Friday, April 29, 2011

Royal Weddings

I fondly remember the last royal, that of Prince Charles and Diana. I was in my senior year. Even at that age the idea of being a princess with a fairy tale life was a pleasant dream. On that cold April morning in 1981 I roused myself from my warm, cozy bed at some unreasonably early house (most likely about 3:00 a.m., if I recall correctly) to huddle in front of the glow of the big screen on my mother's television. Wrapped in flannel, steaming cup of tea in hand, I took in the spectacle. It was such an exciting event that I did not mind missing those hours of sleep.

Now, so many years later, I still find myself drawn to that fantasy. I admit to watching the featurettes on the the woman who would make the wedding cake. I stole glimps of the possible wedding gown designs. Watched as palace staff debut the table settings for the wedding reception and overheard a chat with the company that would provide Katherine's tiara. I will even admit to being just slightly jealous of those who had the luxury to have "pajama and tea" parties to watch the wedding in live time. Of course I could have taken the day off from work, or gone to work in a sleep deprived state, but I decided against that. I settled for watching the highlight that were available. This time I watched the royal wedding I looked for signs of true love that I hope will carry the new couple through the difficulties that lay ahead of them. They certainly had a wonderful beginning!

You can view a wonderful set of photos by following this link.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Easter - Homemade Easter Eggs, Fun Food ('50's style) and Family

It was a stressful week at work, it always is this time of year. But this year is worse since there are such big cuts. I really needed a creative escape and I found it in making papier mache Easter eggs from a tutorial over at the Not Martha blog. Her instructions were great! I was not able to make the polka dots at the tissue paper kept getting stuck in my paper punch. I used tissue paper and party napkins from Target instead. I was also not certain that my liquid starch was going to be strong enough, so I added a bit of Elmer's glue to the mix.

For reasons I cannot explain, I had a strong desire to do a few old, traditional party favorite from the 1950's - 1970's. I started out wanting to make the chocolate covered chow mien noodle nests with candy eggs, but also kept searching for some other interesting dessert.

I spied someone's rainbow gelatin dessert on Foodgawker and was instantly decided. After researching them online I found that there is very little variation on the recipe. I made a trip to the store and gathered what I need. I have included the recipes from the blog postings I liked best. I don't usually take the entire posting, but these were from 2007 and I had to be redirected, so I thought it best to post it here lest those older postings are archived and become unavailable.

It was a bit fiddly, but lots of fun! I love how it came out. So does Ellie.

We had dinner at my mother's house. It was the usual abundant spread.

I filled the papier mache' eggs I made and added them to the bunch for the kids. Since the kids are older I had more freedom in what I could put in them. I put in a package of flavored Starbuck's VIA coffe (vanilla or caramel), 4 pieces of Rolos candy and 4 pieces of egg shaped gum balls. They were a hit.

I love my mom. I am happy that she let Ellie take a photograph of her.

Rainbow Jello Dessert

via: Tip Junkie via Rachel Perlow on the EGullet forums.

Plan on it taking about 3 hours to make, the day before you need it. It only takes a few minutes every 20 minutes or so, but you can't let a layer set for hours before adding the next one, or you risk the layers sliding apart after unmolding. And, you want the finished mold to set up at least over night.

People ask what it tastes like. It tastes like Jell-O. Since you are eating many flavors at once, it's hard to differentiate, so it doesn't matter which flavor of red you choose, except that Watermelon is too light in color and Black Cherry is too dark.

I suggest you begin layering with the purple (at the top of the unmolded dessert). This way you will be using a double batch of red,* which, according Kraft's customer service, is the most popular color of Jell-O. (You use a double batch of the last color because a bundt pan flares towards the bottom and if you don't use a double batch, the bottom layer will be very thin. Also, it finishes filling the mold.)

However, you don't have to use Jell-O brand gelatin. If you can't find all the colors you need in one brand, it doesn't really matter if you substitute a store brand or Royal or some other brand. If you want to get fancy, you can use unflavored/unsweetened gelatin and make your own flavors with juice, but the colors will be hard to achieve without a lot of food coloring, so I just go with the boxed stuff. Note that Royal brand is 2.75 oz, while Jell-O is 3 oz, it really doesn't make a difference.

