Chi-town / D-town

The last couple of weekends have been filled with friends, fun, and family.  Two weeks ago, I went to Chicago to celebrate a soon-to-be bride, Carly, who is the fiance of one of Z’s life-long friends.  I sometimes forget how easy it is to fly to Chicago.  By the time we’re up in the air, we are practically making our descent!

There were some scenic views from my window seat this time.

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Chicago June 2014 -6We split up into 2 groups and stayed at two apartments near downtown.  I stayed with a gal I’d never met before, Saleigh, who was one of those people I felt immediately comfortable around.  Don’t you love meeting those kind of people? We hung out for a little bit, then got ready for a late dinner at Dawson.

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We bar hopped around after dinner, then headed back for some shut-eye.

(Some of the group)

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The next day we woke up to a beautiful day, so we hung out by the pool all day.  Both girls live in high-rise buildings, which I’m not sure I would enjoy.  I’m not very afraid of heights, but I don’t know how I’d feel about spending every day 20 floors above the ground (eek!).  The views are pretty spectacular, though.

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That night before dinner and dancing, we met up at the other apartment and played some fun games, and especially had fun with this guy…

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Yup, that’s a cardboard cut-out of AJ from the Backstreet Boys.  I’m just going to leave it at that. 😉

It was a great weekend hanging with the bride and meeting some new friends!

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Over the 4th of July, Z was out of town, so I road tripped it down to Des Moines to see my parents and hang with my niece, Addy.  My sister  and her husband had a wedding to attend, so my parents and I had toddler duty.  She is growing so fast!  The life of a 2 year old is a bit crazy, but really fun.  She says my name all the time now and I’m eating it up with a spoon!

My road trip buddy & navigator.

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June 2014 9We saw the 4th of July parade this year!  It was the most gorgeous day.

Nothing says American Midwest like John Deere.

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Parade-ing, bath time fun, and shopping with Addy!  It was good to be home.

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sand tunes: coachella 2014

I have been getting so behind on my posts, there is a LOT to update you about!  I’ll start with my most recent weekend trip, to Weekend 1 of Coachella!

Zach and I sort of stumbled across this trip, and I’m so glad it ended up working.  A good friend of ours’ parents had been renting a winter home in Palm Springs, and they told him they would give us the house for the weekend.  We had to buy our ticket wristbands after-market, so they were pricey, but with the money we were saving on lodging, it was worth it.  Now, I am not normally a music festival person.  I’m rarely familiar with bands that aren’t mainstream, and can have little patience for long, drawn-out sets.  But Coachella’s formula worked for me.  The sets for all bands were 45 minutes-1 hour long, and since they were pretty short, each act played their most loved, most fun tunes.  Plus, there were never any quiet stages.  There are 6 stages, and if they were between acts, they were still playing music over the speakers to keep the entertainment going.

Lesson 1: don’t fly in on Friday.  Since we woke up around 5:30am CST to catch our flight, it was really 3:30am in California.  I’ll explain why this was a bad idea shortly.

We flew into the Palm Springs airport, (which is outdoors!), and stepped out to the curb to this view.

photo 1 (11)I had never been to Palm Springs before. I loved the mountains, the beautiful landscaping, and the mid-century homes.  You know you’re in the desert when you drive on the edge of town and see fields of nothing but sand.  Anywho, we went straight to the house to change and get ready, then we met our other group of friends at their house, where about 20 people we staying!

(Our friend’s house, not where we stayed.  With Jody, half of the couple we stayed with)

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(Isn’t this plant cool??)

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They rented a school bus for the weekend, so we all climbed on and drove the 20-ish miles to Indio, where Coachella is held.

photo 1 (12)The first day it was HOT.  About 99 degrees and no clouds, it was hard not to notice.  I drank 6 bottles of water that day and only had to take 1 bathroom break!  Luckily, once the sun goes down, it drops 30 degrees, and we put on our long sleeves.  Some acts we saw on day 1 included: Outkast, Zedd, Girl Talk, Ellie Goulding, Chromeo, and Duke Dumont.  It was an epic day!  So epic, that we were awake for 24 HOURS.  Remember that lesson I wrote about?  With the time change, we were awake from 3:30am-3:30am.  The shows stop at 1am, but then you have to walk pretty far to transportation, and since we took the bus, we had to wait for everyone to show up, then drop people off, THEN drive back to our house where we were sleeping.  By the end of the night, my feet and legs had shooting pains, and we fell asleep instantly on the bus ride home.

