Monday, December 29, 2008

auld lang syne

Heading up north to spend the last day of 2008 with our families, something we haven't been able to do in four years! It sounds as if Mother Nature intends to bless us with a winter storm along the way, and sub zero temperatures. Ahhh, nothing like Bemidji in December.

See you next year!

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Twas -

- the day of Christmas, and all through the house, we were all stirring, except this little mouse
The stockings have been emptied, with squeals of glee, the presents are gone from under the tree. We've eaten the snacks,and captured the moment.We've had brunch with friendsnad enjoyed our tree
Santa stopped by, because we believed.Today we'll eat cookies
that we decorated
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And enjoy the snowand the simple magic
of just being together.A Happy Christmas to all, far and wide. May your day be blessed with those you hold dear.And a HAPPY BIRTHDAY to my sweet sis, who turns 35 today. She was the best Christmas present our family ever received.

Thursday, December 18, 2008


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We have been so cold for several days-it actually got to 20 yesterday, and the sun was shining. I was expecting to see folks pull out their shorts and flip flops.

More snow predicted for today and tomorrow, Mike has already had to shovel twice this week! This is the most snow we have had prior to Christmas in quite literally years-I remember several years just hoping we would see a flake or two before Santa arrived. It is actually quite beautiful, from my viewpoint, where I don't have to be the shoveler, or the daily commuter.

Speaking of Santa, Charlie still claims to believe (knowing that Santa doesn't show up if he doesn't), but I know that he no longer fervently believes in his heart that Santa crawls down our chimney. That's okay, he lasted a pretty long time in today's world, and I wouldn't want him getting beaten up in junior high.

Sorry for the lack of posts-December in retail doesn't leave much room for frivolous activities like blogging. But I was up very early today, so figured I could squeeze in my thoughts. Things will start winding down soon, and I will be back in full force to share recipes and useless information.

Friday, December 12, 2008

the big day

If you regularly read my blog, you may have read this little tale:

And here is the happily ever after part:

A few weeks ago, this is what the room looked like at Cleveland Middle School:
And here is what it looked like, yesterday morning, before the big ribbon cutting ceremony:
Here is the relieved builder, as he is escorted to the Simulation Lab. Every student in the school turned out (with big smiles, cheers, and applause) and lined the hallways from the classroom where the morning started, all the way down the stairs to the room full of wonder.
Here are some of the students, excited about their new equipment:
3M was a big contributor to the project, with a grant that provided three of the simulators. Here is one of the 3M execs, trying out a simulator:
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Here is Jill Wahl, the educator with the dream: And this is the principal, Dr. Vincent, who shared the dream, and worked to make it a reality.
Here are students who were selected to demonstrate how they work (canopies up so everyone could see inside, normally they will fly with the canopies down). But after all of the fanfare, they got down to what this is really all about, the learning.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008


Oh, Harry.
Words can't describe how much I loved your concert, but I will try.

You started exactly on time, which I really admire. You aren't one to leave your adoring fans squirming in their seats, checking their watches. Clearly, many of the concert goers weren't aware that there actually is an entertainer who starts when the ticket says he will, as people kept looking for their seats in the dark for the first three songs. How incredibly rude. I loved how you made a point of mentioning it to the two people seating themselves, RIGHT IN THE FRONT ROW, in the middle of your third song.

Loved the Christmas music, both from the new CD and your earlier one. Loved how you talked to the kids in the audience. Your twelve piece band? Incredible. The sound filled the theater with joy, along with a little of the blues. Is there any instrument you can't play? Last night you played a 100 year old Steinway, an organ, the drums, your regular piano, and the bongos. Who knew?(not from last night, I couldn't sneak a camera in....)

Lucien was great (the slide trombone man, and vocalist extraordinaire). The evening just kept building, and even though you did one encore, we really didn't want you to go. Seriously? I think we would have stayed all night to listen to you.

But the best part, watching you dance....happy holidays to me!

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

it's here

Got our first really good snowfall. (Here is how I measure it, if I push snow when I open the door to get my newspaper in the morning, it's a really good snowfall.)

Think of all of the happy people this morning!

* Independent snowplow operators-they have had some pretty lean years around here lately, I bet they are grinning from ear to ear as they plow our alleys and parking lots.

* Ski hills-enough said.

* Snowblower repair folks, and anyone who sells shovels or snow boots (speaking of, have you ever noticed that nearly all snow boots are made in Canada? Nothing like getting product from the experts!)

