Monday, March 27, 2023

A March Hodgepodge

Springtime along the Colorado Front Range.  The sun shines bright and warm, the foothills have a dusting of snow, and the winds still blow cold at times.  We often see clouds rising up in the early morning when the sun shines on the frozen ground, and although we get "chance of rain" warnings on our Alexa device the rain never comes.  This winter the frequent Pacific storms that have besieged California with torrential snow and rain have also traveled west to bring the Colorado Rocky Mountains beneficial snowfall. Steamboat Springs recently announced they have had over 500 inches of snow this season at their summit, and SW Colorado San Juan mountains reported its best snowfall in almost 30 years!

It was exciting to fly over the beautiful and rugged San Juan Mountains after we flew back to Denver from San Diego in early February when we were returning from our Disney Wonder Cruise.  We have visited towns in these mountains in the past ten years--Telluride, Ouray, Ridgway, Lake City, and Creede, and I've blogged about them all, but seeing these 14,000-foot mountains from a birds-eye view from an airplane window was an unexpected thrill for me.

One of the first wildflowers that we see in Spring on the Colorado foothills is the miniature but hardy Starlily  (Leucocrinum montanum)  It is always exciting to spot it on a hike when it first appears in March. 

With Easter approaching in a few weeks I already prepared and froze a couple trays of Manicotti.-- click here--for my recipe that I posted many years ago.

I make them in a small Wearever brand frying pan I've had for my entire marriage.  It makes small five-inch shells which are just the right size for us as we serve them as a "primo" or first course after appetizers and before the "second" which is usually ham, leg of lamb, or both, depending upon how many guests we have for dinner.  Everyone goes home with trays full of leftovers, so nothing goes to waste.

Gumbo is one of our favorite soups and I made it recently on a chilly breezy March day. I first tasted gumbo soup when my husband and I first visited New Orleans in 2007, when we dined at Paul Prudhomme's restaurant "K Pauls Louisiana Kitchen. I was so infatuated with his food that upon returning home I purchased his cookbook "Paul Prudhomme's Louisiana Kitchen" and I've been making his Seafood and Andouille Gumbo ever since. You can see the recipe on this blog link--the only additions I make now are adding a 12oz bag of frozen okra and some File Powder to the soup as a thickener.

Sadly, when researching to write this blog post,  I learned that K Paul's Louisiana Kitchen restaurant closed in 2020 after 41 years.  Paul Prudhomme passed away in 2015 and a niece and her husband were keeping his restaurant open, serving his famous Cajun cuisine, but closures during the pandemic lead to its demise. Happily, his line of Magic Seasonings Blends is still in production and a pleasure to use to add a New Orleans dash of flavor to any dish.

Last winter I experimented with saving tomato and pepper seeds and growing them by a sunny window. I had great success and decided to do the same this March. They are all sprouting and soon I will replant each plant into a larger container.  When the danger of frost is over --usually late May here, I will take the individual plants pots outside for a couple hours each day to "harden them off" and then when they are acclimated to the outdoors I'll plant them in large pots on my patio, where they will be enclosed with a chicken wire fence to prevent the deer from eating them. Last summer, by late August, and early September I harvested plentiful tomatoes, Calabrian Red Peppers, and Hatch Style Peppers. This year I'm growing the same and adding Poblano Peppers. It will be fun watching them grow and I'll record their progress here.

Our daughter had a business trip to Connecticut and she was able to take a day to visit The Mark Twain House and Museum in Hartford, Connecticut, and took the photos above.  The celebrated author, Mark Twain, sat at the desk in the photo to write his famous novels.  Mark Twain and his family enjoyed what the author would later call the happiest and most productive years of his life in their Hartford home.

So, it seems fitting to finish this post with one of Mark Twain's famous quotes:

"In the Spring, I have counted 136 different kinds of weather inside 24 hours." 

Mr. Twain, you sum up Colorado's weather perfectly!

