Thursday, August 13, 2015

All Aboard...Next Stop - Re-Feathering Your Nest

Take the train and relax on your way to the Rocky Mountains
This is one of my favorite ways to travel and the way I first traveled to Colorado. There is something so magical and mesmerizing about being on a train and when you can truly enjoy the views and not have to worry about traffic, or getting tired or weather - I am in! So when I was asked to put together some information for a group that is conducting an empty-nesters retreat in the Rocky Mountains in October for people who may not want to fly or drive - I jumped on the opportunity. Enjoy and maybe I'll see you in Winter Park in October or the next time I jump on the Zephyr...

All Aboard The California Zephyr…Next Stop – Re-feathering Your Nest in the Rockies
Thinking about “Re-feathering Your Nest”/ in the Rocky Mountains in October and just don’t want to drive or fly? You might want to consider adding some ease, adventure and scenic views to your travel experience and take a train. Amtrak’s California Zephyr offers some of the most spectacular views which you can enjoy from your coach, sleeper or dining car. Here’s some information about the trip and the sights you will see along the way… The Zephyr will drop you off and pick you up only a few miles from Snow Mountain Ranch  at the Fraser train station and we will make arrangements to transport you from the train station and back.

The retreat will include time to
spend enjoying the scenery
From Amtrak's site - "Experienced travelers say the California Zephyr is one of the most beautiful train trips in all of North 
America. As you climb through the heart of the Rockies, and further west through the snow-capped Sierra Nevadas, you may find it hard to disagree.

The Zephyr runs daily between Chicago and San Francisco, coursing through the plains of Nebraska to Denver, across the Rockies to Salt Lake City, and then through Reno and Sacramento into Emeryville/San Francisco.

There are so many ways to enjoy the views
Reserve a spacious coach seat for your journey or, for a more luxurious experience, reserve a roomette or bedroom in one of the Superliner Sleeping Cars."

Whether you are planning to fly, drive or take the train, we look forward to seeing you in the Rocky Mountains in October as we celebrate this next phase of your marriage, re-feathering your nest. Follow this link for retreat and registration information Re-feather Your Nest We'll see you there!

Friday, December 19, 2014

Saturday, July 5, 2014

3 Tips That Will Impact Your RAGBRAI Experience

A RAGBRAI host family home in Orange City, Iowa
3 Tips that will impact your RAGBRAI experience
By Kathy Stutzman aka Mama Caruso

Now that the 4th of July is over it’s time to get really serious about RAGBRAI which is in less than 2 weeks and I wanted to share some pointers that I have found to really enhance my RAGBRAI experience. For those of you who do not know what RAGBRAI is it stands for the (DesMoines) Register’s Annual Great Bike Ride Across Iowa – and by bikes, they don’t mean motorcycles, they mean bicycles.

Every year 10,000 to 20,000 bicycle riders mount up and start their trek across the great state of Iowa by dipping their rear bicycle tires in the Missouri and head east…for the brave and crazy ones, that means all the way to the Mississippi River, in 7 short days. Each year the course varies between north and south, hilly and flat, long and short. This year’s course is coming close to my town in Minnesota it is that far north, so of course I am riding. We have a small family
Dipping my wheels in the Mississippi
team and this is one of our annual family vacations.

While I am a relative “newbie” after riding RAGBRAI 7 years, I have learned a few things along the way and thought that I would share the top three things that have really impacted my experience at RAGBRAI, so please enjoy and I hope you find these useful:

Tip #1: Lots and lots of George Washingtons, yes, one dollar bills. No kidding, I have made so many friends by walking around with my daily allotment of 25 $1 bills, I can’t tell you. But I can tell you that several years ago I got moved to the front of a 100 person+ line waiting for pasta because the cashier at the front of the line needed someone to help them make change for all of the $20’s they were getting. I can’t tell you how incredible that felt to get moved to the front of the line, and to have my meal comped because I had $25 in one dollar bills.

