Thursday, March 29, 2007

Signs of Spring!!!!!





Over the last few weeks, the weather here has turned beautiful (last Saturday’s blizzard notwithstanding). When things begin to warm up, thoughts begin to turn to planting things.

Dev and I have decided to grow vegetables this year. This will be no small feat considering we live in a little apartment with no patio or deck.

So far we have a few herb plants (rosemary, mint, parsley, cilantro and soon chives), peas, mini cantaloupes, tomatoes, bell peppers and jalapeno peppers. Most of these things are still being coaxed from seeds.

I’ve never really grown anything from seeds before. I always wait until the plants show up at garden centers. We are having mixed results. The peas are going crazy. The herbs, however, are not doing so well.

I am discovering that Dev is quite the farmer. He patiently waters the plants everyday, and moves the peas out on the front walk, then moves them back inside when it starts getting chilly in the evening.

I really hope all the veggies survive infancy. I think it would be great to be able to pick something from right outside the front door, then cook it for dinner. I am especially looking forward to the tomatoes and jalapeno’s. I love to make salsa, and this promises to be a banner year!

Art Walk

Imagine sitting in a charming little coffee shop…..hot, spicy chai in hand….listening to bits and pieces of fascinating conversations going on all around you…..seeing people from all walks of life laughing and talking together. Soon, live music starts, and then after that, people are reading aloud from novels and books of poetry.

This was the scene last Saturday at Milagro’s in downtown Alamosa. This was only one of several such scenes playing out all around the downtown area. Was this just a spontaneous outcropping of artistic energy? No…..

This was Artwalk- and it is a great concept.

The idea of bringing together groups of artists and groups of art buyers (or art browsers) is inspired. It’s a classic win/win situation. The artists reach an audience that they might not have accessed on their own, and the audiences gain exposure to art and music they might not have ever discovered. That, to me, is a great way to spend a Saturday.

I wish the weather had been more cooperative. Although the crowds were pretty big considering the snow, I can only wonder how many people would have been there had the sun been out.

I’m sure the planning was a logistical nightmare, but it certainly came off flawlessly. Everyone seemed to be having a great time (artists and audiences alike). That is surely indicative of a successful event.

I am looking forward to experiencing next year’s Artwalk. I will start sending up smoke signals for better weather…..and next year I’ll get there earlier and stake out the couch….

Unexpected Snowy Day

This last Saturday morning when I awoke from a great night’s sleep, there was a surprise waiting for me…

Outside my window was falling lots and lots of snow!

Being from GA, I have not quite become accustomed to this climate. The first week I lived here, there was a big blizzard (at least that’s what I’d call it). Snow really bothers me if I have to drive or travel in it. But Saturday, I didn’t really have anything to do, so I thought it was great.

Dev and I ended up spending the day downtown, sitting in the local coffee shop, listening to novel and poetry readings and sipping hot drinks. That’s my kind of snow day.

It did seem a bit odd that one of the poetry readers had chosen to wear a Hawaiian shirt. Watching him reading (in all his tropical glory) silhouetted against the heavy snowfall outside made for a surreal experience.

And while I’m griping about wardrobing……

I could not believe the number of people I saw wandering around downtown stepping through snow drifts WEARING FLIP FLOPS!! Do these people not having any nerve endings in their feet? It made me cold just looking at them. I would have had pneumonia within 30 seconds if I hadn’t had on 2 pairs of socks and boots.

I guess everything is relative. Maybe those people were Eskimos.

Easter Decorations


When I taught school in Savannah, I always took pride in the fact that my classroom was extravagantly decorated for whatever season was current. Most of the time, this spilled over into my apartment.

When I decided to move from GA to CO, I had to make some tough packing decisions. I am a pack rat by nature, and had accumulated quite a bit of crap in the last 38 years. Many of the items that did not make the cut were seasonal decorations.

I find it a little sad that the one and only Easter decoration I have this year is a tiny, plastic SpongeBob with Easterbunny ears on. How far the mighty have fallen…

New Toy!!!

Everyone loves getting new toys…..and I am certainly no exception. A friend recently decided to buy a new laptop, and asked me if I would like to have her old one. I thought about it for about a quarter of a second before accepting her offer.

I have recently discovered the art of blogging, but my blogging activities have been somewhat stunted by the reality that I live in a one computer household. My better half is a student, and does quite a bit of his homework on our one and only laptop. I feel pretty crappy about interrupting to use the laptop to blog.

But NOW I can blog whenever I want!!!!!!! I am bound only by time constraints.

Things will be even groovier after we buy the wireless router and I can blog from anywhere in the apartment……..

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Spring Break 2007






Spring Break is traditionally a time when college students get away for a week and pillage some poor, unsuspecting town. At some point in time, however, college students must grow up. It was with a tinge of regret that I came to terms with the fact that I am not a care-free college student anymore. Truthfully, I haven't been for well over a decade. But now I live very close to a college campus, and my boyfriend is a non-traditional college student. So- as Spring Break drew closer, I began seeing references to wild trips and general craziness. Admittedly, it caused a small pang of regret in my tiny skull.

