Chilies and Adobe; Pueblo’s Fall Festival

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The streets were blocked off and thousands of people descended upon our small city for the Pueblo Chile and Frijoles Festival.  The bright colors of chile ristras create a festive glow and the annual event corresponds with harvest and the autumn.  I brought home a wreath of colorful chilies.

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At the El Pueblo Museum the mercado took place.  The smells of roasting chilies and the sound of Spanish music filled the air.  Dancers that were traveling through for a Folklorico Mexican dance competition stopped and entertained us throughout the day with beautiful dancing and breathtaking attire.

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Inside the adobe house where the market once stood many, many years ago, time stands still.  I memorize pieces and admire the simplicity and homestead life.  I gather ideas and breathe in the history beneath my feet.

The Botanique (a beautiful weekend)

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A large neighborhood lake was on the left, children playing with intertubes, and the day was warm and sweet with autumn tinged air.  We turned right into the parking area of what once was a school in 1919.  But it certainly wasn’t your typical school of that era, it felt more like we entered Italy.  All marble and wood floors and magazine inspiration.

 

I am making the tinctures for my cousin’s new line of medicines that she is releasing along with her already well known body products.  H2a is the company she and her daughter, Sierra created years ago. Their products have been previewed in Vogue and can be found in spas and retail stores.  Heather’s new project is The Botanique in Fort Collins.  An event space, a class space, a retreat, an Air B&B, a respite, I was drawn in instantly to the serenity and sheer beauty.  A beauty that makes you feel beautiful just witnessing it all.

The chicken yard was built off of an old adobe outbuilding, its fresh wood and chicken wire a lovely contrast to the old structure.  We do love chickens so Doug and I immediately got out of our car and walked over to see what breeds she has.  As they pecked around in the sweet dirt, we admired the back of the property, that below the dirt lies quietly an asphalt playground of old.  Heather plans to build up with beds and create a lavender madala and rose arches.  Doug pointed to a spot perfect by the adobe wall and curved door for farm-to-table dinners.

Years ago, when all of our children were quite small, the grown cousins would all choose a name to buy a gift for at Hanukkah.  When Heather was still married to Doug’s cousin, I would always hope that she picked me, as our style is almost identical. Her sense of vintage and practical with elements of joy have always been drawn out perfectly through her design work, her homes, and now The Botanique.  I wanted to stay in our darling room with the large bath she created for days.  Walk in showers and bath spaces are being created throughout the resort for ancient bathing rituals and cleansing.  A space to heal.  A space to restore.  A space to feel beautiful.

The property is filled with raised beds that a friend of Heather’s runs a volunteer program with.  She teaches and works with youth to grow many varieties of produce and then sell them in CSAs.

I walked out of our bedroom early, glorious in good sleep, and headed to the kitchen.  Through the wide double doors of my dream kitchen I could see my lovely cousin in a warm sweater, her blond hair messily put up and a cup of coffee steaming from her hands as she walked softly through the filtered light of morning rays streaming through the large windows.

The Botanique is a place to ignite one’s senses, restore one’s soul, and is incredibly accessible and not far from home. https://www.thebotaniquefortcollins.com/

 

Westcliffe and the Amish Home

I can hardly believe that it’s going on five years since Elizabeth and I have been to Westcliffe.  We drove up there yesterday, an hour due west of Pueblo.  Westcliffe is a scenic, gorgeous town that lies at the base of the Sangre de Cristo mountains.  Equal parts wealthy vacation homes and hand hewn homes of the Amish.  A carriage with a large yield sign is led by a jaunty black horse to the side of us.  A lovely woman in white kapp holds the reins.

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The day could not be prettier as we traversed back roads searching for land for Elizabeth.  We drove past large golden eagles sitting upon hills and phone lines.  The deep valleys were of emeralds and lush haying fields that sparkled in the dappled sunlight through intermittent sprinkles of rain.  That great western sky reaching over us.

