Sunday, October 25, 2009

Annual Colorado Trip-Friday Night Concert in Denver!! 10/2/09

I embarked on what has become my annual trip to Colorado Springs, needing to get out of the lingering heat in the Valley of the Sun, and get away from work for a while. My good friend Doug is always willing to host me. He shares my love of food and good wine, as well as hiking and music.

We started our evening by having dinner at The Blue Star wine bar & restaurant in Colorado Springs. I mention this restaurant every year in my blog post, and will continue to do so. It's the best wine bar I've ever been too. The menu changes with the seasons, and I've yet to have anything that even approaches lacking in taste. Doug & I shared a Malbec, ordered a couple tapas to share from their wide selection on the menu, then each got an entree, with more sharing. We did manage to hold ourselves back and only order one dessert, with coffee.

After stuffing ourselves, we hit the road to Denver and the BlueBird Theater to catch Better Than Ezra in concert. The BlueBird is one of the cooler venues I've been to for live music; I highly recommend seeing a show there. There wasn't a bad spot in the house, and if you don't mind the crowd, you can be extremely close to the band.

Josiah Leming opened up the night, playing solo on his keys and singing. He was followed by a Denver based band, the Knew, who are bringing back Hair Bands!! They rocked, and I enjoyed getting to hear their music for the first time.

Finally, Better than Ezra took the stage, and right away they had the crowd in the palm of their hand. I have loved Better than Ezra since high school, when I first heard "Good." It was my anthem, the song I played with windows rolled down speeding down the highway. Soon after came "Misunderstood," and I was hooked on the band. I'm a little ashamed that this is the first I've actually seen them live, but they were worth the wait.

At one point the audience was singing the chorus to "A Lifetime" and it gave me chills. That's such a poignant song, and to hear everyone pouring their heart into the lyrics was amazing.

BTE rocked out, and Doug & I had a blast.

After the crowd threatened to tear the place apart they came back out for an encore set of 3 songs, the first with the Ken Griffin doing an acoustic song, then the rest of the band joining in for the fun. It was the day after KG's birthday, and the end of the tour for BTE, so they were willing to go all night long. Keep rocking, and thanks for the great show guys!!

The Edge Fall Frenzy-A Music Festival at Tempe Town Lake

Danielle bought me tickets to the Fall Frenzy, which took place the weekend before my birthday. I met up with her and Mitch to enjoy some beautiful evenings (after the sun went down), beer, and good music.

 I ventured out to see a few bands live in concert that I had been long enjoyed, but never seen live. Sunday night was the Bravery, followed by Ben Harper & the Relentless 7, Flogging Molly, and Social Distortion. What a rockin' night of music!!

Sunday at Boston-A Hot Completion Sunday August 16th

Sunday morning rolled around, and all we really had left of our original plan was the Freedom Trail. (Since I botched the directions so badly earlier). We had some breakfast, then headed out on the trail. Unfortunately the sun had come out, and it was HUMID. We trudged out way around the town, with sweat glistening off us. About 20 minutes in, I realized this should have been the first thing we did, as the freedom trail goes through most parts of Boston, and we would have had a better layout of the town for our adventures. Live and learn.

We went through a few graveyards, discovered Little Italy (or the North End), and saw Old Ironsides, the oldest ship still in commission. We didn't make it all the way to Bunker Hill, it was too hot and we were done in.

We made it back to the hotel, collected our luggage, and took our last trip on the T back to the airport. Luckily we were upgraded for the flight home, and thus concluded our Boston Trip. Overall, it was a highly successful trip. We didn't kill each other, had several new experiences, and I got a ton of great photos.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Harvard, Museums, and Lobster Bakes. Boston Saturday August 15th

We had purchased the Boston Ticket pack, which meant we had prepaid for admission to several museums in addition to the Aquarium, which we had visited on the first day. I wanted to walk through the Harvard campus, and coincidentally the Harvard Natural Museum was on the list of places we could peruse. We hopped the T (experts at this point), and headed to Cambridge. You exit the T right onto Harvard square, and it was impressive. The streets were filled with students and parents attending orientation.