* Children-Charlie was already out with friends last night, building a snow fort. I can imagine the sledding hill at the golf course will just be crawling with kids once school lets out today.(taken last year at Kruegers Tree Farm duing a snowstorm)

*Snowbirds-if they haven't left already, but are packing for their winters in Arizona, Texas, or Florida, they are feeling pretty justified in getting the heck out of here.

People who may be a bit grumpy this morning:

*Commuters-snow really snarls up traffic. Don't expect anyone to arrive at work on time today, unless they really planned ahead and left far earlier than usual.

*Kids who have to shovel before heading out to school.

Me? Today I am grateful that I work from home. I can layer up, put on my warmest slippers, brew another pot of coffee, and watch everyone as they slide off to their destinations.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

I wish

Before I start in on my wishes, let me just say that I really have not been cooking Thanksgiving leftovers for more than a week...I just haven't been very good about that party of the blog! But if you would like to know just how long you can keep things in the fridge or freezer, go to:

Okay, back to wishes.

I have been spending the day quietly, listening to my favorite Christmas CD's and wrapping gifts. It has been gently snowing off and on all day, Charlie is at a party and Mike is at ACES, and I am sipping a cup of cinnamon hazelnut coffee. Really, does it get any better than that? Why yes, it does. Sitting at a spa would be okay too...

If I had unlimited funds, here is what I would buy some of my favorite people for Christmas this year:

My sister would receive a brand new, custom built home, just for her and her son. (with a room for special guests, like me!) It would have a picket fence, and lilac bushes, and enough space for a little garden. Each shiny window would be adorned with a window box that she could fill with geraniums, or evergreens. It would have a porch, where she could drink lemonade and read. It would have a cozy chair by the fireplace, where she could snuggle Riley and read him stories. A just right kitchen, with a pantry for all of her bargains, and a bookshelf for all of her cookbooks. And of course her bathroom would be equipped with a jacuzzi, to melt all of her cares away.

My dad would receive unlimited days of perfect fishing weather, and bait and tackle for life. Along with a good supply of salted nuts, and snacks for the cooler, when he takes his grandkids fishing.

My mom would get to remodel her house, every room, and she wouldn't have to consult my dad on any of the choices. And a new car to replace her 100 year old Buick, perhaps something with a sun roof, so she could zip around town and feel the breeze, but it wouldn't mess up her hair.

What would you do if you could do ANYTHING you wanted for those in your life?

To be continued....

Friday, December 5, 2008

wild about Harry


I don't know that people use that word very often anymore. But I really like it. It fits perfectly.

I will be swooning on Tuesday evening. My sweet hubby got us tickets to see Harry Connick Jr. at the State Theater. Is it okay to swoon in front of your husband?

I think so. He knows that Harry is happily married to former Victoria's Secret model Jill Goodacre, and has been for 14 years, and they have three adorable daughters. And he knows that I would never leave him for Harry, even if I had the chance. I don't think...

Hey, I bet Harry can't build flight simulators. But I did read in his bio (clearly obsessed when you take the time to read a musician's bio) that he does hold a US patent for something he invented. Very multi-talented.

I have been swooning over Harry for years. I wore out my cassette tape of music from "When Harry Met Sally". I have ALL of his cd's, even the obscure ones. I have seen "Hope Floats" more times than I care to admit to.

And did you see him sing the other night when they lit the Christmas tree in Rockefeller Center? The only performer who even came close to matching him was Tony Bennett. sigh.

So I will be spending the next few days eagerly anticipating the concert, and playing his new Christmas cd. Here's a link to his fan site, make sure to watch the video of yesterday's performance on the Today Show:

Swooning, I tell ya...

Thursday, December 4, 2008

time flies, part VIII

It really hit home for me, how fast Charlie is growing, with the holidays approaching.

The elf reappeared, as he does every year, the day after Thanksgiving. He moves to different places in the house to keep on eye on Charlie, and report back to Santa( or ride Mike's model motorcycles while we are all sleeping).

Charlie isn't buying it anymore. There goes that wonderful behavior modification tool.

He even pointed out the tag on the elf's butt "made in China", and rolled his eyes at me, and said "Yeah, right mom."

Okay, I knew I was pushing it this year. But you can't blame me for trying.

He has no interest in helping make cookies. (Yes mom, I used to let him sit on the dining room table to decorate cookies...)

He didn't ask for any Legos, and has lost all interest in Playmobil.

He just wants Itunes gift cards so he can download more hip hop songs. (now I know how those parents felt, years ago, when their kids were listening to that crazy singer named Elvis Presley....)

