Wedding Wednesday: Engagement Photos

As of today, Alex and I have been engaged for 9.5 months but only just last week did we finally take engagement photos.

When we were first engaged, Alex was still living in Florida. Then, the week after he moved to Denver, I had knee surgery #1. Then knee surgery #2. So it’s taken us a while to get photos done and that’s okay!

We met with J-K Photography on Saturday morning at a local park Alex and I love, Washington Park, for our session. J-K Photography is a team of wonderful ladies, Jeanette and Kathi, who I know J-K Photography from the AFSP Out of the Darkness Suicide Prevention Walk. They volunteer to shoot photos during the walk and create a very touching slide show each year.

We lucked out with blue skies and minimal wind until after we finished. It was so much fun to play around and pose for the camera – Jeanette and Kathi came armed with some great props (a chalkboard!) and great photo ideas.

We don’t have all of our photos yet but I thought I’d share the sneak peek we got yesterday.

I can’t wait to see the rest! I have some fun ideas for what we’ll do with a few of the photos.

I’m really happy that we decided to do engagement photos – and do them in Denver. We’re getting married in Cincinnati and will have beautiful photos taken then but I felt it was really important to capture the Lynne and Alex in Denver, too. It’s been such a fun 9 months being engaged and finally living in the same city and I think our photos will reflect that.

 

Travel: Travel Season, Kansas City

It’s that time again - travel season! I travel to quite a few conferences for my job and spring/summer/early fall are when most conferences in my industry are held. So while accounting ‘busy season’ is just concluding, my busy season is just ramping up!

This week brings me to Kansas City! It was a beautifully mild evening last night when I landed.

Wanna know what make traveling excellent for me? These things:

Frontier Airlines & Benny the Grizzly Bear

Ben & Jerry’s Scoop of Chocolate Peanut Butter Ice Cream

Mental Floss Magazine

Magazines are a must have on airplanes for me – I brought 5 with me this trip. I have yet to stay awake for an entire flight, no matter how short (today’s was just over an hour?), so I’ve found that books are not the right choice for me.

Mental Floss was a gift subscription from my dad and is one of my top favorite magazines now. It features interesting topics, has short sections and is written in a very smart and funny voice. One of the features this month is all about bears! So much I never knew or had ever considered about those animals!

What makes travel more exciting for you?

 

Not Fun & Not Food: This Post Should Be About Cheesecake

I should be blogging about the delicious chocolate chip cheesecake (with Chobani!) I planned to make last night.

You see, Alex’s birthday is Thursday and I’m headed to Kansas City tonight until Friday for work. So I wanted to make the cheesecake before I left so he could enjoy a ymmy piece on Thursday.

But instead, the kitchen disposal exploded last night. And the kitchen was flooding. And the dishwasher was leaking.

So this was how we spent our night. Instead of making cheesecake.

I think we might have learned our lesson about putting too much stuff (and too many hard things!) down the disposal. Maybe.

 

Fun: Beer Brewin', Phase 1

Something I’m not sure the blogworld knows about me yet is that Alex and I brew our own beer! Everyone in Denver homebrews it seems. Soon after Alex moved here, he bought the equipment and we’ve been brewing ever since.

We’ve brewed 5 different batches so far – a porter, a pale ale, a stout and a pale ale with orange & pomelo juice. Yum! It’s a lengthy process – usually 4+ weeks from start to drinkable finish – but the tasty beer at the end is worth it. And it’s especially cool to drink beer that WE made!

So far, Alex has been the master brewer and I’ve been the faithful assistant. This time, I wanted to be master brewer. So last week, we went to the beer store, The Brew Hut, to pick up supplies for the recipe I picked out. I decided to brew a Nut Brown Ale.

With Alex’s help, I picked out and measure the right amount of grains that the Nut Brown Ale called for – Toasted Barley, Chocolate Malt and Roast Barley.

I filled a brown paper bag with all 3 grains and then took it to the grinder.

Next, I picked up the malt extract, hops and yeast.

We are also out of sanitizing solution (very important for brewing!) and corn sugar (adds carbonation in phase 2 of brewing).

Last night was my brewing night! Brewing is done in two phases – creating the basis for the beer, then after 2 weeks of fermenting, the second phase is bottling and more fermenting. Each batch makes about 5 gallons of beer – usually 40+ bottles.

It typically takes about 4 hours for the first phase of brewing – to boil the grains and create the wort.

We have a giant stock pot, 5 gallons, that we use to brew. The thermos next to it is a full-sized thermos.

To start, I filled the pot with 3 gallons of water, brought it to 150* and then it’s grain time.

