Wednesday, June 30, 2010

...and sip, and savor, and indulge, and devour and ...

A recent outdoor dining experience at a cafe nestled in a quaint inner city neighborhood led me to ponder the words in the above title. A small garden along the boulevard was outlined with brick pavers. Each brick had two words etched in it. The first word was and followed by a verb. The verbs related to what we might do when getting together with others at a cafe. Some other words included: and toast, and laugh, and discuss, and imagine, and drink, and gobble, and argue, and nibble. This unique landscaping idea caught my attention. It also led me to think how we should take more time out of our day to be unbusy and savor some alone time or plan to meet up with a friend, family member or colleague.
If you happen to be in the mood for a grilling experience consider the following recipes. Each one has a bit of kick to it!
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Grilled Mexican Citrus Chicken
Ingredients:
  • 6 boneless chicken breasts
  • option: cut meat up for kabobs
Mexican Citrus Marinade
Adjust seasoning amounts to your taste
  • 1/4 cup orange juice
  • 1/4 cup lime juice
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 2 TB. fresh cilantro
  • 2 TB. chopped onion
  • 2 ts. chili powder
  • 1 tsp. ground cumin
  • 1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes
Directions:
  • Mix all ingredients and pour into a resealable plastic bag
  • Add chicken and turn once to coat
  • Place bag in a shallow glass pan and refrigerate
  • Turn bag occasionally and marinate about three hours
  • Drain marinade but save some of the mixture to baste with when grilling
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Mexican Marinade
Allow at least three hours for meat to be in marinade. The beer make the chicken quite tender
Marinade:
Mix all ingredients till smooth
Pour into a resealable bag, add meat and refrigerate in a shallow glass pan
  • 3 cups Mexican beer or a dark beer
  • 1/4 cup lime juice
  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • 1/2 cup cilantro
  • 2-4 tsp. red pepper flakes
  • 1 tsp. salt




Saturday, June 26, 2010

Book Recommends

Libraries in small towns are a big draw for my husband and I when traveling. One library that stood out reminded us of a TV show from the 70's Mayberry RFD. The library was located on a charming, quaint southern type street. The library card catalog system was still going strong. The computer and Internet looked challenging to many who were seated in front of the screen. Of course all of my library remarks should be prefaced by the fact we are always on the run looking for Internet connections whenever we travel. So it was no surprise when we found out that one of the ports we were stopping at on our Alaskan cruise a few years back was Haines. I had read that their library in 2005 was awarded the title: Best Small Town Library of 2005. Haines is about 70 miles NE of Juneau. The remote community at least in 2005 had some 2,600 residents. We loved the library with its wonderful selection of periodicals, DVDs, magazines and books. It was interesting to note that library material could be checked out as long as six months for those who lived long distances from the library and faced with challenging winter conditions and unable to make it back to the library before spring. And yes they did have a great Internet connection!!! I posted a picture of this library in Haines just in case some time you might be in town visiting.
One of my summer reading goals has been to explore new books for children. One book which I have been wanting to read for some time is The Secret of Zoom by Lynne Jonell. She is a local author who also teaches classes at the Loft in MPLS. You may have read awhile back when President Obama was in Iowa he went to a local bookstore and asked for a recommended read for one of his daughters and The Secret of Zoom was suggested. How exciting for this author to have the president purchase her book.
As a former middle school teacher you can be assured kids will love this book. It is science fiction genre and somewhat in the vein of Margaret Peterson Haddix's shadow children series. It is about Christina, ten who lives a sheltered life in a mansion. Her overprotective father has given her strict instructions not to leave the grounds. She longs for company and adventures. Her wishes are granted when a boy named Taft speaks to her through a fence and tells her to look for a secret tunnel he knows exists in the house. Christina soon discovers the terrible truth about so-called Happy orphans and sets off to rescue them. The plot is so imaginative, unusual and very intriguing. The author has written three novels and seven picture books. You may have heard of this author whose novel Emmy and The Incredible Shrinking Rat is quite popular with kids.
An adult novel I'd like to recommend is La's Orchestra Saves The World. It is written by Alexander McCall Smith. If this author's name sounds familiar McCall Smith has written #1 Ladies Detective Agency series. La Orchestra Saves The World is crafted with the author's usual wit, wisdom and grace. La is short for Lavender. It is a story is set in England at the onset of World War II. The tale is a metaphor for the tranformative power of music. La is a determined character who sets out in a small English village to create an orchestra to help build up the morale of the townspeople and the military stationed at a nearby base. Throughout the story the author sets up opportunities for personal reflection. It is a very enjoyable read.
I would be happy to post any of your recommended reads whether children or adult if you send them to me.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Water Lilies

