Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Haunted Travels | The Stanley Hotel

There's a good chance you've visited, possibly even unknowingly, a haunted location at some time in your life. Maybe it was a castle, cemetery, house, restaurant, or even a historical location with a past. You might be surprised by the number of places that have their very own stories of hauntings.

My husband and I had our own haunted experience while visiting The Stanley Hotel in Estes Park, Colorado. It's the very hotel that inspired author Stephen King to write his famous novel The Shining, and it's said to be frequented by plenty of paranormal activity. We took part in a ghost and history tour of the hotel that made our necks tingle and hair stand on end.

Construction of the hotel wrapped up in 1909. Owner Freelan Oscar (F.O.) Stanley and his wife enjoyed entertaining friends at their fancy new hotel in Estes Park. It was often an escape for the rich and famous of their time. The hotel holds plenty of history that keeps your mind reeling and guessing which spirits might still be haunting the historic hotel.

Read some of the stories for yourself on The Stanley hotel's haunted hotel and history page.

Plan far ahead if you want to stay in the more haunted rooms in the hotel, because they book out months in advance. Stay in room 217, and you might even get extra special care from the hotel's chief housekeeper from the early 1900s. If the rumors are true, she might even unpack for you! Room 217 is also the room where Stephen King stayed and found inspiration for his novel.

* A little trivia: absolutely 0% of The Shining movie was filmed at the Stanley Hotel in Estes Park, but ABC had a Shining mini-series that was filmed at the hotel *

"Heeere's Johnny!!"

We were able to see room 217 during the ghost tour, since no guests had rented it for the night. I'll admit it felt a little creepy in that room, like something (or maybe someone) was watching us. We weren't lucky enough to have experienced room 401 on the tour. Apparently that room is one of the other more haunted rooms in the hotel. An old wealthy European man, Lord Dunraven, is said to frequent room 401 during his haunts. He was said to have been an immoral, creepy old man. I can only imagine he's not one of the friendlier ghosts of the hotel. Or is he?

these people are not ghosts, I did blur these strangers' faces though

climbing stairs during the ghost tour

The Ghost Hunters have even investigated the Stanley Hotel. They concluded that the hotel is most likely haunted. Their investigation showed evidence of noises and paranormal activity. The basement tunnels have shown high amounts of activity too....

See for yourself....

What do you think about ghost stories?
Have you visited any haunted locations?

Happy Halloween!

website: Stanley Hotel
Stanley Hotel Twitter page

On a lighter note, scenes from Dumb and Dumber were filmed at the hotel. You may recognize the front of the hotel from when they pull up in a Lamborghini, and they also shot Jim Carey's character waiting to meet a woman in the hotel bar.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Our Nebraska Travels

{ this is a repeat, with updates, of a post I wrote years ago. forgive me if you've read it already }

My husband and I took, what I guess you can call a road trip, a little over two years ago. He had to do some flight instructing in Nebraska for work, so I tagged along since we were going to eastern Colorado after he was finished working anyways. So road trip it was! Our little trip took us up through Wyoming to Nebraska, and then a couple of days later through Nebraska to eastern Colorado to visit his family.

the view from atop Scotts Bluff National Monument

I hadn't really seen much, if any, of Wyoming before our road trip. Seeing new places always excites me. You can just imagine my excitement when I spotted my first wild antelope during our drive! Seeing animals for the first time in the wild always makes me jump for joy! It's the little things, really. You should have seen me when we saw dolphins, in the wild, on our honeymoon. Joy.

The drive to Scotts Bluff alone was exciting to me. Nothing like a good old fashioned road trip to get new energy flowing. The plains are beautiful in a very different way than many popular tourist destinations. There's something incredibly peaceful to the lack of land development. Looking around and seeing fewer buildings is good for the soul now and then.

During our time in Nebraska, we took a little side trip to the Scotts Bluff National Monument. One word: incredible. Okay... maybe just one more word: inspiring. We were pleasantly surprised by free entrance to the park on the day of our visit. They were cleaning and preparing for National Parks Week, so we scored free entrance to drive up to the overlook.

walking a tiny portion of what used to be the Oregon trail

We basically touched history at the Scotts Bluff National Monument! The park ranger told us if we walked the paved path that ended on a dirt path, we would end up on what used to be part of the Oregon Trail back in the day. We actually walked part of the Oregon Trail! I told Nate that I hoped we wouldn't have to forge the river ahead {Oregon Trail anyone?!}, and he didn't find that to be as funny as I did. We also both survived the trip to the Bluffs without dying of dysentery {sorry, just one last Oregon Trail mention}. All joking aside, the park was beautiful.

