Lionel O Gauge Model Train Exhibit at Hudson Gardens

Model Train Exhibit
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My Favorite Section of the Exhibit

I love it when I attend an event where going into it I don’t have a real love for the subject matter and leave realizing all the fun I’ve missed over the years. This was the case yesterday when we went up to Littleton, Colorado to the Hudson Gardens and Event Center special exhibit of Lionel O-Gauge Model Trains! From the minute we walked in I was hooked. I knew this was going to be something different and something fun. Neither of us was disappointed!

We arrived just as the doors were opening. As this was our first (and now, definitely not our last) visit to Hudson Gardens we were pleased that the entire event was FREE! Wow – gardens just starting to pop a little AND a free exhibit. Life is good. We were directed to the Inn at Hudson Gardens where they have weddings and business meetings, etc. The entire center section of the room was set up with a very large oval train track and the models were almost ready to go.

Classic Model Train – Still Loved!

It was obvious, right from the beginning that the gentlemen that run this exhibit love what they do. The collection is very impressive. There were some very old trains, showing their age, but gracefully as well as some bright, shiny black ones that had steam coming out of the “stack”? What made this special was that these guys put a lot of time, effort and money into the buildings, the old trucks and the people working away on the toy tracks. I hadn’t seen anything like it since I was a kid.

Speaking of kids – to see the kiddo faces beaming at seeing the trains going round and round made me remember bringing Matthew to events like this when he was little. Lots of grandpas and their g-kids were sharing in this almost lost part of Americana. Little, little kids were smiling and laughing. 6-7 year old had huge, wide eyes. I loved their faces when they were allowed to hit but button for the “Woo-oo-Ooo”. It was a real treat to stand back from the crowd for a few minutes and just watch everyone having a good time. Did I mention that it was FREE????

Spring is definitely here and I hope you will keep your eyes open for similar local and near by events like this model train exhibit. It was a special treat for us. I can’t wait for our next adventure!

Formal Bridesmaids Brunch Is About Sharing

Bridesmaids Brunch
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Chocolate Dipped Strawberries

Barbara’s daughter recently got married and because we share and do for each other out of love and deep friendship, I volunteered to host the Bridesmaids Brunch at my house the day before the wedding. Have any of you heard of a Bridesmaids Brunch? It was new to me a few years ago when I helped serve and cleanup at one Barbara was hosting and naturally the discussions leaned towards old traditions, forgotten traditions, and things that just aren’t done much anymore. Oh, I know in some circles there are lunches and brunches and dinners the whole week of the wedding, but those didn’t happen in any of my circles. There was a bridal shower, a rehearsal dinner, the wedding and that was it! So, this tradition was all new to me and I thought I’d share the experience with you.

 

Bridesmaids Brunch Table

First, a formal invitation is sent out. The guest list is provided by the bride with consideration to whom is coming in from out of town. So, see – right there – it’s not just the bridesmaids! But, it is all girls and only girls!! The bride’s female family members are all invited. Special friends, honorary grandparents, second moms, dear friends not in the wedding party are all part of this festivity. We’re having 23. That includes me and Sylvie who is helping with all the food, drink, etc.

I dont have a big house, but I can arrange the furniture to have wide open spaces to put the tables. White table cloths; white china, silver if you’ve got it; silver tea and coffee service; and pretty, white flower centerpieces. No way do I have all this stuff for 23!!!

Barbara is having a 90th birthday party for her mother, at her house, two days before the wedding as the whole family will be here for the wedding Here’s where the fun comes in! We share!! I’m borrowing the 30 cup coffee maker from my D.A.R. chapter (needed for both party and brunch). I have 2 tables and I got one from Barbara and one from Sylvie. I have 18 white plates and got 8 more from Barbara. I have 10 chairs. I got 6 from Sylvie and the rest will come from Barbara after the party. We’re serving quiche – 4 additional nice pie pans from Sylvie and 2 cake servers. Candy theromoter over to Barbara’s. Spillpat and sugar cubes back over to Barbara’s. I have eight white coffee/tea cups & saucers. Barbara has a beautiful collection of Victorian type ones – those added a nice touch of color to the tables. Then…everything has to back to it’s rightful home!

Here’s the menu:

6 kinds of quiche (Note to self: Don’t forget to make little identification cards for each one.)

Banana and pumpkin bread

Scones

Fruit Salad

Dipped strawberries, chocolates, cookies, brownies and heart shaped lollypops.

Water, OJ, tea and coffee

After brunch some of the girls headed out to get manicures and pedicures. We cleaned up and got ready for the rehearsal dinner. The girls were 14 years old to a feisty 90! With the help of friends this was a huge success!

