Saturday, November 29, 2014

It's Christmas Time in the City!

When we are in the language camps in Poland each of us does some sort of presentation for all the students. Most often these presentations center on the home areas of the volunteers. Last year one volunteer came from Milwaukee. He showed pictures of summer Lake Michigan activities but kept making the point over and over that it was cold in Milwaukee in the winter and there was nothing to do there in the winter. I told him he needed to move to Saint Paul -- life here does not shut down in the winter.

So this posting is about my walk around the city late this afternoon, centering on the start of the holiday celebration.

First the decorations outside my building's front door have changed from autumn to winter.

In a minute or two I was by the Fitzgerald Theater, quiet tonight because the Prairie Home Companion was probably on Thanksgiving holiday hiatus.

I continued walking towards 7th Place wanting to see the new Christmas European Market.

I enjoyed seeing the straw bales wrapped as gifts.

And the smell was wonderful from the spicy cider and wines for sale.

I headed towards Landmark Center to see the tree in Rice Park and found it dark. Thought I had come on the wrong day until I looked at my watch. It was only 5:15 and the tree lighting was at 5:30. It was now so dark that in my head I thought it was 7 PM or so!

I headed over the skating rink which opened today.

There I found that the "royalty" from the Winter Carnival were skating.

Towards 5:30 I headed for the east side of Rice Park. And soon I heard a countdown and the tree lit up, all the other trees in Rice Park lighted, and the fireworks started.

Later I walked over the south side in front of the Central Library and took a still picture of the tree.

From here I walked slowly towards my building. I suddenly heard someone say, "Look at the line!"

This long line was for a shop called "Candyland" which logically has many different kinds of candy as well as caramel corn.

I noticed on my walk that all the restaurants were full -- many dressed in hockey shirts for the later Minnesota Wild game.

Near home I saw a firetruck coming home.

I hope you enjoyed this little walk around Saint Paul and also hope I've demonstrated that my city doesn't shut down in the winter time!

And also another happening in my city this weekend is the celebration of the Hmong New Year. This celebration is expected to include about 20,000 people at River Center. 

Friday, November 28, 2014

A Simple Thanksgiving

My older daughter and I had a very simple Thanksgiving this year. We didn't go anywhere so I prepared a simple dinner for us. Due to the commercialism in the United States now for what is called "Black Friday" my younger daughter had to work late on Thanksgiving afternoon in a department store. My older daughter, who has some handicaps, loves the Macy's Parade so we first enjoyed that in the morning hours instead of rushing away early in the day.

While the parade was on I made our dessert, chocolate-pecan pie.

Behind it on the top of the photo there is a bit of a turkey decoration made by my older daughter. Adding chocolate to a pecan pie made it a new recipe for me. We liked it but I think the next time I make this I might use butterscotch or caramel instead of chocolate.

When the oven was then ready I put in a small turkey breast to roast. After it had cooked for an hour I took it out and basted it with a mixture of apple juice, butter, thyme, and paprika. This was repeated for a second time. We each had a serving and now some of it is cut up in the freezer waiting to be made into a turkey casserole in a week or two. At about the 9:00 position there is a little button. This is pops out when the turkey has reached a suitable temperature inside.

The day before I made cranberry salad. Certainly cranberries and turkey are traditional foods for Thanksgiving. It has been a long time since I've made cranberry salad from scratch.

This was made with a slight addition of lemon juice and apricot preserves and then toasted walnuts were added at the last moment. This recipe is a keeper and quite much like how my Mom used to make cranberry salad from scratch.

We also had a sweet potato and pineapple casserole -- sweet potatoes being traditional for Thanksgiving too, but I've never made it with pineapple before. I liked this new recipe very much, but forgot to take a photo.

In the days before Thanksgiving the New York Times had published a map of traditional food for each state and certainly made huge, huge mistakes for nearly every state. For Minnesota the Times listed a green grape salad, saying a "Minnesota heiress" said it was traditional. Well social media lit up. No one in Minnesota had every heard of this grape salad nor could anyone figure out who is/was a "Minnesota heiress" who would say so or even if there is a "Minnesota heiress" who would offer such an opinion.

The whole thing from many states caused the Times to publish a new list and Minnesota ended up with a wild rice dish which has formerly been given to Wisconsin. This made Minnesotans happy because wild rice does grow in the state in a traditional manner. On the same revised map Iowa and Nebraska were given the the Snickers Salad - don't know how those states felt about that! Now I had heard of Snickers Salad before and hadn't eaten in years so I mixed a batch of that too.

We also added Green Giant sweet peas to our meal. After all the Jolly Green Giant lives along Highway 169 near LeSueur, MN!

And what is now traditional in my family for holidays is Black Currant Sparkling Water.

I call this wine without the buzz! Love it!

There is no one right way to do a Thanksgiving dinner. Every family does it somewhat differently and what is traditional in one family may not be traditional in another.

Hope you enjoyed this brief look at a Thanksgiving dinner.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Sci - Fi or Fantasy

I had to return some books to the Metropolitan State University library. Completed that task and then turned around to find these fun things:

The library had these on tables with a book collection labeled: "Sci-Fi or Fantasy?" Whether you think these are sci-fi or fantasy is not the main point. I think the main point is that this library is not "stuffy." Perhaps "stuffy" doesn't translate well into all the cultures and languages of my readers. Hope you all can figure it out!

