A DAY in the LIFE of a RANGER

A DAY in the LIFE of a RANGER


Since the mid-1990s, with a time out for Michael-care, I’ve been a volunteer wilderness ranger in the Colorado Rockies. During those 25-some years my life has changed dramatically but the one constant has always been my ranger gig.


Hitching myself to Smokey Bear’s wagon was a bit of a stretch. Never considered a rough-and-tumble outdoorsy girl, our 1988 move to Aspen was a reach beyond my bubble. What I soon developed, however, was an affaire de coeur with these mountains that’s never waned.

Today’s post is an abridged answer to the question I’m most often asked, “What do you really do?”

In early June we combine patrols with field trips to reacquaint ourselves with the floral and fauna. (Our memories are not what they used to be!) L to R: Deb and Phil Overeynder, Jane Battaglia who also works in Arizona’s Santa Catalina National Forest and me at the East Maroon Trail portal.


The East Maroon Trail always has wonderful springtime/early summer flowers. Discovered in 1820 on Pike’s Peak by mountain climber Edwin James, the Rocky Mountain columbine (Columbine Aquilegia caerulea) is Colorado’s state flower. Do you know your state flower?

This week’s recipes, UDON NOODLES, ARUGULA & RED PEPPER SALAD and RASPBERRY ICE CREAM with TOASTED WALNUTS, could be your summer menu’s superstars.

I’m planning to share this Udon noodle salad at two upcoming summer potlucks. What works with this recipe is anything. Most veggies on hand will play well in this salad. Don’t forget to change up your noodles. Soba noodles (buckwheat) and Udon noodles (wheat) offer two distinct taste experiences. The constant here is the citrus Ponzu sauce used in the dressing.

Serving homemade ice cream to your family/guests speaks volumes: “You are special.” Today’s ice cream maker is not your grandparents’ cranky relic. Ice cream is easily pulled together. Even recipes for sorbets and granitas are simple to follow. Don’t let summer fly away without dusting off your ice cream machine. (Both recipes are below.)


To score a moose sighting is a thrill that few people experience.

BUT these are depressing times for the Colorado mule deer who takes an eye candy back seat to moose, bears and elk.

Let’s start at my story’s finale. Last year, through the efforts of 40-50 dedicated volunteer rangers, our Forest Conservancy contributed 10,685 service hours which translated to an in-kind donation value of more than $278,000. We interacted with more than 60,000 trail users and 320,500 visitors to the Maroon Bells Scenic Area. That’s our job. That’s what we do.

These kids we met on the East Maroon trail are having such a good time. “In every walk with nature one receives far more than he seeks.” John Muir

To keep updating our skills, every summer the Conservancy, a non-profit partner to the USFS, brings in experts from our Colorado universities/government agencies/NPOs to teach courses on flora and fauna, geology, life zones, and the like. When I’m not hiking, I’m often in the classroom or field attending these sessions. We all maintain First Aid/CPR certification but every year, like many other volunteers, I take a refresher course.

Last week the Conservancy sponsored a birding field trip. Everyone pictured here is a volunteer ranger. Birding at Aspen Music Festival’s new Bucksbaum Campus is a special treat for us. (Hey, Kay, this photo is for you.)

By mid-June, however, it’s time to get online and begin scheduling patrols to cover the 102 official trails located in our Ranger District. We communicate throughout this busy 4-month period via our website which is our lifeline to all ranger-related information, updates, bulletins and trail reports.

My office. (Liz Berg, For you and your sisters.)

Hiking with Phil, a utilities engineer who has overseen the city’s water, electric and streets departments throughout his career, is always a treat. Ask him a question, he pulls out his map and we find the answer together.

Although I patrol alone on nearby trails, we pair up for wilderness hikes. Our main responsibility is to maintain a safe, friendly environment for visitors and our wildlife residents. Of course everyone hopes to spot a moose or bear. In an odd twist, it’s often most difficult to protect the wildlife from the tourists.

