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.
Once we were at the top of the mountain, the panoramic views were amazing.
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!
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.
You know it was a great vacation when your kid asks to go back to Glenwood Springs every few days for the next month!
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!
The bread came out chewy and soft in the middle, with a slightly crunchy crust. Gluten-free vegan bread success, again! Yum!
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.
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.*
*These photos were all taken on my phone without any zoom.
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.
The lower part of the mountain was like a snow globe!
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!
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.
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.
On a snowy March weekend, the trails were pleasantly quiet, and we even saw a few deer when we were leaving the Siamese Twins.
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.
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!
Of course, the tropical gardens inside the warm conservatory are lovely year-round as well. We really enjoyed having the gardens almost to ourselves.
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!
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.
I managed to read some books this year! Most of these were pretty light, but I would recommend them all.
- Twelve Years a Slave (by Solomon Northup). After all of the Oscar hoopla over this movie, I was interested in reading the book, though I still haven’t found time to watch the movie yet. I became especially interested in reading this book when I learned that it was a true story and Solomon was living in my hometown, Saratoga Springs, when he was captured. This book was a gripping account of human strength through all sorts of atrocities.
- Yes Please (by Amy Poehler). I was ready for a change of pace after Twelve Years a Slave, but stuck with the autobiographical format to read Yes Please. I love Amy Poehler, mostly from her work on the TV show Parks and Recreation. I didn’t love this book as much as Tina Fey’s or Mindy Kaling’s books, but I did enjoy reading it and still love Amy.
- Me Before You (by Jojo Moyes). Ready for a novel, I used Amazon’s suggestion for people who enjoyed Where’d You Go, Berenadette? (which I enjoyed immensely pre-motherhood) and found this popular and well-reviewed tear-jerker. It apparently has at least one sequel, but I don’t know if I want to spend more time crying in my office during my lunch break.
- Big Little Lies (by Liane Moriarty). A funny page-turner of a mystery novel, told with various narrators.
- I Am Malala: The Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot by the Taliban (by Malala Yousafzai). Malala Yousafzai is such an inspiration, and now she is also the youngest ever Nobel Peace Prize winner as she works tirelessly for education for all girls around the world. The book takes a little while to gain momentum, but is definitely worth the effort. Malala spends a lot of time introducing the reader to her family and cultural history, which is maybe not quite as engaging as her personal story, but important to understand in terms of how the Taliban came to power in Pakistan. Stick with it and become a Malala superfan like me. I am very excited to see the documentary He Named Me Malala when I have some time.
- The Royal We (by Heather Cocks and Jessica Morgan). I’ve been reading Heather and Jessica’s witty fashion blog, Go Fug Yourself, for many years, so of course I was excited to read their novel. I only have a passing interest in the British royal family that this novel is loosely inspired by, but this is a fun story that is full of engaging characters. It was a great airplane read!
- The Rosie Project (by Graeme Simsion). I love a quirky narrator, and this book’s narrator and protagonist is a great one. Don Tillman is an eccentric genetics professor who has begun “The Wife Project,” a quantitative search for a partner to share his life with, and hilarity ensues.
- The Rosie Effect (by Graeme Simsion). The sequel to The Rosie Project is not quite as funny and touching as the initial book, but it was an enjoyable and quick read.
I got some new books that I am looking forward to reading over Christmas vacation and beyond. They are Extraordinary Means (by Robyn Schneider), Made You Up (by Francesca Zappia), The Beach House (by Mary Alice Monroe), The Art of Hearing Heartbeats (by Jan-Philipp Sendker), and The Magicians (by Lev Grossman).
Have you read any good books lately?
As fall turns to winter, I’ve been craving hot chocolate. The hot chocolate mixes in stores usually have dairy in them, or are overpriced, so I decided to make my own mix. A lot of the vegan hot chocolate mix recipes on the internet require ingredients that non-gourmet cooks don’t have around the house, but I found a recipe here that is totally reasonable.
I added a little less than 1/8 teaspoon salt to the batch and used the Enjoy Life semisweet mini chocolate chips. I like to make my hot cocoa by adding two heaping tablespoons of this mix to a mug of hot coconut milk and stirring until the chocolate chips are mostly melted. Yum!