Thursday, May 31, 2012

Shells and Sauce

New FAVORITE Denver restaurant - attention all friends coming to visit us in Denver this summer, we WILL take you here and you will LOVE it! Our new found italian fave is "Shells and Sauce" - a great little spot in Congress Park neighborhood. It just doesn't get much better than warm bread, al dente pasta, thin crust pizza, balsamic vinegar, parm cheese, fresh tomatoes, and italian spices! YUM YUM YUM.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

The Black Hills

To get to South Dakota from Denver, you point your car north and just keep on going. At one point we hung a right, and 30 minutes later we arrived at our destination in South Dakota. That simple! It's only about a 5 hour drive, who knew!? Best kept Denver secret!

In South Dakota, we met up with my family for my cousin Marty's wedding at Spearfish Canyon Lodge. The lodge and the wedding were absolutely beautiful, and the setting reminded us a lot of Colorado.

After Spearfish, we headed to Mt. Rushmore.

Mom, dad, Mollie, Christine, Charles, Aubri and Alayna camped in Custer State Park and we opted for a hotel room in the town of Custer. This was Big Red and the 5th wheel camper's inaugural trip. 

Near Custer State Park was this beautiful lake. We're already plotting a weekend trip back to stay near the lake. It was absolutely beautiful.

We spent a lot of time animal watching in Custer State Park - the buffalo were incredible! It is just after birthing season so the moms and calves were out together. Lots of cute little baby buffaloes, with packs of proud mamas. The bulls were nowhere to be found, haha! I liked this shot of Mollie in her element, photographing our trip along the way. Overall, we had such a great trip with our family and really enjoyed seeing South Dakota. I can't say that South Dakota or Colorado are more beautiful, they are just different :)

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Ahhhh Summertime

Thus far, my summer has been filled with work travel. A couple of neat highlights featured below - Las Vegas Venetian gondola rides indoors (we didn't ride, just thought this was neat):

And, a quick lunch poolside in Reno, Nevada (BEAUTIFUL!):

Now that I've been back in town, our summer has been filled with (DELICIOUS):


And Farmer's Market goodies

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

The Side Yard - Soon to be Vineyard Patio

Now that the front yard has grass, we quickly moved on to finishing the side yard so that we can enjoy barbeques and evening fire pit relaxing all summer long. The area has been a grubby, overgrown space since we built the addition on the house, and Chris built a gate at the front of the house so it would be out of eye sight from the street. The fence we share with our neighbors is overflowing with red and green grape vines, making the area our little vineyard in the privacy of our own.

Our concrete guy Priscilliano Anaya was so great to work with on doing our city side walk, did such a great job, and has such a fabulous name, that we hired him to pave our side yard. We're very happy with how it turned out - stay tuned for the June construction of the pergola and large flower pot plantings!




Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Grass, Finally

In the words of our mail lady, "You FINALLY landscaped your yard!" We started with dirt, overgrown weeds, severed and buried irrigation system, a huge stump with deep roots, and more dirt. We now have grass, and there will be more DIY landscaping to come in June! We're so pleased with how well it turned out, and had a great experience working with Jon Swenson from Renew 303 Landscaping. He gave us a great deal, and even better customer service. And, to boot, he must have some kind of connection with the rain Gods because we had several days of rain after the sod was laid. Perfection!

BEFORE (Weed landscaping)

(Stump that had to be removed)



Monday, May 21, 2012

The Masters

Congratulations Michelle Achterhof, MSW and Chad Achterhof, MBA! We are so proud of you! This has been an exhausting, challenging, and rewarding two years of growth and pursuit of greater goals, and we have been honored to be part of this journey with you. We are so proud that you have chased after your aspirations to earn your Masters degrees, and look forward to seeing the big, big ways you are used in new capacities. Indeed, this is a huge milestone to be proud of and we are thrilled to celebrate alongside you!

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Arthritis Walk 2012

This was a unique 4th year for us at the Arthritis Walk. I wasn't able to participate in the walk because I was still recovering from my foot surgery, which coincidentally, was directly related to my Rheumatoid Arthritis. In lieu, we volunteered at the walk, and were able to see lots of our friends that are involved with the Arthritis Foundation. 

The past years at the walk have been empowering, celebrating my health and wellbeing, and how well I was doing in managing and living with this disease. This year did not feel the same way, and instead it was difficult to admit that I continue to battle this illness, as the last three months have been a challenging time in my life having Rheumatoid Arthritis. 

A few days after the walk, I found peace in recognizing this experience was representative of my journey with Rheumatoid Arthritis. I may have periods of time in my life where I will not be able to be active, to take summer walks or hop right up out of bed in the morning. I will always have ups and downs, but the difficult times make the good times that much more rewarding and fulfilling. And up until now, the number of good times have far surpassed the number of hard times. I am so thankful and blessed to have my husband by my side through it all, and the never ceasing support of my family and friends beside me.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

The Final Highschool Graduation

The final highschool graduation came and went in May, and we celebrated the youngest Gilstrap walking across the stage as not only a graduating high school senior, but also a Certified Nursing Assistant. Congratulations Kendra, we couldn't be more proud of you and we were so happy to be able to be there to celebrate YOU! It was also really nice to be back in Springfield for a few days, catch up with college friends, stop by to see Sarah's old coworkers, and explore the new spots (and old favorites) in downtown Springfield.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Texas Weekend

We had a great weekend in Austin and San Antonio, exploring the cities and enjoying family time at Shannon and Kellen's wedding. 

We flew into Austin and spent Friday in Fredricksburg, located in Texas Hill Country and home to Texas wineries. They were out of mid-size vehicles, so we got an upgrade to a Jeep Grand Cherokee, our dream come true :)


Meats and cheeses from a local butcher for snacks at the winery

In San Antonio, we had to hit up our two favorite eateries that Chris and I discovered on our SIFE trips to Texas. One is Joseph's Bakery and Storehouse, home to delicious baked goods and deals on day-old cinnamon rolls!

Lunch was at Sam's - the best greasy cheeseburger in town. Sam's is special because they brand their burger buns.

Shannon and Kellen's wedding was wonderful - Shannon was a stunning bride, and Kellen looked great in his bowtie! The wedding was at a ranch, by a pond with the tall grasses blowing in the wind, and the weather was breezy and cool, very pleasant to our surprise! We enjoyed seeing Shannon (Chris' 2nd cousin) and Kellen again (we saw them last August in New York), as well as several family members from Chris' side. It was also nice to spend time with Chris' sisters Katie and Kim (who is living in Texas now!)

Sunday we explored Austin downtown and found a great hotdog and beer place called "Frank." Their motto is "Purveyors of pork, and their tasty friends." We thought that was so funny. Austin felt a lot like Denver, with lots of great foodie options. Overall, great trip, and definitely worth another weekend in Austin to see it all.