In my mind I am often on Napatree. You're welcome to come along.

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November 30, 2014

In the last few days I have heard about various Thanksgiving celebrations: friends who took off skiing in the White Mountains as a break from relatives, a friend who was cooking for her family of twenty, a friend whose son is temporarily home from Iraq and my Manhattan friend who was preparing only her second turkey ever. But this story, emailed me by a friend who lives in Lakeville, made me laugh out loud.

The four adults, the two grandparents and the six children ranging in age from nineteen years to fifteen months old, were dining on turkey and mashed potatoes when the doorbell rang. It was the police responding to a 911 call. A call that had been made, during the pre-dinner hub bub, by one of the young children.  A young child who was slow in tearfully confessing and who initially blamed his older brother for the call. The police coming to dinner will be part of this family’s stories passed down.  

9:37 am cst | link 

November 29, 2014

It is 36 degrees on Napatree this morning. I checked. A good day for a winter walk. Dress warmly though because there will be a wind; there is always a wind on the North Atlantic. And in November the wind can be bitter. You must wear a hat.

We are certain to see another brave walker, maybe more than one. Let’s walk to the point on the ocean side and return along the Little Narragansett Bay side heading towards the yacht club. The leeward side of the point won’t be, I’m sure, as cold. If we are hungry when we get back from our walk, and I’m certain we will be, I know the perfect place to get a bowl of soup.

7:02 am cst | link 

November 28, 2014

Thanksgivings fold and unfold. They shift and bend. The stage can change, the actors in the Thanksgiving production can change, too. The turkey can be a goose, a chicken, a hamburger eaten at a great aunt’s, a china-laden table seating sixteen, a restaurant just off the highway.

Yesterday my friend from Manhattan emailed that she had a turkey in the oven, only the second turkey, she added, that she had ever prepared. She was hosting her son and his new husband, her son’s new-in-laws. Her email sounded happy.

Thanksgiving is now over our shoulders. The media tells us it's time…to shop!

6:59 am cst | link 

November 27, 2014

Pease pass the cranberry sauce. And the stuffing. Happy Thanksgiving!

8:27 am cst | link 

November 26, 2014

A Thanksgiving story.

One of my childhood Thanksgivings was not celebrated with my grandparents, as was tradition, but instead was spent with friends of my parents, Mr. and Mrs. Herman, at their cottage on Lake Wissota. The Hermans had a daughter, Fritzi, a couple of years older than me, and a son, Eddie, a couple of years younger than my brother. Though I had been to the Herman cottage in the summer, a November trip there seemed exotic.

During the turkey dinner at noon it started to snow. Hard. It was decided that our family could not drive home in the difficult weather and would have to spend the night. An unexpected treat. While the parents played cards inside the cottage, my brother, Eddy, Fritzi and I played outside in the snow until we were called in at dark.

The cottage was warm from a fire in the stone fireplace. Leftovers were spread out on the kitchen table. I was aware that my mother was my mother but, strangely, she was not quite my mother. She was silly and not worried about cold, wet kids. My down-to-earth mother was slightly tipsy from an afternoon of playing cards and drinking wine.

The Lake Wissota Thanksgiving was wonderful. My memory of it, and of my very jolly mother, is graced with a smile.

8:53 am cst | link 

November 25, 2014

Today I learned this. People, many, many people, are selling their silver dishes, bowls, cups, charger plates, pitchers, tea and coffee sets, pickle forks and you name it, in other words, their old silver wedding gifts, on ebay.

This morning I opened a box I’d brought with me from Connecticut. A box I had forgotten about. In this box was a silver baby mug that had belonged to me as an infant. On the side of the mug was a tiny etched image of a rabbit. A very pretty little design. A marking on the bottom of the mug read, Luxor E.P.N.S. Wallace  L2201. Wanting to learn that my baby cup was rare and valuable, I turned to the web where I saw not my exact baby drinking cup but comparable silver baby cups. Lots of them. And I saw pitchers and bowls similar to ones I had received as wedding gifts. Again, lots of them.

