The Mile-High City: Part 2

The Mile-High City: Part 2

And welcome back!

Here’s the second part of my Denver trip!

By this point I had been in Denver or about 4 days.

That Thursday Noel took me to one of her favorite Sushi restaurants in town, Sushi Katsu. I would definitely consider this place a hole in the wall kind of restaurant. But the appeal comes from their offer of unlimited sushi for about $15.00 a person. Yes, $15.00. For all you can eat sushi. My god did we end up gorging. And the sushi itself was of fantastic quality.

In the afternoon we visited a local winery, Balistreri Winery. We took advantage of the complimentary tasting they offered. As a huge wine-lover, this was an amazing experience. The host talks you through the different products and helps you identify the flavors and notes that you might not be able to detect on your own. We decided to eat a light meal there consisting of a wonderful charcuterie platter paired with a bottle of one of the wines we sampled. I also decided to buy a bottle of wine to take home with me. I’m saving it for a special occasion… The food was good, the wine was amazing, and I definitely appreciated the fact that it was a small, locally owned winery. By far this was one of the highlights of my trip, and they do offer shipping…

Friday Noel and I decided to hit up Downtown Denver to visit some bars. We ate a quick dinner at Yard House (it’s identical to the one in Addison back home), then headed over to the dueling piano bar, Howl at the Moon. What we didn’t realize was that that Friday happened to be St. Patrick’s Day. But we had so much fun people watching and dancing among our green-clad peers. Since Noel moved to Denver for college, we haven’t really gotten a chance to enjoy the perks of turning 21 together. This was probably the first time we went out dancing. But we took advantage of the opportunity and danced until the bar closed. Her boyfriend had kindly offered to pick us up afterwards, so we were able to let loose a little without having to worry about how we were getting home. Definitely a fun night.

The rest of my time there we just hung out and enjoyed each other’s company. We watched a movie, and visited an awesome local coffee shop named Stella. Basically what we do anytime were reunited in Dallas. My last night there, we went all out and had our own wine and cheese night. Just like we’ve done countless times in the past.

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Our poor man’s recreation of a wine and cheese meal

And then it was time for me to go back home to Dallas.

Denver is a beautiful, laid back city. I could visit several times and probably find new stuff to do each time. But the reason I was there was to visit my best friend and spend time with her, more time than we have spent together in years. It was great going back to simpler times where we were content sharing a bottle of wine while watching 30 Rock.

Anyways, thank you for reading!

Italia

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The Mile-High City: Part 1

The Mile-High City: Part 1

So this ended up being quite the post, so I decided to split it into 2 parts.

Several years overdue, I finally made time to visit my best friend, Noel, in Denver. I say overdue because the last time I visited was towards the end of our freshman year of college, almost 4 years ago. Sure there was stuff to do back then, but you’re limited when you live in the dorms and don’t have a car. So this time around we were determined to explore Denver quite a bit more.

I arrived Monday night, so after Noel picked me up from the airport, there was little to do except get settled and hang out. One of the new developments I was already anticipating having to navigate was the weed culture in Denver, being that it’s now legal for recreational use. So out of curiosity, I tagged along as Noel and her boyfriend went to a dispensary to stock up on “supplies”.

Quick aside, not that it matters, but I’ve never done any kind of recreational drug in my life. I’ve never felt the need to, and I’d say I’m still pretty uncomfortable with how common it seems nowadays. I debated even mentioning it in this post, but I felt that it’s relevant to my experience in Denver. So here we go.

Anyways, like I said, we visited a dispensary. Now, as absurd as it is, I subconsciously had a mental image in my head of a dark, seedy place. But of course that is very far from the truth. The dispensary we visited was very clean, almost clinical in presentation. The staff was nice, and seemed very used to having someone come in to ogle like I was doing. So that experience served to dispel some misconceptions I was having. That being said, I’ll stick to wine…

Monday night, we hung out and went over the plans for the week. Everyone was kind enough to let me rest after a day of travel. Tuesday morning we would be returning to the airport to pick up another one of our buddies, Ty, who was coming out to visit for a couple of days.

