a denver getaway

Over the third weekend in March, Danny and I headed up to Denver for a little getaway.  We’ve been trying to leave town for at least one night at least once a month in 2015 (trips to Greeley don’t count), and Denver was our destination of choice for March.  It’s close, has a lot to do, and is the home of some of our dear friends.

We broke our (very short, hour-long) drive up by stopping on our way up north for a hike at Dawson Butte.  It was a great hike, located not far off of I-25 between Monument and Castle Rock, and includes section through both woods and prairie.  Here we are in our (light) jackets, right after we started…

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DSC01465^^ Danny was feeling like quite the Colorado hiker with his wool socks pulled up and his Merrells.  I can’t say for sure, but he may have gotten a little warm in those socks as we continued. ;) ^^

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Our jackets were around our waists as we made our way out of the woods and around the plains.  We may have gotten a little pink on our faces as well…we weren’t expecting such nice weather in mid-March and didn’t bring the sunscreen!

After a picnic lunch at the trailhead, we drove to downtown Denver and toured the Byers-Evans house.  We really enjoyed our tour – it was just the two of us and our tour guide!  An beautiful (and deceivingly large) home with some interesting history.

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From there we drove a few blocks to the Denver Firefighters Museum.  I’m not gonna lie…the museum wasn’t all we’d hoped it would be.  The highlight was probably dressing up in the coats and hats (made for children, if you’re wondering why they look a little…ill-fitting?…on us) and climbing into the (fake) fire truck.

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The day was so beautiful, we knew we had to get out of museums and back outside.  I searched for parks in our GPS, and decided to head for Sloan’s Lake.  Neither of us had been there before, but it was a perfect choice.  A little longer of a walk than we were expecting (much to Danny’s and my TOMS-clad feet’s dismay), but a great way to enjoy a pretty spring day.  We also stopped halfway through to cross the street for some Chick-fil-a waffle fries and lemonade.  I’m not especially proud that this is my favorite guilty pleasure, but it’s true.

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I did a bit of research on vegan friendly places in Denver before we left, and we decided on Sputnik for dinner.  We shared a cubano and mac-n-cheese, and while both were good, the cubano was amazing.  It was our first experience with jackfruit, and we can’t wait to get some more.

After dinner we checked into our hotel, but found a few things about it to be not quite as we had hoped and spent a while in the parking lot trying to get the room cancelled and refunded, and then deciding whether we’d just head home or find somewhere else to stay in the area.  We ended up at the Hampton Inn, just off of the last exit in Denver, and only thirty minutes from our apartment.  Oops.  It was a very nice place, though, and we thoroughly enjoyed its breakfast, fitness center, and pool.

We’d planned to go to church with our friends Amanda and Oliver on Sunday morning, and then out for lunch, but due to our more-hectic-than-expected evening the night before, we took a rain check on church and met for a delicious brunch/lunch at 11am at Watercourse Foods.  I had been hearing about Watercourse Foods for about a year and half, but had never gotten around to checking it out, and now I know that we’ve have been missing out.  Big time.  Everything on the menu is vegan, and as far as we can tell, tasty.  I foresee many more trips to Watercourse in our future.

After lunch Danny and I headed to Washington Park for a walk and some people/dog watching.  I went to Washington Park with my mom last year on my birthday, and knew I wanted to check it out again (and again).  It’s a great place for sports, walking, and checking out the gorgeous houses around its perimeter.  I wish we had something similar near us!  There’s also a pretty sweet ice cream place a couple of blocks away, Sweet Action, that we visited.  We split a vegan ice cream cookie sandwich and – wow – what a way to wrap up our weekend!

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Thankful for beautiful weather, a chance to get away, dear friends to catch up with, and parks that remind me (just a smidge) of the glorious parks of London.  Until next time, Denver!

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one direction + valentine’s day + target = some sort of trifecta

It seems that time has gotten away from me again.

(That happens when you watch a One Direction movie and/or go to Target.)

