Saturday, April 8, 2017

Spring Break Road Trip to New Mexico

(This post was originally written for the Stapleton Moms blog)

We've been in our house for about three years now and still have pretty bare walls. To remedy the situation, we decided to spend our spring break this year in New Mexico, and the art centers of Taos and Santa Fe are only a 5- to 6-hour scenic drive from Stapleton. It made for a great family road trip, so I wanted to share our experiences with you:

The incredibly stunning Spanish Peaks on the road to New Mexico

We stopped in Taos on our way to stay in Santa Fe, and visited the old Plaza area and a couple of galleries. We really liked an artist at gallery in Taos, but since we were just getting started, we filed it away for on our way home if we still liked his work best. (Spoiler: we did end up liking it best - see below for details and a special Stapleton Moms' promotion from the gallery!)

Hanging out with Padre Antonio Jose Martinez in the Taos Plaza

In addition to all the art and natural beauty, New Mexico is filled with a ton of history. We visited the oldest house in the U.S. (c. 1200) and the oldest church, which happen to be right next door to each other in Santa Fe. We also spent quite a bit of time in the old Plaza area in Santa Fe, which is larger than the one in Taos but very similar. Lots of great shops, restaurants, and galleries. We ate a lot of tasty New Mexican food (different than Mexican!) and had our fill of delicious sopaipillas.

Inside the San Miguel Mission (the under-floor dates from 1300) 

In the center of the Plaza

My daughter's favorite O'Keeffe painting
Our first full day in Santa Fe it rained and snowed, so we opted for a couple of the area's incredible museums. In addition to the oldest house and church, we visited the Georgia O'Keeffe Museum and the Museum of International Folk Art. At the O'Keeffe Museum they gave the kids sketch pads and pencils and encouraged them to make their own art as they walked, which I thought was a nice touch.

The Folk Art Museum is filled with dolls from around the world and other pieces of folk art, which the kids found fascinating (and slightly creepy at times). They also had an exhibit on the flamenco - my four-year-old son loved watching this clip of José Greco's dancing over and over again. In Lloyd's Treasure Chest we made origami swans and small, Japanese kites. It was a great mixture of look, listen, and feel for the kids.

A cold, wet day is perfect for visiting museums

We learned why so many artists flock to New Mexico - the natural beauty is breathtaking!

The kids with their magnetic kitties
The next day we checked out the Santa Fe Children's Museum, which was half inside and half outside, and full of fun family creative activities. We played with giant bubbles, conducted science experiments with ice, lifted ourselves with pulleys, built a domino creation to knock down, created sculptures with magnetic shapes, played giant musical instruments, made paper helicopters to launch, climbed, and more - it was marvelous!
Creating giant bubbles

Taking a whack at a giant xylophone

The weather was gorgeous in the afternoon, so we visited the famous Canyon Road, which has more than a hundred galleries on a relatively short strip. We visited 20-30 and got a better feel for the type of art we like and what we might want in our home. The kids looked at art and played a little Pokémon Go, so they were happy, too.

Getting up close and personal with some of the art on Canyon Road

Our final day in Santa Fe we visited Meow Wolf, which is an interactive art installation in an old bowling alley primarily funded by Game of Thrones' George R.R. Martin. Called "The House of Eternal Return," the installation is part theatre, part haunted house (without the scares but definitely with some creepy), part art installation, and part jungle gym. Our 4-year-old was rather nervous for the first 10 minutes, but then he really got into exploring. Both kids loved climbing through things like the fridge and the dryer and discovering other secret passages. We hear it actually might be coming to Denver!

Flying some kind of ship in an alternate dimension 

Taking a break to listen to nature sounds in the eyeball room

We ended our time in Santa Fe with a hike on the Black Canyon Trail just outside of town - it was cool enough at elevation that there was still a bit of snow on the ground. In a couple of weeks the area will be bursting with color!

Drumming on a downed tree

At the end of the hike with my boy...

On our way home we stopped in Taos again, because we couldn't stop thinking about the art we saw on our first day. The artist's name is Roberto Ugalde, who lives in Texas but is originally from Mexico. He has a unique way of using a palette knife and drip-painting with industrial oils to get really vivid colors and interesting shapes in his landscapes. We ended up commissioning a 48x48 painting from him (similar to the square one above my son's head to the right below) and are also purchasing a 24x48 or a set of 24x24 paintings as a diptych. Our house is about to be much more colorful - so excited!!

