairs by Pier One, artwork by me, candles/candlesticks by Pottery Barn.

Outdoor Functional to Chic Outdoor Space

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Design Note: Next year there will be flower pots!   Outdoor set by Houzz.

 

 

 

Date Ideas, Events/Performances, Fun, Other Things I Like

Celebrating Love, Friends, and New Adventures!

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On top of the Watergate Hotel in Washington, D.C.

I had a couple of messages this morning, asking me if I stopped meditating, since I’ve not posted in close to five days.  I’ve definitely had my morning practice however, I did not finish the 21-day Meditation Challenge.  So much of what I shared, over the last 2 1/2 weeks, was already shared.  I felt as though a bit of it was too repetitive and thus, I’m not comfortable writing a blog post if I can’t give unique, applicable content. So instead, I’m going to show you proof of what “hope” looks like…

This past weekend (includes Thursday) was filled with celebrations of love, new milestones, and great friendships.  It’s one of those rare weekends that I was constantly on the go, but so happy to share in the joy in so many other people’s lives.  Below is a peek into my weekend, and what I am most grateful for because of it:

Thursday: A New Year, and New Connections

My “weekend” kicked off with the birthday of my BFF, and a date auction.  (Yes, I’m taken but I also happened to throw a male friend up there, and wanted to be there for moral support.)

I am so grateful for my girlfriend (pictured below).  While I have so many amazing women in my life, she’s seen the good, the bad, and the ugly.  We often joke we’ll be living together at age 80, watching Star Wars movie marathons, while knitting.  Thus, a year hasn’t gone by where I’ve not celebrated a birthday with her.  In fact, it’s also the anniversary of when we met!

For her celebration, a bunch of us girls took her to Cafe Milano for dinner (complete with a firework slice of cake).  (If you have never been there, I HIGHLY suggest it!  It’s home of the power dinner, where the “who’s who” goes to dine.  It’s also home to some of the best gluten-free pasta and rosé in D.C.)

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While her own personal celebration had concluded, we weren’t done with the evening.  We all headed over to Capitale for our friend Sher Mathew’s date auction.  She is in the running to be LLS Woman of the Year, and she’s knocking it out of the park with about three events A WEEK!  It was there it felt like one, big friend reunion, complete with stage takeover to sing my friend Happy Birthday!

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Photos, courtesy of Vithaya Phongsavan

Friday: Celebrating My Most Favorite Person in the World

My other half is seriously THE BEST.  Between the move into our new home, my compulsive behaviors to get everything unpacked, put away, and decorated; AND putting up with my work schedule, he’s a complete rockstar.  Thus, I wanted to surprise him with a dinner outside (check out Cactus Cantina if you want some great Mexican food and drinks, on an outdoor patio with a view of the National Cathedral) and a quick stop at a private Tiffany’s event in Chevy Chase, to buy him something he’s always wanted” a Dog Tag.

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Saturday: Celebrating New Beginnings

Last year, my mom, sister, and myself held an annual Bags, Baubles, and Bubbles fundraiser at Westwood Country Club, to raise money for the Stroke Comeback Center.  I wrote about the Center last year when we were getting ready to hold the first annual event.  It’s a wonderful place for Stroke and Trauma victims to rehabilitate, and certainly, there have been some amazing comeback stories because of it!

This year was bigger and better, with a private fashion show, hosted by Bloomingdales; hundreds of auction items, a beautiful luncheon, and even more attendees!  I was so grateful to be a part of it again!

When it was over, I was down for a quick nap and then onto the last event of the evening: Saying goodbye to one of my close friends and her husband (plus pending baby), as they are moving to San Antonio!

It couldn’t have been a more perfect evening, atop the Watergate Hotel (I HIGHLY RECOMMEND you check this out), with the sun setting (everyone was grateful for being able to witness the most perfect sunset from the best view in DC), being surrounded by good, close friends.

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Sunday: Celebrating Love

To cap off the weekend, we were grateful to be able to celebrate two amazing people who are the absolute epitome of true love.  It was so special to be amongst our close friends, and both the bride and groom-to-be’s respective families, in one of the most beautiful historic homes in D.C.

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It’s weekends like these that make me thankful for the friends, family, support, and love I have in my life!  Stay tuned for Mother’s Day weekend, when I take you all down to Williamsburg, VA with me!

 

Style

Style: My Style Revealed

Last night, I was out with a group of girlfriends, and one of them suggested I post my style in my blog.  Up until now, I had been using Pinterest however, it was noted that not everyone is on there.

Having been a former fashion columnist for Washington Life Magazine, I used to love writing about fashion and certainly, I enjoy wearing it 🙂

Below are my looks, broken into 2010 – 2016, and then a separate one for 2017 (so far). I tend to opt for classic pieces, adding a bit of flare here and there to stand out.  You will see a couple of repeats because recycling isn’t a bad thing!  I’ll do my best to share more of these from now on!

NOTE: You can pause this slideshow and flip at your own pace!

2010 – 2016

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2017

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