Posted in Entertaining

A Christmas Wine Tasting Party

On a cold winter’s eve, a group of friends gathered at my home, escaping the windy night, to celebrate the holiday with dinner, gifts, and to taste my new wines. Thank you to my friend, Annie, for taking photos!

The tree was decorated and all aglow, the twinkly lights and candles were lit and cast a lovely glow. Food was set out all around so that guests would mingle; latkes, cheese balls, olives, pickles, shrimp cocktail, smoked salmon, chips and dip, limocello cheese cake, and ginger bread.

We created a game that we have done at every party. Guests pair up with someone they don’t know and answer the questions. The questions are based on the origin of our animal’s names. There is always laughter during this trivia game! (You can answer the questions at the end of this article!)

The Chardonnay was everything I wanted to be. It was a very small batch. Caramel apples and light pineapple in every taste of this delicious wine. I was so pleased.

My Merlot was a hit. Sumptuous, with aromas of cranberries and flavors of mulberries and cedar; currants and complexity linger on the palate. We toasted to friends and the new year.

Everyone brought a ten dollar gift to exchange. Numbers were drawn and everyone went home with a wonderful present.

I let each guest have a barrel taste of my new Nebbiolo. It is still sweet with juice but the flavors are coming together beautifully and I think it will be a very fine wine indeed.

Keeping in mind what is really important, gather those you love near, introduce new friends, and gather memories dear.

Ice Breaker:

  • What are our cats, Chuck and Linus, named after?
  • What movie is our cat, Mr. Boogedy Boo, named after?
  • What movie/books does our dog, Gandalf’s name come from?
  • What movie/book do our goats’ names come from? Ichabod Crane and Brom Bones?
  • The sheep we are getting in a few weeks will be named Ebenezer and Fezziwig, where does that come from?
  • Our kittens are named Taos and Socorro- what do those have in common?
  • Our ducks are named Serrano, Sandia, and Big Jim- what do those have in common?
  • Tie breakers- A past cat we had was named Zuzu’s Petals and a greyhound we had was named Bumble; what movies are those names from?
Posted in Holidays

Christmas Cards and Gift Tags

If this year has taught us anything, it is that we need to get back to basics! In my mind, this doesn’t just include stocking up on toilet paper and canned goods, but old fashioned ways of communicating and focusing on a stronger familial community. Social media doesn’t cut it for keeping people close. We don’t need 552 friends. Technology is changing our lives. It makes me sad that so many things may go by the wayside. That my granddaughters may not know the fun of a date to a movie theater, the smells of popcorn filling the air when they walk in. The joy of walking down an old main street shopping in small mom-and-pop stores. The sweetness of receiving a Christmas card! It is not too late for us to save many things that make life nicer.

A Christmas card is such a lovely gesture. One reserved for those we are thinking of, those we want to send a hello and a blessing to. Well, you know me, I joke that I came straight from 1882. I am an old fashioned gal and I do love to receive letters and Christmas cards and get and make phone calls. Sometimes I get too busy, and I am going to do differently and be more proactive at telephoning and writing those I care about.

When I was little, we would receive a lot of Christmas cards, my grandparents did too, and they had a clever way of recycling them. The cards were packed up with all the Christmas bobbles and memories and then brought out the next year. I do the same. Tear off the front of the card and use it as a tag on a beautifully wrapped present. The added bonus is re-reading the cards from last year! The cards get a second life and bring joy twice.

Taos Mouse, my Siamese, loves Christmas and finds any excuse to chatter, help wrap presents or jump in the Christmas tree!

Cards received here get fewer and fewer but I love to read them, re-read them, then affix them to gifts for loved ones. I still send out lots of cards and I will continue to do so. Christmas is special in that it allows us to make people feel important. Gifts and cards, phone calls and hugs all let folks know they have been seen and they are loved.

Happy Holidays to you all!

Should you like to drop me a card or a New Year’s missive, I would love to write you back!

Mrs. Katie Sanders

790 9th Street

Penrose, CO 81240

Posted in Holidays

The Reason for the Season

There are four holidays celebrated during the month of December. They are all culturally important, and in the end, they represent the very same concepts, and give rise for celebration and unity.

Kwanzaa begins December 26th and is the newest holiday, created in 1966 to unite African Americans. Having a small amount of Sudan descent, I am intrigued by this holiday. Being fascinated by the world makes me interested in all celebrations. Kwanzaa focuses on seven principals, each being thought of each day as a candle is lit. Unity, Self Determination (self strength), Collective work and responsibility, Cooperative economics (supporting each other’s businesses), Purpose, Creativity, and Faith in each other. Candles, food, family, community, gift giving (generosity), and hope is the basis of Kwanzaa.

