Thursday, March 28, 2013

Sunny Times in Grand Junction

Ellie finally feels well enough to be more than a hot lump on the couch. We decided to make the best of the time we have left of Spring Break and headed to Grand Junction. Our friends, the Fosters, live there and they invited us to stay. It is a great place to be. It is warm enough for shorts weather and accessible to make great places to bike.

The trip over the pass was slushy and yucky. I had my windshield wipers going for a long time and I used a ton of wiper fluid. In Frisco traffic was almost at a stand still. We left the house very early, so we still arrived with plenty of time to do stuff. Ethan and a few of his friends were on their way camping near Grand Junction so he called to warn me about the road conditions and a speed trap. He is a good and thoughtful boy.

When the Book Cliffs came into view I knew we were close. That made me very happy.

Natalie and her family are heading out to Crested Butte to go skiing so we got down to the serious business of visiting very quickly.

We went to Enstrom's Candy and picked up a few treats. Natalie also gifted us a nice assortment of chocolates. Back home, the kids started to play. They spend some time on the zipline and riding bikes around.

We cleaned up the bikes so that Glenn could take Ellie and Kolhton for a ride on Lunch Loop before it got dark.

The first day of Spring Break was a success!

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Ethan's New Beanie

I recently made a new beanie for Ethan. It was a pleasure to knit up using Malabrigo yarn.

He wanted a Coyote Tan color. I could not find that, but this was so much more lovely than a solid color would have been anyway. Once it was done, he was very happy with it. He took it camping on Wednesday as he heads up to the Book Cliffs near Grand Junction to go camping with Scott and James.

I cast on 104 stitches onto size 3 circular needles. After doing a 2x2 ribbing for about 2", I switched to size 5 circular needles to knit the rest, until I got to the crown. Once there I went back down to size 3 double pointed needles. I was extra careful to make sure that there were no holes in the top of the crown. My knitting has improved a lot in the last year or so.

I think Ethan worries about loosing or wrecking the things I make for him. I told him that I would rather the hat come home with some small holes from use around a camp fire or from snagging in a tree than to have it sit on the top of his dresser unused. I believe that made him feel more comfortable. My hope is that it will help keep him warmer on these cold winter night camping in the dessert.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Whole Orange Cake

On Sunday I met for brunch with a few girlfriends from work. We went to Jill's house. She recently remodeled it; I felt like I was in a house from a magazine. She provided a base salad and the rest of us brought things to add. I took pound cake and strawberries to dip in chocolate. I thought we needed a bit of decadence. Mari brought along a lovely, not-too-sweet whole orange cake. I thought the recipe was worth posting:

Photo borrowed from Sunset Magazine Website

Whole Orange Cake
via: Sunset Magazine, March 2013

Cooking-oil spray
1 cup butter, softened
1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
3 large eggs
2 oranges (about 1 lb. total), ends trimmed, then cut into chunks and seeded
2 1/2 cups flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
2 tablespoons plus 1 tsp. orange juice

1. Preheat oven to 325°. Coat a 10-cup Bundt pan with cooking-oil spray. In a large bowl with a mixer on medium speed, beat butter and granulated sugar until fluffy. Beat in eggs.

2. Whirl orange chunks in a food processor until mostly smooth but not puréed. Add 1 1/2 cups orange mixture to batter and beat until blended. Add flour, salt, baking soda, and baking powder to bowl and beat until smooth. Spread batter in prepared pan.

3. Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out with only a few crumbs clinging to it, about 55 minutes. Cool pan on a rack 10 minutes, then invert cake onto rack and let cool completely.

4. Whisk together powdered sugar and orange juice in a small bowl. Drizzle over cooled cake. Let glaze set, then slice cake.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

The Silly Tale of Three Mittens

I love to knit mittens and each pairs gets a bit better than the last. My mother admired the mittens that I made around Christmas time and so I decided that she would get the next pair. I thought she would want red and white gnome mittens, but after purusing all of the options on Raverly, she picked a lovely pattern, one I would not have even considered for her.

She opted for the Rainbow Mitts by DROPS. I carefully choose yarn that was warm, but easy to care for and durable. I picked a nice variegated yarn that had just a small touch of sparkle. I set about happily knitting a nice mitten. I was pleased to watch the design growth from my needle.My favorite part of the design is the three lines that run the entire side of the mitten and thumb.

