Thursday, December 31, 2009

scenes from a year

Today is the day to reflect back on the days of 2009, and what it meant in

the Pohl household.

Charlie did a lot of growing up this year, some of it painful.  He survived

his first full week away at scout camp (mostly).  He left the comfort of

Horace Mann, to attend a new school with new faces and teachers.  He

went from begging to get out of dirt bike events, to absolutely loving the

sport and begging to get out and ride.  He moved on to a new bmx bike,

and then a new dirt bike, and spends his free time riding dirt bikes on his

Xbox, and watching Travis Pastrana perform impossible stunts. 

Remember Charlie, don't try this at home...

Mike did his fair share of riding as well, finishing up the year 3rd in his

class.  He also took a fair amount of photos, and is right now working

on this year's movie for his club.  He was even published in Cycle

magazine! (and may I say, gets better looking every year....)

He enjoyed some out of season riding down in Oklahoma and Arkansas, and

with ice tires installed is going to try some snow riding this winter. 

Speaking of winter, he and Charlie got in some skiing last year, most

notably during our spring break trip to Lutsen.  He will be chaperoning

when our school's ski club starts up in January.

The whole family rocked out with Springsteen, scoring our favorite

seats behind the stage.  Definitely a highlight!

Our store had it's share of ups and downs last year, ending with

disappointing results.  But it simply gives us a new challenge for the new

year, and having been down this road before, Mike and I are ready to

tackle it again.  On a  bright note, TLC filmed the MOA security guys

having a competition at our store last week, look for it to (hopefully)

be on an episode of Mall Cops: MOA, this spring.  Stay tuned!

I found a physical therapist to help me with my back, and for the first

time  in 3 years I am able to manage my pain, and even do some things

I haven't been able to do in a while.  Definitely the highlight of my year.

Well, that and finding the perfect haircut....(thanks Kim!)

My sweet sis moved in to her brand new home, lovingly built by my brother,

dad, and nephew.  She and her son Riley are on the brink of a wonderful

new year, and a new life.

My mom provided a home and place for my sister to be safe during the

nightmare of her divorce, and helped her paint her new home and get

settled in.  And brings over warm cookies.

My dad had a health scare in the spring, but he made it through and is

back  to making the world's best onion rings, and spending his days fishing

through a tiny hole on the frozen lake.  Save a blue racer for me!

The rest of our families are thankfully healthy and ready for 2010.  (Even

though we are lacking any new photos of them this year!)

Thank you to all of my blog readers, who have hung in there this year

through it all.  Who knows what 2010 will bring!  Rest assured, I stand

ready to document it all.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

recipe box Wednesday

The holiday edition of Recipe Box Wednesday (unearthing treausures from

an old wooden recipe box I found at a yard sale this summer) finishes up

with this dandy, that would be wonderful to have as you ring in the new



2 c. brown sugar

1 c. butter

1/2 c. light corn syrup

pinch salt

Boil all ingredients for 5 minutes, add 1 tsp. baking soda (mixture will foam

a bit, so make sure you use a big enough saucepan). Pour over 5 quarts of

popped corn, add 1 cup of peanuts (optional).

Butter a cookie sheet, pour corn onto it.  Bake one hour at 250, stirring


I have used a similar recipe, and instead of popcorn have used Old Dutch

Puffcorn.  The recipe is right on the back of the bag, and if you have never

made it you MUST.  It is completely addictive, and the whole batch will be

gone before you know it.

Happy sweet crunching!

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

holiday scrapbook

Christmas 2009 blew into town and covered us with a blanket of white.

Good thing we were already planning to stay home, as it would have been

tricky to travel up north in the storm.

Due to the storm, the Mall allowed each tenant to determine how late they

wanted to stay open for Christmas Eve.  Usually we head in to the store in

the afternoon, send our crew home, and manage the store until it closes at

six.  This year, we had the crew shut her down at three and we started our

Christmas Eve. celebration early!

Not knowing quite what to do with all of that time, we decided to play

holiday Monopoly.  Since we only had the Star Wars version, we made it

work.  If you landed on "Go to Jail", you got to open a gift!  It was a nice

balance of pain and pleasure.

We ate snacks happily, opened gifts merrily, and later took a moonlit snow

walk through the neighborhood.  It was great to watch families celebrating

through their brightly lit windows, all snug and cozy and happy. 

Charlie left cookies for Santa (even though he NO LONGER BELIEVES)

and Claude had started in on them by the time I got back downstairs to

stuff the stockings.  Here, he is innocently looking all cute and acting like

he doesn't want to chew on the ribbons.

And here, the topless tree that ate our living room.

It was a wonderful Christmas, (even with the wide angle lens making my

shoulders look like a linebacker).

Hope your holiday was a memory maker too!  (and the actual photo does

say Merry Christmas, not Merry Christ....)

Sunday, December 27, 2009

a few of my favorite things

There are certain movies that I cherish, that hold a special place in my

heart. And I can always count on one of my very favorites to be shown

during the holidays.

As I type this, Fraulein Maria has just berated Christopher Plummer

soundly, standing drenched from falling in the water, with the amazing

Alps in the background.  And now the children are singing to the

Baroness, and all I want to do is sing along.

Maria is one of my favorite characters - strong and outspoken, and she can

sew playclothes out of curtains, and put on an amazing puppet show, and

help the Captain find his heart.  And dump that annoying Baronness.

"Edelweiss" played at our wedding, while the guests were being seated.

And I walked down the aisle to the wedding march from this movie.

Cinema is a wonderful thing, don't you agree?

What movies touch your heart, no matter how many times you watch them?

Friday, December 25, 2009

Christmas baby

Happy Birthday to you, Happy Birthday to you, Happy Birthday dear

Heather, Happy Birthday to you!

