Friday, November 29, 2013

Black Friday:3 Important Notes to my Future Thanksgiving Self

Here are the most important things I need to remember for next year's Thanksgiving, assuming it's the same process as it's been for the past four years:

1. Whatever can go wrong will go wrong with your work internet connectability. Take as many back up wi-fi-my-fi hotspot thingamajiggers you can find and keep your IT guy on speed dial.

2. Stop packing "cute" clothes for your trip. You want stretchy pants and hoodies almost the entire time you're here, not blazers and jeans. You'll wear the same one constantly and gross everybody out again if you don't bring more sweats.

3. Bring a TURKEY. After four years, you should know: they aren't going to make enough turkey for leftovers on Thanksgiving night which, to you, is tantamount to a mortal sin. And they'll look at you like you're being unreasonable to expect it. I'm not sure what universe your other family came from, but if there isn't so much turkey that you're worried it'll spoil before you can eat it all, you don't have enough. This has been me every Thanksgiving night for the past four years now:

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Thanksgiving 2013

The Thanklist

Let's assume my family and friends and good health always tops the list.

But this morning, in just random thoughts,  on this Thanksgiving 2013 I am also thankful for...

second (and sixteenth) chances

remembering and memory, the good and the bad

guitar strings and calluses

really good books

the unconditional love of my dogs

long walks at sunrise

Sammi's driver's license (and her new job!)


my camera and my lifetime of photographs

the smell of warm baked cookies

cell phones

Colorado meaderies

fat cat and tiny cat snuggles, equally

the sound of my son's voice on the phone

mountain streams in summer

walls painted the color of sunshine

spiced apples


real food

the internet

an empty Christmas tree that waits for Nick's return so we can decorate it together



trips to Disney World (including the one in 35 days!)

losing all interest in sodas

belting out show tunes or harmonizing Sara Bareilles tunes with Sam

snow-capped mountains

my husband's over-large heart

crisp, cold air that makes my lungs ache with being alive

working from home



stone floors

But mostly, I'm thankful that I am cognizant of being an unrepeatable note in the grand symphony that is the cosmos, and even more grateful for the existence of those other unrepeatable notes with whom I have been able to harmonize.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Blowing up the House

As I sit here after midnight shivering, I decided blogging would be the best way to pass the time and because I am just a little freaked out over my inclination not to bother anyone could have killed us all. 

Or maybe this is where I realized I'm actually thankful that Bob's snoring woke me up. 

That part happens every night, and I'll wander off to another room to be able to keep sleeping. 

About an hour ago, when I did, I thought I smelled gas. 

This didn't make any sense to me, since I don't smell much of anything any more and certainly, I thought, I couldn't be smelling gas, upstairs, in the farthest room away from the kitchen. But I stumped downstairs trying to determine if I was dreaming the whole thing. (I can still smell in dreams.)

It wasn't any stronger that I could tell, but I was remembering the advice to never flip any switch if you suspect a gas leak, and it being midnight and all, just leaned in to check the burners. Nothing on, touched all the knobs that appeared to be in the same upright position (in the dark) and then stumped back upstairs telling myself it was all in my head. 

I curled up on Nick's bed and laid there. 

The conversation went a little like this for about twenty minutes, in between me trying to breathe deeply and assure myself I was wide awake.

"I'm still smelling gas."

"No, you're not. You haven't smelled gas or much of anything else in over five years. You're imagining things."

"I should wake up Bob and ask him if he smells anything."

"Don't be silly. You just checked the burners and you're just freaking yourself out over nothing."

Visions of the house going up in a ball of explosion kept replaying in my head, balanced by the idea that I would go wake up Bob who wouldn't smell a thing (and he's never lost his sense of smell) and bother him for nothing.

This is where I start to get really philosophical.

"Seriously? Are you so worried about putting him out that you'll risk killing everyone just so you aren't a bother? Isn't this precisely the point when your therapist would look at you like you really are crazy?"

So I threw the covers off and went back into the bedroom. I woke Bob up with the words, "Am I crazy, or do I smell gas?"

He got up without a word and started investigating. I heard him go downstairs and then flip the light on. I'm thinking, "well, he must not smell gas or he'd have never done that."

After a minute, he turns the light back off and climbs back up the stairs.

"So, nothing?"

"Oh, no, the burner wasn't lit but it was on. I turned it off. You have a good sniffer."

