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Tater Tot Hot Dish with Mushroom Risotto

January 10, 2017
Tater Tot Hot Dish with Mushroom Risotto

This recipe, Tater Tot Hot Dish with Mushroom Risotto, is a variation of the Authentic Minnesota Tater Tot Hot Dish. Like all great flukes it happened because I didn’t read the recipe carefully and ended up with way too much liquid so I had to find a way to make it less soggy. I had a bag of Alessi Risotto with Mushrooms so I quickly cooked it up and added it to the mixture. 

You’ll notice I said mixture. Oops. Another mistake. I mixed all of the ingredients instead of layering them. 

Even though I am an authentic Minnesotan, I did not grow up on Tater Tot Hot Dish. I did date a guy whose mom made it (and he raved about) but that was as close to it as I got until I made it last year.

OMG it is delicious! And it’s perfect for cold weather. I have not tried it in the InstantPot because I just don’t think the Tater Tots would do well in it. They really need to get crisped up in the oven.

You can see the original recipe here.

Tater Tot Hot Dish with Mushroom Risotto

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

1 lb ground beef, browned

2 can Campbell’s Cream of Mushroom Soup

2 can vegetables (I used corn and peas because I didn’t have two cans of either one of them)

1 packaged prepared Alessi risotto with mushrooms, or any packaged rice with mushrooms

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

In a mixing bowl combine soup, ground beef, drained vegetables and risotto. Mix well. Place mixture in baking dish or casserole.

Arrange tater tots on top of mixture.

Bake, uncovered, at 350 degrees for 50 minutes.

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

That’s it! This is a great hot dish for a winter day when you have to go out and shovel snow. Goes well with any boxed white wine.

Advice Minnesota People Things that piss me off Winter

How to Drive in Snow

January 9, 2017
How to drive in snow

Now more than ever it’s important to learn how to drive in snow. This past weekend a good chunk of the nation received several inches, if not feet, of snow. In fact, 49 of 5o states have been affected by this massive storm. Not every state is covered in snow, but there are many places that don’t normally see snow who are now forced to navigate it. As a Minnesotan, and a blogger, I am happy to share with you my tips for how to drive in snow.

How to Drive in Snow

Go Slow – Whether it’s an inch or a foot of the white stuff it doesn’t matter – traffic is going to grind to a halt. You aren’t going to get there fast so embrace the snow and go slowly. Driving in snow isn’t that difficult, it’s the ice underneath it that makes it so challenging and dangerous. Take your time and give the car in front of you plenty of space. 

Stay Back – I’ll say it again, the ice under the snow is the issue. Give the car in front of you plenty of space. If they slam on the brakes and you’re riding their ass guess who’s going to be at fault? You are. You could also be dead or cause their death. Don’t risk it. Stay back and stay alive. Same goes for staying back behind snow plows. 

Brush off your Vehicle – This should go without saying, but people just don’t seem to get this. Don’t just brush off your windshield, brush off the roof of your vehicle as well. There’s nothing more terrifying than driving behind a car or SUV when all of the sudden a sheet of snow and ice flies off the roof of their car and lands on yours. Be courteous and brush off your whole vehicle.

Parking – Don’t block the sidewalk! This should be obvious, if you park in front of the sidewalk you force those who use the sidewalk to walk on the grass or the snow covered grass. My neighbor has lived in Minnesota her whole life and yet she always parks in front of my sidewalk. I don’t get it, but it’s one of those things that infuriates people so don’t do it. Park between the sidewalks that lead to the street. 

Emergency Kit – Be sure to keep a winter emergency kit in your vehicle. This should include a blanket, matches, flares, some extra clothing, hand warmers, granola bars, and a flashlight with fresh batteries. Make sure you have plenty of gas and windshield washer fluid. 

Pedestrians – If you’re walking in snowy conditions please don’t dash out into traffic to cross the street. Yes, this is a thing. In my area pedestrians like to prove that they have the right of way by running out into traffic causing drivers to slam on the brakes if they see them. Sadly, they don’t always see pedestrians soon enough and hit them. Even when they do see the pedestrians, it can be really difficult to stop due to ice and snow on the road – and the fact that most vehicles weigh a lot more than pedestrians. Yes, you have the right of way, but that doesn’t matter that much when you’re dead.

