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rewind, recap

December 29th, 2010 | 6 Comments »

Every year seems to pass a bit more quickly than the last, or seem to anyway. I find myself peering at December’s calendar page often wondering how I got there; it’s not like I didn’t watch a glorious Spring burst into bloom in my yard, and beyond, or scuttle my way through the intensely hot summer, sweating in the kitchen at work and honing muscles I never thought I had. I did get all the freedom available to be able to fully appreciate the amazing and wondrous Autumn that landed in our midst, full of stunning color and temperate days of endless blue skies. I know all those seasons passed me, but still, here I am facing the last few weeks of 2010 and I find myself wondering “Just what did I DO this past year?”

And oh folks, when I think about that, I kind of get chills.

Because last year at this time, when I reflected over 2009, I was nearly in tears. Well, I was in tears. 2009 was hard. Very hard. Maybe you’ve noticed I’m a bit tender-hearted? That I feel my life pretty deeply? 2009 was like a constant rasp on my skin that I couldn’t get away from. I was so eager for another year, for the flip of the calendar page that spoke of new promise, of opportunity and chances to climb out of the darkness that seemed to chase after me in 2009. I wanted life to get better, and it far and away surpassed my expectations. 2010 had copious fanfare, waving flags and plenty of ‘Hip, Hip, Hooray!’ moments.


How can you NOT think your year will be amazing when in the very first month your life changes dramatically in one night, your simplest food idea ends up on The Kitchn website and sends 1000’s of hits to your humble little blog and you find the world’s most perfect waffle recipe ever?

I knew after I met up with 40 other bloggers from Minnesota last January that something very fundamental began shifting in my life, but I had no idea the lengths it would go to infiltrate the kind of friendships it has. The women I met that night have changed my life, and I don’t say that lightly. They are amazing. And God sent. And beautiful. And real. A year later and I feel as if we’ve only scratched the surface of where it will go. That in itself is incredible. I can’t wait to see where this leads in the year ahead.


The second month brought an increased desire to really stop and look at the world around me each day, as I dove into Project 365 with a photo a day. I was posting on Flickr, then stopped, but the habit has more or less continued and I love scrolling back over my photos, seeing what life was showing me each day. This month was filled with some really simple pleasures like Chocolate Toll House Bars, Pumpkin Pancakes and White Bean Salads. It was also the month that a part of my past went up in flames in South Minneapolis.

It was a month where I began to be less concerned about deviating from food posts on this blog, and started exploring other means of using it to talk about my life.


March always starts with my birthday. 2009 was a stellar celebration as I turned 45 with a blow-out party. It was quieter this year. There were Oatmeal Pancakes, a pan of Gingerbread that kept mysteriously disappearing every time I looked at it and the discovery of one of my most favorite simple meals. But it ended in a life-changing halt when my beloved Harmon became so sick that we needed to put him to sleep. His 17 years in my life still grips at my heart sometimes with a sorrow that dissolves me.

But then came


We renewed ourselves, I discovered how incredible Boursin cheese could be when blended with Spinach, I started seeking out more memories of my life through baking childhood favorites and Eli came bouncing noisily into our lives spreading love and affection at every turn. I also became gainfully employed again, as the Pantry Chef at a local Yacht Club. It was a palpable relief to our finances.


I worked. A lot. I thought it was a lot anyway, but in May I had no clue how hard and how much I was about to work. I managed to enjoy the fruits of Spring with Cardamom Spiked Rhubarb Crisp, and Roasted Apricots in Cardamom Syrup. But little else came from my kitchen, as I was absorbed and enfolded into a job that would push me through the next five months like a tsunami in my life.


I managed to blog about strawberries soaked in brown sugar and balsamic vinegar, and share a superbly simple and delicious Fish Taco with you all, not to mention a post about the beauty that was bursting out all over my garden. But that was about it. The job engulfed my life. And me.


How was your July? Hot? Fun? Did you take a vacation, go to the beach, explore somewhere new? I managed to make a stellar Pizza Burger, found out how wonderful Guacamole can be when you grill all the items first, and captured high summer in my garden. But that was it for me. July? What July? At least I managed to pick Blueberries.


Huh? August? Really? I dealt with a bounty of garden tomatoes and I made Chipotle Lime Roasted Nuts. Someone hold me back from the excitement. I worked and sweated more than I thought was possible. At home, I did little else but drink coffee and do laundry. However, at night when I was done and life quieted down, the summer unfolded some amazing night-time weather to enjoy.


The ninth month was like one long deep breath for me. Work slowed down enough for me to be able to look around and really see what kind of life was going on. Griffin started 11th grade, the weather turned and I made Applesauce. The colors began unfolding their glory and soup started simmering on the stove. I reflected heavily on ‘Where I’m From’.


