Devil’s Backbone

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As we drove past it, I inadvertently gasped. There it was, jutting out the hill and scraping the sky like a claw.

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It turns out the Devil’s Backbone was just next to our Airbnb. We didn’t have much time, but we made time to hike it.

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I was hoping to scale the rocks, but it turns out they’re too fragile. So we were limited to the trail that winds around beside this incredible rock formation.

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The only time we had was on a gray rainy morning, and since I’m the queen of not being prepared for weather, We started out the hike with trash bag rain gear. Because we’re classy.

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And that’s why these are all iphone photos: I wasn’t willing to haul my SLR out into the drizzle.

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It was a great, easy hike with the kids (though they whined plenty), and I could have gone much longer.

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But we had to rush back, since we were late for lunch at the Silver Grill.

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Because You Care What I Eat

(You probably don’t.) (Care what I eat.) (But I do.)

When your coworker comes back from a trip from Europe and proceeds to describe every meal she had while you listen raptly, visualizing every spread, you probably have a problem. Or maybe she has a problem. Either way.

While scrolling through my phone photos after our trip to Colorado, I realized I had quite a few photos of the things I ate. So please allow me to take you on a short culinary tour.

First stop: lunch at the Cozy Inn.

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A coworker from Kansas casually mentioned this place. It was on the way, and we’d be passing through right around noon, so we decided to make a stop. The store is located downtown Salina. I wasn’t prepared for the tiny size. It can best be described as a hole in the wall. The store is maybe seven feet wide. The original counter, stools and cabinetry.

Two employees (one was the owner, as it turned out), stood hip to hip in front of the grill. Owner Steve Howard grilled onions and coaster-sized burgers with a practiced hand, flipping them onto slider buns, while another employee packed them in sacks of 6, 12, 18 and 24.

That weekday lunch hour the Cozy Inn door bell jingled with a steady stream of customers picking up to-go orders. We sat at the counter and opened up a tab. Anytime our red-checked wax paper was empty, Steve slid hot sliders straight off the grill into our baskets. He kept going until we pleaded with him to stop.

Kim rating: A place with a story and good food to boot. Two thumbs up.

(On the return journey, we stopped at Boogey’s, which has an extensive milkshake menu. Not my favorite and not recommended. Skip it.)

Next stop: Denver, with my husband’s cousin.

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He showed us around his remodeled ranch house with modern Dutch style, and cooked a great meal of steak, asparagus, potatoes and mushrooms.

Kim rating: Exclusive and hard for anyone else to get into. Two thumbs up.

The next stop: Bean Fosters

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I got a lavendar latte, and when I was asking about their drinks, they instantly offered me a sample of the salted caramel sauce. The coffee was good, and the atmosphere fun. Though it’s in a strip mall, it has a cozy feel. There was a large table in the center for what looked like a women’s crafting club, chatting away as they knitted and did bead work. Along the perimeter bar by the windows were college students and work-from-home types. One corner had a kids section with crayons, books and LEGOs.

Kim rating: Super chill, and my kids didn’t even break anything!

My husband’s cousin wisely recommended we take the scenic route to Estes Park instead of the freeways, and I was happy to oblige, since it meant we’d be driving through Boulder! Around lunch time, of course.

We found: Rincon Argentino

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It was so good my kids ate their empanadas and then asked for more. I got the Criolla and the Caprese and my husband got the traditional steak. The kids opted for cheese and chicken. And lo, it was good. We sat at the bar and watched them make dozens of these dreamy hand pies. That chimichurri dipping sauce is to die for. They also had flan, but I was way too full to fit that in. The whole culinary experience brought back good memories of our week in Buenos Aires.

Kim rating: Can I open a local franchise? Mainly just so I can eat there? Two thumbs up.

We forged on for Estes Park, where we ate forgettable cafeteria-style food at our accommodation. However, the day we left, we made sure to stop at Scratch Bakery, a place I’d been eyeing every time we ventured into Rocky Mountain National Park.

