Nature Friday ~ December 4, 2020

Welcome to the first Friday of the last month of one helluva year. We’re joining our Nature Friday weekly hosts, Rosy, Sunny, Arty and Jakey from LLB in Our Backyard. Don’t forget to click on their link, to see what they and others around Blogville have discovered in nature this week.

It’s been another busy week with loads going on around the Ranch. It also was a bit on the chilly side. Yesterday was so ‘crisp’ with the wind chill that when I walked the dogs in the morning, one side of my glasses not only fogged up, it frosted for the majority of our 2 mile walk-about. It’s hard to see spots of nature through permafrost, although the ice crystals were pretty cool. Literally.

I’ve been busy working on Christmas gifts, a bit of organizing (out of necessity-where DOES all that junk come from??) and finding some holiday spirit…as in looking for holiday lights. Junk I can find, but Christmas lights and decor seem to be MIA. All of which has conspired to keep me from finding much in the way of nature in the ‘Hood.

Although I did happen to notice some ‘wildlife’ a couple of days ago on our walk and did a double take when I saw a deer from a block away, so naturally we had to investigate it up close.

WildlifeI’m in awe of how some people go all out for holidays. These neighbors had quite the front yard scene at Halloween (pirate skeletons having a garden party) and now they are working on Christmas. This is the largest outdoor blow up decoration I’ve ever seen and I’ve never found any there weren’t all vinyl or plastic. This guy had fuzzy fur!  Of course, deviating from our usual route tends to cause all sorts of canine consternation for Elsa who wasn’t all the keen on getting too close to Rudolph, though she eventually did give it a perfunctory mini sniff and then promptly looked away as soon as I pulled out my phone. Elsa, Elsa, Elsa {head shaking}. Why do you always have to look away as soon as the shutter is released?

Norman on the other hand seems perfectly content to stop, sniff, and cast his best pose. This guy needs to find a modeling agent.

We hope you are able to get out and enjoy some of the nature’s beauty or at least, check out some amazing holiday decorations this weekend.

Nature Friday

Live, love, bark! 🐾

In Purrsuit of Flavors ~ December 2, 2020

Happy December to all you ‘howliday’ cooks out there. For this last of 2020 for “In Purrsuit of Flavours” edition, we’re once again joining our hosts, those Wild Weim boys over at Easy Rider as well as the great chef cats over at Canadian Cats. This month’s theme is “colourful cuisine.” While our colors may be various shades of brown/tan, once you’ve had one, you will be colorful. Guarantee if you leave one for Santa on Christmas Eve, no doubt he’ll treat you nicely. So let’s get to cooking!

Chocolate Chip Cookies Shots

Cookie formMy son and I recently made these babies and while they’re kind of labour intensive, they are relatively easy to put together once you have the mold. First step…use the form but for heaven’s sake don’t use the cookie dough recipe included with Wilton’s form. It was disgusting so we tossed the first batch (even squirrels wouldn’t eat them) and went on a Pinterest search. There are a plethora of recipes on Pinterest so I narrowed the search to only ones highly rated. Our biggest dilemma was deciding on which flavor to fill the shots  but ultimately settled on Irish Cream (they can also be made alcohol-free for designated drivers or under-aged peeps). In a subsequent “quality control moment” we tried  Kahlúa and while it was tasty as well, the Irish Cream was far tastier. I may give Amaretto a try since it should also pair nicely with the chocolate coating. My motto is to be creative and go with whatever appeals to your tastes. [For the record, we halved this recipe]

Ingredients

1 cup softened butter
1 cup brown sugar
3/4 cup granulated sugar
2 eggs
1-1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
4 cups all purpose flour
1-1/4 teaspoons salt
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 cup of mini chocolate chips

To coat the inside of the cookie shots, use 10-12 oz. of chocolate, finely chopped chocolate (we used chocolate wafer candies since it was what I had on hand).

Purrsuit of Flavors

Instructions

Cream butter and sugars until light and creamy. Add eggs, vanilla and beat well. Then add dry ingredients, mix. Dough will be thick and stiff. Stir in the mini chocolate chips and refrigerate dough for 1-2 hours.

Preheat oven to 350ºF. Pack balls of chilled dough into the cookie shot mold. Press the inserts into the center of each mold. Some dough will push up and out of the mold. Leave inserts in place and scrape excess dough away. Bake for 20-22 minutes. Halfway through baking time, use an oven mitt and push the inserts down again. Dough will expand out of mold but you can remove any excess later.

Once baked, let cookie shots cool for a few minutes so you can handle without getting burned. While still warm and with inserts still in place, scrape away any excess dough that expanded out of the mold. Let cookie dough cool completely. Keep inserts in place until completely cooled. Once cool, twist inserts and lift them out of the mold. Then twist the cookie cups and lift them out of mold. Set aside while you melt chocolate coating.