The original recipe calls for 3 Tbs yogurt for each layer, I go with 2 Tbs, or really just a big soup spoonful, otherwise the creamy layers are too pale.

8-3/4 c Boiling Water
7 pkg flavored Gelatin, 1 each of the 6 different colors of the rainbow, plus one extra, either red or purple* (I used 5 colors)
1-1/4 c Vanilla Yogurt (smooth and creamy works best), or sour cream, or cool whip (I used Cool Whip)
Whipped Topping or Cream for service (optional)

Line up your boxes of gelatin in rainbow order (remember ROY G BIV?), next to 5 large cups, and one quart sized bowl. Put each flavor of gelatin in its own bowl or cup, use the larger one for the double batch. Stir 1.25 cups boiling water into each flavor at least 2 minutes until completely dissolved (do one at a time, to make sure each is completely dissolved), use 2.5 cups for the double batch.

Lightly spray a 10 cup Bundt pan with cooking spray, wipe out excess with a paper towel. Beginning with your first color, either red or purple, whichever you DID NOT buy two packages of (I start with purple), pour 3/4 cup of the dissolved gelatin into the bundt pan. Refrigerate about 15-20 minutes or until set but not firm (gelatin should feel tacky and stick to finger when touched).

Meanwhile, stir 2 Tbsp. of the yogurt into the 1/2 cup of dissolved gelatin remaining in the cup, use a small whisk or fork to get out all the lumps. Refrigerate this remaining gelatin about 5 minutes or until slightly thickened (consistency of unbeaten egg whites). Leave the rest of the flavors at room temperature, lightly covered with plastic wrap.

Spoon the creamy gelatin over the set, but still tacky gelatin in pan. Refrigerate about 10-15 minutes or until gelatin is set but not firm (gelatin should stick to finger when touched).

Repeat this with each remaining gelatin flavor. If the gelatin waiting to be used sets at room temperature, fill a bowl the cup will fit into with hot water and stir to loosen it up again. Refrigerate gelatin as directed to create a total of 12 alternating clear and creamy gelatin layers. See tips below.

Refrigerate overnight until firm. Unmold. Garnish servings with whipped cream (optional).


When making all the gelatin at once, instead of using bowls, the gelatin can be made in large, individual, plastic cups (facilitates cleanup). Mark each cup with its flavor and line the cups up in the order they are going into the mold. Put each color of gelatin in its own cup. This saves having to reboil water every 1/2 hour. Leave the gelatin waiting to be layered on the counter, at room temperature, lightly covered with plastic wrap.

Mold type and size: This is a versatile recipe, and special molds aren’t needed, but a bundt cake pan makes a beautiful mold. To calculate the mold's volume, fill it with water to measure it. Plan on 1-2/3 cup of gelatin per box. For a 10-cup mold, seven boxes of gelatin work well. If you are using a smaller mold, use less of each flavor, fewer colors, or make a second "sampler" serving. Even for a large mold, making a small sampler in a clear glass will hit the spot after taking 3 hours to make this and not being able to have any until the next day.

For a nice look the colors of the rainbow (red, orange, yellow, green, blue, violet) are most commonly used, but variations can be beautiful. For example, school colors for a school banquet or bake sale, or colors appropriate to a holiday, i.e. red and green at Christmas.

To set properly, the gelatin must be cold and not warm when it is put in the mold. It is also important that the layers are tacky to the touch and not solidly firm, as each successive layer is added. Otherwise the layers may not stick to each other. To prevent the layers from cracking as each layer is added, pour the gelatin over a spoon to break the fall, close down to the set gelatin. Each time the mold is put into the refrigerator to set, give it a quarter turn. This will keep the layers even. It takes less time for each progressive layer to set.

