Getting Corny

I don’t think recipes get much simpler than this one for Mexicorn Salad. This recipe comes from The Mother by way of her friend the Fabulous French Floridian, it was good.
mexican corn salad

It is simple and easy, you can use what you like and skip what you don’t. Here’s the basis:

1 can Mexican style corn, drained
1 can quartered artichoke hearts, drained
Avocado, diced or sliced
Fresh tomatoes, diced or sliced
Black olives
Chopped fresh parsley for garnish, if desired
Oil & vinegar dressing OR oil & balsamic OR Italian dressing

As you can see, The Mother arranged her ingredients sliced on a bed of corn and served her dressing on the side. If you prefer to dice your ingredients, I would toss all of them together and top with the eggs.

When I try this recipe myself, I’m going to skip the black olives (if The Husband is eating it) and might try adding black beans to the corn. This is a perfect picnic recipe that is easy to personalize, what would you do?

Honoring All Veterans

I knew nothing about The Honoring All Veterans Memorial in Richfield, Minnesota until The Mother said she had added my dad’s name to it. Their Memorial Day Ceremony was my first visit and it won’t be my last. We have always put flowers on graves for Memorial Day but this was my first official event celebrating veterans and honoring their memory and service. It was a powerful experience.
minnesota veteran

The Honoring All Veterans Memorial was originally envisioned by Richfield artist Travis Gorshe in 2005 but it wasn’t until 2008 that the centerpiece featuring Charles W. “Chuck” Lindberg was placed. Chuck, a former United States Marine, was part of the combat patrol that climbed Mount Suribachi and raised the first of two U.S. flags on the summit during the Battle of Iwo Jima in World War II.
Honoring All Veterans Memorial

Originally from North Dakota, Chuck spent most of his life living in Richfield. The last surviving member of the Iwo Jima flag-raising events in 1945, he insisted that the memorial be focused on honoring all veterans and the planning committee has done that well. Surrounding the bronze of Chuck Lindbergh are giant granite slabs etched with the names of veterans from all over the country who have served in war or served in other parts of the world. According to Len Gudmunson, president of the Memorial Board, it is a way to honor ALL veterans. A new slab was revealed on Monday to bring the total number of names inscribed over the past 5 years to 799:
veterans wall

The City of Richfield considers this to be a living monument because it will continue to grow as new names are added. Giant pillars surround the granite slabs representing each branch of service: Air Force, Army, Coast Guard, Marines, Merchant Marines and Navy.
marine song

As they say so eloquently on their site, “Just as our military branches continue to live, so will this Veterans Memorial.” If you are interested in learning more, visit the City of Richfield Honoring All Veterans Memorial page or call 612-861-9388 to request a brochure.
honoring all veterans memorial

Power in Numbers

I distinctly remember standing at my dad’s grave site for the first time knowing that I would never forget it. The moment is burned on my brain as though it was only yesterday, full of raw emotion and vivid detail. You can imagine my confusion then when I went to visit the site and couldn’t find it. I drove straight to where I remembered it being and then wandered around the graves, unable to find the one I was looking for. After what felt like ages (but was less than 10 minutes), I gave up and went to get a map.

The map sent me back to the exact place I had initially gone. Walking the rows again, I was chuckling to myself because I just didn’t understand why I couldn’t find my dad’s marker. I walked and walked and walked, intently looking at ID numbers while passing rows of headstones and it was only then that it began to dawn on me. When I finally found his marker and stood looking back the way I had come, I realized that this point in time had stopped for me but not for the rest of the world. For me, that day was almost a year ago but for many, it was far more recent. The number of graves that had appeared since last summer was staggering.

You can’t ask for a more literal reminder about loss and grief; we are not alone in the experience and there is far more of it than we can ever imagine. Standing there looking at all those white headstones, I couldn’t help but think of all the people that must be missed. There is a strange and sobering comfort that can be found when we look beyond our own loss and acknowledge it is just one among many.fort snelling cemetery

 

Raw Fish Optional

When I say the word “sushi,” people often make a face. I probably made that face too until I learned that raw fish isn’t required to eat the dish. Sushi dinners have been some of the most memorable meals The Husband and I have had, so when I heard that City Pages Best Sushi Minneapolis 2014 was in our neck of the woods, we had to try it.