He likes to be in his room with the door shut, listening to KDWB. What happened to dancing around the living room with me to our favorite Christmas songs?

But I bet he would still help Mike build a model-maybe I will pick one up for them to work on over Christmas break.

He did help me decorate the tree the other night, while we watched "Elf". So all hope is not lost. But for sure he won't fit in my lap anymore, as he did just five short years ago.... (clearly this photo never made the cut for our holiday picture, it was clearly taken on Christmas Eve, after a long season of retail).

Tuesday, December 2, 2008


I find this to be a very neurotic time of year for me. Although I just checked on the real definition of neurotic, and apparently this term is no longer used. Well, it fits, so I am going to use it. Neurotic: a nonpsychotic mental illness which triggers feelings of distress and anxiety and impairs functioning.

The holidays are a mixed bag for me, as I am sure they are for many. While I love the magic of it all, and decorating the house, and bringing home the tree, and lighting candles, and receiving cards from friends and family, I also spend way too much time thinking about all of the things I wish I had time to do, that I don't.

Actually, I kind of do that all year, so it apparently isn't just a seasonal problem for me.

Being in retail, the store has to come first. Invitations to holiday gatherings, wrapping gifts, sending cards, and being with our families all take a back seat to whatever needs to be taken care of for ACES. I manage our internet gift card business, which this time of year is about one third of our sales. So not a lot of time left over for decorating Christmas cookies. And that makes me kind of sad.

But I will just go put on another holiday CD, (as long as it isn't I'll be Home for Christmas, or I'll start weeping), get done what I need to do, and enjoy what I have and what I CAN do! And maybe in January I will get time to do all of those things..I am sure my friends will enjoy those beautifully decorated cookies just as much in January as they would if I delivered them this month...

Hey, thanks for listening! Who needs therapy when you have a blog to pour your heart into?

Monday, December 1, 2008


Things I am thankful for (I know, I know, I am several days late....)

1. That the Mall of America is closed on Thanksgiving.

2. That we are nearly almost completely done with our simulation installation at Cleveland Junior High.

3. That I had a new kitchen to create our Thanksgiving meal in.

4. Leftovers.

5. Nice weather, so that creating our holiday window boxes was not even painful.

6. My kid, who took out the garbage without being told. And who spent a whole day of his vacation helping his dad move stuff out of our storage place.

7. Our new car. We did our share of holiday spending this weekend! Our 1997 Honda Accord, which we bought used back in 2001 (after our other Honda was stolen...a story for another blog...)will now be posted on Craig's List.
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8. My hubby. Who has been working pretty much non-stop since August. He leaves very early today for Orlando, to attend a Simulation Conference all week. I booked him at a very nice hotel, so he will have a sinfully cushy bed, and a pool, and a workout room, and a beautiful lobby. I hope he gets a chance to just hang out at the pool and read a book, and not have to figure out why the right rudder pedal won't connect with the keyboard.

9. My family. All of you have been in my thoughts all weekend. I miss my mom's corn pudding and pecan pie, and tramping out into the woods to collect pine boughs and make wreaths. And debating politics with my dad. And giving my nieces and nephews a big hug. And visiting with my dear Grandma. And listening to my husband's parents tell stories of holidays gone by. And shopping with my sweet sis at Emily's.

10. Vicodin. For helping me survive these last few weeks!

Sunday, November 30, 2008

shopping tips!

Today I share with you my thoughts on holiday spending. If you don't care what I think, go ahead and move on. But if you want some fun shopping spots, read on:

The media is telling us everyone is cutting back, spending less. In some ways, I think that is a good thing. I keep hearing more people talking about how they will figure out how to celebrate without going into debt. They are going to spend more time together as a family, play games, make cookies, go for walks, create some homemade gifts. What part of that sounds bad?

But being in retail, the holidays are a pretty important time of the year for us. And if everyone stopped spending, we wouldn't be in business for long. And I would have to get a job delivering newspapers at 3 in the morning, or perhaps as a cashier at the grocery store. Maybe even go back to my corporate job at Target.

Gosh, I hope not. I've become really accustomed to working in my office in my pajamas.