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Monday, March 20, 2023

Spicy Apple Cake

I came across the recipe when a quart of milk went sour in my refrigerator. I hate to waste food, so I searched online for recipes that required sour milk in their ingredients--you would be surprised how many recipes there are that use sour milk! I found this Apple Cake recipe, and after some adjustments that I made in the spice content to make it even more flavorful, it became a family favorite!

It's full of warm spices like cardamon, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, cloves, and allspice, and has a sugary, crusty, nut topping.  It's made in a 9 by 13-inch pan, and just a small square slice of the cake is very satisfying.  

Spicy Apple Cake



1/2 cup chopped walnuts
1/2  cup chopped pecans
1/4 cup white sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground cardamon
1/2 teaspoon allspice


2 ¼ cups all-purpose flour
1 cup white sugar
½ cup brown sugar
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon* 
2 teaspoons cardamom*
1/2  teaspoon ginger*
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg*
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves*
1/2 teaspoon allspice*

*  This recipe can be customized to suit your preferences; start by making substitutions of 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon if you want to increase the amount of one spice or swap out a different one. If you like it heavy on the cinnamon, use a little more.

1 teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon salt
½ cup vegetable oil
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 large eggs, beaten
1 cup sour milk* (see below how to make sour milk)
2 cups apples - peeled, cored, and chopped into small pieces.** 

* To make sour milk, measure one cup of milk into a small bowl and add 1 tablespoon (15 mL) of vinegar or lemon juice, and enough milk to equal 1 cup (250 mL). Stir and let stand for 5 minutes before using. This will give the right amount of acidity for the recipe

** I like Honeycrisp or Granny Smith green apples for this cake as I find their flavor works well with the spices, and they won’t go totally mushy.


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Grease and flour a 9x13-inch pan.

Make the topping: Mix together walnuts, both sugars, and all spices together in a bowl.

Make the cake: Mix together flour, both sugars, spices, and salt in a large bowl. Make a well in the center and pour in the sour milk, oil, vanilla, and eggs. Beat with an electric mixer until smooth, then fold in chopped apples.

Pour batter into the prepared pan and sprinkle topping mixture evenly over top.

Bake in the preheated oven until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean, about 45 minutes.


Spicy Apple Cake fresh out of the oven!

The cake is delicious when served warm or cold. 

I hope you will also enjoy it!

As you can see in the photo collage above, I made a Spicy Apple Cake as part of our dessert for our St. Patrick's Day celebration. They were served along with Italian pastries which are specially made for St. Joseph's Feast Day, celebrated on March 19th every year.  Two delicious food traditions!

Happy Spring!

The snow has all melted in our Colorado Front Range area for now, but with all the storms coming across from the Pacific this year that may not last long.  It was a winter full of good snowpack for the Rocky Mountains and soon we will see if it will also be a cold and wet spring.  I am looking forward to seeing new deer fawns, daffodils growing, and the trees beginning to bud soon.   

How is the weather where you are?

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Monday, March 13, 2023

Winter Recollections

 While I spent the last few weeks blogging about the wonderful Disney Cruise--click here to read those posts--that we took to warmer Mexico at the end of January into early February, our part of Colorado looked like the photos I took above of snow-covered hills and frosty temperatures.  

We had a few "arctic blasts" during that time where our temperatures went well below freezing and a few days below zero.  It has been an unusually cold winter this year, but one good result was that the snowpack in Colorado was above 100% in most areas.

A mother doe and her fawn visited my backyard a few times to eat the tips from a pine tree. It is one of their favorite food sources in winter when the ground is covered with snow.  The little fawn would eventually fall asleep under the tree and the doe would stay outside as a guard.  It was a very endearing scene to witness.

Snow-covered deer!

Now that March arrived the snow is quickly melting as our Colorado Front Range temperatures are rising and Spring is on the horizon.

As the snow recedes the wildlife has more sources of food. I saw this Disney-style "Bambi and Thumper" moment through my window when a rabbit and fawn were searching for food together.

