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!

Fun: Fun. Concert & Obama Sings Sexy And I Know It

Fun. Concert @ The Ogden

Like I mentioned before, I absolutely love music and concerts. So far this year, I’ve seen Ryan Adams, Mat Kearney, The Fray, Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros.

Last night, I added another one to my list: Fun. You probably know their song, We Are Young. At least in Denver, it’s all over the radio.

The moment I heard this song, I instantly recognized the singer’s voice – Fun.’s lead singer used to be the singer for The Format! Anyone else listen to The Format years ago?

My friend Kristen asked me if I wanted to go with her last week – unfortunately, the show was sold out so she spent a lot of time trolling Craigslist for tickets. Somehow, she was able to find someone selling for $35 a piece – most were selling for 50+ a ticket – and considering the original ticket price was $25ish, she immediately jumped on buying tickets.

We saw just a few songs of the opener, Sleeper Agent, before the Fun. started.

The show was rockin’. So much energy, so much personality! I didn’t know too many of the songs but it didn’t matter – each song was such a joy to watch and experience live.

During the encore, the lead singer, Nate, sang a somewhat emotional and empowering song and took a pause at the end of the line for emphasis. Well, Denver got the emphasis. For probably 5 whole minutes, the ENTIRE Ogden Theatre was cheering and clapping louder than I’ve ever heard before – it was fervent and full of love for this band. I’ve never seen anything like it!

After the encore, the theatre erupted in applause and more cheering and would not stop! Fun. came out for a DOUBLE encore. It was incredible! This band has so much heart and passion – Nate sang his lungs out and gave such an enthralling (and fun!) performance.

It was absolutely one of the most fun (Fun.) shows I’ve been to in a while.

Obama Sings: Sexy And I Know It

And this, my friends, is pure silliness. I saw this on Twitter last night and had to share. It is too good!

This is President Obama ‘singing’ Sexy and I Know It by LMFAO.

No matter which side of the political spectrum you align with, you can’t tell me that you’re not smiling now.

Do share! What fun music or videos have you found recently?

 

Food: How To Make Stove Top Popcorn

Holla to my popcorn lovers! A few asked for tips and tricks for popping popcorn on a stove so this morning, I’m going to share just that.

Popcorn can be a really healthy snack if done correctly. We’re not talking movie-theater-extra-butter popcorn or most of the pop-in-a-microwave-bag variety. I’m talking about the very simple, very basic homemade popcorn. It’s inherently low in calories and fat when cooked solo. Where as most microwave popcorn bags are covered with chemicals, seasoning and ‘butter’ flavor plastered to the inside, you free yourself from that when you make it at home.

So whether you’re like me and don’t own a microwave or are looking for a healthy alternative to your commercial popcorn, popping on the stovetop may be your answer.

Stove Top Popcorn

Ingredients you’ll need are:

  • 1 Tbsp of Oil
  • 1/4 c of basic popcorn kernels
  • Salt, to taste

For equipment, you’ll need:

  • A stove burner
  • A pan – I use a medium sauce pan but anything with a wide surface area and is a bit deep will work
  • That pan’s lid

To start, you’ll add your oil to the sauce pan and turn the oven on to medium-high heat (I use setting 8 or 9 out of 10).

Then add 3 kernels to the pan. These will act as your ‘alert’ kernels. Cover the pan with the lid – the lid will be on for the rest of the cooking time.

As the oil heats up, these kernels will pop to alert you it’s time for the rest. Once the first kernel has popped, the other two will be right behind it.

Some people prefer to add all kernels at the beginning so they’ll heat up together – I’ve never tried this but I’m sure it works the same. I prefer to do 3 at the beginning so once they pop, I know the heat is right to pop the rest.

Now it’s time to add the rest of your kernels! I use 1/4 c for just me. It’s kind of a lot but I really love popcorn.

And now, you wait! Since you’ve added the kernels once the oil is already hot, it will only take a few minutes for the popcorn to fully pop.

As it’s popping, I like to shake the pan by holding the lid down and tossing the kernels. To me, this helps keep the already popped popcorn from getting stuck on the bottom and burning.

Just like with a microwave bag of popcorn, once the popping has slowed down, it’s time to remove it from the heat.

Next, I add a quick sprinkle of table salt to the pan and shake a few more times to move the salt around.

Once you’ve shaken your popcorn with salt, dump into a serving bowl and enjoy.

I’m enjoying this popcorn this afternoon at work. Yum!

A few additional tips:

  • Popcorn for more than 1. This is how I make popcorn for just me. If I’m making popcorn for me and a friend, I’ll use 1/3 or 1/2 c of kernels. But be sure that you up your oil and pan size too – you need enough oil to coat all of the popcorn kernels and the pan should be big enough to give them ‘breathing’ room. If not, as your popcorn pops, you’ll wish you had more space!
  • Fancy vs. store brand kernels. I’ve tried both Orville Redenbacher’s kernels and Kroger brand kernels and there really isn’t enough difference to justify the price for me. I only buy store brand now.
  • Buttery taste. We all know and love the buttery popcorn of movie theaters. After you’ve popped your popcorn, you can make your popcorn buttery but still be healthy.
    • Usually I use canola oil in the pan but if I’m feeling frisky and want a slightly buttery taste, I’ll use Orville Redenbacher’s oil. This can be used to cook the popcorn and as a buttery adhesive for the salt, post-popping. Use in moderation, post-popping. You won’t need as much as you think. 
    • Another way to get that buttery taste is to melt down a bit of butter in a sauce pan and pour over the popped corn. For me, this takes too much time and I don’t care too much about the butter taste so this step isn’t really worth it for me.
  • Add your favorite topping! Go crazy here! You can add spices and seasonings to your popcorn to add interesting taste without adding calories – use cinnamon, pepper, buffalo seasoning, ranch seasoning, etc. You can also add sweet toppings (but usually not sans calories) – chocolate chips or candies, melted caramel, syrup or sauces, etc.

