April 8, 2013

Dan’s Birthday Party

Brother Dan was 72 yesterday and a right-size group of family members gathered to have lunch with his at his residence.  Slovak Soul Food was the cuisine – pirohy, kapusta, sausage; birthday cake, fresh fruit.  It was nice and I think he enjoyed himself. 

In preparation for a visit to the Men’s Hockey department at the U tomorrow (I have a picture I want autographed by Coach Don Lucia), I baked some Almond Squares.  It’s an old recipe and I don’t think I’ve made it before today.  Be assured I will be making it again soon.  How can you go wrong with Amaretto and almond extract in a bar cookie?  You can’t.  Check it out.  You’ll be glad you did.


February 10, 2013

Like a Virgin -- In a Manner of Speaking

The snow that was supposed to begin at midnight last began at about 10:30 a.m. today.  It's right white out there.  In anticipation of being housebound today, this morning I posted a casual inquiry to a food group I participate in.  I was curious to know if I was the only person who's never made macaroni and cheese from scratch.  The thread lengthened and for all that, it seems there may be one or two others.  Follow the link for the telling and the recipe.


February 7, 2013


Gophers, GO!!

Today was a good day.  A really good day! 

I'm of the mindset of "Go big or stay home” and today was the culmination of a mission I  began last May with this note to University of Minnesota President, Eric Kaler; Men's Athletic Director, Joel Maturi; and Men's Hockey Coach, Don Lucia.

May 14, 2012

President Kaler, Director Maturi, Coach Lucia:

You are busy men so I will cut right to the chase — I like to start at the top and hope this message will actually be seen by you.   


I would like you to arrange for a visit from Coach Don Lucia or another high ranking representative of the University with a hockey team-autographed picture for my brother, Dan Skovran, Minnetonka (the part of Minnetonka where the houses have only one bathroom).  If you want to give him some Gopher hockey tschotchkes, that would be swell, too.  If you want to conscript some players for a visit, that would be great, too.  

I would like you men to acknowledge his faithfulness as a fan of Gopher hockey. Herb Brooks was coach when Dan became a season ticket holder in the early 1970s.  He held the same seats, five rows from the top of the arena, on the blue line when the Gophers were attacking two of the three periods in the game.  He told me so.  :-)   He bled maroon and gold.


It is my fervent hope that you will consider my desire for some acknowledgement of Dan's faithfulness to the Gopher Men's Hockey program.  It will make a happy memory for him when all he will have is memories.


Dan was a Gopher hockey season ticket-holder for nearly 40 years.  He gave up his tickets at the end of the 2011-2012 season because he objected to the increased fee (something like $300 per ticket, I think) that was going to be charged for something or other.  (Sorry, but he's the fanatic, not me, so I don't really know what the particulars were.)  

While that fee was his stated reason for passing, I believe that his declining health also played a large part in the decision.  About a year ago he was diagnosed with a wicked disease called Progressive Supranuclear Palsy (www.psp.org/about — read it and weep).  There is no known cause, no treatment, and no cure.   Mainly, it has affected his balance and his vision — he falls.  He sees neurologist Dr. P.T. at the U's medical clinic on campus.

He no longer drives and his general enthusiasm for life has diminished considerably — that apathy is a part of the disease.  I see him weekly for grocery shopping, errands, and general observation.  Let me just tell you that it sucks seeing him like this.  My once always-busy brother now spends most of his day watching television.  He is no longer able to do much at his home — he is divorced, lives alone, and his only child lives in Seattle.  The expectation is that, within six months, he will be moving to an assisted living-type arrangement in or near San Jose, California, to be near her when she starts a new career at San Jose State as a professor of microbiology.  We'll see.

Gopher hockey last winter was pretty much his only real joy in life now and he has a friend who would take him to the home games.  I'm thinking that the Athletic Department could be persuaded to make some acknowledgement of his staunch support for the hockey Gophers.

He was just 71 years old and I am his younger sister; we are numbers 12 and 13 of the kids in our family.  Dan, another brother and sister, and I all graduated from the University of Minnesota High School in 1951, 1955, 1959, and 1963.  We grew up on a farm in Saint Anthony Village.  

Thank you for your time.  If you have any questions or require further information, please contact me by email (<barbschaller@mac.com> or by phone: xxx-xxx-xxxx (cell), or xxx-xxx-xxxx (home).

Take peace!  And God bless all of you!

Barbara Skovran Schaller, UHS, Class of 1963

Burnsville MN

Less that two hours later, I had a note from Coach Lucia asking me to call him the next day.  I did and we postponed action because of the coach’s travel schedule.

I'm not sure what happened over the next couple weeks but we made half a plan for the coach to visit Dan.  It didn't happen.  I didn't pursue it at the time because there was too much other stressful stuff going on with Dan.

Fast forward to Tuesday of this week, when it struck me that if Coach Lucia were available, maybe he could say hi to Dan after today's doc appointment with his neurologist at the U.  I mean, we'd be in the neighborhood. . . .   I sent this note late Tuesday morning:

Good morning, Coach -- 

This comes on top of correspondence between us going back to last May (for your reference).

I will be taking my brother, Dan Skovran, to a doctor's appointment at the U's Neurology Clinic THIS THURSDAY, February 7, at 11:30 a.m.  If there is a snowball's chance in Hell that you could find a half hour or so to shake his hand, I can arrange to have him available by 1:00 p.m., I think.  Dan likes Vescio's and if you are amenable and it fits your schedule, perhaps you could join us for lunch at Vescio's in Dinkytown at about 12:45.  This is your invitation.  If Vescio's doesn't appeal, tell me where and when and I'll get him there.  I haven't told Dan about any of this, by the way.

His health is declining and it's no fun for any of us.  He now uses a walker and has moved from his home in Minnetonka to an assisted living residence in Prior Lake to be closer to me.  You should know that he is still a Gopher hockey fan.  <grin>  Because he gave up his season tickets, his hockey buddy Jeffy apparently comes to his apartment to watch the Gophers play on television.  They used to go to the games together.  

