Sunday, September 29, 2013

Junk Bonanza 2013

I can't say I was Ful-O-Pep when I started out for Junk Bonanza 2013. I had been awake since 4:00 a.m., long before the baby woke up. I decided to accept the gift of a quiet morning, and I read Gilead for two blissful hours. I would quote some passages from the book here, but every word is perfect, and I would not be able to stop.

So back to JB. I was helping Gretchen at her jewelry booth. First I had to extricate myself from clingy Malachi, who knew something was up. He was safe at home with his daddy and big sister. Anna Kate understands full well how busy he is, and she did not want me to go.

But how could I miss all this? Eye candy for someone like me.

Light Reading makes lampshades out of vintage slides, anatomy posters, and grain sacks.
This skeletal-system one was one of their top sellers. They place these gorgeous lampshades atop vintage lamp bases, and the result is close to perfection. They are not cheap, but had they displayed a Pillsbury shade (my Grampa worked there) or a cardio one (for my med school son), this thrifty girl might have caved.

Yes, everyone, read! Do you know that reading to young children is the only sure link to high ACT scores? Not that ACT scores make for a wonderful life. But if that's your goal, then read. Good books. All the time.

This was a great price. Blue mason jars are useful and beautiful. Mine are on the countertop, filled with coffee, and in our highest glassed cupboards. They light up a room.

One of Gretchen's vintage-bling necklaces at Mimi-Toria's Designs.

Odometer sculptures.

European grain sacks from UberChic. This booth is known for its imported furniture. They almost sold out the first day. I broke my no-red rule and bought a French grain sack with a faded red stripe. Faded red is almost a neutral, right? It's pretty grimy, but it's soaking in Oxy-Clean and I expect it to become several pillows someday.

Plastic magnetic letters.

An entire crowd of plastic letters (and numbers).

A lovely little chandelier with a wire basket to make it interesting, at The Vintage Pixie.

These were all the rage when I was little. My mom still has the one Grampa made.

An old mailing box (which I think I'll take apart and use as boot trays), and blocks for my baby Mick.
These were from Gypsy Crown.

Baby blocks in the morning sunshine!

My new necklaces from Mimi-Toria's. The brass tag has the numbers 327, for my three boys, two girls, and the seven of us who are so rarely all together.

A close-up of the necklace.

I bought one of these file cases (only $7!), but in the blur of leaving, I forgot it. It's with Gretchen's things, but she is recuperating , so I'll wait to reclaim it. By the time the show drew to a close, JB had set records for attendance. My sorties away from the jewelry booth had yielded a few prizes. All in all, a good day. And when I got home, how sweet to be welcomed by a tired teenager, a worn-out daddy, and a toddler. Malachi knows how to hug, and he wrapped his chubby arms around my neck and chortled with joy.

"How beautiful it is to do nothing, and then rest afterwards."
(Spanish proverb)

Sabbath rest to all my friends, especially those hard-working vendors.

Featured vendors:
Mimi-Toria's Designs (blog in my sidebar)
Rivertown Antique Company
Hilltop Furniture
Gypsy Crown
Nancy Mortensen
The Vintage Pixie
Light Reading

Friday, September 27, 2013

Pollo Saltado, Deconstructed

What a wonderful week we've had. I am chasing the baby all day long, and that is not always easy. Sometimes I can hear my bones creak when I stand up with him. But I am getting used to this new life with just two kids. The truth is, we have a two-kid house. All those years with lots of kids, sports, endless meals and snacks, music and messes and coats and shoes and dirt and chaos: that was what I wanted. I was thankful for all of it.

But I didn't know any other life. I didn't realize that with each new baby, my work increased. A lot. And so did my husband's. It's a luxury to have a large family. We sort of assumed, when we started having kids, that at some point we would move into a bigger house. We did build an addition and remodel the kitchen. But here is where we stayed. It's not what I pictured. But our kids, oh our kids are such an enormous blessing. I'd rather have them than the finest mansion in the world.

This new life, with a home-schooled 7th grade daughter and a busy, lovable toddler, is strangely calm. It wouldn't seem calm, though, if you popped in at suppertime. Then, the baby might be clinging to my legs, hollering loudly, while I tried to cook supper. Nate would be wandering through the kitchen like my personal troubador, playing and singing his latest song. Charming, but sort of in my way. Anna Kate would probably be off somewhere either practicing piano or reading a book. I'd have to call for her to come and help.

Last night, I decided to try a new take on Pollo Saltado. Literally, it means "Chicken Jumped" (Although an MK friend just told me the meaning is closer to "Tossed Chicken"). It's my all-time favorite Peruvian food. Well actually, I prefer Lomo Saltado, the beef version, but the pollo is a close second. You can google the recipe online. The recipe I found had ingredients I've never used, like soy sauce. Soy sauce, in a Peruvian recipe? Not my style, but go for it if you want to.

