Grandma challenge: How full can she fill forty-four hours?

Grandma challenge: How full can she fill forty-four hours?

My desert-dwelling grandsons and their parents visited my house last week—for forty-four hours. The family had taken a road trip to Vail for a wedding, and Jim and I were fortunate they fit in a stop at our place on their way back home.

I was thrilled to host them and was determined to squish as much into the visit as possible, unsure of when I'd see Brayden, Camden, and Declan (as well as Megan and Preston, too) again.

As all three boys have birthdays in June…

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Camping on the Arkansas River: The truth about our 35th anniversary adventure

Arkansas River

My husband and I celebrated our 35th wedding anniversary over Father's Day weekend. Because 35 years together seemed quite a milestone, especially considering I was a week shy of 18 when we wed and he was just 21 — plus marital, financial, and medical BS throughout the entire year of 2016 that threatened us surviving to the milestone — we wanted to mark the occasion in some extra special way.

So for months we considered this and that, here and there, seeking sites and such we'd never experienced before. Then reality set in. Limited finances and limited paid time off for Jim — who started a new job not long ago — limited our options. Being residents of Colorado, though, a state folks come from around the world to see, there were plenty of touristy things nearby to choose from.

None felt right, none felt celebratory and special enough.

We soon found ourselves on deadline for making a decision and reservations. For some crazy reason, I suggested camping. In the wild. In a tent. Like we used to when our daughters were young. We hadn't gone in and we had never camped just the two of us, sans kids.

The idea of setting up camp for two, spending evenings under the stars, making s'mores for us — and sharing a marshmallow or two with Mickey (our dog) who we'd bring along, too — immediately felt right. Felt fun.

It was settled. I sought a site, made reservations. We pulled camping gear from the garage rafters, all stored since camping adventures with our kids. We added to the pile to pack in the car assorted leisurely pursuits. Games to play, the telescope for stargazing, binoculars for Big Horn Sheep searching, Jim's guitar for him to play, a couple books for me to read. We were stoked!

So my husband and I marked our milestone wedding anniversary by camping. And we hated it. Worst. Time. Ever...

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Denver must-do: Water World water park

Water World Denver

Last week when middle daughter Megan and I discussed the fun my husband, Brianna, Patrick, James and I had at Water World in Denver the day before — courtesy free passes from the park to experience "unlimited fun in the sun" — desert-dwelling Megan told me how much she loves Water World. Her pronouncement was based on our (limited) family visits to the massive water park near downtown Denver when she was a kid and visits she made with friends as a teen.

"Preston loves it, too," she said. Which surprised me. Because Preston never lived near Denver and Water World as Megan did growing up. He grew up in another state, in fact.

"Oh, yeah," Megan said. "Preston and his family used to go to Water World all the time when he was a kid. They loved it."

The Water World love from out-of-staters confirmed for me that Water World is indeed a must-see Denver attraction not only for folks who live in Colorado but for visitors from afar, as well.

And how could the massive outdoor play area — a Denver icon since 1979 — not be...

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Get wet and wild with the grands at Great Wolf Lodge Colorado Springs

A wet and wild weekend designed for grandparents and grandkids? I recently experienced exactly that — without my grandkids.

The story: I was invited to the grand opening celebration of Great Wolf Lodge Colorado Springs and encouraged to bring along my grandsons and husband. But my grandsons couldn't make the 800+ mile trip to spend the weekend with me. My stepgrandson — my only local grandkiddo — couldn't come either. My husband did get to attend with me, though. And even without our favorite boys in tow, our free weekend adventure left no question that the expansive indoor water park resort offers a great, nay, grand getaway destination for grandparents and grandchildren.

Great Wolf Lodge Colorado Springs — the fourteenth location of the family-friendly indoor water park resort — has all the first-class entertainment and accomodation amenities of its sister spots across the U.S., plus a few goodies only guests of the brand-new resort on the north end of Colorado Springs get to enjoy.

The incredible view of Pikes Peak to the west is a perfect example of what sets the Colorado Springs location apart from other Great Wolf Lodge locations. This early morning shot was taken from the balcony of my room for the weekend:

pikes peak 

Breathtaking, right?

The majority of what my husband and I experienced at Great Wolf Lodge Colorado Springs, though, was similar to signature features, fun, food and such found...

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Friday Fun Day: FTW Denver arcade and gastropub

FTW Denver

A self-proclaimed "reimagined arcade" recently opened in Denver, and I was fortunate enough to be on the guest list for the official grand opening of FTW Denver Wednesday night.

FTW stands for "For The Win." FTW Denver, a 15,000-square-foot arcade, is just the third FTW in the country and a heavenly haven for game lovers of all ages.

Imagine this:

There are games, of course...

