So. I lied…

And then I said I was going to blog more frequently. And then did not…

Well. Then.  I’m here now. “They” say, if you want something done, give it to a busy woman. In that case I must be really, really productive. We just got back from a week long vacation in Mazatlan, Mexico. It was fun–but way too short. I did post photos on my Facebook page along the way.The fabulous shrimp dishes were a highlight. And the dancing show horses.

And I came home to 397 emails. Granted most were junk stuff. Still. I had to go through every single one and either delete, answer, or ignore it. DONE. Now to work. The Mantorville Restoration Association (MRA) annual meeting and the MN State Arts Board site visits loom large this week. The actual meetings are not as involved as the prep time needed. So rather than explain my very intense few days, I’m just going to go get at it. You would think at this point in my life I wouldn’t have to study. But that is exactly what I will be doing. Sprinkled in there are Arturo coming to wash the windows, signing paychecks for the MRA staff, Our Next Fabulous Adventure planning session, taking a shower and CONDITIONING MY HAIR, and then there is the actual meeting and site visits with windshield time to and from Lanesboro and Rochester.

I would rather be delving into Our Next Fabulous Adventure. Check out our Facebook page. It’s going to get busy. MaryLee and I have so much planned and so much to do. Many of the next photos we’ll be posting will be the site preparation.

Must go get at it.

I’m BACK!!!

Sheesh! Where does the time go! Alright. I am back. I mean, I haven’t been anywhere but I haven’t been blogging either. I have lots to blog about–but just have not.

Where do I start? Okay. Today.

After not being on the Mantorville Opera House stage for a lot of years, I am in the cast of the holiday show that opens tomorrow. Yikes. The Nutcracker’s Nuts. WHY! The story is a good one and I knew the director, Cheryl Frarck, would do it right. So. It is about a group of seniors who live in a retirement community and always put on A Christmas Carol every year as a fund raiser. But it has been going down hill for a few years. One of the residents suggests they consider doing The Nutcracker. It is only after all the tickets are sold out that they find out The Nutcracker is a ballet–and they don’t dance. Suffice it to say, it is very funny. Tonight is the final dress rehearsal with friends and family attending. 14947635_10157672473335526_4164621454473121638_n   This is the cast. I am second from the left. Rounding out the group:  Mike Tri, Mary McPhee, Annette Schuler, Becky Berg Miller, and John McDougal. I am the only one from Mantorville and all of them have tons of acting experience. I am holding my own (I hope).

In addition to rehearsals every night for the past few weeks, we are doing some home improvements. Namely, we are putting a fireplace in the living room–which is still my studio. What a mess. But it will be beautiful when it is done and the new carpet put in and the new drapes hung. AND CLEANED. I promise to post photos of the after. “In progress” is just too depressing. The toughest part is that it is in the middle of the room in the middle of the house. And I just cannot get away from it. John sticks to the family room and the big screen TV. But I still have to work in there, sort of. I forgot to take photos of the Nutcracker costume I conjured up for the show this week. It really turned out cute.

Now that I am back. I know I have tons of things to write about. Stay tuned.

Csotuming Comes Home–sort of…

If you know me, then you know I am pretty involved in my community. But more on that another day. I have had a studio in Mantorville for quite a few years. It became a place for me to work on my period costuming and hats.  I stored most of my costumes there. Being that it was right next door to the Opera House, it was fun and dynamic and right in the center of it all. Image

This is me on the street outside the studio with Gypsy in the Civil War costume I wore for Sandra Miller’s “A Mother’s Story” where I played the Southern Mother during the Wasioja Civil War event last summer. (And, yes, I worked with a voice coach for the accent) Gypsy was not in the play. John is taking the photo. He is reflected in the window. It was too hot that day for him to wear a coat.

Well, to make a long story short–the owner of the building sold it during the coldest part of the new year and I had to move several years of stuff back to the house. ImageThis would be what the main floor living room looks like today. And this would be the downstairs bedroom.ImageThen there is the garage and the downstairs living room.


To top it off, I opened my big mouth and offered to create a exhibit of my handmade/designed hats at the Mantorville Art Guild for the month of April–JUST BEFORE I KNEW I WOULD HAVE TO MOVE! Oh, and that’s not all. There is a costumed artist’s reception on Saturday, April 12th! That I need to organize.

Now I am so paralyzed by the mess and not being able to find stuff, I am having anxiety. Again, if you know me, you know this about me: “Laid back” will not be on my tombstone–but I am not prone to anxiety or paralysis. Last week, I did send out a press release and promoted it at our local business expo on Saturday. So I am committed.

I am taking a deep breath and charging in. It needs to be set up at the Art Guild on Friday. Or at least started. What am I carping about? It’ll come together. It always does. Or it doesn’t and this too shall pass. Stay tuned…


And there were no towels!

