Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Can Caramel Preserve a Life?

Global warming be damned.  I've been waiting for the weather to turn chilly so that I might get started on some holiday preparation.  Needless to say, I find it a bit challenging to stay indoors "trimming the hearth and setting the table" with 60 degree weather.  Hence a rousing game of Frisbee golf with my honey, followed by sampling some small batch beer at a locals favorite spot was the activity du jour this past Sunday.  Toasted coconut lager was the hand's down favorite.

HOWEVER, having said that, Monday's 24 hour cold snap gave me the opportunity to stir up my first batch of Vanilla Caramels.  This recipe has become a holiday favorite, and a bit of a tradition for gifting loved ones both near and far.

So "how" you may ask, "do caramels preserve a life?" and I would have to say "a very good question!"  I've been sending my grandmother these caramels for the past 4 or 5 Christmases and it brings me such happiness because I know it brings her such joy.  Upon receiving these candies, she never fails to relate to me one of her fondest childhood memories of how her parents would give her a piece of caramel and chocolate before bed every night.  It must work, because at 100 years young she still has a piece of candy at bedtime, until recently when she suffered a stroke.

She's having a hard time eating anything but oatmeal, yogurt and fruit.  She said she thinks her taste buds suffered a stroke as well.  Perhaps these caramels will perk up her taste buds, if not lift her spirit as well?

Here's the recipe in case you want to lift someone's spirit this season as well.

Vanilla Cream Caramels
(from Joy of Cooking)

Dissolve over low heat in a large heavy pan, stirring until the mixture boils:

2 cups sugar
2 cups dark corn syrup
1 cup butter
1 cup cream

Cook over moderate heat, stirring constantly, to just under the firm-ball stage, 244 degrees (hose living at altitude need to adjust the temperature.  I live at 5,000 ft so I cook until the soft-ball stage, 234 degrees).  Remove from heat and very gradually add:

1 cup cream

Return to heat and cook to the firm-ball stage, 244 degrees (again soft-ball stage, 234 degrees, at 5,000 ft elevation).  Pour the mixture at once, without stirring, into a buttered pan (I use a 9x9 inch cake pan).  When firm, about 3 hours later, invert candy onto a cutting board and cut into squares.

Makes about 2 1/2 pounds.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

The Great Pumpkin

Happy Halloween everyone!  I hope you all enjoy this time to celebrate with Jack O' Lanterns, Costumes, Candy, and Trick or Treating as well.  I love this time of year, anytime to step out of the ordinary and celebrate the extraordinary actually.  In preparation for a busy afternoon and evening I made some soups: Chicken Matzo Ball and Green Potato.  What could be better to accompany these than some sweet and spicy Pumpkin Bread?

And I had a thought.  Why not combine two of my favorite things from this time of year: Pumpkin and Chai?  Today is just the day to give it a try.  Instead of using the standard spice combination of cinnamon, nutmeg, and allspice, I'm going to substitute a very spicy Chai blend.

All that's stopping me from this task is waiting on another egg.  Maybe if I bribe the girls with their own pumpkin celebration I'll get that egg earlier??????

 Pumpkin Chai Bread
  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon of salt
  • 3/4 cup sugar OR LESS
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 cup pumpkin purée
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon chai blend  OR 1/2 teaspoons nutmeg, cinnamon, allspice
  • 1/2 cup (120 ml) chopped walnuts OR MORE
1 Preheat oven to 350°. Sift together the flour, salt, sugar, and baking soda.
2 Mix the pumpkin, oil, eggs,  and spices together, then combine with the dry ingredients, but do not mix too thoroughly. Stir in the nuts.
3 Pour into a well-buttered 9x5x3 inch loaf pan. Bake 50-60 minutes until a thin skewer poked in the very center of the loaf comes out clean. Turn out of the pan and let cool on a rack.

Can easily double the recipe.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Best Laid Plans

It being Friday (my day off) I was so looking forward to a swim and hunting for costume stuff. After spending half the night coughing I think I'd rather join the pups. They're moving at my speed this morning:

Pepper and Lucy do a take over on the bed
Rest assured there is still time to find the right get up to take up to the Pearl St. Mall.  It's quite a fun time up there this time of year: munchin' parade, decorations, everyone in costume.  Heck that's Boulder on most days.  I even hear that a dance studio is planning on doing a Flash Mob of Thriller tomorrow night.  Being a teen of the '80's I sure hope I catch it.

What are some of your Halloween plans??

Monday, October 22, 2012

Skirting the Issue

I really meant to just post a picture of a sewing project that I somehow managed to squeeze in, but the post title that came to mind brought my attention to the election.  I won't say much, enough has already been said, but I will encourage you all to get out and vote.  It's so important for everyone's voice to be heard.

OK - now I can move forward with some photos of "the skirt."  I saw this flippy corduroy skirt in the Boden Catalogue:

Very cute, rather fun and flirty, but  for $78 bucks before Tax, S/H, tempting, but I don't think so.  Not when I had this little pattern tucked away in the sewing cabinet:

A trip to Joanne's for fabric and I was good to go.  I think it turned out nicely, don't you?

