Sunday, May 22, 2011

Zombie Jamboree

We should have seen this coming. We live in a culture that is currently glorifying werewolves and vampires. In movies and on the tube they are romantic, mysterious characters. Pause while I groan. When I was young we listened to the Kingston Trio sing "Zombie Jamboree".
I doubt I knew anything about voodoo culture. I just liked the Kingston Trio.

Disclaimer: I don't believe in zombies. I don't believe in vampires or werewolves. I do believe people can be fascinated with the dark side and demons are real.

I arched one eyebrow and couldn't resist following a story online about the CDC releasing info on what to do in a zombie attack. Excuse me? A government official released a survival plan for the public to defend against zombies? Maybe that budget could be cut.

Pursuing this further, I found out they used the catchy "zombie apocalypse" release, to get people to read the info and stock a home survival kit. Have enough water, food, medications, flashlites etc. to take care of your family. Well, that I agree with. Take care of yourself. Don't just rely on the government to come in and swoop you up and meet all your needs. You may stand on your roof a long time.

I guess their plan worked. I read their zombie survival plan. I think we need more peanut butter in the cupboard in case of disaster. Google: CDC + emergency preparedness, zombie apocalypse. Photo from the CDC website.

In the Shelter of His Wings...

Last winter our son and his new wife bought a home in a nearby community. The housing bubble has caused steep drops in property prices, and they got a beautiful home at a very good price. While homeowners continued to be distressed about falling value of their homes, young first-time buyers benefitted.

Our second son has been a renter for seventeen years, and this prompted me to look online for a condo he could afford. I may sound like a pushy mother, but he needed a nudge.

My husband and I began the hunt and were surprised at some of the deals on foreclosed or short sale condos. Even before the bubble burst, condos were overbuilt in the metro and prices were soft. Around Christmas I found one online that we all liked.

After the holidays we contacted the realtor and started viewings. Our search narrowed to one particular unit and we were disappointed when it didn't work out. It's a longer story, but to be brief a similar apartment in the same building became available (it had an offer pending that the bank didn't accept). The realtor called and asked if we were still interested and we proceeded.

I fell in love with the beautiful kitchen and the huge walk in closet. It is the size of a small bedroom. The building is older but was redone in 2005. Everything looks new.

It was a short sale and the deal took five months but at the beginning we prayed and put it in God's hands. Let it proceed if it is your will, we said. It did proceed and yesterday we helped our son move in. He is now the proud owner of a beautiful apartment in a nice neighborhood next to a nature center. He is two miles from his brother and has cut twenty miles off his commute to work.

That is no small blessing when gas is almost $4 a gallon. The condo also has a heated garage.

The selling price was just 20% of what it sold for six years ago. A blessing.

God is good.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Harmon Killebrew is Not Dead, He is Safe at Home

When I was fourteen the Washington Senators moved to Minnesota and became the Minnesota Twins. Now we had our own team to root for and it made a baseball fan out of me. It made a baseball fan out of my dad. I can still mentally see him listening to the radio broadcast of the Twins with Herb Carneal calling the plays. I can still feel the excitement I felt in 1959 when "Hammering" Harmon hit that ball long and hard. I believe his team record for longest home run still stands. He was consistently a good hitter. He was consistently a good guy. After retirement he was an active volunteer helping kids learn the game. He didn't beat his wife or make headlines for drug abuse.

His eulogists praised this nice guy who lived a good life. His kids and pastor portrayed a believer who trusted Jesus Christ for his salvation. I like to think of his welcoming committee in the next world as God standing with arms stretched out, saying, "Home safe, Harmon".

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

God Save the Queen

QE2 is touring Ireland. She is the first British monarch to set foot on Irish soil in 100 yrs.
Security is on high alert. Today police detonated a pipe bomb on a public bus.

The Queen must be a trusting person. I would guess not all the citizens of that country are happy to see her. Anglophiles can take comfort she is not visiting (rural) China where exploding watermelons are going off like land mines. Reportedly, they were overfertilized, grew too large, and are now suddenly bursting. You thought Gallager made a mess. We are talking fields or dangerous fruit. Cordoned off square miles of melons. Wouldn't you hate your obit to read: "Died when hit by watermelons." Sad day for our financiers.

What You Talkin' About, Arnold?

Oh, my. My condolences to Maria and the kids. Arnold has admitted to being a bad boy and joined the John Edwards scalawag club. I think Robin Williams is also in that club. Didn't he have an affair with his kid's nanny? Bad boys.

This movie poster made me groan. "Nothing is inconceivable". Indeed. Don't hold politicians up as heros or role models. Gossip says Arnold is trying to resurrect his acting career. He will probably have better luck with that than running for office.

I'm pretty sure if he ran for president someone would want to see his birth certificate.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

On a Mission From God

My dear friend Mary is again spending spring as a volunteer servant evangelist. She is in Serbia teaching English in a church sponsored community outreach program. The local Serbian church runs the school free of charge to help people learn or improve their English speaking skills. Speaking English improves their job opportunities. The program is run by a national who formerly owned a language school. Mary had previous volunteered at his school and now returns to help the students practice their skills with a native speaker. She has a big heart for people and loves experiencing other cultures and sharing her faith in Jesus.

Yesterday, a group of 16 men from our small church (attendance is only around 140 a week) flew to Hungary to volunteer their labor remodeling a donated old building that will become a church for the local Gypsies in Fadd, Hungary. They will work side by side with Gypsy men. Terrific opportunity to serve and build relationships. We are keeping them in our thoughts and prayers. Our church will reap the benefit of stronger bonds being built among these men. there are three father / son teams among the group. The ages are mixed from one college freshman to some closer to my age. We pray for their safety and for them to be a great service to the Gypsy church.

Our church has many ties to service and evangelism in multiple countries in eastern Europe.
We are on a Mission From God who also pray and finacially support those who are sent.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Raising Cain

This is not an endorsement. This an inquiry.

Disclaimer: I am not a member or affiliate of either major political party and consider myself a right-leaning independent. I have previously been a member of both parties at different times and done door knocking, fund raising and attended conventions as adelegate.

