Friday, July 29, 2011

So Fresh and So Clean Part 4!

In my never-ending quest to be cleaner and greener, I've tried a homemade furniture polish. Here's my video:

**Warning: if you get motion sickness, you might want to look away - this is definitely the worst video yet**

Version 1:
1/4 c. lemon juice
1/2 t. olive oil

Version 2:
1/4 c. vinegar
1/2 t. olive oil

So after letting that sit and dry for awhile, we found that  a. our coffee table is clean and fresh, b. our coffee table is shiny and polished, and c. we did without using harsh chemicals. Now here's my brutal honesty: I definitely don't feel comfortable recommending this method for high-end and high-polished woods. Quite frankly, I'm not sure how great the acid from the vinegar/lemon juice is for polishes. But, for low-end quality stuff like what we have - hand-me-downs, thrift-store purchases, side-of-the-road pick-ups for college-aged and young people like's definitely something you may be interested in. But again, I have to be honest - I'm not in love with this polish. After awhile, it's a tad bit sticky (although that may be because I used fresh-squeezed lemon juice instead of the bottled kind - because we never use that and therefore never buy it) and lacks the "super high polish" look we get from the Orange-Glo and Old English polish. It may also be because I had to halve the recipe because I only had 1/8 c. lemon juice...maybe there just wasn't enough olive oil in 1/4 teaspoon.

And there it is, folks.  I just realized that I actually used 1/8 teaspoon of olive oil, and not 1/4 teaspoon when I halved my recipe - mental math fail. So this post may, in fact, be a total bust. I shall try again (with correct amounts of lemon juice and olive oil)...


So after my miscalculation, I went ahead and mixed together a new polish to try out:

This mixture definitely worked better than the first one - I was very pleased with the results. I still stick by my first comment on not recommending it for high-end furnitures with high-gloss finishes...but for your average run of the mill furniture, it works pretty darn well! No discoloration, no weird smells, spots, stains, streaks, or sticky spots.

I'd still rather use lemon juice than vinegar, because I love a clean citrus smell, but that'll have to wait until next time.


P.S. If you get the urge to try this out, let me know how it works out for you. I'd love any feedback on your organic/home-made cleaning products.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

So Fresh and So Clean Part 3!

This organic cleaning is becoming an obsession - but it's so cheap and easy (and so good for Mother Nature), it's hard not be excited about it.

This segment is over the window, glass, and chrome cleaner that I mentioned in yesterday's post.

There's two versions of this cleaner (in case you don't want to purchase Dr. Bronner's - although I can't imagine why you wouldn't - it's amazing!)

Version 1:
1 c. water
1 c. vinegar
1/2 t. Dr. Bronner's

Cost: $0.10 for two cups of cleaner

Version 2 (cost: $0.09):
5 parts water
1 part vinegar

Cost: ~$0.09 per cup of vinegar used

Windex: $1.44 for two cups ($2.87 for 32 oz. bottle)*
Invisible Glass: $2.00 for two cups ($2.75 for 22 oz. bottle)**

*(Priced from Walmart online)
**(Priced from Amazon online)

And I've found, with any glass/window cleaner - you want to use as dry a cloth/paper towel as possible because it's way less streaky. Although, the first time I used my home-made cleaner I used a damp paper towel on our bathroom mirror and it ended up so clear and streak-free that I stood amazed for several seconds. I've also read that newspaper and coffee filters work really great on glass and mirrors - although I've never tried it myself.

Happy Cleaning!


Wednesday, July 27, 2011

So Fresh and So Clean Part 2!

So I don't know about you...but I'm super excited and on-board with all this organic cleaning. Here's our video on how to make your own All-Purpose Surface Cleaner!

