Colorado Fire Season Comes Early

Since living in Colorado the past (almost) 3 years, I’ve come to learn that wildfires are more-or-less a ‘normal’ occurrence here. Most occur as the weather and ground gets drier – later in the spring. This year, fire season came early.

We’ve had so little snow or rain this year that everything is super dry – ground, tress, grass. Paired with the extremely high winds blowing through Denver yesterday, a tiny ember from a controlled fire burned by the Colorado Forest Services last Monday reignited.

This is what I saw when I walked out of work last night at 540 p.m. At first, I thought the wind blew in a rain storm. Then the smell of smoke hit me in the face. The fire is many miles away but almost directly west of my office.

The smoke in front of the sun gave a very eerie, red orange hue. My cell phone doesn’t do it justice.

And as I walked the dog last night, nearly 10 miles north of my office, the billowing smoke trail was looming over south Denver.

(click on this photo ^^ to see it full size)

Last night after work, I’d heard that the fire had burned more than 200 acres. This morning, the fire is burning more than 3000 acres strong and is not contained. Housed have been burned, people have been evacuated. Hopefully we have much less wind today and fire crews can work to get this fire under control.

If you live in Colorado or other area prone to wildfires, here are some important fire safety and fire evacuation tips to help keep you safe:

 I’m sure this isn’t the only fire we’ll see this spring and the best thing we can do is to be prepared.

Stay safe, Colorado!

Fun: Making Monday More Fun

I know a lot of people really dislike Mondays but I don’t mind them too much. Yes, I’d still love to sleep in on Monday but, really, I’d love to sleep in any day of the week. I’d love an extra weekend day to play but I still pack fun into my weekdays too. However, like everyone, I love it when Monday comes with a few extra perks.

Monday is more fun with new clothes.

This past weekend, one of my favorite retailer, The Limited, had an incredible sale – 40% off EVERYTHING, including mark downs! I shopped yesterday and came away with 4 basic t-shirts that my wardrobe has been seriously needing (gray, black, white, peach), 2 necklaces and 1 set of 4 pink bangles.

Today, my outfit is brought to you by The Limited.

This shirt and necklace are new. The pants and jacket are not – I used to work at The Limited part-time in my early days of living in Denver and spent much more on clothes than any paycheck I made there.

This is my ‘Please stop coughing, Lynne!‘ face. I’m still coughing, still sick.

Another fun accessory I’m wearing today is a bracelet I was given for my birthday.

This bracelet comes from a very cool store in Denver called Revampt - everything in Revampt used to be something else. Do you recognize that design? It’s a repurposed Arizona Tea Can!

 Monday is more fun with FREE POPCHIPS [GIVEAWAY!]

Last week, a beautiful box of popchips was delivered to me.

Popchips is a sponsor of the upcoming Blend Retreat that I’m attending, the Denver sales rep contacted me to ask if I’d be interested in trying some new popchip flavors. Since I’ve been focusing on cleaning up my eating (during the week), I was apprehensive at first – chips? We stopped buying chips months ago (except for special occasions).

I looked into the ingredients and nutrition of popchips and was very surprised at what I found! Check out Original:

Excellent! 6 ingredients!  A non-fried, non-baked chip! Popchips applies heat and pressure to a potato slice until it *pops*. They’re super tasty and a million times* healthier than traditional potato chips. (*lgsmash qualification - not official stat)

Alex and I have been trying the flavors over the past few days. I’m REALLY digging the Chili Lime flavor and Alex has been enjoying Parmesan Garlic. I think my *favorite* part of these individual sized bags is that each is only 100 calories – and unlike other 100 calorie snack packs, this actually feels like you ate something. Mindless healthy munching, FTW.

SO! Here’s where Monday gets fun for YOU. Popchips wants one of you to enjoy 30 popin’ days of chips too!

