Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Unplug Your Life — Starting with Emails

I'm always a sucker for new productivity apps for the iPhone or iPad — some of them I stick with, while others end up in some miscellaneous folder fives pages back on my phone. Well last week, a new email client called Sparrow was released. Initially, I knew this was something I absolutely didn't need. Email on my iPhone works just fine, how could this be any better? So I ignored it, and even fought off the temptation to just try it out when Apple decided to feature it as its App of the Week in the AppStore.

But a couple of days later, I came across an article on my Twitter feed about why you should try out this new email app and forget about push notifications. One caveat why I didn't download the mail app right away is that it doesn't support push notifications yet, meaning the only way to check your email is to open the app and let it refresh. But the article, which I ready at LifeHacker.com, really hit home. How many times have I been walking to work, having dinner with Erin, trying to pay attention in a work meeting, or wherever, and I feel my phone vibrate and it's an email from AT&T or Groupon or a Facebook notification. After seriously thinking about it, you begin to realize how much time is actually wasted scanning junk emails throughout the course of the day. Here's an excerpt from the article:
Stop worrying whether your pocket buzzes the instant a new email arrives. You shouldn't let it do this anyway. Check your email in batches. Schedule in your email time. Do it as often as your job requires. Once an hour is probably more than enough for most of us. Better yet, make it twice a day if possible. Respond thoughtfully, when your time and energy is focused specifically on checking and answering email.
Now you might think that it takes two seconds to just see it, delete it and move on, but it adds up (I'm pretty diligent about deleting emails and not letting things build up).  For instance, I can pretty much assume that I'll have at least 10-15 emails waiting in my inbox each morning from Groupon, Living Social, Gap or Banana Republic — even the NCAA has been spamming me this week to make sure I watch the Final Four.

Don't worry NCAA, I'm a sports fan, I'll be watching the games, even though my brackets were busted after the second day of the tournament.

While there might be the occasional Groupon or Living Social deal I want to check out and maybe even buy, I don't really need to waste time deleting junk every morning. Those emails continue throughout the day and I truly believe it takes away from being productive. I've made a point of not installing my work email on my phone so I won't worry about it after hours.

So after reading and soaking in that article, I decided to buy the app. And I have to say, I really like it. So here's my free plug to Sparrow — if you're tired of your email on your iPhone and want to try it, I think it's still 99¢, which is a steal. Now I only check my email at specific times and it feels really good! And when I get something important, I can actually take the time and thoughtfully respond. It works out for everyone.

Monday, March 26, 2012

New Pillow Covers Transform a Room

Why do weekends always fly by? Andrew and I enjoyed a relaxing weekend, which included two stops to animal shelters, but no luck yet.

This weekend we added some upgrades to our living room and bedroom that really brings our condo into spring. I love the way our place looks after we clean it up — and it look especially good with our new pillow covers. Pillow covers (we bought ours from Pottery Barn) can really make a room look completely different. Andrew and I were talking about it yesterday and thought that it actually gave our room a nice beach-type feel. Now we just need that beach vacation.

Let us know what you think!

Friday, March 23, 2012

Happy Weekend

Happy (almost) Weekend!

I don't know about you all, but for some reason this week FLEW by for me, which is nice, but at the same time, it's kind of starting to feel like all of the days are meshing together.

Tonight, Andrew and I have big plans to stay in (with the balcony door wide open), drink wine, eat homemade pizza, and watch Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. It's supposed to be absolutely beautiful here in Denver this weekend, so we're planning to make the most of it and run/ B-cycle all around the city. I'm also contemplating taking Andrew to Larkburger, which I was just introduced to a couple of weeks ago (you haven't lived until you've tried their truffle & parmesan fries).

Andrew and I have also had some serious pet fever lately. We've gone back and forth about it for a while now--usually it's Andrew begging to get a cat and me telling him no, but I'm beginning to hop on board. We've been sending eachother profiles of cats, dogs, and bunnies from local animal shelters all week. We'll get to the point where we have ourselves almost convinced, but then start re-thinking- "Where would we put a litterbox? It wouldn't have enough room in our apartment. Our lives are too busy now, it would get lonely. But it would be fun! Look how cute this one is!", etc, etc...So we'll see where this weekend brings us, maybe we'll stop by an animal shelter, just for fun.

Do you have any fun plans this weekend? Will you be seeing the Hunger Games?! I've been dying to see it ever since I read the books on our honeymoon, but I promised my sister I would wait to see it with her when she's home next weekend. Also, any pet advice? Leave a comment below! We would love to hear from you.

