A Symbol of Survival

I admit it, I’m sick of the cold. I’m tired of the tiny red number on my cell phone mocking me with the temperature and weather advisory associated with it. I’m tired of worrying that I’ve gotten exposure from not being bundled to the max on a quick jaunt outside. I’m really tired of having to rescue poor Danny who rushes outside jubilantly and then suddenly freezes up, unable to take a step when he realizes how cold the pavement is.

What I needed was a symbol. Something to focus on that would send me the reminder that I am a hardy Minnesotan. While this has been the coldest winter I’ve known, it would not get the best of me. It will become the winter of legends and I will be the victor. But what could that symbol be?

As my car slid into yet another intersection, I saw it out of the corner of my eye. The subtle statement of the snow dweller, the gesture that we can all identify with:

image

Yes, the shovel jammed triumphantly in the snow bank after the snow removal. Anyone who has shoveled a walk knows the satisfaction of jamming that shovel in a snowbank when complete. As I crept down icy streets, I started to see more and more of them, a symbol of our solidarity as we pushed through the seemingly endless weeks of wind chills and subzero temperatures. We would see the end of this, we would be the victors – we were Minnesotans, hear us roar!

Now. I would be lying if I didn’t tell you the dismay I felt when I got home to find my own snow shovel laying on the sidewalk, blown out of the snowbank I myself had jammed it into. I stood staring, it laid at my feet… but then the cold wind started creeping through my mittens, icy snow bits blew in my face and I knew what I had to do. Chin up and shoulders back, I picked that shovel up and jammed it right back into the snowbank.

Nonstop Noshing

With roads still bad after our recent storm, Saturday was spent at home. I played with the camera and experimented with still life:flower

I loved the curve of the leaves:leaf

Then I noticed the light on Cleo who was sunny herself:cat

cat

We walked to Town Hall Lanes for a quick dinner. The Husband loves Chips ‘n Guac:chips and guacamole

We were having such a good time, all of a sudden I realized I’d forgotten something:empty plate

The Husband wanted pancakes Sunday. There was not a piece of fresh fruit on hand (which is how I eat my pancakes), so I figured the responsible thing to do would be use the homemade Nutella, I wouldn’t want it to go to waste. Then I remembered the fresh strawberry syrup that was in the freezer. It was the most decadent of breakfasts for a cold, lazy Sunday morning:
pancakes

I sugar buzzed through our errands and before I knew it, we had to leave for our first North Coast Nosh at The American Swedish in Minneapolis. The Institute wowed me over the holidays when The Best-Good Friend and I went to their winter festival. North Coast Nosh was very different, the attendance was high which made noshing a bit difficult.

I loved all of the beverage samples that I had. The Golden Fig had a wonderful pink ginger-lemonade beverage that I have to go buy. And Verdant Tea is going to be my next stop for tea. The TeaSource was there and their Chai and Genmaicha are both far better than mine, even though I’m using their tea.

Getting A Little Nutty

What? Martha Stewart doesn’t like bloggers? That’s fine, this blogger doesn’t like her fortune cookie recipe. My first pass at Valentine treats was a disaster, I ended up with a stack of fortunes and a mess of dough that looked like this:fortune_cookie

It was not a good thing. Fortunately, I know when to accept defeat, especially when the Valentine’s Day clock is running out. These little gems saved the day and were super simple to make, Cherry Bonbon Cookies.

I got my little Valentine suited up for deliveries:
danny

And we hit the road:
valentines

Afterwards, The Husband and I celebrated our Valentine’s Day at the Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge. It was a crisp afternoon for a walk, but so beautiful:

We seemed to be on the path most traveled:
tracks

Saturday we were up bright and early so we went to my FAVORITE breakfast location ever, Day by Day Cafe in St. Paul. The Husband had one of his top picks, “The Heart Stopper.” Just kidding, it was Biscuits & Gravy with Sausage Gravy:

The Husband's Biscuits & Gravy

The Husband’s Biscuits & Gravy

I had my favorite, The Earth Breakfast:

My Good Earth Breakfast: Two eggs scrambled in hashbrowns with onions with melted cheese (I added spinach, avocado and a side of salsa) - VEGETARIAN

My Earth Breakfast: Two eggs scrambled in hashbrowns with onions and melted cheese (I added spinach, avocado and a side of salsa) – VEGETARIAN

After my first taste of Nutella last weekend, I needed to follow the advice of a friend/reader who said it was a breeze to make. He was right! I whipped up a batch to give my own version of the Lake & Irving Nutella French Toast a try:

nutella

I used the recipe from The Splendid Table and it was gooooooooood but I almost burned my hazel nuts (aka: filberts) in the toasting process, so keep an eye on them when you make your own. Also, the comments on this recipe are correct, it will harden overnight – I softened mine in the microwave. The Nutella was so simple, I tried my hand at whipping up some peanut butter at the same time:

peanut_butter

The peanut butter was good but a bit bland. I used 1 cup of dry roasted peanuts (no salt) and then added a little bit of olive oil for smoothness. Perhaps it will grow on me if I forget how much I love the taste of Skippy Natural?