After picking Ty up on Tuesday, we headed to a local brewery, since that is another thing Denver is known for, their beer. Colorado Plus offers several local and house made beers. So I definitely took advantage and tried several different brews. I also highly recommend the deep fried pickles. It was a lazy way to spend a beautiful Tuesday afternoon, but what’s better than sharing some beers with a group of friends?

Dinner was at what is apparently a Denver staple, Casa Bonita. I’ll admit, it was interesting, but I might have enjoyed it much more if I were like 10 years younger. The inside is basically set up like a Mexican village, with a waterfall the centerpiece of the place. One of the appeals is the “live-entertainment”, but it only seemed to consist of a guy diving into the water from different heights. Not to say it wasn’t impressive, but it was underwhelming. The plates of food were also very overpriced for what I considered to be meh quality. The only redeeming factor for me was the unlimited sopapillas you got per table. They also had an arcade, but it was so sad and rundown. I definitely understand this place is meant for families with young kids. So it was an experience, but I would maybe steer clear.

Wednesday we had a jam-packed schedule. You can’t visit Denver without taking advantage of the hiking available within an easy drive’s distance. So we decided to head to Red Rocks in the morning. The weather was almost perfect (I wouldn’t have minded if it were a little cooler…), and the hike itself is not that difficult. We visited the Amphitheater, then headed back down to follow a trail. The Red Rocks are gorgeous. I absolutely recommend it to everyone. I do wish I had a better camera to take more photos, but I was happy with what I got. The trail wasn’t all that long, so we were able to head back to Denver relatively early in the day, at around 2pm.

That ended up working really well because it gave us ample time to rest for a bit and then get ready for our other activity planned for the night, a Colorado Avalanche game!

Yes, I was able to coerce my friends into attending the game with me. They were extremely patient with me as I felt the need to explore Pepsi Center. It’s located near downtown Denver, and their public transportation, the Light Rail, had a stop right outside the arena. So ease of access is huge. The arena itself is definitely a little older. I felt the interior was a bit dull and boring, especially in comparison to Bridgestone Arena in Nashville, and even our own American Airline Center back home. They seemed to offer the typical food and drink options you’d find at most arenas, and all was pretty similarly priced. The game itself went really well for the Avs. The Colorado Avalanche at that point had already clinched last place in the league. They have been having a historically terrible season. And I could definitely sense that amongst the fans. I feel some sympathy for the fans as my Dallas Stars have also been having themselves a terrible season… Anyways, the Avs managed to pull a win against the Detroit Red Wings. I don’t think many arenas compare to Nashville in terms of in-game presentation and the noise of the crowd. But the fans in Denver were pretty loud. It helps that they won! It was a fun experience for sure, and I was able to knock one more team off of my list!

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Ty had to catch an early flight back home the next morning, so we called it a day after the game.

So I’ll stop here for now…come back later to read part 2!

Italia

Hi, I’m an Over-Packer

Hi, I’m an Over-Packer

I like to think that I’ve traveled quite a bit in my life (although still not anywhere near the amount I would like). So it’s fair to say I’ve packed quite a few bags over the years. Yet somehow I still struggle to pack effectively for trips of any length of time.

My issue is that I pack way more than I need. The thought of living out of a carry-on, for instance, makes me shudder. I guess in the back of my mind I’m planning for the possibility of getting stranded somewhere with only my suitcase of clothes to get me through. Or maybe I suddenly plan to be one of those people that change outfits throughout the day?

I mean, it isn’t a bad idea necessarily to maybe bring along an extra outfit just in case. I have spilled stuff on myself countless times to know this. But I usually pack enough clothes for several extra outfits.

So why don’t you just pack less?

