Monday, December 5, 2016

Giant Pumpkin's Grand Finale

Do people wonder what happens to my son's huge pumpkin after the initial fanfare?
The answer is that the fun of being the proud owner of a 700+ pound pumpkin continues after the official weigh-in. If you haven't already read about the weigh-in story you can read it here to see what all the excitement is about.

Now that my son, Andrew, has his winning ribbon and cash in his pocket, he drives his pumpkin around the streets of Arvada, Colorado, delighting on-lookers. It's quite a sight to see a huge pumpkin hanging over the back bed of a pick up truck. It's worth a double take.
People always ask me about making pumpkin pies out of this monstrous pumpkin, especially since Thanksgiving is not far away from the weigh-in. I think pumpkin pie enthusiasts are dreaming of dozens of pies lined up on their kitchen counters. It could be done but the meat from these huge pumpkins doesn't have much flavor. Lots of spices would be needed to make a tasty pie. Andrew's wife, Sarah, and I never took this prospect on and this year Sarah bought our pies already baked. So much easier. I approve, especially after all the effort it took to grow the tasteless pumpkin in the first place!

After the pumpkin's parade of glory it's time to make it's celebrated appearance. This year it was displayed at the Campbell Elementary School Carnival. Getting it delivered to the school grounds was no easy task. It was thanks to our local Home Depot Arvada #1502 who sent an extendable forklift  to unload and place the pumpkin in front of the school. It made a wonderful photo opportunity for the school children and families. Climbing on top of a huge pumpkin was a unique experience for one and all. A few people didn't even realize at first that it was a real pumpkin. It's hard to believe a pumpkin can grow so large. Once it's identity is verified, it's popularity sky rockets. Below is the proud pumpkin-owning family at the carnival, Andrew, Sarah, Mackayla and Andy. I was so impressed with the help from Home Depot as they returned at the end of the carnival to load that heavy pumpkin back on my son's truck. That is real community help and support.

Once the over-size pumpkin has been cut from the stem and weighed, it can last about 2 months without refrigeration or 6 months in a refrigerator before it starts to disintegrate. Not having that  much space, though, it's just easier to deal with it in other ways. Some years the pumpkin has been cut up and mulched. This year as it graced our son's front yard, and Halloween was fast approaching, he decided to carve it for the delight of his children. Below you can see our almost 3 year old grandson standing next to their creepy creation.  What a fun family I have. I never know what my kids will be up to next. Keep tuned and I'll let you know what that might be!


Saturday, October 1, 2016

Giant Pumpkins

This is my son, Andrew; he grows GIANT pumpkins in his backyard. 

He's been doing this for 7 years. This mighty pumpkin above had its official, impressive weigh-in today at Nick's Garden Center and Farm Market.  

Since I have no green thumb what-so-ever, I totally delight in the success my son has keeping these huge pumpkins alive for months. This pumpkin started out from an Atlantic Giant Seed, patented by Howard Dill. Seeds are an important part of growing big pumpkins. Seeds can be found from reliable growers in the Rocky Mountain Giant Vegetable Growers Club. Looking on their web site will help to get you started. Not to scare you off but one seed from a prize winning pumpkin in Wisconsin was sold in 2010 at auction for $1600. The seed was not even guaranteed to germinate. The giant pumpkin had so few seeds that value of the seed went for a premium. For beginners it's suggested, though, that you don't get fussy and get some seeds just for the asking. 


Giant pumpkins come in all sizes, shapes and colors. The goal is to grow a bigger one next year. Many things can go wrong during a growing season so it's exciting when a pumpkin makes it all the way to the weigh in.  Andrew has had an interesting history with his pumpkins. His rookie pumpkin was 24 pounds. The second year he raised a 176 pounder. I wrote a blog post about it on Roaming Rita that you can read here.  His third year hit 230 pounds, fourth year was over double the weight the previous year at  551. Fifth year was a wipe-out. The pumpkin didn't make it. The squirrels ate it up making it ineligible for any competition. Other growers have too late found families of mice taking up residence in their pumpkins. Weather and hail are other culprits to a pumpkin's good health. Last year Andrew had a mighty 331.5 pound pumpkin so this year's was over double that. They do keep getting bigger. 
 