I still remember that day in 1973, when I woke up early to peek in my

stocking and my aunt was sitting in our living room.  Not a normal

occurence for a Christmas morning, she smiled and told me my parents

were at the hospital.

Santa could not have brought a better present than dear, sweet Heather

Jo.  And if I could, I would post a baby picture here, as she was the

cutest baby girl ever.  She even won a baby contest at Pamida!

Enough said.

Sending hugs to wind their way up north to Bemidji on this snowy

Christmas Day. Happy Birthday Heather!

And a very Merry Christmas, to all of you (circa 2005).

Thursday, December 24, 2009

the season of giving

This time of year, folks feel especially inclined to give to those in need.  My

problem is, there is so much need, and so many I want to help, that I have

a really hard time deciding.  Where can my small donation do the most

good?  Do I help something big, like St. Jude's Children's Hospital?  Toys for

Tots?  March of Dimes?  Special Olympics?  Buy a cow through Heifers

International?  Do I do something more local, or help a specific family?  I

believe it is so important to give, and help where you can.

We do a lot of donations through our store, we daily get requests for

donations of gift cards to silent auctions for various organizations, big and

small.  And it is always fun when someone comes to fly, and they won it at

a function.

We have raised Charlie to give, and to help him along I set up three mason

jars for him.  They are labeled SPEND, SAVE, and GIVE.  Whenever he

gets money for a birthday, or his monthly allowance, he usually splits it up

into the three jars.  We let him decide how to divide it up.  When he finds

a video game he wants to buy, he checks his SPEND jar to see if it is in

his 'budget'. 

At Christmastime, he takes his GIVE jar and decides what to do.  In the

past, he has bought toys for the Toys for Tots program.  This year, he

decided he wanted to help animals, so last Sunday we went to our area

Humane Society so he could drop it off, and we could check out all of the


It showed great restraint for us not to bring home an adorable cat named

Bing, who had an upper respiratory infection, (his owner had brought him to

the shelter as he could no longer afford to keep him).  And we wanted a

lively terrier mix named Jolly, who stuck his paws through the cage and

begged us to take him home.

Criminy, I am not sure how much more my heart can take.

I was very proud of our boy, and I hope that he will continue a tradition of

 giving throughout his life.  And I guess it really doesn't matter where you

 give, or how much you donate, only that you do.

And to all of you, my dear readers, I give my warmest greetings for a

very happy Christmas Eve !

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

recipe box Wednesday

Today I depart from the old wooden recipe box to share with you my

favorite new cookie recipe.  Since Christmas is all about cookies, I wanted

to share the love : )  My dear friend Tracy shared some of these with us

earlier this week, and I can't even tell you how unbelievably good these are

-make them as soon as you can!

Ricotta Cheese Cookies

4 c. flour

2 Tbsp. baking powder

1 tsp. salt

Whisk together and reserve.  In a large bowl, beat:

2 c. sugar

2 stcks unsalted butter, at room temp.

Beat until creamy, about 5 minutes.  Reduce power, and add:

15 oz. full fat ricotta cheese

2 tsp. vanilla

2 eggs at room temperature

Beat until well combined.  Reduce speed to low and add flour mixture,

mixing just until dough forms.  Drop by level tablespoons about 2" apart

onto parchment lined cookie sheets.  Bake until very lightly golden, about

15 minutes.  Cool 2 minutes, then transfer to wire rack.  Cool completely.


1 1/2 c powdered sugar

3 Tbsp. half and half

Whisk together until smooth, add more cream or more sugar as needed to

get desired consistency.  Spread on cookies, top with colored sugar if

desired.  Allow icing to set one hour.

When I make these, I am going to drizzle the tops of some of them

with dark chocolate or sprinkle them with toasted sliced almonds

(or both!)   mmmmmmm

My thanks to Tracy's sister Toni for sharing the recipe!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

holiday soundtrack

I own a vast selection of holiday music, everything from Vince Guaraldi to

Ella Fitzgerald to James Taylor to Dean Martin to Eartha Kitt to Nat King

Cole.  I love holiday music, and since I work from home, I have the luxury of

being able to listen to it 24 hours a day, if I really want to.

Springsteen singing "Santa Claus is Coming to Town" helps pep me up

during a long afternoon at my desk, Doris Day singing "I'll be Home for

Christmas" brings a tear to my eye.  Dean Martin's "Baby, It's Cold Outside"

is almost as good as James Taylor's/Natalie Cole's update.

This year, I have been listening, almost exclusively, to "Holiday Traditions"

on Sirius XM radio, through our TV.  I love the assortment, I hear songs I

imagine my Grandma Betty singing to while she made party mix, or that I

remember my mom listening to while she ironed our clothes for our church's

Christmas program.

Rosemary Clooney and Burl Ives always stop by for a song, Ediye Gorme &

Steve Lawrence add their holiday wishes.  There are little snippets of

classic holiday bits, everything from Bob Hope entertaining the troops, to

James Stewart calling for Mary in "It's a Wonderful Life".  And it seems

when I am feeling sorriest for myself, that I won't get to be with my family

for Christmas, there will be a message from a soldier far away, letting his

loved ones know how much he misses them, and looks forward to being with

them again someday.

And then I end my little pity party, and look at my pretty tree, and listen to

Charlie beg for the 500th time to open a gift, and look at all of the beautiful

cards we have received from family and friends, and remind myself how

very lucky I am. 

What is YOUR favorite holiday song, and why?

Monday, December 21, 2009

ghosts of Christmas past

This week I would like to show you pictures of earlier Christmases, but I don't have time to figure out how to make our scanner work (I HATE our printer), and as you may remember, we lost our hard drive this summer, so Christmas pics from years past are few and far between.

That being said, I can offer you this gem from just 3 years ago.  I bet I couldn't pay him to wear a plaid robe now...

