Rocking out like no one is watching

I love a good hamburger. Scratch that.  I love a good CHEESEburger –with the works, which usually prompts Hubby to ask me if I can taste the beef. What can I say, my personal food pyramid has a little section smack dab in the middle for condiments. A small, but basic food group capable of enhancing virtually anything that’s plain. Notice plain rhymes with pain, which is exactly what I feel when I watch my niece prepare and subsequently eat a sandwich. Bread, cheese, meat. Makes my taste buds hurt. But I digress.

On Saturday night our family enjoyed some time at Milwaukee’s Big Gig aka Summerfest. Youngest daughter went to drool over Jason Aldean with a cousin and friend while the rest of us went to enjoy some good rock while waiting for the 10pm Pat Benetar concert.  (Awesome! Hope I look that good when I’m 60!)) It was an unusually cold summer afternoon and evening; the wind was frigid and cut through me as though I was wearing a kleenex and not a jean jacket. Thankfully, people watching made me forget about my frozen toes.

The opening band had a fantastic sound and inspired music lovers to live in the moment and just enjoy. One Packer fan wearing a bright gold t-shirt with a big green G in the middle faced the audience while standing on a bleacher, singing and dancing to every number.  When the lyrics escaped him, he simply directed those singing in the audience while grooving to the music and never loosing rhythm. Or falling off the bleacher.  All of that must have pooped him out because he left after Pat’s first song. Happy, I’m sure, in a way that only music can make you feel. Milwaukee is as known for its beer as  for our brats, Friday fish frys and everything tasting better with cheese. This man’s happiness, however, was visibly not induced by beer.  For the hour+ I enjoyed watching him I never saw him even sip a cold one. Kudos, dude!

Only one person topped Mr. Packer’s enthusiasm. A lady who I’m guessing was in her mid to late 50s, standing on her seat, fist pumping to the music: open palm right hand, double cheeseburger in the left.  The woman never dropped a crumb and only snatched bites during the band’s brief interlude between songs. Now that’s rocking like no one is watching.

It was a night I won’t soon forget and made better by enjoying sounds from the best era of rock with my musical first born beauty. (Can you tell I grew up in the ’80s?)

On the foodie front, cupcake push pops where the new item featured at this year’s gig. Looked yummy, but we opted for a sampling of traditional cupcakes that allowed for bigger sharing bites. 🙂 Carrot cake, cookies-n-cream, peanut butter cup, and Stout cupcakes with mocha butter cream frosting. The latter was the winner and I’m going to try to recreate that gem for our annual 4th of July pool party.  If I achieve pastry success I’ll be sure to pass on the recipe.

In the meantime, I hope you enjoy America’s birthday with good people, great food, and music that makes that lifts your heart.

Change is coming

The end of the school year is just 4 days away, technically 3 ½  but who’s counting?  I am. Boy am I ever.

In years past, I sounded a robust “hallelujah!” on the last day of school.  Goodbye, morning madness, see ya in September – and September was a long way away.  This year my “hallelujah”  is a bit on the weak side.  Sure, the end of this school year marks the end of more triumphs and challenges, new growth, and even more preparation for the future. But this year also marks a change that’s coming to our little nest.  It will mark the beginning of the end of my firstborn’s high school days as she will become a full-fledged Senior and Beauty #2 will be an upperclassman in her own right as a Junior. It will mark the beginning of Beauty#1’s final preparation to take her first real solo flight and will subsequently steer me and Hubby onto the start of a new course of our own whether we like it or not.   That has me freaking out a bit.

It was sometime during middle school that my Beauties and I began our tradition of going out to lunch on the last day of school –specifically to Buffalo Wild Wings until last year when we switched to Quaker Steak & Lube. (Both places are sinfully delicious and my comments are nothing more than that –comments from a happy customer.)  Sometime between jabbering away in between licking our fingers while eating hot wings or between mouthfuls of yummy wraps, a few moments of quiet set in. I’d reflect on the highs and lows of the past school year and dreamily fantasize over the coming lazy summer days –ones that I would make sure included good reading along with all of the swimming, barbecue gatherings, and family adventures.  Gratitude always filled my heart and lodged in my throat as I prayed a silent thank you to God for the blessed privilege of being in the position to share such a lunch with my babies.

