Sunday, April 25, 2021

Early Spring in Colorado

"Springtime in the Rockies" translates to lots of snow that covers the trees and weighs down early buds and blossoms.  It also means that fluctuating temperature also brings us a quick melt. The snow in March and April, and that sometimes falls into May, drenches our dry ground with blessed water instead of the rain.

Front range grass begins to grow while the foothills are still frozen, and the hungry deer eat, and eat, and eat.  Soon, their fawns will be born and their mothers will hide them in the tall grass.

The snow lights the scenery near and far with a quiet beauty.

The constant snowmelt also means "mud season" along the trails and in our horse stables.  The horses do not seem to care and along with the local deer, they are shedding their winter fur as the daylight hours grow longer and temperatures begin to rise.

Please click on to enlarge

Our community's 100-year-old barn has been placed on the National Register of Historic Places. 
You can read about it on the placard our neighborhood historical society placed near it.

Nature is very alive in anticipation of new life and of summer days ahead.

Early spring in Colorado may not bring many flowers but has a peaceful beauty all its own.

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Sunday, April 18, 2021

The Bishop Castle in Rye, Colorado


Over the spring break, my daughter and a friend decided to take a ride down towards South Central Colorado to visit an unusual stone structure that she read about on Atlas Obscura --a website that profiles "strange and wondrous" places worldwide--called Bishop CastleIt is one of the largest self-made stone castle in the United States, many decades in the making!  It is located in the Wet Mountains, in the San Isabel National Forest, 90 minutes from Colorado Springs, and 2 1/2 hours from Denver, at 12705 State Highway 165 in Rye, Colorado.  The castle is named after its creator, Jim Bishop who bought the land for the site for $450 when he was 15 with his earnings from mowing lawns and delivering newspapers. He wanted a place to go hunting and fishing. For the next few years his father helped him clear the land. In 1969, when he was twenty-five years old and married two years, he decided to begin to build a cottage on the land.  He began constructing a fence around the property and the cottage out of rocks that he found on the property.  Several neighbors and passser-bys told Bishop that the structure looked something like a castle.  Bishop liked that idea and decided to continue making the building into an actual castle.

The land the castle is on is at 9,000 feet (2743.2 M) elevation so construction could only take place in the summer months when the snow was melted.  In the other months, Jim worked in his family's ornamental iron shop in nearby Pueblo.  He had no blueprints, no construction experience, and just built it free form by single-handedly gathering and setting over 1,000 tons of rock to create his stone, concrete, and iron fortress. He said it was the feat of a hard working man.  More about the construction can be read on his website--here.  

Admission to visit the castle is free and open to the public seven days a week during daylight hours. Not without controversy over the years, he has many signs on display towards the entrance to his property with his "rules."   Donations are accepted to help with construction, and often Mr. Bishop is on the grounds on weekends still working on additions. There are no guided tours--it is explore at your own risk.

The castle reaches over 160 ft (49 m) tall, has large cathedral windows, a ballroom, wrought iron walkways...

...and a steel fire-breathing dragon that puffs smoke when the fireplace is lit!

For full information on planning a visit to Bishop Castle visit the website at this link.

Climbing the many staircases surrounding the castle are a thrilling part of the experience.  I'm glad my daughter and her friend were brave enough to do all this climbing and take these wonderful photos, as I doubt I'd have the courage to do so! 

Do you think you'd be brave enough to climb the narrow winding and sometimes shakey staircases at your own risk?

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Sunday, April 11, 2021

Hot Cross Buns for our Reunited Easter!

 We had a wonderful Easter!  Since all the adults were vaccinated we could reunite and gather at my house for dinner again this year. What a great feeling! All the grandchildren had a wonderful time together.

 I made Hot Cross Buns for the first time as part of our dessert buffet and was very pleased with how they came out.  Baking at high elevation, especially yeast bread, can sometimes be a challenge as I live over 6,000 feet, so I wasn't sure if they would be as light and fluffy as I hoped. Happily, they were, and they had enough spices and preserved fruit bits in them to be very flavorful but not overly sweet. If you'd like to read the history of Hot Cross Buns and why they are often eaten during the Easter season click here.  The buns are good to enjoy year-round, not just at Easter.  I know I'll be making them often! 