If this Thursday is possible for you, please let me know and I'll make it happen.  I understand that this is like practically no notice and if you can't do it, you can't do it.  

Thanks.  God be with us!

Barb Schaller

And one hour and 20 minutes later, I had this note from Don Lucia, University of Minnesota Men's Hockey Head Coach:


Could you stop by my office at Mariucci for a cup of coffee before his appointment? How about 10:45? We have practice in the afternoon and leave for St Cloud when we are finished.


Seriously?  You want to have us in for coffee?  SERIOUSLY?  Hot damn!  You bet I can be there, Sir.  And 15 minutes later I sent this note:

Perfect!  Thank you from the bottom of my heart.  Where shall I park?  I have a handicap parking sticker but don't know the best place. 

Do I tell Dan or do I not?  I like surprises.  I love surprises!  I always assume everyone does.  They don't.  But I have the car keys and he's at my mercy. 

I told him about our coffee date when I picked him up this morning.  He took it in and processed the information and said, "Neat."   Let's just say that about 2-1/2 years ago he probably would have said something more along the lines of "the hell you say!"  His disease has changed him.  His disease has changed me.

On our way to Mariucci Arena I asked Dan if he were nervous.  "Nope."  Excited?  "Yeah."  I was nervous enough for both of us.  And I was excited, too.  I knew everything would be fine, but, still. . . .we were going to be meeting the head coach of the number one-ranked collegiate hockey team in the freakin' country, and I didn't want to embarrass either of us.

Once our appointment was made, I fired up my oven and yesterday baked a double batch of peanut butter cookies, a batch of gingersnaps, and a batch of brownies.  I hit JoAnn's for a cool container, and the buck store for some shrink wrap.  I was rolling. 
Rob helped me shrinkwrap the goods (which also included some candy valentine conversation hearts and a package of the red licorice you can pull apart and play with).  They might be hefty hockey players, but who doesn't like red licorice, I ask you?  And it's a good hour's trip from Minneapolis to St. Cloud.  They might get hungry.  I also made up a bag of pickles, jams, jellies for Coach Lucia.  I was born at night, but not last night.

Dan navigated us to Mariucci Arena and parking became the task.  I'd asked the coach about parking but didn't hear back from him in time to know where to go.  We wound up on the street on the north side of Mariucci.  The entrance is on the south side.  A car had just pulled out and we moved right in.  Do you know that I have the Good Parking Place gene?  It's true.  Ask anyone who's ever ridden with me.  A meter maid helped me get Dan out of the car and safely to the sidewalk where we began our walk to the arena.  The Men’s Hockey office is on the west side.  Nick the maintenance guy directed us to the Men's Hockey Office and when we went in, Coach Lucia was just getting a cup of coffee and we were warmly greeted by him and by his office assistants.  When I gave him the big basket of cookies and treats, he said he'd put it in the reception area so the folks could partake.  A while later, I mentioned it and said I hoped his players might enjoy them on the ride to St. Cloud.  He said he would put the basket on the bus or maybe in the locker room.  Cool.  Wish I could have seen if the young men enjoyed them.  Probably, huh?  "Me want coooookie."

He offered us coffee and Dan took him up on it and we moved into his office.  He thanked Dan for being such a faithful hockey fan for more than 40 years.  Okay, I'd hoped for some Gopher tschotschkes but none was offered.  It's okay.  It is difficult to have a conversation with Dan.  His brain still works pretty well, but it takes him longer to process what is said, I believe, and longer still for him to formulate a response.  Because of the lag time, it's very easy to either answer for him or move on because you think he doesn't want to answer.  Patience has never been a bigger virtue.

We talked about the Lucia boys, Tony and Mario.  I complimented him on Tony's degree from the Carlson School of Management at the U and we agreed that it's good that he's not just a big gorilla athlete who can't spell his own name.  His younger son, Mario, plays hockey for Don's alma mater, Notre Dame.  He noted that the recent Gopher-Irish hockey game was tough on his wife, but it was pretty easy for her to root for her son's team.  No doubt.

There was more chit chat and when we were about to take our leave and head to the neuro clinic, he asked where we'd parked.  When I told him, he said he would take us on a shortcut inside the building so we wouldn't have to walk so much outside.  The weather was decent but Dan's gait is getting worse—he shows more of a shuffle when he walks that he did even six months ago.  So, we walked through the ticket office and out the back door to the loading dock area.  My car was parked about 30 feet from its entrance and Don waited with Dan while I brought the car around. 

We hugged and I asked him if he had any tickets. . . . He allowed as how he could probably come up with something and told me to call him about them.  I have to think about that.  I would love nothing more than to get Dan over to Mariucci for a game.  The logistics would be tricky and would have to involve others, but you know what they say, if there's a will, there's a way.

I salute you, Don Lucia.  God bless and keep you safe and healthy.


December 23, 2012

It is Finished.

Christmas baking is done.  I baked a third batch of Scandinavian Almond Bars tonight because those are Becky's favorites.  Mine, too, I guess, judging by the fact that there are only a few left from the first two batches.  A considerable number of them went into tins and containers for others, though, too.

I have a lot to do before Tuesday when the kids come, and not much enthusiasm for it.  Too many sad memories for me at Christmastime.  Still and all, things could be a lot worse than they are.


December 21, 2012

An Invaluable Accessory

No, not a hairbow, pin, belt, scarf, headband, or clip.  I'm referring to my beaterblade.  Check out beaterblade.com.  It was on my Christmas list last year and my favorite daughter came through for her mama.  True confession: I don't think I used it until December 11 of this year when I began my Christmas cookie baking extravaganza.  O, what joy!  I can safely say that I have not stuck a conventional spatula into the mixing bowl to scrape down the sides since the first batch of cookies.  Thank you, Rebecca!  You are the best daughter a girl could hope for, even if your roots are coming in on the grey side.  Tell Sam I said so!  You are still in the final disposition of assets documents. 

