Archive for the ‘Memoirs’ Category

Still Kicking!

Monday, May 20th, 2013

Back in my hometown of Chicago, there was this wonderful small in stature woman whose name is
Lily. I would often see her on the elevator in the apartment building where we both lived. I would
ask her how she was doing, concerned especially because she was up in age and living alone, and
she would always reply, “Still kicking!”, and then she would kick her foot up a few inches and smile.
Right after that she would ask me how I was and compliment me on my earrings or scarf or something.
Sometimes she would tell me the same earrings I had on the week before were pretty.

I always thought Lily was a special and wonderful gal. She gave me hope and lifted my grumpy spirits
on days I thought weren’t worth the effort. But now, after Lily is gone, I do what she did. Thank you,
Lily. Thank you.

My Mentors

Thursday, January 12th, 2012

January 11 is National Mentor Day, as I was reminded by Griff Wigley of Locally Grown Northfield. Growing up I rarely saw my parents for more than a few moments at a time, they were so busy working. However, I did have two neighbors who were very civic minded, and childless. They owned a small department store, complete with a US Post Office, lovable Cocker Spaniel and large garden. We lived above the store and shared in the garden and a lovable dog, at least I did during the time that I was 5 through 11 years old.

Stephanie and Gustav Breslauer taught me so many things that I still keep with me today. Gus had a fantastic sense of humor and would often make jokes and puns. I would always laugh with him. He taught me how to load a coal furnace! But more than that, Gus was big on charities and charitable organizations like the Kiwanis Club. We would go out and sell peanuts on the corner of the streets in Chicago. We’d find a busy street corner and stay out all day. We sold red fabric poppies on Memorial Day and if there was a disease that needed research funding, we went door to door and collected for it.

I treasure those memories, as people were so kind and giving and really helped to make us feel good about what we were doing. The Kiwanis Club had a special dinner and show every year to thank the volunteers who sold peanuts and did so many other things for handicap children. Each year they had a really good magician who would involve kids from the audience. I’ll never forget the year they invited me up to help with a card trick. My first introduction to public speaking. Thank you, Gus. Your lessons served me well.

Stephanie, or Stevie as she was called, taught me many things about gardening. Every good weather Sunday she would be out there weeding, planting and fixing up. She gave me jobs like gathering seeds from the 4 o’clocks, watching for birds and smelling the flowers. She told me how seeds that she didn’t plant got into her garden. Then, I got to skate through the garden all day long. I still garden in my home and I don’t think I will ever quit enjoying nature and growing plants.

My dear mentor also taught me about knitting, crocheting, color coordination, collecting, and painting. Stevie used to crochet beautiful afghans and raffle them off at the church for the school funds. Everyone who knew coveted those afghans all year long. She would never sell them. She made them while the store was quiet and her other work was done.
The church would make ten thousand dollars or more and back then, that was a lot of dough. She let me help with turn the yarn skeins into balls. I also used to straighten out the considerable thread drawers making sure each color variation was in it’s proper place. Whenever I knew there was work for me, I couldn’t wait to get started. These activities honed my hand eye coordination and sense of accomplishment, unbeknownst to me at the time.

Stevie’s garden was surrounded by high walls of neighboring grocery store buildings on two sides and a multi car garage, one level on the third side and our department store/apartment building on the fourth…we were in Chicago…so Stevie decided she would rather look at her own creations rather than the brick walls, so she painting beach scenes. They were fun and flowing and the colors were bright and cheery and she taught me to think out of the box with all her beautiful art.

To this very day, I knit, crochet, paint, and think outside that box. I think Stevie is certainly one of the most beautiful beings I have ever known. Quiet as she was, she taught me the basics of so much of what I do today.
Thank you, Stevie, up in heaven, thank you.

There’s so much more to this story. Maybe I’ll get to that book someday.

But know that if you have any life skills at all, and a real caring for people, I would highly recommend mentoring a child or anyone who could use life skills. Of course, do the background checks for your own safety.

