Tuesday, December 29, 2015

A Samovar Saturday

On a warm November afternoon my older daughter and I took a short drive across the river (the Mississippi River for those of you not familiar with my location) to The Museum of Russian Art. I very much wished to see the exhibit about samovars. Up to this day I had only read about them and was delighted for the opportunity to see some.

The first thing we noticed was the painting shown below.

This painting is titled, The Homemaker Serving Tea. It shows the place of samovars in the culture. The painting is the work of Stanislav V. Shlyakhtin.

Next we viewed the painting, Samovar and Vessels.

This painting is the work of Geli M. Korzhev. But right beside the painting was the real samovar shown in the paiting.

During his life Korzhev was the owner of this samovar and often incorporated samovars and other articles from his home into his paintings.

Next we saw a variety of small samovars.

We saw samovars that looked as if they were made with gold.

They truly glistened. However, they are made with a copper-zinc alloy that is called Tombac. These samovars originally were sold by the Mure & Merilise Department Store in Moscow and were produced in factories in Tula. Tula -- really? I have one Russian friend and Tula was her home in Russia.

But what happened next was equally surprising. Did you know samovars were once made in Warsaw, Poland?

Above is an example of an electro-plated silver-plated samovar. This was made by the Fraget Brothers.

The above samovar which is designed to look like a steam engine was also made in Warsaw. The accompanying signage for this samovar said it could move around the table. Apparently the samovar produced heat to warm the water to make tea as well as energy to move the samovar about.This particular samovar is attributed to Roman Plewkiewisz and was made sometime between 1900-1914, a time when Warsaw was the center for making the silver-plated samovars.

We saw another painting by Korzhev.

Next we walked to the gift shop. It was fun to see a bit of Poland. 

This was a great afternoon at the museum.

Monday, December 21, 2015

Visiting the Christmas Market

Last year a Christmas Market was started in Saint Paul. This year it was moved to the East Plaza of the Union Depot. Last Saturday my older daughter and I took the light rail station two stops from my nearby 10th Street station to the Union Depot station. We both rode for 75 cents on Saturday. I can ride in non-rush hours times for that price because I'm a "senior." My daughter can ride always for that price because she has disabilities.

I had no idea where and what the East Plaza was when we arrived. I've only been in the Union Depot a couple of times since it has been renovated, and both of those times what I wanted to do were events held in the Great Hall.

We walked into the Depot and found a decorated tree at the door.

 Taking a closer look at the lights I decided they would be called Hidden Mickeys if this tree was at Disney World.

Walking through the Depot we noticed families with small children excited to be boarding a holiday train called the Polar Express.

We continued to follow signs for the Christmas Market and finally found ourselves walking outdoor to a plaza over the train tracks. In our warm winter there is no snow outside.

. We enjoyed hearing music.

My daughter had quickly spotted a booth selling crocheted neck scarves and of course purple took her eye. I suggested she wait until we had looked everywhere before making a purchase. After we did that she went back and selected a multi-color one with purple as the dominant color.

I particularly wanted to find the Polish booth. We were sitting down for a moment when I noticed a booth over on the side so we headed there. Yes, it was full of beautiful ornaments and some Polish pottery. I selected Santa Claus ornament, done beautifully as they are from Poland.

 I learned the products and the staff for this booth had come from Chicago.

It was a lovely afternoon to be out and about at a Christmas Market.

Saturday, December 5, 2015

Christmas Lights 2015

Recently my older daughter and I drove through Summit Avenue and River Boulevard in Saint Paul to see the Christmas lights . We are glad to share with you all.

Usually in Saint Paul people put the lights outside in a warm day in November because December is a cold month in Minnesota. Then the lights are lit after Thanksgiving. But this year December is also warm.

The first one we saw was very colorful.

Across the street was one different.

And yes the houses on Summit Avenue are very large.

 Above are the lights from a small triangle park. Last year when I stopped there for a picture the temperature was way below 0 in the Fahrenheit system for temperatures. This year the temperature was about 35 degrees in Fahrenheit.

Here is an apartment house with very nice decorations.

Above is a tree that I admire every year. And perhaps I should have taken a video rather than a photo because the light colors change several times each 2-3 minutes on this tree. But I also admire how the house is outlined with lights.

About across the street is the Minnesota Governor's House. And no Minnesota did not build a house for the Governor. This house was giving by a family to Minnesota. Once I was there for a dinner.

Further down the street we found another house with colorful lights.

Mostly lights go onto evergreen/pine trees, but some homes don't have those kind of trees. Lights look good too on deciduous trees.

And the final picture is another house outlines with lights.

I hope you enjoy to see lights from Saint Paul.

