Monday, April 30, 2012

May Day

Life is an opportunity,
benefit from it.
Life is beauty,
admire it.
Life is a dream,
realize it.
Life is a duty,
complete it.
Life is a game,
play it.
Life is a promise,
fulfill it.
Life is sorrow,
overcome it.
Life is a song, sing it.

by Mother Theresa 

May Day baskets, Maypole dances, crowning May Queens may be customs of the past. Today's generation may have no knowledge of but I  do have fond memories of when we made May Day baskets in elementary school, crowned a queen and decorated a Maypole. The baskets were made for our parents and even neighbors. We worked diligently making the baskets out of  construction paper rolled in a cone shape with a handle. We would fill the baskets with leftover Easter basket grass, candy , a packet of seeds, glittery paper flowers, tissue paper flowers with pipe cleaners for the stem and a HAPPY MAY DAY note. The baskets would be hung a neighbor's doorknob or our own front door. 

Take note how easy it would be to make these flowers. Use a Popsicle stick for stem and a Hershey kiss for flower center. The basket cone shape can be made from scrapbooking paper. There's still time if you hurry to make one of your own.    

Sunday, April 29, 2012

The Fragrance of Mint

The French poet Paul Verlaine, was born in Metz, in the northeast of France, in 1844. He began writing as young as 14, when he sent his poem "La Mort" to Victor Hugo. He published his first volume of poetry when he was 22. 

Verlaine wrote:  
You must let your poems ride their luck 
On the back of the sharp morning air  
Touched with the fragrance of mint and thyme
And everything else is Literature
I liked the added touch of mint and thyme to Verlaine's words. Mint reminds me of the Kentucky Derby which just happens to be right around the corner on May 5th. Perhaps you might be thinking of hosting a gathering to watch the minute and half race which starts at 5:00. The distance of the race course is only 1-1/4 miles.  Traditionally, Mint Juleps were often served in silver or pewter cups and held only by the bottom and top edges of the cup. Hand placement may have been a way to reduce the heat transfer from hand to glass. Today most juleps are served in an tall Tom Collins glass or an old fashioned glass. Preparation of this cocktail is widely debated among bartenders. Mint Juleps have been promoted by Churchill Downs in association with the Kentucky Derby since 1938. On the day of the Kentucky Derby 80,000 mint juleps are sold.  
This recipe works for me even though I skipped using the simple syrup method.
2-4 fresh mint sprigs-set aside one sprig
2-1/2 oz bourbon whiskey
1 tsp. powdered sugar
2  tsp. water
Finely chop mint sprigs, add powdered sugar and water to a tall frosted glass
Stir and fill glass with crushed ice
Add bourbon
Add mint sprig for garnish 

Thursday April 26th I posted two mini appetizers recipes from Southern Living April 2012.
Please see link to recipes 
Both of these recipes were quite easy, received great reviews for presentation and taste when I brought them recently to a dinner. A lot of the preparation can be made a day ahead. But I would like to make some revisions to the original recipes previously posted.
 Chicken Salad Tarts
Cook's note: the recipe called for using prepared deli chicken salad
I made my own using
  • 3 pieces of cooked chicken, cooled and chopped in food processor
  • Add 1/3 cup chopped onion to food processor when chopping chicken
  • Place chicken/onion in a bowl adding finely chopped walnuts 1/3-1.2  cup, celery 1/3-1/2 cup, 1/2 tsp. curry powder, 2 TB drained pickle relish and Miracle Whip to moisten 
Cover chicken salad and refrigerate overnight
Bake mini phyllo shells 30 using (2 packages) on a cookie sheet for 5 minutes @350
Cool and fill with chicken salad and add 1 blackberry in center of each tart shell as garnish
Makes 30 tarts

Strawberry Pretzel Cracker
Cook's note: Crackers can get soggy with strawberry mixture on top if prepared too much in advance -45 minutes ahead is enough 
makes about 36 appetizers
I used a product called Town Country Flip Side Pretzel Cracker
3 oz. softened cream cheese
strawberry mixture: 

  • 2 cups finely chopped strawberries
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped fresh basil
  • 2 TB. brown sugar
  • 4 tsp. minced shallots
Spread cream cheese on pretzel side of cracker
Add 1tsp. strawberry mixture on top of cream cheese

Friday, April 27, 2012

Art In The Garden

Minneapolis Institute of Arts sponsored  this week their annual festival of flowers: Art in Bloom. The theme "Art in the Garden" focused on the  outdoors and celebrated the gardens and fields and people who grow them.  The Impressionists painting The Butterfly Catchers by Theodore Wendel, 1908, was their signature poster and program cover. 