"No I don't!"

By this time, he's already back in bed and falling back asleep.


He may not even remember any of this in the morning.

I, on the other hand, am now thoroughly freaked out that I wasn't imagining things, and coming to grips with the realization that a few minutes ago I was really trying to fall back asleep just so I wouldn't bother anyone, as well as the thought, is he NUTS? He just went downstairs where the gas must've been leaking since dinner six hours and ago and turned on the lights?!? and wondering if I shouldn't get Sam, two dogs, three cats, and an already-snoring-again husband into the car and out of the house because . . .  holy crap . . .the gas has been leaking for six hours!

Instead, I go downstairs and open up the windows, and then Google "What to do when the gas has been left on" which doesn't do a whole lot to calm my nerves but does assure me that opening the windows was a wise move, despite it currently being 27°. (Side note: no one on the internet who has this "open your windows for a few hours" advice seems to ever imagine it being below freezing and dropping fast in the middle of the night.)

And here I sit, still replaying the idea that I might've talked myself into going back to sleep because I was imagining things and, tsk-tsk,  your imagination is always running away with you, why bother anyone else with your fantasies...

So as the house grows colder with every passing minute, but the smell does seem to be fading from my otherwise broken and useless nose, I'm going to be thankful for snoring, and therapists, and wild imagination.

And I that I might just manage to get back to sleep tonight.
Friday, November 22, 2013
Great piece in the Times this morning you shouldn't miss. And don't forget to click on the slideshow.

They were picked because they tested well and looked like quintessential Marines: at least six feet tall, with straight posture and narrow waists. Lamont Pittman says he was told that in his case, an additional consideration was that they needed a black man. . . . Typically, a Marine selected for the honor guard served for two years before moving to another assignment, but Mr. Pittman spent his entire four-year tour in Washington. He was told they could not find another black man to replace him. “It stopped them from sending me to Vietnam,” he said. “Racial prejudice saved my life.”

11/21/13 50 Years

Different 50th anniversary, a day late.

I've always been able to remember Bob and Nell's anniversary . . . a day late.

I managed to get them a greeting last night as I had crawled in bed and it struck me.

I keep trying, for more than twenty years now, to make their anniversary 11/22/63 because I always remember Nell telling the story that Bob had gone out to buy a paper and come back with the news that Kennedy had been shot. But that was the day AFTER their wedding night. And still, each year, I get almost to 11/22 and have to back up the truck.

So I guess it's fitting that I'm just now posting a Happy Anniversary shout out to them.

And many more!

11/22/13 50 Years

I try to imagine, in my chair for the Boston symphony on a Friday afternoon, without any cell phones, or cable news networks,  or any other attachment to the outside world, if I had driven in and been seated for the 2:00 concert, eastern time, or was a musician with the symphony en route, the complete lack of preparation for such news.

Settling in, expecting a suite from Rimsky-Korsakov’s opera Le Coq d’Or (The Golden Cockerel), and instead, as Conductor Erich Leinsdorf takes the stage, and says

"Ladies and gentlemen, we have a press report over the wireless. We hope that it is unconfirmed, but we have to doubt it. That the president of the United States has been the victim of an assassination. We will play the funeral march from Beethoven’s Third Symphony."

Reportedly, the musicians were handed the change in program just minutes before the curtain raised, only then learning the same news.

For fifteen minutes, to let that news wash over and sink in, while the funeral march plays on, seated in the dark or, even more unfathomable, playing through it, unbelieving.

I can't quite get back there. In this age of immediate news and endlessly looping television, radio, and internet coverage, it's very difficult to imagine how shocking the moment must have been, fifty years ago today.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

The Annual Thanksgiving Recipe Despair

It's that time again.

Time to consult with my mother-in-law who coordinates the festivities in her house in Texas and pull together the ingredients list so she can have everything on hand for me to cook when I get there.

And, every year, I start getting delusions of grandeur met with the reality of despair.

Today I clicked on this Denver Post article, scrolled down to the gravy (since I am in the market for a good one) and got exactly one line in before throwing up my hands:

10 pounds turkey necks

Oh, helllll no. Apart from the number of bird deaths required just to start a gravy . . . Just . .  no.

I guess if I had a gourmet kitchen and days of time to prep, stuff like this would inspire me to don my tallest chef hat (hint: the closest I've got is a beret) and have 500 pounds of unusual groceries costing a fortune (and nothing you will find in a 300 mile radius from my mother-in-law's town of Dumas) and go to town.

