Wednesday, December 28, 2011

recipe box Wednesday

Realizing I have completely neglected my semi-regular feature on Wednesdays, today I have a new, EASY recipe that you can whip up in no time.

I claim no creativity here, I found out about it on the interwebs and I am sharing it with you, in this season of giving....

Do you love turtles?  (not the slimy ones, the candy kind).  I do, and my mother has always been a big fan.  My favorite turtles are from Tremblays (I have been to their stores in Stillwater, MN and  Hayward, WI),  here is their on-line store:

But with no time for a fun day of shopping in either of those picturesque cities, I made some!

Easy Turtles

1 bag of Rolo candies (you will need to unwrap them)
OR 3 or 4 rolls of Rolos (you won't have to unwrap the individual ones)
mini pretzels (I used the square ones from Snyders, and the stars from Old Dutch)
pecan halves, or whole cashews, or roasted almonds-choose your favorite nut!

Preheat the oven to 350.  Place pretzels on a baking sheet, top each with a rolo.  Pop in the oven for 3 or 4 minutes.  As soon as you take them out, use a spatula to slip them onto a cooling rack.  (this can be a little messy, so be careful, as the rolos are melting as you work).  The minute they hit the rack, top them with a nut and smash the rolo down a bit.

Let them cool (you will be very tempted to eat them all up-but they won't be as messy once they have cooled)!

Not as good as Tremblay's, but they sure work in a fix!  Sorry I have no photos, I ate them all.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

I must SHARE!

Long time blog readers will know of my absolute adoration for Susan Branch.  She sends out a wonderful monthly newsletter and writes an amazing blog.  She never fails to bring a smile to my face, and lift my spirits.  I own all of her cookbooks, which are some of the very favorites in my collection, and was even fortunate enough to meet her once and autograph my books.

(image from

I regularly check in to her blog, it is one of the best parts of my day when she has a new post.  This one I absolutely had to share-she is a movie girl like me- and this post is the most comprehensive list of wonderful movies ever!  So go here and be assured you will find something you have not yet seen:

Pop some corn, grab a cozy blanket and a cup of tea (or glass of wine!) and find a new personal favorite on a cold winter's night.

Thanks to Susan for sharing her love with us!

Monday, December 26, 2011

our Christmas baby

It was December of 1973 and my mom was expecting her third child.  At eleven years old, most of my friends moms were done having kids, so it was kind of strange to have a pregnant mom.  (She was 31 at the time, which back then seemed SO OLD to be having a baby, boy how things have changed!)

And of course at the age of eleven, all I was worried about was how much having a baby in our house would change MY life.  I had been five when my brother was born, and had been in total heaven helping to care for him.  But this, this was different.  I already knew I was going to be sharing a room with this new baby, which didn't sound fun to me at all.

Christmas eve we were at my aunt's house, busy eating snacks and opening gifts.  My mom seemed quieter than usual, and every once in a while I caught her wincing, hoping no one was noticing.  But it was Christmas eve, the BEST NIGHT OF THE YEAR when you are a kid, so I didn't pay too much attention to her.

When we got home, my brother and I were busy putting on our new pajamas, making sure there were cookies for Santa, and desperately trying to go to sleep.

I awoke early on Christmas day, as most children do, and hurried down the hall to see what Santa had brought.    I couldn't figure out why my aunt was there, on the couch, until she told me that my mom and dad were at the hospital!  Then it hit me, today would not be a normal Christmas day at all, I was getting a new brother or sister for Christmas!  (Bless my mom's heart, she wouldn't leave for the hospital until she had filled our stockings and put the gifts from Santa under the tree, she did everything she could to keep things normal.)

I remember my dad arriving home shortly after that, glowing and smiling from ear to ear, proudly telling Kelly and I that we had a beautiful new baby sister, and that our mom was resting and ready to sleep the day away.

We dressed in our Christmas clothes and headed out to my grandparent's house for Christmas dinner-it just wasn't the same without my mom.  Back then, kids weren't allowed to visit moms in the hospital, so we didn't get to see her until she came home a couple of days later.  With our amazing new baby.  And oh, she was the most beautiful baby ever born.  And she still is.

Turns out I LOVED taking care of her.  My parents would tease her that I was her real mom.  Which may be why we are so very close, to this day.

Happy Birthday to my amazing sister.  You are brave and strong, courageous and caring, kind and smart.  You are independent and the most incredible mom to your son. You were the best thing that ever happened to our family, and we are so blessed that you are in our lives!!!  LOVE YOU!

And I can't wait to help you celebrate in a few days.  After all, when you are born on Christmas day, you should get to celebrate for an entire week!

Saturday, December 24, 2011

...and to all, a good night!

