"My doctor told me to stop having intimate dinners for four... unless there were three other people.
-------Orson Welles

Wednesday, November 12, 2014


Ray Villafane sculpts pumpkins.  Perhaps you've seen some of them as they arrive in your email box from friends.   Check out more of his carvings on his Facebook page.

Villafane is an American artist based in Arizona.   According to Wikipedia:  "In 2007 Villafane was contacted by High Noon Entertainment and asked to participate in the Food Network's Challenge Show for a segment called "Outrageous Pumpkins". He competed against three other professional pumpkin sculptors and won all three rounds to receive the grand prize.  The Food Network contacted Villafane again in 2009 to come back to the show and defend his title. He was also the grand prize winner for the "Outrageous Pumpkin Challenge II".  In 2011, he carved the world's biggest pumpkin to resemble zombies.  He also provided pumpkins for Heidi Klum's annual Halloween party in Sin City in 2011."



Friday, November 7, 2014


Time to use up some apples!  Our apple trees had a good year and I want to be baking every day!  The only trouble is that I am the one in this household who eats the sweets.  Oh well... this is a task that I can handle!

I am always looking for relatively simple recipes that use up a lot of apples at one time.  The recipe I made today fits both those requirements.

*  3 large eggs
*  2 cups sugar
*  1 cup oil (I used olive oil.)
*  2 teaspoons vanilla extract
*  2-3/4 cups all-purpose flour
*  1 teaspoon baking soda
*  1 teaspoon salt
*  2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
*  1 teaspoon ground cardamom (optional)
*  4 cups peeled and chopped apple
*  1 cup chopped pecans
Beat the eggs at medium speed with an electric mixer until thick and pale.  Gradually add sugar, beating until blended.  Add oil and vanilla; beat at low speed until blended.  Combine flour and next 3 ingredients; add to beaten mixture, stirring until blended.  Stir in apple and pecans.  Pour batter into a greased and floured 10-inch tube or bundt pan.  Bake at 350ยบ for 1 hour and 25 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in the center comes out clean.  Cool cake in pan on a wire rack for 5 minutes; remove from pan, and cool completely on wire rack.  

Source:  Southern Living 1992.

Just a little mess!

Ready to go in the oven.

A long baking time - 1-3/4 hours!

Cooling on a wire rack.

A simple dusting with powdered sugar.
As soon as the cake was cool enough to eat, I had my first piece.  Conclusion... very good BUT it will be even better with a scoop of ice cream and a drizzle of caramel sauce.  Next time....

Saturday, November 1, 2014


This weekend the Twin City Postcard Club is holding its semiannual postcard show and sale.  As I've mentioned previously, I was a member of the Club for many years, and I still love my thousands of antique/vintage postcards.  My love of travel is reflected in my collection of map postcards, a few of which I will share with you here.

This first postcard is a "real photo" postcard showing a map of the United States in 1968, and highlighting the states voting for Nixon, Humphrey and Wallace.  You will notice that Minnesota is shown as supporting Humphrey, which is no surprise given that Hubert H. Humphrey represented Minnesota in the U.S. Senate for two terms.  He also served as Vice President under President Lyndon B. Johnson from 1965 to 1969, and, as shown in this postcard, was the nominee of the Democratic Party in the 1968 presidential election, which he lost to the Republican nominee, Richard Nixon.

The following "Greetings from Minnesota" postcard is a cartoon showing some of the things Minnesota was known for in the early 1900's - particularly farming.  On the back of the card it states:  "Minnesota - area 84,682 sq. miles, of which 3,824 sq. miles is water; 10,000 lakes; 11th state in size; admitted to the Union in 1858.  State flower:  Moccasin Flower.  Capital - St. Paul."

The next map card of Minnesota was mailed in 1909.  On the face of the card is the Seal of Minnesota with the moniker "L'Etoile du Nord" or "Star of the North".

Early in its history the State also adopted the moniker "gopher" which is the mascot of the University of Minnesota sports teams.  The following postcard, mailed in 1908, shows Minnesota industries of Spring Wheat, Iron Ore, Dairying and Salt.  The population at the time is shown as 1,751,394.

It has been interesting living in the land of 10,000 lakes.  Summer cabins, trips to the lake, and visits to friends' cabins continue to this day for most of us.  In the Twin City Metro Area, Lake Minnetonka is well known as one of the most affluent areas.  A fun summer activity is taking a boat ride around the lake, looking at the numerous mansions owned by Minnesota's rich and famous.  As an aside, Lake Minnetonka postcards are much sought after.  This postcard states that Lake Minnetonka is 20 miles long and 4 miles wide, with a shore line of over 300 miles.

Resulting from its glacial past, these lakes offer a wide range of activities including fishing, swimming, boating and, as shown in the following postcard, canoeing the Boundary Waters Canoe Area.

