Thursday, August 29, 2013

In Memoriam

It has been a week of shock and sadness for us, as one of my son-in-law's older brothers passed away very suddenly and unexpectedly. His funeral was held today in Wisconsin, where he lived with his wife and two children.

The last time all seven brothers were together was at my daughter and son-in-law's wedding in May 2012, and it is that happy memory that I hope will give them comfort and peace in this time of sorrow. Please keep my son-in-law's family in your prayers, as it is always hard to lose a loved one, especially one so young, as he was not even forty years old. We never know the day or hour when we will be called home to the Lord and it is always good to be prepared and let those we care for know we love them!

My comments are off today -- I will be back to regular blogging this weekend. Thanks for all your friendship and support!

Friday, August 23, 2013

Wild Weather in the Wild West? Yes! Welcome to Colorado!

If there is one thing I love about living on the Front Range of Colorado at over 6,000 feet elevation, is the beautiful open sky that is over our community.

I never tire of seeing the expanse of changing cloud formations.

We see weather systems in the eastern distance that are over 40,000 feet high...

...and they often lead to beautiful sunset reflections.

August is called the "monsoon season' in Colorado, and many afternoons we see storm clouds gathering west from the Rocky Mountains. Most times they pass right over, bringing thunder and lighting, but no rain.

Other times we are deluged with quick and powerful rainstorms, as you can see by the rain falling in this photo and...

...this photo was taken from an eastern view of the Front Range foothills, where we live.

Usually, we are happy for the rain, as our climate is considered "high desert" and the sun is very drying and intense. But every so often, hail is part of the thunderstorm, and last evening we had what was called a "perfect storm," as two different storm cells met and collided directly over our community, with high winds, torrential rain, and hail.

This storm brought golf ball sized hail to us, and as it moved east towards Kansas and Nebraska, I heard the hail became the size of tennis balls!

The hail accumulation looked like snow in August! This was the view from my front door. If you'd like to watch a video of the hailstorm you can see it on my Mille Fiori Facebook page at this link.

 The sound of the hail hitting the grounds and house roofs was unbelievably loud! Thankfully, we did not sustain much damage. We had tree damage and loss of leaves and some branches, my flowers were pretty much destroyed, and some water came in through a window well, but I saw that happening right away and we redirected the water away from the well as I soaked up the water with towels. Our house's roof is brand new, and still under warranty, so our roofer is coming out to check it for the damage this afternoon. All in all, we felt very fortunate!

Wild weather for the wild west? You betcha!  There is never a dull moment living here, in more way than one, and I have a feeling I'm going to see a lot more I'll be writing about in future years. Hopefully, our luck will hold out!

How is the weather where you are? I hope you have a wonderful weekend!

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Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Wildflowers Along the Way

"Weeds are flowers, too, once you get to know them."

- A.A. Milne

" i thank heaven somebody's crazy, enough to give me a daisy" 

 - e.e.cummings

"Nobody sees a flower really; it is so small. We haven't the time, and to see takes time. - like to have a friend takes time." 

- Georgia O'Keeffe

The Song of the Columbine Flower

by Cicely Mary Baker

Who shall the chosen fairy be for the letter C?
There's Candytuft, and Cornflower blue,
Campanula and Crocus too,
Chrysanthemum so bold and fine,
And the pretty dancing Columbine.

Yes, the Columbine! The choice is she;
And with her, see
An elfin piper, piping sweet
A little tune for those light feet
That dance among the leaves and flowers
In someone's garden
(is is ours?)

I'm joining Vee, at the blog A Haven for Vee, for her August Note Card Party. Each month Vee asks bloggers to chose four photos from all the photos we've published on our blogs in the past, that we thought would make beautiful or interesting notes cards. I knew I had taken many Colorado wildflower photos this summer and wanted to share a few that have been part of past post's photo collages. I think any of them would make a nice note card, and I tried to select quotes that could be written on the inside.

My favorite photo  is the last photo of the "dancing" yellow Columbine flowers I found in Breckenridge, Colorado. (Click on the link to read that blog post) There are over 70 varieties of the Columbine flower, and they come in many color and bi-color combinations. Did you know that the blue and white variety of the Rocky Mountain Columbine is the state flower of Colorado?  The official state song of Colorado is "Where the Columbines Grow." Click on the link to listen to the song and read the lyrics.

Thanks, Vee! I always enjoy all the wonderful photos that you and your participants chose each month. Click here to see all the August  Note Card Party links.

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Monday, August 19, 2013

Poise "Stop the Scentsanity!" and Win a $100 Visa Gift Card!

If you are a frequent reader of my blog, you are aware that I turned 60 this summer and celebrated my new decade in many happy ways.  I love to stay active and enjoy life! Since moving to Colorado this past winter, one of my favorite activities has been hiking on the many trails on the front range. I try not to let my age slow me down, even if I sometimes feel the creak of arthritis in my knees, need to use my reading glasses with increasing frequency, or experience the inconvenience, from time to time, of what is called LBL (light bladder leakage).


