Thursday, September 29, 2011

A New Biking Adventure

Photo by Annette Hayden

On Saturday Ellie had a good race, but the day itself was very exciting. Kathy, a biking friend of ours, approached me to see if I thought that Ellie might be interested in joining her Colorado High School Mountain Biking League team. They are a brand new team and are in great need of a female member. Having a girl racing on your team improves the team standings greatly. Many other people had suggested to Ellie that she should join a team, but at those times she was not intererested. I told Kathy she could ask, but that she should not hold her breath. I did not think Ellie would even give it a second thought. However, I was very wrong. After finishing her race, Ellie went to find Kathy, talked with her and came bounding back to me. She is over the moon with excitement. Kathy said she would be able to find scholarship money (or even help Ellie on her own) to pay for the league and racing fees. Kathy is even pretty sure that she can get a Specialized mountain bike for Ellie. That is exciting to her; she is equally excited with the idea that she can make a very real and big difference for for the team. Kathy told Ellie that if she had been on the team the week before that the team would have gotten second over all instead of eleventh (which is still pretty good considering that there are 27 teams in our division of the league.) Since then Ellie was been awarded money to cover the costs and Kathy is lending Ellie one of her own mountain bikes. It is a nice, light one. Ellie got a chance to ride it last night. She is nervous about being a newbie in the race on Sunday. I told her that Kathy and I think she will do great. Her strength and skill will transfer nicely to that kind of riding. She simply needs to get used to the bike.

I am thankful for people like Kathy, the coach, and for Kate, the league director who awarded Ellie money for racing. It is one thing to have your parents believe in you. Ellie tells me, "Mom, you have to believe in me. That is your job." Having others show the same support is completely different and affirming. What a lucky girl she is.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Harvesting Honey

This is the second year that Ethan has kept bees, but the first time he could harvest honey. It was exciting!

First, he and his dad put on all of the special bee keeping gear, being careful to seal up any place a bee could get access to skin, even through thin or knit material (like socks). Next, they smoke out the bees. Most go into a very relaxed state.

They collect the honey comb frames from the upper box, leaving the combs in the lower boxes for the bees to feed on during the cold season.

.These bees were very happy and productive, making a lot of honey this summer.

The honey combs are placed in a centrifuge machine that spins the honey out without hurting the wax comb. It only takes about a minute to do this part. The machine was a gift from a good friend who pasted away recently.

Ethan takes the honey, cleans it up a bit and put it into containers. I believe he got 4 quart jars and eight honey bears full of honey. When he came home he was anxious to have some of it so it went on toast and into tea.

He has the option of putting together one more tower of boxes which he is thinking he will try. It is mostly a matter of getting a queen which can be purchased through the mail or, if you are lucky, caught. The other two boxes you see in the photos were dormant this summer as there had been a bee disease in them and leaving them empty for a season gets rid of the problem.

Friday, September 23, 2011

A Beaded Shoulder Bag

I am not very good at just sitting still. I admire the fact that some people can do so and be very happy. I, on the other hand, am always a busy beaver.
I recently purchased a nice shoulder bag from IKEA to use as a carrying case for my little netbook, but the design was not at all me. SOMETHING had to be done! So after a short search I found the perfect fabric at a quilting store.Red is really not my color, and the red of the bag is very particular, like a little kid on a hot afternoon who has had too much sugar and not enough "real" food to have a reasonable response to anything.

But this fabric jumped right up, waved its hand frantically and said that she was the perfect candidate, and indeed, she was. I took her home, quiltered her a bit with bright green thread and then broke out the box of bead (well, a whole case of beads, actually).

Each week while Ellie danced, I carefully picked my way through my beads, carefully pouring the desired colors into tiny silicone bows. I used a tiny, short quilting needle to do the work. Ande even though I could see the finished project in my head, it was still like magic slowly appearing on my fabric.

It was interesting to see how much interest the red, the quilting and especially the beads commanded. People were often drawn in, hesitent to touch for fear that it was not the right thing to do, and very animated when I invited them to amble their fingers over the small, round seed beads, to follow the shaft of a bugle bead and to compare what each beaded design felt like. It was fun for me, too. Most people remark that they do not have the kind of patience it takes to do such a project. I suspect they just don't know the kind of joy it brings, either. Even the neighbor's cat, Gorham, was drawn in by the glimmer of the beads in the fading afternoon sun. She apologised for being being late to the photoshoot, smoothed out her ruffled fur and then jumped in, posing like a pro.

