Saturday, September 20, 2014

Why We Moved to Boulder: High Country Hiking

The city of Boulder sits at an elevation of 5430 feet.  A 30 minute drive up Boulder Canyon takes you to the  town of Nederland at 8,234 feet above sea level.  From there you can drive another twenty some minutes to the tiny town of Ward which is at 9,450 feet.  It's another ten minutes or so up to the Brainard Lake recreation area where the elevation is 10,500 feet.  This is high country and it is beautiful!  

Being so beautiful the trails in the area are very popular.  We got the last parking space on a Friday morning at 10:30!  

We started our hike at Long Lake, hiking around the north side of the lake to meet the trail up to the Isabelle Glacier. 

 The trail up to the glacier was a steady climb, but not a strenuous one.

As we approached the glacier, the views became more dramatic.  

At the trail's end you could see the remaining glacier ice flows.


We had a relaxing lunch of water and power bars by the glacier-fed lake.

On the way back down we met up with the Long Lake trail again and this time took the South side trail which featured views of a lovely stream. 


The limited number of parking spaces at the trail head limited the number of people on the trail so we were able to hike without feeling crowded.  The weather was spectacular and all the people and dogs we met on the trail were very friendly and pleasant.  One couple had lost one of their hiking sticks which Ben later found and returned.  In exchange they took our photograph.  

We were on the trail for five hours and I was plenty tired by the end!  But we had a great time and felt very lucky to live within an hour drive of such wonderful hiking and scenery.

On the way drive home we stopped near Ward to admire and photograph the Aspens, which had turned their golden fall color.  

Friday, September 19, 2014

How Was School Today?

Today is concert dress day for Paul's band at Boulder High.  The band's first concert is on Tuesday so the kids have to wear their concert clothes to band today to prove that they are ready for the big event.

Paul used to have concert dress day at his old school, and it was always a big deal for us.  Unlike kids who wear suits to church every week, putting on a long white sleeve dress shirt tucked into a nice pair of pressed pants with a dress belt and shoes and a tie wasn't something Paul was used to.  Getting these clothes ready and getting Paul into them was a bit traumatic for us, although I was always touched when I'd see Ben helping  him with his tie.   Wearing them all day, including the tie, was a bit traumatic for Paul. 

 But this year there hasn't been any trauma.  Last weekend we asked Paul to check and be sure that the clothes he wore at his last concert in May still fit and he assured us that they did.  And like magic he appeared this morning all dressed and ready to go.   He barely paused for a photo...

...asked for a bag to hold his regular clothes which he'll change into after band, grabbed his lunch and was out the door.

He didn't bother to tuck in his shirt since he was walking to school and didn't have to fuss with a tie since apparently ties aren't required.  

It was all so much easier than other years!

Partly this is because my guy is definitely growing up and is a lot more responsible.  While a tiny part of me is sentimental about this, most of me is jumping for joy.  

And partly this is because life at school this year for Paul is going very well so far.   He loves not wearing a uniform, likes the shorter class periods (longer classes just two days a week),  enjoys the "open campus" environment (kids can leave the school grounds during lunch) and reports that kids are generally nice and the teachers are strict but don't yell.   So far there is less homework than he has had in the past and he gets some of that done during his Academic Support period.  With a few exceptions, he is getting his homework done on time without any coaxing or coaching from us.  He stays after school almost every day to do light and sound work for the upcoming Haunted House, which is a big theater production for Halloween.  And he is still walking to school with three neighbor girls, which I think must get the morning off to a good start! 

As you can imagine, Ben and I are sighing with relief.  It's not an easy decision to move your teenager away from his friends and home,  but so far all signs are that it was a good one.   

Monday, September 15, 2014

A Visit to the Denver Art Museum; Pop Art and Quilts

After a week of rainy days and the first snowfall of the season -- unusually early, everyone assured us -- we enjoyed a weekend full of bright sunny skies and temperatures in the low 80's.  

