Thursday, January 30, 2014

Right Now: A Riot of Song and a Full Head of the Aroma of Farewell Dinner

If you were here with me now you would:

... smell the aroma of red onions, cabbage and Kale sauteing in the a large sauce pan as the cubed petite red potatoes bubble away on the back burner. These will all come together with a little milk, freshly ground nutmeg and melted butter to make Colcannon. You would also catch the scent of the Guiness Stout I prepare it for a Guiness & Balsamic Reduction Sauce that will grace the top of the Welsh Rarebit on Sourdough Toast that we are having for dinner.

... likely feel your toes tapping to the snappy tunes of Gaelic Storm. (You might recognize them, they are the band that plays in the basement party on the Titanic just before and during the time that it was sinking in the movie.) Right now we are listening to "A Box of Chickens" which I have included below. While that music is not Gaelic, it is a lot of fun. I think my favorite is "The Bear and the Butcher."

... likely hear us singing sea shanties later on. I've included some of them below, too.

... see Ethan's stuff spread out on the floor as he packs for his tip to California tomorrow. He will fly to Santa Barbara, then take a taxi and train ride to Ventura. If time allows, he will do a bit of quick shopping at a surplus store to pick up some rubber boots and other things he needs for the sailing adventure.

... see the snow falling in wet, thick flakes outside. It is predicted that 7" - 11" of snow will fall over night. Kids all over the city are praying for a snow day. I imagine that a good number of teachers are, too. I expect that we will have school, but that the classrooms will only be dotted with a few kids.

... most likely be asked to let Remmie in or out. He loves the cold and the snow. He has invented a game that is sort of hike and seek with his toys in the snow. He tosses them in the air, then chases after them, looking for them in the snow. When he gets too cold he wolfs slightly at the window by the door, trotting in happily once you open the door. His dark coat glistens with the wetness and glitters with the snowflakes that are as of yet in tact and whole. Soon he will ask to go out again.

... possibly miss hearing the latest news in the sailing tales as told by Dana, in Two Years Before the Mast.

... possibly want to discuss the recent viewing of "Master and Commander."

... know that Ellie is not part of the mix as she is away at a babysitting gig.

... know that I am tempted to sign up for "Life Scripted," an online brush stroke lettering class.

Welsh Rarebit with Guiness Balsamic Reduction Sauce

2 bottles Guiness Stout
1 1/2 TBL Balsamic Vinegar
2 TBL Butter
2 TBL Flour
1 TBL Mustard Powder
1/2 tea Cayenne
2 TBL Worcestershire Sauce
1 # Cheddar Cheese, Grated (about 2 cups, roughly)
1 loaf of good bread (today it is sourdough)

To make the Reduction -
In a heavy sauce pan place 1 bottle of stout and heat on medium until reduced by at least half. (Make sure to use a pan with plenty of room. I started out in a smaller pan only to find that heating the stout causes it to foam significantly.)Once the reduction is done, stir in the balsamic vinegar. It takes the bitter edge off of the stout reduction. Do this to taste.

Preparing the Toast -

Preheat the broiler on high. Be sure the rack is close to the heating element. Slice the loaf into as many pieces as you like. Place them on a cookie tray and broil them until they are lightly browned. Be sure to keep on eye on them as they burn easily. Flip them over and toast the other side half as much.

Make the Cheese Sauce -
Melt butter in a sauce pan. Add in the flour and stir with a whisk over medium heat until lightly browned. Be sure to stir the entire time so that it does not burn. Add in mustard and cayenne, stirring until fragrant. Next, whisk in 1 bottle of Guiness stout and the Worcestershire sauce. Once this part of the sauce is combined, remove from the heat and let cool until it is about 158 degrees. (This temperature will melt the cheese without causing it to become grainy or change the smooth texture.) Fold in the cheese
and stir to melt. (At this point the cheese sauce can be refrigerated for up to a day or so.)