A couple weeks ago a conservative friend on Facebook posted articles about Herman Cain. Mr. Cain "won" the Republican debate somewhere in the south and leads in the Iowa Republican straw poll. Many Tea Party members are supporting him.

Who is Herman Cain, I wondered. The first thing I found out is that he is an African-American Republican businessman. Why am I still surprised at that? Allan Keyes is an African-American Republican.

I have watched a few of his speeches on You tube and read some articles written about him. I don't know enough to have a firm opinion but am intrigued by the idea of an African-American Democrat running against an African-American Republican in 2012. While this would surely trigger a backlash and surging third party, I like the idea. Martin Luther King's dream would seem even closer to fruition.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Dali Lama in Minnesota

Minnesota has a large Tibetan diaspora. We have the second largest contingent of them in the US. This weekend the Dali Lama paid a visit to his people. Local channels carried stories about his rallies that caused my husband to say, "Hello, Dali". Wonder if he hears that very often.

Thousands of people came to honor this spiritual leader. Many were of Tibetan heritage. Others were people who accept his religious views. Some were local civic leaders trying to honor him but I think missing the mark. The University of Minnesota honored him with a Gopher hat similar to the one worn in the photo. It appears both Indiana and Minnesota have maroon and gold for their colors and are pleased to award him with one. He is known as a peaceful man and apparently not haughty and proud or he wouldn't have worn that visor.

The Gopher football, hockey and basketball teams haven't been winning much lately. Perhaps they were looking for a better mascot.

Newt Gingrich to Challenge Donald Trump...Maybe

Time for the fun to really begin. We may witness possibly the first battle between thrice married men for the Republican nomination. We should know with certainty tomorrow. This is what I heard on the local TV news last evening: "Newt Gingrich says Wednesday he will announce he is running for president on Facebook".

The announcement will take place on Facebook?

How do you interpret that statement? Is TV news telling us that Newt Gingrich won't divulge to them that he is running for president. Everyone needs to befriend him on Facebook to get the actual scoop this Wednesday.

I raced to befriend him. One can't risk falling behind on political news. Not with The Donald also announcing he will announce his candidacy after his show, "Celebrity Apprentice" is done for the season.

Mr. Trump and Mr. Gingrich joined the ranks of those who won't announce they are actually running just yet. We have two Minnesotans who cagily declared they have set up exploratory committees about throwing their hats in the ring. One of them has reporters hanging on her every word and a Saturday Night Live skit mocking her. The other is trying to toughen up his talk to attract more disgruntled voters. His reputed reputation as the nice governer from Minnesota follows him even if this state's liberals don't think he is so nice.

I announced my candidacy for governor a couple years ago when the field had over twenty people vying for endorsement. Why not join the fun, I thought. Now with the reluctance of many willing to jump in and declare they are running for president, I may do what most of them do and set up an exploratory committee. That is now the first step. Set up the committee and see if the dollars flow in. I think I may have my family's support. Jon would like to travel by limosine, Andy and his wife could join my entourage on Air Force One, and the married kids with kids would enjoy the peaceful weekends at Camp David. I think I will announce on Facebook that I am available.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

No Diamonds on the Soles of My Shoes Either

The ladies' gym where I belong had special vendors demonstrating their wares yesterday. Periodically they allow massage therapists and a myriad of wellness people to display or demo their products.

As I worked my way around the circuit, one lady asked me to try the magnetic innersoles she was selling. She told me to just step on them with my shoes on. Then I followed her direction to resist her efforts to push down on my outstretched left arm. She pushed downward with two fingers and I kept my arm outstretched at my side while standing on the magnets. Viola.

Next she asked me to step off the magnetic devices and again extend the same arm. She again pushed down and I again resisted, this time unsuccessfully. Impressive I thought.

I am my nature and education skeptical of many of the wellness potions hawked by holistic practitioners. I don't do coffee enemas, preferring to drink the stuff. Crystals? Pyramids? Psshaw. Even the frequent medical studies that coffee or snake oil may or may not cause death or improve health cause me to raise an eyebrow.

For a moment I was impressed with the magnetic innersole demo. Then I asked her to test the other arm but do it in the opposite order. Try to push my right arm down while I resisted but was not on the magnets.

She did and I kept my arm up. Then I stepped on the magnets and she pushed my arm down. Not a scientific study but not reassuring that her magnetic innersoles were working their magic either. I didn't buy a pair.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Tiptoe Through the Tulips

Red tulips. Last fall I supplemented gardens with 100 red tulip bulbs. When the wind whined and the snow whirled and drifted for six months, I found encouragement thinking of how beautiful all those tulips would look this spring. I love red tulips.

Tulips are hardy flowers and among the first blooms to emerge in spring. They popped out of the ground and were covered with snow several times in April. This past week I watched them reach full stature and bud. Yesterday they bloomed.....yellow. Good thing I like yellow tulips too. Either I forgot what I planted or had a mislabeled bag of bulbs.

When I stand on the deck now and survey the backyard all those perky yellow tulips amongst the daffodils look gorgeous. I was going for a less monochromatic look with the red. The corner garden has all pastel tulips so that will have to do.

Last spring we finally drove to Pella, Iowa for the tulip fest. What a display in this Dutch themed town. The city plants about 1/2 a million tulips not counting private gardens. It won't work out to go this year but I look forward to revisiting Pella in 2012. For now, I will have to be content thinking I can almost see Pella from my backyard with the display I have. That sounds a little like Sarah Palin. I am not even running for office. If I were, I don't suppose it would hurt to currey favorite in Iowa.

Friday, May 6, 2011


It looks like we are going to get our first republican candidate running for president. I read that The Donald said he couldn't announce until after the last episode of his TV show, "Celebrity Apprentice" had aired. That will happen in May. It would be a conflict to have a running TV show while in the campaign.

Trumped. Playing the Trump card. Both are associated with a power move. His running is a power move because his initial campaign could be self-funded. No groveling for funds at rallies or bean feeds. Whoops, I don't think the Republicans have bean feeds. No groveling for funds at NRA meets or VFW conventions or Tea Party meet and greets. Not for him. He could raise the moola.

The talk show comedians are salivating at the thought of a prolonged run at the White house by Mr. Trump. I watched the Sunday Fox News show and think those pundits enjoyed commenting on his possible race too. While they didn't actually roll their eyes, they came close.

