Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Red Velvet Whoppie Pies + Life.

I cook because I love to cook and I love the happiness that coming together for a meal brings to people.  It brings them together and more often than not it brings smiles and laughing and pure joy.  Well, let's be honest, I'm pretty effing great in the kitchen too :)

I bake not because I love to bake but I bake because it cures my frustration with life.  It allows me to escape into a realm of myself that no one else can touch.

Sitting at my kitchen table, in my robe, slippers on, my hair pinned up and my glasses on....with George Strait playing in the background....I type. 

There is a relationship in my life that I struggle with on a weekly, sometimes daily basis.  It is a love-hate relationship that I have had since as far back as I can remember.  It is one which consumes my being at times and pushes me past limits of control I never knew I was capable of.

Sometimes I imagine what my life would be like if it was perfect.  Actually, scratch that, my life is as imperfectly perfect as it will ever be and I could not be more blessed.  I have these amazing people in my life that teach me each day what it is that makes life so beautiful.   I was at a gas station in Minneapolis on Saturday afternoon this past weekend with Scooter (the stunningly beautiful brunette that is my younger sister) and a man was counting pennies to pay for his coffee.  I first noticed his hands were chapped from the cold as he struggled to count the small amount of change he had.  Then I noticed his shoes, they were worn from walking and his clothing was torn from years of wear.  I took my time to pour the cup of coffee I was going to purchase with washer fluid for my car, which was waiting warm outside for me.  I walked next to the man and excused myself as I pulled a lid for my cup and whispered to him asking if he had enough.  He smiled at me politely only to say "I do thank you so much".  As I walked away, my heart hurt and tears began to flood my eyes.  When it was my turn to pay, standing there in my Burberry scarf, red wool jacket, black Sperry boots and Gucci handbag, I asked the woman if she would take my money and pay for the gentleman's coffee.  She paused and said yes.  As I left the gas station, Scooter asked if I had done that because I felt bad about being crabby earlier that morning.  I looked at her and for only a moment paused to say "no, I did that because he needed that more than I did".  I realized as I was standing outside freezing to put washer fluid in my vehicle, this man in worn clothing with his chapped hands was God.

There are moments, maybe one each second, in life that we are given an opportunity to see God but pass by because we are busy or too afraid to look.  I realize, as each year passes in my life, that I have been given so much because it is maybe my destiny to share it and to pass it on to those who need it more and to be the difference I wish to see in the world.

How does this all tie into homemade Red Velvet Whoppie Pies you ask, well, let me tell you....

In this modern day Princess's life, perfection is overrated.  My first batch of these little guys burned.  It was sad.  The second batch was too large and they looked awful....oh but they tasted so incredible.  The third time was a charm, I adjusted the temperature setting on my oven, made the dough a bit smaller of a portion on the pan and perfecto.....they were beautifully misshaped and goregous.  It is not the beautiful looking things in life that have the most incredible filling.  It is often those things that we overlook because of imperfections that are filled with life's best.

Red Velvet Whoppie Pies

  • 2 cups flour
  • 2 TBSP cocoa powder (unsweetened)
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup butter softened (the real stuff please)
  • 1 cup brown sugar (packed)
  • 1 egg (large)
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk (at room temperature)
  • 1 TBSP red food coloring
  • 1 recipe Whoppie Pie Filling (see below)
What next?
  1. Combine flour, cocoa powder, baking soda and salt. Set aside.
  2. Beat butter until fluffy, beat in brown sugar and mix until light + fluffy.
  3. Add the flour mixture and buttermilk in small amounts until combine. Do not overmix.
  4. Add food coloring (hence "red velvet")
  5. Spoon your batter, in small amounts (y'all should fit at least 16 small spoonfuls onto a baking sheet) onto a wax paper lined baking sheet.
  6. Place into a 360 degree, preheated, oven for 5-6 minutes.  Touch the top to ensure they are done and DO NOT OVER COOK.  No one lines a burned whoppie pie! 
  7. Finish all your batter and cool them, completely, on wire racks.  Be patient my mama would say.
  8. Make your whoppie pie filling:  beat 1/4 cup softened butter, 1/2 of an 8 ounce (I used the full 8 ounces) softened cream cheese until smooth.  Fold in one 7 ounce jar of marshmallow creme.
  9. Place a dollop (or more if y'all like lots of fillin') on the bottom side of one pie and place another on the top....making a sandwich.  And yes, you can find a picture if it helps!

I encourage y'all to go out and do something for someone to make them smile.  Not because it makes you feel good but because it will make them feel good.  Life is too short to not try.

Lots of love from a snowy and cold Minnesota,

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Cream Corn Casserole

My grandma makes the most insane Cream Corn Casserole known to man.

I know most of y'all are saying "woah woah woah....hold your horses little princess just what makes her casserole so great?" Well, it again isn't the basic 3 ingredients that go into this but it is the life lesson she intends on giving me each time we make this casserole together.  The little ways she always hints that my bottom is nice and round and "have I been eating enough or too much" and the little ways she always hints that she isn't going to be around for so much longer and she would sure love to come to my house, meet my husband and buy my little girls dresses before she dies and the BEST life lesson "do not push the crackers so hard into the bottom of the casserole or you'll never get them out....didn't I teach you anything?!"

WE usually end up giggling because I look at her, bat my blue eyes, pout my lip and say "but Grandma I am trying so harrrrdddd to do it just perfect like you!".  She walks away laughing or pushes me to the side and says "here let Grandma show you" just like she did when I was a little princess in her kitchen and pats my bottom as she goes.

SHE has this unique ability to make cooking simple.  And life too.  She is a no bullshit lady and rules our kingdom with diamonds and great shoes (I hope y'all are shaking your heads in understanding of why I am the way I am).  The woman could make the Queen of England shush with one look.

CASSEROLE is like the bible in our family.  No family function is complete without it....sort of like Church on Sunday. Cream Corn Casserole is a tradition at almost every family meal and without it at least someone asks where it is and why Grandma didn't make it this time.  The recipe is so simple....I think anyone could make it but there is a particular type of pan (color and all) that all generations of my family make it in (that's the secret I keep telling myself)....and over-the-top delicious.

Grandma Shirley's Cream Corn Casserole

6 cans cream-style corn
4 sleeves of saltine crackers (finely crushed)
4 sticks unsalted butter (the real stuff please)

  1. Get your casserole dish out!
  2. In a gallon size ziplock bag, finely crush one (1) sleeve of crackers (I use the can to do the crushing instead of a rolling pin just to limit the amount of "things" I have out at any given time).  Be sure to flip the bag over a few times to ensure all the crackers are crushed.
  3. In a microwave safe container, melt one (1) stick of butter.
  4. In a bowl, mix the melted butter and crushed crackers with a fork until all crackers look saturated in butter (love cooking with butter).
  5. Spoon the mixture into the bottom of your casserole dish.  DO NOT press in firmly like you would with a graham cracker pie crust.  Simply ensure the mixture covers the bottom of your dish.
  6. Open 2 containers of cream-style corn and pour over the top of the cracker layer.
  7. Repeat this process until you have come to the last layer (which will be the top) of your casserole.
  8. Put a lid on the dish and place into a 350 pre-heated oven.  Bake for 45 minutes, or until the edges of your top layer are bubbling with delight and the top is lightly browned.  
  9. Remove from the oven, let cook for a bit and serve!
The kicker behind this mouthwatering goodness is that y'all can do as many or as few layers as your heart desires.  Grandma says I use "one too many" but I feel the more ooey goodness the better and if I am going to eat this many calories I may as well REALLY eat!  

SO enjoy, don't let Grandma's recipe intimidate and if ever crossing her path....she loves being told her dishes are incredible.  BUT then again don't all women love being complimented?

XOXO (from a very cold Minnesota),

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Say Cheese.

I LOVE being in front of the camera.  Really love....almost as much as I love coffee in bed on Saturday mornings.

