Fort Collins’ Tour de Fat

Today we celebrated our annual Fort Collins Tour de Fat, where over 20,000 cyclists dressed in outrageous costumes and rode in a bicycle parade through the streets of Fort Collins. This event, sponsored by our own New Belgium brewery was an opportunity for people of all ages to dress their most rad and show off their cycling skills (or not). Tour de Fat is mostly just fun, but it was spawned by our own New Belgium Brewery to celebrate cycling as an efficient and low energy form of transportation as well as a way to raise funds for local bicycling groups.

I wanted to take photos, so I deferred the excitement of riding in the parade, but Peter and I did ride our bikes into town to view all of the goings on. As we got closer to the parade route, we encountered people dressed in their favorite costumes and many who had also made costumes for their bikes, so we rode along with them before finding a spot to watch. When we got to the parade route, there were so many people on the road waiting to start, that it took almost 30 minutes before anyone was able to move forward. We scoped out a prime spot to see the start and finish. Costumes ranged from Sir Lancelot to Carmen Miranda and everything in between. But I think the most popular theme was tutus and butterfly wings.

Here are a few of my favorites:

Mario

Some amazing tall bikes – I don’t know how they managed to stay on these in this crowd.

The bike costume was great in this one.

Ride of the Valkyrie

Eyeball Man

Then I loved the group efforts:

Here’s a dragon bike

Santa’s sleigh

A group of garden gnomes

And Running With the Bulls.

After the parade, we walked through Civic Center Park and enjoyed the main stage entertainment and exhibits. Sorry, no photos of this as I used up my camera battery shooting all the costumes. It was a fun day!

Peaches!

Palisade, Colorado Peaches by Cathy Ulrich

It’s peach season here in Colorado. I hail from the Peach State, Georgia. I know, it’s sacrilege but Colorado peaches are, in my opinion, the best on Planet Earth. I’m not kidding. It don’t know what it is about growing peaches here, but I’ve never had a bad one.

Most of our peaches are grown in Palisade, Colorado in a fertile river valley just to the west of the Rocky Mountains . We Coloradans are so passionate about our peaches that we pretty much consume most of them here. That’s why anyone who lives outside the state has probably never experienced their special flavor. Imagine sweet, tart, buttery flesh of a perfect texture with a thin skin – that’s our peach.

What I didn’t know was that peaches grown right here on the eastern side of the Rockies are just as good. Last weekend our neighbor, Doug, came knocking at our door. He held a flat box of little jewels that he had grown himself – gorgeous white peaches. We’ve been eating them all week. I sliced up some of the last ones to go on a Dutch-Baby pancake this morning. You can find the recipe for the pancake here.

Doug’s gift was a harbinger of things to come. Every year, Peter and I order a box of peaches from Palisade through a local Rotary club. The club brings in several Semis loaded with peachy goodness and they use the proceeds to buy a dictionary for every third-grade child in the Fort Collins school district.

What am I going to do with all of these peaches? Well, I see a peach cobbler in Peter’s future (yes, I am psychic). As well as a few simple desserts of broiled peaches. I split them, remove the pits, sprinkle them with brown sugar and cinnamon and broil them until the brown sugar starts to bubble. Then top with lightly sweetened whipped cream. I’ll probably also make some peach salsa with mint and peppers from the garden to go on grilled chicken or steak and I’ll freeze the rest for our enjoyment later

Here’s a preserving tip: Did you know that you can freeze peaches whole? I put them, skin and all, into Ziplock Gallon freezer bags. When I’m ready to use them, I just rinse under cold water and the skin slides off. Split it, remove the pit and slice. They’re the closest thing to fresh peaches I’ve ever found with the added benefit of no additional sugar or the need for pectin to keep them from turning brown.

So if you’re not fortunate enough to live in Colorado, I’d suggest you plan a trip out here in August to try our delectable peaches – maybe even a road trip. Because I suspect you’ll want to take at least one large box back home.

Saba – A Little Jewel in the Caribbean

The Road That Couldn’t Be Built – Saba, Netherlands Antilles

During our week of diving aboard the Caribbean Explorer II, we had a chance to go onshore to the island of Saba. It’s one of the prettiest and most unusual places I have visited in the Caribbean.