Taking on this giant pumpkin project requires a constant watch to nurture this growing monstrosity. Usually the pumpkins end up with a name as they grow. This pumpkin was named Dorito. The seed was planted April 20, 2016, pollinated July 7th, 2016, and  was cut from its vine September 30, 2016.  For five months, water and attention are focused on the growing patch. 

 

Growing a giant pumpkin is one thing but how do growers move their masterpiece? It's not an easy task and it takes plenty of help. Here is how this year's pumpkin was lifted from the backyard. Andrew built this hoist with the help of his brother, Paul. A neighbor was on scene to help as well. Other years with smaller pumpkins a group of six guys lifted the pumpkin on a tarp. This year another method was needed for the project. 


Loaded and rolling down Interstate 70 on it's way to the weigh-in, Andrew said people slowed down to look at his cargo as they passed his truck. That's a sight you don't see very often. 

Having safely arrived at the weigh-in, the pumpkin is lined up with the other entries. Since Andrew is a board member on the Rocky Mountain Giant Vegetable Growers Club, he assisted in tape measuring the size of the pumpkins. This gives a hint as to the weight of the pumpkin and is one of the recorded measurements. 

Since all this excitement is dependent solely on the weight of the pumpkin, the color, size and shape are not considered. Therefore, the scale is the most important object on this day. In this picture you can see the heavy duty scale. The red and white ribbons will go to the top 10 heavy entries. Money is also an incentive for all the effort involved. First place garners a dollar a pound. This year that came to a whopping $1420. If your pumpkin doesn't get one of the top three honors, but are among the others in the top ten you are a happy winner of $50.00. 

Once the weigh-offs start, they are done in order by their estimated weights (from the tape measures) smallest to largest. There is a junior division so they go first. When a pumpkin is up for their long awaited official weigh-in, it is lifted and checked on the bottom. This is to look for holes, animals or any tampering of the pumpkin.  
While Andrew's pumpkin is being examined, he's on stage waiting for the results.

Results are in. The pumpkin weighed a whopping 702 pounds. This put Andrew in 7th place this year so he was happy to be $50.00 richer today. Sarah, Andrew's wife, was standing next to me as I took this picture and she was cheering loudly as she had put in lots of effort helping to keep the pumpkin viable. She's been known to run out and cover the pumpkin when a hail storm hits. She needs to he recognized as a co-owner of a successful pumpkin this year. 

There are only 2000 pumpkin growers in the world. As Andrew said "I can't think of any other fruit or vegetable that makes people smile." This Rocky Mountain Giant Vegetable Growers isn't all about pumpkins, even though it is the main draw. There are also categories for giant tomatoes, sunflowers, long gourds, green squash and more. If you have a green thumb consider this as your next project. There is lots of room for more giant vegetables on this table.

These giant pumpkins are often sold for fall decorations. They don't make very good pies unless you use lots of spices. Even then it's not obvious if the inside of the pumpkin is going to be a good eat or not. There are pumpkin drops at nurseries where you can watch them go splat. That's another whole day of fun! 

Great job growing this year, Andrew (and Sarah). 



Friday, September 30, 2016

The American Girl Cafe: Dining With Dolls - Eating Outside the Box, Epis...

An American Girl doll holds the heart of my 8 year old Granddaughter, Abigail.
She requests American Girl doll paraphernalia for Christmas, her birthday and any other time she can sweet talk her Grandmas.  Her doll is Caroline Abbott, a beautiful blond with blue eyes representing the War of 1812.  who is now retired. These dolls run in her family as her Momma, Mary, has Felicity from her childhood. When Michael Truly posted this on YouTube my Granddaughter and I sat together to watch it. Michael grew up with our middle son, Andrew, so we've known him a very long time. His parents are our best friends that we go sailing with. I had such fun watching this as an American Girl doll lover myself that I wanted to post it here for your enjoyment.

http://americangirl.wikia.com/wiki/Caroline_Abbott

Nagle Warren Mansion Bed and Breakfast, Cheyenne, Wyoming

I had always wondered what it was like to stay at a Bed and Breakfast. I had never done that and it was something on my Bucket List. The wonderful opportunity presented itself when my niece, Julia, had her bridal shower at the Nagle Warren Mansion Bed and Breakfast in Cheyenne, Wyoming this year. A short history on the Nagle Warren Mansion is available here.

