My first memory of seeing the S.S. Keewatin was in the late 1960’s in Douglas, Michigan.  I was fascinated.  Having never set eyes on a passenger ship up close, I marveled at her size and imagined what it would have been like to sail the Great Lakes on such a ship.

Five years older than the RMS Titanic and built in Scotland, she sailed the Great Lakes for over sixty years as a luxury passenger ship for the Canadian Pacific Railroad.  Today she is the only remaining Edwardian Era Steamer in the world,  as all her sister ships have either been scrapped or sunk.

She was saved from the scrap yard by R.J. Peterson, who towed her into Douglas, Michigan and used her as a maritime museum.  In 2007 he was approached by a group interested in returning her to Port Mc Nicoll, Ontario.  They wanted to restore her and display her in her home port.  Peterson agreed and said, “It’s a treasure that needs to be preserved.  Here it’s a local attraction, but in Canada it has historic connections.”

The ship left for Ontario on June 4th and made a stopover in Mackinaw City, where we visited her today.  If you look at her website,  http://sskeewatin.com, you’ll see how excited the folks are in Port Mc Nicoll.  They’re even throwing a big party on June 23rd, when she is pulled into port.


Technically, the Vernal Equinox arrived at 1:14 AM on Tuesday, March 20, 2012, but I celebrate the first day of spring on March 21st every year.  You see, that’s the day my daughter, Dana Grace Marie was born.  On that chilly day in 1984 there was snow flurries as I held her for the first time.  The nurses remarked that they’d never seen such dark, curly hair; so long you could wrap a ringlet around your pinky.

Today Dana is out in Los Angeles, hopefully working on another hit television program.  No cake for me today.  I will leave the celebrating to Dana’s posse and hope they all have a lovely day!

Love to Dana!  Happy Birthday Rabbit!

Dana Grace Marie

Age One, reading scripts

I just finished reading As Always, Julia: The Letters of Julia Child and Avis DeVoto.  The book captures a beautiful friendship,  carried out almost exclusively in letters, since Julia and Avis lived on different continents for much of their acquaintance.  In addition to sharing their friendship, we see an insider’s view of how Mastering the Art of French Cooking evolved from an idea between a few friends to one of the most influential cookbooks ever written.

Julia Child had no idea how to cook. As a child of privilege, a full-time cook prepared the meals in her childhood home in California.  She even mentions in her autobiography, My Life in France, “I had zero interest in the stove.”  However, Paul, her husband, loved good food and wine.  As a new bride, Julia wanted to impress him.

When Paul was assigned to a post with the U.S. State Department in Paris in 1948, Julia embraced life in France; learning the language, customs, and, most importantly, how to cook la cuisine bourgeois  – good, traditional, French home cooking.  Avis, her newly discovered friend, on the other side of the Atlantic, corresponded with Julia for over nine years,exchanging over 400 letters. An accomplished cook, Avis was also a writer and editor.  To read their letters, comparing ingredients found in the U.S. and those in France, how to find the best knives (they were definitely found in Paris) and what to serve at dinner parties, is just thoroughly enjoyable.  They also share their sorrows and voice their opinions on the political landscape of the day.

All of this got me to thinking, how did I learn to cook?  Although my grandmother, who lived with us, was a wonderful cook; she never included us as she prepared meals.  Nor, did my mother, who put a meal on the table every night, but with little effort and not much enthusiasm. In fact, she told her doctor, after recovering from a broken hip recently, that this was just the excuse she needed to give up cooking.

I guess I learned to cook like many other young women in the 1970’s.  I got a Betty Crocker Cookbook as a shower gift and an assortment of the latest electric appliances.  Just the other day, while researching recipes for dinner, I came across an old recipe for Beef Stroganoff.  It was one of the first things I learned to make as a new bride. Printed in the booklet that was placed inside my Farberware Electric Skillet, the ingredients included canned mushrooms and other shortcuts that busy cooks in the ’70’s expected.  Every new cookbook extolled the virtues of using canned soup, processed cheeses, store-bought breads and other readily available products to make our lives easier and unfortunately, our food less enjoyable. Luckily for me, I have evolved as a cook, but just can’t give away my old electric skillet.  It taught me so much.  It’s nifty guide, glued to the handle, explained the basics such as which settings would result in “stewing,” or “braising” or the ever puzzling “simmer.” So, I dusted it off and made dinner with real mushrooms and no canned soup.

But before I did, I went to my pen pals….Allrecipes.com, epicurious.com, foodnetwork.com and cooksillustrated.com to research “Beef Stroganoff.”  In the time it probably took Julia or Avis to pen one letter, I surfed four sites and came up with the best new recipe.  Pretty efficient, but without the benefit of a Julia or Avis.  Maybe I’ll call a friend next time and ask her for a favorite recipe. Here’s one of mine:

Beef Stroganoff

2-4 servings

cut into thin 2 x 1/2 inch strips

1 pound sirloin tip

season with salt and pepper

heat 2 Tablespoons olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat

add the meat and cook ’til just browned, about 2 minutes

remove to a plate and melt 2 Tablespoons of butter in the skillet

add and cook 1 small onion or two shallots, chopped fine

add and cook 1/2 pound of mushrooms, sliced

add:  2 cup beef stock, 2 Tablespoons brandy or cognac

simmer for 10 minutes, then stir in:

1/2 cup of sour cream, 1/2 Tablespoon of Dijon mustard, salt and pepper to taste

1 Tablespoon chopped dill (optional)

stir in the meat and any reserved juices

simmer (do not boil) for 2-5 minutes to blend flavors

serve immediately over fresh egg noodles

Play Dates


Hi again.  It’s me, Lizzie.  Thought I’d update my fan base on my recent activities.

