While I’m still a grandma-wannabe, I am thinking about all the kids playing in their homes today. I remember the days of blanket forts covering our living room. I laughingly recall the many performances I watched of our kids ‘shows’ on their makeshift stage. But most of all, I love recalling the kids vanishing to the ‘Playmobil room’ in our basement to live in their make-believe city for the afternoon. Yes, in our home ‘Playmobil’ got an entire basement room. For our young family, it was the best investment we ever made.
Play matters. In this era of over-scheduled kids, some stressed from their super-enriched lives, the value of simple unstructured play gets forgotten. Play really does matter.
Imagination ran wild in our Playmobil city. A make-believe tornado once leveled Abby’s house. Becca’s zookeeper struggled to keep the animals inside because Mark’s jeep would occasionally off-road and take out a fence. The firetruck really could squirt water (just a bit). If needed, the boat truly motored through the bathtub. And the modern house stayed modern because it got renovated every day.
I need to thank my sister-on-law Jen for first introducing us to Playmobil. She had several pieces at her daycare and they were a huge hit with the kids. I was skeptical of the small pieces at first, but I soon learned those pieces were the details the kids loved most. My husband and I often said, Playmobil was the cheapest toy we ever bought because the kids spent so many, many, many hours playing with it. But it wasn’t just our kids who played with our Playmobil city. Visiting cousins and friends’ kids headed there first. When our kids eventually outgrew Playmobil (middle school age!) we sent ‘the city’ to my sister’s house for her young kids to enjoy. Really, it is that durable!
To all the young parents out there, just turn the kids loose and let them play today. Let the kids turn their imaginations free. Let them be explorers. Let them work out their differences with each other, without we adults interfering. I think everything they’ll accidentally learn while playing is just what we all need.
Maybe George Bernard Shaw put it best, “We don’t stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing.”
“It’s the story of my life.”
That’s how our daughter Abby describes her Pandora bracelet. There’s a bead for confirmation, another for earning her black belt in Tae Kwon Do. An owl bead marks her high school graduation, while a purse symbolizes her first job. In between are favorite beads marking birthdays with color, holidays with inspiration, and her journeys in landmarks. This Christmas, her husband gave her a bead with two joined hearts symbolizing their November wedding. The bracelet truly tells her life story. But, just when you think you know your jewelry, it changes!
I promise, if you stop and look in our Pandora jewelry cases, you’ll be surprised at all you find. And, you’ll love it.
Pandora makes fabulous charm bracelets, but they also make so much more. The rings! I love to mix and match them, and stack them in unique ways. I adore my Essence necklace. It’s classic petite cable perfectly sets off one signature bead for me, but I have fun switching it up with different outfits or moods. Different from my daughter, my Pandora bracelets reflect my whims, more than the story of my life. I’ve purchased most of the beads myself! I love that one of our loyal customers would come select one bead with each of her monthly paychecks from the school. It was how she chose to honor her work, and the students with whom she worked. To each of us, Pandora represents something different, but it definitely represents the moments of our lives.
I love that Pandora jewelry is designed in Denmark; I admire its trend-setting look. I love that Pandora uses semi-precious stones and sterling silver, 14 kt gold, and now 18kt gold plating. Its timeless appeal, and the unique design of its jewelry, keep me coming back as a collector.
If your significant other needs a little more direction, leave one of Wild Goose’s Pandora pamphlets (with the jewelry you loved starred or circled!) on his pillow.
Picture yourself next to a street vendor’s cart in India. Your chai tea (or Masala tea as its commonly called in India) is served in an earthenware cup. Standing by his cart, you drink your chai over conversation, then when done throw your cup on the ground and crush it with your foot. In India, this is how it’s done. Chai tea has deep roots and is a key part of the locals’ culture.
We started serving chai at Wild Goose twenty-some years ago. Back then I’d researched chai and written a story in our Goose Call newsletter about the origins of the tea, and how it was often served by street vendors in India. Last month I returned to twenty years ago, when our family was lucky enough to travel to India for our daughter’s wedding. The chai story had seemed almost too charming to be true, but there we were: drinking chai by the roadside in earthen cups, and seeing the remains of other cups scattered about the ground. I had to ask ‘why the earthenware cup?’ The single use cup (or maybe twice used for those customers wanting a refill) is made of a terracotta like clay and simply dried. The cup subtly enhances the flavor of the spices and tea. That’s a sensible reason, but sorry we aren’t going to start making earthenware cups for your chai at Nest!