To Serve -
Place the toast on the the cooking sheet, pale side up. Spread the mixture on top of the bread and place under the broiler until bubbly. (The broiler part is optional.) Add a tiny bit of the Guiness Reduction sauce on top and serve. It is traditional to add a side of tomato slices. It is also lovely with tomato soup. We liked it with a Caesar Salad.

via: Barefoot in the Kitchen blog
Yield: 6 servings

3 slices bacon (I omitted this so that Larr could eat this)
2 lbs small red potatoes, chopped into 1" pieces
1/2 small head of napa cabbage, about 4 cups chopped small
(1 bunch Kale, cleaned, torn off of the spine and chopped - my addition to the recipe)
1 small yellow onion, about 3/4 cup chopped small
1/3 cup milk
kosher salt, to taste
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
(Pinch of Freshly ground Nutmeg (optional)I added this in, too. A small bit of nutmeg brightens the palette.)
2 tablespoons butter, soft or melted

Place the potatoes in a pot, along with enough water to cover them. Add 2 teaspoons salt to the pot and bring to a boil. Simmer until the potatoes are fork tender, about 15-18 minutes.

While the potatoes are boiling, cook the bacon in a skillet over medium high heat. When the bacon has browned and is slightly crisp, remove to a paper towel lined plate. Reserve about a tablespoon of the bacon grease and drain the rest. Leave the rest of the drippings in the skillet. Add the onions to the hot skillet with the bacon grease and saute over medium high heat for 1-2 minutes, until they are lightly browned. Add the cabbage and toss lightly while it sautes and wilts, about 5 minutes. Season generously with salt and pepper as it cooks.

Drain and place the potatoes back in the hot pot. Place the pot back over the still-warm burner (or if your stove is gas, set the heat to the lowest setting). Mash the potatoes over very low heat and add the milk, 1/2 - 1 teaspoon salt and pepper. Fold in the cooked and crumbed bacon, cabbage, and onions. Transfer to a serving bowl, form a small well in the center and fill with the butter. Serve hot. Enjoy!

"Box of Chickens" Gaelic Storm

"I'm Going Back to the Sea" by the Jolly Rogers (not exactly family friendly if the kids are old enough to understand the references.)

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

The Sea Calls, or Rather, the Grays Harbor Historical Port Emails...

After submitting an application to be on the sailing crew of the Lady Washington or the Hawaiian Chieftan, both tall ships,Ethan received an answer the very next day. They are exciting to have him join the crew, ASAP, thank you very much. Thus, Ethan has set about getting ready. He is tidying up his stuff here at home and we are making parts of a historical 18th century sailor's costume for him. It seems that the most important thing for me to make was a wool vest.

We went to pick out fabric from the fabric store on Saturday night, but the seasons are changing and all of the wool they had on the bolt was simply too business like and too thin. We opted for purchasing a men's coat at the thrift store from which I upcycled the wool. Reworking it into a vest was a lot more work than I had expected. The biggest part was the fact that the pockets were in the wrong place, so I had to patch them and create new, vest-style pockets. I also cut up the coat to make it shaped like a vest. Much of the time my sewing machine was not working properly so I ended up hand sewing much of it. I am not thrilled that it was so hand made, but Ethan is very happy with that aspect. It turns out that the sailors would buy used clothing at consignment and thrift shops to repurpose the material. Some of it was refashioned, just as I did. Some of the cloth was cut into strips around treated in such as way as to make it part of a rope. He says that the hand made quality makes it all that more authentic. I am glad it makes him happy.
Ethan spent his Saturday with Grandpa Don making this Marlin's Spike. It is a sailor's tool used to undo large knots. He is very happy with how it turned out. He made a practice one out of pine as well, so as to learn the technique, but unfortunately, Remmie got a hold of it and crewed it up. Bad Dog! He hasn't done that kind of thing in a while. I feel a little bad that it happened, but thankfully the important one was tucked away.

