Thursday, June 30, 2011

Tourist at home - Seven Falls

Recently, I discovered that one of the most beautiful places in Colorado is about 6 miles from my house. Seven falls is an amazing series of waterfalls surrounded by gorgeous rock formations and trees.

Colorado Springs

Colorado Springs

Colorado Springs

Colorado Springs

There were a bunch of entertaining chipmunks running around, mugging for the camera, as well. They are the unofficial mascot of Seven Falls. So cute!

Colorado Springs

Colorado Springs

Colorado Springs

The falls themselves were beautiful, especially from the primary viewing platform where all seven were visible (see first photo). There were platforms right next to the falls as well, affording this close-up view.

Colorado Springs

The serious drawbacks to all these advantageous views were the many many stairs. It was A LOT of stairs, 408 to be exact. This was especially challenging, given my aversion to heights on manmade structures (it's weird, right?). Plus the altitude, yikes! Talk about breathing hard.

Colorado Springs

Colorado Springs

Colorado Springs

But hey, at least the terrifying stairs were environmentally friendly.

Colorado Springs

What awesome touristy stuff do you like to do in your town?

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Homemade Doughnuts

We have a new Sunday morning breakfast tradition, and it is just delicious (and not as unhealthy as you might think).

Homemade doughnuts!

I received this amazing little gizmo for my birthday from my friend Mel. Is it not so cute? It has sprinkles on it!

This makes 5 small doughnuts at a time in just 10-12 minutes. Because the doughnuts are baked and not fried, the calories are lightened somewhat, but the taste is not, as long as you follow my directions:

1. Take that little recipe booklet that comes with your machine.


3. Buy yourself a delicious doughnut recipe book or hit the baking blogs. This is the recipe book I have and the baked cake doughnut recipe is phenomenal. SO delicious.

4. Ditch the 'confectioners sugar + milk' glaze recipe and make this instead (I use less than half of this for 10 doughnuts):

The best glaze in the world
(I believe this is from the 1976 Betty Crocker Cookbook)

1/3 c butter
2 cups confectioners sugar
1 1/2 t vanilla extract or vanilla bean paste
2-4 T hot water

Melt butter in a saucepan, remove from heat. Add sugar and vanilla extract and whisk together. Add water 1 T at a time until the glaze reaches the desired consistency.

Use this on cookies and cakes as well. Trust me.

You'll thank me.


I used the chocolate glaze recipe from the cookbook above, and it was pretty great. When the glaze has some cocoa in it, it doesn't taste overly-sugary like the plain 'milk + sugar' glazes.

I feel uncomfortable posting a recipe from a cookbook that is not posted elsewhere online, so I surfed around and dug up some baked cake doughnut recipes to try. I can't vouch for them, but they sound pretty great:

Fluffy Cake Doughnuts

Baked Cake Doughnuts (The use of cake flour in this one indicates that it might be quite promising - it's very similar to the recipe I used)

Baked Cake Batter Doughnuts (actually uses box mix, could be interesting - I'll be trying this next!)

If you don't have a machine, you can also buy doughnut pans for use in the oven or you can totally cheat and make them in muffin tins. I love the machine because it's convenient, easy, cooks evenly, and doesn't heat up the house.



Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Tuesday Treasures (actually on Tuesday!)

Tuesday Treasures

1. My new blog header. If you're reading this through a blog reader, you should click through and check it out. My friend, Meghan, did this illustration for me ages ago and I was having my blog redesigned around it. Unfortunately, that redesign fell through, so now I'm doing a series of blog design spruces on my own. I couldn't let Meghan's gorgeous handiwork languish on my hard drive any more!

P.S. if you want to contact Meghan, please leave a comment here and I can pass it on. I don't feel comfortable giving out any of her other contact info without her permission.

2. Picnik - If you aren't a flickr user (usr?), you might not know about this amazing little editing program. It does standard things like contrast, color saturation and temperature, cropping, exposure, etc., but it also has tons of filters and features to funkify your photos, add text, and fix cosmetic problems. Since it is built into flickr, it is super easy to edit a ton of photos in a row. Much easier than using an outside program. The basic version is free, or there is a pro version for an annual fee. If you go to picnik's stand-alone website, you can import photos from places other than flickr to edit, and make collages and other projects.

Here's a little demo for you. I just took a photo from my recent trip to San Francisco and ran it through a gamut of picnik tools.