Finally, a few fun things from around the web...

A tumblr about a dog standing on different things. Hilarious. And also quite impressive.

Have you seen these retro ads? They're RIDICULOUS.

The best chocolate chip cookies you'll ever have.

And because I can never watch this too many times, and balled my way through the entire documentary on Animal Planet a few nights ago, the Christian the Lion video.

Have a fabulous weekend!

Thursday, March 22, 2012

How I Ended up Playing at a Burlesque Show

This is not from the show... but it's me
playing my saxophone.
In my nearly five months of living in Denver, I've never experienced such a weird night. The scene, the people -- everything about the night left me feeling the need to take a shower and never return again. Let me bring you up to speed.

Since I was a 9-year-old I've played the saxophone. I studied jazz at Hillsdale College and want to continue playing for the rest of my life. So, when I moved to Denver, I began searching on Craigslist for bands to play with. I had some bites here and there, but it wasn't until recently that I found a jazz group that was trying to rebuild their band and they needed a sax player. I was excited about the possibility of playing with a group again!

Last week Wednesday, they invited me to play at this bar in lower downtown. The gig was fine, even though there were about 10 people there. It's a dive-bar on a Wednesday night, I wasn't expecting much. The guys told me they liked what they heard from me and invited me to play again with them Monday night on the other side of town. Not a problem -- I liked playing with them enough that I thought it would be a good opportunity.

I couldn't have been more wrong. Fast-forward to this past Monday.

I arrive at this bar, and it's dark and dirty. I'm getting my sax ready in what is essentially the bar's green room backstage, and I notice the occasional girl that is barely dressed (certainly not dressed appropriately) walk by and into the room next to the one I was warming up in. These certainly weren't the best looking girls and their outfits weren't helping any, but I ignored it.

We played the first set to a small crowd and it went fine. We sounded pretty good and at that point, I figured I would stick around to play the second set, even though it probably wouldn't start until 11 p.m. or later. This is where things got weird.

First, the guys in the band were telling me their goals, which included playing as much as we could and raising money to buy a new bus so they can travel... "to places like California and all over the place. It's wild!" I was told that we wouldn't be making money at first until the band gets more established, then we could be doing shows that pay a few thousand dollars. Well, I doubt that, but it didn't bother me. I wasn't really looking to make money. I just wanted to play music.

Then the lights went out.

"Ladies and especially gentleman - please welcome the Ooh La La girls!"

A larger woman dressed in traditional Bavarian garb that was clearly 5 sizes too small came on stage and began seducing the many men gazing at her over their cheap beer.

"Um, so what kind of show is this?" I ask the guys.

"Oh, it's a burlesque show - we'll be playing with them later and they'll sing with us.

"We're going to go smoke some pot - do you want to come? All of us in the band love getting drunk, stoned and hanging with the burlesque girls."

I paused. I need an escape plan.

The next girl goes on stage and it's even worse. At this point, I realize that I don't need an escape plan - I just need to leave. So I go backstage to grab my saxophone and of course, all of the girls performing tonight are there in their undergarments. Actually, it's more accurate to say they were barely being contained by their undergarments. Pretty gross.

I tell the guys that I'll see them later and that was that. Definitely the weirdest and dirtiest show I've ever played.

And that's how I ended up playing at a burlesque show.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Our Tebow T-Shirts Didn't Last Too Long

UPDATE: Tim Tebow traded to New York Jets

I'm not sure if you've heard, but there's a new Bronco in town, and he has a pretty good resume.

This week the Denver Broncos signed future hall-of-fame quarterback Peyton Manning to a 5 year deal worth $96 million. That means, based on his 2010 stats, that he will make about $42,000 for every completed pass he throws. Not bad.

And with Manning coming in, the city's love affair with the Tim Tebow has turned a corner. Being from Michigan, I'm a big Detroit Lions fan, but I was certainly entertained this season by Tebow's late-game heroics. His underdog, gritty style of play certainly electrified a city that's been waiting to win a championship.

Erin and I were certainly electrified. In fact, we ordered our "Tebowing" T-shirts that arrived just in time for the playoff game against the Patriots -- a game that the Broncos were embarrassed in.

So, cheers to you Tim Tebow. Critics have fair complaints that you struggle to throw the ball at an NFL caliber, but you certainly played with your heart all season, won a playoff game, and gave some hope to the city of Denver. Best of luck in the future!

P.S. -- Being a Lions fan, I had to include one of my favorite "Tebowing" videos...

Sunday, March 18, 2012

We Hate St. Patrick's Day Parades, but Love Our New Vacuum

Erin and I have been slacking on the blogging this past week. It was a quick week filled with normal day-to-day work things and nothing overly interesting, but our St. Patrick's weekend was fun and relaxing. At least it ended that way — the morning was a little shaky.

Going into Saturday, we thought we would meet up with friends downtown, casually enjoy some Irish drinks throughout the day and take in the beautiful 75-degree weather. Erin had a salon appointment at 11:45 a.m. and we thought it would be fun to ride B-Cycles (we're members now — check it out) downtown to her appointment. We knew that the St. Patrick's Day parade was going on, but we didn't know it went through all of lower downtown where Erin's appointment was, and that it was going to last for more than four hours. This is where it got stressful.

First, when using the B-Cycle (it's a bike-sharing service), you need to check into a bike dock at least once every 30 minutes, or you're charged an extra dollar. The station we planned on checking in at, however, was essentially blocked off by the parade route, so we were forced to park our bikes about 5 blocks down. Not a problem — we can walk and still make the appointment. The only problem is that we have to weave through thousands of (mostly drunk) St. Patrick's Day fans. And of course, the salon is located on the main block of the parade route, which forced us to hop through parade barricades and cross the route twice! I guess we can say that we were kind of part of the parade? We ended up being 15 minutes late, but luckily the salon people understood and didn't cancel Erin's appointment.

After the appointment, we quickly got out of lower downtown and headed to a much less crowded bar near uptown, closer to where we live. The day was much less stressful after this.

Our initial plan to stay out and take in St. Patrick's Day festivities was short-lived, but that was just fine for both of us. Erin did a little bit of shopping with her sister and mom while I relaxed at home. When she returned, we headed to Macy's and our day became much better after we bought this:
That's right — we're officially owners of a Dyson Ball Vac. Thanks to plenty of credit card reward points and Macy's gift cards, our final balance was $0 on this beauty! I've never been so excited to clean! We'll see how long that lasts, but we did put it together right away and give the condo a quick sweeping. It works wonderfully!

After shopping, we decided we should get dinner in Cherry Creek. This is the first place we walked into:
Clearly, this wasn't what we were looking for, but props to the Irish step dancers inside. We settled for a nicer place:
With beautiful weather, a cold Stella Artois, a sweet riesling and a tasty dinner — our second choice was definitely better.

That night, we decided to stay in and watch a movie! Side note: For $99, you can buy an Apple TV to hook up to your TV — it's one of the best purchases we've made! Watching new movies is a bit more expensive than renting ($4.99), but the convenience pays for itself. We watched...
It was a pretty good movie, but we can see why it didn't win film of the year. We'd recommend it, though!

And now it's Sunday afternoon! We went to church in Cherry Creek this morning, sipped coffee at the nice Starbucks patio outside and watched a variety of dogs walk by... which got us thinking. It might be time. Maybe....

Back to work tomorrow for another full week. We hope you had a great weekend!

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Our Luxurious Dinner in New York City

Last month when I flew out to visit Erin for a long weekend in New York City, we had an awesome opportunity through my work to dine at an Alaine Ducasse restaurant. Part of the deal was that I had to blog about the experience of eating there, as it's a new benefit for our club's members. The post went up today on our company's blog.

Here's an excerpt from the post (make sure to click and read the rest!):
From the moment you walk into the elegant adour restaurant by world-famed chef Alaine Ducasse in New York City, the sparkling golden bubbles floating at the entrance set the mood. You’re in for a night of luxury, impeccable service, and one-of-a-kind entrees that look superb and taste even better. You wouldn’t expect anything less from Ducasse, the Frenchman who was the first chef to own restaurants carrying three Michelin Stars in three cities and who has earned 19 stars throughout his illustrious career. Continue Reading...
 Read more about our New York vacation. We had an amazing time and are very fortunate to have been able to dine at the Ducasse restaurant. If you're feeling like you need to live a lavish lifestyle for a night - we definitely recommend making a reservation.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Evergreen Sunday

And Busy Season continues...which means that every free, non-working moment I have seems precious, so Andrew and I have become very conscious of how we spend the free parts of our weekends.

As it is my younger sister Carly's spring break this week, and she is home from CSU, Andrew and I decided to head up to Evergreen (my hometown) yesterday to spend time with her, my parents, AND (bonus!) these two little babies:

Luvy, our most adorable orange tabby cat

Gigi. My parents' third child. Sometimes we call her Gigi Badger because of her Honey Badger- like tendancies

For a late lunch, we headed to downtown Evergreen to Creekside Cellars, a winery that makes their own wine in-house (the vineyards themselves are somewhere on the Western Slope- near Grand Junction I believe). This is one of my, Carly's, and my mom's absolute favorite places in Evergreen, and I think it is quickly becoming one of Andrew's favorites as well. It has the tastiest, freshest wine, light and delicious food, and a lovely atmosphere. It is located in the heart of downtown Evergreen alongside upper Bear Creek. If you ever find yourself in Evergreen, or feel like taking a day trip up the mountain from Denver, you must stop at Creekside. If the weather is nice, sit out on their patio right next to the creek and enjoy a glass (or bottle!) of their Reisling (my favorite) along with thier antipasto platter or one of their homemade sandwiches, salads, or soups. They also do wine tastings, which is a great option if you want to try ALL of their award-winning wines. And when you can bare to pull yourself away from the food and wine, stop into the Stoneheart Gallery directly accross the street, where a few of my incredibly talented mother's paintings are hanging.

While Andrew loves my family, I know that spending time with them makes Andrew a little homesick for his family in back Michigan-- this the longest Andrew has been away from Michigan, and he's doing a very good job of not showing it, but I know he still misses it quite a bit. Fortunately, in May we will head back to Michigan for Memorial Day weekend for our 'Michigan wedding celebration'.

To make him feel a little like we were back in Michigan, we played euchre for the rest of the afternoon. If you haven't heard of it before, euchre is a card game (I'm pretty sure it's a Michigan/Ohio thing). It's rather tricky (for a while I was convinced that you had to be from Michigan in order to understand it), and the Brunkos are still trying to master it, but Andrew was a patient teacher and we had fun which is what really matters, right?

It was the best way to spend a free Sunday!

My sister Carly, and I
Andrew and I with my family

Andrew and I with his family, which we will see in May

And because you can never have enough luv (yes, I meant to spell it that way)...




Sunday, March 11, 2012

Congratulations Hillsdale Track & Field on an All-American Weekend!

It's a great weekend to be a Charger.

Erin and I want to give a big congratulations to the Hillsdale College men's and especially the women's Charger track and field teams after an amazing national meet that saw all athletes come home with all-American honors and one athlete winning two national championships, helping her team to an unprecedented 5th place finish!

Congratulations to first year head coaches Andrew Towne and Jeff Forino on an amazing weekend! Erin and I nervously watched all of the races online and found ourselves yelling at the screen.

And a very special congratulations to junior Amanda Putt on what I would say is the best athletic performance on a national stage by any Hillsdale athlete, ever, regardless of sport. Putt won the mile and 800-meter national title by running very smart races packed with a bunch of energy at the end, leaving her competition in the dust.

The worst part about watching the meet this weekend was that it reminded Erin and I how much we miss running and jumping. Once you graduate and have no team to compete for, it's tough to find any motivation to keep going. Add in a 40 hour work week for me and right now, a 70-80 hour work week for Erin, and it becomes even more difficult.

But this weekend's performance did motivate us! Erin and I went out for 3 mile runs Saturday afternoon and Sunday morning. We've decided that it's time to get serious! And who knows, maybe we'll see Erin back on the track competing in the 5,000 and me jumping over a high jump bar again. We'll see.

Congratulations again — Go Chargers!

Friday, March 9, 2012

Finally Friday: What a Long Week

Throughout the accounting busy season, Erin and I (more so Erin) have done a great job in dealing with the late hours, lack of sleep and lack of seeing each other. We've only been married for almost three months — we still want to spend every last minute together! This past week was rough, however. Erin had a 40 minute to 1 hour drive each morning to a new client, worked for 14 hours, drove 40 minutes home, went to sleep, and then repeated that same cycle. By Tuesday, we were feeling like the photo above.

But today is Friday! And thankfully, that means Erin can leave at 5 p.m. and we can spend the entire night together. Thinking about it this morning over breakfast and getting ready, it makes us feel like the photos below. Happy Friday to you — have a great weekend! (Erin and I are going to see the Nuggets play tonight!)

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

A Fun & Easy Twist on Water

If you read yesterday's post, you know that Erin and I are trying to be extra healthy this week. So that means lots of water and as much healthy food as possible.

While we all need water, it's not the most exciting beverage. Not until you give it a splash of color.