Ethan leaves on Friday and I don't know when he will return.I picked up some special snacks for him to have on his plane and train rides to the port in California. It feels good to be able to send small bits of home with him as he sets sail on this exciting adventure.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Of Sailors, Dogs, Doughnuts, Pancakes and Brussel Sprouts

On Friday Ethan received an email from the Tall Ship folks inviting him to set sail with them next week. It was very exciting and much sooner than any of us had expected. As directed, he called in to the office to get any last minute instructions. It turned out that they are short handed so Ethan will be flying out to California on Friday, taking a train and taxi to Ventura and beginning to crew on Saturday. That day he will be part of a mock battle. Friday night he is renting a small sailboat in the same harbor. The few plans I had for the weekend were set aside so that I could help Ethan by making him parts of an 18th century sailor's costume. I will share those details with you as soon as I get the vest completed.

Saturday was a glorious day. Ethan spent it making a marlin's spike with his Grandpa Don in the wood shop. I spent most if it sewing, but I did take a break to take the dog to the dog part. That happens most every day. Remmie is always happy to go. He knows the way and starts to vocalize as we get closer.
On Sunday I worked on the vest some more, but took another break to go to the park again. This time Ellie and Kohlton were with me. They took this selfie that I think is super cute, but I am not thrilled that they do not have helmets on. They promised that they were only at the park and would not actually go on a ride without the helmet.

Later in the day the kids and I went to VooDoo Doughnuts. They are not actually open yet, but open for a few days at a time for 24 hours to get the kinks worked out of making doughnuts at this altitude. The original stores are all in Portand, Oregon. They have all kinds of funky doughnut flavors, including a Voodoo Doll raised doughnut that has raspberry filling (blood) and a stick pretzel stake through the heart.
The first time they opened a few weeks ago, people waited in line for hours to get in. I think it only took us about 30 minutes to get in. It is kind of a funky place.
I had a maple bar with strips of bacon on the top. I also had a Mexican chocolate doughnut that had a spicy kick to it. The kids seemed to like the candy and sugary breakfast cereal or cookie covered donuts.
It was fun, but I don't think I will wait in line so long next time. I think things will calm down once they are open for a while.


I also made a few good recipes this weekend. Here's what I made:

I've been searching for a good pancake recipe for a while. A long time ago Larr gave me a small book of pancake recipes. Many of them are good, but I can't seem to find the tiny book - bummer. We had this one this morning and really enjoyed them.

via:modified from a recipe found at Allrecipes

3/4 cup milk
1 tablespoons lemon juice or white vinegar
1 cup all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons white sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 egg
2 tablespoons butter, melted
Butter for the pan (or cooking spray)

Combine milk with vinegar in a medium bowl and set aside for 5 minutes to "sour".

Combine flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a large mixing bowl. Whisk egg and butter into "soured" milk. Pour the flour mixture into the wet ingredients and whisk until lumps are gone.

Heat a large skillet over medium heat, and coat with cooking spray. Pour 1/4 cupfuls of batter onto the skillet, and cook until bubbles appear on the surface. Flip with a spatula, and cook until browned on the other side.

We are also eating a lot of brussel sprouts these days. I wanted to jazz things up a bit so I took what looked like a good recipe and added to it. My husband and I thought they were great. Too bad that the kids were not here to have any of them.

Roasted Brussel Sprouts with Maple Chili Glaze, Almonds and Dates

1 lb. Brussel Sprouts, trimmed and cut in half
Olive Oil
Sea Salt
1/4 cup Butter, melted
2 TBL. Maple Syrup
1/4 tea. Brown Sugar
1/4 tea. Chipotle or Ancho Chili powder or flakes
1/8-1/4 tea. Northwoods Fire Spice* or Liquid Smoke
1/2 cup Almonds (sliced or slivers)
1/4-1/2 cup Dates, chopped

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Line a baking pan with foil or parchment
Toss the brussel sprouts with just enough olive oil to coat them.
Spread them out on the baking pan. Lightly salt, if desired.
Bake for about 15-20 minutes, or until tender.

While the brussel sprouts are roasting, make the glaze. Melt the butter in a small sauce pan. Add in the maple syrup, brown sugar, chili powder and Northwoods Fire or liquid smoke. Stir to mix. Turn off the heat.

