Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Spring has sprung … we hope

1 April, Northfield MN
My oldest Minnesota friend is not doing well.  Lois, 90, is having more pain in her knee and has had some periods of disorientation and confusion, probably due to all the meds she’s taking.  Thankfully her daughter Sarah had already planned to be with her part of this week.  Lois is now required to have someone with her 24/7 until an assessment of her faculties can be made.  She also needs to have an MRI of her knee.

When Sarah called, I readily agreed to stay overnight tonight until Lois’ niece arrives midday tomorrow to take over.  I need to be home because I’m taking my sister Barbara to “A Night With Janis Joplin” at the Ordway tomorrow night.  Lois’ pastor brought take out from a local Japanese restaurant for dinner and stayed for a while.  Now that Lois is in bed with her Talking Book, I’m going to bunk down on the sofa.

3 April, Minneapolis MN
“Janis Joplin” was awesome — the voices of the cast were incredible.  And I learned a lot about her life and influences that I would never have guessed.  Like her normal middle-class upbringing.  Barbara, a Janis fan since the beginning, said the lead singer really caught Janis vocally.  The “back up” singers were excellent too, especially singing individually as Janis’ inspirations — Odetta, Nina Simone, Etta James.  Quite a bit of tie-dye and feathers-in-the-hair in the audience.  Lots of clapping and singing along, encouraged by the cast, and a few spontaneous standing ovations with favorite numbers.   

Book club tonight at Ann’s.  I actually read the book, an historical novel about the battle of Gettysburg during the Civil War.  Interesting read though a lot more detail than I can tolerate for long; I just skip over that.  

I finally made a Genius Bar appointment at the Uptown Apple.  I have got to figure out why my iPhone calendar won’t record new events when I add them.  Thus, needless to say, they don’t show up on my MacAir or iPad.  Double argh!

6 April
Calendar mystery solved.  I use the “home” calendar but had not set that as my default calendar.  As a result, my iPhone events were going to the default.  The Genius fixed that and checked the iPad and MacAir to be sure all were in sync.

Must stop now as friend Jan’s coming for knitting and dinner.  I’m making a big chef’s salad since I have a crisper full of fresh veggies and some leftover Costco rotisserie chicken.  Think I’ll make corn muffins too.

7 April
My life is revolving too much around food!  Met Elizabeth, my very first Polish teacher, for lunch today in Highland Park, St. Paul.  That’s near where she works now.  I wanted to give her the Polish texts from friend Dorota (my first Polish teacher in Peace Corps).  Always good to catch up with her — her three sons are all adults now, one an engineer, one a doctor and the youngest still trying to figure things out.  He was a toddler when Elizabeth tutored me pre-PC and spoke better than I did!  He’s traveling to Poland with Elizabeth and her husband in a week or so.

Tonight friend Marilyn and I are going to Market BBQ for ribs.  She mentioned being hungry for that when we knitted last time, and it’s made me salivate ever since.  I’m going to have the ribs for sure; last time I had chicken to lower my calorie intake and it was dry.

Tomorrow friend Janet and I are driving to Brainerd.  She’ll visit her son and his family, and I’ll go to my youngest great-niece Ruby’s first birthday party.  It’ll be a good opportunity to see everyone up that way. 

9 April, Brainerd MN
Had dinner last night with brother-in-law Steve and wife Elyse, their sons David and Craig, Craig’s fiancee April and assorted kids.  Great to see everyone; it’s been too long since I got up here.  Everyone seems to be doing well. Nephew Mark called from Fargo to talk with David.  Mark seems to be doing well in his sobriety.

Birthday party was this morning, in between Ruby’s naps.  Her mom (and nephew John’s wife) Heather is a wonderful party organizer.  Her theme of “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star”  was carried out all over the rec room, which was filled with aunts, uncles and cousins.  Do-it-yourself subs made it easier to stick to my eating regimen, but I did eat the yummy chocolate cupcake.
Heather, Ruby and John 

Ruby with Aunt Heidi

Ruby checks out her gifts

10 April, Minneapolis
My early Monday morning walk with Linda and Desi is so much nicer with a bit of sunlight and warmth.  Ah, spring at last.

Dr. Bella, my new family doctor, wants me to continue taking Lipitor.  I’ve agreed to take a half dose until I leave for DC, then have another cholesterol test.  She also said I have a “tennis elbow.”  That’s why it hurts when I move it sometimes during water ex.  How I have an arm band that’s supposed to help.  We’ll see.