Rarely do I see silver pieces listed on a wedding registry. Candy dishes, no more. This maybe is a good thing. I had to spend lots of time polishing my silver baby mug to find that if I was lucky, the bidding would close out at $7.99.

8:37 am cst | link 

December 24, 2014

Over the weekend I went to a performance by a Taiko drumming ensemble. I enjoyed it. A lot. And I enjoyed learning about Taiko drumming about which I had known nothing.

Taiko is a word that refers to a broad range of percussion instruments but most often it is associated with big drums. Huge, actually, Taiko drums can measure up to eight feet across. Taiko drumming is a Japanese art form with origins in China and Korea and it accompanies religious ceremonies, theater performances and military action. While watching the drummers’ movements I was reminded of the martial arts as there is much physical movement and shouting in tandem with the drumming.

In the last few days I have been to a Hmong New Year’s party with singing and dancing, a performance of Indian storytelling which included dancing and music and, most recently, a performance of Japanese Taiko drumming. The world is both a big and small place. We are connected by our music.

9:36 am cst | link 

November 23, 2014

And here’s to you, Mrs. Robinson.

9:00 am cst | link 

November 22, 2014

I read a newspaper. My newspaper history reads like this: The Eau Claire Leader Telegram, The New York Times, The New York Herald Tribune, The Hartford Courant, The Philadelphia Inquirer, at times The Boston Globe and The Providence Journal, the Glastonbury Citizen, The Minneapolis Star Tribune, The Northfield News. And, the US News which you get, from hotel or motel, when you are traveling.

More and more people read a paper, or papers, online. Sometimes I do, too. But I enjoy a newspaper that I hold in my hand, spread out on my desk. I like working on a crossword puzzle which I can put in my purse or fold in my pocket and carry with me. And the occasional Sunday New York Times, which lasts me a week, is a wonderful indulgence. Newspapers are predicted to soon disappear from our reading landscape. But the thump of a morning newspaper against a door is among my favorite sounds. A sound I’m not ready, to let go.

8:45 am cst | link 

November 21, 2014

Thanksgiving on the horizon, I’ve been thinking about turkey stuffing, also known as turkey dressing. Stuffing tastes are personal. To some, stuffing is almost as important as the turkey, to others, not important at all. Stuffing, at one time, was regularly crammed into the turkey to absorb fat which was, I suppose, how it got its name.  Now cooks are encouraged to bake stuffing in a separate dish. Things in the kitchen change.

My mother’s turkey dressing, or stuffing, consisted of dried cubes of bread mixed up with chopped celery, raisins, chopped onions and pieces of apple. It was moistened with chicken broth and seasoned with sage and poultry seasoning. I loved it, loved, as a child, that it did not vary from year to year. Now, not being much of a traditionalist in the kitchen, my own turkey stuffing endeavors have jumped around. Turkey dressing made with cornbread, with wild rice, with sausage, with walnuts or pecans, with dried fruit. One year I made turkey dressing that included roasted chestnuts. The word rubbery comes to mind. Our first Thanksgiving in New England my husband and I were invited to our landlord’s home for dinner.  I was surprised, and maybe a little shocked, that the turkey stuffing included oysters. Turkey dressing made in my kitchen has never included oysters.

9:03 am cst | link 

November 20, 2014

Yesterday’s Star Tribune had an article about amaryllis and the pleasure their easy-care beauty brings to the winter season. I am an amaryllis fan.

Once I sent a second grader off to school with a kit for his teacher containing an amaryllis bulb, a pot filled with planting soil and a simple set of instructions. It was a holiday gift for both teacher and students. When I remembered I asked my second grader if the bulb had bloomed, if it was gracing his classroom window. He told me the red/orange flower was not in the window but was blooming on the Hawaii table. Are there shells and beach things on the Hawaii table I asked him imagining a table filled with tropical items the teacher had put together to counter the cold outside? He said that the Hawaii table had only the amaryllis on it because it was the table where he and the other kids sat with their teacher for one-on-one reading time. It was the table, my student said, where the teacher could not be reached because it was too far away. It was in Hawaii.

