Thursday, February 28, 2008

John's big day

A big congrats to my brother John! After a long, long time in Walter Reed Army Medical Center, he's back to doing what he loves best... being a soldier.

A sniper hit John in Baghdad last April. The bullet passed through his left cheek and exited near his left ear. We thank God on a daily basis that he survived, and praise God that he's recovered. He's been in and out of Walter Reed for nearly a year, and during that time he's endured surgeries, therapies, and visits from politicians. He met Superbowl Champ Peyton Manning and a few other Colts, musician Stevie Nicks read him a poem, and Pentagon staff clapped for him during a special tour. And that's just a small bit of the attention he deservedly received.

John received the Purple Heart. I think it's worthwhile to note too, the April injury wasn't the first time he'd been hit. A mortar hit his head during an earlier attack... to look at the lighter side, he's undeniable proof the Slattons have incredibly hard heads. (How many of you already knew that?!)

So this post sends a special good luck and congrats out to John, as he heads back into active duty at his base. He'll no doubt have a very special reunion with his friends and fellow soldiers, and enjoy getting back into a 'normal life' stateside. We wish him all the best.... so I'll close with a favorite picture of the Slatton brothers on John's graduation day at Ft. Benning.... we are all still, so very proud.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

The Winter Hike

When people can't think of anything else to talk about, they always talk about the weather. That really isn't the case here... it just so happens that everything in Minnesota in winter does involve the winter in some way.

But it didn't feel much like winter during the first event at the Landing. With temps hitting the lower 30s and the sun melting a bit of snow, Saturday seemed like a perfect Winter Hike day.

Before the day started, the interpreters got to hike the River Trail winding along the Minnesota River. We wore our costumes, but also our snowboots, of course. (FYI...We ditched the snowboots before visitors showed up... that's a big no-no around here. Even in Minnesota, women didn't wear snowboots indoors under their dresses in the 1800s.)

Coming from a family of loggers, I pay particular attention to trees... what type they are, leaf arrangement, and probably some wierd fact about it. On this trail, the Cottonwood trees are the largest I've ever seen--so big that I took pictures to take home and show my father and grandfather. I thought they might be part of the virgin stand of Minnesota forest, but instead I learned they are "only" 200 years old... still, not too shabby. Several are decaying now... this one has a hole big enough to stand in... that's me, Deanna, and Ellen with the frozen Minnesota behind us.
Forecasters are now teasing us that temperatures just might hit 40 next weekend. Hard to believe it... today, Thursday, it's 13 with horizontal snow at times! It's been a long time since 40.... but if you look close enough, there are signs that spring is just around the corner. Hallelujah!

An Icy Disappointment

It claims to be the oldest and largest winter carnival in the world, and this year more than 350,000 people attended the "coolest celebration on earth" in Downtown St. Paul... including Dave and I.

After experiencing Mardi Gras in Louisiana, Spring Break in Cancun, and SEC football maina in the South, the only thing Dave and I could do when we attended this much-hyped event was shrug our shoulders and say, "Is this it?"

We waited in traffic for more than an hour, searched for a parking place on downtown streets, and wound up walking several blocks. Then, we fought crushing crowds to see the ice sculptures, which acutally were pretty impressive. But, then we looked for more.... we looked for the carnival food, the bands, the random exhibits and booths....but all we saw was an overcrowded ice rink, an overcrowded style show, and an overcrowded "hot dish tent" that didn't offer much. "I don't think we're in the South anymore, Toto."
St. Paul business leaders created in Carnival in 1886 to celebrate the city as being the "fastest growing U.S. city." Their population jumped from 39,000 residents in 1880 to 120,000 residents in 1886. A nasty New York newspaper reporter described the city during this time as "another Siberia, unfit for human habitation in the winter." So, the business leaders came up with parades, an ice castle, royality, and toboggan slides to attract people outside... and the Carnival was born.

It's a two-week deal and it does offer a host of outdoor events citywide...but I can't help but be disappointed. If this is their idea of a good time... it's no wonder people flock to the frozen lakes to see if the fish are biting. ..

Little Marketing Scheme on the Prairie

If you live in Louisiana, you have Cajuns and Bayous. If you live in New York, you have the City and the Big Apple. In California, it's sun and movies. In Texas, it's Cowboys and... cowboys. In Minnesota, it's the prairie. When Laura Ingalls Wilder penned her famous "Little House" books from her home in Missouri, she probably had no idea she was prompting the name of several future business ventures in Minnesota and Dakota. You can drive along the historic Laura Ingalls Wilder Highway from Pepin, Wisconsin through Walnut Grove, Minnesota, and finally to De Smet, South Dakota. You can visit as many as 7 of her homesites nationwide. But in and around the Metro area, you can visit a plethora of Prairie places.

