Visiting Chaffee County, Colorado

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Doesn’t that look delicious? If you love black olives like I do, it does. And it was delicious, too!

This delicious pizza came from a restaurant called Pizza Works while my hubby and I got away for the weekend in the mountains outside Buena Vista, Colorado, last weekend.

Buena Vista, part of Chaffee County, is a small town that isn’t overly touristy (at least, not yet) but offers a ton of outdoor activities: hiking, biking, river rafting, hot springs, ghost towns, etc. Since many of the activities are free or inexpensive, it can be an affordable family vacation, or it can be a slightly pricey getaway. You can easily customize your vacation to your family’s budget and interests.

We opted for the slightly pricey getaway this time. We stayed at the Mt. Princeton Hot Springs and Resort, pictured below, which is about a six-hour drive from our part of Kansas.

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I remembered the hot springs from when I was younger, but it has blossomed into a true mountain resort. When I was younger, the hot springs area was basically a convenience store, old hotel and a spring-fed pool and creekside springs. Now, it has more pools, a spa, an event facility, a waterslide, a restaurant and several renovated and new lodging options.

The rooms and cabins are not exactly cheap and they book fast, but they do include complimentary passes to all of the pool facilities. It’s so convenient to take a dip in the springs when they’re right outside your hotel room door!

If you want to visit the hot springs but don’t want to “spring” for the cost of a stay at the resort, you can buy a pass to the pools for about $20.

There are ample camping options around, including RV parks and national forest campgrounds, as well as hotels in Buena Vista, Salida and other area towns. And, if you’re camping and need a shower, a day at the pool might be just the ticket!

Going to the zoo, zoo, zoo…

A life-sized and realistic elephant statue is a great way for kids to get an up-close look at the big animals.

A life-sized and realistic elephant statue is a great way for kids to get an up-close look at the big animals.

…How about you, you, you?

Anyone else remember that old song? There was quite a chorus of it in our car this morning as we made our way to the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo in Colorado Springs.

I have to be honest up front: this is not a frugal activity! Adult ticket prices are about $17 each and some of the zoo activities cost extra, such as a few dollars for food to feed the giraffes. But, it’s really not a bad price for a full day of family fun.

If you go, here are a few tips:

  • Check into the membership prices if you have a large family or you think you’ll visit more than a few times in a year. They can save you money, especially if you have several kiddos.
  • Bring your own lunch, drinks and snacks. There are plenty of picnic tables and benches that make it easy to munch on your own goodies, avoiding the more expensive restaurant options.
  • Plan a full day or at least a full afternoon. After all, you’re paying the same admission price no matter how much time you spend there. There are certainly enough activities going on to fill a whole day! And, if the kids get bored, there’s always another critter to see…or see again. I recommend starting early in the day since the chance for rain increases significantly in the afternoons.
  • Wear good walking shoes, comfy clothes, hats and sunscreen. This outdoor zoo is literally perched on the side of Cheyenne Mountain. It’s hilly and surprisingly warm on many days. Be prepared to walk a lot (up and down the hillside) and protect yourself from the sun.

And definitely don’t miss the giraffe feeding!

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Cantaloupe Sherbet

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This may be the easiest recipe I’ve ever made in my ice cream maker, and it’s delicious, too! Summer in a bowl…and it tastes great with Biscoff cookies, which are my favorites.

Ingredients

  • 1 cantaloupe
  • 1 can sweetened condensed milk
  • 1 1/2 T honey

Method

Slice the melon into chunks, minus the seeds and rind, of course. Add all ingredients to a blender and blend until smooth.

Pour into an ice cream maker and mix until solid. That’s it!

Tip: Cut and freeze melon chunks when they are in season so you can make this in the off-season, too!

 

 

 

 

Recycled Cold Frame

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Isn’t it beautiful?! It’s my “new” cold frame where my tomato seeds will (hopefully) thrive in moist, warm, wind-free comfort as they grow into happy little fruit-producers. And where my yet-to-be-grown lettuce plants will keep warm long into the winter months.

The best part about this cold frame? It was free…thanks to my husband’s hard work and creativity! He salvaged garage door sections from a car wash’s door when his company replaced it with a new one. And he salvaged scraps of lumber that come in as packing material on delivery trucks. After a few hours of his hard work, we have a fantastic cold frame–better than anything we could have purchased–and for free!

 

 

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How to Clean a Paintbrush

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My hubby and I spent several hours last weekend painting our house–inside and out. I find that painting is a multi-day process for me since I tend to get bored with it quickly. Or, the weather kicks up and the project has to stop for a bit.

