{ Blizzard-Ready}

We enjoyed Homeschool Ski and Snowboard Day last Monday.

Hyland Hills in Bloomington, Minnesota is a tame spot for beginning skiers, and the 26 degree January day was perfect.

Anyone walking in to the chalet could tell it was a homeschool event — crockpots were everywhere, and the air smelled like patchouli and lavender essential oils.

Now, we are bracing for more snow, and true to our nature, Minnesotans are frantically storming the grocery stores to stock up, like we may be snowed in for months.

I confess I left the house at 6:00 a.m., determined to beat long lines and the blizzard.

After being urged last night by one of my teenagers to get some “fun food,” (as opposed to gloomy, drudgerous food?) I grabbed a few essentials:

  • meat
  • kombucha
  • microwave popcorn
  • hot chocolate mix
  • coffee and herbal teas
  • heavy cream for the coffee
  • makings for soup and homemade no-knead bread. (Not the boring soups I usually make from leftovers) but Copycat Olive Garden soups, like Zuppa Toscana.

In addition to these staples, we are armed with *anti-cabin fever* activities:

  • Season 2 of Gilligan’s Island DVDs, purchased at GoodWill
  • Crispin: At the Edge of the World. I love the Crispin books by Avi, and I wish I’d known about these when we were studying the Middle Ages.
  • A new puzzle. This is our third Mudpuppy puzzle, and it’s Kaleido-Beetles! I like Mudpuppy puzzles because they have three pictures of the finished puzzle for reference as you go, making it easier for 3 or more people to work on the puzzle.

Other Mudpuppy puzzles we have ordered are the 1000-piece Ocean Life, 500-piece Songbirds and 500-piece Butterflies of North America.

I’m glad we are ready, because it’s starting to snow…

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{ Minnesota State Fair 2019 }

My husband saved his tips from driving Lyft so we could do the fair this year. ❤️

0After cruising up and down St. Paul streets and finally nabbing a parking space, we noticed the 1-hour parking sign. So we moved the car a few blocks away. Now, we needed a potty stop and we still had a one mile walk before we actually got to the Fairgrounds.We ducked into the nearest coffee shop for that potty stop, which ended up being the Finnish Bistro. 

 

 

finnish

While we were in line to order, a man came up to us and said, “Whatever you order, it’ll be good. Everything’s good here.” I had a Pulla latte, laced with almond syrup, nutmeg and cardamom. It was the most flavorful coffee drink I’ve ever had. 

 

St-_Anthony_Park_Branch_Library_2013-09-30_23-41-19We passed the quaint St. Anthony Park Library.

(Note to self: when you have time to spare, come back to the Finnish Bistro and check out the St. Anthony Park Library. What a cute little corner of St. Paul.)

After hiking east, we discovered that in the two years we’d skipped the MN State Fair, they had relocated the pedestrian entrance. More hiking.

(This sounds like a lot of hassle, but it’s always worth it. The Minnesota State Fair feeds, spins and entertains more people per day than any other state fair in the U.S.)

We bought our tickets, got our bags checked and finally added ourselves to the 2019 first-day-at-the-fair record attendance number of 133,326.

We joined the crowd-stream and landed at the Farmer’s Union, where Blueberry Key Lime Pie was a newcomer on the menu…but I just couldn’t pay $8 for this teeny tiny pie.

blueberry key lime pie

Did I mention we didn’t have a lot of cash? This can be a challenge at the MN State Fair. It’s taglined: The Great Minnesota Get Together, but another apt subtitle might be: The Great Minnesota Smorgasboard, because it’s. food. galore. here. 

And ya know…it’s kinda pricey.

There’s a brighter side of forced frugality: it makes you think: Do I really want this? before choosing. 

Though I ended up saying no to the blueberry key lime pie for $8, later on I ended up saying yes to the deep-fried bacon-wrapped-cream-cheese-filled olives for $9.

state fair mn olives

 

 

And it was worth it.

 

 

 

roasted corn2We stopped off for my husband’s go-to annual pick: roasted corn.

Roasted corn, held by its natural wrapping, earns points for frugality ($5).

