Friday, May 31, 2013

Chop Chop

One thing that I asked for as a birthday gift, and which I was lucky enough to receive, was this little monster! 
This is a KitchenAid 3.5 cup chopper - a little bitty food processor. Until about a month ago, I didn't have a food processor. For a long time, I'd never even considered making a recipe that required the use of a food processor. But, it seems like there are lots of interesting ideas that are Paleo-friendly that pretty much require it. So, with my new food processor in hand, I got cooking! 

First up: Mashed Cauliflower! 
I'm very lazy, so I bought this package of previously-cut cauliflower and steamed it according to the package instructions. Then, I dumped about half the bag in the chopper and went to work. This chopped has two buttons: chop and puree. I started with the chop button, but eventually switched to the puree button. After things were looking smooth, I added some olive oil and seasoning. On my first go around, I used garlic salt. It tasted great when I ate the cauliflower right away but it didn't taste as good after it had been refrigerated and reheated. The next time, I used Mrs. Dash, which held up better! 
Here we are! I have been able to make that one steamed bag into two substantial servings. This is one serving - the chopper is small enough that I'll wind up running only half the cauliflower through at once. While I suppose this doubles the time I spend on the chopping, it doesn't take more than a minute or two. And this chopper, because its so small, easily sits on the counter and is simple to clean and assemble. I wouldn't trade it for a bigger one. 
Here they are, just waiting for meat! 

Next up: Fudge Babies! 
The good stuff is in the bowl - dates, cocoa powder and walnuts! If you're looking for the recipe, click here. I made the recipe by basically dividing the quantities in half. From my point of view, the precise ratio isn't essential, so halving "one and a third cups" wasn't actually the mind-bender it could have been. 

YUM! Pie-shaped fudge babies for the win. It's been a total chop fest here Chez Minnie lately. I hope you're making something good to eat too! 

Wednesday, May 29, 2013


So, quite a while ago, my friend Clover gave me this.
I guess I should've gotten a shot of the side - it's a pile 3 inches high of flashcards. There are pictures on one side with words on the other - the French word, the English word, and the French pronunciation. Clover explained that while she was at work, in the office at an elementary school, a lady came in and donated them. The school didn't want them, but she took them, and gave them to me. Her only comment was, "I knew you could do something interesting and crafty with these." I appreciated her faith in me, and I knew I wanted to do something cool and crafty. But, at first, I had no idea how I was going to make it happen. I let months go by, and then I was struck.
What does this space need? Flashcards, clearly. It took me a while to figure out how I might go about displaying the flashcards. I was browsing at Target not that long ago and noticed that they were marketing a set of three miniature clipboards as picture frames. Those frames were sized for 4x6 photos, but that was definitely the inspiration. I measured the flashcards and then starting doing some online research. I soon realized that memo-sized clipboards would be just the right size for these flashcards. At less than $3 each, I got right over to Office Max and bought 4. And then I went back for 4 more!
Hanging them was actually pretty simple because they're small enough and close enough together that I was able to use my level to level and to measure. Perfection!

The next step was to fuss with the cards to pick an ideal layout. Here's my first draft!

And here's my second draft!
One of the coolest things about the clipboard method is that they can easily be changed around - both with the other cards in the current layout and the cards that remain in the stack, safely stowed in the study. It's very neat!

Plus, given the era when the cards were made, the clipboards are a good style match.
Don't you just want to walk right into this living room? It actually reminds me a little of the living room at my grandfather's house - it's funny how things go out and then come back in! And who wouldn't love that teal color? ;)

And come on, isn't the pronunciation guide hilarious? Mais oui!

Tuesday, May 28, 2013


I know that Memorial Day is dedicated to the memories of fallen troops, and I'm humbled by the sacrifice made by brave soldiers and their families. Around these parts, its also the unofficial beginning of summer. Last year, I went up north and really got started on my summer. I spent time outside hanging out and doing projects, and feeling like it was too hot - that's summer for me!

This year, I was invited back for the same "spend a weekend at your old summer camp" trip, but I decided not to go. It's normal for me to spend my first couple of days at camp with a whopper of a headache: I'm running all over the place, working hard, feeling dehydrated and sleeping poorly because I'm re-acclimating to a new bed and the sounds of loons crying and leaves rustling in the wind. I worked at camp for years and it was always like that. For last year's trip, when I went for just two days, I didn't start feeling like myself until it was time to leave! I was very nervous that, if I felt as icky as I did last time, I'd be terrified I was having a serious issue and land in the emergency room - at least 200 miles from my team of doctors. (I know this fear is just barely rational. Hopefully rationality will prevail again sometime in the future...). I decided it made the most sense for me to miss the fun and stay at home, not pushing myself too hard. It worked! I had a nice time and didn't go to the ER!

