Great Sand Dunes National Park in Colorado

 

Did you know that the tallest sand dunes in all of North America are in Colorado?  Seems odd, huh?  I would think it would either be along the coast somewhere or maybe in the Arizona deserts, but actually you’ll find them in southern Colorado.  As you may know, one of the items on my Bucket List is to visit every National Park in the U.S.  On Friday we visited Petrified Forest National Park in northeastern Arizona (more on that soon).  Yesterday we visited Great Sand Dunes National Park!

Here’s the view from the visitor center!  Isn’t it gorgeous.  When we were there a monsoon storm was coming in from the east so the dark clouds cast shadows on the mountains and the dunes creating an ever-changing canvas of colors.

Great Sand Dunes National Park Colorado

Summer’s not the best time to visit the park because the temperatures on the dunes can reach the mid-100’s (F).  We were smart enough to stay away from walking on the sand, but since we were in the area, it was still nice to get a preview of the place in case we want to come back and visit again sometime.  If you have a chance to visit the NPS website, you’ll see that there is really quite a bit to do around there besides just running around on the dunes.  Looks like there’s a seasonal river, lake, waterfall, wildlife, beautiful fall and spring color, camping, hiking, etc.  I definitely think it’s worth another trip.

You can explore any part of the 30 square mile dunefield you wish; there are no designated trails in the sand. And there’s even a sand dunes-accessible wheelchair available for free loan at the Visitor Center for those who aren’t quite as mobile.

Here are a few of the photos we took during our short visit.  We saw Pronghorn and Mule Deer as well as the expected chipmunks and squirrels.  Let me know if you’ve been there and what was the most fun for you during your visit.

 

Simple All-Occasion Upcycled Gift Bag

Color Coordinated Upcycled Gift Bag

Here’s a fun and easy project that you can easily do in under 30 minutes the next time you need a gift bag.

Have you visited a shop or restaurant that uses plain white or brown paper bags for their products?  If you keep your eyes open you’ll find that there are some that do this instead of paying for printing on their larger size bags.  Every time I get a blank bag (or even one with a smaller graphic) I save it for future upcycling.

Today I needed a bag for a baby shower for Baby Boy Bryson, a new addition to our extended family, so here’s what I did.

  1. First I pulled a medium size white bag from my stash
  2. Next, I looked through my supply of fabric ribbon and found this great blue & purple plaid.  Perfect for a little boy.  (Shop for ribbon at craft stores when it’s on clearance or you have a coupon.  Also watch for ribbon attached to cards and other products that you can rescue.)
  3. Then I searched through my scrap-book paper and found a thick striped sheet in shades of blue that coordinated with the ribbon.  A nice baby print would be great too.
  4. Open up Microsoft Word (or an appropriate program) to create a single large letter (or word of your choosing).  Select your preferred font and size large enough to fill the page and/or one side of the bag.
  5. In MS Word you can choose the option to show/print the letter as an outline only.  This is the best way to show the pattern to be cut out of the printed paper.
  6. Print the letter/word on your scrap-book paper and cut it out.
  7. Center and attach it to the side of the bag with your favorite paper glue.
  8. Fill the top of the bag with tissue paper (would have been more striking if I had a light shade of blue that matched the ribbon).
  9. Tie your matching ribbon in a bow on top of the bag.
  10. If you need a tag, cut a circle or creative shape out of the scrap-book paper too.  Punch a hole in it and tie it on with a small string or matching ribbon.
  11. That’s it!  You’re ready to go.
  12. Imagine all the possibilities…unlimited color schemes, print a word instead of a letter, trim the bag with lace for a girl.  Or what about using the same idea for mini-size wedding or birthday favor bags?

Have fun and post a link to your own creations in the comments section!  I’d love to see how you make it even better.

5 Easy Steps to Re-Use Thank You Cards

You know when you get a card and you love the design just too much to throw it away?  Well, here’s a fun way to give new life to that favorite card front.

In this case I’m repurposing thank you cards.  It’s so easy and takes very little supplies to create a whole new card to use yourself.  And if you end up sending it to the person that gave it to you in the first place they’ll be honored that you liked it enough to re-use it, and you’ll be making it even better than when you first received it!  (Be sure to click to enlarge the pictures to see all the details.)

Thank you card tools

Step 1:  Pull all your favorite used thank you cards out (ones that you’ve received and saved) and use a paper cutter, like the Fiskars one pictured to the left, to separate the front from the back (used-written on) part of the card.

Step 2: Find some envelopes that are the approximate size of the notecard fronts.  These can be found at various stores like the box of “100 Invitation envelopes” pictured below or online like this set of envelopes at CurrentCatalog.com.  You can buy just white or a variety of colors.  Or if you want to be really industrious, you can make your own envelopes from any number of tutorials online by searching “How to Make a Paper Envelope”.