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Elizabeth’s friend has a furniture store in Westcliffe and we stopped in to say hello.  We hadn’t seen him since our last visit and he was very surprised to see Elizabeth.  His blond hair was in a smart bowl cut and his beard was reddish blond.  He looked youthful and well.  We learned that since our last visit his family had grown from two darling children to four and they had built a larger house.  They lived in their barn for two years while it was being built.  He gave us his wife’s cell phone number (flip phone, no data) and Elizabeth called.  We were immediately invited over.

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The house looked like a vacation mountain home on Air B&B.  The average visitor may not have even noticed that it was an Amish home.  Our lovely host greeted us with joy and quizzed Elizabeth.  Her brown hair was pushed back beneath a handkerchief.  The dining room table was filled with laundry in different stages of being folded.  The baby, a lovely blond two-year old with just a touch of baby fat left, fought with her three year old brother over a toy tractor.  Her bare feet stomped as her little homemade blue dress shook.  Mama reprimanded them in Pennsylvania Deutsche.

The boys had their signature bowl cuts, their mischievous brown eyes dancing in delight.  The five year old daughter I remember well, as she shares my sister’s name.  Her angelic face would nod to questions from me as she sweetly smiled.  A white handkerchief was fastened to her locks that were pulled back in a miniature bun.  Mama’s face was fresh and healthy as she smiled and recalled what we had missed over the years.  She pointed out her neighbor’s house that was for sale.  Elizabeth and I looked at each other.  She would love to be out here amongst these simple, kind people.

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Gas lit lanterns were along the walls as well as battery operated lights that were recharged during the day from a single outlet in the basement.  The house was wired in case they ever wanted to sell it but they used mainly propane.  The refrigerator and stove made the kitchen look not unlike any other.  Toys were strewn across the floor.  African violets lined shelves near the window that looked out upon the giant barn.  Free range chickens jumped on and off of the compost pile.  Hail had wiped out their gardens.

She showed us the requirements of her new house with pride; the walk-in pantry lined with food, her beautiful root cellar lined with preserves, and her blender garage.

“What is a blender garage?” we both asked.  She opened a cupboard door.

“It’s a place you can hide things in that you don’t want company to see!”  Inside was a blender plugged into an electrical outlet and what looked like a bit of liqueur.  We all laughed.

You see, simplicity is not about extremism.  Her children ran outside in bare feet and played and fought.  There was no television, internet, smart phones.  No zombie children, no inattentive parents, no LED lights, no distractions from life.  So what if the blender is plugged in.  Their footprint there is very small, their hearts and love for family and community very big.

 

Click here to read about our first visit!

Planning the Perfect Mini-Vacation

 

20171007_175451We started doing mini-vacations years ago while on a farm because it was easier to find someone to watch animals for one or two nights than for a week or more.  Longer vacations require time off of work, loss of pay, and are often quite exhausting.  Now don’t get me wrong, I will take a week long vacation if it’s offered!  A weekend away is often perfect to refresh the spirit, spend time with loved ones, and to relax.  It doesn’t have to be terribly expensive either to get the crew together.

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1) First, choose who you want to share your mini-vacation with.  We could have spent a weekend at Ojo Caliente, a lovely hot springs spa in New Mexico.  We could have jumped on a plane and visited one of our friends out of state.  But what I really wanted was a family vacation.

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2)  Look at schedules.  We typically like to go on trips during the week.  The prices are often cheaper and there are less crowds.  But, Doug’s job is an hourly paying one these days and we can’t afford to miss that much.  Don’t wait too long though.  Just book the time and everyone will figure out what they can do.

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3) Book a place using Air B&B or a place similar if you need multiple rooms.  Go to a Dude Ranch.  There are many fun things you can do.  I booked a four bedroom house in the mountains only a few minutes out of town.  It was pretty central for all of us.  We were able to bring one of our granddogs.  There was a stocked kitchen and plenty of towels and comfy seating.  It had amazing views, porches, and was a beautiful respite.  Everyone came when they could Friday.