Blogging Minnesota Reviews Things I Really Like Winter

Ice Castles in Stillwater

January 6, 2017
Ice Castles in Stillwater

One of the greatest thing about being a Minnesota Blogger is that I get invited to some pretty cool events. Last night I was lucky enough to attend a preview of Ice Castles in Stillwater, MN. It was a beautifully clear night out because it was -1°F, the windchill was -24°F. Trust me when I say it was cold. It might not be on your list of things to do in Minnesota – to visit a giant ice sculpture when it’s that cold, but that’s what I did.  

And you should too. 

Ice Castles in Stillwater

Ice Castles in Stillwater

The Ice Castles in Stillwater are made with a combination of hand placed icicles and running water. The people who build these magical ice structures place around 15,000 icicles by hand as they grow the ice around them using running water.

I believe this is the first year Ice Castles has been in Stillwater, MN. It’s been at the Mall of America in Bloomington before and Eden Prairie before this. Stillwater is a great place for Ice Castles. Not only is there ample free parking, but it’s such a picturesque town, something special like Ice Castles fits right in.

Controversy

You’d think something as lovely and beautiful as these ice sculptures wouldn’t have any controversy around them but you’d be wrong. Evidently there are some people who are upset that the ice structures are named Ice Castles, they argue they should be called Ice Stalagmites and Stalactites because of the way they are created. That may be so, but it’s silly to get worked up over something so petty. 

However, Ice Castles are not to be confused with the ice castles created for the St. Paul Winter Carnival. Those structure are build out of blocks of ice, not grown using running water. 

Ice Castles in Stillwater

They’re Beautiful

It doesn’t really matter how Ice Castles was formed, they’re beautiful. I toured the structure at night so the various ice walls and fountains were lit up in a stunning display of blue, red, orange, and green. I would have loved to have stayed longer to really get a good look at the way the ice was formed, it was really cool. It was also really cold and difficult to stay for too long. 

Things to Know

The floor of the Ice Castle is chopped ice/snow. This is not wheelchair or stroller accessible. Walking in the inches deep ice/snow was slightly challenging in big old lunky boots. Pets are not allowed. It is cold inside the structure, it might even be colder than outside – you know, because you’re inside a ice. There might be some science about it one way or the other but at -24°F windchill, it really doesn’t matter. 

Ice Castles in Stillwater

Dress Warm

I wore fleece tights under jeans and my legs still felt as if they had frozen. I wore boots rated to -30° and my feet were just fine. Tennies or any other kind of shoe is not going to be comfortable or easy to navigate through the ice/snow floor. Wear warm boots that have some grip to them. Mittens, hat, ear muffs and a scarf or ski mask to cover your face is completely appropriate. 

Tickets

Buy your tickets online, you’ll save a ton of cash. Click here to purchase tickets. And click here to learn more about the ice structures and how they’re made.

Ice Castles in Stillwater

Make a Day of it

Stillwater is a lovely town. If you plan on visiting Ice Castles make a day of it and have yourself an adventure. There are whimsical shops to visit and some great restaurants all within walking distance of Ice Castles. 

Minnesota Winter

Things to do this January in Minnesota

January 3, 2017
January in Minnesota

If you like the cold, then you probably love these things to do this January in Minnesota. It’s cold, like really cold. Like so cold people who have never lived here really don’t understand how cold it can get. Currently it is 10° F. That’s cold, but it’s going to get even colder.

Thursday it’s forecasted to be -5°F, and being a Minnesota Blogger, I’m scheduled to be outside getting a sneak peak of Ice Castles in Stillwater. Don’t get me wrong, it is a spectacular thing to see with all those stalagmites, or maybe it’s stalactites, of ice inside caves of ice. Whichever it is, it’s a lot of ice. 

cute pit bull dog wrapped in blankets

Anyway, if you like the cold, there’s plenty to do in January in Minnesota. January is the month we hardy folk thumb our nose at Winter and instead of curling up on the couch with a good book and some cocoa, head outside to prove, once again, that we are no wusses.