This lovely Victorian Mansion hosts twelve available rooms to choose from. Each room is uniquely dressed to recreate the splendor of the 19th century old West. The ornate staircases, fireplaces and authentic period decor made every room a delight to enjoy. 

My sister, Janet, and I couldn't resist climbing the rich cherry wood staircase to the third level. Plush carpeted stairs and stained glass windows on the landings made the trip a pleasant adventure.The tower on the third floor was a delightful destination. It was a luxurious, furnished reading room. The rattan furniture gave it a garden-like feel to the room. Five windows with soft draperies allowed for views all around. A separate door to the outdoor balcony tempted us to step outside.  It was a lovely sunny day and we had so much fun checking out this charming feature of the Mansion. 

The two fireplaces below are cast brass with mirrors to the ceiling. It was truly splendid elegance that I marveled at. The black fireplace is in the parlor and the one below is in the sitting room. 


The sitting room makes for quite an impression when signing in for one's stay. 
The impressive ornate woodwork throughout the house, the green and white wallpaper, parquet floors and prim furniture whisks you away into the year of 1888 when the Mansion was built. At that time, Cheyenne was the richest city of it's size in the world. The Mansion was built to showcase the riches of the time. The grand piano is the focal point in this room. 

Walking through the sitting room you will enter the library. Antique books, history books, newspapers  and scrapbooks offer hours of reading. This cozy corner offers a place for your unique reading pleasure. Other comfy chairs welcome you to sit and relax in front of the fireplace. The room is decorated with burgundy striped wallpaper and various paintings. There is also space for an intimate tea party in the library and a table to spread out the piles of books you plan to read. 

Looking back through the sitting room, through the vestibule, you see the parlor. Before we tour the parlor, I want to point out that this entry way boasts an original Moroccan chandelier and cherry paneling. The textured wallpaper just beckoned me to reach out and run my fingers over it. 

While waiting for the bridal shower to begin, my Mom Rosemary,  and my Sister Janet, relaxed in the parlor. I had a great time taking their portraits. Aren't they pretty? 


At the other end of the parlor is this magnificent Victorian buffet. To the left of it is the dining room where we had the bridal shower. 

The dining room was a cheery, bright, welcoming place for a bridal shower as well as morning breakfast for the patrons of the bed and breakfast.  The golden wallpaper made a lovely background for the sun shining through the stained glass windows of rich gold and red tones. I enjoyed watching the sun dancing through the colored glass on the white table cloth as I enjoyed a delicious breakfast each morning. 
 
After the festivities with my family and friends, I headed to my accommodations on the first floor of the attached carriage house.  The room was quiet and offered Wifi, TV, phone, bathrobes and ......

my favorite antique claw foot tub complete with a yellow Nagle Warren rubber ducky! 
I might have scandalized my dear Mother by having these pictures taken. I told her that maybe I staged them with my clothes on!  


My room was named the Frederick Warren room after the son of U.S. Senator Francis E. Warren. It had a Belmont king size bed, a period-style desk with rose printed stationary and a guest book to sign. The decor was soft gold with wainscoting. 

A gas log fireplace with a fossil fish on the front from South West Wyoming. My husband, the geophysicist knew that. I learn a lot from him. There was also a huge armoir in the room (not pictured) that held the TV and other amenities such as ironing board, iron, etc. Behind the chair were French doors opening out onto the patio. They were covered with beautiful rose patterned lace curtains. I kind of wanted to bring them home with me. I did use the French doors on my visit. Not like you might think though. In the evening I went out for a night cap with my three nieces and when I came tip toeing back to the door of the Mansion late at night I found the Mansion to be locked up tight. I felt like a prowler walking through the side yard and  crossing over another patio to get to my patio French doors. I quietly knocked on the window to ask my dear husband to come around to open the outside door for me. The nieces were waiting in the car watching to make sure their errant auntie got into her room for the night. I was grateful for the back up. 

