Author: Kimberlee Koehn

Hello, my name is Kimberlee. Yes, there are two E’s, let’s not get into it. I love traveling, writing, hiking and sweet potatoes. We can go ahead and be friends now.

How to be Me for Halloween

With only about two weeks left until Halloween we’ve officially reached that point where you’re either going to have to suck it up and overspend on a costume at an outlet, pull a clever one together at a thrift shop, or cut holes in a trusty white sheet.

I personally am not a huge Halloween person, but I also refuse to be the party pooper in the corner that came as a disgruntled version of myself. So, I’ve got something in the works that hopefully doesn’t turn out terrible. (That’s the spirit!)

When I was brainstorming my costume this year, I scrolled through a bunch of articles online and saw a variety of clever ideas. Television characters and famous personalities, punny collaborations and comically literal depictions of pop culture. In looking through the costumes of athletes and movie stars and TV characters, I started thinking about how funny it is that we love to dress up in “costumes” that depict the casual dress of a character or real-life person. In doing so, I thought about what someone might use to fashion a costume representative of me.

This is what I came up with:

 

What You’ll Need

  • Black leggings
  • A t-shirt and a maroon zip up hoodie OR a crewneck sweatshirt
  • No-show socks
  • Black converse
  • A birthmark on the middle finger of your left hand
  • A Fitbit
  • A broken-in hair tie on your left wrist
  • A hydroflask water bottle
  • A medium sized purse containing a Mary Poppins assortment of practical things
  • A casual blend of awkward, anxious, and confident
  • Well timed bad jokes
  • Well timed laughter to back up the jokes

How to Pull Off the Character

  • Be nice to most everyone, but don’t be afraid to give the occasional dirty look and/or refusal of laughter to a clear cut asshole
  • Whenever there is an awkward silence, look at your nails
  • Whenever you’re trying to fill an awkward silence, overuse finger guns for no reason and then regret it for hours afterwards.
  • Try to work Chopped into almost every conversation
  • Squirm around desperately whenever given a compliment
  • Consistently be cold, regardless of the weather.
  • Constantly mention how much you’re craving ice cream
  • Cry after almost every commercial
  • Resist making any decisions regarding dinner choices
  • Follow all the rules without shame

Key Vocabulary Words/Phrases

  • “Dude”
  • “Oh my gosh!”
  • “What a day”
  • “Shitty”
  • “I’m about it”
  • “Truth”
  • “Honestly, though!”

 

Did I just invent some sort of psychological “know thyself” exercise? Because I feel like I just explored the inner depths of my psyche. Credit me in the textbooks, folks.

In the meantime, what would a Halloween costume of you look like? I might need some backup ideas…

Strain then Stir (Episode 2): How to be Ingredient Conscious

Hello and welcome back to another episode of Strain Then Stir, a no-cameras, diary-esque cooking show blog where I attempt to transform myself from a two-meal Tina into a full course Frank…or at the very least, be capable of feeding myself more than cereal and pasta.

On our last episode, I dove into the depths of Kayla Itsines’ cookbook The 28-Day Bikini Body Healthy Eating and Lifestyle Guide. I learned how to bring toast to the next level, how yogurt and sweet potatoes can make sweet sweet food children, and how to better utilize my Panini maker to its full potential. If you haven’t already, read all about those adventures here, then come back and dive in for episode two!

Coming off last month’s installment I have been an overwhelming amount of B-U-S-Y. Most prominently, I went on a weeklong trip with my best friend at the end of September. Since I knew I’d be away, I was less than motivated to go to the grocery store, so I decided that since I did a little bit of an overbuy on my last shopping trip, I’d make it last. I scrounged and got creative, using as much as I could with what I had leftover. Let’s just say I had a lot of cheese and crackers for lunch and I made a lot of rice and pasta for dinner.

Once I got back from my trip, I went grocery shopping again. And with all the recipes I recently learned swirling around in my head, I felt much better equipped to buy things that went together rather than a bunch of things that looked good. I quickly came to learn however, that this knowledge is only half the battle when it comes to being both a good cook and a responsible eater.

As a single person mostly making meals for one, I’ve become well acquainted with having leftover meals. However, in going through Kayla Itsines’ book, I also became familiar with leftover ingredients. Oftentimes a recipe only called for half a can of diced tomatoes or 1/3 of a sliced zucchini, etc. etc. As a result, I would store the extra ingredients in the refrigerator and then try to find a recipe for the next night that would put them to use.

This past month, I tried to utilize that same mindset. Even though I wasn’t following a specific cookbook, I tried to my best to be ingredient conscious and would do everything I could to incorporate last night’s leftovers into tomorrow’s recipes. As a result, almost nothing went to waste!

So for this month, even though I didn’t learn any new recipes per say I did discover some creative twists on recipes I already knew. For example, after remaking the sweet potato pizza recipe I learned last month, I threw the leftover sweet potato and red onions in an omelet which, spoiler alert: was DELICIOUS!

I also learned that our tendency to look around our kitchen and say, “I have nothing to make,” is often as truthful as a bad morning’s proclamation of “I have nothing to wear!” Oftentimes there is something to make, you just have to look a little closer and get a little more creative. These two lessons, I believe, are key to becoming any sort of cook. And so as I continue to improve my cooking skills, I too will further my practice of using what I’ve got and ensuring as little as possible goes to waste.

Here’s to next month’s cooking adventures!

If I Were on Carpool Karaoke

Unlike most guests, I obviously wouldn’t have a successful discography to sing along to as James Corden and I drove around downtown Los Angeles, thus making the call from The Late Late Show rather surprising. Had they heard my music turned up to a volume that blocked out my voice, thus leading me (and possibly them) to believe I sounded exactly like the artist actually singing? Had they caught me on one of those days when I forgot there were other people on the freeway and I thrust my body around behind the steering wheel, wobbling my car between the dotted lines? Had they somehow managed to get their hands on old family videos where my sister and I wrote songs while we were out on the lake fishing, our most prominent hit being, “My Butt is Sore”?

Why did they want me here? I would wonder to myself as I stood on the sidewalk outside CBS studios, and then I’d open the passenger’s side door of a silver SUV and James Corden would say, “I just really need some help getting to work.”

Once I was in the car, he would ask if he could turn on some music and I’d nod. In a perfect world, he’d play “I Wanna Dance with Somebody” by Whitney Houston first. It’s my ultimate jam, my #1 song requested at every wedding I’ve ever attended, and the true key to receiving my trust for this musical journey we were about to embark on.

