Sunday, July 26, 2015

Behr-y, Behr-y good paint

Watching paint dry is vastly underrated.
The home improvement continues at a frenetic pace in advance of a couples' shower hosted by my three darling sisters, coming up on Aug. 9th, here at Chez MOG (Mother of the Groom). I'm finally getting around to painting our little "gallery hall" adjacent to the powder room. This is where our guests can view pictures of us and our relatives, going back four generations, as they wait to use the john.  I am the designated interior painter of the family and, as such, I highly recommend Behr Ultra, paint AND primer in one can. (Would you believe this hallway used to be a deep cranberry red?!) The color is French Silver.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

La Fresh Travel Wipes

I was so caught up in all the negative drama surrounding our overnight trip to California (see entry below for unsparingly nightmarish account), I forgot to express my enthusiasm for a new product line I tried out along the way.  I found a plastic bag full of samples from La Fresh (probably sent to me years ago) as I was packing a small carry-on bag for our flight. We wanted to be as nimble as possible (you know, just in case we got hung up somewhere....ugh) and these little packets came in very handy. My sample package contained an antiperspirant (which kept me remarkable cool during the San Diego fiasco), anti-bacterial (handy when a blister on my foot popped open), make-up remover, sunscreen and two more wipes I didn't use (see photo). So easy! So space-saving! So spill-proof! I highly recommend La Fresh for frequent fliers. Sadly, that won't be me for a while. I'm sticking to road trips for the foreseeable future.

Monday, July 20, 2015

38 Hours in Hell: A Travel Diary

     This entry is intended primarily as therapy, but since it qualifies as a "review" (albeit a bad one), I have no problem posting it on my blog.
     We left the house at 11:30 am CDT on Saturday en route to Concord, California, for my husband's brother's celebration of life. The poor man had been valiantly battling brain cancer for over two years and did not want a funeral. His family eventually decided a celebration of life was in order for those he left behind, so we gladly paid the big bucks for a last-minute flight, booked a rental car and hotel room and off we went.
     The outbound Southwest flight that was to connect in San Diego for our flight to Oakland left Kansas City on time. All was going well until the pilot came on the loud speaker and said, in that distinctive wannabe-stand-up-comic Southwest tone, "Well, folks. You've probably noticed we've been circling San Diego for a while. (Actually, I didn't.) They've got a bit of bad weather there (In San Diego? Really?) and we're starting to run of out fuel. I'm afraid we'll have to divert to Phoenix. But, don't worry, we'll be there in a jiffy. They've got dust storm warnings in Phoenix, but we'll let you know what kinds of fresh hell you can expect to further stress you out just as soon as we can." (I paraphrased a little.)
    After 45 minutes on the ground in Phoenix, it was apparent we would miss our connecting flight to Oakland. "Don't worry, darlin'," the oh-so-sympathetic Southwest flight attendant said after I played the 'we've got a funeral in the morning' card. "We'll get you there. They know all about you on the ground." Do they? Great. Wonderful. Color me reassured. Finally, we landed in San Diego where the airport looked like one of those creepy zombie apocalypse movies. I've never seen so many dead-eyed, ravenous and pissed-off people in one place.
    There were so many delayed and missed flights (remnants of Hurricane Delores) we were left on our own. No one to tell us where to go or what to do. Long lines at every counter. Chaos and confusion everywhere. The next available flight to Oakland had been cancelled and the 8:15 flight was already delayed to 9:45 (11:45 our time). Fortunately, the gate for that flight was in a completely different part of the airport, so we schlepped over, found a desk without a line and a Southwest employee who didn't seem like he wanted to kill himself. Or us. He booked us onto the 9:45 flight and handed us new boarding passes. Now we only had 3-1/2 hours to kill. We headed to the closest and only bar/grill where a bunch of bachelorettes from the delayed Vegas-bound flight were at least 4 drinks ahead of us. Not that we were trying to keep up. We still had to drive 45 minutes from Oakland to Concord in our ALAMO rental car.
Gettin' sloppy, girls.
If this were a video, you would hear very loud, very slurry talking.
We were very glad not to be on their flight when it finally took off.
    Fast forward to Oakland where we landed around 11:15 pm (1:15 am, our time - did I mention my bedtime is 10 pm?) and shuttled to the rental car complex where ALAMO WAS CLOSED!  "But, their website says "Open 24 hours!" "Not on Saturday night," said the AVIS lady at the next kiosk who gladly rented us a large deluxe model ("No small ones left") for twice what we would have paid for the ALAMO car.
    Driving out of Oakland on the freeway in the dark isn't a pleasure cruise, but we safely arrived at the CROWNE PLAZA HOTEL in Concord around midnight. My husband stayed in the car while I approached the night manager behind the desk. "Hamilton. Checking in," I said, wearily. "Oh, Mrs. Hamilton. Sorry, but we don't have your room. We're sold out tonight." "That's impossible. I prepaid for the room on Priceline. In full. Non-refundable." I produced the paperwork. "Yes," he said. "And, we couldn't get hold of you..."
    I am not necessarily proud of what happened next, but I'm not sorry either. To explain it, let's just say I morphed into someone else. Call her my evil twin, inner bitch, awful alter ego, whatever. But, I laid into that guy like I have never laid into anyone before: "Are you f%#$ing kidding me? This is NOT acceptable. We have been traveling for 12 hours from Kansas and have a funeral to go to in the morning! I paid for this room in full. Now, listen to me. I want a room. This is your problem, not mine. You need to find us the room that I PAID FOR right now G'dammit!" He looked sick. "What happened was, we had a group who wanted to stay another day..." "I don't CARE! Do you hear me, I don't give a sh**! That room was paid for and you need to fix this RIGHT NOW. I'm going to f#&$ing DESTROY you on TripAdvisor, Yelp, Priceline, Facebook and my own very popular award-winning blog!!" (OK, I didn't actually say that last line out loud but I wanted to, dammit!)  "We could give you a roll-away bed in the parlor," he actually offered, his hand starting to shake. "Do I look like I'm going to be a happy camper on a f%#$ing roll-away bed in your f%#$ing PARLOR!?!?! (And, what the hell is a hotel parlor, anyway?)
    Minutes later, we were in transit to the Hilton five minutes away - a much nicer hotel than the Crowne Plaza - where, thankfully, the bar was still open and the bed was not on wheels.
   After the lovely and peaceful celebration of life yesterday, we headed back to Oakland International at 3 pm. California time, for our non-stop flight home, which was only two hours late.
Making the most of it at Gate 25.
We climbed into our own bed at 1:30 a.m. this morning, just as a storm rolled into Kansas City. 
    Our next flight isn't scheduled until my 60th birthday in December. Until then, I'll be channeling the immortal Dorothy Gale on a daily basis: There's no place like home.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Devil's Thumb Wrap-up: Trail Ride & Gourmet S'Mores

