Life is not a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well-preserved body,
but rather to skid in broadside, totally worn out & proclaiming “Wow, What a Ride!”

Sunday, December 25, 2016

a season's blessing

Merry Christmas and Happy Hanukkah


may the warmth of family surround you,
and the promise of peace fill you on this most wonderful day.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

welcome Winter Solstice

my Winter Solstice Blessing 

May the light of the soul guide you. May the light of your soul bless the work that you do with the secret love and warmth in your heart. May you see in what you do the beauty of your own soul. May the sacredness of your work bring healing, light and renewal to those who work with you and to those who see and receive your work. May your work never weary you. May it release within you wellsprings of refreshment, inspiration and excitement. May you be present in what you do. May you never become lost in bland absences. May the day never burden. May dawn find you awake and alert, approaching your new day with dreams, possibilities and promises. May evening find you gracious and fulfilled. May you go into the night blessed, sheltered and protected. May your soul calm, console and renew you.

meal ideas ~ holiday bundt

This praline bundt cake gets raves for being moist, flavorful, and beautiful! Also these are a wonderful holiday take to a festive party treat or give as a friendship gift.  Okay, it’s not diabetic friendly, or even staying on my diet worthy, but sometimes you just need to break away and have a “tidbit.”  When I have something like this before me, I make sure it is a very small amount and savor each and every bite.

Praline Bundt Cake
1 cup chopped pecans 
1 cup butter, softened
1 (8-oz.) package cream cheese, softened
1 (16-oz.) package dark brown sugar
4 large eggs
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 (8-oz.) container sour cream 
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
Praline Icing
Sugared Pecans

1. Arrange 1 cup pecans in a single layer on a baking sheet. Bake at 350° for 5 to 7 minutes or until toasted. Cool on a wire rack 15 minutes or until completely cool. Reduce oven temperature to 325°.
2. Beat butter and cream cheese at medium speed with an electric mixer until creamy. Gradually add brown sugar, beating until well blended. Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating just until blended after each addition.
3. Sift together 2 1/2 cups flour and next 3 ingredients. Add to butter mixture alternately with sour cream, beginning and ending with flour mixture. Beat batter at low speed just until blended after each addition. Stir in toasted pecans and vanilla. Spoon batter into a greased and floured 12-cup Bundt pan.
4. Bake at 325° for 1 hour and 15 minutes or until a long wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool cake in pan on a wire rack 15 minutes; remove from pan to wire rack, and let cool 30 minutes or until completely cool.
5. Prepare Praline Icing, and spoon immediately over cake. Sprinkle top of cake with Sugared Pecans.

Praline Icing
1 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1/2 cup butter
1/4 cup milk 
1 cup powdered sugar, sifted
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1. Bring first 3 ingredients to a boil in a 2-qt. saucepan over medium heat, whisking constantly; boil 1 minute. Remove from heat; whisk in powdered sugar and vanilla until smooth. Stir gently 3 to 5 minutes or until mixture begins to cool and thickens slightly. Use immediately

Sugared Pecans
1 egg white
4 cups pecan halves (about 1 lb.) 
1/3 cup granulated sugar 
1/3 cup firmly packed light brown sugar

1. Whisk egg white until foamy; add pecans, and stir until evenly coated.
2. Stir together sugars; sprinkle over pecans. Stir gently until pecans are evenly coated. Spread pecans in a single layer in a lightly greased aluminum foil-lined 15- x 10-inch jelly-roll pan.
3. Bake at 350° for 18 to 20 minutes or until pecans are toasted and dry, stirring once after 10 minutes. Remove from oven, and let cool 30 minutes or until completely cool.
Note: Store pecans in a zip-top plastic freezer bag at room temperature up to 3 days or freeze up to 3 weeks.

Friday, December 16, 2016

fun friday photo ~poor tree

have posted before, but never get tired or stop chuckling at this fun holiday picture~ 

Thursday, December 15, 2016

thursday's crafting ~ holiday table center pieces

Once again winterval celebrations are upon us. Many of us are having parties, some are just a small family group; either way it is fun to have a beautiful table decorated to enhance the enjoyment of your holiday meal. 