Hate to admit I enjoy watching "Celebrity Apprentice", but I do. I gasped last Sunday when the network cut off the end of the show with the announcement that President Obama wanted to make an announcement to the nation. Sounded like a power play. It turned out to be important news about Osama, may he not RIP.

The Donald is famous for his distinct hairdo. The stress of being Commander in Chief and leader of the world's only superpower and dealing with a dysfunctional congress seems to escalate the aging process in our chief executives. I wonder how quickly we would see Mr. Trumps's hair turn gray. I suspect about a quickly as you observe my hair turn gray, which is never. I am not saying he uses Lady Clairol because I don't want to get sued.

Perhaps we can make a deal. If he uses his own airplane, helicopter and limo we would consider letting him have the job. Think of it as cost saving in a penny pinching era. We might even let him tempt us with a generous offer for "naming rights" to a few Washington landmarks. Picture a version of Trump posing like Rodan's "The Thinker" on the reflecting pond opposite the Lincoln Memorial. The National Zoo could be renamed in his honor. There are seventeen Smithsonian Museums, couldn't we spare just one as Trump Museum? Mr. Smithson donated a mere $25,000 to get the honor of his name immortalized. I would draw the line at changing the name of the National Cathedral.

Announcing our Newest

Our newlyweds of last August are expecting. Daughter in-law Laura divulged the news yesterday on Facebook. This sweet girl shared, "Our puppy was born". Laura is always soft-spoken and demure. A more crass person might have worded it "the bitch delivered". Sorry. So sorry. Couldn't resist. That is what a female dog is appropriately called and the only time a person should use that word.

Andy and Laura had reserved a puppy when the dog was bred. They wanted a Cavashon and there are not many breeders in the area. A Cavashon is a hybrid of a King Cavalier and a Bishon Friese. It is a small dog that won't shed with the sweetest face. I think I am going to love this little bundle too.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Garage Logic

Kudos to Joe Soucheray, my favorite radio and newspaper guy. His radio program explores "Garage Logic". Thinking like a guy (gal) with common sense. "Euphorians" need not apply.

Anyway, picture is of grandtwins Zoe & Roman absorbed in play with my vintage Fisher-Price parking garage. Our kids had this toy in the 70's and I found one like theirs at a garage sale last summer. See. Garage logic fits. My "garage logic" is get toys that are vintage that they don't have at home. Toys with playability.

Roman loves to get this out of the closet when they come over. He lines up the cars. Runs them up the elevator and down the ramp. In the picture, Zoe takes a break from pushing her dolly stroller to help.

I love those kids. When they were over yesterday, Roman told me "I love to play with you , grandma". Made my day. I love to play with you too, Zoe and Roman.

Healthy Breakfast of Steel Cut Oatmeal

I love everything about steel-cut oatmeal except that it takes 30 min to cook. It is rainy this morning and cool, so I thought a bowl of oatmeal would be a good start to the day. I put it on and distracted by something, forgot to watch it. My memory was jogged shortly before the smoke alarm went off. All the liquid had boiled away and the scorched mess was left in the pan.

I think I will eat Grape Nuts today.

This cooking accident followed close on the heels of another. When I turned off the kitchen lights before going to bed last night, I noticed the telltale glow of a red light on the coffee pot. It was on with no coffee left. The glass pot was empty and smoking hot. I confessed to my husband what I had done this morning as I was cleaning the stove after the boiled over oatmeal mess. My next thought was that accidents come in threes. What would I do next? I glanced at the stove and noted that the burner was still glowing as I scrubbed the stove top. Hopefully that was the third.

In her later years, my mom used to say "Poor old people", when she or someone else had a senior moment. I said that today. I also vowed to cut the crap (sugar & white flour) out of my diet again. I think it is clogging the synapes.

Jon is keeping a watchful eye on me today.

Picture: My oatmeal. A little on the well done side. Those aren't raisins.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Osama bin Laden's Compound

We were duped. For almost ten years while we had bin Laden on the run, we thought he was living in a cave. We felt better thinking he was huddled in a sleeping bag eating goatmeat cooked on a kerosene stove and drinking water fetched from streams. We were glad he didn't have central heating or modern plumbing. We hoped the chilly winter winds blew hard and spring melting flooded the cave.

We were duped. Osama was living in a palace called "The Hideaway". Pakistani officials knew nothing about it. He was living in a fortress among retired military officers down the road a piece from their premier military training school and they didn't notice a thing. They didn't notice him hiding 35 miles from their capitol city. He didn't raise suspicions when he retrieved his morning newspaper wearing sunglasses. No one was puzzled when it was the only palace on the block that didn't come out for the annual block party picnic. No one questioned why there was barbed wire on the top of 18ft walls around the place. No one wondered why it was the only house on the block that didn't answer the doorbell when Girl Scouts came selling cookies. (Everyone else in the world wants those cookies.)

Libya's president what's-his-name (Quadafi, Gadaffi, Kadaffi??) had us thinking he lived in a tent. You don't hear of NATO bombing any tents, do you? We are not going to be duped twice. Bombs are now taking out palaces in Libya. We're not buying that Tent City story even if that is how he mislead the world when he tried to campout in Central Park in NYC when he visited the United Nations and gave that rambling monologue. We didn't let him pitch his tent in the park .

Better duck, Mr. Gadaffi. Better get nervous if you hear helicopters whirring.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Birther Blues -or- I Am What I Am and Who I Say I Am, I Think

Never thought I would feel sorry for The Donald, but he had to sit and take it at the White House Correspondents' Dinner in DC this weekend. President Obama stuck him with a few sharp barbs about the birther issue. The Donald didn't seem amused. Not sure I would get in a sparring match with Mr. Trump, but he did start the fight.

I was amused to read Joe Soucheray's column in the St. Paul Pioneer Press this morning.
His title reads: "I, too, have a birth certificate mystery--if I am even me."
The story that follows is that he did not find out until decades after he was born that his birth certificate spells his name Soucherey and he spells it Soucheray. For those who don't know Joe Soucheray, he is a local newspaper colmnist and has a radio talk show that is humorous and conservative.
When he found out about the discrepency in spelling of his name, his wife (joked) that she probably had grounds for annulment. Then she said, "If The Donald gets ahold of this, you'll be ruined, finished." That left me laughing. I don't think The Donald did himself any favor backing that horse. My opinion. Your's may differ.