Bagu Sushi is a small restaurant in South Minneapolis with a charming patio in back. Sheltered from the sounds of the city, we started our leisurely dinner with two vegetarian appetizers, Agedashi Tofu and the classic, Edamame:

tofu
Agedashi Tofu: Deep-fried tofu served with tempura sauce and green onions (we skipped the bonito flakes to keep the dish vegetarian)
edamame
Edamame: Boiled soy beans (vegetarian)

I sampled three different vegetarian sushi rolls, this type of sushi is called “maki.” Maki is toasted seaweed nori rolled around vinegar-flavored rice and various fillings, in my case vegetables:

maki
From left to right: Avocado, Kappa (cucumber) and Korean Style Spinach

The Husband is all about raw fish, so he ordered nigiri sushi. Nigiri is made with sushi rice hand formed into a small clump with fresh fish sliced and pressed on top:

nigiri
From left to right: Sake (salmon) and Hamachi (yellowtail)

We can add this dinner to the list of memorable sushi meals that we’ve had. Not only was it a lovely evening spent relaxing over award-winning food, we were able to take advantage of Happy Hour prices. Treat yourself to a night out, you can’t go wrong with Bagu Sushi.

Memorial Moments

Memorial Day has a long history that began after the Civil War. Originally known as Decoration Day, the day was meant to commemorate the Union and Confederate soldiers who died during the war. It is now a federal holiday designated to remember all Americans who have died in service and many extend that beyond, decorating graves of loved ones who are no longer with us.

I visited the grave of my favorite veteran, my dad:grave with flowers

As always, the sea of headstones at Fort Snelling National Cemetery was a moving sight and a reminder that many loved ones have been lost over the years:fort snelling cemetery

The world seemed decorated in honor of the day:
flowers

Flowers were everywhere you looked:
flowers

Down to the dandelions:
female cardinal

And the birds in the trees:
male cardinal

Made to Order

This recipe is a family favorite that is great for anytime of day. The Mother calls it “Tommy’s Breakfast” but I just refer to it as “That Egg and Hashbrown Thing.” One could also think of it as a lazy man’s frittata. 🙂

One of the things that I like about this recipe is that you can dress it up as much as you like or keep it simple. It can easily be scaled up feed to a crowd or make a satisfying dinner for one. The recipe is so simple in fact, that I never wrote down The Mother’s instructions, I just shoot from the hip every time I make it.
eggsHere’s what I do for two servings:

2 cups of frozen southern style hashbrowns (the chunky ones)
4 eggs
3 TBS milk
1-2 TBS oil
Shredded cheese to top

1) In a small frying pan, cook the hashbrowns in oil. Ideally, the hashbrowns will cover the bottom of the frying pan you are using to create the potato layer that will be the base of your dish. Season the hashbrowns to taste.

2) While the hashbrowns are cooking, whisk the eggs and milk together.

3) When the hashbrowns are ready, spread them in an even layer on the bottom of the pan and cover with the egg mixture.

4) Lower the heat on the stove and cover. It’s important to cook slowly here or the bottom of your hashbrowns will be burned to a crisp (trust me, I’ve done it a million times). Leave the eggs to cook, checking from time to time. This usually takes about 15-20 minutes, but I like my eggs well-cooked. When the eggs are cooked to your liking, top with cheese and cover again until melted. Dinner is served!

There are lots of ways to personalize this dish. The Mother tops hers with crumbled bacon. She makes the bacon first and then cooks the hashbrowns in the bacon fat. The vegetarian in her life (aka, me) gets her own individual non-bacon version, of course.

You can also add items to the hashbrowns like diced bell peppers, onions, jalapeno, etc. I’ve done this, but consider this to be a pantry meal staple because I usually have hashbrowns in the freezer and eggs in the fridge even if the rest of the shelves are bare. My version pictured above used a shredded Mexican cheese blend and was topped with salsa, one of my favorite ways to eat eggs. The Husband has topped his portion with chorizo, this recipe can truly be made to order. Add a side salad or toast, and you’re ready to eat! It also makes good leftovers.

Can You Hear Me Now?

For most of my life, I’ve known the phrase “when one door closes another one opens” but I never knew who to thank for those wise words. Imagine my surprise when I learned through Google that it was Alexander Graham Bell! Over the years Bell’s thoughtful statement has been shortened, eliminating the somber truth of the words “When one door closes another door opens, but we so often look so long and so regretfully upon the closed door, that we do not see the ones which open for us.” I wondered what else had been lost to history about this man and it turned out there was a lot.

