Hi, I'm Torrey. Welcome to Left Field, where creativity runs amok and imagination is ALWAYS more important than knowledge. Shoes are not allowed but ties are optional. This is a repository of snippets from my life out here in Left Field. One never knows what shiny bits of creativity will be found here... cards, scrapbook layouts, photography, poetry, recipes, ponderings, rantings and musings. It could be anything! Life in Left Field is always changing, always real, always ...interesting.

December 14, 2019

North Pole Revisted

Hidy Ho, crafty peeps!
 
It's Christmas time, once again. I decided I need to re-post my North Pole adventure every few years, to remind us what the true meaning of this season is about--celebrating love, kindness, and peace...by giving the greatest gift we can give...the gift of love to those around us.
 
So, pull up a cup of cocoa, tea, or coffee and snuggle in for a warm-your-heart cup of cheer from me to you. Though it's been going on 20 years since I went on this adventure, I've realized this is a timeless story. Merry Christmas, everyone!
 
Next Stop, North Pole
by Torrey

Here it is the holidays, again. Most people are well caught-up in the hustle-bustle of the season; braving the malls and running around trying to get all their shopping done in time. I HATE Christmas shopping. Going to a mall this time of year makes me want to commit a murderous act—which, let’s face it, isn’t really what the season is all about and would most assuredly guarantee there would be nothing but coal in my stocking come Christmas morning. At any rate, instead of being all warm and fuzzy and filled with tidings of great joy,  at some point in November--fed up with the commercialism and greed of what "should be" a joyous time of year... I turned cold and prickly—sort of a cross between  the Grinch and a cactus. 
Christmas, BAH!

But today—today changed me. 
It changed me, forever. I just have to tell you what I did today. It was, hands-down, the most special thing I've done in my life (thus far).

Today, I went to the North Pole to see Santa. Honest. So, is it that you don’t believe me? Or is it that you don’t believe in Santa? Keep reading.

A doctor I work with (Neal) and I (a nurse from the inpatient pediatric unit at the hospital) were charged with this very special task. 

We were granted guardian angel status—for one day. 

It was a very simple assignment. We were asked to escort a very special group of people to the North Pole--to see Santa. Sounded like fun to me! So, Neal and I gathered up a bunch of our patients, then headed off to other hospitals around the city to collect even more.

All tallied, there were about 100 children that went with us to visit that jolly old elf. All of those kids who hail from all over the Denver-metro area are chronically or terminally ill. We loaded the kids on big buses and went, caravan-style, out to DIA (Denver International Airport). From there we flew to the North Pole, with a little help from a WHOLE BUNCH of "Santa's helpers" and a HUGE jet courtesy of United Airlines.

The Starlight Foundation (a nationwide philanthropic organization that helps sick and dying children...kind of like Make-a-Wish), in conjunction with the generous folks at United Airlines, sponsored this wonderful adventure. There were about 40 volunteers, all decked out in Santa hats, from the two organizations. The volunteers (Santa's helpers) accompanied all of these kids, and us, every step of the way.

With all 100 kids plus the Santa’s helpers, we went (en masse) through airport security....got on the shuttle train, and went to concourse B. Gate B42--where the marquis read "Flight 2004, destination, North Pole".

There we boarded the kids on the plane—a huge 747 superjet. We buckled them all in and readied ourselves for take off.  The flight crew informed me we weren't really taking off; we were just revving the engines and taxi-ing all over the airport to a hangar way on the edge of the airport. It was then that I was hit with a brilliant idea. I knew these kids all thought we were really gonna fly to see Santa, they were all so very excited, and I wanted to preserve their illusion as long as possible. So, I asked the flight attendant to make an announcement over the intercom. Instead, the flight attendant handed me the microphone and, being the shy wallflower I am, I grabbed it and made the following announcement:

"Hi kids! This is nurse Torrey. Are you’all as excited as I am to go see Santa?? (the whole plane started cheering and screaming YES!!!)  Well, I just spoke with Santa, and he has asked that we all pull the shades down COMPLETELY on our windows. He doesn't want ANYBODY to know where his workshop is. He says it's in a 'SECRET LOCATION', so all of you have to pull those window shades closed, and DON'T PEEK--'cuz if you do, you'll automatically get put on the 'NAUGHTY' list--for real."

Well, those kids shut those shades soooo fast--and, just as I hoped, they all thought we really flew. I swear, sometimes I'm hit with divine inspiration. I'm so glad God nudged me to have them shut the shades. Heck, it felt so real I thought we flew too. Who knows, maybe we really DID fly to the North Pole.


