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Advice Dumb Shit I Do Minnesota Things I Really Like Winter

Storing Geraniums over the Winter

October 13, 2016
Storing Geraniums over the Winter

Did you know you’re supposed to be storing geraniums over the winter? Did you know that these incredibly hardy plants can last for decades if stored properly? That’s right, there is no need to purchase new geraniums each year. Geraniums are actually perennials even though they are grown as annuals in many parts of the country.

I love geraniums because their blooms are bursting with color that seem to last well into the fall. Geraniums have a lovely, delicate fragrance and it’s really challenging to kill them. They can handle being over-watered and under-watered. If you have a cabin up north, you don’t need to worry about hiring the neighbor kid to water them while you’re away for the weekend. They’ll endure under considerable neglect.

Storing Geraniums over the Winter

Overwintering geraniums is pretty easy. There are three ways to store your geraniums: keep them blooming and growing, letting them go dormant and making cuttings from them. I prefer letting my geraniums go dormant because it’s the easiest way.

Potted Geraniums – This method is generally for geraniums that have been planted in the ground during the growing season. Dig up the plant and place in a put with ample room for the rootball. Prune it back a bit and water thoroughly. Keep the plant in a cool and well lit area in your home. You’ll want as much sunlight as possible so a southern facing window works well. There still may not be enough light so the plant may get a little spindly or leggy. You can use a plant light if you prefer.

storing geraniums over the winter

Make them go Dormant – This is my preferred method of wintering my geraniums, mostly because it is the easiest and because I have a cat who eats houseplants. Many sites will tell you to water the plant during its dormancy, and that may work. I don’t bother. I pull the pots in before the first freeze and place them all in a dark area of the basement. I actually put them in an unused shower in the basement so I can shut the door and keep the cat out.

I don’t think about the plants until spring. Let me repeat that. I don’t water them, I don’t hang them upside down and I don’t let them have any light. They are out of sight and out of mind.

When spring comes I bring them outside into the shade at first, and soak them as they are moved into more and more light. After about a week I put them back into direct sunlight and pretty much forget about them until fall when it’s time to overwinter them again. Of course I prune them each season and clip any dead blooms off the plant. I’ve used this method for over 15 years and have beautiful geraniums.

Storing geraniums for the winter

Cuttings – I’ve made cuttings from many plants, but not geraniums. I’m sure it works wonderfully because the plant is so hardy, I just haven’t had a reason to do it yet. Basically cut 3 or 4 inch cuttings and remove any leaves from the bottom of the cutting. Place into a pot filled with vermiculite. Make sure the drainage is good. You can place the cutting into a plastic bag to keep the cutting humid. Rooting should happen in about 6 to 8 weeks. Once they have rooted repot them into potting soil. Keep them in a cool well lit place until it’s warm enough to put them outside.

Pretty simple. Geraniums are one of my all time favorite flowers because they are so easy to care for, and their stunning blooms last and last.

Kids Minnesota Things I Really Like Winter

Easy Winter Accessories Organization

October 11, 2016
Easy Winter Accessories Organization

I love this easy winter accessories organization hack! In Minnesota we’re never sure when winter will start or when it will end, but keeping all the hats, scarves, mittens and gloves out gets sloppy and takes up too much room by the back door. So I created this easy winter accessories organizer and put it where we keep all the boots and coats.

Prior to this household hack I simply used an old Trader Joe’s shopping bag to store all the winter gloves, hats and mittens in. The problem with using a bag was that you’d have to dig through it each time you wanted a pair to wear.

That usually meant, especially if you are a smallish child, dumping the contents out, rifling through it all and then leaving with mismatched mittens because there was no way to know if the mates were in the bag when you only had seconds before you missed the bus.

Easy Winter Accessories Organization

I used a standard over the door shoe organizer and filled it with hats, gloves, mittens, and scarves. Mostly hats because those don’t get lost as easily as gloves and mittens.

As you can see, there’s plenty of room in each compartment to fit two or three hats and several pairs of gloves and mittens. I even manages to fit the dog’s sweater in one of the compartments.

This way, you can see which mittens have mates and which hat goes with which scarf or pair of gloves.

As you can see, I have several compartments left over. I was thinking I could put wool socks in those as well as hand warmers and ear muffs if I can ever remember where I put those last spring.

By keeping the organizer with the boots and coats, the kids are encouraged to keep all their winter gear in one spot instead of creating a trail of clothing as they walk in the door. Less to clean up and less to lose.

 

Minnesota People Things that piss me off

No Closure for the Wetterlings

September 6, 2016

While Jacob Wetterling’s remains have been found, there will be no closure for the Wetterlings. Over the weekend news sites and social media have been filled with articles about Jacob Wetterling. Jacob Wetterling’s remains were found this past weekend when the man who is suspected of abducting Jacob led authorities to his remains. I know better, but I looked at the comments. All of the comments were condolences to the family, many of them included the word “closure”. As in “now that he has been found, the family can have some closure”.

There will be no closure for the Wetterlings, or anyone else who suffers such a tragic and senseless act. Closure is a myth. The Wetterlings know what happened to their son, but I’m not sure that’s better than not knowing.

In the days to come we will learn how Jacob died, if he was sexually assaulted, if he was tortured, and how long he may have lived with the monster who abducted him. I spent all weekend thinking about Jacob. I wasn’t sure I wanted to know any of these details. Jacob has always been a happy boy wearing a bright yellow shirt and smiling for the camera. I don’t want to imagine him terrified and cold as he must realize what is going to happen to him.

I don’t want to know and yet I feel it is my duty to know. As a parent, a Minnesotan, a human being, it is our duty to learn the details of Jacob’s death. Not out of morbid curiosity, but as a show of support to his family. We must attempt to carry some of the pain caused by this monster, Danny Heinrich. The Wetterlings have given so much over the years, it is the least we can do.

As I write this there are reports that Danny Heinrich has accepted a plea deal and has given accounts of what happened that day 27 years ago.