Friday, December 18, 2009

the best gifts...

...come from the heart.

My fondest Christmas memories aren't about receiving a big present.  My

childhood memories include resting directly under the Christmas tree, so I

could look at the reflection of the living room in the shiny ornaments.  Or

the excitement of opening the door and finding a package waiting on the

step.  I remember my mom making cookies, and beautifully wrapping them

to deliver to a neighbor.  Or my dad coming home with a ham that was

given to him by a customer.

I still love those little Christmas moments.  A wonderful bottle of wine,

dropped off by a friend you have not seen in a while.  A pot of chili from a

friend, who knows that you don't have a lot of time to cook homemade

meals during December. 

Today I received quite possibly my most memorable gift ever.  I had just

delivered a big stack of mail to our postal carrier, before he headed off on

his route, when I spied a brown box on our front step.  It had my sister's

new return address on it.  What could she be sending me?

I quickly cut the box open, and inside was a cute red bucket, the card on

top said "a little taste of home".  And do you know what was inside?  An

entire batch of date cookies.  If you read my blog regularly, you will know

that I went on and on about my Grandma's date cookies in a Recipe Box

Wednesday post last week.  I haven't had them in years, and was missing


And now, here they are, lovingly made for me by my dear sister.  I had

tears running down my face as I tenderly bit into the soft dough, the filling

bringing back such fond memories.  They taste even better than I

remember, as they were made with an extra portion of love.  I can just

imagine my sister in her kitchen, at the end of a long work day, spending

hours rolling out the door, filling them, baking them, and packaging them

up for me.  And smiling as she thought of me sobbing when I opened the

box.  Because I am thinking of her, and wishing I could be home for the


Yes, the best gifts do come tied with heartstrings.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

talk about a wish list

I found the most wonderful idea today, that I have talked to Mike

and Charlie about at dinner this evening.

We have a few magazines in our house.  And plenty of gift wrapping


Here is the idea: 

You think of those you love, and what you would give them if

 money, time, space, etc. were no concern.

And then you find pictures of those items, (magazines, internet, draw it

yourself!) and you wrap them.  On Christmas Eve, you  spend your

time opening the presents that your loved ones would give you, if they



Mike is getting his dream motorcycle, and Charlie is going to live with

Travis Pastrana for a month, maybe a year!  And then I am sending Mike to

Europe, to do a World War II tour of every site he is interested in.  And

Charlie is getting a season pass to his favorite ski hill.  And I am sending

Mike on a worldwide motorycyle tour with Ewan McGregor.  And Charlie

is going to get locked into a Best Buy for a night, and he can try all of the

cell phones, play all of the video games, watch any movie he wants on a

giant TV, play the guitars and the keyboards and the drum sets.  And Mike

will get to go on a shopping spree at the biggest bookstore I can find, and

take home anything he wants.

Can't wait to see what they come up with for me!

media alert

Tune in to KARE 11 on Friday morning at 10 am for "Showcase Minnesota".

And sometime during that hour, you will spot my hubby telling everyone

about A.C.E.S.  We have been invited to fill six minutes of their show, and

since I refuse any on-camera appearances, Mike will be the one.

He has had previous TV experience, as through the years we have had a

little media attention.  It is the best free advertising we can get-and this

year, needed more than ever.

We have been advertising on KARE 11 for the last five years, and I can't say

enough about how wonderful they are to work with.  We have used other

television stations to advertise (and spent a lot of money in the process),

but we always stick with KARE 11, as they literally go out of their way to

help insure the sucess of their customers. 

It was KARE 11, who did a Saturday morning story about us, in December

of 2002, where Frank Vascillero and Belinda Jensen came to our store and

had a dogfight.  Once the segment was over, our phone literally rang off the

hook, orders came flying in over the internet, and we ended up having

what was, at that point in time, our most successful year ever.  And we

weren't even using TV advertising back then, they were simply interested

in getting our story out there.

Eric "Perk" Perkins did one of his Tuesday night segments at our store in

December a couple of years ago, again getting us some exposure that was

invaluable.  And helped pay the bills.

Every contact we have had with them has been completely professional,

and can I say it?  Caring.  Literally.  From our sales reps, to the camera

crews, to the person at the front desk, they are all top notch.  And the on

air talent is pretty amazing too.  Who is your favorite KARE personality?

So tune in Friday morning if you can, to see what Mike has to say.  I will be

 watching from the wings (hey, I may not want to be on tv, but I am very

interested in the process...)  And I was a buyer at Target back when Corbin

Seitz (one of the hosts) was Target's Trend guru, I remember sitting in

meetings with her (not that she will remember me, but hey, it's only one

degree of separation!)

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

recipe box Wednesday

The holiday edition continues, this week's treasure is a very old fashioned

confection, and something I have always wanted to make.  Perhaps this

will be the year!  This one is a yellowed newspaper clipping from the recipe

box, you can tell how old it is, as the back side is a grocery advertisement,

and bacon is .99 a pound...

Mother's Molasses Taffy

2 cups molasses

1 cup sugar

3/4 cup water

1/8 tsp. soda

4 Tbsp. butter

1/2 tsp. vanilla

Cook molasses, sugar and water slowly to the hard ball stage (that is 260 on

my candy thermometer), stirring during the latter part of cooking to

prevent burning.  Remove from fire, add butter, soda and vanilla and stir

enough to mix well.

Pour into greased pan and when cool enough to handle, pull until light in

color,  stretch into long rope and cut into small pieces.  Wrap in waxed

paper or cellophane.

Sounds like something that could pull a few more teeth out of

Charlie's mouth, not that he has that many left to go...

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

time flies, part XI

Charlie lost three teeth this morning before he left for school. (the

homemade caramel he snuck before breakfast may have helped move the

loose teeth along...)

