Sunday, August 30, 2009

of saris and samosas

It was our privilege to be invited to an amazing Indian dinner last evening, hosted by party people Mike and Tracy Lane. Ruth and Santosh Krishnan brought many of the amazing delicacies we enjoyed throughout the seven courses, and also provided the gorgeous saris for the women to wear. Santosh even brought shirts for all of the guys, so they wouldn't feel left out.
We started the cool, clear evening with a variety of salty snacks, including Mirch Masala, Papad, and heavenly Samosas with Mint Chutney and Mango Lime Pickles. We moved on to a hearty Lentil Soup (created by master chef Mike Lane), served with warm Naan. The salad course brought fresh veggies with a delightful Raita dressing (I could have eaten the whole bowl, all by myself).
I also loved the Lassi, a refreshing mango milkshake that was a wonderful compliment to the spices in the main course, which included Chicken Tikka Masala seved with Basmati Rice with Cumin, Indian Stir Fry Cabbage, and Cauliflower with a Ginger Cashew Onion sauce. (and I must say the cauliflower was delicious, this coming from someone who disdains that white vegetable!)
We moved on to dessert, which started with Kulfi served with fresh mangos and strawberries. I had volunteered to bring dessert, and scanned the internet last week for something to make. While there was a wide variety of things to try, I decided on this Indian ice cream. It has very simple ingredients, whole milk and sugar cooked on the stove for a long time until it thickens, flavored with cardamom. Once I poured it into molds, I topped it with chopped pista (pistachios) and popped it in the freezer. It was a simple, soothing treat that complimented all of the amazing flavors we enjoyed throughout the evening. I can't wait to make it again!
(Dessert served by my lovely assistant Denise-Tracy's sister.)

Next, Ruth served us warm Gulab Jamun, which look like small doughnut balls or dumplings. They were served in a sweet rosewater syrup, and just melted in your mouth.
Wonderful conversation, amazing food, and even a little learning made the evening a very memorable one. Enormous thanks to Ruth and Santosh for sharing their food and friendship with all of us, and to Mike and Tracy for hosting another absolutely incredible evening.

Friday, August 28, 2009

he's still got it!

Regular readers may remember that our cat Claude is rather ancient. 18 years old for a cat is something like 85 in a human, so when we encountered a mouse in our house a couple of weeks ago, we pretty much wrote off the idea that Claude could catch it. Ever since his accident last summer, he has hobbled around the house on his crooked foot, and sometimes can't even jump on our bed anymore, as it is just too high. The good thing is it keeps him off of the countertops in the kitchen, but that's another story...

So we went the traditional route, setting mouse traps with peanut butter. We would check them daily, to find the peanut butter eaten and no mouse to be seen. A very smart mouse.

One day I was putting fresh sheets on Charlie's loft bed (an acrobatic feat in itself) and as Charlie was handing me a blanket he stepped back, claiming the mouse was right there, on the bed frame. I scoffed, how could a mouse get up that high? Charlie was surely pulling a fast one on his mother, hoping to see me scream in terror. I kept up the argument, until I saw the small furry bundle jump from the top rung of the ladder, and scurry across the room. For crying out loud!

This morning, Mike was first up and making coffee (I love when he does that) and Claude proudly showed him the mouse, which he had caught and taken care of, presenting it to us on the rug on the kitchen floor.
He's still got it! He gets an extra serving of Turkey Feast in Gravy today.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

raise your hand-

-if you are starting to feel a bit panicky and wondering how you will get everything done that needs to be done in the next few days?

Maybe it is just me, and the fact that I was gone having fun all last week, and this week I am trying to catch up with work, and make sure Charlie has everything he needs to start at his new school next week. I am toting him around to the pool and a haircut and picking up friends to come and play so they can enjoy these last little bits of summer. And we have a really big deal going on with ACES right now, and my house is a mess, and I found out yesterday my in-laws are coming tomorrow and all I really want to do is sit in my sunny back yard with my stack of books I have been collecting all summer and take a deep breath....
(fabulous photo of the view down my street from my sis, check her out at

Okay, I think it's just me.

I will get through the stuff, I always somehow do, and maybe next week I will get back to light little posts describing the sunshine as it streams through my window....and tell you all about the fabulous Indian dinner we have been invited to on Saturday night!

