Wednesday, February 29, 2012

recipe box Wednesday

A very important part of any girlfriend get together is, of course, the food!  Everyone chipped in and made or brought something yummy-it was a buffet of goodness.

My sweet sister sent me this recipe a bit ago.  I love how she finds recipes she thinks I might like and still sends them the old fashioned way, in the mail.  When I rifle through my daily pile of envelopes, of which most are junk, it is so joyful to find my name handwritten on an envelope and know it is from her.

I had been hanging on to this one, in my "to make" pile, thinking I would whip it up the next time we could be together.  But then I realized it would be perfect for my girl weekend of chatting and noshing, so I whipped it up.

It was a hit!  Fresh and yummy and it makes enough for a crowd.  Or in our case, two days worth of snack time.

Click here:  to go to my recipe pages for a printable version.

It is now my new favorite dip, so if you invite me to your party I will be sure to bring it along!

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

it was FAB

No photos yet, I packed food and wine and yarn rather then a camera.  When my friends send me their photos   I will share.

It was three full days of girl talk.  We hardly wanted to take the time to sleep, staying up until 2 am the first night.  You know you are having a great time when you look at the clock and are completely surprised!

We caught up on everything, our kids, our husbands, our parents.  We debated botox, and discussed hair dye, and the experience of college applications.  Favorite books and movies were shared. We reminisced about past parties and fun, and Sue and Sally were smart enough to bring stacks of photos for us to giggle over.

Karen's cabin was the perfect spot for our reunion.  Lots of space and bathrooms, a gorgeous view of the frozen lake, and a huge fireplace to snuggle by.  We all took turns getting food ready, lots of snacking and discovering new beverages.

We did take a break to watch "Bridesmaids", and it was even funnier to watch it with my oldest friends.  Or was it the wine I was drinking while I viewed it?

(this doesn't look that different than the pictures from one of OUR weddings!

As we packed up and headed home, we vowed to get together more often.  If we wait another 15 years we will be sharing pictures of grandkids instead of our past fun!

Thursday, February 23, 2012

we all need our girls

Heading out today for a long overdue weekend with some of my favorite girls.

Scattered across Minnesota, tending to children and parents, we haven't had a weekend away together in nearly FIFTEEN years.

We used to get together almost yearly, and I am sure during the weekend we will talk about our memories of that camping trip to Hinkley (pretty sure that was a bear), or the ski weekend where we ended up stuck in our hotel room in an ice storm, or the giant cabin we rented in Brainerd where we brought more bottles of alcohol than food.

This weekend we will talk about the kids who are now in college or heading off to high school, and the parents who are no longer with us, and turning fifty, and all that goes along with it.

This time I am packing more knitting and books than I am alcohol, but there are several bottles of Old Vin Red just waiting to be savored.  With some very dear friends.

There is nothing quite like your girlfriends to make your life feel whole.

May you all have a beautiful last weekend of February, tales to be told next week!

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

recipe box Wednesday

In keeping with the spirit of Mardi Gras, last night Charlie helped me whip up a little Jambalaya.

Okay, a LOT of Jambalaya, but I like to have leftovers.

I found this recipe on-line, and we loved it:  Jambalya with Shrimp and Andouille Sausage

Fair warning, it is REALLY spicy, which all three of us love.  But if you don't like as much heat, you will want to reduce the hot pepper sauce.  But perhaps Charlie put in more than the recipe called for, he was in charge of the seasonings, and I wouldn't put it past him to add extra.  He uses Tabasco on everything!

I doubled the entire recipe, as when I cook I want to make it last more than one meal.  Mike picked up really wonderful fresh andouille from Kowalski's market, I did cheat and used cooked, peeled, deveined shrimp.  Since it was already cooked, I threw it in (thawed and drained, of course) after I turned the heat off on the pot and let it sit for 5 minutes, which was just right to warm it up, but not make it chewy.

The only thing that would have made the meal completely perfect would have been some fresh beignets and chicory coffee for dessert, but I didn't have THAT much time in my day!  If you find you have time some day and have a hankering for the fried dough, here is a recipe from the same site:

Bon Appetit !

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

nearly there

I am almost to the end of my January/February work overload, I am hoping to get my personal tax package in the mail to my accountant today, and tomorrow I will be boxing up all of those 2011 files and put them in the attic.  I always feel like a huge burden has been lifted from my shoulders when that giant project is done.
Then I need to catch up with the current years activities!

In order to be able to put in more hours than I am used to, I find I need extra breaks.  This week's break will find me browsing through this:

It's the British edition of Country Living magazine, every now and then I will treat myself to a copy (usually when I have a Barnes and Noble coupon in hand!)

I pour a cup of tea, and imagine I am reading the magazine in my little cottage overlooking green fields and sheep.  And I pretend that later I will walk down to the pub for a pint.