We would jam our faces off and I’d probably ruin any hairstyle the team at CBS had given me before we left. I’d also undoubtedly be sweating by the end, and I’d zone out for a few minutes post-Whitney, wondering if I’d worn a post-Whitney worthy, sweat disguising t-shirt. What am I even wearing? I’d ask myself. Am I wearing anything?! I’d look down at my body, ensuring it was in fact clothed, and when James saw the wave of panic followed by an immediate wave of relief wash over me, he’d ask if I was okay.

“Oh yeah,” I’d say, “I’m fine, I was just making sure I was wearing clothes.”

Not knowing what to do with this response, he’d smile politely, make a turn to shorten our originally planned route, and turn the radio back up.

The second song would be another well-known anthem or perhaps a legendary ballad. Something everyone should know in the hopes of distracting the audience that I—someone nobody knows—am in the passenger’s seat, rather than the likes of Bruno Mars, Adele, or Harry Styles.

I’d do my best to sing along, keeping my volume a few notches below James, who actually can sing. About halfway through the song, I’d start to worry I was getting carsick, and even if I wasn’t, I would worry that I might become carsick. And since I still wasn’t used to the fact that I wasn’t alone in my car making deliveries for work, but was instead sitting alongside James Corden being recorded by 6 different cameras, I’d zone out on this thought for a while. Am I going to puke? I’d wonder. Or am I only making myself think I’m going to puke. Did Harry Styles think he was going to puke? I bet Bruno Mars NEVER pukes. You can’t get vomit on silk. The dry cleaning bill would be outrageous.  

“Do you mind if we play a little game?” James would say once we were finished with the third song. “Sure!” I’d reply enthusiastically, my posture growing worse and worse as I got more comfortable.

James would propose a speed round of song identification in which a snippet of a popular song would play and the first person to guess it would receive a point. I would nod politely at the rules, camouflaging the competitive side of myself that was screaming WE MUST WIN THIS OR OUR LIFE MEANS NOTHING.

By the fourth round of the game, we’d be tied, and my heart would be pounding. Again, I’d completely lose sight of the fact that I was being recorded for television and focus only on the game…and this incredibly slow driver that will not get out of the way!

“EXCUSE ME,” I would say to the navy blue Prius in front of us as my LA traffic demons rose to the surface, “WE HAVE PLACES TO BE.”

James would smile, remaining professional, and I’d start to come back to him, only to have the Prius turn on their reverse lights IN THE MIDDLE OF THE STREET!

“ARE YOU KIDDING ME?!” I’d yell. “GET YOUR SHIT TOGETHER!”

I’d then return to James, having completely blacked out until the Prius was out of the way, unaware of anything that might have come out of my mouth.

“Shall we continue?” I’d say sweetly.

“We shall,” he’d say, and then I’d mysteriously win the game.

On the final lap of our drive, I would get quiet as I started to overthink everything that may have happened during the car ride. Was I funny? Was I crazy? Should I have just stayed in my car? Do they regret inviting me on this show? Do I regret coming? Where even are we?

Just then, “Sittin’ on the Dock of the Bay” by Otis Redding would come on. It’s another one of my favorites. A wave of calm would wash over me as James and I sang along, and soon I’d be consumed by the song, rolling the window down and holding my hand out to feel the outlandishly hot air characteristic of a Los Angeles autumn.

As we pulled back onto the CBS lot, we’d be whistling to the end of the song. (Him more than me, I’ve never been quite able to whistle correctly.) And as the song came to a close, I’d realize why musicians—and other celebrities if you count the Apple Music extension of the series—sign up to do this. It’s the same reason why (most) people that sit in traffic don’t kill each other. It’s the same reason why, in this fictional story, the CBS producers recruit me: Music can bring out the best in people, and can bring even the strangest of stranger together.

So as Otis Redding faded out and James Corden put the car in park, I’d smile, knowing that yes, while I was probably a crazy person sure set the gif-ing Internet on fire, I was also just a person, sitting alongside another person who appreciates music. And even though there were a bunch of cameras on us and I had sweat under my arms and was still a little nervous I was secretly carsick, we had shared a moment. An experience that no one could ever take away. And that’s really what music is all about.

 


 

Also check out: If I Were on the Bachelor, If I Were on Dancing with the Stars

2017 Goals Check In #3

You know that old “glass half full/half empty” argument that determines whether you’re an optimist or a pessimist? Well I was recently thinking about 2017, and the fact that it’s now ¾ of the way over, and I was thinking that we can look at it two ways:

1) We let it fill us: We started with an empty glass and allowed all the lessons we learned and experiences we had to slowly fill our cup.

2) We let it drain us: We started with a full glass and then watched as the stress and anxieties of the year slowly emptied our cup, leaving us with almost nothing left.

But while it’s easy to identify which is optimistic vs. pessimistic on paper, it’s harder to admit, or even more, to correct how we’ve been thinking about our year. For me personally, I set a lofty list of goals this year, and there have been many times when I’ve sat down on my couch exhausted, loathing every single one of them. And while I think it’s perfectly normal and necessary to have those moments once in a while, it would be a shame to let them overshadow all the good ones. That being said, let us focus on the good moments. The badass moments that continue to bring us closer to the goals we’ve set for ourselves. I wish you luck on yours, here’s how I’m doing on mine:

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1) See Star Wars

1st & 2nd Quarter Progress: 3/8 (37.50%)

Current Progress: 3/8 (37.50%)

In a way I feel like my lack of progress here is a strategy of sorts. With the new Star Wars movie coming out in 2 months, I have the opportunity to walk into the theater having just seen the last few movies. So this excuses me from waiting so long to watch the rest of them, right? RIGHT?

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2) See 5 WLRA’s

1st & 2nd Quarter Progress: 3/5 (60%)

Current Progress: 4/5 (80%)

At the end of August my family drove up north to drop my brother off at college. And since my eyes are alwaaays open for WRLAs, I quickly figured out that the World’s Largest Monk was only 20 minutes away from his school. Thankfully, my family understands and supports my crazy mind, so after a somewhat emotional weekend, we pulled off the freeway to check this one off the list.

