This year we experienced a very different version of Christmas than we are used to.
Instead of seeing all our friends and family and enjoying classic family traditions, we spent this December in Fort Collins. However rather than just be mopey, we decided to take advantage and enjoy all the Christmas things we don’t usually get to do.
Firstly, decorating has to be one of the best bits about Christmas. I love getting all the trimmings up and we made our flat / apartment no exception!
Notice our possible over use of fairy lights (although can one ever have too many?…)
We also got a Noble Fir Christmas tree – notice a sensible height for the room. Unfortunately we couldn’t find a fairy for the top, but we did manage a small squirrel and our lucky Shinto cats.
Thanks to the wonders of Amazon and varying success of international posting, we got a lovely bunch of presents and cards – including several warming aids (jackets, socks, hats, gloves and long johns) so thanks for those (it has been between -2 and -18oC since Christmas day). Perhaps the most unusual and innovative was a Cat calendar featuring our friend Rachel’s Cat Cooper dressed up in a series of movie poses.
We wanted to go out on Christmas Eve but weren’t sure where to eat or go. But, having walked passed the “English pub” (the Crown Pub) maybe 10 times and laughed at how stupid it would be to go there and not explore new places instead… we went on Christmas Eve. It was actually really nice and had pictures of the London Underground on the wall and served ‘pub chips’ (English oven chips), although hilariously our waiter couldn’t understand our accents at all.
Two things we would not normally be allowed to do on Christmas would be to cook our own meal and spend the day in a dressing gown. We could not find crackers, Yorkshire puds or stuffing, but we did have roast chicken, all the veg (including Brussels sprouts), sweet roast potato and my attempt at homemade gravy (I still have NO IDEA how to make homemade gravy, is it black magic? Do you have to summon it? Is this just something only mums know? Pffft!)
We also got to watch Love Actually and Die Hard – two fantastic Christmas films. In fact, the only bit of Christmas that did not go to plan is that our fish – “fish” was found floating on the top on the morning of the 23rd (/ gone to meet his maker / he is an x-fish / ad infinium). We plan to get our remaining fish – “chips” some friends after the holidays and come up with new matching names…
But not wishing to end on a sour note and wanting to make everyone across the sea jealous, we did have a white Christmas (about 1 inch in the afternoon, plus 2 foot already on the ground) and as proof:
Rob and Cat x
PS: the title is still my favourite Christmas song ever. Here is a link to it, but be warned; it’s pretty loud!
So as a leaving present for completing my PhD and for five years in my old research group (Warwick Electrochemistry & Interfaces group), I was bought tickets to see a fantastic band called Post Modern Jukebox in Denver.
We hired the smallest car we could find (a Chevy Impala) and drove down to the beautiful paramount theatre in Denver.
We managed to quickly eat dinner in a very famous chain restaurant called the Hard Rock Café (a favourite of Barry’s). These restaurants have rock memorabilia all over the walls, so that famous musicians can ‘reserve’ their seat by donating some clothes, a guitar etc.
Though the Denver branch is relatively young (1998), they still had some fantastic stuff like a smashed up Pete Townsend guitar, some kitty ears and tail belonging to Madonna, and this guitar and apt description of albino electric guitarist Jonny Winters:
Amusingly, there had been a lot of snow in northern Colorado such that the band had not been able to drive and their flight had been delayed. As such they hired a private plane to transport them (so probably made a loss on the gig), but put on a very good show none the less.
The band take modern classics and put them in old-school styles (e.g. 1920’s jazz). They had 5 different singers and famous tap dancer Sarah Reich, as well as piano, drums, woodwind / brass and double bass so they did a wide variety of numbers. I made a playlist of my favourite songs here: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLWK0yP4Xuwzae-daWxVKupJTLcyDwMe58
On the way back we were understandably quite tired and it was past midnight by the time we left. However, the previous renters of our car had left an interesting cd in the drive…
It appeared to be a kid’s cd for learning about the world, with personalised lyrics from this very high pitched woman over nursery rhyme covers. I have been unable to find the name of the cd, but our favourite track (which required audience participation) went like this:
What do we do when someone is in our personal space?
Stop friend, you’re too close Stop friend, you’re too close Stop friend, you’re too close
Be my friend and keep me safe.
I’m sure you can imagine us singing along – very loud – to this driving home for Christmas.
Hello all, sorry for the sporadic posting, we have been busy doing lots of shopping and Christmas-ing.
So last week we had my work Christmas party. All of our group plus partners and children congregated at my bosses beautiful house in the south of Fort Collins for presents, eats and drinks.
Those who have been forced into eating my Key-Lime Pie in the past (also known as Blimey that’s Limey) will be pleased to know I managed to recreate the recipe with American ingredients, though they have NO BISCUITS HERE, so I used cookies instead.
