Thursday, January 27, 2011


Some guys gear up for the game, some for the commercials. I’m putting my money on the food, the manly kind you only serve when eating rises to a contact sport. “lbs” be damned, the whole point is how much, how hot, and how compelling the taste.  Here’s what we do to pump up our guts to stretch pants proportions:

Let’s start with the chili. It’s best if you cook this slowly for several hours the day before and then reheat it before the couch potatoes arrive.
Here are the ingredients:
3 cups (more or less) of diced yellow or white onions, a mix of yellow and white is fine
1 teaspoon of sea salt and 3 cloves of garlic for a paste
2 tablespoons of curry powder
1/4 cup of olive oil
About 2 –3 tablespoons of chili powder (this should be done to taste)
2 lbs ground beef
1 lb ground pork
1 lb chorizos or sausages sliced
4 large cans (the 28 to 35 ounce size) of tomatoes, whole or diced
2 large cans of red kidney beans drained and rinsed
I large can of black beans also drained and rinsed

A handful of cilantro
1 bunch of chopped scallions
A bowl of shredded cheddar and Monterey jack cheese
1 diced red bell pepper
1 pint of sour cream

Start out by making a paste out of the sea salt and garlic cloves. You should do this in a mortar and pestle but if you don’t have one you can use a ceramic bowl and a smooth rock wrapped in gauze to form a handle or grip. Once the paste has been pummeled into perfection, put it aside.
Now heat up your frying pan and add the olive oil. Sautee your diced onions with the curry powder until they become limp. Add the garlic paste, mix, sauté a few minutes more and then remove the seasoned onions from the pan. Now don’t clean the pan but start to add your meat while the pan is hot and brown the beef, pork and sausages of choice. You should have already sliced the sausages, don’t put them in whole. This should be done in batches or the meat won’t brown it will just steam. When the meat is browned add the seasoned onions back into the pan. Salt and pepper to taste.
Dump in the tomatoes and beans. I always forget to do the draining and rinsing before hand so I’m always running backwards getting this done when I should have thought to do it before I got to this step. If you forgot, like me, then go back and drain and rinse. It won’t throw the timing off; it’s just a nuisance. Mix the meat, onion, beans and tomatoes together. You can add cilantro if you like the flavor. Some do, some don’t. Cook on a low heat for two to three hours stirring occasionally. If the consistency becomes too thick you can add some beef broth, a little red wine or just dump in a bottle of Leinenkugel (beer). Let the chili rest before serving. It’s always better when served the following day but I usually can’t wait. Serve in big oversized bowls with shredded cheese, sour cream, chopped scallions and some diced bell pepper.

On a scale of one to ten this is a ten fart chili

Now for the cornbread and parsley lime butter.
Without these our chili is like a quarterback without a pro-bowl wide receiver and this cornbread is a real superstar.

Cornbread ingredients:
2 1/2 cups of yellow, stone ground, whole germ cornmeal
1 level tablespoon of baking powder
1 teaspoon of salt
Ground black pepper, 12 to 15 turns
1/2 teaspoon of baking soda
1/2 cup of chopped scallion
1/2 cup of diced red bell pepper
Heaping handful of mozzarella
Heaping handful of mixed cheddar and Monterey jack cheeses,
3 beaten eggs
Enough buttermilk to give the mix the consistency of a dry cake batter
2 tablespoons of olive oil
1/4 cup of corn oil

Parsley lime butter ingredients:
Handful of chopped parsley
1 stick of softened butter
1/2 lime
Sea salt to taste if butter is unsalted
1/4 cup softened cream cheese

We’ll start with the cornbread. The one thing that’ll really make your cornbread score a touchdown is the skillet. A well seasoned, 12” black cast-iron skillet is the best. We’ve worked over twenty years on our skillet and it is now seasoned to perfection. The longer you work on this the better flavor it imparts to your food and the easier the cornbread will slip out when it is done. But don’t be discouraged if you don’t have the twenty year-old skillet, use your less seasoned one or go to your local kitchen supply store and start seasoning, everyone has to start somewhere. The next step should be to turn your oven up to 400 degrees. Let the oven heat while you mix your ingredients in a large bowl. Add the cornmeal, baking powder, salt, pepper and baking soda together and stir. Then add the scallions, bell pepper and stir again before adding the cheeses. After you have mixed this together, add the beaten eggs, and then start adding the buttermilk until the whole mixture comes to the consistency of a dry cake batter. When you have achieved the perfect consistency start to get your skillet ready. Add the oil to the skillet and heat until the skillet starts to smoke. 

