Sunday, December 9, 2012

The Talk of the Town Today: First Snowfall of the Winter

A picture is worth a thousand words. We went for our standard Sunday walk this morning, but it was anything by ordinary. Sooooo sooooo lovely. So very quiet and peaceful.

I caught these as we passed through the Walker Sculpture Garden.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Southern Cooking

Our daughter, Isabelle, has been working in Charleston, SC for over a year now at a very fine catering company - Duvall Catering. She's doing so many crazy fun things for a first year employee! Taking cooking classes with one of the chefs so she can be in charge of setting up / managing a cooking school at the company! Planning parties, designing flowers, creating menus and generally "changing the world one party at a time." (Her line!)

Even though I lived in Charleston for eight years I can't say I became the expert she is on Southern cuisine. She's learning from the Shawn Brock at Husk, the Lee Brothers and from a few of the entrepreneurial types who create classic Southern food and sell it online!

Here are a few - some I've tried - some she's just recommended. Fun to try new things!

Homemade Tonic - Just right for Lee! My gin and tonic guy.
You can buy this on Callie's Biscuit's Site.

From a small family farm in South Carolina - just ordered so will let you know !
Ditto -

Callie's cheese and chive biscuits. A totally divine splurge!

Izzy bought this for her "guncles" and brothers for last Christmas. A hit!
Bloody mix. Made with beef broth!

Apparently, a huge favorite. Izzy's roommate's mom owns this company.

I'll keep my eyes open for a good shrimp and grits and pass it on when i find it!

Saturday, December 1, 2012


I really have been thinking about things.
I just haven't put my fingers to the keyboard.

I can't get my head around the future of my blog. It seems not to fit with my design work - I'm afraid I'll offend someone or say something stupid and regret it.

So Lee and I discussed using a pseudonym - two of my writer friends do that. They have "day jobs" and have to look all buttoned up for those so they write under a different name.

Lee suggested "Rocky Mountains" - he'd heard of a stripper named that and thought it was pretty funny.
Funny it is.
But, I don't think it's a fit for me. Still, I about fell out of my chair laughing.

So, I'm still working on it.

Until then, here is something that made me happy this week.

I just got this photo from Susan Gilmore  - she took it of a little powder room I did with Jean Rehkamp in Kenwood -  it used to be a closet! I had this amazing old mirror in my collection and saw how perfect it was for this spot. This is an example of how magical a space can be when a client lets go. She just let us go for it. Look at the wallpaper! Silver leaf hand cut papers from Phillip Jeffries. And I love the old world curtain of linen.

The other thing that made me happy this week is watching the movie "Hugo" by Martin Scorcese and Johnny Depp - I fell in love with the lovely Isabelle and her outfit!

Sunday, November 11, 2012


While roasting a chicken for dinner, I noticed how beautiful salt is.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Acorn Squash with Walnuts

Broder's Deli has a divine squash walnut soup, which I miss horribly since moving out of the neighborhood! But, I roasted a squash last week, slightly drenched in olive oil, salt and pepper and after taking it out of the oven, I remembered the walnuts. So I added a bit of butter to the hot squash, then chopped walnuts and sprinkled them on top.

It was almost like dessert!

Cut the squash in quarters, scoop out the center and seed. Put in a small baking / roasting pan. Drizzle with olive, sprinkle with sea salt and pepper. Bake about an hour at 350. Remove from oven, add a teaspoon of butter to the center and sprinkle with chopped walnuts or pecans.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Images from 510

Every morning over coffee in our living room, we still pinch we really live here?
We love it so much.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Please not in the White House!

I know this is shallow, but you really CANNOT have a man in the White House, or waiting in the White House wings, who wears his hair like this! What's with the duck tail on the front? 2000 metrosexual. This is not presidential. He looks like he might show up clubbing on Saturday in a slim-fitted (tapered and striped!) shirt, dark wash jeans and pointy shoes. This cannot stand.

I think Joe Biden is wearing French cuffs - a much better look for a President!

Sunday, October 7, 2012

A Spa Day for the SELF: Meyer's Briggs - Sat, Oct 20: 9-12

What this is about is a kind of spa morning for the Self. It will be a treat. Think of it as taking a step onto a path of understanding more about yourself and people you love. :-)

Our walking path near Cedar Lake in Minneapolis

Lee has started his "fall tour" - just finished teaching a class based on Rudolf Steiner's work called The Philosophy of Freedom. A devoted group showed up for three weeks, including a darling couple from Mason City, Iowa!