Even that homespun sounding, ever popular Pioneer Woman's gravy recipe is out of my league. I don't have a turkey to start with so I am definitely not going to go trolling for organ bits!

In reality,  what we have to work in is a little kitchen that doesn't support more than two people in it at a time, a small double oven (that burns the dickens out of marshmallows if you're not super careful), and a limited supply of cookware, in addition to those grocery restraints and only the morning to put all the side dishes together for noon.

I guess I could shop here in Denver, strap the husband to the luggage rack, and maybe have enough space for my kid, two dogs, and 10 pounds of turkey necks, etcetera inside the car, in storage coolers, as well as every dish in my cabinets for a six hour trek. That sounds like loads of fun!

I'll admit to being one of those annoying people who attempts to simplify recipes and avoid processed foods, but every year I am reminded that Thanksgiving really has it in for me.

If I find a recipe that has really fresh ingredients, the flavor profile is so far afield from what everyone wants, it's a waste. It usually also calls for way more time, money, and Brazilian rain forest treks than are feasible, too.

So I'm depending on someone else to do the shopping off of recipes I'm not totally sure about, who have vastly different shopping habits than me and I feel like a real douche writing "real, organic, salted butter please, and organic half and half (instead of that awful skim stuff you typically would already have and not have to buy). No, really, Mom & Pop -- stop drinking that nasty stuff!

See? It turns me into a food-nazi instead of being really, really thankful I simply have enough to eat (even if its highly carcinogenic -- SHUT UP!) every day of my life.

Last year I had tried to make a green bean casserole with fresh beans and Bechamel sauce and the poor things were so tough (even when I cooked them twice as long as the recipe) they sounded like celery when you chewed them. The cream sauce, however, was excellent.

This year, MIL sweetly messages me this way: " I will probably do mashed potatoes, green bean cass., cole slaw, fruit salad, and sweet potatoes" and then asks what I'd like her to get for my portion, so clearly those went over like a ton of bricks, right?

I waved the white flag on trying to improve the sweet potato casserole for everyone and just requested a single sweet potato (organic? hah!) to bake for myself. No reason to save everyone else from their favorite (cough,pesticide-laced and preservative stuffed, killer) dishes, right? Although, everyone said they really did like the basic ingredient sweet potato dish I made last year.

Luckily, my hubby's brother-in-law, Matt, is the turkey and dressing master and uses some really fresh ingredients there. It's just the endless awfulness of the side dishes that I can't seem to make work without cans of creamed soup and canned beans and chemicalized junk. I say this knowing full well that I am going to eat the heck out of Dad's spiced apples that are loaded with sugar and redhots. So sue me. Hypocrite am I.

I did manage to convert the family's required mac and cheese side dish from the blue box of death-Kraft into something resembling real food last year and have plotted to make it even creamier without resorting to Velveeta because I am going to actually make . .  . (insert dramatic cue) another Bechamel sauce. God help me. Between this and the homemade gravy (with drippings I hope to con off of Matt), at this rate my Thanksgiving morning will be me endlessly whisking flour and milk over the frying pan while waiting to see the new Snoopy balloon in the parade.

Sounds like a pretty okay time to me. :)

whisking constantly...

Monday, November 18, 2013
Sunday, November 17, 2013

11/17/13 November Full Moon

there are full moon mornings that I come back with dozens of shots to sort and rank and edit and delete.

This month . . . not so much. The clouds had other ideas.

from the window, I knew I was in trouble with those low lying clouds

why even shoot this? Because I'd lugged this heavy zoom lens over my shoulder for naught.

so here's the best I got on the trek

and here's a bunny pretending to be a large fluffy rock

Saturday, November 16, 2013
Your Eclectic News of the Morning

Mavis Batey's Obituary

Japanese Squirrel Gardens!

Leonid Meteor Showers (tonight and tomorrow are your best bets)

Katy update

Katy's annual checkup was last night, a million thanks to Bob for taking her. She's very difficult to get in and out of the car now because she can't jump at all. We'd noticed some more pronounced hopping down the stairs and ways she'd run without rotating both hips but had assumed it was all due to her arthritis.  