Being out at the ranch this year I decided to look for ideas that are Nature related, the ideas were not short in supply; here are a couple of table center pieces that I thought were rather beautiful and wanted to share. Hope you enjoy them as well, and maybe one will find its way into your holiday decorations. also I have the link to last year's posting with ideas at the bottom. 
my favorite-  Owls are Aspen Willow Ranch's symbol
not a table arrangement, but hanging
around the table or house would be fun


More Holiday Table Centerpieces of the past-



Wednesday, December 14, 2016

meal ideas ~ Winterval Solstice Mincemeat

next Wednesday is the Winter Solstice- want a different way to celebrate this winterval holiday season... try making this earthly pie I adore.

Homemade Mincemeat

As a child my grandmother would start making her jars of mincemeat, for the holidays, in July at a time when we would visit them in Nebraska. I didn’t care for the taste as a child but grew to love it as an adult. The REAL kind, not this fake fruity stuff you find in jars at the grocery. My favorite memory was one summer when the gigantic crock was sitting on the counter, mincemeat inside curing,  I would occasionally catch the male adults as they passed by add additional splash of brandy or rum to the pot. I remember my grandpa taking a swig then added some to the pot and when he saw me he winked and put his finger to his lips—our little secret. I then understood what the true value of mincemeat was-ha! In Europe using venison or elk is tradition for this holiday pie, and since my father was a hunter he usually furnished the meat. If you cannot find the game meat, beef works just as well. 

Here is the recipe Steve and I have used. It doesn't take months to cure, but is as tasty as my childhood days.

Ingredients:

1 pounds venison, elk, or beef chunks
Water
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
3 whole cloves
3 whole allspice
1/2 large bay leaf
1/4 pound suet, finely chopped*
1 1/2 quarts apple cider
1 cups beef broth
1 1/2 pounds apples, chopped
1 1/2 pounds raisins (dark and golden)
1 pound currants
1/4 pound citron
1/2 tablespoon ground cloves
1/2 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1/2 tablespoon ground nutmeg
1/2 tablespoon ground allspice
1/2 firmly-packed cup brown sugar
1 cup rum or Applejack brandy
* 1/8 pound butter may be substituted suet is best but difficult to find.

 Preparation:

Trim fat from meat of your choice.

     In a large heavy pan over medium heat, place meat; cover with water. Add cider vinegar, whole cloves, allspice, and bay leaf. Simmer approximately 2 hours or until the meat is tender and falls apart. Remove from heat and refrigerate meat in cooking liquid overnight.

      Remove from refrigerator and remove meat from liquid. Remove all fat from top of liquid; discarding the liquid. Separate meat from bones, discard bones. Chop cooked meat into small cubes.

     In a large pot, combine meat cubes, suet, apple cider, beef broth, apples, raisins, currants, citron, cloves, cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, and brown sugar. 

Over medium heat, let mixture come just to a low boil; reduce heat to low and let simmer until the apples are cooked. Remove from heat and add rum or Applejack brandy and mix together.

Variation: For a wonderful flavor boost, zest and juice 1 to 2 lemons and 1 orange. Add to mince before bringing to a boil.

Refrigerate or pack in hot sterile jars and seal. May also be stored in the freezer.

Put in a two-crust pastry- using the lattice method or full cover with slits for escaping steam

Bake pie approximately 40 to 50 minutes or until crust is lightly browned.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

healthy living ~ zen vs yen holiday cravings

This holiday season will test all of our resolves and promises to be healthy and good. Most of all we will begin to have cravings for those goodies in the cupboard, table, and gift baskets. Just remember…..
       zen vs. yen ~ most cravings subside after just a few minutes. find something to take your attention off the food; or if alone, try this calming workout that only takes 15 minutes … and it's easy.

Monday, December 12, 2016

West reflects into East

~a Winter's Sunset~
 however, this beautiful sunset is a reflection into the East from the sun setting in the West.



