Colorado

This Thanksgiving instead of eating mounds of turkey and passing out in a food coma, Ashley and I decided to head west for a little mini vacation in Colorado. So, without any reservations or concrete plans (other than we wanted to ski/snowboard) we hopped in the car and trekked the 10 hours and 671 miles west through the scenic landscape of Nebraska. If you’ve never driven through the state of Nebraska, you’re not missing much. It’s not exactly the most exciting terrain to drive through. So, to pass time Ashley taught me the letter game. I’m not exactly sure what the rules are to this ridiculous game, but something about finding letters A-Z on road signs or semi trucks without using a letter from the same sign or semi twice. I think that’s how it’s supposed to be played. However, my unfamiliarity probably stems from the fact that I when was a kid my parents would never have dreamed of taking my brother and sister and I on such a long road trip. Mainly because they wouldn’t have wanted to deal with us asking them ten thousand times “are we there yet?” But also because they wouldn’t have wanted to clean up the double homicide that undoubtedly would have occurred in the back seat. I can’t say I blame them. But I digress.

As we made our way to the edge of Lincoln we ended up calling a few friends and making some loose plans. We decided to go skiing in Steamboat since they just opened up a couple trails and had some early season deals. But we tried to leave a majority of our schedule open. We ended up getting into Denver a little after 2:30 a.m. and we decided to crash at my buddy’s place. In the morning we got up and made the three-hour drive to Steamboat to check into our motel (yes, you read that right, motel).

rabbit ears 2

The Rabbit Ear’s Motel was not exactly the Westin, but I don’t think they rent by the hour either. And the place does feature a cool retro neon sign. Plus, as an added bonus, the rooms are clean and they have cable so for the price it was not a bad place to stay. After arriving at the hotel we dropped our things and headed straight for the slopes. Since it was the day after opening day there were only a few runs open which is to be expected when you are skiing or snowboarding in Colorado in the month of November. But, overall it was pretty fun.

day 1 mountain

skiing first dayfinally

After skiing for several hours and closing down the ski lift, we headed back our place to change and eat some Thanksgiving dinner. Well, I should say we headed to a local sports bar for a Thanksgiving Day dinner special. I suppose there’s a little bit of a difference. Ashley opted for the turkey, mashed potatoes, gravy, green beans and pumpkin pie. I, on the other hand, am not a huge fan of turkey so I chose chicken wings and a couple pints of Guinness instead. What can I say, chicken’s the new turkey.

wings

In the morning we hit the slopes and in the afternoon we watched some football at a bar and met a cool local bartender who was nice enough to buy us a couple of beers. It was a great way to spend Black Friday. It sure as hell beat waiting in line at Best Buy or Target to save a $30 on a bunch of stuff you don’t need. Not that I’ve ever done that before or anything.

day 2 skiing and stuff

On Saturday we woke up fairly early and went for a hike at Fish Creek Falls. We attempted to hike the six  miles from Fish Creek Falls to Long Lake.  But our traction was less than ideal so we had to turn back at the half way point. Ash and I had fallen at least four times as the trails were snow-covered and ice packed, but the views toward the top were pretty surreal.

surreal

It took us a couple of hours to hike back down to the base which was a lot longer than we had anticipated. Let’s just say walking up the mountain was lot easier than walking down. But looking back I’m glad we attempted it. We just needed some better footwear.

bridge

That afternoon we made the three-hour trek back to Denver to have dinner and drinks with some friends near Wash Park. It was fun catching up, but I probably didn’t need to play 10 rounds of flippy cup. Because in the morning I felt like death and did not want to drive the 10 hours back. All I really wanted to do was lay on the couch and watch football. But, with a throbbing headache and some bumps and bruises, we reluctantly loaded  up the car and headed home. It was a fun little impromptu vacation and I’m already jonesing to get back to Colorado to do some more snowboarding.

dudes

One of Those Moments

We’re listening to the sermon at church, watching a clip from the movie Miracle on Ice (about the USA hockey team’s win over the Soviets in the 1980 Winter Olympics), and Joel leans over and whispers “Would this be an inappropriate time to start a U-S-A chant?”