This year both Beauties have summer jobs, volunteer commitments, and a host of other to-do’s beginning on THE LAST DAY OF SCHOOL  Really?! Change has to set in from the get-go?  Alright, this one I can handle. We’ll enjoy a family celebratory dinner. Score for hubby.  Truthfully, score for the entire family.  We are all about to embark on the start of a new adventure and it’s only fitting we do it together. Gratefulness will undoubtedly fill my heart, it’s the lump in my throat that’s bound to be a little bigger.

Sowing Seeds indoors and Itchy Green Thumbs

Wisconsin is a fickle, fickle state. Memorial Day weekend usually flags the beginning of summer and the call for itchy green thumbed gardeners to begin planting. For those that begin sowing seeds indoors in winter, the itch to get the garden growing is huge.

My dad, Tata, has had the gardening itch for months. An itch that began in January when the first few seed catalogs arrived in the mail. An itch that has only gotten itchier, perpetuating daily as he carefully tended the assortment of seedlings in the basement. Roma and beefsteak tomatoes, four varieties of peppers, four varieties of herbs, and my mother’s favorite Zinnia flowers comprise this year’s inventory of seeds that Tata has sown indoors. Specifically in the basement.

For him, function always wins over fashion as does prudence. Tata constructed a small, cabinet-style greenhouse  entirely from scrap — gardening on a budget at its best.  With adjustable shelves, the pepper seedlings could be close to the light source and the tomato seedlings a bit further away. Up to now, no one but our family has seen his greenhouse creation, but I find it too good to keep to ourselves. Anyone with the itch to start sowing seeds indoors over winter next year should give careful consideration to this economical approach. Who knows? A home store near you may also want to offload scrap shelving. (Upon close examination you will see that the laminated shelves are by and large the only “new” materials used in the construction of this cabinet greenhouse. Two bucks a pop.)

sowing seeds indoors in winter

Tata’s little seedlings were happy and well cared for.  They grew, and they grew, and they grew and whammo –a few pepper plants even began to flower.

pepper plant sown from seeds indoors

A few such happy plants have already made their way to my house with the remaining lot still comfortably hanging out in Tata’s garage, acclimating to the fickle Wisconsin weather.  With a forecast average high of 63F and low of 50 we’ll just have to skip the gardening this Memorial Day weekend but, as always, remember to give thanks to all those that gave for us. This year we’re surely add extra prayers for the people in Moore, Oklahoma.

Happy Memorial Day weekend, everyone.


A sweet reminder

Here we are, the first week of December and it feels and looks like spring in Wisconsin. By now a cold wind should be blowing, kids should be bundled up to their eyeballs and making predictions when we’ll get our first snow fall.  There isn’t a flake in sight and based on the forecast there won’t be for at least another week.

Thick stews, spicy chillis, and hearty soups are usually standard winter fare, though this past weekend many folks fired up the grill -yours truly included- under sunny skies and in no-jacket-required mid 60 degree temperatures. I do wonder if global warming naysayers are getting suspicious.

Wreaths, pine boughs and decorated Christmas trees seem out of place with green-tinged grass. But the weather doesn’t constitute this holy season and I received a sweet reminder of that this afternoon. As I was scurrying through the local Aldi amid shoppers clad in spring jackets, a little voice rang out from another shopper’s cart across the produce aisle.

“Go tewit on da mauwn-tin, over da hills and ev-wee wheeeeerrrrre,
Go tewit on da mountain, dat JESUS CHRIST IS BOOOORRRRN.”

That sure put a jingle in my step and the bright sun felt better than ever as I walked to the car.

No thanks, I’ll pass

Every Thanksgiving for as far back as I can remember I have literally passed the relish.

For the past twelve years Hubby has made his version of the Spiced Cranberry Sauce with Zinfandel from the 2001 issue of Bon Apetit and continually scores rave reviews from nearly the entire family. Everyone except his loving wife.

