Sunday, July 14, 2019

Postcards From Alaska


I'm so sorry that it has been a few weeks since I last blogged. It has been a busy summer in many different ways. Life certainly has its ups and downs, and if you have been following my Mille Fiori Favoriti facebook page you might have read an update I left there a week ago that I had a bad case of bronchitis and that my husband is presently undergoing cancer treatment.  I've recovered, and my husband is doing well, and we are optimistic that his cancer has been found early and he will be in full remission after treatment.  In happier news, we also went on a wonderful long-anticipated land and sea trip to Alaska!  The Coral Princess cruise ship we traveled on is in the photo above.


Alaska is full of spectacular beauty and rugged wilderness.


Every place we visited, from Fairbanks to Ketchikan, was a "dream come true" experience!


 We learned so much about life in Alaska...


...and enjoyed all our excursions along the way from quaint towns...







I will show more from our Alaska travels on a few future blog posts and I look forward to catching up on your blogs. It's good to be back!

 I hope your summer has so far has been happy and healthy!


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Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Denver Botanic Garden and a Mini Blog Break


It was Iris season at the Denver Botanic Gardens last weekend. We were visiting with a niece who was visiting us for a few days. (Click on each photo to enlarge it) 


There were so many beautiful varieties of Iris colors!  


I've visited the Denver Botanic Garden many times in the past.  If you missed those posts you can visit the Chihuly Glass Exhibit at the Denver Botanic Garden post here,  The Nature of Horses Exhibit at the Denver Botanic Garden here, or see the Denver Botanic Garden in Autumn here.  It is always wonderful to experience the garden at different times of the year and for special exhibits. 


"Human | Nature: Figures from the Craig Ponzio Sculpture Collection" is the current collection on display. The Human | Nature Exhibit presents sculptures that explore the human form in both classical and abstract styles, from the early 20th century to today. Featured artists hail from around the world and include Eric Fischl, Jacques Lipchitz, Sassona Norton, Beverly Pepper, Auguste Rodin, and Manolo Vald├ęs.  The exhibition is on view at the Gardens’ York St. location April 19 – September 15, 2019, included with general admission.


The exhibit consists of 17 different sculptures but due to time constraints, we saw only a few, although all were interesting.



A sundial in the Denver Botanic Garden.

Time seems to be an issue right now for me.  June is a month of many birthday celebrations in our household and our grandson's lacrosse team is in the state championship, so there have been many games with us rooting for him on the sidelines. We had two surprise visits this past week from relatives, which were wonderful, and we had fun sightseeing with them. All of this has kept me very busy and away from my computer lately.



Japanese Garden in the Denver Botanic Garden

Now that summer is approaching I realize I have a lot to catch up on.  Our garden needs weeding. our shrubs need to be trimmed, and we want to finally plant some annuals and some new herbs to replace a few which died from the last frost we had in late May.  We also want to take our grandchildren on some local trips before they go to summer camp. Summer in Colorado is a short season and I've learned that is good to take advantage of these early summer days to get everything in order before July so we can enjoy the warm weather and all the local festivals and summer fun!



Beautiful orchids and tropical flowers and ferns in the Denver Botanic Conservatory
  
So, in order to catch up on life, I am taking a blog break until the beginning of July.  Hopefully, by then all I need to accomplish will be done, and I can resume a regular blog schedule and blog visits to your blogs again.   

Enjoy the last days of 2019's spring and welcome the first days of summer.  I'll see you in July!  

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Monday, June 3, 2019

Potato Gnocchi




Potato Gnocchi are soft and delicate dumplings made from a mixture of cooked potatoes, flour, egg, and seasonings.  They have always been among my husband's favorite pasta, but, truthfully I  don't make them that often.  I usually make ricotta gnocchi--see my recipe for them on this link--as they are equally delicious and slightly easier to prepare.  

However, since my husband was celebrating a milestone birthday this past weekend, I wanted to treat him to his absolute favorite.  We had a busy Saturday of attending our grandson's lacrosse tournament games, so I began the process early in the day.



