Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Happy Blogiversary Hiatus

I can hardly believe it, but Choice City Native turns three years old this week! I'm proud of my little blog baby and have a lot of fun sharing it with you. But now feels like the right time for me to take a break and work on other important projects--including Walter the puppy, my mother's garage full of antique furniture, my neglected manuscripts... Life, right? You know how it is.

Until we meet again, I wish you all the best. And happy blogging!

Friday, August 9, 2013

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

A Breckenridge Getaway

Last week, we spent a few days up in Breckenridge, Colorado (aka Breck), a ski community less than three hours away from my house. The town got its start when prospectors came for the Pikes Peak Gold Rush in 1859 and discovered placer gold deposits along the Blue River. These days, Breck has a population of about 4,500 at an elevation of 9,600 feet. In my humble opinion, the Colorado ski towns are more fun and more beautiful in the summer--not to mention less crowded and with better weather. And, in Breck's case, free gondola and parking.

Some of the many things we enjoyed:

The picturesque town

Friendly dogs

Historic cemetery
Summer sled dog ride

Alpine coaster

Renting a boat on Lake Dillon

Lots of good food

The wildlife

And of course the spectacular views

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Meet Walter

Walter is a 12(?) week old terrier mutt-puppy who was found running loose in Kansas and was rescued by an organization here in Colorado, surviving parvo along the way. He is adorable and crazy and on Friday will be the newest member of our family. Wish us luck! I think we're gonna need it :-)

Enjoy this last day of July, before the back-to-school season gets into full swing. Tomorrow is Colorado Day, and I'd like to wish my native state a happy 137th birthday! Admission to the History Colorado Center in Denver will be free from 10-5, and Monday, August 5, is a free day at all 42 state parks.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Paddler's Pub

Prepare to be super-mucho impressed everyone, because I know someone who plays in a non-school band. He's a not-too-geeky computer guy by day and a funky trumpet player in the band Futaba by...well, in this case it was early evening. (They play at night, too, if I ever want to stay up later than the 9:00 news.) 

Hearing the band perform at a reasonable hour was a great reason to get us out to Paddler's Pub for the first time. The pub is part of the Mountain Whitewater Descents rafting company and is described as "the first true outdoor pub in Fort Collins." 

The atmosphere is genuine Colorado casual. There's no kitchen, the floor is gravel, and the bar serves only local beers and wines. The eats come from pizza delivery or one of the food trucks that frequent the parking lot. If you remember the B-52's song "Love Shack," this is indeed a funky little shack.

Even though we hadn't spent the day paddling down the Poudre, we didn't feel at all out of place at Paddler's Pub. The place is all about friendly and fun, with a sand volleyball court, horseshoe pits, a nature trail, stuff for kids to climb on, and great views of the foothills. And the music, of course, which wraps up by 9:00--just right for semi-geezers like me. (Click here for the Paddler's Pub music schedule)

And If you ever get the chance to hear Futaba play, please do, unless you are allergic to great music that makes you want to shake your booty and/or groove-thing.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Photo of the Week

Beauty is an ecstasy; it is as simple as hunger. There is really nothing to be said about it. It is like the perfume of a rose: you can smell it and that is all.
W. Somerset Maugham

Have a great weekend!

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

McMurry and Salyer Natural Areas

The boys and I were overdue for a natural areas visit, and when the weather is hot like it was last week, the cool waters of the Cache la Poudre River are pretty inviting. The McMurry and Salyer Natural Areas lie adjacent to one another alongside the river and are two of the 17 natural areas included in the city's river management plan.

McMurry's two ponds make it a popular spot for fishers and canoers. We weren't outfitted for either, so we walked around them and looked for interesting critters--which, during the heat of the day, weren't out and about in abundance. (Smarter than we were, I guess.) Swimming is not allowed in the ponds, but it's just a short detour to the river, where my boys waded in and cooled off.