On Sat, Oct 20 (9-12) he's doing his class on the Meyers-Briggs Type Indicator. It is fascinating if you haven't done the test yourself. And, if you've probably done the short version, which gives you your type. Lee works with the Type II Indicator which digs deep into the layers of preferences. You get to spend the morning learning a bit about the history, but more about YOURSELF - (and maybe a friend or partner or spouse, if they come along) - and isn't this really our favorite topic?!

BUT you have to take the test online BEFORE you show up! What you will get is an amazing 17-page report detailing your every motivation and giving you all the excuses you need for why you procrastinate, why you like a tidy desk, why you can't stand to plan how you will spend your every minute of a vacation, why you love parties or despise parties, why you go silent when you are struggling with an issue, why you can't stop the ideas from coming, or why you prefer to jump into something new rather than finish something old.  And on and on.

Lee will talk about each of the 16 types in a general way, then teach each of you to interpret the results of the 17-page report. My favorite part is the way in which the report helped me understand how I unconsciously deal with stress and how I might find better ways to do that. The second most helpful thing was to simply better understand that the differences Lee and I have are innate preferences and not likely to change any time soon.  It has been miraculous in my appreciation for the difference between introverts and extraverts, intuitives and sensates, thinkers and feelers, especially. Vive la difference!

Lee is working with the Meyers-Briggs with individuals, couples and work groups.

The class costs $150 and includes the online test, the report and the class time.
To register and take the test, go to

(This is one class that does require planning ahead for all you procrastinators! As you must take the test by Thursday, October 18 to have the results ready for the class on Sat.)

Friday, October 5, 2012

Victor's - How did we miss this?

Victor's - Cuban Cuisine on East 38th between Harriet and Grand.
Tiny local gem!

Charming (surprising!) Interior of Victor's in South Minneapolis

Garlic Shrimp and Black Beans

Lee had some business at Lake Country this afternoon, finished at 6, when I picked him up and, both starving! wanted to find something nearby for dinner. Victor's is the first place we saw. I'd heard about its worthy brunches from Isabelle. Just never made it. (Not very brunchy people!)

So we pulled into an easily open parking spot, walked in and asked for a table at 6:15. Did we have reservations? Well, no, our first time.....

(Really, after living in South Minneapolis for 20+ years, this is the first time I've been to Victor's??????? Where have I been?)

I feel awful to ask this, but could you eat in an hour? We have people coming in.

First...i was slightly taken aback that this tiny quirky little place had a reservation list at all! But, hey, good for them. We'll eat in one hour tonight. Both tired - just feed us!

We couldn't have been happier to be seated. The staff was fabulous - smart, but not in the least smarmy. Very nice, very helpful, hey we have another wine on the Happy Hour menu just as good. Same for the beer. 

I had garlic shrimp - very nice and very light. In a black bean mood these days and these were yummy. (I'm looking for an amazing black bean burger recipe if anyone has one!)

Mostly, I just felt like I was in Venice Beach California until I walked outside to go into a whipping nasty wind and 34 degrees, which, as Lee loves pointing out, it has maybe never been in Venice, CA. Okay fine. Still like Minneapolis better. And Victor's is just a whole lot of fun and anytime I can eat for $49. + tip (including 2 glasses wine and 2 Negro Modelos) I'm good to go!

Monday, October 1, 2012

"Practice" Husbands and Wives

This will be a short post, but apropos for many. I saw a friend today - one whom I hadn't seen in a couple years. Lovely! to see her again because she has a quit wit! At one point we were talking about family and she referred to step-children belonging to "Practice Wife #2".

Well...I just lit right up because of her charming way of thinking about the past. Don't we all have a past by now? And, if not....well, that seems kind of suspicious!

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Save the Date!

Lee is back in the saddle again with some new events this fall - one of which I was lassoed into participating! Honestly, we just kind of noodled on these ideas for a few months, spent our time in Florence hearing about the grand history of conversation and thought it would be wonderful to revive the practice! That is how "Conversations on Calhoun" came about.

Here is the short version:

We will begin on Friday, Nov 9 - 7 - 9 - and see how this g(r)oes!
St. Mary's Greek Orthodox Church
on Lake Calhoun (East side of lake with the lovely gold dome)

The first topic will be Joseph Campbell's work - THE POWER OF MYTH, and the legendary interview with Bill Moyers. We'll watch 1 hour of interview, then spend the rest of the evening in conversation - over wine and light food. We hope you'll join - it is open to the public. Donations only.

Here's my pitch:

PSSSSSST! Save the date!

Cool people. Learning cool things. Together.
And then, talking about it.

Conversations on Calhoun

Lee and Alecia Stevens

In pursuit of good conversation…save these dates.