I have found over the years when I laugh at someone elses problems or dilemas, I usually find I have trod on the same path. My mom told me that when I was baptised, the priest insisted on baptising me "James" instead of Jane. He did not think there was a St. Jane and he strictly enforced having a saints name for the child. Hopefully, I won't have a hard time getting past St. Peter at the pearly gates. I don't know if my patron saint is St. James the lesser or St. James the greater.

In the meantime, I will echo Popeye's line: " I am what I am."

May Day

May Day. This holiday isn't important in the US, but widely observed in European countries. We arrived in Germany on May 1st a few years ago and saw Maypoles in almost every village.

I grew up Catholic and memories of May Day involved church and a procession of children strewing flower pedals followed by clergy carrying a statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary. May was observed as her month. I don't know how far back that tradition goes, but remember learning the Catholic church emphasized the Marion holiday to counteract Communist observance of May 1st. That was the day the soviets paraded their armaments in Red Square.

May Day has a long history and was a pagan celebration of spring in pre-Christian times. Roman culture observed it as a holiday to the pagan goddess of flowers. Druids celebrated springs arrival. In the 19th century a focus on laborers observing it began. Remember Karl Marx and "workers of the world unite"? It is still a labor day in many countries.

I found some local observances for May Day. There is an Immigration March for Emancipation. Don't think we will do that. Minneapolis has a parade in one neighborhood park. No doubt wiccans or warlocks or Charlie Sheen are having another party. We are just going to go to church. I don't think there is anything special going on.

I will continue to think of May day, may day as an urgent call for help. That is the message you send when your ship is sinking. Perhaps saying may day, may day is getting more appropriate. Sure haven't heard too much good news in this country lately.

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Fascinated by Fascinators

I confess to ignorance and malaise about ladies hat fashions. I was aware that QE2 always wore a hat, possibly in place of a crown. Outrageous chapeaus are also sported on female heads at the Kentucky Derby and at Ascot's race.

At AME & some other churches, African-American women have kept milliners in business. (The greater number of women in this country prefer to go hatless.) Cool.

I didn't know the hats perched at odd angles on stylish women were called fascinators. Alas, my time spent watching the Kate & William wedding was not wasted. I learned about fascinators.

The cute little feathery thing my daughter in-law wore for her wedding was probably a fascinator but I never heard the term used to describe it. Her's was beautiful.

Some of the commentators on the royal nuptials were not kind in their appraisals of the hats worn by Prince Andrew's daughters, Princesses Eugenie and Beatrice. The hats were so startling that no one bothered to remark what a weird dress one of them was wearing. I'm not sure if this is all about shock value or looking good. I hope it was shock value because I think they fell short in the looking good catagory.

While designers are busy in sweatshops cranking out lace-topped wedding dresses, likely some Chinese workers are heaping birds and flowers and other stuff on hats. I want one for Halloween. The weirder the better.

Pictures: American pop-princess Sarah Jessica Parker and the Real Princesses in Fascinators.

Friday, April 29, 2011

What Kate Middleton and I had in Common

We are / were both "commoners". Her status has been elevated to princess now so we no longer have that in common. He sirname was Middleton and my blog handle has a similar sound. "In-the-middle." Close enough?

I didn't set my alarm to get up at 4:00 A.M. to watch the televised nuptials from London. We did catch the kiss on the balcony. I was surprised at the simplicity of her wedding gown and veil. Perhaps that is due to memories of the pouf 'n fluff of Princess Diana's dress and train.

Kate is a modern bride. This past week media has tutored the masses on the lifestyle of Britain's most famous newlyweds. She cooks. He puts his own toothpaste on the brush unlike his father. No servants. They lead an ordinary life and will live in a five room cottage in Wales.

Barbara Walters said Kate's family didn't meet the queen until last week. QE2 has a very busy schedule. One can only imagine how the Middleton's felt anticipating that. I remember some trepidation meeting our kids future in-laws. For the first son we ordered 9 yards of rock and relandscaped the house. For the second one, we replaced torn screens and touched up the paint indoors. For the third one we replaced a sliding glass patio door. I think it must have been a lot more work for the Queen to get Buckingham Palace ready to meet the Middleton's. I am sure she had help and then she is only the grandmum, not the parent. I am sure she made a good impression.

The US threw off official royal ties when we rebelled in 1776. We kept some unofficial sentimental attachments to the British. No one does pagaentry like England. Even if America's substitute royalty (movie stars) get adulation when they marry, no one would have a spiffy red military uniform to wear when they marry like Prince William wore. Michael Jackson might have pulled it off, but he wasn't interested in marriage. Our military uniforms are more conservative. We are more practical and discovered it is easier to defeat our enemies in battle if we sneak up in camo than march into battle in red. Maybe that is why we must defend the whole world.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

If It Quacks Like a Duck is It Aflac?

The horror of hundreds of deaths from tornados in the south is constantly on the news today only to be softened by gossipy chatter about the anticipated royal wedding. Both of these blockbuster stories almost overshadowed news that Aflac has chosen the new voice of their duck. He lives about 10 miles north of us and is a guy who does voice-overs who has hit the jackpot with his quacky version of the company name.

Aflac. We all recognize it. Before the previous guy was fired for making insensitive remarks about Japan's disaster, I didn't even know who did the duck's voice. Comedian Gilbert Gottfreid had that gig. Here's hoping the new guy will be "Minnesota nice" and not offend.

