Friday, June 26, 2009

When Johnny comes marching in...

This blog is long overdue! I've had computer-connection issues!


Our good friend Johnny visited us in mid-June and embarked on a whirlwind tour of the City of the Lakes. He wanted to see it all in just a few days... and he just about did.

That cherry will never be the same.

Dave and Johnny grew up together in upstate New York. I've heard quite a few tales of their growing up years, and even though I don't know the people... I still hear the 'have you heard about?' stories when I visit. The two friends played at recess, then later on the football field, and even later on Playstation. Johnny was in our wedding, and I'm sure there are still a few untold tales somewhere about Dave's bachelor party and a girl wearing a rebel flag tee while dancing with the guys in a cage. I've seen pictures.... but I haven't heard those stories.

Anyway, Dave and Johnny toured the Twin Cities. They went to the Mall of America. They took in a Twins game and drank a few at the brewery. Dave gave him a sports tour and a restaurant tour... even though Johnny swore he wouldn't eat Minnesota pizza ( I mean, what can really hold a candle to a New York slice?) he even said Cosetta's was okay. He had ice cream at Sebastian Joe's and cocktails at Maynard's on the Lake.

Much of the trip evolved around fishing excursions. Like most fishing trips, there was much anticipation and buying of the necessary supplies, but little payoff on Lake Waconia.

But the biggest disappointment had to come when they went to check out the Minnehaha Falls. Longfellow penned the 'Song of Hiawatha' by the waterfall, and whenever an arctic front moves through and the waterfall freezes over, a national correspondent will come to do a live shot and say "A winter storm has gripped the midwest." I told Johnny this should be on his must-see list... instead, it was more like the Minnehaha trickle:

I guess saying we've had dry weather is a huge understatement.

Seriously, we both enjoyed the visit. One of the best parts, for me, was Johnny correcting Dave's housekeeping abilities... 'Dave, why don't you ever fill up the ice trays?' 'Dave, why don't you nail this nail all the way in?'

I got a break for a few days. Ha.

No really, the visit was great and you are welcome back anytime Johnny!

Thursday, June 25, 2009

On board the Steamboat Minnehaha

Dave and I celebrated our third anniversary with a cruise, concert in the park, and a picnic dinner near Lake Minnetonka. If you are in the Twin Cities with a free Wednesday night, I highly recommend this.
The Steamboat Minnehaha was built in 1906 for transportation on Lake Minnetonka. In the early 1900s, Minneapolis-St Paul had one of the best public transit systems in the country. I'm told you could get from Excelsior to Hopkins in 9 minutes--you'd be hard pressed to do that today in rush hour. Steamboats and cable cars connected all the cities. Steamboats were key for getting passengers quickly across a lake with a densely wooded shoreline that had few roads. The public transit system later died when a fella named Henry Ford and cohorts saw potential profit in selling their auto to the common Minnesotan. So, they maneuvered control of the cable cars and then went about destroying the public transit system and therefore, forcing people to buy cars. Fastforward 100 years and the Twin Cities have one of the worst public transit systems in the country. Gee thanks Henry.

When the cable cars died, steamboats did too. Roads got better and no one needed them. So, in the 1920s, the company decided to strip the steamboats, drive them out to the center of the lake, and sink them.

Fifty years later, a diver discovered the Minnehaha and hauled it up from the bottom of the lake. If you do that, it becomes property of the state of Minnesota, and the state didn't want it. There was alot of legal back and forth and volunteers and fundraisers and more legal paperwork that followed for nearly 20 years.

But today, the Minnehaha is back out and running--funded and operated completely by volunteers. We took a concert cruise that departed from the ultra-cute town of Excelsior for an hour long ride to Wayzata. There, we had a nice picnic from one of the upscale restaurants (hey, it is Wayzata) and then listened to the Big Band play in the park. An hour later, we departed from Wayzata and watched the sun set on our way back to Excelsior. It was the perfect trip length and a beautiful night.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Year Three

Did you know that Sunflowers are the anniversary flower for your third anniversary? I didn't. I didn't even know there were symbollic flowers for numbered anniversaries. Gifts, yes. Flowers? okay.

But Dave had a nice bouquet of sunflowers waiting for me by the coffee pot this morning on our third anniversary.

