A Field Trip to the Denver Art Museum

Daniel Libeskind Architect, Studio Libeskind and Davis Partnership

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We have a lovely art museum in Denver.  The architecture is modern meets medieval and the exhibits change regularly.  Floors of ancient and new art serve to inspire and educate.  The museum makes sure that there are things to keep the children busy as well.  Pads of paper and boards with things to look for are set up in stations around the museum to encourage children to be mindful and alert and to express their own innate creativity.

My daughters and I and my two granddaughters were originally headed to the Denver Zoo but due to the mass amount of people (and I shall save you the tirade about what marijuana legalization will do to your state) we had to find other activities.  Maryjane was less than thrilled about trading elephants for fourteenth century art but we made it a game where she was to find every dog and horse in the paintings and sculptures.

It is really something to stand before a painting that was carefully drawn over five hundred years ago.  It is really inspiring to see the spirits of people captured on canvas- ordinary moments in life stopped in time.  The colors, the shadows, the stories…

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Rosina Ferrara, Head of a Capri Girl by John Singer Sargent
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I enjoyed this exhibit the most this time.  Jordan Casteel is a Denver native and I love how she portrays every day moments.

I haven’t painted in a year but I think it is time to gather some canvases.

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My painting- “Native Inside,” acrylic on canvas, 24×36

DenverArtMuseum.org

A Trip to the Denver Downtown Aquarium

On the way home from our anniversary trip a few weeks ago we stopped at the Denver Downtown Aquarium.  We hadn’t been there before, always opting for zoos or museums, but it seemed like a great way to spend the chilly day.

The Aquarium was filled with the most exotic, beautiful creatures and proved to be enchanting indeed.

There were adorable otters playing, and a fuzzy tiger who looked on nonchalantly at hoards of screaming daycare children.  There were stingrays to entertain and delight.  We swam with the stingrays on our honeymoon so it was a sweet reminder on our anniversary.

Eels and warty fish and the oddest sea creatures I have ever seen along with fabulous large turtles and a kissy octopus.

If you haven’t been to the Denver Downtown Aquarium yet, I highly recommend you go let yourself enter another world.

700 Water St, Denver, CO 80211

http://www.aquariumrestaurants.com/downtownaquariumdenver/visitorInfo.asp

“Urban Homesteading” Loses Its Trademark

 

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I did not hear about it until yesterday.  I was very proud that my own hometown homesteaders rippled the waters and created action.  The Denver Urban Homesteaders (http://denverurbanhomesteaders.org) fought to have the term “Urban Homesteader” trademark cancelled.  The reasoning being the words are generic and should not be able to be trademarked.

Dozens of facebook sites and other organizations were ordered to cease and desist using the term “Urban Homesteader”.  On November 15th in California a judge cancelled the trademark.  A Denver lawyer/homesteader volunteered his time and costs to fight the battle as urban homesteaders everywhere rallied.

The term “Urban Homesteader” belongs to all of us and we can cheer as we write it valiantly on our facebook pages, websites, and blogs!  We are Urban Homesteaders and proud of it!

Native Cultural Arts and Finding One’s Art

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Over the weekend we were a part of the Native American Art and Culture celebration downtown.  We diligently promoted it but it was a smaller turnout then we’d have all liked.  However, the folks that were there were great, great people and we all had a lot of fun. The art was beautiful and I was proud to have a few pieces alongside nationally known artists.

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The Aztec dancers took my breath away.  Their astounding headdresses and clothing were mesmerizing.  When they blew into sea shells creating a sound that stirred my soul, I moved to the edge of my seat.  The drumming was intense and quick and my heart beat fell in line with these ancient dances.  Danny, one of the dancers, expressed his appreciation for arts.  For arts allow us to keep traditions alive.  I have always been a huge proponent of the arts for they teach, they bring hope, they bring people together, they let us express our innermost knowledge, joys, feelings, angst, and creation.

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The children dancing stole my heart.  Their small feet were like hummingbirds as they skipped and danced the dances their grandparents danced.  The Medicine Heart dancers are a troupe of young dancers.  This non-profit program teaches youth with any indigenous/Native ancestors the dances of their people so that they won’t be lost.  Miss Maryjane Rose will be joining these sweet dancers.

