April 25, 2008

The Famous Spaghetti Sauce Recipe

One of Todd's most loved recipes is his spaghetti sauce with meatballs. We started a tradition in the 90s to have a spaghetti feed in the fall - kind of like a harvest festival. Once we moved to Holland and returned to Madison in 2002 - the fest never restarted until about two years ago. Last year's fest was made easy because we had a garden once again to harvest freshly grown herbs and tomatoes.

So here's a photo gallery of ingredients and directions for making Todd's Spaghetti Sauce. If you want a printed copy of the recipe, you'll have to come over next fall and help us make the sauce and meatballs. Then you can write the measurements down. We work from memory and what looks and tastes right works for us.

April 18, 2008

Oohh, dat's some good gumbo!

As Raine has told me, if I'm going to give away all the family recipes (sacred, secret ones at that) then I better be willing to give away my own. Well, I'm all up for that. Here's a photo essay of my super roux-based gumbo. The thing about gumbo, is it is different everytime you make it, due to ingredients on hand.
If you double-click on the photo gallery, you can see larger images and the captions with the directions.

April 16, 2008

April Showers bring May Orchids...

Spring is on its way and the flowers are blooming everywhere. The tulips and daffodils have opened (well, okay, not in my yard but in others....) It's SO my favorite time of year!
So why am I showing you another gallery of orchid flowers? Well, I don't have many blooming outdoor flowers right now because of the damn bunnies.

However, I do have lots of orchids indoors who are putting on a spectacular show of color. Almost all of the orchids you see above are second and more generation rebloomers. They love this time of year as much as I do.

Ah, life is good when you have flowers!!!

April 14, 2008

Nanny's Peanut Butter Cookie Recipe

Nanny as she was known to the family was born Elsie Dora Robertson. She was the daughter of Swedish and English immigrants who settled in Mauston, WI in the late 1800s. Nanny was born in 1879. She married Edwin Forrest Smith in the early 1900s. He owned a general store in Mauston, was a sheriff and during prohibition was a G-Man. He monitored gin stills and illegal alcohol distribution throughout southern Wisconsin down to Chicago.

Nanny was the center of the home as is often the case of women who work there 24/7. Nanny was prim, proper, well-mannered and expected the same. She was a fantastic host and was known to be an excellent bridge player. The house was immaculate always and the food was made from scratch for the daily dinner.

They raised two daughters, Helen and Dorothy. When Helen's life took a different turn, Nanny and Grandpa Smith found themselves being parents once again. They took in Helen's daughters, Jeanne and Marilyn in the early 1930s and raised them from young girls to adulthood.

So, I hope you get a feel for this lovely and strong woman who took life as it came. Dealt with it and made the most of her day. Her family loved her and still make many of her recipes.

Nanny's Peanut Butter Cookies

Preheat oven to 350 degrees

1 cup soft butter
1 cup white sugar
1 cup brown sugar

Mix these ingredients together.

1 cup peanut butter
2 eggs

Add the creamed ingredients to the sugar mix.

2 1/2 cups of flour
2 tsps. of baking soda

Add flour mix to the creamed sugar mix. Will make a thick batter. Chill in the refridge or outdoors (when cold) for several hours. Make balls and roll in sugar. Flatten with a fork in a crisscross pattern. Bake for 12-15 minutes.

Grandma Sandy's Peanut Blossoms:

Now recipes must evolve to stay current. My mother has adapted the above recipe for one of our favorites. Made with Hershey kisses and Nanny's recipe they are heavenly.

Make the cookies as above, but don't flatten. Bake the cookies in small balls (1 -2 inches wide). Remove from oven and immediately press one unwrapped Hershey kisses into the ball. The cookie will flatten and take in the kiss. Let cool until the chocolate hardens. Enjoy!

You are what you eat

I'm going to start tying my love of genealogy and food together.

Researching dates and places that an ancestor had is important, but a bit on the dry side. I don't get a feeling for who, what and how that person lived and what they were really like. I want to know them. It's the good and bad, the ordinary as well as the extraordinary that make someone's life. And this is what I want to understand better.

One way that I can personalized that connection to my ancestors is by recipes. I'm lucky in that my family has passed recipes and the stories that go with them.
Above is a photo from the early 1910s featuring my great grandmother Helen and her sister, Dorothy (also known as Aunty Nick) on the front porch of their house in Mauston, WI. It is their mother that made the peanut butter cookie that I'll share in the next blog entry.

