Friday, October 30, 2009

Halloween - Silly Fun From Jibjab Sendables

Try JibJab Sendables® eCards today!

This is just a bit of silly fun that you can customize at Jibjab If you have a facebook account you can use it to login or you can create a new account. I thought this was a blast!

Thursday, October 29, 2009

A Motley Crew and an Unexpected Break

On Tuesday night, when it was windy and cold evening, an expected weather condition for this time of year, the weatherman predicted a huge storm. Kids prayed for a snow day. Who would have guessed that their wishes would be granted. We woke on Wednesday by the phone ringing. The automatic caller from my school was sending out a snowday message. We looked out of the window to find a soft blanket of snow. As the day progressed it was the snowflakes grew larger and more plentiful. Fully awake due to teh 5:15 a.m. call, we went out for bagels. Ellie had stayed the night at Christy's house and the rest of us were home. Ethan spent much of the day playing his video games with virtual links through the computer. Larr took care of various things that had been on his business to-do list. I put together the team newsletter and began to teach myself more about the new InDesign CS4 program we recently got. Later in the day we rented a few movies. It was really lovely to have some unexpected time off. With nothing planned, we were able to really relax. In the early evening we got the call that school would be closed on Thursday, too. That was even more welcome. In some ways I looked at it as a time to get caught up and ahead on cleaning, but I also wanted to relax some more. We slept in, had breakfast, shoveled snow and watched one of the movies. By the late afternoon the roads were find. Two days of being low key has left me relaxed and a little sleepy. I think we have about 28" so far. The snow continues to fall, but I think it will not accumulate much. I expect that it is back to school tomorrow.

The races this past weekend were not the kid's best. On Saturday Ellie was cold and felt a bit ill. Her regular shorts were ruined and she was racing in gear that was too small. Ethan's rear shifter was broken so he did the race as a single speed. We spent the afternoon at Veloswap and had a great time. Sunday was a bit better, but the snow began to fall just as the race started and the course seemed to be about half sand. Ethan did okay until he tripped on a barrier and went down hard, hitting his face on his handlebars. He laughed about it later. Ellie was simply feeling tired and sluggish. She glad to have that one behind her.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Pumpkin Carving Party - Ready, Set , Carve...

On Friday we had our annual pumpkin carving party and potluck. It was a lovely day. Larr and the kids decorated the backyard. Originally the caution tape was intended to stop people from walking on the muddy sod. However, it was a great effect.

Larr decided to have a nice fire out in the fire pit. It was a real hit. It may have to become tradition.

We had small guests, too.

And silly ones who are lots of fun!

The 12-14 crowd was silly, too. I think they had the most fun with their pumpkins.

Well,on second thought, maybe the teenage boys had the most fun - I am not sure...

Some of the guests did not carve anything, but played games instead.

We had a blast. We stuffed about 45 people into our house and backyard. I am always impressed with the creativity with which the kids carve.

On another note, I am inspired by what I saw over at Molly Irwin's bog today:

Friday, October 23, 2009

Pumpkins Time...

We went to a local farmer to get our pumpkins for our pumpkin carving party that we are having tonight.

We love going to Al's Pine Garden. It is one of our Halloween traditions.

I had hoped to pet the greenhouse cat, but he was nowhere to be seen.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Pumpkin Party Invitations - Not for Whimps

I love Halloween - it's just so much fun! For many years we have celebrated by having a pumpkin carving party and potluck. It started out small many years ago; just our family with one or two other families. It has grown bigger every year. This year may be our largest party ever. Although we have a small glitch since the kids forgot to handout the invitations this week. We'll see what comes of it.

One of the parts I love most about it is making the invitation. Each year, just like the party, it gets bigger and more complicated, too. This year my inspiration started with a set of brushes that the House of 3 offered. I lingered a bit longer on their site and was drawn in by the Hof3 Haunted Dignbats. I'd never tried any of those before and had a lot of fun with them. Since the design was so two tone I had to jazz it up with some bling. I was thrilled when I found great paste on rhinestones for a reasonable price at Michael's. I was also inspired by the key fabs that one of the women made. I had considered making some myself, but found that the printable Shrinky Dinks were too expensive for the number of sheets that I would need. My idea morphed into a library pocket, cut out using my Cricket, stamped with a crow and embellished with tulle and rick rack. I then made tickets to go in the pocket. That needed some texture, too, so I added ribbon with colored staples on to each of them. I attached this onto some cards that had a preprinted background. I rally bought them as a stiff background and for the envelopes. I got a rockin' deal on them! Next, I created the back side with information about the party. I used the Hof3 Haunted Dingbats again and filled in the information using the Bleeding Cowboy font that you can download for free from I can't wait to see what people think of them. My dear friend Laura, who always recognizes and applauds hard work, was very complimentary. It made me feel good - Thanks for that, my friend! I'd love to see other people's Halloween cards, too.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Bubble, Squeak, Pasties and a Bit of Warmth or Dinner at the Hill Top Restaurant Plus a Recipe

