Friday, December 16, 2011

Tonto National Forest

The first weekend in November we traveled again to Arizona for our nephew's wedding. We left all of the wedding photos up to the photographer and instead took pictures of cacti in Tonto National Forest outside of Phoenix. I can't wait to go back and hike/camp in the Sonoran desert.

Classic prickly pear. It seems so harmless...
I have this thing about cacti: I like to touch it. My mom had a lot of cactus plants in the house growing up (insert long-running joke about phallic symbols) and I liked to "pet"them. Hypothetically, with specific types of cactus, you can run your finger one direction without getting poked, but if you run it the other direction, voila, you are full of spines. I was fascinated by this idea, and how easily it was to get a spine in your finger, but almost impossible to get it back out. No matter how many times I get a "stung," I always go back for more.
This is one cactus I refused to go near. Apparently this guy will"throw" his spines at you if you get too close. I instantly recognized the fact that I would definitely get too close and we would spend all afternoon picking spines out of my face. So, to avoid disaster I took the photo while Than pretended to hug the cactus.

We took this photo because all of these cacti were growing in a straight line.  One of these is impressive enough. Eight in a row is amazing!

 Beautiful Sonoran desert!

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Flagstaff or Bust

In early October Than and I drove to Flagstaff, AZ so he could attend a conference.We went through Durango on the way there and Moab on the way back. These are photos of Wolf Creek Pass in southern Colorado as you travel west towards Durango. The fall colors were spectacular, although these tiny photos hardly compare!

 This is a photo of the Southern Ute Museum, a new museum to the southeast of Durango. Built by the Southern Utes (and opened Spring 2011), this museum is an amazing testament to the ability of First Nation peoples to care for their own artifacts. Designed to look like an eagle opening its wings to the sun, the museum building includes a giant exhibit area, a state-of-the-art collections management facility, and a workshop area where community members can learn the Ute language. Some of the objects on display were loaned by community members and out-of-state museums and schools while others were repatriated from the Smithsonian. It is a bit of a drive to get to, but if you have the time I highly recommend visiting this museum. 
This statue is completely unrelated to Southern is a giant Kachina doll we found in Sedona, AZ. I really wanted to take it home and put it in our yard, but after poking around the art store we realized its approximate price was $60,000. I decided I could live with just a photo of the statue instead...
Sedona was very beautiful and we tried several times to photograph the landscape, but that is one thing iPhones are definitely NOT good for. The town was pretty touristy, but no worse than Crested Butte or Aspen. We would both like to take another trip to camp, hike, and bike in that area.
Enjoying a Moscow Mule at a wine bar in downtown Flagstaff. Technically the whole point of the drink is that it is served in a copper cup, which gives it a distinct flavor. This cup is only copper plated on the outside, which kind of defeats the purpose!

Fall Updates

In September we found a wolf spider in our garage. That is my hand in the photo. This is the first wolf spider I have found in Colorado and the first wolf spider Than had ever seen. We were both really excited. We also found several black widows next to our garage, but they only came out at night and I never did get a good photo of them.

In the middle of September we took a trip to Idaho to attend my grandfather's funeral. I was able to show Than Shoshone Falls, the Snake River Canyon, and Perrine Bridge. He now knows I am not exaggerating when I say I grew up in a lava/sagebrush field!

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Labor Day Pickles

In one of my earlier posts I mentioned how Than LOVES pie...well, I happen to LOVE pickles. I mean, I really, REALLY love them. I love dill pickles, spicy pickles, pickle spears, baby pickles, those weird pickle-esque things you get a Quiznos... I love eating them in the afternoon as an after-work snack. I love them on sandwiches and in salads. And I really love restaurants that set out big bowls of pickles on your table (kind of like chips-and-salsa) to start your meal. (I know of at least two such restaurants in the State of Colorado.) In college two of my friends came back from fall break with homemade pickles from their respective mothers (food preservation...its an Idaho thing) and I begged and begged for a taste. I begged so much Autumn finally gave me an entire jar for my birthday. I found myself begging again last fall when Jon Pineau brought home some pickles his parents had just made. He was reluctant to share and I can't say I blame him.

This fall Jon's dad Dick invited Than and I over for a pickling party on Labor Day. We bought pickling cucumbers at the Golden Farmer's Market and used one of our wedding gift cards to buy a canning set-up (thanks Diane & Wendy!)

Than stuffing cucumbers, dill, jalapenos, pickling spice, and mustard seed into our jars.

I boiled the vinegar mix while Than prepped the jars.

Pouring the hot vinegar mix over the cucumbers.

Boiling our tasty soon-to-be pickles!
We have yet to open a jar, but I will be sure to let you know how they turned out when we do. We traded a few jars with Dick so we could taste test both recipes. YEAH PICKLES!

