Tuesday, April 30, 2013

New Yarn, New Project + TexMex Black Eyed Pea Casserole Recipe

Things have been a little stressful lately and with all of my knitting projects recently completed, I decided that it was time for a little bit of new yarn, as well as a new project. This past winter a friend posted a picture of a wonderful scarf made from yarn from one of my favorite companies.

I've been really good about keeping my promise to myself that I will not buy a bunch of stuff (like yarn or fabric) until I am ready to use it. So, I decided to splurge just a little bit and buy myself the kit for the scarf. I was a nice surprise at the end of a hard day to find the package from The Yarnery on my front step. Here's what the finished scarf might look like:

If this one goes well, I might buy the other colorway and make a second scarf in a different set of colors. I love the Malabrigo yarns!


Here's what we had for dinner tonight. I think it could be a good recipe to make ahead of time and heat up for dinner some night on a camping trip. I altered the recipe a bit, of course.

Tex Mex Black Eyed Pea Casserole
adapted from the recipe found over at RecipeGirl.com
Yield: 6 servings

1 1/2 cups dried black eyed peas, rinsed (or 2 cans Black Eyed Peas
5 slices bacon, cooked and crumbled (or more!)(I made about 10 slices of bacon)
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 cup chopped onion (about 1/2 medium)
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 1/2 cups rice
3 cups chicken or vegetable broth
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
One 10-ounce can Ro-tel (tomatoes + green chilies)
3 cups fresh spinach, cut into strips
2 cups grated sharp cheddar cheese, divided
4 Chicken Breasts, cubed, seasoned with Creole Seasoning and North Woods Fire Seasoning, then sauteed in butter until done
chopped cilantro, sour cream and sliced avocado (for serving)

1. Bring a medium pot of water to boil. Add the dried peas and boil for 30 minutes, or until tender (as tender as a canned black bean would be). You don't want them to have much of a bite to them, but you don't want them mushy either. Drain the beans when you've got them where you want them.

2. In a deep medium skillet, heat the olive oil at medium heat. Add onions and cook until softened, 3 to 4 minutes. Stir in garlic, then rice, broth, cumin, salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, cover and cook for about 20 minutes (just until the rice has *almost* absorbed all of the liquid). Time will vary depending on the type of rice you choose to use (20 minutes for white rice, but longer for brown, etc).

3. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Scrape the rice into a large bowl. Add peas, tomatoes, spinach, 1 cup of the cheese, bacon and chicken. Stir it all together and then scoop it into a 9x12-inch (or similarly sized) casserole dish. Bake, uncovered, for 20 minutes. Sprinkle remaining cheese on top and bake for an additional 10 minutes, just until cheese is melted.

4. Serve in bowls topped with sour cream, fresh cilantro and sliced avocado.(We did not do this, but it looks yummy.)

Sunday, April 28, 2013

A Glorious Day for a Hike - Upper White Ranch Park, Jeffco Open Space

After so much snow of late, we finally have some sunshine. Yesterday we cleaned house and took care of Ellie who was caught fast in the tight grip of a nasty, pukey flu. Today she feels better. The sun was shining and we were treated with more of that famous blue skies, so we thought a nice hike was in order.

We love the plentiful Ponderosa pines. I love the way the branches have a nice curve to them. And look at that bark - such nice texture and in the heat of the summer it smells like vanilla. (Today it did not have that magical smell, yet. It must be too early in the season for that.) The Ponderosa is self pruning, leaving a nice open space under the canopy of branches.

On the forest flower we were already able to find delicate flowers that must have been brave in face of the recent snowfall. They make me think of summer.

There are sunny parts of the trail, too. Here we found great rocks. Looking closer, we were rewarded with more flowers and foliage.

I also absolutely love the lichen and moss we find along the way. I am amazed at the variety of specimens. Most of these were found on the walls of the trail where it is heavily shaded, damp and muddy.

Larr has lead many, many youth crews through the park as they worked to maintain the hiking and biking trails. He has memories of crew leaders and the kids as we walked along.

Even the plants that are dormant offer beauty.

Here's a funny meme that has been floating around Facebook of late.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Our Friend, James, Graduates

Ethan spent two very happy days at his new job in Glenwood Springs. He loves the crew and they love him. They even went to dinner together (that's a lot of guys) and had a rousing toast to "Finding Ethan." He came home for about a day and a half to tie up unfinished business, pack up some stuff and see his friend graduate. Then he jetted back up the mountain this evening. This is an intense kind of work. They expect to work 12-15 hour days, seven days a week for the next three or so months. If it continues to be a good fit then he will move with the crew to another location (likely Colorado Springs, 1.5 hours away). He offers comfort to me and reminds me that his is only going to be about 2.5-3 hours away; we could go see him. But I am not sure that his work schedule will allow for much of that. I think once I get over having him gone, I will feel better about the whole thing.