The grains steep for about 30 minutes before I removed the pot from the heat and removed the grain sock from the water. While removed from heat, it’s time to add the malt extract!

The liquid is now called WORT. As Alex says, the liquid has the potential to be beer but isn’t yet.

After adding the malt extract, it’s time to bring this wort to a boil and add the bittering hops. For my recipe, all 3 packets of hops were for bittering.

We use hops pellets but some brewers prefer the fresh hops, like you see in beer commercials. The Brew Hut sells both versions of hops. Whichever hops are used, they must be kept refrigerated so they don’t spoil!

Once the hops are added, the liquid boils for another 60 minutes and immediately after those 60 minutes, it’s a mad rush to bring the temperature of the liquid down from boiling to less than 70*. We have a very cool chiller that helps us do that – but unfortunately, it doesn’t quite fit on our faucet so it’s a bit of a challenge.

One of us holds the hose to the faucet (it should just screw on to connect but we have a janky faucet) and the other swirls the copper tubing around to cool the wort as quickly as possible.

Whew! We’re almost done!

Once the beer has been cooled, it’s very important from this point on that EVERYTHING touching the beer is sanitized. One little germ or Philly hair could contaminate the batch and render it undrinkable.

Sanitizing is simple – water + sanitizing solution! Then just add any equipment into the solution and presto! Sanitized.

Back to the beer – After the liquid is cooled, I racked the beer into the sanitized fermentation chamber. (This is Alex racking because he wouldn’t take a photo for me).

Once in the primary fermentation chamber, it’s time to pitch the yeast and wait till it hydrates and drops.

The yeast will get heavy and drop to the bottom. Then the lid goes on, I sanitized my thumb to cover the hole on top of the lid and shake the 5 gallon bucket for four LONG minutes. It’s an arm workout! (Making beer counts, right Nike?)

To ensure no air or contaminants get into the beer mixture, I put in the nifty little air lock. it lets the air created by the yeast out but doesn’t let anything in.

And now, we wait!

The beer will sit in this fermentation chamber for 2 weeks at 65* (ideally). Since we live in an apartment with central air, on the top floor, we don’t have too much control over the room temperature but we try to keep it as cool as we can. Someday, we’ll do this in a basement.

Taking charge of this batch of beer was an interesting change of roles – usually, I’m much more passive in the process, just helping when needed but I really enjoyed finding my own recipe, following the directions and putting my sweat and tears into this one. Though, not literally. #contamination

We’ll see if I still feel that way in 4 weeks after our first tastes of the Nut Brown Ale…

Fun + Fitness: Colorado Center for Health & Wellness Tour

Have you heard of the Fitness & Health Bloggers Conference? It’s a conference for Fitness and Health Bloggers (clearly!) and will be held in Denver, Colorado this year. As a local Denver blogger, I was invited to attend a special sneak peek of the very new Colorado Center for Health & Wellness. The Colorado Health & Wellness Center will host the conference this year. 

I mention sneak peek because the Center actually opens tomorrow!

The Colorado Center is located on the Anschutz Medical Campus and is the leading research facility for obesity and wellness.

The group of about 20 bloggers ranged from personal trainers to registered dietitians to green living bloggers to foodie bloggers to runner bloggers. It was really cool to meet bloggers in different spaces than my own!

The group met after work on a Friday – we enjoyed meeting each other and tasting some delicious snacks before the tour started.

First – Chicken Skewers with Cilantro Lime drizzle; next – Pita Bread with Black Bean Hummus and Goat Cheese; Last – Roast Beef  and Sauteed Onions on Bruschetta Bread.

The food was created and made by the Center’s onsite restaurant, Bistro Elaia. The concept of this restaurant is to provide fast, healthy, delicious food and to show people that healthy food can taste GREAT!

Bistro Elaia uses its own homegrown herbs, too.

After we all had a chance to try the food, it was time to get started!

The entrance to the Center is beautiful! Depending on what angle this glass is viewed and how the light hits it, the colors change.

Our tour started with an overview of Bistro Elaia and the capabilities of the kitchens. The Center is first and foremost, a research facility so while the public can come in and enjoy Bistro Elaia food, sometimes seating may be closed off because the center is conducting a research study that day.

The Center has 2 kitchens – a demonstration kitchen and a metabolic. The demonstration kitchen is for cooking classes (recorded and placed on the Center’s website, broadcast throughout the Center on their TV station) and to show how easy healthy cooking can be. The metabolic kitchen is to teach, hands-on, study participants how to cook their food. If a person participates in a weight loss program, they may need help learning exactly how to measure their foods and cook it – that’s what the metabolic kitchen is for. It’s also for RDs and scientists to develop menus and new food for special diets (GF, lactose intolerant, etc) or to study how athletes eat and process food.

