Colorado Summertime!

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

IT'S FINALLY WARM! I feel like Olaf from Frozen.

From here.

While I'm sitting in class, I am just itching to go outside and enjoy the sunshine, and the warmth, and just lay in a hammock, or take a nap on the grass, or just play some spikeball.

I am anxiously awaiting summer, along with the rest of DU. We are so close you guys!

When school is over, people will be whisked away to exotic locations and fun places for amazing adventures, etc. Some of us, however, will be working all summer to get some money for the adventures to be had in the fall, when we go abroad! Or some people just want to stay in CO because it's amazing.

If you don't know what to do in Colorado during the summer, these are some of my favorite "stay-cation" ideas, as well as fun things in Denver that you can do on a day off, or whenever you feel like it! Obviously this is not everything, but there are just some of my favorite things, and things I recommend to others.

Safety tips: bring sunscreen to protect yourself, especially outside or if you are hiking, and water, especially in the mountains!

1. Glenwood Hot Springs

Summer heat + Mineral pool = Perfection. Seriously, in the heat of July, I love spending a weekend lounging poolside in Glenwood. The pool is literally situated in the heart of the mountains, so you can just be chilling poolside and have absolutely amazing views of the mountains. It's a mineral water pool, and it feels so amazing, especially when it's hot outside. Plus, it's supposed to have healing properties (people used to drink the stuff).

If swimming isn't really your thing, and let's be honest, I'm not always a huge fan of getting in the water, then Glenwood has a lot of other things you can do. The Hot Springs has a spa, which I always visit (the last time we were there, I had this amazing and funny pedicurist), and get a mani-pedi. They also do massages and facials, etc. which could be a nice way to de-stress. The only thing about the spa is that you have to wait a few hours before you go into the pool, which doesn't bother me, but it's definitely a drawback for some. They also offer some awesome yoga classes and a state of the art fitness facility with beautiful views of the pool and the mountains. Love doing sunrise yoga in Glenwood.

From here.

This is the website to book your stay, or any spa appointments you need:

When I was a kid, my parents also took me to see the Fairy Caves, which was super fun! It's the best for kids, plus you get to take a gondola up a mountain. I just love doing those type of explorations, it made me feel like Indiana Jones or something.

2. Day in Aspen

This is something you can do easily if you go to Glenwood. Whenever my family goes, we will take an afternoon to go to Aspen, which is about 30 minutes away from Glenwood. It is usually known for skiing in the winter, but it is absolutely beautiful in the summer!

Some of my favorite things to do include shopping (of course), because there are many little shops of true mountain-y goodness, but also some higher end brand names, like Ralph Lauren, Helly Hansen, and Theory. There are restaurants, lots of little parks and outdoor spaces. It is also nice to just sit outside, with a cup of coffee or if you're of age, a glass of wine, and enjoy the mountain air!

There are several places to hike, bike, fish, and do all things Colorado. If you love seeing a sea of trees, definitely drive over the pass and see all of the Aspen trees, and there are many places along the path where you can pull off the road and look out over the valley.

Look at all that Aspen has to offer here:

3. Red Rocks 

Hands-down the best place for a concert in the entire world is Red Rocks. I've seen Mumford and Sons, The Lumineers (on my birthday!), Big Head Todd and the Monsters, Switchfoot, and the Goo Goo Dolls there, as well as the Colorado Symphony on the Fourth of July. The sandstone is perfect acoustically, plus it's beautiful (although, in Colorado, what isn't?).  If you want to make a day of it, you can hike around Red Rocks, see the amphitheater during the day, where you can see the city clearly and enjoy the sunshine. There is also a little museum in the Visitor's Center, which has records of shows at Red Rocks, and memorabilia from some of the more major artists that have played the venue.

From here.

Then, at night, see a concert! Or go to a movie at Film on the Rocks!

If you don't want to spend all day at the amphitheater, then you can hop over to Dinosaur Ridge which is pretty close and hike around there. Check out dinosaur foot prints that are now vertical, and learn how that happened! They also have a visitor's center and small museum that you can go to.

4. Hiking at Chautauqua

I have been to Chautauqua on many school field trips, as well as with my family, and I love hiking it so much! There are several different trails, so it is perfect for any level, and it's also nice to just sit, or have a picnic and enjoy beautiful views of Boulder, the mountains, and the city!

Here's the website for more information:

5. Boulder

Boulder. Where to begin with Boulder? I'll just give you my highlights and things I like to do.