Unmolding: For best results, unmold just before serving. Fill a larger container or clean sink with warm water, not too hot (otherwise it will melt). Rub a few drops of water onto the serving plate, this will facilitate adjusting the mold after unmolding, if necessary. Either use a plate with a large lip and just a little bit bigger than the diameter of the mold, or use a larger platter, at least 2-3 inches larger than the mold, because it will spread when unmolded and cut. Dip the mold almost to the edge into the warm water for just a few seconds. Wipe off with a towel and check the edges to see if they are loose, if not, repeat the dip for just a few seconds. Invert serving plate on top and flip quickly. Having a spotter brings peace of mind!


Chocolate Bird's Nest with Chocolate Eggs

via: Meals from the Nestle Kitchen website

Wax paper
1 2/3 to 2 cups (11- to 12-ounce package) NESTLÉ TOLL HOUSE Butterscotch or Semi-Sweet Chocolate Morsels
1/4 cup creamy peanut butter
2 cans (5 ounces each) chow mien noodles
30 to 60 NESTLÉ NestEggs, any flavor
LINE trays with wax paper.

MICROWAVE morsels in large, uncovered, microwave-safe bowl on MEDIUM-HIGH (70%) power for 1 minute; STIR. The morsels may retain some of their original shape. If necessary, microwave at additional 10- to 15-second intervals, stirring just until morsels are melted. Stir in peanut butter until well blended.

ADD chow mien noodles to morsel mixture; toss until coated. Using ice cream scoop that measures about 2 rounded tablespoons, scoop and drop onto prepared trays then immediately shape into nests. Refrigerate until ready to serve. Before serving, place one or two NestEggs in each nest. Store prepared nests in covered container for up to 1 day.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Friends, Racing, Prom and a Problem with a Skunk

It was a crazy weekend. Ariana spent it with us so that we could take her to the race in north Boulder on Saturday. It was a super fun extended sleep-over for the girls.

Our dog, Reisha, is very old and has to go to the bathroom in the middle of the night. Early Friday morning (about 12:30 a.m.) she asked to go out. It was oddly early, but I did not think anything about it. She went out as usual, but then it got weird. I saw something small sprint away. Reisha started acting funny and running around in a way that she does not usually do. By the time she came in the house I knew she had been skunked. Who would have imagined a skunk in our front yard?

She was tramatized, was having a difficult time breathing and frantically searched every corner of the main floor about five times before she would agree to lay down and go back to sleep. She wanted to put her head in my lap and have me comfort her, but her stink was so bad that I could not. She had to be like that until we returned from the race on Saturday afternoon. Once home we pulled out the "Goop" hand cleaner and degreaser to wash away the stink. Reisha was clean pretty quickly. However, the smell lingered around the house. Even now there is a faint hint of skunk when I open the door. Reisha acted subduded for a few days and Larr thinks she might have suffered a stroke. I had worried that I would wake on Sunday to find a dead dog. I had the same fear on Monday, but each day she has gotten closer to being like her old tail-wagging self. Now she is just reluctant to go outside. I can understand her hesitation. We know her time is close to ending and it makes us very sad. I fear that at some point we will have to make a hard choice. If that time comes, I hope I have the strength to do what is right.

On a brighter note, the Haystack Time Trial was a lot of fun. It was a special focus race for our team. That means several coaches were on hand, three awnings were set up and most team members raced. Morgan had an injured hand and opted to be a personal trainer to Ellie and Ariana. It was wonderful.

The team did a wonderful job. Many catagories were only filled with kids from our team. Ellie won her catagory, besting second place by almost five minutes. Ariana won, too. A highlight of the day was mostly having time for the kids to hang out together.

Ethan's plans fell through so he had a casual day with his dad. The girls worked in the yard in exchange for new shoes they each picked out on Friday. Saturday night the girls went with me to the prom, something I do every year. I love to go and take photos of my students.


Here is a good gyros recipe I made with a sirloin tip roast that I wanted to use. It was a big hit!