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Be Ye Not Like Me: split a sandwich with one you love. Or even the homeless guy down the street. The sandwiches are huge. The bread is heavenly (mine was focaccia!) and the fillings vast. Even the grilled cheese (for the kids) looked amazing. Also, we spent like $40 on three sandwiches.

Kim rating: Take me back. Two thumbs up.

Guys, we slid into Silver Grill Cafe in Ft. Collins at 1:30. They close at 2 p.m. But they were so gracious, and the 20-something waiter kept calling me “darlin'”, which was weird. All the breakfast options were good (yougurt parfait for the girl, pancakes for the boy, Mexican-style hashbrowns for the husband), but let’s be real: it’s all about the cinnamon rolls. Which I didn’t even take a picture of because we were so busy devouring them.

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All I got was a pic my college roommate texted me from the waiting area as we were coming to me her.

And they were so good I bought a 4-pack to take with us on our long drive home the next day. So. Worth. It.

Kim rating: Giant Cinnamon Rolls, my love. Enough said. Two more thumbs.

There you have it! And this concludes your brief tour of Where I Ate.

Yet Another Motorized Vehicle Cake

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This dude turned 7 this past weekend, so we celebrated by inviting a few friends over for a water balloon fight.

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We tried to get organized, but the balloon toss quickly devolved into this:

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We followed it with our traditional donut-on-a-string eating competition and then a little limbo.

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Some of the technique was dubious, but it was all in good fun.

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As usual, the pinata was much-anticipated.

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I suppose they just love whacking things with the promise of sugar.

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When Batman’s poor head released his saccharin-filled chest, there was much shrieking and jostling for candy.

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And plenty of hoarding.

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Finally it was time to reveal the cake.

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Designing and decorating the cake is always my favorite part of a birthday.

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This time the request was for a racetrack.

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I’m pretty sure no one but me cared what it looked like.

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The kids had one thing on their minds: FROSTING!

Because donuts and candy aren’t enough.

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We finished it all off with poppers and presents, before letting them run wild in the yard as the parents arrived to pick them up.

Colorado Lyfe

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It seems like everyone in Oklahoma wants to head for the hills once summer starts. It feels like nearly all our friends and acquaintances spend time in Colorado during summer. And this year, we weren’t going to be left out.

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We had a good reason: my high school classmates were gathering to celebrate 20 years since we’d graduated from school together. When you go to an international school and then end up spread across the US and the world, you simply pick a spot and meet up. We’ve been doing it for the last 15 years and it’s always a great time of catching up.

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I feel much closer to my high school friends than I do most of my college friends; there’s just a deep bond between us because of the way we grew up. We were the minority, the outsiders, speakers of second languages, not quite fitting in where we lived but definitely not fitting in in our parents’ home countries. So we carved out our own space, our own culture.

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We may not have been driving ourselves to the high school football games on Friday nights, but we had a lot of freedom to roam around our big city in the mountains.

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We reminisced about beach trips, about class antics, about cultural references. We caught up on siblings and family and others from the community. A couple of my classmates have weathered situations so hard they take my breath away.

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It was so refreshing just to be, not to have to explain myself, at least my younger self. The older self is a little changed and has more experiences that have to by layered on top of that younger self.

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We held our reunion in Estes Park, just outside the Rocky Mountain National Park. Note to self: next time you drive up to 11,000 feet, take jackets.

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My kids were miserable but we still forced them to get out of the car and explore a little. I loved the crisp weather and mostly sunny days that we had. I can definitely see the attraction to Colorado life.

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For some reason, I’m super into scrambling up rocks lately. I love that we can get out and move our bodies.

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So that made our short little family hike and the l-o-n-g 8 mile hike that we did with classmates and kids really fun. Even if my feet were done by the end of it.

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One day we explored that little meadow above for a while, and it felt magical. But then the most-giant mosquitoes I’ve ever seen started biting my ankles.

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So I booked it back up the path to where my family was, and crashed down hard after I stepped in a grass-covered hole. Very literally: pride before the fall.

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It was a really good break: time with family, time with old friends, time in nature. It was so good to see these people again and to miss the ones who couldn’t make it.

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We just might have to hit Estes Park another time.