The sister.

It is my goal to try to make this little blog  a place where you will really want to come and spend some time. A little bright spot in your day. A few moments that you can look forward to , because you know when you come here you will be met briefly, with something helpful, without being bogged down in over- seriousness. I think our world suffers from too much unnecessary drama and I am on a mission to eliminate it! I want you to look forward to popping in, with a cup of coffee or tea and spending a few minutes with me. I want to write something that gives you a little smile or inspires you in some way or leaves you with an idea that you would like to try.

In doing so, I need the photos on here to draw you in to my style immediately upon your first click! I am not an overly serious person and I tend to write in a light hearted way. I like to laugh and I tend to see the world through a humorous lens. I needed photos that spoke to that vision.

I needed a professional.

Enter: the sister.

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Yep. I just happen to have a sister who is a professional photographer. Like….a really good one. She is not a copier….she is a CREATOR. Its always original. AND she is incredibly skilled. The way she manipulates lighting……..OMG- she makes you instantly look younger and more vibrant-INSTANTLY- before editing. I’ve been trying for years to get her to follow me around daily and take pictures of me ,that look better than I actually do in real life. For some reason, she hasn’t really warmed to the idea yet, but dang that would be awesome, wouldn’t it?  You can see more about her incredible talent and artistry here at Elvisdog Productions.

I knew what needed to happen so I did what any loving sister would do: I begged…..I  pleaded…. I offered to giver her a pair of my shoes……and then I bought her a plane ticket to Colorado! She shipped out all of her cameras, lenses, lights and flashes and we set aside a day to create! (Yes. I’m lucky.)

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I described to her what I was trying to convey with my photos: A woman over 40, who has real budgetary and time constraints, who doesn’t take herself too seriously, but who still wants to experience the best that life has to offer. A REAL woman………over 40……who isn’t ready to throw in the proverbial towel yet!

My sister took that vision and ran with it. Together we came up with an entire photo shoot dedicated to visually describing Fresh Air and False Lashes.

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I can’t WAIT to get these pictures on here!  Viewing them from the back of the camera was excruciating because they were SO SO good, but I can’t have them until she finishes waving her wand over them.

Patience is really not my thing.

There were martini glasses, wine bottles, chickens, dogs……me-changing clothes in the middle of a field……oh- it was all quite the talk of my little neighborhood out here in the mountains.

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I hope that you will hang with me while I get this little blog up and running. I hope you will look forward to coming here. And I just KNOW you’re going to LOVE the new facelift we have coming. The images here are the ones my daughter Savannah took with my phone to show a little behind-the-scenes from our day.

Thanks for stopping in and go and live your day like your sister is following you around taking gorgeous pictures of you.

Cheers!

Melissa

Dining Out in Colorado Springs-MacKenzies Chop House

Our youngest son had come home for a visit, so we went out for dinner last night. We wanted to try something new, since Colorado Springs has a wealth of dining options to offer in town. We like to make it a bit of an “event” for one night, when any of our kids, who are now all young adults, are home visiting. We find that it is easier to get everyone to one table for dinner if we have a reservation and can stretch out a long, leisurely meal.

Last night was our first time at MacKenzies Chop House and we were not disappointed!

Dining out in Colorado Springs

We arrived early for a cocktail and we were shown by the very attentive hostess to Macks Lounge. This is a gorgeous bar area with a wonderful mix of tall polished, dark wood tables and rough hewn stone walls and pillars to give a very English pub-like atmosphere. The bar staff was very friendly and attentive and the music gives it a laid back, speak-easy vibe. We ordered from the specialty drinks menu. I had a Blue Moon martini and my husband had a Manhattan with a twist. Our son and daughter who were with us, don’t drink  often and opted for soft drinks, (I don’t know how I am their mother.).

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With our cocktails in hand, we were shown to our table in the dining area. This is a lovely juxtaposition between rustic and elegance, with the dim lighting being just right to keep the upscale pub-like atmosphere

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The menu is wide and varied with all sorts of creative offerings and flavor combinations. They have a “Fresh Sheet” with the daily specials. Our own choices ranged from Filet mignon, to the duck to the scallops. They were all equally fabulous and very well presented. I love to cook, so I adore going to eat somewhere that I couldn’t just go home and recreate the meal myself. This was one of those places. With interesting flavor combinations, textures and portions that were incredibly satisfying.