Potato Gnocchi Recipe:

This will make about 150 gnocchi depending on the size of your potatoes and the size you make the gnocchi. I froze half to use for later.

Ingredients:

3 lb. russet potatoes (about 6 medium), scrubbed
1-1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour, more for kneading and rolling if needed
2  large egg yolks, lightly beaten
1 1/2 tsp. kosher salt
1/2 tsp white pepper -- optional
1/4 cup parmesan cheese -- optional


Preparation:

Potato gnocchi is simple to make, just a little time-consuming in that there are multiple steps to do to prepare them.  When I make them I try to make a double batch so I can freeze half of them for another time.  The important part of the process is choosing the right potato. An older, more starchy potato is best.  A russet or Idaho brand is great.  Many recipes say to boil the potatoes first, but I found baking them is better. The less moisture the cooked potato retains, the less flour is needed in the preparation and the lighter and better tasting the gnocchi will be.   I bake them in a hot oven until fork tender. Then I place them on a metal sheet and cut slashes in them so any steam can escape. I then allow them to cool and peel them. My husband usually will rice the whole potatoes for me as it takes a little hand power--see the photo in the collage above.  You could also use a food mill. The important step is to make the cooked potato light and fluffy. Then add the beaten egg,  the flour, and the seasonings. Lightly mix with your hands until the dough comes together.  Do not over mix.  I place the dough on a floured surface and lightly fold over and over--do not use pressure as you would when making bread.  You want to make the dough smooth but not hard.  I break off a handful portion and cover the rest of the dough with a towel while I work.  Roll a handful of dough into a one-inch thick ribbon shape and cut about one-inch pieces.  I roll those pieces on a gnocchi paddle so that they get grooves which helps to hold the sauce. You can use a fork to lightly press grooves into the dough or leave them smooth. I lay the gnocchi on trays covered with lightly floured parchment paper.



I worked fast, and my gnocchi are not perfect in size or shape, but perfection is not that important as they will still taste delicious! With 6 medium russet potatoes I made 150 gnocchi, so I divided them and froze one tray.  After the gnocchis were frozen I placed them in a freezer bag for future use.  

Hint: If you cook frozen gnocchi it is best to use two pots of boiling water to cook them, adding half to each pot, so they won't cool the water and break apart with longer cooking time.

We had to now attend our grandson's game, so I covered the other tray with plastic and placed them in the refrigerator until we returned home.



When we returned I boiled 6 quarts of water and added two tablespoons of salt. When the water returned to a full boil I began adding the gnocchi dumplings one by one until about half of the gnocchi from the tray was in the pot to avoid overcrowding.



As you can see, as the gnocchi cook they begin to rise up to the top of the water.  It takes about 3 to 4 minutes depending on the size of your gnocchi.  When they rise to the top you can begin to scoop them out to a bowl, using a strainer or a slotted spoon.  As I remove the cooked gnocchi I keep adding more from the tray until they are all cooked. 


I then gently mix in my cooked sauce over the gnocchi.  I added a heated tomato sauce that I previously made, that had fresh basil, roasted garlic, and some ground dried Calabrian red pepper added to it, which is my husband's favorite way to eat them.  Gnocchi is also good served with a meaty tomato sauce, a creamy tomato sauce, or a butter and sage type sauce. Each sauce adds an entirely different taste experience to them, which makes them very versatile.



I serve the prepared gnocchi with grated parmesan cheese on top--delicious!  



My husband really enjoyed them, and we were happy our grandson played well in his lacrosse games making great passes from the defense which resulted in goals for his team, a happy day for all!


The next day we celebrated with the entire family at a local Italian restaurant. To be gifted with a new decade of life is a blessing! In Italian, we cheer a birthday with the saying "Cent'anni!" which means "may you live for 100 years," which is what I wish for my husband.


