Tuesday, December 29, 2009

The Christmas Blizzard

The weather meteorologists forecasted the Christmas Blizzard to be the worst storm to hit the Twin Cities since the Halloween Blizzard in 1991. I'm not sure if the storm lived up to the hype of that legendary storm since most Minnesotans were ready for the yards to be snow covered. Nonetheless, this was a huge event that people talked about for weeks.

Here's how it went:

Tuesday, December 22nd: People actually got a bit crazy. At home, when there's a 20-percent chance of snow, people flood Walmart so they can stock up on milk and bread. I circled the grocery store parking lot twice before I found a spot. Inside, I had to maneuver between grandmas holding long Christmas cooking lists, and grumpy husbands walking back and forth between aisles hunting a missing item. Lines at the checkout were long. People don't generally get that excited about getting "snowed in" up here, because that just never happens. But this was about as close to the milk-and-bread-at-Walmart hysteria that happens down South as I've ever seen up here.

Wednesday, December 23rd: Snow started falling in the afternoon. Big, fluffy flakes in 20-degree temperatures. This was enough to make people get in gear and make preps to take off work on Christmas Eve or drive to their destinations. When I came out of the grocery store (yes another shopping trip), the flakes were coming down fast and furiously and the roads were starting to fill up with snow.

Thursday, December 24th: Since we live in one of the best little towns in Minnesota, our roads were plowed by 5 am. Dave got up an hour before I had to leave to snowblow and shovel out the driveway and sidewalk so I could get to the garage to get in my car. At this point, we had 14 inches total on the ground. The weather report said we got 9 inches during the night. Made it to work in an hour and fifteen minutes, which isn't terrible. It snowed on and off all day, but it stayed fluffy and pretty. Bad roads in Brooklyn Park, though. Got home that night and decided to forego getting out in the snow again for the Christmas service. It still came down.

Friday, December 25th (Christmas Day): Snow kept falling on and off, but the temperatures started rising. That's not a good thing. By mid-day, we were seeing a sleet or rain and snow mix that turned to a yucky slush on the sidewalks. You almost cannot use a snowblower on this stuff because it's so slushy and it clogs the thing up. So instead of taking about an hour to get the snow off the sidewalks and drivewalk, it took about two and a half. (Thanks Dave :) Our Christmas dinner guests are natives of Northern and Western New York and hence, used to lake effect snow... so needless to say this did not hamper their drive to come eat.

Saturday, December 26th: A gray, yucky day and temperatures started heading south. The slushy snow turned into snow concrete by late evening.

Sunday, December 27th: The snow concrete that wasn't removed from roads has created sheets of ice on several city streets. It's amazing how hard that stuff gets. Temperatures fall and the wind chill is below zero. Icicles that are normally part of the springtime have hardened back up. My commute on Monday the 28th was worse than any during the blizzard.

The wind wasn't bad, but the storm did leave us with a bitter cold and more snow. We have big piles on the side of the streets that will most likely stay there until late April.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Best Christmas Light Display Ever

This Christmas light display is at the end of my block and it made me stop and do a double take on my way home from work one night.

My first thought was "Aw. Someone is putting up Christmas lights and they have a Santa hat on. Aren't they in the Christmas spirit?"

Then, "Are they hanging off the side of the roof?"

Finally, "ha! That is awesome!"

The lights outline one side of the house and the rest is piled on the ground. At night, it totally looks like someone is in the middle of putting up lights.

Merry Christmas folks!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009


It's truly incredible how many things you need for a baby. Equally perplexing is how many things manufacturers market insisting this is something you have to have for your baby.

Dave and I have spent the better part of the past several weeks going through items and setting up registries. This took far more time than we initially thought. Registering when you get married is fun. You pick out patterns and equipment and go through scanning items you think will look good in your house and items that will add to your kitchen.