Friday, November 27, 2015

Thanksgiving Adventure

This year my older daughter and I decided we two would spend a relaxing Thanksgiving Day. Our plans didn't end up to be quite as relaxing as we planned. For some reason, since not being here for a couple of months, my granddaughter showed up about 4 AM to spend "thanksgiving day." Well, it was because her boyfriend has a job at the MSP airport where he meets people coming off flights that need a wheelchair. He was working a 3 AM - 12 Noon shift so my granddaughter decided she and a friend would sleep here.

We still went with most of our plans while the girls slept in another bedroom. I made a cinnamon bread and then when that was done put a frozen quiche in the oven to cook. Meanwhile we watched the Macy's parade and then the dog show. It was nice to do this without having to worry about getting somewhere.

We had a 4 PM reservation for dinner at the nearby Forepaugh's Restaurant. I was glad we didn't have far to go because we had received the first spit of snow. We had only about 2 miles to drive on city streets and didn't have to go out on the freeway with all of those trying to remember how to drive on a slick road at 60 mph!

The restaurant is located in a old house in what is called the Irvine Park area. This area just west of downtown Saint Paul was the location of the first homes built by those who became wealthy in the first years of Saint Paul settlement.

The house looked lovely as twilight approached.

We were early for our reservation and were asked to wait in the parlor.

Here's a photo I could snap when it was just us there. The fire was lovely. And in the mirror above the mantle one sees the reflection of the ceiling light.
Here is the light, as they would say on HGTV, look at that medallion.

Soon we were seated at table for two on the second floor of the restaurant. After the arthritis problems I've had all year, one thing I could feel thankful for is the ability to walk up a flight of stairs. he first course

The menu for this meal was on Forepaugh's web page but I couldn't quite imagine what a green bean and cranberry salad would be.

Oh, the spinach was not mentioned. And the pale segments of some kind of orange were yummy. The dressing was a red wine vinaigrette.

The second course was soup. I chose the cauliflower and my daughter chose the  butternut squash soup.
My first bite tasted a bit sweet. But then after a few more spoonfuls my mouth begin to think there was a bit of curry in that soup, too.

Then menu seemed to indicate the next course was turkey or ham. We both asked for turkey, but when we received our plates, we got both.

The shredded turkey -- actually a good idea -- and ham was accompanied by mashed potatoes and Brussels sprouts. I think this was the first time my daughter had Brussels sprouts and while she seems to like everything -- those clearly  were not a favorite.

Our dessert was just fine.

It was a small pumpkin bar with cinnamon whipped cream and pecans on top. Just the right size after a big meal.

We didn't indulge in any beverages other than coffee and water. I truly try not to drink and drive even if the drive is only 2 miles!

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Europe in Motion -- A Learning Conference

In my personal opinion Facebook is becoming more annoying -- the new "suggested posts" which are a new way to say advertisements and the "share" things people post with already 10 million viewers which are either silly or highly improbable or both. But then it turns around to be very helpful sometimes too. I noticed a friend was going to an event called Europe in Motion sponsored by the Norway House. Because I spend so much time in Europe, the social conditions there are of great interest to me. 

This conference is the fifth such conference sponsored by Norway House, and if you are curious about Norway House, please click Here.This particular Norway House sponsors a Peace Initiative associated with an organization in Oslo. Last year's conference, for example, examined the Ukraine situation.
So I registered for this event, and took off about 4 PM from my apartment towards the 10th Street light rail station. Tuesday, November 3, was also election day in Saint Paul -- an election for city council and school district seats. My particular polling station is right by the light rail station, so this was all one trip.  And this day was unusually warm for a November day in Minnesota. I took only a light jacket thinking coming home later in the evening the temperature might be a bit cool. But oh my! temperatures in the 60s -- what a treat.

I got off on the East Campus stop and walked to Applebee's for supper. I had not been to one for several years. It wasn't very crowded on a Tuesday night and I enjoyed the American Standard Burger. 

I arrived at the Alumni Center,where the event was to be held, and was surprised to see coffee and cookies set out for refreshment. Then I thought, well yes, it's a Norwegian event -- there must be coffee, and then chided myself for thinking through a stereotype. But when the moderator for the evening welcomed the group, she invited everyone to be sure to enjoy the coffee and cookies, after all it was Norwegian event. So apparently I was right.

The moderator for the evening explained the Peace Initiative of the Norway House sponsors this type of conference because both the quantity and quality of news has declined in the United States. And that one can not function in a democracy without information. I heartily agree with the statement about the decline of the quality and quantity of news in the United States.

What follows is how I understood what I heard. While I will attribute statements to speakers, please remember I could have misheard or misinterpreted the speaker. 