This is the Pollo Saltado I made last week. It takes quite of bit of chopping and stir-frying, something I don't have time for these days.

This is the trouble-maker who is helping me simplify my recipes.

These are my last two babies. If you had told me, after Julia was born, that I would have two more children - a girl and a boy! - I'd have thought you were nuts. Oh thank the Lord for for His good plans!

Deconstructed Pollo Saltado. SO MUCH EASIER than the stir-fried version, though I must admit not quite as yummy. Close, though.


First, make your rice. I'm not going to tell you how to do this. However, I recommend brown rice.

Then, scrub your potatoes for Home Fries. I used 3 large russets. Pierce the potatoes and microwave on High until done. Slice them into thin (but not too thin) wedges, and fry them in olive oil till brown and crispy. This takes a surprisingly long time, at least 5 minutes per side. Turn potatoes to crisp both sides. Salt and pepper to taste.

While potatoes and rice are cooking, get your chicken ready:

4 chicken thighs (with the skin removed)
1 tsp. paprika
1 tsp. cumin
1 T. aji panca chili paste, or one diced fresh chili
dash of hot red pepper (to taste, I like it spicy)

Blend the spices together and rub onto skinless chicken pieces.
Grill till done (170 degrees internal temp). On my grill, at medium high heat, this takes about 15 minutes per side.

While chicken is grilling, prep your other veggies:

1 onion (I use red onions all the time, as they're supposed to be highest in antioxidants).
1-2 tomatoes
1 green bell pepper
2 cloves garlic
fresh ground pepper, to taste

Slice the onion and tomatoes into chunky wedges. Slice the green pepper however you want to.
Smash the garlic cloves with the side of a big knife, take off the peel, and chop it up.
Heat 1 T. olive oil in a large skillet, add onions, stir-fry till onions are clear.
Add tomatoes and pepper, stir-fry for about 2 minutes.
Add garlic and stir till that is done, about 1 minute.
If you like (this is from the online recipe, but I didn't do this step) add 1 T. vinegar, 1 T. honey, and 1 T. soy sauce to the veggies. The online recipe had these ingredients in a marinade for the chicken, but I didn't have time for that.
Salt to taste if you like.

While you're busy with the veggies, you're going to have to be watching and turning the potatoes. You may have to make them in batches. So I hope you have help with the chicken on the grill. At this point it should be done.

To serve:

Adjust seasonings (salt and pepper)

Scoop some rice onto the plate
Get the chicken off the grill, place it on the rice
Add the veggies and the hot fries to the plate.

This recipe served two adults and two children. 

Enjoy! Peruvian food is the best in the world. 

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Pumpkin Hunting

Last week we went to a local pumpkin guy to buy our front-porch decorations. I got there two hours before the place opened, but the owner saw us parked out front and kindly let us in. We had time enough to choose our pumpkins (which wasn't easy, I wanted them all), and then we hit the road with our treasures. The sky was greenish-black with storm clouds as we started for home. Then the rain fell, and it was furious. We listened to "Pilot Me" and "Flood Waters" by Josh Garrels (both songs were fitting and helpful) as I white-knuckled it at a terrified crawl. Malachi was calm as could be. It was a reminder to me of how safe I should feel, all the time. All the time, I am in the Presence of the One who loves me. There is nothing to fear.

If only Malachi was wearing overalls in this photo.

"Fairytale" variety

When we got home, the rain was still pelting too hard for me to get the pumpkins out of the trunk. 
I was delighted when the skies cleared and I could decorate my porch.
The flowers had to go, they were sad and straggly, but the vine got to stay.
I swirled it around under the "Cinderella" pumpkins.

Ordinary urns from Wal-Mart,
Julia's boots,
blue "Jarradale" pumpkins on top of the deep-orange Cinderella ones.

The "Fairytale" perches on Malachi's chair.

If you live in the Twin Cities area, here's the address for Exotic Pumpkins:
2632 176th Ave. NW
Andover, MN 

Open noon-6:30 on weekdays
Open 11-6:30 on weekends

Friday, September 20, 2013

Junk Bonanza 2013, Right Around the Corner

You all know I don't encourage the spending of money. The needless spending of money. But Junk Bonanza is coming up, next Thursday through Saturday (September 26-28). That's the big furniture-antique-jewelry-cool junk fair, held at Canterbury Park in Shakopee, Minnesota. It is a bit overwhelming, so here is my guide.