So, cleanup becomes important since I never know when I’ll be able to get back to the project and I don’t really want to throw away nice brushes. But brushes can be a hassle to clean and, if the cleaning isn’t thorough, the little paint gunk left in the brush gets into the next painting project.

Fortunately, my dad was a professional painter for a while and he showed me how to clean a brush properly without using chemicals (unless you’re using oil-based paint).

Step 1: Rinse thoroughly.

The easiest way to get paint out is to rinse it under warm water. Tip the brush upside down and let the water run down into the bristles to get out all the paint stuck in there. When the water basically runs clean, move on to step 2.

 

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Step 2: Use a wire brush.

Take a wire-bristle brush and scrape down the bristles of the paint brush, sort of like combing the paint brush’s “hair” with the bristle brush. This breaks loose all of the little dried bits that get stuck in the paint brush’s bristles. DO NOT scrape from the bottom up. Always start at the metal part of the paint brush and scrape down.

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Step 3: Rinse and repeat.

Rinse the brush again. I like to use warm water because I’m kind of a wuss when it comes to cold. Repeat step 2 as necessary until the brush is nicely cleaned.

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Call for Open Local Government

I wrote the column below, which will appear in today’s edition of the Colby Free Press, to call on local government officials to provide more open discussions on issues that impact the community.

Backroom deals and private meetings are alive and well in Colby government–and that drives this reporter nuts.

This newspaper has been deliberately and specifically excluded from at least two city government events in just the last few months: an awards banquet and community concerns, a regular once-monthly meeting between government officials. Such a blatant attempt to keep information away from the media leads this libertarian to question what they’re trying to hide.

I even offered to let a city official read any story I wrote on the banquet before it was published so he could make sure it was accurate, if that was his concern. Still, we were excluded. His excuse was his theory that the employees would not have any fun if a newspaper reporter was there.

Why would the City of Colby refuse to allow a reporter to cover a city employees’ awards banquet that many of the city’s employees attend, along with the city manager and council representatives? What are they doing that needs to stay hidden away from public view?

Maybe nothing. Or maybe something sneaky. The point is that we as the newspaper and, consequently, we as a public, have no way of knowing because the city exercised its legal right to keep us out of their gathering.

The city, along with other government offices, exercises that same right regularly, meeting in private on the second Monday of every month. They call the meeting “community concerns,” but the community is not invited to participate. Only community leaders, in the privacy of a back room at a local restaurant, get to participate in these discussions–discussions which may determine the fate of local business projects, government funding attempts, taxation and who knows what else that will impact the daily life of you and me.

These meetings are kept secret, as far as I can tell, and our reporters’ attempts to even sit and listen to the discussion have been turned away. Those who participate rarely have a quorum of any governing body, thus avoiding Kansas’ open government laws that would otherwise require the meeting to be open to the public.

I was able to attend one meeting, thanks to a somewhat accidental quorum of one government body attending that meeting, and I was surprised to see the number of government agencies represented in such a private discussion: the county commission, the city manager, the city mayor, the city council, the economic development board and more. I was very clearly not welcomed by the group and, according to one source, members of the group complained extensively afterward about having a reporter at their meeting.

Since then, another reporter on our staff has tried repeatedly to attend these government meetings but with no luck. He was even told by one city official that, should he show up at one of the meetings, no one would say anything because they didn’t want their discussions in the newspaper.

Why? Again, what are they hiding? What can’t the public know about discussions that may have a significant impact on their daily lives?

These are the people who determine the major happenings in Colby, so why can’t their constituents have a view on their discussions or a voice in those discussions?

If everything is decided in a private discussion or at a private event before it comes up for a vote at someplace like a city council or county commissioners’ meeting, the public never really gets an opportunity to have their say. And that’s not the goal of Kansas’ open government laws.

I call on those government officials who take such care to keep their dealings private to open the doors a bit more. Let the media and the public see what you are doing at your private events and backroom meetings. Keeping things secret looks suspicious to most members of the public, this reporter included, but if you aren’t doing anything shady why not let the sunshine in?

Spring is coming!

We’ve had a few warm days here and, even with some snow in between, signs of spring are starting to show!

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This rhubarb is powering through last year’s remnants, already showing promise. (Anyone know if you’re supposed to cut rhubarb back in the fall?)

I have my garden mostly composted and a load of seeds ready for planting. Bring on the warm weather!