The Summer Reset – 11 Mile Canyon

I picked up fly fishing this year with a hand me down rod from B, and some learner’s camaraderie from Rachael. I’ve been out fishing about 10 times now, and I have yet to catch a single fish. Obviously I still have a lot to learn – maybe my knots are too big, maybe my line is too short, maybe my cast is too rough, or just maybe, fish are too damn smart to be fooled by my tricks. Regardless of my luck/lack of skill, it’s darn lovely to be out in the middle of a river, relatively alone, and listening to the sound of water. Even more exciting are the small little adrenaline rushes you get when you see fish smell your fly only to promptly ignore it and eat a bug mere inches away from your fly. One day, fishies, one day.

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A couple weeks ago, Rachael and I took a quick little one nighter camping trip to 11 Mile Canyon with the intent to catch heaps of fish to cook over the camp fire. But then, there was a fire ban in effect. And then, it rained on us almost all evening and night. At one point, huddled under a tree in our raincoats, we debated giving up and driving the 2 hours back to Denver. Thankfully the rain let up long enough for us to cook a meal, drink some beers, and play a few rounds of Bananagrams. Lastly, neither of us caught a fish. Rachael got 2 hits though, so there’s that. It was still an enjoyable 2 days, and we got some lovely views even at the crowded campground.

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IMG_6117Until next time, fishies….

The Summer Reset – The Fjällräven Classic

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About a month ago, B and I went on an beautiful, memorable, challenging, and downright epic 42 mile backpacking trip here in Colorado. About a week after we got back from Europe, we set out to start our trip on the Fjällräven Classic.  The Classic in the USA is a 3 day trek through the mountains with about 200 like minded people from all over the world organized and facilitated by the Swedish outdoor brand Fjällräven. Here is more info on the story behind the Classic, and info on the USA Classic.

The Fjällräven Classic concept is simple: to encourage and enable more people to get out and enjoy trekking.

You can read more about B and I on the trek here on B’s Blog.

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I’ve been backpacking before, so between B and I, we already have the necessary gear. With everything I needed, my pack rang in at just around 30 pounds, give or take a few with/without water. I use B’s hand-me-down pack, an Osprey Aether 70 which fits me really well even though (or because) it’s a men’s pack. For sleeping, I have an REI bag that is rated down to 20˚F and a air pad that frankly is not thick enough. I can never sleep well camping. I wake up ever 20 min or so with aching hips, so I end up tossing and turning all night, every night, no matter how exhausted I am. B and I share a Big Agnes tent, and a Jet Boil stove, and the rest is pretty standard. I have old Keen hiking boots that have never once given me a blister, and I wore light weight Arcteryx hiking pants with sweat wicking t-shirts from Costco. The one and only new thing for me on this trip was trekking poles. They helped propel me up steep grades, tempered steep downslopes, and I’m very, very glad I had them for this type long distance climb. My poles came off of a snowshoeing kit I bought at Costco over the winter, so they’re are not fancy at all, but definitely useful.

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We bought tickets back in April, and I quickly realized that I would very seriously need to start training. The route description even gave B pause, so I took a brutally honest evaluation of my fitness level and started planning out my training routine.  To ease me into exercising, I started yoga once or twice a week at my neighborhood studio, The Yoga Mat. Prior to this, my exercise came strictly from sporadic 7 minute workouts at home, snowboarding, and walks. To prep my weak and injury prone low back for the weight of a backpack, I started pilates once a week at my neighborhood pilates studio, Manna Pilates and signed up for 3 private lessons spaced out over 3 months. Gradually, I added in running (a mile at a time – I loathe running) once or twice a week, and supplementing my yoga and pilates classes with the Nike Fit App workouts at home. In May, my friend Melissa introduced me to spinning classes at Endorphin. We both bought a 3 month unlimited package, and I started going to their classes 2-3 times a week to work on my cardio endurance, which has always been non-existent. To train for the elevation and just the realities of the trek, B and I went on training hikes every weekend with fully loaded packs in the mountains close to Denver. By the time the classic came around, I felt ready. My cardio endurance was 5 times better than it was, I had stronger core strength, and I knew I could make at least 10 mile hikes with no problems.

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B and I are planning to do this same trip again next summer, and we will probably rope some of our friends and family in to join us. The price is a bit steep – as is essentially everything Fjällräven branded –  but I really think you get your money’s worth and more.If you’re curious for more, check out the tag #fjallravenclassicusa on Instagram, and Fjällräven’s Facebook page.

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All the photos here were taken by B and I, with the exception of the very last one, which was taken by Ali Vagnini.

