Ice Ice Baby – Dillon Ice Castle

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The city of Dillon, Colorado along with a handful of other cities around North America have welcomed the magic and whimsy of #IceCastles the last few years. The company creates elegant magic with their ice castles creating spires, spikes, fountains, slides, and other intriguing icy creations.

With our Dog Sledding trip in late January, it felt naturalto add on an adventure to an ice kingdom! We decided to visit the whimsy atnight where thousands of lights brighten the structure creating a surreallandscape.

1896 Leadville Ice Castle

The castle, much to my surprise, was less of a “brick andmortar” structure of castles in the past, such as the one that used to take up residence in 1896 in Leadville,Colorado.

Yet, through better methods, less work intensive, and moderntechnology the creators of Ice Castles has built a masterpiece of art that resemblesnature versus the palaces of old England. The Dillon castle is made of layersand layers of ice crystals that droop elegantly together to make a spindledfortress. Reminding the viewer of candle wax, the castle is almost haunting inits design, as if some fantasy’s Ice Queen had designed the elements.

Almost gothic, but celebrating natural artistry, the castlesoffer a glimpse into something otherworldly and full of inspiration. Elementsthroughout offer play in the form of slides and selfie spots.  While other details inspire wonder in roomswith fountains and thousands of icicles. Regardless of what you want from thetrip, bundle up, and enjoy yourself!

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Dog Sledding Colorado

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I’ve realized the older I get that the whole point of life is to try on hats and see what fits. Maybe not the point, but part of what you do.

I try on hats for work. I try on hats for spots and health. I try on artistic hats. Some fit some don’t. Some just like BAD.

It’s not so much what the hat is, but how it works with the person.

Dog Sledding fit really well.

Like most kids in the 90s we saw the movie Balto and Snow Dogs and thought Alaska was a place of dog sledding. When one dog sleds, one is in Alaska. Alaska.

So growing up it was a distant land thing. As an adult I realized one could do many “distant land things” closer to home as we become a more globalized society. Dog Sledding is no exception.

Enter a few months ago and we are talking with my stepdaughter about going to Alaska on a cruise, a future dream. Asking the 11 year-old what she would LOVE to do in Alaska, she says Dog Sledding. Dog Sledding.

Some googling later and a chat with my in-laws and we’re booked for true experience. Then more of the family books. And 18 of us are scheduled to dog sled outside of Breckenridge, Colorado at Good Times Adventures.

It was amazing. No words can describe the magic of snow, the perfect lighting, the happy happy happy dogs, or the feeling of gliding on a wood sled through the wilderness. If magic exists it’s in the snowy woods. Watch the video below to hear my pure joy. 💖

Saying it’s amazing is not enough, however, all of the joy makes me crave it. Maybe that’s how snowboarding feels for others (something I won’t try, it’s a thing) an urge to leap into the joy of it all over and over again, the rush, the sound, the smells. So I’ll be back, and probably more often, because this fluffy warm hat fit well.

Make Sure You’ve Got the Docs

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So many times I hear this classic “I didn’t know I needed a Visa”.

Here is the truth, you ALWAYS need a Visa.

“What?” You ask. Because in London they stamped your book and you were free to go as a US citizen. This is totally true, but that stamp, at customs and border, was your visa. No pre-registration and paperwork needed. Just the stamp.

Here is the thing though, sometimes the stamp doesn’t happen. And a big reason is that your passport may not have at least 6 months left on it for you to enter a specific country. Or more depending on where you are headed. In fact, many airlines won’t even let you board the plane if your passport is low on time. Meaning that week in Paris may be thrown away if you’re not prepared. This happens a lot.

Now for countries where you need advance permission, it’s vital to learn who needs what and what is needed. Meaning: countries like China may take longer and need you to buy plane tickets before you travel. Vietnam only takes a few days to process. Some countries only need a form when you land and a $50 fee. Just make sure you find out and find out at least a month or more in advance so you have time to plan.

Where do you find these details? Embassy websites and through the US state department’s website on travel: https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/international-travel/International-Travel-Country-Information-Pages.html

Don’t forget to also check warnings on places you are traveling to. https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/traveladvisories/traveladvisories.html/

Even consider registering with the state department in case you go missing. https://step.state.gov/step/

Other needs? Check with a travel agent or specialist that can at least point you in the right direction. Read a travel guide on your preferred country and ask around to others that have been to such locations.

Most of all, plan ahead, and have fun!

Happy Travels!

Laura and Ryann’s Colorado Fairytale

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I got to shoot another beautiful wedding this year! This was especially gorgeous due to the two magnificent brides that took immense care to piece together their details in the most elegant way.

The wedding, while in October, celebrated a spring-like motif with pastels, succulents, sparkling gems and a pristine mountain setting! It was like walking into a fairytale setting without my work setting everything into place.

A huge thank you to the stunning couple and Lionscrest Manor in Lyons, Colorado.

