My life has a superb cast but I can't figure out the plot.
~ Ashleigh Brilliant


Friday, January 29, 2010

My Week in Pictures


Mercy, it's been one of those weeks, and I'm a draggin' my wagon kinda dragon. But rather than bore you with the wordy details, let's just review my week in pictures, shall we?

My week made me feel just like this...

and quite a bit like this...

although in my case, this is probably more realistic...
It made me look mostly like this...

and made me really need this...

and made me want all of this (and then some)...

(And BW's week was no better!)

So TGIF, baby!!!!

Have a great weekend!

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

The poetry of perfect rice


Rice sticking, scorching,
Perfection was elusive;
Till perfect gadget.
~a Haiku by Laloo
:-)

If you've followed my blog awhile you know I'm fond of kitchen gadgets, with a preference, when possible, for the simple and non-electric. We'd pondered the purchase of a rice cooker for a couple of years (because when it comes to purchases, we can be very deliberate, slow ponderers!)...



You're probably asking, "Why would you want a rice cooker if you say you like simple, non-electric gadgets? What's simpler than a pan on the stove?" Okay, well, I think you should stop asking questions while I'm telling you my story. :-)~ The pan on the stove technique is the way we've always cooked rice, and it's also the reason we've been pondering a rice cooker. We were tired of having the pot boil over, having to babysit it until it would finally hit that sweet spot when it stops boiling and starts gently simmering, and having the rice frequently overcook or scorch and always stick to the bottom of the pan. We kept hearing good things from friends about their electric rice cookers, but when we'd browse for them and read reviews, we just weren't smitten enough. So we continued babysitting the rice, scrubbing the stove top, and scouring the bottom of the pot. Till one day...

We happened upon The Perfect Rice Cooker (or so it claimed) in our local kitchenwares store a few months ago. We decided to bring one home and give it a spin, and have been delighted with it. I think its claim to be the perfect rice cooker (or at least a perfect rice cooker) is justified (click on the above link to see how it works). There's no boiling over, overcooking, scorching or sticking, just perfect rice (and other grains) every time. There's also one with a stainless steel handle, but we really like our bamboo-handled version...


With organic short-grain brown rice, before cooking


With FatFree Vegan's Apple-Spice Oats,
all ingredients mixed and steamed together

With the lid (not used in the steaming process,
but to keep the cooked food warm)

We've used it a lot since we bought it, but still have plenty of grains and varieties of rice to experiment with. So far it's cooked steel-cut oats and jasmine, basmati, Wehani, and short and long-grain brown rice to - as its name suggests - perfection.

I haven't posted any recipes in a while (links to other people's recipes don't count!), so here is one of our favorite ways to enjoy brown rice...


Rice Bowls
simple, delicious and nutritious!

Per bowl:
one serving cooked, organic, short-grain brown rice
mixed with
five or six of the following :

Toasted Nori sheet, torn into bite-size squares
1 carrot, sliced thinly or shredded
chickpeas (aka garbanzo beans)
handful of fresh spinach leaves
or dark green or red lettuce
toasted pumpkin seeds
toasted sesame seeds
pine nuts or walnuts
hemp or chia seeds
dried cranberries
avocado slices
diced tomato
cucumber
sprouts
Add your choice of dressing or sauce
(vinaigrette can be nice, or a dash of hot sauce perhaps?
We love ours with organic tamari)

Layer the ingredients for pretty presentation,
or mix them all together like we do. :-)
I put the carrot slices on the bottom of the bowl,
then add the hot rice on top of them.
Once I've added everything else & mixed it together,
the hot rice has softened the carrots perfectly!

Serve warm or chilled.
(Great way to use leftover rice)

Enjoy!
And may your rice always be perfect. :-)



Friday, January 22, 2010

Boulder Part II - hops & hikes!

As I mentioned in my previous post, Joanne and I conducted quite a bit of in-depth research into some of Boulder's microbrews, which included a lengthy tour of the source of the appropriately named Boulder Beer, Colorado's first microbrewery...

(the bottling area)

The beginning of our tour, as our guide Frank (beer in hand) explains the purpose of the mash tun behind him where the grains are soaked, creating "wort," and the nearby brew kettle (not pictured but which looks similar) where the wort is - no surprise here - brewed. :-) (If you want to learn more about how they brew beer, you can take the virtual tour on their web site).

