Monday, January 31, 2011

weepy tv

Ever now and then, Hallmark releases a new movie.  You know it will be something the whole family can watch, and will probably have a meaningful message.  More than anything, you can bet you are going to cry.

Last night a new Hallmark movie premiered:  "The Lost Valentine".  I haven't watched a Hallmark movie in a while, but when I saw Betty White was in it I decided to watch.  I wasn't interested in the SAG awards, or reality tv, and I was recording all of my favorites on PBS, so I decided to tune in.

(love the classic logo, post a comment if you can remember the tag line!)

And to my great joy, they showed classic Hallmark card commercials.  My favorite was from 1971, with the two little girls having tea, and giving a card they had made "Oh, it's a Hallmark!"  "Now it's my turn."  Sweet, and innocent, and delightful.  Or the one where the girl gives her piano teacher a birthday card.  Tearing up, I was. 

I tried to find some links so you could watch them too, but had no luck.  You will just have to reach back deep into the sentimental part of your brain and see if you can remember them.

The movie was sweet, and when Betty was welcoming her husband home at the train station, I was a weepy mess.  I am not a huge fan of Jennifer Love Hewitt, but she did a good job.

All in all, a good way to start the week.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

come on, sing along!

"Happy Blogiversary to me!"

Today marks THREE YEARS since my first post.

Whooda thunk it?

And my mom thought I would never get around to keeping a journal.

This calls for some red velvet cupcakes with cream cheese frosting-don't you think?

I had to borrow this photo on-line, since I haven't made them yet to take a picture!

I am sure mine will look JUST like this...

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

recipe box Wednesday

Turkey breasts are popular at our house.  I said TURKEY breasts.  (however, I have found my 13 year old son paying way too much attention to the Victoria Secret commercials...)

I had picked one up when they were very well priced around the holidays, and the original plan was to have a lovely turkey dinner last Sunday, when it was very cold out.  I wanted to heat the house up with a warm kitchen, and smell those happy aromas all afternoon.

But things didn't work out that way, and instead Mike made his famous spaghetti that had originally been planned for Wednesday night.  The best laid plans...

Since I had made my favorite brined turkey for Thanksgiving, I decided to go with another tried and true favorite:  Ina Garten's Herb-Roasted Turkey.  Yes, I am obssessed with the Barefoot Contessa.  This recipe is in "How Easy is That?" and in many places on-line.

Here you go:

Herb-Roasted Turkey Breast

1 whole bone-in turkey breast, 6 1/2 to 7 pounds

1 tablespoon minced garlic (3 cloves)

2 teaspoons dry mustard

1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary leaves

1 tablespoon chopped fresh sage leaves (I used a tsp of dried)

1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme leaves (I used a tsp of dried)

2 teaspoons kosher salt

1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

2 tablespoons good olive oil

2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice

1 cup dry white wine (I ended up using a whole bottle, basting and and adding more as it cooked away)


Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Place the turkey breast, skin side up, on a rack in a roasting pan. (I cooked mine at 350 degrees, and it took nearly 3 hours.  I finally realized my thermometer had broken, but it wasn't overdone-thank goodness!)

In a small bowl, combine the garlic, mustard, herbs, salt, pepper, olive oil, and lemon juice to make a paste. Loosen the skin from the meat gently with your fingers and smear half of the paste directly on the meat. Spread the remaining paste evenly on the skin. (It's messy, but it smells heavenly!)  Pour the wine into the bottom of the roasting pan. (and add more as it cooks away)

Roast the turkey for 1 3/4 to 2 hours, until the skin is golden brown and an instant-read thermometer registers 165 degrees F when inserted into the thickest and meatiest areas of the breast. (I test in several places.) If the skin is over-browning, cover the breast loosely with aluminum foil. When the turkey is done, cover with foil and allow it to rest at room temperature for 15 minutes. Slice and serve with the pan juices spooned over the turkey (Even with using a whole bottle of wine-I didn't have much left for pan juices.)

I made Trader Joe's Cornbread Stuffing (adding some sauteed shallots, celery, and turkey sausage), candied yams, mashed potatoes, and fresh green beans with sauteed mushrooms to go along with the turkey breast.

Although it was a bit more work than our usual Tuesday night fare, it was such a treat to have a feast on a quiet January Tuesday night!  Charlie asked "What's the occasion?"  I guess it was 'let's not let a turkey breast spoil' night...

