Boulder, CO, Bees, and Bountiful Coffee?

It is time for Halloween and Pumpkin Spice Lattes. I’m so committed to the PSL though that I drink Chai Lattes year-round which to me have the same essence as PSLs and it’s really no difference. That said, I’m trying to avoid Starbucks for a few reasons. The first being I like the taste of black espresso more than regular coffee, and since we now own an espresso machine thanks to our wedding registry, it’s the cheapest option. Plus, I am one of those intense people who think grinding beans is relaxing. The second reason is now that I am blessed to live in a fantastic city like Colorado Springs; I want to try coffee places that are unique to the local area.

The most Colorado Springs moment happened to Matt and me when we picked a random shop to visit… it ended up being a coffee shop located in a strip mall church called HearthStone Native Coffee. Google maps arrived us, and it was a relatively empty parking lot, and if we were in Stranger Things, maybe this would be where the Demogorgon gathers all the brainwashed humans. We were committed though and called asking if we had the directions right. It turns out we had to walk inside the church, and there was the coffee shop… it turns out the coffee was delicious! Amazing actually. No one even tried to ask us to attend the church either, and I respected that.

Colorado Springs has a weird aura to it in the Army since it’s a hotbed for different religious groups. Just google all the various problems the Air Force Academy has run into with being a little too forceful on the spiritual front. I can’t say I’ve experienced anything negative yet though since I’ve been here. Sure, there’s churches everywhere and coffee shops in churches, but that’s fine and isn’t that different from driving to Houston from Fort Polk and seeing the mega-churches along the freeway.

I bring this up because this weekend we decided to head up to Boulder, CO, which was only an hour an a half away from ‘the Springs.’ Since it was so close, I wondered if it would be similar to Denver and Colorado Springs. It was wildly different! But in a good way! I haven’t met a place in Colorado I haven’t enjoyed yet, but Boulder was like a quiet Denver, and since it was so close to a university, it had a more casual and young vibe than the former two cities. You weren’t going to stumble into any coffee shops supporting churches. Instead, Boulder had a store representing I think every international hiking brand in the world, I kid you not.

Even a brick and mortar fjallraven which sells more than just backpacks… they also do free in house tailoring.

But enough about that… I DID MY FIRST REAL HIKE IN COLORADO!

We went to a trail called the Royal Arch, which was only 3 miles but was rated as hard on Alltrails.

Spoiler: It was hard.

My butt still is sore.

Afterward, I inhaled two restaurants worth of sushi (we had to go to two different restaurants because I became hungry after we left the first) and then I also had three beers and a chicken BLT.

Being motivated, we also stopped by the REI labor day sale and got some gear in preparation for hiking a 14er! Walking those are definitely on my Colorado bucket list, and even though this three-miler killed me, it just made me even more excited to hike. I think Pikes Peak will be one of our first, but I recently learned that there’s a shuttle that can pick you up from the summit so if we are drastically under-prepared and tired, we have an escape plan. Of course, the last thing I want to be is under-prepared at that elevation so the preparations will continue. Hopefully, we will be able to tackle them soon though I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s next year that we get down into the nitty-gritty.

Some other noteworthy adventures we were able to to this long weekend was to do mead tasting at Savannah Bee Company which had a store on Pearl Street in Boulder.

I had no idea what mead was until this moment.

I kind of vaguely knew it was mentioned in things like Game of Thrones and maybe like my medieval theology class in college? But it’s one of those things I never dived into or worried about in the English language.

I guess it’s just alcohol made with honey and thus, it’s pretty old.

The mead tastings had a lot of unique flavors. We ended up buying the “Peachin’ to the Choir” flavor, which had the lowest alcohol content, which is most likely why I enjoyed it since it didn’t overwhelm my palette with alcohol.

They had a champagne infused one, but that seemed to be asking for trouble.