We were treated to an in-flight Christmas movie and Happy-meal lunches from McDonalds. We disembarked about 40 minutes later (after all, it was a magic jet), inside this huge hangar that they had decorated to look like the North Pole, complete with fake snow, Christmas trees, decorations, animated figures and everything. We were treated to a magic show (that was actually pretty cool—I still want to know how that magician got the rolled up dollar bill into that lemon). We played games and got our faces painted. There was a clown making balloon animals and there were cookies, candy and cocoa to fill our tummies—and, last but not least, a trip to see Santa, himself, sit on his lap and whisper to him our Christmas wish list.

One by one, the kids reluctantly approached Santa--climbed onto his knee and had a “chat” with old St. Nick. Each child excitedly whispered his/her deepest Christmas wishes into the jolly man’s ear. Santa looked at each child and told them how wonderful and special they were, how good they had been all year, and how very proud he was of each of them! 

I even sat on his lap and whispered in his ear-- thanking him for the very best Christmas present I've ever had--THIS gift--getting to be with all these kids. I kissed him on the cheek, gave him a hug and exited his lap (I'm sure his tired knees were grateful to be rid of this GIANT kid). 

Just then, a flurry of Santa’s helper elves appeared from nowhere and handed each child a 30-gallon trash bag stuffed to the brim with wrapped presents just for him/her (the foundation had gotten wish lists from all the kids in advance. And miracle of miracles, they fulfilled every last wish. It was nothing short of amazing. And yes, they even included the batteries.

After the kids got their loot, we were escorted into this HUGE room where the kids were all turned loose to open their gifts and…PLAY. It was an amazing sight; 100 sick kids, all with this incredible sparkle in their eyes—giggling and laughing. Pure joy oozing from every pore. I cried more than once, as my Grinchy heart melted. These poor children--some didn't have hair because of chemo therapy, some were attached to oxygen tubing, some were so frail and weak they had to be carried, some were in wheelchairs. But, in that room, for that little blink of time, they were healthy, happy children. 

Christmas miracles do exist.

On the bus ride home, I got so many kisses and hugs from the kids that I've got my quota for a lifetime. We sang Christmas Carols (Rudolph at least 5 times). One little boy named Johnathon, who had been silent and hiding behind me the whole trip (even at Santa), got up, came over, climbed up in my lap, looked at me and said, "Torrey, do you know the song about Jesus loving the children”? Well, I choked up and told him "Yes I do, sweetie, want to sing it with me?" He just smiled his crooked little smile at me. He couldn't get both corners of his mouth up into a smile because he has scleroderma--a degenerative autoimmune disease where your skin (and other tissues) literally hardens and becomes inflexible. We leaned in close, our foreheads touching, and sang "Jesus Loves The Little Children" very softly, just to each other. When we got to the end of the song, he grabbed my hand, held it tightly and asked if we could sing it again.
Jesus loves the little children,
all the children of the world.
Red and yellow, black and white...
all are precious in His sight.
Jesus loves the little children of the world. 

Everyone on the bus went silent, and all you could hear was that little angelic voice (and me) singing.  He held my hand for the rest of the trip home. It was magical.

Ok, so I have been a horrible Scrooge so far this season--all hum-buggy and whatnot, but not anymore. I am so filled with the spirit of the season after this night, I am just bursting with a sense of peace and love. And, like that old Grinch, my heart grew, not 3, but about 10 sizes today. My prickles have disappeared and been replaced with a soft, warm glow. I'm all shiny and sparkly now--like tinsel on a tree, or snowflakes in the moonlight. 


Originally, I thought that a doctor and a nurse from each hospital in the metro area went. Later, I found out the doctor I work with (Neal) and I were the ONLY medical people who went, and we were specifically chosen (for whatever reason) to go. We were it, just us 2, WOW. It makes me choke up just thinking about it. I feel so honored to have been chosen. This was undoubtedly the best Christmas gift I’ve ever received. God sure does give the very BEST presents.


Anyway, that's what happened that day, back in 2004. I hope y'all have a joyous holiday season--whatever you call it--Hanukkah, Christmas, Kwanzaa, Yule, Ramadan. 

Peace. Love. Light.

Thank you, God.

December 22, 2018

Triple B...Boston Brown Bread

Hidy ho, crafty peeps!

