Friday, May 29, 2009

Double Ginger Molasses Cookies and Cranberry, Oatmeal, White Chocolate Cookies - Recipes Abound

I've spent much of my first day of summer baking. I love the fact that I have time to do that today. I made some unusual cookies that are really yummy. I've modified the recipes a bit. The original recipes were a bit more fussy than I wanted to deal with. Here are the recipes:

Cranberry, Coconut, White Chocolate, Oatmeal Cookies

3/4 cup Unsalted Butter, at room temperature
1/2 c. Granulated Sugar
1/2 c. Brown Sugar
1 Egg, room temperature
1 TBS. Corn Syrup
1tsp. Vanilla Extract
1 3/4 c. Flour
1 tsp Baking Soda
1/2 tsp. Salt
3/4 c. Sweetened Dried Cranberries
3/4 c. Oatmeal
1/2 c. Coconut Flakes, sweetened
3/4 c. White Chocolate Chips

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

In a small bowl combine the flour, baking soda and salt.

In a large bowl, beat the butter and sugars together until fluffy. Scrape down the bowl. Add the egg, corn syrup and vanilla. Beat to combine. Add in half of the flour and mix at low speed.

Use a wooden spoon to mix in the cranberries, oatmeal, coconut flakes and white chocolate chips.

Using a cookie scoop, Chinese soup spoon or serving spoon, scoop out even amounts of dough. Place them on a greased cookie sheet or a silpat mat on a cookie sheet. Press the balls of dough lightly down with your palm. Cookies should be 2" apart. Bake until the edges are golden brown, about 12-15 minutes. Let the cookies cool for 5 minutes before removing them to a cooling rack.

Double Ginger Cookies

2 1/4 c. Flour
2 3/4 tsp. Ground Ginger
1 tsp Baking Soda
1/4 tsp. Salt
3/4 c. Butter, unsalted at room temperature
1 1/2 c. Sugar
1 Egg, at room temperature
1/4 c. Molasses
3 TBL. Crystallized Ginger, finely chopped

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line your cookie pans with Silpat Mats or grease them.

In a medium bowl, combine flour, ginger, baking soda and salt.

In a large bowl, cream the butter and sugar until fluffy. Add the egg, molasses, and crystallized ginger. Beat until well combined. Add the dry ingredients slowly. Mix until well blended.

Pour the remaining 1/2 cup of sugar into a shallow bowl or onto a dinner plate. Use a cookie scoop, Chinese soup spoon or serving spoon to scoop out the dough. Form small balls that are rolled in the sugar until evenly coated. Place them on the cookie sheet 2" apart.

Bake until the cookies are puffed and the bottoms are lightly browned, about 12 minutes. Let the cookie rest 5 minutes before removing to a cooling rack.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Of Graduates & tears, of Rain and Naps, with a Little Creativity Thrown In

In order to graduate from AVS you must write, present and successfully defend a thesis that you are developing the skills to become and effective adult. It is a big deal. Each person gets a night to him/herself to present and defend. After one of them this year Ellie turned to me and said, "Mom, I am a little worried. I am not sure what I will say at my thesis defense." I replied by saying, "Don't worry, love, you have six years to think about it." I love that my kids take these events to heart. After they are done, we have a big graduation celebration. This year's celebration was this last Sunday. While they are all emotional, this one was especially deep. One of the graduates has been with us since we opened our doors. The others have been part of our community for a long, long time. It is hard to imagine the school without them. During the celebration a rain storm began. It grew and grew, thundering, sending down light purple lightening and buckets of rain. By the end of the celebration the school yard was a lake. If you opened the door you invited a river into the main room. My Ethan saw this as a problem and took it upon himself to send the buckets back out. He didn't seem to mind getting wet. He just wanted everyone to have a fun, dry time.

Once home, we wanted to stay there. The weather was cool and the rain made a lovely sound on the roof. Here's what the cats thought of it...

Monday I spent some of the free time to make my contribution for the AVS silent auction. Last year's jewelry was a hit, so I took it up a notch. I made lots of earrings and a few zipper pulls. I am hopeful that they will sell well.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

The Joy of Birds, Plants that Move me to Tears and "Star Trek"

Sometimes unexpected things bring joy. On Friday, after graduation, I was going to get together with my friend, Laura. We always have a lovely time together. We were going to go and buy annuals. However, her dog went into labor so our plants were put on hold. I was fine with that. In fact, it was pretty nice. The rest of the family was at school. I opened the windows so that the cats could enjoy a lovely breeze. I enjoyed the sound of a chorus of birds. I usually only experience this joy in the early morning hours. It seems that the birds are happy for the improving weather as they seem to be singing and chatting from sun up to sun down. Even as I type this I can hear them. It was truly lovely to have some unscheduled time. I spent it getting ready to do a little calligraphy for some young friends who graduate on Sunday. I experimented with font styles, wandered around in the art store and dug out my calligraphy tools. That hobby was part of my former life, my life B.C. (before children). I had forgotten how much I enjoyed it. I even picked up some paper in the hopes that I might be able to knock out some small gifts to give them. Time will tell on that end.