I do not know why I love bees so much. The whole store was poppin’ with women similar to my age, and I can’t understand why bees are cool and fun and cute right now, but I am on board with it. Reminded me of our Denver trip where my hotel’s gimmick was to have beehives on the rooftop, and they used the bees to make the shampoo and conditioner for the rooms and the onsite spa.

B*!@$es love bees.

Matt surprised me one night as well by scheduling as for a cooking class by Food Lab!

I was pretty surprised by how much fun we both had. We both agreed that cooking classes are fun mostly because the hard part (measuring out and gathering all the ingredients) is done by someone else.

It did make me realize though that I would enjoy a more in-depth and serious class on cooking, especially since most of the books I’ve been reading this year are food-related, but this was an excellent introduction. The Chef went over different ways to cut food whether that was only using one slit to cut a bell pepper entirely, getting the garlic casings off, why to remove the outside layer of an onion, and of course different ways to hold a knife while cutting for safety and ease.

We ended up making a scallop and fish dish and were paired up with another couple too. They also had a bar to sip on drinks while you were cooking.

I will be going back to Boulder. I probably don’t need to spend the night there anymore, maybe just a day trip or a quick one-night camping trip, but it was a great place to be. I think I like Boulder more than Denver, are those fighting words???

Next week I will be more integrated into my work and job, so hopefully, I will have more to report on the Army front.

Me looking the most Colorado I’ve ever looked outside of the hotel we stayed at, The Boulderado.

Moving on from Ft. Sill

I’ve officially made it to Fort Carson! I’m sitting in a real house with a couch and bed instead of an apartment with neither of those.

It’s been a good time since the last time I posted: I went to Austin, TX (because who knows when I’ll be in Texas next); I did some last-minute adventures around FT Sill; I graduated FA CCC; I drove ten hours with my cat.

museofweird.JPG

In Austin, Matt and I celebrated the fourth of July weekend by watching fireworks from the rooftop of the library. It sounds lame, but it had unrestricted views of the show, BBQ, and alcohol soooo what could be bad? We ended up kayaking a bit and even checked out the Museum of the Weird which had a man who could conduct electricity through his body. I don’t know how to say it more exciting than factual because it was wild. I believe it was real. If you touched a light-bulb to him, it lit up! When touching him, it felt like brushing up against a light electric fence.

Arguably weirder though was the Yeti Cooler Flagship Store. We noticed a lot of crowds and wondered how all these people could be spending the 300 dollars to own a little cooler. It’s then we realized that half of the store was a bar and after getting a drink, you could sit on the various coolers around the store and enjoy it.

It was so…. Upper-middle-class millennial culture in one spot. It’s hard to explain, but Matt and I were truly blown away by how absurd it all was.

I guess that’s Austin for you?

The Tuesday following Austin, I had my final exam in FA CCC.

My section in FA CCC

My section in FA CCC

It was a four-hour essay based test. We got to use open notes and open publications though so I just had to write fast to get the information on paper but finding and knowing the material wasn’t hard. I guess that’s one thing that’s funny about the Army - you can figure out 98 percent of your job if you can find the right publication, so I guess it was a good test in that sense. Overall, I am not sure how vital CCC was for my development. I do think I needed something since I needed to learn the Military Decision Making Process (MDMP and for non-Army people, it’s this step action drill you use at BN and above to figure out how you want to do an operation). I do feel like it could’ve been condensed or taught online, but I am happy I got to meet so many new people and see my peers. When you’re at a unit, there aren’t many people of your same rank. To be with 14 in my squad alone and then 51 in the class, that was a good time! Also, getting to meet so many many people was a great chance to network and learn a bit of stuff that happened outside of Polk.

I am super excited to start working at a unit again. Right now, the rumor is that I will be going to a SBCT here at Carson. For artillery, I’ll be working with the same piece I worked on as an XO at Polk, the M777. The people I’m supporting won’t be light infantry though; it’ll be the heavy world.

I’m glad I can get the other side of the Army spectrum.

