One of the things I have always found funny, is how German visitors react to the squirrels (or tree rats/Baumratten, as we sometimes call them) running rampant through our trees, along fences and on the rooftops. They are not just a part of daily life, but can be the bane of my existence at times! I have come up with all kinds of contraptions to keep them out of my strawberry bed. I don’t enjoy setting out carved pumpkins any more because they only last a day or two, and the aftermath is a mess, because all they want are the seeds! Once a squirrel dropped a plastic chocolate syrup bottle (from a recycle bin) from about 40 feet out of the tree out front – luckily no one was hurt! And when we first moved here no one warned us to pack up the picnic food in case you turned your back – because they would come that close! And they did (remember those Oreos they pried out of the Tupperware, Liv?)  See a video here taken in the same park:

Where I grew up on Long Island, the closest I ever got to one was while quietly hiding in a tree – scared the poor thing when I screamed! The squirrels there are silver gray, and as you can see in the video ours are rather brown.

I’ve left the back door open a few too many times and have had to chase them away from where I have dried grains stored. A friend who lives closer to the park has had them come into the house through the chimney and once they pried back the window screens to get to some fruit on the kitchen counter. The same family claims that they have known squirrels to throw apples down at them too!

And then there is their gardening abilities – every spring I am pulling out tree saplings that I certainly didn’t plant, but for one I am glad – an oak that is about 3 feet/1m high now!

FC ADVENTure CALENDAR Days 15 and 16


It could not be helped! I didn’t post 15 yesterday because the internet kept disconnecting – for 2 days! I can only hope the connection lasts long enough for this tandem post. With my heart as heavy as it is, it was probably a good thing for me to sit back and reflect on life, on loss, and how to accept challenges.

This morning I decided to treat myself to a copy of the Sunday New York Times, something I had looked forward to for so many years – my Sunday Times and my Sunday bagel! I left my husband at the kitchen counter to prepare his favorite pancakes (prefer crepes myself!), and hopped into the car on this moist and cold morning to head down to Al’s Newstand.

On the way I saw plenty of people rushing to have their breakfast at a number of restaurants on the path to Al’s. It occurred to me that eating breakfast out is something Germans don’t do – or didn’t while I lived there! Shortly before we left Hannover some bakeries were offering fresh Broetchen (rolls, for the Americans reading – and, no, we can’t get anything of that quality here!) on Sundays, but that was it. Here we even have restaurants that offer only breakfast and often lunch, and that’s it!

Lucile’s Fort Collins

We don’t go out to eat that often, but we do have a favorite place in Fort Collins, at least for breakfast – Lucile’s! There are 5 locations in Colorado now, but you’d never guess, because the atmosphere is like coming into someone’s home! Our friends Diana and Will introduced us, and it was their good company and the marvelous food that kept us coming back. Our son has no trouble putting away four of these beignets in one sitting – and he knows not to wear dark clothing for all the powdered sugar!

beignets – homemade New Orleans-style donuts

Sunday breakfasts are usually spent at home though, with pancakes, crepes, baguette or bread, but once in a while we indulge with a dozen bagels. I’d like to add here that they are not as good as those to be had all over New York, but the 2 store here in the Fort come pretty close!


Gib’s Bagels (from the Northern Colorado Business Report)


♥An earlier than usual wish: Peace and love to all, everywhere.



Every year our family has gone up to the foothills to cut down our Christmas tree at Davis Ranch. The charge for cutting a tree has been about $20 for the first 8’/2.4m, and we’ve never even come close! We usually are able to fit the tree inside the car! Once, the attendant was so disappointed in our wimpy choice he only charged us $7! I usually pull together a wreath from the leftover twigs and fresh-cut left-behinds.


We are not sure we will be able to get one from the ranch this year because of the massive fire in the foothills this summer. But it has been a wonderful place to visit, especially if there was enough snow to do some sledding after we pick out a tree. Keep your fingers crossed – we’ll be looking for one this weekend!

This photo was taken near the ranch by Raul Alvarez (denverchannel.com)

It’s Perfect Picture Book Friday again, and I’d like to introduce another American Christmas tale:

The Christmas Tree Ship

Author/Illustrator: Jeanette Winter
Publisher: Philomel Books, 1994
Age Level: 4-8
Themes: Christmas, Christmas trees, ships
Opening: Chop, chop, chop went the axes, cutting down spruce trees in the wintry northern woods.
Summary: One day, when the Christmas Tree Ship disappears, the girls and their mama wait for their father to come home. But when the snows of another November blow in, Elsie, Pearl Hazel and their mama know what they must do…
Why I like this book: First off, I am enamored with Winter’s illustration style! She incorporates mood and just enough emotion, with few lines, shapes, and lots of dots – and is a master of color. The true story draws me in, and Winter has found a way to share the hard truths with a gentle hand.

Resources/Activities: check out another telling of this true story; follow today’s reenactment by the US Coast Guard; read more true history

The Arrival: Here Comes the Christmas Tree Ship, by Charles Vickery
(click on the photo to buy a print)

Click here to check out other PPBF picks on Susanna Leonard Hill’s blog – today and every day!