My favorite prairie place is "Little Sushi on the Prairie" in Eden Prairie. It's good, although I find it interesting to think any prairie place could be renowned for their excellent sushi.

But, also on Prairie Center Drive, you'll also find a Prairie View Shopping Center with Prairie View Chiropractic Clinic.

A local concert is being cleverly marketed "A little Beethoven on the Prairie." Your kids can go to "Little House on the Prairie camp."

So...after your day of prairie sushi, prairie shopping, a prairie back massage, picking up your kids from prairie camp after you've taken in a bit of Prairie Beethoven.... there's no better place to visit than the Prairie Pub for their "little drink special on the prairie."

Ma and Pa Schwartz come to visit

It's tradition for Ma and Pa Schwartz to make a pilgrimmage to visit their son on his birthday. The birthday trips have taken them on short drives to Geneva and Syracuse, then to exotic locales like Bemidji, Minnesota and for five years, a spicier southern option in Shreveport. Now, it's a non-stop plane ride to the Twin Cities and the land of 10,000 malls. The travel can't be beat, but the temperatures sure could. We had a lovely visit, though, despite four days of below zero temperatures.

There are a few consistencies in every Schwartz visit: lotsa food, lotsa laughs, and at least one visit to a shoe store. We thumbed our nose at the Mall of America, and instead visited the Eden Prairie Mall, Knollwood Mall, Excelsior Mill shops, Galleria shops, Southdale Mall, and a few other stand alone stores. AND, we only stayed in the southwestern part of the Metro area. There are more malls and stores to explore, and we welcome future visits.

The Schwartz Tour de Food ended with a great meal at Dave's pick restaurant, the Capital Grill in downtown Minneapolis. The steaks were great, the company was better, and it was an excellent way to top off the vacation. Happy Birthday to Dave!

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Bout over the Icebox

A battle has been 'frost-brewing' over the nickname "Icebox of the Nation," and our new state of Minnesota came out victorious this week. The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office renewed the trademark to International Falls, Minnesota, over the overzealous town of Fraser, Colorado.

A short history:

International Falls is located right on the Canadian border, and it routinely experiences frigid temperatures, including the all-time record U.S. lower 48 states low. The city came up with this nickname in 1948, and Fraser tried to steal it away in 1956. International Falls paid Fraser $2,000 to back off, and Fraser did. They bided their time until 1996--when International Falls slipped up and forgot to have their trademark nickname renewed. The mayor and town council launched a legal battle to keep their Icebox status, and apparently the money that comes along with it, as they claim to be the nation's premier site for cold weather testing.
The town of 6500 celebrated their status with a lovely low this week of -40. Joining them in this celebration was the nearby town of Embarrass, Minnesota. They were embarrassed, of course.
How do you get there?

Here at the Landing, it looks like we are trying to come close to that title for the upcoming Winter Hike. My coworkers Adam, Aaron, and Matt are 'watering the lawn' to prepare the area for Norwegian kick sledding. We packed the snow down with plywood, and then gave it a good watering. We're hoping the negative temps will kick in this week to have the place icy and slick.
It's a sight I wouldn't normally expect to see in the winter..... but then again, it's not like I've ever tried to be an Icebox.....

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

My Valentine...My world

I can think of no better way to celebrate Valentine's Day this year, then a tribute to the one who makes it worth celebrating.

When we relocated to Minnesota this summer it was for the job of a lifetime. But in my gain, was my wife's loss. She had to leave behind her family, her job, and her dreams so that I could follow mine.

Since that time, you can only imagine how tough it has been. Everyone knows adjusting to a new place where you know don't know anyone, is never easy. But she never hinted at remorse, only complete joy and happiness in my success.

Feeling sorry for herself is not something Shannon knows how to do. She approached this situation like any other adversity she's faced in her life... with strength, fortitude and optimism. We should all be so lucky to show those attributes in the same situation. Shannon has quickly become the most popular employee at her new job, she's embraced the Minnesota culture and even tried to enjoy the winter.

Most importantly she has showed me the meaning of true love and selflessness, giving up everything for me -- her husband.

So this Valentine's day I want everyone to know about the great gift my wife gave me this year. A gift so wonderful that I could never even begin to reciprocate.

I love you babe!

Kala Rhea's getting married!

There's a party in the works in the big D! A source confirms Delight gossip is true--longtime couple and family favorites Kala Martin and Josh Campbell are newly engaged and planning a wedding before the year is out. Both are kind, thoughtful, family-oriented, and genuine. So, we are all thrilled.

