things I learned in Colorado

If you read my last post closely, you know that I went to Colorado for a vacation with some girl friends this month to celebrate my friend KVOs 30th birthday. It. Was. Awesome.

We flew into Denver from our respective cities (Minneapolis and LA) on Thursday morning, rented a car, and drove about 2.5-3 hours to Nathrop, Co to Mt. Princeton Hot Springs Resort. On the way, we stopped at Dorothy's Homemade Tamales in Fairplay because it was featured on the Food Network's Best Think I Ever Ate show for their ... well, tamales.

Once we got to the resort, we checked in and then hit the pools. They had natural hot springs, man-made hot tub things with natural hot water, and heated pools. I've said it before, and I'll say it again. It. Was. Awesome. We drove "into town" to Buena Vista and had some great Asian food for dinner.

On Friday, we split up from one-another for a while. A couple of the girls got massages, another went for a run, and I grabbed breakfast and then took my camera out. I figured since I took a class last summer to learn what all the buttons on it mean, I should try to practice with it. Here's one of them:

We got back together around noon and sat by/in the pools some more, and then went for a hike into the mountains to see some "falls" - which, when we got up there, seemed to be water flowing down rocks in the hill... not giant falls. But, it was still cool and we got some great pictures there, too.

Friday night, we went to "into (the other) town" and had dinner at the Boathouse in Salida, Co. By this point, I think I can safely say we've eaten some pretty great food. We went back to the resorts, put our suits back on, and headed back to the hot tub/spring things to look at the stars for a while. I SOOO wish we could have gotten a picture of the stars. Amazing. We may or may not have had some wine, too.

Saturday, we took our time getting ready and I took the opportunity to enjoy our view from the patio on our room one last time.

We headed back to Denver to celebrate the last night of our vacation, which conveniently was on St. Patty's day. We took a different route back than we came on so we could see some more things. We drove through Breckenridge and went through the Johnson Tunnel.

I didn't have many pictures on my camera from our night in Denver, but we went to eat at a nice steakhouse and then went to a couple of bars, although I think we were still home by midnight or 12:30 a.m. We are party animals. But, we had fun - we'll leave it at that.

On Sunday, we walked around the 16th street mall that is similar to the Nicollet mall area in Minneapolis, if you're familiar. Then, we headed back toward the airport and stopped at the Denver Botanical Gardens for a bit.

Then, rental car return (in a dust storm), airport, and return flight home.

It was a great trip, and I learned some things, too. All of our experiences should be educational, right?
    1. Altitude is weird. We definitely noticed the difference in altitude. Denver is over 5,000 feet above sea level... it's called the mile-high city for a reason. The resort area was nearly 8,000 feet above sea level (if not more in places). For some point of reference, Minneapolis is around 700 or 800 feet. Los Angeles is around 300 feet. It's fine when just sitting or walking level, but going up big hills or steps caused me to be a bit winded... much more easily than normal, anyway. Speaking of which... 
    2. There is no such thing as too much water. Turns out it's true that altitude can affect levels of hydration, which I found out the hard way on our first day. I didn't drink much water and ended up with a really annoying headache later in the day... and when you add that to the lack of sleep from the night prior, the altitude (see above), and the dry air there, I was a little crabby for a while. But, we figured it out and stopped at the grocery store Thursday evening and bought four gallons of water for our room. By Saturday morning, we had finished 3.5 of them, I think, and that doesn't include the times we filled up at the water fountains by the pool/spa area. I can't speak for the girls, but the more water I drank, the better I felt.
    3. Taking time for yourself is a good thing. Not because we weren't getting along, but we all had a chance to do something we wanted to do without toting everyone else with us. I wouldn't have gotten to take some of the photos I got if we didn't separate for a bit because they wouldn't have thought my geekiness was fun. And they would have had a harder time going for runs or getting massages. But, we also did lots of fun stuff together that we all enjoyed a lot, like the mountain hike, eating great food, and sitting in hot springs.
    4. Waking up to the mountains rocks. I got used to sitting on the patio in the morning, reading my Nook, drinking a cup of coffee, and looking at the mountains, even though we were only there for two days. It was difficult to wake up to the townhouse across the street for the first day or two after we got back.
    5. I know a lot of country songs. At times, the only station available on the radio was country. I knew way more than I thought I would because I hardly listen to it on the radio here. They must have been playing some "oldies, but goodies" I guess. I think I would have won if there were a contest for knowing the most country song words in our car.
    6. Girlfriends are great. We all traveled well together (at least I think so... I hope they thought the same!) and we had a lot of fun. KVOs birthday trip was a success and we all got to do something we hadn't done before. 

    All in all, I recommend it. It was relaxing, beautiful, and full of laughs. It's not Vegas, but it's not supposed to be. It was exactly what we were hoping.

    For those of you not on Facebook, you can check out the pics on this Kodak Gallery album.


    no more cake! ok, maybe just a little piece...

    Last Saturday, my friend KVO joined the 30 club which, in my opinion, is pretty awesome. And, it's about time (she's a young'un in our group). For her birthday, I made her a cake, another friend brought lunch over to her house, and another brought the makings for punch (non-alcoholic - it was the middle of the day, people), and her adorable nephew provided the smiles and laughs. We had a pretty awesome spread!

    After lunch, we had the cake. Rewind 2 months or so... I told KVO that I found the recipe for Turtle Cake from Cafe Latte online. She loves this cake, so I told her that I would try making it for her for her birthday.

