…just because

Just because I have been having a rough week and needed a minor success to call my own…

Just because my adopted ecologist was visiting and I felt like doing something special…

And just because I watched the hot Italian lady make it on Sunday morning while I ate my pre-40-mile bike ride breakfast…

I made a cake. This cake.

And it was good.

Key ingredients include almonds, pine nuts, and dried apricots. Oh, and a stick and a half of butter...not for the faint of heart.

I loved this cake so much I called my mom the very next morning to tell her all about it. “Well, I’m not telling your dad about this until after we get back from the shore,” she says. “Right,” I say, “‘Cause he’ll just be miserable thinking about it.” That’s how my dad is. He gets a food item in his head and he’s just gotta have it.

I can sympathize. Completely.

Sorry, Dad.

Same night, I made the best chicken salad ever. This is chicken salad that will change your life. The making of this chicken salad included a long discussion about how to pronounce radicchio and pancetta. You’re welcome to weigh in on that one. The making of this chicken salad also included lots of wine, a lovely contribution from my adopted ecologist.

Creamy chicken salad topped with crispy, golden brown smoked ham. It's almost unfair.

Um. Sorry again, Dad.


Conquering the Divide

The past two weeks of visitor and construction chaos culminated last Sunday in a hike up to the Continental Divide on the most perfect of perfectly blue-skies and fluffy white clouds day that just makes you wanna say in your most sarcastic of voices, “Colorado sucks. I don’t know why people live here.”

I thoroughly enjoyed the day, declaring it the best hike ever. It was the Goldilocks of hikes: not too steep, not too long, not too many people…just right.

The manly men stayed a bit out in front on the trail, giving me time to ponder the twisted, time-tested trees, search for geologic history in the exposed, gnarled rock layers, lament the absence of the old man (Fischer-dawg was taking a rest day), take about a million pictures, and just generally relax on my feet and contemplate life and the meaning of it all.

And take about a million pictures I did. From lunch (sandwiches by master chef Nephew Nick!), to views, to flowers, to stupid human tricks (manly men cannot jump, as you will see…but, jumping photos are my “new thing”…more to come in this space, I’m sure, if I can find more cooperative jumpers). Here’s a sampling. More on Flikr.

Me thinks that the moment my legs begin to move, my thoughts begin to flow.  ~Henry David Thoreau

Climb the mountains and get their good tidings.  Nature’s peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees.  The winds will blow their own freshness into you, and the storms their energy, while cares will drop off like autumn leaves.  ~John Muir

They humored me, but they didn't really want to. "One more time! Okay, really just one more time! This time, pull your knees up," I encouraged. In the end, Brother "big air" Tom showed 'em how it's done.

Beautiful views--the mountain lakes sparkle in the sunshine, don't they?

Lake Dorothy. They manly men sunned on a rock while I explored, taking more pictures.

Pica!!! Like a cross between a hampster and a rabbit, these are the smallest of the lagamorphs. This one chirped angrily at us while we hung out in a rock shelter near the lake.

Ted pointed out the view, I pointed the camera at it and it worked! I love it when the picture matches the memory.

Black & Blue Burget at the Pumphouse. That seasoned patty is topped with cole slaw and blue cheese sauce. Oh yeah.

Oh yeah. That's what I'm talkin' about.

What’s Cookin’

Let me start by saying that I have one sister. Just one. Girls outnumbered boys in my childhood. Growing up, our small, white, fluffy family dog, named “Button”, was considered “the son my father never had.” Which is to say, the presence of 4 grown (or worse, growing), hungry men at my table is quite a shock. In the past week, I have made things I never would have dreamed of making and gone through quantities of milk, bread, ice cream, lunch meat, and bananas the likes of which are blowing my mind.

But, look! They help! Luke and Nick super-sized the meatballs for the meatball sliders a bit, but it was still great to have 2 extra sets of hands in the kitchen!

It was not without irony that I listened to this NRP story last night on my way to Wal-Mart, a place that I (until now) adamantly refused to shop at, to buy several tubs of ice cream, 3 pounds of sliced turkey and ham, 2 pounds of sliced cheese, a watermelon, a gallon of milk (the second I’ve bought this week–check the date, its only Wednesday!), and 8 bananas.

The NRP segment I listened to was an interview with the authors of What I Eat: Around the World in 80 Diets. I have loved and longed for these books by Faith D’Aluisio and photographer Peter Menzel. Books like Woman in the Material World and Hungry Planet: What the World Eats. To document people’s lives–their eating lives, or their materialistic lives–the pair have their subjects lay it all out on the table–literally. In this most recent work, subjects are asked to lay out all the food they eat in a day. The pictures do the talking. And they say a lot. Through their photos, you get to see what makes up the 800 calories of a herder in Kenya and the 3,200 of an Egyptian camel broker.