Well, as all of America knows, Friday was Valentine’s Day.  Danny upped the ante and started the celebrations a day early by picking up flowers and having them waiting for me when I got home from work at lunchtime.  We decided not to exchange gifts for Valentine’s Day, so Danny bought flowers, put together our wedding video (kind of a big deal), and buy my favorite chocolate.  Oh and MAKING a card.  Which left me looking like a fool for just getting a card at Natural Grocers the day before.

Once the glory of Valentine’s Day had passed, we carried on with life and on Saturday we did normal things like go to work.  Thankfully Danny’s parents had invited us for spaghetti that evening, so Danny didn’t have to worry about cooking two nights in a row.  We also got to watch the Olympics with them, which made me realize that I am missing out by forgetting to watch the Olympics after the opening ceremony.

Sunday found us going to church, eating burrito bowls for lunch, and then fulfilling a long-awaited dream: we watched the One Direction movie, “This is Us.”  Now, I have watched various concert-type movies, including but not limited to: Hannah Montana/Miley Cyrus and the Jonas Brothers.  (Obviously neither of those are recent.)  But this one beat all.  For instance, the cameras went home with the fellas.  So you can see their bedrooms and where they worked their first jobs (spoiler alert: Louis worked at Toys R Us and Harry at a bakery).  In case you were looking for a movie review, I’m giving it to you.  The film is heartwarming and funny and just so good.  I mean, it’s not often that I ask to watch the same movie every day until we have to return it to the library.  (Just so that no one stages an intervention, we aren’t going to do that because I returned the movie yesterday.  I knew how hard it was to wait three months on the holds list for it, so I felt like it was only right to keep it for as short a time as possible.  So I bought it instead.)  (Just kidding.)  (Or am I?)

Predictably, the rest of the afternoon all I wanted to do was convince others to watch it.  So I texted my friend Dog things like, “HARRY IS IN IT” and “MY LIFE WILL NEVER BE THE SAME.”  Obviously, she took my advice, because yesterday she wrote this.  After reading her post, I knew that I was really doing my part to make the world a better place.

Speaking of yesterday, I celebrated the presidents of our nation by going to a library-wide training day.  And by training I mean eating snacks, watching YouTube videos, and wondering why we don’t have trainings more often.  By mid-afternoon, all of us library workers were released and I went straight to Ikea, because, PRESIDENT’S DAY SALE.  Unfortunately, it was like they knew I was coming and posted a sign at the entrance that said SOLD OUT.  As in, the pillows that were on an incredible sale for $4.99 and were the whole reason I wanted to go to Ikea were sold out.  I let out a deep breath and remembered that Ikea is good for other things like frames and house plants too.

The real highlight, though, was that my friend Kara was with me, so I couldn’t possibly stay sad for too long. She is really fun and always laughing, and she also likes One Direction, so that means we have a lot in common.  She is a teacher and thus had yesterday off, so I found it so sweet that she wanted to spend three hours on her day off with me!

I asked Kara if we could go to Anthropologie, and she said yes.  (She is a really good friend.)  While there, I realized that half-store-wide sales are not standard for them (that’s what was going on when I first fell in love), as there was just a little room in the back relegated to sale items.  Not impressed.  Our time there was quick once I decided that I wasn’t up for spending $88 on a shirt or $908 on a headband.

We also did what all the cool kids in Denver are doing these days: check out Trader Joe’s.

(If you are a TJ’s fanatic, please do not hurt me.  The following is just my opinion.)

Trader Joe’s opened their first three Colorado locations last Friday and it has been a BIG DEAL.  I was prepared to be impressed and start petitioning for a TJ’s to come to Colorado Springs, however, neither happened.  It was a standard, if not small, grocery store that charges standard prices for standard foods.  It leans more towards Sprouts than King Soopers and has a cult following that your average King Soopers or Safeway definitely does not (and will never) have.  I don’t know, maybe it was the hordes of people or the fact that to get there I had to drive through Denver (never a plus), but I left wondering what all the hype was about.