That’s a great question. Well, my problem is that I am terrible at planning outfits ahead of time. I’ve never been able to pick out my clothes the night before, for instance. Admittedly, I should work on this as part of my resolution to be more presentable at work, but that’s a topic for another day…

So instead of bringing a couple of complete outfits, I bring a bunch of articles of clothing so that I can make outfits as I go along. It’s not like my wardrobe isn’t cohesive. My color palette is mostly neutral (black and gray) and green, so most of my clothes matches each other fairly well. I just struggle to visualize how outfits will look on me. So sometimes I have a great outfit planned in my head, but when it comes time to put it on, I realize it doesn’t look good in person. So I enjoy having the flexibility to change stuff out. But, this means I’m carting an excess amount of clothes across the country with me at any given time. I’m essentially transporting a closet.

Then there’s the makeup…

Look, I wear a lot of it. My “everyday look” requires at least 15 products. So that in itself takes up a lot of room. Then add the brushes and tools…well, I might as well bring a separate suitcase just for hair and makeup (struggles of being high-maintenance, amirite?). In this category I do feel more justified, because I use everything I bring along. But I need to try to pare things down a bit…

So between clothes, shoes, makeup, toiletries, styling tools, shoes, accessories, and then electronics…I pack quite a bit.

So that’s where I am. In a couple of days I’ll be flying to Denver where I’ll be staying for over a week. I paid for a single checked bag. My goal is to pack less stuff, but without feeling like I’m missing anything.

I made myself a nifty Google Docs so that I can access my list from my phone. Here’s a quick snapshot of it:

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Just a portion of my list

I feel like laying it all out in this format makes it easier for me to combine outfits.

After my trip I’ll be going through my list to see if I used everything I brought along. And hopefully I can use that data to adjust the way I pack. In general I am trying to be a less cluttered person, so this is a start.

Wish me luck!

Italia.

Smashville (aka, Nashville)

Smashville (aka, Nashville)

Last year my hockey buddy Caitlynn and I made a vow to visit every arena in the NHL at least once. Not including the Dallas Stars, that leaves us with 30 teams we would need to visit. 30 teams and 30 cities we get to explore! So really, this doubles as a chance to indulge our hockey obsession along with my desire to travel.

And what better way to get the ball rolling than with a visit to the Predators in the Music City, Nashville! Lucky for us the schedule lined up perfectly, so we were able to watch our beloved Dallas Stars on the road during the regular season for the first time (we had watched them play at T-Mobile Arena against the LA Kings during their Frozen Fury preseason exhibition games).

Nashville is probably the NHL city closest to us, but even then it’s still about 630 miles away. We decided to road trip instead of flying, both because it was cheaper, and because we actually really enjoy long road trips (yes, really). We left Friday morning, and came back on Monday.

The trip there was rather uneventful, because really, I mean, it was mostly through Arkansas. We left Dallas at 6am and arrived in Nashville at around 7pm.

And the very first thing we did was stop at Hattie B’s for some hot chicken! And that set the tone perfectly for our visit…

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I fantasize about this hot chicken to this day…

I could write a whole piece about my love for hot chicken. It was recommended by a friend back home, and I’m very glad we took her suggestion. A Nashville specialty, it’s basically fried chicken seasoned with cayenne pepper and other spices. We tried hot chicken that had the seasoning in the batter, as well as another variation where they added the seasoning as a sauce after the chicken was fried. I’m not sure which was the more authentic version, but either way, it was delicious and spicy and wonderful.

After our late dinner and a quick trip to Target (gotta stock the room with snacks and drinks), we finally checked into our hotel. We took the opportunity to make actual plans for the next couple of days…at that point we only had the game on Sunday, so we needed to find stuff to do the rest of our trip.

So we decided to make the hour long drive to Lynchburg to visit the Jack Daniels distillery early Saturday afternoon. Now that drive was slightly more interesting as we headed out into the rolling hills of southern Tennessee. Lynchburg itself is a tiny town, with the distillery the only major attraction.

The tour was fascinating. Every bottle of Jack Daniels Whiskey we’ve ever purchased was made and bottled in the same place and the same way as Jack Daniels himself did over a century ago. Which is insane to think about. We were led around the grounds and got to see every step in the process from fermentation to mellowing to aging, and then finally bottling. And of course we got to sample some of their most popular products!