I quickly finished the first mitten and cast on the next one. Once I was about 3/4 of the way through that mitten I went to try them both on to compare how the lines of colors between the mittens. That is when I realized that I had blindly followed the pattern and had knitted two right hand mittens. Silly me. I was a little amazed that I had been so automatic about it and had not even considered that I was simply making a second mitten exactly like the first. I thought about whether I should tear it apart and start a new left handed mitten. In the end I realized that I had enough yarn to make another mitten. The third mitten seemed to go a bit more slowly, but I am pleased with the result. They will look even nicer once I block them. My mother will be happy to have them for the next storm which happens to be rolling into town tomorrow evening.

Here's what we had for dinner tonight. It was pretty quick and very popular.

Sweet and Spicy Sriracha Sauce BBQ Shrimp

Serves: 2-4

¼ Cup Low Sodium Soy Sauce
⅓ Cup Tangerine Juice
1 Teaspoon Sesame Oil
2 Tablespoons Palm Sugar
2 Tablespoons Sriracha Sauce
1 Clove Garlic (minced)
1½ Teaspoons Tangerine Zest
1½ Pounds Raw Shrimp (head on or at least shell on)
2 Tangerines (sliced thin)
Lime Juice
Kosher Salt
Chopped Green Onions

Add first 7 ingredients to large pan and heat over medium high heat.
Heat, and stir, until the sugar has melted and it begins to boil.
Continue cooking another 2-3 minutes so that the liquid thickens a bit.
Add the shrimp to the hot pan.
Cook, and stir, until shrimp are pink and curled.
Continue to cook until liquid thickens up (about 2-3 more minutes).
Toss in 5 or 6 of the tangerine slices and stir them around so that their juices get added to the pan.
Give a good squirt of lime juice over top of the shrimp and stir to combine.
Taste the sauce add salt, if desired.
Garnish plate with remaining tangerine slices and chopped green onions.

Notes: When you add the shrimp, you may think the pan looks a little dry. Don’t panic, the shrimp will add some of their liquid back into the pan. If you really don’t think it’s enough liquid, add 1-2 tablespoons of water to the pan.


Orange Julius Smoothie
via: Sweet Treats and More blog

1/2 cup low-fat or skim milk
1/2 cup cold water
2 tbs sugar or sugar substitute
1 tsp vanilla extract
4-5 ice cubes
6 oz frozen orange juice concentrate (I cut a 12 oz can of frozen orange juice in half and save the other half for your next smoothie)
**add one egg white (optional-helps make it frothier!)
Place everything in a blender and blend for several minutes until smooth and frothy.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Happy Spring Equinox

Happy first day of spring! Festive touches of the approaching season have been spotted in our garden during the last week:

The crocus are always the first happy signs of spring. This year they were just a bit later than usual. This was only the second time since Ellie was born that her birthday was not the first day that we had crocus blooming in our year. Here, they are joined by a bright yellow dwarf iris.

I love the foliage in the garden.

The hens and chicks are hardy, abundant and welcoming.

And of course, we will watch the tulips closely. Two years ago I put in 200 bulbs - when they are in bloom it is glorious!

Monday, March 18, 2013

Ethan Begins our Garden

Ethan and I have been gardening together since he was tiny. In fact, one of his favorite photos is one of us standing in our veggie garden, a forest of corn behind us, a swath of gourd plans in front of us. So much greenery that you can barely see us.

On Friday evening we watched a documentary about garden, "Back to Eden."

On Saturday Ethan drew up garden plans to scale and began to lay down what would go where.

We took stock of the potatoes that we had saved for seed potatoes from last year. We had three kinds from last year. I loved the colorful sprouts from the purple potatoes.

He is even planning to convert a small patch of the lawn in the front into more garden space. He cleaned out a bit by the small fence and planted a few things there. That bed has two kinds of peas and will add spinach soon.

He also amended the cold frame next to our house and planted a bunch of stuff including: Danver's 1/2 Long Carrots, Lunar White Carrots, Big Detriot Red Beets, Sugar Beets and Butter Crunch Lettuce.

In the back yard he fixed up a place where the wooden retaining wall had rotted. He reworked that soil and planted white potatoes, purple potatoes, Dwarf Curled Blue Ccotch Kale and both kinds of carrots.

On Sunday night, after it was too dark to dig, he planted (Yellow) Alpine Strawberries and California Wonder Peppers in pots that we will start inside.

Today he has worked on cleaning out another bed. We were very much in need of more dirt and Ethan found that a neighbor had free dirt available due to a remodeling project. She lives just a few streets over and the soil is lovely. I perfect solution for both parties.