Artists, gardeners and florists gather at this festival each year to create arrangements that depict their interpretation of a Art in a Garden theme to match a sculpture, art form or painting at the Institute. I thought you might enjoy some of the spectacular fruits of their labor.   
Portrait of Frida Kahlo

City Night, Georgia O'Keefe
Bronco Buster, Newell Convers Wyeth
Title: Musical Man
I was quite intrigued with the ingenuity of this sculpture. If you look closely the legs are covered with afghan granny type squares (often used as potholders or coasters) rest of sculpture made up of children's musical toys: jack in the box, wind-up tops, hand shakers. This sculpture was the interpretation of the painting in the back which is hard to see. 

This free standing fairy like sculpture was made up of small tea roses and mini carnations.
On the right I posted other floral arrangements.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

A Poem For Your Pocket

Keep A Poem In Your Pocket
by Beatrice Schenk de Regniers

Keep a poem in your pocket
and a picture in your head
and you’ll never feel lonely
at night when you’re in bed.

The little poem will sing to you
the little picture bring to you
a dozen dreams to dance to you
at night when you’re in bed.

Keep a picture in your pocket
and a poem in your head
and you’ll never feel lonely
at night when you’re in bed. 

Recently I came across two interesting mini bites (appetizer) recipes from Southern Living April 2012
Both look easy to prepare and have a bit of wow factor to them when serving. See what you think

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Keep A Poem In Your Pocket

Tommorow is Poem In Your Pocket Day!
The idea is simple. On April 26, 2012, National Poem in Your Pocket Day, carry a poem in your pocket and share it with co-workers, family, and friends. On Poem in Your Pocket Day, celebrated each year during National Poetry Month, poems from pockets will be unfolded at events in parks, libraries, schools, workplaces, and bookstores in all 50 states throughout the country. Choose your own pocket poem from's selection of newprintable PDFs—including classic poems from the Academy's Poem in Your Pocket anthologies.

Here is a poem to give you a head start
April Rain Song
        by Langston Hughes

Let the rain kiss you.
Let the rain beat upon your head
with silver liquid drops.
Let the rain sing you a lullaby.
The rain makes still pools
 on the sidewalk.
The rain makes running pools
in the gutter.
The rain plays a little sleep-song
on our roof at night.
And I love the rain.

Monday, April 23, 2012

The Bard:William Shakespeare' s birthday today (1564-1616) is just enough of a reason  to try a new cake recipe.

Lemonade Cake
Cook's note: Since anything with lemon is a winner for me this recipe looked quite appealing and so easy. Ingredients can be adjusted for less of a lemon flavor
  • I box lemon cake mix with pudding in it (yellow cake mix can be substituted)
  • 1 can whipped white frosting mix
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 thawed can of lemonade (6 oz.) 
  • toasted coconut
  • grated lemon peel (omit if you feel there is enough of a lemon flavor)

