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Since I have been feeling kind of poorly for nearly a month, I have not done much in the kitchen. We’ve eaten a lot of cereal, grabbed meals at the grocery, and made a few fast food runs. On better days, there’s been salad and vegetables dipped in home made ranch, with handfuls of dried apricots and cherries.

I am still a library regular and love checking out new cookbooks. I found a very Colleen-style on my most recent trip, Snackable Bakes, which are pretty quick and easy. I was craving cupcakes and whipped up a small batch of vegan chocolate. I topped them with the marshmallow frosting in the book, and WOW! Super buttery yum.

White miso and mirin cod. Simply delicious.

Another craving, this time for alfredo sauce. I doubled down and made the pasta, too. And since poblanos are in season, I topped it with a fresh roasted. There were some sweet sighs at the lunch table!

Finally, another milk! Greg and I use our almond milk pretty much exclusively for coffee. We prefer the flavor, and it takes effort to make, so we want it to last. Pictured above is our cashew and rice blend. It comes together super quickly, doesn’t need to be strained, and is our go-to for cereal. Like the almond, it is super creamy and doesn’t separate. Here’s the recipe if you’d like to try it. It is easy to scale up, with a ratio of 1 part nut/rice to eight parts water.

1/4 cup raw cashews

2 tablespoons white rice (I’ve never tried brown)

filtered water

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon xanthan gum

To a large, high-speed blender jar, add the cashews, rice, and salt. Add 1.5 cups boiling water. Let sit for a minute or two, which kills bacteria and softens everything up. Blend on high for one minute. If you want to use it for cereal, or something else on the cold side, right away, add 1.5 cups ice water. If you can wait, use filtered water. Blend on high for another minute. Add the xanthan gum and blend on the lowest setting for one minute. Store in a sterilized glass container, and use within a week.

I simply cannot resist the beauty of a perfect burger, grilled by the G-Man, of course. I am grateful he took up the mantle. I bake, broil, braise, and saute with the best of them indoors, but do not enjoy outdoor cooking AT ALL. Number 1,460,000 we are a match made in heaven.

In an effort to use a plethora of petals and keep our high desert skin as dewy as possible, I found a recipe for easy hydrosols and made a batch of rose. It left behind this gorgeous pink rosewater, and, as you well know, I hate waste, so I whipped it into a lemonade. It was delicious, a singular flavor I fail to find the words to exactly describe.

Blueberry Lemonade Cookies, the perfect summer treat, even though we are almost full on Fall, eek! I used the Cloudy Kitchen Funfetti recipe, substituting 3/4 cup dried blueberries for the sprinkles, one tablespoon lemon juice for the vanilla, and the zest of one large lemon. Highly addictive, they are delightfully tart with a crispy edge and soft middle. Even Greg, mister chocolate, loves them.

It is canteloupe season! This year has been especially flavorful.

You know how sometimes you forget the resources you actually own and look for the new? In one such fit for salad recipes, I was scouring the interwebs before remembering a Williams-Sonoma cookbook sitting right on the living room shelf. This is my riff on their Caesar Style with Poblano Chiles (page 23). I didn’t have poblano but a plethora of diced green chiles and Costco shredded rotisserie breast, so here we are. It was most delicious! In true Southwest style, I paired it with a glass of fizzy prickly pear lemonade. Yum-yum.

As somewhat of an organization freak, I enjoy me a well organized shelf and drawer. I had a hodge-podge of bottles, jars, and zip-top bags here, and it honestly made my head hurt. I found some snazzy jars with bees on them at Sierra (since they were closeouts and could run out at any moment, I am not including the link), bought a boat load, and got to work. I also have a slightly embarrassing number of washi tape rolls and made the most of a cute polka dot pattern. How wonderful to easily find what we are looking for!

Sunflowers, sunflowers, sunflowers!

The horsetail milkweed blossoms are so tiny in comparison to the bees but no less favored for their sweet nectar!

My mom gave me some old seed packets she had lying around, and this zinnia is one of the few that sprouted! It grew into an amazingly large bloom in a fuscia hue.

This plant-filled stock tank hides our unsightly gas meter and is looking its very best. Also, how cute is the volunteer marigold?!

In an effort to save birds from an untimely death by flying into our sliding door when we first moved in, I bought a roll of polka-dotted film that prevented the glass from reflecting. It worked quite well until this summer when it started to flake and peel. I found the rainbow reflecting adhesives (“sticking” with water!), and Greg and I did the not-so-fun job of removing the old and replacing it with the new. How about that beautiful rainbow in the morning light?!

The World War II Aviation Museum here in Colorado Springs flew these planes over the weekend. The first is a North American B-25 Mitchell, and the second is a Grumman TBM Avenger. Pretty cool! I love how they have the ability to keep this history alive.