I had completely forgotten that children lose all of their baby teeth (even

their molars) and when he lost his first one several years ago I mildly

panicked. But now I am quite used to it.  And since he no longer BELIEVES

IN ANYTHING MAGICAL he won't be getting anything from the tooth fairy

under his pillow tonight.

Another example of his newfound cynicism, evidenced on our annual

December trip to Stillwater:

Just a few years ago, he would have given the doughboy a hug.  sigh.

Monday, December 14, 2009

a topless Christmas

Did THAT grab your attention?

Yes, Charlie has become quite interested in the Victoria's Secret catalog and holiday commercials, but really, this has nothing to do with the female figure (in all of its wonder and glory).

As you know, I am all about a bargain.  Contrarily, I like to have nice things.  The two sometimes don't go together.

We made our annual trek to our favorite tree farm yesterday afternoon.  It was a perfect weather day, sunshine and warm enough so that our toes wouldn't fall off.  They have a lovely spot in Lake Elmo, acres of gorgeous trees that march up a hill, a lovely little pond behind the barn and house.  It's a family run operation, and we have gotten to know them through the years.  So kind, so hardworking, and gorgeous trees.  You can cut your own (they provide the sleds and saws) or choose from those they have already harvested.  There is always a nice fire going, to warm your hands, and hot cider in the adorable warming house.

I have become a fan of the Frasier Fir.  Perfect stout needles, yet soft to the touch.  A lovely color, pleasing aroma that lasts for weeks, and holds it's needles well.  Unfortunately, a pricier type.  So we walked the rows of trees, and noted that the Frasier Firs were well out of our budget this year.

And then, I happened upon a tree that didn't look like the others.  I noted the price tag, half of what it's neighbor was priced at.  And in writing, on the tag, it said "Broken Top".  Somehow this poor tree had lost it's top, and was therefore half the price it would have been.

Feeling sorry for the poor tree, and loving that I COULD have a Frasier Fir that now fit into my budget, I promptly claimed it.  The kind staff put it in their shaking machine (what a hoot, it dislodges all of the snow and dry needles), bundled it in cheerful red netting, and placed it in the bed of our truck.

It is much fatterr than a tree we normally get (we really don't have room for a fat tree, it means putting furniture away), but this poor tree needed a home.  And now we can proudly proclaim we are having a topless Christmas this year.  I will post photos once we get it in the house, so you can see how I handle a tree with no top to put the star on.

Who says you can't have it all?

Friday, December 11, 2009

watching the art of French cooking

I finally saw "Julie and Julia".  I  got a fresh, never watched disc in the mail

from Netflix on Wednesday.  It had been a very full, busy day in the office,

and I was ready to be transported, as only a good movie can do.

It has overtaken the number one spot on my All Time Favorite Movie List.  I

can't believe I waited this long.  But in a way, it was just the right time to

see it.  December is kind of a crummy month for me, where I question what

the heck I am doing with my life and wondering if I will ever be able to

pursue my passion.  And getting the laundry done and dinner on the

table while running a business.  This is a good movie for that kind of mood.

That night, I didn't work on anything for ACES, I didn't put clothes in the

dryer, and I didn't wrap any presents.  I sat my body on my couch and

watched what I do believe may be the world's most perfect movie.  With

a glass of wine of course.  I do believe that is a prerequisite.  Don't you?

What could possibly make it so good, you may ask?

1.  It's about Julia Child, who I have adored for ages.  Everything about

her.  I own "Mastering the Art of French Cooking" volume one and

two. (Not  that I have ever had the courage to cook anything from them,

but they look awfully good in the bookshelf that holds all of my

cookbooks.  And I have plans to cook from them someday, big plans.

When I have a bigger kitchen, and time on my hands.)  I love to watch

old episodes of her cooking show.  "My Life in France", which she

wrote with her nephew, is an absolute delight to read.  Let me know

if you wish to borrow it.  And the first thing I plan to see when I go to

Washington DC someday has nothing to do with presidents, I am

going straightaway to her kitchen.

2.  Meryl Streep IS Julia Child.  I am firmly convinced that Meryl Streep can

play any role, ever.  She BECOMES her character.  I think Julia Child would

have absolutely adored her, playing her.  In watching how the film was

made, you get to see the huge platform shoes she had to wear to be so tall,

and she admits to gaining 15 pounds filming the movie (the director

insisted that they really eat, Susan Spungen was their chef.  She has a

WONDERFUL cookbook, that is on  my shelf, and available for

borrowing as well).

3.  It's about overcoming difficulties, with hard work, tears, and a little

swearing.  I can relate.

4.  Julie Powell is a blogger.  I'm a blogger too (not quite to her level of

stardom, perhaps I need to come up with a really wonderful project).

And I too would have trouble cooking a live lobster.

5.  Julia is sad when a baby carriage passes her on the sidewalk, and her

 husband squeezes her hand.  I remember, vividly, what that used to feel


6.  It's about food, and not just cooking to have something for dinner.  But

 having really good food, and relishing it, and sharing it with your friends.

7.  The costumes, the sets, the music, it was all just right.

8.  The love that Paul had for his wife is wondrous to watch.  And you don't

often see movies where the wife is taller than the husband, and this movie

showed us not just one, but two very happy couples with tall wives.  And

what can I possibly say about Stanley Tucci?  Sigh.

9.  She has a great relationship with her sister, I am rather fond of my

sister too!  Jane Lynch ("Glee") is perfect for the role.

10.  Nora Ephron directs, need I say more?

If you have already seen it, you know what I am talking about.  And I can

see you shaking your head, wondering what the heck took me so long.  But

I finally saw it, and I am blogging away with a big smile on my face.

Perhaps I should pull out my old manual typewriter and some carbon paper,

and do some writing that way, just to feel more in touch with Julia. 