Love you more,


December 20, 2012

More Cookie Recipes

I did not make these this year (at least not yet), but they are recipes worth considering if you aren't all sugared out yet.  The links to the individual recipes are on the Christmas Baking page.


December 20, 2012

Lunch With my Favorite Nieces

For at least six years I have met with two of my favorite nieces sometime in the week before Christmas.  We have lunch and usually exchange homemade food gifts.  I count on Sandra for a small tin of divinity.  Oh, Lord have mercy!  Her divinity is divine.  I believe it is her former mother-in-law's recipe.  She did not disappoint.  Two pieces would have been sufficient and I am sure there are at least a dozen perfectly formed, creamy pieces.  Girl divinity.  And then there are the krumkake!  Yeay!  I had some krumkake earlier this week at a dinner and they don't even come close to what Sandy makes.  Hers are light and tender and delicious, the kind you eat while standing over the kitchen sink.  And she, as usual, included a bag of spiced nuts for her Uncle Rob.  We love her.  Not because of her considerable kitchen skills but just because she is a wonderful woman who has prevailed over hard times in her life.  She is a blessing to all of us!

Her sister Terri came bearing homemade peppermints — she had a hard time describing them, but I'm thinking they are the texture of a fondant (they are not the popular cream cheese mints).  And a box of delicious shortbreads.  And lotion and cuticle oil and mixes for delicious dips.  Terri came to my house in October and helped me clear out my bedroom of incredible clutter.  It still looks pretty good. . . .  Terri is a blessing in so many ways.  She is always upbeat and positive and always cheerful and happy to see me!  How lucky am I!

The fourth member of our lunch group is a former colleague of Sandy's, Dina.  Dina is in marketing for HealthEast hospitals and she is an amazing woman.  She began to join us for lunch maybe four years ago.  I believe her probationary period is over and I will not now claim her as an adopted niece.  She is smart, cute, funny, and has wonderful taste in gifts.  :-)   She brought us small bottles of cocoa powder from Penzeys, a cool dish towel (I buy dish towels for me when I travel — they are useful and I always think about the trip when I use one), and some fancy schmancy baking cups — like a cupcake liner.

I brought things for them, too.  :-)

Lunch was good.  The company was better.


December 18, 2012

Rosettes, Day 2

After making a double batch of rosettes yesterday and being less than completely satisfied with the results, I decided on another batch this morning. 


December 17, 2012


Sweet treats abound in my home.  In preparation for my annual Christmas lunch with my nieces on Thursday, I made a double batch of rosettes today.  They are for Sandy, by request. 

Between mixing the batter and frying the rosettes, Rob and I went to Ingebretsen's on Lake Street to buy a couple different irons for my rosette iron handles.  I'd thought I would be able to buy them at the Nordic Ware factory store in St. Louis Park but they don't sell the individual heads.  I'm really glad I called before going to the store.   I called Ingebretsen's and they have them for about $5 on up, depending, I suppose, on the size and complexity of the form.  I bought a smallish Christmas tree-type form and a larger snowflake-shape form.

The meat shop part of Ingebretsen's was a zoo.  Their pickled herring is most excellent and I entertained a brief thought about buying some until the saw that customers were lined up in both the little entryways between the gift shop and the meat shop.  Rob had dropped me off so I could do my quick purchase and he parked a couple blocks away, waiting for my phone call telling him I was ready to be picked up.  While waiting, I took these two pictures with my iPhone.  Crazy Scandinavians!



December 16, 2012

Molasses Sugar Cookies (Gingersnaps)

Gingersnaps  have a lot going for them.  My notation is that this came to me from my mom in 1976.  She compied it from a Br'er Rabbit brand bottle of molasses.  Back then, there were probably more recipes that used vegetable shortening than used butter.  Butter was expensive, shortening less so.  Crisco wasn't a bad word.  Butter was for "special," shortening is what you used for "regular" baking.  Gingersnaps don't fall into the "special" lot.  Gingersnaps are for after school with a glass of milk, or maybe a little somethin' somethin' to dunk into a mid-morning cup of coffee.

Because the resident cookie monster is fond of these, I kind of hid them.  I’ve been looking for them for three days.  Lucky for all of us that I remembered where I put them.

Getting old isn’t for sissies.

Tomorrow I will fry rosettes.  Thursday of this week is my annual lunch with two of my favorite nieces, the prima bakers in my extended family.  Sandy makes krumkake for us (Rob loves those, too) and I make rosettes for her.  Fair trade.  Rob and I used to make krumkake but we always set off the smoke alarm.  I think Sandy uses the iron I used to have.  Better her than me.  I know when to cut my losses and move on.


December 15, 2012

Candy Cane Cookies and A Big Oak Tree

I am pretty sure that I have never baked as many kinds of Christmassy cookies in one year as I am this year.  Why so many?  I'm not sure.  I think I said earlier somewhere that my life is overloaded with stress and the baking projects give me something tangible to admire for my efforts.  I baked Candy Cane cookies today.  Sort of.  It's an old Betty Crocker recipe and no less a PITA today as it was the first time I tried to make them.  Ugh!

I do have something tangible that is not food related.  Last night, Rob and I picked up my brother and took him to south Bloomington for an up-close look at the magnificent oak tree in Bob and Julie Little's front yard; it has more than 39,000 LED lights on it and words cannot adequately describe its wonder.  I'd dragged my pastor there on Wednesday night (he's an interim at my church and lives on the other end of the cities, not necessarily likely to see The Tree) for an up-close look at it and a visit with Bob.  I needed to ask Bob if I could drive my car down the driveway on Friday night so I could bring Dan over for a look.  He and his wife are such gracious people — "Absolutely!"  I figured as much but felt I should ask first. 

There were more in our group:  Niece Nurse Kathy (who helps me keep tabs on my brother), her mom (my sister Julie), her husband Gary, and their friend Jack Boder.  Jack is a contracts lawyer with a side business of photography and Kathy coerced him to come, too, and take some pictures of us all, as well as the tree.  Jack has the tools and the knowledge to create fine pictures and he got some good ones!  Most important, Dan was impressed by the tree and I think he enjoyed the outing.  He doesn't say much.

