Staying busy when the nest is empty!

Have you seen the Toyota Venga commercials?  The ones where the parents are out living an active life while their grown children are worrying about them as they age?  This one is my favorite…

Ever since we dropped H off in California for college,  I get the sympathetic head tilt, “So, how are you?” about once a day.  And you know what?  I really am doing OK.  Surprisingly, even to me.   I expected this was going to be much more difficult than it is proving to be.  Not that I don’t get sad.  I do have those moments…moments of missing her as a little girl, when she adored us, and never wanted to leave us, not even to go to sleep at night.  I also have lots of moments when we’re experiencing something that I think she would enjoy, and wish she were here with us.

But we raised her to be independent, and to go after her dreams. The fact that she is at a college she adores, taking classes that inspire and motivate her, meeting people she enjoys, and becoming the person we always knew she could be, is everything I could ask for.  Sure, I would like to be a fly on the wall and observe her every moment, but since I can’t, J and I are staying busy.  I discovered that when we’re doing new things, or experiencing things outside our comfort zone, I don’t think about her every minute.

Spending extended time in Colorado and North Carolina is something Jeff and I have dreamed about for many years.  It wasn’t until our nest emptied out that we were able to do it.   Well, that and the internet, fax machines, email, etc.  We started this summer trying to do all new hikes that we hadn’t done before.  As we became more acclimated to the altitude they became longer and more strenuous.  Last month I bought a book on 14ers around the same time my friends from Nashville did Mt. Elbert while here for a short visit.  I mentioned it to J, and he said, “Are you crazy??”  Every time we did another long hike, I’d mention it again.  J’s responses started becoming less negative.  Finally, when we finally made it to Buckskin pass (after two failed attempts), he checked the weather report and decided that if we were going to do it it would have to be Saturday.  We made a trip to Ute Mountaineer in Aspen to pick up the supplies we didn’t have (tarp in case of rain, water purification tablets, weatherproof matches), and Saturday morning we were up before dawn to make the hour and a half drive to Leadville.

The drive over Independence Pass was magnificent, and our jeep was able to make it to the farthest point at the trail head so that we only had 8 1/2 miles to hike, instead of 12 1/2.  J was battling some lower back pain (we worked at a Habitat house the day before and he was doing a lot of bending over, sawing cement board), Rosie had been limping early in the week, but both of them were pumped up with anti-inflammatory and had rested the day before so we were all ready to go.  After about 1/2 mile of meandering through the trees, the incline started.  We were at about 10,300 feet at that point, and had 4100 feet to go over a period of 4 miles.  It didn’t seem like it would be that difficult, but I was wrong.  From the very beginning, I sounded like a freight train, sucking in air to get enough oxygen to take another step.  But I looked down and took small, slow steps behind J.  As the trees got thinner, the trail seemed to get steeper.  When we exited the trees, the mountain loomed ahead.  I must admit, it didn’t look that steep, or far, but each step we took the summit seemed to look farther away.  Little did I know, that when we reached that false summit, another one arose in the distance.

First False Summit 13,800 feet

We paused as we reached the first summit to put on more clothing.  The temperature drop was pretty severe and the wind started kicking in.  So we kept going…tiny steps forward and up.  When we reached the SECOND false summit, we still had another 100 yards of elevation to go, but it didn’t take that long.  Suddenly we were there…along with a pretty big crowd of people!  There were a couple of areas where there were rocks stacked up to create a really nice wind screen, but they were already taken, so J and I found a rock to sit on.  I pulled out my windbreaker because it was really cold!  J shared his trail mix with the puppies, who still seemed to have lots of energy left!

I looked around, and even though the haze in the valley from the Idaho fires kept the view a little less crisp, I was overcome with awe.  From the highest point in the Rockies, you can look down on Leadville to the Northeast, the Twin Lakes (which look like triplet lakes to me) to the East, 14,336 foot La Plata to the South East, and 14,421 foot Mt. Massive to the North.  It was spectacular!  With all the crowds I had no problem finding someone to take some pics of both J and I.

