If You Can’t Beat ‘Em, Eat ‘Em

I’ve returned home from Iceland with an even stronger commitment to shrink my carbon footprint as well as our household’s overall consumption in general. I’ve been lucky enough to see some of the most stunning environments this globe has to offer and I was impressed by how the folks of Iceland are such amazing caretakers of their environment. I’ve decided the least I can do is take a few steps, albeit some will probably be uncomfortable steps, in my neck of the woods to lessen my impact on the world.

Last summer when we first moved into Brake Manor – which we jokingly named our little downtown brick cottage on a half acre of land – I had to work hard to learn which plants in the yard were weeds and which were keepers. During my research I learned that a good portion of the weeds we are plagued with are edible and considered highly nutritious. We run a no-nasty-chemicals household so I felt safe taste-testing the different kinds of weeds in the yard, to the chagrin of some of my surprisingly conformist friends.

Today, after working our arses off in the yard, I realized our fridge was pretty empty and found myself wishing I had planted a garden I could go pull from. That’s when I remembered the edible weeds in the yard and decided to try to use what we have before going to the store to buy food. So, I managed to prepare a lunch for my hubby and myself made up of about 70% yard goodies (not from a planted garden, mind you, but just wild weeds that had sprung up in the yard while we were out of the country). We dined on grape hyacinth bulbs flavored with lime, poppy seeds and chive; and on purslane greens with a tahini, Sriracha and balsamic dressing. It was all quite delicious, though I don’t know if I’ll ever go through the preparation process of cleaning and boiling the hyacinth bulbs ever again since they weren’t nearly as tasty as the prep was long.

To compliment our yard grub we each enjoyed a thick buttered slice of rosemary bread from a local bakery and a small glass of Saison microbrew from Loveland Aleworks. I love when I can make a simple weekend meal feel like we’ve been to a fancy fine-dining restaurant. After lunch we gluttonously gobbled up power naps in the shade of the patio for dessert. It felt satisfying to be a little more self-sufficient than normal (and for it to actually taste yummy too!).

Cheers!

Grape Hyacinth bulbs. Boiled to remove bitterness and seasoned with lime, poppy seeds and chives for a fresh dish

Grape Hyacinth bulbs. Boiled to remove bitterness and seasoned with lime, chives from the yard and poppy seeds. Zesty!

Purslane is a succulent-type weed that grows prolifically in our yard. It's high in Omega 3 fatty acid, has six times more vitamin E than spinach and seven times more beta carotene than carrots. It’s also rich in vitamin C, magnesium, riboflavin, potassium and phosphorus. The flavor is a subtle sweet and salty citrus.

Purslane is a succulent-type weed that grows prolifically in our yard. It’s high in Omega 3 fatty acid, has six times more vitamin E than spinach and seven times more beta carotene than carrots. It’s also rich in vitamin C, magnesium, riboflavin, potassium and phosphorus. The flavor is a pleasant salty-citrus.

I used Sesame oil, Tahini, Sriracha hot sauce and a fig balsamic for the Purslane sauce. It was scrumptious!

I used stirfry oil, Tahini, Sriracha hot sauce and a fig balsamic for the Purslane sauce. It was scrumptious!

I was in such a hurry to taste my creation that I didn't even check to see if my photos were in proper focus. haha, oops.

I was in such a hurry to taste my creation that I didn’t even check to see if my photos were in proper focus. ooops… and I call myself a photographer?! Tsk, tsk. 😉 (PS – the roses are from the yard too. I love it!)

 

 

Reykjavik: Dinner With Friends, Botanic Garden & Street Art

May 27

From my parking spot in front of Sigrun and Andy’s place I was surprised to see the day begin without any rain. The updated forecast for the day was cloudy with a slim chance of rain so I excitedly packed my day bag and planned to walk the city. I remembered seeing something in the guidebook about the Reykjavik botanic gardens and thought a stroll through some lush green gardens is just what I needed after all this gloomy weather.

I left the house on foot and figured I’d find directions once I was out and about. The gardens turned out to be about 40 minutes away on foot so I hesitated. In the end I figured it’d be good for me to get out and pound the pavement a bit since I’ve been mostly driving for the last few weeks and haven’t gotten much exercise. Besides, you can get to know a city more intimately when you walk it!

I along the way I passed what looked like an Olympic training center and down a grassy hill then through a beautiful tree-covered lane. I saw a small zoo on my right and I talked to the brindle striped cows laying on some rolling hills on the other side of the fence.

The gardens turned out to be absolutely lovely – and free! Oh how I dig free things! I thought about how much my mom would enjoy the place since she’s a natural plant whisperer (and my go-to person for all things green). I slowly walked on the white wooden bridges over narrow ponds, strolled through rock gardens and got lost in thought listening to the birds sassing each other in the trees above. I even encountered a ferocious Icelandic beast!:

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I always get so inspired when visiting beautiful locations. I take a mental picture of the best designs and tuck them away in my mind for when I get home and can work on my own garden – and this place gave me several fantastic ideas to try! My favorite elements from Iceland that I’m hoping to somehow incorporate in my home garden are the rolling grassy mini hills, stacked stone walls, and the turf houses.