First, bring a tape measure and an idea of what you're looking for. If you don't have a plan, you'll wander around the booths, feeling more and more confused. And remember, you don't have to buy anything at all. If you don't need a thing for your house or for gifts, though, maybe you shouldn't go. Just sayin'.

We've been vendors at a similar show, and now I know it's physically demanding. Setting up, selling for three days, and tearing down (often bulky items) is exhausting. These people work hard for their money, and no one is getting rich. Many of them are artists, and they've worked all year to fill their booths. It's always nice for them to hear how much you love their designs, or how good their space looks.

Also remember to ask before you take pictures, especially if you plan to blog about the show. We keep seeing pictures of our piano bar on Pinterest, but no one knows it's ours or how to find it.

Here are some of my favorite things (the kind of things you're likely to find at JB 2013):

A big stoneware bowl. Since this one is identical to the Little House bowl that Ma uses on the tv show, my daughter has fallen in love with it. Filled with anything and placed on a table, it's the perfect centerpiece.

Okay, while we're at it, any bowls at all. I love bowls. They hold things!

A milk crate. We keep this in the entryway and it's perfect for flip-flops and flats.

A little chair from The Vintage Pixie.
(Baby not included).
On this chair, which Mary gave to me when we were at her farm for a photo shoot right before Malachi's birth, she decoupaged the verse from Jeremiah 29:11, "For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future."
Oh thank you Mary. Just what I needed to hear.

Vintage clothing, similar to my coat in this photo, can be found at Lori's booth La Dee Da.
Lori was our neighbor when we had our piano bar space, and she was a great encouragement.

Vintage boots like the ones I'm wearing here can also be found at La Dee Da.

The jewelry at JB is amazing. I am a fan of my friend Gretchen's jewelry at Mimi-Toria's Designs.
Here I'm wearing two of her pieces (the clock face and the little Eiffel Tower),
and a magnet necklace from Hit the Road Jack.

Picnic baskets are wonderful for holding toys. And for taking on picnics! These are usually stacked in our basement corner. They would also be good storage in a kitchen if you had space above your cabinets.

So here are my faves:

Mimi-Toria's Designs (jewelry): Booth #208
La Dee Da (vintage clothes and boots): Booth #253 and #261
The Vintage Pixie (furniture and accessories)
Hit the Road Jack (old junk and farm treasures, and magnet necklaces)
Histories (rustic furniture, lighting and accessories)

I am hoping to work in Gretchen's booth on Saturday afternoon, although Anna Kate has offered to pay me to stay home (that's how busy Malachi is!). So stop in and say hi, and of course, enjoy the show!

From Proverbs 31
"She sets about her work vigorously; her arms are strong for her tasks.
She sees that her trading is profitable, and her lamp does not go out at night."

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Pompkin Pudding

For two weeks, Anna Kate has been begging to make Pompkin Pudding. That's right, Pompkin. Not Pumpkin. I know, it sounds silly. It's based on a recipe from a 1796 cookbook, and apparently back then, the word was pronounced "pompkin."

A beautiful pompkin from our garden.
Of course, we don't use our own pumpkins. That would make the recipe difficult.

This makes enough for a deep-dish pie. I scooped some of the batter out for ramekins, in case I have a birthday party here later in the week.

Pompkin Pudding with whipped cream, sprinkled with cinnamon.

Pompkin Pudding
(adapted from Country Living, I think)

In a large bowl, whisk together:

2 cans pumpkin (15 oz each)
4 eggs at room temperature
1/2 cup whole cream
1/4 cup melted butter
1 scant cup brown sugar
1 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
1/4 tsp. cloves
1/4 tsp. salt

Butter a deep-dish pie plate.
Pour pumpkin batter into dish.
Bake at 375 for 40-45 minutes.
Chill within two hours.
Best served with whipped cream.

This is basically pumpkin pie without the shell. It's so easy, even with a baby helping in the kitchen. (It's even easier if your teenager does all the work).

So big!
Enjoy! These crisp fall days, when going outside is a delight and coming inside is a pleasure, are all too brief.

Thursday, September 12, 2013


Today the air is fresh.
It smells like fall.

We met our big kids at a lake for a birthday picnic last Sunday.
Here is Caleb, walking towards the lake with Malachi on his shoulders.
The baby is always happy to see his brothers and sister.
I don't know what he thinks happens to them for weeks on end.

Group hug at Long Lake.