  • Bake cake according to directions on box (28 minutes worked well for me)
  • Cool cake 15 minutes
  • While cake is cooling whisk lemonade concentrate and powdered sugar together (might be necessary to use beaters to totally dissolve sugar)
  • With a large tined fork or skewer poke holes all over cake
  • By the tablespoons ladle juice all over cake to soak in holes-you will only use 1/2 of the liquid otherwise with too much it just runs to the side of the pan
  • Refrigerate 1/2 hour to set
  • Frost cake with homemade white frosting or whipped canned frosting
  • Sprinkle toasted coconut over frosting and grate lemon zest over the cake 
  • Refrigerate 1/2 hour to set and remove   
Shakespeare wrote dozens of plays sometimes three a year and more than 150 poems and sonnets. As with many poets from long ago little is known about his life. But is known that he went to work as a young man to support his family and married at age 18. When he was 21 he headed to London  working in the theater as an actor and a writer. 
His plays can be thought as long poems . He wrote his lines with careful attention to their length often with 10 syllables in each line and sometimes rhyming words at the end. I find it interesting to note that Shakespeare was different from other poets who gained fame after their death. He was a star in his lifetime and his plays were blockbusters. 
Good night,good night! Parting is such sweet sorrow
That I shall say good night till it be morrow.
Juliet bidding Romeo goodnight: 
from Romeo and Juliet
My friend Beth, who I have known for over 40 years, has begun a blog about living the last 11 years with arteriovenous malformation or AVM. Simply put it means a blood clot on the 4th ventricle of the brain stem. After two major brain surgeries she was forced to give up a successful marketing career. She struggles daily with with her loss of independence being wheelchair bound.  All those things we take for granted such as walking, driving, swallowing and good vision Beth has learned to cope without them. Her faith, patience, sense of humor and determination are certainly to be admired.
You can follow her story at
Please scroll down to the first posting which is the beginning of her journey titled: Introduction on April 9th.

Sunday, April 22, 2012


Today April 22 is Earth Day. It was founded by Senator Gaylord Nelson in 1970. The day was organized to help promote ecology and respect for life on the planet as well as to encourage awareness of the growing problems of air, water and and soil pollution. 

This year's theme is Mobilize The Earth.  

I recently came across this Earth Day Network that works with over 22,000 partners in 192 countries to broaden and mobilize the environmental movement. Their goal this year is 1 billion  acts of green and counting.  There is no money involved. Check it out, looks interesting
Many cities and towns are doing their part to promote Earth Day awareness with a variety of activities. An unexpected gift from a small independent bookstore with my purchase was well thought out. For their part to raise go green awareness they were handing out individual wrapped gifts with a brochure on Living Green tips, a small pot  and a packet a flower seeds.  
 Great start for the planting season.

Earth, What Will You Give Me?

by Beverly Mc Loughland

Earth, what will you give me
In summer
In summer,
Earth, what will you give me
In summer

I’ll give you my fields
Made of lilies,
Of lilies,
I’ll give you my fields
Made of lilies
And green.

And what will you give me
In autumn,
In autumn
And what will you give me
In autumn
So bold?

I’ll give you my leaves
Made of maple,
Of maple,
I’ll give you my leaves
Made of maple
And gold.

And what will you give me
In winter,
In winter,
What will you give me
In winter
So light?

I’ll give you my stars
Made of crystal,
Of crystal,
I’ll give you my stars
Made of crystal
And white.

And what will you give me
In springtime,
In springtime,
And what will you give me
In springtime
So new?

I’ll give you my nests
Made of grasses,
Of grasses,
I’ll give you my nests
Made of grasses
And blue.

 I have been on a quest to duplicate an amazing dish I had at restaurant: Lemon Ricotta pancakes. It tasted and looked more like a dessert item since they were light and airy with a hint of lemon and a dusting of powdered sugar with mixed berries. 
  • 1-3/4 cups flour 
  • 3/4 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 1-1/2 tbs. sugar
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • zest of large lemon (I used a a micro-plane to zest and adjust depending how much lemon zest according to your tastes) 
  •  3 egg yolks
  • 5 egg whites
  • 1-1/3 cups buttermilk
  • 3/4 cup ricotta cheese

  • In a bowl whisk together flour, baking soda, baking powder, sugar, salt and zest
  • In another bowl lightly whisk egg yolks then whisk in buttermilk and ricotta
  • Whisk yolk mixture into flour mixture until well combined: note the batter will be lumpy
  • Gently fold in egg whites in two additions
  • Grease griddle and cook as usual for plain pancakes
  • To serve dust with confectioner's sugar and top with fruit

Cook's note:Since much of my recipe exploration is done at the lake I have found the small grocery stores can be limited on ingredients I need. This newly discovered product is perfect when I am out of buttermilk. It is a dry product that you add water to making up the buttermilk mixture.
This recipes makes about 25 pancakes. Use 1/3 cup batter for each pancake. Since batter lighter than mixes from the store may have to cook a bit longer. I cooked them @ 350 on the griddle dial.
These turned out great and even better with a drizzle of syrup.

