Friday, December 28, 2012

Photos of the Week: Christmas Broccoli

Happy last Friday of 2012!. I hope Santa was good to you this year. We had the whitest Christmas we've had in northern Colorado since 2007. It really was wonderful to have the snow, and with daytime temperatures in the 20's, it's going to stick around for a while.

I wish I could say that I whipped up an amazing Christmas feast like those Whos down in Whoville, but that wasn't the case. It was a pretty simple affair, made a little bit more interesting with the first-time addition of a beautiful Romanesco broccoli. Lighter green than regular broccoli, with a mild cauliflower taste, it has a fascinating fractal-ly appearance that reminds me of a bunch of little Christmas trees.

We steamed it whole and 'decorated' it with diced red pepper and a yellow cherry tomato on top for a festive touch. The guy at the grocery store said it's pretty easy to grow, so I might give it a try this summer. 

(My dog thought it smelled pretty good, though it was probably just the butter.)

The New Year is soon upon us. Best wishes for a safe and healthy start to 2013!

Friday, December 21, 2012

Photo of the Week: Christmas Past

Happy Winter! We finally got some snow, so it actually feels like it now.

I did one of my least-favorite/most-favorite things this week: Driving to Denver International Airport (least; but the traffic wasn't too bad this time) to pick up my sister (most). We haven't lived in the same town since she went to college--she lives in Seattle now--but we are lucky to still spend Christmas together more often than not. She is one of my favorite people in all the world.

Here we are at Christmas circa 1970:

(Great picture quality, I know. That's me on the right. )

This is my last post before Christmas. If you celebrate it, have a wonderful holiday! I hope you are able to spend it with the ones you love.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

AIR Holiday Party

I'm frequently reminded of how great it is to live in a community that supports the arts. Though these are only some of the most obvious examples, I see it around town in the painted utility boxes and pianos:


I hear it in the many free concerts:

And nowhere was this support more apparent than at last week’s holiday open house for AIR, the Arts Incubator of the Rockies. To explain what they do, I’ll let their website speak for itself:

The Arts Incubator of the Rockies (AIR) is a revolutionary partnership between Beet Street, the City of Fort Collins Cultural Services Department, and the Leadership, Entrepreneurship, Arts Advocacy, and the Public Institute for the Arts (LEAP) at Colorado State University (CSU). AIR serves the Intermountain West and provides programs for visual artists, writers, musicians, performers, designers, arts administrators, and other creatives. AIR’s mission is to help develop, support, and advance artists and the power of creativity throughout communities in our member states.“

The open house brought together musicians, dancers, opera singer, actors, and writers for short programs and readings in a casual, grab-a-bite-and-a-drink atmosphere. (Feast your eyes on my awesomely bad cell phone photos. Yeah, those blurs are dancers.)

AIR’s new home is the Carnegie Building, which opened (in what is now Old Town) in 1903. Financed by Andrew Carnegie and built of red sandstone, it was the sixth public library in Colorado. It served that purpose until 1974. (I was young then but still remember the row of dour-looking presidential portraits lining the walls.) Two years later, it became home to the Fort Collins Museum, which remained there until last year.

Planned renovations include galleries, classrooms (wet, dry, and distance-learning), a theater, and a cafĂ©. I’m so excited to see the changes that the coming year will bring to this venerable old building. (This picture, from the Fort Collins History Connection, is of the building shortly after construction.) 

Friday, December 14, 2012

Deja Vu Blogfest: Virginia Dale Stage Station

It's the Day of the Do Over! This post is my entry for the 2012 Deja Vu Blogfest. I think revisiting fun/interesting/inspirational posts from the year is such a great idea, and I thank DL Hammons at Cruising Altitude 2.0 for putting this blogfest together. Plus, it's about the easiest dang blogfest ever, which scores big points with me these days.

For personal and historical reasons, my June visit to the Virginia Dale Stage Station was one of my favorite local activities of 2012. 

Thanks for visiting, and have a great weekend!


