Tuesday, February 21, 2017

If at first you don’t succeed …

I am re-posting November-December because “followers” don’t seem to have received it.  You’ll find those after this post.  My apologies to those getting repeats.

1 January 2017, McHenry MD
What a wonderful way to start the new year.  Good fun with good friends last night, making pork and sauerkraut supper with Glenn and enjoying it with the same good friends today.  I’m really glad we decided to join Inga, Benia et al. for this weekend in the Deep Creek area.  Tomorrow we drive back to Pennsylvania.  Hope we have good driving weather.

Left, Glenn, Benia and Paweł concentrate on finishing the 1000-piece puzzle.  Glenn and Benia finally found the last elusive piece.

4 January 2017, Mount Pleasant PA
When planning the trip to PA, I talked to friend Suzie about getting other high school friends together.  Last minute and holiday time, but what the heck.  I sent an email and posted the lunch date on Facebook, and we had 15 people in all (13 classmates and two spouses).  We’re going to have another lunch when I’m back in March for the hockey game.

EFHS Class of '63 classmates
Glenn and I had our official “coming out” to the Class of ’63 since many didn’t know we are dating.  We all got a laugh when Eileen said, “But you two have been good friends and in touch all the time, right?”  And I replied, “No, we hadn’t seen each other for 50 years.”  No wonder this whole thing is so amazing to us and everyone.

5 January 2017
Snow coming, predicted to be heavier on the eastern side of the mountain where Suzie lives.  So we’re leaving after breakfast to drive over to Somerset.  Suzie and I are going to have an old-fashioned hen party, and I’ll stay overnight.  Tomorrow Glenn, his daughter Michelle and her family, and I drive to the Farm Show in Harrisburg.

Later, Somerset PA
The snow really came down hard and fast today.  Suzie and I decided on lunch out and an array of snacks with a movie in tonight.  We watched Sully which enlightened us on all the travails of the USAir pilot-hero who successfully landed a plane in the Hudson River with no casualties.  It was so lovely to spend a quiet evening chatting, enjoying wine and nibbles with Suz and watching the beautiful snowfall in her backyard.

Suzi's patio looked magical.

6 January, Harrisburg PA
What a day!  Glenn met me at Suzie’s at 8.  She was shoveling snow as we left.

Suzie shoveling path
We went to breakfast, then picked up Michelle, her husband Seth and daughter Sara to go to the Farm Show here.  Glenn has an apple pie in a competition, and Michelle wanted to see the rabbit judging.  Sara wanted to show me everything at the fair.  And that started today.  We took her with us part of the day, and it was obvious who was in charge.  I gave Sara the hat that I knitted for her, and she liked it.  Whew.  Tonight we all had dinner tonight at a great steak house.  

Didn’t get to see much of the city but the fairgrounds is a big, impressive complex.  And the Farm Show is equally big and impressive.  Everything from prize bulls and show rabbits to quilts, home canned foods, artisan cheeses and PA wines, and much more.  And the food reminded me of the MN State Fair in its range of offerings. 

7 January
Glenn’s pie made the first cut (no pun intended) but didn’t win.  But he was happy to have attained that — top 25 out of 78 pies. 

Glenn's apple pie
My mom would've loved all of the
gorgeous handmade quilts.

10 January, Minneapolis MN
Nice to be home but also not.  When Glenn and I were deciding on the length of my stay, we thought two weeks could be stretching it.  It’s been a long time since either of us has had another person around 24/7, and we talked frankly about our concerns.  Then it got time for me to leave and two weeks seemed very short indeed.

Glenn fills a jug
Yesterday we drove up to Linn Run State Park where it had snowed quite a bit.  When we arrived, a couple were filling what looked like at least 50 jars and jugs of assorted sizes, shapes and colors with the icy cold mountain spring water.  We drove around a bit, then returned and filled only four gallon jugs, great for making coffee.  I remember my parents doing this after we all left home.  Mostly when we were kids, we went to Linn Run for picnics, hiking, falling in the creek. I call it my spiritual home, a place I need to visit regularly.

On the way to the airport, today we stopped to visit a high school friend Janet.  We talked for a while, met her husband for the first time.  Then Glenn went to his uncle and aunt’s house, and Janet and I had time to catch up over lunch.  I was glad to see how well she’s doing and hear her plans to attend the Women’s March in DC.  Later, Glenn picked me up and off to PIT we went … hours early as en route I learned that my flight had been delayed due to bad weather in Minneapolis.  Glenn had a meeting so dropped me; I wandered the airport and had a light dinner there.  Flight finally took off at about 7:30, and wonderful “Minneapolis Janet” gave me a ride home.

11 January
Great day — getting my hair done this afternoon.  Hurray!

12 January
Maddi, the other PA transplant in my water ed classes, hosted breakfast for the group this morning, and we more than filled her dining room.  Nice to see everyone away from the pool and have a chance to talk when we aren’t in a hurry.  I took Marilyn to the airport, then drove straight over to Maddi’s, arriving while she was in the shower.  Every gracious Maddi, let me in and I read National Geographic while she finished getting ready, then I helped with final arrangements. 

14 January
Jan and I belatedly celebrated our birthdays at Eastside restaurant tonight.  Her choice since she’d never been there, and I enjoyed the food when my sister, nephew and I had been.  We got dressed up, and I wore my mink coat.  And I had lamb, the best I’ve had in a long, long time.  Mmmmm.

17 January
Before leaving Sandomierz last month, I gave Hala a small padded envelope full of śliwki, chocolate-covered prunes, to be mailed to Glenn the Monday after the board meeting.  It finally arrived today … exactly a month after the Polish stamps on the envelope were cancelled.  And tonight at the Friends of the Minneapolis Central Library Board meeting, our VP Bob told me that he and Carol had just gotten my Christmas card from Poland, sent a couple of days before Glenn’s package.  Talk about snail mail!

