Saturday, July 31, 2010

mini break...

...sorry no blogging, Heather and Riley are here for a mini vaca and we are too busy having fun to blog!  Back next Tuesday : )

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

recipe box Wednesday

The new Cooking Channel makes me happy.  They are showing old episodes of Julia Child,

the Galloping Gourmet, and the Two Fat Ladies.  Love it. 

I have also been watching Nigella Lawson, who I have adored for years.  It all started when I read "How to Be a Domestic Goddess" and I was hooked.  I have been collecting her cookbooks, which read more like stories than cookbooks.  Just utterly delightful.  On top of that, she is a real woman with curves, and they show her enjoying her food, and indulging in midnight snacks.  How refreshing to watch a female chef that isn't a size zero!

And now the new Cooking Channel gives me Nigella Express, and I have the companion cookbook, and seeing her bring the recipes to life is such a joy.  Monday night I caught up on some episodes I had recorded, and was compelled to whip this up on Tuesday morning for a happy Charlie:

Blueberry Syrup for Pancakes
1/2 cup maple syrup (use the real stuff for goodness sake)
1 1/2 cups blueberries (in season and delish
Put in a pan and bring to a boil for 8-10 minutes until burst and thickened, pour into a pitcher.

Pancake Mix (make it ahead of time and have on hand for whenever you crave them)
4 cups flour
3 Tbsp. baking powder
2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
2 Tbsp. plus 2 tsp. sugar
1/4 tsp. baking spice (I added this from my Penzey's collection, not in the original recipe)
Mix all ingredients and store in a jar.

When you want to make pancakes, add this to each cup of mix.  One cup of dry mix added to the below ingredients will make about 15 3" pancakes, I ended up with about 12 four inchers.
1 egg
1 cup milk
1 Tbsp. butter, melted
The batter will be thinnish, it cooks up fast and fluffy.  Nigella said using the melted butter means they won't stick to the griddle, but I ended up spraying it with cooking spray after the first batch stuck a wee bit.

Serve with the warm blueberry syrup and watch the smiles spread across the happy eater's faces!

And if you get a chance, check out Nigella's cookbooks at your local library or bookstore.  Or feel free to borrow mine!

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

mighty mike

My hubby competed in yet another enduro on Sunday.

He resumed the madness that is enduro riding when he hit 39.  A better choice for a mi-life crisis than other things he could have done.

He trains incessantly.  Massive bike rides, gym workouts, and heat training.

I think it's working.

Yesterday he won his class in one of the toughest enduros of the season, near Mora, Minnesota.  (last minute update, I just found out that not only did he win his class "Senior B", he came in third overall of all the B riders!)

The two guys who have been beating him in his class this season were one of the first to come up and congratulate him.

Just another reason the enduro sport is such a great one-the guys are competitors, but not adversaries.

Even though there are full plants growing in my gutters, and the summer to-do list is relatively unchecked, I am still pretty proud.

Monday, July 26, 2010

constant color

This is the time of year that is rather the doldrums in the garden.  My lilies are nearly done, after putting on
big shows daily for the last few weeks.  I don't have much planted in the way of cutting flowers, and the clematis are on the other side of their blooming time.  Even the exuberant black eyed susan vine is wearing out, and looks to need a little fish food.  The dahlias are lovely, despite constant attack from slugs.  Luckily, they only like the leaves, and the blooms are spared.

But there are some old reliables, that you can always count on to give you color throughout the season.  Impatiens will never let you down, and coleus will reward you with stunning color all the way through to frost.

Did you know that it is unbelievably easy to propagate coleus?  Just one thing I learned on my garden tour a couple of weeks ago.  Of course, this is probably something most people already know, and I missed the boat, but I am on board now!  All you need to do is snip them on the stalk, just above where new leaves are coming out, and STICK THEM IN SOME DIRT.  I have been doing that now, in windowboxes, pots, and even in the ground, and it's amazing!  You can double your coleus presence in no time.