There is all kinds of merriment, debauchery (as much as a Minnesotan can debauche) and excitement as it becomes time for the St. Paul Winter Carnival once again. But yeah, it’s cold. For those who are determined and can layer properly, there is the great treasure hunt put on by the Pioneer Press. Buy a button, get a subscription to the paper and try your hand at figuring out the clues (Hint: It’s usually in Como Park). 

Looking for other fun winter things to do in the Twin Cities? Then check out all of these great activities.

Things to do this January in Minnesota

Polar Dash
When: January 1st, 2017
Where: Harriet Island Pavilion
St. Paul, MN

Both the 10K and the Half Marathon are chip-timed races on a USATF-certified course that takes runners along the Mississippi River.  See Course Information here.  All runners get their Polar Dash fleece as well as a finisher’s medal.  Click here to see the Great Gear! Once you complete this race we’ll have Hot Chocolate waiting for you at the finish line!

Nordic Holidays: Celebrations of Light
When: Now through January 8th, 2017
Where: American Swedish Institute
2600 Park Avenue
Minneapolis, MN

Nordic Holidays: Celebrations of Light at the American Swedish Institute is an exhibition on display November 12, 2016–January 8, 2017 that annually showcases Nordic and other holiday traditions through decorated rooms in the historic Turnblad Mansion. The rooms are designed by groups from Sweden, Denmark, Finland, Iceland and Norway to reflect their own distinctive customs. This year, as part of Celebrations of Light, the ASI has partnered with the Jewish Community Relations Council of Minnesota and the Dakotas for a space to honor Hanukkah.

Gridiron Glory
When: Now through January 15th, 2017
Where: Minnesota History Center
345 W. Kellogg Blvd.
St. Paul, MN

Celebrate America’s gridiron history with this major traveling exhibit produced by the Pro Football Hall of Fame. See over 200 rare pro football artifacts, photos and more. Thrill to the dynasties, the pioneers and the champions through state-of-the-art audio/visual.

Bruce Munro: Winter Light
When: Now through April 9th, 2017
Where: MN Landscape Arboretum
3675 Arboretum Drive
Chaska, MN

The Minnesota Landscape Arboretum will glow after dark this winter when it hosts the stunning evening exhibition Bruce Munro: Winter Light at the Arboretum from Nov.12 through April 9, 2017.

Munro’s work has been displayed internationally, from the Guggenheim Museum in New York to Waddesdon, Buckinghamshire, UK. He will unveil three new works at the Arboretum exhibition, which is his 12th in the U.S. and the most Northern U.S. show, which is currently being installed on the Arboretum grounds.

St. Paul Winter Carnival
When: January 26th – February5th, 2017
Where: Various locations in St. Paul

Join us for the 131st Saint Paul Winter Carnival, the “Coolest Celebration on Earth™” since 1886! It continues to bring family-friendly events and community pride to Saint Paul and the Twin Cities metro area. The Saint Paul Heritage and Festival Foundation manages and produces the Saint Paul Winter Carnival.

Ice Castles Stillwater
When: January
Where: Lowell Park
201 Water Street N.
Stillwater, MN

Imagine a magical collision of the Apostle Island ice caves, frozen waterfalls, and glaciers — formed into towering organic archways, tunnels, and more!

Crashed Ice St. Paul
When: February 3rd – 5th, 2017
Where: Cathedral of St. Paul
239 Selby Avenue
St. Paul, MN

For the past three freezing-cold winters, Saint Paul has hosted the ice cross downhill competition, with a huge crowd of more than 100,000 people converging under the gaze of the imposing Cathedral of Saint Paul to witness the high-speed action that features skaters competing in four-man heats in a race to the bottom of a long ice track full of obstacles. The sport appeals to what Americans like most in sports – a physically challenging, rough, tough sport coupled with high-speed action and agility. Americans have done surprisingly well as neophytes in their first few years in the 15-year-old sport, despite having far less experience than established nations like Canada, Finland, Germany, Switzerland, and the Czech Republic.

The Great Northern
When: January 26th – February 5th, 2017
Where: Various Twin Cities Locations

Minneapolis and Saint Paul’s premier winter events have joined forces to celebrate the best of the season together. The Great Northern is here to showcase The North at its wintry best.

Includes the St. Paul Winter Carnival, Pond Hockey Championships and Loppet Ski Festival.