That’s my husband.

Joel’s Favorite Songs of 2012

Assuming we make to it 2013, Mayan calendar permitting, I figured now would be as good of time as any to give to you my favorite 20 songs of 2012, including but not limited to: hits, re-mixes, and other stuff that ends with the letter “S”.

20. Fun. feat. Janelle Monae “We Are Young”

A poppy anthem with a catchy chorus and a chipper melody that features drunken ramblings and domestic abuse? Either way, I guess even heavy songs can sound fun (no pun intended).

19. Icona Pop feat. Charli XCX “I love It”

“You’re from the 70’s but I’m a 90’s bitch.” Angry electro chick pop? I think I love it too.

18. Kanye West feat. Big Sean, Pusha T and 2 Chainz “Mercy”

I sort of hated this song then I sort of liked it and now I’m indifferent to it. I only wanted to include it on my list because it’s mandatory that every critic’s year-end list include a Kanye song, right? That and I really wanted everyone to know that George Bush hates black people and that Beyonce had one of the best videos of all time!

17. Walk The Moon “Anna Sun”

When I first heard this song on XM radio I thought it was a Killers song. Whoops! It wasn’t until I glanced down that I noticed it was by Walk The Moon. I really dig the sharp hooks and Killers like sound. I suggest giving it a listen.

16. Beach House “Myth”

I watched Beach House perform this song on Letterman and I’ve been hooked ever since.

15. The Lumineers “Ho Hey”

A friend of mine turned me onto The Lumineers this summer. I was a little apprehensive at first as they seemed sorta of slow and possibly boring? But, after giving “Ho Hey” a listen I discovered I was dead wrong.

14. Ke$ha “Die Young”

“young hunks, taking shots / stripping down to dirty socks / music up, getting’ hot / kiss me, give me all you got.” It took me awhile but I’ve stopped pretending I don’t love this song.

13. Jack White “Sixteen Saltines”

Guitar riffs reminiscent of The Who.

12. Alabama Shakes “Hang Loose”

Since I included the song “Hold On” on last years list. I thought it was only to fair to include my second favorite song from their album “Boys and Girls” on this years list.

11. Lana Del Rey “Ride”

Haunting vocals and a Hell’s Angel’s reunion? Maybe it’s her voice, her storytelling or her tragic persona? I’m not sure. Regardless, anytime I hear Lana Del Rey sing I’m convinced that she telling the truth even if I know it’s all a lie.

10. Arkells “Michigan Left”

I believe this song was originally released in 2011. But, I didn’t discover it until 2012 so I’m going be like the Grammy’s and include it anyway.

9. Japandroids “The House That Heaven Built”

Whiskey drinking, beer guzzling, gun-toting, garage rock. Yeah, Buddy! Take that Ted!

8. Azealia Banks Feat Lazy Jay “212”

A badder more vulgar Niki Minaji. I didn’t think that was possible. Parents Beware!

7. Chiddy Bang Feat. Icona Pop “Mind Your Manners”

This was probably the most played song on my ipod this Summer. I was luckily enough to see Chiddy Bang in concert and they did not disappoint. Make some Noisez Dez Moinez!

6. Passion Pit “Take a Walk”

Recessionary electronica? I guess folk singers aren’t the only ones who sing songs about the great recession.

5. Ellie Goulding “Anything Can Happen”

I first heard this song on a Dr. Dre beats commercial and I haven’t been able to get it out my head since. In my girliest voice… “Anything Can Happen… Anything Can Happen.”

4. Eric Church “Springsteen”

This past summer my wife and I watched Eric Church perform “Springsteen” in the rain at a small county concert. It was pretty surreal experience. So, while this song was originally released in the summer 2011 I will always remember it in the summer of 2012.