I was hiking an East Aspen trail last week and was startled by this Mama and Baby Moose who were enjoying a mid-morning snack. I quietly backed down the trail and all was well. There are signs throughout Aspen’s East End cautioning residents about moose sighting and to keep dogs on leashes.

If there are illegal fire rings, we dismantle them. Signs or trees down? We report it. Trash? We carry it out. With full-on fire restrictions already in place, we’ll be on the lookout. Our backpacks are always loaded with equipment and materials to cover all possibilities. (We have a must-carry checklist.) In fact, we’re trained to do everything but law enforcement. It’s a responsibility. I’m always wary.

Author and bird expert, Rebecca Weiss, R, who is a naturalist at the Aspen Center for Environmental Studies led the Conservancy’s birding field trip.

When the day is done, we file a comprehensive online report which not only goes to Marcia Johnson, our executive director, but also to the USFS and our colleagues. Then it’s homeward bound to my next major activity: Good Night!

Why do I get up at 5am to go birding? Because this little guy, a Green-tailed Towhee, is waiting to welcome me. That stunning rufous cap just makes me laugh.

UDON NOODLES, ARUGULA & PEPPER SALAD adapted from Jessica Merchant, How Sweet Eats

Serves: 4-6


If you haven’t tried Ponzu sauce (and, I hadn’t), look for it at your local grocery store. It’s ‘an intense soy-like sauce that is simultaneously sweet, tart, bitter, and salty.’

1/3 cup Ponzu sauce
1/4 cup sunflower oil or vegetable oil of your choice
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2-1 tsp kosher salt

8oz. Udon noodles (options: Soba or rice noodles)
2 cups sugar snap peas, cut into thirds
1 red bell pepper, julienned
1/3 cup toasted slivered almonds
2 tablespoons toasted sesame seeds
3 green onions chopped, both white & green parts
3 cups arugula
1 heaping cup chopped cilantro

Serving Toppings:
toasted sesame seeds
fresh lime
toasted slivered almonds
1 avocado, cut in slices


1. Mix dressing ingredients together in a large bowl and set aside. Dressing can be refrigerated overnight.

2. Cook the udon noodles according to the package. Add noodles to an ice bath to chill. Then drain.

3. Toss the red pepper slices and green onions in the bowl of dressing. Add the noodles, sugar snap peas, almonds, sesame seeds, arugula and cilantro. Toss until well combined.

4. Serve cold (refrigerate for at least 30 minutes) or at room temperature with additional toasted sesame seeds and slivered almonds and freshly cut limes and avocados.

Tip: 1. For more heat, mince a small Fresno pepper into very small pieces and add to the salad ingredients.

RASPBERRY ICE CREAM with TOASTED WALNUTS, by David Lebovitz, The Perfect Scoop

Makes 1 Quart


1 1/2 cups half-and-half
1 cup sugar
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
4 large egg yolks
1 1/2 cups strained raspberry puree (directions below)
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice


1. Raspberry purée: Purée 6 cups of fresh raspberries or 6 cups of defrosted frozen raspberries in a food processor. Press them through a mesh strainer with a flexible rubber spatula, or use a food mill. Set aside.

2. Pour the cream into a large bowl, set a mesh strainer over the top and set aside.

3. Warm the half-and-half and sugar in a medium-sized saucepan.

4. Whisk together the egg yolks. Slowly pour the warm half and half/sugar mixture into the egg yolks, whisking constantly. Then, scrape the warmed egg yolks mixture back into the saucepan.

5. Stir the mixture constantly over medium heat with a heatproof spatula, scraping the bottom as you stir, until the mixture thickens and coats the spatula.

6. Pour the custard through the strainer and stir it into the cream. Mix in the raspberry puree and lemon juice, then stir until cool over an ice bath.

7. Chill the mixture thoroughly in the refrigerator.

8. Pour it into your ice cream freezer and make it according to the manufacturers directions.

9. After making the ice cream, mix the roasted nuts into the raspberry mixture before placing it into your freezer to harden.

When Emma, now 17, was born I found and framed this vintage Smokey Bear poster. Although it was replaced by singer Taylor Swift followed by her own photography, she still is quite the nature girl.