Or hang my cooking things from pegboard.  I wonder if I could get

Mike to trace the outlines?

Yes, I do plan to watch it weekly. But I won't be boning a duck any time

soon.  Poaching an egg?  Perhaps, and definitely chopping some onions.

(all images from "Julie and Julia" at

Thursday, December 10, 2009

snow day!

St. Paul was visited with an early December snow storm, the likes of which

we haven't seen this early in the season in quite a few years.  I am sure all

of the meteorologists out there could regale you with the statistics.  Mike

drove home in it on Tuesday evening from Milwaukee.  While I encouraged

him to stay another night, in true man fashion he jumped in the pickup and

braved the conditions.  Definitely a man thing.  I would have been back at

that hotel so fast, with my feet up and watching a movie on HBO, and

relishing a bed all to myself.

Tuesday night Charlie kept peeking out the window, wishing school would

be canceled.  He thought perhaps the chances were good (even though he

has never had a snow day his entire school career-St. Paul schools just

don't do that, no matter the weather).  He questioned doing his homework,

I told him it would be a good idea, and if he didn't have school he would


I awoke to the sound of snowplows outside my window early Wednesday

morning, and after a snuggle for Claude I went to KARE 11 for the school

closing list, and there it was.  Twin Cities Academy.  Closed.  I rejoiced,

turned off the alarm, and went back to my cozy bed.

A couple of hours later, Charlie bounded up the stairs to my bedroom,

dancing and smiling and singing "school's closed!  school's closed!"  The

pure joy on his face brought me back to my own childhood snow days.

In Bemidji, we had a lot of them.

He promptly spent the entire morning playing xbox.  I didn't even time him.

To celebrate the snow, and having no school, and the safe arrival of my

husband the evening before, I whipped up these little numbers:

Apple Dumplings

1 apple, peeled, cut into eighths (I used Honeycrisp, Granny Smith would

work too)

1  8 oz.can crescent rolls

1 stick butter

1/2 c. brown sugar (original recipe, 3/4 cup)

1/2 tsp cinnamon

1/2 c. Mountain Dew (original recipe, 3/4 cup)

Roll each apple wedge in one piece of dough, starting at the long end, place

in an 8 x 8 pan. Melt butter, stir in sugar and cinnamon, slowly stir in

Mountain Dew.  Pour over dumplings. Cover with foil, bake 15 minutes at

350, uncover and bake 15 minutes more.

There are many variations of this recipe out there, PW has a much larger

one on her website, the one I used is based on Rachael Ray's.  My sis

made it for us with pears instead of apples (mmmmmmm).  I reduced

the amount of sugar and Mountain Dew, as the original version was a little

too sweet for me, and too liquidy.  But the whole pan was gone in about

half an hour, so I guess the guys thought they were just right!

The snow day fun continued, Charlie was in his pajamas until noon, enjoyed

an afternoon of war games and snow football with his friends down the

block, and helped his dad shovel us out.  And today, it's back to reality.

Everyone could use a snow day, now and then.

CARD CRAFTING NEWSFLASH:  Donna Downey is doing a fun give-

away today on her blog at .

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Recipe Box Wednesday

The Holiday edition continues, with a recipe that stirred up very fond food

memories of my dear Grandma Doris.  No one names their daughters Doris

anymore.  Or Lorraine, or Roberta, or Eileen, or Mabel, or Ethel.  I can't

imagine being called Grandma Kristi someday.  That just doesn't sound

right.  Perhaps I should change my name to something more grandma-like

as I approach that stage of my life.

But I digress.

Before arthritis crippled her hands, my grandmother used to make me date

cookies every year as my Christmas present.  The kind where the chewy

date filling is folded into a soft cookie half moon, and pressed around the

edges to seal it.  I LOVE those cookies.  I spied them at a neighborhood

bakery, and got all excited, but they tasted nothing like my grandma's,

and I was disappointed.  Note to self, get Grandma's recipe for the day

when you have time to make them.

While I realize the following recipe is not the one she made, the

ingredients sound like they might give me the same flavor I remember.

And I LOVED the title!

Date Rocks

2/3 c. sugar
2 eggs
1 c. butter
1 c. nuts
1 lb. dates pitted and chopped
2 1/2 c. flour
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. soda
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. cloves
dash of nutmeg
2 Tbsp. hot water

Cream butter until soft, beat in sugar gradually.  Add eggs and beat well.

Stir in dates and nuts.  Mix and sift dry ingredients separately, add

alternately to egg mixture with water.  Drop by tsp. on cooky sheet, bake at

400 degrees for 10 min.

Happy baking, and as always, if you try them, let me know if the

recipe is a keeper!

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

ho ho ho

Today I will take a few minutes to pass along some fun gift ideas, in case

you aren't done shopping and have some holes in your gift list:

Netflix gift certificates (if they are already signed up, they can just add it

to their account), and you can order right on their website.

Movie Fun  Great for a family, grab a movie or two (this year I would

definitely include "Up"), some movie boxes of candy, microwave popcorn

and popcorn boxes (they have them on an endcap at Target!), and a six

pack of some fun bottled pop, put them all in a basket or metal bucket or

gift bag, and happiness all around!

For your favorite Chef - definitely the Julia Basket.  Include the movie

"Julie and Julia", a bottle of wine and perhaps a kitchen utensil, a pound of

butter, and give them some copies of your favorite recipes.  If you want to

go crazy you could add either of the books that the moive is based on.

Another fun idea for your favorite chef - gift certificates for cooking


Hobby gift cards.  Whether they like to read, or bead, or sew, or garden,

work on motorcycles or build models, gift cards to their favorite go-to shops

for supplies are always a favored gift!  And they will know that you are

really thinking of them, and what they love.

Happy Gifting!

