Let's say we're all bees. Each and every one of us is buzzing about-
buzz buzz buzz.
The honey that we make is our lives. Experience has taught me two things...


...and LIFE is only as yummy as you make it!

Are YOU a Killer Bee?

bee my guest?

bee my guest?
Howdy Beezers! I'm excited to share something new with you... Over the upcoming months, most of the content you'll be seeing here will be from special guest contibutors! This is sure to add a new texture to this thing we've been weaving over the years. I know that many of my readers (yes, you!) are writers, artists, musicians and filmmakers. PLEASE feel free to contact me if there's something you'd like to contribute! I'd be most honored to pollinate... send me a note: m.mckinley@rocketmail.com

please be seated

December 18, 2009


This will be my last post for the year. And WHEW! What a year!

It's hard to believe it, but the blog will officially be a year old on January 1st. It's been such an amazing experiment, and experience! I'm feeling just a little nostalgic about it's conception, and then the expansion and evolution [the other 3 amazing Killer Bees Blogs]. About our collective 304 postings, all of the cool people we got to meet and talk to, the creative process, all that I learned, the Facebook fans [in 9 countries around the world], the pride parade [giving out 20 lbs. of Bit O' Honey candy], filming the video for our press kit [yeah, yeah, I know- it's coming!], the massive pollination, all of it.

I hope that along the way we helped inform, inspire, and occasionally amuse you a little. That was always my intention. Next year I have much planned for you [really cool new features, and yes I'm going to finally start vlogging!], and I hope you'll all continue to accompany me on this journey. It's been fun so far, hasn't it? So here's to 2010. May it bring you peace, and much JOY!

December 17, 2009


Congratulations to Helen McGreevey of Medina, Ohio! She won the $40 gift certificate to [and courtesy of] Penzey's Spices for her "GLAZED FRUITCAKE DROPS"! These delicious morsels have all the boozey-fruit, nutty goodness of fruitcake, without the nuclear cherries!

Thanks to everyone who submitted their recipes, they were ALL yummy. Now Cassandra is going to have to whip my butt into shape at the gym...

Visit www.penzeys.com for the finest spices IN THE WORLD!

December 15, 2009


I don't ever remember believing in Santa Claus.
I guess I just always knew that "Santa" was really Mom. It was sort of a wink and a nod type of agreement, and nothing ever needed to to be explained. I have however, always believed in certain things. Like hope, and dreams, and possibilities...

The other day I was passing through The Grand Avenue on my way home from work. I stopped in the food court and sat down for a minute to take a phone call. When my conversation was finished, I spied a young black kid down on the first level, in the center of the mall. He was maybe 13 or 14 years old, and dressed in a real tough, bad-boy fashion that said "Don't mess with me". He was motionless and completely transfixed. For performing there in the round, was a 16 piece, automated orchestra of gigantic teddy bears dressed in tuxedos. There was even a quartet of teddy bear singers [a la The Manhattan Transfer]. They would come to life without notice, play a cheerful holiday tune, then suddenly go silent- until the electronic programing device once again prompted them to play.

I sat there watching him watch the orchestra for at least 15 minutes. I won't pretend to know what this young man's story was, or what his Christmas will be like, but it occured to me that the rough, protective armor he wore was little more than just that. It kinda broke my heart and inspired me at the same time. For 15 minutes he was able to be caught up in the wonderment and fantasy, to just be a kid. And he took me there with him.

The holidays are a time when words like "believe" and "miracles" chirp in our ears almost constantly. Shouldn't these words be at the forefront of our vocabularies all year round? My friend Cassandra always says that words are things. What we say and believe, we manifest. Think of the global power we could harness if we tell ourselves [and others] that anything is possible!

Don't we want the world to be a more peaceful and healthy place for future generations? Then we must remember how important it is to look at life, and to that future, through the eyes of a child. The eyes that find it so easy to see things with unconditional hope. The heart that so effortlessly loves, and so readily forgives. The one that knows how to find the magic in Santa or an orchestra of bears. In doing so we will ensure that they never loose that ability to see a world, a future of infinite possibility. To believe.