I just love his work!

Roberto is exclusively in the U.S. at the Michael McCormick and Sons Gallery in Taos, so we feel very fortunate to have stumbled upon this talented artist. We worked with Michael and Jamie on the best fit for our home - they were incredibly helpful and friendly. They even offered a promotion for Stapleton Moms readers - if you email them through their website and either like their Facebook page or follow them on Instagram, they will send you a free poster worth $50-60. You only need to cover shipping, which is roughly $12. Big thanks to Michael McCormick for this generous offer!

A few examples of their posters - they have dozens of different options if you have a request based on the art on their site

We had an amazing time and would absolutely visit again - gracias, New Mexico!

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Snow Mountain Ranch - Fun for the Whole Family!

(This post originally written for the Stapleton Moms blog)

Last weekend, my family and I headed up to the YMCA Snow Mountain Ranch for a little wintertime getaway. We hadn't been there before, so didn't know what to expect, and were all delighted. The grounds are beautiful, the weather clear, and there were so many activities to choose from, we feel like we need to go back to do more! Since it's only two hours from Denver, that makes it easy!

We visited during one of the "Break the Ice Weekends," so had even more choices for activities. We started Saturday morning with a free guided snowshoe tour to an old gold mine. None of us had ever been snowshoeing before, so were excited to give it a try. My daughter is 9 and took to it like she'd been doing her whole life - on the return she was the one leading everyone. Our 4-year-old got a little cold (it was about 9 degrees out that morning), but loved the halfway-point stop for hot chocolate and a cookie by the fire.

We found the gold mine!

Since it was a pretty chilly day and we'd had a big morning, we opted for indoor activities for most of the afternoon. We started with archery lessons at the Kiva center, which has been something I've wanted to do since I was a Robin Hood-obsessed kid. My husband and daughter were the best shot, but all of us hit the target more than once.

After archery we stayed at the Kiva center and rollerskated and played a little basketball. My 80s childhood rollerskills came in handy, and the kids loved the skating so much we came back for more on Sunday afternoon.

Next it was s'mores making at the campfire and some art at the Craft Center. There are a ton of craft options for both kids and adults for just $5. They offered a glass fusion class (making beautiful pendants) one morning, but we didn't make it. My daughter could have stayed at the Craft Center her whole weekend - poster coloring, painting (canvas and ceramic), leatherworking... Such a fun place!


Sunday morning we opted for tubing - a family favorite - and the kids played some "King of the Mountain" since there were tons of giant piles of snow. There was no fee to use the tubes, so we each got one, which we hadn't done before at places where you have to rent the tubes individually. It was a blast hooking up and all going down the hill together!

After lunch we returned to the Kiva center for more rollerskating and basketball, plus a little volleyball and air hockey. 

There were so many activities, we felt like we could have stayed a week and not run out of things to do. My husband and I really wanted to cross-country ski, the kids wanted to check out the pool, and we would have loved to fit in ice skating and the indoor climbing wall. Next time! Other activities include sleigh rides, dog sled rides, yoga, snow games, animal tracking, weird science, Little Explorers club, curling, evening movies... So much to do!

Snow Mountain Ranch and YMCA of the Rockies are currently offering Snowtacular specials if you want to check them out - you can even bring your pets! (In cabins, that is, as pets aren’t allowed in the lodge rooms...)

Snow Mountain Ranch:

January 2 – March 4: Stay three nights in an Indian Peaks lodge room at Snow Mountain Ranch for just $328 (includes two free breakfasts per night booked) Or, stay four nights in a three-bedroom cabin at Snow Mountain Ranch for one low price of $792.

April 2 – April 15: Stay three nights in an Indian Peaks lodge room at Snow Mountain Ranch for just $168 (includes two free breakfasts per night booked) Or, stay four nights in a three-bedroom cabin at Snow Mountain Ranch for one low price of $582.

At Estes Park Center: 

Stay three nights in a Central Lodge Room at YMCA of the Rockies – Estes Park Center for one low price of $168 (includes two free breakfasts per night booked). Or, stay four nights in a three-bedroom cabin at at YMCA of the Rockies – Estes Park Center for one low price of $582.