I mostly did indoor activities, some of which will be chronicled here on the blog later this week. But, I did squeeze in a little bit of outside time at one of my favorite places to get outdoors here in the Twin Cities. Specifically, in fair St. Paul, Capitol of the Minne!
After spending the afternoon hanging out in Highland Park with Daisy, I made a quick stop at Hidden Falls Regional Park. It's located just off Mississippi River Boulevard just north of Fort Snelling. So what's this? It's the Mississippi River!

 So, this is looking north. Check out that foam! I also probably should have shot a video of the river, because it was moving more swiftly than usual. I guess the foam might have accentuated that, but either way, it was quite something.

And this is looking south. There wasn't any boat traffic while I was there, which is also a bit unusual. But, I guess it makes sense that no one wanted to be out in the 60 degree weather. Just imagine that you're experiencing the total tranquility of watching the river slide by. The quiet around you is broken only by the occasional chiming of the light rail, which is behind the trees on the other side of the water in the distance.
 Look at those tree roots! Weirdness. It seemed to me that the water was higher than usual, but I've also never remarked on those balled-up tree roots before, so I guess I can't tell whether the water was high or not.
And here's some company - I wish I'd gotten a zoomed-in shot of these guys. A moment after I shot this, they took off, headed north. I decided that was my cue and headed west. Summer has officially begun!

Friday, May 24, 2013

More Twins...

Well, okay, only sort of!

Imagine my surprise when I cracked open one of my eggs and found this one - or these ones, maybe I should say. Good luck? According to my brief internet research in my mega-exhausted state, it might be a good omen. Let's keep our fingers crossed!

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

AT Fail

If you were reading Marv Minnie a year ago, you probably heard about my desire to enter the Small Cool Contest sponsored by Apartment Therapy. I began thinking about entering my apartment last spring while the contest was going on in April, 2012, but I realized I didn't have any good photos. I got a new camera for my birthday that month and then spent some time during the summer actually taking photos. I thought of this project as the First Draft and I actually shared the best of those photos here on the blog. Check out the label "first draft" to see those posts.

As the last year has gone by, there have been moments where I've doubted whether I wanted to participate. I've been focused on lots of things other than home decor during the last year. There were times when I wondered if I might move out of this apartment, though I haven't. While I didn't think that last summer's pictures were going to be what I'd ultimately submit, I decided not to go through the process of taking additional photos. I've just been otherwise focused. That said, during this intervening year, Daisy also participated in an AT contest about bedroom decor. She submitted photos of her lovely bedroom which was featured on the site. While she didn't win, I know she thought of it as a positive experience. (And her room is awesome - go check it out!)

So, about 10 days ago, I decided to go for it. Since I had decided not to re-shoot the photos, all I had to do was identify the 5 I really wanted to submit and type up some answers to the questions they ask. I spent about an hour doing that and sent it away. I received an automated response confirming they had received my submission.

And then nothing happened. While I never had any hope of winning the contest, I worked so hard on developing my place that I was expecting to be selected to compete. But, alas, not this time. I realized as I was preparing my entry that there were two big weaknesses.

          1. Awkward Photos. I don't know what it is, but I can't seem to get photos that really capture the essence of my space and what makes it cool. It's much easier to try to show it off here on the blog, which several photos of each room. For Small Cool, you're limited to 5 photos and one floor plan.
          2. Tiny-ness. My place just isn't that tiny. It's 950 square feet and I live here by myself. I'm happy with it and I do think there are some sacrifices I've made to have a nice home in this amount of space. I definitely dream of living in a larger place. But is this a place where renters of tiny shoeboxes are going to find lots of neat tricks? Um, no. It's not one of the most remarkable homes in the world. It's a happy, comfy place decorated with lots of love.

So, without further ado, I'll share with you the photos I submitted to AT. I've lost the word document where I wrote all of the answers to their questions. In the midst of doing the submission, I'm also transferring documents, photos and music from my old laptop to my new one. What you need to know is: this is my home, I love it because I think its cute, and it's not that small, but it's small enough!

Minnie's Tree House

If you want to see more interesting shots, check out the posts with the first draft label. Enjoy!

Monday, May 20, 2013

The Twins!

So, this week, I made my annual trip to Target Field to take in a pro baseball game played by the Minnesota Twins!
I'm only sort of joking that it's my "annual" trip. I know the Twins play dozens of home games each year and I could easily go more often. In fact, when I was in grad school, I did go more often. Tickets were cheaper then, and I was attending school near the stadium. It was just easier then to round up friends and make the trek, get student tickets, watch drunken undergrads and enjoy dollar hot dogs. Over time, though, things have changed. I began working way outside the city, so getting downtown for a 7:10 game requires planning and perseverance (to handle the snarled traffic). The Twins demanded, and got, a new stadium so the prices of tickets and concessions have gone up.