Glorious, delirious October. Probably the most stunning Fall season I have ever known. Warm days, cool nights and color splashes everywhere, beyond your craziest imagination. We walked around in a fog of delight, enraptured of the weather. Really, it was all we talked about. And work ended in a wave that was full of bittersweet relief.  I utilized thinking on a different view of life, made Apple Streusel Bars and a Blueberry Coffee Cake out of Rice Krispies. But the month ended with a cracked up car and a messed up skull despite the joy of saving 6 feline lives.


It was National Blog Posting Month. I blogged every. single. day. I loved it, but I’ll spare you a recap of it all as I mostly resuscitated recipes from my archives (did you KNOW I have a Recipe Index? It’s up at the top of the page!). There was, however, a stellar Peanut Butter Banana Bread, Sweet Potato Biscuits and Whole Wheat Muffins with Quinoa and Squash. It was a delicious month.

And now, it’s


entered a contest and my recipe took 2nd Place. I got paid to write a blog post, my very first paid blogging job, and I created an amazing Curried Squash and Corn Risotto. I also baked another memory, which I am swiftly finding to be my most favorite aspect of writing this blog.

And now, time to move on again into 2011. Again I feel that something big is on the horizon, and there is promise already with this blog, which you will read about as it unfolds after the new year begins. It’s going to be a good start to 2011, and one that I hope will lead to a lot of other opportunities. It’s nice at this point to feel so blessed by the past 12 months. It gives me much more hope for the next 12.

ornamental memories

December 5th, 2010 | 18 Comments »

My friend Missy, the Marketing Mama has gathered some blogging friend together to talk and reminisce about Christmas ornaments that they love, and the reasons why they’re so important to them. I knew I had to participate in this fun blog carnival because I’ve often considered the fact that should I ever have a fire in my home, one thing I know I would be crushed to lose would be my boxes of Christmas ornaments. The history that unfolds each year as I pull them out and unwrap them never ceases to amaze me, and to fascinate Griffin. He loves looking them over as much as I do, and has contributed many ornaments over the years that are absolutely priceless to me.

And that’s where I will start…. with the first ones he gave me.

This wreath was made when he was in Kindergarten, in the after school program he went to each day.

It’s the simplest thing; a hangar twisted until it was round and then covered with dozens of strips of cut white plastic garbage bags that were tied on. Here you can see a little more detail.

My little guy was mighty proud of this when he showed it to me, and I was really impressed, especially when his teacher told me that he was very diligent about tying his strips on to ‘make it look really nice’. I’ll never forget his face as she praised him, and when he handed it to me. He looked like he could burst wide open. This wreath graces our front door every year, and I love how it looks against the lovely green tone.

The very same year, from his actual Kindergarten class came this adorable little Christmas tree, complete with his Kindergarten picture. It’s faded almost to gray and most of the glitter has worn off, but it is always placed in a very prominent position on our tree every year.

The best part about this particular one is that I have one to match it from when I was in Kindergarten. That faded little paper chain was something I put together when I was but a five-year old too, some 30 years before my own young man. His is imbedded with the year 1999, and mine was made in 1969. These two ornaments always hang next to each other.

Another treasured set of ornaments date that far back as well, and likely even before. These are ones that my Grandma made for us each year.

Some of them even still carry the tags she attached, penned in her careful script.

Each year on Christmas Eve, my Grandma came to our house for dinner. We loved her arrival because she always had a box with her, filled with her handmade ornaments, one for each of us. She had 15 grandchildren, and she did this for all of them each year. We loved the anticipation of what was to come, and often mobbed her to help her with her coat, get her boots off and have her situated so she could bring out our box. We would then rush to our huge tree in the corner to add it to the staggering wealth of ornaments hanging there already. It seemed like each year when we opened our boxes that we had so much to place on that tree. I get that same feeling now, but I place them all carefully so that I can see each one. My Grandma passed away in 1988 and had long gotten out of the habit of making our ornaments each year, but to have these on my own tree always reminds me of her warm smile and the way she would throw her arms around us to give us those perfect grandmotherly squeezes.

I have even yet another set of very special ornaments that were given to me by a friend when Griffin was three years old.

These are superbly old fashioned glass ornaments and are very fragile. I’ve lost a few over the years to eager little fingers but when I pull them out of their tissue packing I remember a year that was very difficult for me, and a friend that stepped up to try and add some necessary cheer to a cheerless situation. It was my first Christmas as a single parent, I had little money and was feeling extremely sad about celebrating. This friend took me out shopping one evening and bought me a small little tree for my tiny apartment, a stand to put it in, a cute holiday tree skirt for underneath, some light strings and a few ornaments, including this set. They simply said ‘You need to have Christmas for your little boy.’ and I was not allowed to say ‘No’. I’m very grateful for that generosity because it helped make our first Christmas alone a little bit better. Growing up, we had a small box of old-fashioned ornaments that were very similar to these so they carry fond memories of when I was really young too.

One last decoration that requires special mention is this porcelain christmas tree.

