Out of the Zone: Denver Macaron Class

Macaron

When my friend, Michelle, asked if I wanted to go to a Macaron class, I wasn’t sure what a macaroon was, so I googled it after I signed up. It turns out there is a bit of confusion between a macaroon and a macaron. The session was a macaron class. A macaron is a meringue sandwich looking pastry with two halves and filling in between. I had never eaten a macaron before, much less made one, but I was up for the challenge. Sur la Table, in Cherry Creek, has a multitude of classes and their kitchen is amazing.

I knew I was the rookie of the group when everyone raised their hand when asked if they had a Kitchenaid mixer. Everyone, that is, except me.

Macaron Class 1web

I know…me taking a baking class is a bit of a oxymoron. I’m not much of a cook. Still, maybe my next career is as a chef.

Quit laughing!!Macaron Class 4web

Chef Brett Dolce was entertaining and had lots of tips on how to simplify the process of making these complicated cookies. Is it an insult to call them cookies? I’m not really sure. The measurements and steps are very precise and require a scale to weigh the ingredients. The mixer is a must if I’m going to make macarons on a regular basis.  Luckily, I have a friend who is willing to bring her mixer over so we can do tag team baking.

macaron

I was a bit intimidated when the class first started, but Chef Brett and his assistant, Nadine, were so encouraging and helpful every step of the way. I’m looking forward to taking more classes. Now I just need one with healthy foods to offset the sugar and butter from the macarons. 

Macaron Class 5web

Macaron Class 6web

The end result? They were amazing and looked pretty good too. Yummy!!

One of my personal challenges this year is to step out of my comfort zone by trying new things. So far, it’s been fabulous. Have you done anything for the first time lately?

Retirement – The First Month

A month…it’s been a month since I left my job…just a few days officially, since I entered retirement. I was on the books burning vacation time through the end of February. It’s unbelievable that I’ve been gone from the police department for a month. Time has flown by and I’m not sure I can even tell you how I’ve spent my days, other than that I’ve been really busy.

First of all, I haven’t missed my job for a moment. And…I’m actually a little surprised. The people I care about are still part of my life and I can easily stay in touch on Facebook, or by scheduling coffee or lunch. So, I don’t miss my friends and coworkers.

Here are some of the highlights of my first month:

  • Contribution: Volunteering is an area of my life I was hoping to expand and I just finished my two day training at the Denver Zoo. I’m now an Ambassador and looking forward to spending four-six hours a week contributing my time to a place I love with a mission I can support. The volunteers range from teens to people in their eighties. It’s a diverse group and we had a great time.

Volunteer Denver Zoo

  • Travel: In a few weeks, I’ll be leaving for New Zealand. It’s a trip that has been under consideration for the last five or six years and it’s finally time. We’ll be on a three week driving tour that will cover highlights from both the north and south islands. Airbnb has become our best friend as we do research on where my friend, Delia, and I are going to stay. While I love the wild places, the people are definitely the icing on the travel cake. We can meet people who love travelers and have the inside track on the best adventures.
  • Puppy Love: Scarlett O’hair-a has already made her blog debut. She’ll be coming home after I get back from the trip. In the meantime, Olive and I have been really working on her anxiety by attending training. She’s very smart and it’s been a joy to spend so much time working on her skills and visiting the Cherry Creek off-leash park. Olive runs her heart out and loves to play in the water. After the initial adjustment, I’m confident Olive will be thrilled to have a little furry sister.

Cherry Creek with Olive

The first week I focused on making sure that I was busy, then it was too busy. Once I get back from my trip, I think I will be limiting the number of scheduled days so I have more time to relax and play. I’m definitely doing more than I was before I retired. Exercising is going to move higher up on my priority list. The weather is continuing to improve and I’m looking forward to hiking the beautiful places.

Looking back, it’s been a great month. Some days I need to pinch myself to make sure it’s real. You mean I get paid to do whatever I want, including napping? Yes.

Retirement is good.

Out of the Zone: Screenprinting

comfort zone and growth

Out of the zone…the comfort zone that is.

One of my retirement goals is to challenge myself and to step out of my well worn rut. Growth…I want to learn more and to expand my possibilities.

There are many places to learn new things. I began at the Art Student’s League of Denver. The catalog of classes makes me drool. So many options. My first choice would have been drawing or painting classes, but the ones that fit my schedule were full. So, what the heck. I took a class I had never considered before, Screenprinting taught by Mark Friday.