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

can you hear it?

Living on a busy street corner in the lively city of St. Paul, I can track the seasons by the sounds out my window.

Winter brings the moan of snowplows as they clear the street, the extra crunchiness of the snow as the early morning commuters drive down Hartford signalling that it is very cold out, indeed.

Fall is the sound of football in the field across the street, and the drone of leafblowers as neighbors clean their yards of the abundance of leaves. Fall is also the sound of the high schoolers slamming their car doors in the morning, as they park outside my house and trudge to a day of classes. Fall is the exploding sound of buses as they drive by our house, delivering students to neighborhood schools.

Spring brings rain on the roof, and the return of the songbirds who delight in a 4:30 wake up call. Windows thrown open to catch the fresh air, the increased sounds of early morning joggers and the newspaper delivery rouse me from my slumber.

But summer, summer is a cacophony of sound. It is the sound of softball games played on lazy summer nights, carefree boys riding their bikes down the street, no handed. The melodic sounds of the ice cream truck as it cruises the road, looking for hungry customers. It is birds building nests and crows in the field early in the morning. It is late night crickets, and nighthawks swooping overhead to catch bugs. It is cicadas in August, and the sound of the fair bus as it picks up eager passengers with dreams of deep fried things on a stick. It is sprinklers, and children being pulled in wagons, and evening pick up baseball games.

The romance of our late summer sounds has been shattered this year by the frequent flyovers of giant jets, hurrying through the sky just overhead to land at the airport. Due to runway construction, we will have increased traffic through the end of October. Some days they arrive nearly 2 minutes apart. But I will suffer them, and try to filter the sounds I long to hear, knowing they are still there under the noisy drone of the jumbo jets.

Monday, August 24, 2009

a week unplugged

I just had an extended get-away to my hometown, completely techno free. Mike was off on an All Boys canoe trip, and then busy back at home with simulators, so Charlie and I jumped in the Fit and headed north. I haven't been able to spend that much time in Bemidji in ages, and it was just what I needed to recharge my batteries for the busy weeks ahead. Charlie had a great time with his cousin, they biked and played the Wii and had a wonderful time together. We even had a picnic at Diamond Point.
In the tradition of David Letterman, here are the Top Ten Things I Loved about being home again:

10. The only noises I hear at night, outside the bedroom window, are crickets and an occasional loon call.

9. My parent's deck is the perfect spot for evening cocktails, with tomatoes and cucumber plants climbing to the sky, and profusions of flowers scenting the air.

8. Spending a day on the water with my dad, trying out his favorite fishing spots, and watching Charlie reel in a fish.

7. Having morning coffee with my mom, and catching up on her life. 6. Going to quilt shops with my sister, and finding the perfect fabric for our next project.

5. Looking around at the faces of my family, as we enjoyed a late-night bonfire, complete with smores, cold beer, and sparklers.

4. Watching my brother join in a game of 'Ghosts in the Graveyard' with all of the cousins, running helter skelter.

3. Breathing in the scent of freshly cut pine, as my sister gives me a tour of her new home. In just 2 weeks, it went from a concrete foundation to fully sheeted walls, a shingled roof, and all wiring and plumbing installed.

2. Watching Charlie as my dad shows him pictures from his very interesting life-from duck hunting to racing cars and everything in between. 1. Knowing that all of those that I love and hold dear are healthy and content. (even after an amazing meal of homemade onion rings and deep fried perch and walleye....)

What could be better than that?

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

gone fishin'

The song of the north has been calling my name, and the allure of catching a blue racer has caught up to me. Charlie and I are off for a few days of family time and fishing before summer gets away. I will report in when we return (hopefully with a cooler full of fresh walleye!)

Monday, August 17, 2009

he takes pictures too!

Mike has always had more than a passing interest in photography, and is completely self taught. He really enjoys it, and has taken all of the photos we use in our business for our brochures and website, and all of our promotional materials. He branched out into videography, and writes, films, produces, and voices our TV commercials each year. He has learned Photoshop and on-line editing, and I am just amazed at all of the things he is capable of. (even though he still has trouble finding his wallet on a regular basis, but that's another story...we all have our strengths and weaknesses!)
Mostly, he loves taking pictures for fun. He takes them on vacation, for holidays, and sometimes just because he likes what I made for dinner. I love that.
Lately, he has become his dirt bike club's semi-official photographer. And last week, he was even published on the cover of Cycle USA ! (Here's the picture-I wanted to show you a link to it as the cover of the magazine but can't find one. When Mike comes home I will have him help me find one.) Along with that, he wrote an article in the magazine, and had three more photos published in it as well.