I have mentioned before that coleus always bring to mind my sweet Great  Grandma Ethel-as she always had them growing in her yard.  (I am always coming up with new reasons as to why they are celebrating in this picture.  Maybe it was the day the kids went back to school?)
At the time, I thought coleus were old fashioned and boring, and I much preferred all of the flowers she grew in her cutting garden.   I would fashion them into bouquets, and make daisy chains.  The garden thoughts of a ten year old...

 But as an adult gardener, I have a new found appreciation for this plant.  They require little care, other then pinching off blooms when they show up, and reward you with a colorful show for months.  And there aren't many other plants that will propagate so easily.  It's not too late to plant some of your own, they would bring fabulous color to your fall pots and windowboxes!

Friday, July 23, 2010

deep breath

Technology these days is vast and overwhelming.

Most days I feel like I am so far behind, spinning my wheels.  I don't Tweet, and only occasionally log in to Facebook.  I do have a blog, but it is really more my diary than anything else.

Those of you who know me well know that I love to create.  I had a booth at the BSU art fair in the fall of ...oh, I think it was 1983? where I sold wheat weaving.  A traditional Scandinavian craft.  It did really well, but I got tired of trying to buy wheat cheap and soak it in my bathtub, and I had worn a groove in my front teeth from knotting wire (please don't tell my dentist...)

I made dolls, and rabbits, and dried floral arrangements.  I sold them through home shows, at my parent's house, or my in-law's.  I have made fresh pine wreaths with my immediate family, and sold those.  I was a calligrapher for a while, and did menus for restaurants. 

I have thought of more business names than you can imagine. 

I guess I only feel whole when I can create things.  Sure, I can do the bookkeeping for ACES.  But if that was all I had, I would lose my mind.  So in my spare time I make jewelry, I sew, I knit, I garden, I play with paper.  And I have gotten so carried away, that now I really need to sell again.

Modern day is not about a craft show.  Today's technology gives us Etsy.  And I now have a shop.  And once I have it stocked, I will send you there so you can do a little shopping.

In the meantime, here is my new business card (distorted through the magic of uploading and all).  Registered with the state, (in process) and of course I will be obtaining all of my state and federal tax id numbers.  This is the real deal.

Stay tuned to see what happens next!

Thursday, July 22, 2010

summer flies-

-the fair is a little over a month away!  August 26th-September 6th.

Plan your trip now!

Wednesday, July 21, 2010


No blogging today, too busy devouring "The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest"....

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

another night of music

Skyscrapers in the background, we sat on the rooftop of an old building in downtown Minneapolis.  The perpetual breeze generated by the tall building tunnels blew my hair across my face and strands got stuck in my sunglasses.  A cold beer sat next to me on the metal table, sweat dripping down it's smooth glass sides, an orange slice floating languidly in the foam.

The happy hum of the other rooftop diners buzzed in the background.  Servers circulated, reviving thirsty patrons and delivering trays of food-shepherd's pie, bangers and mash, and of course, fish and chips.  (Please note the accordian player in the background, it was the Bastille Day celebration!  Also note the couple enjoying his music, there will be more on them later....)

Anticipation built as the clock approached 6 pm.  Lawn bowling had been suspended for the night (they take it very seriously here, and have leagues and tournaments all summer long "Don't be a tosser, roll your bowls!") so eager music lovers could spread their blankets on a coverted spot near the outdoor stage. 

We were at Brits Pub, on a near perfect summer evening.  Laughter filled the air, as summer loving Minnesotans filled themselves up with sun, and the smell of barbeque, and clean blue skies with whip cream clouds gently floating through.  Graham Parker was performing, his guitar and harmonica drifting on the breeze, all the way to those sitting on the furthest reaches of his melodies.

Mike had staked out a spot close to the stage, he has been a fan for years and this date had been on his calendar for months.  Being a casual fan, I was still ensconced at our table, feet up and enjoying a comfortable chair.  It was shady, and I was perfectly happy enjoying this concert from a distance.

The waitress happily brought me some Burnt Creme.  It's the British version of Creme Brulee, and is a perfect companion to a cold glass of Blue Moon.  Who knew?  Remember the people at the table next to ours?  I made friends with them, they were in town from Atlanta, and kindly guarded my table while I ventured into the pub in search of restrooms. 