Here’s how to enter:

  1. Leave me a comment telling me how you’re making Monday fun or your favorite flavor of chips. (My all-time favorite is Sea Salt and Vinegar)
  2. Tweet about the giveaway on twitter and leave me a separate comment letting me know! To make it brainless: ‘I want to win 30 days of @popchips from @lgsmash! http://wp.me/p1oGVP-zC’

That’s it! 2 comments, 2 entries for 30 days of chips. Giveaway will run until Friday, March 30 at 11:59p.m. Winner will be chosen on Saturday, March 31 using Random.org.

**Disclosure: Popchips sent me these yummy treats and are hooking me up with this giveaway. All opinions are always my own.

Monday is more fun when you register for the Blend Retreat!

Like I mentioned above, I’m registered for the Blend Retreat in 1 short month, May 4-6, held in nearby Boulder!

This retreat is for bloggers, readers and friends to become ‘blends’ (blog + friend = blend). It’s a weekend to hang out, get active and make new friends.

So many of my favorite bloggers are registered already and I can’t wait to meet everyone ‘in real life’. Check out the list of who’s coming!

If you’re a blogger or reader who wants to come but hasn’t registered, it’s not too late! Tickets are still available and only $75 until April 1. After 4/1, tickets increase to $100. We’d love to see you there!

How are you making Monday more fun?

Food: Cincinnati Skyline Chili Dip

Have you been watching the NCAA Tournament? Last night, my college’s basketball team, The University of Cincinnati, played a rival Ohio team, Ohio State University, for a spot in the Elite 8 round.

This was a big game for Cincinnati – this past Sunday, they beat #3 ranked Florida State to get into the Sweet 16 round. It was the first time UC beat a higher ranked team in the tournament and the first time they’ve made it to the Sweet 16 in a number of years.

Alex and I had planned to go to a bar to watch the game but I’m (still) sick so we stayed home and watched the game from our couch. To help cheer on our team, we made SKYLINE DIP!

Skyline Chili is a local franchise in Cincinnati that is a staple in most Cincinnatian’s diet. Our chili is thinner than traditional chili and is just ground beef and spices. My favorite dishes are 4 ways, below, (spaghetti, chili, onion, cheese) and cheese coneys (mini hot dog + chili, cheese on top). It’s always one of my first meals when I go home.

Since there are no Skylines in Denver, Alex and I keep a stock of Skyline cans on hand for gatherings with Cincinnati friends, Bengals games or random times we need a Skyline fix. When making skyline at home, we’ve found it’s so much tastier (and easier!) as Skyline Dip (than recreating the 4 ways or coneys).

Directions on back!

CINCINNATI SKYLINE CHILI DIP

Ingredients

Enough for 2 people

  • 4 oz (1/2 block package) Cream Cheese (I use Neuchâtel)
  • 1 can Skyline Chili
  • Shredded cheddar cheese
  • Optional: diced onions, diced jalapeno, Franks Red Hot sauce

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350*
  2. Spread cream cheese evenly in the bottom of an 8×8 glass pan 
  3. Pour can of Skyline over top 
  4. Add onions, jalapeno, hot sauce on top of chili (optional) 
  5. Top with shredded cheese (we only buy blocks of cheese – less ingredients! – and thought slices would work. They don’t. Shred yo cheese, yo. 
  6. Bake for 10-15 minutes, until cheese is melty and delicious. 

 

We eat ours with blue corn tortilla chips and beer from our UC glasses while wearing our UC sweatpants and tshirts.

Not the healthiest meal but one of my favorites, for sure.

I wish I could say that our chili helped UC win or that it magically cured my cold but it did neither, unfortunately. UC lost and I woke up still sick.  But my belly was happy last night!

I have OSU in the finals of the bracket I filled out so even though they beat my team last night, I’m glad they’re still in it. In fact, both of my teams are still in the finals.. These next few games will be very interesting!

If you filled out a bracket, how are your teams doing? Is your bracket still alive?

Music: Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros In Concert

You know when you were a kid and were sick but started to feel better – almost like back to your normal self – and your friends were going to the movies and you so wanted to go too? But your parents said no because you were still sick?