First Fridays November – March

For more information:

Sunday, September 16, 2012

A Full Heart

My mom with her "gammy" - the grandmother who raised her. 1938.

Lee has a mentor, Robert Sardello, who says something like this, (and I paraphrase) "You aren't truly in your heart if you don't feel a bit of sorrow."

I admit that I seem to agree that "being in your heart" sounds like a good idea. I have described some feelings / experiences to Lee recently and his response was that I was "in my heart" - for whatever that is worth. So now I want to tell you as closely as possible what this experience is like as I felt it again this weekend so the memory is close.

On Friday evening, we drove to Northfield to spend the night with my mom, whose 82nd birthday was on Saturday, Sept 15. We love going alone to spend time with her as I have a lively group of siblings and in-laws so when we all get together there is much drinking and cooking and eating and talking and I barely get a quiet moment to check in with Mama. So, we made a special point to go alone (Lee and me), have dinner with her, sleep over, then get up on Saturday morning and take her to brunch for her birthday.

First, I noticed this tender, slightly melancholy feeling while driving there. I have had this feeling before. The farmland on the way to Northfield taps a potent memory in me. As the child of farmers, grandchild of farmers, great-grandchild of farmers, I can't see the changing seasonal landscape without visceral memories. Of onions and potatoes, freshly dug up from the ground, spread out and drying on newspaper in the cellar, for example. When Dad was dying in 2010 - 2011, every single trip to Northfield reminded me that this would be the last fall harvest season, the last winter dormant season, the last spring planting season, the last summer growing season that my father would see. I felt this massive appreciation for the beauty of the farms, the reminder of what changing seasons bring and the poignancy of loss - both for him and for us. That, I think, was the full heart.

On Friday night, we shared the cooking. Mom made her magnificent, not to be beat, apple pie. (It is the crust, in particular, that is not to be beat.) I made roast salmon and there was baked squash from a local farmer, and broccoli, cauliflower and onion salad. After dinner, once it was obvious the Twins were continuing their losing streak, and we had talked about all the books we'd read in the last 3 months including the one Mom was reading for her book club, she asked if I wanted to look at my Grandma Fern's photo albums. This is her mother and she had not looked at them since her death in late 2010.

Well, we sat side by side on the sofa looking at photos that dated back to the 1920's. My grandmother was a free spirit and a party girl and she loved photographs!
We time-traveled from the 20's through the 30's and my mom's childhood on the farm of HER grands who raised her (her own mother and father, divorced after 2 years and off to find their own happiness) including a photo of my 9-year old mother and her "gammy" collecting corn cobs from the pig pen. The bare corn cobs - after the pigs ate the corn - were used to heat the home. Really. Think about this. My mom had a smile on her face while putting the corn cobs into her basket.

Then, there were the 40's, my mom's teen years and WW II to the 50's when my mom was happily married to my father, to life on the farm, the birth of 4 children, their own growth, marriages and births. What was particularly notable (and caused teary-eyed laughter) were the memorable hair styles including an unfortunate moment when I decided to wear a wig. Yes, a wig. Lee wondered what was so funny from the next room.

I slept like a log in the twin bed in the basement, with Lee in the twin bed next to me. I rarely sleep well, so this was bliss - removed from responsibility and the grace of my mother nearby.

In the morning, we went to one of the two farmer's markets in Northfield. I was determined to make vegetable soup for the weekend and thought it would be great to buy something fresh and local. The little market had only 7 or 8 vendors. The greater market was downtown on the river. But mom especially liked one vendor and wanted to take me there. In fact, his produce was spectacular. He had everything you could want: eggplant, beans, tomatoes, broccoli, onions, kale, peppers and more. He was probably 70 and looked like a farmer. Mom knew him, of course, and chatted. She mentioned he and Dad had become friends. I filled a grocery bag. It was $13. I had to throw in a couple extra and said, "have a coffee on me. Your vegetables are beautiful." How could I pay only $13 for a bag of fresh veggies!? How hard he and his wife must work to grow this and bring it to us. When I turned to leave, he looked me in the eye and said, "I miss your dad."

"Thank you. So do we."

Once again, I felt that tender, sweet, melancholy infused with gratitude. A Buddha moment, maybe, when you feel and hold opposites. Because that is the feeling - the yin/ yang, dark and light, joe and woe of William Blake - held in the heart at the same time. A very full heart.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Sunday at the Stevens

Football is back. Here is my dirty little secret. I love football season because it means that every Sunday I have the afternoon to myself. Life with Lee is either feast or famine. We lived apart for 5 years (he in LA and NY while I stayed in MSP as my permanent home.) Now, the last two years we are here in MSP together while he has been working from home - in the same office!