To Recap: this stuff is seriously great - we use it for everything from cleaning out Anya's cage after she has a wee little accident (I threw that little pun in just for fun! and I rhymed - free of charge), to cleaning up our kitchen counters, and bathroom surfaces. Basically for anything you'd use spic-n-span or 409 or stuff like that. We even use it to mop our kitchen floor, since it's cheap linoleum tiles. The best part is, since it's organic and there's no harsh chemicals - I feel much better about using my countertops as a surface for preparing foods (i.e. rolling out tortilla dough). (And for those of you who know me really well, you know I'm a total germaphobe - so now I'm okay with setting down a piece of bread or an apple onto the actual kitchen counter - yay!)

Here's your measurements:

1  28-32 oz. spray bottle (I recommend buying new so there's no residual chemicals in the bottle)
2  c. water
1/2  c. white vinegar
3/4  c. hydrogen peroxide
1  t. Dr. Bronner's
20  drops tee tree oil (not necessary if you buy the Dr. Bronner's with Tea Tree Oil in it.)
Optional: 20 drops lavender essential oil (for the smell)

Just for fun, I thought I'd show you the costs:

Spray Bottle - $1.00
Water - (essentially) free
White Vinegar - $ 0.09
Hydrogen Peroxide - 0.18
Dr. Bronner's - $ 0.01

That's a grand total of $1.28 for 26 oz. of my all-purpose spray. And that includes the $1.00 for the spray bottle, which is a one-time purchase, so from here on out it'll only be $0.28 - you just can't beat that. But let's compare*, shall we?

Fantastik -  26 oz. for  $9.75
Fabuloso -  26 oz. for  $3.05
Spic-n-Span -  26 oz. for  $1.48
Mr. Clean -  26 oz. for  $2.92
409 -  26 oz. for  $4.05

*These prices came from Amazon - and they don't include tax or shipping. 

I think you get the idea - cheap! The closest that compares to the organic stuff we make is Spic-N-Span - which is what Stephen and I used before. We got it at the Dollar Tree, so it was only a buck, which technically makes it cheaper than what we use (at least for the first time purchasing the spray bottle - after this ours will always be cheaper) - but we get the added bonus of a chemical-free cleaner, which Spic-n-Span definitely isn't. And, we've found that the organic cleaner we use cuts through grease, grime, gunk, and soap scum just as well as the Spic-n-Span did (if not better). And if it dribbles on the floor and Anya runs to lick it up (yup - it's happened), I don't have a panic attack worrying if it's going to make her sick. And if you find that it's not quite cutting through grease and grime the way you want it to, just add another teaspoon of Dr. Bronner's (we ended up doing that after making the video, bringing the cost of our cleaner up a whopping  ONE CENT) - different dilutions will have different cleaning strengths. For super tough stains or dirt, you can dab it undiluted and it won't harm any surfaces (carpet, tile, wood, granite, formica, etc.) because it's all-natural, baby!

So once again we have economically smart and ecologically safe - two of our favorite things! If you're not at least looking into organic cleaning - you're being silly!


P.S. When you're making your own surface cleaner (or any type of cleaner), you're cutting down on waste by not buying plastic bottles every time you run out. And Dr. Bronner's soaps come in biodegradable containers - naturally!

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

So Fresh and So Clean!

**Warning!: I am not good on camera.**

However, bear with me because the information is totally worth my bad on-camera persona.

To Recap: Stephen and I are trying to move away from using harsh, icky chemicals for cleaning our house to using all natural and organic cleaners. There are two reasons you should do the same:

1. It's organic! - It exposes you and your family to less chemicals and it's good for the Earth - which is always cool.

2. It's cheap! - White vinegar is like $1.50 a gallon and baking soda is super cheap too (I can't find the price online...but you've bought it know). And I only used maybe a cup of each. Those expensive (and nasty smelling) chemically cleaners are way more than that.

So here's your step-by-step:

1. Rinse out your sink and get rid of any residual food scraps (running your garberator if necessary).
2. Dump about 1/2 - 1 cup of baking soda into your sink drain.
3. Pour 1/2 - 1 cup of white vinegar down the sink drain.
4. Get excited watching the scientific reaction - aka bubbles!
5. Run about a gallon of boiling hot water down the drain - or until all the baking soda film is gone.
6. Marvel and enjoy your clean sink drain!

