Running: When Turtles Snap

Friday morning I almost lost a finger to a giant turtle’s angry jaw.  I set off on my long run–a full 60 minutes at a delightfully slow pace–and as I approached a semi-major intersection outside our neighborhood, I saw a man standing in the street, just off the sidewalk, taking pictures of a turtle that had made its way into the road.  The turtle was massive–its shell was literally the size of a toilet bowl lid.

“Whoa!”

“I know!  I don’t want it to be run over, but I’m not touching that thing.”

“Hmm.  How much do you think it weighs?”

“15 or 20 pounds?  But look at those claws!”

Yes, I saw the giant claws.  Yes, I know that snapping turtles snap.  I’ll be honest; the image I had (…had…) in my head of snapping turtles biting was that of a cute little turtle holding onto someone’s finger–maybe a bit painful, but more annoying than anything else.  (I just Google image searched different variations of, “snapping turtle bite cartoon,” and none of the results are even close to the mental image I had.  Snapping turtles look like monsters.)

I did not want him to be hit by a car, and I didn’t know if he could get out of the road fast enough.  What if I picked him up from behind?  He couldn’t reach my hand with his mouth, and those legs would just slowly flail, as turtle legs do, right?

 Wrong.

Wrong, wrong, wrong.

I approached from behind, put my hands on the shell, began to lift, and <SNAP!>  In one impossible motion, before I had him far off the ground, he jumped–yes, jumped–spun himself 180 degrees, and lunged at me with his beak.  I let go, stepped back immediately, and said to the turtle, “Well, good luck, buddy!” and I resumed running.

That night, as Andrew and I approached the same intersection on our way out to meet friends, I began telling him the story.  I told him about seeing the giant turtle and how the man said he would not touch it.  At this point Andrew interjected,

“Uh, yeah, you do NOT mess with snapping turtles!”

“…Wait, why?”

“Because they will bite your fingers off!”

“…Off?”

“Yes, off!  They are nasty animals!”

“Hmm.  I didn’t realize that.”

A quick Google search confirmed that, yes, snapping turtles will bite your fingers right off.  They have sharp teeth that cut rather than crush, and their jaw strength is comparable to that of humans.  Who knew?  (Andrew, and probably all of you.)

Then I started thinking, “What the heck would I have done if it had bitten off my finger??” I do not handle blood well (<–This is the understatement of the year.  More on that another time.)  I do know from a recent episode of Grey’s Anatomy (absolute medical truth, right?) that fingers can be reattached.  But what if it was in the turtle’s mouth?  I obviously couldn’t risk losing a second finger to retrieve it.  Oh, it could have been so bad.  I am incredibly thankful that I’m not paying for my ignorance right now!

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(Source)

“We need to enroll you in a class about which wild animals are safe to pick up if found on the side of the road.  Not snapping turtles.  Not lions.  Not tigers.  Not bears.  Let’s just say, none of them.” -Andrew

Am I the only one who didn’t know snapping turtles could bite fingers off?  

Climbing Walls, Canoes, and Capture the Flag (Retreat Recap)

It’s Monday morning, and I feel like I must have been hit by a train this weekend.  Soreness everywhere.  Our youth group retreat was a huge success.  Here’s the play-by-play:

We arrived at Camp Willow Run Friday night just in time to catch the end of the sunset, settled in to our boxcars (the cabins are renovated boxcars… I realize that might sound weird, but it’s actually very cool, :)) and had our first session in our meeting room.  We played a few icebreaker games, including Extreme Elves, Wizards, and Giants (it’s like Rock, Paper, Scissors, with different/bigger motions, teams, and chasing.)

Elves, Wizards, Giants(Sorry for the blurry iphone photo…)

We ate some snacks, introduced our lesson theme for the weekend–What You’re Worth–and talked about how we are often our own biggest critic.

Saturday morning we made our way to the dining hall at 8:00 for breakfast–biscuits, sausage, gravy, grits, eggs, cereal, fruit… Mmm.  This was the first time I’ve been dairy-free at camp, and it was so tough to turn down those biscuits!  After breakfast we met for our second group session.  We played telephone charades, which is a hilarious game for those of you who haven’t played it!  The clue is given to the first person in line, then acted out person-to-person (getting skewed a bit along the way.)  The last person in line guesses.

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At one point the boys acted out “going on a first date,” which the last person guessed was, “kissing.” (Parents, you should probably have a chat with your boys ;-))  The girls acted out “whitewater rafting,” which the last person guessed was, “dying on a boat.”  Lots of laughs all around!  In our lesson that morning we discussed the impact other people have on our sense of self-worth and how we can tune out those negative messages we receive.

