sautéed morels and scrambled eggs blood orange sorbet futomaki lentil beet salad

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Wednesday, August 7th, 2013

Recipe: coconut tea cake

Last week my friend and mentor, Michael Frye, sent me a review copy of his latest ebook release Landscapes in Lightroom 5. I know most of you are here for the food and pictures of the dog, but there is a fraction that is interested in nature photography and photography in general. I have always used Photoshop for my processing and Lightroom for my file management. But after reading Michael’s ebook, I think I’m ready to make the upgrade from Lightroom 3 to Lightroom 5 because it looks like Adobe has kitted out Lightroom 5 with most of the capabilities I want and use in Photoshop on my post processing.

Michael walks you through the functionalities and improvements of Lightroom 5 (and Lightroom 4 – he points out where the two are different) such that you can be a complete newcomer to the software or a Lightroom veteran. All the while, he adds his own very good advice on how to get the most out of Lightroom 5 for a nature photographer (and photographer in general). Michael has a thorough and methodical teaching style both in person and on the page. Here, he uses his own beautiful photographs in his hands-on tutorials and makes the RAW files available for you to follow along in the processing. There are eight instructional videos to accompany the material.

In addition to the Lightroom 5 guide, Michael shares his great insight into digital post processing and the artistic motivations that drive his technical decisions. I always learn something about my own photography when I talk to Michael or read his blog, articles, or books. You can order the book here.


We’re back in Crested Butte, spending our mornings getting outside and the rest of each day working. It’s amazing how much work you can accomplish when you are removed from your normal environment. I always refer to Crested Butte as my second office (I’m getting there slowly), but it’s really more of a retreat for both of us where we can find blocks of time to think and be mentally productive. There are still flowers, but most of the showiest displays have gone to seed. Still, it’s quite lovely riding or running or hiking through the meadows and hillsides and forests. The weather has been cool and rainy since Tuesday, and I am loving it.

mountain biking

kaweah loves to walk on the lawn

a cold and rainy trail run – my favorite conditions

I’m sure the weather will swing back into warm (nay, hot) summer again, but these rainy mountain days put me in the mood for baking. One recipe I’ve had dog-eared forever is Dorie Greenspan’s coconut tea cake. So let’s get to it.

coconut milk, coconut, rum, butter, eggs, vanilla, salt, baking powder, flour, sugar

butter the pan

whisk the flour, salt, and baking powder together

melt the coconut milk and butter

**Jump for more butter**

travel: vermont and new hampshire

Thursday, March 21st, 2013

It was not long after my trip to Maine last summer when Sharon asked if I would be willing to come out to Vermont in March to learn about organic maple syrup farms. My reply was, “That’s prime ski season in Colorado.” Sharon convinced me that this would be a worthwhile adventure and she has never steered me wrong.

To be honest, I am not much of a syrup person. Most likely this is because I’m not a sweet breakfast person (or a breakfast person for that matter). However, years ago I did make the switch from “syrup” to pure maple syrup in my house because I realized how much junk there is in “syrup”. By junk I mean highly-processed, manufactured, chemical-laden ingredients. Pure organic maple syrup (what I use) has one ingredient and it’s all natural and minimally processed. It should come as no surprise that someone who titles her blog use real butter would insist on using pure maple syrup. But I wanted to learn more. It was enough to pull me away from my ski season for a weekend.

I wrote back to Sharon, “I’m in.”

A Song of Ice and Sugar

The Hand: Sharon Kitchens
Master of Coin: Arnold Coombs (Coombs Family Farms Facebook page)
The Small Council: Matt Armendariz, Rebecca Crump, Ashley English, Joy Wilson, myself, and Ellen Daehnick (my guest). [I realize The Hand and Master of Coin are both part of The Small Council, but just work with me here.]

Full disclosure: My transportation, lodging, meals, and activities were sponsored by Coombs Family Farms with no obligation on my part. All photographs, words, experiences, and opinions are my own.

Day 0: Boston to West Chesterfield: The Butcher Shop, Chesterfield Inn
Day 1: Guilford (VT), Brattleboro (VT), Alstead (NH), Walpole (NH): Ted’s Sugarhouse, Coombs Candy Kitchen, Bascom Family Farms, Burdick Restaurant, Chesterfield Inn
Day 2: Norwich (VT): King Arthur Flour Mothership
Day 3: West Chesterfield to Boston: fly home