It turns out that she's torn a ligament in her back right leg. Her arthritis is also advancing, so that she can no longer have full range of motion in her right front leg. She said Katy was a tough old bird, since she had never really changed any of her behaviors despite tearing it. She only winced and grunted as the she was rubbing on her arthritic legs. 

The vet doesn't recommend surgery at her age and kept referring to "quality of life" measures, such as pain medication and anti-inflammatories as our best option.  

Her weight at 50 pounds is a little heavy, but this is due to the limited exercise options she has now. I've noticed that she is eating less and usually leaves her bowl partially filled throughout the day. Life has a way of balancing things out.

Her cloudy eyes aren't cataracts, just wearing down over time, and she's got a small benign growth in one of her ears. Sam is sure she's losing some of her hearing, although vibrations work well to alert her to things.

Katy came to us in a situation where if we didn't take her, she's probably have been killed as a 6 month old. With 5 million animals in shelters each year, and 3.5 million of them euthanized, the odds are never good going in. But as a black dog, the least-adoptable by statistics, and an adolescent with a submissive/wetting problem, she didn't stand a chance. 

Her submissive problem went away within the year. We think she's been beaten or threatened by a male before she was dumped, since she had to learn not to growl at Bob in her first days home. Having Ian as an older brother saved her, too. He taught her how to be a good dog (mostly -- she still can't stop herself from barking at dogs walking on the sidewalk, although she sees and hears them less and less now) and she, in turn, helped Ian in his old age, when he'd gone completely deaf and almost blind. She was his eyes and ears in those final days. 

Ian died in 2006, and we'd adopted him in 1997 when the vet guessed he was at least 6 or 7 then. We only had him for 9 years but he managed a 15-16 year life span. We've now had Katy for over 12, the longest of any of our pets. The vet we took her to at adoption guessed her age at a year and said she was "probably full grown" which still amuses us to this day. 

Katy "full grown" her first week home

So, she could have another number of years, and we'll baby her and treasure every one, but last night, letting it sink in that her vet is now referring to her as what amounts to a geriatric hospice case, I had to snap a few more photos, just to hold this moment in time. I was trying to avoid the flash (and demon-eyed dog), but in the low light of the night, her blackness was working against me.

Friday, November 15, 2013
Thursday, November 14, 2013

from the Old Lady Katy files

Our normal morning routine goes something like this:

Sam gets up and heads for the shower. I stand at the top of the basement stairs where Katy is whining and I start cheering her up the stairs to go outside. 

"Cmon Kate! You can do it! One step at a time!"

She'll put one foot on the bottom stair and look up, and bring it back down to the floor, and put it on again, wanting to get started, but her darn arthritis has her stiff and hurting from being asleep all night. 

"C'mon Katy! Just start, first step, c'mon!" 

And she'll sit there looking up me, tail wagging, and finally get going, one slow step at a time, all the way to the top, over to the door to go outside.

After Sam is off to school, Evan and Katy and I go out on the back porch and I throw the ball three times, off to the left (Evan's corner), then to the right (Katy's turn), then back to the left for one more Evan run. 

Some days, Katy doesn't take her turn. Evan will sit and wait until he realizes she doesn't want it, and then go after the right side ball.

But most days, she takes her turn. Then we go back inside, get our fish oil pill first, which Evan scarfs down and Katy just holds in her mouth and looks up at me with her cloudy brown eyes. 

"Eat your fishy-pill, Kate. You can't have a cookie until you eat it."

Stare, drool, no chewing.

I go over to the puppy cookie spot and pull two out. Evan gets his quickly. Katy requires the daily morning coaxing.

"Katy, eat your pill. You can't have your cookie until you finish your pill."

Stare, drool.

Sometimes she'll try to be tricky. Usually she can't open her mouth to take the cookie until she's downed the pill, but a couple of times she's managed to cheek the pill and open her mouth for the cookie. So I have to follow her to her plop-down-cookie-chewing spot and make sure no fish pill shows up on the floor. Crafty old lady.

When I do my coffee refills throughout the morning, we must repeat the three-throw drill outside and come in for another treat. Can you see why I get the tiniest milkbones they make?

And, most days, on the second or third round, Katy takes her turn and after fetching the ball, stops to relieve herself. 

Evan is usually quite patient, laying down, waiting on her to finish and return with the ball in her mouth. But she often drops the ball midway through her bathroom break and forgets what she was doing. She'll wander back to us waiting on the deck without the ball, looking a little confused. 