What a wise teacher. A table in the classroom where she could sit and observe everything that was going on and still pay close attention to the individual she was working with.  A table, “in Hawaii,” so distant the other students could not continually interrupt her.

7:20 am cst | link 

November 19, 2014

I was somewhere recently where the conversation veered to the topic of locking doors. Front doors, back doors. Everyone locks their doors. But doors weren’t always locked.

On Saturday mornings, those Saturday mornings of then, Bert Williams shouted out, when he entered our back door with a wooden box of groceries, “Farmer’s Store!”  With or without an answer from anyone, the delivery man would unpack the wooden box filled with groceries and place them on the table in the breakfast nook. Bert would then put food that needed to be refrigerated in the refrigerator, frozen foods in the freezer. Bert would do these homely chores even if no one was home. Our backdoor was always left open.

7:55 am cst | link 

November 18, 2014

There are days when we travel great distances without going very far at all. Days that manage to explain the equation, days that manage to expose all sides of the building when you have, before, been aware of only one. There are days, too, when you are reminded of the kindness of strangers, days you observe the intricate pattern of a scarf, the fresh and lovely face of a child being pushed in a stroller. There are those special days when the sunshine arranges bright rectangles on an old floor.

9:14 am cst | link 

November 17, 2014

Minnesota Haikus


Shorts and summer shoes

out of sight, back of closet.

Warm jackets now norm.


Ski hats, wool mittens,

scarves that cover up our chins.

This is what we wear.


Nature showing off

temperature drops, snow covers earth.

We pause to admire?

1:29 pm cst | link 

November 16, 2014

I’ve pulled out my knitting needles. It is knitting weather. Not long ago I was out of town and stopped into an unfamiliar yarn shop with nothing particular to buy, yarn-wise, in mind. Along with the yarn I decided to purchase, two skeins two shades of blue for a scarf, I was treated to the sight of a group of women of varying ages at the back of the of store sitting in a circle knitting on their various projects. A regular scene found in yarn stores everywhere. This particular knitting scenario, though, had the added attraction of a huge glass bowl, filled with candy, in the center of the knitters. This homely scene looked, and sounded like, a place where anyone would like to be. 

8:06 am cst | link 

November 15, 2014

Some days are so ordinary they become windows into what you do not expect to see.

Yesterday, at breakfast I looked out to notice three squirrels, on a nearby tree branch, grooming each other in ways I have seen monkeys groom one another. Carefully. For long periods. What I found amazing about their behavior was something I can best describe with the word affection. I observed squirrels showing affection.

Later I was driving by a church when I saw a crane hoisting the church’s steeple off of a flatbed truck and onto the lawn in front of the church awaiting the bell to be reinstalled. A steeple swinging through the air was a less usual sight.

And on a day when the temperature was single-digit cold, I saw a woman in a ski parka, mittens and biker shorts. She was wearing hiking boots and short socks exposing her legs, proudly, I’m sure, one of which was almost completely tattooed. 

7:08 am cst | link 

November 14, 2014

The first snow of the season is here. Clumps of it caught in the evergreens, dusted on top of the unraked leaves, capping the fences and the iced-up water bowl set out for the birds. Too early for snow I think, we were spoiled by a perfect autumn. But for the skiers among us, and for the snowsuit crowd, the snow has arrived on time. The right time.

Time moves quickly as we age, in part, I have heard, because of our experience. We have experienced many Thanksgivings like we have experienced many snows. With experience comes lack of surprises and surprises make time move slowly. No matter. The snow is here and sticking around, encouranging me to locate that basket of mittens.

