Wednesday, December 29, 2010


CAPRICORN (Dec. 22-Jan. 19): "We Americans are the best informed
people on earth as to the events of the last 24 hours," wrote historian
Will Durant some decades ago. "We are the not the best informed as to
the events of the last sixty centuries," he concluded. Today this describes
many Westerners, not just Americans. We are adrift in the Age of the
Short Attention Span -- a time when the lessons of the past are becoming
lost or irrelevant. But in 2011, I'll be rooting for you to elude this curse,
Capricorn. It's crucial for you to be in close touch with both the lessons
provided by the grand sweep of human civilization and by your own
personal history.

That birthday is right around the corner and my horoscope, according to Rob Brezsny, challenges me to get informed. 
Navigating the information age can wear me out!
Perhaps there is more I need to learn beyond creating a Like Button for my Facebook page.
Today I am going to curl up with my cat and finish the biographical novel, Loving Frank.
The story deals with a turn of the century woman's excavation of self, after having fallen in love with Frank Lloyd Wright, surrounded by color and controversy: love vs duty.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Sea Salt Caramels

Each Christmas I enjoy making home-made caramels for friends and family.
This year, my mother's time honored recipe has been up-scaled,
as I jumped on the sweet/salty band-wagon and did a version with a dark chocolate pour and a sprinkle of sea salt.

The heavy cream, butter and sugar amounts stayed true to Ione's recipe but the corn syrup got a boost with honey.  And, as I like to split batches for maximum variety, I reserved half the batch for a splash of brandy vs vanilla.  These caramels got a sprinkle of toasted pecans.

The other half were topped with molten Ghiradelli semi-sweet chocolate. 
Before the chocolate set, I used a spoon to sprinkle the sea salt in random rows.  
I like the concentration of more salt in some areas and I chose sea salt
which had more of a crystal look than the kosher salt.
Lining the pans with parchment made clean up and scoring so much easier.

I took the first photograph and was pleased.  
By the time I ran a large knife over the top to score and slice the rows, 
our waning December sun made one last peek under the cloud cover, 
shot the sky with pink and purple, and departed.  
Because I wanted to shoot the method of cutting, I wrapped the whole board with foil wrap
and placed it in the refrigerator overnight.
The caramel held up nicely, but the chocolate became brittle 
and separated from the buttery surface.
  So these cut caramels are not as gorgeous as if I would have cut and wrapped them in wax paper on the same day as I had cooked them.

 I cut the rows approximately 3/4" wide  by 1" long 
which works well for pre-cut wax paper wrappers.

 Delicious...this recipe up-do is a definite keeper.
What family recipes have you improved, experimented?
I'd love you to share your story.

After posting on Facebook, I have had requests for recipe... here it is:

2 cups white sugar
1 cup Karo syrup
3/4 cup honey
1 cup butter
2 cups half and half cream
1 tsp vanilla

Stir together the first four ingredients on low heat until melted, then add half of the cream.

Boil for 30 minutes, medium heat, stirring often with wooden spoon.
Add rest of cream,  boil and test to chewy stage just beyond soft ball...recipe says 248 degrees but I always found this was too far.  Stir in vanilla.
Pour into a parchment lined 9x11" pan and let cool.
Melt 8-12 ounces of Ghiradelli bittersweet chocolate chips or bars in a glass dish in microwave on low, until melted.  Stir in 1 teaspoon of vegetable oil to the melted chocolate.
Pour over the cooling caramel.  Before the chocolate completely sets, sprinkle sea salt as desired.  Chill the caramels until you can lift them out of the pan and they retain their shape.
Score the top with a long thin butcher knife, cut into 3/4" by 1" pieces.
Wrap in wax paper wrappers.

Of course, you could hand dip each caramel in the chocolate for a more finished look and then sprinkle...this method would ensure that the chocolate layer doesn't separate from the caramel.

I separated half of the recipe and added a tablespoon of brandy in addition to the vanilla, then topped with toasted pecans to the cooling caramels.

Store in the refrigerator, in a covered tin for up to 4 weeks... fat chance!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Cheers for Tiers

Six Geese a-Laying, original art by John Tebeau

With December the 24th looming, (did I say looming that doesn't sound very positive) I have decided to create a to-do list unlike the usual.

I will start with Tier 3...the fluff, the frosting
12) make fresh boxwood wreaths
11) research, photograph, and list fifty new items for the shop
10) make ice bowl luminaria to line a 150 foot drive
9) dust

Next, Tier 2 or the B List... important but not critical
8) finish my on-line shopping
7) make my famous caramels with a new twist, a sprinkle of sea salt
6) if I can't break a few lower spruce boughs free of snow for making swags I will break down the day before Christmas and buy a discounted tree from the boy scout's lot

Finally, the Top Tier
5) glue the elements to the unfinished collages I gave my children last year at Christmas
4) make the sweet potato and goat cheese gratin side dish that Richard requested for Christmas brunch
3) process and ship all of my shop orders by Monday the 20th
2) commit to Relax in all Things, with a daily, 20 minute restorative yoga pose
thank you, John Tebeau for the inspirational Six Geese aLaying artwork
1) revel and relish the reprieve my mother has been given...she continues to gain strength...
thank you all for your prayers and good wishes.

oops...I have to sneak in a 13th to the Top Tier.
Gift Certificates for John and Jim, my neighbors who have tagged teamed getting us plowed out this winter.  35 inches of snow and counting.


