I ran away to the woods!

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Living in Colorado, we are lucky to be able to “run away” for higher ground often. That was the case this past weekend. On a recommendation of friend, we added a hike to the outing.

alpine mountain lake surrounded by mountains

Note to self: when receiving recommendations on a new hike, take into consideration the fitness level of said friend!!

purple wild flowers along the hiking trail
Wild flowers along the hiking trail

This was our 2nd attempt trying to hike to Agua Fria Lake. This not so popular lake on the east side of the Continental Divide, was fairly challenging. The 4-mile hike to the lake is steep and rocky, but those that are up to the challenge are rewarded with great views of North Park along the trek up. Give yourself time to stop along the way and enjoy the views. You gain about 1,400 vertical feet in 3 miles, then you climb down another mile to reach this beautiful alpine lake. I would recommend at least time for a picnic along the lake shore or a little fishing. If you are like us, we carried our fly poles and tried out luck on the lake. One of us got a bite, no fish after that. I’ll blame the nasty wind. Regardless, the scenery alone makes all the effort worth it.

Agua Fria – Water falling over to the canyon below
Beaver Creek

July seems to be the push for family vacations; that last trip before kids of all ages go back to school. We found the area that normally is fairly quite, totally busy. Not only were the campgrounds in the area totally full, the dispersed camp sites within the 3-mile radius were occupied. Because of this, we decided until schools are back in session, we will stay around the house and catch up with summer chores. Plus another couple of weeks and the high country will start to cool down. It will be much nicer to camp then.

Dispersed camping east of Buffalo Pass

Paella – Lena’s Version

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Paella

Growing up in Portugal everything we did revolved around food, and wine! The love of cooking started at an early age. Spent many evenings watching the women in my family cooking those great meals for family holidays and events. I also learned to cook, the fishermen’s way, from my dad. I always felt cooking was more than just food or substance. It was a treasured time spent with family and friends, enjoying wonderful meals with great wine, listening to family stories and passing down traditions. Great memories were created around the kitchen table.

Fast forward to present times and a new country, and I still try to keep up those same traditions I enjoyed growing up.

A few weeks ago, celebrating our wedding anniversary, I made my version of paella. I’ve had this recipe since I was 14 years old; I started collecting recipes at a young age. Several friends have asked for the recipe, so here it is. If you get to make it, hope you enjoy it. Let me know if you made adjustments and how it turned out. Bom apetito!!

Ingredients:

  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 spanish chorizo sausage, thickly sliced
  • 1 medium sized spanish onion, diced
  • 4 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1 can (15 oz) of diced tomatoes or whole, hand-crushed
  • 1 Tbsp of ginger (I use the paste version)
  • 2 cups of short grain Spanish rice
  • 4 cups of fish stock, or warm water
  • 2 generous pinches of saffron threads (you can use less, depends on taste)
  • 1/2 lbs of squid, cut thin slices
  • 6 littleneck clams, scrubbed
  • 1/2 lbs of mussels, scrubbed
  • 4 scallops
  • 1/2 lbs of jumbo shrimp ( I use raw and unpeeled for the flavor, but you can buy peeled and deveined)
  • 2 lobster tails
  • 1/2 cup of sweet peas, frozen and thawed
  • lemon wedges, for serving
  • flat-leaf parsley, chopped for garnish
  • Salt and pepper to taste ( I taste as I go along) start with a teaspoon of salt and 1/2 tsp of pepper.

1 Heat oil in a paella pan over medium-high heat. Saute the chorizo until browned, remove and reserve. Meanwhile, cook the lobster tails, in a large pot of salted (1 Tbsp) of water, for about 3 to 5 minutes or until they start to turn orange and curl. Remove from water and let them cool.

2 In the paella pan, make a sofrito by sauteing the onions, garlic, and ginger. Cook for 2 or 3 minutes on a medium heat. Add the squid and cook for a couple of minutes. Then, add tomatoes and cook until the mixture caramelizes a bit and the flavors meld. Fold in the rice and stir-fry to coat the grains. Pour in fish stock or water and simmer for 10 minutes, gently moving the pan around so the rice cooks evenly and absorbs the liquid. (I like to add half the liquid and see how it cooks and add more if necessary – I’m cooking at altitude) Add the chorizo, and saffron. Add the mussels, scallops, clams and shrimp, tucking them into the rice. The shrimp will take about 8 minutes to cook. Give the paella a good shake and let it simmer, without stirring, until the rice is al dente, for about 15 minutes. During the last 5 minutes of cooking, when the rice is filling the pan, add the lobster tails. When the paella is cooked and the rice looks fluffy and moist, turn the heat up for 40 seconds until you can smell the rice toast at the bottom, then it’s perfect.