Monday, December 7, 2009

holiday gift ideas

It was Friday afternoon.  I had 900 aircraft models in my dining room,

waiting to be checked in and priced and repacked to bring in to the store,

with the extra needing to find a home in my basement.  I was on hold with

my new on-line credit card proccessing service that I had to find once we

switched to Windows 7.  This is a vital component of our business in

December, and what I spend the majority of my days dealing with.  Not

really the best timing to learn a whole new system, but what's a girl to do?

Mike was off picking up more brochures, our printing order, fixing a

simulator at Farnsworth, and delivering the newly prepared employee

schedules for the rest of this month.  And preparing a sales contract and

getting ready to give a demo in Milwaukee next week, leaving on Sunday.

Needless to say, we were both feeling a little retail stress.

And while I was on hold, I scanned my email and came across this little

gem from my favorite store to shop in Chicago, P.O.S.H.  (If you can't

get there, they have a wonderful on-line shopping site at ).

I am going to copy this part of the email, as it is a wonderful reminder to

me of what I should be reflecting on this month, and the kind of gifts I

really want to give:

"To your enemy, forgiveness.

To an opponent, tolerance.

To a friend, your heart.

To a customer, service.

To all, charity.

To every child, a good example.

To yourself, respect."
(American novelist Oren Arnold)
And once I get all of these models ticketed and tucked away where they

belong, I will get right on that gift list.  And whip up some cookies...

Friday, December 4, 2009

old house + freezing cold = mice

November lulled us into a sense of false security, after a horribly cold

October.  We relaxed in temperatures that were often twenty degrees

above normal, and forgot about getting those fall chores done. 

In our old house, that means putting up 3M window film on the oldest,

draftiest windows.  I have a love/hate relationship with the stuff.  I love

that it makes the rooms feel warmer, while reducing my heating bill. I

hate that it makes me feel like I live in a mobile home.  I love it when I

rip it off the windows on the first warm day in spring, it is a wonderful

spring rite.  I made the mistake (only once) of tyring a less expensive

brand, and learned the hard way that 3M is the only one who can

produce the stuff.

Sure, I could replace my old drafty windows, and forego the whole process.

But have you seen how much windows cost?  And there is a certain charm

to my ancient windows (at least, that is what I keep telling myself).

Another problem with the temperatures finally hitting more seasonable

marks,  is that every mouse in the neighborhood has heard that our house

is an excellent haven.  I don't know if they had a meeting, or how they let

each other know that 603 Hamline was the place to go. Clearly, there is

some secret spot from the outside that they have been using to get in.  I

bet word got out that our cat Claude was now a limping nineteen year old

cat, and no longer a threat.

Well, that last part is certainly not true.

He scored a double on Wednesday night, two mice within an hour.  And

another last night.  If you add those to the ones he caught in October, he is

approaching double digits.  The cat has still got it.  And when he chases

after those mice, you hardly notice his limp at all.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

time flies, elf edition

It was bound to happen.

He kept up the charade as long as he could.

Charlie finally admitted to me that he no longer believes in the jolly man in

the red suit.

He actually quit believing 'at least a year ago', but, as he put it, he was

'protecting me', as he knew 'how important' it was to me.  For crying

out loud!  He was even in cahoots with Mike last year, and admitted he

knew the gig was up, but he didn't want me to feel bad.

I kind of went all out with the Santa thing.  Mostly because I wanted to

relive the magic, and the mystery.  And listen for sleigh bells in the frosty

air of  Christmas Eve.  When I was little, I would rub a spot on the frozen

windshield in the car, on the way home from my grandparent's house, and

imagine I could see the tiny red dot that was Rudolph's nose as he led the

sleigh through the cold dark night.

So when Charlie came along, I was in full-on Santa mode.  We wrote letters

and made a big deal of delivering them.  He sat on Santa's lap when he was

younger (not just any Santa, I made sure to do a tour of the malls to see

which one was the most authentic.  I was quite fond of the Burnsville mall

Santa, the Southdale Santa fit the bill one year).  We would put together

the special tray of goodies on Christmas Eve, including carrots for the

reindeer. I worked hard to keep the magic alive. There was a dedicated roll

of wrapping paper, hidden in the far depths of my closet, that was used only

for Santa gifts. Sometimes Santa left Charlie a note, and I had to disguise

my handwriting.

The best part was the small blue elf, that magically arrived in our house on

December 1st, and each day moved to a different spot to keep a watchful

eye on Charlie.  It was a wonderful disciplinary tool, Charlie was never so

well behaved as when I reminded him that the elf was watching.  I am sure

this will come up in therapy in the future.  Especially since he used to talk

to the elf when he was younger....

And now someone has gone and marketed the idea, "Elf on the Shelf", and

there is an accompanying storybook as part of the set.  Dang, the money I

could have made....

Last night, as I was pulling out the boxes of Christmas decorations, Charlie

asked where the elf was.  Of course, he is hidden in my sock drawer.  I

would never put him with the rest of the decorations, what if Charlie found

it?  He gently reminded me that it was time to let the elf go live with

someone else now.


Wednesday, December 2, 2009

recipe box Wednesday

Welcome to the December edition of Recipe Box Wednesday!  (for those

new to my blog, this is a weekly feature that originated when I found a

wonderful wooden recipe box at an estate sale this summer.  Each week I

share one of the hand penned gems from the box. )

Time to get some candy made to share with friends and family (and if

anyone has time to try this out, please drop a piece by my house-as I pretty

much live on caffeine and sugar in December).  The following recipe is

presented just as I find it typed on the recipe card:

Never Fail Fudge (very good)

6 oz. can Carnation (we will assume this is condensed milk)

10 marshmallows (we will assume these are the big ones)

2 c. sugar

Mix and boil 6 minutes.

Remove from fire and stir in 1 pkg. choc. chips.

