Friday, December 26, 2008

And the beat goes on...

The Christmas beat that is. How many times have you heard preachers, pundits and pontificators decree that we should carry the spirit of Christmas with us all year long. Tell me, who could actually stand it?!

Think about it--how could you spend an entire year worrying about what presents or token gifts to buy; or who to buy for; or what foods to prepare; or who to invite; or what charity is the most deserving; or what outfit in your closet is the most festive; or when to send the Christmas cards out and who to send them to; and then of course, the struggling and juggling your budget and keeping your sanity throughout. If you pause to wonder, "Am I really enjoying this?" then you have lost the "spirit".

Bah Humbug! Sometimes it's hard to maintain the spririt of Christmas through Christmas!

But then, there are all the smiling faces on friends and family. And, all the genuine holiday cheer as we celebrate being together for the sole purpose of having a good time.

"I wouldn't give up Christmas for a million bucks,
but I wouldn't give you a plug nickel to make
it any longer!"

Thursday, December 25, 2008

December 25th 2008



Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Beloved Christmas movies

Like many folks, my favorite Christmas movie is A Christmas Story. I've seen the film dozens of times, yet I never tire of it.

So, when I learned that Riverview Theater in Minneapolis was showing it on the big screen, I jumped at the chance to see it in a theater. I emailed my friend Sue K. and asked her if she wanted to go. To my amazement, she had never seen the movie before. I insisted that she must view this cinematic treasure and we made a date to see it on Monday at 5:00.

The Riverview Theater is celebrating their 60th anniversary. The lovely art deco lobby, fixtures and great seats make it a treat to see movies there. They opened in 1948, the same year the film is set in, so the film and theater made a great match. The admission tickets were fifty cents, the 1948 price. The proceeds were being donated to the local Food Shelves along with any food donations from patrons.

We thought that an early showing on a cold, miserable day would not draw such a big crowd. Boy, were we wrong! This was a major EVENT. We arrived to find the line stretched out the door into the zero-degree weather. The lobby was packed as we squeezed our way into the theater--and it was literally packed to the rafters! We finally found two seats next to the wall a long ways back, but fortunately there are no bad seats in the Riverview.

We settled in to watch the panorama of mayhem before us. The crowd was quite animated and the aisles were full of people rushing in with popcorn and pop, also being sold at 1948 prices. And then the movie began. What fun it was to watch it with such an appreciative crowd!

A fellow writer from my group happened to be sitting behind us along with his girlfriend. I think he laughed the hardest of all.

What a treat and what a nice Christmas memory. I wish you all a nice Christmas memory this year, too.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Being Balmy

I have this kinda weird thing going on. Every day after reading my emails, I go into My Favorites and check all the blogs I follow.

At the bottom of the list is my own blog. I always open it with some expectation of reading a new entry--I want to see what I wrote! How weird is that?

I then feel obligated to write something so I don't disappoint anyone else--assuming anybody is reading my trivial stuff.

(Long pause while I painfully agonize over what to write next. I have stupidly set myself up to pen something deeply profound and relevant.)

OK, since it's Sunday, I'll give you this contribution that I got from my cousin who lives "up nort".


1. Der's only one God, don't cha know.

2. Don't make dat big stuffed walleye on the mantel an idol.

3. Cussin' ain't Minnesota-like.

4. Go to church, even when yer up nort.

5. Listen to your folks.

6. Don't kill. Catch and release.

7. Der's only one Lena for every Ole. No cheatin'.

8. If it ain't yer lutefisk, don't take it.

9. Don't be braggin' about how much snow ya shoveled.

10. Keep your mind off yer neighbor's hotdish and stuff.

Now, how's that for relevant?

Saturday, December 20, 2008

It's snow joke

It's snowing again! It has been snowing every day and I'm sick of it, do you hear? Sick of it!

