Thanksgiving Redux

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Big plans were underway for this Thanksgiving post.  I was about to share a recipe and photos on how to make a very excellent pecan pie.  I am not quite ready to make it though, as Thanksgiving is about a week away.   I will make it next Wednesday and I’ll try to post right afterward.  If you want to bake this pie, have the following on hand:

  • 2 c. pecans
  • butter
  • brown sugar
  • vanilla
  • eggs
  • light corn syrup
  • a pie crust or ingredients to make your own

If you are a fan of pecan pie, you won’t want to miss this recipe.  I’ve tried my fair share of pecan pies and I have to say this one is worth making and probably better than any you can buy.  You will love it and so will everyone else who tries it.

In the meantime, my daughter has started playing ice hockey and about 30% of my life now revolves around hockey and hockey rinks, so I have a little less time on my hands.  In fact, I am preparing to head out of town for a hockey tournament this weekend.  As such, I am going to put a link to last year’s Thanksgiving related post concerning Cranberry Daiquiris as it was a popular one.

I’ll be back with that recipe soon!

http://www.lisabondphotography.com/blog/thanksgiving-refreshments-a-cranberry-daiquiri

Driving In Minnesota 101

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Hello potential Minnesota tourists!  Now that we’ve had our first significant snowfall of the season, it is safe to officially declare the beginning of winter.  As such, there might be a traveler or two out there who has Minnesota on their upcoming agenda and might be thinking, “I wonder what the driving is going to be like there?”

Wonder no more.  This blog will present you with the photos and a few well-chosen words to sum up driving during the four seasons.

First off, let’s set the record straight.  There are actually only two seasons in Minnesota: winter and summer.  Fall only lasts for a few weeks and we like to call it Indian Summer around here, as it occurs sometime in September or early October, long before any leaves have dropped and the pools probably still have water in them.  Yes, we really do have pools.  Every Minnesotan either has a lake or a pool.  It’s one of our residential rights.  Then we play hockey or skate on them in the winter.

The last few years, it’s been snowing in April and May, therefore, so much for Spring.  The mosquitos will be biting by the time the snow melts.  That means it’s officially summer.  Now for those pictures I promised.

Here’s what you can expect driving in Minnesota in the Summer:

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drivingblog13 You might be tempted to use that bathroom after you’ve been sitting in traffic for hours. Go right ahead, it’s no problem. Your car will still be there when you get out.

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As soon as the last barrel is picked up, the snow starts flying.  Here’s what you can expect in the Winter:

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drivingblog2 This will be one of the contributing factors to your lack of traction and control.

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Since you might be coming in Winter, it’s helpful to know about “White Knuckle” steering.  To keep with the times and at least appear hip, let’s hereinafter refer to it as WK.  It’s a simple procedure, you’ll be able to learn it quickly and it will come in handy right out of the rental car parking lot.

First of all, put your hands in the proper 10 and 2:00 position.  Never mind what your teen’s driving instructor (the paid one) is telling them about 8 and 4:00.  You won’t be able to achieve a proper WK doing that.  Get your hands at 10-and-2.  Now grip the steering wheel as tight and hard as you can, until your knuckles start to turn white.  It might take awhile for them to turn white, just keep hanging on.

There you go, now you’ve got it.  The reality is, you won’t have to practice WK much at all.  Once the car starts sliding out of control (what we in Minnesota like to affectionately refer to as “fish-tailing”  and it’s not something that happens in a boat) WK is an auto-reflex and your hands will immediately know what to do.  It doesn’t really help steer the car any better, but you will feel more in control knowing that you are hanging on as tight as you can.  If you see a patch of ice, do not, I repeat, do not hit the brakes. Engage the WK and start praying out loud as you “glide” across the ice.  Taking several deep breaths or breathing rapidly, whatever works for you, might help too.  When you come out the other side of it, a small celebration will be in order.