If you can imagine, each rider spends between $50 - $150/day consuming calories and fluids to fuel the thousands and thousands of calories that we burn, that’s a lot of money. And, a lot of that is spent on $1 bananas, drinks, brownies, cookies, you get the idea…so by the time the 100th rider has stopped by the cookie lady’s stand at 7:00 in the morning to buy a $1 cookie with a $20 bill – there’s no change left, and in fact, she probably ran out of change after the 10th rider…so riders, and support crews, carry your cash in $1 and $5’s and you will be loved, and you will be fed and you will be able to pay for the food that someone has so graciously provided for you to get replenished.

Tip #2: Snack sized ziplocks. I bring an entire box of 100 snack sized ziplocks with me and our entire family uses them. For what? Riders…tell me…how would you use a snack sized ziplock? Let me count the ways…first and foremost, my cell phone goes in there. It fits in a snack sized ziplock perfectly and it is protected from the rain and the sweat if I am carrying it in my jersey pocket. But the beauty of carrying my phone in a ziplock is that I can still see through it in case I do get any messages. Cell phone use and crashing the bandwidth during RAGBRAI is another story.

We also use snack sized ziplocks for our daily snacks, they are just the perfect size, and I use another one for my money and identification. This is a great travel tip too, I use snack size ziplocks when carrying money in a money belt and it keeps the money from absorbing any sweat or rain that I may encounter while wearing my money belt. Because I also carry a bike bag, I bring quite a few very useful things that all go into snack sized ziplocks; business cards, note paper and a pen – I never know when I am going to want an autograph, or get someone’s phone number for a story, my camera, and any emergency medications I might need, especially an allergy medicine – it seems like there is always something blooming in Iowa.

Most importantly, I keep the addresses of the places where I am staying in a snack sized bag so that it does not disintegrate in the rain or sweat. Once my brain has been challenged by riding 80+ miles day after day, I do not want anything hindering directions to where I am going to rest…and because of the bandwidth problem, I cannot rely on GPS.

The unassuming pacifier pod 
Tip # 3 is a 12 in 1, really…are you ready? The absolute most useful accouterments, something besides my
biking gear that I bring is…a pacifier pod. Yes a pacifier pod, and in fact, I just found some really super cute ones that match my bike and I can’t wait to show them off. Why in the world would any bicyclist want a pacifier pod, and exactly what is a pacifier pod?

A pacifier pod is a very small 2” x 4” pouch with a snap strap made of nylon or other durable fabric with a velcro closure that snaps on and off my bike handle-bars and provides me with quick and ready access to absolutely everything I need whenever I stop. Whenever I stop during the ride, I just unsnap this cute little pouch and away I go. Here is what I carry in my pouch (please see photos to envision the usefulness):

·         Cash – some of those George Washington’s I alluded to before, not all, some;
·         An insect repellent towelette, in case I need to make a quick trip to the cornfield;
·         A credit card in case my tire needs repair at the bike tents along the course;
·         An antibacterial wipe or two for so many reasons;
All of these items fit nicely into the pouch
·         A blister pack of Chamois Butter to keep chafing at bay, especially after 50 miles;

·         Sunscreen stick;
·         Allergy medicine for sudden attacks;
·         A few coins
·         A business card
·         A bandaid;
·         Pepto-bismol tablets and calcium to deal with sudden cramps;
·         A thermometer and compass – it is easy to get disoriented after riding for 8 hours in the blistering heat and I like to know what the temp is for context, sometimes I will hang the thermometer on my bike bag but it swings back and forth and annoys me.

I want each of these items to be available when I need them and don’t want to be digging around for them. And, more times than not, other riders will ask me for almost everything in my pouch – the antibacterial wipes are especially handy for those unexpected pit stops or when the port-a-potties have run out of toilet paper and I usually end the day with most of my consumable supplies exhausted. I used to carry a tiny LED flashlight in the pouch too, but it gave way to the Chamois Butter.