From Kare11

The defendant described how he handcuffed Jacob and put him in the passenger seat of his car. Heinrich had a police scanner in his vehicle, and after hearing police respond to the kidnapping he decided he’d better drive back to Paynesville. He recalled Jacob at one point asking him, “What did I do wrong?” He took a series of backroads that wound through small central Minnesota communities until he reached a sewage pond road and drove to a gravel pit by a grove of trees. There, he forced Jacob to disrobe and masturbate him until the boy told Heinrich he was cold.

Jacob asked to be taken home, but Heinrich recalls telling the boy it was too far. On the way back to the car he noticed a police cruiser on the road nearby. Heinrich said he panicked, pulled his revolver and put two rounds inside. “I raised the revolver to his head, clicked once with no bullet in the chamber. Shot him twice after that. ” He admitted firing into the back of Jacob’s head after asking the boy to turn around so he could go to the bathroom.

The details got worse. Heinrich described how Jacob was still crying after the first shot, so he fired again. 

Knowing what happened doesn’t make it all better. Finally knowing Jacob won’t be coming home ever, doesn’t provide closure.

As a mother I can only imagine what the Wetterlings are going through now that they do know Jacob will never come home. The constant questioning – Could we have done more?, Could we have prevented this? – those questions will haunt them now as it has these past 27 years.

There will be no closure for the Wetterlings, they’ve just entered a new kind of hell. Now that they know what happened they will likely play out that scene in their imagination when it’s quiet and they are not occupied. I hope they can find the necessary support to help prevent that from happening. As a mother my imagination is vivid. To this day I replay an accident my son had when he was 3 years old. One in which I was not present. I cringe each time because I was not there to prevent it or to comfort him in his pain. I have to actively push the thought out of my head – and it isn’t always easy, in fact it rarely is. I can only imagine how difficult it must be for Jacob’s parents.

We parent differently because of what happened to Jacob. I was 23 when Jacob went missing, I was engage and about to start my own family. In fact a few years later I would meet Patty Wetterling. Her mother was a patient of my father and Patty escorted her mom to the appointments. I worked in his office and was pregnant at the time, I recall marveling at Patty Wetterling’s grace and generosity.

She smiled, she was friendly, she chatted with other patients and the staff. She was not some tragic figure, she had a mission – to find her son – but she also learned that life keeps moving. When the child I was carrying died, I would think often about Patty Wetterling. If she can get through each day, I thought, certainly I can too.

My daughter died of natural causes and yet there isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t think of her and wonder if there was something I could have done differently to prevent her death. While Patty and Jerry have a deep well of memories to draw from of Jacob, the what-might-have-been probably will always cast a long shadow.

There is no closure, and I’m not sure anyone who loses a child or suffers a similar loss, would want it. Closure might work at the end of a marriage, but I don’t see it as even a desirable thing in this situation. Closure means to let go, to move on and move away. It means forgetting even if the things remembered are excruciatingly painful. As a parent I would want to hold on to all of that, even the horrible things, because that is all that is left.

We don’t have to look for Jacob anymore, maybe that’s what they meant by closure? But the fight isn’t over. The Wetterlings have made many positive changes for families who have children who go missing. They helped create the Amber Alert that has saved so many kids from terrible endings. I assume they will continue with this work even though they no longer have to search for their child.

I hope they can find peace, I hope they will continue to smile and laugh and find joy in this world.

 

 

 

Events Minnesota politics Things that piss me off WTF?

Summer in Minnesota 2016: We Lost Prince and Found Jacob

September 5, 2016
We Lost Prince and Found Jacob

They say this decade, the 2010s, has been pretty crappy for those who came of age during the 80s, we’ve lost so many of our icons. If that’s true, then this summer has truly epitomized that sentiment, especially for Minnesotans.

This Summer We Lost Prince and Found Jacob

Summer 2016 has been a roller coaster ride. While not officially summer, it was warm (and that’s close enough for those of us who spend 6 months of the year shoveling snow and enduring temperatures below freezing) when we learned that Prince had died of an opioid overdose, alone, at Paisley Park. It was a horribly senseless and tragic death. Wasteful. So much talent wasted due to addiction. That he was trying to get help when it happened made it even more tragic. We mourned, with the rest of the nation, for all the gifts he gave us. We sang and we danced, and we grieved.

(from Wikipedia)

(from Wikipedia)

Many superstars have passed during my lifetime, some of the biggest in recent memory including Whitney Houston and Michael Jackson, but none seemed to sting as badly as the loss of Prince. While the rest of the nation, and world for that matter, moved on, in Minnesota we continued to honor Prince with tribute concerts and celebrations. On August 26th, we celebrated Unite in Purple at the Minnesota State Fair, a night of music, dance and fireworks to celebrate the life of a legend. A few days later The Revolution gathered one more time at First Avenue to pay tribute to Prince.

This summer our presidential election was in full swing. Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump raced to the bottom of the election. They have both lowered the bar to unimaginable depths. It’s a sad state of things when you have to choose the lesser of two evils, you’re still choosing evil. God help us come November.

Two days after we celebrated the birth of our nation Philando Castille was shot by a police officer during a traffic stop that was anything but routine. The aftermath was posted live on Facebook by his girlfriend, Diamond Reynolds, as her daughter tried to comfort her from the back seat. Protests, mostly peaceful, led the news this summer. Traffic was shut down on I-94 and in front of the Governor’s residence on Summit Avenue as people tried to change the world.

justice for Philando

(Jennifer Brown)

Ironically, it was a video game that got all of us outside this summer. Pokémon Go got the kids, and adults out from in front of their computer screens and into the streets looking for digital monsters. It has been decades since neighborhoods had been filled with kids outside playing. It was wonderful, and poignant.

Labor Day weekend we learned that Jacob had been found. Jacob Wetterling had gone missing 27 years ago.  A parent’s worst nightmare, he was abducted at gun point while riding bikes with his brother and a friend October 22nd, 1989. Jacob was one of the reasons kids didn’t play outside anymore. If a kid could go missing in America’s heartland, no place was safe. We kept our kids close.

We’d gotten our hopes up many times in the last 27 years, so many of us were skeptical that he had really been found. Sadly, within hours his mother, Patty Wetterling, confirmed what we had feared all these years.

