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Archive for the ‘Things to See and Do’ Category

This flawless autumn day in Boulder had us seeking as much outdoor time as possible. Claire and I took advantage at Scott Carpenter Park (which recently made news when astronaut Scott Carpenter visited for a rededication ceremony). We ran around on the playground, walked along the Boulder Creek path and ran up and down the still-vibrant green hills. The ice cream truck made a call, probably the last we’ll see this year, so we dashed across the sprawling lawn to make sure we didn’t miss out. Claire’s pick: a Spongebob Squarepants popsicle, loaded with yellow and red dye #20. Wheee!
Scott Carpenter Park, Boulder, Colorado

Scott Carpenter Park, Boulder, Colorado

Scott Carpenter Park, Boulder, Colorado

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I used to live on Twin Lakes, in North Boulder. On summer days, we would often wake up in the morning to the “shhhhhhh” of hot air balloons passing by our condo — sometimes near enough to say “good morning” to the bright-eyed folks dangling beneath the balloon in the basket.

Ever since, I have wanted to ride in one of those balloons.

Nearly 10 years later, I got my chance. A coworker invited me up for a ride with Fair Winds Hot Air Balloon Flights, and I jumped at the chance. Despite the fact that we had to be at the launch site at 5:45am. And despite the fact that Trent, my coworker, was a self-confessed acrophobe and this was his plan for “getting over” his fear of heights.

When we arrived at the launch site, in a field just west of Twin Lakes, there was a little table set up with pastries, coffee and juice. Families and couples milled around, alternatively smiling with anticipation and yawning. Jeff, the owner of Fair Winds, greeted all of us, had us sign release froms and divided us up among three crews on three separate balloons. He soon had several of us helping unfurl and inflate the balloons.

Our cheery pilot, Jeff

Before I knew it, we were all climbing in and lifting off the ground. To my surprise, my stomach did a little flip. I looked over at Trent, who had his eyes closed and was taking deep breaths. But then, as we lifted up higher and could look out over the trees and around at the other balloons rising (there were six or seven others), it was such a peaceful and beautiful scene that any twinge of fear I had subsided. Trent seemed to be having the same experience, now with his eyes open. The balloon floated up so gently that there was nothing to give me pause besides the breathtaking scenery.

Then we came upon the sight that I will never forget: the mirror-like Twin Lakes below, reflecting the two balloons at eye level in front of us, the sunlight filtering in behind the balloons from the East and lighting everything aglow. One of the balloons, a bright red one, dipped its basket into the water.

After that, we rapidly gained altitude, and the views expanded in all directions. Beneath us was all of Boulder Valley, the still-snowy mountains beyond and the Front Range to our east.


Jeff, one of the nicest and most exuberant people I have met, would give little exclamations of “yay!” and “all right!” as we ascended. He is masterful enough as captain that he can rotate the balloon to give each passenger a good look at the view they request.

We glided over farms, houses, mansions (lots of mansions), cows, prairie dog holes, Walden Ponds and the adjacent water treatment facilities, and several  little (and not-so-little) bodies of water that I didn’t know existed. I was shocked at how lush and green the lanscape was — not the mid-summer Colorado I thought I knew.

Up high, it was warm in the sun and next to the flame, and at times, we each fell silent to reflect on the views. Jeff noted that, looking out over the foothills and mountains, he sometimes imagines what it must have been like for early explorers who travelled by horse or wagon to come upon all this remarkable beauty. And from up high, it felt like we were discovering it anew ourselves.

Eventually, we drifted down south of Empire Road in Louisville, near the Colorado Tech Center. We had a fairly smooth landing, thanks to the chase crew who met us there and guided us in. Trent looked glad to be on solid ground again, but exhaled and said, “That was so much easier than I thought it would be.” I gave him a congratulatory pat on the back.

We all helped pack up and then were carted back to the launch site in a nice, big van. Everyone was giddy and talkative. Back in the liftoff field, we gathered round for goodie bags and a send off from Jeff and the crews. Looking around at the happy faces, it was clear everyone had a great time. I left grinning ear to ear, feeling like the luckiest girl in the world.

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In light of National Geographic Traveler naming Boulder one of the world’s Top 10 Winter Towns, I thought I’d put together my list of favorite ways to enjoy Boulder in the wintertime:

1. Glide Around the Ice Rink at One Boulder Plaza

Each winter, the little courtyard at One Boulder Plaza becomes a delightfully old-timey ice rink, complete with music, twinkling lights and an oval shape. Okay, it’s no Rockefeller Center, but it’s usually not very crowded and is fun to hook arms with your sweetie and take a leisurely spin. On Tuesdays, if you bring a can of food to donate, you’ll get discounted admission!