  • Shopping at Pearl Street. There are several stores, some stores for brands like Prana, but also some local shops like the Boulder Bookstore, which is by far one of my favorite bookstores in Colorado!
  • Brunch at The Kitchen. It's kinda pricey, but for a nice brunch, delicious croissants, home-made jam, it's definitely worth it. Plus, they use organic and local ingredients, so it's better for you and better for Colorado! 
  • Ride my bike around, especially around the little river/ravine. 
  • PICNICS! There are so many places to have a picnic. 

6. Santa Fe Arts District First Fridays

On the first Friday of every month, year-round, the Santa Fe Arts District comes alive! It's the most fun to experience in the summer, when the sun is out later, there's music, bands playing on the roofs, and people are just wondering in and out of galleries having fun. The food trucks of Denver come to the block, and there are people everywhere. It's basically just a giant party!

7. A Paris Street Market

I just went to the first one of 2014, and it was a blast! I love trinkets, and I'm definitely a trinket collector (just ask my parents or my roommates). It's this adorable little fair in Aspen Grove, in Littleton, CO on Santa Fe. There are tents with different local shops, designers, artists, artisans, crafts, pots, etc. as well as food trucks with things like Danish pastries, Syrian food, etc.


It happens on the first Saturday of the month, so save these dates!

June 7
July 5
August 2
September 6
October 4

Here's the website, if you have any questions or need directions:

8. Museum Day! 

This is quite possibly my favorite thing to do on this list. There are several museums in Denver that are really close to each other, so it's easy to spend the morning doing a few museums, grab lunch, and then head over to another cluster. This is how my perfect museum day would go:

  • Coffee at the Denver Art Museum, or DAM, then spend morning there. 
    • Highlights: Western Art, the DAM has an extensive, and amazing collection of Western art on the second floor of the Hamilton building, and just across the bridge in the North building is the museum's collection of Native American art, which is one of the most complete, extensive, and beautiful collections of Native American Art in the world. 
  • Hop over to the Clyfford Still Museum for a little bit, probably around an hour to an hour and a half. 
    • Highlights: The second floor. It's my favorite part of the museum because there's so much natural light, and the paintings rotate so there's always something new on the walls when you visit. 
  • Lunch at History Colorado, then afternoon exploring Colorado's interesting history. They have a little cafe in the museum that has really yummy burgers. Or, if museum food is not your deal, and you happen to be there on a Tuesday or Thursday, then Civic Center Park is just a hop, skip and a jump away! Civic Center EATS is an awesome event that happens throughout the summer where a bunch of food trucks in Denver converge at Civic Center Park. Maybe some less expensive food, and an awesome time to connect with other Denver-ites! 
    • Highlights: Colorado Stories, which lets visitors explore the many different facets of life in Colorado throughout history; Food: Our Global Kitchen is goin gto be here this summer and will explore the intersection of food, culture, history, health and nature, as well as engaging in a discussion of the pressing issues we face. 
  • For the afternoon, spend some time at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science, or DMNS. They have an exhibit about the Maya that I have been dying to see, and it's here through August! 
    • Highlights (besides exhibit about the Maya): Prehistoric Journey, which is a few levels worth of awesome fossils and bones ranging from before dinosaurs, to mammoths and mastodons; Egyptian Mummies, because who doesn't love mummies? It's a small exhibit, but still a lot of fun to peruse; Gems and Minerals, which gives you the feeling as if you were in a mine finding these beautiful stones and treasures. 
  • If you have time, the Denver Zoo is right next to the DMNS, and it might be nice to connect with some animals in the evening when it's nice and cool outside. 
    • Highlight: Toyota Elephant Passage. I'm not generally a huge fan of zoos personally, but I did see the Toyota Elephant Passage and it was pretty cool. Plus, I love elephants. 
I love museums, and will actually be working at a couple this Summer. If you want to escape the heat and learn a few things, definitely spend a day at museums. Not only are they air-conditioned, they're awesome! Education can definitely be fun.

Here are some other museums in Denver that are also fun to visit:

9. Chaco Canyon

This is one that I've never done, but I'm itching to do this summer. My dad has done it a few times, and it looks like so much fun! It is in New Mexico, but it's right on the border between Colorado and New Mexico. Chaco Canyon is a historical site of the ancestral Pueblo peoples, and there are several pueblos relatively intact. It's a fun lesson in history, an awesome hike, and nice to be outside!

From here.

10. Longer road-trip/Long weekend: Santa Fe, NM

Okay, so this one is not in Colorado. However, if you really want to take a long weekend, and see a beautiful place to just get out of Colorado or Denver for a little while, definitely consider taking a trip to Santa Fe. It's about a 6 hour road trip (which is not too bad, considering the caravan Delta Zeta takes to Kansas City every April, 10 hours in a car in KS = awful), or what my parents do is break it up. So we will leave Thursday evening, drive to Raton which is about 3 or 4 hours, and then get up early on Friday and drive the rest of the 2-3 hours to Santa Fe. I love driving through New Mexico in the morning, it's just really beautiful! And you will arrive in Santa Fe with a lot of time to explore!

