Thursday, November 29, 2012

An Accompanied Jaunt

Thanksgiving is a wonderful holiday.  This year when we found out our son, Nathan, wouldn't be able to make it home for the festivities because of a new job, we were faced with a choice--go to him or go to our family celebration without him.  As a mother, all I could picture was our boy accompanied by his girlfriend, Kelly, sitting in Kentucky Fried Chicken for dinner.  It didn't end up being a choice at all. 

I knew from past experiences of my own that young people often embrace the weird new holiday things you do when you can't go home.  (My husband and I recall several Christmas Eve's we spent at McDonalds when we were first married and he was in the army.)  But even though I knew he would be okay without me, I was reluctant to be without him. 

Our son goes to the University of Minnesota-Duluth so it wasn't really a hardship to think of visiting him there.  Duluth is a beautiful city nestled on the shores of Lake Superior.  We stayed in the quaint Canal Park.

As we arrived I noted with joy the Caribou Coffee across the street from our location.  As coffee is one of the reasons I pull myself out of bed, this was a neon sign of good things to come.  (pun intended)  We checked in and went up to our room.  The room was lovely and the view was better than I even expected looking out over the lake.   We opened the window to hear the water lapping at the rocks on the shore. 

Planning to incorporate a romantic getaway with our visit we pulled out a bottle of red wine and had an elegant glass before heading out to explore our surroundings.  Oops, next time we'd better pack glasses. 


We took the boardwalk down to the Maritime Museum (US Army Corps of Engineers).  It was a cool day but the lighthouses and lift bridge were worth the walk.   Sometimes we forget how lucky we are to live in such a beautiful state. 

We wandered along the pier and then headed in toward the shops.  Quaint boutiques, an antique store, the waterfront sculptures, and art galleries were all worth seeing.   Strolling along the sidewalks hand in hand is a relaxing beginning of a holiday weekend.  (hint, hint--guys this would be a wonderful surprise getaway)

We strolled through old warehouses made into interesting galleries and stores.   Everywhere we go I try to find some local art.  If possible I purchase a piece.  While walking through some of the shops we came to a studio of local award winning artist Kate Whittaker.  I fell in love with her work.  Her pieces truly spoke to me--the textures, colors, themes and images.  Although I was unable to take home any of her pieces, I met the talented lady.  Warm and gracious, she told us about her work.   Her compositions of acrylic on panels are haunting.  A few look as if they are viking ghost ships.  Although that may not be her intent, that is why I loved them.  Soon, some of her pieces will be accompanying a book of poetry by poet Kyle Elven.  (I will update you when their website is up.)  Her work is worth a visit if you ever get to Duluth.  See her studio online at   (Thank you Kate for allowing me to post your calling card)  Now--to start saving for a special piece of art!

We walked down to the famous Grandma's Restaurant for dinner.  It was a quiet night at the restaurant because most people were likely with their families. The food was excellent and the wait staff was really friendly even though they were working the holiday eve.  They were making the extra effort to make it feel like they enjoyed having you visit.

Our Thanksgiving dinner at Fitger's (The Midi Restaurant) the next day was very enjoyable.  The food was delicious, the wait staff friendly, the view beautiful and no dishes to clean at the end made for a relaxing day. 

It can be difficult when you change the way you celebrate holidays but you have a choice.  You can either regret the change, or you can embrace the change and try to find something to enjoy and appreciate in the new situation.  I'm choosing to make it a wonderful new jaunt. 

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Betty Crocker's Vintage Cookbook

One day recently I decided I needed to find some new recipes.  Our menu plans were getting tired and similar.   I pulled down my vintage Betty Crocker's New Picture Cook Book, the one my mother used for some of the meals she served to our family when we were growing up.  Usually I turn to the index to find something specific but this time I decided to peruse the book from the beginning. 

This book was printed in 1961 and it was a charming if amusing jump back in time.  It started right out on a page on kitchen know-how.  "Write meal plans for the week."  Well, I felt I could follow that advice--it seemed like solid logic.  Then we started getting into the real differences between 2012 and 1961.  It read, "If you have a freezer, make several cakes, pies, cookies and main dishes or sandwiches at a time and freeze some for future use."  Really?  Several cakes, pies and cookies?  My family is lucky if I make just one of these items once a month. 

Then I was amused by the general life guidance that you wouldn't normally find in a cookbook.  "Refresh your spirits.  Every morning before breakfast, comb hair, apply makeup and a dash of cologne.   Does wonders for your morale and your family's too."   Makeup before coffee?  In what alternate universe?

"Think pleasant thoughts while working and a chore will become a 'labor of love.'"  I guess that's just another way of thinking positively but, really, what positive thoughts could I have about some chores?  I'm so pleased that I am going to start the day with my husband's dirty underwear and I happily encourage him to wear a clean pair each day.  Three loads of laundry later, wasn't it lovely that my cat vomited on the hardwood floor instead of the rug?  She's always so thoughtful that way.

"Have a hobby.  Garden, paint pictures, look through magazines for home planning ideas, read a good book or attend club meetings.  Be interested and you'll always be interesting."  Yes, I can see how that would make me so much more interesting.  I'll get right on that. 

There is a lot of good information in the book -- how to measure, equivalent weights and measures, substitutions, how to prepare vegetables and garnishes.  At the beginning of each chapter is a page on "historical significance" to quick breads, cakes etc.  It has a charming chapter on menus-- Eisenhowers Enjoy Life on Gettysburg Farm, United Nations Leader Chooses Dinner Favorite of Many Men, Supper Party at Mount Vernon, or Alaskan Salmon Stars in Governor's Menu.  Who knew?

