Saturday, October 31, 2009


Mike and I jumped in the car on Wednesday and left all of our work behind. We needed a Wisconsin day, and so we took it. The skies were eerie, gloomy, and overcast. All the better to see the remaining fall color, and get pictures.
We were definitely post peak, but we didn't mind. Still beauty to be found.
Mike is teaching me how to use our 'old' camera, now that he is busy with the new 7D. I had no idea they were so complex, I have always been a point and shoot girl.
So we did some experimenting. And every time we passed a little country cemetery, I wanted to stop and take pictures. I have always loved touring cemeteries, and imagine all of the stories to be found in the gravestones. Does that make me rather strange? In need of therapy? My favorite cemeteries were in New England, so very old, although the ones we saw in Hawaii were interesting. While you imagine Hawaii as lush and beautful and green, many of the cemeteries we found were just dirt. Ironic, and I never did find out why.
Sure, we got wild turkeys, and beautiful creek shots, but the day demanded cemetery shots. The lighting was near perfect for that.
We stopped at the Riverview Cemetery, on the Minnesota side. It was amazing. There were gravesites from 1867, and earlier. Tombstones used to tell better stories than they do now.
So for your Halloween enjoyment, take a stroll through this cemetery. Don't be afraid, all of the spirits here are friendly, and are glad you stopped by to say hello.
And if you stop by my house to trick or treat tonight, there may be a nice glass of mulled wine to warm your insides while the little ones enjoy their candy!

Happy Halloween!

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Friday, October 30, 2009

scary movie poll

It's time to watch a scary movie!

When I lived alone, I could never watch a scary movie, let alone even think about watching a scary movie, as then I would be awake thinking about what was in my closet, or under my bed. I even had trouble reading scary books. That was before I discovered John Sanford, Patricia Cornwall, Elizabeth George, PD James, and Martha Grimes. But I still don't read Stephen King. Maybe I feel safe reading mysteries when I am next to my hubby, who will protect me from scary things.

I like to watch a scary movie on Halloween night, when everything feels a little extra spooky. With Charlie in the house, "Its the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown" became a regular. But now that he is getting a little older, we can watch things that are a little scarier.Maybe "Vertigo", or "Psycho". I would love to watch "American Werewolf in London" (my very favorite scary movie of all time) but I think we should wait a few more years. Am I being too protective? We watched "The Shining" this winter-he loved it.

Charlie has voted for "Friday the 13th" (the original one). I remember going to it with my friend Randy Anderson, as a senior in high school, and being scared out of my mind, and constantly grabbing his thigh during the frightening parts-even though we went to the movie as 'friends', not on a date. I am pretty sure I didn't sleep that night.

We have vetoed that choice, and we are hoping there will be a good old scary movie on TV on Halloween night. You would think with a million channels there will be a couple of choices? Maybe "Young Frankenstein", or a "Munsters" marathon? And we can stay up late and go through Charlie's bag of treats, and make popcorn, and sleep in on Sunday with that extra hour of sleep!

What is YOUR favorite scary movie?

Thursday, October 29, 2009

ode to the yoga pant

While many people may rank cell phones, microwaves, or HD tv as their favorite invention, I would have to go with the yoga pant.

I realize they are called yoga pants, as they were designed for the comfort of the wearer while they are twisting themselves into amazing positions, and the pant stays in place and covers all of

And it sounds so much trendier and with it if you say you wear 'yoga pants', rather than the sweatpants we wore lounging in dorm rooms in college.

Yoga pants are lighter weight (and take to a layer of long underwear in the wintertime very well, thank you very much), and if you get the right cut may even look, well, good on you.

I purchase all of my yoga pants at Lucy. A store for active people. Those active people who jog, exercise, and do yoga. I don't do any of those things, but they don't have a store with clothing for people who work from home and get their exercise by doing laundry, cleaning the house, and going to SuperTarget on a weekly run.