If you have any other suggestions of fun things to do, or other places to go, leave a comment or contact me! :) 

Thanks for reading,

Julep Plié Wand Review

Thursday, May 8, 2014

I LOVE NAIL POLISH! Ask my sorority sisters: If anyone needs nail polish for anything, I'm the go-to girl to get a color and for recommendations.

I'm also a Julep Maven, so I get a box every month of nail polish and beauty products! This month, they're going to start the entirely customized boxes, which is amazing!

Today, however, I'm going to review the main part of last month's box, the Plié Wand. Julep has created a tool to make polishing your nails easier, by adding a wand to give you more leverage when painting your nails. I like using it because it feels like I'm writing, or using a pen to paint my nails which is much easier than holding onto a tiny little cap.

There are three main parts to the Plié Wand system: The wand itself (the long, black thing), the Plié over-cap with magnetic top, and the Julep nail polish of your choice.

The Julep Plié Wand and Colors! From left to right: Paulette, Jules, Iona, Maddy, and Ramona

You can also get other parts to make the Plié wand more versatile. I have a few precision brushes, as well as a precision striping brush and dotting tool, called the Plié Wand Creativity Kit. These tools make doing nail art and things like French Manicures easier.

French mani with Jules as the base, and Bunny

I also used the nail colors included in this month's box, and I LOVE THEM ALL!

Iona (blue) with Maddy Accent Nail and Dots

Paulette (which is quite possibly my favorite color from this collection...)

If you are considering becoming a Julep Maven, I would say do it. My style profile is Classic with a Twist! I've been a maven for about a year now, and it's sometimes the highlight of my month. $20 a month for 2 nail polishes (minimum) and a high end beauty product. What's not to love?
Here's a link to sign up:

As for the Plié Wand, here are my Pro and Cons to using it, if you're still unsure about whether or not to buy it.

- Much easier to control doing your nails! I didn't have any mess ups or nail polish that wasn't on my nails.
- Really helps when doing a pedicure! I hate doing my toenails sometimes, but using the Plié Wand made it a lot easier!
- French Manicures. I love French Manicures, but I have never been able to do them myself. So, using the Plié Wand and Creativity Kit, I was finally able to do it myself! I was also able to do my right hand, which is difficult to do using my left. But the Plié wand made it so much easier!

- Wobbly. With the magnetic over-cap, If I held the wand a certain way or if I gripped it too hard then it would be a little wobbly. Not a huge deal, but something that was at times a little frustrating.
- The Plié Over-cap is really hard to take off, especially when my nails were wet. Again, not a huge deal, but slightly frustrating.
- The rotating feature that allows you configure the wand in a variety of ways sometimes rotated if I held the wand a little farther up than at the cap. So it would move sometimes, which didn't happen often, but I messed up when it did.
- The striping brush is difficult to clean. Polish gets into the little cap thing at the base of the bristles, so it's hard to clean it out.

Overall, I give the Plié Wand my highest recommendation! If you love nail polish, nail art, or just need a little extra help doing your nails, definitely check out the Plié Wand from Julep!

As always, thanks for reading.


Finals Time! (Study tips and more...)

Monday, May 5, 2014

Being at a school on the Quarter System, I am just starting the whole "finals" process thing. I got my first final project assignment on Wednesday, and let's be honest, it's just a bit terrifying. While many of my friends who go to schools on the Semester system are already finished (lucky), many of my friends are still slaving away in the classroom and library, praying for June 3 to come faster (the end of finals, at least for me... :)

While we are all dreading the end... it is necessary to go through finals to get to the promise land of sun, and all things hot, and SUMMER!

To help with finals, I have compiled a list of things that I do during finals that helps me get through the time relatively unscathed. These things work for me, and this is how I have helped other people study as well.

1. Make a list.

List it all out. Go through every syllabus, every assignment sheet, notes, planner, iCal, etc. to find all of the assignments or exams you need to finish before the end of the quarter/semester/block and write it all out on a piece of clean notebook paper or printer paper, color-coded if you're feeling special. It helps you to see what you need to do, and from there you can make a plan on how to accomplish it all! If an assignment has multiple parts, write down all those parts as sub-bullets on your list so that you don't miss anything. Plus, checking off those items on your list is the most satisfying feeling!