During the Civil War, the Overland Trail (aka Overland Stage Line) was a vital route for transporting mail and gold. The Virginia Dale Stage Station, north and west of Fort Collins, is believed to be the only station on the Overland Trail that is still standing in its original location. In 1985, it was added to the National Register of Historic Places. 

Established in 1862 by the infamous frontiersman Jack Slade, the 150-year-old building is in need of some serious restoration. Last Weekend, the Virginia Dale Community Club held a celebration to kick off its fundraising campaign.

Tucked back off the beaten path, the station doesn’t appear to be a stop on the way to anywhere these days, but it was once a place where passengers could get a meal and stay overnight if necessary. Heading up the dusty unpaved road toward the station, with the air conditioner keeping the 90 degree heat at bay, I couldn’t imagine making that trip in a stagecoach, especially while dressed in the layers of heavy garments women wore back then. (Seriously, ladies, aren’t you so glad to be able to slip on a pair of shorts?)

The visit to the station had personal significance for me, as my dad's master’s thesis was entitled Early Stage Lines in Colorado, 1859-1865. He died many years ago, but I like to think he was there in spirit on Saturday, trading stories with the ghost of Jack Slade.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Book Club Cookie Exchange

Confession: I’m not a great baker. The occasional batch of muffins is fine, a pumpkin pie on Thanksgiving, birthday cakes…but when it comes to high-volume cookie making, I lose interest after the first dozen. Christmas is the only time I even try to crank out more than 12 or so cookies at a time.

No surprise then that I’m not one of those moms who sends cookies off to every coach, teacher, and music instructor. (Yay, gift cards!) But I’ll bake for my family and for my book club’s annual cookie exchange. I love the exchange for the holiday cheer, but it does require me to bake no less than 42 cookies. At once. (I hear you laughing, you Food Network types.) And for some reason—brain atrophy from reduced exposure to sunlight, I think—I always choose a recipe I’ve never made before instead of going with something tried and true.

This year, I saw a recipe for Butter Almond Thins in Good Housekeeping magazine. It looked easy—basic ingredients, no endless rolling and cutting. I gave it my best (I didn’t have cardamom—really, who has that?—so I used ginger instead) and the cookies looked pretty much like the picture…until I tried to remove them from the pan and they turned to dust quicker than Dracula at daybreak. Yes, instead of choosing a nice chewy oatmeal cookie that can hold its own during international travel—let alone a trip across town—I made a wafer-thin shortbread that disintegrates when touched, breathed upon, or frowned at.

But all’s well that ends well. After a little chillin’ time in the fridge, the cookies made it to book club without major incident. It’s anyone’s guess, however, if they survived their subsequent travels. The best part is that thanks to my book club, I now have a variety of delicious, non-disintegrating cookies (that I didn't have to bake!) to serve this holiday season.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Friday Fun: The Griswold Family Christmas

It's time for one of my favorite holiday traditions: tomorrow night, we will watch Christmas Vacation with the same good friends we've watched it with for the past twenty years, give or take a year or two. We know all the lines, and I still laugh until I cry every time the squirrel jumps out of the tree.  

We're older now, and so are our kids--theirs are grown, ours are on the way. We don't see each other that often during the year, but we always make time for dinner and Christmas Vacation. It just wouldn't be the holiday season without it.

In the coming weeks, if you find yourself muttering "it's Christmas, and we're all in misery," take a moment to raise your moose glass of egg nog and toast to old friends and enduring traditions. 

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

It's December!

Hello, again! Wow, November really flew by, and we're almost a week into December. I'd love to say I was super-productive during my month off, but it was pretty much business as usual for me--which means I'm still at least moderately behind in everything. I hope you all had a wonderful November and a great Thanksgiving (if you celebrate it in your neck of the woods).

December is about the only time of year when I really enjoy snow. (And this year, we desperately need the moisture.) With temperatures still in the sixties, I'm not feeling a whole lot of holiday spirit quite yet. Thank goodness there are lots of things around town to help get me in the Christmas mood. Three I've enjoyed so far:

1) The downtown lights, gorgeous as always. And this year, the company my husband works for is one of the sponsors, so they look extra nice to me.

