Monday, September 30, 2013

Jump Start on Holiday Entertaining

 Reader Alert: For some inexplicable reason I am drawn to all decorating and food ideas related to Halloween. The hunt for new ideas and interesting foods to serve begins well before October. Now I have 31 days of blissful exploration to share with you. 
Here are some fun foods and a decorating idea to start off the month.
Inside the carved oranges are diced fruits. 
A healthy Halloween treat; banana ghosts with chocolate and cuties (oranges) peeled and a candied green stem. 
Mozzarella cheese sticks made with pretzels to create broomsticks.
Halloween spice cupcakes with orange flavored cream cheese frosting
Outside Decorating
Use packaged Keebler stripped cookies for the base turned upside down and a Hershey kiss with orange tube frosting.


Sunday, September 29, 2013

Hackensack Chainsaw Carving Event

Chainsaw carving is a unique art form gaining in popularity. Hackensack, a small town of around 300, hosted the popular chainsaw carving event this past weekend. 10 artists participated turning white pine logs into sculptures. I was at the auction but just as an observer. Since it seemed like all bidding started at $250.00 I decided the going prices were a bit out of my price range for outdoor art for the lake especially since some sculptures went for over $1,200 and more. 
Old school chainsaw carvers used to create their works of art with just a chainsaw. But today modern chainsaw carvers have a variety of tools at their disposal which include: grinder, sanding disc attachment, a scroll saw, a burning tool, a set of chisels and a drill or screw gun. 
It was a bit tricky to get good pictures because the audience was all seated behind the yellow ribbon.



This sculptured piece went for $350.00. A very elderly man sitting next to me bought it. When I asked what he was going to do with it he shrugged his shoulders and said wasn't sure. When another piece came up and he wanted to bid on it his wife said "That's enough!" 
So while I was being entertained watching this auctioneer do his stuff my husband was off in a nearby field trying to launch this remote controlled plane. He was not successful. 

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Inspiring Fall


There is no shortage of Fall DIY ideas and recipes. Here are a few to inspire you.
 Decoupage pumpkin
Follow this link for an easy tutorial
Fall Menu Board
Upcycle an unused frame into an elegant menu board. All you need is a chalkboard, frame and glue. Thrift stores or flea markets would be good resources.
Autumn Place card
Weave a sprig of dried wheat through a handwritten place card.
Fall Harvest Centerpiece
For years I have been wondering what to do with a 5 piece silver tea set in their special silver bags (a wedding gift) sitting on a shelf. This picture inspired me to pull out the tray. Now I can create a fall arrangement using decorative gourds, pumpkins and corn.  
__________________________________________________________________
Tortellini-Vegetable Bake
Cook's notes: This is an easy meal to put together. You can be creative using a variety of vegetables. 
Ingredients:
  • 1 package of refrigerated cheese tortellini 
  • 1 container of Alfredo Sauce (10 oz.) found in refrigerated section  
  • 1/4 cup of  chicken broth 
  • 1 TB. butter 
  • 1/3 cup of finely chopped onions
  • 1 cup of sliced mushrooms 
  • 1 cup quartered cherry tomatoes
  • 1 cup sugar snap peas
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped carrots
  • 1 cup chopped broccoli
  • 1/2 cup red or green pepper chopped
  • 1 tsp. dried Italian herbs
  • optional adding in cauliflower

Directions:
  • Saute mushrooms, onions and carrots in butter
  • Stir in Alfredo sauce and chicken broth
  • Add in dried herbs
  • Mix well on low heat for 1 minute
  • Cook tortellini according to directions on package-drain
  • In large bowl add vegetables and Alfredo mixture 
  • Fold in tortellini and pour into a baking dish or an 8 inch glass pan
  • Grate Parmesan cheese over the top  and cover with foil 
  • Bake 350 for 30 minutes   