Amongst the tasty food and drink we tried was the Brazilian spirit Cachaҫa alone, and in the form of a tasty limey cocktail called Caipirinha (recipe here – though fair warning; and I quote “two or three of these and you wake up and don’t remember your night”).
By far the highlight of the evening aside from the stellar company was the white elephant. This is a gift giving process similar to Secret Santa but enhanced. The rules are:
Everyone brings a wrapped but unlabelled present for say $15
Everyone draws a number from a hat
Number 1 opens their present
Number 2 can open another or steal the first present (then the first person gets to go again)
Number 3 can open another or steal from 1 or 2.
No present can be stolen more than twice.
It sounds a little complicated, but works really well as there is no pressure to get a specific present for somebody and there are a few joke gifts that somehow turn up every year.
Our Teddy Bear was very well received but we were not prepared for the magnitude of our gifts.
I opened mine to reveal a box of brownies, which upon opening revealed the three most recent James Bond films on DVD. It then turned out there was another British present which Cat miraculously chose:
The box said this way up so we were suspicious. Cat then opened it to find a small box and a tube of Pringles. It then dawned on us that Pringles are crisps, which are known as chips here, hence the present must be fish and chips.
So Cat opens the remaining box expecting some fish shaped sweets to find actual live goldfish in a bag!
Apparently they had been in the box a whole day without food or extra oxygen, but fortunately we managed to get them home safe and set them up with a tank shown above.
They are of course named Fish (the orange one) and Chips (the mixed coloured one)
After our exciting journey into Utah we arrived at Salt Lake City with the lovely Kim and Leoni. Temperatures were not warm in Salt Lake City, but we found the house with no problems and were warmly welcomed! This welcome continued when we went to visit some friends for an amazing Thanksgiving Dinner, where one of our preconceptions about Utah was quickly smashed. We assumed that alcohol would be pretty difficult to get hold of, and that everything would be very conservative and respectful of Mormonism, so we were surprised and impressed by our first beer…
As well as the excellent label it’s also a relatively high percentage, at 6%. Generally in America you can buy beer below 3% at supermarkets and general shops, but for anything more alcoholic than this you need to go to actual liquor stores.
But anyway, on with Thanksgiving! The food was unbelieveable, and plentiful enough to feed us all three times over. We had all the staples – delicious Turkey, Corn Casserole, Green Bean Casserole, Stuffing, Pumpkin Pie and many more! I ate so much that I may have actually blacked out, memory is patchy and you can bet that we weren’t on the ball enough to take any pictures… But rest assured, very good times were had! We followed all this eating with a highly competitive game of Cranium, which Team Channon + Tim were leading before it was abandoned when it became clear that none of us were skilled enough to actually complete it.
We tried so hard, oh how we tried, but honestly we weren’t even close. We chose to blame the cultural differences, even though we were playing the English version. Possibly the altitude was also a factor.
Anyway, we had amazing fun playing and are definitely indebted to our lovely hosts!
The following day we went on an exciting day of sightseeing around Salt Lake City, hosted again by the fabulous Kim and Leoni. We saw Temple, which is the centre of the Mormon Church as well as the kind-of centre of Salt Lake City. It’s not geographically in the middle, but all of the roads are named outwards from Temple, so heading south from Temple the roads are South Temple, 100 South, 200 South, 300 South, etc… This is extremely useful if you want to know where Temple is, but very confusing for us tourists trying to figure out where we are and don’t know the system, since 100 South will actually run East to West and so on. Anyway, Temple!
You cannot tour around inside the Temple, but the outside was lovely enough and there was a lot to see on the grounds, including this excellent statue of Jesus looking majestic:
After this we went to see the Salt Lake, specifically Antelope Island which is a State Park to the South East of the Lake. We were warned that the Salt Lake can smell a little ripe, but we thought this was definitely worth it to see the Bison and Antelope on the island as well as the famous lake itself! It was still extremely cold, but we had a lot of fun walking around some areas and driving around the bigger loop to go Bison seeking. Here is Rob looking chilly in front of the lake:
Needless to say we retreated quickly to the nice warm car and started the drive, where we saw many exciting animals! The most exciting was Mr Bison:
But we also saw Antelopes, Coyotes, Deer and many more! Very exciting times. We stayed until it got dark, so we got to see a very beautiful sunset over the Salt Lake which our camera completely failed to fully capture:
We returned home for some very delicious pizza and an excellent few rounds of the baffling Dominion with our hosts before an early night ready for the excitement to come.
