The Art of Saying Thank You

I’m big fan of the Thank You Note which is a bone of contention in our house. The Husband rolls his eyes when I bring out the little notecards and a short bout of bickering typically ensues. He is of the opinion that it means more to say thank you in person then to send a card. I think that’s just good manners, of course you should say it in person! Personally, I think it says a little something extra if you take a few minutes from your day to write a short note thanking a person for their thoughtfulness. It doesn’t take long and when was the last time you received real mail? Ours is usually full of junk mail or bills, so when I find real correspondence in the mix, I’m usually beside myself. Think of spreading that feeling to someone else, why wouldn’t you want to send a Thank You Note?

You can imagine then my glee to come home to this taped to my front door:

thank you art

I received the ultimate Thank You Note for the sweater surgery that I performed, and it is now proudly displayed on my refrigerator. My young friend has upped the ante of the Thank You but she is obviously a budding artist and we can’t all compete with that. Most of us can write “thank you,” address an envelope and apply a stamp though. I encourage everyone to take a few moments to send a thank you from time to time, you’ll never know how many smiles it might bring to someone’s day.

A Man and His Meat

It was only a matter of time before I used innuendo to entice readership; but this situation was so perfect, I couldn’t help myself.

The other night we decided to make soup and panini. The means one thing to me, the Green Goddess. The Husband decided to try recreating a favorite sandwich from the Twisted Fork food truck. He needed pastrami. The what? I haven’t eaten meat in more than 20 years, I don’t think I’ve ever had pastrami. We scoped out our neighborhood market and finally found some that he thought would do – but, I should add, was not ideal. (Those were his words with my eyeroll inserted by way of italics.)

He set to work carefully slicing buns, layering pastrami, Swiss cheese and arugula and then let The Griddler make its magic. I rarely see him so excited over something that isn’t craft beer. When he said, “You didn’t take a picture!” halfway through his sandwich, I dropped my Green Goddess and ran for the camera. This man’s meat had to be documented:

pastrami sandwich

Pastrami, Swiss cheese and arugula on a pretzel roll.

Tragedy Strikes. Great Food to the Rescue!

Tragedy struck the sewing room this weekend.

With temperatures unsafe for any outdoor activity on Sunday, I set the entire day aside for sewing. I carefully measured, cut and pinned a new skirt pattern and before sitting down to sew, went to oil the machine as The Mother always advised. “The best thing you can do for your machine is keep it oiled,” she used to tell me. I peered in the bobbin holder at the little oil sponge. Dry. Squeezed the oil bottle. Nothing. SQUeezed the bottle. Nothing. SQUEEEEEZED the bottle and it exploded. Oil went all over the machine, into the machine, onto my newest in-process skirt, basically everywhere. I sat there stunned, hand still outstretched holding what remained of the bottle, oil dripping from my fingers.

When I found my senses, I spent nearly an hour trying to clean up the destruction. With stains all over the skirt, I figured that it made the most sense to continue working. There wasn’t enough fabric to cut new pieces and logic told me that I should spot treat the skirt and wash it as soon as possible. My stitching has really improved and my pieces fit together really well – I was grinning as I watched it come together and feeling like quite the smarty-pants. Then I tried it on. Skin tight. Not quite what I was going for. That’s when I finally set the skirt in a puddle of oil, turned off the machine and gave up for the day. Sometimes one should really just listen to the signs and eat a cookie, they really took the edge off:

chocolate chip cookie

Thank goodness The Husband made chocolate chip cookies. This is the recipe from the Better Homes & Gardens cookbook and makes for a tender cookie.

What did go really well this weekend was the food. Here’s a taste –

The Best-Good Friend and I had a great time at 3 Tiers. I haven’t been there for years even though they’re in my south Minneapolis neighborhood. Their bakery is yummy and they have a great brunch. After having dinner, I’m ready to move in and let them feed me 24 hours a day.

The Husband made one of our favorites, breakfast burritos. Yes, those are tater tots that you’re seeing in this picture. That’s his secret to ingredient and makes for the crunchiest potatoes, you’ll never look at hashbrowns the same again. Give it a try, you won’t be disappointed:

breakfast burrito

My Breakfast Burrito: tater tots, black beans, cheese, scrambled eggs & salsa

We decided to celebrate the polar vortex’s return by getting dressed up and going out to Bar La Grassa. It was as good as everyone says and we had a spectacular evening in the north loop neighborhood of Minneapolis. The waitress made a brilliant suggestion – consider ordering two half-order plates for your entrée so you can try more things! I loved that I idea, and now have lunch for today.

If I had the wrong attitude, I’d think that new skirt didn’t fit because of all this great food. Fortunately I know better. 😉

Move Over Coco

Okay, I’m definitely no Coco Chanel and have no desire to be, but I did successfully make two new skirts which has me pretty stoked. This is proving to be the best $9.99 that I ever spent:book

This is a great book for newbie sewers, at least according to this newbie sewer.  I wasn’t feeling very photogenic, so I dressed up Matilda. Please note, I put a t-shirt on her for modesty, not to make a fashion statement.

Here’s my first circle skirt made out of cotton. Now if it would just warm up enough to wear it:
skirt

And my first wool A-line skirt, this was super comfortable and warm on its test-run out on the town:
skirt

Pretty soon I might be ready to take off the training wheels and give this pattern a try. After reading the directions of this “VERY EASY” Vogue pattern, it seems that their definition of “very easy” is completely different from my own:
pattern

Who would’ve guessed so much inspiration would come from finding The Perfect Dress on that trip to LA?

Broccoli Makes it Healthy, Right?

The polar vortex reared its ugly head again and the cold weather has me hungry for comfort food. I don’t know about you, but I feel that if comfort food has vegetables in it, its gotta be good for you. Imagine my glee at stumbling across Oh My Veggie’s recipe for Broccoli Cheddar Brown Rice Casserole, that sounded like all kinds of healthy while still having the comfort of cheese.

This proved to be a very easy recipe to make, especially since we had leftover rice on hand. It could be made even easier by using frozen broccoli instead of prepping fresh. I added the optional shredded carrots (they were unnoticeable), along with extra cheese (both parmesan and cheddar).

It was quite lovely when it came out of the oven and we couldn’t wait to dig in:

broccoli cheese casserole

It had a great creamy texture but lacked the depth of flavor that we love in the Sriracha Mac ‘n Cheese. Our solution? Sriracha. Once we added that, it was perfect. We will definitely make this recipe again.

Birds, Bikes and Great Eats

Friday night, I finally got to King’s Wine Bar in Minneapolis. It was really delicious, but so dark the only picture decent enough to share was the dessert The Best-Good Friend and I shared:

dessert

We woke up to fresh snow Saturday morning and it was beautiful out. My little friend was back at the suet feeder, I can’t stop taking pictures of him:
woodpecker
The Husband bought tickets to the Minneapolis Progressive International Motorcycle Show because he’s been dreaming of buying a new motorcycle. We headed downtown to check things out and see his top picks in person. There was some crazy stuff there, I liked the classic bikes best.

The Husband picked out a motorcycle for me too:
motorcycle
But this is much more my speed:
scooter
On our way to dinner, we stopped at my new favorite shop, Dig’s Studio in Minneapolis. Since The Husband was with, I didn’t linger long but they specialize in cotton fabric, yarn and have locally made crafts and vintage accessories. This is the place that I imagine stopping in for something quick and emerging hours later with tons of treasures. Take a peak at the backroom:
dig's studio

From there we headed to St. Paul to try a Thai restaurant that came highly recommended, On’s Kitchen. We couldn’t stop gushing to each other about the food, it was so good.