The last morning of our work/play/wedding vacation was spent confronting one of my long-lasting anxieties: horseback riding. It's not that I fear horses (nor do they fear me.) It's just that I had never had a successful horseback riding experience in 59 years. The most notable fiasco was the hubs' and my second date in 1975 when he took me riding at the local stables. A romantic notion, no doubt, but I was unfortunate enough to draw a tired and cranky old horse named Big Dude who, unlike my future spouse, just wasn't into me. I mean, the guy took 20 steps out of the stable and just froze. Did. Not. Budge. As in, "Uh, sorry. You're not worth it." It's a great story to tell now, but the whole incident left me skeptical where the equine species is concerned. Thankfully, that ended with our fantastic trail ride at Devil's Thumb stables...
From the time we checked in to the end of the trail, the wranglers were friendly, helpful and covered the "Riding For Dummies" basics in an efficient and confidence-inspiring manner.
After an intimate moment of bonding, the hubs prepares to hop on Little Joe.
Ever-vigilant Megan leading us into the aspen grove.
We had Wrangler Megan all to ourselves on the breathtakingly gorgeous trail. She even obliged us by taking our photo to prove, once and for all, that Big Dude no longer defines our riding experience.
We both somehow managed to turn and back our horses up several feet for this shot. That's Buster under my saddle.
Now, here's why we probably won't be riding horses anytime soon again, despite the wonderfully positive experience: MY BUTT HURT LIKE THE BLAZES THE WHOLE WAY HOME IN THE CAR! (Omigod. Seriously, people.) Before the saddle soreness set in, however, we enjoyed one last meal at Heck's restaurant and the best darned s'mores this side of the Continental Divide out on the patio. The secret? Stuff'nmallows with mint chocolate chips baked inside!
They make them in Ft. Collins. Genius. I can't wait to buy a case for the next fire ring party here at the old Kansas homestead.
So long, Devil's Thumb. Thanks for the memories, pardners!

Monday, July 13, 2015

Fly fishing lessons @ Devil's Thumb Ranch

    Of the myriad of activities available for the doing at Devil's Thumb, we chose fly fishing lessons today. The hubs and I have been in search of a hobby we might be able to enjoy together as we approach our golden years and, given our vast differences, interest-wise, it was either this or hiking....and my crazy big toe still isn't back to normal.  
     My dad was a fly-fishing enthusiast (albeit more in theory than reality) and I've always wondered if I might take to it like (gulp) a fish to water. The jury is still out, my friends.
Me intently watching our fantastic teacher, Kevin, tying a knot. There is an extraordinary amount of stuff to know about fly fishing to do it well.  Hell, even to do it badly.
When the hubs started casting, Kevin likened him to Brad Pitt's stunt double in "A River Runs Through It." 

