Sunday, September 27, 2009

More Horseback Riding and Caramel Apples... a Sweet Sunday.

It's been a good day.
Does this look familiar?
I had a great time today with my friend Yvonne, horseback riding and visiting an orchard farm.
Back up a moment... I would not have been properly fueled up for my day without the help of oats.
I made these with 1/3 cup oats, 1/3 cup soy milk, 1/3 cup water and about 1/2 tbsp each of peanut butter and PB&Co. Dark Chocolate Dreams. Perfect.
After about an hour drive from Milwaukee, Yvonne and I found Fantasy Hills Ranch in Delavan, WI. I found this place online while researching trail rides on horseback in Southeastern Wisconsin. $30 for a 50-minute ride? Sounded good.
Unfortunately I have mixed reviews about this ranch. For one, the clerk at the check-in desk had us fill out the same waiver form. This seemed really odd and unprofessional to me because the information was cramped. If there was an emergency, how would they be able to read the accurate information?
The guides seemed like nice people, but weren't the most knowledgeable. I asked one how long she had been riding, and she said just three months. The ride was mostly through pasture trails and a little bit of wooded hilly area, and the horses didn't seem to like the deep mud. Also, my horse seemed really jaded and bored. I had requested a horse that could run and while she could, the guides told me that she was mostly a walking horse. I don't know why I was put on a walking horse when I requested a running one.
On the positive side, I did get to try out a trot and lope which is a first for me. Very challenging! The horse didn't like it much... she didn't really lope as much as she trotted more quickly. But, I digress. It was a good time. After last week's great experience with the best of the best wranglers and ranches, perhaps I am a harsh critic.
The petting zoo rocked! Yvonne had a little man swooning.
After our ride, Yvonne and I headed to The Elegant Farmer in East Troy, Wisconsin. The city is known for its historic trolley line. We found a couple photo opps in the parking lot...
Once inside EF, we immediately hit up the "Make Your Own Caramel Apple" area. Kids and families everywhere. There was a line, but it was worth the wait.
I selected a JonaMac apple and Yvonne chose a Zestar. We both opted to have the apple cut into sections.
Topped with hot caramel sauce, I added my own sprinkles, chopped peanuts and jimmies - mmm.
I noticed these guys across from me as I started to dig in. Felt like a little piggy myself!
This is the second Sunday in a row that I've enjoyed a sweet treat - I am seeing a trend of 'Sweet Sundays'.
We headed into the market @ EF and had a great time looking at all of the goods. Some highlights included a wealth of cheeses and, of course, the incredible bakery.
This bread looked great but I passed on buying it.
What a cool technique for frosting these leaf-shaped cookies. Will have to try and experiment with different shades the next time I make roll-outs.
The final verdict? I spent $20 on cheese!
All local cheeses: Dill Havarti, Pine River Port Wine Spread and a Sartori Cheddar, aged in New Glarus Brewery's Raspberry Tart Ale.
A wonderful trip!

Thursday, September 24, 2009

More from Colorado Springs... Send me back!

Note: I wrote this post on Monday, but just got around to finishing it today. Cheers!
This post is brought to you via the awesome free WiFi at the Denver airport.
Earlier today concluded my time in Colorado Springs... so sad. I never want to leave the place!
The past couple days were a whirlwind of hikes, great food, late nights and late mornings :-) I was a bit sleep deprived before this trip, and while I did not get a solid 8 hours all weekend... I am feeling refreshed.
Saturday afternoon, we headed to the International Association of Fire Fighters memorial service for fallen firefighters. There was a procession with fire trucks and motorcycles, and then a meaningful ceremony that featured hundreds (if not thousands) of firefighters in uniform, probably several hundred of which who were part of the honor guard / bagpipe and drum ensemble.
Later, we headed to Palmer Park, a gorgeous city park that has zillions of cool trails and absolutely breathtaking views of the city. Check it out.
Saturday night in Downtown CoS, we were among the legions of firefighters, bagpipes and crazy people. Started with dinner at Phantom Canyon, checked out Jack Quinn's again and tried a new place called Cowboys.
Oh my goodness! Was it ever fun at Cowboys. We walked in and immediately saw the dance floor packed with at least 100 people doing a country line dance. I LOVE when people do coreographed dances, haha. I was beyond thrilled when the country song ended and the DJ started to play "Cha Cha Slide." THIS IS MY FAVORITE CHEESY SONG TO DANCE TO. If you don't know what I am talkin' about, check out this video. Anyone that doesn't like this can get outta here.
They even had saddles hanging next to the mirror balls - classy.
On Saturday, we decided to make brunch at Annie's and I attempted my first-ever omelette.
This was half of the 4 egg omelette, with sauteed grape tomatoes and green pepper, and pepperjack cheese & hashed browns. Yummy :-) This left me feeling pleasantly full for hours.
Later, we headed out for a hike at Ute Valley Park. We were out for about an hour, had some fun scrambling up rocks and going through a rocky creek bed. Yet another beautiful Colorado Springs city park.
After the hike, Annie suggested that we check out Old Colorado City, a tourist-y area on the other end of town, close to Garden of the Gods. She specifically was thinking we could check out Colorado City Creamery, an adorable ice cream parlor. Good thinkin', Annie!
I had a scoop of the Pikes Peak Trail ice cream, which was vanilla with chocolate fudge ribbons and mini peanut butter cups. I asked for some hot fudge on top, when the server told me to turn around and help myself at the topping bar...
WHAT!!!!!????????????? A topping bar? Could there be a more glorious idea?
Annie and I were elated at the sight of this thing. We helped ourselves to copious amounts of toppings... hot fudge, hot butterscotch, sprinkles, marashino cherries, marshmallow sauce. Giggity.
After ice cream, we checked out some shops in Old Colorado City. I snagged a sweet leather belt for myself, and a Green Bay Packers belt buckle as a gift for Zak :-)
What a great time in Colorado Springs! Thanks again to Annie for being the hostess with the most-est.
See you soon for another post... I am off to Chicago tonight for a Sunny Day Real Estate concert at the Metro.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Calories Burned and