I love Lucy. Hey, that sounds kind of familiar.... It was started by some women who used to be designers for Nike, and they decided that there needed to be better designed work-out wear for women. So they came up with Lucy. While their yoga pants definitely cost more (okay, a LOT more) than you would spend for a pair from Target, your cost per wear is, well, pennies. At least in my case, it is. They wash like a dream, and if you are lucky enough to happen into the store when your favorite style has gone on clearance, you can have four pair in constant rotation. And I do. Putting on jeans feels absolutely confining.

So I raise my glass to the yoga pant, for keeping me comfortable, and cleverly disguising that baby weight that I still haven't been able to get rid of after twelve years.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

recipe box Wednesday

Today's treasure, pulled from the old wooden recipe box I found at a garage sale this summer, is for Million Dollar Cookies. The name intrigued me, and I wanted to find out how it received such a title. This brought me to this website:

which I plan to read when I have a little more time. It is the History of Cookies, and I LOVED it! I still didn't find the answer to my question, but someday, with a little more research time available to me, I will.

In the meantime, enjoy! And as always, if you try them out, let me know.


(the first line on the recipe card says DO NOT USE BUTTER, so you would be advised to heed this warning....)

1 c. vegetable shortening (I would use butter flavored Crisco)

1 c. white sugar

1/2 c. brown sugar

1 egg

1/2 tsp. salt (scant)

2 c. flour

1 tsp. cream of tartar

1 tsp. baking soda

1/2 tsp almond extract

1/2 tsp. vanilla

Cream the shortening and sugars, mix in egg. Sift together dry ingredients and work into sugar mixture. Add flavorings. Drop by teaspoons onto cookie sheets and press thin with bottom of a glass which has been dipped in sugar. Bake in 350 oven for 10 minutes until light brown.

Oh, these sound moaningly good. I love the combo of vanilla and almond together. I might just have to whip these up in the days to come.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

autumn walk

We finally saw a hint of sun yesterday, Mike and I grabbed our new camera and headed out for a walk. It was beautiful. And then I happened across this in my "Autumn" cookbook by one of my very favorite authors and illustrators, Susan Branch. Enjoy!
"There is something in the autumn
that is native to my blood-
touch of manner, hint of mood;

And my heart is like a rhyme,

With the yellow and the purple and

the crimson keeping time.

The scarlet of the maples can shake

me like a cry

of bugles going by.

And my lonely spirit thrills

to see the frosty asters like a

smoke upon the hills.

There is something in October

sets the gypsy blood astir;

We must rise and follow her,

when from every hill of flame

She calls and calls

each vagabond by name."

Bliss Carman

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Monday, October 26, 2009

lawn envy

Living in the city, our yards are small and the next house is pretty close, as in, we can look out our windows at each other, smile and wave, and be able to see the buttons on our shirts.

When it's time to rake the leaves, I can always lay money on who will be first to make their yard perfect. It has been a delayed race this year, what with the fact that it has rained nearly all of the last 3 weeks, except for 3 semi-sunny days randomly tucked in. But we had a brief respite this weekend, and horror of horrors, my next door neighbor raked her yard. Now there is all of that pressure to get OUR leaves picked up, so they don't blow in her yard. I mentioned it to Mike yesterday, and unfortunately he is of the "wait until every leaf drops before doing anything" school of thought. But sometimes the leaves on our maple tree don't drop until January. On the snow.

To make matters worse, the neighbor on the corner across the street had her lawn service there, almost in the dark last night, taking care of her yard. So here we sit, the big corner with all of the leaves just ready to blow onto those perfect yards. The pressure....

Maybe I can convince Mike to take a break from creating our TV commercial and get a little fresh air today, I don't see a drop of rain in the forecast, and I am not allowed to operate the Honda mower with handy leaf catching attachment. Sometimes chauvinism is a good thing.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

tales from the couch

It's a Thursday night in October. The leftover meatloaf is tucked in the fridge. Charlie is at his desk doing his homework, and Mike is in our office learning more about video editing. I am sitting on our couch, basking in the soft glow of candlelight, beautiful classical music playing quietly in the background, and Claude purring contentedly beside me while I enjoy a glass of Old Vine Red. (Such a contrast from last Thursday, when most of our lower level was tarped and prepped for painting, and we ate take-out pizza on our bed upstairs and watched the news on our tiny old tv.)