Luckily, I yanked myself out of pointless reverie and Dev and I planned a sedate, respectable week-long trip.

We began by visiting Dev's parents in Montrose, CO. On the drive over we saw a mountain lion. Apparently this is not a common thing to see. It was slightly surreal. Unfortunately, I was not fast enough on the draw to get a picture of said creature.

After staying a few days and shopping, we headed back to Alamosa. We stopped at a little group of antique stores the day before we left. I convinced Dev to let me take some silly pics of us crawling all over these huge cement animal sculptures. He wasn't really happy about it, but he participated. I think that's half the fun of travelling- taking silly pics to help you remember things.

We decided to spend the remainder of Spring Break playing tourist around the valley. Wednesday we headed to Salida, CO. Thursday we drove to the Great Sand Dunes National Park. Thursday we hiked up to Zapata Falls and visited the Alamosa Wildlife Refuge. I don't remember what we did Friday, cuz we were pooped.

I guess Spring Break just isn't the same when you get old!

Boyfriends




In the boyfriend category, I can say without hesitation that I am one of the luckiest girls in the world.

There are many things I could say to sing the praises of my boyfriend Devin, but I think one of my favorite things about him is, he likes to cook. I absolutely LOVE to cook, and I think it's nifty that we both enjoy it. I am posting pics of two of Dev's latest culinary accomplishments. One is a very well presented plate of beef stew, and the other is an apple pie he made 3 days ago. I am not much of a baker, so it's wonderful that he can do this kind of thing.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Whew!!!!

OK.....

So I have now finished transferring all of my old myspace blog entries over here. It took forever.
Hopefully I'll have time soon to add entries about our Spring Break trip......

Community Chorus

I almost forgot to tell y'all about the choir I'm singing in here. We had our second rehearsal last night. It's the Valley Community Chorus, and it's hosted by the college.
We are gearing up for a combined concert with the Taos, NM community chorus and orchestra. The pieces we are working on are Vaughan(sp) Williams' "Dona Nobis Pacem" and Haydn's "Mass in Time of War." Both pieces are beautiful, but my favorite is the Vaughan Williams.
It feels really good to be singing again. This stuff is fairly athletic, and I haven't done anything like that in a long time. So far so good, most of the cobwebs are coming off and things don't sound too bad.
Anyway, off to learn about subjective probability.....
I love long weekends...
Dev and I left Friday afternoon for his parents' house in Montrose, CO. We had a spot of good luck because Dev's afternoon Geography class (a real snoozer) was cancelled. PLUS it was sushi day at the local coffee shop. I LOVE those kinda days. The soup of the day was seafood bisque. I thought it was excellent. Dev nearly puked because they snuck squid in there on him. The first bite, he hauled up a purplish, tentacled thing on his spoon and that was it for him. I like squid, but was still surprised they put it in seafood bisque. Usually that is made of calmer stuff, like shrimp and scallops. Anyway, I got to eat my bowl and his. He seemed to like the sushi rolls I ordered. I always feel guilty on sushi days, because I don't think he gets enough lunch. Maybe I should just bring him a cheeseburger.
Anyway, we struck out on the road just before 2pm. The weather in Alamosa was gorgeous (nearly 40 degrees). As we travelled, however, conditions slightly deteriorated. We ended up with some packed snow on the road going over one of the passes and in the canyon. We made the trip fine, in spite of the weather. The drive is so beautiful, and it changes everytime we do it.
We had a lot of fun in Montrose. I actually sewed an apron, pretty much all by myself. Dev's mom Eleanor, stood over me and told me what to do, but I did it. And the apron looks like I did it. Truthfully, it looks like a 4th grader sewed it, but I don't care. I made it and it's mine. And if I ever get my sewing machine fixed, I'm going to make a digital cammo patterned one for Dev....heehee.......
I'll write more later, but I'm late getting lunch and going to the campus to attend a lunch lecture on subjective probability. You know that will be an interesting blog post.