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My friend, Rodney, brought out his karaoke system and it was like no karaoke show we have done before!  Songs, drumming, children singing, poetry, and voices of expression filled the room.  An amazing flute player played his beautiful songs for us.  I am hoping Bear might come play at the shop!

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We had our glowing medicines out to show people what I do.  We connected with people and enjoyed our family and friends there.

I encourage you to paint, draw, write, dance, sing, and support arts by attending festivals, celebrations, and encouraging everyone to find their art, for there they will find their true self.

Falling in Love with Cactus at the Torta Grill

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We were forty-five minutes early so we walked to the nearest restaurant to grab something to eat.  We went into a small shop with a counter and a smaller counter by the window.  An entrepreneur’s dream with open kitchen and a simple but dazzling menu.  Our first thought is that Shyanne would love this place.  She is an artist and draws the ladies from the Day of the Dead.  The décor would have pleased her.  The young woman and man behind the counter spoke easy Spanish and English.  They both were smiling and helpful, explaining what the sandwiches were and the options.

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The Torta Grill’s specialty is what they call “authentic Mexican sandwiches”.  Now, y’all know I am not a fan of sandwiches.  These were a far cry from the ham and cheese, peanut butter and jelly, or turkey and cheese of our culture.  We stood looking up at the menu on the wall, taking in the slight cool breeze from the sweltering outdoors, and tried to decide.  The first line I read was “Enrique- eggs, cactus, panela cheese, crushed red peppers, and more cheese.”  I needed to look no further.

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The bread was similar to ciabatta but a bit softer, grilled to a perfect brown on the open grill.  He layered on a smear of black beans to one side and light, sweet mayo on the other.  Juicy, cut very thin tomatoes and marinated red onion topped the mayo side.  Then cold avocado, fresh, and flavorful topped that.  On the other side of the grill he was busy sautéing the eggs, cactus, and cheese.  He placed them on the bread, put it all together and sliced it deftly.  It was a thing of messy beauty.

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I was five bites in before I just took a fork to the thing pulling out separate components and dipping them in a hot, smoky chipotle sauce.  The cactus tasted like a sweeter green pepper, and wrapped in hot cheese made it irresistible.  I had the mini sandwich that was under five bucks and it filled me up.  Doug had an egg, steak, and cheese sandwich that I would love to tell you about it but while I was savoring chipotle and cactuses in silent bliss Doug devoured his.  These sandwiches were good.

The highlight of the Torta Grill was the juice offerings.  We had been walking a lot in a hundred degree heat and those thirty-two ounce drinks caught our attention immediately.  Doug had cucumber lemonade, perfect for a summer day.  I fell for a huge thing of horchata.  The cinnamon spiked milky drink was cold and delicious.

One of the positives of our current homeless, jobless situation is that we have been able to enjoy summer.  Every day for the past six years we stood on hot pavement under a farmer’s market tent, or watering our gardens, or milking goats, or making products for our Apothecary, or running our store.  This summer, while we can, we are playing in sprinklers with our granddaughter, swimming, hiking, visiting friends, and eating new things in new places, like cactus and panela in chipotle.  You must try this place if you are downtown!

The Torta Grill

1818 East Colfax Avenue

Denver, Co

Treasure Hunting and Magical Gardens

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The sidewalks stretched out across the landscape, endless walkways about the city.  Bits of glass glinted in the light.  The air smelled of beer and urine with a hint of marijuana outside the warehouses near the tracks.  We dropped our car off for repairs and began to walk towards the bustling south Broadway.  The familiarity of Denver streets and sidewalks made us reminiscent and oddly comfortable as if we had just put on a pair of comfortable old socks once again discovered.  The birds were singing, the trains and Lightrails were in full swing.  Hobos left their things by the road in borrowed grocery carts near restored small Victorians in the historic Baker district.  The houses were bunched together in an effort to fit more friends in and the yards were the size of my quaint kitchen, partially shaded.  We noted gardens and stopped at a large lot that had been converted into a community garden.  Each plot holding the personality of its occupant.  Creative trellises of t-posts and wire, lingering fingers of pumpkin vines slithering into walkways and a small child of perhaps three carrying a grocery bag whilst carefully placing tomatoes into it.  Her treasure held close to her chest.  Her blonde hair glistened in the morning sun as her mother removed weeds from the garden.