Friday, December 9, 2016

fun friday photo ~ this would be fun!

too bad I don't have neighbors out here in Colorado.... still may do a couple of
these in one of our meadows and see what happens ~ hahaha   

Thursday, December 8, 2016

thursday's crafting ~ my Yule Tree and more

My favorite Holiday Decorations are my Bristle Cone Critters and instead of using them as ornaments I usually put them into a wreath basket or ring; trying to use only natural items, exception my Critters. I am making this year is no different with the exception of tree for a base and I have decided to find items from nature at the ranch. Gypsy and I went out and gathered branches from each of the three types of trees, some driftwood and barks. We also have junipers, that have berries on them waiting to ripen in the spring.


my base

my traditional spice basket with my Spirit Totem a polar bear ~ and a couple of Yule Candles
made by my dear friend, Liz, in the UK. we are waiting to burn them for when both Steve and I are permanently at the ranch.

wreaths and baskets of the past     

Here are some of my favorite and beautiful ideas I found while my strolling around the internet and thought to share them with you.

what I love about this one is the orange slices and cinnamon sticks attached, what a wonderful way to add some fresh spicy scents. 

this one uses entirely natural items that can be found in the forest- 

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

meal ideas ~ winter pastas

These two meals will keep you busy in the warmth of your kitchen making a simply delicious pasta that will knock your cozy socks off.

Chicken and Broccolini Cavatelli
Opting for skinless chicken breast is an easy way to reduce fat and calories in this protein-packed dish. Add pasta and Broccolini, a softer and sweeter-tasting cousin to broccoli with longer stems and shorter florets, for a nutrient-rich Italian meal bursting with authentic flavor.

1 whole bulb garlic
3 teaspoons olive oil
6 ounces dried cavatelli
3 cups Broccolini spears (about 8 ounces)
2 ounces pancetta, finely chopped
1 pound skinless, boneless chicken breast halves, cut into 1 1/2- to 2-inch pieces
3 tablespoons light butter with canola oil
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons snipped fresh chives
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 cup fat-free milk
1/2 cup evaporated fat-free milk
2 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan cheese
Snipped fresh chives

 Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Cut off the top 1/2 inch of the garlic bulb to expose ends of individual cloves. Leaving bulb whole, remove any loose papery outer layers. Place bulb, cut end up, on a double thickness of foil. Drizzle bulb with 1 teaspoon of the olive oil. Bring foil up around bulb and fold edges together to loosely enclose. Roast 20 to 25 minutes or until garlic feels soft when squeezed. Let cool. Squeeze garlic from skins into a small bowl; mash with a fork. Set aside.

 Meanwhile, cook pasta according to package directions, adding Broccolini for the last 4 minutes of cooking. Drain, reserving 1/2 cup of the pasta cooking liquid. Set pasta, Broccolini, and reserved cooking liquid aside.

 In a 6-quart Dutch oven heat the remaining 2 teaspoons olive oil over medium heat. Add pancetta; cook 5 to 7 minutes or until crisp. Remove pancetta from Dutch oven; set aside. Add chicken pieces to Dutch oven. Cook 7 to 8 minutes or until chicken is no longer pink (170 degrees F). Remove from Dutch oven; set aside.

 In the same Dutch oven melt light butter over medium heat. Whisk in the mashed garlic, the flour, the 2 tablespoons chives, the salt, and pepper until combined. Add milk and evaporated milk, whisking until smooth. Cook and stir until thickened and bubbly. Add Parmesan cheese, cooked chicken, cooked pasta, and cooked Broccolini. Toss to combine. Add enough of the reserved pasta cooking liquid as needed to reach desired consistency. Top with crispy pancetta and additional chives.

Nutrition Facts Per Serving: 343 cal., 10 g total fat (3 g sat. fat), 57 mg chol., 464 mg sodium, 33 g carb. (2 g fiber, 7 g sugars), 27 g pro. Diabetic Exchanges Mark as Free Exchange (d.e): 0; Fat (d.e): 1.5; Starch (d.e): 2; Lean Meat (d.e): 3; Vegetables (d.e): 1

Scallop, Mushroom, and Fennel Campanelle
If you’re looking for the right recipe to try kale, here you go! This seafood pasta recipe is restaurant-worthy and gourmet-inspired. Scallops, oysters, and mushrooms add richness to the pasta, while kale gives it a boost of color and nutrients.

