July 22, 2014

A 5K, North Cheyenne Canon Park, and Pho and Grille

Last Friday, a friend and I decided to run the Firecracker 5K on Ft. Carson.  She enjoys running more than I do, but hasn't done much of it here yet.  I think the altitude got the better of us both.  I felt SO out of shape.  I usually rely on whatever cardio ability I've naturally retained to get me through 5Ks and such (7 minute mile in high school, #neverforget).  My first 5K was 32:00 minutes, my first 10K was 55:27, and this 5K was 33:18.  Not my proudest moment but considering that I: didn't train, had never run in Colorado before, and had never run in this pair of sneakers before, it wasn't too bad.  I came away feeling like the world's most unprepared person.  But, in my defense, it was a trail run and there were HILLS.  As if the elevation weren't enough, they added gravel hills.  It was terrible.

And my shirt was too big.  Pitfalls of signing up late. 

Moving on…

As my friend and I were running, we talked about the fact that "this is it till Monday when it comes to working out, so if it hurts tomorrow, that's okay". I wasn't expecting Scott to be home on Saturday and was planning on having a lazy day.  Instead, he came home Friday night and wanted to "do" something on Saturday and we ended up going hiking.

My poor feet.

We went to North Cheyenne Canon Park, which is right in the middle of Colorado Springs.  It's right near the Broadmoor Hotel and has several trails to offer.  I went into the Starsmore Discovery Center (which reminded me of the Eagle River Nature Center, for any Alaska readers out there) and asked the ladies at the desk what a good hike would be.  We had two dogs and weren't prepared for anything strenuous.  They gave me a map and suggested the Lower Columbine Trail.  It led to the Middle and Upper Columbine Trails, so it progressively got harder and took you 4 miles to Helen Hunt Falls. We did not make it all 4 miles because it was kind of a tough trail and we, going along with my unprepared theme, were not planning on such a hike.  We went the entire Lower trail, and did 3 switchbacks of the middle trail.  We were huffing and puffing and Jett was truly pulling me along.

My little sled dog. 

If you point at something and tell Jett to look, he will instead look at you.  This includes food, quail, and cameras.

Scout had had enough of us holding him back at this point.

After we went back to the truck for water and dog treats, we walked up to the reservoir and had a nice view, but there wasn't much to see up there.

Co Springs' water supply

The Broadmoor Hotel

We went back to the truck (slowly and painfully in my case…Jett just walks too fast) and headed off in search of a place to eat.  There is a TON of shopping and dining options on Powers Blvd.  It's where all my favorite stores are, plus Panera (ate there on Thursday), Super Target, Whole Foods, etc.  They even have a farmers' market on Thursdays.  It's on the opposite end of town, but the highway cuts right across to where our house is, so we can go in the back way and avoid all the I-25 traffic.

As we were driving through the parking lots, we saw Pho and Grille.  Scott had been wanting pho last week and we couldn't find a place near us.  Pho is Vietamese noodle soup and we really came to love it while we lived in Alaska.  Anchorage, being incredibly diverse, had just about every kind of cuisine you could imagine (except Panera, of course) and I don't remember if we ever found pho in the midwest.  I'm guessing not in Waynesville anyway.

After the 5K and that ridiculous hike, I wanted something more substantial than soup, so I had the Grilled Chicken Bowl.  We had shrimp spring rolls and Scott had a Thai iced tea (I took a sip or two…even my sweet tooth can't handle those things.)

This was, without a doubt, the best thing I'd eaten so far in Colorado.  I can't say it any more clearly.  If you want to make me happy, give me a big bowl of Asian noodles.  I don't even understand how it is possible to cook chicken so perfectly.  Plus, there was cucumber, carrots, bean sprouts, shredded lettuce, cilantro, peanuts, and a sweet and sour dressing over the whole thing.  I added some soy sauce and chili paste.  I ate as much as I could, but ended up taking half of it home. Scott said the pho was some of the best he'd ever had.

If you are in the mood for Thai/Asian/Vietnamese food in Colorado Springs, go to Pho and Grille.  It's right next to an I-max theater, along a street of outdoor shops.  We can already tell that this is going to be our go-to location for dinner and movie nights.  It was absolutely fantastic.

And then we went to Coldstone Creamery, which was right next door.

  • If you are going to hike in North Cheyenne Canon, take a backpack with water and snacks.
  • You do not have to pay to park or hike.  It's all free!
  • If you are going to eat Asian food in Colorado Springs, go to Pho and Grille.

July 21, 2014

Decorating on a budget: $147 later

I come from a long line of bargain shoppers.  I was brought up to believe that there is a big difference between buying something cheap and buying something cheaply made.  Cheap means having good luck and "right time, right place".  It usually refers to outlet shopping, which I've done a lot of in my day.  Cheaply made means…fake wood furniture from Target (that I think is so, so pretty but Scott won't let me buy because it's "not real" wood or whatever). Or clothes from Old Navy.  I swear that some of the clothes I have from there hold up like champs, whereas others are garbage after one wash.