Friday, April 20, 2012

The World According To Bella

O little soldier with the golden helmet,
What are you guarding on my lawn?
You with your green gun
And your yellow beard
Why do you stand so stiff?
There is only grass to fight!
by Hilda Conkling
The Unexpected
I was disappointed. Sunday I had to miss  Zero's birthday party at the park. Well the unexpected happened on Wednesday.  When I returned to the park this is what Zero's owner had saved for me. My very own doggie treat bag filled with a lot of good stuff from the party.  I gave Zero's owner my very best tail wag and happy bark. She knew I really liked the bag.  It was filled with all sorts of mini milkbones, my favorite treats.  Zero really liked his gift: The Chuckit Ball Launcher. But I was exhausted when we got home. Running after all those ball launches was a lot of work. I found a very sunny place in the house and took a very long nap.
Love, Bella

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

On A Stick

Question: How many things are there on a stick at the Minnesota State Fair?  
Answer: over 59.
The Minnesota State Fair  boasts more things on a stick than anywhere in the world. Every year at the Fair you can find an abundance of things on a stick ranging from walleye, to corned beef and cabbage, fried fruit, alligator sausage, frozen key lime pie and many more offerings. But nowhere on the list did I see Poetry on the Stick. This unique non-edible item certainly is noteworthy.
David Bengtson, a poet, with his wife Marilyn came up with this creative idea to promote poetry. In fact he has made and given away more than 8,300 Poems-on Sticks. Here is his story..

The “Poems-on-Sticks” Story
In 2003, I was one of the seven poets who read poems on the Mississippi River Stage at the Minnesota State Fair. This event was sponsored by the Department of Natural Resources and the National Park Service.

Since so many things at the fair are served on a stick, my wife Marilyn suggested that I glue some postcard-sized poem/photo combinations to sticks, sign them, and bring them along to hand out after the reading. I brought 50 and they went quickly.

I still remember one little guy, maybe around 10, who took a poem, stepped away, read it, turned and looked at me. He then walked back, holding the poem as though he wanted me to take it, and said, “Ya gotta another one?” Not easily discouraged, I have, since then, made and given away more than 8300 “Poems-on-Sticks” at various presentations, readings, workshops, bookstores, and coffee shops.

A new edition of 36 “Poems-on-Sticks” features photographs by Mike Hazard, a documentary filmmaker, photographer, and writer from St. Paul. The design is by Peg Churchwell of Lady Dog Design in Long Prairie.

To view David's poems go to the website
This site is a collaborative effort. Mike Hazard has posted his photographs to accompany David's poems.  Peg Churchwell has facilitated the design process.

This is David's poem featured in the above in the photo.
Japanese Garden
In this garden one tree is weeping
while another's bent branch waits for God to sit 
and the lantern rides a frozen wave.
All winter we waited for these few days
when plum and apple blossom.
Tomorrow we will walk this path again
and stand here with outstretched hands
as petals fall silent as snow. 
by David Bengston

So find yourself a poem, grab a stick and pass it along for someone else to enjoy!

Monday, April 16, 2012

The World According To Bella

Spring Snowstorm Derails Plans
Take a look at this. It is not an April Fools Day joke!

