How to Have the Best Birthday in Vegas

This summer is shaping up to be my best one yet in Colorado!  Wonderful hubby, great home, awesome visits from friends, incredible getaways

Yup, that's right, we WON in Vegas!  All thanks to the Walking Dead slot machines.
Yup, that’s right, we WON in Vegas! All thanks to the Walking Dead slot machines.

and adventures, all topped off with a job I love and a city to call my own.  This past weekend was my birthday weekend, and I requested one thing from the hubs: a trip to Las Vegas.  Given its proximity to Denver, unending food options (I am a foodie, that often plays a part in my decision making), plethora of shops, non-stop shows and performances, and as my coworker put it, a chance to be glamorous, I knew it’d be the absolute perfect weekend getaway.  So the hubs took my lead and made all of the plans, from the hotel, to the shows and restaurants.  He planned the best birthday vacay possible – boy am I one lucky lady.  And to top it off, we actually won money (yes, that’s right, we left Vegas in the positive monetary direction).

Birthday Chai!  Best boss ever.
Birthday Chai! Best boss ever.

Given that my university hosts New Student Orientation each Friday during June and July, I wasn’t able to take off work that day.  So instead, we planned to leave late Friday evening, at 9:05pm.  I arrived to work in a daydream of the weekend to come, but was pleasantly, nay delightfully surprised by the incredible outpouring of birthday surprises from my coworkers.  My boss brought me a birthday chai latte from Starbucks (she and I share a love of chai), while my coworker picked up Denver’s famous Duffeyrolls (light, fluffy, perfect cinnamon rolls – you simply must try them).  Finally, my boss’ boss arrived later that morning with a lavender plant in hand.  I adore lavender, as does Robbie, for a number of reasons.  Lavender lemonade may be the best invention ever, but lavender itself, I think, smells so wonderful and herby.  It was simply the best pre-birthday birthday celebration ever.  Orientation went smoothly and the duration of the day flew by.

What great coworkers I have!
What great coworkers I have! You must try Duffeyrolls – too delicious!
I foresee this lavender ending up in beverages... mmm...
I foresee this lavender ending up in beverages… mmm…

The hubs picked me up from work and we went straight to the airport.  Typically traffic on a Friday at 5:00pm is positively horrendous.  The stars aligned, however, and we arrived quickly, parked our car, and were through security with hours to spare.  We found Mesa Grill on the top floor of Terminal A, order margaritas and dinner, and enjoyed the ease of evening.  A few hours later, we boarded the plane and had a smooth flight to Vegas.

We decided to stay in City Center for our trip.  Our last adventure in Vegas was our mini-moon, shortly after moving to Colorado.  This was the

Pre-birthday drinks at the lobby bar, combined with epic people-watching.
Pre-birthday drinks at the lobby bar, combined with epic people-watching.

first time we’d experienced City Center, which is comprised of the Aria, Vdara and Cosmopolitan.  All modern, luxurious-looking hotels with great amenities, close to the Bellagio and Mandarin Oriental, as well as Crystals, the shiny new shopping center.  The Aria is an awesome resort, with a series of fantastic pools, good spa and salon, fun bars, and all styles of restaurants.  I personally love the innovative air filtration system – you can barely smell smoke, even if the person is next to you (I am picky like that).

The first night there we grabbed a drink at the Lobby Bar and people-watched like crazy before calling it a night and heading back to our room.  The next morning, we got Starbucks and headed to the pool.  Keep in mind that the temperature that day reached 102º.  We spent some time lounging, but the rest of the time directly in the pool.  After about 3 hours, we

Catching some rays at the Aria pool! Shortly before submerging myself in the delightfully cold water.
Catching some rays at the Aria pool! Shortly before submerging myself in the delightfully cold water.

headed to the gym and spa before getting ready for the evening.  We had reservations at CUT, Wolfgang Puck’s unique steakhouse in the Palazzo.  We arrived early so stopped into dbBrasserie at the Venetian.  We have already decided to dine there the next time we visit, based upon the cocktails alone.  Once the hubs saw they had quite the selection of champagne, he knew it’d be up my alley.  I ordered a flight of incredibly delicious, unique champagne cocktails and sipped them in utter delight.  Afterwards we had our delectable dinner at CUT, which started with phenomenal steak tartar, followed by a perfectly cooked filet (for me) and amazing macaroni and cheese, and ended with the most perfect jelly filled donuts and crème fraiche ice cream.  Whoa.  So good.  We followed up dinner with a short walk over to the Mirage to see Kevin James’ standup.  He was spot-on and so funny.  It was later that we found out that Billy Joel was performing at the MGM that night that we kicked ourselves a bit, but still a great evening overall.