Here’s my inspiration photo from my 2013 trip to Churchill, Manitoba:

Polar Bear

 

Supplies purchased- Check
Deciding on layers- Check
Drawing each layer seperately- Check
Burning the image onto the screen- Check

A little yellow added to the white created a creamy polar bear color and blue added to black was perfect for the nose and eyes. I selected a variety of papers. If you know me, you know how much I love paper and always have plenty available for special projects. Time to take a deep breath and leap forward.

Screenprinting

When several of my fellow artists pointed out the ink on my shirt and in my hair, I knew I had found an art form perfect for me. When I’m in, I’m all in.

screenprinting

screenprinting

It doesn’t really look like a polar bear and the different papers, especially those with texture, created a bit of a challenge. Still, it was really fun. Well, washing the screen between colors wasn’t the most fun and I was drenched every time, but I couldn’t wait to move on to the next layer.

screenprinting layer 2

Okay, maybe it’s starting to look a little like a bear. (This one had a light blue background. I wanted to experiment.)

screenprintin polar bear layer 4

There he is!!

screenprinting polar bear

I was so relieved and really excited to see how well he turned out.

Okay, that was fun. I enjoyed the class and seeing all the different choices made by my fellow artists. Is this something I could do at home? There is that spare bedroom. A collection of wildlife prints representing each of the trips I’ve taken would look great on my wall.

Now the difficult part is to decide what’s next…so many possibilities.

Have you leapt out of your comfort zone lately?

Puppy Love: Selecting Her Royal Fur-ness

At first there were three. Three of the cutest puppies I’d ever seen. How on earth was I going to select just one? I sat down on the floor and we opened the gate. Here they came, one and all. Her Royal Fur-ness was not going to make it easy. She wanted me to work for it.

After picking each one up several times, it became clear which puppy was mine. I held her close and she melted into me. She sighed loudly and relaxed as she tucked her head under my neck. Once I breathed in that puppy breath I knew it was her.

Let me formally introduce Lady Scarlett O’hair-a. Lady Scarlett was born on New Year’s Day and is a six week old English Golden Retriever, currently of Willow Downs.

Puppy

Scarlett2web

Scarlett3web

Scarlett4web

Puppy

Now, that is one cute puppy. Of course, I am biased. Lady Scarlett will be joining Olive, her big sister, and Bubba, her older feline brother, in the next month or so. Scarlett will be trained to become a therapy dog, visiting hospitals and other places where people can benefit from a bit of snuggling from Her Royal Fur-ness.

And, speaking from personal experience, she’s already a master at the snuggle. 

Puppy Update Five Weeks

Five week old Golden Retriever
One of the 5 week old puppies being socialized during a visit with my breeder’s mother.

My puppy is five weeks old and I will finally meet her on Valentine’s Day. What a perfect day to begin a life long relationship. 

golden retriever puppy

Now the big question…how do you select a new family member from a group of five adorable girls? Most of my dogs have been adopted from a shelter. This time, I’m selecting one from a litter of gorgeous puppies. Thank goodness I have a quality breeder to help us make the match. My puppy won’t be ready to come home for another month or so, but next weekend we’ll be formally introduced and I will be looking into her eyes, breathing in that fantastic puppy breath.

The trainer is meeting with me in the next couple of weeks to talk about the process of integrating her into the family and training her to be a therapy dog. This puppy comes from a long line where many of the dogs have become therapy dogs. She and I will be in training for the next year or two. I’m really looking forward to having a strong bond with her, just like I have with her big sister, Olive.

Here were the puppies at week two. It’s amazing how fast they grow.

Two week old golden retriever puppies

Count on more pictures and stories of our journey as we travel life together. Awww! I can’t wait.

Blooming Artist

Artist

ARTIST…

I have always loved being creative. From photography to writing, developing courses and workbooks, journals and newsletters. Yes. I think it fits.

Self defined titles are important. How do I see myself and how do I want others see me? If I tell people I’m a retired police officer, it means I used to be… And that’s true. But, I don’t want to have been something, I want to be something.

What do I want to be? What do I want to do?

I want to paint, write, learn, draw, sing, dance, explore, create, explore, discover, weld, sculpt…

The great thing about being an artist, as I see it, is getting to play like a child, wearing colorful and quirky clothes and best of all…since art is in the eye of the beholder, creating what I love.