Simplicity 3881

What's keeping you busy these days?

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Falling into Autumn

Oh what a busy bee I've been.  So busy I've been neglecting poor Mommy Chicken.  Actually, I think I've been avoiding her.  It's kinda hard to explain, but I find myself slipping into a character of sorts when writing posts about life here in Brigadoon Glen, and it's not as natural to find her voice since we lost our hens in August.  Life is still glorious, but there is a shadow of loss that colors my perception here at home.

So how do I still connect to that Mommy Chicken?  Well, I guess a peek at my little "about me" blurb is a start.  In it I describe life as a caretaker and crafter of a beautiful life.  I still appreciate all the beauty that life offers, but I must admit I'm a bit haunted by it's temporal nature.  However, there's not much to do but press on, so I'm back to share a little of what's been keeping me busy, what's been chasing those ghosts back into the shadows.

We've been blessed with lots and lots of pie pumpkins!  I've been roasting, toasting, baking and freezing.  There has been enough to share with friends and neighbors as well.


I've been exploring new ways to keep my water bath busy by canning lots of Bread n' Butter Pickles, Pickled Green Beans, Pickled Peppers, etc. . . all kinds of ways to hold onto Summer's bounty.

And even though we've had our first little bit of snowfall, the raspberries will go on producing through the end of this month.

The fall colors have been wonderful, and I'm so lucky to be able to share them within my updated banner.

I hope you all have a wonderful week ahead of you!

Hold on to what is good, Even if it's a handful of earth.
Hold on to what you believe, Even if it's a tree that stands by itself.
Hold on to what you must do, Even if it's a long way from here.
Hold on to your life, Even if it's easier to let go.
Hold on to my hand, Even if someday I'll be gone away from you.

A Pueblo Indian Prayer

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Lucky me!

I'm so glad I've been making an effort to live into Georgia O'Keefe's words of late:

"I've been absolutely terrified every moment of my life - and I've never let it keep me from doing a single thing I wanted to do."

That's not to say I've been terrified, but just more aware of how often I let fear hold me back. So I'm trying harder than ever to say "yes" to what life brings me.  One great opportunity was an invite to a craft event last Friday. I've been wanting to attend one, so I put some feelers out there for a friend to join me, with no luck (or so I thought).

Friday came and rather than listen to all the reasons I shouldn't venture out on my own, I jumped in the car and off I went.

Boy am I glad I did.  The event was held in a hidden jewel of a spot in Denver: industrial warehouses transformed into art studios and neat little cafes surrounded by well planned landscape.  "This looks promising I thought."  After winding our way (it wasn't long until I found 2 other intrepid explorers) through the maze of hallways full of colorful art and plants we found ourselves in the Craftsy production studio and were greeted by the most enthusiastic Craftsy peeps.

The event was such a treat.  Rooms full of large tables full of enthusiastic crafters (shout out to Sinath, Eileen, Sarah, Amy and all the lovely ladies at my table!) , supplies, AND food and beverages.  The staff was incredible.  So polite, kind, helpful, upbeat.  They really treated all us crafters like royalty.  Imagine that?!  

The culmination of the evening was the grab bag giveaway.  I've never been one to win at these things, but I guess it was my lucky night!  I won the quilters bag, and I am so excited.  Lately I've been thinking it's time to start one, especially because my daughter really wants one as part of her high school graduation gift.  Luckily, Craftsy offers monthly block parties, so I should be able to get it done!

Thank you Craftsy for the great evening.  I floated home on a cloud of bliss :)

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

A Mother's Wish

Back to school has me thinking about my hopes for my children.  Funny that they are not connected with medals, scores, rank advancements, speed trial times, or any other means to single out our children.  It's not that I'm opposed to those things.  I want my children to stretch and surprise themselves, work as a team, and learn how to manage failure.  It's just that I value certain other characteristics as well.  Characteristics that may not be as easily recognized or acknowledged:

Be Kind - please don't buy into the name calling and labeling that happens amongst your peers.

Stand up for Justice - intervene instead of walking away or, worse, participating in unjust behavior.

Lend a Hand - take the time to make a difference in someone's day, even if it's a small gesture.  One day you'll figure out the small things are the BIG things.

Do for Others - you can always brighten someone's day, even if it's just a smile or a friendly hello.  As your great-grandma Evelyn would say, "Why not say 'hello'?, it doesn't cost anything!"

For me, living a successful life can't necessarily be measured.  My wish is that they find what lends purpose to their lives and fills them with happiness. Whatever path they choose, the random (and NOT so random) acts of kindness and service they exhibit along the way will have positive effects that ripple out far and wide and for a very long time.

I remain faithful that both my children will continue to show evidence of this unquantifiable quality (call it the X factor), through their dealings with neighbors (I've heard many times this summer how enjoyable they are); their time spent together (I've overheard many a late night guffaw from the down the hall this summer); and their time with me. 

THANK YOU  Rachel and Max for the TLC you showed me during the loss of my flock earlier this month.

These acts of kindness earn you the best kind of gold star!