With a baby, it's much different. You have to think about safety and practicality. No, the over-hyped JEEP stroller will not fit in my car. Nope, this brand of crib has the highest rate of recalls. And nah, this carseat will only fit a kid until they turn x months old.

Dave and I are both information-oriented people. We work in news gathering information, so it's only natural that we usually think the more we find out... the less we actually know. After four hours of looking at cribs online one night, I decided we needed more help here. So, we called the baby planners.

In case you haven't heard of this new profession, it's about where wedding planning was 10 years before it became a popular and accepted profession and Jennifer Lopez glamorized it in the movies. They have their own certified organization. They sent out a weekly recall update. They help you with whatever you want. No, you don't turn it all over to them....unless you are willing to pay for it. Instead, they help you organize registries, information, appointments, birthplans, daycare, and installations. They cater to two types 1) working professionals 2) people without family nearby. Dave and I fit both categories, so this was a natural fit for us.

We met with our baby planners a few times to talk about we products we wanted and where we wanted to get them. We went through several questions ranging from the condition of our sidewalks in our city (rough, old and uneven, meaning a regular stroller would be much harder to operate), the size of my car (dictates car seat size), the size of our nursery (thinking cribs, monitors, etc), and our habits (we travel alot. So everything we need from a pack-n-play to a sling to a stroller to a carseat needs to be portable and versatile). After all of this, we got a 7-page spreadsheet with the three top choices each category divided up by safety and need. Convertible carseat? Choose from these 3 brands & types. This was truly awesome.

We spent about two hours at Babies R Us, one at Target, and maybe two on Amazon setting up our registries. The overzealous Babies R Us woman we'd spend 4 hours and come back several times to make decisions. Are you kidding?! Who has time for that? This after giving us a long spreadsheet saying we needed a long list of items that included a wipes warmer and a rubber duck.

We spent a bit more time adding to registries online, but I can't say enough good things about having guidance in this entire process. We are also enlisting the planners to help with our wierd childcare issues. (Do you know how hard it is to find someone that keeps a kid to 9:30 at night?! and with a varying schedule?!)

So scoff if you may, but I firmly believe going to the experts in this case is time and money well spent.

Monday, December 21, 2009

First snowstorm of the year.

Our first snowstorm of the year hit nearly two weeks ago and ushered in a week of bitter cold temperatures. It's one thing to go to negative temperatures in January when you've had a month of twenty-something temperatures. It's entirely another to go from 47 one week to -5 the next. After one of the warmest Novembers on record, this was a tough transition to say the least.

On the day the storm hit, I get home from work to find Dave adamant about getting a Christmas tree. For a nice Jewish boy, he's pretty passionate about Christmas trees. Since we didn't have time to go cut down our own, we had planned on throwing our support to a boy scout troop or charity. Since these groups all have the good sense to shut down during what was supposed to be a record snowstorm, we wound up hunting down the perfect fir at a Home Depot. Surprisingly enough, we weren't the only ones out buying a tree in freezing temperatures and flurries.

We found a nice Frasier fir and it smells up the house very nicely. Merry Christmas, folks!

Friday, December 18, 2009

Who cut the cheese?

Today one of the stories on the assignment board that I just had to have was a lady carving a 500 pound block of Wisconsin cheddar into a Minnesota Viking. These are the kind of stories I really get a kick out of. I mean, who does this stuff?
Apparently, Sarah, "The Cheese Lady" does. She's been carving up cheese for 15 years all around the country. She's carved up everything from Brett Favre as a cheesehead to an astronaut at the US Air and Space Museum. There's something rather ironic about Sarah carving Wisconsin cheese into a Minnesota Viking, and several people noted it.
Sarah says cheddar cheese carves up the best, and it's much like working with clay. The difference? "You can't make a mistake because you can't put it back. If you do make a mistake, you get to eat your mistake."
Yum. Good thing I'm not a cheese carver.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Belly with an attitude

In the middle of the Christmas rush, I haven't had much of a chance to write.