Step 3: Cut pieces of coordinating paper or cardstock Notecard envelopesjust a little larger than double the length of the old thank you note covers.  You will be folding these in half to create the card, so if the old card front is 4″ x 5″ for example, the new card stock should be at least 8 1/4″ x 5 1/4″.  It’s nice to leave an extra edge around the old card front for contrasting colors as you’ll see on my samples.  Note: make sure that the card will fit into the notecard envelopes that you have.  You can size the card stock accordingly, or depending on the design, you can cut down the old card front to fit the envelope.

Thank you cards done #2Step 4:  After you have cut out a coordinating piece of cardstock or heavy paper (like scrapbooking paper), fold it over to make the new card.  Now, with a little creativity,  here are just a few ideas of things you can do before attaching the old card front to the cardstock.

  1. Use a corner rounding or creative corner tool to decorate or cut the corners on the old card front, or the cardstock or both.
  2. Add a layer of contrasting paper between the two layers as in the beige and white card shown here.  The original thank you card was white with a formal font, so I added a classic lined paper between the two layers with a half circle of the lined paper under the words.
  3. Add buttons to the design where appropriate.  In the flower card at the top, there was already a tiny button used for the center of one of the flowers.
  4. Add ribbons, bows or stickers or your own decorative ideas where appropriate.  I’m sure you have some great ideas here!

Step 5: Attach the card front and decorations to the cardstock using either glue, adhesive dots (found at your favorite scrapbook supply store) or double-sided tape.

Wasn’t that fun and easy?  I love the fact that this can all be done in less than an hour and you have a whole new stock of cards to use. How do you reuse your thank you or greeting cards?  I’d love to get your ideas!  Thanks for stopping by.

Maple Bacon Cupcakes and more…

In my quest to find the best ways to use our year’s supply of bacon, I stumbled onto this recipe in Oprah’s magazine that sounds devine.

Gayle King says: “”Best thing I ate while judging the Vendy Awards—a cook-off among New York’s incredible street food vendors—this fall: the Cupcake Crew’s maple bacon cupcake. I knew I liked maple and that I also like bacon, but who knew how much I’d like them together?”— Gayle King

You can find out more about the Cupcake Crew and where they’ll be serving cupcakes (in the Big Apple only) on their website or Facebook page.

Cupcake Crew's - Maple Bacon Cupcake

Photo by: Molly Rundberg

And here’s a link to the recipe on Oprah.com.

Have you ever had a cupcake like this?  If so, what did you think? I’ll let you know our vote when we have a chance to try it out.

Oh, and did I tell you that my husband took Chocolate Dipped Bacon to a work potluck the other day?  It was a big hit!  Sadly, I forgot to get a picture of it.  I know, can you believe it!  I forgot!

It was super simple.

A pound of (Oscar Mayer, of course) Super Thick Cut Bacon, cut into thirds – cook until starting to crisp, but not overdone.  It will cook more after you take it out of the pan.

A container of dipping chocolate (this is what I had on hand).

Melt chocolate according to package directions.

Once the bacon is crisp and cooled and the chocolate is melted and still warm, dip as much of the bacon as you want in the chocolate.  We left about half of each piece of bacon exposed so the chocolate flavor didn’t overwhelm the bacon.  Set it on wax paper to cool, then arrange on a plate to serve.  Of course you could add sprinkles or nuts or whatever, but I prefer the pure chocolate and bacon flavors.

This photo from the Taste of Aloha website looks most like what we made.

Hey and next time you see a great bacon recipe, don’t forget to pass it along.

And the Bacon Winner is…

Thank you all for submitting recipes for the Bacon Contest.  The judge has reviewed the recipes and has determined that the most delicious sounding recipe is…

Green Beans with Bacon, Onion and Brown Sugar!

Congratulations to Cheryl Lohrke!

Please send your mailing address to my email at HannFamily[at]cox[dot]net and I will mail your coupon for a free pound of Oscar Mayer bacon.

If you’re at a loss for how to use it, check out the Oscar Mayer website to find a bunch more bacon recipes.

Thanks again for participating.

Enjoy your treat!

Last chance to win a pound of bacon!

Hey friends,

This is last call for the Oscar Mayer Bacon Contest and the odds of winning are excellent!  I will be away from my computer until about 6pm (MT), so I’m leaving the contest open until then.

Just to get your creative juices flowing, I thought I’d share a Dutch Oven recipe that I found in my November issue of Taste of Home magazine.  (FYI, This recipe and others can also be found online, but you need to “register” by setting up a login.  There’s no cost to join.)

Pumpkin Bisque with Smoked Gouda

Take a look at the first ingredient!  Ah yes, bacon!

Ingredients for Pumpkin Bisque with Smoked Gouda

  • 4 bacon strips, chopped
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 6 cups chicken broth
  • 1 can (29 ounces) solid-pack pumpkin
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/8 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 1 cup shredded Gouda cheese
  • 2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley
  • Additional shredded Gouda cheese, optional

Directions

  • In a Dutch oven, cook bacon over medium heat until crisp. Remove to paper towels with a slotted spoon; drain, reserving 1 tablespoon drippings. Saute onion in drippings until tender. Add garlic; cook 1 minute longer.
  • Stir in the broth, pumpkin, salt, nutmeg and pepper. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat; simmer, uncovered, for 10 minutes. Cool slightly.
  • In a blender, process soup in batches until smooth. Return all to pan. Stir in cream; heat through. Add cheese; stir until melted. Sprinkle each serving with parsley, bacon and additional cheese if desired. Yield: 9 servings (2-1/4 quarts).