I love when my husband has fun surprises for me. Yesterday the kids were away at a race without me. They went up with Coach Bill, leaving before I was off from work for the day. My DH sends me a sweet email, "Want to try that English restaurant up by the airport?" Well, shoot yeah - who would turn down such an offer. I love going out to eat and I wanted to see what the Hill Top Restaurant considered typical British fare. It was lovely and cozy with our seats by the fire that quietly crackled away.

I was cold and was happy to find that I could have decaf. PG tips.

We began with Yorkshire pudding with beef gravy. Yum!

This was followed by Welsh Rarebit. We ordered this appitizer because we loved when we had it at Sally Lund's in Bath. It's an easy meal that I forget to make. This one was very different from what we expected. I think it must be a regional difference. Duncan (one of the owners) is from the north end of England. It was served over a bed of mixed greens on bread that had been toasted in the oven. I loved the special kick it had with cayene in the cheese sauce and a reduced Guiness and balsamic vinegar sauce. I'm going to try and figure out how to make it at home.

Next up, Larr had a salad with blue cheese. I had potato and leek soup that was really wonderful.

For the main course Larr had "The Pub" which was a flaky pocket pie filled with a cheese, Irish bacon and onion mixture along with a side of chips. I imagine that it might be one of the best items on the menu.

I had "Bubble and Squeak." It was different from what I expected, but was delightful. It too had the Guinness Balsamic reduction sauce on it. I enjoyed it thoroughly , but could not eat the entire amount. In fact, I was full before we even started the main course.

We thought about dessert, but opted out since we were both so full. I considered some fun British candy, but passed on that, too.

The food was great, the server was a lot of fun and I want to go again. Maybe we will take my father-in-law and the kids with us if we go there for my birthday in December.

Today I decided that I needed to give it a go before I forgot the taste of the Welsh Rarebit. Here's what I created based on my research. My family said it is a keeper:

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

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 the 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.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Of Bikes, Black Ice, Caramel Apples, Roller Derby, Greece and a Few Good Recipes

Wow, you know my weeks are busy when I only post once or twice in a week. This was once such week. On Wednesday I had a meeting that got out early. That allowed me to go home and clean a bit. I also pulled out the Halloween decorations and linens. That simple act made me feel more settled into fall. I even spent the evening making soups. I'll post a recipe at the end of this post. The weekend was a lot of fun. We raced, we went to a movie and dinner and we made stuff.

We knew it would be cold on Saturday morning, but when we awoke to find snow on the ground we were a little surprised. Ethan was happy for it since it is part of true cyclocross weather. Even before we left the house we got a call from a friend coming up from down south. Her family, who had intended to race with us and spend some time together, had been in a huge pile up on the highway. Black ice had caused a 30 car crash. Tom and the kids were the last car in the accident. It seems like a demolition derby kind of even. Amazingly, everyone seems to have come out of it just fine, though the vehicle is most likely totaled. We wish there was something we could do to help, but there was not. The highway was closed and the kids road their bikes to a nearby restaurant while Tom waited for help. That gave us a heads up so we left our house early so that we could slip, slide and fishtail our way to the race location at Bear Creek Lake Park. I think we say six crashes on the way, including one where a bus his a tiny car. Ethan was happy to get Coach Bill's help swapping out the brake pads, but the process took much longer than expected so he missed his start by about 20 minutes but managed to come in second place anyway.Ellie's thumb was still healing so she opted to do race support instead of racing.

We had a cozy afternoon where the girl and I watched "My Life in Ruins." It was a fun film.

Then the family went to see "Whip It." It stars the girl from "Juno". She was excellent in the film. The film was much more than I expected it to be. It was about a girl who joins a roller derby team. It was also about a teenage girl who alternately loves her family and thinks they are idiots. If you have a teenager you can probably relate.
After the movie we went to dinner with Don. It was really lovely to have a mostly relaxing day.

Sunday was another cold day, but not as bitter as the day before. We headed up to Interlocken near Boulder to race. Ellie joined in the fun and was happy for it. She placed second and Ethan was the only person in his catagory. The course is very grassy, which is difficult since it absorbs so much of the wattage you put out pedaling. Our friend Greg came out to cheer the kids on and hand them water while I took photos.

