Wednesday, December 29, 2010

savor your history.

Preparing recipes that have been in your family for a long time will bring you in touch with your ethnic roots in a very tangible way. Christmas a great time to ask your mother or your grandmother what they remember eating that formed food traditions in your family. It doesn't take long for a holiday food ritual to take hold so that "it wouldn't be Christmas without..."

Mother Rabbit is a purebred 100% Swede, and she is proud of it. Both parents are Swedish, all the grandparents are Swedish. You get the picture. It was actually a Bucket List item to make Ostakaka all by myself, and in December 2010 I did it. My Grandma Eunice Wallerstedt made it every Christmas and it was one of my favorite taste treats. For those non-Swedes out there who are wondering what it is, I would describe it as a yummy custard dessert that has an amazing and unique texture. It is made by curding raw milk with a rennet tablet and separating the whey (very similar to making cheese) then adding eggs and sugar before baking it. It is tradition to top it with ligonberries. I was always scared to make it because the process seemed foreign, but it was remarkably easy! My first Ostakaka was good, but I already think I know how I can make it even better. Similar to making bread or pie crust and needing to get the feel for the dough, I need to get a feel for the curds and whey. (I sound like Little Miss Muppet instead of Mother Rabbit.) Anyway, I was very proud of myself for making it, and felt like I honored my grandmothers by carrying on the tradition.

I am also proud to say that I baked Lutefisk and served it in a pepper cream sauce for Christmas Eve dinner. (Lutefisk is a fish that has been dried and reconstituted, and has gotten a very bad rap for its fishy taste and smell - which was not as bad as all the talk.) My grandmother would not have thought of having a Christmas dinner without lutefisk, maybe not because everybody loved it but because it was the Swedish thing to do.

Jag är glad att jag gjorde det.

the "on hold" challenge.

Mother Rabbit says "Never just sit there and wait when you have a long hold time." Put your phone on speaker and set it down. Then get to work on something! I like to play a little game with myself to see how much I can get accomplished while I am on hold. Can I get the dishwasher emptied? Can I get the whole dryer load folded? Can I edit and sort two dozen photos? It is a fun game. Have fun playing it!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

enjoy fresh juice.

A great way to start every day is with a glass of fresh juice. Do you know how easy it is to give yourself this luxurious treat? Purchase a juicer and buy bags of citrus. It takes under a minute to produce the fabulous - and need I say - super healthy results.

Many of you might have a Kitchenaid Mixer as Consumer Reports has named it a "Best Buy" for performing well at a great price. I purchased the $29 attachment which makes this whole process even easier. Buy one for yourself next time you are at the department store.

I am going on two years now of having fresh juice every morning, sometimes grapefruit and sometimes orange. Violet, at our charming bed & breakfast in the Irish countryside, served a combination of both. Sometimes I do that and then close my eyes to see if I can transport myself back there on a memory...

store it clean.

Unless you have one of those massive, over-sized closets this might be the season when you are storing your summer clothes and linens and pulling out the winter ones. I usually wait until the temps drop to zero to make the move. That time was last weekend.
One of the things that I remember from my Textile Science class as a Textile Design major in college was to always store fabric that is clean. Nothing takes its toll on fibers like dirt and grime. Have you ever noticed when pulling out a garment from storage that a spot showed up that you didn't even remember or the underarm stain looked exaggerated? Well, now you know why. You gave that dirty grime a chance to do its business!
If you have nice dresses, sweaters and blankets that you want to keep over the long haul - store them after you have cleaned them. If they are items that cannot be hand or machine washed, take them to the dry cleaners before putting them in the storage closet, or the back of your closet.
Store your clothes clean. I learned it in college. It is really true.
Note: Too much detergent left on your fibers is another nasty culprit. Do not over-do the soap.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

lovemaking begins in the kitchen.

This is sage marriage advice. Need I say more?

Put another way, no woman is likely to feel amorous toward a fellow later that night who spent the day and night sitting on his butt watching sports on TV. Help with the dishes or bathing the kids or doing some laundry goes a long way.