 The carriage house where my room was located is pictured here. It's attached to the main house.  The French doors on the right is where my room was. 

To walk from the main part of the Mansion to the carriage house, a trip through the Butler's Pantry entices one to raid the cookie jar or to grab a cup of tea or coffee. The stocked pantry offers cold water, juice, soft drinks as well.  Along the way you might pass the resident kitty who quietly keeps herself out of your way. 

There are many other amenities that I didn't partake of. Downstairs are meeting and conference rooms and an exercise room.  Back on the main level is an enclosed hot tub and an outdoor garden area to enjoy when the Wyoming weather permits. 

Our host and innkeeper, Jim Osterfoss, was ever ready to visit, tell us stories of the history of the Mansion and to over see whatever we needed. To schedule your own visit you can call:
307-637-3333 or 800-811-2610.  The Nagle Warren Mansion Bed and Breakfast is located 222 East 17th Street, Cheyenne, Wyoming, 82001




Traveling Tea Lady

It started with a tea cup. 










I inherited some lovely registered English bone china tea cups from my husband's side of the family. Each cup and matching saucer was different from all the others. The collection was too exquisite to use but I had fallen in love with them. I soon discovered that other English bone china tea cups could be purchased at reasonable prices from various stores, including places like TJ MaxxMarshalls, Ross' and even garage sales. So my collecting began. Soon I had many beautiful cups and saucers. I displayed these on a wall rack and loved admiring them. A few favorites I used,  for coffee, not tea. I was not a tea drinker.

However, one night inspiration struck. I was laying in bed when it occurred to me that I could start a business bringing old fashioned tea parties to the elderly and homebound. I was very excited with this possibility and set about doing exactly that. I got copyrighted and trademarked for Travelling Tea Lady. I had brochures made and started my business.

My table settings were gorgeous. I used the hand made quilts I had sewn for the table coverings. This set the color scheme or holiday theme for each party. I had a variety of two and three tiered plate racks and my menu was luscious and loaded with both savory and sweet treats. 
Autumn themed tea party
Christmas themed tea party

 I had a very popular business with compliments that my tea parties were outdoing the Savoy in England and the Brown Palace in Denver. I offered a complete package of entertainment. Background music, colorful arrangements of food and decorations, lovely tea pots with the best teas available were brought to the homes of those who wanted to entertain but could no longer do it themselves. I had one faithful customer that booked me every month. She delighted in inviting her neighbors, church ladies, card group ladies, relatives and friends for a royal tea party. 


My business was as much of a ministry as it was a lucrative career. Eventually, to the dismay of my customers, I closed up the tea shop and got a "real" job. However, the name continues and many of the precious little ladies I served are no longer with us but I hope I was able to bring them the joy of celebrating with their friends.


Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Little Free Libraries

Book lovers rejoice! Free books are available everywhere now, even in your own neighborhood. I've seen shelves in coffee shops where the customers are invited to "take a book and leave a book." Since my husband and I are avid readers I thought it was a great way to circulate our ever-expanding pile of books. It wasn't until my sister, Janet, sent me the photo below that my interest was sparked in the Little Free Library that is springing up with 32,000 book exchanges in all 50 states and 70 countries around the world.
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This Little Free Library, which is painted in University of Wyoming Cowboys' colors of brown and gold, is proudly planted outside a bank in Cheyenne, Wyoming. My mother, Rosemary, and my sister have unofficially adopted this book exchange. They often visit it to donate good reads and to straighten up any topsy-turvy books. They reported that it's a very active library and the popular books are exchanged quickly. Their enthusiasm even has me considering putting a Little Free Library out on the corner of my property.

These Little Free Library book exchanges are meant to have a special community building atmosphere about them. Some libraries are focused on school children stopping by. What a great way to encourage kids to read. This is a library on Race St. in Denver, Colorado. 

 
What child could resist stopping to pick up a book with inviting chairs and stools to beckon them?