We ended up having a long conversation, they told me of all they had done while visiting Minnesota for the very first time.  We talked gardening, they are planting in February while we dare to put things in the ground in April if we are brave.  And of course, we talked about snow, which seemed such a strange topic on this spectacularly perfect July summer night, here in Minnesota.

The inside of Brits is charming, and dark, and full of character (and characters!)  I can't wait to come here on a cold winter night and snuggle in to a dark corner, and tuck into some shepherd's pie and a pint.

The concert was done by 8, and as we walked down Nicollet mall, taking in the view, we came across this pub wagon.  You can work your beer off while you are drinking it!

Now this is something we will definitely have to plan for, with a group of friends, on another fine summer evening.  Or perhaps it would be more fun in the fall, around Oktoberfest time, when we can bundle up in sweaters and enjoy the crisp autumn air. 

But for now, we shall just continue to enjoy all that summer in the cities has to offer.  Have you had a favorite summer night yet?

Monday, July 19, 2010

simple pleasures

Many mornings this summer have greeted me with lots of moisture in the back yard, from storms rumbling through.  Saturday night we even had sirens, Sunday there were lots of downed tree branches, and a power line in our neighborhood was tipping precariously toward a house.  But life goes back to normal today, the branches get cleaned up, and the backyard beckons.

I love to pour a cup of coffee, and walk through my yard, to see what has happened in the night.  The ladies mantle always provides a lovely show.

Dahlias are blooming, in assorted colors, and thriving even though the slugs seem to consider them their favorite delicacy.  I hate slugs.  I have tried all of the cures.  I still have slugs.  I balance all of the lovely moisture my very green grass and healthy flowers are enjoying with the downside, slugs and abundant mosquitoes.

My tour complete, I settle on the patio with the morning paper and my coffee.  And lately my cup of joe has been even more pleasurable, as I splurged and bought this adorable little cup. 

It is hand painted, inside and out, and features a petite porcelain flower by the handle.  So far, Mike is remembering to hand wash it.  The sweet oilcloth coasters were a gift, and add extra cheer to an already happy setting.

Call me crazy, but coffee tastes better in this cup.

What summer morning routines bring you delight?

Friday, July 16, 2010

farm fresh Friday

Theme week concludes with something I didn't actually get at the market.  I could have faked you all out, and told you I did, but that whole honesty gene compels me to tell the truth.  They should be showing up at markets this weekend, as I just got a post card from my favorite blueberry farm, and they are open for picking in Wisconsin.

I had some berries in my fridge, I always have them on hand in the summer when they are inexpensive.  In my cereal, with banana yogurt, or made into sugar crusted muffins, blueberries are one of my favorites.  Blueberry memories include tromping through bogs in northern Minnesota to pick our own (tussling with mosquitos every step of the way) and the smell of fresh blueberry pie as my mom sliced into it.  Flaky crust, sweet juicy berries, and a hint of spice.

The recipes I share with you today are from this very favorite blueberry farm I have been talking about.  I figure if they are that good at growing them, then they are probably really darn good at cooking them.

And if you can't pick your own, then go ahead and pick up a pint at the grocery store and make yourself something delicious.  On top of that, blueberries are one of those super foods that just make you healthy.  And grab an extra pint and freeze them for baking in January.  All you have to do is dump them out on a cookie sheet (PLEASE DON'T WASH THEM FIRST) and stick them in the freezer.  Once they are as hard as rocks, dump them in a freezer bag and pop them back in the freezer.  You can wash and sort through them when you are ready to use them, in the winter, when it's snowing out, and you want to remember what summer tastes like....

And if you want to pick your own blueberries (and stop at the Smiling Pelican Bakeshop in Maiden Rock for some treats) check out  the Rush River website I listed above for directions.  Just make sure you call first to insure they are picking the day you want  to go.  (Or they'll pick them for you, if you don't mind paying a bit more.)

Thanks for sharing the bounty of the season with me this week-check out your local farmer's market and see what you can create!