After the TJ’s letdown, Kara and I said good-bye and I headed home, but not before stopping at Target for a few essentials.  I was looking for contact solution and a loofah, but ended up with a few other things and the very clear conclusion that I should not be allowed to go to Target unattended.  I may or may not have come home with a door mat, two pillows, two heart-shaped dishes, a Valentine’s banner, a heart-shaped wreath, and five jumbo-sized cans of pumpkin.  And contact solution and a loofah, of course.  I texted Danny about the Valentine’s clearance sale (70% OFF!) that was going on at Target in an attempt to gain approval for the purchases I was hoping to make.  He replied that maybe we did not need all the things I mentioned.  (I think that when I read maybe, I heard yes.  That is the only way to explain all of the Valentine’s paraphernalia we now possess.)  And in my defense, I did leave the lanterns and One Direction valentines in the shelf for another lucky customer.

After all that shopping, it sound like it is high time I go back to work.  Which is just what I am going to do.

tuesday things

First off, y’all need to read this post.

Now that you’re done weeping all over your computer (which may or may not have happened to me the first two times I read it last night), wasn’t it beautiful?  Some of you know that Danny works for Compassion International, and that we live four minutes away from their headquarters.  He’s had the privilege of working for them for right around a month now, but he’s been involved with Compassion for much longer.  Since before I met him, he’s been sponsoring Amanuel, a young boy who lives in Ethiopia, through Compassion.  I’ve even had the opportunity to volunteer at Compassion since last April.  All that being said, we think it’s a pretty swell organization and it’s pretty close to our hearts, which is maybe why I loved Emily’s post so much.

Okay, now it’s time to spend some time on things a bit lighter…

Yesterday, in a moment in which I was able to harness all of my available will power, I took down our Christmas decorations and Christmas ornaments (Danny took down the lights and tree later when he got home from work).  Parting with the strands of cranberries and popcorn was especially difficult.  I know that some people might not understand why this may be, but I can assure you that those people did not spend half of December making said strands.  All that being said, the big gaping hole in our living room (and hearts) tells me that it is now officially January.  And Christmas needs to hurry up and come back.

Also, in case you were intrigued by the peanut butter parfait at Native Foods that I went on and on about on Sunday, I found a couple good looking replicas online.  You can check them out here or here or here (this one is even gluten-free).  Please don’t be scared away by the tofu.  I promise you won’t notice it – and that is coming from a tofu-hater.

I have also recently discovered that One Direction is popular in mainstream circles.  By that I mean, it is not just me, Danny, Dog, my cousins, and my-recently-converted-Dad (remember the Christmas miracle?).  There are some wacko pre-teen girls out there, too, but they do not count as “mainstream.”  Anyways, yesterday morning while we were at the gym, “Story of My Life” was playing on ESPN.  And not as a joke.  On Sunday night, “Kiss Me”  was on America’s Funniest Home Videos.  Again, not a joke.

It has also come to my attention that there’s a couple of photos that I forgot to share from our time in Denver this past weekend.  Including proof that Danny was also at Buffalo Bill’s grave, the clever towel arrangement in our hotel bathroom, and the cows next to the Denver Art Museum.

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Two more things.

I just came across the most moving photo slideshow of shoes ever.  Seriously.  Check it out.  

Also, big news for vegans/almond milk lovers/anyone else who is still reading: TCBY is introducing a VEGAN vanilla soft serve at their U.S. stores today.

Which means I may need to buckle down and leave the house for the first time in two days in order to support this exciting new offering.

the library, also known as your local adoption agency

Yesterday as I got to work, I noticed a kennel sitting by the front door of the library.  I approached it with a couple of co-workers and, unsurprisingly, there was a puppy inside!  We searched for a note of some kind, but nothing accompanied the German Shepherd mix aside from a baby blanket on the floor of his kennel.