US Pond Hockey Championships
When: January 26th – 29th, 2017
Where: Lake Nokomis
Minneapolis, MN

The 12th annual Labatt Blue U.S. Pond Hockey Championships (USPHC) will once again bring hockey the way nature intended it to Lake Nokomis, Minneapolis, MN, January 26-29. The event brings thousands of players and fans together for an incredible weekend of fun and fierce competition.

Events Minnesota Things I Really Like Winter

Family Friendly Things to do in the Twin Cities this December

December 5, 2016
Family friendly things to do in the Twin Cities this December

If you’re looking for family friendly things to do in the Twin Cities this December look no further than all these great events taking place this month. There’s really something for the whole family to enjoy this December. Head on down to the Landmark Center in Downtown St. Paul and get your skate on at the Wells Fargo WinterSkate arena. If you’d rather take a less physical approach to the season then put on some warm clothes and head out to the Holidazzle taking place now through December 23rd.

It’s a busy month with family and friends, parties and commitments, and let’s not forget shopping, just be sure to take some time to enjoy all that this wonderful season has to offer.

Family Friendly Things to do in the Twin Cities this December

Holidazzle
When: Now through December 23rd
Where: Loring Park
Minneapolis, MN

As downtown Minneapolis’ premier holiday celebration, Holidazzle has delighted residents, visitors and downtown employees for years. Now, in 2016, this tradition is bringing family-friendly programming to Loring Park completely free.

Rice Park Powered by Xcel Energy
When: Now through December 23rd
Where: Rice Park
St. Paul, MN

Make downtown Saint Paul your family holiday destination and enjoy the beauty of Rice Park as it sparkles with thousands of twinkling lights! The festive tree will be up through January 1, 2017. The other lights will stay up and illuminate the park through the end of the Winter Carnival.

Wells Fargo WinterSkate
When: Now through February 5th
Where: Landmark Cetner
St. Paul, MN

Skaters are invited to experience the unique urban setting of downtown Saint Paul. Located in the heart of the city, Wells Fargo WinterSkate creates a fun, winter experience for visitors of all ages. The historic Landmark Center creates a beautiful backdrop for the outdoor rink, showcasing Saint Paul’s charming European architecture and old-world ambiance.

Christmas at FlyOver America
When: Now through January 2nd
Where: Nickelodeon Universe at Mall of America
60 E. Broadway
Bloomington, MN

FlyOver America will transform into a magical winter wonderland this holiday season. Guests will have fun helping Santa search for his missing elves during an exhilarating flight across America and onto the North Pole.

St. Paul European Christmas Market
When: December 1st – 4th, December 8th – 11th, 2016
Where: Union Depot
240 E. Kellogg Blvd
St. Paul, MN

The European Christmas Market in St. Paul is based on the traditional, charming, and festive open air Christkindlmarkts that spring up in Germany, Austria and other countries during the Advent season. Shop for unique, handmade holiday gifts and decorations from local vendors, drink Glühwein (spiced mulled wine), and taste European inspired food and delicacies during the first two weekends in December.

Black Nativity
When: December 1st – 23rd, 2016
Where: Penumbra Theatre
270 N. Kent St.
St. Paul, MN

This is a timeless holiday tradition treasured across the Twin Cities! Today, kids who grew up with Black Nativity are returning with their own families. Under the direction of Lou Bellamy and the musical direction of Sanford Moore, our homegrown Christmas show returns featuring exceptional lead vocalists, the outstanding Fellowship Missionary Baptist Church Choir, and the stirring choreography of Uri Sands of TU Dance. Join us for an experience full of joy, community, and spirit.

Summit Avenue Artisan Festival
When: December 3rd, 3026
Where: St. Paul’s United Church of Christ
900 Summit Avenue
St. Paul, MN

Join St. Paul’s United Church of Christ as we celebrate the season with our community. We are a proud Saint Paul Grand Meander event! Shop handcrafted jewelry, pottery, food items and more from our 30 local artisans. Take a photo with St. Nicholas! Enjoy a cup of Fair Trade coffee or tea and specialty Christmas items at our bake sale!

