Saturday, March 31, 2012

A is for Accent

The Quote of the Day that inspired my A to Z Challenge theme -
A Word for the Day that takes on many meanings.

Quote of the Day: A writer lives in awe of words for they can be cruel or kind, and they can change their meanings right in front of you. They pick up flavors and odors like butter in a refrigerator. John Steinbeck

Word of the Day: Accent

I found 11 definitions for accent as a noun, and two as a verb. I'd like to put the accent on this one: the characteristic mode of pronunciation of a person or group, especially one that betrays social or geographical origin.

The United States of America is filled with a variety of accents. I have a distinct Mid-Western accent, don't ya know. I say "Uff-da" and sometimes end my sentences with "then." I lived in Grand Forks, ND for a while, which is a short ice chunk ride up the river to Canada where they say "eh" and sweep their leaves to the "berm." I don't know a West Texas accent from one from Georgia, but I'll bet the Southern folks do.

Most American women tend to swoon over the French accent. The Oscars were vocally sexy this year with so many wins for The Artist (a movie I loved, by the way). When Jean Dujardin speaks just two words as George Valentin, "Weeth pleasure," I nearly swooned in my theatre seat.

Not all accents are so well received by Americans. When we call a technical service line and the guy on the other end has a Middle Eastern accent, our frustration level increases. Not only do we not speak the techie talk, but now we can barely understand basic instructions like, "First make sure the computer is turned on." Although they're saying all the right words in the right order, the accent is on the "wrong" syllable and the cadence of the sentence ees off.

We can feel a sense of danger from certain accents. Some people are quickly labeled for their accent. We can also feel helpless when we need the information from a doctor or professor, but the words don't come out clear. The best we can do here is to ask for them to write it down.

Go. Create. Inspire!
Journaling Prompt:  Do you judge people by their accent? Have you ever been judged? Frustrated by it? Stopped going somewhere because the accent got in the way of communication?

Friday, March 30, 2012

La torta di Ricotta di Mamma~Mom's italian cheesecake

With Easter right around the corner, I wanted to remind everyone of this lovely Italian Cheese cake.  This is an older post.  Enjoy!

I came across a variation of this wonderful cake made by many Italian Mom's in the 1960's.   My mother's version was baked and enough for an army of relatives.  It was traditonally served after dinner/lunch  during Easter and 4th of July celebrations.    This version is a no-bake version.  The light, flufffy texture of ricotta in combination with the cream cheese adds a whole new dimension to this cake. Any fresh  fruit topping will do.  Buon Appetito~

1 pound Whole Milk Ricotta cheese
11 0z of Cream cheese
3 tablespoons of vanilla extract
3/4 cup sugar
One 9 inch springform pan
1 pint Heavy Whipping cream
3 packages of lady fingers ( more or less to line the springform pan and enough to layer your ricotta cake)
For the glaze:
Use any fresh fruit in Season
I used Raspberries as it makes for a pretty presentation~
2 pints fresh Rasberries carefully rinsed and dried 2
2-3  tablespoons corn starch
3/4 cup water
1/4 cup good rasberry liquor
1/4 cup crushed rasberries
3/4 cup sugar
Carefully line your springform pan with lady fingers. All lady fingers should be flat side facing the interior of the pan. Line the bottom of the pan with lady fingers. If you springform is nonstick, it is not necessary to line anything with paper.
It is extremely important that your cheeses be room temperature for a creamier texture and no lumps. Carefully combine Ricotta, cream cheese, vanilla and sugar until all your ingredients are combined.
In a seperate chilled bowl carefully whip your whipping cream until good stiff peaks form
Carefully fold your whipped cream into your cheese mixture a litte at a time. You should see a nice fluffy consistency.
Pour your batter carefully into your springform pan halfway~Carefully place lady fingers across the top of the batter, creating another layer.
Pour your remaining batter into your pan.
Cover and refrigerate immediately
Needs 24 hours in the refrigerator to set and rest. Must be done one day ahead
For the Glaze.
Into a pan on low, heat  sugar, liquor, water. Slowly wisk in a handful of crushed raspberries. Let the sugar melt and dissolve until clear.  You will see your glaze almost bubble. Turn off heat and Whisk in 2-3  tablespoons of corn starch.  Back on low heat  until your glaze turns brighter red color and your glaze is gel like.. Should take about 4-5 minutes on low.  Set aside, cool, refrigerate.
about 1 hour before serving carefully place fresh rasberries across the top of your cake. Pour your cool glaze over your cake. Refrigerate for one hour.
Slice and serve~
Thank you to all of my friends who got to be the official taste testers of these 3 cakes~ hehe.. I am not the only one who has gained weight this week~ lol
Enjoy~Buon Appetito

