Thursday, July 24, 2008

Little Backyard of Horrors

Remember that garden I just would NOT shut up about?

It's all grown up now!

And sprouting things.

Pictured below are "pole peas" which I think are something like green beans, right? (This is why people like me should not actually succeed at gardening.)

Here are some bebe tomatoes. I do know how to use these lovelies.

I wish the tomatoes would hurry up and get delicious cause I've got a whole lotta basil that needs using.

We also have two other big pots of this stuff, so I'm thinking of starting a homemade pesto business on the side. Our poor little chives off to the right just can't seem to compete.

Yes, I realize we totally overplanted, but trust me when I say we had no real plans involving this garden thing actually succeeding.

It really was as simple as dropping some seeds in the ground and spraying them with some water every now and then. We even went on vacation with no plans for their care in our absence and they would not be deterred.

Next year we might expand and try to plan ahead so we don't have to keep untangling the pole peas from the dill plant they seem intent on squeezing the life out of. As long as they don't try for Milo next, I think we're on to something good here.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Biting the Big Apple

Being so busy with work and preoccupied with dental and doctor visits, I haven't had time to focus on the fact that I'm flying to New York City after work on Friday for 3 nights of fun.

I haven't been to New York since high school when I sang and danced in the Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade... in the rain.

I didn't enjoy that trip much. Not only because of the rain, but because I spent most my time holed up in a rehearsal room doing the same dance routine to the same, chirpy song (Big City Beat, actually. See how far it was drilled into my brain?) over and over again.

This trip is with my cousin to visit a mutual friend who moved to Brooklyn a few months ago.

I'm pretty confident this trip will be better than my last NYC experience (though I did get to see Christian Slater at the parade... which seemed way cooler at the time).

Besides going to see Rent on Saturday, I don't think we have any definite plans. Any suggestions on things we should do, places to eat, places to avoid, etc.?

Friday, July 18, 2008

Vacation Day Six

Day 6: Rafting Cache La Poudre and Ft. Collins

We left the cabin at about 4am to make sure we'd make it to Vern's Restaurant (Wanderlust Rafting's meeting place) with time to reflect on our lives in case we didn't make it back from the river.

When we arrived we heard that the river was running the highest it had been all season and there was a 110% chance we were going to get very wet. Since the river is fed by snow that melted the day before, we opted to rent wetsuits rather than suffer hypothermic shock.

I was too slow with my camera to get the shot of Chad emerging from the changing room in his svelte outfit, but trust me when I say it was an incredible sight.

After our safety talk which included lots of ways we could die, but probably wouldn't, we all piled on the bus and headed off to the put-in.

We were doing the "Blast" trip that included Class III - IV+ rapids. Translation: Big, fast ones.

There were 4 boats taking the trip that day. Two boats were part of a bachelorette party, one boat was a 5 member family, and then there was us. We ended up having the four of us, one guide and a trainee in our boat, but we were still the lightest one on the river (in bodies, anyway).

Once we got in the boat, we were all feeling pretty confident since we'd done non-guided tours before and lived to hyperbolize.

The Cache La Poudre is Colorado's only Wild and Scenic river. We didn't see any wildlife, but it was very pretty when we took occasional, tense glances away from the river.

We got some okay photos when the river wasn't raining over us and splashing my blinded face with icy water.

Still having fun at this point, I didn't realize how much up and down we were really doing, or how big the rapids really were. I was focused.

Into the rapid.

Over the rapid.

Through the Rapid.

We rock.

It was this abundance of hubris that, like all great tragedies, led to our downfall.

Enter Pine View Falls, the biggest, meanest rapid on the river.

Luckily the Wanderlust crew was waiting at this rapid to take video so you can see our trip through the falls. We're in the second raft that goes through the rapid.

Cache La Poudre River, Pine View Falls Rapid, Class IV+ from Kristin Sutter on Vimeo.
That's Chad and our trainee you see flying out of the raft and Andy and I with our heads in the river momentarily before hauling ourselves back in by our feet that are lodged into crevices in the raft.

I blame our lack of momentum on the fact that we had the least amount of people in our boat. (Maybe it was also a little bit of the collective "Oh SHIIIIIIIIIIIIT" once we saw the fate of the boat in front of us.)

I really don't remember much outside of feeling Jenn slam into me and icy river water on my head, then just looking around frantically to see if we'd lost anyone. You can see Chad's head being sucked under by the current even though he's wearing a buoyant wetsuit and a pretty serious life jacket.

We made it through the rest of the rapid picking up random people and paddles out of the water as we went, though we lost track of Chad pretty early on. I figured he'd been picked up by another raft and kept telling a slowly growing frantic Jenny this as we eddied out after the rapid and watched the rafts behind us come down the river... without Chad.