I totally recommend this method of drain-cleaning - our sink smells so fresh (aka like nothing at all) and is squeaky clean - and BONUS: I didn't have to get my hands icky. No scrubbing or putting on gloves to deal with harsh cleaners! So try it - you know you want to. (Extra bonus: you get to watch it bubble like those school science project volcanoes.)


**Update: According to Stephen (via his father - who used to own his own plumbing business) you can use this method repeatedly for drains that are slow (aka clogged with soap, grease, etc.)**

Monday, July 18, 2011

Destination Monday #11

Alas, the end of summer is near (especially for me, as I will be starting my professional career in educating the youth of america...), so sadly, that means the end of our Destination Mondays Segment. I know we've enjoyed virtually traveling the past couple of months and we hope you have, too! So, for our final destination point...

Kansas City...

...Kansas City, here we come! (I couldn't resist - I mean, our city has it's own song.)

Located smack dab in the middle of the country is our lovely city (well, it's lovely in the spring, winter, and fall - it's way too hot to enjoy in the summer to be honest). Now technically (for those of you out-of-state-who-don't-quite-understand-the-kansas-missouri-kansas-city-thing), Kansas City (the city) is located in both Kansas and Missouri, especially when you take into account the metropolitan areas. I believe we have one of the largest (space-wise) metropolitan areas in the country. Anyways, what you need to know is, all the good stuff is in Kansas City, Missouri. Kansas City, Kansas is kinda whatever (except for The Legends shopping area (huge), The Kansas Speedway (nascar), and the brand-spankin-new Livestrong Sporting Park (home of Sporting Kansas City - the former Wizards soccer team)). 

On the Missouri side of things, there's lots to see and do. Let's start with dining (my favorite):

BBQ: Danny Edwards, Smokestack, Arthur Bryant's, Oklahoma Joe's, and Smokehouse. There's a bunch more on Food Network (there was a Kansas City tour on "Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives" - cause our barbeque is delicious). 

Outside of BBQ, there are a couple of awesome places you just cannot skip. These include Hayes Hamburgers (a great diner) and Stroud's - best friend chicken, period. And, as far as more fancy restaurants go - check out Piropos (or any of the other restaurants in Briarcliff Villiage). 

There's also The Phoenix, located downtown, and The Blue Room (located in the American Jazz Museum - for great live jazz. 

Another fun thing to do in KC is go to a Royals game at Kauffman Stadium (located next to Arrowhead Stadium, home of The Chiefs): 

It's all redone and whatnot (you can watch the baseball game from seats in the outfield - it's a pretty neat view) and there's even a new mini-museum that's got lots of historical and cool stuff (mostly focusing on how the Royals used to be awesome):

You can also check out Kansas City's newest sports team - the Missouri Mavericks - our Hockey Team (they're actually really good!). 

If sports aren't your thing - then maybe Art Museum's are more your taste, in which case you absolutely must check out The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art

Stephen and I outside of The Nelson-Atkins

It's superb. There are so many great exhibits and fantastic pieces of art. And it's doubly great on super-hot days (not unlike today) to hang out in the ac and look at art. 

Stephen and I checking out the art inside the Museum.

While you're downtown you can also check out the Liberty Memorial  - which has the only World War 1 Museum in the country. I've never actually been inside - but the view of the city from the monument is unparalleled: 

Downtown Kansas City from the WWI Memorial.

You can see Union Station, and The Convention Center and Music Hall, The Sprint Center, and The Power & Light District (lots of bars and music - very popular night scene). 

You can also see the sparkling new performing arts building (Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts) - home of the Kansas City Symphony and The Kansas City Ballet. You can't imagine my family's excitement on checking it out this coming fall when it opens. 

The Performing Arts Center  is the silver bumpy things in the upper left-hand corner,
under the spikey things (which are artsy towers over the convention center).