To get to the Harvard Museum of Natural History, you had to walk through campus, naturally. It was beautiful, and we got to hear snippets of tours being led through the grounds.
I thoroughly enjoyed the  museum; there were many specimans, fossils, glass flower arrangements from the 1800's, and a meteorite room!
After the Harvard tour we went back towards the Charles River to visit the Science Museum
It was geared more towards kids, but it was free, and there were several really interesting exhibits, including the CritterCam by National Geographic that scientists attach to animals in the wild to observe their natural behaviours. Matt found a plane engine and a triceratops that he adored.

On our way back to the train station, we encountered a beautiful old hotel (way out of our price range). It was quite posh inside, but I was only able to snap a picture of the exterior.

After a quick nap, we left the hotel for a late dinner at Legal Sea Foods by the harbor. I received a Management Excellence award at work, and part of the prize was a dinner to be expensed! We went all out for our last night in Boston with a nice bottle of wine, crab cakes, a lobster bake, and a delicious berry tart with coffee to close the meal. It was my first whole lobster (well, the first time I'd had more than a tail, but we split a large lobster), and it was delicious. Our waitress was amazing, she had all sorts of great recommendations for wine, dessert, how to order the meal, and even gave us the name of a cool Irish bar for after dinner fun. What a great night!!

Sam Adams Tour!! Friday in Boston-August 14th

Friday morning we lazed around the hotel room, then around 1pm, decided to head out to the Samuel Adams Brewery, which offers free (donations requested) brewery tours. For a $2 donation to a local charity you get an hour tour, a sampling glass, and three 7oz samples of beer. A young college student was our guide, and he got to carry a full size Sam Adams glass full of beer, which he drank frequently throughout the tour. That would have been a hell of a lot more fun than my college job!!

After the tour I made my way through the gift shop, buying a sweet Cherry Wheat tap handle that is too long to function on our new kegerator and a set of 4 Sam Adams lager glasses which came with a sturdy Octoberfest stein.

We went back to the hotel to deposit our loot, and since it was still early we decided to walk the freedom trail. Unfortunately I have no sense of direction and we cast out with a right turn instead of a left and wound up in a wrong part of town. After several more turns, trying to read the map upside down, and wondering if were going to be mugged, we gave up the search. Luckily, Matt didn't get angry at me, and we eventually found our way back to the hotel, then on to a bar for dinner. At least it was an adventure!!

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Boston Trip-Fenway Day!!

Thursday arrived, and with it our primary reason for vacationing in Boston. We got up, ate a quick breakfast at the hotel, then went to the train station to go to Fenway (It's at this point I wish we would have known the geographic layout of Boston better. We could have walked and avoided being packed into the T like sardines). Matt used to watch Red Sox games with his grandfather while he was growing up, so he has been a fan his entire life; going to a game at Fenway was a dream come true for him. I adopted the Red Sox back in 2004 when they came back from an 0-3 defiicit to beat the Yankees and Curt Schilling, a former Dback was pitching through his bloody sock to break the curse of the Babe.

We arrived at Fenway just before they opened the gates, which meant we had plenty of time to grab a few beers and enjoy the history of Fenway park. We meandered through, looking at all the old memorabilia, and eventually stumbling out onto Yawkey Way, which is closed off during games and considered part of the ballpark, so all ticketed fans can enjoy the shops and restauarants on that street.

It was a beautiful day for baseball, overcast and cool, with no rain. Unfortunately Verlander threw a shutout for the Tigers, and I only got to see Captain Varitek when he came out inbetween an inning to warm up the pitcher, but it was still amazing to be at the ballpark and watch a Red Sox game in person.

After the game we walked back to the hotel, enjoying the parks, architecture, and feel of the city. We had dinner at the oldest pub in Boston, Jacob Wirth's, with a delicious lobster macaroni and cheese. The bar has been open in the same spot since 1868, and it has a beautiful Mahogany bar, lots of great beer, and a friendly atmosphere.

August 12th&13th-Arriving in Boston

Europe doesn't seem to be in my plans for 2009, so I took Matt to Boston, which was as far East as we could go. A co-worker of mine who lives in Boston said if we ever made it out that way when the Red Sox were playing at Fenway, he would sell us his season tickets for a game. I managed to arrange the trip for the week of the Detroit series. The game was Thursday, and we took a red eye out (less points and guaranteed first class) Tuesday night. We arrived in Boston after a 5 hour flight at 5am, EST.