Christmas Eve is here.

Will you spend it waiting in line at the grocery store, wondering why you didn't pick up milk a couple of days ago?

Will you be wrapping gifts and looking for extra scotch tape?

Are you all done, and ready to enjoy a quiet day with friends?

Did you stay up all last night completing things, and today just want a nap?

Or maybe you will be traveling, heading home to family.

Perhaps you have to work today, and look forward to leaving early to start the holiday.

My gifts are wrapped, but I have not started baking, so I am hoping to get a thing or two made in the morning before we head in to ACES.

And I will also take the time today, to remember Christmas Eve in the past:  Taking out the pink sponge curlers from my hair and putting on a skirt for our church Christmas program, looking forward to the candy cane sundaes we would have at Bridgemans after it was over.  Trying to get to sleep on Christmas eve-listening so hard to hear the sound of sleigh bells in the cold night sky.  Wrapping the presents my dad bought that day for my mom.  Helping my mom get treats ready for the evening's celebrations, so happy to be home from college.  Helping Charlie put out cookies and milk for Santa, and carrots for the reindeer, and staying awake until Charlie fell asleep so I could fill his stocking and put his gift from Santa under the tree.

It truly is, a wonderful life.

Merry Christmas to all!  May the love of family and friends surround you.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

house full of memories

Since the holiday season isn't busy enough, we have recently started house hunting.


Yes, I have said this was the house we were never leaving, remember when we spent weeks last fall painting the exterior and reglazing and painting almost all of the 252 panes of glass in our house?  A labor of love for our little house, that we were spending the rest of our lives in.  (here it is prior to the big paint make over):

But suddenly, we have decided it is time, as our 'starter house' is no longer suited for our lifestyle, so we have begun the search.  A very good friend is a realtor, so he has been helping us dig up potential sites.

Some days I think we may have lost our minds, as I can't even begin to imagine packing up our twenty years of living.  And getting this house ready to sell.  And dealing with all that a move would involve.  Leaving behind our neighborhood, where the little grocery store is just a short walk away, and we can walk to The Nook for a burger and beer.

But the other part of me, that has always dreamed of a bigger kitchen, a room just for my Etsy creating, a porch, and a big back yard, is nearly giddy with excitement.  It's a great time to buy a house, not a great time to sell one.  So we will see what the next few months will bring.

I sit on my couch, in the early morning hours before the rest of the house has awakened, and think of all the memories secured in these walls.  The first day we owned it, painting walls as our realtor delivered champagne. The moving in party we had with all of our friends, who generously gave of their time and trucks to help us start our new life.  The dinner parties we have had over the years, or parties celebrating engagements, baby showers, anniversaries.  The family celebrations for Easter, Thanksgiving, Christmas.  Bringing Charlie home from the hospital, listening to his first steps echo on the wood floors.  The sounds of our neighborhood drifting through the window screens on a warm summer night.  The many dinners in our backyard, planting new flowers in the window boxes every year, bringing in the Christmas tree and enjoying it's warm glow on cold winter nights.

How can I possibly leave that all behind?
This just might do it....

Monday, December 19, 2011

Monday musings

At this time next week, you may be sleeping in.  The presents will all be unwrapped, no more secrets to be held tight.  The box holding the cookies will just have crumbs and colored sugar remnants in it. The holiday meal leftovers will be stored in the refrigerator, perhaps you will look forward to reading a new book today, or hitting up the after Christmas sale at your favorite store.

Will there be snow?  Here in St. Paul it looks to be a brown Christmas this year.  You may recall Christmas for the last two years was decidedly white, this was Christmas Eve, 2009:

In fact, we had such a snowstorm on Christmas Eve that the Mall of America closed EARLY.  Definitely a first in their history. So since we didn't have to work we were able to start our Christmas eve celebration a little early.  We played Monopoly, and you could only open a gift if you landed in jail.  A great way to make the fun last.

How has Charlie changed so much in just two years?????

I think on this date last year we already had at least 3 feet of snow on the ground.  The streets were narrowed by giant snow banks, and we were wishing for a giant flame thrower to come and clear the ice from the streets. I don't think it all melted until April.

I am okay with no snow for now, running errands yesterday in the 40 degree sunshine was certainly more agreeable than sliding down icy streets and climbing over crusty snowbanks to get to your favorite store.
But a light, fluffy dusting, to coat the grass and tree branches, would be just fine for Christmas eve.

Last night I was at a Christmas cocktail party (thanks Julie!  such fun!).  It was the only holiday party on my calendar this year, and it was so nice to sit with other moms and just enjoy the season.