My poor fly after a 2-hour beating.

Why is this woman smiling?
After an hour-and-a-half instruction, Kevin cut us loose and I promptly forgot 68% of everything I learned. In the above photo, I am smiling joyfully, even though my line had been stuck for 15 minutes in the knot of my hoodie tied around my waist. I didn't yet understand why I couldn't get any distance in my casting. What an idiot.

Scenes from Devil's Thumb Ranch

I highly recommend you read the history of this beautiful Rocky Mountain resort, because I won't be able to do it justice in the time I'm allotting myself.  Nor can my pictures convey the real-life loveliness of the surroundings here.  But, I'll give it my best shots...
One view of the complex. Wedding 'altar' to far left.
Large deck adjacent to one of the two event space barns.
See that tiny digit sticking up between the hills? That's the devil's thumb.
Breakfast: Smoked trout scramble. Killing me softly.
The view from our bed.
One of many cozy conversation nooks throughout the property.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Devil's Thumb Ranch - Tabernash, CO

Shoot me now, it can't get better than this.  We arrived two hours ago and won't be getting our official tour of Devil's Thumb Ranch until later. But from what I've seen, I'm fairly sure this is heaven. If not, you can touch it from here.
Our room. Bed and sofa face fireplace. Yums.
The view from our deck. That's the Continental Divide way off in the distance.
Where I'm sitting right now. Excellent wifi, by the way.
Luscious rug in the bath.
Happy hubs in the sun... finally.
I'll have more from this dreamlike place later. Happy trails, friends!

Saturday, July 11, 2015

The Stanley Hotel & Rocky Mountain Nat'l Park

The view from the front porch of The Stanley Hotel in Estes Park, CO

At the highest point in Rocky Mountain Nat'l Park

The front porch of The Stanley

Roadside elk in the park

The back view of the hotel at dusk

A bemused elk in the park
It's windy at 12,000+ feet!
I will have more of a review later (mixed, as far as the hotel is concerned).  Now, we're off to bask in the mountain sun.

Friday, July 10, 2015

Lunch at St. Julien

I can't imagine a lovelier view from any restaurant in Boulder than the terrace at Jill inside the St. Julien Hotel. And the food was inspiring, too! Try The Blast sandwich: Salmon, pancetta, avocado, arugula, chipotle aioli, sour dough. Need I say more? Into the mountains we go!!

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone
Location:Boulder, CO

Denver Union Station and Happy Hour at the Renaissance

We did a lot of walking yesterday, taking advantage of the sunshine (Colorado has endured a wet summer, too) and landed at Union Station.
Small by Kansas City standards, the gorgeous station is still a happening with shops, bars, a restaurant and a hotel.
There's even a couple of shuffleboard tables to help while away the hours until your train departs. 
After our afternoon stroll, we spent another happy hour in the sexy lobby of the Renaissance Hotel where there was complimentary adult punch and an excellent singer on guitar playing everything from Tracy Chapman to Van Morrison. The punch of the day (they do this every weekday from 5-6 pm) was a refreshing blend of vodka, Prosecco, fresh raspberry juice and fruit, and lemonade, garnished with fresh mint.
The punch bowl was empty after only 15 minutes.

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Vesta Dipping Grill, Denver CO

Last night, after a lovely happy hour in Tellers bar at our hotel, where I was almost done in by a cocktail called "Witch, Don't Kill My Vibe," we had dinner at Vesta Dipping Grill which serves grilled meats and an assortment of inventive sauces in which to dip said meat. This is how I love to cook at home (my husband calls me the Sauce Queen or "saucy," as the case may be), so I was thrilled to find a restaurant adapting this concept. The food did not disappoint. Sadly, I was too hungry from a long day on the road with too little to eat to take any pictures. You can find all the info you need here.  Highly recommended.

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Renaissance Downtown Denver

Rain showers notwithstanding, it was a smooth trip to Denver where I begin my one-week work/play/wedding adventure. The Renaissance Downtown Denver hotel is fabulously housed in an old and swanky bank. (Don't you just love those two words together: Swanky bank?) Take a gander at that seductive lobby, will you? I can't wait for the 5 o'clock wine tasting to begin!
More later.  Cheers!

Boomer Girl Review: Ultimate Oriole Feeder

I've still got a way to go before I'm feeding pigeons on the steps of St. Paul's (which I never thought was a bad thing to do ...