Day-brightener & page-breaker
photo: Sara and her Pappy

21 January
On this ugly, rainy, cold day tens of thousands of women, men, children showed up at the state capitol in St. Paul for the Women’s March.  That included Marjie from water ex and I.  We took the Light Rail both to and from St. Paul, and it was jammed, filled to capacity — and so was the capitol lawn.  In both places, any movement was next to impossible; lots of stepped-on feet and pushing in order to move.  And yet I didn’t hear an unkind word. No cursing or name calling. No negativity. Just solidarity.  Later I saw news on Facebook and heard on the radio about all the marches all over the US and the world, in small towns and big cities, some like DC organized well in advance, other ad hoc.  Not a political blog, so that’s where I’ll stop.

22 January
And the winner is … me!  I won two items in an online auction supporting the Westmoreland County Rabbit Club. I mainly joined the auction to help raise the bids to support Glenn and his daughter Michelle’s organization.  Each item was a basket with two bottles of wine and snacks and treats.  After I won, I told them I only wanted the four bottles of wine, and Michelle could pick what she’d like of the balance.  And she already took dibs on the chocolate-covered strawberries which wouldn’t travel well.  

24 January
In keeping with my 2010 return-to-the-US resolution to broaden my network of contacts and eventually, hopefully friends, I attended a Northwestern alumni mixer tonight.  Met some interesting folks, mostly much younger, but a nice way to spend a few hours.

25 January 
Actually love seeing the snow fall this morning, even if it means driving will be a bit harder.  It has covered up all that ugly, dirty stuff that’s piled everywhere.
My annual pic of YMCA snow pile
and my car -- see how deep
it gets!

26 January
Dark overcast skies again, just like 18 days out of 26 so far this month, according to the state meteorologist this morning, and a record I could’ve done without.  No wonder I feel so tired.

Lots of articles on Mary Tyler Moore, who died this week, especially about the influence of her ‘70s television program that took place in Minneapolis.  Mostly written by women, of course, but some interesting pieces from men too.  I certainly remember watching every episode of The Mary Tyler Moore Show and having friends over to watch the final one.  Although she was a bit late for inspiring my journalism career, she seemed very authentic and her experiences very real, echoing some of my own.  And I’d previously enjoyed her in The Dick Van Dyke Show, recalled her legs in the Richard Diamond series and vividly remember her Oscar-nominated role in the film Ordinary People.

27 January
Hurray!  Sunshine today.  What a surprise and relief.  These gray days were getting me down.

Ran a load of errands including a stop at Janet & Ed’s to print itineraries and a few other items.  Just in case I can’t get my new printer to work.  I checked several places and online sites and finally bought one at Costco. I also enlisted their son Thom to help install it.  So …

At various times my nephew Christopher, Thom and I all had tried to get the old printer to work with the new internet but no luck.  Ironically when I was at Glenn’s earlier in the month, his laptop wouldn’t work with his printer but mine would.  Now my laptop actually talks to my printer.  So I printed my Red Lobster gift certificate.  And am ready for tax organization time.

28 January
Back to dark, overcast skies.  But lunch in Northfield with Lois and Deborah, a friend of hers, helped raise my spirits.  Deborah thinks Lois should write a book about her life … actually I think she could fill half a dozen books.  We agreed to look for themes in the many stories Lois has told — I have quite a few already written and now have six or seven DVDs with interviews on her family history that her daughter Sarah made a few years ago.  I’m going to transcribe some of those and see what floats out.

29 January
Sunshine and blue skies today.  Hurray.  Yes, it’s cold out there but what a treat to see the sun again.  Off to Susan’s tonight for dinner and to watch the SAG Awards … welcome respite from organizing income tax documents.  More of that to do this week.  Yuck.

I am so happy that Hidden Figures won the cast award, and that so many of my other favorites also won.  And while I’m not an Ashton Kutcher fan, I did enjoy his opening.

31 January
End of a long, dreary, cold month … no surprise as to Minnesota’s rank in this from Thrillist.  Check it out.  https://www.thrillist.com/travel/nation/states-with-the-worst-winters-worst-us-states-for-winter

Lake Harriet

Repeating December and January 2016 … but without photos

1 December 2016, Schiphol Airport, Amsterdam, Holland
I do hate the 3:14 pm to AMS.  It arrives at 6-ish in the morning and I never get any sleep.  So here I sit, half awake as I await my Warsaw flight.  Glenn, if I didn't sleep last night, does it count as a “sleep"?  Time for a walk.

Later, Warsaw, Poland
As usual, Dorota's lovely mother in law was waiting for me with the kettle on the stove and cake on the table.  She left me a key, then returned home.  I'm going over to Marta's later to get clothes that Hala got out for me (I still have a lot stored at the farm).  In the meantime, Iza is coming over and will get her clothes that she ordered online for delivery to me.

2 December, Einsiedeln, Switzerland
Smooth travel so far although I am still not in this time zone.  Flight on Swiss today was on time, and Federico, Maura's husband, was waiting for me as I exited Immigration.  We took two trains and a taxi to arrive in Einsiedeln, south of Zurich, in time for one of Maura's fantastic meals.  Cannot get over how much Oscar has grown.  He's 11, so it has been a few years.  Maura and Fed look just the same.  And they have a dog -- an Australian Labradoodle, so Maja's smaller than Honey, John and Lauri's Labradoodle.  Equally playful though.