With a population of less that 2000, this unique little island hosts a Medical School, four villages and a tiny airport. And its sides are so steep that it has no beaches at all. Saba has one road that goes from the small harbor to the four villages and the airport. Started in 1938, “The Road That Couldn’t Be Built” took twenty years to complete and was designed and masterminded by Josephus Lambert Hassell after he took a correspondence course in civil engineering.

Saba University School of Medicine

We drove through the town of Bottom which hosts The Saba University School of Medicine.

Windwardside, Saba

And we stopped in Windwardside for a few minutes of shopping. Our guide told us that there is a law here requiring all buildings to have red roofs and be painted white.

Juancho E Yrasquin Airport, Saba

Finally our land excursion took us to an overlook of the tiny Saba Airport. With a landing strip of only 400 meters, I’m told that a special certification is required of the pilots that take off and land here.

Diamond Rock Above the Surface

This island is beautiful, both above the water and below it. One of the most spectacular sites I have ever dived is here. Diamond Rock is actually a group of three pyramid-shaped rocks – two of which pierce the surface.

And from a few feet below the surface to a depth of 80 feet or so, these rocks are literally covered in barrel sponges, tube sponges and corals of every imaginable color.

Fortunately, I didn’t let it, since I was scuba diving, but it could have easily taken my breath away!

St. Kitts – Gibraltar of the Caribbean

St. Kitts Capital City – Basseterre

I just returned last week from a week-long diving trip to the Caribbean. I’ve posted several  articles on my Energy and Healing site here but today, I want to share a short article about a land excursion that Peter I took to the island of St. Kitts.

Originally named Saint Christopher (Kit is a nickname for Christopher) this island was first seen by Christopher Columbus on his second voyage to the new world in 1493. One account states that he named the island for his patron saint. With the settlement of the island by both the English and the French, it became an important economic power when African slaves were brought in to work in the sugar industry here. Control of the island went back and forth between these two seventeenth century powers with many naval and land battles.

As part of the English attempts (and success) for military control, they built one of the largest forts in the Caribbean on Brimstone Hill. Fort George was established in 1690 and building continued on this site for one hundred years. Called the Gibraltar of the Caribbean, this fort provided an overlook to the sea and a way of protecting the British interests here. However, in 1782, the French laid siege to Brimstone Hill and were successful in capturing the compound until the Treaty of Paris restored it to British Rule in 1783. It is now a Unesco World Heritage site and a remarkable testament to the work of thousands of slaves. While slavery is a dark blot in the history of European colonialization, St. Kitts history does stand out as an early adopter of Emancipation which came to the island in 1835.

Today, St. Kitts’ population of 35,000 relies heavily on tourism and to a lesser degree on agriculture, manufacturing and construction, but it is a relatively poor economy with fewer resorts than many other Caribbean islands.

Our underwater experiences in St. Kitts told of it’s former colonial military history. We saw many three hundred year-old anchors.

Our land excursion took us to Romney Manor. It was originally owned by Samuel Jefferson, the great, great, great grandfather of Thomas Jefferson. It is now the home to  the Carabelle Batik Factory where Peter and I bought beautiful batik shirts

Smoke stack at Wingfield Estate

We also visited Wingfield Estate – a former sugar plantation.

Large pot for boiling sugar at Wingfield Estate

Finally, here are some shots from Brimstone Hill National Park.

Inside the Fort

Peter looking dapper

My next post will be about our land excursion to the island of Saba…

Best,

Cathy

©CathyUlrich and LargeSelf, 2012

Helping with the Laundry

Being a bodyworker, my daily routine includes washing, drying and folding seven sets of flannel sheets. Any of you who have cats, know that they love warm things, sunspots, tops of appliances, anything that’s warmer than the ambient temperature. And my little Tonkinese boy, Cielo (it means “heaven” in Spanish), especially loves the laundry just out of the dryer.

Cielo can be sleeping in a room on the other side of the house, but when he hears the dryer beeping and me walking towards the laundry room, he comes running. He jumps onto the pile of hot sheets that I’ve dumped on the sofa and tunnels in. Then we play this game where I pull the sheets out to fold and he grabs them in a tug of war until the job is finished.

