golden gate canyon state park

We went camping at Golden Gate Canyon State Park in August. We enjoyed the little hike from our campsite to “Dude’s Fishing Hole” (that’s the official name!).

Advertisements

halloween party

We had fun making and decorating lots of cupcakes for our last Halloween party. Half were pumpkin cake with vanilla frosting, and half were chocolate cake with chocolate frosting. All were vegan and gluten-free!

fullsizeoutput_118f

And here was the full spread of snacks! In addition to cupcakes, we had kettle corn, ghost- and pumpkin-shaped cheese slices (you can see them in more detail in these photos from a previous party), pumpkin sugar cookies, pumpkin seeds, and cantaloupe and blackberries.

fullsizeoutput_1191

crash cuisine

Crash Cuisine is a fantastic vegan restaurant in Loveland, Colorado. They have lots of gluten-free options, and everything I’ve ever eaten there (sandwiches, soup, dinner specials, cookies, muffins…) has been top notch. But for me, the most exciting thing about Crash Cuisine is their amazing selection of gluten-free cupcakes!

Most of the time they have several varieties of gluten-free cupcakes available. The chocolate strawberry cupcake above was a delight, and I also love their chocolate cupcake with peanut butter frosting and banana cream inside. I’m looking forward to trying them all!

the great stupa (again)

I’ve posted about the Great Stupa of Dharmakaya before, but every time I go there I take more photos that I want to share. What a beautiful place!

mama cakes

When we were on vacation in Westfield, Massachusetts this summer, the little one and I stopped by Mama Cakes for a treat. She had a “baby” birthday cake cupcake and I had a “mama” gluten-free chocolate cupcake with dairy-free vanilla frosting.

IMG_6046

The cupcakes were delicious, and there’s a great little play area for kids, but what really stood out for me about Mama Cakes was the fantastic customer service. As soon as I paid for our cupcakes and we picked up our plates to head to a table, the kiddo dropped her cupcake on the floor. As we picked it up from the floor, the staff immediately replaced the dropped cupcake at no cost, and just like that, a little kid’s crisis was averted.

CSU flower trial garden

The Flower Trial Garden at Colorado State University is just gorgeous in the summer. These photos are from June.

moab

We stayed in Moab while we were visiting Arches and Canyonlands National Parks. Moab is a charming little city that is very close to both of these awesome national parks. I liked the murals on this little bridge.

For a small city, Moab had great restaurant options for me. Our whole family loved Peace Tree Juice Cafe. We took advantage of the extensive outdoor seating, and the little one enjoyed coloring on the kids menu during the very short wait for our food. All of our food was delicious – cheese pizza for the little one, a peanut butter wrap and salad for Jeff, and I enjoyed the greenest (literally) meal of my life: the quinoa bowl with avocado, Brussels sprouts, and spinach. Our waiter was also really unfazed and helpful when our daughter randomly sprung a severely bloody nose at the table.

fullsizeoutput_fc0

We also had a great lunch at Love Muffin Cafe, and refreshing post-hiking treats at Moab Tropical Sno Shave Ice Truck.

canyonlands national park

After our day in Arches National Park, we decided to push our luck with our five-year-old daughter by spending another day hiking in the heat and admiring rocks. Canyonlands is a huge national park, so we only saw a small section of it, called the Island in the Sky. Below is the view as you enter the Island in the Sky – spectacular!

IMG_5790

We enjoyed a short hike to Mesa Arch, admiring the blooming prickly pear cacti along the way. Mesa Arch may very well be one of the most amazing natural sights I’ve ever seen. A huge arch like this, formed along the edge of such a canyon, can only be described as incredible.

We also went on a slightly longer hike to overlook Upheaval Dome, a meteorite impact crater. It is difficult to appreciate the scale and scope of many of the views at Canyonlands through photos; Upheaval Dome is about 5 km in diameter.

IMG_5811

After the Upheaval Dome hike, our daughter was just about done with hikes to see more rocks. We stopped to enjoy a few more amazing views along the road, and then headed to Moab for some well-earned shave ice.

arches national park

We visited Arches National Park at the beginning of June. It was rather hot, surprisingly uncrowded, and of course, spectacular.

We spent the longest time climbing around and enjoying Double Arch.

We also spent quite a while enjoying Sand Dune Arch. Our daughter loved playing in the sand and exploring the hiding spots between the rocks.

Delicate Arch, the most famous of the arches, looked pretty amazing from a distance, but required a significant hike that we did not have the time or energy for. Maybe next time!

IMG_5758

cotopaxi

After concluding our work in Quito, we traveled by bus for a brief tourist visit to the Cotopaxi area. Much of the two hour drive was on a rough cobblestone road, through beautiful farm country.

We stayed at The Secret Garden Cotopaxi, a truly unique hostel/paradise overlooking several volcanoes. Gorgeous flowers and adorable llamas abound. When we arrived, we learned that a baby llama had been born there just that day!

After settling in and having a delicious chickpea and rice lunch, most of our group headed out for a guided waterfall hike. We divided into two groups: the “fun/hard” hike (mostly hiking through a small river to the waterfalls) and the “easy” hike (mostly hiking on land to the waterfalls). I of course opted for the “easy” hike, which honestly wasn’t that easy for me. We still had to hike through part of the river, and there was some steep and slippery hiking on land. With the altitude, all of this was rather challenging for me, but the experience was awesome.

All meals are included when you stay at the Secret Garden, and nearly everything is vegetarian and grown in their substantial gardens. I failed to take any photos of my delicious meals and snacks, but the Secret Garden folks did an amazing job accommodating my vegan and gluten-free dietary restrictions.