December 14, 2009


It's the holiday season, and most of us are gifting, serving and drinking more wine. If you're anything like me, you drink the wines you like. I like allot of wines! However my knowledge about that fabulous fermentation beneath the cork is limited. Fortunately, I have Guru of The Grape Toni Johnson in my back pocket....

So many more people are drinking wine than 25 years ago...yet most of us are still struggling with food pairings. Got any ideas for Holiday feasts?

TJ: Food that is prepared for Thanksgiving and Christmas naturally has sweet elements in most preparations. And the foods are generally lighter in weight which is a one of the key elements in matching food and wine. The weight of the wine should generally match the weight of the food.

OK, back to the question at hand. Think about a holiday spread, softer white cheeses for appetizers. Sweet potatoes in some form, ham prepared with pineapple and brown sugar. Even turkey has some natural sweetness- more in the form of being succulent. These are foods that need a wine to enhance the natural flavors of the food, not mask them. A heavy Cabernet or an over oaked Chardonnay would trample all over the flavors of your table . So stick with wines that have the same natural elements. For whites, I would be inclined to have one that is "Off dry", a term that means it is not overly dry or really high in acid (think Pinot Grigio). You can go anywhere in the world to find off dry wines. France has wonderful Chenin Blancs from the Loire Valley. Vouvray is probably one of the most well known wines from the Loire, but ask for one that is not too sweet. Or ask for an Albarino from Spain in the Rias Biaxas region. They have a natural sweetness without being cloying at all. Viognier also has these attributes but if you ask for a Viognier at a wine store, an over eager sales person might try to talk you into one from France that will be from the region called Condrieu which will take you back about $50.00 or more. I would go straight to Germany and buy the wonderful well made Rieslings that cannot be found in any Pick and Save. Many are made in a drier style so ask for one that is Halb Troken or half dry. And pay more than you think a Riesling should be. You will be greatly rewarded.

For reds I would recommend ones with brighter fruit and lower tannins ,and here you can have tons of fun. There are wonderful reds from places you might not consider. Reds from Austria made with the grapes Zweigelt or Blaufrankish are wonderful choices. Since they are made in a more fruit forward style they seem to be made in a sweeter style when in fact they are dry wines. Italy has many many wines that are made in this style, Barbera from Piedmont comes to mind, but make sure you go to a wine store with a salesperson you can trust. Other red wines that will work are Zinfandel, Sangiovese (Chianti) and of course Pinot Noir.

MPM: Okay Sister. WHAT exactly is a Sommelier?

TJ: This is actually a French term that literally means "wine waiter". In Europe being a waiter is a career, not just a job that one gets before getting a "real job". So these wine waiters are trained specifically to be specialists in wine. To help you make the right choices, to listen to what you like and then translate that to wines that will perfectly match your meal. In the US there are many Sommelier organizations that are raising the bar for wine service here. I have an advanced certification from one of those organizations called The Court of Master Sommeliers. If you are in a restaurant that has a Sommelier, you can be assured that your wine choices will be guided by a professional that has your interests in mind, not just a waiter that wants to sell you the most expensive bottle on the list.

MPM: I would say that other than the perennial holiday scented candle, wine has to be the most popular "host gift". Any ideas for pairing the right grape with the right person?

TJ: It is always a great idea to fish around, and see if you can find out what your host likes. They will be very impressed that you brought them something they can appreciate, not just a token bottle you picked up on the fly. Also something with bubbles is always a great choice, but please go to a wine shop to buy them. You will want one that has gone through "secondary bottle fermentation" which is the way Champagne has been made for centuries. ( By the way the monk Dom Perignon did not invent champagne, records show that he was a red wine producer that tried and tried to keep his wines from getting bubbles in them!).

There are many to be found in all price points. From Spain they are called Cava, and are required to be made in this traditional way. Many sparkling wines in the US are also made in this fashion but you really have to ask for guidance.

I often bring a dessert wine to a party since this wine pairing is often overlooked. You always want your wine to be sweeter than your dessert so bringing a late harvest wine, well made Port or anyone of the fortified dessert wines that are made all over the world would be a great host gift.