Autumn Bucket List

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Autumn comes but once a year…. for around two months…with a lot of fun.

Autumn in Colorado attempts to replicate the feel of the Midwest and East coast. Yet because of dry, unpredictable weather, it sometimes lacks the brilliant nature of its contemporaries.

Colorado has a mind of its own when it comes to weather. Some years we have snow in September, and other years it hits the 80s through the end of October (looking at you 2018). At times it feels like autumn is being completely eradicated, and climate change is not helping.

That being said, I find it vital to make a list of desires for each season and try to do as many as possible. I even have an ongoing list for the future involving trips to eastern cities that drop with New England Autumnal wonders.

Here is the Colorado bucket list you should try:

  1. Visit a farm – Colorado is full of corn fields, pumpkins patches, and family-friendly farms that cater to a crowd longing for good, old fashioned fun. The last two years my Girl Scout troop has found Harvest Farms to be an ideal adventure.
  2. Carve a Pumpkin – do it with friends or family or all alone. And I mean a REAL pumpkin get your hands in the gunk and roast those seeds!
  3. Watch your favorite Halloween movie/show – I got Sleepy Hollow and a rewatch of Stranger Things done and done. We also got really into the Chilling Adventures of Sabrina!
  4. Don a Costume- Party or no I always dress up, even for work. I also ensure my stepdaughter has an awesome outfit!
  5. Snuggle – with longer nights and short days, and the chill in the air, it’s perfect to grab thicker pajamas and snuggle with a loved one. My cat and husband are the best!
  6. Consume Pumpkin Spice – this flavor is ideal in the cold. If you like it, enjoy it, you don’t need permission for the things that make you happy and hurt no one else!
  7. Eat Pie – see # 6 and know it goes for everything you love.
  8. See some leaves! – take to the wilds and find some changing leaves. I find a good drive or hike every year to enjoy some color changes and Colorado has some truly unique options.
  9. Find Romance – it’s a great time of the year to celebrate and reconnect with loved ones. It’s also the “off” or “shoulder” season for the travel industry. Enjoy some good deals and less crowds before Christmas and take off on a weekend away.
  10. Dress Up – my wardrobe is really just centered on fall and winter. Meaning this time of year means I can play with textures, colors, and layers. If you have the same options, live it up and find new options. Pretend you’re a kid raiding grandma’s closet for playing dress up and be surprised at the fun!
  11. Make some treats – I love creating treats for others to enjoy! Halloween through the New Year means an excuse to create and share, meaning I find new recipes and fun for each holiday.
  12. Craft – this year, and many years, have meant new craft projects. Try something for a gift or for home decor, and take a class if you don’t know how to do something. It’s a great time to try something different.

Most importantly, find some fun!

Winter Hiking

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I have lived in Colorado and until last week I had never been hiking in winter. At least not in the traditional hiking meaning of the word. Sure I had trekked through knee high snow to feed animals or to clean off our deck. Sure I had braved snow and ice to walk a dog down gravel roads. Yet, I had never been on a hiking trail in winter.

I had not even meant for it to be a winter hike. I had actually planned on everything to be pretty dry and easy going. Maybe home to a few snow patches. Yet as I journeyed into higher elevations at Rocky Mountain National Park, I saw snow, and more snow, and ice, and wind, and snow pack.

It was soon I realized at around 8,000 feet that I would be hiking in the snow if I chose to go. I hesitated some, worried about my clumsy nature on ice. Yet, being stupid, or stubborn, or both, I pushed forward with my hiking plans.

Luckily I had packed extra layers and I was wearing my thick athletic leggings. I had well- treaded hiking shoes, and thick socks. I put on my layers, made sure my pack was good, and off I went.

The trail proved to be somewhat snowy, but easy to trek. The blowing wind and ice from the trees made the journey cold but manageable, and if anything the floating ice crystals added a majestic charm I did not expect.

The wonders of nature hit me, even in the cold, birds hoped between trees, chipmunks scavenged in bushes, and the pine, mud, and earth released their elegant perfumes.

I crunched along uphill for a mile before the Bierstadt Lake trail plateaued by the lake. It was here that the muddy trail turned into a wondrous winter land, where the sun played gleefully through pines and aspens. The wind made the fallen trees, the victims of strong winds, had leaned into each other creaking and echoing a haunting tune.

The lake walk loop offered a two mile winter walk that offered solitude and relaxation, a chance to think, dream, and feel grateful to my home by the mountains.

While I enjoyed just walking, I found that winter hiking was a much needed discovery compared to my summer and fall excursions. It was nice to have the stillness and solitude away from the summer crowds. It was glorious to feel a freedom only deep-seated trails offer. It was refreshing to breath in the scents of an ancient land, untamed and wild.