Coat inside of cookie shots by pouring a little melted chocolate inside the cookie shot glass and rotate around to coat the inside cavity. Turn upside down and dip the top rim; set aside until chocolate is completely set. Once cookie shot glasses are finished, they can be filled. After pouring in a ‘colorful’ liquid, I added some chocolate mousse and topped the whole thing off with a tiny dollop of whipped cream. Add some winter themed sprinkles and voila! A festive treat perfect for Santa.

Purrsuit of Flavors

Don’t forget to check out the links of the hosts for other recipes and turn up the “color” for the holidays!

Purrsuit of Flavours

Live, love, bark! 🐾

Monday Musings ~ November 30, 2020

Signs

Accepting submissions now. Happy Monday.

Did anyone happen to catch The National Dog Show over the weekend? Even though  no fans were allowed to attend (cardboard cutouts of dogs were featured in the seats) and announcers broadcast from their respective homes, the AKC safely hosted the show and what a great batch of dogs participated (including Kam, the black Standard Poodle, who won the non-sporting group – shameless plug for Elsa’s breed). Big congratulations to 3-year old Claire, the Scottish Deerhound for her Best In Show Win. Deerhounds are not often in best-in-show limelight, despite being one of the oldest breeds recognized by the AKC. It was the first win for the breed in the show’s 135-year history. Many fans took a particular liking to little Chester, a personality filled Affenpinscher, who was the winner in the Toy Group. Kudos to all the ‘pawticipants,’ both two and four legged.

Here’s to enjoying a great last day of November and a ‘wagnificent,’ tail-wagging start to December. And for those keeping track, there are 24 days until the big guy in the red suit arrives. 😱

Live, love, bark!  🐾

Nature Friday ~ November 27, 2020

Welcome to this week’s edition of Nature Friday where we’re once again joining our friends and co-hosts Rosy, Sunny and her two brothers from LLB in Our Backyard. Hope all our U.S. friends had a safe and happy Thanksgiving Day celebration. Today is often called Black Friday which officially kicks off the Christmas shopping season with insane offers for many items most of us don’t need but just can’t seem to ever resist buying. I never have understood Black Friday or for that matter, participated in it, figuring the few extra shekels spent would be worth not having to deal with rabid shoppers willing to go to the mat for an opportunity to score an inexpensive sweater or limited amount of electronic items I could live without. And that was all before this year’s panDAMNic.

Even though my family opted to shelter in place this year, I still wanted to prepare a nice holiday feast for me and the Ranch hands, which still took some time to gather last minute groceries which kept me from getting out to enjoy much nature this week. ‘Course the nearly 8″ snowfall on Monday also contributed in putting the kibosh on anything beyond mandatory dog walks so this week is more than a tad lean on images.

There’s nothing prettier than seeing fresh snow on trees following a storm with a bright blue Colorado sky as a backdrop and so it was on Wednesday after a bit of a thaw that I was out picking up various provisions for yesterday’s holiday meal. I was in a perfect spot at the stoplight to have the sun highlighting the top of the tree and that gorgeous sky. I’d have lingered longer had the jerk dude behind me not honked for me to hurry up. But it was lovely enough for me to be a bit passive aggressive linger for a brief enough moment and take in the surrounding open space area.

Nature

We hope however you spent Thanksgiving, you had a good day and practiced safe distancing. Our raucous gang put a Zoom call together in the afternoon and while the audio quality was less than perfect, the smile on the faces of my 90 year parents at seeing their kids and many grandkids on screen was well worth it. It wasn’t our usual Thanksgiving gathering but it will be one where those smiles will linger in our hearts with the joyfulness of a noisy bunch celebrating in style in each of our own homes with a profession of our love for each other and good food which is what this holiday is really all about. Not shopping in crowded stores for stuff we don’t need or all too often, can’t afford.

Stay well, sane, and keep smiling as you savor simple moments as we enter the Christmas shopping season. Enjoy your weekend and I hope you’ll get the opportunity to see what beauty you can find in nature. Extra points if you can peeve the clown behind you.

Nature Friday

Live, love, bark! 🐾

Wednesday Wishes

Thanksgiving

Live, love, bark! 🐾

Monday Musings ~ November 23, 2020

As peeps in the U.S. prepare for the Thanksgiving ‘howliday’ this week, we hope you and yours stay safe as you give thanks. Maybe be like Duke and impress your tribe on Facetime rather than in person. But wherever you’re at, we hope you stay smiling.

Thanksgiving

Live, love, bark! 🐾

Nature Friday ~ November 20, 2020

Welcome to Friday where we join our furry friends, Rosy, Sunny, Arty and Jakey from LLB in Our Backyard for another Blogville edition of Nature Friday. So how was your week? It’s been breezy in the 303 which means the leaves have fallen and now lay strewn over lawns and flower beds basically mocking residents to rake them up. Mostly I’ve resisted any urge to rake most of them up, instead hoping the wind will carry them down toward the next street over. Yeah, I’m ‘that‘ kind of person.