I think Juniper knows, even in sleep, what the sound of a lens cap being removed means. Mama, are you trying to take my picture???

More garden shots for you. The desert willow has hundreds of blooms and a near constant stream of bees, hummingbirds, and hummingbird moths. I often sit mesmerized at the living room window watching the spectacle.

I can’t believe the robins and squirrels haven’t gobbled all of the choke cherries, but here we are with an intact bunch.

Aspen leaves quaking in the breeze. With an abundance of rain this season, this tree, transplanted from a sprout in the front garden, has grown an astounding three feet this year to make it about 10 feet tall. Fingers crossed it makes it through winter!

Our reddest sunflower. Have a wonderful week…

Views from the road to Westcliffe. It was the first leg of a Southern Colorado mini-break and early birthday celebration for my favorite human ever (Greg is 52 today!), with two nights in Trinidad as our final destination.

We had a fine lunch and wander in Westcliffe, enjoying stellar sandwiches at the Sugarlump and a cinnamon licorice treat from their sister shop, Lollypop & Co. A fun time in a cool town.

On our way to Trinidad, we stopped along the Huerfano River Valley, where my Williams, Serna, and Casias ancestors were among the first permanent settlers. There’s even a creek named for the Williams side nearby. As is my wont, I visited the cemetery and brought some sweet decor. Handsome Louis is my Great Uncle times three.

The land in the foreground was owned by my family. The first time we visited, there was a house just down the road that was also on land they owned, and we considered buying it before deciding a forty minute one-way to the grocery or a hospital was not our jam. It was, however, quite tempting to imagine waking up to that stunning view on the daily!

Buried just outside Aguilar, Colorado (where Al Capone once lived) is Esquipula Maes, my Great Grandmother times four. We stumbled amongst a sea of Italian headstones in 100 degree heat to find her. Boy was I happy when we did!

p.s. the dates on her headstone were wrong, so I erased them.

Trinidad is just a hop, skip, and a jump over the pass from Raton, New Mexico, so we did just that. I do not recommend arriving on a Monday at lunch time, however, as the town is pretty much closed. The theater did look quite nice though.

My Great Grandma Tillie lived in Trinidad in 1900. She’s looking every bit adorable (that wisp of a curl!) with her equally handsome older brother, Henry. They lived on Convent street in a house that no longer exists.

Up until this trip, Trinidad was only ever a stopping place on the way to New Mexico. I am so happy to have spent more time here now, enjoying its beauty, both natural and architectural (with a little bit of cheek!), friendly people, great food, and fun shops.

Mutiny, in addition to a superb service and a nook of black light posters (!!), offers used books, comics, and music, along with every child in an adult’s body (aka Colleen and Greg) superb coffee, a sugar cereal bar, the ultimate selection of lunch box pastries, and pop tarts! We chose strawberry and a hardcover book about Mongolia.

So many sights for sore eyes! Many of these buildings were here when my Grandma Tillie lived here, which made my heart so happy to expereince it somewhat through her eyes.

Definitely not present during her time, but surely worthy of her approval were the Indian Fry bread delights at Three Sisters.

Same goes for the margaritas at the Las Animas Grill. History lessons from the kindly owner are also on offer! Also worth noting, but totally without a photo because we ate them too quickly, were the wonderful pastries from Colie’s. We had a sticky bun cinnamon roll and an almond croissant. Yum.

We literally chose the hottest day of the year to hike, and my red face shows it. Yowza!

In addition to wanting to see the streets where my Grandma Tillie toddled about as a child, Greg and I were keen on vising Colorado’s newest state park – Fisher’s Peak. It’s about a five minute drive from downtown, and could not be easier. Worthy of note is the fact that dogs are not allowed at the park. No fretting needed, Juniper napped in the security of her crate and the air conditioned luxury of our rental while we hiked.

This was our longest and most difficult hike in ages, the first section 900 feet in elevation gain in the first mile, so yeah, steep. Not gonna lie, our legs and my right knee did some complaining, but it was certainly worth the incredible views of its namesake, the Sangre de Christos, and Spanish Peaks. Most definitely!

Last look east from Simpson’s Rest. Thanks for the memories, Trinidad!


Moody light over Taos, so beautiful!

Taos Mountain enveloped in snow

Picuris Peak

Sangre de Christos

For our return trip home, we found a cool casita just a “block” away from our Taos land. We know the neighborhood, but this was the first time we actually set foot on the property, having bought it at the height of the pandemic, and walked the gorgeous views.

We also had a wonderful breakfast (how excited I am to have New Mexican style food I won’t have to make myself!) with our delightful realtor and equally kindly person, Yvonne Trujillo and her husband David, talking land and concrete and wells and everything in between. How real this is all becoming, thrilling and frightening, too. Please think good thoughts for us!