The Twins used to play at the Metrodome. You might remember it from this:

Now, the Twins play at Target Field, an outdoor stadium on the other side of downtown. As much as I sometimes gripe about how silly it is for us to have an outdoor stadium, it really is pretty neat.

I went to Friday's game with some friends from grad school. I had spent the whole day, as we all had, wondering if the game was going to be miserable. The weather had been drizzly and humid and cold all day. But, as happened last year, just before the game was due to start things became great! So, we sat in the outfield and watched the Twins lose by 1 in the 10th inning. Take me out to the ball game!

Friday, May 17, 2013

Live Happy!

So, a while ago, I got this wild idea that I'd start doing "needle punch." Do you know what it is? I didn't when this got under way. I had seen a few kits on my regular craft shop wandering trips, but it took me a while to commit. Here's the finished product!
It's almost difficult to explain what "needle punch" actually is. Basically, a goofy needle-like tool is loaded up with thread. It's pushed through woven cloth from back to front according to a legend printed on the back. When this is done enough times, and done correctly, the front winds up filled with a bunch of loops that come together to show the image sort of like the fibers in carpeting. 

When I bought the kit and the needle tool, I knew that was the idea. I hadn't really any idea how that was going to happen.
So, first I watched this video. Because I really had no idea what I was doing. I mean really none.

Then, I got out all my supplies. I had purchased a kit at Michaels. If you're looking to get into this craft, I really think that's the place to start.

After having read all of the directions and looked over everything, I did a practice round.
Um, yeah. Yikes. I was quite frustrated with this, but I decided to persevere. (Also, this was the second of the practice rounds. The first one looked even worse).

One of the most nerve-wracking parts was when I had to trace the words onto the front of the cloth. I get that they want it to be for sale in all of North America - so it includes text options in English, Spanish and French - but still. Yikes! Luckily, it's supposed to have that "dorky homemade look," so it's not an enormous deal that the text is uneven and slanted. The letters just had to be embroidered. I worked on a big embroidery project last summer, so I sort of know how to do it. But, let's be real, I haven't embroidered anything since that time, so it's not something my hands just know how to do.

So here's my first stuff. Doing these little circles was a little bit difficult, because the stitches make more sense when they're linear rather than circular. But, it was quite an accomplishment to get this far. Part of the trick with needle punch is the tension. Once you've made your stitches, if you pull too hard on the thread that you're waiting to use, it will pull all the stitches you've made right out. My instructions had told me that, so I was careful. Not quite careful enough, though. It worked best for me if that surplus yarn ran over the top of my right hand. When it ran under my right hand, if my hand touched any surface, that created just enough tension on the string that all the stitches came out. Booooooo.

So, this is the back side, which is actually where you work. It became increasingly difficult to work on the back side as time went by. I read some suggestion on the internet that one could glue down some of these ends, but I couldn't think of a place where they could be glued and be out of the way!

So, yeah. This is what it looked like at the end. Ack! It was difficult to separate all of these strings to do the final stitches, but it worked out okay.

Because this is the front!
Yep! Finally done! This whole project took much longer than I expected. I also didn't think I'd need to make a second pass to fill in a number of the different shapes in the pattern. But, I held my work at arm's length and looked at it a few times. I saw too much white, so I had to go back and add some more. They say it's easy to add a second pass with the thread. It's not impossible, but it's not easy either since the back side is already pretty well covered with stitches. Nevertheless, I did it and it worked.

I decided to hide the ugly mess on the back by putting the whole thing on display in a picture frame!
I originally thought I was going to have to custom frame this beast, which was a little bit of a concern. The package said it was 6 x 6, and I knew I wouldn't be able to find a frame off the rack. One of my coworkers, who buys and sells concert posters and other artwork as a hobby, suggested that I could consider getting a custom cut mat, even if I wanted to just buy a pre-made frame off the rack. He thought that I'd be able to get something that looked nice without spending all the money to have it custom framed. I was happy to have his advice, though I was even happier when I started working on the project and realized that the pattern was not 6 x 6. In fact, I had difficulty keeping the square of fabric in my 9 inch round embroidery hoop, and the pattern was just a small part in the middle! I did some quick measuring and realized I could easily fit it into something standard! I dropped in over at Ikea and picked this one up. The needle punch project has more texture than most art, so I knew a shadowbox would be important. At lots of places, they're super spendy, but not in the house of everyone's favorite Swede.

So here's the final, framed, finished product! I'm looking forward to hanging it up. Now, all I have to do is pick out the perfect spot!