Salyer is an easy-access area with a short stretch of trail perfect for watching the birds. The meadow at Salyer is under restoration, which includes the removal of the native iris for future reintroduction. I would like to come back and see it when that is completed.

We also found a shady stream and a great tree for climbing. All in all, not a bad way to spend a couple of hours of a summer day.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Friday Fun: Little Free Library

Hey, everyone. If it's hot where you live--like it is here--I hope you'll have a chance to find some shade or a swimming pool this weekend!

Some neighbors a few blocks down have put up a Little Free Library--kind of a combination mailbox/birdhouse-looking enclosure where readers of all ages can exchange books. I'd never heard of this before, but apparently they are popping up all over the world. (Find the U.S. map here.)

We have a very good library system in Fort Collins, but there is something so charming and neighborly about having an exchange box right down the street. I dropped off a couple of kids books and chose a novel for myself.

Happy reading! If you have a Little Free Library in your town, I'd love to hear about it.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Bombers Away

I'm feeling exceptionally unmotivated on this hot summer day, but I do want to share a few pictures of our recent family activity involving enormous military aircraft. Over the Fourth of July holiday, the Ft. Collins/Loveland airport hosted a '40s Forever weekend to remember and honor the men and women who served in WWII. 

Along with other air and ground vehicles from the period, three bombers were on site--one offering flights (for $500) and two on the tarmac for tours (a mere $12 in comparison). We went with the less-expensive option and got to walk through the B-17 and B-24 bombers. 

It was an eye-opening and humbling trip back in time. Though the bombers look huge from the outside, maneuvering inside them was cramped and difficult (that's my husband squeezing through). It felt like being in a giant steel can, and I can only imagine how harrowing it must have been during wartime. 

As this important era of American history slips farther away, I'm glad there are still people who work so hard to keep it alive so my kids, and hopefully their kids, can learn from the past.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Making Peace With My Lawn

Last summer, I was in a bit of a snit because my lawn wasn't green enough. That's right, even with the smoke from forest fires hanging heavy over the town, and the reservoir being steadily depleted to fight those fires, I still wanted a green lawn. The kind everyone had when I was a kid: a plush, green rectangle with a sidewalk down the middle (like this one, which is SO not my lawn).

The problem (according to me) is that my husband, in his endearing stubbornness, has refused since day one to put in a sprinkler system, and that means schlepping garden hoses around. Garden hoses are my nemesis. I hate them. (And before you try to convert me, I refuse to fall for the marketing ploy that is the "as-seen-on-TV-pocket-hose," because I know even that Muppety-sea worm-looking thing will try ruin my life.)

So the perfect lawn eluded me.

This summer, I'm a changed woman. The tragic losses of life and property we've seen across the region have made it extremely clear that fire (too much of it) and water (not enough of it) are going to shape life here in the west for many years to come. The vanity of perfectly green lawns in a climate like ours has become ridiculous.

Instead of envying the neighbors' lawns that are Land-of-Oz-green, I wonder why they bother. Back yards, okay, for kids and dogs. Front yards, however...with the exception of mowing, my neighbors never spend any time on them. And I can imagine what their water bills are like. The lawns I now envy are the ones that are shrinking, with grass being steadily replaced by rock and drought-loving xeriscape plants.

As for our front lawn, I have plans for downsizing it someday soon. For now, we're maintaining it in a state of near-death by watering just enough to keep things greenish-brown and moderately crunchy. It's not great for bare feet, but that's what flip-flops are for, right?

Friday, June 28, 2013

Cephalopod Coffeehouse: The Martian Chronicles

Happy Friday, everyone! With my boys out of school, I've been thinking about summer reading this month. I was the kind of kid who had my nose in a book all summer long. I didn't play sports, I didn't go on fabulous vacations. And in my junior high days, we didn't have the electronic distractions that kids have now. So, I read. (Yeah, I watched bad TV too, but mostly I read.) Feeling nostalgic for those days, I've chosen Ray Bradbury's The Martian Chronicles as my coffehouse entry for today.