MPM: I think many people are interested in understanding wines better. Any suggestions for budding wine geeks?

TJ: Well let me tell you, I firmly believe in the organization that I am certified in. They offer ranges of tests from introductory to the advanced that I passed, and then on to the Master level. It is all self study but by doing that you learn so much more than if you go the curriculum route.

My advise for starting a wine education venture is to attend wine tastings that are offered all over the city. Go to smaller ones that are more interactive as opposed to larger tastings with people that are just pouring. Have at home tasting parties and taste by regions or different grapes. You can also have guest speaker at your tastings which is a service I offer through my company, Professional Wine Consultants. If you are a waiter find a mentor that can help guide you to what you need to know in a logical order of learning. I have mentored quite a few people in Milwaukee. I find it very rewarding to pay it forward.!This is a subject that is mind boggling huge. The test that I passed required massive amounts of study and to pass the next level will require exponentially more. OY! But if you are serious about learning, then find others that want to learn also, have study groups, and do tastings as opposed to "tastings". Tasting requires spitting so you can actually talk about the wine. "Tasting" is drinking which of course is fun in it's own right! I say cheers to that!

MPM: Hmm. I'm growing thirsty....

Contact Toni! toni@wineproevents.com
: http://www.wineproevents.com/


I can always count on APARTMENT THERAPY....

The Best Home Wine Racks for 2009 are here:

The Best Wine Glasses for 2009 are here:

December 11, 2009


Today is the first day of Chanukah, and to honor this luminous and sacred holiday, I would like to to share with you the lyrics to a very special song-"WE ARE LIGHTS (The Chanukha Song)". It is one of my most favorite songs of the season, and I believe the poignant words-no matter your faith- speak a beautiful and universal truth...

A lamp that kept on burning
A miracle they say
But the world has kept on turning
Are there miracles today?
Everyone who lights a candle
Has a bit of ancient spark
We are miracles, lighting up the dark

We Are Lights
Lights of memory, remembering times long gone
We are glowing, growing miracles!
We are lights
We are lights shining on, and on!

A row of burning candles
Shines light upon your face
Linking you, and me, and all of us
To a far off holy place
But the blazing of the candles
Is not the only light
Look at all of us
Shining here , tonight!

We Are Lights
Lights of memory, remembering times long gone
We are glowing, growing miracles!
We are lights
We are lights, shining on, and on!

"WE ARE LIGHTS" Music by Stephen Schwartz/Lyrics by Steve Young

December 8, 2009


Christmas. Chanukah. Kwanzaa. Holiday parties, office parties. Shopping, cooking, baking. Cards and decorations. I give it all up.

Well, not literally, but...

I have spent the last 20 some odd years trying to create perfect holidays. The kind I remember as a kid. Of course if I look beyond the sheen of childhood memories, I can easily see that they were not perfect. My Mother, in the same vain attempt to do what I've been striving for, nearly killed herself trying to do it all. It's a family joke, but there really is series of photos of her, taken several Christmas Eves in a row- passed out on the sofa from sheer exhaustion. Someone would eventually cover her with blanket, take the picture, then turn off the lights- leaving her and her empty box of See's Candies [nuts and chews, of course] to sleep in peace... So she could get up at 6am and start making Christmas dinner!

For nearly a decade I made thousands of cookies, which in turn became dozens upon dozens of Christmas Cookie tins. I would box them up and ship them all over the country, then drive all over creation [often times in miserable driving conditions] delivering the rest of them to my friends doorsteps. No really, I'm serious.

But times have changed! The do, do, do, is done, done, done!

Thanksgiving arrived on the heels of two insane work weeks... for only the 3rd time in 21 years, I did NOT make my famous turkey feast. Instead I feasted at a friends in lieu of cleaning my house, cooking for 2 days, then cleaning my house again. Delightful. Thank you Marilyn!

I'm not bragging, but I had no fewer than 4 holiday party options for Saturday night. I went to only ONE, enjoyed it thoroughly, and didn't feel the slightest bit guilty about not making it to the others. Fabulous party Mitch, LOVED IT! And get this. No one I didn't send a card to last year said to me "Hey! How come you didn't send me a Christmas card?!"