I did a blogsearch to see what people were saying about the Aflac duck. One of the sites was by a blogster named Kyle Affleck who happens to sell supplemental insurance. Yup, he sells Aflac. If I were him, I would have practiced my duckvoice and applied to be the new spokesduck. Maybe he did. Competition was fierce. 12,000 applied.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

We Need a Hero

Seinfeld had Superman.
World War 2 readers had Wonder Woman to fight the Nazis.
The Green Lantern fought crime.
Spiderman is doing his darndest to fight critics who are panning the new Broadway show.
Will Smith has stepped up to the plate a couple times in "Independence Day" and "Men in Black" to fight off alien invaders.
These heroes are great, but.... face it. We don't have a big problem with invading space aliens or Nazis.
We have a big problem with bad weather. Floods, mudslides in Australia and South America followed by wild fires. Grade 5 Cyclone (hurricane) in Australia. Ice, frozen water pipes and shortage of natural gas in the frozen southwest..New Mexico, Texas. Oklahoma is setting records for snowfall and ice storms. Atlanta, Memphis, Nashville are all in the snow belt. The citrus crop and strawberries froze in Florida. Sub-zero temps are dipping deep into our country. Alaska is warmer than Texas many days. The Superbowl promoters had troubles with ice sliding off the stadium roof.
We need a new hero. We need "weatherman". I wonder what he could do. Who can control the weather. Where is the one who calms the raging seas? Oh. There is someone who can do that.
His name is Jesus and this might be a good time to seek him for help.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

On Marco Polo's Trail

If I remember history correctly, the Chinese invented noodles. Although Italy is more famous for pasta, it isn't native to that country. The famous Venetian explorer Marco Polo first ate spaghetti carbonara in Peking and brought the recipe home.

I receive a daily recipe from a Weight Watcher's site called "Hungry Girl" and have received multiple emails recently touting the benefits of tofu shirataki noodles. They are very low calorie and protein packed. That got my attention and I looked for them at Cub (local market). No tofu shirataki noodles there. Next shopping trip was to our food co-op where you can find a nice variety of organic and healthy foods. No shirataki noodles but the clerk said they have been getting frequent requests for them. "Try Kowalski's" she recommended. I did. Kowalski's carries many things you can't find other places but they don't have any form of shirataki noodles.

The Wiki page on shirataki noodles says there are two types:

The traditional Japanese noodles are made from the konjac plant and have no nutritional value and no calories. They have little flavor and absorb the flavor of the seasoning or sauces used with them.

The health food magazines are currently pushing a variety made from tofu. They are low-carb but a good protein source. They can't be frozen or dried and are packaged wet and refrigerated.

When I communicated with my daughter Mary about my quest , she recommended trying an Asian market a mile from her house. "If they don't have it, I don't know who will". Mary wasn't too impressed with my excitement about noodles made from konjac, a fibrous plant with no nutritional value that you don't absorb. I think she asked if I couldn't achieve the same result with packing peanuts.

Anyone got any good recipes using packing peanuts?

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Finding Nemo

Hudson, WI is celebrating "A Hot Air Affair" this weekend. This river town is just six miles downstream. We didn't see the balloons launch this morning because flights were cancelled due to poor visibility. The valley was blanketed in fog. Daughter Mary, Mike and the grandtwins picked me up and we went for the evening display of lit balloons. A couple dozen of the balloons were inflated and tethered at a local schoolyard. They light them by using the gas powered flames. It was a mild night and quite a spectacle. The balloons randomly light up with countdowns every few minutes to synchronize all of them ablaze at the same time.

The two years olds seem to enjoy it and were little troopers trudging through the snow. Amazing sight on a nice winter night. It is always a good thing to enjoy this snowy season.

Before we left home I showed the kids pictures of the balloons that would be on display on the website. They were thrilled to see a clown fish shaped balloon we dubbed Nemo ,like the Disney movie. Nemo was the first balloon we saw as we arrived.

The Farmer in the NFL

I almost choked on the coffee I spewed when I read that Farmer's Insurance is buying naming rights for a proposed new stadium in Los Angeles. It will be called "Farmer's Field".
Backer's are aiming to attract an NFL team to play there. LA doesn't have an NFL team.

Back in Minnesota we have an NFL team buy not a stadium to the owner's liking. They rejected the Metrodome. They rejected the Metrodome when it had an intact roof. Once again supporters, who can't envision Minnesota without the purple ones, are trying to drum up support for a new stadium. Our state coffers are depleted and in deficit. Our people are overtaxed. Our unemployment rate still high. We are more generous with health care for the indigent and seem to attract more indigent. (That probably wasn't pc.) We seem to have a lot of needs more important than a new stadium.
Forget our problems. Our billionaire NFL owners and millionaire players need a new stadium now. If we don't buy it for them, they could be recruited to play at the proposed Farmer's Field in LaLa land. I wonder if this time they would bother to change the name from Vikings to something that reflected southern California. They kept the Lakers the Lakers. Never could figure that. Never will understand how you can name a field "farmer's" in the midst of the biggest metropolitan area in the country.
Now do you understand why I will cheer for the Packers tomorrow? We know where they will be in ten years.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Labrīt, Latvija

Priecigs jums lasijuma so emuaru.

English speakers: A welcome to the Latvian readers of this blog. Yesterday I had more hits from Latvia (28) than the USA (17). It varies everyday with small numbers from all around the world and the biggest usually my relatives and friends, acquaintances here.
Latvia is a Baltic country so I feel an affinity with my last name sounding like it is from that area.
It is a beautiful, peaceful country that would be interesting to visit.

The title translates "Good morning, Latvia" followed by "Glad you are reading this blog".

Amazing what you can do with the Google translator. Hope it is accurate.


Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Ground Hog Stuck in the Snowbank

February 2nd. Groundhog Day. How's the weather in Punxsytawny, Pennsylvania?

Will the groundhog see his shadow? Legend says if he comes out and sees his shadow because it is sunny, he will duck back in the burrow for another six weeks of winter. If it is cloudy, out he comes expecting spring is right around the corner. Tradition doesn't dictate what he does if the snow is so damn deep that he can't get out of his hole. That is the most likely scenario this year. Too much snow.

I have missed walking outdoors. My walks have been confined to the indoor field house track. Like many seniors, I don't want to risk a slip & fall with injuries. This weekend I finally purchased a pair of spikes that fit over boots so you can walk sure-footed on slippery snowpak. Ice fishermen use them. They work well and I have taken several walks and felt secure.