I started thinking what that would look like for my household on a normal day…and then on one of these days, of late, when I’m feeding so many people what seems like SO much food! And then I thought about how much of that food came in plastic containers, boxes, or bags (not as much as you’d think), or was processed…ugh.

That’s when my brain exploded…Again.

So, here’s a peek at what I’ve been cooking up this week. Special thanks to The Pioneer Woman for making some inspirational 16-minute meals, and for Tasty Kitchen, my new favorite cook “book”.

  1. Thin crust sausage pizza (recipe’s in my head, but I’ll pull it out by request)
  2. Bowtie Lasagna (Rocked. Sour cream in pasta? I’m probably disowned. No leftovers though.
  3. Slow Cooker Green Chili Pork Tacos (These didn’t rock like I thought they would. I’m blaming it on the fall-apart corn tortillas.)
  4. Meatball Sliders (Rocked again.)
  5. Chicken salad sandwiches…on a picnic by the river (No leftovers again tonight. The setting was awesome, especially on a day in which nothing was going right–more on that later.)

Dinner by the river.

Disapearing chicken salad sandwiches.

Weekend Update

The house was packed, the schedule was packed. I cried, I laughed, and then I cried some more. Here’s the recap:

  1. Four men stood around scratching their heads, gesturing and pointing, and putting tape on the floor.
  2. We go on a covert, undercover, highly classified, with real fake back story and all, neighborhood real estate snooping campaign to determine just what that PVC pipe is for, anyway? Tub drain, maybe?
  3. There was much hammering, noise, and sawdust from the garage and basement.
  4. Fischer-dwag locked himself in the bathroom and said he wasn’t coming out. Ev.Er. And to please shove biscuits under the door.
  5. Canned a whole mess of dilly beans.
  6. I made a killer sausage and cheese pizza. Got a “10” from the judges.
  7. The dog ate the crumbs and temporarily forgave us for all the hammering, sawing, and banging.
  8. I made friends with a bunny named “Brad”, a pig, and a goat at the Boulder County Fair, and admired prize winning tomatoes and baked goods, which I’m sure looked the part on TUESDAY, but by Saturday night were sprouting green and blue mold and attracting flies. (Photos to come.)
  9. 48.12 miles. 4,466 feet in elevation. 3.307 calories. $1.00 for a Coke in Ward. Saying I’d do it again in 2 weeks = priceless. And I was complaining about last weekend? At least last weekend I could stop and catch my breath. This time, no stopping. If you stop on a bike on a steep hill, you tip over. Very embarrassing and painful.
  10. More banging, hammering, and this time with a sledgehammer (thanks neighbor John for advice and sledgehammer with which to use it!).
  11. Fischer locks himself in the bathroom but forgets I have thumbs and can open the door and come in and comfort him with biscuits.
  12. 10 feet of 4″ aluminum duct. 20 outlet boxes. 1 vanity. 1 bathtub. a fan. 10 can lights. 100 feet of electrical wire. only 2 hours in Home Depot = amazing.
  13. Left my Italian heritage at the door and made this. Sour cream in pasta and calling it lasagna?I know. But I tell you, it was good.
  14. Fell off the counter and step stool, dropping a pile of plates, probably poisoning my family with ceramic shards, and banging a nice goose egg bruise in my right shin. Note to self: Get a bigger step stool or ask for help with those top shelf items.
  15. Oh yeah, and some walls were built.  But, honestly, I had next to nothing to do with that. (Photos to come.)

An Excuse to Eat Cake

All I can say is “wow! As of right now, over 600 of you have come by for a visit. If I had know you were coming, I would have cleaned up a bit–swiffered up the hair on the bathroom floor, folded laundry on the dining room table…metaphorically speaking, of course.

My actual house is spotless.

HA! I crack me up.

Anyway, as you may have noticed, and maybe why you are here, yesterday’s post on my recent ride in a hot air balloon was selected as a Freshly Pressed blog post! The nice people at WordPress sent me an email, least I think there was some kind of accounting error (2 days ago–0 views, today–600!) or an early April Fool’s joke. I was, well really all day I have been…pretty blown away by the whole thing. Its not random, you know. They actually sort of pick you. There are actual criteria. I read them.

To all of you who popped by, thank you thank you thank you! Thank you for all the lovely comments, for the compliments on the photos, for sharing your own stories.

On account of the occasion, I stopped by Whole Foods on the way home and bought myself a big piece of cake–white cake with fluffy, creamy chiffon frosting and fresh berries nestled between the layers. Then, since I knew I’d never hear the end of it if I didn’t, I bought T his own big piece o’ cake–German chocolate–he’s way more into chocolate than I am.

Yay me! Yay you for reading! Yay cake!

So, thanks again for stopping by. Ya’ll come back now, ya hear?