Category Archives: Gatherings

The Basement!

Photo credit: Wonderlane

I think I may have figured out how I am going to stay sane through all this isolation. I have “discovered” a new room on our house – heck, a new floor! – our Basement. Saturday (I may have mentioned here) we cleaned and organized enough that it feels comfortable down there. It’s an OLD basement (1930 era house) but at least it’s dry. There are five small windows, and the ceiling and walls are painted white, which makes it pretty light.

The joy of it is that I can spread out down there with my mask sewing project – there is room for a cutting table and ironing board. There’s an old rug under all this so my feet don’t get cold – if it feels too cool, I just add another layer. I still need a coffee kiosk, or I suppose I could go up to the “fireplace” niche in my (tiny) bedroom – the Break Room!

But the best thing about this is it feels a little bit “away” from the rest of my life now.  I have a commute – even if it is only up and down twelve steps, it will be a bit harder to get to the kitchen. And with a 900 sq. ft. house, it will give us both some well needed space. Heck, I might even get fully dressed to go to “work”.

Some of the “baboons” here (if you’re relatively new on the Trail, click on FAQ at the top) may already have this sort of space in their abode. If so,

is it useful at this time?

Is there some nook or cranny (attic, closet) at your about that you haven’t explored lately?

If you are living with others, do you have a place where you can get “away” if you want to?

3.14159265…..

I know you’re expecting to see details about Pi Day next week, but this year I’m going to change it up and write about Pi Day organization.  Here’s what it takes:

Already Done

  • Send out Evites. If you’re local, you got an evite, although I can’t guarantee they didn’t go to Spam.
  • Decide on pies. Mark the recipes with post-it notes.  11 this year – I can’t help myself
  • Make list of ingredients and then shop for those ingredients
  • Make little pie placecards and nametags
  • Make sure you have enough plates, napkins, forks
  • Check on red/white wine supply

Up Next

  • Go through recipes and sort out which are baked and which are non-baked
  • Figure out how many pie shells need pre-baking
  • Do any of those pre-baked ones need any chocolate coating or other prep?
  • Figure out what oven temperature is needed for the baked pies
  • Figure out what can be chopped/ground before Saturday
  • Make an actual schedule of the order of baking, set up by oven temperature needed

Friday night

  • Make the oatmeal cookies that become the crust for the Crack Pie
  • Make Crack Pie crust
  • Boil the condensed milk to make dulce de leche
  • Do any pre-baking of crusts and coat the chocolate ones
  • Do any nut chopping/grinding that needs doing

Saturday

  • Get up early and get started!!

Hopefully there will be time in here for a shower before everybody arrives!  Oh and here’s what’s on the menu:  Crack, Banoffee, Blueberry,  Dutch Apple, Red Velvet Whoopie, Reese’s, Pecan Dream, Shaker Lemon, Vanilla Crumb, Skillet Berry Cobbler and Pear Croustade.

Have I made you hungry or just tired?

My London Jumper

Last week, on what may very well have been the last below-freezing day we have this winter, I pulled what I lovingly refer to as “my London jumper” out of my closet. I bought this sweater over 30 years ago; it is black with various bright-colored threads woven through out – yellow, turquoise, red and blue.  It is a turtle neck and very warm so doesn’t get worn too often each winter.

When I went to London about 5 years back, I packed the sweater, thinking it might be a good thing for a chilly British evening (and, of course, it goes with anything). I did end up wearing it on the evening we visited the Aqua Shard, a restaurant on the 34th and 35th floor of The Shard, the tallest building in the U.K.   The group I was with had a few drinks and were coming down in the elevator when a young man (probably in his early 30s) noticed my sweater, or “jumper” as they say across the pond.  He gushed over my sweater, made sure everyone in the elevator noticed it and eventually put his arms around me and asked if I wanted to join his little group.  Obviously there was some alcohol involved.  I said no and at the end of the elevator ride, his group and mine went our separate ways.

I’ve told this story to a few folks over the years but last week, when someone asked me about it, they were horrified about the fact that I was “assaulted” (their word) on a work trip. Had I reported it in London?  Did I report it at work once I got home?  I feel strongly about the MeToo movement but I don’t believe that every time one person touches another, it is “assault”.  I was in a large group of people in the elevator, some of whom were with me, the young man was not aggressive, his hug did not include any kind of groping and importantly, when we got to the ground floor, he didn’t make any attempt to force me to go with his group.  I didn’t feel a moment of anxiety and I actually laughed at the time – not out of nervousness, but because I genuinely found the whole scenario funny.

So I still think of this sweater fondly as my “London jumper” as it reminds me of an amusing experience on a nice trip.

Does any of your clothing have a backstory?

FRFF 2020

I have come to love Winona’s film festival , which happens each winter after the Superbowl, and celebrated 15 years this past weekend. At the same time, I sort of brace myself because I know I’ll probably attend close to a dozen films or film sets over the span of five days, and there’s precious little time for anything else.

The films are documentaries from 4 to 84 minutes in length, concentrated on Saturday-Sunday on the WSU Campus. At the atrium of the Science Lab Center are food vendors, ticket sales and merchandise, display booths, and conversation corners for those who would like to continue discussing what they just viewed. Other local venues include the Winona Cinema 7, Senior High School, and this year there was an early day of films in Lanesboro, MN, the previous weekend. Clusters of shorter ones include the Adventure Set, Moving Mountains Set, Indomitable Spirit Set, a Local Set…

Husband and I volunteer as ushers/ticket-takers for two of the sets, which gets us a weekend pass to all films. (!) My favorite mind-bending films this time around began on Wednesday evening with Hillbilly – how we have stereotyped people of Appalachia, and how that has created the perfect “soil” for Trumpism.