Monday, January 24, 2011

bursts of color

After a brutally cold weekend in Minnesota, I return you to the inside of the Marjorie McNeely conservatory for an orchid tour.  Not that the cold really put me out, it's not like I am a mail carrier, or a roofer, or some other occupation that causes me to be outside.  I didn't attend the pond hockey tournaments, or have to cancel a day full of skiing because it was so cold.  Cold weather for me is adding another layer, and maybe baking something...

Back to the orchids.  My oh my they are sooooo gorgeous:

Look at how delicate this is:

Love the green!

I do not know my orchids, and didn't write down any of the names of these lovely plants, today let's just revel in their fragile beauty and think summer thoughts....

Friday, January 21, 2011

staying in

No garden tours in January.  How about a tiny house tour?

This is the view from our dining room window.  Snow, snow, snow.  I took this picture last week, when it was warmer.  If I had waited until this morning, you would have seen the frost on the INSIDE of our windows on this very cold morning.  Ah, the joy of an older home with bad windows.

This is the little area I use to pack orders for my Etsy shop.  I LOVE this old library cabinet, and hope to someday add a bigger piece.  I searched for that scale for years (because it's a 'Hanson') and finally found one at a yard sale. 

I started a typewriter collection, initially to pull the keys off to use for jewelry.  This one was in such fabulous shape, I didn't have the heart to tear it apart.  I keep it out all year, and incorporate it into any holiday decorating I do.  Charlie was trying it out when I first got it, he said "Well how do I go back to erase mistakes?"  Holy cow.  I used a manual typewriter all through college-and even hired out to type research papers.  There I go, dating myself...

While the rest of the holiday decorations are packed far away, I had to keep this sweet little snowman out, to accompany this fantastic old clock Heather found for me at a yard sale.

I like to keep a little inspiration in small spaces in my house, to remind me to stay on track.  This sweet little angel inspires me, with her button trimmed dress, to 'Dream Big'. 

What things in your home inspire you?

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

recipe box Wednesday

Last night I went with a tried and true recipe, wasn't up to trying something new. 

It's a family favorite, easy to whip up, and fairly good for you.

Rachael Ray's Cashew Chicken  In her book, she actually calls it Cashew! God Bless You Chicken.  It's from her first 30 Minute Meal cookbook-you can tell how old it is by the cover-her look has changed!  And if you already have the cookbook I put together a few years ago, it's Cashew Chicken under Meat and Poultry.


1 box jasmine rice ( I buy it in bulk, I used two cups)

1 pound of boneless, skinless chicken breast, diced

2 TB sesame oil, divided

2 cloves garlic, minced and mashed

2 TB rice vinegar

A couple shakes of crushed red pepper

Black pepper, to taste

1 large carrot, peeled and diced into small cu bes

1 red bell pepper, seeded and diced

1 can (about 7 ounces) sliced water chestnuts, drained and coarsely chopped

3 TB Hoisin sauce

2 handfuls cashews

3 green onions, thinly sliced on an angle


Marinade chicken with 1 TB of the oil, the garlic, rice wine, red pepper, and black pepper.

Meanwhile, following directions on box, start the rice.

Heat the rest of the oil (1 TB) in a wok or large nonstick skillet over high heat until it smokes.

Add carrot and stir-fry for 2 or 3 minutes.

Add the coated chicken and cook another 3 or 4 minutes.

Toss in the bell pepper and chestnuts. Heat through for 1 minute.
Add the Hoisin and toss to coat evenly.

Dump chicken out over a bed of jasmine rice and top with cashews and green onions.

We all had big bowls of it, and curled up in the living room to watch an episode of British "Top Gear" to unwind at the end of a Tuesday.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

getting away from the snow...

...if only in my head.

I have found that I love to watch movies and tv shows set in hot climates during the winter.  I can pretend it isn't below zero with five feet of snow in the backyard.

Some good ones:  "Lawrence of Arabia", "Casablanca", "Australia".

I recently watched a few episodes of one of my favorite mystery series, I didn't even realize they were available until just last week.  If you like a good mystery, (without a lot of gory details and such), along with dandy writing, wonderful characters, and a fine story line-I highly recommend "The Number One Ladies Detective Agency" series of books by Alexander McCall Smith.
They have been out for some years, I have read the first few but need to get caught up with the last ones.  You have all probably read them already, but did you know they did a season of it on HBO?

And through the wonder that is Netflix, you can watch them too.