Add the batter and let it fry for a few seconds then pop the whole thing into the oven and bake for 20 to 30 minutes, until the top has turned a golden brown. Pull the skillet out of the oven and let it rest for a few minutes then take a plate that has a larger diameter than your skillet. Place the dish on top of the skillet and flip the whole thing over. This can take practice and the benefits of a well-seasoned skillet. If it doesn’t come out and you end up with pieces, don’t worry. It’s finger food and tastes the same in man sized hunks as it does in perfect slices.

In a small bowl mix together your softened butter, parsley, salt and cream cheese. Then squeeze in the juice of half a lime and mix again. Place this next to your cornbread and back off. The meal is done and the mess has only just begun, but be prepared to do a repeat on the cornbread. One 12” cornbread at our table always ends with cries for another as the crowd roars and you start doing an end zone dance.

Man cave
A room or space equipped with the essentials that make hair grow on your chest, squirt cheese taste good and the smell of dirty socks seem more appealing than a bouquet of lavender. (Also referred to as a mantuary)

What with all the testosterone flying around this week I’ve spent an inordinate amount of time roaming the internet trying to figure out what makes a man a man and then where I fit on the spectrum of true manliness. 

Clearly, this week, in anticipation of Super Bowl XLV I’ve amazed myself with my dedication to listening to every smashmouth word uttered on ESPN’s Mike and Mike in the Morning. I race to get the morning paper here in Packerland and read every article on Aaron Rogers and the defensive line of cheeseheads. I’ve done everything but make Rick give me the garage and let me park the car on the street so I can create my very own rendition of the mancave. I’ve looked at many a rendition of the god-awful basement conversions, walls painted in appropriate team colors, mini-tiki bars stocked with beer and hard liquor, fur rugs, a massive TV, and the essential Barcalounger covered in the ugliest naugahyde imaginable. Here’s where I start to slide the arrow down on my manliness meter as I realize I’m no match for the diehard cavers. As much as I’ve invested in the outcome of the Super Bowl I tend to do my rooting from the comfort of a Barbara Barry armchair covered in a beautiful soft teal chenille with a low-fat, Java Chip frappuccino (hold the whip cream but add a little mocha drizzle). I’m aware I’m more likely to fit in a cave like the one below with the vintage Mercedes parked inside. 

My manly meter took a real dip toward sissy when I started evaluating the status quo here in Madison, a city of frozen lakes, where the real men go out on the ice well before the sun rises drilling holes in the frozen waters and sitting for hours bobbing a line up and down in twenty degrees below zero weather. I wasn’t even close to competing with these guys. 

Then I saw an ad for Lake Geneva’s Bella Vista Suites “Ice Fishing Shanty Package”. According to their promotional material you’ll be treated to a heated shanty complete with a silver bucket filled with champagne and a catered lunch. Shanty staff will come and take care of the manual labor boring the hole through the ice. An ice fishing expert can be hired for an additional $35 for the six hour session to sit with you and explain the equipment, close up your bored hole at the end of the session and clean your catch should you actual hook something. Here’s the link: I know I’m not the only who thinks this is the smarter way to put hair on your chest. I think I’ll stick to watching my Packers in the comfort of my Barbara Barry, the scent of a burning Lafco Feu de Bois candle spreading the scent of a cedar log as I give a tempered, “rah rah” as my Packers beat the tar out of those towel waving Steelers.


Elmer Kroese, 2006

Thursday, January 20, 2011


These southern pearls of wisdom from Rick's mom will appear from time to time and what better blogazine addition to introduce one of 'em than in this addition called time. These homilies may not have originated with Rena but the way we heard them was when they tumbled out from her southern drawling mouth.
"Time is nature's way of keeping everything from happening at once."