For those interested in setting up a little free library its easy and fun to do. You can purchase kits from the Little Free Library web site or make your own. I found this kit in a hardware store in Boulder, Colorado. 



There are no rules about what your library should look like. By clicking on this link you'll see many designs of the Little Free Library that will spark your creativity. As you plan your Little Free Library, it might be wise to check with your homeowners association (if you have one) to make sure you are within covenant restrictions. Additionally, to use the name Little Free Library which is registered and trademarked, it's asked that you register your library so it becomes a part of the Little Free Library network. By doing this it will have an official sign and charter number on it. You can also register it on the 


In the picture above with the little chairs, did you notice the recycled chair used for the library stand in the front yard? Here is a closer view of it. 


In Old Town Arvada, Colorado, there is a garden container holding the books on a driveway.


Look at how much room is available in this idea.


Another Little Free Library in Arvada, Colorado, cheers on the Broncos Football Team in their bright orange and blue colors. 


The Little Free Library was started in 2009 and became non-profit in 2012. Over a million books have been exchanged since then. You can find them on Facebook , Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, Flickr, and a few other social media sites.  It's worth taking a look because the Little Free Libraries come in all shapes, sizes and colors. It's a marvel to enjoy. They have a newsletter you can sign up for also.

After my sister told me about the Little Free Library I went in search of any in my neighborhood. I was so excited to find this one not very far away. I might not have even realized what it was if it wasn't for the heads up from her.


The original box of books was  built in 2009 by Todd Bol of Hudson, Wisconsin. It was a one room school house design. His mother had been a former school teacher who loved reading. He built it as a tribute to her. You can read more of the history of the Little Free Library here. Below is an adorable red barn. I bet it's in memory of a family farm. 


The map feature on the Little Free Library web site is a great place to find local places for these book exchanges. In my hometown of Arvada, Colorado, I found nine locations of the little libraries. What fascinated me was by hovering my mouse over each location it often told me the story behind each Little Free Library. Some are dedicated to parents, or located across from a school to encourage children coming by. One even said it was a replica of the house she grew up in (sorry there was no picture and I haven't been able to make a field trip to the site; latitudes and longitudes are given).  I noticed some of the book boxes are decorated for the seasons. Here's an idea for that book lover in the family! Help to build or buy one of these adorable book boxes for that bibliophile who would love to share his/her love of books with others. It could become a family project.  

I was driving down a street in the Park Hill Neighborhood of Denver and found this Little Free Library on the corner. I had to quickly turn at the corner to visit it. I haven't taken any books from any of the libraries I've visited but I might have to start carrying my excess of read books in my car to add to the collections I come across.


Even though I haven't taken a book yet, I still open and close the doors on each library and have the fun of reading the titles available. I am partial to mysteries and I suspect they are quickly taken
 

The sign on this Little Free Library says "Celebrating Neighbors". It's in a lovely neighborhood and is so inviting. The mission statement of the Little Free Library includes wanting to build a sense of community and this definitely is doing that. 




I love seeing neighborhood libraries with sitting available to peruse the books or for a quick read. This is one of  my favorite pictures so far. My mother, sister and her husband, Steve, found it in Cheyenne. From the picture I can't tell if it's registered yet with the Little Free Library. It's easy to make one official and with that you receive a charter sign to display. This outdoor library looks so peaceful and welcoming. I could imagine a quilt thrown over the back and a pillow tucked into the corner. The fall colors encourage me to linger. I wonder if they'd bring me out a cup of coffee? 


Looking inside this wonderful garden bench is a vast assortment of books for old and young alike. I think I see a Harry Potter book and the sticker book will probably disappear fast. 


Little Free Libraries are the personalities of their stewards. I saw some book boxes that focus on cookbooks or children's books. I've seen magazines, teen reads, science fiction, suspense and an occasional horror thriller. Opening the door of a neighborhood library and peeking in to see what your next reading adventure will be is the fun that will draw you back over and over again. Gather up that stack of books you've finished reading and share them. You might be surprised who you'll meet at the Little Free Library on your corner. 




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