I just hope none of my clients or members of the State Regulatory board sees this (just kidding)!

Love,

Cathy

True Confession: I Cook for My Cats…

Anybody who has ever been owned-by and loved a cat knows of the challenges encountered when introducing any kind of change for them. This video is one of my all-time favorite commercials, and while I can never remember what was being advertised, I go on YouTube from time-to-time just to watch it. Cats rarely evoke feelings of apathy in people. You either love them or hate them, but for me, they are the perfect companion. Independent, funny, intelligent and quirky, and very affectionate, our cats enrich our lives in so many ways.

After having lost our last two girls – Meggie (Nutmeg) and Ginger, both to diabetes eight years ago, I was horrified to learn that their diet was mostly to blame. They both died around twelve, which is relatively young for indoor cats. At the time, I was feeding them a very well respected and expensive dry cat food, one recommended by our vet and one loaded with grains. Without going into the details of the challenges we and they went through, suffice to say that I did lots of research about food when I got our current feline “owners” Leo and Cielo.

Since that time, I have learned more and more about the dietary needs of cats. First of all, domesticated cats are true carnivores. Their natural diet is mice and birds and they supplement by eating grasses to get the chlorophyll that they need for trace minerals. Secondly, in the wild, cats get most of the moisture that they need from their food. Thirdly, grains are simply a deadly combination for these animals. Grains promote insulin resistance resulting in Type II diabetes and acidic urine the primary cause of Feline urologic syndrome. Since most dry food relies on grains to stabilize the proteins, I decided that dry food based on grains was out for Leo and Cielo.

After reading all the labels on the dry foods at the local health food store, I settled on one that used sweet potatoes as the stabilizing starch and venison and salmon as the protein source. Leo and Cielo loved it – and Leo loved it a little too much. As the years went by, I noticed that his middle was coming closer and closer to the ground and his waist had all but disappeared. At a veterinary check-up a few years ago, his doctor said it was time for a diet…Okay, good luck with that. First I searched for a dry food that was lower in calories – Leo just ate more of it, then I went to wet food, with a little supplementation of dry – Leo whined and fussed all the time. And when he wasn’t doing that, he walked on our heads all night. All the time, getting heavier. And the problem with Leo is that he’s so smart, he can open doors throughout our house. We can’t keep him out of the bedroom because if we put him and Cielo out and close the door, pretty soon, we’ll hear a clunk and both cats stroll down the hall looking somewhat annoyed.

A few months ago, my friend Crystal Nuding, told me about a new diet she’s been giving her dachshund, Oliver. She cooks for him! She said that Oliver loves the stew she makes him. He’s lost weight and his energy is amazing for an older dog. Crystal is a web consultant and Divine Openings Giver and one of her web clients Alecia Evans had been raving about a book that she feels is the answer to many pet owners prayers about natural pet food. Entitled “The Whole Pet Diet – Eight Weeks To Great Health For Dogs and Cats,” author Andi Brown outlines the science and a specific healing diet for companion animals that makes sense. She has a variety of healing stew recipes as well as treats and ideas for cleaning teeth.

I got the book, read it and decided to “go for it.” I went shopping for all the ingredients for the chicken stew. Spent a couple of hours working on it, kept a few containers out and froze the rest – the recipe makes about two weeks worth of food for two cats – so really not bad for the time  and energy spent. On that first day, I put a dish of the stew out for the cats. They sniffed it and wouldn’t even taste it. Hence, the herding cats thing. Peter and I just weren’t going to give up. So we decided to start slowly. We put a teaspoon of stew in each dish with a half-can of their favorite processed food. After sniffing it for awhile and realizing that this was all we were serving, they did eat it. Literally, over the course of two months, now, we have gradually added more stew and less canned food until two weeks ago we were at one half cup of stew and a teaspoon of the canned food. And they were eating it.

