Sunday, August 30, 2009

Taste the Summer

This evening I found myself wrapping up in a sweater and welcoming a fall chill in the air; I am ready for falling leaves, hardy mums, and big braised dinners. With my head full of autumnal thoughts I was simply shocked by the huge taste of summer these garden tomatoes brought to our dinner table tonight. What a perfect surprise and delicious end to summer...

Turning Five

It is hard to imagine C of the Pfour is already 5, but he sure is!
We were happy as clams to join his Sponge Bob Square Pants party.
Each time C opened a gift he exclaimed, "Oh I NEED this!"
Unless it was clothes...then he threw the present on the floor.
I LOVE five year olds...especially C.
Happy Birthday!

Plantain in Pictures

Jamaican Style Jerk Chicken with Red Pepper and Mango Chutney on Twice Fried Tostones

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Dinner Scene

The following is an excerpt from real life.

As the lights come up, the Elsmo family, is enjoying a family dinner. Emma is excited about her day at school and an upcoming invention fair she can participate in...

Emma: "So you guys, I'm really gonna need your help coming up with an idea! The fair is in May so we have some time, but are there any things around the house you'd like an invention to help with?"

Mom and Dad (in unison): "What about doing something with all the plastic grocery bags people end up with?"

Mom: "What about a home grocery inventory machine?"

Emma: "What about a plate that flies to the table. I could build a microchip and put it in a plate from Prodigy Glassworks."

Dad: "Something with cell phones could be good."

Finn: "Oh yeah, you could do something with computer horses."

Mom: "Do you mean viruses?"

Finn: "No. I think it is an animal name."

Mom: "Worm?"

Finn: "No. That's not it."

Mom: "Do you mean a Trojan?"

Finn: "Oh I remember, it is a pink donkey!"

Mom: "A pink donkey?"

Finn: "Yep."

Dad and Emma: "What?"

Finn: "A pink donkey that walks across the pages you have on your computer and makes them sick."

Mom, Dad, and Emma: "Huh?"

Finn: Oh wait, that was a picture I saw in a book. Never mind.

End Scene.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009


Armed with back packs weighing almost as much as kindergartner, Emma and Finn took their first steps into their 7th and 4th grade years this morning. I am certain the year has nothing but good things in store for my studious youngsters.
They just seem really really old.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Bringing Ballerina Back

Before anyone becomes concerned...Finn did take his dip in Lake Michigan.
It was 60 degrees and raining, but he took his dip. The water was terribly rough and we would not let him in the water with out a life jacket and a firm grasp on my hand...he came out happy and freezing!

Just after 6am Leif, Finn, and I left the security and comfort of our generous friends' South Haven lake house and drove two hours to swoop Emma up from her two week stay at Blue Lake Fine Arts Camp.

We met our exuberant knee sock clad uniform wearing camper just outside her cabin; I was never so thrilled to see her...ever. It was immediately clear Emma had made not just one, but several new friends especially Chris the trombone playing cutie.

After saying heartfelt goodbyes to her cabin mates she escorted us to the dance studios.

As far as dance demonstrations are concerned this offering was a real tour de force.
It was instantly apparent these young dancers were working their asses wonder Emma came home with an entirely new set of muscles. She enjoyed six different teachers throughout the two weeks...several were yellers, a couple even swore, a few even physically forced her young limber body into positions it had never been in before. And she loved every minute!

Emma received compliments on her tireless work ethic and ability to take corrections. She was one of the smallest and youngest dancers placed in the most advanced group and held her own...big time. I was most impressed with the Dunham Modern demonstration lead by Emma's favorite instructor, Judy Milner. The style focuses on intensive body isolations and the "flat back series" left me wondering how Emma was able to move after two weeks of study!

Dunham Modern Series from Mel on Vimeo.

After all that crazy dancing and two insane weeks of cafeteria food she needed a burger. Emma commented that the taco meat looked like poop or cat food and promptly decided to dine solely on chick peas, Fruit Loops, and peanut butter and banana sandwiches. Oh we got her the burger and brought her home!

Saturday, August 22, 2009


I enjoyed this sweet bouquet of Michigan wildflowers for several days after I dropped Emma off at Blue Lake. My plan is to stop at the same roadside stand when I pick her up and bring her a bundle as a gift. All that will happen TOMORROW! Thank Goodness.
In the meantime Finn is hoping to take a dunk in Lake Michigan...