I love stores like Homegoods, Marshall's, T.J. Maxx, etc, because they have great goods and brand names for lower prices.  I have some issues when it comes to paying full price, so I rarely shop at more expensive chains (like Pottery Barn or Williams Sonoma) because I really don't think a lot of that stuff is worth it.  Also, I get quite a high from finding a bargain.

While I could probably go into a little bit of credit card debt over decorating this place and my husband would be none the wiser, I won't let myself.  You see, I thought ahead:  my in-laws gave us money for Christmas and I've been hoarding it away with the idea of "the new house" since December.  I wasn't going to waste it on stuff for a rental that may or may not work when we finally settled in our own home (I'm not crazy; I knew we were moving in the spring.)

So I had a list of things I wanted and needed and there's still more to get, but here's what I got at Homegoods and Jo-Ann Fabrics.  I don't have the receipts, but here's approximately what $147 got me.

Rug for the kitchen (top): $20
Rug for the guest bathroom (bottom): $20
Shower curtain rod for the guest bathroom: $15
Storage basket: about $8

Shower curtain: $15
Shower curtain liner: $5
Dog toy: $5
Shower curtain hooks: $6
Stemless wine glasses: $10

Basket: about $6
Vintage-looking hat boxes for the guest room: $8-10 each.  They were originally FIFTY DOLLARS EACH.  Who in their right mind would pay that much for decorative cardboard? 

Treat jar: $10

It came out to about $31 at Jo-Ann Fabrics and $116 at Homegoods.  I actually steered myself away from the clothes in the Marshall's portion, telling myself that would be a separate trip.  You can see that my splurge was probably the rugs, but I like having different rugs to choose from and I needed something without rubber on the back for the hardwood floor.  Plus, I liked the patterns.  

I also took a spin through Kirkland's because they do a great military discount and we're in the market for wall art, but I didn't see anything I just had to have.

Where do you like to shop for "home goods"?

July 18, 2014

To blog or not to blog

Being a blogger is tricky.  I have these real relationships with real people and I'd just love to pull you all aside and have coffee with you, you know?  Because there's some things we just don't want to talk about on the internet.  No one wants to be the blogger who shares and bares it all.  No one wants to be a vague-blogger either.  So where do we draw the line?

The answer is that no one really knows.  There's no magic formula about what we should and should not blog about. Some bloggers claim there is, but they're just in it for page views I think.   I don't make any money from this humble space, so I figure I can talk about whatever I want.  No limitations, right?  But, then again, I haven't figured out where my limits begin and end.  That's why it's tricky.  

We all have things we'd love to discuss with these good friends we've made through the interwebs, but it's hard to do when you don't know who's reading.  We all would, I'm sure, love to talk about personal troubles and triumphs with blog friends (talk about "troubles"it just took me 3 tries to spell "triumphs" correctly).  Sometimes we only hint at the things that are really going on in our lives because we don't want to come across as too high-maintenance.  However, sometimes we come across as boring or bland if readers can tell that we're not putting enough out there.

Like I said, it's a fine line.   There's nothing I would love more than to truly let everyone I choose in on everything in my world.  That's what friends are for, right?  More often than not, just like with real-life friends, we censor what we say because we don't want to make it all about us…am I right?

If we were to have coffee…

I'd tell you about my new skincare regimen.  How it finally seems like my skin is beginning to clear up after a miserable year.  How I'm not ready to go into details yet though because I'm afraid I'll jinx it.

I'd tell you how the army is causing Scott to be at work for 15 to 24 hours a day and we're not used to that and it's a hard transition for him, for me, and for the poor dogs.  

I'd tell you that it's hard to live in a new place again and how I don't really have a support system here.  But I'd throw in that I'm SO grateful to have a couple of friends already.  The support system, I know, comes with time.  

I'd tell you that I went to the Air Force Academy to a doctor this week and I'm not sure how I feel about her.  But my options are limited because my insurance is through the military.  You can't just pick and choose where you go.  I'd add that "maybe this is a good reason to get out" of the army.  Choosing medical care is a privilege in this country, but ironically it's denied to military families.  

I'd also probably ask if you've watched anything good on t.v. lately. Maybe you thought last week's True Blood was surprisingly climactic too.

Then maybe we'd move onto more intelligent conversation, like books or something.  Or maybe not.

And then I'd ask if you wanted to go to Homegoods and buy baskets and shower curtains because that's what a fun afternoon looks like to me.

Where do you draw your own blogging line at?  Do you feel comfortable sharing everything you'd tell a friend over coffee?  

July 17, 2014

Stuff and Things 7/17

This week is both dragging and speeding by.  Something has come up everyday and my plans of making it into my classroom to start setting up have gotten derailed.  I have unloaded ALL THE STUFF there though because I couldn't look at it in my basement anymore.  