So, having a little time to myself blisses me out!

Here's Lee with his football set up at 510 (we can't get Direct TV here so he's had to rig his own system.) This is so he can watch multiple games at one time. Seriously.

Me...I'm puttering in the apartment. Here is what the Living Room looks like these days. Looking for a beautiful, traditional vintage chandelier for the ceiling.

Happy Football Sunday!

Saturday, September 8, 2012

The Foundry Home Goods

Now, that Anna has officially opened her shop in the fabulous Commutator Foundry Company Building in the warehouse district, I want to officially introduce it here. It is dedicated to simple, beautiful, handmade items for the the home. With emphasis on purity of form and material. (at least this is what I see...)

Before you go further, here is the link:

Anna Hillegass became a friend of mine in NY - two expatriates from Minneapolis - finding our way together at times in a world very different from the one we'd grown up in. We both grew up on a farm, around animals and vegetables. But we also each had some alter ego that required the life of the man-made world - architecture, art, fashion, food. Ideas that both scared us and beckoned us. She was a true companion to me during this time and we uncovered the city together - from ABC Carpet and Home to Tiny Buttons to John Derian to the Ukrainian Museum on the Lower East Side to the Gagosian exhibits to Ralph Pucci to Sabarsky's.

Somehow, we both came back to Minneapolis. I hear this happens. Very few stay in New York for a life time if they were raised here. I am still too close to New York to understand why that is, but some day I might. I can guess. it is gritty and tough and wrings you out like you are a wet towel. But then there are all the beautiful, grand, civilized things.....

Anna was called home like many, but didn't waste a minute finding her calling. In the sunny first floor corner of her father's old warehouse building, she has created a testament to her extraordinary taste and verve - a shop that has lived in her for years. I have seen it. Today she shared it with the public and close friends and family.

I foolishly did not have a camera. But I will share images from her website here. Though the items are exquisite, the aggregate is the prize. Her display, her sense of simple beauty, her gift for flowers and comfort and joy and welcome are abundant here.

You will go to buy a gift and stay for the peace and beauty. You will be unable to keep your hands to yourself. The seduction of the turned wooden bowls, the playful ceramic drinking glasses with painted interiors, the sheepskin throws will have you in a moment. All that is missing are shopping carts - you will want so much as these affordable prices, that you will need a cart to carry it all.

Alas, Anna will have no carts. She will tenderly tell you the story of the turned bowl, the hand formed glasses and possibly the name of the sheep. She will carefully carry the beloved items to the counter where she will patiently wrap them and put them into a brown paper shopping bag. She will thank you.

You will be hooked. By Anna, by her exquisite eye for beauty and by the shop that this city needed.

Congratulations, my friend. You did it.

Enjoy - and get yourselves down to The Foundry Home Goods! 125 NORTH 1ST STREET | MINNEAPOLIS, MN 55401

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Christian Liaigre's Latest Home in Paris

Swoon. That's all I can do when I see this place. It expresses that exquisite balance of feminine and masculine, which is my favorite kind of room. I get really sick of uber femme rooms! Obvious a chick did them. If a man lives in the home, it needs to be a balance.

So here it is my new inspiration for our Living Room - I have been all over the map, but now know this is right. I my dreams, but you gotta dream.

Dining / Hallway

Living Room / Salon

Another view of the Living Room / Salon

Closet. Really.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Labor Day - a fresh start

I woke up on Sept 1 and felt like I couldn't be happier. Fall is a metaphor for starting something new. (Yeh, yeh, I know that is supposed to be Spring and rebirth and all that, but for me, fall is when I get to start a new year. Maybe because my birthday is late August so I am literally starting a new year.) This morning I began with Yoga at ONE YOGA at 9;30, it was the biggest class I've ever experienced here - over 50 people hoping to make a new start as the season changes. Most of us are part of the September Challenge at ONE YOGA, challenging us to make yoga a more conscious part of our life and see what benefits that brings. My personal goal is simply this - to bring a little more balance to my life.

I'm having to overcome my familial chant, "Work first, play later..." but of course, in my family, we didn't very often get to the play. There was always a drawer of nuts and bolts that could be organized, for god's sake.

Anyway, so I am looking for balance and starting with taking better care of myself and not always choosing to spend that extra hour or two at my desk. Sometimes its just mind-numbingly unproductive anyway.

Speaking of taking better care of myself....I haven't mentioned the spectacular gift I got from Lee for my birthday. Here is a photo of the Santa Maria Novella Breast Cream. Lest you think "what a silly gift!" use your imaginations, girlfriends.