But this was so good I couldn't pass it up.

This week we hit 27 weeks and everything was good at the routine check-up. When you go in monthly for a checkup, it all becomes rather routine: urine test, weight, measure, miscellanous advice on this is what's next, baby's heart beat... with maybe something random thrown in there that makes parents-to-be coo and smile or maybe grimace and look at their partner with that, 'oh, didn't know that would happen' look. Routine is good. We are happy with routine.
This week, the nurse held monitor to my growing belly to hear the heartbeat. And when she did, the baby hit the monitor in the exact spot where she put it. It was a hard enough hit to make my stomach visibly jump and the monitor move. She looked at me, we laughed, and she said something to the effect of 'you've got a little stinker in there.' Then, she put the monitor back on my stomach in the same place, only to have the same thing happen again. We laughed, and she decided to move the monitor to a different area to hear the heartbeat. Apparently junior liked this much better.
I think he or she was definitely showing off a nice little Scotch-Irish temper.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Annoying Christmas Carols

What's the number one Christmas song that annoys you?

I've been asking several people this question since the Christmas radio stations starting playing yuletide tunes 24/7. Here's what I've found:

4. Christmas shoes: While it has a wonderful message, it's downright depressing. Especially when you play it between Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer and White Christmas.

3. Last Christmas I gave you my heart by Wham: Let this song die, please.

2. Elvis Blue Christmas: Elvis is Elvis and he's the king, I know. But hearing this song repeatedly makes me compare him to a hound dog.

1. Feliz Navidad: I know you are making an effort to be cross-cultural, but do we really have to hear this song once an hour? It's like bad Mexican food. Please, Kwanzaa musicians, if you come up with a song make it bearable because it will go in the mix too.

I tried to come up with a number five to be all well rounded, but I didn't really find any consistent answers. Any suggestions?


Tis the season for round-the-clock Christmas! I love this time of year. I love the spirit of goodwill, the thanksgiving, the reason for the season, the extra time and effort made for family and friends, the decorating, the entertaining, and reconnecting. It's warm and fuzzy and it's nice.

As a result, I tend to do Christmas in a big way. I send out more than 100 Christmas cards. I designed and ordered them back in October, but start thinking them up during the summer. I don't do birthday or anniversary cards and this is the only time of year I reconnect with several people, so I figure it's worth it.

I usually plan out my Christmas cookie plan of attack a few months out. After making dozens, I send boxes to relatives living in three other states. I love to bake, plus Dave and I never would eat all of it, so I figure this is worth it too.

I also shop for gifts nearly year-round. It's not a concerted effort, instead it's just a matter of picking up items when they remind me of someone or when they are on sale. I like putting thought into gifts. If you don't, why do it out of obligation? Occasionally, like this year, I embark on a big making-something endeavor. And usually, like this year, I regret it before it's all said and done.

To top things off, I love to wrap presents and spend way too much time making them look pretty. After all as my relatives love to tease me with my excuse, "presentation is everything."

I realized this week that maybe it's time maybe to scale back some of the craziness. I was asleep when Dave came home from work, and I told him something like, "Dave, I don't think I'm going to make as many Christmas Cookies this year. I'm too busy." And then, I went right back to sleep and didn't remember much about it in the morning. Yes, I'm sleep talking about Christmas Cookies. I wonder if Martha Stewart has ever done this.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Prairie Poster Girl

Guess what? I had no idea, but someone texted me yesterday to let me know I'm the poster girl for this year's Christmas prairie experience: www.threeriversparks.org

It's a picture taken from two years ago when I had first moved to Minnesota. I'm going to be out there a few times this year, but I cannot fit into my Victorian garb this year. So, I have a tent dress to wear instead that I plan to belt down with an apron. Sans apron, three people could fit inside of it with me.