An internet search will report a couple of different flowers to commemoriate your third year. But the sunflower says it best. The sunflower means a "devout admirer" because the flower's face follows the sun from sunup to sundown. "Representing strength, warmth, and nourishment--all attributes of the sun itself--the way in which the sunflower follows the sun symbolizes deep loyality and constancy."

Dave tells me I portray him as a bumbling oaf or a lethargic idiot sometimes on this site. He's really neither, but instead just really easy to pick on sometimes. So, I wanted to post a positive note to say how much I appreciate his thoughtfulness, sincerity, and kindness on our third anniversary. He's a keeper.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Tater Daze Craze

Our station does parades in a really big way. I hope to share some of that in a future post, but in the interest of this post not becoming too dated... I wanted to go ahead and get some Tater Daze pictures up.

In the 8-cities we cover, each has a parade during the summer. Marching bands are a big deal here, and some high school bands compete in 20-something parades all over the state during the summer. The local high school, Park Center, had the honor of leading this parade. Local politicans ride in cars. Each city's "royality" has a float. Local businesses have a float. Boy scouts and girl scouts and basketball teams and hockey teams march. (they put the goalie on a float, though) Churches have floats. Dance studios march and perform little routines along the way. Cheerleaders stop to do stunts. Senior citizens ride with their excerise groups. If people don't find a way in the parade, they watch.
Our parade season kicked off on Thursday with a very large parade, Tater Daze. We aired it live in a 3-hour broadcast. I got to be the roving reporter for the first parade--which means I ran up and down a stretch of the parade route jumping in cars or falling in with a boy scout troop, getting the attention of a photographer, then riding or marching down the route while interviewing someone live. Sometimes the float slowed down so I could jump in; most of the time they didn't. From the time I saw a picture of a reporter broadcasting from a giant potato, I knew I just had to get a ride in the giant potato.
Tater Daze pays tribute to Brooklyn Park's potato farming history. The city doesn't have any potato farms now, but they do have corporate headquarters for Caribou Coffee and Target. They are the 5th largest city in Minnesota, and can also claim Jesse Ventura as mayor before he later became governor. Although several residents like to overlook that claim. It's a diverse community, and residents packed the parade route hours before the floats started to roll.
I interviewed 30-something people, which included a mosquito on rollerblades, the Godfather, a clown, the grand marshall, conservationist, exercising seniors, boy scouts, girl scouts, a drum line, a parent and volunteer, a giant potato, a tow truck driver, cheerleaders, karate-chopping kids, hockey kids, baristas, grocery store managers, sisters named Darla and Darlynn (and you thought the South just had funny names) and more that I've forgotten. My fingers got whacked with drumsticks while climbing on a senior exercise float. My head got pegged with a basketball while standing by a Timberwolves goal (the crowd loved that). And my feet were so sore.
But I loved every minute of it.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Heil Potato!

I think I need to work on my wave:
More from Tater Daze coming up!

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Not really white-bread

When I moved to Minnesota, I heard several jokes about moving to "white bread America." The assumption is that the Minnesota and the midwest is populated by corn-loving hot-dish-serving plain white people who descended from someone named Sven, Gustaf, or Lena.

Some of that is true. But the state's population is far from being plain white bread. Over the next few posts, I hope to share a bit about the diversity of the area where we call home. I have found it's much more diverse than any place I've ever lived.

Let's start with the Liberians. I've learned more about African politics and geography since I moved here, and I can tell the difference in a Liberian and a Somali.

Liberians fled their country because of civil war starting in 1989. They are in the US on temporary status as refugees, and many settled on the north side of the Twin Cities. The area where I work has the largest Liberian population outside of their country--so much so that when their president, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, came to visit the US, she came to Minnesota. She's also the first female president of an African nation. The population has their own churches, stores, and newspapers, like my personal favorite, The Bush Chicken.

