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


Thursday, June 30, 2011

Cool & Green & Shady


We've enjoyed such a wet, cool spring and early summer - wearing jackets in the mornings and evenings (and at times during the days), needing to run the pellet stove at times to take the chill off, still sleeping under blankets - the majority of days have been quite pleasant, and the landscape so green and lush. Of course we knew it couldn't last, but didn't think it would change so drastically and abruptly. We went from a high of 58º at our house on Sunday to the 90's Tuesday and Wednesday. I had to run to town yesterday and at noon my car's thermometer read 99º (at home an hour later, it read 89º). Compared to much of the nation, sweltering under record-breaking 3-digit temperatures for a while now, that's no big deal. But that's awfully hot for June in these parts, and a 40 degree jump in 3 days doesn't give anyone time to acclimate! Fortunately it's cooled back off to the 70's now and is supposed to hover around the seasonably reasonable mid 70's/mid 80's for most of the holiday weekend (and beyond). But during yesterday's blistering afternoon when I started working on this post, I chose a few refreshing photos to share since I felt in serious need of someplace cool an' green an' shady...


I took this one on a walk with BW and the dogs last Saturday along the pretty dirt lane to the Bradford Brinton Memorial, and knew as soon as I saw it that it was a great SkyWatch Friday candidate. I love how the big, old cottonwood trees form a leafy canopy that shades the road, which is made even cooler by the creek that tumbles (or, in the case of this year's super-saturated spring, roars) alongside it...


For some great sky photos from around the world, visit...


Earlier that day we'd taken the girls to Kendrick Park in Sheridan. I took several fun photos of that day's outing that I'll share later, but for now this particular one is perfect for this post! I love these overgrown stone steps that lead to a shady little glen, and just beyond to a dirt trail that climbs a steep hill up to the junior high school above the park...


Some of you may have been expecting my next Colorado vacation post instead of this one, but this one's not completely unrelated, since I took this next photo in Boulder. :-) I loved this inviting picnic table behind a Chautauqua Park cottage, semi-secluded below the hiking trail, and couldn't resist snapping a photo...

If we'd had food with us, I doubt we could have resisted
"borrowing" this spot for a picnic in the shade.
Those two empty chairs were practically shouting our names!


As June gives way to July, here's wishing everyone in the northern hemisphere plenty of cool, green and shady spots to rest, relax, and refresh this summer!

Tess restores herself with shady solitude in the Faerie Glade

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

CO: The Flowers

Welcome to post #5 in a series featuring some of the sights and sounds from a recent vacation in Fort Collins and Boulder, CO.

Fort Collins and Boulder both abound with a blooming abundance of flowers. Here is just a small but colorful sampling...

A radiant rose blooms beside The Armstrong's parking lot.
This is a SOOC pic, and its perfume was as vivid as its color.

All over Old Town were enormous pots (about 3 to 4 feet in diameter) of beautiful mixed flower arrangements. You can see the edge of one in this photo of the recumbent trike I shared earlier, and here's a photo of a bunch of them lining an alleyway called Trimble Court...

Crappy photo, but it gives you an idea of FC's generous effort
to plant lots of flowers in every nook & cranny!

Here's an example of one of the huge pot arrangements, this one near the hotel's rosebush...

I love the vintage look of the color palette

With just one exception, the rest of these photos were taken in Boulder, which must have one of the highest per capita number of green thumbs in the nation!

Everything's coming up roses behind this Boulder house.
This is how they landscaped their alley and garage!

Remember this photo from my Vehicles & Vintage Buildings post, when I said you'd be seeing those pretty lupines again later? Well here they are, all ready for their closeup...

I don't know why things keep reminding me of confectionery,
but these make me think of pink rock candy!
(I think my sweet tooth got activated on this trip!) :-)

I thought this was a flawless flower. Cheerful and pretty, too!

Both towns were insane with irises! They grow well there, and were at their peak. These were in the front garden of an office housed in an old Fort Collins home in Old Town...

Love the backdrop of the iron fence

And these next two photos were taken in two different front yards in Boulder's historic Mapleton Hill neighborhood



Remember the photo of the little bird drinking from the rock fountain in Boulder's Chautauqua Park in my Critters post? Here's another view of that same fountain, this time showcasing the beautiful, tall irises growing in front of it...

Feel free to linger on the shady bench back there on the left
till it's time to chow down again in my next Colorado post! :-)

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Speaking of critters...


While we're on the subject of critters, here's a video filmed by a camera-snatching seagull cinematographer...


