Friday, July 25, 2008

War comes to Minnesota

Who says just southerners like to reenact the Civil War? People up here reenact just about anything, and this summer they got a few new recruits.

The Civil War came to Minnesota this week, courtesy the 5th Minnesota regiment and a group of campers eager to drill, march, use a bayonet, eat hardtack, and follow orders. Civil War camp has been a popular camp for the past few summers out at The Landing, and this year there were boys and girls from several different nationalities donning the Union blue.
The culmination of the week came when a band of rowdy rebels was spotted during a march. The group got to pursue, and of course capture the far-outnumbered Johnny Rebs in an exciting battle complete with gunfire and a bayonet charge.
Here they are marching away with the captured prisioners, and later during a prisioner exchange.
I got to watch the whole ordeal, and it was pretty entertaining. No wonder they got the Rebs so easily--they were from Mississippi.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Field Trip

The husband and I took advantage of a rare day off together to enjoy the Como Park Zoo and Gardens in St. Paul. It's a medium-sized zoo and you can see all exhibits comfortably in the span of an afternoon. But perhaps the best part is--it's free.
The above pictures are of the Japanese Garden, and here are a few more from the gardens. Oh, they had gorillas, big cats, bison, penguins, a seal show, and more.... but instead I opted for pictures of plants:

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Congrats Lindsay!

A belated Congrats goes out to my cousin Lindsay on her transfer to Florida State. She will carry on the family tradition this fall as a 4th generation FSU Seminole, and we all wish her well as she uses her artistic talent to pursue a major there. Go 'Noles!

Here we are at a game last September!

Monday, July 14, 2008

Don't be a Tosser...

The much-anticipated Minnesota Summer is here, but sometimes the ground still looks glaringly white. The above picture was taken during a vicious hailstorm in St. Louis Park. I've never seen hail bounce so high off the ground. The hail didn't damage Dave's truck that day, but it has done major damage to communities here this summer.

Enter Cousin Ed, seen here with me in a very dark picture with some very ominious looking clouds behind us.
Ed is part of my south Alabama family, and he was called in to work the aftermath of the Hugo Tornado. The hail damage and tornado path has kept him hopping for weeks, but we finally got a chance to get together in one of the coolest bars the Metro has to offer.
We arrived at Brit's Pub and Eating Establishment on Nicollet Mall right before yet another ferocious storm hit.
The place is huge with several floors and special British-themed rooms. You can order a variety of British beer, cider, or ale. You can have scotch eggs, shepherd's pie, fish & chips, and several other very intriguing items. There's the standard red phone booth that somehow even those of us who've never been to London can link with Britain and of course, several Union Jacks.
But by far the coolest aspect of the place is the lawn bowling field on the roof. The place has lawn bowling leagues with willing participants and a big crowd of onlookers. They just opened a courtyard that along with the field will be closed a good portion of the year.
Good company, good venue, good food.... just one big, glaring question that somehow I couldn't figure out....The place is running promoted specials and celebrations in honor of Bastille Day... Why?

Monday, July 7, 2008

Notes from a former 4-Her...

Arkansas 4-H turned 100 this year, and I missed out on an important reunion. All state officers got together in May to catch up, and people came from as far away as Virginia and Colorado.... but I couldn't.

I came from a 4-H family, and I started in 4-H at 10 to 'overcome my shyness.' I was so afraid of the camera I went through a spell when I was afraid to have my picture taken. I gave my first competitive speech at age 11 in Arkansas Hall at Henderson State. I talked about the history of yeast bread, how it was made, and why it's good for you according to the now-outdated food guide pyramid. I was terrified, but I came in third... mostly because it was against the rules to talk about yeast breads until you were 14.

Over the next 10 years, I gave dozens, if not hundreds of speeches, on so many topics. Some were pretty bad. I enjoyed competitive speaking, even if it took me 3 years to win state O'Rama in breads at the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville. It only took me one year to win Crop Science--no speech there, just memorizing 40+ kinds of seeds. Plain and simple, I like learning and competition.... and I could do both here.