“May, more than any other month of the year, wants us to feel most alive.” Fennel Huston


Today’s post is a full-on Happy Meal. I need that, don’t you? This week Mother Nature shot Springtime out of a cannon into the High Country. We went to bed in Winter and miraculously woke up to this glorious season of rebirth.


During winter our highway that winds from Aspen over Independence Pass is closed. Since this is the last week before it’s opening to traffic, a friend and I planned one last quiet hike up the Pass. We were not alone. This beautiful fox, carrying not one but two bagels, trotted by. A Papa, probably, but this fox was on a mission to reach the den.


Every week I include one simple and delicious user-friendly recipe. Because I enjoy discovering new chefs (to me), using unfamiliar spices and trying unknown techniques, another post recipe may be more complicated. With my Cook-the-Book-Fridays group I’m cooking through David’s Lebovitz’s My Paris Kitchen. As a group, we commit to making every recipe in his cookbook. This week I covered all three bases.


1) Throughout the summer I need quick supper recipes. I’m a volunteer USFS ranger again this summer. If Smokey still wants me, I’m In. On days that I “work,” I return home hungry and tired. (Make that starved and exhausted.) This week I pulled up Barbara Kafka’s Creamy Lemon Pasta recipe which she first introduced in a March, 1999 New York Times column, Secrets of a Lemon Lover In a Season of Plenty. Almost 20 years later Food52 website considers it a Genius Recipe.

2) It was my Clara’s 15th birthday this week. Although I wasn’t in California for the family celebration, I still could make merry by baking Yotam Ottolenghi’s Beet, Ginger and Sour Cream Cake. I poured a glass of champagne, toasted my precious youngest granddaughter and discovered beets and bubbly bond beautifully.

Ready for the oven…

3) This week’s Cook-the-Book-Fridays recipe choice is David Lebovitz’s tasty Cheese, Bacon and Arugula Soufflé. Loyal Readers, may I be blunt? Some recipes, like Bûche de Noël, Turdunken and Baked Alaska, should be left to the pros. While this soufflé doesn’t rise to the difficulty of these examples, it is complicated, labor-intensive and high altitude-resistant.

Truthfully, this soufflé was very, very good.


It’s always exciting to spot a colorful Western Tanager.

I went birding with another ranger yesterday. It was a gorgeous, sunny morning and we were reminded how totally amazing these winged creatures are. Yellow warblers are migrating back from Central and northern South America. Hummers are flying in from Mexico. The Great Blue Herons are back in residence at the North Star Preserve and Rock Bottom Ranch and a pair of ospreys have returned to their traditional nesting site near the Rio Grande Trail in mid-valley.

Who doesn’t love a chubby American Robin?

The American Kestrel is the smallest and most common falcon in North America

There was drama of the fowl kind in California today also. My daughter, Melissa, like her mother, is an early riser. This morning she discovered an injured adult finch on their front walkway. Although Clara did not inherit the early-riser gene, she is an intern at Wildcare Eastern Sierra and always “on call.”

“Help me,” says the frightened finch.

The lucky baby received Clara Care until they dropped it at the sanctuary before school. Our worldwide bird population, a ‘vital gauge of our ecosystem’s health’ is in peril. The Trump administration is also rapidly rolling back environmental laws and protections for all migratory and endangered birds. Proud of my family. Every feathered friend is worth saving.

We don’t see many Turkey Vultures in the area except in flight. This guy, who was just hanging out on a low branch, startled us as we walked by.



CREAM LEMON PASTA by Barbara Kafka

Yield: 6 servings.


12 ounces wide egg noodles (or, any pasta of your choice)
Zest and Juice of 2 lemons. Cut zest in very thin strips 1 inch long
1 cup heavy cream
Kosher salt, to taste
Freshly ground black pepper.


1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add noodles and stir to separate. Cook for 8 minutes or until tender. Drain, then return to the cooking pot.

2. Just before noodles are done, combine the lemon zest, cream, salt and pepper in a small saucepan. Cook over medium heat for 2 minutes or until cream comes to a boil.

