Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Coffee Nirvana

I've sipped it all, local, chain, organic, fair trade, even bad Folger's crystals, but this is my all-time favorite COFFEE. When my sister recently embarked on a visit to her homeland (Minn-E-SODAH) she stuffed her small carry-on suitcase with Vashon's finest! (Sorry that you didn't have enough room for the garden gnome or your running shoes). Try the Guatemalan Reserve or the Orca Blend - my two favorites. In case you don't have a sister on the island, The Vashon Island Coffee Roasterie can ship its freshest beans to you.
VICR is run by a foundation that protects the growers. They also donate money to charities. See the official website for more details. And if you ever get a chance, a visit to the Roasterie/Coffee Shop is reminiscent of a "Seattle-ish" experience. All around, I like supporting this type of business better than tossing it into the coffers of national coffee types. My taste buds love it too. I promise, it's worth every sip and most definitely good 'til the last drop! 

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

My Good Earth

Today I will be blanching tomatoes. Later in the week I'll be learning the art of canning from my mother-in-law, Arlene. It will be something to learn this survival craft of yesteryear from someone who has fed her family from her own garden for years. From someone whose mother raised her in the same tradition. From someone who grew up on a real Southern Minnesota farm during the depression.

I thought everyone had a relative who "canned" but I don't really know. My CSA farmer claims most folks don't know what canning is or think it's something someone's grandma did a long time ago. Earlier today I had visions of a much larger garden and living off of "canned" and "frozen" food from my own little patch of earth. I momentarily considered ordering extra veggies from my CSA to process in my kitchen for the long winter. Eating locally totally inspires me. It makes so much sense. Good old common sense, like good old canned tomatoes for a winter soup or a pan of Goulash. What can be better? ... Now to build a summer kitchen.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

More Than Fair Fries

I can hardly call this blog "Play Daze Minnesota" without mentioning the Minnesota State Fair. Our vehicle pulled into the 
$9-fair parking lot about 7:50 am, nice-n-early. We hit the animal barns and a 4-H calf & yearling show first, and after, slowly made our way to the Fresh French Fries stand. 

Who can resist a bucket of these tasty fried-in-peanut oil, light and crispy spuds? As always, ketchup on the side please, salt and lots of napkins. I noticed the price jumped way up? Some one back me up here. That said, the 32-ounce size was enough for me and with a few to spare. These taters have kept me coming back decade after decade. In fact, the Fresh French Fries stand has been part of the fair since 1972 - which equates to "as long as I can remember."

P.S. My friend at Inspirasana tells me that there is now a Garlic French Fries stand. Okay, that is definitely something I need to try.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Grieving & Eating

I've had a lot of family stuff going on this past month. Gram's passing, my son heading off to kindergarten soon, recently some health news about my Mom and a visit from a very sick Aunt who I was lucky enough to spend some time with. I've also had two close relatives and a very good friend lose special life pets. So, there's been a lot of emotion heading my way. 
That said, I've learned that grief doesn't have to be pushed back into a corner. It can be experienced and honored. I've allowed myself to feel it and have had the time to exist with it.

My blog entries dried up a bit, despite a very wet-eyed 4-weeks. Grief takes some energy. At times it's fueled my creative energies and sent me writing. Most of the time it's rendered me lethargic. I found myself popping any snack that crossed my path. Filling a void? Working through something? I actually bought dried apricots just to have something to chew on.

Summer's end isn't my favorite time to gain weight and I am not really sure that I have. More so, I feel the pain of life's changes passing through my body and that has caused the wrong hunger, bloats, or the uncomfortableness of living in my own skin.

I've made these healing blueberry crumb bars three times in the last three weeks! The recipe is from the Smitten Kitchen blog. I've tried some different versions of the recipe too, including substituting nectarines for half of the blueberries, adding orange zest instead of lemon and drenching the fruit compote with vanilla. I know this recipe would work with almost every fruit - raspberries will be good soon. 

The best part is that I did get to share these heavenly treats with my family and I didn't have to eat them alone. So friends, here's to emotional eating, living with grief and finding the joy as you move ahead. Eat up! 