Plus it’s nutritionally sound. (yawn.)

My husband had the best deal of the day: The Boss Man sandwich at The Hideaway, a cute little nook tucked inside the Grandstand. With shaved prime rib and hearty egg topped with melty white cheddar on ciabatta, $9 seemed like a steal. 

And then we did the cheap stuff:

  • Got our glucose levels checked, ate ice cream samples, and exchanged our personal information for free carabiners and shaker bottles. 
  • Sat and listened to music.
  • Watched people, people and more people.
  • Browsed the Creative Activities building for free beauty and inspiration. 

We also took in the amateur talent contest semifinals, the  #1 essential thing we never miss at the fair. Our favorite act: MKDC. They are an energetic, talented, charismatic K-Pop group who wowed the crowd, took first place, and advanced to the finals. 

21,588 steps later, we left the 2019 Minnesota State Fair with some cash still sitting in our pockets! 

 

 

 

big wheel
One of the tallest traveling giant Ferris wheels in North America is coming to the Minnesota State Fair! The Great Big Wheel carries riders to a height of 156 feet, offering breathtaking views of the State Fairgrounds and beyond! The 15-story-tall Great Big Wheel is equipped with 36 enclosed gondolas each holding six people. Don’t miss the spectacular lighting display as the sun goes down!

 

 

 

 

{ S’no More? & Sweeping Reforms }

There comes a point of acceptance.

I have been griping about the snow in my spirit –and aloud– and I have been groaning about how –or if –we can maneuver through our long and perilous driveway.

Today, I just looked at the snow falling gently down from the sky and thought:

“Well, then. Let it come.”

I’m strangely content today. I told everyone it’s a day to stay in our pajamas.  I baked up those cookie dough balls from the freezer that have survived the nibblers. And right now I’m making a double batch of brownies.

Has my body entered a state of hibernation — one where I’m subconsciously adding layers of fat to sustain me until the snow melts?

Is my mind slightly sedated, which would explain my docile–or perhaps numb–outlook on life?

Yesterday, however, was a day of sweeping reforms.

Do you find that your best ideas come to you early in the morning

Or late at night?

Or, perhaps in the middle of the night?

That happened to me yesterday as my clock rang early and I sat in a dark room.

Inspiration drifted down to me like a gentle, welcome snowfall, telling me:

We are too distracted by devices. We need to corral our dependence on phones and tablets. We need to organize our use of technology and vary our interests. Everyone seems to default to devices when they don’t have anything to do.  This is not how we started out. This will not help us.

So yesterday was a day to roll out the new rules.  Phone and tablets will stay in a basket in the middle of the table. We will use them from 3:00 to 4:00. There will be exceptions, of course, but this will be our goal. Surprisingly, it seemed as if everyone was relieved instead of being upset.

I told everyone we will have a contest to name our hour of device-using-time.

“How about Happy Hour?” I heard someone say.

~~~

There’s something truly beautiful about this snow.

It’s a clean, firm covering over everything that has finally surrendered to winter.

It’s a white quilt on an already fattened landscape.

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We have received an average of one inch plus per day of snow this last month — February, 2019. [40 inches total in February and we are getting more today, March 1st.]

{ Long Winter, Short Ballad }

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Lo, the sweet home lights are burning

They are burning clear and bright,

They twinkle and they beckon:

“Come home this cold, dark night!”

~~~

I see their beams not far away

Across the snowy sea

But alas, my car is anchored here

At driveway’s end, unfree —

~~~

The shovel, it doth twist and scrape

At waves of ice and snow

How long the van will sit here

I confess, I do not know.

~~~

The month of February 2019 has gifted Minnesotans with 31.5 inches of snow! 

(So far)

~~~

I sat in a heated car, thinking up this poem, while my dear son shoveled us out.

~~~
(There was only one shovel.)

{ Rhetorical Question, Anyone? }

My daughter and I were sitting in the kitchen, when I casually threw out the phrase: “rhetorical question” in conversation.

Suddenly, she reacted as if someone had scratched their fingernails down a chalkboard.