It started out as a decorative period to the design paragraph that was to become our kitchen.  In our rental galley kitchen there wasn’t a whole lot to work with but the soffet running over the fridge and stove provided enough room to make a little statement in an otherwise sterile space. The idea was to add time to the room; decorative time, time built on memories, time as homage to friends and places we loved.

We had gone to the Schamburg IKEA on a scouting trip for an installation we were doing for an event in New York. What we ended up doing was spending a little on our own place. We found these Dekad clocks at $9.99 a piece that reflected the cottage theme we were working with in the apartment. We decided to use five of them. At 8 3/4” diameter they were the right size to fit on the soffet and leave enough room for adding our global text.

Madison isn’t known for its art supply stores but at Michael’s we found these raised adhesive letters. We were looking for cities in five different time zones that would mean something to us every time we looked at those clocks lined up on the kitchen wall. We started with where we were, Madison. Our next pick was where we had come from, New York.  That gave us two zones. From there we jumped across the ocean to Paris, one of our favorite cities and then we added Rome. We really wanted to add Bounconvento, a small Tuscan city south of Siena but we didn’t have enough letters. So Rome became the city to remind us of the farm in Bounconvento where we have spent so many magical vacations. Now for my bad, I thought Rome and Paris were in different time zones. Now we had two clocks with the same time. We debated changing them but none of us wanted to give up either Paris or Rome. Since none of us had an affinity for the Far East we decided our fourth clock should represent the west coast. San Francisco was an easy pick for us. Our best friends lived there. The last clock was the hardest decision. We were only missing one mainland U.S. time zone. We eliminated Alaska (any Sarah Palin reference wasn’t going to make our wall) and Hawaii (the whole grass skirt thing just wasn’t us). This left us Mountain Time. We considered Phoenix and Tuscan but Arizona has just left a bad taste in our mouths. Santa Fe was where we began our love of photography. We had just enough letters left to spell it so Santa Fe completed the wall.
Here’s what you need to know about creating your own time wall.
The tools you’ll need include a hammer, ruler, pencil, paper, hangers appropriate to hold your clocks (this can vary from picture hangers, nails or pushpins), and a small level.
First measure the wall both vertically and horizontally. This will tell you how many clocks you can fit and what size clock you should buy.

Once you’ve purchased your clocks measure their diameter, add the diameters together and subtract this from the length of the wall. This will tell you how many clocks you can fit on the wall. We normally like to space things tight but in the case of the clocks you want to remember the length of the names you’re going to add to the wall. If you’re going to be using a lengthy name, you have to have enough space to get the name up there without running into the names on the adjoining clocks.
Now lay out the clocks on a piece of paper. This doesn’t have to be neat or to scale. Just sketch out the clocks and the sides of the wall. Since the clocks will most likely hang from their center points, this is where you’re going to want to measure from. We always like to use an odd number of pieces when hanging similar or identical images. Start with finding the center point of the wall and start measuring out to the sides. As with hanging anything, measure twice so you only have to put up your nails once.

Adding the adhesive letters is a little more loosey goosey. Measure the height of your letters. Take this measurement and add the distance you from the top of the letters to the bottom of the clocks. Mark this in pencil on the wall centered under each clock. Using your level draw a light guide line or use a piece of tape for the letters. 

Here’s where I just wing it. I take the center letter, put it on the line and then start adding the remaining letters eye-balling the spacing. If you lightly put up the letters you can usually take them down and start over if you don’t like the way they look. Now before doing a hard press with the letters make sure you’ve spelled everything correctly. There’s nothing worse than ending up with New Gersey on your wall unless your name is Snooky.
Now erase your guidelines or peel off your tape and you’re done. 

I can sit in the living room, look at my wall of clocks and make phone calls to friends across the American landscape knowing its not too late to call Angelina in New York or too early to call Johannah in San Francisco. 