Bradbury called it "a book of stories pretending to be a novel." This blurb from Wikipedia explains the format better than I can: "The Martian Chronicles follows a "future history" structure. The stories, complete in themselves, come together as episodes in a larger sequential narrative framework. The overall structure is in three parts, punctuated by two catastrophes: the near-extinction of the Martians and the parallel near-extinction of the human race."

I think I read and reread this book every summer from junior high until after college. Written in the forties and fifties, when 1999 was a distant sparkle in the future, it was dated even when I picked it up for the first time. Martians? Please. But I found the stories to be so compelling, so poignant, so understatedly sinister at times that the hokey science was easy to ignore. At their most basic, the stories examine the good and the bad of what it means to be 'human.' But the book is also a commentary on what makes a better society, what Americans (even back then) were doing wrong, and the lessons we dumb future-people might learn from the Martians. (Sadly, I suspect we haven't.) This is the book that turned me into a Ray Bradbury fan for life, and I am enjoying rereading it now more than ever.

And now, I'm off to get my coffee and read some enlightening cephalopod book reviews!

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Grill Your Ace Off

I'm not a food blogger, but I like to eat. I also like to support worthy causes. And where better to do it than...the parking lot of my local Ace Hardware? Yes indeedy, last weekend Clay's Ace Hardware in Fort Collins hosted a "Grill Your Ace Off" competition to benefit the Homelessness Prevention Initiative.

Clay's and a handful of restaurants put their grill skills to the test, and I don't mean with the run-of-the-mill hot dogs and brats, either. Nope, we're talking ribs, shrimp, salmon, pork tenderloin...and even peanut-butter-stuffed jalapenos with mango chutney. (Interesting combination, that.) 

The samples were free; casting a vote for the best cost a dollar. No kidding. We sampled from everyone, and we voted for everyone. It was too hard to choose a favorite, as it was all good food for a good cause. I hope it was successful enough that they will want to do it again.

About the Homelessness Prevention Initiative:
"Founded in 2001, the Homelessness Prevention Initiative provides rental assistance to members of our community who face the loss of their housing through unforeseen emergencies. For those who earn a marginal income or work in service sector jobs, homelessness is just one rent payment away. When work hours are reduced, when a job is lost or a child requires expensive emergency care, making that rent payment may not be possible."

Friday, June 21, 2013

Photo of the Week: Painter's Pants

Happy Friday yet again! Sorry I missed my Wednesday post. I was going to write about playing in my first tennis tournament (me, who has never ever ever played a competitive sport) last weekend with my younger son. But there weren't enough teams signed up in the beginner bracket, so we didn't get to play. It turned out okay though, because my husband and older son ended up playing five hours of tennis together--in the hot June sun, no less--and frankly, I just don't have that kind of stamina and/or attention span.

Anyhoo, here's my photo of the week: 

I never see anything but clouds and birds through this kitchen window, and the sight of the headless house painter up there on his ladder was impossible to resist. I had to make it quick, though, because if he'd have busted me with my camera...well, that's a tiny bit awkward, yeah?

Apologies for not visiting many blogs lately. I'm going to try shake off this summer blog-fog that's settling over my brain and get out there again. Anyone else having a hard time staying plugged in...?

Friday, June 14, 2013

Photo of the Week: You're a Grand Old Flag

George M. Cohen wrote "You're a Grand Old Flag" in 1906 for his stage musical George Washington, Jr. It became the first song from a musical to sell more than a million copies of sheet music. Not too shabby, considering it was nearly a century before iTunes.

The song has a few verses I've never heard, but many of us in the US of A are familiar with at least part of the chorus:

You’re a grand old flag
You’re a high flying flag
And forever in peace may you wave
You’re the emblem of
The land I love
The home of the free and the brave
Every heart beats true
‘Neath the red white and blue
Where there’s never a boast or brag
Should old acquaintance be forgot
Keep your eye on the grand old flag

(Not to be unpatriotic, but some of us could use a little work on that 'boast or brag' part.) 