A recent canoe ride on the lake took me to a secluded swampy area where I discovered some beautiful water lilies in full bloom. The sea of lily pads reminded me of the French Impressionist Claude Monet's ( 1840-1926) masterpieces: Water Lilies. They are a series of 250 oil paintings that depict Monet's flower garden at Giverny. This exhibit first opened in May 1927 after his death. I posted one of his paintings and a few photos I took that captured the beauty of these blooming flowers.
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Zucchini-Wrapped Pork
Ingredients:
1 large zucchini
12- 160z. pork tenderloin
olive oil
1/3 apricot preserves
1/2 tsp. ginger
1/4 cup orange juice
1/4-1/3 cup prepared purchased basil pesto

optional small fresh basil leaves
Directions:
  • Line a square 8x8 baking pan with foil
  • With a sharp knife or vegetable peeler cut zucchini lengthwise in thin slices-need 8 slices
  • Cut pork tenderloin crosswise into 4 equal portions. Press meat down with palm of hand to flatten slightly
  • Wrap each tenderloin portion with two zucchini slices-use toothpick to hold in place
  • Place meat in pan and brush with oil-sprinkle salt and pepper
  • Mix in saucepan on low heat apricot preserves, ginger, orange juice and drizzle this juice mixture over the meat portions
  • Cover with foil and bake 45 minutes or till meat registers 160
  • Make a foil packet with rest of cut up zucchini adding sweet onions and cook packet at same time as meat
  • To serve place a small teaspoon of prepared basil pesto on center of meat portion

Saturday, June 19, 2010

A Writing Kind of Day

Sometimes it just happens that nature's beauty evokes a writing kind of day
Early Morning At The Lake

Streaks of light
cast shadows
across the ground.

Dew drops
glisten like
diamond studs.

Calm, still waters
reflect mirrored images
of
towering pines and stately birch.

Croaking bullfrogs
chattering birds
buzzing flies
interrupt the solitude
to announce
the start
of a
brand new day.
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and if per chance you happen to experience a beautiful morning on a summer day and have the time- treat yourself to some yummy blueberry coffeecake and a good cup of coffee!
Blueberry Oatmeal Coffee Cake
Ingredients:
  • 1-1/3 cups flour
  • 3/4 cup quick -cooking oats
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 extra large egg
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk
  • 1/4 cup oil
  • 1/4 cup sour cream
  • 1 TB. cinnamon
  • 1 cup fresh blueberries or frozen
In a large bowl combine the flour, oats, sugar, baking powder, cinnamon and salt. In another bowl beat egg, milk, oil and sour cream. Stir into dry ingredients just until moistened. Toss blueberries with 1 TB. of flour and fold into the mixture. Pour into a 9 inch round baking pan sprayed with PAM.

Streusel Topping
  • 1/3 cup quick cooking oats
  • 3 TB. flour
  • 4 TB. brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup softened butter
  • 1/3 crushed almonds
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
Use a mixer on low speed crumble the topping mixture. Sprinkle over the batter and bake at 400 for 20-25 minutes
If using frozen blueberries do not thaw before adding to batter

*recipe adapted from magazine:Taste of Home/ breakfast and brunch section-Lori Buenger


