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BackCountry - Wild at Heart

How this 13-year-old BackCountry resident is giving back.

by | December 15th, 2014

And how you can too.
social hands colored

For many, the holidays are a time for outreach to those who are struggling. You can find endless ways to volunteer—check out the ideas below—but if you need additional inspiration, look no further than BackCountry resident Lily Larsen. Last month, this Mountain Ridge Middle School student wrapped up the second phase of her aid project to the children of Syria, sending 127 pairs of much-needed socks and 162 pairs of underwear. This followed the 335 stuffed animals Lily collected and sent last May.

Her inspiration sprang from a conversation with a Syrian family friend, who explained how the 2011 uprising changed everything in her once-peaceful homeland, creating more than one million child refugees, many of whose parents were imprisoned or killed. Lily thought stuffed animals might help those grieving children.

“I wanted to give them something to hang on to,” says Lily. “I thought about how it would feel if something like that happened to me.” A school project prompted her to take action, and the BackCountry community responded generously to her flyers by dropping off toys, and more recently, clothing. Fired up by her success, Lily plans to continue her outreach projects twice each year, shipping the goods to Boston’s NuDay Syria, an organization that forwards contributions to the struggling country each month.

For Lily, it was kids in crisis who inspired her to act. What might it be for you? Handypersons (or those willing to learn) might want to pick up a hammer for Habitat for Humanity. This nonprofit has built simple, affordable housing for families since 1976.

A sports background is not required, but could add to your joy in working with Special Olympics Colorado. This organization provides year-round sports training and athletic competition for children and adults with intellectual disabilities—a great way to develop physical fitness, courage, skills and friendships.

The Gathering Place is Denver’s only daytime 
drop-in center for women, children, and transgender individuals who are 
experiencing poverty or homelessness. Tutoring, meal prep and serving, childcare, and pro bono professional services are always needed.

One in seven Coloradans isn’t sure where his or her next meal is coming from. And half are kids. You can help move the food along to hungry people by volunteering at Food Bank of the Rockies.

Here’s a great way to thank a vet. Visit and explore the countless ways to give back, from writing letters of appreciation to donating books and groceries.

Homelessness is especially difficult during winter months. You can bring a bit of cheer by helping at a health fair for homeless children. Teach a cooking class. Or just play a game of checkers. Learn more at Colorado Coalition.

And if none of these feel quite right, check out the Volunteers of America site, which offers a huge range of opportunities in our metro area.

The holidays are here. What’s cooking?

by | December 10th, 2014

Some of us already have it all figured out, a la Martha Stewart, right down to the darling candy cane place cards. For others, desperation is driving us to consider Papa John’s as a viable backup plan. After all, pizza can be red and green, right?

‘Tis the season for cooking, which means it’s a great time to call for reinforcements. Whether cajoling that amazing lemon shortbread recipe out of your grandma, or scouring the web for a new way to serve green beans that doesn’t involve a single can of cream of mushroom soup, let’s kick off the process with some links to good recipe sources.

Our first stop is the BackCountry Facebook page, where we asked for a little holiday favorites help from our friends. One resident responded with a recipe for homemade noodles. (Don’t be intimidated—it’s much easier than you’re thinking.) Simply combine 1 beaten egg, 1/2 tsp salt, and 2 tbsp milk. Add 1 cup sifted all-purpose flour (for thicker noodles, add 1/2 tsp baking powder to the flour before mixing). Roll out the dough to desired thickness and let stand for 20 minutes. Cut into strips and drop into hot soup (chicken broth is best) for 10 minutes.

Besides making us hungry, this suggestion led us to collect more tasty ideas on the BackCountry Pinterest page, such as Sweet Noodle Kugel with Cherries, Brussels Sprouts with Lemon and Thyme, and Maple Pecan Sweet Potato Mash. Be sure to check those out. And while you’re there, take note of the pin for 23 High-Tech Ways To Make Entertaining Easier. (A big thumbs up for the Bluetooth kitchen thermometer. Dry turkeys no more!)

If Hanukkah is your moment to shine, consider these 29 Miraculous Foods to Make for Hanukkah, ranging from tangy brisket to sautéed cauliflower “steaks” for your veggie-loving guests.