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Amazingly tender seared duck breast , turnip and sweet potato hash, swiss chard and a Luxardo cherry sauce

 

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Seared scallops, lobster and leek risotto,bacon-mushroom relish, lobster bordelaise.

We also ordered a bottle of wine from their extensive wine list. They have many choices for by the bottle or by the glass which I always find nice, since sometimes, I am the only one at my table drinking wine. This was quite good with the steaks that my husband and I ordered and one that I’m sure we will be returning to.

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We were having such a wonderful, leisurely dinner, that we decided to check out dessert. And wow- we were SO happy that we did. While my husband and I ordered a port and a cognac our kids both ordered the Sticky Toffee Pudding Cake- listen to this: “Warm spiced toffee pudding cake with salted caramel ice cream, toasted pecans and Grand Marnier-vanilla butterscotch sauce.” And Oh. My. Gosh. This is one of those desserts that will have you thinking about it the next day. It was amazing – and if the kids hadn’t agreed to share with us, I am quite sure there would have been a family brawl. We scarfed it down so fast, I didn’t get a photo, but I seriously  can’t recommend it highly enough.

So yay! We found yet another great dining establishment in Colorado Springs! They have half price martini nights, half off wines, and many other specials. They update their “Fresh Sheets” regularly, so be sure to check them out! We are definitely heading back soon.

Find them on Facebook here and check out their website here.

If you go, please let me know what you think! And I’ll take your left over dessert!

Cheers!

Melissa

Take me to the mountains…

Getting Away in Colorado

The older you get, the more you figure out what makes you tick. What is actually important in life. And that you really don’t know as much as you thought you did. And that MAYBE you weren’t put on this earth for your vast amounts of knowledge, but rather to use whatever you have to help others that are in your life or come across your path.

I NEED quiet time. Time for reflection and just time to let the thoughts in my head roll out to their completeness. To wrestle with my own ideas and time to quietly talk to the Lord and pour those things out before Him. Recently, I haven’t been getting that time as much as I would like. My husbands job is all-consuming in our lives. Not by choice for either of us. It isn’t a matter of organization or time allotment. Its just the way it is right now. His job is not one that you can physically or mentally just lay aside. There are big consequences that involve more than just us and our family. But this is where we are, and we are getting through it as best we can. But it makes time for reflection scarce and even when the time is there, its hard to silence my mind from all that is wrapped up in my husbands work. this week, I have been lucky enough to get that time!

We got up and away. Out of cell range completely. How freeing that is!

We’ve been working with our Saint pup, Winston on being a good trail and camping dog, so the more we can get him out with us, the better! Colorado is a super dog friendly state but being able to take your dog on a trail isn’t always a given. Thankfully the All Trails app has a “dog friendly” filter that you can use when searching for trails. So, we searched out something that would give us some seclusion and somewhere we could set up camp for the night. We decided on a lightly used trail up above the Winter Park area. The trail itself is called Second Creek Trail. We have been having boatloads of car trouble recently, so we decided to grab a rental and take off. Winston is all about traveling.backpacking trip in Colorado

Its about 3 miles to Broome Hut and then maybe another mile + to the top, where the views are spectacular. We ran across a few folks on the first part of the trail, but after that, we were on our own for the rest of the trip.

The hike is steep for the first mile or so. Like….lung buster steep. But the trail is good and it takes you through varied terrain with beautiful views. The remaining part of the trail, past the hut, is moderate.  Winston carries his own food and water now. We figured out pretty quickly that Saints drink a LOT of water and if we had to add HIS to what we were already carrying for ourselves, well…..hellooooo heavy backpack! The struggle was real, so we got him his own pack pretty quickly.backpacking in colorado

Here are a few of the shots along the way. Seriously beautiful for only putting in about 5 miles.backpacking in Colorado

Once we reached the snow fields, we decided to unload, set up camp and then we would hike to the top without all the gear. The sun was warm and the melting snow and resulting lake, were all that was left from last seasons snow. backpacking in colorado

Once we had set up camp, we hiked to the top. The views were just amazing. 360 degree mountain view. So beautiful.backpacking in colorado

Once we hiked back down to our little camp, the sun was going down fast and so was the temperature. It got down to about 24 degrees that night. We were super snug in our sleeping bags and Winston was unaffected as he snored outside the tent.backpacking in Colorado

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The next morning was cooooold getting up and out of the tent, but we made coffee, then a light breakfast as we waited for the sun to pop over the mountain. As soon as it did, we were packing up and shedding layers. Another beautiful day in Colorado.