Friday, September 27, 2013

Doing it the Kindergarten Way

Smartboards are a brand of interactive white boards, used in schools to teach students. These white boards link traditional white boards with technology. Smartboards assist teachers in all curriculum areas. Teachers and students can write on the white boards just as they can write on the traditional boards. The possibilities are endless. The Smartboard is hooked up to the teacher's computer.
 This Smartboard was being used for a math lesson. The students were at their desks watching this kindergartner "in action". She was coloring in the object in the row that was different from the other objects. Their teacher uses the Smartboard for stories, letter and number recognition, a variety of language activities and songs. YouTube has a wealth of songs and stories to connect up to the Smartboard. The class loves to sing and read along. 
And to keep the class up with technology a cart of iPads has been purchased for the kindergarten classes to share.   
Today the music teacher came to class and caused quite a frenzy of activity with music and yellow scarves. As the music played kindergartners used their yellow scarves to imitate several movements and march around the room. 
I was rather relieved when the class went off to gym class. It got real quiet so I could now concentrate to get some work done. Guess I was off task as the teacher would say. 
Remember this children's song? 
It is is a song with a cumulative structure which  means a song that has a simple verse structure modified by progressive addition so each verse is longer that the verse before. Probably the best-known version of the song was released in 1953, and sung by Burl Ives. .
Just in case you need to refresh your memory...  
I know an old lady who swallowed a fly,
I don't know why she swallowed the fly,
I guess she'll die.
I know an old lady who swallowed a spider,
That wriggled and jiggled and tickled inside her.
She swallowed the spider to catch the fly,
I don't know why she swallowed the fly,
I guess she'll die.
I know an old lady who swallowed a bird,
How absurd to swallow a bird!
She swallowed the bird to catch the spider,
That wriggled and jiggled and tickled inside her,
She swallowed the spider to catch the fly,
I don't know why she swallowed the fly,
I guess she'll die.
I know an old lady who swallowed a cat,
Imagine that, to swallow a cat!
She swallowed the cat to catch the bird,
She swallowed the bird to catch the spider,
That wriggled and jiggled and tickled inside her,
She swallowed the spider to catch the fly,
I don't know why she swallowed the fly,
I guess she'll die.
I know an old lady who swallowed a dog,
My, what a hog, to swallow a dog!
She swallowed the dog to catch the cat,
She swallowed the cat to catch the bird,
She swallowed the bird to catch the spider,
That wriggled and jiggled and tickled inside her,
She swallowed the spider to catch the fly,
I don't know why she swallowed the fly,
I guess she'll die.
I know an old lady who swallowed a goat,
Just opened her throat and swallowed a goat!
She swallowed the goat to catch the dog,
She swallowed the dog to catch the cat,
She swallowed the cat to catch the bird,
She swallowed the bird to catch the spider,
That wriggled and jiggled and tickled inside her,
She swallowed the spider to catch the fly,
I don't know why she swallowed the fly,
I guess she'll die.
I know an old lady who swallowed a cow,
I wonder how she swallowed a cow?!
She swallowed the cow to catch the goat,
She swallowed the goat to catch the dog,
She swallowed the dog to catch the cat,
She swallowed the cat to catch the bird,
She swallowed the bird to catch the spider,
That wriggled and jiggled and tickled inside her,
She swallowed the spider to catch the fly,
I don't know why she swallowed the fly,
I guess she'll die.
I know an old lady who swallowed a horse,
She's dead, of course!!
I really think my husband needs to pay a visit to the classroom. Each time I come home and relay all that went in the room he doesn't seem to understand todays the kindergartner way. He wonders what ever happened to nap rugs and playtime! 

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Fairy Dust and Books

So true and I might also say that adding in a little poetry now and then is something we all need to uplift our spirits.
Caroline Kennedy wrote in the introduction of her book, A Family of Poems My Favorite Poetry for Children, "Poetry played a special part in our family. We were encouraged to write or choose a favorite poem for each holiday or birthday as a gift for my mother and grandparents instead of buying a card or a present."  The following poem was written by Caroline's mother, Jacqueline when she was in school looking out the window daydreaming. 

Thoughts
by Jacqueline Bouvier

I love the Autumn,
And yet I cannot say
All the thoughts and things
That make me feel this way.

I love walking on the angry shore,
To watch the angry sea;
Where summer people were before, 
But now there's only me.

I love wood fires at night
That have a ruddy glow.
I stare at the flames
And think of long ago.

I love the feeling down inside me
That says to run away
To come and be a gypsy
And laugh the gypsy way.

The tangy taste of apples, 
The snowy mist at morn, 
The wanderlust inside you
When you hear the huntsman's horn.

