food

Car Nightmares

I was driving home last night around 7 pm. Of course it was already pitch dark. I was in the left lane of a one way street about two blocks from my apartment. I was at a stoplight. The light turned green and I moved forward. The next thing I knew the car on my right was turning left in front of me. It was one of those things where your brain can’t process it fast enough. I tried to turn left with it and I tried to stop but it drug me along. It was like they didn’t realize they were dragging me along because they kept going. It seemed like an age until they stopped. We weren’t going fast. Nobody was injured but my front right end is dented and scratched. And now I have the huge headache of dealing with it all, not to mention the money I will probably have to dole out. Ugh. 

The only other time I was in anything like an accident was the time I backed out of a parking space into a car I had not seen. Of course it turned out to be a little Porsche. They had a lot of damage but I had none. 

That was the highlight of my week…. not… Oh, yeah, plus I found out my car is “seeping” oil. Once they get to certain age, they turn on you.

In other news, I’m almost done reading the first book of the Raj Quartet about the fall of British rule in India. Historically speaking it is an interesting book. But very long. It rehashes the same story from many different perspectives in order to give the reader a full picture of the times. I’m not sure I want to dive into book two. Maybe later.

I’m watching Game of Thrones. Not sure what to say about that. I am addicted to it and can’t turn away but I don’t really like any of the characters. Who knew there could be so many sadists. As soon as I start rooting for somebody they get killed. There is one interesting thing about it, tho. The strongest characters all seem to be women. Not really all that surprising. But the really funny thing is the author of the book, of this book, all about killing and torture, was a conscientious objector during the Viet Nam war. He apparently said the Grateful Dead’s music may have influenced his work and that Trump is like a grown up King Joffrey (who was universally hated). Anyway, fantasy isn’t real, right?

I have been going to this Greek restaurant at Lake and Lyndale in Minneapolis ever since the 1980’s. Back then it was small and crowded. By the 2000 teens it had expanded, added a patio, and the food was bad. After about three years of avoiding it, we went back there last night (before the accident). The food was GOOD. I had a very delicate and tasty spanakopita for an appetizer and then some nice chicken kebob with rice and warm pita. Couldn’t have been better.

I’m going to paint my kitchen cupboards this week. Wish me luck.

Friday Before next year…

Almost 2023. Very odd. Time is a very strange thing. When you are young it can’t move fast enough. Then it just sort of stalls for a while. As people start getting married and having children and busy jobs.. it speeds up. And in a blink of an eye, the children are off to college and doing their own thing. The job either slows down or overcomes you. Or burns you out. And then time just warps. It becomes unpredictable. It breaks down into segments. The day could be long but the week could be short. Unpredictable. 

This week I read Travel Light, Move Fast by Alexandra Fuller. She is watching her father die in a hospital in Budapest. Actually in Buda. Her parents were on vacation when he collapsed. Alexandra flew from the USA to help her mother and be with her father. It took him ten days to die. In that time she flashes back on his life and on her life. He was English but moved to South Africa at a young age. She was born and raised in South Africa. Or I should say Southern Africa. She lived through the war that converted Rhodesia into Zimbabwe. 

I enjoyed the book. She writes well and her family is full of interesting characters. She has written several books, mostly about her childhood. She has not had an easy life, but an interesting one.

Years ago we had a tradition of having cheese fondue and ratatouille, usually on New Year’s Eve. This year I was craving cheese fondue. I ate it on Christmas Eve. Couldn’t wait. It was yummy. It goes really well with ratatouille.

Ratatouille

Peel, Slice and salt to get rid of excess moisture:
2 1/2 cups diced eggplant

Put in a deep skillet:
1/3 cup olive oil

Sauté until golden:
¾ cup thinly sliced onions  (red or yellow)
2 cloves garlic

Add:
4 thinly sliced green peppers
3 cups zucchini, cut into cubes
2 cups chopped tomatoes
Add the drained eggplant.

Sprinkle the mixture with:
Olive oil

Add:
½ teaspoon oregano and 1 teaspoon basil

Simmer covered over low heat about 45 minutes.
Uncover and continue to heat 15 minutes longer to reduce the mount of liquid

Add:
Salt and fresh pepper

Serve hot or cold with sour cream.

I have also had it with lamb chops and mashed potatoes and it is delicious.

Happy New Year!!

Quick year in review

Four Days in Alexandria, VA

We arrived in Old Town Alexandria, Virginia, on Thursday afternoon. Our first goal was to get some snacks to tide us over until dinner. We decided to walk and I managed to get us lost going the wrong direction and we walked several miles out of the way. From then on we took Ubers.