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Beauty of the Bicycle

Quote of the Day:  The bicycle, the bicycle surely, should always be the vehicle of novelists and poets.
Christopher Morley

I'm lazy. But it's the lazy people who invented the wheel and the bicycle because they didn't like walking or carrying things.
Lech Walesa

Life is like a ten speed bicycle. Most of us have gears we never use. Charles M. Schulz

A woman without a man is like a fish without a bicycle.
Gloria Steinem

Favorite Photo Friday

I'm ending the week with an easy one. On Sunday, April 1, we start the Blogging from A to Z Challenge. I've written A and B, and have plans to write C tomorrow, and get through G this weekend, so I'm one week ahead on posting. Any blogger can join. As my publicist Krista likes to say, "Jump!"

Go. Create. Inspire!

Journaling Prompt:  Are you joining the A to Z challenge? What's your theme. Would you ride your bike through the city? Do you have any bike riding stories?

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Tomato Baguettes

3 cups unbleached flour plus 1/2 cup extra flour for your counter
1 teaspoon plus a half of active, dry yeast
1 cup plus 1/2 cup of warm (to the touch), water
One tablespoon olive oil
One teaspoon salt

This basic bread dough is something I use all the time.  Whether for focaccia or pizza dough, simple baguettes or Panella bread, you will never forget such a great combination of ingredients.  The Italian kitchen is quite versatile, that is all you need to remember. The secret to successful breads is always in the rise.  The length of time the dough is resting and working to create a tasty end result.
The night before you plan on making these baguettes, combine your yeast and 1/2 cup water. This is a "no Knead method" that requires very little work.  Don't be alarmed.  Just follow these directions. I have been around bread making all of my life, and there is nothing complicated about it.  Just takes patience.  You will be glad you made some in the end and will be making it often.
If you are using a food processor, or by hand, this takes minimal effort.  After about 10 minutes, add your remaining water, flour olive oil and salt and pulse until you have a sticky combination of ingredients.  I did this by hand.  Using your hand, combine your ingredients.  Lets rest in an oiled bowl for 10-12 hours in a warm place.  Preferably inside a dark cabinet, covered, until the morning.
After about 10-12 hours, you will notice a sticky, risen dough.  Remove with your hands onto the counter and knead just once or twice into a ball.

Let rest another hour covered with plastic wrap.  It will look somewhat sticky.
Remove from bowl and cut in half with a pastry cutter or knife.  Shape carefully into a log and loosely cover with plastic. 

Shape into your pan.  They will continue to rise. 

Gently lift and place your risen baguettes into the pan.  Slice your Roma Tomato thin.  Let rest in the baguette pan another 30 minutes. Press your tomato slices directly into your bread.  Press down firmly.  (I did not and my tomato slices are somewhat elevated). 

Preheat your oven to 425 degrees/bake
When your oven is heated (15 minutes later), your baguettes should be plump and ready for the oven.  If you like, brush them with olive oil.  Do not worry if your dough looks like it's bubbly in places.  It is still rising.  Place in your oven for 45 minutes.  Your baguettes should be golden and slightly browned.  Remove them from the oven and let cool.  You will here the crackling noises of a freshly baked loaf of bread.  Buon appetito. It will be hard to resist.  Serve some sliced along with a salad.  A perfect light lunch.

