Pumpkin Picking: 7th Generation Farm in Louisville, CO

Pumpkin Picking: 7th Generation Farm in Louisville, CO

Halloween is fast-approaching and if you have a tiny person (or people) in your life, I suspect this means you have visited or want to visit a pumpkin patch.  I don't know about you, but we spend a fair bit of time in fall walking around the neighborhood to check out people's pumpkins.

Read More

Travel Notes: Salida, Colorado

Rob and I tackling a bucket list item: mountain biking the Monarch Crest Trail.

Rob and I tackling a bucket list item: mountain biking the Monarch Crest Trail.

We spent three blissful days in Salida, Colorado in mid-August.  Salida is about two hours and forty-five minutes southwest of Denver and sits along the Arkansas River near the base of Mt. Antero, one of Colorado's 54 peaks above 14,000 feet in elevation (known to Coloradans as "14ers").  It's the perfect jumping off point for so many Colorado adventures: white water rafting, hiking, trail running, mountain biking, tubing, and beer sampling.  If you visit in the winter, Monarch Ski Area (small and family-friendly) is a short drive for skiing.  The best part is that Salida is low-key, friendly, and not at all touristy, which can be hard to find with cute Colorado towns.  There are no swanky hotels, but plenty of nice homes to rent right in town (we found one through VRBO that I wouldn't specifically recommend, but there were a lot of great options if you planned a bit farther ahead than we did).

The best part of Salida in the summer is the riverfront area.  The Arkansas River runs directly through town and the riverfront has a paved path, a number of little swimming "beaches" for kids (shallow water, a sandy bottom, and a cove without a strong current), tube and life vest rentals, restaurants, and beautiful Riverside Park.  We spent two afternoons here splashing, pushing B in the tube (in the shallow area -- and the tube had a mesh bottom so she could stand like the captain of her own tiny boat), tubing and floating down the river ourselves, and just soaking in the sunshine.  

Captain Blythe!

Captain Blythe!

I'll never get tired of mountain views and marveling at how huge the sky is out west.

I'll never get tired of mountain views and marveling at how huge the sky is out west.

We also had an incredible day of mountain biking while my parents watched Blythe.  The Monarch Crest Trail is known as one of the top ten mountain bike rides in America, and it conveniently ends a short distance from Elevation Beer Co.  Most of the ride is on singletrack, some of which is on the Continental Divide and above 11,000 feet in elevation.  You do descend about 6,000 foot (woo!) and for much of the ride you can see 360 degrees of mountain vistas and the spectacular Colorado blue sky.  If you ride, it is a must-do (you'll need someone to shuttle you to Monarch Pass to start, or Absolute Bikes in Salida offers a shuttle for a fee).  At the end of the ride, you coast down to Elevation Beer Co., which has outdoor seating, a few games for the kiddos, and fantastic craft beer.

The bike rack at Absolute Bikes has tiny rafters, tubers, and mountain bikers sculpted on to the rack.

The bike rack at Absolute Bikes has tiny rafters, tubers, and mountain bikers sculpted on to the rack.

Blythe was intrigued by the tiny people, rafts, etc.

Blythe was intrigued by the tiny people, rafts, etc.

Beer tastes even better than normal after 30+ miles of biking.

Beer tastes even better than normal after 30+ miles of biking.

Because we rented a house and we have a toddler (who wants to eat out with a toddler?), I can't recommend a ton of restaurants in town, but we did make several stops at the Little Red Hen Bakery in the heart of town.  This is a must-visit!  Go early on weekend mornings to score a freshly-baked scone (gluten free options are available), and pick up a loaf of bread for the rest of your stay.  It was a cozy spot filled with locals and visitors.  They even bake some of their bread in an outdoor wood-burning fire.  Alpine Park is just a few blocks away and has swings and an awesome playground that includes a climbing wall, so if you have little ones that get up early, you can pick up coffee and a scone and make the bleary-eyed trek to the park for them to burn off some energy.

  • Housing: Homeaway and Airbnb (I don't have a specific recommendation other than to say Salida is very walkable if you stay downtown.  If you are looking for a secluded spot, there are plenty of homes to rent outside of town.)
  • Activities
    • Monarch Crest Trail (mountain biking)
    • Climb a nearby 14er (Mt. Antero. Mt. Princeton)
    • Tube in the Arkansas (we rented tubes from Surf Salida)
    • White water rafting down the Arkansas
    • Mt. Princeton Hot Springs
    • Numerous other hiking and biking options in the area
    • Farmer's Market on Saturday mornings
    • Steamplant Event Center hosts concerts and events throughout the year (Sunday jazz is free on the patio during the summer)
  • Dining
Main street Salida with the big "S" in the background.

Main street Salida with the big "S" in the background.

Western Rise

This summer we stumbled upon a new outdoor gear company headquartered in Denver, Western Rise.  I'm pretty loyal to Patagonia, but I purchased a Western Rise henley and absolutely love it.  It's long enough to actually cover my torso without riding up (a complaint I have about Patagonia's tops), the burnt red color is unique, and it is proving to be quite durable.  Rob also picked out a henley and we've both been wearing them for all of our adventures this summer (yes, at the same time - at least they aren't the same color!).  As far as shirts are concerned, I'm converted.  Oh, and with every Western Rise product purchased, a portion of the profits go to Western Rivers Conservancy to directly impact western rivers.  You can currently get 10% off of a selection of items on Huckberry.

