The Denver Zoo is pretty fantastic. People — they have polar bears. REAL, LIVE POLAR BEARS! Coming from the Phoenix Zoo — which is so dang great in desert big horn sheep, gila monster ways — polar bears might as well be unicorns. And although they are sadly going the way of the dodo, I hear these sweet nordic teddies love the winters in Colorado.
Yeah. I squealed with glee too. So sweet! And deceptively cuddly, like these guys:
We spent several hours wandering and admiring the variety of animals. The trainers who care for the zoo’s two Asian elephants truly won my heart. Mimi and Dolly were captured in the wild prior to the Endangered Species Act. One of two has only ever lived at the Denver Zoo, and is 50 years old. They are currently building a new Asian animal exhibit, where they’ll have many more elephants. One trainer said they expect Mimi and Dolly to play “house mother to a bunch of frat boys.” It will be so fun to watch this pachyderm party when the construction is complete.
Word on the street is these showgirls want an invite.
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Apparently my newest Calculated Act of Kindness is to plant gardens an do yard work for friends. Even new friends, and people I barely know. When gardening with a friend the other day, I asked about his neighbor’s yard. It is such a cute neighborhood but this house… Well. It stood out for the wrong reasons. Come to find out he is a vet suffering from PTSD. Needless to say, weeds aren’t his priority. Apparently, leaving his house hasn’t been such a priority for the last few years.
There was a woman who lived across the street from my childhood home named Karen. She lived alone and would always buy Girl Scout cookies when I came around. Otherwise, we’d wave hello but had very little other interaction with her. But we could tell, even as kids, that her existence was lonely. And because we grew up under the Donley regime, yard work was a regular occurrence. My parents had us outside picking up leaves and doing other odd work in the yard a lot. If we got in trouble, we knew what the punishment would be — yard work.
(I know. Poor little suburban white kids who had to work in their YARD. Who got to dip in their POOL when things got too rough. BOO FREAKING HOO. Don’t send the email, haters. I know. I’m spoiled.)
But I’ll never forget the look on my mom’s face when my brother and I came in one summer day after having picked the weeds out of Karen’s yard. Without being asked. It was like a Christmas miracle in July. Her little heathens had voluntarily done yard work. What we knew as kids, but couldn’t quite yet express, was that Karen needed a break. What we’d realize as adults was that she was suffering from MS and couldn’t manage another task. Soon enough, she’d greet us with a head nod, her hands holding the cuffs on her leg braces.
It was such a simple thing, but it made Karen cry. And it made me want to do it again.
I’m not sure that picking someone’s weeds is the most patriotic way to spend Memorial Day weekend, but it is on the list. (I’m obviously growing increasingly antsy for my own yard. So close. So close.) And in the meantime, Dana in Golden has a planted vegetable box. Because I couldn’t bring myself to let it remain fallow. Plus, this is the type of kindness I believe in. See something that needs done? Do it. Help your neighbor. Be kind. And if you barely know them? Well, you either made a new friend or you didn’t. Either way you spend the afternoon outside in the sun with your hands in the dirt doing good.
(Also — how incredible is the greenhouse she and her father built out of recycled materials from the Habitat for Humanity Restore? Holy Moses. Awesome.)
Happy Memorial Day, friends.
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- Colorado, Community, Earth Mama
Charlie dragged me into the garden to teach me, again, how to change the tubes on my road bike. I had the best of intentions of getting back on the roadie at some point. I lugged it from Arizona on the back of my car, after all. And yes, I knew it was sitting in the garage with flats, like it had sat in my storage closet with flats for years prior to the move. I tried explaining, “I am simply much more comfortable on my commuter bike. Wider tires, basket, much less risk of falling off because I’m not clipped into pedals.”
His response? “Tough. Let’s fix the tires. We are going for a ride.”
I had a crash that shook me up four years ago. Four years and I’m still not over it. Even though, I’ve competed in triathlons and I’ve put hundreds of miles on my commuter bike since — I can still hear the noise of hitting the ground, flailing as I’m attached to my bike. My finger is still crooked.
Of course changing the tires took all of 15 minutes — a chore I’d put off for far too long. It was a good reminder of the process and doing it myself felt good. (I’d gotten into the habit of taking it to the local bike shop for $12 fixes in lieu of just getting my own hands dirty.)
Helmet fastened, I’ll be going out for an afternoon ride with the gang. Nothing like taking those fears by the horns — and by horns, I mean the foothills of the Rockies.