Alex bless Kathy, Gary, and Jack!  They all drove a distance to meet us at the Littles’.  If you want to know more about the tree, do an internet search using the words “oak tree lights Bloomington” without the quotation marks.  There are several links to stories.

December 14, 2012

Catching Up on Cookies!

I've added another recipe from this year's baking, a cranberry-filled refrigerator cookie — the dough is shaped, frozen, and sliced thinly for baking.  The Archives arrange the posts in calendar order according to date and I dated it as the day of mixing and baking. 

I have the butter out of the fridge for another batch of molded cookies.  They'll be cute if I get it right!

Well, I haven’t yet made that batch of cookies — other things have taken precedence:  I needed to bake bread to accompany the other prize-winning treats I’ll take to the fine folks who light that big oak tree in Bloomington every year at holiday time.  It’s the least I can do to say thank you for their gift to us.  Tonight we will bring Dan for a look.  All I told him about it yesterday is that it’s a decorated tree like none he has ever seen.  Niece Kathy will be there, too, and Gary, and my sister Julie.  And Jack Boder, Kath and Gary’s photographer friend.  Kath is even more persuasive than I am.  “I’ll just tell him he has to be there and he will be there.  I’ll buy him a burger after.”  I have cookies, bread, and jam for Jack, too.  And some for Kathy and Gary.  As my dear friend and former pastor David Lillejord is wont to say, “I was born at night, but not last night.”

Bread is the only thing I baked today, but I did put up the recipe for Peanut Blossoms, a pretty standard Christmas cookie for lots and lots of bakers.  It’s hard to not like peanut butter and chocolate.  Which reminds me!  I should send Chris some cookies!!  Jeez!  I could get my Mom card pulled.

(The breads are beautiful, by the by.)


Thursday, December 13, 2012

Scandinavian Almond Bars

I have a couple nieces who are absolute knockouts in the kitchen.  They get it from their mom and their paternal grandmother.  Their mom is my sister, a skilled cooker.  About 16 years ago, my nieces baked a gazillion and three cookies, arranged them artfully on 18" cardboard pizza circles, and sold them for not as much as they should have, I know!

I don't think I have a list of all the cookies they made way back when, and I do not think these little flats were part of that assortment.  Sandy made them for me a few years ago and I Had To Have The Recipe.  I'ma love almond flavor, whether it's the nut itself, or its extract.  Becky loves these, too, and she was the one who reminded me of them as I endeavor to make a bunch of cookies for Alex-knows-who!  Scandinavian Almond Bars. 


Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Cookie Central!

I have a lot of stress in my life and, frankly, there is no end in sight: my closest sib has a rare and incurable disease and I am his main family support.  Understand that I would not change anything that I am doing for him — and there is not much tangible to take pleasure in with it.  And so it is because of his situation that I started baking with a vengeance last week.  The planets must have been aligned or something because that's when the Star Tribune released their e-book, The Cookie Book. 

I would not say that I am baking my way through it, but I have made three recipes from the book and have started a separate blog about Christmas baking as it is occurring at Dom Schallerovych.  A woman on a Facebook baking group I read has requested the recipe for the Melting Moments and I have written that post tonight, albeit out of sequence.  With luck, I'll be caught up on the other three recipes by tomorrow night.  That I have made 7 different cookies should be some indication of the therapeutic value of baking.

Oh, and then this evening I received an email informing me that a dear friend from high school will lose her battle with recurring breast cancer.  Well, poop!  God be with you, Mary Ruth Elizabeth.  I am so glad we spent good time together a couple times in the last few years.  You will leave a legacy of grace and an empty place in the hearts of loved ones and old friends.


Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Dr. Maya Angelou Came to Minneapolis

Dr. Maya Angelou, internationally-renowned poet and author, described as a global renaissance woman, came to Minneapolis last evening as part of a "women's lecture series" sponsored by the Star Tribune.  There were quite a number of men present, too.  She is a remarkable woman with an interesting life story. 

I went to the event alone, taking the train from Bloomington to the Nicollet Mall.  I planned to arrive early so that I might hit the stage door entrance and leave a small gift for Dr. Angelou along with the hope that should would autograph another book for me.  I brought jam (the small gift) to sweeten the deal.

The gatekeeper at the stage door pretty much told me that I was SOL as far as having the book signed, but he did suggest that I look for her personal security guard and try to discuss it with him.  I asked how I would recognize the guard and he said, "You will."  Okey dokey, then.  I went back to the front of the theater and took my seat.  I was surprised at the number of empty seats.  I was about 19 rows back on the main floor (my ticket price, courtesy of gouging by TicketBastards, was $94) and there were plenty of empty seats and rows near me.  I don't know what the deterrent was; I noticed ads for discounted tickets recently.  Pity it is, too, because I have enjoyed nearly all of the lecture events that I've attended as part of that series or similar.

Dr. Angelou is getting on in years.  She will be 85 next spring and while the spring in her step may be diminished, the timbre of her voice is still strong and present.  I am not a lecture critic and I have no clever words or phrasing to describe her tellings.  She speaks about her life, those early years that were markers and the events that contributed to her becoming the force she is.  There are some hard stories to hear and it is clear she has come to some internal peace for herself about them because she presents them without fear or trembling.  Her theme for the evening was based on some verses from the biblical book of Genesis, chapter 9 (the story of the flood and the rainbow).  At the end of each story she would reiterate how one of the players in the story was the rainbow of hope and promise in the cloud over another.  We were reminded to be rainbows in others' clouds, to be helpful and kind.  It is the same message taught when we were three but there is something very special about hearing it come directly from her.

It was a treat to hear her recite Langston Hughes' poem (she prounounces it poy-em), Harlem Sweeties.  You will perhaps think twice before talking about "black people" again.  I've loved the poem since I first heard her recite it and I broke into a big grin when she began it last night.  And, of course, her rendering painted a multi-colored picture of people.  Have you never seen a "plum-tinted black" person?   She has a gift with words.