My mind was my parent, my heart was the kid yesterday. Months ago, I bought Alex and I tickets to see Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros at The Ogden Theatre last night. I just told y’all how much I love music and concerts - I did not want to pass this show up!

I was sick and worked from home all day but sometime after lunch, I was feeling much more energetic, my voice had come back and the salt water had ‘cured’ my throat. I felt great! Well enough, I thought, to go to the concert. My head was telling me that I probably should stay home but I wanted to go so bad and I was feeling better! I was over the worst, I told myself.

So we went to Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros last night. I was feeling tired again by the time we left our apartment but shrugged it off.

We arrived in between the opener and Edward Sharpe and ended up waiting about 20 minutes for the show to start. The band came on around 9.

For those who don’t know anything about Edward Sharpe, they’re kind of a hippy group with a very large band. (Fun fact – if you know/knew Ima Robot, the lead singer of Edward Sharpe, Alex Ebert, is former lead singer of Ima Robot.) They had 10 people on stage last night! Watching them all walk in on the stage reminded me a bit of a clown car – how many more?! And where are they all going to go?!

(There are 3 musicians to the left of the photo that I couldn’t see)

The show was a lot of fun! We stood on the upper balcony of The Ogden and watched - no dancing or singing from me last night – but the group was so entertaining. I felt like I was watching a show that my parents might have listened to in the 70′s. It was a bit folksy, a bit rock, very engaging.

Alex Ebert is quite a character to watch on state – he wildly danced around, sat down the speakers, talked with the audience. The show felt more like 10 friends had gotten together to play awesome music at a farm party or in someone’s basement – they all rocked hard, danced and twirled on stage, took their shoes off and just had a really good time.

I’m not sure if the show was sold out or not but the place was full and bursting with energy.

What struck me most about this show was how powerful and clear both lead singer’s, Alex and Jade (Catrinos), voices were. At one point, Alex readjusted his voice (‘Sorry guys, so many shows in a row!’) but despite that, their voices were beautiful and strong. Their songs usually grow in volume and excitement and both Alex and Jade are singing so loudly but still maintaining a lovely pitch.

We left around 11 p.m. – I was too tired to stay any longer – so we missed our favorite song (and their most well known), Home.

This just means that I’ll have to catch them again, next time they are in Denver!

And today, I woke up feeling more sick than I did yesterday. I probably should have stayed home last night – I know my parents would have told me to if I was still a kid – but I’m really glad we went. But today, tonight and the next few days, I’m definitely taking it easy.

 

Gargling With Salt Water

Can we first just acknowledge how weird and gross sounding the word ‘gargle’ is?

It’s official. I’m sick. I felt it start to creep in on Monday evening and by Tuesday morning, I had a full fledged head cold. In a very fun twist of events, I’ve also lost my voice today. I spent most of yesterday coughing – sometimes a dry cough, sometimes a hacking cough – and by end of the work day and through the evening, the back of my throat was really sore from coughing.

The cold symptoms are easing but not the throat. I woke up this morning at 4 a.m. with a hacking cough (crap in my throat) and my throat on fire. I couldn’t get the crap out and I couldn’t go back to sleep. I remember that as a kid, my dad had us gargle salt water when we had sore throats.

I didn’t have fond memories of this but a quick search on the smartphone told me that it should help relieve my pain and move that crap out. Worth a shot.

Apprehensive of the taste, I reminded myself that I ate bone marrow and pig ears – a saltwater gargle would be cake. And it was – and almost immediately after, I coughed out the crap in my throat and could swallow without burning pain. I’d call that a win for salt water!

HOW TO GARGLE SALT WATER

  • Dissolve 1/2 teaspoon of salt into 8 oz of water
  • Gargle small pulls of water for 15-30 seconds and spit out
  • Continue until all water is gone

Not rocket science.

After a quick gargle session this morning, my throat’s feeling much better. I’m hoping to feel well enough by lunch time to finish up the work day from the office and not my couch.