I look at the ads for Orangeries and Conservatories, and admire kitchens with beams overhead and an Aga ready for some baking.  I peruse the Properties for sale, and imagine purchasing the Edwardian house in Maidstone, Kent which includes a detached two-bedroom cottage.  Swoon.

I dream of going to the Country Living Spring Fair in London, this March.  I would bring home all kinds of goodies and inspiration for my own business.

And then I am ready to go back to my paperwork, after a lovely little respite and some chair traveling.  Do you go on dream trips in your mind?

Friday, February 17, 2012

mid week break

Having been married nearly 25 years, my husband and I have fallen into a married life routine. In the morning, we get the kid off to school, read our favorite blogs or visit our preferred internet sites,  peruse the paper, bring each other coffee, manage our email.

Owning a business together means we spend far more time with each other than most couples do, and we tend to spend most of that time making business decisions or talking about the future.  It's all very serious and important and life altering.  Not really, but necessary to keep ACES going.

Winter weekends Mike and Charlie do a lot of skiing, while I make things for my Etsy shop or spend time with friends.  Summer weekends find them off on their dirt bikes, and me in my garden.  A cozy, easy routine that I have really grown to love.

But now and then you need to shake things up and get out of the routine, and that is just what Mike and I did this week.  We had been asked to speak to the Entrepreneur's Club at the University of Minnesota Duluth, so we headed up bright and early on Weds. morning to do just that.  As we walked the campus, I tried to remember my college student days, oh so long ago, and wondered what the students thought of that old couple walking through their midst.  Actually, they paid no attention to us.

The students who showed up to listen to us asked great questions and seemed interested in what we had to say, which is really all you can ask for.  And after an hour, we were free, to enjoy Duluth, a treasured place.

First stop was a restaurant we adore, Va Bene, ( ) for a little lunch.  We sat in the porch dining area, which is located right on the shores of Lake Superior, sun streaming through the windows, the view of Duluth's shoreline spread out before us.  Wonderful music in the background (think Ella-I love when restaurant's play good music!), and amazing food in front of us.  I had the BLT, which was really a PLT, as being an Italian restaurant it was made with pancetta instead of bacon.  Oh my.  It was panini style, with perfectly toasted crusty salty bread, just the right amount of mayo, thick slices of tasty fresh say I was in food heaven is NOT an exaggeration.  I was literally swooning and thanked the chef on the way out for ruining blt's for me forever.  Sometimes the simplest food is the best.

It was sunny and nearly warm in Duluth, they have hardly any snow.  It certainly did not feel like February 15th.  We walked down to Fitgers and browsed the shops, I picked up a new book at a little independent bookstore "West from Here" that I am dying to dive into.  Because I just may be running out of books....ha.

Then we headed down to Canal Park and checked in to our hotel.  This trip brought us to the Inn on Lake Superior, we have stayed here many times before and have always been impressed.  I found an on-line deal on a King Whirlpool suite, which included a $40 gift card to a restaurant, along with a bottle of champagne, and chocolates.  How can that be bad?

I tucked in for a delicious nap on the giant bed, Mike went to explore Duluth Pack and the Ship Museum, and just soak in the views of the Lake.  Kind of a perfect late afternoon.

The evening found us at Black Woods Grill, ( ) a cozy restaurant of dark woods, subdued lights, roomy leather booths, wonderful music, superb food, and excellent service.  A bottle of shiraz to accompany the meal, and we proclaimed the whole experience very nearly perfect.

Upon arriving at our hotel, we found they had fires going outside by the lake, and s'more fixings just ready to be used.  So of course we had to make one, outside with the brisk air coming off the lake.  Seriously?  Had we fallen into a movie?

The morning found us drinking coffee in bed and not worrying about anything, not our kid, or our store, or our to-do lists.  A much needed break from the routine of every day life.  Fortified with a yummy breakfast, we headed to the Dewitt Sietz Marketplace ( ) and went to a shop I ADORE, Two and Co.  ( We met the owner, he is the one responsible for all of the ultra creative fixturing found throughout the space.  And the best part?  Mike picked up a little Valentine gift for me there.  I am glad he waited!

The North Shore beckoned, so we headed up to Two Harbors, enjoying the views along the way.  A mandatory stop is Russ Kendall's Smoked Fish, where we picked up smoked trout and cheese and crackers.  Finding a perfect little stop along the shore, we devoured the sweet, smooth, smoky fish and then crawled among the rocks, taking in the absolutely pure air off the lake and filling our lungs with it.

(Really, we WERE having fun-even though Mike looks a little serious (taking a good picture is hard work...)

There is just something about that area of Minnesota that has always drawn us, and we return from our time  there renewed and refreshed.  While it was just an overnight trip, we made the most of it and are now ready to go back to our routines.