I have just gleaned all that I can from "Twin Cities Business" magazine, and checked out the holiday Crate and Barrel catalog. The mailbox is getting a little fuller every day, today I even got a catalog encouraging me to buy a goat, or a water buffalo, or perhaps a cow for a family in a developing country for the holidays. An interesting idea, but how did I get on that list?

Part of me loves the early darkness of autumn, no more lazy nights lingering in the backyard over a meal from the grill, or an hour spent watering flowers. October is the time to tuck in, pursue hobbies, spend more time petting the cat. While I initially bemoan the fact that the lazy days of summer are gone, part of me secretly loves cocooning in our little house and spending the evenings quietly behind newly washed storm windows. A fresh stack of books awaits on the nightstand, and the flannel sheets are tucked in to our beds.

For tonight, we are safe and content. And life doesn't get much better than that.

random thoughts

I was a bit under the weather on Tuesday (not sure if it was something I ate, or just my stomach rebelling against paint fumes), but I spent the day in my bedroom. Since multi-tasking is still important to women, even when they feel less than great, I brought my laptop to bed with me and got more work done in a day than if I had been up and around. I had the TV on in the background for part of the day, to keep me company. And I wanted to share with you what I learned:

1. Apparently, the target audience of daytime tv is people who are home recovering from accidents. Lots and lots and lots of attorney ads.

2. Rachel Ray taught me that chicken stock is richer, and more flavorful, than chicken broth. I did not know that. duh. I have always used them interchangably.

3. If you have been drinking and think you may wake up with a hangover, you should NEVER take acetominophen. Ibuprofen is the preferred avoid-a-headache cure. Did not know that. "The Doctors" told me.

4. It is sad that they need to spend so much time telling people that you can't get flu from eating pork. For crying out loud.

5. Diane Lane is just as adorable in real life as she is in the movies. She was on "Martha Stewart", and I would like to be her friend.

6. Gatorade DOES help a queasy stomach. I learned that one first hand, after my husband insisted it would work.

Nothing like a day in bed to make you appreciate being up and around!

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

recipe box Wednesday

Today's recipe was found in the 'Soup' section, and it was a clipping from a magazine. No date, so I can't tell how old it is, but by the condition of the newsprint it doesn't seem ancient. This one looked really good to me today, with fall now here in full force, and I like that I can throw this in my crockpot if I want. Sounds like a good recipe for the next day I have carpool duty!

Creamy Cheddar Cheese Soup
4 c. chicken broth
1 lb. carrots, grated
1 1/2 c. celery, chopped
1/2 c. onion, chopped
2 c. cheddar cheese, grated
1 c. cream
2 c. milk
salt and pepper to taste
1/2 c. flour
1 c. water
8 slices bacon, cooked and crumbled
In a large saucepan, cook carrots, celery and onions in chicken broth until tender, about 20-25 min. Add cream, milk and cheese and heat to ALMOST boiling, stirring constantly. Blend flour and water together and add to hot soup to thicken. Remove from heat and serve immediately. Or, pour in crockpot on low temp and serve up to 4 hours later. Garnish with bacon before serving, 8 servings.

I have some variations running through my head right now, like maybe dicing up some potatoes to go in it too, and using a different kind of cheese, or combos of cheeses? Maybe dicing up some red pepper in with the veggies too? The possibilities are endless...that's the best part about finding a really good soup recipe. Let me know if you try it!

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

boys in the wood

Charlie didn't have school yesterday, we finally had a real autumn day, and we were done with our giant painting project, so what are two boys to do but spend the day in the woods?
Mike got to spend some time praticing with his new camera, doesn't he look like a professional? A handsome professional, I might add. Nice picture, Charlie.

I myself razor bladed paint off of window panes and slowly put our house back together, love our new walls! It was worth all of the mess and upheaval.

Friday, October 16, 2009

this old house

If you are like me, you have a running list of house projects that need to be done. Our house is 73 years old, and is always in need of something. Every so often, I reproduce the list, in a new font, perhaps in a different color, and I may even change the columns from "date completed" to "desperately needs to be done". I faithfully bring it up at the dinner table, we review the list, and Mike nods and agrees that yes, these things need to be done. And that is usually about as far as it goes. But wait, that's not true. We did spend all of last summer remodeling our kitchen! And I LOVE how it turned out, and am eternally grateful that my hubby jumped in to the project with great enthusiasm. I am just saying, that some of the things have been on the list for a really long time. Like the navy blue carpet in our bedroom. But I digress...