Thursday, December 9, 2010

Best Reclaimed Shops on Etsy

Some people collect junk.
Some people create junk.
A rare breed collect junk and create art.
Here are my faves...

creates gorgeous statement necklaces.

creates incredible robotic sculpture from cast off tins.
Some are usable art, trinket holders or snack keepers.

She is a collage and mixed media artist who uses antique ephemera and prints to create art.
I especially love the doll-house series, and considered purchasing one with the birthing anatomy for my daughter, the labor and delivery nurse.

caught my attention my first year on etsy, when she suggested a trade.
She got one of Ione's vintage brooches, an enamel German cross and I got an original painting from her skeleton crew series!

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Calling All Prayers

Ione has been in the hospital for 3 days.
She is fragile but continues to gain some strength and keep the nursing staff entertained.
All prayers and best intentions are welcome.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010


Today, marked the 500th order for sales in my shop!

I have learned much in the last 22 months.
When I started, I didn't know an RSS feed from chicken feed, and I still have not figured out the benefit of understanding my weekly Metric Report...does it matter that my sales this week to Rhode Island are down 141%?
I have learned the value of research.  Twenty two months ago, I didn't use terms like Hollywood Regency or Rock-a-Billy.  Both are dreadfully overused!  Like exclamation points.
There is a wealth of knowledge and a very supportive group in the vintage street team that I am part of...GO VESTIES!

So I am celebrating with a bigger and better commitment to myself (and dear Richard) to run this home business with a plan that includes:

less warehousing in the common living areas
learning to use my Nikon D5000 even if it means taking a class
adding back leisure time to my days/evenings...
blogging regularly

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Thankgiving Drive

There is notable work being done to help extend gratitude for plenty in a time of uncertainty.
SNAP offers a toolkit for those interested in taking the 27.00 dollar a week food challenge.  Minnesota Public Radio offers audio link in which Kevin Winge relays his experience not only in paying for good quality food, but also access to food that is typical for the poor.

How I struggle to live in my abundance!

The forecast for most of Minnesota today is another bout of snow mixed with freezing rain.
My son and his girlfriend are bound for sunny California.   I am gauging the chances of getting them to the airport on time, between yoga classes.  I wish you all safe travel.

The following is an unpublished poem that I had submitted in a contest five years ago.
Sadly, it is still timely.

thanksgiving drive, 2005 

spruce and douglas fir
lie top to toe 
like soldiers
on this flatbed truck

top to toe like good
foot soldiers
bundled, dog-tagged
cut off at the ankles

they are lying fresh
and green
with their legs 
sawn off

if you calculate growth rings
in soldier years
they must number nineteen
or twenty

they are harvested
from mid-western farms
bound to bleed their sap
onto persian carpets

and they are stacked

ten-high seven across
times four
on this one truck
headed north

cookie engel
november, 2005

Thursday, November 18, 2010

vintage tins baking frenzy

I've been collecting the prettiest and most unique vintage biscuit tins for months.
And I've paired them with my home baked biscotti.

Last weekend, I garnered approval from Gene at the bike shop, for a testimonial for my double bourbon biscotti.  It wasn't hard, with the bottle of Jim Beam under my arm and a tray full of cookies.

See all the listings here:
double bourbon biscotti

Sunday, November 14, 2010

cat lapping...a dry topic

First there was Hans and Frans, then the cheeseburger/pepsi servers...Now there is Pedro and Roman, two researchers from the Massachusettes Institute of Technology who have undertaken the important work of recording the physiscs of how cats drink.
Watch if you dare!

On a more interesting note, some lap/cat finds from etsy, just click on the caption!
vintage postcard
"LAP" print
lap blanket
toddler tee

OOAK illustration

siamese pebble art from my shop

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Whooos your daddy?

I came across an extensive collection of owls last week and purchased a fraction of what was offered.  Some very unusual specimens...hand carved wood, a gorgeous large art pottery piece, in what reminds me of Frankoma's prairie green glaze, a tiny Goebel porcelain and a funky red resin bookend.  See them in the shop.
Happy Whooensday!

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Smile, Darn Ya Smile

The Cheshire cat as John Tenniel envisioned it in the 1866 publication of Alice in Wonderland
This morning is day 1 of the 21 day pledge that I made to my dentist.
After several years of increasing jaw pain, neck and shoulder stress, tinitus (ringing in the ears) and a.m. headache I bit the bullet, or in this case the NTI.
The NTI is a small appliance that is custom fit with the purpose of shifting the bite to the front teeth.  This allows the powerful temporalis muscles to relax during sleeping.

I am an un-closeted clencher.

