Sunday, January 31, 2010

Mush! And Other Winter Fun

Out here in the (sort of) Wild West, there are lots of fun things to do other than skiing. Some of the local ranches offer things like sleigh rides, horseback rides, dog sledding, snow mobiling, etc. But these activities tend to be a little expensive and something tourists do on vacation. Because when you're living here, you don't often have the time to go do these kinds of things because you're busy.....I don't know, working?

On Saturday, a local ranch, 4 Eagle Ranch--which is owned by an alum from The Ohio State University, I might add--had a day of free activities. We go to 4 Eagle a couple of times a year for school functions, and last fall Eamonn and I went on a horseback ride at 4 Eagle that we won in a silent auction. It's just a fun place to go. Anyway, on Saturday we decided to live like the tourists and take advantage of the opportunity to try a bunch of things we'd never normally do.

This was my favorite:

I'm riding in the sled with Declan. Eamonn and Finn are in a sled behind us. It was very fun. And pretty uncomfortable. I definitely wouldn't want to travel very far like that. There are two other little segments of video, but frankly, they take so long to upload, I think I'm quitting with one segment. Sorry. But the jumpiness of the video may be making you sick anyway.

We were amazed at how much the dogs seemed to want to just run, run, run. When the sleds came back around to pick up the next pair of passengers, they anchor the dogs to the ground, but also to a snowmobile because they're so strong. When the dogs knew it was time to get ready to go again, they started pulling so hard they could actually drag the snowmobile with a grown man on it, in addition to us in the sled and the musher. Pretty amazing.

A few pics of the other activities available:

Stopping at the obligatory headless cowboy/cowgirl scene. That's Finn on the left, Declan's friend, Jack, standing without a cowboy body, Declan, and Jack's little brother, Reid.

The gang on the wild steer: Reid, Declan, Finn, Jack

Segways in the snow. Who knew this was a sought after winter event?

Declan and me--ready to dog sled.

Eamonn and Finn ready to mush!

Interestingly, I never heard them say "mush" once. Just in case you were wondering.

Declan meets one of the team.

Finn got a sloppy kiss.

Tubing behind snowmobiles. I think I have whiplash.

Meeting this little guy.

Taking a sleigh ride out to the sledding hill. Again--sleigh--not a comfortable way to travel. I'm feeling bad for the Little House on the Prairie people about now.

Finn coming down the sledding hill with some interesting form.

Jack and Declan (at the top) forging (unsuccessfully) a new path.

Declan took a pony ride while Jack and Finn launched themselves off a snowbank.

In the meantime, I admired the view.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Oh, Christmas Tree

I blogged on Rocky Mountain Moms today. And forgot to tell you about it. It's still there. . .

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

The Snowshoe Shuffle

This afternoon, Declan's 4th grade class did a fundraiser for their 4th grade camping trip coming up in May (that seems like a long way away right now, but it will be here in a flash). The fundraiser was a snowshoe shuffle at the neighborhood golf course.

Hilariously, we've had so little snow so far this winter that the kids could have really just run around the golf course instead of going through the hassle of putting snowshoes on, but I guess that takes a little bit of the thrill out of the theme--snowshoe shuffle.

The kids trekked from the school over to the golf course (I forgot how fricking slow kids walk).

Eventually, they made it.

Declan with a few of his posse: Ian, Declan, Sidney, BFF Jack

We helped them all get into their snowshoes, they lined up. . .

And off they went.

I hope all these overcast skies are bringing some snow. This lack of sunshine is bringing me down, man.

Jack leading the way. Declan just behind him.

Jack takes a dive. Declan runs right past him. That's loyalty for you .

I trotted around the course in my snowshoes with a few friends. I'm happy to say I beat a few 4th graders. That always makes me feel good.

Declan crossing the finish line. He came in 7th. Very exciting.

Here he is allegedly having a heart attack. I told him to hold still so I could take his photo. He's thirsty. For some reason, he didn't see fit to bring the Camelbak I so lovingly prepared for him and put in his backpack. So I have no sympathy. You can eat some snow when I'm finished.