You can dress for the cold. I am acclamated to -20 with the proper clothes as long as there is not a biting wind. I hate the wind. Today it is -13 with expected wind chills in the -35 degree range. Back in my burrow I go. I might watch "Groundhog Day" on Netflix today and wish we only had six more weeks of winter. From the depth of that snow in our yard, I would judge twelve weeks is more accurate.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Pique in the Cupboard

I am a sucker for buying groceries with labels that say "reduced sugar", "no fructose corn syrup" or " no transfats". One cupboard shelf has this assortment of jams or jellies:
Smucker's Sugar Free Blueberry Preserves,
Welch's Reduced Sugar Concord Grape Jelly and
Smucker's Seedless Red Raspberry Jam. I eat the sugar free stuff. Jon likes the fully sugared stuff. No one eats the 1/2 sugared jelly.
As a sugar addict I thought artificially sweetened stuff was the answer. I don't think it works well for me. It just keeps the sweet tooth alive.
I continue to read labels and try to adapt to things with less calorie content. I found lower calorie bagels (I've missed bagels) and coupled that with fat free cream cheese. Toast that up and top it off with the blueberry jam. Good stuff. Jon saw what I had and picked up the cream cheese to read the label. Good, I thought. I have been trying to get him to read labels. Then he said, "Did you know there are traces of salmon in that stuff?" Following the list of 15 or 20 ingredients is Allergy Warning: Contains Milk, May contain traces of Salmon, Almonds, Pecans, and Walnuts.
Something is fishy with Great Value fat free Cream Cheese. I think I will stick to peanut butter on my lower calorie bagels.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Thank You Mr. Patrick Thiele

I love living in my adopted "hometown" of Stillwater, Mn. This scenic, historic rivertown is a nice place to live filled with nice people.

Every state and local government has been making budget cuts in recent years. We must. Local government polled the residents of this area to determine which services to trim. They found the library ranked very high as a place citizens wanted to fund.
Our beautiful restored Carnegie Library has continued to serve the valley with only modest cutbacks, but yhey closed it on Sundays. This week I read in the newspaper that it will again reopen thanks to a generous gift from a new resident.

Patrick Thiele's donation will fund reopening the library on Sundays for the next year.
The article said the former CEO of St. Paul Companies ( now Traveler's Insurance) and another reinsurer in Bermuda, recently purchased the Stillwater home formerly owned by actress Jessica Lange & actor /writer Sam Shepherd. Mr. Thiele continues to live part of the year in Bermuda. I wonder which part.
Thank you very much Mr. Thiele. We appreciate your generosity.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

No Need to Lick That Ice Cream Fast, It Won't Melt

Saturday, Jan. 23, Stillwater had an outdoor Ice Cream Social to celebrate mid-winter. The tradition has roots going back about a half-century. It was revived a few years back and visitors and locals gather in a downtown riverside park to laugh at winter.

I didn't go but my good friend Mary did and sent me the pictures. I love the child in the stroller who is bundled up like Ralphie in "The Christmas Story" with a snowsuit that looks like a form of restraint.

Minnesotans. Gotta love 'em. Who else stands around a bonfire eating ice cream in frigid conditions?

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

The Suspence is Over

The package arrived by USP yesterday. The suspense is over. Jon recently started wearing suspenders. He liked them except the center clip in the back was irritating against his spine when he sat. He has an old back surgery incision there. Jon is blessed to have a wife who Googles everything and found a source for side clip suspenders. They are designed to be more comfortable. He ordered a pair online.

This morning he is sporting his new suspenders. My first impression is that TV police detectives wear something similar to holster a gun. I wonder if he will be more closely scrutinized by TSA at the airport. Not to worry. Our former governor, Jesse Ventura, has just filed a lawsuit against Janet Napolitano of Homeland Security to stop that invasive airport frisk. He is claiming TSA sexually assaulted him. Who knows. He may become a hero and we will have to recycle him as governor like California did with Jerry Brown.

Wonder if Gov. Ventura was wearing the boa when they patted him down. I guess that isn't important. Go get 'em, Jesse.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Oprah's Longlost Sister

There was a recent story of a 23 yr. old woman finding out she was kidnapped as a baby. The "mother" who raised her could not produce a birth certificate. They were estranged. The woman was a drug addict. The 23 yr. old searched the internet for stories about abducted children and found an artists drawing of what one infant would look like as a young woman. It looked like her. She followed up and eventually was reuinited with her birth parents. DNA tests confirmed she was their kidnapped daughter.

Over the weekend the woman who raised her was apprehended. She surrendered on Facebook.
I'm scratching my head now. How does one surrender on Facebook? I searched for some names of "famous" cops like Joe Webb, (Dirty) Harry Callahan and even "America's Most Wanted", John Walsh. Each of those names brought dozens of pages of hits. Some don't have photos so you can ID them. I am baffled.

Someone may explain to mehow to surrender on Facebook. Much of the world is registered on this social network. This could be a cost cutting measure in an era of penny pinching.

Do you think with good facial recognition software Facebook could be used to identify suspects before they turn themselves in? Think of the possibilities. You don't even have to be "ON" Facebook. Friends post pictures of people in their lives and name them.
Watch out crooks. Facebook might be coming to get you.

If this stream of thinking isn't too far fetched, maybe combining artists renditions of missing infants and advanced facial recognition software could find missing people. People who were kidnapped at a young age or people with amnesia. Maybe I am one of them. Maybe when Oprah announces her "family secret" on her TV show today they will reveal I am her long lost sister. That would be a windfall, wouldn't it? Since I am pretty fair skinned, it is also unlikely.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Truth in Advertising

I just checked Facebook, blogs I watch and both email addresses for news from friends or family. Still had a few minutes to fill before we leave for a birthday party so I went on eBay.

I'm in the market for a new picture or wallhanging for the stairway. An original caught my eye. The vibrant colors and sweeping sky arrested my attention.

The bidding has started at $75 with a modest $9.95 shipping fee. I like it but it doesn't fit in my house. I was astonished that it was described as "A Truly Worthless Original Signed Painting western mesa."
I scanned down for the dimensions. It is 16 x 20 and done in acrylics. So far, so good. The artist? J.C. Worthless. True story. It is in the eBay auction under art. I suppose he is not only a starving artist but a worthless one too who lives in a worthless house and drives a worthless car. Funny name. Good artist.

