Saturday, January 29, 2011

What You Can Do with Some Snow, a Few Tools and a Lot of Imagination

The International Snow Sculpture Championships began in Breckenridge on Thursday. Teams from many different parts of the globe gathered there in teams of four or five people to try and create something magical and exciting from a 10'x10'x12' block of compressed man made snow.

"Spirits of the Aurora" from Team Canada. It was impressive from every angle.

This was one of two of these sculptures, simply made to honor Budweiser, the main sponsor.

"Letting the Cat Out of the Bag" was created by the team from the Netherlands. I loved the personality that the cat exuded.

"Greenman" from Team Wisconsin, has pretty amazing level of detail.

I thought this one "Lounging with a Cuppa", from the team from Australia, is tied for my favorite. I love the side table with the light and cup of coffee.

"Medusa" by another Team Wisconsin group was best under the special party lights that were aglow in the evening. She was kind of creepy, but I am pretty sure that was the intent.

The festival was prime dog petting season, too. This is Sadie, a sweet pup. She wanted to lick and be loved by every person that went by.

Team Sweden made "Perpetual Motion." It was smooth and finished to look almost like it was made of marble.

We did nto get to see this in person, but I sure wish I could have. It was from an ad for the company that provided the lighting. Doesn't it remind you of Doctor Seuss?

These was some of the humble tools of this trade.

"Underwater" from Team Breckenridge, was very cool and inventive. My favorite part was the ice suction cups on the octiopus.

"Alaskan Stories" from Team Alaska, might have been my favorite. It was so well done and had such lovely detail.

Ellie wanted to find out what it was like to be in a big bank of snow. She borrowed her brother's snow pants and went in. I think she was surprised to find that she could not touch the ground. She tried to jump a few times, but simply ended up falling over. Silly girl.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

A Whole Lot of Creating Going On This Weekend

We were very busy this weekend.

Ellie had her last cyclocross race of the season. She misplaced her shoe and was not going to race, but changed her mind at the last moment. Ellie raced in her jeans and hoodie instead of her team kit - she said it felt funny, like a racer. She earned first place in the JW 13-14 division, which also moved her up to second place in the 2011 Colorado Cyclocross Cup. On the way home from Boulder we stopped by a great thrift store to look for more blue wool sweaters for the chair reupholstering project I am gearing up to do. It it much more difficult than I had anticipated to find the variety of blue wool sweaters that I am hoping for. I may have to actually knit up and felt some bits to achieve the look I am going for.

During the afternoon I was by myself as Larr and Ethan were at the Colorado School of Mines library doing research. Ellie was hanging out at Christy's house. This left me free to do a bit of digital scrapbooking.

On Sunday we did a lot of cooking. Ethan got a wild hair and decided to make some candied bacon. I know it is all the rage, that and chocolate covered bacon, but I had not planned on trying it. It turned out to be very tasty. Ethan called it "dog treats for humans."

I made a simple yellow lentil and bacon soup for Ethan's lunches this week. I also made a nice sausage and pasta dish, as well as some lemon bars so that Grandpa Don could enjoy a home cooked meal.

Pasta with Sausage and Cream Sauce
adapted from Creme De Colorado Cookbook

1.5 pound Italian Sausage, mild
2 cup Heavy Cream
1 cup Dry White Wine
1 TBL Fresh Parsley, minced
1/2 tea Nutmeg, ground
1/2-1 cup Parmesan Cheese, grated
12 oz. Pasta, cooked al dente, drained
1/2 cup Parmesan Cheese, grated
1 TBL Fresh Parsely, minced

If your sausage comes in links, remove the casting. Cook the sausage in a skillet. Pour off any fat or grease that is in the pan.

Stir in the cream, wine, 1 TBL of parsley and nutmeg. Simmer 3-4 minutes.

Place the heated pasta in the serving dish. Stir in the nutmeg.