I also left the breakfast dishes in the sink for 3 days, and didn't make my bed 4 times last week. Who am I, and what have I done with Michael, you ask?
I am Michael the liberated! And Mikey likes it.

Of course if you have small children, there are certain obligations of merriment making that you cannot deny, and neither should you. Especially if you are one who truly enjoys the making of merriment! However keep this in mind; lead by example and teach them that the beauty and truth of the season lies not in the holiday tangle, but in family, friends, togetherness and the real reasons you're celebrating, whatever your faith or traditions.

Would someone fix me another hot buttered rum?

December 7, 2009


It takes a village...

As many of you know, supporting locally owned businesses is something I'm passionate about, and The R&R Report was born out of my desire to champion the cause. Now that we're in the thick of the holiday season I thought it might be appropriate to address the topic of "shopping destinations". Americans seem hard-wired to shop at malls. We gotta do something about this!
Trust me. The average independent merchant did not benefit from Black Friday the way Wal-Mart did with it's "door busters". I understand that the shortage of time seemingly provides these places with a convenience factor, however...what if I offered you a convenient alternative?

The charming and historic Village of Wauwatosa is bursting with quaint shops and eateries- all condensed into a 4 block radius. Yes, you have to get out of your car and walk, but you will be delighted by the personal service and unique offerings. These shops carry merchandise you won't find at the malls, insuring the bearer of gifts something truly different than their mall shopping counterparts! May I present a mere sampling of what you'll find...

*A very special thanks to photographer extraordinaire Brian Cumming for jumping in and taking such stunning shots of the featured shopkeepers...you saved the day!

MAGNOLIA & CO. 1442 Underwood Avenue 414.431.6427
Hours of Operation: M-W 10:30-6pm / TH 10:30-7pm / SAT 10:30-5pm
With her background in Interior Design, Magnolia owner Kerry Tylke has a seriously keen eye for stylish home decor of every kind, from tabletop to furniture...and a deft buyers hand for excellent giftables. For the holidays the shop is well-stocked with perfect gifts for the ladies on your list, and delicious holiday candles. And of course if you're still in a quandry for the perfect gift for me, I'd be pleased as punch to find the Bruce Dorrow painting hanging over the bed- under my tree!
MAGPIE JEWLERY AND METALS STUDIO 7613 Harwood Avenue 414.771.8021

Hours of Operation: M-W 10-5pm / TH 10-6 / F 10-7pm / SAT 10-5pm
Artisan jeweler Christopher Stephens is a creative soul of the highest order. By combining precious metals with gorgeous and unusual stones in his unique custom settings, he sets himself apart from other jewelers with ease. Christopher and his talented posse of Magpie designers offer a price-point for every pocketbook...so let me create a scenario for you. You can run down to Zales and get that specially advertised pendant (which thousands of others will be giving/getting), or you can have something custom made from Magpie. Many say I love you with jewelery. What will you do?
JUXT HOME & BABY 1504 Underwood Avenue 414.257.1710
Hours of Operation: M 10-3pm / T-SAT 10-6pm / SUN 12-4

jux-ta-pose: v., to place side by side, unexpected combinations, colors, shapes, and ideas...
In terms of interiors design, I often speak of loving a good juxtaposition. After visiting Kate Wilfer's delightful shop, I can tell you that this sassy proprietor understands a good "juxt" and pulls it off brilliantly. Right down to the packaging, Kate has a splendid assortment of gifts for home and baby, with many handicrafts from local artisans and manufacturers- ALL YEAR LONG. Her quirky knack for mixing new with vintage is right up my alley, and is sure to delight you too!

THE LITTLE READ BOOK 7603 West State Street 414.774.2665
Hours of Operation: M-SAT 10-8pm / SUN 12-4pm

A Village retail pioneer, Linda Erion Burg and Co. are celebrating 25 years of bringing excellent customer service and the power of the printed word to Wauwatosa. The compact and cozy space amazingly manages to leave no genre of literature unaccounted for, and has a great selection of cards and novelties to finish off any gift purchase- including the ones for yourself! Can't find it? They'll order it for you! It's kinda like "Books without Borders"...haha. Stop by and see Linda and her friendly staff, tell them that Bee guy sent you!