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From there we headed back to the hotel room to get ready for infamous Broadway Street. We were determined to fully experience everything that Nashville had to offer, which meant we needed to check out some honky tonks to get a taste of that country music life. Full disclaimer, I am not a fan of country music. But watching it live was a different experience. The crowd’s energy was infectious. And I won’t lie, the drinks helped quite a bit…Broadway St. is basically a street full of bars and honky tonks, with Bridgestone Arena nestled right in the middle of it all. So we just walked down the street ducking into places that looked and sounded interesting. Being a Saturday night, we had plenty of company. Some of the more entertaining places were Acme Feed and Seed, Tequila Cowboy, Tootsie’s, and Big Bang.

Although I will say that our Saturday night shenanigans came at a price, at least for me. So Sunday morning we kinda chilled in the hotel room to try to recover in time for the game. But some hot chicken (which I learned is great hangover food) and a bottle of Gatorade later, I was feeling completely normal in time to hit up the Johnny Cash museum before watching the game.

With the museum being a few yards away from Broadway St and the arena, we were able to walk over a little after the doors opened. We had planned to get there early to explore the arena before warm ups began.

Let me just say that Nashville absolutely loves their Predators. The crowd was  into it. They cheered non-stop, even when down (believe it or not, we were actually up by three goals at one point…). No lie, I am extremely jealous, because hockey is just not a big deal in Dallas, not when we have to compete with the Cowboy, Rangers, and Mavericks. So our arena tends to be on the quieter side. But Nashville, they have chants and jeers, and an amazing atmosphere that I just have never experienced before. And the Nashville culture is very present in all they do in the arena. I mean, they even have live country bands perform during intermissions. Their goal song (which we unfortunately heard too often), is a Tim McGraw song. So yeah, the game was really something.

Their arena is relatively new and modern, and they have so many unique food options. We chose to eat dinner from the grilled -cheese stand (I had a delicious hot chicken and waffle sandwich), but they had everything from BBQ, to Mexican and everything in between. And despite us being Stars fans in our Victory Green jerseys, everyone we talked to (Preds fan or not) was incredibly nice. We even bumped into several fans from Dallas that had also made the trip for the game. So even though we lost, we had a blast.

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Our view for the game

After the game I did end up stopping by one of the fan stores to buy a Predators magnet (I’m sure that looked kind of silly) to add to my collection. I also bought myself an ornament from a souvenir shop on Broadway to commemorate the trip. Then we just went back to the room to pack and rest up before hitting the road Monday morning. After a quick breakfast (Waffle House, because what else?), we were on our way back home. And the way back was just as uneventful as the way there…

All in all, I was really charmed by Nashville. And I’m really eager to go back soon, with more friends in tow. But yeah, I’m still not a fan of country music.

Thank you for reading!

Italia

Quick Austin Trip

Quick Austin Trip

As mentioned previously, my goal is to travel more this year (and, well, just in general going forward). I already have a trip planned for February and March, but I got the year started with a quick overnight trip down to Austin to catch a Texas Stars game. The Texas Stars being the AHL affiliate of the Dallas Stars. Timed perfectly because the NHL is on their All-Star Break…meaning no NHL hockey games until next week.

Yes, we are those crazy people who will travel out of our way to watch hockey games. I have accepted this fact. But anyways…

Austin is of course only a couple of hours away from Dallas, so it’s a relatively easy trip. Perfect for a weekend getaway. We left on Saturday morning and rolled into Austin by about 3pm or so.

The game itself was a blast, but then again, I don’t think I’d be able to say otherwise about any hockey game, ever.