The Fray: KBCO Select-A-Set Show

As much as I love being active and dropping money for yoga/camping/running/hiking/swimming gear, I’d sooner shell out money for new music cds and concerts. Music is my first love.

I’ve been to countless concerts over the years (and already have tickets to so many this year!), have an extensive collection of music on my computer/iPod/purchased cds. I even had a brief stint singing  in my brother’s now very successful band, The Pinstripes. To be very clear: my stint was VERY brief and has zero relation to their success. I may love music but I am no singer.

Last weekend, one of the local radio stations, KBCO, played a 3 song set that I submitted. KBCO regularly asks listeners to submit a ’3 song set’ to be played on their ‘Select A Set’ weekends. If your set gets played, you win a smaller prize and all sets that were played are entered into a much larger contest. This time, the smaller prize was an intimate concert with The Fray and the larger prize is an expenses-paid trip to Moab, UT.

While driving home from dinner last Sunday, Alex and I were listening to KBCO and The Head and The Heart’s , Down in the Valley, came on. I love this song and asked Alex to not change the station. At the end of the song, the DJ said, ‘That 3 song set was submitted to us by Lynne in Denver’. Cue Lynne from Denver’s freak out.

I’d submitted songs by The Lumineers (Ho Hey), Ryan Adams (Lucky Now), and The Head and The Heart (Down In The Valley).

Because my set was played, I was invited to an intimate concert with The Fray. You likely know The Fray from their hits like: Over My Head, How To Save a Life, You Found Me and their new song, Heartbeat. The Fray is also homegrown right here in Denver, Colorado!

(I know, I know. I need a real camera. Still.)

The show was at the Soiled Dove Underground on Saturday evening. It was AWESOME. They played stripped down versions of their songs and were very interactive with the crowd. Since it was such a small show (think small comedy club sized room), they even offered to take questions from the audience.

I had so many favorite parts about the show but I think what I liked best is that The Fray were able to play songs that probably don’t get played at their full-scale, larger shows. The last song in particular was the very best icing on the cake for me.

Issac, the lead singer, played a solo, acoustic, no microphone/speaker/electronics version of their song called Happiness. During the many months of Long Distance Relationship-ing, I would listen to this song on the plane home from visiting Alex. I got a bit teary-eyed hearing this song; it punctuated a time in my life when I was missing my love and to hear it again, live and so authentically, with him standing with me, was such a treat.

I loved every minute of the show. Thanks a million, KBCO, for playing my set and hooking me up to see The Fray. To anyone in a city where the Fray is playing this spring, go see them. It is absolutely worth your time and money!

Yoga Redemption

If Tuesday was the Worst Exercise Day post-surgery, Wednesday was Exactly What The Doctor (me) Ordered: Yoga Redemption

I recently bought a Groupon for unlimited classes for 30 days at my favorite group of yoga studios, Corepower Yoga. Corepower has a number of studios in Denver (and in a few other states) and offer a variety of yoga classes and levels throughout the day – heated and non-heated.

I decided to start my 30 days yesterday and went to the 5:15 p.m. CorePower 2 (CPY 2) class. CPY 2 is a class for those who have the basics of the CPY flow down and are looking to build their practice. It flows faster than the CPY 1 or CPY 1.5 and the studio is heated. I’ve been to many classes at Corepower and CP2 is where I feel most comfortable.

Unsure if I’d be able to handle a CPY 2 class as my first practice back though, I figured that if it was too much, I could take breaks in Child’s Pose or Down Dog. Off to CPY 2 I went.

It was an excellent practice for me – the intention for the class was DETOXIFICATION. Detoxing our minds and bodies. It was exactly what I needed to mentally focus on – in fitness and other areas of my life.  

To detox, we did lots of cleansing twists throughout the hour. I struggled with holding my poses strong towards the end of the hour but I kept up pretty well. I worked out my mental and physical toxins in that hour and left feeling much lighter and with a more positive outlook.