Kala (pronounced Kayla) Rhea is my first cousin, but more like a little sister in so many ways. Being only three years younger than me, she tagged along more than my own sister, mostly because of age and proximity. When I was a kid, this meant she always got a mandatory invitation to my slumber parties and when I started driving, she always got a ride to school. And, she was proud of it too-- we always had to drive around the student center so everyone could see she was getting a ride to school with an upperclassman. Kala and her sister stayed with us afterschool more often than not. I remember helping Kala with a speech once, while she insisted on turing cartwheels, because they just helped her think better. Despite the logic in that situation, she's a very smart girl.
As we grew up, we became closer and we became friends. People compare us--both Delight athletes, both homecoming queens, both honor students, and both undeniably related to the Slatton clan. She was in my wedding, and I can't wait to help her with hers.

But, of course, given the name.... we're all left wondering....Will Uncle Glen be coming to the wedding?

Sunday, February 10, 2008

The Big Chill

Minnesotans consider their harsh winters a source of pride and endurance. When you ask a Minnesotan about the cold, their chests will puff out and they will smile and say, "it's not too bad... it's Minnesota, eh!." Meteorologists call anything above 20 "balmy." Teachers don't cancel field trips or outside recess for the single digit temps. And, people actually do MORE fishing when the water is frozen.
Dave and I decided to test our Minnesota endurance with two outdoor hikes during an Arctic blast. On Saturday, we visited Staring Lake. It was -2. We lasted two minutes and a half minutes outside, but we stayed in the truck to watch the wind blow what looked like dustdevils of ice across the lake. Dave was brave enough to get this video:
Then, on Sunday, we visited the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum. It was a beautiful day, with little wind. But, the temperature dipped to -4. It's a large property showcasing decorative gardens and new breeds of plants. However, most of it was covered in show. Since we weren't cross-country skiing, there really wasn't much need to stay longer than a brave 15 minutes.
We did see several other people and some birds.... evidence enough that we weren't the only turkeys out there!

Mearsy comes to Minnesota!

A business trip brought good friend Steve Mears to the Twin Cities this weekend. "Mearsy" made the tremendous jump from Shreveport to Long Island, New York in 2006. He went from being the voice of a small, but successful, CHL hockey team in Bossier City to the voice of the NHL's New York Islanders.

We came to know him as not only the Mudbugs play-by-play man, but also a hockey fan, teammate, and all around good guy. Sometimes, he even let Dave (or "Schwartzy") do color commentary at home games. It was always fun, and the hockey talk never stops when the two get together.

We had a nice dinner and even longer hockey discussion at Tom Reid's Hockey City Pub right by the Xcel Energy Center. Mearsy called the Wild-Islanders game on Saturday evening--an exciting game to call as the Wild won it in overtime 3-2. (Go Wild!)

How does small town hockey compare to the big league? There's less interaction with the athletes--meaning no BBQs at the favorite player's house. I think the Fonger (Dan Wildfong) is missed no matter where you go.

Saturday, February 9, 2008

Chopper Dave!

Four hours in a helicopter does wonders for your backside. I took my first helicopter ride on Wednesday of this week. I had to travel to Biwabik, Minnesota for a Nordic Skiing story which required a ride in Sky 11.

We flew from Crystal, Minnesota (right near the KARE 11 studios) all the way to Giants Ridge Ski Resort. It's normally a 5 hour drive, but only took two hours in the chopper.

It was certainly a view of Minnesota that I have never seen. With all of the snow, it was hard to determine where the land ends and where the lakes begin. Looking at the ground didn't help either-- as lakes up here in the winter look a lot like a small town.

This a lake near Rush City, Minnesota. People drive their cars and tow ice houses right onto the lake and they will keep them there for a few more weeks.

This is their idea of fun!

Until Next time.....

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

The Move to Minnesota

It's about 856 miles from Shreveport, Louisiana to Minneapolis, Minnesota. We went from crawfish to lutefisk, ya'll to youbetcha, and football to hockey. Dave works at the legendary KARE-11 as a sports reporter and I work (for now) at The Landing as a cultural interpreter. We are attempting to carve out a life in the North Star State.

We worked through the holidays, and spent a special Christmas on the banks of the Minnesota River. Dave and I went snowshoeing, and spent the day with our new Norwegian friends. Mr. & Mrs. Gundersun introduced us to krumkake, fruit soup, and a few other tasty dishes that I can't identify or spell.

Dave and I will keep updating you on our adventures in the "Land of 10,000 Lakes"

.... so check back and youbetcha, we'll have more!