This is the WWI Memorial building and tower -
there's always a fire burning in it to symbolize remembrance,
or something like that. It's neat. 
Just a bit north of downtown KC (in North Kansas City - smart name, huh?), you can check out a really awesome old theatre - it just so happens to be where Stephen and I had our wedding reception:

It's called The Screenland Armour Threatre

During the Summer in KC you can check out Shakespeare in the Park during the Heart of America Shakespeare Festival, which is held at Southmoreland Park, or play in one of the many city fountains. (We are, after all, The City of Fountains.)

Year round, you can check out The Folly Theatre, Crown Center (a pretty cool shopping center), or walk across the street to Union Station and hit up an exhibit or Science City (seriously fun for kids). There's also Kaleidoscope, a sciencey-fun place for kids. (and Nelson-Atkin's holds summer classes for kids - Carl and I did that one summer when we were probably five or six)

Another place you totally need to check out is The Plaza  (modeled after Seville, Spain). And you have to go at Christmastime, because of The Plaza Lights (the entire place decks itself out in Christmas Cheer.) You can walk around or take horse-drawn carriage rides through the area, checking out everything from a million great restaurants and bars to bookstores, science stores, The Apple Store,  and other fancy-shmancy stores. 

The Plaza, at Christmas.

All in all - Kansas City's not a horrible place. Especially after Stephen and I found all this free stuff you can do...including tours of the Boulevard Brewing Company and City Market. We also got really excited when we found this link to 10 Quirky Attractions in KC...such as The Airline History MuseumThe Toy and Miniature Museum, and the 1950's All-Electric House. Those are definitely on our To-Do List.

Hopefully those of you who don't live here come and visit, and those of you who do live here have found something new or rediscovered something to do here! (Seriously, check out the Visit KC website - they've got tons of ideas. I'm only disappointed we didn't discover this site years ago!)

And thanks for "traveling" with us this summer!

Vanessa & Stephen - Your Destination Mondays Travel Guides.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

A Character is a Caricature.

Out of all the different aspects of literature, the characters are my favorite. If you're anything like me, they become real people. They're no longer inventions of the author, mere chattels of a larger plan.

Some of my favs: 

Annabeth Chase - "Percy Jackson and The Olympians" by Rick Riordan - She's intense. She never gives up, and always fights for what she wants, whether it's winning a battle of finding Percy when he's lost. She's argumentative, bossy, and strong. 

Jay Gatsby - "The Great Gatsby" by F. Scott Fitzgerald - now, he's not the greatest person out of all the characters I like, in fact he's a bit close-minded, and completely unable to face the changes in his life or losing Daisy. The entire life he creates for himself is to get her back - and while that's unhealthy behavior - I can't help but love him for it. It's a fascinating aspect to think about someone who is that stuck outside of reality. 

Luxa - "The Underland Chronicles"  by Suzanne Collins - Unyielding, almost to a fault, but she's willing to do anything for her people (she's the future queen of Regalia), even if it means risking her own life. And I love the dynamic between her and Gregor...

Gregor - "The Underland Chronicles" by Suzanne Collins - His dedication to his younger sister is admirable, as is the way he commits himself to helping out Luxa and the Underlanders. He's willing to make alliances between different species of animals, when the Underlanders refuse to, and his sacrifices help the Underlanders survive the war. 

Dexter - "Dexter" on Showtime - Technically, he's a literary character from Jeff Lindsay's novels, but I like the TV version better - and yes, he's a serial killer - but he doesn't necessarily want to be. Plus, he's a serial killer who kills other serial killers and murderers. He has a set of codes and rules that he follows and he tries to be a good person, and tries to have the emotions of a normal person. How can you not love him? 