3. Carly Rae Jepson “Call Me Maybe”

Only swarmy, self-righteous fun haters don’t like this song. It’s so awesomely bad it’s good. So, while I’m positive there were thousands of songs released this year that have more artistic merit. I’m just not sure any of them are as fun to sing along to as this one.

2. The Gaslight Anthem “45”

Anyone who has read our blog in the past knows that I have a big guy boner for all things Gaslight Anthem. However, I have to admit I am not totally into their latest album “Handwritten” as much as was their previous two. But, this song hits on all cylinders it’s got that vintage Gaslight sound complete with great guitar riffs.

1. Pursuit of Happiness (Steve Aoki Dance Remix)

Occasionally, I like to beat up the beat. And there was no better song to beat up the beat to in 2012 than this re-mix of Kid Cudi’s Pursuit of Happiness. So, go ahead and break out your glow sticks kids because it’s going to be a long night.

New York, New York

Besides winning a mini-fridge at my junior after prom, I’ve never really won anything. Well, not unless you count ten dollar scratch tickets, but I don’t. However, that all that changed this past month when my wife won a free trip to New York City. The key words there are “my wife”. Yeah, technically I still haven’t won anything of substance. But, you get the idea: what’s hers is mine and all that. I guess the long-winded point I’m trying to make here is that “we” won a trip to New York City!  So, needless to say, we were pretty stoked when arrived at the Kimberly Hotel in Midtown Manhattan and were greeted with this view from our hotel room.

After dropping our things and taking in the view from our balcony we headed to Central Park to rent some bikes, which was cool because it allowed us to see most of the park without having to hoof it up all the hills. Ashley was a bit of a whiner because, guess what, it’s hot in NYC in August! And we decided biking didn’t sound as much fun as drinking. So we decided to hit up a local bar in nearby Hell’s Kitchen, very fitting since it was hotter than Hades out.

After drinking a few beers and eating some seafood we headed back to the hotel for a shower and nap. Well, our little nap pretty much turned into a full night’s sleep. I think this means we’re getting old. Can we blame it on jet lag from our four-hour flight? In the morning we planned on walking the Brooklyn Bridge. We did this the last time we were in New York. But we decided to do it again because we were headed to Brooklyn anyway. Plus, it might be the only cool thing to do in New York that’s FREE!

As luck would have it, we were about halfway across the Brooklyn Bridge when it started to down pour. We tried waiting out the rain in a small quaint diner (I know, how New York-ian of us). But ultimately we decided to venture through the rain and on to Coney Island.

About the time we arrived in Coney Island, the rain had lifted and the sun had started to shine. Our first order of business in Coney Island was to check out the iconic Cyclone rollercoaster. For those unfamiliar the “Cyclone”, it’s a classic roller coaster that has been operating in Coney Island for over 80 years is considered by many to be the “Grand Daddy” of modern roller coasters. Thanks Google! So obviously we had to give it a try.

How would I describe this experience? A lot like sitting in a stationary car that gets rear-ended by another car going about 60 mph. Yeah, retro whiplash! Don’t get me wrong I’m glad I did it because we were there. But I don’t know if I would do it again as I’m not really in the market for chronic back problems. The wife loved it, but she’s weird like that. After our crazy roller coaster ride we strolled the Coney Island boardwalk and grabbed a hot dog at Nathan’s Famous. The hot dog was a hot dog, nothing to write home about. Not that people really write home about stuff in this day and age, but you get the idea.

Not long after chomping down on our weiners, we headed back to Brooklyn to catch a beer tasting at the Brooklyn Brewery. This time we decided to skip the whole tour nonsense and go straight for the beer, which was a good play as the beer was pretty tasty. I especially enjoyed the Brooklyn Summer Ale. By the time we left, the wife was clearly feeling a bit tipsy. That fact was confirmed when she responded to our tablemate’s “Have fun on the rest of your trip!” with the very odd and apparently unappreciated “Have fun living here!”

