Friday, May 27, 2011

Friday Field Trip: State Capitol Building

On Monday, I was fortunate to be able to join my son’s fourth grade for their field trip to the Colorado State Capitol building in Denver. If you’ve never been, it’s worth the trip. To make a day of it, combine a Capitol tour with a tour of the Denver Mint. The tours are free but usually require reservations during the busy summer tourist season.

Thanks to the Capitol tour guides for sharing their knowledge, and to the PSD bus drivers for getting us there and back safely.

Have a great Memorial Day weekend, everyone!

Mystery Photo:
Last week's photo was of Auntie Stone's cabin at the Fort Collins Museum.

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

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Week 41: The French Nest Market

Mothering aside, I don’t typically put on my bossy pants and tell people what they have to do. When my husband and I eat out, I don’t wave a bite of my food in front of his face and tell him, “You have to try this!” If I’m reading a book I really like, I’ll talk about it without throwing out the imperative, “You have to read this!” So it’s not in my nature to tell you that you have to attend The French Nest Market in downtown Fort Collins.

But you really should. Especially if you enjoy any or all of the following:

Unique gifts
Friendly people
Shopping outdoors
Live music
Free Mugs coffee
Shopping alone
Handmade arts and crafts
Shopping with friends
Supporting worthy causes
Shopping with Bob (c’mon, everyone knows someone named Bob)
Buying local
Food samples
Shopping before noon. Or after noon. Or at exactly noon.

I honestly loved visiting The French Nest. It’s eclectic and fun and artsy, and it has a certain—I’m going to get all French on you and go with je ne sais quoi –which makes it stand out in the seasonal outdoor market scene. Maybe it was the combination of vintage lunchboxes, African beads and baskets, the wonderfully-named Olde Crone’s Bewitching Bath Soaps, delicious jams and jellies, and jewelry made from pennies that got me. I’m sure the fact that the sun was finally shining didn’t hurt, either.

You’ll find The French Nest Market from 9-3 at Civic Center Park on the third Saturday of the month until October. The May market had artist Sara Hale on hand doing free “French Nest” screen printing, and singer/guitar-player Jill Brzezicki providing the musical ambience. Visit the market’s website for more information about upcoming events. (No, you still don’t have to. But you should.)

Friday, May 20, 2011

Friday Fun: Beer Quiz and Giveaway

It’s Friday of American Craft Beer Week. I wonder how many people will leave work early for a “dentist appointment” today? To help boost your local craft beer I.Q., here’s a quiz. The following nine brewers recently collaborated on the Fort Collins Collusion 2011 Ale. (Beer-lover Kristin from Feasting Fort Collins shares her thoughts on Collusion.) All you have to do is match each brewery with its beer.

1) Coopersmith’s
2) Crooked Stave
3) Equinox
4) Fort Collins Brewery
5) Funkwerks
6) New Belgium
7) Odell Brewing
8) Pateros Creek
9) Pott’s

a) Vrienden Ale
b) Big Dipper Brown Ale
c) 71 Pale Ale
d) Mountain Standard
e) Cache la Porter
f) Edgar
g) Belgian Resistance
h) L’Brett D’or
i) Tippet American Lager

Leave a comment with your answers. Even if you don’t get a single one right, I’ll enter your name in a random drawing for a $20 Downtown Fort Collins gift card. (Or, if you live elsewhere, a $20 Amazon gift card.) You have until 5:00 Tuesday, May 24 to play. And because I get to make the rules, I say that fewer than ten participants will render this contest dull and void.

Mystery Photo:
Last week's photo was of the mural on the east side of the University Inn on College across from campus. (Sorry, I don't know the artist's name.)

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

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Week 40: Fort Collins Lost

It doesn’t seem possible, but we’re more than halfway through May already. Did you know that May is, among other things, Better Sleep Month, National Egg Month, National Photo Month, and Fungal Infection Awareness Month? Neither did I. But for everyone who has fungus-free toenails and ate more than enough hardboiled eggs after Easter, please note that May is also National Historic Preservation Month.

To be honest, I didn’t know that when I ventured down to Old Firehouse Books for local historian Wayne Sundberg’s presentation of Fort Collins Lost: The Wrecking Ball of Progress. But that just made me doubly glad to be there. A retired PSD teacher—I was one of his students at Lincoln Jr. High—Mr. Sundberg is an author, speaker, and champion of historical preservation. (And, yes, it’s impossible for me to call any of my former teachers by their first names.)

It’s hard to imagine now, but Fort Collins’s early years were touch-and-go. A bumper crop of grasshoppers and the failure of the first bank led to the population declining from 400 in 1873 to 300 in 1874. But after the railroad came through in 1877, the numbers rebounded—and then some. And the people who came planned to stay, a fact that was reflected in the more enduring construction of their homes.

Some of those homes, such as The Avery House, are still standing, but I was surprised—and distressed—by how many have succumbed to “The Wrecking Ball of Progress.” The 1950s saw a huge influx of Fort Collins residents, and most of them had cars (sound familiar?). And cars need places to park. After seeing the pictures of historical buildings being razed to make room for parking lots—and Safeway, and the original J.C. Penney—I wasn’t surprised that I had the lyrics to Joni Mitchell’s Big Yellow Taxi running through my head. (“They paved paradise to put up a parking lot…”)

The occasion of Fort Collins’s Centennial in 1964 got more people thinking about historical preservation, and things have since turned around. But, as Mr. Sundberg pointed out, not every building can—or should—be saved. The original Fort Collins High School (where the Lincoln Center now stands) was a firetrap, and the recently-deconstructed Poudre Valley Creamery, was ill-suited for renovation (partly for financial reasons).