On the domestic front, I’m happy to be living with Matt again and to have a real house. It’s fun to own a home and to have a yard! I didn’t realize I was such a yard person until I got one. I like to sit on my patio and dig holes and plant things if I want without worrying about lease agreements and other people. One con that we have already run into is WALLPAPER. Usually, on shows like TLC where people buy houses, I judge people who say they don’t like a home because of the wall color. Surely you could fix it later! I scream at the TV. Well, after removing a room of wallpaper and having two more rooms left to remove, I completely understand.

Also, I will never buy wallpaper in my life, no matter how cute, and easy Anthropologie makes it look.

First Time in Denver

This long weekend, my whole body broke out into mild hives because I am apparently allergic to good times like full body massages.

Also, never trust your husband when you both agree to go to the couples massage naked, and then you take off your robe, and you realize that you are the only one naked. That being said, when I screamed at my masseuse at a top tier spa, “please don’t panic, I am naked under the sheets!”, that she probably didn’t care until that moment.

Of course, I had a blast. My next spa treatment probably won’t be for a long time though, and it will be a facial instead…first world problems.

This four day was incredible though. We decided to go a bit more boujee than usual because plane tickets out of OKC are WILDLY less expensive than traveling out of Alexandria, LA. Also, since we went to Denver, Matt just had to drive up and experienced more of a staycation.

Once I get to Colorado, we want to do a lot more staycations like stay in Boulder or even stay in a nice hotel in the Springs. One of my primary goals is to do one 14er, if not multiple of them.

The hotel we stayed at was The Brown Palace, which their selling point is being super old. It honestly reminded me of the way Disneyland’s Hollywood Tower of Terror looked just with fewer people standing around in line, no screaming, and no spiderwebs. It had that old-timey-rich vibe which I wasn’t mad about. It also had multiple restaurants, and the spa we went to was in our lobby. Another selling point of the hotel was its proximity to Sixteenth Street, which is just a long street where only one free bus takes you along to all the shopping and eating you could want. This street would not be complete with a few cannabis stores, but besides that, it actually looked very similar to Universal Studio’s City Walk…there was even a Coyote Ugly.

Maybe I am just craving theme parks?

Sixteenth Street is where I got to meet up with a few of my high school friends that live in Boulder. We had lunch together at Otra Vez (which was only meh) and went to an excellent and inexpensive brewery (Rock Bottom Brewery - I highly recommend!).

Meeting up with them, Shannon and Megan, was a lot of fun. We caught up, which is a code-word for ‘discussed our jobs and gossiped about everyone from high school based on FB and Instagram creeping.’

After saying bye to them, Matt and I focused the rest of our trip on food.

At one point we asked the concierge for recommendations, and he actually pointed us to a cool place I didn’t know about: Cholon. This place allowed you to either pick seating at the counter or the dining room. We selected the counter, and it is literally overlooking the kitchen. We got to watch hot prep and then the final plating stages. Cold prep was hidden away, but hot food prep is arguably the most fun to watch…though we were literally so close that I was sweating every time someone ordered fried rice due to proximity to the open flame.

We also had to try tea at the hotel…

The only people that go to tea though are bridal parties and then children who are three years old, but I still enjoyed my champagne, scones, and fancy sandwiches. I would do it again. I wrote down that it was Matt’s birthday on the reservation (his birthday is May 18, so I wasn’t lying) and the classical piano man played happy birthday, and Matt got a cupcake.

A bit more classy then Texas Roadhouse where they just shake silverware in cups.

If anyone wants to go to tea though, feel free to invite me because that is my jam.

On our last full day, we went to the best steak place I’ve ever been to.

Everything was absolutely delicious. It’s called Guard and Grace, and it has another location in Houston which is kind of too bad since I like feeling cool at discovering new places, but kind of awesome since there are more places I can experience this excellent steak at.

I didn’t take any photos because we dug in and ate too fast.

