The Birthday Gift

I gave my good friend, Denise, a birthday gift this past weekend—a road trip. We had been planning this trip for more than a year, having to postpone several times due to schedule restraints, yet finally the time arrived. We drove across Colorado to Utah’s Arches National Park. Sounds simple enough, yet there was so much more to this trip than either of us could have imagined.

Leaving Denver early in the afternoon on Friday, we found the drive along I-70 filled with exquisite scenery complete with varied hues of green painted across the mountains thanks to the winter’s good snowfall and spring rains. Fluffy white clouds pasted over the vibrant blue sky provided the proper backdrop for the mountains and valleys along the way. This stretch of Interstate system between Denver and Glenwood Springs has always been one of my favorites.

Grand Junction served as our gracious overnight host allowing us to fill our bellies with some delicious Italian food at Pantuso’s Ristorante (Our server, Brady, was so adorable!) and a good night’s sleep.

Saturday morning’s sunshine welcomed us as we continued on our journey to the Arches National Park, just an hour-an-a-half away. The grand green mountains and melted away as the tans, browns and reds of the desert and smaller hills approached. The temperature climbed into the upper 90’s making us very grateful for our air-conditioned car!

Copyright 2015; Poppies and Popcorn
Arches National Park; Copyright 2015 Poppies and Popcorn

After a brief stop at the Visitors Center, we continued to drive through the Arches, greeted by magnificent views of naturally formed sandstone arches and soaring pinnacles. Each time we stopped to take photographs, the spiritual ‘vibrations’ of the rock formations filled our souls. As temperatures soared as high as 105 degrees, once again we were grateful for the air-conditioned car as we enjoyed our picnic lunch in the parking lot near Balanced Rock. We eventually spent about four hours in the park admiring each and every view.

A quick trip into Moab was definitely a must-do activity, afterward beginning the drive back toward Colorado. A welcomed overnight rest and an interesting encounter awaited us in Rifle, Colorado. Before leaving on Sunday morning, we met a wonderful gentleman named Ray from Kansas who was traveling with his wife on an odd looking vehicle—a Polaris Slingshot. Ray told us a bit of about his background in motorcycles and the events leading up to his purchase of this interesting motorcycle. He even let us sit in it to take pictures. (What a sweetie he is!) Of course, Denise and I each want a Slingshot of our own—mine in red and hers in pink or green.

Thanks, Ray!
Thanks, Ray!

After saying goodbye to Ray and Rifle, we continued our journey east by making a bit of a detour through Aspen for a quick stop at the John Denver Sanctuary, then following Hwy 82 over Independence Pass, and down to Twin Lakes; each stop presenting itself in full glory.

We turned northward toward Leadville, stopping at the Leadville National Fish Hatchery, the second oldest hatchery in existence today. Rainbow Trout were eager for the bits of fish pellet food thrown to them in the shallow pond. The outdoor runs were filled with Rainbow and Cutthroat Trout that appeared to be continually jockeying for position for some unknown destination. This was the perfect final destination before returning home.

Our weekend had come to an end. Time flew by as Denise and I talked and laughed, sharing stories and comparing likes and dislikes. Our friendship had already brought us to a coveted “sister-from-another-mother” status, but on this trip we discovered there were even more similarities than we ever realized (Our mutual appreciation for Edgar Allan Poe surprised us both!).

I have visited all of these places in the past, but visiting them with someone who had never been helped me to rediscover and brought new appreciation for each stop. Denise used the word ‘blessed’ throughout the weekend. Yes, blessed. My intent was to give my friend a special birthday gift. However, the resulting deepened friendship was a birthday given right back to me.




Linear Thinker

My brain allows me to see and interpret facts easily. The ball is blue. Fact. Not the pale color of the sky as the sun rises over the Rocky Mountains—just ‘blue.’ Succinct. Even terse. (Occasionally, my right brain will allow the word ‘light’ to be added.)

On a trip a few summers ago, I decided to practice engaging my right brain. Billions and billions (in my best Carl Sagan voice) of sunflowers surrounded the road as we drove through the mountains. Yep. Sunflowers. Everyone knows what sunflowers look like, so ‘nuf said, right? Perfect opportunity—so right brain, let’s give this a go.

A reception line of sunflowers greet us like children along a parade route as we speed along the highway. They turn their brown faces trimmed in deep yellow toward the sun as if to say, “Good morning! Enjoy your day!”

Okay. Not too bad. I’ve always struggled to get beyond the simple facts and am envious of those who have an artistic soul. While I may always be a linear thinker, I do take great delight when my right brain shows me what is beyond the spreadsheet.


Chocolate, Friends and Laughter


Winter Park Chocolate Festival 2015

There are a handful of chocolate festivals around Colorado, but the most unique is held every year at the Winter Park Resort. My friend, Diane, and I stumbled upon this festival quite by accident a few years ago while on one of our spontaneous trips. It wasn’t our original destination, but it certainly was a wonderful (and tasty) surprise!

My friends (Donna, Deb, and Michele) and I took the trip this year through the mountains, over Berthoud Pass, not only to enjoy chocolate samples in a stunning setting, but simply for a girls’ day out. (Don’t you agree we just need one of those every now and then?) It was opening day of resort’s summer activities as well, so Alpine Slide—here we come! (Be sure to check out the fun at I showed my friends some of my “favoritest” places along the way, including a rushing waterfall next to an old section of Hwy 40. The mountain scenery along Hwy 40 from I-75 to Winter Park is absolutely breathtaking no matter what time of year it is. No wildflowers blooming yet, as the snow was still melting at the higher elevations, but lush green foliage was everywhere. The sun shined down on us as if to say, “Have a FABULOUS day, ladies!”

Upon arriving at Winter Park Resort, we found what, Donna, called “a rock star spot” at the front of the parking lot with the ability to drive straight out upon departure. A sort of aerial lift, named “Cabriolet” by the resort, takes passengers from the upper parking lot down the hill directly to the Resort Village. (The lift is also one of my favoritest things!)

The Chocolate Festival was in full swing, so after a brief pause for a photo op on the lap of the Coca-Cola bear, we purchased our taste tickets and proceeded to enjoy all the event had to offer. A Colorado band called The Trubelos were playing some fabulous music in the gazebo (You know it’s good music when the vendors begin dancing!) as we sampled some of the delectable chocolate samples the vendors had to offer.

Soon, a contest began in which children (There was a contest for adult participants later as well!) were about to smash their faces into lovely individual mountains of chocolate pudding placed in front of each of them. Covered in their garbage bag tunics, the kids waited for the starting signal in eager anticipation. The moderator finally gave that signal and the children opened their mouths as wide as they possibly could, filling said mouths with creamy goodness. As the children finished licking their paper plates, the end signal was given and the kids stood straight to exhibit their smiling, chocolate-covered faces. One boy was stretching his tongue out to clean up as much of the chocolate around his mouth as he possibly could! He must be an expert at pudding eating because his paper plate was clean as a whistle and he was declared the winner.

There were other events throughout the day, such as a chocolate naming contest and a chocolate eating demo (Sort of like wine tasting! There is definitely a method.), and a chocolate crown contest (Who wouldn’t want a crown made of chocolate?).

The chocolate samples came in many forms—brownies, fudge, formed candies, cupcakes, truffles, etc.—all displayed in a tantalizing manner at each booth. If you liked what you were tasting, the vendors were happy to sell you some to take home. My personal favorite is Robin Chocolates. Check out Robin’s journey to Chocolatier (She was actually allergic to chocolate as a child and served 14 years in the Navy!) at While all the artisan chocolate samples at Robin’s booth were delicious, the Raspberry Heart is absolutely one of my new “favoritest.”

Other vendors selling wares such as soaps and lotions and jams and jellies were also scattered throughout the venue. One vendor demonstrated how to make meditation bowls sing and to feel the vibrations in our hands. I’ve seen these bowls as large as a human being and was always fascinated by them. This was the first time I was able to actually try one. (I was going to go back and purchase one later, but forgot. That moment when you mentally kick yourself.)

After a brief chocolate indulgence, my friends and I decided we’d have some lunch before completely spending all our tickets to stuff ourselves with more chocolate. There are about eight eateries at the Resort Village to choose from, each one bringing their own magic to satisfy one’s palate. We chose Doc’s Roadhouse and were seated on the upstairs patio so, as Donna said, “We can see more.” (Of course, I felt compelled to make several jokes throughout the day regarding Donna trying to find someone named Seymour.) With a fabulous server and great food, we conversed about so many things throughout the meal and laughed ourselves silly.

Our day certainly didn’t end there, and there is more to tell (like the Alpine Slide!), but as this post is getting a little long, I’ll end it there for now. Suffice it to say, this day is on my list of ‘Best Days Ever!’

Do you have a ‘Best Days Ever!’ list? Please share!


My First Blog Post

This is it! My first blog post in Blogland! Exhilarating and terrifying all at the same time. The road to this post has been plagued with potholes; which tend to increase in size as that little ‘self-doubt voice’ digs in more deeply. Do I have anything interesting to say? Will my writing make any sense? What if I run out of topics? Will I be able to stave off the grammar police? What does that button do in WordPress?

It is easy to come up with many topics to talk about with friends, but one can completely draw a blank when it comes to putting pen to paper or fingers to keyboard. I spent several hours as a blog stalker poring over helpful and not-so-helpful tips for writing a first blog post. Some first-blog tipsters were truly well-meaning, honest, and supportive—the kind of person you’d like to converse with over lunch – or wine! Others wrote in such complicated, self-righteous manners, that one could assume they don’t like competition in Blogland. (I found it easy to navigate away from their blogs forever.)

So, my first blog post is about the challenge of writing a first blog post. Not the most exciting subject, I suppose, yet it is of the utmost importance on my mind at the present. Future post topics will most likely vary and have what I hope will be a delightful randomness.

So, dear Reader, what do you non-bloggers like to read about? If you’re a blogger, what kind of content do you look for from other bloggers? How is your day going? Talk to me; leave a reply!