I'll ask Evan to go find the ball where she absent-mindedly left it and he'll happily comply so he can have his last turn. 

This morning, though, after the fetch, stop, squat, Katy decided she had a little more business to attend to, dropped the ball midway through and kept on doing her doggy business, which involves little shuffle steps while hunched. Since she dropped the ball at her first hunch and then kept wiggling, well . . . the ball got . . .  involved.

She didn't seem to have completely forgotten about the ball, because she turned around and looked at it, but then decided to wander back to us without it. 

Evan, laying near my feet, hopped up when I said, "Ev, go find the ball!"

He ran straight to it, went to pick it up, and must've hopped back a foot with a snort, looked at me for a split second, and then ran straight back, leaving the poopy ball to fend for itself. Fetch wasn't worth it. That Old Lady Katy poop is powerful stuff!

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Phoenix Market, Victor CO, 1900
Tuesday, November 12, 2013

11/12/13 Driving away

Sam heads off on her first solo drive, with two job interviews this week.

When it happens, you won't be ready for it.

You'll think you are; you'll have told yourself since the day your youngest was born that, someday, she will be ready to fly away.

And you will spend her whole childhood telling her how absolutely awesome and amazing she will be, and that when she's ready, her wings will carry her anywhere in the world she wants to go, and you will be there, always, wildly cheering and waving goodbye with excitement and joy for her.

And, certainly, you will.  But you won't be ready for it.

Monday, November 11, 2013

11/10/13 Hwy 36 Drive

The giant metal chicken fared much better in Lyons that anything else along the road.

that slab of gray in the center was once Highway 36

Sunday, November 10, 2013

11/9/13 The Stanley Hotel

Our Stay in Pictures

We left Denver around 9:00 and took our time, stopping in Boulder, and getting to Estes Park and the Stanley Hotel at 12:00. 

But first . . a quick Stanley history.

Freeland (F.O.) and Francis were identical twins who made their fortune at an early age, inventing the airbrush and later the dry photo plate process that would be sold to the newly emerging Eastman Kodak company. They had enough money to retire in style, but kept on inventing. Their 1897 steam car turned out to be the genesis of the engine that would power steam train engines. The car was the best-selling automobile between 1902 and 1917, before the cheaper assembly-line concept of the gasoline engine allowed the Ford Model T to become the affordable and popular choice of the less wealthy. 

In 1900 though, F.O. came down with consumption and, as was the medical advice of the day, told to get out west into the cleanest air he could find and get active. F.O. and Flora initially moved to Denver, but his condition continued to worsen. In 1903, with only months to live, his doctor sent them to his cabin in Estes Park for their last days. 

Instead, F.O. miraculously took a turn for the better. He credited it all on the mountain air of Estes Park and built a small mansion before breaking ground on the Stanley Hotel, originally planned as just a large mansion to entertain their large parties who would come from the East to stay with them.

This enterprise brought electricity to the town of Estes Park, as well as a sewer system. He also re-introduced large game (elk) to the area.  Their guests included President Teddy Roosevelt and the unsinkable Molly Brown. They would leave out of Denver in a Stanley Steamer and have entertainment provided them. A man in a bear suit would attack the car, so that the driver could fire blanks and scare him away. 

Flora and F.O. operated the hotel for their friends until his death in 1940, when the hotel was sold and refused to turn a profit for any owner over the next six decades. It burned through 26 owners until the current company, John Cullen and his Grand Heritage Hotel group,  took it over and played off of the Shining's reputation, adding the very profitable ghost tours which offer a look into the history of the place for tourists who don't want to stay the night. (But also for those who do -- at a discounted rate!)

That flag has seen better days, although this may be damage from the recent floods that decimated the area and closed Highway 36, the quickest route from Denver, up to Estes Park. Highway 36 reopened this week. The damage we saw on the way up was devastating. (Blog post to follow.)

The view from the porch

We weren't too sure but thought it worth to see if we could go ahead and check in early.

While D got in line, I popped around the lobby snapping photos.

The Grand Staircase
only guests and tours are allowed beyond the lobby

The wallpaper! 
It's very cool to have just read the book and to see the touches that King worked into the book. 

The original 1909 Otis elevator. It was upgraded to electricity in the 30s to keep it from sliding down below floor levels. (Read the book.)