Besides eating, we did manage to do one cultural thing, which was to go to the art museum. A large section of it was still under construction though, but military get in free! We didn’t know that until we got up to the desk, so that was a pleasant surprise. The art was an exciting mix of contemporary and historical. I liked it so much that I think I will be back for my next Denver trip. I guess I really feel like I’ve done that sixteenth street/downtown Denver area though and can branch out a bit more next time.

Hawaii Honeymoon

Listen, I know that Hawaii is super cliche for honeymoons, but Matt and I had an amazing time. It could simply be because we were pumped just to be together for an extended period of time. This September will be exactly two years apart but the current plan is that we will live together before July ends. Thus, not reaching that two year mark. As it’s the Army though, we will just be thankful for the days we do get together.

Since we have already been to Hawaii together (it’s where Matt proposed), we didn’t feel the same kind of stress to ‘must-see’ everything. We ended up seeing a comedy show on one of the days featuring a few comics with Hannibal Buress as the main man. He summed up our time in Hawaii perfectly: you just enjoy the breezes. People ask you what you’re doing? The weather man, it’s great.

Interestingly enough, near the end we both looked at each other and at the same time said, wow this vacation is really long. We are really relaxed.

Not that we are two people who would ever complain about being relaxed.

We did do a lot though. I’m not trying to scare anyone off from ever traveling with me but I am known for being an over-planner and kind of detail oriented? Shocked gasps are heard through out the audience. Here’s an example of the spreadsheet I made to work us through our vacation:

hawaii planning.png

Those who know me though know that I did cut back a lot on my planning tendencies because the end goal was to end up relaxed so I tried my best not to overload the schedule but we still got in two different islands (Maui and the Big Island) and various meanderings.

Our first days in Hawaii, we were in Hilo and we were honestly SHOOK at how…rural and unlike Oahu it was. Everyone has heard of Hilo so we just assumed it would be poppin’. We were very wrong but we still got a good meal and AirBNB stay. I think the most romantic thing we did was just get a box of food with spam musubi, chicken, and football rolls and find a random black sand beach and just sit and eat.

Not to get too sappy on you.

Our next stop was Volcano, HI which was…more rural but I suppose we weren’t surprised this time. We were also staying in a tree house which featured a hot tub! But also limited electricity and a compostable toilet. We did enjoy the hot tub immensely but we promptly lost power the first day after making coffee and boiling eggs. I suppose I shouldn’t be that surprised because once when I was a Fire Direction Officer (math person for artillery) one of my soldiers plugged in their hot pot and the truck shuttered sadly and died. I guess those suckers take a lot of watts.

As far as compostable toilets go, you essentially just need to bury what you left behind in the toilet.

Like cats.

The Volcano National park was only a five minute drive away. Most of it was closed due to recent problems and rumbling but we still had a lot of fun and saw a lot of things.

volcano-1.jpg

After our stay in Volcano, we made our way to the other side of the island, Kona. This side is the more touristy side which we weren’t mad to see. More touristy means more food! A notable place we ate at was Umekes where Matt tried poke for the first time. It was a place that was featured on Guy Fieri’s show, Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives.

We did a day trip to Waipio Valley to look at taro farms. Taro is what poi is made of and if you’ve ever been to a luau (Matt and I have been to three and I’m not sure what that says about us) you know about poi. Luau poi is usually watered down though, and the poi we had at the farm was actually pretty thick, like mochi.

After some breeze-enjoying-days, we headed to Maui on Christmas Day. We forgot to research any food options so we did what every American does when they don’t eat at home on a major holiday, got thai food.

In Maui, we did decide to splurge on a few adventures. From our last trip, we knew that there was no way in h e double hockey sticks that we were going to drive the road to Hana ourselves, so we hired someone and it ended up being one of the highlights of our trip. The guide was able to show us many cool waterfalls that even if Matt and I knew about before driving, we would be too stressed to even park. I guess it’s nicknamed the divorce drive due to the perilous turns and tight corners.

