baked oats green chile chicken enchiladas chow mein bakery-style butter cookies

copyright jennifer yu © 2004-2023 all rights reserved: no photos or content may be reproduced without prior written consent

archive for September 2011

all signs point to fall

Friday, September 30th, 2011

Recipe: pear liqueur and pear garden cocktail

The nights are getting longer, but I’m sleeping less thanks to all of the goings on of fall. This is when events and people converge on my calendar in the same place and time, squeezed into the little spaces between shoots. It is the most frenetic time of year for me and also the most glorious – especially when the leaves are so good. I’ve been plowing through my latest photos because I hate having an enormous backlog to process. The way this season is shaping up guarantees a backlog at some point. Here are some photos from the road trip to Crested Butte and Aspen.

healthy gold stands near gothic

the maroon bells at sunset

confetti slopes


There is something magical about aspen stands in autumn, as if they give off more light than is actually present. Our aspens (the quaking aspen or American aspen) glow when they turn yellow. Even when the sun isn’t shining on them, they appear like a beacon of golden light. This is usually because they keep company with dark green pines. Aspens are the first trees to move into alpine meadows and scree slopes around these parts. Although they can be found between 5,000 and 12,000 feet in elevation, we typically encounter them between 7,000 and 10,000 feet. Aspens create a nice nursery for pine saplings which grow and eventually overtake their shelters. So when you walk through the forests in our Colorado mountains and step from the shade of the pine forest into an aspen stand, it’s as if someone poured a bucket of sunshine on your head. Stand quietly and wait for a breeze to move through the aspens. You’ll be surrounded by the sound of a million little leaves clapping joyfully. It makes me feel like clapping too.

mount elbert (14,440 ft)

afternoon clouds moving in


understory of wild rose

orange aspen with red tips

You can find the entire set on the photo blog.

But autumn isn’t just about the colors. Up the road from where I live is a place you may have heard of… Rocky Mountain National Park? I don’t spend much time there except to take out-of-town guests. We have equally excellent wilderness closer to our house without the throngs of tourons. While Rocky has some decent stands of aspen, it doesn’t get me excited the way the southwestern quarter of the state does. I’ll tell you what is a sure bet and a lot of fun to shoot in fall: the elk. Elsewhere you can shoot the elk or shoot the elk, but in the national park, you can only shoot them with a camera. So that’s what Jason and I did the other day. It’s the rut, when the bull elk are continuously running around salivating, bugling, trying to hang on to their harem of cows while chasing off any other male competitor. It’s exhausting just watching them.

sparring in the tall grasses


it’s all about the ladies

I love the sound of elk bugling, especially early in the morning when mist hangs low over the frosted ground in the backcountry. They don’t tend to noodle about too much during the daytime, but in Rocky Mountain there are certain locations where your chances of seeing elk are better than good. This particular male was dealing with two competing bulls, one of which stole a cow while the male was off challenging the other bull. He never rested long if ever. Just keep in mind that you shouldn’t approach or harass bull elk during the rut (or ever, but especially during the rut) because they can be incredibly aggressive and do you some serious harm.

i am aggressive

you’re not the boss of me!

The entire set from Rocky Mountain National Park can be viewed on the photo blog.

And of course, let’s not forget fall fruits. They are the subtle and sophisticated flavors that follow in the footsteps of their summer cousins. I haven’t quite had my fill of heirloom tomatoes yet (I don’t think I ever will), but I know their season is ending soon and it’s time to move on. I have a slight obsession with vodka infusions and the latest one is just in time for your fall bounty of pears. I did a little research and learned that comice or seckel pears are the sweetest and best to use for vodka infusions. They actually had both at the store which meant I had to try both…

comice on the left, seckel on the right

peel, core, dice

**Jump for more butter**

i reckon this recon is over

Monday, September 26th, 2011

Recipe: chicken fried steak with cream gravy

Wow, thank you for all of the warm and kind birthday wishes! I hope you had your own happy birthdays as well. It was one heck of a long weekend, but in the best way possible. The recon trip turned into a shooting trip because the leaves flipped like a switch. They are really good this year (I know this because they were pretty crappy last year). The colors are coming in rich and vibrant in the higher elevations because of our late and wet spring (big snowpack) and also due to the current hot days and cold nights that snap those leaves into the reds, golds, and oranges we love. There is plenty of green, but I’ve never seen it change so quickly.

we encountered a lot of road construction on the way out

and early colors off the highways in drive-by (photo) shootings

Our first stop was Crested Butte, a town with which we’ve pretty much fallen in love. My thinking was that it would be early and there wouldn’t be much to shoot. I planned to just take notes as to when peak colors would probably occur and then we would hike and mountain bike the rest of the time there. We did manage a few rides, but most of the time was spent hunting gold. Here are some snappies from the trip (I won’t be able to look at my real photos until later).