Grand Meander
When: December 3rd, 2016
Where: Grand Avenue
St. Paul, MN

Grand Meander is a St. Paul tradition that captures the charm of historic Grand Avenue and the cozy communal spirit of the holidays! Pick out your Christmas tree, have breakfast with Santa, hear carolers meander from store to store, and hop on a classic trolley and ride the 20-block length of Grand Avenue.

Minnesota Zoo Santa Saturdays
When: December 3rd, 10th, 17th
Where: Minnesota Zoo
13000 Zoo Boulevard
Apple Valley, MN

December is a great time to visit the Minnesota Zoo. If you’re looking for that perfect holiday photo, bring your family and camera to the Zoo on Saturday, December 3, 10, and 17 and meet Santa. He’ll be available for photos from 11:30 a.m. – 1:00 p.m.

Cirque Dreams Holidaze
When: December 9th – 11th, 2016
Where: Northrup at the University of Minnesota
84 Church Street SE
Minneapolis, MN

Cirque Dreams lights up the 2016 holiday season with its critically acclaimed holiday stage extravaganza, Cirque Dreams Holidaze, a new cirque show, Broadway musical, and family Christmas spectacular all in one! Hailed by The New York Daily News as a “delicious confection of charm, sparkle and talent by the sleighload & so full of energy it could end our dependence on oil!”

Winter Solstice Celebration
When: December 18th, 2016
Where: Lake Hiawatha Recreation Center
2701 East 44th St.
Minneapolis, MN

Let’s welcome the return of light! Nourish your heart’s longing for renewal by tapping into the seed of potential that begins every year. This contemplative, participatory and embodied evening enters the fertile embrace of darkness as the starting point for new life. Individually and collectively it is an opportunity to shed what diminishes us. The community experience of music, meditation, and movement helps us tap into a deeper experience of connection. We gather on the solstice to remember our interconnection and access a wellspring of life that is ultimately joyful and liberating.

Bruce Munro: Winter Light at the Arboretum
When: Now through December 31st, 2016
Where: Minnesota Landscape Arboretum
3675 Arboretum Drive
Chaska, MN

Winter Light At The Arboretum, the first large-scale light installation at the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum, will illuminate the winter landscape after dark.  This ticketed exhibit makes its Minnesota premiere with a series of five outdoor and two indoor installations that have inspiration and connection to Munro’s visits to the Arboretum, his imagination and life experience.

Gingerbread Wonderland at Norway House
When: Now through January 8th, 2017
Where: Norway House
913 East Franklin Avenue
Minneapolis, MN

The holiday tradition of gingerbread houses, called pepperkake in Norway, has crossed the sea to Norway House. Create a special piece to display – a local Twin Cities landmark or inspired structure – or just come to admire, as dozens of creations are on exhibit for this multi-generational, magically festive event. Invite family and friends to join you in baking an exhibit piece, or spark a friendly competition for bragging rights. A winning entry will be selected by professional bakers, and a “People’s Choice” award will honor the structure most admired by attendees. Gingerbread Wonderland also includes special displays from renowned local bakers.

Night Trains
When: Now through February 25th, 2017
Where: Twin City Model Railroad Museum
668 Transfer Road, Suite 8
St. Paul, MN

Night Trains Season comes to museum layouts in a magical way, the lights are turned down, the buildings and street lights glow warmly, setting the scene for specially lighted models of vintage passenger trains. The make believe town of Matlin is buried in a blizzard, and throughout the Museum the layouts are adorned with miniature Christmas lights and decorations.

74 Days of Positivity Dumb Shit I Do Minnesota Nice Things I Really Like Winter Writing

74 Days of Positivity

October 19, 2016
74 Days of Positivity

It’s almost Halloween which means it’s almost winter here in Minnesota so I’ve decided to have 74 days of positivity. If you’re missing the obvious connection, that’s okay. I’ll explain. When the days start to get shorter I start to get this overwhelming urge to hibernate. I don’t necessarily want to sleep, I just don’t want to do anything. I tend to get down. I won’t use the word depressed, because I don’t think that’s what it is. I tend to get negative, especially around the holidays. It seems to set in earlier and earlier each year. By the time How the Grinch Stole Christmas is on TV (usually before Thanksgiving) I’m so sick of all the heart warming bullshit I could just puke.

The holidays tend to suck.