The Denver Post once described Fort Collins as the ‘Colorado college town with the most vital music scene’. In an article on npr.org I found out that ‘Fort Collins is home to the revered recording studio The Blasting Room, and members of punk rock legends The Descendants, All, and Black Flag have ties to this town’. We do have plenty to offer, and something for everyone.

Music Venues that Rock the Fort (I took descriptive cues from websites and online reviews)

Aggie Theatre: smaller but more intense acts still carve our little town into their schedule/they give you wristbands so you can come and go as you please
Avogadro’s Number: Cozy unique atmosphere serves up Bluegrass, Jazz, Arias, Tempeh, and a treehouse on the patio
Budweiser Event Center (Loveland): 7,200 seats – everything from monster truck shows and ice hockey games to Cirque de Soleil and Kenny Rogers
Everyday Joe’s Coffee House: amazing space – non-profit coffee house run by Christians
Hodi’s Half Note: an easy place to go when you’re looking for a cheap concert.
Lincoln Center: newly renovated primary performing arts facility
Lucky Joe’s Sidewalk Saloon: described as having a Texan/Irish pub feel
Swing Station (LaPorte): during the summer months they actually encourage bringing in your own grub to throw on the grill
Mishawaka Amphitheater: Up the canyon, on the banks of the Poudre, fondly called “The Mish”
University Center for the Arts: dynamic faculty, committed students offer art, music, theater, dance (Singer of the Year competition is a fav)


Bohemian Nights: New West Fest with int’l. headliners and 90+ CO bands for FREE
FoCoMX: 2 nights, 30 venues, 300+bands

And an entertainment paper that keeps track of it all: Scene Magazine

FC ADVENTure CALENDAR Day 12, and 12x12in’12 Party!


A favorite book from my childhood is Go, Dog. Go!, by P.D. Eastman. It features dogs in all colors, utilizing all sorts of vehicles to get around. We didn’t have a car in Hannover, but we never needed to own one. In moving to Fort Collins from Germany we had to make a big adjustment. When we first arrived it was really important to me that we choose a place to live that allows for accessibility with a bicycle, or on foot. So we rented a house in Old Town, and finally bought one two years later. We only had one car for a few years, and with the trailer on the bike I was able to manage pretty well.

Bike paths in Fort Collins

We are fortunate that Fort Collins has a great bike culture, and many of the city’s streets are marked with bike paths. If you are looking to get somewhere via bike, the city has a Bike Coordinator to help you find the best route, bicycle safety resources and classes, route maps, a bike-and-ride program( buses that can carry up to two buses on the front at a time), status updates on bike trail conditions, bike cage access in one of the parking houses, bike-to-work-day and bike-to-school-day events, and more.

The bus system cannot be compared to any in Europe, but the city puts a lot of effort into promoting it’s use, including offering free bus fare for all students under 17, and all university students with a RamCard. They also work with neighboring communities to establish affordable regional transit services, for we may have train tracks, but no passenger trains. Unbelievable to us at first, but true. And at this point, with our barely stable economy, I only hope to see that happen. I’ll be sharing the story of our trolley in another ADVENTure post!

It’s Wednesday, and time for another idiom (WIX). I’ll keep ‘in motion’ with the thread of today’s post: on the home stretch: approaching something such as a task, race or journey. And I am! It’s the 12th day of the 12th month in 2012, a perfect day to celebrate! I have almost (19 days left!) successfully completed Julie Hedlund’s 12x12in’12 Challenge: 12 rough picture book drafts in 12 months in 2012! I am finding it too hard to express my gratitude to Julie and all my fellow participants – I am overflowing. So here is another Mr.Poppenfuss illustration, for IF: Explore, which expresses how I feel:


PS: Happy Birthday Beth!



We can only boast 2 museums, but we CAN boast!

Linda combines her own artistic style with the tradition of basket weaving from the ancestors of her Native American tribe, the Chumash, who historically inhabited the southern coastal regions of California.

Our neighbor, and my dear friend, Linda Aguilar, recently gave a demonstration of horsehair basket weaving at the new Fort Collins Museum of Discovery, at it’s brand new location. The new museum promises a combination of history, science and culture, with, as before, lots of hands-on exhibits and activities.

Fort Collins Museum of Discovery (Tim O’Hara Photography)


Another favorite is the MOA, Fort Collins Museum of Art, housed in the old Post Office building in Old Town: it aims to ‘enrich the cultural life of the region and advance community understanding of the power of the visual arts to foster life-long learning, social interaction, and personal inquiry’. We have gone every year to check out the Masks exhibit and silent auction, in which over 150 local artists participate annually.



I’m taking to the streets today! What we know now as ‘Old Town’ was mapped out and planned back in 1867, but as Fort Collins grew the streets needed names and a ‘New Town’ layout. Frank C. Avery was engaged to draw up a map and presented it in 1873.

Avery map of Fort Collins

Old Town had been laid out parallel to the river, but Avery held to the compass, creating a few pie-shaped blocks in Old Town. Most of the east-west streets were named for trees and shrubs. North-south streets were given the names of prominent residents, many of whom were trustees of the company that hired Avery!