Declan and Jack celebrating their finish.

The Motley Crew--aka the 4th grade.

Next fundraising effort for the camping trip? The complete opposite of a snowshoe shuffle: Little Ceasar's Pizza sales. You know how happy that makes me feel.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Our Wild and Crazy Saturday Night!

We recent joined Netflix because they had a promotion where if you signed up, you could get 2,500 frequent flyer miles. We joined, got the miles, and will cancel, but I'm trying to maximize our one month of service with as many DVDs and online instant viewings as possible.

So there's this English murder mystery series that I love: Midsomer Murders. For awhile, A&E was showing them here in the States, but they haven't run them for for ages and I can tell by looking at the Midsomer Web site, we're falling behind! I just can't have that. Fortunately, Netflix has some of the series we haven't seen. So I put it in my queue and it arrived the next day, which is a really big deal in the mountains--mail the next day. It just doesn't normally happen. They must have a distribution place in Denver.

Anyway, so a Midsomer DVD had been here for a week and we still hadn't watched it. It was killing me. But I wanted to watch it with Eamonn because it's more fun that way. It's kind of amusing, too. When I watch a mystery movie, I cannot look away from the start of the opening credits to the last second of footage. Otherwise, I can never figure out who the killer is.

Eamonn, on the other hand, can look up occasionally from surfing the Internet, reading the paper, working--whatever--and is able to follow along and usually solve the mystery by about 3/4 of the way through the show. Very annoying.

Right now, Eamonn is working a job in Vail. There's no parking in Vail, so he leaves here long before dawn to make it up valley, catch a shuttle bus or town bus, and get to work by 7am.

This makes him very, very tired. And essentially unable to stay up to watch a movie. Ever.

But on Saturday night, he decided that he could make it through a movie. I was all excited to finally be watching the Midsomer Murder (the episode was King's Crystal for those of you who watch these, too). Very exciting. Very exciting. But frankly, I had my doubts that Eamonn could make it through.

He made all of the appropriate preparations:

Here he is eating a giant bowl of ice cream with a mountain of whipped cream. His comment: "I'm going to get all sugared up and be your worst nightmare." Uh, OK.

Here we are 20 minutes after consumption of the ice cream. He's struggling. I knew this was coming and I was ready with my camera.

And frankly, the only reason his eyes are even open is because he heard the camera switch on. He's fighting it. Fighting it bad.

Busted! He officially drops off.

He's snoring.

Look. A tiny slit in his eye as he tries to come to. It didn't work. He woke up at the end and asked whodunnit.

I haven't told him yet.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

I Am the Mother

So today I took the boys to see "The Tooth Fairy" with Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson. As you can imagine with The Rock in it, it was totally panned by the critics. I'm going on record here and saying I don't care. The movie was absolutely hilarious and I belly-laughed out loud more times than I can count. And of course, since this is a small town, we knew nearly everyone in the theater. I could hear all of the other parents belly-laughing, too.

Anyone catch that line at the end where Billy Crystal's character says to Julie Andrews' character, "Here, I brought you a few of your favorite things." Get it? The whole thing was just hysterical.

So, critically acclaimed movie? No. Worth the money spent? Yes.

Anyway, as I was sitting there watching it, I kept looking at the woman playing the mother. She looked so familiar, yet I couldn't place her.

Finally, I figured it out: Ashley Judd. I was a little taken aback. Ashley Judd playing someone's mother? Isn't she, like, 28? Why is she playing an older woman?

When we got home, I went straight to IMDB.com, possibly one of my favorite Web sites ever, and plugged Ashley in. Turns out, Ashley is practically an old bag. Almost 42. Can you believe it?

I just turned 42.

This was sobering.

In the movie world, I am now someone's mother. Yes, I realize I am someone's--in fact, several someone's--mother. But to see it up there on the big screen. Dang.