My tactic is to purchase the majority of the supplies needed to do the job, and keep them somewhat handy. And every so often, I will casually bring up one of the jobs. And every so often, Mike jumps on it. It is hard to predict when that will be, so you see, I have to be ready.

I have been less than subtly talking about the plaster problem in our front entry. The wall looked like it had leprosy, and chunks of plaster would rain down upon you every time you opened the front door. It was becoming a safety issue.

Mike gamely jumped in, one day, and started scraping. The more he scraped, the more of the lathing under the plaster emerged. The next thing you know, the old letterbox slot was on the floor. He dutifully did his internet research, to figure out how to solve the problem, and do it himself. He is not one to hire out. Mostly I love that about him, sometimes not so much.

With gentle prodding from me, he realized that THIS was a job for a pro. We called friends, who had recently remodeled a kitchen that had needed a lot of plaster work. And Mike found a guy, and hired him. And he just finished yesterday. Huzzah!

In the natural progression of things, I had asked Mike over coffee early in the week if he was going to paint over MEA weekend. Our living room, dining room, and hallway have needed repainting for nearly 5 years (at least, that is when it first showed up on "the list"). Now that the plasterwork is done, I suggested it might be the perfect time to paint. "I was planning on it", he replied.

Not wanting to spoil the mood, I took off down to the basement to uncover the paint I had bought several years ago, and secretly prayed I still wanted the same colors. 'Parmesan', for the living room, 'Cotton Seed', for the dining room, 'Winter Mood' (no, it isn't blue) for the fireplace surround. No drama, but when I want drama I will go and hang out in my sister's fab house.

We started in earnest yesterday, the walls have been TSP'd and holes filled, crummy window trim sanded and prepped, furniture moved and tarped, floor taped and drop clothed. Mike has the first coat on the hallway and also the ceilings. I will be the trim and door girl (until my back gives out and sends me directly to bed). If you have never been in my home, it has lovely old trim, everywhere-ceiling, floor. The ceiling trim in the living room has a wonderful scallop, so pretty, but a major pain to paint. Original, eight over eight windows (with all of the tiny trim in between the panes) and beautiful old doors. The fireplace surround has delicate dentil molding. The dining room has built in corner hutches, that will also need a new coat of paint. We will be teaching Charlie to paint, very quickly.

Wonder if there is a merit badge in it? My hubby certainly deserves one. Maybe I can whip one up for him to wear on his paint stained work shirt.

Pictures next week!

Thursday, October 15, 2009

back in time

What if I could have written a blog when I was twelve?

I had so much to say, but things I probably would never have made public. I certainly would not have had any recipes of my own to share. I may have talked about boys that I thought were cute, but probably not, as I wouldn't want anyone to know. It was 1974, and I had a wonderful pair of navy blue hip huggers with kelly green flowers on them.

I probably would have talked about books. What books did I read when I was twelve? I hadn't started 'Gone with the Wind' yet, I think that was 9th grade. I am sad that I can't remember what I was reading. I was past the Little House books, and never was a big Nancy Drew fan (I didn't develop my taste for mysteries until a few years ago). I know I had my nose in a book, all of the time, but clearly nothing that made a huge impression on me.

I try so hard to remember what it felt like to be that age. I remember feeling awkward, all of the time, and like I didn't quite measure up. I wasn't the perfect daughter, I had big thighs (seriously, when I was twelve, I was obsessed with this notion of having large Gulsvig thighs, that's what my mom called them), and my little brother tormented me, all of the time. I had a baby sister, (Heather would have been nearly a year old at this time), so I am guessing I was pretty busy helping out with her. Rinsing diapers, helping my mom clean the house.