Three of us from high school met up for a long weekend. We are part of a group who meet up fairly regularly and have a great time together. Because of Covid, we hadn’t seen each other for several years and our rendezvous was way overdue. I flew in from Minnesota, Jen came down on the train from NYC, and Daisy flew up from Florida. Our first night we met up with some local friends at Mia’s Italian Kitchen. I’m sorry to say my food was not the best, but others at the table raved about their choices. So maybe it was just my choice. Anyway the best part was the ceiling.

We stayed up until 2 in the morning catching up at our AirB&B. I don’t know what we talk about or how we can have so much to say but we just never want to stop once we get started. My friends from boarding school are like my family.

The next morning my roommate from the 11th grade was retiring from USAID and she had invited me to her retirement ceremony. I attended virtually and was a little late arriving but it was awesome to see how many people thought she was awesome. Although she spent her whole career at USAID she had a varied and rewarding time, living all over the world.

That night we met up with her and a bunch of other people at our All Class Reunion at the Cosmos Club in Washington, DC. It was the first time we had attended one of these parties since Covid and they mentioned this was was the largest group they have had in several years.

You never know who you will meet at those parties. We ended up down in the lobby with two women named Pam who were several years older. One was from Venezuela, my friend is from Venezuela, and a group of recently graduated kids who were going to Georgetown also were from Venezuela. It never matters if we knew each other at school or what ages we are, we always seem to have a connection and sense of camaraderie.

We managed to pry ourselves away and ended up at a Whiskey Bar in Chinatown. It was chock full of very young people. From there we went back to the AirB&B and only stayed up until 1:30 am. We had a reservation for lunch at 2 pm the next day.

Old Town Alexandria has a Trolley that runs up and down King Street all day long. And it is Free. It was perfect for our needs. We jumped on the trolley and took it all the way down to the waterfront. A few blocks away is Ada’s on the River, a very nice restaurant right on the Potomac River. We managed to get a booth by the window and a view. Lunch was good but don’t remember what I had. I was eyeing the crab cake but at over $40 dollars decided to pass.

I lived in the area for about 14 years so I have seen all the sights a million times but my friends were eager to head to the Mall and take it all in. We took an Uber to the Lincoln Memorial. After watching several wedding photo shoots and saying hello to Mr Lincoln, we headed down the Mall to the Washington Memorial, stopping at the Vietnam Memorial and the WWII Memorial along the way. We can report there are restrooms at the Washington Memorial. We walked by the new African American museum but it was closed. The sun was pretty much gone by this time. Walking up 14th street, we spotted a rooftop bar at the Hotel Washington and decided to go for it.

It was pretty crowded but we pushed through all the way to the far side of the bar and found stools at the window facing the White House. We each had a drink and Daisy said she would pay for it. Haha. I then remembered why I had only been there once before. It cost over $60 for three drinks. And they weren’t fancy drinks. But the view was fabulous.

We had to be out of the AirB&B by 10 am the next morning so we had a fairly early night. Our brunch reservation was for 10:15 am at the Union Street Public House in Old Town. The restaurant was completely empty when we arrived but the bar was full of people watching the first day of FIFA.

From there it was back to the airport and home to reality.

Some shots around Alexandria:

Friday Ramblings

Well, it’s another Friday. Another week. My countdown to retirement is jogging along. I am down to 67 more days. Probably time to start obsessing. Actually, I’m way past that. Forms, Dates, Signatures, meetings…. My head is swimming.

I keep trying to find happy, positive, funny things to write about. I always end up back at the gloom and doom of today’s headlines. I was listening to the news this morning and literally the only thing they mentioned as far as National/International news was… drum roll… Twitter. Elon Musk took over Twitter and fired the CEO. Then with all kinds of speculation about what will happen next. Will he unblock Trump? Will he get rid of all controls imposed?

I am on Twitter but I rarely look at it. I think you have to be focused in on a particular subject to really understand any of it. But ultimately it just feeds the press and the ignorant. The ignorant press? Who cares what Elon Musk does? He is in the top 1 percent. Probably the top idiot of the top 1 percent of the top 1 percent. Why am I even mentioning him? Ugh…

Speaking of the 1 percent… Another one with too much money: Jeff Bezos. He is the one who shot William Shatner (and others) into space, for a minute. Of course my thought was, what an incredible waste of money. Shatner released his book, Boldly Go on October 4. Apparently, he had an overwhelming revelation during that flight. He saw the vast emptiness of space and the beauty of the earth. It is a common thread with astronauts. How amazingly beautiful our planet looks from space. Many are overcome by it. Shatner took it a step further and was overcome with grief. He realized we were killing our beautiful planet. So my thought is, why doesn’t Bezos pour all his money into saving our planet instead of trying to colonize Mars? Who wants to live on an ugly red planet?

