Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Bloomin' Tuesday...

Although bindweed or morning glory is a considered a noxious weed in frost-free areas, in colder climates like mine the cultivated varieties are an absolute favorite! Although considered an annual in Colorado, in late Spring/early Summer one can have many "volunteers" sprout up where they grew the year before, but if you have them in the same spot every year, like I do, one considers this a great advantage. For a number of years I've planted them so that they climb up a tee-pee like poles in my backyard or my crawl up twine on my fence.

I love going out in my garden early in the morning and seeing their bright, three-inch blooms. This year I planted some different varieties along with my favorite that reseeds every year {Grandpa Ott}. A variety of pink and light blue blossoms have emerged as a result...

We are due for a huge rainstorm the next couple of days and are under a flood watch. Of course there is not a cloud in the sky as I write this. I imagine all the plants in my garden are looking forward to a downpour after a very hot week!

Monday, July 28, 2014

Summer fun...

My blog is on hiatis for the most part the next couple of weeks. Last week we had six of our grandchildren here, this week three will be here, and then I take them back to their home in Tennessee and am there for a week or so. It's been wonderful. We've done so many fun and summery things.

 Estes Park - Rainbow Slide

 ...and ice cream

Fun with cousins at the pool...

 And s'mores in the backyard...

Summer is a magical time of year when children are around.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Bloomin' Tuesday

It's Bloomin' Tuesday today, so I thought I'd share some shots from our garden. Generally, mid July in Colorado is the hottest time of the summer with temps in the 90's and up, which stresses our gardens and lawns. Fortunately, we've had more rain this summer than is typical, so I think our flower gardens and lawns are bearing up better pretty well. This week will be the test though, as it will be in the high 90's all week.

Among other blossoms, my morning glories are beginning to bloom. This variety, "Grandpa Ott", is one of my favorites. It's dark purpley-blue flower is about 3" across, and I love the pink flush at its throat. It's one of the easiest morning glory to grow and it will self sow even in Colorado's cold climate. I can always count on it, but I also planted other varieties this year to add more color. Hopefully they will start blossoming soon...

Our daylilies have past their peak, but they're still showing off...

It's been three summers since I planted three hydrangeas, and this year they are boasting big, beautiful blossoms. There's nothing prettier...

My hostas are also lush and beautiful, but their huge leaves have taken a bit of beating with all the rain and hail we've had this summer. They're beginning to flower too...

I love spending time in our garden in the morning. It takes on a park-like atmosphere, and there is a peacefulness in those early morning hours that fills my soul.

Our veggie garden is finally beginning to show life. It's been slow going this year, and I haven't figured out why. First, I thought it was too much rain, then too little water, then too hot, then too cold, then not enough fertilizer -- who knows!?! We've had it all, and it's struggled. Hopefully it will find whatever it needs to produce in the next couple of months!

Three of our grandchildren are visiting us for the next couple of weeks. Last night I noticed that our garden bear had been accessorized. He's never looked better...

Wishing you a Happy Bloomin' Tuesday!

Friday, July 18, 2014

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Staycation: Idaho Springs to Central City via Virginia Canyon Road

Early on in our marriage my husband and I agreed there were certain things we shouldn't participate in together to ensure a lasting relationship between the two of us and a two parent family for our seven children. The first was wallpapering; the second, installing a ceramic tile back-splash. There's no need to elaborate on those dreadful memories. Suffice it to say those experiences were not marriage strengthening for either one of us. Last weekend we added a third item to our list of never agains. I'll simply label it "off-roading."

Last week I published a post about our Staycation to Mt. Evans.

Now for the rest of the story...

It truly was a fabulous experience going to the top of Mt. Evans, but by the time we got off the mountain -- due to high altitude and sheer drop-offs -- I had a headache and stress level that would measure 9.9 on the Richter scale. We stopped at BeauJo's in Idaho Springs for lunch -- a must do when visiting this area -- which relaxed me enough that my headache was reduced to a dull roar. It became my desire, however, to high-tail it home as fast as we possible could so I could throw down a handful of ibuprofen to alleviate my discomfort. 

As we entered Idaho Springs we noticed I-70 east had been reduced to a crawl for reasons unbeknownst to us. Unfortunately, the cell phone coverage in Idaho Springs was spotty at best, so we turned to locals to help us navigate a way back home that didn't require traveling on the freeway. We had parked in front of two shops -- a candy store with a little old lady in a lace apron standing behind the counter and an ultimate mountain bike establishment with two extreme mountain biker salesmen manning the shop. My husband chose the latter for directions. I deem that as his first mistake.

