Thursday, February 26, 2009

like a kid again

The press pot is packed, along with the freshly ground coffee beans.

Chewy homemade monster cookies and a big batch of chili are packaged and ready to go.

The dirt bike is newly scrubbed and eager for mud holes.

Hubby is heading off for his second dirt bike trip of the month, last week he was in sunny Oklahoma with a bunch of guys from Bemidji:Today he is hitting the road with some of his friends from here in the metro for their yearly trip to Arkansas, to ride the Wudi.

Hey, you can't really ride dirt bikes through the woods of Minnesota yet, so you need to travel to where you can! (and clearly he has learned how to travel well, with the press pot and all)...

While I am tempted to be exceedingly jealous that he gets away during the depths of a northern winter, while I stay home and manage things, he has such a great time, and comes back so happy and full of enthusiasm, (albeit exhausted from a 12 hour car ride, and smelling very much like the woods he just came from):I have a hard time mustering up any of the green monster. Besides, I don't do much cooking while he's gone, and I get a bed all to myself.

If I had something that pulled me away for extended get-aways, I know he would support me completely. He would even wash the car for me, or bring me to the airport. The house would be mostly clean when I got back.

I really need to plan something.

I firmly believe the secret to a long-lasting marriage is to have some of your own interests. Not only that, but to give your mate the room that he needs to pursue his passions-whether it's a get-away with like-minded men, or just pushing him out the door for a beer with the guys now and then.

I am not the kind of wife who keeps track of how many days 'he gets to play', and then check the tally to see how many days 'I get to play'. It all evens out in the end, somehow. Everyday life is so much more pleasant when you aren't keeping a secret tally, but simply taking care of yourself, and your own needs and wants.

When Mike leaves, it's always a reminder to me that it's okay to let things go every now and then, and do the things I want to do, as all of the obligations will just be waiting when I get back. And I need to plan my own fun, not just wait for it to drop out of the sky.

I think I will go on-line and check the price on a week in a Tuscan villa...

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

business plans

It can be hard to be a small business owner. You have to wear many hats, and be able to change the way you do things at a moments notice. You have to sacrifice family time, and holidays, and always be on call, even on vacation.

But there are many benefits as well, not the least of which is being in charge of your own destiny.

And working from home in your pajamas.

I come from a long line of small business owners-my grandfather ran his own machine shop on the shores of the Mississippi River in Bemidji, and my dad owns and operates his own machine shop in Bemidji as well. My brother runs his own home-building operation, and my sister has a photography business in her 'spare time'. Mike's brother is running his own business too, so we have lots of people to commiserate with.

These are interesting times. No crystal ball can predict what the next couple of years will bring, but right now it is all about focusing on the basics, making smart spending decisions, and making sure we give our customers the best experience their money can buy, while keeping our employees motivated and happy.

Advertising is incredibly expensive. You want to get the word out, but at the same time, realize that is money you may need to spend on rent and payroll instead. So anytime someone does a story that talks about your business, it is all a bonus.

After 9/11, things were tough, and we did what we could to hang on. In December of 2002, KARE 11 did a story on us, and the publicity literally saved us-giving us our best holiday selling season up to that point.

As with most retailers, our sales have been down from last year. But last night, WCCO did a story on us, that just may give us a sales boost during this tough time.

Thanks Frank!

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

do I have a twin?

Coupon clutched in hand, I was browsing the craft shelves at Barnes and Noble and came across this lovely:I am quite sure that we were separated at birth, and she was bundled off to merry old England, while I, the least desirable of the twins, was left in a small town in the remote northlands of Minnesota.

She loves to cook, and knit, and sew, and read, and play with flowers, and make things. And take pictures of all of them. She loves red wine, and chocolate, and I am so glad she wrote this book, so I won't have to. (Find the details on the side under "New to My Nightstand". Although this one follows me around the house, so I can always pick it up when I have a spare moment.)

It is the book that is going to help me survive winter without running through the neighborhood in my swimsuit cover up and flip flops the next time it snows.

UNRELATED NEWS FLASH: Frank Vascellero is doing a story on the sims we built for Cleveland Middle School tonight during their 10 pm broadcast, he even came out and interviewed Mike for the story at ACES yesterday! Stay tuned...

Monday, February 23, 2009

weekend tidbits

Glimpses of the everyday:

* Sharing the fun of jewelry making with enthusiastic friends.