Best pre-birthday dinner drinks ever.  I will be trying these at home.
Best pre-birthday dinner drinks ever. I will be trying these at home.
The desserts on this trip were legendary.
The desserts on this trip were legendary.

The next day we started our morning with some epic shopping back at the Palazzo and Venetian.  I promise that I single-handedly helped stimulate the economy this weekend.  I was most thrilled about the Kate Spade store, given that the closest one to me is in Aspen.  We decided

Lunchtime champagne cocktail - what could be better?
Lunchtime champagne cocktail – what could be better?

to grab lunch at dbBrasserie (it was really that good, I cannot wait to go back for dinner), with another champagne cocktail of course (honestly named “The Perfect Champagne Cocktail”).  We headed back to the Aria for more pool time, again followed by the gym (we are trying to be good, even on vacay), and prep for another amazing dinner and a show.  That night we headed to the MGM Grand for dinner at L’Atelier.  It was fabulous.  The dining experience is much like eating at a sushi bar, watching the prep in the kitchen which is entirely open to the restaurant.  Everything was so delicious.  And rather than one dessert, we got three!  Gosh I love my birthday…  We ended the evening with my all-time favorite Cirque du Soleil show, Love.  The entire show is set to songs from the Beatles, and therefore has a very British storyline.  Many of the songs begin with in-studio recordings of the band telling jokes, working on songs and lyrics, and silly renditions of their greatest hits.  It’s spectacular and I recommend it to anyone who loves the Beatles.  This was my second time seeing it, and it still wowed me all the way through.

Three desserts, not just one!  All amazing, especially the Green Chartreuse Souffle!
Three desserts, not just one! All amazing, especially the Green Chartreuse Souffle!

The next morning we had an 11am flight back to Denver, so we leisurely woke and packed before heading to the airport.  The only downside was having to leave our puppy for the weekend, but luckily my hubby’s folks and their pet Chihuahua were a great substitute family in our absence.  I wish we could have had one extra day, but something tells me I may be going back again soon… Although it’s good we left when we did.  An excessive heat warning was issued Monday morning.  Temperatures exceeded 111º… Yikes!

What a great hubby I have!
What a great hubby I have!

What did you do this weekend?  Where’s the one place you love going to for long weekend getaways?  What’s your favorite thing to do, see or eat in Vegas?

Nike Women’s Half Marathon – A Weekend of Firsts

Our first race all together!  Thank goodness for these ladies!
Our first race all together! Thank goodness for these ladies!

What a whirlwind of a weekend! It’s bizarre thinking I left last Friday to go to DC and I am already back in Denver. Returning to Colorado yesterday was bittersweet, to be sure, and I felt a heaviness after departing. It is amazing the incredible high you can feel in reuniting with your best friends for the first time in over a year. Obviously I know how important these ladies are to me, but I didn’t realize just how much I missed them until we were all back together again.

The Nike Women’s Half Marathon was spectacular! I had such a great time during the race and partaking in pre-race activities. I would definitely do this race again in the future, and if I ever work myself up to the *M* word, I could possibly see myself running the Nike Women’s Marathon in San Francisco. The men in tuxedos handing out beautiful robin’s-egg-blue boxes of Tiffany perfection did indeed add icing to the top of this rather large cake.

Totally worth the miles.
Totally worth the miles.

