Sunday, April 24, 2022

A Normal and Unnormal April!

I wish I was on this plane flying off to somewhere exotic or even just somewhere fairly local, but instead, I snapped this photo of a plane flying overhead when we picked up our daughter at Denver International Airport when she was returning home from a business trip a few weeks ago.

Denver International Airport was the third busiest airport in the United States in 2020, and the third-busiest airport in the world in 2021. Denver was one of only four airports worldwide to serve more than 50 million passengers in 2021.  It is located in the eastern Colorado plains and I always enjoy the "big sky" views I see from its locale.

We have been joyfully busy the past few weeks. Happily, most of our grandchildren's school and extracurricular activities have returned after an almost two-year absence during the peak of the pandemic. We attended a "Kids Stage" play, Lacrosse games, Little League baseball games, a middle school orchestra production, and a Daisy Girl Scout Earth Day Celebration where our youngest granddaughter's troop had a display about Ireland and shared Irish food and danced to an Irish folk song.  
We've missed being able to enjoy these fun times with our grandchildren and hope life can continue to stay on a good health trend. 

We all had a beautiful Easter Sunday last week. We celebrated this year by attending a brunch at a restaurant, but I also made a small Easter dinner of baked honey ham, roasted sweet potatoes, cornbread pudding, and a broccoli cheese pie. I will have to share that broccoli pie recipe one day as it was really tasty! For dessert, I made a lemon ricotta cheesecake and Easter bunny cookies for all the grandchildren.

We have had the most unusual weather this past week.  If you look at the collage above both photos were taken looking at the Jefferson County Government Center with Lookout Mountian in the background at different times of the year. The top photo was taken on a regular weather day, the bottom photo was taken last Friday when we had a wind storm with wind gusts up to 70mph! There was so much dust blown up into the atmosphere from the constant wind that the foothills were obscured! It was very eery.  In the nine-plus years we've lived here we've never seen anything like it.  
We've also had serious Red Flag Warnings--extreme wildfire danger--almost every day.  We are all praying for a good rainfall or snow to occur soon as most of April we have had no precipitation and below-normal precipitation in March.  In fact, Colorado's snowpack has not been enough to counteract a two-year drought and the Colorado River is now considered endangered. 40 million people in many Western states depend on the river's water so it is very worrisome.

Columbine Flower

Even without April showers, I am hoping May will still bring us some beautiful wildflowers!  

I hope your month of April has brought you good times and good health...

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Monday, April 11, 2022

Springtime Happenings and a Savory Beet Tart

 "In Spring I have counted 136 different kinds of weather inside 24 hours."  ~ Mark Twain

Spring in Colorado is a very changeable season. One day it is sunny 70 degrees (21.1 C) the next day it can be below freezing and snowing.  It is the only time of the year we see fog. Spring keeps us guessing, making us layer our clothes, and enjoy the emerging beauty of nature.

Pretty red-headed male finches have been singing outside my kitchen window every morning.   They are hoping to attract a mate!  We have a retractable awning over our backyard patio and this spring we hung a line of old CDs along the front of it to dangle in the wind as we are trying to discourage the birds from building nests inside the roller arms as they have done in the past.  Last year when we opened the awning in June a chickadee nest fell out with three babies in sad! I read that flashy moving objects will discourage the birds. Does anyone have other suggestions? 

We don't have a birdbath or birdfeeders in our backyard as there are black bears in our area and they love to eat birdseed.  Our local TV news this week showed a black bear coming out of its den after waking up from its winter hibernation, so now is the time to take down birdfeeders if you live near bears.

Snakes are other critters that have woken up from hibernation! They have been enjoying the hot spring sunshine. This looks like a very long bull snake but we also have rattlesnakes in our foothills. It's always good to stay alert when hiking on trails and to stay away from tall grass or near large rocks where snakes could be lurking.

The collage above was made with photos that I downloaded from public Colorado-themed Facebook groups of a famous elk stag that roamed for an estimated 13 years in Rocky Mountain National Park and Estes Park, Colorado.  He was affectionately nicknamed "The Big Kahuna" by many wildlife photographers and was photographed thousands of times over the years.  He sadly has seen his last spring. A few photographers saw him limping at one point and then a few others saw his carcass. A mountain lion obviously made him its kill.  It is the circle of life in nature. It was nice to see many tributes from photographers on social media to this magnificent animal. Kahuna certainly passed on his genes to many offspring during his lifetime.

I don't plant outside until late May, as we can have frost or snow until then at the 6,000 feet (1828.8 M) elevation we live at.  This year I experimented with planting seeds that I've saved over the winter, and so far tomato plants are the first to spring up!  Also sprouting are hot red Calabrian peppers. I'll soon be transplanting them into larger pots, and once it is warm they will go out on my patio surrounded by chicken wire fences to keep the wildlife from eating them.

This past weekend our community had an Easter Egg Hunt event for the children sponsored by one of the local real estate agents who also lives in our neighborhood. Our two granddaughters attended and had a wonderful time playing in the playground and collecting plastic candy-filled eggs. Our grandchildren are all growing up so fast, and I savor these days that they still want to engage in these fun childhood activities!  

Whenever I grocery shop I try to "buy a rainbow" of different vegetables for us to eat. One of our favorites is beets, as I also cook their green leaves in different recipes. This bunch of organic beets was enormous!  I placed a large tomato near the bunch to show how big they were. I used the green leaves in soup. I sliced and roasted the beetroot to eat as a vegetable side, but I had so much leftover that I looked for a recipe to make something new with the roasted beet leftovers and came upon this recipe for a "Fresh Goat Cheese, Roasted Beet, and Walnut Tart" on the Epicurious website which was delicious!  
If you are looking for a unique side dish for Easter you might be interested to try this.  The recipe is below with the adjustments I made for my preferences.