I love watching Ethan garden. He is happiest when he is working outside and feeling productive. It does my soul good to see the young man he is growing into. He continues to work at improving our gardens. We will be planting more stuff in pots to start inside this evening.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Rockin' Corned Beef with Guinness Gravy, Roasted Cabbage and Finglerling Potatoes

Ellie and Kohlton had a grand time at the concert. They arrived early enough to get a good place in line and were able to be near the stage. During the concert one of the guitar players would use a special Volbeat pic and then give it to someone in the audience. Kohlton noticed this and make eye contact with the musician, he then motioned towards Ellie. During another song the guitarist pointed at Ellie, smiled and did the "thumbs up" sign. At the end of the song he handed his pic to her. She was thrilled and might make a necklace from it.

On Wednesday we had a few friends over for dinner. Ethan loves corned beef, so I planned a meal around that. I had Ethan cook the corned beef in the crock pot while I was at work. When I got home I made Guinness Gravy, Roasted Fingerling Potatoes with Rosemary and Parmesan, and Roasted Cabbage. It was a great meal - worthy of a Saint Patrick's Day celebration this weekend.

Guinness Gravy
from: Closet Cooking

1 tablespoon butter or bacon grease
1 onion, sliced
1 clove garlic, chopped
2 tablespoons butter or bacon grease
2 tablespoons flour
2 cups Guinness or other Irish stout
2 tablespoons grainy mustard
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon brown sugar
salt and pepper to taste
1 1/2 pound french fries, cooked
1 cup cheese curds, or shredded cheddar
1/2 cup corned beef, cooked, diced and warm

Melt the better in a pan over medium-high heat, add the onions, saute until they start to caramelize, about 30 minutes, adding water or Guinness to . the pan as needed to prevent burning.

Add the garlic and saute until fragrant, about a minute. Add the butter and cook until bubbling, about 1 minute. Add the flour and cook until it turns golden brown, about 2-4 minutes. Add the Guinness, mustard, Worcestershire sauce, sugar, salt and pepper, reduce the heat and simmer until it thickens, about 7-10 minutes.
Top your corned beef with the Guinness gravy and enjoy.

Parmesan Gremolata Smashed Potatoes
Via: Use Real Butter blog

2 lbs. fingerling potatoes, scrubbed clean
1/2 cup olive oil (or less)
(I also sprinkled my potatoes with Rosemary (I have a rosemary powder that I purchased at the health food store.)
1 tsp sea salt
3 cloves garlic, peeled, crushed, and minced
1/2 cup fresh flat-leaf parsley, minced (should be about 1/4 cup when minced)
1 lemon, grated zest of
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, grated

Place the potatoes in a large saucepan and cover with water (about an inch higher than the potatoes). Bring to a boil and simmer until the potatoes are cooked through (about 15 minutes for these little potatoes). During this time, preheat oven to 400°F. Drain the potatoes and let dry in a colander or on a kitchen towel. Place the potatoes on the baking sheet (that has been lined with foil) in a single layer. Using the bottom of a heavy glass, gently press each potato flat to about 1/2- to 3/4-inch thickness. Drizzle the olive oil over the smashed potatoes and then sprinkle salt over the potatoes.

Roast for 30 minutes, flipping the potatoes over at 15 minutes with tongs or a spatula. While the potatoes are roasting, mix the garlic, parsley, lemon zest, and Parmesan cheese together in a small bowl. When the potatoes are done, remove them from the oven, and toss them in a large bowl with the Parmesan-gremolata.

(I did not have all of these ingredients, so I simply topped my roasted potatoes with shredded Parmesan cheese and placed them back in the oven long enough to melt it.)

Serve hot.

Serves 4 as a side dish.

Roasted Cabbage Wedge Salad
via: a Couple Cooks

Makes: 4-8 (Depending on how you slice it)

1 medium green cabbage
Olive oil
Kosher salt
4 tablespoons olive oil

3 tablespoons sherry vinegar
1 teaspoon mustard
Pecorino cheese

Preheat the oven to 450°F. (I roasted mine at 400, along with the potatoes. This made it very efficient.)

Cut the cabbage into 4-8 wedges Place the wedges on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or foil. Drizzle each side of the cabbage with olive oil and sprinkle with kosher salt and fresh ground pepper.
Place in the oven and roast until browned on the outside and tender, about 30 minutes total, flipping the wedges at 15 minutes. (The timing will depend on the size, so larger wedges may need a bit more time.)

(I did not make the dressing. The roasted cabbage was nice enough on its own; it was a vast improvement over the usual boiled, watery cabbage.)

Meanwhile, in a canning jar, combine 4 tablespoons olive oil, 3 tablespoons sherry vinegar, 1 teaspoon mustard, an fresh ground pepper. Shake to combine (or whisk the ingredients together in a small bowl).
When the cabbage is done, remove from the oven and place each wedge on a plate. Drizzle with the vinaigrette and top with grated Pecorino cheese.