But let’s start in order. This is not a race recap, it’s a weekend recap. I arrived Friday evening and was picked up by my dear friends Justine and Samantha. We all spent the weekend at Justine’s apartment in Clarendon, conveniently located to multiple metro stops, Georgetown’s waterfront (the site for the Expotique), and a plethora of amenities. My friend Christine (who I ran the Disney Princess Half Marathon with in February) joined us shortly afterwards, and we dashed off to dinner at Lyon Hall. We made a stop by Trader Joe’s (which just recently made its way to Colorado!) on the way home for some additional libations, and spent the night catching up, watching movies, and just basking in our reunion.

The Expotique was small, but adorable!
The Expotique was small, but adorable!

The next morning we walked to the Georgetown waterfront to check out the Expotique (Samantha described it perfectly, it isn’t an Expo, but it had its own charm). We wandered around for a bit, sampled some NUUN flavors, created personalized signs for race day, wrote on a giant sharpie wall, and found our names on the participants’ wall. We shopped in the Georgetown Nike store for race day paraphernalia, which was a bit crazy and picked over, but definitely worth it. I managed to find an amazing pair of running tights, 2 NWHM running tanks, and a phenomenal purple NWHM pullover. I know that I love Nike running tops and half-zip pullovers, so I was absolutely a kid in a candy store.

After we finished our race prep, we headed off to Alexandria for Lilly and lunch. And boy did I Lilly. I found a must-have maxi dress, a breezy blouse and a scarf on sale. Happiness achieved. We grabbed a filling, protein-packed lunch at Vermilion across the street (excellent brunch!). Afterwards, we meandered through the Tanger Outlets at National Harbor, particularly for Under Armour and J. Crew. Once we shopped ‘til we dropped, we headed back to Arlington for a delicious dinner prepared by Justine (fettuccini with marinara and homemade turkey meatballs – YUM!) and a sweet treat of cake batter blondies.

The next morning we rose at about 4:30am, readied ourselves in our amazing ensembles, and jogged to the metro station. The trains weren’t packed at all, and we got off at Federal Triangle, which spit out into the middle of race-day festivities. While Christine and Samantha jetted off for a Half-Fanatic photo op, Justine and I wandered through the crowds, took photos, and figured out where to go for our corral. Once everyone was ready, we pushed through to the third corral, and waited for the race to begin.

The crowd was visibly excited. Although chilly, once surrounded by a sea of ladies ready to run, the thrill of the race sunk in. The first group set out at

The shirts were pretty genius.  And completely us!
The shirts were pretty genius. And completely us!

7:00am, but our corral didn’t take off until about 7:13am. Needless to say it was the perfect time for selfies and silliness. Our goal was to run together in colorful formation, so for the occasion we all wore different colored bottoms (I made a last minute switch to pink Under Armour capris so Justine could wear her favorite yellow shorts) and matching tanks from Race Junkie. The front simply said “… And she ran happily ever after” while the back displayed “Proof that a pair of shoes can change your life 4.27.14”. We were stopped all along the course by people commenting on our tops, taking pictures for themselves, or asking to take pictures for us. I have a feeling there’s a few pics of us floating around Cyberspace, of which I am grateful. For us, that shirt was symbolic. This race brought us all back together for something we had never done before as a group. It’s now a combined passion, and I am so utterly grateful to have been able to make and share these memories with my best friends.

The beginning of the race is pretty iconic. You start on Pennsylvania Avenue, just a few blocks from the capitol building. Within a half mile you are in perfect range for a photo op (in which we obviously partook). You wrap around the front and head back down the streets flanking the mall, passing by the Botanical Gardens and number of other museums. You quickly approach the National Monument on your right, and continue on to the Arlington Memorial Bridge, passing over the Potomac River, and hooking around the circle to come back to the D.C. side. From there the course veers to the left in which you pass by the Kennedy Center and loop back. Then the course heads out to Haines Point, which occupies 3 miles of the course. Finally, you swing back by the National Monument, and head back towards the capitol.

Who knew Peeps mid-race would be so phenomenal?
Who knew Peeps mid-race would be so phenomenal?

It was a great course, with marching and pep bands (including my Alma Mater’s band from George Mason University) scattered throughout pumping up the runners, and plenty of spectators cheering us on. Given that the race benefits the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, a number of Team in Training groups and their trainers were part of the race that day. It was amazing to see the obstacles some had overcome to be there, and the absolute determination to run this race for an incredible cause. Our group was surprised twice along the course by Samantha’s husband, Michael, who brought water, snacks, and a mental pick-me-up for all of us.