Next to the kitchens, there’s a test grocery lab – this wasn’t completely finished when we toured but it will be a smaller grocery store set up. It’s intended to teach study participants about how to grocery shop (where to shop in the store, what to look for on food labels, etc) but will also be used to study how people shop.

(NOTE: visitors to the Center are only studied if they sign up for a study – there isn’t 24/7 video monitoring to observe and uses your behaviors without your consent.)

We then moved onto my favorite part of the center – the Fitness Center!

This gym is state of the art to the MAX. Not only is all of the equipment new, it’s all TechnoGym brand. Each piece of equipment has a system  enabled to record your workouts… on a USB/flashdrive.

If someone is participating in a weight loss or athlete program, they can be set up with a flash drive with a prescribed exercise routine loaded on. When the participant gets to a machine, they pop in the flash drive and they’re told how many reps they’re supposed to do.

The flash drive is tricky too because it also records progress – how many reps actually done (vs. prescribed), how fast they were completed.

All data can then be uploaded to a user profile so the participant can access the information and their progress anywhere in the center, at home, on their phone. Pretty neat!

The fitness center also has rooms for (and a schedule of) group fitness classes. The fitness center is open to any of the general public – students and staff at the medical campus are allowed a discounted rate and non-student/staff users are offered a reasonably monthly rate.

We then moved into the clinical part of the center. This clinic has it all – private rooms for screening, shared common area for doctors and clinicians to collaborate and share their studies, phlebotomy lab and athlete/body analysis labs.

I was most interested in the Human Performance Lab. Any athlete – from Olympic to regular ol’ runners like me – have the option of utilizing this service (for a fee, of course).

The staff can analyze the efficiency of your body while exercising, what’s going on internally by taking blood while you’re exercising, resting heart rate, when your body starts producing lactic acid and beyond! Staff can then help you train for next race better and more efficiently or can give you tips to improve your overall health and athleticism.

The Center also has the ability to accurately test and record your body composition.

Finally, after the clinic, we made our way upstairs to the beautiful meeting space that the Center offers. It was past sunset when we got up there but the outdoor rooftop space looks incredible – the doors to the outside open completely, rendering the meeting space far more open and airy than any meeting space I’ve seen. This meeting space is open to the public – and completely free! – so anyone can stop in and hang out to read, work, whatever!

Also on the rooftop is a green roof – the Center has planted grass and plants on the roof for a very unique and picturesque place to relax or meet.

As I mentioned, the Colorado Center for Health and Wellness opens tomorrow. It’s the first facility of it’s kind and is changing how scientists observe and research health and wellness. I was so honored to be included in this initial walk-through – our blogger group was only the second group to tour, the first being national news media! – and I’m proud to know that this facility exists right in my backyard. Having a center like this will help increase wellness and health awareness within our community, then our city, then our state, then our country.

If you’re in Denver, I absolutely encourage you to stop in and check this place out – it will blow your mind! And if you’re coming to the Fitness and Health Bloggers Conference, you’re in for a real treat! Not only is the Center hosting but participants will have full access to the fitness center during the conference.

Will you be attending the Fitness and Health Bloggers Conference? I’ll see you there! 

Fun: Girls Night at Canvas and Cocktails

This could also be called – Making Friends On The Internet. Who doesn’t make friends on the internet these days??

I’ve met some really great ladies on The Twitter! (here and here) So when I wanted to go to Canvas and Cocktails, I didn’t think twice about asking a few of my favorite internet friends to join.

I have a very deep (and expensive) love affair with Canvas and Cocktails. But for good reason! I have at least 8 paintings at home, painted 4 as gifts… and keep coming back for more!

Canvas and Cocktails makes painting FUN. It’s an adult art class where the focus isn’t on perfection but enjoyment. Oh, and they serve beer and wine. Very important!

It’s an extremely popular class in Denver – so much that last year, Canvas and Cocktails expanded to a second location and most weekend evenings (and popular paintings like Starry Night) are quickly sold out. At both locations.

 I picked a Wednesday class for us to go to because there was a better chance of the class having many open spots and it was a painting of the ‘Denver Sunset’!

The way these classes work is pretty cool – each night, a different painting is featured and instruction will be given for how to paint it! All canvas, paint, smock and clean-up are included in the painting fee (usually $35-40). At the end of the night, you leave with your finished masterpiece! Calendars are online but also posted on giant boards in each storefront.