I have very conflicted feelings about this. I am proud of him for being so hard working and thrilled that he is getting an awesome opportunity to work with people he enjoys and a chance to learn an entirely new set of skills. I know that he will be more than fine. The other part of me is sad, mostly sad for the rest of us. He has been a constant in my life for nineteen years. I will miss the chance to see him on most days, to talk with him and to marvel at all that he knows. That boy is always surprising me with what he has recently learned. I know that they are supposed to grow up and move out - of course. I know that he will love us like he always have. I will feel his absence and experience a void in the places that he has filled up until now. I see it as a testiment to who he is in our lives. He is also his father's right hand man. There will be a letting go process there, too, one that is less weepy.

On another note, our good friend, James, graduated from our school on Wednesday night. It has been a joy to witness the remarkable young man he has become. He is the very example of what it means to grow into yourself. In recent years he has joined Larr and Ethan on some pretty great adventures. One notable one was the primitive camping trip I recently wrote about. In searching for the right present for him, it occurred to me that no one in his family knits for him and that he always comments on the hats I make for my family. After conferring with him I decided that James needed a hat, a hand knit, made just for you specifically hat. I used the wool that I had from making hats for Larr and Ethan to create a hat for James. The funny thing is that I like the hat that I made for him best of all.

Larr chaired his thesis panel and presented a speech, as well as several gifts. Even after so many years, I love to watch Larr give speeches.

We wish James the best of luck and a bright, interesting future.

A little about the hat:

I used Malabrigo yarns - Rios Playa and Rios Piedras
Both yarns are merino superwash.

I cast on 96 stitches onto US 4 16" circular needles.
I knit a ribbed cuff (k2,P2, repeat) until it measured about 1.5".
Then I knit in the round until it was time to do the decreases.
To decrease I placed markers every 10 stitches and k2tg at each marker until there were only 8 stitches left.
I finished it off and woven in the ends.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

And So He is Off Again...

Ethan has felt restless for a while. He was struggling with what to do next. Having finally recovered from everything and finished the training he was working on, he was trying to figure out whether he should get some sort of temporary work until the summer work season started again, or enjoy the spring in anticipation of being busy all summer. Those spells can frustrating and difficult.

This weekend was a turning point. He finished his much anticipated training, passing with flying colors and great test scores. On Saturday night he received a call from his friend, Hog, who helped him get his first job driving heavy equipment. Hog and a few other guys from the crew were working for the western division of the company doing work in Glenwood Canyon and they needed more help. When the supervisor mentioned the need for a good worker, Hog suggested Ethan. A few phone calls later, everything was lined up and Ethan was on his way by 6:00 am on Monday to go back to work. It seems to be making him happy. He even told the supervisor about a few commitments that he still had (such as a graduation ceremony for an important friend) and the supervisor said that he could be excused to attend those things. We are thankful for the support of his friends and another excellent opportunity to work for this company.

Ethan's vehicle needed some repairs, so had him drive Larr's car. Our mechanic called and wanted to share an impressive picture with us. Here's part of the issue:

His engine will be clean, fixed and happy again soon.

The weather, like the emotions around our house lately, have been on a roller coaster ride, too. We had a large storm about a week ago. Then we had a good bit of snow last night, too. A while back Ellie asked for a headband to keep her ears warm when she was not in the mood to wear a hat (like when she wants her hair in a pony tail. ) I whipped up this little dandy for her over the course of two days. I tried to knit quickly so that she would have it in time for the cold morning that greeted us today.

I used the Synnove's headband pattern found over at Ravelry.com . I cast on 98 stitches onto a US4 circular needle and used very nice merino yarns. I Once I was finished with the knitting I stitched it up with the kitchner stitch so that it was thick and two sided. Ellie likes it, but when I asked her if it was itchy she said it was. Perhaps I will knit another one, just one side this time, and line the inside section with fleece. Ellie is thankful for the things I make for her and she does not complain, but I want to get it right. I want it to be comfortable and warm, without annoyance.

