Friday, January 30, 2009

The Eleanors - A Girl's Trip and an Update

Eleanor is in the slow process of leaving us. On Monday we had a meeting with the social worker from the hospice telling us that the next stage for her will be when she becomes unconscious for a long time, most likely upwards of 72+ hours. After that she is likely to die. That was a hard meeting to get through. No one can give us a guess at how long this stage will last. She has a catheter and sleeps much of the day. Her body, especially her stomach, feels bloated. She often makes a "whish, whish" sound to relieve the sensation. However, she is still there. She greets us by name and tries to look at us, even if only for a second.

I purchased a device to transfer images from slides to digital and am working through the huge number of slide reels that represent her life since the 1960's. It is a slow but really wonderful process. I wish I had started this years and years ago. There are such lovely photos that I would have liked to print and hang up. I am focusing mostly on Don and Eleanor, but from time to time I find a really fun image of Larr, Doug or Rex that I just have to scan it, too. In an effort to share it with family members who are not in town I have set up a free website through It is a wonderful, personal way to share photos. I am so glad they offer that service.

We have realized that the time for asking questions is over. We have to be contented with mostly sitting with her and holding her hand. It is hard for me to sit quietly for long periods of time so I have started describing the photographs to Eleanor. One of my favorite ones is the one above where Eleanor is standing by a Fuchsia plant. As I was talking about it she chimed in, "The fuchsias grow wild in Ireland. That bush was more than three feet taller than me." Wow, that caught me by surprise! It helps me see that she is still in there, even if her body does not want to cooperate. I thought the project might be hard (and it is) but it is more healing than I had expected. I hope to get it done before she dies. I also want to put the photos into a book for Don, Doug, Rex, Larr and whom ever would want one. Thank goodness for technology and Shutterfly!

On an entirely different note, the younger Eleanor has a fun girl's trip in her near future. Here you can see how much fun Ellie and Anna have together. Laura's brother (Anna's mom) has invited Anna to visit for spring break. He encouraged her to bring along friends. Anna, Ellie and Christy will spend nearly a week in sunny San Diego. They will swim, play on the beach, play with the dog, go to Disneyland and many other things. Ellie is super excited. We are thankful that such an opportunity is available for her!

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Jumping into Digital Scrapbooking - Sites I love

If you've followed my blog lately you know that I am diving into the world of digital scrapbooking. At first it was totally overwhelming. I did not know how to go about finding the art stuff that fits my style. Many of the sites I found at first were either too cute or too country for my taste. I have since stumbled upon some great sites. I decided I would start out slow and get to know a company or two really well. I found those sites by looking at digital scrapbooking galleries. The first source were pages I liked in the galleries. If you click on the photos you usually get more information. I found that two companies kept showing up.

Now I am a devoted follower and purchaser from I love a lot of the stuff they sell. They have wonderful galleries and amazing sales. On Sunday through Monday they feature two items for $.25 each. On Thursdays a bunch of stuff is 30% off. I've even found some that was down to $.99. They also have several inspiring challenges each week. Each challenge comes with a freebie. I love to see what people post in the galleries.

Another one I love is Tracy Anne Digial Art and the TADA Blog. They also have wonderful galleries and freebies.

Other recent finds that I will explore in more depth include Creashen's Blog, Natali Design, CatScrap, Studio Girls and Two Little Pixies. I found these by following links on various blogs related to digital scrapbooking.

I also love some of the blogs for the designers. Creashen's blog is on. I really appreciate the clean lines and lovely color found on Ali Edward's blog. Anna Aspnes has wonderful tutorials on her digital scrapbooking site, too. {We Are} Storytellers is also a fun site. I have only explored it a small bit. If you want tutorials, Jessica Sprague has some lovely ones for free, as well as a few freebie downloads. She also offers online courses.

Okay, this was actually a long list, not just the two companies I work mostly from. As I figure out more, I am sure the list will grown. Now I just have to figure out how to get it all organized on my computer. I am going to try something similar to how I organize my actual, tangible scrapbooking supplies and try to keep track of what company each thing is from so I can correctly label my gallery entries.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Swedish Meatball Recipe

There are some recipes that my family and I love, but that I forget about. Swedish meatballs is one of those recipes.