Saturday was a big day, and we knew that we needed to be strong. We dressed up in a thousand layers and headed into the mountains for *skiing!!* 🙂
I’ve never skied before but Rob is pretty excellent at it so rather than bothering an instructor I forced my lovely husband to teach me the ways of the snow. This was not straightforward, partly because we didn’t realise that there was a beginner slope so dived straight into a very tall but relatively easy slope. It was a long way up, and a very long time to successfully get back down! Much fun was had, and I at least looked the part!
It’s hard to say whether riding up the ski lifts, sliding back down, or possibly even the crashing, was the most fun! We didn’t even notice the frosty -10oC temperature 🙂
We skied hard for many hours with our mad skills, before retreating back to the house for very warm showers and general recovery!
Luckily we had a gentle Sunday of driving back from Salt Lake to Fort Collins via Wyoming, so we could relax our painful limbs in the car! Despite everyones assurances that there was nothing of any interest on the drive, it was actually very beautiful. We didn’t see any of the famous wild horses but the landscape was snow covered and you could see for miles, so we were very impressed!
We finally arrived home about 6.30pm on the Sunday, ready for very early bedtimes all round! We’re now eagerly planning our next road trip, so trying to figure out what sights we need to see that are vaguely nearby. Recommendations very welcome!
I hope you enjoyed our adventures, more posts to follow as soon as we do something interesting!
We’ve had a very long and busy week, so you’ve in for a very long post with many pictures! Rejoice/ brace yourself as appropriate – part two will follow in the next few days so you have a little time to recover between the two 🙂
Last week was Thanksgiving, so Thursday and Friday were national holidays and our friends Kim and Leoni very kindly invited us to visit them in Utah, which was extremely exciting! As well as this Tuesday was the night that we had tickets to see one of my very favorite bands, Puscifer, so there was much to do. Since we needed to rent a car to do both it made sense to combine both trips into one truly epic, three-state road trip:
Very, very exciting times. First step was to hire an awesome car which the lovely Rob took care of, so for a week we had this beast of a tank which we nicknames Troy Wilson, named after the very manly man who rented us the car! Below is a stock photo, since our white car was dirty almost immediately:
It’s hard to appreciate its size without a point of reference, but it had seven seats, easily fit the skis and can apparently fit three bicycles in the back when the back seats are down… We were impressed. I drove it with the seat as far up and forward as it could possibly go and still had to lean forward to adjust the rear view mirror!
So, we set off Tuesday after work and drove down to Denver to see Puscifer. The show was excellent, I had such a good time! They’re amazing musicians and are well known for putting on crazy spectacular life shows. An example of their music, for the curious:
Their opening act was 20 minutes of luchador’s wrestling, it was outstanding.
After that epic excitement we stayed overnight in Denver in a Super-8 motel, so that we would be refreshed and ready for our trek across the Rocky Mountain National Park!
Luckily the actual navigating of this road trip was very straightforward, so we didn’t have to worry about getting lost. It is hard to tell from the map but the I-70 pretty much connects Denver and Moab, and is very well maintained so even though we were crossing the snow covered mountains the driving was not icy or excessively steep, thank goodness! Needless to say, the drive to Moab was very beautiful. The mountains were breath-taking and we could often see people skiing down the sides of various mountains since we passed very close to Breckenridge and Vail, as well as several other smaller resorts.
After the mountains we stopped off for a walk around and some lunch at Glenwood Springs, a very pretty town that happened to be about halfway between Denver and Moab. There are a lot of famous local hot springs of course, as well as great views and some lovely restaurants. We ate at our first American Smokehouse BBQ, which was beyond delicious! We needed to walk around in the cold snow to wake ourselves up a little after stuffing ourselves thoroughly with burgers and ribs! Luckily it was rather cold, so this did not take long:
Heading off from Glenwood Springs we continued on to our next big stop, which was Moab. Moab is a big, beautiful national park full of amazing rock formations and great views – it’s extremely popular for adventure holidays, there were a lot of options for hiking, climbing, off-roading and canyoneering, all of which were very tempting! But first, our first border crossing…
We were extremely excited. The picture on the sign is actually of the Arches National Park in Moab, which is what we were travelling to visit. Observe, the real thing:
As well as several other lovely shots of the landscape! It was honestly like being on Mars or something, it was hard to believe the rock formations and you could see such a long way which nothing man made visible anywhere. Most of the rock was bright red, but some places it was much paler and Jade-colored which I’ve never seen before. We really couldn’t capture how amazing it was with pictures, but we made a few attempts:
Lucky visitors to us here in the US may get a chance to see it for themselves! We are hoping to be able to go back and explore it more in future, as we were only there for a few hours before we had to set off for Salt Lake. Notice how warm and sunny it is in that picture compared to Glenwood Springs the day before, this US weather is not easy to dress for but we love it!
Part two to follow shortly, where you can learn about our exciting adventures in Salt Lake City and about our complete lack of any adventures in Wyoming. Hope you enjoyed so far!