In front of Mt. Massive-14,421 feet

Twin Lakes

In front of La Plata -14,336 feet

We hung out for awhile, chatted with a few people, and decided to get started on the walk down. The doggies had fun playing in a little patch of snow as we started the descent.   I (wrongly) thought it was going to be a piece of cake, but descending 4100 feet over 4.25 miles was BRUTAL!  We were very glad when we finally reached the car.  When I pulled my phone out in the car there was a text from H, congratulating us!  I had sent her a text from the top.  I have to admit, I did think about her a few times on the walk up…mainly wishing she was with us.  I know she would have loved it, and since she had summitted Mt. Shasta a couple of years ago (but started at a much lower altitude so it was a much tougher climb), she would appreciate it. But…I wasn’t sitting at home, staring at Facebook, wishing she would post pictures, or call us, or skype.  We were out, living life, and hopefully, that’s exactly what she’s doing as well. 

The view on the way down!

Third Time’s the Charm!

Two days ago J and I went to the movies.  I bought the tickets while J paid the check at the restaurant down the street.  I told the young man behind the counter that I wanted two tickets, and he told me it was bargain Tuesday, and it was only $12.00.   Nice surprise, until the guy in line for popcorn leaned over to ask the guy why he paid $16, and I only paid $12.  The boy looked at me, shrugged his shoulders, and said “Seniors?”  Wait, what???  I was crushed.  I thought maybe at this theatre the “senior” discount came at age 50, which would be fine, since I’m 51.  But I looked it up. It’s 62.  I was really bummed.  I thought perhaps he was just trying to be nice and giving me a discount.  But probably, he thinks all people over 50 look the same.  Or maybe it was just a bad, bad skin day for me.  What does he know, he was 12.  (But the fact that I called him a “young man” above kind of makes me sound like I’m 62.

So, yesterday, J and I set out on our third attempt to make it to Buckskin Pass.  However old I look, I wanted to prove that I could do this hike!  We’ve done a lot of beautiful, not so easy hikes, like Lost Man Loop (13,000 feet, 9 miles total), Government Trail from Snowmass to Aspen (11 miles), both American Lake and Cathedral Lake (both only 6 miles total, but lots of elevation), etc.  But this hike has been our nemesis this year!  The first time we tried was our first day in Colorado, and we made it more than halfway.  We were with our friends, and it was their first day, too, and we were all sucking wind pretty bad.  This is a beautiful hike, only 4.8 miles each way, but an elevation gain of almost 3,000 feet.  So we made it about 3 1/2 miles, to a beautiful overlook, took photos, and came home.

Last week we tried again, with another couple who were here visiting us.  They weren’t acclimated yet, so even though they are both strong and fit, we didn’t make it.  So, I was determined to see the pass.  Starting at gorgeous Maroon Lake, overlooking the majestic Maroon Bells, with the golden aspen trees looking like they were lit from within, we easily hiked up to Crater Lake, the 2 mile mark.  Crater Lake is almost not a lake right now…the drought has really caused it to dry up.  Very sad.

Maroon Lake…still has water!

We stopped for water and started the steep climb past Crater lake.  Every now and then we’d come to a clearing and marvel at the view (and catch our breath!).  Coming from the East, I am used to the multicolors of the fall foilage, but here, the trees turn mostly yellow.  I wasn’t expecting to be so blown away.  When the sun hits the golden aspen leaves, twirling in the wind, they look like sparkling jewels!  The patchwork of yellow and green of the brush on the sides of the mountains is beautiful as well.  We are so lucky to be able to enjoy such a show now, in September, and then go back home to see the October foilage in Tennessee and North Carolina.

Starting the climb

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The climb went well, as we plugged along, taking small steps to conserve energy for the climb.  When we got to mile 4, there was a sign directing us to the Pass, and looking up we could see our goal, as well as the STEEP switchbacks we still had to travel.  But we saw a couple of people ahead of us on the trail, so our competitiveness kicked in, and we made it to the top.