ORO DI OLIVA 7606 Harwood Avenue 414.426.8066
Hours of Operation: M-F 10-6pm / SAT 10-5 / SUN 11-5

A couple of years ago, Josh Saia opened the doors to what is one of the coolest shops- not only to the Village, but in all of Wisconsin! Get your taste-buds ready... His hand crafted extra virgin olive oils include: Persian Lime, Roasted French Walnut, Tuscan, and Wild Mushroom Sage. The amazing balsamic vinegars? Pomegranate, Black Currant, White Peach, and Cinnamon Pear. All available right from the spigot for your sampling pleasure. His prices are excellent, and I'm pleased to tell you that Josh just opened a second location on Silver Spring in Whitefish Bay. Nothing makes my heart sing like a local business owner expanding! For the Foodie in your life ( and the Foodie in you!) Oro di Oliva is a year round must-stop.

FOOD COURT FATIGUE? It's a fact. Shopping makes you ravenous! The Village has great eats... Le Reve Pastiserrie & Cafe, Pizzeria Piccola, Firefly Urban Bar and Grill, Cafe Hollander... And SO many more!
OH! While you're in the neighborhood don't forget to stop by The Underwood Gallery and grab some of Pamela's fabulous blown glass ornaments, The Flower Lady for your wreath, and Vino 100 to pick up that bottle of wine you need for the party tonight- there's 100 great wines for $25 and under!
WHEW! And that really is just a sampling! Check out The Village website for a comprehensive directory, complete with links to their websites, and location information, visit:
Remember folks. WHEREVER you are in the world, there's a "Village of Wauwatosa" near you! Shop local, support your community, and watch the tide turn!

December 6, 2009

Grandma Furman's Cookies: THE RECIPE

When my maternal Great-Grandmother Rose Ferguson Furman came over from Ireland over 100 years ago, she brought this recipe with her. It wouldn't be Christmas without them, and the ritual of sitting around the table and decorating them is a tradition my siblings carried on with their children, as have I with my circle of friends... it's a much anticipated event! Even in lean years when the only gift I could afford to give was cookies, we've had them.

It's a hearty, DELICIOUS, and curious cookie. Sort of a hybrid between a spicy gingerbread and a molasses. The first year I made them by myself I was 15, and I over-baked ALL of them. I suppose it was a right of passage, and my friend Eric Freitas dubbed them Grandma Furman's Hockey Pucks!

I never knew my Grandma Furman, she passed away the year before I was born. But I can only imagine that it would tickle her to know that the recipe she passed down, the one she simply wrote "Brown Cookies" on the index card for- would be loved and enjoyed by so many people all over the country. In another century, another millennium! Thanks Rose, from all of us.


1 1/2 cups shortening
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar, firmly packed
3 eggs
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon cloves
1 1/2 tablespoons cinnamon
1 1/2 tablespoons ginger
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon lemon extract
1 cup robust molasses
1 teaspoon baking soda dissolved in 1 tablespoon boiling water
6 cups all purpose flour

Cream together shortening and sugars. Beat in eggs. Add spices and extracts, then molasses. Dissolve baking soda in water and stir in. Add the flour, one cup at a time. USE A STURDY METAL SPOON, OR MAKE IN A STAND MIXER. The 5th or 6th cup of flour will be the end of a wooden spoon!

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. On a floured surface, with a floured rolling pin, roll out grapefruit sized balls of the dough to 1/4 inch thickness. Rose's daughter, my Grandmother, always said to me "Don't be afraid to roll them out nice and thick!" I like to use simple, broad shapes for my cutters. In fact, I now only make circles, diamonds, and trees. As you can see from the pictures, you get lots of decorating possibilities from 3 simple shapes! Space 1 inch apart on parchment lined cookie sheets and bake for 8-10 minutes. Yes, they bake quick and all ovens calibrate a little differently, so watch the first couple of trays carefully, and scope out the bottoms just to make sure. They will puff up and turn a paler shade of brown when they are close. Remove cookies promptly to cool on racks, or on brown paper bags. When cool, stack like shapes together and store in an airtight container until ready to frost. HELPFUL TIP: If they over bake (and become crunchy when cooled) throw a few slices of soft bread in the container and let them sit with the cookies overnight- that should soften them up!


