Friday, February 25, 2011

Friday Find

Happy Friday, everyone. The other day, I stopped in for a cappuccino at Half Moon Bay Coffee (the café of The Readers Cove Bookstore) and made a fun discovery: fabric "coffee cozies" made by Mickey Hover (designsbyMickey4u) of Fort Collins.

Before: Not so pretty. I have nothing against UPS. They've always treated my packages well, and I'm rather fond of their brown trucks. But do I really need their advertising on my coffee?

Moments later: cup was wrapped in love! And it was much nicer to hold on to. If I were Oprah, I would give one to each of you. But you can get your own for less than 10 bucks. ($8 at Half Moon Bay; $6.50 plus shipping on website.)

Check Mickey’s website for different patterns of coffee sleeves and other fun products.

Mystery Photo:
Yes, last week’s photo was of The Drake Centre.

Where in Fort Collins was this week’s picture taken?

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Week 28: Museo de las Tres Colonias

Looking at industry in Fort Collins these days, I see tech and tourism, retail and restaurants, ecology and education. But early in the twentieth century, two of our biggest industries were sheep and sugar beets. Much of that has gone by the wayside now, though some vestiges remain. The Fort Collins High School Lambkins mascot, for example, and the Beet Street Arts and Culture organization. And the Museo de las Tres Colonias aka the Romero House.

Located northeast of Old Town, the three small colonies of Alta Vista, Buckingham, and Andersonville were originally settled by immigrants who came to work at the nearby factory of the Great Western Sugar Company. Sugar beets, I learned from this article at Fort Collins History Connection, are a very labor-intensive crop from planting through production. German-Russians arrived first to work the fields and were later joined by Hispanic pioneers.

The Romero family was one of many who came north from New Mexico in search of opportunity, and John Romero began building his adobe home in 1927. Members of the Romero family occupied the home until 2001. In 2002, the City of Fort Collins took ownership. A grant from the State Historical Fund allowed for restoration of the home, and the Museo de las Tres Colonias opened in September, 2006.

When my family and I arrived on Saturday, we were greeted by museo president Betty Aragon-Mitotes, who is a driving force behind much of the museo’s outreach and education. Our visit began with a short video, and from it we learned about the Romero family, the sugar beet industry, and the social climate in the area at the time—which, I’m sorry to say, included “Whites Only” signs in some of the downtown store windows.

The furnishings represent what life in the home must have been like for the family of nine. We learned much more from our tour guide, Carmel, who came here as a child to work with his family in the beet fields, where they earned eleven dollars per acre harvested. He demonstrated how to use the tools and told stories of what it was like to grow up "on the other side of the tracks," an expression that was both literal and symbolic for the immigrant workers in the three colonies. Carmel’s candor, sense of humor, and love of history added a great deal to our visit.

The museo is open from 12:30-3 on the third Saturday of the month, and by appointment. Admission is free, but donations are welcomed and appreciated. Stop by on a Saturday afternoon to learn more about this important part of the area’s past. In the meantime, visit their website to see plans for a future interpretive center.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Friday Five

Why not do a little websurfing to ease into your Friday? Here are links to five (plus one) local blogs of interest:

The Family Trailhead: The adventures of "a Colorado family that tries to get outside as much as possible."

New Belgium: Yeah, it's about beer and beer stuff. And life.

Epicurean Vegan: Tasty recipes, even for a carnivore like me.

Visionary Healthcare: Dr. Rulon Stacey is CEO of Poudre Valley Health System...who knew he also has time to blog?

Old Firehouse Books and The Matter Bookstore: (I couldn't choose just one.) Great places in old town to pick up some books and a sense of community.

If you have a local blog to recommend, leave a comment!

Mystery Photo:
Last week's photo was of artist Laura Audrey's Foot Bridge on Drake Road between Taft Hill Road and Dunbar Street.

Where in Fort Collins was this week's picture taken?

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Week 27: Winter Farmers' Market

I love the summer farmers’ markets—the produce, the roasted green chiles, the flowers. But the idea of a winter farmers’ market made me think of one thing. Parsnips. There aren’t many foods which cause me to wrinkle my nose, and the parsnip—that yellowed snaggletooth of a root vegetable—is number one on the list. It has been ever since my ostensibly well-meaning grandmother introduced me to them years ago. But I’ve been hearing such great things about the Downtown Winter Farmers' Market that I knew I had to get over my prejudice. At the risk of meeting up with my old nemesis, I went on Saturday to shop for ingredients for a lovin’ local Valentine’s Day dinner I planned to prepare for my family.