April 13, 2008

Ry has left the building

Today, Ryann left to go back to Minneapolis. She blessed us with her presence since Thursday night. Only because DMX was performing at the Orpheum theatre and she had a VIP pass to the show. However, I benefited because my baby was back home for a few days.

When she drove off this afternoon, I said to Todd, "My baby's leaving...." And Todd said, "Ahhh, she's not a baby any more." Okay. I know that deep down. But dang, the time just goes by so fast.
Here's a great shot she shared with me from her Facebook account from an 1980s party she attended a couple of weeks ago....
But really, I don't care what others say, she'll always be one of my babes.

Sunday Night Dinner

Tonight we had one of our favorite meals. Country ribs with black beans and rice with grean beans. Todd started the marinade about Noon with beer, lemon, garlic, cilantro and a bunch of other goodies. After six hours of marinading and some time with hickory chips smoking on the grill, the meat was fab.

Yep, good meal.

April 8, 2008

Indonesian and Orchids

Todd went to lunch with his brother, Peter today at Madison's only Indonesian restaurant - Bandung and all I got was a lousy photo.

We were first introduced to Indonesian food when we lived in Holland. It's seemed to be the ethnic food of choice for many Dutchies. And we fell right in line for the fabulous cuisine. One of my favorite things to order is a rijsttafel, which is lots of little dishes of everything meant to be shared around the table.

Todd was so impressed with the food and its presentation, he just had to take a picture with his phone to send to me.

What a sweety......and a cheapskate......two of my favorite things - Indonesian food and orchids
and I didn't get any of either....

Interesting objects

Was cleaning my file folders today and came across some beautiful photos of fire. Don't think I've posted them before. These were taken last year right after I got my new camera. What I like about the picture is the way the moon is captured above the flames.
In the black and white photo I love how it shows the streams of light and energy coming from the flames.

April 7, 2008

Did my Taxes today

I've been putting off the tax thing since January.

Last year I owed almost $1,000 and got fined by the IRS by the tune of $9.

So going with the old adage - Once burned - twice shy - you can understand my hesitancy to log into turbo tax this year and get going on all the supposed fast refunds coming my way....

Having learned a hard lesson, I made some adjustments last year (mainly giving the gov more money on a monthly basis) but still claiming my full-time college daughter.

But guess what I found out two months ago? College daughter made too much money last year. I can't claim her. That's the fear of every red-blooded America Parent. I lost my dependent, my guaranteed tax deduction. Now what the hell do I do? I haven't filed single/no-dependents in 21 years.

Finally this weekend, I logged in to turbo tax (the keeper of my taxes for a few years) and tentatively enterered my income and deductions for 2007. First round, went to the IRS. I owed money, however to the state I could get a small refund.

Not satisfied, I did some more research. Guess what, you can actually split mortgage interest with others when you itemized your deductions. With that, it bumped my return into the positive!

I'm now getting a refund. That's a major WIN in my book..

Here's hoping everyone gets a refund or owes the IRS less than $50 - Because, taxes should really be more simple and fair. Don't get me wrong, I want to pay my fair share, but I'd rather owe a little than have the IRS take my money and not pay me interest for a whole year.

P.S. Thought a lovely photo of a second-year orchid would warm your heart. It sure did mine while I was doing my taxes!

April 6, 2008

Spring Crocus

Lovely Spring sightings this weekend in our front yard. The crocus opened up Saturday during the 60+ degree day. Their colors were so bold and loud - and practically shouting "Spring is here!"
Perhaps if they had been a little more quiet, the bunnies and squirrels wouldn't have found them. This morning, I found all but a few of the flowerheads had been munched down to stubs over night. Oh well, another lesson learned - Beauty is Fleeting.....

Home Improvement: Concrete Staining

In the new sauna/chill room, one of the walls is the concrete foundation wall for the house. Instead of putting up drywall, Todd and I wanted to work with with this cool surface. We found a great product by rustoleum for just the purpose of painting/staining concrete. We completed the project easily in one day. While the stains are semi-transparent, you can definitely see the nice color that has been etched into the wall.

The darker area of color you see at the bottom of the wall was the stain from 20+ years of construction dirt that was piled in this space when we originally bough the house. We've claimed this root cellar like space to extend the house and create a nice chill room between the sauna and the outside (to the pool and hottub) Not a bad space if I do say so myself.

Directly behind the new wall is the shower Todd installed next to the actual sauna room. We'll finish the rest of the new space in cedar wood as is in the sauna room. We bought the cedar last week and it's in the garage - Every time you walk into the garage now, it smells like a cedar closet - I love it!
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