My favorite part of the race was coming up to the finish. My parents and sister found a great spot just steps from the finish line and were there cheering us on as we completed the race. I only recently began running, and only after moving to Colorado, so this was the first time they’ve seen me in a race. It was so inspiring having them there, and I couldn’t have been happier.

Sharing this moment with my family was truly wonderful.  It made the finish line that much sweeter!
Sharing this moment with my family was truly wonderful. It made the finish line that much sweeter!

After crossing the finish, sub-3 hours, collecting our Whole Foods Goodie bags, and collecting our blue Tiffany’s boxes, we met up with my family for a bit before heading to brunch at Masa 14 (um, hello bottomless brunch menu, what a fabulous concept!). I spent the rest of the day with my family, only after an emotional goodbye with the ladies, and headed home early Monday morning. What a wild, exhausting, thrilling, and perfect weekend.

 

Just a few of my favorite race moments!
Just a few of my favorite race moments!
What a great, rewarding, and memorable accomplishment.  Great race, but what's more, the best people to share it with!
What a great, rewarding, and memorable accomplishment. Great race, but what’s more, the best people to share it with!

 

How was your weekend?  Any amazing race memories shared with your besties?  What’s been your favorite race experience?  Do you run for bling, for camaraderie, the thrill of the run, or all of the above?

Shoe Therapy and Wednesday Giveaway

I hate feet.  I hate my feet and I hate other people’s feet.  I have felt this way nearly all of my life.  It wasn’t until the past few years that I realized pedicures aren’t terrifying.  It could explain why I am so devoted to shoes.  I won’t even attempt to count how many shoes I own… it would be astonishing even to me.  Growing up, however, I tormented my feet with inappropriate shoes.  It wasn’t until I moved to Colorado, quickly followed by my dear friend Tessa from back east, that I realized I needed shoe intervention.

Tessa was working part-time for Clarks in Colorado Springs.  Every time I went to visit her I met her at the shop, and always managed to leave with something in hand.  I would get home and think, “Self, why were you wearing such horrendously ill-supported and ill-fitting shoes before?  Time to purge!”  From then on, Clarks and a few other select brands are my go-to’s.  I rarely consider other shoes because I know how incredible my feet feel in Clarks.

I know what you’re thinking… “Isn’t Clarks a ‘comfort shoe’ brand?  Aren’t they… dare I say it, unattractive?”  Well the answer is no.  Granted I am selective in the styles I purchase (I always steer clear of the comfort walking sandals of our older generations), but there are so many cute options!  My favorite oxfords (both heeled and men’s style) have come from Clarks.  I adore their wedges all summer long.  I am not sure if I could have survived this winter without their meticulously crafted boots and wedge booties.  Even better, everything is so incredibly comfortable, with ample arch support and cushioning, and lasts.

Um, hello snake print wood heel wedges! LOVE them and so versatile!
Um, hello snake print wood heel wedges! LOVE them and so versatile!

The icing on top of this very large cake is their sock policy.  Sounds strange, I know, but it’s what keeps me and the hubs coming back (oh yeah, I have converted him too, as well as some of my coworkers…).  Buy a pair of socks from Clarks, and you can return them when they’re worn out and get a new pair, wait for it, for FREE, and even better, for LIFE!!  Incredible, isn’t it?

So on that note, now that I have converted everyone to happy footwear heaven, you’ll definitely want to check out the Clarks Soho Chic Sweepstakes styled by Lucky Magazine!  You could win a trip to NYC to shop and strut your stylish stuff.  You can get a customized shopping trip tailored to your personal style courtesy of a Lucky style expert, along with airfare, hotel accommodations, and $2,000 to shop ‘til you drop!  And Lucky magazine will also magically appear in your mailbox for a year, so style and read on!  All I know is that if this shopping trip includes shoes, I so want to win.  Cinderella, after all, is proof that a pair of shoes can change your life.  Words to live by, ladies, words to live by.

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