Thursday, July 15, 2010

farm fresh Thursday

So far this week I have been sharing tried and true recipes, today we are going to try something new.

Cucumbers bring back lots of summer memories.  Washing tubs full with a brush, getting them ready for pickling.  The smell of the hot brine cooking on the stove.  Steam rolling off of the freshly sterlized jars.  Fresh dill permeating everything, it's bright green heads waiting in the sink to be nestled in among the cukes.  And later that night, the ping coming from the kitchen, as the jar lids signaled to us that they had successfully sealed.

Then there were fresh cucumbers sliced and mixed with mayo, a little milk, and salt and pepper.  Nothing fancy, but this was our favorite green to have with fresh fried walleye.  I can literally taste it in my memory as I type this.

Today's recipe couldn't be further from any of my family traditions, but I can't wait to try it:

(Japanese shrimp and cucumber salad)

1 (6 oz.) can small salad shrimp, rinsed, drained, and chilled
2 lg. cucumbers (8-10"), peeled and sliced very thin
2 tsp. salt
2 Tbsp. sesame seeds, toasted

3/4 c. rice wine vinegar
3 Tbsp. sugar
1 Tbsp. light soy sauce

In a small bowl, combine dressing ingredients and stir until sugar dissolves.  In another bowl, sprinkle cucumbers with salt, and allow to drain 1/2 hour in a colander.  Squeeze out remaining moisture.  Toss lightly with chilled shrimp.  Just before serving, combine with dressing and sprinkle with toasted sesame seeds.

From the St. Paul Farmer's Market Produce Cookbook

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

farm fresh Wednesday

Going nuts and using three fresh farmers market goodies in today's recipe.

Cashew Chicken

1 box jasmine rice-get it started, and move on to the meat:

1 lb. boneless, skinless chicken breasts, diced
Put it in a bowl with the following ingredients, and let it sit while you chop the veggies:
1 Tbsp. sesame oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 Tbsp. rice wine vinegar
1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes
pepper to taste

1 large carrot (or a bunch of tiny ones) peeled and small dice
1 red bell pepper, seeded and diced
1 can sliced water chestnuts, drained and coarsely chopped
1 large handful pea pods, rinsed and ends trimmed
3 heaping Tbsp. hoisin sauce
1/2 cup unsalted cashews
3 green onions, thinly sliced

Heat oil in large wok or large non-stick skillet over high heat until it smokes.  Add carrot and stir fry for 2-3 minutes.  Add the coated chicken and cook 3-4 minutes.  Toss in the bell pepper, water chestnuts, and pea pods, cook 1-2 minutes.  Add hoisin sauce, toss to coat evenly and heat through.  Serve with jasmine rice, sprinkle with onions and cashews.

A fresh and healthy meal for your family.  And if you chop and prep everything ahead of time, you can throw it all together pretty quickly, the rice will take the longest!  (adapted from a recipe in Rachael Ray's first 30 Minute Cookbook)

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

farm fresh Tuesday

Green beans are the star today.  Every time I buy them at the market I am reminded of  early summer mornings, when Kelly and I would be herded out to the garden to weed and pick beans.  When they start growing, you have to pick them almost daily, as they kind of go crazy.  We would harvest both green and purple beans (also known as magic beans, as they turn green when you cook them).  My Grandma Betty used to can beans, both green and yellow varieties.  My mom didn't mess with that, but she did freeze bags of them so we could enjoy that fresh taste in the winter. 

Might have to think about doing that this summer.

Today I share with you a recipe for Green Beans that I will bet you haven't tried.  While I usually just steam them until they are tender crisp, then toss them with butter, coarse salt, and a squeeze of lemon juice, sometimes I want to go a little further.  And when I do, this is what I make.

Wonderful Green Beans

2 lbs. fresh green beans
2 Tbsp. olive oil (or 1 Tbsp. olive oil and 1 Tbsp. butter)
1 small onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 tsp. ground cumin
1/4 tsp. ground coriander
salt and pepper to taste
chopped almonds if desired

Trim ends of green beans and cut into 1" pieces.  Cook in a bit of water until tender, 15-20 minutes.  Drain and set aside.

