Monthly Archives: February 2014

Tuesday Talk: The Mid-Winter Blues and Indoor Garden Project

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Lately I’ve been seeing posts on Facebook about spring, but in the Colorado mountains we are only about halfway through our winter season. I truly enjoy the winter here; we have loads of beautiful snow for snowboarding, cross-country skiing, and snowshoeing. We stay busy with lots of family visitors in our home, who usually come with armloads of delicious food and wine. And, for the most part, there’s plenty of days of sunshine, even in the dead of winter here.

Still, I have the mid-winter blues. The same thing happened last year. It seems I perpetually have a cold and am feeling run down. It appears that everything outside is dead, covered in frozen white. I almost forget how green the mountains will be in a few months. Basically, it’s the time of year when I crave life…and a color other than white. One solution is to keep getting outside. Another is to buy bouquets of colorful flowers for the house. Yet another is to do things that temporary make me feel like it’s not winter, like grilling on the deck.

My new solution this year: an indoor garden!

Alex and I have kind of tried to garden indoors for the past year or so. We’ve started veggie and herb seeds, built a hydroponics system (which we never used), and, most recently, Alex built a shelving unit that houses a large grow light and a platform for plants.

Our shelving unit for indoor gardening. Pretty sparse now, with only some basil, mint, and friendship ferns, but I'm hoping it will soon be transformed into a thriving garden!

Our shelving unit for indoor gardening. Pretty sparse now, with only some basil, mint, and friendship ferns, but I’m hoping it will soon be transformed into a thriving garden!

I decided last night to have a go at indoor gardening once again. I think that nurturing life out of seeds will help my mid-winter blues. Plus, an indoor garden goes with my dream of being able to grow a lot of our own food, which I am currently not very successful at. This will be a way for me to experiment with starting veggies and herbs from seed and keeping them alive until they’re big enough to eat! That’s the kicker!

So, step one for the indoor garden project is research and planning. I need to figure out:

– What kind of seeds do I want to plant and what do they all need?

– Where should I order them from? Do I want to go with all organic, non-GMO seeds?

– What tools do I need to effectively start our plants from seed? This includes figuring out what containers to start them in, what soil to use, what temperature to keep the room at, how close to put our grow light.

– How many plants can I realistically grow on the platform we have in our shelving unit?

The research started today. Here’s a great article on seed starting from Empress of Dirt. Here are some creative ideas on recycling household stuff into garden containers. I especially like the idea of using old juice and milk cartons to plant in.

Check back in to see how it’s going, and if you have any tips on seed starting and indoor gardening, I would LOVE to hear them!

A little inspiration:

Courtesy of apartmenttherapy.com

Courtesy of apartmenttherapy.com

The ECOGRO Herb Barn by ECOGRO on etsy.com

The ECOGRO Herb Barn by ECOGRO on etsy.com

 

Wow. This is awesome.  The Kitchen Nano Garden.

Wow. This is awesome. The Kitchen Nano Garden.

 

And I wouldn't mind if my house looked like this someday, full of wild, unruly plants and fall foliage.

And I wouldn’t mind if my house looked like this someday, full of wild, unruly plants and fall foliage.

 

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Love at First Bite: Turkey Apple Grilled Cheese

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Turkey Apple Grilled Cheese. Photo courtesy of Alex Romanyshyn.

Turkey Apple Grilled Cheese. Photo courtesy of Alex Romanyshyn.

I first discovered this delectable combination of ingredients when Alex and I were in Vermont on our honeymoon in October. Ever since, this sandwich has been a go-to for an easy, filling weeknight dinner. And every time I bite into this crunchy creation, it tastes like honeymooning in Vermont; I picture the lake we stayed on, the cute little studio, the orange leaves. Heaven, basically. It’s strange how taste and smell can bring back a place just like that, but lucky for us this one’s a taste worth bringing back again and again.

Ingredients

4 slices of your favorite grilled cheese bread, we love sourdough for this one!

6 slices of deli turkey

8 slices of Vermont white cheddar cheese

1/4 of a Granny Smith apple, sliced as thin as you can get it

2 tbsp butter

Makes 2 grilled cheese sandwiches

Just in case you’ve never made a grilled cheese sandwich, here’s what ya do:

Step 1: Butter one side of each piece of bread.

