Wednesday, December 31, 2008
I bought it at Rosedale, a St. Paul suburban mall, in 1991 or so. The store used to have red plaid carpet and smelled woodsy or something. I can't recall specifically, but I thought I was shopping the big time -- somewhere your grandfather would have gone for a good coat before his Grand Tour of Europe.
It was a big purchase for me, sucking up a hunk of just-out-of-college funds. I was really excited to shop in an "older" store like that. My usual route was Express or Limited, but I thought I was ready to class it up a bit for my new career wardrobe.
In the end, I never really had a career and Ambercrombie! sells tiny t-shirts, sweatshirts and ripped jeans (Frankly, I don't know. It's been a long time since I've been in there. Those windowless stores scare me.) But I still have the sweater. It's a nice sweater. A classy sweater.
And I guess I do wear it to "work."
Tuesday, December 30, 2008
By Saturday there was nothing left to eat in the house but the peanuts from Colin's chamber of commerce bag*, a broken candy cane and a dried out piece of lefse**. When they saw there was no more food, the older set of Big Daddy's children packed up their trusty Ford Tempo and headed for another Christmas. Big Daddy had a gig with his band The Velvet Brass (yes, really) and so the boys and I were left in the dust and the ribbons by ourselves.
I moved the younger boys back to their own beds and we all passed out cold. The holidays can take a lot out of quiet people like we are.
Santa brought a Wii. It was purchased before we realized the recession was going to hit us personally, which was a beautiful thing. My little Wii person cannot golf or bowl much better than I can in real life, but I am having a really fun time trying. It's keeping us very busy.
It was such a fun thing to be all together. Living in the same town as our parents and siblings, I guess we see each other quite a bit anyway, but not very often in a deliberate way. We pass one another on the way to church or we drop a grandchild off or we meet for a quick Caribou because we're in town. We managed to play a few games together and shop together and sing together and eat, of course. (No one touched my beleaguered fruitcake at my in-laws but my family scarfed it down. I'm not sure what that means. It turned out pretty good.)
Is it wrong to say, I am a little bit glad it's over, though?
* Maybe, dear friend or loved one, you've never had a chamber of commerce or Sunday School bag at Christmas time. Poor you. You must have grown up in the cold, hard city. It's a brown paper lunch bag filled with peanuts in the shell, candy, a candy cane and an apple. I don't know what to tell you, they are always the same. I have yet to see a kid eat the peanuts out of that bag.
** Perhaps, dear friend or loved one, you live in an area that does not eat lefse at holiday time. Really and truly, poor you. I have heard that Scandinavians no longer eat it and it really is too bad. It is a thin potato pancake of sorts eaten warm or cold. Honestly, it is just a vessel for butter and sugar. Out here in Boondocks, Minnesota, our Swedish grandmothers made it. We buy it at the store.
Monday, December 22, 2008
Here is a photo for Sheri who said she would like to see more photos of the food:
The problem is I don't know when to stop. It starts while I am licking the spoon while making the caramel. There is a point in this process when I say, "You must stop licking the spoon. You are going to scald your tongue off." But I just never listen to myself. Burnt tongue. Then when I am pouring it out of the bags onto the parchment paper I say to myself, "Do not pick this up now. You will burn your fingers and your tongue if there's anything left." I don't know what to tell you. It is worth the pain. Worth it!!
Once you start eating the caramely Chex Mix . . . well, if you start early in the day it may be the only thing you eat. I'm just saying. Be careful.
As a side note, our dear reader-friend Robyn asked me today if there really is a Cathy or if she is just my cooking persona. This would have been a brilliant idea and I am a little sorry I did not think of it, but -- no -- there really is a Cathy and without consulting her at all, I began a blog in her name. As we speak I am trying to convince her boys to secretly email a photo of her to post there.
I think I would have named my cooking persona something French -- Celeste, perhaps.