At some time during the evening I realized that, while I had spoken at length to the stage door gatekeeper about having my book autographed, I hadn't said much, if anything, about giving Dr. Angelou my jam gifts!  And further contemplation led me to make a hasty exit from the theater back to the stage door.  Her bus was parked and the motor was running.  There was but one other woman outside the door when I got there; gradually, others came with their programs or books to be signed.  Soon the stage manager appeared and informed us that there would be no books signed but he would provide a mailing address to which those things could be sent for signature with the promise of return within two or three weeks.  While he was telling that to the folks behind me, I noticed a tall, cheerful-looking man kind of just standing around.  I asked him if he is perhaps Dr. Angelou's security guard and he acknowledged he is.  I told him that I'd brought a gift and could he please give it to her?  What did I have to lose?  Nothing but two jars of jam (cherry-raspberry and lemony apricot) and a jar of dried cherry chutney, that's what.  He said he would be happy to do that, took the bag from me and put it inside the bus. 

After a moment or three, Dr. Angelou came out from the theater; she was in a wheelchair and was breathing added oxygen, a rather startling reminder that time stops for no one.  She seemed as bright as ever and was certainly cordial.  I approached her, thanked her for the evening, and told her that I'd brought a small gift for her enjoyment.  She immediately said, "Oh, thank you so much!" and asked if my name were with it.  Well, actually, yes, my name was with it — on the jar labels and on my card, which I had enclosed with a note.  And then she said she hoped I would put on something warmer!  I was comfortable enough in a light jacket over a long sleeve top but that may have seemed like not enough for a woman who lives in North Carolina. 

About that note.  The last time she came to town, she autographed for me the cookbook she wrote, Hallelujah! The Welcome Table.  The first recipe in the book is for Lemon Meringue Pie.  It is a delicious recipe, unique in the inclusion of fresh bread crumbs.  You read it right, kiddoes.  I wrote about it here and to this day am mystified by the role of the bread crumbs.  Since the author was coming to town, I decided to ask her.  Here is the text of my note included with the soft spreads and relish:

Dear Dr. Angelou,

Thank you for coming to Minneapolis again; our lives are always enriched and more inspired after such a visit.

I have an important question to ask:  Please, dear woman, can you explain to me why, in the name of all that is holy, your lemon meringue pie recipe contains fresh bread crumbs?  I have asked a food scientist, I have asked a prominent food program host and no one has a clue, so I am going to the source in the hope that you can tell me.  It is a delicious pie, but, dear God, why bread crumbs?

May God's peace be with you now and ever more.

Caught up in the moment, I took a couple of pictures and was gently scolded by the gatekeeper that there were to be no photos.  Whoops!  I didn’t even think about it, such is accessible technology.  I have not deleted the pictures, and I have not looked at them, either.  Strange, huh?  I left the scene then and headed back to the train stop.  It was a nice evening – temperate and quite pleasant..  I was interested to note that there were a number of security vehicles on or near the Nicollet Mall.  The train ride back to Bloomington was uneventful — the best kind of trip on public transportation – and I had about 30 minutes to reflect on the evening before getting off the train. 

And there it is – more fond memories to recall when I am in need of a pleasant thought.  Have you been the rainbow in someone's cloud?  I was once and I have never forgotten how I changed a woman’s life. 

Take peace!!


Friday, October 12, 2012

I baked tonight.  It's been a long time – a long time – since I've baked a cake.  There's just not a lot of call for it here.  For about the last week or so I've been craving something chocolate in the evening and have been grumbling about the lack.  Tonight I baked a terrific chocolate Bundt™ cake.  You’d liketa died and gone to heaven! A co-worker introduced me to it maybe 12 years ago.  I've entered it in the Minnesota State Fair a couple times and it won second place in about 1997; last year it placed fifth.  Have a look.

I still have some serious catching up to do here.  Maybe next week. 


September 11, 2012

I'm Dancing as Fast as I Can

Yikes!  If I were organized, I'd be dangerous.  Fair remnants.  Family.  Mental glitch.  Tomatoes.  Confirmation retreat.  Fundraiser donation of canned goods.  All have been residing in my brain and they just keep stumbling on each other!

So much on my mind. . . .   The best part is an afternoon television appearance today on KARE-11 with Pat Evans.  It's been my pleasure to have appeared with the KARE-11 folks at least once in the last few years at the Fair.  There are none finer.  Pat and Diana Pierce, Belinda Jensen, Julie Nelson, Mike Pomeranz (now in San Diego doing Padres broadcasting or color, I think), and the production staff that makes it all go smoothly and look so simple.  Check it out today or perhaps online later (I'm not sure about that part). 

I will be in studio with my blue ribbon winners, forks, and spoons and will talk about basic canning procedures and dos and don'ts.  I can't wait!  I have a terrific recipe to share live, Dried Cherry Chutney, one of my blue ribbon winners (though not this year).  That recipe and my Bread & Butter Pickles recipe will be posted to the KARE-11 site later today, if I understood it right.

Want some jam, Little Girl? 

The Fair is over and I did pretty well.  Actually, I did really, really well.  Of my 20 canning entries, the maximum number allowed, 15 received ribbons and 2 more placed.  That's a 85% success rate and I am tickled pink!  For the fifth year, I was acknowledged as the Fair's prima canner, its Prestigious Processor of the Pantry.  I didn't make up the award name, okay?  It's all about the fun of it.

Yikes!  It's nearly 1:00 pm and I need to load up my car for the trip to KARE-11's broadcast studio!!

Catch me later.


August 20, 2012

Trying to Catch Up

It is a long time between posts.  I have been busy.  I am distracted.  I am tired.  My brother's illness is taking the starch out of me.  I think about that and then think of what it must be doing to him.  Oh, Danny. . . .

As I have been writing about my canning projects in the order I made them, next up is the strawberry jelly.  Following the jewel-like strawberry jelly were the dreaded pickled boiled dirt chunks – beet pickles to some, disgusting to me.  I don't eat them. 