Thursday, June 17, 2010

A Star is Reborn

Chapter 19
Written by Rocky Socky
Last weekend set me back a bit. It was my weekend off and I really wanted to get to the Sock Mart to see how Holokai, Will, Kai and Palti were doing entertaining the crowds. We all rode the Sockland Express bus which pulled up to the store right at 10:00. What a surprise to see such a large crowd so early in the morning. As soon as we stepped off the bus the crowd rushed toward us screaming "It's him! It's him! Can you sign my book? Please! Please!!" And the surprising thing was they all had copies of my new book. Will seemed quite pleased by all of this because he had Kai and Palti scheduled to sit at a table inside the store selling copies of my book.
Now I had not expected all this commotion over my book at the Sock Mart. The manager seemed quite happy to see me again. He was waving my new book
Rocky Socky Adventures: The Road Trip in his hand which only made the crowd get more excited.
"All right everybody inside, we have a whole table of Rocky Socky's new book for anyone who wants to buy it," said the manager.
So I ended up signing a lot of autographs while Will got ready for the first performance. I found out that this week's drawing for sock monkey socks was being replaced with a copy of my new book. The manager had me do the drawing right after Holokai's performance.
But it was at that very moment when I shouted out the winning number - pandemonium broke out!
There was arguing, pushing, shoving as the crowd closed in on me waving their ticket stubs, "I've got it! I've got it! I've got it!" shouted one, then another, another and another.
"But how can this be?" I said to the crowd.
Sure enough each ticket did have the same number. At this point the manager who had quite a stressed look
said. "How could this happen?"
It was at that very minute when I heard giggling and laughing over in the corner I knew who was responsible for this mix-up. Those mischievous elves were getting their revenge on the gnomes who had partnered up with the sock fairies. Thanks heavens some quick thinking saved the day. I told the manager anyone who had a ticket stub for this drawing could get a free copy of my book. After the excitement died down I FINALLY had time to watch Holokai's second performance.
By 2:00 all my books were sold out and the manager was busy on the phone ordering more for Sunday and the following weekend. I must say all this has been quite exciting. I never thought my book would be so successful.

All Rights Reserved Ready 2010

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An easy pre-summer salad Blueberry Gorgonzola Salad

Ingredients:
  • 1 (5-oz) package mixed salad greens
  • 2 cups fresh blueberries
  • 1 cup loosely packed basil leaves
  • 1 cup roasted salted almonds or glazed walnuts
  • 1/4 cup fresh chives
  • 1/2 cup loosely packed fresh tarragon leaves
  • 1/2 cup Gorgonzola cheese
  • 1 cucumber sliced
1 bottle raspberry-walnut vinaigrette
Directions:
Toss all ingredients and drizzle dressing about 3/4 cup on salad greens just before serving



Saturday, June 12, 2010

Everybody Needs A Rock

Today I was quite preoccupied on a morning walk along a township road. I almost missed picking up an interesting rock since I was busy counting all these strategically placed holes in the road where turtles have deposited their eggs. I've always enjoyed collecting rocks from different locations and trips so I have quite a large collection. It pays to be observant because you just never know when the right one will appear!
When I was a classroom teacher students would bring me rocks as gifts as well as bringing their own to show. I have found rocks to be a great source for creative writing activities as one imagines all the uses for rocks. In addition I believe each rock has their own story to tell. The first rock I ever received was from a student for a Christmas present. It was a large smooth rock painted blue with a winter scene on it to be used as a paper weight. After all these years I still have it. Another favorite I received is a rock that says imagine on it. If you hold it in the palm of your hand it is possible to generate some creative juices. I posted some pictures of rocks and note the one that even has a dragonfly on it.
I would like to recommend this children's book called If You Find A Rock by Peggy Christian. I thought the last page was a good summary on rocks.
If you find a rock-
a rock that's not
a skipping rock,
or a chalk rock,
or a resting rock
or a wishing rock-
that's not
a splashing rock,
or a sifting rock,
or a worry rock,
or a hiding rock-
that's not even
a climbing rock,
or a crossing rock,
or a fossil rock,
or a walking rock
but you like it anyway,
because it reminds you
of a place
or a feeling
or someone important-
then you have found
a memory rock,
and sometimes
those are the best
rocks of all.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Weekend Recap