It has always been my premise that one should have folks over at least once a month to motivate shoveling out the place. Recycling all those catalogs I am going to look at later and don’t. Picking up a myriad of pet toys EVERYWHERE. And, yesterday, it was washing towels. Now there were not quite enough light-colored towels to make a load, so I went around scrounging up towels to round it out.

Last evening quite a few of us were all going to Agatha Christie’s The Mousetrap at the Mantorville Opera House. The Mantorville Theatre Company has had a mystery dinner theater production in October for three years now. Seemed like a good idea to start out at our house for wine and hors d’oeuvre before the show. And it was.

Since we would be having dinner at the theater, snacks were kept to a minimum. I made a lovely minted grape bruschetta with goat cheese. Liz baked a brie wrapped in puff pastry. And we paired it all with 14 Hands red wine and Naked Grape pinot grigio. There were 13 of us all together, I think. A festive group who all knew each other. Makes for wonderful lively conversation.

The minted bruschetta started out with slicing a baguette and slathering each with a garlic olive oil and baking at 350 for about 15 minutes or so. Then, spreading softened goat cheese on each and broiling for a minute or two. The minted grapes start out with sauteing shallots. Transferring them into a bowl. Then, add quartered red grapes, mint, green onions to the pan. Saute and combine with shallots and pile on top of the bread. Lovely!

Post several glasses of wine and much laughter and good conversation, we all embarked to the theater which is about a mile away.

Now I had costumed the show and one always wonders how it pulls together in real life. It takes place in 1950s and most of the cast is men. Most of the costuming was compiling coats and suits and imagining color combinations. Not too much of this or that color and who is standing next to whom. Etc. This cast was not the most communicative crowd. I have two email addresses and two phone numbers and my studio is next door to the theater. In addition, there was a private facebook page specifically for this show. Somehow I was just supposed to KNOW there was a note left on the green room counter that something needed fixing. Sigh!

In one of the scenes, the police Sargeant skis through the snow to get to the scene of the crime. I had costumed him in shirt and tie with a 1950s pullover sweater, a huge coat with a 1950s fur collar and one of those hats men used to wear with the flap that went up in front and over the ears. Who came out on stage was in a dress coat, fedora, and 1970-1980 professor blazer with patches on the elbows. Not exactly what one would have been wearing whilst skiing through the elements. Guess I am taking a break from costuming for awhile. More time for my own stuff.

The dinner was simple but very good. It was catered by Omar and he did himself proud. A crispy lettuce salad and fabulous bread from Omar’s own ovens. Between Act One and Two, the main course of a small boneless pork chop over mashed potatoes with gravy and winter vegetable. After Act Two, the dessert of a cranberry cake. Just enough. Not too much. Perfect. The Kasson-Mantorville Drama club served. Such great kids.

The show was good. Not great. But entertaining. And I will not spoil the ending. This is the 60th anniversary of The Mousetrap and Agatha Christie asks all who attend not to tell whodunit. This production has one more weekend here in Mantorville and then you will have to go to London.

So we get home. Throw dishes into the dishwasher. And settle into Saturday Night Live with Tina Fey. During a commercial, I rushed into the bathroom to wash my face, etc. It looked so nice in there. No curling irons and potions on the counter. And NOT ONE TOWEL. Someone had found a washcloth somewhere and had it hanging on a towel rack. How embarrassing…

1921 Mantorville School Celebration

This weekend was very exciting for us. We were a part of opening the time capsule of the 1921 building that was once the Mantorville School. It was imbedded in the cornerstone. ImageWhen the cornerstone was removed, the bottom of the time capsule was pretty rusted and had a couple of holes in it. The rest of it was cemented into the stone. There were several documents and a photo in it. The most amazing part to me was the letter from them, probably the school board or superintendent, to US. The letter explained to us why they built the school and how important they felt it was to educated our young people. It was so touching. They went on to explain that even though building supplies were expensive at the time, it still was important enough to go ahead and do it right. The building was state of the art. It was to have cost $41,000 but ended up costing $18,000 more. The bond referendum was also in there and other documentation that will be studied in more controlled spaces.

Several months ago, Kent and Carole Keller, who owned the property, called me to see if I could help them organize a closing celebration for that section of the school property. The whole thing has been purchased by Dodge County for expansion. It sits across the street from the rest of the county property and is ideal for expansion. As an aside, it was me, when I sat on the county board,  that pushed us into reopening discussion of the much needed (and much bitched about and nothing much being done about it) expansion. But I digress (again). All the buildings can be repurposed except for this 1921 section. The oldest part. I said yes and pulled poor John into the project.