How about a Travel Tidbit? Apparently today there is a big festival every year in Oshogbo, Nigeria. It draws thousands of people from around the world. I went there in the last 1970’s. It was the center for women’s fertility ceremonies and shrines on the Osun River. We were allowed into their private area and led down to the river to witness a ritual. We saw many shrines in the area. An Austrian artist named Suan Wenger created sculptures in the area – weird things that looked like huts, or female forms. She revived the area and brought attention to it and today it is a UNESCO World Heritage site. When my friend and I went there, we were the only visitors.

This is an except from September 1, 1939 by W.H.Auden.

Somehow seems relevant today…

All I have is a voice
To undo the folded lie,
The romantic lie in the brain
Of the sensual man-in-the-street
And the lie of Authority
Whose buildings grope the sky:
There is no such thing as the State
And no one exists alone;
Hunger allows no choice
To the citizen or the police;
We must love one another or die.
—-W.H.Auden

I made Tarragon Chicken this week that turned out yummy. Sorry, no photos this time…

1 lb skinless chicken breasts cubed
½ red onion chopped
8 oz mushrooms chopped
2 cloves garlic chopped
½ cup white wine
7 ½ oz crème fraiche
1 Tbsp Dijon mustard
24 oz small potatoes cut in half
2 Tbsp chopped fresh Tarragon

  • Cook chicken with onions and garlic in some olive oil. Season with salt and pepper.
  • Add the mushrooms.
  • Toss the potatoes in oil, salt, pepper, and rosemary. Pour onto a baking sheet and bake at 400 degrees for about 20 minutes or until done.
  • In a bowl add the crème fraiche, mustard, wine and tarragon.
  • Add the sauce to the chicken and heat through.
  • Add the cooked potatoes and mix to coat. Or you can serve the potatoes separately.
  • Enjoy

drive empty highway lane

Friday Exploration

pexels-photo-5988878.jpeg
Photo by Łukasz Kondracki on Pexels.com

I watched a documentary this week on Prime called the Bikes of Wrath. Five young Australian guys who loved John Steinbeck’s book, The Grapes of Wrath, decided to retrace the trip. On bicycles. They started out with about $400 which was the equivalent of what the Joad family had when they set out. They traveled 2,600 miles on Route 66 from Oklahoma to California over 30 days. It doesn’t really work, though. These guys are well educated, fairly affluent and competent guys from another country. They are welcomed time and again by locals putting their best foot forward. People living in poverty hand them money and food and provide lodging and care. They are overwhelmed with generosity.  Because they are making a movie? Because they are non-threatening? Because they are white? Because they are male? I must say I did not have a very positive experience the time I got lost in Amarillo, Texas in the 70’s. Maybe times have changed….

I love the British Baking Show as much as the next person. But Mexican Week? Really? Brits making tacos? It was somewhat amusing to watch. They had no idea. Even the judges were a bit embarrassing in their ignorance. Luckily this week they were back on task.

Speaking of Brits and embarrassing moments… How about that Prime Minister? Five weeks must be some kind of record.

I spoke to a woman last week who said she is convinced our doom is imminent. Within the next 20 years. Climate change will destroy us all. Pollution, disease, financial collapse, food and water shortages. I think there is something in our brain that deflects all of that. When I was little, my mother was all over that. Fifty years ago, she worried about teeming landfills, water conservation, power shortages, and communicable diseases. I guess she was ahead of her time. Or was it because we lived in developing countries where all that existed already? I’ve read my share of science fiction. I know what is possible. Why can’t politicians have brains? Why can’t policy makers wake up?

Enough. Deflect deflect deflect.

And now for something completely different… (click for larger view)

I leave you with something sweet.

Lemon Sponge Pudding

Combine:

3/4  cup sugar
1/4 tsp. salt
1 Tbsp. grated lemon peel
1 1/2 Tbsp. soft butter
3 Tbsp. flour
2 egg yolks, beaten

Add:    

1/4 cup lemon juice
1 cup milk
(Mixture may have curdled appearance, but no matter)

Beat:    

2 egg whites until stiff and fold into mixture.