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With a smile, she admitted that misuse / overuse of the phrase is a current pet peeve of hers! Then, we enjoyed some friendly banter alternated with Google searches for the proper defining of “rhetorical question.”

Can you imagine having that as a pet peeve?*

[ Was that a rhetorical question*? see definition below. ]

I feel that my grievances are slightly more normal, but you may disagree:

  • Drips of dirty wet boot slush that stretch across a kitchen floor
  • Used dental floss and dental floss picks in places other than the garbage
  • Dryer lint left on top of the dryer
  • When people say “Aldi’s” instead of “Aldi” (Picky, I know)
  • Any song by Neil Diamond
  • An unnecessary apostrophe used in a word that happens to have an “S”. (Are you with me on that one, Sara?)

Speaking of literary terms, I experienced something rather ironic last night.

I was writing a health supplement article — late into the night. The article centered around melatonin, the hormone involved with the human sleep cycle. It’s fascinating how melatonin:

  • is produced when light decreases in one’s surroundings
  • is released by an amazing, intricate system in the body which includes the optic nerve sensing a lack of light and sending proper signals to the brain
  • is intertwined with our circadian rhythm of sleep and wakefulness

 

I will get to the irony, but I must interject here that reading and writing about melatonin and the intricate workings of the human body reminded me that:

My Creator is an unparalleled engineer, masterpiecing to the rhythms and designs He’s planted everywhere in His creation!

Now back to the irony:

I wrote far too late into the early morning hours — disrupting pools of melatonin, I’m sure.

And, after completing the article on sleep, I proceeded to have the worst night of sleep I’ve had in years. Cold toes, unsatisfying pillow placement, hearing mysterious noises — the whole works.

How ironic, eh?*

What’s your pet peeve? Perhaps your list includes: blog posts where people whine about a poor night’s sleep, don’t get to the point, or make lists of unsolicited facts about body chemicals? Or people who scatter dashes and ellipses like grass seed? Care to share?

*rhetorical question: a question asked in order to create a dramatic effect or to make a point rather than to get an answer.

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{ Polar Vortex, Wind Chill & Lots of Real Good Sauce}

polarvortexmap
“Deadly polar vortex blasts Midwest with record-breaking cold, forecasters warn to ‘minimize talking’ outdoors… This is way colder than your typical cold front. The polar vortex has shifted, sending an incredible combo of very low temps and wind chills to the Upper Midwest…” — quote from news headlines today

Last night our washing machine didn’t work — the water had frozen inside the pipes.

We thawed them, but to keep the water flowing well, I planned to:

  • Get up at midnight and do some laundry.
  • Get up once more during the night and do more laundry.

The second nocturnal laundry phase found the water frozen-in-the-pipes again. But I was already wide awake at 3:30 a.m. So I took a hot, cozy shower, made a cup of coffee, and enjoyed the backdrop of a quiet house in which to complete a project.

During the frigid, early morning hours, I snapped this photo of the thermometer outside our window.

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Like a true Minnesotan, I will quantify the minus 20 degrees and add: “It was really twice as cold when you add the wind chill factor.”

Out of our four working young adults, none went to work today. This was due to cancellations and cars not starting. It was great to have them home.

Out of necessity (always, it seems, out of necessity) I concocted a hurry-up-and-make-dinner recipe. After tasting, my son said:

“See? This is how I like chicken! Not dry and with lots of real good sauce.

(I will take that as a compliment, and not read into it.)

Today, it was e x t r e m e l y. cold outside.

But I am thankful that it’s warm and happy indoors.

Quick Tandoori Chicken with Lots of Real Good Sauce

4 -6 chicken breasts, cut the way you like them or leave them whole

2 cups full fat plain Greek yogurt

1 teaspoon curry powder

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

1/2 teaspoon ground coriander

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon pepper

olive oil

  1. Drizzle olive oil in the bottom of a 13 x 9 glass pan.
  2. Place chicken pieces in the pan.
  3. Mix spices with the yogurt in a separate bowl.
  4. Spread yogurt evenly over chicken pieces.
  5. Bake at 350 degrees, uncovered, for approximately 35 minutes, or until chicken is done.
  6. Serve with Basmati rice.