Swedish Meatballs

2 TBL. Butter or Olive Oil
Premade Meatballs (or use the "Pete's Famous Meatballs" recipe I posted a while back)
(1 Onion, chopped - optional)
1 1/2 cup Beef Broth
1 can Evaporated Milk or 1 cup Sour Cream
1/2 tea. Nutmeg, ground
1 tea. Dill
1/4 cup cold Water
2-3 TBL Corn Starch

Melt butter in a large pan. Add the meatball and heat throughout. If the meatballs are frozen this may take 10 minutes. If you decide to add onions to your recipe remove the meatballs to a bowl and saute the onions until they are soft and semitranslucent. Put the meatballs back into the pan. Add the beef broth and boil for 10-15 minutes. Add the evaporated milk or sour cream. (Either one works, the sour cream has a bit more zing than the evaporated milk.) Stir to combine. Add in the nutmeg. This adds a subtile depth to the flavor. Next, add in the dill. Sometimes I add more than I stated in this recipe. Simmer for 10-15 more minutes. Pu the cold water in a mug and mix in the corn starch. This is then added to the meatballs. Stir until thickened. Enjoy over egg noodles or toast. This is a lovely comfort food that freezes well.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Best Cross Racer & Best All Around Racer Awards 2008

Saturday we packed up the crew and an extra person to head down to the American Cycling Association Best Cyclocross Racer, Best All Around Racer awards and 2009 Racing Season kick-off ceremony. It was held at the Great Divide Brew Comp. down town. Great Divide was very interesting. They let us explore the entire building. I loved seeing the bottling machine and the Archimedes's screwdevice that loads up the bottles. The party was loud and a bit unorganized, but fun as well. It was great to see friends that we have not seen for nearly two months. This gap between racing season always seems weird. We had pizza, soda and some people enjoyed the free beer. Both Ethan and Ellie were given awards. Ethan won the Junior Men 15-16 Best Cyclocross racer jersey. He also won it for Junior Men 17-18. We thought that was kind of fun because we did not realized that he had won points in that category, too.
Ellie won the same award for her division last year, missing it by two points this year. I feel kind of bad about that since those two points down might have been a result of a bike crash or two and untimely repairs. It is difficult to get some repairs done when the crash happens in the afternoon on Saturday and the next race is less than 12 hours away. Anyway, I digress. This year she won third place in the Junior Women 10-12 Best All Around Racer category. She also got third in the Junior Women 10-14 Best Cyclocross Racer category. Here too, she lost by two points. Mina, the girl who came in first place is also the national champion. Ellie has stiff competition.

Other members on our team won awards, too. Our team won 7 of the division awards. Our team rocks!

As you can see from this photo, the kids have a great time together. I love that the kids can race against each other and be friends after the racing is done.We can't wait for the season to begin again.

K4OT 2009 - Knitting for Our Troops

The local Denver Public Library has been running a neat event called, "K4OT: Knitting For Our Troops." On Friday and Saturday nearly every knitting store in town hosted knit-ins. The goal is to gather 5,280 hand-knit hats to send over to the troops in Iraq.

After work on Friday I went to The Knit Knack, a shop owned by my friend, Gerri, to take part in the event.

I managed to get two hats done. I hope that the people who receive them will feel supported and thought of. I hope they make a small bit of difference in making the people feel comfortable.

I spent the evening at a table in the front with Bonnie and Susan.

Later Carrie joined us. It was fun, but I did not remember to eat dinner so I was exhausted by the time I went home at 9:00.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Succulent BBQ Rib Recipe

I've been on the hunt for a good rib recipe for some time. Some that I have tried are messy and end up tasting like a thick, dried chunk of leather with BBQ sauce. Some end up with a unpleasant overly porky flavor without the smokey undertone of good ribs. I've also tried precooking them and finishing them on the grill. While at our Sunday cooking class at William Sonoma we learned about a delightful and easy way to make amazing, sweet, succulent BBQ ribs. At first I was suspicious of the recipe, but tried it and am now converted. Using this recipe you end up with tender, sweet ribs that fall apart as you eat them. Here is the recipe:

Succulent BBQ Ribs

You'll need:
Pork Ribs (this may work for beef ribs, too)
Brown Sugar
(Northwoods Fire Spice - optional and wonderful!)
Cayenne Pepper
Black Pepper
BBQ Sauce
plastic wrap
aluminum foil

Prepare by washing your hands then laying out a large piece of foil topped with a large piece of plastic wrap. Place a medium amount of ribs on top of this. (I worked with 3 ribs at a time.)Begin by making a sugar rub for the ribs. We used quite a lot. The proportions are mostly by feel but go something like 1 cup brown sugar to 1 tea. cayenne and 1 tea. ground pepper. We also added Northwoods Fire Spice from Penzy Spices. It is totally optional and wonderful. It adds a deep smokey note to the recipe. You might also be able to use a tiny bit of liquid smoke to get a similar effect. Mix well and use your hands to rib the sugar mix onto the ribs. Try to coat them fairly well. Do this to all of the ribs that will be wrapped together.