The first speaker at the conference was Jennifer Prestholdt, Deputy Director and Director of International  Justice, Advocates for Human Rights. Her job was to help us all understand the terms being used to describe the movement of people into Europe. I was well aware of the definition of refugee. This describes someone who must leave his/her country due to the threat of great harm or event death because of characteristics such a race, religion, or political views. When I was teaching my students always read the book, The Middle of Everywhere, by Mary Pipher. This book describes how to work with refugees, a very timely subject in Minnesota. What I didn't realize is this definition of refugee is not unique to the United States. It is the universal definition of refugee adopted in 1951 as nations worked with the displaced persons in Europe following WW II.

But I have been puzzled about asylum seeker. A person seeks asylum for the same reasons as a refugee. The only difference is where the person makes the application. Refugee status is assigned while the person is in his/her home country. Asylum application is made when the person has traveled to another country in which that person seeks to live. In Europe asylum is further regulated by the 1961 Dublin Convention. The Dublin Convention requires the country of entry be the country in which the asylum application is filed and evaluated. This helps me now understand that countries such as Italy and Greece have not only a huge humanitarian load but also a huge administrative load processing asylum applications.

I can't remember which speaker eventually explained that several countries are ignoring the Dublin Convention. Some are refusing to register applications for asylum, while others, notably Germany, are telling people to come to their country to make the application without regard to which European country was the country of entry. It was also noted that it is more than people from Syria who are fleeing to Europe. People are also coming from the Balkans,Ukraine, and several African countries.

The asylum issue is further complicated by the absence of the common definition. The speaker noted there are at least 28 countries with differing definitions.

Following the presentation about definitions, three panel members were introduced. As listed in the program, they are Jan Petersen, Daniel Wordsworth, and Dianna Shandy. Mr. Petersen is a former Norwegian Foreign Minister as well as former member of the Norwegian parliament. Daniel Wordsworth is the President and CEO of the American Refugee Committee, an organization which works worldwide and just happens to be based here in Minnesota. Dr. Dianna Shandy is a Professor of Anthropology at Macalester College in Saint Paul. I learned a great deal from each of these speakers.

Each panel member spoke briefly and then all took questions from either the moderator or audience members. Rather than summarize each person's presentations, I will list what I learned.

(1) One speaker said there seemed to be either disappointment or outrage, on the other hand, that the people who are moving don't seem to be bedraggled and poor. Speaking of the Syrian people, one speaker said: These are every day people who need help from every day people. They are teachers, mothers, engineers, children. They are people who find their cities at least 50% destroyed. They are people trapped in situations where there is no food, no work, and no school for the children. What would you do if you were in this situation? 

We were admonished to talk to our friends and help them understand. I had planned to write a blog about this experience, but the above statement is what drove me to trying to find the words to explain and summarize this experience.

(2) Next, what happened in Syria? One speaker noted there is/was a huge divide between the rural poor and the urban elite. In my opinion that is enough right there to create conflict, but the social situation has been exasperated by a drought which caused the rural populations to flow to the cities.

(3) There appears to be a major misunderstanding that Syrian people are not finding homes in neighboring countries. That is not true. Many Syrian people have found at least temporary homes in Lebanon, Turkey, and Jordan.  We were told 600,000 Syrians have moved into Jordan, and that 500,000 are being housed in Jordanian homes, not in refugee camps.

(4)  Is the problem Islamophobia? The speaker from Norway said in his opinion the bigger fear by European countries is that they will lose their national identify. Frankly, this is an idea difficult for me to understand since our country is made of up of people from everywhere -- our national identify is made up of multiple peoples.

My comment -- And a quick Internet search reveals that while Islam is the dominant religion, people in that country practice other religions as well. When coming from Poland this summer I spent one night in Amsterdam and picked up the end of the story on BBC. This related to criticism BBC had received for showing refugees building a small Christan Church. Since I didn't see the front end of the story the back end of it made no sense at all.

Back to the Norwegian speaker -- he said that the sheer number of persons right now makes it very difficult. There are huge numbers of people who need housing assistance, who need to find spots in language lessons, and all the other services one needs when entering a new country.

(5) People are arriving on Norway's northern border. Who would have thought? The rule here is that no one is allowed to walk across that border. We were told it was amazing how quickly bicycles appeared, for it is not illegal to ride across the border.

(6) Should people be forced to assimilate into a new culture/country? The more up to date thinking is that we help people to integrate into a new country. Newcomers should not be forced to give up their culture, but they do need assistance in using a new health system, or a new educational system.