The rest of our getaway was spent meeting our sons for lunch, playing around in grand Lake and then crossing Rocky Mountain National Park to visit Estes Park. We stayed a few nights in Estes, just to relax and also to enjoy the elk. The elk rut is in full force so they literally take over the town. Then we decided that we would take the looooooong way back home and we drove for hours through the beautiful aspens as they were changing to that bright gold. img_8268

All in all, it was a quick trip but we were both so thankful to be able to do it. It was just what we needed. A small respite in the ongoing storm that is our life at present. Life can get SO BUSY. Even if all I can carve out is 30 minutes to get outside and get away from the every day pull, I do it. It is just as important to my health as anything else that I do.

I hope that you take time each day to free your mind a little bit. What do you do that helps you relax and opens your mind?

Cheers!

Melissa

PS- Girl Stuff coming next, y’all. Hold onto your mascara, cause I’ve made a lash appointment!!!!!

Colorado Road Trippin’

My husband and I were able to take a little Colorado road trip last week. It was long overdue, but his work schedule is so crazy busy that we just have to take off whenever the opportunity presents itself. Colorado is such a beautiful state and one of the things that I love the most about it is that you can really get away from the hustle so easily.We packed up Winston and decided to flee to the higher mountains. Colorado Road trip

Winston travels really well and even at only 6 months, he has put up with us dragging him all over Colorado. He is such a chill dog and pretty much just goes along with whatever we have going on with absolutely ZERO fan fare.

We rented a place from Air BnB in Granby, CO, so that we could find something pet friendly. If you travel and you aren’t using Air BnB, I can’t recommend it highly enough. It is such a considerable savings and we have always stayed in the nicest homes! I think Granby CO is one of the states best kept secrets. You can stay there and be just minutes from Winter Park, Grand Lake and Rocky Mountain National Park.If you love the outdoors and don’t need a lot of shopping, etc. stay on this side of RMNP. If shopping and restaurants are what you are looking for, stay on the other side, in Estes Park. Both are awesome.

We knew that we just wanted to do day hikes each day and just stay outside as much as possible.  The weather was perfect. getting down into the low 40’s at night and then up to a high of 70 during the day. Absolutely gorgeous.

We quickly pulled up our area on the All Trails app and found that there were 214 trails nearby! Each day we were able to quickly find a hike, pack a day pack and head off.

If you are ever in the area and you want a lovely, easy hike, try the Monarch Lake trail. It is a 4 mile trail that goes around the lake but takes you through loads of different scenery. For so little effort, this one has a big pay off. And you can take the dog!

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Monarch Lake trail takes you through so much varied scenery on an easy 4 mile hike.
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The husband and Winston cooling off and watching the sun set at Monarch Lake.

We hiked each day. We usually just stopped at the store and grabbed a few sandwiches and water and we would be on our way.

Dogs are not allowed on the trails in RMNP, but they are allowed in the common areas, so we drove through the park as well and had a picnic lunch with a view one afternoon. It was beautiful and sunny for our lunch and then………snow. Yep. We drove through snow showers in August up at around 12000 feet. This is Colorado. 🙂

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Lovely spot for a picnic.
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Snow. In August.

One of the other wonderful things about the whole Grand county area is the amount of wildlife. Especially at this time of the year, when the tourists have gone and the weather is just beginning to change. In 3 days we saw coyotes, elk, a bear and several moose. And of course the views are hard to beat anywhere.

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Colorado Road trip
We actually hiked this trail a few years ago and it was a tough one, but the pay off was amazing with views of wild life! This bear seems to like it as well.

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The trails around the towns of Granby and Fraser are very accessible and the views are fantastic.

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The Fraser-Granby trail for a long evening walk.

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One evening the husband suggested that we hike to the top the trail in Granby and watch the sunset. We packed libations, of course. What a brilliant idea! So, we sat with our drinks and watched the sun go down behind the mountains. Lovely way to end our little Colorado road trip getaway.

Colorado Road Trip

As far as my work outs went for this week, I did a leg day before we left and a leg day when we got back. I didn’t worry about the rest and we were hiking each day so that was all good. I didn’t track my food and I just ate whatever, whenever. This turned out to be not so awesome. Apparently after feeding body on a regular schedule, staying hydrated and eating very little sugar for 7 weeks, your body doesn’t like it when you just up and change things! I had stomach pain and headaches off and on the whole time. So. Lesson learned. Pack some chicken and rice for cryin’ out loud!