We finished our trip with quite a finale, at the Anchor Bar in Superior.  It's one of those places that you wonder if the health inspector ever visits,  full of true character that was not designed in a corporate office.  Salty waitresses, regular customers at the bar, the smell of fried onions in the air.  Pieces of mementos and parts of old salties hang from the ceiling and are permanently adhered to the walls by years of smoke and grease. There was a bartender and a cook, and it took AN HOUR from the time we ordered our burger until they were thrown in front of us.  You do not go to this place for express service, you go to soak up the atmosphere.  And the burgers and hand cut fries are incredible, our spot at the bar gave us a view into the tiny kitchen, where the potatoes are literally cut right before they are thrown in the fryer.  It was the exclamation point at the end of our short trip.

Our 14 year old (going on 18) was happy to stay home alone, and take care of Claude.  He did just fine managing himself, and was able to get up and off to school, and even made his own lunch.  Which means now that he has shown he is capable of doing so, he should be able to do that every day, right?  He loves having a little independence, and I think it is healthy for him to be away from the parents for a night now and then.

A good couple of days, all around.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

happy hearts day !

Valentines Day makes my heart happy.  I love going through my boxes of papers and trims and vintage valentines, rubber stamps and glitter and ribbon, and crafting little cards for friends and family.  It reminds me of making the Valentine holder for school as a child, covering an oatmeal box and making it pretty to collect tiny Valentines from classmates.  I still have some of mine, and it is so fun to go through them.

I know Valentines Day has it's detractors, but I disagree.  It doesn't have to be about the giant bouquet of roses delivered to your office, or a heart shaped box of chocolates, or something sparkly in a black velvet box. Just a sincere hug, or a kind word, or a little note to friend you haven't seen in ages.  Just remind someone how much you care for them.  

No, we shouldn't need a reminder to do that, but some people need a nudge.

How can you not love a holiday that emphasizes chocolate?  Speaking of, I better get going on those red velvet cupcakes for my guys...

Hoping your Valentine's day is sweet!

(and for a real Valentine treat, head on over to visit Susan Branch today, she knows how to celebrate Valentines Day!


Monday, February 13, 2012

music in my ear

Every morning when I wake up, there is a song running through my head.

Sometimes it makes sense, like this morning, when Adele was mixing with Whitney Houston in my brain this morning, after seeing a snippet of the Grammys last night.  (I missed Bruce, dang!  Hoping to find a clip of it somewhere today...)

Can I just say, Adele's voice is absolutely incredible?  And I love that she is not a size 0 performer in an odd costume.  No half clothed back up dancers, just a pure beautiful voice.  But back to my subconscious music problem...

This summer, I had songs from the movie Mike was making for my parent's anniversary running through my head for weeks.

Now and then they are commercial jingles, the morning after the Super Bowl it was the song from the Matthew Broderick Honda commercial.  Ohhhhh yeah.

Does everyone have this, or do I have a strange brain?  Maybe it's the musical part of my brain that feels untapped, and can only come through when I wake up in the morning?

No matter, it's kind of nice to wake up to a little music every morning.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

recipe box Wednesday, and the winner is:

Using the Custom Random Number Generator, from, the winner of the Susan Branch cookbook is:

Number 2 !

Your sister is so sweet! I would love to have lunch with my grandma who passed away about 27 years ago. I didn't appreciate her wisdom and grace and would love to talk to her about some things I didn't understand then. It is very foggy here too - but everything is covered with hoarfrost - breathtaking!

Congratulations Ann!  Just email me ( with your address and I will pop it in the mail to you.

Today's recipe feels like one that Susan would have in her cookbook, and she would adorn the page so beautifully.  This is one of those recipes clipped from a magazine (I think it was either Family Circle or Woman's Day or Better Homes and Gardens) many years ago, and it has become a family favorite.  If I lined up all of the scones I made from this recipe over the years it may even stretch around the globe.  But then, I did not mathematically calculate that, I just like the idea....

Easy Drop Scones are a little moister than a traditional English scone, and they pack a lot of flavor.  While the recipe calls for dried and fresh cranberries, I have also made them with blueberries, cherries, and apricots.  The possibilities are endless!  And you can skip the white chocolate chips if you so choose, but I like the little pockets of sweetness they provide in contrast to the tart cranberries.  I use raw cane sugar to sprinkle the tops, regular sugar works fine in a pinch.  I love the ease of this recipe, just mix, drop and bake.  No rolling or scoring as in other scone recipes.  Bake up a batch and see if you like them as much as I do!

Go to my recipe pages for the printable page:

And thanks for stopping by today!

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

high school daze

Firstly, if you haven't already, don't forget to enter my cookbook giveaway!