We decided to begin our cooking segment with a basic. For me, this is essential. I’ve only recently passed boiling water. So Rick is sharing his failsafe recipe to the perfect boiled egg. You begin with a medium sized saucepan. Make sure the pan has a cover, you’ll need it later on. Rick suggests using four eggs, you could do as many as you want. The number of eggs you put in won’t effect the recipe. Eggs and milk have always been products we were willing to pay more, we've splurged on organic. We can’t scientifically prove it but it’s why we believe our daughter’s height has hit the five ten mark at fourteen and she’s still growing. Place the eggs in the saucepan and cover them with cold water, lukewarm or hot water and your tempting fate with the proper timing.
Okay, now you can turn up the heat, medium high is where you want it. As the water comes to a simmer, cover your sauce pan (I told you, you’d need the lid), and turn off the heat. Now set the timer to fifteen minutes and wait.
When the timer sounds your eggs are done and done to perfection. Peel the shell and enjoy with a little salt and pepper or slice it up over a bed of mache with a little chevre, some toasted croutons and some ripe summer tomatoes.

If you can’t put it on the wall then wrap it around your wrist. Our fascination with timepieces began with Mickey, well maybe Cinderella and grew to Hamilton, Elgin and Longines as our awareness of the delicate nature of wrist wear grew. 

Watches are one of the few jewelry accessories men can get into without it getting too kinky. Vintage watches from the forties have been a favorite of ours. They were reasonably priced and the type of item you could find at flea markets and multi-dealer shops.

We’ve kept mostly to the used watch market but on occasion we’ve ventured into the contemporary market with watches whose design blew us away. 


Tempo of the City: Fifth Avenue and 44th Street, Manhattan
Bernice Abbott 1938
New York Public Library Digital Gallery

Thursday, January 13, 2011



"Love is a fire. But whether it is going to warm your hearth or burn down your house, you can never tell."
Joan Crawford

The 24 foot Penske truck was packed back to front and top to bottom with approximately one fifth of our New York office, apartment and weekend home possessions. Rick, Emmy and I sat in the cab, our dog Buddy perched on Emmy’s lap. I gunned the engine and it was off to a new life in Madison, Wisconsin. My mom was slipping slowly into the mid-stages of Alzheimer’s and we were set to move in with her to help out, make her life a little easier and lift some of the burden off of my other siblings. We backed the truck, which in my view was an inch short of being called a semi, into my mom’s driveway in the heat of mid-August 2009. We expected to be greeted with open arms but within a week of, “Whose furniture is this?” “What’s all this junk doing in my garage?” and “Who’s that girl sleeping in my back bedroom? I didn’t ask her to stay in my house," we decided living with this woman who had become possessed by Joan Crawford was not such a good idea after all.
And thus began the search and our eventual move into our own apartment, a few miles away from Mama Joan but close enough so that I could get there in five minutes if I had to. Our criteria were a minimum of two bedrooms, two baths, and a fireplace, the essential necessity for our southern boy in order to get him through the frosty winter months.
What we got was a bedroom and a loft, a bath and a half, a garage, laundry room and a fireplace in a cathedral ceilinged living room all spread out over three floors.  Space wise, coming from New York City, this was palatial. The only issue was everything was as beige as beige could be. The walls were all beige. The floors were all carpeted in beige. The blinds were beige. Even the lighting tended to look beige. The bright spot was the golden glow of the fire in the fireplace. So we decided to tackle the fireplace as our first effort of converting the beigeness we were surrounded by to a brighter more stylistically sympathetic focal point of our new digs.

Here’s how we did it.
We decided on a style. Rick kept thinking the bones of the apartment complex evoked a cottage feel, the kind of look you think of when traveling around the countryside New England.

To achieve the cottage look we began investigating materials we thought had a bit of country roughness to them, the kind of low grade material used on a cottage where years and years of paint would have been applied giving it that dichotomy of rough yet smooth. At Home Depot we found 4 x 8 sheets of exterior siding for $26.97 per sheet. The tongue and groove look and the scale of large boards to narrow recesses was exactly what we wanted. We had to buy three sheets to cover the entire front of the fireplace and the six-inch returns on either side.

Color was our next delimma. Rick wanted a high gloss paint to achieve that glossy look of heavily painted wood. We didn’t want to have to apply too many coats. We wanted the grain of the wood to show through and retain the roughness we wanted to highlight. We, well Rick, settled on another Home Depot product, Benjamin Moore paint in Calypso Blue. The blue/green was a thread running through our existing furniture and by choosing a vibrant hue from this color scheme the vertical thrust of the fireplace made it the perfect centerpiece of the living space.