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3) Try this jean rug DIY

1st & 2nd Quarter Progress: 25%

Current Progress: 75%

I officially have all the pieces cut and they are patiently waiting to be sewed together. In other words, I’ve done everything I can do before all that’s left for me to do is use my sewing machine…

I’m still slightly terrified, and I’m minorly convinced this is where I’ll ruin the rug, but hey, the goal specifically states to try, right? It doesn’t say make an award winning rug sure to be included in the National History Museum upon your death. So I’m going to give it my best shot. Stay tuned.

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4) Run 1,000 miles

1st & 2nd Quarter Progress: 474.01 miles (47.42%)

Current Progress: 743.23 miles (74.32%)

GUYS. I’M KIND OF TIRED OF RUNNING. Do I love the way it makes me feel? Yes. Am I continually proud of myself for pursuing this goal? Yes. But am I ready for it to be over? YES. I can’t tell you how many hours I’ve spent calculating miles and scheduling routes. And while it’s obviously paid off, as I’m only about 250 miles away from the Promised Land, I’M READY TO BE IN THE FREAKING PROMISED LAND, OKAY? Wish me and my legs luck as we run these last few hundred miles.

5) Complete The Ultimate Fit Bit Week

1st & 2nd Quarter Progress: 0%

Current Progress: 100%!

This. Was. A. TASK. Read about it here.

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6) Volunteer (at least) 5 times

1st & 2nd Quarter Progress: 2/5 (40%)

Current Progress: 5/5 (100%)!

In case anyone is curious, these are the places I volunteered to fulfill this requirement:

While I’m so glad I was able to complete the (minimum) requirement for this goal, I also find it funny that I did so in 5 months. I totally slacked the first half of the year, and I can’t help but think if I had gotten on the ball sooner, I’d have double the volunteer shifts under my belt. This past weekend, as my mom and I were volunteering at Children’s Hunger Fund, I realized how much of a privilege it is to volunteer and I really want to make a better effort to do it as often as I can.

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7) Go to a sporting event of “every” kind (i.e. baseball, football, hockey, basketball, & soccer)

1st & 2nd Quarter Progress: 1/5 (20%)

Current Progress: 2/5 (40%)

With football officially kicked off, hockey season fully underway, and basketball season only a few weeks out, I have no excuse not to get my butt to a game! If you see a brunette holding a hot dog with way too much ketchup and mustard, animatedly screaming at a group of grown men chasing a ball/puck, there’s probably a 5% chance it’s not me.

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8) Try every class at the gym

1st & 2nd Quarter Progress: 0%

Current Progress: 0%

I know, I know. I’ve given excuse after excuse after excuse on this one, but this is the last one, I promise! For the past few months I’ve been consistently behind on my running goal, making that my #1 priority. As a result, I haven’t had time/energy/will to make it to the gym and have my ass further kicked by physical activity. However, I’m finally gaining some ground and will most likely start showing my (probably panicked) face at the gym again this month.

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9) Do The Princess Diaries painting

1st & 2nd Quarter Progress: 0%

Current Progress: 100%!

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I’m not sure how many 26 year olds would ask to spend their 27th birthday throwing darts at water balloons full of paint, but I’m glad I’m one of them, and I highly recommend you look into it as well, no matter what number awaits you at your next birthday. You can read all about how we did it here.

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10) Find and try the “Best of” restaurants in LA

1st & 2nd Quarter Progress: 0%

Current Progress: 4/5 (80%)

I’d like to officially issue a THANK YOU to my roommates for helping me out with this goal because without them, I have no doubts I’d still be sitting on a goose egg. In the last few months, we’ve tried LA’s best pizza (Pizzeria Mozza), sandwich (Mendocino Farms), ice cream (Salt & Straw) and burger, the quest for the burger probably being the most fun. We went to the first inaugural Battle of the Burgers, which was an event that brought 11 of LA’s best burger vendors to a park downtown and charged $20 for three beers, a burger from each place, and a yellow ticket to vote on your favorite, thus making it the BEST DAY EVER. My roommates voted for Grill ‘Em All, I voted for Everson Royce Bar, and the winner—who we had all counted as our 2nd place choice—was Beacon Echo Park. If you’re in the LA area, check them out!

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11) Watch every film that has ever won Best Picture

1st & 2nd Quarter Progress: 11/89 (12.36%)

Current Progress: 28 (31.46%)

This is a slowly but surely, turtle and hare type situation. The turtle being me and the hare being time. I fully realize that my needing to watch 60 movies in 3 months, all of which are riddled with holidays, seems like kind of a shot in the dark, but I have a feeling my competitive spirit will find a way to get this thing done. In the meantime, I’m receiving a mean movie education (or movie-cation for all my Pitch Perfect peeps), and have been talking everyone’s ear off in the process. My top 5 favorite movies that I’ve watched so far (not including the handful I’d seen prior to this year) are: Gentleman’s Agreement, Annie Hall, Rain Man, Driving Miss Daisy, and Slumdog Millionaire.

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12) Learn to Longboard

1st & 2nd Quarter Progress: 0%

Current Progress: 0%

The only excuse I have for not making progress on this one is I’m a little scared I’ll more or less break my body. (You know, casual fears.) However, just as my DIY rug doesn’t have to be worthy of museum display, my skateboarding skills don’t have to resemble those you might find on Tony Hawk Pro-Skater. SO, I’m going to suck it up and do it. Stay tuned.

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13) Learn to do a headband braid

1st & 2nd Quarter Progress: 20%

Current Progress: 40%

To be honest, I’m not even sure how I’m gaging my progress on this one. At the end of the year, it’s either a can or can’t do it type of situation. Sure, I know more about it than when I started, but is that exactly 40% more? Who knows? What I do know is I could use a few alternative hairstyles, especially with all of the holiday family pictures headed my way, so hopefully I’ll find that missing 60% in the next few months.

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14) Reach the 100,000-mile mark on my car

COMPLETED

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Read all about Jeffrey’s (my car) big milestone here.

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15) Do a bar/pub crawl

1st & 2nd Quarter Progress: 0%

Current Progress: 0%

Yeahhhhhhh, about this one. I kind of keep forgetting about it. Good news is, the upcoming months should feature a handful of themed bar crawls I can check out. Look for me in a tacky sweater tavern or a pumpkin spiced lounge or a ghoul-ful pub. Or, if none of those exist, look for me opening a tacky sweater tavern, a pumpkin spiced lounge or a ghoul-ful pub.