After several long lunches with the Kellers, getting an idea of what they were thinking and a fairly good budget, off we went. What we came up was a community open house. The part I worried about the most was getting the word out. Posters and postcards. News articles in the local newspapers. Gallons of coffee with the locals at the coffee shops–who love to share (aka gossip). To make a long story short: It was a raving success. Even the weather cooperated. We figure that 250-300 people came. The short program had at least 150.

ImageThis is me as the mistress of ceremonies.

ImageAnd this is Kent Keller on the right reading the letter and John Olive on the left. Mary Ann Bucher, my friend and director of the Dodge County Historical Society in front.

Suffice it to say, it was a fabulous day and so glad we are on the other side of it all. Now I HAVE GOT TO GET to costuming the October show for the theater company. Yikes…



Food as it fits into life

Today was the big huge grocery shop day. When one opens the frig and it is full of nothing to eat, it is time. I love the process of making the list and then figuring out where to go and in what order.

Today I decided to start out at Wal-Mart. Wait, wait. Listen. That is where my newly adopted long-haired chihuahua’s favorite “bones” are sold according to her foster mom, Sarah Ry. Dream Bones in peanut butter. As well as the baby gate. Gypsy spent the majority of her short one year of life in a kennel. If we need to leave her home during the day, she needs to be in a special place–but not that kennel except at night. So I bought a baby gate.

For your added knowledge of my day, should you need to know–I did go to Sam’s for a few things and the liquor store. To Barlow’s HyVee grocery. To Andy’s Liquor. To Fareway grocery. And Target, of course. What is a trip to Rochester without going to Target.

That was a couple of days ago. Last evening John and I took a drive in the convertible and decided to leave Gypsy home. She was all tucked into our bathroom with one door closed and the other with the baby gate. Blankets. Toys, Water. A new peanut butter Dream Bone. We got home after dark and parked the car in the tuck-under garage. There she was at the top of the stairs SO happy to see us. Wiggle. Wiggle. Wag. Wag. Good thing that damn baby gate only cost me ten bucks!

Back to the food.

Now I know I am a bit of a food snob. Like many of us. I have a ton of cookbooks. Why, I am not sure. I should just get rid of most of them because I pretty much only use three now.

My mother has many talents. Really. Cooking has never been one of them. Nor does she especially care about food–being a 50’s mother with five kids to feed. Her mantra was to get us fed as quickly and cheaply as possible and clean the place up. I say this because I did not learn to appreciate food or cooking from her. It came much later and over a long period of time.

As I have said before, my life has been a series of phases. One phase was Craig when I was in my early and mid 20’s. I so wanted to be the domestic diva but had no idea what that was. So I tried my hand with cooking. It was really fun and not especially hard. I still believe if you can read, you can cook. I cooked lots of fragrant stews and chicken a thousand different ways.  Creamy soups. Hearty soups.  Casseroles and potatoes and vegetables of all varieties. We ate very well. Recipes are not always planned for two people. We invited friends and family over often. Then, they started to drop in unexpectedly, knowing full well that they wouldn’t go home hungry. For the first and only time in my life, I gained a pile of weight. But it fell off and then some during Craig’s terrible illness and the ensuing demise of our relationship. But I digress.

During the next phase, the transplant coordinator/single woman about town/I can do anything phase, several women friends who all liked to cook but had no one to cook FOR joined together and formed a Gourmet Club. We met every month. We had few rules except that we would make a date for next month before leaving this month’s dinner. And the hostess would plan the menu with recipes we have never done before, be responsible for main course , and make assignments to the others. What fun! We made all kinds of wild imaginative things. Stuffed squab. Rolled pork roast. Pumpkin soup. Chestnut salad. Lots and lots of wine. (Maybe too much wine sometimes. Once we ended up in a swimming pool in various stages of dress–or should I say UNdress.) I really learned to read recipes and know what it would turn out like. The few failures were just about as fun as the successes. One was a gorgeous almond soup, cold, with green grapes. Imagine bitter almond sludge.

My favorite cookbook at that time was the New American Cuisine. I lost it somewhere between Seattle and Minnesota. It is out of print. I still mourn its loss in my life. There was a sausage stuffed chicken recipe I would love to have in my kitchen right today. After roasting the whole chicken, it was refrigerated and then cut in half through the breastbone and back. Like for a picnic. Gorgeous. And then there is a cold pasta with the stems of broccoli sliced. I mean the part most of us throw out! It was wonderful.

IMG_0064A few years later, the  Silver Palate cookbooks became my very most favorite. They were wild. They were crazy. They were from New York. They put together ingredients I had never heard of or even ones I knew in all new and imaginative ways. I poured over recipes. I would go to bed at night with a Silver Palate book and imagined… Granted. It was expensive and I ended up with lots of ingredients and spices in my cupboards that I couldn’t figure out what to do with. Low cholesterol, not so much.  Portion control, UM, no. But the taste was AMAZING! Rich. Flavorful. Their chili would feed an army. And that army would be happy, happy, happy. Poultry recipes taken to a whole new fabulous. I learned about seasonings and marinades. Hints and suggestions. This would be great with that… So many unbelievable recipes. I still make black bean soup after Christmas and Easter hams have been picked over. Thick. Black. Red sweet peppers.  A dollop of sour cream and a titch of sherry. SIGH! I have some in my freezer right now. Waiting for it to be less than 89 degrees outside.