On the Air with Lon Schmidt

Quote of the Day:  In times like these, it helps to recall that there have always been times like these. Paul Harvey

This week I was on the air at 3wi FM Talk Radio 95.9 in Baxter, MN, with host Lon Schmidt and DeAnn Barry, director of the Senior Center. Thanks to Krista Rolfzen Soukup, Publicist Extraordinaire, I found myself out of my comfort zone, once again. Similar to that bus ride downtown Minneapolis, then elevator ride up to an observation deck. (See post Adventure Awaits the Daring, or Run! You're going to miss the Bus.) Our new challenge phrase is, "Jump on the bus!"

So, I was trying to be funny with a Twitter/facebook post: Trying to decide what to wear for my radio interview tomorrow. I had some helpful suggestions. One said, "It's radio, wear your pjs." Another said, "They can actually see you through the window, so I'd suggest dressing up." A tiara and evening gown were suggested. I appealed to a local radio gal that I know. She said, "Hoodie and jeans." So, I wore my dress hoodie and a sparkly headband that kind of looks like a tiara. I wore it in the final scene of my play Coffee Shop Confessions. After the performance, Joey Halvorson looked at me and said, "I can't look at you without thinking that you've just been crowned Miss Brainerd."

I was nervous, but it didn't take me long to warm up to the microphone.  DeAnn Barry had done this before, so she was much more relaxed. We'll be performing for the Senior Dinner on Monday, April 9. Call DeAnn at 829-9345 for reservations, $7, ridiculously cheap for dinner theatre. DeAnn offered us free rehearsal space, and our Thank You is to perform for the dinner.

I even made her laugh.

One of the cast members, David Allan Pundt, called in. It was fun to hear his take on his character and my play, calling Sam the "sounding board" for the stories the ladies share with him and each other. Lon encouraged me to set my Midwestern, self-depricating ways aside and brag up the show. He wanted to know where I got my idea to write the play and how I developed the characters (a common question to writers). I confessed that I was a shameless eavesdropper. I also provided the disclaimer that any similarities to real people is purely coincidence (wink). But, really, all the characters are fictional, even Laura's, who is in essence herself, is a fictionalized version of herself as a mother of many.

My message in all of this is to say, You won't get anywhere unless you jump on the bus, ride out of your comfort zone, and dare to do something new.

Go. Create. Inspire!

Journaling Prompt:  Have you ever been on the radio, or tv, or intereviewed for a story for newsprint? How did it go?

Encore performances at the Coco Moon:
Friday, April 13 & Saturday, April 14, 6:30, $5.
Friday is almost sold out.

Coffee Shop Confessions at The Shante in Pillager:
Thursday, April 19 & Friday, April 20, 6:30, $5. Tickets just went on sale.

Contact the venues for tickets.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Risotto con Carciofi e Frutta di mare (Risotto with artichoke and various seafood)


 With fresh Artichokes showing up at many local markets, I found it appropriate to re post this recipe. I hope you enjoy it. 
 Many people find it so intimidating to make risotto at home.  Once you have mastered the technique,  it's easy to do.  I am sure you will be looking for an excuse to make risotto again.  I made lots of mistakes in the beginning.   You should never rush risotto and please don't keep your flame up high.  This is a slow process that can't be rushed.  You need to give the flavors time to combine and your rice time to cook and rest before taking it to the table.
As you all know, I live in an area where fresh fish in non existent.     This was a great excuse to use it up what I had saved in the freezer.    I had handful of some shrimp along with some squid frozen from a another recipe. I cooked my  baby artichokes before my New York trip and placed them with their liquid in the freezer. The artichokes and their liquid give this risotto a wonderful creaminess without any addition of butter.  The delicate flavors combined make this dish the star of the show~ Had a few Calamari left to fry.  Just couldn't resist decorating with a few.  Had a hard time keeping my husband away from the kitchen