(National Center for Missing and Exploited Children)

(National Center for Missing and Exploited Children)

“Our hearts are broken, we have no words.”

There’s a chill in the air, winter is coming.

Food Minnesota Recipes

Cheesy Smoked Sausage Hotdish Instant Pot Recipe

August 17, 2016
Cheesy smoked sausage hotdish Instant pot recipe

I’ve been cooking with my Instant Pot just about every day since I got it a few weeks ago. I used the Instant Pot IP-DUO60 7-in-1 Multi-Functional Pressure Cooker, 6Qt/1000W, but you can use any pressure cooker. I put together this cheesy smoked sausage hotdish Instant Pot recipe so I could use up some kielbasa I had in the freezer. Not only was it super easy to make, and super tasty, it was a super fast meal to make, too. It took all of 30 minutes to prepare and cook.

Cheesy Smoked Sausage Hotdish Instant Pot Recipe

ingredients for cheesy smoked sausage hot dish recipe for Instant Pot

What you’ll need:

1 tbsp Olive Oil

1/2 cup Chopped Onion

2 tbsp Minced Garlic

1 1/2 – 2 cups Chicken Broth

1 – 2 lbs Smoked Sausage – Sliced

1 can Diced Tomatoes

1 box Uncooked Pasta (I used penne but you can use any kind)

1/2 cup Half & Half, Milk or Cream

1/4 cup Monterey Jack Cheese

1/4 cup Cheddar Cheese

Salt and Pepper to taste

Putting it together:

Plug in Instant Pot and set to sauté.

onions

Sauté onions and garlic in olive oil until lightly browned, takes about 5 minutes. Leave in Instant Pot. I used both yellow and red onions, use whichever you prefer.

Sausage

After you’ve sautéd the garlic and onion add the sausage and continue sautéing for 1-2 more minutes. Turn off Instant Pot, but keep stirring so nothing sticks to the bottom.

SausageTomato

Add diced tomatoes and give it a stir.

sausage pasta

Add pasta and add chicken broth. Most recipes I’ve seen for the Instant Pot suggest adding enough liquid to cover the pasta. What I’ve discovered is that the pasta gets soggy that way. I wanted an al dente pasta so I used less liquid. I rarely measure the liquid with the Instant Pot, just eyeball it. If the pasta isn’t soaking in liquid you’re good to go, unless you like your pasta soggy and then by all means drown it.

Securely lock the lid in place and make sure the steam release handle is closed. I used the manual setting on high pressure for 7 minutes. You can also use the Bean/Chili setting and adjust the time if you prefer.

Turn off Instant Pot and do a quick pressure release by moving the steam release handle to the venting position. It’s important when cooking pasta to do a quick release, otherwise the pasta will continue to cook while the loses pressure, which takes about 20 minutes. Nasty pasta that way. Ick.

Cheese

Remove lid and add half & half and cheese. Stir until creamy.

Cheesy smoked sausage hotdish Instant pot recipe

Serve!

This was such a super easy recipe and the kids loved it. I added a salad and some garlic bread to make it a meal.

I have no idea how many calories or any of that good stuff are in this hotdish.

cheesy smoked sausage hot dish with salad and bread

 

Advice Minnesota People politics WTF?

What’s Happening to Our Nation?

July 8, 2016
If you're like me, you're probably wondering what's happening to our nation? Yesterday, following the killing of Philando Castile, I was moved to go to the protest at the Governor's mansion in St. Paul.

If you’re like me, you’re probably wondering what’s happening to our nation? Yesterday, following the killing of Philando Castile, I was moved to go to the protest at the Governor’s mansion in St. Paul. I’ve wanted to write about this issue for a long time, but have never known what to say. Witnessing the peaceful protest at the Governor’s mansion didn’t help me much. For the last two days, the internet has erupted with outrage over yet another (and another) black life cut short by a cop. And rightfully so. I’ve wanted to write about this, but I’ve been afraid to. I won’t bother addressing those fears here, they’re not irrelevant, but they don’t move the conversation forward. I probably wouldn’t have written about the protest for Philando if it hadn’t been for the events that followed later in Dallas.

What’s Happening to Our Nation?

Following the killing of  Philando Castile, which immediately followed the killing of Alton Sterling, social media lit up with all kinds of angry pronouncements about how white people can “help”. Helpful memes were created to unintentionally enflame race relations. White people proudly displayed their “white privilege” guilt as if it were a badge of honor. White people, some of us, became woke. Instead of simply coming together to mourn the lost lives, the injustice and the loss of what was left of our innocence, white people seem to be trying to gain the most points by proclaiming their privileged guilt. But there are no solutions in that.

I hate the term “white privilege”, mostly because I don’t believe the word privilege is an accurate description of the idea that is being put forth. I get it, I get the meaning of the phrase and I wholeheartedly agree it is a real thing. I also hate the term because it immediately shuts down any meaningful discussion about the problems we face. If we can’t discuss the issues, we certainly can’t solve them.

Think Differently?

We used to be able to hold differing opinions. Now, we must all be in agreement. If not, the internet reaction is swift and mighty. Don’t agree with me? Then you must be a racist.

As a white, middle aged, woman I never worry about being pulled over in my little SUV crossover while rocking out to the softer sides of the 80s. Even when I go above the speed limit by 5 or 6 mph, I know the odds are good I will not get pulled over. Broken taillight? I’ve never been pulled over for one, though I have had many. I don’t worry about being followed in department stores because the clerk is worried I will shoplift. And I certainly never worry about being shot dead by a police officer.

But privilege to me, has always meant something that was earned and that could be also taken away. I did not earn my whiteness and I cannot remove it. In these times, because I really do want to help make things better, my whiteness has become a burden. And yet, there are still so many things I take for granted because I am white.

I understand that.

Hands are Tied

I keep starting each paragraph with a story that exemplifies what I am trying to convey. And then I remember, sharing those stories is another way not to help. The thing is, it is a way to connect. And we need to connect more with one another if we want to change the way things currently are. I’ve been told over and over what not to do, as a white person, these past few days. I want to help be the change, I want things to be better for everyone in this great country of ours, I want equality for all. And yet I know that simply wanting something to happen rarely makes it happen. Action must be taken.