8 ounces fresh or frozen sea scallops
6 ounces dried campanelle pasta
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
3 teaspoons olive oil
2 cups fresh oyster mushrooms, cut into 2-inch pieces
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 cups chopped kale
1 1/2 cups thinly sliced fennel
1/4 cup dry white wine
1/4 cup light butter with canola oil
2 tablespoons snipped fresh parsley
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1/8 teaspoon salt

 Thaw scallops if frozen. Rinse scallops; pat dry with paper towels. In a large saucepan cook pasta according to package directions. Drain; set aside.

 Sprinkle scallops with the 1/4 teaspoon salt and the pepper. In a large nonstick skillet heat 1 teaspoon of the olive oil over medium heat. Add scallops; cook 2 to 4 minutes or until scallops are opaque, turning once. Remove from skillet; keep warm. Add another 1 teaspoon of the oil, the mushrooms, and garlic. Cook about 4 minutes or until mushrooms are tender. Remove from skillet; keep warm. Add the remaining 1 teaspoon oil, the kale, and fennel. Cook about 7 minutes more or just until kale and fennel are tender.

 Remove skillet from heat and add wine. Return to heat. Add butter, parsley, lemon juice, and the 1/8 teaspoon salt; stir to combine. Add the cooked pasta and the mushroom mixture to the butter mixture; toss to combine. Heat through. Divide pasta-mushroom mixture among four serving bowls. Place scallops on top of pasta-mushroom mixture.

Nutrition Facts Per Serving: 331 cal., 10 g total fat (3 g sat. fat), 19 mg chol., 567 mg sodium, 42 g carb. (4 g fiber, 3 g sugars), 16 g pro. Diabetic Exchanges Mark as Free Exchange (d.e): 0; Fat (d.e): 1.5; Vegetables (d.e): 2; Lean Meat (d.e): 1.5; Starch (d.e): 2

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

healthy living ~ homemade bath gifts

Homemade Bath Products is one of the healthiest ways to give a little something with that Christmas Hug? What better than something that makes everyone feel good. Here are a couple of last minute homemade beauty ideas for a totally exquisite gift basket. Use your imagination in packaging. Also, I would love to see a photo of yours that you happen to make. `All supplies can found at your local health food store and hobby shop.  looking forward to seeing some emails. 

Candy Cane Bath Crystals
These peppermint-vanilla bath crystals are wonderful to use when soaking in a tub, but they also make a luxurious foot soak when dissolved in a basin of warm water. (makes one pint jar of bath crystals)
pint jar with a lid 
2 mixing bowls
bath crystal mixture
2 tablespoons Epsom salt 
2 cups of sea salt 
red food coloring
vanilla and peppermint essential
liquid vegetable glycerin 

Place one cup of crystals in each of your bowls. Glass is best since it does not absorb scents. In one bowl, add a few drops of red food coloring, about 15 drops of peppermint essential oil, and five drops of glycerin. Mix this together very well until the color is evenly distributed. Set this bowl aside.

In your second bowl, mix about 15 drops of vanilla essential oil and five drops of glycerin.

When both are mixed, take your jar and prop it up in front of you at an angle. (This will allow the crystal mixtures to be added at an angle so that when the jar is placed upright, it will look like a striped candy cane.) I use an old towel and a box to make a cradle for it. Spoon about ¼ cup of one color in the bottom, making sure to keep the jar tipped. Then spoon ¼ cup of the other color into the jar. Keep alternating until you get to the top.

Fill jar all the way to the top and place the lid on. Feel free to add a little more if it looks like it has settled a bit. Add a nice ribbon and instructions on a tag. The instructions are simple, “Add a handful to warm water for a relaxing soak.”

Frankincense and Myrrh Body Oil
 A body oil works great keeping the skin from drying out. Frankincense and myrrh are two oils used since ancient times that will be perfect for the holiday body oil.

a dark bottle, 8 ounces works wellcarrier oil such as grapeseed, jojoba, or sweet almond
frankincense and myrrh essential oils

Add 40 drops of each essential oil to your 8 ounce bottle. Fill the rest of the way with your carrier oil, leaving enough room at the top to shake ingredients. Cap bottle and shake gently to combine ingredients. (If using 4 ounce bottles, only use 20 drops of each essential oil.) Label with instructions on how to use. Something like, “Rub small amounts at a time into the skin, avoiding sensitive areas.”