I HAVE a Bucket List.  Y'all have to be familiar with it and someday there will be a post dedicated specifically to that (we have to get to know each other a wee bit first).  My 'Bucket List' consists of a few things I have crossed off (sorry mama, I know you are not the most proud of a few) and a few yet to be crossed off.  Relevance you ask?  Well, a Boudoir Session is on that list.  A for-my-eyes-only and maybe-for-my-Prince-Charming session will take place this January courtesy of one of my new favorite photographers, Cadence Cornelius

I BELIEVE the female body is an amazing thing.  We come in all shapes and sizes and colors.  We grow babies!  What is more amazing than that fact itself.  Society tells us all too often that we need to be smaller, prettier, taller, blah, blah, blah....I say rejoice in those curves.  Stand up in front of the world and love your body you gorgeous thing! 

Oh and PS:  you will not be seeing those photos.

XOXO (all the way from Minnesota),

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Tis the Season.

I love the Holiday Season.  No I mean I reallyfreakinglove the Holiday Season.  I love everything that goes into it, cooking, baking, gift-giving, snow, shopping, decorating.  Most importantly I love getting to spend the time with my family. 

As a little girl, we celebrated in mass amounts.  I.E. ALL of my family would gather at Grandma's for a huge dinner followed by dishes and presents and sleepy little ones waiting for Santa.  As the years have passed and family has moved, children have grown, we have begun our own traditions.  It makes me sad and happy all at the same time to think back to the days that dinners consisted of 20+ people and my cousins and I would fight over who actually had to help Grandma dry the dishes (ewwww ish)....Grandpa would fall asleep on the chair and before long we were swimming in a sea of wrapping paper in front of the fire. 

This year will mark the 3rd year of new family traditions at my mama's house.  Although there are no grandbabies (yet) we still manage to fill the floor with wrapping paper and fight over who does dishes (for some reason each year I get stuck with the final dish duties).  The meal is prepared (by me) with much well maybe just a little supervision from my mama (usually consisting of "mooooommmmmmmm how much more does the turkey really need to stay in the oven for" or "ohhhhhh my goodness I freakinglovemycookingskills aren't you so glad your daughter can cook").  I am such a sucker for traditions and always end up on the phone with my Grandmother asking, like I did the year before, how many white onions she puts in the stuffing if the bird is X pounds and is it okay to use a certain brand of cream corn for the casserole and "but Grandma what if it gets too brown on top?". 

The house will be filled to the brim this year with 15+ guests and guess what....this young lady could not be more pleased!  I spend the entire month of December planning out the meal.  Obsessive? Nawwww.  I'm just a girl who loves getting lost in the sheer joy of cooking and entertaining.  I love the simple elegance of putting so much work into something and knowing that for just a moment, one night of the year, I can sit back and watch as what I did is thoroughly enjoyed. 

Someday, when I have a big home of my own, these traditions will carry themselves out there.  I thank God every day that I have been so blessed with the ability to appreciate what it is my Great-Grandma, Grandma, Mama and Aunts have passed down.  I am absolutely a woman that loves the kitchen.....

XOXO (all the way from Minnesota),

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

So This Is Love.

This past weekend we celebrated my cousin Cassie Marie's marriage to Kasey.  It was beautiful. The weekend started off with rehearsal and a very laid back pizza, nachos and beer Groom's Dinner.  The next morning at 6:00 am, my aunties and the bridesmaids took off to the reception area (a gorgeous golf course) and began the transformation of the reception Cassie wanted.   We left and began hair + makeup (imagine 2 hotel rooms filled with ladies + makeup + hairspray).  The ceremony was incredible and the dinner + dance were romantic.  

My mama, sisters and me. They light up my life.

My Grandma, my mama and my sisters.  Three generations of beautiful Paul women.

My Grandma and her five daughters.  They are each as individual and beautiful as can be.  From the left is my mom.  She, obviously, has three daughters.  Next is my Aunt Karen, married to a wonderful man (who looks exactly like George Strait and was also my co-host for Cassie's wedding) with two incredible boys.  My Grandma follows.  My Aunt Sue is married to a wonderful man as well (he told me about the night he met her this past weekend.  Uncle Bill was planning a year long trip away and he met Aunt Sue and fell so madly in love he stayed - they were married shortly thereafter....so romantic) with two boys and one grandson with another on the way!  Next is Aunt Mary, married to the love of her life and a great man.  They have three daughters (now all of them are married!) and one son.  They have one grandson and another on the way!  Aunt Jan is married to an amazing man that loves her to the moon and back.  They have two children and one granddaughter. 

This is my entire Paul family.  Not pictured is my Uncle John who passed away earlier this year - we miss him so much.  My Uncle Steve could not make it to this wedding, thus he is not in the photo either.
All together my Grandma and Grandpa had 10 children (5 boys and 5 girls).  We have such an incredible family and are so blessed. 

Lane and I killed much time before the wedding.  We learned the ways of 80's toys.

My sisters and I love Lane.  

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Dream Big.

Cinderella sang "a dream is a wish your heart makes..." and no offense Cinderella but the modern day Princess lets not only her heart do the dreaming but also her head.  In this modern day fairy tale I call life, my Princess-self believes that dreaming is the frosting of life. And I am a girl who enjoys licking the spoon after frosting.

As a young girl I was a dreamer.  I would imagine that my bossy little blonde self was quite the storyteller from an early age.  Even now, when an idea enters my mind, there is not a part of me which believes I cannot make it happen.  Weird?  I used to think perhaps I did live in a fantasy world.....that someday I would have to accept reality and deal with what life had in store for me:  dreaming while living a boring life.  Let me clarify that I do not think boring is boring.  To each their own.  Any my own is firecracker-ending phenomenal.

When I became a part of Peppermint Park it was as if the dreamer inside of me was let out to create her dreams.  To live them.  I was given the opportunity to embrace all that I am capable of - because someone believed in me enough to make me believe in myself.  My boss, mentor and one of my best friends pulled out of me the dreamer.  I was given a picture, paintbrush and enough paint to create a masterpiece.  Although there are times my paint runs low, she is always there to fill it up again with new colors.  We have embraced "living the dream" to the fullest and with that Peppermint Park has grown.

If I could give one piece of advice to my generation and generations to come and generations that have passed, it would be to never lose site of your dreams.  We live in a world where anything is possible.  Absolutely anything.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Dear Santa.

For this modern day Princess, Christmas Day is one for the history books....as in 'Best Mother Ever' award goes to none other than my mama.  My sisters and I have always spent Christmas Eve snuggled up on the living room floor next to the Christmas tree with hopes that we would wake up to catch Santa bringing our presents.  Now never have we caught him but my mama and daddy did make Christmas morning exceptionally special for us....

I remember the year that Santa left snow tracks in the living room or the question which kept lingering in this very intelligent little blonde's mind:  how does Santa go down the chimney without a chimney.  My mama reassured us that it was magic and you just have to believe.

When I was very little (and as pictured right here), Grandma would buy each of us a new Christmas nightgown to go home in.  We were usually very sleepy little ones by the time we were carried to warm, waiting vehicles by our daddy's and tucked into bed only to say "but mommy, I want to see Santa...is he here yet?".  

Each year Santa leaves a ridiculous trail of crumbs and always spills his milk.....and each year my sisters and I stand around the note that Santa leaves us to chuckle at how messy he is.

To my mother:  thank you for instilling the magic of Christmas in our home each and every year.  You have taught us to just believe and with that what it really means to make the "Nice List".  It is not the receiving that we have turned out to love after all these years but it is the giving.  It is the begging to let us let you open the gifts we so carefully wrapped.  It is the sitting around a dinner table, saying a blessing and laughing during an amazing meal.  It is the "mama where is MY STOCKING" and you laughing to say that my sisters must have hid it last year.  It is the spending an entire day decorating your house with Christmas Cheer....only to watch it transform into something right out of my favorite fairy tale.  It is the calling all our our Aunties and Uncles on Christmas Eve to say "Merry Christmas and we love you so much" and how excited we get to finish eating so we can give our presents.  It is the bowing of our heads to give thanks to the Lord and all that we have been blessed with.  It is the way we open at least one of our presents in order and then just laugh at you when you tell us "wait GIRLS....ONE AT A TIME".  It is the watching wrapping paper pile up on the living room floor and the tears which fall when we talk about how much we miss Grandpa or how badly we wish that everyone had somewhere to call home on Christmas Eve.  It is your three daughters asking you if everyone has a mama who loves them just as much as you love us.  It is the unimaginable amount of love for others that each of us has within us that you instilled.  I love you for so much but Christmas is the cherry which tops the cake I call life.  I can only hope that someday I will be as wonderful of a mother as you are to children as wonderful as you have raised us to be. 