Mrs. S does not listen.  A recent 72 degree day sent her into a tailspin. She got carried away. I just shook my head. First I tried to bar her from entering the garage, then barked furiously each time a new flower pot and piece of lawn furniture was brought out and last but not least whined incessantly when her two favorite green Adirondack chairs were placed facing the lake.  Nothing seemed to work to get her attention. But I had heard the evening news prediction of overnight snow. She didn't care and in her brazen style whipped it all out anyway certain the forecast had to be wrong. 
So here it is 48 hours later and this is what we have..a mess. Parts of the road are impassable with trees toppled over due to the weight of the snow.  As if this wasn't enough I missed Zero's birthday party yesterday at the park because I am here.  I heard Zero's  owner passed out individual treat bags and slices of cake. Hopefully they saved me some. I don't like to miss a party. I wonder if anyone sang to him?
Love, Bella
Sometimes it is necessary to purge one's collection of unused recipes. So as I was sorting through my collection I came across this recipe. I had not thought of it for many years. It came from the Pioneer Press paper but there are some online versions like this one. This yummy bar was quite popular and its taste very similar to the real Pearson's Nut Goodie Bar. 
This classic Minnesota candy bar is found in the Upper Midwest area. But if you go online to you can find out how to order their products. But better yet try this recipe. It tastes very close to the candy bar. It is rich so serve in small pieces and keep refrigerated. It lasts a long time if you don't nibble too much since it is soooooooooo good.  
Nut Goodie Bars
Cook's note: This recipe can be halved and put into a 9 inch glass pan  
  • 12 oz. semi sweet chocolate chips
  • 12 oz. butterscotch chips
  • 1 jar (18 oz.) peanut butter
  • 1 jar (16 oz.) dry roasted peanuts
  • 1 cup butter (use half butter and half margarine)
  • 1/4 cup regular vanilla pudding mix (dry from box)
  • 1/2 cup evaporated milk
  • 2 LBS. powdered sugar
  • 1 tsp. maple flavoring
  • Melt chocolate and butterscotch chips with peanut butter
  • Spread half of this mixture in a 13 x 9 glass pan or a jelly roll pan 
  • Refrigerate
  • To the other half of chip mixture add dry peanuts and set aside
  • Combine butter/margarine, dry pudding mix and milk
  • Bring to a boil and boil 1 minute
  • Remove from heat and add powdered sugar and maple flavoring
  • Beat and spread on first layer that had been refrigerated
  • Cool in refrigerator 2 hours and then spread remainder of melted chips with dry roasted peanuts on top
  • Refrigerate and cut in small squares

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Spring Rains

"Poetry is a record of the best and happiest moments for the happiest of minds."

by Percy Bysshe Shelly 

Recent Spring rains awakened these flowers from their slumber. 

In Time of Silver Rain
by Langston Hughes

In time of silver rain 
The earth
Puts forth new life again,
Green grasses grow
And flowers lift their heads,
And all over the plain
The wonder spreads
Of life,
Of life,
Of life!
In time of silver rain
The butterflies
Lift silken wings
To catch a rainbow cry,
And trees put forth
New leaves to sing
In joy beneath the sky
As down the roadway
Passing boys and girls
Go singing, too,
In time of silver rain
When spring
And Life 
Are new. 

For those who have wondered why poets write their poems, Hughes offered this answer:"If you put your thoughts in rhyme, they stay in folk's heads a longer time."

Cornmeal and Rosemary Cake with Balsamic Syrup
Cook’s note: The unusual combination of ingredients caught my attention in this recipe. It was “billed” as a recipe that went well with a cup of tea or a glass of dessert wine. Since I have been writing about tea party food thought it a good time to try it. My uncertainty about a drizzle of Balsamic syrup and the rosemary spice in a cake was soon forgotten as I savored my first bite. It all complimented each other. My chief taste tester (who isn’t much into gourmet type recipes) even gave this one a “thumbs up.”
recipe from Giada de Laurentiis posted on
  • ½ cup fine yellow cornmeal
  • ½ cup cake flour
  • 1-1/2 tsp. rosemary (recipe called 1 TB fresh minced Rosemary but I did not have it)
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • ¼ tsp. salt
  • ½ cup softened butter
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 1-1/4 cups confectioner’s sugar
  • 4 large egg yolks
  • 2 large eggs
  • ½ cup light sour cream

Balsamic Syrup

¼ cup sugar
¼ cup balsamic vinegar (use a good kind)
Bring ingredients to a boil and then simmer about 4 minutes or until sugar is dissolved
Syrup thickens if let cool too long-might have to reheat on low when serving it as a drizzle over cake
  • Preheat oven 350
  • Spray with Pam a round cake pan (8or 9inch)
  • In a medium bowl whisk cornmeal, cake flour, rosemary, baking powder and salt-set aside
  • In another bowl beat vanilla and butter; slowly add confectioner’s sugar then beat at medium speed till light and fluffy
  • Add egg yolks and eggs one at a time beating well after each addition
  • Add sour cream and mix well
  • On low speed add dry ingredients and mix just till incorporated
  • Pour into prepared pan and use a spatula to smooth surface
  • Bake 28-30 minutes
  • Cool
  • To serve dust cake with confectioner’s sugar and a drizzle of syrup