3. Pour cream mixture over drained noodles and add the lemon juice. Stir to coat. Cook over medium heat, stirring 1 or 2 minutes until all the liquid is absorbed. Season with additional pepper, if desired.


1. Start by using 3 TBSP of lemon juice and add more to taste;

2. The variations and add-ins to this pasta dish are numerous: green veggies (peas, of course); mushrooms; kalamata olives; onions; chicken, sausage or tuna. Or, use the pasta as a small side with steak, shrimp or white fish.


BEET, GINGER & SOUR CREAM CAKE by Yotam Ottolenghi and Helen Goh, Sweet cookbook

The cake is ready for the oven. I used an 8-inch springform pan but an 8″ round or square pan works also.

David Lebovitz wrote a wonderful post about baking this cake. Get the recipe and see his comments here.



Resulting in a Very Full Tart

When I was in second grade my teacher had us raise our hand if we wanted to be a nurse, fireman or fill-in-the-blank, when we grew up. She never asked if anyone wanted to be a juggler. Yet most of our lives have probably been a juggling act. How well do you juggle? These days I’ll admit to dropping a ball or two every so often. Is it just me or are the balls coming at us more rapidly?

Each year, returning to Aspen after a 5 month winter absence, I put together a summer schedule. Long ago the school of trial and error taught me having it all is a myth. Balance. To my mind that’s what gets us into summertime, and the livin’ is easy territory.

Step 1. Mise en Place

Realizing my planning/prioritizing is simpler now because it’s just all about me, there still are tricks I find useful to remain sane. Most importantly, if you want to stay off the Meds, learn to manage that FOMO gene. (Do not get discouraged. It took me 30 years to mellow my fear-of-missing-out.) ‘You can’t ride every wave that comes along without eventually going under.’

Roast those vegetables.

Now that I have your attention, try this. Put together a summer calendar and dilute it down to monthly, weekly and daily elements. Don’t pass go until you block out your constant Non-Negotiables. (For me, that’s 1. My blog post; 2. USFS volunteer ranger work; 3. AM Yoga; and 4. Colorado Mountain College music class.)

There are so many ways to utilize cooked, softened, sweet onions.

Then it’s up to us, realizing when we can’t do it all. Here’s a thought. You are not responsible for others’ happiness or saving the world. Sure, do your part, step up to the plate, love your family and be devoted to your friends. But stick to your calendar and prioritize your competing interests. Be willing to step back and say no.

For example, I know the greatest gift of love I can offer my family is to stay healthy, engaged and happy. When my daughter Melissa doesn’t worry about her mother, our whole family wins. My four Non-Negotiables push all those buttons.

After the pre-cooked tart is loaded with vegetables and filling, it’s ready to be baked.

The brutal honesty of aging enforces new energy boundaries. I’m accepting those borders while kicking and screaming all the way. Ironically, that sometimes is a good thing. Last year, feeling a bit sorry for myself, I complained to my doctor at the end of our appointment that I couldn’t keep up with my hiking buddies. My doctor, having just read my excellent health chart, wasn’t having it. No sympathy whatsoever. “Try harder,” she said, as she left the room.

Very Full Tart by Yotam Ottolenghi, Plenty cookbook

While you try harder on your 90-day summer calendar, I’ll prattle on about Yotam Ottolenghi, his imaginative cookbooks and delicious recipes. The best way to cook Ottolenghi is to read his recipe carefully, break it into parts and decide what can be done easier. For example, in this recipe I bought roasted peppers (Mezzetta Roasted Bell Peppers, Multicolor) and used pre-made pie dough (Pillsbury). Since I made an unexpected quick trip to Phoenix to help a friend, I needed to shorten the process.

Mise en Place, assembling and prepping all your ingredients, is key. Ottolenghi introduced me to unfamiliar spices I didn’t own but easily found to purchase. After prepping the ingredients, you’ll find his directions clear and easily followed. The result is a
Wow. Check his cookbooks out at your local library.