The mantle was another low cost item. We cut a 2 x 12 pine plank we bought for $7.72, painted it high-gloss Decorators White and attached it the wall with 11 inch Ekby Stilig brackets we bought at IKEA for $6.00 a piece. We chose to off-center the brackets to duplicate the rhythm established by the off-center fireplace. The asymmetry of the mantle helped to make the asymmetry of the fireplace look intentional rather than a mistake.
We happened to meet a metal worker through one of the women Rick worked with at the local department store. We had him cut and drill out a metal surround and hearth to cover over the hideous existing beige tile. We’ve let the metal erode choosing not to seal it so slowly we are getting that beautiful rust color to complement the Calypso Blue of the wood. Our iron worker charged us $100 for all of the metal

The final touch was the white molding that framed the surround and covered our edges forming a holding line outlining the fireplace separating it from the walls and windows.
Total cost of materials: less than $225. Now we’re ready to light our fire.

Raku (ra ku)
The process of firing pottery at a low temperature and then placing the smoldering pot in a closed container with combustible materials which ignite in a ball of flame when they touch the outer shell of the transforming clay. When the surface of the pottery cools its beauty is revealed like a butterfly with multi-colored shimmering swirls of color like oil floating on water and reflecting the sun.

Kerry Gonzalez
Gonzalez Raku 


When I was in junior high school there was an adage that circulated through the boy’s locker room. One of those stories that ended with the flick of a towel and a bunch of fourteen year-old testosterone induced giddy laughter. It went something like if you put a bean in a jar every time you had sex during the first five years of a marriage (remember this was the early 60’s when wedlock was the only acceptable way of getting to homeplate) and then took a bean out for every score there after you’d die with a pile of beans still filling up that jar. It was supposed to be a joke but the more I think about it the more I’m beginning to think there’s more truth than buffoonery here. In the fifties and sixties marriage was a lifelong commitment. You stuck it out whether you remained in love or not. After five years of bliss I guess a lot of those marriages ran out of romance and those beans kept staring back out of their little glass prison.
Making a fire on those icy winter nights has turned out to be a lot like sex. The first year in our new place that fireplace blazed morning, noon and night. Now, not so much. There are a thousand excuses: we’re out of fire starters, no one wants to go down to the garage to haul up the wood, the cost of a cord or wood went up a hundred bucks, we can’t find Woody the woodman’s phone number. Right now, in year two of our fireplace, we’re running way beyond that first honeymoon year of gorgeous blazing fires.
So how do we get the romance back? Where’s our cord of wood? How am I going to ignite that fire one more time? Who’s got the match to get us warm again? It’s only January and in Madison terms that means we’ve still got another three months with the possibility of snow covered eaves and a reignited hearth blazing away.


Lynn Davis
Iceberg X Disko Bay Greenland 2004
Represented by Edwynn Houk Gallery 

Thursday, January 6, 2011


We're still trying to find our groove. It's only our second post so we hope you'll cut us some slack on this one. We thought about what we'd do for our second act. We decided on an extension of our first post because we're still trying to figure out how to get through winter. Like being back in fifth grade staring out the window while Mrs. Zarbinski droned on and on about how Betsy Ross sewed stars on a field of red and white stripes we found ourselves daydreaming about warmer times. Rick's daydreams seemed to send him back to digging holes in rich black dirt so his winter dreams lead us to talking about gardening. Unfortunately his dreams were not mine and that lead us to trying out, "He Said/He Said". We kinda cheated on this first attempt but from now on we'll stick to the rules. We'll establish a topic, write our thoughts and then neither of us can look at the others entry until it's out there for everyone to see. Sometimes our responses will be mirror images and other times they may be like a Mary Matalin - James Carville debate. We encourage anyone out there to feed us topics. Let's have at it.


I love to garden.  Nothing makes me feel more creative and spiritually fulfilled than watching something I’ve planted pop out of the ground and come to life. But here’s the thing, I’m not great at it. To describe me as mediocre would be kind.  That has never stopped me though, my tenacity and stubbornness has always won out over my mediocre skill set.  And I don’t let this mediocrity hinder my dreams either. I go for creating the kind of garden that one could find in a magazine or on a movie set.  And that brings me to the potager.  You know those beautiful, well-laid kitchen gardens the French have just steps away from their kitchen doors. Walk out, snip, snip and dinner is practically done and in that oh so delicious French way!  