Ingredients for 6 people
1pound of Arborio rice / imported from Italy
3 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
1/2  medium Spanish onion/ or white onion diced
1 cup of white wine
approx. 1 cup artichokes cooked.  (They will be soft and fallen apart from having  been previously cooked in water).
3 cups of artichoke liquid
1/2 pound of large shrimp tails/shells removed/ cut up in small pieces.
1/2 pound squid/cut up
1/4 cup frying oil (for the fried squid tentacles) 
Parsley for garnish

Heat 4 tablespoons olive oil in a pan large enough to accommodate the risotto.  When Your oil is hot add your onion and saute until fragrant.   At this point add your shrimp and squid and saute.   When your fish is opaque which should take just a few minutes,  remove it from the pan.  Do not worry that your onion might not remain in your pan.  The important part here is that your olive oil is now enormously flavored.  Set aside your fish to cool.    Add your drained artichokes to the pan.  Reserve your cooking liquid from your artichokes.  Saute for 2 minutes.  Add your rice and mix.  Add your white wine and reduce.  After a few minutes, you will notice that your rice is dryer and sticking to the pan slightly. Keep mixing in steady round motion.   Begin adding your liquid, a cup at a time, stirring contstantly.  The stirring will cause the starch from the rice to release and the rice will cook.  Continue adding your liquid. Use This  process with the remaining liquid for about 20 minutes total. Keep you heat low.  Taste your rice.  It should be cooked and firm at al dente, your liquid evaporated and you should notice a creamy texture to the risotto. It is not necessary to use up all your liquid.  Or you may even need a little extra liquid.  You may use some reserved chicken broth or even water. if necessary.   Let rest about 10-15 minutes. Set your rice aside and add your fish to the top, mix and serve with crispy calamari on top (not typically done for decoration, but does look pretty). ~Buon appetito!

Special Note:  Save some extra calamari cut up and  add to some flour.  Shake off excess.   Fry in vegetable oil to cover until golden.  You will here them begin to pop some while they are cooking.  Drain, salt, a squeeze of lemon and serve as appetizer or sprinkle some on top of your risotto for decoration. 

Stir Fried Broccoli

Secret Recipe Club

It is secret recipe club time again.  My life has been a rush of finals, research papers, and of course all the running around required with baseball, dance, and other family obligations.  I have been on the look out for fast, easy and delicious side dishes to go with our slow cooker dinners.  Melanie over at Fabulously Fun Food has a lot of great side dishes that are not only tasty, but easy too.  She gives a great description of the pros and cons of each dish as well as the changes she plans on making the next time.

For this recipe I listened to her suggestions and eased up on the oil but I didn't know how much ginger to use so I just guessed.  I will probably add more next time or use thicker slices because we really like ginger in our house.  Overall though it was delicious!  Perfect to use as a side dish or to make into a vegetarian main dish with some other veggies.  I really loved the flavor of the ginger with the broccoli and nutty flavor of the sesame oil.

Double Take Stir Fried Broccoli
Recipe source: Fabulously Fun Food

1 pound of broccoli
1 Tbl vegetable oil
10 thin slices ginger (use less if you aren't a huge fan)
1/4 cup chicken broth
sprinkle of salt
sesame oil
sesame seeds

Add oil and ginger to the pan over medium heat.  Allow ginger to infuse into the oil for just a minute.  Toss in the broccoli and cook a few minutes until it is bright green but still firm.  Add the chicken broth and salt continue cooking a few minutes until just fork tender. Don't cover the pan or you will end up with steamed soggy broccoli.  Remove from pan, drizzle with a small amount (remember this stuff is very strong so a little goes a long way!) of sesame oil and some sesame seeds.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Adventure Awaits the Daring, or Run! You're going to miss the bus!

