Category Archives: culture

The Denver Brass – A Celtic Tapestry at Newman Center for Performing Arts

20140316-162754.jpgWow… “hearing [really] is believing!”  We had the opportunity* to see Denver Brass perform yesterday, and it was fabulous!  This particular show was very unique in that it was not just The Denver Brass, but performances from various others to make up the Ancient Threads… simply put, it was fabulous!

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Artists and performances included Celtic Colorado Pipes & Drums, Rocky Mountain Highland Dancers, Wick School of Irish Dance, Todd Teske – Tenor, and Iain Hyde & Joanna Hyde – Fiddles.  What a treat just in time for St. Patrick’s Day!  The music, the dancing, the bagpipes, and all the costumes reminded me of my time in Ireland and Scotland.

20140316-162824.jpgAll in all, what a great show, and performance.  Amazing talent right here in our own backyard.  The venue wasn’t too shabby either.  The Newman Center for Performing Arts on DU’s campus is a perfect venue.  You can check out all their other presentations and shows too!  This particular show for The Denver Brass, along with all their other shows are very kid-friendly, and definitely are for all ages.  I even saw a toddler who was mesmerized, and held very still during the whole show!  I high recommend checking out The Denver Brass and their entire schedule, and venues.

*Disclaimer:I was compensated wit20140316-162810.jpgh free tickets to see and hear The Denver Brass at the Newman Center for Performing Arts (Denver University).  My opinions and views expressed here are my own.

 

 

 

 

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Aloha and Mahalo to our 50th State – Hawaii

IMG_8468We had an amazing opportunity to travel southwest to our 50th State and visit paradise – Hawai’i.  The Hawaiian Islands are beautiful, tropical, and just a quick trip away from Denver.  The beauty is beyond anything I have experienced anywhere on the mainland – even California, with all its beauty, mountains and ocean, doesn’t compare.

Diamondhead
Diamondhead – at Waikiki

The clear blue waters and sky of Hawaii have a beauty unlike any other State in the union.  Here, I share some tips, some places to stay near, and what to do but keep in mind in our 5 days, and 5 nights there, we only stayed on the island of Oahu.

Flying in and out of Honolulu (HNL) was just fine – it is cheaper than flying elsewhere, and renting a car at HNL is cheaper because of the competition.  I still think CostcoTravel has the cheapest rental cars if you are an executive member.  The only non-stop flights from Denver are with United Airlines direct into HNL.  All other airlines connect but if you don’t mind the extra travel time, you can get airline rates as cheap as $549-ish on US IMG_8485Airways or United connecting in Phoenix, SFO, LAX, or other such places.  You can book Hawaiian Airlines out of Seattle or LAX as low as $450 but will have to get there from Denver.  The direct, non-stop flights run from $680 to $750 depends on when you buy and when you go.   The return flights are tougher because you either have to depart first thing in the morning out of HNL or take the red-eye back to Denver.  Red-eye flights look great on paper, but in reality, are horrible.  Kids do sleep but they kick you, each other, and generally, it is uncomfortable for you, not the kiddos.

Sunset at Waikiki
Sunset at Waikiki

On Oahu, these are the must see/do things:  Waikiki Beach- First, you simply must hang out on Waikiki Beach.  It is a commercial, tourist trap with expensive shops and the look and feel of Newport Beach but it is not.  The waters are so clear you can snorkel right near the shore and still see fish!  It is clear blue water, perfect sand, and you can grab a bite to eat for a reasonable fare along the coast.  We stayed at the Hale Koa Hotel but only eligible military may stay here.  The Hilton Hawaiian Village right next door on the beach to the Hale Koa is a

Picture of Waikiki from atop Diamond Head crater
Picture of Waikiki from atop Diamond Head crater

perfect alternative- check prices and using points or miles here will be a high rate.  Hilton Waikiki is right up the road too!  Check hotel prices, but staying close to the beach is so worth it!  KOA services on the beach is great for renting umbrellas, paddleboards, snorkel gear, and fun boats.  Military get half price on almost all of these rentals.  It is a great deal so bring your ID card.  At Waikiki, you can get great pics of Diamond Head, and the sunset.  Waikiki Beach is on the South Shore and the sunsets over the Pacific here.  We had an oceanfront view at the Hale Koa, and were able to get some great pictures of the sunset.