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

The Pilot's Wife

As part of my quest to read the books that have been lingering in my apartment, I recently read The Pilot's Wife by Anita Shreve. 
I'm pretty sure I found this book on the bargain shelf last year on my birthday, so I suppose it was fitting that I picked it up almost exactly one year later. I didn't realize until I got going that this book is actually kind of a mystery. It's not precisely a "whodunit," but suspense is an important element. With that in mind, here's my overview. The protagonist, Kathryn, is the wife of a pilot who is killed off the coast of Northern Ireland when the plane he is flying explodes. Kathryn must then deal with her grief about the loss of her husband (the father of her teenage daughter), while also trying to understand what caused his death. 

I really enjoyed this book! While it wasn't a page turner like your average John Grisham, it definitely kept me engaged. I'm coming off a string of dud books lately, so I found having something I enjoyed reading especially refreshing. As you can probably tell from the Oprah's Book Club imprint on the cover, this book was written quite some time ago. While it was set in the present day at the time, Kathryn's daughter who was 15 during the story is certainly older than I am. In the age before 9/11, air travel was just plain different. It's been a long time since I'd really thought about that. 

Another odd little tie in was that, the day I finished the book, I also watched a documentary called Jig (available streaming on Netflix). Jig is a collection of stories about the World Irish Dancing Championships. I couldn't help but think about the connection between Ireland and the Pilot's Wife while I was enjoying Jig. And, just for the record, I really enjoyed it as well! It reminded me a little of an episode of Toddlers and Tiaras, but it was free from the moral qualms about whether the underlying competition is really of value. Here's a trailer for your enjoyment! 

Monday, May 13, 2013


What is this?
 This is Capri, a city on a small island off the western Coast of Italy, near Naples. What about it?

Guess what comes from Capri? CAPRESE salad! This classic mixture of mozzarella and fresh tomatoes, with optional basil, is a favorite of mine. While mozzarella isn't strictly Paleo, I decided to bring home a ball just to mix things up a bit. Plus, because of the ratios of fat and protein to carbs, it's not a bad choice as far as cheese is concerned, particularly if you get the stuff made with whole milk. Why is this yummy combo called Caprese? My limited internet research hasn't turned up anything other than, "it's from Capri!" How on earth the combination of mozzarella made from buffalo's milk and fresh tomatoes became synonymous with a rocky island, I have no clue.

One of my favorite ways to eat the Caprese combination is on pizza (cue the Mimi at Punch Pizza) or as part of a sandwich (I'm lookin' at you, D'amico!). But, I've also dreamed up a couple of more Paleo-friendly ways to enjoy this!
It can easily be poured on top of a couple of turkey burgers, which I just cook in a pan on the stove.
While the burgers are cooking, I'm standing nearby chopping up mozzarella and tomatoes using a santoku knife and the little cutting board. Clean up is pretty snappy!

I've also recently started making a balsamic vinegar drizzle and adding it over the top. While that makes the whole process more complicated, it's a pretty yummy addition. I don't have much in the way of advice about making the drizzle. All I can really offer is a warning: if the balsamic cooks too long, it gets a caramel texture which I didn't really enjoy. I enjoyed even less how easily it got stuck in my teeth. The instructions I use are here.

I found myself with extra tomatoes and cheese but no more turkey burgers. I got creative!
Drizzle on the left, omelet on the right! I considered loading the omelet with both tomatoes and mozzarella, though I've had bad experiences in the past attempting to include tomato in an omelet. I can't seem to do so without making a gigantic mess. Yikes. So, I kept it simple and went with just cheese...
And topped it with tomatoes, a little more cheese, and some drizzle. It was great. I think it will be Capri around here all summer long.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013


You guys know, this spring in Minnesota has been pretty much miserable. I was quite surprised last week when, on May 3rd, this was the view out my window:
I was hoping to get a good picture of the huge snowflakes that were drifting down, but alas, all you can see are the water droplets on the window.
But, I suppose the snow covering the grass is proof. Bummer! If you don't live in Minnesota, you might think this is normal weather for May, but it certainly isn't!

I was all prepared to write you a nice long post about my pictures of spring snowfall - since there aren't really any pictures of shoots or buds or any of the other stuff you'd typically associate with spring. But, then yesterday afternoon, I made a quick detour.
On my way home from work, I decided to take advantage of the nice weather and take refuge from a big of a nasty traffic jam.

That's why I removed my dress shoes as I settled onto this park bench with a book and a full bottle of water!
I had company!

And then I had even more company! The male in the foreground was just coming in for a landing as I tried to get a shot of the couple closer to the wall. After a few minutes, another male flew in and the whole troop took the skies, leaving me solo again.

I just kept reading and appreciating the perfect weather along the Minnehaha Creek near Lake Nokomis! Maybe, since winter was endless, summer will be too. Keep your fingers crossed!