Sometimes It is About the Small Things

We very much enjoy seeing cityscapes, landscapes, enormous churches, bridges, and other substantial views during our travels. These sights can be breathtaking and are definitely the highlights of many of our trips. Sometimes, though, seeing some of the smaller details is just as memorable. Whether seeing the details in artwork, architecture, or focusing on a single flower, there is a lot of beauty that is on a smaller scale. We can look back at any of our travels and point to times where we saw and captured photos of intricate details that bring back fond memories of the place that we were visiting. Our trip to Iceland was definitely a trip with substantial landscapes with volcanoes, glaciers, lava covered beaches, huge geysers, and other amazing scenery. In addition to those grand sights, there were trickling streams, frozen pools, bubbling hot springs, and smaller lava features that were just as fascinating. For this week’s Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge, things that start with the letter I, we have chosen a few photos from Iceland that focus on some of the smaller details.

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Stream in the National Park

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Little Geyser

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Lava Rocks

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Frozen Pool

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Asian Roasted Duck

livingtheqlife

We love duck, but it isn’t the easiest thing to prepare and have it turn out to be moist and tender.  After doing some research, we found that either simmering or steaming the duck, prior to roasting it, renders out the fat and produces a moist duck with crispy skin.  We decided to go with an Asian influenced recipe and the flavor couldn’t have been more delicious.  It took a little work, but really wasn’t too difficult and well worth the effort.  We adapted our recipe from one that we found from Tyler Florence, which called for the duck to be steamed and, based on the results, we’ll use this method every time going forward.  This recipe turned out to be extremely tasty and one that we hope that you’ll enjoy.

Ingredients

  • 1 Whole Duck (5 – 5 1/2 lbs)
  • 1 tbsp Chinese Five-Spice Powder
  • 2 tsp Granulated Sugar
  • 2…

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It is a Matter of Perspective

No matter where you go in the world, there is always one thing that you always take with you. Regardless of who you are, you take with you your own past experiences, values, beliefs, and preconceptions. We should all try to have an open mind and understand the culture, which is truly a good thing, but it isn’t always as easy as it sounds. One of the first things that you learn about cultural anthropology, where people attempt to study a culture without changing the culture, is that just by observing people, you can change their behavior. Is it really possible to travel to a place that is truly foreign to you without viewing it through the filters of your own life? This week’s Daily Post Photo Challenge is Scale, which is really just a matter of perspective.

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Smokestack in Downtown Denver

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Pikes Peak from Garden of the Gods

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Balancing Rock in Mahabalipuram, India

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Virgin of Quito in Ecuador

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San Francisco Convent in Quito, Ecuador

There are several sites to visit when you walk through Quito’s old town and San Francisco Convent is definitely one of the places to see. It is Quito’s oldest church and monastery and construction began in 1534 and was completed 70 years later. We did a self-guided tour and enjoyed walking through the various sections of the complex. The plaza outside of the church also provides wonderful views of the city skyline.

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Looking Down at the Courtyard

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View from the Plaza

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Ornate Details

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Church Replica

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Looking Up from the Courtyard

The center courtyard feels like an oasis where you could sit and relax for hours. With its colorful flowers, palm trees, and even a pair of parrots to entertain you, it is quite impressive. We weren’t allowed to take photos in most parts of the church, but it is very beautiful. As you walk through the halls of the complex, you are able to see a variety of the over three thousand pieces of art that are hosed within the convent.

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View of the Altar

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Walking the Hallways

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Beautiful Courtyard

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Another View from the Plaza

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Cute Parrots in the Courtyard

The plaza outside of the church can be quite busy as people congregate there to relax and enjoy the views. It only takes about an hour to fully tour the San Francisco Convent, but it is well worth the time.

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Artwork

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Intricate Details

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Standing in the Plaza

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Beautiful Courtyard

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Cuddling Parrots

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Teleferico in Quito, Ecuador

If you want to get tremendous views of Quito, Ecuador, the Teleferico is definitely a great way to do it. The Teleferico is a cable car that takes you up the Pichincha volcano. Once the cable car drops you off, there is the opportunity to continue hiking even farther up the side of the mountain. In addition to views of Quito, if the weather is clear enough, you can see other volcanoes in the distance like Cayambe and Cotopaxi.