Jill Scott is FABULOUS as the main character.  It is so interesting to see what life is like in Botswana-as I am guessing I will never get to Africa.  Wonderful characters, everyone from her secretary (97% !) to her car mechanic (who really wants to be her husband), to the hair stylist next door.  LOVE IT.

And it's always warm in Botswana.

Next up?  Warm music to listen to, to take you away from winter.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Monday Musings

I slept in this morning, no rush to make Charlie his lunch and get him out the door to catch the schoobus.  Instead I curled up with Claude in my cozy bed and read a few chapters of my latest book "The White Queen" by Phillippa Gregory .   It is historical fiction, my dear friend Tracy Lane has been telling me how much she loves these books, so I decided to give it a try.

Royalty, treason, murder:  it has it all.  I am thoroughly enjoying it.  She also wrote "The Other Bolyen Girl", which was a very good movie.

Last night I had a wonderful night at book club, we tried the new restaurant "Scusi" here in St. Paul-perfect!  It is Italian, small plates meant to be shared.  We tried several dishes, all were wonderful, and so was the wine.  The service was fabulous, the space was just right.  We will definitely be back for more.
Our book this month was "The History of Love" by Nicole Krauss.  I had read it when it first came out, and loved it, and had gifted it to a friend after I was finished.  I was so happy to read it again, it is a beautiful book.    Our discussion was lively, and as I looked at the faces of my friends in this happy space I was so content.

Today is for making things to bring to "Royal Grounds", my friend Joanne's coffee shop in South Minneapolis.  I have been busy with paper and glitter and buttons and hearts, ready to sweeten someone's Valentine's Day.  I spent all yesterday afternoon creating cards, while I watched "Jane Eyre" for four hours on PBS.  Could there be a better story to watch while crafting Valentines?
How will you be spending this holiday Monday?

(sorry for the goofy look this morning, having trouble making blogger cooperate on margins and sizes and such today...)

Friday, January 14, 2011

fondue friday!

If you grew up during the '70's, as I did, did your family have a fondue pot?

We didn't, and I always wanted one.  While paging through Seventeen magazine, I would see happy people surround a fondue pot after an afternoon on the slopes.  Dunking bread in cheese, or strawberries in chocolate, I wanted to join the party.
Fondue is back, and it's even hip.  Crate and Barrel sold several different styles in their holiday catalog.  So it must be cool again. 

There is a restaurant in Stillwater that has a fondue room, Mike and Charlie and I went there in December a few years ago on our tree picking day.  It was a delight.  Dinner lasted quite a while, and we had such fun with all of the courses.  Before Charlie became a teenager....

"Melting Pot" is a restaurant in Minneapolis that specializes in fondue as well.  I haven't made it there yet, but I want to go.  I can just imagine sitting there, on a cold snowy night, licking melted cheese off my fingers.

This summer, I found a true treasure.  A Harvest Orange fondue pot, in great shape, with all of the forks and two retro cookbooks included.  For SIX DOLLARS.  How fun is that?  (and I even found this image on the net, love the paneling in the background!)

So this weekend, it's going to be a fondue weekend.  Do you fondue?

Thursday, January 13, 2011

field trip needed

Winter has already been here too long, and it's only mid-January.  It started too early, and even though we did not get one drop of snow in March last year, I can't imagine we can pull that off two years in a row.

With no sunny vacations in site, it's time to take a field trip for my mental health.

We have a wonderful little gem in St. Paul, known as the Marjorie McNeely Conservatory at Como Park,  that is calling me.

A couple of years ago I ventured there on a drab February day, and spent the day taking pictures and soaking in the humidity.  Let's take a peek, shall we?

You can almost smell those lilies, can't you? 

The conservatory has many different areas, there is the bright sunken garden, that is changed seasonally, with the calm sound of water flowing through the fountain.

The palm room is full of green and humidity.  So soothing.  My skin just drinks it in.  I nearly stole an orange, but that would have been wrong.

I was there for a few hours, and I tried to clear my head of anything that didn't involve relaxing thoughts.  I spent my time capturing beautiful images, and soaking up the scents.

I felt so good when I left.  So why haven't I been there yet this year?  Maybe I am saving it for when I am at my wit's end, or perhaps I will go to celebrate finishing my ACES tax package.

Or maybe I will just head over there tomorrow morning!

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

recipe box Wednesday

Recipe review:  I spent part of Sunday stirring up Nigella's Risotto that I blogged about last week.  Yes, there was a fair bit of fiddle faddling, I probably spent 30 minutes just stirring the broth in.  And I had to use beef broth, rather than the veal broth the recipe called for.  If you are looking for a fast dinner to put on the table, this is not your recipe.   As we sat at our dining room table with steamy bowls of cheese topped risotto in front of us, accompanied by a warm, crusty baguette, I felt it was definitely worth it.