I lock the pod into place with a bandanna
to keep it in place. A bandanna is
another very useful item!
The three tips have really made a difference in not only my experience of  RAGBRAI, but also of the many people with whom I come in contact during that wonderful, challenging and character-building week. I hope you find these tips useful and be sure to let me know if you pass me during the ride…and remember to Ride Right (that means ride to the right unless you are passing!) From my table to your…from my bike to yours…enjoy!

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Bloody Mary Gazpacho Time

At 11:00 Central time I am going to be making my Bloody Mary Gazpacho for a 4th of July Celebration. Here's what I found at the store yesterday to add some flavor. Join me at #MamaCarusoCooks for pointers

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Play Like a Kid in the Kitchen

Love love love these
new marshmallows
I am sitting in the kitchen waiting for the final test bake of my super delicious Chicken Artichoke Enchilada Casserole and can't wait for it to be done so I can post the recipe. Every time I have cooked the casserole is was been really great and all of my taste testers (a nice picky group) have unanimously loved it...yippiee! I can't wait to share it with you all!

I hope to have it posted by tomorrow before I leave for #TECHMunch Conference in Chicago where I will be connecting with food, wine and lifestyle bloggers from all over - can't wait. Too many exciting things happening and I am just sitting in my kitchen waiting...

I am pretty sure I have mentioned that I am not the best "waiter" in more
respects than one, so I am looking around the kitchen filling my time...waiting and look what I come across - black olives and marshmallows> I am immediately transported to my childhood. Time to play a little.

I know you think about doing this
What kid doesn't wear olives on their fingers? I think about it every time every kid who comes into my house does this same thing...if they can do it, why can't I? Ohhh this is fun, if I had some white bread in the house, I would put some of my leftover pasta on it and make a spaghetti sandwich...another one of my childhood favorites!!

And, one of my real favs - marshmallows that came in a little box that was two marshmallows wide, six marshmallows long, in two layers separated by a thin layer of cardboard and wrapped in plastic - which meant that if you did not eat them all, they would get nice and hard and have some great chewy texture by the time I discovered them in the pantry. So sweet with a little crunch, chewy and satisfying...and even then I wondered what they were made of because I wanted to make more...yum.

Okay - so what foods remind you of your childhood? Did you eat the crust first off of your sandwiches or pop-tart? Did you just love a crazy combination of a spaghetti or onion sandwich? What foods or methods of eating food remind you of your childhood?  I would love to hear about them.

Well - it looks like the casserole is done and I don't know exactly what
happened to all of those funky cool marshmallows, but I had a lot of fun today while waiting. Until I tomorrow...enjoy...from my table to yours, Mama Caruso.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Recipe Testing Day!!

Ingredients ready to go
I cook to relax, I know, I know, for so many people cooking can be a stressful activity - but nothing (well except for vacuming) calms me more than creating some crazy dishes to serve. The wilder the ingredients, the more extravagant the cooking techniques, the crazier the combination of flavors the better.

I can read a recipe or look at a set of ingredients and know exactly how I want it to taste and when I am on a cooking out! I could never make it on any of the cooking shows, because when I am in the zone, tasting the texture, the flavors, the layers of goodies unfolding, being mixed and and matched I go into an alternate universe. Some may call it an altered state, and I spent most of last week in that place trying to relax and as a result ended up with some pretty phenemonal dishes.

Today I am testing the recipes, moving the food from my brain onto paper and I can't wait to share them with you. Each of the dishes are unpretentious but will amaze others when you serve them - all with a mix of semi-home cooking to make the meals accessible for all - no matter your cooking skills. So look for the recipes next week cause I am cooking up a storm today!

Here are some of the delights that are cooking in my kitchen today:

I couldn't wait so had to whip up
a batch to taste test
Coconut curry shrimp poppers
Carmelized onion coconut stew
Spicy ginger fried plaintain
Mango cilantro salsa
Super delicious cheesy  grits
Sweet potato rosemary chips
Corn and bean salsa
Chicken artichoke enchilada casserole

Yummm, can't wait to get these recipes tested so that we can get to eating! From my table to yours...enjoy...Mama Caruso