There will not be poster girl pictures taken of that one.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

A low key Florida wedding

Nestled between the bougainvillea and palm trees, there's a little garden in Winter Park, Florida called English Gardens. Dave's cousin, Noah, and his bride Marisa chose this cozy spot for their intimate, low-key wedding. The weather cooperated for a chilly, but beautiful event with friends and family. The children provided the extra entertainment, as the flower girl made an extra lap around the garden, and the son and best man of the couple sat on the step and ate a Snickers during the ceremony. To cap off the ceremony, the benediction from the officiant was "and... Go Seminoles!" to reflect the crowd of FSU graduates present. Unfortunately, that didn't help the Garnet & Gold.

The wedding was followed up with a nice Italian-style reception. (I noticed in this part of Florida there are no local, mom & pop style restaurants. It's franchise city!) Since the bride's family had quite a bit of Italian heritage or at least an Italian last name, this seemed to fit very well. Fettucini, piccata, salad, and desserts like Italian cookies and spumoni were served up family style in heaping bowls passed around the table. It doesn't have to be a big wedding to be a nice, classy one, and this was proof of that.

The neatest aspect of this wedding was the Candy buffet, which went over very well with kids of all ages.

The bride & groom purchased classic candies like Reese's, Snickers, Gummi Bears, and Lemon Drops, and a few throwbacks, like pop rocks and some other button things I remember eating as a kid and displayed them at the reception. Guests were invited to put candy in clear plastic bags as a wedding favor, although I saw several people put a spoonful of Sour Patch kids beside the fried calamari that was served up as an appetizer. You can't really tell from the photos, but chocolate chips and shavings were spread around the bases of the containers for a nice display.

Congrats and best wishes go out to Noah & Marisa on a special day and a special family.

Meeting up with Kimberly

Dave and I are lucky to have friends practically all over the country. We couldn't make a stop in Central Florida without visiting one of our friends who lives there, Kimberly, who used to work with us in Shreveport. This is her hometown and she works at a local station here.

I highly recommend the restaurant she took us to, Seasons 52, which changes its menu frequently to reflect the season. It's health conscious too...all entrees are under a certain number of calories and the ones we had were absolutely delicious.

We didn't know it, but we happened to be near where a certain golfer had a run-in with a fire hydrant. We could've played paparazzi and didn't even know it!

A very Epcot Thanksgiving

Last year I cooked Thanksgiving dinner for the family who visited from New York and Arkansas.

What did I do this year?

I went to Disney World.

Yep. Actually, we had a family wedding to attend that Saturday, so we took advantage of the holiday to spend extra time with family. The only Disney park we fit in was Epcot and we visited one afternoon to tour the countries, which were already ready for the holiday season.

Even though it was Thanksgiving, there was still quite a crowd at Disney and a surprising number of people sporting football jerseys. We saw several LSU fans and perhaps because of the day, several people were gnawing turkey legs.

We opted for a later dinner at Wolfgang Puck's restaurant in Downtown Disney. The food was fine, but the company made this Thanksgiving even better.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Baby, won't you drive my car?

I stole the title of this blog from a song, and also from a friend who titled an article once the same way. I liked it then, and I like it now.

After 10 years on the road, I sold the little red car. I bought a new car in September and this month I happened upon a buyer with zero advertising. He gave what I asked, so I figured it was time to sell.

But as I drove to hand her off, I got kinda emotional. It's almost like I was in a 10 year relationship that was coming to an end without the bad breakup that makes you glad to see it finished. I mean, I was never stranded on the side of the road with this car. I never got in a wreck. I only had one flat tire. It was simply time to upgrade before my good luck ran out.