Near the back corner of the gardens was a greenhouse. As I got closer I saw it was a cafe! Oh boy, oh boy, oh, boy! You know how I love my cafes.

I went inside Cafe Flora and it was absolutely fantastic. Gorgeous wooden garden tables and chairs, a koi pond, a big fruit laden fig tree, grape vines, a condiments table made of the trunks of trees… I was in heaven!

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Iceland_20140527_Reykjavik-123_WEB I asked the barista for a double latte and got her opinion on what she’d recommend for lunch. She said the soup of the day was a coconut curry with shrimp and parsley. I’m not big on meat any more but I thought I’d give it a try (you know, when in Rome…). It was served in a hot, lidded glass crock on a bamboo board with a few slices of fresh sourdough grain bread and a little square of butter wrapped in parchment paper.

As the girl brought me my soup I couldn’t help but do a wiggly happy dance in my chair and clap my hands. She laughed and shook her head at me and it made me realize most people probably don’t get this excited about food. I guess Gastronomy has always pleased me. Tasty food is one thing, but tasty food served up in a beautiful presentation is happiness on a whole new level. More so, tasty food presented beautifully and sourced responsibly? Oh Jeezus!  Plug your ears because I’m apt to gush about that meal for weeks.

Maybe I’m meant to be a food blogger? A traveling food blogger? Hmmm, I have an idea… oh dammit!  theveggietraveler.com URL is already taken. Fine, back to the drawing board I go. 😉

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The bread was so soft and flakey on the inside with a thick and chewy crust. I slathered each piece with the fresh butter and then dipped them into the curry soup. I was such a perfect blend of flavors! The soup was savory though the coconut gave a hint of sweetness, and there were big hearty chunks of onions, carrots, parsley, squash and butter beans. I even tried a few of the tiny shrimp and they were so fresh and tender they practically melted in my mouth.

I enjoyed my lunch and wrote for a couple of hours in the warm, deliciously earthy smelling greenhouse. I wanted to stay right there for the rest of my life. It was heaven. I would probably live in a greenhouse if it were a feasible thing to do.

The day was so relaxing and lovely, though my stomach was not being very accepting of the shrimp and I whispered an apology to it for trying to trick it into eating meat. I promised not to do it again no matter how fresh and incredible it may be.

I meandered back towards the house and admired the fantastic pedestrian and bicycle lanes next to the large roadway. Why do we not do this in Colorado? Cycling is so popular in the state it seems insane not to. There’s even a well-known joke about Coloradans and their obsession with cycling: How do you know if someone’s from Colorado? They carry an $8,000 bike on the roof of a $1,000 car.

I don’t think I’ve ever seen these pedestrian roads back home but Sigrun tells me it’s very common in Sweden and I’ve seen it in Denmark too. It seems simple enough; if we combined the widths of the current sidewalks into one wide pedestrian/bike road on either side of the automobile road it would save us so much grief. Less bicyclists would be killed or injured, drivers wouldn’t have to get frustrated with cyclists, and it would inevitably encourage people to travel via something other than gas-guzzling cars.

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I noticed both of my cameras were nearly drained of battery so I went back to the house to charge them while I took the forced downtime to nap and surf the web a bit. I made tentative plans with the group that I had met in Akureyri to meet for a beer at Micro Bar before they flew home. Chad and Mandi were heading back to Austin, Texas in the morning.

Sigrun arrived home and I told her about the plans for Micro Bar and she said Keir and Emily were cooking dinner that night and suggested we should all go together after we ate. I headed back out for a walk through the city since the weather was so beautiful. I didn’t want to miss a minute of non-rainy weather.

I ventured down the main shopping street and snapped photos of the colorful street art. I still find new pieces every time I walk down there. It’s incredible!

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I found a tiny little door that lead back to a small fashion shop. When I entered I found a spread of beautiful foods and another photographer who was carefully placing the food. I realized I maybe shouldn’t be there. I asked the man if he was working and he said he was the culinary photographer for a food magazine in Reykjavik and they were having a party for the publication. His name is AoThor (check out his food and people photography, it’s lovely!) and we chatted a little and traded cards before I boogied out of there because I felt like I was crashing a party I hadn’t been invited to.

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I headed South and then up the hill to the old wealthy neighborhoods on the East side of Reykjavik where the houses are grand with sprawling manicured gardens, and I even found the old cemetery. It was so beautiful and peaceful there, with trees growing up from many burial plots and stone walls cradling family burial plots. It’s exactly how I imagine a cemetery should be.

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I returned just before 8:00, and everyone eventually trickled back home and the dinner-making and the sharing of our respective days commenced. They made a delightful parmesan and broccoli pasta dish together and Keir brought out 5 Icelandic beers to share and sample. We all got a small jar to use as our beer sampling cup (mine was an olive jar. I love it!) and we worked through the brews while they thrilled me with their knowledge. Andy and Keir would be talking about something English and completely foreign to me and I’d have to stop them and request they explain it to me. I felt as if  I was a child hanging out with adults since I didn’t know half of the things they were laughing about. They were gracious though and happily explained things to me such as what a genuine  Cornish pasty is. I would very much like to try to make these!