Apparently there is some debate over whether this video and its story - that the seagull stole the guy's GoPro camera in Cannes, France and deposited it on the castle wall, where the camera's owner had to climb to retrieve it - is real or faked. Well maybe I'm gullible (*snork*), but I think it's real - don't know how some of that footage could be faked! And GoPro makes very small, lightweight cameras that can be helmet-mounted, so it's I don't think a seagull would have a problem flying off with one. What do you think?





Saturday, June 25, 2011

CO: The Critters!


Welcome to post #4 in a series featuring some of the sights and sounds from a recent vacation in Fort Collins and Boulder, CO!

I don't mind telling you that this is my favorite of the Colorado posts and I have a feeling it'll be a favorite for several of you, too! :-)

Fort Collins and Boulder are both very dog-friendly towns (according to one local business owner we met, Boulder has more dogs than children!), so you see people walking, jogging and biking with their dogs everywhere. There are numerous dog parks, dog-friendly hotels, and restaurants that welcome dogs (at their outdoor tables), and dogs are even allowed in several stores, while some of the stores are for the dogs! Like the wonderful Farfel's Farm in Boulder and Wagz in Fort Collins. Of course we bought goodies in both of them to bring home to our good girls! :-)

Here is the "barking lot" in front of Wagz (with full water dishes, of course), where this nice gentleman and his darling puppy were kind enough to pose for a photo...


All around Old Town there are tons of restaurants, most with patios or sidewalk cafe eating areas where the dogs can hang out with their people. As you can see, in some establishments there is a cloth barrier between the dining people and the dogs, but as you can also see, there are ways around that!...

Oh so hopeful. Oh so patient. Oh so hungry!

And oh so victorious! :-)
It's always nice to see patience rewarded.

Why waste time looking plaintively up at your people
when you can just shove your head in to where the food is?

Clearly getting fed more than enough at home,
there's no need to grovel in public for a handout.

And lest you think Fort Collins has only gone to the dogs, rest assured that cats are coddled and spoiled too. May I present Oreo, the Armstrong Cat, who usually lounges about in the lobby but also loves to ride the elevator for fun. One early morning she rode it up to the third floor where we were staying, and meowed outside our door till I opened it...


She tried her best to come in, but she's not allowed in the non-pet friendly rooms in case guests are allergic, so I couldn't let her in. I had to block her path with the empty box of Back to Nature Cranberry Pecan Granola cookies (which are dangerously delicious, btw) just long enough to get this photo, and then I had to go out into the hallway with her and rub her belly until she was satisfied that I'd paid her sufficient homage...

Ironic to use a cookie box to thwart a cat named Oreo!

And then there was the wildlife. You just knew there'd be wildlife, didn't you? :-)

On the beautiful but very hot day we spent in Boulder, we enjoyed a restful interlude on a shady bench and watched this sweet little bird sip water from a boulder fountain at Chautauqua Park...


This Fort Collins squirrel had managed to scrounge a Snickers wrapper (shame on the litterbug responsible!) and was industriously licking every nanoparticle of candy bar from it. Well, they do claim to be "packed with peanuts!"...


And one warm, late evening spent walking off our dinner around Old Town, right there in busy Fort Collins, we got the unsettling feeling we were being watched...


Can you identify our nocturnal observer?


Maybe this will help...


Undaunted by the traffic going by and unperturbed by our presence or that of a few other people walking or biking past, our foxy friend went about her busy nighttime business. She acted quite at home there, and was adept at crossing the quieter residential road (avoiding the busier street) while cars were absent. Still, I worry for her! But it was quite a thrill to see her, even if we could just barely see her! :-)

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

CO: The Food! The Beer! Part 1!


Welcome to post #3 in a series featuring some of the sights and sounds from a recent vacation in Fort Collins and Boulder, CO!

I don't know about you, but all that strolling and biking and gawking and photographing has worked up a hearty appetite (and a pretty good thirst, too!), so I think it's time for some nosh! Fortunately, delicious vegan eats and treats abound in Fort Collins (and Boulder, too). So much so that this is just the first of two food-and beer-posts! :-)

Let's start at our favorite eatery...


The only downsides to Tasty Harmony are that it's very difficult to choose from their creative and extensive menu, and they're too far from home! Everything is delicious, the wait staff is wonderful, and we love dining al fresco on their patio. We arrived in Fort Collins at about 5pm, and after checking into The Armstrong our first priority was dinner at Tasty Harmony!

You may recognize this entree from our dinner there last summer after returning from Maine, when it was what I ordered. This time BW got to enjoy it (I've swiped the entree descriptions from their online menu. Try not to drool on your keyboard!)...

"Heart of Provence"
Cornmeal, almond and lavender crusted tempeh triangles
over garlicky grilled polenta cakes
and smothered in a Provence inspired tomato sauce.