Nostalgia-that's Autumn,
Dreaming through September
Just a million lovely things
I always will remember.  
______________________________________________
With a wee bit of my own fairy dust for good luck and some good books I am set to enjoy these lovely fall days.  
                                                             
tell my sons is very touching memoir book written by LT. Col. Mark Weber. He is a father, soldier and author who died recently from cancer. Weber is from Minnesota. The book intrigued me as I had seen an interview on TV with him a few months before he died. He wrote this book as a series of life's lessons for his three sons who are all under the age of 16. Weber was at the pinnacle of his army career where he was tapped to serve in a high ranking position as a military advisor in Afghan Parliament when he was diagnosed with cancer. When Weber realized that he was not going to survive this final tour of combat, he began to write a letter to his boys, so that as they grew up without him, they would know what his life-and-death story had taught him—about courage and fear, challenge and comfort, words and actions, pride and humility, seriousness and humor, and viewing life as a never-ending search for new ideas and inspiration.

I Remember Nothing by Nora Ephron 



Now this was a book I could really relate to with a collection of 23 essays reflecting on aging. Ephron is a screenwriter, director and best selling author. I loved how she used a sense of humor in looking at the aging process and discussing taboo topics such as physical decline, emotional regrets and mental challenges. 







If I had to choose one of my top favorite children's author it would have to be Kate DiCamillo. And its not just because she lives in my hometown. DiCamillo is a master storyteller and her picture and chapter books are well loved by children as well as adults. Her fame began with Winn Dixie and Flora and Ulysses is her newest chapter book. The plot is clever, fanciful and the reader gets swept right into the story. Ulysses, the squirrel, never saw the vacuum cleaner coming. He gets swallowed whole by the cleaner. But as a result Ulysses gains superhero powers of flight, ability to write poetry (now that part caught my interest) and strength. Flora Belle Buckman is just the right person to step in and save him. A very heartwarming story.


Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Waldorf salad

"I, not events, have the power to make me happy or unhappy today. I can choose which it shall be. Yesterday is dead, tomorrow hasn't arrived yet. I have just one day, today, and I'm going to be happy in it."
-- Groucho Marx
___________________________________________________

Waldorf Salad
A Waldorf salad is traditionally made with fresh apples, celery and walnuts with a dressing made from mayonnaise. It is usually served on a bed of lettuce.
This salad was first created between 1893 and 1896 at the Waldorf Hotel in New York City (the precursor of the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel which came into being with the merger of the Waldorf with the adjacent Astoria Hotel, opened in 1897).
Oscar Tschirky who was the Waldorf's maitre d' hotel had developed or inspired many of its signature dishes. He is widely credited with creating the recipe. In 1896, the Waldorf Salad appeared in The Cook Book by "Oscar of the Waldorf" The original recipe did not contain nuts, but they had been added by the time the recipe appeared in The Rector Cook Book in 1928. The salad became popular enough that Cole Porter featured it in his 1934 song "You're The Top".

Today there are many variations of the Waldorf salad. Chicken or turkey. grapes or dried fruits can be added. 
For a more interesting taste, the mayonnaise can be improved with seasonal herbs. To make the salad more healthy, the mayonnaise can be replaced with yogurt. 


Waldorf Salad
Serves 8

Ingredients:
  • 2 cups chopped, slightly toasted walnuts
  • 2 cups chopped celery
  • 2 cups sliced in half red seedless grapes
  • 3 apples chopped-leave on skins
  • ½ cup mayonnaise
  • 2 TB. lemon juice
  • I package of cranraisins
  • 1 package of field or spring greens

Directions:
  • Whisk mayo and lemon juice; add ½ tsp. salt and ¼ tsp. pepper
  • Mix in rest of ingredients except greens
  • Refrigerate till serving
  • Serve apple mixture on greens

Monday, September 23, 2013

DIY Fall Projects


And the moment you all have been waiting for...
This is the name of the food column and its logo. I will keep you posted on this new writing adventure for the Pilot newspaper. 
And the winner of the prize for naming the food column is Jennifer from Minneapolis, MN
She wins a one year magazine subscription of her choice.
Thanks to all  those who submitted such creative ideas. It was a hard choice making a final decision.   

The Seasonal Plate
Seasonal Inspired Food Pairings
_________________________________________________________________________
Creativity abounded with Bachman's Florist Fall Idea House for 2013. It was all about combining opposites old and new, light and dark, smooth and textured using conventional objects repurposed in a classy setting. For me some ideas were so off the charts I wondered who could ever come up with such unusual ideas. No doubt their design crew has been following Pinterest. It was an inspiring tour through the house and yard.
In back of the house a chest of drawers held succulent plants. It was displayed prominently in  the garden.
The front of the house had a welcoming fall floral display in the window boxes. 
Look carefully at this place setting. Instead of a traditional placemat an empty sprayed picture frame holds the table setting.