The Summer Reset – Paris

Paris…la Ville Lumière.  I don’t speak any French past “Bonjour madame!” and “un café s’il vous plaît!” Thankfully, I got a quick little primer on French manners from our Australian-Parisian friends Daniel and Libby the first couple of days of our Paris trip. Parisians are extremely polite, so if you travel there and stick to the usual American manners, you’d be considered rude. Greetings, please, and thanks are very important and expected. For example, when you enter a store, cafe, anything really, Parisians always say “Bonjour madame/monsieur!”, and same when they leave. I certainly don’t do that normally here in the states (though maybe I’m just rude all the time), but I definitely was conscious to greet everyone right away everywhere I went in Paris.  I also didn’t experience much of the famed Parisian snottiness/irreverence during my time there.  Maybe those two things go hand in hand? I knew I would be out exploring solo for half our time there, with B at his conference WordCamp Europe (the reason for his travels in the first place). So it was really helpful to have a local break things down for me before venturing off on my own!IMG_3834.jpg

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The best way to get around Paris is by bicycle, and paris has the best ride-share bicycle system, the Velib. So simple, so accessible, and so affordable. For almost the same price as a one way Metro ticket (€1.90) you could rent a Velib for 24 hours, 30 min at a time (€2). Bike lanes are everywhere, and Parisian drivers are very aware and careful of cyclists. The Metro is great for longer distances, but for the most part, I rented a Velib for  everything within the main ring of Paris. Compare that system to Denver, where #1 there is no metro at all, and #2 the bike share program costs $9/day. Who would opt to ride a bike when it’s cheaper to just drive or take the bus? #doingitwrong! I loved these bikes so much that I immediately started researching Dutch step-though style bikes the day we got home (I ended up buying a Linus, by the way).IMG_5735

Day 1: arrival via Eurostar, Montparnasse Cemetery, Luxembourg Gardens, macarons from Gerard Mulot, rosé on the terrasse of Café de la Mairie, a stroll through St. Germain, and dinner at Le Bistrot d’Henri.

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Day 2: coffee around the corner from Daniel and Libby’s, Blé Sucré for the most amazing croissant I’ve ever had in my life, a stroll through the farmers market near the Puces d’Aligre, rosé at Le Baron Rouge, strolling through Le Marais, lunch at L’As du Fallafel, Le Palais Royal, a walk through the grounds of the Louvre, Palace de la Concorde, rosé at Café du Rendez Vous, Catacombs of Paris, and dinner at Le Temps des Cerises.

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Day 3: Arc de Triomphe, stroll all the way down Ave. de Champs-Elysées to Musée d’Orsay, Notre Dame, picnic along the Canal de la Villette, and dinner at Le Bancs Publics.

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Day 4: the Louvre, shopping in St. Germain at Monoprix and City Pharma, picnic dinner back at hotel of baguette, camembert, salami, and wine. First day completely on my own.

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Day 5: Musee de Rodin at the Hôtel Biron, Sainte-Chapelle, Pantheon, stroll down down Rue Mouffetard (the Latin Quarter) with more croissants, stroll around the Pierre and Marie Curie University, more shopping at Monoprix and City Pharma and street crepes for dinner.

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Day 6: The Pompidou Center, shopping at HEMA and other shops in the Le Halles area

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That’s it for Paris, but more (domestic) summer travels to come!

The Summer Reset – London

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Many months ago, in the dead of winter, B mentioned to me that during June, he would have to take a work trip to Paris for WordCamp Europe. B travels quite a bit for work, and I always stay home with the dog. Teacher vacations are pretty much set in stone and our schedules aren’t exactly flexible. But this time…it was during summer vacation.

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Paris and London have been at the top of my travel list for some time now. In high school (the 90’s) I would listen obsessively to Brit pop bands like Blur, Pulp, and Elastica, and dream of how cool it would be to be British. I would picture drinking at pubs, cute boys with accents, running into Damon Albarn casually, and wearing DocMartins every day. Teenage daydreams, right? So, when B told me about Paris, I immediately invited myself along, and stuck on a London trip for both of us – boom, summer vacation trip!

B and I have a system that works well for us when we travel to large cities like London and Paris. We do a bit of research on things to see, do, and eat, then make a large list. Then we divvy the list up into days depending on the location. We usually end up checking off 3-4 items off each day, which makes for long days and lots of steps on the Fitbit since we always stick to walking first and public transport second. Our system is simple, and probably the same thing everyone does, but it works really well for us and keeps the arguing contained to how early we are waking up in the morning (I love sleep too much).

Day 1: Arrival in the morning, Big Ben, the London Eye, Trafalgar Square, St. James’s Park, Buckingham Palace, dinner at Dishoom in Covent Garden for great Indian food.