* Rocking out with other moms to Guitar Hero, and enjoying each other's company for one fun night. Who knew appletinis were so tasty? Thanks Kate, you really know how to find the perfect bartender.

* Welcoming a tired hubby home from a warm weather dirt bike trip.

* Watching Charlie help out at a fundraiser, and being so proud of his maturity.

* Realizing I never had time to clean the house, now I HAVE to.

* Resolving to stay away from the grocery store on Sundays.

* Wondering how long I can ignore cleaning out the fridge before the haz mat team steps in.

* Thankful for great friends, especially when it snows!

Saturday, February 21, 2009

R I P my favorite mags

There have been a couple of little deaths in my family lately-my magazine family.

I am a magazine freak, and they bring my great joy. I clip recipes, decorating ideas, garden plans, crafts I plan to make, pictures I like, stories I enjoy.

At the beginning of the year, I was told that Mary Engelbreit's Home Companion was no longer going to be published. I was crushed. That one was such an inspiration, I couldn't even cut it apart. I have several years worth of whole issues-which I will never part with now.

"Simple Scrapbooks" is ending their magazine - I subscribe for the inspiration, and had just given a subscription as a Christmas present. One of the women who worked for them is based here in St. Paul, now she is out of a job.

Today, I found out that "Country Home" is done as well. They had sponsored the Junk Market that I went to in September, and even gave us a year's subscription to the magazine in our goodie bag. And now the March issue will be their last. I am SO disappointed.

I realize every company is making business decisions these days that they feel make sense. What I am afraid of, is that they are starting to make knee jerk reactions without fully investigating their options. I know many people would have been happy to pay more for this magazine, if they knew the option was to pay more, or have it go away.

Okay, I know, I am making a big deal about a magazine. But it was a REALLY GOOD magazine, and all of the comments I have been reading on-line show it had a huge following.

Although now I will have more time to actually do and make the things I have already clipped out of my years worth of reading material....

Always a silver lining!

Friday, February 20, 2009


No, I am not going to talk about my favorite Bruce Springsteen song, OF ALL TIME. (Don't even get me going on Clarence's saxophone solo.)Today, I bring you to the tropics:Feel the humidity as it penetrates the dry layer of Minnesota skin you have been building up all winter.Smell the orchids, hear the birds flitter from tree branch to tree top. Sit on a bench, close your eyes, and pretend you are sitting in a lush rainforest.Pick a sunny piece of citrus, and bite into it's juicy goodness.You can hear a waterfall dancing in the distance, where the koi play.And as you head back to reality, take one last whiff of the scent of warmness.
We may go above the freezing mark by Monday...and spring IS coming. Lookie what I spied on my way to the car on Tuesday:

Thursday, February 19, 2009

flowers for you

If I could, I would send the warmth and smells that go along with these beautiful flowers:That first shot is a bit filtered, as I had just walked through the Fern Room (see yesterday's post) and my lens was a bit foggy!Aren't they just cheerful?I have made this last one into my desktop background, now I have gorgeous star gazers on my desk all day long.And maybe someday I will even take a photography class, so I can figure out what the heck I am doing, instead of just pointing and shooting. More tomorrow!

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

for your pleasure

Take a deep breath

Listen to the water
More to come later, live from the Conservatory:
Posted by Picasa

(If you look to the right, at the Slideshow-you will see some of the pictures I took yesterday-you may even catch the first robin sighting!)

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

running away from home

Well, just my office.

February is always really hard for me, (I know, boo hoo, yada yada) but being cooped up in my house every day working on tax prep gets REALLY OLD after a while. We have a small house, and each day of winter the walls move in just a little more. When the claustrophobia becomes too much (or I have just spent a 3 day weekend in my house with my guys) I need to run away, even if just for part of the day.

So having hit critical mass on the claustrophobic end of the scale, I have decided today is a Como day. After some quick errands, I am going to bring my camera and a book and go soak up all of the greens and smells at the Conservatory.

I promise to share pics tomorrow. And then I will get back to work. Much more diligently, and with a smile on my face.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

spreading the love

It's here! While many people think Valentine's Day is just a racket for card shops and florists, I happen to love the holiday. And embrace it, even.