Let's face it, we still need to buy SOME gifts. And here are some of the little, mostly locally owned business I love to shop at this time of year:

Gypsy Moon on Randolph Avenue. The owner always has a wonderfully eclectic offering of gifts, furniture, and fun things you won't find elsewhere. It's a combo of new items, estate sale items, and other finds. The best part? Everything is so reasonably priced, you will look at the tag and ask whether or not you need new glasses! And if you DO need new glasses, or know someone who does:

May I recommend our dear friend's optical shop, Specs, in Uptown? They have the most unique collection of eyewear in the Midwest, and an incredible staff to assist you. On top of that, it's just a crazy, fun spot to shop in.

The Wine Thief on St. Clair Avenue. For the wine or beer lover on your list, you can't go wrong here. The owners are so helpful, there are regular tastings to sample new things, and nothing is more than $20 a bottle. They have wonderful finds you won't see at the bigger stores, and a selection of unique beers and saki to delight anyone. And did I mention that they are REALLY nice?

The Golden Fig on Grand Avenue. This is owned by a woman who started selling her wares at the Farmer's Market. Everything in the store is local, and there is a wonderful selection of goodies, perfect for putting together a gift basket.

Penzey's Spices on Grand Avenue. This was started in Wisconsin, and they now have locations all over the United States. But it still feels like a small business with people who care. Their gift boxes make the perfect present for your favorite foodie.

The Bead Monkey on Grand Avenue. If you have anyone on your list who loves to make jewelry, get them a gift card from here. They have a great selection of beads (even more in their Edina location) and the staff is always there to help. Or pick up a kit and make something for a special friend.

If you have a sewer on your list, get them a gift certificate to Treadle Yard Goods. This St. Paul institution has been around forever, they carry the most beautiful fabric in town. It still operates like an old fashioned yard goods store, but carries the most current, up-to-date, amazing product. From Amy Butler fabric, to Japanese import, to antique buttons and trims, you can find it there.

Patina (several Twin Cities locations). A huge selection of unique finds, and amazing jewelry (if you don't want to make your own.) A bit more expensive, but I always make sure to hit them the day after Christmas for unique goodies for next year!

Krueger's Sprucegate Tree Farm in Lake Elmo. This is where we will be heading to get our tree. Mike insists on having snow on the ground first. This is a family run business, they have a little warm spot with hot cider, and they are so very nice. A wonderful tradition.

Have fun shopping!

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

are you a shopper?

Will you be heading to the mall at 6 am? Perhaps to one of the crazy stores that open at 4 or 5 am? We have an outlet mall here that is opening at midnight. Last year people waited an hour just to PARK THEIR CAR there.

Am I missing something? I can't imagine a single thing that I would be willing to get up that early to buy. I can see if someone is selling new cars half price, or houses, or something. But tvs, sporting goods, winter coats?

Now, I love a bargain. I am a coupon clipper, and rarely spend full price on a single thing. But all of the deals this time of year just make me tired. It is just too overwhelming.

So Mike will head out and open our store at 6 am (official Mall of America opening time) on Friday. I will snuggle under the warm covers until Claude urges me to get up and feed him. Then I'll make a pot of Winter Roast coffee, and let the scent of cinnamon and spice drift through my cozy little house. I will read the newspaper, and snuggle with Charlie and talk about how we will decorate the house for Christmas. And watch the cars drive by our house to catch a deal and stimulate the economy.

But for now, it's time to bake some pumpkin bars, make my cranberry sauce, and roast some sweet potatoes.

Safe travels to everyone hitting the road today!

Monday, November 24, 2008

busy busy busy

We are all busy. But not too busy that we can't whip up some homemade Cranberry Sauce for Thursday's festivities!

1 bag (12 oz.) fresh cranberries
3/4 c. sugar
1/2 c. good red wine (I like to use zinfandel)
1/4 tsp. cardamom
1/4 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. ginger

Place all ingredients in a small saucepan, bring to a boil, then simmer until the cranberries pop and the sauce thickens. I like to throw in some orange zest, and if I am feeling like I really have a lot of time, I dice up some red pear and throw in as well. If it starts to get too gooey, just splash in some more wine. Delish!

Saturday, November 22, 2008

of regattas and simulators

Our lives are a whirlwind. I daydream about our little family just sitting in the living room, with candles glowing, and soft music playing, and perhaps a round of Monopoly.

But that won't be happening for a while, so for now I shall just live in the moment and absorb all of the goodness that surrounds us.

