Monday, June 28, 2010

Medieval Fun & Games

This weekend was our annual Traditional Archers Society campout. Hundreds of archery enthusiasts turn out for four days of shooting fun in Colorado’s alpine wilderness. Though I’m a city girl at heart, there is something very empowering about walking though the woods with an ancient weapon of war at the ready – though the only thing in my sites are foam targets. Unlike a gun which seems like a complicated piece of machinery to me, a recurve bow is a simple, elegant tool. Mine is made of wood, my arm guard and glove are handmade of elk hide (not by me) and my arrows are wooden and artfully hand painted with distinctive blue fletching (again, not made by me, but I’ve arranged to learn how soon. Check back on progress). With these simple tools, a bow and arrows, humankind has been storming castles (like this one in Konopiste, Czech Republic) and snagging dinner for thousands of years.

There are no sights on my recurve, so shooting is instinctive which demands one’s full attention. Breathe, visualize, shoot, or something like that. Did I mention I am ADD? Though I like to imagine I have great skill like Katniss Everdeen, fictional heroine and archer extraordinaire of Suzanne Collins’ Hunger Games and Catching Fire series, most of the 3-D targets and all of the wildlife are safe with me on the prowl (only rusty old cans need worry). When I participate in the battle clout event, I can easily imagine hundreds of medieval archers at the foot of a castle or maybe a walled city lifting their bows skyward upon hearing the command “Archer’s Ready” and on the “Archer’s Fire” command, releasing a terrifying shower of arrows down on their target. For our purposes a pole in the middle of wide green meadow serves as our castle.

The sport combined with the camping for four days is a real back to basics endeavor (there's a reason I'm as headless as Ann Boleyn in this picture). By the end of it my shooting arm is sore, I’m craving a cocktail with ice, I desperately need to bathe, not to mention make an appointment for a pedicure, but it’s a weekend I always look forward to. While my arrows might not always hit the mark and I may never shoot like King Henry VIII or the fabled Robin Hood, I like to think  when it comes to time spent outdoors under a canopy of aspen trees in the company of family and friends my aim is true.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Jazz Italiano

It’s a week of summer firsts around here and Wednesday marked the first Summer of Jazz concert in the park. The music series is celebrating its 25th year, but due to troubled financial times; it may be the festival’s final season, so not a show is to be missed this summer.

This is a bring your own dinner affair, unless you want to eat fast food pizza, so I must share my version of muffuletta with anyone who needs easy, make ahead, gourmet picnic fare. Muffuletta is a layered sandwich of cold cuts, cheese and an olive salad that is all neatly encapsulated in a crusty round loaf of bread. A Sicilian immigrant named Salvatore Lupo is credited with inventing it 1906. The recipe is a doctored up version from an old Better Homes & Gardens recipe.

Now sit back, relax and enjoy the music. The concert featured Regina Carter’s Reverse Thread Band. Click here to listen to her vibrant African-influenced violin tunes.

Photo Credit: Glenwood Springs Summer of Jazz

Muffuletta Ingredients

1 large round loaf of bread

2 kinds of lunch meats like roast beef & salami
Provolone cheese
Artichoke hearts
Kalamata olives (I buy the pitted kind)
Prepared pesto
Sun dried tomatoes
Fresh tomatoes
Roasted red bell peppers
Red onion
Romaine lettuce
Balsamic vinegar

Assemble Sandwich
- Slice off the top third of the bread and scoop out the soft insides from the “bowl” and the “lid.”
- Using a spoon or spatula smear pesto on the interior and lid of bread.
- Place a layer of meat (either one), then cheese, roasted peppers, more cheese, more meat (the other one), red onion, lettuce, and tomato slices.
- Drizzle with a little balsamic vinegar.
- Add artichokes and olives.
- Cover with lid and press down to compress ingredients. Add more if you feel like there’s room.
- wrap sandwich tightly and completely in plastic wrap. Refrigerate.
- Bring along a cutting board and serrated knife. Cut into serving size wedges and eat at room temperature.