Since I am too wrapped up in running a business around the holidays, I never get a chance to let the people in my life know I am thinking of them in December. And Valentine's Day provides the perfect opportunity to spread the love. The cards I send out don't get lost in the shuffle of all of those Christmas cards and holiday catalogs. (not that I have ever lost any of YOUR cards, dear reader).

This year, I decided to go beyond the cards, and whip up some candy for those dear to me who are within my delivery area. I bring you, (ala Pioneer Woman's tried and true technique for presenting recipes), Nut Goodie Candy. (actual recipe follows the photo montage):

Here are the ingredients, "artfully" arranged on my counter:Melt the chocolate chips, butterscotch chips, and dark chocolate in a double boiler. (love this one, found it at Ikea)Or you could do it in the microwave, I prefer the stovetop method):
Combine the melted chocolate with the peanut butter. I used an 8 cup mixing bowl (because you will need to divide this mixture in half, and it saves a step by having the mixture in something you can measure it in).Spread HALF of the chocolate mixture in a rimmed baking sheet that you have lined with aluminum foil, and buttered thoroughly. In the winter, just set it out on the step to harden up. If it is too warm for that, pop it in the fridge to harden while you make the next layer.Melt the butter in a large saucepan, add the evaporated milk and pudding mix. Stir well to combine, add the maple flavoring, then add the powdered sugar. It will look like this:Spread this over the hardened chocolate layer, and then let this layer get firm, either outside or in the fridge. Once it's ready, combine the nuts with the remaining chocolate, and spread over the now hardened middle layer. An offset spatula works the best, you will have to work quickly and smoothly to get it to spread evenly and cover it all.

Let the finished candy harden up really well in the fridge, preferably overnight.

When you are ready, let it sit out about 10 minutes before you start to cut it into pieces. Use the sharpest knife you have.Pull out your packaging supplies-this year I used little paper candy cups and cute Valentine plates, twine, clear film, and stickers.Time to make some deliveries!

12 oz. choc chips (I used semi sweet, you could use milk if you prefer)
12 oz. butterscotch chips
1 oz. very dark chocolate (I used 72% cacao)
2 c. creamy peanut butter
1 c. butter, plus more for buttering foil
1/2 c. evaporated milk
1/4 c. vanilla pudding mix (NOT INSTANT)
1/2 tsp. maple flavoring
2 lbs. powdered sugar
2 cups. nuts (the traditional Nut Goodie is made with peanuts, I used almonds)
Line a rimmed baking sheet (I used a 12" x 17", a smaller size will just give you thicker candy) with foil, and butter the foil completely. Melt the chocolate and butterscotch, combine with peanut butter. Spread HALF of this mixture in the pan, let it harden. Melt the butter, add the milk and pudding mix, stir well. Remove from heat, add the maple flavoring and powdered sugar, stir well. Spread over hardened chocolate, then put it back in the fridge to harden. Stir the nuts into the remaining melted chocolate, spread over the middle layer, and place in fridge overnight. Cut into squares and share!

And a very happy Valentine's Day to all of you and those you love.

Friday, February 13, 2009

not yet ready for the swimsuit issue

Regular readers of my blog will know that my son has become obsessed with sports. So naturally, we started subscribing to Sports Illustrated (just another of our school's endless fundraisers) a short time ago. Charlie reads the sports section in the newspaper each morning, and I am inclined to do anything that will encourage him to read more.

The swimsuit edition arrived yesterday. Here is a peek at the conversation that ensued: (we looked at it together, as I had personally never looked at one, and I thought he might have questions, and I wanted to censor it, if possible):

"Where is the SPORTS? This is supposed to be about SPORTS!" (I guess the artfully draped bikini clad Danica Patrick didn't quite qualify).

"They aren't even wearing the right size-they're popping out all over!"

"Is that a necklace, or a swimsuit?"

"There is NO WAY they painted their bodies, it must be photoshopped."

"Hey, those are really nice shoes!" (tennis shoe ad).

"Why did she roll around in the sand?"

"Look at those burgers! Can we get one?" (an Arby's ad)

Overall, he was not impressed. If anything, he was a little disgusted. He said we could just put it in the recycling. I told him perhaps he might want to leave it out so his dad could look at it. (with look of disgust on his face) "Why would he want to do THAT?"

Why, indeed?

Thursday, February 12, 2009

knit one, purl two

I finished my first sock.