Friday, December 19, 2008
As extreme as Arizona and Minnesota can be, they are home :)
Well, shoot. That's it, isn't it? I'm home here among my own people -- the frozen lake driving fisher people; the Lion/Rotary/Shriner "pancake feed" makers; the Bohemian (literally) kissing cousins; the hardanger, rosemaling grandmas (except for mine, of course); the polka wedding dances. Here we all are, and we all know what to do: 1. Put the winter gear in the car.
So now I am hoping that I have passed through all the stages of grief that comes with the onset of winter. Let's check:
1. Denial - "It's not winter yet. We can still grill. Just put it in the garage."
2. Anger - "WHY DO WE LIVE HERE?! IT'S NOT EVEN THAT NICE IN SUMMER. I AM MOVING WITH OR WITHOUT YOU!!"
3. Bargaining - "If we go to Florida at the beginning of March, it will be halfway from Christmas and halfway to spring."
4. Depression - "I'm not getting out of bed today. It's too cold. I won't be warm again until June."
5. Acceptance - "What doesn't kill us -- and this winter certainly could -- will make us stronger."
Yes, I think I'm ready now.
I guess I'll have a pop while I make some bars to serve with tonight's hotdish. (Non-Minnesotan friends if you need help with translation, just let me know.)
Thursday, December 18, 2008
A friend of mine went up to her after Colin was born to congratulate her on becoming a great-grandmother. "Ah . . . um . . . yes," was her reply. Well, we took to calling her G.G. for great-grandma and she spells it Gigi.
I've always admired my grandmother a lot. While other little kids were visiting their grandmas and baking cookies and learning how to knit, I was touring Gigi's office and learning origami. People are often surprised to learn that the reason I went to the college I did was because my grandmother worked there as head of publishing. Astonished looks I get for my "executive grandma."
When I was a small girl I was not allowed to play with Barbie. (If I haven't written a blog entry on that, I owe you one.) So I had the Sunshine Family. (Rock on, fellow 70s love children.) The family was Steve, Stephanie and Baby Sweets who lived in the woods and lived off the land and their love. Anyway, you could also buy the grandparent dolls. My grandma was horrified when she saw Grandma Sunshine's clothing of peasant dresses and long aprons. Gigi sewed her a complete 1970's grandma-on-the-go wardrobe of flowing, embellished afghans and polyester pantsuits.
About 10 years ago she had a brain aneurysm and was air lifted to a regional hospital. We thought she'd never be the same, but as soon as she woke up she was mad she'd paid for an expensive helicopter ride and couldn't remember it.
That's my Gigi.
Wednesday, December 17, 2008
Jeremy realizes that only in MN can he "wait for it to warm up to -10 deg" before shoveling the driveway.
This is true. It was -10 this morning which was good enough to send the kids back to school. I keep my cooking oil in a cupboard which backs up to an outside wall. In this sort of weather it starts to cloud. I ran to the neighborhood grocery store in clogs Monday, for the love of Pete, and had frozen heels by the time I got back.
Our sweet little reader Audrey has invited us to move down to Arizona, but here's the thing: Have you ever seen a Minnesotan in humidity? We fall to pieces. We melt. We are aghast that anyone should consider putting up with such horrid weather. "You can always put on another sweater," we say. "But there's only so much you can take off."
When I consider moving to another state -- and, say, enjoying a garden with more than the four varieties of plants and flowers that will grow in Zone 4 -- I wonder what I would have to gain. A longer mosquito season? Poisonous snakes? A hurricane season? A tornado season? (Yes, we have tornadoes here, but they aren't that bad compared to the rest of the country and you know it.)
My friend Patty is moving bakc to New Jersey after living here maybe 10 years. Since I have known her she has wanted nothing more than to get back to New Jersey. She did not understand our food, our language or our ability to drive on the ice. I love languages and it has been our running joke that she has been teaching me to speak Jersey. "Yo, Patty!" I say in my most stern tone of voice.
