Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Cyclefest 2015, Biking Necklaces + Honey Garlic Shrimp, Spicy Shrimp & Coconut Rice Recipes

This past weekend I volunteered to help with Cyclefest. It is the main fundraiser for the high school mountain bike racing league that Ellie used to belong to. As has become tradition, I made necklaces for the female guest speakers and I was the official photographer at the gala dinner. Ethan asked me why I still volunteer since neither of them are racing anymore. I told him that I will believe in and value what they do, that it feels good to be able to still be a part of something like that. That seemed to satisfy him.
The color combinations needed for the necklaces were a bit more challenging than in the past. Kate, the director of the league, has me make the necklaces to make the rider's team kit. It is getting a bit harder because I am running out of the colored spoke nipples. They have not been regularly used since the early 1970's and so get them (unless I want to buy 1,000 of one color at a time) is getting more difficult. Also, there are some colors, such as hot pink, that don't occur in stone or crystal beads. I usually end up using glass beads to fill in those colors. That was the case with the necklace for Sonya. In the end, I was very happy with how both necklaces turned out. Both Sonya, the professional racer, and Lilly, one of the student racers, both seemed to like the necklaces. Lilly wore hers while she was speaking. It feels good to see the stuff I make be enjoyed.

Ethan had last night off, so he came home for dinner. He brought along a loaf of the wonderful bread that he is making these days. The dough for that loaf had been in the fridge for a few days before being cooked and so it had an almost sourdough taste to it.

I had shrimp that I had intended to serve at the graduation party at our house, but that evening was a little crazy, so it never made it out of the fridge. Here's what I made with it instead:

Spicy Shrimp
via: Food52

1/3 cup Sriracha
1/3 cup olive oil
1 teaspoon Worcestershire Sauce
3 cloves garlic, crushed
1 handful cilantro, roughly chopped, plus more for garnish (omitted)
1 teaspoon sugar
(1/4 tea Liquid Smoke flavor, the one from William Somona, the the one from the grocery store)
Salt
Freshly ground black pepper
2 pounds large shrimp (16 to 20 count), peeled and deveined


Mix together the Sriracha, olive oil, Worcestershire sauce, garlic, cilantro, and sugar. Season aggressively with salt and pepper. Put in a 1-gallon plastic bag, add the shrimp, and mix together in the bag. Marinate in the fridge for 2 to 4 hours. Or longer. Heat a grill. Skewer the shrimp (4 to 6 shrimp per skewer) and grill until pink and delicious, 2 to 3 minutes per side. Remove the shrimp from the grill, slide the shrimp from the skewer using a fork, and pile on a serving platter. Sprinkle with finely chopped cilantro, and throw a few toothpicks in a few shrimp. Watch them disappear.

* I think everyone enjoyed this one. It was spicy, but not unreasonable.

------

Honey Garlic Shrimp
via: The Cooking Jar

Serves: 4
1 lb. shrimp, skin off and tail on
Sauce:
1 teaspoon garlic, minced
½ teaspoon ginger, minced
(1 TBL Olive Oil - I measured this out before I measured the honey so that it would help the honey slide out of the spoon easily.)
4 tablespoons honey
2 tablespoons soy sauce


Combine the sauce ingredients and divide into half.
Marinate the shrimp with half of the sauce for 15-30 minutes. Discard marinade.
Over medium high heat, pan sear the shrimp on both sides in batches of 2 until browned, about 1 minute per side.
Using tongs, rub the shrimp into the caramelized bits on the bottom of the pan.
Dish and serve hot drizzled with the remaining sauce.

Everyone liked this one, especially Ellie.

