75 bottles of wine on the wall...

75 bottles of wine!

Now do I have your attention? If so, read on.

Some of you may have participated in this last year –and if you did, thank you! It's time for the Youth Performance Company's annual Cattle Call fund raising event... AND an opportunity to buy raffle tickets for a chance (or chances) to win 75 bottles of wine.

Yes. You read that correctly. 75 bottles of wine. And this is what that looks like:

A friend of mine, Kari, serves on the Board of Directors for the Youth Performance Company (YPC) in Minneapolis, a nonprofit that supports the arts for children, teens, and families in the Twin Cities area. She had the fortune of being introduced to YPC when she was in high school when a friend of hers was in some of their shows.  And although she's not a performer, she got to experience it by attending, volunteering, and seeing her friends participate - and over the years her appreciation grew to dedication to this cause.  Kari introduced me to YPC over a year ago and I've had an opportunity to attend a couple of their shows and one of their Behind the Curtain events.  Most recently, I saw Mean and you can read my "review" if you want.  I'm not on their board and I haven't done much for them, but I have started to see what they can do and feel compelled to support their efforts. 

As you know, nonprofits are always working to find the funds to support their cause -- and this is especially difficult in today's economy. On April 10, they are holding a gala event to fund raise so they can continue to provide opportunity and make a positive impact on our community.

If you'd like to consider contributing to this awesome cause, I can hook you up with Kari to get more information or to support YPC -- there are a couple of ways:
  1. Purchase a $10 raffle ticket (or two, three, or four) for a chance to win 75 bottles of wine! You'll never have to buy another birthday present... just give 'em a bottle! Need not be present to win -- and if you do, I will deliver them personally.  And join you for a glass.  :)
  2. Attend the Cattle Call Gala on April 10 at the Metropolitan Ballroom in Minneapolis for dinner, silent auction, and a show for $75.
So, who is YPC, really?  Why are they worth considering?  Their mission and guiding principles say a lot - and you can find them on the YPC website.

If you're still reading, thanks for considering supporting YPC. I wish I could attend the gala, but I will be out of town that weekend for a conference. I will, however, be trying to win that wine... and if I do, guess what you're getting for your next birthday!!! Here's a hint: it's often made with grapes or berries and should be enjoyed in moderation. And, if I win, there will be plenty for me to share with anyone else who contributes.

Email me if you want me to connect you with Kari for more info on this.


things that make me go hmm... #1

Tonight, I was on the phone with a friend.  We were talking about birthdays and ages.  And about how people who are older than us think we're so young.  And posing the question about how old do we need to be before our 'elders' consider us adults instead of the kids they remember us as.  I mean, we're 30 - and that's awesome. Because we're grown ups, right?

She then proceeded to point out that someday our grandchildren will probably say things like "Whoa!  You were born in the 1900's?!?!"


Being 30 was a lot cooler about 30 seconds before she said that.  Thanks, friend. :)



When it comes to cooking, I like sharing.  I like making dinner for friends, bringing sweets to work (so they aren't in my house - wink wink)... and exchanging recipes when you find one that's super good!  I've gotten some good ones from some of you - which I appreciate.  And some of them are still in my inbox so they don't get forgotten because I want to try them, but haven't gotten around to it yet.  A couple that I've made that come off the top of my head are Chelsey's potato pancakes and her recommendation for chicken pot pie, Jenny's tuscan garlic chicken, and any number of things that mom has taught me over the years. 

In my inbox, I know I have a pasta dish Chelsey sent me, colcannon from Dianne, and Shrimp Victoria from Holly - and they all sound good, so I need to get them on my shopping list soon!  Last week, though, I took another recommendation from Jenny, and it was, again sooo good.  Probably really bad for me, but sometimes it's worth it.

Poppy Seed Chicken
3 c. chicken - diced small
1 tsp. poppy seeds
1 can cream of celery soup
8 oz. sour cream
Crushed crackers (Ritz or Townhouse)
6 Tbsp. butter (melted)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Mix chicken, soup, and sour cream together in a casserole dish.  Sprinkle poppy seeds on top of the chicken mixture.  Cover with crushed crackers and pour the melted butter over the top.  Bake for 30 minutes uncovered. 