We stopped at PetCo on the way home for a few supplies and were surprised to do a little bird watching. I know that Starlings are not a favorite of birders, but this guy was so handsome in his winter coat and had such a beautiful voice, I had to take some pictures:
starling

On Sunday, we managed to finish all of our errands early enough to get in a real bird watching field trip. We stayed in the city this time and tried Roberts Bird Sanctuary. Neither of us had been there in 20 years, it was a beautiful afternoon to be in the “woods.” We were excited to see our first Red-Bellied Woodpecker, he was very accommodating about having his picture taken. The Blue Jays were not, but I rather liked this photo. I call it “Incognito:”
blue jay

I’m a big fan of Nuthatches. I read on a forum once that a person called them “Assups” because they’re always upside down. That always makes me smile when I see them now:
nuthatch
When we got home, I made a favorite recipe of ours, Southwestern Layered Bean Dip. This is a really simple and quick vegetarian recipe that can be turned into several different meals. The Husband adds ground beef to his and I omit sour cream from mine. First we eat it with tortilla chips, leftovers are great in soft tortillas – tonight it will become part of taco night:
southwestern layered bean dip

What’s On Our Needles?

The girls were over for Stitch ‘n B*tch this week and as usual, it was fun to see what was on their needles.

The Best-Good Friend has made amazing headway on this baby blanket for a friend. She’s making the Amirah Baby Blanket pattern by Katherine Vaughn:Amirah Baby Blanket pattern by Katherine Vaughn

Our Happy Hooker is working on this lovely crochet baby blanket that has me mesmerized. No matter how many times I look at it, I can’t figure out how she does it. I secretly wish (I guess it’s not a secret anymore) that she will give it to me instead of to the baby it is intended for:baby blanket

Our third baby project are these itty-bitty pants for the Sweetest Baby in the World. Her mama has been working on these for a while and we’re excited to see them on the little peanut, she’s using this tricky “Cozy & Cute” Drops pattern. Those stitches are so tiny, the camera couldn’t even focus:“Cozy & Cute” Drops pattern

Our youngster has cast on for a new sweater. She’s working on the Cowl Neck Pullover for Vogue Knitting and also seems to have the best manicure in the group:Cowl Neck Pullover for Vogue Knitting

I’m trying my hand at my first skirt. I hope it goes well because I’ve got a whole bunch of skirt patterns in my Ravelry queue now! This is the Little Flirt Skirt by Faina Goberstein:Little Flirt Skirt by Faina Goberstein

Is There a Doctor in the House?

Most of you probably don’t know this, but I started my college career pre-med. Yes, I had the very grand aspirations of becoming a doctor. It didn’t take long before I realized that I had absolutely no math or science skills, but still I pushed on valiantly. For a whole second quarter anyway. That’s when I received noticed that I was on academic probation, felt like a huge failure, and I realized that I had to bite the bullet and give up on any delusions of becoming a doctor. Imagine my delight when years later, I found myself on the receiving end of an urgent message: There had been a terrible accident and I was the only one that could help.

Okay, I might be over-dramatizing the situation ever so slightly, but things looked grave. My young neighbor friend had decided to cut the tag out of her sweater and things had gone very badly. They needed a sweater surgery STAT, and I was the only person that they had.

I rolled up my sleeves, took a deep breath and surveyed the situation, this was serious:sweater
I prepared for surgery, this was going to take all of my skills and resources. I managed to find a color match to the sweater in my handspun yarns. I carefully separated the plied singles:
sweater
It was time to get in there and see what I could do, there was no time for fear:sweater

The graft took! The final step would be a little “no-fray” to keep the cut ends in place and we could consider this sweater in recovery:sweater

I removed the remaining piece of tag to avoid future injury:
sweater

Like most surgeries, there will a little scarring but the patient will live to be worn another day. Not too shabby for an English major.

The Snowy Owl Invasion and Great Local Eats

I started the weekend off on a new foot – a Friday night out on the town!

The Girlfriend took me to a neighborhood favorite in her part of Minneapolis, The Grand Café. The menu is small but thoughtful and very well executed. We shared the flatbread and Daily Cheese Plate. The Girlfriend indulged her love of French Onion Soup and I tried the Squash Alfredo in Sage Cream Sauce. All of the dishes were vegetarian, so there was tasting all around.