One of the original pianos. 
The Grand Piano in the music room, Flora's piano, was a gift from F.O. on the hotel's opening day, July 4, 1909.
John Phillip Sousa was on hand that day and played the piano then, and on every return trip.
He etched his initials and the date into the piano lid each time. 
In 2006, when the piano was being refurbished, these were removed by accident.
I can imagine a restoration company that didn't get a good BBB review from the Stanley Hotel.

The Pinon Room, viewable from the door. 
You can get inside only on the tours, which we did after dark.
The men did their manly things in here, while the women spent their time segregated in the Music Room.

The Music Room

F.O. Stanley on the second floor balcony
I felt compelled to take his picture every time I passed it.

Flora Stanley, top of the staircase

And we were given room 215. 
Why is this exciting?

Because we were next door to King's room, #217, home to bloated purple tub lady (in the book)!
217 was the room Teddy Roosevelt stayed in, and had panoramic views of the Rockies, with the suite taking up the entire side of the hotel until the 1980s.

On June 25, 1911, Mrs. Wilson, chamber maid, was blasted down through the floor into the MacGregor Room, breaking both her ankles, when she went to light the acetyline lanterns during a storm after another worker had left the gas burning in the suite before she lit the flame. Stanley covered all of her hospital expenses, promoted her to head chambermaid (no lighting duties included), and paid for all of her children's college educations. She remained, understandably, a loyal employee until her death. 

King and his wife reportedly asked at the front desk, after checking in and then leaving the room for a few hours before returning, who had put their things away. That'd be Mrs. Wilson, who apparently doesn't mind not getting a paycheck these days and keeps on doing her chamber duties. 

The view from our room

The view of our room (once a part of #217)

Cool copper touches in the bathroom

The framed photographs of the early days of the hotel are hanging on the walls.
After I watched the movie, I wasn't sure this was terribly comforting. 
Look to closely and you might see yourself.

This one in our room explained what the front porch once looked like, and why there are two sections of staircase that just end into the railings now.

The hallways, which aren't nearly as labyrinthine as the book's.

This is the stairway outside our door, looking up. 
This space is included on the Ghost Tour. More on why later.

Flora and F.O. are side by side thanks to the mirror. 

At the sitting area near the Cascades restaurant and the Whiskey Bar

The MacGregor Room, once the main dining hall of the hotel

In the basement is the children's playhouse replica of the Stanley Hotel
In the book it was outside in the haunted playground (non-existent now)

One of Stanley's inventions

The Pet Cemetary, which the hotel is planning to move from its current and original area to make way for a wedding pavilion. 

Exploring the rock formations near the cemetary

Standing on the boarded up pool 

Back of the hotel, in the sculpture garden

Our side of the hotel. 
Our bathroom and room windows are the two between the pine trees on the second floor. 

More vortexing, as we head back to the room

While Deana's phone was charging, we watched The Shining.

Once charged, we headed back to the Whiskey Bar

The woman in the white shirt follows you up and down the hallway with her eyes. 

Second floor balcony, looking out toward the waterfall and sculpture garden.

Naturally, we had to take the elevator

The 1906 Stanley Steamer Car, which would have run you $850, or just over $22K in today's dollars. 
Since the cars were made of wood and ran on steam power, should you catch on fire while driving, the advice was to speed up to put out the flames. 

In 2012, the Cascades Bar was re-made, and an original 1909 Rothchild's Bar, made of wood and marble, with lights added underneath to showcase its beauty, was unveiled. 

The Whiskey Walls boast more than 600 different bottles on display (and in use)

The tintype roof and retro-bulbs are spot-on in recreating the feel of the hotel in it's earliest days.

And the new drink menu boasts all kinds of interesting options. 
D with her Candied Bacon Bloody Mary. 
It's a drink AND an appetizer!

Since we were waiting for darkness to fall and the start of our ghost tour, I decided it was only right to try the F.O. Stanley Cocktail. 

Our second round, we both went for the Corpse Reviver #2

And after both those drinks? The ceiling was flipping dancing.

We could see the light beginning to fade, so we checked in and got our tour stickers, and then stepped out to enjoy dusk for a few minutes before the tour was slated to begin.

And by this time, in our awe, and slightly floaty state, we realized it was now 5:03, so we hurried back inside and joined the tour that had just started.

Behind the front desk, an antique key for every room.