Do you think I might get a few extra pats on the super soft fur before you trot off, my dear?

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

ACA Awards & Ham, Spinach and Cheese Savory Crepes

On Saturday Ellie received the American Cycling Association Junior Women 13-14 Best All Around Rider award and her team was awarded many awards, including Best All Around Team Junior Woment 13-14. It was a nice evening. Dinner was sponsored by Basil Doc's Pizza. They are so good to the ACA and we love their pizza. There was a raffle, lots of time to visit and many opportunities to celebrate season long accomplishments that take from Feb. to August to earn.

I am in the process of trying to use up stuff I have in my freezer so we had savory Ham, Spinach and Cheese crepes for dinner so that I could use the crepes we got from IKEA. They were good enough, but crepes should really be served fresh out of a hot, lightly buttered pan. It was a hit:

via Julia Childs from Julia and Jacques: Cooking at Home by Julia Childs and jacques Pepin

Yields 12-15 crepes (7")

1 cup Flour, all purpose
2 Eggs, large (sometimes I have to use 3)
1 Egg Yolk
3/4 cup Milk
1/3 cup Butter, melted
2 TBS Sugar (I leave this out if I am making savory crepes)
A large pinch of Salt (I leave this out if I am using salted butter)
3/4 cup Water, warm

2 Tbs+ Butter, melted, for brushing the pan.


1 Ham Steak, finely diced
4 slices Canadian Bacon, finely diced (optional)
10 oz. Spinach, thawed and squeezed to release extra liquid
1/2 cup mayonnaise
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1/2 - 3/4 cup Cheese (Swiss is best, but Cheddar works nicely, too) shredded

Instructions for the crepe batter
Add all ingredients to the work carafe of a blender, add the lid, and blend on HIGH for about 20 seconds. Stop the blender, scrape down the sides, replace the lid and pulse three more times. Put the blender carafe in the refrigerator and let rest for 30 minutes to 24 hours before proceeding.

To Cook Crepes:
Place a heavy-bottomed non-stick skillet, crepe pan or well-seasoned cast-iron pan over medium heat. Use a heat-proof pastry brush to lightly brush the pan with melted butter, taking care to get the edges of the bottom of the pan as that is where batter tends to stick.
Pour about 2-4 ounces of batter into the center of the pan and immediately tilt and swirl the pan so that the batter covers the entire bottom of the pan.
Set the pan back over the heat and let it cook until the crepe has no visible wet areas on top.
Use a semi-flexible spatula to run around the edges of the crepe before lifting and turning the crepe. Cook the second side for about 10 seconds only. The goal is just to lightly color that side.
Transfer the finished crepe to a cooling rack. Repeat until you have used all the crepe batter.

For Filling:
Lightly butter the bottom of a hot pan. Add in the bacon and ham. Heat until cooked through. Remove from pan, or at least push it to the side. Lightly butter the pan again and add the spinach. Cook until it is warm. Add in the mayonnaise and the Dijon mustard. Stir to mix and heat through.

To serve place the ham, spinach and sauce mix in a thin line down the center of the crepe. Add a bit of cheese and roll up. Heat up, if needed, before serving.
Serve hot.

Monday, September 19, 2011

A Date with My Husband

It was a really lovely weekend, one of the best I've had in a while. I am pretty sure this might be my favorite time of year. The weather is mild enough to enjoy being outside without overheating or getting too cold. I
On Sunday morning Larr and I had brunch at my favorite fancy restuarant, The Briarwood Inn, located in Golden. I had not been there in a very long time.

It was so nice to have some uninterupted time to just be together.

The meal started off with an offering of many drinks and beverages. I opted for orange juice and Earl Grey tea. Larr simply had coffee. Next came the pastries. I think there much have been around 20 little bites to share. The French orange macaroon was my favorite, followed by the flaky, light puff pastry with chunky apple filling. Those were accompanied by a nice serving of fruit salad. Really, I could have stopped there, but more food arrived. I had prime rib and potatoes. Larr had a smaller bit of prime rib, an Eggs Benedict with a nicely poached egg and potatoes. Afterwards we wondered around the building, admiring the beauty. I really liked the tavern section and plan to return some day to have a nice bowl of their French Onion soup. I think it is fun to sample it as often as I can. They are never the same.

