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!
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.
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.
The Flower Trial Garden at Colorado State University is just gorgeous in the summer. These photos are from June.
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.
We also had a great lunch at Love Muffin Cafe, and refreshing post-hiking treats at Moab Tropical Sno Shave Ice Truck.
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!
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.
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.
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!
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.
I spent about a week in Quito, Ecuador in May. It was a work trip, so we only had a little time to explore the city, but I loved what I saw. At an elevation of 9,350 feet above sea level, it may be a surprise to some that much of the city is in a valley, nearly surrounded by volcanoes and mountains. The photos below are from my hotel and near my work site.
We had a chance to explore Old Town Quito one night. The beautiful historic center of Quito is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, with some buildings dating back to the 16th century!
We also had a brief stop at a tourist market. As we left Quito for our next adventure, we got a great overview of the sprawling city.
I had some concerns about finding vegan, gluten-free food I could eat in Ecuador, but I ended up really enjoying most of my food options. Below are photos from my lunches at work, and I also really enjoyed a Korean restaurant near the hotel for dinner one night.
There were also many unique fruits and juices available. Apparently, because of the many microclimates in Ecuador, you can find a huge variety of produce from different locations. We found the tamarillo, or tree tomato, served in different ways in a number of our meals.
For her fifth birthday, my daughter requested a strawberry cake with purple frosting and a candy surprise inside. The candy surprise inside the cake was something she had seen on one of her favorite shows, Creative Galaxy. The surprise cake was actually not much harder to make than a regular cake, but way more fun to cut open and serve!
After assembling the layers of the cake, I just cut a hole in the middle of the cake, dumped colorful candy in to fill most of the hole, and covered the top of the hole with a small piece of the cake. With frosting covering the top of the cake, the surprise was well concealed until the cake was cut open for serving!
This is probably the most decadent ice cream I’ve ever made.
I adapted the recipe from this one as follows:
Mix the ingredients below together, then transfer the mixture to an ice cream maker.
- 1 can coconut milk
- 1/3 cup almond milk
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 cup cocoa
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
After the mixture has thickened in the ice cream maker, add 3/4 cup vegan mini marshmallows (I cut most of them in half) and 1/4 cup sliced almonds. Turn the ice cream maker back on until the marshmallows and almonds are mixed in well. Garnish with more marshmallows and almonds as desired.
There was a little bit of ice cream left over, so I used it to make popsicles, which were also amazing!