All product images above are credit to Western Rise.  If you want to see awe-inspiring outdoor images, check out their Instagram.  Perusing their feed makes me want to put Blythe in her hiking pack and head out for an adventure.  Below are photos of me and Rob in our gear (sadly, no kids clothing yet).

Nutella & Sea Salt Fudge

Nutella and Sea Salt Fudge (Close).jpg

It’s been a wonderful fall for us here in Colorado.  Aside from work travel, we spent the entire month of October in Colorado and were treated with stunning fall foliage (I think our house might look its best in fall - see below), gorgeous weather, and the first two snows of the coming winter (a bit earlier than normal).  The first snow was on my 33rd birthday (gasp).

Fall Leaves.JPG
Levy Home 2013.jpg

I absolutely love birthdays, even if I might prefer the numbers 28 or 29 to 33.  This one was particularly special for reasons I’ll get into in another post, but we celebrated with friends and Rob treated me to a day in Boulder doing things that I love (having brunch, visiting the farmer’s market, going for a trail run, having lunch at one of my favorite restaurants’s,

the Kitchen

, and even making a stop at Whole Foods).  What a guy!

Birthday Hike - Chataqua Peak Boulder.JPG
Birthday Brunch 2013.jpg
Boulder Market Turnips.jpg
Birthday Coffee.JPG

My birthday weekend was followed by a visit from our dear friends from Boston and their two kiddos (one of whom is my Goddaughter).  We left Boston just before my Goddaughter, E, was born, and this was the first time I was able to spend a long amount of time with her.  It was so fun to do things in Denver that we would otherwise not do and to see the world through her eyes where things I take for granted are new and exciting (e.g., a corn hole board and bags (although not played the normal way), a pumpkin, a slide, our poor cat, making macaroni and cheese, and band-aids).  If you are ever in Denver with kids in the fall, you should check out the Botanic Gardens at Chatfield and visit their

pumpkin patch

and corn maze.  It was quite a scene and E loved it.

Nutella and Sea Salt Fudge with Recipe.jpg
Ella and Rob.jpg

The simplicity of things that kept E entertained reminded me that often, simple is best.  Whether it’s entertaining kiddos or in the kitchen, life doesn’t always have to be complicated or a big production.  I love embarking on huge projects from time to time, but lately I’m making a concerted effort not to overcomplicate life and to spend the “extra” time doing something I love.  

Sleeping Pumpkin.JPG
Ella and her Pumpkin.jpg

In that vein, I threw this fudge together on a whim with delicious results.  You dirty only one bowl making it and because it is extremely rich, you can serve many people with one batch (25 to 36 pieces of fudge depending on how small you cut the squares).  It would have been perfect for a Halloween party (next year!).

Nutella and Sea Salt Fudge.jpg

Nutella & Sea Salt Fudge

Recipe from Tasty Kitchen

Yield = 25-36 pieces depending on how you slice the fudge

Ingredients

  • 1 tbsp unsalted butter (for greasing the dish)
  • 1 can(14 ounces) sweetened condensed milk
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 8 ounces bittersweet (60%) chocolate chips (about 1 1/4 cups)
  • 1 cupNutella 
  • 3 tbsp unsalted butter (softened to room temperature), cut into 1/2 inch pieces
  • ½ tsp(approximately) Sea Salt

Preparation

1. Grease the bottom and sides of an 8- by 8-inch baking pan with butter. Line the pan with parchment paper, leaving a 2-inch overlap on the sides.

2. In a medium glass or stainless steel bowl, stir together sweetened condensed milk, vanilla, bittersweet chocolate chips, Nutella, and butter.

3. Form a double-boiler by setting the bowl over a medium pot of gently simmering water. The water level should be low enough that the bottom of the bowl does not touch the water. Stir until the chocolate chips are melted and the mixture is smooth, 5 to 7 minutes.

4. Scrape the mixture into the prepared pan, spread the top smooth with a spatula, and sprinkle with sea salt. Refrigerate until the fudge is firm, at least 2 hours.

5. Once the fudge is chilled, run a knife under hot water, dry it off, and run it around the edges of the pan to loosen the fudge. Using the overhanging parchment paper, lift the fudge out. Peel off the parchment paper. Cut the fudge into 3/4-inch squares. Store in the refrigerator in an airtight container or wrapped well in plastic wrap and foil.

Nutella and Sea Salt Fudge (Prep).jpg
Downtown Golden 2013.jpg

Cinnamon-Raisin Bread

Cinnamon-Raisin Bread

There are some recipes that I return to over and over, that never get old, and that I can almost make without the recipe at all.  This Cinnamon-Raisin Bread is one of them.  Ali introduced me to Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day, which is indispensable if you enjoy making homemade bread.  The technique is simple and the end result is tasty homemade bread baking in your oven with relatively little work. 

Read More

Baingan Bharta & the Colorado Get Movin' Challenge

Baingan Bharta & the Colorado Get Movin' Challenge

Baingan Bharta is a traditionally a South Asian dish that includes the spice blend Garam Masala, which varies by region but typically includes cinnamon, black and white peppercorns, cloves, cumin seeds, and cardamom pods.  An added bonus to making this is that I was able to use a jalapeño pepper from my own garden!

Read More