Saturday, October 30, 2010

A Trip To The Mall

We are not mall people. We hardly ever go to the mall and definitely not in December. But, since we are in a new town, we thought we'd take an afternoon to head to one of the local malls to see what they offered.

We found the usual selection, Macy's, J.C. Penny's, Old Navy, etc. I got an extra 20% off by screaming at Old Navy since it was Halloween weekend. Elder Boy decided to but his sunglasses back on and pretend he didn't know me. I guess he didn't realize that no one in town knew me yet :)

After visiting the Disney store, The Girl, who loves everything Jack Skellington, was on a mission to buy a Nightmare Before Christmas purse. We found one at Spencer's (after trying on a few hats).

The kids were very pleased to discover a GameStop at the mall. It's one of their favorite stores.

Exploring town makes a kid hungry so after leaving the mall, we headed over to Old Chicago for some yummy Italian Nachos and deep dish pizza...Mmmmm!

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Friday, October 29, 2010

My 2nd Attempt At High-Altitude Yeast Bread

UGH! If I don't get this bread issue down pat, someone is getting a second-hand bread maker for Christmas. Not really, but I sure feel that way right now.

For my 2nd attempt, I kept everything the same from the 1st attempt except I lowered the yeast by 1/4 tsp (as was suggested by the bread maker manufacturer).

The results...oh my! The loaf looked like it had entered a vortex! In the picture, it just looks like it has a dimple in the center. Through the top window, it looked beautiful with about an hour left to go. Sometime in that last hour, the dough had risen over the sides of the inner baker of the machine. I'm guessing that blocked off a good portion of the heat trapping moisture in the top of the machine and causing the entire loaf to fall. It looked like a mold for a tornado! I wonder if I were to make a smaller loaf, if it would do the same thing or turn out nicely since it won't rise high enough to cut off it's own heat source...

Once again, it tasted really good, and The Boy (our tornado fanatic) absolutely loved the new shape. I, however, am going to try again. What's really grating on my nerves, is the realization that once I finally get THIS recipe down pat, I'll have to start again with my wheat bread recipe.

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Maybe We Should Just Naturalize It...

We learned quickly that around here, to have a green lawn, you have to water frequently. We also quickly learned that around here water is VERY expensive.

To put this into perspective, our last water bill in North Carolina for 2 months for a family of 5 (and with a lot of pressure washing, painting, etc going on because we were moving) was $51. TWO months. When we talked to a real estate agent here, she said they water their yard, and have 3 kids and their water bill was "only" about $80 a month. YIKES! So now, although we tried to be conservative before, we are even more conscious of it now. I am dreading the first full month's water bill coming up...

To make matters worse, our lawn is by far the worst looking lawn on the block. I'm pretty sure the previous tenants chose to NOT water the grass. I guess some people decide that if it's not their grass, why bother.

My best friend called me up not long after we moved in and (since we both love gardening) asked me about the lawn. "It's CRUNCHY," I told her. And since it's November now, there's not a lot I can do about it until spring.

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Thursday, October 28, 2010

Pumpkin Carving Time!

We always, always, ALWAYS carve a pumpkin for Halloween and moving so close to the holiday was not going to have an impact on the tradition. The kids drew their agreed upon design, Mr. LH transferred it to the pumpkin, newspapers were spread and the carving started.

Mr. LH always cuts open the top and the kids always get to stick their hands into the gooey mess inside to remove the seeds and the sticky, stringy innards.

Up until now, he has also taken over the carving, but this year, he passed that duty on to Elder Boy, who did his job very well.

I, of course, get to sit back with my cup of coffee and my camera and watch the whole process.

The only real hiccup we ran into was trying to find a candle to light up ol' Jack with. Every candle we have is still packed in boxes. But no matter, he'll be lit up by Halloween!

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Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Pony Express

It may not seem like such a big deal, and it really isn't, but one of the things we'll have to get used to is the mail. I don't know if other neighborhoods or other suburbs in the Denver Metro area have traditional mailboxes, but in our subdivision, mail doesn't come to a mailbox at the end of the drive. It comes to a bank of boxes down the street. We get to stroll down to it everyday and unlock our box to check the mail. And if you want to send something, anything larger than letter-sized has got to be taken to the post office.

I'm glad it was Mr. LH, and not me, who had to deal with the "which box is ours" and "why doesn't the key work" problem. He couldn't access his snail mail for at least a week after he moved into the house. The boxes are numbered, but not with the house numbers so figuring out which one was ours wasn't exactly easy. Then, the key we had opened the wrong box (and as we found out later, it opened ours too if you turned it just the right way...spooky). We only had the one key and were worried the previous tenants had kept a key and were picking up the mail everyday. Needless to say, he had the post office change the lock on our box, which took another week.