He marched into the bike shop and asked if there was another way to travel over the mountain to Central City on the other side without having to take I-70. One biker came forward and enthusiastically described a mountain road called "Virginia Canyon Road." {Before I continue it's best you understand that I do not have one adventurous bone in my body. Not one. As I mentioned in my previous Mt. Evans post, I am also afraid of heights.} This particular salesman looked as if he purposefully placed himself in risky situations on a daily basis, so I broke into the conversation and added, "I have a little headache since we just visited Mt. Evans. Would you mind telling me if this is a 'normal' road or if Virginia Canyon Road is a mountain road with twists and turns and scary drop-offs?" At this point the biker became very animated and stated that the locals have a nickname for Virginia Canyon Road. The nickname: "Oh My Gawd Road." At that moment my heart dropped, the pounding in my head became more pronounced, and I knew I was in deep trouble. You see my husband has an adventurous spirit, and I detected in him a sudden interest. In situations such as these he had perfected the art of "a blank stare" not to arouse my suspicions, but in his excitement his eyebrows raised a wee bit and the edges of his mouth turned up ever so slightly. I should have decided right then and there to walk home.

The hubs never did ask my opinion as to which route we should take as we sped out of town toward Virginia Canyon Road. Within a mile we were skidding along a skinny dirt road, skirting a  mountain on one side and sheer drop-offs on the other, and going higher and higher into no-mans land. Seriously. I'm not exaggerating. Higher and higher and higher. On several occasions there were forks in the road, and it is only by the grace of God that we took the correct fork every time. My testimony of prayer and a loving Heavenly Father grew by leaps and bounds that day.

When we were near the top of the mountain I asked my husband to stop. He mentioned that he couldn't just stop in the middle of the road. I calmly reminded him that we had seen only one other car the entire time we'd been on this forsaken gravel road, and that I was sure that our chances of causing a 19 car pileup were next to nothing. Here's the photo I took looking down on I-70. {We were one block away from I-70 in Idaho Springs when we started toward Virginia Canyon Road.} I stumbled back to the car after taking that picture not sure I would ever see my loved ones again. 

It's best not to detail every little thing that was said between me and my husband during that drive. Like wallpapering and tiling, some things are best forgotten. In my defense, however, since arriving home I learned that a high-clearance four-wheel drive vehicle is suggested when traveling along Virginia Canyon Road. I don't believe a Ford minivan meets that criteria.

If you'd like to travel along Virginia Canyon Road from Idaho Springs to Central City, I found this YouTube video for your enjoyment. Fortunately, for you, the video is in time lapse and you need only watch the first 4 1/2 minutes to experience the entire road for yourself. I would suggest a dose of Dramamine before starting the video.

After almost 37 years of marriage, I'm thinking a short list of three items isn't too terribly bad. 

Monday, July 14, 2014

Easy Peasy Puddin' Topped Cinnamon Rolls...

Three words. Rhodes Cinnamon Rolls. How I ever got to the ripe old age of 58 without ever having purchased a package of Rhodes Frozen Rolls is beyond me. I blame my mother, my friends, my family, my therapist and an obviously lousy advertising agency for this blatant oversight.

The other day I was perusing Pinterest and came upon a three-ingredient recipe for cinnamon rolls. I took the bait and clicked, only to discover one of the three ingredients is Rhodes Frozen Cinnamon Rolls. .

Whaaaa??? Up until that moment I never knew Rhodes made a frozen cinnamon roll. I obviously live in a cave. Vanilla pudding and butter are the other two ingredients in these Easy, Three Ingredient Cinnamon Rolls from the blog "Love of Family and Home." It was 104 degrees that day, so I pinned it and thought I would wait till fall to make them.

It just so happened the next day it was 79 degrees, so I thought I'd give the recipe a try. I'm not sure I'll ever make cinnamon rolls from scratch again. Why bother?

I didn't particularly follow the recipe, because I started making them in the early afternoon, and I forgot to put the pudding mix and butter on the top before the rolls had thawed out. I let them rise, then sprinkled the pudding mix and butter on the top being careful not to squish their perfect puffiness...

Then baked them to a beautiful golden brown...

The Cinnamon Rolls come with a little packet of cream cheese frosting {they thought of everything}, so that was spread over the top of these delectable pastries...