In the book I mentioned above, The Middle of Everywhere, Pipher has a list three pages long of things that puzzle a newcomer.  Often it is these 100 little things that are more difficult than one big thing. Little things such as how to use a parking meter, how to buy a bus ticket, what is Black Friday, or how to find bread one really likes.

 (7) One person asked what we could do "upsteam" to prevent refugees. The response was that we should always keep the doors open to people running for their lives. But somewhat related to this question came the idea of help populations develop resilience so they are more able to withstand "external shocks." That is exactly what Mano a Mano is doing for the people of rural Bolivia who certainly will have to face the external shock of climate change. And that is why I enjoy every minute of volunteering I do for the organization.

I hope you all have found this worthwhile reading. I would surely appreciate comments.

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Finding Napoleon in Saint Paul

I was very surprised when I learned there was a Napoleon exhibit at the Centennial Showboat which is anchored in the Mississippi River. Today I went to see this exhibit.

 The morning had been sunny, but clouds had rolled in by the time I arrived at the Showboat early in the afternoon. However the temperature was in the mid-50s (13 C), an amazing temperature for November 1.

Inside I found exhibit articles on two levels of the Showboat.

The first thing that took my eye was this bed.

This is the bed Napoleon used during the military campaigns. The bed collapsed and so he could travel easily with his army; this apparently was an ususual activity for the head of an army during the early 19th century.

Another thing that intrigued me was a copy of the annulment papers which ended his marriage with his first wife.

The problem -- she wasn't getting pregnant with a son to provide an heir.

Another thing that took my eye was a dress coat that would be have been worn by a well-dressed man in the early 19th century. 

The coat was worn by the Minister of the Interior to Napoleon's coronation. 

Above is an inkwell used by the King of Naples. I had always thought of Napoleon as being French, and was totally unaware of how entwined he was with Italy--the unorganized Italy of the early 19th century. The King of Naples was Napoleon's oldest brother, Jerome. 

And how about this for elegance?!? 

This is a toothbrush used by Hortense, Napoleon's step-daughter. He became a step-father when he married his second wife. The signage at the exhibit explained Napoleon maintained good relations with both his natural and step-children despite his rather chaotic military and political activities. 

Of course in the early 19th century there were not bathrooms. A  bowl and pitcher were common objects to find in a bathroom. 

Above is a wash bowl used by the King of Naples.

This urn stands about 24 inches high. The signage explains it is very unusual to see a bronze urn from the early 19th century because all the metals were flowing to military operations. 

Above are watches used by the Empress.In another area I found a watch used by Napoleon which matches these. 

Above are door knobs from Napoleon's apartment in Paris.The signage asks visitors to imagine what the apartment must have been like based on the elegance of the door knobs. 

And then I saw some furniture, and it seemed so familiar. 

It seems that if we have seen anything from this era it is reproductions of the furniture. 

I enjoyed this exhibit. All my university degrees end with S meaning Science. So I am still working on my Humanities knowledge. 

This was a great activity to do a gray November afternoon. 


Sunday, October 25, 2015

Everything Pumpkin

This is a blog posting primarily for those of you that live in other countries. First, let me say I'm grateful that you all find time and interest in reading what is put here.

At this time of the year things go crazy for pumpkin -- at least in the Midwest United States. Yesterday I went to a grocery store with a friend while I'm visiting in Lincoln, NE. Here are some of the pumpkin things available.

Above is pumpkin spice coffee. Popular coffee shops also sell pumpkin and spice coffee lattes this time of year.

Above is a cereal now flavored with pumpkin for the season.

More cereal above. In this case instant oatmeal. This is actually something I purchases to take home with me to home for some upcoming winter mornings.

Now if I find pumpkin bagels in my grocery store at home, I'll probably purchase them and put most in the freezer to enjoy on other upcoming winter mornings.

Now I must confess at home I already have pumpkin muffins in the freezer. But mine do not have cream cheese frosting.

I will close this out with a photo of pumpkin pie spice.

Hope you enjoy this little tour of pumpkin-flavored items.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Finding Adventure Across the Street

The heading on this blog includes the idea that sometimes adventures are mundane. This morning I decided to go into the bedroom by the window to read for a bit. Suddenly I noticed a man crawling around by the billboard across the street.

Notice from my vantage point I'm looking down on the billboard. And notice the yellow pail on the roof behind the man. That yellow pail has been rolling around on the roof of the building across the street as long as I've lived here. 

But back to the workman. I couldn't figure out what he was going to do. 

Then suddenly he pulled the shield down over his face and I knew he was going to weld something. 

 It was fun to see the sparks fly! I still don't understand exactly what was fixed/repaired. But I saw something new today -- something I've never seem before.