I was able to renew my Alaska driver's license through the mail.  I'm amazed at that.  Same picture, new license.  See you by 2020, Alaska.  You can only renew once through the mail.

Hello,  2010 Kristin.

We are remaining Alaska residents.  Scott's end game is to get some land there.  It wouldn't be a permanent home (because Kristin) but it would be his vacation spot.  I suppose I could make it work once a year or so.

I've been going to yoga or Pilates at least once a week.  I've been trying to make it to kettle bell too.  I'm only getting to the gym maybe twice a week because sometimes things interfere with class times, but I'm so much happier than I was last year when I was forcing myself to go everyday.

Denny with his girlfriend, Justine.  

My brother Denny graduated from the state police academy last week.  My parents should be very proud.  All 3 of us are now successful, employed, functioning members of society!  (I'm not even being sarcastic here.  3 out of 3 is a miracle in this day and age, right?)

I made Greek Pasta Salad a few weeks ago for dinner at the neighbor's house.  I was going to do a whole post on it but then every blogger I know started sharing it.  Repeat content is not popular, I know.  At least I have a pretty picture.  And I maintain that my mom made it first (back in 2003).

Orzo, feta, tomatoes, cucumber, black olives, red onion (if you're so inclined).  I did make my own dressing though.  I used Ina Garten's recipe (she's such a snob…a grown-up version of Blair Waldorf).

I bought $2 red wine vinegar from Wal-Mart and I know that's not what Ina is talking about here.  

Everyday I try to take the dogs around the property.  It's lots of sand, brush, and jack rabbits.  

Of course, I took that picture last week.  This week it has not stopped raining for more than a few hours at a time.  The amount of mud puddles I'm forced to drive through each day is insane.

Yesterday, I caught a mouse.  I had an inkling that there was one hanging out in the basement so I set a couple of those traps that contain them so you see that there is a mouse in it (as indicated by the super helpful gauge on the side) but it's opaque so you never actually see a mouse.  Well, the gauge said "MOUSE CAUGHT!", but it didn't seem like there was a mouse in it so I flipped it to "Set trap" and then out popped a dead mouse.  I almost threw up.  And I screamed a little bit too.

July 15, 2014

Pinned.Did.Done. 7/15

I try to use Pinterest as an actual tool and I've been pinning many decorating and teaching inspirations lately.  I never pin something without the intention of trying it, so I really attempt to keep track of what I've already done. I have a board dedicated to everything I've done, so here's a round-up of the last few weeks.  

Cucumber, Avocado, and Grape Salad.  This was delicious.  In fact, I'd make it for breakfast, lunch, or dinner.  For company or just for us.  It is one of the best things I've ever put together in my kitchen, and I think you should try it.  It's creamy, tangy, crunchy, and sweet.  Oh, and healthy.

Thai Peanut Sauce.  This is the best peanut sauce I've found so far.  I put it on a stir-fry. I didn't make the salad it's paired with because I'm not a fan of tofu, but I know I could easily add this sauce to any salad I create.  Are there actual Thai bottled dressings sold in the regular grocery store?  I've yet to find one.

Pho.  This is Martha Stewart's version of the homemade noodle soup and it is fantastic.  I hate this because I do not like Martha (she's a rich criminal), but the soup is good.

Vegan Banana Oatmeal Pancakes.  I don't know.  I think pancakes should have eggs and/or oil or something.  I didn't have much luck with these.

Cake Batter Ice Cream.  I have my own fantastic recipe for cake batter ice cream but when I went to make it last week, I realized I was out of cornstarch.  I was not driving 15 miles for cornstarch, so I went to this recipe I'd pinned a year ago.  It uses the old fashioned method:  eggs.  VERY easy to make, but I wasn't crazy about it.  Also, I added some chunks of funfetti blondies to it.  I still wasn't impressed.  Maybe I'm outgrowing the flavor of funfetti?  While that doesn't seem possible, Scott wasn't crazy about this ice cream either and it's still in the freezer a week later.  The world is truly out of balance.

Iced Coffee with a French press.  I've been brewing coffee in the French press, letting it sit in the press to cool, and then pouring it over ice.  It makes very strong (i.e. very good) iced coffee.  Much easier than straining!

How to Erase Chalk Markers.  This really works!  I bought a chalk marker to go with my two new chalkboards and, much to my dismay, it wouldn't erase with water.  Then I read this tip and it was like a miracle.  The secret:  use a Magic Eraser.  Brilliant.

Using salt, vinegar, and dish soap to get rid of weeds.  Our "yard" is all sand and gravel with weeds.  We tried this tip for getting rid of the weeds and it didn't work.  Not even a little bit.  Don't waste your time.  This wasn't the only pin with these particular instructions.  There were several out there, so I assumed it might have some validity.  It doesn't.  Don't try it.

Pin anything great lately?  Last night, I saw a pin featuring instructions (step by step) on how to make quesadillas.  Maybe Pinterest is making us dumber.