I live in a condo and my garage is third in a line of four garages. These are tiny little garages barely big enough for my 9-year-old Impala. As a result, I've been in the habit of leaving the car in front of the garage at all times.

The problem is that when it snows, the car has to be moved in order for the driveway to be plowed. So, I have to squeeze it inside beside the lawn chairs and assorted junk. I got another nice-sized dent in the fender backing it out of the garage recently. How much more can my poor car take?

I'm not sure which of my favorite sayings best applies here:

"The harder it is to do something, the more often you have to do it."
"Life is sure tough for us dumb people."
"If you already have dents in your car, another one won't matter."
"Old age ain't for sissies!"

Well, anyway, it sure looks a lot like Christmas everywhere you go.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Viking Grandma

Whoa! I'm a week behind in my blogging! I am such a sluggard. Well, actually, more like crazy- busy getting ready for the Holidays.

As I mentioned previously, we are cheaping out this Christmas. Despite that, I bought a new 2009 calendar for everyone on my Christmas list, something I've been doing for many years. (I love calendar art--I save all my old calendars and can't pass a store display without checking them all out.)

The Clan agreed that when we get together for Christmas, we'll each bring a $10.00 wrapped gift and play Bingo for the prizes. And, did I mention we're having meatballs instead of ham? This will not affect the amount of cookies and goodies, however. There is always an excess of pie, candy, munchies, cake and what-have-you.

We also have a little program at our Holiday get-together. The kids will play songs, sing, read or do something goofy. I insist on inflicting a Norwegian Christmas Carol on them every year in return. All my grandchildren have Norwegian genes from both sides of the family. So, I have taken it upon myself to make sure they have at least that much heritage thrust upon them.

The carol is mercifully brief and is called, "Jeg er saa glaa hver Julekveld". This translates to, "We are so glad this Christmas Eve". My eight grandkids and three great-grandaughters are going to grow up with that little bit of Norway in their heads in spite of themselves!

Thursday, December 11, 2008

How I fumigated my bathroom--a Serious Story

As I have mentioned before, I can't smell. Therefore, when I am cleaning, I always worry that everything reeks and I must take special pains to freshen it up. (This is in addition to getting rid of cobwebs from a thriving house spider population.)

Case in point: the bathroom.

I put an ample amount of blue liquid stuff in the toilet to let it "steep" while I scrubbed the bathtub and sink. When I mopped the floor, I noticed that the plastic caddy that holds the toilet brush had water sitting in it. Since it was likely that the water might smell, I poured the water into the toilet.

This is the stupid, serious part. Just to make absolutely, positively sure the caddy didn't smell, I decided to rinse it out with some bleach. I swished the bleach around and then poured it into the blue water in the toilet.

It took a minute before my fractured olfactories began to sense the fumes. Actually, my nose starting burning first. I turned on the ceiling fan and closed the door behind me.

I inspected the label on the toilet cleaner to see if it contained ammonia (which I never would have expected). It wasn't listed on the contents. But, in tiny 8-pt letters on the back, it said not to mix it with bleach.

C'mon! That should be in BIG RED letters on the front!

It wasn't until late evening that I could open the door to the bathroom again. But, by golly, there was nary a spider in there. I hope they died quickly.

I don't really hate or fear spiders and generally try to co-exist with them. I practice catch and release whenever necessary (like a really big, obnoxious-looking spider). I'm not heartless, after all.

FUN FACT: No matter where you are in the world, there is probably a spider within six feet.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

No Meat For You!

I talked to my daughter, Paula in Sauk Centre last night (she actually lives on the Main Street of Sinclair Lewis fame). We were discussing the menu for our family Christmas dinner. I told her that we were planning on Swedish Meatballs and gravy, adding that my local daughter, Brenda was bringing "meatless meatballs".

I was surprised when Paula announced, "That's what I'll be having." Yet another of my kin has converted to Vegetarianism! My son, Mark, has been avoiding meat for many years. My sister, Karen, no longer eats any meat, as well as her daughter, Julie and family. Brenda has stopped eating meat since her bout with breast cancer 5 years ago. And, now Paula has joined their ranks.