Sister Julie had a bumper crop of raspberries this year and she nearly bankrupted me.  I don't begrudge her a cent, either, because she does the picking.  Julie is the family version of the Eveready bunny — she just keeps on going and going and going.  She was 83 two weeks ago and doesn't like to sit around.  She volunteers at a sports medicine clinic at the U at least once a week and still (to her daughters' consternation) mows her own lawn.  She has artificial hip joints.  And she visits our 85-year-old sister in a nursing home twice a week, too.  You kind of have to have an appointment with Julie if you want her time.  I told her that when the grim reaper comes for her he will have to find her first!

After the raspberry jam came some rhubarb-strawberry jelly.  Interesting, that.  It has more rhubarb juice than strawberry juice and tastes more like strawberry jelly than rhubarb.  I may enter it in the Fair.

How were the nectarines where you are?  The ones I've been enjoying have been nothing short of fabulous.  Prima is the name on the sticker and I happened to meet Chris Wagner, a honcho at Cub who's in charge of produce buying or something like that.  He explained to me why the Prima fruits are superior to others.  It has to do with the crop being picked when the fruit is ready, rather than (apparently) the more customary way of picking all the fruit at the same time.  I probably bungled that explanation but it has to do with picking the fruit when it's ready.  I have not been disappointed in the nectarines though I think my nectarine jam is a bit soft.


July 25, 2012

I need more than self discipline.

Note that there is nothing following the July 7 entry below.  My world is turned upside down and while I am canning and photographing (I use the term loosely) the Fair-prep process, my brain is fried by events involving a beloved family member.

I have pictures and stuff about everything I've canned thus far; getting the posts written is the challenge and instead of taking care of that, I have been putting my face into e-books from the library — mindless romance novels that are all formulaic and entertaining.  They take my mind off my brother’s very serious situation.  Now if I could just sleep past 5:00 a.m. — as Sam might say, “that’d be good.”


July 7, 2012

I need self discipline


June 18, 2012

I Am Easily Amused

Green onions are abundant at the farmers markets around here.  I can buy them in a variety of sizes from finger-thick to 1-1/2 inches in diameter, nice for slicing into a marinated vegetable salad perhaps.

There is a side benefit to buying the onions at the market: you can make a bubble blower from the green stem.  Did you ever do that when you were a kid?  I can remember doing it in the 1950s.  It was cheap entertainment on the farm.

Find a nice fat stem (the long hollow green part) on a green onion and trim it to about 6-8", using the fatter part of it; i.e., the part closer to the bulb of the onion.  All of it must be hollow.  Cut it straight across and, with a sharp paring knife, slit the fatter end about an inch or so into it.
I did only four cuts and I'm thinking that if you made six or eight, that might be better.

Put the cut end into a glass of cold water for several hours or overnight.  You will see that the ends have curled back, making something akin to the shape of a tiger lily blossom.  You'll see.

Dip that end into a soap bubble mixture, blow on the other end of the onion stalk and, viola!, a soap bubble.

As I said, I am easily amused.  Even at 66-51/52 years of age.


June 11, 2012

Where was I when the ship hit the sand?

It is a hot, hot Sunday afternoon in my city – 93 degrees, I think.  I am barely moving, quite content to do not much productive work; I have had my eyes on another ebook from my local library. 

I am unable to update my site and canning blogstuff as frequently as I would like; I just do not have the energy right now.  I have a brother who has a wicked disease and one of our nieces and I have been spending time visiting assisted living residences as he is now ready to change the way he lives.  None of my brothers are or were what you might call warm and fuzzy.  Interpersonal communication would not be on a list of their strong suits, I think.  Most were raised during hard times and at a young age they all learned a work ethic to envy and admire.  Me?  I am the youngest in the tribe and, in fact, was born into a whole different world than most of them.  I am almost a Baby Boomer.  Mom was tired when she had me, times were different, the economy was different, and I just never have been fond of physical labor. 

Lazy?  More than one called me that.  Spoiled?  I heard that charge more than twice.   My relationship with one of my sisters changed in an instant when I agreed with her that, yes, I was spoiled (if spoiled means I didn't have to do the kind of work they had to do when they were children), but I didn't do it.  I was just the beneficiary.  It wasn't my fault that I was cuter than any of them and that Mom always loved me best.

This disease that is afflicting my brother is called Progressive Supranuclear Palsy.  Click that link, read it and weep.  It is going to sink his ship.  Inch by inch.  He doesn't deserve it.  No one deserves it.  When he got the diagnosis, one of our sisters was shattered and kept asking, "Why him?  He doesn't deserve this."  That's a fact, he does not deserve this wicked illness. 

What do you do when someone you love is handed a death sentence?  Are you a person of faith?  I am.  No one would ever describe me as a pure and holy pious Christian woman.  Guilty as charged.  And I believe in a loving God.  I believe that God weeps with us when we are hurt and afraid and sad and lonely.  I believe that we are all children of God.  And I could only respond to my sister's lament with, "Why not him?"  I comfort myself, small comfort that it is, by remembering the words from the gospel of Saint Matthew 5:45, ". . . and he sends rain on the just and the unjust alike."  I'm not so sure about the "sending" part, but I believe what follows that. 

While he is still in his home (he is divorced and lives alone; his only child is on the west coast), I visit him once a week to take him grocery shopping.  His condition is worsening and he is ready to leave his home for a different kind of life, one where he will be safer and where things will just be easier for him.  To that end, my niece (not his daughter, this is a different woman) and I visited 14 assisted living residences in eight working days.  We have eliminated 10 of them and will revisit the remaining four with my brother so that he can choose where he would like to live.  We have about five hours in each place, beginning with the initial research and ending with the discussion of the pros and cons of each.  Lots of emails back and forth as we think and assess and make an opinion. 