IMG_8564Diamond Head State Park-   You simply must hike up the Diamond Head.  You can see the views of the entire island from here.  Diamond Head is a crater, and when you get to the top you can see the crater, and the shores of the east coast, and all of Waikiki Beach and Pearl Harbor.  It is simply the most breath-taking view you can imagine!  The hike up is treacherous, but get a trail map because a year ago, they opened a ramp so you can avoid the 99 steps and only have to climb about 10 of them.  Know where to detour for this, so you can avoid the insane steps.

Sunrise over Pacific from Diamond Head
Sunrise over Pacific from Diamond Head

It’s an alternate route up but the entire hike is about 1.2 miles up, and takes 30 minutes to the top, and one hour round-trip.  The sun rising over the Pacific is a sight to see because you can never see that from the mainland.  My husband ran from Diamond Head (the base) to the hotel in Waikiki and it is about 5.5 miles so be aware of that, but a beautiful, scenic run along the beach and shore.  Parking is $5.00 at the beginning of the trail head and worth it.  There is no other entry fee.  For food, and drink, a food truck is parked at the base, and they sell yummy fresh pineapple, water, and snow cones and it is good stuff!  You will need it after the long round-trip, or on the way up.  Also, restrooms are at the base, but nothing at the top or along the way.

IMG_8554Hanauma Bay Snorkeling- You simply must head to Hanauma Bay and see the beautiful coral reef, the beautiful clear blue waters, and snorkel (you can even snorkel near the shore) and see the fish, turtles, and other wild life.   The coral is beautiful to see too.  The water is clear (not foggy at all).  In fact, my kids who were with us saw fish without snorkeling gear.  You do not need it at all.  Walk slowly, and keep still and you can see your own feet and all the sea creatures you wish for.  Hanauma Bay is very kid-friendly, and the water is calm and clear.  It is hot and sunny here so do get a shaded spot if you can, or bring an umbrella.  IMG_8543Don’t forget sunblock and a hat.  Also, military get in free with their active I.D. but all dependents need their IDs as well so remember that.  They are not kind to military dependents who forgot their ID, even if the active member vouches for their spouses.  The parking is $1.00 and the entry fee is $7.50 and kids under 10 are free.  You have to watch a video to enter, and sign your name on the list so you can return without watching it again.

IMG_8679Polynesian Cultural Center- I thought we’d get a Lei off the plane but they don’t do that anymore, and the Leis will cost you now.  So, if you want to see some Hawaiian or Polynesian Culture, head northeast to the Polynesian Cultural Center, to see some dancing, ukulele playing, and you can take lessons too!  There are workshops and shows to attend, and kids activities.  You can spend at least 3-4 hours here if not more.  The tickets are cheapest if you get them from ITT/MWR (for military- available at all the local bases), or try to find a deal on-line if you are not military.  Regular admission tickets are $39.00 and that does not include the shows or the luau at night.  That generally will run you $94 per person for the entire package deal. The canoe parade with all the festive colors, dancing, and cultural explanations are beyond

Canoe Parade
Canoe Parade

ITT or MWR on bases sell the Polynesian Cultural Center tickets for $15 per person (over age 5- kids under 6 are free).  This is a screaming deal!  Honestly, if you want to do a Luau, try the one at the Hale Koa on Waikiki- I have heard great things.  Kids under 12 are free, and adults are $49.50 all inclusive.  We did not do a luau because I do not eat meat or fish, and luaus are set menus.  But I hear the experience is worth it.  Honestly, after visiting the Polynesian Cultural Center, I feel I received a lot of culture and experienced it all in one place.  IMG_8670All in all, I didn’t feel I was experiencing any island culture until we hit the Polynesian Cultural Center.

Dole plantation & North Shore Beaches– Dole plantation is a tourist trap, overpriced, and ridiculous but you still have to go there and do it but just be aware of what NOT to do whilst there.  So, there is a corn maze, a train ride, and a plantation tour that you have to pay for.  I recommend picking one.  It is expensive even with the military discount.  The train ride is bogus- we did it for the kids and wish we could get that hour of our lives back.  Sadly, we cannot. IMG_8591 I recommend heading there, eating the dole whip (not the one with topping) and the corn (outside the visitor’s center) which is the yummiest thing ever, watching the pineapple cutting demonstration, walking the grounds, and then heading out to the north shore for food and beach fun.  The corn maze, I hear, is fun for kids, but again, I recommend only doing one paid activity.  The kids really enjoyed the dole whip as did we.  IMG_8582Sometimes they run specials on the souvenir cup with dole whip so I recommend doing that buy one, get one half off deal to get a cheap souvenir.  Enjoy walking the grounds and seeing the pineapple demonstrations (get to try some free pineapple too), and then head off north 10 mins to the north shore.  We stopped at Waimea Beach on the north shore but you can go further east on the north shore to see surfers at Turtle Bay and Sunset Beach- GORGEOUS!