Friday, August 21, 2009


My grandma was a thoughtful and at times excessive collector.
She loved all kinds of glasses and dishes and bowls. She faced a basket obsession that honestly turned the closets in her Green Bay home in to miniature wicker warehouses and
survived an antique picture frame phase that infiltrated all the space under the beds in her house.
Her best treasures, however, were always thoughtfully displayed in her immaculate home. My grandma's house was always one of my favorite places. She would serve me cranberry floats in Cranberry Glasses, teach me to dry and artfully arrange flowers from her garden, and roll out the best homemade pie crust I have ever eaten. Her house always smelled like cashmere bouquet soap, featured an impressive collection of doilies, and held a giant crockery pot filled with thousands of pennies. The mattress on the brass bed my grandfather was born in was softer than I was used to, but led to a perfect night's sleep none-the-less. She had pineapple wall paper in her dining room that was slightly crooked and no-one had the heart to tell her. She always kept Jean Nate on the edge of her tub and a toothbrush for my mom in the medicine cabinet. She had "naughty" three legged stools in her kitchen that would tip over if you sat down the wrong way. She owned a real butter churn and a vase of roses made out of porcelain.
Her home was my favorite museum.
Over the past several years I have been slowly accumulating more and more of my grandma's treasures because both her living space and memory are diminishing at a fairly rapid clip. It started with larger items like the brass bed with the soft mattress, my grandfather's roll top desk, and a set of hunt club dishes from England when she moved into an assisted living facility. Then smaller items started coming my way as her circumstances changed: a lamp she bought on the day we got lost together, the cranberry glasses, and a broken piece of depression glass. When she recently moved to an extended care facility my favorite hot chocolate pots found their way to me; when I was a girl I thought they were the most beautiful things I had ever seen. Even though Grandma does not remember much these days I think she would be happy to know some of her treasures and memories are safe with me.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Letter From Emma

Needless to say, this made my entire day!

Dear Mom, Dad, and Finn,

I miss you all sooo much! I am having soooo much fun! I got in level A with Z, F, and S. I feel bad, but C is in the level below us. Our counselor Jessie is AWESOME! But back to dance. We have this class where we do lots of push-ups and sit-ups. That's warm-up class with Cory. He is really cool and funny. At Ballet on Thursday we had this teacher who was way nice and she was pregnant! Then on Friday we had Cory again. And at pointe on Friday we had partnering where I accidentally went on pointe on this kid's foot. Then he accidentally kicked me so he said we were even. Then Cory was like "You, come here." And said, "Boys, this is how you will soon lift a girl." And he had me susu, plie, jump and he lifted me over his shoulder! I was bright red because I was UPSIDE-DOWN! Then we also learned the "Waltz of the Hours" and I am hour 1. I am the shortest in the class, and third shortest in all of level A & B. Now we are learning a tango thing. In Modern the teacher Ms. Judy is soooo strict, but she is really cool! I am sooo sore in my abs and hamstrings. And in pointe my toenail fell off a little so it is all cut up.

On Thursday I went and took the swim test. But no prob. I totally passed! Then we played campfire games and roasted smores. And on Friday we went to a band concert with all the teachers.

But enough about me, how are you guys? Are Java and Lucy okay? How is your party coming along? I REALLY miss you guys! Like I miss having to feed the pets. And mom, I miss your cooking. We eat hot lunch 3 times a day!!

I made a lot of new friends! There are 12 people in our cabin. I hang out with Sammy, Catherine, Christina, Miranda, and Laura. There are 2 Catherines and 2 Christinas. Also at dance I met Michael and Ally and lots of other people. I love you lots.


PS We saw an opera today. I don't think I like operas. I miss you guys. Sorry about the wait for the letter. LOVE YA!!! XOXOXOXOXOXOXOX

Tuesday, August 18, 2009


Over the years I have received plenty of remarkable produce from the well tended gardens kept by my friends, but never anything as distinctive as this absolutely humongous zucchini grown by The Frigs! I am trying to figure out how to attack it...I am thinking soup.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Back on the Pitch

Finn was asked to play as a guest at the Elgin seeding tournament this week-end. He played six games over two days...all wins. Finn had a great time and played very well!

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Happy Birthday Julia!

Today would have been Julia Child's birthday.
What better way to celebrate her life than cooking up some of her famous dishes and enjoying them with friends...most wore aprons and pearls to get in the spirit!

Everyone put forth a strong effort...even those who left pits in the cherries included in a clafouti!
And Kris (yes, this is a blog), "pitted" means without pits!

Our spread included two cold herb soup (thanks C&P) and a delightful Vichyssoise. The meal continued with Julia's Tomotoes Provoncale, Beouf Bourguignon, Coq au Vin, as well as two desserts including an incredible chocolate cake made by a twelve year old girl!