It Only Takes A Word

Friday, October 22nd, 2010

This isn’t my own story, but it is the story of a few of my in-laws.

My brother in law was brought into this world by his Christian mother whose name is Gretel and a Jewish father whose name is Karl in Germany during the second world war.  My brother in law and his brothers were sent to the USA to stay with some aunts for safety while Gretel stayed behind in Germany to await the Karl who had been sent to a Nazi concentration camp.

After several years, slowly the Nazis were allowing some people to be released from the camps.  One day, Gretel heard that the Nazis had let three hundred people go free. She ran down to the office of the Nazis and a young man came out and asked what she wanted.  Gretel said she wondered if her husband had been amongst those who were released.

The Nazi officer told Gretel that all of the three hundred people had been released already and that he did not see Karl’s name on the register.  Gretel, looked at the officer and asked, “Would anybody mind if it was three hundred and one?”

The officer looked at Gretel for what seemed like a long, long time. He told Gretel to wait and in a little while, he returned with Karl and suddenly the two were once again united.

I love that story because well, Karl was a super fellow to me as I grew to know him. I was five when I met him and knew him for many years thereafter.  He had a great sense of humor, he worked very hard and the only time I saw him snarl a little bit was when I asked him about the numbers tatooed to his forearm. I was five or six and he didn’t want to tell me how he got those numbers from the concentration camp.

The story shows that one small step can make a world of difference.  If Gretel had been too afraid or too negative to ask after her husband, she may
not have ever seen him again.  During those times, the Nazis were not always consistent with their policies.  If she had just turned away, thinking she was too late or hopeless, her sons may not have ever seen their father again.  But as it was, Karl and Gretel came to United States, opened up a shoe repair shop and then a big shoe store with accessories and made a good living, and provided a good service to the local community in Chicago as did each one of their three sons.

This is a story for the gay teens who turn to suicide because they were harassed with words, for them it means, ask for help…you may find it in the strangest places. Sometimes saying a word might get you fired, like Juan Williams, the commentator with NPR, who has signed up now with Fox News.
NPR could have been kinder, but Juan may have made the best move of his career. For me it means, with patience and love I can make a difference
in people’s lives whenever I sit down and state my case to the appropriate audience or person. Can I get an ‘Amen’, America?


NGC Again

Saturday, December 13th, 2008

This is about my fourth or fifth time writing about the food at Northfield Golf Club, and I should apologize, but I won’t because we tried yet some more of the wonderful dishes of the endless creations and inspirations brought to fruition in the kitchens of Raphael and his team of excellent chefs.

D had the aged prime rib, baked potato, baby asparagas and salad bar. Iced tea and his usual creme brulee’ were also devoured. During this wonderful meal, he didn’t talk much, just ate. I thought the prime rib was the best looking piece of beef I had seen ever. And at $19.95, one cannot go wrong. D thought it very tasty, very lean and was 100% satisfied.

This night, I had the best sandwich I have ever had. I didn’t want it to end. It was a balsamic chicken sandwich with a mozzarella cheese that clung to the chicken so perfectly they seemed meant for one another. There was an aged balsamic vinegar marinade and a perfect hamburger bun. It was lip smacking super tender, juicy, very, very good.

I also tried the homemade tomato bisque soup. Again, I could have eaten that all through a viewing of any longer than average movie you could think of. And the side salad was just right, with tomatoes that were red and solid and tasty for December. I finished D’s baby asparagas, cuz he said he had some to spare, :) and I tried out his baked potato.

He stops eating the baked potato as soon as it is without butter and sour cream which he piles on on top of the potato and eats mostly the butter and sour cream, leaving the bottom half of the actual potato for whomever comes along, which would be me who loves the taste of a good potato all by itself. He also put the horseradish sauce which was included for the prime rib on the potato, because he feels about prime rib the way I feel about potatoes, don’t mess mine up with all the extra stuff, if you please! (I do apologize for all the change in tenses and confusion, but if you read the last two sentences again, the meaning will become clear.)