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- Colorado, Triathlon
I will not make this blog for the next year: WHY COLORADO IS BETTER THAN ARIZONA. Or, sadly, WHY ARIZONA IS BETTER THAN COLORADO.
With a few small exceptions.
Mexican Food — Colorado vs: Arizona
Christo, almighty. Mexicans! Where are you? I miss my bretheren, especially those who know how to run an amazing restaurant with a healthy, fresh and tasty menu. The lack of quality Mexican food in these parts is dumbfounding. For my Arizona friends, get on your knees today and thank the heavens for Gallo Blanco. Or Barrio Cafe. Or Ajo Al’s. Or even my former employer Rosita’s. Because everything in Denver so far has been a fancy version of Macayo’s. Yellow cheese. Runny refried beans. Green chile that is called “Bronco sauce” because somehow, it comes out orange. ORANGE.
Score one for Arizona.
(Unintended benefit: I’m eating a lot less Mexican food. Hola, pants that fit.)
On the other hand, my new homestead has no rumors of a certain former Alaskan resident buying a ginormous McMansion in the dusty hinterlands of north Scottsdale. Perhaps the only way Arizona politics could get worse, on a day when the news included sheriffs in the county jails being arrested not only for running drugs for prisoners but also being impregnated by drug king pins (you cannot make this nonsense up), is the addition of the Palin family to the foray. Apparently she wants to take Kyl’s senate seat. Palin and McCain both representing my home state?
Score one for Colorado.
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- Arizona, Colorado
When my friend BJ mentioned he wanted help “landscaping” the front yard of his new house, I did what I typically do: volunteer, come over prepared after having enjoyed a gallon of coffee, haul him to the local garden shop with far too many ideas and jump up and down on occasion during the day at our progress.
I could never be a hipster. I’m far too willing to show my excitement and happiness at the little things.
We started with two dirt patches filled with errant grass and weeds and a dusty porch. And one happy dog — Chaco — to watch us work.
We finished with two dirt patches covered with black plastic — to cook off those weeds. And a porch decorated with baskets of hanging flowers, a potted poppy and clean chairs. A bit of weeding. A bit of sweeping. And now, a bit of waiting as the plastic and the sun do their thing. In a few weeks we’ll put down mulch, plant some native grasses and a tree and call it a job well done.
With any luck, we’ll come close to the glory that is his next door neighbor’s yard. Not only is her porch swing adorable, but she’s let friends come in to garden portions of her yard. It is a mini-community garden with boxes marked off and the whole enchilada. Amazing creativity, this community. I absolutely love the spirit of sustainability and sharing.
I convinced BJ to approach her and see if anyone else would like the two patches of earth he owns down by the street. The ones in front of her home are being gardened by some volunteer. It would be so much sweeter to see this space going to use for food. He agreed.
*UPDATED: Rosie sent me this link and if it isn’t the same front yard! Bravo to this woman, who’s turned her yard into a CSA.
Of course, we celebrated our hour of labor with two hours of happy at a local brewery.
Colorado loves their breweries. (I could be a hipster about beer. Pretty to photograph, but otherwise? Meh.)
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- Colorado, Community, Earth Mama, Flora and Fauna
The Rebel is back in action.
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- Colorado, Flora and Fauna, Photography
So, this paleo thing means no grains. And the family I’m living with is already living gluten free. When I suggested we make the banana bread recipe on Karen’s site, my hosts agreed. Gluten-free bread? Bring it on.
Off to the market on my bike I went, where I found flax and almond meal. However, because my friends here are gluten-free, not grain-free*, we changed the recipe slightly.
In lieu of only using almond meal, we used a bit of oat flour too. When I make this bread again, I’ll add another banana. I’ll also add a 1/4 cup of unsweetened applesauce. The texture was great, but the flavor just wasn’t there. This likely has nothing to do with Karen’s recipe and everything to do with our changes. That said, it is a delicious treat after not having a slice of bread for quite some time. With a bit of butter, it is heavenly.
2 cups almond flour
1 cup oat flour
2 Tbsp. ground flaxseed
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. cinnamon
½ tsp. nutmeg
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 cup plain full-fat Greek yogurt
¼ cup unsweetened applesauce
2 Tbsp. honey
4 super ripe, gushy bananas, mashed
1) Preheat oven to 375°F. Whisk dry ingredients
2) Add wet ingredients in a separate bowl and blend. Add mashed bananas.