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

City Kid's Farm Day

Rochester, MN -- Imagine my surprise when I, the city kid, ended up at Olmstead County Historical Society's annual "Days of Yesteryear Show", and loved it. Of course, part of my fun was enjoying all the ingredients that make a summer festival sizzle. On this day, the summer sun was hot, but not too hot. The sky was a perfect blue accompanied by a light blowing breeze. Crowds? Yes. Yet, open enough to move about the fields of tractors and buildings with ease. Let's not forget the styro-foam sea of plates lining the picnic tables; and the apron clad concession stand volunteers who served up pulled pork sandwiches, hot dogs and baked beans from a parade of crock pots. 
Great knowledge was gained during my conversations with an alpaca breeder and separately with the owner of a 1911 Case steam engine. A distant guitar and tambourine duo belted out "Ring of Fire" from the mess hall as I took in the sights. Was it fun to witness things for which I would otherwise have remained ignorant? Definitely so. 

Volunteers ran a multitude of demonstrations. I experienced a tractor pull, threshing, two different hay bailing machines in action (1911 bailer and a 1960 bailer - there's a big difference don't you know), a steam-powered engine operating an old-fashioned saw mill; and a steam driven tractor stoked with wood drove slowly around the farm. I had never before considered the labor required to run these rigs. That is, the number of people needed and the intensity of the toil. Now I know where the seeds of the term "hard working" must have sprouted. 

On this day, I further developed what I'll call the city kid's farm equation. It's not simply about the crops, animals and land, it also involves intense labor and lots of bodies, the art of running highly mechanical equipment and is inextricably linked to the technology-of-the-times ... and hey, can we talk about the weather?

I mentioned to my husband that farming seemed like a male dominated profession, but he had another view. He reminded me that Grandma Emma actually worked on the Rochester farm as much as Grandpa Louis. According to Louis, Emma could drive a team of horses better than he! And Emma herself told the story of managing a drag plow across 40 acres. My modern-day husband finished his family story with, "Can you imagine coming home after a day like that and having to make dinner?" 

I hope they loved most of it even though they were likely spent at day's end. I cannot shake my romanticized version of farm life even though I gained a new perspective at this event. Emma's old sewing machine waits silently under a dusty cover in the corner of our suburban garage. Surely she toiled on that machine too. 

Thursday, August 7, 2008

For Whom the Bell Tolls

Is your "Back to School" bell ringing yet? Retailers seem to treat this season like another holiday and use every opportunity to blast "Back to School" loudly in our ears. Target has the "in" with our school district (and I am sure, others). Pre-order all your supplies and get them delivered right to the classroom complete with a $5 gift card. Whoops, I missed the deadline. Maybe next year. I also discovered a lengthy "Back to School" theme catalog from Toys R Us in the mail. Isn't this a toy store? Ninety percent of the catalog focused on toys not school supplies as the cover had teased. I ended up stopping at two places to get everything on my kindergarten list. Office Max was my first unplanned stop. I was there to buy printer cartridges --  but why not make one trip and get the school supplies thing over with? How much of a price difference can there be anyway - or so I thought?
Of course I ended up going to Target later because Office Max didn't carry the preferred dry erase marker or glue sticks. What a walloping price difference between these back-to-school mongers! I would have saved $3.43 by shopping at Target alone AND this savings was across four items ONLY. Instead, I paid nearly double at Office Max for the very same thing. C'mon! 

Here are my four items:
Elmer's School Glue, 4 oz
Crayolas, 24 ct
Fiskars Kid's Blunt Scissors
Tioconderga Yellow #2 Pencils , 12 ct

Donate supplies this year if you can. Our food shelf is asking for them. Great idea.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Up & Running

My sister of running and rowing fame recommended starting by running between telephone poles. She's also been training with a former Olympian, so she passed on some hot tips to me. Kick your knees out! Keep your arms moving straight ahead! Both tips are essentially perfect and making a difference. I have something to think about as far as form. It ain't so bad - especially when I'm done. I like to sweat. I like to beat my ass. I like to feel my heart muscle working for a change. And I need it all! It's Day 4. 

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Back to School

Back to something and I'm not sure what that means exactly. It's the first time in years that I've had this feeling wash over me. You know it too perhaps, that bit of time before school starts and the summer ends. Right now I am excited about what's around the corner, slightly anxiety ridden and borderline teary all at the same time. I'm ready to buy sharpened pencils and to sniff new Crayolas. I hear the cutting of scissors on construction paper and with my forefinger, sense the cold squishing glue between layers of paper. I know the sound of school chairs as they scrape across the classroom floor and what it means to listen again. As I emotionally ride out of the last few weeks of losing a loved one and being close to my family, the "back to school" tide rises in my blood. 
Photo by AMG 2008

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