Philando Castile Protest

Privilege

The reason I was not compelled to write about my visit to the Governor’s Mansion was because I saw privilege at that protest. Not white privilege, but American privilege. There were a few hundred people at the protest. People of all color, age, gender, sexuality, and political persuasion. People were there with their children and their pets. Neighbors welcomed the protestors into their neighborhood with tables of bottled water, granola bars and even opened the doors of their churches for people to use the bathroom and get out of the heat. The police were there in large numbers. They were protecting the proetestors’ right to assert their first amendment rights even if the words they were speaking were against the police officers. There was no fear at this protest. People were calm, they were not worried that someone might start shooting at the crowd.

Philando Castile Protest

A similar protest took place in Dallas later that evening. It too was a peaceful protest, until it wasn’t. Someone did the unimaginable and started picking off cop after cop. 5 dead, 6 wounded at last count. And the cops continued to protect those that were protesting while getting shot.

Be the Change You Wish To See in the World

Frustrated, I don’t know how to change things. I do know I have no control over a cop and how he handles himself. I also have no control over a shooter who wants to kill as many cops as he can before he gets shot dead. I only have control over the way I react to these things.

Even though I don’t know how to change the nation, I still want to try. I do know that it starts with community, something that has changed so drastically in the last couple of decades. And I’m not even sure we can put that genie back in the bottle. But, I know this – spewing rhetoric on social media is not “community”. Sure, we may be surrounded by like minded people, but those aren’t the people who live on our block.

Unplug to Reconnect

I’m going to spend less time online in the coming months. That isolation and anonymity doesn’t do anyone any good. I want to have these important conversations, but I want to do so with people in real life. I want to discuss these issues with members of my community instead of on some Facebook thread of someone who lives three states away. I know I can’t solve this problem on my own, and I know I won’t change the world, but I can make a difference in my own community if I get out and get to know my neighbors.

We fear what we don’t know, so let’s get out there and get to know each other so we stop fearing each other.

What We Can Do

National Night Out is next month. If you haven’t already, start planning a block party.

Unplug from the internet. Get out and get to know your neighbors.

When online, don’t read the comments.

Think before you react or leave a comment.

Be kind.

Treat others the way you would like them to treat you.

 

 

Events Minnesota Music People Things I Really Like Things that piss me off

On the Passing of Prince – From a Minnesotan

April 23, 2016
Death of Prince I35W Bridge Purple

I was in the car with my daughter Thursday morning when we heard the news that Prince had died. We were going to Ikea, driving along 494 through Burnsville, Mn. My daughter is in charge of the radio while we drive and had just switched from satellite radio to a local station, Cities 97 if you’re wondering, when we caught the tail end of the DJ talking about how someone had died. You could hear she was holding back tears. I said to my daughter “the only death that could bring a Minnesota DJ to tears is Prince”, but that seemed unthinkable.

(For an in depth read, from another Minnesotan, about the music, the style, the talent of Prince, click here)

My daughter grabbed my phone out of my purse to see who it was. She didn’t even have to open the phone, it was right there on the lock screen.

Prince dies at 57.

I was pulling off the exit towards Ikea at this point, but was so distracted that I missed the exit and continued on to the Mall of America. While stuck at a light I tried to search through my phone for any details, but got shut down by my daughter. Already, a digital billboard had a tribute to Prince.

It was real.

We continued on to Ikea, the daughter wants to update her bedroom and needed a few items. My heart was no longer in it, and neither was hers. My daughter was upset too. No surprise really, she grew up being embarrassed by me dancing and singing to all the Prince tunes. When David Bowie died earlier this year she wasn’t the least bit interested in listening to his music with me. She didn’t want to listen to me go on and on about how cool he was and how experimental his music was. But then Bowie wasn’t a Minnesotan.

As we walked through the parking garage we could hear other groups talking about his death.

My son was now texting me about Prince’s death.

How could he be gone (I can’t type dead, it’s too final)?

I’d first heard of Prince when I was 13 or 14 from my friend Stella. She’d heard I Want to be Your Lover on the radio and had to get the album. Stella, Stephanie and I listened to Prince after school each day. Stella sang that song ALL.THE.TIME.

The music was amazing, the album cover was titillating with his bare chest, flowing hair and intense stare, and that he was from Minneapolis made him incredibly real. For a 13 year old it was a little unsettling and exciting at the same time.

And thus began the soundtrack of my younger years.

I just can’t believe
All the things people say, controversy
Am I black or white?
Am I straight or gay? Controversy

My dad was gay, closeted and married to my mother who discussed their issues with me,  while he was out at the Townhouse bar on University Avenue. I was terrified people would find out about my dad (even though they all knew, I just didn’t know they knew) so would much rather have people discussing Prince’s sexuality than my fathers.

We don’t care
It’s all about being there
Everybody’s going Uptown
That’s where I wanna be
Uptown

When we were a few years older we’d go to First Avenue to catch of glimpse of Prince on stage or the dance floor or just on his way to the bathroom. If you’re a Minnesotan, you have a story of literally bumping into Prince at one time or another. He didn’t hide away in some ivory tower, he was part of the party.

My high school years were challenging, for a variety of reasons I went to three different high schools and was forced to spend my senior year at a new school. I went to St. Paul Central that year, a large inner city school with a population four times what I was used to. Prince’s discography played at every single school event, after event party and was constantly playing on the Walkmans all the kids were wearing. Sometimes Michael Jackson played.

Let’s pretend we’re married and go all night
There ain’t nothin’ wrong if it feels all right
I won’t stop until the morning light
Let’s pretend we’re married and go all night, tonight

Prince was playing when I had sex for the first time (though it did not go all night), and many times after as I am sure is the case for most people my age. It was the most sexually explicit music available and yet it didn’t seem dirty. Okay, it was really dirty, but in a damn good way.