The next time someone asks what I do, I’m going to say I’m an artist. And luckily, the bills are paid so I can skip the starving part.

Over Scheduling Retirement Week One

Adjusting to Retirement

Twelve. I counted them. Twelve appointment or activities scheduled for my first week of retirement. There are notations on the calendar every day but one and only because the appointment for that day was postponed, a weather delay.

I was warned by my retirement mentors to avoid over scheduling myself. I can see how easily that can happen. An eye appointment here and a coffee meeting there. Still, I think I needed a full schedule for this first week.  I feel good. A sense of accomplishment in fact.

My aha moments of more time:

  • Ease of scheduling mid-week, mid-day appointments
  • Workout classes with a smaller group of people
  • Less traffic when most people are at work
  • Relaxed coffee with a friend
  • Waking up without an alarm clock
  • Last minute road trips

I’m trying to celebrate and recognize the gifts that come when forty+ hours of my week are not scheduled.

While I haven’t faced any moments of retirement panic, I did have a nightmare that I was overdrawn on my bank account by $17,000. I don’t know where that figure came from. With more time comes more opportunities to spend money. 

I have a budget and I’m going to do my best to stick by it. I’m one of those lucky people with a pension, so I’ll always have money coming in for the basics. It’s the worry about my IRA and my withdrawal schedule that could be a problem, especially in a stock market where 1-2% drops on a daily basis have been the norm over the last month or two. Luckily, I’m looking at the long run and have enough in “safe” funds to last for several years without worrying about the dollars in the more moderate funds.

Do I feel like I’m on vacation? Maybe a bit. It will feel more like that as I work on the final details for my retirement trip in the next few months. Watch out New Zealand! Here I come!

Cherishing the Love of a Dog

Puppies

She’s been born. She, who is yet to been named, is a cream colored golden retriever puppy, just a month old. In a few weeks, all of us eager owners will select a puppy to join each of our families. Soon, I’ll be driving to Illinois to meet her for the first time and to bring her home. A home where she will be trained and treasured. A home with Olive, her big sister, and Bubba, the cat king of the household.

As I was googling the latest in puppy training techniques last week, I found a video of Oprah Winfrey talking about her dog Sophie. It struck a chord. Oprah equated having the love of a dog to the unconditional love of God. I believe it. I’ve been the lucky recipient of this kind of furry love for all of my adult life.

This new little (soon to be big) dog will be traveling to a place where she belongs and is a valued part of the family. She will contribute more than I can ever return to her. She will be happy to see me whenever I come home, hike with me, make me laugh and be there with me when I’m sad. I will cherish every moment and am so grateful to be loved by my dogs.

There is simply nothing like it, here on Earth anyway.

The Last Day Before Retirement

Retirement Road

Retirement…

What came to mind as I drove home today, was the last scene in Terminator 2 where the road stretches out towards an unknown future. Okay, that’s kind of weird. But, it did feel weird. Knowing that I wasn’t going to be driving downtown everyday, I wanted to appreciate the moment.

Retirement…

The last few months, I’ve been paying attention to the lasts.

The last off-duty job when I worked traffic control for the Turkey Trot; the last day in uniform; the last shoot qualification; the last training course; the last…the last…the last.

Retirement…

I suppose it isn’t really the last day, since I have some administrative details to clean up and I’m officially on vacation, but it sure felt like it as I left my empty office behind and loaded up all my boxes, calendars and the coffee cup that has seen me through my last few assignments. Thirty two years wrapped up in six boxes and three thumb drives. Saying goodbye has never been easy, so the small informal potluck was perfect.

Retirement…

Some people have large recognition events and some just leave one day and everyone is surprised when they find out they’re gone. My goodbye was in the form of an email with all my personal contact information, including links to my social media accounts.

A lot has happened in 32 years. These people have worked beside me in the most strange and sometimes tragic circumstances. They have supported me and kept me safe.

Retirement…

Hopefully, my co-workers, both civilian and sworn, will call me and we can meet to tell war stories over coffee. If life gets busy, as it often does, I may not see some of them again. But I’ll never forget what an honor it has been to work beside them.

Retirement…

I unloaded my boxes when I got home and was greeted by my very enthusiastic dog, Olive. To her, this was just another day. Little does she know that she has a lot more walks in her future.

Retirement…

During the evening as I thought about the day, I came to the conclusion that over time the weirdness will wear off and my new life will become the norm. Until then…I plan to embrace the weird and to turn off my alarm clock.