Let it be released from the mind

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Just a three hour plane ride away

Arriving in Denver and Boulder, I couldn’t believe how warm it was. The humidity made it seem just like home, and was far from what I expected. Apparently all Colorodans were urging everyone, local or not, to stay inside. My god—it’s hit 50% humidity AND it’s 95+ degrees. It really is the East Coast. While lodging standards were subpar comparable to what some others had chosen in my training, I quickly rushed to the Best Western Golden Bufffffff Lodge to start my journey. I had researched the city layout enough to know how to take the bus round town and get to a few hiking trails near the southwest portion of the city where the mountains hit the plains. Boulder sits right at the bottom of the Flatirons, and I began to tackle it that very same afternoon.

I took the HOP bus through the University of Colorado campus and walked about 5 blocks to Chautauqua Park. The trails began at the entrance to the park. I didn’t know too much about each trail and its difficulty, so I started on the namesake trail and made my way up a golden meadow of grasses. I was so desperate in my brainstorming of the trip to see alpine wildflowers. Perhaps it’s still laden from Switzerland where we saw snow instead of rolling green pastures and daisies. Perhaps it’s because I read that most mountain passes had 5 dozen varieties or more of alpine wildflowers in splendor in the third week of July. Killing me softly…

The Chautauqua trail was a steady incline towards the mountains, and although it was only .7 miles in length up the trail I was really starting to feel the pressure of the elevation. My lungs grasped for air like it was a depleted natural resource. I stopped once or twice to sip my full and chilled purple Nalgene bottle. All the trails in the park really intertwine, so you might take one trail up and another down, or change your route part way. I got to a section that gave me four options—flatirons 1, flatirons 2&3 (in lower pic with me in it, see the "flat" sloped mountain in the background), Bluebell Mesa or Royal Arch. I saw some Colorado-looking people approaching so I begged, “lead me to my destination. Where should I go?” She said the Royal Arch was only a mile away and was a beautiful view.

And so the torture began. The stairmaster from hell lasted for one mile. Luckily, trees along the ridge shaded me for the most part, otherwise I don’t know if I would have made it. Up, up, up I climbed, clambering a bit over rocks and developing blisters from my Keens. After one mile of stair climbing, I gained 1,000 feet.
I stopped probably 6 times to catch my breath which was more like wait until the heart stopped beating faster than I could count. I ran into all women going up the trail, all fit and quietly listening to their music. Thank goodness they couldn’t hear my gasping. Luckily though, towards the stop they seemed to be struggling a bit too, and we spoke in one sentence or less each time we passed each other—wouldn’t want to waste valuable life-sustaining air. I finally reached the summit and it was a beautiful arch. It was nothing like Utah’s arch, which achieved license plate fame, but still unique and with extraordinary colors and views of Boulder and beyond. I figured I wouldn’t make it on another upward-bound trail, so I took my time at the top. As I departed I wiped a layer of salt crystals off my face and began the descent with my jelly legs.

The next morning I window-shopped in the art inspired town of Boulder. It became quite typical for me to walk from my hotel all the way to Pearl Street and the historic downtown vicinity which was about 1.5 miles/20 blocks. I spent a ridiculous sum buying gifts and mementos at Bliss and Colorado Canines. I was already missing hubby and pup and guilt bought because of this.

One evening, my training buddies and I explored the Boulder Farmer’s Market. It was a match made in heaven for me. A duo of guitarists played as we enjoyed a brewsky from Left Hand and dumplings from a nearby vendor. Beets—golden and red of course—were displayed prominently at every stand along with carrots of varying colors, spring onions, mushrooms, corn, and amazing bouquets of flowers. One chicky tried to convince us about the benefits and awesomeness of Kombucha, and I graciously listened because I felt like talking. When you really broke it down though, it was nicely bottled and more expensive apple cider vinegar. It’s actually a fermented black tea, but it would taste more ideal on a bucket of Thrasher’s. Notice I didn’t say cup. A bucket.

