Saturday, November 28, 2009

Thanksgiving part two: Candyland

Every year the day after Thanksgiving we make candy. Technically, the candy making begins a couple of months before when we start cracking and shelling the walnuts (from our tree). The big production is Friday though. Our signature candies are the nutballs (similar to Idle Isles' but we make them with walnuts cause those are free instead of almonds) and turtles. We make other candy too, but those are our signatures. I think I heard toffee mentioned. Other optional candy includes rocky road, fudge, chocolate dipped nuts, chocolate crispies, and chocolate dipped pretzels.

Here's a bit of a step by step for the nut balls.

First you make the fondant the night before and freeze it. This year we made vanilla, maple, almond, and (my favorite) rum spice. I'll post the recipe at the end of this entry.

It's important that the fondant is very frozen when you start rolling. You take about a tsp and roll it in your hands. You have to move fast cause the fondant warms up fast and is unrollable. Then you put the trays of fondant balls back in the freezer. You want them as cold as possible before they go into the chocolate.

We melt the chocolate in this awesome pot my mom has had forever and a heating pad. The pan maintains it's heat well and the heating pad melts the chocolate slowly. It does take longer than in a double broiler, but it's safer.

So you throw the fondant balls in the chocolate. Coat them completely. Then you toss them in the bowls of chopped walnuts.

You don't so much roll the candies into balls, as toss them back and forth in a rolling motion. Then you put them back on the trays and put them somewhere cold--fridge, freezer, outside if it's cold enough.

Look at all those yummy little balls of chocolatey, creamy goodness. Drool......mmmmm.

Here are my favorite rum balls posing for us.

The girls helped us out by cleaning the bowls. And spoons.

Mom got an awesome caramel recipe from someones mom at the dialysis clinic. She's from England. They know what they're doing with caramel in England apparently. We used it primarily for the turtles (3 pecans, a glob of caramel, covered in chocolate to look like a turtle). We decided to cover some hazelnuts with the leftovers an dip them in chocolate. Brilliant.

Chocolate Candy Bliss/Coma

Note: We didn't play in the chocolate or lick our fingers until all the candy was made. Just in case you were wondering. After the candy is done, there's no rules.

1/2 pound butter (room temp)
1 can sweet condensed milk
1/2 pound powdered sugar
1 tsp flavoring

Mix the butter and condensed milk. Gradually add the powdered sugar. Add the flavoring.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Thanksgiving Part one

I started my Thanksgiving day out with a little run. I went down to my secret thinking spot. I can't tell you were it is. Well it looks like there may be some houses going up soon over part of it. There used to be llamas there, but now it's just horses.
On the dirt road stretch that takes me back to a main road, I came across two cows outside of the fence. Apparently they are not partial to runners. They freaked out a bit even though I was keeping my distance. So I ended up jogging with them for a bit. So I decided to try and walk past them. No, they still didn't want me anywhere near them.

Next strategy is to run really fast and pass them. Really bad idea. The one cow freaks out and tries to climb through the barbed wire fence and gets stuck. Now I feel horrible and figure I'm going to get trampled trying to help it out of the barbed wire. It manages to pull out though and starts running again.
Well that apparently scared the crap out of them, literally. Now I'm walking/jogging along side a trail of stinky, steamy, runny cow matter. The one cow makes another break for the fencing and gets through, but the other cow made it almost to the main road. I was very concerned about this happening and causing an accident, but there was a dirt road turn off just before the main road.

That was probably the most exciting part of the day. The rest just included eating, playing games, and wrangling the children. I actually did well for dinner. We eat at noonish. I walked away just satiated. I was going to wait 30 mins and have pie part one.
The traditonal brain jello, shows up at any holiday I remember to bring it to.

I volunteered to clean the turkey up and get all the meat off it. Bad idea. This turned into Turkey part 2, which then made me slightly uncomfortable. Shortly after they started cutting up the pies. So Turkey part 2 was followed to closely by Pie part one. Then I definitely ate too much. I'm pretty sure I didn't get any where near the national average of 4,500 calories though. I grazed on rolls, turkey, and crackers & cheese ball the rest of the day. I would estimate my caloric intake for the day to be under 2,500, but still way too much. I was never in any extreme discomfort, just the "oh, I didn't need that last bite" level of overeating.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Don't try this at home

I was determined to get over to the old ruined building up Little Cottonwood. This time I parked at the trail head further up the canyon. It was probably a good idea since I did a lot of backtracking off trail. I don't want to promote stupid behavior, so I'm going to encourage you to only try this with a group or wait until warmer weather. If you do try this on your own, I recommend trekking poles, toe/hand warmers, good hiking shoes, and decent gloves.