Were the decision mine, he would choose to live at the place that is eight miles from my home.  Realistically, I will be the family member who will visit him more than the rest.  Someone asked me where one of my sisters is in this deal and I said she is at home with her husband.  All that means is that the rest of my local sibs have their own "situations" and commitments, and deficits of one sort or another that will not make their visits with him as frequent as I anticipate mine will be.  As much for my sake as for his, I hope he will choose the one that is closest to me.  If he doesn't, I'll deal.

Well, there was some insight into my life that I'll bet you weren't looking for.  <grin>

When it rains, it pours.  "You have to can when the fruit is ready, Barbie, not when you're ready."  Thus spake Mother Mary.  I am a competitor at the Minnesota State Fair.  I do canning and some baking.  I'm very good at making jams, jellies, pickles, relishes, and a couple other things and I am decent enough at baking.  The state fair starts on August 23 this year and I have begun in earnest preparation of my canning entries. 

Watermelon pickles are done.

Locally-grown produce is coming to market two-three weeks earlier than normal.  I usually look for strawberries around Father's Day.  My favorite picking field began picking a week ago!  I've bought berries twice at a local farmers market and my jamming is underway!  Thus far, I've dealt with raspberries and cherries from my freezer, strawberries from a local source, and California apricots from Cub!  Oh, the tastealizing treats that are coming from my kitchen!   Raspberry-cherry jam.  Apricot jam.  Strawberry jam.  May they please the judges at the Fair.


May 25, 2012

Catching up

It has been 8-1/2 months since my last post here.  A friend asked if I have abandoned the site and blog.  I have not — I just have not updated it in 8-1/2 months.  Life and lethargy overcame me.  I managed to get through the Festival of Nations in early May, decorating 112 eggs between April 2 and May 2.  I watched nearly 12 seasons of Murder, She Wrote while making the eggs last year; this year my choice was Quincy, M.E.  Quincy yells a lot and the episode endings are not neat and tidy.  I prefer Jessica Fletcher's style.

I have set up my 2012 canning blog; I hope you will check back for updates on my canning action.  An extremely mild winter and early everything else has nudged me to my jam pot.  A friend with the most generous heart I know gave me something like 20 2-cup packages of frozen North Star cherries last summer and I still have several in my freezer.  They must go!  My rhubarb is ready to pick, too, and yesterday I finally got off my keester and made a batch of cherry-rhubarb jam.  It is a good idea but not yet a perfect recipe.  I am intrigued enough by the idea to make a second batch, hopefully a more perfect recipe.  Whether or not it will be Fairworthy remains to be seen — I have lots of jams, jellies, pickles, and relishes to make between now and August 15.  Lots.

In about five weeks, Apple Computer is abandoning its mobileme website service, where this resides.  I have to find a place to host my site and figure out how to get all the stuff that is here to the new server.  I am open to pointers to inexpensive hosting.  Right now, blogger.com is a possibility if I can move everything here to there.

Check out the June-July issue of Saveur magazine, page 31.  Saints preserve us!


September 5, 2011

Labor Day, the last day of the Minnesota State Fair

How much legal fun should a middle age woman be allowed to have?  As much as she can get away with, if you ask me.  Today is the last day of the Fair and I went again, making four visits this year.  One more, to pick up my ribbons and displayed jars and it will really be over.


September 3, 2011

Saturday, Day 10 of the Minnesota State Fair

What a day!  Wow, wow, wow!  Today was the second of two extra special interviews about my state fair ribbon sluttiness.  The interviewer was Michael Stern, preparing an article for Saveur magazine.  Saveur!


September 2, 2011


Yesterday was a fun day.  An exhausting day.  A bloody hot day. 

The fun was in the morning, in the Creative Activities building where I participated in a video shoot for the Travel Channel; they’re preparing a program about state fairs—and there is none better than our state fair.  It’s a great state fair.  Wait!  Rodgers and Hammerstein already said that. 

While I haven't been doing an awful lot around here since the Fair began last week, I did do more canning today, a small batch of the Cherry Chipotle Relish that won a blue ribbon in 2006 and a red one in 2007.  I was so busy messing at the stove that I forgot to take any pictures!  Becky's former partner gave me 20 packages of pitted North Star cherries (a sour cherry developed at our University of Minnesota) and I relish (don't hurt me) thinking about tasty ways to use them.  Two days ago I made Cherry Vanilla jam and today relish.  The relish has a lingering bite to it, though not an unpleasant one.  The jam is excellent in every way.


August 31, 2011

Happy anniversary to my favorite daughter and son-in-law

So much has happened since I started writing the August 27 entry.  Too bad I can’t remember what it was.  Oy!  My brain is too small to contain everything I want to remember.


August 27, 2011

Rest in peace, Carlos McKee

A dear friend from my church died a few days ago and his funeral was this morning.  A commitment to a canning contest (as a judge, not a contestant) prevented me from attending the service.  Carlos was 83 and as fine a man as I've ever known.  He had a great head of white hair, a big smile, and a twinkle in his eye.  He loved that I wear a hat to church on Sunday mornings.  Carlos loved to talk about the love of his life, his wife Melody, a very interesting woman and it was plain to see that he absolutely adored her.  I know she will miss him — and I will, too.  Rest in peace, Carlos Reynolds McKee.  Rest in peace.

I was unable to attend Carlos' funeral service because I had, several weeks ago, agreed to be a judge at a farmers market canning contest.  The Mill City Farmers Market (MCFM) in downtown Minneapolis was sponsoring a canning contest and I was asked to be a judge.  I was a bit reluctant because I have never sat on that side of the table and was a bit unsure of just what kind of judge I would be but I accepted the offer.


Friday, August 26, 2011

Go, Lynx!

Rob and Jamie golfed in the morning while The Girls had a little retail therapy.  Beck has become a great sale seeker and coupon user and Sam and I hit Hollister and Aeropostale while Becky was getting a fix on pants sizes at GAP.  It's pretty hard to complain about five t-shirts for less than $35—so we didn't complain at all. 