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4) Drop all expectations.  Some folks won’t be able to make it.  I know I tend to micromanage everything but this time I was going to let everything unfold!  Have a basic plan.  Looking at the weather we decided that visiting the North Pole in Cascade would be best on Saturday.  We all brought up different games, books, and things to do.  My son, Andy, and his girlfriend couldn’t get off work and then had a wedding to go to Saturday.  In the end the only thing they could do was meet us for lunch in Manitou Sunday.  And it was great.  It was fun having all nine of us.

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5) Prepare meals.  Each couple chose a meal they would prepare.  This saves a lot of money and time not having to find restaurants three times a day.  Doug and I made breakfasts.  Shyanne and Jacob made a mouthwatering linguine alfredo with breadsticks.  Emily and Reed made a comforting cheesy broccoli soup and croissants.  We all brought up plenty of drinks.  Shyanne surprised us all with caramel apple fixings.

20171007_17300120171007_2047356) Be in the moment.  We laughed while we played games.  We took turns snuggling the puppy.  Took little walks.  Drank coffee together on the balcony.  Did some yoga.  Listened to music.  Talked.  Caught up.  Walked the row of stores.  Played together.

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The key word here is “together”.  It was a perfect vacation.  I hope you will plan one for your own people soon.

A Trip to the North Pole

When my son, Andy, was very little he wanted a wolf from Santa.  He wrote him a letter and sent it to the North Pole.  There was a very convincing (and very likely the real) Santa at the mall.  I was able to whisper a few things in that old Santa’s ear before Andy climbed on the jolly man’s lap.  Andy’s little eyes grew big and he was filled with wonder as Santa told him that he had received his letter and would get him a wolf if he was a very good boy.  Christmas morning came and the howling stuffed animal wolf sat next to the Christmas tree.  The next summer as we perused the shops at Santa’s Workshop at the North Pole, we saw the very same wolf!  It made my little boy a believer.  Our family believes in Santa.

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Maryjane and I waiting to go inside Santa’s Village!

Seven of us traversed the hilly paths of Santa’s Workshop in Cascade, Colorado.  My granddaughter, Maryjane sat on Santa’s lap and relayed her greatest wish, that the elves would make her a penguin.

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I wanted a visit with Santa too!

Santa’s Workshop opened in 1956 in the mountains of Colorado just west of Colorado Springs.  They started their herd of reindeers and dozens greeted us and nibbled feed from our hands.

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My daughter, Shyanne, and her boyfriend, Jacob enjoying the baby reindeer.

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Rides, large and small, dotted the village.  Maryjane was very brave and rode just about all of them.  We adults had a plenty good time on the kid’s roller coaster and teacups and many other rides!  My Andy and his girlfriend, Bree, had to work but we recalled the story of Andy’s wolf while waiting in line to see Santa.

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The carousel is a must ride!

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Me and Pa riding the zipline sleigh!

If you have a chance to go to Santa’s Workshop in Cascade, don’t miss it!  You can whisper in Santa’s ear what you want for Christmas.

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Ready for Santa’s train to depart!

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Maryjane and Emily catching a ride up a hill with her boyfriend, Reed.

It might be time for Halloween, but Christmas and making family memories, is always in our hearts.

http://northpolecolorado.com

There’s Just Something About the Mountains

 

20171007_180402There’s just something about the lulling embrace of the mountains that cajoles my spirit into quiet.

There is a comfort wrapped in the songs of pines surrounding every side.

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A murder of crows sing raucously of encroachment.  A haunting and thrilling sound.

Two does jump airily by.

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There is just something about the West.  Sweeping desert valleys and climbing vistas of conifers and scrub oak in autumnal color.  The quaking aspen dances in the breeze.  Snow comes this eve.

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Perched on a balcony up high watching magpies caw as the sun crests the Colorado mountain ridge I breathe in the earthy pine air.  Pour another cup of coffee.  Wait for my family to wake up.  An hour from home, our weekend away to the mountains delightful and restorative in the fragrant woods of the West.