What's the matter with me!? I am totally sympathetic to the ideal of not eating animals. A friend from one of my writer's groups is an avid activist against the inhumane treatment of farm animals. Indeed, I stopped eating pork for some months after she read a piece on the suffering of a dying sow at the stockyards in St Paul.

But then, a little bit of bacon slipped back into my diet, and then a pork sausage and before you know it, I was eating ham and pork chops again!

And, much as I try to fight it, I still crave a burger now and then.

Save the beasts of the farm and field! Now, there is another New Year's resolution that I have to contemplate.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

So, anyway...

Last night at a writer's group meeting, the discussion turned to the subject of accents. This was followed by speculation on how Sarah Palin came to have a Minnesota-type accent.

Since I had clipped an article from the Minneapolis Star Tribune on the subject (sorry, I don't have the date), I wanted to share. Here's a synopsis:

Back in 1935, as part of FDR's New Deal program, 203 Midwestern families bankrupted by the Depression were recruited to settle the Matanuska Valley in Alaska. The majority of them came from Minnesota and Wisconsin. Both states were settled by Norwegian, Swede and German immigrants.

The Minnesota accent is distinguished by long O's and saying 'Ya' instead of 'You' and 'Yah' for 'Yes". This is amply demonstrated in the movie, Fargo.

Now, I was born and raised in Minnesota. My mother was the youngest of a large Norwegian family that homesteaded in Western Minnesota. Mom didn't even speak English when she started school back in 1926. As a result, she, like many other Minnesotans retained Scandanavian inflections in her speech. This slipped right into our English.

We were pretty much unaware of it until the eighties. Until then, Minnesotans thought of themselves as incredibly average, mostly unremarkable folks. But Garrison Keillor noticed that we were sorta distinctive in our way, and he went with it. After that, The Prairie Home Companion radio show and subsequent books by Keillor, in addition to Howard Mohr's How to Talk Minnesotan and A Minnesota Book of Days turned a spotlight on our (dare I say...) uniqueness!

I'm secretly pleased when someone notices my Minnesota accent and I enjoy being a Minnesotan.

As GK always says, "All the women are strong, all the men are good-looking and all the children are above-average."

Friday, December 5, 2008

My Bucket List

About twenty five years ago, I made a list of life Goals. Over time, I have achieved most of them except learning to play the guitar. (That must have been a momentary whim because, for the life of me, I don't know why I ever had that desire.)

Anyway, this morning I'm watching the NBC Today Show as I drink my coffee and read the daily newspaper, and one of the people on the street is holding up a sign about her Bucket List.

This "jabbed a stick" into my consciousness over the goal I haven't achieved yet. When I retired three years ago, I intended to be a full-time writer. I kept getting sidetracked into other projects (quite willingly, I might add). I worked for over a year on a 120-page family memories-and-cookbook. Since then I've worked on short stories and memoirs, but my novel languishes.

But the thing of it is: That novel was at the top of my Bucket List!

I started the book ten years ago. There it sits in my Word Documents, all fragmented and flawed. It calls to me from time to time, "Fix me, finish me, stop avoiding me!"

Well, a New Year is approaching. Maybe this will be the year my slippery, capricious Muse will find its way back.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Danger, Sparrow, Danger!

I've been getting some recorded telemarketing calls lately. They start out, "Do not be alarmed!" (They go on to offer some credit card insurance.)

This is so devious. How better to get you to listen to the message than to imply there is danger!

I don't know about you, but I don't have nearly enough danger in my daily life. My adrenalin level remains pretty constant. The most hazardous thing I ever do is back the car out of my tiny garage--and I have the dents to prove it.

The only wild animals I encounter are the opossums that I feed on my patio. There are also voles, squirrels and a few raccoons that come around, as well, but the 'possums are the stars. This is because they are newcomers.