Keir sliced up a little cake with marbled frosting and we shared it while enjoying a porter beer and then we headed out towards Micro Bar. I really enjoy all the walking I do in the city, though I’ve added it all up and I walked 4.5 hours this day alone. I think soreness is in my near future…

Andy decided to stay home since he had work in the morning. We were a bit late to Micro Bar and so we had missed Mandi and Chad, but I bought the 4 of us a round of beers and we talked until midnight and decided it was bedtime. I had worn my Loveland Aleworks t-shirt and had to get a photo of it while at Micro Bar! As we were taking the photos a few fairly intoxicated Americans started asking what all the photos were for and one of them was from Arvada, Colorado. I told them how fabulous Loveland Aleworks and all the microbreweries in Loveland are and he said he’ll have to make a point of heading up there next time he’s back home. I seem to become quite a braggart about my awesome little town when I’m away from it. 🙂

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PUSH Industries

One of my favorite shoots I’ve had. (Do I say that about all my assignments?)

On a sunny 55˚January day we trekked up the Backbone trail near the mouth of the Thompson Canyon so that pro mountain biker and owner of PUSH Industries, Darren Murphey, could repeatedly run jumps and whizz past me at what I would guess was 30mph. Maybe it wasn’t that fast, but as he came barreling down the hill, passing me within 2-3 feet, it sure got my adrenaline pumping.

This was my first go at high-speed flash photography and I learned so much from the experience. I cannot wait for another shoot of this sort to apply the tricks I learned. My new Einstein lights held up well under the pressure, though I thought the plastic shell was going to melt right off of them by the end.

Darren was a great sport, and had endless energy to ride up and down the hills for us. While we walked to our location he taught the stylist, the client and myself some gnar biking world terms. My favorite was find your line, which means you have to find the best path for yourself in order to achieve the ultimate ride.  Deep. Who’d have thought philosophy and mountain biking go hand in hand?

Autumn Princess

Not only was today’s shoot a momentous occasion since it was my first one with my new pro grade lens (yay!), I was also able to step back for a second and realize just how cool my job is. I mean, today my “ToDo” list for work included giggling and playing in the falling autumn leaves with a 5 year old princess.   …I tell ya, it’s a tough job, but someone has to do it.

What a joy miss Eva is – and need I say anything about that beautiful hair?!  Since we were this close to Halloween we just had to bust out her princess costume and add a dash of extra fairytale awesomeness. Thank you, Steph and princess Eva, for such a free-spirited afternoon.

To book a whimsical autumn shoot of your own, call 970.744.5563 or email me at alanna@luckybrakelimited.com

Glass makes all the difference.

Mike’s Camera from Boulder offered free rentals of their finest pieces of glass at the Denver Zoo today. Now that I know this event exists -and happens biannually!- I’ll be sure to let you all know when they hold the next one. There is no way I’m missing this opportunity ever again.

After wading through the throngs of photography fanatics I was able to get my hands on a few lenses including the 28-300mm 3.5/5.6L IS USM, 70-300mm 4/5.6L IS USM, 800mm 5.6L IS USM, and the 400mm 2.8L IS USM, as well as the 5D Mark II body.

Now, I was unfortunately only allowed about 45 minutes with the first two lenses and only 5 minutes with the big boys but I thought I’d share a few images I was able to get while I had these precious chunks of glass in my possession.

I am totally blown away with the performance of each lens. Each one had a personality of it’s own and had something kick-ass that the other lenses couldn’t match.  Because of today’s experience, I’ve decided it’s time to make my first L series purchase and I’ll be adopting the revered 70-300 2.8L  IS USM. I am super excited to see what a difference an L lens will make on my images.

Cheers! Enjoy the remainder of the weekend!

Lanna

Colorado on Fire

This summer has proven to be a challenging one for Colorado residents; with multiple fires and mudslides displacing families and destroying thousands of acres of property, our residents have stepped up to help those neighbors affected by wild ol’ Mother Nature.

If there was ever any doubt about the kindness and generosity of the folks of Colorado, I think the sheer number of helpful volunteers we’ve seen has extinguished any last ember of doubt.

A HUGE thank you to the thousands of volunteers who put their life in harm’s way, or offered up their homes and kitchens to assist the displaced families. From the bottom of my heart – thank you all so very, very much.

Here are a few images taken during the first big fire, which ignited about 13 miles from our home, in the High Park area. The smoke made for sorrowful yet beautiful sunrises and sunsets.

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Winter in RMNP, Colorado

Jason and I met up with a couple of friends this weekend in Rocky Mountain National Park for a bit of wandering around. There wasn’t nearly as much snow  as I thought there’d be so I improvised with mostly detail shots and then tried my hand at a few night-from-day images. I had some pretty good luck with it for my first try!

Good company, good weather, and tasty lattés in Estes Park to warm us up after our little jaunt to the edge of nature. It turned out to be a really enjoyable afternoon.