Place 2 Tbsp. oil or butter in saucepan and heat on med low heat.  Add onions and garlic and saute until tender.  Add cumin and coriander, mix well.  Add beans and stir, salt and pepper to taste.  Throw on the almonds if desired (also really good with toasted pine nuts). 

The introduction to this recipe says these are so good that people who hate green beans will LOVE these.  The recipe is from the St. Paul Farmer's Market Produce Cookbook.

Monday, July 12, 2010

farm fresh Monday

Today starts a week long journey into the joys of the local farmer's market.  Here in the cities, you can find a market almost every single day of the week, and this time of year the bounty is tremendous. 

We start this week with a lovely bunch of Fingerling Potatoes.  I usually use red potatoes in this dish, but when I spied these I had to have them.  This is one of my favorite go-to recipes in the summer, when all I have do is pull the fresh herbs from my garden, boil up the potatoes, and toss them with the simple dressing.  It is best made about 30 minutes before you want to eat it, and do so at room temperature.  Great with burgers, or fish, or chicken, or pork....or if you want to go total vegetarian make some more veggies to join the party.

Tuscan Potato Salad

6 medium potatoes, cooked and cut into thick slices or quarters  (if using tiny potaotes, adjust quantity accordingly)
2 Tbsp. good fruity olive oil
1 Tbsp. balsamic
1-2 cloves garlic, finely minced
2 Tbsp. finely chopped fresh parsley
2 Tbsp. finely chopped fresh chives
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. pepper

Boil potatoes in salted water until fork tender, drain.  Combine all the remaining ingredients, then toss lightly with potatoes.  Let it rest at room temp for 30 minutes to blend flavors.

Bon appetit!

Friday, July 9, 2010

Ghost Lake Lodge

Northern Wisconsin is dotted with lakes, and most of those lakes are home to at least one resort or camping area.  Some of them have been run by the same family for generations, others have been owned by different folks through the years, but are still thriving. 

Most of these vacation spots are looking for weekly visitors in the summer, but after much interent research and some digging, we found one that could accomodate us for our unusual (and last minute) Saturday and Sunday night booking.  Not to mention they had the nicest website of those I had perused. .

The Ghost Lake Lodge is located on, um, Ghost Lake.  I never did remember to ask if there was a story behind the name of the lake, and loving ghost stories I am kicking myself.
The lodge itself was built in 1935, and while the main building burned down and was rebuilt in 1955 (with a beautiful open design, with lots of glass, which I am glad I don't have to take care of...) the cabins are still vintage 1930's.  The lodge has a rich history, which the current owners are happy to share with you, of Percy Faith staying there and playing the grand piano that used to be located in the hall, or Edgar Bergen and his daughter Candice spending time there.

Amy and Nathan are an absolute delight, and clearly have a passion for what they are doing.  The epicenter of the lodge is the little bar that greets you when you walk in through the screen door, which cheerfully acknowledges your arrival.  Mike and I shared stories with them over glasses of wine and bottles of locally brewed beer, and they are full of tips on places to dine and thnigs to do in the area.

The lodge is full of things to occupy yourself, and since there are no phones in the rooms or cabins (or cell phone coverage) they have a charming phone available for guest use in a cozy corner of the lodge.  At first the remoteness of it all, and the lack of communication with the outside world seemed a bit daunting, but I quickly let that go and reveled in the peace and quiet.

It was a hot, sticky night when we arrived, and as Amy showed us to the room we had reserved in the lodge she quickly offered the room next door, which had 3 bedrooms and 2 bathrooms and a full kitchen and living room.  Obviously, it was far more room than just the two of us needed, but since one of the bedrooms had the only air conditioner in the whole resort, we quickly took them up on the trade (being city wimps...)  Such wonderful hosts!

They suggested several dinner spots, we ended up driving to the Garmisch Inn near Cable, which was a perfect choice.  A lovely view of the lake and the setting sun, delicious meals of steak and salmon, and an impromptu fireworks display not far from the Inn made for a perfect evening.