Then, we polished off some chocolate ice cream with chocolate sauce on it, and a creme brulee’. D had to help me out with the ice cream cuz I got brain freeze half way through. I usually have two bites of D’s creme brulee’ but as I looked over to get some, he was putting the last bite away. That’s what I get for not feeding him that much all day.

But it’s okay as I am still watching my figure. Hence, my ordering a side salad instead of some of the best waffle fries ever. And I left a good third of my hamburger bun on the plate and gave three ounces of my balsamic chicken to D because it was so good, I felt I needed to share with him. He was quite glad I did, too.

The evening topper was a 25% off in 2009 coupon for dining with them at this Christmastime dining event.

Remember to call for winter hours and reservations…and you don’t have to be a member. And, no I am not being paid, but wish I was. :)

Happy Holidays, All, and no happy holidays if you don’t want well wishes of this type. Good night or good day or just good bye! Next week, Culvers and the Mexican grocery store, LaVencedora.

Mediterranean Cruise Cafe – Eagan MN

Saturday, September 6th, 2008

This is a place we have been to about five or six times. We go for the food, but we keep coming back for the
service and we because feel like we have taken a mini vacation when we leave, the food is so healthful, fresh and delicious. The restaurant has been around almost forty years, so you know, what more do I need to say?

3945 Sibley Memorial Hwy
Eagan, MN 55122
(Cedar Ave.S. and Hwy.13 across from Cedarvale Shopping Center)

Ph. 651-452-5991

The Mediterranean Cruise Cafe is moving to Nicolette in Burnsville, Spring of 2009.

The menu is big and complicated. Choose before you go to save time for eating…

…and now I’ll go on to describe each yummy ingredient I can recall;

Olive Oil, smooth, buttery a tiny bit of sweetness, not oily or bitter in any way.

Feta Cheese, again smooth, creamy, pure, not very salty, not too crumbly, the real thing.

All vegetables, deep, rich flavor and color, cooked just right, or if raw, very fresh, lightly dressed…a good vegetarian menu section.

Meats of lamb, beef, chicken, tender but with a bite, deliciously flavorful, just want more.
The shrimp is always what shrimp can be when cooked correctly. Very flavorful and good texture.

Rice, fluffy, tasty, rolls on the tongue, so you can actually bite into it a bit.

Tabouli, the parsley is flavorful, but not overwhelming, tomatoes that are red and fresh, parmesan like
cheese, and lemon, just the right amounts to balance the acid and green of the tomatoes and parsley. Refreshing.

Pita bread, it is served fresh, warm, and with hummus, the best tahinni and lemon and olive oil make the tahini as smooth as a ride to heaven, and makes a great snack if there are leftovers to box up. We typically have 2-3 boxes of food for the next day, there is that much food served with the Mediterranean Special dinners.

Lentil soup, it varies from chef to chef, but it is always a nice thing to have while you are waiting for the main courses, and it is so healthful.

Baklava for dessert. Very light, either walnut or pistachio. Delicious way to end the meal.

Turkish coffee, whooa, Nellie, this is the real deal, and so good. I couldn’t drink more than two or three sips, but it’s great if you have the time and the caffeine inclination.

The service here is amongst the best in the world in my opinion. There are 8-10 courses with the special meals, depending on if you count by food or plate, and you never wait for the next course, you never sit with used dishes for long, the server is proud of his service and considers service an honor. The waiters are very friendly and will even teach you a little Arabic for your pleasure. There are belly dancers on Sunday and well, you will have to check the schedule at their site, and a full bar.
There are many dishes to look at, so I advise looking online, and if you are going to dine during normal eating times, make a reservation. It is a wonderful dining experience if you like fresh and great food served by people who are so good at it, you walk out feeling like a new person.

The Short List-Restaurants I Have Known

Thursday, August 7th, 2008

I love making lists of things I have done, will do, want to do, wish to have and is here we have a short list of some of the memorable places we have dined. Just for fun. My review…I’d go back to these restaurants if they are still open and if I were to find myself in the area.