Grilled Beef Gyros


* 1 medium onion, cut into chunks
* 2 garlic cloves
* 2 tablespoons sugar
* 1 tablespoon ground mustard
* 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
* 1 1/2 teaspoons pepper
* 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
* 1/2 cup soy sauce
* 1/4 cup water
* 2 pounds beef sirloin tip roast, cut into 1/4 inch thick slices
* 1 medium cucumber, peeled, seeded and cut into chunks
* 4 garlic cloves
* 1/2 teaspoon salt
* 1/3 cup cider vinegar
* 1/3 cup olive or vegetable oil
* 2 cups sour cream
* 8 pita breads, warmed and halved
* thinly sliced onion
* Chopped tomato


1. In a blender or food processor, place the onion, garlic, sugar, mustard, ginger, pepper and cayenne; cover and process until onion is finely chopped. Add soy sauce and water; process until blended. Place the beef in a large resealable plastic bag. Add marinade. Seal bag and turn to coat; refrigerate for 1-2 hours.
2. For sauce, combine the cucumber, garlic and salt in a blender or food processor; cover and process until cucumber is chopped. Add vinegar and oil; process until blended. Transfer to a boil; stir in sour cream. Refrigerate until serving.
3. Drain and discard marinade. Grill beef, covered, over medium-hot heat until meat reaches desired doneness. Place beef in pita halves. Top with cucumber sauce, sliced onion and chopped tomato. Refrigerate any remaining sauce.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Ellie - Back in the Saddle Again

on Sunday, Ellie got back into racing. We had expected her to race the previous weekend, but the junior races were rained out. She had only been on her bike a few times since Cyclocross ended mid-December. I was concerned that it would hurt her, but I also knew that the time off and rest would do her well. Being the active kidlet that she is, she was fine.

The course did not look too bad in the video, but there was one killer hill that almost no one could ride up. It was a steep hill with several inches of sandy gravel in the road. I imagine (based on descriptions offered to me as I did not ride it) that it must have been like riding up a sand pit on a hill. For a long time Ellie was in first place in her catagory. However, the hill took her bike out from under her and she lost time, never being able to catch it up again. We were happy for her performance. I think she was, too.

On Monday Ellie and Ariana went to see Cody Simpson and Greyson Chance in concert at the Gothic Theater. The girls made matching loud, neon outfits to wear in hopes of being noticed. When I dropped them off I could see others had the same idea. The Gothic had not yet opened so there was a long sworm of young girls trying to look their best. I imagine that it would have been an almost scarey sight for the boys had they gone out to meet them. The crowd appeared loud and bouncy, ranging from 10-18 and largely female.

Here's a sampling of what the girls might of seen at the Cody Simpson and Greyson Chance concert:

Ethan's Eagle Scout of Honor Reception (including recipes)

It was a bit of a challenge to plan what we would have at Ethan's reception for his Eagle Scout Court of Honor. We had sent out 50 invitations, but did not ask for R.S.V.P.s as I find that people don't really respond much anymore.

I wanted to have a few nice things, but not too much. Ethan does not like cake or cupcakes, so I had to pick something else. After a bit of research I was inspired by the cookies some others has created for their boys. I had grand plans, but in the end I did not have time to bag them up. Everyone seemed to like them and the recipe I used was perfect. It is not too sweet, holds nicely, but also has a pleasant crumb once in the mouth. I decorated some of them with royal icing and left others plain. Ellie liked the iced ones, but I think next time I would do fewer of those.

Our good friend Karin sent one of those edible arrangements for Ethan. It was a big hit, especially the chocolate covered strawberries and banana pieces.

The favorite things I made for the reception was the special water bottles. They were easy and fun to do. I was inspired by those that Amanda made. I simply made a template in Adobe Photoshop. I was able to fit 7 strips that were 1.5" by 8". I made 4 different designs: A young Ethan, Ethan and his Patches, A Boy Scout and awards, and a pergola design. I did not bother to remove the original label, but simply used my tape runner to apply double sided tape, being careful to place it right the ends and a few in the middle.

Sugar Cookie Recipe

from: Sweetopia blog


2 1/2 cups butter (at room temperature)

2 cups sugar

2 large eggs

seeds from 1 vanilla bean (or 3 tsp vanilla)

5 cups flour

1 tsp baking powder

1 tsp salt

1. Cream the butter and sugar together in the bowl of an electric mixer on low to medium speed. (Use the paddle attachment). Mix until thoroughly incorporated – for about one minute. Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a plastic spatula and mix again for a few seconds more.