It was definitely time to get some food, so we headed out and ended up at some hipster place called The Lodge, where, no joke, all the waiters and waitresses wore cut-off jorts and flannels. It was pretty comical to watch the over-the-top pretentiousness. And, needless to say, we didn’t stay for dessert. We spent the rest of the night bar hopping and dodging the smelly bags of trash on the sidewalk.

In the mid-morning the following day, we headed to the Greenwich Village area to do a pizza tour. We learned more about the history of pizza than I thought was humanly possible. The tour was a tad bit long, mainly because of some really annoying kids in our group, but the pizza was really good.

After stuffing our faces we headed to the subway, which on a 100 degree day was a lot like entering the seventh ward of hell. It was deathly hot, sticky and then there are the ungodly smells. It made for a pretty unpleasant subway ride to the Staten Island Ferry. And then we rode the ferry to and from Staten Island all in order to snap a few pictures of the Statue of Liberty. Completely not worth it, thanks Frommers! Oh well, it’s all part of the experience.

After, we headed to Queens to watch the Mets vs. Braves (tickets to the game were part of our trip package). It took a while to finally get out to Citi Field, but it was cool to see, especially since our seats were pretty good.

The Mets got whipped by the Braves 9-3, but that didn’t bother us at all. After the game we headed back to our hotel bar (it’s called Upstairs at The Kimberly and I guess it’s a pretty big deal) to enjoy our last night in New York. We stayed out fairly late for having to get up at 4 am to catch our flight. But it was our last night and we were trying to make the most of it. The picture below is a view of the Chrysler Building from our hotel bar.

In the morning we woke up from our slumber, collected our things and grabbed a cab to the airport. After patiently waiting in line for 20 minutes to get our boarding passes we discovered that… WE WERE AT THE WRONG AIRPORT! Oh, so that’s why the self-check-in kiosk wasn’t working. Since we didn’t book our own flights, and we flew into LaGuardia, we just assumed we were flying out of LaGuardia. Wrong. Our flight was scheduled to leave in one hour, from Newark.

In case you’re bad with geography, Newark is in New Jersey. The very amused lady at the counter told us that it would take around 45 minutes to get there by taxi if there was no traffic, but there wasn’t much else we could do, so we rushed to the nearest cab and asked him to get us to Newark fast. Take my advice, don’t tell a NYC cab driver that you want to get somewhere fast. I thought cabbies only drove like that in the movies. We were literally driving 90 mph on Manhattan sidestreets. We were passing cars on shoulders and running stop lights. I’ve never seen anything like it. We surprisingly made it to the Newark airport in half an hour with the whole car in tact and shelled out a $135 for our mistake. We made it through security (miracle!) and to our gate with minutes to spare… only to find out our flight was delayed and we would miss our connecting flight in Chicago. We could still get to Chicago but would have been on standby for the only flight to Des Moines that afternoon. Instead we secured a direct flight with the only catch being that it was scheduled for twelve hours later. We exhaustedly caught the 45 minute train back into the city (we were not about to pay for another taxi), and checked our bags back at the hotel. What else was there to do? We hit up Times Square.

About an hour there and we were ready for something else. So we headed back to Central Park and sprawled out on the grass like a couple bums.

After a long nap (we totally felt like New Yorkers) and lunch at a nearby bar, it was time to make the trek back to the airport. Thankfully our flight was on time and we were able to make it back to Des Moines late Sunday night. It was a really fun trip but I couldn’t have been happier that we were finally home!

 

Joel’s New Hairdo Part II

Back in March of this year I fought a serious case of Bieber Fever. And by that, I mean, I may or may not have downloaded the song “Boyfriend” on iTunes all while sporting a haircut eerily similiar to the pop star’s trademark sideswept hairdo. If you’re interested you can read more about my quater life crisis here. Obvously, I’m not proud of this mishap. It’s something I will undoubtedly look back on with a face similiar to Joan Rivers’.