Friday, August 10, 2012

News From the Hen House

Some of you may be wondering why the hens were omitted from my favorite things in my last posting?  Well, suffice it to say, I have absolutely loved my hens.  For the past  4 years they have defined when I wake up and start my day, added colorful commentary throughout, and closed my days with a trip to the hen house in the twilight.  Until now.

This summer has been the absolute pits when it comes to predator attacks.  We were visited every month from May through the present.  The flock has been marauded by fox, raccoon, and even snake.  Slowly they have been picked off one by one, but this last hit was B A D.  We came home to a massacre.  All but 2 of our ladies were taken down, including our rooster, "Jr. Ranger."

Jr. Ranger, Oreo, Ruby, and little Blacky

It was a very shocking scene and God bless my husband, Brad, for shouldering it with me.  I've shed many a tear over my girls, and have thanked them for all they have given me.  The next morning a friend and neighbor stopped by our garage sale and we discussed a trip to the Boulder County Fair.  "You know, Melissa, you could end up making some 4Hers day."  Even though I was still in shock, the idea of visiting the Poultry exhibit and looking at the hens was intriguing.

Brad ever so thoughtfully shepherded me there while our kids held down the fort.  We perused the Poultry hall, but none of the hens were "speaking to me."  I went down an aisle and saw the breed of my favorite hen Oreo (she was a HUGE Brahma) and got weepy and turned to leave.  Just then I felt a tap, tap, tap on my shoulder.  I turned around to be greeted by the most angelic face on a young boy, Quinn.  "Excuse me Mam, are you looking to buy a chicken today?"  "Well heck," I thought, "from you probably."  He brought me over to his hens, and wouldn't you know it, they were my favorite breed, the Araucana.  I still wasn't sure, and we went to consult with his mother about whether he could sell his award winner.  She said yes, and when we returned, his prize hen was squatting.

"Quinn, what do you suppose she's doing?  Do you think she's going to lay an egg?"  Sure enough, plop, out came a beautiful, blue-green egg.

She had me at hello.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Summer Sew Far

Boy oh boy, where is the summer going?  I drafted this post in JULY to capture some of the season's highlights and post a picture of the Amy Butler Cabo Halter I made for our San Diego trip.  Finally, here it is!

I just adore this pattern, and for awhile it was discontinued, so if you're thinking of trying it, JUMP IN!  "You've got to do a thing to learn it." ~ Mark Twain

More things that I adore:

My son, Max, now 14 and fearless:

My daughter, Rachel, 16 and stunning (especially now that she bit the bullet and got her ears pierced at the mall):

We're so proud of her working her first job as a lifeguard!

My husband and best friend, Brad, of 20 years:

My family:

Orange County, CA

Coors Field - Go Rockies!


Good times and good eats (some NOT so good for you):

Great scenery!:

Flatirons of Boulder's Chautauqua Park

Weekly Hot Air Balloon launches in the hood!

My animals:


What a back log of photos, thanks for wading through with me!

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Today's Unfoldment

After many beautiful days of overcast skies and thunder showers (a rarity here) we were greeted by several lovely openings in the garden. Thought I'd share!

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Who knew?

It's really news to me that green beans produce purple flowers. Another surprise waking me up to the beauty of tending a garden. At least they sure look like green beans.

I should be ready for any manner of surprises because summer living has fallen into that lovely feeling of cruise control that I look forward to every year. Lots of back porch time to leisurely read and just stare off into the garden.


Although it's a bit of a challenge to enjoy the peace guilt free. I do know that peace comes at a price. I earn it everyday with the tending of family and flock. Just the other day I had to go toe to toe with a bull snake who had been happily feasting on the ladies eggs.  Once that was managed I started gathering my favorite green eggs again.

Yes I was so excited I dropped one!

So although all is quiet in the country for now, I keep a watchful eye.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Stepping Off the Cow Path

I was afforded the pleasure of my Mom's company last week.  What a treat to sneak away from the everyday to wander through different neighborhoods and gardens, stopping at some favorite haunts for a bite or a cuppa.

Nanny getting Lucy Love
Having sent two daughters to CU in Boulder, there were places on the must visit list.  However, it was those stolen moments of "why not?" that yielded the best harvest.

Crazy good Folk Art
I'm so glad we decided to break away from the "tried and true" to discover this little gem of a nursery tucked away in North Boulder, which is aptly named "The Secret Garden." It was full of fun Folk Art surprises.  I remember it being run by a lovely English lady, Sheila, who sadly passed away awhile back.  The new owners have done a wonderful job adding their eclectic style to the place, a must in Boulder.

There is something wonderful about breaking away from the familiar, stepping off the cow path so to speak, that heightens our awareness allowing us to enjoy the present moment for what it is, a gift indeed.

Monday, June 4, 2012

With Flexibility Comes Opportunity

I was lucky enough to share in my sister's Denver delay yesterday.  We serendipitously enjoyed a stroll through the Denver Botanic Gardens.  It's been quite some time since I've visited, and the views were incredible.

Have you ever seen a ruffled poppy?  I hadn't, it was quite lovely!

But not as lovely as my sister :)

The roses were all in bloom, and the bees were happy.

So glad I had the flexibility to enjoy this opportunity.


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