VERY FULL TART by Yotam Ottolenghi, PLENTY

Serves: 4-6


1 red pepper
1 yellow pepper
6 TBS olive oil
1 medium eggplant cut into 2-inch dice
1 small sweet potato peeled and cut into 1-inch dice
1 zuchinni diced into 2-inch pieces
2 medium onions, thinly sliced
2 bay leaves
salt and pepper
8 thyme sprigs, picked
Your favorite savory tart or pie crust dough recipe
1/3 cup ricotta
41/2 oz feta
7 cherry tomatoes, halved
2 eggs
1 cup heavy cream


1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
2. Remove the pepper stalks and seeds, place the peppers in an oven tray, drizzle with oil and roast.
3. Mix the eggplant with four tablespoons of oil and season with salt and pepper. Spread into an baking tray and roast on the shelf below the peppers.
4. After 12 minutes add the sweet potato, stir and roast for 12 minutes more.
5. Add the zucchini, stir and roast for another 12 minutes.
6. Once the peppers are brown and the vegetables cooked remove them all from the oven and turn the heat down to 325 degrees.
7. Cover the peppers with foil and leave to cool, once cool, peel off the skin and tear the peppers into strips.
8. Meanwhile heat two tablespoons of oil in a frying pan on medium heat. Cook the onions with the bay leaves and some salt for 25 minutes stirring occasionally until brown, soft and sweet. Discard the bay leaves and set aside. (I needed to add another TBS of olive oil.)
9. Grease a 9-inch loose-bottomed tart pan. Roll the pastry to a 1/8 thick circle large enough to line the pan with some overhang. Press it into the edges and line with baking paper and fill with baking weights or rice. Bake blind for 20 minutes, carefully lift out the weights or rice and bake the tart for a further 10 minutes or until golden brown.
10. Remove the tart from the oven and spread the onions over the bottom. Spread the roasted vegetables on top. Scatter half the thyme, dot with chunks of both cheeses and then the tomatoes, cut side up.
11. Whisk the eggs and cream with some salt and pepper and carefully pour into the tart. The top layer of tomatoes and cheese should remain exposed. Scatter the remaining thyme on top.
12. Bake for 35 – 40 minutes, until the filling sets and turns golden.
13. Rest for 10 minutes, release the tart and serve.

TIP: Just add a leafy green salad and this is lunch or supper.

Thanks to the Forbes Magazine’s communication council for some organization suggestions




Who saw the movie?

It’s been 5 weeks since I arrived in Paris with 2 small suitcases, keys to an Airbnb rental (first time ever) and a blank slate. Albeit unnerving, the onus on me, there’s freedom in that. If my friends and family questioned the sanity of this adventure, I didn’t know it. That was truly a gift. When I asked them, a time or two or three, “Have I lost my mind?” No one said, “Yes.”

I arrived with the wind of their optimistic wishes at my back. This trip has been truly magical. Although I’ll wring every ounce of joy possible out of these last few days in Paris, going home is definitely on my radar.

Japanese Cherry Tree,
(Cerisier du japon)

Meanwhile, here’s a look at Paris Week #5, best yet.

Mary & Dorie, the French Fridays girls


We had dinner at Bistrot Paul Bert with the man himself, Bertrand Auboyneau.

As many of you know, my blog began eight years ago with French Fridays with Dorie, an international group which connected virtually to cook the book, Around my French Table. The cookbook, newly published by the James Beard award-winning author Dorie Greenspan, contained 300 recipes.

Over the next 5 years, with Dorie’s friendship, encouragement and mentoring, we made them all. And we now look forward to cooking from Everyday Dorie, The Way I Cook, which hits the stands October 23.

The fish is Sole and was delicious but note the cauliflower.

Dorie and her husband, Michael, who have an apartment in Paris, arrived unexpectedly a week ago and asked me to join them for dinner. (My social calendar, of course, was blank.) Before dinner Michael took me out on their balcony where, starting with the Tour Eiffel and moving left, I could see every major Parisian landmark. I’ve archived that unforgettable moment.