Here is to the joy of Christmas and hoping that all each of you has a wonderful family to make memories with.  And if not, you are always welcome to join mine :)

All my love (from a very cold Minnesota),

Monday, November 15, 2010

Who is This Modern Day Princess?

Although words describe, pictures do such a better job, don't you think?  Each time I look through my photo albums I follow the journey of my life.  I remember the moments.  It brings a smile to my face. I hope that I can share some of my joy with you.  

I am an artist.

I love to learn.

I am an exceptional hostess.

I am a mama's girl.

I am a reader.

I am in love with the beach.

I am a leader.

I am such a girl.

I am a teacher.

I am a daughter.

I am a big sister.

I am a future wife and mother. Clearly domesticated (thanks mom) with exceptional ironing skill.

I am not the wild child.

I am absolutely in love with my sisters.

The Music of My Heart.

It began with ballet lessons.  It led to piano lessons, voice lessons and the saxophone.  It ended singing from the choir loft for my grandpa.  I remember the last song I sang solo.  The lyrics flow from my mouth like sun rays on a clear summer morning.  The melody comes back to me as easily as ironing a shirt. The song is sweet and holds a very dear place deep within me.  

Grandpa called it my "one one" and I remember leaving my ballet recitals saying "no Grandpa it isn't a one one it is a TU TU".  He would laugh and then squeeze me so hard while I giggled out of control.  I know now why he would hug so hard....so that we would not forget what Grandpa's hugs felt like.  Oh I loved him so much. Loving your Grandpa is one of those unique loves.  It isn't like loving a mama or a daddy.  It isn't the same as loving a sister unconditionally.  It is as pure as the day is long.  Loving someone that much because they love you that much more.  It is a Sunday afternoon brunch and sitting by the campfire kind of love.

I remember my Grandpa being a hard worker.  He was tough and his hands were those of a man who had worked.  He was gentle with his 27 grandchildren and he loved my Grandma.  I loved going to work with him.  I would sit in his big comfy red office chair with a note pad and a pen.  Grandpa was an auctioneer for quite some time (among many professions he held) and I loved the weekends I would get to watch him work and every once in a while I would get to help.  I remember how proud I was to call him Grandpa in front of a crowd and how big I felt to help him.

When he got sick, I remember watching him slowly leave his body.  On a very special night before he passed away, I was able to spend time alone with him.  He had not been able to communicate in quite some time and would lay in bed without expression.  On this night, I sat next to him in his bed and he was staring up into the ceiling as if looking down the road to Heaven.  I held his hand and as tears fell from my eyes I asked "Grandpa are you scared?".  He turned to me and only for a moment the ends of his mouth curved to form a smile and he shook his head no and squeezed my hand.  As I lay next to him for quite some time, I cried.  It was a moment I will never forget.  He passed away very shortly after this night.

Grandpa never missed a recital that I played piano in and loved to listen to me sing.  As our family planned his funeral, my Grandma came to me and told me that Grandpa would have wanted me to sing at his funeral.  To this day, I have never been more honored.  The day came and as I stood in the choir loft watching my family follow his casket into St. Michael's Church, the lyrics and melody came together in sweet sound as I sang "Be Not Afraid".

It is said that we each have our own music which our heart beats to.  Each time I am scared of what the future might hold I remember the last day I sang and the lyrics come back to me....just like he would have told me, be not afraid.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Grandma's Caramel Rolls + A Broken Heart

There are a few things that will make me smile regardless of what the world has handed me.  These include the following:
  1. Saturday morning coffee in bed.  Normally I would say this includes the coffee being brought by the man I am in love with but for this modern day Princess, I have yet to encounter that one. 
  2. Flowers.  Regardless of whether they are picked from a garden, delivered from an order in Atlanta, GA or drawn with a crayon - my face lights up. 
  3. Grandma Monica's caramel rolls.  
Grandma Monica passed away quite some time ago.  What I remember most about her is the way her house would smell after Church on Sunday mornings, like fresh caramel rolls.  She would bake them in little 9-inch round cake pans, flip them onto a plate and served them to my little sister and I on small white dessert plates and her miniature silver forks.  The caramel was incredible, the texture of the roll was perfection and one bite would melt in your mouth upon contact.

This recipe has been passed on to my Grandma Shirley and as of early this week, me.  I associated her caramel rolls with a broken heart because there isn't much that can be done to cure a heart which has been broken.  But as I woke up this morning to the thought of how bad my heart hurts and as tears fell, the one thing that came to mind was Sunday morning at Grandma Monica's house....eating a caramel roll....and the way that my Grandma Shirley's house smells when she makes this recipe.  It never fails, on Thanksgiving morning, I wake up at 6:15-6:30 to a house that smells so insanely divine I cannot help but crawl out of a warm bed and up to the kitchen to eat caramel rolls with Grandma.

There are so many moments of pure joy in my life and I have truly been a blessed young lady but nothing compares to the before-sunrise moments in my Grandma's kitchen when it is just her and I and caramel rolls.  Grandma sits at the same spot and I across from her:  two forks, two dessert plates (although sometimes paper plates), one container of butter and a two warm caramel rolls. 

Oh.....and coffee :)

Happy Friday (all the way from Minnesota),

Sunday, October 24, 2010

A New Southern Love.

As most of you know, my best friend in Georgia gave birth to Baby Jake this week.  A very healthy 8 pounds 3 ounces, this little man has a head full of dark hair and pink cheeks.  I am so excited to meet him the first weekend in November.

Officially, this is his first blog mention.  At not quite a week old, he is doing pretty well!  My first time as "Aunt Danika" and I could not be more excited.

And yes, I fully intend on spoiling this handsome little guy (it has already begun). Pictures to come, I promise :)

XOXO (all the way from Minnesota),

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Faith. Hope. Courage. Love.

My baby sister began her freshman year of college this September.

If you've met my sisters, I would not have to tell you that they each encompass a little bit of who I am and a lot of our mother, including her warm heart.  Katy (Scooter, as nicknamed by our Auntie Karen due to her ability to scoot rather than crawl), at the age of 22, is blissful beyond her years.  She has my sense of compassion. Hannah (Buns, as nicknamed by me due to her cute little bottom), at the age of 18, is intelligent beyond her means.  She has my stubborn ways and strong drive for perfection.  Both of them are incredible young women.  At the end of the day, before I fall asleep, I know the world is a better place because each of them exists and if they had nothing but the shirts on their back, they would give those up to someone in need.

 Tonight my focus is Buns.

This week marked her first official big life decision.  As a homesick freshman, this little Princess was not sure if her choice of college was right nor if she even knew where right was for her. Needless to say, by tonight, I assure you that she has reassured herself that she indeed did make the right decision.  Thankfully, she is staying!

During my conversations with her, I was reminded of four very important parts of life:  faith, hope, courage and love.  I hope that someday, she will remember the first grown up conversation we had about life and she will remember these things:
  • Faith.  Always remember to have faith in yourself and God.  No matter where your road of life may lead you, having faith in your ability to adapt and grow and learn will keep you traveling all the years of your life.  
  • Hope.  Never ever, under any circumstances, give up hope.  Not for anyone.  Not because anyone tells you to.  Not for any reason at all.  Hope is an ocean, sometimes we just have to adjust the sails.
  • Courage.  Courage comes in many different forms.  If you ever feel that you have lost your courage, remember I am here to stand behind you.  Never shall you walk alone in the dark.  
  • Love.  Love is the cure all for life.  It is the spoonful of sugar.  It is what gives the world such vibrant color.  The beat of a heart that loves is the most beautiful sound.  Watching a heartbeat manifest itself on the world is a masterpiece.  Use your paintbrush to create your own for this is truly how the world will remember you.
Life is what you make of it.  Live your dreams.  Never let anyone tell you that your dream world is different from reality. Fall in love. Cry. Let your heart break, heal and then break again. Be proud of who you are.  Although where you came from does not define the person you are, it is a part of you.  Embrace change. Love growing older and wiser. Listen to what your older sister says because 10 years down the road you will understand that she was right. Just love being you and never, ever, forget how proud I am to be your big sister.


P.S. Remember that more candles on your birthday cake means saving on electricity for like 1-2 minutes each year.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

My 10 Favorite Things About Me.

Every time I spend an afternoon with my mother (usually when we are shopping) I find something out about the world that makes me more happy with life.  Today, I discovered a collection of cookbooks at a thrift store.  I had a moment of utter and complete bliss and as I told my mother I could not leave without the cookbooks because someday in the house I intend on making a home, there will be a large walk-in pantry with two walls of bookshelves filled with cookbooks, (nevermind that her response was "well honey, you can't have that many cookbooks" to which I of course responded "oh yes I can") I realized that I may just be the most unique young woman I have ever met and I kind of like being her.

We are constantly trying to improve ourselves, to somehow change and make ourselves better, which I happen to think is wonderful.  But today, I am taking a moment to remind myself of the things I love the most about being me.  Here we go....
  1. My soul. It is what defines who I am.
  2. My family. They have helped to shape who I am. 
  3. Being the young lady that loves being in a dress, pearls and a great pair of heels. 
  4. My ambition and drive.  There is nothing I cannot do.  Peppermintpark.com has taught me to embrace this about myself. 
  5. My imagination and ability to dream.  Thank goodness my mother instilled in me the determination to chase after my dreams and to follow my imagination.
  6. Hallmark commercials and romantic movies make me cry. 
  7. Being the girl that loves having her hand held.  
  8. My morals and values. 
  9. I am not afraid to scuff my heels, get dirt on my dress or spill my coffee.  Life is full of oops, laugh, learn from it and just go with it. 
  10. My love of the kitchen. As I sit here and type, there is an edition of Southern Living sitting next to me with the recipes section open....
Take a moment, a step back from self doubt and being your own worst critic.  Look in the mirror and love what you see. 

XOXO (all the way from Minnesota),

Prince Charming + Cinderella

Prince Charming never gave up on Cinderella, even though the odds were stacked against them after midnight.  Cinderella was one smart young lady, she followed the rules and let fate take the reigns.  Prince Charming and his determined self knew that somewhere in the kingdom his heart's match was dreaming of the day he found her.  The Fairy Godmother was right when she told Cinderella that anything was possible. 

There are times in life when we come across people that change us, who we are - they change our very being by finding a place within us. I don't mean in a sense of opening a door or letting you cut in line at the grocery store because you are in a hurry.  These people come in, open us up to new ideas and emotions, sometimes they stay and sometimes they leave.  They are the occasional soul mate to a certain period of our lives.  We love them, we lose them and we move on as better individuals knowing that the world is full of really great people or in this modern day Cinderella's case...Prince Charming.

As I write (or rewrite) this post, there is a certain someone in the back of my mind.  The most rare encounter I have experienced brought him into my life.  His character, very big heart, stubborn ways, gentle and ever so loving approach to life found this young man a place in my heart.  He instilled in me a belief that Prince Charming does exist and I will never forget him.  The woman who gets to spend the rest of her life with him is a very lucky woman.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Breaking Grandmother's Dishes

Once upon a time in the kitchen of a North Dakota farm house two little girls, one blonde and one red head, stood helping Grandmother dry and put away dishes.  "Be careful," their Grandmother would say, "to not fall or break a dish".  These Princesses-in-waiting knew all too well that following directions perfectly was the only option.  On this specific occasion, the little blonde broke a dish.  She looked at the little red head with tears in her eyes, "what should we do?"  The little girls decided to put the dish back, quietly, in the hopes that their Grandmother would not find the dish until they had gone home....or ever.

Needless to say, for these still Princesses-in-waiting, Grandma caught us and after she was done scolding, we were given one piece of advice:  Just because you shut a broken dish back into the cupboard it does not mean the dish did not break  You will have to face it sooner or later. So tell the truth, accept the punishment and move on.

In this modern day fairy tale, my ability to lie about broken dishes went away at age five.  One can read my face like an open book and truth be told I could not be happier. I say what I mean, even if it comes with conflict and although I would rather keep my mouth closed than hurt someone's feelings I have learned the graceful art of dancing around something someone may not want to hear.  Being a lady is not always easy.  Boys get away with it because, well, they are boys and they just don't know better (as my Momma reads this I can hear her saying, "oh but your little boys will know better" - which yes, they will).

Ladies, always remember that a pretty face is not a free card through life.  Being nice, genuine and honest will take you farther in life than you could ever imagine. My two amazing Grandmothers have not only taught me patience and given me the ability to cook a phenomenal meal but also a few important rules that I have come to live by at age 26:
  1. Never be afraid to say "hello" first.  You never know how much your smile and kind words will mean to someone.  Even a stranger.
  2. If what you have to say is not so nice but you need to say it, always remember to follow it with a compliment.
  3. The fastest way to a man's heart is with a compliment and telling him you like his shoes might just be the words he needed to hear to put a smile on that handsome face.  Coincidentally, the fastest way to a woman's heart is the same way.
  4. Always say "I love you".  These three words mean so much to those you actually do love and are three words not spoken nearly enough.  I love you. 
  5. Do not, under any circumstances, lie about breaking your Grandmother's dishes.  She is the one woman in your life who will always have authority to scold you, no matter how old you get. My Grandma still scolds me (even though I am the favorite granddaughter :)
  6. Be nice.  It is not hard.   
  7. Put some color on those kissers, suck in and stand up straight.
  8. Do not, under any circumstances let your mother set you up on a date (sorry Mom). 
  9. You are fabulous.  DO NOT ever let anyone tell you otherwise. 
  10. You are never too old to need your Mom or your Grandma.
  11. Call your Grandma.  I guarantee she is one person that will absolutely love to hear your voice more often.
Last Christmas, while setting the table for dinner in my Grandmother's dining room,  I broke another dish.  Not just "any dish".  I broke one of the dinner plates to a set (a set I someday want to serve my Christmas dinners on) of her favorite Christmas dishes.  She was in the kitchen.  All that came out of my mouth was "uh oh" (I held back the profanity I was wanting to throw out) and in the dining room she was, standing behind me with a dish towel in hand.  All that came out of her mouth was "did you break it?".  Tears almost came out of my eyes in that exact moment.  This was not just a plate, this was three generations of Christmas dinners served, this was that little blonde girl in her Christmas dress begging "Grandma please please may we eat with the Christmas dishes".  I found the plate, after harassing Macy's corporate headquarters for two months pleading and begging for just one dish to a set which was made way back when it was Dayton's.  We laugh about this day now...her laugh is one thing I will forever remember. 

This grown up little blonde girl learned one more thing from her Grandmother, "no" is not a word in my dictionary...simply a modified version of the word "yes". 

XOXO (from the little blonde dish-breaking girl),

Friday, September 24, 2010

Ability + Desire and Food.

Lack of skill didn't stop Cinderella from finding Prince Charming.

This modern day Princess believes that lack of ability never overpowers desire.  My modern day fairy tale is written by me and I believe that it takes no magic wand, spell or falling in love before midnight to master the kitchen.

Being a great cook doesn't entail baking from scratch or even being able to read a cookbook.  Some of the greatest chefs known to the world started with one thing:  desire.  Now let's face it, some of us just don't know that mixing flour with water will make a mushy paste or that sprinkling sliced apples with cinnamon + nutmeg + sugar and baking for 20 minutes will not only fill your whole house with mouth-watering aromas but also top vanilla ice cream with complete perfection. But, that doesn't mean Mac 'n' Cheese from a box cannot be gourmet and when made in the right setting with the perfect amount of sliced hot dogs mixed in....no tummy is able to tell it wasn't homemade.  This modern day Cinderella believes that where there is a will, there is a way. 

In honor of my favorite male season, football, I am giving out my secret to the most requested (and I stress most) recipes I know:

Crockpot Queso
  • 1 package of Velveeta Cheese
  • 1 can of Rotel Tomatoes (whichever flavor floats your boat)
  • 1 small package of hamburger (or mild Italian sausage) browned and drained
  • 1 8 ounce package of cream cheese
  • 1 small jar of black bean salsa
  1. Put all ingredients into a crockpot and cook on high.
  2. Stir occasionally until melted and mixed.
  3. Serve with your favorite tortilla chips.
  4. Eat. Love and refrigerate your leftovers for late night snacking...
Be amazed and take full credit for this good-enough-to-eat-with-a-spoon piece of football watching heaven.  Even Prince Charming would push back slipping that glass slipper onto Cinderella's foot for a moment to taste.  

More to come....

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Popovers + Patience

My Grandmother is the queen of making popovers and coincidentally after ten beautiful children she is most certainly the most patient woman I have had the pleasure of being around.  She has the ability to walk into a room and command the attention of every person without uttering a word. She is the definition of a true lady.  I get my sense of style from her and recently two hand-me-down dresses from the weddings of two of her children.  Her inner beauty glows so bright and each word she speaks is kind and gentle.  Our phone calls revolve around "Grandma remember when" or "tell me Danika, has Prince Charming found you" or "oh I miss you so much". 

She and I share a love for many things, among those are wearing dresses, hosting dinner parties, dancing and her popover recipe.  If you have never had a popover consider yourself to be missing out on one of the most simple food pleasures available.  These little pieces of mouth heaven are a staple for every meal at Dangerfield's (another one of the loves my Grandmother and I share) and one of the most requested at any dinner with my family (most often my Momma).

Although simple and few ingredients go into creating a popover, the time it takes to prepare and bake these little creations is extensive.  Popovers require patience.  If my Momma could give my future Prince Charming one piece of advice she would say "have patience please".

Simple Popovers
  • 1 cup flour (I love using Wondra)
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 3 eggs at room temperature (you can roll your eggs in warmer water 3-4 times if you do not have time to let them sit)
  • 1 cup of milk at room temperature
  • 1 Tbsp unsalted butter, melted
  • 1-2 Tbsp chilled butter diced into pieces
  • 1/4 tsp sugar
  1. Pre-heat the oven to 450. 
  2. Spray your popover pan with nonstick butter (Pam or use shortening inside the cups)
  3. Place pan in center rack of oven and heat for 2 minutes.
  4. Blend flour, salt, milk, butter, eggs + sugar for 1-2 minutes until all ingredients are blended.  Use a hand mixer (my Grandmother swears it makes a difference) until your batter is resembling a heavy cream.
  5. Place diced butter into popover cups and fill the cups with batter evenly. 
  6. Sprinkle top of batter with sugar (just a little bit) or cinnamon or both if you are feeling it! 
  7. Bake for 20 minutes at 450.  Reduce heat to 350 and bake for another 13-15 minutes.
  8. DO NOT under any circumstances open the oven - these little guys fill with steam to make them pop.  Thus the "popover" effect.
Your popovers will deflate so I recommend serving them straight out of your oven.  Throw into a basket with a colorful napkin or dishtowel and presto...you have perfection.  Get daring and mix up room temperature butter with honey (measure to taste) or use your favorite jam to spread!  

One of the most beautiful things about cooking is the patience it teaches you.  The older I get and the more life I am able to live, I begin to appreciate things such as patience and reliability and the ability of another person to be truly genuine and giving.  My Grandmother has instilled in me this phenomenal ability to find and appreciate these things in other people. 

If only I am able to age as beautifully as she has...

XOXO (all the way from Minnesota),

Monday, September 20, 2010

Perfect Pie Crust + Dating

It always begins as a fairy tale:  Cinderella meets a perfect pie recipe.

In the kitchen of fairy tales, this modern day Cinderella occasionally lends her hand to a second date.  The fairy Godmother simply shakes her head and states, "but my Dear, how is it you will find Prince Charming and live happily ever after?"  Fairy Godmother, this Princess-in-waiting has news for you, Prince Charming will find me (for my Mother's sanity, let's hope).  After all, is it not the being found which led Cinderella to happily ever after? 

The idea of finding the "perfect date" or let alone a perfectly charming yet imperfectly perfect match to my imperfect self is daunting.  It is the idea which most often keeps me awake at night.  Will he find me?  For this modern day Cinderella, dating has taken a less-than-what-my-Mother-hoped-for back seat ride in and through most of my 20s.  Now this has not been by choice.  Mind you I have found the "almost" and "oh absolutely never" and "well maybe"(s) of Minnesota, Illinois, Florida, North Dakota and most recently, Georgia.  If you are reading this and we have been on a date, through a bet or simply shared a kiss, you have found your way into my heart.  Each of you has played a different part in helping me to find, or not quite yet to have found, my Prince Charming.

How is it that ALL of this nonsense begins to associate to pie making you ask? It all begins with a great foundation:  The Crust.

My belief is that a man is made not by what he does, nor by what he says, nor by what he wears, nor by how he articulates his sentences.  A great man is made by patience, strong morals + values, strong will, a weakness for the woman he loves and determination to always do what is right.  Much like the men in our lives, each woman's perfect pie crust is different: some women like to try new recipes each time and some women have the same recipe which they have used for generations and for those like my Grandmother, all you want is one which "washes windows and has all his parts working".  For this kitchen-loving girl, I am still finding the perfect recipe for my pie crust.  Most recently, I tried Cornmeal Pie Crust:  this buttery sweet crust, originating in the south (to my favorite southern young man, this one is for you), took on a Yankee-like twist when I added my personal touch. 

Cornmeal Crust Dough

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup plain yellow cornmeal
2 1/2 Tbsp. sugar
3/4 tsp. salt
3/4 cup cold butter (unsalted), cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1/4 cup cold shortening, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
10 Tbsp. chilled apple cider (I love to use fresh from the orchard apple cider)
Cinnamon + Nutmeg for sprinkling after the dough has been rolled out
  1. Stir together flour, cornmeal, sugar + salt in a large bowl.  Cut in the butter + shortening with a pastry blender until the mixture looks like small peas (my Momma guided me through this by telling me to "use my hands").
  2. Mound the flour mixture on 1 side of the bowl and drizzle the apple cider, Tbsp. by Tbsp., into the bowl, mixing with a fork until the flour mixture is moist.  This will form your dough! 
  3. Gather the dough into 2 flat disks, wrap in plastic and chill for at least 1 hour (NOTE:  this is a great recipe to make the night before).
The filling may be different for each of us but what I have learned is that although the ingredients are few, they must be measured and put together "just so" to create an aroma that, while baking, fills your kitchen and keeps you wanting another slice. 

Enjoy :)

XOXO (all the way from Minnesota),

    Cooking in Heels and Pearls.

    Cooking for me is therapy...along with bubble baths, red wine, running and morning coffee in bed. 

    If you have had the pleasure of watching me cook you know that my hair is always neatly tucked up, more often than not I am wearing a dress (heels off in my momma's house), there are pearls in my ears, country music (Randy Travis, George Strait and Alan Jackson) is playing in the background and my apron is the statement of my outfit.  I am "that girl" who dreams of the day she has her own home full of noise and children running through the house and a husband, cooking in a kitchen designed to her specifications, with a china pattern for each season, silver handed down from her grandmother and crystal from her mother.  I want family holidays and Sunday suppers and football games and showers all to be hosted in my home....someday.  As my Mother reads this post, imagine her saying "sweetie, you need to date first then the rest will follow". Yes Momma, I know I put the cart before the horse when it comes to dreaming of my future. 

    I began collecting recipes a few years ago.  Four to be exact.  After realizing that I didn't need to read a recipe to cook, I began to write my own.  Each time I am in the kitchen, the aroma and sounds and tastes all bring back memories of holidays, birthday parties, celebrations spent with my family.  Growing up, the kitchen was the center of gathering.  The stove was always hot and Grandma or my Mother were running around pulling dishes or tasting dressings or letting us lick the bowl after brownies had been made.  To this day, the kitchen still bustles on weekends.  Only this time, it is me pulling dishes and calling to my Mother to ask about a time or temperature or to taste my chicken to make sure it is all the way done.  She still tastes my flour before I fry the chicken.  Someday Mom, I will tell my grandchildren about this memory. 

    My first kitchen jobs were little.  Grandma would stand me up on a chair and as I cried "but Grandma I need an apron" she would pull a white, perfectly ironed, dish towel from the drawer, usually embroidered with something, fold it like a triangle and wrap it around my waist.  From there, we would begin.  My mixing skills quickened with age, my height increased and the chair was removed from the equation.  Now, in my kitchen, I have a drawer full of white, perfectly ironed dish towels, one for each day of the week and hand embroidered.  This past year, I became a young woman by homemaker standards:  Grandma sent me home with Great Grandma's crystal, my very own 3rd generation cookbook and my very first set of Christmas dishes. 

    As I began to write my recipes and collect the favorites my Grandma and Mother had created, I realized a story goes with each as does a most important part:  a life lesson. 

    I hope you enjoy the unpublished version of "Life in Heels and Pearls".  As my Grandma says "someday we can all say we saw you here first".

    XOXO (all the way from MN),

    Friday, September 17, 2010


    Beautiful.  What is beautiful?

    I read a quote this morning that got to me:  "you don't love a woman because she is beautiful, but she is beautiful because you love her".  I thought about the past few weeks of my life, my sisters, the amazing 57 women I was able to connect with and speak to on Wednesday night and of the woman I am becoming.  I realize I could throw out endless nouns and adjectives to describe what I think it means to be beautiful but that to each of us beautiful is something different. 

    This morning, as I lay in my bed with coffee and my lap top, I am celebrating beautiful and what it means to me.  Beautiful is:
    • Love.  The ability to love someone is beautiful beyond belief.
    • The smell of coffee. 
    • The first snowfall as it blankets the ground in untouched white.  
    • A first kiss....and second, third, fourth
    • The sound of the water as it laps the beach.
    • Fish.  (please laugh as you read this - these slippery little creatures make me smile)
    • The sun rising and setting. 
    • My grandmother.  This beautiful woman has raised 10 incredible children and lives to love each day like it is her last. 
    • My mother.  If I could write a book about an influential person in my life, this woman would be my story.  She has taught me to love unconditionally and without stipulation.  My heart exists because of her.
    • Ice cream. 
    • My best friend Allison. She is the most beautiful person I have been lucky to mesh  my life with.  This momma-to-be of Baby Jake is beautiful beyond measure.
    • Forgiveness. 
    • Midnight mass on Christmas Eve. 
    • Waking up on Christmas Day with my beautiful little sisters to see what Santa brought.
    • Smiling. 
    • The smell of breakfast.  Someday I want a house full of family that smells like pancakes and syrup on Saturday and Sunday mornings.
    • Airplane landings.  Nothing is more beautiful than knowing I survived the flight :)
    • Flowers. 
    • Random acts of kindness. 
    • The way it feels to be loved.  
    • Believing in something or someone.
    Beautiful.  Use the word at least once today to tell someone that they are beautiful and why.  I promise, it will make you smile.

    XOXO (all the way from MN),

    Wednesday, September 15, 2010

    One Shoe Can Change Your Life.

    One visit to my closet and you will not only find a rather extensive collection of dresses but also, tucked neatly in their boxes, a handpicked collection of shoes.

    This collection began shortly after I started 10th grade.  I came to the realization that I was not a jewelry girl (not to be mistaken with the fact that a 2 carat diamond engagement ring will someday be on this left hand and my ears are adorn daily in pearls) but I did need to accessorize my outfits.  Christian Louboutin found his calling as an apprentice at age 17, in the dressing room of Paris' most famous cabaret the Folies Bergere.  I hope my early fondness for shoes finds me the success this creatively brilliant man has reached. I have my favorite heels and very few flats and a story to put with each pair.  The blue suede heels which were an emergency purchase at 8:55 pm in Las Vegas due to a broken heel on my favorite pair of yellow heels and there are the Christian Louboutin black pumps which were a gift (and my first pair) from my boss.  OH, and let's not forget the gray suede pumps I wore the day I saw "him".  

    Shoes are as much a part of an outfit as the need for a top and bottom to properly match.  All too often I will hear women say "oh well just pair black with that, no one will be looking at your shoes".  I have news ladies:  your shoes are noticed and the kicker is more men than women will notice the shoes you are wearing.  For all my single ladies out there now is a better time than ever to kick up your heels in a fabulous pair of soles.  If your pedicure from last week could speak, it would say "thank you for slipping me into something so fabulous".   

    The best part about shoes is that you do not have to be able to afford what a pair of killer black Christian Louboutins can do for your life or even put your tootsies into Cinderella's glass slipper (I assume to be made out of the finest crystal).  The reality is that beautiful, outfit accessorizing heels, flats and boots can be found at incredible prices.

    But where?  This is where I come in....see us at Peppermint Park during one of our Showroom Shopping days (Thursday, 3-8) and check out the designer shoes (for below designer prices) which we are collecting.   If the cold Minnesota winters do not work for you (which let's face it, who do they work for?) then I urge you to explore Nordstrom's seasonal shoe sale.  This girl has been known to spend hours in this shoe department and online.

    One shoe changed Cinderella's life...imagine what a fabulous pair will do for you. 

    Happy Sole Shopping :)

    XOXO (all the way from MN),

    Monday, September 13, 2010

    Good Morning Sunshine.

    The makings of a really good morning are different for us all.  For some of us it is the peace and quiet which helps to roll into a beautiful day and for others it is the consistency of a morning routine.  Whatever your individual quirks may be, there is nothing like a new start to a brand new day.

    This weekend I was home.  A big change from my schedule lately.  On the weekends I get to spend at home, one of my favorite things to do is take off on early morning runs.  I live in a quiet area of Minneapolis and the scenery is that which one does not imagine when they think "big city".  The morning time is peaceful and untouched by noise.  There was a moment during my Saturday run which took my breath away.  I actually had to stop running and remind myself to breath.  In the hustle bustle and uncertainty of that which has been my life the past few weeks, I took a moment to breathe - outside of my blackberry, outside of my emails, outside of missing him, outside of arguing or being stressed out - and I realized all too often something as simple as the beauty of a 7:00 am run slips away from us and we forget these really important things that make us feel good. 

    The making of a really good morning for this girl is the 6:15-6:30 am wake up call I get from Georgia.  It is the voice which wakes me up with a smile and makes my morning a really good morning. The world could be falling apart and this voice would make me forget.  I got one this morning :)

    Saturday, September 11, 2010

    For You I Will.

    I am that girl who changes her accent decorations by season and has summer/winter bedding.  My grandmother instilled this in me....right around the time she said "Danika, Grandma is going to teach you how to make a bed so someday when you have houseguests they will leave talking about your impeccable guest bedrooms". 

    I have recently swapped up the master bedroom (my room) in my condo to all white bedding.  I literally cleared out the room, less my king size bed, and have started from a blank canvas.  I would imagine Grandma would say "white! in winter!" and as much as I hate to disappoint her I kind of like the white.  On to the message behind this post...what to put on my walls. 

    Trying to decorate my condo, for the last two years, I have the terrible habit of putting the cart before the horse:  I am always thinking about the use of a decoration or piece of furniture after I am married with a home.  Will I use this?  What if I decide on a different color scheme?  As a matter of fact, I told my mother as we were leaving Home Goods this afternoon "Mom, I cannot wait to get married for another reason now", she replied with "and what's that", I simply stated "Momma, think of all the incredible things I can register for to decorate my house!"  She laughed, shook her head and kept walking. 

    I am a fan of the rooms of my home having themes, however, the one thing which follows through in each room is what I put on my walls.  This young lady has in each room, large picture frames which I fill with photos of the loved ones in my life.  Some women decorate with accent paintings (my mother and grandmother) and I feel that what adds the most character to my condo is not the bedding in my room or the dining room table which seats six but it is the story which my walls tell.  Each time I look at my walls I remember why I chose the photos and what each person means to me.  It is the sweet reminder that whispers "for you I will". 

    If you have made my walls, Lord knows we have a history together.

    Friday, September 10, 2010

    Those I've Loved the Most.

    The last nine months of my life have been busy.  Busy being a general term I use to describe 110 hour work weeks, launching a website and traveling (for work).  I am a very social young woman therefore January brought about a change in my life.

    There are very few people who have stuck with me through this.  Those who have accepted that a return call or message from me might take 7-10 business days and although I am not able to make "the party" or "the event" I do send my best and a gift will be in the mail.  It was said to me in the very beginning of this venture that I would quickly recognize who my real friends were (my boss and mentor gives the most fabulous advice) and that it is at times lonely at the top.  This has not rang more true than in the past few months.  I owe these people a lot for keeping me in touch with reality.  You all hold a very special place in my heart.

    To my mother.  Although you are required to love me no matter what, you have been the support in my life which has kept me most grounded and in touch with my beliefs and values.  You have kept an ever so watchful eye over my decisions and helped to guide me through very tough times.  I could never imagine having a more wonderful influence on my life and a more incredible woman to call mom.  Thank you.

    To my boss and mentor.  You have been the person in my life that has believed in me and what I am capable of.  Your guidance and go-get-it attitude has changed me in ways I never thought possible.  You have given me the incredible opportunity to believe in myself and use my abilities to help create this magnificent company and guide it to through growth.  I am a stronger, more independent young woman because of you.  Thank you.

    To my best friends Allison and Meghan.  We met as young women ready to take on the world and have found each other again in adulthood only to become better friends.  The two of you each possess such amazing character and strength.  I look to you both for wisdom and support and never have we let each other down.  You are the voices on the phone and the smiling faces which keep me looking forward to all of the memories we have to come.  I love you both so much.

    To the pilot in my life.  You are the message I know will never go unanswered.  We have become such great friends over the past year.  Your ability to put up with me has taught me that patience is sometimes required and giving up on someone is never an option.  Although I really like to do things my way, you have shown me that sometimes it is better to modify "my way".  You are the young man I never knew I needed in my life but always wanted and the voice of reason when it comes to the boys I fall for.  Thank you for always sending a reply message.

    Thursday, September 9, 2010

    Falling for fall.

    One of my favorite seasons in Minnesota is fall.  Don't get me wrong, I love heat and humidity and would rather live down south.

    If you have never experienced the cool and brisk mornings, changing colors of the leaves or an apple orchard I highly recommend an October visit to this state.  My favorite things about fall include:
    1. Apple Orchard and Pumpkin Patch visits.
    2. Baking.  Nothing says fall quite like the smell of apple and pumpkin pie fresh out of the oven.
    3. My riding boots paired with tights. I love being able to break these out on weekends with a plaid skirt.
    4. Football.  Who doesn't love spending Sunday afternoons in an NFL jersey eating hot chili or stew with homemade cornbread.  
    5. Leaves.  I cannot begin to explain how beautiful it is to be at our lake home during the fall.  Mother Nature has straight up outdone Crayola on this one.  
    6. Morning runs.  There is no getting too warm on these hour long ventures.  
    This weekend marks the Sunday each year (for the past two years) that I make our first "Fall Family Dinner".  Each year I create a new menu which makes my momma's kitchen smell divine.  I joke that this is the time when my mother loves me the most and my future husband will decide he cannot live with out me (i.e. this girl can cook).  On the menu for Sunday:
    • Brunswick Stew:  this southern recipe I stole and revamped during my plane ride home from Atlanta this past weekend
    • Cornbread:  no chili or stew is complete without it for dipping.  This time I am making it two ways: (1) in the oven with my grandma's recipe and (2) pan frying to crisp perfection.
    • Vegetable:  undecided.  Suggestions welcome!
    • Apple Pear Pie with Cornbread Crust served with vanilla bean icecream (NOTE: my mouth is watering with delight as I type)
    • Blueberry Yum Yum:  Allison's grandmother created this recipe and with her blessing I took it back with me to share with my family. After all, what is a proper dinner without two desserts choices to serve your guests! 
    • Hot Apple Cider:  complete with cinnamon sticks to stir.
    • Sunflowers for a table centerpiece in blue vases.  
    Keep watch for photos from dinner!

    Wednesday, September 8, 2010

    Sweet Tea.

    This post is dedicated to my very favorite southern young man (if one considers Atlanta southern).

    Sweet tea was never something I was fond of.  To be honest, it made me sick.  My stomach could not take all the sugar and I much preferred it to be unsweetened or just not drink it at all.  I met, well not really met but began falling for with without actually meeting (another post sometime in the future), my very favorite southern young man and he quickly tried to tell me that a Yankee could never make sweet tea and he would never come for a visit if sweet tea was not something he could get up here (in Minnesota).  I tried to explain that it just wasn't something we preferred up here.  His response, "all y'all are crazy....I could drink a gallon of sweet tea each day".

    My recent trip to Georgia allowed me to give sweet tea a second chance.

    During my 1st day in Georgia (this was Thursday) I consumed 10 glasses of sweet tea.  These 10 glasses were to wash down the extensive amount of southern food which I consumed.  Nonetheless, I was hooked.  Although I was sick to my stomach, literally, I gave sweet tea another shot Friday, Saturday, Sunday and Monday.  This little body most-likely consumed its entire weight in sweet tea, all during a 5-day trip to Georgia.  It was the first thing I drank when I landed and the last before boarding to go back to Minnesota - I even got upset when the ATL airport cafe I was at did NOT have sweet tea ready.

    He would be proud to know that sweet tea and I have rekindled our relationship and I have made my very first pitcher of sweet tea this evening.  With a southern Georgia recipe :)

    Southern Sweet Tea

    3 cups water
    2 family-size tea bags (I used 4 regular size bags)
    3/4 cup of Splenda (one may use 1/2-1 cup sugar as well as any sweetener)
    7 cups cold water
    1. Bring 3 cups water to a boil in a sauce pan; add tea bags. Boil 1 minute; remove from heat.  Cover and seep 10 minutes.
    2. Remove and discard tea bags. Add sugar and stir until dissolved.  Pour into a pitcher and add 7 cups cold water.  
    3. Serve over ice :)

    Southern Charm.

    I had the most incredible five days in Southern Georgia this past week(end).  Adel, Georgia to be exact.  I have spent quite a bit of time in the area but never did it consist of such an immersion into "southern charm".  My best friend (Allison) is as southern as they come.  This grits lovin' blonde is everything which best defines southern.  She and her husband Cleve have a beautiful home in the country a short way out of Adel.  They are expecting their first child this October (hopefully earlier).

    I learned quite a few things during my time in the Deep South.  Here are a few of my favorites:

    1. The correct pronounciation is:  "peecans" not "peecons".
    2. Grits, all different kinds, over power the oatmeal in the cereal isle at any grocery store.
    3. Speaking of grocery stores, y'all have created names which make me giggle.  (Piggly Wiggly)
    4. Dove hunting is HUGE.  And no, not the white colored kind (I asked).
    5. Rabbit can be eaten. 
    6. Corn on the cob is sensational deep friend.  I mean really sensational.
    7. Drinking too much sweet tea in one sitting will make you sick.  Literally. 
    8. Boston Butt is incredible.
    9. Southern women talk more than I do.  Even more when y'all get together in groups.  I had to take a breather!
    10. Southern men truly still exhibit chivalry.  I will marry a southern young man. 
    11. I can tell the difference between a cotton field and a peanut field.  
    12. Boiling peanuts smells so incredible. They must be boiled for at least 1 hour 15 minutes with plenty of salt and water to cover.  
    13. My blackberry gets no service in Cook County, GA.

    Wednesday, September 1, 2010

    Breaking down

    My life is as imperfect as the summer day is long.  But within the imperfection I have become the young woman I am today.  I fight daily with this perfection I strive to achieve.  The battle is sometimes exhausting.  There are days I would love nothing more than to hide away from the world and shut my mind off.  Days that I would like to eat an entire pizza and not feel like I have to run 10 miles.  Days that I would like to wake up and wear sweat pants all day, in public and not worry about my appearance.  Days that I would like someone to worry about me and not spend hours wondering if everyone else in my life is okay.

    Each of us has our own story.  Our imprint on life.  We have the experiences which have made us the women we are today and the lessons learned which keep us remembering that no matter how bad it gets and how much easier it would be to give up, the sun will rise and set tomorrow and that there are people who count on us to keep going for them. 

    As women, mothers, daughters, sisters, friends, we must wear different hats and be able to juggle the inconsistency of this daily, hourly.  We are the shoulder to cry on.  We are the smile and gentle voice which slows the flow of tears.  We are the band aid for a cut up knee.  We are the chef in the kitchen.  We are the voice of reason and the words of strength which keep others in our lives going.  We are the sweet song that sings our children to sleep at night and the soft hands to welcome them back to the world each morning.

    Today, as I sit here with a million things going on around me....I am taking a moment.  A moment to breathe.

    Monday, August 30, 2010

    Song, Song of the South

    I leave Thursday morning for Georgia.  I could not be more excited about being back down there to see my two best friends.  A little history goes into this long journey...

    My senior year of high school (I am aging myself slightly - 2002) I was one of only 300 chosen to attend a scholars program in Washington DC.  After seven days of pure bliss I left with a long list of contacts and two of the best friends a girl could ever ask for - both of whom will someday be in my wedding. 

    Allison is the Georgia Peach of my life. She is pure southern and a truly beautiful person both inside and out.  She commands the attention of a room by simply walking in.  Her momma is retired school teacher and her daddy a cotton farmer.  Allison was born and raised in Morven, GA and attended school in Dixie.  She and I were inseparable during my time at Florida State University.  We spent countless weekends together and share so many memories.  Unfortunately, after moving back to Minnesota, we lost touch and just this past year (with a little help from FB) found each other again :)  She is now a wife and mother-to-be. 

    Meghan is close to identical to me....less my blonde hair and the addition of her dark hair.  She is as happy as the day is long and never leaves the house without lipstick and pearls.  Meghan is the only daughter of Panama City/Boston parents - both of whom are incredible people.  I spent my very first spring break with Meghan in Panama City Beach and we have MANY memories (most which shall never be shared) from those seven days.  Meghan and I both attended Florida State University to study Political Science and as with Allison, we lost touch after I moved back.  She is now working at the top (actually running :) a lobbying firm in Tallahassee, FL.

    These five days back down south will be filled with so many of the experiences I miss most...back to my second home.  I have my top 5:
    1. Waffle House - this is my FAVORITE place to eat. Ever.  
    2. Sonic - I will not leave without stopping for dessert.
    3. Grits and Sweet Tea - Allison has been instructed to put her feet up the entire time I am there (she is 7 months pregnant).  Thus, I will be taking on the task of cooking.  Southern Woman for the weekend :)
    4. Football - Friday night :) nothing like a taste of southern football.  You all do it much better than we do up here.  
    5. Peaches - not sure if they are in season but I want a fresh one.  

    Sunday, August 29, 2010

    I LOVE to eat.

    I love to eat. Let's just be honest, who doesn't?  Second only to one thing:  cooking.

    My love affair with being in the kitchen began at a very young age.  Growing up on a farm in North Dakota all of the women in my family cooked.  My earliest memories of both my Grandmothers are accompanied by the smell of turkey and stuffing, hamburger being browned, fresh chocolate chip cookies and banana bread.

    I consider myself lucky to have these memories and to have been taught firsthand that an electric mixer whips cream too fast (my Grandma Shirley would say that it doesn't taste as good if you haven't worked hard enough for it) or that a measuring cup and/or spoon is never needed....taste and smell are "just enough darling".

    After leaving political law (and before launching Peppermintpark.com) I applied to the best culinary program in the country.  Using a recipe I had create and changed a million times over and my ability to write a killer essay, I was accepted.  Although I have postponed becoming a chef, I still create and cook almost daily.  My Grandmothers dream of the day my 1st cookbook hits the bookstore shelves and I cannot wait to share with the world my love affair with the kitchen.  I think I may have just created the title.  

    Thursday, August 26, 2010

    30 Days of Truth: Day 2

    I have fallen behind....

    Day 2:  Something you love about yourself.

    I love my heart.  I think it is okay to brag about that.  I love that I have this overabundance of love for others and life and what I do and my family.  I feel and I have emotions and morals and values and ethics.  That all comes from my heart.  What I do and the way I express myself - this all comes from my heart.

    I cannot wait for the day that I can pass this on to my children. 

    Catching a breath...

    The last few weeks have been busy.  Busy is an understatement.

    My condo is a disaster and I have not made my bed or unpacked my suitcase in weeks.  As I trampled over the large pile of clothing in my bedroom this morning, shaking my head as I did and carefully manuevering my heels so that I didn't catch on a piece of clothing, I stopped to examine myself in the mirror before I walked out.  I saw high-waist cream pants, a red silk shirt, cream pumps, long blonde perfectly curled hair and pearl earrings.  Pausing for a moment and catching my breath as to "pep talk" myself before I stepped out into the world, reality slapped me in the face.  I am perfectly imperfect.

    I sometimes have to remind myself to stop.  Stop and enjoy myself now.  Stop waiting to meet Prince Charming because although he will add incredible things to my life he will not define me.  Stop waiting to be at the peak of my career because although I will be changing the world it will not define me.  Stop worrying about what I will wear tomorrow because although it is important that I present myself well it will not define me.  I am just as perfect today as I will be tomorrow and after I meet my Prince Charming and after I am at the peak of my career and after I am a mother.  My boss and mentor gave the best advice:  She said, "building a life is hard, building a family is hard but as women we need to stop and stare at ourselves in the mirror and enjoy what we see.  This is your life, your journey."  Throw the instruction manual out the window and introduce yourself to the world you beautiful, perfectly imperfect woman.

    Tuesday, August 24, 2010

    30 Days of Truth: Day 1

    I recently saw a post for "30 Days of Truth" and decided why not try it.  30 days will not kill me and it gives me something to think about when I lay in bed at night sleepless (which has been the case much of the last week).

    Day 1:  Something you hate about yourself....

    Let's just start it off good and dirty. 

    I hate that I more often than not overreact.  My mother says I have been this way since I was a little blonde thing bopping around.  I cried too hard over bumps and bruises.  Ending relationships was always traumatic and anything lower than an A  in college was detrimental.  I wish I had the self-control to stop, think and then react.  I tend to apologize for overreacting, a lot.  For those of you who know me....I promise I am working hard to fix this.  After all, as unique as I am, I am nothing close to perfect. 

    Sunday, August 22, 2010

    Ohhhhhhh it's MAGIC you know....

    This past week I spent 6 days in Las Vegas for work.  What kind of work (I've been asked quite a few times)....fashion expos.  The largest in the country. Designers from across the country and around the world gather for a week of parties, appointments, interviews, buying/selling and meeting young ladies such as myself. 

    I am not the "typical" buyer (not that there is one).  The week was epic.  Memorable.  I left filled with new ideas, a fresh taste of what is to come and an appreciation for my dresses, heels and pearls. So much to come for Peppermint Park.