Here are my notes on this:
  • Normally people use cream of chicken soup, I think, with this - but Jenny recommended the cream of celery and it did give it a different flavor, in a good way!
  • I was skeptical and thought it would maybe be bland because there aren't really any spices in it.  But apparently there is enough it he crackers / soup to make this tasty.  It didn't need anything else (not even salt and pepper)
  • For the crackers, I used Townhouse Garlic and Herb crackers - yum
  • I really think this would be an awesome filling for pot pie if you added some veggies
  • I ate it with toast.  I think others eat it on buns as sandwiches
So, Jenny - thanks for sharing! (again)  If anyone else has something good to share, feel free to email it to me or to do a guest post here!

And I'm curious... have you made anything I've shared?


missing photo

I posted yesterday about the Baked Orange Chicken I made, but I didn't have a photo... but I got a pic of the leftovers and it looks good as new -- so this is what it looks like. 

Only one more day of leftovers, left!  I'm already getting excited for non-leftovers -- a pack of 10 chicken thighs is way too much for two people... even when you have others over for dinner! 


the kitchen

This isn't new, but I'm going to write about it anyway.  You know how people hang out in the kitchen at gatherings all the time?  There is all kinds of other room in the house, but the kitchen is where people congregate.  Even in smaller kitchens.  Last night, a couple of my friends came over for dinner and - granted - we were getting dinner ready and making cookies, but part of the time we could have been sitting in the living room.  But we didn't.  We just hung out around the counter in the kitchen.  Even when Keith has boys' night with his buddies, they hang out there for a while when they first get there -- and sometimes for quite a bit of the night.  And on Christmas, Mom and Dad's kitchen was packed all night... which was different when she had a bigger kitchen because people could spread out.  But now that she has a smaller kitchen, that hasn't changed.  I was even stuck in the corner for a while and couldn't get out!  It was cool, though, because the company was good and I was next to the drinks... and within arms reach of a couple of the food things.

Like I said, this is not a new concept, but I still don't know why it is.  Maybe because that's where the food / drink is?  Or it's less formal than the dining room?  Does it smell better there?  I was talking about a while back with a colleague and they said they have even moved the food into another room to try to move the party... but people still came back to the kitchen.  So, what is it?  I'd be curious to know your thoughts on that. 

I'm not complaining - I had a lot of fun hanging out in the kitchen with my friends last night!  I made dinner... I had found a recipe for Baked Apricot Chicken that I wanted to try.  When I went to make it, it turned out that what I thought was apricot marmalade in the fridge was actually orange marmalade, but it worked out just fine.  I messed up and didn't get a picture of it, but if you look at the pictures on the site, it looked like that. It was super good and super easy - served with rice and corn from the farm.  Unfortunately, I didn't get a good picture, but it was really good.  Here's what it ended up being (credit to the original recipe):

Baked Orange Chicken
1 c. orange marmalade
1 c. sweet & spicy french dressing
1 pkg (1 oz.) Lipton onion soup mix
10 chicken thighs

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Place chicken in a 9x13 pan.  Mix the marmalade, dressing, and soup mix together well and then pour over the chicken, covering well.  Bake for 1 hour, uncovered. 

That's it.  SO easy.  And SO good. 

Then we did dessert and made some chocolate chip cookies.  I honestly cannot remember the last time I made chocolate chip cookies and, because I don't do it often, don't have a favorite recipe that I use.  Instead, I pulled out the trusty church cookbook, and made J. Halverson's recipe from it.  They turned out really good, but I think they were better when they first came out of the oven... they were a little hard today.  Still very edible, though!  I'm interested in hearing what your tried-and-true chocolate chip cookie recipes are - ones that stay soft and chewy on the inside and a little crunchy on the outside.  Feel free to share. :) 

And we made the last group with some cut up maraschino cherries in it, and it was a yummy edition.  Give it a try sometime!


with cherries!