Frank was a very fun tour guide and a pretty amazing guy. He'd been a bartender at Boulder Beer, but lost his leg a few months earlier in a freak bicycle accident (which resulted in a train running over his leg!) and could no longer lift and carry the kegs. So he became a brewery tour guide and ours was his first solo tour. He told us the story of his accident after the tour while we all drank beer, and though no one could have blamed him if he'd suffered from self-pity or bitterness, he radiated nothing but joy and gratitude.

Cheers to you, Frank, you're an inspiration!


We enjoyed a generous sampling of Boulder Beer's finest.
The glasses were small, but we had full control of the pitchers!
I brought home a sample 6-pack for BW, who enjoyed them all.
(My personal favorite? "Sweaty Betty Blonde")

We also enjoyed some generous beer samples (the generosity of the samplings was key to the high quality of our research, dontcha know) with veggie wraps at the Southern Sun Brewery...

(My favorite in this group was the ginger beer).


No way were we going to visit Boulder without embarking on a good day hike. The problem was deciding which of the many hiking trails and scenic areas to choose! The staff at VG Burgers was helpful with this, as was our Boulder map, so we headed off to beautiful Chautauqua Park...

Joanne in a park within the Park. Surrounded by beautiful cottages, a restaurant, and even a concert hall where a symphony orchestra was rehearsing, it was also where we picked up the trailhead. Imagine setting off on a hike this beautiful accompanied by live classical music!
That's so Boulder. Boulder rocks! (Get it?) ;-)

One of the beautiful cottages, and though you can't see it,
that hillside below it was blanketed with wildflowers.

Not far into our hike we looked down and saw this house in a valley below. A lover of unique earthen homesI deployed my telephoto lens to get this picture. 
I think if a Hobbit married a Jetson, they'd live in this...


This was the beautiful area where we were hiking,
overlooking the Jetson-Hobbit house...

We hiked a while with a very nice couple from a nearby town, and before we headed off on different trails, they kindly offered to take our photo. People in Boulder were always doing that; we rarely had to ask!


More gorgeous scenery
(but take note of the pointy rock formation on the left)...

Here's a close-up of it...

Does that not look like the head of a Labrador Retriever?
(Realizing not everyone always sees what I see, 
I thought I'd better illustrate what I saw, even before drinking beer. LOL)

I asked a couple of local women we met on the trail what the name of it was. They didn't have a clue. So I said, "Does it not look like the head of a Labrador Retriever?"  And they said, "Wow, it does! We never noticed that!" (Hmmm). We never did learn if it had a name, so until we do, this peak shall be called Labrador Head Mountain. :-)

We hiked several miles of different trails that together made a big loop through a variety of landscapes, our main goal being Royal Arch. And the Royal Arch trail was long, high and very steep! It was whimsically labeled "moderate" by the adorable people of Boulder, many of whom, regardless of age, look like Olympic athletes in peak condition. Now, Jo works out all the time and I hike regularly at mile-high altitude. So we like to think we're in pretty darned good shape. But this hike had us dripping sweat and panting for air while various Boulderites, including gray-haired men and women, jogged past us. Some uphill.

Just when we thought we couldn't feel any more chagrined, we started running into people coming down the trail who said, "There's a pregnant woman up at the top!" "No way," we said, "how pregnant?" "Really pregnant," they chortled, "Like she could go into labor any minute!" "They're making it up," we said to each other, despite everyone descending reporting this pregnant woman's presence at the top of the trail.

Sure enough, when we finally reached Royal Arch, there was this very pregnant woman relaxing, chatting and laughing with her friends. She didn't even have the decency to look sweaty. I restrained myself from rubbing gravel in her perfectly-coifed hair, and told her she was a legend, stories about her traveling all up and down the mountain. (I expect her baby will grow up to be the next Ed Viesturs!)

Our destination, Royal Arch, framing the Flatirons behind us...

And the amazing view ahead of us that was our reward...

That's Boulder down below (the cluster of large, reddish buildings is the University of Colorado), and Golden, CO is in the distance. Had it been a clear day, we could have seen Denver. (See more really beautiful photos of this particular hike in the ProTrails Royal Arch photo gallery).

Keep close to Nature's heart,
and break clear away once in awhile,
and climb a mountain or spend a week in the woods.
Wash your spirit clean...
~John Muir

Some of you with astute powers of observation may have noticed from the dates on some of the photos that I've posted them in reverse order. Our hike came first, followed by our late, beer-soaked lunch at Southern Sun, and the Boulder Beer brewery tour was the following day. I wanted to start you off with some beer and leave the hike photos for last because they're more dramatic, so I took liberties with temporal reality. One of the things I love about blogging is the ability it gives me to bend time to my will. ;-)

And speaking of bending time, here's the Christmas gift Jo gave me in July. :-) Made by Laurie Adams of Mosaicmaus, Jo bought it at the Boulder ArtFair


I bought Jo a nice travel pack at REI, which was another fun place we shopped. She loves it and uses it all the time, but it's not as much fun to photograph - or display on a wall - as the mosaic she got me. ;-) Along with our photos, it's a lovely reminder of our fun Boulder adventure!