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Day 2: London bridge, Borough Market (closed from the terror attacks still, so we ended up stopping into a random pub for a full English Breakfast), Tower Bridge, Tower of London, pub stops, and dinner in Chinatown for Sichuan Food (nothing to call home about).

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Day 3: Westminster Abbey (Charles Darwin’s grave!), Afternoon Tea at the Covent Garden Hotel, The Kew Royal Botanic Gardens, and dinner at Mahdi for Persian food

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Day 4: Shopping at Oliver Bonas for clothes, Full English Breakfast (again) at Kensington Square Kitchen, Kensington Palace Gardens, Hyde Park, Notting Hill, shopping at Superdrug for British beauty brands, and dinner near our hotel at The George IV with sticky toffee pudding.

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Day 5: Portobello Markets, neighborhood strolling through Bayswater, Paddington, Mayfair, Belgravia, back to Kensington for Sunday Roast at The Scarsdale Tavern, then all the way to Chiswick – Pub crawling the whole time. It was a very long day on the feet.

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We ended up staying at the Clayton Hotel in Chiswick, which is a few underground stops outside of central London (which meant that is was relatively cheap). In hindsight, we should have forked over the extra money to be closer to the center of town, and for a better hotel. It was an average of a 30 min tube ride one to and from London, so the money we saved went directly towards public transport costs. Also, our hotel had plumbing issues and a smell that I couldn’t get out of my nose for days afterwards. In the grand scheme of things through, these were minor issues. Mind the gap!

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Next up is Paris!

Aussie Aussie Oi Oi Oi – Part 2

For Part One, check out this post here.

After Melbourne, B and I headed up to the Sunshine Coast for his brother Kai’s wedding to Jill. I’d met Kai once before, but only knew Jill via social media. I’d also never met B’s dad (he doesn’t travel out of Aus much), so this was pretty exciting for me. It was great to spend time with B’s parents and creep on how many behaviors and mannerisms B picked up from his mum and dad. B’s dad Craig runs a dive shop down in Bremer Bay, which is a hot spot for Sea Dragons. After many years of observing and tracking behavior and distribution of Sea Dragons, he’s probably one of the world’s leading experts on these delicate and beautiful organisms.

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The wedding itself was of course absolutely beautiful, taking place in the temperate rainforest, by a lake. Checkout their wedding video here, to get a feel of the setting and the event. I got my first taste of Australian wildlife here, when possums came to visit us at night looking for a treat. They are really, really cute. I round out the hard way though, that they actually have sharp claws. oops. For the wedding, I chose to bring a dress I found at Anthropologie that seemed appropriate enough. I had a ridiculously hard time finding a dress to wear that was not white, black and was not covered in flowers. Unfortunately (or fortunately), I spent too much time having fun at the wedding, and forgot to get any full photos of me in the dress. Jill and Kai looked amazing, as they always do, as did all of the Lebenses. The wedding was a 2 day affair, and the next day we spent time at Aussie World running around jumping on rides and driving bumper cars. IMG_0378

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Our last day in the Queensland, we stopped by Steve Irwin’s Australia Zoo for a few hours before flying out of Brisbane. Oh my god, I was so happy. I got to pet Koalas! and Kangaroos! So ridiculously cute and amazing. I spend the whole time there running from animal to animal, and poor B, Mum, and Peter had to jog at some points to try and keep up.  Crickey!OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

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Part 3: Perth coming soon! Teachers report back in 2 weeks! I’m not ready.

Aussie Aussie Oi Oi Oi – Part 1

Summer Vaca – it is more than half way through, and it feels like it’s been rushing by at warp speed. This summer, B is also on a “summer vacation” with a 3 month sabbatical from work. B and I started off the break with a month long trip to Australia, hitting up both coasts and a little island along with way. It’s all too much for one post, so I’m breaking it up into 4 parts: Melbourne/Queensland/Perth/Sydney. If you follow me on Instagram, you will have seen some of these already, but get ready for photos overload!

First, some background info: B is Australian (with dual citizenship), but he’s been living in the states since the early 2000s. I’ve been to Oz before, but in the 5 years we’ve been together, we’ve never traveled back to his motherland together. So you can imagine how excited I was to be going back there with him, my ultimate Aussie boy-mate. I’d been pushing to make a summer for us/winter for them trip to Oz for about a year already, and then good timing kicked in. B’s brother Kai was getting married! B had a 3 month sabbatical waiting to be taken! The stars were aligned right around my summer vacation, so we booked tickets with the miles we’ve been saving up especially for a trip down under.