------------

Coconut Rice

via: Half Baked Harvest

1 cup uncooked jasmine or basmati rice
1 cup light, canned coconut milk
3/4 cup coconut water
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons unsweetened, flaked coconut
1 tablespoon coconut oil

Add the coconut milk and coconut water to a medium size pot. Bring to a low boil and then add the rice, salt, unsweetened coconut and coconut oil. Stir to combine, then place the lid on the pot and turn the heat down to the lowest setting possible. Allow the rice to cook ten minutes on low and then turn the heat off completely and let the rice sit on the stove, covered for another 20 minutes (don't take any peeks inside!). After 20 minutes remove the lid and fluff the rice with a fork.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Mother's Day Report

I saved this post about Mother's Day because I did not want it to get lost or mixed up in all of the graduation celebration postings. This one deserves its own glory.

Even after so much happening just the day before, Ethan, Ellie and Kohlton put on a Mother's Day brunch for myself, Britt and Linda (Kohlton's mother and grandmother).
They made up fruit parfaits, similar to those that Ethan had in Thailand. The parfaits featured blueberries, raspberries, kiwi, watermelon, muesli and yogurt. This was served with fresh orange juice. The next course was offered with tea and Rio Muffins. I love it when the kids do stuff like this. It was such a nice morning.
After breakfast was over, Ethan and Ellie presented me with a gift that was created by Ethan, Ellie and Remmie. It is the coat hanger that I had been admiring on Pinterest for a few years now. I am thrilled and honored that they actually made one for me.

One afternoon, Ethan, Ellie and Remmie went for a walk or hike at a local wilderness park. They went looking for a few already fallen and dead tree trunks that had the right kind of angles. It took a while, but they found just what they were looking for. Remmie helped by dragging or pulling some of the tree parts back to the truck. I am sure he was happy to be included in the action. Then the kids set to creating the piece. Ethan used the sander in such a way that the tips of the hanger parts look chiseled. He toed in the pieces from the back so that you cannot see any of the hardware that keeps it together.
It looks cool in this photo, but it is even more beautiful in real life.

I am so thankful that I have such loving, creative kids. I am a proud and honored mama.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Graduation Party Decorations - Paper Fans, Photos, Black Streams and Gold Mylar

Ellie graduated on Saturday, along with the four boys in her class. It was important to the families of the graduates to throw a fun and classy party. After some thought and a lot of searches on Pinterest, here is what I came up with. I came up with the concept and gathered the stuff. Members from each graduate's family gathered on Friday night to decorate the main room. It is a bit of a challenge since it is a long, thin, large room. I handed out drawings of my concept along with the appropriate supplies and set everyone to work. I am so pleased with what we came up with.

We festooned each doorway and window in a way that complimented the decorations over the sharing counter.

I gave Brandon and Xander the task of putting together the photo banners. They did a really great job. I am so proud of these two guys who do not consider themselves artistic or creative. Don't you think they are lovely?

We grilled burgers and hot dogs outside. Each family provided some homemade side dishes and we set up an ice cream sundae and root beer float bar for dessert.

Center pieces were a little more challenging. Each idea I came up with was too girly, or too cheesey. Eventually I toned it down and we ended up with these. Each family got to take one home and people seemed to like them:

After it was all put up, the room looked really great and I was very happy. We had to tape everything since we were not allowed to use thumb tacks on the walls. I slept likely that night, worried that the bigger fans might fall down, set off the motion sensor alarm which would in turn call our home and wake us up. Thankfully, the gods of party decorations blessed our party and it went off without a hitch. :)

I love decorating for a party.

Monday, May 11, 2015

Graduation, Celebrations, Mother's Day and the Moody Blues Concert - Whew, What a Weekend!

It was a whirlwind weekend. Ellie graduated from high school, so that was both a ceremony and two parties. Then the kids managed to put on a really lovely Mother's Day brunch on Sunday and Larr and I went to the Moody Blues concert on Sunday night. It was great, but I am also happy that it is all done.

This year Alpine Valley School had five graduates. That is a lot for our tiny school who usually has one or maybe two graduates a year. It is also the end of an era, with Ellie being the last founder's kid to graduate. She was a mere babe in arms when we signed the lease for the first building we were in. Xander, the one on the left end, wearing a bowtie, was pretty close to being a founder's kid, just missing the beginning by a few years. He is the last of his family to graduate with all three of the kids attending AVS.
Connie was the head of Ellie's Thesis panel. Ellie knew that she wanted Connie to hold that important position in her life since she was young. Connie told a few short stories about Ellie and her speech was very personal.


