Category Archives: holidays

Parade Swag

The first time I experienced parade swag was at the Great American Cheese Festive in Little Chute, Wisconsin. Child was about seven.  There was a Great American Cheese Parade at the kick-off to the festival and as Child and I settled in, the family next to us said “don’t you have a bag?”  and  gave Child an extra plastic bag that they had brought along.  I wasn’t quite sure why but it didn’t take long to figure it out.  Most of the participants in the parade were tossing candy to the kids along the route; Child made a candy killing.

The practice of handing out candy has morphed into handing out parade swag of all types. At the Richfield Fourth of July Parade this year, there were all kinds of fun stuff.   There were lots of folks doing candy: Dum Dum suckers, Jolly Ranchers are staples, but a couple of groups upped the ante with Butterfinger minis and Skittles.  YA even scored some Sweet Tarts.

The first swag of the day was actually a small flag that we could wave throughout the parade. Then there were coupons for the Renaissance Festival, dog treats from Chuck and Don’s and a smoothie place.  There were icee pops from Cub, icy cold water from a youth group, a ballpoint pen from one church and a nicer pen from a high school band.  There were two different groups giving out can cozies and we also ended up with a little red rubber football and a mini-frisbee.  A Lions Club volunteer even handed YA and I each a paper bag with White Castle Sliders.  We’re’ not sure why she singled us out, but since we’re vegetarians, we offered them to the family sitting next to us.

The best swag of the day were the sunglasses from Davannis. When we were parking the car before the parade, it was pretty cloudy so both of us left our sunglasses in the car.  This was an unfortunate choice since right about the time the parade got started, the sun came out.  The Davannis sunglasses  were just the right swag for both of us.  And of course we learned our lesson after the Great American Cheese Festival Parade – we had a bag!

Have you ever gotten any good swag?






“You have to love a nation that celebrates its independence every July 4, not with a parade of guns, tanks, and soldiers who file by the White House in a show of strength and muscle, but with family picnics where kids throw Frisbees, the potato salad gets iffy, and the flies die from happiness. You may think you have overeaten, but it is patriotism.”          Erma Bombeck

YA had our first 4th of July picnic early this year.  We made our annual trek up to Fawn-Doe-Rosa on Tuesday.  We have several traditions around this trip, including taking a picnic lunch and enjoying it after we’ve had our fill of goat/dear/llama petting and bunny whispering.

This year we had sandwiches (cheese for YA, PB&J for me), coleslaw, watermelon and strawberries as well as tortilla chips and salsa. All packed in our trusty cooler and enjoyed with pop purchased from the pop machine at F-D-R.  It was a beautiful day and I think eating outside in the shade made the food taste better!

What kinds of foods do you pack for picnics? Any favorite picnic spots?  Any picnics planned for the 4th?



I came of age in the sixties, when it was all the rage to be un-patriotic. It felt like blinders had come off for the first time; we didn’t want to accept the perfect glowing images we had grown up with but were seeing America in all its stark reality.  This got ugly fast, of course.  Vietnam vets got the brutal end of this, as if risking life and limb wasn’t enough, but you had to put up with immature folks back home ridiculing you for your service.

Then the pendulum swung back after 911. In shoring up our solidarity we reverted back to flags and flag decals everywhere, freedom fries in the congressional cafeteria and presidents decried if they didn’t have their flag pin in their lapel every time they stepped out.

I feel smack in the middle of this spectrum. Having traveled quite a bit, I feel quite strongly that there are few places where I would prefer to live.  Religious struggles, authoritarian regimes, overly controlling policies (think.. it’s a crime to spit out your gum), racism/sexism practically built into the system – all of these things make me think I’ll just stay here, thank you very much.  On the other side of this fence is my feeling of disquiet about our current political crisis; it’s embarrassing when I travel.  (Except when I go to London, as their problems are pretty overwhelming right now as well so they’re not as quick to judge.)

But in general, I’m glad to be an American and will fly my big flag this weekend and stick my little flags out in the front garden. No picnics or parades, but a quiet weekend of gardening and weeding and thinking of those who have fallen for me.

What are your plans for the weekend?

May Day

I read a couple of advice columns every day – makes me feel better about my life choices. A couple of days ago, the advice seeker was complaining about how much work his wife was putting into preparing their kids’ lunches.  She has cookie cutters for decorating their sandwiches, debates with the kids about which items goes in which lunch box compartment, includes little notes.  The writer thinks this is a complete waste of her time.