For Christmas-themed recipes, varieties are endless. Just head over to Pinterest and search for Christmas cookies, cocktails, or what have you. But for those who prefer a pre-planned, no-brainer approach, take solace in this link from Better Homes and Gardens for best Christmas dinner menus or this article on the Huffington Post that covers the whole meal, from Persimmon Bruschetta appetizers to Tiramisu Cookies.

Bon appetit!

The one holiday gift they’ll never return. (And you won’t have to wrap.)

by | December 4th, 2014

In this season of nonstop pressure to buy, buy, buy, may we suggest a stress-reducing alternative? Call a confab with your loved ones and propose giving gifts of experience rather than things. You’ll save each other the angst of shopping, wrapping, and returning (What? You don’t like that nutcracker?). And you’ll create great memories along with new family traditions to boot. December is jam-packed with wonderful experiences to share in BackCountry and beyond. Happy holidays to all!

Hometown Holiday – Dec. 5, 4:30pm-7:30pm
Highlands Ranch is known for its neighborly ways, and the holidays are no exception. Held at Town Center South (map), Hometown Holiday is a beloved, old-fashioned tradition that brings together the whole community each year. Admission is free to this winter wonderland of festivities, including a 5pm tree lighting, caroling, entertainment, food, and even Santa himself. (Santa is busy this time of year, so be sure to catch him before he leaves at 7:30.) Adults, don’t miss the Sparkling Wine Tasting event around the corner at the Tattered Cover Book Store, beginning at 5:30pm. Learn more.

Top Latke Taste Off/Hanukkah Party – Dec. 6, 5pm-7pm
Of course your mother’s latkes are the best. But would it be so wrong to check out the competition? At Temple Micah’s 7th Top Latke Taste-off & Hanukkah Party, traditional and innovative patties are just part of the fun. Enjoy a light buffet dinner, balloon sculpting, face painting, dreidel-spinning contest, communal candle lighting, and a concert with the Shabbat Jam Band. Prices vary. Early RSVPs advised. Reserve at Or contact Elaine Lee, 303-388-4239 x1, or Learn more.

Santas Mailbox BackCountry
Letters to Santa- Now through Dec. 14
Naturally, all the children who live in BackCountry are nice…but even those who’ve had naughty moments are invited to drop off letters to Santa at the Sundial House Santa Mailbox. To make sure the elves reply, letters should include the child’s name and address and be delivered to the Santa Mailbox no later than Saturday, December 14. Please note that if you have more than one child writing to Santa, replies may arrive on different days.

Cookies with Santa-Dec. 14, 10am-2pm
Have your kids bring their wish lists and bring your camera, as you’ll want to capture your child’s wonder at meeting Santa, Mrs. Claus, and their daughter Candy Claus. Held at the BackCountry Sundial House, this holiday gathering is sure to get the whole family in the Christmas spirit. Refreshments provided courtesy of Royal Crest Dairy. For BackCountry residents only. RSVP at by Saturday, December 7. To minimize wait time, residents whose last names begin with A-L are requested to come from 10am-12pm, and M-Z from 12pm -2pm.

Downtown Festival of Lights – Dec. 18, 5:30pm-7pm
On the third night of Hanukkah, bring your menorah and savor an evening of food, fun, music, stories, and, of course, traditions like menorah lighting. Hosted by the Colorado Hebrew Chorale and Stories on Stage, this free event is held indoors at the McNichols Building in Denver’s Civic Center Park. RSVPs appreciated so there will be enough chocolate gelt for all. Call 303-355-0232 or email Learn more.

BackCountry’s After School Thanksgiving Craft & Snack Event

by | November 26th, 2014

BackCountry children got creative during the After School Thanksgiving Craft & Snack event.

What’s fluffy, white and plowed all over?

by | November 24th, 2014

Although we were lulled into denial by a gorgeous Indian summer, snow has found us and the super heavy stuff will come. And that’s actually a good thing—especially when you’re cozy in your BackCountry home, looking out on snow-covered wilderness, foothills, and mountains. But it’s okay, even when you’re commuting to work, because BackCountry has a comprehensive snow removal plan. Here’s a quick recap of the system both for newcomers and the rest of us, for whom last winter feels like a distant memory.

Just as with landscape maintenance, BackCountry uses outside contractors for snow plowing. Service kicks in any time accumulations reach three inches on the roads. For storms that bring less than three inches, the decision on whether or not to clear the roads is made case-by-case. If daytime temperatures are likely to melt the snow quickly, all roads may not get plowed.