Dana Scully - "The X-Files" - Yes, another TV show...but I love her (almost as much as I love David Duchovny - okay...not quite that much). She's intelligent, and uses her science to prove Mulder wrong (or right, as the series progresses). She sacrifices everything for Mulder and follows him often blindly, and yet keeps him grounded and focused and with purpose. She doesn't let the fact that she's a woman, or working on the X-Files, get in the way of progress (in the FBI, in cases they work, in finding Mulder, or in her life, later on). 

and while we're on a tv roll (and speaking of David Duchovny)...

Hank Moody - "Californication" - He's rude. He's crude. He's addicted to all things dirty - but he's hilarious, witty, smart, and impossible not to love. And even in all of his self-destruction, he loves his daughter and semi-wife-girlfriend, and does whatever he can to be with them. He's unapologetic - and totally awesome. 

Sam Gamgee - "The Lord of the Rings" by J.R.R. Tolkein - probably the most loyal character of all time, sticking with Frodo through the worst of situations - following him to the end, doing his best to take care of him. He's the definition of a loyal friend.

Hermione Granger - "Harry Potter" by J.K. Rowling - because the most important thing to her is her schoolwork and succeeding in learning and yet she gives it all up for Harry and the quest to defeat Voldemort. She never once complains when they don't have enough food, or when things are going horribly when she, Harry, and Ron are out in the world searching for Horcruxes, and she always does more than is expected of her. She is one of the greatest characters in literature with the best type of character.

Gwynplaine - "The Man Who Laughs" by Victor Hugo - He's selfless, doing everything for Dea, and even though he spends his entire life being laughed at and made a clown for the smile permanently carved onto his face, he's a good person. He remains that good person, even after being made a member of The Peerage and given all the worldly goods he could have, and wants nothing more than to be back in his traveling carriage with Dea and Ursus. 

And a few others you aren't familiar with...

Who are your favorite characters? Seriously, who do you like? 


Monday, July 11, 2011

Destination Monday #10

"Aruba, Jamaica, ooo I want to take you
to Bermuda, Bahama, come on pretty mama,
Key Largo, Montego, baby why don't we go
down to Kokomo. We'll get there fast and then
we'll take it slow. That's where we wanna go..."

This week we're checking out  Montego Bay, Jamaica!
(yeah, I just quoted the Beach Boys) 

For our honeymoon, Stephen's parents sent us to Montego Bay, Jamaica. We stayed at the Riu - an all-inclusive resort!
Watching planes fly off the island from the resort.

The Lobby was open-aired. 

And completely beautiful. 

They gave us free drinks when we arrived - oh, wait...
all the drinks and food were free - it was fantastic. But when we first arrived,
while we were checking in, they gave us a fruit punch and rum drink -
I know it's weird to be obsessed with fruit punch - but it was the BEST.

The doorknobs reminded me of Hobbit Houses. 

There was a bar right in our room - restocked whenever
it went empty (not that we could even dream of drinking that much!)

But we did drink a lot of the soda - it was all made of real sugar - aka delicious!

They upgraded our room since we were on our Honeymoon -
this was our view from our own personal balcony!

There was a huge pool with a swim-up bar - seriously fun. 

During the day they held activities and games in the pool - a lot of it was country vs. country,
which was really fun to watch. 

At night, there was always entertainment - musicians and performers.
Stephen and I would stop and get a drink, and then walk the beach and listen. It was relaxing. 

This is the other side of the hotel - the view from the hallway (which was open air as well)

The best part was that it was sunny and so warm -
especially in December when Missouri was getting two feet of snow and ice. 

Mostly Stephen and I laid on the beach. 

You could get massages on the beach. 

And during the day they had kayaks and paddle boats you could use,
or you could ride jet skis, or go scuba diving, sailing, or parasailing. 

Jamaica was really fun - there was so much to do at the resort, we never left - but you could go for bus tours as a part of the package, or take a bus over to a huge shopping center across the street. But we just mostly ate, swam, and relaxed. There was one main dining area where they served so much food - and all sorts of native dishes that were so great to try - and then there were 3 restaurants that you could make reservations to eat in - we ate in the Chinese one the last night (called the Kali) - it was some of the best chinese ever! The service was great, the resort was clean and beautiful and full of things to do (including way more eating and drinking than you'd ever normally do!) and if Jamaica's someplace you're interested in going - Stephen and I definitely recommend the Riu!