Now, I know ‘instruction’ sounds really scary but it’s not at all. Canvas and Cocktails has gained its popularity because it makes art accessible  and FUN.

 The instructor stands at the front of the room on a little stage and shows each step of the painting – how to mix the colors, how to get certain textures with your paint (ie – looking like waves, grass or sky), how to paint the details. In between instruction, the instructor plays loud, fun music. Everything from today’s popular songs to Sweet Home Alabama to Michael Jackson.

I spy: Stacey, Heidi, Mary, Paula, DianaTiffany and Kristen!

I also spy a Nike Fuel Band! Mary snagged one recently.

And this is Diana STANDING and me sitting on the chair. #stilltaller

Canvas and Cocktails is always a fun night but Wednesday was especially fun because a bunch of girls who follow and talk to each other on Twitter, blogs and Facebook regularly finally met in person and get to know each other IRL (in real life)!

 

(Thanks for the photo, Tiff!)

For more Canvas And Cocktail fun:

Fun: A Ryan Gosling Easter

I know Easter has come and gone but I read this on Sunday and had to share.

I’m a big fan of Ryan Gosling (who isn’t?!) and all the funny hoop-la that surrounds him. (See here, here, here)

Apparently, on Eastern in NYC, an advertising copywriter named Jenna Livingston had set out 200 plastic eggs, each with a photo of Ryan and an Easter message. @GoslingEaster was tweeting hints about where to find the eggs and interacting with those who’d already found an egg.

All the fun stuff happens in NYC.

Happy (belated) Easter, Ryan Gosling!

 

Wedding Wednesday: Non-Traditional Registry Options

**Wedding Wednesday is a feature on my blog documenting our wedding planning process – thoughts, reflections, ideas, milestones. Follow along as we plan a wedding in our home city of Cincinnati while we live in Denver.

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Long time no wedding post!

That’s because… well, we’ve been having too much fun doing other things to worry about planning a wedding! So it’s been a bit slow on the wedding front. However, we did recently cross a bit ‘to do’ off our list – we started to register! Talk of bridal showers lit a fire under my butt to get thinking.

I know registering is supposed to be a super fun part of wedding planning but, for me and Alex, we’ve struggled with it! To be honest, it’s been hard to register because for our small apartment, we have most everything we need - when Alex moved in 6 months ago, he brought with him many of the kitchen/bath/bed stuff I was lacking – and we don’t plan to move for a while.

And truthfully, we aren’t big ‘gift people’ – this isn’t to say we don’t appreciate a gift we receive but for us, the gifts aren’t the highlight of this whole experience. For us, it’s the start of our lives together, it’s the time spent with our families and friends. It’s the love. As corny as that sounds, it’s true! To have a great day, laugh and dance with my (soon-to-be) husband, family and friends I love so much is the only thing I want for our wedding. But at the same time, I know wedding guests want to give a gift so it’s better for us to register and select gifts that we’d prefer to receive so those who want to give a gift can and know that it’s something we’ll use and love.

So! Back to registering. For a while, I’d been stressing about what we’d register for but recently had an epiphany: We don’t have to register for traditional kitchen/bath stuff – we can register for gifts that suit our lifestyle as well as our home! So I thought I’d share some less-traditional registry ideas that we’ve considered.

  • Donation to charity. I hadn’t considered this as a registry idea until I browsed wedding websites for registry tips/ideas. If there’s a favorite charity you’d like to donate to, this is a great option in lieu of gifts. We’re opting to support our charities in another way during our reception but that’s another post.
  • Honeymoon/house fund. I love both of these options – our family and friends can give us money to use towards our honeymoon or to put a down payment on a home. Alex and I are paying for our wedding ourselves so a honeymoon fund would be a great way to splurge a little on our honeymoon and celebrate. There are websites set up to help facilitate this: HoneyFund or HatchMyHouse. (TIP: be sure to look into additional fees that the website might charge)
  • Sporting good/lifestyle stores. Registering for an outdoor/sporting goods store makes a lot of sense for us - we love hiking, camping, skiing and all things outdoors so gifts that help us explore the playground that is Colorado is right up our alley. And the store we’re looking at, REI, has an online registry makes it easy for our guests to select items for us without being in the store.
  • Amazon. Amazon does everything, doesn’t it? Amazon has a Wish List feature that acts as a registry – anything that you can buy on Amazon can be put on the Wish List. My family (hi Dad!) likes to use the Wish List for Christmas gift shopping.
  • Wine Registry. Woohoo! Found at WineEnthusiast. This would be so fun! But, unfortunately, wine is not a shared love between us. However, if there was a beer homebrewing or beer of the month type registry…

What did we decide to do?