I loved the part about table service.  "The most suitable for the average family--The first course such as fruit juice or soup is on the table when the family is seated.  For a change of pace, you might like to serve this first course in the living room or on the patio."  First course?  Of how many?  I do understand eating in the living room as we enjoy having meals in front of the TV.  As I read on I became aware this might not be what they were referring to.  "When ready for the main course, the meat and potatos are placed in front of the host."  Main course?  Again with the courses.  There is only one course at my house, and I'm lucky if I just get it on the table, let alone in a specific location.

My husband loved the piece about appetizers that I read to him.  "The thoughful wife has a simple beverage (cold in summer, warm in winter) ready for her weary husband when he comes home at night."  My husband's exact quote was, "I think you need to start doing that."

There are many more little tidbits scattered through the book.  Little notes to the reader -- "A good company vegetable (stuffed eggplant)."  "One of the earliest pies (mince)."  "They may not make your hair curl, but they will protect your health (carrots)."  "For a glamorous touch, Mrs. So-and-So adds 1/2 cup brandy (cherries jubilee)."  "The chosen dessert to top off a mountain trout luncheon at that charming, steeped in tradition resort, the Broadmoor, Colorado Springs, Colorado."

While parts of the book are quite the hoot, I did actually find some recipes that I am going to try--waffles, quick buttermilk rolls, savory meat pie, and Yankee Doodle Macaroni.  Sorry, Betty, I won't be making any of it in my pearls and pumps. 

Thursday, November 15, 2012


It's natural to look around and see the inequities of life.  Someone else always seems to have it easier or better.  I think the reality is far different from this view.  The person we put on our facebook page sure seems to have it together.  We post our best photos, vacations, accomplishments of ourselves or our children.  How often do we see someone say...Well, my life sucks today--had a fight with my significant other, my kid is driving me crazy, I broke everything I touched or I'm sad, lonely and afraid? 

We all go through difficult times whether we broadcast them or not.  I think we should remember that when we are envying a friend. 

This time of year for me is difficult.  Holiday season is always a little lonely since my mother is not with us anymore.  But instead of focusing on that I am going to remember what I'm thankful for --

  • I am still happily married to my best friend after 23 years. 
  • My beautiful child is on his own and I get to watch him become a lovely independent being.  (standing up on his own with struggles we all must face)
  • New friends and old who share their lives with me.
  • Laughter and tears of joy and sorrow, both build a full life.
  • Memories of days gone by and people who've loved me.
  • An unexpected warm day in fall.
  • A sweet cat sitting in my lap on a cold afternoon.

I could go on and on.  My happiness has outweighed the sadness in my life and for that I am grateful. 

To all of you, I wish you joy, happiness and friendship.  All the material possessions we have can never equal those things.  You never know how much time you have with those you love, so enjoy every moment you can. 

Happy Thanksgiving.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Small Spaces, More Organizing

It seems like we could all use more room to organize.  How do we create more space to organize?  I was faced with this problem in my small extra bedroom. 

First I put risers under the four posts of my bed.  I worried they would make the bed unstable but surprisingly, they didn't.   I've even gotten on the bed and jumped on it and it remained stable.  It is a tad high so everyone may not like that but I think it's kind of fun.

By adding the risers I can now hide larger, plastic storage bags that now fit under the bed.  I liked this one because not only does it slide easily but the sturdy handle makes it super easy to pull out.   I purchased several so now I can put extra sheets, blankets, and other items in an accessible place, leaving more space in the closet.

Another storage solution I found in my extra bedroom is these wooden trunks.  In the top one I store my camera and all my charging cords that I need for all my electronics.  In the bottom I store items I don't use often that I don't need to worry about infusing the old smells of the trunk like unused Cd's, a box of buttons and frames not in current use.  The trunks are a cute way to add that badly needed space in an attractive way. 
It may seem like simple ideas (and they are), but any time you can reclaim more storage space in your house, it's a win for the organized home.

Friday, November 2, 2012

$ .99 container, so many uses

So, time for another--How many ways can I think of to use. . .

Today, we have a small screw top container from the container store although I have seen them at Michaels and various other places.  I like the screw top because I have trouble occasionally with the dexterity in my hands. 

This idea is obvious and I'm sure it's the first thing everyone thought of.  My omega's are a bit large so I like this size of a container for them to carry with me. 

Pins in my sewing room.


A couple of chocolates I can carry in my purse without worrying that they will melt.

I actually carry an empty container with me when I travel so when I have to remove my jewelry it doesn't end up falling behind a dresser or getting lost in my purse. 

I keep a container with some change in my car.  When I go have my hair cut I have to park at a meter and I never seem to have change in my purse. 

I always travel with Epsom salts for soaking minor cuts and bruises. 

Coffee is a huge part of my day and I can't live without my creamer, so if I don't know if someone will provide it I bring it myself. 


Perhaps not everyone will like this one but I travel with a small candle.  You never know when you want to create that romantic moment and I think a candle always helps. 

The ideas seem endless really -- cough drops, nails, paper clips, hair binders and even guitar picks.  (I need to thank my husband for the last idea.  He says his picks are always all over the house.) 

You can start your organizing small.  Pick up an inexpensive container and start collecting items that can go together in it.  Every time you see another one during the week you can add it to its new home.  Before long, you'll have one more thing that you know you'll always be able to find!