On the way home we stopped by the garden center to have a look-see at what is on sale. Planting this time of year is a bit of a crap-shoot, but generally safe, unless we get a sudden heavy storm. The advantages are that the plants are on sale at a significant discount ($3 each, instead of $8-$10) and the roots will have a chance to get established before spring arrives. That should mean happier plants next year. I will detail what I got and planted in another posting.

Once home, we sat on the back porch and talked more. We also visited Gorham, the visiting neighbor kitty, that drives our kitties insane with jealously. I am pretty sure that Moxy and Toby have set up a watch to keep track of when she in the yard. Yesterday evening Toby was on the look-out even after it had been dark for a long while. On one hand, I feel a bit bad that they are so jealous and upset. On the other hand, they do seem to like having a mission. I did have a few chores that I should have gotten done. I put them off in favor of good weather. I can clean closets when it is raining outside.

That evening we were happy to greet Ethan when he returned from his three day adventure to Lake McConaughy in Nebraska with the Sea Scouts. (He jokes that since we live in a land-locked state perhaps it should be Lake Scouts, or maybe even Harbor Scouts.) He had been part of a four man crew on a sail boat. It was foggy, rainy, cold and interesting to him. He picked up on what needed to be done easily. They also practiced many essential skills like saving a man overboard, piloting the ship, putting out a fire that starts on the ships, etc. He had a good time and looks forward to going again. I am thrilled that he has such adventures.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

A Little Racin' and a Little Bakin'

After a wild week at school during Homecoming week, it was nice to get back to our usual route. On Saturday Ellie raced at the Valmont Bike Park in Boulder. The kids had a wonderful time at the park when it was still just rural land. It was something to see how it has has been developed. It is a fine place for a ride, whether you ride cyclocross, mountain or BMX.
I hope that these photos show the beauty of the day.
Ellie had hoped to find mud since we had a lot of rain of late. She also hoped for rain last night, but it did not come. Instead we were greeted by the mountains lit up like they were on a stage.
Ellie was her entire category today. She had fun and set in for a good run with the boys. I love the brief fall weather we have here. It put me in the mood to do a bit of baking on Friday night. Here's what I made: Pumpkin-Walnut Focaccia with Gruyère 3/4 cup warm water (100° to 110°) 1/3 cup packed brown sugar 1 package dry yeast (about 2 1/4 teaspoons) 3 1/2 cups bread flour, divided 3 tablespoons butter, melted 1 cup canned pumpkin 1 teaspoon salt 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg 3/4 cup (3 ounces) grated Gruyère cheese, divided 1 teaspoon cornmeal 1/3 cup coarsely chopped walnuts 2 teaspoons pumpkin seeds Directions: In a large bowl, combine water, sugar, and yeast; let stand 5 minutes. Add 1 cup flour and butter to yeast mixture; stir just until combined. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place, free from drafts, 30 minutes. Add pumpkin, salt, and nutmeg to flour mixture; stir until combined. Add 2 1/4 cups flour and half of cheese; stir until a soft dough forms. Turn dough out onto a floured surface. Knead until smooth and elastic (about 8 minutes); add enough of remaining 1/4 cup flour to prevent dough from sticking to hands. Place dough in a large bowl coated with cooking spray, turning to coat. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place, free from drafts, 1 hour or until doubled in size. Punch dough down; cover and let rest 5 minutes. Divide dough in half; shape each half into an 8-inch circle. Place dough circles on a baking sheet sprinkled with cornmeal. Sprinkle remaining cheese, nuts and pumpkin seeds evenly over dough circles; press lightly to adhere. Lightly coat dough circles with cooking spray; cover and let rise 20 minutes. Preheat oven to 400°. Uncover dough; bake at 400° for 28-30 minutes or until loaves are browned on the bottom and cheese melts. Cool on a wire rack. Yields: 2-8inch rounds, 8 servings per round Source: Cooking Light, October 2005

Thursday, September 15, 2011

T.V. is not really our thing. Larr and I did not want our kids to grow up being glued to the tube and scheduling their lives around television shows. We don't have cable, but we do the the internet and we love Netflix, as well as Hulu. We love that we can watch the shows we like on our own time and by our own schedule.
This summer Ellie and I enjoyed all of the episodes of "Pushing Daisies." Those shows had great color, design and wit. They series run was cut short by the writer's strike in about 2009. We were disappointed when we ran out of shows to watch. That led us to look for more sort of witty, cerebral comedies. "Dead Like Me" answered that call. Ellie and sit together and watch it from time to time. It is a way to simply spend time together. I like it much better than the many and varied reality shows that are so available one the television. Ethan has been hooked, too. Sadly, it too had only two seasons. Who knows where our hunt for good shows will lead us to next.