I have been so amazed by the wildlife we have seen here.  H says we’re “obsessed” with it…but seeing huge Mule Deer walk through our backyard on a daily basis, a little orphaned cub eating grass outside my window, a porcupine, plump little fox (unlike the skinny ones we see in Nashville), Elk on our way to dinner, a mama Bear and her three cubs in a tree outside our restaurant at dinner…it has truly been amazing.  But I didn’t expect to see three snow white Mountain Goats up on the pass!  It was a mama and two babies, and they were absolutely stunning.  We sat on a rock at the top, looking at the Bells on one side, and Snowmass Mountain and Lake on the other side, watching the goats get closer and closer to us!  They weren’t brave enough to come grab our lunch, like the goat in the cell phone commercial, but close enough to get a couple of photos.

All in all, it was a great day.  And it was a warm up for another big hike on Saturday.  I’m not going to say what it is, because I don’t want to jinx it…but I’ll keep you posted!

We made it!
The view on the way down of Maroon Lake

P.S.  STAYED TUNED…My life has changed, with H leaving for college, so my blog will be changing in the very near future!

Aaaaaand She’s Off!!

Last week we helped H move into her dorm room…in CALIFORNIA!  She picked a school the farthest away from home she could!  It’s a great fit, and she is thrilled to be there, so we’re truly happy for her.  But it’s such a strange feeling, to go from having her here to NOT having her here.   Buying her the one way ticket to California was the first time it really hit me…I’m not going to be in her daily life any more.

She is reveling in the independence of college.  I’ve talked to her a couple of times, mostly when she needed some kind of information, but once she called just to check in.  She sounds ecstatic.  Which makes this so much easier.  

But move-in day/parent orientation was hectic and emotional.  At least on my end.  She had just returned from a 3 day orientation adventure, backpacking at 11,000 feet.  There were 8 other freshmen, plus a couple of upperclass trip leaders, so she was able to get really close to a few like-minded kids right off the bat.  We missed all the planned parent activities because we were lugging boxes from the mailroom to her room, and making a few Target and Bed/Bath and Beyond trips.

I had forgotten how small college dorm rooms are!

 But surprisingly, she fit everything she needed into the space.  She was adament that I not organize her things, so I did the jobs she assigned me…connected her printer, hang bulleting boards, and unpack and throw away all the boxes.  We had dinner together the night we arrived, and the last night we were there, and met her for a quick breakfast the morning we left.  By that time we were extraneous.  Not needed.  She was being very sweet, but it was obvious she was ready to fly, and we needed to leave so she could get started.  I noticed that we were the only parents walking their kid back from the dining hall, and realized it was definitely time to go.  So we had our last hugs in front of her dorm, and watched her walk away to take her French placement exam. 

Nothing is going to be the same.   I’m excited for her, but it’s hard to stop the worrying…I think about her constantly.  Where is she now?  Does she like her professors?  Is she getting enough sleep?  Did she lock her bike?  Is she meeting lots of nice people?  Is her bed comfortable?  After almost 19 years of living and breathing her every single day it’s hard to stop.   But we’ve raised a smart, kind, resourceful, outgoing young lady, and I do know in my heart that she will be OK.  That doesn’t make it feel any less weird, or hurt any less.  I miss going into her room at night just to watch her sleep.  I miss making her weird vegetarian/tofu meals.  I miss dragging her out of bed on the mornings she slept late (which was any day she didn’t have school!).  I even miss her rolling her eyes at me when I did something she thought was goofy.

I miss this…

But I’m staying very busy.  Going on long hikes with J and the dogs, volunteering at Habitat for Humanity, trying new recipes, and buying new art supplies so I’ll hopefully start painting again.  Maybe I’ll even start blogging more often than once a quarter!  This whole experience is kicking my butt, but every day gets a little bit easier.  Slowly, but surely, I’m quitting the helicopter mom business.  But it sure would be nice if I had a closed circuit camera there to keep an eye on her!

Aspen Valley Half Marathon

Last month while we were planning our trip to Colorado, I was browsing through the Aspen Times  and found a little reference to a half marathon happening a week after we arrived.  The fact that it was going to be run at 9,000 feet didn’t quite register with me, because I saw the elevation map…

This is the whole marathon map, but the half starts at around mile 7 and veers off from the full marathon at around mile 17.  So my brain saw downhill and I signed up!  The fact that I had six days to acclimate to the altitude as well as the fact that I did not train for it didn’t cross my mind.