Back at the Lodge, the grounds are lush with native plants, and the hummingbird feeders are alive with activity throughout the day.  Those little buggers are so busy Amy has to refill the feeders twice a day.  Nathan regaled us of bear sitings in the yard (one year he counted 39) but none of them came to visit during our stay. 

The lodge is located at the end of a winding road, and the minute your drive in you instantly feel calmer.

With inclement weather on Sunday, we took advantage of our living room and spent the day reading and snacking, and I even got some knitting done. 

 As the sun made it's way to the west, we headed in to Hayward for some pizza and beer at Coops (clearly a major hangout for the town) and found a spot to watch the fireworks.  Those Wisconsites really love their fireworks, and we were the happy recipients of the fun.

Monday morning we packed up, knowing it was time to head back to the real world.  We had an incredible breakfast at the tiny Spider Lake Cafe, then headed in to Hayward for the weekly Flea Market. 

Eighty vendors are housed inside and outside of the community sports center, I found a wonderful old sewing basket full of notions, an antique thermos (it had a cork for the top!) and a stack of old recipe cards.  Mike was clearly not having as much fun as I was, so we stopped at the Red Shed Antique store (where we had scored some fun finds on a previous trip), then headed out of town.

Winding our way through the rural back roads of Wisconsin (to avoid some of the post holiday traffic), we breathed deeply and enjoyed our last hours in a beautiful state.  I would not be a bit surprised if someday you are addressing Christmas cards to us at our home there.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

music for a summer night

Rain soaked pathways, dripping trees, humidity heavy in the air, Joelle and I made our way through the pathways at the Minnesota Zoo last night.  Our destination was the amphitheater, located next to a small lake (or large pond, depending on how you see it).  We were there to see Mary Chapin Carpenter, one of my favorite singer/songwriters.

Not having been to a concert at the zoo before, I wasn't sure what to expect.  I had read all of the info on their website-show is rain or shine, no umbrellas, no refunds.  It had rained, heavily, much of the afternoon, which delayed things getting started, and once we were finally in our seats I could tell it would be an uncomfortable night. 

The concert is held where they have the outdoor bird shows, and your 'seat' is a 15 inch spot on the wooden benches that surround the stage.  The rows are so close together, I had less leg room than on an airplane, and felt bad that my knees kept bumping into the back of the man in front of me.  There were folks in our row whose bottoms took up twice the allotted fifteen inches, forcing the rest of us to squish our cheeks and turn our shoulders so we could all fit.  And you have to sit like that for the whole concert.  The slipped discs in my spine and the arthritis I suffer from left me in pain by the end of the night.

Thank god the music made up for it.  Mary Chapin Carpenter has the sweetest smile, and she truly loves to entertain and sing for you.  Due to the delays, the opening act only played a three song set, and Mary played straight through, with no 30 minute intermission.

Her songs include beautiful ballads, rocking, toe-tapping romps, and wistful views of life.  She played one of my favorites, she has written so many amazing songs I was thrilled when I heard the familiar chords of this tune begin:

Why Walk When You Can Fly

In this world there's a whole lot of trouble, baby

In this world there's a whole lot of pain
In this world there's a whole lot of trouble
But a whole lot of ground to gain
Why take when you could be giving, why watch as the world goes by
It's a hard enough life to be living, why walk when you can fly

In this world there's a whole lot of sorrow
In this world there's a whole lot of shame
In this world there's a whole lot of sorrow
And a whole lotta ground to gain
When you spend your whole life wishing, wanting and wondering why
It's a long enough life to be living, why walk when you can fly

In this world there's a whole lot of cold
In this world there's a whole lot of blame
In this world you've a soul for a compass
And a heart for a pair of wings
There's a star on the far horizon, rising bright in an azure sky
For the rest of the time that you're given, why walk when you can fly

It was a full house, and an interesting crowd.  Her band really made the evening fun, and they returned after a rousing ovation to play three more songs.  She talked about our giant mosquitos, and let us know we could come on stage and share her bug spray.  A panicked duck flew over the crowd for a bit, before finally flying right over Mary's head and out into the water.  A very loud tree frog accompanied the band most of the evening, she had great good humor about all of the spontaneous additions to her concert.