Next up?  Something from Ina's new cookbook "How Easy Is That?" 

Faithful blog readers will know that Ina Garten is one of my favorite chefs, and all of her cookbooks have a home on my shelf.  I love her style, her idea of having great ingredients and simple preparation, and someday I want to have lunch in her garden in the Hamptons.

I have chosen Lemon Chicken Breasts, for several reasons.  Our little neighborhood grocery store had chicken breasts for $1.99 a pound last week, and I stocked up.  And I adore citrus in January-we tried a clementine and chicken recipe earlier this week.

Lemon Chicken Breasts - serves 4

1/4 c. good olive oil
3 Tbsp. minced garlic (9 cloves)
1/3 c. dry white wine
1 Tbsp. grated lemon zest (2 lemons)
2 Tbsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 1/2 tsp. dried oregano
1 tsp. minced fresh thyme leaves
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 boneless chicken breasts, skin on (6-8 oz. each)
1 lemon

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Warm the olive oil in a small suacepan over med-low heat, add the garlic, and cook for just 1 minute but don't allow the garlic to turn brown.  Off the heat, add the white wine, lemon zest, lemon juice, oregano, thyme, and 1 tsp. salt and pour into a 9 x 12 inch baking dish.

Pat the chicken breasts dry and place them skin side up over the sauce.  Brush the chicken breasts with olive oil and sprinkle them liberally with salt and pepper.  Cut the lemon in 8 wedges and tuck it among the pieces of chicken.

Bake for 30-40 minutes, depending on the size of the chicken breasts, until the chicken is done and the skin is lightly browned.  If the chicken isn't browned enough, put it under the broiler for 2 minutes.  Cover the pan tightly with aluminum foil and allow to rest for 10 minutes.  Sprinkle with salt and serve hot with pan juices.

I am thinking Pioneer Woman's Crash Hot Potatoes:  would be about perfect with this, along with some steamed green beans dressed with lemon and butter.  

Are you hungry yet?

Monday, January 10, 2011

time flies, part XII

Charlie is growing up so fast, I swear he is growing in his sleep.

Each morning he still gives me a big hug when he gets out of bed (a tradition I hope will continue until he leaves home), so it's how I gauge how tall he has gotten.

He has some classic teenage characteristics:   it's hard to get him out of bed in the morning, he needs to be told things multiple times before any action is taken, he is quick to anger when he feels he has been wronged.

He has always been good at convincing us to do things.  He made a PowerPoint presentation to talk us into letting him have the "Call of Duty" game.  His current project is trying to get a TV in his room to play Xbox on.  Not to watch TV, just to play Xbox.  We have always felt that kids don't need TV's in their rooms, so he has a big task ahead of him.  Here is a small excerpt from the email he sent us about it:

"...So having a tv in my room would not separate me anymore from you two or extend my playing time it would be a change of scenery or in this case "screenery". But I'm not done, no I know part of this is my maturity level so I am going to box up and sell all of my legoes after which 50% of my profits will go towards a tv and buying you guys a nice dvd player and 50% twoards college...."

But I still see glimpses of my sweet litle boy.  He will refill my coffee for me, or make me a cup of tea.  Every now and then he will slip in between Claude and myself on our little sofa and watch a favorite show with me.  If I have headed up to bed early to read, he will join me and talk about whatever is on his mind:  friend issues, school troubles.

I am doing the best I can to hold on to these moments, I know that the time will fly and he will be off and on his own.  My sweet little boy.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

it's worth it

Those of you who know me well know that I am a major coupon girl, and love to save a buck.  Just yesterday I spent $205 at SuperTarget on a big shop (my monthly stock up on groceries and such).  But my savings were $110!  So if you don't think clipping coupons is worth your time, let me tell you, it just makes sense.

Which is why I have a very few things I am willing to spend a lot of money on.  No coupons, no discounts, and I gladly pay the price.  I guess I justify it by all of the other money I save.  What are those things, you may be asking?

1.  A really good haircut.  (ignore the float, although that is something I will spend money on too!) I started spending lots of money on haircuts when I was working for Target.  A polished corporate image was pretty important.  And even when I no longer had a corporate income, I saved up for a really good haircut.  Because if you feel you look good, it helps in every other part of your life.  My current stylist (Hi Kim!) has become a dear friend to me in the seven years I have been seeing her.  I look forward to my haircuts and always leave with a big smile on my face.  Thanks Kim!