I started getting a little bit nervous four days ago, when we biked the course, and the “downhill” portion wasn’t as easy as I imagined.  The altitude was still doing a number on me.  Then I checked the results from last year’s half, and the slowest person was around 2 1/2 hours…yikes!  That’s about what I ran the Country Music Half in April.  Combined with the altitude and the lack of training, I convinced myself I was going to be in last place.  I know, I should be happy that I can run at all after my heart issues last year, blah, blah, blah…but last place? 

I fought off the urge to can it entirely, and decided to just show up and do what I could do.  If I had to walk part of the way, hopefully I’d finish before at least one full marathoner, since they only started one hour before we did.  I drove to the intercept lot where the bus was there to take us to the start.  A quick look around didn’t make me feel very good.  No old people (like me), and no fat people.  Seriously, I have run 9 marathons, and it is amazing the amount of overweight runners who run faster than I do!  I used the portapotty 4 times (yes, nervous much?), and eavesdropped on other people’s conversations.

No lines at the Portapotty!  Score!

I heard someone talk about a seven minute mile pace being slow, and the chick behind me was talking about doing a 500 mile Rocky Mountain bike ride.  Not good.  While on the bus I talked with the guy in front of me who has done this for three years, and he told me that 1) they took out the big uphill at the beginning (what?  I didn’t know there was an uphill at the beginning!), and 2) there were about 300 half marathon runners, which was more than double the number from last year.  That eased my mind a little.  Surely there would be someone else as dumb as me who signed up without training or acclimating to the altitude.   Then I saw this guy…he’s probably a really nice guy, but I thought, “Maybe I can beat him!”

I wore those shorts in my first marathon in 1995!

Notice the red white and blue shorts in front of me!

The course really is downhill, even if it doesn’t feel like it most of the time.  It’s one of those deceptive downhills that seem flat, until you turn around and go the other way.  It was painful.  My pace was faster than I planned, which made me nervous for the end of the race.  But the views were amazing.  Around mile 7 my stomach started rumbling a little bit, the way it does when I usually duck behind a tree or find a gas station with a bathroom.  Unfortunately,  there were no trees to duck behind, and definitely no gas stations.  I was afraid to drink water at the water stops because I didn’t know what my stomach would do, but I made myself do it, because it is definitely dry here.  Then, after a rare uphill at mile 9, there was a water stop, and Glory Hallelujah…

Proof that there is a God!

That 5 minute stop did wonders for me…gave my legs a rest, too!  The next 4 miles were hillier than the entire course, but I made it!  And the second I crossed the finish line, my phone rang and it was H!  She had no idea I was running but it was the best prize I could have gotten.  I know, it really shouldn’t matter if I finish last, it should matter that I finish.  And I get that.  But for some reason, the thing that keeps me signing up for these things, even though I get older and slower, is that I’m not the only one.  I’ll never win a race, but hopefully I’ll always beat someone, even if it’s a 92 year old.  I think that’s a reasonable goal…until I’m 92.

Not my fastest, but not my slowest, and not LAST

Summer, Friends, and Breakfast Pizza

I’m still here!!!  Whew.  The last 3-4 months have been a blur.  I won’t bore you with details, but in short, H is now a high school graduate!  The last few months of school for her were a combination of frantic studying, finding out which colleges she was accepted to, deciding where to go (which involved a few repeat trips on both sides of the country), planning an Operation Smile fundraising concert without much help, and graduation.  Combine all that with the inevitable “senior slide” and it made for a pretty tense situation in our household.   All I can say now is that I feel like I have my sweet daughter back.  When she took her last AP exam a week before school was out, it was like a fresh breeze was flowing through our house.  She exempted out of all her final exams so the stress of picking out a college and maintaining her grades was gone.  I can’t tell you the feeling of relief we all felt.