You can see in two photos that Dorie ordered scallops for an entrée. Here are what Coquille Saint Jacques look like in the markets.


Several weeks ago I enjoyed a memorable dinner at Susanna and Philippe Saint-Loubert’s home. Susanna called last week with two questions: 1) Did I like chocolate? (Yes), and 2) Had I been to Angelina’s Tea House? (No).

“I know it’s touristy, Mary,” she admitted, “but you must go once and have their hot chocolate.”

I was game so Saturday we met at the famous Angelina’s on Rue de Rivoli. Established in 1903 by Antoine Rumpelmayer and named for his granddaughter, Angelina’s is a Parisian institution. It was designed by French architect Édouard-Jean Niermans in the Belle Époque style and retains that gorgeous interior to this day. Its fame derives from its almost pudding-like hot chocolate. We happily piled on the Chantilly cream and enjoyed.

When I was walking home from Angelina’s, I stopped to watch about 100 kids breakdancing in the middle open square at the Louvre. Two young men (not shown) were the leaders.


This is the week that my home away from home included Aspenites. So thrilled to see them.

I couldn’t stop smiling. (L to R) Karen Kribs, Me, Fred Venrick, Pat Hutchinson, Nancy Alciatore and Cathy O’Connell.

And, joined by Jim Hutchinson at the head of the table. Fred and Cathy just arrived from attending the London Book Fair where she promoted her new book to be published in September. We were celebrating.

Mille Feuille Minute a la Vanille Bourbon
We ate at Le MaZenay in the 3rd Arrondisement.

My longtime friend and Ranger colleague, Judy Schramm, arrived yesterday with her granddaughter, Thea. I remember when Thea was born. And, no, I did not say that. She is darling and so excited to be in Paris.

On Sunday Cathy volunteered to take Karen and me on a sightseeing stroll. Karen and I envisioned a 2-3 hour walk especially since Cathy had hip replacement surgery 10 weeks ago. What began at 11:30am didn’t end until 5:30pm, 7 miles later. Karen and I staged a sweet sit-in and were rewarded.




WELCOME to CASA O’LEARY, my home for the next 5 weeks.

Early every morning I pour a mug of coffee, stand out on the balcony and get my first glimpse of SMA through this oval non-window (located to the left in the above photo).

Seventeen years ago in April 2001, when Michael and I were driving home from an early AM yoga class, we followed a moving van turning into our Silver King Drive neighborhood. As it pulled to a halt at the vacant house near ours, we spotted a cute little guy, standing patiently with his parents, waiting for that truck to spill out the life he’d left behind in Houston, Texas.

We were smitten. And, dear Readers, that’s how I’ve ended up spending 5 weeks of this winter with the O’Leary’s in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico.

Every February 2nd families and communities dress up their image of Niño Dios (Child Christ) with brand new clothes and take them to the church to be blessed. It falls forty days after Christmas, and is celebrated by Catholics as the “Feast of Purification.”

The priest is blessing all the babies brought to the altar.

Everyone picks up their babies after being blessed.

That little 4-year old is now a junior at Cal Poly in San Luis Obispo. As our lives and the O’Leary’s became intertwined we were able to participate in and celebrate the many milestones of his journey. After Michael died Blanca and Cavanaugh were among the friends who quietly tucked me into their lifestyles and families.

After the ceremony families get together for a delicious tamales feast. We sat down with the whole staff and had homemade tamales and hot chocolate for breakfast.

That evening for my first dinner, Señora Trini, the O’Leary’s talented cook, made me a flan.

More than ten years ago, they bought a hacienda in Mexico and now spend 6 months of the year in SMA. Generous with their hospitality and skilled at entertaining, their home is a revolving door as friends come and go. Although Blanca has often invited me to visit, nothing meshed until this year when I asked to visit for ‘a week or so.’ But five weeks? Who does that?


These cactus pads are called Nopales in Mexico. We brought some from this woman and brought them home to S. Trini. That night she made a delicious vegetable that looked much like green beans!