I’m vegan.  Which is another way of saying, I am really into animals.  However, I knew that the puppy would be fine and could handle an hour or two in the kennel.  I started emptying the book drop and preparing the library for opening while my co-workers contacted their spouses and asked if they could adopt the dog.  Others concocted a makeshift leash out of yarn and tried to coax the dog to go for a walk.  Once we opened an hour later, essentially every single patron that came in asked about the dog.  Soon we started a list of potential adoptive families, as well as names for the pup: the frontrunner was, fittingly, Dewey.

Overall, everyone was upset that a young puppy would be abandoned outside the library.  But no one was as upset as one lady…“It’s SICK!  Just SICK!  What kind of SICK person would leave a dog like this?!  It’s so SICK!  So SICK!  Oh what a SICK person!”

It went on like this for at least five minutes.  And then, even though we had found a good home for the dog (and had three others on the waiting list), she took him (against the soon-to-be-owner’s wishes) to the vet for a quick check-up.

Meanwhile, the second-in-line-future-owners had gone to Petsmart to buy dog food.  They came back with the food, saw that the dog was gone, and became irate.  We explained that the dog had been taken to vet, so then the second-in-line-future-owners thought it would be a good idea to call the vet’s office and yell: “THAT LADY STOLE OUR DOG!!!”

(Which is not true at all.)

All that being said, it was a crazy day.  And I only worked a half-day on Saturday, because Danny and I were off to Denver for a belated first anniversary getaway.

We started out the trip with a bang, also known as a trip to Buffalo Bill Cody’s grave.  It was much less cool than I remember it being (I was somewhere around 10 the last time I visited, so that could be why), but it did include a nice view of Denver, albeit quite obstructed by the massive cell phone towers located just feet away.  I think it’s exactly as Buffalo Bill would have hoped.

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Other highlights of the trip include a trip to Goodwill because Danny forgot shorts for our visit to the hotel gym.  While there we picked up a framed print of a zebra, a framed print of a lion, two books, and a DVD.  No shorts.

We also went to the Sherpa House for dinner.  It was here that I figured out that Golden (where the restaurant and our hotel are located) is kind of like a mix of Boulder and Manitou Springs: a progressive college town with plenty of hippies.  The food was good, especially the momo (reminiscent of Chinese dumplings) and kheer (rice pudding).  The atmosphere fit my description of the town.

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After dinner we found ourselves at Target, again looking for athletic shorts for Danny.  We found some in the kids’ section and felt ready to carry on with our trip.

Our trip also included the best hotel breakfast I have encountered in America…fresh pineapple, blueberries, and raspberries, potatoes, and made-to-order oatmeal were my top picks.  Another highlight from the hotel was the sign on our bathroom mirror…

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We also went to World Market and ended up buying all manner of excellently priced gems including two mesh strainers for $4 and a Kate Middleton calendar for $1.40.  Don’t worry; I bought one for Becca too.  We also acquired something I’ve been eyeing for months, and it’s awesome enough for me to take down one of our Christmas trees…

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If our hotel breakfast was good, our lunch at Native Foods was indescribable.  Native Foods is a 100% plant-based (vegan) restaurant with eighteen locations across the U.S.  I’m not sure how I’ve been vegan for nineteen months and only went to Native Foods for the first time today, but it’s true.  I had a Portobello mushroom sausage burger with a side of sweet potato fries, and Danny had a chicken wrap.  We wrapped things up by sharing a peanut butter parfait.  And let me tell you, that peanut butter parfait was the best thing to happen thus far in 2014.  I’m telling you, it was GOOD.

Before I get caught up in the glory that was our peanut butter parfait, can we recognize Taylor Swift’s new hairstyle?  Maybe she’s had it for a while, but I just saw it for the first time at the Grammys tonight.  It is fabulous.  And then, after I typed those last couple sentences, she started throwing her head around and I gasped, because, HER HAIR!  She did it over and over, and when she finished it looked as good as ever.  Unreal.  If you can make my hair do that, please let me know.