It was quite a few years later that I fell in love with the next cookbook.

This phase is within the Mantorville ones–and there have been a few. Liz, my mother and I were at an outdoor boutique outside of Medford, MN. I picked up this cookbook, IMG_0056The Complete Guide of Country Cooking by Taste of Home 1998. It is also out of print and my copy is starting to fall apart. This is a no-kidding, no fail cookbook. It is so well-tested that there are no DOGS in there. Simple. Great. Imaginative but real. If I could ask Taste of Home anything, it would be to reissue this cookbook. I would buy one for all my foody friends. Like Cauliflower Au Gratin–garlicy, creamy, ham, swiss cheese crusty over it all. Or maybe Asparagus Pasta–buttery, crushed red pepper, garlic. Or the homemade eggnog and sugar cookies at Christmas. Perfect.

For a time I liked the Southern Living cookbooks–but they are more for company or weird stuff not found with Betty Crocker. NOW I am in love with the 2011 (not so much the 2012) Annual Recipes from Better Homes and Garden. IMG_0065Bacon Laced Chocolate Cake. Fresh Corn Salad. Feta Stuffed Chicken Breasts. Roasted Tomato-Bread Toss. Turkey, Pear, Provolone Salad. Tonight we are having Lime-cilantro marinated chicken breasts with blistered beans. Sigh.

Very Early Morning

The past few days have started way too early. It started on Sunday at 3:30 AM. Benjamin, who is our darling one-and-a-half year old cockapoo got sick in his kennel. Read this as diarrhea. Benjamin was mortified. Kennels are their safe place and he “defiled” it. John just accidentally heard him rummaging about and checked on him. He flew out of his “house” to the back door. And John let him out. Now, anyone who has had children should know to clean up the pooch first and then tackle the disgusting aftermath. In defense of John, it WAS the middle of the night and he probably has never cleaned up a kid in his life. I awoke as soon as John discovered poor Benjamin’s plight and expletives hit the airways. He had a handle on it. I could have gone and saved him but I didn’t. Besides John’s language was quite entertaining. One word used as noun, adjective, and adverb all in the same sentence can be an art form at times. Benjamin flew back into the house, straight past John and all, and hopped onto the king size bed for some mommy comfort. Poor baby. “Say, John, is Benjamin messy or not?” How the ______ should I know!” Now I did have to get up. Strip the bed. (I did say it was KING-SIZED!) Start the first of at least ten loads of laundry. I return to the kitchen to see John bathing the dog in the kitchen sink. I was about to say “Seriously, dude…” but thought better of it and just disinfected whole kitchen post bathing. It is now 4:15AM. We are sick tired and wide awake.

I tell this story only as an excuse for why I am up before 4:00 AM every morning since then. John seems to have been able to reset his sleep-o-meter. I am not doing so well. The good news is that I started a new book that I am just enthralled with. A Thousand Days in Venice by Marlena De Blasi. I bought A Thousand Days in Tuscany awhile back and just could not get into it. Finally I decided to google her and see what else she may have written. Good thing. The Tuscany one follows the Venice one. It is a memoire or sorts. I think. Or maybe it is an internal journey of life and spirit. Whatever. I am so enjoying it that I don’t mind being up too early. I am a foody wannabe and dabble at decorating and like to do new things–but she is the real thing. Chef, food critic, food writer, traveler, decorator. Wow. She meets and marries this Venetian guy, like later on in both of their lives– and moves lock stock and barrel to Venice. Kind of like I picked up and moved to Mantorville, MN when I married my own good-ole-boy. Well, maybe not so much. Still I do identify a bit. I mean, I have chickens for god sake.

Seamus, my 15 pound cat, just moved off of my legs and the feeling is coming back into my feet. It must be time to start coffee. Oh, wait. I have to be at the County Seat Coffee House in Mantorville at 8:00 to commune with my friends and colleagues about the happenings in town. Movers and Shakers. Probably to protect myself from being the subject of conversation. I fronted the discussion of putting wireless internet into the Opera House. It goes in on Friday. Most under 50–of which I am not one–think it is a fabulous idea. Some others, not so much. I think it is going to be great. This is 2013 and even little Mantorville, historic as it likes to think it is, needs to join in.

I have been chatty. Guess that is what it takes. Getting up very early. It is hot here. John has the a/c cranked down to 70 and the windows are steamed up. I have a sweat shirt on. Oh well.