Thursday, January 12, 2012

Christmas in Colorado

At long last, I'm back at my place in Malaysia. The voyage back was easily the worst I've ever endured. Let's recap, shall we? Totally stuffed-full airplanes, flight delays, screaming toddlers, missed connections, the freaking 24-hour delay in Los Angeles (lest we forget), a cancelled flight, bad food, bad turbulence, and to top it all off, lost luggage.

Before I get into all of that, and before I lay down a blistering, excoriating critique of China Southern Airlines (and possibly Southwest Airlines, too) and the woefully inept Guangzhou airport, permit me to write about the actual trip back home, which was really good. I may put the saga of the trip back to KL in its own separate entry.

As I noted in an earlier entry, we got a substantial snowfall just before Christmas, which began the day I arrived in Denver. After that, there was no snow for the rest of my stay, until the day I left. Thought that was pretty interesting, and was really exactly how I'd have scripted it, had anyone asked me. :)

I've gotta dream up a name for these!
For reasons passing understanding, I agreed to prepare and cook Christmas dinner for everyone (ten people), even though I was only arriving in town three days before that. It was a bit of a fiasco trying to get all the ingredients I needed before the stores closed on Christmas Eve, but it ultimately worked out okay. I decided to cook a couple of Beef Wellingtons with spinach and mushroom duxelles (and all the side dishes, as well). I also made a wild mushroom soup with crème fraîche as the starter. That part was good, but the beef didn't cook as quickly as I had hoped, so there was a long delay between the soup course and the entrée course. Whoops. I also prepared hors d'oeuvres, but have no name for this little creation. It's a slice of Genoa salami and a bit of garlic- and herb-seasoned cream cheese in a small puff pastry shell, festooned with a stuffed Manzanilla olive. It's one of my favorites to make, and they just burst with contrasting flavors. Anyway, the dinner was great -- family and friends. We all exchanged gifts and ate and drank and just enjoyed the day. We had the dinner at our friends' house in Colorado Springs, and they routinely get deer wandering around in their yard and we had a trio come right up to the back door as we were getting the dinner ready.

The table is set for Christmas dinner...

"You're not cooking venison, are you?"

Dad and me, freezing at Red Rocks Park
In an even greater source of confusion, my mom took it upon herself to e-mail my father, who lives in Alabama, and invite him out to Colorado while I was in town. Now, they divorced over 35 years ago, and really haven't spent any appreciable time together in at least three decades, and it's been at least that long since the three of us, our little erstwhile family unit, had been under the same roof. So when she dropped this bombshell on me, that my dad would be appearing in Denver the day after Christmas, and staying at her place, no less, I was pretty stunned. However, I knew it would all be just fine and likely pretty enjoyable... and it was. Turned out to be a really fun visit. Here's a pic of him and me at Red Rocks, the park and natural amphitheater just west of Denver. Dad was there visiting for four days and had a great time. I took him to the Coors beer brewery for the free tour, which I hadn't done myself in probably 15 years. They give you three complimentary beers to drink at the end -- a beer tasting, I guess, since you can choose from about 10 different offerings -- and since they're very nearly full-sized beers, we got a tiny bit buzzed, then headed down the street (in downtown Golden, Colorado) to the Capitol Grille and split a wonderful and huge grilled bison burger with some of the best crispy fries I've had in a long time... and had another couple of local beers. Ha ha. It was great.

It wasn't until half the pizza had been devoured that
I realized I hadn't yet snapped a picture of it!
Another high point was going up to the mountains one day. We went to a landmark restaurant in the small town of Idaho Springs called Beau Jo's. This place makes Colorado-style "mountain pies" — big, thick-crust pizzas that people heading to or from the ski slopes of Colorado's mountains have been savoring for many years. We actually got a "prairie pie," which is the semi-thin crust version, and created this culinary marvel from their ridiculously long list of crusts, sauces, cheeses, and toppings. My dad was raving about it, calling it perhaps the best pizza he had ever eaten. It was made with a basil-pesto sauce, a four-cheese blend of mozzarella, provolone, fontina, and feta cheeses, pepperoni, mushrooms, Andouille sausage, and a shower of Greek herbs and seasonings on top. It was absolutely gobsmacking delicious, I kid you not. From Beau Jo's, we proceeded over the always-scenic Highway 103 over Squaw and Juniper Passes. There were ferocious winds howling through the Rocky Mountains that day, easily gusting up to 90 mph (144 km/h), so we saw a lot of what they call "ground blizzards," where the high winds whip up the snow from the ground and can create whiteout conditions, even under a cloudless blue sky. It was a beautiful drive. Cresting the pass at over 11,000 feet (3,300 meters), the views are always breathtaking, and this time was no exception. You can see why people love living in Colorado!

The amazing view from Colo. Highway 103

This is the view of Denver from Red Rocks Park in the
foothills just west of the city
The rest of the trip was pretty standard... relaxing, shopping, eating out (had some outstanding Mexican food, as usual), evenings by the fire, things like that. One of the other nice moments happened around dusk one afternoon (the sun sets very early in December there) when we were up in the foothills in a town called Evergreen. The town has a good-sized lake that, of course, freezes over every winter. A part of the lake is maintained for ice skating, and there were loads of people out skating that day. I snapped a picture that quickly became my favorite of the trip... it's truly a winter wonderland. Boys crossing the bridge over a frozen creek with their hockey gear after a day spent on the ice, the last of the afternoon's warmth and light stealing from the scene, the crowds still ice skating under the darkening sky... it was just magical. A huge part of getting that great shot is simply being in the right place at the right time (and having a camera handy).

Ice skating in Evergreen, Colorado

I took this picture at my mom's place as we were leaving
for the airport... and the snow was falling again
As 2011 gave way to 2012, I still had a week to enjoy being in my home city, and the weather was just fantastic. One fine day — in early January, mind you! — the temperature hit nearly 70°F (21°C). But it didn't last. When I first moved to Colorado back in 1989, I was repeatedly told, "If you don't like the weather here, just wait an hour." Sure enough, the temperature had plummeted to 42°F (5°C) by the next day, and the day after that, my departure day, it was snowing steadily. Such is life in Colorado! Here in KL, no one ever discusses or cares much about the weather, because it's mostly the same day in and day out. You'll hear no forecasts on the radio, see no weather segments on the local news... it's just not something that needs any real consideration here. In Denver, though, the weather is a major factor in people's day-to-day life, and it changes all the time, sometimes crazily and rapidly!

So I'll wrap this up here and write soon about the odyssey of getting back to Malaysia. Never a short journey to begin with, this particular one took a jaw-dropping 57 hours to complete. The harrowing details... coming soon.


Steve K. said...

Just printed your last three blog entries for reading. Found that white-on-black does't work if you've got astigmatism. More later...

barbmerchant said...

love this post! It WAS a very fun time while you were home for the holidays!

Malia said...

enjoyed reading your post, Chad.

Suraya said...

All yr posts are interesting, written from the heart. I chanced upon your blog and will now bookmark it. Keep posting!

Anonymous said...

hey Chad what stopped blogging.send me an email ok.I just bought myself a Spectra 2004 for RM10, email id
BTW i'm from down south Johore

Chad M. said...

I've resumed! Sorry, ha ha... been terribly busy and reasonably lazy, in equal measure at times. :)