That is why I was eager to accept a package of Poise liners, that are specifically made for light bladder leakage protection, to use and review.

Many of the trails I walk are challenging, with hills and steep grades. My hikes are a good workout, and I'm still striving to get into better shape so that each hike will become easier to accomplish.

I only experience LBL when my bladder is very full, and the unexpected hearty sneeze or cough comes along. Since I find that I always need to drink a lot of water in the hot Colorado sun to stay hydrated while I hike, it was nice to know I had the added protection of a Poise Liner when I'm in a place without a restroom!

Besides hiking, I could think of many occasions where the Poise Liners would come in handy.  Occasions such as taking a long car ride in the mountains, going to a crowded sporting event, or on a busy day out shopping along with my infant granddaughter, when I know I will not be able to take a personal bathroom break for many hours.

The advantage of using Poise pads are that they are made specifically for bladder leaks, while period pads don't absorb as quickly and are more likely to leak. Poise pads aren't larger than period pads, even though they're made for LBL. They instantly absorb wetness and neutralize odors better than period pads and liners. If you experience LBL and would like to learn more about Poise LBL products, please use this link:
Make the Clean and Fresh switch – Get a free sample or coupon for Poise pads and liners at this link:
Sweepstakes Question for a chance to win a $100 Visa gift card:

 What do you do to feel clean and fresh?

Comments closed as sweepstakes ended-- thank you for your participation!  My winner will be announced soon.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Western Welcome Week in Littleton, Colorado

The annual ten-day Western Welcome Week took place in my area of Littleton, Colorado, with Sunday, August 18, as the final wrap up day. More than 40 events take place during the celebration, on and around historic Main Street, which benefits dozens of local non-profit organizations and encourages community spirit in the greater Littleton area. There were many local food concessions and arts and crafts vendors, a juried art exhibit, "bags of books" sale at the local library, a quilt show, an antique and vintage sale, amusements and entertainers, and The Festival Day Grand Parade has been held for the last 85 years! The 33rd annual Littleton Firefighters Children's Parade also took place during Western Welcome Week.

All photos and photo collages will enlarge if you click on the photo once, and then again when it opens larger.

Unfortunately, I did not spend as much time at this wonderful event as I would have liked to, as I was recuperating from a long and tiresome dental visit that took place last week. However, I did have fun walking around the Historic Downtown Littleton.

There were so many antique shops that I can't wait to explore in the future!

I also spied a cozy Tea Room, and I'd like to try their afternoon tea one day soon.

There are some wonderful restaurants in Littleton... well as a variety of specialty shops like this Irish Goods store! Did you notice the clever use of a vintage clawfoot bathtub on the front lawn that was made into a planter?

I enjoyed seeing the wonderful cottage style houses that peppered the local streets.

I think this sweet little yellow cottage was my favorite.

There was also some more updated houses in the historic districts... well as modern townhouses and apartments.

I know I'll be visiting Littleton frequently in the future, as this is the closest town in my area,  

Isn't it such a charming place? I can't wait to explore it more!

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Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Blueberry Buttermilk Muffins

Blueberry muffins! Two words that make me happy, and I was especially happy that they came out moist and delicious, as I have been finding baking at a high altitude somewhat difficult, to say the least. When we moved to this 6,000 plus foot area on the Front Range of Colorado, my first attempt at baking a cake was a disaster! I followed my favorite recipe and saw it literally explode in my oven.  It bubbled over the pan onto my oven bottom and then the batter drippings began to burn and smoke. I looked like the frantic comedian Lucille Ball, trying to juggle saving my cake while not letting my kitchen go on fire!

Everything I tried to bake was rising too quickly and then would collapse and taste dense and dry. I knew I needed help understanding the difference in baking at high altitude and went online to what is now one of my favorite places to buy books: This is a used book site with wonderful low prices, free shipping in the USA, and good service. They may not have every book you want available, but if you find it through them you will find it at big savings! I have no affiliation with Thriftbooks--I just wanted to pass on this great resource for used books.

I  found the New High Altitude Cookbook on Thriftbooks, and have been enjoying reading its hints and instructions.   I learned that water boils at a lower temperature at high altitude, and in general foods that boil, like rice and macaroni, take a little longer to cook. Since there is less moisture and oxygen at high altitude, sugars become more concentrated and therefore less is needed, and baking powders and soda in recipes also has to be reduced, while flour and liquids need to be increased slightly. Also, adding an extra regular sized egg or using only extra large eggs for baking will help add moisture.  I've also learned that I will most likely have to purchase a pressure cooker, as it will be the best way to make sure dry beans will cook properly! There is even a difference for microwave and slow cooker cooking at high altitude. All in all, it is a matter of experimentation with each recipe to find what works the best. It's a challenge, but I'm learning how to adjust.

Colorado State University has an online PDF with helpful high altitude cooking instructions, for 3,000 feet and above, that you can read on this link. The United States Department of Agriculture also has a web site about high altitude cooking and food safety on this link. Since most of the western states are partially or wholly at high altitude, above 3,000 feet, this is information that is valuable to all who live in this part of the country, or in mountainous regions in the rest of the US.