Need another reference?  Meryl Streep’s gorgeous and functional garden in “It’s Complicated”  Now there my dears is a perfect potager.  

So this winter I am going to plan a classic French potager for our shop “Pleasant Living”, but instead of being in the back I’m putting it right out front for all the neighbors to see.  Come on, its way better than putting the refrigerator or washing machine on the front porch. We’ll post pix but if you’re in the hood pleeze stop buy!


Rick was always the gardener. Even though I received my masters from the University of Wisconsin in Landscape Architecture I can’t tell the difference between a live tree and dead one in winter. There’s a lot of winter here in Wisconsin so I’m in the dark a lot of the time trying to identify living elements of nature. Couple this with my allergy to Mayflies or No-See-Ums and you have the quintessential non-gardener. When we had our house in the country Rick would spend his winters huddled up in front of the fire, seed catalogues scattered at his feet and his garden planning notebook draped over the quilt he had wrapped around his lap. His pencil would furiously flick through the pages of Whiteflower Farms Seed Catalogue pausing on a new perennial he thought would work perfectly in the white garden and then he’d scratch out its name in the margins of his notebook.

I, on the other hand, would watch this note taking with a hefty dose of dread knowing the outcome of these notes would mean hours of physical punishment for me in addition to the oozing welts inflicted by an army of little stinging bugs. I knew after all this preparation I would have no way out of helping turning his notes into botanical reality. So each spring I’d parade myself out to the garden dragging my best friend, Jim, along and begin the process of sifting dirt, breaking up clods of clay and harvesting the stone crop we managed to grow over the winter months. It’s a fact that in the upper Catskills the earth is actually able to grow a crop of new rocks over a cold winter season. In the more recent years I’ve used the month of January to scour Ebay in hopes of a finding a beekeeper’s outfit to protect myself from the bugs but up until now I’ve not met with any success.
This spring will bring a whole new set of gardening requirements as I’ve watched Rick make special trips to the mailbox, fingers crossed hoping for the new spring plant catalogues to arrive. The fire is burning, the notebook has been revived with a new set of graph paper and all his pencils are sharpened in preparation for a new set of regional gardening challenges. I hear a potager is in the offing.

Hunters vs. Wellingtons

The argument wasn’t really an argument at all but it was my contention that Emmy’s purple boots and Rick’s garden green ones were not Wellingtons. They were Hunter boots. For me, Wellingtons had become the bootery equivalent of Kleenex, a now generic name to describe any knee high rubber boot. So when one guest spotted Emmy’s purple Hunters splayed out on the entry floor and oohed and aahed over the Wellies, I arrogantly corrected her telling her they weren’t Wellingtons but Hunters. She graciously deferred to me saying she had always thought they were one in the same.
Immediately after our guests had closed the front door behind them I was off to Google looking up Wellingtons vs  Hunters, an education ensued.

I was wrong right from the beginning. Wellingtons were first made at the request of the Duke of Wellington. The look caught on and the Duke’s shoemaker became the Manolo Blahnik of the early eighteen hundreds. With the vulcanization of rubber in the mid-eighteen hundreds the boot went from leather to a close fitting molded rubber model manufactured by the North British Rubber Company. To make a long story short, the North British Rubber Company became the Hunter Boot Ltd and ever since the Wellington and Hunter names have been synonymous. Now there are an abundance of copycat boots out there, many referring to themselves as Wellies, but the truth is our guest was right and the only true Wellingtons are made by Hunter.

Cloche (klohsh)

A transparent bell-shaped glass cover for protecting plants from the cold weather. Cloche, the sound of the word engenders warmth. It has a motherly protective quality. It’s impossible to speak the word with any harshness. It doesn’t allow the tongue to form syllables of anger, instead it forces the lips forward like in a kiss. I wish I could turn it from a noun to a verb, to cloche and then I’d cloche our world from the harsh realities of our time.


Winter Hydrangea by Susan Johann
Represented by Pleasant Living
917 608-2384