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16) Sing Karaoke

COMPLETED

Much to the surprise of my pre-2017 self, I’ve actually done karaoke 4 separate times now, all of which have been about 100 times more fun than I ever thought karaoke could be. That being said, while I’d never pressure anyone into doing something they didn’t want to do, I highly recommend you give karaoke a shot. There are few things more freeing than belting out a Backstreet Boys song, knowing you’re hitting exactly zero notes, and yet not caring one bit.

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17) Complete Project Lightbulb

1st & 2nd Quarter Progress: 0%

Current Progress: 25%

After it became clear that this goal would be impossible to complete this year, I decided that as long as we made steps towards planning and booking it for next year, I’d call it a win. That being said, we finally made our first step in that direction, as we opened a savings account where we can slowly save up enough money to make this thing happen! Iceland here we come!

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As a whole, I’m just under 58% finished, which again, I’m deciding to take on a half-full mindset about. There’s no use in letting what I haven’t done take the focus away from what I have. I will continue to work my butt off and hopefully come the end of December, I’ll be sitting behind this computer writing up the 4th and final update, feeling filled up with pride for the crazy, hard, and amazing year that was 2017. See you then!

Swipe-tember: What I Learned from Spending a Month on Dating Apps

After recently turning 27 I had the normal rush of emotions, as well as a few new, introduced-in-the-late-twenties specific ones. For example: ARE MY EGGS DYING?

This was more or less a ticking time bomb. With friends in every direction getting married and having babies and then more babies, as I sit on my couch watching Food Network eating another re-microwaved meal for one, I was destined to start hearing the clock tick. And if that didn’t do it, the now normal tendency of family, friends, and acquaintances alike to graze over the “are you seeing anyone?” territory as often as they can, just in case a two week period we go without seeing each other might provide me a husband and vicious fertility, surely would.

I consider myself to be kind of old fashioned. With a string of well-set examples in my family, I fully believe there is someone wandering around the world that is meant for me. It’s also fair to say that while I’m not against dating apps, I often doubt their credibility, mostly because I assume everyone on the Internet is a serial killer. Amongst this paranoia however, also lies curiosity. Multiple friends have asked me why I won’t give dating apps a try, and while the “everyone’s a catfish waiting in the wings to kill me” excuse usually ends the conversation, there have been a few that remain persistent, quoting some form of the “don’t knock it til you try it” variety.

So, I decided to try it. “One month”, I said. “I’ll log on and sell out for one month, just to see what it’s all about.” Thus, on September 1st I downloaded Bumble, giving life to an experiment I was calling “Swipe-tember.”

While creating my profile, I felt like I was back in 9th grade creating a Myspace. Back then, besides AIM, Myspace was the best way to showcase who you were both to strangers and, more commonly, the classmates you saw all day, every day. Being an awkward kid with wiry braces and low self esteem, I was desperate to create an impressive profile, so I dove headfirst into the world of coding, providing myself the skills to add music, graphics, and a well written, well organized, yet fittingly brief autobiography.

On Bumble, while I had less creative freedom in terms of profile design, I had just as much responsibility to present an impressive introduction. This time around however, I felt the responsibility was reversed. No longer did I have as much interest in presenting what I felt was expected or desired, as I did to express an honest depiction of the person doing the presenting.

High school, college, and the corresponding years of self-discovery had provided me with a much more balanced sense of who I was, what I wanted and what I deserved. I had no interest in creating a veiled version of myself, only to meet an Internet stranger in person using a matador style “ta-da!” with who I really was. If I was actually going to do this, even if I didn’t necessarily expect or intend to go on many (if any) dates, I was going to be up front about it. So when it came to profile pictures, I chose a handful that represented the different parts of my personality i.e. a travel hungry, family oriented, Los Angeles Dodger loving fisherman.

And for my bio, I lasagna-ed in a few more.

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In the end, I was happy with who I presented, because at the very least, I knew it was me, and even if this materialized into nothing more than the experiment it started as, I’d walk away regret free.

Next came the swiping.

While I knew the general principle of the act, as I’d seen friends do it to pass the time, determining fates with their thumbs, there was a different kind of pressure associated with being the one behind the screen. If I swiped right, I essentially gave someone the chance to be the love of my life, but if I swiped left, I was banishing them to the confines of an existence separate from my own for the remainder of time. (It sounds dramatic, but it’s true if you think about it.)

In determining who I would offer that fateful right swipe to, I did my best to overanalyze. I understood that it was supposed to be a glance, choose and go type of situation, but the only way I’d been convinced to join the app in the first place was to remove the association I made with people on the internet as devious catfish, thus forcing myself to see them as people, just like me, and in doing so I felt they at least deserved a glance at the entire person they chose to present.

Over the course of the month, I flipped through hundreds of profiles, “meeting” all kinds of guys. Oftentimes I’d swipe through a few batches of profiles, then close the app, only to return a few hours later to find my inbox full of matches. On Bumble, it is the girl’s “job” to make the first move, so as I would scroll through this list of strangers I’d opened the lines of communication with, I realized that I now had the responsibility of entertaining them.

No. Not responsibility. Opportunity.

More than anything, dating and meeting new people is an opportunity, and it’s important to ensure that it is beneficial to both parties. As I sat wondering what I should say to this group of strangers, I realized that unless I wanted to lead with a Google suggested witty comment or joke or internet meme, I didn’t have to. I didn’t have to do anything. And the more I thought about it, the more I started to realize the parallels between both on and offline dating. For no matter what app I was logged into or in-person conversation I was starting with a stranger, I was in control. It didn’t have to be written in the rules, it didn’t have to coincide with the narrative I thought would be most desirable. I have the power to start a conversation and I have the power to stop it. I have the opportunity to let someone get to know me and I have the right to walk away.

I’ve always been very shy when it comes to new people, and as a result have walked away from many conversations feeling like a failure. Oftentimes I’ve felt as if it were my responsibility to keep a conversation going and if I couldn’t, I assumed I wasn’t interesting or worthy of a meaningful relationship with that person.

Talking to the guys on Bumble, I realized how much I relied on them to give back what I offered them, even if that just meant politeness. I didn’t have to accept aggressive sexual innuendos or overly personal questions, and letting those conversations peter out didn’t make me less interesting or worthy of finding a meaningful connection. We were all people looking for something, and it was okay if I didn’t want the same things.