3 December
Oscar and a school friend Daniel took a cooking class today at what is called Europe's oldest vegetarian restaurant.  We dropped Oscar at the school and left after he had his picture taken in smock and toque.  Fed went to the office for a bit, Maura and I shopped.  I remember that she's dangerous to shop with -- I always find things I want and buy them!  But I stuck to small gifts from Switzerland for the grand-nephews and -nieces.  Found KinderEggs for Jonah and Spike but will probably mail those from Poland; the post office is more convenient.  Also got post cards for my kids’ list and will need to make time to write and mail those.  Since I have Swiss stamps, I'll need to be sure and mail those before I leave.

Chef Oscar

4 December
Such a gorgeous day forces a long walk onto one's agenda.  We drove to a spot where we could park the car and hike the hills without traffic.  We did a big loop for about an hour -- lots of up hill in the first half, then mostly down hill until just before the parking lot.  We'd downhilled farther than we'd uphilled, so it was up again.   Amazingly I kept up and wasn't winded.  Thank you, water ex instructors!  Saw a few farm animals, including a cute baby goat.  Heard the sound of a Swiss horn coming from a nearby mountain.  

Tonight Fed has to go to Italy on business, tomorrow I will go to see Oscar's school at the end of the day.  Maura and I will get groceries and shop a bit more, of course.

5 December
Oscar and I took Maja for a walk tonight.  He showed me how to get to the lakeside path, which we managed despite the rapidly decreasing daylight.  Then back up the hill to the side road.  At the top is a farm with two donkeys, and the farmer was just finishing feeding them as we arrived.  Oscar stopped for a chat in Swiss-German.  He is a very outgoing kid and already is fluent in English, German and Swiss-German.  The visit to his school was really interesting -- very small with individualized lesson plans for each student.  Oscar gave me a tour, explaining the purpose of each room (art, library etc.) as well as of the student's art and other projects.  They made a treehouse out of branches.

6 December
View from my room
While Maura took Oscar to school (a 45-minute trip), I had coffee, then walked Maja.  I had thought of taking a short walk so I'd showered etc. when Maura returned ... but Maja had other ideas -- she immediately led me to the lake.  At a distance up ahead on the lake path were two dogs, off lease, until their owners noticed us.  When we met, I said 'good morning' in English so they'd know I didn't speak German.  The dogs, including Maja, were pretty well behaved, to my great relief.  One woman recognized Maja and said something that included "hund" (dog) and Maura, and I nodded yes.  We encountered them again on the upper road and the smaller dog, Ramona, was off lease and determined to play with Maja.  Uncertain what to expect, I instructed Maja to "stay" and she did!  Meanwhile, Ramona was running in circles, then running close to Maja and retreating until her owner finally arrived on the scene, leashed her and said good bye.  Maura was home when we arrived, so we had breakfast and decided on the day.  Fed returns tonight.

7 December, Sandomierz, Poland
I feel like a vagabond.  I walked with Fed to the bus, which took us to the first of several trains and me ultimately to the Zurich airport.  Flight to Warsaw was uneventful, driver from the Center was waiting, and we waited for the other US-based board member Steve in the wrong terminal.  I'm not sure why Piotr keeps insisting Steve's landing in the old terminal; he's done this before.  Steve borrowed a phone from a British woman and called me.  Like me in Scotland last summer, he discovered that UK SIM cards expire if they aren't used within a few months.  Anyway, it was dark and damp, a typical Warsaw winter day, and rush hour had begun when we set off for Piaseczno, then Sandomierz.  It was after 9 pm when we finally arrived here, and since they'd kept the restaurant open for us, we both felt obligated to at least have a bowl of soup.  So that's what we did.

Imprezja, where we always stop to check out the latest in Bolesławice (Polish pottery), has an ungodly number of new patterns again.  And none of them to my taste.  The original designs and those few that followed were crisp, simple, mostly geometric designs with bold colors.  Easily mix-and-matchable if you preferred that to a one-pattern set.   The newer designs are garish colors and busy with flowers and such.  They had some basic pieces in the old patterns (plates, cups, mugs) but not much else.  I did manage to find one casserole dish in the peacock pattern for water-ex friend Cassandra.

8 December
What a long day!  After breakfast, Steve joined me in a walk to the New Town.  I needed to get shampoo and some cosmetics and check out the price of śliwki (chocolate-covered prunes).  The price (PLN 33/kilo -- about $3 per pound) was right -- I bought two kilos.  Despite the yukky weather of another typical Polish winter day, the walk felt good.  We were mostly standing still and eating indoors the remainder of the day.

The opening of the kitchen incubator went well.  Although standing on solid concrete floors for a couple of hours did my back no good, my heart was raised when I saw a smiling Jadwiga.  A former employee of the USAID project that established the Center, Jadwiga went on to a successful career as an entrepreneur.  Now she's turned her food-processing businesses over to her kids and in retirement took a short contract with the Center to help set up the incubator.  Took a photo with Jadwiga to send to friend Johanna in PA.  When Johanna, her husband and kids were in Sandomierz, Johanna and I used to go out to Jadwiga's farm.
Jadwiga demonstrates
new equipment

After all the speeches, we had to eat; this is Poland after all.  A lovely buffet was catered by the same company that did Hala's son's wedding reception last May.  I only had bigos and Polish potato salad, two of my favorites and both excellent.

From the incubator, we re-boarded our bus and visited three clients who'd gotten assistance from the Swiss program.  Guido, a new head of program in the Swiss Embassy, and his colleague Domenika went along, as did several other dignitaries with an interest in the Center's work.  Our first stop was an old warehouse that we'd visited once before to see a language and tutoring school.  Now a young woman has opened a fitness center that is designed mainly for women (she has one room of equipment for men or really serious body builders).  Besides offering work out equipment, yoga and aerobic classes of all sorts, she has an on-site childcare center!  Not only does it have all kinds of things for youngsters to do while mom is working out, it is staffed.  One of the women from Warsaw was in a swoon -- she said there was nothing like this place there.  