Hot Cross Buns



3 teaspoons instant or rapid-rise yeast (9 grams) 
1/2 cup (110g) sugar 
1 1/2 cups (375ml) milk, warm, full fat, or low fat 
4 1/4 cups (640g) bread flour (or plain/all-purpose) 
2 tsp cinnamon powder
2 tsp allspice
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 cups (210g) raisins
1 cup finely chopped dried apricots
Zest from 1- 2 oranges
3.5 tbsp (50g) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
1 egg at room temperature


1 tbsp apricot jam 
2 tsp water

Sugar Crosses:  

One cup powdered sugar, 3 tbsp. milk, and a drop of vanilla flavoring


Place flour, yeast, sugar, allspice, cinnamon, and salt in a large bowl. Briefly mix with a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook.
Add butter, milk, egg, raisins, finely chopped apricots, and orange zest.

Stand mixer: Mix until a smooth elastic dough forms - 5 minutes on Speed 2 of a stand mixer. After 1 minute, add an extra 1/4 cup flour if required, just enough so the dough comes away from the side of the bowl when mixing and doesn't stick terribly to your fingers. 

Hand kneading: Alternatively, dust a work surface with flour and knead by hand for 10 minutes.
The dough is kneaded enough when it's smooth and does not break when stretched.

Dough Rise #1:

Leave the dough in the bowl, cover with cling wrap, and place in a warm, draft-free place to rise until doubled in size. This will take anywhere between 30 minutes to 1 1/2 hours depending on how warm it is.

Line a 9 x 13" tray with baking paper with overhang.
Remove cling wrap and punch dough to deflate.
Dust work surface with flour, place dough on the work surface, shape into a log - this will deflate the air. Cut into 12 equal pieces.
Take one piece and press down with your palm, then use your fingers to gather into a ball, then roll the dough briefly to form a ball. 
Place the ball with the smooth side up on the tray. Repeat with the remaining dough. Line them up 3 x 4.

Dough Rise #2

Spray a piece of cling wrap lightly with oil (any), then loosely place over the tray.
Return tray to warm place and leave 30 - 45 minutes until the dough has risen by about 75% (less than double in size).
Partway through dough rise #2, preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit  (180 C) 

Bake for 22 minutes, or until the surface is a deep golden brown. The surface color is the best test for this recipe.


Meanwhile, place jam and water in a bowl, microwave for 30 seconds. Mix to combine.
Remove buns from the oven. Use overhang to lift buns onto a cooling rack. (If you do not have apricot jam you can substitute honey or maple syrup as a glaze.) Brush buns with jam mixture while warm. Allow buns to cool before icing.

Icing Crosses:

1 cup (120g) confectioners’ sugar
3 Tablespoons of milk and a splash of vanilla extract for plain icing
Pipe a thick cross made from icing on each bun after baking, when buns are cooled and glazed.
Use a piping bag– no piping tip needed– or a zipped-top bag. Snip the corner off. Allow icing to dry before eating.  Enjoy!

As you can see, the grandchildren enjoyed having both sets of grandparents to celebrate with this year.  They are all getting so big!

I made lots of holiday favorites--we had a table full of appetizers to start, followed by stuffed macaroni shells. eggplant rollatini, pineapple glazed spiral ham, leg of lamb and lamb chops, corn pudding, asparagus, broccoli, mixed mushrooms, and batter-fried cauliflower.  

Besides the Hot Cross Buns, I also made a lemon cheesecake, cupcakes for the grandchildren, a blueberry Bundt cake, and my daughter-in-law brought a tray of chocolate pretzel nests that she made with the children.  Needless to say, we were all stuffed!  Happily, everyone took home a tray of leftovers so nothing goes to waste.  

I've been taking lots of hikes into the foothills lately--they really help clear my mind. Easter was a wonderful day after a week before that was very sad.  Thank you to all who commented and consoled me on the terrible tragedy that happened in nearby Boulder, Colorado. That really shook me to my core in its senselessness. I keep praying for a better, kinder, world for my grandchildren to grow up in. Stay positive that we can all be a part of that!

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