Happy Tuesday to you... is it the weekend yet? Ha.
I have a quick post and a much longer one coming later.
Wanted to rap about and their awesome calculator resource.
Last Friday, I wanted to find out how many calories I had burned during my three-hour horseback trail ride.
I did a quick Google for 'calories burned horseback riding' and found this page, which has a ton of calculators for not only calories burned, but ovulation trackers, BMI index tools, etc.
The Calories Burned calculator is, like everything else out there, an estimate of what calories you have burned. However, I find that because you enter your weight and specific quantities of time, this may be pretty accurate.
I weigh about a buck fifty. I entered my weight, then scrolled down to "Horseback Riding - walking" for 180 minutes (3 hours).
Hit the 'calculate' button... and voila. This says that I burned 513 calories! Pretty cool.
My sister and I did a decent hike on Sunday - so I decided to crunch the numbers for that as well.
About one hour of hiking... 405 calories burned. Nice!
I think that this tool from is a great resource for estimating how many calories you've burned. They have a great variety of activities to choose from, to get as specific as possible.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Heaven a la horseback in Garden of the Gods, plus Colorado Springs eats and hundreds upon hundreds of firemen...

Hello to all of you out there in cyberspace... Today I am blogging from a lovely futon at my sister's apartment. It's 10:30 and I've been up for a couple of hours... Annie is still sleeping off a very late night out in CoS ;-)
Yesterday was great. I had the pleasure of treating myself to a 3-hour horseback trail ride through Garden of the Gods!
Vacations can be tough in terms of fitting in physical activity, but horseback riding is a great way to experience a new place. This was my second time trying a ride with Academy Riding Stables in Colorado Springs... the experience last February was amazing and I was stoked to try out another ride.
Garden of the Gods is honestly one of the most beautiful places I've ever experienced. It was a great three hours to reconnect with nature and relax.
I booked the "Perimeter Ride" for this trip, which goes throughout the entire perimeter of the park. The multiple trails lead through prairie, hills, steep rocks, and sheer cliffs. The views are intoxicating!
My horse, Strawberry, was a funny gal. She frequently stopped to eat stuff and pretty much ignored my tugging at her reins!
This would be Strawberry causing a flash flood, haha.
So mature of me to have posted that, I know. I didn't get a picture, but the wrangler Todd's horse Vegas was even more hilarious. That horse farted every time she stepped up an embankment or hill. She even burped a couple times, too!
During the ride, we heard lots of rattlesnakes shakin' their rattles in the prairie grasses. Eerie but very cool. There were also not-so-natural sounds of fighter jets practicing above, a la Air Force Academy that's nearby. It was like our own private air show!
Since we walked the horses, the ride wasn't too challenging except for the steep bits. My horse took the rough terrain like a champ, but I am definitely a bit saddle sore today.
MAJOR THANKS and MUCHO PROPS to wrangler Todd at Academy Riding Stables! He's the absolute best.
After the ride, I was hungry! Annie took me to a great brewpub called Trinity. It was love at first sight... craft beers and vegetarian / vegan fare!!!
Though Trinity is located in a new strip mall, the interior was hip and industrial-chic. It looked like the bar and a lot of furnishings were made from reclaimed materials - very urban and funky. The menus were inside heavy metal covers.
The first thing inside the menu was a page-long letter, signed off with "Peace, Love and Gratitude." How cute is that? This added to the crunchy, altruistic vibe of the place. Beatles music played and you could hear the cooks singing along.
I went with the "Hot wing" salad - Seitan "wings" with organic spinach, carrots, celery, onion and tomatoes in a vegan bleu cheese dressing. I opted to have some dairy bleu cheese crumbles added on top.
This dish was muy caliente! The "wings" were drenched in super spicy buffalo sauce, and perfectly fulfilled my craving for hotness, ha. The portion was perfect - the size of a large soup bowl.
Annie chose the mac & cheese, served in a small breadbowl. Holy yum!
We shared some of the sweet potato fries, which tasted like they were baked vs. fried. They weren't as crispy as we would have liked, but had a pleasant mush to them :-)
I almost forgot - the beers! How could I forget about the beers? I tried Trinity's "Sonna," a Belgian. Delicious. Check out how sun-kissed I am here, ha.
I don't remember which beer Annie chose, but she sure looks nice in this photo!
A great meal! Will look forward to returning to Trinity during another visit.
I am going to go and wake up Annie as it's ALMOST 11:30! Sheesh. Assuming that we get moving :-), we will be checking out the Fallen Firefighter Memorial ceremony. There are hundreds and hundreds of firefighters in Colorado Springs this weekend, honoring their brethren. Think bagpipes, a motorcycle procession, and said hundreds of firefighters in their dress uniforms. Should be a unique and meaningful afternoon.
Cheers to another great day!