A small, well appointed regional museum in Zawichost was our next stop, then a winery where we not only did a wine tasting, but I bought two bottles (one red for Dorota's husband Jacek and one white for Glenn and me).  Both were wines we'd tasted and incredibly drinkable.  The red was the most surprising as Poland is not a place to produce red wines and those I've tried before have been plonk.  And even some of the whites have needed way more work.  But these were lovely and though dear compared with what I'd pay in the US, worthwhile.

9 December
Another full day.  We had to leave at 8 am for Kielce where the closing conference for the Swiss program was held.  Hala said Steve and I didn't need to stay all day, and we did duck out at about 1 pm.  Despite head sets and good translators, sitting on hotel chairs for hours is not easy.  My rear was numb.  So we walked around the hotel which has a few small shops; I bought a sweater, my Christmas present to me.  Then after coffee, we returned to the conference to find everyone lining up for lunch.  More food was something neither of us needed.  Despite a very overcast, drizzling and a bit chilly day outside, a long walk seemed in order, and that's what we did.  Kielce has a nice pedestrian mall that started near the hotel, so we walked and talked the length, stopped occasionally to shop for small Christmas things and I found a post office to mail a card to Glenn.  We got back just in time for the end of the conference and the long ride back to Sandomierz.  Tomorrow we have our formal board meeting, then back to Warsaw.

Halinka, me, Hala, Steve in
Hotel Basztowy lobby

11 December, Warsaw, Poland
Rain, rain, go away.  It’s pouring which meant no walk after brunch with Ula and Iza at a new spot, Hala Koszyki, another of those old buildings that’ve been renovated.  This is now a shopping/eating/entertainment space.  And it’s been done beautifully, incorporating the stunning  brick of the past with lots of light and glass.  We had brunch at a crepe restaurant where Iza and I had crepes (mine raspberry, hers apple) and Ula had American-style pancakes.  

Dorota’s back surgery was moved to Friday, and she’s already walking!  She may come home on Tuesday, but unfortunately I’ll be in Amsterdam.  She sounded good on the phone.  

12 December, Amsterdam, Holland
A flight to AMS at a sane hour, now that’s something new.  I’m usually on the 6 am; today I took the midday.  Took a cab to friends Ana and Art’s flat; their car is in the garage.  Now Ana’s cooking dinner, with occasional help from Art.  I had to take a photo as no one will believe Ana cooks — I didn’t believe it the first time she prepared a meal.  Ana is my friend who asked a London real estate agent if it was possible to get a flat without a kitchen since she didn’t intend to use it.  

Ana & Art preparing dinner

14 December
Two full days of marginal weather and maximal good times.  Yesterday I walked over to De Halles, old railroad barns that were literally falling down when someone had a vision of something useful.  They were beautifully renovated into cafes, shops, movie theater.  One building has a large bar under a sky light at its center and a couple of dozen 12’ by 12’ food establishments representing the diversity of ethnicities in the city.  I bought a lamb tikka wrap at an Indian place, got a diet Coke at the bar, and sat there to eat.  Then I wandered the buildings before setting off for the Museum District.  Spent the rest of the afternoon at the Rijksmuseum, then walked back to the flat.  Definitely made my step goal.

Today I walked nearly 20,000 steps before I stopped for a pedicure.  I went the wrong direction out of Ana and Art’s in search of the Hermitage Museum, recommended by Art. And it was impressive when I finally got there, after almost 90 minutes of walking.  Along the way I passed a Tom’s Shoe Store and replaced my old, ruined black Tom’s.  At the museum I only did the Catherine the Great exhibit which was fascinating — she was fascinating.  Lots of lovers, lots of intrigue.  Then lunch and another long walk to Ana and Art’s office.  Went through the Asian section as well as the flea market along the shoreline and finally dockside.  I cabbed back to their neighborhood and got the pedicure.  I was Skyping with Glenn when Art’s son Tom arrived, then Ana and Art.  So all said “hello” and invited him to visit.  Then we four went out to dinner at our favorite Italian restaurant.  I have a Polaroid of us from my first visit, and the photographer returned and I have another of this time.

Tomorrow it’s back to the USA.  Have had a wonderful trip, have been able to Skype with Glenn regularly but it’ll be nice to be back in Minneapolis.  Then only 14 sleeps until I go to PA.

16 December, Minneapolis MN USA
Returned to cold and snow and forecast for even more.  So grateful to friend Janet for doing airport duty and picking me up.  Return trip was uneventful once we took off.  Amsterdam was experiencing a pea-soup fog, a rarity according to Ana.  Departed an hour late because of a mechanical problem with a cargo door, unsettling but not much I could do.  

After I landed, nephew Craig sent a text about possibly postponing the planned drive to Brainerd due to weather. We’re going to do early Christmas with the Brainerd Hagens.  And that’s what we’ve done.  I walked to town to get last minute gifts for the grand-nephews and -nieces, then to the post office to mail cards and finally to Susan’s for a short visit.  Now I’m home, wrapping presents and binge-watching television programs I missed.

17 December, Brainerd MN
Chaos, total chaos … and wonderful.  That’s what you get with a house full of exuberant Hagen grandchildren, from 3 months to 12 years.  Times like this make me so grateful that the Hagens and I have stayed connected despite the divorce.  The summer of the separation, my mother-in-law said we’d been family for too long to walk away from each other, and I agree.  

Craig, April, Jaiden and I drove up to Brainerd this morning … I slowly made my way over still-snowy streets to their house, then April did the excellent driving that got us here safely and sanely. Alijah was already in Brainerd with his grandparents. We met Craig’s parents, my former brother- and sister-in-law Steve and Elyse, at the Brainerd YMCA where their oldest granddaughter Evie was playing basketball.  And quite a player she is.  Not only a full-court hustler but a sharp-eyed shooter — five baskets, the most of any player on her team and she’s the only girl!.  Rules are loose, no one keeps score and the kids have fun, just as it should be.