Back to the grind this week and I feel like I am seriously killing it in the gym right now. My macros are starting to get easier and easier to hit each day and I am getting into a grove.

Cheers!

Melissa

Camping and coffee and dogs

It has been super hot here in southern Colorado for the past few weeks. I have lived for most of my life,on the east coast, so you won’t find me complaining too much about the dry heat out here in Colorado, but the husband had a few days off so we thought we would take the dog and head for the mountains in search of cooler temps. We camp and backpack quite a bit, so we were also excited to take our Saint puppy, Winston, on his first tent camping excursion!

We found our slice of heaven for the weekend. One of the great things about Colorado is that you can really get away and not see another should if you want to. Even on a summer weekend.

 

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Winston was pretty jazzed to hop out of the car and find the temps in the 50s and nothing but wide open space and the ground littered with elk poop. Pretty much a dogs dream vacation.

Oh- and he actually did amazingly well in the tent! We have a two man backpacking tent,so…….it’s SMALL. Like……REALLY small.Like- it weighs less than 4 lbs. images

This is what it looks like. It’s the Big Agnes Rattlesnake 2 Mountain Glo and we freakin’ LOVE IT. Its got those cool little lights sewn into the tent itself. SO posh.

We spread out a towel on the ground inside the tiny vestibule of the tent for Winnie and he curled right up and was out. Except for one unexpected foray crawling INSIDE the tent…….on top of us, he did great. I guess he just wanted to check it out. After that he spent the rest of the night sprawled half in and half out of the vestibule. So- this dog will  camp. And- HEY-Big Agnes , if you were wondering if a Saint Bernard can fit in your 2 man tent, the answer is YES.

Sort of.

But I have to tell you about my A-MAZING coffee find on this trip!

A while back I got a subscription for my husband to Cairn. Have you seen this yet?(If you sign up through the links in this post, we get points on our account that we can use for more free outdoor swag). If you are an outdoor enthusiast, this is the best $25 bucks a month you will ever spend. We have gotten SO MANY great products in these boxes! I’m not a big subscription girl (In fact, this is my only one) but this has been a great deal.  I always take any of the food and drink items out of the Cairn box and stow them with our camping gear so that on our next outing, we can try them out. This time around, one of the things we tried was this coffee by Little Red Wagon. Before I tell you about this coffee, you should know a few things about myself: 1.I freakin’ LOVE coffee and 2.I’m all about convenience and efficiency. If its too complicated…..I’m out. So personally, I have found it really hard to beat the convenience of the Starbucks VIA instant packets, when backpacking. I’ve never thought that Starbucks had a decent cup ‘o  plain joe, but the little packets are super small and light weight and it DOES taste like it was brewed.

BUT- hold. the. phone. Enter  GEO. My life has been changed forever. Never again will I have to settle for swill when backpacking. This little packet produced the best pour-over coffee I’ve had the pleasure to sip. Pure. Genius.

Here is the packet:camping in colorado

I already had my doubts, because lets face it. Its early. AND the sun is coming up in a hurry and I need my coffee stat. Because thats what you DO when you’re camping. You have your steaming coffee and watch the sun rise. You have to.

Anyway, as soon as I opened the packet, I was immediately intrigued. The folks at Little Red Wagon created this amazing little contraption that stretches to fit over your cup. It was uncomplicated and the little cardboard holder was also surprisingly sturdy.

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Wut? Tell me more……(And omg. YES. We are all hooked on the creamer. Don’t judge.)

This next part made me nervous, but it worked like a charm. You literally just tear open the filter bag along the perforated line. This also was really well done, because it came off in a snap, no problem. So NOW THIS is what it looked like: camping in colorado

All that was left was to add water from my little Jet Boil. Seriously. Pour- over coffee……on the trail. And the taste. The taste was like sweet love in a mug. camping in Colorado

So, we are ordering a bunch of these babies and our lives will never be the same. We are different people. Better, somehow. Because thats what good coffee does. It makes us better. And if there is anything more relaxing than the picture below, I don’t know what it would be. I missed the actual sunrise with my coffee, but I saw an elk herd making its way across, so I was instantly gratified. I want to go back right.now.

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So, there you have it! Great coffee, great views, great dog. Doesn’t get much better than that.

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Cheers!

Melissa