Next, wrap the ribs very tightly with plastic wrap. Then wrap that with one or two pieces of foil. The package should be tight and compact. Do this to the remaining ribs. Place these on a jelly roll pan or casserole dish. Bake at 225 degrees for about 4 hours.

Take them out of the oven and carefully unwrap them. There will be a lot of sweet liquid from the ribs. Place them on a new cookie sheet and brush with BBQ sauce. Place this under the broiler just long enough to heat up the sauce.

We made a lovely veggie side dish by sauteing zucchini slices and pepper slices that have been coated with olive oil and seasoned with poultry seasoning.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Knitting for the Troops and Charity Knitting

Our local library is running a wonderful project called "K4OT - Knitting for Our Troops." The library, in conjunction with about every knitting store in town is hosting special knit-in where people will meet and make wool helmet liners for our troops. They have provided a special pattern to ensure that the hat will fit under the helmet. Most of the charity knitter I know have already started. The goal is to send off 5,280 (Mile High City = 5,280feet) hats. They will be combined with other care items like fun food, toiletries, etc. I am nearly done with my first one and hope to get one or two more done. If I had more time I would certainly make more. I also want to attach a nice note or card to the hats I send off.

I have also made a few hats for the local homeless shelter to give away. I can knit what ever I like, but it is suggested that I use easy to care for fibers so the hats I made so far have been acrylic. I actually hat acrylic yarn, but the hats need to be easily washed. The first one was done in a day and actually went home to Rotterdam with Truike. It was very cold while they were here and she needed a hat. She fell in love with it so now it can be seen on another part of the world.

The next hat was a beehive pattern where I alternated between two very different fibers, the straight acrylic double was knitted. The acrylic with a knobby carrying yarn was purled. The result is a fun bit of bumpy rings.

The last hat was a bit more manly with a double yarn knit. I made the cuff part twice as long as needed and stitched it up to double it as well. They should keep a few souls warmer during the long, windy months. It would be a kick to see someone sporting one of my hats.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Racine's South Western Cheese Dip Recipe & A Creative Kind of Day

Doing art helps energize and center me. It helps be deal with stress and makes me happier. Today I had the day off from work and I spent it doing art. I had a lovely time at Janni's house. She is a friend from work. She set up a work station in the basement and made lunch. We created cards. Her son, Mitch, joined in and made a birthday card for his dad.

Here's a recipe that we enjoyed at lunch:

Racine's South Western Cheese Dip

8 oz. Cream Cheese (softened or at room temperature)
1/4 cup Mayo.
1/3 cup Sour Cream
1/4 Parmesan Cheese
4 oz. Green Chiles, diced
1 tea. Cumin, ground
1 tea. Chili Powder
1 cup Cheddar Cheese

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Combine all the ingredients. Place in a pan that has been sprayed with oil. Bake for 30 minutes.

This lovely dip can be served with chips, as a topping for nachos or spread on tortillas.

I picked up the kids and went home. I was able to find a bit more time to be creative. I was happy to complete a few more pages for our 2008 Year in Review. I was inspired by a "Everyday Inspiration" challenge. I decided that I would try to have some uniting theme for most of the pictures in a given month. I loved the colored dots and included them on several pages. I considered adding them to the other pages I had already completed, but ditched that idea when I realized that they would detract from the designs I had so carefully crafted. These pages complete January 2008. I hope the next month goes a bit faster. I am undecided as to whether I will do February or December next. Christmas is just past finishing and might make sense. However, it was fun to review the beginning of next year.