Considering how long it took, I may have a pair by the 4th of July.

Which makes me look at this, and wonder how soldiers ever got fresh socks during WWII.
Did all of these people have "help" at home, preparing their tea and doing their wash? Perhaps I need to start knitting in a hat, and coat, and heels, and hose, and a girdle. Because clearly wearing comfy yoga pants and sitting on the couch next to my cat does not increase my productivity.

Or else I just need to start bringing it with me everywhere I go.
I'm heading off to Ipswich to bring these pretty flowers to a friend, and have a cuppa.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

the joy of televsion

While my husband would disagree with me, and finds the programs that I enjoy a pointless waste of my time-the following programs are making me happy during this never-ending winter:

Life - NBC
Bones - Fox (I had been reading Reichs before the series started, love the cop)
Lie to Me - TNT (hoping I will be able to recognize when Charlie tells a whopper)
The Closer - TNT (new season just started last night-Kyra Sedgwick is wonderful, and Amy Sedaris has a guest spot next week!)
House - Fox (I find Vicodin makes me more cheerful, so he must just naturally be crabby, in the extreme)
Saving Grace - TNT (new season starts in a few weeks-rather raw at times, but how can you not love Holly Hunter?)
Fringe - Fox (I know, sci fi is not my thing, but I really like the characters)
Trust Me - TNT (I have a thing for Tom Cavanagh)
Medium - NBC (it's back!)

And while my enjoyment of Grays, DH, and Brothers and Sisters has waned, they are still on my DVDR, and I can watch if I feel the need for some late night soap operas.

And yes, I am very sad that ER is ending, I have never missed an episode. Who was YOUR favorite character through the years? (besides Clooney...)

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

needs vs. wants

This has nothing to do with the economy. Because I am rather tired of all of the financial talk.

I NEED to clean the refrigerator. I WANT to make a chocolate cake.

I NEED to do the physical inventory for ACES. I WANT to spend the morning doing sudoku puzzles.

I NEED to work on January sales for the store. I WANT to go back to bed.

I NEED to do five loads of laundry. I WANT a massage.

I NEED to watch our spending. I WANT to go on vacation.

See, that whole darn economy stuff crops up anyway. sheesh.

Monday, February 9, 2009


Say it with me- HALLELUJAH!

My sister sold her house yesterday. Yes, you read that right, someone sold their home in what is a very sluggish market. And she didn't lose her shirt either.

While her divorce was done last summer, this house has been like a giant weight on her, coloring everything she does with worry and fear. She has been living with my parents, who are doing what they can to help her through this. This beautiful, brand new home was built with her ex - their "dream home". Little did she know that her ex was living a lie, and that the house would be a symbol of a nightmare, rather than a dream.

And now, she can move on with her life. And find a little home for herself and her son. And create whole new beginnings. She is so strong, and smart, and ready for a whole new life.

Say it with me- HALLELUJAH!

Love you Heather.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

lost, and Target tidbits

Our internet was down the other morning, and I was quite lost. I had to actually PICK UP THE PHONE AND CALL SOMEONE TO ASK THEM A QUESTION. I couldn't change my Netflix queue, and I was bemoaning the fact that I could not check on my favorite blogs, nor see what was going on in Facebook. If it had been a Saturday or Sunday, that would be fine, as I try to stay away from my computer on the weekend, since I nearly live on it during the week. But to have no access on a Thursday? That is just wrong.

Obviously our technical difficulties have been resolved, and I now speak kindly and give my laptop a gentle pat each morning when it connects me to the rest of the world.

In other news: my Target stock has taken quite a beating in the last year, but I remain steadfast in my whole-hearted love of all things found under the red bulls-eye. During my last trip, I journeyed into the "dollar" area. This month's expedition yielded a four pack of wooden pant hangers (that I am going to use to make these for my office:)

And a 3 pack of unfinished wood frames that I used to display some antique valentines I had found at a garage sale, and a wooden tie/belt hanger, that I am going to cover with ribbon and use to hang my necklaces. All for less than $10.

My love affair with Target continues.

Friday, February 6, 2009

game night

In the seemingly never ending winter months, after our holiday madness is over, we like to set aside one night a week just to play games, as a family. And video games don't count.