Graduation…the white gowns were lovely

  J has been dreaming and planning for the day after H’s graduation for the last four years!  I still can’t believe we’re actually living the dream.  We’re not quite ready for the whole shebang, which is making North Carolina our home base and downsizing in Nashville, but we’re able to spend a lot more time in NC.  We finally moved into our new house.  J likes to say it’s the home he’s going to die in, but hopefully not for a very long time!  H was in a little town about half an hour down the mountain where she was doing lifeguard training and orientation for being a camp counselor at Keystone Camp where she spent many summers as a little girl.  She had not seen the new house in quite a long time.  She called up one night because they had the night off and wondered if she could bring a few friends up for dinner.  Of course, I was thrilled.   I didn’t think I’d get to see her at all for a couple of weeks.   She used to love Lake Toxaway.  But in the last few years, being an only child in a retirement community with lots of old people and no teenagers is not fun.  She didn’t have a lot of expectations for the house because she didn’t think she’d have much use for it since she’s going off to college in California.  But when she came in with her friends, she was so excited, which in turn, made us ecstatic!  She even says that she would come here when she’s got a break from college!

Keystone Camp Counselors

After her orientation she had about three weeks to spend with us.  She had one friend from Nashville come up for a couple of weeks and it was so great to have that time with her, and see her relaxed and happy.  She had 9 Adventure Treks friends (the backpacking, climbing, camping trips she experienced the last two summers) come to the house for a long weekend “reunion”.  I was a little nervous about cooking for 5 boys, much less 10 kids, but it worked out great.  The kids were great, the food was consumed and they even cleaned up before they left.  Great memories!

Yes, I fed these guys for four days!
AT kids enjoying the Brown Trout, our favorite

 But by far the best part of my summer so far was a week of just the three of us.  H even wanted to spend time with us, which was a rarity a few months ago.  In less than two months she will leave the nest for a new college life in California, so I am treasuring these moments.  She never looked at a single college in the vicinity of Tennessee or North Carolina, so I am used to the idea of her leaving, but I think when we actually drive away after orientation I will be a basket case.  In the meantime, I am enjoying every moment I can get.

Hiking together…just like old times!

Rosie and Sugar love the lake!

Here’s a recipe for the breakfast pizza I made one morning.  It’s easy, pretty, and healthy, and I used to make it whenever Halle had friends over.  Her AT friends inhaled it before they made scrambled eggs and bacon (and cleaned up after themselves…a miracle!)


One roll of refrigerated pizza dough
Lowfat cream cheese
Lite Cool Whip
Assorted fruit (Berries, Bananas, Kiwi all work great, but use your imagination)
Cinnamon Sugar (I make my own so I can adjust the amounts of cinnamon and sugar)

Roll out the dough onto an ungreased nonstick baking pan.  Sprinkle with Cinnamon Sugar.  Bake at recommended temperature until very lightly browned (don’t let it get too done or the pizza will be too tough and hard to cut).  Slide out of baking pan onto cutting board to cool.

  Mix about 1-1 1/2 cups of Cool Whip with a half cup of cream cheese until spreadable.  Spread onto cooled pizza crust to the edges.  Slice fruit as desired and layer over cream cheese mixture.  Sprinkle with Cinnamon Sugar.  I usually slice it into squares for serving.

Another lesson from my daughter

My daughter continues to amaze me with her insight and maturity.

She has been disappointed lately with a couple of friends that she thought were true friends, but according to her, they have “ditched” her. She doesn’t have any idea why. It happened suddenly, without an obvious cause. No fights, no disagreements or anything she can put her finger on. She thinks they’ve just moved on.

For awhile, she just kept thinking that maybe she was overreacting. But they’ve just stopped calling. At school, in their regular circle of friends, they’re polite and cordial, but it goes no further. H asked them both, separately, if she had done anything to piss them off, and they both told her “No, everything’s fine. I love you to death”…blah blah blah. But nothing changed.

Today a couple of things happened at school that made her tell me that she just needs to admit it to herself that they’ve moved on.

I asked her if she still had plans to meet one of them for breakfast (Plans that were made long ago). She said, “Yes.”