Waimea Bay & Beach NORTH SHORE
Waimea Bay & Beach NORTH SHORE

The waves are higher on the north shore in the winter so it is not safe for kids, but it is fun to jump and hop over waves.  There are some great restaurants along the north shore as well – near Sunset Beach, but we had to head back towards Waikiki to meet friends for dinner.  It is about a one-hour drive south back to the Waikiki/HNL area, and with traffic it can turn into 1 hour 15 mins.  Keep in mind that traffic INTO Waikiki and Honolulu (the city) on

Sunset at the North Shore
Sunset at the North Shore

the H1 is bad, and leaving the city in the evenings, so when you make your plans, try to go against traffic.  We got lucky each time, going in the opposite direction of the traffic.

We stayed at a military installation towards the end of our journey and it had its own private beach and unique features too which really made our enjoy pleasant and enjoyable.  The Navy Exchange which is off-post near Pearl Harbor is amazing and huge, and open to all for the food court.  I recommend eating here, and if you are eligible, you can shop at the commissary and on-site Exchange.  The chocolates, dresses, shirts, and souvenirs are very cheap and great quality here.

IMG_8640Pearl Harbor, USS Arizona and War In the Pacific MemorialsFinally, on Oahu, you simply must visit at least one or all the Pacific Memorials for World War II.  It is not to be missed.  We visited the USS Arizona, and saw the film before hand.  If the film does not get you, walking into this memorial, and knowing what rests below will bring tears to your eyes, and the history is just all around you.  You can see all the sites, and visit the submarine, and take a boat to Ford Island to see the remaining ships and memorials.  I highly recommend going early (before 0930) and it will take you at least one hour per memorial.  IMG_8645There is also enough to do around here – walking around, reading all the placards, and seeing all the exhibits for free.  It will take at least 2-3 hours from start to finish so plan accordingly, and remember to show your respect. The December 7, 1941, attack on Pearl Harbor was the costliest for the U.S. Navy and our military – EVER!  I had no idea over 2,100 sailors, soldiers and airmen lost their lives.  I thought the number was in the hundreds.  It is quite eye-opening.  Keep in mind that you will explain the film to young kids – there is a lot talk of death, war, and casualties, and young kids do not understand this quite yet. IMG_8649 Tickets to USS Arizona are free – it is a National Park Service and federally appropriated monument.  All others cost some concession fee and military in uniform are free to all exhibits.  Food on site is snacking only, and expensive, so drive a mile down the road to the Navy Exchange for an awesome food court open to all the public.

We also drove to the East shore, and it is beautiful.  If you can go to Kailua do so, but it was a small detour out of our way to and from the Polynesian Cultural Center.  You simply must take the LikeLike Highway from Waikiki area towards Kailua, and the Cultural Center.  This is a gorgeous drive through the mountains towards the east shore and just gorgeous!  IMG_8704The shore drive NORTH up the eastern shore towards Brigham Young Hawaii Campus and the Polynesian Cultural Center is narrow, winding, and only two-lane, but is gorgeous! You can stop on any of these clear, blue beaches and can’t go wrong.  The waves are a bit higher here, wateIMG_8487r saltier, and sand washes onto you along with the water, but hey, it’s beach!  Hawaii, our 50th State, a beautiful paradise, and an amazing destination to visit if you can.  You will not regret it.  We only visited Oahu, but hope to return soon to visit the other islands. Mahalo, Hawaii, and all its residents, til we meet again.