I am that woman. When YA was little I usually had wheat bread and light wheat so that I could use cookie cutters to make dual-toned sandwiches.  Until she was about 11 we had some seriously over-engineered birthday parties with themed games, food and goodie bags.  (Child enjoyed these very much at the time although she says she doesn’t remember them well.)  I make little treats for my office mates on various holidays, send mountains of greeting cards; those of you in book club know that I can’t stay away from bringing a potluck item themed to the book we’ve read.  Can we say Pi Day?

This is not competition. In fact, when I meet someone who also likes to celebrate like I do, we usually end up comparing notes and collaborating.  I met a woman about 4 years ago who can outdo me with one arm tied behind her and she gave me a great tip.  Whenever you get a new stamp set or die, you have to make at least 4 cards with it before you’re allowed to put it away.  Life changing for me.  I sent her a thank you card.

So all of this is to say that today, about the time that today’s blog was being posted to the trail, I was sneaking around my neighborhood in the dark, delivering May Day baskets!

What would you like in your May basket (size is no object today)?


I baked 11 dozen sweet rolls for an Easter fundraiser at church to raise money to send our bell choir to New York in November.  The rolls were either cinnamon, raspberry, or blueberry filled, and were lavishly iced. I had 3 dozen left at the end of the day, and brought them home and made them into rusks. That involved cutting them in half, brushing them with melted butter, and baking them at 275 until they were crispy/chewy. They store really well.

I brought a bag of rusks to work on Tuesday. My coworkers  thought they were delicious,  but only one  had ever eaten anything like them before and knew what rusks were.

This puzzled me greatly, since I assumed that everyone would know rusks. I grew up with Zwieback and Dutch rusks.  Dutch rusks came in round packages with windmills on the paper covers, and my grandparents would pour broth on them to soften them up.  My coworkers are of German Russian and Czech heritage, and many of them grew up on farms, and I thought they would be familiar with a fine way to extend to life of stale bread.  The only one who knew rusks was a coworker of Danish heritage.  She said her grandmother used to butter stale bread and sprinkle it with cinnamon and sugar and bake it. She didn’t know they were called rusks.

You would have thought I had brought in the most exotic pastry imaginable. I looked up rusks on the internet, and found that there are examples of twice-baked bread from the Philippines to Greece. I think that it was used extensively to extend the shelf life of bread on sea voyages. There are loads of rusk recipes in the Nordic Baking Book my son and dil gave me for Christmas. Perhaps rusks are more common the closer you live to the Baltic or North Seas. In any event, they demand more rusks at work.

What family or ethnic foods do you have a hard time explaining to other people? 

The Annual Migration of the Timpani

I saw four enormous birds soaring over town in migration a couple of weeks ago . They were whooping cranes, probably on their way to Alberta.  I have only seen migrating whooping cranes one other time in all the years we have been here.  We also have had geese fly over, and the owls, hawks, meadowlarks, and vultures are back.

Yesterday Husband and I assisted in the migration of  two timpani from the college band room to our church in Husband’s pickup. They are needed for a piece  our bell choir is doing on Sunday with a brass quintet. (Our bell choir director failed to see how funny it was when she kept saying a few weeks ago that she was one trombone player short of a brass quintet. She didn’t get it when people replied to her that they had always thought that).

When I grew up in Luverne, we usually had timpani in my church on Easter. They came from the high school. All the high school band directors in my youth were Lutheran, and we always got the timpani for special church services. No one from the community ever complained about it as being unfair or a misuse of public property. Our bell choir director teaches at the college, and I guess that is why we have the timpani for Easter. Our church probably has the most music of all the churches in town, and not all of them have the space for such things even if they had the musicians.

I wondered yesterday just how many timpani in the US are migrating from schools to churches for Easter services.  I like to imagine that there are many in transit, and that it is a brief but yearly migration. I like to see cooperative use of such things. How many timpani does one small town need, after all?

What migratory birds have you seen lately? What percussion instruments would you like to play?  What are some successful public-private cooperative ventures you know about?

Pi Day 2019!

It’s my personal holiday again today – Pi Day. Everyone at work knows that I’m off today to bake pies – even a couple of my long-term clients know.  I am allowed to use my “floating holiday” for Pi Day – my boss had it approved by management about 6 years ago.  I even have personalized napkins this year, given to me by a friend after last year’s celebration.

This year’s menu: Dutch Apple, Banofee, Root Beer Float Whoopies, Raspberry Tangerine, Pecan, Bob Andy, Blueberry, Almond Joy, Caramel Pear with Crème Fraiche, Key Lime Meringue and the addictive Crack Pie.

Hope to see those of you in the Twin Cities tonight!

What day would you like to be your floating holiday?