Sunday, July 24, 2011

Summer Road Trip 2011 - Day 9

Doesn't it always feel nice to come home after a long trip? Even though I am a little sad that my vacation is over, it feels really great to be home and I'm looking forward to sleeping in my own bed tonight. I only wish I had another day off before going back to work. Oh well, I guess I can always catch up on sleep over the weekend!

Happy, Texas

Thanks for coming along on my trip with me!

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Summer Road Trip 2011 - Day 8

We're almost home! Just one more day of driving and our vacation will be over. Sad that it's over, but we've had a great trip.

We are spending the night in Lubbock, TX. Kind of fun because Hubby went to Texas Tech for a year before transferring, so he was able to show me around the huge campus. Then we visited the Buddy Holly glasses sculpture at the Buddy Holly Center (Buddy Holly was from Lubbock). Kind of interesting because I grew up a few miles away from the site of Buddy Holly's plan crash in Clear Lake, Iowa. Hopefully we can come back here sometime when the center/museum is open and check out the whole place.

Buddy Holly glasses, Lubbock, TX

Friday, July 22, 2011

Summer Road Trip 2011 - Day 7

To cap off a great Colorado vacation, we spent the day at Rocky Mountain National Park. And it was gorgeous. Just like we expected. We saw probably hundreds of elk in various herds. Some we even got to get up close and personal with. Amazing. Though we unfortunately didn't see any other large animals (hubby was hoping to see a moose and I really wanted to see the mountain goats), it was a beautiful park and a great way to end our trip.

Can't believe we start our long drive back to Texas in the morning. While I can't say I'm looking forward to the heat, it will be nice to be home, and I am looking forward to cuddling with my kitties!

Rocky Mountain National Park

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Summer Road Trip 2011 - Day 6

Today we decided that we needed a more low-key restful day, because we have been wearing ourselves down and it is our vacation, after all. So we went antiquing... something we both enjoy. Hubby found some tobacco tins to add to his collection and I found some buttons and knick-knacks, so we were both happy.

The antique store where we spent most of our time was in a very old building that had formerly been a general store/hardware store... and I believe it had a hotel upstairs. It was a lovely building and they had amazing items. One of the most interesting things I saw was a display of purple glass bottles. A label next to them explained that clear bottles made between 1860 and 1916 contained Manganese, which caused the glass to turn purple when exposed to sunlight for prolonged periods of time. Bottles made after 1916 contain Selenium, which causes the bottles to retain their clear color. I thought that was an interesting tidbit because I always thought purple glass was just really rare. Turns out that most purple glass wasn't meant to be purple in the first place, it just changed due to sun exposure. Of course after learning this I had to buy a purple bottle to take home.

purple glass bottles

And since it's our anniversary today, we went to a fancy steakhouse for dinner and I am STUFFED! It was amazing though, and what a perfect way to spend our special day.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Summer Road Trip 2011 - Day 5

Today we visited the Garden of the Gods and then we took a train ride on the Pike's Peak Cog Railroad up to the summit of Pike's Peak, over 14,000 feet high. The train climbs the side of the mountain, at sometimes up to a 25% grade... and the views on the 3.5 hour round-trip are amazing. Seats were assigned on our tickets, but somehow my hubby and I got super lucky and ended up with the seats in the very back of the train facing backwards through the big windows. On the way down, our seats were in the front. What great views!

In terms of wildlife, we only saw some deer and some yellow-bellied marmots (so cute!) but the wildflowers on the way up were gorgeous! Unfortunately, a big lightning storm blew in just as we reached the summit and we had to spend most of our time at the top in the shelter building/gift shop so we didn't get struck by lightning, but we were able to hop out and take a few photos at the end. However, the storm wasn't quite past and our views weren't very good due to the rain and the fog (on a clear day you can see 5 different states from the top... but we could hardly tell we were on a mountain!). We tried some "famous" high-altitude (overpriced, but yummy) donuts at the top and then we headed back down. What a fun trip.

One of the neatest things was that on the way down, we crossed paths with another train and since we were in the front we were waving at the passengers... and one of my roommates from college was on the train with her family! She recognized me and we waved excitedly. What are the chances? It really is a small world.

Pike's Peak Cog Railroad

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Summer Road Trip 2011 - Day 4

Today we visited a gold mine... then we got to pan for gold in a stream! There is lots and lots of gold in there, but we didn't really find much - just lots of pyrite (fool's gold) and we did find lots of gold dust! We may have found a gold flake or two, but it's really hard to tell pyrite and gold apart when they're that small!

I have always loved rocks and minerals... and I love finding things, so even though this sounds like a dorky thing to get excited about, I really did. We spent a couple hours by the stream and there was so much pyrite and gold dust in there that the bottom of every pan we worked just glittered. I kept exclaiming "It's just so sparkly!!"

Pretty hard not to catch gold fever.

panning for gold

Monday, July 18, 2011

Summer Road Trip 2011 - Day 3

Today we saw lots and lots of mountains. And hiked. And hiked.

It was lovely and I'm plain worn out.

This morning we went up to Loveland Pass, which is on the Continental Divide. Just gorgeous. We hiked a little there, then we did a several hour hike a bit later. I need to get in better shape, climbing mountains is hard work!