Evie at rest

Back at the house we enjoyed some snacks while waiting for David, Heidi and Sam to return from Sam’s hockey game in Moorhead (John and Evie were already with us) and John, Heather, Ruby and Hazel to arrive (I hadn’t met Hazel yet; she was born in September).  Steve fixed a whole ham on the grill and Elyse made the trimmings — scalloped potatoes, pureed sweet potatoes with pecan crust, creamed cabbage (from her late mom’s recipe and one of my favorite holiday treats), pistachio “salad” (another rarely eaten holiday favorite) and corn casserole.  Heather made a decadent brownie-peppermint dessert.  I need to walk for at least three hours … as soon as the temp gets above zero Fahrenheit!

Once everyone was fed and dishes cleared, the kids tore into their Christmas presents, taking turns and remembering their “thank yous.”  Then the adults rolled the dice and picked and swapped from their grab bag.  By the time we’d finished, everyone was pooped except the kids who were running on sugar.  I went home with Heather and John, sleeping in the “cowboy room” in their lower level.  Had to show my PA cowboy all the decorations during our Skype call.  Heather is an amazing decorator using mid-century modern, especially comfortable for someone who grew up in that era and decor.  

18 December, Minneapolis
Back in my quiet, empty condo.  

I woke up at 4 am in Brainerd; still adjusting to my new time zone.  Around 7:30, I went upstairs to make coffee and found Heather in the rocking recliner with Hazel who had some head congestion and needed to sleep upright.  I took over and got some quality baby snuggling time, a real treat.  Once Ruby was up and dressed, she brought me a book to read to her, so more quality kid time.  I sent her photo to Inga in DC because Ruby looks so much like Tosia as a small child; Inga agreed.

Many of us went to church this morning to see Evie in the Sunday School Christmas pageant; she was a shepherd.  Then back to Steve and Elyse’s for lunch before we Minneapolis Hagens drove back.  Now I’m making shopping lists and soup and soon will take off for the store.

19 December
Today was my annual holiday meltdown, when everything seems to hit at one time no matter how much I think I’ve prepared. Start with the usual:  I am trying to do too much and feeling guilty for not doing enough.  Every other Facebook post is a friend who’s baked something yummy for the holidays, and in my nightly calls with Glenn, I know he’s baking/cooking up a storm for Christmas Eve.  I used to bake lots of family recipes for Christmas, sharing them with friends as well as my family but have gotten out of practice.  Next come the losses that are more vivid during these family-oriented holidays — firstly people:  my son in the main but also my parents, Granny and extended family, notably Karen, my NU roomie and KD pledge mom, and the other Karen, another roomie and sorority sister, Brunch Bunchers John, Suzanne and Sharon.  And the loss of what isn’t but “should” have been, like fighting with my ex over who gets the grandkids for the holidays and visiting my aged parents.  

And then, there’s the one really good change that’s occurred in my life, starting a relationship with a wonderful man.  Long distance, no less.  How’s that for stress.  

I did what works best for me on days like this — got it out of my head via my fingers (this blog) and mouth (talking to friend Susan and dear Glenn.  I’ll be fine tomorrow, once I get some baking done!

20 December
So, the baking is done.  Susan has sampled the raisin squares and deemed them delicious.  Three Hungarian pastries have baked and cooled.  And I’m off to the Friends of the Minneapolis Central Library monthly meeting and after party to say “good bye and thank you” to Art, our VP who is retiring from active service on the board.

23 December
Friend/neighbor Maryanne and I celebrated her 70th birthday with dinner at a favorite restaurant that’s closing, Ling & Louie’s, then the George Winston concert at Orchestra Hall.  A lovely evening.  I also shared my śliwki and homemade pastries with her in advance of Christmas.

25 December, Merry Christmas and Happy Hanukkah
One of those rare years in so many ways, but the convergence of these two holidays is a nice one.  Another rarity is this weather.  I can hear the wind and rain as I write this.  It’s 25 December for goodness sake — where’s the snow?  

Dinner was delightful, leisurely and delicious.  I used a new recipe for the prime rib, and it came out perfectly medium rare.  Made lots of mashed potatoes so Barbara had plenty to take home with some leftover meat.  

27 December
Janet & Ed’s son Thom and I got a bunch of little repairs done today.  He made new screws from the all-thread wire that I got at Home Depot last month, and replaced my bedroom closet doorknobs.  I now have two globes that I bought in Frederick MD in October.  He repaired the broken foot on Mom’s cedar chest and clamped it to ensure the glue sticks.  Then we moved furniture in the small room again.  I wanted to have both chairs on the same side of the room for when Glenn comes to visit in February.

Early dinner today with Marilou at Redstone which has moved to Ridgedale Mall.  Good food and service but the place is much larger than the original, losing some of the cozy ambiance.  Then home to finish packing for PA.  Niece Michelle picks me up at 8 am for my flight.

28 December, Mount Pleasant PA
Despite leaving 20 minutes late, the plane arrived on time and Glenn was waiting for me in Baggage Claim.  Before coming here, we stopped in Homestead to visit Glenn’s uncle and aunt, a delightful couple with a few interesting quirks.  I’d been forewarned about his aunt’s potential for inappropriate questions but found her to be quite restrained.  We went to dinner at a seafood restaurant at The Waterfront, a huge shopping-dining-entertainment complex along the Monongahela River where a once-thriving steel mill was located.  They seemed to like me.