Well, there you go.  That’s about everything you’ll need to know about driving here.  If you come in the summer, the driving will go as slow as it does in the winter, oh I’d say around 10 mph, 20 if you’re lucky on account of all the cones and barrels and lane closures.  There’s a lot of road repair to be done here after the snowplowing and pot-hole formations (to be explained in a future blog).  The road crews do not waste a second getting right to work on fixing the winter damage and coming up with new projects.  The roads need to be rebuilt regularly after what they go through every year.  You’ll have plenty of time to find your way around going at that speed.  There might be some horns blaring and fingers flying.  Don’t be fooled by “Minnesota Nice” and misinterpret it for waving when you are driving.  We are one of the top states for Road Rage incidents, particularly in the summer.  You can probably see why just looking at the pictures.  There is much less road rage in the winter, probably on account of the WK we’re all doing.  It’s best to ignore it and fast forward to the end of the blog.

The moral of the story is: leave more time than you think to get there.  Double or triple the time it would take you to drive that distance in most other places.  If Mapquest tells you 20 minutes, make it 60.  You will impress everyone by being on time to your destination.

And on a final note, after all that driving, you deserve to relax.  You’re likely to see one of these along your route or many other alternatives.  We have  A LOT of liquor stores here, not like some other states.  Pull an immediate right or left and take care of business. You’ll thank me later!

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Voyaging Vittles

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In this part of the country, food trucks have become all the rage.  They are mobile dining experiences and travel around to different locations throughout the week.  I’ve tried them twice before.  The first time was when I read about a Lobster Roll truck, and trying/hoping to recreate a Lobster Roll experience I had at Red’s in Maine, I went down there.  It wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t Red’s.  Well, this is Minnesota after all and while we do have a lot of lakes, there aren’t any lobsters in them.  Perhaps my expectations were a bit high.

The second time I tried one was at my favorite outdoor market, the Mill City Farmer’s Market.  This truck was run by Chef Shack.  They create a lot of great food and one of their menu staples is the mini donut.  It’ll set you back $7, but they truly were some of the best and most memorable mini donuts I’ve ever had.

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I’ve heard about purported mass gatherings of food trucks here and there, but always forget to go…until last weekend.  I made it to an event that had 18 trucks in one spot.

©2014 Lisa Bond Photography

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The approach I took was to survey first, review their menus, then go back to whatever I had to try.  Well, that was the plan anyway.  Until I got to this truck, offering a Mango Fritter for $2.  That was how it began.  We had dessert first.

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Next was my daughter’s pick, the Empanada truck.  They had food that sounded safe for her (aka not spicy) to try: the Mac-N-Cheese and the Cheeseburger Empanadas.  They were good, but pretty bland for my taste.

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The place I wanted to go back was to Andrew Zimmern’s truck for the smashed potato running at $3.  A lot of these trucks will set you back $9 or $10, but I wanted to sample a few different things.   I was looking for some smaller portions so I wouldn’t get filled up on one dish.

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I could tell by their appearance these were gonna be good.  In fact, I am pretty sure they were the most amazing potatoes I’ve ever had in my life. They were creamy inside, crunchy skins, salty, garlicky, OMG can-I-get-another-order-of-these good.  I thought about going back, but I wanted to have room to try something else.  What I decided on was the Moral Omnivore truck.  Their menu had some very interesting things on it.

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I decided to go with the Curried Mushroom Fries since they won an award for something and I love anything with curry in it.

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They were good and unique.  Very fried and very mushroomy.  I don’t know if I’d buy them again, but if someone else did, I would probably sneak one or two of theirs.

I also decided to get the Beet Mac-n-cheese to bring home for one of my other kids who happens to like beets.  I sampled a few bites of it after they were done (they didn’t eat it all).  It was very interesting and good.  The red onions were a bit overpowering.  I liked the crunch they offered but I would have opted for a milder, maybe a green onion so it didn’t become the dominant flavor.

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What happened next can best be described as a post-Thanksgiving-dinner-like induced coma.  I felt intoxicated from eating too much and there was only going to be one cure: sleep.  I do not know how people sat in a beer tent and drank after, before or during that event, but they did.  Maybe it’s a timing thing that I haven’t yet figured out.  Something like: beer, food, break, beer, food, beer, food, sleep.  Too bad I live so far away and had to drive.  For those who live in the area and had the afternoon/evening off and could walk, it was a great plan for the day.

In the end, there was one thing I couldn’t forget.  Those potatoes.  In fact, I might have to track down that food truck one more time before the snow starts flying.

In the meantime, thanks for stopping by and I hope you have the pleasure to try a food truck someday.