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5 reasons Parker is the place for festive holidays... and family everydays

visit Parker Colorado

I have lived in Colorado Springs, Colorado, more than thirty-five years. In all those years, I've driven to Denver — a smidgen over an hour or so to the north — a kazillion times. (Seriously... I've kept count.)

On every one of those kazillion trips up Interstate 25, I drove past a directional sign just south of Denver proper noting the exit for RidgeGate Parkway. That exit, No. 125, leads within minutes to the town of Parker, becomes, in fact, Parker's Mainstreet (yes, one word).

In 35 years, never did I take that exit. Never did I visit Parker. Never did I consider Parker a destination or go out of my way to get up close and personal with a place that seemed little more to me than a suburb of Denver.

Sheesh... What a dummy I've been. I recently had reason to visit Parker, to drive down Mainstreet and personally partake of the surprisingly charming community's festive happenings, tasty culinary offerings and more. All courtesy the Town of Parker, which had invited my...

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Fall in Michigan! Plus, GRAND Social No. 223 link party for grandparents

Fall in Michigan

Fall is sneaking its way into Colorado. The Aspens are changing in the high country, I've heard, and I hope Jim and I get a chance to traverse a mountain pass or two before a cold snap renders leaves of  brilliant golds, reds, and oranges instantly burned and browned.

I do love the changing of the Aspens in my home state, but I must say I've yet to be as awed by fall in Colorado as I was when visiting Michigan last year. I haven't revisited my video of that fall adventure to The Tawases, Alpena, and beyond since late last year.

Considering that autumn officially begins this Thursday, seems the perfect time to do just that. Come along with me!


Happy fall to...

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Water log: Morro Bay and beyond

morro bay

I live in Colorado, where majestic mountains are many — and significant bodies of water few and far between. Nearly non-existant, to be honest.

The scarcity of impressive lakes and such in our home state is a big reason why my daughter and I were so enchanted by the sights along California's central coast when we visited together in May. From Cayucos and San Simeon to Cambria...

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Savor local flavor: 8 great eateries on California's central coast

The activities and events travelers list on their must-do, must-see lists vary widely depending on interests and intentions. Some folks want to relax and take it easy while away from home, others seek adventure and heart-pounding experiences, others lie somewhere in between balancing a bit of both. 

All travelers, though, like to eat. Must eat. Which puts dining at the top of the must-do list for all who travel. The true treat for tourists is discovering establishments rich in regional dishes complemented by dashes of local lore.

My daughter and I enjoyed eight such eateries on our recent visit to California's central coast, courtesy Morro Bay Tourism and California Highway 1 Discovery Route. Following are our recommendations for savoring local flavor when visiting the charming towns along Highway 1.

699 Embarcadero, Morro Bay CA 93442

blue sky bistro on the bay

Blue Sky Bistro offers bayside dining that's about as bayside as you can be, with a fabulous view of Morro Bay and Morro Rock. The superb service perfectly complements...

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CA Highway 1 Discovery Route destination: Piedras Blancas Elephant Seal Rookery

As grandmother to three rambunctious grandsons and another equally active stepgrandson, I've seen my share of children engaging in play battles with one another. From wrestling on the trampoline to Wii wars to Nerf gun wars, I'm no stranger to the competitive, creative capers of kids.

Which is why I never imagined one of the highlights of the mother/daughter trip my oldest and I were treated to along the California Highway 1 Discovery Route (compliments Highway 1 Discovery Route) would be watching little ones battle it out with one another. Yet when the little ones were not so little at all — hundreds and hundreds of pounds, in fact — and elephant seal babes instead of human babes, my daughter and I were enchanted by the action (and inaction) taking place at the Piedras Blancas Elephant Seal Rookery just north of San Simeon along California's Central Coast.

elephant seal rookery 

My daughter and I were instantly intrigued the moment we got out of our car and leaned over the railing separating the massive marine animals from the curious animal lovers enjoying...

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Documenting our outing: Mother, daughter, pink beach cruisers... and a selfie fail

When my daughter and I visited Morro Bay in California a week or so ago, we were treated to two single-speed beach cruisers — pink! — for a bicycle ride around the Embarcadero, to Morro Rock, and along the sandy shores of Morro Strand State Beach. All courtesy Farmer's Kites & Surreys.

The laid-back bikes provided a delightful ride along the beach, with stops here and there to watch otters at play and surfers attempting to master the waves. My daughter led the way on our one-hour wending and winding near the water's edge.

Being a photo fanatic who must document everything, I made Brianna stop to take a selfie with me on our matching pink bikes. Despite several attempts to wrangle our bee-yoo-tiful bikes into view as well as our happy faces, I was unable to capture the moment as I'd hoped.

mother daughter selfie 

A definite selfie fail. At least in terms of...

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