Category Archives: Minnesota

We’re number 1?!

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Via Sheeva, Amy, et al, CNN has come up with a list of the 100 best “small cities” to live in in American and topping the list is my hometown, Plymouth, MN. However, as much civic pride as I’d like to have, my initial reaction was “Really?!?! It’s a pretty generic white bread suburb.”
Of course, I find CNN’s description of it highly amusing. For starters, who is in that picture? I have never in my life (which includes 12+ years of living in Plymouth) seen anyone that preppy fishing with waders on in Plymouth. Also, “more than half a dozen sizable bodies of water” by my count includes Medicine Lake (a real lake), Parkers Lake (check), Gleason Lake (okay), Schmidt Lake (hmmm….), and then it starts to get sketchy. If they’re counting Turtle Lake, which I talked about long ago as being a swamp, I’m crying foul.
But I’ll give them credit for mentioning Fire & Ice. Mini-golf-on-ice is pretty fun. And it’s not like the place is all bad… I’m just pretty sure I’ve lived more in more interesting cities.

Minnesota State Fair 2007

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Today I bought a T-shirt with the following Garrison Keillor poem on the back which pretty much sums up my afternoon:

You had a bratwurst and corn on the cob
A hot fudge sundae and a shish kebob
You got a bucket of cheese curds in your hand
And yet you’re stopping at the hot dog stand
You had a taco four inches thick
And a deep-fried walleye on a stick
You better be careful with that Pronto Pup
‘Cause what goes down might come back up

Note: Food consumed today may vary slightly from those listed in the poem.
Also, once I get my camera cable (left in Michigan) I’ll post pictures of both the Fair and the 35W bridge (taken from afar).

Bridge Collapses

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For those who haven’t heard, the I-35W bridge over the Mississippi river collapsed this afternoon. For those who have heard, my immediately family is thankfully all accounted for. (And thanks to those who have inquired.) The pictures are terrifying, especially given that my sister used to live only a few blocks from where the collapse happened and I myself have crossed that bridge many a time.
The crash happened right in the middle of rush hour, during bumper to bumper traffic. I don’t think they know how long it will be before they pull all the cars out of the river and find out just how many people were involved.

State Fair

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“Our state fair is a great state fair…”
Okay, the bulleted list of today’s highlights of my annual visit to the Minnesota State Fair:

  • Seeing a calf be born — Walking in to the fair, we saw a new building — the Miracle of Birth Center. Upon approaching the building, we noticed it was packed with people. As it turns out, we arrived just in time to see a cow give birth, with placenta and everything. However, they are not yet at the point of serving placenta as a fair food. (I would try it though — seriously.)
  • Princess Kay in butter — One of the Princess Kay of the Milky Way candidates was having her head sculpted into butter, as is tradition, in a chilled room in the Empire Commons. She mentioned that both of her older sisters had been dairy princesses, and thus this will be the third butter head in her parents freezer. These are 90 pound blocks of butter. I suspect they must have a separate freezer just for the butter heads.
  • The food — Many glasses of milk, a scotch egg (hard boiled egg surrounded by sausage), deep fried macaroni and cheese on a stick, a chocolate ice cream cone, a lingonberry ice cream float, fried cheese curds, ginger beer, chocolate covered cheesecake on a stick, and probably more that I’m forgetting. I think I will eat salads for the rest of the week.
  • Flying over the fair — Rode on both of the gondola rides — the original Sky Ride that takes you from Heritage Square to the Agriculture Building and the much newer Sky Glider, which takes you from the north end of the fair (near the Twins booth) to the Grandstand.
  • The Barbary Coast Dixieland Show Band — These guys were great. Clarinets, trombones, trumpets, a banjo, an upright bass, and drumset — and most of them rotated around a few of these. The highlight for me was the Washington and Lee Swing, a swing version of my high school rouser.
  • The animals — Not just the newborn calf, but pigs, sheep, cows, chickens, ducks, geese, and even a few horses (though the main horse barn was closed today).

I love the fair.

Games children play

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Well, the Kirby entries are still attracting comments from people I don’t know, but I’m done mourning, so it’s time for a new post…
A few years back, before I had a blog, there was discussion of the game “Duck, duck…” As a Minnesotan, I immediately follow that up with “gray duck” (or even “grey duck”). I said it on Anand’s post, and I’ll say it here… Duck, Duck, Gray Duck is much more fun than whatever silly game you play with geese because it allows for more creativity. (“Red duck, blue duck, pink polka-dotted duck, plaid duck, gr… een duck (ha ha, fooled you), rubber duck, roast duck, gray duck!”)
In some random web surfing the other day, I came across www.gray-duck.com and this article,* which brings up another children’s game for which Minnesota apparently has its own variation. Growing up, did you play “Captain, may I?” or “Mother, may I?” or do you have no idea what game I’m talking about? To perhaps refresh your memory, the game worked something like this:
Everyone stands at one end of the yard (or whereever your starting line is) and procedes in turn to ask the Captain/Mother, questions like…
“Captain (Mother), may I take two scissors steps?”
“Captain (Mother), may I take four bunny hops?”
etc.
The captain/mother uses his/her discretion as to whether or not you can. And if you don’t say “Captain, may I…” you have to go back to the beginning. Under these rules, the winner is the one who gets to the other side of the yard (or to the tree or whatever the finish line is) first.