I also had a horrible, sinking feeling when I watched Kristen Stewart as Bella in New Moon--that scene where she's running through the square in Italy. I was watching the movie with Eamonn's sister, Gerry, and my neighbor/friend, Jen. As we watched the running Bella, Jen leaned over and said, "Oh, to be 17 again and wear skinny jeans and not have a muffin top." And we totally cracked up. And then realized we were old.

Friday, January 22, 2010

It's a Rocky Mountain Moms blog kind of day, so I'm over there. . .

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

School is in Session

And when you live in a ski resort town, this is what school looks like for a few days each winter:

Declan and his class get the scoop from their snowboard instructor.

Practicing what they learned.

"Mom, you're distracting me."

I feel certain that if I had had the opportunity to learn to ski while in elementary school, you would be seeing me at the Olympics in a few weeks. Or maybe I mean 20 years ago. I guess it's a little late to go now.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

How Old is Young?

Caution: The following post contains offensive (to other people, not me) profanity. You've been warned!

When we were in Ohio last summer, my Mom was telling me about someone she knew who had died recently.

"He was so young," she said.

"Really?" I asked. "How old was he?"


I was a little taken aback. Is 77 considered young these days? My Mom turns 70 this year (sorry to out you, Mom), so maybe when you're 70, 77 seems young. Fifty is looking pretty young to me right now, so I probably just answered my own question right there.

All of my grandparents have lived into their 80s and 90s. In fact, my Grandpa is still vibrantly alive and kicking and running the family farm at 96. So I guess compared to that, 77 is young.

But let's face it, the average life expectancy for a United States citizen is 78.2--for men it's 75.6 and women it's 80.5. And I figure if I make it anywhere into my later years, that's pretty darn fortunate.

So the other day, I was at my sister's and we had a similar conversation. A neighbor's mother died last week. She was young. How young? 77. A weird coincidence, I know.

I kind of rolled my eyes and began my diatribe again. Seventy-seven isn't young. That 77-year-old person got to graduate high school, go to college, get a job, have kids, see their kids grow up and have kids, enjoy their grandkids for awhile, see the world if it was financially feasible, etc. 77 isn't young. 77 is lucky. Yes, in my family, dying at 77 would be young (with one notable exception), but I don't count on having that kind of luck for one second.

Tara told me I was heartless because I wasn't overly sympathic.

Am I?

She also said that it's relative. Seriously? Seventy-seven seems old to me regardless of how old my Grandpa is or how young Finn was when he got cancer. Nearly eight decades to live life. I'm guessing a lot of people would kill for the opportunity to merely make it to that age.

Yes, it's sad that this 77-year-old grandmother died. It's sad when anyone dies. I'll be crazy sad when my Grandpa dies. If I'm around to see it, but I'm starting to wonder if he'll outlive me. But my point here is that while it's sad, it hardly seems unexpected at this point. Basically, to me, anything past the average life expectancy is gravy. You could, in theory, argue that according to statistics, this grandma had 3 1/2 more years before her time ran out, but I don't want to fight with myself.

So one of the things Tara asked me was, "Are YOU going to be ready to die in 35 years?" Frankly, if the next 35 years contain trauma like the last 6 years have had, I just might be. I don't mean to be flip, it's just how I feel. My Grandma Moffitt wasn't afraid to grow old and die and I try to hang onto that sense of peace she always had. She had lived a lot, loved a lot and maybe you just get tired at the end and you're at peace with going. What happens if you're not tired at the end? If you're just in the "prime" of your life at 77? Well, it's not like we get to choose. When your number's up, it's up, right?

Then Tara asked me if I was ready to have our parents die. Of course not! I don't think you're ever "ready" for that (and besides, what if I'd answered, yes? I'd be written out of the will like that! So if I am ready, I'm keeping mum!). It will never be enough time no matter when they/I go. There will always be one more conversation I would have wished I'd had. One more thing I'd wished I'd done with or for them. The time will never be right. But it's going to happen whether I want it to or not.

