Monday, July 25, 2011

I hope you all had a great weekend!  We had a chance to escape the heat a bit as we headed into the mountains by Steamboat Lake.  I say a bit because it was plenty sunny and hot where we were.  Steamboat received record snowfall this year as evidenced by the incredible wild flower display.  The hills were awash with so much color.  I couldn't stop "oohing and aahing." 

Steamboat Lake, Colorado

Arnica and Blue Bonnet
Unfortunately, our hidden gem of a campsite was quite altered due to Pine Beetle Kill.  So instead of hanging out in the forest, we made the most of nearby Steamboat lake with some water fun.

No camping trip would be complete without a mountain bike ride.  It had been three years since we rode this particular trail, and Brad and I were surprised at how technical it was. 

Nor could we believe we rode this trail when Rachel and Max were 12 and 10.

All in all, we had fun, even with the bugs and sun.  Roughing it was worth the time away from the household distractions, and the campfire chats were priceless.  I'm just not sure Pepper would agree.  Any time the car door was opened he would pop in for some relief.

One of the biggest gems on this trip were our friends, Cecil and Bobbie, the campground hosts.  We met them years ago when we pulled in without a reservation.  Cecil was so friendly and accomodating.  He has shared many things with us over the years, and this year was no different.
Cecil teaches Max some Chess moves
I think I'll be in for it the next time Max and I play chess.

Now there is the unloading and washing up to do after every excursion, but I have visiting family to look forward to!  We'll hopefully be getting up to Rocky Mountain National Park for some touring, so more photos to follow.

I hope you're all looking forward to a great week.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Harry Potter, You Wonderful Boy, You Brave Man

Rachel, Max and Mom at Midnight Showing of Deathly Hallows, Part 2!
Well, what can I say.  It seems like yesterday we were just sitting down to read "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone" aloud together, and now, well, it's just too hard to think about.  It feels like the passing of an era, and that makes me feel old.  Worse yet, it makes me realize just how fleeting childhood is.

And yet, there is a beginning after the end.  For me, this  light comes in the form of a not yet 16 year old who was reluctant to dive into the land of witches and wizards at the ages of 10 and 12.  The size of the books alone were enough to stop her in her tracks.  While her mother and brother gobbled them up, she obstinately refused to find them worth her while.

Until now.

Now I find her reading and sharing all the wonderful insights that J.K. has inspired in so many.  I find her making connections between Harry's experiences and her own life and sharing them with me.  And I am grateful. 

Thank you J.K. for being true to yourself.  For being the kind of mother who believed in storytelling, and for being brave enough to write your stories down. 

We were discussing Harry Potter at work again (Hey, I'm lucky enough to work with a gal who chose to write her sermon series this month on the "gospel according to Harry Potter") and Pastor Pam shared that she can't remember a time when she and her family weren't looking forward to the next book/movie release.  Think about it.  That's a lot to look forward to, and how will we ever fill that place again?

The only thing I'm sure of is that I don't really know.  But I do believe that J.K. touched on some elemental truths on what it means to be human, and those are the kind of stories that get shared over and over again.

“Hogwarts will always be there to welcome you home.” – J.K. Rowling

Thursday, July 14, 2011

14,000 Things To Be Grateful For

Well, I have to admit.  Sometimes I suffer from Blog Anxiety.  Do you know what I mean?  It usually strikes when I find myself caught up in the comparison game.  You know how it goes, "Gee, her muffins are so much cuter than mine," or "Wow, she seems to have so much family togetherness time."  It's a horrible place to be, so as my friend says, "If you're going to take that kind of a trip, make it as fast as possible."

Nothing pulls me out of that place faster than practising gratitude.  Was it Gandhi who wrote, "Gratitude is the surest path back to the soul?"  Therefore, here is something I am grateful for:

We've been having pretty consistent afternoon and evening rain showers, so much so that I'm not sure Little League will ever finish (many, many rain delays).  Something that I am oh so grateful for is that first step out the back porch in the morning as I go to let out the chickens.  The smell of garden sage, lavender, tomato and cilantro is overwhelming.  Something about that hard rain releases the essence of these plants and it just lingers in the air.

One little thing that means a lot to me.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Crocheting By The Pool

I hope you all enjoyed a great weekend.  I know we did!  We got to enjoy the kids' swim meet with beautiful (albeit HOT) weather and smiling faces.
Max and Rachel - Go Cuddas!

I love watching them move from the nervousness before their heats, to great relief and surprise at how well they swam.  And, there is plenty of time between heats to get up to some crafty business.  This day presented the perfect opportunity to launch a project I've had in mind for some time: Crocheted Rag Rug.  I've been holding onto our sheets from when Brad and I first got married because I loved them so much and I couldn't bear to part with them.  Luckily, with this project I don't have to!

Instead, I'll rip them into 1 1/2" strips, wind them into balls, and with my size P crochet hook get going!