Long Time No Blog

So there's been quite a bit going on around here lately.
My adventures at the Community Partnerships office are increasing. I actually got to do a few minutes of a radio show yesterday. I programmed 3 songs.....Allman Brothers (Melissa- that was for you Di), Cake (Sheep Go to Heaven) and Dave Mathews Band (Ants Marching). After some additional training I'll be formating the whole show by myself at least twice a month! I'm envisioning a 99X-type "House of Retro Pleasure" kinda format. I suppose we'll see.
Dev took me practice fly fishing in the park the other day. That was dismal. I know he was getting frustrated with me. But it's just not a natural mechanical action for me. It's kinda like learning how to properly hold a golf club- it doesn't feel natural. And I know Dev meant well, but the whole "10-2 sweetie" thing was making me freak out. Apparently, the proper form for casting involves swinging the pole between 10 and 2 on the imaginary clock. I thought I was doing that, but I guess my clock is different than his. I successfully wound the fly around the string on the pole several times. I'm hoping it will be different once I'm near some actual water. Maybe that will be the inspiration I need. I'm still trying to design a slightly less particular system for catching the fish. Something that involves, say, propping the pole up against a rock and sitting in my chair drinking a beer. That's the way we fish in GA. I mean, does the fish really care that I'm swinging the rod at exactly 10 and 2? I think not. The fish is either hungry enough to eat what you dangle out there, or he's not. I think getting all stressed out about it will create a negative energy field and scare off the fish anyway.
This all may be a moot point anyway, considering that we tried to buy a fishing license for me yesterday at the "Big R" (a local feed store), and they couldn't sell me one because I've been a resident less than 6 months. That doesn't make sense to me. It's not like I'm trying to buy a weapon. Do they not want foreigners stealing all their fish? Dev seems to think we can get one somewhere else and just fib about my move date. I personally do not want to go to prison over a fishing license....especially since even if I get one, I will probably just cast badly and hook the back of my own jacket for 5 hours. I think I'd have better luck finding out where the salmon spawn, then just stand there with a net and wait for them to die on their own. Much less messy and technical. They are going to die anyway......
We are leaving this afternoon to go visit Dev's parents for a long weekend. His classes are out Monday and Tuesday for "Snow Days." I think that's pretty funny. The days it's been blizzarding, they've had class anyway. It's warmed up to freezing here, and now they are getting 2 days off for snow. I don't get it. However, I will take the days off anyway.
We will be going to Grand Junction while we're away. It actually has a Target and a Best Buy. I believe there's even a Kohl's there. I can't wait to wander around in civilization for a few hours. I need some work clothes, and this will be my first opportunity since I moved to buy some things.
Well, it's sushi day down at the local coffee shop, so I must go so I can be first in line for the good stuff......
Everybody have a great weekend and behave!

Life

I have not been blogging much lately. Perhaps this is because I have been working my tail end off. I should say volunteering my tail end off.
I have been volunteering on the college campus in the Service Learning Department. I really like the work these people are doing. They go into schools and help teachers plan service projects for their students to do.
Just this week, we brought the seventh grade from the local middle school to our campus and gave them a little taste of what it's like to be in college. They got a tour of the college, an English and Science class with actual professors and a chance to eat in a real college cafeteria (not sure how much of a benefit that is). The kids had a blast. My feet just hurt.
Next week, we will visit the school and follow up with these students. We will also begin helping them plan a project that will allow them to work with the local homeless shelter, providing a meal for the people who live there. I think more students should get out in their communities and do this kind of thing. It teaches them how to be little humans. It also teaches them that maybe things aren't so bad where they live. Perhaps they will learn to count their blessings.
Anyway, I've been so caught up in this project, and applying for jobs that I haven't been blogging like I should. I promise this weekend I'll make up for lost time. :)

Taos, NM- Part Two







As we left Streetwalking Emma in the background, once again we were happy to be out on the open road. After a few minutes, we came upon the Shamrock gas station I had been told about. I suggested we stop to get a map, and some gas. I always feel weird about going somewhere new, not knowing exactly how far it is, and having less than a half tank of gas. I know this is a symptom of my neurosis, but I've come to terms with it. Dev is doing his best.
Unfortunately, there was no map. But I did snap a cute picture of this dog that was in the truck at the pump next to us. He had one perky ear and one limp ear. I'm a sucker for that everytime.
Again, we headed out. We were about 65 miles from Taos. We also discovered that we could drive all the way to Sante Fe on this road. It was about another 90 miles south.
Taos is a really neat place. We stopped at an Overland store. It had really nice things that were really overpriced- but cool. I snapped some pics of Dev and myself trying on some merchandise. I'm sure the owners loved that- especially after we left empty handed.
Our next stop was Cid's Food Market. It was set up like a slightly smaller Whole Foods. They had bulk grains and pastas. They had a mack daddy cheese selection. I spent about $20 on things I didn't need, but couldn't live without.
We made our way to the plaza area of downtown Taos. We had picked up a tourist map back at the Overland store. So- we parked the truck and took out on foot.
There are tons of little touristy shops around the downtown area. We finally found our NM map at one of the bookstores. Dev managed to find 2 flyfishing stores. But unfortunately, it was getting late, and we needed to eat some dinner and head for home.
We chose Ogelvie's Grill for dinner. Not the greatest choice ever. I had an almost mediocre chimichanga. Dev ordered enchiladas, and was fairly sure that they were stuffed with Alpo. Seriously, it smelled like dog food.
We walked back to the truck and started the trip back home. The nighttime scenery wasn't quite as spectacular as during the day, but it was still cool. The moon was out, and the landscape was wide open. All you could see were stars and long stretches of open land. It made my thoughts turn to UFO's and alien abductions. Dev was more concerned about elk or deer wandering out into the road. Luckily, we didn't hit any aliens or elk. Although I did tell Dev that the aliens always abduct the non believers first. He doubts this. But then I think he doubts most things I say. That's probably for the best cuz I'm full of crap most of the time... :)