Our visit to Scotts Bluff National Monument made me a bit nostalgic. I told Nate that I wished we could ride around in wagons. It didn't take much mention of snakes and animals to make me feel very grateful for my Jeep Liberty 'wagon' instead of the fabric covered ones they rode down the Oregon Trail. How brave!

After setting foot on the actual Oregon Trail, we got into our Jeep Liberty 'wagon' and started driving to the overlook. I couldn't help but think about all of the history held in the layers of the bluffs all around us. It sort of made me want to learn more about archaeology! I loved my archaeology classes in college, and they might have been my favorite classes of all. It was amazing to think of how long ago these rocks were created and that each layer tells a different story. They estimated the top of the bluff to have eroded at least a foot since the 1930's! I wonder where it's headed? Hope it sticks around for a while so that everyone can experience its beauty.

The view from the overlook was breathtaking! We discovered some hiking trails that led all around the high part of the bluff. The weather was a bit windy, and we weren't dressed for hiking (we were not planning a visit to the bluffs) so we merely ventured about 30 feet onto the trails. We did enjoy many beautiful views of Scotts Bluff and the surroundings. We even spotted Chimney Rock in the distance, which was tough to see from the elevation of the town. It was almost as if you could see forever in every direction! The air was so much more clear than the polluted city air of Denver.

The landscape, plants, and animals were amazing. I spotted a tree clinging for dear life to the side of the bluff. It would be a long fall if those roots let loose. Nature has some amazing survival techniques!

The landscape was incredibly varied depending on which direction you looked. The town and river were to the north. You couldn't spot a bluff or mountain to the northwest. The south/southeast had more bluffs and varied land. It's amazing how many times I had flown over (even visited once) this part of the country without knowing what beautiful landscapes could be found on ground level. Maybe next time I fly over the plains I'll imagine more things like this below me.

After leaving the Scotts Bluff National Monument, Nate and I snooped around a bit. We found this quiet little neighborhood near a golf course on our way back into town.

Nothing like a golf cart sign to bring you back down to reality.

Just in case you were starting to feel connected with nature, the signs reminds you that you're in a human world. Yes. After leaving the bluffs, we drove right down to Dairy Queen for Blizzards and chicken fingers! Nothing like some human creature comforts after getting connected with the wild history of the West.

Overall, our little road trip was surprising and relieving. It's always nice to get out of the city every once in a while. The land was not always what I expected, and it was surprisingly often more beautiful than I had anticipated. Not to mention, there were some pleasant surprises along the way.

Sometimes you just have to open your eyes to the beauty around you!

this song does fly over states justice....
but that doesn't mean you shouldn't see them for yourself

Monday, October 29, 2012

Among the Birds

During our visit to Busch Gardens last week, we spent some time in Lory Landing. It's the one stop I make every single time we visit the park. If you're new to my blog, you may not know that I love birds. Birding has quickly become one of my favorite hobbies, so it's only natural that I'd love spending time among the birds while at an amusement park. While people are being plummeted 200 feet to their imminent death straight down towards the ground just a short distance away, I'm feeding cute little birds and ducking for cover whenever one flies inches from my head. It's a thrill all its own. At least for someone who loves birds.

are you getting my good side?

you can't see me

 my husband coaxed this one onto his finger even without the cup of $5 nectar

we caught a bird fight, feathers flew

there's even a home for ducks

such long skinny legs

lovely colorful facial markings

taking in some sun

curious bird

we just caught this one on the way out... it had the most beautiful colors!

It happens every time. I wonder if these birds know they're being held captive. Have they ever experienced the freedom of flying in the world outside? They might be safer from predators in their amusement park save haven, but do they ever want outside of their cage. I wonder where Busch Gardens gets all of these beautiful birds. I am glad we get to enjoy their company.

While it's very different experiencing birds in their natural habitats, I do enjoy seeing exotic birds while in a park too. Not too different than a zoo; these animals are captive. In a cage or not, they are still wild at heart. They may take nibbles of your fingers, they fight, and they fly. They're still birds.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

The Sunday Currently | 6

{ you can view my currently post from two weeks ago if you want to catch up a bit }

cross necklace  |  heart necklace  | similar top

reading right now I am reading the Sunday paper and still working on finishing One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp.
writing the ever so interesting meal plan... and the very exciting grocery list. {insert sarcasm}
listening to the cool breeze blowing through the trees. I'm listening to Kaki King on Pandora too. She's amazing!
thinking about forgiveness and what it means... and how badly we need to receive it and give it.
smelling the leftover salmon chowder we ate for lunch. Yum!
wishing that there were more open seats on my husband's flight today... I wanted to tag along with him to my home state.
hoping that the flight my husband is supposed to work tomorrow gets cancelled due to the hurricane. Sorry travelers.... you can thank Sandy.
wearing a beaded tank top, my cozy long sleeve tee, these jeans, and my cowgirl boots!
loving that the temperatures have dropped into the 70s. I even busted out the long sleeves today! Unfortunately, I'm not sure these 'fall' temperatures will last for long.
wanting to make a visit to Michigan or Colorado. I'd love to see snow this winter.
needing to be loved.
feeling like a million bucks in this weather. Oh, and I'm also feeling a little bit stronger since I started doing some weightlifting again.
clicking on some blog posts and through my email inbox!