‘Cause in this life
Things are much harder than in the after world
In this life
You’re on your own

That summer, 1984, Purple Rain was released. If you know me, or have read my older posts, you know how I struggled through those years due to my dad’s closeted lifestyle and the affect it had on my mother who had been disabled years earlier. Prince helped me through those years. When the movie was released soon after and we got a glimpse into his early years I knew he understood all that I was dealing with. And, as I Minnesotan, we all knew he was goofing with Apollonia when he tricked her into jumping into the Mississippi river.

What’s the matter with your life
Is the poverty bringing U down?
Is the mailman jerking U ’round?
Did he put your million dollar check
In someone else’s box?

My first apartment – my roommate and I tried to drown out the relentless Bruce Springsteen that was played downstairs, with Prince music.

“Oh, I got a live one here!”
Get the funk up!
BATMAN

On our first date my ex husband and I saw the movie Batman at the Grandview theater on its opening night. The packed house erupted when Prince’s credit filled the screen.

If I gave you diamonds and pearls
Would you be a happy boy or a girl
If I could I would give you the world
But all I can do is just offer you my love

We married that fall.

It was my ex husband’s decision to bring his girlfriend to Paisley Park for one of Prince’s more intimate concerts that made me realize the marriage couldn’t be saved. While he was dancing to Prince with some 21 year old I was in the hospital with our infant son who was dehydrated from an ear infection.

When I found a necklace with Prince’s symbol on it, a souvenir from the show, next to our bed, I knew it was time to move on. I would have liked to blame Prince, but that would have been foolish. Our marriage ended when our daughter died a year earlier. Not unlike the way Prince’s marriage ended to Mayte Garcia shortly after their son died of a similar malady.

I’m not a human
I am a dove
I’m your conscious
I am love
All I really need is to know that
U believe

Yeah, I would die 4 U, yeah
Darling if you want me to
U, I would die 4 U

Life moved on and Prince continued to churn out album after album. 39 in total. Prince was texting decades before it became a thing. I only knew one person who didn’t like Prince’s music and I think that was because his music was so raw it could be scary if you weren’t willing to just fall into and let it take you wherever it was going.

We live in a global world now, because of the internet I have friends who live all around the world. When Prince died I got text messages from people asking if I was okay. I was not  a super fan, but I was a fellow Minnesotan and it stung just slightly more, I think, that one of our own left this world. A Minnesota friend who has lived in NY for decades learned of his death before me and was afraid to mention it to me on Facebook, preferring not to be the bearer of bad news.

I visited my mother in the nursing home on Friday. Mom has been delusional for some time and it was nice to see that Prince had worked his way so quickly into her delusions, I spent half an hour listening to her tell me how he and my father were more than just friends.

Let’s go crazy
Let’s get nuts
Let’s look for the purple banana
‘Til they put us in the truck, let’s go!

Minnesota has been awash in Purple since his death. The I35 bridge bathes in purple light during the night. First Avenue is alive with all night dance parties to celebrate his life and gates of Paisley Park are festooned with purple mylar balloons and flowers. It is spring here in Minnesota, early because of El Niño. This week all the azaleas bloomed. Drive down Summit Avenue, Highland Parkway or along Mississippi River Boulevard and you can’t help but see all the purple flowers blooming — seemingly for Prince.

Honey, I know, I know
I know times are changing
It’s time we all reach out
For something new, that means you too

You say you want a leader
But you can’t seem to make up your mind
I think you better close it
And let me guide you to the purple rain

Prince Purple Rain

Dumb Shit I Do Food Minnesota

Authentic Minnesota Tater Tot Hot Dish

March 3, 2016
Tater Tot Hot Dish

Authentic Minnesota Tater Tot Hot Dish

A few weeks ago a Buzzfeed quiz was making the rounds. It was clickbait titled: This Food Test Will Determine If You’re Actually From Minnesota. Being a Minnesotan, I clicked on it to see if I was actually from Minnesota.

I scored a 12 out of 12, but being Minnesotan I’m not going to toot my horn about it.

Minnesotans eat weird food

There was a lot of discussion amongst my Minnesotan friends on Facebook about the foods in the quiz. The one getting most of the attention was the Taco Salad. Apparently we’re freaks in Minnesota because we put Western dressing and Doritos on our taco salads. I vividly remember the Taco Salad with Western dressing and Doritos. My mother rarely cooked due to her stroke. Her repertoire of recipes she had the dexterity to prepare included putting the cloves in the ham and ripping up iceberg lettuce for a salad. Mostly these were physical therapy exercises she hated, so the job of making the nightly salad fell to me.

I don’t know who found the recipe, but I was instructed to put all the ingredients together for said taco salad. I didn’t normally like salad as a youngster, but this one was pretty darn good. However, it was only good with Western dressing – which we always had on hand because my brother liked to smother my container of cottage cheese in it (it’s gross that way, don’t try it), taco salad with plain old French dressing is disgusting.

I’m so off course…

Anyway, the discussion on Facebook was about the taco salad even though the question underneath the taco salad question was about Tater Tot Hot Dish. I knew what Tater Tot Hot Dish was, but had never tried one – let alone prepared one. I went out with a boy in high school who once mentioned he was looking forward to dinner because his mom made Tater Tot Hot Dish. I asked what it was and was immediately disgusted. At my house we didn’t eat such things. My dad, in all of his efforts to prevent my mother from becoming completely agoraphobic, signed them up for a cooking class at Th’rice, now commonly known as Cooks of Crocus Hill or just Cooks. They were given red three-ring binders with all kinds of recipes they attempted.

Cooking Class

I’m not really sure how much my mother tried, she complained about going every week, but my dad seemed to enjoy it. He was a pretty good cook before they took the class and even better afterwards. In fact, he cooked so much after the fact much of what he prepared had to go in the freezer. The problem with that was that my father never labeled a damn thing and was pretty careless about dating things. They took the cooking class in the late 70s. When my brother got married in the late 80 there was an impromptu gathering of friends at my parent’s cabin, in a pinch dad pulled out a huge tray of Beef bourguignon that had been prepared back in the days of the cooking class. Most of the guests were polite enough, and I don’t recall anyone actually getting sick, but I do recall the toilet getting stopped up with many napkins full of the stuff.