Once the brussel sprouts are tender, place them in a serving bowl. Drizzle the glaze over the brussel sprouts and stir to coat. Add in the almonds and dates. Stir once again to distribute the almonds and dates.

This is nice served warm or cold.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Organizing, Grouping and 2 Weeks Before the Mast

January is a time for me to regroup on the home front; I think it is the same for many of us. While I love the holidays, I also appreciate the relative calm that shuffles in with January. One of the informal resolutions I make each year concerns scrapbooking and holding onto the stories of what our life is like right now. Last year I had resolved to do the pages of the same month, but from the previous year. So, in January 2013 I did the pages for January 2012. That worked until about spring break and then it all fell apart. I ended up doing the pages in great chunks during jags of time and spurts of creativity (which often do not coincide).
I have found that getting my pictures chosen and "placed" on the digital pages allows me to work more effectively. It allows me to sit down and work for small amounts of time. The photo above is a screenshot from my Adobe Bridge software. You can see that the photos are digitally stacked and ready to go. When I am ready to do a page I will review only those files, instead of everything in the folder for that month. Sometimes I have enough photos that I actually create a two page spread. Other times I will simply not use all of the images I have chose. I have also started selecting 2 main fonts for each year. One for titles and one for storytelling. This lends a sense of continuity through out my book. I am happy to report that I have all of the pages organized for 2013. I am still working on pages for 2012, but hope to get those done soon. I am currently working on pages for November, 2012.

I've also spent some time helping Ethan do the paperwork for his application to work on a tall ship. It is very exciting, but my what a lot of paperwork.

(Grays Historical Seaport Harbor)

It is a very exciting opportunity and I really hope it works out for him. I think it will. He talked with folks from the organization and they do not see any reason why he could not go. Still, we will wait for an official word and dates for a voyage. The rather tricky thing is that you cannot rent a car until you are 25. This means that Ethan will fly to California and have to take a taxi, series of buses, etc. to get to the historical port where the ships are docked. I think he is spending today considering the new gear that he may need to purchase.

(Two Tall Ships)
This organization runs the Lady Washington and the Hawaiian Chieftan. The Lady Washington was the Black Pearl in "The Pirates of the Caribbean" movies. The other tall ship was part of the Royal Army in those movies.

(Lady Washington)
Ethan would love to be on either ship, but he seems to prefer the Lady Washington.

(Lady Washington and Hawaiian Chieftain)
I wish I had been both brave enough to do stuff like this when I was 20 years old, and had the wherewithall to even know that such opportunities existed.

Monday, January 20, 2014

A Bit of Shopping and a Bit of Baking + Clementine Cake Recipe

On Friday I had a dream that if I did not brush my hair after washing it, I would have long ringlet curls like Shirley Temple had. This is funny because my hair is long and straight, stubbornly so. Who knows why I would dream about that.

This three day weekend is a calm, quiet one. On Saturday the boys went to the mountains. Ellie and I went shopping. She wanted to find a few things for Valentine's day. We also managed to find an amazing deal. We found a fake leather jacket, brand new, for $8. My mother would be proud. I thought that Remmie would go crazy for the fringe, but he does not seem to care about it. Toby, one of our cats, is another story. He will try to eat it, if he can.
She also tried on a few dresses. She likes dresses, but she does not wear them often. There is a dance in February so that could be a reason for a new dress. She said that some day she would like a sequin dress, but this one was too short to work. We thought about reconstructing the midsection, but that is iffy since the fabric is so fluid.
In the end we did not get a dress, but we had a lovely day together and lots of nice chats.

Once home I decided to make the clementine cake that is featured in "The Secret Life of Walter Mitty." I had wanted to make it since we say the movie earlier in the week. I was pleasantly surprised to find that it is a gluten free recipe.

It begins by piercing and heating up whole clementines which are then pureed.
This is added to the cake mix.

While the cake is baking, I made the candied clementines and the glaze.
We were all excited to taste the cake so I removed it from the pan a bit too early. The result was not pretty, but it was very tasty. I had enough batter to make a few cupcakes as well. I will send a few of these to my gluten free friends.
We liked it. Ellie thought it tasted like orange marmalade.