All is well now. The mail seems to be running fine and our delivery person seems so much more competent than our previous one in NC. Our magazines are now being delivered intact and the mail in our box is actually addressed to us and not someone several blocks down the street.

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Back To Work

With this huge cross-country move going on, I had fallen behind on my other responsibilities. It took me an unbelievable 10 days offline before I absolutely HAD to get my computer set up again. There were bills to pay, emails to check, friends to catch up with, photos to upload, and, of course, my Farmville farm to tend to on Facebook :)

But more importantly was a project I started with a close friend back in June, an ecommerce website that is supposed to launch in just under a month and there is still so much to do to get it ready. Luckily, I had been able to get it set up and run through a few tutorials with my friend before I left town. I was delighted to find when I logged on today how much she had accomplished in the last couple weeks! There is still a lot left to do, but this is really starting to look like a reality now.

It will be so nice to get myself back into a routine and working, even if it is from home and even if it doesn't pay (yet). Now if I can just get my computer off of this makeshift desk of moving boxes and on to something a little more suitable!

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Tuesday, October 26, 2010

My First Attempt at High-Altitude Yeast Bread

One of my family's staple foods is yeast bread. We have it grilled with bacon and eggs. As an accompaniment with soups and stews. We use leftovers for grilled cheese sandwiches or french toast. The kids adore the smell of baking bread almost a much as my husband and I do. So of course, I knew I would have to tackle high-altitude baking very soon so we wouldn't all starve from the lack of yeast bread in the house.

I had read countless tips on high-altitude baking and adjustments that could be made but nothing gave me a foolproof recipe. I don't enjoy trial and error cooking. It seems like a waste of ingredients to me, but I had no choice this time. I bake all my bread in a bread maker that I requested as a mother's day gift several years ago so I decided to try the manufacturer's tips first. More flour, more water. MAYBE cut back on the yeast.

I think at 5700 feet, I had better cut back on the yeast next time. The bread tasted marvelous (thank goodness), but it deflated and had a bit of a cave-in below the top crust.

However, as my beautiful daughter said to me tonight, "The taste is what matters, not how it looks. And it tastes GREAT!"

The bread did taste wonderful and was perfect with our beef stew on such a chilly, windy night (the trials and errors of how incredibly look it took the beef stew to cook will have to wait for a later date - but that had more to do with stove user error than the altitude). Still, even with the strange meal prep issues I am experiencing, I am happy to be cooking and baking again. After 2 weeks of dining out, I think we were all ready for some home cooked meals eaten together as a family again around our own table.

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Monday, October 25, 2010

Into the Mountains

The Boy had expressed an interest in visiting the mountains even before he ever arrived in Colorado. Once he could see them on the approach to Denver last weekend, he was even more adamant that we go there sooner rather than later. Sooner would be good since the mountains had already been receiving snow on and off for about a month. Although the temperature had been changing daily, the sky on Sunday shone bright and warm so we piled into the van and headed west.

We didn't have to go far and before we knew it, we were in the impressive foothills of the Rockies. These were not the lush green mountains of the Appalachians that we were used to seeing, but they could definitely take your breath away.

We didn't have a specific destination in mind. We thought we would just find some state park to stop at, take in the views, run around a bit then head home. But once The "Pickles" saw the sign stating the Eisenhower-Johnson Tunnel was only 20 minutes ahead, they insisted we go at least that far.

About 10 minutes from the Tunnel, we stopped for a potty break in Georgetown, CO. The town is nestled in a beautiful valley with a small lake. They had a wonderful visitor's center where Mr. LH bought me a mountain cookbook (high-altitude cooking has worried me for weeks).

Although the wind whipped through the valley making it much more chilly than it should other wise feel, we decided to explore the town and found a grand park for the kids to burn off some energy. They played on the tire swings, ran through the fort, walked across rope bridges, tumbled down the slides and had an absolutely wonderful time. They seemed to not notice the biting wind that swirled the leaves around them.

We also looked for big horned sheep (which we later saw munching on grass by the side of the highway ramp) before we headed back out on the road to find the tunnel.

10 minutes further into the Rocky Mountains ended up taking us into a winter wonderland. There was already snow on the peaks, but as we approached the Eisenhower tunnel, the snow was creeping down the slopes to kiss the sides of the highway. What was even more impressive (and, for the kids, more memorable) was leaving the tunnel. As we exited, the world was blanketed in snow. It looked absolutely frigid! The kids started singing Christmas carols!

The closest exit was at the bottom of the mountain where we found the Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory. Who could resist a giant peanut butter cup or a chocolate and pecan coated caramel apple? We couldn't. (And I just HAD to try some of their Java Toffee...Mmmmm!)