So Tater Tot Hot Dish was something I’d never experienced.

Always on the lookout for something easy, tasty and that the kids would eat I vowed to give it a try.

And you know what? It’s not that bad with a few tweaks.

Authentic Minnesota Tater Tot Hot Dish

Here’s the original recipe I used from Food.com:

1 lb ground beef

1 can Campbell’s Cream of Mushroom Soup (staple of Minnesota pantries)

1 can vegetables (corn, peas, beans)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

While the oven is preheating, brown the ground beef (seasoning to taste as you cook) and drain off the grease.

Spread the beef in the bottom of a 2 to 2 1/2 quart baking dish.

Drain the liquid off the vegetables and spread them over the meat.

Using a rubber spatula, spread the cans of soup over the top of the vegetables and meat. Use the soup as is, straight from the can. Do NOT mix it with anything.

Arrange a layer of tater tots over the top of that.

Bake, uncovered, at 350 degrees for 50 minutes.

Top with your favorite variety of shredded cheese as you serve.

Easy enough, but I really hate canned vegetables. The veggies are too soggy and there is too much salt in them. I prefer frozen veggies so that’s what I used. Using beans or corn seemed odd to me knowing they were going to be smothered in Cream of Mushroom soup, so I opted for peas.

Hamburger for Tater Tot Hot Dish

 

I browned the ground beef, drained it and added the peas and garlic to it in the casserole dish. If I learned anything from my parents cooking class it’s that garlic makes everything better.

Tater Tot Hot Dish mushroom soup

 

As a Minnesotan I’m used to putting Cream of Mushroom soup in just about everything I make, but honestly it didn’t seem that appealing in this recipe. I was also trying to clean out the fridge and had some leftover sour cream from taco night a month or so ago, so I mixed it in with 2 cans of soup (because one didn’t seem like enough) then spread it on top like the recipe instructed. Pretty gross, right? ** I know it says not to mix the soup with anything up in the recipe, but it’s okay if you do, it won’t ruin it and makes it much better**

Tater Tot Hot Dish

From there it was all about arranging the Tater Tots on the top. Turns out I don’t have OCD at all as half way through all I wanted to do was throw them on and spread them around, but I didn’t, I persevered.

After that I tossed it in the oven and waited 50 minutes. Except at 350° Tater Tots will never get crisp on the outside so after the 50 minutes I cooked it for another 15 at 425°. I sprinkled a little cheese on top, although I was a little hesitant about it, but then figured what the hell, it’s already an unhealthy mess.

Here’s the finished Tater Tot Hot Dish.

 

Tater Tot Hot Dish

As I stated before, I don’t like tooting my horn, but this Tater Tot hot dish was the bomb! Seriously, if you’re in need of comfort food, this is the definition of comfort food. It’s got everything going for it (and the sour cream and garlic really helped make it something worthwhile) from the creamy soup to the crunchy potato, it has it all and then some.

Full discloser, the daughter said it was “meh”, she ate it all, and got herself seconds so I’m assuming the “meh” is just the 13 year old talking. The dogs absolutely loved it, but I realize that doesn’t mean much.

Have you made Tater Tot hot dish before and if you have your own tweaks, what are they?

 

Tater Tot Hot Dish

Kids Minnesota Things that piss me off WTF?

Failure of Saint Paul Public Schools, Solutions Not Suspensions and Teachers Strike

December 9, 2015
Saint Paul Central High School building at night

Last week a teacher at St. Paul Central High School was brutally beaten when he tried to help to break up a fight between two students arguing about football. The teacher was slammed into a concrete wall, then the student picked the teacher up by his neck in a strangulation hold before slamming him onto a cafeteria chair and table. The student then got on top of the teacher and started choking him, according to the charges.. The teacher suffered a traumatic brain injury and concussion.

http://www.kare11.com/story/news/crime/2015/12/08/student-charged-after-teacher-choked-principal-assaulted/76994022/

Since the incident, teachers in the SPPS district are threatening to strike and are asking for Valeria Silva to step down.

The reason teachers are demanding the resignation of Silva and threatening to strike is because their hands have been tied with regard to discipline for a couple of years now. Instead of suspending or expelling students for bad behavior they are now given a time out.

From Minnpost

At the same time, discipline policies were substantially changed. School suspensions were replaced by five-minute “timeouts” for those acting up in classrooms. The disciplinary changes came out of meetings with an organization called Pacific Education Group, a San Francisco-based operation that has been consulting with the district dating back to 2010.

PEG’s goal is to convene conversations about difficult issues surrounding race. It has collected more than $1 million for its work with the district, but Nathan points out that much of that work has only created more frustration in St. Paul. At one point, the organization set up meetings to discuss “white privilege” with teachers and parents. “OK, white privilege,” Nathan said. “Now that we’ve acknowledged there’s such a thing, what should we do about it? What’s the response? Help us here. But there was no response.”
In the wake of the dramatic changes in discipline and mainstreaming, Silva admitted that perhaps so much should not have been done so quickly. The admission, however, came long after large numbers of parents and teachers said that the changes had fundamentally changed the culture of St. Paul schools and, in many cases, made teaching and learning extremely difficult.

By that point, things had moved passed “messy.” Nowhere more so than at Ramsey Middle School, where the five-minute timeouts were not working in an environment of fighting, swearing and general disrespect. This past fall, nine teachers quit their jobs.

We live in Mac Groveland which means my daughter would have to go to Ramsey Junior High (Ramsey feeds into Central). Last spring I put my daughter on the waiting for Highland Jr High, not much better reputation than Ramsey but it wasn’t Ramsey – a school that was notorious bad behavior. I spent most of the summer checking with the school district to see if there had been any movement on the list. I had put all my eggs into the basket of Highland because my son graduated from the Highland High School. He was in the IB program and did very well for himself, I had the same hopes for my daughter.

It was not to be, there were too many children on the waiting list and she did not make the cut. When school started she began her very short career at Ramsey Jr High.