I said, “Well, maybe you need to tell her you’re busy. Give her a taste of her own medicine.”

H looked at me and said, “Why would I do that? I know how much it hurts.”

Oops. Once again she’s more mature than I am.

Roasted Brussel Sprouts and Updated Veggie Meat Loaf…SOOOO Good!

Last year I posted a vegetarian meatloaf that I made for my vegetarian daughter that even my red-meat loving husband would eat.  Shortly afterwards, my husband and I gave up meat as well, so the vegetarian meatloaf has become a staple in our house.  Without the fat from ground beef, the soy crumbles just didn’t want to stick together.  It wasn’t pretty, but it was delicious.  I have tinkered with the recipe over the last few months to try to keep it from falling apart after slicing, and last night it came out PERFECTLY!  I’ve had several people ask for the recipe lately, so I’m posting the latest version.

Vegetarian Meat Loaf

*Click HERE for printable recipe

* 1/4 cup Bullseye Hickory Smoke Barbecue Sauce
* 3/4 cup Heinz Ketchup
* 1 (12 ounce) package vegetarian burger crumbles
* 1 red, yellow, or green bell pepper, chopped
* 1 minced red onion
* 2 cloves garlic, minced
* 1 cup Panko bread crumbs
* 3 tablespoons Parmesan cheese
* 1 egg, beaten (or 2 egg whites)
* 1 teaspoon dried thyme
* 1 teaspoon dried basil
* 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley (or 1 teaspoon dried parsley)
* salt and pepper to taste


1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Lightly grease a 5×9 inch loaf pan.
2. Heat saute pan over medium low heat, add 1 TBSP of olive oil and saute the onion, peppers, and garlic (seasoned with salt and pepper) until soft and translucent. 
3.  In a bowl, mix together the barbecue sauce and the ketchup. Mix 3/4 of the mixture with the vegetarian burger crumbles, bread crumbs, Parmesan cheese, and egg.  Add the onion mixture.  Season with thyme, basil, parsley, salt, and pepper. Transfer to the loaf pan (sprayed with olive oil), and press down to make it as compact as possible.

3. Bake 45 minutes in the preheated oven. Pour remaining barbecue sauce over the loaf, and continue baking 15 minutes, or until loaf is set and sauce is heated.

I buy these crumbles at Publix, in the produce section where the Tofu is…other stores carry different brands and they’re all pretty similar.

I also made Brussel Sprouts.  I think Brussel Sprouts are the new Sun-Dried Tomatoes.  They are EVERYWHERE!  Top Chef, Magazines, Restaurants…every menu I’ve looked at lately has them.  I think chefs have finally figured out how to cook them.  The boiling and steaming that we did 20 years ago just intensified the rubber shoe taste, so I was firmly in the ‘I DON’T LIKE BRUSSEL SPROUTS’ camp.  But a couple of years ago I tried some at ChaCha’s restaurant here in Nashville, and my eyes were opened to the yumminess that comes from letting them caramelize, and sweeten, thus eliminating the bitterness of the past.

My problem in cooking them is since we are meat-free in our house now, I had to find a way to cook them without the bacon drippings that made them so good.  I’ve tried roasting them a couple of times, but didn’t use enough oil (my go-to spray on Pam wasn’t sufficient), so they just dried up and didn’t taste like anything.  Last night I didn’t spray the oil on, I tossed them with 2-3 Tbsp. of olive oil.  (I had a pretty big bunch of sprouts…it doesn’t take a whole lot of oil, just enough to lightly coat them).  While they were roasting at 350 degrees (cut side up for 20 minutes, then cut side down for the rest of the time), I sauteed a large red onion with garlic, pine nuts and rosemary, then tossed them together and voila…they were amazing!  Almost as good as the huge bowl I ate at ABC Kitchen in NYC this week!  My husband and daughter, who have not jumped on the brussel sprouts bandwagon with me, even ate a couple, which was a success in my book.  They didn’t eat a lot, but that just meant…more for me!

I use small brussel sprouts, pull off the outer edges, trim the stem a little and cut in half.

Baked Kale Chips!