Some pics from day 1:

(Our house mates, Fred & Jody, me & Z)


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(Our jewelry-inspired temporary tattoos.)

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(Daytime shots)

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(There were lots of cool art installations, most that looked different or lit up at night.  I loved the astronaut and the garden caterpillar, [not pictured].  There was also a ferris wheel that looked pretty at night.)

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(Sitting break near the end, so exhausted!)

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(We sat down before shows to secure our spot for our big group, many are not pictured.)

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After a MUCH needed night’s rest, we were ready for day 2.  We decided to go a little later in the day, to beat the heat and catch the better shows.  We ate lunch in downtown Palm Springs, which I might add, is adorable.  What a cute city!  As we were driving around, we realized it was a WINDY day, and sand was blowing everywhere.  We were told in advance that this might happen, so we packed our bandannas to put around our mouths/noses.

A good look, eh?

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Despite the sand storm, it was a cooler, much more comfortable day.  Some acts we saw day 2: Pharrell (SO fun!), Kid Cudi, Sleigh Bells, Dillon Francis, Fatboy Slim, Skrillex, Nas.

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(Our group taking pics in a mirrored art installation, which lit up at night.  You can see the sand-haze in the air).

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There was one tent that played nothing but EDM (electronic dance music), and had the coolest video screens and lasers.  We watched a show way back behind the tent from the beer tent, and enjoyed it even more from back there, because we could see the entire light show.

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(some closer-in shots)

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Side note – SO many people carried big strange things on a stick, or a big blow-up item.  The crowds got extreme sometimes, and it really helped keep groups of friends together.  Our group would have the guys put their hats up so we could find them again.

Compared to day 1, day 2 FLEW by, almost too fast!  Before we knew it, it was time to go.

(Frankie, Freddy, Z and I jammin in an open area).

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By the end of the night, we were DIRTY.  We could feel the sand on our faces/bodies, in our eyes/ears/noses, but couldn’t really tell how much of it was there until we got home that night and looked at pictures like this one…. (LOOK at my face!)

photo 5 (2)… or in the mirror at home!  I walked in and said, “OHMYGOD!”

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Even though it was really late, we all took long showers then got in the hot tub before bed.

The next day, we hung around the house on a beautiful day, sat by the pool, and went for lunch at a local deli.

(The house)

photo 3 (6)Lesson 2: Stay until Monday.  There was a whole other full day of acts we missed because our flight left on Sunday.  I’m not sure we even had the energy for it, but it would have been fun.

Some random Coachella tidbits:

-For a big music festival, we barely saw anyone who looked “gross”, or who looked so messed up they needed medical attention.  That says a lot.

-The food choices were great.  And with it being California, they even had a lot of vegan/veg options, and healthy options.

-The bathroom situation, although porta-potties, was decent.  They were tented out of the sun, and men’s and women’s were separated.

-It seemed clean and well organized.


I would definitely go back!!




aspen adventures

One week ago, Z and I returned from a long, fun, action-packed weekend in Aspen, CO.  We booked our trip for a wedding of our two friends, Joey and Stefanie.  We flew to Denver and met Z’s cousin and his friend who were flying in from NYC, then we picked up our rental car and drove through the mountains to Aspen.  It’s about a 4 hour drive, but it’s the most beautiful drive.  After passing popular ski towns like Vail, Beaver Creek, etc., we headed into the river valley, that is, (in my opinion), one of the most gorgeous drives in the USA.  We started to head south around Grand Junction, and eventually got into Aspen.  I snapped a shot of this *perfect* mountain when we were almost to our destination.

photo 1 (9)By the time we got in, it was early evening, so Z and I settled into our hotel, and then walked into town to get Z measured for a snowboard and boots to get ready for the next day.  I have never been skiing or snowboarding in my life, and I didn’t think many of our friends were beginners like me, so I decided not to ski.  I could have taken a lesson and gone on the bunny hills by myself, but I knew I’d be just as happy enjoying the town and hotel during the day.  I would really like to learn someday, so I’ll will definitely try when I’m not in town for a big event.  It would be nice to learn on one of Minnesota’s big hills, to start.