Sufficiently sugared up, we headed back the way we came, towards warmer climates and lower altitudes. We had successfully encountered Autumn in all it's glory and seen a taste of winter. I think next time we come this far into the mountains, we'll be sure to bring our winter gear just in case.

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Monday, October 18, 2010

Re-Birth in Colorado

How fitting is it that my first full day in my new home in Colorado is also my birthday. Although I would rather do something other than unpack all the boxes I had been staring at for weeks on end, it was nice to wake up next to my husband for the first time in weeks and have the family back together again.

My in-laws were also in town since they had driven the huge moving truck all this way for us so they were able to celebrate with us. We decided to go the The Tavern Lowry for dinner. They had fantastic Buffalo Reuben sandwiches that I had been wanting to dine on since my last taste back in August. It is a sort of Sports bar and can get rather loud so we gathered outside on their large patio to eat. It was a nice dinner, the last we would have with Mr. LH's parents for awhile.

The kids, of course, found something to entertain them...the fish pond and fountain. Water is like a magnet for them.

Though I feel much older than my 37 years right now, I am happy to have finally made the trip out here. It is an opportunity to start again and view this world as though I was newly born.

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Sunday, October 17, 2010

Goodbye North Carolina, Hello Colorado!

After almost 8 weeks of packing, cleaning, making arrangements and pulling hair, we were finally ready to get in the van and head west to Colorado. I had seen Mr. LH only once since mid-August (that was for his one whirlwind trip out for our daughter's birthday) and here is was almost mid-October!

I guess that's what can happen in today's economy. One day, the future is looking bright and everything is running smoothly. Then BAM! Your company announces it's shutting down and and your whole world is turned upside-down. At least that's what happened to us. Mr. LH had been finishing grad school while I kept the bills paid. I loved my job. I loved the people I worked with. We had all the kids in great schools and Elder Boy, our oldest, was getting ready to start his senior year in high school. Our bills were getting paid off. We had a beautiful home on 3 acres that we were slowly fixing up as finances allowed. Everything changed in June 2010.

Once the company closed, I found myself collecting unemployment and realizing how few jobs there were for me in the area. Luckily, Mr. LH had just received his Masters degree in May and was able to scour the country looking for a teaching gig. He was actually able to land his dream job in Denver, Colorado. However, he had one week to move out before the position started. That left me with our 3 children (who were just starting the school year) to pack up everything and get the house on the market.

As one can imagine, there was some tension from the kids about having to leave their friends behind. Our youngest, The Girl, who just turned 7 years old, was actually the most excited about the trip. She was sure she would be able to have a ferret once we arrived and nothing could convince her otherwise. She spent weeks asking if Daddy had found us a house with a fenced in yard (forget trying to explain that a ferret shouldn't be outside in the middle of a Colorado winter).

The Boy, our shy 10-year old son, was reluctant to leave his comfortable routine. It was his last year in Elementary school and his last year in cub scouts. Earning his Arrow of Light award looked like it would be even harder to accomplish if a big cross-country move interrupted things. The prospect of exploring the Rocky Mountains seemed to intrigue him, though. As did the possibility of having fewer pesky mosquitoes around.

The hardest to convince was Elder Boy. I remember being a senior in high school and looking at the possibility of moving out of state. I did NOT take it well. Just the thought of leaving behind the world I had built around myself was scary and I didn't even want to entertain the idea. Thankfully, I didn't have to move back then but I still understood what I was putting my son through.

So here we were, saying goodbye to a state I had called home for 30 years of my life, family that lived just a short drive away, close friends who had been with me for about as long as I had lived in the state and others whom I had grown to cherish in far less time, and a house I loved and put much time and effort into making into a home for all of us. I didn't mind starting over too much. It was the people and the sights and the smells I didn't want to forget.

I felt an incredible amount of sorrow at leaving all my flowers behind; My hydrangea I planted at seasons end that proved to get bigger and more beautiful with each passing year. The irises given to us by one of Mr. LH's high school students. The peonies I babied from the moment I placed them in the ground. The dozens of azalea bushes, astilbes, and the huge, leafy hostas. When Spring and Summer came, everything would burst into bloom and color the entire yard.

Even though I knew I would miss all of this, I was excited (and practically in a rush) about moving to Colorado. I missed Mr. LH and I wanted to get everyone settled as quickly as possible. My birthday was coming up, as was Halloween and I didn't want to spend either surrounded by boxes in an otherwise empty house or driving across the country packed like sardines in the van. So we were to a new place to experience a different culture, new foods, new people, new begin a new life.

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