We’re started registries at a few national stores with online registry options and are still looking into the honeymoon/house fund. I’ve also decided to post our registries on our wedding website so guests can easily find links to our requests.

I want to hear from you: What did you do for your wedding registry? Traditional or non-traditional? Any tips or suggestions for us?

Fun: Rugby at Infinity Park

When I moved into the apartment I live in now, I noticed a field and stadium nearby but wasn’t quite sure what it was. I soon learned it is Infinity Park, a sports/entertainment/events center with rugby specific stadium, park,  just minutes outside of downtown Denver. This is the nation’s only community owned rugby specific stadium, too!

Infinity Park has rugby games most Saturdays during the spring and fall seasons – women’s at 4 p.m. and men’s at 6 p.m. I watched a few men’s rugby games before Alex moved to Denver but since he’s moved here, we’ve been to most games this spring season.

The stadium is very beautiful and clean – it’s a relatively small stadium but fills up quickly for the men’s games on mild Colorado evenings. And for a very reasonably priced ticket – $4 for Glendale residents, $6 for all other adult tickets – it’s an inexpensive way to spend a Saturday evening. The best part of the ticket price, though, is that there is a buy one get one coupon on the back!

Last season’s coupon was for Chipotle, this season is for a new restaurant in Denver called ModMarket .

The rugby games are a lot of fun to watch because it’s somewhat of a combination of football and soccer but with a very different set of rules. Because Alex played rugby in college, I understand the very basics of the game but Alex can answer the rest of my questions.

For people who attend that don’t have an Alex, this year, Infinity Park has implemented an initiative to help fans understand better: Rugby 101 representatives!

These people – many of which are players on the women’s team – walk around the stands answering any of your burning questions about rugby. From the origins of rugby to why some men wear the ‘helmets’ (scrum cap) to what the scoring system is, these folks can answer it all. Because many people who come to the games that aren’t family or friends of a rugby player don’t know specifics about the game (me), this is a great way to help educate fans about the game.

The men’s team, the Glendale Raptors, are a really great rugby team - as in, Glendale finishes at the top of their league each year and many of their players are on the national team – so many games are blowouts. Like, Glendale wins 69-3 or 85-12.

We’d gotten an insider tip that this Saturday’s game would be better matched against Utah- and it was. The game was much more exciting to watch and Glendale still came out on top, 56-24.

If you’re looking to experience something different (and inexpensive!) in Denver, I absolutely recommend coming to a rugby game. The spring season is through June (schedule here) and will then start up again in late fall. You know I’ll be there!

Fitness: Pure Barre Class & DOMS

Ouch! Today I am super duper sore.

My friend Mary and I went to a Pure Barre class on Friday during our lunch hour. We’d bought a Groupon deal for 3 classes and this was my first class at this studio. I’d been to a similar class once before at Bar Method so I knew kind of what to expect but I still wasn’t prepared for how TOUGH these classes are!

What is a Pure Barre class? From the Pure Barre website:

“Pure Barre is intelligent exercise. The technique protects your joints as it does not involve any bouncing or jumping. Each strength section of the workout is followed by a stretching section in order to create long, lean muscle without bulk. The workout launches a full blown attack on the areas of the body all women struggle with: abs, hips, seat and arms. It defies gravity by tapering everything in and lifting it up.”

It’s a low-impact, ballet inspired fitness class that uses mostly body weight (some light hand weights) to achieve a full-body burn. This class is all about tiny movements to work those little muscles that we rarely use in everyday life.

It’s definitely a tough class but it’s a class that all levels can do. The instructor describes what to do and walks around to help re-position participants, there is energizing music that helps keep your energy and spirits up. As our instructor told us at the end of class, the great thing about Pure Barre classes is that it never gets ‘easier’. The class will always be challenging and you will always be learning and feeling the burn. I’m not sure if that’s a great thing.. but it’s nice to know that you can keep coming back to class and keep toning and firming your body.

Pure Barre is a great lunch-time workout because it’s not a high-cardio, high-heat class so while I definitely sweat during the class, it wasn’t so much that I needed a full shower before heading back to work. I just used a baby wipe while I changed back into my work clothes to freshen up.

But today, my arms, shoulders, thighs, hips, booty, EVERYTHING is sore! It’s the best kind of sore – when you know you worked hard the day before. Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS) is a real thing (more here) but man, isn’t the day after always the worst?

To me, a sore body means only one thing – it’s time for yoga!