The guides and cameramen were running up and down the road that ran by the river, shouting at each other as we realized that Chad was still missing. It was at this point that I actually imagined that Chad, the one who was LEAST excited about the rafting trip since he'd fallen out of a raft in some dicey places before, was dead.

Just as I was preparing another lie to tell Jenn, Chad came ambling down the road with the guide of the first, flipped raft. He looked a little pale (from the cold or the near death, we'll never know), but alive.

After loading up with random guides, and raftless members of the bachelorette party that flipped, we headed down the river through a few more Class III rapids before the take-out.

Despite the bad turn at Pine View, it was definitely the most fun I've ever had on a river. Even Chad was a good sport about it and said he'd get back in a raft again. (Though maybe not right away, I'd imagine.)

After our big river adventure, we needed something to calm our nerves and decided that a tour of the local breweries was the perfect solution.

We started at Coopersmith's Pub and Brewery where Andy found his new favorite beer and I found out there are flavor combinations that should not be allowed in nature.

Unfortunately they don't ship to Chicago, so my tastebuds are saved.

After some great food and sampling of beers, we headed off to the happiest place on earth.

(What would you call a place that gives you kickass, free beer, fun tours and everyone is incredibly friendly?)

New Belgium Brewery! Home of Fat Tire, Mothership Wit, Old Cherry and countless other incredibly mouth-watering brews.

We did a quick self-guided tour since we were too late for the real one and saw them filling one of their first batches of canned beer.

Poking around finished, we sidled up to the bar where we all received a sample sheet that allowed us to pick any four beers we wanted, for FREE.

Well, they did tell us that the "question of the day" was that you had to make up a new dance move and name it on the bottom of your sample sheet. Chad and I demonstrated ours, but I think he had my Lookout and Rockout beat with his innovative Shalamarama dance.

The bartenders were super cheerful and nice. One even offered to take our picture after telling us how beer tastes different depending on your mood, the season season, etc.

If New Belgium offered me a job, it would take me about 30 minutes to get Andy and Milo in the car before I hit the road.

FREE BEER, people. You've got to have priorities.

We finished our samples, chatted with the locals and bought a 12-pack of deliciousness before sadly saying goodbye to Ft. Collins...

and all the free beer.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Gettin' Buff

Bitches love big muscles.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Seafood Pasta

From my new Mark Bittman cookbook, How to Cook Everything.

We actually made this recipe over a month ago, but whenever I'm too lazy to post something, the recipes are usually the first to get the ax. (Mostly cause I think Andrea is the only person who's really interested.)

I highly encourage everyone to try the recipes found here, though. If I can cook it, you definitely can.

This was the first recipe I tried from the now-one-of-my-favorites cookbook. We used the cheap, frozen seafood mix bag from Trader Joe's, but you can substitute just about any seafood you'd like (or if you're like me, whatever's on sale).

Since our fresh basil was still in it's seedling infancy (But woo, buddy, you should see that basil now! If you are in need of fresh basil and in Chicago, please email me.), we used dried basil in the sauce and couldn't garnish with a pretty basil chiffonade. It still tasted amazing, so I can't wait to try it again after hacking some fresh leaves from the fragrant monsters now growing in our garden.

This pasta dish is a great summer meal because the lemon and white wine really brighten the flavor while the seafood isn't too heavy.

Pasta with Provencal Seafood Sauce
4 servings

1 tablespoon olive oil
½ cup diced onion
1 teaspoon minced garlic
½ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes, or to taste
½ cup dry white wine
2 cups caned, crushed tomatoes, not drained
1 lb linguine or other pasta
¼ cup minced fresh parsley leaves
½ cup shredded fresh basil leaves
1 teaspoon fennel seeds
1 tablespoon minced lemon zest
Salt and Freshly ground pepper to taste
½ pound medium to large shrimp, peeled and cut up if very large
½ pound sea scallops, cut in half if very large

1. Bring a large pot of water to boil.
2. Put the oil in another large, deep pot over medium heat. One minute later, add the onion and cook, stirring for 2-3 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute. Add the red pepper flakes, wine, and tomatoes, bring to a boil, reduce the heat to medium-low, and let cook for 15 minutes. (Sauce may be covered and refrigerated for a day or two, or frozen for several weeks. Reheat before adding seafood.)
3. Salt the boiling water and cook the pasta until it is tender but firm. When the pasta is almost done, add the parsley, half the basil, and all the remaining ingredients to the sauce; simmer until seafood is cooked through, about 4 to 5 minutes.
4. Drain the pasta and serve with the sauce, garnished with the remaining basil.
5. Share with your puppy!

Just like Lady and the Tramp.

(Milo's totally the lady.)