Well, 10 years later there she goes and she just can't stop crying. She is glad to go back to her own people, but it really is "Minnesota Nice" she says.
Yeah, you betcha.
Now I need to go put on another pair of socks.
Tuesday, December 16, 2008
Instead of a family photo, we have decided to include the x-rays from Jeremy's knee surgery. Fascinating, aren't they?! It was a real blood bath in there! Thank goodness he had Cute-as-a-bug (CAAB) up there with her. We like her soooo much better than the last one, but not quite as well as the one before that.
Shelby is doing well, I guess. She's a theatre major which we hope is fun for her. We're going to encourage her to learn a trade when she gets done. I hear there's a big call for border security now with all that passports to Canada business.
Colin has passed two books ahead of the girl who has piano lessons before him. I swear if I have to hear her play, "Pop goes the weasel" one more time . . . Oh! HA! I love to kid. She's a precious thing. I'm sure this is her week to finish that one up.
And thanks to Daniel we finally have finished all those child security projects we started when Colin was a baby. The other day he found a scissors and was cutting open his own bag of Ritz Bits.
Well, Brent and I stay out of trouble!! It's a big birthday/anniversary year for us. We're not getting any younger. Brent is going deaf. I had to scream at him to pass the popcorn at the movies the other day. Don't think we were very popular with our neighbors!!
Blessings and peace to you in 2009.
Okay, none of that's really true either except the knee surgery, the scissors and -- just really bless her little heart, she is so cute -- "Pop Goes the Weasel."
There are no girlfriends before CAAB, so we like her best and that's all there is to that, and Shelby is a theatre star.
Honestly, I gave up on the letter and just stuffed the picture cards alone. I feel sort of bad. I feel like I'm saying, "I'm sorry. I didn't even have time to write you a mass produced letter much less sign these by hand." You and I both know that's not true.
I'll try again next year.
Monday, December 15, 2008
Well, we got there and and were just getting ready to start when the Senior Pastor announced we would do the opening songs, let the preschoolers sing their Christmas songs and then go. Fine. Big Daddy and I were sort of on a date at that point. We stopped at Caribou for a coffee for the 13 miles drive home.
It was a little dicier going home than it was arriving. The wind had started to blow and it was drifting. This was made all the more interesting because the windshield wipers weren't really doing their job and Big Daddy couldn't really see.
Now BD drives an over sized American SUV. It's big. It's the kind of vehicle I curse when I try to back out of the Target parking lot in my small American sedan, but yesterday, that giant truck was all for me, 4-wheel drive all the way.
So there we are chugging along on our car date. I'm watching out my side and reporting if I think he's gone a little far to the right. There was a small car in front of us fish tailing along, which suddenly spun in the the lane of oncoming traffic. I was surprised to see, when the young woman came into view spinning out on the opposite side of us now, that she was talking on her cell phone and did not put it down.
Who, may I ask, will you be talking to who is so important that you cannot say, "I am sorry, but I need to throw the phone down and grasp my steering wheel with both hands because I am careening into oncoming traffic and endangering lives in both directions of the highway."
Saturday, December 13, 2008
Friday, December 12, 2008
Our Chief Babysitter "Andy" is on the wrestling team. I don't get it. Andy is a smart, well-versed, positive, interesting kind of kid and yet he's starving himself to meet his weight so he can roll around on a mat with another sweaty, hungry kid. I was in the wrestling annex in high school. I remember the smell. Yuck. Really? I'm not a huge follower of football but at least they are outside and have helmets and stuff. The smell sort of dissipates in the fall air.
I need another cup of coffee.