Chapter 18
Written by Rocky Socky
So you probably wondering just what did I see out my side mirrors pulling out of the Sock Mart lot on Saturday??? Well much to my surprise it was a 2 foot Sock Monkey! Now maybe you think 2 feet is not all that tall but you have to remember when you enter Sockland you shrink to the size of a fairy which is about 6-8 inches so 2 feet is quite tall. I heard later that day from Will that several fairies and gnomes stood on each other shoulders to fill up the sock monkey suit. The gigantic sock monkey wore a sign advertising the coupon specials and circulated throughout the store. Sock Mart sales soared over the weekend. And my bus was packed both Saturday and Sunday for all the runs with happy customers who had bags stuffed with sock specials and jewelry items.
But I heard the real excitement was the show staged by Will. The juggling acts by Holokai, Palti and Kai dazzled the crowd. Will was quite clever to add in music to build suspense when the sock monkeys did their trapeze acts from the sock tree. At he end of each performance Will introduced all of the sock monkeys. The hourly drawing for monkey socks kept the crowd attentive with anticipation. Will told me to expect an article this week in the Sockland Gazette since a representative was there writing about this big event.
Next weekend I have off and you can be sure I will be at the Sock mart. I need to see all this first hand.

All Rights Reserved Ready 2010

Saturday, June 5, 2010

A Wild and Crazy Saturday

Chapter 17 Frenzy at the Sock Mart... Part One
written by Rocky Socky
I pulled up to the bus stop and there stood Will, Holokai, Palti and Kai. Palti and Kai rushed up the steps. They seemed pretty hyper to me jumping up and down with excitement talking non stop about what they were going to do when they got to the Sock Mart. It seems they have been practicing juggling all week with Will and Holokai. They also had some other tricks but would not tell me since it was suppose to be a surprise. I wish I did not have to work.
As we got closer to the Sock Mart I couldn't believe the size of the crowd lining up for the store opening. It seems like everyone waiting had a coupon in their hand. "Looks like a lot of customers have been reading The Sockland Gazette," said Will. "I read the Gnomes were offering at their kiosk a coupon special for a dragonfly necklace. And the sock fairies had a coupon buy one pair of socks and get the second pair for half price. Of course this also means each sock purchase must accompanied by a sock donation to the recycling bin."
"Will and Holokai hang on to tight to Palti and Kai. This is a huge crowd and you could get lost or hurt since you both are so small."
Just as Will, Holokai, Palti and Kai got off the bus the crowd noticed them. A huge group ran toward the bus screaming, "They're here! They're here! "
"Stand back! Stand back! yelled the manager into his bullhorn. He pushed the crowd aside and ran toward Will to safely escort all of them into the store.
I must say I do not have good feeling about this day. It seems like a lot of commotion and its only the morning.
As I drove out of the lot I looked through my side mirror and I couldn't believe what just came out of the door of the Sock Mart.
Stay tuned for Part Two. I posted a photo of the dragonfly necklace. The store is honoring coupons through Sunday. There still is time for you to get there. The Sockland Express runs every hour this weekend to the Sock Mart to accommodate all who have plans to shop at the store and watch Holokai and Will and their friends perform.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Beauty at Water's Edge

Today was a rare treat for me to walk in the woods and discover blooming Lady Slippers, Minnesota's state flower. It is also known as the moccasin flower. These flowers are in the orchid family. The Latin name is cypripedroidea which means slippers of Venus. It is illegal to pick and uproot the showy Lady Slipper flower. They have been protected by state law since 1925. The Lady Slipper grows in the deep woods and near damp marshes. They usually bloom in June and last only a short while. Deer really enjoy this flower as a tasty treat which then shortens their life span!
Earlier in the day I was forced to make a sudden stop while driving on a township road. A very large turtle was talking its time crossing the road. It is not uncommon this time of the year for turtle crossings as they seek out places to bury their eggs.
Showy spring flowers required another photo stop. Hope you enjoy the pictures and the recipe below.
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Spring Asian Salad
Ingredients:
  • 1/2 package of coleslaw mix
  • 1 cup toasted sliced almonds
  • 1/2 cucumber cut in thin slices
  • 1/2 package of snap peas
  • 1/2 package chow mein noddles
  • 4 chicken breasts cooked and chopped
  • fresh cilantro
  • 3/4 cup chopped green onion
Directions:
Toss all ingredients, add dressing and chill for 30 minutes
Dressing:
1/3 cup peanut butter, 1/2 tsp. curry powder, 1/2 tsp. each of salt, garlic powder, ground ginger. Whisk together 1/3 cup water, 2 TB lemon juice and 2Tb. olive oil till smooth and add to other ingredients.

Tip: If short on time use your favorite purchased Asian type dressing