The Opera Galleria was bustling with shoppers, so much so that I was a bit flummoxed at first and was glad I had a list. Otherwise, I might have come home with soap, yarn, earrings, and dog treats, which are all fine products but don’t make for much of a meal.

With a grass-fed roast from Sun Prairie Natural Beef thawing in my fridge, I just needed the side dishes. At Cresset Farm I found winter veggies for roasting: carrot, beet, onion, delicata squash, and turnip (I do occasionally like those roots. Go figure.). I saw no parsnips…perhaps they had been outmatched by the thuggish rutabagas the size of bocce balls.

The Food Co-op bakery had crusty little baguettes for a dollar apiece. I was pleased that Quatrix Aquaponics was at the market with fresh lettuce, as I had read about them in chef Linda Hoffman’s column in the Coloradoan. I finished off my shopping with mixed mushrooms, and an intriguing mushroom-based seasoning, from Hazel Dell, and a bottle of American Zinfandel from Blue Mountain Vineyards.

On Monday morning, I rubbed the roast with olive oil and mushroom seasoning, browned it, and popped it in the slow cooker with beef broth, red wine, tomato paste, and some of the mushrooms. All I had to do in the evening was dice and roast the veggies, toss the oak leaf lettuce with shredded carrot, slice and sauté more of the mushrooms, and crisp the baguettes in the oven for a few minutes.

I know chocolate is the Valentine’s Day dessert of choice, but it does keep some members of my family awake, which is not ideal on a Monday night. So, for a quick and easy dessert, I poured Morning Fresh Dairy's Root Beer milk (made with Coopersmith’s Root Beer Syrup) into the ice cream maker. And voila.

The meal was not fancy, but everything—from the first bite of lettuce to the last bite of ice cream—was delicious. I know the expression “taste the love” is corny and cliché, but I really could taste it. And it wasn’t because it was Valentine’s Day and I had love on the brain. It was because every one of the food producers involved in bringing the meal to my table cares about what they’re doing and wants to do it in the best way possible. The same may even be said of parsnip growers, but I’ll take their word for it.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Friday Fun: Founders Day

Happy 141st Birthday, Colorado State! Today is CSU Founders Day. On February 11, 1870, Colorado Territorial Governor Edward McCook signed the Colorado Morrill Act, which established the State Agricultural College in Fort Collins. "In the 141 years since, the institution, now known as Colorado State University, has become one of the nation's leading research universities with world- renowned research in infectious disease, atmospheric science, clean-energy technologies and environmental science. Annual research expenditures exceed $300 million annually.” (From Today at noon, the party at the Lory Student Center Plaza will include Cam the Ram, cake, the Pep Band and Spirit Squad, and Provost Rick Miranda.

For an informative summary of the past 141 years, please visit A Brief History of CSU.

Mystery Photo
Jena correctly guessed last week’s photo, taken at Landings Park on Boardwalk Drive.

Where in Fort Collins was this week's picture taken?

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Week 26: Carousel Dinner Theater

It’s week 26, and that means I’m halfway through my year of new (to me) Fort Collins activities. I’m looking forward to the next six months, and I’m relieved that I haven’t yet reached the end of my list of things to do. (That’s one of the advantages of being a homebody/social hermit: there’s always something going on that I haven’t done.)

Some time ago, Kristin of the Feasting Fort Collins restaurant review blog and I met for coffee and tossed around the idea of getting together for an activity that would combine her food review with…well, whatever it is that I do. And so, a plan to meet for a meal and performance at the Carousel Dinner Theater was born. The timing was coincidental, but I was really pleased to be able to celebrate my mini-milestone with my first Choice City collaboration.

The Carousel Dinner Theater has been feeding and entertaining folks for 20 years. Last November, it moved into the former Mann 4 Theater on South Mason Street. That movie theater was, if I’m not mistaken, the first complex in town with more than two screens—a big deal back then. It closed in 1999, and every time I drove by on one of my innumerable trips to Target, I wished that someone would use it for more than just a parking lot.

Wish granted. The building now houses the Midtown Arts Center, which includes the Carousel Dinner Theater. The exterior looks very much the same—I imagine the MAC will put up a sign someday—but the interior is completely renovated in a clean, modern style. It even looked a bit sparse, which makes me think there are plans to do more with the lobby area in the future. There’s a fun bar instead of a concession stand, and the place no longer smells like greasy popcorn.

We were shown to our table and got drinks and dinner underway in short order. Kristin is on a different blog schedule—she actually plans ahead, imagine that—so you’ll have to stay tuned for her food review later this month. I won’t say anything about the meal, other than I didn’t go hungry. And I shamelessly used Kristin’s blog as an excuse to order dessert.

Smokey Joe’s Café is purely a musical revue—no story, not much dialogue—and when I saw the list of 40 songs in the program, I thought that maybe I wouldn’t be returning home until the wee hours. But the pace was so fast that the moment one song ended, another began. Not only did the talented and energetic performers give their all on stage with non-stop singing and dancing, but they were also the wait staff. Instead of catching a break at intermission, they were serving dessert. I honestly have never seen people work so hard to put on a show.

My one concern was with my seat, as our table-for-two was tucked up in the very front corner of the theater, within an arm’s reach of the stage. I had a perfect view down into the musicians’ pit and thought it might be a distraction during the show. As it turned out, seeing the more subdued focus of the musicians directly under the energy of all of the on-stage activity made for an interesting juxtaposition, and it didn’t bother me. But it wouldn’t be such a good seat for a more conventional musical.

Smokey Joe’s plays until March 19, followed by 42nd Street’s March 25th opening. Also look for The Carousel's Cabaret series, with $10 admission and a two-drink minimum. Thanks so much to Kristin for joining me on this fun outing. It was the first time I’ve ever dined with a restaurant reviewer, and I’m looking forward to reading her post!

Friday, February 4, 2011

Friday Fun Fact

I’m a lifetime lover of libraries, and I just can’t say enough about our Poudre River Public Library District. Congratulations to the Council Tree branch for being the first commercial interior library in the U.S. to receive LEED® Platinum Certification from the U.S. Green Building Council. LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) “is the nation's preeminent program for the design, construction and operation of high performance green buildings.” Read all about it on the library’s news page.

Today’s Friday Fun Fact: The Council Tree Library is named for a local cottonwood with long and interesting history. The actual council tree is no longer with us, but you can find its story here.

Mystery Photo:

Brett was right--last week's photo was the horse statue outside Coopersmith's.

Where in Fort Collins was this week's picture taken?

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Week 25: Eco-Thrift

I think we all have a bit of treasure hunter in us, from kids sifting through a sandbox looking for pennies to archaeologists digging their way through history. And I also believe the old adage that one person’s trash is another person’s treasure. Now that many of us are trying to be more responsible about what we throw in the trash, what happens to all those potential treasures?

Resale, that’s what. I love how resale extends an item’s usefulness. I’m pretty good about donating, but I admit I buy more things new than used. In the interest of being eco-friendly, I’m trying to change that. But I have no patience for garage sales, and sprawling flea markets overwhelm me. I can go in looking for one thing, and when I finally find my way out of the labyrinthine recesses hours later, I’m dehydrated and in need of a haircut.

But I found a shop downtown that offers the best of resale: it’s green/local, it has interesting stuff and friendly people, and it’s small enough that I don’t need to leave a trail of breadcrumbs from the door. Eco-Thrift is a community-based thrift store dedicated to the three ‘R’s’ of sustainability: Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle. According to the website, the store is 100% wind-powered, volunteer-powered, and focused on zero waste. Items are donated locally and sold locally, and Eco-Thrift gives a portion of their proceeds to other like-minded organizations in the area.

It appears that I’m not the only one who has made the the resolution to buy resale more often this year, because January’s business at Eco-Thrift was double last year’s. I saw evidence of that in the abundance of items, from the practical to the quirky-must-have, filling the shop. Local treasure-hunters, you should put this place on your maps.

Items for resale may be dropped off on-site (check the website for guidelines). Pick-up of larger items—by bio-diesel truck, no less—may be arranged by calling the main office. Items that do not sell are donated locally or repurposed/recycled. Eco-Thrift works with Fort Collins Bike Co-op, Resource, and Loveland’s Waste-Not Recycling (and several others) to keep as much out of the landfill as possible.

Kermit said it’s not easy being green. I don’t know about Muppet amphibians, but for humans, the hardest thing is often replacing old habits. (I wish I had a joke about recycling nuns to insert here.) But change doesn’t have to be difficult, and places such as Eco-Thrift help us make it one step—and one purchase—at a time.