In an effort to stave off the flies around the buffet we took the advice of our guests to hold a Ziploc filled with water and four pennies over the food...and as strange as it seems it worked like a charm!

All in all it was a festive and fun filled evening.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Write to Emma!

For those of you who have been asking you can write to Emma while she is at camp. I would send your letters soon... the information we were given says it can take four days for a letter to arrive.

Miss Emma Elsmo
Blue Lake Fine Arts Camp
300 Crystal Lake Road
Twin Lakes, MI
Unit: Aria Cabin: Peerce

Z Day

With Emma safely at camp, Finn with my parents in Wisconsin, and Leif chairing a board meeting in Milwaukee, the ONLY logical thing for me to do was borrow a toddler for the day. Our longtime friend Meghan (the last time we hung out we were here) came in from DC for a conference and brought her daughter Z. I was thrilled to have Meghan stay with us and just as anxious to get my hands on her daughter for a day!

Z is such a cutie, but I am totally out of practice when it comes to entertaining a two year old! Although she was born at only 28 weeks gestation little if anything is slowing this young lady down! I pulled out all the creative stops...Z could be seen wearing a mixing bowl on her head, dancing enthusiastically to the Chattanooga Choo Choo, making drums out of a meatloaf pan and measuring cups, and eventually playing naked in our outdoor drink tub with the hose! I loved every minute of my time with her!

I think she had a great time and was fast asleep by the time her mom made it home around 8pm. I cooked a simple, yet delicious dinner for Meghan and we enjoyed some adult conversation before I fell into bed.

Seared Sesame Crusted Coho Salmon, with Avocado, Peach, Tomato Basil Compote, Twice Cooked Quinoa, Zucchini and Beans.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Drop Off

For a span of about two hours yesterday each of the Elsmo Four were in their own states...Leif stayed in Illinois to work, Finn was safely with Grandma and Papa in Wisconsin, I was driving through Indiana, and Emma was finding her way around camp in Michigan.
Emma and I made our way to Covert, Michigan (near South Haven) for a stop over at a cottage owned by some family friends. The setting was divine!

The girls were able to swim among some pretty huge Lake Michigan swells and back at the cottage it felt like being trapped in a giant tree house. Stunning. We enjoyed a lovely dinner and conversation before heading to bed.

Bright and early the next morning we piled the girls in the car with two weeks worth of sunscreen and leotards and drove them to Blue Lake Fine Arts Camp. Emma earned a scholarship to attend the two week camp session held on a 1,300 acre campus in Manistee National Forest. Emma has never been away from home for this long and certainly not without a parent, but she seemed ready for this experience! Once we arrived at the camp any fears I had about leaving her dwindled in an instant. The cabins are about as bare bones as they come and house 10 girls and a counselor. Emma is staying in the Peerce Cabin below and her counselor Jessie is doing her post graduate work in vocal performance at the University of Kansas.

Once we had the girls settled in the cabin they threw on their leotards, swept their hair into buns and made the short, but beautiful walk to the dance studios on campus for their placement audition.

Below is my last fuzzy image of Emma before I see her again on August 23rd!
She seems like she is going to have an amazing time.

I think I had better find a distraction for the next couple of days!

Monday, August 10, 2009


Food at the Lake Forest Oasis tastes really good when you eat it before being taken to Grandma's house for a week!
Have fun Finn!

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Cemitas in the City

A couple of nights ago Leif and I caught an episode of Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives on the Food Network. The episode centered around sandwiches and highlighted a Chicago joint called Cemitas Puebla. We called up some friends and made our way to Humbolt Park to check it out for ourselves today. The Cemita and Taco Arabes lived up to the hype promised by the spot on Triple D to say the least!

A cemita is served on a unique sesame seed bread and layered with avacado, choice of meat (I went for the carne asada), adobo chipotle chilies, fresh Oaxacan cheese, and papalo (a pungent Mexican herb). This was hands down the best sandwich I have had in years!
We also loved the Tacos Arabes, a middle eastern influenced dish featuring spit roasted pork on a very thin pita. Amazing.

We even got to meet Antonio! He is one of the owners of this family run business and travels to Puebla every six weeks or so to pick up ingredients for this deceptively run of the mill looking store front sandwich shop. Check it out...3619 W North Ave in Chicago.
With our bellies full we headed for a stroll on the Lakefront and back to our friends' house to let kids swim in Z's "fantastic" swimming pools. E even cut Finn's hair while we were there!
While Z was lounging in his pool he looked at Finn and said, "Finn, isn't this the life?"
Yes, after a day like this, I have to say this is the life!

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