I was in band at the time, playing the trumpet. I really wanted to play the flute, but my parents thought I should try my uncle's trumpet to see if I even liked it. Seriously? I wasn't smart enough yet to figure out that if I really liked it, they would tell me there was no reason to buy a flute, and if I DIDN'T like playing the trumpet, they would not have shelled out the money for a flute, as clearly I was not cut out for band. We practiced in the morning, before school started, in the storage room for the cafeteria. I remember being surrounded by institutional cans of creamed corn, and tomatoes, and the tinny notes of our instruments bounced off the cans with a horrid echo. I was always self conscious about the red half moon above my lips that appeared after an hour of blowing on that trumpet for all I was worth. I would hold my hand over my mouth for the first half of the day.

And then there was recess. I HATED recess, as it was just one big popularity contest. Would the 'in' girls invite me to play foursquare? I often volunteered to help our teacher at recess time, covering bulletin boards, or some other project, so I could avoid the playground. And of course then I was labeled a 'brown noser'. Which was fine with me, as my teacher's name was Mrs. Brown, and I adored her. To this day, she is still one of my favorite teachers. Perhaps because she occasionally rescued me from the mean girls.

Hey, I would have had a LOT to talk about if I could have blogged when I was twelve. Bet you're wishing I had a picture of me in those hip huggers.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

recipe box Wednesday

Today I introduce you to a new weekly blog post-Recipe Box Wednesday.

I came across an old wooden recipe box, still full of recipes, at a garage sale this summer. The woman running the sale told me it had belonged to her mother-in-law, who was an amazing cook. Why are you selling it? (I nearly cried in disbelief!) She smiled, and told me that her mother-in-law had written all of her recipes into a book that she had given her daughter-in-law, and she assured me the recipes were safely in her kitchen.

Me, being tactile, would have sold the book and kept the box. (She is clearly more practical than me.) The cards are handwritten, worn around the edges, some are clearly given by friends, and there are scattered recipes cut from magazines and newspapers. Holding them makes me feel connected to the person, who cared about her family and wanted to show her love for them by making a wonderful new recipe.

I have been digging through the box for treasure, it has dividers for things like 'Puddings', and 'Chafing Dish'. There are enough of those recipes to need their own categories! I love it.

So each week, I plan to share a recipe from the box. Some of them you may feel compelled to make, one may make you giggle, perhaps one will trigger a childhood memory of your own relatives. Here we go ( I am sharing them with you just as they are written):

Apple Cake

Slice 3 or 4 apples or peaches into a buttered baking pan. (It doesn't specify, I am going to guess a 9 x 9 square pan?) Sprinkle with 1/2 c. sugar, t tsp. lemon juice, 1/4 tsp cinnamon. Cream 1/4 c. butter with 1/2 c, sugar, add 1 egg. Sift into this 1/2 c. flour, 1/8 tsp salt, and 1 tsp. baking powder. Pour this mixture over fruit. Bake at 350 degrees for 15 minutes, then lower heat to 325 degrees and bake until done. SAUCE: 1/2 c. sugar, 2 Tbsp. flour, 1 c. orange juice plus 1 Tbsp. lemon juice, 1 Tbsp. butter. Boil until thick. ( I am guessing you pour this sauce over the cake when you serve it).

Let me know if you try it!

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

of books and cold dark nights

There has been a big spurt of newness on my nightstand, the cold dark nights always give me a good excuse to head up to my bedroom early and dive into a book. I just finished "Of Bees and Mist" last week. Loved it. Very atmospheric, and sad, and annoying at times. The names of the characters drew me in: Meridia, Permony, Ravenna, Malin. Wonderful read.

Last night I stayed up late to finish "13 1/2", Nevada Barr's newest. No Anna Pigeon in site, no national park setting. But it was a page turner, and I 'could not put it down'. Good thing I am not a book reviewer, I would have already run out of things to say.

Next up: "A Homemade Life" by Molly Wizenberg. A food book, a cook book, I am thinking along the lines of Ruth Reichl's books that I love ("Tender at the Bone", "Comfort me with Apples", "Garlic and Sapphires"). And speaking of Ruth Reichl, the world will be a little less rich with the loss of Gourmet magazine. First Mary Engelbreits's Home Companion, then Country Home, what magazine that I subscribe to will be the next on the chopping block? Luckily for me, I have YEARS of Gourmet magazines in my stash to keep me cooking for a really long time.