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Vacation Day Five

Day 5: Bear Lake hikes and Trail Ridge Road, Take 2

We headed out to Estes Park again to explore one of the more popular areas of the park, Bear Lake.

On the way we stopped to take some photos of Long's Peak which we planned to hike on Friday before Andy and I left for Denver.

We weren't planning on making it to the top, mind you. To do that, we'd have to leave the cabin at about 2:30 AM, and be completely different, more in shape and a little bit crazier people. I remember reading that every year, 10,000 people attempt to summit Long's Peak and only 3,000 succeed. I'd definitely need some altitude training before thinking about that.

More pretty photos came along when we had to stop for Jenny to have a bathroom break. (One of many. For an adult, you'd think she's got a bladder of a 5-year-old.)

We got to the park and took a shuttle to the trailhead.

The first sight on our journey was Nymph Pond.

Chad is always willing to go the extra mile to get a good photo.

Even though I didn't sit on a rock in the middle of the lake, I think I did pretty well.

As usual, the higher/farther we got, the better the views.

It started to get a little snowy and cold as we continued on the shrinking trail.

Just as we stopped to snap some photos of this waterfall, the clouds gathered and it started to rain.

This wouldn't usually be a big deal, but since Andy and I had been carting our rain coats on EVERY hike with us and never seen a drop, we'd decided to leave ours back at the car this time. (Hey, if you scoff at mother nature, don't be surprised if she gives you the finger when your back is turned.)

As the sky got darker, we decided to wait it out. Chad advised us all to find "homes" (any area under a small group of trees where we could huddle and hide from the light rain), so we huddled up and waited about 20 minutes for the rain clouds to mostly pass us by.

We were already almost next to Dream Lake, so we decided we make it there before turning around.

I also kind of fell in love with this tree. Chad shared his love of gnarly trees with me, and I haven't looked back since.

The gray skies didn't look like they were going away, though, so we headed back down.

And took pictures on the way.

It was lunchtime, so we stopped in a valley and found a big rock to use as a picnic table.

It was a nice backdrop for a relaxing lunch. Much better than my fluorescent-lit, little cafeteria at work.

This guy seemed pretty interested in our Baked Cheetos and Smartfood Popcorn, but we weren't giving up any of our stash.

He and his buddies started surrounding us, guerrilla-style, but we weren't intimidated.

After lunch we headed up to Trail Ridge Road again to hit a trail that we'd missed earlier in the week at the Rock Cut stop.

We saw lots of Alpine Tundra, cool rock formations and chilly wind on the hike.

At the end of the trail there was a neat metal sign of sorts on top of a rock formation. If you lined up arrows with your line of sight, you could see the name of each mountain. (Yeah, I realize this would be easier to explain if I had a photo.)

We talked some nice people into taking our picture after I performed an impromtu photo shoot for a guy who wanted photos of himself with the mountain background from every direction possible.

Here's Jenn and Chad scrambling down after seeing lighting in the distance that was headed our way.

We made it down safe and sound, and I don't even remember what we had for dinner that night. Maybe garlic bread with pasta and Italian sausage? Anyway, you can tell I'm getting tired of writing recaps and my memory's getting a little fuzzy, so it's a good thing the next one is the one day from the whole trip that will be burned into my memory forever.

That's right, kids! Tomorrow's what you've been waiting for... Whitewater Rafting Day! Also known as the day when, for the tiniest of moments, I actually thought Chad might be dead.


Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Too Old for Kid Games

Spent the weekend in Lima.

Here's what I did.

Pop Goes the Heart Attack from Brian S on Vimeo.

**Video courtesy of Brian Sroufe. You may hire him for all your random video needs.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Back Online!

After one whole week without internet access or television, Comcast has finally answered our desperate, pleading calls and restored our connection to the outside world.

My first night of television included a Jon & Kate Plus 8 marathon. Thank you, Andy for not punching me in the face and taking the remote by force.

It would have been justified.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Vacation Day Four

Yep, I'm at it again. After the extreme outpouring of affection for my posts (or realizing that reading them is a great time-killer when bored... whatever), I've decided to keep it up and finish the vacation. We're over the hump now, anyway. On to day four!

Day Four: RMNP Wild Basin Loop Trail

It turns out that the high altitude caused quite a few surprises besides labored breathing and purple lips. Eye drop bottles squirt solution into the air after opening, champagne corks burst from bottles like lethal weapons and apparently, high altitudes make me a very light sleeper.

Hence, I woke up naturally before sunrise for the first time... well, probably for the first time ever.

After grabbing some blankets (it got pretty chilly overnight), I dragged Andy out of bed and onto the big rock to watch the sun rise.

After conquering all .8 miles of the trail we did the day before, we naturally decided to move on to some much bigger hiking recommended by Debbie (aka The Crazy Cabin Lady, the owner of the cabin).

