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Kitchen Adventures

Who doesn’t love a good kitchen adventure?  Whenever I enter the kitchen I always expect the unexpected.  That’s not to say I’m a bad cook, but with Husby being such a good cook I “let” him spend more time in the kitchen than I do.  Because of that I get a little out of practice.

My latest adventures started with making Milano cookies, from scratch.  OK, so they’re not actually Milano cookies, but same diff.  I thought it would be fun to try something new.  They were putzy, but well worth it.

First you make the dough tubes.

Bake dough tubes until they turn into oval cookies.

Top one cookie with chocolate and top with another cookie and you’ve got so much cookie goodness you won’t believe it.  The putzy part comes with the baking time – 15 minutes per pan times about 5 pans.  When it comes to cookies that’s too long, because who wants to wait to eat a cookie?  It was so worth it though.  They were much more substantial than the store-bought kind, and Husby said he liked them better!  I did too.

For Easter I thought I’d make some homemade buttermint candies.  I made them once before, but forgot how 5 1/4 cups of powdered sugar can make the kitchen covered with sweet dust.

I thought the pictures could capture how utterly dusty things got, but compared to what I saw in real life these pictures are pretty tame.  However, the end results were great.  These little pillows of sweetness are set out to dry for at least 8 hours before serving or storing.  Another long wait!

Last, but not least, an important PSA for those who prepare food with hands versus utensils.  Secure your jewels, or this might happen when you’re mixing your meatloaf with your bare hands.

Luckily I noticed it before the mixing was complete.  Diamonds and gold aren’t great for the digestion.

Time spent in the kitchen is never wasted time.  Despite the time (anxiously awaiting the finished product), mess, and occasional jewelry mishap I’d have to say making food is something everyone should know how to do.  Adventures happen everywhere, even in the kitchen.  Enjoy!

 

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My excuse for not blogging is for the birds.  Actually the birds have inspired me to finally write a post.  It’s kind of a long story, so hold on tight.

A little while ago we thought spring had sprung in the Midwest.  And then came a snowstorm.  In mid April.  Not really unusual, but bothersome for those of us who live in regions of long, cold, snowy winters.  April is the time for blooming daffodils, not five inches worth of wet, sticky snow.  Right?  But it happens sometimes, and it happened again this year.

Because it was supposed to be spring, the birds were abundant as they are in the springtime.  And then it snowed and it seemed they didn’t know how to react to it.  Luckily Husby still had the feeders full of seeds for them to fortify themselves.  And they did.  All of them.  Dozens of them flocking to our backyard. There were cardinals, sparrows, chickadees, finches, juncos, red-winged blackbirds, even ducks.  Either they perched on the feeders or pecked at the seeds that had fallen on the crusty snow.

Of course springtime brings in the robins.  There were indeed robins in the mix of all the other birds; however, they don’t normally eat seeds.  They like worms and bugs in and on the ground.  The robins were at their wit’s end because alas, the ground that was snow-free a day ago was now covered with the aforementioned five inches of freshly plopped wet snow.

There was a robin who wasn’t happy with the lack of a green, springtime ground (containing the worms and bugs) and started to demand justice at our back door.

I don’t know if it was just one bird, but it wasn’t just one time.  The robin(s) returned several times, and with the plethora of other birds flocking the feeders and ground below, I started feeling a little like Tippi Hedren.

Here’s the thing…

Husby has been hearing a tap-tap-tap on the bedroom window lately.  That would be a second-story window.  Every now and then he sees a robin, tapping on and brushing his wings against the window.  I haven’t witnessed this, but the ledge outside the window has robin droppings, and the window itself has feather marks.  Dirty feather marks.  Not like the feathery passing of Jack Frost, because Jack Frost is gone by now.

I haven’t noticed the robin(s) at our back door since the snow has gone, but the upstairs window continues to have visitors.

Robins are a welcome sign of spring, but yikes – don’t peer into my windows!

I still haven’t captured a picture of the bird(s) at the bedroom window, but Husby sees the feathered, peering bird from time to time.