 

Note to self: This friendship and sharing thing is working out pretty sweet!!

talbots.com

 

Attract Hummingbirds The Easy Way

hummingbirds
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Broadtail with Tongue Out

My girlfriend Jan wrote on Facebook yesterday that she is seeing her first hummingbirds of the season at her ranch in Texas. Let the migration to Colorado begin! As I noted in a previous blog, April 15th is when we can expect the little guys here in the high country. The good news is that no matter where you live in the US the means to attract hummingbirds remains the same!

Here’s the refresher on the nectar that seems to work the best from all I’ve read and seen in my own yard:

1 part sugar to 4 parts water. Boil and cool before filling the feeders. It’s a good idea to change the out the nectar about every 3-4 days (if it lasts that long) before bacteria sets in. Once bacteria sets in the birds are less likely to want to feed at your buffet! Skip the red agents in the nectar – birds don’t need it and as long as you have a red feeder you should be attracting plenty! Now, if you like, you can start off with a 1:3 ratio, which is what we do. Those little guys get pretty tired on their long journey here!

Aside from the food, of course, hummingbirds are attracted to the color red. All kinds of things work. If your current feeder is not mostly red, try tying red ribbon to it. Hang a red cloth near the feeder. You can also put the feeder among red flowers once they bloom. Some of the hummingbird species are aggressive and will push out the females and the babies. Try hanging a couple of feeders in the yard to make room for all to enjoy! Last year we noticed that the hummers sure enjoyed the sprinklers when they were on. Try putting your feeder near one.

Red and tube shaped flowers will also do a world of good to help attract hummingbirds. In my garden, penstemons are a hit! Bee Balm, Salvia, and ‘Luci’ Crocosmia were big last year, although there are lots of other local varieties that will to the trick.

Get your feeders out and get ready to enjoy the first arrivals of the season!

Cuisine at Home Magazine Review

Cuisine
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First of all – there are no advertisements! Most important, Cuisine at Home has great recipes with easy to follow instructions, illustrated with very nicely done pictures. I think what I like about all the recipes is that none are too complicated and yet they have a nice twist on some fairly traditional type dishes. Everyone we have made so far is a complete winner!

Each issue will have several dishes for a main dish, sides, appetizers and desserts. You can find complete meals in one issue, or as I do, pull out the notebook I store them all in and pick and choose from different issues! The beginning of each magazine has a “tips and timesavers” sections with reader supplied ideas that are both practical and clever. Readers can submit their favorite tips and, if selected, can win up to $100! Another monthly section is “answers to your questions” and I will admit some of those questions have things I’ve never heard of so I get to learn new things with every issue!

Another favorite attribute of Cuisine at Home is that each issue has a theme like, “quick”, “light”, “festive feasts”, etc. You can also go to their website and order cookbooks based on your interests. Sign up for their email and you’ll get recipes sent to your mailbox!

Here’s a great reason to subscribe – when I renewed this year, they offered a free 1 year subscription to a “friend”. Well, my son loves to cook and he became my “friend” for this great deal. All issues are pre-drilled for a 3 ring binder which makes storage so easy!

Here’s a few of our favorites – so far!

Quick and Healthy Stir Fry

Grape Pickets Skillet With Chicken

Stuffed Flank Steak (we did ours with pizza stuffing)

Boursin Creamed Spinach (works great with broccoli, brussels sprouts and asparagus)

French Onion Salisbury Steak

Mimi Chicken Alfredo Appetizer

 

Disclosure: I do receive compensation if you buy thru this site… [read more]

Garter Snakes Help Your Garden

Andy
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As much as I don’t like spiders, garter snakes (in the garden, of course) have never bothered me. I try to respect that not everyone feels this way. Since my garden pond is an attraction to the birds and the bees I guess it was only natural that a snake or two would slither it’s way into my little mountain paradise.

It used to be that we’d only see our garter snake once a year. By the second year, he got a name – Smithers (yes, that’s from The Simpson’s). And, before we go any further, most everything in my garden gets a name. Two years ago, I picked up one of my little garden statues (a frog named Kimball) and in the hollow of the statue on the rock was a tiny baby snake, looking very much like Smithers. I named this baby – Andy (for Andy Anaconda) Then, later in the season, lo and behold – there was a third snake – and this time Smithers was entwined up the waterfall with his new “best friend”.

Last summer only Smithers was to be found but he posed for photographs 4 or 5 times! So, check the date of this post…its still March and to our great surprise Andy was wiggling about in the warm spring sun. I know its Andy, because he’s still considerably smaller than his dad (an assumption on my part).