Just west of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area is Voyagers National Park.  The name "Voyagers" (French for "traveler") reflects the early history of the area as a large fur trading route of early French entrepreneurs.  The Park, established in 1975, is not shown in this U.S. Map of National Parks in 1966, the 50th anniversary of the National Park Service.  Here's an interesting side note:  The rocks at Voyagers National Park are older than those found at the bottom of the Grand Canyon!

Itasca State Park in northwestern Minnesota is the headwaters of the Mississippi River which runs south through the continental U.S. and into the Gulf of Mexico.

Many of us remember "Mark Twain" (nom de plume of Samuel L. Clemens)  and his tales of Huck Finn and Tom Sawyer.  This postcard is identified as the "Mark Twain Literary Map" in the Mark Twain Hotel Lobby in Hannibal, Missouri.

I hope you have enjoyed this little travelogue, via postcards, of Minnesota.

Sunday, September 28, 2014


 My first exposure to Dale Chihuly's artwork was at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts where his very large yellow chandelier hangs in the foyer.  Since then I have seen his pieces in museums and galleries around the world, including the large installation hanging from the ceiling of the Bellagio Hotel in Las Vegas.  Called "Fiori di Como," the installation represents Chihuly's interpretation of Italian flowers in the Spring.   In planning our recent trip to Seattle, seeing the Chihuly garden was number one on my list of must-do activities.

Here is a little introduction to the artist.  Chihuly first began to work with glass in the 1960’s.  Inspired by what he saw in the natural environment, he focused on allowing molten glass to take on its own organic shape, much like plants do in nature.  Over time, he also became intrigued with glass houses and conservatories which were almost entirely constructed of hand-blown glass; and he began putting together installations in conservatories around the world.  His pieces grew in size and complexity, with some sculptures being comprised of up to one thousand pieces of blown glass.  He found that glass can be very strong and able to withstand harsh weather, and began installing pieces in gardens of all types.  All of this led to Chihuly creating his own glass conservatory and gardens, the Chihuly Garden and Glass Exhibit which opened in 2012, located in the Seattle Center, at the base of the Space Needle.  

These first two photos are of Chihuly's "Persian Ceiling."  A flat glass pane is piled with glass works and lit from above.  This is a large room and stunningly beautiful.

An automobile accident in England in 1976 left Chihuly without sight in his left eye.  In 1979 he turned over the gaffer position (master glassblower) to a team whom he directs.  Drawing is one of his means to communicate his artistic vision for the glass pieces.

This installation filled a large room in the museum.

 The following three photos show the 100' long sculpture suspended from the ceiling of Chihuly's Glass House.  In the second photo, the Seattle Space Needle is visible.

A view of the hanging installation from the garden.
The following photos were taken in the gardens surrounding the Glass House.  Notice how seamlessly the glass installations fit in and compliment the natural gardens.  

Friday, September 12, 2014


One of the wonderful things about travel is meeting new people.  Two years ago, on our trip to Germany, we met Debbie and John, who live outside of Seattle, and have a "cabin" on Lake Chelan, a beautiful lake in the Cascade Mountains about 3-1/2 hours drive east of Seattle.   We have kept in touch since then, and when they heard that we were thinking about visiting Portland, they invited us to visit them.  Initially, we all felt a bit of apprehensiveness since we were going to be together for a week.  Within minutes of getting together, however, I think we all breathed a sigh of relief... Everything was going to be fine.  Well, it was tremendous, actually!   Now we look forward to seeing them again, hopefully soon!    

This recipe comes from Debbie.  I hope you enjoy it as much as we did!

*  1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
*  1 tablespoon olive oil
*  1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano (plus more for garnish)
*  1/4 teaspoon very finely minced garlic
*  3/4 teaspoon kosher salt, divided (or to taste)
*  1 large eggplant, trimmed, sliced into twelve 1/2 inch rounds
*  2 sprays cooking spray
*  1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper (or to taste)
*  2 large fresh tomatoes, ends trimmed, cut into 6 slices each
*  3/4 cup crumbled feta cheese
     Preheat grill to medium-high.  
     In a small bowl, combine lemon juice, oil, oregano, garlic, and 1/4 teaspoon salt; set aside for flavors to blend. 
     Coat both sides of eggplant with cooking spray; sprinkle with remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt and pepper.  Grill eggplant slices until lightly charred and tender, turning as needed, about 8 to 10 minutes.  Brush eggplant with lemon mixture; top each with 1 slice tomato and 1 tablespoon feta.  Cover grill and cook until tomato and feta soften slightly, about 1 minute.  
     Remove to a serving platter and garnish with additional oregano leaves.  