While Alexander Graham Bell is often cited for inventing the telephone in 1876, it turns out that he was (and still is) accused of stealing it from electrical engineer Elisha Gray. There was a race to the patent office and controversy over who got there first, but in the end, Bell got the credit.

He was born in Scotland in 1847 and his interest in sound began in childhood due to his mother’s gradual deafness. He learned how to communicate with her using a manual finger language and developed alternate methods of communication. This also led him to study acoustics and follow in the family business of elocution. Not only was Bell’s father an elocution teacher, but so was his grandfather and his uncle. Bell’s father instructed the deaf to articulate words and read lips in order to communicate.

Bell was inventing doing experiments even as a young child. When his brothers died from tuberculosis in their 20s, the rest of the family packed up and moved to Canada in 1870. He continued his research in electricity and sound but was soon in Boston where he began training instructors at the Horace Mann School for the deaf in his father’s Visible Speech system. His trainings were so successful, he did more in Northampton and also in Connecticut before eventually setting up a private practice teaching. In 1872, his “School of Vocal Physiology and Mechanics of Speech” opened and his first class had 30 students. One of Bell’s most famous students was Helen Keller.

According to Wikipedia, the attitude of many at the time was that deafness should be eradicated. Bell and other influential people felt that the deaf should learn to speak and avoid use of sign language in order to integrate more effectively into society. This position led to the mistreatment of students in several schools where hands would be tied behind their backs to force them to communicate orally. His work with the deaf is often viewed negatively because of his efforts to suppress the use of sign language.

Despite the instant success of the telephone in 1876, Bell didn’t see profits from it until after 1897. His interests were varied and he often read the Encyclopedia Britannica to find new ones. He held 18 patents under his own name, shared 12 with collaborators and they spanned a wide range of interests. He is also credited for inventing the metal detector in 1881, developed quickly in order to find the bullet in U.S. President James Garfield’s body. While the device worked, it failed to find the assassin’s bullet likely due to the President lying on a bed with metal springs.

Bell was honored over his lifetime and beyond in all three countries that claimed him as a native son: Scotland, Canada and the United States. While he did not complete university programs in his youth, but received numerous Honorary Degrees from lauded institutions in each country. His other major inventions include: optical communications, hydrofoils and aeronautic.

Alexander Graham Bell died of complications from diabetes in 1922 at the age of 75 with his wife Mabel nearby. It is said that she whispered “Don’t leave me” and he traced the sign for “no” in the air before dying. His coffin was made by his laboratory staff, lined with the same red silk fabric he used in his tetrahedral kite experiments and Mabel asked guests not to wear black while attending his funeral service in order to help celebrate his life. During his funeral, every phone in North America was silenced in his honor.

In his old age, Bell admitted that he found telephones to be very disruptive and would not have one in his study. I wonder what he would think of them now? His career, controversies and accolades are far too extensive to cover in this short post, so I encourage you to read more on Wikipedia which was the primary source used for this piece.

Desperately Seeking Silver Linings

Things never seem to go as planned. The universe has an uncanny way of throwing things off no matter how hard we try to keep them under control. As adults, everywhere we look we see things that didn’t go the way we expected. Sometimes the new course is good but more often it seems bad; jobs are lost, relationships end, people get sick and loved ones die. At the same time, we can be so focused on the path we think we should be on that we lose sight of the other possibilities around us.

At times the curveball the universe throws seems completely wrong and is too much to bear, but there may be reasons for it. Sometimes we will be able to see those reasons for ourselves but more often than not, I think they impact other people in ways we may never know. It’s funny how something as trivial as a shrunken sweater can remind a person of all this.

As children, the world is wide open and full of possibilities. That magical time is often short-lived because too soon, they learn that the world can be hard and mean. But before that happens, anything is possible and one woman’s sweater disaster can become a new treasure:

lucy
Photo by Daniel Soderstrom, Photographerdaniel.com

I’m not saying that a shrunken sweater is the equivalent of job loss, death, illness or the other serious steps life takes us on. But I am saying that sometimes good can come from bad and that we can learn a lot from children. Seeing this photo of my friend’s daughter wearing the sweater I destroyed fills me with such joy, I want to ruin all my clothes to see more moments like this. It also reminds me to look for the good in the bad because as simple as it sounds, sometimes you can find silver linings in the darkest of moments. But in those darkest of moments, we have to remember to look  and that the world is still full of possibilities.