These are not delicate cookies, and they should be frosted, not iced. Here's what we do...

Beat together 1 stick of room temperature butter, 1/2 lb powdered sugar with 4 tablespoons of milk. A 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla is optional. I don't like the way it messes with my colors! The consistency should be smooth and creamy, but thick. If it's too thick add a few drops of milk at a time till it "gets there". If it gets a little runny, add a little bit more powdered sugar. You get the idea. Divide amongst smaller bowels and tint to desired colors, but leave some white. The white ones are pretty too! I achieve my rich and funky colors by using a combination of liquid and paste food colors.


A basic table knife is your best tool. Place a nice sized dollop in the center of the cookie, and working from the center outwards (with just the tip of your knife) spread it towards (but not over) the edges. It should be a nice layer so the cookie doesn't show through the frosting. I find that if I leave a nice little "reveal" of brown around the edge, it has a great finished look.

Festoon with festive sugars, jimmies, and any other edible baubles you can find. Just try not to over do it. Personally I'm in it for the cookie, not a mouth full of crunchy decorations!

When the frosting has "set" (a couple of hours) store them in single layers between sheets of waxed paper, in an airtight container. If you keep them sealed up, they'll keep beautifully for a couple of weeks!

December 5, 2009


Everybody gets their Christmas on in their own way. Some people collect villages or nativities. Others Radko and Fontanini, but just about everybody has their "thing". I dig vintage. Specifically 1950's and 1960's. I love all the hot "candy colors". Turquoise, orange, gold, kelly, and especially pink. Why should I stop using my favorite color at Christmas? It's my thing. Traditionalists may admonish my abstract use of red and green derivatives, and surely purists of the fresh cut fir society will cringe at my insatiable lust for white and aluminum trees...who cares? My yule is COOL man!

I love the nostalgia of it all too. It's cheeriness, and sometimes it's outrageousness. The flavor of my personal Christmas style extends itself right down to my gift wrap, Christmas cards, and even the way I decorate my cookies.

It's kinda funny. Whenever someone sees my place all decked out holiday-style for the first time, they usually say, "how you". I take it as a compliment.

So what's your thing? Whatever it is, deck your halls, light it up, shine it up! Santa, like most people, looks GREAT in pink!

OH! Christmas Tree

At first I thought it was a little self-indulgent to do a feature on my own Christmas tree...but aren't blogs self indulgent by nature?! This posting is for my friend Jeffrey Elliott who's been telling me for years I need to do a coffee table book on my holiday decorating style. Maybe Jeffrey, just maybe... So it starts at the mantle, and makes its way across the room...

HELLO! Don't I look like I should be Michael's Christmas Tree?

About 70% of the ornaments on my tree are vintage, a good deal of them hand made- by some body's Grandma. And that's what I love about them! I started collecting them a bout 15 years ago. They twinkle on the tree like little jewels, all dressed up with pearls, ribbons, and sequins. Oh, and glitter. Lots, and lots, and lots of glitter!

Can you imagine this collection of ornaments dangling from anything other than 100% white- iridescent pvc branches? I think NOT!

Above an old school tea strainer becomes a bead-dazzling chandelier, and below a golden plastic angel shows off her flashy fuchsia sequins and delicate velvet sash.

Jackson tried leaving Santa salmon treats, but couldn't resist noshing them himself!

December 4, 2009


I love a good libation...any time of year! The following recipes are for two of my favorites, and are ones that I've been making for years now. The first is Martha Stewart's Eggnog, the second is from my old friend Juanita De Luca. The eggnog is a HUGE crowd pleaser, but make note that I reduce the booze by a CUP! From my lips to God's ears, it was a little too much! As for Juanita's creamy rum-goodness, each sip tastes just a little too naughty to keep you on Santa's good side!