* – Amusing side note: I once saw this article tacked to an office door in the old LCS at MIT, back when building 32 (the Stata Center) was just a big construction project. Given that the owner of the site has a csail e-mail address, the article I saw on the door was probably the exact same one scanned to make the jpg I linked to.

Games children play

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Well, the Kirby entries are still attracting comments from people I don’t know, but I’m done mourning, so it’s time for a new post…
A few years back, before I had a blog, there was discussion of the game “Duck, duck…” As a Minnesotan, I immediately follow that up with “gray duck” (or even “grey duck”). I said it on Anand’s post, and I’ll say it here… Duck, Duck, Gray Duck is much more fun than whatever silly game you play with geese because it allows for more creativity. (“Red duck, blue duck, pink polka-dotted duck, plaid duck, gr… een duck (ha ha, fooled you), rubber duck, roast duck, gray duck!”)
In some random web surfing the other day, I came across www.gray-duck.com and this article,* which brings up another children’s game for which Minnesota apparently has its own variation. Growing up, did you play “Captain, may I?” or “Mother, may I?” or do you have no idea what game I’m talking about? To perhaps refresh your memory, the game worked something like this:
Everyone stands at one end of the yard (or whereever your starting line is) and procedes in turn to ask the Captain/Mother, questions like…
“Captain (Mother), may I take two scissors steps?”
“Captain (Mother), may I take four bunny hops?”
etc.
The captain/mother uses his/her discretion as to whether or not you can. And if you don’t say “Captain, may I…” you have to go back to the beginning. Under these rules, the winner is the one who gets to the other side of the yard (or to the tree or whatever the finish line is) first.


* – Amusing side note: I once saw this article tacked to an office door in the old LCS at MIT, back when building 32 (the Stata Center) was just a big construction project. Given that the owner of the site has a csail e-mail address, the article I saw on the door was probably the exact same one scanned to make the jpg I linked to.

Hotdish

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If you’re here from the Glee Club Scavenger Hunt, you really want to follow this link
Last night I made the most traditional of Minnesotan dishes — a hotdish. My roommate was intrigued… but not enough to want to try it. I’ve had various reactions through the years: some people love it, some people hate it, some people think it sounds gross (despite having never tried it), some people think it looks like cat vomit, and once, a lifelong fan of A Prairie Home Companion offered me $3 to have some. (And, by the way, she loved it.)
The biggest misconception about hotdish is that all hotdishes are the same. But in reality, “hotdish” is just a class of many different dishes. So just because you don’t like one particular hotdish, that doesn’t mean you’ll dislike them all. The basic ingredients are some kind of meat, some kind of vegetable, some kind of starch, a cream-based soup (often cream of mushroom), and optionally, cheese. If you cook often (which admittedly, I don’t), leftovers are fair game as well. It’s all thrown together in a casserole dish and baked in the oven for about 45 minutes. There are few constraint rules that may vary by chef. For example, if the meat is tuna, the starch is some kind of pasta. Other than that, it’s pretty much a free-for-all.
I generally make two different kinds of hotdish: tuna and tater tot. Tuna hotdish generally consists of tuna, cream of mushroom soup, corn, egg noodles, and I’ll often throw corn flakes (and once grape nuts) on top to give it a crunchy crust. Tater tot hotdish, which I made last night, consists of ground beef or ground turkey, a bag of mixed vegetables, cheddar cheese, cream of mushroom soup, and, of course, tater tots. Since you have to pre-prepare the meat, tater tot hotdish usually takes a little longer to make.
The magic of hotdish is two-fold. First, you’ve put all your food groups in one dish, so there’s no need to also make a side dish, which also reduces the number of dishes you have to do. Second, it reheats surprisingly well, so as a single person cooking for one, I can make one hotdish on Monday night and have dinner for the rest of the week. Oh, and despite the naysayers, I happen to think it’s delicious.

The Great Minnesota Get Together

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Macaroni and Cheese on a Stick!

Yesterday I went to the Minnesota State Fair… which perhaps ought to be renamed the Great Minnesota Pig Out. I was only there for the evening, as my co-fairgoers, Amy and Annie, were at work during the day. As a result, I didn’t get to eat as much as I normally do. The list of foods digested is as follows:

  • All-You-Can-Drink-Milk-For-$1: 3.5 glasses (two chocolate, one 2%, one split with Annie)
  • Fried Macaroni and Cheese on a Stick… not as disgusting as it sounds
  • Lefsa with ligonberry jam and butter
  • Free water from the (new) WCCO booth
  • Mini-donuts (split with Amy)
  • Ginger beer (no rum)
  • Pickle dog (large pickle coated in cream cheese, wrapped in pastrami)
  • Bucket of Sweet Martha’s Cookies (split 3 ways with leftovers)
  • Sparkling Cider Float (sparkling apple cider and ice cream)
mama-pig.JPG
Pigging out at the fair

Of course, we did more than just eat… we wandered through the International Bazaar, checked out the crop art in the Agricultural building, and hung out in Heritage square, where I made Amy a stylish newspaper hat from the newspaper museum. (By the way, Johnston would love the working linotype.) Following Heritage Square, we took a trip over the fair on the SkyRide, in which I had to promise not to rock the cart so that my sister would join us.