Can’t you just taste that warm bacony, cheesy goodness?

I also wanted to clarify how we’ll choose a winner.  Since I can see the names of the people that submitted and I don’t want to show preferential treatment, I’m going to show just the recipes to my husband and have him choose a winner based on which one sounds the most delicious to him.  Good news is he LOVES bacon, so they’ll all be in the running.

And here’s a little clarification on the fine print.  I now have the coupons in my hot little hand and this is what they say:

FREE – One package of any OSCAR MAYER Bacon (up to $9.00).  Expiration 3/31/2012  

The images show Center Cut Bacon, Fully Cooked Bacon and Naturally Hardwood Smoked Bacon just to name a few.

Thanks for joining in the fun!  Keep your eyes open for more contests in the future.

10 Things I Love about Los Angeles

Walt Disney Concert Hall
Walt Disney Concert Hall

I’m interrupting my stories about Scotland to celebrate my 600th post by doing a little catch up on what’s going on in my life at this moment.

Today I’m in downtown L.A. I’m here to attend BlogWorld Social Media Business Summit & New Media Expo (#BWELA)!  I’m really excited about the avalanche of workshops that I will encounter over the next 3 days and can’t wait to get started sorting out which ones I’ll attend in person and which I’ll listen to after the conference.

BUT, before I dive into the conference I wanted to share a little of what inspired me today.  You see, not so very long ago I lived in a suburb of L.A.  In fact I lived just about 40 miles north of here for 18 years.  And while we didn’t come into the “city” frequently, we did have a chance to enjoy the benefits occasionally.  I’m not really a city girl,  I’m fairly certain that I wouldn’t want to live here, but I love visiting.  Something about the soaring skyline and bustling traffic energizes me.  I get the feeling that important things are happening here.  Deals are being brokered, historic decisions are being made and ideas emerge here that are changing the world.

These are just a few of the things that inspire me about L.A.:

  1. Driving past the iconic Capitol Records building
  2. Passing billboards about new TV shows and movies (do you see that in your town?)
  3. Enjoying dinner outdoors in November
  4. Landing on radio stations in 7 or 8 different languages
  5. The city skyline – it’s breathtaking
  6. Exit signs for Little Armenia, and Historic Filipinotown
  7. Realizing that the Pacific Ocean is just minutes away.
  8. Appreciating all the sculptures and great architecture in downtown
  9. Remembering that they have an “all news-all the time” radio station (AM1070). I miss that.
  10. Celebrating the fact that the L.A. Philharmonic plays regularly at two awesome venues – The Walt Disney Concert Hall (see below) and the Hollywood Bowl (one of my absolute favorites). I miss that too.

So here’s how my day went in this inspiring city…

I drove from the Burbank airport this morning and met my daughter and son-in-law for breakfast (which I don’t get to do nearly as often as I’d like).  Amy and Andrew are a couple of inspiring people too, but that story will have to wait for another time.  I enjoyed a few hours with them, then headed down to the hotel where I’ll be staying for the duration of the conference.

On the way there, I passed the AMAZING, Frank Gehry designed, Walt Disney Concert Hall just a few blocks from the hotel.  After checking in, it was such a gorgeous day that I decided to walk there.  If you’ve never seen it in person, you really should make a point to go.  I would love to take a tour and would especially love to attend a performance there.  I understand that the acoustics in the auditorium are nearly perfect.  Another fun tidbit is that there’s a small theater and gallery space in one corner of the Hall, called REDCAT (Roy and Edna Disney CalArts Theater).  I used to work at CalArts (California Institute of the Arts) when REDCAT was being built and the staff and student body were anxiously awaiting it’s completion, so I have a bit of a vested interest in the place.

Anyway, here are a few photos of this awe inspiring complex.

REDCAT
Roy and Edna Disney CalArts Theater

The amazing thing is not so much imagining the building, but actually making it come to life with all those curves and waves.  It’s spectacular!

While there I stopped in the gift shop because these places are just dripping with culture and creativity.  I saw this great T-shirt and a bunch of other inspirational items, but it wasn’t really a shopping day for me, and I can’t really afford a $120 scarf no matter how beautiful it is, so I had to pass on all but a couple of little things that I picked up for Christmas gifts.

Music Tshirt
L.A. Philharmonic Tshirt

After dinner, I had a chance to go out and play a little with my camera and here’s a fun shot.

Los Angeles Downtown
Los Angeles Downtown

So now, it’s off to bed to rest up for 3 days of inspiration and information to come.

Have you ever been to Los Angeles?  If not, what do you find inspiring about your own town?

Hope to see you soon!