Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta

As I believe I've mentioned before, going to the Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta has always been something I've wanted to do, ever since we tried (and failed, due to windy conditions) to see it when I was three years old. I love hot air balloons! When at long last we planned this trip at the correct time of year, I was fully prepared for it to be cancelled due to wind or rain again. But I was hoping, hoping the weather would cooperate! The Friday was rainy and cold, but the Saturday and Sunday were bright and clear and lovely. We were so happy! It was everything we'd hoped, and even better. When the first balloons go up, it's still pretty dark outside, and as they turn on their burners, they light up like floating lanterns in the sky. These first balloons also have little lights floating from their baskets---tiny diamonds below them---see?
Then suddenly the sky starts turning pink, and you walk onto the field and you're surrounded by all these huge, breathing, billowing creatures. They sway uncertainly as they lurch upright, like a genie who's spent too long in his bottle and is feeling rather stiff. I love being in among the balloons. I think they seem friendly, even when they puff fire and make hraaaa! noises at you.
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Fall, Mesa Verde, Tram, Scenery

Who would have thought there would be such lovely Fall colors in New Mexico? Well, anyone who knew anything about the place, obviously. But I was surprised.

More Fall leaves
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White Sands

I think White Sands is one of the most beautiful places I've ever been. Bright white and bright blue, as far as you can see, and the warm sand surprises you by sparkling like ice crystals. It was a hot day, and the sand felt so nice: cool and almost-damp just under the surface, perfect for burrowing your toes and your fingers into. It's gypsum sand, and it doesn't feel like sand on the West Coast  beaches I've visited. It's softer, finer, and more powdery. Less clingy. More delicate. As we walked back to the car, most of the sand just fell off us in little sparkling showers (though, Sam would have me add for realism, not the sand in all the children's hair. And eyebrows. And noses. Okay, we still needed baths. But we didn't feel dirty!).

A tiny walker tries to catch up
Everyone* got buried at some point. It felt so NICE.

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Albuquerque: Nuclear Museum and Botanic Gardens

Children standing on their favorite elements (Ky and Seb both wanted Gold). Who knew Daisy was such a fan of Dysprosium?

We found some fun things to do in Albuquerque. One of the days was Abe's birthday, so we let him choose the activity for the day. He chose the National Museum of Nuclear Science and History (that's our boy!). Actually, that was his second choice, but the Sandia Peak Tram was closed for wind that morning. Anyway, the nuclear museum was fascinating. We watched an interesting movie about the Manhattan Project, and there were a bunch of cool exhibits showing how nuclear waste is disposed of, the history of nuclear energy, and so forth. Our favorite parts were the videos showing nuclear bomb tests in slow motion, and the outside area showing several different weapon casings and rockets or planes that carried them. We wished we could have visited the Trinity test site on this trip, but we missed it by one weekend! (It only opens twice a year.) One of the things I learned at the museum was that the word "thermonuclear" refers specifically to hydrogen bombs, as opposed to "regular" atom bombs. I'd always thought it was just a synonym for nuclear!

There was also a fun interactive kids' area in this museum, but the children fought so much about whose turn it was to do everything that we left that area in great haste! Had Sam and I been alone, I'm sure we could have played with the exhibits much longer. Children's areas are wasted on the young! :)

Albuquerque also has a lovely Botanic Garden. There are interesting desert plants as well as some tropical and Mediterranean areas.


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Carlsbad Caverns

I've been wanting to go on this trip for so long that I can hardly believe we really did it. When I was three, we lived in New Mexico for a year while my dad worked at the Physics lab in Los Alamos. I only have a few memories of that time, but they are such GOOD memories! One of the best is of visiting Carlsbad Caverns, which is one of the biggest caves in the United States. I love caves, so I've always wanted to go back. I had retained a general impression of vastness and amazement from my childhood visit, but as an adult I still couldn't believe the complete awe this place inspired. Naturally, the pictures don't do it justice, but also naturally, I can't help sharing some. Sam and I discussed later how there are a few places in the world that just bring you to an almost paralyzing sense of wonder. The Redwood forest is one such place, and Carlsbad Caverns is another. If you enter through the natural entrance, as we did, you descend over 750 feet into the cave. Every time we thought we must be to the center of the earth by now, we'd round another bend and see the trail winding down below us even farther. And the most amazing parts we saw didn't even come till we reached the huge chambers at the bottom of that descent! Carlsbad Caverns was formed by sulfuric acid, which makes it unusual among caves (most are made purely by water and carbonic acid), so its chambers are much bigger and less predictable than those of most other caves. The scale of the place is mind-boggling! And we didn't even see the whole thing (in fact, I don't believe the public is allowed to see the whole thing).

There are a bunch of different tours you can take, and most of them are for older kids. We wanted to have one of us do the King's Palace Tour with the three boys, but it was sold out, so we just did the ones you can do with babies: the Natural Entrance and the Big Room. Those were quite sufficiently amazing, but I hope I can go back and see more someday! I would love to visit this place yearly, if I could. :)
The view from outside. Who would ever have imagined the marvels underneath this ground?
No wonder the Maya thought caves were, literally, part of the underworld
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American Fork Canyon

While we were waiting for Abe at choir one week, we took a drive up American Fork Canyon. The leaves were brilliant and half-fallen, which makes for the best pictures: washes of color on the ground and in the trees! It was gorgeous. We stopped at several different areas up and down the road to play in the leaves and throw rocks in the stream. What a perfect afternoon.
Daisy says "ta-da!" (Nobody knows why)
We saw this cute fuzzy caterpillar.

I love leaves in the water.
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Sundance leaves

We rode the tram at Sundance with my mom a few weeks ago. Here are a few pictures.

I love these bright yellows glinting out.
Closer.

Greens always make the reds look brighter

And I loved this little thicket of oranges. So many different shades!
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Rose Petal Jelly, and Rose and Lavender Syrups

I've been meaning to post these recipes since the beginning of the summer when we did this, but the inevitable freeze (still weeks away, let's hope!) makes me aware that my roses are still gorgeous at this time of year. If yours are, too, and you want to use their petals for one last lovely distillation of summertime, here are the recipes for you!
Flowers ready for crystallizing
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Sunday Drive--Big Cottonwood Canyon

On our drive Sunday, we swung by Silver Lake just on the off-chance we might find a parking place so we could walk around (it's staggeringly crowded in the Fall)---and we found not only a parking place, but some of our favorite friends there too. It felt like such serendipity. And the lake was still utterly beautiful, even though we'd been there a few days earlier as well. It changes every day, it seems.
It was kind of chilly, and threatening to rain. Daisy was wearing a paint shirt we had in the car to keep her warm.
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