Friday, March 24, 2017

From 1700s France to Gold Rush Colorado in a Single Weekend

Last week was another work travel week for Jeannene. She arrived home on Friday, St. Patrick's Day, in the late morning. After a long conference call, she took the rest of the day to recuperate from the very early morning required by her air travel. Since it was Bear's day with his nanny, we took advantage of being freed from childcare duties to go have drinks and a snack at The Copper Rail before taking in a movie. She had a green beer, much to my amusement, and I stuck with iced tea. We shared the hummus platter, which starred very good, creamy hummus and was accompanied by warm, soft pita triangles and very fresh veggies for dipping.

I love Disney's animated version of "Beauty and the Beast." What bookworm girl can't identify with Belle and her love of reading? Naturally, then, I've been eagerly awaiting the live action version since I first heard it was in the works. I was even happier when Hermione Granger---oh, I mean, Emma Watson---was cast as Belle. What usually happens, though, when I can't wait for a movie to come out, is that I end up not even seeing it in the theater. We just don't get out to the movies that often and, when we do, it's usually a Marvel blockbuster or some iteration of Star Wars. Those are fun, of course, but I would cheerfully go to the movies once a week or more, given my druthers. So, I was quite happy when Jeannene offered to take me on opening day! I'm not sure I've ever been to a movie on opening day before. It was a wonderful version, beautiful to behold and well-cast. One of my favorite things about it was that there were several interracial couples in it and it wasn't part of the storyline that they were interracial couples. They just happened to be.

After the movie, we spent an inordinately long time looking at refrigerators to replace ours, which keeled over mid-week. We finally decided on one and headed home, where I made Guinness stew, champ (which I have always thought was colcannon, until a friend of a friend pointed out that colcannon has kale, while champ has cabbage), and soda bread. Neither of us is very keen on corned beef and cabbage, so this is our traditional St. Paddy's Day supper.

Saturday was an astonishingly summer-like day, with blue skies, sunshine, and the mercury reaching 80 degrees! We had breakfast at a little mom & pop place here in town called Billie's. We enjoyed huevos rancheros, a green chile slathered breakfast burrito with chorizo, and some pancakes. Bear was not impressed with the biscuits & gravy we ordered for him, but he was wild for the sausage. In fact, we ordered him another patty because he gobbled up the first with such joy and enthusiasm.

We thought we were going to the zoo to see the new tiger exhibit, but traffic was backed up for blocks near the zoo and the parking lots around it were jam-packed. I don't know if everyone was headed for the zoo. Perhaps there was a special exhibit at the nearby science museum? Anyway, I had a great plan B in mind that would get us outside and also serve as the C date we'd been stuck on for ages. Without telling Jeannene where we were headed, I reset the Waze app for the Denver Botanic Gardens (C is for Conservatory and Children's Gardens). She was pretty pleased with my choice.

We started with the children's gardens, where Bear had a blast playing in the dirt, feeling all kinds of new textures, making friends in the kitchen, learning to use a drinking fountain, and making a plush mountain goat knock wooden blocks off a stump. This naughty goat got put in time out on another stump each time, with Bear saying, "Naughty goat!" Our wee boy was also completely terrorized by the existence of a swinging bridge. It was a very modest motion, when compared with the swinging bridge of my youth, but it really worried him. He refused to walk over the bridge, insisting on being carried. He remembered it Tuesday at school, too, and refused to have anything to do with the bridge on campus.

Across the road, we wandered through the tropical rainforest conservatory. I was astonished to see what a ginger plant looks like. We sniffed our way through the orangerie, where citrus trees were blooming with a scent that took me straight back to the Florida road trips of my childhood. From there, we progressed through the Japanese gardens and the more Western gardens. There wasn't much blooming, but it felt wonderful to be out in the sun and to see what was blooming. I will be glad to go back in another month or two and see more blooms. There is the promise of dozens of lilacs and peonies to lure me. There's also a beautiful house that I hope I someday get to visit for an event.

We ended our visit with lunch in the cafe, a ham and brie sandwich for me, a caprese sandwich for Jeannene, and a ham and cheese pinwheel sandwich for Bear, who slept through lunch, but awoke in time to eat lunch before we got in the car. We also visited the gift shop, where I had a very hard time reining myself in and not buying all kind of lovelies. I walked out with absolutely nada. Bear would like to have gotten some of the swirled blown-glass balls we saw there.

Sunday morning, my longtime online friend, Cathi, had invited us to her congregation in Golden to see her daughter in the children's program and to meet her in person for the first time. The people at the church were warm and welcoming---enough so that we felt completely comfortable leaving Bear in the church nursery for the first time. He had a blast! We really enjoyed the program, which was all about standing up for others and doing the right thing. It gave both of us quite a bit of hope for the future, if there are lots of kids like these, being religiously educated in such a way. Cathi was as delightful in person as she is online.

After church, we headed to downtown Golden to have brunch at the Table Mountain Cantina and Grill. We passed the Coors brewery and were astounded at the magnitude of it. Jeannene's run some pretty large and productive plants, but this dwarfed anything she's done. We plan to return sometime to take the tour.

Golden is very focused on its past as a gold rush town and definitely plays up the old Colorado feel. The hotel in which the restaurant is located reminded me a great deal of Santa Fe and I got even more excited about our upcoming anniversary trip there. I can't wait to show Jeannene around. Bear was pretty sleepy. He was intrigued with the stuffed (real) bear in the lobby, but I think he was even more interested in pulling the Southwest-patterned cushions off the couch and onto the floor, so he could rest on them.

When we were finally summoned to our table, any trace of sleepiness vanished and he was full of beans (literally and figuratively) the entire meal. That didn't prevent us from enjoying the food immensely. They brought toasty warm cinnamon rolls right away, which was much appreciated by all three of us. They also brought Bear things to keep him amused---gigantic coffee filters to wear for hats, crayons and wiki sticks that he found quite delicious, and condiment cups for stacking. The meal was quite wonderful and he shared my food, biscuits and chorizo gravy, with gusto. He was not as impressed with his Momma's chicken chimichanga, but he was wild for the black beans that came with it. I got to have the best mimosas I've ever had, as well. I don't know if they slipped a little vanilla in the orange juice or what, but they were out of this world.

After lunch, we strolled around town a bit more and found a world map to go on Bear's wall alongside his U.S. map. I was sorely tempted toward an ice cream cone, as it seemed everyone in town was walking around licking a scoop, but I was full enough from brunch that I resisted. We had a really pleasant afternoon. I mused on the oddness of spending the last day of winter walking around in the sunshine, wearing a tank top. You won't hear me complain!