And since I am often late to the party, for so many things, I just started reading Janet Evanovich's series with Stephanie Plum. I know, I know, what is up with me? It was forced on me by a zealous rummage sale mom this summer, and I reluctantly paid up. And of course, I am hooked. I should really stop by and thank her.

No shortage of reading material for these cold winter (I mean autumn, it's only October, right???) evenings...

Monday, October 12, 2009

what the ?

And I was worried about protecting my plants from frost... This is the earliest I remember snow in the cities. Bemidji, we would get snow early, but not here in St. Paul. I guess Mother Nature is trying to make up for our rain deficit this summer.

But really? Snow on October 10th? This morning we woke up to even more snow. Most of our leaves haven't even changed color yet, and they are heavy with snow this morning. I was driving down one of our city streets yesterday, that is lined with gingko trees. All of the leaves had fallen off of them, all at once, in big green piles. And now this morning they are covered with snow. Quite surreal. Guess we are done harvesting tomatoes.

Charlie was TENT camping with the boy scouts this weekend, near Mille Lacs lake. Criminy. I am not sure if they get a merit badge for tent camping, in the snow, with temps in the 20's and wind chills in the teens. But he survived.

The first thing he did when he came home was to take a really long, hot shower. The comforts of home.

Friday, October 9, 2009

now where did I put that crystal ball...

It's time again to predict fourth quarter. Predicting sales is always tricky for our business, this year especially so. I can read all of the info out there, everything from the National Retail Federation which is predicting a 1 percent total sales decline for November and December, to Deloitte LLP predicting flat sales. I can crunch the numbers for our last five years at the mall, and factor in this years's sales trend, but what I really need is a crystal ball. A fortune teller, perhaps a tarot card reading?
(image found on Wikipedia-isn't it great? John William Waterhouse-The Crystal Ball)

So many things play in to sales, how much advertising you do, what people are willing to spend, and what the weather is like on the day they decide to visit the Mall of America. Will they go with a practical gift, like a sweater? Will they settle on a Best Buy gift card, as they aren't really sure what the person might want? Or will they see our (soon-to-be) fabulous TV commerical and think "Now THAT is the perfect gift."

We are working on our TV commercial right now, Mike has been busy practicing with the new camera, as this year's ad will need to be filmed in HD. We pride ourselves on doing most things on our own, without hiring ad agencies or filmmakers or voice over talent. More economical, and definitely more fun. We are designing the post card we will be sending out to those people who have bought from us on the internet, or have signed up to be on our mailing list at the store. We are figuring out our ad budget, and where we want to advertise this year. We are figuring out the merchandise mix we will offer to our guests, and try to predict what they will want to buy to go along with those gift cards. We are reviewing our staffing needs, and giving the simulators a maintenance check to make sure they are ready for all of that post-holiday flying. Most importantly? Making sure all of our employees get a flu shot, so they can stay healthy for what will hopefully be the 'holiday rush'.

So many decisions, critical decisions, and not a crystal ball in sight. How about you, my dear readers? Throw your two cents into the mix, we welcome any and all predictions.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

cast iron cookin'

Do you own a cast iron skillet? Is it in the corner of the garage, gathering spider webs until that camping trip you are going to take in the Boundary Waters, where you will use it to fry freshly caught fish over an open fire?

Mine actually got used this summer, when hubby and friends had a canoe trip, and used it to cook up a whole mess of eggs. So now it is actually clean, and hanging by our back door (as it would come in handy for a weapon if anyone ever tried to break into our home).

But last year, I bought myself a cast iron Dutch Oven, and it was love at first bite. Of the food I made in it, not the actual cast iron...

Lodge makes a dandy line of cast iron ware, it comes preseasoned and with a handy guide on how to care for it. If you are inclined, that is the brand I would invest in. I got my Dutch oven at Target, they also carry Lodge at Fleet Farm (which is a fun shopping adventure all on it's own...)