29 December
We agreed no Christmas presents, but no one said anything about souvenirs, something I love to bring back with me from overseas.  So I had gotten a couple for Glenn, and he told me he had something that I’d like.  I was overwhelmed — it’s the copy of “The Joy of Cooking” that he gave his mom in 1963.  He really pays attention.  I had told him about getting a copy as a high school graduation gift.  It was always my Bible for guidance on basics as well as recipes like THE best Caesar salad dressing.  Unfortunately the cookbook was “lost” in my divorce, and I’ve had to make do with a more recent paperback version that is now being held together by large rubber bands.  Glenn’s huge cookbook collection had led me to tell him about my copy of Joy when I was in PA in November.  And he remembered!  Extra points for this guy.

We’re meeting my friend  Inga and two other couples in Deep Creek MD for New Year’s weekend.  So today we went shopping at DeLallo’s for cheeses, cold cuts etc. for Friday evening when everyone arrives. Talked to Suzie and Janet, high school friends, about getting together next week. Had an early dinner of homemade ravioli (two kinds: cheese and sweet potato) in homemade sauce.  Deliciosi!  Love a man who cooks for me.  Spent some time organizing what we need to take with us tomorrow, then googling Augusto, a relative of Glenn’s in Italy who had died.  Another relative sent info from a local obit and Glenn wanted to find the source.  To you who think I am a total Luddite, I actually found the obit.  Then we spent an hour or so looking up obits of other possible relatives to add to Glenn’s genealogy trove.  Really interesting and lots more fun than it probably sounds.   

30 December, McHenry MD 
Made it to Deep Creek safe and sound.  Lots of snow all the way, one sideways slide but Glenn’s a great driver.  Everyone arrived almost at the same time along with enough food to feed the Polish army.  We contributed to the largesse with the exception of the prosciutto I promised Inga, other cold cuts and cheeses.  Guess who forgot to pack them when she filled the cooler bag?  Moja wina.

Unexpectedly, two little girls are along for the weekend: Carina who’s 6 and Gabby who’s almost 3.  Both have done well so far with a houseful of adults and already love Pappy Glenn.  His patience astounds me … he’s playing a Frozen game with Carina now and Gabby’s perched on his knee.  Glenn’s getting a chance to expand his gustatory range as he tries bigos, śledź, pasztet and other Polish foods.  We’re making pork and sauerkraut (his recipe) for dinner on Sunday — a good-luck must in several cultures.

31 December
Glenn and I took a late morning ride around one end of Deep Creek Lake, a chance to be alone and talk.  He’s enjoying his first travel adventure with me.  Whew!  Bodes well for more to come.

Now everyone’s getting ready for tonight — the table may collapse under the weight of food.  Champagne and other wines are on the porch cooling (refrigerator has no room).  What a lovely way to end a lovely year.

3 November 2016, Minneapolis MN USA
Took the car in for an oil change and came out with new brakes.  Pok, the mechanic who’s worked on my cars off and on since I moved to this neighborhood, called to tell me the brakes were “pretty thin” and should be replaced.  Considering nothing more than adjustments have been done in six-plus years, and that I drive an hour on the freeway to Northfield most weeks, I agreed with him that replacement was in order.  Ka-ching.

6 November
I love it when an event I think may be boring turns out to be otherwise.  Such was last night’s celebration of the 10th anniversary of the gorgeous Minneapolis Central Library building.  Designed by Cesar Pelli, the library is a landmark that was built while I was overseas.  To its and the city’s credit, Pelli attended the sold-out gala.  He spoke at one of three “spotlight” events and needless to say, it was standing room.  Marlon James, Man Booker prize winner who teaches at nearby Macalester College, and noted soprano Maria Jette were the other spotlights.  The Twin Cities Gay Men’s Chorus did a piece at the beginning of the official ceremony and “Walk Hand in Hand” at the end.

I and others in our Friends of MCL group volunteered to help, and I had thought it might be a long five hours.  But it turned out to be great fun, well planned with plenty of food and drink, excellent speakers and music that filled the stunning atrium. 

8 November, US Presidential Election Day 
I’m exhausted and will soon go to bed not knowing for sure the outcome of this monumental US election season.  But I had a great day.  As an election judge in the very diverse Whittier neighborhood, my task was registering new voters.  And a happy task that was.  I got to register scores of immigrants from East Africa and Latin America who believed in the goodness of my country to choose to live here and believe in our political system to register to vote.  I registered a young man who only turned 18 in September and was among several under-20s proudly voting for the first time.  So, whether or not I like the election’s outcome, I feel good about how I spent my day.

9 November, the day after
This isn’t a political blog so my commentary on yesterday’s election will be limited.  Back in college, my History of England professor talked of cataclysmic events that occur in the world after which the world can never be the same again.  For me, this US presidential election falls in that category.  What the road forward for my country will be very much remains to be seen.

11 November, Veterans Day in the US
A grateful thanks to all who have served our country, including but certainly not limited to my late dad and uncles, late friend John, late husband Bob, and Lois’ son Mark, Jean’s son Mark, as well as my now-serving niece Dyana.

I had started out thinking what a good day this would be — sun shining, nice temp, easy drive to Northfield to see my friend Lois, 91.  Mark joined us for lunch. A Vietnam vet, Mark had just visited two schools where four of his grandchildren attend to take part in their Veterans Day events. Had a lovely time and caught this photo of Mark and his wife Joan.  

Then I got home and started getting texts and Facebook notices.  Nothing but bad news:
  • Nancy, Sue’s wife, succumbed to her pancreatic cancer.  I’ve known Nanc since Sue’s and my St. Paul Companies’ days and still owe her 15 minutes with our late shrink Diane. The world lost a wonderful human being today, someone who will be missed by everyone who ever had contact with her.
  • Rosie, another TSPC friend, had knee surgery on Monday and is still in the hospital.
  • Jan, yet another TSPC friend, is sitting at Methodist Hospital with her mother, reason unknown.