Before lunch we played capture the flag–always a favorite with this group.

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Headbands, eye black, game faces–we are serious about Capture the Flag.

We ran around in the woods for over an hour, sprinting after opponents, sprinting back to safety after jailbreaks.  Only a few band-aids were needed at the end of the game, so I consider it a success 😉  I did manage to sustain a 4-inch cut on the back of my thigh when I was forcefully tagged just before crossing back to my side.  Ahem.  Battle scars.

For lunch we ate burgers, fries, and fruit cocktail.  Power lunch for a busy afternoon!  After lunch we went canoeing…

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…played nine-square (like four-square, but bigger, and 3-D)…

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Nine-square was a huge hit;  we may need to invest in some PVC pipes!

…and climbed the wall and braved the Giant Swing…

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Whew, it was a full afternoon!  For dinner we had spaghetti and salads, then headed back outside to play some more nine-square (yes, every free moment we had was filled with nine-square.  To quote one of the boys, “Nine-square is life.” 😉 )

Later that evening we met inside for our third group session.  In my last post I mentioned that sometimes we play games whose sole purpose is to make me laugh.  Saturday night we played, “Sock Wars.”  It was one of those games that could either really be a hit or really flop…and turned out to be hilarious. The object of the game is simple:  be the last person with a sock on your foot.

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The result was total chaos.  It was like the Hunger Games, with socks instead of murder.  Some people hid.  Some people attacked.  Alliances were formed.  They were ruthless.  Unfortunately I was unable to upload the video, and the photos don’t quite capture the madness, but you get an idea. 🙂

For the sake of not making this post too much longer than it already is (thanks to anyone who is still reading!,) I’ll finish with a Cliff Notes version of the rest of the weekend:

Campfire.  S’mores.  Third lesson:  God is our biggest fan, and we are worth more to Him than we can comprehend.  Grog (outside, nighttime game in which one person is the “Grog” and tags people, and everyone else must find hidden pieces of a flashlight, assemble, and defeat the Grog by shining the light on them.  In other words, more running around :))  Sleeping hard.  Breakfast.  Games.  Fourth lesson:  building up others so they know how much they are worth to God.  Nine-square.  Home.

It was a full weekend, to say the least.  I loved being able to spend quality time with this group–laughing, playing, encouraging.  Retreats always remind me what a cool job I have, and what an awesome opportunity I have to be part of the lives of these youth.

They also remind me that I am getting older, and my body can’t endure as much as it once could.  Here’s to hobbling around like an old woman for a few days. 😉

Youth Retreat Weekend + Yet Another Easy Dinner

In just a few short hours, Andrew and I will be on our way to North Carolina with a few van-fulls of teenagers.  It’s spring retreat weekend for the youth group, and I am SO excited!  We are going to the beautiful Camp Willow Run on Lake Gaston, where I was a camp counselor during my summers in college.  CWR has a special place in my heart, and I am thankful for a job that takes me back there every year.

This morning I slept in as long as I could (7:15, then tossed and turned until 8… oh the joys of getting old 😉 ) in anticipation of the craziness that will be the next 48 hours.  In previous years, I’ve arrived home Sunday feeling like I was hit by a bus due to all the running around we’d done.  Here’s a quick flashback to last year:

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Capture the flag in an excellent wooded arena (this photo doesn’t quite capture the intensity of the game, but it is always hardcore!)

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Games I created for the sole purpose of making myself laugh 😉

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High ropes course

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Silly team-building activities

Throw in some good food, canoeing, a sunset over the lake, and great Bible studies, and it makes for a pretty epic weekend!  This year we are doing the climbing wall and giant swing rather than the high ropes course;  I can’t wait!

This week has been super busy in preparing for the weekend, so our dinners have been simple and easy, and workouts have been a bit shorter and lower-intensity as well: Short weight-lifting session Monday (like, 20 minutes in the living room with the TV on,) walk on Tuesday, yoga Wednesday, 30-minute easy run Thursday.  I wrote about our easy Monday/Tuesday dinner here, and our Wednesday/Thursday dinner was this:

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Baked chicken breasts (cut into smaller pieces to cook faster) marinated in Balsamic vinaigrette, leftover quinoa, roasted beets, and beet greens.  I started to make a marinade for the chicken and then thought, “Nope.  Not happening.  Balsamic vinaigrette will taste great.”  I told Andrew it was a secret family recipe. 😉

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I’ve said this before, but when in doubt about cooking a vegetable, slice it, toss it with olive oil, add salt and pepper, and throw it in the oven at 400 degrees.  Roasted beets?  Two thumbs up from this girl.  Andrew handled the greens, and they were pretty tasty too.  Both the chicken and the beets were done in about 20 minutes.  Can’t beet that (pun-intended…bahaha :-D)

Now I’m off to finish a few last-minute details for the retreat.  I hope to give a quick post at some point during the weekend, but if not, I will be back Monday.  Please pray with us for safe travel and no injuries, big or small!