I did a little basic research on garter snakes and confirmed what I learned from when I was a kid. They are harmless. The best rule of thumb is to just leave them alone. They survive on what’s available in the garden, bugs and worms mostly, and that can be helpful. The bigger the garter snake, the bigger stuff they will eat, like lizards, and tadpoles.

Other sites will tell you how to rid yourself of snakes, if they are truly unwanted. I won’t do that here. I like my little critters. They are just a part of my garden and a part of what makes my garden fun. Come back often, as you’ll see the rest of the garden gang as I’m able to catch them scouting for a free meal!

Note: If you’re unsure about what kind of snake you’re looking at, be sure to check it out online or in a book before you get too close!

 

Garter Snakes Help Your Garden

Smithers
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As much as I don’t like spiders, garter snakes (in the garden, of course) have never bothered me. I try to respect that not everyone feels this way. Since my garden pond is an attraction to the birds and the bees I guess it was only natural that a snake or two would slither it’s way into my little mountain paradise.

It used to be that we’d only see our garter snake once a year. By the second year, he got a name – Smithers (yes, that’s from The Simpson’s). And, before we go any further, most everything in my garden gets a name. Two years ago, I picked up one of my little garden statues (a frog named Kimball) and in the hollow of the statue on the rock was a tiny baby snake, looking very much like Smithers. I named this baby – Andy (for Andy Anaconda) Then, later in the season, lo and behold – there was a third snake – and this time Smithers was entwined up the waterfall with his new “best friend”.

Last summer only Smithers was to be found but he posed for photographs 4 or 5 times! So, check the date of this post…its still March and to our great surprise Andy was wiggling about in the warm spring sun. I know its Andy, because he’s still considerably smaller than his dad (an assumption on my part).

 

I did a little basic research on garter snakes and confirmed what I learned from when I was a kid. They are harmless. The best rule of thumb is to just leave them alone. They survive on what’s available in the garden, bugs and worms mostly, and that can be helpful. The bigger the garter snake, the bigger stuff they will eat, like lizards, and tadpoles.

Other sites will tell you how to rid yourself of snakes, if they are truly unwanted. I won’t do that here. I like my little critters. They are just a part of my garden and a part of what makes my garden fun. Come back often, as you’ll see the rest of the garden gang as I’m able to catch them scouting for a free meal!

Note: If you’re unsure about what kind of snake you’re looking at, be sure to check it out online or in a book before you get too close!

 

High Altitude Baking Is Not For Wimps

High Altitude Baking
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Hi Altitude Cake Gone Horribly Wrong

What a shock! Moving to Colorado from Arizona played havoc with just about every backing recipe I had! Breads sunk. Cookies were flat. Brownies were somewhere in the middle. Somethings just didn’t rise at all. Back of the cake mix boxes have high altitude baking instructions, but only up to 6500 feet. I live at 7200 feet and trust me, there is a difference.

I think we can all agree that’s there are often baking variables in ovens, how many pans you put in the oven, tweaking Aunt Fern’s recipe for rum balls and the proverbial salted or unsalted butter debate! Over time you get to know your oven, that’s it’s okay to add more than the directed amount of chocolate chips and this recipe you have to make just the way they say and this other one you can throw all into a bowl at the same time and it turns out great.

High altitude baking is a curse all unto its own. There’s just not a single formula that works for everything. I have finally conquered banana bread and most cakes, but not all of them. I found a list with the basics. Some have worked and some have not. The “fix” for the cake in this picture was 1/4 cup flour and increased the temperature by 25 degrees to 375.

I’m going to share them with you and I’d love to hear from you if you have a proven winner!

Temperatures:

I typically increase the over temp by 25 degrees

Breads and Cakes:

add 1/4 cup flour

decrease the baking powder or baking soda by 1/8-1/4 teaspoon

Beat the dry cake batter for 3-5 minutes with mixer. This adds air which makes the cake fluffier.

Liquids:

more water, less oil (you still need the same amount of liquid, but different proportions.

 

What are your ideas??

Signs of the Spring Garden

Spring Garden
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First Robin of Spring

I almost never see any early green here at 7200′. April is about as early as my spring garden it ever gets. It’s been warm here in Colorado for the last couple of weeks even though we did have a little snow the other day. I let the fall leaves cover the flower beds all winter. It protects the little seedlings when they try to pop out early like right now. We’re prone to frosts right to the middle of May and it’s a sad sight when you see a garden bitten by an early frost and know that with luck, only some of the plants will come back.