Snowplow at work
At least six plow trucks are used, as needed, for all storms, and each individual truck has its own route to ensure every BackCountry neighborhood is cleared as quickly as possible.

Where do they put all the snow? Never on any privately owned property, but there are limits to where it can be stockpiled—and the cost of relocating snow adds up fast. So, be aware that snow pushed outward by the plow may collect in curb and gutter areas. If you find any snow mounds at the end of your driveway, simply push excess snow onto your landscape, which will thank you for the moisture. And be sure to park your cars off the street—on your driveway or in your garage, especially on evenings when snow accumulations are predicted.

Also, the HOA uses a Kubota tractor to push snow off of the wider common sidewalks, with mailboxes and school bus stop areas given top priority.

All this support is good news for winter in Colorado—unless you were counting on a few “can’t-get-into-the-office” days. In any case, enjoy the wintry weather!

Featured Home – Shadow Walk Collection

by | November 18th, 2014

Shadow Walk Collection

Sunshower Plan
Price $688,577
10684 Skydance Drive
Available December 2014
3-bedrooms – 2.5 Bathrooms – 3-car tandem garage

This stunning Sunshower plan is a well-designed ranch plan featuring spacious great room with fireplace, kitchen with island, morning room with access to the outdoor dining terrace, formal dining room, expanded unfinished walkout basement, and a 3-car tandem garage. Stunning design finishes include hardwood flooring, tile flooring in the bathrooms, slab handstone countertops with a tile backsplash in the kitchen and master bathroom, and montresano maple greyloft cabinetry.

For more information on this home, please contact the Shadow Walk Collection sales office at 720.344.1121 or visit

View the BackCountry Featured Home

*Price, specifications and availability are subject to change without notice. Square footage is approximate. Actual homes as constructed may not contain the features and layouts depicted and may vary from photo.

Let’s talk turkey

by | November 17th, 2014

It’s the headliner on almost every Thanksgiving menu. So why not consider your options before grabbing the first frozen monolith you find on sale? There really are some interesting alternatives.

Around 46 million turkeys are consumed each Thanksgiving, and about 99% of those are your standard white tom turkeys—also known as broad-breasted whites. These big guys are bred to grow into a mature bird with a large, white-meat breast within 18 weeks. The price is usually very competitive, but the downside is that most are given antibiotics to speed growth, may be injected with a sodium solution, and then there’s the whole controversy about factory farming, which we’ll sidestep here.

Cooking chicken in the oven at home.
But let’s take a look at the sometimes-confusing alternatives. Heritage birds date back to the 1800s, and are more like what our colonial forefathers carved into. Closer to wild turkeys, they produce darker meat and, some would say, gamier taste. Heirloom breeds are a bit newer, dating to the early 1920s or 1930s, still providing the white meat we Americans love, but with a more robust taste than the standard tom. Both of these types cost more because their life cycle is 24-30 weeks, and they aren’t raised on antibiotics.

If you’re seeking one of these specialty birds or a humanely raised broad-breasted white, try Marczyk Fine Foods (with birds sourced from Bennett, Colorado), Tony’s Markets (all birds free of antibiotics and salty solutions), and In Season Local Market (featuring prairie-grazing birds also from Bennett). And don’t overlook chain stores such as Whole Foods, Sprouts, and Natural Grocers by Vitamin Cottage, whose turkeys range from conventional to organic to heritage—sold both fresh and frozen. Do be aware that these specialty brands can sell out quickly, so reserve yours early.

grilled - marinated turkey on the grill 2
On the other hand, if you’d rather someone else do the cooking, consider a Honeybaked turkey breast, a perennial crowd-pleasing combo of tender white meat and sweet, crunchy glaze. Or a spicy, Cajun deep-fried turkey from Bayou Bob’s or Dickey’s Barbeque Pit, which also offers a smoked turkey.

And if all else fails, 46 restaurants are currently taking Thanksgiving reservations on Open Table.
Roasted Turkey Breast - Rosemary-Basil Rub

A Highlands Ranch Veterans Day

by | November 9th, 2014

There are 23.2 million United States veterans, and many Highlands Ranch residents figure among that honorable crowd. November 11, consider attending a local event that honors our hometown veterans. Starting at 6:30 p.m. at the James H. LaRue Library, this celebration will be hosted by 850 KOA’s Steffan Tubbs and will feature a color guard from the Highlands Ranch American Legion, patriotic music by the Highlands Ranch Concert Band, local students’ participation, and guest speaker Phil Waters, a Vietnam war veteran who will talk about aircraft carrier operations during the war. The event will include a visit to the Highlands Ranch Veterans Monument just outside the library.