Perhaps my disdain for the hard berry stems back to my childhood. Every year my late Gramz made a lip-puckering, eye-watering bowl of crunchy roughage that she called cranberry relish.  To this day I am baffled my family could ingest it with any amount of enjoyment.  I loved just about everything that came out of Gramz’s kitchen except her relish. And chop suey, but that’s another story.

Did you know Wisconsin produces more cranberries than any other state and produces more than half of the entire world’s supply of cranberries?

I’m a bad Badger.  I have never enjoyed the taste of cranberries regardless of the amount of sugar, wine, and spices to doll it up and I have pretty much avoided all things cranberry.  Until I baked this vegan pumpkin cranberry bread . It shocked my tastebuds last year and rocked them again yesterday.

“So does this mean you’re going to at least try my cranberries this year?” Hubby asked hopefully.

No thanks, I’ll pass.

Magnetic pull

When it comes to storing fat calories my thighs have the magnetic pull of a neodymium magnet. I have often wondered if  my genes are extraordinary in a not-so-great-way. Perhaps my femurs are fortified with something. A piece of pie? Whoomph. Slice of torte? Clear the runway, to the thighs we go.

Wouldn’t it be scrumptous for women over 40 to have the metabolism of teens? As you may have guessed, my treadmill has become a very close friend over the years as has my stepper.  To that end, I maintain that life is too short to not savor sweet treats.  The Slav in me craves a delicious dessert paired with a good cup of coffee on a daily basis, which has ultimately forced me to find healthier delights to satisfy my sweet tooth and save the indulgences -and thereby my sweat glands- for true decadence.

Sweet and satisfying can be synonymous with low fat and guilt-free.  The proof is in the flan; the Low Fat Caramel Pumpkin Flan I made this past weekend.  It was too good not to share. Meanwhile, I’ll keep hoping my metabolism moves out of reverse.

What will tomorrow bring?

It was hard not to notice the streak of colors that painted the sky this evening.  With Hurricane Sandy looming, it was beautiful and errie at the same time.  What will tomorrow bring to all those living on the East coast? My prayers are with you.

Hanging out

Valuable lesson learned: Never procrastinate when it comes to hanging out the bathroom window to photograph anything if you live in Wisconsin. Well, not necessarily anything, but most definitely a beautiful wall of fall foliage.

One would think I’d know better being a born Wisconsinite, well versed in its wishy-washy weather. Just the other week the tree line bordering our backyard was a vibrant wall of gold, crimson and orange. The leaves were showing their true identifies and marking the changing season. It was gorgeous. More than once I made a mental note that I needed to grab the camera. But that note was misfiled.

Fast forward after a bout of rain showers and strong winds and suddenly there are large gaps of bare spots.

Fall colors

Next year I solemly swear to make a concerted effort not to misfile my mental note and hang out the bathroom window in a timely and prudent manner.

But, there’s always sweetness following sour, which leads to:

Valuable lesson #2.  If you hang out the bathroom window just so (while twisting and contorting and praying to not drop the camera), you might get lucky and capture more autumnal color.

Colorful Callery Pear tree

I absolutely LOVE Callery Pear trees. They retain their leaves well into fall and come spring they fill the air with sweet smelling blossoms.  (I know I only captured a small part of the tree, but if I hung out any further I’d have risked getting stuck. And most likely would have droped the camera. Now that would have been ugly.)

After my photographing escapade, I was in the mood to bake something fall-y – something warm, something homey. Being in a contorting mode, spiced pumpkin knots seemed a perfect fit. If I could twist myself through a bathroom window, I could certainly twist knots!

Woo hoo!

Yes, I know it’s a rather cheesy post title, but one that is oh so fitting nonetheless. Picture me doing virtual somersaults, fist pumping the air, and grinning to the point of having my cheeks ache.  I have finally carved out my own long-deferred chunk of blog space once and for all, and that is cause for celebration.  (If I were a bucket list type of person, I would be digging for a neon glitter pen.)

Celebrating aside, my sincere hope is that this blog will serve as a purposeful creative outlet for me while providing something of benefit to you.   Culinary inspiration, a chuckle, a quirky helpful hint, or just a place to drop by and celebrate the relishes of life.