Plus, pets are allowed in cabins for just a $15 fee per pet/per night with a max of 2 pets per cabin – just in case the four-legged family members are coming along.

Guest post by Mindee Forman

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Family Trip to Los Cabos, Mexico

[ Versión en español abajo ]

For my mom and stepfather's 70th birthdays this year, Mom's three girls and their families took them on a week-long vacation to Mexico. We've never traveled like this as a group before (there were 14 of us!) and we had a BLAST. We stayed in between Cabo San Lucas and San José del Cabo (closer to the latter) in an amazing villa that had room for all of us and then some.

Here are some highlights from our trip:

Our villa contact greeted us with margaritas and chips and salsa - great way to start a vacation!

The view from our villa - we were one row off the ocean

The pool and hot tub were huge hits - a great deal of time was spent here every day

It made such a nice place to play and relax, and Sean's swimming really improved during the week (his favorite was doing "Hammonballs" from "The Sandlot" [ video here ] - it's supposed to be more cannonball shaped)

Some of the aforementioned relaxing...

We celebrated Father's Day Mexican-style with all our awesome dads

This was the private beach behind our villa - not great for swimming, but a fun place to play in the surf, take a walk, or look for shells (which Claire loved)

Oh, and beach soccer, of course...

I spent much of the time taking pictures, which is something I truly enjoy

Our newly 4-year-old boy (love this shot)

Our villa was near "One & Only Palmilla," so we spent a day at Playa Palmilla - it was almost entirely just us and a few locals, which was awesome

There were two roped-off swimming areas and the surf was relatively gentle - we were all a bit toasty by the end of the day, even with lots of sunscreen

Sean's favorite game was running from the surf

Claire liked to let it come up and get her wet and enjoyed burying herself in the sand

Sean tried boogie boarding with Daddy but wasn't a big fan

Claire tried a different approach with her cousins, but also wasn't a big fan

La familia Forman en la playa

Both kids enjoyed getting to know their cousins better, and they picked up a few app tips while they were at it

Claire floating and chilling in the pool

Our second local beach was Playa Chileno, which is where all the surf/scuba/kayak expeditions come - we didn't spend as much time there (it was HOT!!), but a pirate ship came by that Sean thought was REALLY cool

Since we were all together, we took family pictures on the beach behind our house (not too bad for an auto-timed shot)

Us with Nana and Grandpa Joe

Nana and Grandpa with all the grandkids, ages 4-19

Mom and the sisters

Just the sisters

My niece was so excited that we would have braces on at the same time - she got hers on about a week before, I hopefully will have mine off by the end of the year

Our bunnies

Just the grandkids - so cute! The had such a fun time together...

A rare shot of just the two of us

Sunset on our private beach

We had to spend one touristy day in Cabo San Lucas - this is looking back at the Médano Beach from our tour boat at Land's End - it was a zoo! We staked a claim at Billygan's and stayed there much of the day (yellow umbrellas)

Our glass-bottomed boat tour to see the famous arch

Sean enjoying the boat tour with Uncle Scott

The arch! The waves were too choppy for us to land on Lover's Beach (apparently right next to Divorce Beach)

There were tons of sea lions near the arch, known locally as "sea wolves" (lobos del mar)

The kids bought bracelets with their names on them from a beach vendor who made them on the spot (impressive!)

For our final day in Cabo we did a dolphin swim - we weren't allowed to take pictures and it was super expensive to buy any, but it was an amazing experience petting and riding Metzli, an 8-year-old female dolphin

En español:

Para el 70ª cumpleaños de mi mama y mi padrastro, viajamos de Los Cabos, México por una semana. Hubo 14 de nosotros – las familias de las hijas de mi mamá. Nunca hemos viajados en un grupo antes, y pasamos un tiempo maravilloso. Nos quedamos entre de Cabo San Lucas y San José del Cabo (más cerca del segundo) en un villa increíble que tenía espacio por todos nosotros y más. 

Pasamos mucho tiempo en la piscina, el jacuzzi, y en las playas. Visitamos el Arco y incluso nadamos con los delfines.

¡Fueron unas vacaciones perfecto!