I sent Glenn a text requesting a hug, and as he texted back, Aideen called with good news.  Hurray.  She has put in a bid on a house and is putting her condo up for sale.  My fingers are crossed for her and will keep positive thoughts going in that direction.  

12 November
A wonderfully fun day at the water park with Craig and the boys, Alijah and Jaiden plus Jaiden’s friend Brady.  I climbed up to the 10th floor “family tube” four times and the double tube on 7th floor once.  Alijah and I rode the double tube since they wouldn’t let Craig join us.  Got home and was thoroughly exhausted but with a big smile on my face.

13 November
 “Orange” was premiered at Mixed Blood this afternoon, and I decided to go alone.  The play’s name reflects the color, the fruit and the county where the play takes place and the obsession of the autistic young woman who is at the center of the play.  The other two actors, one male, one female, play all the additional roles with great skill. And all three offer their story sensitivity and humor as well as reality.  Glad I went.

14 November
Coffee this morning with Patrick who used to work wth me at TSPC.  His wife Diane has finally retired and finding the transition easier than she expected.  Wonder if their trip to Paris had anything to do with that?  Pat continues to do his thoughtful blog on communications and the insurance industry.

15 November
The one day that couldn’t be changed.  When Glenn and I were comparing calendars, I said I absolutely had to be here today — it’s when I get my hair done.  Connie only works a couple of days a week and is leaving tomorrow for a long weekend in London with her son.  So, off I went to Minnetonka and back I came with new hair.  Hurray.

After water ex this morning, I made a quick trip to the eye doctor.  I thought I’d gotten something in my eye.  Turns out I didn’t, rather my very dry eyes get so dry they can adhere to my eye lids so when I awoke and opened my eyes, a small wound was created on my left eyeball; the right was okay.  I now have new eye drops to use before bed as well as two to three times a day.  

Off to board meeting for Friends of Minneapolis Central Library.

16 November
Lovely breakfast with nephew Christopher this morning, then he and Jen were going off to a couples massage. Way to go, Chris. I returned home to get a few things done.  Then happy hour at Ling & Louie’s with Maryanne.  We’re going to miss that place.  I had two glasses of wine (a twofer) and Maryanne one of their special cocktails, and we shared Asian nachos (deep fried wontons instead of tortilla chips) and lettuce wraps.  Excellent dinner and great price too.  Now to Skype with Glenn.

17 November
Lunch with Marilou is always fun.  I had a coupon for Olive Garden, which we both enjoy.  And tonight I enjoyed volunteering at Play by Play, a lecture and exhibit at the library featuring the defunct Negro Baseball League.  Frank White who has written a book, They Play for the Love of the Game, organized the event which the library hosted.

18 November
Winter has finally arrived in Minneapolis.  Rain, then snow, blew horizontally from late afternoon in the evening.  I forgot to bring in the deck furniture so it’s all covered with icy snow.  Lunch at the HyVee in Eagan with Lois and her son Mark from Northfield and her old friend Judy from St. Paul was cancelled this morning due to impending weather, and I didn’t go to Northfield.  

Long conference call with Hala and Steve in prep for the board meeting in Sandomierz next month.  The meeting will be longer than usual as it’ll include the closing program for the Swiss Program, the five-year-long tourism development program the Center managed.  Steve and I will attend with Hala on Thursday, which is usually my day for a mani-pedi.  

19 November
Since my flight to Pittsburgh isn’t until tonight, I have time to change bed linens, do a few loads of laundry, finish packing and generally get organized for the trip.  Janet’s picking me up at 6 pm and Glenn will meet me at PIT at 11 pm.

20 November, Mount Pleasant PA
Busy day with Glenn, playing tourist and eating Glenn’s delicious caplets in chicken broth, both homemade by his hands!  We went to Overly’s Christmas Village in the evening.  A farmer started this light-spectacular on his farm in 1956 for his children.  His big, fanciful light display delighted them and many others.  Over the years it expanded, added animation and attracted many visitors.  One gave him a dollar in thanks for his efforts, thus unknowingly starting the Village’s support of children’s causes, especially Pittsburgh Children’s Hospital.  The display  became so popular that it caused road blocks and in 1991, it was moved to a local amusement park and later to the county fair grounds where I enjoyed it.  Not only is the village quite spectacular but it’s raised millions for Children’s.  You can both drive through and walk through, which we did despite the cold and wind.  Hot chocolate with lots of mini-marshmallows for me helped warm up before our “sleigh” ride — although the ground was covered in snow, it wasn’t enough for a sleigh with runners.  Wonderful end to a wonderful day.

21 November
Up at 5 am for a pre-dawn walk today.  I did five miles, Glenn continued for another.  We waked part way with Bill and part way with Donna, two of the regular early morning walkers.  The third, Frank stopped by to wish everyone a ‘happy Thanksgiving’ before heading south.  Despite the freezing temp, I wasn’t cold.  Did my ‘Minnesota thing’ and really layered.  My toes usually freeze but my feet were okay.  My bum was cold because I didn’t have my long jacket.

We’re hoping to catch friend Suzie for dinner tonight in Somerset.  In the meantime, we’re off to breakfast and then Linn Run State Park, my spiritual home.

22 November, Minneapolis MN
Not much fun going to the airport in Pittsburgh today but necessary.  Glenn has Thanksgiving dinner to prepare for his daughters and their families … and I leave for my board meeting in Poland on 30th.  I’m doing Thanksgiving dinner with Barbara, Tomery, Chris and Jen at Windows on Minnesota, the restaurant atop the IDS Building.  It’s not generally open to the public, so when I saw a sign advertising midday Turkey Day buffet, I reserved.  I think I’m the only one of us who’s actually been up there already.