This year it has been Yahtzee. (good for math skills, you know...)Yahtzee was my father's family's game of choice. Each year, after the holiday meal had been eaten and all of the dishes cleaned up and put away, my grandmother and great grandmother would pull out their packs of cigarettes, their ashtrays, and a cup of coffee, and the women would play Yahtzee while the men took naps in front of the TV. We would play for HOURS, the air would become just blue with smoke as the dice rattled across the dining room table. We would each fill up a score sheet, and start another. It was never too intense or competitive, I loved to hear their stories that they shared as we passed the cup around to take a turn.

I remember the times I would stay overnight at my Grandma Betty's house-when I woke up in the morning, I would hear the dice rattling across the table while she enjoyed her cigarette. She would play by herself-it was kind of her idea of the morning newspaper.

So we are keeping up the tradition, in a new way. Without all of that tobacco.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

time flies, part V

When we sat down to dinner last night, this typed piece of paper was resting on mine and Mike's plate from Charlie: (completely unedited by me)

I know the only reason you guys would even think about letting me buy Xbox Live is because you can watch Netflix movies instantly if you have Xbox live. Since I have a 1 month free card for Xbox live and on Amazon there is a 13 monthcard for $38.99. Since we get three movies a month from Netflix for $15 every month we spend $180 on movies. With Xbox live it would cost ME $38.99 for ALL of us to be able to watch unlimited movies instantly on our Xbox for 14 months. The only thing that would change is that you folks wouldn't have to wait 6 days for a movie to come. And it would be fun for me.

And I remember when he used to negotiate sandbox time, or sitting on the sidewalk just a little bit longer to watch dump trucks working. sigh.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

tips for Tuesday

You don't need to buy expensive cleansers with a long list of ingredients to tackle household troubles. These are all things that you have in your house that can help make your life a little easier. (and if you learn even one new thing today that you can use, then this post will be worth it):

1. Stinky cutting board? (all of that garlic smashing does have a price to pay) Rub a fresh lemon half over it and rinse.

2. Stinky tennis shoes? Crumple up newspaper, stuff in the shoes, and let them sit overnight. The newspaper will absorb the odors. All of that bad news can actually be good for something!

3. Sticky zipper? Put some olive oil on a Qtip and rub into the area. (Don't get it on the fabric, olive oil can stain.)

4. Dishwasher need some freshening up? Pour two packets of unsweetened lemonade Koolaid through it for a full cycle (empty of course). The acid in the Koolaid will make you think you have a new dishwasher!

5. Coffee filters are great to put over food you are reheating in the microwave-no splatters.

6. Newspaper is also great for taking the odor out of lunchboxes, thermoses, and plastic storage containers. Just crumple it up and let it do it's thing (just like in item #2.)

7. Dryer sheets are for more than just the dryer. Put one in the bottom of your clothes drawers to keep those socks smelling fresh.

8. This is a good time of year to clean out that coffee maker. Pour some vinegar into a pot of fresh water (I use about 1/2 cup for an 8 cup pot), run it through one cycle, and then run a couple more pots of fresh water through the coffee maker.

9. Cut slices off a wine cork and glue them to the bottom of chair and table legs so your furniture won't scratch your wood floor.

10. A drop of olive oil works to take stubborn stickers off of picture frames or other glass products.

I should have been a home ec teacher.

Monday, February 2, 2009

did he see it?

His shadow? Will we have 8 more weeks of winter?

It was FORTY SIX degrees here on Saturday. It has not been that warm since November 3rd. People were driving in their shirtsleeves with the windows rolled down. We here in Minnesota get positively GIDDY when it gets above freezing.

Waiting to buy my Springsteen tickets this morning. Loved the half time show. Hard to fit all that is Bruce and the E Street Band into 12 minutes, but for those who have never experienced his live show, it was a nice little taste. Can you believe the man will turn 60 this fall? This will be my sixth concert of his, provided we can get good seats.
Springsteen has always been a big part of mine and Mike's relationship, Mike has been a huge fan since the very beginning, and I eagerly jumped on board the Springsteen bandwagon. "The River" was the soundtrack to our early years, and my first concert with Mike, seeing Bruce, was just pure magic.

His new CD kind of brings things full circle, I love the song "Kingdom of Days":
With you I don't hear the minutes ticking by
I don't feel the hours as they fly
I don't see the summer as it wanes
Just a subtle change of light upon your face

All great relationships need a good soundtrack.


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