Many years ago (pre-Charlie), he would head up to Bemidji when car companies would do their winter testing of their next year vehicle models, and take spy photos. Seriously, he would hide to snap pictures of them (since the next year model deals are very hush hush, and are often camoflauged, who knew?). He even made some money with his risk taking.

I love this creative side of my husband, and he clearly enjoys it. He will come home from a cycle ride, all excited to download a picture to show me. Sometimes it's an old barn, or just an amazing sunset. He captures candid pictures of people that are priceless. I am so fortunate to have him and his fun hobby in my life (as long as he deletes my double chin).

And it's nice to know that if this whole ACES deal doesn't pan out, that we have other options....

Friday, August 14, 2009

time flies, biking edition

Charlie has entered another new level of biking. Considering he was quite reluctant to ever ride a bike in the first place (his all terrain trike was just fine, thank you very much), seeing how far he has come in six years boggles my mind. It was the fall of 2003, and since he had started kindergarten, he thought perhaps it was time to move to two wheels. So we took him to a park near our house, that had a long, easy sloping hill. We lowered his seat so he could easily touch the ground, and just let him go down the hill, learning balance. Not long after that, he was pedaling, and...tada! Riding a bike. No training wheels required.
Six years, and several bikes later (it's amazing how quickly they grow out of their bikes at each level), he is now the proud owner of a Haro, which he tells me is THE bmx bike of choice. This conclusion was reached after much on-line research, reading reviews, comparing prices, etc. (Yes, he is his father's son in that regard).He paid for part of it, from the proceeds of selling his other bike on Craig's List (you're never too young to learn the fine points of commerce), and Mike and I purchased the bulk of it for his birthday. (It's really no fun to get a new bike in October, an early birthday present is a dandy idea.)

He was enthralled by the recent X Games, and loves to go out and try his own tricks. He found a sand hill at a local park, and he and three friends went to try it out. He begged me to go with him one night, so he could show me his stuff.
I brought the camera, to document it all. Now I am just hoping he doesn't decide he wants to do tricks like this with his dirt bike. (Although he certainly wears a lot more protective gear on the dirt bike.)

He ended up feeling rather down, as he said "How come I always do my best riding when no one is watching?" (this kid is way too hard on himself.)
But I assured him it was quite impressive, and once the sun went down we finished up the night with a Dairy Queen. As I am pretty sure bike riders need lots of calcium.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

summer is dwindling... my blog posts will be rather sporadic now, until school starts again. I feel like I need to cram as much fun into these next two weeks as possible! Don't be concerned if you don't see anything from me now and then, I am still here, just having too much fun to find time to blog. Or else I have nothing interesting to talk about...

But I do have a post to write tomorrow, concerning that whole Time Flies business, so stay tuned!

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

just go read it

Today, I have nothing to say that could be better than my sister's post on HER blog.

Please go and read it, I can't do it without crying, as I think it is just such an amazing thing that my nephew, my brother, and my dad are building her a house to live in.

Who needs Ty Pennington and his crew when you have THESE guys in your life?


Monday, August 10, 2009

time flies, part X

Charlie had more sleepovers last week than I had in my entire childhood.

Right now he and his friends are trying to cram as much fun into their summer as they possibly can, and at this age, it means having sleepovers. Getting away from your parents for a night, and being under someone else's roof is one of their favorite things, along with playing video games, riding bikes, and talking about girls.

It's true, they were.

A sleepover was a pretty rare event in my childhood, I remember one in 4th grade, for a classmate's birthday party. I remember listening to Michael Jackson singing "Ben", and really just wishing I could curl up and go to sleep, while all of the other girls wanted to 'stay up ALL NIGHT'! Then there was the one at my friend's house who lived on a farm, I had never actually stayed at a farm, and it was quite a new experience for me. The other I remember was at a friend's house in Nymore, and she had to practice the piano while I was there, and didn't want to (naturally), but all I could think of was how lucky she was, and I would gladly have practiced it for her, if only I knew how.