Monday, September 12, 2011

How to Host an 18th Birthday Party and A Hot Start to Cryclocross Season

This past Saturday we hosted a birthday party for Ethan and about 30 of his closest friends. It was a good mix. We had kids here from 14 to about 25 years of age. That meant that we needed a lot of food.
Here's what you need for a party like ours: * 36 bottles of Coke (Mexican Coke, if you can get your hands on it. Being made with real sugar instead of high fructose corn syrup, it tastes better and is less bad for you.) * 12 cans of Doctor Pepper * 24 bottles of Water * 6 batches of Rice Crispy Treats ( regular straight up RCT, RCT with sprinkles and small candy mixed in and Cocoa Pebbles RCT. These take the place of cake - what kid doesn't love those? * 45 Hot Dogs * 50 Hot Dog Buns * 5# Chili (Hormel is best) * 5# Nacho Cheese * 4 Family Size Bags of Chips (Lays Regular, Lays Sour Cream andChives, Doritos, and BBQ chips) * 2 bags Tortilla Chips * Ketsup * Mustard * Relish * 1 bag of M & Ms Here's what you do to have fun: * Talk * Eat * Hook up computer speakers and play music from your Ipod * Take the pop bottles out of the steel tub that holds some of the drinks and have a contest to see who can hold their breath while their head is submerged in ice water for the longest (very popular - go figure!) * Do a handstand, have a buddy hold up your legs and dunk the top of your head in previously mentioned ice water (really now...) * Take off your shirts and compare muscles (guys only. Girls shake their heads and walk away) * Many rounds of arm wrestling * Climb the rope tied to the swing in the tree (best if done without your shirt on, again, guys only) * Longboard/Skateboard in the street in front of the house (taking turns nicely, of course) * Suck helium out of the ballons and talk funny * Eat more * Talk more * Play "Rock Band" * Take the very large excerise ball, have one person hold it and have another person playing. Have them run into each other and see who is still standing, or is withou an injured forehead * Have a fire in the fire pit * Relax * Eat more * Chat * Have some of them stay the night. The others go home pretty late into the evening. * Be okay, happy actually, that various groups of friends form smaller groups and enjoy each other's company. Being happy that everyone seems to have found good people to hang out with. If you are the birthday boy then you rotate through, making sure to spend time with everyone. * Stay up really late, trying to be not too loud The next morning Ellie had her first race of the cyclocross season.
She never wants to miss a chance to hang out with her cycling friends.
She started to feel sick during the race, even puking a bit in the second lap, but she kept on and finished the race.
She won an alien head light for her bike. It has eyes that flash read. She thinks it is cool! After the race we went home and she slept until it was time to go to cotillion. This season she is a cotillion junior teaching assistant and she thinks that is pretty cool.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

The 9/11 Memorial Special Event at Arvada High School

On Friday the school where I teach put on a special 9/11 Remembrance event. One of the people killed in the 9/11 attack was a graduate of our school. He was a 29 year old father of two sweet boys when he was killed. In an effort to keep his memory alive and positive, they put together a scholarship fund. So far four students have received some of those monies. A number of dignitaries were present. The most riveting part of the event was the guest speaker, a fire fighter that survived his rescue efforts. This is considerable considering that 343 of his fellow fight fighters perished trying to help others. His was a story with pictures, facts and stories. He had many interesting things to share. Here are a few of the more unusual things he told us about: The first person to respond in a fighter fighter's uniform was a New York chaplain. He was the first person to die in the first tower. His was also the first whole body recovered. The fire fighters present were sure that has was sent by God to help shephard others through the awful attack. Of the 2,819 people who died in the attack of the World Trade Center, only 174 were found whole. * Body parts were found as far as seven miles away. * At first rescue dogs were brought in. These dogs are trained to find live people. They became depressed, just like those who were working to rescue people. The dogs would shut down emotionally from the sadness and despair of it. The fire fighters kept up the dogs' spirits by hiding and having the dogs find them. This helped to keep them working. * Later the dogs trained to find corpses were brought in. They suffered similar depression, though this time there was no easy fix. Parts of the planes were found up to a few miles away. Those photos were a bit alarming since I had not expected to see them. The kids seemed to be really impacted by the stories the fire fighter shared. It is their hope, and mine, that this very personal, touching story will help this generation of students (who were just 4-7 years old when the e attacks happened) understand the importance of acceptance and the sacrifices, and successes we as a nation have endured as a result of the attacks. (more to come, maybe)

Monday, September 05, 2011

...And Suddenly, Just LIke That, It is Fall!