That was one goal--becoming a state officer was another. I campaigned and won a tight election over a boy from Hempstead county. In 1995-1996, I was Vice President representing the Southwest District of Arkansas. I was so proud to wear my green jacket. I won alot of awards in 4-H--the most handy being few thousand in scholarships and a trip to Nat'l 4-H Congress in Memphis. My 4-H citizenship projects helped me land the Discover Card scholarship and the Robert C Byrd scholarship in college too. 4-H isn't for everyone, but it was for me.
When I worked at a TV station in Louisiana, I hosted the Louisiana State Fair Auction of Champions. I was told by one of my superiors before the event not to tell anyone I was in 4-H. This totally peeved me, because I fully believe in the leadership, citizenship, and learning opportunities 4-H offers--it's not just for farm kids--today, you can study fitness, computer science, photography, and fashion design just to name a few.

So, I made sure the last story I did at the station was on 4-H and a new environmental initiative the kids were working on.

Here are the former Pike County Officers who attended the reunion... 5 of the 6 are from Delight. The program assistant Avonne Petty is on the right--she's one of the reasons Pike County 4-Hers do so well.

Big Fish

Here's the latest from Alaska.... brother Luke caught this King Salmon this past weekend. You are allowed one per day, and so he got his limit for each of the three days he fished the Yentna River. This one was the biggest and weighed in at 44 lbs. Happy Eating.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Down at the River

During our visit home, I got to introduce Dave to our swimming hole on the Little Missouri River. This is on my grandfather's land, and my father and his siblings swam here as kids.

Many a summer day my family and cousins wound pack up a watermelon and head to the river in the pickup. The dirt road to our hole winds through sloughs, woods, and pine tree plantations. From the many float trips on inner tubes to the rope swing to jumping off banks and logs, we have lots of memories here. I remember in particular Luke & I getting in trouble once for leaving Kala alone on the jump off bank for a long time. We didn't do that again, and it wasn't too traumatizing because she came back. Simple, cool summertime fun in the country.

Billstown Bash 2

The computer deleted these pictures from below, so here they are... a special thanks to my nephew, Jake, for taking all the pictures. He and Ms Shelia flew down from New York to go to the wedding, and represented the Schwartz family. He's with his sidekick for the weekend, my cousin Kolby, who lives in East Texas.

And below is a great picture of my sister Niki and Dave. All are in the wedding brown and Niki is in the green. She was serving food, and you know in all things, it's important to match the punch.... see story below...

Billstown Bash

After the Alaska trip, Dave and I did a overnight stay at home before flying into Dallas and driving to Delight. Despite the terrible rental car troubles (don't ever rent from Advantage), we had a great trip at home and it was great to see our family and to see Kala and Josh get married.

As with any small town wedding, there's a load of work before the ordeal and a good portion of work afterwards. In true fashion, Delight family and friends made it happen. It was great to tape up tablecloths and put up chairs while visiting with some of my schoolmates.


The wedding took place in a field in Billstown, not far from the Campbell cemetery. The land on the banks of Saline Creek isn't exactly sacred ground, but it's pretty darn important. Kala, Luke, and I have many memories of the swimming hole at Saline Creek. The Campbells still swim there, hold family reunions there, and even have held a few baptisms there. The history and the scenery made it a perfect backdrop for the event.

June 21st was hot, but not miserable. The temperature didn't get above 90 and the humidity took a small break. Most all of the bridal party were former Delight Bulldogs, which made for a few jokes. It was easy to see the love in this family, and when the bride walked down the aisle, it was a poignant scene for everyone.
The wedding feast was appropriate and tasty--barbeque, coleslaw, fruits, vegetables, and sweet stuff besides the buttercream flavored cake. Of course, in the South at these things it is paramount for the wedding punch to match wedding color. Much ado is made over this. You should have heard the discussion once when a bride picked teal for a color. It was near cookbook chaos before the hostesses decided to go with a gold option. This punch, however, was the perfect shade of green, kudos of Aunt Peg. The beer, however, flowed a honey gold.
Despite music difficulties, the dance under the stars was nice. Kala, Brandi, and I are acting like gangsters in the photo above. One of the best moments came when they played the anniversary dance, and all the grandkids ran to push our grandparents out to the dance floor. Coming in at a strong 59 years, we knew they had this game won. My grandfather said he'd only go if we all did--and we went and danced. It was pretty special to see them dancing alone on the dance floor, even if the DJ announced them as "Ly-mon and Joy Rhee Slat" instead of Lyman and Joy Rhea Slatton. A full moon rose over the creek bank behind everyone.

Here's a few more family photos:

The bride and groom left around 11, we left shortly thereafter. But, I'm told the party lasted beyond 1 am.... and that the DJ slept in his car...