11 April
What a great day I had with Craig and Alijah.  Craig says that Alijah loves “the city,” so we walked … and Alijah ran … the Skyways as far as we could, then finished on Nicollet Mall to the Minneapolis Central Library.  I returned a book, and we took the glass elevator to the top and looked out at tall buildings, cars and buses and people through the floor-to-ceiling windows.  We caught a bus down Hennepin Avenue to a lunch spot.  Alijah’s first bus ride.  And after lunch, a bus ride back to my place.

14 April
Jan and Marilyn came over for dinner and knitting tonight.  It was fun to cook a meal; I made Cajun catfish, brown rice and beans, corn on the cob and salad.  We had some Greek yoghurt cheesecake for dessert; it was leftover from Sunday dinner with Barbara and Tomery and still light and delicious.  Must remember that for future dinners.

15 April
I get an email from Thrillist and occasionally find something of interest, like the most recent one which included a link to “every state’s most important food innovation.”  Minnesota gave the world the Juicy Lucy, a calorie-laden and tasty burger.  Here’s what they had to say:

Juicy Lucy
Instead of forcing us to eat smelt-stuffed herring, the Suspiciously Nice Nordics of Minnesota gave us something much more wonderful: a burger stuffed with melted cheese. And though it’s only gained real national prominence in intense burger circles, or amongst those who like to pick a side in the 5-8 Club vs. Matt’s Bar, it's a cheesy, beefy gift, especially when you look outside and see 178in of snow.”

And here’s the link in case you’d like to check out your state:

16 April
Today is the day I switched clothes:  Spring and summer things are now in their rightful spots and winter things are either bagged in the closet or ready for the dry cleaner.  It’s been so nice this week that I’ve had windows open, sun tea brewing on the deck and worn capris and tees instead of jeans and fleece.

Lois is doing better although she said she was unable to have the MRI.  Her leg wouldn’t stay still enough.  They’ll reschedule when she can be given an anesthetic.  Next week her brother and sister in law are visiting.  Her sister in law is a jazz pianist and playing a concert for her facility.

Allah's new haircut

17 April

Another glorious spring day.  Off to Target to pick up a few things like cedar chips and moth balls.

“Bullets Over Broadway” last night was good fun, not fantastic but a lovely way to spend an evening with friend Jan.  Dinner at The St. Paul Grill before the play was delicious.  And the weather? Well, it was perfect.

Saw a piece in the Washington Post about climbing an active volcano in Guatemala.  It reminded me of my pre-dawn climb in August 2006 of a different Guatemalan volcano, Pacaya, which had had a lava flow a week or two earlier.  Our group of mostly 20/30-somethings watched the sun rise over the three volcanos, then everyone but I did the optional climb to the top.  My legs were killing me although my breathing had finally settled near normal.  I had forgotten how far above sea level we were at the start, let alone the finish.  But I’m glad I did the climb.  It was an awesome sight and incredible feeling.

18 April, Patriot’s Day
The day of Paul Revere’s midnight ride to warn the Massachusetts Colony of the impending British invasion “by land or by sea” … and of this year’s Boston Marathon.  

Boats are out at Lake Harriet
Sitting on the deck having my coffee and protein shake this morning, the scent of freshly baking cinnamon rolls hit me.  Not sure if it was a neighbor in the building or the cook at Minnesota Teen Challenge, but it sure smelled good.

20 April, Queen Elizabeth’s 90th birthday
Happy birthday, QEII.  The big celebrations are in June which is why Christopher had trouble getting a room in London.

A day of good news.  Halina received a positive response to her email proposal for a study trip for Center staff to look at US-based business incubators.  It was a “blind request” to someone at an organization related to a former major donor to the Center.  Moreover, her contact sent her message on the a key contact at the foundation to consideration.

And the US will soon have its first female on paper currency — Harriet Tubman who replace Andrew Jackson on our $10 bill.  Tubman escaped slavery to become a Union spy during our Civil War and an ardent abolitionist and humanitarian. Jackson, a war hero, was our 7th president.  Initially there had been a proposal to replace Alexander Hamilton, founding father and secretary of the treasure, with a woman.  But it seems the popularity of the new Broadway show Hamilton secured the $20 for him.  Aside:  Hamilton is a distant “shirt tail” relative on my grandfather’s side.

21 April,
I’ve been wanting for have a massage for ages and finally bought a Groupon for one at a place that’s near where my niece Tomery lives.  I think I’ve found a replacement for Ann-Elyse, the massage therapist that Janet and I love and who moved to Florida several years ago.  

Returned home to find no Internet (called Comcast and it’s working again) and a message from Susan that Prince (the Minneapolis-native singer-songwriter-etc, etc.) had died unexpectedly.  She called because the Mixed Blood Theater fundraiser we’re attending in May was to be at Prince’s Paisley Park.  Price was a music icon and genius who just happens to be from Minneapolis.  While I can’t say I’ve ever been a big fan of his music, I’ve watched his career since the beginning.  Two teenaged sisters who lived across the street from our house in Crystal (back in my early married days) hung out with him.  