We spent the morning with Don. As Ethan finished mowing the lawn I admired Eleanor's garden. It is still lovely, but it seems to be missing her. It is just not as radiant as it was before she grew ill. I was determined to enjoy it. After all, it is her legacy. But melancholy drew me in and I cried silently to myself for a while. I could imagine the questions I would be asking her, if she were still here with us. Don, Larr, the kids and I stopped at her grave marker to plant some happy Johnny Jump Ups. She'd be happy with that. Then we toured the garden center where she worked. I had been determined just to look, but we came home with a Scottish Moss, a Purple Candle Cactus,

a Blue Flax and a brilliant red Dahlia annual. That made us all hungry so we had lunch at the Honey Baked Ham store. It was a store straight out of the early 1970's and the food was great. Don told us stories about how he was on the team that developed the first disposable drinking cup. I wanted to share that story here, but Don prefers to tell it himself.

The afternoon was spent with my mom. We went to see the newest Star Trek movie. I expected to enjoy it because I love Star Trek. However, it was even better than I expected it to be. I will have to see that one a second time on the big screen. We went all out with popcorn, candy and drinks. As if that was not enough, we also took my mom out to Basil Doc's for pizza. She hears us talk about it and she wanted to experience it. It was great to spend an evening with her. I love that I love being with my mom.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

The Beauty of Freshly Tilled Soil and My Nature Boy

I love the spring. It represents such potential. It represents a new beginning. For us it begins with planning a garden and getting the soil ready. This year it also represents Eleanor. I thought it would be hard to see the flowers begin to bloom and have questions I would normally have asked Eleanor knocking around in my head. Those questions will either go unanswered, or I will find the answers some other way. What I wanted for Mother's day was to get the garden ready so my boy, in between school and cycling or scouting, borrowed a rototiller and helped me out.

I loved watching him work. He seems so happy and peaceful working the dirt. I am amazed at how much he already knows. He handled the rototiller with such grace.

My plan is to ready the garden and plant in stages. I used to love to go and get a van load of plants to put in the ground but I inevitably ran out of time and/or energy before they all went into the ground. This year it will be different. Yesterday we began. We amended the soil with PNK (fertilizers for veggies) and added cow compost. After turning it in Ethan lovingly planted the corn in even rows, 16 seeds by six rows. Near by we planted bush beans. Tonight we added soaker hoses and made a plan for what else will go in the ground some time soon.

Last night we were at a meeting at school. Ethan sat by the window enjoying the breeze. The sunset was beautiful. There were artistic clouds in the sky that were backlit with pink and orange. Segments of the clouds were brilliantly bright. In the depth of the cloud you could see the blue grey that signalled the coming darkness. A gentle breeze skipped through the open window to tousle Ethan's hair. A chorus of birds chattered and called to each other from the newly leafy trees. These are the trees that seemed to have bloomed overnight. We watch them, wanting to be conscious of how the leaves come on. Every year we do this. Then we are distracted. We turn away, turn back and the leaves are in their full glory. This is just one aspect that I love about my boy.

Friday, May 15, 2009

The Speed of Things - Some too Fast, Others, too Slow...

Something change quickly. In my last post Ellie had the pick of two time trial bikes to race, but that has all changed. She gets to borrow the Orbea from time to time, but it turns out that it was a birthday present for Coach Lou from her DH and she loves to ride it. Ellie will get that treat from time to time. When it is available, she'll have fun on it. The GT TT bike that was Karen's has been passed onto another girl. The rule is that it gets lent to the fastest girl. This week it was a 16 year old whose TT time was 13 seconds faster than Ellie's. She'll have another shot at it next Wednesday. I think Ellie was mad about it for a while, but took it with grace. She is quite when she is mad or upset so I can't be sure what was really going on. Either way, she handed them back with grace and I am proud of her for that.

On the bright side, she had a fabulous race last Saturday. Nearly every junior in Colorado that races was there. Ellie had a great time with her friends. Here you can see how cute they are:

It was a perfect day to race with a nice temperature and a smidgen of cloud cover. Ellie was feeling fast that day. She got a rough start, having a hard time getting her shoe clipped in, but she made up the time quickly. Here's the picture of her finish. No one was even near her.

Her Wednesday TT race was good, too. She got to ride the Orbea. It was a bit of an adjustment. She had fun and came in first place.

Now, you may be saying to yourself, what about the boy? There's a boy, too, right? Why isn't he in the photos. Well, I'd reply, he was off having fun at Leadership camp staff training. He packed himself rather quickly and found that he was cold. I hope that he learned you should pack for what the weather will be during the time the items are needed, not the temperature when you are rushing around packing. He ended up without a coat and only a sheet to sleep on. Nonetheless, he had a lot of fun, even though he missed the race.

Wednesday he looked great at he flew past at the Wednesday TT race. It is interesting to see how he is maturing. Sometime I can't believe that it is him. My sweet little boy is becoming a muscley, lanky man.