Eleven year old boy sleepovers are full of weapons, both real and virtual, and soft drinks, and pizza, and smelly socks. I try to let them have the main floor of the house to themselves, and hole up in my bedroom with my books and my knitting, to give them a feeling of independence without my interferring. Unless, of course, the tornado sirens go off and we have to head to the basement. Or if I need to make some fresh popcorn while they watch a silly movie. Or when I need to remind them that it really IS time to go to sleep.

I hope Charlie will remember all of the fun times spent with his friends, curling up under the covers and whispering about childhood things. I know I fondly remember when the thought of Charlie and sleeping just meant this:


Friday, August 7, 2009

Dear Heather-

Today I need to take a minute to let you know how very proud I am of you.

You have been to hell and back these last two years, and have come out the other side. You are so strong, and have been able to hold it together for yourself, and for your son Riley.

I know it has been really hard, and although I can't begin to imagine the pain you have been through, you have survived, and will continue to survive, and even thrive.

You are in the middle of building a brand new home, just for the two of you, on a lovely patch of land with a distant view of Lake Bemidji, from high on Tower Hill. These days it isn't as hard as it was for you to laugh, or find the joy that has been waiting for you. And I hope that someday you will find someone who deserves you, and cherishes you, and wants to grow old with you, and share your delightful son (if that is what you want).
Mom and Dad used to tease us, and tell you I was really your mom. And though I am just your big sister, I feel as protective of you as a mom. And I pray for you every day, and send good wishes your way, along with lots of hugs, good witchy vibes, and anything else that can help you become the wonderful single mom that you now are.

I admire you so much, and can't wait to come home and spend time with you and your sweet son, laughing, eating Dave's Pizza, and kicking your butt in our annual fishing tournament (although since I haven't won once, that remains to be seen).

Love you, little sis!

Thursday, August 6, 2009

imagining their stories

Since I tend to purchase my books at yard sales and Half Price Books, I often find little treasures inside of them while I am reading them. Since people will use many different things for a bookmark (which I appreciate, as I dislike turned down pages), I enjoy taking a moment from my reading, to imagine how that item ended up in the book.

Last night, I was reading "Child of My Heart" by Alice McDermott (so far, highly recommended), and I found a boarding pass for America West Airlines. Jennifer Nelson was in seat 17E, the middle, flying from Santa Anna to Phoenix. I imagined her in the plane, thankfully a short flight since she was in the middle seat. Perhaps she had a businessman on one side, he was lucky enough to get the aisle, and perhaps a young college student in the window seat. She immersed herself in her book, transporting herself to summer on Long Island instead of the hot and dusty Southwest (her flight was at 12:30 pm on August 15th).

How old was she? Was she a young woman, flying to meet her boyfriend for the weekend? Was she a young mom, escaping for a weekend from her children and husband to spend time with a friend at a spa? Was she a grandma, returning from a visit with her grandchildren?

I will never know, but it is fun to imagine the person who held this very same book in her hands.

I once found a eurail pass in one of my books, and I spent a good long time imagining what that person was doing. What countries was she traveling to? Was she traveling alone? Was she a young college student celebrating her graduation? Was she a retired widow exploring Europe with a friend?

Sometimes imagining those stories is better than the story I hold in my hand.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

cake stories

When I need a laugh, I go to I myself have created cake wrecks, so I can appreciate it.

As I posted yesterday, it was my friend Tracy's birthday yesterday-rather a milestone one. So I pulled out my trusty Martha Stewart cookbook, and picked out a very special cake to create for her.

I LOVE to bake, when I have the time, and can really focus on what I am doing. As my mother always tells me, I am the world's messiest cook, so I need to be able to have the kitchen to myself for a day, with no distractions.

I made a trip to purchase all of the ingredients. The two dozen eggs came to room temperature on the countertop, along with the two pounds of unsalted butter. I diligently zested nearly two dozen lemons, and then juiced them all, to create the most amazing lemon curd possible. While it was cooling in the fridge, I patiently lined the buttered cake pans with parchment, and babysat the layers as they baked up in the oven. I whipped egg whites and sugar into a warm concoction in my double boiler, and adding the butter a tablespoon at a time, created the most divine buttercream frosting.