I’m overworked, I’m tired, I’m crabby, etc… Every year I tell myself I’m not going to get all worked up about the holidays, I’m going to delegate some of the work, I’m going to chill the hell out and just enjoy everyone. I tell myself that, right around this time of year, and then as soon as Halloween is over I fall down the rabbit hole and don’t emerge until after Valentine’s Day.

I become more snarky during the holidays, and I’m sick of it.

74 Days of Positivity

I want to enjoy the holidays and all that this beautiful time of year has to offer. I love winter, but I hate the snow. The truth is, I don’t even hate the snow, I hate shoveling the snow.

I can do something about that. I have a child who is able, I can certainly teach her to use the shovel or the snow blower. Sure, I’ll have to endure all kinds of eye rolling, but I’m getting the eye rolling now. May as well make it worth her while. Or mine, as the case may be.

Truth be told, I haven’t fully examined why I hate this time of year so much. It could be that my family is severely fractured. I don’t like it, but I don’t want to fix it either. And, while I think I have let that go, it’s still bothering me so clearly I haven’t. It could be that I’m used to being broke during the holidays. While this has been true in the past, and might be this year too, the reality is I’m doing ok.

I think there are a lot of ghosts of Christmas Pasts that I just assume will make a show even though I have complete control over who shows up and who doesn’t.

It could also be that since I turned 50 I’ve been making a lot of big changes in my life and this is one I need to make.

I’m generally a pretty happy person. Sure, I have my moments and I tend to worry about things that are generally outside of my control, but for the most part I can laugh through much of it. Even if there’s a fair amount of anger underlying my laughter.

I’m tired of being angry. It hasn’t served me very well.

So, for the next 74 days, until the end of the year, I’ll be practicing more positivity.

It could take the form of yoga, going out with the girls (after I meet some girls to hang out with or wrangle the ones I used to hang out with before I isolated myself), it could mean taking time to read instead of doing the same old thing each night of watching TV and hanging out on Facebook.

I’m not really sure how this is going to work, I just know that I’m open to anything that comes along in the next 74 days and plan to look at any and all opportunities as just that – opportunities.

I’m going to actively enjoy life, dammit, instead of just letting it pass me by.

I also expect to piss a few people off while I do this. I’m not sure why, but isn’t that how it always seems? You do something good for yourself and it upsets the applecart?

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.

 

Events Winter

Preparing for a Snowstorm like Snowstorm Goliath

December 28, 2015

If you’re from the Midwest or North Eastern parts of the country you probably know how to prepare for a snowstorm. We’ve been hearing about Snowstorm Goliath for the last week now and let’s hope it isn’t a bust because at this point most people have stocked their shelves with extra bread, milk, eggs and booze.

Thankfully it’s winter break or many of us would have the added inconvenience of entertaining the kids when school is canceled.

If snowstorm Goliath is as big as they say it will be we can expect up to 10 inches of snow by Tuesday morning. This will be the first significant snowfall this winter (and winter starts in Minnesota right after Halloween so this is a big deal).

I don’t give much thought to these huge snowstorms because I was raised in the Midwest, I work from home, school isn’t that far from the house and I keep a pretty well stocked pantry and liquor cabinet. However, if you aren’t native to the states that get a fair amount of snow each year you might be experiencing your first major winter storm and may not know how to prepare for it. So what can you do?

  1. Make sure you have a decent shovel and if possible invest in a snow blower. If you can’t find one or it’s out of your budget find a local neighbor kid who wants to make a little extra money. Shoveling snow can be dangerous for the older folks if it’s heavy. Don’t overdo it.
  2. Prepare your vehicle. If you don’t have to drive don’t but if you do make sure you have a winter survival kit in your trunk. Include a blanket, bottled water (or ice if you live in the tundra), snacks like granola bars or protein bars (something non perishable) or nuts, a flashlight, lighter or matches, flare gun etc. Stay in your car, don’t get out to search for help. It’s much easier to find a car than it is to find a person in the snow.
  3. Booze up – You don’t need to get soused but after being shut in with the kids for a day or two you might want to take the edge off just a little. If weed is legal in your part of the country blaze up!
  4. Get your game on – Dig out the board games and fire up the fondue! Keep everyone entertained with a rousing game of Monopoly or Pictionary.
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.