I’ll admit, it’s been a couple weeks since I logged into the app. After making a diligent effort for the first half of September, my busy schedule consumed most of my time and I often didn’t think about Bumble until right before I fell asleep. But while I didn’t put in the time and effort one might need in order to find the rare, yet meaningful connection the online world may have to offer, I’m still glad I gave it a shot. If anything, it was a great reminder that I’ve grown up a lot since high school and I am more prepared now than I ever was then to wander my way into a love story.

And while I don’t know if I’ll continue to pursue the world of online dating, I won’t count it out either, because I think the most important thing to remember when it comes to dating is to be open and honest. Open, that is, to the opportunity to find love anywhere, in a variety of different scenarios, even ones that might seem impossible. And honest in that no matter where you are or who you’re talking to, you are being yourself. Because in many cases, the people you meet on and offline are just like you. They have friends getting married and having babies, they have family members pressuring them to do the same, and they may or may not have eggs that they fear are dying. So give them a chance. Give you a chance. Take a swipe at love and see where you end up.

30 Good Things That Happened in September

I have good news and good news. I have only good news!

As mentioned in this blog post, at the end of every month I’m going to highlight all the good things that happened in that 30-day (or so) span, to give ourselves a break from the well known bad.

You can find last month’s here.

Happy September to you!

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1) This boy reminded us that everyone is different

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2) This girl became the 19th member of her family to wear this dress on her first day of Kindergarden

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3) This girl got responses from MLB teams to help make her dream come true

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4) This toddler tried to feed her baby sister

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5) This woman had a bouquet of donuts at her wedding

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6) This woman offered to give away her wedding dress to the victims of Hurricane Irma, with a great condition

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7) This man and this woman shared a dance

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8) Chance the Rapper organized an awards show for educators that will premiere next year.

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9) In the wake of Hurricane Irman, this Florida man gave a woman the last generator at Lowe’s

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10) This bug loving little girl got her first publication in a scientific journal

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11) Jessica Biel danced into Ellen the only way you ever should

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12) This organization provided photo shoots for children and families struggling with cancer

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13) This family bought their dad glasses so he could see color for the first time

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14) This organization set a new world record…with border collies

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15) After watching from the sidelines for 2 years, this police officer got to lead his favorite cheer

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16) This man founded a knitting group to help connect with the homeless

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17) This dog made it home

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18) This bride surprised her grandmother by wearing her old wedding dress

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19) This police department threw their 18 year old horse a retirement party

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20) These guys cleaned the ocean through the sale of bracelets

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21) This dog saved over 50 people after the Mexico earthquake

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22) This family created the ultimate domino effect to find out the gender of their baby

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23) This 2 year old got $20 from a stranger for a very special reason

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24) These girls got teddy bears with a special surprise inside

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25) Stephen Colbert & Nick Kroll raised money for Puerto Rico by asking celebrities to share awkward photos from puberty

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26) This girl did a backflip

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27) This little girl held her dad’s hand

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28) This mom reminded us how thankful we should all be for teachers

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29) Andy Samberg shared his new experiences with being a dad

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30) After a long journey of fertility issues, this mom told her kids she was pregnant

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Wanna know the best part? There is SO much I didn’t include.

I can’t wait to see what October brings!

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A Late September Adventure (Day 5 & 6: Boulder, Morrison & Home Again)

Day 5

Since we had fully committed ourselves to Boulder rather than Denver at this point, Allison and I woke up Wednesday morning and didn’t even think twice about where we wanted to eat breakfast.

Referring to this list this time, we decided on The Buff, mostly because I was hypnotized by the Pecan Caramel Quesadilla sampler.

Spoiler alert: it was everything I hoped it would be.

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For our entrees, Allison ordered the Saddlebags which are pancakes stuffed with bacon, and I ordered the Granola Pancakes which, if I’m honest, I felt like I was expecting too much of after the crunchy granola French toast from Syrup in Denver. It’s not that they were bad, they just…weren’t the granola French toast from Syrup, you know?

Allison and I had kind of a tight schedule to fit today. Our primary reason for coming to Denver in the first place was to see two of our favorite artists, Needtobreathe and Gavin Degraw, join forces at the Red Rocks Amphitheatre for what was sure to be the concert of a lifetime. We’d planned our trip around the concert, scheduling it to be somewhat of a grand finale.

The concert was at 7:00 on Wednesday night in Morrison, which was 20 minutes from our hotel, but after a recommendation from a friend we decided to visit the Rocky Mountain National Park, which was north of Boulder, just under 2 hours from our hotel. As we ate our breakfast at 11:30 in Boulder, we knew we had enough time, we just didn’t have enough time for anything to go wrong.

Misleading Spoiler Alert: Nothing went wrong.

We arrived at Rocky Mountain National park around 1:00. The cost for a day’s (or hour’s) entrance was $20, but trust me when I say that it is worth EVERY PENNY.

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Allison and I pulled off the road at a couple of spots, taking pictures and making an uncontrollable amount of audible “OH MY GOSH’s.” The sky was absolutely perfect, the fields and trees were a living breathing kind of green, and every once in a while a burst of a breeze would blow right through you, forcing you to close your eyes and take a long, deep breath. It was one of those places that I don’t think you could ever feel like you spent enough time in. You become instantly attached to every inch of it, wishing there was some way you could keep it with you, to remind you how perfect the world can be at the times when it seems farthest from it.

Just before 7 o’clock, we pulled into the parking lot for the concert. We had plans of eating before we went, but ran a little short on time, so as we waited in line alongside the massive red rocks, we started brainstorming on what we hoped would be offered inside. And while it never would have crossed my mind in one million years, as is turned out, bratwurst was exactly what I was craving. Allison and I both ordered a beer and a bratwurst with cheese, chili, onions and peppers and my stomach all but applauded in thanks.

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For the concert, the opening act was The New Respects, who kind of gave me a Jackson 5 vibe. They were very upbeat and melodic and made you want to dance right alongside them. The second act was The Lone Bellow. They ended up replacing Gavin Degraw due to unforeseen circumstances and had a Lumineers/Civil Wars sound. After their first few songs, the lead singer took the mic and addressed the crowd, saying, “I was at a bar in Denver last night, and I met the most beautiful soul. He was singing at an open mic night and I’ve never seen someone exude so much light when they perform.” He said he talked to the man afterwards and learned that at the age of about 60, the man had already beat cancer twice and was currently fighting another disease. But even amongst all of his struggle, the man said that when he sang, he felt no pain.