Fresh Goat Cheese, Roasted Beet, and Walnut Savory Tart

Makes one 10-inch tart; Serves 6 to 8

2 to 3 small beets
1 tablespoon olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 medium onion, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons dry white wine
1 recipe pie crust dough --I used premade pie crust dough but you can make your own favorite crust. 
3 large eggs
3/4 cup heavy cream  -- I used half and half
4 ounces of fresh goat cheese 
1 cup chopped walnuts (about 4 ounces)
1 tablespoon walnut oil (optional)
About 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley--I used one tablespoon of dill as I prefer that herb flavor with beets 

Step 1:
Heat the oven to 350°F. Wash the beets and dry them with a paper towel. Place the beets in a small ovenproof pan, drizzle them with the olive oil, and season with a little salt and pepper. Cover the pan with aluminum foil. Bake until the beets are tender when pierced with a paring knife, about 1 hour.

Step 2:
Allow the beets to cool. Peel the beets using a small knife and cut them into medium dice. (Be careful, as beet juice can stain counters, towels, and even your hands; you may want to wear gloves for this step.)

Step 3:
Heat the butter in a sauté pan over medium heat. Add the onion, season with a little salt, and cook, stirring every few minutes, until the onion is just tender, about 7 minutes. Add the white wine and cook for another minute, scraping up any browned bits stuck to the bottom of the pan.

Step 4:
Heat the oven to 350°F. Toss the beets and onion together and put them into the tart shell.

Step 5:
Whisk together the eggs and cream, season well with salt and pepper, and carefully pour over the beets and onion, letting the cream seep evenly into the beets. Dot the goat cheese all over the top of the tart. Put the tart pan on a baking sheet and bake it for 20 minutes. Sprinkle the chopped walnuts on top of the tart and drizzle the walnut oil over it, if using. Return the tart to the oven and bake until just set, an additional 15 to 20 minutes. Sprinkle the tart with the chopped parsley and let it rest for at least 5 minutes before serving.  In my oven I needed to cook the tart for the full 40 minutes, watching to make sure the crust did not burn and the filling was set when I pieced the middle with a knife and it came out clean. 

Fresh out of the oven. I allowed it to cool a bit and then sliced it in wedges to serve.

It was delicious! 

I like savory tarts as a special side dish for dinner or as a breakfast or luncheon entree.  Here is another recipe of one I made with an assortment of roasted root vegetables

This has been a wonderful springtime at my home.  
I look forward to hearing what you have been doing--let me know in the comments below.

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Monday, April 4, 2022

A Day in Boulder at the Dushanbe Teahouse.


The Boulder Dushanbe Teahouse is located at 1770 13th Street along Boulder Creek in the Central Park area of Boulder. Completely built by hand without the use of power tools, the teahouse was constructed in Dushanbe, Tajikistan, as a gift to their sister city, Boulder. It was disassembled, crated up, and sent halfway around the world to be rebuilt in Boulder as a symbol of friendship and cultural exploration. The elaborate and creative teahouse now sits as a reminder to the citizens of Boulder to value cultural diversity, global cooperation, and international friendship. You can read the entire history of how the teahouse came about on this link. The teahouse has become one of the city's most attractive and popular tourist destinations, as well as a place locals enjoy for good food, tea, and atmosphere.

An informational plaque is right outside the front doors.

Our drive up to Boulder is always a pleasant one as we pass beautiful open space scenery.

The Boulder Flatiron Mountains are always a focal point.

In Boulder, we saw a beautiful view of the snow-capped Rocky Mountains from Arapahoe Ave. 

The hand-painted intricate ceiling design of the teahouse is exquisite!  There are also 12 intricately carved cedar columns, no two are alike. In the central pool of the Teahouse, there are seven hammered copper sculptures created by artist Ivan Milosovich. The life-sized sculptures are based on a 12th-century poem, “The Seven Beauties.” 

The ceiling of the Teahouse was carved and painted with intricate patterns traditional of Persian Art.

It is hard not to keep staring up at the ceiling as the colors and designs are so vibrant. 
The artists' names are carved into the ceiling

Intricately carved plaster panels, by Kodir Rhakimov, demonstrate the ancient art of Persian Ganch. Each tile is hand-carved from a special plaster.

Some of the tables are Persian lounging style, where one would remove their shoes and sit on the cushions with their legs folded underneath. The rest of the tables and chairs were conventional.

There is a large selection of teas and herbal teas.  

We were there for lunch.

My husband and I shared Thai Shrimp Cakes with Chili-Lime Dipping Sauce as an appetizer.  I had Spicey Indonesian Peanut Noodles and my husband had the Steak Bahn Mi Sandwich with Fries. I tried the Rocky Mountain Mint Herbal Tea.  Everything was delicious!

After lunch, we took a walk around the park that is across the street from the front of the teahouse. The grass is beginning to turn green in many spots and the trees are just beginning to bud. Spring is definitely in the air!

On our drive home on CO 93, some rain clouds began to gather, and as you can see the higher elevations still had some lingering snow on them.

This sky view almost did not look real!  The layers of fast-moving clouds were very dramatic to see. All in all, it was a wonderful day. We are still being careful as much as possible, but it felt good to be able to go out and engage in normal activities again after strict pandemic restrictions and social distancing. Now we are looking forward to doing more as the weather improves and outdoor activities become available. I hope your April has also begun on a pleasant note!

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