The Billiard Room. Under each of these Tiffany fixtures, sat a billiard table. 
The bench along the way was the only place ladies were allowed, but they could only clap for their men and not speak. Our guide pointed out the rather uncomfortable railing set into the back of the bench at head height. This was to encourage the ladies to move along to the more comfortable and womanly Music Room. 

Past the Lodge, a newly opened portion of the hotel, done in Boutique style, and past that, the Concert Hall, where a group of paranormal investigators were actually working this evening.

Fittingly, some of the original billiard balls on display

One of the original tables has been reclaimed by the hotel and is currently locked in the Archival Section of the hotel, a room in the basement that is not currently open to any one, except peeking through windows. The hope is to soon have a museum space that showcases items recovered from sell-offs through the hotel's past. 

In the front room of the Billiard space is the Pinon Room. Women were not allowed to linger here. The centerpiece of the room is a  large fireplace, over which hands a flag that flew in Afghanistan and was gifted to the hotel in 2010 by Sgt. Michael Bergman. Over the past three years, a white discoloration has been getting more obvious in the top three stripes, top right quadrant, of the flag. They have looked to try and see if any angles of sunlight might be causing the damage, but nothing can be pinpointed. The more imaginative onlookers report seeing the image of, first, eyes, and more recently, a face taking shape. 

Opposite the fireplace is an original piece, not sold off to pay for debts because it is quite firmly planted in the wall.

I tried to be the last out of each room, just to get the shots I wanted. D played along gamely. 

Our next stop (not sure why we didn't go into the Music room) was out onto the front lawn. 
I was so entranced by the hotel in the dark, I'm afraid I really didn't catch a lot of the tour guide's information out here. 

I love the oval windows of the bathrooms on the third floor.

A shadowy figure in one of the fourth floor dormer rooms. 
This was where the children and their nannies stayed.

We then trekked over to an out-building known as the Ice House, now converted into a spot for a restored 1906 Steamer and memorabilia of the Stanleys.

Also housed here are the remnants of a Stanley that wasn't cared for or protected from the elements. 

In the car on display, you can see F.O. in his white beard, third car from the left.

We walked back to the main building and entered the MacGregor room, whose stage that held performers during dinner hour, is original to the 1909 hotel.  The space is now used for events, but the kitchen is still in full swing to service the restaurant on the other side of the wall. 

We made our way up to the second floor balcony where our guide introduced us to all of the portraits on the wall and their history. 

Flora is often reported being seen descending from this staircase in her ballgown.
She reportedly designed it to have four supporting pillars representing the four beautiful seasons of the area.  

We then trooped over to, you guessed it, our room and the hallway leading to Room 217. This is when we found out that our room was once part of 217 and that the spot right in front of our door, looking up through the staircase, was the vortex of the hotel's hauntings. I didn't ask for a source on that, however. At this point, more than an hour into the tour, after those two cocktails, D had to sneak into our room to use the facilities. I was amused, since I was at the back of the group watching, that she slipped in while he was talking and shut the door without him facing her, so that he jumped and stared around and had to ask, "did someone just go in there?"

Between this kind of nervous-energy-feed stuff, the awareness that the lighting in the hotel creates some great reflections and orbs, as well as the creakiness and thin walls throughout the place, I will admit to being a skeptic. Now, if I'd gone back into my room and discovered my bag unpacked? Maybe not so much. But I'm a peon and Mrs. Wilson only deals with the best guests.

The attic stairs from the fourth floor lead to the bell tower visible from outside. 
We didn't get to go up, darnit.

Besides the oft-reported complaints of noisy children in the hallways from guests, the main paranormal activities center around this corner room, #428. 
The Cowboy, man in a stetson, has been reported by multiple guests, crossing the room and sitting on the end of the bed, quite uninvited. He has also bent down to kiss sleepers on their foreheads. 

#401 was reportedly also active, which was Lord Dunraven's room. Dunraven was the slimy character from whom Stanley bought the land and who ran the town's brothel. MacGregor was the lawyer who finally put an end to his work, but not before years of staying on in the hotel and propositioning the ladies who were working as nannies to come over and see him about available positions as his establishment. Whether I was off shooting photos or not listening (remember the Stanley and Corpse Reviver?) I did not hear our guide tell us about Dunraven. I read about him after the fact. Which become important in just a minute. Just know he's the one credited with pinching some of the ladies over the years. 

Down the vortex

and into the basement. 

