We decided to head for the hills today because we wanted to see some fall colors  so we packed the kids and the dogs in the ...

Colorado Autumn

Sunday Drive in Autumn

We decided to head for the hills today because we wanted to see some fall colors 

Sunday Drive in Autumn

so we packed the kids and the dogs in the car and drove up 285

Sunday Drive in Autumn

we stopped at the iconic Coney Island for a late lunch

Sunday Drive in Autumn

of cheese fries and hot dogs

Sunday Drive in Autumn

then we drove up 285 some more and stopped here

Sunday Drive in Autumn

where we decided to cross the bridge and take a hike 

Sunday Drive in Autumn

along the river

Sunday Drive in Autumn

to see all the pretty aspens

leavesandriver

we went off the beaten path a bit

Sunday Drive in Autumn

to get close to the river again

Sunday Drive in Autumn
even though the trail up the hill was just as pretty

Sunday Drive in Autumn

and we gained a guy on our hike

Sunday Drive in Autumn

then we piled back into the Volvo and headed up Guanella Pass

Sunday Drive in Autumn

and I spotted this ferruginous hawk along our way
{I have a deep love for birds of prey}

hawk2

and as we approached Georgetown via the switchbacks, it got colder and even snowed a bit

Sunday Drive in Autumn

and the foggy low clouds made it look enchanted up there

Sunday Drive in Autumn

and even though most people try to see the 
aspens turning on a beautiful sunny fall day,
I'm really glad that this year we saw 
them with the clouds and fog 

Sunday Drive in Autumn

aren't  you?

Sunday Drive in Autumn


Cheers,
Heather

Video of our eclipse experience below. But first... At the start of Thursday, August 17th, we had no plans for this weekend. By the en...

Total Eclipse .

Video of our eclipse experience below. But first...

totaleclipse

At the start of Thursday, August 17th, we had no plans for this weekend. By the end of Thursday, August 17th, we'd planned an entire trip for 11 people and 3 dogs that involved travel in 4 states.

My sister wouldn't stop talking about the upcoming total eclipse on August 21, 2017. The first many mentions I sort of went, "Uh huh." But I didn't really give it much thought because here in Denver we could still see 92% of the eclipse. That's pretty good, eh?

But my sister wouldn't shut up about it, which piqued my curiosity. Next thing I know I've watched this Ted Talks titled, "You owe it to yourself to experience a total solar eclipse". Among other articles I read, I learned that a partial eclipse and seeing a TOTAL solar eclipse is like comparing apples to oranges. Except, seeing a total eclipse includes all the partiality, but then you get so, so much more.

I'm sorry, friends. If you watched the eclipse today, but only partially, you and I had an entirely different experience and take away. It's not the same. Read this amazing piece by Annie Dillard if you're up for it. It is long, but beautiful.


So yesterday we borrowed the RV and piled our family in and, followed by my parents and their dog, drove 4 hours northeast to Alliance, Nebraska. This was our choice of town, it was right next to the dead center of the line of totality. The line of totality is the only place you can see a total solar eclipse. Go outside that zone, and you're partial. Sorry, but that's just not the same experience. I didn't know until this week either. 




On Thursday, we had reserved an RV spot and a tent spot in the field belonging to St. John's Lutheran Church. We set up camp. My sister and her family had a much longer drive, from Santa Fe--about 10 hours--but she was the one who wanted this so bad. So there we all were, hoping there wouldn't be too many clouds in the morning. All piled into an RV and a tent with 11 hopeful people and three confused dogs.

We woke up in the morning to a lot of fog in the sky. It made us nervous, but people said it'd quickly burn off with the sun and it did. We sat around snacking and drinking and enjoying the company, watching the clouds, hoping they'd leave.

Then the eclipse started. We could use our eclipse glasses and see a tiny "bite" taken out of the sun. Here it comes! We were starting to get excited, but had to wait a good long hour and then some before totality.

Then, about 20-30 minutes away from totality, we started to noticed the temperature drop and the light changed. It is very difficult to say how the light and your surroundings look different. Hard to put words to it, but we said it looked like we were looking at film or a movie instead of real life. Shadows became extremely contrasted and sharp. The only time I've experienced something like this is when we have huge forest fires in the summer here in Colorado, and the smoke causes the light to be filtered in this strange way. I can tell if there's a fire just by looking at the light on the pavement outside my house. It's not exactly like that, but it's the only thing that compares.

The world around us was growing darker, but more vivid thanks to the contrast, and it felt like dusk but there was no sunset.

When we hit about 2 minutes to totality, all of the above became even more dramatic. It was chilly, dark, and strange out, but you still couldn't look at the sun without eclipse glasses, it was as intense as always!

Very suddenly it's not dusk anymore, it's twilight, or even night if it weren't for the 360 degree sunset {yes, the whole horizon has a sunset}. I watched for the shadow from the northeast but I didn't catch it. People were hooting, howling, and cheering. I knew it was time, finally safe to look without my glasses so I turned to see what I expected to see because I've seen so many photos lately of what total solar eclipses look like.