First of all, I had four spectacular play dates this week that I’d like to share with all of you.  The first was on Sunday with my friend, Tina.  She’s a bird dog too, a fancy one called a Wire-haired Pointing Griffon.  She’s almost 8 months old and much bigger than me, but we play nice and wear each other out running and rolling in the snow on the fairway.

On Wednesday I went to see my sister, Chilly, and our mom, Huka.  Chilly and I had a riot!  We tore around Dave and Mary’s house and I discovered this really awesome thing – a doggie door!  You can go right outside without waiting for a human to open the door.  It’s fabulous!  We went in the back yard and ran the equivalent of the Boston Marathon in about 20 minutes.  Too much fun, let me tell ya!  Huka didn’t seem to keen to hang with us, though.  Maybe she’s still recovering from having all of us.  Anyway, it was a hoot!  Chilly is really pretty too!  She’s not black and white like me.  She’s got liver and white coloring.  Very posh!

My third play date was with Flash.  He’s a big dog, really big, like 85 lbs. big.  He’s from Keokuk, Iowa and was here to visit his human family’s relatives.  I think he’s a labrador, maybe has a little Chesapeke thrown in, really nice chocolate color.  He thought I was a little bit of a pest and ran far ahead of me, but guess what?  I caught him, yep, I’m fast, I’m really fast.

My last play date was this morning.  I went shopping to Dave’s Boots in downtown Petoskey. They love me there and always give me treats. They all play with me and let me sniff all those fabulous leather shoes and boots.  We went to buy some new sheep skin inserts for my Mom’s Ugg Slippers.  Someone tore the old inserts out of the slippers and ate them.  Wonder who would have done such a thing?

Well, time to go. Literally.  Gotta go.

Recent temperatures have approached record highs for the month of January in Northern Michigan.  It was 52 degrees yesterday and not a whisper of wind, which made the big Lake look smooth and mirror shiny.  Perfect weather for walking the dog and getting out of the house.

But what about the folks who rely on winter for work?  Up here, snow is a big deal.  People who spend the summers mowing lawns often snap a blade on their truck and plow parking lots and driveways all winter.   Snowmobile trails attract people from all over the Midwest and even though the big ski resorts make snow; it’s just not the same as the real stuff.

As I got my hair cut yesterday, the salon owner said the “trickle down” effect hurts everyone when there’s no snow. Her husband owns a coffee shop and his business is down.No snow means fewer people in town.  The restaurants, hotels and shops rely on a steady stream of down state visitors to come up north and fuel our local economy.  Additionally, we need to snow to help with our lake levels and farmers need the snow pack to replenish ground water.

So as I look outside the window and see the snow gently falling for the first time since mid December, I say, let it snow…let it snow…let it snow.

Back in the fall of 2008, while browsing through the stands at the Boyne City Farmer’s Market, I happened on a woman selling homemade dog treats.  She had the usual bone shaped treats, but interestingly enough had a batch of elephant and donkey shaped treats as well.  “For the election,” she said, “thought I’d try something different.”  I snapped up a half-dozen of each and headed home.  Maddie, our 13-year-old black lab, greeted me enthusiastically when I said the magic word – “Cookies!”   I offered a donkey in one hand and an elephant in the other.  She promptly chose the elephant and curled up on her bed to nibble away.   The next day I repeated the experiment.  She chose the elephant again.  Was she psychic?  Did she know who would go down to defeat in November?  This happened for another four days until our only choice was, yes, the donkey.  Would Maddie turn up her nose?  Refuse the donkey?  I held it in front of her and waited.  She ate it, though I think she regretted it for just a second before swallowing it.  I continued to buy the treats from the lady at the Farmer’s Market until I found an elephant shaped cookie cutter and began making my own.  Maddie no longer had to choose.  She could eat all the elephants she wanted.

We now have a new puppy, Lizzie.  Lizzie doesn’t follow the news and doesn’t know a Newt from a Rick from a Mitt.  But she does like eating elephants and I’ve made her a fresh batch yesterday.  Here’s our recipe:

Maddie’s Carrot & Chicken Biscuits

  • 1 cup yellow cornmeal
  • 3 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 tsp. garlic powder
  • 3/4 cup finely grated carrots
  • 3 T. canola oil
  • 11/2 cups low-fat chicken broth

Mix the cornmeal, flour and garlic powder in a large bowl and set aside. In a separate bowl, stir the grated carrots and oil into the chicken broth.  Add this mixture to the flour mixture and mix well to form a dough.  Knead the dough on a floured surface for two minutes.  Wrap the dough in wax paper and refrigerate for at least 1/2 hour before rolling.  On a floured surface, roll the dough to a 1/4″ thickness.  Cut with your favorite cutters (we use bone shaped cutters in addition to elephants!) and place on an ungreased cookie sheet, at least 1/4″ apart and bake in a 350 degree oven for approximately 30 minutes. Cool on wire racks.  Allow cookies to harden for about 3 hours before storing them in an airtight container in the refrigerator.  Enjoy!