Ice Road Commuters

We live in the smallish historic town of Stillwater, MN. The welcome signs proclaim it as the "Birthplace of Minnesota" because it was in this Minnesota / Wisconsin border town that early
pioneers met to plan for statehood. Our deed shows the land originally being in the Wisconsin territories. Abraham Lincoln signed off on the land.

The beautiful St. Croix river forms the border between states. Residents living on the opposite bank mostly work and shop on our side of the river. They cross the historic lift bridge, dealing with slow rush hour traffic that stops at a red light and when the bridge is lifted for boats. Plans to built a bigger bridge has been going on since the early 60's. I am not hopeful I will ever see it built in my lifetime. The river is designated as a national scenic river and anything constructed must comply with restrictions.

The fight goes on. The Sierra Club had held up construction with a lawsuit. Numerous other challenges were raised. It will now take an act of congress to build it. Literally and I mean LITERALLY, it will take an act of congress. Frankly I don't see them spending 2/3 of a billion on a new bridge anytime soon, do you? It doesn't personally affect me. Maybe we should just let everyone drive six miles downriver to cross.

For years some ingenious brave folks have found a way to cope with the congested bridge. In winter months there is an ice road that some employees of Andersen Windows in nearby Bayport, Mn use as a shortcut to work from Wisconsin. It's been cold enough to make thick ice this year. You don't see any "ice road truckers" on this road, only personal vehicles saving a few minutes on their commute. Another advantage of this road is that it is easier to fix potholes than on a blacktopped highway.

You haven't seen me doing this and you won't. I cringe just watching the TV show about the truckers.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Stirring Vivaldi

Just heard David Garrett perform on the Today Show. Wow. Rock and classic violin. Love it.

Stillwater, Mn is 26 Below Zero This A.M.

It's cold enough to make your hair stand on end. It is colder "up north". When did you say global warming would start? Never mind. We are hearty people. Tomorrow when it is a little warmer, Stillwater is having an ice cream social in Lowell park. Free ice cream and coffee for adventurous souls. Chili for sale at a nominal fee. I am considering it. I think my brain has frozen.

Photo: credit to son Andy. Stole it from his Facebook site without his permission.

Hanging Out With Oprah in Australia

I admit it. I like Oprah. I tune in from time to time. I don't subscribe to all of her philosophy or bent toward new agey spirituality, but she is likeable. People identify with her honesty and she genuinely seems to care about people. I disagree with her on some of her social positions.

This week Oprah is airing the shows taped in Australia before Christmas. Australia is fascinating. The land down under. Population living mostly on the coast. Strange animals.
Beautiful buildings. Penal colony for the Brits when it was colonized. Aboriginal people who still live in the outback. Crocodile Dundee and dingos. Breathtaking natural beauty and that Great Barrier Reef.

Yesterday Oprah and her entourage were shown climbing to the top of that famous Sydney Harbour Bridge. She made headlines by bringing everyone in one of her TV audiences with her on the trip. If I had been in that audience, I might have been the only one who didn't want to climb the bridge. It is higher than the Golden Gate or the Mackinaw bridge. I have seen those structures and don't think I would climb them. Not only are they high, chances are it is windy up there.

If one manages to reach the summit, you must then turn around and go down. I don't like down either. I also don't like diving in reefs or hunting for crocodiles in the wild. I do like vicarious adventures and will tune in today to see what else I can "experience".

Thursday, January 20, 2011

The Thinker

Husband Jon has been busy scanning old negatives into the computer. Images long hidden are coming to life on his monitor. For years we felt guilty that we had taken so few snapshots of our only daughter. The older boys and our youngest are well represented in our photo albums. Mary's picture is found less often.
We were vindicated when Jon began scanning his old negatives. He had taken pictures of her on black and white film, probably developed the film himself and not many got printed. Our precious daughter's baby and toddler pictures are a joy to fine.

Today I snuck a peek to see what else he had found. Wasn't I happy to find one of myself (much younger me) sitting in an outhouse. Jon thinks it was posed and I seem to be fully clothed so I would agree.

I am sitting in an old wooden outhouse, probably at Joy Park on Silver Lake in North St, Paul. Rodan's sculpture of "The Thinker" comes to mind. I wasn't a great scholar or a contemplative person in my early 20's. Perhaps I was following Jon's directive to get the shot he wanted. I hope so.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Guess Hu's Coming to Dinner?

Hu Jintao, China's president is coming for an official visit this week. Not here. He will visit the White House. There will be an official black tie state dinner in his honor on Tuesday. The night before he will dine privately with President Obama in the old family dining room. That is what I read in the paper. I have never heard of the "old family dining room". I didn't even know there was an old family living there.

I wonder what will be on the menu. The Chinese don't like cheese or uncooked lettuce or uncooked vegetables. Their president is certainly coached in proper etiquette and would probably eat what is served anyway. Our son's Chinese exchange partner cringed when she saw we ate raw lettuce and vegetables. She said they were better for you cooked. I'm thinking they cook everything to prevent food born illness. President Hu Jintao should just relax. We don't have that problem, do we?

Why do I not feel optimistic that the US will come out ahead with this meeting. While there was excitement by some in the 70's when diplomatic channels opened with China, we seem to be in decline while they thrive. We envisioned great business opportunities and markets opening to us. We got imported goods that put our factories out of business. We have become debtors as they finance our overspending. I should be more positive. Could we sell them some GM cars assembled in Detroit or a Florida condo?

If we don't make headway with getting them to revalue their juan (currency) we better learn to eat our lettuce cooked..... that and our goose. We can fix these in our hot pots that are manufactured in China.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Hope Springs Eternal

It's only 63 days until spring. Actually, it's only 63 days until the vernal equinox. The arrival of spring weather varies. Last year it was early, other years we have had significant snowfalls in late April.

I threw out the poinsettas and jumpstarted spring at our house. Iris on the entry table greet you. Silk pansies and bluebirds adorn the dining room table. We may be digging out from the almost daily snowfalls, but indoors the season has changed. It is snowing this morning. More is predicted tomorrow.