My grandmother lost her eyesight early in life due to a combination of Macular Degeneration and Glaucoma. My mom has had Glaucoma for several years, and was just diagnosed with Macular Degeneration. So I’m on a mission to do whatever I can to prevent the same thing from happening to me. I did some research and found that other than not smoking, diet is one of the best ways to help prevent MD. I have a pretty good diet. I eat a lot of vegetables and greens, but the really healthy DARK leafy greens that have been recommended to prevent Macular Degeneration, like Kale, have been harder to fit in my diet. I don’t really like the bitter taste of raw Kale. But a couple of weeks ago, we ordered a flatbread at Table 3 restaurant. It was topped with “Kale Chips”, which were to DIE for, but of course, they were fried. I’m a southern girl, so I love fried vegetables, but I wanted to try to replicate them without all the fat.

I found a recipe for baked Kale chips, which involved tossing them with a couple of tablespoons of olive oil. The problem with that method was that I ended up with half of the leaves covered with oil and the other half had little or no oil on it. I tried putting it in a ziploc bag and shaking it up, but it still didn’t come out even. So I pulled out my trusty can of PAM Olive oil spray. Voila! It was so easy to put a light coating on all the pieces on a baking sheet, then sprinkle with a little kosher salt and bake slowly for about 20 minutes or so. The only caveat is that, depending on your oven, you really have to watch them the last couple of minutes. If you cook them too long, they get a little bit burned, so the taste isn’t quite as good. If you don’t cook them long enough, they’re still limp, and not crispy.

This is how I did it. First, after rinsing the kale and COMPLETELY DRYING IT (I rinse and then lay out on layers of paper towels while I cook dinner), I take each piece of kale and fold it over so that I can easily cut off the stem.

I preheat the oven to 300 degrees, then tear the pieces into approximately equal size and lay out on a large baking sheet pan that I prepare by spraying with Olive Oil. I spray the tops of the leaves lightly but evenly with Olive Oil, then sprinkle with Kosher Salt.

You could use any kind of seasoning you like. The leaves will shrink, so be careful with the amount of salt, but in my opinion, the salty crunchiness makes it really good! For the first pan of chips, I set the timer for 18 minutes. Then I taste a chip to see if it’s crunchy.

Finished chips…this batch needed a lot of taste testing before they were done!

Usually I need to let them cook at least two more minutes, but I have learned that I need to watch very carefully during this time. Once they start to get crunchy they can very quickly burn. Some days they cook faster than others. I don’t know what that’s about…maybe some days I don’t get them as dry as I should. If, after 20-22 minutes they are still not crunchy, I turn off the oven and let me stay for a little while. But they can still burn so I have to continue to check on them.

After you make these a few times it becomes much easier…I usually cook them while I’m chopping other things, or piddling around in the kitchen, so it goes very quickly. I leave them uncovered in a bowl or platter for several days so I can grab a handful throughout the day. Don’t wrap them or put them in plastic, or they’ll lose their crunch.

Snowmass Skiing January 2012

It’s Day 4 of our two weeks in Snowmass, and we’ve decided to skip skiing today.  We normally ski every day possible, but the conditions this year are just, frankly, horrible.  The base is around 30″, officially, but I don’t really see that.  They haven’t had any snow, other than the 8 inches they received on the day we flew in, and I think they’ve tried to move the little snow they do have around on the mountain to cover up the brown spots.   It’s still skiing, and we still have beautiful wide open spaces and blue skies, and as J says, it’s like a really good day skiing in Vermont, so I don’t want to complain.  But we are so spoiled to the Colorado powder that we usually get this time of year that it’s definitely taking some getting used to.  I’m seriously thinking about renting skis, because every time my skis go over the rocks and trees that are scattered around on every single run, I cringe.  There are deep scratches on the bottom of them, and that’s only after skiing two days.  They were hoping to get snow last night, the only night that snow is forecast between now and when we go home, but the light dusting that actually happened didn’t even register as any accumulation.  Oh well.