Photo Credit

But it was a stage I needed to go through in order to fully recover from my quater life crisis. So, with my quater life crisis firmly behind me (wait, that sounded gross) I decided to part ways with my Efron-Bieber-I-refuse-to-ever-grow-up hairdo. It was a tough decision but it was one that needed to be made. Before giving my hair a much need cut I decided I needed to try out a few more looks on my way to looking more like an adult. Below is what I came up with. Feel free to vote for your favorite style below.

                                                            The “Bieber/Efron”

    The “Lloyd Christmas”

The “Hawk”

The “Emo”

The “Buzzcut”

 

California Dreamin’

May was officially wedding season in the Anderson household. On the last two weekends of the month of May Ashley and I attended back to back weddings. One of which was held in sunny Laguna Beach, California. I’ve never been to California, so we decided to use the wedding as an excuse for a short vacation. I hardly knew what to expect when we finally arrived at our hotel in Laguna Beach. I was sort of imaging re-runs of the O.C. where the weather is amazing and everybody gets around on skateboards and talks like they are Spicoli off Fast Times at Ridgemont High. Unfortunately, it was cloudy, a tad chilly and all I saw were Range Rovers. But I did meet Spicoli’s long-lost cousin at the surf shop where Ashley and I rented our surfboards.

After killing ourselves attempting to surf, we went back to the hotel for a little R & R and got ready to go out to eat with some friends who made the trip out west.

Before the wedding we decided to hike up Moro Canyon. We finished our hike with a delicious pastrami cheeseburger from Husky Boy Hamburgers. If you’re ever in Laguna Beach I highly suggest checking out this burger shack as they make a pretty mean burger.

Later in the afternoon we attended my friend’s wedding on the beach which was really cool to be a part of. I really enjoyed the low-key, low stress, beach-y atmosphere.  I’m a big fan of destination weddings. It’s like having a wedding and a honeymoon all rolled into one. If only I could have convinced Ashley to elope.

In the morning Ashley and I begin the hour-long drive to L.A. but first we made a pit stop at Venice Beach to check out the sights and to do some people watching. By the way, Venice Beach is just as crazy as it looks in the movies and it’s exaclty how I pictured California. It’s basically a boardwalk/beach mixed with tourists, homeless people, street performers, drug pushers and hippies. It’s really a sight to see. I throughly enjoyed it because it was like time traveling to the 1960s. After checking out Muscle Beach and walking the boardwalk a few times I was ready to move on to Santa Monica.

You only have to drive roughly fifteen minutes from Venice Beach to Santa Monica. But as soon as you do it feels like you are entering a completely different state. Santa Monica is pretty much the opposite of Venice Beach. It’s full of nice shops, restaurants and attractions. After we found parking we walked to the Santa Monica Pier and snapped a few pictures. It was fun to check out the old-time amusement park and see the views of the ocean. But our feet were getting a little tired so we decided to grab a beer at Big Dean’s.

Afterward, we hit the beach to catch some rays. But as the sun started to go down we decided it was probably best to try and find our hotel while it was still light out. After checking in and taking a short siesta we caught a cab up to the Getty Muesum to check out some photography but mostly to get some scenic views of L.A. The museum was nice and the views were pretty sick but it took a while to get out and there wasn’t much in the way of food. That is, unless you wanted to eat a $43 plate of salmon. I didn’t. I’m glad we went but I’m not sure it should be rated as the #1 thing to do in L.A. on TripAdvisor.

So after our excursion we decided to get some sushi on the famed Sunset Boulevard. After dinner we grabbed a drink at Red Rock and walked past the Viper Room and Whiskey a Go-Go. But it wasn’t long before we decided to call it a night.

In the morning we got up and hiked Runyon Canyon in Beverly Hills and snapped a few pictures of the Hollywood sign. I promise you can see it but you have to look close!

After our hike we changed and headed to watch the Los Angeles Dodgers take on the Houston Astros. It was cool to experience the game with a rowdy group of Dodger fans. Nothing is worse than being surrounded by a bunch of corporate stiffs. It ruins the whole game day experience. So sitting in the outfield with the locals was a welcome change of pace. It definitely made the game more interesting.