Sunday, August 28, 2011

USA Pro Cycling Challenge, Stage 6

The USA Pro Cycling Challenge came to Golden today, and it was awesome! Than and I walked to downtown view the race.
This was taken just after the start. Than was just barely able to photograph the last of the riders as they powered past us up Washington near CO-58.
We quickly raced over to 10th and Ford to watch the bikers as they raced back into town. The course was basically a figure eight, with the first half looping around North Table Mountain. It took 20 minutes for the riders to make the loop... it would probably take Than and me an hour to an hour and a half!
Still at 10th and Ford. At this point all of the riders were still together. 
As Than pointed out, this photo doesn't even begin to convey how fast these guys were going. 
For our 3rd and final glimpse (believe me, it was a glimpse!) we walked to 13th and Washington. I wanted to see the bikers corner. It took a bit longer for them to complete the second half of the figure eight - a quick climb up Lookout Mountain and then back down via CO-40, which runs parallel to I-70. Back through downtown Golden then straight down 32nd Ave into downtown Denver to cross the finish line. Than made a video of the second group of bikers as they turned onto 13th (32nd Ave). Check it out here.
And no trip would be complete if I didn't ride something. Of course, this happens to be a stegosaurus and riding it is a little tricky, especially when I am wearing a skirt and there are 10,000 innocent bystanders just to my left. SO, this will have to do. Here's to a freakin' awesome USA PCC - hopefully there will be many more years of this race to come.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

The Last of the Great Bee Hunters

"The Last of the Great Bee Hunters" is a nickname my dad gave to our family dog. His full name is Russell Theodore Giebler, but in general we call him Rusty. Rusty loves to chase bees, which is pretty hilarious to watch. It is even more hilarious when he actually catches one and gets his tongue stung. Flies don't interest him, or grasshoppers, or birds, or beetles. Nope, it has to be a bee. A big bumbler that Rusty will stumble after, looking cross-eyed with his ears up as he tries to keep track of it. Aside from the bee slaughter, Rusty is a very mild-mannered dog. He is staying with us until Wednesday and I'm afraid Castor the cat has already attacked him. Castor is NOT mild-mannered. He is extremely territorial and will attack with no warning. This evening he ran at full force across the back lawn to intentionally jump on Rusty's head. This might make some sense of Castor had front claws (which he doesn't) , or if Rusty was only twice his size (he is more like 10 times bigger), but really it was more of a suicide mission. Rusty was unscathed, although I think the fact that Castor was trying to kill him and not just playfully romp around the yard hurt his feelings. Castor retreated behind a large bush, but has since emerged and is pacing the back screen door, growling. Rusty couldn't care less if there was a cat around, and things would be so much easier if Castor would just play nice. Damn cat... Here are a couple of my favorite photos of Rusty:

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Summer Pies

Than and I love pies. Well, Than LOVES pies and I just love them. Than likes to encourage my pie-making by working pie ingredients into almost every grocery list and dropping little hints that I should make one. He also put a request for pie recipes on my online family Christmas list (it has been removed) and will say things like "You know what would be really great right now? Pie!"  Don't you worry - Than gets PLENTY of pie. The thing is, he is also a great pie-maker. On occasion we have bake-offs, which is great because then everyone ends up a winner and we both get to eat a lot of pie. I try to NOT make us a pie every week because eventually we would weigh 300 lbs each. This summer we have made several pies, and I managed to photograph two of them before we ate them.
Than made a strawberry rhubarb pie in July. I don't like rhubarb or hot strawberries, and wasn't that excited about it. What an idiot I am! The pie was delicious (especially since I didn't have to make it) and we ate it so fast I didn't get another photograph. Don't worry, we didn't eat it all - we gave some to the neighbors!

Than's Strawberry Rhubarb Pie

Pie Crust
2 1/2 c flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 c butter, chilled & cut into small pieces
6 T shortening
5 to 6 T ice water

Mix first 4 ingredients with pastry cutter until small, even clumps form. Add ice water 1 T at a time until dough begins to ball. Roll into 2 ball and flatten into disks. Wrap separately and refrigerate. Chill for 30 minutes. Roll out first disk and place in bottom of pie plate. Roll out second disk and cut into strips for lattice top.

1 1/4 c sugar
1/3 c flour
pinch salt
1 tsp orange zest
1 lb fresh rhubarb, cut into 1-inch pieces (4 cups)
2 c halved strawberries
2 T butter

Mix sugar through strawberries. Place in pie plate. Dot with 2 T butter. Place lattice on top of pie. Bake at 425 degrees for 15 minutes. Reduce oven to 350 and bake for an additional 50 minutes or until bubbly.

On the way back from GJ we stopped in Palisades for some peaches (isn't that like a law this time of year?). I made a peach pie as soon as we got home and I'm afraid it didn't even last a week. There are 6 more peaches in the fridge and Than is already asking for a second pie. I am resisting, but only because it is too hot to run the oven (thank goodness!).

Than makes pies very differently than I do. He carefully chooses and then follows a recipe, executing each step exactly as written. No deviations, no getting creative. I have a different method. I use a tried and true pastry recipe from Betty Crocker (2 c flour, 2/3 c shortening, 1 tsp salt, mix and add 4-5 T ice water until ball forms) that I slap together and roll out immediately with no chilling. I then make a fruit filling using whatever is on hand (apples, peaches, cherries, combo, etc.). I add some combination of sugar/brown sugar/agave syrup/cinnamon/nutmeg/vanilla/juice/flour/tapioca/whatever else I have on hand to the fruit until I get a constancy and smell/taste that I like. Then I toss it in the oven at 350 and bake until it smells good. I explained this method to Than and it didn't sit too well. The thought that the unknown could possibly result in a ruined pie was just too much to take. Of course,  I reminded him, when was the last time I made a "bad" pie?   We love making pie, eating pie, and most of all, sharing pie! Come visit us and bring your favorite pie recipe - we'll have a bake-off!