That afternoon the kids and I made caramel apples from scratch. I have been inspired by the post over on the King Arthur Flour blog:

I also fell in love with the posting from Savoring Time in the Kitchen's caramel apple blog posting:

We decided to give it a go. We used the recipe from Savoring's blog and took turns stirring the caramel.

Ethan also chopped up some sugar glazed walnuts and Ellie got out the multicolored sprinkles. I pulled out the chocolate. We also buttered up my silicon sheets. They worked like a charm. No one bit of caramel stuck to anything is was not supposed to.

Each of us were thrilled with the finished product. Ellie ate two of hers the very first evening.

Ethan's are a hefty bunch since they have so much topping.

I made enough for everyone in my department. My turn to bring birthday treats was over due. Satisfied with our afternoon's project, we cleaned our selves up and had dinner with the Grossman family. What a wonderful weekend it was!

Here is the Caramel Recipe from Savoring Time in the Kitchen:

Fleur de Sel Caramel Apples

Makes enough for 8-10 apples

1 cup butter (do not substitute margarine)
2 cups packed dark brown sugar
1 cup light corn syrup
1 14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
8-10 wooden sticks
8-10 medium tart apples (I used Honey Crisp)
Fleur de Sel (I used Brittany Grey Sea Salt, but any good Sea Salt will do)

Optional extras: Chopped, toasted nuts (I used toasted pecans) , melted chocolate or mini chocolate pieces, mini marshmallows anything else you'd like to apply to your caramel apples, placed in small bowls.

Candy or Instant Thermometer

Have everything you need prepped and handy before you begin as you don't want to scorch the caramel. Be very careful, hot caramel can give you a nasty burn.

Line a large sheet pan with parchment paper and lightly butter the parchment.

Wash apples thoroughly to remove as much wax as possible. Insert a wooden stick into each apple.(We used paper sticks.Some of them softened once they sat in the apples for a while.)

In a heavy saucepan with candy thermometer, combine the butter, brown sugar, corn syrup and milk; bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring slowly and constantly until the candy thermometer reads 248 degrees (firm ball stage) - about 30 minutes. Do not let the caramel cook any longer or it will get too hard.

Remove pan from heat and stir in the vanilla extract

Dip each apple into hot caramel mixture, tipping and turning to coat.

Sprinkle with a pinch of fleur de sel.

Dip the apples into the other toppings you've chosen while the caramel is still warm. Melted chocolate can be drizzled over after all the other toppings have been applied.

Place on the buttered parchment or silicon sheet to cool.

Here's a great recipe we had on Friday:

Spinach, Bacon and Pasta e Fagioli Soup
Serves 6

1 cup dried white beans (I use 1 can of cannelini beans, drained and rinsed)
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 medium onions, coarsely chopped
2 large carrots, peeled and coarsely chopped
1 small bunch spinach (or bagged – about a cup, cut into thin julienne)
6 cups chicken stock or broth
8 strips Bacon, cooked and chopped into 1" pieces
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 medium tomatoes, peeled, seeded, and coarsely chopped, or 1 cup chopped canned tomatoes, well-drained.
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh basil or 2 teaspoons dried
¾ cup dry pasta
1 teaspoon salt or to taste
Parmesan Cheese

1. If using dry beans, soak overnight in enough cold water to cover generously or do a quick soak by bringing them to a boil in just enough water to cover, boiling for 2 minutes, then covering and letting stand for 1 hour. Drain. I used a can of beans.

2. In a large soup pot over medium heat, heat the oil, add the onions, and sauté for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the carrots and sauté for 3 minutes. Add garlic, stock, beans (only if using dried), bacon,tomatoes and basil and simmer for about 30 minutes, partially covered.

3. Add the beans now if using canned cannelini beans and bring the soup to a boil.

4. Add the spinach and pasta. Cook until the pasta is done. Season as it pleases you.

6. To serve, ladle the soup into bowls and garnish with parmesan.

This soup can be prepared up to 3 days ahead through step 5 and then refrigerated. You can also freeze the soup. Adjust seasonings and add fresh herbs after reheating frozen soup.

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Splish, Splash They Needed To Take a Bath or a Bit of Dirty Fun at Cyclocross Camp

Junior Cyclocross Camp was an absolute blast! We did lots of different kinds of skills building and some fun mock races, but here's what the kids will remember the most: The mud pit...

What kid could resist mud?

As you can see, just about EVERYBODY (including the coaches), loved the mud!

They worked on other useful stuff like how to transition into gravel without crashing your bike. It sounds easy, but it is not. Gravel often wins.

The food was wonderful and plentiful. The catering company was able to handle every special diet and make everyone feel like they were pros.

It was great to have some of the group from Fort Collins come and play with us.

This one ended up on Facebook.

