Friday, November 25, 2011


We've fallen in with a group of friends who try to meet for breakfast on Saturday mornings at the ungodly hour of 8:45. Our daughter's athletic practices, meets and scrimmages usually take precedence but on those Saturdays when there are no practices and she can sleep late we'll sneak off to join the crew of regulars downing pots of coffee and devouring plates of golden scrambled eggs and fluffy pancakes swimming in pools of artificial maple syrup. We haven't garnered tenure within the group yet, we're still too new. Frequently, when we arrive there's a table full of faces we still don't have names for. Last Saturday, as we joined the gossip gathering another new face was there finishing a plate of Greece inspired breakfast fare and talking about having to leave so she could get to her booth at the Holiday Art Fair at the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art. The fair had started the day before but his was the first we'd heard of it. We're still not sufficiently plugged in to the event scene in Madison. We're suckers for any of these fair events. We're on a constant treasure hunt for new people we can draw into our mix at the store and the more local, the better.
I sat down next to Joan and Rick sat across from her. The poor woman was locked into having to deal with us. As our introduction included her eminent departure for her booth at the fair, our obvious first question was, "What kind of art do you do?" That just opened the door and we were off and running. She designs jewelry out of buttons: new buttons, vintage buttons, precious buttons, all kinds of buttons. We have a bad habit when it comes to buttons. We covet them and that ain't pretty.
Joan's button jewelry runs from the obvious necklaces, earrings and bracelets to the not so obvious scarves. We decided we had to go to the fair to see Joan's work up close and personal. When we got there we found her booth right away. Her pieces were both beautiful and whimsical.
You could dress them down over a t-shirt and jeans or show them off at an elegant affair over a simple black dress. You can find her work at, and see for yourself how terrific her work really is.
After seeing Joan's booth any thing else we might find at the fair was going to be pure gravy to our adventure. For us, if we can find one vendor at one of these events we consider it a success. At this fair we found three. Joan was our first, and then there were the girls from Warm Heart Mittens. Jean Shaw and Debi Garner scourer the sweater bins at Goodwill and St. Vincent DePaul's looking for the perfect pullovers and cardigans to make into the most intriguing mittens we've ever seen, and of course, they decorate their mittens with great buttons. We're looking for a date when we can have Joan and the girls do a trunk show at the store so we can share their great designs with all of our customers
The last artist to sweep us away was Little John and his brooms. John has taken his sense of humor and wrapped it around the mundane art of domestic cleaning tools creating brooms even Harry Potter would be proud to use at the World Quidditch Championships.
John Holzwart repertoire of brooms includes the likes of  the two-headed broom, the guitar handled broom, the kegger broom, and brooms with forged iron handles. His work is truly amazing and useful at the same time.  

We were, as usual, late for the Monona Grove Girls Basketball potluck. I was under the assumption that a potluck was a "casual communal meal to which people bring food to share". You mingle, you eat, you brag a little about your kid and you go home. The event was to start at We arrived at 5:27, 12 minutes and 24 seconds into the coach's Powerpoint presentation on goals, sportsmanship and fund raising activities. When you're the same-sex parents of a fifteen year-old jv basketball player you don't need an additional reason to turn heads. We gave our nervous smiles as we snaked our way to the food tables and then tried to find seats so the coach could resume his telling the assembled parents and players about the importance of showing up on time. We'll be showing up early from now on. After the speech, or lecture for us, they opened the buffet up to the players first and then the parents and assembled guests. Rick had made a savory bread pudding with sausage and mozzarella at my request. Once again we stood out like a sore thumb but this time it was for a good reason. Several of the parents had huddled around at the end of the event watching our empty plate to see who was going to go and claim the our cleaned out pyrex pan. When Rick started collecting our serving utensils and cloth napkins he was surrounded by a bevy of Nordic mothers with linked arms demanding recipes and like a phalanx of defensive football players they weren't going to let him gain a yard unless he coughed up the goods. So ladies and gentlemen here's the recipe for Rick's Savory Sausage and Mozzarella Bread Pudding.

You'll get 10 to 12 good-sized servings or enough small ones to go around at a potluck

 1 Loaf crusty country-style white bread
 1 Cake day old cornbread
1/4 cup olive oil
 1 cup chopped fresh herbs(sage, rosemary, oregano, thyme &
 1 large garlic clove, minced
    1 stick sweet butter
 1 pound sweet Italian sausage
 1 1/2 cups finely chopped onion
 1 1/2 cups thinly sliced celery

 1pint heavy whipping cream
 8 large eggs
 2 teaspoons salt
 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
 1/2 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese
    1/2 lb chopped or grated Mozzarella cheese
Preheat oven to 375°F. Butter 13x9x2-inch glass baking dish.  Cut bread with crust and cornbread into 1-inch cubes (about 10 cups loosely packed). Place cubes in very large roasting pan. Add oil, chopped herbs, and garlic; toss to coat. Spread cubes. Bake until golden and slightly crunchy, stirring occasionally, about 20 minutes. Put toasted bread cubes in buttered baking dish dusted with grated parmesan cheese.
Melt butter in large skillet over medium-high heat. Saute the sausage until fully cooked  and then add onion and celery. sauté until soft and juices have evaporated, about 15 minutes. Mix sausage, sautéed onions and celery and mozzarella cheese with the toasted bread cubes.
Whisk heavy cream, eggs, , salt, and ground pepper in large bowl. Mix custard into bread and vegetables. Transfer stuffing to prepared glass baking dish. Sprinkle cheese over.
Turn oven to 350°F. Bake pudding uncovered until set and top is golden, about 1 hour. Let stand 15 minutes.
Now we're willing to share this recipe for the savory pudding but we're going to hold back on the sweet version.

I have always contended that good design doesn't depend on money, at least not money alone.   I've spent a career matching "the proverbial Gap T-shirts with Armani suits "or the decorating equivalent to that fashion trick employed by many even the ever stylish Sharon Stone in order to create beautiful spaces while trying to stay on budget.  The trick here is to watch the quality quotient.  Finish is usually the first give-away of a poor quality item.  Wood should look like wood, stone should look like stone, and you get the idea.  These days construction doesn't have to be flimsy to make something for a lesser price and veneers are used throughout the industry whether high or low.  Just pay attention to how they are cut, glued up and used.  MDF is not a four-letter word but particleboard is.  Structure is important.  Chairs, sofas and benches should support people of substantial size and tables should never wobble. This week's daybeds are a perfect place for that after Thanksgiving nap when the only thing you want to do is repent for all the food you couldn't stop eating.

This week's finds:
More: The Fifth Avenue Daybed by Donghia $6,989.00 plus customer's own fabric

Less: The Simone Daybed at Crate & Barrel $999.00 in 23 different fabrics


Migrant Mother, 1936
By photographer, Dorothea Lange
Represented by Edwynn Houk Gallery, New York
Least we forget all that we have to be thankful for

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