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We started the Aussie Adventure with Melbourne.  Melbourne is the San Francisco of Australia – it’s got the weather, the diversity, and the culture. All that was missing was the hills (Sydney’s got that one). My favorite bits of Melbourne were all the interesting tucked away alleys.  Almost all the really neat coffee shops, restaurants and bars were in tiny alleys that in the states we only associate with garbage pick ups and muggings. The alley ways of Melbourne are places for public art (sanctioned or not), and so much of it was right up my alley that I had to remind myself to take photos of only my absolute favorites.

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B and I spent 5 days in Melbourne, and we stayed near the CBD at Fraser Place which worked out well in terms of location, price and comfort. Right around the corner was a great cafe, and stop #1 in Oz always has to be coffee – Flat White, specifically – which they do perfectly. For the rest of the trip, B and I started off every morning and broke every afternoon hunting for a cool coffee shop. One in particular I liked, as it was styled like a little Japanese cafe. B and I looked very much like the giants that we are, surrounded by tiny furniture in a tiny room. Stand out coffees in Melbourne: League of Honest Coffee, Little Rouge Coffee, and Brother Baba Budan.

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Prior to leaving Denver, I started a temporary Pinterest board of all the sights I wanted to check out in Melbourne. First was the Old Melbourne Gaol (jail), a sufficiently creepy but cool place to visit, complete with wax busts of prisoners made post-hanging. We splashed out and took the tour, and I learned about Ned Kelly for the first time. The next day, we went to Queen Victoria Market, where I did most of my souvenir shopping. I didn’t buy Ugg boots but B did buy a classic Aussie hat, and we picked up a kangaroo skin – which B instantly modeled for me in stereotypical Aussie fashion. Since B and I love the Denver Botanic Gardens, we also spent a day at the Royal Botanic Gardens. My favorite part was a little nook called Fern Gully, where I imagine is were all the fairies of Melbourne live. We ended the walk through the garden at the Shrine of Remembrance. If you ever find yourself in Melbourne, I recommend jumping in on a I’m Free (tips only) walking tour. B and I did it and it was pretty cool.

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Asia is to Australia as Mexico and Central America is to the US. So you can imagine how excited I was to eat all of the yummy asian foods. I made a list, and we went to all of them and ate all of the things. I was a very happy camper, though our wallet very quickly was not. Australia is not cheap. Standouts were Din Tai Fung (they also have locations in CA and Seattle), the Dainty Sichuan, and Gami Chicken & Beer. As far as drinks, B and I checked out a couple bars but were generally disappointed with the cocktails in Australia. Berlin Bar was worth the trip in that first you had to ring a bell to be let in, then you had to chose which side of the bar to sit it: the East German minimalist/survival side or the West German posh velvet chairs side. The bar itself was really neat, and so was the stairway leading up to the bar. Cocktails were interesting on paper and presentation, but pricy and not particularly tasty and drinkable. Whiskey & Alement had an overwhelming 5 page whiskey menu which B liked, but I generally go for whiskey cocktails like an Old Fashioned or a Manhattan and Im not a fan of peaty, smoky flavored rye whiskeys.  The bar standard Old Fashioned I ended up with was exactly that. I choked it down anyway. B was a big fan of this place, though it was weird/confusing with 2 bars in one. There is a side bar within the bar that serves only Japanese Whiskey, but you have to pay at the main bar and convert AUD to Yen.

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That’s it for Melbourne!  Part 2: Queensland up next!

 

Mustard Mondays

I have new clothes to talk about!  Finally – I’ve been somewhat uninspired by the shops lately, so I haven’t been shopping much (for clothing anyway, I’ve been too spendy with the skincare and makeup).  This weekend though, the sales sucked me in.  I picked up these grey jeans (with a high waist that helps balance out my long torso/short legs combo) at Urban Outfitters to $15!!  I love a great deal.  The boots I got at H&M at the start of fall, and they’re really awesome.  Whether or not they will last past one winter, we’ll see.  The sweater is an oldie from my time in Brooklyn (last seen here and here).MustardMonday MustardMonday2 MustardMonday3 MustardMonday4

glasess: warby parker – infinity scarf: american apparel – sweater and jeans: urban outfitters – belt: jcrew – boots: h&m

As far as the whole having-a-life thing is going, we got a week off for Thanksgiving.  I flew out to DC to spend time with my family and I got to hang with my little niece in between naps and fits.  My mom and sister are speaking to her only in Mandarin, so I also got to brush up on my Chinese!  Practically no one in Denver speaks Chinese, so it’s gotten rusty from disuse.  My niece is just starting to talk, so she taught me that her favorite toy (which is a mother fox from IKEA) is called hu-li mama.  My mom speaks 4 different Chinese dialects, so at dinner times, my niece will say “good eats” in 3 of them – Cantonese, Mandarin and Fujian.  hou sic, hao chi, haw jia.

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Of course, we also had to take a pre TG dinner family portrait (minus my brother in law).

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