Yes, I'd expected to see what I saw. How is it possible that I was expecting to see this, but it still took my breath away? I hate the sound of my own voice, but in the video below you can hear me exclaim, "Oh my GOSH!" and it is quite genuine. Just know that. I was moonstruck. 

I have seen a million skies. But I had never seen this sky. With logic and reason I understood that I was watching a total solar eclipse in real life, but what I was seeing still made no sense to my eyes. An inky black hole where there shouldn't be one, with wisps of silvery hairs forming a wreath around it. At the cusp of the black hole were sparkling stars shimmering. It was otherworldly.

It was not what we know is the sun. It was not what we know is the moon. It was completely foreign in our sky. The sun and moon had cooperated for once to show us something glorious. I felt like I saw something sacred. Six buses of Sioux kids and their chaperones had joined us shortly before the eclipse. They were chanting something pretty in their Native American tongue that made the moment even more surreal.

A pink star formed on the side where the first "bite" had been taken out of the sun, and we knew this brief moment--all of two minutes and thirty seconds--was all we would get of this most beautiful sight. This thing that was both sun and moon and also neither of those things, you want to beg it not to leave. Frustratingly, cameras don't capture it as large and lustrous as it is in real life. Cheers and howling resumed as the totality ended. We didn't want it to end. Ever.

But I suppose if this were something I got to see all the time, it might not have been as gorgeous. I have seen thousands of pretty sunsets and tens of shooting stars. I've seen blood moons and full moons rising bloated and yellow over the eastern horizon. I have viewed the sun through a telescope, and have been fascinated by coronal mass ejections. {I'm a big fan of the cosmic stuff, actually.} But I had never seen this sky until today.

I realized I'd just crossed something off my bucket list that I hadn't realized was written on there. Because I don't usually put science fiction experiences on my bucket list. 

Now, if you know me then you know I've very effusive like my mom. Not everyone reacts with the same gusto. Like my husband, who said, "That was cool." And that's about it. But all reactions are valid. Effusive or not. But if I've even made you second guess how you spent August 21, 2017 even just a little...then please start making plans for 2024 right now. 

Now I'll share this video of our eclipse watching moment.

A few notes:
1. It was much darker in real life than my smart phone camera shows. My camera--as you'll hear me start to say in the video but not finish--"does a good job" of adjusting to the dark lighting. 

2. My family can be heard yelling things like, "get him off the car!" and "yes!! NOW is the time to look!!! LOOK!!!" and such. Don't be alarmed. That's just how we are. We're not angry people. We're just loud.

3. My camera is first faced northwest because I was hoping to see/catch the shadow that moves 1450mph over the earth. You can see it best on a hill, and it happens in a flash at the moment totality occurs, and it sometimes makes people scream if they see it.





This video was also taken by the news in Alliance, Nebraska. Yes, we did visit Carhenge on our way out of town. But this video does a better job of showing how dark it gets. 




Was it worth it? Was it worth the last minute scramble to get to Nebraska with 11 people? Yes. It was worth the 4 hour drive there and the 8 hour drive back through Wyoming. I could also wax spiritual about how God hung the moon and the sun and set them on this schedule and how blessed I feel to have laid eyes on this solar phenomenon before I die. 

The sunset over the Rocky Mountains on our {long stop-and-go} drive home was pretty lovely too though. 


sunsetaug212017 Cheers,
Heather









Heihei survived a fox attack, now she takes nobody's flak. This is King Snow. He has to go. Oh, but he is handsome. On his head,...

Garden of Chaos

Heihei survived a fox attack, now she takes nobody's flak.

Garden of Chaos

This is King Snow. He has to go.

Garden of Chaos

Oh, but he is handsome. On his head, there is a ransom.

Garden of Chaos

Eggs every day, cooked every way.

Garden of Chaos

Wisteria finally climbing, such peculiar timing.

Garden of Chaos

Morning Glory vines compete, wants to cover fence complete.

Garden of Chaos

In back, thanks to soil so loaming, every which way squash are roaming.

Garden of Chaos

Squash blossoms curled like fingers, soon suddenly zucchini lingers.

Garden of Chaos

Mother says, "Quick! Go on, now pick!"
Before too big, get that squash!
We'll take it in and we will wash."

Garden of Chaos

Hidden deep we then find, a pure white pumpkin beneath the vine.

Garden of Chaos

When it comes to all our carrot, we're not so sure we want to share it.

carrots of chaos

But zucchini we have way too much, best give to friends for soup and such.

zucchini bowl

And now so patiently we wait, for tomatoes red enough to plate.

Garden of Chaos

And sometimes we all start fights, for who gets carrot-picking rights.

Garden of Chaos

Oh, here is something I did sprout, to make our beloved sauerkraut!

Garden of Chaos

The dog looks up and says, "No beef? In this garden full of leaf?"

Garden of Chaos

But look! I grew onions right from seed. They have been a pain to weed.

Garden of Chaos

Finally tomatoes blush so red, canning salsa lies ahead!

Garden of Chaos

Infant in all the flora and fauna, buds future eggplant parmigiana.

Garden of Chaos

Here a pretty cabbage grew, I captured it with pretty dew.