Friday, January 16, 2009

A Ticket to Ride

Larr's cousin Jean is in town from California. She came to see Eleanor and has been a tremendous help. While Don was running errands she took down all of the Christmas decorations and the tree. Please her heart for flying all the way here to do stuff like that. This evening our family, along with Lilia and Greg (her brother) had dinner with Eleanor and Don. I was very pleased to see that Eleanor got out of bed to sit in the living room and have dinner with us. We even got a little conversation in. It made me feel better. After a while she fell back to sleep. Ethan, Jean, Mark and I spent a while playing "Ticket to Ride." It is a game board that I love to play. Larr hates it as it gets too intense for him. Ethan and I were glad for a chance to play. Ethan won, as usual, but Mark was only a few points away from beating him. It was lovely to have a family evening having dinner conversation and playing a game.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

An Eleanor Update - a Largely down hill bumpy ride

Eleanor had a goal to enjoy the holiday season. We had 18 people in town to celebrate. As they went back home Eleanor seemed to diminish. By the time Truike and Jan returned to Roderdam she was almost back to her old sleep a lot routine - only it got worse. I believe it was about eight days before she got out of bed again. Most days she sleeps most of the time. She might eat once or not at all. We are pretty sure it is the medication for the pain. She says it makes her feel foggy and sleepy. When she is awake she simply opens her eyes. Many days we don't even see her head off of the pillow. However, a spark of her personality still shines through. Earlier this week she promised to haunt my dear husband from the other side, leaving him messages written with a cider block. She cracked a few quite jokes with the kids. Most of her conversations are about trying to get us ready for her to die. She is completely at peace with it. I'm glad she is a peace, but I am not sure I can or will ever be there as far as her death will be concerned. I feel connected by trying to be useful. I am beginning to think about what it will take to make a film about her life. We have very few photos from when she was a little girl. Most of her photos from her married life are in slides. I am looking into the best way to convert those slide images into digital ones. I have also asked Eleanor and Don to think about the music from their life that holds meaning for them. My hope is that I can produce a quality program that captures the essence of Eleanor - one that can be a celebration of her life and a memento for those who hold her dear.

Monday, January 12, 2009

A Low Key Weekend Scrapbooking and Cooking

I have been making scrapbooks for years. We all love them. However, they can be cumbersome to store due to their size and bulk. I experimented with digital scrapbooking this fall and love the results. Now I am embarking on a new adventure to shift to making digital ones from now on. It has been a little intimidating trying to figure out where to get supplies, how to translate my artistic style into what I can find and how to keep it all organized. So far I am mostly muddling along. This weekend I spent time looking at Tracy Ann Digital Arts (TADA) and DesignerDigitals since so many of the the pages I like in galleries have elements from those companies. I bought a few things, uploaded some freebies and am on my way. I began with a free template and made a page about Ellie.I now have to figure out what I want Ethan's page to look like. I am not sure I want a duplicate, but I do want cohesion. I may simply do an altered mirror image of Ellie's page. I also started on two pages about the New Year's Eve wedding we attended by am stymied by how to proceed since I don't know how to create what I have in my head.
On Sunday morning Ethan and I took our second cooking class at the William Sonoma store in Cherry Creek. Last week we did cast iron cooking. We learned about a lovely 40 garlic clove chicken and a no knead Rosemary bread. You can see Stephanie in action in the photos below.

This week it was a large crowd for French cooking. They made crepes, French Onion soup and a chicken dish. Ethan made crepes when we got home. I gave a try at making the soup but mine did not turn out as well since I did not have the right wine. Next week it is indoor grilling.

Thursday, January 08, 2009

The Magic of Emry Gweldig: my childhood remembered

Like many kids, Christmas was magical for me. One of my favorite traditions had to with our annual visits downtown to see the holiday windows. My mom loved special trips and so did I. We would sort of dress up and go down town. We would have dinner as a family. Next, we would walk down the sidewalk looking at the holiday displays. We always made a stop at See's Candy store where we could each get something special. You could pick out candy from those on display. You could have a cute box with sugary treasures inside. I usually go Honeycomb my mom tells me. Next we would walk to the May D & F or the Denver Dry Goods store. They were big department stores. Outside one of them you could see people glide past you on the ice skating rink. Inside we would make our way to the Christmas village where a large section of the basement of the store had been magically transformed. There were elves building toys, igloos with penguins, reindeer at play and so on. You'd walk along a pathway until you came to Santa's house where you could visit with Santa. You'd sit on his lap, tell him how good you had been, had your photo taken and sent away with a candy cane. Once that was done we would go and look at the wonderful windows. The air would be frosty, your nose would run from the cold and you could see your breath. The windows were decorated with bright lights and wonderful scenes from some story. Music would play. The scenes were rich and ornamental. I used to dream that I would someday create such wonderful displays, too. It made the season magical for me. However, times change. Stores close and cities remake themselves. I missed those traditions and wished I could have something like that for my own children.