Beloved Christmas was created to overshadow the pagan holiday, Yule. Who doesn’t love the twinkly lights, the music, gift giving, family, candles, greenery, and the childlike wonder that comes with the season? It is my favorite time of year. Kindness, hope, and faith fill the moments of the season.

Photo by RODNAE Productions on Pexels.com

Hanukkah is a celebration of light and hope. When the temple in Jerusalem was destroyed, the eternal light within only had enough oil for one day. People were sent out to retrieve more oil. It took them eight days to get back, but the light had stayed lit. For this miracle, Hanukkah is referred to as the Festival of Lights. It is actually a minor holiday but was given more focus because of Christmas. Gift giving and lighting the menorah are a part of this holiday. Family and togetherness are the focus.

Yule is the original celebration- the Solstice- and is celebrated from December 21st until January 1st. The festival came about because the holly king (who looks a lot like Santa) is defeated by the Oak King, and the sun is born. In times of old, the cold and darkest time of the year was one of concern, and it looked like the sun stayed the same for twelve days. The Yule log was burned for twelve days in hopes of pleasing the sun god so that it would return. The oak king is also known as the green man, the face of crops, greenery, and life.

All of the celebrations this month have some very important aspects to them, and that is what we can focus on this time of year. There is no need to “try to get in the spirit”, the spirit is within you.

  • Family
  • Community
  • Generosity
  • Hope
  • Joy
  • Nature
  • Light
  • The promise of a bright new year.
Posted in Our Family

A Magical December Day

‘Twas all very strange, really. Something out of a sci-fi movie, perhaps. A thin Santa Claus wearing a mask, shielding half of his face, sitting behind a sheet of plexiglass. All the children in line did not think much about it. We took photos in front of the ho ho ho’ing Santa behind glass.

My granddaughters looked adorable. Beautiful in their holiday attire and excitement to see Santa. Intoxicated by a day with their mama, auntie, and Grammie. We then all sat down and took a group shot with our beloved Santa. The spell was broken when my two year old, Ayla, peeked behind the glass, looked at Santa seriously, and stated, “Bike!” Then gave him her bright, elfish smile. May children always teach us to find magic in the strange and mundane.

We five girls then went to find a place to have lunch but found that indoor eating had been banned. Among shuttered restaurants, we finally found a place open for take out and picnicked in the back of my truck. In the middle of a parking lot, our faces to the sun, we sat in the truck bed dining on crisp salads and chattering non-stop in our way. Dancing and laughing and eating and sunning on a beautiful, magical December day together.

This year may have frustrated me, angered me, confused me, but it has also clarified and prioritized. My close family unit of friends and children has only strengthened. We have spent many precious moments together this year. My home is my sanctuary. My husband and I have spent more blessed time together. I have enjoyed new experiences, met new people, and found solace in books by the fire. This year has amplified emotions to their peak and settled them into joy, gratitude, and empathy. It has showed us glimpses of simplifying and true family and the greatness of living.

I will oft think of the sun shining down warm on the faces of the daughters and granddaughters that hold my heart and the simple and powerful memory of a picnic in a truck bed. May we all notice the magic that surrounds us during this season of hope.

Posted in Entertaining

How to Throw a Memorable Dinner Party

Five records were stacked and ready to start playing as soon as the first guest pulled up. The table was set. Small wine goblets brought out for the occasion. Fresh sunflowers filled canning jars. The dinner party was about to begin.

I decided to throw a four course dinner party for friends, complete with wine pairings. My own garden created inspiration and filled the menu, along with local mushrooms, wine, and cheese. Homemade pasta and sourdough baguettes rounded out the menu.

This was an elaborate party, but it was easily managed by planning out each detail ahead of time. The menu was written on a door painted with chalkboard paint. The chive pasta was made Thursday. The Limoncello cake was made Friday in anticipation for Saturday’s dinner. On Friday I also blended a simple gazpacho style soup using lots of fresh veggies and olive oil in my Vitamix, added seasoning to taste, then stored it in the refrigerator. The soup was served cold topped with crab, which was removed from its cans Friday and stored in a glass container in easy reach in the fridge. Ten sets of plates and bowls were set out on the counter for easy plating.