Clementine Cake
via: Country Girl's Daybook
and Cathy Merenda Blog
7 small clementines
6 eggs
1 1/4 cup white sugar
2 1/4 cups ground almonds
1 teaspoon baking powder

2 cups confectioner's (powdered) sugar
3 tablespoons softened butter
1/2 cup clementine juice (I used orange juice concentrate)


3 clementines
2 cups sugar
1 cup water

Preheat the oven to 375ºF. Butter and line an 8 or 9 inch springform pan with parchment.
Poke each clementine 3 or 4 times with a knife. Put the clementines in a bowl with a microwave safe cover or plastic wrap. Cook on high for 3-4 minutes. Cool slightly then dump the clementines (whole) in a food processor and process until smooth.

In large bowl beat eggs and sugar until light colored and doubled in volume (about 5 minutes). Add in chopped clementines and mix well. Then add ground almonds and baking power and mix until combined.

Pour mixture into pan and bake for about 45 minutes (when a skewer will come out clean).

While the cake is baking, make the glaze by mixing everything in a bowl adjusting clementine juice and sugar to make a loose but thick glaze.

You can also make candied clementines for decoration. Slice clementines very thinly.Put sugar and water in a heavy bottomed pan on medium heat. Stir until sugar is dissolved.
Add clementine slices and simmer on low for about 15-20 minutes. Pull clementines from sugar mixture and place on parchment or silpat until cool.

Cool in the pan on a rack. Once cake is cold, remove from pan and pull off any parchment.

Glaze and add candied clementines to decorate.

Friday, January 17, 2014

A Quiet Calmness, I Hope + Mac and Cheese Recipe

It has been a pretty good week, but it has also been an intense one filled with lots of standardized testing and large groups of people. I am a bit over peopled.
(Photo by Ellie)
I am hopeful that it will be a quiet, calm weekend with pockets of time for creativity.
Grandma Gay's Mac and Cheese

2 cups Macaroni, cooked al dente
1 cup Milk
2 Eggs
1/2 cup of Butter, chopped into pieces or melted (1 stick)
2+ cups of Sharp Cheddar Cheese, shredded

Add the pasta to boiling water to cook it.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

While the pasta cooks, stir 2 eggs into a cup of milk.

Once the pasta is done, drain it and put it in an 8" x 8" casserole dish. Quickly add the butter and stir until the butter is melted. Next, quickly add in the cheese and stir it so that the heat from the pasta melts it. You can add more cheese to the mix if you want it to be more cheesey.

Next, pour in the egg and milk, stirring to mix. Halfway through the baking you can add more cheese to the top, if you like.

Bake for about 30 minutes.

(I tried precooking the pasta, adding in the butter and the cheese so that I could take this to a friend's house where I finished it. The mac and cheese was good, but not great. The texture was not as nice as this was. My kids tell me that it reheats well.)

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

"The Secret Life of Walter Mitty"

“To see the world, things dangerous to come to, to see behind walls, draw closer,to find each other and to feel. That is the purpose of life.”

Last night we saw "The Secret Life of Walter Mitty" (Ben Stiller, 2013) and I left the movie feeling excited and motivated to go for an adventure; that even if you have not had big adventures in your life, it is not too late to have them. If I were to choose a word for this year, it might be "adventure." My life is certainly more adventurous than my mother's adventure and my children are certainly staged to have more adventures than I have currently had. Their adventures will be largely of the traveling kind. Ethan is hoping to be on the crew of a tall ship and on crew in Antarctica. Ellie will be traveling to Africa in the spring. My adventures are more about attitude and flexibility; welcoming change in my life and finding the opportunity that can be found in those new situations. I suspect that my kids think that I mostly am observing life, instead of being in it, but I say that I am glad that we created the kind of life that we have so that our kids can feel ready to embrace adventure. There will be time for my own adventures soon.