An often used cue to my yoga students during savasana: "release and relax the jaw, gently part the lips and allow the tongue to fall away from the roof of the mouth" works wonderfully well in conscious relaxation.  During semi consciousness and deep sleep,  that response gets forgotten while the acquired "bad" muscle memory kicks my case, jaw clenching.

During the night I popped it out a few times.  My tongue is playing around with the rough edges.  This morning I woke up, as usual, with a headache.  Acuppajoe cured that, but of course de-caffeinating myself is also part of the program.

My dentist also warned me to secure the NTI when not in use, because apparently it can be attractive to cats!


Sunday, October 31, 2010

Happy Halloween

my creative kids did the pumpkin carving...way to go Caroline, Tony, Ben and Cerenity!

Ione takes a peek as Cindy Lou Who applies Grinch's eyelashes.
Cindy's hair tower was achieved with an 8" foam floral cone, chenille pipe cleaners, 
a little hair spray and a lot of naturally obedient hair. 


 team orange is staying in tonight

Friday, October 29, 2010

Whine List

it's time for a mini-rant...
Today, the Star Tribune's business section featured a story regarding Edina-based Regis  Corporation's plans to overhaul its existing Pro-Cuts hair salon brand into a sports-themed salon to compete with the Sports Clips operation.

I am someone who spends 14.00 on a haircut about twice a year.
It is curious that this article intrigued me at all.
When I think of men's sport figures and their hair I think of sweat bands, buzz cuts, helmet hair.
photos not endorsed by Regis or Pro Cuts but deemed silly by me

I read on:
'Huge black-and-white photos of athletes act as wall barriers, referee stripes adorn the lower walls and bright purple, yellow and red jewel tones found in team logos dominate the salon. The wooden floor is marked like a basketball court, and stylists will toss towels through a basketball hoop slung over the hamper.'

Oh, it's not just about the hair or even the store design, it's the delivery system!
What if you are a stylist who gives a great scalp massage, a superb cut but can't make a free throw?  Do you forfeit your tip?  Sit out the next appointment?

There are other silly corporate delivery systems, I know.  Twenty years ago, I often took my young cubs to the Pannekoeken restaurant on 98th and Lyndale.  Every few minutes or so, a wonderful Dutch oven-baked pancake was delivered to the table by a franetic, clogged heeled waitress hollering,"pannekoeken! pannekoeken!"
Which all made perfect sense to me since I know the value of getting a hot meal to the table.
My son rolled his eyes while the pancake deflated.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Fall's Last Bouquet

endless summer and paniculata, tree form hydrangea
red twig dogwood
amur maple
autumn joy sedum
asian blackberry lily
and the last of the tuberous begonias

amur lane
fall foraging = theivery in the case of the concord grapes
irresistible as well to the bees

my baby brother

Richard's growing bottle cap collection on the garden arch

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Front Page Today

Courtesy of a lovely girl that I met in an alchemy chat.
She is of Swedish descent, living in Israel, and was looking for someone familiar with English to author her line of beautiful, simple jewelry.
She curated this lovely treasury with my white Pyrex mixing bowls...

thank you sara at NAKIdesign

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Poor Red Bird

Found under a crush of birch leaves.  Was it the cat? 
Or was it the promise of infinite blue that ended abruptly on impact with the south window?
Wish my baby girl was here to lullaby and carry it to a resting place.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Globe Trotter

This past Wednesday, Ione and I enjoyed an autumn drive through the perfectly picturesque St. Croix River Valley.  From home, we made our way to Woullet's Bakery in Edina for a box of yummies, then on to my daughter's new home in Woodbury.  Tony mapped us the scenic route from Afton(cute!) to Bayport to Stillwater to Marine on St. Croix.

On my hunt for vintage treasure I found a new globe to add to the collection.  It's a working electric lamp with a battery operated clock.  As much as I love love it, I really love the bright blue Cram's Enviro-Sphere.  Look for these to be for sale soon in the in the shop.

We spent much of our time at the Staples Mill Antique Store, located in the historic Isaac Staples Sawmill and home to 30 dealers...find it on 410 North Main Street.  There are three levels and lots of nooks and crannies to explore.  Although I didn't bring her home, I found a 1960's bride doll similar to one I received on Christmas many many years ago.  I also noticed a doll at the check out, who I discovered was an acquaintance from 25 years previous (we were softball wives/widows).
She is still lovely and personable...

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Fall Foraging

For several years, at fall yard clean-up, I've been kicking a brain-like fungus to the curb.  It has grown at the base of my grand-daddy burr oak.  Come to find, from two trusted sources and an internet search that this is grifola frondosa, Hen of the Woods; Maitake; Sheepshead; Ramshead.  Often found at the base of dead or dying oaks (sob), and commonly a fall find.
This September, we have had record flooding in the Minnesota river bottoms, making for perfect conditions.  Add to that some seventy degree temps and voila!

Chicken of the Woods in my omelet!  I found the texture meaty, the taste a bit bland and bordering on barkie...Suzy says we will do it on pizza tomorrow.  It freezes well when cut into strips and required no blanching.  Use caution and experienced sources when you forage for any wild foods!

Inspiration for more fall foraging on etsy