I followed all of the rules and tricks, carefully slicing the two layers horizontally to create four layers. I carefully spread them with the lemon curd. I balanced the cake so I could cover it with a thin layer of buttercream, and then refrigerated it, so I could more easily frost it.

The frosting was a fluffy concoction that spread like, well, butter. I tasted it off the beaters, truly transcendent.

I went into my herb garden and picked fresh nasturtiums to decorate the top, knowing how much Tracy loved seeing them as she walked by my house each day.

I perched the cake atop my antique cake plate, and Mike insisted on taking this photo.

I slowly walked to the car, he helped me in while I balanced it carefully on my lap for the one block drive to Tracy's house. I ascended her steps, mindful of every move I made. Mike followed me, as I opened the door to her house, calling out, "surprise!"

The surprise was mine as the cake slid off the plate and into the door frame.

Heather, I know you are laughing your head off right now. (I have a family history of cake catastrophes....)

Heart pounding, hands shakingm, I begged Tracy not to come over to the door, and asked for a towel, and a knife. I had caught it just in time, before it completely fell off, and was able to put things back together into a semblance of something resembling a cake. But it's initial glory was ruined.

But Tracy, being Tracy, had a good laugh with me, and gave me a big hug, and ate it with relish and delight. Another reason she is such a very good friend.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Happy Birthday, dear friend!

Tracy hits a milestone today, and since she is not really too thrilled with the whole concept, I won't go into detail about numbers. But I want to use this post to let her know that she is one special person, in so many ways:

* She is an incredible day-care provider, all of the children who have come through her doors are so lucky to have had her in their lives-teaching, caring, and nurturing them.

* She is an amazing mom to three great kids, who won't realize what a wonderful job she did raising them until they are parents themselves.

* She is a loving wife to her hubby of nearly 26 years, together they make a great team for life's journey.

* She is a wonderful sister/niece/aunt/daughter-in-law, and her extended family is fortunate to have such a treasure.

* She is a fun loving Italian, who makes sure you are never hungry when you are at her home.

But to me, she is first and foremost an amazing friend. She can laugh with you, and cry with you, and help you with anything life has to throw at you. She is the friend who will medicate your cat, and water your flowers, while you are off enjoying a vacation. She is the friend who delivers lunch when you are crazy busy in December, and knows you have no time to cook. She is the friend who will help out with your son, when you need a place for him to go. She is the one who knows when you are having a bad day, and delivers a smile and a treat to help you through it. She is the one who would come and clean your whole house, at the drop of a hat. She can help you see situations for what they really are, without judgment, and her clear thinking is one of her best gifts to me (along with all of those fun cards she sends my way).

If I could, I would throw her an Oprah-worthy, lavish birthday celebration, but that is not who she is, and she would not enjoy it. Instead we will go out tonight for a sumptious dinner, and perhaps stop in some of her favorite shops, and enjoy this lovely day, made to celebrate the occcasion of her arrival in this world.
Happy Birthday, dear friend!

Monday, August 3, 2009

summer daze

Perhaps it is because I have been on vacation, but I turned my calendar over to August today and got that feeling in the pit of my stomach, the one that signals that summer is winding down and I better get all of those things done that I want to do, now!

Fortunately, one of those things on my list is to sit outside on my patio, with my coffee and newspaper, each morning. And start the day slowly, and breathe in the smells of summer, and listen to the birds, and appreciate all of the blooms around me. And just generally soak it all in, so I can try to remember those moments in January, when it is howling cold outside.

Picnics, we need some picnics. And a night at the drive-in, under the starry sky. And some pool time, (first we need some nice hot days to truly appreciate the pool!) And candlelit nights on the patio, drinking wine, and listening to the crickets.

August is the month I put off as much of my office work as I can until fall rolls around, and I don't clean the house as often, as these precious days are quickly dwindling. Soon Charlie will be back at school, rather than riding his bike through the neighborhood with a giant grin on his face. Mike will be working on simulators, rather than motoring through the woods on his dirt bike. August is the month we hang on to summer, and the freedom it affords us, for as long as we can.


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