Taos, NM- Part One


Taos Part One
Dev and I jumped in the truck and headed over the Taos, NM Saturday morning.
We thought we knew exactly where we were going, but we didn't. But you know, it turned out alright, so I'm willing to chalk this up to another life adventure.
Happy we were, rolling south down highway 285. I was only mildly concerned about the risk of being stranded away from home for another night. We even stopped along the way to snap a few pics of the scenery.
After riding past a sign advertising the Jack Dempsey Museum (located in downtown Manassas, CO), Dev asked me to hand him the map. So I did. He determined that his proposed route might not take us to Taos. We studied the map some more, then decided that our map of Colorado really needed some help from a map of New Mexico. But we also determined that in order to get into the right area of New Mexico, we needed to turn around and drive past the aforementioned Jack Dempsey Museum.
The sleepy little town of Manassas, CO doesn't really have a lot going for it. Apparently even the Jack Dempsey Museum is only open infrequently, like when the mood strikes. But there is a nifty statue of The Manassas Mauler in front of his museum. We didn't stop to take a pic, sorry.
Our new route sent us through another little town called San Luis, CO. This town is famous for it's Stations of the Cross Shrine. I was hoping it was also where we could find our map of New Mexico. Alas, that was not to be. The guy at the gas station said we should drive further south to the Shamrock gas station, and they'd surely have one. Of course, he also said if we drove even farther south, we'd run into Taos, which would eliminate the need for the map.
Dev was hungry, so he offered to buy us lunch at the little cafe across the street from the gas station. I believe the name of the place was the Rosa Mystica Cafe, or something like that. We walked in and the owner's grandchildren were running amuck through the restaurant. The harried grandparent immediately greeted us and asked if we would be having breakfast or lunch. She then seated us and brought us menus. I decided on half a panini sandwich (roasted turkey slathered with sun dried tomato pesto and some other green stuff I couldn't readily identify) and a decaf cafe au lait. Dev fell for the description of the green chili bowl special, and a grilled cheese.
My sandwich was great. It was grilled til it was crunchy on the outside and gooey on the inside. Dev's chili, on the other hand, was lethal. He ate the whole bowl like the brave soldier he is, but my gosh, one spoonful nearly killed me.
It was while we were eating our lunch that "Streetwalking Emma" came in the door. She is a local, I'm assuming. She and her mother came in and ordered coffee drinks. Emma also insisted that the harried grandparent/proprietor come and sit with them as they drank. Every so often, while Dev and I were quietly talking and making googly eyes at each other, Emma would shout a question over in our general direction. I felt obliged to answer them. Then, she would go back to frightening the owner's grandchildren. I should have described Emma's outfit at the get-go. She is about 50ish, maybe. But she looks older than she really is, I'm sure. Her ensemble included a non-descript top, black tights and hip-high black boots. Oh- and tons of make-up.
She and her mother finished their drinks just before Dev and I finished our lunch. Emma mentioned that she owned a restaurant down the street. But then she said we were too young and probably hadn't eaten there. I'm not sure what our age had to do with that, but then, what do I know?
As Emma and her mother left, she walked over and said in my ear, "Sorry, I'm a nosey bitch." Then they were gone.

Salmon Experiment Part Two- Bravery

I ate some of the salmon yesterday. Just a little....and suffered no ill gastric effects. This is very good.
In reflecting upon the salmon experiment I have reached the conclusion that next time I will cut back on the amount of salt I use in the cure mixture. Even after rinsing the fillets before I sliced them, I still felt they were too salty. And I also think I will increase the amount of cure I use on each fillet.
I'm just happy it didn't kill me!

Salmon Experiment- Part One (Trepidation)



Hmmmmm.... where to start.....
I'm not ready to call the salmon experiment a failure or a success. I'm just scared to eat the results.
I followed the procedure exactly. I'm just not sure what it's supposed to look or feel like. It seems more elastic and rubbery than fresh salmon. I will eat a little for lunch today.
I left a copy of the recipe on the fridge, so the paramedics will know what I did.......

Pasta





The pasta experiment was a huge success. Dev and I feasted on fresh, hand made pasta Saturday night.
It wasn't as hard as I thought it would be. The dough was fairly simple, and the rolling part was pretty fun. The kitchen looked ridiculous with my laundry drying rack full of fettucini(sp), but that's ok with me. I think next time, we'll just roll the sheets and make that rag pasta stuff. Then we can tear it in pieces, or make ravioli, or even lasagna.....yummmmm.

Bowling Sober











So Dev and I went bowling Saturday afternoon....
I have never seen such a tiny little bowling alley before. It has 12 lanes. But they have room for the important things, like a popcorn machine and beer.
Anyway, Dev kicked my butt in the first game (135-116), but I came back to reclaim my dignity in the second (115-80).
It had been quite a little while since I threw a bowling ball. I used to love bowling. Of course, my little sister was way better at it. It's nice to know I haven't lost my mediocre technique.
I'm hoping we spend many more afternoons at the tiny little Alamosa Bowling Alley....and next time we'll order some beer and popcorn.




New Bike!

I got a new bicycle for Valentine's Day! I know it's a little early, but that's the way it works sometimes.
The only frustrating thing about having a new bike is that I can't ride it right now. At least, not unless I can find snowchains for the tires.
I'm praying for an early Spring!!!!