23 November
Winter’s definitely here.  We got about three inches of very slushy snow last night.  I’ll have to shovel the decks later … first I have to find the shovels in the storage closet downstairs.  Took deck chairs down to storage.  Dusting Divas, my cleaning service, brought them inside and placed them on the hearth for me, as I’d requested.  I was in PA when they cleaned.

Decided to see a movie, Almost Christmas, after I completed running errands (groceries etc.)  But when I got to the theater in Roseville, it wasn’t listed as it had been in the newspaper ad.  The ticket seller checked, and it wasn’t even on the cancelled list.  A couple arrived looking for the same film, so the ticket seller gave us all a free admission to the movie of our choice.  They went to Bad Santa 2, and I saw Rules Don’t Apply, which has Warren Beatty as Howard Hughes and a host of other “old” stars — Martin Sheen, Matthew Broderick, Annette Bening, Oliver Platt.  They are why I chose the film, which was only so-so and too slow.  But it was free.

24 November, Thanksgiving Day in the USA
I’m so glad I decided to attend this year’s ecumenical service presented by the downtown houses of worship annually on Thanksgiving.  It gives me a modicum of hope for my country in this time of uncertainty, strife and incivility.  

Twelve senior clergy took part:, four were women.  The faiths represented in Minneapolis were represented in the service — Protestant, Catholic, Jewish, Islamic, Native American.  The messages acknowledged the meaning of the day while speaking in many voices and languages.

The minister from Westminster Presbyterian and pastor from Church of All Nations, a Native American spiritual community, gave a moving and meaningful sermon.  The former told of Jesus’ trip through Samaria, where as a Jew, he was unwelcome and where he encountered 10 outcast lepers whom he cured.  Only one took time to thank him.  Three of the others were too busy, three were too afraid and three felt too entitled to the good fortune.  The latter clergyman, a Mohican whose formerly NY based tribe now resides in Wisconsin, mused on his attending a service in a Congregational church named Plymouth.  And he told of the original Thanksgiving.  The two Indians and colonists had a mutual aid pact.  So when the Indians heard gunfire from the area of the colonists’ village, they went to check.  On arrival the Indians realized they had crashed a party:  the gunfire was in celebration and the food on the tables would barely feed the colonists.  They went hunting, returning with seven deer and assorted other foods to share, and thus the first Thanksgiving was born.

My family: front row, sister Barbara, nephew Christopher
and in center, Jennifer; back row, me and niece Tomery

26 November, the day Fidel Castro died
Talk about the end of an era!  And yet his passing is somewhat of a non event.  He hasn’t been a real factor for years.  Since my junior high days, Castro has embodied Communism, sitting off the USA’s shores, even as the Berlin Wall came down almost two decades ago.  To steal a paraphrase from the late President Nixon, we don’t have Castro to kick around any more. 

Lovely dinner tonight with friend Mary from my St. Paul days and three friends of hers.  Nice to converse with like minds on topics of interest to all.  Mary had us all do introductions, and we discovered so many overlaps.  Fun evening.

27 November
Skipped water ex this morning and went to the synagogue with friend Jan.  After the morning service, she gave a presentation on her late father Myer's life, which started in my late ex-husband's hometown.  In fact, years ago Aunt Sylvia told me her family and Myer's lived next door to each other.  Jan and I were friends for several years before we discovered that we shared DL -- she and Bob even went to grade school together.  Enough of that, Myer was not only a successful retailer and consumer-supporting utility-fighting lawyer, but he was also an accomplished figure skater.

Did a walk to Nicollet Mall in lieu of the pool.  Got out of Target for under $100; that has to be a first.  And lugged everything home in my new tote.  Took niece Michelle to the airport, then drove over to Woodbury to see friend Rosie, from my St. Paul, days at the transitional care center.  She had several unexpected complications following her knee surgery.  Her husband Rudy was there and very attentive.  I hadn’t seen him since he retired from elementary school teaching.  

28 November
Glenn was planning to go deer hunting today, and I was keeping busy so I wouldn't worry (worrying is the nature of this beast).  Walking with Linda and Desi, coffee with Maryanne,  checking to be sure my docs are still within my health insurance network next year, lunch with housebound friend Ted, stopping at Janet and Ed's to print documents since my printer and laptop won't talk to each other, laundry and packing and cleaning to get ready for my trip.  You get the idea.  Then I learned he hadn't gone.  Good thing I wasn't worrying.  Met Ted's wife Mary for coffee and to pick up tickets to The Curious Incident of the Dog in Nighttime at the Orpheum.  Mary still works part time at an ad agency and got last minute freebies.  Janet's going with me; like me, she's always up for a last minute adventure.  

29 November
Water ex and coffee with the Swimmin' Women from the Y.  Our group is getting bigger, and we now have a reserved table.  Nice.  Had a late lunch with Marilou, then we went to Costco where I wanted to get a fleece-lined flannel shirt-jacket and was going to get her Christmas present.  Somehow we got to talking about bed sheets, and I mentioned my snuggly fleece sheets purchased by mistake (I was looking to buy flannel).  Best mistake-purchase I've made -- they're soft and warm and reasonably priced, just what one needs in a MN winter.  We found some for her Christmas present and ended up at a checkout where Christopher's girlfriend Jen was working and Chris came by.  He opened the package so Marilou could verify that she'd like them, which she did.

Tonight Janet drove to the theater where we met Mary and her friend Barb.  The play was intense, another of those that required thought, but well acted and a really intriguing set.  Glad to have gone; glad I didn't spent $80 on a ticket.

More last minute packing and travel prep.

30 November, Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport
Well, here I am once again, waiting for my flight to AMS.  Janet picked me up and then a short detour to her place to pick up my boarding passes (my printer still won't talk to my laptop), and time to rearrange some of my packing.  Now I'm finishing lunch and heading for a walk.  Still two hours to go.


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