Less than a week now, to finish shopping and baking.  I took holiday cards off my plate several years ago when we moved to the MOA, I just couldn't make it work.  Now I send Happy Winter cards, or Valentines, to those on my list instead.  I may do some baking, but other than Aunt Katie's sugar cookies there is nothing I feel required to make, in order for Christmas to arrive.

I have stocked up on lefse, and family favorite treats we only have on Christmas Eve:  Chicken in a Biscuit crackers for Mike, tiny sausages for Charlie, a nice Brie for me that I will wrap in pastry dough and bake, then serve with a little chutney or jam.  I will need a Trader Joe's run this week, to pick up olives, and favorite crackers and meats.

We already  have our holiday bottles of real Coke, and several good bottles of wine and beer.  I love the quiet of our little house on Christmas eve, we have music playing in the background while we snack and open gifts, then we usually put in a movie:  Elf, or the Grinch, or Charlie Brown.

Charlie has requested Mike's spaghetti for Christmas Day, so I will be able to relax rather than spending the day in the kitchen making holiday ham and all that goes along with it.  I can whip up a crunchy green salad and throw a baguette in the oven and call it good.  I should come up with a fun dessert, perhaps some cookbook browsing is in order.  And for sure I need to make Tracy Lane's Ricotta cookies-oh my heavens.

We will get to see our families in Bemidji after Christmas, we will be spending a couple of days with them before New Years, a nice, relaxed time.

Are you ready?  Are you already looking forward to next Monday?

Friday, December 16, 2011

the holiday spirit

Since I work from home, I try to keep the house as cozy and stress free as possible. It can be tricky to separate business from home life, especially at this time of year, when I am fulfilling gift cards from the dining room table, receiving inventory for the store,  and finding hiding places for presents.

One way I do this is to throw splashes of holiday wherever I can, to remind me that the holiday is about being jolly, not stressed out.

Pulling out red and green that I already own in the kitchen:

Decorating my shipping area for my Etsy shop-it's been a busy December for bracelets!

Using things I already have to create a festive touch:

I found this edition of The Night Before Christmas a few years ago, it was the exact book we had growing up (that had long since been sold at a yard sale).  Love it!  There is a little mouse hiding in a shoe on the shelf next to it.

This is the one new holiday decoration I purchased this year, I found it at Gypsy Moon (one of my favorite local little stores).  Isn't it sweet?  I used to do paper cutting, but no longer have the patience (or eyesight) for it:

Some years I like to decorate the same spots as the year before, but usually I like to shake things up and see  what new ideas I come up with.  But some items always have to be in the same spot, or it just isn't Christmas-this little stocking has hung in the same spot for almost 20 Christmases:

How do you like to decorate?  Is your tree up yet?

Sunday, December 11, 2011

ode to the December mom

When the calender flips 
to the month of December
Most moms take a deep breath.

December is not just wrapping gifts.
December is coming up with the ideas,
Racking your brain for that perfect thought.
Shopping for those presents,
Sometimes standing in line,
Or checking out several stores.
Wrapping those presents,
Mailing those presents, 
to make sure they arrive in time
or delivering them to where they belong.

Teacher gifts
Caregiver gifts
Did you remember your mailman?

Is the school concert on the calendar?
Do the dress shoes still fit, 
or do you need another shopping trip?
Do the dress pants need to be hemmed?
Don't forget to charge the batteries in the camera.

It's snowing, where are those boots?
Do the snow pants still fit
and where the heck is that other mitten?
Of course I can make hot chocolate
when you come in from the cold
but the marshmallows may be a little stale.

Advent calendars (it's okay that it's December 5th)
and elves on shelves
that need to move each day
and of course don't forget to fill their shoes
on St. Nicholas Day.

Now where did I put the stockings?
And do I have enough to fill them?

Thank goodness I made a copy of the Santa letter
before he brought it to the mailbox
except he has already changed his mind,
can I still change that Amazon order?

The school needs treats for the bake sale
and could I fill in an extra volunteer day this month?

And what about those children
with December birthdays?
Do your best to make it perfect
so they don't feel neglected
in the hustle and bustle
and please don't use Santa paper
on their birthday present.

Our holiday card isn't done, 
we need a funny photo!
Shall I just print them at home?
Wait, not enough printer ink.
And the internet is down,
maybe they can be New Year's cards.

Forgot to pick up the holiday stamps, 
and where is my address book?
I don't have the Smith's new address, 
that card can wait until I get one from them.

And now the Christmas Eve menu
did I remember the cocktail weenies?
Does Target carry lefse?

What are we wearing for the big day?
Does last years red sweater still fit?

The cat is running low on meds, 
and the dog needs a walk 
and a teeth cleaning
and a new bag of food.

