Move over Fondue: Introducing the Raclette Grill

We finally had the opportunity to try out a new foodie toy: The Raclette Grill. Historically, the Raclette referred to a block of hard cheese shepherds packed for long treks with their flocks. At the nightly camp fire, they would heat one side of the block and scrape softened cheese on their bread.

While this is one tasty aspect of the modern Raclette, many more food choices are available. This is similar to fondue, but rather than using pots of heated oil, people gather round a grill. Adding a light coating of oil and a dash of salt on the grill surface, diners enjoy a healthier option, avoiding the vast quantities of oil required for fondue. The Raclette also offers a broiler section with individual pans, so diners can utilize two cooking areas at the same time.

The broiler section is best for melting cheese, poured over potatoes or baguette slices. We also broiled pear slices with some dark chocolate and later topped with whipped cream.

Other items we enjoyed included steak, shrimp, oysters, mushrooms, zucchini, and summer squash. Items can be grilled individually or on skewers. There were even enough choices to keep our resident vegan busy!

Finally, Raclette Grills are affordable, ranging in price from $50-250 (Based on size and extra features, such as a marble cooking top). I highly recommend gathering around the table with friends or family and trying this wonderful tradition!

Thanks for reading!

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Introducing Kilkenny Corkers

Recently, I performed at a new venue, the house concert!

According to Wikipedia, “A house concert or home concert is a musical concert or performance art that is presented in someone’s home or apartment, or a nearby small private space such as a barn…or back yard.”

Such performances provide a more meaningful experience, as the music fills the room, the artist has the opportunity to share more stories and later visit with the audience (Where else could I share how Great-Grandpa and his graduating class were kicked out of medical school?). Ideal for acoustic music, the atmosphere is casual with each guest usually bringing something to share.

Colleen, Paula, and I are proud to present, Kilkenny Corkers. We are a Celtic music group, performing Irish and Scottish folk music. Our music includes a mix of slow ballads, history, a few family stories, and those fun, rowdy pub tunes. An evening with Kilkenny Corkers goes well with a few pints and a few friends.

While we are “moms with day jobs,” we do still have limited availability for the St. Patrick’s Day season. Need Celtic music for your venue? Please share your request on the Contact Information tab.

Thanks for reading!

Dollars and Sense: Frugal Foodies

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Whether we are making healthier food choices, exercising more, or organizing our surroundings, a new year can be motivating. I personally love organizing. Chad and I just spent an afternoon completing our yearly budget overhaul. While certain larger expenses are easily spotted budget saboteurs, we fail to notice many of the little things.

The yearly budget often overlooks a few key areas, such as food waste. According to the American Chemistry Council, the average American household throws out just over $650 worth of food each year. I recognized that we can save money by committing to a few simple changes:

 

A List of Staples
I find it helpful to plan a half dozen meals in advance, purchasing grocery staples from a list. Then I am less likely to buy items that are never used and later thrown out. Also, included in this list are a couple quick meals.

Quick Meals
With our busy, modern lifestyle, take-out food has established a prominent role at meal time. To help reduce the need and cost of take out, we created a handful of easy recipes. For example, every fall I spend an afternoon and put up 10 lbs. of Italian meatballs. These make quick meals, ready from freezer to table in less than an hour. We pair them with vegetables, rice, and of course spaghetti night.

A New Spin on Pizza Night
Try purchasing less pizza and pair with a veggie and some fruit or make naan bread pizzas

The Charcuterie Board (That’s a fancy way of saying a meat and cheese tray)
With 30 minutes of slicing some meat, cheese, veggies, and opening a can of olives and sleeve of crackers or slices of baguette, you can enjoy a lovely, simple meal. We enjoy carrots, celery, and radishes paired with slices of prosciutto, adding a small bowl of black olives and a small chunk of goat cheese with herbs (Also a nice variation of date night).

Change your Way of Thinking
My grandfather was a Navy cook on the U.S.S. Virginia during WWI. As a result of his training, many of the family dinners handed down were rich and calorie laden, required to maintain energy through a hard day’s manual labor. Our modern tasks rarely require so many calories. Have you ever tried making dinner a lighter meal?

Left over Night
Take a night each week and consume what’s left in the fridge. To combat our waste of lettuce, we keep tortillas, a can of diced tomatoes, and a can of refried beans in the pantry. If the lettuce needs to go, we use up the lettuce, along with any extra cheese, hot sauce, sour cream (or none if we’re out) and make bean tacos.

 

By reducing waste, organizing your grocery list, and decluttering the fridge, you will have less stress, be more focused, and perhaps end up with a few dollars in your pocket.

Happy New Year and thanks for reading!

Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas

Amid baking tourtieres and gingerbread goats, I’ve dedicated more time to music lately, singing at our local Commission on Aging and developing more Celtic music (stay tuned for an important announcement in a few months). This time I tried something new, recording a song only using the instruments on GarageBand. I learned so much, particularly the process of adding new sounds and polishing tracks. However, I must admit that I prefer the “heart and soul” emerging during a live performance.

I recorded a holiday favorite, “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas.” Evoking memories of watching “Meet me in St. Louis” and Judy Garland’s stunning rendition, this song includes the bittersweet side of the holiday, reminding us that it’s ok to have some sad amid all the happiness this time of year. Or to quote a favorite toast, “To Life, it doesn’t have to be perfect, to be perfect!”