Other things go too slowly. I teach high school seniors whose last day was today. This week is always a trying one. Some are sad and weepy. Others are cocky and rude because they know that it does not really matter if they get in trouble. Others who have been lax about coming to class or turning in class work suddenly wake up and want to do several months worth of work in one night in an insane dash to pass. Few are successful. That makes this week exhausting and stressful. Last night I developed a migraine from the stress. By the time the Senior Gratitude Ceremony was over this afternoon my headache was gone.

This weekend we will cap off our crazy May with Road Bike camp in Longmont. After that, things will begin to get calm.

Now, I'm off to pack.

Friday, May 08, 2009

What's Faster, Stronger, Better? Not Wonderwoman

The power of your parents believing in you is strong. If we are lucky, we also have the power of someone else believing in you. That works a different kind of magic. Last night at practice Ellie got a glimpse of that. Her coach, the wonderful, amazing and generous Coach Lawanna (Lou) see enough potential to help Ellie reach for a cycling goal that we cannot reach for on her own. Lou purchased a totally tricked out Orbea Dama Time Trial bike that weights in at all of about 12 pounds. Ellie's Fuji clocks in as 23 pounds.

Ellie is excited, pleased and a little afraid. The bike is beautiful in white and raspberry sherbet pink. She even had me buy her a few waterbottle so that it would look good. The aero handlebars will take some getting used to, but it should mean that Ellie can feel like Wonderwoman when she races.

Coach Lou also pulled out the TT bike that used by Karen Hornbostel, the woman who the TT series is named after. Karen was an amazing athlete who was diagnosed with cancer. She helped researchers understand the value of excercise theraphy at slowing down cancer. She eventually succumbed to the disease, but not until after she put up a good fight. Ellie is humbled and honored to have a chance to ride that bike, too. E

Regardless of the bike Ellie decides to borrow, she will be flying by just as soon as she gets used to her new wings.

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Snow Mountain Ranch - an Alpine Valley School Weekend Family Retreat

Every year most of the families from Alpine Valley School (where the kids go to school and the DH works) go on a weekend long retreat at Snow Mountain Ranch:YMCA Camp of the Rockies up near Winter Park. We used to stay in the dorms and eat in the cafeteria. That was easy and fun. Last year we missed the mark to get into the dorms and had to rent a reunion cabin. Now that we have had that experience we will never go back to the dorms. We stayed in the Legacy Reunion cabin. It has a wonderful double kitchen with two of every appliance. Enough tables and chairs for about 40 people to sit at one time. There is a large living room with many comfie counches and chairs, a loft of the same, only a bit cozier and many bedrooms.

This year it was cold and rainy most of the time. Part of what is fun is that the kids can go and do so many things without the adults having to tag along. There is the Kiva center where you can roller skate, play ball, rock climb, etc. Next to it is the pool. There is a great craft center and an old ghost town, not to mention the outdoors full of fields, forests and places to ride a bike. If you like you can go on a horseback ride, though none of us did that this trip. The kids went out and about. The adults enjoyed each other's company. We bring food to grill, to eat and to share. And we bring games - tons of them. It started off with a few simple card games and a single box of Apples to Apples. It grew into a pile of around 15 games.

The most popular one this year was "The Werewolves of Miller's Hollow."

It was so fun that we played it five times in a row and most likely would have kept playing if it had not gotten near midnight. It is a card game with a narrator. Most of the people are villiagers. A few turn to werewolves at night. Each "night" a villiager is eaten. Each "day" a person is lynched for suspecting to be a werewolf. Various villiagers have more detailed idenities such as a witch who has the power to bring people back to life, a curious little girl who can see what is going on but cannot talk about it, and a few others. It takes at least 10 people to play. It is a lot more fun than I am making it sound.

Another one that many people played was "Ticket to Ride." I could play that one over and over. A number of people liked this card game. I don't know the name of it. It drew crowds once people understood the aim of it.

Some people elected to read, do puzzles (several of thos going) or write. A number of people in our little community are creative, thoughtful writers.

Friday and Sunday I chatted, watched and played. I was worn out from a hard day at work and was feeling a bit exhausted.

Saturday morning I felt a bit more refreshed. I had visions of making a batch of home made cinnamon rolls, the cabin filled with the sweet scent of fresh bread. When Laura and I went to the store to get what I needed we were enticed with a diversion in the form of a home decor store. That led to an Alpaca fiber farm and mill. But, that is a story for tomorrow. People were disappointed that I did not make the cinnamon rolls. I thought they would not really care. I guess we all learned a bit of a lesson from that.

Saturday evening we usually have a big fire where we sing, roast marshmallows and tell stories. The constant rain made that idea uninviting. However, Ethan was dedicated to the tradition and tried his best to make it happen.

I was both proud of him and a bit sad for him as he and Kennedy tried in vain to get a fire going in the downpouring rain. I love that focus and dedication my boy has. In the end he came in and became the sherif for the werewolf game, that is until he was eaten one night. He would have loved to do the fire, but he enjoyed the game, too.

Sunday we had a lovely breakfast, hung out at the craft center and then headed down the mountain to Beau Joe's for mountain pie pizza.