Late in the afternoon Becky, Sam, Chris, Rob, and I took the train from the Mall of America to the Target Center in downtown Minneapolis to watch the Minnesota Lynx play the San Antonio Silver Stars, both teams in the Women's National Basketball Association.  We wanted to be there early to get the promotional bobblehead figure that was being handed out — Maya Moore, the Lynx' first round draft choice of the WNBA draft this spring.
  The Lynx are at the top of their game and we were excited to watch them play – our first time to a game.  Sam played basketball last winter and she was excited about watching Maya play.  Maya Moore was a college star at the University of Connecticut; she and Lindsay Whalen are a formidable pair on the basketball court and it was great fun watching them play and perhaps even more fun watching Sam watch them play.  Our girl was into the game and made the most of her outing at Target Center.  She joined the double line of youngsters for the kids' tunnel — the Lynx ran the line going onto the court, giving high fives to all the sprouts in the "tunnel." 

After the game was over we headed back to Fifth Street to pick up the southbound train that would take us back to our car at the Mall of America.  We just missed one and I was confident that the next one would be along in about 12 minutes.  Well, it wasn't.  An accident on the southbound tracks hosed up everything and we wound up on a train that had been headed north, stopped at our stop, and changed directions and went south instead.  It was a bit of a wait before someone made that happen but when it did, it proved again that mass transit to a downtown sporting event is a pretty painless way to get there.

Our plan was to hit the local DQ on the way home and we got there about 15 minutes before the drive thru window closed.  We almost got our order free when the young man at the order window took the money Chris handed him and promptly handed it back to Chris as though he were returning his change. . . .   There was speculation about what might be being smoked on this Friday night, but we got it straightened out.  I'm sure the manager would have been thrilled had he ever found about the near miss on his cash drawer.


August 25, 2011

Opening Day

I did well at the Fair.  Really, really well!!  Better than ever well.


August 24, 2011

Late afternoon

All my Fair entries are out of my hands.  Lo que será, será.  I am feeling fine right now.  Chris arrived late last night and we were up until 1:30 talking.  We met up with Becky, Jamie, and Sam this afternoon and they are here for most of the weekend.  I love watching my adult children poke fun at each other.  Sam and Chris have a mutual admiration society going and Uncle Chris is always ready and willing to do whatever is Sam’s desire.  When she was a tot, I remember him saying, “But, Mom, I can’t say no to her.”  She will be 10 in a few months and she is quite a delightful young girl. 

If I don’t come home with any ribbons, no matter — I am still and always a mighty lucky woman.

Take peace!


August 23, 2011

State Fair baking entries are due

Well, I had a great chocolate bundt cake to enter and it developed pockmarks in its icing during its overnight stay in the garage.  I decided to enter it anyway, for the laugh factor.  I entered my famous brownies, both the boy and girl versions, and I baked a pound cake.  I don't know from pound cake and on Friday I scouted up a recipe online for one.  I bought the ingredients and made two of them on Saturday.  Kind of dry and dense if you ask me. Pretty tasty, though, due to the half can of almond paste in it.

I delivered my entries to the fairgrounds at about 10:15 a.m. and waited in line to enter them, and also waited for Molly Bloom from Minnesota Public Radio to come and talk to me.  I had answered an online request for comments about our favorite part of the fair and that led to a phone call from Molly asking about my canning ribbons.  Molly, bless her heart, spent 2-1/2 hours with me listening to me carry on about the fun I have at the fair and my annual angst about whether or not I will come home with any ribbons, blue or otherwise.  I swear to Alex, every time I win something I am as surprised as the next person!  Why?  Because the times that I've thought I had something pretty good going on, I've come up with bupkes.  That's why.

Molly (I presume it was she) did an outstanding job of editing our 2-1/2 hours together to three minutes that I think are excellent.  She had her tape recorder going while we were collecting my judged jars of jams, jellies, pickles, et cetera.  Check out the end result as it was broadcast on All Things Considered in the afternoon of opening day of the fair here, <http://minnesota.publicradio.org/display/web/2011/08/25/fair-hounds-barb-schaller/>

The entries were made. I collected my jars of canned goods, inspected them to see if I might glean a clue as to the judge's assessment of my product (I did), then came home and took a nap.  I had a couple of days of serious slacking off before the next round of fun began: Chris would be home late Tuesday night and Beck, Jamie, and Sam-I-Am would be down on Wednesday afternoon.  Yeay!!  I getta see my kids!!  I miss them all.  Now that Sam is active in so many sports we don't see them as much as we did in the years between her birth and her fourth birthday.  I cry for sad.


August 22, 2011

Late night and next day

I can report on two more canning entries and one that was Just Because.  The day before I delivered my canning entries I decided to not enter the pickle relish I made.  I decided instead to enter a combination jelly, a jelly made from two or more fresh fruits.  I still had a bunch of peaches and I do have a bunch of raspberries in my freezer, so it seemed like Peach Melba Jelly was in the offing.  It's good (not to mention beautiful) and I entered it but it may be too heavy on the raspberry flavor.  In 1994 and 1995 it won a big Gedney prize for being the best jam or jelly (I think that's what it was for) and it is what led to the Gedney folks marketing my Peach Melba Jam as part of their Award Winning State Fair Recipe line of preserves.  Yum! 

I smashed some peaches and nuked them, then poured them through a few layers of cheesecloth to strain out the solids.  Then I poured the juice through a coffee filter for even more clarity.  I did the same with the raspberries and collected enough juice for three half pint jars and two 4-ounce jars.

After draining the peaches, I had peach pulp left and just wasn't wanting to deal with it right then so I threw it in the blender and made it smooth, added some sugar, and stuck it in the fridge, thinking I might make peach butter or peach honey or peach something.  Did I mention that I still had peaches from that box?  Eleven of them to be precise.  Some were starting to go off so I blanched them, peeled and trimmed them and made a batch of Boozy Floozy© Fuzzy Navel Jam with some of them and used the rest in a batch of very fine Peach Barbecue Sauce.  The recipe is based loosely on Ball's Zesty Peach Barbecue Sauce but I made a bunch of changes, some of which were not measured.  Dang, it's good!



Hangin’ Out With the Tattooed Lady