Does all this mean I'll only be using high altitude recipes from now on? No way! I'm just learning how to adjust my favorite recipes for my special circumstances. In fact, the Blueberry Buttermilk Muffin recipe I used to make these muffins was one of my old timers--written on an index card in my collection from a long forgotten source.  I adjusted it by decreasing the amount of baking powder slightly and adding an extra regular sized egg. Perfection!

Here's the original recipe:

Blueberry Buttermilk Muffins

2 1/2 cups flour
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 eggs, beaten
1 cup buttermilk
4 ounces butter, melted and browned slightly
1 1/2 cups blueberries
1 teaspoon vanilla or almond extract

Whisk dry ingredients together in a bowl

In another bowl mix sugar, eggs, flavoring extract, and melted butter until well blended

Make a well in the dry ingredients and quickly pour in the wet ingredients, mixing quickly until batter is moist--do not over mix!

Fold in blueberries

Spoon into greased muffin cups, 2/3 full

Bake at 400 degrees F, for 20 -30 minutes and golden, or until a cake tester comes out clean when inserted into the middle of each muffin.

They were moist and delicious and not overly sweet, just the way I remembered how they tasted when I lived at sea level in New York City.  It felt good to bake again with success!  I hope you will also enjoy this recipe.

Do you live in a high altitude area and have a favorite cookbook that you often use for reference or helpful cooking tips you'd like to share? I'd love to know about them!

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Thursday, August 8, 2013

The Cathy Johnson Trail

Take a look at my Mountain Man!

My husband and I recently walked a trail in our community called the Cathy Johnson Trail, that traverses a portion of the Ken Caryl Ranch Metropolitan District Open Space.

The Cathy Johnson Trail is open to the public and was dedicated in 1993 to the woman who worked towards the purchase and preservation of the South Hogback area, as Protected Open Space, to conserve it for the benefit of the people, plants, and wildlife of the area.

If you click on the photo above and then click on it again to open it full size, you can see, outlined in red, the full trail path is 2.1 miles in one direction. We began our hike at the NW corner at Valley Road, and walked to the end and then double backed to the beginning for a total 4.2 miles.

The trail begins at a slight uphill climb situated in a narrow valley between the Dakota and Lyons Hogbacks. You can see tire ruts on the trail, as the local Park Rangers use this trail as a road when needed, but it is mainly used for hiking, biking, and horseback riding.

The trail soon begins a gradual 400 feet downhill descent. You can see a bike rider in the distance.

On one side of the trail is the Dakota Hogback.

A hogback is a geological term for a natural ridge with steep sides formed by dipping strata. The name comes from the ridge resembling the high, knobby spine between the shoulders of a hog.

We saw lots of nooks and crannies in the hogbacks which would be perfect hiding spaces for...


That is one of the reasons we stay on the trails and don't go exploring in the wild. We also carry a walking stick with us; not only does it help when we are on a vertical climb, but it also gives us a feeling of protection in case we did see a snake on the trail! Luckily, we did not see any at all.

The other side of the trail is the Lyons Hogback, which is lined on this side with thickets of shrubs, trees, and evergreens.

A nice shaded bench alongside the trail.

At one point, the Cathy Johnson Trail trail splits off to the Columbine Trail. The Columbine Trail climbs upward towards the crest of the Lyons hogback and connects to South Valley Park. That trail will be a hike for us to complete in the future.

Obviously, the trail that gradually descended in one direction gradually ascended 400 feet on the hike back! I am still working on getting my body to make these climbs without needing to stop and rest. After walking my entire life on flat ground at sea level, all the hills in my high altitude area are still a challenge for me.  Hopefully, that will change with time.

Click on photo to enlarge.

One nice way to rest along the way, however, is to take photos of the wildflowers I see! There are so many flowers I have to learn about, and I found an excellent online Eastern Colorado Wildflower resource.  Considering that most of Colorado is a high desert climate, there is no shortage of the hardy flowers that grow here.  

My husband and I feel very fortunate that we have so many local trails to hike and explore. It is turning two former "city slickers" into nature lovers. As one blog friend recently said to me: "Pat, you are turning into Heidi!" That's OK! I always loved that story/movie as a child, and to be living that kind of life now at this time in my life is very exciting to me!

Before I end this post I want to know if there are any RUSH fans among my readers? My husband was sweet enough to treat me to tickets to see both Andrea Bocelli (click here) and Josh Groban (click here) for my birthday, so I treated him on Father's Day to tickets for us to see RUSH perform at the Denver Pepsi Center last week.  He was thrilled, as he saw one of the beginning dates of their "Clockwork Angels" tour at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, NY last year. If you'd like to hear two popular songs that RUSH performed at the concert we attended click through to my blog's facebook page at this link to hear "Tom Sawyer," and on this link to hear "Subdivisions." I have to admit I got caught up in the excitement of the music and really enjoyed their three-hour show! 

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