It is a fun story. Ben's version is really just a nod to the short story of the same name, but it was great. The scenery is beautiful and the designs are amazing. I always appreciate movies that have a clearly orchestrated design concept. In this movie,as in "Stranger Than Fiction," the use of graphics and text was exciting to me. You see some of the opening information on the sides of buildings, a parking garage, even on the road. A few important quotes were integrated into the runway as seen from above, continuing on the side of the plane. In another segment the text is on the side of the mountain. (I tried to find some examples of this online, but was not successful.) The cinematography was also stunning. The photographers stepped out of the usual ways to shoot and took some chances - very successful ones.

I will watch it again when it comes out on DVD. I want to soak in the artsy parts of the film again.

I am also impressed with what they did with some of the promotional budget. They had planned on financing the travel dreams of some people, but here's what they did instead:

How Casey Neistat put the $25,000 promotional budget for walter Mitty to good use:

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Old Spice "Mom Song" & Divergent

Saturday was a very social day with a triple birthday party, including my father-in-law, who turned 89. That was followed by a nice, calm and entertaining dinner with Natalie and her family. It was a nice day. But, a tickle that started out in my throat that morning had worked its way into much more of a something by the end of the evening. The next two days were spent sleeping and reading on the couch, though I am very bad at relaxing. I spent time visiting with Ethan as well. It was a good thing to take the day off at work. So, there is not much to report of late so here are a few tidbits:

From time to time, bits of popular culture get stuck in my head. Old Spice recently published such a commercial. Larr likes to hum the tune.Perhaps you'll enjoy it, too:

I am also really enjoying Divergent by Veronica Roth. It is a dystopic novel where the 16 year old protagonist takes a test that is designed to help guide her as she chooses which faction she will be part of. Each faction focuses on a single trait, each dedicated to the cultivation of a particular virtue. These are: Abnegation, Erudite, Dauntless, Amity, and Candor.
"Divergent" trailer:

Friday, January 10, 2014

A Hat for Little Tucker and His Mama

Adoption was a wonderful, abstract idea for me, until recently when I finally met Tucker. He is the sweet little boy my friend Kassidy and her husband, Brian, adopted in the fall. Seeing Kass with Tucker brought it home for me in a very real , tangible and different way than it had been when it was an abstract idea.
Holding him in my arms, having his sweet, wide eyes looking at me closely, I was struck by the amazing awesomeness of the gift Tucker's birth mother gave them. She already had two baby boys under two at home when she found out that she was pregnant it Tucker. Living in a tiny apartment with her boyfriend and two babies, she realized that she could not give this baby the life she knew he deserved so she must be a strong woman to have been able to give his a new family.

Kass and Brian had about five years of infertility until they decided that adoption was going to be the way that they were able to have a child. I am pretty sure that they tried everything to try and conceive. She did hormones, they tried invitro, they put Brian on hormones (he even got a little bit of PMS.)They tried a sperm bank. (Did you know you can the computer do a search of the donors to find one that looks like your own husband?)It was heart wrenching to watch them go through it. Then they committed to the adoption process and got Tucker. Oh my, what a sweetie he is. They are thrilled and I could not be happier for them.

They are real Broncos fans. His training as a Broncos fan began early with Broncos decorations in his isolete in the NICU. The nurses also helped speed up his discharge one morning so that he could go home to watch his first game, which he promptly slept through. However, it was easy to know what colors to pick when I decided to knit him a hat. It was fun, so I decided to make another, adult sized one. I wanted to make two, so that the entire family could match, but I simply did not have the time. I wanted to make sure that Tucker would get his hat while it would still fit and we were still in the football season. The design is a bit busy for me, but my sports fans friends said that it was a great design. It was fun to see Tucker sporting his hat. My best wishes and love to Kass, Brian and Tucker!

Thursday, January 09, 2014

Stampede to Timberline

When Ethan was little and I was pregnant with Ellie, Larr and Ethan would go with Mark, Larr's cousin, exploring and photographing many of the mining towns on the western slope. It was a wonderful way for them to connect with each other, one that continues even now.