Chai is as common in India as coffee is in the US, and just like our coffee, Indians each have favorite ways of making it. My daughter’s mother-in-law makes chai from scratch each day, and since she loves ginger, she includes quite a bit in her recipe. Her sister prefers to use cardamom instead of ginger in her chai.
Like many good things, good flavor comes to those who wait. Making chai from scratch takes time--45 minutes to an hour. Start by boiling water and fresh ginger root in a pot for five minutes. Add sugar, and boil another 25 minutes. A secret tip? The longer this mixture boils, the more spice the chai will have. Next add the black tea. Authentic chai uses a black tea that looks more like tea grounds than tea leaves. Boil the tea and the ginger sugar water for another 15-20 minutes, and then slowly add whole milk until it bubbles over. The chai is ready.
At Nest, we dearly love our chai tea. We want to thank Ellen, one of our Goose family members and her friend Sue, who years ago found the chai we currently serve. Our Spiced Chai is closer to authentic Masala chai tea (which literally translates to spiced chai), and our Vanilla Chai adds a sweeter American twist to the traditional tea. Each version has their loyal followers, and a few of our customers have created their unique twist by adding a bit of Hazelnut or Raspberry to their chai tea.
Twenty years. It seems impossible that I’ve been enjoying chai that long. But like our wild geese who long for adventure, I’m delighted my travels led me to India and a street vendor’s stand where I could taste what I’d once written. ‘Cheers!’ or ‘Chai!’ to distant travel, great adventures, and long-lasting favorites.
When the best cooks you know love the same product, pay attention.
I used to be a cast-iron hold-out. All the best cooks I knew used it. But I thought it was too heavy. I didn’t think I’d like cleaning it. Then, I used it, and my world changed.
Any pan that is used by both fisherman cooking shore lunches and gourmet cooks preparing five course meals meets the definition of versatile, and proves its quality. But it’s the taste of the food cooked in cast iron that makes it so popular.
Cast iron makes delicious food. Meats are so tender you can cut them with your fork. Breads with a flaky crust, melt in your mouth. Vegetables tender and rich with flavor, make me consider being a vegetarian—until I remember I’d have to give up meat! Maybe it’s the lack of evaporation, or the searing that’s enabled, or maybe it’s the carmelization. Whatever the reason, food cooked in cast iron really does taste better.
I can make a pot roast in a cast iron Dutch oven that is fork tender. And I’ve watched my son and future daughter-in-law bake cinnamon rolls over a campfire high in the Rocky Mountains in the same size Dutch oven. For their rugged outdoor camping, they prefer Lodge cast iron. We both love the ease and beauty of LeCreuset cast iron for indoor cooking or grilling.
My favorite pan is my LeCreuset cast iron buffet casserole. This shallow casserole is basically a braiser that’s perfect for searing, braising and slow cooking. Its tempered glass lid allows me to keep an eye on my cooking, and is oven safe as well. The smooth interior promotes carmelization, precise cooking and is simple to clean. My mother would laugh, but I crave the onions I can carmelize in this dish; they add so much flavor to my vegetables and roasts.
The classic pot roast is my favorite go-to roast recipe, and the Dutch oven bread recipe is a favorite from a friend. But Britta and her cinnamon rolls baked with nineteen pieces of well-placed charcoal is the amazing accomplishment. She and Mark have mastered ‘glamping’ – translated as glamorous camping, and their mastery of cast iron at their campsite is fascinating.
Fisherman joke about who will inherit their favorite cast iron pan, but they’re not exaggerating. A perfectly seasoned cast iron skillet might be the most revered and protected item at fish camp. Enameled cast iron is made for generations of use, and I’ve witnessed decades old Dutch ovens in action. Great cooks know what works. I was late to the table, but I’m so very glad to test new recipes, and new uses for cast iron now. To my inspiration chef Dave, and my sales rep Deb, I say a very sincere, ‘Thank you!’
As a self proclaimed “retail nerd”, Sue has been in the retail business for over 20 years owning and managing specialty gift stores in west central Minnesota. She and her husband love to travel and explore unique destinations. While doing so, they also gather ideas to bring home. Sue and Doug have three grown children and live in Perham, Minnesota.