Tag Archives: weekly photo challenge

A great day


Oh, that face.

I’ve watched that smirk blossom from the cherub-like visage of a 12-year-old boy to the masculine features of a 21-year-old college graduate.

Congratulations, Adored Stepson.

He officially passed through the portal of adulthood today when he graduated from the University of Wisconsin-River Falls. (He did it in three years, folks. Count ’em, three. No one graduates with a college degree in three years. OK, some people do, but it took me five. So I’m impressed. But thanks to PSEO which helped him earn college credit in high school and a nose-to-the-grindstone approach to earning credits that meant something, he earned his degree in business administration in record time.)

Back to the face. The one to Caswell’s left.

While we were taking celebratory pictures this morning near the river where River Falls gets its name, we passed this brick wall spray painted with a mugshot. Like a Rorschach test, the viewer assigns its meaning. Stepson saw George Bush. The one with the W.

I see Lyndon Johnson. And I can’t read the hashtag.

But for the sake of conversation (and an ending to this blog post), let me quote from George W.’s commencement speech last year at Southern Methodist University:

It is a glorious day when your child graduates from college — and a really great day for your bank account.

I’m kidding. He really did say that. But he also said this:

To those of you who are graduating this afternoon with high honors, awards, and distinctions, I say, “well done.” And as I like to tell the “C” students: You, too, can be President.

Funny guy, that George W. OK, enough goofing around. Bush also said this, and I share this to encourage my Stepson, who somehow became a bit cynical since the first day I met him when he recounted the entire plot to Eragon by Christopher Paolini while sitting across from me in a booth at Space Aliens cafe (he was so cute telling me all the details of a boy who finds a mysterious stone in the mountains). Maybe this commencement quote from Bush will encourage you, too.

Today, some doubt America’s future, and they say our best days are behind us. I say, given our strengths—one of which is a bright new generation like you—these are not dark days. These are great days.

Admiration for the lovely tulip

Tulip neighbor

Their season is short but their days are filled with glory.

I admire the neighborhood tulips every spring. I’m always astonished at how gardeners plan ahead. And trust! They trust those dirty bulbs will erupt some months later with loveliness. I soak in the unique beauty of every color. Red, of course …

tulip red closeup

Yummy yellow …

tulip yellow closeup

What a maroon!

tulip burgundy

Pretty purple …

tulip purple closeup

And variegated varieties …

tulip verigated purple

And I appreciate them in every form. A single bloom …

tulip single

In a bed …

tulips in a bed

In a circle …

tulips in a circle

And in a row …

tulips in a row

They don’t last long, and I’ve learned they malinger, rather than linger, when they’re cut and brought in the house. Don’t harvest the mighty tulip but take in its magnificence.

This vibrant comfort dish started with a fresh lemon and a couple of leftover sweet peppers

When I think Italian food, I think red.

Tomatoes. Spaghetti sauce. A nice glass of Chianti.

It’s a limited vision. But it doesn’t have to be so.

It could be yellow.

Or orange!

I conjured up the following recipe after a friend gave me some fresh lemons. I wanted to make some comfort food (and icy cold lemonade wasn’t gonna cut it), so I thought of linguine with lemon sauce. But I had some yellow peppers I wanted to use up, the inspiration for which brought me to a bunch of red pepper sauce recipes. Thus was born my Pasta with Lemon & Pepper Cream Sauce.

peppers before

I liked it so much, I made it again a couple of days later with some vibrant orange sweet peppers. And a couple of carrots. ‘Cause I’m just a wild and crazy gal (who likes to sneak veggies into everything).

The result had all the atomic orange goodness of a bowl of Kraft macaroni cheese without any of the scary dyes or preservatives. The half-and-half (or cream, if you’re really needing it) speaks of comfort. There is a ton of natural, delicious flavor here, but don’t skip over the fresh lemon juice or the red pepper flakes.

peppers finished dish

Pasta with Lemon & Pepper Cream Sauce


  • 2 orange (or yellow or, if you must be conventional, red) sweet peppers, seeded and cut into eighths
  • 2 carrots, peeled and cut into sticks (skeptical? You won’t even taste these — but they’re orange! and good for you!)
  • 4 cloves garlic, smashed and skins removed
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • about 12 cherry tomatoes, halved (I used red, but I really wished I had orange on hand — these are for garnish)
  • zest of 1 fresh lemon plus about a tablespoon of lemon juice
  • 3-4 tablespoons half-and-half
  • 1 tablespoon dried parsley
  • 1 teaspoon dried basil
  • A pinch of red pepper flakes
  • 4-6 ounces of your favorite pasta (I like angel hair, but you have my permission to be unconventional)
  • 2 tablespoons shredded parmesan cheese
  • Salt and lots of freshly ground black pepper


  1. peppers cutArrange peppers, carrots and garlic on a cookie sheet. I tucked the garlic cloves into the pepper pieces so they wouldn’t get burnt (though a little browning just adds yumminess). Drizzle with oil. Add salt and pepper. Roast in a hot 400 degree oven for 25 minutes, stirring once or twice. Add the cherry tomatoes and roast for 10 minutes more (35 minutes total).
  2. peppers roastedAllow roasted veggies to cool slightly. Reserve the cherry tomatoes for garnish later. Now’s the time to start your salted water a boilin’ for your pasta.
  3. peppers blendedCombine lemon zest, lemon juice, roasted veggies, half-and-half and dried spices in blender (I used a smoothie glass) and blend until smooth. It will be thick, like a smoothie. Taste it and add salt and pepper as necessary.
  4. When your noodles are done (al dente if you must, or a little mushier if you’re more like me), drain and add back to your hot pot. Dump your blended veggies into pot and mix well.
  5. To serve, divide between two bowls (or, if you’re really hungry, dump into a single big bowl). Garnish with parmesan, your roasted cherry tomatoes and freshly ground black pepper. Serves 1 or 2.

peppers after

Stop and smell the lilacs on the way

lilacs vert

Few flowers have the power to capture my attention like lilacs. It’s their scent, I’m sure. As I was running around town yesterday morning, I literally stopped to smell the lilacs on the way.

My sense of smell is not exactly exacting. Sure, I can smell strong odors, but nuances elude me. Roses? Pretty. But their fragrance is weak.

There’s nothing nuanced about the scent of lilacs. Their heady perfume pervades even a hypnotic run. I’ve jogged by this home at least a hundred times, but I don’t recall ever seeing lilacs there. Obviously, I was exercising elsewhere in past late Mays.

Clearly, I have a thing for lilacs. I’ve waxed nostalgic for them more than once on this blog (201020112013). I’m always transported to the house I consider my childhood home, where a phalanx of lilacs grew in the alleyway, sweetly scenting the garbage cans for a few weeks every year.

I didn’t have my iPhone with me on my run yesterday, so I went back today on a soggy Saturday morning to capture this image.

The lilacs still smelled fragrant.

lilacs with saying

Sun sets Sunday on a sundae

While waiting in the drive-through for the wizards at Culver’s to create my custard sundae topped with peanut butter sauce and Reece’s Peanut Butter Cups (because one kind of peanut butter isn’t enough), I looked out the truck window and the crescent moon cast a spell.


Behold, twilight. I can’t type that word without thinking of Kristen Stewart, the starlet of the movie series based on the books, but there’s no other way to describe it. Beautiful, pink-and-lavender-bathed twilight.

It’s not nighttime, technically, but it’s a lot more evocative than the shot I captured Friday of the camper.

The chill in the air reminds me the leaves on that tree won’t be there for much longer, but this was an evening when an ice cream treat was still appropriate for the season.

“Without ice cream, there would be darkness and chaos.”