Garden of Chaos

If plump and orange this pumpkin plan turn, he will be our jack-o'-lantern.

Garden of Chaos

Now see how grows our morning glory, this the end of our garden story.

Garden of Chaos


Cheers,
Heather

Are you ready for the most addictive, amazing, easiest snack you've ever tried?! It's like puffs of toffee with a hint of heat on a ...

Jalapeño Puff Corn

Are you ready for the most addictive, amazing, easiest snack you've ever tried?! It's like puffs of toffee with a hint of heat on a melt-in-your-mouth texture.

Jalapeno Crack Corn

The jalapeño is optional. You can make this without any heat, and it will be just as addictive. There's even a few variations I'll list at the end, because you can really do so much with additional flavors.

So we were visiting a friend at his work recently and we toured a nearby boutique with him because he knew I'd love it, the kind with all the crafty vendors, and on sample was the most AMAZINGLY ADDICTIVE snack I've ever had. I bought two bags. Then we went back a few days later and bought two more bags. But they weren't cheap, and so I realized that if we were going to keep enjoying "crack corn", that I needed to learn to make it myself.

But believe it or not, this is one recipe that Pinterest hasn't kicked around the world five times over yet. It was a little hard to track down the right way to do it, and no one had recipes that included jalapeños. I had to trial and error it and figure it out myself. So here I go...here's my recipe:

Jalapeno Crack Corn

Even finding the puff corn was a bit tricky at first. This is NOT popcorn. It's like what Pirate's Booty is made out of. But you want to get either plain unflavored, or butter. Either will work just fine. But I couldn't find it at regular grocery stores around here, like our Kroger store. I eventually found two varieties at Walmart. Either Great Value or Chester's. Just don't buy the cheese flavor. Unless you're into that kind of thing...

Also needed is baking soda, butter, jalapeños*, corn syrup, and brown sugar.

Jalapeno Crack Corn

It's easy as pie, you just melt 1 cup of butter with 1/2 cup of corn syrup and 1 cup brown sugar.

Jalapeno Crack Corn

If you like a hint of heat with your sweet, chop up two jalapeños (seeds discarded of course) and toss that in there too.

Jalapeno Crack Corn

This will give you MILD heat. Trust me, it's not much at all. You can even add more pepper flavor by tossing a bit of a green hot sauce in there. It's up to you. I like a lot of heat, but my kids are still sensitive to it.

Jalapeno Crack Corn

Bring it to a boil and boil for two minutes. When two minutes is up, add in one teaspoon of baking soda and stir it in. It will foam up on you, this is good. This is what we want.

Jalapeno Crack Corn

Pour it all over the puff corn, which you should have ready in a roasting pan.

Jalapeno Crack Corn

And toss it really well to coat.

Jalapeno Crack Corn

Pop it in the oven at 250 degrees for 30 minutes. IMPORTANT: toss it every 10 minutes or so until it's done. The caramel will drip to the bottom a bit, and pieces left up at the top heat will become darker with a toffee-like finish if it's not well tossed occasionally.

Jalapeno Crack Corn

When it's done, immediately turn it out onto wax or parchment paper on your counter. It cools quickly, so break up any large pieces stuck together pretty quickly.

Jalapeno Crack Corn

And then watch it disappear.

Jalapeno Crack Corn

Or, before it has a chance to disappear, bag it up cute to give it away. I gave it as teacher's gifts at the end of our homeschool enrichment program year.

Jalapeno Crack Corn

It makes a great gift. In fact, it's better to give it away before you can inhale it all yourself. Because you will, if given the chance. You will.

Jalapeno Crack Corn

I mentioned flavor options so here are some I've seen that might be just as yummy as jalapeño!

- Sea salt, lightly sprinkled on at the end while cooling
- Sriracha, a squirt or two into the melting butter and sugar
- Cinnamon sugar, tossed on at the end
- Maple, syrup or extract added during the melting butter phase
- Toffee, let the stuff bake a little longer, tossing a little less
- Peanut butter, google this, because I know I saw it somewhere

OR, just go plain old caramel flavor! It's delicious either way. The crunch combined with the melt-in-your-mouth puff corn is such a treat.
Jalapeno Crack Corn

RECIPE:

8 oz puff corn {Great Value brand is 4.5 oz/bag, so just shy of two bags is perfect}
1 cup butter
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup corn syrup
2 jalapeño, diced (optional)
1 teaspoon baking soda

DIRECTIONS:

1. Preheat the oven to 250 degrees. Pour corn puffs into roasting pan or large oven safe dish.
2.  Melt the butter, sugar, and corn syrup together in a saucepan. Add the jalapeño while melting, and any additional desired hot sauce. Bring to boil and boil for two minutes.
3. Add baking soda and stir in until combined and foamy. Immediately pour foamy caramel all over puff corn. Toss well to coat as much of the puff corn as possible.
4. Bake puff corn in oven for 30 minutes, tossing every ten minutes until done. Pour out onto parchment or wax paper and cool, breaking up large pieces stuck together.
Enjoy!

Cheers,
Heather