Simple French Lentil Soup with Bacon
adapted from

2 cups French lentils (rinsed, cleaned and soaked for 24 hours)
8 strips of bacon, diced
1 medium onion, diced
4 carrots, diced
10 oz. spinach, chopped (I used a box of frozen spinach)
8 cloves garlic, minced
6 cups stock or water
2 teaspoons dried thyme
2 teaspoons dried Oregano
salt & black pepper to taste


1. Soak lentils in water for 24 hours, rinsing and changing the water every 12 hours or so.
2. Cook the bacon in a skillet until fat has been rendered, then pour it out.
3. Add onions, carrots and season with a pinch of sea salt. Sauté until onions are translucent, about another five minutes. Add garlic and cook a minute further.
4. Place the drained lentils, along with the cooked vegetables, the spinach, herbs and stock in a crock pot and cook for a at least 6 hours on high. Simmer until lentils are tender. If you in a hurry you can cook the soup in a pressure cooker. You can also cook it in the oven in a Dutch oven. Cover and simmer on low for 1 1/2 – 2 hours or
5. Taste and correct seasoning if desired. Serve hot with a dollop of crème fraîche.


Candied Bacon

4 cups granulated sugar
4 cups water
1 (12-ounce) package center-cut bacon
1 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon dry mustard
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
Nonstick cooking spray

Combine granulated sugar and water in a medium saucepan; bring to a boil. Add bacon and cook 5 minutes or until bacon appears cooked around edges. Drain bacon on paper towels until cool enough to handle.

Preheat oven to 375 F.

Thread each strip of bacon onto a wooden skewer. Combine brown sugar, mustard, and pepper in a shallow dish. Dredge bacon in brown sugar mixture, shaking off excess. Place bacon on the rack of a broiler pan coated with cooking spray. Bake at 375 F for 15 minutes or until crisp, turning bacon halfway through cooking time. Cool completely.

Makes 18 pieces

Lemon Bars
via The Enchanted Cook on More Than a Mount Full blog

Lemon Bars
adapted from Amy Parks as published in CHS Sweetheart Family Recipes

Makes 18 squares or 36 small triangles

Oven 350 degrees F

1 cup butter (2 sticks), cut in small pieces
2 cups all-purpose flour
½ cup confectioners sugar

4 large eggs
2 cups sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ cup all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon salt
¼ cup fresh squeezed lemon juice (about 1 ½ lemons)

Confectioners sugar for dusting

To make crust, place butter, flour and confectioners sugar in food processor and pulse until dough begins to come together.

Place in 9x13 baking dish and press dough until it covers the bottom and up the sides to form an edge. Bake in oven for 15 minutes, then remove to cool completely. Leave oven on at 350 degrees F.

Meanwhile, make the filling by mixing all the filling ingredients together.

Pour filling into crust and bake in oven for 25 – 35 minutes or until filling is set and no longer jiggly when moved gently from side to side.Remove from oven and allow to cool completely. Dust with confectioners sugar. Or if you prefer, you can make a lemon glaze with 2 Tablespoons fresh squeezed lemon juice mixed with 1 cup confectioners sugar.

Friday, January 21, 2011

What Dance Teachers Do When They Have No Students...

On Wednesday the forecasters predicted rain and/or snow, but in Colorado the weather is temperamental and unpredictable, like a toddler who is late for naptime.

It began in the afternoon with the wind whipping fiercely. There seemed to be several torrents of wind going in many directions. At times they even seemed to create small whirlpools sans the water. The flags and their tethers protested loudly, banging on the pole, but the winds contiued on, ignoring their plea. Soon enough snow joined in. The first bits of snow looked like someone had chewed up a styrofoam cup and spit it out, the perfect, tiny, hard frozen bits swirled in the windy currents. Then the more sensible, fat snowflakes made an appearance, forgoing the windy dance, choosing their customary glide downward. In time the wind had to give up the stage and move east. The fat flakes grew in number and soon there was a light blanket of white that toned down the colors found outside. This continued on through the evening, making for a messy, slippery drive home.

Just as many people were settling in for the evening, we were headed out to dance class. The traffic was stacked up on Sheridan like dominoes, slowly inching forward. Our drive to the dance studio took 45 minutes, instead of the usual 12 minutes. Ellie stressed most of the way - she hates being late. She likes to arrive at least 10 minutes early. Upon our arrival we found just what I had expected, only a few hardly, dedicated souls made the voyage out. The teen class had less than 1/3rd of the usual crew. It seemed that the private lessons had all be canceled, but the teachers had to stay. So they played.

A good dance instructor, or rather, any good dancer, knows both the roles - the leader and the follower.