Today, I checked the first couple of early birds and WOOHOO I do have a few that are just barely starting. My Snow on the Mountain is just barely peaking up through the ground. I’ll let the aspen leaves keep them covered for a few more weeks. The seedums are just so resilient up here. I just let them die in the winter and here they are starting to turn from that yucky winter brown to summer green. A few clumps of uninvited and unwelcomed grass have popped up and I’ll have to deal with them early and often as I do every year.

Spring Seedum

I’ve seen a robin twice now. The birds are drinking from the pond that is filled with only melted snow and ice, shoveled from the deck so we could get to the BBQ. We’ll be getting it all cleaned out soon and get the pump going and there will be a little waterfall. The birds love drinking from it and taking baths. Also seen just yesterday were two bees. I definitely need to read up on more ways to DEtract them. Right now its very dry here and I’m sure a pond of water is attractive to all flying things. We ran the sprinklers yesterday and will again today. Knowing that we’ll have good weather all week is a perfect time to get a deep soaking going to awaken and nourish all the plant roots.

We have to prune some trees this year as well and eliminate some baby aspens (what a root system they have) and clear the old, dead grass up on the hillside. Doug’s been out there daily doing a little at a time while the temps have been so nice. He’s churning up the soil in the veggie garden and we’re going to add compost/mulch this week so we can plant the onions which actually do okay in colder temps and even in frosts.

The spring garden starts when I plant seedlings in the house for my containers! The rooted ivy is adjust well to the ceramic pot. The jury is out on the transplanted coleus – half were happy about the move and half were not!

I love this time of year! Everything is born again and renewed! Well, not everything makes it, but I do enjoy the challenge and the surprises! Nasturtiums germinate fast and grow quickly. I always get encouraged seeing them pop up first. I know the rest will not be far behind!!

Happy spring gardening to all of you!

Custom Aprons – Made with Love

Custom Aprons
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 Sylvie's Easter ApronAprons are back in! I never really cared for aprons much, but I did get tired of permanent stains on my shirts that, at the urging of my girlfriends, thought I’d better give it a tray again. My first two were nothing to shout about. A plain blue one and then a cute one with moose on it. (It goes with my kitchen!).

My GFs are creative and wonderful seamstresses. I barely made it through my Veteran’s Day parade costume. Note to self: Blog about the Vet’s parade – it was a Bucket List must do!) These two ladies are sewing up a storm with all the fun and glittery fabrics that are available these days. They put stripes with polka dots and pattern cloth with not even close to a match trip fabric and somehow they all turn out to be very fun frocks!! (did I actually say frock?)

Not only are they making a custom apron for every season and holiday, but making them and giving them away as gifts! Hey, I got one and it’s officially the best of the bunch! I got to pick out the fabric and the trim so it is soooooo me! I got to thinking what a wonderful gift an apron is. We all spend a lot of time in the kitchen cooking and cleaning. Why not make it fun? Think about a gift for Mother’s Day, a birthday, wedding shower, and Christmas. How fun it would be to have a special one just for Easter or Halloween?

I heard there was an actual history of the apron and Googled it and found this beautiful poem:

Grandma’s Apron

I don’t think our kids know what an apron is.

The principal use of Grandma’s apron was to protect the dress underneath, because she only had a few, it was easier to wash aprons than dresses and they used less material, but along with that, it served as a potholder for removing hot pans from the oven.

It was wonderful for drying children’s tears, and on occasion was even used for cleaning out dirty ears…

From the chicken coop, the apron was used for carrying eggs, fussy chicks, and sometimes half-hatched eggs to be finished in the warming oven.

When company came, those aprons were ideal hiding places for shy kids.

And when the weather was cold grandma wrapped it around her arms.

Those big old aprons wiped many a perspiring brow, bent over the hot wood stove.

Chips and kindling wood were brought into the kitchen in that apron.

From the garden, it carried all sorts of vegetables.

After the peas had been shelled, it carried out the hulls.

In the fall, the apron was used to bring in apples that had fallen from the trees.

When unexpected company drove up the road, it was surprising how much furniture that old apron could dust in a matter of seconds.

When dinner was ready, Grandma walked out onto the porch, waved her apron, and the men-folk knew it was time to come in from the fields to dinner.

It will be a long time before someone invents something that will replace that ‘old-time apron’ that served so many purposes.

REMEMBER:

Grandma used to set her hot baked apple pies on the window sill to cool.

Her granddaughters set theirs on the window sill to thaw.

They would go crazy now trying to figure out how many germs were on that apron.

I never caught anything from an apron…But Love. (Author Unknown)

NOTE: This poem Grandma’s Apron is often listed as “Author Unknown”