After the game we played chicken with the oncoming traffic and attempted to leave Dodger Stadium. It can’t be said enough that L.A. traffic is awful. After making it back to our hotel in the late afternoon we were in desperate need of a nap. Overall, I really enjoyed my time in California. It was a fun place to visit. And In the words of Notorious B.I.G. I’m going, going  back, back to Cali, Cali.

 

 
 

Free Commencement Advice

I graduated from college roughly six years ago today. I, like many fellow graduates, sat in a large coliseum and listened to some overachiever-type attempt to impart his inspiring wisdom on the graduating class of 2006. I would like to say that I gleaned some useful knowledge from this awe-inspiring motivational speech. But, the truth is, like most commencement speeches it was overly optimistic and came served with a side of extra cheese. Let’s just say I forgot it about as quickly as it was given. However, I like to think now that I’ve been in the “REAL” world for few years that I know a thing or two that I didn’t know back then. Don’t worry, I’m not going to go all Debbie Downer on you or paint happy little trees like my commencement speaker did. Nope, instead I’m just going to be honest with you. Here are seven things I wish somebody would have told me when I graduated college in 2006:

1. DON’T GRADUATE… DON’T EVER GRADUATE!!

Unfortnately, Tom Petty was right! “The work never ends, but college does…”

2.  Don’t Worry Be Happy

I’ve read enough books on happiness to know that one of the most important factors associated with your sense of well-being is the meaningful connections you make and passions you pursue. So, you know those long collegiate hours you spent playing bags, intramurals, and the guitar? Yeah, research tell us that was time well spent. Let me be the first to tell you in the “real” world nobody cares what your GPA was.

3.  Experience Is Worth More Than Money and Internships Get Jobs

When I graduated I couldn’t wait to get a job and make a bunch of money. This is probably because in college I never really had any. My motto was work hard, play hard and make lots of money. But, this line of thinking is severely flawed. In my opinion, it’s more important to gain experience that prospective companies want (even if this means taking less money) than it is to job jump for incremental pay increases or take a lucrative job that you know will make you want to throw yourself out of a twleve story window. It’s not always about the money. It’s important to think of your career as a Plink-O board that goes up instead of down. And that internship that you spent slaving away at last summer? Yeah, that experience you gained and the connections you made will pay off in the future.

4. There Are No Guarantees

We are all living on borrowed time. You can’t take things for granted because you never know when your time is going to be up. When I was 21, I was young, jaded and invincible. Since then I’ve attended a college roommate’s funeral and watched a friend battle a terrible disease. Do the things you’ve always wanted to do and do them now. You don’t want look back with any regrets.

5. Marry Someone Smarter Than You

My wife just finished her MBA and as much as it pains me to say this, she is a lot smarter than I am. I would argue I’m more athletic and more artistic. But, when it comes to smarts, she’s got me beat. It’s graduation time, look around, you see the smart ones? Yeah, the summa cum laude graduates are wearing the gold-colored cords. Make your move, champ!

6. Live Where You Want to Live

Live somewhere you actually like because you’ll probably end up spending the rest of your life there. Your first city after college is where you land a career, and sometimes where you end up buying a house. And because of these aforementioned life events you’ll probably end up staying in this city. Don’t live in a place where you wake up every morning thinking to yourself “Why the hell do I live here, again?” If the city you live in is too cold/hot/expensive/boring its probably not going to change. Minneapolis will always be cold. New York will always be expensive. And living in San Diego will always sound nice.

7. Dark Days Await

I don’t want to bring you down on your milestone day, but my job is to tell you the truth not to fill your head with grand delusions of luxury homes and yachts. There will come points in your life where you experience rejection, crushing failure and self-doubt. It happens to everybody. A missed promotion, an job interview gone awry, a nasty break up, ect. I’ll spare you the details of mine, but, mark my words, these things WILL happen. You need to be prepared to grind through them. Commencement ceremonies are exactly where consequence-free college mistakes go to die. It’s time to strap on your helmet, kid.

Good luck!