Thursday, August 30, 2012

Colorado "Tourists"

 My dad taught me something wonderful, growing up, that you should always explore- not just places far away on "vacation", but where you live! Joel and I both love to travel, and we have gone many places nearby. However, when you have company from out of state, it is an even better reason to play the tourist in your own town!

Joel's childhood friend and his wife came to see us and we had so much fun going to all the typical tourist places. I took literally hundreds of photos over the course of the weekend, but I will refrain from posting them all!

We started the weekend with breakfast at our favorite place-King's Chef Diner. It is a funny little dive that serves *the best* breakfast hashes and burritos. I love mine smothered in green chile. If you finish all your food (which is quite the feat, considering the enormous portion sizes) you are awarded a "Clean Plate Club" sticker, and a piece of candy. Carson was delighted with his treat- and Josh was pretty proud of himself, too! No sticker for me or Joel!

After breakfast we went up Pikes Peak. I get a little crabby about that, I won't lie. I hate that it is so expensive-it is basically the world's most costly toll road! At about $30 it isn't something we do all the time. I figured out that I have made 4 trips up there and I probably won't make any more if I don't have to. It isn't the cost, though. I get terrible altitude sickness! Compounded with my tendency to get motion sick, it is definitely far from ideal.

But, I have to agree, it is gorgeous, and if you aren't cheap and prone to a variety of (probably mental) illnesses, it is definitely something to see. I took the photo of the kids and Joel at the reservoir on the way up. It is a nature photographer's dream!
 Do not be decieved- while it was 89 degrees and cloudless in the Springs, it was only about 48 and windy on the Peak, and it felt even colder! Of course, everyone knows, Pikes Peak was the inspiration for the song, "America the Beautiful." I can see why!
 The views are endless, and absolutely breaktaking. I so wish that I did not get so dizzy and disoriented, I am sure that I would have taken even more photos. You can see for literally miles.
 This little guy was quite photogenic. Everyone kept asking me what kind of animal it was. I replied "it's a marmot". I couldn't figure out why they kept asking. Later during the weekend, we figured out that they all thought I was saying, "it's a varmint"! They had never heard of a marmot! And an especially camera friendly one!

After coming back down the mountain, we spent some time in Manitou Springs. It is full of little curiousity shops and things. There are also some fun statues and the actual mineral springs that the town is named for. The kids were peeking at the creek below that flows from the springs.

Everyone had fun posing on the enormous bike- clearly a bicycle built for two (or ten!).

The kids had fun trying out some of the quarter rides at the arcade in the center of town. There are well over 25 different rides! They also enjoyed looking at the fountain that is from the springs-the water still provides health benefits supposedly, but I think it smells, so I wouldn't know!

On Saturday we toured the Olympic Training Center. It  had been years ago while I was in college that I had last toured it, and I had sort of forgotten about it (although it is really close to our house!). I got to thinking about it during the Summer Games, and was anxious to see it again.

It is definitely one of the best free attractions in the Springs! We managed to make it to the last tour of the day, and even just going into the visitor's center is fun. We discovered that Joel's "wingspan" is the same as Michael Phelps- and they are the same height! I guess all that training really does make a difference..;)

The kids had a blast exploring all the exhibits and climbing in the equipment. If it hadn't been almost 90 degrees that day, the photo of the bobsled would have looked a little more realistic, wouldn't it?
Our tour was great, and we learned lots of fun facts from the tourguide, a resident athlete who is training in fencing. They also showed a great movie of highlights from the last Winter Olympics. I can't wait to see the Summer one! GO USA!
Later in the weekend we visited Rocky Mountain National Park. It is a couple of hours away from us, and we had never been. Let me tell you- it is G-O-R-G-E-O-U-S! Truly, Colorado scenery at its finest!
We did some hiking, the guys went farther up than the girls. Can you see Joel and Carson way in the distance? I loved the tiny creek that flowed over these rocks.

We drove through the entire park, and we were treated to many spectacular views like this. We saw the Colorado portion of the Continental Divide, which is kind of like the Four Corners- cool to say you have visited but nothing spectacular to photograph. I also purchased a nature guide and had a great time identifying the plants and animals. I am such a nerd sometimes!

It was a packed weekend, but we had so much fun. I always have fond memories of childhood trips when we do things like this. Joel has been so busy with school that having him around all day for a few days was wonderful. I think we are made some great memories as a family!






Friday, August 24, 2012

A "Very Hungry Caterpillar" Shower

I have decorated for quite a few baby showers (and I have a couple more coming up) so I feel like I know what I like. And I have to say, out of all the showers I have done this was my favorite! Part of that may have had to do with who it was for: my favorite oldest sister!
My sister is expecting her third, and since her other two are well past the toddler stage, I felt that she needed a shower! Besides, I have a personal theory (adopted from my mother) that every baby is a cause for celebration.
It was hard trying to decide on a theme because you can turn virtually anything into a shower these days. However, while trolling Pinterest, I noticed my sister had pinned these invitations to her "Toddler" ideas board.
"The Very Hungry Caterpillar" by Eric Carle has long been a family favorite. Besides being a great way to introduce the concept of days of the week, it is colorful, fun and has lots of drool-worthy treats in it! In essence, everything you need to springboard off for a shower theme.
 The food is the highlight of the book. If you have never read it, the little caterpillar munches his way through a variety of items. We tried to use as many of those as we could!