After the ride, we wandered over to the animal barns and saw a sow and her piglets sleeping peacefully in the hay. In the neighboring stall was Minnesota’s biggest pig (1060 pounds). I seem to recall the biggest pig being much bigger when I was younger — more like 12-1300 pounds. I guess people like leaner pork these days. After the pigs, we visited the cows, sheep, and horses. Since we were there in the evening, most of the animals were preparing for bed, but there was a showing of some 4-H Holsteins just outside the main cattle barn. However, Annie insisted that we MOOOve along. (I am so sorry for that… actually, I’m not.)

Once we had finished stuffing our faces and visiting the animals, we moved on to the Midway where the rides were discounted for “Thrifty Thursday.” Annie convinced us to go on some ride where we spun around and flipped upside down and I nearly lost the fried macaroni and cheese. But I didn’t. On the other hand, after a bingefest like that, tonight I opted for a salad. After all, I’m going back on Tuesday — I have to be prepared.

Memories

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After visiting the University of Michigan last week, I swung through Minneapolis for a three-day “layover” and spent Easter with my parents. Monday night I drove by the old softball fields at Oakwood where I spent much of my summer evenings growing up, and I also had dinner with a former softball teammate at Snuffy’s Malt Shop. (Hi, Amy.) These occurrences, combined with the fact that I’ve been reading The Brother’s K, have inspired me to attempt to write down little vignettes based on my experiences on various ball fields growing up. This might become a series of entries. Or it might be a one time thing to get this out of my system. In any event…

The Catch
Back in 8th grade, I was the star first baseman of the Wayzata East Junior High softball team. Given that we didn’t win a game all season, that’s not saying much. We were pretty much the girls softball equivalent of The Bad News Bears. One of our outfielders repeatedly showed up to practice and games high on whatever magic pills she was storing in her locker and our sober outfielders were infamous for watching the fly balls soar over their heads, waiting until they landed to go and retrieve them.
Due to my own solid glove and the lack of initiative in our various deliquent right fielders, I pretty much took defensive claim over any foul pop-ups to the right side. In one memorable away game, we were playing on a muddy field that lacked all fences, save the backstop. We were in the field, and the current batter had one strike against her. On the next pitch, she swung and connected and I saw the ball soar high into the air right towards my right field foul territory.
Now, it’s worth noting that when I say the ball soared high, I mean that it pretty much went straight up and the fact that it traveled a significant horizontal distance was due do the large amount of time it spent travelling vertically. As soon as it left the bat, I focused on nothing but the ball and chased after it somewhere deep in foul territory. All I could see was the white dot flying against the blue sky, and thus I had no idea just how foul the ball was or how close I was coming to the giant mud puddle that had formed on the dirt path behind our visiting team bench.
Realizing that I was going to come a few steps short of actually reaching the ball, at the last second I desperately stuck my glove way out in front of me and dove onto my knees, right into the aforementioned mud puddle. Much to my amazement, the ball landed right in my glove. I raised it above my head to the cheers of my team. I could see my coach, the illustrious Mr. Lamphere, laughing and shaking his head in disbelief. Then I realized that I had run right past my team’s bench, off of the playing field entirely. And that’s when the umpire broke the bad news.
“The catch was out of bounds. No play. Foul ball – strike two.”
I was incredulous. I had just made the catch of my life, gotten myself covered in mud, and yet it didn’t count because I had run too far. My coach continued laughing and shrugged as I picked myself up and headed back to the infield, ball in hand.
On the next pitch, the batter straightened it out and sent a towering drive over our center fielder’s head. She crossed home plate before we even got the ball back to the infield.

Poor Iowa *snicker*

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As regular listeners of Prairie Home Companion are aware, one of the few things Minnesotans like to do more than mock North Dakota is mock Iowa.* Even our governors have been known to mock Des Moines. And so, I was extremely amused to run across this headline in the New York Times:
“Keeping Iowa’s Young Folks at Home After They’ve Seen Minnesota”
The article included such choice Iowa bashing lines as:

“Another Iowan, when asked what the state needed to keep its young people, said, ‘An ocean would help.’ This is the kind of big thinking Iowa has always been famous for.”
“Iowa would be a great place to live, if only the air and the water weren’t polluted and you could be sure you wouldn’t find yourself living next to 10,000 sows in a hog prison.”

In all fairness, Minnesota farm towns, such as Clara City, don’t do very well at keeping their young people around either. But at least they tend to stay in the state. (And I do realize the irony of me saying that.)
* Even more than Iowa, we like mocking Wisconsin the most. At least that one’s a fair fight and involves sports rivalries. Iowa and North Dakota don’t even have sports teams.