I've given up dusting off this place. I have been gone so long from my blog that the dust bunnies in here all moved to the country. I guess they decided that Left Field was not the type of "field" they were looking for.

So, I have put the redesign of my blog on hold. It's taking longer than I had planned. Turns out, I have TOO MANY ideas for what the new look will be. I keep vacillating between 3 ideas. We'll see which one finally wins out. But, for now, the "old" design will remain.

Now, for the matter at hand, BOSTON BROWN BREAD.

Related image
How many of you know what this is?

I grew up on this stuff. It was always a treat around this time of year to see the cans of this delicacy show up on the grocery store shelves again.

Brown bread is a New England tradition. It's an early-American classic that dates back to Colonial times. It's a moist, dense, dark brown quick bread that is steamed in cylindrical cans. Though, you can find recipes that call for baking it in the oven in a loaf pan. It MIGHT taste similar, but I guarantee the texture (and experience) wouldn't be the same.

Historically, it's served with baked beans. And maybe hot dogs.

Being that it's a steamed bread, its texture is...well...rubbery. It's SO unique. I've decided it must be akin to the steamed puddings they serve in the U.K. (like Figgy pudding). It's VERY moist. The flavor is like rich dark caramel, almost smoky, and not that sweet. It's flavor comes from all that molasses and raisins. It's very low fat (if you use fat-free buttermilk), high in fiber, has no refined sugar, and is packed full of B vitamins and minerals (thanks to the molasses).

My mom told me how much she'd love to have some, so I made it my mission to find it. I started out at the local big grocery stores. None to be found. I even asked the managers if they could order it.

Nope.

So then I traveled to the gourmet grocery stores.

Nada.

I finally found it online...but GEEZ...it's like $6- $10 a can (plush S&H).

That's when I decided I'd teach myself how to make it.

How hard can it be?

Turns out...not hard at all. In fact, it's super easy.

The only difficult thing was finding fine-ground cornmeal and rye flour. But, I finally did at our local gourmet grocery store.

Oh! and for the cans I used, I just saved some empty veggie/chili cans, washed 'em out, removed their labels. BUT...I did use a special "smooth edge" can opener to completely cut off the tops of the can. I think I found mine on Amazon. Here is a link to the one I have
smooth edge can opener 

it looks like this

So...here is my recipe! I compiled it (Frankensteined it) from several recipes. I took what made sense from several and came up with my own version. And, truth be told, my homemade brown bread tastes BETTER than the commercial canned variety.

WAY BETTER.

Torrey's Better Boston Brown Bread



Ingredients: for 4 "loaves"

  • 1 cup molasses
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt 
  • 1 1/2 cup buttermilk 
  • 3/4 cup (rounded) fine-ground cornmeal/corn flour- do NOT use regular cornmeal.
  • 3/4 cup (rounded) rye flour
  • 3/4  cup (rounded) whole wheat flour 
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda 
  • 2/3 cup raisins (optional)
 You will also need:
  • Softened butter for greasing cans
  • 4 (14 oz) cans (I use empty veggie cans) 
  • parchment paper
  • aluminum foil
  • rubber bands (or kitchen string)
Directions:

  1. Grease four 14-ounce cans, WELL, with butter and place a round piece of parchment paper in the bottom of each can.
  2. Whisk all ingredients dry ingredients in a large bowl.
  3. Add wet ingredients and mix until smooth.
  4. Add raisins (if desired). Stir them in well.
  5. Divide batter between the cans. Batter will NOT fill cans completely. Leave about 1-1/2 inches head space to allow bread to rise.
  6. Place a piece of foil tightly over the top of each can and secure with a string or rubber band. Set cans in a pot on a steamer rack (I just use my big pasta pot with lift out strainer liner inside)… and fill with hot water to halfway up sides of cans. 
  7. Set lid on pot and bring to simmer over medium high heat. Reduce heat to low and gently simmer until breads are set and gently pulling away from sides of can, about 1 hour. A skewer inserted into the center should come out with moist crumbs.
  8. Remove cans from pot, set cans on cooling rack, and remove foil. Let bread cool in can for 1 hour. 
  9. If necessary, run knife along inside of can to loosen (mine just come right out on their own)… then remove bread by turning can upside down and knocking it gently onto work surface. 
  10. Serve with cream cheese, or sliced into ½ inch slices and browned in skillet with butter (the way I like it). 
  11. Wrap tightly with plastic wrap (ok if it’s still a bit warm), and store in refrigerator.
 

September 8, 2017

Birthday-O-Rama!