Here’s Z and his new bear friend.

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That night we met a big group of friends at a local restaurant, Jimmy’s, then had some drinks afterwards at a little lounge.  We had a LOT of friends in town for this wedding, so it was a fun, big group.  Speaking of friends in town, through texting and social media posts, I figured out that I had 3 friends from my college sorority in town, all for different reasons!  I got to see Kate and Ally, but didn’t make it work with Jess, who I hope to see soon.  I love it when that happens, such a nice surprise!

The next morning, we awoke to a sunny, gorgeous day. This is the view from our hotel room (with an equally nice view the other direction towards the ski hill).

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We popped downstairs to enjoy our hotel’s AMAZING complimentary breakfast buffet before heading out.  This was the best hotel breakfast I’ve ever seen!  A yogurt/granola/fruit/fixins station, a bagel station, hot food like eggs, sausages, pancakes, pastries, cereal, THE WORKS.  Our hotel actually didn’t serve lunch since most people are out skiing during the day, so they definitely made up for it with this breakfast.  Z got all ready to go boarding, and I got dressed to wander the town.

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I met Ally that morning for coffee and catch-up, then wandered the shops.  Aspen has a lot of high-end designer shops, as well as cute local boutiques.  Nothing was cheap, but it was fun to peek around.  It was mid-40s, sunny and calm, a gorgeous day.

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That evening was the rehearsal dinner, which was held on the top of Aspen Mountain at the lodge.  We all met at the gondolas at 6pm to ride up to the top.  The theme of the evening was “western chic”, and they handed out cowboy hats to everyone getting on the gondolas.  Now, I am not afraid of heights, but for some reason, those gondolas were a bit frightening to me.  Especially when they stopped, and swung, and dipped.  It was a 3,000 ft. climb up the mountain, and at the top there were incredible views.

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*Top of the mountain*

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(Note: my hat didn’t fit well because I have a giant-sized head)

*Views from inside the lodge*

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Z borrowed some cowboy boots from Leo, the boys loved them.

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We made our way back down the mountain at 10pm, in the dark, with strong winds.  That part was NOT my favorite, eeep!  We met everyone at a ski bar and then home to sleep.

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The next day, Z went back out to board, and I met up with some non-skiers, then hit the hot tub before getting ready for the wedding.   The wedding was held at the St. Regis hotel which was GORGEOUS.  We arrived a little early, and hung out in their swanky lounge by the fireplace.

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The ceremony was out in the courtyard, in a totally clear, heated tent.  It started snowing just as the bride came into the tent, like it was on cue.  The ceremony was in the middle, with chairs surrounding on all sides.

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After the lovely ceremony, we all went downstairs  for cocktail hour.  There were passed hors d’oeuvres, open bar, and an incredible all-female musical group that all played string instruments.  They played high-energy songs from classical to pop and were practically dancing while playing, they were so fun to watch!

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We found our plexiglass-etched placecard on a 6 ft. tall ice sculpture/tree.

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photo 1 (5)Once in the reception room, we sat down at our big rectangular table for dinner.

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Our menu, was again, etched plexiglass.  (Notice the bomb menu selections)

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I don’t have any good pics of the ceremony, probably because I was too busy dancing to their 15-person band, having fun in the photo booth, and sitting down at the oxygen bar.  Yes, oxygen bar.  It is the mountains, after all. 🙂  We had such a great time with wonderful friends, a truly memorable weekend!!