Step 2: Place one slice of bread in a frying pan with butter side down, and assemble the ingredients on top in this order: 2 slices of cheese, 3 slices of turkey (folding them in half makes them fit better), half of your apple slices, 2 slices of cheese.

Step 3: Place the other piece of buttered bread on top, butter side up.

Step 4: Cook the sandwich over medium heat until the down-facing side is golden brown. Flip the sandwich to the other side, being careful not to spill the goods out of the middle, and cook that side until golden brown.

Step 5: Repeat for sandwich number 2!

Sunday Snapshot: How I Learned to Drive a Stick Shift

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Sunday Snapshot: The Day I Learned to Drive a Stick Shift

Sunday Snapshot: The Day I Learned to Drive a Stick Shift. Photo Credit to Alex Romanyshyn

Some of you may remember our tales of our DIY Safari in Kenya in 2012. That’s when I learned to drive a stick shift. With the guidance of the Kenyan friend we made, we took our rattly, borrowed bushcar into the village soccer field, which was void of grass and instead made up of a barren patch of rust-red dirt. The kids saw us bumping up and our Kenyan friend Apin told them in Swahili or Samburu (I’m not so sure which) that the white woman (that’s me!) was learning to drive this car.

Oh, the looks on their faces…I wish I had a picture of that. One kid’s jaw dropped, and they all scattered to the edges of the soccer field.  We went coughing through the dirt in bushcar, skidding and stalling and halting all the way. It was a struggle, but I had the basics down.

A few days later, as shown in this picture, I was driving bushcar on safari with Alex, our friend Apin, and more than a few kids in tow. We were following lions, and the pressure was on. Overall, I did pretty well….until the superintendent of the national park (according to Apin) pulled up beside, informed us that we weren’t on a designated road, and told us to get back on one right away. Then the pressure was really on. After trying to reverse and stalling multiple times, Alex jumped over and I scooted under and suddenly the expert driver was back in the seat.

I’ll settle for amateur. Learning to drive stick in Kenya is good enough for me. There’s no need to master it.

Tuesday Talk: An Outside Valentine’s Day and Long-Standing Traditions

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I can’t remember the last time that I had a Valentine’s Day off, but this year it landed on a Friday. Ahhh glorious Friday! Alex and I both work for the school district where we live and, because it costs so much to run the school buses all over the large county, we only have school four days a week. Fridays are our decompression day, whether that means hanging out at home or getting outside to play. After a scrumptious Valentine’s Day breakfast of Blackberry Chocolate Chip Waffles,

Blackberry Chocolate Chip Waffles.

Blackberry Chocolate Chip Waffles.

we decided to go on a quiet cross-country ski up to Meadow Creek Reservoir near our home. We spent about 3 hours in the quiet woods, stopping for a quick picnic and bit of exploration at the reservoir. Just the two of us, and the mountains. I can’t think of a better way to spend V-Day.

 

Cross-country ski to Meadow Creek Reservoir.

Cross-country ski to Meadow Creek Reservoir.

For Valentine’s Day evening, we upheld our long-standing traditions. Ever since our first V-Day together- 8 years ago when we were juniors in high school- Alex has cooked a nice dinner and I’ve made a nice dessert. Or at least attempted to; on one of our first Valentine’s Day’s together I totally botched an ice cream cake, presenting to Alex a mushy, half-frozen mass with part of it’s top ripped off (it froze to the freezer rack…zoinks). Just for the record, I did make a successful ice cream cake last V-Day!

Anywho, this year Alex started us off with baked brie with apricot jam.

Baked Brie with Apricot Jam.

Baked Brie with Apricot Jam.

For dinner he made a baby kale salad, steamed broccoli, zesty apricot-glazed pork chops, and pasta carbonara.

“Oooo is it pancetta in there?” I asked him about the pasta.

“Well, it’s supposed to be, but we live in Fraser…so it’s bacon,” was his reply. 🙂

Baby kale salad, broccoli, zesty apricot pork chops, and pasta carbonara.

Baby kale salad, broccoli, zesty apricot pork chops, and pasta carbonara.

Now, to be sure I had enough time to get things right on the dessert side, I started on Thursday night. My choice of treats? Mini salted caramel cheesecakes, with the original recipe from Handmade in the Heartland. It was quite the labor of love, taking me close to four hours total to complete these babies! If you want to try this recipe, here are a few tips from my experience.

My biggest problem with making these cheesecakes was the crust. I’ve made graham cracker crust from scratch before, but for some reason these crusts wouldn’t quite set up. It seemed that there was maybe a bit too much butter, and when I tried to take the crusts out of the muffin tin a few them crumbled apart completely.

Problems with crumbly cheesecake crusts!

Problems with crumbly cheesecake crusts!

One batch of the filling was enough for about two batches of the crust so, lucky for me, I got a second chance to perfect the crust. I still didn’t get them quite perfect, but I found that using a cupcake paper helped tremendously. I baked some of the crusts in cupcake papers, let them cool completely and then peeled the paper off for better aesthetics of the final product! This seemed to help the crusts stay together much better. I also didn’t use a food processor for the crust, which was what the recipe suggested. I don’t have an electric food processor, so I crushed the graham cracker crumbs and melted the butter, mixing the two ingredients together in a bowl. The course-ness of my graham cracker crumbs probably contributed to the crust’s crumbliness. I think if the crumbs had been finer, the crusts would have stuck together better.

After baking the crusts I added the cheesecake filling, which I mixed with an electric hand mixer. I then baked them according to the recipe. I didn’t have any issues with the “success” of this step of the recipe. They came out beautifully! Even the ones that turned out to be more of ‘cheesecake toppers’ because the crust crumbled off…

That was it for Thursday night. I put the cheesecakes in the refrigerator overnight. On Friday, I hesitantly began the last step: making the caramel topping. Doubting my abilities and wanting to make sure it was perfect, I made a back-up plan and bought a jar of caramel ice cream topping just in case. I’m pleased to say I didn’t need it! This was my first time making caramel, but with a fair amount of attentiveness, stirring, and swirling it turned out perfectly. After it cooled, I topped the cheesecakes with generous dollops of my homemade caramel sauce, sprinkled some sea salt on top and, voila, the labor of love was complete, and my hours-long effort was worth it. Alex loved them!

My labor of love: mini-salted caramel cheesecakes.

My labor of love: mini-salted caramel cheesecakes.

Another lovely bit of news right before V-Day was that Alex and I will soon have another nephew! Matthew James is due June 30, and we will have another niece or nephew coming at the end of April! I made these chocolate shortbread cookies for my two sisters, who are both pregnant right now 🙂

Chocolate shortbread cookie treats.

Chocolate shortbread cookie treats.

This was a great V-Day for us. What did you do for Love Day?

Meadow Creek Reservoir Cross-Country Ski

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Cross-country ski to Meadow Creek Reservoir.

Cross-country ski to Meadow Creek Reservoir.

Ski Information:

Mileage: Approximately 6.5 miles

Elevation gain: Approximately 900 feet along the road

Altitude: Approximately 10,100 feet

To get there: Take US Hwy 40 to the turnoff for CR 83, which is between mile markers 224 and 225 between Fraser and Tabernash. Turn onto CR 83 and follow it for about .4 miles to a fork. Take the left fork for CR 84, which then turns into FSR 129. Follow FSR 129 until the end of winter maintenance and park there.

National Forest land has quickly become one of our favorite places to spend time in the winter. Sure we live 10 minutes from a ski resort, which is great. But, on the other hand, one of the reasons we love living in the mountains is because we are out of the way of the “city” crowds in our day to day life. It sure doesn’t feel that way on a Saturday at Winter Park Ski Resort. We still love snowboarding, but where we really get our fill of mountain quietude is on cross-country skis in the National Forest that surrounds us. Grand County has an extensive trail system in the National Forest, and it’s made bigger in the winter when maintenance stops on many dirt roads.

Meadow Creek Reservoir is a place we’ve visited a few times in the summer months and the views from its shores are stunning; The craggy mountains of Indian Peaks Wilderness back the reservoir, and it’s surrounded by thick pine forest, which isn’t always the case in Grand County with the Pine Beetle outbreak. In the summer, you can drive right up to the reservoir, picnic on the shore, fish, and camp nearby. It’s beautiful. It’s accessible. So….it’s crowded in the summer. But not so much in the winter.