Fall arrived this weekend, as if she had boarded a train and showed up on my doorstep just in time. I love... ... The symphony of crickets that at times get so loud that you can hear them clearly through a closed window. ... The gentle, cool breeze that comes through my window at night. ... That is is cool enough at night to need the comfort of a blanket. I like sleeping in a cool room. ... That the sun comes up at the same time I do most mornings. ... The dappled pattern of sunlight that comes through the leaves that is the first thing I see when I awake up at a leisurely hour. ... Being able to snuggle with my husband and not have him get too hot since I am a human heater. ... Having enough morning light to be able to watch my husband sleep on some mornings when we are not in a hurry to get ready for work. ... How my kids enjoy the company of each other, even when it is loud, silly and pesty. ... How the cats light to sleep on the edge of my sewing table or on the extra chair in my craft room as I sew and make things. ... Being at home when each of us is content with our personal activities, but still feeling connected by proximity. ... Having some time to do a bit of creating. This weekend that has involved a lot of ironing, measuring, cutting and some sewing. ... my family.

Saturday, September 03, 2011

My Boy Turns 18!

It is hard to believe. The last eighteen years have flown by so quickly. I'm so proud or and pleased with the young man he is becoming.
In keeping with tradition, we played "Ring of Fire" to celebrate him. I don't remember how this tradition got started, but it is much more fun than "Happy Birthday". Then Larr added "Eighteen" by Alice Cooper. This one is not tradition, but it was fun to add.
To celebrate his entrance into manhood he did many of the things he needed to be 18 to do. He bought lottery tickets (won, bought more and lost some), purchased spray paint and well,... I think that might have been it. I made his favorites. We had crepes for breakfast. He likes his with real maple syrup (we were out so his dad went to the store and got a new bottle), Ellie smothers hers in powdered sugar, Larr likes his with jelly. I like mine plain and hot out of the pan. We hung out together and did a bit of shopping, including purchasing some fancy new Brooks running shoes for him. He decided that he would like calzones from dinner. So we had cheese (Port Salut, Smoked Gouda and Habinero Cheddar Cheese) and crackers, baguette with aged balsamic vinegar, and sweet chili marinated shrimp. That was followed by calzones with pepperoni, sausage, black olives, red peppers, mozzarella cheese and red sauce. That was a big hit. We finished up the night with lots of conversation, a silly movie and ice cream.

Friday, September 02, 2011

USA Pro Cycling Challenge - Stage 6 Golden to Denver

We knew that the final stage of the USA ProCycling Challenge would be a big one. Starting in Golden and finishing in Denver, it was sure to draw big crowds. And it did, of course

Barb took the kids down to where the finish line would be by 8:00 a.m., even though the racers were not due until around 1:00 p.m. This was very important to the kids. Their efforts paid off with front row seats about 15 yards from the finish. I had school work to do so I did not join them until around 11:00 a.m.

It was an exciting place to be. There was a huge festival. People were giving away free stuff. Each of the kids got shirts for this, the final stage. The crowds gathered and started pushing in about noon. By the time the riders came by the crowds were whipped up into a frenzy. You knew it was time when the offical cars, the state patrols, the wheel cars and the camera crews came through. After treking through Golden, up and down Look Out Mountain and then to downtown, the riders had five laps left to go. By the time they arrived they had split up into four distinct groups with a lag time of about 4:30 between the leaders and the last rider. Each lap it got closer and closer. They whizzed by so quickly that we simply attempted to get some photos. We'd have to actually look to see who they were later on. By the last lap the riders had bunched into three groups and cut the time down significantly. I think they shaved off almost two mintutes. The crowd was thumping, pulsing and cheering. The riders were focused, sweaty and fast.

Even before all of the rider came through the crowds broke down the barriers and headed towards the stage for the podium event.

(to be continued)