I did however take some collected garden waste to the city’s recycling program at Sloan’s Lake (which is where all these images were taken).

The local Canadian geese population have pretty much stopped migrating south for the winter preferring instead the hospitality of Denver’s 250+ city parks. There’s something about these large birds that always makes me stop and watch them for long stretches of time whether they are on the water or chasing uprights and their pets waddling around the park. They aren’t one bit afraid of humans or dogs and will chase you if you invade their comfort zone. One might even accuse them of being aggressive.

Nature

Hanging out in Sloan’s Lake shallow waters, these guys were bathing and sunning themselves. Notice the Mallard herding them into a circle. Kidding…my guess is the Mallards avoid the geese as much as the rest of us, but what a striking fella motoring around the fringes of the gaggle.

Nature

One might speculate the increasing COVID conditions have encouraged these guys to congregate much like upright visitors (and unfortunately far too many maskless ones at that-come on people-stop being a mask-hole!) walking and bicycling around the park yesterday in the gorgeous November weather. While we repeatedly hear of storms in the forecast, nothing has materialized yet. Still it’s hard to knock 70 degree days, despite the area being desperate for moisture-just check out the parched looking grasses around the park.

Nature

Nature

Then there’s always that one guy who has to show off to the chicks by spreading his wings. Show-off. Who knew there were obnoxious jocks in the geese world?Nature

We hope you’ve enjoyed checking out the Canadian geese of Sloan’s Lake and hope you will get out this weekend to enjoy some beautiful weather as well as some of beautiful sights Mother Nature offers in autumn.

Nature Friday

Live, love, bark! 🐾

Wordless Wednesday ~ November 18, 2020

Autumn Splendor

Live, love, bark! 🐾

Monday Musings ~ November 16, 2020

Egad…we’ve reached the latter half of November…how in the dog did THAT happen? While in many ways 2020 has seemed to drag on and on, it’s still incomprehensible there is a mere six weeks left in a year we’d all probably like to forget.

What’s a Ranch Hand to do? How ’bout we start the week out with another Indian Hills sign. Last week’s musing seemed to tickle you guys so let’s go with “an udder.”

Signs

Here’s hoping this week is “udderly” fantastic.

Live, love, bark! 🐾

Nature Friday ~ Friday the 13th Edition

Nature FridayAs is our usual practice on Friday’s, we are joining our furry Pacific Northwest friends, Rosy, Sunny, Arty and Jakey from LLB in Our Backyard for another edition of Nature Friday. Colorful foliage near the Ranch has gone bueno bye after a couple of minor snows storms and windy conditions so I had to dig into our photo archives for some nature scenes for this week’s post.

Because we live near the heart downtown Denver, I generally don’t think of wildlife being a staple around the ‘hood. But every once in a while, nature surprises me and ‘drops by to say “hello.”

Anyone who knows the Denver metro area is familiar with Cherry Creek. A tributary of the South Platte River, it has been an integral part of the area since the city’s founding during the Gold Rush back in the late 1850’s.

Rising in a high plateau east of the Front Range, Cherry Creek flows north through Castlewood Canyon State Park while running through portions of the metro suburbs (Centennial and Aurora), into southeast Denver. It becomes an urban stream joining the South Platte River at Confluence Park just west of downtown and runs for approximately 5 miles (8 km) east of the foothills.

The 140-foot-high (43 m) Cherry Creek Dam, completed in 1950, forms a water source for the metro area providing flood control and irrigation and lies immediately southeast and southwest of the Denver and Aurora city limits, about 8 miles (13 km) from the confluence with the South Platte River.

A long scenic bike path follows the creek from Confluence Park west of downtown all the way through Cherry Creek State Park and south towards Parker and Castlewood Canyon. Wildlife along Cherry Creek includes a number of snakes (garter, western hognose, bullsnakes and occasionally rattlesnake, along with a few Amphibians native to Colorado can be found at as well including, the plains leopard frog, woodhouse’s frog, and the striped chorus frog. American bullfrogs are a non-native species and have contributed to the decimation of native amphibian species populations at the creek.

Other wildlife include raccoons, beaver, foxes, coyotes, and even deer are not uncommon sights along the creek. Petrified wood is quite common in the creek and fossil mammal bones have also been found.

The image below was taken near the Cherry Creek mall with apologies for the poor quality taken from the cell phone at a distance. The water in some areas rushes past during spring runoff and nearly missed seeing this guy.

Heron

So have you seen any wildlife around your neighborhood beyond mooching hoodlum squirrels?

Happy Friday the 13th. We hope today and your weekend are safe with no incidents and that you’re able to enjoy a spot of nature.

Live, love, bark! 🐾