Tuesday, July 29, 2014


After reading Anthony Bourdain’s “Bone in the Throat”, a murder mystery, I had low expectations for his “A Cook’s Tour - In Search of the Perfect Meal.”  After reading just a few pages of this book, however, I concluded that Bourdain is significantly better at writing about real people and real events than he is at making up characters and events for a novel.  In fact, in this book he shows his talents as a writer with well articulated descriptions and personal insights.  

“A Cook’s Tour” was the basis for Bourdain’s travel series on Food Network.  Each chapter highlights Bourdain’s trip to a new location, including cities in Cambodia, Vietnam, Portugal, France, Spain, Russia, America (San Francisco and Napa Valley), and so on.  As the title suggests, Bourdain was in search of the perfect meal.  Interestingly, some of those meals consisted of eating an iguana, an entire four-foot long cobra, beginning with the still pumping heart and a cup of its blood, and many, many other animal parts that we typically don’t find at our local American restaurants.  Bourdain writes about these meals with fascinating detail, and without censorship.  I found myself laughing out loud, squirming, feeling horrified, and experiencing a whole host of other reactions as I read about Bourdain’s adventures.  All of this made for a quick read, a desire to search out and watch his TV series, and a desire to read more of Bourdain’s travels.  

Monday, July 21, 2014


About 15 years ago, a little group of friends, including Kevin and I, started a tradition of spending a weekend together, out of town, cooking, eating, drinking wine, visiting garden centers, golfing, biking and any other activities that we found to do in that town.  We love the tradition and have had so much fun together and made many fun memories over the years.  This year, to celebrate our 15th (or so) anniversary we decided to venture further away from this area, to a place none of us had been to previously.  All of us are well traveled; so finding a place was a challenge.   One person suggested Savannah, Georgia and almost immediately we decided that was the place to go.

We all came up with ideas for activities but one idea was of interest to everyone:  A Southern Cooking Class, Lecture and Demonstration by Chef Joe Randall.  Check him out here

The menu consisted of:
* Savannah Crab Cakes with Herb Mustard Aioli, 
* Warm Fried Green Tomatoes on Bibb Lettuce with Buttermilk Dressing, 
* Roasted Rack of Sage-Rubbed Pork with Madeira Jus Lie, 
* Savannah Red Rice, 
* Southern Fried Corn, and for dessert 
* Brown Butter Peach Cinnamon Pecan Tart with Bourbon Custard Sauce.
Needless to say, when we were done, we were stuffed!  Everything was absolutely delicious! 

My personal favorite, and a good thing to make at this time of year, is the Salad of Warm Fried Green Tomatoes on Bibb Lettuce.  

In case you aren't sure, green tomatoes are simply unripe red tomatoes.  Why wait until they are red to eat them?  Extend the tomato season!  Here's the recipe which consists of three main parts - Buttermilk Dressing,  Fried Green Tomatoes,  and the other salad ingredients:

BUTTERMILK DRESSING.  Makes 12 servings.
*  1-1/2 cups mayonnaise
*  3/4 cup buttermilk
*  1-1/2 cloves garlic, minced
*  2-1/4 tablespoons Vidalia onion, or any sweet onion, minced
*  1-1/2 tablespoons cider vinegar
*  2-1/4 teaspoons fresh parsley, chopped
*  3/8 teaspoon salt
*  3/8 teaspoon ground white pepper
In a bowl, combine the mayonnaise, buttermilk, garlic, onion, vinegar, and parsley.  Season with salt and pepper.  Refrigerate until ready to serve; will keep 2 to 3 days.

FRIED GREEN TOMATOES.  Makes 8 servings.
*  1/4 cup buttermilk
*  1/4 cup milk
*  1 egg, beaten
*  1/2 cup cornmeal
*  1/4 cup all-purpose flour
*  1 teaspoon salt
*  1/2 teaspoon fresh ground pepper
*  1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
*  3 large green tomatoes, sliced 1/4-1/3" thick
*  1 cup peanut oil for frying
In a bowl combine buttermilk, milk and egg.  Mix well.  In a separate bowl stir together cornmeal, flour, salt, black and cayenne peppers.  Dip tomato slices in milk and egg mixture, then dredge in cornmeal and flour mixture.  Coat well.  Heat oil in a skillet over medium high heat and cook tomato slices 2-3 minutes on each side or until golden brown.  Drain on paper towels.  Serve hot.

*  2 heads Bibb lettuce, torn
*  16 prepared Fried Green Tomato slices (Recipe above.)
*  2 tablespoons sliced green onions
*  2 cups Buttermilk Dressing (Recipe above.)
Chill 8 salad plates in the refrigerator.  Arrange the Bibb lettuce in the center of the chilled salad plates and arrange two sliced fried green tomatoes on lettuce.  Pour a little buttermilk dressing all over the salad.  Garnish each serving with sliced green onions.

Trust me, this salad was DELICIOUS!!

If you make the trip to Savannah, talk to Chef Randall about a class.  It was great fun, and a wonderful meal.  
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