  Baskets turned upside down and made into light fixtures.
Window treatments fashioned from dishtowels and measuring tape ribbon.

This was one of my favorite repurposed items. A metal ironing board is the frame with magnets on the board with a clock attached to the ironing board. 
A suede valance with belts added as a decorative touch.
A reclaimed locker used as a bar and book storage.
A touch of humor...a bat suspended in a clothes chute.
You would never guess what this headboard is made from...a bank teller window!
Wooden ironing boards utilized as a shelving  unit.
This fall display was in a postal drawer labeled US Mail.

So ladies and gentleman... start your flea market and thrift shopping this weekend and see what you can come up with to repuropse. 

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Autumn Poetry

Mississippi River, Minneapolis, Minnesota 

In August I chaired a poetry event for the Northwoods Art and Book Festival. I asked each of the participants who were reading their poems to reflect on why poetry matters to you. Here were some of their responses.  
Poetry, like music. echoes and affirms the joys and sorrows in our lives.
I love the rhythm and texture of words that can relay profound thoughts, images, and emotions in small spaces.
Writing, reading and hearing poetry is pure pleasure.
I've come to believe poetry is the signature of one's soul and paintings are its portrait.

As for me I would like to pass along this quote from Ralph Fletcher's book Poetry Matters. He said," Poetry matters, at the most important moments,when everyone else is silent, poetry rises to speak. Poems shine, sing, soar."

Poetry opens a new season today. Sharon's beautiful imagery in the poem "Autumn" sets the scene. 

"Autumn"
by Sharon Harris

Autumn
is a shy lady, 
gentle and cool,
a bit aloof in her ways,
sharp sometimes 
but beautiful too.
she dresses in robes of brilliant color,
ever-changing 
from rust to gold,
from amber to shimmering red.
she is flamboyant in her dress
but quiet otherwise.
there is a deep secrecy in her voice,
frost on her breath
and the look of death in her eyes.

"Autumn" from "Four Seasons Women" 
previously published in Unspoken 2011
 
A person's dreams, fears, and hurts often remain unspoken. This is Sharon's third book of poetry--basically raw feelings, expressed in simple words.  Don't let your life's passions and your yearnings disappear unwritten or unspoken. 
Follow this link if you'd like to purchase the book for $10.00

_____________________________________________________________________
Molasses Crinkles
Cook's notes: This recipe may be the oldest one I have ever posted on this blog. It originally dates back to 1948. Countless recipes have since been based on this beloved cookie. One taste you will be hooked. It begs to be served with a cup of coffee or tea. 
I did not have on hand the coarse sugar suggested for the recipe. The cookie dough ball was rolled in fine white sugar as a substitute. A plate of cookies, a cup of coffee and Sharon's poetry book Unspoken certainly was a perfect way to usher in autumn. 
Recipe comes from BHG Special Interest Publication Best Loved Reader Recipes 2013
Makes 24 cookies
Ingredients:
  • 3/4 cup shortening (I used 1/2 cup butter and 1/4 cup margarine) 
  • 1 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1-/1/2 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1 tsp. ground ginger
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 tsp. ground cloves (I used 1/8 because ground cloves has a strong taste)
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/4 cup mild flavor molasses
  • 2-1/4 cups of flour
  • 1/3 cup coarse sugar  
Directions:
  • Preheat oven to 375
  • In a large bowl beat shortening for 30 seconds and then add in brown sugar, baking soda, salt, ginger, cinnamon, and cloves-beat until combined
  • Beat in egg and molasses and 1-1/4 cups flour 
  • Beat in rest of flour if batter too thick stir in rest of flour to blend
  • Cover and chill dough one hour  or place in freezer for 45 minutes
  • Place coarse sugar on a large dinner plate
  • Roll dough into 1-1/2 inch balls and then roll in coarse sugar
  • Place dough balls about 2 inches apart on a cookie sheet 
  • Bake 10-11 minutes-edges should be set and tops crackled
  • Transfer cookies to a wire rack
  
Next blog posting will be The Big Reveal
The winning name for the new upcoming food column and logo will be announced as well as the person who contributed the name.