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Being a minor league team, we’re always able to score some amazing seats for a quarter of the price that an NHL ticket would cost. We’ve sat right behind the bench for less than $40 each, and this time around we sat a little further away from the glass, but with better sight lines for about $30. To put that into some perspective, a ticket in a similar section for the Dallas Stars would easily cost us about $100-180. Triple that for a seat along the glass. I also learned that I can get twice the amount of beer at the HEB Center for the same price as a single drink at the American Airline Center. So that was cool…

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Our View

The Texas Stars unfortunately lost, but we also happened to pick a promo game where we were given the opportunity to get autographs from the entire team. I really appreciate that the organization makes the effort to increase fan interactions with the team. One of the perks of being a minor league team in a non-hockey market, I guess.

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Autograph Session

After a quick breakfast at an Austin staple, Kerbey Lane, we were back on our way to Dallas. We of course stopped at the Czech Stop Bakery for some kolaches to take home. At this point it’s a tradition (in case you were wondering, the Nutella kolaches are my absolute favorite).

I always look forward to these little trips to Austin a couple of times a season. I’m hoping to come back later in the year (during the summer) to fully take advantage of everything that Austin has to offer, but for now, I’ll be content with watching some hockey.

Thank you for reading!

Italia

10 Ways I’m Hoping to Become a Less Crappy Person in 2017

10 Ways I’m Hoping to Become a Less Crappy Person in 2017

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At the beginning of every New Year I always set out to make goals for myself. However if I’m being honest I think I tend to set some unrealistic goals. So, behold, part of my list of what I consider to be totally reasonable and attainable resolutions for 2017.

1) Work out semi-regularly: In the past as I’ve tried to make lifestyle changes, I’ve forced myself to stick to strict exercise schedules, only to get burned out and eventually quit. I realize now that I need a certain amount of flexibility with my time. So I’ll make it part of my routine to go to the gym, or go out for a walk/jog, but I won’t stress if I’m not able to make it every day.

2) Cut back on the amount of times I eat out: This one is tricky. Going out to eat is such a big part of my social circle. That isn’t something I want to lose. But I also know that I have a terrible habit of eating out for lunch during the work day. So that I can work on at least.

3) Continue to drink a ton of water: In the past 2 months or so I have done a great job of cutting out soda from my diet. I want to make sure I continue to make drinking water all day a priority. Plus it helps with hangovers…

4) Stick to a better sleep schedule: Shockingly, going to sleep at 2am and rolling out of bed at 7:30am to make it out the door by 8am isn’t working out so well for me. I’d like to wake up with enough time to get ready and have a little time to myself before heading out the door. Which leads to my next goal…

5) Look like a functioning human during the week: If you only saw me in the office Monday through Friday you would be shocked to find out I even know what highlight is. I reserve my full on glam looks for the weekends, and rarely wear makeup in the office during the week. Now I have no qualms whatsoever about going out barefaced, but sometimes a little concealer under the eyes would go a long way. I can look a little haggard at times…

6) Use my makeup collection: Y’all, I own a lot of makeup. I’m not embarrassed about it because I consider it a hobby, therefore I have no guilt about investing money in something I enjoy. What I do feel bad about is the fact that I have products in my collection that I have either never used or have used maybe once or twice. So my goal is to be more versatile with my looks and use more of what I have before adding to it.

7) Improve my skincare routine: I have come a long way from when I used to sleep in my full face of makeup every night. I have a very simple skincare routine that seems to work decently enough, and I don’t want to go all out buying a ton of products since I know I probably won’t use them…but I have some room for improvement. For instance I still haven’t found a good daily moisturizer I like.

8) Force myself to be a little more outgoing: I don’t need to go out and meet someone new every night. But it won’t kill me to make conversations with new people now and then.

9) TRAVEL: Jokingly I told my friends I would like to take a trip each month. Now, that might not be entirely possible, but it’s easy enough to take a quick road trip somewhere for the weekend now and then. Plus, I need to get started on my mission to watch a game in every NHL arena. I only have 29 to go…

10) Don’t sweat the small stuff: This one is probably the most challenging out of all of these. But I want to live more of a stress free life. This just means I need to stop making such big deals out of little stuff.

Anyways, I have several more goals for myself than what I included here. But it will be fun for me to look back in a year and see what I accomplished, if anything at all…

-Italia