3 Remove from the heat and let it rest for 5 minutes. Garnish with peas, parsley and lemon wedges.

Fishing Weekend on the Green

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The Green River

Spring in Northwest Colorado has been cool and wet this year. Not that any of us will complain after last year’s fires, but still, where is summer?! We are limited where to camp at this point; too much snow in the high country. We don’t normally go to the same places week after week, but adjustments need to be made if we want to camp right now.

We headed to the Green River, again, this past weekend. Our timing was actually pretty good, since the release from Flaming Gorge will be increasing this Monday. Reports say it will go up to 6,000 cfs. Rafters will be happy.

BT looking for the big Brown Trout

Saturday we headed to the river stretch just below the dam (Flaming Gorge, UT). A little busy, but you could still find a spot on the river where you didn’t have anyone close by. Fish were biting, and water was pretty clear. While Bill fished with another friend that joined us for the weekend, I ventured along the river on the hiking trail that goes from the dam to Little Hole; about 7 miles. Beautiful, easy trail along the river.

Wild Flowers along the river trail

Fish were caught, and released! Everyone was happy. We left our campground early afternoon on Sunday to 80 degrees, it was 57 by the time we got home. Glad we had a couple of nice summer days in Utah.

Camp ~ Lily Pad

Celebrating Us…

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meadows with aspen trees
Catamount Golf Course – Steamboat Springs, CO

The traditional gift for 6th anniversary is candy, for sweetness, or iron, for strength. I guess I need to hit the candy store or just buy my sweetheart a chocolate martini! Happy anniversary.

Hwy 1 – South of Big Sur

We spent our honeymoon in Cambria, California. Small town along the coast and a hop-skip away from Paso Robles.

Vines @ Wild Horse Winery

We had not visited the area before. It was great to travel along Hwy 1. Bill actually rode his bike, while I was his pilot car and took photos of the scenery along the way. On our wine tour, the first stop was Turley Wine Cellars. During our wine tasting, staff made several great recommendations and guided us towards neighboring wineries. We visited Tablas Creek, Peachy Canyon, Wild Horse Winery, among others. Everyone was so nice. The wines were wonderful. The scenery beautiful. We fell in love with the area and cannot wait to visit again.

Vacationing in Portugal

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Typical house façade in Alentejo

Portugal is home, more specifically, Algarve. We don’t visit as often as we would like, but try to go at least every two or three years to visit family and friends. The last time we visited was in 2016. Time to start looking at flights!

Portugal had remained the lesser known of the european countries, until about ten or so years ago, when Portugal was highlighted on several american travel publications. These articles went on to list Portugal on the Top 10 Best Places to Retire and Visit. Of course, it’s been the vacation hot-spot for british citizens for many years, as well as other european nationals. But now we have noticed more american tourists, especially in the larger cities like Lisbon and Porto.

Algarve has over 100 miles of coastline with wonderful sandy beaches, small fishing villages, and many golf resorts. The weather is mild in the winter months. Temperatures start to warm up in March, but July and August are the peak summer months. My favorite months are May and September, before and after the crowds.

But, there is more to Portugal than the beaches. I love to visit the Alentejo region everytime we travel to Portugal. To me personally, it has the best wines. The terrain is hot and dry; perfect for those earthy dry red wines that we favor. The cuisine of Alentejo is rustic and delicious. Pork and lamb are abundant in the area. Should you stop at any of the roadside restaurants, you are greeted by the warm and friendly locals, and great regional dishes. I especially like to stop in the “tascas”; small snack-bars.

Of the many wineries we have visited, we keep going back to our favorites: Esporao, Rocim and Ervideira are just a few. Esporao and Ervideira are close to each other just outside Reguengos, Rocim is a bit more south, a couple of miles from the town of Cuba. This area is rich in history, dating back to the roman times. Well worth visiting.

It seems that two weeks just isn’t enough to do everything we want to do. I think we need to retire so we can travel more. Work gets in the way…

We try to sneak to our neighbors in Spain if time permits. On our last trip, we visited Jerez de La Frontera, were we enjoyed the local sherry and the spanish hospitality. Had a great time golfing at a small golf resort just outside of town. After a few days, we drove down to the coast for some beach time along the mediterranean sea. Stopped in the small town of Estepona, were we enjoyed great sangria and paella; I like to try it in different places to see who makes it the best. (Best sangria: bartender at the beach shack @ Playa de Isla Canela) On our way back to the Algarve, we drove over to Marbella for a quick stop, knowing it would be busy; it’s always busy. It is the place to be and be seen! Next trip over the pond, we want to spend more time in Spain. Trying to plan something in the Basque region. Maybe plan it around the Vuelta!

Spanish countryside outside Jerez de La Frontera

Having grown up in the Algarve, there are many different places I consider “my favorites”. If you are travelling to the area, drop a line. I’ll be happy to share some of my many favorites spots. When is your next trip to Europe?