After the snow cleared out on Friday morning a friend drove me to Denver to introduce me to some of its attractions.  We first went to lower downtown, a neighborhood known as LoDo, the earliest settled part of Denver.  Although it was once the major business district, over time it deteriorated and by the 1980's had become a very undesirable part of the city.  That changed when the city voted in a revitalization plan to save the remaining buildings and to encourage businesses such as the Wynkoop Brewery, Denver's first microbrewery.  The completion of Coors Field to house the newly acquired Rockies baseball team in 1995 lured even more people to the neighborhood and it is now a lively and hip area, full of restaurants and shops.

First we went into Union Station, the early train station which has been restored and repurposed as an upscale eating facility.

Don't you love the windows? 

Then we had lunch at the Wynkoop Brewery, where I had the best salmon club sandwich ever.  Afterwards we were off to the main event, a visit to the Denver Public Art Museum to see its current exhibitions.

Beyond Pop Art: A Tom Wesselmann Retrospective was a real eye opener.  I didn't know anything about this artist but enjoyed his vibrant colors, the oversize scale of many of his works,  and his use of collage.  Being a retrospective, the exhibit allowed the viewer to see pieces made throughout Wesselmann's  career and study the progression of his work over time.   He worked in various series, each growing out of the other.  For example, this kind of painting ....

... over time turned into this kind of 3-D laser cut, hand painted metal sculpture...

...which turned into this type of stylized abstract "drawing" out of metal.

Wesselmann worked in series, something serious quilt artists are always encouraged to do, and when I saw the progression of art that occurred in the series that Wesselmann worked on, I understood how important series work can be for an artist's growth.  A good description of the Wesselmann's work can be found here.

Also on view at the art museum was an exhibit of 20th century Japanese woodcuts which was quite beautiful. You can see a few of them here.

I hadn't planned to spend much time looking at First Glance--Second Look; Quilts from the Denver Art Museum since I'm not a huge fan of traditional quilts, which were the focus.  But as we approached the exhibit I was immediately drawn into it by the graphic and colorful quality of the quilts selected for display.  For example, look at this one:

At first glance I thought it used repetitive blocks, but then realized that each house is different in either coloring or design, and that one of the pine trees is different from the others.  That randomness coupled with the bold striped sashing and borders made the quilt seem modern to me, but it dates from the late 1800's.

Here's another one, this time featuring large swaths of fabric that look pieced or appliqued.  This focus on the fabric as opposed to technique or quilting, seems quite modern to me, but, again, this dates from the 1820's.  

Besides enjoying the quilts I also enjoyed how they were presented.  They were hung beautifully, with many suspended from the ceiling so both sides could be seen, and lots of breathing space between them.  The curators cleverly organized them into nine categories:  Little Houses (house blocks); Bands & Borders; Princess Feather (variations on a feather pattern); Sunshine and Shadow (log cabin blocks); Seeing Stars; Ordered Chaos (crazy quilts); Material Matters (focus on the fabric); Excellent Excess (quilts using an abundance of something, such as Yoyos); and Second Life (quilts reusing surprising material, such as clothing labels).   Seeing like quilts together and being able to compare them made the exhibit more interesting to me then seeing the quilts presented by date, or makers, or locale of the maker. 

The Denver Art Museum's commitment to quilts was evident not only from this exhibit but from the conservation room, which was viewable by the public and featured large tables for laying out quilts, special vacuum machines for gently removing surface dirt, and supplies for safely wrapping and storing ones not on display.  It was pretty impressive. 

But the most fun thing to see was the Thread Room, a large and comfortable space with many small displays about the various ways that thread has been used over different times and cultures.   A nice description of the room can be found at the designer's web site.  Here's a photo from that site.

Here's a closeup photo I took of one of the little displays.  I've never seen stitchery and the objects used to create it so lovingly exhibited and the displays were both interesting and a lot of fun to examine. 

To end this short summation of my introduction to the fabulous Denver Art Museum, here's a small jewel from the Thread Room.  The fabric was hand painted and then stitched to create a fanciful and lovely scene.  I just love this!

Friday, September 12, 2014

First Snow

Yesterday there was rain.

This morning there is snow. 

Not much, but enough to count as the first snow of the season.

Thursday, September 11, 2014


It's rainy and chilly today with a high in the low 50's.  Tomorrow's forecast is for snow in the morning followed by rain with a high of 45.   You would think that an early winter was bearing down on us but, no, a beautiful sunny weekend is forecast with temps in the high 70's.  Boulder weather is certainly interesting! Still, the arrival of colder weather, even briefly, signals the coming of the fall season.