Ellie makes this look easy.

Another part of the fun is making new friends and strengthening bonds.

Okay, so this does not look so bad. I might let him in the house this way.

But wait, just look at that butt. Everyone ended up looking this way, or worse. Most of the kids had to "practice" falling in the mud. I ended up washing about 60 uniforms on Saturday night. The kids were thankful for that little service and they were ready to race the next day.

Thursday, October 01, 2009

Toddling and She's Been Skunked - a Title I Hope To Never Have to Repeat

First off, I have to tell you, our lovely dog, Reisha, got sprayed by a skunk, in our own back yard, notheless. Poor thing. She really did not know what hit her! As I was driving home from Parent Teacher Conferences (a day where I am at work for 14 hours straight with only 25 minutes for lunch and no other breaks) I get a rapid succession of phone calls.All of them urgent. "Mom, Reisha's been skunked!!! She is upset. Her eyes are red and droopy and she is drooling!" "Mom, its bad. Leave now!" "Tam, Reisha can't come in the house. You know what happened, right? Tomato juice only masks the odor. " You get the idea. I call Ellie back and tell her I will get stuff to clean her off. Our neighbor's dog has been skunked three times of late. They figured out that the Goop cuts the oil from the skunk spray.
It took me three stores before I found someplace that was open past nine at night where I could purchase more Goop. By the time I arrived Midge, our neighbor with the knowledge and experience, was there helping the kids clean up the poor dog. She looked so pathetic. The kids and Midge worked quickly and with care. Instead of rinsing her with the garden hose they brought out buckets of warm water. I imagine Reisha was reminded that she is so very loved. However, she did not feel so loved when she was not allowed to go upstairs to bed. Instead she had to sleep on the main floor where there is no carpet. Ellie slept on the couch in the big room in order to offer some comfort. When we went to bed the back yard was litered with tufts of dog hair and perfumed with skunk. Mother Nature delivered a windy night that blew much of that way. What a relief!

This past weekend we did less biking than usual. The race on Saturday was not a Best Cross Racer/Team race and the kids were tired, so we stayed home. It was really kind of nice. They slept in until pretty late. I made some food for the week and picked up the house. We've had so many weekends where we are gone all weekend that I forget how much can be done in a single day at home. Just as we were getting ready to go to bed Ellie got an inch long piece of metal wire in her foot. We pulled it out quickly, but it still really hurt.

Sunday morning we were on the road at about 5:00 a.m. so that we could make it to Buena Vista by 7:45. I fretted a bit about driving in the mountains in the dark. I thought it might be difficult since it was so early in the morning. I found, much to my surprise, that it was quite lovely. The stars were twinkling and the sky was clear. It was kind of magical. As I drove deeper into the mountains the sun began peaking over the mountain tops. Once I reached the top of Kenosha Pass I was able to bask in the glory of the trees set ablaze they the pink sunrise. The quacking gold on the Aspen trees was at its finest. A gentle breeze tumbled through the air. I rounded the bend to take in the open space of South Park. On my right the ponies scampered while the adult horses quietly grazed. On my left groups of antelope meandered in there journeys to some unknown location. With time to spare, we pulled into Bango Billy's for coffee and fresh cinnamon rolls. By that time Ellie was awake and lamenting that her foot still hurt. "My foot hurts and I need a break from racing. I don't want you to ask me a thousand times if I am sure that I don't want to race," she whined. She was even too grumpy to come into the coffee shop. Shortly there after we arrived at the "Cross at the River" race. It is a new venue that we were excited to try. It was a great course with some steep berms to climb over, woodsy paths, wide open spaces, tight turns and excellent barriers. It felt really weird just registering one kid instead of two. Ethan was the only one in his category so he thought he would take it easy, feeling like it was a guaranteed win. So he toddled instead of raced. He went fast when people were near. Otherwise, he took his time. Little did he know that 11 year old dynamo, Cade, had decided to race up and was in his category. Once results were posted he was chagrined to find that Cade beat him. When they called people up to the podium Cade had to stand on a large rock to receive his first place prize, a brand new Rudy Project helmet. Ethan was gracious and was cool about it. However, I don't think that will ever happen again. He could have easily taken the whole field of all of the racers on the course if he had only tried. Driving home we discussed the race. Ellie regretted not racing, just as I knew she would. Ethan regretted not taking it seriously. Ellie was still tired and she managed hurt her leg when she was playing around on her bike. By the time we were driving home she was full of bruises and a few large bumps. It makes me wonder if she is getting ready for another growing spurt.


On a completely different note, here's a video that I think is pretty incredible. It is from Ukraine's Got Talent. The 24 year old artist displays her interpretation of the German invasion during WWII.