7:09 am cst | link 

November 13, 2014

Last week I had coffee with a friend who had lived, for some years, in England and a women, who I had just met, visiting Northfield from her home in Sydney, Australia. We talked about Brussel sprouts. We all agreed that we liked Brussel sprouts but that many people are not fond of them. The Australian visitor said that she liked the sprouts roasted but if they were boiled soft, she did not care for them at all. My friend who had lived in England said Brussel sprouts were served at school lunches there and his children, who hated them, stuffed them in their pockets where their mother would later find them. I like to grow Brussel sprouts, those little cabbages on a stalk, and I am fixing them tonight. Lightly steamed. With a sprinkle of Parmesan cheese.

6:35 am cst | link 

November 12, 2014

Yesterday was Veteran’s Day. Or Armistice Day, as it used to be called. November 11th is a day I associate with red poppies and my father who was a soldier in the Canadian army, a cyclist who biked ahead of the troops and drew maps of the French and Belgian terrain where the fighting would take place. He and his brother, my Uncle Harry, enlisted in Canada and fought for England. My dad was 17 years old.

Once, as a brownie scout, I sold red paper poppies downtown on a street corner along with members of my scout troop which included my friend, Sandy. As reward for our efforts we were treated to lunch at the VFW hall. A childhood memory that remains with me. Yesterday I looked online at the incredible installation of ceramic poppies on display in London. Looking at this display I thought about wars and warring, Flander’s Field and the living poppies there. Mostly, though, I thought about my dad who came home from a war to become an advocate of peace. 

8:49 am cst | link 

November 11, 2014

It is a school day. Becky has stories. She tells me her grandmother told her that evil spirits can live in trees and that her grandmother wants the trees behind her house chopped down. I listen. I tell Becky that a quarter is worth five nickels or twenty five pennies or two dimes and one nickel. Becky is more interested in the evil spirts possibly dwelling in her grandmother’s trees than she is in learning money facts. We stop into the cafeteria to see what will be served at lunch.

8:59 am cst | link 

November 10, 2014

The world is big. Sometimes, so immersed in my own place in it, I forget. Yesterday I went to a Hmong, New Year’s Party. I have a small container of jelly, a stick of nougat-like candy and a short length of thick, white string with a knot, to show for it. I also have wonderful mental pictures of dozens of men and women in traditional Hmong dress who danced, sang, acted and modeled clothing, much of it red, white or black and heavily spangled, beaded and jeweled. And of course there were the hats, the beautiful hats like elaborate cakes, which added to the wearers’ beauty. I loved the hats.

I was one of only a handful of non Hmong at the large celebration where curries, stir fries, rice, egg rolls and tapioca cake were served, where much of the speaking was done in a language I did not understand. But I understood the words of a tall woman in a Muslim headpiece when she approached the slight Hmong woman standing near me. “I just want to tell you that you look beautiful in your native dress,” she said. “Happy New Year.” 

9:03 am cst | link 

November 9, 2014

Once, when we lived in Philadelphia, I went barefoot on Thanksgiving Day. I remember my delight in that mild autumn, the lingering warm weather. Today, November 9th, I put on a heavy jacket and tomorrow I am going to search out my basket of mittens; the weather people are forecasting six inches of slushy snow. Northfield is further north than Philadelphia. Winter has stepped out, from around the corner.

7:09 am cst | link 

November 8, 2014

Last night I saw words: bouffant, Eskimo, blubber, macadamia, serendipity, galoshes, artichoke, bulbous and tuberculosis turned into actions which turned into movements and became dance. Wonderful.

Carleton’s Semaphore Dancers performed in their youthful, clever, serious way. The stage became their stage to entertain and amuse and we were amused and entertained and appreciative of their efforts, skill and grace. Human beings can walk and we can run. Best of all, we can dance.

7:23 am cst | link 

November 7, 2014

Yesterday, late afternoon, the sky was unusually beautiful. Minnesota skies are, I think, unusually beautiful. The prairie, the farmland flatness, enables you to see the big sky picture.