Everything that could be prepped ahead of time was, like harvesting vegetables, pre-cutting the iceberg lettuce, and making the salad dressing. The white wine and champagne were put in the refrigerator as well.

Saturday morning I met up with girlfriends, rested until after lunch, then hit the ground running baking bread and setting the table. The potatoes were parboiled then smashed and placed on a cookie sheet. I poured crushed garlic and olive oil over the whole thing and put it in the toaster oven to start after the soup course.

Before guests arrived, the wine was opened, a pot of boiling water was started and kept on low for the pasta. The pasta sauce made with garlic and oyster mushrooms was started to the point of adding cream and was then kept off the heat until it was time to pull it all together for the third course.

Cups of coffee and delicious lemony cake was served. Guests meandered the garden, played with the dog, sipped wine and found things in common with each other. The whole dinner was a success. It it is a wonderful gesture to invite those you love from different circles and spoil them with great food and drink and company.

A simple affair is also easy to pull off. Put on a pot of soup. I wanted to make my woofers (farm interns) a truly Colorado meal, so I made them green chile, heated some tortillas on the gas stove, juiced some prickly pears and made the most delicious margaritas ever. The point of a dinner party is to come together as friends and community. Joining together over food is a great way to keep relationships alive and well. It adds such sweetness to life.

Cheers!

Posted in Farming

A Greenhouse Raising

We have been here a year. I can hardly believe how time flies! My granddaughter and I found an earth worm in the potato patch, a sure sign that our sand and shale desert soil farmed in a sustainable, no-till fashion- in just one season- is becoming an oasis. Now this land needs a greenhouse.

Doug removed all the cactus from the area we decided on.

A greenhouse could extend the season a few weeks. I am working on a system to naturally heat it so that we can start spring crops earlier. In all my houses before, there has been a nice sunny south window to start seedlings in, but the overhang is such here that sun rarely cascades in one place for very long. Then late in autumn, the tomatoes will have a few more weeks to ripen. Oh yes, a greenhouse is needed.

Choosing a place for the greenhouse. We needed a place that was easily accessible by the hose, level ground, and a place that wouldn’t block our view of the mountains.

We talked about building one from scratch, and we probably could have despite not being particularly handy or with excess funds…but we didn’t need to. Our neighbor has a friend, who has a partially put together greenhouse, do we want it?

Look on Craigslist or Facebook marketplace for greenhouses. A lot of people get them and then just don’t use them. Look for materials on those same sites. I am sure there are other sites that are good as well. You can put together a greenhouse for cheap. In some cases, free!

Put in a few phone calls and see if you can’t get a crew together to help you. Much like an Amish barn raising, I put out the word, and we got help. Then, of course, we will be available in their time of need down the road. Community is the best part of homesteading.

We walked the property looking for the best place to put it. Somewhere close to water, a place that is level ground, and a place that wouldn’t block my magnificent view of the mountains. (I regretted my placement of the little barn.)

Our neighbors, Carolyn and Rod, hooked up their trailer. My cousins met us there, along with our farm interns, Annie and Rex, and Annie’s boyfriend, Cole. We had a lively crew, happily moving the 10×12 greenhouse.

The young people quickly took the initiative and had the greenhouse finished and put together. The inside of the greenhouse is bolted to railroad ties so that the greenhouse won’t end up in Carolyn’s yard come first wind storm.

I am so grateful to my family and friends for helping this greenhouse manifest here. It is beautiful next to the kitchen gardens. I can just see the raised beds now, maybe a tea table, its warmth creating seedlings and life and food.

Posted in inspiration

Seasons of Vineyards and Life

Memories rise to the surface as I swirl my glass. Cascades of great times trickle forth. I can still hear their voices above the murmur of reality. I can hear Steve’s laughter above clinking glasses and conversation. Above the too-loud opera and our off-key singing in his living room or ours. In restaurants gathered with great food and wine. Skipping arm and arm to the wine bar we loved so. The one we took our sommelier classes together at. Discussions with the owners of the upscale place where we gathered weekly with other wine lovers over dinners with renowned wine makers from around the country. Tears accompanied by tapas and wine at a nearby wine bar where Steve and I whispered our deepest traumas and biggest dreams.

I remember his smile and sweet demeanor as he picked up my three rebelling teenagers and took them to see how coffee was roasted. To the park to run around and talk openly. Off to make pottery. How he tried to show them how important they were. Steve looked every server in the eye. “I appreciate you.” he would say in a low, meaningful tone. Everyone he encountered. He just wanted to speak life to them. To show them their sheer importance just being here.

