Thursday, November 30, 2006

Trip to the Garden of the Gods, Colorado Springs


Here is a lovely photo from one area in the Garden of the Gods. It is a place of stunning beauty and history.

And here is a photo of some mule deer that I caught while we were hiking. I think they are about as tall as me (around 5' 7")! (Click on the photo to enlarge, so you can really see the deer.)

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow!

It's been snowing since last night. I believe that this is our fourth snow of the year.

The view from my balcony.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Green Bean Casserole Recipe

This was my favorite dish at Thanksgiving this year. It's leftovers disappeared the soonest, by my own hand! I think it's the yummy taste of the onions that really gets me.


Green Bean Casserole, from Paula Deen
1/3 stick butter
1/2 cup diced onions
1/2 cup sliced fresh mushrooms
2 cups sliced green beans
3 cups chicken broth
1 (10 3/4-ounce) can cream of mushroom soup
1 (2.8-ounce) can French-fried onion rings
Pinch House Seasoning, recipe follows
1 cup grated Cheddar


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Melt the butter in a large skillet. Saute the onions and mushrooms in the butter. Boil green beans in chicken broth for 10 minutes and drain. Add the green beans, mushroom soup, onion rings, and House Seasoning, to taste, to the onion mixture. Stir well. Pour into a greased 1 1/2-quart baking dish. Bake for 20 minutes, then top the casserole with the Cheddar and bake for 10 minutes longer, or until the casserole is hot and cheese is melted.

House Seasoning:
1 cup salt
1/4 cup black pepper
1/4 cup garlic powder

Mix ingredients together and store in an airtight container for up to 6 months.

Delish!

Monday, November 27, 2006

Thanksgiving 2006




Thanksgiving went well this year.

Our Menu:

Appetizers:
Green olives
Cabot sharp aged cheddar cheese with Nonni's Panetoni crackers
Veggie crudites with ranch dip
Hot wings with dip

Main course:
Salad with cranberries, feta and nuts
Honeybaked ham
Mashed potatoes with poultry gravy
Sausage, apple and dried cranberry stuffing
Green bean casserole (my favorite thing, I think; it's a Paula Deen recipe)

Dessert:
Sweet Potato Pie (my favorite of the two pies)
Apple Crumble Pie
Vanilla Ice Cream

Beverages:
Lucien Albrecht Rose Champagne from Alsace
Two Rivers Riesling

I hope everyone had a lovely thanksgiving!

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Apple Pie Experiment #1

This is the first apple pie that I've ever made. I made it entirely from scratch using a recipe that I found in a Cooking Light magazine.

We all thought it had a funny taste to it, and the only thing that I can guess it that it was the apple cider that made it funny. Oh well, next time I'm going to try a recipe from Allrecipes.com, since I'll know from the reviews whether or not it should be any good.

But it looks good, at least!

Monday, November 13, 2006

The Power of Two

Some people have all the motivation that they need built in.

They get up, exercise five days a week, organize their closet and garage on the weekend and still manage to learn that new hobby they are interested in.

I envy them. For myself, I don't have that built-in fire under my tush.

But like a snowball, I gather speed and mass under the right conditions. Namely, when I am around those who share my interests.

Thank goodness for me that I found someone who shares many of my own interests. My friend and I are tuning in to the same wavelength it seems.

We both want to learn American Sign Language. We both want to learn a foreign language as well. We agree that Spanish is the most practical, but that we'd like something more exotic, just for fun. We'll see if practicality wins out!

What new thing will you be learning during the next year because of the inspiration of friendship?

Thursday, November 09, 2006

A Store Review: A Tea Utopia in Lafayette, CO

A friend and I visited A Tea Utopia on Tuesday, November 7, 2006.

We walked into the warm, sunlit shop in the middle of the day. The first thing you notice when you enter is the "wall of tea." One of the two main walls of the shop has nothing but shelves filled with jars of loose-leaf tea. Signs indicate that customers should feel welcome to open the jars and smell the teas.

We opened many jars, but left the vast majority unopened. I smelled tea from China that was so smoky it reminded me of roasted meat. I inhaled oolong that made me sigh. I saw a jar of genmai green tea, which normally has toasted brown rice in it, that had tiny, little popcorn mixed in.

The store proprietor came out and offered assistance. If you need advice on how teas will compare to others that seem similar, this is the lady to ask. She handmixes each tea on the wall, carefully selecting the aromatic pieces of the puzzle. She experiments with different blends, sometimes tossing a whole batch if it doesn't come out so well.

I enjoyed a freshly baked blueberry scone with a cup of iced jasmine tea, sweetened to my liking. My friend enjoyed a cup of an herbal tea, scented with vanilla, and a Nonni's biscotti. It was lovely to sit and talk, enjoying our treats. Customers pay for the items purchased at the conclusion of their visit, probably to allow them to add on extra food items as they give in to temptation (hey, we didn't originally start with that scone and biscotti!).

There were a couple of elderly women enjoying tea and conversation, so quiet that they were in their own world and we in ours.