Speaking of the Grammys, I need to say one more thing.  When “Brave” by Sara Bareilles didn’t win for best solo pop performance, I was devastated.  As much as I like “Royals,” (hello, Kate!) “Brave” saved my job.  Feeding the ducks (one of my duties at work) is a traumatic thing for me, and each time I have to do so, I sing “Brave” (well, actually I just sing “I wanna see you be brave!” over and over, but still) and inspire myself to do what I must do.  Thank you, Sara, and know that you have won the Grammy of my heart.

operation christmas child 2013

Every year for quite a few years now, my family has spent a couple of hours in December volunteering at the Operation Christmas Child processing center in Denver.  If you don’t know much about Operation Christmas Child or Samaritan’s Purse, check it out here.  We think it’s a pretty great group.

Our time always starts out with a brief training and is followed by being assigned to a work station.  I’ve been the pre-inspector the last couple of years, which involves looking through the boxes for money, typically in the form of a check, which helps pay for the boxes to be shipped to their destination.  Next, someone inspects the boxes for banned items and adds things like small toys or candy if the box seems a bit empty.  This year my parents both worked as inspectors.  After the boxes are full and looking good, they need to be taped up and secured.  This was Danny’s job this year.  Finally, the boxes are put into larger boxes with a bunch of other boxes, taped shut, and put on a conveyor belt, which leads to a pallet, which leads to a truck, which will take them to a plane, and on to their destination.  Mysteridge was in charge of this step (not the truck or plane part, but all the rest), and this year the boxes we worked on were headed to Mexico.

We love being able to serve with such an awesome ministry in such a tangible way, and being able to do so as a family is an added bonus.  Here’s some photos from our time helping out this year…

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Until next year, Operation Christmas Child!

denver getaway

This past weekend, with Danny having a surprise Monday off, we took the opportunity to go to Denver for a couple days.  We left Sunday after lunch and came back late on Monday.  In just over 24 hours, we went to the Colorado State Capitol, swam in our hotel pool, toured the Pepsi Center, got Danny a haircut, went shopping, played mini golf, and in between it all, ate a lot of delicious food, among other things.  Some highlights…

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^^ Mini golf, thanks to a sweet Groupon deal. ^^

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^^ Two hole-in-ones for Danny! ^^

Danny was finally able to spend some of his birthday money while on our trip, picking up a classy new pea coat, a pair of khaki pants (a steal at $2.99!!), and some jeans while at the Park Meadows Mall.

For dinner, we checked out Thai Basil, one of the top rated vegan restaurants in Denver.  It did not disappoint.

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After about ten minutes at our original table, this ‘booth’ opened up, and Danny asked our waiter if we could be moved.  It was a slow, Sunday night, and so our waiter kindly obliged.  The food was excellent – the best eggplant we’ve had outside of China – and Danny’s lo mein was top notch as well.

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Our hotel was just a couple minutes away and we spent the rest of the evening swimming in the (indoor) pool and soaking in the hot tub, as well as reading Awkward Family Pet Photos (not as fun as the game, but still good for some laughs).

The morning found us taking advantage of the hotel’s fitness room and fancy breakfast (homemade waffles for all!) before heading downtown.

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A tour of the Colorado State Capitol was our next stop.  The dome is being redone, so it looks a little funny right now, but the inside was still as beautiful as ever…

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And then while we were taking the last picture, we accidentally ended up in a press conference.  Thankfully the governor wasn’t at the podium yet or we would’ve been on TV…and also really embarrassed.

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Lunch at Tokyo Joe’s across the street followed, because they give free meals on your half birthday (Monday was my half birthday), and it was delicious.  Love that place.  The associate at the counter was so kind, and gave us two free drinks and a cookie two.  Best half birthday ever!

At 2pm we went to the Pepsi Center for a behind-the-scenes tour (thanks to another Groupon, this time gifted to us by my parents).  We had an excellent tour guide and really enjoyed seeing the inner workings of such a big and complex place.

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^^ The banner where Nuggets’ coach Brian Shaw conducts his post-game interviews. ^^

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^^ Showers for visiting NBA teams ^^

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^^ Michael Jordan’s locker when he played at the Pepsi Center.  Also, don’t you just love Danny’s  new jeans?! ^^

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^^ In a private box that runs for ~$30,000 when stars like One Direction are performing. ^^

Then came the strangest part of the weekend.