Happy Flag Day!

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Welcome Back, Class of 1983

My husband and I graduated from the same high school, he a year ahead of me. Because he is Normal--not an anti-social, Facebook-eschewing, couldn't-care-less-what-98%-of-my-high-school-class-is-doing hermit like me--he enjoys going to his reunions. And because I can occasionally be convinced to mingle with the Normals, I go with him. 

10 years was awful. Everyone was just the same, except they could legally drink (and did so to excess) and all called me by my sister's name. (That's a teeny-tiny pet peeve of mine.) 20 years was slightly better. People had kids and more life experiences, but they still talked an awful lot about the glory days of high school...and called me Amy. 

So when we heard from a friend that the 30th was coming up, I didn't want to go. And my husband did. 

If you watch baseball, you may be familiar with the term "playing under protest." That's the attitude I adopted toward this reunion. I didn't get a haircut. I didn't buy anything new to wear. I didn't try to lose five pounds, and, what's more, I didn't  worry about not trying to lose five pounds. (Even though, in all honesty, I could stand to lose five ten pounds.) 

Yeah, I'd go to his reunion. But I wouldn't enjoy it. (Side note: I am not normally this passive-aggressive. I don't think. Maybe I should ask.)

But, surprise surprise, I did have a good time. After three decades, it wasn't so much a high school reunion anymore. It was a gathering of old friends, who happened to attend the same high school, sharing stories about kids, divorces, jobs, even grandchildren. There were a lot of laughs, hugs, and handshakes. Yes, the weird ones were still kinda weird, the drinkers still drank, the talkers still talked. And talked. But most everyone seemed grounded, comfortable in their skin, older and definitely wiser. I was actually glad I went (shhh), and it was almost enough to convince me to go to my 30th next summer. We'll see. 

Friday, June 7, 2013

Natural Areas: Mallard's Nest

Tucked between Spring Creek and the Spring Creek Trail, Mallard's Nest is a fun little natural area for jumping on rocks, bird watching, and taking in the sounds of the tumbling water and the baseball games at the park nearby. (But be sure to step off the trail to do those things, or run the risk of being flattened by a speeding bicycle.)

The area was inundated by a very damaging flood in 1997:

And, I'm happy to report, it is indeed frequented by the eponymous waterfowl:

Have a great weekend!

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Colorado Disc Dogs

Last weekend, I thought to myself, what better way is there to kick off summer than with dogs? Leaping after flying discs? Why, there's no better way, I tell ya. And though my dog is very sweet, she is also old and lazy and would leap for no less than a flying disc made of bacon. (New from Wham-O: The FrisBacon!)

So it's a good thing the Colorado Disc Dogs were in town for a little friendly competition. In 1999, a few smaller Colorado dog-and-disc clubs came together to form CDD, and happy dogs and their owners have been throwin' and catchin' at their competitions ever since. 

In case you can't tell from the pictures, this is one of those events that is simply fun to watch, unlike, say, golf. (Which would be much more interesting if dogs were allowed to chase the balls. But that's just my opinion.)

Sometimes, the dogs don't cooperate exactly how their humans would like, but that's all part of the experience. Most of the canines were extremely focused, like this gal

and seemed to be having a great time. Even without bacon. 

Friday, May 31, 2013

Cephalopod Coffeehouse: The Paris Wife

Honestly, I wondered about the wisdom of signing up for a book review blog hop--no matter how awesomely named--taking place the last day of May. It has been a busy month, and I have gotten one step farther behind every day. But! I finished my book last night and am ready to give it a short blurb before reading the much more thoughtful and less last-minute-y reviews from the other Cephalopod Coffeehouse participants.  (Find that list here.)