House on Willow Street, Fort Collins

Because of the space available, Avery chose to use it, and created very wide streets: the main street running north-south through town is 140ft/43m wide, and most others 100ft/30m. That may not seem like too much today, but back then the streets were not paved, so to avoid soiling their dresses the ladies were forced to pull the skirts up and navigate the ruts, mud and dust. I’ve also heard he wanted to have enough room for a horse and carriage to make a u-turn in the street.

College Avenue, Opera House Block Bldg.

Our street was named after the Agricultural College’s first president, Elijah E. Edwards.

Click on any of the pictures for more info!



Another landmark in Fort Collins, is the gravesite of Annie the Railroad Dog, but I never even knew where it was until I looked into her story. Annie was an ill-treated mix-breed dog that a railroad crew adopted from a blacksmith’s shop near the tracks, and took back to the station in the caboose. That was in the mid 1930’s. They crewmen took her on their daily run of the inspection and repair of their section of tracks. At the station they kept a box near the basement furnace for her, where she even gave birth to a litter of 3 puppies. When one of the brakemen retired he still came and took Annie on walks about the town, where she would be greeted by locals, offered restaurant scraps and ice cream licks, even an occasional bone from the butcher along the way. She died in her sleep, in her box by the furnace, in 1948 when she was 14 yrs. old.

This bronze statue was made in her honor, with one paw raised to ‘shake hands’. It sits between the two large pines in front of the Old Town branch of the library, where Olivia and her brother would greet and visit with her, on our way in and out! When Olivia volunteered as a Library Pal during the summers between 5th and 7th grade, one Pal would often dress in an Annie costume and walk about the children’s section of library giving kids hugs, and ‘shaking hands’. For thirteen years the city featured a walk in her honor: a 1.5 mile walk with dogs, a pancake breakfast and Annie look-alike contest.

Read more: Fort Collins library ends “Annie Walk” – The Denver Post http://www.denverpost.com/breakingnews/ci_18447128#ixzz2EZWufjve

Click on the photos to link back for further topics (and more photos!) about Fort Collins history and community: http://www.lostfortcollins.net/


FCACbanner8If you’ve been wondering what the funny shape is in the ‘skyline’ in the ADVENTure CALENDAR image – it’s our landmark, a symbol of our city, a mountain – located in the foothills to the west of town. And because of the resemblance, it’s got a great name: Horsetooth Rock.

It’s one of the first things you notice when you come to Fort Collins. And if you’re lucky, you’ve found someone to join you on the hike up through Horsetooth Mountain Open Space (click for more pics) – a good 4km and 457m in elevation. Just beyond, which you can’t see from town, is Horsetooth Resevoir – created by diverting water from the west slope of the Rocky Mountains to the east slope, for drinking water, irrigation and hydropower generation.

It is also used for recreation: swimming, fishing, sailing, rowing, camping, picnicking and boating. To our great surprise when we moved here, that also includes motor boats and jet skis. Click on either of the above photos from landscapeimagery.com, for a detailed description of the hike and more terrific photos. Olivia can point out where we live in relation to it.


This photo was taken on a hike not far from Horsetooth, shortly after we moved here:



It’s Friday! After work on Friday many people in Fort Collins like to go out, relax and catch up with friends. And one of the great things about Fort Collins is that we have local breweries, and brew pubs. And not just a few! We have enough that a couple of companies make it their business to take you on a tour of them all!

In fact Fort Collins produces more beer than anywhere else in Colorado, and that is saying a bit because Colorado is ranked first in the country for the volume produced by breweries. Some are famous for their award winning beers, and one in particular for their environmental stewardship. Yes, I’ve got favorites, which I’d be glad to share – whenever you come by and visit!

Click on a brewery name, and you’ll be linked to their website. Prost!

And also because it’s Friday, Perfect Picture Book Friday, I am including a picture book review. My selections during Advent will include some favorite American books.

Title: Three French Hens
Author: Margie Palatini
Illustrator: Richard Egielski
Publisher: Hyperion, 2005
Age level: 3-7
Themes: Christmas, friendship, trust, humor
Opening: On the third day of Christmas a mademoiselle from Paris sent her true love three French hens, two turtledoves, and a partridge in a pear tree. The hens never arrived…

Summary: (from Scholastic) Colette, Poulette, and Fifi end up delivered not to Philippe Renard, but to Phil Fox from the Bronx. Phil can’t believe his luck— he hasn’t had a square meal in weeks, and here’s a free lunch right on his doorstep! But his plans to dine on the delectable fowl are foiled as the French hens work their Christmas magic on him, proving that the spirit of the holidays can bring the most unlikely folks together.
Why I like this book: The illustrations are gorgeous, with details to ponder on every page. Despite its utter silliness, the story alludes to what can truly get mixed up when languages or cultures cross. It also reminds me a bit of the three little pigs, but it has the flavor of all-time favorite: Dr. De Soto, by William Steig.
Resources/Activities: activities for kids from the author’s page; sing the song (see the video below) together; consider what it would take to give the 12 gifts of Christmas today

Fore more PPBF picks and teacher resources, go to Susanna Hill’s blog