Day 0: It took 9.5 hours to go from my house in the Colorado Rockies to a car to a bus to a plane to a car to dinner at The Butcher Shop in Boston. There, I met up with my partners in crime for a lovely reunion over multiple boards of antipasti (Prosciutt, Mortadella, Sopressata, Rosette de Lyon, Finocchiono, Petit Jésus), pâtés and terrines (duck liver mousse, gamebird en croûte, pâté de campagne, rillettes du jour), and housemade sausages. Servers loaded our table with cheeses, beet salads, hummus, pickled vegetables, marinated olives, Parmesan, Marcona almonds, breads, mustards, and honey while we did our best to clear plates and make more room. It was a divine welcome to New England and a great way to kill time waiting for the rush hour traffic to abate. Sharon navigated Boston traffic and a snow storm in New Hampshire to deliver us safely to the Chesterfield Inn in West Chesterfield, New Hampshire, our home base for the next few days.

three types of housemade sausages

matt and joy contemplate where to begin

this was just our half of the table

nighttime at the chesterfield inn (the night we arrived, it was snowing)

Things I really liked from Day 0
Dinner at The Butcher Shop.
Catching up with friends on the long drive to West Chesterfield.
A good night’s sleep at the Chesterfield Inn.

Day 1: The Chesterfield Inn is a quaint establishment nestled near the Connecticut River, which dictates the boundary between New Hampshire and Vermont. In the morning, I could get a better sense of the layout of the property and the neighboring woods. I met Yoda, the resident kitty who likes to perch (or curl up) in the mail tray and lazily observe guests as they come and go. We all convened in the sunroom for breakfast with our host, Arnold Coombs, a charming seventh generation maple farmer who produces organic maple syrup, organic maple sugar, and pure maple candy.

the inn by morning light

feels like new england

the inn’s mascot, yoda

yoda runs the place like a boss

every breakfast had a selection of maple syrups (and maple butter)

cinnamon maple french toast

**Jump for more butter**

here comes the cake

Thursday, October 25th, 2012

Recipe: chocolate bourbon cake

Ask any of the people who know me well or even a little bit and they’ll tell you that I am rarely silent. It’s just that I had a marathon session of photo processing to finish before the snow storm arrived. YES. There is a snow storm dumping snow in my yard as I type and I intend to ski the bajeezus out of it come daybreak. As some of you know, after Jason and I visited Yosemite, we photographed a wedding in Northern California. I don’t typically shoot weddings… I’m not a wedding photographer. But this nice young woman – a long-time use real butter reader – asked so sweetly and her wedding sounded so cool that it was hard to say no. I later learned it’s not just me! No one is really capable of saying no to Selina.

mother of the bride looks on while the bride’s maids adjust the wedding gown

bridal party

The wedding took place at Capay Organic Farm west of Sacramento and was catered by gourmet food trucks: RoliRoti and Volks Waffle. How fun is that?! Selina and Dean are incredibly nice people. More than that, they are super chill in that awesome geeky way. No bridezillas. No Drama. Their families and friends were delightful. Everyone was so supportive of these two that it made the job a true pleasure.

selina got many honks from passing cars

a token “peace out, suckers!” shot because selina had read my blog post that morning!

the lovely couple

I am actually the last person anyone should consider to shoot their wedding because I don’t even know the basic logistics of these events. Jason schooled me on how weddings typically go down. “What about the speeches?” he asked me, to which I replied, “Speeches?” Yeah, it was like that. I could not have done this without Jason’s help (thanks, man!). And a huge thanks to my friends at Pro Photo Rental for outfitting us with additional lenses and bodies so we could both work the double-slinging action.

flower girls waiting for their cue

selina smiles at her dad as he escorts her to the aisle

an intimate and gorgeous venue

checking out the ceremony

And yes, there were speeches. Both fathers spoke heartfelt words that brought tears to many eyes. As the sun dropped behind the mountains, the maid of honor lit Selina’s father’s speech with her smart phone so he could read it in the waning light of that special day. First he spoke in English, then he spoke in Chinese. Even though my Chinese sucks, I understood what he was saying. It was getting tough to focus the camera on the bride, because my vision was blurred with tears.

dean’s father jokingly unfurls his “speech”

selina dabs at her tears as her father speaks

toasting the happy couple

Congratulations, Selina and Dean. Thank you for allowing us to document your special day. Thank you for sharing yourselves with us and letting us into your circle. Also? I especially loved how you exited the altar to the Star Wars theme. Rock on.

may your road lead to every happiness together

Are you ready for some cake now? I hope so. And booze. This is a boozy cake! Please don’t ask me what liquid you should use to substitute for the bourbon, because then it won’t be a chocolate bourbon cake anymore. If you don’t like bourbon, don’t make this cake. Make some other cake. I wouldn’t make this for children either. It’s got a lot of bourbon in the cake AND the icing. Booyah.

flour, butter, unsweetened chocolate, cocoa powder, espresso powder, baking soda, salt, eggs, sugar, bourbon, vanilla

melt the chocolate

**Jump for more butter**