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Alaskan Wildlife

Here's one more montage of Alaska photos... this time centering around scenery and wildlife. I used my old-fashioned camera with a mega-zoom lens (you know, the ones actually require film, manual winding, and expensive photo processing) to get some wildlife shots. A note if any of you visit Alaska, point-and-shoot cameras are pretty pointless for wildlife shots, as you can still barely see the animsls here. I'm told you can even rent a zoom lens for your camera on the internet.

But nonetheless, these are pictures from our glacier and wildlife cruise out of Seward. The picture on the right is a bald eagle that sat above on a cliff and watched for fish. We spotted several eagles, and this picture definitely doesn't do the scene justice.

You can barely spot three sheep on the cliff to the left. It's quite impressive to see how those animals manage such difficult terrain, and also easy to see why gravity is their number one adversary.

We felt pretty lucky to spot a pod of killer whales, as the park ranger said it was the first day they'd spotted whales since April. We also saw humpback whales, but they weren't nearly as exciting.

You can get a good glimpse at the sea lions lounging on the rocks in the picture below. Our favorite line from the trip came from this encounter. As we neared the animals, the park ranger said something like, "As we approach the sea lions, we need everyone to be quiet. These animals are endangered!" So folks, please, save the sea lions and keep quiet. Turn off your radios for good measure. I hear they are rather nervous critters when it comes to well, you know... I'm sure anyone would be nervous when it came to a crowd watching procreation.
Here's a waterfall streaming down from a glacier. There were several pictures like this along the way. The water is filled with sediment and while it is a beautiful blue, it is very opaque.

We spotted the mama moose and her two babies on the side of the road. From what I've been told, a moose is like a big docile cow normally, but more like a raging bull when it is mad. It was fairly common to see a moose on the side of the road, and we even saw one swimming across a river.

There are more Alaska pictures, but I've shown enough here... suffice it to say Dave and I loved the trip and count it as the best vacation we've spent together.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Alaskan Eats

You can visit Alaska for the scenery, but you also can't miss the food. The seafood is fresh, cheap, and plentiful. The portions were huge, and we definitely ate our fill every day we were there. It just tasted better, with none of that fishy smell and taste that turns people off of seafood.

Not surprisingly, seafood is a staple food for the locals and since Luke has been here awhile, he knew where to go.

We got all-you-can eat snow crab at a place called Phyllis' Cafe & Salmon Bake in downtown Anchorage. We ate our fill outside on the patio watching tourists and locals.

Luke grilled up his halibut and steamed fresh Alaskan fiddleheads. If you've never had a fiddlehead, the taste is somewhere between a green bean and asparagus. It's a different green veggie--and the fiddleheads there are much larger than the ones in Minnesota.

We saw moose on the sides of the road--but didn't taste any. Luke did serve us some of his caribou, which he had made into summer sausage.

At a local breakfast hotspot, Gwennies, Dave and I both had reindeer sausage (did you know a reindeer is just a tame caribou?) for breakfast. It was spicy, and good. They also cook up a mean chicken-fried steak breakfast, too... all breakfasts are served up right with a side of grits. The place was packed.

We visited the farmer's market in downtown one afternoon. There, you could get just about any type of seafood cooked up in just about any style. Tex-Mex food seemed to be pretty popular--and you could have any of it with fish instead of chicken or beef. Want a Kosher buffalo hot dog? Okay. A Buffalo Brat? Salmon Quesadilla? That too.

The Marina restaurant in Seward serves Musk Ox, which roam the tundra. We didn't try that, but we did have Rock Fish... which was fried up and pretty bland tasting. Reminded us all of catfish... most restaurants along the Seward seafront had 'help wanted' signs up, and were very understaffed. That's a tough one to figure out, seeing how Seward has frequent visits from the cruise ships.

I wish I'd taken a picture of the shrimp we had... they were bigger than any I've ever seen out of the Gulf.

The sushi topped any I've had anywhere... you get so much for your money. I ordered thinking the rolls were comparable to the rolls I've had in Minnesota, Louisiana, or New York. And, let's just say the guys made plenty of fun of me when my order arrived and it alone was enough for the entire table. Even the waitress made a crack about my appetite. (Of course, after the food got there and not when the order was placed.) And, we had lots left over.

We also had Marionberry coffee cake one night.... which seemed rather addictive....

Pardon the crazy placement of the pictures--the computers in the public library are not friendly to blogging!