Danny got his haircut at a place we found via Groupon.

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We followed our faithful GPS, Minerva, to NY Cuts Barbershop which is located on Colfax (if you are familiar with Denver, you know that mentioning Colfax will explain some of the sketchiness of the place).  As soon as we spotted it, Danny’s face said it all.  And I responded by saying, “We don’t have to do this.  We really don’t.  You can get refunds on Groupons.”  He was resolved to get his hair cut, however, so we ventured through the adjoining used car lot and pawn shop and tried to relax.

I wasn’t brave enough to take any pictures while D’s hair was being cut (or shampooed or doused in gel) but I can tell you this: we were in the minority.  In more ways than one.  Also of note was the fact that a group of random fellas were playing a very frighteningly violent video game in the middle of the barbershop.  That was hooked up to a surround sound system.  Oh, and you can purchase cell phones from the glass case at the register, if you want.

We felt like we were in a foreign country.

Needless to say, we escaped, and Danny is coming to accept his new haircut, and never again will we buy a Groupon for a barbershop we have never been to before.

We felt much more at home at City o’ City, a vegan restaurant located right by the state capitol.  It was the first vegan restaurant we’d ever been to, and we fell in love.  Being able to choose from anything on the menu is a treat we’re just not accustomed to.

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Now, if you’ll excuse my non-existent food photography skills, we can continue.

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^^ Here are the barbecue seitan wings we had as an appetizer.  Because we arrived during happy hour and they were a great price.  And I thought Danny would love them.  He did, but I might’ve loved them even more.  Which is truly the surprise of the century. ^^

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^^ Danny’s combination platter consisting of vegan mac and cheese, sauteed greens (the best part in my opinion), and barbecue.  I am pleased to report that Danny joined the clean plate club after this meal. ^^

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^^ My meatless loaf on a pretzel bun with fries and gravy and greens.  I in no way imagined all of those things coming heaped on top of each other, but they did.  The fries and the bun, and obviously, the greens, were the best parts. ^^

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^^ While we tried to make a decision on dessert (should we or shouldn’t we?) Danny made this cootie catcher.  It was tiny and precious and the best ‘fortune’ inside was this one: “You will meet Kate.”

As in Kate Middleton the Duchess of Cambridge.

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^^ We finally settled on City o’ City’s version of a Hostess Cupcake.  It was awesome. ^^

So there you have it.  A snapshot (or twenty) of our super fun getaway to Denver.  We’re already plotting another one for sometime in the new year!

denver museum of nature and science

I grew up going to the Museum of Nature and Science in Denver, and have many fond memories of visiting with my family and grandparents.  Therefore, when I found a Living Social deal for the museum, I couldn’t pass it up.  Danny had never been, and I so enjoy taking D to places that I love.  We took advantage of Danny having a random Wednesday off and made the journey up to Denver.  Our tickets included an IMAX show of our choosing, as well as a visit to the planetarium.  We took a break in the middle of the day to eat our picnic lunch in the car, and brought some fruit and cookies in with us to eat during the IMAX.

Some of our highlights included the dinosaurs, the gems and minerals display, and the wildlife exhibits, which were our very favorite.

We saw “Deep Sea 3D” on the IMAX, and would definitely recommend it, although unfortunately I snoozed through a good portion of it.  “Wildest Weather in the Solar System” was our pick for the planetarium, and we would not recommend going to see it.  It was animated and largely hypothetical.  I left wishing I had taken my nap during the planetarium show instead of the IMAX.

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DSC06513We had a wonderful day learning and exploring together and are so thankful to be able to take advantage of fun opportunities to get out of town and do something new together.  And for those of you wondering, we highly recommend the museum – there’s so much to do and see, and I believe all ages, from young children to people to like us to middle age adult to grandparents, would love it.  We got there early and stayed till it closed!