After a meal like that, I had an excellent night’s sleep which had me ready for a full Saturday. Visits were the first order of the day and I’m happy to report that Grandma was in great spirits and The Mother was recuperating nicely from her shoulder surgery. The last part of my afternoon included a visit to The Fabric Store. Oh yes, I responded to the siren call and yes, I went tremendously over budget… but imagine the advancement of my Liz Day wardrobe if everything goes according to plan! I even found two Half-Priced Books to help me on the journey:

fabric

Unfortunately, there was no time to start pre-washing fabric or doing any reckless sewing, but for a great reason – we had a dinner date with The Mom-In-Law. She picked us up and I had my second evening out in a dimly lit, leisurely restaurant. This time we were at a favorite restaurant in our part of Minneapolis, Al Vento. Al Vento’s lighting is even darker than Grand Café’s, so until I remember to carry some glow sticks, you’re going to miss out on the full majesty of the food we’re eating. I gave up after these three photos, but the highlight of my evening munching was the Brussels Sprout Bruschetta.

I was up bright and early Sunday for something I had been looking forward to all week, Snowy Owl Hunting. We weren’t hunting them with guns, of course, but we’ve been hearing about the “irruption” going on right now. According to the internet, the irruption began in the Northeastern U.S. and has gradually spread to the Midwest. As of Friday, there had been 150 snowy owls seen in Minnesota and we wanted to see one.

Snowy owls live on the tundra. I saw a NATURE documentary on PBS that said juveniles often spend their first winters south of the arctic in order to develop their survival skills, but this winter several hundred owls have been appearing on fields, airports and lakeshores in the United States. Some have been seen as far south as North Carolina and one was even seen in Bermuda. As a Minnesotan that has just gone through a polar vortex, I’m guessing that one knew exactly what she was doing.

Whatever, the cause, The Husband and I wanted to see some. First, I needed some breakfast. I think you know what I had in mind:

breakfast sandwich

Breakfast Panini: Salsa, pepperjack cheese, spinach and fried egg on a ciabatta roll with hashbrowns

We packed up some supplies (and Danny) and hit the road. We started in the Minnesota River Valley on Black Dog Road. It wasn’t long before we found a pair of eagles. I like this photo where it looks like the one at the roost is yelling at its partner (off camera):

eagle

A few minutes further down the road, we found a pond with Trumpeter Swans, Hooded Mergansers, Common Goldeneyes and a Great Blue Heron.

We kept driving and headed south towards Vermillion. Back on farm roads, we found a bunch of cars on the side of a road and spent a long time looking before we finally saw our first snowy owl. Do you see him?
snowy owl

There were so many hawks out, we lost count of them, but we spent a long time watching this Red Tail Hawk:
hawk

I love the stark beauty of Minnesota farmland in winter:
farmland

I was so distracted by its breathtaking beauty, I almost missed this snowy owl:
powerline

We started getting pretty good at spotting them:
snowy owl

In total, we saw four. When the day started coming to an end, we ended up where we had seen our first snowy in the field. The paparazzi was out:
photographers

Because he was too! He gave us some spectacular shots – we did not get as close as the other spectators but I think we got some great photos.

I zoomed in on a photo at home:
snowy owl

What a day. What a weekend! And there was still time for one more panini….

Soup and Sandwich

Panini: Bread, havarti cheese, spinach & pesto.
Soup: Bow tie pasta, carrot ribbons, celery, tofu, peas

Hacking My Way Through The Closet

The hours that I’ve spent over the last month watching NEW GIRL left me inspired to revisit my wardrobe. Until this point, I considered my style rather “Liz Lemon.” After watching all of the cute vintage-inspired dresses and fun pajama sets on NEW GIRL, I wanted to add a little “Jessica Day” to my life. I evaluated the closet and things looked bleak. Money was spent trying to kick start this plan and the initial attempts have reminded me of why I don’t like shopping, but one must suffer for their inspirations, right?