Hidy ho, crafty peeps!

Firstly, YES...my blog is still "officially" closed for remodeling. So I guess that makes this an "unofficial" post.

My birthday was yesterday. It came and went, unceremoniously, save the HORRIBLE singing bestowed upon me by my family (that's you--Mom, Richard, Jonathan, Eric and Autumn). In all honesty and fairness, my mother and father-in-law sang beautifully in full harmony, my sister sang a light and bright version of Happy Birthday, Jodi sang a snappy version, and my dad sang Happy Birthday to me in Klingon (yes, you read that right. He sang to me in Klingon)...so I guess that sort of counts as "ceremonius".

I got a wonderful new die from Lawn Fawn from my hubby (I dropped HUGE hints). It's their new shadowbox die. I can't wait to use it! I did make a card for my sister's birthday (hers is 3 days before mine). I used another Lawn Fawn set I have that I love--"Upon a Star".

I tried the "galaxy background" technique that is so popular these days. It was my first attempt at a galaxy. They're really fun! Half way through the process, however, it looked like a HOT MESS. I had my doubts that it would turn out...but whatayaknow. It TOTALLY turned out. There are many different media one can use to create a galaxy background. I used Distress Inks and a dauber for my galaxy. Next time I make one, I think I'll try watercolors. I got a little heavy-handed with the shimmer spray...so it looks almost golden. Next time, I'm gonna leave it off altogether.

So, here is my sister's birthday card. The photo does not do that galaxy justice.

Wanna know the BEST part about this card? It glows in the dark....I know what you're thinking...."SHUT UP!!!" Yep, it totally does. Anyone who knows me, knows about my fascination/obsession with glow-in-the-dark stuff.

Although the sentiment on the outside does NOT glow...the one on the inside does. To make it glow, I used a combo of glow-in-the-dark embossing powder (yeah, there really is such a thing) and glow-in-the-dark paint.

I also decided to forego my usual "Angel Food cake with pink frosting" as a birthday cake (you're shocked, aren't you?). Instead, I made my own birthday cake. I didn't want someone to get me a store-bought cake.

Yuck.

I used a new-to-me recipe (which I totally tweaked out). Let me tell you right now, it was DELICIOUS. The cake is super moist and has such a nice fine crumb. It's velvety smooth. And, my addition of toasted pecans to the frosting was inspired. I snagged the original recipe from my Aunt Susie's FB page (thank you for posting it Susie!)

It looked so yummy, I knew I had to try it. I know my version is better than the original...because...it's MY version. And anyone who has tasted my cooking knows that my version is ALWAYS better (unless it's a recipe from my bestee, Jodi).

(and I'm modest)

Anywho, here is my cake! And yes, the recipe follows.

Pumpkin Dream Cake a la Torrey


Cake:
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 4 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • ¼  teaspoon ground ginger
  • ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • ¼  teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup butter (1 1/2 sticks), softened
  • 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 (15 oz) can solid-pack pumpkin
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 cup milk
 Frosting:
  • 12 oz (1 1/2 packages) cream cheese, softened
  • 3/4 cup butter (1 1/2 sticks), softened
  • 4 teaspoons maple syrup
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 4 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 cup toasted pecan pieces
Directions:
  1. Preheat oven to 300°F. Grease 3, 8-inch (or 9-inch) round cake pans and place parchment paper in bottom of each (optional). Set aside.
  2. In a medium bowl, mix flour, dry spices, baking soda and salt. Set aside.
  3. In a large bowl, cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs one at a time, then stir in vanilla, pumpkin, and vegetable oil. Beat in the flour mixture alternately with the milk.
  4. Divide batter evenly into prepared pans. Bake for 35-40 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean.
  5. Cool cakes in pans for 10 minutes, then remove from pans and completely cool on rack.
  6. To toast pecans: Spread on cookie sheet and place under broiler in oven (only takes a minute or less). Toast until fragrant and browned. Watch them like a hawk, they burn easily.
  7. For the frosting: In a large bowl, cream butter and cream cheese until smooth. Beat in maple syrup, vanilla, and cinnamon. Add powdered sugar (1 cup at a time) and beat on low speed until combined, then on high until frosting is smooth. Mix in nuts.
  8. Assemble the 3 layers with a thick layer of frosting in between each layer.  Frost the outside and top with remaining frosting. Store in the fridge.

Thanks for stopping by Left Field! I promise I'll have the redesign finished someday. LOL. Until then,

Stay creative, y'all!