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Tea Time

Afternoon Tea

My copper kettle

whistles merrily

and signals that
it is time for tea.
The fine china cups
are filled with the brew.
There's lemon and sugar
and sweet cream, too.
But, best of all
there's friendship, between you and me.
As we lovingly share
our afternoon tea.
by Marianna Arolin 
Wearing your vintage finds to an afternoon tea party adds to the festive mood as you mingle among the guests enjoying conversations and food. Here are some recipes for your consideration just in case you should decide to throw you own tea party one fine spring afternoon. 
Check out Anytime is Tea Time a blog posting from 10/2/10 for more tea conversations and ideas.
 Tea Sandwiches
Use firm bread like whole wheat, brown bread, banana bread. Serve as open face sandwiches with crusts trimmed and cut into triangles. You can freeze bread until firm which makes it easier to trim and cut. Sandwiches can be made up to four hours ahead. Cover loosely with wax paper and a damp paper towel, cover and refrigerate.Each filling serving will be about 1/4 cup.
The following are some alternative fillings to the standard egg,tuna, ham salad
Cucumber and Strawberry Filling
  • 1- 8 oz. package of cream cheese softened
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped cucumber
  • 1/3 mayonnaise or Miracle Whip
  • 1/4 cup minced red onion
  • 3 TB.finely chopped fresh basil
  • Beat cream mixture till smooth and spread on bread
  • Lay sliced strawberries over top-cut bread into triangles  
Walnut Cream Cheese
  • 12 oz. of cream cheese softened
  • 3/4 cup finely chopped walnuts-use food processor
  • 2 TB. parsley
  • 2 TB. finely chopped onion
  • 1 tsp. lemon juice
  • 1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg
  • dash salt and pepper
Beat all ingredients till smooth

Smoked Salmon
  • 1 cup mayonnaise or Miracle Whip
  • 1 tsp. dill weed
  • 1 tsp. parsley flakes
  • 1 tsp. lemon juice
  • 1/2 tsp. dried thyme
  • 1/2 tsp. dried tarragon
  • 1/2 tsp. grated lemon peel
  • Dash ground nutmeg
  • 1 package of smoked salmon (4 oz.) 
  • Combine all ingredients except salmon and  lend till smooth
  • Spread on pumpernickel bread and top each bread slice with salmon
  • Garnish with dill sprigs
Orange and Cranberry
  • 1-8 oz. cream cheese softened
  • 2/3 cup dried cranberries
  • 1/3 cup orange marmalade
  • 1/2 cup chopped pecans
  • Blend well and spread on pumpernickel bread
  • Add thinly sliced smoked turkey
Russian Tea Cakes A.K.A. Walnut Snowballs
  • 2-1/4 cup flour
  • 1/2 cup butter and 1/2 cup margarine softened
  • 3/4 cup powdered sugar
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 2 tsp. vanilla
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 1-1/4 cups finely chopped walnuts
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • optional 3 tsp. brandy
  • large bowl of 1 cup powdered sugar
  • Preheat oven 350
  • Line cookie sheet with parchment paper
  • Combine 3/4 cup powdered sugar, salt, vanilla, egg yolk, brandy,margarine and butter
  • Beat on low speed about  1 minute
  • Add nuts
  • Shape into 1 inch balls
  • Bake about 9-11 minutes
  • While warm roll in bowl of powdered sugar
  • Cool on a wire rack and then roll again in powdered sugar
Cashew Clusters
recipe from Celebrations with Carmela Cucina by Carmela Hobbins
  • 12 oz. chocolate chips
  • 12 oz. butterscotch chips
  • 2 cups salted cashews-chopped
  • Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper
  • Melt chips in double boiler
  • When chips completely melted add chopped cashews
  • Drop the mixture by teaspoons onto pan 
  • Put pan in refrigerator till set 


Cinnamon Apple Muffins

GET TO KNOW YOUR APPLES Pink Lady , great balance of sweet and tart. Granny Smith , maybe the most popular baking apple. A little more tart ...