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


This post is a treat for me too, because I only recently heard about a local ‘legend’: Lady Moon. I found one photo of her, just a headshot and not particularly becoming, so I took it upon myself to imagine what she might have looked like in her heyday (a word originating in the 16th century, meaning a period of the person’s greatest success or popularity).


Catherine “Katie” Gratton Lawder was an Irish girl born on a English ship in 1865. Orphaned at 12, she came out to Iowa to live with her aunt, and moved to this area with neighbors when she was just 18. She had black hair and blue eyes, and it is said she was boisterous and ill-mannered. She quickly found work as a maid and waitress at a local lodge, married a miner many years her senior, Frank Gartman, but divorced him (with no hard feelings between them) to marry Cecil Moon. Cecil was a ‘remittance man’, one of many Englishmen who were sent out West by their families to finish ‘sowing their oats’. Katie nursed him back to health after he had fallen ill learning the tools of the trade at Roxby Ashley Grange, a school for ranching. Cecil Moon inherited an aristocratic title ten years later, in 1898. He took her back to England to meet his family, but you can guess the family was not prepared to accept her. What chance did she have, a working class girl from Ireland, with no connections?

Even after Cecil divorced her, she insisted the locals continue to call her Lady Moon, but she was considered ‘controversial’ because she dyed her hair an odd shade of red and dressed rather flamboyantly. It was said the townswomen, seeing her come their way, would cross to the other side of the street to avoid her. I imagine her reputation was peppered with exaggerations of her financial prowess, having had control of her husband’s money (which he freely gave in an attempt to keep himself it from burning a hole in his pocket). The couple accrued several thousand acres together and Katie managed to have much of the property secured in her own name. Maybe this kind of power, in the hands of a woman, an Irish woman, and a Catholic no less, was enough to scare any man, and provided the ingredients for an excellent batch of gossip stew. Or the fact that she consumed large amounts of liquor, or that she kept numerous animals of all sorts, many of which kept her company in her house. Lady Moon died of cancer in Denver in 1924, but was not forgotten.

In 1952 Homer Croy completed a book loosely based on her life,  The Lady From Colorado, which was later performed as an opera, by Robert Ward, and debuted in the Central City Opera House in 1964.


One story leads to another! After this post was read by my friend Pat, a fellow picture book enthusiast, Pat commented that the composer of said opera is her husband’s uncle! So I am now including the following video-tribute link so you can hear and learn  a little about Robert Ward too! Yes Pat, how serendipitous!




click for more info on this cloud formation

click for more info on this cloud formation

We are happy to boast 300 days of sunshine in the year, but we have little precipitation (only 400mm/yr), except in the spring. For much of the year we have quite comfortable temperatures, not much humidity (at all) and good visibility. We do have large day-night temperature variations and abrupt weather changes: I can remember a drop of 30 degrees one afternoon, it was our first December here. But that same month we had picnic in the yard, and used a bucket of water for Olivia’s brother to splash around in!


Occasionally we experience extreme cold, but the average temperature in January is -2*C. We get most of our snow in late winter – and in 2003 we had a lovely blizzard over Spring Break which added two more days with no school! Snow usually melts pretty fast here though. We can get chinook, or “snow-eater winds”, which help remove those snow piles, though not so well in the shade, regardless! Some times we can have snow early, in September, and as late as May – even June!

July is our warmest month,  with an avg. of 22*C, though I feel like August has some of the hottest days – like last year’s streak of temperatures above 32*C – and it DID NOT cool off at night, usually our saving grace!

One thing we’ve gotten used to here is that a light wind blows most of the time, but occasional major windstorms especially winter and spring, can drive us a bit crazy – especially when the gusts wake us during the night.

Die arme Tomaten!

Die arme Tomaten!

Thunder is common from late April into mid September, and often we get intense afternoon or evening thunderstorms – we like to sit out on the porch bench with a blanket to watch them! Hail is very common, but threats of tornadoes rarely materialize in the city. The closest I remember was when Olivia was in 7th grade and one hit a small farming community just south east of town.

WIX (Wednesday Idiom Exchange): There’s hail, the ice pellets larger that 5mm in diameter, a word that originates from the German Hagel. And there’s hail: originating form the old English word wassail, meaning a salute or greeting, or the act of greeting. We also say a person hails from a place: I hail from New York, originally!


We are very fortunate that our city has a wonderful ‘Art in Public Places’ program, ‘intended to encourage and enhance artistic expression and appreciation and to add value to the Fort Collins community through acquiring, exhibiting, and maintaining public art’. This includes transformer cabinet and trash can murals, pedestrian pavers, park sculptures, and Pianos About Town, a collaborative effort with Bohemian Foundation, and Downtown Development Authority. ‘This exciting project brings visual art and music together for the public to enjoy. After the pianos are painted, they are be moved to various locations around Fort Collins, awaiting discovery and attention!’ Check out the facebook page, which includes a few videos

Transformer Cabinet Mural by Amelia Caruso

Transformer Cabinet Mural by Amelia Caruso

Click here for more info, including visuals of the artists’ concepts.


Wie die Stadt wuchs: The Fort Collins area is just south of the famous Oregon Trail, a pathway for settlers headed West, for fur trappers and gold-seekers. In the mid-1800’s the first settlers here came from the eastern US, including some French-Canadians.

Officers in front of a building at the old fort, ca.1864

Officers in front of a building at the old fort, ca.1864

A fort (now long gone) was established, a mail route, and the town grew to a prosperous agricultural community along with western expansion, irrigated farming technology and especially when the railroad reached Fort Collins in 1877.



A brief mid-1920s oil and gas boom in the county expanded the population a bit, but remained fairly homogenous, including a large number of German-Russian farmers. Hispanic workers and their families were eventually drawn to Fort Collins by job opportunities in the sugar beet industry. It would seem the largest growth spurt began just around the time that the State Agricultural College became a university in the 1950’s.

Old Main, Colorado State University

Old Main, Colorado State University

Back then the population stood near 15,000, and grew steadily: 1960 – 25,027, 1970 – 43,337, 1980 – 65,092, and as I mentioned earlier, we hit 143,986 in 2010.