2) Watching my fifth-grade neighbor star as Ralphie Parker in Colorado State University's production of the perennial holiday favorite, A Christmas Story. He did a great job and did not shoot his eye out :-)

3) The Jingle Ale party at Coopersmith's Pub in Old Town. Every year, the brew pub celebrates the tapping of its seasonal ale, which is flavored with lots of nice winter spices such as clove and ginger. Add in Santa, a mandolin-playing elf, and the Fort Collins Pipe Band, and it's a holiday kick-off party like no other. Cheers!

Friday, November 2, 2012

November Hiatus

Happy November, everyone! This was the sunrise that greeted me yesterday:

A lovely way to begin the month.

The pumpkin seeds are roasted (but not burned this year),

and we have plenty of trick-or-treat candy to last us.

This is one of the best parts of the ever-expanding holiday season, when Halloween is over and Thanksgiving is not yet upon us. I refuse to begin the Christmas fun until Thanksgiving has had its due, so November for me is a time to enjoy the gifts of autumn. But because I, like everyone these days, have a long to-do list, something has to give, so I've decided to take a blogging break until December.

Enjoy the month! I hope you'll take some time for yourself in November, too. 

Friday, October 26, 2012

Friday Five: Local Haunts

I freely admit that I am a total wimp and have no desire to take one of my local ghost tours at Halloween or any other time of year. But if I wanted to test my courage in a few allegedly haunted places, these five would make the list:

The Northern Hotel
Ghost: A mother searching for her five-year old daughter who died in the Spanish Flu epidemic of 1918.

Old Firehouse
Ghost: Old West Gambler Jack Cassidy, who died in solitary confinement after being locked up for cheating at cards.

Linden Hotel
Ghost: Longtime area resident Frank Miller, a colorful artist, photographer, and marksman who traveled with Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show.

Trimble Court
Ghost: Businessman Ed Trimble, who built the Opera Galleria building in 1881 to house various cultural and civic events.

Old Railroad Station
Multiple ghosts include Annie, the mixed-breed dog adopted by the railroad employees, who greeted passengers from 1934-1948.

I’ve been to all these places, but not after dark…with ghost hunters…in shivery late October.

Hope you’re enjoying your local spirits of the season, if that’s your thing! Have a great weekend.

Interior of Northern Hotel

Old Firehouse

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Not Quite Indian Summer

Though today’s weather is forecast to be cooler, we’ve had some nice warm temperatures around here lately. I always thought that any stretch of summery days this time of year could be called Indian Summer. But according to the Old Farmer’s Almanac (“Useful, with a pleasant degree of humor”), a true Indian Summer must meet several criteria:

Temperatures are warm, but the atmosphere must also be “hazy or smoky,” with high barometric pressure, no wind, and cool nights, all of it caused by a “stagnant anticyclone high pressure weather system;”

The warm days must be preceded by a cold snap or hard frost; and

Indian Summer must occur between St. Martin’s Day (November 11) and November 20. As the old saying goes, “If All Saints (November 1) brings out winter, St. Martin’s brings out Indian Summer.” 

What, you’ve never heard that one? Me, neither. And how about St. Swithin’s Day—which I always thought was made up because I heard it on The Simpsons. (Bart: “Kippers for breakfast Aunt Helga? Is it St. Swithin’s Day already?”) Apparently, it’s a real saint’s day that occurs on July 15. I better mark my calendar for next year.

Anyway, even though we’ve had the hard frost and the unseasonably warm temps, it’s too early to call this Indian Summer. Makes me wonder how something that happens in November can be a ‘summer’ anything. But there you have it. Those Old Farmers wouldn’t lie.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Friday Five: Pumpkin Facts

When I was growing up, pumpkin was used for two things: carving at Halloween (and smashing, if you were one of those kids) and pies at Thanksgiving. Now, pumpkin has found its way into everything from lattes to ravioli to body scrub. It might be a bit of seasonal overkill, but I love it. I've yet to find a pumpkin product I don't like, and I'd much rather bake with pumpkin than slimy mashed banana. 