2. Sip a Steaming Cup of Tea at the Boulder Dushanbe Teahouse

Boulder’s lovely teahouse, located downtown (very near the Ice Rink at One Boulder Plaza), was a gift from our sister city, Dushanbe, Tajikistan. It was shipped here in pieces and assembled in the late 90s. Inside, trickling fountains, leafy plants and intricately carved and painted walls and ceilings make an exotic winter escape. Order a little pot of tea from the menu of more than 80 flavors, sit back and warm up as you admire the artwork that is this unique building.

3. Get Cozy Inside a Warm Brewpub

Much to the dismay of my waistline, wintertime always has me craving hearty fare. Maybe a big basket of onion rings, a batch of warm, freshly baked pretzels or a cup of cheesy soup. Boulder’s brewpubs are the place to go for this kind of stick-to-your-ribs sustenance. And best of all, you can wash it all down with a handcrafted beer. Perhaps a pint of Buff Gold at The Walnut Brewery, Java Porter at Mountain Sun or Feisty Fiddler IPA at the Boulder Draft House. Or you might opt to go on the Boulder Brew Bus tour to experience Boulder’s legendary microbreweries on a deeper level.

4. Stretch to New Limits with Hot Yoga

Boulder might just have as many yoga studios as Seattle has coffee shops. There’s one on every corner. And one winter-friendly trend among them is Birkram and hot yoga classes, where the room is typically heated to over 100 degrees. The warmth allows muscles to really stretch and your body to detoxify through sweat — which feels surprisingly wonderful in the middle of winter. Yoga Pod and CorePower Yoga are two Boulder studios that offer hot yoga.

5. Take Advantage of Sunny Days with Winter Hiking

Okay, let’s face it. Even though it can be a bit chilly here, Boulder’s average temperature during the heart of winter is somewhere around 46-49 — not exactly arctic conditions. There are enough mild days to make it possible to get out and hike or snowshoe just about anytime of year. One of my favorite winter trails is the Shanahan Trail, starting at the Cragmoor Road trailhead. A relatively easy loop takes you through open meadows and pine forests, with beautiful views of the Flatirons.

What’s your favorite way to enjoy Boulder in wintertime?

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So, yeah. It’s been awhile since my last post. I’ve still been out enjoying Boulder as much as ever, but a busy work schedule has kept me from telling you all about it for the past few months.

I’m also eight months pregnant, and late nights in front of the laptop just don’t happen much anymore.

I’m hoping that my approaching new-parent status will inspire me to write more about my adventures in Boulder from new perspectives. In fact, I thought I’d start right now.

During this long, hot summer, during which I’ve swelled to the size of a hippopotamus, I have discovered new, pregnant-friendly places in Boulder (I now know all the best restrooms on Pearl Street, for instance).

I wanted to tell you about one special place, in particular, that tops my list: A Mellow Mood spa. Billing itself as a “family spa,” A Mellow Mood specializes in prenatal and postnatal spa treatments by miracle worker Heather Lynn. She’s one of those people who you’re around for one minute before you’re smiling and realizing her infectiousness has transformed your mood. Not only is she just a sweet gal, but her knowledge of the pregnant body and how to position it just right for a joint-relieving, muscle-reviving massage (LOTS of squishy pillows are involved) is also unmatched. She’ll even give baby an in-utero massage, if you choose.

What makes A Mellow Mood a “family” spa? On-the-spot childcare is available for parents who need some pampering but can’t find a babysitter. There are plenty of other special touches, too, including freshly baked cookies to top off your already delicious spa treatment.

A Mellow MoodIn these last days of my pregnancy, I’m hoping to make it back to Heather Lynn for a final pampering session before, well, everything changes. I’m also hoping to make a few more blog posts, but if the little one has other plans, then I’ll see you sometime…on the other side.

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Cello by stevendepolo on Flickr Creative Commons

Photo by stevendepolo, Flickr Creative Commons

Sadly, it has been many moons since Eric and I were good, supportive friends and made it to a Boulder Chamber Orchestra to hear our dear friend and cellist Rebecca Holley play. But we finally made it to a performance on Friday night at the First Congressional Church of Boulder.

The evening’s theme was Sounds of the Countryside, and although the pieces seemed obscure (at least to a classical music ignoramus such as myself), they were the most approachable and enjoyable I’ve heard the BCO play.

The first was made up of selections from Ten Armenian Songs and Dances by an Armenian composer named Komitas Vardapet. Upon introducing the pieces, Bahman Saless, the musical director and conductor, noted that the songs were intended to include some folk drumming, but as they couldn’t find anyone, they’d have to do without. A fellow in the audience stood and said “Excuse me, but I’m actually a drummer. I could stand in if you wish.” In faux surprise, Bahaman agreed that, why yes, that would be wonderful. The audience had a good chuckle and the drummer joined the orchestra on stage with his hand-held drum.