(c) Lisa M. Luciano

Weather map: https://www.foxnews.com/us/deadly-polar-vortex-blasts-midwest-with-record-breaking-cold-forecasters-warn-to-minimize-talking-outdoors

{Abstruse & Scurvy-Free: Saturday Rambles}

pills-3114364__340

I mentioned last time that I had finished writing another health article — long by my standards– at 1800 words. These long-winded articles are all about health supplements. These are not household words like protein or gluten. Their names are abstruse and often separated by hyphens. I am a blank slate when it comes to knowing anything about L-pyroglutamatic acid or L-phenylalanine.

By the end of my 1800 words, I did learn how to spell phenylalanine — I just remembered the “lala” in the middle.

herbal-163891__340
I start collecting article info by Googling: “L-pyroglutamatic acid for Dummies” then Googling “L-pyroglutamatic acid for kids.” This gives me usable, chewable information, allowing me to begin writing.

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When it comes to health supplements, I am very impressionable…every article completion has so far wrapped up with my purchase of some health supplement.
This time I was writing about L-proline, which is a key ingredient in collagen. Collagen is what gives our skin structure and elasticity. Several amino acids go into the production of collagen. Vitamin C also plays a huge part in the formation of collagen, so when we don’t get enough vitamin C, our body can’t make the collagen we need. Our skin suffers, our intestines are prone to aeration, and left without collagen, our blood vessels would collapse.

So fascinating how God designed our intelligent bodies — the organs, enzymes, and amino acids are so needful of what we eat but everything (temporarily) covers for us when we take in junk. These articles leave me in awe of God’s creation.

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At the same time, they leave me craving things like lean protein, cabbage, berries and vitamin C. I feel like I am finally grabbing hold of such important tidbits of knowledge, such as what scurvy did to all those unfortunate sailors we learned about back in school. (Was that in history class or health class?)


Today, I’m looking forward to the Amazon package that should be in the mailbox today, holding a few jars of encapsulated, raw Vitamin C.

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On a completely different note, it’s Minnesota Hockey Day and my son just left to play in a hockey tournament, in weather under 10 degrees.

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I feel safer here inside with my L-pyroglutamic acid, phenylalanine and big cup of hot coffee.

Son gave me a hug goodbye; I handed him a protein bar and said, “Bye…have fun…make them be nice to you.”
No, Mama,” he said with a smile.

I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well. Psalm 139:14

————————————————————————————————-

Photo Credits:

Dose JuiceThato Lehoko

Pixabay

{Extreme Sports & Me }

The children pooled funds to give my husband a birthday gift certificate.

They knew he would like an exciting adventure, and ziplining at the Kerfoot Canopy Tour is that kind of experience.

The course features 15 consecutive ziplines through beautiful wooded areas.

Screenshot_20180726-110719_2 (1)

Zipping down cables that are 175 feet high over treetops is something I would love to watch my husband accomplish.

  • I would sit with a cup of coffee on a cozy sofa as he popped in the DVD.
  • I would point and smile in amazed admiration.
  • I would applaud his agility and bravery.

I suggested that our oldest son might like to redeem the zipline certificate with him.  Or maybe one of our daughters? Then, I volunteered that we could all drive down together on Father’s Day and watch him conquer the zipline course.

I’m not sure what happened, but yesterday, I found myself strapped into ziplining gear, helmet on head.

The guides announced that we should all use the porta-potty, because it was the last bathroom stop for the next 2.5 hours.

No available restrooms may have been the scariest threat of the whole day.

Screenshot_20180726-145907_2
This is a shot of us wearing our zipline gear, minus the gloves.

Our guides drove the ATV up the bumpy hill.

“This IS scary.” I teased my husband as we slowed down, reaching GROUND SCHOOL.

Here we learned how to leave our Y-straps alone, attach our trolleys and brake with our gloved hands.

Technically, we were ready.