Charlie is in his last year of Cub Scouts. Thursday night the entire pack held their Raingutter Regatta in the school gym. Each boy crafts a sailing vessel of their own design, names it, and hopes to win a race or two. When Charlie was just starting out, in first grade, it was a several day project. Helping dad with the sanding, the painting, the gluing. This year dad was busy building simulators, and Charlie did it all on his own. Not a bad thing, as he is eleven after all, and derived a great sense of accomplishment.
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It's a raucous evening. It was gratifying to see Charlie and his den mates behaving so well, offering encouragement, and support. They have all grown so much from that first year of tears and raw emotion that a competitive event can bring.

Mike is basically living at the school, getting the sims hooked up. This is what it looked like when he started the process on Tuesday:

The painters came in to do their work this week. So he has had to work around tarps and ladders.

I brought him dinner last night. I cleared off a table and we had pasta by candlelight-in this giant room surrounded by simulators. He is quite single minded in getting this finished-he leaves early in the morning and is home at 10 pm. I can't wait to post pictures when it is all done, hopefully by the end of the day on Wednesday. But it will continue to be several very long days before an end is in site. I will be with him all day on Monday, armed with my sewing machine, to finish all of my parts and pieces.

And another November winds down....

Thursday, November 20, 2008

in just a week...

...I will be in the kitchen making stuffing. How about you?

How in the heck did it get to be Thanksgiving so soon? It is even later in the month this year, and I am still not quite ready to wrap my brain around the idea of it.

So I read in Wolfgang Puck's article this morning (I love the Food section in our Thursday paper) that it is only called stuffing if you cook it in the bird, if you cook it alongside the bird you must call it dressing. Okay, I am making dressing.

Since there will just be the three of us, I am doing a turkey breast. None of us like dark meat, so why do the whole bird? Last year I brined it, and it was lovely and moist and flavorful. So I plan to do that again this year, with a recipe I found of Sheila Lukin's. I have many of her cookbooks (she of Silver Palate fame) so I trust that it will be delicious, along with her gravy recipe. Here is the rest of the menu:

Cream Cheese Mashed Potatoes (Susan Branch) yes, they are completely fattening.
Mashed Sweet Potatoes (with fresh orange juice and maple syrup...)
Green Beans with Mushrooms and Shallots (Ellie Krieger)
Cranberry/Pear Sauce (made with red wine)
Sausage & Apple Dressing

Did I tell you there will just be three of us? Lots of leftovers!

The dessert dilema was solved when my guys requested Pumpkin Bars rather than pie, so that is easy, and also yields several extra servings. I can bring them in to ACES the next day and make our employees happy.

We will spend the morning in our jammies, I am going to do an apple oven pancake to hold us until dinner. The boys have to help with some of the prep, as it gets lonely in my tiny kitchen. We will have dinner mid-afternoon, then will snuggle in to watch movies together. This year I have The Spiderwick Chronicles and Time Bandits. We will probably need a brisk walk in between showings, then it will be time for a bite of leftovers.

Thanksgiving used to be joining the throngs on the highway and heading up north, to share the long weekend with both of our families in Bemidji. But since opening our store at the MOA it isn't possible (what with having to open at 6 am the day after!) so now we spend the day with our own little family, and reconnect before our crazy busy season starts. Although this year, with building the sims and everything else going on, we are already feeling quite disconnected, so it will be grand to have one day to get back to just us.

What are YOU doing for the holidays?

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

and a grand view it was...

Heather sent me some pictures from our weekend, and I just had to share them with you. To encourage you to find your own way to have a little escape.

We were greeted in the lobby by a healthy dose of fall. I may have to copy this:

This is the main lobby-where we enjoyed complimentary glasses of wine in front of the roaring fire on Friday night:
This is what you look like after a 60 minute massage, sitting in the sunshine, on a big overstuffed couch in the Relaxation Room>

Here is how happy my sister looked after her massage. She hasn't smiled that big in ages!
And here we are on our way out to shop, just so happy to spend a very brief weekend together.

Can't believe I won't get to see you until January!!!

(If you would like more info on Grand View, go to They have all kinds of fun things planned all winter!)

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

once upon a time...

...there was a man who had an idea. He would build a simulator that would allow people to feel like they were flying, without leaving the ground.

So he gathered some parts

and his tools

and started creating it in his garage.

He sanded

and painted

working day and night

and even got his wife to help with the fabric parts.

And before you know it, he had two of them nearly ready:

And the weeks went by, and still the man worked in his garage, day and night.

And he went to the place, where they had a vision, of filling a classroom with many of these amazing inventions.

He loaded up his truck and trailer, and delivered seven of them to this place.

And now all he has to do is set up all of the computers, and hook everything together, and before you know it, the children will feel like they are flying, without leaving the ground.


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