After dinner and dessert, we hung out in the kitchen for a little while longer, and then watched a DVD of a comedian.  A great night with awesome people is always nice. 

So... what I want to know is:
  • why do you think people always hang out in the kitchen?
  • got any good chocolate chip cookie recipes?



Last night I was attended opening night of Mean - a show about school bullying written and performed by the Youth Performance Company.  If you have or know kids who are in junior high or high school, you should take them to this show.  In fact, the website says recommended for 4th grade and up.

A friend of mine serves on the board for YPC and invited me to attend their Behind the Curtain before the show which was a chance to hear more about the company, what they do, and hear from staff members and some of the young artists. It was nice because it helped to have a better understanding of YPC and I think it even helped me appreciate last night's show even more.

So, on to the show.  It was terrific.  It's a heavy subject that has been coming to the surface more in the last couple of years, it seems.  Bullying in schools has always existed but didn't always get the attention it is now. We've all seen it in the news - some kid getting hurt (or killed) by bullies (or sometimes their so-called friends). And then we see on the news about a kid ending their own life because they felt they couldn't handle the pressure anymore.  It's heartbreaking and in many cases, avoidable.

I applaud YPC for taking on this topic - I think they were able to show bullies, the bullied, and the bystanders in a way that identified in some way to almost each audience member - and how friends, teachers, and parents can make a difference.  The young artists in this show really have a lot of talent and I was really impressed by the music and the voices.  And they did it in a way that is serious, but energetic and engaging.

As an aside, as I was watching a new scene came on and I was like "I know her!" -- One of my co-workers from where I interned in college played one of the mom's in the play.  Small world!

At the end of the show, they gave some interesting statistics - and though I'm not sure of the source, I'll share, anyway.  They said that:
  • 15-20% of kids have admitted to being bullied regularly
  • 15-20% of kids have admitted to bullying
And then they made a point that hit home.  Given those numbers, that means there are more than 50% who are bystanders who see it happen. And bystanders don't often do anything.  I've been a bystander -not proudly - but I have.  You probably have, too.

So, if you have a chance, I recommend going to this show - even if you don't have kids to bring with you.  And share the show link with others who may be interested or have kids in these age ranges.   It plays through the end of February.


guest post from mom! - Home comfort foods

I'm so excited!  A while back I invited anyone who wants to guest post on my blog - and have been poking Mom to do it more recently.  So, imagine my delight when I got an email with her very first guest post!!  For those of you who know Mom, she's one of the best cooks I know. And the things in this post are simple, but awesome things she made for us growing up... and now I make, too.  So, without further adieu, here's a post from Mom!


Home Comfort Foods

What do you think of when you hear home comfort foods?  I think most of us remember back to our childhood and the foods our Mothers prepared for us.  I can remember coming home from school and looking in the cake drawer and sometimes finding a plate of chocolate cookies with frosting on, or else graham crackers frosted with butter cream frosting.  I would be so hungry and want to take one but Mom always said "You  have  to wait or you won't be hungry for supper."   I think that treat would have tasted a lot better then, than when I had finished eating a whole meal. 

Maybe I was wrong but I was never that strict, with 3 growing boys no matter how much they ate after school they still scarfed down a big meal.  I always remember Mom's Easter Cake she would make.  Chocolate cake with seven-minute frosting and decorated with coconut nests with Jelly beans.  So pretty and so good!

Anyway, breakfast is what really comes to my mind when I think of home comfort foods.  I learned two quick breakfast dishes from Mom that I often made for my family and still do for Glenn and I.  Trim Da Ca Ca (Egg as in Chicken thus CaCa) and Egg in the hole.

Trim Da CaCa
Cut two slices of bread into small chunks and brown in butter in fry pan.  Beat two eggs plus 2 tbsp. water, add a little bit of butter to pan and pour eggs over toasted bread.  Stir with spatula until egg is set.  Salt, pepper, and enjoy!