Another Maui adventure was checking out the Haleakala Crater which thankfully was open and clean, despite the government shutdown. I’d like to think that people care for national parks and can be trusted not to litter… luckily Haleakala was amazing and gorgeous. We didn’t wake up early to do the sunrise because we were breeze enjoyers, but we still found it awesome. After seeing what the drive was like in the day though, we were kind of happy that we didn’t risk the drive up in the dark.

craterr-3.jpg

I think the crater was my favorite part of our vacation.

Our last day, we did a stand up paddleboard tour…we got to see a few turtles and just enjoy Maui’s waters. We learned that Matt doesn’t enjoy SUP as much as me.

Thank you for reading Matt and I’s honeymoon adventure.

Back Home In Time For Summer

Summer in Arizona-11.jpg

Getting back to the states has been amazing. It isn't just getting to do fun things like drink alcohol, but it's getting to simply relax. My job wasn't very hard at all - I wasn't lifting heavy things or having to go without a shower - but there is something to be said about having weekends completely free. As I worked more on call and made my own hours, I still worked everyday which meant no lazing around or being unavailable. Just the thought that someone can need you at any moment is a lot more stress than you'd think. Again, I'm not saying my job was ridiculously hard, but I certainly learned to enjoy the comforts I take for granted back home.

For example, I always wore a bra to bed just in case of indirect fire. I didn't want to run and take cover with nothing under my shirt. 

Sorry if that's TMI.

Once arriving home, after a week of reverse SRP (blood work, finance paperwork, etc for Army to file), I got to go to Arizona to see my fiance, parents, and cat!

The summer was pretty simple. Visited home which included getting to see some old friends from high school like Liz, Sara, and Sam. We played through an entire deck of cards.

We also got to visit Matt's family friend in Sedona which was awesome. We had good conversation with her and got to hike during the day time.

Since we were decently close to the Grand Canyon we also stopped by there where we didn't hike but just gawked around with the rest of the tourists. Instagram is really changing the game at National Parks. I once read an article that people think it's bad as the sudden influx of people is causing the growth along paths to be stunted and that enjoyed the quiet of the great outdoors is almost impossible now... check out this NPR article. While I understand the sentiment, I think it's unfair to say that. Sure, at the Grand Canyon it's almost comical to see hundreds of girls from around the world dressed like an Urban Outfitters front page instead of hiking boots walking around on the ledges but at the same time, if they are going where visitors are allowed to go, why not? The tone of those articles are always concerning to me because it implies that you have to be special visit national parks when that's the exact opposite of what national parks are supposed to be for. While that article mentions some really bad stuff (like waste disposal problems), maybe it's a call for national parks to build up their infrastructure. Apparently at Horseshoe Bend, they've started to build a fence around the area so visitors don't fall to their deaths. Is it annoying for photos? Probably, but they're ready and if you've been to the town around Antelope Canyon and Horseshoe Bend, I'm sure you can agree that the town is in love with the tourist revenue. And again, that's okay for them to be! 

I actually plan 90 percent of my vacations with Instagram. What better why then to find what their is to see then to see what others have already proven is awesome?

Me doing Savasana/Corpse Pose to join the yoga pose Instagram trend.

Me doing Savasana/Corpse Pose to join the yoga pose Instagram trend.

While in Arizona, Matt and I also got to do a lot of wedding planning which included: seeing the venue; meeting with our DC/MC and picking all our songs (we are still stumped on first dance song, any suggestions?!?!); and meeting with the florist. We also got a timeline which means I'm just one motivated Sunday away from actually ordering the formal invitations.

It's coming sooner than I think, I have a feeling. I still need to do dress fitting and buy things like shoes...real tempted just to wear flip flops since no one will see them but at the same time my brain really wants Louboutin shoes just because I can use the event as an excuse to spend all that money... we shall see. Probably not heels though because I'm not trying to fall down in front of my entire family.

While we were traveling, I managed to get Matt to start using my camera so I can be in artsy shots too! Here is his progression: