grape ice cream

I made a batch of delicious and beautifully purple grape ice cream one summer weekend. The only ingredients were a can of coconut milk and a can of frozen grape juice concentrate (and  a pinch of salt), so this ice cream was incredibly easy and inexpensive to make!

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After eating our yummy ice cream dessert, we had enough ice cream leftover to make popsicles from the batch as well!

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You can find the recipe here.

colorado state forest state park

We went camping in Colorado State Forest State Park for a weekend in early July. Almost as soon as we turned onto the dirt road that would take us to the North Michigan Reservoir camping area, we saw a tiny baby deer in the road, followed soon after by its mother. I can’t think of a better welcome to a park! As we got settled in our campsite, we had lots of hummingbird and chipmunk visitors. And when we walked down to the reservoir so the kids could throw some rocks in the water, we saw several fish jump up! The reservoir was very lovely, but swimming isn’t allowed. Maybe someday we’ll come back with a kayak or canoe to enjoy the water a little more!

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As night approached, our neighbors told us that there was a fox that liked to check all of the campsites for snacks at night and in the early morning. Of course we were careful not to leave any food out overnight, and I heard some little fox-sized footsteps near our tent in the early morning. I also heard an owl, and a friend that we shared the campsite with thinks she heard a moose.

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The next morning we took a nice kid-friendly hike around several beaver lodges.

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We didn’t see any beavers or other people on the trail, but we saw so many beautiful wildflowers! The flowers along the trail were very fragrant as we hiked.

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We had a great time, but this particular state park is well known for having lots of moose, and I hoped that by staying overnight we would have a good chance of spotting a few moose. We will just have to return another time to see some moose!

red mountain open space

If you’re looking for a beautiful place to go hiking and have a picnic, but don’t want to deal with a full parking lot and crowded trails, this is the place for you.

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Some other important facts: you need to drive on dirt roads to get there, you’ll probably get your feet wet trying to cross a stream, dogs are not allowed, but horses are welcome.

glenwood springs

We took a short trip to Glenwood Springs during the first weekend of June, and it was the perfect mini-vacation for our family. We stayed at the Best Western Antlers, a super kid-friendly hotel with two pools (one was only about two feet deep, great for our three-year-old), a hot tub, a playground, and really good free breakfast (including a gluten-free cereal option and a non-dairy milk option!).

After breakfast at the hotel, we went to Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park on Saturday morning, right as it opened. This “adventure park” is really something special – it’s a small amusement park on top of a mountain, along with cave tours inside the mountain! The tram ride up the mountain was a fun start.

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Once we were at the top of the mountain, the panoramic views were amazing.

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All three of us enjoyed going on a ferris wheel, little kid-friendly roller coaster, and “giddy up” ride several times without having to get off because no one else was in line! My favorite ride was the alpine coaster, sort of a hybrid of an alpine slide and a roller coaster. Each car only holds one or two people, and you can control your speed as you wind down the mountain. It was really fun!

The King’s Row cave tour was also really neat. Check out all these stalactites and stalagmites!

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On Sunday morning we went to the Glenwood Hot Springs. We loved swimming and playing in the warm water! The huge main pool is 90°F and the slightly smaller “therapy” pool is 104°F.

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You know it was a great vacation when your kid asks to go back to Glenwood Springs every few days for the next month!

flax meal bread

Wow, I liked this bread even more than the brown bread I made recently. And this hearty flax meal bread (again from Erin McKenna’s awesome Bread & Butter cookbook) has bonus nutrition from the flax meal and chia seeds!

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The bread came out chewy and soft in the middle, with a slightly crunchy crust. Gluten-free vegan bread success, again! Yum!

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rocky mountain arsenal national wildlife refuge

The Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge is a great place for  wildlife watching just outside of Denver, and has been surprisingly uncrowded both times I have visited. You can watch cute prairie dogs, birds, the occasional deer, and bison! In some areas the bison are in large fields and there is a fence between the bison and your car.

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And in other areas the bison are free to walk across the road and right up to your car! It’s very exciting, and at least a little bit scary, to see these giant animals (the largest land mammal in North America!) just a few feet away.*

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We even saw one bison rolling in the dirt, which was rather cute. Apparently bison do this either to deter biting flies, remove tufts of molted fur, or for males to display their strength.

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*These photos were all taken on my phone without any zoom.

pikes peak

We had hoped to take the cog rail up Pikes Peak on the Saturday morning of our snowy March adventure weekend, but tickets were sold out, so we decided we would drive up the 14,114 foot tall mountain in the afternoon instead. After spending the morning at Garden of the Gods and a nice lunch in quaint Manitou Springs, we headed to Pikes Peak. We then learned that the morning train ride up the mountain ended up getting cancelled because of the snow, so our new plan turned out to be for the best.

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The lower part of the mountain was like a snow globe!

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As we drove up the mountain, we went through the low clouds covering Colorado Springs, and were finally greeted with blue skies and sunshine! And gusts of wind!

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On this day, our view from the summit was limited to the other high peaks that were above the clouds, and the tops of the clouds (sort of like the view from an airplane). I believe the summit temperature was about 0ºF, with a windchill of about -20ºF. Needless to say, we didn’t spend much time outside of the car admiring our surroundings, but this drive was an incredible experience.

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garden of the gods

Garden of the Gods is another great place to visit on a wintery day – just bundle up and admire the stunning contrast of the snow against the red rocks.

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On a snowy March weekend, the trails were pleasantly quiet, and we even saw a few deer when we were leaving the Siamese Twins.

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The only spot that had many people was Balanced Rock, and all of the visitors were good-naturedly taking turns posing with the rock and snapping photos of each other. I visited Garden of the Gods once last summer, and it was really crowded even though it was a potentially stormy afternoon, so I enjoyed the very different experience of this visit.

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denver botanic gardens

A couple of dear old friends came from the east coast to catch up and visit Colorado for a weekend in mid-March, so we visited a few places that I wouldn’t have otherwise thought to visit on a snowy weekend. It turns out that the Denver Botanic Gardens are extra beautiful with a fresh blanket of spring snow!

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Of course, the tropical gardens inside the warm conservatory are lovely year-round as well. We really enjoyed having the gardens almost to ourselves.

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gluten-free vegan bread!

I made a loaf of gluten-free and vegan bread, and it came out great! It tastes…like real bread! And it doesn’t even fall apart!

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I bought Erin McKenna’s Bread & Butter cookbook of gluten-free vegan bread and pastry recipes, and after buying a few new ingredients and getting over my intimidation, I finally went for it and made a loaf of brown bread. It took about 3 hours from start time to eat time, but I’m pretty excited about the results and am looking forward to trying out some more bread recipes from the cookbook.

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