What are your plans for the weekend?  Any quick and easy dinner ideas for busy weeks?

Active Dates

The way I see it, working out with one’s significant other accomplishes two tasks at once:  1. strengthening the relationship and 2. staying physically fit.  You get all the benefits of exercise–lower risk of heart disease, better mood, lower stress, better sleep, etc.–plus the added benefit of spending quality time with the person you love and knowing they are reaping those benefits too.  While we certainly do not work out together every day (Andrew does not share my passion for running,) we try to squeeze a few “active dates” into our weekly routine.

Yesterday afternoon we pulled the bikes out of the garage for the first ride of 2013 (with the exception of riding my bike to the start of the 10k last weekend, but that was for transportation purposes.)  There is a great park a few miles from our house, so we biked there, cutting through neighborhoods to avoid the main roads.  This particular park has a paved path as well as some dirt and root filled trails on which to ride–it’s a pick-your-own adventure park. 🙂  We opted mostly for the trails.

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In some places the trail was so narrow and had so many roots that it was less of a ride and more of a “keep your hands on the brakes and your butt off the seat” controlled downhill. 🙂  To add to the adventure, it’s inchworm week!  Okay, I don’t think “inchworm week” is a thing, but right now there are tons of those little green guys hanging from trees.  As we rode through the park we’d have to lean one way or the other to avoid running into them, and we stopped periodically to pick them off ourselves.  Hah!  (And just in case you were wondering, our wedding occurred during inchworm week last year.  As my grandmother often reminds me, “It was a lovely day… even with all those green worms everywhere.”  Thanks, Grandma 😉 )

In just a couple of hours of biking yesterday, we accomplished great things for our hearts, marriage, and general well-being, which may not have occurred if we’d chosen to sit on the couch watching TV all afternoon.

Here are some other ideas for active dates that can easily be incorporated into your week (especially now that it’s warm outside!):

      -Taking a walk after dinner

      -Hiking on a Saturday

      -Throwing a frisbee in the yard

      -Kayaking

      -Taking a yoga class

      -Playing tennis

      -Swimming in the river/lake/ocean (whatever is nearby)

      -Rock climbing

      -Exploring downtown

So many great possibilities!  Whatever you like to do, just get out there and move with your sweet thang 🙂

Do you have any active dates planned for this week?  

And Now We Wait (Garden Update)

All the vegetables have been planted.   We’d been spending a little time each evening this week putting seeds and plants in the ground, and we took a few hours Saturday to finish the work.  Now we wait.  And water.  And wait.

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Andrew is proud of this garden.  Don’t you forget it. 😉

Looking at the photo above, here’s what’s in the ground:  on the right, tomatillos, cherry tomatoes, slicing tomatoes, bell peppers, cayenne peppers, pimento peppers, green beans, broccoli, carrots, and Swiss chard.  On the left, cantaloupe, cucumbers, pumpkin, zucchini, yellow squash, and watermelon.  In the pots we have strawberries and lots of herbs.

We planted the broccoli, Swiss chard, beets, and carrots almost two weeks ago, and they are starting to emerge from the ground.

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We transplanted the tomatoes and peppers this week and are still using popsicle sticks to help some of them straighten (the cages will be great when they are bigger, but they aren’t doing much at the moment.)

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We decided to buy 4-packs of herbs rather than grow them from seed for no reason other than impatience. 🙂

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Oregano, cilantro, thyme, parsley, rosemary, and basil.  (Not pictured: dill, peppermint, and lemon balm)

In addition to the edibles, most of the flowers are in bloom now too!

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I’m going to miss the tulips when they are gone…

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I will not miss the one odd azalea on the left 😉

I don’t think I can fully, accurately convey my excitement about the vegetable garden, but this photo brushes the surface:

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What are you growing this summer?