3) Add wet mixture to dry ingredients and stir. Pour mixture into a well-greased loaf pan. Bake for 45 minutes.
4) Let cool; top with butter, or pour a cup of milk over a slice for a dessert. Delish!
Makes 1 loaf.
I will make this recipe again, perhaps adding cranberries or dark chocolate chips. For the $12 bag of almond meal, it makes a hefty loaf and several days worth of breakfast. Not inexpensive, but worthy of the splurge!
*Obnoxious, this way of describing food, isn’t it? Everyone these days seems to have their thing. I’m vegan. I’m ovolactarian. I’m vegetarian, unless the beef is really good. I am fundamentally opposed to how self-absorbed these ways of eating make us. Because for me it is a choice. For some, like my hosts, it is an allergy driven response to eating and not in the least about ego. They’d love pizza. Or a burrito. Or a bagel.
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- Domestic Art, Happy Hippie, Kitchen Talk, Recipes
Other than my lame attempts at poetry and my very public screaming about the weather for the last week (see: Twitter) — I’ve been thinking about this new little home I’m building. Technically, I’m renting. But let me get carried away, will you?
The creation of a home is something that requires magic. How many have visited a house that felt homey? Or maybe you better remember those that didn’t? It is strange to be in a house that is so perfect it resembles a Stepford scene/Pottery Barn catalog. On the contrary, my favorite homes are interesting for the same reasons my friends are — quirks, flaws and wild senses of both humor and creativity.
Not my childhood home
The home I grew up in was immaculate. Homemade quilts on the backs of couches and tucked in tidy linen closets, rows of homemade preserves and pickled vegetables in the pantry, a riot of roses in deep planters overlooking the living room window. My mother was a domestic queen who thoroughly enjoyed keeping house, including a penny-perfect budget.
My mother, I’m sadly not. But she did provide great encouragement for her children to be artsy dreamers. The house of my dreams is similar in design to that of Frida’s childhood home in Mexico. Adobe walled bedrooms, with French doors leading to a central courtyard — where giant, old trees are wrapped in tiny white lights, and a kitchen full of pottery and a warm meal awaits any visitor. I was closer to recreating this vision living in the desert southwest. And by “closer,” I mean a long-shot.
Also, not my childhood home
Alas, my dream home isn’t a log cabin in some remote up-canyon community. (Lovely to vacation, but my social heart would die a sad, lonely death up in them there hills.) Instead, my Colorado homestead blueprints include:
- A rustic farm table with benches for the kitchen — rumor has it my carpenter grandfather is working on this for me. Spoiled? Slightly. I hope to host many community dinners and eventually feed a family at this table. I am so very, very thankful my grandfather is creating this heirloom for my new home.
- A kitchen window where I can hang the Japanese curtain panel I purchased and tucked away years ago, knowing the day would eventually come when, indeed, I could look out over my
- kitchen garden. Have you heard of a potager? Frida and Diego had one of these too. In theory, you should be no farther than arm’s length from the kitchen to harvest herbs. For this home, this garden will be one of pots. While I timed my escape of Arizona’s heat just right, I underestimated the time it would take to get settled to plant my own garden in time. A few potted tomatoes, basil and other herbs will be just outside of that window, next to the compost bin — also handy to have near the kitchen sink. Grandpa already built the compost bin. I know. A carpenter and a quilter in the family? I’m lucky.
- My own pantry lined with Mason jars full of food I’ve grown and preserved
- A proper guest room with plenty of clean linens for the many visitors I’ve have scheduled for summer get-aways
- A stack of board games and a wine fridge; I’d rather entertain with these than a television
- A large dog bed in the living room, a large coop full of fowl in the yard, and a porch with a bench, pots of flowers and a wind chime
- Framed photos of the many I love
- A basket over-flowing with yarn, needles and projects to share with visitors
- Another basket for cards and correspondence — what a treat to have the postman come to my door!
- A chalk board where I can list my prayer for the week
This is all coming together; it really is such a dream to be in the mountains, at this phase of life. I wish more than anything I could be surrounded by those I love from Arizona. Until then, here I will be an urban homesteader — a title I will take with pride.
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- Colorado, Community, Happy Hippie, Homebody, June Cleaver
Man in the coffee shop
broad cowboy hat
with the grime, work, sweat, adventure —
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A summer haiku, dedicated to my favorite season. Written for my dear friend Mother Nature, who is apparently in treatment for depression.
Kayak, river warm
Happy are sunny days
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