approaching storm behind a sunlit stand

rainbow from the storm reflected in an oxbow

enjoying the colors

pot of gold at the other end of the rainbow (it lasted over an hour!)

jeremy’s favorite place for coffee: camp 4

one view from the town of mount crested butte

After a few days in Crested Butte, we moseyed across to Aspen. The two towns are practically within spitting distance of one another, separated by the glorious Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness. To get to one from the other by car requires a more circuitous route. Aspen is a completely different vibe from Crested Butte, but we weren’t there for the town – we were there for the surrounding mountains and they delivered with some great colors. Over Independence Pass to Mount Elbert were probably the best stands of aspen I’ve seen this season so far.

sad to see some leaves falling already

sampling an heirloom tomato salad at matsuhisa’s in aspen

excellent color on the slopes of mount elbert

Now it’s time to head home, regroup, and get ready for the next shoot. This was a long weekend birthday recon getaway, but the rest is work. There is no rule that says you can’t love your work though. I get to frolic with snakes, hawks, horses, sheep, foxes, countless chipmunks and squirrels, and cattle. Many of the roads leading to good aspen or views wind their way through Colorado ranch land. It’s not uncommon for me to be shooting in a stand and have a a cow wander past me. I don’t mind their company at all, but the other day my thoughts turned to… chicken fried steak.

steak, salt and pepper, buttermilk, eggs, flour

tenderize the steak

Do you ever think of something you want to make while you’re in the grocery store, but have no idea how to make it or what you need to buy, and then you whip out the smartphone and look up a recipe? I have been doing that more and more lately (well okay, ever since I switched to Verizon from AT&T). So that’s what happened a few weeks ago when I had a hankering, nay, a craving for chicken fried steak. I asked Jeremy to do a search and he began reading off the sources. When he said “Homesick Texan” I shouted from the dairy cases “THAT ONE!” We all know that girl knows her chicken fried steak.

mix salt and pepper with the flour

whisk the buttermilk and eggs together

**Jump for more butter**

the way i see it

Friday, September 23rd, 2011

I’ve gone through phases when it comes to birthdays. It used to be that I couldn’t wait because it was such a big deal to be another year older! Wow, EIGHT!!

By the time I turned 16 it didn’t matter so much anymore and I learned that not having expectations for birthdays meant you wouldn’t be let down.

On my 21st birthday I went out drinking with my girlfriend and co-captain late into the night. The next day, during a grueling and hungover early morning pre-season volleyball practice, I decided to stop drinking alcohol altogether.

I don’t remember my 30th birthday because I was in graduate school and I’ve been told that the human mind tries to forget traumatic events as a protection mechanism.

Today I turned 40. My parents texted me a happy birthday message at 5 am.

When my dad turned 40, my sister and I ran around the house yelling “The BIG 4-0!!” and we thought it was so funny. 40… Who the hell turns 40? That’s so old! Well, I’m 40 now and I don’t feel any different from 39 any different from 32 any different from 25. It’s still me. I’m just me.

People have asked if I’m doing anything special for my birthday, but I think the people who know me best know that every day is special. And I guess that’s my point – I’m really grateful to have made it this far. I’m grateful every morning that I wake up because there was a time when I wasn’t sure I’d be here. So I’ll take any birthday, any day that comes and I’ll make the most of it and love it because I can’t imagine living any other way.

We’re on travel in southwestern Colorado on recon for the fall shoot. It’s the intersection of work and play. That’s how it always is on my birthday because that’s when the leaves start turning. They wait for no one.

glowing red like a beacon

they look like candy to me

The fall shoot is without a doubt, my favorite shoot of the year. Right now, it’s early in the season, but we’re already seeing more reds than usual and plenty of beautiful and healthy golds. I wonder if that has to do with the late and wet spring we had? It’s glorious.

warm colors

mix and match

My only request for my birthday was that I spend it with Jeremy. It didn’t matter if the leaves were green, gold, or purple (that would have been neat) – I just wanted to be together. The colors, the good weather, the mountains we love so much… all icing on the cake.

how’s that for icing?

sunset: just us, cattle, and two dudes revving their atvs in the background

Jeremy keeps saying, “Happy birthday!” and I instinctively reply, “Happy birthday!” He corrects me and says that it isn’t his birthday. I’ve always felt that birthdays are meant to be shared. So yes, it’s his birthday, and yours, and mine. Happy birthday, everyone! xo