Gummy Bear Pool Party Cake

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It’s birthday time over here and that means it is also cake making time. I am one of those people who prefer to make cakes at home.  One reason for that is I have a kid with peanut and nut allergies, and that is the only way I can be certain about ingredients and control any cross-contamination issues.  Secondly, I’ve never cared for the “crisco” types of frostings that come out of a lot of bakeries.  You know the kind where it sticks to the roof of your mouth and it has a greasy feeling like it will be around for awhile.  The frostings I make at home have butter, and cream cheese, and vanilla and powdered sugar so they taste better and when you swallow them that’s the end of the story, except for the calorie counting part of it.

I thought someone out there would enjoy watching this Gummy Bear Pool Party Cake being made.  I actually made this same cake last year.  My daughter and her birthday-mate/BFF asked for it after looking at pictures of last year’s cake, but I was secretly hoping I could mix it up a little.  I decided I would make a Gummy Bear Ocean Beachfront Party Cake and surprise them.  It was going to have a sailboat with gummy bears in it, and gummy bears on beach chairs and gummy sharks and umbrellas.  There were going to be waves and the sail was going to announce the birthday girls’ names and birth date.

I made the cakes in advance and I will admit that while I detest most bakery and store-bought frostings, I have made plenty of made-from-scratch cakes and in my opinion, the box cake mixes from the stores are just as good if not better than home cake mixes.  Not true for frosting, but very true for cake mixes.  For this party, I decided to make two boxes of cake mix, to be sure I have enough cake.  I made two 9×12 pans of chocolate cake, then sliced them both in half (horizontally) and frosted each layer, so that when they were put back together, the order went like this: cake, frosting, cake, frosting, cake, frosting, cake.

Please visit my website for more instructions and photos showing how this cake was made:

http://www.lisabondphotography.com/blog/gummy-bear-pool-party-cake

FAQS with Justin Hayward

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Justin Hayward is the celebrated singer-songwriter from The Moody Blues.  At some point, he became the frontman for the band, despite being a latecomer to an already existing group, probably because he is the main singer and lead guitar player. Or maybe it could be chalked up to his insightful and philosophically introspective reflections of life and love.  Maybe it was his melodic voice or skillful guitar playing.  Or maybe it was the long list of songs he has written over the years, this compilation credited to The Moody Blues’ website:

“Justin’s much-respected and comprehensive songwriting and recording career can be listed under various categories, as follows:

Compositions for The Moody Blues:
“Fly Me High”
“Leave This Man Alone”
“Cities”
“Tuesday Afternoon”
“Nights in White Satin”
“Voiced In The Sky”
“Visions of Paradise” (with Ray)
“The Actor”
“Lovely To See You”
“Never Comes the Day”
“Are You Sitting Comfortably?” (with ray)
“I Never Thought I’d Live To Be A Hundred”
“Gypsy”
“I Never Thought I’d Live To Be A Million”
“Watching and Waiting”
“What Am I Doing Here?”
“King and Queen”
“Long Summer Days”
“Question”
“It’s Up to You”
“Dawning Is The Day”
“Procession” (with the band)
“The Story In Your Eyes”
“You Can Never Go Home”
“New Horizons”
“You and Me” (with Graeme)
“The Land of Make Believe”
“Had to Fall in Love”
“Driftwood”
“Top Rank Suite”
“The Day We Meet Again”
“The Voice”
“Gemini Dream” (with John)
“In My World”
“Meanwhile”
“Blue World”
“Meet Me Halfway” (with John)
“It’s Cold Outside Of Your Heart”
“Running Water”
“Your Wildest Dreams”
“Talkin’, Talkin’” (with John)
“I Just Don’t Care”
“Running Out Of Love” (with John)
“The Other Side of Life”
“Slings and Arrows” (with John)
“I Know You’re Out There Somewhere”
“Want To Be With You” (with John)
“River of Endless Love” (with John)
“No More Lies”
“Vintage Wine”
“Breaking Point” (with John)
“Miracle” (with John)
“Deep”
“Say It With Love”
“Bless The Wings” (That Bring You Back)
“Is This Heaven?” (with John)
“Say What You Mean (Part 1 & 2)”
“Hope and Pray”
“Once Is Enough” (with John)
“Never Blame The rainbows For the Rain” (with Ray)
“Highway” (with John)
“English Sunset”
“Haunted”
“Sooner or Later (Walkin’ on Air)” (with John)
‘Foolish Love”
“All That is Real is You”
“Strange Times” (with John)
“The One” (with John)
“The Swallow”
“Water”
“We Can Fly”
“Don’t Need a Reindeer”
“Yes I Believe”
“December Snow”

A lot of those songs were written when he was in his late teens and early 20s, making this list even more amazing.