It took a lot of hard work to get to this point. Going to a small school, each person really has to face him/herself, own up to what he/she does right, reckon with what he/she does wrong - a small community of dedicated learners is a very strong mirror. As a result, Ellie has become a strong, knowledgeable, capable and honorable young woman. Much of what she knows about herself was hard won through dealing with tough stuff. It is exciting to see what she will do next. That is also a little scary.

As is tradition at our school, the parents of the graduates host the celebratory reception. That was a process in and of its own, with five families to orchestrate. It turned out beautifully, but I will save that for the next post. (I want the focus to be on Ellie for this entry.)

Kohlton had a lot of family members come to town for graduation. His Uncle Adam came in all the way from Alaska. It was a surprise that he and Kohlton's Grandma Linda arranged, so that was a surprise for both Kohlton, and his mother, Britt. I am pretty sure that Uncle Adam is one of Kohlton's favorite people, so having him there was a gift in its own right.
Kohlton's grandparents from Boston and Arizona also came to town to take part in the celebration.
The kids were graceful and beautiful this weekend.

Here are the other graduates:

This is Xander with Larr, who is speaking about knowing Xander since he was an infant.

Here is Ian, who took the thesis process to heart and did some deep soul searching, growing and achieving, and all with great humor.
This is Brandon (or Brandy, as many have called him since he joined the school at 8 years old.) with Missa speaking about him. You can always count on the sweetness of Brandon to help you see the bright side of things, offer compassion and be supportive. He has worked through some hard stuff to get to graduation.
And finally Kohlton, the 30th AVS graduate. Kohlton has grown a ton since he joined the school at the end of 8th grade. He has worked hard, done a lot of internal work and really blossomed at AVS. The transformation has been amazing and I am honored to have been witness to it.
We had a great reception, despite the fact that it had rained all week and we had initially planned for an outdoor party. The decorations were lovely and the food was just about right. I think everyone went home happy.
While this was all fun, I am especially thankful for my friend, Natalie, who showed up and was a trooper. She helped us decorate, she and her family attended graduation and both parties, and she stopped me long enough to snap this picture that I am so thankful to have. We were all so busy with the events, that I took almost no pictures. At Ethan's graduation, I did not end up in any of the photos. This time I was determined to have one taken with Ellie and I, and Natalie made that happen. She is the very model of what a best friend is.

Friday, May 08, 2015

Getting Ready for Celebrations - Kitty Approved Decorations and Party Menu Plans

We are gearing up for a big weekend with Ellie graduating on Saturday and Mother's Day on Sunday.
One of Ellie's favorite decorations is the flag bunting that I made for a summer party a few summers ago. She requested that I make more. I was happy to oblige her. I dyed the fabric during spring break, and then have constructed it this week.

I measured the original ones to make sure that they will go together well. Then I cut them out.
Next, I sewed them onto the colorful seam binding.
I don't know how long the original bunting is, but now we have an additional 30 yards. That should suit her just fine. I am happy to see that the bunting is kitty approved.
Tomorrow we are going to graduation. I am the head of the celebration reception at school, and then we are having a party here at home. It is a bit overwhelming, but I think I have it all under control. I have my fingers crossed, just in case.

Here's what we are serving at the party at our house:

Appetizers:
Caprese Toast
Pizza Pinwheels (Ham or Pep.)
Dirt Cups*
Fruit Kabobs (maybe)
Bacon Wrapped Pineapple *
Cocktail Wienies in BBQ Sauce*

Pasta Bar:

Pasta:
Spaghetti
Bowtie
Fettuccine

Sauce:
Marinara
Alfredo
Garlic Butter
Pesto (?)