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

"The Learning Corner or SIY" - Part Two

In this installment of The Learning Corner (aka SIY: Stephen It Yourself), I will be discussing tires.  Having just purchased some myself, for our Ford Explorer, I though some of you might like to hear some facts and opinions about this often expensive and sometimes overwhelming purchase.  When purchasing tires it is always best to do your research.  Remember, tires are the only link between your car and the pavement.  If you purchase a tire that is of poor quality or of incorrect type this can pose a serious safety and handling problem with your vehicle.  

Choosing a tire can be a very difficult decision due to the large amount of options that are continually changing.  One thing you need to ask yourself is how you intend to use your vehicle.  Is it a truck that goes off road, are you going to be doing performance driving in your car, or is it a basic everyday vehicle that needs good traction in multiple conditions?  For most, all season or touring tires are a good choice for a car or van and all season and all-terrain are good choices for trucks and SUV’s.  Don’t go overkill with the all-terrain unless you need it.  These tires tend to have shorter tread life and are generally loud on the highway.  I suggested asking the opinions of friends, employees of the tire shops, and looking online (such as for reviews on tires to help guide your choice.  Also if you are happy with how your last set performed stick with the same tire.  No need to change how your vehicle handles if you do not feel the need for improvement. 

Tire Size:
Most auto manufacturers have a tire size specified for your car. Some may have a few options with a primary suggested size.  It is always best to stay with the suggest tire size.   Tire size looks just like some sort of code to most but I’ll break it down below.

Here is the tire size for the Explorer: LT235/70R15 102T M+S

In front of the size of the tire there is a letter.  This is for its application
·       P – Passenger
·       LT – Light Truck
·       ST – Special Trailer
·       T – Temporary (spare tire)

The actual size of the tire is expressed as series of numbers and letters ie. 235/70R15
·       235 – this first part is the tread width in millimeters
·       70  - this middle number is called an aspect ratio.  This is the ratio of tread width to sidewall height.  The larger the number the taller the sidewall.  Tires with low numbers like 35 and 40 have very short sidewalls and are found on large diameter wheels.
·       R – Radial tire (almost every automotive tire made today is a radial tire)
·       15 – This is the rim diameter in inches in this case 15 inches

Next is the load and speed rating, for our example this is 102T
·       102 – The higher the number, the higher the load rating (In this case its 1000kg or 2205 lbs per tire)
·       T – This is the speed rating.  The lower the letter of the alphabet, the higher the speed rating of the tire.  There were a few new ratings that were added and those are higher in the alphabet.  Best to stick with the manufacturer’s suggestion or with the tire installers.  This is the maximum speed that the tire is rated for traction, handling, and possible failure.

Other letters, such as the M+S:
·       These are different ratings for things such Mud and Snow
·       There are sometimes letters for white sidewalls, white letters, and other tire options.

Tread wear ratings
·       This is a grade given to rate the tread life of a tire. (ie: A, B, C…)  The higher the grade, the longer life expectancy.  Lower grades will not last as long and are typical on performance tires which are usually softer and sticker for better traction.

Tires need to be replaced when there is 2/32 of an inch of tread left or less.  This is the minimum to pass inspection.  You can easily gauge the tread depth by placing a penny upside down in the tread of the tire.  If the tread covers part of Lincoln’s head then it’s ok.  If the top of his head is visible then the tires need to be replaced.  Also if you notice a lot of cracking on the tire or are just suffering from poor traction or tread wear it’s a good idea to replace your tires.  Always replace at least two at a time but it’s best to replace all four.  The average life for most all season tires is 40,000 to 70,000 miles.  Some performance tires will only last 10,000 to 20,000 miles. 