~ Charles Baxter

Amore tonight was spelled with two Zs

The WordPress photo challenge this week is “nighttime,” but the best shot I was able to get in the dark with my iPhone was this one:


A glimpse of the camper with the glow of the Wisconsin Dells in the background sounds better than it looks in this picture (though you might be able to see a star in the upper left quadrant of you squint).

Instead of darkness, I’ll give you a look at another landscape I enjoyed this evening: The biggest pizza I have ever seen, let alone eaten:


That’s not a toy spatula there, matey.

“When the moon hits your eye like a big pizza pie, that’s amore.”

[Bonus points go to readers who caught the connection of nighttime to pizza via a Dean Martin lyric before I spelled it out, lucky fella.]

Through the looking glass

A Minnesotan can’t think of summer without thinking about The Lake.

It could be any one of thousands of lakes in the state with the tagline “Land of 10,000 Lakes,” but whichever one that is home to your camper/cabin/boat launch is known as The Lake.

In my Minnesota memory bank of lakes is Big Pine Lake, Ottertail Lake, Long Lake and Rush Lake.

If you didn’t live near a lake, then a swimming pool probably played a privotal role in your summer recreational locales. Summer is short in Minnesota, so you get while the getting’s good, and I remember spending hours every day swimming at the Wadena municipal pool and later, lifeguarding at the Sebeka Pool.

No long after the tan lines fade, bodies of water in Minnesota solidify and anglers with nothing better to do go ice fishing, so the liquid in those summer watering holes is precious indeed.

Today, the travels in my transplanted home brought me to edge of Lake Michigan north of Chicago. This shore shot through the shady trees reminded me of a looking glass. Instead of seeing an image of my face, I saw summer lovin’.

Lake Michigan near Lake Bluff, Ill.

Lake Michigan near Lake Bluff, Ill.

Letters in the wind(ow)


The most amazing window display caught my eye last week when I was in downtown Chicago visiting a client.

Someone upcycled pages from books into blossoms. Letters became art, art as commerce.

The display drew me into Greer, a pretty like stationery store where I spent $40 on beautiful notes and cards and papers. If I like someone very much, I may actually work up the strength to send them.


On top

birth markA few months after I’d met my Beloved when I knew him well enough to know I was sure about my feelings but when I was still caught up in the rush of infatuation, I made him a list of reasons I loved him.

No. 34 was “that cute little birthmark reminds me you were a baby once.”

When I first met him in a coffee shop seven years ago, I noticed he was tall (I was swooning by then). Then I noticed his big, strong hands (yeah, I have a thing about hands). Then I noticed he had gorgeous blue eyes (oh, joy!). And then I noticed the little Gorbachev on top his head. His presence? Imposing. His hands? Like baseball mitts. His eyes? Breathtaking. His birthmark? Cute.

He wore his hair shorter then, so his birthmark was evident. Now it’s often hidden by his curly tresses. But I know it’s there.

Technically, it’s called a hemangioma which is an abnormally dense group of blood vessels. According to the Mayo Clinic, cause is unknown though it may be hereditary. The old wives’ tale I’d heard said such birthmarks are caused by how a baby rests inside the womb, which is why my Beloved’s reminds me he was a baby once.

Whatever the cause, I think his little purple blotch is distinctive and adorable. Just like him.

Winter through my windows


Enormous fluffy flakes of snow fell out of the sky again today.

What I like best about falling snow is how cozy and warm it makes me feel inside. I don’t ski. I don’t snowmobile. I don’t stand on frozen lakes angling for fish. I don’t make round little carrot-nosed men with scarves fluttering in the breeze. I don’t play in the snow and I am disinclined to work in it, too — driving, shoveling, gingerly tip-toeing through it makes me sigh and roll my eyes — again?

But gazing at falling snow through the rank of panes in my living room makes me want to brew a cup of coffee and lose myself in a good book.

So it’s good for something, I guess.