Almost prepared

September 25, 2011 § Leave a comment

Overall my first full camping weekend was a success. We could not have picked a better weekend with highs & lows of 70s/40s or a better setting tooling around Aspen. We hit the foliage at the perfect time with the aspens right in the thick of changing to their golden hue.

We easily found a campsite at Weller campground right outside Aspen. It was the last weekend of the year to camp there. We were joking that it was the cheapest weekend we could ever hope to spend in Aspen at $17/night.

We had a perfect setup with a 4 person tent & even opted to bring a futon which made it pretty darn comfortable. I know, it’s pushing it to call that camping, but I wasn’t complaining.

Overall, I’d say I was most prepared when it came to food. Green chili for dinner one night, bratwurst with peppers another along with a spinach & tomato salad. Cheese grits, sausage & bacon made a hearty breakfast. It makes all the difference in the world to be able to have a cup of good, hot coffee in the morning. We ended up buying a $60 Coleman stove and it is worth every penny.

There were a few things I forgot in my preparations, matches being the biggest fail. Luckily my husband is a former smoker who still seems to have lighters trailing him here and there so we had a lighter in the car. The other items I forgot were not so important. Silly details.

The highlight of the trip hands down was visiting Maroon Bells. We got duped into taking the bus when we first got there on Friday. It’s only $6/person, but it does add a bit of time waiting around. If it isn’t too crowded you can drive. None of the pictures I had seen of Maroon Bells really prepared me for how beautiful a place it is in person, especially this time of year. It was majestic.

We decided to head back on Sunday and catch the sunrise there before heading back home. As we walked up to Maroon Lake it was kind of unbelievable how many photographers there were waiting for the sun to hit the perfect light.

I think this weekend of camping will be a hard one to top. I’m not sure I’m ready to venture out into the wilderness just yet. Car camping is good for me for now. As annoying as many of the people around you can be, it’s still nice to know they’re around. Maybe next year I’ll venture further out.

Colorado Camping

September 20, 2011 § 1 Comment

I may have mentioned before that I can tend to have an overactive imagination sometimes. When it comes to camping it comes to the forefront. Up until this year I hadn’t been camping since I’d seen The Blair Witch Project a decade ago. Now I’m living in Colorado it would be a shame to let that irrational fear get in the way, so I’ve ventured out a bit here and there. I’m treating it like I treat swimming in the ocean. I block out thoughts of Jaws and other sharp-tooth creatures that could eat me and get out there and swim.

Many would argue what I’m doing this week really doesn’t qualify as camping. I will be car camping which means I can pull right up to a built in campsite, will be surrounded by others and will have the luxury of a bathroom nearby. I will be sleeping in a tent nonetheless and it’s likely to be pretty cool this time of year so in my book it still counts.

This week will be less about getting out into the wilderness Survivor style and more about learning the basics of camping. I’m hoping to learn more about the notion: “Be Prepared”.  The good thing about car camping is I can also subscribe to the motto “Be Comfortable” in that preparation. Who says you can’t eat gourmet meals or sleep comfortably just because you’re sleeping outside?

Ushering in Fall

September 13, 2011 § 3 Comments

The beginning of fall always signifies two of my favorite things: pulling out all of my big, comfy sweaters and making delicious pots of soup. Soup is definitively a seasonal food for me and has to be one of my favorite things to make on a cold day. There’s nothing more nourishing or comforting than a warm bowl of soup you’ve spent a few hours making.

To make a good soup you have to have a good pot and I was lucky enough to get one of my great grandmother’s cast iron pots handed down to me. Yesterday I broke it out and made one of my favorite fall go-tos: roasted butternut squash soup. Around Boulder we have so many farms you can hop in the car and visit for good produce this time of year. I had hoped to get squash that was a bit more rich in color, but the taste is still pretty wonderful.

I tend to play around with my recipe each year and it takes me a few times of making it to get back into the groove of it.

2 small butternut squash or 1 large one
bouquet garni (2 sprigs thyme, 1 sprig sage, 2 bay leaves) tied together
2 cartons organic chicken broth (or veg broth)
2 shallots
2 T. butter
olive oil
red pepper flakes (if you like a little kick)

Preheat the oven to 350 & take 2 small butternut squash & cut into 4 segments. Clean out the seeds & pulp. Lay them face up on a baking sheet & brush with olive oil and season with salt & pepper. Drizzle a little honey over the segments. Roast the squash for about an hour until it turns slightly darker & softens.

About halfway through roasting the squash I start the broth. Make a bouquet garni by tying together a few sprigs of thyme with a couple bay leaves and a sprig of sage. I really like sage with the squash. Dice 2 shallots. Heat 2 T. butter in the pot and sauté the shallots for a few minutes on medium heat. Add 2 cartons of organic chicken broth and bring to a boil. Add the bouquet garni.