This is the spot I crossed at. I mentioned before that I was serious about crossing over the creek. One of the only smart things I did was tell someone where I was before I started. I did not cross over the log. I just used it to grab if I lost my footing. I took off my shoes and socks, rolled up my pants, and crossed the old fashion way. I'm not going to lie. It was cold. However, that is not the most uncomfortable my feet have ever been. I knew from a previous experience that I could go at least 2 hours without any circulation in my feet and not have permanent damage. Once I put my socks (technical, moisture wicking) back on, I was fine. I didn't really feel any heat off the toe warmers, but my feet were numb for a while.

It might have been helpful to have a topo map too. Then I would have realized that downstream where I crossed turns into a hill or some rocky sort of cliffs over the river. I had to back track at the rock/cliffs and hike up the steep hill. Then I had to get down the big steep hill to the ruins.

As seen in this picture, I slid down the last 20 or so feet. This was not voluntary. Fortunately with the snow, I just slid somewhat ungracefully and got my bum all wet. I recommend pants that are not levis, like ski pants or good hiking pants.

I didn't go into the building because I had noticed there was a tunnel that goes from the creek to under the building. With the snow and rocks and everything I didn't want to accidentally fall into anything. I didn't find the GC. I'm blaming it on the snow.

That's a hole in the building. I was wondering where it went to. Not going to explore that on my own though.

Wandering around off trail (not smart, not encouraging it), I saw a lot of tracks. It was actually interesting to see the little tracks with bigger tracks following them. I saw a lot of different tracks. I'm not a huge tracker, but if I were it would have been really exciting. I know at least some were deer. I'm guess squirrels or rabbits might be the little ones. I think the ones following the little tracks were some kind of cat.

When I left, I went the rock/cliff way. I sort of rappelled down the 10 rocky cliff using some branches of a tree. I never could have climbed up it, but going down was ok. I found some other people tracks that went further down creek than were I crossed. I eventually found a log that they had crossed on. It was kind of icy and snow packed, but there was a second log I could grab. It wasn't so bad.

While I got a great sense of satisfaction getting over to the building, hiking around and finding my way there was just as fun. If anyone knows anyone hiring exporers or adventurers, I will work for cheap. Seriously, I can't think of anything better to be doing. The GC may feel safe for now, but I will be back. Oh, I will return.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

The best day in November

Ever have one of those days just seems perfect for no particular reason? I had one last Friday. I went for a hike up the Quarry Trail in Little Cottonwood. I was just hiking along and enjoying the scenery and I felt really, really happy. It occurred to me that maybe I shouldn't be so happy. I've been unemployed for a year, I have two broken cars, I'm very, very single, etc. But I didn't care. Still not to phased by any of that. It was a happy day.

I don't know what plant this leaf came from but they were amazing. They were like little opaque or white stained glass leaves. Way cooler in person than in the picture. Everything was dusted with a bit of snow or frost.

I thought the snow on the trees looked like lace.

It was kind of magical. I didn't see a lot of other people a couple of guys on bikes. But if a winter tree sprite or an ice fairy started ice skating down the river, I wouldn't have been surprised.

I like it when I am still warm in my coat or layers, but the cold air kisses my cheeks and nose. It doesn't sting, but still feels sharp. I always feel so alive when I breath in the crisp air. It's a fine line between comfortable cold and too cold though.

I came away with a quest though. I've always wanted to get over to the ruins on the other side of the creek. It's always been to high in the spring and summer. It's quite a bit lower, but I had a hard time finding a log or rocks to cross over on. I scrambled up the shore for a ways but didn't really find a good spot. I would best describe my mindset as hell-bent to cross. I thought about taking my shoes off and rolling up my pants even. I tried at one place, but I got halfway across and realized the rocks in the middle were covered with a thin film of ice. I put my hiking pole down and the water was deeper than it looked. It occurred to me that since I was past where the trail ended and there weren't really any people around this was a stupid idea.

I actually sort of slipped and got wet up to my ankle on one foot. I made the prudent decision to let it go for that day, but I already had a plan for getting over another time. Soon. Very soon. My plan involves survival hand warmers and rolling up my pants. Yes, oh yes. Did I mention there's a GC over there? Lovepirate2 will find you, GC1RK1F.

There was an old truck I found up in the rocks away from the trail. It was mostly all rusted away. Kind of cool though.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009


Now that I'm done with racing for the year, I've turned to geocaching to keep active. I started geocaching this year. I'd heard of it before, but finally gave it a try this past spring.

Geocaching is kind of awesome. People hide things and post the coordinates on a website. Then people go out and find them. It could be anything from a small pill bottle with some scraps of paper for a log, to a ammo cases or tupperware container with tradeable items (pins, coins, small toys, etc.) and notebooks for logs.
I've found 12 caches so far. My first one was up in the mountains by Eden. I can't even describe the excitement of finding your first cache. That green camo box might have well been a pot of gold.
My first few caches I found by searching the latitude and longitude on google maps. Not the easiest way to find things. There has to be a major landmark nearby so I know within a few feet where to be looking. There were a bunch of caches that were in wooded areas that I just didn't stand a chance finding.