Bayberry Bath Bombs
Bath bombs are fun and often help to get kids into the bath. These are fun for adults too! The fresh, clean scent of bayberry gives a warm, comforting feeling, though ANY scent could be used.
1 cup cornstarch
1 cup baking soda
1 cup citric acid 
a few drops green food coloring
natural mica glitter, optional
a spray bottle of water
10-15 drops bayberry essential oil
A meatball former or a bath bomb mold 

Mix all of the dry ingredients in a glass bowl. Add a few drops of green food coloring. It will tend to clump, so mix it, let it sit a few minutes and the mix again. If you don’t see much color yet, don’t worry, it will come out in time.

Add the bayberry essential oil. Get it mixed in and then add more if you like.

Then spray a small amount of water on your mixture and work it in. Don’t spray too much at a time or you’ll have a mess! Just spray once or twice and work it like pie crust. When it looks like pie crust before you add the water, you can form it into balls. Put it into small aluminum cupcake forms, soap forms, about anything you can think to use,  I’ve also read that the tool that makes meatballs is about perfect.

Place the balls on a wax paper lined cookie sheet and allow to dry for a few hours. When completely dry, place in a jar and label. Toss one into the bath to soothe and soften the skin.

Cinnamon Orange Hand Soap
Love to make soap, but crunched for time during the holidays?  It’s okay to cheat. A favorite quick thing to do is use a pre-made glycerin soap base. There are bases out there that are all-natural, although they are harder to find.

For each bar you’ll need:

5 ounces of glycerin soap base, clear or white 
orange and cinnamon leaf essential oils 
a square or round mold that will hold about 4 ounces

Cut the soap base into one inch cubes and place in a pint jar.

To melt the base, place pint jar in a pan of hot water over the stove, like a makeshift double boiler. You can also use a microwave, but it often boils over and scorches. If using a microwave, be sure to heat using short bursts at a time (about 30 seconds).

When the soap base is all melted, add your essential oils. For one bar, five drops of each essential oil should be enough, but let your nose be your guide. Add a bit more or less as you choose.

You can add a few drops of color, such as orange or brown, if you like, but I leave mine natural. Pour into the mold and allow it to rest on a level surface for an hour or so.

Be sure it has cooled completely before you try to remove it from the mold. (don’t be fooled by soap that was cool on the outside but still liquid on the inside.  it’s a mess when not ready!) When completely cooled, pull the sides of the mold away from the soap and pop it out from the bottom. You can trim it if you wish, but it’s usually not necessary.

Wrap it in wax paper or other impervious material to keep the air from getting to it. I have found compostable cling wrap online that is made from plant starches and it works very well. Label and give to someone you love!

Monday, December 5, 2016

Wintering in Aspen Willow fun photos




Monday’s are my Wintering in Aspen Willow stories and posts; so, I thought today I will just share some fun photographs of my, Samantha and Gypsy’s days here at the ranch so far. Many of these some of you have seen on my Facebook page; however, there are some of you not connected to FB, these are for you.




our first snow Samie and Gypsy had to go out and play...after photos of course
    

the temperature stays around 8 degrees to 46 degree, so dressing warm is a must...even Gypsy has a jacket
    
Samantha loves playing the snow...to a point- when her tootsies get too cold she comes in to get warm again...then heads back out.
    
Gypsy... well, this little ones love the snow so much it is hard to keep her inside- it may be 10 degrees outside and she isn't effected one little bit. A true Swiss mountain dog. 
     
a couple photos that I love~
 the lady on the left is expecting in the spring
love the snow gathering on their back as they graze
Turkeys!!!! Gypsy loves to chase these guys   
yes, it's a Bear print- haven't seen him/her yet 
the wildest of all.... a crazy lady in a rover
plowing the 700 foot drive.... hahahah
had so much fun even went down the private road a ways toward our
south meadow. it is FUN! but then, when the snow is high, it's windy and cold... :(
 i'll be inside, warm, and waiting for sun and calm winds :)
have a fabulous week everyone, 
and keep an eye out for Thursday's Crafting, 
I finished my Yule arrangement...this year it is very different.