Over the years Blanca, who grew up in El Paso and I, Iowa born and bred, have created a unique friendship. Although I can’t speak to what I bring to her party, I am well aware of what she brings to mine. Strong-willed and intuitive, her passions and gusto for life run deep. Because our cultural experiences were so divergent and my ignorance and naivety about Latinos so great, we’ve never lacked for spirited conversation.

Since Blanca is on the board of San Miguel Pen, the worldwide association of writers with centers in 104 countries, we attended a evening author’s presentation. Later author Sandra Cisneros, who in 1995 received a MacArthur Genius Grant, joined us for dinner.

During our weekly hikes last summer, we discussed this upcoming visit. “If I’m coming for that long,” I said, after remembering that ‘guests, like fish, begin to smell after three days,’ “ I want it to be about learning.”

“Of course,” Cav and Blanca agreed, suggesting that was already a given.

Just a casual Saturday afternoon in downtown San Miguel. Actually these two fine people are headed to a wedding.

After spending one week in SMA I’ve already taken a deep dive into grasping the importance and significance of Mexico, our south-of-the-border friend and neighbor. For the next 5 weeks, with shorter written posts, I’m letting my photos tell the story of meals shared, celebrations observed, activities enjoyed and people encountered.

And yes, after a week of enjoying the O’Leary’s bounteous hospitality, I’ve begun mainlining my multivitamins.

I joined an early morning San Miguel Audubon birding walk at El Charco del Ingenio-Jardín Botánico. Besides seeing this Vermillion Flycatcher I viewed many birds species including the Great Kiskadee, the Chachalaca and the White-faced Ibis for the very first time.

On most mornings we take an early morning hike up to the El Charco preserve near the O’Leary’s home with our neighbor Christina.



Drool-worthy. Potato, Feta and Basil Tortilla by David Lebovitz, Cook-the-Book-Fridays

Did I ever mention my appointment with a Des Moines, Iowa psychologist. In my mid-thirties, I was needing counseling and advice. After talking to me for 30 minutes he remarked that ‘I would hit my head incessantly against the wall to get something done.’

Heck, I smiled broadly, got all puffed up, considering that a compliment. NOT. What he meant, he patiently explained, was that I didn’t know when to ‘give it up.’

Fifty dollars for what I already knew. That fact was not a revelation. For better or worse, flaw or strength, it’s packed into my genotype. I proudly own it. ( Memo to female readers: I also recognize that trait in many of you. Send $50, please.) And at this moment in time, when catastrophe, chaos and disappointment reign, I’m determined, as best one can, to trade in “Normal Doesn’t Live Here Anymore” for “Hello Happy”. Head. Wall. Hit. There’s all kinds of Happy in this week’s post but also Life is Pain.

Make My Day – I met two snowy white Rocky Mountain goats on Crater Lake Trail.


JOY – Although our season’s not over with Leaf Peepers soon arriving, we Rangers gathered at the East Maroon Portal for our annual potluck. Since we work various trails, we don’t often see each other. It’s also a once-a-year opportunity to dig into deep-fat fried chicken! Being part of the Forest Conservancy and these mountains we cherish have healed my heart. I love these people.

Our 2017 Forest Conservancy corp can hike and cook. Following our fried chicken potluck , we gathered for a group photo.

Old-timers. Judy Schramm told me we were the veterans, having become Rangers in the 1990s. In 2001, led by Judy’s efforts, the Forest Conservancy was established. Our group has grown and the USFS is quick to say they couldn’t do their job here without us.

DISTRESS – Late last Monday I texted my Atlanta friend, Meredith, to check in. Although Hurricane Irma was reduced to a Tropical Storm, losing her powerful punch, she still visited Georgia with a withering left jab. “House intact. No power. Downed trees,” my friend reported. “Oh, wait, just heard a loud noise. Gotta go.” The loud noise, she later texted was ‘a huge tree which landed 30’ from her house.’ To everyone affected by Irma, sadness.

JOY – Our Farmers Markets are in full glory with Colorado’s bounty coming from nearby North Fork Valley.