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Scam Alert

Today I was having coffee with friends in Rochester when my phone rang. The number that popped up showed it was international and I couldn't figure out from where. The audio was a pre-recorded message presented in what I call flat, Midwestern American English. It said, "Your account is overdue and your service is being discontinued today. Press 2 for more information." Well instead I pressed the button for End Call. Then looking back at the phone I could see the word, China, under the phone number. So you all everywhere, watch out for this scam. This was a new one to me. Maybe this fits the definition of life that is mundane -- have to one posting like that once in awhile!

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Adding fun with cookies

Photo: Finishing up the last 2 containers this morning!

From Thursday to Saturday afternoon volunteers gathered at the Mano a Mano warehouse in Saint Paul to pack out supplies for shipment to Bolivia. Altogether three containers were packed. This picture above shows some of this effort.

On Thursday I baked cookies and took them along. During the afternoon  I worked with others to pack about 5 boxes, the size of those shown above, of hospital linens and gowns. On Friday I took along some store bought cookies and then came home and made chocolate chip cookies and took them over too. The cookies disappeared quickly and so I baked even more on Saturday. I received a very nice thank you e-mail for the cookies saying they added "fun."

I saw first hand in March how important this volunteer work is. Look for if you want more info.

Murals at Union Depot

There are five murals currently on display in the Great Hall of Union Depot  here in Saint Paul. So recently I walked one block to the 10th Street Station of the Green Line and rode it over to Union Depot. These murals are the work of Ralph Gilbert and will be on display until early December. Too bad they are not a permanent installation. Each relates to transportation in some manner, primarily railroad transportation.

My photos don't provide a good reference for the size of these murals. In fact each in 16 feet high (4.9 meters) high.

Here's one:

And here's another:

Hope you enjoy this glimpse of Minnesota life and history.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Doing the Shingle Creek Volksmarch

Today, November 4, was Election Day. I left my apartment about 9:00 and had only to walk about two blocks to a nearby church which served as my polling place. Much to my surprise I met two former Minnesota Department of Health colleagues. One was there as a voter because she lives nearby and the other was there serving as an election judge. She happens to live in the same complex where I used to live.

I came back home and got my backpack ready. I didn't want to waste what appears to be the last day of "summer" or perhaps more rightly called the last day of autumn. Today the weather was sunny and temperature around 50 (10C).  I took off for the Quality Inn in Brooklyn Center which is the starting place for this walk. I walked in and no one was at the desk but there was a sign directing one to call a certain number on a nearby phone. No one answered. Finally I found a man who appeared to work in the Housekeeping area. He couldn't find the walk box and kept apologizing and saying he was embarrassed because he couldn't help me. I felt so bad -- I asked him please not to feel that way. He disappeared for a bit and came back with a woman who knew exactly where to find the walk box. I found when registering I was #33 for this walk this year.

Shingle Creek is so named because the mouth of it begins at the location of a 19th century shingle mill. My Geographic Names book says it empties into the Mississippi River. I watched it for a bit and thought the current was flowing north, that it wasn't simply a trick of the sunlight on the water. Here I would have been 5-10 miles south of the Mississippi River as it runs basically southeast from Anoka to Minneapolis

I walked out of the Quality Inn and then along a street called Freeway Boulevard. I was facing a what the meteorologists today called a "gusty west wind." I began to wonder if I should have left my jacket in the car -- I was wearing a T-shirt with a flannel shirt over it. But I thought certainly after walking a bit I would certainly generate some "heat."

Soon I was cutting down to a trail that ran underneath a street giving me the first look at Shingle Creek.

Then I walked just a bit further and found myself climbing up on a pedestrian bridge crossing I-694.

At the opposite end there is a circular ramp leading down to ground level. Walking down this ramp I noticed my shadow.

At the end of the circular ramp I walked a few more steps and then crossed a little bridge over the creek. I had entered a city park with tennis courts on my right side and view of the creek on the left. The November light is very good for creating water reflections too.


I found I had to watch carefully where to step on the trail for there was a lot of "pooh" on the trail. Then I found the culprits.

On the creek side I found another view of waterfowl.

From here most of the walk was through a residential area. Brooklyn Center is a first ring suburb of Minneapolis. It changed from a farming area to a residential area in the 1960s-1970s and most of the housing designs show that time frame. My Geographic Names book explains Brooklyn became attached to this area by settlers who came from Brooklyn, Michigan. That explanation certainly surprised me for I was expecting a connection to Brooklyn NY or even further back to a namesake from Europe.

The walk was relieved by a trip around a pond.

From here I turned back east towards the start/finish location. Again most of this walk was through residential areas. The wind was blowing the dry leaves about. The leaves are now very dry and when they hit the hard surfaces of the street or sidewalk they almost made a metallic noise.

Part of my return allowed me to see a water tower. In the walks this year I have found 9; the book I am keeping requires 20 different ones before I receive the "reward."

When I returned back to the car I drove nearby for a lunch sandwich and then home where I collapsed for a nap.

It was surely a good plan to walk on November 4. November 5 arrived with a temperature of 36 (2C) and rain. Now it will only be the indoor walks for awhile unless there is a surprise weather day coming up.