It was finally time to try the stew solo…we were getting ready to go out to dinner, so Peter fed them early and came into the bedroom to get dressed. Even with the tiny amount of canned food in the stew, both boys could tell something was missing. As Peter walked in the bedroom, Leo and Cielo both followed, sat down on the bed and stared at him, as if to say, we know what you did! After a few minutes, he relented, went back and added the teaspoon of canned food! The evil eye treatment was just too much. Yes, herding humans is easier that herding cats! But, in another week, we were able to eliminate the canned food and they are now cleaning their dishes – every last morsel.

Leo helping me write this post…

In six weeks, Leo has lost about a pound! He now has a waist – and he’s not begging for food at all. This stew seems to satisfy his appetite and he looks great. It’s easy to make, it’s less expensive than processed food by about half and in my opinion, a whole lot healthier! After all, I don’t eat processed food so why would I want to feed it to my cats?

So my suggestion? Check out The Whole Pet Diet. It’s a great, informative book with practical ideas for healthy food for dogs and cats. And while I doubt, I’ll ever be able to herd the boys, I did succeed this time in convincing them to eat my homemade stew!

Cathy

Next Door Food and Drink

Smoked salmon/ potato cake/ onion/ creme fraiche/ fried capers at Next Door Food and Drink

This lovely restaurant is rapidly becoming my favorite spot for dinner. Specializing in Spanish tapas and small plates, Next Door offers a creative menu as well as an interesting bar selection.

Last night, Peter and I shared several small plates. We love dining at a relaxed pace and we learned how much we liked this kind of eating when we went to Barcelona a few years ago. Tapas, I think were originally offered as little snacks in bars and the classic is the “Tortilla,” which in Spain is more like a frittata or omelette than the corn or wheat flatbread to which we have become accustomed in North America. While Next Door does not offer a “Tortilla Espanola,” they do offer several items that take me right back to Barcelona and the eating style I love so well.

While Next Door’s menu offerings are not exactly “classic” in the Barcelona style, they capture the feeling of the tapas experience. Two of the more common Spanish tapas dishes show up here and I was delighted to be able to enjoy them in Loveland, Colorado! Padron peppers (called the Spanish Roulette on Next Door’s menu) are small, green, slightly spicy peppers, usually grilled or sautéed in olive oil and served with a little salt. Next Door does this, but kicks it up by adding a little dish of sesame seeds and salt as well as a piquillo (pimento) aioli. And, this dish is only $4! Peter and I love these so much that we get two orders so we don’t have to fight over them.

Patatas Bravas – which can be found on any tapas menu in Spain – sounds a little scary (Brave Potatoes?) but is, in fact a delicious and simple dish that I simply cannot pass up, when I can get it. Crispy roasted or fried potatoes with a smoky paprika and piquillo sauce, these babies disappear quickly. And, again, Next Door raises the bar with two more sauces, a Sri Ra Cha mayonnaise and a piquillo caper sauce in addition to the Bravas sauce.

For our next round, we enjoyed fried calamari with a savory tomato sauce and a lemon-basil remoulade along with a beautiful plate of burrata cheese with baby arugula greens and crispy roasted tomatoes. Finally, we decided to do a “raw surf and turf” round by finishing our savory options with smoked salmon rolls on potato cakes with onions and fried capers and a beef carpaccio plate. In keeping with their creative flair, Next Door serves thin slivers of raw beef over the most delicate schmeer of mustard mayo, then topped with manchego cheese, fava beans (just a few) and a lovely julienne of radishes.

Dessert? Yes, we had to…Apple Empanadas. Fortunately they were small, encrusted in cinnamon sugar with a tiny dollop of whipped mascarpone and a small quenelle of cinnamon ice cream. And, no we weren’t done even then. We had to try their house made blood orange cello (like Limoncello, only a lot better).

In closing, I’d like to give you a few tips to optimize your experience. The way to eat small plates, or tapas, is to order them in ones or twos, instead of all at once. You don’t want these delectable treats to get cold or to feel overwhelmed. Peter and I keep a menu on the table and choose our next round as we finish our current one. This way we can decide to order more or quit when we’re full. The only challenge here is that the menu is so interesting, it really is hard to pick. Fortunately, with small plate dining, we take advantage of the chance to sample their many offerings and leave comfortably stuffed!