Dot MacArthur, also a friend and Forest Ranger, worked last Sunday at the Basalt Farmers Market “Register to Vote” booth. As always when we’re together, we had fun.

DISTRESS – Here in Aspen, my friend Luky woke up yesterday to spot a bear sitting in the cage trap located in her driveway. Luky’s neighborhood is Bear Central this year as these beautiful, wild creatures search for food before hibernating. Luky’s bear had come calling before, on her property and in her house.

Last night I grabbed a pizza and stopped by my friend Ann’s house to break bread (well, pizza and wine). Guess who (thought) he was coming to dinner?

JOY – Every semester I enroll in a course at Colorado Mountain College, a network of eleven college campuses in the state’s High Country. This past summer, Music Appreciation, now this fall, Greek Mythology. Many of us enjoy mixing it up with these smart, young students pursuing 4-year degrees. Our professor and Renaissance man, Dr. Thomas Buesch, is a phenomenal scholar. We kicked off the semester after class with a soup supper Chez Moi.

Following our first CMC Greek Mythology class, we kicked off the semester with supper.

To celebrate the publication of Alice Water’s memoir, Coming to My Senses: The Making of a Counterculture Cook,” I served Minestrone Soup from her “The Art of Simple Food” cookbook.

DISTRESS – In Rockport, Texas, ground zero for Harvey, my birder buddy Susan Foster and her husband were finally allowed to return home. Their house is intact but their property, totally destroyed, wiped clean, leaving only debris and dirt. “After being cocooned in a house with no damage,” she said, “it’s like a gut punch every time we go out into the city. I just came back from a morning walk and can’t even imagine how long it’s going to take to get back to normal.”

Mise en Place, gathering all your ingredients together, makes assembling a recipe easier.

JOY – It’s COOK-the-BOOK-FRIDAYS and David Lebovitz’s Tortilla de Pommes de Terre a La Feta et au Basilic is JOY, itself. Breakfast, brunch, lunch, snack or dinner. Work with it.

POTATO, FETA and BASIL TORTILLA by David Lebovitz, My Paris Kitchen

Serves 6-8


2 tablespoons olive oil
1 pound potatoes, peeled and cut into 3/4-inch cubes (I used Idaho)
1 1/4 teaspoons sea salt or kosher salt
6 scallions, white and tender green parts, thinly sliced
9 large eggs
1/4 teaspoon sweet or smoked paprika
4 cups loosely packed fresh basil leaves, coarsely chopped
1 cup very coarsely crumbled feta cheese


1. Heat the oil in a 10-inch cast-iron or nonstick skillet over medium heat. (Make sure the pan has an over-proof handle.)

2. Add the potato cubes and 1 teaspoon of the salt. Cook, stirring frequently, until the potatoes are tender and cooked through, 15-18 minutes.

3. A few minutes before the potatoes are done, add the scallions and cook until they’re wilted.

4. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees or, if using a nonstick skillet, the highest temperature recommended for your particular pan, which is usually 375 degrees.

5. Mix the eggs in a bowl with 1/4 teaspoon salt and your spice of choice (I used smoked paprika). Stir the basil into the eggs and pour the mixture over the potatoes in the skillet.

6. Crumble the feta, not too finely over the potatoes and press the pieces down gently with a spoon. Cook the tortilla until the bottom is golden brown and well set, rotating the pan from time to time (like you do an omelette) as it cooks. Don’t check it too soon or you will break the crust.

7. When the crust is browned, slide the skillet into the oven and let it cook until the eggs are set, about 5 – 8 minutes.

When it’s cooked on top of the stove enough to form a fragile brown crust around its edges, slide into the oven for the final bake off.

8. Remove the skillet from the oven. Set a baking sheet or serving plate on top of the skillet then flip both the baking sheet and the skillet simultaneously, releasing the tortilla from the skillet.

9. Serve slightly warm or at room temperature with greens and a glass of wine.

10. You can store your tortilla in the fridge for up to 2 days.

[OPTIONAL] For a more hearty tortilla, add 1 cup cubed Spanish chorizo or another cooked spiced sausage.