The Art of the Mini-Vacation

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Vacations are expensive.  They take a lot of planning, a week off of work, savings, and can be exhausting.  We have found that the best vacations are often weekends.  We call them mini-vacations.  We got our friends hooked on them too.  We find specials on hotel rooms and stay one night, maybe two somewhere new.  A dip in the pool, a soak in the hot tub, free breakfast, a comfy bed sans cats, and a hot shower is often just the ticket to reset for the week.  We like to try new restaurants, see the sights, visit museums, or walk around the city.  It doesn’t cost much and it really is fun.

If you have been reading my blog long you know Pat and Rodney via my stories.  We have traveled with them to Utah, to New Mexico, and across the front range, from Wyoming to Fort Collins, to Colorado Springs.

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Last weekend we took Pat and Rodney down to Pueblo to show them around.  We met up with my friend, Alvin, who just moved down there.  We went to dinner at my new favorite restaurant, Nachos.  A family owned place that serves up the best Mexican food I have had in a long while.  We walked the Riverwalk and oohed and ahhed at the lights.  We planned, dreamed.  Pat and I walked arm and arm singing and yelling, “Merry Christmas” to the boats that went by all alight with Santa in tow.

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The next day we took them to see our new house.  We drove around town and walked the Main street with its quaint blocks of all locally owned shops.

This week we are driving down there just for the day to accompany Rodney and Pat while they house hunt.  Wouldn’t that be something?  Our best friends moving down the way?  This is getting too fun….

A Spring Herb Walk with Sacred Owl School of Original Medicine

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Sunday was bright and just the right amount of warm.  We were like school girls tripping down the trail stopping every few minutes to look at new growth, smelling and tasting plants, and looking for snakes.  Laughter and stories fell around the group as we made our way down the meandering and winding path.

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Scrub oak is used in place of witch hazel for its astringency.

One of the classes from my school, Sacred Owl School of Original Medicine, went on a herb walk to Castlewood Canyon.  There weren’t a lot of things popping up this early but the spring tonics were showy and beautiful.  Some things that we tried to identify were small in their early spring infancy and we scoured the pages of the guide I brought.  A lot we couldn’t be sure, but promises of coming again later in the season, the fresh air, and the cold drinks and herb truffles the students had made, and resting at the end of the path made for a lovely day out of the classroom.

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Young yarrow leaves promise lots of beautiful white yarrow for circulatory, heart, and wound use.
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Dandelion may seem ordinary, or even obnoxious, but it is one of the best liver cleansers available.
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Currants, along with all berries, are very good for the kidneys, and the leaves are demulcent making them great for tummies, and uteruses!
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Dock (curly, burdock, or yellow) are all amazing medicines for cancer use, blood cleansing, and immunity.

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I highly recommend getting a nice, colorful guide for plants for your area and heading out onto a hiking trail.  That is medicine in itself!

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Class of Spring 2016!

For more information on my Master Herbalism program and my school, check out www.SacredOwlSchool.com

 

Walking the Labyrinth

lab·y·rinth
ˈlab(ə)ˌrinTH/
noun
noun: labyrinth; plural noun: labyrinths
  1. 1.
    a complicated irregular network of passages or paths in which it is difficult to find one’s way; a maze.
    a labyrinth of passages and secret chambers”
    synonyms: maze, warren, network, complex, web, entanglement

    “a labyrinth of little streets”
    2.
    Anatomy
    a complex structure in the inner ear that contains the organs of hearing and balance. It consists of bony cavities (the bony labyrinth ) filled with fluid and lined with sensitive membranes (the membranous labyrinth ).
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    I like these descriptions of a labyrinth; a difficult passage and a means of hearing and balance.
    This lovely labyrinth is on the corner of 136 and Pine Ridge in Elizabeth next to the community gardens.  (Take Elizabeth street to the end where it makes you turn left, it is one block down on your left.)  There are no dead ends, it is not a maze, per se, but a lovely curving, rounding, focused trek to the center which is placed strategically upon an energy vortex (which is scientific and geological).

If one stands at the entrance with a question (for all answers are within us already) or intention, one will find as they make your way quietly, contemplatively, through the winding paths that the answer or clarity will be startlingly clear in the center.  Peacefulness surrounds and the day is started much nicer or ended even nicer still by walking the labyrinth.

Wishing you a peaceful day!

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