Dedicated on July 1, 2009, this monument grew out of a desire to honor Army Staff Sergeant Christopher Falkel, the first Highlands Ranch resident killed in action. Featuring tiles dedicated to individuals who have served in the U.S. Armed Forces, the monument offers a moving reminder of the many people who have sacrificed so much for our freedom.

And just to clear up a common point of confusion, while Memorial Day focuses on those who died in active service, Veterans Day honors all who have served in the Armed Forces. Veterans Day began as Armistice Day on November 11, 1919, the first anniversary of the end of World War I. In 1926, Congress passed a resolution for an annual observance (then marked by two minutes of silence at 11am on the 11th day of the 11th month—same as when the Treaty of Versailles was signed.) Armistice Day became a national holiday in 1938. In 1954, following World War II and the Korean War, Congress broadened the holiday’s meaning by changing it from Armistice to Veterans Day, thus making November 11 a day to honor American veterans of all wars.

BackCountry’s Kids Halloween Event at the Sundial House

by | November 4th, 2014

The children of BackCountry paraded their costumes, danced to music and decorated cookies at the Kids Halloween Event.

Make November a month of memories

by | November 3rd, 2014

Did you know that November is National Family Stories Month? (It’s also National Banana Pudding Month, but we digress.)

Family Stories Month actually makes good sense, given that wonderful, gather-around-the-table holiday coming up on the 27th. But you have plenty of time to create happy family memories between now and Thanksgiving, too. Here are some ideas to get you started.

Denver Arts Week:
Nov. 7-15
Yes, Colorado residents may have intense feelings about the wild-eyed Mustang sculpture at DIA, but Denver is known as a rising star in arts and culture. Explore our city’s vast offerings during Denver Arts Week, a seven-day showcase of visual arts, theater, music, film, museums, dance, opera, comedy, and history. Take the kids on a First Friday Walk and score some local art for as low as $52.80. Kick off the season with a (free) performance of Granny Dances to a Holiday Drum by Cleo Parker Robinson Dance. Go on a VIP couples tour of murals in the RiNo Art District. Or hit the Starz Denver Film Festival, free museum nights (with shuttles), and much more. Learn more.

Senior Health and Information Fair: Nov. 8, 9am-noon
What you learn at this event could add up to extra years of shared memories. Held at the Recreation Center at Eastridge, this third annual fair offers seniors a variety of free, simple health screenings, along with educational breakout sessions. Service professionals will be on hand to answer questions and share information about activities and services in the community. Adults of all ages are welcome. Sponsored by the Metro District’s 50 & Better Together program and the Highlands Ranch Community Association. For more information, contact Jodie McCann at 720-240-4922 or email

BackCountry Wine Tasting Event: Nov. 13, 6:30pm-8:30pm
It’s social, tasty, and educational, too. BackCountry residents (21+ of course!) are invited to the community’s first Wine Time! tasting event, led by local Certified Wine Specialist, Andrea Rogers. Andrea will explain the differences between four delicious Italian wines enjoyed alongside light snacks provided by Renu Laser & Skin Care. $30 per person. Maximum of 30 residents. Register through ActiveNet or at the Sundial House now through Monday, November 3.

Brilliant: Cartier in the 20th Century:
Nov. 16 – Mar. 15
Ogle together (and perhaps plant the seeds of a sparkly holiday gift?) at this stunning collection of Cartier jewelry, timepieces, and precious objects created between 1900 and 1975. Hosted by the Denver Art Museum, the exhibition highlights Cartier’s rise to preeminence—and the historical events pushing the design house’s evolution—as it transformed itself into one of the world’s most prestigious names in jewelry and luxurious accessories. Learn more.

Turkey Rock Trot: Nov. 27, 8:30am Registration/9:30am Race
Make memories with your family—and room for pumpkin pie—at this 5k family fun run/walk, complete with continental breakfast and goodie bags. Wear a Thanksgiving-themed costume for contests planned for both kids and adults. Route begins and ends at the Douglas County Event Center in Castle Rock. All proceeds support The Douglas/Elbert Task Force, which provides assistance to people in crisis within Douglas and Elbert Counties. Learn more at or or email questions to

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