Now, I really prefer a savory breakfast but I must say… my Nutella French Toast was fantastic. I added fresh strawberry puree and bananas. The fruit added a bright flavor to all of the chocolatey sweetness, The Husband took a classic approach and ate his with maple syrup. I’m telling you, it attracted attention:

Even Cleo wanted a bite.

Cleo is moving in for a bite.

Sunday I slaved away on my dress and finally won the war against jersey. I can’t wait to start my next pattern, I already have one in mind. I’ll be dressing Matilda up for a fashion show later this week.

The hard work sewing had me hungry for a veggie burger. We stopped in at The Blue Door in Longfellow for dinner. It was good, but I have a hard time being happy with a veggie burger when it doesn’t include some form of avocado on top – I’ll take traditional or guacamole.

Spreading Love and Fettuccini Alfredo

I LOVE Valentine’s Day, it has always been my favorite holiday. No, I was never the girl that got Valentines from all the boys and most of my Valentine’s Days were spent single, so it’s not a weird obsession with relationships. Many think of it as a “Hallmark Holiday” and don’t give it a second thought, but I think of it as a perfect excuse to spread love. This is where things get fun, I like to plan little festive goodies for the people in my life.

Cookies are a favorite. I usually try a new recipe and force them into heart-shapes, because that’s just festive. Sometimes they turn out and sometimes they don’t, but either way they are always appreciated when delivered. One year I made little heart-shaped soaps, that was fun. I’ve done gift bags of candies and have also sprung for professional delivery (you can’t go wrong with Edible Arrangements, Funky Chunky or personalized Hershey Bars). One year I got to work really early and put Hershey’s Kisses in everyone’s mailbox, who doesn’t want a little love in their life?

This year I took Valentine’s Day off to make deliveries and they are going to be pretty special (or so I’m hoping). I can’t share yet in case recipients are reading this post, but I’m looking forward to having a box of treats and driving around town to share some love. There will be a Valentine dinner at some point, but as we are reservationless, that might mean a heart-shaped pizza from Italian Pie Shoppe. Of course, with the day off there is still time to come up with a yummy dinner to make at home.

For those of you looking for a delicious dinner at home, I highly recommend The Husband’s Fettuccini Alfredo. This week he made it with penne pasta but it is also great with fettuccini noodles. This is one of his specialties and it is just the kind of indulgent meal that would be perfect for a Valentine’s treat. This is a vegetarian recipe but he often grills a boneless chicken breast for his portion. I find that a large helping of broccoli makes me think it is a healthy dinner:

Image

He uses the Joy of Cooking’s recipe, this makes 8 first-course or 4 main-course servings):

1/2 cup butter
1 cup heavy cream
1 cup grated Parmesan
Combine all in large skillet. Salt and pepper to taste, toss with one pound of cooked pasta.

So for many it will just be a Friday but I hope some of you take a moment to spread love and indulgence, even if it is for yourself. Everyone needs a little love in their life and this “Hallmark Holiday” makes for the perfect excuse.

Studies in Food, Nature and Light

As I reviewed the batch of photos triumphantly rescued by The Husband, I was struck by the light. The boys had me fascinated one day as the morning sun shone brightly through the bedroom window. Danny’s hair is especially radiant in black and white, the soft focus makes him look dreamy:Danny

Virgil’s whiskers are mesmerizing:virgil

We braved the weather and went to Wood Lake Nature Center in Richfield where I was enamored by the cattails and the tiny snowflakes falling while we walked:cattails

cattails

cattails

We saw a coyote, but he moved far too quickly for me to photograph. The deer were more obliging:deer

deer

These trees reminded me of the photography class I took in college where we learned to process black and white film. It was fun experimenting with exposing the photo paper but digital processing is easier (you don’t have to do it in the dark):trees

One of the amazing things about Minnesota winters are all the nests you find. I could have reached off the path and touched this one:nest

We finally made it to Lake & Irving in Uptown. It has been on my list since I saw that they had chicken & waffles with beer-infused syrup. That sounded like just the feast for The Husband. Few options for the vegetarian in the group, but I made do with a Belgian waffle. After sampling The Mom-In-Law’s Nutella French Toast, I know what the fuss is about, Nutella is delicious.

We had a dinner at Prima in southwest Minneapolis with The Mother. I love Prima, their menu is full of fresh flavors and the food is visually stunning. I highly recommend the Penne Pasta with Roasted Beets & Goat Cheese.

Stop, Breath and Google

Every once in awhile a person needs a reminder to stop and take a breath; often when things go wrong, there is a solution.

Sunday night I thought that I had lost an entire weekend of photographs, over 400 of them. A botched (careless) upload led to a wiped memory card with no pictures to be found. I stood tearfully in The Husband’s office telling him that I had lost them all, then moved downstairs to the basement where I continued sobbing while folding the laundry. Yes, I know that they were only photos and that in the grand scheme of things, what did they matter? Still, I’d been really excited about them and hours had gone into it. It felt like nothing I’d worked on this weekend had gone as planned, this was just the icing on the cake.