But we still absolutely love it here.  It is so beautiful, the air is so crisp and clean, there is much to do besides skiing, the summers are beyond belief,  and once we get acclimated to the altitude it just feels like home to us.  Yesterday we relaxed in the morning, did a little business over coffee, and headed out to Snowmass to get in a few runs.  It was a beautiful day, and the temps at the top of the mountain were in the low 20’s, so it almost seemed like spring skiing, except for the lack of snow.  But we tried out my new Christmas present…goggles with a video camera built in, so you can see for yourself.  Watch for the little trees that stick out of the snow every now and then, and the bumps as we ski over little rocks.  But it’s all good!

Enjoy this footage of Big Burn and Sheer Bliss, two blue runs that weren’t too bad yesterday, along with Train’s new single, “Drive By”

Here’s to letting go of the Routine!

It’s 3:20 on a Wednesday and I haven’t worked out yet.  I have no idea what’s for dinner and I just had lunch.  I slept in until 8 a.m….something I haven’t done in ages.  I’m starting to get glimpses of what it will be like when H leaves for college.   For the last 18 years, my life has been defined by the routines and schedules that come with being a mom.  My schedule was her schedule.  Bedtime, awake time, meal time, study time,  cuddle time, worry time.  Ah yes, the worry.  Worrying about whether she was hungry, tired, warm, healthy, safe, happy…that is a constant, but the worries have progressed over the years to worrying about whether she was doing enough, doing too much, getting where she needed to be on time, doing her assignments on time, driving safely, making smart choices, not texting while driving-it never stops.  It became so entrenched that I don’t really remember what I did or even worried about before she was born. 

H is in France.  Her school has a Winterim program every January, where the 9th and 10th graders take special interest classes instead of their regular classes (Women and Finance, Music of the 60’s, sewing, The Beatles, The Kennedys, etc.), and the 11th and 12th graders go off campus-to internships or travel programs either in town or out of town.  H is in France doing a combination tour and home stay.  She will live with a French family for 9 days in southern France, learn about their food, schools, routines, and hopefully, polish her French.  It’s an incredible opportunity for her, and I am thrilled she gets to do it.

She has traveled a lot in the last couple of years without us; Colorado, California, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Vermont, Pennsylvania, Baltimore, Washington and China.  Each time was a little less worrisome.  At this age she is like a sponge, learning what to do and not to do when traveling (make sure her phone is charged, don’t leave her computer on the plane), and at this point it has become much easier.  As her parent, I always worry (probably always will), but I know she has the maturity and wisdom to take care of herself.  It’s also made it easier for me each time to let her go.  When she was a little girl I spent the entire time she was gone writing her letters, checking the camp website for photos, worrying and thinking about her almost constantly.  But the last couple of years I’ve begun to appreciate the unscheduled days.  The time with my dear husband for late, long, leisurely meals or hiking with the dogs, sleeping in, staying out late, eating popcorn for lunch, and even increasing the times I can volunteer is growing on me.

I could write a million pages about how difficult it’s been for me to “let go” (and I actually have!)…I know that part of parenting is to let her make her own decisions and mistakes…but knowing and doing are two completely different things.  J tells me I “micromanage”.  So lately, when I think I need to stay up late to pack HER suitcase, or make sure she submits HER college applications, I have to literally make myself STOP.   I didn’t pack her suitcase for France.  I didn’t go to Walgreens to buy the toiletries and things we didn’t already have.  As difficult as it was,  I didn’t stay up late to look over her shoulder while she wrote her college essays.   And you know what?  It all got done.  SHE packed, SHE shopped, SHE stayed up late and got the apps in on time.  It’s very liberating.  Not easy, but it’s a good feeling.

Halfway across the world, in a tunnel under the street in Paris, she ran into our neighbor and childhood friend!

Last night we went to sleep while she was still in the air on a flight to Paris (something I wouldn’t have been able to do a couple of years ago).  The world didn’t cave in.  I woke up this morning with a really good night’s sleep and had a text from her that she was there.  I know the day that I take her to college, move her into her dorm room, and drive away will probably be the hardest thing I ever do.    But I know she will be OK.  Even more, I know that I will be OK.   Eventually.