I drove this car in college, and I packed it to the hilt while moving out of the dorm after four years. I drove this car around DC several times, lost before finding my way back. I drove this car 1000+ miles to graduate school in Syracuse, and on a few sight-seeing excursions to Maine and through New England. I drove this car to my first job and after I anchored my first newscast. I made many trips from Shreveport to Arkadelphia over 7 semesters teaching college. I drove this car to transport stuff for my wedding. I drove this car to see my family in Florida, and I drove this car packed down once again, away from my family to live in Minnesota, and packed again into my first home. And I kept it clean every step of the way. (that's for you Uncle Jim)

I started counting the moves that I made in this car:
*out of a dorm in Arkansas and to an apartment outside of DC
*out of a dorm in Arkansas and into a sorority house in New York
*out of a sorority house into a friend's house in New Hampshire
*out of the New Hampshire location to Louisiana
*in and out of 2 apartments and 2 houses in Shreveport
*from Shreveport to Minnesota.
*from an apartment to our first house, actual owned property, in Minnesota

Then I decided to count the speeding tickets that I've gotten in this car in 4 states in towns like Cotton Valley, Waskom, Bradley, Arkadelphia, New Orleans, Eden Prairie... My favorite was getting pulled over by a deputy named Opie in the speed trap of Bradley, Arkansas....but I quickly decided I've dwelled on that bit of past long enough. We can move on from that. And fast.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

The mailman has been busy

Aside: Some of you will have to put up with a few baby bits from now on. These are for the family, but you are more than welcome to enjoy!

It's the southern way to show your love often not with words, but with gifts and actions. My family tends not to get overly emotional and say mushy things to each other. Instead, they do things like cook and give gifts. We aren't close enough to get food, unfortunately, but only days after the baby news broke, we started getting gifts.

The first care package came, fittingly, from the baby's only surviving set of great-grandparents. My grandmother always sends the best care packages. My first winter in Minnesota she sent me a box of grits with my birthday gift. Not just any grits. Microwave grits. Instant grits. Old fashioned grits. Flavored grits. She wasn't sure what kind I would like, so she just cleaned out the aisle. And 3 years later, I'm still eating on them. Grandmother and Pop sent the baby a package containing sleepers (with a sports theme for Dave, of course), bottle washers, socks, and picture frames. All that mail comes as it always does, addressed to "Mrs. Dave Schwartz" (top picture)

The baby's grandmother in Florida sent sleepers, baby blankets, diapers, and a toy. That has come addressed to "Baby Schwartz" (yellow sleeper picture)

One of my moms, my best friend's mother, made a quilt and called to inform me on the phone yesterday that she had a birthday present for me and she wanted to tell me what it was BEFORE I got it. An ABC quilt, and she's piecing another one too. (below)

My other best friend has texted me saying a package is on the way she just couldn't get in the mail because she kept putting stuff in it.

And my future sister-in-law and brother sent me a maternity package that included among other things "chocolate for baby."

There's already a discussion brewing over who gets to give the shower and just where it will be held in the big D. Apparently there is much noise over how I can get the stuff to Minnesota and how in the world is it proper manners to put 'bring money' or 'buy off a registry online' on a shower invitation? Kudos to my cousin for thinking of these things. I am just tickled the shower committee will have heck deciding what color the punch must be. That's very important, you know.

With stuff coming from Arkansas, Florida, and New York... pretty obvious this baby is already loved.

Friday, November 20, 2009

60 years and counting...

As I've said before.... when it comes to grandparents, I truly hit the grandparent lotttery.

My grandparents celebrated their 60th wedding anniversary last week on November 12. I am very lucky to see them reach this milestone, and they are lucky to have reached it as well.

But Grandmother and Pop wouldn't tell you that. They grew up in an era when people just got married and stayed married. It's what people did.

My grandmother had four children in about five years time, and if that wasn't trial enough, she raised them all less than a football field away from her in-laws. She's the kind of housewife who could make clothes out of flower sacks, put up any type of fruit or vegetable, and work a part time job to bring in extra income to boot. My grandfather worked long and hard in soybean fields, hay meadows, and the log woods. They would escape periodically for a Razorback game or a road trip, but the road always led them back to the house on the hill... the one they literally built themselves and have lived in for 50 plus years.
I asked them what was the secret to being married for 60 years. They laughed and skirted around the issue, but they never really came out with any one piece of sage advice. I think that says alot about the two of them. Marriage is something you do everyday. There's not a golden revelation or a lofty reason why things work out. Marriage works because you work at it. Both of you. Everyday.

