Summer Bucket List

If someone ever asked me what my favorite season is, I always respond with an emphatic SUMMER! There is something so divinely awesome about the long warm days of summer. For most people it is also the time to slow things down – not have such a frenetic pace (especially those of us who are parents who drive our kids in circles to school related activities). I’ve only recently admitted to myself that I’m a planner – every summer I plan to knock these items from the summer bucket list.

  1. Swim at the lake. I live near Chatfield Reservior. There are several ways to enjoy the lake. No matter if it is dropping my (kids) kayak in the water, renting a stand up paddleboard or hitting the roped off swim part. Nothing says summer to me quite like hanging out at a lake on a hot summer day.
  2. Visit a national or state park. Again if I go over to Chatfield I also knock visiting a state park off my list – but usually what I mean by this is going on a hike. Living in Colorado we are very lucky that we have many options open to us. Lucky for us Colorado Day (the day Colorado became a state) is August 1 and that typically means free entrance to Colorado State Parks or we can get free entrance to National Parks August 25 on National Park Service Day.
  3. Around a campfire. I would say tell ghost stories around a campfire – but honestly I don’t like scary stories…so let’s just say stories or sing. No matter if you really are going to be at camp or not – there are several options to have a safe fire right in your backyard. It is just a fun time to connect with the others around the fire with you…and maybe make a s’more or two.
  4. Camp. I tried to take my kids camping once shortly after I divorced. We went to the Sand Dunes. I borrowed a tent from my parents which was pretty old – and the sand really is no place to anchor a tent. You can rent a tent from REI (I should have done this instead). But it was fun and the kids tell stories of it years later (the fact that the tent literally fell down makes it funnier). But even if you don’t mess with a tent or with actually going somewhere – you can always camp in your back yard or even in your living room (I was in an apartment – so camping in the common areas really wasn’t a good idea or even really an option).
  5. Ice Cream Patrol. When I was a youngster my dad would gather all the kids in the neighborhood,  we would all climb into his little jeep and head down to BaskinRobbins. He would buy everyone an ice cream cone! There was not usually a reason – just a “because.” This was back in the days before seatbelt laws so kids were hanging out the back and sides of the jeep – with the doors off and the back rolled up.
  6. Drive a convertible. I was lucky enough to tool around in the jeep (which in my estimation is the ultimate in summer vehicles). But, there is something completely summer and different when you take a ride in a convertible or a jeep with the doors off than just riding around in a mini-van with all the windows rolled down.  If you don’t own a convertable rent one just for the day or the weekend!
  7. Watch a movie outside. We went to see a movie last summer on the grass just outside the Alamo Draft House in Littleton (at Aspen Grove Shopping Center). The movie was free and it was quite festive. We saw Hunger Games – prior to the movie they had a character dressed up as Effie, archery, popcorn and more. This year, we will be hosting our own Friday Free Movie. We got an inexpensive projector that we can hook up to our computer or phone and show movies! Host your own or go to a community event (or both).
  8. BBQ. Either host one or go to one. A rite of summer is eating food that has been cooked caveman style – over a flame. (If you feel like sharing your best recipe…email it to me). It doesn’t have to be expensive – it can be hot dogs and hamburgers or something bigger like ribs. Who’s recipe is really better KC BBQ or Louisville?
  9. Take me out to the ball game. When my son played baseball (he now focuses on football) we had our fill of ball games. But summer just isn’t summer without a ball game. Going to the Rockies doesn’t have to be expensive. There are rock-pile tickets that can be just $8 each and even better when you go on $1 hot dog day (promotion). No matter if you watch the game or the people it is bound to be fun. If you can’t make it to the game – make your own. You can buy a whiffle ball and bat for something like $1 at Dollar Tree!
  10. Read a fun novel or flip through a magazine. Reading is a whole different thing when it has not been assigned by a teacher. Choose your own escape – or a beach novel. Something perfect for outside – or just take your time flipping through the pages of a magazine. (One of my favorites is National Geographic Traveler – so I can dream about being on a beach somewhere).
  11. Picnic. So I’m not a great cook. That isn’t a secret. What is a secret is that if I take that same food outside and serve it at a picnic table or on a beach blanket – a simple sandwich, chips and lemonade seem that much more tasty.
  12. Stargaze. I can’t honestly tell you what the Leo constellation looks like (I’m a Leo). But with cool apps you can point your phone at the sky and it will define what each star, planet or constellation is. It is fun to sit out on a clear summer night taking in the awe of the sky – or even noticing the path that the airlines take (they take one right over my house so it is fun to watch them track the same path about 5 mintues apart from each other).
  13. Grow a garden. For the first time last year, I had my own garden. I didn’t have high hopes. The last time I tried I inadvertently pulled the actual vegetables I had planted – fearing they were weeds. This time I planted starters (so I could see what I actually planted – and could recognize what a weed was). I was so excited that I actually grew my own zucchini and green peppers. I had basil coming out my ears…and oh my the raspberries (my favorite). For just $1 a packet of seeds this is a fun reason to be outside all summer long!
  14. Meet the neighbors. In Colorado we hole up in our houses in the cold winter months. The only time I see my neighbors is when there is a big snowstorm and we all have to shovel or when they are driving away to work. This past summer, we made a point to put our chairs on the FRONT porch a couple nights of the week. To just “be”. We were outside so the neighbors could see us. It was fantastic meeting everyone. I look forward to that again.
  15. Find the Freebies. Summer seems to be the time for free entertainment. We have free concerts by local bands all around town, the obvious free fireworks displays at 4th of July and as previously mentioned lots of free movie showings. I write about these freebies quite often on MileHighMamas.com. Check out my annual free concerts list – which will be posted in late May.

No matter what you do this summer it is certainly bound to be fun! What is on your annual summer bucket list? What is your favorite summer tradition?

Blue Apron Made Me a Chef

I was sitting at an event at the Marriott Denver enjoying the food. It was a celebration for Marriott and Starwood’s merger. I often go to hotel events (it’s part of my job). We are often given what I affectionately call “parting gifts.” They are typically an item like a notepad, water bottle, or a bag. This time – we were treated to seeing Western Daughters Butcher Shop dismantle a full pig (with a saw) and then getting a chunk of pork. Most were given a pork chop. I told them that I am not much of a cook to give me something simple. So they handed me a larger chunk of pork wrapped in brown paper and told me that all I would need to do it sear it, salt and pepper it and stick it in the crock pot. I wasn’t really even sure what this cut of meat was. I brought it back to my table with a sort of giggle – I’m not a chef. I’m not close to a cook. Simple is good. This is when my friend Leslie told me that she had been using Blue Apron and she had some meals to give away (she had two sets of two meals).

When she sent me the link. I decided to try it. I opt’d for the family meals. There are three of us in my family – myself, my daughter and my teenage (football playing) son. The meals said they would serve four – but I have found that with a teenage boy – what normally feeds four people feeds the three of us just fine. I figured if there were leftovers I would eat them for lunch.

I am an adventurous eater. I will try just about anything. My kids used to be the same way. They were never picky kids that would only eat hot dogs and McDonalds (not that there’s anything wrong with that in my book). But I chose the Moroccan-Spiced Lamb & Beef Tagine and the Blackened Chicken & Rice. I chose those because I was not sure that my kids would eat the fish and the other option was a pasta. I figured if it was free I would go with what seemed more expensive. I could probably make a simiilar pasta dish for cheap.

The package came a few days later. It was packed in ice and in an insulated box. Everything I needed for two full meals! There was a menu sheet for each meal. Simple and easy to read. The front side has a short description of the meal and then the list of ingredients. The ingredients in the box were clearly marked and I could see which items were for which meal.

The first we tried was the Tagine. The smell was delicious. The preparations were simple and easy to follow with just a few steps. (Six steps). It walked me through how to cook, when to add what and even how to finish off the meal complete with a dollop of yogurt sauce and green scallions. The meal smelled awesome and tasted even better…to me. When I proudly served it to my daughter (my son was out with friends). She didn’t love it as much as I did. She ate that but not much of it. I hadn’t even told her it was lamb (if I did I think she would not have eaten ANY at all). I had enough leftovers for several days. I loved the fact that it was a WHOLE meal. Not just the entree (as you might get at a place like Dream Dinners). Complete even with the pita chips served on the side.

IMG_4288

The other meal was the Blackened Chicken & Rice. Again this was a simple and easy to follow directions. The side  was cooked rice with kale, different oranges (mandarin and blood orange) which the chicken was served atop. I thought it delicious. But neither of my kids ate much. They said they didn’t care much for the taste. On the other hand, I loved it. So once again I will be eating for DAYS on the leftovers.

Overall, I loved both meals. There was plenty of food to really serve four people. The recipe choices were unique and something I would certainly not have made on my own. They were both easy to follow and delicious. They made me feel like I really could master the kitchen. But the fact that neither of my kids liked the meals and at the cost – I may opt for once a month doing Blue Apron but just a meal for two – so I can make it for myself and have leftovers for just a day or so. I liked that it was a full meal – not just an entree –  where I need to dream up what to have on the side or how to incorporate veggies.

Beauty and the Beast Comes To Life in the Delightful Live Version

Maybe it is a tale as old as time. But even a great story being re-told is still a great story. Beauty and the Beast really is GREAT.

 

Once upon a time (a long time ago) in France a self-obsessed prince (Dan Stevens) has a curse put on him and those within his castle when he turns away an old lady who turns out to be an enchantress. This curse makes him a beast and his staff embody the objects in the castle.

 

Meanwhile, Belle (Emma Watson) a lovely, bright, independent girl who lives in a nearby town with her father, Maurice (Kevin Kline). Maurice stumbles upon the castle and the Beast imprisons him. Belle comes to rescue her father and trade places with him as the imprisoned. Despite the Beast’s awful behavior upon her first arrival – Belle learns to see (with the assistance of the castle staff) that there is more to meets the eye of this beast. Maurice enlists the help of town war hero Gaston (Luke Evans) to rescue Belle. Gaston wants to marry Belle (she doesn’t have the same feelings). Gaston’s side-kick LeFou (Josh Gad) provides both comedy and villain.

 

The casting is spectacular. Emma Watson is the perfect Belle. Who wouldn’t see something more in the dreamy blue eyes of the Beast (Dan Stevens – known to many as Matthew Crowley from Downton Abbey)? The funny Josh Gad as LeFou is far more comedic than the same character in the animated version. And a certain eye-popping musculature of Luke Evans as Gaston would certainly make many swoon. The live version also defines a bit more of the back-story for the characters. The live version also serves up all the same songs that we know (and can sing along to) from the animated version – but so are a few new ones.

 

The latest incarnation as a new genre, Disney turning their animated classics into visually stunning live action, is not to be out-done in the classic Beauty and the Beast. It was everything I had hoped it would be and more. The spectacular visuals of this movie need to be seen at the theater. (Don’t wait for it to come out on video).

 

Beauty and the Beast is Rated G and opens in theaters everywhere on March 17, 2017.

=======

Email me if you know of any great Denver deals!

Don’t want to miss any of Mile High Mamas’ contests and events? Be sure to sign up for our weekly email newsletter so you can forward these great deals to your friends.

If you’re on Twitter follow me on Twitter (GeeWhy93).  If I find a great deal during the week, I’ll tweet it out.

 

beauty and the Beast