Cool Things About Winter

t has been quite cold here lately. During the night it's been around -20, and during the day, the highs have been around 15.
There are very few nice things I have to say about weather like this. But here are some of them:
It is kinda nice to have a season other than muggy. The air is crisp and clear and the views of the mountains are beautiful.
This morning, when I went outside, the air was literally sparkling- like little tiny fireflies. I'm not sure whether it was frost in the air, or what, but the air was glittery. It was very beautiful. I'm sure Dev didn't think so, because he was on the outside of the truck, scraping ice off the windshield. Sometimes I love being a girl!
I can finally cook all the wonderful stews that are just too heavy to eat back home very often because it's just too hot and muggy.
Now- with that said, here are a few things I don't like about this weather:
My skin is going nuts. It is used to 100% humidity all the time. I think it has figured out we're not on vacation and we're not going home, so now it is rebelling. I look like a 15 year old a week before the prom.
My hair is also not assimilating easily. At home, my hair always kinda frizzed because of the humidity in the air. Out here, it's just dry. It feels like straw when I wash it. I am using every conditioner known to mankind, and it doesn't seem to be helping. I hope it's just a stage....
I'm sure this is more info than ANYBODY needs, but wearing 14 layers of clothing all the time makes life difficult. It makes getting up off the couch difficult. It makes pole vaulting into Dev's truck difficult and it makes going to the bathroom an unmitigated ordeal. It takes me at least 10 minutes to go to the bathroom now. Eight of those minutes are re-adjusting the tshirt, long underwear, long sleeved tshirt and sweatshirt that I'm wearing, as well as pulling up the long socks, then pulling up the tights, then pulling up the long underwear, then pulling up my jeans. And when you go into a store (where the heater is cranked up), you end up peeling off layers, only to have to re-apply all of them to go back outside.
I have also figured out that Dev's definition of dressing warmly and my definition of dressing warmly are vastly different.
Dev considers dressing warmly from a survival perspective. As long as his internal organs aren't shutting down, and he has feeling in most of his extremities, he's fine.
My idea of dressing warmly is not being able to determine the temperature of the surrounding air. I must have on a hat (and if the hat doesn't cover my ears, then ear muffs, too), gloves, a scarf and a jacket. I almost always wear 2 pairs of socks. I may have to live in the cold, but that doesn't mean I have to be able to feel it.

Menu Planning

You know, everybody's different.
When it's -24 degrees outside, some people want to go outside and built snow forts. Other people want to go hiking. I want to stay inside and turn my oven on.
Because of my current unemployed state, money is understandably a little tight. Dev and I are not soaking up the Alamosa night life (of course, even if we won the lotto, there's not much night life to soak up around here- unless you like extreme snow plowing or bingo at the VFW).
I have decided to do my part for home economics by sitting down on Sunday afternoons and planning a menu for the week.
Last week's menu looked something like this:
Monday- honey roasted pork loin with roasted potatoes and steamed broccoli- the afore-blogged-about chocolate cookies for dessert.
Tuesdays- Dev cooks on Tuesdays. We had chicken done in the crock pot with white wine, cream and green peas (sorry Di).
Wednesday- We took the leftover chicken, shredded it off the bone and I warmed the sauce part, thickened it and made chicken and dumplings.
Thursday- I made a salmon quiche.
Friday was leftover day. By that time, we had quite a bit of stuff collected.
Saturday I took the very last of the shredded chicken and made smothered chicken burritos with mexican rice.
So I figured the first week went fairly well. I think I spent about $50 on the groceries for that whole week. Breakfasts are usually cereal and toast, or sometimes eggs if I get up early enough. Lunches are always sandwiches or leftovers.
This week hasn't been bad either. Here's the proposed menu:
Monday- Killer dinner! I took tilapia fillets I found on sale at the grocery store and steamed them in white wine/lemon juice/bay leaf. I served it over couscous I had made with chicken stock and a few red pepper flakes for some zip. I topped the fillets with sauteed onions, grape tomatoes and mushrooms. As an appetizer, I took the rest of the container of cherry tomatoes, halved them and put them in a little gratin dish with olive oil and quite a bit of chopped fresh garlic. I roasted them at 400 degrees for about 20 minutes (til the tomatoes began to fall apart). I took it out and mixed in several large shrimp (on sale at the grocery store as well), fresh lemon juice, chopped fresh parsley and feta cheese. I returned it to the oven for about 10 minutes (until the shrimp were just translucent). I served it with french bread to sop up the juice. I'm not kidding when I say this was amazing. Dev and I practically fought over the last of it. Of course, 2 1/2 hours later, we had the damn chocolate cake for desert.
Tuesday was Dev's night again. We had chili and cornbread. I love this meal. It was -20 outside, and there's just something about a big bowl of chili with cheese, cilantro and cornbread added to it that makes you all warm and fuzzy.
Wednesday- tonight is Shepherd's Pie
Thursday- I have planned a modified quiche lorraine thing. I'm going to use fresh spinach, swiss cheese, bacon and scallions. We'll see what happens.
Friday is going to be grilled barbecue chicken (on the grill pan inside- I'm not freezing to death out by the grill).
Now all I need to do is learn how to cook for 2 people. Although, I guess leftovers are nice to have. It's a good thing I have my big extra freezer!