12 eggs, separated
1 1/2 cups superfine sugar
1 quart whole milk
1 1/2 quarts heavy cream
3 cups bourbon
1/2 cup dark rum
2 cups cognac
freshly grated nutmeg


In a very large bowl, beat egg yolks until thick and pale yellow. Gradually add sugar to yolks. With a wire whisk, beat in milk and 1 quart cream. Add bourbon, rum, and cognac, stirring constantly. [I use less bourbon (2 cups, not 3), but you may do as you please!]

Just before serving, beat egg whites until stiff. Fold into mixture. Whip remaining 1/2 quart heavy cream until stiff, and fold into mixture, Sprinkle with nutmeg. You'll need a rather large vessel to accommodate the recipe. I use my EXTRA large punch powl.

Note: Raw eggs should not be used in food prepared for pregnant women, babies, young children, the elderly, or anyone whose health is compromised.

In a medium non-stick sauce pan, combine the following: 1 lb. brown sugar, 1 lb. butter, 1 tsp. cinnamon, 1tsp. allspice, 1 tsp. nutmeg, and a 1/2 tsp. cloves. Cook over medium heat until it all melts down and starts to get bubbly. Reduce heat to low, and simmer for 2 minutes, stirring frequently. Transfer mixture to a heatproof bowl too cool. When room temperature, cover and store in refrigerator. When it's "scoopable", place a heaping spoonful in a mug, add 1 1/2 ounces spiced rum, and fill with piping-hot water. Stir well, and enjoy!

You can keep the mix refrigerated, in an airtight container for 2 weeks. It's kinda fun to have on hand when holiday guests stop over...instant specialty drink!

December 3, 2009


The NEW TRADITION, now starring in it's 6th Season for Christmas Eve supper...

When I was growing up we always had oyster stew for Christmas Eve dinner. To tell you the truth, I never particularly cared for it. Okay. None of us did. As an adult, I served Chili for many years at my own gatherings. Always a hit. Then when Stacey moved here, I mentioned that my friends Terry and Ken had meat pies on Christmas Eve, but I had never tried them. We both decided it sounded like a good idea, and I searched the Internet for recipes. I learned that it's a French Canadian thing, and most of the recipes I found were similar variations on a very simple recipe.

The pies were a big hit, served with a simple salad [tossed with Penzey's French Country Vinaigrette]...and homemade eggnog of course [scroll down the page to "Holiday Spirits" for that recipe]! Each year I make the filling, and Stacey makes an old school lard crust from scratch. It's such a simple and delicious meal, perfect for spending the evening with the ones you want to be with- and not the whole night in the kitchen!


1 onion, finely chopped
1 grated raw potato
1 lb. ground pork
1 lb. ground beef
1 teaspoon allspice
1 tablespoon of a dried French herb blend
[I use Penzey's "Perisian", or their French Country dressing base]
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
2 9 inch pastry crusts

Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees F.

In a large skillet, saute onion in oil until soft. Add the meats, potato, and a little water, then simmer until the meat is lightly browned and onions and potatoes are soft. Stir in spices and herbs, and then salt and pepper to taste.

Fill pastry lined pie dish with the mixture and cover with the top crust. Slash the top crust in 3 or 4places to allow steam to escape. Bake for 10 minutes. Reduce heat to 375 degrees and bake for another 40 minutes, or until crust is lightly browned.

This is Rose Levy Beranbaum's recipe for an old fashioned lard crust. It's the one Stacey uses, and it is bar-none the best pie crust, EVER! You'll need 2 of them for each pie.