We were at school yesterday for Colin's "staffing." This is where we meet with Colin's entire team. There's the speech therapist, occupational therapist, social therapist, special ed coordinator, the principal, and his teacher -- who is "Andy's" mom, by the way. It's always a good meeting. They do awesome work in our school district, and we really couldn't be more pleased. Colin has worked with several of these people for his entire school career. He's had the same occupational therapist since preschool and she will be going with him to middle school next year. They are always full of high praise for Colin and even though I get misty when I have to sign the paper that says I understand that he's in special ed, I know that what they are doing is working. We are so proud of the hard work Colin has done.
I have to admit, though, that I can never get used to the tone of the meeting -- and now I understand this is the nature of the process -- in which they explain my own child to me. "Colin gets anxious over this . . ." As though I didn't know.
Thursday, December 11, 2008
1. Fresh Tree or Fake Tree
(2) Fake -- you can get more ornaments on that way .
2. Favorite Ornament
That's like asking me to choose a favorite child (Shelby). That's why I'm not very good at these lists. Probably this one. It's from a set my parents brought back from Germany when I was born. They've been on every tree I've ever known.
3. Favorite Christmas Song
I like "I heard the Bells on Christmas Day."
Then pealed the bells more loud and deep. God is not dead nor doth He sleep.
4. Favorite Tradition
Also Mrs. Claus used to bring underwear (I don't know what to tell you. She did.)
5. Favorite Gift Ever Received
Baby D. He was a little late, but I consider him a Christmas gift anyway.
6. Favorite Christmas Meal
We made a tasty prime rib last year.
7. Favorite Christmas Cookie
It's not a cookie. I enjoy a piece of lefse with brown AND white sugar.
8. Favorite Place To Be
9. Favorite Memory
My first Christmas present from Brent was a pair of gold earrings. He didn't quite have my style down yet, but I was so tickled I just wore them with pride all year.
10. Favorite Christmas Movie
We've already discussed this but I love "A Muppet Christmas Carol" for it's faithfulness to the book.
Wednesday, December 10, 2008
So sorry to hear about your tragic loss this year. We have had an amazing year! We took THREE lovely vacations. The children are doing OUTSTANDING work at school. Jeremy composed an entire opera which was preformed by the FARGO CENTER FOR THE PERFORMING ARTS! Shelby directed her first musical at the FARGO CENTER FOR THE PERFORMING ARTS! Colin plays the RECORDER!!Baby D just brings light and life to our home every single day. AND we are looking forward to 2009 being out BEST YEAR EVER!!
No. I am uncomfortable with that one. The only truths in that letter were the vacations, the outstanding work and the recorder . . . oh, fine, and Baby D on a good day.
Let's start over.
Dear person I only correspond with at holiday time:
Well, we survived another year. Brent got sick while traveling across eastern Montana. We didn't buy enough cake for my in-laws anniversary party. Baby D took a scissors to my lap top. I can only see half the screen. The dog died and Colin isn't particularly sorry. Jeremy's car stalled. Shelby's cell phone died and now she has to use Grandpa's.
Nice photos of your trip to Europe.
Okay. Well, that one is all true, but . . . I need to work on this more. There must be some sort of middle ground.
How many weeks do I have left? Like five or six, right?
Tuesday, December 9, 2008
If I met you on the airplane and you asked me what it was like to live in Minnesota, I would tell you about the quality of the people. Or maybe the beauty of our heritage. Perhaps how green it is in the summer. The rolling hills. The beautiful lakes. I would avoid discussing the weather unless you asked me specifically. Then I would say something like, "Oh, it's not that bad. You learn how to dress for it." And I would smile enthusiastically.
And I'd be lying.
It's cold here. Really, really cold.
The older I get, the less I understand how it was that my Swedish great-grandfather came into the harbor at New York City and beat a hasty path to a place that looked just like home. Where were the fliers for Florida? Arizona? California? What about my father's family. They're not even from here. What made them say, "Yes, Minnesota. That's where we shall settle and my great-granddaughter in her first born, family oriented, heritage loving way shall be imprisoned here all her days!"
Maybe that's a little harsh.