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Riding Up the Teleferico

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Amazing Views

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View of Cotopaxi Volcano

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Volcanoes Behind Us

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View of the Valley

Hiking at such high altitudes is definitely difficult and can easily take your breath away. It is strange for us, who live in Colorado, to see plants and trees growing at heights as high as 14,000 feet (4,270 meters). The tree line here starts at about 11,000 feet (3,350 meters) at which point the air is too thin for anything to grow. We assume that it is likely due to the high humidity in South America and the Andes mountains that allows plants to grow at such altitudes.

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Looking Up at the Trail

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Amazing Peaks

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Quito with Cotopaxi Volcano in the Distance

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You can Ride Horses if You Want

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Cayambe Volcano

Even if you don’t decide to hike up towards Bear Cave, the views from the top of the Teleferico are worth seeing if you are visiting Quito. The cable car ride itself is quite steep, so if you have a fear of heights you should try to sit so that you are looking up at the side of the mountain and not down. If you are able to, though, sitting so that you look back at Quito as you climb higher and higher provides amazing views. It is often foggy and cloudy in Ecuador, so if you are able to time your trip for a clear day, you will be rewarded with spectacular scenery.

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Quito is a Long, Narrow City

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Starting the Hike

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Amazing Views from the Trail

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Rugged Landscape

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Do Animals Smile?

Probably anyone who has ever had pets would agree that animals definitely show emotion, but do they smile? One look at animals will remove any doubt as to whether they actually do smile. They most certainly do smile and they do it quite often. This week’s Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge is the letter H with a topic of Happy. One of our favorite memories of visiting Sun Island on Lake Titicaca in Bolivia was of a llama that was curiously observing us as we walked among the ruins. The question isn’t really whether he was smiling, but what was he thinking of us? Did he just think we were strange looking creatures that didn’t belong on his island?

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Very Curious

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Hint of a Grin?

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Are You Following Me?

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Happy Llama

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Cabbage Rolls with Tomato Sauce

One of the classic meals that we had while we were in Romania were cabbage rolls. We knew that we wouldn’t be able to recreate them exactly as we had them, so we decided to go with a little different take on our attempt. We found the cabbage rolls in Romania to be a little dry and not particularly flavorful, so we wanted ours to be moist. This recipe is closer to the cabbage rolls that we had as children and we found them to be very tasty. Cabbage rolls may not be the most photogenic of meals to prepare, but it doesn’t always have to look good to taste good.

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Stuffed Cabbage and Grape Leaves with Polenta in Romania

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Cooked Cabbage Rolls

INGREDIENTS

  • 1/2 lb Lean Ground Beef
  • 1 Small Cabbage Head
  • 1/2 cup Cooked White Rice
  • 1 tbsp Onion – finely chopped
  • 1 Egg – lightly beaten
  • 1 tsp Salt
  • 1/4 tsp Garlic Powder
  • 1/4 tsp Ground Black Pepper
  • 2 tbsp Vegetable Oil
  • 1 can Tomato Sauce – 8 Oz
  • 1/3 cup ketchup
  • 2 tsp Brown Sugar
  • 2 tsp White Vinegar
  • 1/8 tsp Salt
  • 1/8 tsp Ground Black Pepper
  • 1/4 cup Mozzarella Cheese – shredded (Optional)
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Stuffed Cabbage Rolls

INSTRUCTIONS

Remove the core of the cabbage and place the cabbage in a large saucepan filled with water. Bring the water to a boil and begin removing the cabbage leaves as they become soft and translucent, approximately 10 – 15 minutes. Separate the leaves and set aside to cool. Add the oil to a medium saucepan and heat to medium-high. Add the onion and sauté for about 3 to 4 minutes until soft and then add the ground beef, garlic powder, and salt and pepper. Cook until the ground beef is browned and then add the rice and set aside to cool. In a medium sauce pan, combine the tomato sauce, ketchup, brown sugar, vinegar, remaining salt and pepper, and heat over medium heat for about 5 minutes. Stir the beaten egg into the cooled meat mixture and then spoon 2 to 3 tablespoons of the mixture into each cabbage leaf. Roll the cabbage leaf like a burrito, tucking in the sides as you roll. Place the cabbage rolls into a baking dish and the spoon the tomato sauce over top of the cabbage rolls. If using cheese, sprinkle over top of sauce and cabbage rolls. Place the baking dish, uncovered, into an oven that has been preheated to 350 degrees. Bake for an hour or until the sauce is bubbly and hot.