I left the zoo aching and sore, and glad to be stretching my limbs.  And more in love with her than when I arrived.

And Joelle-this ones for you!

Wooden benches
Sticky bodies
Croaking frogs
Pass the Poncho!

No umbrellas
Fowl drama
Large behinds
Pass the Poncho!

No raindrops
Cold lemonade
Darting bats
Pass the Poncho!

Thanks for such a fun night, it made for a great summer memory.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

travel tip: Hayward

After dropping Charlie off at scout camp, Mike and I wound our way through the curving county roads in Wisconsin.  It was a sunny summer day-the corn fields lush with green, water twinkling on the lakes and ponds, and a slight haze in the air from the high humidity.
Our destination, Hayward.  A town of just over 2100 people, it balloons in the summer with cabin people, and those enjoying the hundreds of lodges and resorts in the area.  An absolutely adorable downtown, decked out in flags for the weekend.  Even on a hot Saturday afternoon, the sidewalks were full of tourists enjoying the shops, everything from a Ben Franklin that seems pulled from an old movie set, to an enormous candy store, where they demonstrate their fudge making and taffy pulling on a regular basis. 

There are high end shops that cater to those wanting to add to their cabin's charm, clothing stores with every expensive sporting good brand, a tiny bookshop for those rainy days, and everything in between.  Restaurants have outside seating, and live music can be heard ringing through the air.

Mike and I found ourselves in the wine shop.  Imagine that.  Hook Stone Winery is making wine from California grapes and selling it in Wisconsin.  A tasting of each of the 12 wines they produce was $4, and you got to keep your Hook Stone Wine glass.  Having traveled through Sonoma and Napa, and paid California prices for wine tastings, Mike and I quickly sat at the bar for a tasting adventure.
The owner and winemaker was a delight, deftly pouring each wine and giving us background on how it was made, while at the same time sharing stories and keeping an eye on each customer who walked in the door to make sure everyone was taken care of.  The artwork on the bottles is delightful, and the wine was pretty darn tasty too.  The finale of our adventure was port in dark chocolate cups, a perfect way to enjoy grapes.  We ended up taking home nine bottles of our favorite wine, the Sunfish red (a syrah with viognier), and two bottles of Vacationland Viognier.  They also make their own olive oils, and all were available to sample.  We had to make room to bring home a bottle of the Garlic oil, it was amazing.

So a good while later, we found ourselves back on the busy sidewalk, the wine making us feel languid as we explored the rest of the downtown, picking up chocolates at Tremblays and goodies at the bakery.  The day was waning and the heat and humidity were building, it was time to head to our resting place-the Ghost Lake Lodge.

Stay tuned!

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

boys just want to have fun

The house is very quiet today.  No Xbox playing in the background, no dirty socks lying on the floor. Mike and I delivered Charlie to Scout Camp on Saturday, near Birchwood, WI.  He is there all week, and Mike will join him on Friday night and then they will pack up Saturday morning.
Last year, long time blog readers will remember that Charlie struggled a bit with stomach troubles, and homesickness.  I wonder how he is doing this year.

There is no communication with them all week, and he specifically asked me not to send him a letter, as I did last year.  So I didn't.

He is now a seasoned scout camper, and is there to provide guidance to the younger campers.  I am thinking he will do just fine.
He was very eager to go, although the thought of no video games or ipods for a whole week did give him pause.  But knowing he wouldn't have to listen to his parents all week made it sound like the perfect adventure.
I watch the weather, to see if he is enjoying their beautiful campsite, or if he is sitting in a damp tent.  They have a perfect spot, on top of the hill overlooking the lake, so I am guessing the sweet lake breezes dry things out pretty quickly.  I can still remember the smell of the pine, and the sound of the water, when we were there on Saturday.

But here in St. Paul, it's a little too quiet.   I miss him already....


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