“So I thought,” the lead singer continued, “why don’t we bring him out to sing with us?”

The man then walked on stage with a wide smile spread across her face. I, of course, instantly started crying. And as the four of them started singing “Angel from Montgomery” by Bonnie Raitt, the tears kept on coming. The lead singer had been right about the man’s ability to exude light when he sang and as I watched them all sing together, I got that feeling in the pit of my stomach that I was witnessing something really special.

Next was Needtobreathe, who is not only my favorite band, but my favorite live artist of all time. This was my 5th time seeing them and Allison’s first, which I think is what made the performance my favorite of theirs by far. We danced, we laughed, we cried, we stood speechless, and to top it all off, we did so in by far the coolest venue I’ve ever been to. If you’re ever in the Denver area, please do yourself a favor and see a show at the Red Rocks Amphitheatre. And if you’re ever in the Denver area—or anywhere else really—at the same time as Needtobreathe, please do yourself a favor and see them live. It will change your life.



 

Day 6

Our last day in Colorado came with an early wakeup call. It wasn’t our earliest, but it was by far our hardest. We packed our bags and gathered the last of our belongings from our hotel room. We checked out, returned our rental car and took a shuttle to the airport. There was mild conversation, but it all had an invisible weight brought on by the prospect of leaving.

In a couple hours, I’d be on a flight back to California and Allison would be headed back to Oregon. We didn’t know when we’d see each other again, and we were well aware we’d be going back to a friendship that mostly exists through texts, emails and phone calls squeezed in between our very busy and very different schedules.

Our gates were right next to each other and our flights were leaving one minute apart, so once we got through security, we sat side by side in a pair of chairs directly between the two doors we’d soon be walking through. We watched the screens update our flight information and we listened to the intercom announce the arrivals and departures of surrounding planes. We fantasized about getting on a different plane. Making this vacation last a little longer. Avoiding responsibilities for even just a day or two more. But then a woman’s voice came on the speaker and announced it was time for us both to board. We stood from our seats and gave each other a hug, both of us feeling the separation anxiety starting to set in quick.

I walked up to the counter and scanned my ticket with the agent, then walked down the jet bridge alone. I waited in line behind a man with a giant carry on suitcase and then took my window seat near the back of the plane and plugged in my headphones. As the rest of the passengers continued to board, I got a text from Allison.

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I looked out the window of my plane, over at the series of windows on the neighboring plane, wondering where my best friend was sitting, feeling weird that after almost a whole week of being together 24/7, we weren’t sitting together. Then, as my eyes grazed the middle of the plane, I saw something.

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I smiled. It was moments like these that made me feel confident in the upcoming days and months we’d spend apart. Because even when things got tough, we’d always be there for each other to shine a little light and help each other out. So as my plane backed out onto the runway, I leaned back in my seat, sad this trip was over, but optimistic and excited about the many adventures to come.

A Late September Adventure (Day 4: Boulder, CO)

After another slow, relaxing morning, Allison and I made our way back into Denver for breakfast. This time we referred to this list, and decided on Syrup, not only because the name screams BREAKFAST, but also because the menu boasted items such as “breakfast pizza” and a “pancake and waffle flight.” I ended up trying the “crunchy French toast”, which is the breakfast classic fried in granola and I was instantly obsessed.

The restaurant was found inside a suite in a downtown building, so when we walked back outside, we expected to be thrust into the hustle and bustle of the city. Strangely, however, we found the city to be a far cry from those we were familiar with. The streets were almost silent. Coming from Los Angeles, I felt a strange yearning for honking and cursing and yelling and then immediately felt ashamed about it. Maybe cities could exist without all of that. But then, as we drove around, checking out Coors Field and the surrounding streets, I also started to wonder, was I too far gone to enjoy a city that didn’t?

“Okay, things to do in Denver,” I mumbled to myself as I did a Google search on the side of the road. “Uhhh, want to go see this nosey blue bear?”

“Sure,” Allison said, and she got to work on directions.

Meet the nosey blue bear, also known as the “Big Blue Bear” that stands outside of the Colorado Convention Center:

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To be fair, I’m not sure if we totally gave Denver a shot. After checking out the Baloo the peeping bear, we drove around a little bit more, before ultimately heading back to the city that had stolen our hearts: Boulder.

We made the 40 minute trek, found a parking spot just outside the Pearl St. Mall and spent the next few hours walking from store to store. We walked up both sides of the mall, taking in the many unique art installations that peppered its sidewalks, we browsed boutiques that boasted price tags we could only dream to ignore, and we spent far too much—which really means not enough—time in a local bookstore.

Around 4 o’clock, we got back in the car and once again let our Googling thumbs decide where we should go next.

“Do you want to go to The Leanin’ Tree?” I asked Allison.

“What’s that?”

I shrugged and clicked to view the Yelp reviews. “This person says, ‘Amazing and free’”

At the sound of our two favorite words, Allison immediately buckled her seatbelt and typed in the address.

About 15 minutes later, we were pulling into a parking lot. A small “Leanin’ Tree” sign let us know we were in the right place, but when we parked our car and looked out the passenger window, passed the wooden fence marked “Leanin’ Tree,” we were still unsure. It was a park with a bunch of bronze sculptures grouped closely together.

“I was kind of expecting a…uhhh…a tree,” Allison said.

“Me too.”

Allison went to work on her phone, trying to figure out where exactly we were, then she looked up at me with a frown. “I think it’s closed.”

I glanced down at the clock: 4:15.

“Dangit. Did it close at 4?”

Allison shook her head. “No. I mean, I think it’s closed forever.”

She showed me her phone. An article read: “Boulder closes Leanin’ Tree Museum after 40 years of service.”

We both sighed. The article was dated only a few weeks ago. I sat back in my seat, wondering what we should do next and Allison leaned into the glass of her window.

“You know,” she said. “The gate is open.”

We got out of the car. At the very least, we figured we could at least get a closer look at the statues and maybe take a picture with one or two.

(Which we did)

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We walked through the gate and followed the sidewalk around to a set of double doors.

“Should we go inside?” I asked.

Allison shrugged and opened the door.

Inside we found a large desk with two women sitting behind it.