Griffin’s paternal Grandmother gave this to me many years ago. I had always admired it in her home each season, and when she moved from a house to an apartment, she passed on many treasures to me, including this little tree. It has tiny glass bulbs that slip into holes on the tree branches, and when it’s plugged in it shines with it’s numerous colored lights on a lamp stand in my office. It’s so unique, and so perfect. Grandma Annie passed away this past March, yet she left me several wonderful keepsakes of her and this tree will always have a place in our holiday decor.

This year, on a whim, I took that old tree skirt from my friend, the one that covered that tiny Christmas tree in 1997 and laid it out for the cats to use as a festive means of celebrating Eli’s first Christmas with us.

Because I think everyone in this house should get into the holiday spirit, even if they’re covered in fur.

Join the rest of the bloggers participating in this fun walk down memory lane. Follow the links to their sites to see what they’ve got hanging around their homes this holiday season.

Dads of any shape or kind

June 21st, 2009 | 6 Comments »

Here’s to the Dads of life, no matter what form they take.

Here’s my Dad

That’s me, yup…on the right; kid sized anyway. My sister Kris is on the left. I must have been 7 or 8 because I still have my original front teeth which were broken in an accident when I was 9. I vividly recall that sweat shirt I was wearing as being one of my favorites. Funny how you can remember things from so long ago.

I have a very fond memory, food related, of my Dad. When we were younger one of our most requested dishes that he would make for us was Fried Chicken. I don’t recall how he did it precisely, I just remember that it was so delicious and moist that I could eat it until I was about to burst. The smell alone was enough to make me crazy. It wasn’t anything fancy, but we loved it. Time with my Dad meant pizza, pigs in a blanket, lots of ice cream and plenty of fun.

My Dad taught me to swim, patiently teaching me to arch my back with my arms out to the sides, relax and breathe as I tried to float. Over the course of one winter, he would regularly take us to the pool and play all afternoon with us, and I got so good in the water that in high school I was on the swim team, and I recall that he told everyone he knew that his daughter was a swimmer and that I had got my start as a skinny little kid learning how to swim at his side.

Each Spring my Dad would take us for a fun leisurely walk from Minnehaha Falls in Minneapolis, to the edge of the Mississsippi River. It wasn’t very long, but we were pretty young and it seemed like to took forever. We would linger on the riverbank, tossing stones, watching boats and exploring the water’s edge. The day always ended at the Dairy Queen nearby, with an ice cream cone or a Root Beer float. Those were my Dad’s favorite.

One of my very earliest memories involving my Dad was from when I was 4 years old and learning to ride a bike. My brother Mike was teaching me, running up and down the sidewalk with me as I pedaled frantically, picking me up after I wiped out and soothing my scrapes and bruises with graham crackers before taking me back out to try again. This is, by far, my fondest and most beloved memory of childhood. I was riding that bike by the time my Dad came home, and as he pulled into our driveway, he stopped to watch me come pedaling down the sidewalk, bobbling around like the novice I was, and of course, without even understanding what was going to happen, I pedaled right into the side of my Dad’s car and crashed to a heap. Mike helped me up and pulled the bike upright. My Dad looked at him, and at my shining face, bruised and scraped knees and elbows and said  “It’s a good idea to teach her how to stop too.”


This is my brother Mike, with Griffin, who is maybe 9 or 10. Mike has been a doting Uncle, and a wonderful father figure to Griffin from the time he was born, and they have a wonderful bond. Mike is famous for teaching Griffin Apple Baseball, using the abundance of the fallen apples from his backyard tree to enjoy a rousing and loud game of Baseball, complete with exploding apples. Never have I seen Griffin having so much fun as I would see on those Fall weekends, the yard rich in colored leaves and Griffin, at about age 3 or 4 with a giant plastic yellow bat, standing with his favorite Uncle smacking rotten apples around their yard. It was a sad day indeed when Mike had to cut down the old apple tree as it meant the end of an era. Mike and Griffin golf together, take in current sci-fi movies and other hits and enjoy all kinds of fun together like sleepovers, bowling and Boys Day Out at the Twins baseball games. My brother has been a rock in Griffin’s life, and the love is very apparent.

Dads come in all forms, you know; it isn’t just the ones that create the life that can be a “Dad”, in fact, sometimes it’s in the ones who see the need and step in to fill it that I feel are more worthy of the title. My husband, my Mike, is one of those people, and I’ve extolled the merits of his attention to Griffin many times. It takes a very special person to look into the eyes of a child and accept them into their hearts and soul even when they’ve missed out on the first seven years of that child’s life, nor share one scrap of genetic material. These two have formed their own unique form of father-son love, and it’s wonderful to me to listen to them guffawing over old videos of Red Dwarf, seeing them glued to Mythbusters or The Dirtiest Job or find their heads bent over any number of projects and the basic everyday stuff of life that they’ve decided to try and figure out.

Griffin is so very lucky to have not only a great Dad, but a wonderful doting Uncle and a terrific Grandfather. Happy Fathers Day to you all, and my heartfelt thanks at making my son’s life so much more rewarding and fun.