Egg in the Hole
Take one slice of bread and with a glass cut out circle in bread slice.  Butter bread, put in fry pan, add a little butter in bread hole and crack in one egg.  Butter top of bread in pan and when egg is starting to set flip over.  Butter and toast the bread circle you cut out also.  Salt, pepper, and enjoy.


my stupid smartphone

Smartphones can be totally awesome - and I shared an example of why in my last post.  I had a blackberry (work phone) before I got my personal smartphone. I didn't have a problem learning how to use my blackberry for some reason, but I really don't use all of the bells and whistles on it because... well, it's my work phone. I don't need to be doing a lot of personal stuff from there.  It checked my email, made phone calls, and told me what the weather was going to be... but that's all I really used it for, and it was easy. 

Then I got my personal smartphone.

It was the first time in my life that I remember being outsmarted by technology - which is difficult for someone who consider(s)(ed) herself relatively tech savvy.  I had reached my technological threshold where things coming naturally "for those young kids these days" no longer described me and my smart phone made me feel dumb. I was technologically old and I wasn't even 30 yet - so it must all be down hill from here.

Some of the good (and bad) parts about it is that I can be connected all day, everday, and all night, every night. On the bright side, I don't get lost anymore because google maps is a couple of clicks away.It gives me walking, driving, or bus directions -- but I don't use the bus... I don't know how. Maybe I can look it up on my smart phone!? :) 

And god forbid that I would have to wait until I get home to upload a picture!  I can do it from anywhere - woot woot!

It's also a constant stream of email, facebook, my other email, text messages, current weather conditions, and the latest news - I have a love/hate relationship with that. Sometimes it's sensory overload.

I finally figured it out for the most part, though I am still not sure why sometimes I just have to press the touch screen to answer a call, and sometimes I have to slide my finger across the screen to answer - it doesn't hurt anyone, so I just let that go eventually.

But my smart phone isn't always smarter than me.  When I'm visiting home, I get limited service, but when I do I get the following notification (photo below, also):

VoicemailsWhile roaming internationally, voicemails will not be downloaded to your phone. However, you can still call voicemail to listen to your messages. Would you like to change your roaming settings to allow voicemails to be downloaded? yes/no

my stupid smart phone

My question is: Since when is southeastern Minnesota 'roaming internationally?' Maybe I was too close to Iowa?  stupid smart phone...


why smartphones are awesome (sometimes)

Not much to report.  I had a great weekend in Wisconsin Dells celebrating an awesome friend's 30th birthday.  It's the big year.  We're all turning 30.  Well, a lot of us are, anyway.  We stayed at a water park hotel, which was fun for both adults and kids, alike.  One of my favorite conversations went like this:

Michelle: Aren't you getting in the water?

Me [while holding her 5 month old]:  Maybe later.

Michelle:  You came all the way to a water park hotel in the Dells to maybe come in the water?

Me:  I came all the way to a water park hotel in the Dells for your birthday.

But I did go in the water and played some water basketball - and then hung out in more water in the hot tub.  They really use a lot of chlorine in those hotels - I showered before we left the hotel and when I got home (8+ hours later) I still smelled like chlorine. I think I'm better today, though. We had a little frustration with the restaurant we ate at, but the food was good, and in the end we all had an enjoyable weekend and Michelle had what everyone is entitled to once a year: A happy birthday.

I've been debating sharing the following story with you because I'm worried it will start to look like all I do is make bonehead moves.  Michelle says that I shouldn't write about all of the dumb stuff I do because it will start to look like I only do dumb stuff.  Not so.  And it's not always my fault.  For example, yesterday wasn't my fault - it just happened. 

Every room at our hotel had a balcony with doors that opened (yes, I've been in a couple that have balconies that don't have opening doors - scared of jumpers, I guess... bud I digress.)  We had breakfast yesterday morning and when the others went to get in the hot tub, I went back to the room to suit up.  Before I did, I went out on the balcony and shut the door (yes, it's February in Wisconsin - but it was warm - read: 30 - outside). When I went to go back in, the door wouldn't open. At all. 