Thus, we began our 8 mile trek around the Wild Basin area of the park, beginning with the trail to Copeland Falls.

I discovered my new favorite tree, the aspen, on this vacation, too.

I loved the way the leaves spun in the wind, making the whole tree wink and sparkle. They were everywhere and I tried to think of how I could dig one up and get it home on the plane. I failed to find a legal, plausible way to make this happen, so next year I'll be attempting an aspen grove in the garden.

Our next major scenic spot was Calypso Cascades.

The waterfalls were great, but also a good excuse to stop and breathe. The first hour of hiking was always hard, but once our bodies realized the lack of oxygen wasn't temporary, they'd adjust and we'd be fine. Still, it's hard not to feel wimpy when we'd have to step off the trail to let a group of seniors with fanny packs breeze by.

After Calypso Cascades, the trail took us through an area that had been destroyed by a forest fire in 1973.

(I'm pretty sure that's the right year, and too lazy to confirm, but rest assured, I am POSITIVE the fire took place at some point in the 70's. See how informative these posts can be?)

It was beautiful to see the dead, charred trees with so much green springing up around them.

Because there were no tall trees, we had some pretty incredible views from the trail.

This was nothing compared to what awaited us, but I'm getting ahead of myself.

We stopped at Ouzel Falls and had our packed lunch of sandwiches, granola bars and apples on a fallen log just outside the waterfall's misty reach. We would get an occasional, refreshing spray when the wind blew in our direction.

We still had quite a ways to go and were getting a little low on water, so Chad broke out his trusty water filter and replenished our supply.

Um, here's where I confess that I didn't completely trust this filter. Not that I didn't trust Chad, but I had just read that water from RMNP streams should preferably be boiled due to the possible contamination by the microscopic organism Giardiasis. It was still early in the vacation, and I didn't want to spend my last four days confined to a bathroom.

I failed to share my concern with Jenny, who took the first giant swig of the Giardia water.

Then Jenn died.

Well, not really. It seems my fears were completely baseless and Jenn actually finished the hike better hydrated than me (who only pretended to take a sip of the water while nodding and smiling about how cold and refreshing it was).

By this time, we were leaving the more populated area and striking out on the Finch Lake trail which was labeled "Difficult" by my trail guide book.

The trail was a little tight and steep at points, but once we came out on the side of the mountain, the views were some of the best we'd seen.

You can see a little of the trail over Andy's shoulder.

This was my favorite hike of the whole trip. The amazing view was more than 180 degrees and I felt like we might be swallowed up by the mountains and valleys.

I felt so tiny standing on that small trail with all this surrounding me.

See? Even Chad looks small against that backdrop, and that's not an easy thing to accomplish.

After taking 50 or so more photos, we started back down the trail to complete our loop of the Wild Basin.

I'm happy to report everyone made it down safely, but when we were walking back to the car, we saw that a little Honda CRX or some other small car had actually flipped on the dirt road leading to the trailhead. Everyone was stuck. No one could get in or out while waiting for a tow truck to remove the car that had seemingly done the impossible (how do you flip a car on a 10 mph, one lane, twisty dirt road?).

We chatted with the older ladies who had blown by us on the trail and felt better about ourselves when they seemed impressed that we'd done the whole loop rather than just to Ouzel falls and back.

Eventually the road cleared and we headed home, stopping first at an overlook that was also recommended by our crazy cabin lady.

Back home, it was nap time for me and Jenn while the boys started dinner.

That's Jenny the Human Burrito in the hammock.

We did wake up in time to contribute and make some Velveeta shells and cheese to round out our gourmet dinner of grilled steaks and bagged salad. (Why get another bowl dirty when you don't have a dishwasher?)

Admire the shells and cheese pot sitting directly on the table. (Dishes were not something we wanted to spend our vacation doing.)

After dinner I somehow convinced the group to do another small hike up to a chapel on the mountainside by our cabin.

About halfway up, I think Andy wanted to punch me in the gut for even suggesting a steep hike after a big steak dinner and plenty of beer to go along with it.

Once we got to the top, though. I think we were all happy we'd done it.

If it hadn't been so cloudy, we would have been able to see the sunset.

The chapel was open so we got to explore inside. The view was definitely inspirational.

You can's see our cabin, but I've drawn in a pretty accurate, artistic depiction of where it might appear if the trees weren't obscuring the view.

And just because I like this picture.

And this one.

See? We were all still smiling at day's end.

After so much hiking, high altitude or no, I slept great that night (the glasses of wine might have had a little something to do with it as well).

The next day we saw water everywhere! Waterfalls, lakes, snow... and rain. Le sigh. We knew it would happen at some point. Do we melt? Get struck by lightning? Does Jenny's giardia finally rear it's ugly head? Who knows what crazy things will happen!