St. Paul, MN
Christo’s Greek Restaurant
St. Paul Grille, St. Paul Hotel

Minneapolis, MN
King and Thai

Eagan, MN
Doolittle’s Air Cafe
Casper’s Cherokee Steak House
Mediterranean Cruise Cafe

New Prague, MN

Schumacher’s, FishTail, Grandma’s, Subway

Litchfield, MN

Peter’s Ribs at the Golf Course, excellent light flavorful sauce, best meat, buffet, too

Tulsa, OK-Tulsa is a restaurant test market town. Lots of great places to eat.
Mahogany Prime Steakhouse

Osage Restaurant-Gilcrease Museum
Adam’s Mark Hotel

The Peach House-closed

Lanna Thai

Zio’s-see real laundry!

Bourbon Inn

Hideaway Pizza-Cherry Street Restaurant

St. Louis, MO
Adam’s Mark Hotel



The Berghoff-the oldest restaurant in Chicago, now closed;
Bowl Mich Restaurant-closed

Hi Ricky’s

Star of Siam

Salerno’s Italian

Geno’s East Pizza-new location

Heartland Cafe-some organic

The Chicago Diner-Vegetarian

Lou Mitchell’s Pancake House, vegan and regular

Pizza Uno

Pizza Due

Oyster Bar

The Pinnacle-turns around 360degrees while you eat

Medici’s, U of C hang out

Thai 55, also U of C area

The Pump Room, Ambassador Hotel

Bowl Mich-closed

Rivers on Wacker Drive

Army & Lou’s Soul Food-South Side

Soul Queen’s Soul Food (buffet)

Leona’s, stays open late north and south side

Piccalo Mundo- Great Italian in the Windemere Hotel,

across from the Museum of Science and Industry


The Chicago Diner, 3411 N. Halsted, 25 years, Vegetarian, very good.

Picallo Mundo – two locations, both very nice.

Tony and Joe’s Seafood Place
Blackie’s House of Beef

Gautreau’s-still closed after Katrina
Brennan’s in Houston, Tx, too
Three Sisters

Pepin, Wisconsin

Harbor View Cafe

Tavern by The Falls

LakeToxaway-new owner

Asheville, NC

Louisville, KY
Churchill Downs Club House
Louisville Inn, B and B

London, England

Palm Court,

The Ritz Carlton

Negril Beach, Jamaica

Holiday Inn

Mama DePasa’s,

Ochos Rios, Jamaica

PlayBoy Club-Don’t worry, there weren’t any bunnies, but plenty of delicious food and buffets that went on forever with just picked fruits and just caught fish and crustaceans!

There are many other great places in San Fransisco, Houston, Dallas, Toronto, etc, but I can’t remember the names right now. Watch for more later, if you are still interested, which I doubt! lol!

Post your fav restaurant memory!

Food Talk

Tuesday, August 5th, 2008

When we talk about food (I’d rather eat) we use a certain set of words to describe the major tastes we experience through our oral and olfactory and tactile senses and yes, sometimes the ear…like how some food crunches as we bite into it, or how it crackles when served piping hot out of the fryer.

The main thing we talk about is flavors, the main ones universally accepted are sweet, sour, savory, spicy and bitter. If we get to experience all five of those flavors at one meal, we will be feeling pretty satisfied on the physical level. We should feel like we covered the complete food gamut. We should be happy.

We also talk about citrusy, rich, salty, buttery, nutty, creamy, yummy, cheesy, pungent, hot spicy, and curry flavors, comparing foods to the tastes of foods most of us have experienced. We talk of combinations like tart and hot.

Then, there are the textures we like and dislike, such as smooth, gooey, airy, moist, dry, fatty, soggy, burnt.

Finally, when it comes to aroma, we are lifted, reminded of memories, enchanted, drawn in, encompassed by. There are more, but this is just a primer for the uninitiated, and the people who knew, but forgot.

My major test when it comes to judging how good a meal was overall, is how good I feel right after the meal and into the next day. If I feel tired, bloated, deflated, I know I better not dine that way again. On the other hand, if I feel slightly elated, energized and/or very pleasantly pleased why, I’ll do that one again and again and recommend that others try it, too. But most people know what their systems will tolerate, enjoy or reject. It’s all up to you and I am mostly happy about that.