My arms/legs/booty/abs/EVERYTHING is sore today and I feel super tired. Like I had a great workout yesterday and my body is recovering. Oh wait! That’s what I did! It’s such a foreign feeling to me after all of these months.

While I have my 30 unlimited days, my goal is to make it to yoga 4x a week. I love the mental and physical aspect to yoga – pushing our bodies and our minds to be still, focused while working.

And judging by how tired and sore my muscles are today, I know that I’ll be much stronger this time next month.

Deflated, Not Defeated: First Attempt At A Run

Remember this post when I was feeling pretty good about having to start over in fitness? Yeah, I don’t feel that way right now. Not one bit.

Yesterday, it was 68* at lunch time. I’d brought my workout clothes so that I could walk outside during my lunch instead of taking a quick break and working through. I planned to walk a familiar route that I’d run so many times before my knee issues began.

With how great I felt about skiing and hiking this past weekend, I decided to try my first ‘real’ run in more than a year. I’ve run 1 mile on the treadmill (run/walk every .25 miles) but my intention yesterday was to go out, nice and easy, and gage how I feel.

Well, I felt terrible.

The first thing I noticed? Everything on my body jiggling. Very uncomfortable. No muscle.

Then, about .3 miles into my very easy run, I couldn’t catch my breath. No endurance.

So I decided I would run/walk. I walked about .15 miles, caught my breath and started a slow run. Pushing through the hard parts is the only way to increase endurance and strength, right?

About .35 miles later, I had to quit running. My muscles were tired, I couldn’t breath, I had a huge stitch in my side (<– is there an official word for this??). A stitch big enough to make me want to cry.

I walked the rest of the way back to my office. I ran/walked 1.75 miles in 24 minutes; since I still had half of my lunch break left, I finished up in our office fitness center and lifted some weights (arms, lunges, abs).

Logically, I know that I’m starting from zero. I haven’t been able to *really* exercise since Feb 2011. More than 1 year ago. Really, I have lost ANYTHING I had.

But for some reason, I still had this delusion that I am further along in recovery than I am. It’s because everything else has been going so well – my knee doesn’t hurt, I’m getting more active. None of what I’m doing has been building my endurance though.

Yesterday brought me sharply back to reality. I really am starting over. It’s hard to keep it in perspective in the moment – I was so frustrated that I wasn’t able to run even 1/2 of a mile without stopping yesterday. I’ve run half marathons! Played all day volleyball tournaments! And now I’m reduced to stopping every .3 miles running.

But I do have to keep it in perspective – I’m only 4 weeks off my crutches TODAY. The fact that I’m doing all I’m doing without pain or discomfort is incredible. The fact that I’m even running for .3 miles – more than I’ve been able to run in MORE THAN A YEAR! without pain – is extraordinary!

The bad days make the good days that much better (Thanks, Sarah!)  Each time I get my butt out there and get moving, it will get easier. I will get stronger. I will build my endurance.

Yesterday, I was deflated but not defeated.

Today, I’m keeping it in perspective and moving forward.

Birthdaycation: Hiking McCullough Gulch

I’m glad that of the 6 of us in Breckenridge this weekend, Alex’s brother, Sam was unable to ski, like me, due to knee surgery. I would have found fun ways to entertain myself but it was really nice to have a buddy.

While everyone else hit the slopes on Friday morning, Sam and I drove a few miles south of Breckenridge to hike McCullough Gulch, based on this description. A 2.8 mile hike was tolerable for both Sam and I and would work out the lactic acid from the previous days ski adventure. Realizing we wouldn’t be seeing any waterfalls and the lake would be frozen, we packed our bags and hoped for the best.

This is what we saw when we parked.

That’s Quandry Peak, a ’14er’ as we Coloradians call them – a mountain more than 14,000 feet in elevation.

The hike to McCullough Gulch followed just north of Quandry. It was quite impressive to look at during our hike!