Quote of the Day:  Take the first step in faith. You don't have to see the whole staircase, just take the first step. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

This is a fitting quote as I describe further adventures with Krista Rolfzen Soukup and her boys on our Spring Break, daylong, excursion into the Mini-Apple (Minneapolis). I would also like to remind all you readers that I am a country girl. I learned how to drive on gravel roads where you drive down the center unless you meet a combine or large tractor, then you both hug the side of the ditches.

After our lovely lunch and visit to the Minneapolis Institute of Arts, we headed out onto the streets.

I barely had time to stop and take a picture of an interesting looking house and a few letters for my AtoZ Challenge posts. I had to run to catch up as Krista yelled behind her, "Let's take the bus!"  The next thing I know, I'm crowding in behind her and the boys, trying to make room for the other riders, and Krista hands me a twenty dollar bill. I look at the bus driver, and she says, "I can't make change." I look back at Krista, rather bewildered. I am a country girl and have no idea how much it costs to ride the bus. If I'd known I was going to hop on a bus today, I would have found out how much it was and had the exact amount of money ready to go. The very kind bus driver added up our total, an even $5, which luckily I had in my wallet, as we were already on our way to downtown Minneapolis.

The bemused (I hope) regular riders explained how to open the side seat once the man in the wheelchair exited. The bus driver gave us a message about needing the whole village to raise up a child and shut all the windows so she could turn on the air conditioning since it was an unusually hot day for mid-March in Minnesota. Normally, we'd be needing our winter coats, not extra deodorant. When Krista got up to shut our window, the riders told her to give it a harder shove. (Thanks, folks. We're from the country.)

Once downtown, we noticed that the buildings were way taller than the Brainerd water tower.

The boys thought it would be fun to go up to the observation deck of the Foshay Tower. I was against it, being a very grounded acrophobe from the country. I barely climbed past the second overhanging branch of a tree when I lived on the farm.

The boys said that they could stay up there all day. (That made me glad that I'd faced my fears and stepped out of my comfort zone.)

The view from above.

The residents' private patio.

Krista and her boys enjoying a little more breathing room on our bus ride back towards the theatre. We had a momentary pause at one stop, so the bus driver sang to us an Irish song that her grandmother had taught her.
City bus drivers are cool.

Now that I'm an official bus-riding city girl, I'm ready to...
Go. Create. Inspire!
(Honestly, I'd enjoy the city much more if it wasn't so noisy and there weren't so many people.)

Journaling Prompt:  Have you ever jumped into adventure?

Friday, March 23, 2012

Spaghetti di Magro

"I Pomodorini freschi ci cantano,"  translation, little, fresh tomatoes  are singing.   On a night that we just didn't know what to cook, being Italian came in handy.  A usual Friday night recipe, during this season of Lent, this recipe is delicious and easy to prepare.  My husband recalls his best friends mom,  used to make this and add mushrooms (Caldarelle) fresh from the country, outside Ascoli Piceno.  They are similar to chiodini or oyster mushrooms here in the States.  You can even make them without mushrooms, as we did this evening.
Ingredients for 4 people
1 pound  of spaghetti
3 tablespoons of olive oil
2 tablespoons garlic (I use elephant garlic, as it is milder in taste). chopped fine.  Or you can leave them large and remove them before serving. 
1 /12 oz can of tuna
1 can of black olives drained
2 tablespoons salted capers
1 teaspoon hot pepper flakes (optional)
2 cups of sweet 100 tomatoes, rinsed and split
1/ 2 cup white wine
1 tablespoon of salt for pasta water
No salt necessary for the sauce as the capers are salted.
1/4 cup chopped basil and more for garnish

In a skillet, enough to accommodate the finished dish, saute your garlic until fragrant.  This should take a minute or two.   Then, add your olives, capers, cut up tomatoes.  Add your white wine and reduce.  Mash with the back of a spoon for 5 minutes while mixing.  Turn off heat.  Add your Italian tuna.  If you can not get Italian tuna, drain white albacore in water  and mix in your sauce.  Cook your pasta as directed.  Serve with basil for garnish. Buon Appetito~

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Raspberry Euphoria Coffee-Cake . . . A Tale of Magnetron Redemption

It was 11:00 on Wednesday morning and I stood in my kitchen, face to face with a kindly appliance repairman. "Whatcha need here is a new magnetron . . . that's whatcha need." His tone was laced with sympathy. He knew the very word sounded expensive: Magnetron. Like something Superman might keep stashed under his cape for emergencies.