Monday, January 18, 2010

Boulder Part 1 - fairs, food and fun!


I've gotten behind in my blogging because BW is on vacation this week and one of the many things keeping us busy is planning a real vacation this summer - the kind where you actually go away somewhere instead of staying home doing chores and home improvement projects - our first one together in over nine years! If one of us travels somewhere, the other almost always stays home to take care of our critters, but this year our friend Robyn is going to house and critter-sit for us!
(Big round of applause for Robyn!)

Working on the vacation details has had me reminiscing about my trip last summer. I drove to Denver to meet my friend Joanne, who flew in from Detroit, and we then drove to Boulder where we spent a fun four days of hiking, shopping, eating and conducting in-depth research on Boulder's breweries. :-) We did this trip instead of exchanging Christmas and birthday presents last year, so we celebrated our birthdays together in Boulder and enjoyed Christmas in July! :-)

I wasn't blogging last summer when this post would have been a lot more timely, but better late than never, here are some highlights of our trip...

Beautiful Boulder...

We were there during Boulder's 31st annual ArtFair, so there was a lot of extra cool stuff going on in addition to all the amazing artisan booths and the incredible farmer's market.

Like this percussion group, Vana Vedu, playing in the park...

video

Boulder is full of neat stuff...

Like fun sculptures...


And great places to eat, including...
All vegan, all organic, all yum. We ate here twice.

And Leaf, where we shared a fancy dinner
to celebrate my "birthday observed"...

where we enjoyed an al fresco lunch on the patio...

where we celebrated Jo's August birthday
with the best meal we had in Boulder!
We had them veganize the special, marinated portobella wraps, by leaving off the cheese and subbing guacamole for the ranch dressing. They were sensational! (They need to permanently ditch the cow secretions - these seriously rock with guac!) :-)

Boulder has a lot of fun and unique shops...

So when we weren't stuffing our faces we entertained ourselves in fun stores like It's Your Move (where they let you play with the toys and make fools of yourselves!)...

(I really wanted to bring that hat home with me!)

(Oh Jo, the chapeau is so you.
But you need that tie-dye shirt to go with it!)

My favorite stores in Boulder were Into the Wind, where I bought this beautiful butterfly kite, and Farfel's Farm, where I bought Josie this stylin' hemp tribal collar.

Boulder also has some beautiful houses...

These are just a couple of many we admired on our self-guided Historic Homes Walking Tour in Mapleton Hill. The one on the left is the Arnett Fullen House, ca 1877. (Don't have a clue about the one on the right, but thought it was pretty!)


We actually got invited inside this one...
We met the owner walking her dog and chatted as we walked together. When we ended up in front of this beauty she said, "This is where I live, want to come in and see it?" Duh, YEAH! Not only was it beautiful with an interesting history, but a violent thunderstorm blew up while we were there, so we were grateful to have shelter. Bonus that it was such elegant shelter! Thanks, Peggy! :-) Boulder has very friendly people!

Boulder is home to an awesome recycling center for hard-to-recycle stuff (I brought a couple of kaput phones from home)...

(Joanne made sure to capture every Kodak Moment!) :-)

Boulder's also filled with gorgeous flowers...

And even has Living walls (like this, my favorite of two outside a florist shop)...

And Boulder has a great sense of humor!

(and is a very dog-friendly town!)
Stay tuned for Part II - Boulder Hops & Hikes!

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SOME CURRENT & RECENT READING...

SOME CURRENT & RECENT READING...

  • THE HUMANE GARDENER ~ Nancy Lawson
  • THE WORLD WITHOUT US ~ Alan Weisman
There is still strong in our society the belief
that animals and the natural world have value
only insofar as they can be converted into revenue.
That nature is a commodity.
And that the American dream is one of unlimited consumption.
There are many of us, on the other hand,
who believe that animals and the natural world
have value by virtue of being alive.
That Nature is a community to which we belong
and to which we owe our lives.
And that the deeper American dream is one of unlimited compassion.

~John Robbins, "The Food Revolution"