I am ridiculously content, sitting in the wood stove warmth of the Sugar Nymphs Bistro in Penasco. We love this place, as the service (our sweet server was named Colleen!!), all the food, and especially the desserts, are top notch. This is my absolute favorite seat in the house, right by the stove and with a great view of the art lined walls.

We also, for the first time, made a couple of wine and cider tasting stops at Black Mesa and La Chiripada. Both were marvelous, with super friendly staff. We bought quite a bit for two people who don’t drink on the regular!

Taos Mountain from Picuris Peak and zoomed from our neighborhood. We’ll have a view of this stunner from our back porch. Huzzah!

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This here. This Superior-Michigan-Huron strip of land, said without real fanfare despite having plenty, is what started it all. I read a lot, every manner of media, and scribble little notes as I do. In magazines and cookbooks and stories, the U.P. kept rising, literally and figuratively to the top. The plan began.

Far away, with a solid twenty hours of driving, it was important to pace ourselves, to take in as much as we could without going over our self-imposed two-week limit. You’ve seen that wondrous journey to what became, for sure, the absolute highlight. The whole shebang!

These photos were our first up close and personal look at Lake Michigan. Just outside of Escanaba, which is another cute town, another friendly place. We enjoyed lunch at the Swedish Pantry, where kindly women are truly welcoming, and you can’t help but share the main (meatballs, sausage, rutabaga, coleslaw, bread!) because deciding between two desserts – walnut sour cream pie and a baked apple dumpling – is impossible. Um, yes.

This is the portion of our journey where I am honest and say traveling is sometimes hard. Juniper, in a rather stealth maneuver, ate one of these rotten fish, probably the size of a large sardine, and got sick. Not horribly so, but, let’s just say it could not be ignored.

Also on this leg of the journey, we got a lot of rain, gloriously big drops of sweetness from the sky. But our new windshield wipers, which Greg promised to install, were happily ensconced in the garage at home. My dismay turned into a fiery-quick rant before all went quiet and our wee ship was righted again.

Sand Point Light House. I expected to take more light house photos, but I think this may be it. A very fine example nonetheless!

Also, if you have been with me for a very long while, you probably remember I “collect” license plates, not in the literal sense, but a look-see at every passing car. On vacation, however, I am quite diligent and keep a pen and paper list, hawk-eyed until all fifty states, plus D.C., are present and accounted for. Normally, the same few states, Delaware, West Virginia, Rhode Island, and Hawaii, are the trickiest to find. Greg was pleased as punch to point out, while I was taking my snaps, that Rhode Island was right in the parking lot. Squee-e!

This was actually my best ever collection. In addition to the usual fifty, plus D.C., I spied: Chihuahua, British Columbia, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario, and Quebec. And on the U.S. Native side, the Bureau of Indian Affairs, Cherokee Nation, and Seneca-Cayuga Nation. Toot-toot!

The owner left us a bouquet of flowers.

Light from the water reflecting on the trees. Sigh…

Oh my gosh, how I loved our rustic cabin in the big woods! No electricity, save a wee bit of solar, no running water, and a cozy, sleep across from each other bunk bed situation did nothing to diminish the amazing lakeside location.

We initially kept Juniper on her very long leash, but eventually let her run riot, and she circuitously zoomed about: squirrel-water-oh, are you eating? This stay was our giant collective sigh, strolling barefoot, spending long hours reading, then tree gazing and bird listening before kayaking and watching the long and gorgeous sunset unspooling across the sky. We bathed in the sauna and skinny dipped in the warmth of the lake. We cooked nothing, grazing on cereal, apples and cherries, Grandma’s Kaukauna cheese spread thickly on crisp crackers, nibbling sausages and Old Dutch Cheesy Puffcorn. We drank tea and beer and Dr. Sprecher, some of the best soda we’ve ever tasted. As I am fond of saying, but only when true, it was the height of splendor, the height.

The Mackinac (mac-in-awe) Bridge – a beauty spanning 26,372 feet

Then there was this! Stunning view after stunning view all along our winding trip around the U.P.

Lake Huron at St. Ignace. We wandered, enjoying the shore, the shopping, and, of course, the food. As you can imagine, fish is a big deal here, and in particular, Whitefish, which we, and me especially, enjoyed. First, at a roadside shop, where it was super fresh and perfectly smoked. The whole package was devoured at a picnic table for breakfast. Then at The Gangplank in St. Ignace, a perfect fillet crisply fried and nestled in a tasty bun. Mercy.

The truly marvel-ous Soo Locks in Sault-Ste Marie. Many thanks to the Army Corps of Engineers for this awe inspiring feat, responsible for the free movement of more than 7,000 vessels each year!

The Pictured Rocks remind me of the turquoise waters along the coast in Nice, France. It is hard to fathom that this is not some vast ocean, but Lake Superior, and not terribly warm.

A final glimpse of our lakeside paradise. On to the Western U.P.

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