I decided to try something new: Jackfruit Tacos! I'd never had jackfruit before, and really enjoyed these...

"Jackfruit Tacos"
Two taco shells filled with jackfruit & tempeh
cooked in Mexican spices, topped with guacamole,
salsa fresca, vegan sour cream & shredded lettuce

Here's a recipe for jackfruit tacos I found in case you'd like to try making your own.

Of course, when in Fort Collins (home to so many craft brewers, microbreweries and brewpubs that it's known as "The Napa Valley of Craft Beer"), especially on a hot day, one simply must imbibe some local suds...

BW's choice du jour: New Belgium's Abbey Grand Cru

And then there's Tasty Harmony's vegan desserts. Mmmmm! Some you can always count on being on the menu, others are special and only last while they last. On this evening, we shared a slice of that day's "special cake," and AdventureJo, I sure thought of you while we enjoyed it with eyes closed and contented "nom-nom-nom" noises! For that day's special cake was Earl Grey Cake, a spice cake with coarsely ground Earl Grey tea in both the cake batter and its delicious vegan "cream cheese" frosting...

Earl Grey Cake

Now I don't know about any of you, but it's never occurred to me to put loose leaf tea in a cake, other than maybe lavender. But according to our waiter, their dessert chef decided she wanted to make cake with tea in it, spied the Earl Grey and went for it. With heavenly results!


Unlike the many offerings for vegan lunches, dinners and desserts, we found Fort Collins to be sparse when it comes to places that serve vegan breakfasts. So we ate at the mostly vegetarian Rainbow which offers a few vegan options, and ate it out on their pretty patio, enjoying the gorgeous morning. BW had their Tempeh Sauté with Earl Grey tea (maybe he thought it would taste like last night's cake! lol), and I had their "Broccofu," a nicely seasoned broccoli and tofu scramble, with peppermint tea. I forgot to take photos, perhaps feeling rather uninspired by our comparatively blasé breakfasts in a non-veg establishment after the wonders of Tasty Harmony the night before. But I took a photo of the front of the restaurant instead, since it's in a cute old house...


It was a hot day and by lunchtime we weren't very hungry, so we opted for some delicious beer at Coopersmith's Pub & Brewing instead...

BW's Bourbon Barrel Stout & my Wayfarer Copper Ale.
BW wants all you beer aficionados to know that
Bourbon Barrel Stout is Coopersmith's Horsetooth Stout
aged in freshly emptied bourbon casks.
And so now you do. :-)

Since we'd spent most of the day walking around Old Town, by dinner we were hungry and definitely ready for some Tasty Harmony indulgence again! BW ordered their Nachos this time, which were delicious (I snagged some, of course!) as well as photogenic. In fact, I uploaded this photo to Happy Cow's Tasty Harmony listing, and they used it on their "Top 6 Places to Take Dad for Father's Day" blog post...

"Nachos de Ynez"
Layers of our homemade cashew cheese, black beans,
guacamole, vegan sour cream & salsa piled on corn chips.

I wasn't able to snag too many of BW's nachos, since I had my hands full with my burrito. Another repeat meal from last summer that BW had ordered and I got to sample, I'd been looking forward to having their exquisite Sabrosa Burrito all to myself ever since! Oh, yummmm...

"La Sabrosa Burrito"
Black beans, Spanish Rice, cashew cheese,
grilled onion & peppers, roasted corn, guacamole,
romaine lettuce and salsa fresca,
wrapped in a whole wheat tortilla and topped with
Ranchero sauce and vegan sour “cream.”

The hot day and our spicy meals just cried out for a cold and creamy dessert. So we headed over to Gelazzi, where we'd already scoped out their vegan chocolate gelato and fruity sorbettos earlier in the day...


We enjoyed the festive interior of Gelazzi, whose retro style and fun colors reminded us of our room at The Armstrong!


But what we REALLY enjoyed about Gelazzi was, of course, the product! We had dessert there twice, enjoying Tahitian Lime and Southern Mango sorbetto as well as the lemon flavor pictured here, but I mostly zeroed in on their robustly rich and deliciously decadent chocolate soy-based gelato. I had a serving of it all by itself on my first visit, but it also went nicely (and prettily) with the lemon sorbetto in a satisfying sweet-tart medley...

Chocolate soy-based gelato and lemon sorbetto

Now amply fortified and refreshed, we'll be ready for more exploring in the next Colorado post! :-)

Monday, June 20, 2011

CO: Various Vehicles & Vintage Buildings


Welcome to post #2 in a series featuring some of the sights and sounds from a recent vacation in Fort Collins and Boulder, CO!