    Fast forward 2 months back to present time... KVO has not forgotten the promise to make this cake for her birthday and is sure to remind me. :)  So, I start getting thinking about this, the ingredients, and the logistics... and for someone who has planned things for a living, I did not do a great job with this.
    • Round pans. I have one, but forgot... so I bought one. This turns out to be fine because it's a three layer cake, so I need to make 3 anyway and this cuts down my baking time. Win. 
    • Cake carrier. I do not have one because I never make round tall cakes, so I don't need one. Until now. After asking a few friends, I find a kind soul to borrow one to me. (thanks, Katie!) Win. 
    • Dry ingredients. I have all of these things at home - flour, cocoa, sugar, chocolate chips, pecans, baking soda.  I even had some of the other ingredients - egg and caramel . Win.
    • Milk. The initial recipe I looked up called for whole milk in the frosting, so I go to the gas station to get a small one because who needs a half gallon of whole milk? Not this girl. The recipe on the Cafe Latte site that I ended up using does not specify whole milk, so clearly I forget and use 1%. Anyone need a pint of whole milk? Fail. 
    • Coffee. I wanted to start making the cakes on Thursday so I could frost on Friday and eat on Saturday. I wish I would have looked at the recipe closer and realized I needed hot coffee when I stopped at the gas station to get whole milk on Thursday after work (see above) because I got home and was ready to start. No coffee. No baking on Thursday. I stopped at the gas station Friday to get coffee on my way home from work, instead. Fail.
    • Buttermilk. My mom gave me a great tip that if you use a tablespoon of vinegar to 1 c. of milk and let it sit for about 10 minutes, it is a great substitute for buttermilk. Awesome! So, I didn't buy buttermilk. I joked with mom, "watch - now I won't have vinegar at home... haha!" You probably see where this is going. No white vinegar at home. We have apple, balsamic, red wine, and even blueberry pomegranate vinegar... but no white. Fail. I tried asking two different neighbors  (which was kind of embarrassing). They didn't have white vinegar, either. Double fail. Online, it said I could use cream of tartar instead... sweet! Except I didn't have that either. I went back to the store.  Triple fail (I think the kids would call this an "epic fail").
    But, once I actually got started, it wasn't so bad. The cake was pretty easy to make and I felt very Betty Crocker. The cake layers finished and I cooled them, per the directions. I made the frosting and started assembling the cake. Cake, frosting, caramel, pecans - rinse and repeat 2 more times. With the exception of forgetting caramel on the second layer and having to take the top off, things went smoothly. But jostling the top made it crack just a bit... but I don't think it had an impact on the taste. I was really happy with how it turned out, being my first attempt at a big layer cake thing.

    Here's how it turned out:

    The birthday girl & the cake.

    The cake and it's ooey, gooey, layers of awesome.
    It actually did taste like the cake at Cafe Latte, which, I suppose makes sense since it's their recipe. :) And, had I planned a little better up front, it would have gone a lot more smoothly. Case-in-point why I am a planner by nature, typically - I'm a mess when I don't.

    I had one piece of the cake at Keri's party and I don't think I can eat cake again for a few weeks. It was SO rich, but SO delicious. When I came home, after wraps, salads (pasta, spinach, and fruit), punch, and cake, I came home and took a food-coma nap on the couch for a while. And it was worth it.

    As an aside, happy birthday to my very good friend, KVO. She is smart, beautiful, funny, kind, thoughtful, responsible, trustworthy, and just plain wonderful. I think her 30s are going to bring all of the very good things she deserves in life. I'm fortunate to be her friend and look forward to celebrating with her (and the girls!) more in Colorado later this week. :)


    a different kind of edible arrangement?

    Today I was having kind of a long day... but, I got the most random and hilarious voicemail at the end of the day. Please note: this is the funniest voicemail of the day... I also received the funniest call (that I answered) today. I can tell you about that later.

    Anyway, back to the voicemail. It was 3:38 p.m. and I looked at my phone and saw I had a voicemail from an unknown number. When I listened, it went something like this:

    "Hi Brenda, this is [guy] from Hog Masters. Please call me back at [number] as soon as you can. I have your pigs here, and I need an address for where to deliver them. Thanks!"

    You may be having the same reactions that I did. First, "Hogmasters?" and then "my pigs?" I was as surprised as you are! I had a couple of colleagues listen to the message and we laughed. And joked that, maybe instead of someone sending me flowers or an edible arrangement, someone is sending me pigs! And that perhaps, instead of a bonus this year, I'm getting a truck of pigs. What a great surprise!

    And we laughed... and I needed it, so I was happy.

    But, it got better.

    I called guy back to let him down nicely that I was, unfortunately not the intended recipient of the pigs. Instead of the phone ringing, it played "Sweet Home Alabama" (good song) and when guy answered, it went something like this:

    Me: Hi, you called me earlier about a pig delivery... I think you may have the wrong number.

    Guy: Oh, yes! Sorry about that, I did have the wrong number.

    Me: Oh, good. When I got your message, I thought to myself: 'I don't think the townhome association allows me to have pigs." (laughs)

    Guy: (also laughs) Well, they aren't alive anymore - they've been butchered.

    Me: Oh... (gets a little uncomfortable)

    Guy: (remains cheery) Yeah, they are for a wedding and they gave me the wrong phone number. But thanks for calling me back!

    Me: No problem! Glad you found the right place for them!

    Guy: I did. Have a great weekend!
    So, turns out the pigs were a different kind of edible arrangement... and they were not for me. I'm OK with that.

    Have a great weekend!