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We walked on towards the roar of traffic and the busy coffee shop that we were to meet my friend at.  I hadn’t seen Partha in at least seven years.  We had shared classes together in college and had quite a bit to catching up to do.  After a lovely visit Doug and I went to eat a Czech restaurant we had walked past.  We figured if we were gallivanting around the city we may as well try a new cuisine.  We sat on the patio but could not hear a word each other was saying for the massive decibel of the street.  We forgot how very noisy a city can be.

We continued on to the funky shops and specialty stores perusing books in old storefronts with massive stacks upon stacks and dusty corners.  A treasure hunt of sorts and I came away with several Beatrix Potter books to read to Maryjane.  Prized oil cloth was found at a fabric store.  A housewarming gift for Andrew and Megan at another charming store filled with glistening treasure-like tchotchkes and delights for the senses.  Five hours and several miles of walking went quickly by.  We had enjoyed our trip to Denver but we were ready for the comfort and rest of the country, our loud road in front of the house not so loud in our minds anymore.

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On our way back to the car shop we crisscrossed through the neighborhood and found unexpected minute pieces of farm.  A heavy laden plum in one scant front yard, herbs growing in the greenway by the street.  Yellow squash intermingled with large tufts of ornamental grass.  Pumpkins in corners and across sidewalks.  Wooden framed raised beds in the middle of a gravel parking lot near a warehouse.  Large leaves of chard and cabbage growing beautifully along with trellised green beans.  In front of a decrepit office building, quite near the tracks, surrounded by cement and street, in select sections tall stalks of corn waved proudly as if they were new forms of ornaments and at their base the beautiful pumpkins crowded out the unsightly ground and thrived, right there in the dusty, smelly city of cement.  Bits of farm making their way back to the urban field.  It was pleasing and exciting indeed to see the local gardening and food movement in unlikely places.  Seeds long to be planted.

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From One Zoo to Another

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When your own zoo gets too crazy, where should you go?  Another zoo, of course!

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I teeter between opposite sides of the spectrum when it comes to animals.  I have supported PETA.  I have befriended ranchers.  I do not wear fur.  I wear used leather.  I am vegetarian (previously vegan).  I am not opposed to people eating humanely raised and killed meat.  I support animals rights.  I have never understood the uproar about zoos.  A lifelong zoo visitor, I find respite and peace among the talking peacocks, the yawning lions, the playful cubs, the swinging monkeys, and the lilting elephants.

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The exception being some places that call themselves zoos (such as Amarillo, Texas…what the hell?) where the animals are kept in closet sized spaces alone for all to see and some people’s back yards.  We have sought out zoos all across the country as we travel.  Our honeymoon was at the Audubon Zoo in New Orleans.  We are lucky in Colorado to have two of the best zoos in the country, the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo, and the Denver Zoo.  And these are where we flee when we need a break.

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Some people may feel it is cruel to keep animals cooped up and that their place is in the wild.  This is all well and good except that the majority of these animals are endangered.  You see, we people like to kill anything inconvenient to our existence, chop down rainforests, and encroach on animal territory.  So, if we want Okapis, and Rhinos, and Snow Leopards to survive, we have to start breeding them again, give them fabulous places to roam, and provide them a safe life.  Plus, these animals have never seen the wild.  They have been born in captivity, their first ancestors likely rescued after injury or exploitation.  It is all they know, and they seem happy lazily lying around or swinging from trees!  The conservation efforts of good zoos is indeed impressive.  They raise considerable funds that go to animals still living in the wild to keep them safe and thriving.  Every time you go to a good zoo, you support the lives of wild animals around the globe.

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Even though the zoo is a homeschooling parent’s treasure trove (animal biology, geography, history), one does not need children to go to the zoo.  We have been to the zoo throughout our own childhoods, and with our own children countless times, but we have also been there plenty of times by ourselves, holding hands, walking through the park.  Occasionally riding the carousel and waving madly at monkeys.

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This time we had a special treat.  Our granddaughter’s first trip to the zoo.  Maryjane loves animals and enjoyed every moment, only tuckering out for a few moments before she was up again.  We spent more time perusing the zoo than we ever have before and we were all tired and pleased by the end.  We completed the day with Maryjane picking out a stuffed animal as souvenir, blowing kisses to the mongooses, and promising to come back soon.

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