So, if you are thinking of a winter hike. Do it. Just be smart. Take warm clothes, gloves, hat, jacket, boots. Take water and matches. Take a solar lamp if you can. And bring an emergency device to try to reach help (cell phone). Tell people where you are going. And try to visit a trail that others are likely to be on. If you can, take a buddy, if you can’t, make sure several people know where you are going and when you should be back.

Happy Travels!

Cruise Room Secrets

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As a part of our anniversary escape my husband and I went to a Denver gem that is often missed, The Cruise Room.

I knew about this hidden treasure from an interview with Nick Urata I had read, and for years I had wanted to visit. Well our time in Denver meant we had the perfect opportunity for a night on the town. We gussied up and snagged dinner and then headed to the Oxford Hotel by Union Station.

Inside this other great historical hotel is a bar that has been open since prohibition ended I. 1933. In fact, it opened the day after prohibition was repealed nationally. This means its very existence is important, but wait there is more!

The entire bar is designed after the bar on the Queen Mary (located in California today). It has all of its original wall features that are made of plaster and are meant to represent different countries and locations from around the world. They still serve up classic cocktails, and an antique jukebox has a corner dedicated to its existence.

We loved every detail of the place and we found it to be a great place for chatting and a drink. We were the most dressed up people there, everyone else was in jeans, but it felt great to feel fancy. I even had my first real gin martini!

If hitting D-town at night, don’t miss a chance to visit this great historical treasure!

Happy Travels!

Brown Palace Romance

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The Brown Palace in Denver is probably one of the most iconic locations in all of Colorado, if not the western United States.

Built on a triangular plot of land, the hotel is oddly shaped, but the attention to detail is where the magic lays. The exterior of the hotel is made of rich “Brown” sandstone, carved and pieces together with hidden elements. The facade even has animals carved along the roof line.

Built in 1892 the hotel is full of details celebrating its past, and reflecting the significance of Denver in history. Almost every president has stayed at the hotel among many other notable celebrities. The Beatles stayed at the hotel in 1964 before playing at Red Rocks. They created such a a ruckus that they had to be moved via service elevators. They have a suite in dedication to them.

My husband and I decided to have a sweet and romantic getaway to the Brown Palace for our first anniversary. The hotel is known in my family as it is where my grandparents stayed on their wedding night on August 7, 1949. The story goes that they showed up in their 20 year old Model A and the valet was surprised at their arrival. They had driven the dirt roads from Fort Morgan (where they got married) to get there, and no doubt they probably looked a little bedraggled.

In some ways I went to honor them, but I was also curious about my own story and finding my own memory at the Brown. We definitely succeeded.

We stayed in a standard king room, we were on the 6th floor, and we had great views of the city. The room elegantly blended modern and old to make a space that was cozy and welcoming and not lacking for charm. The bathroom was done with traditional tile and classic features, while crown molding dotted the ceilings throughout.

We loved being able to walk through the history and charm of the hotel with its open center and stained glass ceilings. The structure inside is made out of steel making the spindles and staircases a timeless piece that awes the viewer. Every detail is classically inspired with the elegance of the “gay 90s” and updated features to celebrate the decades and 126 years of history.

I especially enjoyed the kindness and welcoming spirit I felt from everyone that worked there. The front desk was friendly, the concierge loved to chat about their love of the Palace (they’re the only hotel in the area with certified concierge). It felt like a home, and I immediately fell in love.

If you are looking for an iconic stay in Colorado or Denver then look no further. If you are short on time, but want to explore, consider an afternoon tea or a tour.

Happy Travels!

Victorian Horrors

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This month has been a busy one, but I made sure I took some time to go to an event I had been longing to experience since I was 11.

When I was 11 my great aunt died right around Halloween. Saddened by her passing but overwhelmed with visiting family we somehow ended up at the 19th century home of Margaret Brown. AKA the Molly Brown House.

What I remember, apart from everything I saw on that tour, was all the magical looking Halloween decoration. The decorations were for their evening Victorian Horrors, and I knew then that I muse return for this experience.

Flash forward 16 years and I finally made it and it was worth the wait and the journey to visit. The Victorian Horrors tour delightfully blends the macabre nature of the Victorians, with many detailed decorations of bones and creatures, with the stories that made the time iconic. An actor a room shares a dark tale from their collection, and you are enraptured and transported to another time, and another world.

Table setting (from the Molly Brown House)

It’s well worth a visit or two, and best enjoyed with costume and some friends. If offered, don’t miss the free tarot readings, and fabulously kooky gift shop.

Happy Travels and Happy Haunting 💀🎃 👻

An Autumnal Engagement

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I had the great privilege of photographing an adorable couple earlier this month. Caroline is a friend from college and I was thrilled when she asked me to capture these photos!

Autumn is my favorite time of year to photograph due to the richness of everything. It’s the clothes, food, natural wonders, and lighting that make everything look whimsical. Everything bursts with richness from the colors to the joy on people’s faces. It makes capturing it all the more rewarding for the photographer.