Linda K Murdock, author of A Busy Cook’s Guide to Spices and All Things Colorado blogs about things to do in Colorado, networks with crafty Coloradans, gives spice advice and writes gentle rants. See Categories or use search to find what interests you most.

Bluez House

Bluez House

Bluez House leader Zilis on lead guitar

It is a challenge to find great blues music in Denver before 8 pm just about anywhere you look throughout the week. Many of us are fans, but it takes someone special to get us to come to a concert that starts late and then you have to wait through the warm up band. By the time the main act comes on stage, you’re trying to figure out if you want to stay through the second set or try to leave before the drunks hit the road and possibly you.

But because I subscribe to what’s happening at Blair-Caldwell Public Library, I couldn’t wait to see Bluez House at 3:30 pm last Saturday afternoon. The band participated as part of the library’s Harmony Street Concert Series, which  continues through May. The series is an attempt to showcase a variety of musical styles, as well as a “time to meet the musicians and neighbors in a fun and relaxed atmosphere.” With cheese, veggies and brownies to munch on, what’s not to like?

Often times free concerts mean mediocre music, but never in my experience in the Five Points neighborhood. I had not heard of Bluez House. In fact, there is little to be found online about the group, except for a few references to former band affiliations, like the Band Aids. So imagine my pleasure when Charles Fortney, Kenneth Parks and Richard Pettis delved into some a cappella harmonies that were by themselves worth the drive from Englewood. Then, when the band kicked into gear with a round of funky tunes… Well, let’s just say it was as close as I get to a religious experience.

It’s impossible to sit still through band leader Paul Zilis’ guitar solos. The hour of music went from the funkiness of Sly Stone’s I Want to Thank You to War’s Slippin Into Darkness, the latter an improvement over the original. The Temptations Shakey Ground completed the funk trifecta. While the three singers took a break, we were able to fully appreciate the talents of the rest of the band–John Raabe on trumpet, John Uchida on sax, Chris Harris on bass guitar and Jack Zilis on drums. A sing-along tune managed to bring everyone in the room together. All too quickly their heartfelt tribute to Prince’s Purple Rain brought the afternoon to a conclusion, and we made it home before the sun set.

Although my husband thought the band was loud, I felt the music was just loud enough to pierce my skin and touch my soul. Dare I say I had as much fun as when I saw Luther Allison at Herman’s Hideaway? Some thought he was too loud, too.

Crocheted Owl Basket

Crocheted Owl BasketI saw a photo of this very cute crocheted owl basket quite a while ago and finally got around to giving it a try. Going by the photo, I rewound my large skein/cone of turquoise cotton #4 yarn and made two equal balls. Then using a large crochet hook, I doubled the cotton up and started with the base. Not only did the double yarn make the crocheting go fast, it created a stiffer basket that could stand up on its own. I did 8 rounds of single crochet, which measures about 5 inches in diameter.

I did the back loops only in the next round of single crochet to establish a “crease” in the work. The crease made a distinct transition from base to sides. I then added or increased stitches in the following rounds as I went up the sides. I did gradually decrease a couple of rounds about 2/3 of the way through the height that I wanted. This was just to give the owl a little more shape. Going straight up would be fine also and you could probably just shape it as you like.

The eyes were done separately with just one thickness of yarn. They were sewn on so that their tops could be used as handles. The eyes peaking over the top of the rim of the basket is a nice touch even if they aren’t used as handles. Starting with six chains and then proceeding with a round each of single crochet, half double, and then double gives the eyes their spiral look. In the final round I did a triple crochet most of the way around and then a quadruple crochet in the final few stitches to make the ears stand up and to get the look that I wanted. The nose was just a matter of sewing double strands of the yarn 3 rounds apart with a little cross stitch at the top. It turned out fairly attractive. You can add miscellaneous bit of black or brown or white stitches to make them look like feathers, if you like.

I decided that I would use my crocheted owl basket at my next show to hold more hats. You can use it for washcloths, toilet paper rolls, towels, etc. You can cut up a plastic gallon jug for lining the bottom and make it a decorative wastebasket. It can also hold extraneous bits of yarn “strash.” (see March 3rd blog entry.)

Mount Falcon Open Space Park

Mt. Falcon Open Space ParkWhen my friend came down with the flu on Sunday, I debated whether I wanted to venture on a hike to Mount Falcon Open Space Park by myself. The weather was cooler than anticipated and my husband wasn’t all that eager to get out his bike, so I drafted him to join me. Mount Falcon Open Space Park is one of our favorites. It is about a 30-minute drive from central Denver, going west on Highway 285 toward Morrison. Once you take the Colorado 8 exit, it is a circuitous, but well-marked 1.7 mile route to the park. Try to get there early on the weekends, as the two small parking lots fill quickly, and the park is better appreciated when there aren’t so many folks around. During the week you are very likely to see deer grazing casually along your trail.

All of us, who enjoy hiking in the foothills, owe a big thanks to John Brisben Walker and his quest for a home outside Denver. He bought up more than 4000 acres in the area including the Mount Falcon Open Space Park. He learned the hard way not to build on the highest point and his 10-bedroom mansion was burned down by a lightening strike in 1918. The brick foundation survives, along with a site for another even bigger mansion that he wanted to build as a Presidential palace. Walker is also responsible for developing Riverfront Park in downtown Denver. I’ve included a view from the mansion.

The trails are wide and most meander in and out of the trees. There are also many picnic tables and benches to sit on for a meal or a snack. Since I had worn some loose shoes on a Saturday walk around Washington Park, my feet were somewhat blistered. So, we didn’t make it out to the fire lookout this time, but I’m sure we will be back. It is always pleasant there.