I recommend this store for several reasons. The vast selection usually gives more room for experimentation, going outside of one's boundaries. The fresh pies and other treats would attract even a non-tea drinker. And lastly, the warm atmosphere and hands-on approach of the owner lend the store a very local flavor. It's comfortable there.

A Tea Utopia
1280 Centaur Village Drive Unit 7
Lafayette, CO 80026
303-665-8201

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Casseroles, casseroles everywhere, and not a bite to eat!

I admit that I've been making too many casseroles lately. But, darn it, they are easy!

This week we've had

1. elbow macaroni and cheeses with chicken and vegetables

and

2. ziti casserole with three cheeses and italian sauasage meatballs

Both were delicious, but now I've decided that I need to get back to eating real meals; meals where the entree and side dishes exist separately in time and space.

The trick is finding easy, fast, healthy, and inexpensive meals of that variety. I'll post recipes as soon as I figure them out!

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

My Christmas Shopping has officially begun.


I finally faced the facts. Christmas is indeed coming and time is not slowing down. Rats.

Now that the facts have been faced, I now have to determine what gifts to buy everyone.

On a budget, no less. So, I am hoping that my favorite pasttime, that is, tinkering with crafts of all sorts, will pay off.

I found my inspiration this year in Martha Stewart's Holiday Handmade Gifts, on the stands now.

Homemade goodies of all sorts. I hope that there will be something for everyone. We'll see!

Here is what I want to make, so far:

Candles in unique vessels
Sweets - truffles and cookies
Possibly soap

I can't give away all my secrets, since a particular gift-recipient may be reading, but suffice it to say that I should be keeping myself busy on the weekends!

Does anyone else have plans to make some handmade gifts this Christmas?

Monday, November 06, 2006

No, really. No...REALLY!

Today I bought the most high-end pair of shoes I've ever heard of.

When I slid my feet into them and asked, "how do they look?" the answer I got was, "HOT! I'd wear just those and nothing else!"

I am not the biggest Sex and the City fan, but even I happened to catch an episode that featured these shoes.

Here they are. Manolo Blahnik's. And my husband tells me they retail for about $575-900 per pair. I bought mine for...wait for it...$1.99. And no, I won't tell you where!!! Hee, hee, hee! It's my secret!

I also bought a pair of Ann Taylor leather knee-high boots. How much? You guessed it. $1.99.


I was freaking out when I left the store! I tried to call my sister, but alas, she's on vacation. I can't wait to tell her. She's a big Sex and the City fan, so she should know what they are. Whoo hoo! Nothing like a good deal to make your day!

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Home Based Food Delivery?

I may have to face the music soon. I might have to get a job.

Yech. Blah. Do I really have to?

I have been trying to figure out what job I would really love to have over the last few months. And now, it seems it will come down to the purely practical. After we start paying for our new benefits and contributing to the new 401K at my husband's job, we will definitely be short of cash.

So, the question is: what kind of job can you have and still be there to drop off and pick up your son from a 6 1/2 hour school day? It gives me at most, 6 hours to work. And, I need to be off for holidays and absolutely cannot work on weekends.

And then, just to be pig-headed, I would like to make more than $8 an hour, and I'm not thrilled at the prospect of going back to secretarial work.

I keep thinking of Paula Deen. She started her food delivery service from her kitchen (yes, against food codes) and basically had her sons go from business to business, selling her homemade lunches. And once business really got going, she was making about $1,000 each week.

I don't know if I can be that ambitious, after all there is only me. But I find myself wondering: can I get a business license and my food handler's card, rent/share kitchen space and sell lunches (while craftily trying to avoid paying taxes) and actually make a profit?

If anyone out there does this for a living, or knows someone who does do this, can you offer any advice, or recommend any must-have books for information?

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Restaurant Review: Casa Alvarez in Lafayette, CO

Tonight, my son and I went out in search of good Mexican food (again!). This time, our travels took us to Casa Alvarez.

We arrived late for dinner, at approximately 8:00pm, and were seated promptly. Our server, whose name was either Cevia or Ceria or some such thing, was extremely friendly and courteous.

We sat in the dining room that is shared with the bar, and the atmosphere was that of a neighborhood establishment. Folks sat at the bar in clumps talking about global warming and politics.

My margarita was big and good. There was just enough tequila for me to taste it above the sweet and sour.

I ordered their carnitas enchilada and a beef taco combination plate. My son ordered the children's enchilada plate. Our food arrived shortly after ordering. Everything tasted fine, but wasn't spectacular. However, everything was prepared on site. The chips and salsa were fresh. The crunchy taco shell of my beef taco was fried on the premises.

Overall, I would give this place three and a 1/2 stars out of a possible five. They earned extra points for the friendly, efficient service and the margarita, but simply did not compare to Mi Casa in Costa Mesa, which is our Mexican food standard by which all other restaurants are judged.

Casa Alvarez
502 S Public Rd
Lafayette, CO 80026
(303) 604-4396

Hours:
Sun-Thu 11am-9pm
Fri-Sat 11am-10pm

Payment Types:
Cash, Credit