Larr and his cousin, Mark, have two things they both love - giving each other weird gifts and mining. They usually to out do each other with the weirdest gifts. However, this year Mark gave Larr a copy of Stampede to Timberline by Muriel Sibelle Wolle.
It was a wonderful gift, perhaps the best Mark has given him. It is full of very personal stories about small mining towns in Colorado. Muriel was an explorer and an art professor. She and her husband would drive to the various mining towns to sketch images of the locations and listen to stories, which she used to write her book. At first I was not at all interested in it. I thought it was just another of the many books about mining that we own. However, that has changed.
Larr has spent some of his free time relaxing and reading this book. From time to time Ethan and I would join Larr in the morning, hot drinks in hand and sitting on the couch. Larr would read excerpts from the stories from places that Ethan and Larr had visited. Soon we found ourselves asking him to keep on reading aloud. Some of our mornings began to transform from each of us doing our individual things in separate parts of the house, to our spending time together enjoying these stories. I am so thankful for the connection that this book has provided. It has strengthened that bond and connected them to explorations from when Ethan was younger.

As Larr reads, I see images in my head like a slide show, images of my little Ethan wearing jeans, tiny hiking boots and a serious expression on this face. I imagine what it looked like when they would hike around the mines, now long abandoned, looking for treasures, climbing tailing piles and filling his tiny pockets with treasures for his rock collection. In the evenings they would return home, dirty, tired and excited, full of wonderings. Ethan still as such adventures, wonderings and still comes home with rocks, though now he is much more discerning and the rocks are usually in bags.

I listen for the enjoyment and I soak in the chance to have a leisurely time with Ethan, for I know that it is fleeting and may not happen much in the future. I have been helping him write cover letters and apply for positions in Antarctica and for a voyage on a tall ship. He will soon go in search of some adventures and our time in the living room will be done, at least for a while. I am excited for the adventures he will have, but I will miss him terribly.
(The drawings are by Muriel Sibelle Wolle. There are many more in the book.)

Monday, January 06, 2014

A Cozy Day in Nederland

Ethan, Ellie and I spent the last day of our winter break up at the Johnson home in Nederland. Larr could not join us because a friend needed his help and support that day.
We drove up in time for brunch and had a leisurely day.
I made grilled burgers, crab cakes, mac and cheese and cinnamon rolls.
Mark and Martine were very welcoming and Mark was silly, as usual.
Tinnaka, Martine's daughter, and Josh, the boyfriend, were there , too.
Some of us went hiking in the cold, snowy conditions. I think it was 10 degrees when they set out. I opted to hang out on the couch and watch cable t.v. since I can't do that at home.
It was a great time.

And now for something completely different:

Saturday, January 04, 2014

Gifts for the Kids ~ Van Gogh Magic in Photoshop + Baked Zucchini Fries Recipe

Today Larr and Ellie repainted the stairwell and the hallways upstairs. It is a big change. I think I will like it once the pictures are back on the wall. Once it is done, I will share photos of it with you.

A while back Ethan shared an image that he found on Tumblr that he loved. I think he may even have had it as his background for a while. I thought it was a great idea, so I decided I would make my own version. Here's the inspiration. (I am sorry to say that I don't know its original source.):
From a technical point of view, that is easy enough to do. It turned out that the challenge was in finding the right photos. Luckily, I found one of Ethan in Goblin Valley from about 2 years ago. The dusky light was just perfect and I am very pleased with the result:
(Ethan with a Starry, Starry Night sky, thanks to Van Gogh.)
And so of course I wanted to make one for Ellie, too. After looking at Van Gogh's paintings and thinking about what images I had of Ellie, I thought this was a fun combination:
(That would be Ellie and "Night on the Rhone" by Van Gogh.)

It was so much fun to make that I was sure they would love them. Then I happen to ask Ethan in a round about way about what I was making. He replied that it might be weird to have photos of just himself in the apartment he will get some day. I had not thought about that, but I had already done the art. In the end I decided to risk it and give the gifts to the kids. Larr and I figured that if they did not like them, we would keep and display the images. I had them mounted on wooden blocks with silver edges. It is a service that Walmart offers and they are lovely. It turned out that I think the kids liked them. I still love them, so I might make a second set. We will have to see about that later.