Then came our sweet Lisa. Pixie blond and petite. A wine lover as well and off to elope and California they flew. They reveled in discovering their spirituality, and learning, adventuring, studying, being, loving each other fiercely. Driving Doug and I up the coast to eat great seafood and visit dozens of vineyards. Nights of discussions and joy.

The cancer caught up to Lisa. How she ran from it. Eight years of joyful and full life after diagnoses. And into the night she went. How Steve wept. He took his own life. A year ago this month. Two years ago she left. Four years since our last visit. Oh, how time flies without us knowing.

I swirl the garnet liquid and think of my friends as I turn up Andrea Bocelli and whisper to them through the veil. Beautiful memories. Beautiful people.

I often wonder why I am so fascinated by wine. I am not a particularly big drinker. I don’t stay out late enough to be an employed sommelier. But there is something about the chatter of leaves in autumn through the grapevines and rows of gold. Something about the fruit hanging voluptuously and sweet from vines. The hope in a sprouting vine in spring and the serenity of winter snows atop skeletal vines. Drinking the labor and gifts of the vineyard. Each decision of the vintner adds to the flavor of the wine. Every element of weather changes the taste. A wildfire will impart its smoke on a chardonnay nearby. The late frost will leave a year without. And some years will be so glorious that feasting and hard work will fill the days and nights.

I took my farm interns (now friends) with me to a local winery for crush. Our late freeze here in the valley left us all without fruit. Just beyond the mountain, near where the wildfires burn, is an oasis of Colorado wine country not known by many. The owners of Legatum purchased half a ton of gorgeous white grapes, La Crescent. We met them at the winery to help.

Five gallon buckets were filled with grapes from the container that filled Cindy and Rich’s truck bed. Into the destemmer they went as two others transferred the thick pulp and sugary sweet juice to the press. Everyone moving in tandem to keep the process moving. 200 liters of honeydew colored juice filled a tank and the process of PH and yeast began to create a luscious moscato-style wine.

I feel such joy and peace standing between rows. I feel life and giddiness. An unexplained spark. Thick red grapes pouring out of the destemmer. The aroma of malolactic fermentation. Wine is not just about preserving a fruit. It is not just about creating a drink. Wine amplifies life and family. Feasting and celebration. A combination of earth and spirit, the hope of spring, the pride of harvest. The seasons of the vineyard following the seasons of our life. Igniting my spirit. I raise my glass to Lisa and Steve. Sip for them. And pursue my dreams because I am alive.

Posted in Our Family

Time at Home

The governor issued a Stay at Home order until April 11th. I was livid. I was supposed to go see my granddaughters this weekend. We have three birthdays coming up (including mine). We have celebrations and a life to live. And now we can live it in the living room alone. I was mad. In 2009, the swine flu took 10% of its victims. I was preparing medicine for many who had it while they waited in my home- I without fear- because social media was still new and we didn’t have the mass panic and election year, so it didn’t garner all this nonsensical attention. Covid-19 isn’t going anywhere, and the longer it takes for us to face it, the longer it will take for us to gain immunity and the longer it will take people to get back to work. Because, you know, the landlords aren’t closed. (Imagine me storming around the kitchen seething.) Anyways, it wasn’t my prettiest moment of depression, and of course, out of the blue, two of my best friends called me back to back, because we are all connected, quarantine or not.

Deep breath.

“Everyone has a different perspective,” Tina said, “For some, like you, this seems crazy, but to someone else, they might finally be able to breathe.” People are able to step out of society as it is and take a break and restore in the comfort of their homes.

This too shall pass.

I think of my great-grandparents during the depression and compare it to today with empty grocery store shelves and job losses every minute. But hopefully we can recover more quickly. This isn’t the end of the world. I know people are scared. I know the media is having a great time. I know that viruses will always come to steal the breath of our loved ones for as long as we are on this planet. What I need to know is how to cope right now. The laundry stares at me, goat poop laden towels, dishes and dust and dirty floors. I like my little breaks from being a housewife, but here we are, 24-7. I need a new perspective. Perspective changes everything.

My husband is working from home. We joke about traffic in the hall and the two crazy drivers (the kittens) that might cut you off. I don’t have to pack his lunch. We get to have lunch together each day and his commute is thirty seconds.

The gorgeous spring blue sky stretches over the globe of western prairie and crests over the mountains that surround my little farm and I can breathe here. I can hoe some rows, run with goats, look for eggs, play with the dog, water the garden.