Rule 17 and the Wearing of the Green (and gold)

Today's email brought this: A list of 45 Lessons for Life, attributed to 90 yr. old Regina Brett of Cleveland. I have seen it before but read it again. Sage advice. Smell the roses type of advice.
Rule 17 caught my eye. "Get rid of anything that isn't useful, beautiful, or joyful" it says.
I am not yet 90, but respect the wisdom of age. It got me thinking. Take stock.

I will keep my husband who is useful, beautiful and joyful. I will not make a big life change, travel, write and book and be on Oprah.

When I pondered the Vikings and the deflated Metrodome (AKA Hubert H. Humphreydome at Mall of America Field) I wasn't so sure that package was useful, beautiful, or joyful. They break our hearts year after year. Allegiance to a bunch of well paid athletes gathered from around the country to wear purple? Allegiance to a billionaire owner? Love lost on that Pillsbury Doughboy building?

Don't tell my sons, but I am considering becoming a Packer fan. I would have to watch the games at a border bar in Wisconsin. We will see. I was glad to see them win big last night.
Go Pack.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Do Blogs Have Infommercials?

I have been known to purchase a thing or two on eBay. I have succumbed to sales pitches and called in to order products pitched while sleepily watching infommercials in the wee hours. I have even gone to the As Seen on TV Store at the Mall of America to buy one of those vacuum bags to store pillows and blankets. You may want to remember that because I am about to do a product endorsement. You judge if I am credible.

Mary good friend Mary gave me a Christmas present that I love. She has listened to my whining about trying to keep my windows clean. When the late afternoon sun shines through the dining room windows all the streaks show. In warmer months they need cleaning at least monthly. I use a long poled sponge / squeegee and a solution made with rubbing alcohol, ammonia, Dawn and water. It works pretty well but not perfectly. I hate doing it in cold months because the solution runs down the pole and I get cold and wet.
Mary gave me something called " My amazing cloth". I was skeptical. Then I tried it. Viola. Windows, mirrors, and the glass shower doors cleaned up easily with just that damp cloth. No soap. No squeege. No streaks. No problem. I love it. Thanks Mary.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Time Flies

Today is the 25th birthday of our youngest.
Like moms everywhere, I paused to remember the birth of this son on a very cold January day.
He arrived at 8:30 am at Lakeview Hospital in Stillwater, MN.
He is an only child with two brothers and a sister. Most of his childhood he was an "only" child but when we brought him home as a newborn he was the adorable baby brother of very loving siblings.
Sister, Mary, was thirteen and got some concerned looks from strangers when she pushed his stroller. Brother Dave, fifteen, was very patient trying to soothe Andy when he cried. He would rock him or push in the stroller until he quieted. Older brother Dan, then seventeen, was also very close and when he left home for college he missed you the most.
Andy. Our unplanned but much loved son has grown up, married his sweetheart and most recently become a home-owner. Congratulations and Happy Birthday.
Photo: Laura & Andy on move in day.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

The Price of Peace

I just left the house as bullets were flying and "the" war was raging. Jon was watching a DVD of "The Pacific", a miniseries done by Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks. Jon wasn't actually watching as I left, he was snoozing in his recliner. This is a man who gets up very early, sometimes at one or two am. When he sits to watch a movie he rarely sees more than the first fifteen minutes. There are ten episodes in this miniseries. I figure it will take Jon until summer to see all of them.

Eventually I will probably watch the series with him. I don't like war movies much. I don't like the violence or the audio at ear-deafening levels with the surround sound system. That is pretty shallow thinking. War is loud and messy. I was moved when I watched the first Spielberg / Hanks production about WW2 called "Band of Brothers".

Band of Brothers was based on real individuals, a group of men from Easy Company lead by Capt. Dick Winters. Dick Winters just died in January at the age of 92. He survived the hell of

that great war and lived a long life. He will be remembered kindly as a hero. So many others died with less acclaim and did not live long lives. We are indebted to them forever. May they remain forever young.

Justice Delay-ed

I cannot speak with any expertise about Tom Delay or his politics. I don't feel strongly about him or the charges that convicted him of money laundering. I am not sure I am against money laundering. I have heard most of our currency is contaminated with traces of cocaine. Go ahead. Launder the money. I don't care.

Looking at the former politician, my impression is that he is guilty of something. Bad clothes? Too much Botox? A facelift? The worst contestant on Dancing With the Stars?

Mr. DeLay's attorneys will appeal his recent conviction. They cite trumped up charges and trying him in a liberal Texas county. That surprised me. There is a liberal county in Texas?

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Cool Date 2

1 - 11 - 11

Weather, You Like It or Not

We've made a dent in January and February is a short month. These are things a northerner tells oneself to cope with a harsh winter. After almost a decade of less than normal winter weather, Minnesota is experiencing a return to our regular climate. It started abruptly in November with an early heavy wet 8 in. blanket of snow weeks before Thanksgiving. We had not had snowy day of thanks in years.

December was cold and we had record breaking amounts of snow. Weather statistics have been kept for about a hundred and thirty years. Overcoverage on TV news had us almost cheering for that extra inch of snow to break the old record leading me to believe that cold, snowy weather causes madness.

Hear we go. Old and crazy and cacooning. Better plan a winter get-away. We looked at our options and I began to campaign for a road trip to the gulf states. Go south to Louisiana and eat crawdads in Cajun country. Explore the coast along Mississippi and Alabama. Perhaps a nice ocean side rental in the Florida panhandle for a few weeks. I solicited friends from New Hampshire to join us. I found nice pictures on the internet of white sandy beaches to try to convince my husband. It had possibilities.

Everything changed this weekend when the second big winter ice / snowstorm hit that region.
Six southern states are hunkered down waiting for the ice and foot of snow to melt. They don't have our fleet of snowplows or our enormous stashes of salt and sand. They just stay indoors until it disappears. Only the children are thrilled with snow days that cancel school and let them go sledding.
Some Minnesotans handle winter better than others. They ski, slide, ice fish or snowmobile. The rest are at risk for cabin fever. At risk for delusions of snowmen peeking in their windows.
Maybe that is how Minnesota will solve it's fiscal problems. We can sell snowmobiles, parkas and skis in the south. They may need our advice to handle difficult winters and learn to enjoy the snow. They better watch out if they start wishing for that extra inch of snow to set new records.
Photo: credit to son Andy who built this with his college buddies a few years ago.