It’s kinda creepy,

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MaryAnn Loves Pickles

MaryAnn and I have been friends since 7th grade and can still stand each other, if you can believe that.  I don’t know how anyone can stand me after all those years, but MaryAnn just grows more loveable as the years pass.

There’s one thing about MaryAnn that I wish I could change, because it would make us that much more compatible.  She’s not a sweets person.  She likes candies, cookies, cakes, pies, but in limited quantities.  For example, you’ll never know MaryAnn to eat a half pound of cream filled chocolates in one sitting, unlike me, who can go through two pounds of the same.  MaryAnn has a salty tooth, and her favorite salty thing is pickles.  She loves pickles.  She makes pickles.  At the MN State Fair she spends money to eat a giant pickle on a stick.

That said, I finally got the opportunity to celebrate MaryAnn’s birthday with her, months after the facts.  As a change of pace, instead of taking her out to lunch I invited her to my house for an afternoon of girl time.  I prepared snacks, sandwiches, and also served the birthday girl some much wine.

But who has a birthday without a birthday cake?  MaryAnn loves salty more than sweet.  MaryAnn wants pickles.  Thanks to Google I found a recipe for pickle cupcakes.  Yes, there is such a thing, and for my good friend of many years I would make those pickle cupcakes just for her.  Not only that, I would make those pickle cupcakes with the pickles she made!

It was mostly for a joke.  After all, who ever heard of pickle cupcakes?  How good could they be?  How bad would they be.  As MaryAnn is a gracious guest she hesitantly approached the culinary experiment I presented, just for her, in honor of her.  She’s a good friend.

As you know you must sniff all questionable food before you eat it…

And then, taste…

OK, it looks like she’s ready to barf there, but she didn’t.  Even I, who thought pickle cupcakes would be truly barf-worthy, thought they were actually pretty good.  The combination of pickle batter and a cream cheese frosting was actually…good.

Unfortunately I didn’t get a photo of MaryAnn’s delighted face when she tasted the special treat I made for her.  Trust me, she didn’t barf.

If you’d like to try these unusual cupcakes, visit Delish.  Despite my not being paid to promote the website, I recommend it for many wonderful recipes.  An absolute go-to if you’re searching for all things delicious.

Happy Birthday, MaryAnn.  May there be many more pickles in your future!

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Bones

It’s November now, but the Halloween spirit is still with me.  Maybe not the “Halloween” spirit, per se (trick or treat), but the lingering sense of the spirits, the other-worldly…they linger, and remind me of what I saw on my last visit to Door County, WI.

Husby and I took a jaunt to Door County again, which is, of course, something we love to do at least once a year.  The countryside is lovely, the sea air (sans salt) is invigorating, the local food and wines are delectable no matter what the season.  However, I was a little bit creeped out when we arrived at our usual motel.  It was a scene from some Hitchcock movie.

Turkey Vultures.  At least that’s what Husby and I determined them to be.  The photo shows just a smattering of them.  Seriously, I was afraid to go out and take a picture from many yards away.  They ruled the pier and shore.  There was no way we could go out and sit on those benches to take in Lake Michigan as we normally do.  I warned Husby, “if we go out there they’ll peck our eyes out!”

At some point during our stay the vultures weren’t inhabiting the pier, so we walked out.  I, the one who points out all things creepy, noticed something we’d never noticed before.  Lots and lots of bones.  This one was laying there, right on the pier.  A miniature femur bone?  Like from a leprechaun or fairy?  Obviously it was picked clean.  And creepy.

With further investigation, as the vultures were fewer but still circling, we found more evidence of evil.

 

Bones everywhere!  Picked clean.  Creatures washed ashore, left to die, only to be culinary fodder for some other species.

Ah, it’s the circle of life, right?  Within two days of our stay the vultures had vanished, having gotten their fill, and Husby and I could venture out to the pier without the risk of getting our eyes pecked out.

It was creepy to me, and that’s the word I used when describing the scene to Husby.  He laughed.  He knows I have a love/hate relationship with creepy stuff.

I’m not sure what caused the fish to wash ashore in the first place.  Perhaps it was a natural thing, cyclical?  Perhaps it was a result of human interference?  The vultures got their fill of delicious Lake Michigan fish, and I got my fill of creepy.  I hope the lake is clean, and no matter how much big fish scare me, I want them to thrive in their natural habitat.