Here is another recipe from Closet Cooking. I have not tried it, but it sounds wonderful:

Slow Cooker Corned Beef with Guinness Glaze
via: Closet Cooking

1 3-5 pound corned beef in pickling liquid and spices
1 bottle/can (12+ ounces) Guinness or other Irish stout
1 small onion, sliced
1 clove garlic, chopped
1/4 cup brown sugar
2 tablespoons grainy mustard
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
salt and pepper to taste

Place the corned beef along with the pickling spices, onion and garlic in a slow cooker/crock-pot, top with the Guinness and cook on low until fork tender, about 8-10 hours.

Set the corned beef aside, strain the solids from the Guinness and juices, place the liquid into a large sauce pan, add the brown sugar, mustard, Worcestershire sauce, salt and pepper, bring to a boil reduce the heat and simmer to reduce by half, about 15-20 minutes.

Cut the fat layer from the corned beef, glaze with the Guinness glaze and bake in a preheated 400F oven until the glaze starts bubbling, about 10-15 minutes.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Ready for a Little Head Banging? Ellie & Kohlton Go to the Volbeat Concert

As the capstone for Ellie's 16th birthday, we sent Ellie and Kohlton to the Volbeat concert.

It is at the Odgen, it is in a tiny venue that used to be a movie theater.

Here are a few songs that I recognize:

And how about this one:

Here is one more, an older song:

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Frozen Dead Guy Days 2013 - Nederland, CO

Ellie and I went up to Nederland on Saturday so that we could go to Frozen Dead Guy Days up in Nederland. It was snowing and we drove carefully to get to Kahlton's and Mark's house. The mountains are so beautiful when they are covered in snow.

It seemed kind of fitting since it is a winter festival.

The cold and the snow did not put us off. It made us rather silly. Once we got there we found that the town was much more empty than we had expected. It turns out that one of the major canyon highways was closed. A tour bus had crashed into the river. There were also car crashes on the other side of the canyon. Thus, most of the events were moved to Sunday as we were expecting better, more sunny weather.

They did manage to see the coffin races. It was silly fun, too. There were teams of 7 people, six carrying a "coffin" and one person riding. One team, the "Frigid Beavers" were women from Oklahoma who were doing the race to celebrate one woman's 60's birthday. One woman said that it was the hardest thing she had ever done as she was trying to run at a very high altitude. I was so impressed.

We went back to Mark's and Kohlton's house at around 3:00 0r 3:30. The roads were getting dicey as the rain that had fallen on Friday night had become ice underneath the snow. Ellie and I decided that it would be better to stay over than risk the drive home. Thankfully, Mark and Kohlton were gracious enough to let us stay the night.

Sunday morning broke with a bright orange glow backed by a bright blue, cloudless sky. I stood at the window at the top of their stairs and looked out the window, trying to memorize the scene. Soon the sun began to warm things up. And though it was a windless morning, small piles of snow began to fall of the pine boughs. A little later on larger amounts began to rain down. Mark calls them snow bombs. They are unpredictable and fun, as long as you are not underneath them. After a leisurely morning, we headed back into town to take in the parade, the frozen t-shirt contest, the ice sculpting, the polar plunge and what ever else we could see. This time around the town was full and parking was hard to find. We had a great time walking around. I was able to greet and pet many different, wonderful dogs. Ellie would have liked to stay longer, but we headed back to home on mostly dry roads, thanks to the efforts of the snow plow guys. It was a really fun weekend.

Friday, March 08, 2013

Inspiring Videos - Shane Koyczan, Spoken Word Poet

Shane Koyczan is an amazingly talented poet. He also has managed to pull together a group of artists to create an anti-bullying video. Below you will find that video and a TEDtalk that he offered. I hope you find them thought provoking, perhaps inspiring, too. (There are a few words that might offend some.)

Here's another incredible video, released on Feb. 28th. It was a collaborative project between students, many different types of artists and others who believe that this message needed to be shared:

How about his poem about the intensity of teenage love?

Wednesday, March 06, 2013

Ellie's 16th Birthday

My sweet girl turned 16 on Wednesday.

The kids helped me get the dinner ready and finish decorating. They found this balloon in the bag and declared it to be the coolest balloon ever!

I spent a lot of time and effort to create special decorations. They were inspired by the color schemes in the 1950's style diners.

We had a pyramid of donuts instead of cake - it was very fun!

She got a new mountain biking jersey and shorts.

We spent the last part of the party enjoying sitting around the fire. It was a perfect night for it; it was just slightly chilly with no breeze and clear skies that allowed us to see the stars.