Your chances of winning are far greater than entering a Pioneer Woman freebie...just leave a comment on that post, and let me know of someone you admire that you would love to have lunch with, contest ends at midnight tonight, night of the Snow Moon!

Now back to the topic at hand...

I sat last night in an auditorium filled with parents and their 13 and 14 year olds.  The sides of the room were lined with teachers in bright red, the stage was adorned with festive red and white balloons.  I listened to the principal welcome what will be the class of 2016, and he let the kids know that even though that seemed rather far off, the next four years would fly by.  We listened attentively as IB programs were explained, and extra curricular offerings.  I was only half listening, the other half of me was wondering how I got to this moment.

Wasn't I just holding his fingers as he toddled down the sidewalk, in search of garbage trucks or a good construction project?

Didn't we just spend the morning at the library, followed by some cookie baking after nap time?

Wasn't he just walking out the door for his first day of first grade?

I was rather in a daze as we wandered through the field house, endless tables of eager students and teachers ready to explain Computer Science, the Debate Team, National Honor Society, the Yearbook Committee.  We ran into families from our days at Horace Mann, and I was astonished at how much their children had changed since I last saw them in fifth grade.  I am sure they were thinking the same thing about Charlie.

We did a self tour of the building, Charlie ran into kids he knew, and his comment was "Mom, I really feel at home here."

He is still trying to decide between staying at his charter school or attending Highland, our neighborhood high school.  He is doing shadowing days in the next few weeks at both places, and then he will have to make a decision.  They are completely different choices, TCA has graduating classes of two dozen students, while Highland is more like 400.  TCA has few offerings for extra-curricular, but a wonderfully rigorous academic focus and tremendous small school support.  Highland has an IB program, and a club or activity for absolutely every interest.  Asian Dance, Food and Film, Chess, you name it, they have it.

Soon another chapter of life will open-I have a few months to get my heart ready.

Friday, February 3, 2012

movie dreams

I finally had a chance to watch "Midnight in Paris", and I am still thinking about it.  I fell in love with it, and I think Owen Wilson did an amazing job.  Having a bit of art in my background, seeing Picasso, and Dali, Degas and Toulouse Lautrec just put me over the moon.  Marion Cotillard was luminescent, and Kathy Bates was ideal as Gertrude Stein.  Here is a trailer for the movie, but it doesn't show much of what I thought made the movie so good:

So that got me to thinking, if you were magically transported to another time, and had a chance to meet (or dance with!) someone from the past, who would it be?

I have lots of ideas, one of the first people I would like to visit with would be Mary Cassatt.  I adored her paintings, posters of them papered my dorm room in college.  I would ask her about the influence of Paris on her painting, and why she focused on women and children in most of her art, and how she really preferred not to be labeled as part of the Impressionist movement.  She was very independent for her time, and it would be so interesting to have a cup of tea with her in Paris.

Five O'Clock Tea by Mary Cassatt

This may have to a running thread in my blog over the next few weeks, I have many people from history I would love to spend time with!

So I leave you with this question for the weekend-if you were transported in time, when and where would it be and who would you want to see?

Thursday, February 2, 2012

celebrating good things

February is here!  Looking out my window, I feel like perhaps I have moved to San Francisco-the fog has enveloped us for the last couple of days.  Very little snow on the ground may lead us to think that spring may be just around the corner, but the Groundhog today said, not so fast!

Today I am announcing a little give away to celebrate my four year blogiversary.  Regular readers will know how much I adore Susan Branch-her cookbooks, her art, her blog, and just the way she lives her life.  I found a copy of her very first cookbook at a tiny independent bookstore last summer, and have been waiting for just the right time to give it away.  This is the time!

I was fortunate to meet Susan Branch in person at a book signing many years ago, and I had a brush with her last fall.  She is one of those people I would love to have lunch with someday.  Leave a comment below and let me know who YOU love and admire and would like to lunch with someday, and you will be entered to win her first cookbook.

One entry per person (please make sure I have your email address, so I can contact you when you win!), the contest ends at midnight on Tues. February 7th.  There is a full moon that night, and if you read Susan's blog you will know that February's full moon is a "Snow Moon".  Here is a link to a blog post she wrote about moons, if you have some extra time:  She also provides a link to a fun, free printable bookmark:

All kinds of Susan love today!  Good luck!

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

recipe box Wednesday

Today brings us to February-although with the weather lately it feels more like April!

February always makes me think of cherries and chocolate, and today I share with you one of my favorite cookie recipes.  I remember making dozens of these for a long weekend party we had for Mike and his friends fortieth birthday celebration, nearly 11 years ago.  Enjoy!

Here is the link to the printable page:

Oh how I wish I had a photo to share with you, you would want to take a bite of your computer screen!  And now I may need to whip up a batch....


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