Where to get the tree this year?
What kind did we have
that wasn't our favorite
and where the heck is the stand
and HOW many lights are burnt out?

After working all day, 
stay merry and happy 
as you prepare dinner for your family
before you tackle the laundry
and head out for more gift shopping.

Now one of the kids has a fever
and the husband is feeling neglected
and your flex money in your health plan
needs to be spent by the end of the month.

Don't forget the work party
and Secret Santa in the office
and your mother-in-law
would like you to shop for her.

You find yourself flipping the calendar
to January
and dreaming of quieter days and nights
and a nice long nap.

To all of you moms everywhere, doing it ALL this month.  


(this was inspired by all of the moms in my life-YOU are a true gift to your family)

Thursday, December 8, 2011

fa la la la la

My halls are decked!
They were actually decked the weekend after Thanksgiving, I am just getting around to sharing with you.
This is the first year in a long time that I actually felt joy while I was decorating.  Owning a business can suck the fun out of the season, if you let it.  I decided this year I would pursue joy!
I own a lot of Christmas things I have had for years, that hold fond memories of times past, as well as new things I find along the way that spark my interest.
I like to pull out red and green things I already own, that make me happy.  Teapots, coffee cups, cookbooks, and then find a way to let them join the fun.
Today I share with you the tiny things I have tucked here and there. You will find I have quite a fondness for snowmen.
Yes, old telephone nooks do still serve a purpose!

More to come as my little Christmas tour continues.  Are you decking your halls?

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

you call THIS a holiday gift?

Now don't get me wrong, I believe in the spirit of giving, at all times of year, not just Christmas.
But some items that are being marketed as holiday gifts really set my teeth on edge.  (remember, I have been in bed for two days watching daytime television....)

Items that should NEVER be given as a gift:

1.  Rain gutters.  Even if the squirrels are wearing santa hats in the ad, DO NOT buy your loved one a rain gutter system.

2.  Vacuum cleaners.  While I adore my Oreck vacuum, I would literally cry if I received one for a Christmas present.  A vacuum is a necessary household tool, not a GIFT.

3. Teeth Whitening.  While I would like whiter teeth, please don't give me this as a present.  Personal improvement gifts that also fall in this category are foot sloughing products and hair dye.  Gentle reminders are not very well disguised as presents.

There are so many gift choices available now, you could literally do all of your shopping on Etsy alone!  So don't fall into any marketing traps that lead you to believe that ANYTHING is a good gift.  You all have a better heart than that.

And did you know Chia pets are still around?  In more varieties than ever. I do believe I need a White Elephant gift this year...

(Enough griping, I will get back to happy holiday postings tomorrow!  Thanks for indulging me...)

Tuesday, December 6, 2011


Sorry-down and out here on the corner of Hamline and Hartford.

Woke up early yesterday morning with stomach distress, it got progressively worse until I was just a lump under my covers.

My head was pounding, it felt like an alien was trying to break out of my body.  A flu bug?  Food poisoning?  So I went through a litany in my head of what I had eaten the previous day (which only made me feel more nauseated....)

At that point it didn't really matter, I just wanted to feel better.  Nothing helped.  Sips of water was all I could manage.  Every muscle in my body hurt, there was no comfortable spot to be in.

You know I am sick when I don't even want to read, or knit.  So I spent the entire day, under the covers.

I HATE being sick!  I have too much to do!  Charlie needs his lunch packed, there is laundry piling up, gift card orders to mail, my Etsy shop to manage.

Today is a bit better, I was able to keep down toast, and open my laptop, and see what was going on in the world.  I even read a little bit, in between the pounding in my head.  Had a little turkey broth, going to try some tea next.

Charlie is an excellent care giver, he set up a movie for me on my laptop last night, to watch in bed.  This morning before he left for school, he asked if I could hurry up and get better so his life could get back to normal.

How do you battle a stomach bug?  No matter if it is the stomach flu or food poisoning, you pretty much have to treat them the same, and hope to god they go away soon... My wish to all of you, my dear readers, is that this particular bug does not find you this season!

Friday, December 2, 2011

turkey day remembered

Was it really just a week ago that the holiday madness began?  That yummy turkey dinner seems far more than a week ago, what happens to the passage of time in December?

Here we are, enjoying our meal (the desserts are on the table to remind us to leave room....):
Here is the food:
And yes, Mike is growing his beard for the winter, here he is in profile enjoying a piece of lefse.  We really love lefse.  Maybe someday I will make my own, but for now Mrs. Olson's from Gonvick fills the bill.
The leftovers have been tossed, and I made a huge batch of stock from the carcass.  Moving on to December.

What will you do this first December weekend?


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