So, without further ado, The Paris Wife by Paula McLain is a story told in first-person by Hadley Richardson, who is better known as The First Mrs. Ernest Hemingway. She's a woman I knew nothing about, and I was captivated by how this relatively ordinary midwestern gal found herself married to an extraordinary man (Hemingway), living in an extraordinary city (1920s Paris), and befriended by an extraordinary social circle (including Gertrude Stein and the Fitzgeralds). 

From Chicago to Paris to Canada to Pamplona, the down-to-earth Hadley drinks too much, goes to bullfights, has a baby, and weathers the storms of high-society and the moods of her mercurial husband. Throughout it all, her voice remains accessible and true, and the book comes across as genuine and unpretentious. Things don't end wonderfully for Hadley and Ernest, but, considering the man and the times, it could have been much worse.

So if Leo as Gatsby has you wanting more Jazz Age drama, give this book a look this summer. It's a good one for beach or poolside, though it may make you wish for a waiter in a white tuxedo to bring you a drink on a silver tray.

Thanks to Coffeehouse host The Armchair Squid for putting this hop together!

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Berthoud Funeral Home...and Arts Center?

When I was a girl, my mother's parents lived in the little town of Berthoud, which is about 30 miles south of Fort Collins. My grandfather was the funeral director at the Berthoud Funeral Home. Growing up as the child of a mortician endowed my mother with a unique perspective and a good sense of humor. In Kansas, her family lived above the funeral home, and she would tell her friends that if the floor collapsed, her bed would land right on the embalming table. 

Thankfully, the Berthoud Funeral Home was separate from the residence. My sister and I visited often, and that arrangement was creepy enough for us. Just knowing that the brick building across the yard housed dead bodies on a regular basis gave us the willies. 

I haven't been to Berthoud in years, but last week when my younger son had a baseball game there, my older son and I walked over to check things out while the team warmed up. I didn't know it years ago, but the house my grandparents lived in is historic. It was built by F.I. Davis, the town's first mayor, who came to Berthoud from the Sunshine mining camp west of Boulder in 1886. I learned this from the plaque out front. The house has been converted to offices, but it was after hours, so I couldn't get inside. 

The funeral home is now an arts center. I tried to keep an open mind, but after a look through the window into the big room where the caskets used to hang out--sometimes occupied, sometimes not--I told my son that no matter how colorful the outside of the building was:

it would always be a funeral home to me.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Photo of the Week: Assembling the Wall

As part of our Memorial Day observances, the Traveling Vietnam Memorial Wall will be at Veteran's Plaza through Monday. I'd heard about the traveling wall, but I didn't know until recently that it is just 20% smaller than the real wall. The assembly was only half-completed when I stopped by for a picture, but even that was much too long, with way too many names. It's a somber sight. 

The wall will be lighted and guarded 24 hours a day, and admission is free. 

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Estes Park Jazz Fest

With a couple of budding jazz musicians in the family, we made a point to zip up to Estes Park on Saturday and spend a little time at the 23rd Jazz Fest and Art Walk. Estes Park is a mountain community about an hour's drive from my house. The town is named for Joel Estes, who settled there with his wife and 13 children after striking it rich in the California Gold Rush. 

The altitude makes the growing season too short for farming, but the area has supported many cattle ranches, past and present. in 1903, F.O. Stanley, co-inventor of the Stanley Steamer, came to Estes Park seeking a cure for tuberculosis. He built the luxury Stanley Hotel at a cost of more than half a million dollars. It opened in 1909 and still stands in white magnificence on the hill. It is reportedly haunted, like any historic hotel worth its salt, and was the inspiration for the Overlook Hotel in Stephen King's book The Shining.

Estes Park is surrounded on three sides by Rocky Mountain National Park, and it is a gorgeous setting in every season. Though the Jazz Fest is growing every year, the admission is still free, including parking where available. We enjoyed an excellent jazz guitar summit and then some Brazilian jazz, with the sounds of hummingbirds buzzing by, before the threat of rain sent us back down the canyon to home.