On the first day she was hit in the face with a pencil meant for someone else. She would be repeatedly kicked or shoved in the hallway. The aggression was not necessary aimed at her, it was just such a madhouse she was in the crossfire of students yelling, bickering, fighting, or all out attacking each other.

I picked her up early one afternoon to go to a doctor’s appointment and was harassed as I walked down the sidewalk by the playground. Words such as “fucking bitch” were used to address me to retrieve a ball that had been kicked over the 8 foot high fencing. I was so stunned by this behavior but even more so by the lack of reaction or retribution for the bad behavior by the teachers who were out monitoring (and within earshot) the playground activities.

When I signed my daughter out I mentioned the incident to the ladies in the office. One of them literally dragged me through the halls insisting that I report the behavior to the principal. As if I could make a change.

I talked with the principal who explained to me that as a white woman of privilege she was unable to speak to the cultural barriers in place (whatever the heck that means). I realized that she was more interested in making excuses than doing anything about the bad behavior and pulled my daughter out of the school the next day.

I understand now that the principal’s hands were tied due to Superintendent Silva’s belief in Solutions not Suspensions – a policy of sorts put in place to prevent children of color from being suspended or expelled disproportionately from their white counterparts. Basically we no longer suspend or expel children who behave badly, we give them a five minute time out.

The schools are madhouses. Children have no respect for authority, teachers or other students (and certainly not for themselves). When there are no consequences for bad behavior it is no wonder that teachers (and students) are getting hurt.

My daughter attended Ramsey for 12 days. I spent two and a half weeks finding another slightly less chaotic school for her to attends and that is not going well either. My daughter is terrified to go to school. I’m not expert, but I’m pretty sure it’s difficult to learn when you’re worried about getting beat up or killed because some child brought a weapon to school. Even though she only attend the school for 12 days she still managed to ace all of her classes except for gym!!!

There is so much wrong with the Saint Paul Public School district that I really hope the teachers union does strike. I will be picketing with them. I am also hopeful they can manage to remove Silva, someone who doesn’t seem to have any idea what it is like to raise a child.

Poverty doesn’t cause this sort of behavior in the schools, I would even posit that poor parenting isn’t the problem (though it is something that should be addressed). The problem is the kids know they won’t suffer any consequences for their bad behavior.  Untie the teacher’s hands, stop making excuses for bad behavior, punish it and reward good behavior and you’ll probably go a long way in solving this problem.

For me and my daughter, we’re getting out of the St Paul Public Schools, my daughter’s education is far to important to wait for the SPPS to get it together.

Blogging Books Contests Dumb Shit I Do Minnesota People Things I Really Like Writing

I Saw The Bloggess!!

November 5, 2015
The Bloggess, Jenny Lawson at U of MN bookstore

I saw the Bloggess!!

(an unintentional homage to Jenny Lawson)

I don’t mean to be a name dropper but I’ve seen my share of celebrities over the years. When I was 16 my parents sold our house to Garrison Keillor. I had no idea who he was but my grandfather sure thought he was the shit! I used to babysit Nick Swardson of Grandma’s Boy and Reno 911 and bunch of other movies. I ate lunch in the same restaurant as that woman who sang the song Downtown…. what’s her name*??? And, I stood behind Kevin Garnett or maybe it was Kevin McHale** at the Giant Slide at the MN State Fair once. So, I’ve rubbed shoulders with some pretty well known celebrities, I don’t get star struck very easily. At least I didn’t until I learned Jenny Lawson was coming to town to promote her new book Furiously Happy: A Funny Book About Horrible Things.

From Amazon:

In Furiously Happy, #1 New York Times bestselling author Jenny Lawson explores her lifelong battle with mental illness. A hysterical, ridiculous book about crippling depression and anxiety? 

I learned she was coming a couple of months ago and immediately put it on my calendar. She was going to be at the University of Mn Bookstore in Coffman Union – a place had I spent maybe less time in I might have actually graduated after 7 years. Maybe. Anyway, I know Coffman, I could do this.

And at the time it seemed so simple. How can attending a book signing be a challenge you ask?

Because, like The Bloggess, I also have a fair amount of anxiety. It isn’t crippling but it gets in the way of a lot of things and makes them much harder. It’s gotten much worse over the years as I’ve isolated myself more and more. At the end of the day, 7pm for this event, the last thing I want to do is go out, even if it’s for something I really want to do.

Does that even make sense?

So, by 7pm the idea of getting in the car, driving to campus, finding a place to park and then walking in late to the event (because I will be late, trust me) doesn’t sound like fun to me no matter who is there.

I even tried to justify not going by telling myself that of all people, The Bloggess will understand. She knows what it’s like to take to bed for a couple of days (I don’t, I’m a single mom and my kids still expect me to feed them and drive them to school and yell at them for not changing the toilet paper roll. If I were to take to bed I’d have to call one of their dads and there’s no way either of them would step in. In fact one of them would probably threaten to seek custody if I were to ask.) so she’d be totally ok with it if I didn’t show up.

No, she doesn’t know me (though she did wish me a Happy Birthday on Facebook last year because, you know, we’re FB friends), she had no idea that I was going to be there so why I felt bad for not going to her event I really don’t know. I’d already bought her book (and you should to, you can get it here)  so what more could she want from me?

Sheesh, she’s demanding!

I forced myself to go anyway. As I said before I’ve been isolating myself for a while now and it’s getting old. I know I should go out and spend time with people my own age so I’m really thinking about making an effort. This seemed like a great opportunity a few months ago. Now that it was here not so much. Besides, even though I know I should get out more it doesn’t change the fact that I still don’t really like people that much so I’m not really sure where the payoff is. Anyway, I forced myself out of the house, into the car, on to the freeway, and into the parking garage where I thought I got a really good spot because it was right by the entrance to the parking garage and I could see Coffman Union just across a short walking bridge. The trouble was the parking garage is on sea level, or down by the river, while Coffman is on top of the hill. I had to walk  up about 15 flights of stairs (okay, 4) to get to the main level entrance of Coffman. By the time I got to the top I was so winded I was sure I was going to pass out and even had to fake a phone call outside before I walked in.