 When the squash is finish, separate from the skin and add to the broth. Boil lightly for about 30 min. Remove the bouquet garni. Puree the soup in a food processor or blender. I do 3 batches and usually put the first batch directly back in the pot. Then I will strain the next two batches to get rid of some of the pulp.

It is usually pretty good to eat now, but I like to let it cook for another 45 min or so on low and reduce a little further. The soup is usually even better the next day.

In the cards

September 10, 2011 § Leave a comment

Yesterday as part of card week I went and got my first Tarot card reading. I figure it’s a sort of right of passage living in Boulder. My friend Jessica introduced me to a reader, Linda, who she’s known since she was a child. Even though I was a little skeptical going in I really enjoyed it and have to say for an hour long session and $50 I learned a lot about myself through the cards. I think that is the interesting thing about cards. Even though you may not believe in the divinity of choosing them, they lead you to thoughtful discussion about how you’re living positively or how you’re holding yourself back.

Carl Jung was a proponent of using Tarot cards in psychoanalysis because he saw them as representing the archetypes that exist in all of us. It all depends on how you are tapping into them or allowing them to govern your behavior.

I would say my reading was pretty accurate and reflects the past 4 years of my life and where I am hoping to get to:

Present: Queen of Swords – known for perception and insight and the ability to see straight to the heart of any situation. Often depressed or dissatisfied with their inability to live up to their own high standards. Sees painful situations as learning experiences and learns from everything she does.

Immediate Challenge: Ten of Swords – “All they that take the sword will perish by the sword”. Symbolizes an unexpected failure or disaster, beyond your control that humbles you without warning or mercy. Sees self as wounded by other people and circumstances. It signals to pick yourself up off the ground and starting thinking about what happened to you and what you have to learn from it. The ideal is to draw wisdom from defeat.

Distant Past: Six of Swords (reverse) Clearing your mind and putting your thoughts in order. Distancing yourself from a painful situation so you can get new perspective. With distance it is possible to see the larger pattern and start making sense of what you can do about it.

Recent Past: The Hermit (reverse) Creating too much resistance and refusing to listen to counsel, creating a tension you are experiencing. Man is anything but a desert unless in the process of separating in order to find himself he gets lost. He must then depend on the light of another, in grace, to bring him back.

Best Outcome: The World (reverse) You have slowed down to a stop because of your refusal to explore new horizons. You may be at a standstill but the freedom of the World exists in potential and you will feel it when you feel ready to begin the dance of life again. Be willing to express yourself completely and trust in the power given to you. Don’t worry about what others might say.

Immediate Future: Three of Cups – The influence of community is strong in this card. It represents spending happy time in the company of friends and family and celebrating success together. Taking time out from stress and daily hassles to enjoy life.

Factors Affecting the Situation: Nine of Cups – Known as the Wish Card, it is typically a sign whatever your heart’s desire is it will be granted in the coming days. It shows that joy and happiness are within  your grasp and you probably already have them so enjoy the abundance of life for as long as it lasts.

External Influences: Eight of Swords (reverse) – Begin your freedom. Take the blindfold off and allow yourself to clearly see how you have created the situation you are experiencing. You have tremendous potential for focusing on creative and innovative ideas. Stop backing yourself into a corner and be free to forge ahead. Believe.

Inner influence: The Fool – The fool is unmoulded potential, pure and innocent. He simply goes on his way, and does not care what others say about him. He lives an unconventional life doing what is comfortable for him. The fool does not hide himself from the light because he is the light similar to the light that shines out from every child before they build barriers around themselves. The Fool always stands for new beginnings, new choices.

Final Outcome: Queen of Coins (reverse) – Sometimes you need to step back and let others take on the load. Your tendency to mother might feel more like smothering to others so you need to step back and let them care for themselves. The time you may be spending investing too much in others may be causing you to neglect yourself.


Lady luck

September 9, 2011 § Leave a comment

Fortuna, goddess of luck, was smiling on me yesterday. I’ve always been more of the mind that you make your own luck but there’s something fun about ponying up to a table and seeing how you net out. I’m no big gambler by any means, but I do like to play Blackjack from time to time. I realize the house still has the advantage, but it’s nice to think there’s some skill involved in minimizing that advantage in your favor.

I’ve never attempted to count cards to win at Blackjack but when learning I found it helpfulto use a card that shows what you should do given your hand and the dealer’s hand. It takes a little while to get in the rhythm of it but you do start learning it. I was nervous the first time I played at an actual table but the dealers and other players are usually pretty kind in telling you what you should do.

Last night I went with a friend to test my luck in Black Hawk, a town with an interesting history about 30-40 min away from Boulder. It is one of the oldest cities in Colorado and grew up in “Gregory’s Gulch”, one of a string of towns connected to a lode gold discovery in 1859.

Not surprisingly when people stopped striking it lucky with gold, the town started to deteriorate like many other towns in Colorado. In the early 90s the city leaders made their own luck by banding together with other small towns to get an initiative passed on the Colorado ballot that would allow limited stakes gambling in the commercial districts of the towns, with much of the proceeds going towards historic preservation efforts statewide.