We cover many stories involving Liberians. Like many immigrant groups, you are likely to see several generations and extended family living under one roof. The police have had an interesting time working with the population because of the vast differences in culture. For example, in Liberia, if an officer pulls you over he will hold court there in the street for hours, and you could bribe him with money. So, you can understand why a Liberian driver here would be skittish to pull over and cooperate with an officer...and then try to bribe them too. One PD recently swore in the first Liberian officer, and it was a big deal.
Also, baby showers are considerably different. Here, it's generally a female affair involving a tea or small party. For Liberians, it's a party that lasts into the wee hours of the morning.
In covering the Liberian community, I've learned one major thing--they operate on "Liberian time." If something is scheduled to start at 4pm, you know nothing will begin until two hours later. When we get a press release stating one time, we play guessing games on what time we should actually show up. At one event, we went one and a half hours late, and still beat everyone there. It's just their way of life.
PS... for you wordsmiths, I did look up the term "white bread" to see if it's "white bred" or "white bread". Both are correct according to the Univ of Penn's Language Log. Both mean bland and conventional white middle class America.

Friday, June 12, 2009

A bit of "Grace"

When we started this blog, Dave and I hoped to not only keep friends and family up to date on our adventures, but on life in Minnesota itself. In this post, I'll try to get back to my original purpose and share a bit of Minnesota culture with you. Seen this picture before?

It's Minnesota's "unofficial" official state picture. (I've seen sources that claim both) My great Aunt Evelyn used to have a big print of "Grace" by Eric Enstrom hanging in her house in Delight. The painting is a fairly popular option for churches and religious households all over the country.

Enstrom took this picture in 1918 in the small Minnesota mining town of Bovey. Bovey is in the northeastern part of the state, which is known as the Iron Range. When an elderly looking fellow named Charles Wilden came to his photography studio, Enstrom was supposedly impressed by the man's kindly face. The man was a peddler. Enstrom set the picture up with the gruel and glasses and bread and bible. He liked the humility, faith, and devotion it depicted. Enstrom put a print in his window and when it sold, he replaced it with another.

Enstrom thought the picture would be a smashing success at a big photography convention later that year, but it wasn't. A few years later, he believed in it enough to take it to the convention where it finally caused the stir he desired. Enstrom's daughter painted it in oils and it became more popular. Later, a publishing house picked it up and it's been their best seller since. I think there's a devotional in this story somewhere.

While researching for this bit, I came across a Minnesota blog asking if anyone outside of Minnesota had this picture hanging in their house? The answer is yes, but I'd wager few people tie it back to Minnesota.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Playing Hazeltine

There's one thing that will get Dave out of bed early with zero complaints: golf.

With the PGA rolling into town this summer, our local golf course, Hazeltine, rolled out their green carpet for the media today.

It was a gray day, but that didn't stop dozens of media members from playing a course they probably couldn't pay to play otherwise.

Notice the green grass? Most of our grass around here was brown this time last week--we're coming out of a very dry May--one of the worst on record. Of course, I'm sure the folks at Hazeltine didn't let the grass die. Too much green at stake.

Monday, June 8, 2009


One last post about South Dakota, and that's it. Promise.

We did splurge our last night and day there and we spent the night in a great bed and breakfast called Buffalo Rock Lodge. I wholeheartedly recommend this place if you ever visit. It's off the beaten path and up a long winding hill. (Be careful, though--if you hit a cow in the road in South Dakota, you are required to pay the owner the price of the animal. It's law.) We could see the lights of Mount Rushmore from the big front porch, and our host served up a special homemade pastry and coffee during the lighting. Our hosts entertained us with stories of growing up in the Black Hills and ranching there. We asked questions about mountain lion encounters and the local deli. It's definitely a different life out west.

One thing, though. After roughing it on an air mattress and campground showers, the suite with a jacuzzi, a clawfoot tub, and nice beds were just beyond words. The spread at breakfast was impressive--fresh SD apple pancakes, some type of hash w/potatoes, eggs w/dill, bacon with some cayenne & pecans--sounds strange, but good. We didn't have a light a fire to cook any of it. I like B & Bs. It's a different experience and a different set of people-- I don't feel like I have to pull back the sheets at places like that and double check for spots or bed bugs. People generally take better care of their homes anyway. When you add the food and the room up, it was a steal of a deal and we joked about driving all the way back just to spend the night there.

We also visited South Dakota's winery, the Prairie Berry Winery. It was cute and fun, but pricey. They had some nice white wines and sturdy red ones too, but their biggest seller is Red Ass Rhubarb which is a sweet wine. I started to buy it just for the name, but I don't like dessert wines. So, I came home with Phat Hogg Chardonnay, which was overpriced but had a nice finish. Cheers to a great vacation!