Super-techy people, there is this website I love called todoist, and you can make a super thorough to-do list. I usually use it for my long term projects, like study abroad stuff, applications, etc. You can organize by project, add in a due date, color-code, all the things super organized people love! Plus, when you finish all the tasks you have set for a day, they give you a lovely screen, just like this. Again, amazing feeling, checking off tasks on a to-do list! :)

2. Make a plan.

Plan out your week. I have a planner that I use, but I also use this planning sheet that I've attached. I write down under every day what I'm going to do, when I'm going to do it, and where. If it's a group project, I write where we're meeting. If it's a paper, I write down where in the library I'm going to go, or if it's just some reading, I might opt to do it at my house or Starbucks. Writing down where you're going to go holds you accountable, and it helps you plan out your day later. I usually use this sheet weeks 9 and 10, and if I have a particularly busy finals week.

3. Highlight your notes.

None of my professors let me take notes on my laptop, so all of my notes are in little composition books and spiral notebooks. To review for a test or get material for a paper, consolidate your notes. Put them in the same notebook, or the same folder, or make a master document on your computer. There have been several studies that have found that hand-writing your notes out helps you remember lectures better, and keeps you more engaged in the material and I know that is very true for me. This article from Science Daily does a great job of explaining why it's better to hand-write your notes. Need more proof? Google, my friend.

Downside? I cannot write as fast as I type, and I hate it when my handwriting is messy and terrible. Plus, I'm a doodler. So my pens always bleed through my paper and makes my notes look gross.

Compromise? Writing out my notes in class, then typing them later to have them all in one place, and I can keep them in case I need to reference something in a future class.

If you do take notes on your computer, I always print mine out and highlight them by hand, just because that works better for the way I study. But if you're concerned about the environment or out of printing money (#historymajorproblems), definitely just go through your notes on your computer and highlight/underline/color code them. That way, when you go back to study or fill out a study guide or write a paper, you will have all of the important points highlighted to be able to find easily.

4. For writing papers...

Outlining is key. It's super tempting to just dive in and try to finish the paper as fast as possible, but then your thoughts get so jumbled, and then the paper is an incoherent jumble of mess. So I always suggest just getting your thoughts down. I usually just write my ideas on the assignment sheet, if my professor hands one out, so I can reference specific parts of the question. If not, use a blank sheet of printer paper or notebook paper, and just get everything you think on paper. Then you can organize it! I'm a fan of the roman numeral outlining:

I. Topic
    A. Subheading
         1. Main point
             a. Supporting detail/ references

Then you can make an outline in your word document so you can write your paper in pieces. I almost never write my paper from beginning to end. I usually start with whatever paragraph I have the most supporting details or best argument, and then work my way through. I usually do my intro last, just in case I come across another point, and then I can make sure my thesis statement matches up with what I actually write about. I can't tell you how many times I wrote my introduction, then my paper took a different turn than what I had originally planned. But some people like having their intro down first so that they can reference it throughout their paper. Whatever helps you! Just get your thoughts down on paper before you begin writing!

5. Studying for language exams, or any other exam where memorization is necessary

FLASHCARDS. Flashcards, always. I love making them, because the way I think is really systematic and I'm a fan of lists. I usually make flashcards for French, especially for grammar concepts. It also helps me simplify some of the flowery language of my textbook and come to a concise way to explain the concept. It's also helpful for vocabulary (duh). I have a whole drawer of different size and colors of index cards. I use the really tiny ones for French vocab, and the biggest one for some of my history classes where we are tested on "historical identifications" and I need to write out a paragraph. You could even use half-sheets if need be.

Again, if you're super techy, there's an iPhone app called Study Blue, where you can make flashcards and then share them with other people in your class. I prefer pen and paper, but this is a really cool app!

6. On the day of the test!

Just relax. I have really bad test anxiety, so I always find myself the night before rapidly flipping through notes, flashcards, old tests and papers, etc. I will force myself to stay up until 2 in the morning, hoping for that little bit of cram time.

This isn't healthy, and it actually doesn't help. I usually do my best on exams when I'm relaxed and don't overthink it. When I don't try to come up with a super-smart answer, or complicated explanation, it is easier to show exactly what I know, which is usually more than I think.

If you don't want to go to sleep because you think you need to study more, don't listen to the nerves. When it's late and you can feel your mind wondering to thoughts of sleep and the promise of sweet dreams, listen. Review the hardest concepts right before you go to bed, then go to sleep. Usually, an hour of sleep is a lot better than an hour of anxious cramming. Then get up at your usual time, eat your favorite breakfast, do some yoga or breathe, and then go ace that test!

7. Now that you're done...

Treat yo' self. Go to Starbucks and indulge in a yummy latte or mocha. Get a group of friends together and go to dinner, even if it's to Chipotle or something. My personal favorite reward is the Dirty Cookie and a mani-pedi party with a good movie, usually something Disney and animated (Frozen, anyone?).

Good luck with finals! Thanks for reading. :)