We watched several races by children and adults on a Thursday evening. I like how people in Colorado are so damn fit that they just decided “Hey—I’m not doing anything tonight. It’s Thursday so we should set up a race.” They don’t need no stinkin’ weekends. All the restaurants are open to the outside because the weather is absolutely beautiful (that humidity and temperature went away as soon as a thunderstorm rolled through) and the cuisine is very eclectic and varied for what seems to be a small town. I wonder what it would be like during college sessions when the population probably doubles.

This morning I ate at the famed Lucile’s, recommended by my new carpool buddy. Lucile’s specializes in authentic New Orleans food, and has locations in Denver, Boulder, Ft. Collins and Longmont. I haven’t gorged that much in a long time. I guess they were trying to make you feel as though you were in New Orleans, and as I sat in the hot back room I grew full and tired quickly. I wanted to try a little bit of everything, so I had a beignet covered with powdered sugar, collard greens with pepper vinegar, poached eggs with hollandaise served over creamed spinach and served with cheese grits, and a giant buttermilk biscuit. This biscuit covered a whole small dish, but when split and topped with homemade strawberry jam was divine.

I head home now and remember the last time I visited Denver. As I got off at the gate at Reagan Nat’l, I was bombasted with a wall of humidity. I struggled to get comfortable in the elevation here, and drank twice my usual amount of water. I’ll probably sweat it all out in the first half hour in D.C.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

The Boulder the Better

So I am very excited I get to go to Boulder next week! Several years ago when I worked for another company I got to spend several weeks in the 7-11's of Denver and Colorado Springs. You are immediately jealous of me for my lavish trip. But for me, it was ideal. It was August, and it was my first experience with the heat of the West. As I sat in my rental car I could feel the skin burning on my arms in the 100 degree heat. Even with the windows closed and the A/C on, the rays that bore through the windows was intense and unrelenting. Still not sounding ideal? I would hop out of my car every few miles at each 7-11 and immediately jump into the freezer section. The varying temperatures came as a slight shock to my system, but I luckily never became ill.

Stoplight after stoplight; corner 7-11 after corner 7-11. But as soon as my work reorganizing beverage shelves to highlight my product was done for the day, the time was mine. I spent countless hours and gallons of gas driving into the mountains just outside of Denver every evening. Within half an hour you can be mostly out of the city and into the beautiful nature world, and I would get lost meandering old mountain roads and lost in buffalo's eyes. No, seriously--they actually had buffalo farms and that was my first experience with them. One night I tried to catch the sunset from a mountaintop, one night I would have a meal downtown. The weekend was spent with day trips to Boulder and Breckenridge, the most ideal mountain resort town I could imagine. Children played in the mountain streams as an arts festival played music in the background. Even in August, the peaks of the Rocky mountains held white caps.

I tried to find the Coors factory but got lost and gave up. I wasn't desperate enough for Coors to keep looking.

One thing I had not expected of Colorado are the trees. I thought that the West meant open land, and I would be able to see for miles in the vast open territory. But what was great about Colorado were the trees. It was halfway between home and the barren land I thought it might be.

The second week was spent in Colorado Springs, which was much flatter and more open. Directly south of Denver about 3 hours, it's the home of the Air Force Academy, and slightly more boring. It was much more suburban there, and not quite as visually stunning as the cities closer to the majestic and higher peaks.

I anxiously look forward to my trip next week to Boulder. I remember it as being quite a hippie town, and very green. I am hoping that the internet tells me the truth and alpine wildflowers will be in peak bloom in the higher regions. I have at least 3/4 of a day on each side of my business aspect, so I will rent a car hopefully and drive an hour northwest to Rocky Mountain National Park to do a quick day hike. I hope that the altitude will not keep me from seeing some impressive views. An ideal picture I plan on bringing back is a mountain reflected in a still lake. Wish me luck! Oh yeah, and luck on learning something at this training and bettering myself!

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Beware of the Fava!

So I have never eaten a fava bean, seen them fresh in real life only once or twice, but have a slight obsession with them. I don't know what they taste like, but when I found a packet of seeds that said "Fava" I was in fay-va. We had never grown any sort of beans before. The whole concept of poles and shoots was too scary for me to tackle the first year. As we approached our second year of aggressive gardening (our stance as well as our posturing to squirrel and deer), we added beans of several varieties. I must admit that right now they are shocking me. For one, the dark burgundy colored beans that you see beneath those wicked golden beets (wahoo--finally golden beets in my life!) turn green when you cook them. That was quite an exciting moment in the Bramell household. Then I got mad though because I felt as though I was just eating a regular old green bean, and that is boring. We only had 12 beans in the first pick, but now we have half a colander full. Those tricky buggers.
The fava beans are still in shell in the picture and look a lot like snow peas. I think D picked them much too early because when I shelled the beans they were about the size of a pea, and fava beans are supposed to be flat and lima-ish. Favas are also known as broad beans, because I know you've been wondering. They also go well with a nice Chianti. So when I shelled them I popped them into the mouth for a quick tasteroo, and then promptly read in my fave Joy of Cooking that they are toxic when eaten raw. Thanks D for picking them mostly undeveloped so I didn't have to worry too much about this tiny detail. Today I have read on Epicurious.com "Be aware that fava beans can cause a potentially fatal food intolerance in some people of Mediterranean, African, and Pacific Rim descent. " Cookey, Cookey lend me your comb. Also quite remarkable was the half-eaten bottle of Mrs. Butterworth's that grew out of the few remaining cornstalks we have. I felt like such a proud mama.
Other things that have been perplexing me is the emergence of what seem to be ripened acorn squash and butternut squash. Well, the butternut aren't apparently ripe yet and still have lots of green. I'm anxious to crack into the acorn to see what the inside looks like before D picks any more. He's a pickin' fool. Still left in our fridge, uneaten and quickly dwindling, are bok choy and collard greens and turnips. I must find a use for them.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

the materpiece, Bowie-style

The bathroom has been finished to about what we want it to be finished by. What I mean by this is that we definitely did not remodel the bathroom--same toilet, same sink and vanity, same tub. But we did update it to be a bit more pleasing than when we moved in. There isn't half put up crown molding that hasn't been stained, mirrors with most of the backing gone, dingy disgusting floor, wallpaper on half the walls and partially ripped off. We painted the walls with a textured paint to cover some of the scars of wallpaper removal (grrrrr), painted the vanity and added new handles, installed a new light fixture with cute sconces and rehung the mirror, scrubbed the floor for about 2 hours with a small grout brush and the magic eraser, and updated the towel bar/toilet paper holder/etc for the room. It looks a bit plain I admit, but I'm in no hurry to make it feel like home with the finest of my decorator abilities. All of our inspiration came from the shower curtain that D bought about 2 years ago that is hanging there, and the rug I found at Target for $5 or less. All of the materials probably cost about $175.

Friday, July 06, 2007

Carbon dioxide

For the first time since DDT and hair spray cans, the environment is on the tips of everyone's tongue. It's a wonderful feeling to know that something you are passionate about is changing the way people live and behave every day. Each day I hear of a few more people near and dear to me altering their lifestyles to save the environment, the natural world we so adore. Perhaps you're not a hiker or a rock-climber, a boater or a fisherman, but would you want to see all of these places with trees disappear and the water turn to sludge or disappear altogether because you're not an active user of it?

To my surprise, I recently learned that deforestation contributes 20% of the CO2 emissions a year. That is well over the amount that the entire transportation industry and people contribute. Don't let me sway you that you can personally make an impact and that it is very important that you do everything you can to lower your emissions, but that definitely changes the way I think we should be saving this world.

One woman online had an excellent idea to this effect--plant a tree for every human baby born. A native hardwood tree planted in the southern United States that survives for 70 years will pull around 1.3 tons of carbon dioxide out of the air. During that same timeframe, an average American living to the age of 70 will produce on the order of 1,400 tons of CO2. In other words, you would need to plant over 1,000 trees — not just one — to remove the same amount of CO2.
One of our projects is to plant one billion trees in the Atlantic Forests of Brazil, one of the world's finest forests, that currently stands at 7% it's original size. I got very sad realizing that these 1 billion beautiful bountiful trees would only offset 1% of our population growth in the next year (928,000 people out of 74 million).