High Altitude Baking II- A Tragic Tale

Here we go again. As of my last posting, I was not sure if my baking misadventures were my fault, or the fault of sheer altitude. This time, I'm pretty sure it's the altitude's fault (really).
I decided to make Dev a simple chocolate sheet cake for dessert Monday night (see my next blog entry for details on weekly menus).
I mixed up the cake (not from a mix, either!) and put it in the oven at 350 degrees for 30 minutes because that's what Paula Deen's directions told me to do. I know- don't roll your eyes. I don't like her either, but the woman knows a good chocolate cake when she eats one.
30 minutes later, I had what appeared to be chocolate soup in a pan in my oven. The edges were a little cooked, but the middle was completely raw. So I left it in for another 30 minutes.
Again, chocolate soup with crispy edges.
At this point, I had to take it out of the oven, because I needed the oven to to bake the mack daddy shrimp dish I was serving for my appetizer (see next blog for nauseating details).
After dinner, I put it back in the oven for another 20 minutes. Of course, it fell, but it did eventually get slightly done.
I looked up high altitude baking in my "Joy of Cooking" book. I was surprised to find that Ms. Rombauer(sp) considers high altitude anything over 1000 feet above sea level.
Alamosa is at 7,500 feet. Well, that explains that.
Supposedly, to fix this, one should either decrease the amount of baking powder, liquid and sugar in the cake or increase the baking temperature by 20 degrees and reduce the cooking time. Then there's this horrible little conversion chart.....eeeek! I just wanted a stupid chocolate cake.
It turns out that the altitude doesn't really cause trouble for cookies and biscuits, because those batters are much more stable. Cakes are the only real problem area.
And then, to add insult to injury, Dev has the nerve to ask me if it's a cake out of a box. Some people.....

High Altitude Baking- A Cautionary Tale

So I have had quite a bit of time on my hands lately, what with being unemployed AND climatically challenged. So, to fill the empty hours, I have been cooking quite a bit. I may start blogging about the recipes I try. Maybe I can even find a way to put pics with these blog entries.
I have made 2 batches of cookies.
One was the traditional Toll House cookie recipe. I decided to make big monster cookies, instead of civilized, normal cookies- strategic error on my part. First of all, they all melted together, forming what Dev said looked like chocolate chip toast (which sounds kinda yummie). And, the batter part kinda melted away, leaving only the chocolate chips raised up. So the cookies looked like they had horrible complexion difficulties. I was assured by Dev that they tasted fine. I wonder if the melting thing was just a fluke, or if it had to do with the altitude?
The other batch was chocolate chocolate chip cookies, using the recipe from Ghirardelli that's running in all the cooking magazines this month. The picture on the recipe is WICKED.
I followed the instructions religiously (which those of you who have cooked with me before know is very rare). The resulting batter was supposed to be thick enough to roll into a log, chill, and cut into disks to bake. The batter I got was the consistency of pancake batter. The recipe only called for 1/3 cup of flour.
So, I got online and went to their website to see if perhaps the flour quantity was a misprint. It was not so.
I went back to my pathetic little bowl of batter and began adding flour until it reached a consistency which allowed me to drop the cookies on a sheet pan as I did it's Toll House cousins.
Well, the cookies did not spread. So when they came out of the oven, they resembled turds. Again, Dev assured me they tasted great.
The next pan I prepared as before, but after dropping the cookies on the sheet pan, I spread them out into a cookie shape. These turned out much more appetizing (at least to look at).
Again, I find myself pondering the altitude question.
I suppose it could just be that I suck at baking cookies. Maybe I should start making cakes.
PS- I am also baking my own bread. I should weigh 675 pounds by the time all this freakin' snow melts.

Lobster Bits

Ok......The only place in this town that bears any passing resemblance to a seafood restaurant is a Long John Silver's. I realize those of you who share the blessing of having been raised on the coast are thinking to yourselves, "Long John Silver's is not a real seafood restaurant." I agree- but everything is relative. Anyway, I digress.
The other day, Dev and I were driving home from the Wal-Mart (that's a whole other blog posting, BTW) and I see the following new entree advertised on the sign of the aforementioned "seafood" restaurant: "Lobster Bits."
I immediately began wondering which bits of the lobster were being served. Is it like lobster bologna (lips and assholes, as my dear father likes to say)? Is it minced lobster parts reassembled to look like a lobster (as in the case of the McRib)? Or is it the naughty bits of the lobster, battered and fried (like lamb fries or something)? How does one tell the difference between a girl and boy lobster, anyway?? I need to do some further research...
I think consumers have a right to know which particular "bits" they are being served.
I am not, however, curious enough to actually order them. Maybe I'll go to the corporate website and see if I can look up the nutritional info on said "bits."
At any rate, if anyone has had them, or heard stomach-pumping stories from someone who has, please enlighten me.