“Hello,” the woman on the left said. “Feel free to look around. To the right is our Christmas room.”

This woman then walked away. As if “to the right is our Christmas room” is a completely casual thing to say. Allison and I exchanged a look, and without saying a word, we both b-lined to the “Christmas Room.”

What is a Christmas Room you might ask? Well, it’s EXACTLY what it sounds like. After turning the corner in the beige walled, grey-carpeted lobby, we were thrust into a candy apple red, frosted shelf, Christmas trinket wonderland. Tables and shelves were COVERED in Christmas decorations, holiday knick-knacks and seasonal greeting cards. Santas came in every size. Everything was sprinkled with glitter. Every closed box promised the potential of a jingle. Allison and I looked at each other and immediately started laughing.

WHERE THE HELL WERE WE?!

We stood in the Christmas room for a few minutes, until we felt we were composed enough to face the women at the desk again, then walked back out into the lobby. This time the woman on the right stood to greet us.

“Hello,” she said. “Do you know what we do here?”

“No,” we said desperately in unison.

“Well we used to have a Western Art museum, but that recently closed. Our main source of work here, however, is greeting cards.”

Greeting cards?

She gestured to her left. “Feel free to look around.”

We followed her hand to the room on the other side of the desk. Inside we found a collection of, well, everything. There was jewelry, there were t-shirts, there were hand painted wooden signs that mom’s hang in their garden. There were candles and perfumes and purses and a collection of 50% off posters of the western art the museum used to display. To top it all off, when you moved to the back of the store, you were led into another room FULL of greeting cards. We’re talking aisles and rotating displays and shelves and tables full of greeting cards for every occasion.

Again, we asked ourselves, where are we?!

Regardless of the answer, we spent a good 45 minutes inside, looking at absolutely EVERYTHING. Just after 5 o’clock, we made our way back to the counter, where we purchased the following items:

A Colorado post card

2 greeting cards

A child XL t-shirt with a brontosaurus standing under the night sky

A mason jar with an apron inside that said, “you look radishing”

Only the essentials, obviously.

When we got back in our car, we calmly set our purchases in the backseat, buckled our seatbelts, then looked at each other and let out another loud, long laugh. Once we were composed, we went in search of a snack before dinner.

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We had planned to watch the sunset up at a friend-recommended spot known as Realization Point, and thought that popcorn sounded like something good to munch on. Long story short, we spent the next hour looking for Doc-Popcorn, which our maps had two locations for in Boulder, only to find out that neither of them exist. SO, we settled for smoothies instead, stopping at a place called Wonder to satisfy that craving.

While seated at a table in the very trendy, brick walled café, Allison put both hands flat on the table.

“I don’t feel very well,” she said. “I feel like I’m about to have a panic attack.”

I’ve never had a panic attack, but I’ve read enough to sympathize with their unpredictable nature and paralyzing symptoms. I took a big gulp of my smoothie. “How can I help?”

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Allison stood from the table and we made our way back to the car and up the hill to Realization Point. She said she wanted to take in the sunset and then we agreed to pick up something light for dinner and head back to the hotel to watch a movie. As we drove, she apologized, feeling guilty even though she had no reason to. I knew she felt like she was “ruining the evening” and I worried she had thoughts she was somehow ruining the trip.

I think we all tend to put so much pressure on ourselves when we’re on vacation. Like we need to feel our best all the time or we’re just wasting our time. So often we forget that part of vacation is rest. It’s having the time to recognize the feelings our busy workdays may require us to harbor.

Allison and I spend most of our time thousands of miles apart, so the best part of any vacation together is that freedom to get be on vacation together. Whether that’s going on some crazy, adrenaline pumping adventure, or staying up late talking about everything, or tucking in early to call it a night. So as we made our way home with some soup and a movie, I had no worries this vacation was in danger of being ruined. In many ways, it had already been more that I could have ever imagined.

A Late September Adventure (Day 3: Denver, CO)

In an unfamiliarly cold haze of morning déjà vu, my alarm once again went off at 4:15 a.m. on Monday. Unwavering from its first episode, I blinked my eyes slowly open, pondering the “what if I just slept through this?” narrative. But as I trudged my way into the bathroom, my toes cold and my stomach surprisingly empty, I once again gave into the promise of adventure. Allison and I were headed to Denver for the second leg of our vacation, and if all it took to get there was to fight through an early alarm, we were in a pretty good spot.

Mike was gracious enough to drive us to the airport, singing and chatting all the way. Allison and I smiled gratefully, both of us an equal level of non-morning person, and we wished him well as we made our way inside. Uncharacteristic of the small Redmond Airport, the security line wrapped around the lobby. Allison and I looked at each other with big, tired eyes, worried our early wake up call wouldn’t prove to be early enough. Luckily, the line moved quick and with a good helping of time to spare, we boarded our flight, took our seats, and promptly knocked out.

Upon arriving in Seattle, we had a slight increase in energy, though nothing more substantial than a battery’s last-ditch effort to power a children’s toy. Quickly after boarding our flight to Denver, we were once again asleep, Allison with her head on the fold down table, and me with a book open on my lap. Thankfully, this nap would prove fruitful, as we touched down in Colorado feeling excited, rejuvenated, and starving. We picked up our bags, took a shuttle to our rental car service, shed our jackets in the warm Colorado sun, and hit the road to downtown Denver.

Now, one thing you should know about the way Allison and I travel is we don’t do a lot of planning. We get the basics settled: the hotel, the rental car, the flights, etc. but from there we tend to wing it. So once we were on the freeway driving through the flat plains surrounding the Denver International Airport, Allison went to work finding us a place to eat lunch by Googling “best places for lunch in Denver.” We referred to this list, and settled on Olive & Finch, whose cute name and unique menu got our taste buds salivating.

I ordered the Hens Can Crow sandwich, whose focaccia bread I will dream about for months to come, and the blueberry lemonade, which I will now inquire about at every restaurant until I find it again. We sat out on the patio, trying to take in the fact that, after months of planning and hoping this trip would come to fruition, we were actually sitting at a restaurant in Denver, and we looked at each other with a smile.

“What should we do first?”