Pour into buttered 1.5 quart casserole.

Place in pan of hot water

Bake at 325°F uncovered 40-45 min or until set (1 hr).

Serve warm or chilled.  I like it warm!

Friday’s Thoughts

October 14, 2022: First snow. Pretty early for that. 33 degrees F. this morning.

Angela Lansbury died this week. I spent years watching endless murders in small northeastern towns with her solving every single one of them. She was very good at it.

I’m reading a Dan Brown book – Inferno. You know Dan Brown, he wrote the DaVinci Code. Tom Hanks starred in the movie. I think Tom Hanks was in Angels and Demons as well. As I read the book, I picture Tom Hanks racing around looking for clues. But the thing I really love about the book is that the first half is set in Florence and then they move on to Venice. He races around Florence through the Boboli Gardens to the Pitti Palace and across the Ponte Vecchio and out into the Piazza della Signora. Then he works his way over to the Baptistery of St John next the grand Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore. All places I have been to and remember fondly. I’m right there with him. And then to Venice where I remember standing in the middle of St Mark’s Square and a pigeon landed on my head. I hate pigeons to this day.

Øresund Bridge Credit: Amjad Sheikh

The New York Times had an article this week – 36 Hours in Stockholm. I read it with interest because I am toying with the idea of going there for just a couple of days. The article seemed reasonable enough. Museum, gallery, food, night life, shopping, parks, food, parks, more food. I always like to read the comments. A lot of them were not complementary. They listed all the things left out. The blandness of the country. The immigration problems. The crime. The lack of crime. And of course, the article failed to mention the Abba Museum. How could that be? I must admit none of it really lured me in. But I do live in Minnesota, so….  Probably not all that different. I might fly to Malmo and take a train across the 16 km Øresund Bridge to Copenhagen. Now that sounds like fun.

Speaking of food, I have my favorite Indian restaurants around town but last night I tried a new one called Spice and Tonic. I love pakoras so we ordered some vegetable pakoras to start with. They brought us paneer pakoras by mistake. They let us have the paneer pakoras for free and brought the vegetable ones a bit later. A pakora is like a fritter. The vegetable is mixed into a batter of chickpea flour, spices and water and then deep fat fried so it is crunchy on the outside. My friend kept calling them critters. But the paneer pakoras were not a hit with me. Paneer is the home-made cheese often used for Indian dishes. This was a long tube of paneer, battered and fried. It was just too much. Maybe if it had been made up into smaller pieces, I would have liked it better. We ordered Chicken Makhani, Chicken Tikka Masala, Vegetable Curry, and Garlic Naan. They were all delicious.

Random Friday Thoughts

Above are three vintage postcards from Watkins Glen, NY that appeared on my Postcardbuzz blog this week. I am quite fond of them. You can read a bit more about them on the blog.

The State Fair started yesterday. I love going to see the animals and the seed art. And of course a big attraction is all the weird food. A couple of new ones this year are Soulsicle: Fried chicken on-a-stick topped with candied yam sauce, cornbread crumble, mac-and-cheese seasoned cheddar cheese, hot sauce and green onions. This year’s twist on the pronto pup or corn dog: Tot Dog: all-beef hot dog dipped in corn dog batter, rolled in a mixture of minced tater tots, cheddar cheese and onions, then deep-fried. Plus there is deep fried ice cream on a stick, and pickle pizza. My go-tos at the fair are cheese curds, Sweet Martha’s Cookie Jar, Tom Thumb mini donuts, and a chocolate malt from the Dairy Barn. Although those Tot Dogs sound pretty good….

Haha, Japan again…There was an article in the New York Times this week about the efforts of Japan to market and implement the 17 Sustainable Development Goals as laid out by the United Nations in 2015, to “provide a shared blueprint for peace and prosperity for people and the planet, now and into the future”.

The logo is a colorful rainbow wheel with 17 colors to represent the 17 goals. The logo and theme have been used in Japan on lapel pins, board games and comic books, playgrounds, and a music video with over 940,000 views on YouTube. The pins cost $7.99 and can be found here.  They also have lanyards, postcards, and other things.

Japan made the goals part of National Policy and have set up an aggressive marketing campaign to raise awareness. Where three years ago nobody knew what it was, today it has become common knowledge. In 2015, Japan ranked number 13, on the annual Sustainable Development Solutions Network report, a nonprofit under the United Nations. It then dropped to 19th. One area it needs to work on is gender equality. Even though they aren’t achieving all the goals, the first step is awareness and they are doing a pretty good job of that.