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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.

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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.

 

Advice Dumb Shit I Do Winter

How I Tamed the Snowblower Beast

November 11, 2014
snowblower engine, new snowblower

If we still had minstrels they’d write a song about how I tamed the snowblower beast – all by myself no less. As a Minnesota blogger I take on most of my tasks with the idea that I will probably write about them. Usually something goes wrong and it’s worthwhile to take a few pictures and have a laugh or two at my expense. I know a little about a lot of things and can handle most fix-it jobs around the house without assistance but occasionally one comes along that intimidates me just a bit. Learning how to assemble the snowblower was one of those things.

I have tools (not the ex husband) and am not afraid to use power tools if I have to. I’m not afraid but truth be told I probably don’t really know how to use them properly. I’ve found that I’ve acquired a decent set of tools over the years but most jobs require a butter knife and nothing more.

Assembling the snowblower required more than a butter knife but not by much. Most of the challenge was getting the damn thing out of the box. I bought the snowblower a few months ago, long before snow was in the forecast and while it was still balmy out. I purchased it when I did because it was on sale and I wanted to save $50 and because I didn’t want to be putting it together right before a storm or even worse, right after one. I had plenty of time to put the snowblower together but every time I thought about tackling the project I found something better to do. The box was big, it was difficult just to get out of the car and I really didn’t know how I was going to cut around the box like it showed on the box opening instructions not unlike Ikea packaging.

Instead of taking a box cutter and cutting a top out of the box (because I knew I’d cut myself, that’s why) I decided to turn the box over and open it up that way. It wasn’t a bad idea either except I ended up with one flap tucked under the box and ended up having to cut that which wasn’t that big of a deal once I got into it.

Once I got it out of the box I was tasked with the removal of the box which caused a fair amount of anxiety since it was Saturday and recycling day was the day before. Now I had a huge box that had no place to go for a week. I set it on top of the discarded TV from 2007 and haven’t thought much about it since (yes, missing another recycling day).

The box was a distraction from the real task at hand. I could put the handle on and make it upright. All that was necessary there was to screw on two bolts to each side of the handle. After pulling it upright of course.

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That was the easy part. The scary part was figuring out what to do with the bag of extras that was in the box. Included with the red and black behemoth was a bottle of oil and some other plastic things.

It was at this point where I left the garage and came inside to check the weather.

The storm wasn’t due for a couple more days and I was hoping my neighbor would return from hunting soon so he could to the rest. Putting oil into a machine scares the crap out of me for some reason. It’s irrational, I know. The problem is I’ve seen people put the oil in the wrong part of the machine causing my dad to yell and scream and accuse said idiot of not knowing anything about machines (which would be accurate). Not wanting to repeat that scene even if he has been dead for 8 years I was a little worried about where to put the oil.

On an ironic side note I froze up an engine on a ’72 Nash because I didn’t check the oil. I’d only had the ugly ass car for a couple of weeks and no one (I’m talking to you dad) had ever told me about putting oil in the car.

Where was I?

It’s not like there was more than one place to put the oil. There were two places to put fluids into the engine. The gas tank and the oil thing. The gas cap was clearly marked but the place to put the oil was not and that was what tripped me up for three days while I waited for my neighbor to return.

pink flamingo covered in snow

In the mean time storm Astro arrived and dumped a whole of 1.5 inches on St. Paul. A snowblower wasn’t necessary to remove the snow so I was off the hook until the next storm. Surely by then my neighbor would have returned from hunting, right?

He’s still not back so after texting my brother a rambling text about the snowblower, and getting shamed by him for not actually reading the operator’s manual I found my courage and poured the oil in the only other place to pour anything.

Nothing blew up, even though nothing was turned on, so I figured it was all good. I added some gas, I put the key in the slot and pulled the rip cord.

It actually started up!!!

I engaged the auger and tore up some of my driveway and then the engine killed reaffirming my belief that I should not be allowed to play with any kind of engine.

Upon closer inspection of the words that are printed on the back of the machine I learned that the rip cord should be pulled while the lever is switched to choke and that once started it should be moved to run instead of the other way around.

Amazing how it works so much better now. And, it makes a decent lawn mower in a pinch.IMG_0290