Archive for July, 2011

So it’s probably clear that I am a big fan of Durango, CO.  I’ve been there in summer, fall and winter … and have always had a great time.

While I love the winters and skiing in Durango, summertime is my favorite.  Here’s my list of the top things to do in Durango during the summer months …

1)  Ride the Rapids

There are several rafting companies in Durango that offer river rafting on the Animas River.  If you’re brave and early enough in the summer (when there is a lot of water), you can raft the Upper Animas and get to experience class 4 and 5 rapids.  For the rest of us, the lower Animas is quite fun — especially after a winter with a lot of snow.

2)  Horseback Riding in the San Juan Mountains

We’ve used two different horseback riding outfits:  Rapp Coral and Buck’s Livery.   I like the trails best with Buck’s Livery (they are close to DMR and have some beautiful trails among the aspen trees and pretty lakes.  But Rapp Coral has the option to take the trails back to a cave — which is a fun experience.

3) Go jeeping in Ouray

Ouray is often called the “Little Switzerland of America”.  It’s a charming town located about 70 miles north of Durango.  You drive the “Million Dollar Highway” to get there — a beautiful drive, but many sharp turns and sheer dropoffs.

We always rent jeeps at Switzerland of America Jeeps.  They have amazing customer service and have the nicest jeeps in town.  They also are one of the few jeeping outfits that have 4-door jeeps for rent.

One of our favorite jeeping trails is Yankee Basin.  In early summer, the wildflowers are in full bloom and after a great winter, there are many waterfalls.

4) Eat outside at Ken & Sue’s in downtown Durango

Ken & Sue’s has the best food in town.  A while back they opened up the back for outdoor seating — which is perfect for a summer lunch or dinner.  While there are quite a few good restaurants in downtown Durango — Ken & Sue’s seems to be the locals’ favorite, too.

5)  Swim, Tube or Jump in the Rivers

While the rivers and lakes are quite cool, on a hot summer day, it’s great to tube, swim or even jump from the rocks into the crystal blue waters.  On the Animas River, there are several great places to get in and out of the river in town.  Outside of town, it’s a little more challenging to find public access to the river.

6)  Go for a hike and enjoy nature (and maybe even a picnic)

There are so many great hiking trails in the Durango area.  You ccan download trail maps off the Internet, depending on where you’re headed.

We always take a picnic lunch with us on our day of jeeping.  There are several great sandwich shops in Durango and Ouray.  And on most day trips, we do encounter some incredible wildlife.

7)  Enjoy Durango Mountain Resort (DMR) — the Alpine Slides, Zipline & Music in the Mountains.

At the Purgatory ski resort (now called DMR), there is an Alpine Slide, Zipline and Bungy Jump.  It can be a fun afternoon for the kids.  During the summer months, they also have Music in the Mountains — evening musical performances under the stars.

8)  Cool off at the Hot Springs

There are hot springs and swimming pools in both Durango and Ouray.  It’s nice to spend an afternoon at Trimble Natural Hot Springs — a few miles north of Durango.  You can also get spa treatments in addition to soaking in the pools or swimming in the Olympic-size pool.

There are many more things to do and see, depending on the length of your stay.  Here are a few other things on the list:

  • Farmer’s Market on Saturdays
  • Take a Glider Ride at the Durango Soaring Club
  • Zip through the Trees with Soaring Treetop Adventures
  • Ride the Durango-Silverton Narrow Gauge Train
  • Visit Mesa Verde

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During our stay in Durango, my sister made Snickerdoodle cookies … those yummy cookies that are rolled in cinnamon and sugar.  The kids devoured the cookies as quickly as they came out of the oven.  (The adults ate quite a few, too!)

My sister is quite the baker.  In fact, it’s her dream to move from Seattle to Durango (after her kids go off to college and are on their own) and open a bakery.  Jeff and I would love to have a vacation home in Durango by that time, so we’d be able to visit her bakery often!  We can all dream … right?