It is a good idea to rotate your tires periodically.  Some oil change places will do this when you come in for an oil change.  Also some tire shops will offer this service for free after you get tires with them.  Its best to rotate every 6,000 to 10,000 miles.  This helps the tires wear evenly.  Another way to promote even wear is to have your car aligned periodically.  This needs to be done after any suspension or steering components are replaced or every two years. 

Proper tire pressure is a must for tread life and safety.  The proper pressure for your vehicle is located on a sticker, usually inside the driver’s door.  Always go by this and not the maximum pressure stamped on the side of the tire.  Always check the pressure when the tires are cold, before driving as the pressure given is a cold pressure.  After you drive the pressure may increase giving an incorrect reading.  A tire that is low can decrease gas mileage, cause increased wear, and an increase in temperature which can lead to tire failure or a blow out.  I usually recommend using a dial type pressure gauge or a digital one because these tend to be more accurate the slide style pressure gauges.  It is best to check your pressure at least once a month but every two weeks is best, especially if you are doing a lot of driving or hauling.

Consider buying your tires online.  I used and was able to save a decent amount.  Between a lower price per tire and no tax I was able to save even with the shipping costs.  Also shop around for shops to mount and balance.  Wal-Mart is the one of the cheapest.  My only problem with them and any tire shop is how tight they tighten the lug nuts.  Sometimes they torque them on too tight or unevenly which can make them difficult to get off or cause the brake rotors to warp faster.  If you are feeling handy then having a cheap torque wrench and checking this yourself after you get the tires installed is a definite plus. 

Happy Shopping,

Monday, July 4, 2011

Destination Monday #9

Since it's so darn hot...I'd really like to virtually travel to someplace cool...

...Breckenridge, Colorado!

Which has especially nice summers when you compare it to the 110* heat index we're dealing with here in Missouri - excuse me - Missery.

Map of Colorado.

Breckenridge, Colorado Trail Map. 

The great thing about going to Breckenridge is that you can stay at condos and resorts for way less than if you go during ski season, plus there's not tons of snow so it's easy to drive around and less-miserable to walk around the cute downtown area. The Mountain Thunder Lodge is a great lodge-like condo complex with a pool (not that it's warm enough to swim) and a hot tub (perfect for the cool mountain nights). Plus it's a short drive to everything. My family has stayed there twice, and we'd all like to stay there again.

View of the Mountains from Downtown Breckenridge, CO.

My favorite part about going to Colorado is the mountains - they're so beautiful! And so huge! The midwest is a pretty ugly part of the country (or at least Missouri is), so it's really awesome to look out the windows and see the mountains looming over. I'd definitely recommend taking the cable cars up the mountain - it's a relaxing ride with great views - especially from the top where you get off!

Photographed 2006: Cable Car Ride. 

There are hiking and biking trails you can take up and down the mountain side. 

There's a lodge at the top that you stop at to walk around. 

While in Colorado, you can rent bikes to ride around. We rode the Blue River Bikeway to Frisco. It's flat and through wooded areas and over the many streams - it's fun and relaxing. There's a shuttle between the two cities (Breckenridge and Frisco) that has multiple pick-up points and bike racks on the bus if you only want to ride one way (like we did). The bike path has access to multiple off-road hiking and biking trails as well as several parks. The trail also connects tot he Vail-Pass trail to continue on alongside 1-70 to Vail (although that's a bit too adventurous for me, personally).

If you look carefully in the top left you can just see the little brown lodge. 

View down the mountain. 

One of the things you ABSOLUTELY must do while in Breckenridge during the summer is the Alpine Slides - they are concrete slides built into the mountain. During the winter they're covered in snow, but in the summertime you ride glorified scooters down - it is the most fun you will ever have, period. They're like waterless-water slides - there's hills and quick turns as you literally fly down the mountain side. I cannot even express how much you need to do this!

One tiny portion of the Alpine Slides

View from the lodge at the top of the cable car ride. 

Colorado would be a very nice place to be right now. :)