Through my sniffling, I heard footsteps on the stairs. The Husband had found recovery options for the memory card and there was hope that the pictures were not lost after all. So yet again, I am reminded that the best solution is always to stop, breath and take a moment. Sometimes there is a solution. It helps if you’re married to a former Geek Squad agent, but we all have access to Google which is what he did to find more information.

Googling for help and $40 later, my images are now restored but the post will be delayed. Not every disaster can be solved this way, but taking a moment to stop and breath is still the best option in the end. And who knows, Google may know the answer to your problem too, sometimes you just need to ask.

Raptors in Motion

great horned owl

I have been thinking about the raptors from the Minnesota Raptor Center photography class all week and started playing with photo animation. This was a fun way to visualize some of the moments we captured, though they were nothing compared to the majesty of these birds in person.




American Kestral

american kestral

Bald Eagle

bald eagle

bald eagle

bald eagle

The Great Horned Owl

great horned owl great horned own

Beans and Rice, It’s What’s For Dinner

Sometimes the world seems very loud to me. I should amend that. Most of the time, the world feels very loud to me. The Husband says that it’s because I have ridiculously good hearing (it’s my super power). Personally, I think that the world is just incredibly loud and I’m constantly trying to turn down the volume. Some days I lose that battle, the noise follows me everywhere and I discreetly stick my fingers in my ears to block out what I can. I’m unable to tune out voices, entire conversations, the drumming of fingers, the clacking of keyboards, laughter down the hall, the slamming (okay, closing) of doors – you get the idea.

Tonight after a long day of sensory overload, I escaped to one of my favorite quiet retreats to recharge: The Minnesota Winter. Danny’s leash in hand, I braced for the cold air and the cathedral-like silence that comes with the snow. Unfortunately, even there sounds assaulted me at every turn and despite the cold, the night was a-buzz with activity. The crunching of snow under my boots sounded like a roar in my ears, an airplane thundered over, a runner stomped past, there seemed to be no escape. That was when I turned the corner and saw the backhoe digging up a front yard, the Roto-Rooter truck parked on the street. In the midst of all that noise, I felt sympathy for the poor sots with the plumbing disaster in the middle of the deep freeze and my inner quiet started to regain its foothold. Obviously where I was standing, things were looking pretty good.

They looked even better when I got home to find The Husband making one of our favorite dinners, Spicy Black Beans & Rice:

beans and rice

This is a super simple vegetarian recipe that freezes WONDERFULLY. We’ve not only taken it on camping trips for two but increased the recipe to feed 14 for a canoe trip. Freeze it in gallon storage bags and use it to keep the cooler cold, it’s a fantastic recipe. Serve it with taco chips or put it in a tortilla, it would be especially great with some chopped lettuce and avocado, but I never seem to plan ahead for that.

Something tells me though that with beans for dinner there will be a more noise in my future….

Enraptured By Raptors and Great Mexican Food

The weekend was more quiet than most since I was a little under the weather. Most of Saturday was spent like this:
virgil

Thank goodness I felt better Sunday, The Husband and I had a class at The Minnesota Raptor Center. The Raptor Center was established in 1974 as part of the University of Minnesota College of Veterinary Medicine and rehabilitates more than 700 sick and injured raptors each year. They also help identify emerging environmental issues related to raptor health and populations. They are an internationally renowned education facility and train veterinary students and veterinarians from around the world to become future leaders in raptor medicine and conservation. If you haven’t visited, I highly recommend it. We had signed up for a Basic Digital Photography for the Nature Photographer Class taught by Carlyn Iverson. It was amazing learning about the raptors, The Raptor Center, and having a chance to take photos of the amazing ambassadors that they have on site.

The first raptor we met was this Peregrine Falcon. She was very intense about feeding time:

This female Bald Eagle has been at The Raptor Center for years after a sheriff found her beside a road. The injury that she sustained makes her wings unable to move as needed for release back into the wild:

This Great Horned Owl was brought to The Raptor Center after being hit by a car. One of her wings no longer functions as needed for release back into the wild. She was stunning:

This American Kestrel was my favorite. She LOVED the camera and wouldn’t stop posing. All I could think was, “Who’s a pretty girl?”

All of that time outdoors made us hungry so we hit a neighborhood favorite for dinner, Dominguez. The Dominguez family comes from the town of Cuernavaca in the state of Morelos,  just 45 miles south of Mexico City. Their website says that Cuernavaca is  known as the “City of Eternal Spring” because  its climate is so consistent. Temperatures hover around 68 degrees Fahrenheit year-round. Minneapolis weather is certainly not that right now, but their food felt like a little escape from the frozen tundra.

Usually I get the Veggie Chimichanga which is awesome but I decided to try something new and got the Veggie Taquitos. If you want some good Mexican food, you need to give this neighborhood gem a try: