Saturday, May 30, 2009

B-day shopping

All Emma wanted for her twelfth birthday (save for a dinner at Moto) was a mini shopping spree at Fly Bird.
I took her today and she came home with an amazing collection of very hip limited edition t-shirts...

I love her sense of style!

Friday, May 29, 2009

Pancake Partners

Tonight I threw down a nice spread of passed appetizers for a local school celebrating their 20th anniversary. The food was lovely, but it occurred to me I never say enough about the amazing people who work with me on larger events.
Look at these two lovely ladies...Lb and Patty are as tried and true as they come. Whenever I call upon them they show up and work tirelessly. In fact, I didn't assemble the plate of chive pancakes pictured above. Talk about meeting a standard...the dish is gorgeous. Just like my girls.

Thursday, May 28, 2009


  • May 28th, 1754: Military commander George Washington, fighting for the British, destroys a French regiment in the first major battle of the French Indian Wars.
  • May 28th, 1934: Birth of the world's first surviving quintuplets; Annette, Cecile, Emilie, Marie and Yvonne Dionee are born in Ontario, Canada.
  • May 28th, 1959: Two monkeys become the first living creatures to survive a space flight after they were sent up into space by America.
  • May 28th, 1987: A 19 year old West German, Mathias Rust, surprises the Soviet authorities by flying a light plane from Helsinki to Moscow and landing safely in Red Square.
And on May 28th, 1997...Emma Grace Elsmo entered the world.

She announced her own arrival with cries so loud that nurses from other rooms came into see what all the fuss was about; she was born with undeniable confidence. She had the tiniest red lips, a head full of jet black hair, and a skeptical look in her eye. She was alert and aware and and as independent as a new born can be. When I gazed at her for the first time I knew right away she was an incredible spirit hiding behind a veil of infancy; my anticipation of our years together was born in that instant.

Suddenly she is twelve and finishing the last chapter of her childhood.

Today Emma's confidence remains, but is well balanced by an admirable respect for all creatures. She is a generous, self motivated, and positive. Her initial skepticism has been replaced with a sincere appreciation for every day. I cannot imagine my life without her and consider the world a better place because she is in it.

Happy Birthday Emma!

Our lives are forever improved for having met you twelve years ago.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Subject to interpretation

I have written about my love for my kids' art before and yes, I love every offering they make.
This is Finn's most recent addition to my collection.
Ummm...I don't want to say much other than it is clear he has big aspirations. could be an alien clapping, but whoa...what a gift for mom.

Just like Jack

When Jack's mother sent him into the village to sell their cow to buy food for their table she was vexed when he returned with a handful of magic beans from the butcher. In similar fashion I went into the Arts District for an acupuncture appointment and came home with a bag of magic soup mix.

Delirious from my appointment I ponied up the ten dollars for the soup mix and just like butcher convinced dear Jack the beans were priceless, my soup sticks came with promises of increased energy, weight loss, and transformed phlegm, released water and improved digestion. My Peace Offering Soup contains dang shen, chen pi, fu ling, yi yi ren and vegetarian soup base among other mystical ingredients. I think I'll serve it up with a little Fe, fa, fi-fo-fum on the side!

All Jack had to do to change his fate was sow the beans and wait for the bean stalk to grow. Apparently all I have to do is add water...if I meet a giant or come across some golden eggs I'll let you know!

Emotional Business

What is up with Finn and Monopoly?
This is not the first time this game has brought about an extreme reaction from our boy...but strangely enough this particular episode occurred while he was winning the game by a large margin! He had three lucrative monopolies and a pile of cash, but paying that $35 rent on Park Place did him in.
I love his competitive spirit and can relate to the horrid instant cry!

Sunday, May 24, 2009

For the love of pasta

This evening I threw together some S*#% on a shingle and headed over to enjoy some homemade pasta Bolognese with the Pfour and their guests.
Despite the fact A may question the outcome of her pasta making efforts, I tasted the love in every bite. It was a fine meal shared in the best of company. In fact here is the Dejan quote of the night...
"Think about it, youth is wasted on the young."
Thanks for a delightful evening...I love being a guest at your table!

Saturday, May 23, 2009


Busy just isn't word enough to describe our family right now. This time of year is always nutty for us, but today we had a day just to be together! We wandered around the village, worked in the yard, laughed, and snuggled. I cooked up a simple dinner to celebrate the end of our family day. I just loved seeing the people waiting for me at the table!

Friday, May 22, 2009


Tonight the Pfour graciously hosted one of the cooking classes I auctioned off at the Irving Fun Fair. Eight folks bought a slot in support of our local elementary school.
They sliced and diced and rolled their way through the evening and I served up the fruits of their labor... thanks to A of the Pfour for the above photo. I think it captures the spirit of the evening!

Coho salmon with M. Lavery couscous, slow roasted tomato, lemon, oregano, and olives

That corn dog again...

Poached Chicken Breast with Balsamic Asparagus, Watermelon, Feta, and Mint.

Lime Scented Scallop...a flavor study.

I love this picture my friend and photographer Anne snapped tonight.

Thank you to the Pfour and everyone who participated this evening! Clearly, I love it when I can be my authentic chef self for an evening!

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Outside the Front Door and in my Pocket

The Korean lilac tree outside our front door bloomed yesterday.
I love lilacs and this particular specimen is particularly much so the perfume wafting from it's flowers boarders on intoxicating. The placement is perfect as well... I opened my front door this morning my whole living room filled with the sweet smell of lilacs.
Nothing like flowers to get you in the mood for an 80 degree day!
I headed upstairs and pulled out a pair of last year's Capri pants, did a happy dance when they still fit, and found this in the pocket...
I going to take my unexpected windfall and use it to purchase charcoal and something yummy for the grill! I'll even put some lilacs in a vase to bring that front door feeling to the back yard! I love the feeling summer brings!

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Cholesterol Cereal

This morning I offered Finn a bowl of Kashi Honey Sunshine and he asked if we had a different kind of cereal. Apparently he is not the biggest Kashi fan and I offered him some multi-grain cheerios instead. Finn was thrilled!
He looked at me and said, "I love cheerios, but not all kinds. My favorites are multi-grain, cholesterol, and honey-nut."
"Cholesterol?" I asked.
Finn's rely, "Yeah...I am pretty sure I am saying that right. Anyway I just love those cholesterol cheerios!"
Cheerios marketing has one impressionable young breakfast eater thinking cholesterol is a breakfast highlight...who needs bacon?

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Mouse VS Elephant

Consider this...
These boys are both players in the Under Nine age division and it is entirely possible that Finn is actually older than the Monstrous Number 34. But here is the thing...
Each and every time Finn encountered 34 on the field this afternoon he won the ball. At one point Finn dug in so hard 34 fell over and landed right on top of him. Finn looked like a squashed bug and everyone on the sideline let out a huge gasp...visually it was very disturbing. The whistle blew and the ref called the foul on Finn; he was outraged.
The lesson?
When an elephant sits on a mouse...blame the mouse. Next time the mouse will just scurry faster!
Finn was fearless on the field today and it was a just a joy to watch him play!

Saturday, May 16, 2009


Today Emma, Finn, and I took quick (read six hour) jaunt to Milwaukee to meet the newest member of our family! Three day old, Henry Joseph, is just darling...a snugly bundle for sure. Emma was quick to tap into her mothering instincts. Sure that was a lovely sight to see, but she seriously cut into my baby holding time.
Finn stopped playing soccer with Uncle Jamie just long enough for me to snap this great picture...he has his priorities you know!But here is the money shot of the day...Emma, Henry, Charlie, and Finn...four cousins together. It is truly amazing to consider how our family has grown over the past decade or so. All around the day was a beautiful celebration of family and the passage of time.

Friday, May 15, 2009

A little lunch

Today we hosted a luncheon for our advisory board at the Day Nursery. Everyone played their part and the event was plesant and successful. My contribution was the food. I put together a simple, healthy, and feminine buffet.
This dish was the highlight in my opinion. I took my inspiration from a salad the Frigs served at a party last week-end. The diced cantaloupe, sweet Sopprssata, smoked mozzarella, mint and black pepper married perfectly. The addition of pine nuts would have made it perfect.


I snapped a couple of quick pictures of a little something we are featuring on the South Oak Park Style Housewalk. I like this shot so much I may have to blow it up!

Thursday, May 14, 2009


The truth of the matter is I am beyond busy right now. Every aspect of my days are consumed with Day Nursery, Housewalk, Kids, Cooking, Events and on and on and on. I have little time for anything else. I managed to get a bunch of stuff done this morning, but what heck... today I decided to throw in a trip to Gary, Indiana just to keep things lively.My group of Obamacrat friends spent time canvasing in Gary during the campaign and ate in a charming restaurant called The Baker's House while on the trail. Unfortunately, I was not there for the first outing, but while we were all having breakfast a few weeks ago they suggested a mother's day outing to this quaint house of sandwiches.
I enjoyed a wrap called The featured grilled salmon, capers, goat cheese and spinach. The dish was yummy, but the dish and chatter at the table was the delight of the day. All good things happen at the Baker's House.
Ladies, it was truly liberating to walk away from my life for an afternoon. Thank you for making me a part of your enduring love for Gary, Indiana.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Henry J

My brother, his wife, and son Charlie welcomed the newest member of their family today!
Henry Joseph and his mom are both more than fine.
News of a new nephew sure makes for a happy day!

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Foodie Tip: Tipping

Leif and I have had an on going argument for several years on that taboo and tread lightly subject...tipping.

After surviving one semester waiting tables in culinary school, my place was cemented in the kitchen and my undying respect for those who serve crabby, manipulative, high maintenance diners was born. Both Leif and I are and always will be thoughtful and generous tippers, but our controversy has been about food delivery.

Let me put it drivers would be much happier to have Leif open the door than me...unless we ordered one egg roll.

Leif tips according to the amount of the bill; he gives the driver a percentage just as if we were eating in a restaurant. Okay consider this... a driver brings a single bag of delivery food containing two cheeseburgers, an order of fries and future heart attack that has a value of $6.20; according to Leif the driver should be tipped $1.00. Now the same driver travels the same distance to the same location schlepping the same size bag only this time to drop off a gorgeous seared ahi tuna Nicoise salad, a crusty demi baguette, and a side of snobbery valued at $32.65. According to Leif's tipping matrix this same driver would now receive a $5.00 tip. This makes no sense to me at all. It makes me think I should tip a flower delivery driver more if she brings calla lilies and roses than a bunch of lame ass carnations. I sit firmly in the camp that delivery tips (unless you've ordered so much food that more than on trip to the car is required) should hover in the $3-$5 range irrespective of the order.

This how my mind works, but guess what...I AM TOTALLY WRONG.

Appalling, but true. There I was reading my trusted BA Foodist column when he lowered the need to tip for take out, but 15-20% of the total check before tax is merely human when it comes to delivery. Congrats Leif. I drop my sword at your feet and more cash at the door.
Just in case, like me, you are now doubting everything you thought you knew was true about are some tips from to keep you straight.
  • If you get awful service, talk to the manager. The manager cannot correct the situation if he doesn't know about it. Skipping the tip will not accomplish anything, and the next poor customer who gets that server will get the same service you did.
  • If you are buying the meal and someone offers to get the tip, tell them they can buy next time, and you pay the whole thing. This prevents any uneasiness about them seeing the amount of the bill or worrying that they will be stingy on the tip.
  • Restaurants report a percentage (around 12%) of the gross sales for food and beverage to the IRS for their staff. This means that if you have a $200 food bill and $200 wine bill, the restaurant will report 12% of $400 or $48 as income to the server. In other words, the server has to pay tax on it whether you tip it or not. If the restaurants do not report it accurately, the restaurant and the wait staff get audited by the IRS.
  • Please don't get hung up on the 12%. It is just a reasonable example. Tip 10-15% on the alcohol and 15-20% on the food. 10% on the wine is perfectly acceptable. Whether to tip 10 or 15 percent would depend in large part on how helpful the server was in choosing the wine and serving it.
  • Food server - 15-20%.
  • Self-service restaurant or buffet - Nothing unless there is some service. Tip 10% if the server delivers all or part of your meal or keeps your drinks refilled.
  • Takeout - If you get good service, in other words, the waiter gets and packages the food, then at your choice you can tip $1-2 or up to 10%. Nothing is really necessary.
  • Drive through - Nothing.
  • When breakfast is included in the price of the hotel room - Estimate the value of the meal by looking at a menu. If there is no breakfast menu, consider the quality of the hotel and the price of an evening meal, then make your best estimate. Your tip is 15-20% of your estimate.
  • Counter service - 15-20%.
  • Cocktail server - 15-20%. For free drinks in Vegas, tip $1-2 per round.
  • Bartender - 15-20% or $1 per drink. If at the bar before a meal, settle up with the bartender before you go to your table.
  • Wine steward or sommelier - 10% of wine bill.
  • If a bar has a cover charge, you do not tip on it.
  • Busboys - Nothing, unless he did something extra special like cleaning up a huge mess. Then give him $1-2.
  • Maitre d' - Nothing, unless he gets you a special table or the restaurant is full and you had no reservation. Then give $5-10 or more.
  • Coat check - $1
  • Restroom attendant - $1
  • Separate checks - If you want separate checks, ask the server to go ahead and add 18% gratuity to each check.
  • Musician that visits table - $2-3 if you make a special request. Optional if he just stops by and plays.
  • Musician in lounge - $1-5

And I looked it don't even have to tip a carnation or rose toting flower delivery driver at all!

Monday, May 11, 2009

Teacher in Attendance

Yesterday one of Finn's favorite teachers showed up to watch him play! Mr. Grey is a third grade teacher and loves talking sports with Finn. I am always impressed when teachers go so far beyond the call of duty to support their students...and in this case Finn isn't even in his class. WOW!

Sunday, May 10, 2009


If I have learned anything from nearly twelve years of motherhood it is this simple fact: Predictability is overrated.
Leif invited his mother down to join us for Mother's Day brunch at Custom House before Finn's soccer game today. Unfortunately Nancy got lost on the way down here and wasn't feeling up for a jaunt into the city. Change of plans.
I grabbed the kids and walked to the store to pick up some breakfast staples. I managed to throw together a pretty nice plate and we enjoyed some pleasant conversation.
The kids gave me two tickets to see a taping of Wait Wait Don't Tell Me and it really was their own inspired idea! I can't wait wait!

From there we headed to the pitch to watch the Strikers win under a fair amount of pressure. It was nice to see the boys challenged and the team presented the moms with roses after the game.
We worked on the front garden with Nancy before she headed home in the late afternoon.
Leif knew I was disappointed to miss my outing to Custom House and he switched the reservation from brunch to dinner.

I can't express enough just how much I appreciated that thoughtful gesture; I always adore it when he celebrates our family!

Our family outing for the kids first fine dining experience was more than memorable.
I couldn't have predicted this morning I would have been spoon feeding my son sweetbreads and my daughter would have embraced a love for bacon powder like no other.
I would also like to mention I have never eaten so much asparagus in one day...ever.

I could never have predicted the incredible family I would be graced with in my lifetime. These extraordinary creatures were strangers when I gave birth to them. They are greatest gift of my life and people I am proud to know...being their mother is my honor and privilege.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Happy B-day to a Frig.

Today we made our way to The Frig's to celebrate a 37th birthday!
Each time our friends host a gathering the food and company is outstanding!
After enjoying a divine hamburger bar it came time for CFrig to blow out the candles...

Happy Birthday! You are still heading up hill.
Thanks for making us part of your special day.
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