After completing our first set of ziplines, we tiptoed up a triple spiral staircase to the KONG zipline.  It is 900 feet long and the highest zipline in the course (175 feet above ground.)

One group member opted out and headed back.

I, too, was assaulted by typical zipline fears at this point.

At least I think these are typical…isn’t it normal to be thinking:

  • What if my trolley mechanism fails?
  • What if my harness breaks?
  • What if the cable snaps?
  • What if I fall and am speared by one of those picturesque pine trees?
  • What will my obituary say?

I placated those annoying fears…and none of that happened.

My husband seemed to have the time of his life — getting a little crazy with his no-handed cannonballs.

Me?  I followed the rules.

It was a memorable day with my fun-loving, thrill-welcoming husband.

(But I was glad to get back on the ground –where the bathrooms were.)

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Word of the Day: https://wordofthedaychallenge.wordpress.com/2018/07/27/placate/

 

 

 

 

{ Betsy & Laura}

When I tiptoe into

Betsy’s Deep Valley home

Or Laura Ingalls’ dugout

There’s magic

And melancholy.

 

Long-Ago and Right-Now

Mix inside my heart

like oil and water

 

I seek

proof,

connection,

and solace

 

These treasures are surprises,

As miraculous

as discovering

artifacts in Betsy’s cellar

or a forgotten

slate pencil lodged

Within the banks of Plum Creek.

 

I grasp ghosts

Snugly trapped in time —

Forever bound in

Favorite books

 

I see Betsy and Laura —

They are as close as the Big Hill

And the ripples of Plum Creek —

But as far away as the moon.

 

 

 

© Lisa M. Luciano

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Today we visited the childhood home of Maud Hart Lovelace, who wrote the Betsy-Tacy book series.  Mankato Minnesota — July 2018

Inspired by the Betsy-Tacy tour and because I also felt this when visiting Walnut Grove years ago (even though I was dressed in calico and a sunbonnet.)

Does anyone else feel a bit of magic and melancholy when visiting the historic place of a favorite person? Comments welcome 🙂

Word Prompt of the Day:  SOLACE

 

 

 

 

{ It’s Weduation Season Again.}

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This is not from my era.

When I was growing up, high school graduates had modest open houses.

Small numbers of close friends and grownups trickled in to eat snacks, give gifts, and ask THE QUESTION:

“So, what will you be doing next year?”

Now — at least in our community — a graduation open house is more like a mini-wedding reception.

It differs from a wedding reception mainly because:

  • Only one person’s smile muscles get tired.
  • The food is cheaper.
  • There’s no honeymoon.

But the hubbub, the invitations, the gifts – all very reception-like.

graduation cake stickers
Our cake will not be this fancy or impressive.

With helpful volunteers and nice friends who lend out their coffee pots, we have survived three graduation extravaganzas.

Number Four is staring us in the face – and it’s at the end of May.

I’m actually a little behind already.

We’ve encountered a problem, which centers around the graduate’s photos and invitation.

Graduation photos sound so easy.

  • Take a bunch of photos.
  • Pick one where the graduate looks cool and smart.
  • Make a graduation open house invitation with it.
  • Send it off a month or more before the event.

But we put off taking his photos.  With summer and fall behind us, we thought a spring photo shoot would work.

Not in Minnesota.  Not in April.  Not when you get a foot of snow abruptly dumped on you.

  1. So, the snowy April photo shoot was COLD — about 9 degrees with windchill. The graduate’s face matched his blue shirt in most of the photos.
  2. More disturbing than that, his fists were tightly & painfully clenched, as he tried to retain warmth in his cool-looking, but thin shirt.
  3. Even worse than that, his fist-clenching was uneven, resulting in a protruding middle finger.

Someone said, “Oh, no one will notice the finger.”

I can name every single uncle that will not only notice, but will mention it every year for the rest of this kid’s life.

The invitations — with a new photo– will be embarassingly late, but they are on order.

© Lisa M. Luciano

 

Photo credits: 

https://envisioningtheamericandream.com/2012/06/08/graduation-red-letter-day/

http://www.fillyourheartediblememories.com/Graduation-Cap-Strips-p362.html