1 Tbsp. butter and nuts if preferred (we will assume we stir this in as well)

Soon as all is well blended pour into buttered tin and cool. (we will assume

this is an 8" square pan)

It's almost like decoding a secret mystery recipe!  I am guessing your

chances of this 'never failing' relate directly to whether or not you can

decipher the instructions.  I am seeing lots of options for mixing this one

up, depending on what kind of chocolate chips and nuts you use, and if

throw in some dried fruit you could have quite a creation!

And while we are talking holiday cooking, what is your favorite treat to

make and share in December?

Tuesday, December 1, 2009


I can feel it.  My stomach is tight, and I have been grinding my teeth during

the night again.  I can tell because my jaw aches.  Best get a mouthgard.

When you are in retail, December is always full of anxiousness.  More so

this year, with retail sales still gloomy. While everyone else is attending

holiday  parties, cheerfully hanging tinsel on their tree, and wrapping gifts

while they  listen to classic Christmas songs, I am monitoring our TV

commercial  schedule, filling out gift card orders that I scoot to the airport

post office  before last pick-up at 7 pm, and wishing I had time to make

some gifts.

I guess I could have done that in July.  It's not like I don't know that

December is coming.

And I don't mean to grumble-it's just that Christmas loses some of it's glow

when you rely on it to keep you afloat.

But we may receive some good news this December, and if we do it will be a

very merry Christmas indeed.   Send some positive retail  thoughts our way

this month, won't you?

Monday, November 30, 2009

Thanksgiving scrapbook

Our Thanksgiving holiday was like a Hallmark commercial. We ate turkey and all of the fixings. It was beyond delicious (mostly because it was made with lots of love, and that's important. Have you read "Like Water for Chocolate?").
The other forty seven dishes are spread out along the rest of the buffet-we could have used platters instead of regular dinner plates!

I spent a lovely afternoon visiting with my grandmother, whose health has been deteriorating lately. But she was bright and cheerful this day, and happy to be with her family.
Camera girl was busy taking pictures, in addition to monitoring all of the happenings in her kitchen. She gave a beautiful toast before the big meal, and welcomed us all to her new home. There were a lot of moist eyes, thank goodness we had cloth napkins.
She just moved into her house a month ago. Can you believe how much she has unpacked already? Very impressive. Charlie is in love with her new home, and her new kitty, and has asked if he could move in.

My little brother and his family. He built my sister a house. How many people can say THAT? Kaleb and Savanna are absolutely the most delightful, kind, and fun teenagers I know. We had a big poker match with my niece and nephew. They were the last two at the table, and battled it out. Sweet Savanna was the big winner!

It was a rare moment, with our family. We tried to remember where we used to sit at the table when it was just the five of us. My brother is one of those guys who never smiles for pictures, and Heather was getting tired of Mike taking pictures of us...

The guys even went to Gander Mountain, for some Thanksgiving shopping. And the women stayed home!

A lovely day was had by all. And it was just the beginning of a memorable weekend.

Hoping your holiday was wonderful too!

Thursday, November 26, 2009

life is good

It's a frosty morning in Bemidji-the sunrise over the hill was shades of pink and purple and blue. The sun is peeking out, with the promise of a clear cold Thanksgiving day.

If you had told me a year ago, as I was prepping yet another Thanksgiving feast by myself, that I would be here, today, in my sister's brand new home, I would have told you you were dreaming. Here is her take on all of this:

And here we are. Last night Heather and I laughed in her new kitchen, as we filled celery, and cooked cranberries, and prepared pecan pie under our mother's watchful eye. (She is not 100% sure of our culinary abilities.) I keep pinching myself, as I am sure Heather is doing too.

The guests will be arriving in a few hours. We have side dishes to prepare, a table to set, and kitties to keep out of the goodies. I can't stop smiling.

Thankful, grateful, all of the above.

A very Happy Thanksgiving to all of you, may your next year be filled with blessings, and unexpected joy in quiet moments.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

this year's commercial

As small business owners, we do not like to hire out something we feel we can do (or learn to do) ourselves.

I taught myself bookkeeping, and how to program cash registers, and use Quickbooks. Mike figured out how to build simulators, and learned how to make TV commercials.

From coming up with a storyboard, to writing the script, filming every shot, doing the voice over, and most importantly, editing it, Mike has learned how to do it all.

We have been using TV as our main advertising resource since our move to the MOA, and I have to say, this commercial is my favorite. Take a look:

It will begin airing this Friday and run through December on KARE 11, Fox 9 and 29, HGTV, the Food Network, Bravo, TLC, and TMC.

Didn't Mike do a good job of finding natural talent? (A HUGE thank you to Mason, Esther, and Niki-thank goodness you work for free : )

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

green beans, stuffing, or sweet potatoes?

Today I ask the burning question, what is your favorite part of the Thanksgiving meal? And is it because you like to eat it, or prepare it, or because it brings back a warm memory?
(I am a big fan of the sweet potato, and each year I try a new recipe. I found this photo, along with a recipe I will definitely be trying when it's my turn to cook again, at . I hope she doesn't mind me sharing it with you!)

In the rush to get right past Thanksgiving and start Christmas preparations, I feel Thanksgiving is starting to become a secondary holiday. And I don't want that to happen, as Thanksgiving is one of the purest American holidays we have. Is there any other holiday that is all about spending a day eating (okay, Independence Day), but also about one main theme, being GRATEFUL?

I am very thankful for all of my dear readers, who take time out of their busy days to stop by and read what I have to share. Today I would like YOU to share what makes you happy on Thanksgiving day.

I'm off to get the ingredients for my mom's cranberrry sauce...