I once saw a charming colonial print of a man chasing a woman in the kitchen in a mischievous way with subtle grins on both their faces. I have looked for it ever since because it seems to capture the wisdom of a guy being tuned in to the aphrodisiac that help-in-the-kitchen really is.

This woodcut piece is as close as I have come to capturing it.

listen to prairie home companion.

Your life will be richer if you take the time to enjoy some Prairie Home Companion broadcasts on National Public Radio. Storytelling is a lost art, and Garrison Keillor hasn't lost it. These live radio shows are witty, intelligent, thoughtful, funny and depict Americana in a heart warming way. Honestly, you can't live in the Midwest and not enjoy the stories that Garrison Keillor spins.

The music is one of the sweetest parts. Each week they feature a different group or vocalist that joins Guy's All-Star Shoe Band. I don't even how how to describe it except as the kind of music everyone loves. It will strike a chord deep within you, I guarantee.

Treat yourself to a live broadcast on NPR every Saturday from 5pm to 7pm (CST), or the re-broadcast on Sunday from 11am to 1pm. Or you can go to and listen to audio highlights from the previous show. It is too good to miss!

Saturday, December 11, 2010

scrape all the windows before driving.

For those of you where winter means ice & snow, I want to remind you to clear and scrape all of the windows in your vehicle, not just the front window. It is tempting to take time for only the front windshield, but your safety is impaired when you do not have full visibility out the back window and sides. As soon as you think you just need to see out the front, you will find out that over sized blind spots are a fool's errand.

If you have not invested in this season's car scraper, remember that a credit card works dandy. I like to use the credit card-style room key from a exotic beach resort as my winter scraper. It helps me to savor the diversity of temperatures that I get to experience.

keep your car clean.

This should not be hard, but apparently it is. Mother Rabbit recommends keeping your car clean, inside and out. Not only does it make sense but it protects this significant investment. I recommend going to a car wash that vacuums the interior and wipes down the inside windows and surfaces. Over the long haul, your car will stay nicer longer. I should know. Mother Rabbit's 14 year old Expedition has 259,000+ miles on it and still looks pretty darn good.

I employed a "no eating or drinking in my car" rule for about the first 10 years which is one of the reasons I have a clean interior. When I get a new car, I will do that again.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

handy dryer in your kitchen.

You have a handy-dandy dryer right there in your kitchen at your fingertips - well, actually at the tips of your toes. Did you know that anything wet that you set in front of your refrigerator will be dry by morning? The fan under your refrigerator packs a lot of drying power. This is a perfect spot to dry tennis shoes that you have run through the washing machine, or place mittens that are wet with snow. It is a great place for a rug you have washed but cannot put in the dryer. If I accidentally immerse my rubber gloves in water (which I hate) I have learned that if I put the open end of the glove in front of the frig, they will dry out rather quickly. (It works even better if you put a little spice bottle inside the end of the glove to allow the air to get inside.) Happy Drying!

be thankful. sleep better too.

It will enrich your life if you can train yourself toward a thankful heart. And I am not talking about just the week around Thanksgiving either. I am talking about cultivating an attitude of thankfulness that permeates your life.
I have said it many times but I am intrigued by the story in Luke where Jesus heals ten people, and only one of them takes the time to come back and express their thanks to Him. How can they not express a thank you for a life-changing event directly from the Lord's hand? How often do I neglect to make a conscious effort to take time to go before the Lord with words of thanks? (The scriptures are there to help us see ourselves.)

My post today is actually a sleep aid tip. My recommendation is that next time you find yourself lying awake in bed that you count on your ten fingers - ten things you are thankful for. One word answers like food, water, friends do not have the rich effect that a thoughtful and specific answer will. It is a great habit to pause at the end of every day and be thankful, very specifically, for blessings of the day even if you aren't having trouble sleeping. Even on a crappy day, they are many, many things to be thankful for. If I am lying in bed full of anxiety or stress or pain, I am amazed how comforting it is to count blessings on my fingers (and toes if necessary.)
I read once that research showed that people who have thankful and happy thoughts before bedtime actually sleep better, which makes a world of sense. That great old-time song comes to mind "When upon life's billows you are tempest tossed, When you are discouraged thinking all is lost, Count your many blessings, name them one by one, and it will surprise you what the Lord has done."