But it's cold here.
So I went downstairs today to look at my own graveyard of old coats. I had my mind set on finding a down coat from back when Eddie Bauer made warm coats. It's got a fur hood. I was thinking that's what I really needed -- a fur hood. I dug around a little and was giving Brent a bad time about all his coats in the graveyard when he came over to look, "Well, this one's not mine," he said. "Well, it's not mine!" I shot back. Without saying another word he grabbed the collar to show me the shiny, girly pin on the collar. That's not his. It must be mine.
I have NO memory of this coat. None. This isn't a pair of shorts or socks or a neck tie that you bought and then got shoved to the back of the drawer, it's a COAT. A big, furry COAT. I live in a state where it's possible to have outerwear you don't remember having.
And I wore it some day in the past. I put a shiny pin on it. I don't remember this.
Well, hooray!! It's like new to me! I went shopping in my own basement.
Monday, December 8, 2008
A man walks into a health food restaurant after a day at the office, sits down and orders a nice big dish of brown rice and stir-fry veggies. He grabs a handful of peanuts from the bowl on the counter by the cash register while he's waiting for his order, and as he starts to chew he hears a voice say, "That's a beautiful tie, is that silk? Very NICE choice!"
Wondering who would make such a strange comment, he looks around and doesn't see anyone near him who would've been speaking to him. With a shrug, he pops a few more peanuts into his mouth. Next he hears a voice, "Those shoes are stylin', my man. Are they Italian leather? They look GRRREAT!"
He whirls around to again but sees no one near him. He glances nervously around and then at his shoes, which he tucks self-consciously under the stool. A little weirded out, he grabs another handful of peanuts.
This time the voice continues with, "That suit looks FANTASTIC! Is it an Armani? Very nice!"
He immediately calls the waiter over and says, "Look. I keep hearing these voices telling me how great my tie, my shoes, and my suit look -- What's up with that? Am I GOING CRAZY??"
"Oh," the waiter nonchalantly replies, "those are just the peanuts."
"The PEANUTS?!?" the astonished man asks, staring at the bowl beside him. "Yes," replies the waiter, ". . . they're complimentary !!"
Saturday, December 6, 2008
So I read her blog regularly (It's down there in my list), and I was interested a couple of days ago when she invited women to comment on their insecurities. The questions had to do with listing your insecurities and, as a woman, what role have men played in them. Well, now, I am not stupid. I have father figure issues and I can just jump right up there and admit it, so I answered the questions. Yes, I have insecurities and, yes, I have made decisions in the past based on what I thought would gain the approval of the men in my life. (As a boring side note, I would like to say I don't think my husband really counts in that department because I think that is a different situation, and we can talk more about that later if you really want to.)
Anywho, I was just fascinated to read the other women's comments. Many, many of them said it's not men, it's other women. Many said they had issues with their appearance and the way they felt because of the way their mother, mother-in-law, sisters, friends treated them. Girls, do NOT tell me you don't know what they are talking about. I had to go back and make more comments. I think I've written an entry about this. (Lace up my Chuck Taylors and call me Rockii )
As I read these entry I thought of the women I have spoken to lately who ALL say the same thing, "I just can't figure out how to get along with other women." These are smart, lovely, funny women who feel like everybody else knows how to do it and they don't. Holy cats, I am starting to wonder.
I also thought about pants. In sixth or seventh grade the pretty, blond, popular Barbie-like girl in my class asked my best friend at the time why ever she would want to be my friend when I wore such weird pants. Every time I am in the dressing room trying on pants, I freak out. Are these pants weird?! It was 30 years ago!! Get over it!! I can be a snappy little dresser when I get the opportunity to leave the house. Yet I am still bound to the memory of what that child thought of me.
I sure hope Beth is going to devote some energy on this project.