What are you doing today?

Friday, October 26, 2012

Friday's Fancies | Big 100 Bash

Put on your best party dress, because today Long Distance Loving celebrates the 100th week of Friday's Fancies. If you don't know {av} then you definitely need to head on over to her blog and get yourself acquainted. Then go ahead and check out all of the beautiful party outfits while you're at it.

If you like fashion, clothes, and ogling dream outfits...
then hop on over there and take a look around!

Party Time

dress  |  ring  | clutch  |  shoes

There's something about a gold dress and a little bling that shout party,
plus how can you not feel pretty in an outfit like this.
I'm not actually sure I can pull of this look myself.
Maybe I could use a tan first.

What would your party outfit look like...
can you see yourself wearing this much gold? 

Thursday, October 25, 2012

A Day at Busch Gardens in Tampa

This week we visited Busch Gardens in Tampa. For me, someone who loves roller coasters and animals, this place is like a dream come true. My husband and I enjoy the rides, and I get the added bonus of seeing plenty of animals while we walk throughout the park. My husband and I are both happy taking a day to enjoy all that Busch Gardens has to offer.

Our first visit to Busch Gardens was last spring when my in-laws visited, and since my husband and I are Florida residents we enjoy free visits to Busch Gardens all year long after just that one visit! Needless to say, we've tried making the most of our tickets over this past year. This last visit was a productive one. I actually brought along my dSLR camera this time and snapped some photos of the rides and animals. I hope you'll enjoy the pictures.

snapped this photo of riders on Cheetah Hunt from the skyride

Sheikra, one of our favorite rides in the park!

the skyride offers a relaxing trip above the park and views of animals and rides too

another view from the skyride

gorillas in the Myombe Reserve

this one had his lower lip stuck out and appeared to be pouting

lots of flamingos

cute little kangaroo in Walkabout Way

 getting up close and personal with kangaroos

 they might even lick your fingers

snap photos quickly, they're fast!

you can pet the kangaroos, they don't seem to mind

We spent the majority of the day at Busch Gardens. Visiting on a week day in the fall most definitely has some benefits. The temperatures were hot but not unbearable. Plus the lines for rides were fairly short, and we managed to ride four roller coasters in about 40 minutes. The only ride with a big line was the train, but that's only because it was closed all morning due to a rhino giving birth on the tracks. It was another fun day at Busch Gardens!

I also took tons of photos of the birds in Lory Landing. There are so many pictures I want to share those next week. Come back on Monday for plenty of pictures of these beautiful birds.

Do you have a local place you enjoy
visiting over and over again?

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Let's Talk About Labels

How do you label yourself? We're all rather unique individuals, yet we share common ground too. Most likely one word, or label, does not fully describe you.

This time of year, election time that is, brings out the very best and sometimes also the very worst in people. People judge others solely by their political affiliation. Two little words. Democrat. Republican. Those two words mean so many different things. Yet people quickly make assumptions about someone simply by using their political label. People are far too special and complex to be simply described by one word. Could you describe yourself using only one word? If not, then why judge others using one label alone?

It's amazing how one word, or label, often immediately elicits an assortment of thoughts and feelings about someone. Jock. Geek. Redneck. Millionaire. Poor. Politician. Salesman. Unemployed. You can imagine plenty of scenarios that go with each of those words. One word alone doesn't always paint a full picture of a person. You know what happens when you assume, right?

A more appropriate label is probably made of many words. Currently, my label may read something like this: wife-daughter-niece-cousin-friend-chef-nurturer-intellect-introvert-extrovert-photographer-traveler-thinker-gardener-artist-athlete-comedian-scientist-empath-helper-writer-wanderer-bibliophile-foodie-nerd. We're always learning and growing, and labels adapt accordingly. They are not static things, and neither are people. If we label others, let's at least try and label them correctly.

Your combination of labels may not be, word for word, exactly the same as mine, but I bet there's a chance that you'll find at least one word in there we share. Try looking for similarities, and we just might find common ground in an overlapping label. Don't be so quick to label someone, because you might discover you had the wrong label all along. Maybe you'll even learn to label someone as friend and not enemy.