As one might expect the pudding and butter mixture created a crunchy sweet topping on the rolls, because, heaven knows, they weren't quite sweet enough. {I went a little easy on the pudding and butter, and they were still wonderful.} When my husband came home I told him about my cinnamon roll discovery and told him it would change my life forever. One of his favorite things is a good cinnamon roll, so he concurred it would change his life forever too!

Wednesday, July 09, 2014

Staycation: Mt. Evans

Boy howdy -- did we ever go on a fabulous staycation this last weekend! Mt. Evans is definitely a not-to-miss destination. Strap on your big kid boots for a day of dizzying heights and breathtaking mountainous panoramas. By the end of the day you'll be able to boast that you climbed a 14er in Colorado, and you'll have a picture of yourself touching the sky...

Before I get too far ahead of myself, let me rewind a bit. Mt. Evans summit is approximately 60 miles from Denver -- 30 miles from Denver to Idaho Springs on I-70, 15 miles from Idaho Springs to the entrance of the park {the Mt. Evans Welcome Station} on state highway 103, and 15 miles from the entrance of the park to the summit on Colorado Highway 5. Before you even get to the Welcome Station you're treated to these breathtaking sights...

Ponder Point...

Echo Lake...

and this beautiful picnic area...

When you arrive at Echo Lake Lodge you're just around the corner from the entrance to Mt. Evans Scenic Byway. If you slap a ten dollar bill in the hand of the park ranger, he'll let you through the gate.

The first mile will lull you into a false sense of security as you drive on a wide, well-paved road with lush forests on either side.

It gets dicey after that -- especially for a girl who is afraid of heights. This highway isn't dubbed "the highest paved road in North America" for nothing. It's high. Seriously high. Biting-fingernails-to-the-quick kind of high with scary drop offs where you can plunge off the road to your death thousands of feet below. I'm not being dramatic -- just telling it like it is. The photo below is proof. Do you see how it looks like the earth drops off the side of the road? There's reason for that -- it does. It might look like the driver of the car took this photo. He didn't. I was just sitting on my husband's lap {arms wrapped around his neck, whimpering} for most of the drive to the summit. I felt safer on that side of the car.

We stopped at several scenic view points along the route. This is the view from the Chappell Nature Center...

As I looked out over these beautiful mountains and the plains, I felt like singing "America the Beautiful." {Julie Andrews style -- like in the Sound of Music -- arms spread wide on the mountain top.}
O beautiful for spacious skies...
For purple mountain majesties
Above the fruited plain!
I was quite sure, however, that my rendition of the song would have gone unappreciated by my fellow travelers, so I kept it to myself. {Please note the purple mountains and fruited plain.}

The drive from Idaho Springs at 8,700 feet above sea level to the summit of Mt. Evans at 14,258 feet takes you through three life zones. You'll pass ancient trees, mountain lakes, tundra, snow, and end up far above the timberline with nary a guardrail in sight. Fortunately, scenes like Summit Lake made the scary ride a little more bearable...

There are 1,253,648 {possibly a slight exaggeration} hairpin turns and switch-backs along the byway to Mt. Evans Observatory at the summit. The arrows in the photo below denote cars on the switch-backs. If you're prone to motion sickness I would prescribe a handful of Dramamine or motion sickness patches on every conceivable space on your body. Just sayin'.

We finally reached the end of the road and parked to hike the last quarter mile to the summit. The trail is filled with boulders and rocks, but is easily hiked with the proper footwear. It's not the hike that'll kill you, it's the lack of oxygen at 14,000+ feet. Suggestion: Breathe deeply and often.

The views from the summit are breathtaking -- especially when you consider you are looking down on the Rocky Mountains.

Some suggestions for a trip to the summit of Mt. Evans...
  1. Dress in long pants and bring a jacket or a coat in the car -- even in the summer. Weather conditions can change quickly and it is usually cool/cold at the summit.
  2. Bring ibuprofen or Tylenol. You might get a headache because of the altitude. I've learned to do a preemptive strike and take two ibuprofen before we leave the house. As I said before, motion sickness remedies might also be in order.
  3. Start the drive early in the morning for your best chance at good weather. The weather in the mountains usually deteriorates as the day progresses.
  4. Bring plenty of water to keep hydrated. Dehydration = headache.
  5. Dress appropriately. Don't be like the lady in front of us on the trail at the summit who was wearing high-heeled sandals. 'Nuff said.
  6. Drive the smallest car you own. You'll thank me for this when you're passing other cars on that skinny little road. 
This was one of our favorite Staycations.
It's pretty awesome being on top of the world.