Friday, December 5, 2008
Blah, blah, blah. Let's see . . . Baby D was comparably good yesterday. Colin had school concert that was very fine. (That's "certainly adequate" for my mom.) Brent had a hard day at work. Let's say now is not the best of economic times to own your own manufacturing company.
Huh. Cyberspace Sarah is so good at making those interesting lists. Maybe I could try that. Why don't I make a list of all the movies I need to watch at Christmas time:
1. White Christmas
2. Muppet Christmas Carol (I don't know what to tell you. It's very faithful to the book and Michael Caine sings. Sort of.)
Okay. That was dull. How about a list of all the places I'd like to be right now:
Okay. A list of my favorite desserts:
A list of my least favorite foods:
1. Marshmallows -- I think you knew that one.
I'm just out of ideas . . .
Thursday, December 4, 2008
They weren't done.
I have salvaged the ends of two of them. I guess the good news is the tiny bit of brandy my sister, Cyberspace Sarah, had left over from a ham a few years back will be enough to baste it for the next three weeks. The bad news is that I am really discouraged and this has done nothing to increase my sense of holiday cheer.
My little blog friend Margaret has taken a sabbatical from her blog to prepare her heart for Christmas. I admire that a lot. I don't feel much of a sense of holiday joy at all. I feel like we have gone screaming from Thanksgiving to Christmas without so much as a thank you Wampanoag Indians for coming. I thought maybe if I submerged myself in cookie baking/decorating/fruicake experimentation, I would feel more excited, but I can't even turn the Christmas XM station on yet. I'm feeling all Charlie Brown.
Maybe a sad looking little tree . . .
Wednesday, December 3, 2008
Mr. Pederson was the nicest man and a good shop teacher. The proof of this is that I enjoyed shop. Thanks to him, I can proudly say that I actually finished a Tandy Leathercraft wallet, a small stepping stool (well, honestly, most of the credit should belong to my shop partner Kevin McCrory) and, in case of national emergency or something, I could draft by hand.
Secondly, I mean no insult to his hair. His hairstyle would have been a throwback in the 70s and certainly was in the 80s. It was large and elaborate and involved a lot of what we might call "product" today. It was probably Brylcreem or something. I have no idea. There was a curl in the center of his forehead. At any rate, it worked on Mr. Pederson, and I mean that sincerely.
In other news, I am making fruitcake. Why? I don't know -- as part of my practice of the ancient art of home economics. I want to see if I can. Right now I am macerating dried fruit in rum. How bad could that be?
Tuesday, December 2, 2008
Baby D and I did NOT know what to do with ourselves. I put a few ornaments on our too large living room tree. Baby D took them off and played a bowling game with them. I drank that second cup of fully caffeinated coffee while Baby D sat and watch all of Monsters, Inc, like a good two year old. (Wait . . . foggy memory . . . pediatric academy something . . .no television . . . two years old . . .) Then we went upstairs to get dressed before BD came home for lunch. I got dressed. I got Baby D dressed and then he took off for -- what? two minutes? -- while I put a few things away. In that time Baby D went into the bathroom, opened up a jar of Vaseline and smeared it all over his hair. Great.
Downstairs to the kitchen sink we went. "I'll just wash his hair up quickly in the sink, " thought I. "No problem." As I carried him downstairs I discovered that his clothes were covered in Vaseline as well . . . and now so was I. "Okay," thought I. "We'll just wash up that hair and change our shirts. No problem." I must say Baby D was really most cooperative in the sink, but apparently I was asleep in every science class I ever took because Vaseline is an oil and oil and water don't mix. This is what makes Vaseline so effective in many uses like moisturizing your lips and such. So now Baby D and I are wet from head to toe from the hair washing, and there is still Vaseline in his hair.
I looked up our problem on the Internet. Apparently D is not the only toddler to have ever done this. There are a variety of solutions. I went with corn starch. It helped, but his hair still has an Ove Pederson style this morning. (For non-GHS grads, just picture your late 70s shop teacher.)