Here are a few of the more unusual, fun and colorful ways people get around in Fort Collins...

Fort Collins is a very bike-friendly, bike-loving town where bikes and bike racks (some designed to look like artful sculptures) are ubiquitous, there are multiple bike shops and lots of bike lanes - and people wearing tshirts that say things like "MORE BIKE LANES!" There's even a bike library (you'll see it in an upcoming post), which I think is brilliant. Anyway, with all that bike mania, how could I neglect to take at least one bike photo? Especially since so many of the bikes were unique or pretty, like these two...


I like the funky patchwork design and colors on the blue bike (and figure you quilters out there - Jo, Daphne - will too!), as well as the old Soviet look of Cyrillic lettering and hammer & sickle graphics on the (appropriately colored) red one. :-) (Only now I can't get "Back in the USSR" to stop playing in my head!) If memory from my college Russian class serves, that word spells "cruiser," but in Cyrillic lettering.

If I couldn't bear to neglect photographing bikes in Fort Collins, you KNOW I couldn't neglect to ride one! So BW and I took advantage of the free bike loans available at The Armstrong and spent the gorgeous morning of his birthday cruising the old bungalow-filled neighborhoods around Old Town. Here's the birthday boy himself, posing with his spiffy red New Belgium Brewing (brewers of Fat Tire Ale) cruiser in front of the Armstrong before our ride...


As the designated photographer, I have no photo of my bike,
but it was the same fire engine red as BW's.
(Note the dog behind BW. The first of many you'll see,
since dogs are nearly as omnipresent in FC as bikes!)

There is no shortage of styles when it comes to human powered vehicles in Fort Collins. Here's a snazzy recumbent tricycle, complete with cardinal windsock...

Took this one for you, Spud, devoted lover of cardinals! ;-)

I loved this cheerful Prius taxi when I saw it go zipping by on busy College Ave and knew I wanted to get a photo of it at the first opportunity. I finally got my chance the next evening when I saw it parked near our hotel....


I thought the green-eyed eagle head ornament on this pretty blue Vespa-like scooter was snazzy, and couldn't help but wonder if his eyes light up (that would look cool!)...


And I thought this turquoise Harley was a hoot! Check out those fishtail exhaust pipes, the Hawaii license plate, and the "God Bless Johnny Cash" bumper sticker! (Though I can easily picture a "God Bless Elvis" bumper sticker on it instead, since I think it would look right at home parked at Graceland!)...


So choose your favorite set of wheels and let's cruise around Fort Collins and Boulder and see some of the pretty buildings...

This is another old hotel in Old Town called The Northern, built in 1837 and existing as The Agricultural and then The Commercial before it underwent extensive remodeling and was given its current name in 1905. Now being used for affordable senior housing, this beautiful stained glass ceiling looms over the lobby...


Very elegant! But the whole place was echoey-deserted.


Remember those tri-colored, coconut-flavored Brach's Neopolitan Coconut Sundae candies* from (for some of us) childhood? That's what the paint scheme on this house reminds me of...

But they do match this house, I'll give 'em that! :-)

We came across this house in an especially pretty neighborhood, and enjoyed a wonderful visit with a couple named Tim and Mary who were having to cut down a big cottonwood tree on their lot beside it. We had much in common and I'm sure if we lived in Fort Collins we'd all be buds! (Small world story - Mary is from the Penobscot Bay, Maine town of Bucksport and her daughter lives in Belfast, where we vacationed last year!)


You may recall a few photos I shared from Joanne and my Historic Homes Walking Tour around Boulder a couple of years ago. BW and I toured one of the same neighborhoods, Mapleton Hill, so here are two more of that beautiful area's stately old homes...

(You'll be seeing those pretty lupines again later!) ;-)

The whole house was handsome, but I especially admired this elegant architectural detail...


And Jo, in case you're wondering ~ we walked past Peggy and Joe's house but unfortunately no one was around to invite us in for a tour and a glass of wine! ;-) It still looks beautiful, of course.

And what's a fine house without an inviting gate or whimsical fence?

I have a love affair with enchanting gates,
like this one in Boulder.

Don't all you fans of felines wish you had a fun picket fence like this one?...


We must have passed this fence, which surrounded a lovely Fort Collins home on a busy corner, a hundred times on foot and by car. But either it was dark out, we were in a hurry, or I didn't have my camera with me. I was determined to get a photo of it, but the last and only chance I got was on our way out of town from the car window while we were at a red light that turned green much too quickly. So I got the fence, but not one of the fence with the house it surrounds! Oh well, next time!


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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"