Over mixing the butter and sugar in this step will cause too much air to be incorporated into the dough. If you’d like a light and fluffy cookie, that’s ideal, however the dough will spread more during baking; not ideal if you’d like the cookie to hold its shape.

2. Add eggs slowly and mix. Scrape down the bowl with your spatula at least once and mix again.

3. Cut open your vanilla bean and scrape the seeds out. Add to mixing bowl. Alternatively, add liquid vanilla extract. Stir briefly.

4. Sift your dry ingredients together. (Flour, baking powder and salt).

5. Add all of the flour mixture to the bowl. Place a large tea towel or two small tea towels between the edge of the bowl and the electric mixer so that the flour won’t escape. Mix on low speed for 3o seconds. Remove the tea towels and observe the dough mixing; when it clumps around the paddle attachment it’s ready. It’s also important at this stage not to over mix the dough (the glutens in the flour develop and the dough can become tough).

6. Roll the dough out between 2 large pieces of parchment paper. Place on a baking sheet and into the fridge for a minimum of 1 hour.

7. Roll out the dough further if you need to, and cut out cookie shapes. Place on parchment paper-lined baking sheet. Re-roll scraps and repeat.

8. Put cookie dough shapes back into the fridge for 10 minutes to 1 hour to chill again. They will then hold their shape better when baked.

9. Preheat your oven to 350°F or 176°C.

10. Bake cookies for 8-12 minutes or until the edges become golden brown. The baking time will depend on the size of your cookie.

11. Let cookies cool to room temperature and decorate!


Royal Icing Using Egg Whites:

2 large egg whites

2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice

3 cups (330 grams) confectioners (powdered or icing) sugar, sifted

For Royal Icing with Egg Whites: In the bowl of your electric mixer (or with a hand mixer), beat the egg whites with the lemon juice. Add the sifted powdered sugar and beat on low speed until combined and smooth. The icing needs to be used immediately or transferred to an airtight container as royal icing hardens when exposed to air. Cover with plastic wrap when not in use.


Savory Cranberry, Pistachio 7 Goat Cheese Palmiers
Adapted From: Tasty Kitchen
1 whole Sheet Of Purchased Puff Pastry, Thawed
2-3 ounces, weight Goat Cheese (chevre), Room Temperature
1/2-3/4 cups (slightly Packed) Dried Cranberries
1/4-1/2 cups Pistachios, Roughly Chopped

Preparation Instructions

Roll the puff pastry sheet into a rectangle that is at least 8 inches wide and no less than 1/8-inch thick. With the standard puff pastry sheets found in the grocery stores, you won’t have much rolling to do.

Spread goat cheese over the puff pastry and top with dried cranberries and pistachios. Using your hand, lightly press the cranberries and pistachios into the cheese. Roll each long end of the rectangle into the center. Chill for about 15 minutes.

Cut the roll crosswise into 1/8-inch slices and divide the palmiers between two baking sheets covered with parchment paper. Chill for at least 1 hour.

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F. Bake the palmiers until they are puffed and light golden brown, 6 to 8 minutes. Quickly flip the palmiers and place back in the oven, switching positions of the baking sheets. Bake for an additional 4 to 5 minutes. Transfer the palmiers to a cooling rack and cool completely before serving.

Make ahead: The palmiers can be baked and then store in the fridge in an airtight container for 2 to 3 days, or frozen. Before serving, place unthawed palmiers on a baking sheet in a 350 degree F oven for 5 minutes.


Sausage and Cheese Pinwheels
Adapted from: Tasty Kitchen

2 rolls of Crescent Dough
1 pound Pork Sausage
1 1/2 cups Cheddar Cheese, shredded

Preparation Instructions

Using store-bought or homemade crescent dough, lightly flour a surface and roll the dough into as much of a rectangular shape as you can (they won’t be perfect, don’t worry). Using a tube or package of flavored pork sausage, spread half of the sausage onto each piece if dough. Do the same with the cheese. Roll up each crust into a log and slice with a serrated knife, making them about 1/2-3/4 inch thick. Discard the end pieces without sausage. Reshape the pinwheels if necessary and place on a baking sheet. Bake at 375ºF for 25 minutes or until the sausage is cooked and the crust is golden brown. Enjoy!