Monday, November 23, 2009

there's no place like home

I am a big fan of tradition. Eating the same green bean casserole each year, crunching on Grandma's crinkle cut carrot sticks, and fighting with my brother over the black olives. Watching my dad spoon Miracle Whip on his favorite green jello (lime, with peas, green olives, celery, and, I will not be posting the recipe), as he tempts the grandkids into just TRYING it. Seeing my mom whip up the perfect gravy while the sound of the electric knife carving the turkey in the background combines with the tinkle of silverware getting placed on the table. Looking around the table, at all of those faces I love so well (and listening to the grandkids argue over whose turn it is to start the prayer).

For quite a few years, we have been unable to enjoy this wonderful day of Thanksgiving with our families. Retail life makes it hard to travel for the holidays, and when we opened the store at the MOA it was impossible. So the last several Thanksgivings have been spent with me in the kitchen all day, and the boys relaxing. We have shared our meal late in the afternoon, and relished just being together, our own little family. We would watch a classic family movie-Swiss Family Robinson, or the Harry Potter series. I would talk to my mom in the morning, while we were cooking, and we would both end the call choked up, wishing we could be together.

I have been flying high ever since I learned that this year, we could make the trip home. Sales have been slow, and while we don't like that situation, it does allow us to head home. While Charlie and I will be able to spend the entire weekend in Bemidji, Mike will need to be back Friday night to help out at our store. The joys of business ownership.

And to make it all extra special, Heather is hosting the entire family at her new home. It will be more than just Thanksgiving this year, as we will toast my sweet sister's new life. And I get to be her sous chef!

I will be happy in the heart of my family, making Christmas cookies, gathering boughs in the woods for making wreaths, hugging my sweet Grandma, and helping my sister decorate her new home for the holidays, for the very first time.

We have ever so much to be thankful for.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

sore feet and a happy heart

I rarely wait in line for things. I never waited in line for concert tickets during my college years, stood in the Target parking lot for the Cities 97 sampler, or a bargain early in the morning on Black Friday. But yesterday I waited in line for nearly 4 hours to get a cookbook signed.

And it was so worth the wait. We weren't sure how early to arrive, so we gambled on 10 am, as Ree was to appear at 1 pm. We were 30th in line, and were happy with our planning.

We quickly got to know those in line around us, and heard their stories. Women had driven from South Dakota, Iowa, Wisconsin, and all over Minnesota just to have a chance to chat with Ree. There were many bloggers there, who had discovered Ree's blog and love it as we do. Here is a new one I am adding to my list:

Tracy and I have been planning this day for weeks, ever since the mall stop was announced, and of course sweet baby Astrid came along for the fun (and because we know PW can't resist an infant). I don't know how Tracy managed a baby for that long, but Astrid was a trooper (you can read her take on the day here): . Luckily we were outside of Nordstroms, and security let her sneak away as she needed, to nurse in comfort (rather than standing in the corraled lines). And Caribou Coffee was close enough to scurry to, to fill our caffeine needs.

Of course Ree was prompt, and absolutely lovely, and patiently listened to my nervous chatting while she signed our stack of books, and Tracy's red Lucchese cowboy boots. I was so glad my dear hubby showed up, to photograph the whole event. He even got to visit with Marlboro Man (Ree's hubby), who showed up on the outskirts of the crowd with their two boys, who were completely delightful and just as I imagined.

The time went by fairly quickly, and before we knew it we were walking off the stage, and receiving the adorable Pioneer Woman shirts that Ree had brought for everyone (how amazing is that???? She could have sold them, and made a fortune, and instead she GAVE them to us.) Just another reason to love her.

And if for some crazy reason you do not yet know the joy of Ree's wonderful, worldwide blog (recently named one of the top 25 blogs by Time magazine), you can catch up here:

I don't know if I am now considered a groupie, or a stalker...(but mostly just lucky enough to have had a chance to meet her, and some of the people who adore her).

Friday, November 20, 2009

it'll make your skirt fly up

Having been a fan of "Confessions of a Pioneer Woman" (one of the web's most visited blogs) for years, I waited in eager anticipation for the publication of Ree Drummonds first cookbook. She chronicled the joy and agony and long hours of putting it together, and talked about finding just the right cover shot (it was taken by her husband, in just a normal moment-aren't they often our best photos?)
Here is why this cookbook works:

1. Each recipe provides detailed instructions and great step-by-step photos, so whether you are a seasoned cook or just learning how to boil water, you can make these recipes with great success. Her "Best Chocolate Sheet Cake Ever" has been in my repertoire for the last year, and it is always a hit.

2. There is nothing novel or unusual to be found in the recipes, they are crowd pleasin', tummy fillin' foods that will make you sigh with pleasure. And you can find all of the ingredients in your local grocery store.

3. The photos and bits of life stories interspersed throughout the pages bring Ree's home on a cattle ranch into clear focus, her gorgeous photos of everything from sunrises to horse manes will take your breath away.

4. Devoted followers of her blog will be familiar with the cast of characters in the book, everyone from the cowboys to her four punks, to the important women in her life.

5. Best of all, Ree doesn't take herself too seriously, as evidenced by the photos in the back of her kitchen during cooking, and her doodled portrait.

She is the kind of woman you would love to meet in person, and share a cup of coffee with, share labor stories, and hope that her hubby will walk through the kitchen in his Wranglers.

She is coming to the MOA for a book signing tomorrow at the Nordstrom Court from 1-3. I am reluctant to share this with you, as I don't need anymore people in line in front of me to get my book signed than will already be there. But it will be worth the wait, as some of the fun will be getting to know the other fans waiting patiently in line. Come and join me, won't you?

Tracy M and I plan to wait it out together, I will stick close to her as she is bringing her cute baby and wearing her red Lucheese cowboy boots, so for sure Ree will want to talk to her.

Back to the book-if you have any holes in your gift list, this would make a wonderful present for anyone who loves to eat, or just enjoys beautiful photography. I own a lot of cookbooks, and this one is a little gem.


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