On the other hand, the USA placed 41st in 2022. And most people are not aware of it. Finland came in at number one. South Sudan comes in at number 163. There are 30 countries not accounted for (most of them very small).

The 17 goals are:

  1. No Poverty
  2. Zero Hunger
  3. Good Health and Well-Being
  4. Quality Education
  5. Gender Equality
  6. Clean Water and Sanitation
  7. Affordable and Clean Energy
  8. Decent Work and Economic Growth
  9. Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure
  10. Reduced Inequalities
  11. Sustainable Cities and Communities
  12. Responsible Consumption and Production
  13. Climate Action
  14. Life Below Water
  15. Life on Land       
  16. Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions
  17. Partnerships for the Goals

The goal is to achieve this dream by 2030. Sounds like a pipe dream, doesn’t it? Even though Finland comes in at number one, it’s score is not 100%. It has a score of 86.51%. The USA comes in at 74.55%. The disturbing thing is that there are no achievements for the USA, only yellow and red with some positive achievement in Clean Water and Sanitation and Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure. Anyway, not good. You can take a look for yourself.

To more cheerful moments… My bathroom re-do is done, except I’m still waiting for the rug but never mind. Have a look.

Before:

After:

Have a great weekend!

Cloquet, Minnesota

Cloquet, Minnesota is about 20 miles west of Duluth. Part of it is within the Fond du Lac Indian Reservation and is one of three administrative centers for the Reservation. As you pull into town you will see the R.W. Lindholm Service Station. Frank Lloyd Wright designed Ray Lindholm’s house in 1952, and since he knew Lindholm was in the oil business, he offered to design a gas station as part of Broadacre City (Wright’s urban planning concept). Wright completed the design and the station opened in 1958. It later became a Phillips 66 station. The station was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1985. It is still a working gas station.

Another Cloquet attraction is Gordy’s High Hat. In 2015, the drive in diner was featured on Guy Fieri’s Diners, Drive-Ins & Dives.

Gordy and Marilyn Lundquist opened their door in 1960, to serve “hand pattied hamburgers, hand-battered Alaskan fish, homemade onion rings, and fresh blended malts” and they are still going strong. We stopped in for burgers and fries and they were yummy!

Duluth, Minnesota

Duluth is about a two and a half hour drive north of the Twin Cities. We had hoped it would be cooler up there but on the day we left, the temperature was the same as it was in St Paul — over 90 degrees F. 

Just outside Duluth there is a large rest stop with a spectacular overlook. There is also a sculpture by David von Schlegell done in 1976 called The Gate. Von Schlegell was from St. Louis, Missouri. His father was an American Impressionist painter, William von Schegell. The plaque says: 

The Stainless steel sculpture functions as a metaphor, tying the horizontal lines of the land and Lake Superior, which are both very visible from this location, together at the point of intersection with the City of Duluth. The Gate serves to recognize the importance of Duluth, as not only a gateway to Minnesota’s north shore, but also to the world through the Great Lakes St. Lawrence Seaway that extends 3700 kilometers (2300 miles) east to the Atlantic Ocean.

On the way into town we stopped at the Duluth Grill located a 118 S. 27th Ave. W. The restaurant is open daily from 8 am to 3 pm and serves fresh, local, organic food. Their salads and sandwiches were delicious. Plus they serve breakfast all day.

Our next stop was to check into our hotel right on the lake. We stayed at the Canal Park Lodge at 250 Canal Park Drive. It was very comfortable and the view was spectacular. Breakfast was included. 

The first day I walked along the shore all the way to the lighthouse and back. It was kind of a mistake since it was so hot but I did get to see the bridge go up and got a close up view of the light house.

The Duluth Aerial Lift Bridge was completed in 1905, and was upgraded in 1929. In 1973 it went on the National Register of Historic Places and is one of the most photographed sites in Minnesota. In the busy seasons, it averages 26 lifts a day and operates 24 hours a day. It has a clearance of 180 feet when completely raised and is very similar to a bridge in Rouen, France. They are the only two of their kind in the world.

A couple of big ships had just gone out when we arrived but I was lucky enough to see the bridge go up to let the tug boat back in.

Another important bridge is the one that connects Duluth, Minnesota with Superior, Wisconsin. The John A. Blatnik Bridge is 7,975 feet (2,431 m) long and rises up nearly 120 feet (37 m) above the St. Louis River which is a tributary of Lake Superior. The bridge was completed in 1971 but has been widened and strengthened since then.