Take time this month to appreciate our remaining historical buildings, including the Carnegie Library (now housing the Fort Collins Museum/Discovery Center), the McHugh House/Hospital, and of course the old firehouse, which is a great place to pick up a book and a cup of tea (at Happy Lucky’s Teahouse).

Consider taking a self-guided or guided historic walking tour of downtown. And if you get a chance to read Mr. Sundberg’s books or listen to his presentations, please do. He’s a very interesting man, and I’m sure he won’t mind if you call him Wayne.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Friday Faces: William Larimer

Larimer County, of which Fort Collins is the county seat, has a total area of 2,633.86 square miles--2,601.30 square miles (or 98.76%) is land and 32.56 square miles (or 1.24%) is water. It is the seventh most populous and ninth largest of Colorado’s 64 counties. But where did it get its name?

William Larimer, Jr. came west from Pennsylvania after making a bundle in the railroad industry. He homesteaded in Leavenworth, Kansas with his wife and nine children before finding his way to the foot of the Rockies. In 1858, he helped found the Denver City Land Company, named for Kansas Territorial Governor James W. Denver.

Larimer was a mover and shaker whose efforts helped secure the formation of the Colorado Territory in 1861, with Denver as its capital. He anticipated being named first governor but was passed over in favor of Missourian William Gilpin (in part because President Lincoln apparently owed a favor to the governor of that state).

But being spurned by the prez wasn’t enough to keep Larimer down. He went on to serve as a US commissioner, a probate judge, a colonel in the Civil War, and a Kansas State Senator. Larimer Square in downtown Denver is named for him, as is the Larimer Neighborhood in Pittsburgh.

Mystery Photo:
Last week's picture was taken at the city's xeriscape demo garden.

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

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Week 39: MS Walk

There are so many great things about living in Colorado—the people, the climate, the fun activities, the number of large, friendly dogs. I’m sure you can add your own favorites to the list. But one serious consequence of living here is that we have one of the highest rates of multiple sclerosis (MS) in the country.

MS affects the central nervous system by destroying the fatty covering, or myelin sheath, on the nerves. This disrupts the flow of information from the brain to the body, much as an electrical wire shorts out without its protective covering. Among other things, MS can cause problems with vision, balance, speech, memory, and concentration, wreaking havoc on the day-to-day functions most of us take for granted. The cause of MS is unknown, though there might be an autoimmune factor, and there is no cure. The disease also has a geographical distribution—the number of cases increases farther north and south of the equator.

My husband and I have a very good friend who was diagnosed with MS in his twenties, and we make regular contributions to the MS Society with him in mind. But I’ve always wanted to do the walk. So I signed up this year and joined the crowd at Edora Park on Saturday morning. The park was filled with music and bright orange balloons, Perkins provided breakfast treats, and Animal House shelter representatives were in attendance with some very sweet adoptable dogs.

After a few speakers inspired and motivated us even further, it was time to walk. Many participants had dogs on leashes and kids in strollers or wagons, and they walked and chatted with their families and their teams. I wanted to take my time and socialize, but I was on a mission: to finish fast so I could make it to the PSD district track meet in time to watch my son compete. (I swear, there are not enough weekends in the month of May.)

The weather could not have been lovelier, especially considering all the cold, windy mornings we’ve had this spring. I was grateful for that, but I was more grateful for the simple act of walking. Because of the devastating neurological effects, many people with MS find themselves unable to walk to their mailbox or down a supermarket aisle.

The Fort Collins MS Walk had 48 teams and 514 participants, and the current fundraising total stands at $79,660.22. I accounted for only a small part of that, but I want to thank everyone who pledged money for my walk. For anyone interested in MS rides, hikes, or other fundraising opportunities, please visit the MS website.

This was my first walk, but it won’t be my last. And next time, I’ll plan to stick around for the post-walk chair massage.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Friday Five

Happy Friday, everyone. Get out and enjoy the beautiful weather this weekend. Here are pictures of five signs of spring I've spotted over the past few weeks.

Mystery Photo:
Last week's photo was of the cannon in City Park.

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

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Week 38: Students in the Spotlight

Happy Wednesday, and thanks again to everyone who visited during the A to Z Blog Challenge. (Apparently, there is also a Z to A in May Blog Challenge…maybe next year.) I’m back to my normal blog schedule now—posting my new activity of the week on Wednesdays, and whatever I cobble together for Fridays.

I usually plan my weekly activity by scoping out what’s happening around town, but occasionally the due course of my life plans it for me. That’s how I came to attend the Spotlight Music Students in the Spotlight recital. My son has been taking guitar lessons there for some time now, and because he is not the shrinking-violet-wallflower his mother was at his age—and, yes, I still kind of am—he jumped at the opportunity to perform in a band for the first time.

The instructors at Spotlight matched ten groups of students, and, after rehearsing once a week for three weeks, it was show time. The show included songs from the likes of Pink Floyd, Green Day, Stevie Ray Vaughan, and Bread. (I believe that, by law, any recital, talent show, kazoo-band performance, or elevator ride must include Taylor Swift’s Love Story, and this was no exception.) It was a great variety of sounds, and I was so impressed by the talent, especially considering the challenging material and short rehearsal period.

Not all of the students were kids, and it was really fun to see adults and younger folks sharing the stage—and I so do not mean that in a cheesy, Partridge Family way. (More like a School of Rock way.) For many of us, once we reach a certain age, we close the door on learning new stuff such as playing an instrument, speaking a foreign language, or making origami underwear. But it shouldn’t be that way, because learning is as good for our brains as it is for our kids’ brains.

My son had such a great experience that I’m sure this first Spotlight rock recital won’t be his last. Unless I grab a tambourine and try to join him on stage, that is.