Erin thought of this genius idea of fruit water that's affordable and really easy to do. It also tastes much more refreshing and looks great when pulling it out of your fridge. Here's what to do:

  • Buy some pre-cut fruit at the grocery store
  • Fill up a caraffe or pitcher with water
  • Drop about 15-20 pieces of fruit in your craft, depending on its size.
  • Let it sit for 45 minutes to an hour in the fridge and you're good to go.
You wouldn't think it would make that much of a difference, but it really is much more refreshing to drink.

It's Wednesday! You're halfway there — have a great day!

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

We Partied Like Rockstars and Failed

"Tonight we're going out and acting like normal 20-somethings and partying out late."

That was Erin and I Friday night. After a great dinner as part of Denver's restaurant week with the parent-in-laws, we returned to our condo, slammed a beer and walked over to Erin's coworker's apartment which is only a couple blocks from our place.

This was our night to party. Unfortunately, we were — and still are — terribly out of practice.

Some pre-bar shots ensued before hopping into the taxi and heading to Lower Downtown Denver where all the 20-somethings hang out on a Friday night. The bar scene was surprisingly quiet. No matter, though.

"We'll do a round of shots," Erin's coworker orders.

Bottoms up.

"Ah yes," I'm thinking to myself. "Being married doesn't slow us down. Look at us — probably the only married couple at the bar — and we're doing shots like champs!"

We decide to ditch the first bar. Of course, the typical 20-something is thinking that this current bar is not even packed. The average 20-something needs a bar filled with sweaty people, cheap beer and preferably no cover. (We had cash, though. We were ready.)

We switch it up (thank God) and get beers. Oh, but don't worry — more shots are on their way. That (YƤger?) shot was the final shot.

Fast forward to Sunday morning breakfast.

"I was confused Saturday morning, because I forgot that I was hungover," Erin said. "I laid still and felt nothing. I was fine. Then I moved."

Her face made that painful, cringing look.

It was that kind of a morning day. It lasted all day. We felt terrible and sick all day.

We survived and officially decided to go on an alcohol-free cleanse for the week that only consists of healthy food and water. We feel much better.

So, the moral of the story? We're still trying to figure that out. We don't regret going out because we haven't been able to go out with friends and enjoy a late Friday night. But I know that we have limits. Honestly, as much as we made fun of ourselves Friday night before going out (Erin in a mocking tone: "Oh, I'm Andrew, I just want to go to the bar and have one craft brew"), we have decided that a couple beers or glasses of wine is just fine for a Friday night. We probably would have had one more fun. Lesson learned.

I guess we're not the typical 20-somethings, but I'm ok with that.

(We were going to take a self-timer of ourselves Saturday night, but it hurt too much to find the camera. Next time.)

Monday, March 5, 2012

A Sunday Cleaning & Office Upgrades

This might have been Erin's and my most productive Sunday ever (we're following our own advice). The nice weather may have made things easier — it was 65 and sunny all day. Spring is almost here.

After a somewhat rough weekend (story to come this week), Erin and I felt refreshed Sunday morning, decided to do a power clean of our condo and then went to Sunday mass at a new church in Denver's Cherry Creek neighborhood. After a nice service filled with screaming little kids, we went to one of our favorite breakfast spots — Syrup. They have the best eggs benedict and French toast.

Since the weather was so nice, we walked around the neighborhoods and shopping district of Cherry Creek, popped into Crate and Barrel to pickup some small kitchen necessities, and then went over to the fancy car wash for a much needed wash of our vehicle.

The activity I dread all week — grocery shopping — was actually not very stressful. There weren't a lot of people in the store and our impromptu meal planning went really well.

When we returned back to our condo, we were quite excited to install the latest addition to our mini-office. We used some Pottery Barn gift cards from our wedding to buy the store's Daily System. We love it. If you're looking for an easy organization tool that looks nice on the wall, we highly recommend this system. Installation (which required using a stud finder and power drill) was easy and we had it hanging beautifully (and straightly — thank you iPhone level app) in no time. What do you think?

As mentioned before, the weather was beautiful outside today and we took advantage of it with an easy 4-mile run through the park. The best part? I didn't complain to Erin once about running and I managed to keep up with her. She may have been taking it easy on me though...

The perfect ending to a perfect day came with a perfect dinner. While Erin did most of the difficult stuff, we were both in the kitchen to make some linguini scampi with scallops. Watch out Top Chef.

We hope you had a great weekend and have a productive and fun week ahead of you. Erin's busy season continues this week in Boulder, which means long drives to and from work early in the morning and late at night. Say some prayers.