I gaped at him silently. "Why not just tell me I need a new cyclotron?" That's what I wanted to say, but I  merely nodded and let him continue. "Now, you might still be under warranty, but I dunno. Gotta go to my truck and check it out." While he was gone I pondered the implications. The odds were slim and none that I wouldn't have to pay to replace this futuristic-sounding part. All I wanted was for my once-high-end built-in microwave oven to heat stuff again, and to do so without making aggrieved grinding noises. It had suddenly conked out a couple of days before. My 15-year-old son, a devoted user of the thing, stuck a little note on it that read, "May God help us all."

Imagine my surprise when the friendly repairman popped back in the door and glanced at me reassuringly. Yep, I was still covered and he actually had the part with him! He finished the job within half an hour and my bill was minimal, relatively speaking. I was so happy I just had to bake something. Not in the microwave, of course, but you know what I mean. Sometimes when little daily events like that actually go well, a girl gets the urge to celebrate by baking. It's a perfectly natural response, don't you think?

About this recipe . . .

This one is all mine. Yep, a completely original recipe right from the get-go (whoo hoo!) and I thought the cake turned out really well--not overly sweet, not too rich, just right. It's a simple formula that makes use of ricotta cheese in the batter, and a small amount of cream cheese in the streusel. Fresh raspberries and a smidgen of seedless raspberry jam factor in as well. So, all in all, it was a very good day. I made the cake shortly after the repairman, whose name I never did catch (Clark Kent, maybe?), drove away. If he'd still been here, I'd have given him a nice big wedge of it to take home.

Raspberry Euphoria Coffee-Cake
(or, if you prefer, Raspberry Ricotta Coffee-Cake with Cream Cheese Streusel)

(For a printable version of this recipe, click here!)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. This can be made in a 9" round regular cake pan, or a 9" found springform pan.

Butter your pan. Line the bottom with a round piece of parchment paper, then butter the parchment. Flour the inside of the whole pan, tapping out the excess.

Ingredients for the streusel topping, and glaze:
3 oz. cold cream cheese, cut into 1/2" chunks
2 oz. cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2" chunks
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
1 small pinch salt (I used regular salt)

3 Tbsp. seedless raspberry jam (to drizzle atop the streusel when you assemble the cake)

For the glaze:
1 cup (or more) confectioners' sugar
2 Tbsp. milk (add more if you'd like a thinner glaze)
1/8 tsp. almond extract (optional)

Ingredients for the cake:
1 cup traditional ricotta cheese, not too cold
2 large eggs, room temperature
1/3 cup unsalted butter, melted but not hot
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
2 and 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. coarse kosher salt
6 oz. fresh raspberries

Make the streusel first:
In a medium size bowl, mix the sugar, flour, and salt with a fork. Cut-in the cream cheese and butter chunks using a hand-held pastry blender or a couple of knives (you can even do this with your fingers if you're quick about it), until small visible chunks of miscellaneous size remain. Cover the bowl and chill the streusel while you prepare the batter.

Make the batter:
In a medium size bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt; set aside.

In the large bowl of your mixer, using the paddle attachment on medium-low speed, mix together the ricotta, eggs, melted butter, sugar, and vanilla until smooth; about two or three minutes.

Now on low speed, add the flour in gradually, mixing just until well combined for a minute or so. 

Spread half the batter into your prepared pan.