Tuesday, June 22, 2010

To Market, To Market …

Today was the first farmers market of the season. Compared to the outdoor markets in bigger cities in the US and abroad, it’s tiny, but thoroughly delightful. I was pleasantly surprised by all that was on offer being so early in the growing season. There was plenty of spinach and an assortment of lettuce, but also turnips, beets, mushrooms, garlic, green onions, heirloom tomatoes, fresh dill and other herbs.

For the market, the city closes the street to traffic and white tents materialize in the place of parked cars. Every week a local string band or folksy singer lends a festive vibe to the event, something that is unique to our little market I think. I don’t ever recall seeing a band or musicians of any kind at markets in Europe. It seems like everyone there is seriously engaged in shopping for dinner, haggling over prices and getting on to the next errand at hand. I am happy we have a farmers market at all.

Photo credit:Glenwood Springs Chamber Resort Association

I can walk to the market from my house, just like my 86 year-old great-aunt Hedwig in Gerolzhofen, Germany continues to do to this day. I’ve been to the Marktplatz with her and she is the model of marketing efficiency. She knows the sellers, knows what she needs, doesn’t get distracted or pulled off-task by chatty neighbors. I am the opposite in every area – easily distracted by people and produce. With no plan in place here’s what I bought – an heirloom tomato, an English cucumber, ½ pound cherries and ½ pound assorted mushrooms. Assessing my haul, I think a Greek salad is on the lunch menu tomorrow.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

When A Rose Is More Than A Rose

Even though I’m feeling like my travel opportunities are grounded for a while, I continue to strive to keep a little of Europe in my everyday life. As I’m writing this, my first real post, I’m sitting in my back yard. One of the things I have been keenly aware of on my trips to Germany and France have been the profusion of flowers everywhere – hanging from the windows, decorating the entrances of restaurants and buildings, growing lushly in back yard gardens and for sale at markets everywhere.

My grandfather was a farmer and expert gardener. Along with vegetables that he grew to feed his family, his greatest joy was pampering and fussing over his beloved roses that flourished in his care. Unfortunately his gardening gene didn’t make it into my DNA. Though my own garden appears verdant; it is rife with weeds and pests. My roses battle aphids, underground rodents eat the tulip bulbs, a raccoon dealt a killing blow to my ash tree and even though the demonic campanula is easy to yank out, like a bully I know it will be back with friends to gang up on the lilies and penstamons. I’m sure my grandfather fought these same battles. I can only think he had a better battle plan and a lot more time.

Even though my roses and other flowers manage to survive with little thanks to me, this space makes me extraordinarily happy. When the shit hits the fan, and it has, it reminds me that things will return to normal and beauty endures. Having been displaced from his home on the coast of Poland (then Prussia) and relocated to a refugee camp near Hamburg, my grandfather and his family endured plenty of hardships. Growing things was practical, it provided food. However, the only reason for growing a rose or any flower is to enjoy its loveliness – something Europeans have known for centuries and something I intend to do all summer long.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Hello and Welcome

Some people are Anglophiles, others are Francophiles, I’m a Europhile. My dad emigrated here from Germany in the 60’s and from a very young age I flew back and forth to Germany to visit relatives on a regular basis. This may sound like quite a privileged life I led, and it was in a way, but the travel was due to my father’s employment as a mechanic for Lufthansa, not a big bank account. We sometimes went for extended weekends and once, my parents dropped me off there for the whole summer. Looking back now, perhaps that three month stint qualifies me as an ex-pat of sorts. Even then I knew these times abroad were special and I appreciated the smells, colors and tastes of that Teutonic land.

Later, in my early 20’s my boyfriend (now husband) and I set off on our own trans- European adventure that lasted six months and even included northern Africa. Since then we have traveled about in the Caribbean and explored more of Europe. In 2005 we fell in love with the Czech Republic and in 2007 we took our girls there for their first trip overseas.

These trips taught me many things which I hope to explore in this blog. Our travels however have come to an abrupt halt as the economy stalled and daily it seems to get harder to make ends meet. Perhaps feeling like I can’t travel has made me nostalgic for more robust days and this blog will help me remember all I have to be thankful for and maybe even lead to new uncharted adventures.