Two nights ago, Nate and I had the worst date ever while Julia and Anna Kate babysat Malachi at Northwestern. We dropped the kids off and drove to Dinkytown, where Isaac lives, to help him rescue our truck from the impound lot. He has a new rental house and the parking situation is not good. When I asked him how they found the house, he answered in typical Isaac fashion, "Through dis-luck and hatred." Well.
Back to our bad date.
At his new house, we collected our son and drove to get the truck. The impound lot was kind of far. And once there, Nate and I had to wait about 40 minutes before Isaac was able to procure the truck. He then followed us back to Dinkytown, stopping for gas on the way.
Then I waited in the van while Nate and Isaac loaded the truck with stuff that didn't fit in the new house.
Then Nate and I drove separately back to Northwestern.
We collected our two youngest kids, and drove separately home.
And that was our date.
I got dressed up for nothing. I sat in the van the entire evening.
However, on the bright side, I got to see all of our kids in one day, except for our birthday boy Caleb.

Today is one of our rare perfect days in Minnesota.
Here are some of my favorite things:

The Autumn Joy Sedum in the front garden, darkening to a deep pink. As the days get shorter and the nights grow colder, the color will deepen till it's almost burgundy.

The current garden crop, as pretty as sculpture. Here, three squash and a pumpkin share a tray with driftwood from Lake Pepin.
This is a gift for a friend, one who has showered me with generosity. If you have an idea for a gift, assume the Holy Spirit gave you that idea. Give as soon as you are able.

Apples on our tree. We have three apples trees, only two are producing fruit, and only one is producing anything like a real crop. But I am thankful for each little apple. I think these are Haralsons.

One of the best parts of fall is the boots.
I wear vintage boots that my daughter re-purposes.
The ones shown here are available on etsy.

And most of all, on this lovely September day, I am thankful for these two, married 49 years today.
Here is a little story (about them, but featuring our daughter).
When Anna Kate was in first grade, one of her field trips was to the Bell Museum of Natural History.
While the schoolbus drove through the University of Minnesota campus, passing stately buildings, I leaned over and told her, "This is where Gramma and Grampa Tennis met, and fell in love, and got married!"
She gazed at me with big brown eyes.
Long pause.
Then she murmured in amazement, "Gramma and Grampa fell in love?"

Yes. Yes, they did, Anna Kate. 
And I believe, if you asked them, they would tell you that they are still in love today.

(To see Julia's site on etsy, look here.)

Monday, September 9, 2013


The other night was rough. In truth, every night is rough around here. Malachi falls asleep at about eight, but then he wakes up when I go to bed. And he climbs all over, he claws at my face, he whimpers pathetically. On that particularly sad night, I finally put him in the pack 'n play. Tears ensued. This picture doesn't show how he looked that night, because in order to take the picture, we were in the room with him. Let me tell you, he looked sad. Huge tears rolled down his face. Every now and then he would grow silent and gaze at me with pure yearning in his eyes. The yearning to be with me.

This picture shows him leaning out, trying to get closer to us.

Of course, we rescued him. And he promptly crawled into the kitchen and tore apart the recycling bag.
This is my life. I love having a baby and a teenager in the house. In fact, right now my days are as carefree as they've been in years. We have gone from a crowded house and a needy dog, to no dog and plenty of space. So even though I miss our big kids, my days are less frantic than they've ever been. I am blessed.

So when I am walking across the kitchen,
and my teething baby is clinging to my legs,
and when I want to sleep, and he wakes up every hour,
and when I cannot get work done (and work is good, right?)
because he wants me ALL THE TIME,
I think,
"I will remember this."

This morning we received sad news. A former football parent (if you've had kids in sports, you know how you bond with the other families) suddenly died at the age of fifty-eight.
Everything I knew about him was good.
He offered free chiropractic care to every player on his son's team, and he treated Caleb after an injury.
He will be terribly missed, which is the only epitaph that matters.

And I thought about how we cling to this world.
We say fifty-eight is too young, as if it was ours to decide the length of a life.

 When Malachi is struggling in my arms, fighting sleep,
 he sometimes reaches out and grabs a tiny strand of my hair.
The pain is fierce.
"No, no, baby," I say through gritted teeth.
"Don't give owies."

I think, today, that is the purpose of living.
Don't give owies.
The Hippocratic Oath says, "I will keep them from harm and injustice.'
Another version says, famously, "I will never do harm to anyone."
That about sums it up.

While we move through our ordinary day,
our friend is gone too soon (we say) from this earth,
and he has left sorrow behind.

Sometimes the veil seems thin.
The dark glass we see through glints and shimmers,
and heaven is suddenly close.

Face to face, that's what we yearn for.
All the longings of all time,

We hold on so tightly, but the loop is open.
It's the other end, the closed end gripping the chain, that leads to eternity.
And although we expect it all our lives,
the surprise, the shock of that loop coming loose
feels like gates slammed shut on Eden.

This is a day to pray, to be still.
Like every other, it's a day to give thanks.
And always, always, a day to do no harm.

(In memory of Dr. Richard Kragness)

Listen to one of my favorite hymns here.