April Garden Update

Based on the weather, it seems we’ve skipped spring completely and gone straight from winter to summer.  Yesterday the observed high for Richmond was a record-breaking 91 degrees!  Even the squirrels are struggling with the heat:

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We have a bunch of white squirrels in our neighborhood (which we find awesome, in case you were wondering. :))  When I arrived home yesterday I found this one resting in the shade under our wheelbarrow planter.  He stayed there for a solid 30 minutes!

The plus side of the heat is that it is finally warm enough to start planting the vegetables outside.  This week we planted broccoli, Swiss chard, carrot, and beet seeds–all of which can handle a bit of cold, and we have a few 40-something-degree nights on the horizon.

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We also transplanted the plants we started inside in February from the seed starting kit to individual plastic cups (with holes cut in the bottoms for drainage.)  We were way late doing this, and now we are having to do some popsicle stick scoliosis treatment for the tomato plants.  I think they are beginning to straighten…

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This is only half of the plants, and the two giants in the top photo are tomatillos that our friend Matt gave us this week (thanks, Matt!)  We’ve been putting them on the back deck for a few hours each day to let them adjust to the outdoors before it becomes their permanent home.  (If that sounds crazy, you should know that when Andrew comes home from work he says, “How are the babies doing?” in reference to the plants. 😉 )

The downside to the heat is that my tulips–which I’ve been eagerly anticipating since I planted them in the fall–are blooming overnight, opening completely by the afternoon, and losing their petals by the evening.

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DSCN7747Pretty, nonetheless 🙂

By the mailbox:

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You can check out the “before” pictures from a month ago here.  It’s crazy to see the difference!

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Even if each tulip only blooms for a day, I plan to enjoy them while they last. 🙂

New Shoes and Muddy Trail Runs

I purchased a new pair of running shoes over the weekend, and yesterday was the day for their debut run.  The weather was so beautiful that I decided not to waste my run on a treadmill, or even the neighborhood roads–I drove to a local park to enjoy the trails.

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The weather was so beautiful, in fact (70 degrees and sunny,) that I blocked out the memory of all the rain we’d received the day before.  A few hours of sunshine aren’t enough to dry a day’s worth of mud, as I soon discovered.

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The trail started out nice enough–shade, soft surface, roots and logs to hurdle–but soon  those logs became bridges over mud puddles.

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Thankfully, I had a fair amount of success keeping the shoes clean, with the exception of a few mud splatters.

I love being in the woods, mud and all.  It reminds me of my childhood, when our house backed up to some fantastic woods.  Every chance we had we’d play there with all the kids on our street, building forts, jumping over creeks, attempting to catch tadpoles with “fishing rods” made from sticks and long grass.  Every section of our woods was named too:  Skull Fort, the Lagoon, Nazi Crossing (there was a swastika spray-painted on a tree and what we swore was a grave nearby.  It was unwise to visit that area alone. )  When the neighborhood on the other side of the woods began to expand, we would rip the neon orange ribbons off the trees, certain this would sufficiently confuse the builders, and we could keep our woods.  <Sigh>

All that to say, I love being in the woods.  Sitting, running, hiking…it’s all very therapeutic, I think.

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My less-new, now broken-in shoes agree. 🙂

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Are you a fan of trail runs, or do you prefer to stay on the roads? 

Signs of Spring + Seedling Update

Spring is coming quickly, and winter cannot do a thing to stop it.  While the large picture outside still looks dreary, bursts of color and signs of life are popping up all around.

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By our mailbox, the Sedum “Autumn Joy” is beginning its journey to a fall bloom, the first of hundreds of flowers has emerged on the Creeping Phlox, and tulips and daffodils are beginning to push their way through the dirt.

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The crocuses making the first appearance in our yard

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New growth on the rose bushes

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Gardenia bushes and tulips–lots of tulips–planted in the fall

Winter, you are defeated.

We even did some long overdue yard work this weekend. The shrubs by our front steps were way overgrown, leaving only a small opening to walk up and down the stairs.

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Okay, so maybe it was more than a “small opening,” but those shrubs were out of control.  I attacked them with some hedge clippers while Andrew raked and weeded, and we were left with this:

spring afterSo much better, right?

A few quirks about our yard that we inherited with the house:

1. We have about three types of grass growing (plus the control group of no grass in the back yard…) They are different textures, grow at different rates, and turn green at different times during the year.

2. There are six azaleas in front of our house–three on each side of the steps (the giant shrubs are mostly hiding two of them, but I promise they are there.)  Five of those azaleas are alike.  The center shrub on the left?  Different variety, different size, different color, bloom time, etc.  I don’t have the heart to pull it up and replace it (Okay, I have the heart; I don’t have the confidence that I could pick the variety that does match the others.)