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Turquoise Mesa Winery- Broomfield, CO EVENT

photo 2I had the opportunity to attend a Turquoise Mesa Winery* event benefiting the Broomfield Council on the Arts and Humanities (BCAH) tonight, and it was awesome!  I had heard of the Winery before because their products are often sampled and sold at Farmer’s Markets across the Denver metro area, but I never visited the actual winery.  The winery is located at 11705 Teller Street, in Broomfield, Colorado, and their website is www.turquoisemesawinery.com, and their wines are yummy.  I got the sample a few, and took home a Riesling, and a Batch 1954 (fruity red).  It was a good night, and did you know about the  Broomfield Council on the Arts and Humanitiesphoto 4If not, you should check it out at www.artsinbroomfield.org.  It’s a nonprofit, member focused organization for the enhancement of arts and humanities, and right in our backyard!  It was a fun event, and as you can see from the details of it, all the tastings and food were yummy-licious.  A bunch of local vendors donated food for the event including the Dessert stand- yummy yummy FUNDRAISER_WINERY73ead4cupcakes.  I had a good time and I definitely recommend visiting the winery and getting more information on the BCAH.   The winery tasting room and sales are open Th, F and Sat from 1-6 p.m.  I really enjoyed visiting a place I never would have heard of otherwise, so I thank my blogging friends for introducing me to this really cool, quaint and small winery in Broomfield.  Salut, Cheers, Prost!

*Sponsored Post Notice: I was not asked to write this post, but I wrote it because I attended this event for free to promote it.  I did promote it on twitter, and facebook, and other social media means.  I was not compensated with anything other than free admission to the charity event on August 18, 2013, at the Winery.

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Do we ever look up?

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Image blurred to protect the “technologically innocent”

Do we ever look up anymore, or talk with one another? Or are our heads buried in our phones, smart devices, tablets, and readers?

Here I sit at the tire shop- my tires need replacing. I can’t replace just the one or two in trouble. I need to replace them all. The country song, “knee deep” is blaring on the radio.  One guy is eating a meal from Whole Foods and on his smart phone at the same time!  I’m engrossed in writing this blog post, another guy is watching movies and streaming Hulu with headphones on his smart phone.  The guy across from me is watching all of us on our respective devices and is laughing. He’s an older gentleman and doesn’t understand what all this technology is about.  He makes me uncomfortable because he is the only one looking for conversation, looking around, not reading or texting or streaming a movie.  Why can’t he just look down?  These are the thoughts in my head as I hum along to the song I recognize.  I keep typing this post because I love the idea … do we ever look up?  No, because it means we may need to interact.  That seems uncomfortable to me.

When did we stop interacting with one another? When did we become so crazy and addicted to technology? I was mouthing the words to “knee deep,” and this provided him an opportunity to talk with me.  A few awkward moments of conversation later, I look back down, and am relieved to be typing this post again.  Typing, on my itty bitty magical handheld device. This provides me comfort, provides me with entertainment. This passes the time for me. I look up and no one is looking up or around save for that one gentleman who has no idea what the fuss is all about.

As I write this post, another guy has now sat down with his ultrabook and began working on it. That’s 7 out of 8 of us in this repair shop with our heads down, our eyes going bad from focusing on small writing and letters. That’s 7 out of 8 of us shut out from the world, but comfortable, happy, and completely complacent in not making awkward, unnecessary conversation with one another.  Will we ever look up?  I have no idea, but it is nice to have something to do while waiting for my car to get fixed.

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Do you know what it means to miss New Orleans?

Rainy Day Big EasyWe made a family trip to New Orleans for fun last weekend, and even though I brought back some crud with me (or, I got it when I returned here), we had a blast!  We stayed at the New Orleans Marriott on Canal Street, just blocks away from everything!  There is one thing I noticed this time that I had not before- New Orleans is not kid-friendly.  Before when we went, they were in strollers or the Baby Bjorn, so it was easier.  This time, both were walking (we are trying stroller weaning), and one of my kiddos can read.  Yep- you know what I am about to say next.  The shops carry the most inappropriate shirts and items with words like, “B__CH 1” and “B__CH 2” and you know it is even worse than that.   So, there is my almost 6-year old, with proud mamma, sounding out the words, “show me your ….” on a T-shirt.  She asks, “mommy, what does that word say?”  It didn’t end there.  IMG_3281So, I guess New Orleans is not as kid friendly as I thought.  Granted, had we stayed Uptown, or on the West Bank, or Metairie, or near a suburb, it would have been fine but, we were smack dab in the middle of sin city.