Dot the batter with half the fresh raspberries and gently press them partway down into the batter.

Spoon the rest of the batter on top and smooth it out with a small offset spatula; scatter the remaining berries and gently press them into the batter.

Stir the chilled streusel with a fork, and evenly scatter all of it onto the top of the cake batter. Drizzle the seedless raspberry jam here and there in little streaks over the top of the streusel.

Bake the cake on the middle rack for about 35 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out mostly dry. The cake should be just lightly golden on top, and more golden on the sides. The sides of the cake should look like they've begun to pull away from the sides of the pan.

While the cake is starting to cool, mix up the glaze. In a small bowl, stir together the confectioners' sugar, milk, and almond extract. Just keep stirring until the glaze is completely smooth. Add more sugar if you'd like a thicker glaze; add slightly more milk if you prefer a thinner glaze. 

Let the cake cool for 15 minutes, no more and no less, on a rack before attempting to remove it from the pan.

Run a thin knife or metal spatula around the sides of the pan. Place a plate over the top of the cake and quickly invert it, tapping firmly on the bottom of the pan to help knock it out. Lift off the pan, then place the cooling rack on the cake bottom; still holding firmly onto the plate, re-invert the cake back onto the rack to let it finish cooling.


(If you'd like to comment on this post, or to read any existing comments, please click on the purple COMMENTS below.)

Vist to Minneapolis Institute of Arts

Quote of the Day:  Ostapchuk is a painter's painter...often uses the launguage of music in how he "riffs" off others, "playing" with his paint and giving his colors "rhyme." Christopher Atkins describing the painter Mark Ostapchuk whose work is featured in its own room at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts.

As you can see, The Children's Theatre Company and The Minneapolis Intitiute of Arts are connected. What a brilliant plan that was! When I was here with my 14-year-old son Zach, he asked to look around. We didn't come close to seeing the over 80,000 exhibits. I spent another two hours here with my friend Krista and her two boys, Ben and Matt, before exploring more of the city, then watching Lizzie Bright and the Buckminster Boy.

My goal was to seek out and take pictures of intersting letters for my AtoZ blog Challenge in April.

I also liked this glass display from early America.

I told Krista to jump up and be like she's the lady in this colorful dress. I love it when people play along with me!

Matt & Krista in the Matisse room

Krista and Matt in the room made for a publicist!

Krista's favorite piece - rain on the streets of Minneapolis.
That's what she called it. I didn't write down the proper title.

This one made me think of my dad whose theme song might be, "I Could Have been a Cowboy."

Krista and I thought that little carrier would have worked for her preemie twin girls who are now 4 and a half. (They stayed back with Grandpa and Grandma for this trip. We'll take them to "Pippi Longstocking.")

Here's where I came alive. I walked into this room and caught my breath. I took a picture of Krista taking a picture (please keep your flash off), then sat down to text my artist friend JeMA. I typed, "At the MIA with Krista & boys. Thinking of you. Someday, a room for Art by JeMA!"

I grabbed the flyer on Mark Ostapchuk and read it last night. No wonder his art made me come alive. Read the Quote of the Day. He is inspired by music, particularly Jazz music, and evokes it through his art. The colors, lines and swirls, stimulate my imagination, and remind me of my friend.

The MIA is free and open to the public (sweet deal for families). It's connected to the Children's Theatre so you can come early and make a special outing of it. And, there is a park nearby to run or have a picnic. If you didn't bring food, stop at the the cafe. The food is delicious, fresh, and very affordable. Here's the lovely shrimp flatbread that I enjoyed.

You want to dig in, don't you? Too bad, I ate it all up!

This is one of my favorite pictures from our Spring Break excursion.
Matt waiting for food.

I'm one of those geeks who loves museums and art galleries, especially when they're accompanied by performance space, music, and good friends.

Go. Create. Inspire!

Journaling Prompt:  Do you enjoy art galleries, museums, and performances? Where do you like to go? What inspires you?