This sign hanging in the restaurant caught my eye, and  I could not agree more.  Family means so much to us and we feel blessed to be able to enjoy these special occasions together.



This collage shows what else has been happening in Colorado this week.  We have had more than the normal snowpack and rain this winter and spring. For the first time in nineteen years, there are no areas of drought in our state. Sadly, though, there are concerns about flooding in certain areas of the state when warmer temperatures bring snowmelt. We are hoping for the best and hoping all the moisture we received will cut down on forest fires this summer. 
Happily, the local deer are now giving birth to their fawns.  This lucky Mother had triplets!  It is always a joy to see new life.


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Sunday, May 26, 2019

Wings Over the Rockies Air and Space Museum


Wings Over the Rockies Air and Space Museum is located on the old Lowry Air Force Base in the Denver, Colorado area. The museum preserves the history of Lowry AFB's operations from 1938 to 1994 in its collections, archives, and research library. 


Information from the Wings Over the Rockies website:
"Transferred from the United States Air Force to a group of volunteers in 1994, Wings Over the Rockies Air and Space Museum is located in Hangar #1 of the former Lowry Air Force Base in eastern Denver, Colorado. Today, the museum boasts more than 182,000 square feet of hangar space full of iconic aircraft, space vehicles, artifacts, military uniforms and much more. Visitors can also experience thrilling flight simulators, discover Wings Aerospace Academy, our enrichment program for 6th-11th-grade students, and participate in dozens of exciting museum-sponsored events."



The museum hanger containing the airplanes and educational exhibits is enormous!


My husband and I enjoyed exploring all the airplanes on exhibit and learning their historyThere are both permanent and temporary exhibits and over 50 aircraft and space vehicles. Features of the museum's collection include the USAF's B-1A Lancer and B-52 Stratofortress bombers and many other military and general aviation aircraft.



There were different flight simulators at the museum to try and my husband had fun trying to land the Wrights brother plane --not an easy task in 1903 when their flight only took 12 seconds!!


In just the first 50 years of the Space Age, more than 64 astronauts have developed close ties to the State of Colorado. Through birth, university, or employment these space professionals have put Colorado on the leading edge of space exploration and study. 


The “Colorado’s Astronauts” exhibit offers Museum guests a look at some of the fine men and women with connections to the Centennial State and how they have helped transform our understanding of space.



One of the most famous Colorado Astronauts was John L "Jack" Swigert who was an American test pilot, mechanical and aerospace engineer, United States Air Force pilot, and NASA astronaut. He was one of twenty-four astronauts who have flown to the Moon--his mission was on Apollo 13.   A piece of lunar rock that was collected by Apollo 15 was donated to Wings Over the Rockies in Swigert's memory by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration





There was an interesting exhibit about life on a space station.


The exhibit focuses on the groundbreaking science that the Center for the Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS) does on the ISS such as treatments for disease, new building materials, and consumer products


A unique collection of uniforms, gear and more was on display in the World of Aviation attire in the Uniform Room. This permanent exhibition features dozens of items not found anywhere else in the world including specially designed artic flight suits, original Lowry Air Force Base photography equipment and a letter to the father of a deceased soldier written by then Secretary of War, Henry Stimson. 




One of the stars of the museum is the Star Wars X-Wing Starfighter which is a 3/4-scale replica of the aircraft flown by Luke Skywalker in Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope. It is signed by numerous cast and crew including Harrison Ford, George Lucas, and David Prowse. Thanks to generous Rocky Mountain Fan Force volunteers and an agreement with Lucasfilm, this unique Star Wars heirloom has become a permanent part of the exhibits.


Each year, Wings Over the Rockies welcomes roughly 160,000 visitors representing all 50 U.S. states and 28-countries around the world.  We certainly enjoyed our visit and know we will be back to see more of it with our grandchildren one day. 