I also added a dish of gumballs to mimic the dots in the book, as well as a parfait glass of "Runt" candies, since there are several kinds of fruit in there as well. All the components looked so cheerful on the sweets table.
 One of the trickier elements was the "ice cream cone". The caterpillar eats through one of those, but it would have been entirely too messy to have real ice cream dripping everywhere. I had seen a suggestion to use mini ice cream cones topped with Oreo truffles, and those were adorable. However, time short and I came up with (what I thought was) a brilliant idea. I used sprinkled donut holes from Walmart, attached them to mini cones with pre-made bagged icing and topped each "scoop" with a red Skittle "cherry". They were super easy to make and a huge hit! Also, the caterpillar eats through a cupcake- Wally served me well there, too. On a platter covered by scrapbook paper, it all looked too cute.
 It was easy to choose the cake. The caterpillar munches through a slice of layered chocolate cake. I picked this one up at Costco and it was delicious! Since I was in charge of all the decorating and the food (I usually only decorate) I really needed to cut corners in the snack department. This decadent cake didn't feel like I did at all! I made the easy topper by gluing scrapbook paper triangles to ribbon and then I used straws (supported by wooden skewers inside) and simply tied it on. Love!
 Every item had a place card that included the day it was eaten in the book. These came together quickly- it is simply an index finger dipped in different colors of ink and pressed at the bottom of the card to form circles reminiscent of the ones in the book.
 I was insistent on having giant lollipops like the ones in the book. These were beastly to find, and ended up costing me $3 a piece at a specialty candy store, but I loved how they looked! I used a tall glass vase filled with colorful gumballs to hold them in (gumballs are from the dollar store).
 The fruit looked terrific, too! The hostess suggested setting them upright and it gave them great three-dimensional appeal. I love to vary heights to make it interesting. We wrapped forks in napkins and tied them with ribbon. It makes it easy to grab what you need.
 The guest of honor's favorite part: the mini Claussen pickles! Doesn't every pregnant woman supposedly crave pickles? I was glad that I didn't forget these.
 The polka-dotted paper straws were a last minute purchase from Amazon, and they looked adorable. I found the suggestion to use Trix cereal online, and realized that wouldn't work because it wasn't the right colors. Walmart to the rescue! There "Great Value" knock-off was perfect, and the salami and cheese (from the book) with my addition of crackers looked great.
 We purchased the book marks from Amazon, too. We cute off the caterpillar part (the rest said, "Hungry for a good book".) and taped it Archer Farms water bottles on pieces of coordinating card stock. We also served raspberry lemonade in Mason jars. All the drinks nestled in a big, bright bucket of ice.
 A better shot of the water bottles. I love, love, love, the individualized touch that adding your own label brings, don't you?
  The mason jars were perfect, too. We cut circles of waxed paper slightly smaller than a flattened cupcake liner. You lay the whole thing over the mouth of a mason jar, and it becomes a perfect covered glass! The cupcake liners would have turned into a mess, but by lining it with waxed paper it worked great. We provided a skewer to punch a whole to insert the straw into.
 The banner wasn't my first choice, but necessity is the mother of creativity. I used pre-cut foam circles and foam letter stickers (from the dollar store!) to make my own caterpillar. Since the one in the book isn't perfectly round, I cut the edges to form rough ovals. I added pipe cleaner antennae. I always feel like "Welcome" is an appropriate baby greeting, right?
 The beautiful guest of honor. I whipped up the scrapbook pennant in no time: cut triangles, hot glue to ribbon and it is instant cuteness!
 Three of my marvelous helpers! Also, my dear, sweet younger sisters. I could not have done it without these cuties! Katy made the pom-pom caterpillars, bought the water bottles and drove me around. Kelly did the place cards, packed the favors, made the water bottles and watched my son! Lisa Dawn was my "brain" and kept me sane, as well as making the ice cream cones and assembling the drinks. My mom isn't pictured but she provided funds, organized the guest list, secured the host home, loaned tons of dishes (including the cute buckets and mason jars) and billions of other things!
 My sister and me. I was so glad to be able to celebrate her little G3 with her. A baby is always a blessing, but this is one we have waited a long time for!
 The favors were simple: a bookmark, some Skittles, and round magnets, to mimic the dots in the book. We tied it all up in clear cello bags closed with ribbon.
 This is one of those "better in theory" ideas. I had seen a multitude of these balloon caterpillars on the internet. It looked easy enough, but it was really tricky to vary the balloons to make him seem rounded, my first "head" popped, and then the only place to hang it was over a vent! It was a tangled mess at the end of the party, but you can't have a party without balloons!
Katy made these pom pom caterpillars to keep the food company. They were a big hit too. One of the best ideas I had (and a last minute one) was to have each of the guest do an anagram of the baby's name. For each letter in the name they listed one or more adjectives. I was surprised that a group of 12+ women, few of them repeated the same words, and reading them made my sister cry. She plans on keeping all the copies, written by each woman, in a scrapbook. I think it made for a special blessing. Definitely one of my favorite parties! Thank you, Hungry Little Caterpillar, for providing such great inspiration!


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