For the second piece, a clarinet concerto by Gerald Finzi, the featured soloist of the evening, clarinetist Jerome Fleg, made his appearance and impressed the audience with the sweet, floating sounds of his instrument. I was transported to a scene from a Disney movie, with little bluebirds and butterflies flitting around.

The final selection was An English Suite by Hubert Parry, a delightful, head-bopping composition that really did capture the essence of the English countryside.

With each piece, Bahman gave his take on why the music is historically significant and called out a few unique features to listen for during the performance. For example, he explained why he so admires Parry’s talent for symphonic composition and his ability to extend the melody through several bars before bringing it “back home.”

As I was looking around the crowd, which consisted largely of elderly folk and families of the musicians, I got to thinking that more people really should know about this experience. It’s not as stodgy and boring as you might think. Bhaman makes a concerted effort to bring some fun and learning into the equation — and he suceeds. And at the very least, you’ll find yourself in the sanctuary of a small church or theater, turning off your iPhone or Blackberry and getting carried away by the music — even if it is to drift off with your own thoughts.

Their next performance is The Lyricists, featuring violinist Lindsay Deutsch on April 2–3.

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I am not much of a film buff — I haven’t even seen Avatar yet! — but this year, I have vowed to catch at least one of the films in the Boulder International Film Festival.

I spent a little time tonight reviewing the 2010 program, and the lineup is exciting! Here are a few notables, at least one of which I will be attending:

1. Tibet in Song

Photo by David Huang.

It’s amazing what true artists will go through in the name of their work. While documenting Tibetan folk singing traditions, this documentary’s filmmaker was imprisoned and tortured by the Chinese for seven years. Only a little more than half of the footage made it out of China. The resulting film reveals a reportedly very insightful look inside Tibetan culture, and I’m very curious to see it. Thursday, Feb. 11, 4:30pm, The Church.

2. The Opening Night Gala and The Lightkeepers

The opening reception will include appetizers, chocolate and drinks; a screening of the film The Lightkeepers and a Q&A with one of the film’s stars — Blythe Danner — afterward. Yes, people, Gwenyth Paltrow’s mama is going to be right here in Boulder, answering your questions! Thursday, Feb. 11, 6:30pm, Boulder Theater.

3. I Am Love

I had a dream about Tilda Swinton the other night. In it, she was weird and eyebrow-less. Much like she is in real life. But maybe the dream was a sign I should go see this movie, an Italian film about an old-money family trying to adapt in the new world. In the publicity photos, it appears she has eyebrows, which is a good sign. Friday, Feb. 12, 7:30pm, Boulder Theater.

4. Rock Prophesies

Photo by Maryanne Bilham.

I am just a sucker for anything with Slash in it. And photography. And the “sex, drugs and rock ‘n roll” theme. This film, about rock photographer Robert M. Knight and his adventures in the chaotic world of rock ‘n roll, is calling my name. Added bonus: I may be able to get my musician husband to join me for this one. Saturday, Feb. 13, 9:30pm, Boulder Theater.

5. Closing Night Award and Tribute to Alec Baldwin

You read that right. Alec Baldwin. In person. At the Boulder Theater. In between filming my favorite TV comedy, 30 Rock, and prepping to co-host the 2010 Oscars with Steve Martin in March, Mr. Baldwin is making a stop in little ol’ Boulder, Colorado, to accept the BIFF Award of Excellence. This is happening on Valentine’s Day, so the evening will also include “roses for the ladies; a romantic reception featuring music by Ralph Sharon, Tony Bennett’s piano player; cheesecake and coffee.” Bien sûr. Sunday, Feb. 14, 7pm, Boulder Theater.

There are tons of other films and appearances that look amazing. These are just a few that captured my attention right off the bat.

Which ones are at the top of your list?

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Needing to put our feet to the earth and breathe some fresh air, my sister and I set out for a hike on Saturday. We hadn’t been to the Settlers’ Park trailhead since this summer, and we thought it might be fairly sunny and mud free (it was!).

We hiked up to the Red Rocks, which always reminds me of the New Year’s Eve when we climbed up here, found a perch on one of the fins and watched the celebrations and fireworks below — one of the best New Year’s ever.

We continued on the Anemone Trail, overlooking Canyon Road. There were only a few other people out on Saturday, but they were enjoying the sun and warm rocks as much as we were:

Settlers' Park and Red Rocks, Boulder, Colorado

Settlers' Park and Red Rocks, Boulder, Colorado

Thank you, Old Man Winter, for throwing us a warm and sunny Saturday!

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