I ordered an el cheapo step counter from Amazon to give it a try.  Took a while but finally got it working, synced to my iPhone and counting my steps.  Zobaczymy, as we say in Poland.  We shall see.

22 April
Busy day that ended in 4,500 steps from my condo to Spoon & Stable restaurant where we celebrated Jen’s five years of sobriety.  My counter seems to be working.  I have more than 9,000 so far, and that doesn’t include water ex.

Wild turkey in Janet & Ed's backyard
23 April
Angelique Kidjo was marvelous.  She has an awesome voice and incredible back story.  When Mary invited me to go, I had no idea she is a Grammy-award winning vocalist-songwriter-activist who was born in Benin.  Her musical influences range from traditional African to Nina Simone, Aretha Franklin and Jimi Hendrix.  She did a tribute to Prince too.  

24 April, Chicago IL USA
At 6 am, Janet and I departed for the Windy City to spend a couple of days, then bring two friends from Macedonia back to Minneapolis.  We traded off driving every two hours and made it with ease, having missed rush hour in Chicago too.  We had dinner with my college friend/sorority sister Barbara at Fig & Olive, a Mediterranean restaurant near our hotel that I found on OpenTable and definitely recommend.

Tomorrow Iva, who lives in Skopje, and Marija, who has moved to Chicago after winning the green card lottery a few years ago, will join us for breakfast, then we’ll sightsee while Janet heads for the exurbs to visit an old friend.

25 April
Did you know that Van Gogh painted his bedroom in the Yellow House in Arles three times?  None of us did.  The Art Institute of Chicago has an exhibition of “Van Gogh’s Bedrooms,” featuring all three.  Interesting, comprehensive exhibit — and educational!  The original is in the D’Orsay in Paris and because it was done in a hurry, sustained water damage.  The other are at AIC and the Van Gogh in Amsterdam.  When you seem them side by side, you can tell they are different most easily because the paintings on the wall by the bed are different in each.  They are miniatures of Van Gogh portraits and helped date the bedrooms.

Marija & Iva, dressed for the weather
What a day!  Windy and cold but such fun.  After Iva, Marija and I finished with Van Gogh, the Impressionists and Contemporary Art, we walked back toward the hotel and lunch in the John Hancock Building (lower level).  Dinner was at Pelago, an Italian restaurant a couple of blocks from the hotel; I’d eaten there a few years ago when I met friend Kathy B. in Chicago.  Janet’s friend Joana who works for the EPA joined us. 

Our waiter was from Serbia and he had the chef pull out all the stops for our Macedonian guests — sample appetizers, sample pastas before our mains.  After all that food, I was glad I’d only ordered the risotto starter.  We shared a cannolo, one of my favorite desserts, and delicious as it was, two bites was enough.

Oh, I walked more than 18,200 steps today ... off to bed!

27 April, Minneapolis, Rain, rain, go away.
Despite numerous GPS devices with directions, it took a bit to get on the road from Countryside IL where Marija lives.  But we made it and had a routine freeway drive all the way to Minneapolis.  Stopped for early lunch at an Oasis, the Illinois Tollway’s service plazas that span the highway.  You can eat and watch cars speed below, a big thrill when we were kids.

After settling Marija and Iva in their hotel, I gave them a general tour of the city and out to Costco in St. Louis Park to fill the gas tank.  Then we met my sister at her favorite eatery, Red Cow, and Marija and Iva got to taste some local brews.

28 April
More rain.  A good day to hit the Mall of America.  ‘Nuff said.
Took Marija & Iva
to see Minehaha Falls

Many of you know I’m not a Garrison Keillor fan; he’s the creator of A Prairie Home Companion on Minnesota’s and other public radio stations.  But his op ed in the Washington Post yesterday was spot on, offering New York refugees a place to stay in Minnesota when the NY water system crashes.  Enjoy:

29 April, Sunshine at last!
After visiting Janet and Ed at home and walking with them around part of Lake Harriet, we drove to Northfield for lunch with Lois, who loved having the company.  We returned in time to get them to the airport for their return flight.  It took me an hour to drive home.  Every freeway looked like a parking lot with construction zones everywhere causing detours.

Big news — Franciszka, my first adopted grandchild and the daughter of friend Inga and the late David, is graduating from high school on 1 June, and I’ll be there with bells on.  She has chosen the University of Georgia after being accepted at four or five universities! Congratulations, Frankie!

Franciska during our visit to Penn State

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