Has Finn's cancer jaded me? I don't know. Probably. Maybe. Heck, I don't know how I would answer "is 77 young" if we hadn't seen so many kids suffer. Because in the fucked up world of pediatric cancer, 77 is old. Crazy old. There are no high school graduations when you die at 7. Or 5. Or 2. Or 13. No college, no travel, no job, no wedding, no kids, no grandkids. Zip. That is dying before you even get to experience the "prime." And that, my friends, is shitty.

I would really wonder about someone who was 77, knew they were dying, and said, "But I'm too young to die." But a 7-year-old? Has every right in the world to say it.

And so I have asked myself, what is the cut off age? What is that magic number where you can say you've lived long enough for it to not be unfair or "too young" when you die? Is it when your kids are all over 18? Although, if that were the case, everyone would emulate Charlie Chaplin and wait to have kids until they were 75. And men would outlive women for a change.

As usual, I don't have the answer. I hate it when that happens. What I do know: Growing old isn't a right. Unfortunately. Get off your ass and live right now.

So what do you think? Am I heartless? I'm so curious if I'm a total whack-a-doo and don't know it. Although I have long suspected. . .

Monday, January 11, 2010

Not Necessarily the News

It's a Rocky Mountain Moms blog day today so I'm over there!

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Here's What's Cookin'

OK, this isn't a cooking blog. The closest this comes to being a cooking blog is me posting pictures of my failed high altitude baking, which is sad. So very sad.

But, today I'm making an exception because I made this dish for dinner that just about Rocked the Casbah. Everyone ate it, which almost never happens. I made it by accident. Story to follow. Of course.

So, last fall I got to choose a free book for helping out at the boys' school book fair. I had my hands on a book for one of the boys when the library aide, and friend, said to me, "Why don't you get something for yourself?" Heck, yeah! Why don't I get something for myself?

I had, in fact, been eyeballing Cooking Light's The Essential Dinner Tonight Cookbook, so I snapped it up. Now seriously, the last thing I need is another cookbook. My shelves are groaning under the weight of cookbooks I barely use already. It seems like most nights we're having burritos, stuff on the grill, breakfast for dinner--meals I don't need a recipe for. Plus, I find I spend more at the grocery store when I make real food from a recipe. But I got the cookbook anyway and have had good results with it.

Until tonight. When the results were crazy great. It took all my power not to eat everything myself, including the pages the recipe appears on in the book.

And it almost didn't happen. I had planned on one recipe on the facing page of the one I ultimately made, but I didn't realize I was supposed to marinate the meat for two hours, which is no good when it's 5:30pm and I haven't done a darn thing. Fortunately, both recipes called for the same cut of meat and I had nearly all of the necessary spices. Whew. Saved from French toast for dinner again.

So, even though this isn't a cooking blog, I'm posting the recipe here. It's crazy easy. And crazy good. Make it. Soon. But have people around so you don't eat the whole thing yourself.

Peppercorn-Crusted Pork Tenderloin with Soy-Caramel Sauce

Cooking spray
1/4 cup minced white onion (I'm too impatient/lazy to mince anything--I just chopped)
1 teas. grated, peeled fresh ginger (didn't have--used dried)
2 garlic cloves, minced (yeah, right. I did use a garlic press though)
1 cup water
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 low-sodium soy sauce (I used Nama Shoyu)
2 tbls. red wine vinegar
1 1/2 teas. Dijon mustard
2 tbls. butter
2 (1-lb.) pork tenderloins, trimmed (I don't know what it means to trim a tenderloin. No trimming went on here tonight.)
1 tbls. black peppercorns, crushed
1 1/2 tsp. chopped fresh thyme (I only had dried so I used a little less)
1/4 tsp. salt

1. Heat a small saucepan over medium heat; coat with cooking spray. Add onion, ginger, and garlic; saute 2 minutes. Add water and sugar; bring to a boil. Cook until reduced to 1/2 cup (about 5 minutes. Natalie's note: this took longer than 5 minutes). Remove from heat, carefully stir in soy sauce, vinegar, and mustard. Add butter, stirring with a whisk. Set aside; keep warm. (Note from Natalie: Wait to do this until your meat is in the oven)