Wintertime Travels

Dev and I have attempted the trip to Pueblo, CO twice. The first time, we set out, full of hope, on a BEAUTIFUL Friday morning. There was not a single cloud in the sky (in the valley). We decided to take a scenic route to Pueblo...one that lead through a little town called Salida, and wound its way over the Royal Gorge Bridge. As we got closer and closer to the mountain (we have to go over a mountain pass to go anywhere), we noticed snow blowing off the peaks of the other mountains in the area. We thought it was really cool looking....until the snow started blowing around on the mountain we were trying to cross. Soon, new snow was falling heavily. Well, I'm sure it is shocking to no one that I started getting very concerned. I could not even see the road for all the snow. It didn't even look like there was a road. After a while, we passed a snow plow coming from the other side of the mountain, so Dev turned around and we made our way back home. He says he did it because he knew I would be scared the whole way over the mountain, then I wouldn't enjoy Pueblo because I was afraid of having to drive back through all that crap to get home. I asked him if he would have continued if I hadn't been in the car. He would not answer the question. He refuses to admit that my razor sharp instincts kept us out of trouble that day.
Sooooooo....the next day (Saturday) we set out again. This time, we decided to take the most direct route...screw the sightseeing. So we jumped in the truck and headed for Pueblo. Again, not a cloud in the sky. As we prepared to head over a different mountain, we again noticed snow blowing off the peaks of neighboring mountains. Soon, there was so much snow blowing on the road that it was like a blizzard. There were several cars in front of us, but I couldn't even see the tail lights of the guy 6 feet directly in front of our truck. I think the top speed we achieved was 15 mph. After we got over the mountain, we got on I-25. About 5 miles down the road, traffic came to a complete stand still. No traffic coming in either direction. We sat on the interstate with the truck turned off for about an hour. We sat and theorized that it must be a wreck ahead. The roads were icy, but driveable. When we were finally able to move again, there was no sign of what had held us up. However- we did see at least 3 jack-knived tractor trailers on the median, and several cars over the side of the highway from earlier accidents.
A trip that should have taken an hour and a half had now taken us from 9:30am until 2:30pm. By the time we got to Pueblo, we were both starving.
We had lunch at a Texas Roadhouse and talked about our shopping strategy. We really needed to leave by 4 in order to get back over the mountain before it was dark and icy again. We decided to go to Home Depot, then Target. After that we would go home. Mother Nature had other plans for us....
After leaving Target, Dev called the Colorado Road Conditions number, only to find out that I-25 was now closed, blocking us from getting home. The roads back towards Salida would be just as bad or worse.
I spoke up and said that I'd rather stay the night in Pueblo than drive around on back roads we didn't know, sliding around in the ice. Plus- if we stayed the night, we could do the rest of the stuff on our list.
Dev agreed to the plan (although I don't think he wanted to stay overnight). I told him he should consider it a spa experience and yet another night of vacation. BTW- the Comfort Inn in downtown Pueblo is way better than the Super8 in downtown Clayton, NM. Although, it did have a funky smell. But that might have been the church youth group staying down the hall.
Bright and early the next morning, we set out for home. It took us about 3 hours, but we were able to make our way back over the mountain.
What lesson did we learn from this??? We learned that we aren't attempting to leave the valley again until May.

Unpacking with the Mormons

We finally arrived at our new home on Friday, December 22nd. We pulled into the parking lot, and I got the first look at my home for the next few years.
I have to say, Devin did a fine job picking the place out. The kitchen is HUGE. I managed to find places for all my kitchen stuff IN THE KITCHEN. I had no more need to use the spare bedroom as the kitchen annex.
We left to get some lunch. When we got back, we were hit in the face with the realization that we had to unload a truck that it had taken 10 people to pack. This, unfortunately, led to a short crying binge on my part. As always, Devin just comforted me and waited for it to pass.
As we were very slowly unloading thousands of boxes, these 2 guys appeared out of nowhere (ok- really they live downstairs). They asked us if we needed any help. Not being an idiot, Dev told them if they didn't mind, he could use help moving the sofa and the freezer. They drove away, and about an hour later, returned with 2 or 3 more guys. Come to find out they are all Mormon missionaries. I can't tell you how much I love Mormons now. I was all prepared to tell them Devin was a Druid priest, in the event they had conversion on their minds. But, all they wanted to do was sing us a Christmas carol. And after a rowsing rendition of "The First Noel," they disappeared into the night.