Toppings:
Meatballs
Grilled Chicken
Sausage
Olives
Broccoli
Parmesan
Peas

Salad
Garlic Bread

Drinks:
Watermelon Peach Spritzer
Iced Tea
Water
Mint & Pineapple flavored water (maybe)
Blackberry & Basil flavored water (maybe)
Beer
Wine Coolers
Wine

and there will be cherry pie, if I can find the time to make it.

Whew, I better get back to getting ready.

Happy Mother's Day to my friends!

Wednesday, May 06, 2015

Cake, Crazy Train, and Recipes for Watermelon Peach Spritzer and Spicy Sausage Pasta Skillet Dinner

Our life on the crazy train continues, but it is just about to round the corner. All of the special meetings and events that dealt with the high school that I work at becoming a 7-12 grades school have happened. Now we just have to get through to the end of the year, which is hectic in its own way. This is the time when many of my students sort of begin to shut down and some even give up. I am in extra energetic cheerleader mode with some of them. Sometimes I think I care more about their grades than they do.

Last week Ellie made a cake for a bridal shower. It was the first cake that she made for someone that we do not know directly. The bride has a western theme and so she wanted a fence and purple. Originally she also wanted burlap. This was a bit of a challenge for Ellie, but I think the cake came out really lovely and very elegant. My favorite parts are the tiny flowers.

We are also gearing up for two parties this weekend since graduation is on Saturday. I am heading up the reception party committee at the school and we are hosting a party at home. We were hoping for and planning on nice weather, but it looks like it is going to be rainy, as it has been all week, so some of our ideas, especially those dealing with decorations, have to be reconsidered.

I've asked Ellie to figure out what we will serve at the party at the house. We have to have recipes that we can prep. on Saturday morning and then put out after we return home from the celebration at school. It is a bit of a challenge. I had hoped to serve some of the kids' favorite foods, but that simply does not work out. We are hosting the party for Ellie and Kohlton. It just makes sense to combine the parties since they will want to be together on that day anyway. I am adding this drink recipe below. The spicey sausage skillet recipe is a dinner we had a while ago. The guys all liked it. It was too rich for Ellie and I.

-----------------
Watermelon Peach Spritzer
via: What's Cooking Love

1 bottle (2 liters) lemon-lime soda
Frozen sliced peaches
Watermelon, cubed
Ice cubes
Instructions

Put about 5 frozen peach slices in the bottom of each glass. Also add about 5 pieces of cubed watermelon to each glass as well. The amount of fruit you can add will depend on your glass size. I found about 5 peach slices and 5 watermelon cubes worked well for my glass sizes.
To each glass also add 2 ice cubes. Then fill up each glass with the lemon-lime soda. Stir each glass to mix the fruit throughout the drink. If desired, place a piece of watermelon on the rim of each glass.

------------

Spicy Sausage Pasta Skillet
via Plain Chicken

1 tbsp olive oil
14 oz smoked sausage, sliced into 1/4" rounds
1 cup onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
1 (10 oz) can rotel (I prefer mild, but if you want more spice use the original)
1/2 cup heavy cream
8 oz whole grain penne (or whatever noodle you prefer, I've also used bowtie)
Pepper, to taste
1 1/4 cup shredded Monterey Jack cheese
thinly sliced scallions, for garnish

Heat oil over medium-high heat in an oven safe skillet until hot. Add the sausage and onion and cook until lightly browned, 4-5 minutes. Add in the garlic and cook until fragrant, 30 seconds.

Add the broth, rotel, heavy cream, uncooked pasta, and pepper. Stir well. Bring to a boil, then cover and reduce heat to medium-low. Simmer until the pasta is tender, 15 minutes. Stir once or twice while cooking. Preheat the broiler while pasta is cooking.

Remove the skillet from the heat, stir in 1 cup of the cheese. Taste, and add salt as needed. Top with the scallions and remaining cheese. Broil until the cheese is melted and lightly browned - about 3 minutes.