This poster has appeared in our neighborhood.  I think it's pretty alarmist:  "Anything weighing less than 100 pounds may be at risk."   Really?  A small child?  But still,  it's a bit scary when you have a cat that insists on going outside.  

Here's the intrepid one, hanging out on the garden gate.  

The good news is that he has been coming home each night.  He loves the fleece throw that we have added to our bed as the nights have chilled down, kneading it with his paws for several minutes before cuddling down into it.  

He looks very sweet, doesn't he?  Don't be deceived.  The last two days he has caught and eaten several mice, leaving the uneaten parts for us to find on the front walkway.  Fetcher looks like a nice kitty but he is actually a skilled killer.  I hope I can remember that if he is ever taken by an even bigger skilled killer like a mountain lion.

This sign was also in our neighborhood the other day.  Yes, there was a real bus you could enter to get an acupuncture treatment.  Yes, I passed on the opportunity.

Monday, September 8, 2014

"BookBooks" and Other Thoughts

Have you seen the ad for the new Ikea catalog promoting its wonderful features as a "BookBook"?  In addition to just being amusing, I liked it since it captured some of my recent thoughts about print and digital magazines and books.   Click here to take a look.

I find that I'm buying more books and magazines in print form nowadays, rather than having everything in digital form.  There is something quite relaxing about using a printed magazine that I don't find replicated in using a digital copy.  And while I still love using my Kindle at night for bedtime reading and appreciate the convenience of always having a book with me via the Kindle app on my iPhone, nowadays when I acquire a book, I find myself taking the time to decide which form I want to acquire it in-- printed, digital, or audio-- and making a conscious decision based on how I think I will use the particular book.  

This is a photo of Paul in the salon right before he had the tips of his hair dyed teal on Friday.  Try hard and you may be able to imagine the top two inches of his "fauxhawk" a bright blueish green color.  You'll have to use your imagination because he won't let me take a picture, not because he doesn't like his hair.  He loves his new hair color.  He's just in a phase where he likes to say "no" when he can get away with it.  I love this phase will pass quickly!

Ben and I went on a great little hike yesterday, a two mile out and back up behind Boulder Canyon following a creek which led down to a pretty stretch of a reservoir.   The return trip was a gentle but relentless uphill hike which we powered through nicely.   I think all this walking I've been doing is making me a stronger hiker.   Ben has been building up his already impressive hiking skills by hiking up Flagstaff most days and volunteering on a trail building team once a week.  Go Ben!

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Why We Moved to Boulder

Despite the fact that it reached 94 degrees yesterday I walked about six miles around the neighborhood.  First I went over to the University and back to attend a class (I'm taking World Art 100 as a "Senior Auditor"), and then to and from Boulder High for Paul's "Back to School Night."  That's a lot of walking in the hot bright sun, but it was mostly a pleasure since there is so much to see along the way.   

The Colorado University campus here in Boulder is quite beautiful and it's fun to walk around with all the young kids and remember my undergraduate days at the University of Maryland while dodging skateboarders and bicyclists.   On the way home from class I walked behind someone smoking pot on the street, a first for me.  He had a skateboard and a helmet and was holding a joint which he puffed on every now and again.  I continued to walk behind him, observing with some fascination, until I realized that I was breathing in the smoke and decided I'd better take another route home!  

On the way down to the high school Ben and I stopped in at a shipping store to mail something off and then stopped for a snack at a place that sold Thai "street food."   After two impressive hours at Paul's new school we walked home, stopping along the way to eat a late dinner at a local cafe.   I just love having stores and restaurants so convenient to our house. 

One of my favorite places to walk right now is at University and 7th Street where you suddenly find yourself in the middle of the Dance of the Sunflowers.   

The double lot there is planted with an abundance of sunflowers, making it a magical place to be.

Not to be outdone, the house across the street has a smaller, but still amazing display of sunflowers as well.  It's as though the two sides of the street are vying to see who can grow the biggest and most colorful beds of sunflowers.  It's quite wonderful!