We parked at what we thought was the trail head and started on the ‘trail’. It turned out that our ‘trail’ is usually a road but is too snow packed in the winter. We were actually 2 miles away from the McCullough Gulch trail head.

We hiked anyway and decided to see how far we could get.

It was a beautiful hike – mostly snow packed as it looked like snowmobiles and dogsleds had been on the trail before us. 

This was where the snow mobiles turned around and it should have been our cue to turn around too. This was just 2 miles into our hike – where the 2.8 mile hike to McCullough Gulch started.

As soon as the snowmobiles turned around, the snow became considerably less packed and we spent a lot of time digging ourselves out.

Sam is about my height – 5’10″/5’11″. The snow was up to our knees initially, then quickly our hips and waist. We called it quits at 2.1 miles from our start. McCullough Gulch will have to wait for a less snowy day!

During our whole 4.2 mile round trip hike, we didn’t see one other person or animal. It was so serene and peaceful – just me, Sam and the wind blowing through the trees.

Our hike took us about 2+ hours and we were spent by the time we got back to the car.

As much as I would have loved to have been on the slopes this trip, NOT being able to ski gave me the opportunity to explore other winter fun that I might not otherwise have ever tried. I really enjoyed cross country skiing and this hike was challenging and beautiful – both I would have missed if I’d been able to ski. #perspective

Side note!

I wore my Sparkly Soul headbands all weekend in Breckenridge – they stayed put through 2 hours of cross country skiing and 4 miles of hiking! I know I raved about them in my review but really, I can’t rave enough. So functional and so cute! My headbands also caught the attention of most of the women I encountered - they wanted to know where they could get their own. 

Fashion + function + exercise/active living = amazing product.

BIRTHDAYCATION: Cross Country Skiing in Breckenridge

Hello from Breckenridge! I’m spending a few days in Breck with Alex, his brothers and their girlfriend & wife to celebrate our birthdays.

We arrived yesterday in Breck. On the way up, Alex, Mark and Molly stopped at Loveland Ski Area to get their ski legs back before spending a full day at Breckenridge today. With Alex’s season pass, he’s able to get discounted lift tickets for guests so it was a cheap way to get acclimated to Colorado skiing.

Instead of downhill skiing, Sam (Alex’s other twin brother) and Sara (Sam’s wife) and I continued on to Breckenridge to seek out some fun. Sam had ACL surgery just a few days before my first knee surgery so we both are keeping off the slopes this year.

We found the Breckenridge Nordic Center that offered cross country skiing and snowshoeing. Bingo! For $30 (including rentals), we could try cross country skiing and if we didn’t like it, swap to snowshoeing.

Cross country skiing is no joke. We got skis that are skinnier than downhill skis and poles – it took us a while to get our rhythm going on the field but man was it fun!

The weather was fanTASTic – it was 40* and big blue skies. I wore my running tights, snow pants, a t-shirt and a snow coat (thank you, Morgan!) and I was warm enough to take my coat off while we were out in the snow.

We skiied for about 2 hours through small hills and flat meadow lands – it was beautiful.

It was awesome and exhausting, exactly how a day of skiing should be, right?

Right.

After we finished our day and returned our equipment, I very pretty shirt caught my eye and for a very nice 25% off sale, I bought myself a birthday gift. Enter my new favorite shirt.

This shirt is by a company called Lole – a women’s active clothing company covering everything from yoga to running to tennis to travel.

What really caught my eye was the length! I have a super long torso and have a very very time finding long shirts for working out/being active that are long enough for me. This shirt is not only long enough but also has ties on the side to scrunch the shirt up if I want it a bit shorter/fashionable.

Another cool feature? The thumb holes.

With the warm weather today and this week (and me not having a warm long sleeve shirt to wear instead of a coat), this shirt will be the perfect layer for active days outside in Breck. And hiking in the spring. And chilly nights camping in the summer. And cool fall bike rides.

On today’s agenda? Hiking and snowshoeing. I am loving birthdaycation! (Post here!)