Anyway, my sis has tested several Snickerdoodle recipes and has determined that The Joy of Cooking recipe is the very best.  We all thought so!  Here you go …

Snickerdoodle Cookies

Makes 3 dozen, 3-inch cookies

1.  Preheat oven to 350º F.  Grease cookie sheets or line them with parchment paper.

2.  Whisk together until well blended the following:

  • 2 cups all-purpose Flour
  • 2 tsp. Cream of Tartar
  • 1 tsp. Baking Soda
  • 1/4 tsp. Salt
3.  Beat together in a large bowl:
  • 1 cup unsalted Butter, softened
  • 1  1/2 cups Sugar
4.  Add 2 large Eggs and continue beating until well combined.
5.  Add flour mixture to butter mixture and beat until smoothly incorporated.
6.  In a shallow bowl, combine:
  • 1/4 cup Sugar
  • 4 tsp. cinnamon
7.  Shape the dough into 1 1/4-inch balls.  (You can use a mellon baller to shape the dough.)  Roll the balls in cinnamon sugar mixture.  Arrange the dough balls about 2 3/4-inches apart on the cookie sheets.
8.  Bake, one pan at a time, until the cookies are light golden brown around the edges (8 to 10 minutes).  Rotate the cookie sheets halfway through baking for even browning.  Let cookies stand on sheets for a couple of minutes before transferring them to a wire rack to cool thoroughly.

NOTE:  These cookies are flatter than many other recipes for Snickerdoodles.  But, they are the best tasting Snickerdoodles!   Store airtight for several days or freeze for up to one month.  Enjoy!

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Can you say “WOW!?”  This is the home we rented for our Durango vacation.  Pictures surely won’t do it justice — as it was incredible!  It’s a 6000 sq. ft. home that had a great layout for the 15 of us (yes … 15 people.  8 adults and 7 kids).

The home (called Stone Creek) is located on a county road about 20 minutes north of downtown Durango.  There is a small stream in the front of the home (along with a pond) and a river in the back yard.

We found the home on vrbo (vacationrentalsbyowner.com).  It’s a great website that we’ve used many times to find vacation rentals.

This is the entry to the home.  The rooms were large and had great spaces for a large group.  When we first arrived, the kids ran through the entire house — screaming with excitement — as it was a very cool home for vacation.

This is the great room.  All 15 of us were able to hang out here while playing games like CatchPhrase and HiYaa.

Off the great room, there is a media room (with surround).  This is where the kids hung out in the mornings and evenings — watching movies and playing games.

The kitchen was huge, which made it great for meal prep for 15.  And, there was enough seating at the dining table and bar to fit all of us for dinner.

And now for the yard …

This is the back yard, looking at the back of the house.  There is a deck the follows the entire back half of the house … with a hot tub, a fireplace, a fire pit, a BBQ grill and large outdoor seating area.

One afternoon, we had a herd of elk come through the backyard.  There were at least 24 elk … all staring at us as we took pictures from the deck.

Can you believe that we had a zip line in the side yard?  Fun, fun, fun!!!!

And a trampoline, hammock, teepee and basketball court.

We could have “hung out” at the house — with plenty to do — our entire stay.  But, we did venture out each day.  Stay tuned for the “Best of Durango”.

A classic picture … the kids shoes in the entry hall!

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Destination: Durango

We just returned from a week long vacation in Durango, Colorado.  If you’ve never been, it’s a must on the vacation destination list!  It’s one of my most favorite places to vacation in the U.S.

Durango is located in the Southwest corner of Colorado.  It averages over 300 sunny days a year.  And, the scenery is breathtaking … red rock mountains, covered with pine and aspen trees; rivers and waterfalls, green meadows; snow capped mountains and a charming, historic downtown.

In winter, the Purgatory ski resort is one of the best places to ski (now called DMR – Durango Mountain Resort).  There are never lines for the lifts and the variety of terrain makes it great for intermediate to advanced skiers and boarders.

But in summer, Durango is the best outdoor playground for those that enjoy an active lifestyle. You can …

  • Hike, road bike, mountain bike
  • Swim in the hotsprings, rivers and lakes
  • Go jeeping in Durango, Silverton, Ouray (my fav), and Telluride
  • Horseback ride, River raft (class 2 to 5 rapids), Kayak, and Tube down the rivers
  • Zip line (this is relatively new) and alpine slide
  • For the very adventurous — cliff (and bridge) jump into the rivers

Stay tuned for the pictures of our “Durango Mountain Home” and the “Best of Durango” …

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I made grilled fish tacos the other night that were delicious!  I found the recipe in my new bon appetit magazine.  The recipe is definitely a keeper!  Such fresh, healthy, flavorful tacos … and very easy to make!   (Don’t let the list of ingredients scare you.)  I usually have most of these ingredients on hand.