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Remember how I said that Allison and I aren’t ones for planning? Well, lucky for us, we do tend to be, well, lucky. We remembered the Coors Brewery is in Denver, so while we ate lunch we looked up the details involved in taking a tour. As it turned out, tours are only available Thursday through Monday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and seeing as it was Monday at 2:30 p.m. and we were leaving Thursday at 10:30 a.m., we really only had one shot to make it and it just so happened to be right then. So, we hopped back in the car, made a quick pit stop to check into our hotel, and headed straight for the Coors Brewery, where we got in line for the last 5 or 6 buses of the day.

Each bus held about 10-15 people and a tour guide sat in the driver’s seat, pointing out key points of interest en route to the brewery. The ride and tour are free, as are the three beers available to you in the tasting room at the end. Allison and I jumped off the bus and led our group inside the main building, where we were immediately shuffled in line to take a goofy souvenir photo. You know, the kind you never really think about buying…usually.  

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From there we each grabbed an audio guide that you held up to your ear like a telephone. We walked side by side from point to point, fascinated by the brewing process and its history. Occasionally we would look over at each other with wide eyes and dropped jaws, shocked by a shared factoid, such as the plant’s distribution of its by-products to aid in the production of cat food.

Once we reached the tasting room, we immediately hopped in line to order the first of our three free beers. We each started with a Sandlot, which is brewed by Blue Moon, a Coors affiliate. We clinked our glasses and made our way through the room whose walls are covered with old Coors advertising memorabilia, and found a high table to lean our elbows on and enjoy our beers. We also made a stop at the vending machines stocked with salty snacks and split a bag of pretzels before getting back in line for our second drink. On this round, I ordered a Coors Banquet and Allison got a Killian’s Red. Halfway through this beer, we found ourselves a little lighter. We leaned against our table and laughed at old stories we’d told each other time and time again, and then got in line for our third and final beer.

“Oranges or no oranges?” the bartender said as he poured our Blue Moons. I said none, Allison said she’d take mine, and then we cheers-ed. This time we turned a different way away from the bar, landing us face to face with the photo counter that offered the souvenir photos we’d taken at the beginning of the tour.

“Oh my gosh,” we laughed into our glasses, “we HAVE to see these.”

After seeing the end results, we decided we also HAD to buy them. I got this one, where we’re just a couple of gals in cowboy hats, standing in the middle of a river:

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And Allison got the same picture with other available background, making us just a couple of gals in cowboy hats, standing in front of the Coors ice mountain:

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Neither purchase was met with even an ounce of regret.

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From the Coors brewery we took the bus back to our car and drove around downtown Golden for a little while. We stopped at a picturesque park full of runners, bikers, and loungers alike. We drove through the campus of the Colorado School of Mines, slightly jealous of the scenery they are surrounded with, though not jealous enough to wish we were back in school. We traversed the Lariat Loop Scenic Byway, constantly oohing and awing at the views it offered at every turn. Then, in another predictably unpredictable decision of an Allison/Kim adventure, we decided to drive 40 minutes into Boulder, Colorado to look around and eat ice cream.

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We stopped at Heifer and the Hen, a little ice cream shop outside of downtown Boulder that had swings to eat your ice cream on. I ordered the burnt honey in a waffle cone, the taste of which was delicious, though not as delicious as it could have been if they hadn’t run out of candied pecans.

Dear anyone in Boulder or its surrounding areas, if you happen to stop by Heifer and the Hen, please try this combination and report back whether it’s the greatest things you’ve ever tasted. Also, request to name this order “The Kim” on the menu. Thanks.

From there we drove through downtown Boulder, noting the Pearl Street Mall as a possible destination for the next day and then headed back to our hotel.

Even though we were tired from the day’s travels, we lay on our neighboring beds and talked for hours, about anything and everything, some things we probably didn’t even know we wanted to talk about. It was one of those conversations that goes in every direction for as long as need be; the kind of conversation we all hope to have once in a while; the kind that makes you feel known and understood. So as our eyes started to get heavy, we got under our covers and turned the lights out.

“Good night,” we said to each other, and it wasn’t because we felt we had to or because we couldn’t think of anything else to say, it was because it was true.

A Late September Adventure (Day 2: Bend, OR)

At home, a typical September Sunday morning usually consists of church, with the occasional play of hooky to watch a Giants football game on television. They are always slow moving and relaxing and comfortable, which made this Sunday morning in Bend feel just like home. After getting the chance to catch up on some sleep, Allison and I curled up under a blanket on the couch and talked about nothing.

Oftentimes being a guest in someone’s home creates a kind of pressure on both sides where both parties want the other to feel comfortable and happy. But there is a special kind of magic when you can just sit and exist and not feel like a guest at all but rather a member of the family. Allison and I talked about our plans for the day and lazed around a little bit longer than we probably should have, but it gave the day a perfect start.

Around 11:00 we went to Jackson’s Corner, one of my favorite places from the last trip I took to Bend (which you can read about here), where I once again got The Cristo, the French toast sandwich I’d been dreaming about ever since. This time I remembered to take a picture:

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giphy (17)From there we went to the Lava River Cave, where I got to sport my first winter coat of the season as we walked through a mile long underground lava tube. Mike, Allison and I walked side by side, shining rented flashlights into the pitch dark, making jokes about what it would be like to get stuck down there, while all silently agreeing it would probably be the worst thing ever. We walked up close to the damp, textured formations on the walls and in the dirt, having a constant stream of “I can’t believe this exists right alongside us” moments. By the time we were back up the 150 stairs that lead into the cave, the sun felt as hot as it looked bright and we hobbled our way back to the car, still in awe of what we’d just experienced.

One thing I’ve come to learn about Bend is that with its easy access to breweries, there’s always a bar or restaurant close by to unwind with a cold one. So after our trek through the lava tube, it was only fitting that we head to Atlas Cider Co. to have a drink and watch some late afternoon football. I ordered the apricot cider and Allison ordered the pineapple mango cider, both of which hit the spot perfectly, and we each helped ourselves to a bag of free popcorn the pub offers in the back room next to the arcade.

We were all in between bouts of hunger, wondering what we should do with rest of our evening. But as we sipped our ciders and munched our popcorn, we decided the best plan was least related, in other words it consisted of tacos, cinnamon rolls and wine.

For the tacos we went to El Sancho, where Allison recommended everything and I settled on carne asada and carnitas. For cinnamon rolls we went to the grocery store where we braved buying ingredients to bake them homemade, the results of which were everything we hoped for. And for the wine we went home, where we uncorked the bottle in the refrigerator, turned on the Emmy’s and let another good day come to a close.