Possums are common to the South, like armadillos. Because of Global Warming, however, they have been working their way north over time. And now, I am privileged to have my very own tribe.

Their arrival each evening is an eagerly anticipated event. The three cats and I sit at the patio door and watch them eat the jelly or peanut butter sandwiches, meat scraps, fruit and whatever. The possums ignore us even though we're only a foot away.

I never know which ones will show up, but they always come separately. The first one was a big light-colored one with pretty pink ears, that I promptly named Petunia. Next came Tank (a solidly-built little fella), then Elvis (a young one with small black ears). Last night, a new one appeared with a torn ear and 2-tone tail, so he became Rocky. The gender assignments are arbitrary, of course, and naming them is pure self-indulgence.

Now that the snows have come, I'm hoping to track them to where they've holed up for the winter. The poor things are not well-adapted to Minnesota with their naked tails and sparse coats. I worry about them--and so I feed them.

After all, they face danger every day.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

A SPAM-ish weekend

On Friday, I spent the day getting everything back in place after Thanksgiving. While I worked, I had the TV tuned to the BBC channel's marathon of Monty Python shows. I dearly love the Pythons.

I sat down to take a break and caught the the Spam sketch. I adore Graham Chapman in a dress and dowdy hat clutching a purse on his lap and shrieking, "But, I don't want any Spam!"

This takes place in a dingy cafe that serves large amounts of Spam with everything on the menu. All the while, a group of Viking patrons are singing, "Spam, Spam, Spam, Spam, wonderful Spam, glorious Spam!"

Later on Friday, my daughter Cindy (from outstate) came for a visit along with her teenage son and her two granddaughters, 4 and 5. They helped me by eating Thanksgiving leftovers for supper.

On Saturday morning, I made pancakes for breakfast. Since I didn't have any bacon or sausage, (and turkey for breakfast is just out of the question) I opened a can of Spam, sliced and fried it. The two little girls were just nuts for it! They had never eaten Spam before and gobbled it up with gusto.

They obviously have Viking blood. I am sooo proud!

Friday, November 28, 2008

A Fresh Outlook on Christmas

At Thanksgiving dinner yesterday, the family and friends gathered at my dining room table were discussing how different Christmas will be this year. With the economic climate so uncertain, we all agreed to cutback on gift giving this year.

Today is Black Friday--the day when the shopping madness begins. We will have none of it! This year we will practice restraint and limit our spending (except where the little kids are concerned). We are in a recession, people are hurting and no matter how good your income is,
flamboyant, luxurious gifts are just plain tacky.

What I find surprising is that everyone is so up-beat about it. The anticipation of a frugal Christmas and giving simple, homemade gifts seems to really inspire everyone. So, this year, the trendy thing to do is Cheap Out!

Who'd of thought!

Sunday, November 23, 2008

God bless Cool Whip!

What can I say about the blessings of Cool Whip? There it sits in the fridge in it's pristine white container--so easily accessible. You can drop a dab on your chocolate pudding cup, peaches or Jello, then sit back and revel in the sensuality of it all.

Back in the "pre-Cool Whip" days, having a creamy, fluffy white topping on your dessert was a luxury reserved for special occasions like having company or Sunday dinner. It required planning ahead and precise timing.