When I got to the bookstore (in the basement so I’ve basically come full circle but thank God they had an escalator) the event had already begun and there was no place to sit or stand. I made a beeline for the only spot I could find that was not going to get me called out for being late. I stood between a rather large Norwegian man with red hair and some women who looked as though they majored in Women’s Studies. I immediately dug in my purse to find my phone so I could take pictures but got distracted wondering if I left my keys in the car knowing full well I locked the car because my son gets upset with me for leaving it unlocked.

Now I had to find my keys.

Except when I tried to open my purse I got my sweater caught on the zipper and now I couldn’t move without pulling the thread out even more which happened to be right under my arm and the last thing I wanted to do was lose the arm of my sweater while trying to quietly and politely listen to Jenny Lawson talk about passing out at the gynecologist office. She kept repeating the word vagina which I don’t mind but while I’m at this event I’m composing this blog post and I fear using the word ‘vagina’ is just going to get more strange traffic here because believe it or not 70% of my traffic comes from people searching for the word ‘vagina’ and usually something really strange like ‘with teeth’. So, I’m worried about her excessive use of the word vagina and I still haven’t managed to free myself from my purse.

Of course I’m sweating at this point.

Everyone is laughing, the room us beginning to spin a little and I’m wondering how long do I have to stay here before I can leave without being obvious.

The answer is I can’t so I try to make the best of it and search for my phone again so I can get some pictures. I pull out my phone but realize no one else is taking pictures. I figure I must have missed the announcement about not taking pictures because there is no way a room full of younger women can resist taking pictures of anything.

And then I see one of the Women’s Studies woman pull out here phone and start taking pictures.

I take half a dozen grainy pictures (actually only three, and they all pretty much suck but I didn’t want to get busted for taking pictures when I wasn’t supposed to — though, I’m not sure if that was a rule or if people were just really polite) before I see the sign in front of me that says “This line for people who have already purchased a book” or something similar. In my haste to go unnoticed I got into the priority line for people who purchased the book in advance and bought a ticket to get first in line for a signing. I have purchased a book but not through the U of M bookstore. I got mine at Barnes and Noble and it was currently sitting on my dining room table, probably with a cat on top of it.

I have to get out of here. I already know I’m not going to stand in line for three hours to get the book signed (obviously, because it’s at home with a cat on it). I could buy a book and get it signed but I’m going to be last in line because I’m Minnesotan and even though I have budged into the first part of the line I’ll feel too guilty if I stay here (even though there isn’t any other place for me to go at this point).

I’m freaking out and now my phone is vibrating in my purse. It’s my 12 year old daughter who wants to know where I am and can I pick up some food on the way home? I tell her yes but feel bad that I am leaving even though I wasn’t really here, and am looking for an excuse to leave.

Something as simple as a book reading/signing should not cause so much anxiety that I need to go home (after picking up something to eat for the daughter, of course), but it does. I feel bad about it, again. This is not the first time I’ve left something because I started to sweat or my stomach started doing flip flops and my chest got all tight. It probably won’t be the last time either.

I’m upset with myself for leaving (though on the way out I purchase another book) but am actually pretty proud I even came out because I nearly talked myself out leaving the house.

If you’ve made it this far and would like a chance to win an unsigned copy of Jenny Lawson’s new book, Furiously Happy please leave a comment below.

TL;DR

Apparently I have a fair amount of anxiety, and sometimes it wins. Also, book giveaway, leave a comment.

* Petula Clark

** It was Kevin McHale, though I had to google it to see which one he was.

 

 

Minnesota People Things I Really Like Things that piss me off Winter

Mall of America Threatened by Terrorist Group Al-Shabab

February 22, 2015
Mall of America Rotunda

The Mall of America was officially threatened by Somali terrorist group Al-Shabab. I’m not surprised by this and I doubt Homeland Security is either. I have to assume the MOA has had a large target on it since 9/11, if not before. It epitomizes everything about western culture that groups like Al-Shabab despise.

In the winter I am a mall walker. I usually go to the Mall of America before the shops open to walk around each level of the Bloomington, MN mall, which ends up being a couple of miles. Yesterday I stopped by the mall later in the afternoon thinking it would be less crowded. I rarely go to the mall on weekends because it is so packed with people, it’s difficult to find parking, there are too many people and yeah, because I am keenly aware of what a target it is.

If someone is going to try to attack the MOA I would assume they would do it when it was filled to rafters with shoppers and employees rather than when the morning mall walkers were there but no one else is.

IMG_0625

Still, there are no metal detectors to walk through when entering one of the many entrances to the MOA. There is a strong security presence which includes dogs being led around the mall on a fairly regular basis. I usually leave when I see the dogs.

If you haven’t been inside the mall it’s difficult to imagine how big it is. For the first time visitor it is overwhelming how massive the structure is (and they’re making it even bigger!).

This is a picture of the Mall of America I took from 24th Avenue and just off I494, about two city blocks away. I still can’t get it all in the frame.

Mall of America

It would be very easy for anyone who wished harm on Americans to do something involving the mall. At least from what I can see, which admittedly is probably what security wants me to see.

There are people in the mall wearing backpacks, there are people pushing strollers, there are people wearing all kinds of different heavy clothing in the winter (though I tend to leave my coat in the car because it gets too hot otherwise) and there are many people wearing full burqas and most of the people in the mall are carrying large packages.

IMG_0628

In addition to the regular weekend shoppers I encountered on my short visit yesterday, there were also the various school dance team competitors that seem to be there every weekend during the winter and the girl scouts selling cookies, there was also a large event at the mall, an annual diabetes walk for charity. So the mall was probably at full capacity yesterday. It was so full I completed my errand and left as soon as I could make my way to the doors through all the screaming babies and toddler meltdowns.

I’m glad we’re being told to be vigilant but I’m sad this is what our world has come to. If you can’t spend your Saturday shopping for kicks, riding a roller coaster or two, maybe taking in a movie, eating all kinds of great food or really unhealthy crap, getting strange parts of your body pierced or having your eyebrows yanked out with a string what kind of a world do we live in? Not one I look forward to.