Without further ado, pumpkin facts as promised:

Pumpkins are grown on every continent except Antarctica;

The word pumpkin comes from the Greek pepon, meaning a large melon;

Illinois grows the most pumpkins in the U.S., and Morton, Illinois, home of Libby, is considered the Pumpkin Capital;

Pumpkin world records include the largest (1,810.5 pounds) and the fastest time carving a face into one (20.1 seconds);

A pumpkin is 90% water, which makes it low in calories and sodium. But it is high in fiber and beta carotene.

And a bonus fact, which I learned about a minute ago: if you type 'pumpkin' more than three or four times, it starts to look like a very silly word.

Have a great weekend!

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Them Bones

To those of you who may have noticed that my posts have been rather cursory lame over the past few weeks, well, you’re right. I have a reason, though, and this time it doesn’t involve international espionage. (But, wait…I’ve said too much.) Anyhoo, my 77-year-old mother tripped in her living room and broke her leg. It was a fracture of her tibial plateau, for anyone who cares about these things, and earned her the full Black and Decker treatment—screws and a steel plate—and six weeks of non-weight-bearing status. That’s right, she can’t use her broken leg for anything more than filling out her slacks for six weeks. (This is not her x-ray, but it's the same area in question.)

Her house, built in that carefree era of the 70s when no one apparently anticipated getting old and breaking bones, has no main-floor bedroom or bathroom. (I can’t blame all this lack of foresight on the baby boomers, because my house, built 12 years ago, is really no better.) My mother’s two modes of doctor-approved locomotion are 1) wheelchair and 2) hopping on one foot using a walker, which can only be done successfully on stairs by Cirque du Soleil acrobats. So she had to go to rehab. The place is clean and generally pleasant and everyone is nice, but…yeah. William Shatner isn’t exactly deluged with PriceLine booking requests.   

For years, my mother’s been a firm believer in good nutrition (though she seems to have conveniently forgotten that my childhood was full of KFC and sugary breakfast cereals) and sort of obsessive about vitamins and supplements. She has never smoked, maintains a healthy weight, and doesn’t really have any chronic conditions of her age group, such as diabetes or a Wheel of Fortune addiction. But thanks to this little incident, she has learned that she has significant osteoporosis.  

It's is a game-changer, folks, and not in a good way like winning the lottery or having a forehead tattoo removed. So, at this skeleton-y time of year, my skinny friend above and I have a reminder: take care of your bones! Learn the risk factors for osteoporosis and what you can do to help prevent it, because I’m pretty sure Wolverine’s adamantium skeleton is one-of-a-kind. (But my mom would be a total bad-a** grammy with these things, right?)

Friday, October 12, 2012

Photos of the Week

How these guys

were brave enough to forage with this guy

a mere ten feet overhead, I'll never know. Safety in numbers, maybe.

Have a great weekend!

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Garden Clean-Up Time

Last weekend, we had our first hard freeze in Northern Colorado. So, even though the temperature today is forecast to reach the 70s, my morning glories, which started out looking like this:

Now look like this:

Likewise, my squash:

Is completely squashed:

Because my husband kindly put the pots from the porch in the garage for a couple of days, it wasn't a total loss. But pretty soon it will be time to put those away, too.

I still like this time of year, though, when all the growing things are getting ready to rest for a while. January, though, is a whole other story.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Happy October!

No post to speak of for today, just a wish that you all have a wonderful October. It's a fun month around here. I hope the same is true where you live, too!

The farm down the street from my neighborhood has their pumpkins ready!

Friday, September 28, 2012

Friday Fun: Poodle Party

Continuing with the dog theme for the week: 

My neighbor has three standard poodles--a mama and two of her offspring. They are high-energy, inquisitive dogs who like to stand on her garden wall and look over the fence.

Sometimes just one:

Often two:

Occasionally all three:

It never fails to crack me up.

Have a great weekend!