The discography is long and one can argue many songs would be the one to pick as his #1 Best.  A very strong candidate must surely be “Question”.   Written in April of 1970 when Justin was 24 years old, it hits all the notes musically, philosophically, in its complex arrangement, and melodically.  Here is a wonderful video from the 1970s, most likely one of the early performances of it:

Here is another great rendition, this time Justin is performing an acoustic version of it by himself.  Note how well he carries this on his own.  Never mind the complacent crowd, at least they seem to be somewhat roused by the end.  I wonder if some of them wanted to dance but felt they should just go along with the crowd and stayed seated.

And lastly, I sadly missed the Moody’s performance in late August here in Minnesota.  They played at the newly remodeled Northrup Auditorium but tickets were priced especially high and it just wasn’t in the cards for me right now.  Fortunately, someone videotaped it for our viewing pleasure and here is a brand spanking new version of it.

I have a feeling I will be talking about The Moody Blues or Justin Hayward again in the future.  I am a renewed-old fan of theirs, it actually all started about 25 years ago and involved a box of Suddenly Salad, shrimp impostors, a Magritte poster (“Golconda”), In Search Of The Lost Chord, and my friends Jes and Martha, so thanks a lot Jes, this is all your doing.  Actually, I really mean that, thanks Jes and thanks to The Moody Blues for reminding us still, after all these years, to think a little deeper and for raising more questions than answers.

Until next time, and I do hope they become more frequent, thanks for stopping by and I hope you are enjoying the beginning of the change to the fabulous colors of fall.

A Short Video from Via Lucis

Originally posted on Via Lucis Photography:

A couple of years ago, PJ and I made a few short videos from our photographs. This one features music from “Requiem for my Friend” by Zbigniew Preisner, including the astonishing “Lachrimosa.”

Note, this is best when viewed full screen.

View original

Ornaments for the National Christmas Tree

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Excitement is building in Minnesota this year as the U.S. Capitol Christmas tree will be coming from the Chippewa National Forest, located right here in our great state.  The tree has been chosen and it is 65 feet tall.  Along with the tree, our state will be donating 10,000 ornaments to help decorate it.  There are several contests running to encourage artists and citizens to create works of art to send along the way, and one of those is taking place at our wonderful State Fair.

The contest has some criteria to meet including the ornament has to be less than 12 inches tall, it must be 2 or 3 dimensional, and it has to weigh less than 1/2 pound.  It also has to include one of the following features from the state park logo: an eagle, Ojibwe floral bead work design, spruce or balsam fir tree, and/or elements of nature found in Minnesota such as lakes, rivers, or ecosystem.

I was able to convince my youngest daughter to design an ornament.  I also decided to do it with her since they had an adult as well as a youth category.  The prizes were substantial.  First place was awarded $100, 2nd $50 and 3rd $25.  Those are big prizes for the State Fair.  Most creative or educational ribbons only award $8 for first place so this was definitely worth putting some serious effort into.  Here is what we created.  My daughter’s is first (she wanted to wear her Christmas sweater for the photo).  Mine is second.

©2014 Lisa Bond Photography

©2014 Lisa Bond Photography

 

Please visit my website for more content on this blog, including photos of the other ornaments:

http://www.lisabondphotography.com/blog/ornaments-for-the-national-christmas-tree

A Summer Kaleidescope

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Many of summer’s good times at my house have revolved around my kids playing sports.  This year, I have especially enjoyed watching the 13-year-old boys steal bases.  When they started stealing a year or two ago, I can’t quite remember when it was, they were unsure of themselves, only running when the base coach told them to.  Now they are very comfortable with it and seem to enjoy taunting the pitcher, laughing and teasing, hopping back and forth between bases, just waiting for their chance to run.  By the time they get a little older, the fun of it seems to wear off and it becomes a lot more predictable.

Please visit my website for a video and more images:

http://www.lisabondphotography.com/blog/a-summer-kaleidescope

Thanks for stopping by!