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Ethan's Eagle Scout Ceremony

We had a really wonderful Eagle Scout Court of Honor for Ethan on Friday. It was a full house with about 75 people attending.
We showed the slide show I made.
His former Senior Patrol Leader, Collin, gave a talk about the Trail to Eagle.
Ethan's cousin Mark welcomed everyone.
Stan P. offered some remarks, as did Frank, Ethan's former Scoutmaster.

Ethan took the oath and Eagle Scout Charge very seriously.

Then I awarded him his Eagle Scout medal.

Larr put on the neckerchief. It is very cool!

We could not be more proud of our boy.

Good mentors are such an important element for a young man.

Wednesday, April 06, 2011

Sand Dunes in the Spring - It Will Blow You Away

My kids have magical dreams that involve the Sand Dunes. They have visions of treks up the seemingly endless dunes of sand, recall the thrill of softly tumbling or sleding down then sand, the energy absorbed by the sand with every step. They also quietly plan adventures finding and playing in the stream that makes a brief appreance each spring, courtesy of the melting snow.

What they did not count on was the weather. Arriving in Salida, we discovered that it is nearly always windy in Salida in the spring. Ditto for the Sand Dunes. But that day trip was a go anyway. It was the very reason Ellie campaigned for the trip in the first place.
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Being the wise, usually overly prepared, brother, Ethan came equiped with ski goggles that help him brave the wind. Ellie, shoe lover that she is, sported her weird and wonderful "toe shoes" for her run in the sand.

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

Ellie is awarded a Scholarship to Anderson Ranch!

A friend of ours was all aglow after attending a 3 week workshop at the Anderson Ranch Art Center in Snowmass (Aspen). She encouraged Ellie and I to apply for scholarships. Ellie was so excited to have a chance to go to summer camp and was lucky enough to have been awarded a scholarship. She will be attending the "Screen Printing for Teens: Posters and T-Shirts" sessions in August. YEAH!

Monday, April 04, 2011

Spring Break in Salida - Part 1 Animals, Library Visits and Inspiration

Spring break is now behind us. While the rest of the family is back to school, I have one more day off, a trade of time for Parent/Teacher conferences.

We spent a bit of it in Salida. We are lucky enough to have friends who lend us their little historic house each time we go. In exchange we do something to improve it. Sometimes we leave new pans for the kitchen or nice towels to take to the local hot springs. This time Larr performed an asbestos inspection as our friends might need to do a bit of serious house maintenance. We've been there so many times that it is almost like going home, sometimes.

We've never been there in the spring. Oh my, is it ever windy. Ellie had her heart set on going to the Sand Dunes. Larr and Ethan wanted to check out the local mines and do a bit of exploring. I am happy to walk around town. There are two wonderful artsy stores, Fringe and Beadsong, in Salida that I planned on spending time in.

(This photo was from a different season.)

Each day we would go to the local Salida Regional Library to check our email and read a few blogs (okay, actually I am the only one reading the blogs. Larr reads news sites.)It is a wonderful, welcoming and comfortable place that invites you to settle in and feel like you belong there.

They happened to have an exhibit of art from Roberta Smith, a local artist. Each day I would walk through and look at the paintings. Each day I would pick one to examine closely. Though they are paintings, wonderfully full of texture, color and light, they rouse in me the desire to dye fabric and make a contemporary quilt. I wanted to know more about her, so I looked up her website. There I found even more inspiration of the mixed media kind.

We kept a more relaxed pace while we were in Salida. I spent time gazing at the mountains. I coaxed the local kitties into letting me pet the for while. One day we even had two does and their yearlings spend the day in the back yard. They were so tame that they did not seem to mind you getting within 10 feet of them to snap a photo. They seemed to know that they were safe. Days like these remind me how I so easily occupy myself with stuff on the computer. I must remember to unplug myself, even where there are things to be done.

Friday, April 01, 2011

Google's April Fool's Joke

Ethan - Bear Cub Scout Years 2002-2003

I think it is fun to see Ethan growing up in this series of photos. I hope you enjoy it, too.