Marriott PoolsAll that aside, I wanted to share some fun pics from our trip and tell you more about the New Orleans Marriott.  First, it has two heated outdoor pools- need I say more?  One is kid entry, so they can stand up in it and just have fun for hours.  Second, there is a separate pool for those crazy love birds you feared would end up in the room next door to you.  So, your kids can remain segregated from all the “action.”  The New Orleans Marriott is conveniently located on Canal Street and Chartres, one block from Decatur Street, and a few blocks from the infamous Bourbon Street.  The staff there is amazing.  Simply amazing.  We were lucky with our corner room on the side which is IMG_3254called “riverfront tower”, and we got an amazing view of the Quarter, and the Mississippi.  The Natchez Steamboat tooted its horn daily for our enjoyment, and we could enjoy barges passing by.  The city view at night of New Orleans, and the Crescent City Connection were magnificent as well.  I recommend the New Orleans Marriott because they do treat you like royalty there with southern charm one can only find in Night BridgeN’awlins.  Parking is $35 per day plus tax so that is the only downside, but you can park at Harrah’s nearby if you are planning to gamble for at least 30 minutes a day on a player’s card.  That is 0.3 miles away from this locationIMG_3270.*

Cafe Du Monde- my favorite place of all, except on weekend mornings when there are lines so long, you will Beignetswant to scream, “BEIGNET!”  I definitely recommend eating there after dinner on a weeknight or after dinner when everyone else is on Bourbon Street acting crazy.  Just don’t wear black, and bring your patience because it takes them sometime to serve you (just depends on who you get).

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Gumbo Shop’s tasty white beans and rice
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Vegetarian Eggs Benedict- Feelings Cafe

I love, love, love strolling along the river.  We did not do the Aquarium of the Americans or Audubon Zoo this trip but they are great places to go especially with kids.  If you want to hit the West Bank, take the ferry across and it is a fun ride on the mighty Mississippi.  The City Park is a street car ride away, and the New Orleans Museum of Art is super cool.  I already visited the WW II Museum on another trip here but it is a must see.  A few places we loved to eat at and I had never tried some before- we loved The Gumbo Shop located in the Quarter.  They have vegetarian options too and their white beans and rice, wow!  To die for.  Hubby had a po-boy and loved it.  I have to say, I was pleasantly surprised by the Mother’s Day brunch we had at Feelings Cafe located in the Marigny, a quaint, older revived neighborhood.  They have vegan options which says a lot to me.

We were blessed because on this trip to New Orleans, my in-laws were with us, and stayed a few feet away, so on Saturday night, hubby and I got a much needed date night in the city while the grandparents spent time with their grandchildren.  Cathedral_backWe had not been to a fancy restaurant like the one we found in the Quarter since before the kids were born!  We went to Bayona’s in the Quarter, and it was simply put: superb.  I even found a good veggie dish, and the dessert options were yummy-licious.  Hubby and I got a chance to explore Bourbon Street and all the craziness of it, dance a little, and I got my hurricane.  This drink is quite potent and a few sips and knock you off your …. I did not drink the whole thing at all.  The coolest thing about New Orleans is that I could walk with my hurricane to the restaurant, and then take it back to the room- open container? Who cares?  I love this city. Hurricane It is a Libertarian’s dream come true.  You can buy a daiquiri and then walk with it wherever you want.  Notice I said “walk” – you should not be drinking and driving but, if you happen to “drive-thru” a daiquiri stand, remember to poke your straw through your cup after you get to your destination.

Dessert at Bayona's
Dessert at Bayona’s

We didn’t get out to eat at half of the places we wanted to.  And, the Marriott room service was not that bad either just a tad bit pricey.  But sometimes, a momma just needs her room service.  Anyway, all in all, great trip except for our minor emergency trip to Children’s Hospital because my little one landed on a table in our room.  She is usually the careful one so this was a shocker.  But, we were blessed at the treatment we received at that uptown Hospital as well, and in no time, we were back on the road, children’s motrin and all.

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Biscuits from Copeland’s -buttery good

Do you know what it means to miss New Orleans? (Yes, it’s a song by Louis Armstrong)...  I certainly do know what it means to miss it.

Its a book - love it!
Its a book – love it!

*Please note: This is a personal review- I did not get a compensation in exchange for writing this post for any of the vendors above.  Again, this was a personal, family trip, and not part of a paid campaign. 

Daiquiris - super sweet and super good - available non-alcoholic too
Daiquiris – super sweet and super good – available non-alcoholic too
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