First, you had to remember to buy the whipping cream. You had to keep it cold in the refrigerator and keep the family from sneaking it into their coffee.
Then, when you made your special meal (probably mashed potatoes with chicken or roast beef) you had to remember to wash the potatoes off the beaters right away. If you forgot, the dried-on potatoes would screw up the timing to the point of desperation.
So, you had the beaters clean, the bowl and beater at the ready, the cream in the fridge.
You could sit down to eat with your guests. When the dinner started winding down, you had to jump up to make the whipped cream. (If you whipped the cream too far ahead of time, it would "weep"and collapse.)
After you put the chilled cream into a deep bowl, you could start the process. If you had an electric mixer it didn't take too long, but if you only had a manual "egg beater" it was a lot of work.
The tricky part was to whip the cream to just the right consistency without doing it too little or too much. Too little and you wind up with sloppy topping or too much, you have extra stiff topping larded with bits of butter.
After you had achieved the optimum of beautiful fluffiness, you added the sugar and vanilla.
If all went as planned, it was ready to serve at this point. The servings of dessert (say pumpkin pie) had to be lined up and ready for the piece de resistance--a dollop of whipped cream and trotted to the table immediately.

The memory of it leaves me breathless!

Now, with our ever-ready tub of Cool Whip, we enjoy the extravagance of beautiful white fluffy stuff without all that stress. (OK, so Cool Whip will never replace the epicurean delight of real whipped cream, believe me, I can deal with it!)

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Thanksgiving looms large on the calendar

Yes, it's only five days until Thanksgiving--that annual orgy of cooking and baking. This is the meal where you assemble your loved ones around the table and they eat in twenty minutes the food you labored over for hours and hours. And, I always enjoy it.

The menu has not changed much since I was a kid--we're very traditional.
We have Roast turkey and stuffing (Pepperidge Farm)
Salmon for the vegetarians
Mashed potatoes and gravy
Green bean casserole (Classic recipe)
Sweet potato & apple casserole (Recipe below)
Jellied cranberries (Canned)
Dinner Rolls and butter
Relish tray
Pumpkin pie and Cool Whip

Here is my recipe:
3 large peeled and cooked sweet potatoes
OR 2 large cans sweet potatoes
3 medium apples (I use golden delicious)
2 c apple juice
1/2 c brown sugar (optional)
3 T cornstarch

Peel and slice apples and then slice sweet potatoes to uniform size. Alternate layers of each in a casserole dish starting and ending with the sweet potatoes.

Take 1-1/2 of the 2 cups of apple juice and put in small saucepan. Add the cornstarch to the remaining 1/2 cup of juice and stir till dissolved. Bring the juice to a boil and stir in cornstarch mixture till it's thick and smooth. (Add more juice if it's too thick.) Add sugar, if desired.

Pour the apple juice mixture over the casserole and settle. Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes to an hour. This can be made ahead of time and reheated. This is a no-fat recipe.

Friday, November 21, 2008


No kidding! "Meh" has just been added to an English dictionary. According to the sources, the word grew in popularity after a Simpson's episode back in 2001. Homer suggests a day trip to Bart and Lisa as they're watching TV. They just respond, "Meh", and keep watching. The word hopped over to England where it has been embraced by language experts.

So here it is, the word we've been waiting for, the perfect response to those annoying, half-
hearted questions there's no all-purpose answer to. Just look how quick and easy this is when you're on the fly:

"How do you like the new TV season?" ...Meh

"How's it going?" ...Meh

"How'd your garden do this year?"...Meh

This word really fills a gap in our vernacular. Up until now, we have been restricted to only polite and positive comebacks like "OK" or "Fine". Now, we have a negative option when we want to be more honest. We can just say "Meh". I, for one, love it!

MEH: Interjection, expression of indifference or boredom.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

How does your house smell?

OK, I really don't fact, I can't smell much of anything. I can clean the cats' litter boxes without a whiff of unpleasantness. No kidding--if my house smells or your house smells, I don't
know the difference.

Yet, we are daily bombarded with TV ads for home air fresheners. Here we are in a recession and folks are worried about getting through the Christmas season, and what do they want us to buy? Air Wick, Febreze and Glade! Products promoted as the smell of happiness.

Aroma therapy for the masses!

C'mon folks, food shelves are going begging for donations. It's time to get our priorities straight.
Let your house smell like your own cooking and baking (or whatever) and give the money you save to the Food Shelf.

Next time: Meh