Here's a snack we tried out today:

Baked Zucchini Fries
via: Budget Bytes

1 lb. zucchini squash
¼ cup all-purpose flour
⅛ tsp salt
1 cup panko bread crumbs
¼ cup parmesan cheese
1 Tbsp Italian seasoning blend
1 large egg

Rinse and dry the zucchini. Cut the ends off and then cut each one into strips, approximately ⅓ inch thick.

Place the zucchini strips on a large zip top bag and add the flour and salt. Shake the bag to coat the zucchini in flour. In a wide, shallow bowl combine the panko bread crumbs, parmesan cheese, and Italian seasoning. Stir to combine. In a second wide, shallow bowl, whisk a raw egg with about 1 Tbsp of water until fairly smooth.

Begin to preheat your oven to 425 degrees. Cover a baking sheet with foil and then place two wire cooling racks over top. One by one, take the flour coated zucchini strips and dip them in the egg and then the seasoned bread crumb mixture. Place the breaded zucchini on the wire cooling racks. The wire racks keep the zucchini up off of the baking sheet and allows hot air to circulate underneath, which will prevent soggy bottoms. Also make sure there is a small amount of space between each strip to allow circulation.

Once all of the zucchini strips are breaded, bake them for approximately 15 minutes or until they are a medium golden brown color. Cooking time will vary with the thickness of your zucchini strips, so keep a close eye.

Thursday, January 02, 2014

Road Trip ~ A Photo Recap

The day after Christmas the kids left on a road trip together, just the two of them. They had been dreaming and talking about such an adventure for many years. I am thrilled that the time was right for them to go on the adventure. I will admit that it was a bit scary to send both of them off together without an adult. I was not worried about them. My son is a safe driver. But other people, other crazy drivers, were my concern. Here's a glimpse at what their trip was like:

They headed south out of Colorado, going over Wolf Creek Pass.
They made it all the way to the Moki Dugay in Utah. It was a cold, dark night and they attempted to sleep in the car. I don't think it was very successful. I think the low that night was something around 7 degrees.
I would imagine that the amazing sunrise in the vista made it a worth first adventure. They hit the road pretty quickly. They were aiming for San Diego.
They stopped from time to time for a few interesting sites.
Ellie did most of the navigating. They would drive for as long as they could.
That second night they camped in Needles, a park just over the Arizona border in California. It was a much nicer night with the low being near 43 degrees. They even set up the tent and had a fire.
That day they finally made it into San Diego. They spent time on the coastal highway, located their hotel and went to the beach, finding it colder than they had expected, they had a relaxing night in.
They spent more time on the beach the next day. They also met a friend for lunch at a place in La Hoya and enjoyed fish tacos.
I think they enjoyed it, but they seem to like living in Colorado best.

All too soon they had to head back home in order to be back for New Year's Eve.
It was a whirlwind road trip; one they are glad they did together.

This evening we are enjoying a bit of homemade alfredo sauce on noodles:

Alfredo Sauce with Garlic

1 pound dried Fettuccine Pasta
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter
1 tbl. Garlic, minced
1 cup Heavy Cream (I used milk)
2 cups freshly grated Parmesan cheese
(2 TBL Milk + 1/2 tea Corn Starch, for thickening, if needed)
1/2 teaspoon fresh cracked black pepper
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley

Bring a large pot of water to boil and cook pasta according to package directions. Drain, reserve 1/2 cup pasta water.

While the pasta is cooking, melt butter in a skillet over medium heat. Add in garlic and cook until garlic is fragrant, about 1 minute.

Stir in 1/2 of the cheese and cook just until it starts to melt. Stir in 1/2 of the cream and whisk until the cheese melts. If it looks like it will be too thin, stir the corn starch into the cold milk in a cup. Once it is well combined, pout this into the hot sauce and stir for a few minutes, until the sauce has thickened. Add in remaining cheese and cream. Continue whisking until smooth. Add pepper and parsley. If sauce appears to thick, thin with a little of the reserved pasta water.

Add hot pasta and toss to coat. Add salt if needed. Serve immediately.