Know any other ways to describe food, dining or otherwise embibing? Join in the conversation and send us your fav or least fav food attribute or memory or something you would like to experience in the future.

Cosmos Restaurant – A Memoir

Sunday, August 3rd, 2008

Don’t read this. It’s just me remembering something that happened a while back and something I want torelive over and over again. I want to remembersucculent, sumptuous, delicious, scrumptious andmarvelous food, great service, and a wonderful experience.

It’s been almost two years since we went to Cosmos for a Christmas celebration. We had gone there for
Thanksgiving the year before and dreamed of going back there again, and again.

We walked into the 601 Graves Hotel in downtown Minneapolis, where Cosmos is located. I understood how the Hotel got it’s name right away. It was as quiet as, well, it was exotically quiet. A doorman opened the door for us and asked us if we were staying in the hotel or going to Cosmos.

We took the elevator up a few floors and came out to find a very modern sculpture and a large artfully lit
bar and onto a comfortable looking dining area with the kind of lighting that flatters the face, soft and
warm. My heart fluttered with expectation.

We left our coats with the coat room attendant and were shown our seats. We had made reservations, and
it was early in the day, so we had plenty of attention and space to claim.

Our waitperson came immediately and throughout the consumption of our meal, was always there with refills, the next course, the whole deal, he had the most perfect timing I ever saw. Now the same was true all three times we visited, even though two times were slower in customer numbers and one time the room was full. We had more servers when the room was full, but still the perfect timing was there.

Between us, we had steaks, turkey, ham, artisanal cheeses, pumpkin brulee’, salads, pad thai, for brunch we had eggs Benedict, oatmeal, fruit, and sweet treats. I even ordered a coffee with wild turkey and kahlua…and although it was delicious, with flavors balanced evenly, I couldn’t begin to finish it without
having to be carried out.

Every bite, every morsel of food was just as you might wish for or dream it would be. Great pieces of meat, not a hint of tough, rubbery, grizzly, stringy…none of that. Vegetables, so flavorful you would walk a mile for a string bean, with texture perfectly attained, no mushy, underdone, tasteless stuff here. Not even a little bit. Only the slightest crunch, gorgeous color and served at peak temperature. Potatoes, again complete and full flavor all around. No sticky, starchy, gloppy globs. No laden with cheese to stick in your gullet. No garlic to the high heavens. No. Never.

The salads served at just the right amount of coolness on cool plates, without the drip, or that plastic sort of crunch you sometimes get at the fast food places.

The desserts were excellent, not too sugary, not too rich. Just right. Same for the cheeses, aged and looked after by loving eyes and hands til it’s perfectly attuned with all the muses of great dining.

At Cosmos, most of the food is from the best organic sources, and the food is as fresh as is possible. No frozen, day old, masked or covered up food from last week. Nope.

Two gripes I have, one major, one minor is that they do still serve the fatted duck liver which some people consider animal cruelty. I don’t know much about it, but I will weigh in on not fattening up the duck liver by overfeeding or any method that hurts the duck. The minor gripe is that I was served baby tomatoes with the seeds. Usually tomato seeds are eliminated from finer dining, but I guess it depends. But I wouldn’t let that stop me from enjoying the best restaurant I have been to in ten years or more.

The last one was a place called Mahogany in Tulsa, OK but I think they went out of business. Nope, I just googled them and they are still there. But they cannot really hold a candle to Cosmos’s artistry, unless they have changed as of late, but steak houses are steak houses and Cosmos is much more than that. Do yourself a nice turn sometime and have an expensive meal at Cosmos. You’ll never forget it if you
love great food in a nice atmosphere…like I said at the top, it’s the difference between remembering a food experience for years versus what did I have to eat this morning?

Thanks for looking into my mind today. Hope it was enlightening in some small way. At least I ended on a rhyme and just in time, cuz my hubby in hungry and he only makes pancakes.