Original photo - straight out of camera

Ferris Wheel original - demo

Cropping/Exposure/Contrast fixes

Ferris Wheel original - edits

"Lomo-ish" filter

Ferris Wheel - lomoish

"Orton-ish" filter

Ferris Wheel - Orton-ish

1960's filter

Ferris Wheel - 1960s

HDR-ish filter

Ferris Wheel - HDR-ish

HSL filter

Ferris Wheel - HSL

Holga-ish filter

Ferris Wheel - Holga-ish

Gritty filter

Ferris Wheel - Gritty

A lot of the fun features come with the free version. I hope you go play around with it. So fun!

3. Bossypants. I'm about halfway through this and I'm loving it. Hilarious. Tina Fey must have taken a lot of influence from her teen years when writing Mean Girls. There are some lines in her autobiography straight out of the movie. Also, I may have seen that movie a few too many times (if such a thing is possible).

4. San Francisco. I had never been to San Francisco before last weekend (that I was old enough to remember, anyway) and I loved it. I pretty much crammed in as much touristy stuff as was possible in 2 1/2 days and it was an amazing trip. I'm jealous of people who get to live there (I get it now!!).

Fishermans wharf

5. This backpack. It's a throwback to the original Jansport design back in the 60s. They even have the original 1967 label design. There are a couple of different backpacks in the Heritage series, and some awesome 80s-style duffels.

It comes in a bunch of great colors if you're not into bright yellow as much as I am.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Tourist at Home - Pike's Peak

My mom came for a visit last week and we did pretty much every touristy thing that you can do in Colorado Springs, including a couple of things that I hadn't done before.

One of these things was to ride up Pike's Peak on the Cog Train. My parents claim I did this once before, but I was obviously way too young to remember. They tell me stories like this all the time, leading me to believe that they did all kinds of cool road-trippy things when I was too young to retain the memories, but somehow the basic idea of road trip as amazing vacation still got through (obviously).

Colorado Springs

We picked the perfect day to go because there was a big storm a couple of days later, and Pike's Peak was blanketed in snow again. It was cool but not too cold and it only snowed for a little while at the summit.

Here are some views from the train.

Colorado Springs

Pikes Peak is not actually the tallest mountain in Colorado, if that's what you were thinking. It is, however, one of 53 "fourteeners" in the state which is how, in Colorado, we refer to mountains over 14,000 feet in elevation. The summit of Pikes Peak is at 14,110 feet.

Colorado Springs

A Cog Train uses a large gear (or "cog wheel") with teeth that runs on a track in between two regular rails. This allows the train to climb a steeper grade than your average train. A regular adhesion train can travel on a 4-6% grade, your car about 5-7%, and the cog train, 25%! This means, at the steepest part of the track, the front of the train is 1 story above the back. Since we were facing downhill for both the uphill and downhill parts of the journey, it was an ab workout to stay in your seat.

Colorado Springs

Colorado Springs

The Pikes Peak Cog Railway was built in 1891. It runs year-round, and has a special snowplow to clear the tracks. If the snow becomes too compacted, it achieves the consistency of cement and has to be dynamited from the tracks. (Are you loving my fun facts? All courtesy of our conductor).

Colorado Springs

It takes about 3 hours to make the round-trip on the train, including the 20 min summit stop. At the top, they serve award-winning high-altitude doughnuts covered in fudge, which have apparently been featured on The Food Network. We did not indulge, however, since I had made doughnuts just that morning!

Colorado Springs

After a trip to the Pikes Peak summit, Katharine Lee Bates, inspired by the purple mountain majesties above the fruited plain, penned "America the Beautiful," which is inscribed on a plaque at the summit.

Colorado Springs

Colorado Springs

On a clear day, you can see into five states from the top of Pikes Peak. They are Colorado, Kansas, Oklahoma, Wyoming, and New Mexico.

Colorado Springs

Colorado Springs

There was also this really weird guy in the gift shop that Mike posed with.

Colorado Springs

Who else embraces the "tourist in your own town" mentality? Or are you a "we live here, so we never go" type?

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

June giveaway at Campfire Chic

Don't forget to enter this Giveaway!

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Hawaiian Wedding

My cousin got married about a year ago on Oahu and, well, I just got around to finishing some edits on the pictures I took. My goal was to get this done a long time ago, but, between moving and other things, it slipped my mind. The wedding was in the most amazing location, right on the beach, but also in a wooded area, so it was cool and shady, with a beach background. It doesn't get much better than that. Here are my favorite shots.

J&S wedding cake

Sisterly moment

wedding dress - black & white

the bride and groom

The happy couple

Hugging mom

Wedding Party


ceremony site

Cutting cake

It makes me want to fly right back to Hawaii. So beautiful!

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