It seems that I was not the only one who missed that tradition. This year the Museum of Outdoor Arts, along with Cherry Creek North created such a display. I was enthralled. I went twice and had hoped to go again before it was taken down. The first time I went with a group of our family members to see it in the evening. I was excited so I took Connie, Christy and Ellie the next day. The experience was different seeing it in the daylight, but it was still magical. We too walked around and then stopped for some hot chocolate at Starbucks. We also found many lovely dogs to pet, as usual.

I thought you might enjoy the experience, too. You can see it on and/or you can enjoy my photos I have posted here for your enjoyment.

I also wanted to post a note to the people abroad who have recently left me notes. I have enjoyed receiving them. My account is set up to receive them, but I cannot email you back. If you are one of those folks, please know that it was a lot of fun to find that you are reading my blog. If you are one of the people who has a question for me, please post a comment again with the question and I will see if I can answer it. :)

Sunday, January 04, 2009

Stout & Cheddar Rarebit and a Snapshot of Chronical of a Winter Break

As much as we love Christmas, we also love the days after it is over and before we have to go back to school. Those can be the lazy, sleep in late days. Or the days when we fix an interesting breakfast. Or the days when friends collect at our house. We each do our own thing, but we do it together. I thought you might like a snapshot of one of those days.

We began with a recipe I researched after reading about it in the December issue of Gourmet magazine. A guy raved over how much he loved the recipe. He ended up eating all himself. Rarebit reminds me of our honeymoon in England so I decided I would give this one a try. We loved it!

Stout and Cheddar Rarebit with Fried Eggs

Serves 4
Active time:20 min Start to finish:20 min
Gourmet Magazine, October 2008

The beer and cheese combo gets saucy, turning toast and fried eggs into a truly luxurious meal all about extras: extra-stout beer, extra-sharp Cheddar, and extra good.
1/3 cup cider vinegar
2 teaspoons granulated sugar
1 small red onion, thinly sliced
1 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 1/2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon dry mustard
1/2 cup Guinness Extra Stout (without foam) (I used Fat Tire Beer)
1/3 cup water
2 teaspoons packed brown sugar
1/2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
8 large eggs
4 thick slices peasant bread (preferably sourdough)
1/2 lb extra-sharp white Cheddar, grated
1 bunch watercress, coarse stems discarded
1/2 tablespoon Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
Bring vinegar, granulated sugar, and 1/2 tsp salt to a simmer in a small saucepan. Stir in onion and transfer to a small bowl. Let stand, stirring occasionally.
Melt butter in a small heavy saucepan over medium heat. Whisk in flour and dry mustard and cook, whisking, 2 minutes. Add beer, water, brown sugar, and Worcestershire sauce and simmer, whisking, until just thickened.
Fry eggs and toast bread. Reheat sauce, then remove from heat and gradually whisk in cheese until smooth. Season with salt and pepper.
Top each slice of toast with cheese sauce and 2 fried eggs. Toss watercress with oil, a pinch of salt, and drained pickled onions and arrange on top.

Recipe by Maggie Ruggiero

Then we invited our friends over. I took the kids to the Celestial Seasonings Factory Tour. We go a few times a year. We love to try out the various teas. You can go to the tea tasting room and try anything they make. It is a lot of fun. I think we must have tasted at least ten different flavors. Arianna had never been there before. She loved the Peach Apricot Honeybush tea best. Ethan really enjoyed the new Saphara Tropical Roobios with citrus and coconut. It turned out that the factory was on a quiet day, meaning that none of the machines were running. That made it less interesting. I love to watch the electronic palletizer. However, we still had fun:

Once we were home we each did different things. Ellie and Arianna had a loud, wild time playing Rock Band.

Ethan and Tom got out the vaccum former machine. Ethan and Uncle Doug made it recently. The boys are molding helmets, body pads, and such for costumes they want to make. I wish Doug were here to be part of this.