Other poolside goodies in my basket: sunblock and lipgloss, of course!

There are lots of alternatives out there on the Web, but I wanted an Oval shaped rug.  So I started by Ch 10.  Then I SC into the front of each loop going down one side.  When I got to the end I crocheted 3 SC.  SC back up the other side, and 3 SC at the opposite end.  Then you simply continue in this manner until you notice the rug starting to curl in.  Whenever you notice this all you have to do is throw in some extra SC at the ends.  Just make sure whatever you do at one end you repeat at the other.  Soon you may end up with something like this:

Pepper modeling the Crocheted Rag Rug
A fellow swim parent asked a very good question, "How many sheets will you need?"  And to that I had to reply, "I'm not sure, I guess I'll just crochet along until I'm satisfied."  I'm thinking it will only take the 2 or 3 sheets that I have on hand (funny that), but who knows?  Perhaps I'll be so inspired I'll be scrounging around for some more!

When all is said and done, there is the question of what to do with the tails sticking out the back.  I'm inclined to weave them in a bit and call it good.  Another poolside suggestion was to Scotchguard the rug upon completion.

One thing I do know, I love taking something whose purpose no longer fits and changing things up enough to give it new life.

What about you?

Friday, July 8, 2011

Get Her to the Greek Quinoa Salad

What can I say?  Like so many of you out there I've fallen in love with Quinoa.  It's cheap, easy to prepare and digest, and oh so good for you.  Did you know that Quinoa is a complete protein with all eight essential amino acids?  In some circles it is known as "the gold of the Incas."  Legend says that it was fed to their warriors to increase their stamina and sharpen their reasoning.

One of my favorite reasons to get familiar with this grain is that there is one simple way to cook it, but so many different ways to flavor it.  When cooking Quinoa just keep in mind the 2:1 ratio, water to grain.  So, if you want to cook 1 cup Quinoa, simply add 2 cups water, bring to boil and turn off.  Let sit for 20 or so minutes (enough time to do your other prep like chopping herbs, veggies, nuts etc. . .)

We've had some sticky days here in Colorado (ok you DC people are snickering) so it felt like a good time to fix this salad for a light supper.

Here's How:

Start with  1 1/2 - 2 cups cooked Quinoa
Add as many of the following as you like:

Crumbled Feta Cheese
Artichoke Hearts, chopped
Kalamata Olives, chopped
Red Pepper, chopped (ok you get it, I'll refrain from adding chopped from here on out)
Cherry or Grape Tomatoes
Toasted Nuts, like Pine Nuts, Walnuts, etc. . .
Fresh Herbs like Parsley or Mint or combination thereof
2 Teaspoons of Greek Seasoning (recipe follows) or more to taste

Greek Blend Seasoning: (makes ~ 1/2 cup)

1 T Basil
1 T Thyme
1 T + 1 t Garlic Powder
1 t Mustard Powder
Salt & Pepper to taste.

I found my salad to be plenty wet, but if you needed to moisten yours, you could add a squeeze of Lemon and a drizzle of Olive Oil.  This salad can stand on its own, or you may choose to serve on a bed of Baby Spinach.

I hope you all enjoy a fun, restful and tasty weekend!

Monday, July 4, 2011

Freedom is not Free

Happy Fourth everyone!  Today seems like as good a day as any to express my gratitude to the servicemen and women who work so hard to ensure our everyday freedoms.  Thank you for serving our country so selflessly so that we might be able to live our lives according to our own choosing.

I've never considered myself an overly patriotic sort.  In fact, I've shyed away from most conventionality (hence I live in Boulder).  But, I was proven wrong this Summer during our family trip back East.  I was amazed to find myself overcome with emotion as we landed in DC and Reagan International Airport.  What a sight to be greeted by the National Mall and Memorials while descendeding along the Potomac River.  And that was just the start!

We were lucky enough to find Tim and his Walk of the Town at the corner of 15th and Pennsylvania.  If you ever find yourself in DC between a Wednesday and Saturday, do not miss this man!  He taught History in the Maryland school district for over 33 years and was very engaging and entertaining.  For over three hours he regaled us with story upon story of the area and the people who have inhabited it. 

Capitol Building

One of my favorite stories is about the Statue of Freedom on the top of the Capitol building.  She stands over 19 feet tall.  In fact, she is the tallest statue in town, the highest point in DC, and she faces East.  Best of all, there is a saying that "The Sun Never Sets on the Face of Freedom in Washington, DC."

Korean War Memorial

No trip to DC would be complete without a stop of a more personal nature.  On our way out of town, we visited my father's childhood residence just miles away.  I had no idea my dad grew up right next to this incredible place.  All I ever remembered was the nearby playground, my grandparents home, and the National Zoo.  After visiting as an adult I have such a better appreciation and understanding of my dad's passion for politics.  It's in his blood!

3510 Runnymeade Ct., DC
I am so grateful for this trip and for so many of the everyday belssings I enjoy.
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