In fact, I've been seeing many bunnies lately! Sometimes they are chasing each other, which makes me realize that soon there will be baby bunnies hiding in the grass. Spring certainly is a season of sweet renewal.  I wonder if we will see fawns being born in our yard in a few months like we did last year? Click here-- to see that post.

My husband and I attended the Eric Korngold Opera "Die Tote Stadt" at Opera Colorado in Denver, Colorado in February.  It is a beautiful, mysterious opera, yet rarely performed as the arias are demanding. Composed in Vienna in 1920 and based on a novel written by Belgian author Georges Rodenbachin 1892, Die Tote Stadt tells the story of a man who, still grieving the death of his wife several years earlier, compulsively becomes infatuated with a woman who resembles, in his mind, his dead wife—with predictably disastrous results.  

What made the opera stand out in this series of scheduled performances, however, was the fact that the soprano playing both roles of Marie and Marietta, Sara Gartland, unfortunately, became afflicted with Laryngeal (vocal cord) paralysis from a prior Covid -19 infection, just two weeks before the opening night!  
Fortunately, Opera Colorado was able to find a last-minute opera soprano who knew the role, Kara Shay ThomsonSince costumes were already made and staging had been practiced with Gartland, it was decided that Thomson would sing offstage while Gartland played a silent role in costume. Gartland couldn’t even mouth the words while Thomson sang; her voice therapist said it would further strain her condition. 
Hopefully, Sara Gartland will recover with rest and her career will go on. You can read more about this unusual story here and here.
We felt the opera was outstanding, made even more so by the brave sopranos--one who acted while the other sang from a pedestal in the orchestra pit. Bravi Tutti to both!  It was another very memorable opera moment for my husband and me.

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Monday, March 6, 2023

The Last Day of our Disney Wonder Cruise

It was the last day of the wonderful Disney Wonder Cruise that we accompanied our daughter and oldest granddaughter on.  We were sailing from the end of Baja California, Mexico, back to San Diego, where our cruise began five days before.

There were beautiful blue skies and warmer temperatures so we enjoyed sitting on our cruise ship cabin veranda and taking walks outside along the ship's decks.  Although we were sailing fast the ocean was calm and serene.

Although there was a children's club on board with many activities available, and the pool and slide on an upper deck were open, this day our granddaughter wanted to relax with us and listen to her music.  She also enjoyed this large lollypop that she bought in an onboard gift shop.  

One event she did not want to miss was a photo opportunity with one of her favorite Disney movie characters, "Stitch," from the movie Lilo and Stitch. She had a lot of fun taking a 'selfie" with him! 
At ten years old she wasn't as interested in the other Disney characters, as she was when we visited Disney World together when she was five, but she really enjoyed the more contemporary characters she saw on the ship.

We all watched the sun set over the Pacific

Dinner that evening was held at the "Animator's Palate" restaurant on the ship.  The walls of the restaurant are filled with screens that change all during the meal and show famous Disney movie sketches in black and white as well as colorful backdrops and scenery from the movies.  

On this last night, we were told there would be a surprise!  As we were seated at our table we were given a paper that had an outline of a person and told we could fill in details for the person any way we wished with colored pens and pencils. After were finished coloring the waiters collected our papers.  Then, after dinner and before dessert was served an announcement was made that our drawings had become animated!

If you click on the short Youtube above you can see how the drawings were animated and each table's screen showed a video of them walking, dancing, and skating,  across the screen.  It was a lot of fun to see our drawings come alive!

After dinner, there was a fireworks display off the upper deck and a wonderful musical in the theater of classic  Disney characters called "Cavalcade of Characters."

Our last blanket sculpture was a cute elephant!

The ship returned to San Diego, California, by seven in the morning and the disembarking process went very smoothly.  This was our last look at the Disney Wonder Cruise ship as we drove away to the airport. All in all, it was a fabulous and memorable trip!  

Thanks for coming along and reliving all the memories with me!

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