Here is the aforementioned and forthcoming museum area:

Across from that is the Stanley Ice Box

And in the back corner, a locked door for the last portion of the tour. This is the un-renovated section of the employee tunnels. I touched the walls and felt them crumble under my hands. The tree roots are also petrified. Our guide led everyone in and, as usual, I brought up the rear. Deana was just ahead of me and I snapped this picture before joining her at the back of the group. 

 I had stepped off to take a picture of the old wooden door and the tunnel

And then stood next to Deana while he talked. It was right then that both of us turned to see who'd come up behind us. I swear, I felt someone there and couldn't figure out how anyone had circled back around toward the closed door. I realized Deana had turned at exactly the same time and when I looked at her she said, "Someone just grabbed my ass!"

I stepped over and snapped this one, but, obviously, must've made him shy. 

Lord Dunraven must've scuttled back off through the tunnel here and back up to the fourth floor. 

Once the tour was concluded, we wandered about and realized it was 6:45 and we still hadn't found dinner. Since we'd enjoyed our bite of lunch we'd had right after check-in, we decided to try again for supper. 

Turns out, we needed a reservation for a table, but we could order from the bar. Even better! Deana spotted an open chair with some room to spare and I begged another barstool off a nearby table, and we were set. 

At lunch I'd had the special, which was a chicken breast in a mango chutney that was delicious and D had chosen the Street Tacos. I'd read the reviews on Yelp and hadn't held out a lot of hope, but the food was really spectacular. Pricey? Yes. But very well done. 

We split the House-Smoked Colorado Trout Dip with Shishito pepper appetizers before sharing the Colorado Meatloaf, which I did manage to snap a picture of before devouring. It's organic elk/buffalo/kurabuta pork in a wild mushroom sauce with a creamy potato puree, carrots, and green beans. Good lord, this stuff was amazing. 

 Before heading up to our room for the evening, we decided we needed a night shot of us in the creepy twins cutout. 



The hotel at night is just ten times more authentic.

Goodnight F.O.

Oh! since my shot on the tour didn't turn out, I retook it before retiring. This is what's left of the fire hose that hangs outside our door that was the inspiration for that awful, spine-tingling scene with Danny in the dark hallway, when the hose moves while he's not looking, as he stares into Room 217.
Apparently too many guests were trying to reenact the scene an the hose had to be permanently removed. 

Goodnight, 217. 

I stayed up late editing pictures trying to make my eyelids so heavy I would actually fall asleep, but no luck. I gave up around midnight, despite being able to explain every sound (and there were a ton!) as the people above us walking, the people on one side of the wall turning on the shower, the people in #217 opening drawers, the people walking through the hallway, or up the stairs. Still, every new sound roused me. Deana had opened the window before she fell asleep at 10:00. I made sure the thermostat was off (there's no AC in the hotel, only heat) and turned on the ceiling fan. But the room stayed very warm. I kept waking up in a sweat. I don't know how people stay here in the summer. 

At 7:30 I got up to hop into the bathroom and realized two of my toes were throbbing. I don't remember banging them on anything and I remember walking fine to the bathroom a few hours before, but at that point it felt like I'd jammed them into the wall somehow. I was curled up fetal style with the four heavenly pillows, no covers, and nowhere near the bed frame all night.  I've been limping around on them all day, still not sure how that happened.

By the time we were both up and moving, I was starving and we quickly gave up the idea of walking down to the diner in Estes Park that I'd wanted to try because the wind was fierce. Good thing we abandoned that idea since our address was wrong and the .3 miles we thought we needed to cover only got us to 401 E. Elkhorn, not WEST Elkhorn on the other side of town. 

Despite Deana saying she wasn't hungry, and me turning into Betty White Snickers Bar commercial I was so cranky, we managed to fill up the table with more food than either of us could finish. 

We had to check out of the hotel by 11:00, so other than snapping some photos to and from and a few more inside, we said farewell to the Stanley Hotel for this trip. 

I'd searched and then asked if any of the topiaries were on the grounds. They'd put in new ones for the 1997 miniseries of The Shining, because I'd seen pictures of guests on them. But apparently the elk thought them quite too delicious to stick around and turn into malevolent haunted things. I settled for the one of the two lions at the front of The Lodge. 

The pool has been closed all year, so I'm assuming some renovations are on the schedule for 2014. In previous years, it was open in the summer, but unheated. I'll have to come back to see next summer.