After my successful creation of my new “little green dress,” I decided to try my hand at altering garments in my closet that were never quite right.

Exhibit A: Sassy corduroy blazer with GIANT puffed sleeves:blazer

Okay, so the shoulders don’t look as ginormous in this picture, but when I wore this thing, I worried that I’d accidentally knock myself out with them. Still, I loved the idea of the blazer, so it remained in the closet.

Now that I’m an expert sewer (see green dress for my newfound confidence), I inspected the shoulder seams to see what kind of damage I could do. I was very pleased with myself for this more subdued shoulder: blazer

From there I hacked up a pair of corduroy pants that were way too big. I made this awesome skirt:skirt

So far my new look is coming across a little “Liz Day,” but it’s all a process, right?

The Weekend Update from the Frozen Tundra

I’m sad that my two week vacation is coming to an end but rather pleased that Mother Nature helped extend it one more day. You may have heard that Minnesota is in the midst of a deep freeze right now. Today is the worst of it and there are many shutdowns in order to keep people safe from the elements, I’m happy to report that I’m one of those people. It’s funny how the magic of a “snow day” never diminishes, in fact it almost seems more magical as an adult because they are far rarer for us.

The weekend was a productive one. The knitting and assembly of the green sweater has been completed with the help of my friends:

knitting

I hope to finish the collar today and find some buttons in my stash.

A delicious new Breakfast Quesadilla was concocted in the Griddler:

breakfast quesadilla

Sun-dried tomato tortilla, scrambled egg, pepperjack cheese and black beans, topped with salsa – all I needed to make this perfect was a little avocado

My first attempt at dressmaking has been completed and I gave it a test-run on Sunday:

new dress

The Best-Good Friend and I had an AMAZING breakfast at Spoonriver. It was cold, cold, COLD outside but the sun was shining so bright, it was a beautiful day. I had sandwich envy over her Fried Egg & Avocado Sandwich:

Fried Egg & Avocado Sandwich

Fried Egg & Avocado Sandwich with Feta: Basil Sauce, Multi-Grain Bun, Fresh Fruit, Kimchee

But was so happy with my vegetarian version of the Singapore Noodle Scramble with tofu:

tofu breakfast scramble

Singapore Noodle Scramble: Rice Noodles, Scambled Eggs, Vegetables, Garlic Sambal Seasoning (vegetarian)

We shared a scone afterwards. I can’t wait to go back, it was a phenomenal breakfast that I can’t stop thinking about.

We bundled up and headed next door to The Guthrie for “Born Yesterday.” It was far too cold to take in any views, but check these out from my last visit. I think I’ve been to the theater more in the past few months than the past few years and I rather like it. This show was really fun:

born yesterday

By the time I got home, the polar plunge was beginning to get serious but we still had wildlife in our yard. This little woodpecker is out there all the time. He let me come within 6 feet before chastising me and flying up into the tree:

woodpecker

I’m impressed by the electric birdbath that The Mother gave me for Christmas. According to the view from my upstairs window, it is still not frozen at -20F:

birds

They don’t seem fazed by the cold but I sure am. Time to go celebrate the magic of the snow day!

Date Night (for One): A Girl and Her Griddler

When the Best-Good Friend couldn’t make it for an impromptu dinner date tonight to test a new recipe, I felt the only responsible thing to do was to make panini. Yes, I still can not stop making (and eating) paninis. I’ve been slowly working my way through the leftovers in the fridge in a mind-blowing experimental spectacular of panini-making. Yesterday I even used the last of the black bean spread on my breakfast panini and you know what? It was DELICIOUS. Last night there was a weird quesadilla experiment that was quite a mess, but yummy to the tummy. Wait, did you know that you can make quesadillas in the griddler too? BECAUSE YOU CAN.

Tonight I used up the last of the pesto, the spinach, half an avocado, some faux ham courtesy of The Mother, and a little Havarti on multigrain bread. The results were so good, I couldn’t stop eating to get a picture. So here is a picture of a cute squirrel instead:

squirrel

Did somebody say panini?”