We also spent part of the weekend with Uncle Doug, who was in town from Seattle, Don, Mark and Lilia. They invited us over for dinner. Here is a nice, simple and tasty recipe that Lilia shared with me:

Peach Cake
via: Lilia

3 eggs, beaten
1 1/2 cup Sugar (white)
1 cup Vegetable Oil
2 cups Flour
1 tea. Salt
1 tea Cinnamon, ground
2 cups Peaches, fresh, peeled, pitted & sliced.
1/2 cup Pecans

Preheat the over to 375 degrees (190 degrees C.) Grease and flour a 9" x 13" pan.
In a large bowl, combine all of the ingredients. Mix thoroughly by hand, being careful to not over mix.
Pour into the prepared pan and bake for 50 minutes, or until done.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Primitive Camping - Spring Break, Ethan Style

Ethan and two of his friends went camping in Palisade, less than an hour away from where Ellie, Kohlton and I were, though his style of relaxing was very different from mine. Ethan, James and Scott went on a primitive style camp-out.

They had originally planned to camp near the Book Cliffs, but that road was blocked by an gate. The guys poured over the atlas and found another location that they really liked.

They wanted to camp with as little gear as possible so instead of sleeping in a tent they dug a hole large enough to fit all three of them and deep enough for them to be in their sleeping bags and still be at least a foot below ground level. This was a natural way to block the wind. The first night was okay, but they wanted to improve on their idea the second night.

The camp fire and cooking area was in off to the side in another sort of protected by the landscape. If you look closely, you might see it. To improve the design the boys made the sleeping pit deeper and had a fire in it during the day in which they created hot coals and warmed dry rocks. As the evening approached they added a small bit of dirt and soft underbrush to create a warmed sleeping surface. Ethan said that it was so warm at times that he was sweating. They also spent some of the time exploring.

It is important to note that Scott has been working on his primitive fire making skills and he used those skills a good bit on this trip.

They had a great time and hope to go again.

Ethan has always loved dirt and mud, so you can imagine what fun Ethan and his dad had.

In this case, a muddy truck is a sign that you've been out doin' cool stuff.

Sunday, April 14, 2013


Prom was last night. Each year I offer to take Ellie with me. She and Kohlton have attended the Arvada High School prom with me for the last two year. We have our own dances at Alpine valley School, but they are very different from prom.

Ellie opted for a fun and funky kind of look this year by wearing her Old Gringo cowboy boots with her Jessica McClintock dress. She is cute so she can rock that look.

It was at the Chateaux Xaiver in Broomfield. Each year StuCo seeks out a new venue. This is the only one they have repeated in my 13 years of going to the AHS proms. It is also my nearly favorite location. It is certainly pretty.

As the kids leave prom they are given a special glass.

Next up is the After Prom party. The parent volunteers at our school raise money all year long to make this even free for every junior and senior (as well as their dates), even those who did not go to prom. For many years they have rented out the entire Apex Recreation Center in Arvada. They decorate many of the areas. They serve up tons of fun food, have games and lots of activities.

The kids can get their photos taken, get fake tattoos, play poker for prizes, swim, ice skate, rock climb, do the blow up thingy, play ping pong, etc. The parents also have tons of really cool raffle prizes. I am very impressed with the whole event.The After Prom party runs from 11:00 p.m. to 3:00 a.m. Thankfully, Brit is willing to pick the kids up and deliver Ellie home. I sleep on the couch until they arrive.

This tradition was started many, many years ago as a way to combat the number of drunk driving accidents and unintended pregnancies that were occurring in relation to prom.

Friday, April 12, 2013

My How Our Garden Grows

Weather here has been up and down in wild fits. We've had weather where we are already hot in our shorts and tank tops. We've also had emails and phone calls this week from ThunderCall warning us of a winter blizzard. Through it all the early spring garden has marched forward.

It seemed to take forever for the peas to break ground. I am sure it was actually less than two weeks. Still, I was a bit worried.

The lettuce and dwarf kale were the perkiest of the plants to show up first. We've never grown kale before, but are excited to see how it does here. There is an organic farm next to Mark's shop in Boulder that grows several types of kale, so I expect that it will be happy.

The mounted artimisa is one of my absolute favor plants in my garden.It is grey green and oh so soft.

The daffodils and lupines are fun, too. I am glad to see that the lupine survived the winter. It was a tiny, new plant last year. I have larger ones in other parts of the garden.

Hyacinths are Mother Nature's way of saying, "Spring has arrived!"

Last night Ellie and I helped represent the Colorado High School Cycling League at the Women's Night event at Wheat Ridge Cyclery. It was a lot of fun. Ellie has volunteered to help with Trips for Kids, a non-profit organization that is interested in introducing biking to kids who might not otherwise experience the joy one can find on a bike. I am thrilled that my girl is interested in helping others.