Here is my favorite basic chili recipe, that we had on Tuesday night, when the rain was pouring down the windows and the Twins were playing baseball. You don't HAVE to cook it in a cast iron Dutch oven, but I firmly believe it makes it that much better. And cooking it on a simmer for several hours doesn't hurt either.

Tummy Warming Simple Chili (if you have a copy of my cookbook, it is under Meat & Poulty, there I call it Good Basic Chili)

2 lbs. lean ground beef

3 Tbsp. veg. oil

1 md onion, chopped

1 red bell pepper, chopped

3 cloves garlic, minced

1/2 tsp. black pepper

1 tsp. cumin

1/2 tsp. ground chipotle pepper (the secret ingredient...)

1/2 to 1 1/2 tsp. crushed red pepper (you decide how hot you want it)

3 Tbsp. chili powder (I use Penzey's medium strength)

3 c. water

1 26 oz. can tomato puree

2 16 oz. cans diced tomatoes

1 16 oz. can black beans, drained

1 16 oz. pinto beans, drained

1-2 tsp. salt, to taste

Brown beef in two batches in dutch oven (or large soup kettle). Drain off fat, set beef aside. Heat the oil over med. hi heat and saute the onions for 4-5 minutes, add the red bell pepper and garlic and cook 2-3 more minutes, stirring often. Add black pepper, cumin, chipotle, crushed red peppers, and chili powder, stirring constantly. When spices start to stick to the bottom of the pan and begin to brown, quickly add the water and stir. Add all of the tomatoes and the juice they were packed in, add the beans, and salt to tast. Stir in the drained beef, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and cover. Simmer for 3 hours, stirring every 15 min. or so.

Garnish with shredded cheese and sour cream, and a few sliced scallions if you wish. I like to bake up some Trader Joe's cornbread to go alongside, or tortilla chips are good too.

Happy cast iron cooking!

Good Basic Chili

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

birthday boy

You used to love garbage trucks and construction equipment, "One Duck Stuck" and "Corduroy". You watched "Bob the Builder" and "Little Bear". You played with Legos all day long, and your Brio train set.

I was overdue by nearly two weeks when you were born, and now it is hard to pull you out of bed in the morning. And you still have a really big head. Some things never change...

But YOU do, and you continue to grow and change every day.

There wasn't a single Lego in your presents this morning, and you were just fine with that.
You insisted on wearing your sunglasses to school so everyone could see how cool you were. Wait, do kids still use that word? (I really need to get with the current lingo, so I'm not one of 'those' old parents.)You requested dinner at Hell's Kitchen tonight, as how often can a twelve year old say 'Hell' and get away with it?

Happy Birthday Charlie! We are awfully lucky to have you in our lives.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

learning the hard way

How many of you check pockets before doing the laundry?

I have made my guys responsible for cleaning out their own pockets before tossing their dirty clothes in the hamper. Doesn't mean they do it. I have washed many loads of coins, dollar bills, (I keep the money, considering it my small payment for doing the laundry job), candy wrappers, and an occasional flash drive. I am least happy when I find a pen that has made it's way through, only to leak all over. grrr. The worst was crayons. Melted crayons. The clothes in that load could not be saved, even though I did all of the things they told me to do on the Crayola website (yes, there is a whole page about cleaning crayons from the dryer). Well, the clothes could have been saved, but none of them were worth the herculean efforts I would have had to go through to recover them.

Last week, I was pulling a load out of the dryer when I heard a clunk. Not good to hear a clunk coming out of the dryer. It was Charlie's ipod nano. The engraved nano he got for his birthday last year. Not good.

He was, shall we say, really bummed out. REALLY bummed out. So we did what any parent would do in this day and age, we sent him to the internet to research what he could do to possibly save it.

And clearly, many, many, many people have washed ipods. But this one went through both the washer AND the dryer, so we didn't have as many options. There were suggestions to put it in the freezer overnight, to put it in a bowl of rice to dry it out, or to get dessicant from the flower shop and immerse it. We went with the "let it sit for several days" approach. And today I plugged it in to the computer, and not only did it recognize it, it WORKED. I kid you not. Apple should do a commercial. Can I get a piece of that?