2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees

3. Rub tenderloins evenly with pepper, thyme and salt. Heat a large ovenproof non-stick skillet over medium-high heat; coat with cooking spray. Add tenderloins, browning on all sides (about 5 minutes). Bake at 350 degrees for 23 minutes or until a thermometer registers 160 degrees (slightly pink); let stand 10 minutes. (Another note from Natalie: my tenderloins were slightly bigger than 1 lb., so took a little longer to cook)

Cut each tenderloin into 12 slices; service with sauce. Yield: 8 servings (serving size: 3 slices pork and 2 tbls. sauce)

Calories: 227
Fat: 7 g.
Protein: 24.5 g.
Carb: 15.3 g.
Fiber: .4 g.
Cholesterol: 81 mg.
Iron: 1.7 mg.
Sodium: 441 mg.
Calcium: 16 mg.

The cookbook suggests serving the meat with stir fried vegetables and jasmine rice, which would have been good, but I had all of the ingredients for the side dish that was supposed to go with my original marinated pork dish. So I stir fried a thinly sliced red pepper and snow peas with 2 cloves of garlic. Then I added in cooked udon noodles (some random, unknown quantity that looked about right for 4 people and leftovers), 2 tbls. lime juice, 2 tbls. Nama Shoyu, and 1 1/2 tsp. sesame oil. Tossed all that together.

There are no pictures to show you because I didn't think about it beforehand. It's not a cooking blog, remember?

But hey, check this out. Here's a picture I found on a Web site. Where I also found the recipe. Which means I wasted all this time typing it out. I love that.

I bet you could even go here and get a recipe that's nicely formatted to print out when you make this. Right now. And look how many stars it got! I'm telling you, it's good! Great! Whatever.

I'm still full. It's 9:47pm. That's never a good sign.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Happy For Now

Last week, I blogged over at Rocky Mountain Moms about how developers want to build a huge "lifestyle" complex on the edge of our little mountain town.

The gist of the post was that I was opposed to it. I'm not opposed to something going in there, just opposed to 550,000 square feet of hugeness that includes the every-town-USA look that Target represent to me. You could say I'm anti-big box and you'd be right. Anti-development--no. Anti-big box. Yes. I've talked about those feelings before. I only shop at big box stores when I absolutely have to. It's a pretty rare occurence.

Anyway, even though the town council voted 5 - 2 to move ahead with the developer's proposal, the council decided to let the townspeople decide.

The vote was yesterday.

It was close. Very, very close. A record number of people turned out to vote--61% of registered voters (which is still actually sad to me. Shouldn't that number be 100%?).

We didn't get the results until this morning. It was that close. But around 5am, rumors started circulating on Facebook.

The result?

The developer's project was voted down by a mere 115 votes.

This isn't the end by a long shot. Something will be developed there at some point--this just makes it a little later rather than sooner. Will I vote against it again? It depends.

I think about how I would have reacted if the vote had been 115 in favor. I would have been sad. I would have thought, "Wow, just by 115? That's really slim for this to move ahead." It's probably want to proponents are thinking this morning: "Defeated by only 115 votes? Nearly half the people want it then." But even if it hadn't gone the way I wanted it to, the people would have spoken. It's democracy in action, which is how it should be.

I posted the result on my Facebook page this morning and that I was happy. There's other stuff floating around from the people who are not so happy. I had remained pretty mum on my feelings until recently and now I wonder what people's reactions will be when I see them next. Too late now.

It's a temporary reprieve, but I'm grateful

Monday, January 4, 2010

Little Hands

Yesterday I was de-decking our halls. The holidays went way too fast for me. I wasn't even ready for the kids to go back to school. When was the last time I said that??? I apparently drank too much bourbon-laced egg nog to be coming out with statements like that.

Anyway, taking down the Christmas decorations usually makes me kind of sad. We ended as we began, with a naked tree.