How could this happen?  It was obviously was unlocked because I opened the door to go OUT - so why can't I get IN?  I had a moment of panic because my hotel-mates had just gotten in the hot tub, so they weren't coming back any time soon. Then remembered - I have my phone... my SMART phone! I googled the hotel phone number, called them and said:

Hi, I'm in room 402.  So, this is going to be dumb, but I came out on the balcony, shut the door, and now I can't get back in. Can you send someone to come and let me back in?

Yes. That just happened. The lady who let me back in told me that "Yeah... that happens sometimes.  When the door shuts, sometimes it bumps the lock and does that."  Note to self: don't completely shut balcony doors at hotels. And that's why smart phones are awesome (sometimes) - my alternative with out it would have been to yell to a stranger 4 levels down in the parking lot to ask the front desk to come and rescue me... and that is far more embarrassing.

So, now that you heard something dumb that I did, I should compensate and tell you something awesome that I did. Or made, rather.  I'm a nerd and I ask questions on the allrecipes.com forum - so I asked for a recommendation of something that was relatively quick and not terrible for me after eating out all weekend and made this Holiday Chicken Salad recipe that someone recommended from the site.  I'm not going to re-type this here, but recommend that you save this recipe - it's AWESOME and I will have a new go-to chicken salad recipe because of this. 

My notes:
  • I used only 1 c. (vs. 1.5 c.) of dried cranberries and only 1/2 c. (vs. 1 c.) of pecans.
  • Cub foods has a sweet deal on Craisens and other related dried fruits this week because it's Heart Health month.  I'm totally going to stock up at $1.99 (they're normally 3.50+ I think) so worth it.
  • Last night we just had these on buns plain and it was so good. 
  • We had the leftovers tonight warm. I put it on a bun bottom, sprinkled with a little cheese, and baked it for 10-15 minutes.  Then I took the tops (buttered) and put them in the over, too, changed over to broil, and when the tops were browned, it was done. 
  • I think I liked them warm better.  I'm not sure if it was because they were warm or because the flavors had set in for a day.  Whatever.  It was awesome both ways.

The first night
The second night-baked.

And that's all I have to report.  Signing off...


bad fish mom

So, did I ever tell you about the time I was bad fish mom?  Several years ago when I was living in St. Paul, Abby and I decided that it would be a good idea for us to get some fish.  We had some friends who were into them who hooked us up with a tank and the joys of the A World of Fish store. It was awesome and the fish were cool.  We kept them fed and happy... until we cleaned the tank. 

We were pretty confident we were doing things right - we read up on the types of fish we had, talked to the people at the fish shop, and talked to our friends who knew fish stuff. 

The first time I cleaned the tank, I drained the water to the level I was supposed to, added the cleaning liquid/neutralizer/etc... whatever it is that you're supposed to put in the water each time.  And then I filled it up.  And then our fish started swimming funny.  And then some of them died.  We couldn't figure out what the problem was!  But convinced I must have done something wrong in the cleaning process, we went back to world of fish, got some new ones, and tried again. 

Rinse and repeat two more times. At this point we are thoroughly confused. Every time I refilled the tank, we had casualties.  But we were doing everything right!? 

We were perplexed, until Abby said: Are you filling it with the bucket in the closet?

Me: Yeah... why?

Abby:  The one we clean the floors with?

Me: Umm... yeah, it's the only bucket we have... .... .... oh, %&#*!

Abby: hahahahahahaha

It turns out that fish don't deal well with traces of Mr. Clean.  We'll add this to the list of bonehead moves I have made.  We then tested our hypothesis that if we buy a new bucket, and use it only to clean the tank, that the fish will live. Our results showed that it is much more likely that your fish will live if you don't clean their tank with the Mr. Clean bucket.

I was a bad fish mom... but once we figured out the problem, I redeemed myself and we lost very few fish after that and I was promoted to acceptable fish mom. Good thing I don't have kids yet, huh?  They'd be in serious trouble.