Clayton, NM

Clayton, NM Current mood: cranky
I mean no disrespect to the fine folks who live and work in Clayton, NM......but with that said, I'd like to relate the story of my stay in captivity there.....
We managed to get one of the last few rooms at the downtown Clayton Super8 Motel. I think Super8 rooms deserve their own ranking system. We had stayed in a Super8 the last time we made this drive. I think they use a chain-wide air freshener called "Institutional Citrus/Dirty Feet." The room was fairly clean and tastefully decorated in the always charming "motel shabby/chic" style, complete with stirring paintings of mountains and wildlife on the walls.
We started getting hungry so our thoughts turned to dinner. We decided we didn't want to drive the truck, so we limited our focus to the options within walking distance of our stylish lodgings. The sign out front of the Super8 highly recommended Pop's Drive-In, conveniently located right next door to the hotel. We had found our next meal!!!!
Pop's Drive-In was a Sonic knock-off. Everything was fried- I mean everything. By the time we carried our bag of food less than 100 yards back to the hotel, the grease had almost soaked through the bottom of the bag. The outcome of this meal was our vow to eat no more fast food on the trip. This vow became a bit harder to keep the next day, when we learned that the roads were still not open. We would be experiencing the hospitality in Clayton yet another night.
One thing I've neglected to mention about Clayton, NM, is that it always smells like horse crap. I have no idea why. I saw no horses. It was like they built the roads out of it or something.
The next morning, we slept in and decided to go walk around and soak up some local flavor. By this time, to preserve my sanity, I had decided to consider this an extra little winter vacation. Never mind the fact that all my earthly belongings were freezing solid in the back of a 17 foot Uhaul truck.
We walked up the street and checked out the local grocery store, called the ranch something or other. I don't remember. It was fairly non-descript, except for the lady in the back cranking out fresh tortillas. They looked really good.
We then crossed the street to the Pizza Hut for some lunch (I know, we had made the vow, but there is no Fresh Market in Horsecrap, NM). We did eat some of the salad bar stuff. We also had some pretty nasty pizza. We recognized several people who were being held prisoner in our same hotel. No one looked very happy about the situation.
That night we dined in our room on frozen Asian entrees we purchased at the Ranch market. As gross as it was, it was still better than fried whatever at Pop's.
On the dawning of the third day, we had gathered some intelligence data and decided to make a break for it using an alternate route. It was bittersweet bidding farewell to Clayton....I will remember it always.

Westward Ho!

The trip was relatively uneventful until day 2. We had decided to push on into Shamrock, TX. We found a hotel room and turned on the weather channel. The little people on the TV began talking about a winter storm that was sweeping through Amarillo, TX and parts of New Mexico. Sections of I-40 were already closing. We decided to sleep on it and figure out what to do in the morning. OK- that's not exactly what happened....I dissolved into tears and Devin did his best to calm me down. After a 20 minute crying jag I decided there was nothing I could do about it and fell asleep.
The next morning we got back in the truck and pushed on farther west on I-40. We got almost to Amarillo, thinking we had seen the worst of the storm. We made our exit onto highway 87 and began the final leg of our journey. We were 5 hours from our new home.
We stopped for lunch in a charming little hamlet just outside of Clayton, NM. It was a little country cooking place that looked warm. As I was eating my grilled cheese, I noticed it was starting to snow outside.
By the time we drove about 15 miles up the road and through Clayton, we observed a state patrol car blocking the road. The awfully nice (and very chilly looking) man told us the road was closed. We also found out every other road between us and Alamosa was iced over as well. After sitting in the truck ruminating over things, we decided to get a hotel and see what happened the next day.
It turns out that the other 382 people in front of and behind us had the same idea. The Super8 hotel was running out of rooms fast....

Leaving Home

Well, after many months of waiting and preparing, it's time for me to pull up my tent stakes and move to Alamosa, CO.
When truck-loading day arrived, I had muchas help. Not only did my family and friends show up (many thanks to my brother-in-law Ron and my bestest friends Diane and Suzanne and my mom), but some of my students and their families came to help as well (again, much love to Alan and his mom and brother, William and his grandmother, Jason and his mom and dad). I also must thank my significant other (who made the whole trip necessary and possible), Devin. He worked his heiny off. But then he should have, cuz I'm moving to shack up with him.
After the truck was loaded, my friends Di and Suz went on a run for liquid refreshments while the apartment cleaning commenced.
Before the good-bye's were said, it was only fitting that Di and Suz and Dev and I headed across the street to the old school playground for a walk down memory lane (Di and Suz were held captive there as children). The pics from said adventure are available on my friend Di's myspace page.
After sleeping on the floor that night, Devin and I loaded ourselves into the truck for our great Westward Adventure.......

Inaugural Blog

After months of thinking about it, I have finally decided to liberate my blogging from the myspace environment. There's nothing really wrong with myspace, it just requires people to join myspace to view blogs, and I have friends who don't want to do that.
I'm not even sure anyone will want to read what I have to say about things. That, of course, never stops me from commenting.... :)
So, what will this blog be about?? It will be about everything that matters to me. Specifically, it will be about food/cooking, books I'm reading and things about which I need to talk to myself.
Because I am a very recent transplant to the San Luis Valley of Colorado, many things I think about revolve around how different things are here. I am originally from Georgia, and Georgians have their own way of doing things. Georgians also like sweet tea WHICH DOES NOT EXIST IN RESTAURANTS AROUND HERE. How can that be? Anyway, there will be time for me to vent about such things later.
So that's about it for this first blog entry. I will be working on transferring my old myspace blogs to my shiny new blog. Wish me luck!
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