To describe most skies requires a denser language than the one I own. Much of the time I am too busy, to preoccupied, to look up. When I remember to check in with the sky, I am never disappointed. The sky is as familiar as my name and as mysterious as magic.

6:00 am cst | link 

November 6, 2014

Becky is seven. She is missing two teeth. Her hair is black and her eyes are blue. A beautiful combination. Becky tells me she has a hamster named Peanut and a sister who is in middle school. Becky’s teacher tells me that Becky has been tested as to why she is struggling to read. None of the labels now applied to kids, according to Becky’s teacher, seem to fit Becky. Becky and I sit outside the classroom on little chairs and page through some books. We talk about the illustrations and I enjoy hearing her laugh. I look forward to spending time with her tomorrow.

8:42 am cst | link 

November 5, 2014

A voting story.

Two years ago on election day I wore my ‘I voted’ sticker to my afterschool class of foreign born children or children whose parents were foreign born. The excitement level that afternoon was high. The kids had voted in their regular classrooms, they understood what voting meant. In the course of the afternoon I stopped at a table of boys to help with math homework when one of the kids pointed out my sticker. This prompted the group to share with me who they wanted to win the presidential election or that their mother or parents were going to vote. One boy, a very needy and tough little troublemaker, said his parents couldn’t vote. He did not say why. 

When the class was over and the kids were lining up to take the bus home, the boy who had mentioned that his parents couldn’t vote sidled  up to me and asked if he could have my sticker. I peeled it off and gave it to him. The next day this boy was wearing the ‘I voted’ sticker on his t-shirt. And, as this child often wore the same shirt for days running, the next day and the next.

8:49 am cst | link 

November 4, 2014

See you at the polls.

7:58 am cst | link 

November 3, 2014

Yesterday I bought a container of caramel from Fireside Orchards. I bought apples, too, the purchases a gift. While there I saw caramel apples for sale and I was tempted. I showed restraint.

Caramel apples are a favorite and this is caramel apple season. There are caramel apples in my past. My mother made them in the fall, and I remember receiving them as Halloween treats. I recall with much pleasure the caramel apples my friend and I would sometimes purchase on our walk home from downtown. The apples were sold in a bakery on Main Street, a bakery kitty corner from Lee’s market where my mother sometimes bought meat. In the fall this bakery, whose name I have forgotten, would make and sell caramel apples. One day my friend and I each purchased an apple on our walk home. I bit into the apple and left a tooth in the caramel. At the loosing-tooth-age, this gross event was cause for much laughter. It really was the best of ways to lose a tooth.

10:20 am cst | link 

November 2, 2014

Last night I sat at a table where the subject of economics was being discussed. My knowledge of economic theory is little or nothing in spite of once taking a class in the micro economics of Scandinavia. So, I semi-listened to the conversation, my mind wandering to a catalog we had recently received in the mail. A catalog bringing to light how we spend our personal, economic resources. How we can foolishly spend our money.

Perusing this catalog you are quickly aware that you need not a single item contained in its pages. Who, really, has a pressing need for a pop-up wine glass, a mini vacuum cleaner for their desk, a gun that shoots potato pellets, the world’s smallest voice changer? As for the personalized cheese board, the air guitar which plays tunes with infrared light, and the Holy Family nesting dolls, I just don’t know.

But there is pictured a glitter nail art pen set with eight shimmering colors, originally 19.95 but now down to 14.95. About that little item I can think of someone who might be interested

9:14 am cst | link 

November 1, 2014

The spooks and witches and action figures, have come and gone. This year only about twenty trick-or-treaters, including four college students who were seeking canned goods for the food shelf. The best costume making its way to the front door was a Rubik’s cube constructed and worn by a ten-year-old boy. Each ‘tile’ in every side of the cube thoughtfully painted. There were no Halloween incidents, a quiet evening. But now there is the problem of leftover candy. Almost a full bag of 100 Grand candy bars, a half dozen Peppermint Patties and a handful of Three Musketeer bars, all calling my name. And I tend to listen.

9:42 am cdt | link 

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