Can I just say this was a totally amazing tree? Check it out. Awesome shape. Pretty filled out, not a lot of holes. You just don't see this very often when you go hack down a tree in the wild. It was a very satisfying Christmas tree. And you can just make out my shrine to Andy Williams on the top shelf of the bookcase. The shrine now includes the letter I sent him in 2005 that he autographed to me, a picture of Andy with my Dad and also the tickets from that show, a vinyl LP (is that redundant?), an autographed program/photo book, an autographed book (you can buy the autographed stuff at the Moon River Theater gift shop), a wine bottle (yes, he has his own line of wines that have his picture on the label--we chose our wine at his restaurant based on which picture we liked best). I also have a magnet on the fridge. It's scary, I know. I'm OK with it.

But back to the tree. I don't know if you can really see the trunk here. It had about four different trunks coming out from the main one, which is what made it so full and decent-looking. According to Eamonn, that lovely tree was a bitch to cut down. Better him than me, I say.

So taking down the decorations always makes me a little sad. There's so much excitement putting the tree up and the boys help out. No one was clamoring to help me take the tree down--they were too busy playing Wii. So there I was, taking the decorations down and putting them in the ornament boxes (holy cow, we've got a lot of ornaments) and pretty much every single one has a memory. I remember where nearly all of them came from whether it was tied to the top of a gift my grandparents gave me (my Grandma used to give us a new ornament each year which explains why my cup runneth over with them), some I made "back when I was a girl," some were wedding presents or tied to the top of wedding presents (we got married at Christmastime), and so on.

And now, there are ornaments that the boys have made or that we have given them each year.

In December 2004, Declan was four years old and in his second year of a wonderful preschool (I still miss it), and Finn was getting ready to enter the long term maintenance portion of his leukemia treatment. It was a good Christmas--no steroids.

Declan had made a present at school for Eamonn and me. It was wrapped and under the tree and he was very excited for us to open it. I'm trying to remember if he even made it to Christmas before giving it to us.

It's a print of his hand, made with red paint--red has always been his favorite color (once he got past the pink phase)--on a piece of cloth that is stretched on a little wooden frame.

And attached to the frame is a poem:
Sometimes you get discouraged because I am so small,
And always leave my fingerprints on furniture and walls.
But every day I'm growing up and soon I'll be so tall,
That all those little hand prints will be hard to recall.
So here's a special hand print just so that you can say,
This is how my fingers looked when I placed them here today.

I stop and read it when we put the tree up and I stop and read it when we take the tree down. It still puts a big lump in my throat and a little tear in my eye. I didn't think I'd miss those years when they were so little, and let's face it, so challenging.

But I do.

Friday, January 1, 2010

Holiday Festivities, Part II

Happy New Year! Now that it's 2010, I'd better wrap up my holiday festivities posts and move on with the times.

Where was I?

I don't think I wrote about the gingerbread house building.

Reading "'Twas the Night Before Christmas" with Grandma.

Getting cookies ready for Santa and carrots for the reindeer.

Or Santa getting here. Ready to run downstairs and pounce on the gifts.

Gift giving. Declan thanks Finn for the hat Finn chose for Declan at the Make-A-Wish shopping event (I received a necklace. Eamonn received a set of Nascar mugs and hot chocolate). It was beyond sweet when he gave us the gifts he chose.

There was skating and hockey at our town outdoor rink.

How strange that I can't find a picture of myself doing a triple salchow.

And some sledding.

A little skiing on New Year's Day. Remind me to pull my coat down next time so I don't look quite so chubby. Or perhaps it's because my pockets are loaded with: trail maps, cat tracks, tissues in my left pocket, lip balm, tissues in my right pocket, cell phone, ID, ski pass, two granola bars, a baggie of walnuts, tissues in my inside pockets, some cash, camera (actually, the guy taking the picture has the camera, so no excuse there, and to top it all off, I'm wearing a 70 oz. Camelbak. That coat is like Mary Poppins' bag.

There was hot chocolate, cookies and marshmellow roasting at the Ritz Carlton. Love that!

And then those individuals who kept skiing and missed marshmellow roasting at the Ritz tried to make up for lost time when we got home.

Happy New Year, everyone!