As a bonus, I was able to purchase all the ingredients at Trader Joes!

Grilled Mahi-Mahi Tacos

4 Servings

Pico de Gallo Ingredients:

5 Plum Tomatoes, seeded and chopped

1/2 small Yellow Onion, finely chopped

4 Scallions, white and light green parts only, thinly sliced

1/2 cup fresh chopped Cilantro

1 tsp. fresh Lemon Juice (you can substitute Lime Juice)

1 tsp. chopped fresh Oregano

1 Jalapeno, stemmed, seeded & minced

Kosher Salt & freshly ground Black Pepper

Combine the first 7 ingredients in a medium bowl.  Season to taste with the salt and pepper.

Crema Ingredients:

1/4 cup Heavy Cream

2 Tbs. Sour Cream

Kosher Salt & freshly ground Black Pepper

Hot Sauce

Whisk cream and sour cream in a small bowl to blend.  Season to taste with salt, pepper, and hot sauce.

Taco Ingredients:

1 Tbs. Paprika

1 tsp. each of Garlic Powder, Onion Powder, Dried Oregano, Dried Thyme and Kosher Salt

1/2 tsp. freshly ground Black Pepper

1/4 tsp. Cayenne Pepper

1 lb. Mahi-Mahi fillet

Vegetable Oil (for brushing)

8  6-inch Corn Tortillas, warmed

1 cup finely shredded Cabbage

1 Lime, cut into wedges

1.  Heat gas grill (or build medium-hot fire in charcoal grill).

2.  Combine all the dried spices for tacos in a small bowl.  Sprinkle over the fish.

3.  Brush grill grate with oil.  Grill fish until cooked through, about 5 minutes per side (depending on size of fillets).

4.  Using a fork, coarsely shred the fish.  Fill tortillas with fish, cabbage and pico de gallo.  Drizzle with crema.  Squeeze fresh lime wedges over tacos.

NOTE:  I used Light Sour Cream and Half & Half for the Crema, as I had it in my fridge.  It made a great Crema sauce!  I often buy fresh Jalapenos at Trader Joes.  Most recipes call for 1 or 2 jalapenos, so I stem and seed the remaining jalapenos and freeze them.

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I don’t what it is about Texas Sheet Cake … but it’s always a contender as a dessert to serve when we’re barbequing with friends in the summer.

That’s what we’re making for the 4th.  It’s great served with vanilla icecream!!!  And it can feed an army!

Texas Sheet Cake

2 c. Sugar

2 c. Flour

1 t. Baking Soda

1/2 t. Salt

2 sticks of Butter

4 T. Hershey’s Cocoa

1/2 c. Buttermilk

2 Eggs

1 t. Vanilla

1.   Combine the dry ingredients.  Melt butter and cocoa in a saucepan.  Add 1 cup of water.  Bring to a rapic boil.  Pour hot mixture over the dry ingredients and mix well.  Add buttermilk, eggs and vanilla.

2.  Pour cake batter into a greased rimmed cookie sheet (jelly roll pan).  Bake at 350 degrees for 18 – 20 minutes.

When the cake has cooled, make the chocolate icing.


1 stick of Butter

4 T. Hershey’s Cocoa

6 T. Buttermilk

1 box of Powdered Sugar

1 t. Vanilla

1 c. chopped Nuts, optional.

1.  Melt the butter in a saucepan.  Add cocoa and buttermilk.  Bring to a rapid boil.  Remove from heat and add powdered sugar and vanilla.  Stir until smooth.  Pour frosting over the cake and spread to cover cake.

2.  If you wish to add nuts, sprinkle them over the tops immediately after frosting the cake.

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About once every four or five months, I head off (bright and early) to our local antique flea market.  They are held the first Sunday of the month.  There’s quite a bit of junk, but there are also hidden treasures.

These days, I continue to look for old bottles topped with seashells (and old architectural renderings — for my stairway gallery project).  Since it’s summertime, I like to find “seashell” additions.

I especially love the old blue milky bottles …. with or without seashells.

I have them displayed in my hallway built-ins — along with dishes that I found at HomeGoods (blue ones 6 years ago; white ones this past week).  Going for the red-white-and-blue look for our party here on the 4th.

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