Now, the screen has some issues, it's really dark, and you can only see what is on it by tilting it to the light, just so. But it plays music. I can't wait to tell Charlie when he gets home from school.

He got lucky, but learned a valuable lesson. Will this be enough for him to check his pockets now, before tossing those grass stained jeans in the basket? Time will tell....

Monday, October 5, 2009

you vote

Cake wreck? (no pine trees were actually eaten, but the rocks were edible...)
I was full of good intentions, and the 11 year old boys at the party thought it was 'awesome', so I guess that is all that matters. And Charlie was thrilled that I found Travis Pastrana (his favorite dirt bike rider) on a Suzuki, AND wearing a Red Bull helmet.

The joys of being an (almost) twelve year old boy.
Speaking of boy joy:
We nearly had the skatepark to ourselves on Saturday morning-KQ was rocking in the background, and the kids were in heaven.
We finished up our day-o-fun with lunch at Sonic. Life doesn't get much better than that.
Someday when I am 70 (god willin'), I will remember this day, and the big smiles these boys had on their faces, with the pure fun of riding a bike, and hanging out with friends.

Friday, October 2, 2009

birthday cake traditions

I am making Charlie's birthday cake today for his sleepover birthday bash he is having with his friends tonight-he had requested the classic Hanson Crazy Chocolate Cake. This is the most baked cake in my family, used for nearly every birthday or special occasion from the time I could walk. And we love it. Now my little family does too!

Of course, I can't find my copy of the recipe. Because I only have about 500,000 recipes scattered throughout my house, in various boxes, books, files and drawers. Another project someday.

I did find it on the internet, and learned that this cake first gained popularity during the Great Depression, as it does not contain eggs. It is easy, moist, and always turns out delicious. Who knew? I love finding out about recipe origins. Can you get a degree in that? Recipe archeologist? I think I may have found my new career. I can start digging in my own house.

But what I did not find is the recipe for the classic frosting we always make to go on top, which requires cooking flour and milk on the stove for the base. So I guess I will be giving my mom a call. For now, here is the recipe for the cake-I am guessing most of you already have it in your stash, but just in case you don't:

Crazy Chocolate Cake

3 c. flour
2 c. sugar
1 tsp. salt
2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 c. unsweetened cocoa powder (I use Ghiradelli)
3/4 c. vegetable oil
2 tbsp. white vinegar
2 tsp. vanilla extract
2 c. cold water.

Combine all of the dry ingredients into a bowl. (you can also mix it up right in your 9 x 13 cake pan, if you want to make it even easier.) Make three holes in the mix. Pour oil into one hole, vinegar into another, and the vanilla in the last one. Then pour the cold water over all of it and mix it well. If you are making it directly in the pan, make sure to get the corners!

Bake at 350 for 30-40 minutes, or until a cake tester comes out clean.

I will edit this later and put the frosting recipe on, so you can have that too.

Charlie has requested a dirt bike cake, so after the cake has cooled I will be cutting part of it off, then reassembling it into rocky terrain covered with dirt frosting, chocolate rocks, pine trees, and dirt bikes jumping over logs. Hope it doesn't end up on Cakewrecks. ( )

Photos tomorrow!

Thursday, October 1, 2009

announcing a new arrival

The Pohl Family is happy to announce the arrival of:
the spanking brand new Canon 7D.

It has incredible image quality, the ability to shoot both stills and HD video, (rivaling a $30,000 digital video camera). You can shoot in color or black and white, the screen on the back for viewing is ginormous (my own technical term...). It has many other fabulous qualities, that I am not smart enough to know, so if you want more info, go to the Canon website for all of the specifications.

Mike is pretty much in heaven.

He had heard about this a few weeks ago, when he was lusting after the Canon 5D (which he had been wanting for a very long time). But this one is less expensive than the 5D, and actually offers more of what we need in a camera. So he immediately got on the waiting list, and yesterday, it arrived.

We are very proud parents.

It will get lots of use in this family, both for fun, and for business. We will even be able to use it to shoot our holiday commercial for ACES. Quite a good little investment.

So once I can pry it out of his hands and get a chance to try it myself, I will be posting some amazing photos! (the best part? I now get to have our "old" camera, all to myself....)


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