So here we were. The few who made it to dance class were in their room doing their moves. I sat at a table with my knitting. A few other parents were parked on the couches behind me. The music continues on. Soon Jen, a diminutive spark of intense energy lights the floor with Timmy, a 6'4" dance machine. The two of them begin to glide around the room in picture perfect form. Then the silliness begins. They seem to take turns altering the holds, putting new angles in the usual dance stance. Jen giggles at how it feels to dance in such a strange new stance. She's got to share her discovery so she calls Taylor out to the dance floor. There's Timmy in his men's dance pants, the kind that are tight at the waist and then develop into a flare at the end of each leg, a neat green button up shirt tucked in neatly. Timmy, sporting a playful grin, agrees to have a go at it. He takes Jen's spot and the dance begins. At first he seems to take it all in stride. Soon the two of them ham it up, Timmy making a comical sport of the woman's part. They glide around the dance floor at top speed, still as graceful as ever. The members of the teen class can't resist the energy from that frolic. One instructor in the teen room calls out, "Timmy, you're so pretty!" And then the laughing busts out. I could see that he tried to keep a pretty and controlled looks, but soon the laughter cracks across his face and spreads to Taylor's too. The dance breaks up into silliness, but like two little kids. They decide to bring Corbin into the fun. He is the Latin specialist. He tries to play it cool, but is soon swept in. The two men begin to dance, Corbin as the follower. But that does not last very long. Soon, he has taken over the lead, even as he dances the woman's part. The two men, very different, playfully take turns leading. It has its own merriment complete with dips and spins. Jen breaks back in and goes on dancing, standing as tall as possible since there seems to be more than a foot difference between them. At times Taylor bends a little to get closer to the correct height for her spins and dips.

It had never occurred to me that dance instructors would play like that - it was fun to experience. I wonder what the next snow storm will bring.

On a completely different note, here's what Ethan is enjoying these days:

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

The Triple Birthday Celebration

On Sunday we celebrated three birthdays - Don's 86th, Gay's (my mom)66 and my 46th.

We had a lovely meal at Aunt Kathy's house. She was so thoughtful and made my most favorite cake - Pistachio Cake. It is not easy to make these days since you need a couple of packages of Dream Whip (a dry mix in envelopes)along with Pistachio pudding mix and some lemon/lime soda.

We had much of the family there, including Dough who was visiting from Seattle. Mark and Lilia joined us, too.

Ellie thinks she's hot stuff since she is much taller than the rest of the ladies in the family. And just for the record, I am pretty sure she is standing on her tippy toes - silly girl. Being taller than Grandma Gay and Aunt Kathy (or Lilia, for that matter)is no big deal since I am pretty sure they are 5' or less. Me? I'm about 5'2" and getting my head patted a good bit by my gowing girl.

(I am hoping to post the recipe for the cake here, soon. My mom says she has the original recipe cut out from the box.)

Saturday, January 15, 2011

The Winter Ball at AVS

Ellie and Christy put on the Winter Ball at AVS. It was a delightful night.

The girls did a great job planning, advertising, decorating and DJing.

And of course, they were lovely, as usual.

Lisa, one of the moms of two little kids, is really lovely, too.

It is a small school with all ages so all of our parties are family events. This is fun for us, but occasionally embarrassing for the kids.

When Ethan and Ellie were much younger (I think they must have been about 9 and 6) we had a group of dynamic teenagers who orchestrated many wonderful events - dances, Halloween parties with costume parades, talent shows with fun prizes from Disney World, an acting showcase - they must have seemed almost magical and very inspiring. That energy, that impact, that feeling of being included in such big events, stayed with them.

This was Ellie's and Christy's first venture into recreating that magic. It began slowly with asking the kids at school to make snowflakes from coffee filters. Those humble efforts of taking scissors to tissue paper whirled into an engaging scene for a party.

Streamers swayed and lights, both white and blue, glistened, casting a soft and intimate glow on the festivities. Kids dressed up, one father even wore the tuxedo from his wedding. It was his way to honor the importance of the event and to help be part of creating that magic.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

A New Flyer for AVS

It is good to have new PR materials from time to time. That time had come for AVS, the small private school that my husband and I, along with a wonderful group of people, started 17 years ago.

I spent the last few late nights putting these together. It is designed as a two sided flyer. I, being a person who adores color, had created a color saturated flyer.