2.  A relaxing pedicure.  (the above photo was a d-y-i job, I don't have a great pic of my professional one!)
 I may be starting to sound like a princess here, but I can hardly place a price on a pedicure.  Having someone massage my feet, and make my toes look too pretty to belong to me, soothes me more than even a massage.  If your feet feel good, your whole body feels good.  I would rather have a pedicure over a manicure, facial, or massage, any day.  Maybe it's because I have a harder time reaching my toes when it's cold, but I don't think that's it.  And if you find a fabulous person, more the better.  Thanks Rebecca!  My pedicures are money very well spent.

3.  Almost anything at Trader Joes.  Do you have places you shop where the money you spend doesn't feel like real money?  I have this same issue at a garden center.  I don't use coupons at Trader Joes, yet I still walk out of there feeling like I got an amazing deal.  I love their selection and their products, and will spend more for a blueberry there than at Super Target without batting an eye.

4.  Bamboo sheets.  Okay, I did get them on sale, but now that I have had them for several years, I would gladly pay full price when it is time to replace them.  Not all bamboo sheets are of the same quality, make sure you can feel them before you buy them.  Each spring, I can't wait for it to warm up enough that I can take the flannel off the bed and put on the bamboo.  They are AMAZING.

5. Unusual plants.  When spring rolls around, and I hit up our local garden centers at least once a week, I have no problem paying a little more money for an incredible plant variety.  I justify the expense by knowing how much pleasure it will give me for the next several months.

What things do you spend a little more on:? 

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

recipe box Wednesday

Has returned!

This year my intention is to share a new recipe with you each week that I am planning to try from my vast archive of cookbooks collecting dust on my bookshelves.

As with many things in my life, I have TOO MANY COOKBOOKS, and plan to lessen the guilt of ownership by actually looking at them this year.

Where to start?  December did add to my collection, with two of my very favorite cooks.  I do use their cookbooks, and often, as evidenced by the ingredient covered pages.

For now, their pages are perfect and pristine, and since I have finally figured out that I should copy the recipe and use that when I cook, perhaps they will stay that way.  (I know, slowly killing trees, but I will recycle something else to make up for it....)

Oh Nigella, I adore you.  I fantasize about a trip to England, and sitting with you in your lovely kitchen while you prepare us something fun.  Your newest book "Nigella Kitchen" is already a favorite.  Unlike other cookbooks, I devour your books like novels, as your writing style is wonderful, in addition to your recipes.

First up this year:  Risotto Bolognese.  Here is her introduction to the recipe:  " There's no denying that this recipe involves a fair bit of fiddle-faddling, but so soothing is the process, so welcoming and enveloping the savory smells emanating from stove and oven as it cooks, so ambrosial the taste, so universally rewarding the experience, that the labor involved can be embraced gladly.  If you don't appreciate this, then you don't deserve it."

It is a rather daunting recipe, a couple of pages long, so I will not attempt to retype it here.  Fortunately, I found a link here:;col1

If you do not have a Nigella cookbook, check one out from your local library and lose yourself.  Or better yet, buy a copy of your own, brew a nice cup of tea, and enjoy a wonderful little trip through food heaven.  I am willing to loan mine out, if you promise to bring me a sample of what you cook. 

I will let you know how the Risotto turns out, looks to be a weekend cooking project!

Monday, January 3, 2011

the month of organizing, week one

Time to cut the clutter.  January always turns my thoughts to cleaning out.  I plan to hit every drawer, cupboard, shelf, and storage box.  No, really.

After almost nineteen years in our little house, we have accumulated WAY too much stuff.

So this is finally the year I tackle it head on.  Not just a bag here and there for Goodwill, or the Epilepsy Foundation. Full scale, all out sorting and removing.

Day one, take down the tree and put away the Christmas decorations.  And before I shove them in the corner of the attic, go through all of the things that didn't even make the cut to come out this year.  Do I really need those boxes of Christmas cards that I got for 75% off? Since I haven't sent an actual Christmas card in seven years?

Who knows, I may even make some headway on clearing out all the extra baggage in my brain, too.

Wish me luck!

Saturday, January 1, 2011

fresh start

"We will open the book. Its pages are blank. We are going to put words on them ourselves. The book is called Opportunity and its first chapter is New Year's Day."

 ~Edith Lovejoy Pierce


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