Of course, I had to chase them down on the cell phone to find this out and wish them a Happy Anniversary....they were off celebrating on a road trip to northern Arkansas and Branson... so maybe there is a key to being married for 60 years.... taking time to get away from everyone else!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Why Minnesota is awesome

Minnesota is one of the toughest states to recruit people, but it's also the toughest state to get people to leave.

A researcher from Georgia told me that last week while I was doing a story on Minnesota coming out on top in a national survey studying civic involvement. According to the survey, Minnesotans vote often, show up at town hall events, attend church, volunteer outside of the home, and contribute to charities more than people in any other state. While Minnesota came out on top, Florida, Nevada, and New York came in dead last.

After living here coming up on three winters (I count my residency in winters, like all good Minnesotans), I have seen this civic involvement first hand. This place has tons of voter forums and town halls--and people actually show up. At one neighborhood meeting I went to this week, more than 100 people came out on a random Tuesday night. The library system here beats any place where I've resided hands down. Minnesotans love their green space, and invest millions into parks that are actually clean. When my grandparents came to visit this summer, even they kept remarking on how clean the state was. It sure puts Southern states to shame. The state also has an incredibly educated populace, which accounts for why so many big companies are headquartered here.

Why are Minnesotans winning this contest? One big reason is the state has always been a collaborative effort between different peoples. German and Scandinavian immigrants worked together to form unique school systems and civic programs. Harsh conditions in rural areas of the state pushed cooperative efforts for survival. If people were going to thrive, it was going to take people working together. New ideas with progressive politicans like Wellstone or Ventura frequently come from here. The state recently sent the first Muslim congressman to Washington. Sure, the state might elect a questionable character from time to time... but you can't say they aren't afraid to try new ideas and new people.

If we could only get them to try a spice besides salt and pepper...

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Bring a Vet to School Day

SIL Brianne shared these pictures of her niece Kyra who got to bring her very own Veteran to school today in Utica. He's Uncle Lukey to her, but to the crowd he was CPT Luke. Happy Veteran's Day!

Sunday, November 8, 2009

MIA at the MIA

Dave and I took advantage of a beautiful fall day by what else? Finding something to do inside....at the Minneapolis Institute of Art, called MIA by the locals. It's near downtown Minneapolis, and houses Rembrandt, Van Gogh, and several impressive pieces that seem vaguely familiar to me from art class. The museum is huge, and it's a testament to this city's love of art. The MIA is funded through donations, making it completely free to get in. Both times I've visited, I've seen large crowds taking advantage of this... and why not?

I've been before and only gone through one small wing of European exhibits, so Dave and I used great decision making skills when choosing to go in the first wing we found and check it out. After two hours, we'd journeyed through Korean, Japanese, Chinese, Indian, African, Southeast Asian exhibits, Pacific Islander, and some American and modern exhibits.

Since I've become more interested in tea and Victorian teas through my work out at the Landing, I found the Japanese tea rooms and tea ceremony exhibits very interesting. I think putting a Japanese tea room on the back of our house would be ideal to decompress from our stressful careers, but I seriously doubt the peace and serenity would flow freely in subzero temperatures. The heating element would probably detract from the simplistic decor. Plus, it would probably interfere with Dave's hockey rink plans.

Dave seemed intrigued by the early South American artwork and the masks... and of course, he couldn't resist sending his sister text pictures of the masks that reminded him of her. It's part of the teasing back-and-forth the two have.

Of course, one can only appreciate so much art at one dose.... but we did have to stop and admire someone's love with "Jaws" that was parked right outside: