Wednesday, April 30, 2008

The Joy of Cooking

It doesn't take a great kitchen to cook up great food, but it sure does help the sanity of the cook. One of our highlights of our trip to New York was visiting home and spending alot of time in the new kitchen, which just underwent a huge renovation.There's a baking center, convection ovens, an apron sink, stove with a pot filler, new bathroom...and all with a farmhouse feel. It's a great addition that took careful time and more than one headache to plan. The new kitchen did make cooking for the Seder a nice, less crowded experience. Here are pictures:

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Local Station examines "Minnesota Nice"

Okay, so I'm not the only one who has an opinion of Minnesota Nice. Local TV station, WCCO, did a special report on Minnesota Nice.

They even have an online poll that asks if Minnesota Nice is a fact or a myth.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

How they lived

Dave's ancestors arrived in America at the turn of the century. Like many immigrants fleeing religious intolerance and violence in Russian and Slavic states, they entered through historic Ellis Island. Then they settled with their own in one of the most populated places in the world, the Lower East Side.

The area is still crammed with immigrants, but today they are mostly Chinese and Asian and the overall numbers don't climb nearly as high as they once did. You can visit and learn about the immigrant experience at the new Tenement Museum. (They wouldn't allow inside pictures)

I like museums, but I think this is one anyone can appreciate. The building opened in the 1880s, and was condemned as a living residence in 1935. The owners only rented out the storefront, and in 1988, a person looking for a place for a tenement museum found one that hadn't been touched in more than 50 years. That's pretty amazing in most any town, but in New York I'd say it's near miraculous. The building shows apartments that are dark, cramped and very stuffy. It's hard to believe people thought they were actually bettering their lives in a foreign country by moving into such a tight, wretched space...and then working alongside your family day and night sewing garments in that tight, wretched space.
(Of course all spaces in New York City are pretty tight, but at least you have air, running water, and hopefully, not 8 of your relatives living with you.)
It is easy to see why immigrants packed up and headed to the clean air state of Minnesota, which was being advertised as a "bug-free, healthy 'open-air hospital' with a moderate climate, to boot."
There's been alot of buzz about this museum in New England, and in the museum world. It's 17-bucks a ticket for a tour (and they offer several) but it's worth it.

I'll have what SHE's having

Dave and I spent our first day in New York on the Lower East Side with his parents experencing food and culture. New York is a haven for good food at just about any price, and it's hard to find a deli that tops the sandwich shops in the City.

When on the East Side, you've got to go to Katz's. It's an experience that's been around on the corner of Houston and Ludlow since 1888, and the store proclaims they are the oldest and best deli in the City. Dave and I have been there before, and you can't get a better pastrami any where else. With your sandwich, you get their homemade pickles which definitely put the storebought kind to shame. One of my friends who works nearby says it smells like a heart attack from the street. It probably does, so what does that mean? People are lined up and packed up to the counter to order their own heart attack on a plate. If you go, avoid the lunch crowd!

For you movie buffs out there, this is also where THAT scene from "When Harry met Sally..." was filmed, and you can sit at the same place Sally did when she had her sandwich and um, ...experience. Happy Eating!

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Students fear me?

After working in the news business for a few years, I've been called few things. Answer phones in a newsroom for awhile, and you'll get called just about everything too.

But, today, I was actually called something in print. One of my students at Henderson State where I teach online wrote a lovely op-ed piece about my final policy. In it, he referred to me as a "ball breaker." My favorite part of the article came right after the accusation "but I can say that because she lives in Minnesota."


It's a nice little article about a policy I don't agree with. He quoted me from an email--without my permission--but I think I'll let it slide because now I'm published in the school paper as the "ball breaker." Awesome.

The things you find out from Google.

Monday, April 14, 2008

These boots were made for hiking

In preparation for the Great Alaskan Adventure this summer, Dave and I went out and purchased boots that are the most expensive shoe either of us have ever owned. For a guy, I think that's about right. For a girl, that's saying something.

Now, to break them in.

Here we are cheesing in the middle of our hike at Richard T Anderson Conservation Area in Eden Prairie. That's the Minnesota River Valley behind us. After another bout with winter weather on Friday and Saturday, we were glad to see 40-degree sunny weather on Sunday and Monday.

Here's a quick photo album of the hike, which took about 2 hours.

Dave is walking through Prairie Sedge, which is a thick grasslike plant that grows in clumps.

Here I am, pondering the meaning of "Minnesota Nice."

And finally, here Dave is with his best imitation of Man versus Wild's Bear Grylls... putting the finishing touches on an already completed shelter. He did quite well, actually.

Minnesota Niceties

Apparently my little entry on “Minnesota Nice” raised a few eyebrows, and caused quite the reaction among my small, but appreciated Minnesota following. I do not apologize; people are different and somewhat the same wherever you go. However, I do maintain there is a certain attitude in the North Star State that balances between politeness and indifference that is rather interesting and unique… but it doesn’t mean there aren’t genuinely nice people out there. There are.

So, for the other genuinely NICE Minnesotans, here are a few of the niceties we have experienced here:

The gracious families who have invited us to share a Yom Kippur break fast, a Christmas lunch, an Easter dinner, and a Passover seder. In the absence of family, holidays are always easier to bear when surrounded by nice people.

Our coworkers at both jobs make going to work fun and bearable. Some coworkers have worked extra so we can be off for family visits and upcoming vacations. That’s nice.

When I first designed my costume for work, a few coworkers went antiquing and came back with a nice gift… gloves that perfectly went to my outfit. It was an unexpected nice surprise for a newcomer from a Minnesotan.

And, Dave's former following in Bemidji and Brainerd that have noticed him on KARE. He's gotten a few emails, and even run into people from the North down here in the cities. It's always nice to know people remember you in a good way.

I have been told the “Minnesota not-nice” people I’ve met are the transplants to Minnesota. There are certainly enough of those. But one thing we all agree upon: there is no such thing as Minnesota nice-anything when you are on the interstate.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Minnesota Nice

If there was a dictionary for people and their attitudes, somewhere between New York City nastiness and Southern hospitality, you’ll find a big entry called “Minnesota Nice.” This is a term I’ve heard several times since moving here. After a rude, yet perplexing encounter, a local will say very tongue-in-cheek, “well, that’s Minnesota Nice for you.” It's not exactly a compliment.

A few examples of Minnesota Nice:

Someone waves you in on the Interstate, and once you are safely in their lane, they flip you off. People flip off people here more than any place I’ve been. And that’s including driving in big cities like New York, DC, and LA. I even saw a kid flip off another driver while their parent was driving.

At Kinkos, clerk will reference the pictures you are copying as if interested. Then, when you elaborate on the picture, they give you the blankest stare you’ve ever seen. And not speak again.

A volunteer called and left a “Minnesota Nice” message where I work. She started off the message politely, as if she misunderstood the meeting place and time (she did). By the end of the message, she said our behavior was inexcusable and please take her off the volunteer list. (I hope we did)

I haven’t been the only one to notice the oddity. I bumped into a woman from Dallas, Texas in the coffee shop, and within minutes we were talking about “Minnesota Nice.” She’d felt it too—and so had her friend, another transfer from Tennessee.

So, forget Garrison Keillor’s hometown tales and Midwestern niceties. You might find it in Iowa, Nebraska, or maybe even small town Minnesota. But, not in the Twin Cities.

And, if you are ever in Minnesota, know this: It’s quite okay to ask “how are you?” but definitely don’t go a step further and say, “How’s the family? Or that old favorite, “How’s your mama and ‘em?” If so, expect a helping of “Minnesota Nice.”

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Another "Plate" in the Wall

Every Syracuse Alum has partaken of at least one meal or drink at what is undeniably the best BBQ joint in Upstate New York, Dinosaur Bar-B-Que, or as we always called it, the Dinosaur.

It was always packed, there was always a wait, and the food was always worth it. It's where I met my favorite drink, the mojito, and their version is the best I've ever had. The tightly-clothed wisecracking waitresses will give you a hard time when you order--and they always made me say my favorite order out loud, "The Big Ass Pork Plate." No pointing at the menu for them. The only thing I thought was sub-par were the fried green tomatoes, which don't hold a candle to my Grandmother Joy Rhea's.
This week, one of my former students, Kimberley, sent me a picture from the Dinosaur. I am proud to say I started the trickle of graduate students from Henderson State to Syracuse, and it continues with Kim. She's the 4th Reddie and second of my students to become part of the Orange. Congrats go to Kim as she finishes up her Television-Radio-Film masters with a dynamic internship in Burbank at NBC Universal. It's a tough road and a tough time to break into the television business in LA, and everyone has to put in their time. She's a smart girl--and she'll do well.
But, take a closer look above Kim's head and you'll see an Arkansas Plate, 587 EGF. That's my mark. I drove my car around Syracuse with that plate, and always got lots of stares. There aren't too many Arkansans in Syracuse.
When I moved to Louisiana and got a new plate, I took my Arkansas plate to the Dinosaur on the next trip and they were gracious enough to let me put it right on the wall with the hundreds of other license plates. I scribbled my name on it, but it's been taken off. The plate was the first one on the wall at that time, and it's still there.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

How sweet it is

The excitement has been literally bubbling over this week as we prepared for the hundreds of visitors to the Landing for the Annual Maple Sugar event. The weather couldn't have been better.
Minnesota is the farthest West you can go and still produce Maple Syrup in the United States. Native Americans tapped into this treasure, and we try to interpret the importance of the sugar to our visitors. Our sugar maples literally gushed with sap, and the snowstorm held off until a day after the event. It was a great Minnesota day--temps in the 40s and a beautiful sky. The next day, we had 5-inches of snow on the ground and were under a heavy snow advisory.

Visitors got a trip to the sugar bush, where they tapped a tree. Kids then hauled back a bit of sap in buckets to the cauldron we had boiling outside the Fairbault cabin. Here, I worked with the Queen of the Sugar Shack, Pauline, to teach kids and adults how Native Americans made sugar from the sap. (Some might recognize Pauline from the Christmas edition of pictures. There, she was the Swede who taught about krumkake, tomtes, and the julebakka.) I am proud to say we didn't even scorch one batch! Back when, Indians sometimes ate a pound of the sugar a day as part of their diet. When the winter lasted longer than the food supply, they could even cut parts of the maple tree to eat.

Then, visitors journeyed next door to our German neighbors, the Bergers. There, they watched as interpreters made several recipes from the syrup. Kids got to stuff matresses, grind corn, sort beans, and do several spring chores. We had 19th century games at several locations throughout the site as well as 19th century music.

Kids and adults got to taste the sap, sugar, and syrup at a series of stations... so by the time the kids left they were moving a bit faster and were quite a bit muddier.