3. While I love spring bulbs–and in fact planted many myself back in the fall–the previous owner of our house planted tulips and crocuses (and monkey grass? Why monkey grass??) very randomly between/in front of the azaleas.  I don’t hate it, but it does look a little silly.

I realize these are very much “first-world problems,” and I am not complaining, simply acknowledging quirks 😉

In other spring news, our vegetable seedlings that we planted about a month ago are doing fairly well!  Well, most of them.

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Notes on the process thus far:

-For the first week we kept kept them in our “greenhouse”: the guest bathroom with a sky light and space heater, the container covered by its plastic top.  Once they sprouted, we moved them to our sunny living room by a window.

-The broccoli is thriving (bottom row in the top photo.)

-The cantaloupe is not thriving (top row in top photo)

-The peppers, while very late to sprout (we thought they weren’t going to make it,) are now growing and looking well.

-The tomatoes sprouted quickly and continue to look strong.

-At some point I know we were/are supposed to thin the sprouts to one per square.  I know ultimately it has to be done, but I can’t bring myself to uproot the ones that look so healthy!

I think the next step is to transplant them to larger, individual containers so they can continue growing before being planted outside.  We need to do some more research on this project, but I am so looking forward to starting the plants outside once it warms up a little more!

Spring, we welcome you 🙂

Colorado Part 2: Mountain Views and Hot Flashes

High altitude can do strange things to the body.  The lack of oxygen can cause shortness of breath (check,) headaches, digestive issues (check,) fatigue, dizziness, and…hot flashes? (check.)  Okay, so I can’t find proof that high altitude causes hot flashes, but I also can’t find any other reason that I experienced them on this trip!  It happened a few times Wednesday night and Thursday, which would have been when my body was trying to acclimate (plus, we drove even higher Thursday.)  At first I thought the hotel room was too hot, the heat in the car was turned up too high, etc.  When I noticed that Andrew and Jenny both were still wearing their jackets, I realized: I was having hot flashes.  Hah!

Has anyone else experienced this?  Are high altitude hot flashes a thing?

Moving on…

Saturday morning we ate brunch at Beatrice and Woodsley–a fairy tale-esce restaurant in downtown Denver.  I ordered the “Eggs Johnny Fever–Pan fried goetta on toasted onion bread with sunny eggs, mustard hollandaise, and roasted cauliflower.”  Yum.

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It was a sunny, 50-something degree day, so after brunch we met our friend Ashley at Washington (“Wash”) Park, walked around the lake, and chatted for a while.

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Then we continued chatting over ice cream at Sweet Action.  They serve a few dairy-free flavors, so Andrew was able to have some as well.  It was apparently the best DF ice cream he’s ever had!

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After saying goodbye to Ashley, we decided to get a late lunch (the theme of the day was “keep eating” ;-)) at Sputnik–a quirky, hipster, hole-in-wall restaurant with great tacos and waitresses that say, “What do you want?” when taking your order.  At least ours did.  We filled up on tacos and drove west towards the mountains to continue enjoying the weather and the scenery.

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 photo (21) Awesome.

Finally, on the way home we stopped at a point of geological interest:

photo (12)My husband.

It was a whirlwind trip, but we managed to pack in lots of great food, outdoor adventures, and time with family and friends.

Until next time, Colorado!

Rocky Mountains, Here I Come

In a just a few short hours I will be on a plane headed towards Denver to meet up with Andrew and spend a few days with Jenny!  We traveled there over the summer as well and loved all the opportunities for outdoor adventures.  Here’s some of what we did in July:

DSCN6796  DSCN6783Hiking at Dinosaur Ridge

DSCN6753  DSCN6690Taking cheesy photos around Garden of the Gods 🙂

DSCN6830 IMG_3784Pike’s Peak (+meeting up with our good friend Ashley!)

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Seeing Ingrid Michaelson live at Red Rocks

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Ah, summer.  This will be a very different trip with all the snow, but I am looking forward to trying some new activities!  (We are skiing on Friday.  I haven’t skied since, oh, 7th grade.  Colorado is a great place to ease back into it, right? 😉

 I have my airport lunch and travel snacks packed and ready to go:

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-Peanut butter and banana on a whole grain bagel

-Luna Bars

-Apples

-Clementines

-Popchips

-Trail Mix

-Gummy Cubs(the all natural version of gummy bears, from the bulk bin at Kroger)

That should hold me over until dinner.  🙂

Stay tuned for our Denver adventures…