So here’s my gift to all of you! Take some time this holiday season to pause amid all the stress, relax in the moment, and enjoy your many blessings.

Thanks for reading!

Shopping with Dad and Keeping a List through the Holidays

I recall one afternoon, sitting in the car with my father after a trip to Penzey’s spice shop. Dad stared in silence at the large bag of recently purchased spices in his lap; then sighed, “I’m sure a sucker for cooking spices. Most of these will probably remain unopened.” This memory reminds me of the current interest in essential oils.

We inhale the lovely aromas and learn how essential oils improve our daily lives; then later, our purchases often remain sealed, only a few seeing regular use. I’m guilty of this, too, even running my farm business. So to avoid Dad’s experience with spices, I put on my organization cap and examined which essential oils I use on a regular basis:

Peppermint: This is my most used oil!

  • Evict mice, bugs, and spiders (simply add a few drops to a cotton ball and place near doors, windows, etc)
  • Laundry need a boost? Add few drops in the washer or dryer
  • Aromatherapy to ease nasal congestion

Lavender: This wonderful oil helps relax at the end of a long day!

  • Make a spray for pillows at bedtime
  • Add a couple drops to hand or body lotion
  • Blend a custom facial toner

Orange: I enjoy this lovely scent year round!

  • Use 1-4 drops in a diffuser
  • Add 1-2 drops to clay mud mask
  • Serves as an antioxidant, the perfect addition to a custom facial toner

Peppermint, lavender, and orange essential oils are my “Big 3,” used daily in my room sprays, personal facial toner, and all-natural cleaning solution. They are also important ingredients in my homemade salt scrub and clay masks. If you are interested in adding essential oils to your life or gifting to friends this holiday season, start with these three. Essential oils truly add quality to our lives!

For the holiday season, I’m offering a starter kit containing my “Big 3,” including a worksheet to create all of the products above.

Essential Oil Sampler Kit

Stocked up on Lip Balm for the winter?

Beeswax Lip Balm

You can purchase through my Etsy site, or please message me for custom orders.

Thanks for reading!

Dragonflies of Autumn

I’ve seen many dragonflies lately. They keep appearing around the farm, perched on the screen to the backyard, resting on leaves in the garden… Recently, I learned that dragonflies symbolize change, more specifically, growth and maturity. Perhaps this is a nudge back to music.

 
Last month, I had the opportunity to volunteer locally, singing for a few groups. I enjoyed performing Irish music, plus a few American favorites for a sing along, and later sharing lunch and visiting with the audience. Preparing for these performances, I had the opportunity to organize my music collection and found a few new Irish tunes to add to the repertoire.

 
Instead of recording on Soundcloud, I decided to create a video, including a bit of creative filming courtesy of my daughter (pardon the construction project and MKs backyard horse jumping course made from bricks, logs, and buckets). Enjoy!

 

Happy Fall!!!

Thanks for reading!

The Long Weekend Road Trip: The Mighty Mac

“Well, in the Straits of Mackinac,

There’s about as much water as you ever saw.

Folks that lived there tried and tried,

But they couldn’t get across to the other side.”


“Couldn’t get across without a boat or a plane.

Couldn’t take a bus or a trolley or a train.

Couldn’t swim across, it was cold as a fridge!

So they thought they better build themselves a bridge.”


“Oh, the Mackinac Bridge,

She’s a mighty fine bridge.

Five hundred feet high,

And five miles long…” 
(lyrics by K. Donahue)

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I’m sitting on a beach in St. Ignace, MI, enjoying the beautiful Straits of Mackinac (pronounced Mack-i-naw). We decided to enjoy a quiet weekend in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. Even though we are amid one of the busiest holiday weekends of the year, the U.P. rarely feels crowded.

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We attended Mass at St. Ignatius Loyola, founded in the late 1600’s, read about the life’s work of Father Marquette, and visited his grave site. Later, we climbed Castle Rock (less than 200 stairs, one of the best views in the U.P.). Also, we enjoyed a northern treat, fresh whitefish! Diners had many choices: fish tacos, dip, smoked, fried, broiled…

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However, the main purpose of this adventure was to join the annual Labor Day walk across The Mackinac Bridge, The Mighty Mac. The walk began at 7:00 am on the St. Ignace side. The bridge closed to public vehicles from 6:30-noon, but shuttle service was available, beginning at 4:30 am. The yearly walk attracted around 80,000 participants, including visitors from around the globe!

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At five miles long, this free event offered the perfect nudge to stay in shape and enjoy a rare view of the Straits. Catering to most activity levels, runners won a lucky spot through a lottery, power walkers weaved through the crowds, retirees enjoyed a leisure stroll, and beginners celebrated a major milestone in their fitness journey. Think about adding this adventure to your bucket list!

Fun Facts about the Mackinac Bridge (mackinacbridge.org):

  • Construction began in 1954
  • Opened in 1957
  • 5 miles long
  • 552 ft high
  • Maximum water depth: 295 ft
  • Currently, the third largest suspension bridge in the world

Thanks for reading!