The Colorado hills continue to be a place you can go to “strike it rich” and yesterday I didn’t do too bad for myself. Let’s just say I doubled my “investment”. Time to go shopping.

52 cards

September 5, 2011 § Leave a comment

Becoming a card shark may be pushing it this week but at the very least I want to learn more about playing cards. The week I learned about chess I thought how fascinating it is that there are certain games that have existed for centuries that people still play today despite the advent of technology. In many cases technology continues to spur them on. Card games were some of the first apps to show up on the iPhone.

Playing cards were first invented in China as early as the 9th century and came about simultaneously as the development of using sheets of paper vs a long role of parchment as a writing medium.

Originally cards had a variety of suits but the 4 used today originated in France (c. 1480) – hearts, diamonds, spades, clubs. It is also believed the ability of the Ace to surpass the value of the royal cards originated during the French Revolution.  At that time the royal cards were also replaced with cards that reflected the ideals of the Revolution – Liberty, Equality, Fraternity. Those were short-lived with the rise of Napoleon.

While cards were probably invented as a diversion, by the 17th century, there was a name that became applied to those people who used cards to swindle less experienced players, “card sharp”, more commonly known as “card shark”.

Playing cards, like playing chess, is not only a game but a reflection of life. When I did ancestry week my dad told me how he learned poker from his father and how it taught you a lot about other people and their character. They had a poker night where one of the guys who worked for his father had cheated and got caught by the group. The next day my grandfather fired him because he felt if that guy was willing to cheat in a game of cards he didn’t want that kind of person working for him.

Cards reveal. They show whether someone is cool under pressure, whether they’re a graceful winner or a sore loser. Beyond the realm of play, it’s fascinating how many people look to Tarot at what’s “in the cards” to tell them about how their future will unfold.

I don’t expect to be a card shark by the end of the week or to put my fate in the hands of the cards, but I’d like to become more proficient. At the very least I’ll be better equipped to ward off the sharks:

1) Card games – I know a few games here and there but I want to get to a point where if I’m looking to pass the time I can pick up a deck and have a few games to choose from.

2) Poker – I have never played poker and I’d like to get a group of friends together for a poker night. I’ll have to save that for the end of the week so I can work on my hustle a bit.

3) Card trick – I think everyone, at the very least, should know one good joke and one good card trick to share. While I don’t have either currently in my repertoire I’m going to work on the card trick this week.

4) Tarot – I think it would be fun to see what’s “in the cards” for my future this week. There are multiple readers on Pearl St. here in Boulder (surprise) and it would also be fun to try a reading on my own.

5) Tables – I’d like to hit the Blackjack tables at Black Hawk. Blackjack is the one card game I know how to play fairly well, but I’ve never tried the tables here in Colorado. I’ll have to agree with my husband on what my limit is before I go.


Rafting the Upper Colorado

September 4, 2011 § Leave a comment

Even though it’s some of the easier rafting in the area, it didn’t seem right not to raft the Colorado River this week. The Colorado starts at that Continental Divide in Rocky Mountain National Park at La Poudre Pass. It runs 1,450 miles to the Gulf of California. While it was pretty tame with Class II & Class III rapids, it made up for the mild rapids with scenery. It was a gorgeous day to be out on the river.

We decided to do the full day trip with Mad Adventures out of Kremmling, 2 hours from Boulder. $69 covers the trip as well as lunch. Our guide, Jake, was pretty great and it felt a bit more personal than some of the other trips we saw going down the river. We’re definitely going to him for an overnight camping trip with friends next year (with beer this time).

We basically hit the last week they were running trips and as you can see the water was much lower than earlier in the summer. I definitely want to do some rafting trips in June & July next year when the water is running faster.

We passed through a couple of gorgeous canyons along the way. At one point we stopped at a rock jump where my husband did the 25 foot jump. I was the brave photographer.
When I started this week I wasn’t sure how difficult the different classes of rapids were so I stuck with II & III class rapids. I think we could easily do Class IV and it would probably be a little more exciting. You can see how tame this was since I was sitting there taking pictures as we went through a Class II.
Towards the end of the trip we took a small hike to see some dinosaur imprints which were pretty cool. We were joking that this was the part of the trip where they lead us off to harvest our organs, but we made it back intact. This was definitely a family friendly trip. I think we’ll take my nephew and nieces on this trip next summer when they come for a visit.

Sometimes we fall into our habits and routines and miss a lot of what is right under our nose where we live. Rafting was a good reminder of how it’s great to break out of that routine. I knew there were rafting trips around but there is really some fantastic rafting around here. You could spend the entire summer exploring different routes and it really isn’t that expensive for a weekend activity. The best part is how good and tired you feel after the rowing and the day of sun on the river. It’s a great summer feeling.

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