I can curl up on the couch and caress the soft fur of a cat while reading one of the many books I snagged from the library right before they closed down. I can listen to records or bake a pie. Or do nothing at all. (Which of course just makes me more antsy.)

I can talk to loved ones on the phone. I can write letters. I can catch up with people that I care about. And those that love me will catch up with me too. There are an awful lot of “friends” on social media, but this quarantine time will show us our true family.

I will have time to pray and write and think and organize or nap and bottle feed goats. I will have time with my husband. I will have time.

Vanessa called right after Tina. She was sitting on the porch with her children listening to the owls hooting in the trees and enjoying the warm spring evening at sunset. The natural world goes on.

And in the end, we will all remember this year and we will all have extra toilet paper on hand. The seed companies will be bustling with orders. And we will appreciate all the more coffee with friends, hugs from children and grandchildren, and freedom.

In the meantime, stay well out there. What are you all doing during this time at home? Please comment!

Posted in Holidays

The Christmas Card

Opening the mailbox and pulling out a pretty envelope brings a childlike feeling of wonder to the season. I do love Christmas cards. In the era of social media, when we all know most of what is going on in each other’s life already, a card seems moot. Less and less folks send Christmas cards each year. It seems to be a dying art, much like letter writing, or visits in person. I enjoy seeing actual handwriting. Hand written notes that perhaps didn’t make it on social media. Not phony, bragging Christmas letters; just a nice old fashioned note from people we care about. A card is a hug sent through the mail.

Cards decorate walls for the holiday and next year the fronts can be torn off and used as gift tags on gifts.

The point is not necessarily to get a card in return, but to send, by means of a simple, lovely card, a silent memento that speaks of your care for the person. And that is something we need much more of in the world.

In the writing world, it is how we make more friends. If you would like to send me a card, I would be thrilled to send you one in return. And who knows, it may end up being a lifetime of letter writing and friendship.

Mrs. Katie Sanders, 790 9th St, Penrose, CO 81240

Posted in Holidays

Your Only Job During the Holidays

The number one reason that folks feel depressed during the holidays is because they do not feel welcome, a part of a village, or loved as they are. There are habits that have been acceptable for a long time that we as parents and friends must change. If this is the season for kindness, than we must go beyond random acts of kindness to strangers and really be kind and absolutely loving to those around us.

From top left: my husband, Doug, my oldest granddaughter’s dad (and Emily’s ex), Bret, my son-in-law, Reed (Emily’s husband), my son, Andy, his girlfriend, Bree, my granddaugher, Maryjane, my daughter, Emily with Ayla, Bret’s brother, Bailey, me, Shyanne’s boyfriend, Jake, and in front is Shyanne. They are all apart of my family.

Now, this is important- Number One- no nagging. For god’s sake, we don’t really think that nagging will endear our children to us, do we? Your grown children make decisions every day- hard ones- and are becoming the people they are meant to be (whether they are eighteen or fifty-five!) and they need support, not “advice.” Once they head out that front door as a young person setting out into the world, their business is no longer yours. They are more likely to come to you for advice and friendship if you are not already badgering them. The way they raise their children is not your business either. They can homeschool, travel the world, be strict, have no rules, or send them to private school. Our only job is to show by example unconditional love. Unconditional love. That is what this world needs more of, especially around the holiday table.

Perhaps your daughter brings home a young man with a mohawk or her new girlfriend. Or your son brings home a woman your age, or someone of a different religion. Maybe your child quit college to your dismay and your daughter moved in with her best friend who has less-than-admirable habits. (None of that is your business.) Our job now is to be undeniably loving, welcoming, supporting, hugging, happy and accepting examples of love. That is what people need. Unconditional love.

I adore all of my kids’ friends. Many of them call me mama. Everyone knows that we can squeeze in more chairs. I will have plenty of food. Everyone is welcome at my table- mohawk or not. They also know they can call me to talk or if they need advice.

My mother used to say (following the advice of many parenting gurus) that she is not our friend, she is our mother. That is too bad, because she is still not my friend, sadly. Be friends with your kids, their friends, the neighbors down the street, the woman who just lost her husband, the coworker without family here, the people that Creator sends into your life. They are not being sent to you to be saved, they are being sent to you to be loved.

stock photo

Let’s make this holiday season a bright one for others by accepting them as they are, opening your home and table to them, offering respite from expectations, and offering unconditional love. See how that doesn’t just change your world and the world around you.