Wings Over the Rockies
Air & Space Museum

7711 East Academy Boulevard 
Denver, CO 80230-6929

Hours:

Monday - Saturday: 10am – 5pm Sunday: 12pm – 5pm


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 Mosaic Monday, All SeasonsBlue Monday, Through My Lens MondayLittle Cottage Link Party, Blogging GrandmothersHearth, and Soul Link PartyYou Are the Star Blog HopGood Random FunNature NotesGrand SocialTravel Photos, Photo Tunes, Happiness Is HomemadeSomething Old Is NewOur World TuesdayRuby TuesdayTuesdays With A TwistWordless Wednesday on a TuesdaySay Cheese!,  Party in Your PJ'sWordless WednesdayNanahood WWOh My Heartsie Girl's Wonderful Wednesday,  Pretty Pintastic PartyYour Whims WednesdayWorldless Wednesday at Sky GirlWednesday My Corner of the WorldWonderful Wednesday Little Things Thursday,Thankful ThursdayThursday Encouraging Hearts and HomeThursday Favorite Things, , Friendship Fridays, Friday Features Linky PartyFriday Photo JournalSkywatch Friday, Pink SaturdaySaturday Critters
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Monday, May 20, 2019

A Medley of Recent and Ancient Events


The month of May in Colorado is rainbow weather! Every day we see beautiful cloud formations that bring scattered rain showers and many rainbows to our front range location.


May is also the month of our last snowfalls on the front range. We sometimes wake up to trees covered with snow and by the middle of the day, when the sun is hot, everything has warmed up and melted.



The deer are hungry and enjoy all the new leaves on our shrubs and all the newly sprouted green grass. 



I took a blog break last week, as May is the end of the school year in our county and is full of school events, sports, and dance recitals. and I knew my computer time would be limited. We also attended the opening night of Opera Colorado's "The Marriage of Figaro," in Denver at the Ellie Caulkins Opera House. It is always a fun opera with Mozart's lively music.


Another exciting event we attended last week, as members of our community's historical society, was the History Colorado Center, Office of Archaeology and Historic Preservation nomination process that took place for a 97-year-old barn in our community to be placed on the National Register of Historic Places. Our historical society president worked for quite a while researching and compiling the necessary nomination requirements. It was reviewed by the Colorado State Register Review Board and the Colorado Historic Preservation Review Board at the meeting and approved unanimously to be sent to the National Park Service in Washington, D.C., for final approval.


This is the nominated John C. Schaffer Barn, both front and back views. At one time a cattle barn for Ken Caryl Ranch owner, John C Shaffer, it now is part of the community's equestrian center which boards horses. 


A slide show of the history and the archetectural details of the barn was presented to the review boards. If accepted, this will be the second property on Ken Carly Ranch that is on the National Register of Historic Places. The first is the pioneers' Bradford Perley House. You can read the interesting story about this house on my blog: The Bradford Perley House


Our community has a very long history of human presence, dating back to prehistoric times. Paleo Indians, Native Americans, explorers, pioneers, and ranchers have all left their mark along the Colorado front range. There have been many archeological digs in our area over the years and new discoveries are made all the time.  In the photo collage above you can see two display cases that are in one of our community centers, which show artifacts found on our community grounds.  The large piece of mandible bone is from a pre-historic mastodon and found by neighborhood boys in a creek. Dinosaur bones have also been found in our area.


An archeologist who is a member of our historical society brought the arrowhead to one of our meetings recently.   I am showing the back and front in the photos above. It is made from a piece of petrified wood and was carbon dated to 5,000 years ago! Many arrowheads have been found here but this one was unique. It was a thrill to be able to hold such an ancient man-made object in my hand.  We certainly live in an interesting place full of history and beauty!  May has certainly been an exciting month for many reasons.


If you'd like to read more about the dinosaurs that lived in our vicinity you can see more on this post: Dinosaur Ridge.
If you'd like to read more about mammoths and mastodons in our area, you can see more on this post: Lamb Springs--Where Mammoths Roamed.
If you would like to see what a front range archeological dig looked like you can read this post: Digging Up The Past


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