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Boil Cabbage

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Stuff Cabbage Leaves

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Cover with Sauce

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Stuffed Cabbage Rolls

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Getting Above It All

One of the favorite things that we did during our time in Ecuador was to climb up a twelve story tower in the rainforest to watch for wildlife. Like most days that we spent at the Napo Wildlife Center in the Amazon, we were woken up at 4:30 am to have a quick breakfast and jump into a canoe to paddle to our destination. Obviously, the best times to see wildlife anyplace is at dusk and dawn when animals are most active and the same is true of animals in the jungle.

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Spider Monkeys

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Colorful Bird

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Toucan Barely Visible

Once we beached our canoe, it was a relatively short hike through the forest to reach the observation tower. Standing at the bottom of the tower will certainly test any potential fear of heights, but it was an easier climb up the stairs than we had at first anticipated. We climbed up through the tree tops as well as the fog and arrived to see an amazing view of the jungle below us. It didn’t take long for the group to start spotting birds. The goal was to act as a team, each of us looking through binoculars and zoom lenses searching for motion that might be from an animal. Once someone saw something, our guides would point their telescopes at it and determine what we were looking at.

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At the Base of the Tower

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Scarlet Macaws in Flight

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View from the Tower

We were able to see so many amazing animals from macaws, toucans, and various monkeys. Overall, during our time in the jungle, we saw over 52 types of birds, 5 different monkeys, 2 tree sloths, as well as caimans. We weren’t able to take photos of everything because of the denseness of the forest, but we will treasure our memories of seeing them forever. We had several wonderful adventures during our time in Ecuador, but this day was definitely one that was extremely memorable.

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Working as a Team

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Hawk

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Scarlet Macaws

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Looking Down from the Tower

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Giant River Otters

When you think of otters, you usually think of cute sea otters playing like puppies in the water. Giant river otters are definitely not as cute, although they do play and wrestle with one another. During our time at the Napo Wildlife Center in the Amazon rainforest we were fortunate enough to see a family of giant river otters on two separate occasions. They spent most of their time growling at us as we watched them from our canoe, but they still chased each other and rolled around on the ground playfully. Perhaps it is the harshness of living in the environment of the jungle that makes them a little more fierce and not as cute as other otters. They are also larger than most other otters, apparently as large as 70 pounds, which that adds to their impression. They are considered to be endangered, so seeing them is quite rare and we were very fortunate to have that opportunity more than once. We took a lot of photos and videos of them, but it probably won’t truly demonstrate what it was like to sit in a canoe just a few feet away from these fascinating creatures.

 

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Growling at Us

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Family Members

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Our Very First View of the Otters

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Large and Fast

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Giving Us a Dirty Look

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Heading into the Trees

 

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Quick Weeknight Dinner

Happy International Taco Day 🙂

livingtheqlife

As hectic as our schedules are, we often look for quick and easy dinner options. Making tacos is definitely one of those types of meals that is tasty as well as easy.  Tacos are a great option because you can use almost any type of meat such as pork, chicken, beef, or you could even do a vegan option.  You can also cook the filling a variety of ways, cooked slowly and shredded, seared in a skillet like fajita meat, or ground meat simmered in a frying pan.  We’re not really doing a recipe this week because, as we said, this was a fast meal made easy.

Chicken Tacos Chicken Tacos

This was a childhood staple for both of us and we used to make it for our kids as well.  We went with the simple solution of browning ground meat, we chose ground chicken to make a little healthier, and then adding…

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