1 1/3 cups pastry flour, plus 4 teaspoons (6.5 ounces/ 184 grams) or all-purpose flour (if using all-purpose flour, reduce the water by 1 teaspoon for more tenderness)
1/2 teaspoon salt (use 3/8 teaspoon if using rendered caul fat)
1/8 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 cup cold lard (4 ounces/ 113 grams, if using commercial lard, use 1/2 cup plus 2 teaspoons; if using rendered caul)
1/4 cup ice water (2 ounces/ 59 grams)
4 teaspoons cider vinegar (0.7 ounce/ 20 grams)
2 tablespoons whole wheat pastry flour or wheat flour, approximately

1. Place a medium mixing bowl in the freezer to chill.
2. Place the flour, salt and baking powder in a re-closable gallon-size freezer bag, and whisk them together.
3. Using a melon baller, scoop 1/2-1 inch balls of the lard directly into the flour, shaking the bag occasionally to distribute and cover them with the flour.
4. If the room is warm and the lard starts getting very soft, place the bag in the freezer for about 10 minutes before proceeding.
5. It is is still firm but squishable once it's all been added, using a rolling pin, roll together the lard and flour until the lard is in thin flakes.
6. Place the bag in the freezer for at least 30 minutes.
7. Empty the flour mixture into the cold bowl, scraping the sides of the bag to release all of it.
8. Set the bag aside.
9. Sprinkle on the ice water and vinegar, tossing gently with a rubber spatula to incorporate it evenly.
10. Spoon the mixture back into the plastic bag (if using caul fat, which is softer, the dough will already hold together, so it's easier to empty it out onto a piece of plastic wrap and knead it lightly from the outside of the wrap).
11. Holding both ends of the bag opening with your fingers, knead the mixture by alternately pressing it, from the outside of the bag, with the knuckles and heels of your hands until the mixture holds together in one piece and feels slightly stretchy when pulled.
12. Sprinkle the dough on both sides with a little whole wheat flour, wrap it with plastic wrap, flatten into a disc, and refrigerate for at least 45 minutes, preferably overnight.
13. STORES refrigerated up to 3 days; frozen, up to 3 months.

NOTE: When rolling the dough, roll it directly on the counter or on plastic wrap.

14. Sprinkle both sides of the dough and the counter or plastic wrap amply with whole wheat flour as needed to keep it from sticking.
15. (The whole wheat flour will not toughen it and will give it extra crunch and a lovely, wheaty flavor.)

POINTERS FOR SUCCESS: Pay particular attention to temperature, keeping the lard well-chilled. When mixing the lard flakes/flour mixture with the liquid, stir gently so as to maintain large flakes of lard.

December 1, 2009


I'll make a true confession. Sometimes, in the dead and blistering heat of Summer, I'll breakout a little Christmas music. I used to keep the volume turned way down low for fear I'd be deemed a nutjob, but I don't care anymore. I crank it up and blast my holiday favorites like a snow blower making tracks in a blizzard! You can't Scrooge me, not even in July.

Christmas music is an integral party of the holiday season. Here in Milwaukee and around the world there are radio stations that play continuous Christmas favorites from Thanksgiving through New Years. In theory this is joyous thing for Christmas music lovers. Unfortunately they all seem to play the same songs, even the same versions, over and over. And over.

My personal music collection is very diversified, and has a treasure-trove of holiday music. I was curious to see how many Christmas Cd's I had, so today I counted them: 73. They're all great in their own way, but these 10 classics are the ones I never tire of. Note that the Streisand Christmas albums aren't represented here, because they just are....

So what are your favorites?

November 30, 2009


Tom Graber is my favorite kind of pollinator. He's a man on a mission, and best of all- food is involved! Tom won't rest until he finds the best burgers in Milwaukee. Along the way he gets to eat some delicious grub, and at the same time help support and promote local eateries. And he's just getting started. Next on the agenda? Best fish fry. Warm up the rye bread and shred the coleslaw, I'm waiting! Check out Tom's terrific website [complete with pics] by following the link below...



Not for the decorative faint of heart, BROCADE HOME's completely over-the-top [and reasonably priced] wares do a bang-up catalog/internet business. It's parent company, Restoration Hardware, always makes sure they have a super-slick catalog...with pictures so tantalizing you'll find yourself ooh-ing and aah-ing- page after page. Really unique furniture, wallpaper, accessories, bedding [amazing beds!], and fabu chandeliers....


Buzz Out!

Buzz Out!