When one door closes another door opens; but we so often look so long and so regretfully upon the closed door, that we do not see the ones which open for us. – Alexander Graham Bell

We All Scream for Ice Cream!

What is the perfect companion to a warm spring day? Ice cream. The beautiful weekend weather was the perfect opportunity to try Pumphouse Creamery in South Minneapolis:

ice cream
Clockwise from left: Sea Salt & Caramel, Praline Walnut and Passion Fruit Vanilla

Pumphouse Creamery opened in 2003 by Barb Zapzalka and features 20 flavors made by sourcing natural, organic ingredients from local farms. Crystal Ball Farm in Osceola, WI provide the organic cream top dairy, and the Whole Grain Milling Company in Welcome, MN provide the grains for the waffle cones. Fresh butter and local organic eggs come from Rochdale Farms.

My dairy-free friends can choose ice creams made with coconut milk and coconut palm sugar in addition to sorbets. Pumphouse’s sorbets are made with fruit and they offer seasonal options when Minnesota fruits are available.

I can’t wait for more because their best selling seasonal ice cream is back: Rhubarb. There’s a waffle cone with my name on it, and please, Pumphouse, make it a double.

Backyard Beauty

You don’t have to go far to find beauty, it’s in your own backyard. We can learn a lot from animals to make sure we don’t miss it.

Next time you’re outside, make sure you stop:

baltimore oriole
Baltimore Oriole

Look:

Red-winged Blackbird
Red-winged Blackbird

Listen:

Baltimore Oriole
Baltimore Oriole

And if you like what you see, don’t be shy about saying so:

Singing Red-winged Blackbird
Red-winged Blackbird

Dinner Detox

The one thing that I really miss while traveling is home cooked meals. After a week of rich food, I needed something nutritious to get me back on track. The challenge? No groceries in the house and a worn out cook.

I always tell people that the secret to quick and healthy eating is a well-stocked pantry and this recipe is proof of that. After digging through the cupboards, I was able to put together a satisfying lentil “soup” using red lentils, garlic, shallots and carrots:
Image

Here’s how I did it:

1-1/2 cup red lentils
4 carrots
2 giant cloves of garlic
1 shallot
1 tsp salt
Black pepper

Put the lentils* in a saucepan and cover with 2 inches of water (about 6 cups) and salt. While that’s coming to a boil, peel the carrots and chop into a 1/2 inch pieces – add to the cooking lentils. Peel and slice or chop the garlic, add to the pan. I had a shallot on hand so I sliced that up and added it to the pot. If you are without shallots, add more garlic or some onion. When the water comes to a boil, reduce to a simmer and cover for 25 minutes. The lentils break down into a stew that is filling and tasty.

This would be great with some flatbread and a green salad on the side. If you need more zip, add a squirt of Sriracha or your favorite hot sauce. Enjoy!

* Lentils often need rinsing before being used.

A Walk in Yerba Buena Gardens

Yerba Buena Gardens is two blocks of public parks in the Mission District of San Francisco, California.flowers

The first block opened in 1993 and includes several public art installations and flowers beds along paved walkways.
flower

The second block of the park opened in 1998 and includes a Martin Luther King, Jr. memorial, located behind the waterfall fountain. This fountain is the largest on the West Coast.
waterfall

Portions of Martin Luther King’s speeches are etched in glass behind the waterfall.

Martin Luther King, Jr.
Like anybody, I would like to live a long life. Longevity has its place. But I’m not concerned about that now. I just want to do God’s will; and he’s allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I’ve looked over and I’ve seen the Promised Land. I may not get there with you; but I want you to know tonight that we, as a people, will get to the Promised Land.
– Martin Luther King, Jr.

According to wikipedia, the act of entering the Fountain from the Garden, reading the text from North wall to East and exiting back out into the garden represents ‘a cultural pilgrimage and contemplative metaphorical journey of transformation,’  similar to the Southern tradition of baptism by full immersion in water – reminiscent of Old School Baptist churches.
bee on flower

Yerba Buena Gardens received the Gold Medal of the Biannual Rudy Bruner Award for Urban Excellence in 1999, but its development has been a local struggle. Taking over 3 decades to execute, its history included evictions and harassment of previous tenants in the area who joined together to fight for their rights.
flowers