Loveland Pass, Colorado

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Summer Road Trip 2011 - Day 2

We're having a great time! We made it to our "home base" in Breckenridge and we'll be taking day trips to see interesting places each day. Today we saw lots of beautiful mountains, familiarized ourselves with the town, found our hotel and had fried pies (I had a mac & cheese with bacon fried pie. For real.)

Anyway, today I just couldn't resist a picture of my old buddy... Smokey the Bear! I've seen him a lot around here and with good reason... forest fires can be a big problem! Smokey brings back good memories for me because when I was little there used to be (maybe still is) a Smokey the Bear statue at a campground in Clear Lake, IA. Every time we went to Clear Lake, my sisters and I would beg my dad to stop at the campground so that we could see Smokey. It was always one of the highlights of our trip.

Smokey the Bear

And just in case you want to get all reminisce-y, here's the Smokey the Bear theme song... I've been humming it all day!

Smokey the Bear, Smokey the Bear.
Prowlin' and a growlin' and a sniffin' the air.
He can find a fire before it starts to flame.
That's why they call him Smokey,
That was how he got his name.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Summer Road Trip 2011 - Day 1

Yay! Hubby and I are finally on vacation! We needed this so bad. We haven't taken a trip for two full years. I hope to return home refreshed and rejuvenated. It's so nice to just get away for awhile.

Since this trip is so exciting to me, I've decided to bring all of you along with us! Each day, I will (try!) to post a photo that represents what we did or saw on vacation that day. Photos will probably be from my iphone, so the quality may not be perfect, and I may not have much to say (I *am* on vacation!) but it should be fun nonetheless.

So... where are we traveling to? The mountains of Colorado! YAY! I've only ever been to Denver, so I'm excited to spend some time up in the mountains, hiking and rafting and sightseeing. So excited. We just crossed into the mountains before we stopped for the night, so for today, I am sharing a photo of what we saw on our loooong drive... red dirt, bright blue skies and hardly a tree in sight! This particular photo is from New Mexico.

summer drive in New Mexico

Hope you all enjoy the trip! :)

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Complicated, yet delicious!

Here's just a little peek at my husband's early birthday celebration. German chocolate cake. 3 whole layers of it. Yummy.

I bake it once a year because I love him, but man, this cake is a pain in the rear to make. First, you have to separate the 4 eggs (and keep both parts!!! Something I failed to do last year, so I ended up using 8 eggs...) After everything else is mixed in (in the *exact* order and fashion prescribed by the recipe), you must beat the egg whites until they form stiff peaks (almost meringue) and then fold them into the batter. Not sure what that accomplishes, but the cake sure is good.

Then pour the cake batter into 3 round cake pans. Three. Something else I failed to notice last year until it was too late... and ended up using a pie tin for the third layer since I only had two cake pans. Made for a wonky cake. I bought a third round cake pan this year, so you can see, I really am improving. But I believe my oven must be slanted to one side because after the cake baked a couple of the layers were still crooked. And it is hard to make a 3 layer cake look straight, no matter what you do. Gives me a new appreciation for wedding cake bakers.

Then the frosting requires stirring over the hot stove for what feels like hours (actually only 15 mins or so... but my arm sure got tired of stirring!)

But, I finally got it made! And you can see we had absolutely no trouble digging in!

3-layer German chocolate cake

And then, because I'm such a good wife, I even made homemade ice cream to go with the crazy complicated cake.

3-layer German chocolate cake with homemade ice cream

A lot of work, yes, but I guess I did it to feel a little less guilty for not really buying him a birthday gift this year... though I really shouldn't feel guilty at all - see here.

P.S. If you'd like to make this cake, even after all my complaining about it, you can find the recipe inside a box of Baker's German Chocolate - which you'll need for the cake anyway.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Handmade Birthday Gifts

As you probably saw in the post below, my little sister Becky had a big birthday last week. (isn't she cute?!) So I decided to make some special birthday gifts to help her celebrate her special day.

First, I couldn't resist making a ruffle apron. I found this pattern on One More Moore months and months ago and couldn't wait to try it out. It was so cute and frilly... I knew Becky was just the person for it. Very easy to make and it was so satisfying to see how it turned out. Lots of hemming, though, be forewarned. Lots and lots of hemming.

(That's me modeling the apron below... if it was Becky the photo would be much cuter. But alas, she is in Iowa and I am in Texas so I did not get to witness her reaction or see her try on the cute apron... but I hear that she likes it!)

very cute birthday apron

And since she is living in an apartment and has need for lots of house-making kitcheny goodness, I sewed up a couple more things to match the apron. First, I decorated two dish towels. Cute. Then I made her a super-absorbant dish mat. These things are great, I recently made one for myself as well. You can use them to set wet glasses on as you are unloading the dishwasher, or as a drying mat for dishes that you have washed by hand. My sink is too tiny for a drying rack, so using this dish mat on the counter next to the sink works perfectly. I found the idea here on Sewplicity, but I simplified the pattern a bit in that that I didn't bother with the quilting part, just sewed some cute fabric to a piece of old bath towel and... TADAA!

birthday gifts

Finally, I threw in a couple of non-homemade items to round out the gift. Some tongs and a pasta scoop in Becky's favorite color (can you guess?) and some cute ladybug bag clips (she has a thing for ladybugs, lol).


I had so much fun putting these gifts together! And I hope that my little sis will get lots and lots of use out of them.