Frozen Friday was wonderful:

– at the Library: I wish everyone could see The Economics of Happiness, an overview of how globalization has changed the world, and how we might survive this.

– at the Sr. Friendship Center:  Love is Listening: Dementia without Loneliness – who knew this is how to get under all the surface stuff and just be with people?

– at St. Mary’s Univ. Student Center:  The Francis Effect – the impact the current Pope has made in the world, on groups and individuals.

Saturday, I started out with The Serengeti Rules – a cadre of nature researchers have discovered that the natural world operates differently than previously though (another “must see” in my opinion), if you look over the long term. While “working” as ushers, we viewed Singing in the Grain, highlighting the music that holds Minnesota’s Czech communities together, in New Prague et al; and Blood Memory, on reparations just now being made to First Nations People who were impacted by adoption/foster care forced on them in the last century.

Sunday featured a rather disjointed but still powerful film (produced and narrated by Jeff Bridges), an overview of our current global situation:  Living in the Future’s Past.

Lest you think it sounds way too “heavy”, I also saw a horse painting pictures (My Paintbrush Bites), a goatherd high in the Tibetan steppes on her cell phone as her son played stick hockey (Jagrlama), and a club that predicts when celebrities are going to kick the bucket (Riplist).

What was the last documentary you saw?  Do you ever attend film festivals?

Book Tour

Last Thursday I met a friend at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts for a book tour. These are free tours that they provide every Thursday night (although never go on the third Thursday…..) in which the docents pick whatever pieces they want to illustrate some aspect of the chosen book.  This month the book is The Great Reckoning by Louise Penny.  As one of my favorite authors, I didn’t want to miss this one.

My friend and I are always curious to see what the docents come up with. There are no required choices and I discovered a couple of years ago (long story about going twice in one month with different friends) that each docent chooses their own artwork to spotlight.  So you never know exactly what you’re going to get.  On Thursday it was all modern artwork and even after the docent explained her reasoning for choosing a couple of the pieces, my friend and I were still a little mystified.  This isn’t a problem, as no matter what the reasoning, we’re getting to see art and talk about books.  Hard to go wrong there.

Next month the book is The Story of Arthur Truluv by Elizabeth Berg.  I’ve heard of the author but not the title.  I have it requested from the library; hopefully I’ll get it in time.

What book would you like the Institute to add to the tour list? And if you had to choose a piece of art to go with it?

Chinese New Year

Happy Year of the Rat!

When I adopted YA from China, there was an enormous amount of support for the new family I was creating. There were adoption magazines, online forums and a very active local chapter of Families with Children from China.  You know me, I dived right in, learning about traditional holidays in China as well as taking part in gatherings with other adoptive families and even subscribing to two adoptive magazines.  We even traveled to Illinois once to go to an adoptive family conference when YA was 3.

I dropped the magazines early on; they were really depressing, overwhelmingly focused on all the negative aspects of adoption and very few of the joys. Then when YA was about five and I was signing us up for another “culture camp” (these were annual weekends), she said “Do we have to go?  They’re boring.”  So that was the end of culture camps and big FCC gatherings.

When she was in middle school I was informed that the Chinese delicacies that I had taught myself to cook for CNY weren’t that great. Could we just have take-out instead?  Okey dokey.

Then when she was in high school and I was in a whirlwind of cleaning before Chinese New Year (it’s traditional to really clean the house before CNY so the kitchen god and goddess give a good report on your household to the emperor of heaven), she said “You know, I don’t really care about this, so if you’re doing it for me, you don’t have to.”

So here I am, several years later, still caring about this holiday that I embraced when she was a child. I still have little figurines of the kitchen god and goddess; I still try to get the house spiffed up before the new year and I still have a my best friend and her hubby over for a nice take out dinner to celebrate the new year.  I don’t put out a lot of decorations, although there are a few things I’ll put out.  I had a toilet tank topper made from some fun Asian-designed fabric last year, so that’s a must and a great dragon flag for the front of the house.  I do make a few CNY cards.   YA just rolls her eyes.

What will you be up to while I’m celebrating the Year of the Rat?

RIP Terry Jones

Amid all the insanity this week, the saddest news to me is the passing of Terry Jones.

I discovered Monty Python when I was in high school. This was before the television show but I had all their record albums.  One of favorites was Eric the Half a Bee:

Another favorite was An Elk:

By the time I got to Carleton, the television show was airing on Sunday nights and I was a founding member of the 4th Burton Penguin Society:

We got together every Sunday night to watch the show and drink Fosters (do not ask me why we thought we needed to drink Australian beer while watching an English comedy show – I don’t remember at all). All of us in the “club” had a small ceramic penguin; I still have mine and keep in my studio

When Monty Python and the Holy Grail came out, I laughed until I cried and went back to the theatre three times in the next couple of weeks. I have it on DVD but it loses a bit on the small screen, especially the moose credits at the beginning.  YA doesn’t even begin to understand the appeal of Monty Python.  But I loved the irreverence, the silliness, the fun graphics and the craziness of some of the sketches.  This was a great team.  It was sad to lose Graham Chapman too soon and now Terry Jones.  I gave all the record albums to tim last year because I didn’t have a turntable anymore, but I am enjoying the tv shows that are running these days and, of course, you can find a lot of it on youtube, but it’s not quite the same as crowding around a small black and white tv set in a dorm room on 4th Burton, seeing them for the first time.

Who has made you laugh over the years?