First, I think just about the most delicious products on the planet are from Santa Maria Novella in Florence. They have been made for over 700 years, since 1221, originally by the monks living at the cloisters of Santa Maria Novella, where they gardened herbs as medicinal remedies. Over time, they developed the most exotic, divine (not a pun!) products for personal care and for the home. They are a small fortune, but MUCH cheaper when you buy them in Florence at the shop than when you buy them online in the US. Not sure why, but almost makes for a riveting excuse to got to Florence.

"Honey, really....I can't afford the SMN products here in the US. I have to go to Florence to pick up a few things."

Anyway....should you be inspired, here are my favorites:

Body Milk. It seems to have silk ball bearings in it.

My personal favorite. I swear it has helped my neck not be so saggy and turkey-ish.

Just the best for kissing.

Have a good Labor Day - and use it to hit the reset button!


Sunday, August 26, 2012

Country Road

View from the deck with the Christmas reindeer

Nice windows. :-)

The Stevens men. 3 Generations.

Colin and Annie sitting on a rock a their short and very sweet
meditation ceremony.

Beer on the rock at the meditation ceremony.
Miles climbing on Zan's back.

Proud papa of the groom.

Zan and Izzy quiet for 5 minutes.

Landon at the ceremony. 

Sunday morning in the kitchen. Prepping for 16.

Some of the brunch food.

Collin and Annie at the brunch party.

Collin in the hot tub.

We arrived in Denver at noon on Friday. Zan and Izzy were waiting for us, having flown in from NY and Charleston. Off to Fox Rental to pick up our mistake of a car headed into the reality show known as Boulder to the Whole Foods (been told the highest producing store in the country) to load up for the weekend in the mountains. It took two carts. We used one our belts to tie ourselves to one another - sort of like the tethers you see on a 3-year old - because the store was so outlandishly gargantuan, that I was certain it would take a weekend to locate each other should we part. This small town of a store has a bakery, a pizza shop, a coffee shop, a cheese shop, of course a deli, a small bookstore and home goods department, a sandwich shop and a massage parlor. Only in Boulder.

A quick stop on Pearl Street at the never-to-be-missed Boulder Book Store, which has to be one of the best independent book stores in the country and, as crowded it was, one might never even imagine the Kindle had been invented. It was overflowing with readers and buyers of books.

Hippies abounded. At an outdoor table over lunch, it was like a fashion show of the Boulder types passing by on the sidewalk. Lots of Beehive dreads, plenty of hip-hugging bellbottoms (omg - they looked exactly like what I wore in 1971), a woman looking like a belly dancer, aging guitar players, street people with lots of army green and a rotweiller sleeping on the street, an abundance of fringe especially on bags and more than the average quantities of lycra.

As you might imagine, Denver and Boulder are not at the top of my list for a vacation, so you will not be surprised that the purpose of the weekend was to celebrate Lee's oldest son, Collin's wedding to Annie, our prize of a new daughter in law. They were already married (eloped! LOVE IT!) so that they could apply as a married couple to the Peace Corps. So this was simply a weekend long party in honor of the blessed event.

We rented a "cabin" (again, most of you know a limestone townhouse on the Upper East Side or a Renaissance palazzo in Florence make me swoon. I'm not a cabin kind of gal.) But, it slept 10, which we needed, had the fundamentally important hot tub and a kitchen big enough for Izzy and I to set up the mess tent.

What we didn't understand was that to get to it, one needed a 4-wheel drive truck and the map that might have been useful to Lewis and Clark (had they been lucky enough to HAVE a map rather than create one.) The road was rutted, dirt , full of boulders and without markings. With the intermittent help of someone's cell phone we found the place. Suffice it to say, the place would have a stellar chance of winning a spot on Cabin Makeovers.

The wedding celebration was lovely at a park up on Sugarloaf Mountain, pot luck, beer keg and Oregon wine in plastic bottles (actually, a pretty cool green idea!) Then, it was cook cook cook for hundreds (or was it 20?) for dinner and breakfast and brunch. Isabelle was a slave and a saint. She did the MOST amazing job of cooking - she was a star. I was her lowly sous chef. Chop chop! ("Mom, PLEASE mince the garlic. That is chopped.")

Brunch today really was for something like 15. We cleared out the frig - handed out the leftovers for the taking and starting cleaning, doing laundry, scrubbing floors, recycling. Will it never end?

Finally, people departed one by one down the rutted dirt country road. I got a little teary watching Collin and Annie drive away.  They are off to conquer some world I have never known- backpacking the Italian Dolomites for their honeymoon (castle to castle - not so slummin' it) then to India and Nepal. After to the Peace Corps sometime 2013. God Bless "Em.

Collin and Annie, the newlyweds.