Respect differences and similarities. They're what makes the world go round.

{ different isn't bad... it's just different }

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Life Lately

Today we will ride roller coasters, pet kangaroos, feed birds, and wander around one of my very favorite places in the whole Tampa Bay area... Busch Gardens! There aren't many places where you can get your roller coaster and bird fix all in the same place. It's like my own personal little slice of heaven. { come back thursday for pictures }

wearing long sleeves has become a luxury... who would have thought

This past week consisted of trips to the park, walks through the trees, wearing of longer sleeves, and eating of homemade foods. We ate lots of this chicken salad. It's been a good week.

mixing the dressing into the chicken salad... yum yum

While walking the boardwalk through one of our favorite parks, I spotted a common yellowthroat for the very first time. (I have no idea why it took so long) That may not be very exciting to many, but it's pretty fun for a bird nerd like me. Oh, and we also watched The Big Year. Have you seen it too?

finally found this stuff

Oh and Florida grocery stores finally started carrying all of the delicious seasonal flavored creamers I've been reading about on all of your blogs. Whew! I was about to write a formal complaint to the creamer companies... or to the state of Florida, depending on who was responsible for the delay. I bought some Pumpkin Spice creamer for now. Peppermint mocha is next on the list.

Happy Tuesday!
{ what are some of the little things that have made you smile this past week? }

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Adventures in Pesto

Enjoying fresh pesto in Italy was one of my all-time favorite things about my trip to Europe. Learning how to make pesto myself is much more cost effective, because now I can subtract out the cost of an overseas plane trip. So I'm really saving myself over $1,000 by learning to make pesto myself. See how that works? Learn to make pesto and save yourself thousands!

Remember how I harvested my homegrown basil and promised how simple it was to make your own pesto? Well, I'm here to deliver on that promise. I hope you'll agree with me that it's fairly simple, or that would make me a liar. It's only simple if you can get through the nonsense below.

... simple ingredients ...

Making pesto is as easy as extra virgin olive oil, basil, parmesan, pine nuts, salt/pepper, garlic, and some walnuts if you're feeling like a rebel. I only say that because Ina Garten throws some walnuts into her recipe for pesto, but it's not the norm for pesto. I threw some into my pesto, because I was feeling a bit rebellious. I may have also purposely used more pine nuts that the recipe calls for, but who's keeping track.

If I don't know how to do something, I google it. Maybe if people googled things more often, we could start solving the world's problems. Or not. Most likely not.

... basil in a red bowl makes me think of Christmas ...

For some reason I was feeling paranoid about whether or not to wash my basil, so I googled it and opted to wash it. Better safe than sorry, right? I just swished it around in a bowl of water, and then patted the basil leaves dry on some paper towels. I felt much better after that, and I also extracted a tiny spider that hitchhiked in on a basil leaf. Washing was the safe bet.

I love how Ina Garten calls pine nuts by their more proper name, pignolis. Is it just me, or does it make you feel a bit fancy knowing your food contains pignolis. It's just me isn't it?

... I got all my ingredients all lined up in bowls and cups next to the food processor ...

You certainly don't need a food processor to make pesto. I haven't tried it myself, but google tells me that you can use a blender instead. So it must be legit. We received this food processor as a wedding gift from my mom. (And by we I mean me, but my husband gets to eat all the yummy food I make using it, so it's technically for him too) Isn't she a beauty?

Now that I think of it, the first time I ever used our food processor it was to make pesto. The video below is my first adventure in using a food processor and making homemade pesto. I had no idea what I was doing, but everything turned out okay. Except for the video is sideways.

... sorry it's sideways ...

After lots of googling for pesto recipes, I came to the conclusion that they're all pretty much the same. Except for that rebellious Ina Garten, she really threw a monkey wrench into things with those walnuts.

Without much further ado, pesto!

First you start with your nuts and garlic. Food process them, but I'm still trying to perfect this part. I may have processed a bit too long. Whoops.

Throw the basil right in on top of the paste you made out of garlic and pine nuts (or pignolis if you're feeling fancy again), and throw the salt and pepper right in there too. Again run the processor, or blender, and while everything is turning into pesto, you drizzle in that extra virgin olive oil.

You'll be able to tell you're headed in the right direction once everything gets all blended together. The last step, besides eating your creation, is throwing in some parmesan cheese and mixing it in really well.

Voila! You have pesto.

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Here are a couple pesto recipes you might like:

(I love pretty much all her food)

Like with any recipe though, play around with ingredients if you don't like what you make. You'll figure out the perfect balance of ingredients to make your perfect pesto. (:

Are you a pesto fan?