Larr wanted to have an option with a bit less color. Ethan feels like the one with the white background allows you to focus on the photos.

I am not sure which we will use, if we use any at all.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Focusing on What is Positive...

Sunday Ellie and Christy went to cotillon class. They felt like this was the most fun of all of them so far. Driving home they discussed the class, especially the dance portion, like many people would discuss a football game - play by play. It turns out that many boys have sweaty hands, but that can be easily overlooked if they are good at the spinning, twirling portion of the dancing.

This is always a difficult time for educators. Each year it seems to get worse for those of us to teach in public schools. Round #2 of budget cuts will be coming. Our school will have to cut four teachers. This is a lot considering that we cut three at the beginning of this year. Over at AVS we begin to worry about enrollment. It is stress all the way around. I find the need to focus on the positive.

Petting this sweet boy does the trick for a short while. Toby loves to be petted, but not held or hugged. He loves the ultra delux kitty bed that our friend, Karin, gave to us for Christmas.

Larr is Toby's favorite person. He is the only one that can hold him. Sometimes Toby forces Larr to stop what he is doing so that he can be held. Toby loves Larr's hard petting and general rough love.

Friday, January 07, 2011

Shall We Dance?...

Ellie loves cotillion and her favorite part of it is the dancing. She has been intersted in doing more dancing, ballroom and social dancing (Foxtrot, Rhumba, Salsa, etc.) for a while. Now that the holidays are over, I've found the time to research finding a place where she could pursue that interest. It was not easy. Ballroom and social dancing for teens is not wildly popular. However, I've found classes at Booth Dancesport. Ellie had half of a private session with the dance instructor to find out which class would be best for her, she attended the two back to back classes on Wednesday and then did the second half of the private block after that. It was a lot of dancing. about 2.5 hours worth, but it was fun.

On the way to class she was anxious. She did't want to be the only new kid, the only kid who did not know what to do. When we arrived we found a gaggle of kids stuffed around a tiny table, about seven or eight of them sharing four chairs. We waited quietly, rather nervously, on a bench near the door. We had arrived about 15 minutes early. After a short while three girls from the friendly gaggle came over and introduced themselves to Ellie and invited her to sit with them. Ellie was shy and happy to be included. I thought it was a wonderful way to start a new adventure.

Now, we just have to figure out all this business with jazz shows, dance pants and flowy skirts.

Tuesday, January 04, 2011

In Limbo, sort of...

This time every year I feel a little like I am in limbo. We still have our Christmas tree up, as well as the other decorations mostly because I love the lights, the feel, but I also feel like cleaning up and feeling less cluttered.

I also feel like I should be finishing up the scrapbooking pages for that year, although I am often just starting to scrapbook the year. In many ways it is a fun way to review the year. I spent some of my winter break time organizing the photos into groups on digital pages. This will make it much easier for me to sit down when I have limited time and do a bit of scrapbooking. I even found a bit of time to get a few pages done. I also noticed (in a very concrete, less abstract way) that including Ethan is getting much more difficult as so many of his activities no longer include me. He's going up; its a natural progression. It is also something that I both rejoice and feel removed by. It will cause me to be much more intentional about trying to capture him in photos this year.

I also think that I will have a much more streamlined style in my scrapbooking this year. I find that I gravitate towards both the very simple and clean layouts, as well as the super involved ones.

Sunday, January 02, 2011

1.1.11 Welcome to the New Year

It is hard to believe that it is already 2011. It will take me a while to get that date right on things I am putting together. 2010 was a good year. I expect and hope that 2011 will be even better.

It was important to the kids, especially Ellie, to find some interesting way to celebrate New Year's Eve. After much searching we have found that very little is available to those under 21 years of age. Last year Ellie was a volunteer at "Skate the Lake" event. She had lots of fun and repeated that activity again this year. However, this time it was Ellie, Ariana, Ethan and Tom. Ethan was a dog and Tom was a reindeer. All four of them totted around buckets of candy and silly, festive stuff to wear. It was fun, but also bitterly cold at a whopping -13 degrees by the time midnight rolled around. However, being teenagers, I doubt they noticed the cold much. At midnight there was a spectacular fireworks display. I was pleased that Larr and I got to view it, too.