And if the fish don’t wash onto the shore I hope the vultures don’t peck my eyes out for lack of food.

Image result for the birds movie eyes pecked out

Photo credit – ack, I don’t know, it was taken from the Alfred Hitchcock movie, The Birds.

Happy belated Halloween.  And always remember, natural phenomenon can be deadly.  And human interference with natural phenomenon can be catastrophic.

 

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In Between

Welcome to autumn.  Sure, the peak colors might be gone by now, but we’re still in between autumn and winter.  This time of year invigorates me.

As I looked out my window to the back yard I saw some wonderful colors.  By this time of year the golds and reds and oranges of the trees are fading fast, but these colors were at ground level.  Lily of the Valley remnants shown brightly in the otherwise overcast day.

Last weekend I spent time at the family cottage, closing the place down for winter.  There’s raking and cleaning and gathering to be done to tuck our little property in for the cold months ahead.  It was October 20th when we woke up to this…

In between.  Winter is coming and snow has begun to fall in some areas.  Autumn is still here with the falling leaves and crisp but not quite cold air.  In the Midwest of the United States we’re in a transition of seasons.  The change of seasons is one of the reasons I love living where I do.

The wildlife in my backyard is also getting ready for the coming winter.  A squirrel nabbed a fallen apple from the neighbor’s tree and “hid” it in the big spruce tree in our yard, ready to carry it to its nest.

I love this in between time of year.

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Falling In Love With Cologne

Thank you, Charlotte, for reminding me that three years ago today I fell in love with Cologne.

Tourists, of course.  Adolf Hitler presented one of his speeches from the balcony of this hotel.  No one seems to take notice.  Seemed eerie to me.

The city was quaint, huge, filled with history, and overall very friendly.  The countries and cities as a whole during our Rhine River adventure were so very much different from my experiences in the United States.  Cologne, however, made a very big impression on me.

The Compatible.  A Russian ensemble made up of accordions, a tuba and a violin.  Ah, the sounds heard across the square!  Charlotte and I stood in awe, even brought to tears for the glory of it.  I bought the CD they were offering.  Who could resist?

Cologne?  Does that word ring a bell to those enamored by fragrances?  Of course we visited the shop that sells the original Eau de Cologne, a fragrance originally mixed in Cologne, Germany in 1709.  Of course I had to buy some, and when the bottle is used up I’ll return to Cologne, Germany to get some more.  BTW, it’s a glorious scent.

I ration it, although I know I shouldn’t.  Who wouldn’t like smelling like this every day of their lives?!

Of course, who could ignore the Cologne Cathedral?  Imagination doesn’t even begin to tell the story of this magnificent structure and the things contained within it.

 

“Construction of Cologne Cathedral commenced in 1248 and was halted in 1473, leaving it unfinished. Work restarted in the 19th century and was completed, to the original plan, in 1880.[6] The cathedral is the largest Gothic church in Northern Europe and has the second-tallest spires. The towers for its two huge spires give the cathedral the largest façade of any church in the world. The choir has the largest height to width ratio, 3.6:1, of any medieval church.[7]”  ~ Wikipedia

So, it’s ancient, and filled with treasures and the remains of important people acting in the Roman Catholic faith.  Tombs and jewels and relics ~ oh my!  It was so utterly awesome, like take-your-breath-away awesome, and I’ll never forget it.  The art within the cathedral’s walls was stunning.

Of course, Cologne, Germany is not only about perfume and music and architecture.  OK, so it mostly is, but I will never forget partaking in the best cherry cheesecake I’ve ever had.  Charlotte and I sat at a café/bakery on the square and savored that cheesecake more than any cheesecake we’d had before.  We hadn’t had any like it, and we never will, unless we return to Cologne.

If you’re ever in the neighborhood of Germany, be sure to stop at Cologne.  There are so many memories (and photos) I have but couldn’t contain them all in one blog post.  So much history, food, music, architecture, and really nice people.  The “Old Country” made so many new experiences for me, and I treasure them so.

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