I figured out how to upload the locations onto my Garmin Forerunner 301. It's a running computer but it's got GPS. I tested it out yesterday and it worked pretty good. If I went under lots of trees it got confused. I found 3 of 4 caches. The 4th one I gave up on because it was under trees and it was getting too dark to see. I'm going to go back another day.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

The Pioneer Woman

The Pioneer Woman is a blog run by a woman named Ree Drummond. It's delightful. Not only is the food to die for (and probably will kill you if you don't exercise some of the calories away), she has a very for real and funny way of writing. Oh, and step-by-step pictures that keep you salivating.

Her blog has become so popular that she did a cookbook. She's doing a book signing tour and was in Salt Lake today. Misti knows everything going one with her and her family. Big fan. I'm not quite so up to speed with the Drummond family, but still like her. We figured we'd just show up, buy the books and get them signed. Maybe 2 hours.

We showed up 30 minutes early. Right at that moment a woman announced all the tickets for the signing had been given away. Its November, not too cold, but not warm. We figure we'll take off for a bit and come back later and see if the line dies down and we can get in anyhow. We go for cheesecake.

We get back to the King's English Bookstore (lovely place, I'd like to go back and peruse) a little after 8. It's still packed. Let me illustrate a bit. Almost the entire block is full of people. The entire front lawn of the store, local businesses, and even some people loitering in the street. Pretty cool that she's this popular. Who knew?

Mom & Misti know we're not going to get in any time soon if at all, so they take off. I stick around and make friendly with all the groupies for another 3 hours. I found a little group of runners and we all swap stories about different races we've done. We even inspired one lady to start running. Hurrah.

Rumor is Ree will stay and sign everyone's books even if they don't have a ticket. I figure I have nothing to lose. It's not like I have to get up in the morning for anything. Around 10, someone who decided they'd just take off gave me their ticket, so now I know I'm definitely in.

One of the highlights of the evening was when her mother-in-law came out to chit chat with people outside. She was pretty cool. She told us how she's trying to help the kids learn to swim. Apparently all of them are having a hard time with it. They can't even float after multiple lessons. Anyhow, it was really funny when she told it. A couple of the recipes in the book are hers.

So after 3 hours of hanging around I finally made it to the top of the line. I said some dumb things about some of the recipes I liked and giggled nervously. She was super sweet. Oh, and she's gorgeous. You wouldn't know she eats as much butter as goes into her cooking by looking at her.

I've never gone to a book signing before, but it was fun. I met a lot of nice people. Got to talk about running and food all evening. Good times.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Happy Birthday!

I've been having a great birthday. There were many years as a teen on through most of my twenties that I didn't even care about celebrating my birthday. I wasn't anti birthday, I just didn't make anything of it. I've loosened up more the last few years and now I milk the birthday good times for as long as I can. Presents are not a necessity, but I'm always very touched when I get them anyhow. I consider quality time/talking time with the people a good birthday treat. If there's something I really want, I'll ask for it or get it as my birthday present to me. :)

We have 5 birthdays in the family within a week. Jason & Vee are Oct 27th. Kiana and I are today. Lizzie is tomorrow. That's a lot of birthdays to celebrate all at once. Usually we get a cake the kids will like (Shrek was 2 years ago), or a cake with sections. This year, mom went above and beyond and made us all our own smaller cakes.

Another trick is making sure everyone gets what they want for dinner. We usually do Chinese or pizza. This year we had both. It's not conventional, but everyone got what they wanted. We had pepperoni & Hawaiian pizza, a gong bao chicken pizza (hybrid, it's pretty tasty), sweet and sour chicken, rice, and fruit salad. Everyone was happy.
All I wanted for my birthday this year was hugs and kisses. I also wanted people to do nice things for other people. It's not too late. I accept belated birthday gifts all year round. :) What better feeling can there be than knowing you had an impact for the better in the world. I'm a woman of simple wants.

I asked Livi if she thought I was going to get any hugs or kisses today and she said "no." She's such a teaser. Spencer came over and gave me a great big giant hug and a nice wet kiss. He's the sweetest. Later Livi did give me a big hug. Seriously, such a little teaser. I got good hugs from Vee's kids too. It was a good day.

It really has been a good birthday. I got to be with my family who I really like. I've talked to a lot of friends that I love that are not nearby and miss like crazy. I've been taken out and have more dining plans through next week. Overall, I've had a great birthday. I'm happy. I'm glad to be around another year. I'm lucky to know all the great people I know.
I did get some great presents too. Misti took Liv & Spency with her to help pick out my presents. It's like our minds are all one. They got me exactly what I wanted. The board game Candyland and the Curious George Christmas DVD. That's soooo me. Then they helped me open my presents. They are such helpful children.
I've decided to try and dedicate my next year to doing more kind acts to others. More adventure. More real living. And more sharing the joy.