After gathering our luggage, we made our way to the "T Station" and only had to change trains once to arrive at our hotel, which was conveniently located just outside of a T Stop on the orange line. I loved Boston's public transportation; it made life much easier, and was a lot more economical then taking cabs, which we didn't have to do at all. We checked into the Downtwon Boston Doubletree, found a Dunkin Donuts for coffee, avoided a ridiculously expensive breakfast at the hotel, then took the T back to the Aquarium stop and waited for the New England Aquarium to open up for the day.

It was grey and overcast, so we thought we would avoid the rain by staying inside. (Later this proved to be the wrong decision. The weekend was HOT and HUMID. This coming from two people who have lived in AZ almost their entire lives.) If you ever visit Boston, definitely make time for the aquarium. We spend a few hours there, and there were some amazing exhibits. A large tank filled with a representative sample of fish/turtles/sharks from the Caribbean, a Penguin display, a seal exhibit, and lots of little tanks with a ton of educational information. As the morning wore on, more and more families and school groups showed up, and it was encouraging to see the kids so excited about something other than television or video games.

After the aquarium we walked over to Faneuil Hall Marketplace in search of clam chowder and beer for lunch at a local pub. We were not disappointed. After lunch it was back to the hotel for naps, then getting all cleaned up for our dinner cruise aboard the Odyssey.  The cruise was recommended by a few of my friends, and definitely worth the splurge. We got to dress up and get a few nice photos, as well as enjoy being out on the water, seeing the small islands in the harbor, and a light house. We shared two bottles of wine, had dinner, and danced. What a wonderful evening, and a perfect start to the trip.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Visiting Family in Craig, CO (July 25th&26th)

Every now and then my work schedule enables me to do some personal travel on the weekend leading up to my client visit. I flew into Grand Junction, CO on a Saturday morning, then drove up to Craig, CO to visit with my aunt and uncle and meet my cousins for the first time. Which wouldn't be such a big deal, but my youngest cousin turned 12 during my visit. Hmmm. Must make more time for family in the future. After I arrived in Craig we drove over to Steamboat to walk around, have dinner, and enjoy weather that isn't 117 degrees.

We went to dinner at a local steakhouse in Steamboat where they had an open grill for the patrons to cook their own steaks. It was quite tasty.

The next day Dave and  Krista took me on a stroll around Craig. There is a chainsaw art competition every year, and the entries are kept at the local park and around town. It's amazing the detail in these sculptures, considering a chainsaw is the tool.

Next we went to the Craig Museum, and met Clyde the Elk. I highly recommend this stop, as there is a lot of the history of the settling of the area, along with some very cool antiques.

Our last stop before I had to head back down to Grand Junction was the Nature Walk. Amazingly enough, my allergies didn't bug me at all, and it was nice to enjoy a brief walk with my family on a beautiful summer day.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Harry Potter Midnight Mania!!!

My best friend Becky and I were finally granted permission to take our nerd in training to the midnight showing for Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince since she just turned 11. I wanted to make Jocelyn's first midnight movie memorable, so I asked my friend Jill to make one of her amazing invitations. She surprised me and also made an invitation for Becky and myself!! Jocelyn was thrilled, and we ended up having a lot of fun at the movie. And the nerd/geek factor is passed to a new generation **sniff**

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Sisters at Chase Field, new digital camera

I share season tickets to the Diamondbacks with several of my coworkers. On July 9th, my sister Danielle and I went to the ballpark to enjoy the game. I also had my new camera, so it was fun to test it out and see how well the 12x zoom worked. I was impressed, and it confirmed that I had picked the correct camera for me. I have the Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS3, and absolutely love it. It takes great photos and is the most intelligent point and shoot I have owned. This camera corrects for everything, which is great since I have a tendency to shake while taking photos and always wind up with red-eye.

The game started out fantastic. There were a couple home runs, and the Dbacks took an early 7-0 lead. Then a Dbacks hitter sent a line drive at the pitcher, and it was all downhill from there. The pitcher left the field hurt and the Marlins rallied to have a 10 run 8th inning and went on to win 14-7. Even though the Dbacks lost (shocking, I know), we still managed to have a great time. Thanks Danielle, for driving and buying our beers!!