That’s it!

Now, go pop and top your corn and enjoy your healthy snack.

Food: Buffalo Popcorn & Fitness: 2 Mile Run Again

A few weeks ago, I got a very special surprise from one of my best friends, Sarah.

This is a combination of two of my favorite things: buffalo sauce/seasoning and popcorn!

Sarah and I share a love of buffalo sauce – on chicken and on french fries. She also knows that popcorn is one of my favorite snacks – I eat it for ‘dessert’ most nights at home. I was so excited when this little gem showed up in my mailbox!

I broke it out tonight to give it a shot.

First step – make popcorn!

I make my popcorn on a stove because I don’t have a microwave.

I usually make 1/4 cup of popcorn (measured from unpopped kernels). It makes a full mixing bowl of popcorn. I lightly salt in the saucepan before dumping into my mixing bowl.

All for me!

I sprinkled in some buffalo seasoning, mixed it around and devoured!

The seasoning was tasty! It added a hint of spicy to my salty popcorn. I won’t use it every time I make popcorn – sometimes I just need a salty treat – but I love the slightly spicy popcorn.

FITNESS

In other fun news – I ran 2 miles last night! It took until today for my legs to not feel ridiculously sore. I’m getting that muscle strength back! Same route as Sunday and I felt a lot stronger than Sunday. Slowly but surely!

It’s amusing that once upon a time, 10 miles was a long run to me. Now, 2 miles is a long run. It’s all about perspective.

PS – Are you on DailyMile? I’m using DailyMile to log all my workouts – yoga, swimming, running, hiking, etc! Let’s be friends – I’m here!

Food: Adventures in Gluten-Free Baking – Pizza Dough!

Last Friday, all I wanted to eat was pizza! It had been so long since I’d eaten pizza that the craving was out of control.

In an effort to try new things (hello, Adventurous April!), I picked up a bag of Bob’s Red Mill Gluten Free Pizza Dough Mix at the store. This mix is made from rice flour. Usually, I like to make pizza dough from scratch and use a whole wheat flour recipe. But I’ve had gluten-free pizza at a few restaurants in Denver and wanted to see how hard (and hopefully tasty!) it would be to do myself.

Turns out, it was really easy! Just a few ingredients outside of the package (water, egg, milk and butter) and just a few steps to combine everything.

When I laid the dough out to make the pizza though, I noticed that this dough is a lot thicker than a regular wheat flour dough.

 

The dough was also stickier – I had to keep adding water to my hands to keep the dough from sticking to my fingers and hands. I managed to spread the dough enough for 1 large pizza.

We topped with pizza sauce, hand shredded mozzarella and hot pepper jack cheese (yum!), hard salami pieces, pieces of cooked turkey bacon, mushrooms and jalapeno. Baked for 20 minutes and we had this beautiful pizza!

The crust and pizza were pretty spot on. The crust is a bit crumblier than the usual crust I make but that could be operator error. Neither Alex or I have a gluten sensitivity so this experiment was more for taste. And as we try to keep paleo principles in mind with our food, we decide that gluten-free was more paleo than whole wheat flour. (Note: this pizza and pizza crust are definitely NOT paleo)

I will buy this crust mix again. The fact that it took 30 minutes total to make (compared to an hour + for whole wheat) and that it tastes pretty much like a ‘normal’ pizza crust makes it a winner in my book.

Fitness: 'Official' Yoga Wear

My body was SO SORE yesterday from my tiny little run on Sunday. My arms, my shoulders, my legs, my core, EVERYTHING! I hit up a hot yoga class to s-t-r-e-t-c-h out and get that lactic acid moving.

Last night’s class was packed – as in: we had to form 4 rows in the studio and my row had 11 people in it. That’s a lotta people!

I don’t think I’ve been to a yoga class at CorePower Yoga and been disappointed yet – each class is a great workout, great sweat and I leave with a happy body and mind. But last night’s class was particularly fun – the instructor MADE it fun!

I feel like most classes are serious – and generally I appreciate that – but last night, I appreciated this instructors light hearted comments and guidance. He kept reminding us to ‘engage in our non-competitive yoga practice.’ And he played Fleetwood Mac before our final shavasana. Amazing!

Last night, I wore ‘non-yoga’ clothes to yoga.

Usually when I do this, I feel really out of place. I don’t any Lululemon outfits, I don’t have any ‘official’ yoga clothes. I usually wear longer running capris and a running tank and feel like I ‘fit in’. But those clothes weren’t clean so I wore my favorite Nike Tempo shorts and a running tank. When I look around at my fellow yoga friends, running shorts feel taboo in the studio.

But last night in the jam-packed class, I’d say about 25% of the yogis were in clothes like me! Not in expensive yoga wear but in active, comfortable sports clothes. Other girls in running shorts, in non-moisture wicking clothes (I sweat too much for those) and some in cotton tank tops. I felt like I was in the right class.

I really *want* the high-tech, super fancy yoga clothes but it’s not quite in my budget right now and my current clothes are working just fine. I know there are many people at CorePower wearing the same clothes, as I found out in Monday’s class, but I can only seem to notice the lulu logos surrounding me.

I think I just need to engage in my non-competitive and non-self-conscious yoga practice and work on my elusive Crow pose. I cannot figure that one out!

Do you practice yoga? What’s your typical yoga class outfit?