It was on my winter ski list this list, and it didn’t disappoint for a Valentine’s Day outing. We drove up FSR 129 and parked about a quarter mile below the road sign indicating where the end of winter maintenance was. From there, we followed what is a in the summer all the way to the reservoir, chuckling a little at all the nearly-buried road signs along the way.

“Heavy truck traffic,” one said. Ha. Not in February. National Forest love

As with many of our cross-country skis in the area, we came across only one other person, who passed us early on on a snowmobile and took a different route than us. Snowmobiling is allowed on most of the backroads in winter, but it’s not very often that we come across them. It was quiet here, silent but for the occasional gust of wind and the swish of our skis through sand-like snow. Usually, bird chirps are one of my favorite things about a forest ski, but they didn’t seem to be out today. In the dead of winter, it’s refreshing to be reminded that some things are still alive and singing.

The road up to the reservoir climbs gradually, with no large bumps or hills P1130122to surmount. This is great for me, because I can go a good distance on skis but haven’t quite mastered the skills of going up or down steep stuff smoothly. I’ll admit it, I look like a drunk duck on skis when I try to go up a steep hill. Some of the areas of the road are exposed and windswept. We encountered some strong gusts, but it was never long before we were back in the shelter of the thick pine forest. When we got to the reservoir we skied toward the summer picnic area, finding ourselves slightly disoriented and off-balance in the low light and incredibly vast whiteness of a winter lake shore. We wiped the snow off the top of a fence and sat for a short picnic in the trees, out of the way of the wind. When we were almost too cold to keep sitting, we got up and skied down to the lake shore. From here, white stretched out before me, clean and bright and utterly undisturbed. Pine forest cover the hills that horseshoe the reservoir, and the gray clouds that hid Indian Peaks today made the sky itself feel like a looming presence.

Immediately, I had one of those ‘I live here?!’ moments. It’s ridiculously void of human noise. It’s simply beautiful. And it’s big. Way bigger than me. The same thing happens every time I realize the vastness of the mountains: I realize my tiny-ness. My problems, the mountains make me think, are so small in the scheme of things. Temporary. Minute. And, when I think about it that way, pretty much nonexistent. Mountains are way bigger. Mountains have been around way longer. Mountains are way more permanent. Life is good. Life is simple. And the reverie rolls on.

Hiking information from Hiking Grand County, Colorado, Third Edition by Deborah Carr and Lou Ladrigan.

Sunday Snapshot: Powder Daze

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Happy birthday to me! Riding deep powder all day!

Happy birthday to me! Riding deep powder all day at my home resort: Winter Park, Colorado! Photo Credit to Alex Romanyshyn.

Lately, the mountains we live in have been getting dumped on with lots of white, fluffy, glorious powder.

Shin deep!!?” we’ll say.

The next weekend it’s, “Did you like that thigh deep powder?”

Steamboat Springs, Colorado. Photo Credit to Alex Romanyshyn

Steamboat Springs, Colorado. Photo Credit to Alex Romanyshyn

I’m thrilled to say that the powder is deep, the smiles are BIG, and the legs are sooooreee.

Happy Winter!!

My 3 Favorite Things about Steamboat Springs, Colorado

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After spending 3 days in Steamboat Springs last weekend, I was reminded of all the reasons I love that place. At about 6,500 feet, it’s much lower than where I live and seems to always be much warmer. There’s lots of good food (including my all-time favorite pizza place, Beau Jo’s), a cute downtown, two hot springs, a great river, a ski resort, and the oldest operating ski hill in the country. Here are my 3 favorite things about Steamboat.

The snowy aspens of Steamboat Springs ski resort. Photo credit to Alex Romanyshyn.

The snowy aspens of Steamboat Springs ski resort. Photo credit to Alex Romanyshyn.

Steamboat Springs Ski Resort

This was my second winter snowboarding at Steamboat, and both were incredible. I might just hit this mountain on good powder weekends, or maybe it dumps perfect fluff 6 months a year there…I don’t know. But I’ve definitely experienced some good snow on this mountain. Steamboat is known for its super-light champagne powder, and when you glide through that stuff it feels like floating. This year, we hit the chutes of Steamboat and were greeted with thigh-deep powder and self-inflicted white outs. At one point I had a powder mustache from all the snow flying back off the front of my powder. Sidenote: As a snowboarder, I feel obligated to tell you that areas of Steamboat’s chutes will lead you straight into miserable catwalks that seem to go on for miles. Yes, I bitched about this part. To avoid this, stay high and to the left at the top of Morningside lift. Other than the powder, the thing that really makes Steamboat mountain unique in my mind is the aspen trees. I’ve never been to another resort that boast aspen groves all over their runs. Riding or skiing through these glorious forests is mystical; the white snow and the white tree trunks blend together and suddenly you think you’ve just died and gone to heaven.

Strawberry Park Hot Springs in summertime.

Strawberry Park Hot Springs in summertime.

Strawberry Park Hot Springs

Summer, Fall, Spring, or Winter. Take your pick of season, and let Strawberry Hot Springs do the rest. This hot springs maintains a natural feel, with gravel-bottomed pools set into an aspen-crowded hillside. Right on the banks of Strawberry Creek, the pools range in temperature. The hottest is at the top and the coolest is closest to the stream. You can visit for $10 a day or stay overnight in a campsite, covered wagon, or train caboose. This is a family-friendly spot in daylight hours, but clothing is optional after dark.

Fuzziwig’s Candy Factory

You’ll definitely feel like a kid in a candy store when you walk into Fuzziwig’s Candy Factory in downtown Steamboat. Colorful bins of jelly beans, chocolates, and seasonal treats greet you here, along with countless bins full of the most unique gummy candy varieties I’ve every come across. Try grapefruit slices, gummy teeth, or giant gummy bears. A visit to this candy store has become a Steamboat winter tradition for us.

About “Just Talk”

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Well friends, it’s come time to add yet another category to my blog. I’m excited that it’s growing and I hope you are too! This section is for two things.

This section of the blog is a place that allows me the freedom to write about things outside my regular blog categories. Part of this section will be two weekly scheduled posts, which is my way of  being accountable and attempting to get into a blogging routine. Routine is good for me and my productivity and my creativity, so we’ll give it a try.First,  I am planning a scheduled Tuesday Talk post for each week. This might be thoughts on other blogs I’ve read recently, books I’ve read and recommend, thoughts on the writing life, on young adulthood, marriage…whatever.  The second scheduled post I am planning is the Sunday Snapshot. This will be a photo post. It might be a photo from past travels with an anecdote I haven’t shared, a photo and short story from something we did over the weekend, or just a photo of something beautiful I come across. 

 

My Everyday Kale Smoothie

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My Everyday Kale Smoothie

My Everyday Kale Smoothie

“What is that green stuff!?”

I’ve heard the question plenty of times when I break out my jar full of green smoothie at work. 

The answer: it’s a kale smoothie.

I’m a huge fan of kale because of its health benefits and its versatility. While it makes a great addition to many pasta dishes and soups, the easiest way to consume this superfood every day is in smoothie form. 

This smoothie definitely looks like it wouldn’t taste that good…but it’s actually super sweet and fruity. If it weren’t for its green-ness, you would never even know it’s loaded with kale. 

Ingredients

2 cups frozen fruit medley

1 large leaf of kale, or 2 small leaves

1 and 1/2 cups of orange juice

1 banana

Water as needed

Makes 32 ounces, 2 large servings for my husband and I

In the order they are listed, put all ingredients in blender and blend until smooth. 

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Love at First Bite (or sip!) : Berry Chocolate Smoothie

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I just wanted to write a quick post to share this amazing treat smoothie! It’s healthy for the body and healthy for the soul, made with a mix of berries and chocolate almond milk. This is a great mid-morning pick-me-up on, say, a Monday…or any day!

Ingredients

1/4 cup strawberries

1/4 cup blueberries

1/4 cup blackberries

1/2 cup almond milk

Makes 1 serving

Mix all ingredients and blend until smooth! Yum Yum!