Category Archives: News

Marie Kondo is a Big Deal

Today’s post is by Steve Grooms

The title of this article is a joke. Marie Kondo is tiny, actually. Her height, according to the national press, is five inches short of five feet. And yet she is unquestionably a big deal in the culture. Kondo has become famous and influential by teaching folks how to reduce clutter in their homes. She wrote four books that have been translated into eight languages. She has produced a series of videos on the art of tidying up one’s home. A series of her videos has been airing on Netflix under the title of “Tidying Up with Marie Kondo.” A newspaper article yesterday said Twin Cities resale shops are stuffed with bargains now because Kondo has encouraged so many people to offload unwanted stuff.

The title she prefers is The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up. Note how that differs from the simple idea that most people have way too much stuff. Kondo wants to change lives, not just tidy up messes, and she hopes to use “magic” to accomplish that. Working from her background in Japan’s Shinto religion, Kondo finds magic in inanimate objects. Before she helps a client declutter a home Kondo kneels reverently in an effort to introduce herself to the home. She asks clients to touch each object they own and keep it only if it “sparks joy” in their lives.

Kondo has a fairly rigid process for tidying up a home. It starts with clients making a pile of every single article of clothing they own. The piles are usually massive. Then she asks  clients to attack that pile, chucking out every item that fails to spark joy. The process moves along deliberately, taking several weeks to play out, concluding with an emotionally wrenching effort to jettison sentimental objects.

A few observers have criticized Kondo. Oddly enough, a woman who has written four books doesn’t seem to revere them. She has said nobody needs to keep more than 30 books. Kondo thinks a book one hasn’t read in three years is ripe for dumping, and she sees no value in keeping a book one has already read. My daughter, the person who urged me to get to know Kondo, vehemently disagrees on the topic of books!

Kondo could come off as a nag were it not for her sweet personality and spiritualism. Her approach to life and the stuff people accumulate keep attracting converts. I believe most people in our culture are troubled about how much stuff we own. Many of us would like ourselves better if we could dump a lot of that stuff and live in an uncluttered environment.

Do you currently suffer from having too much stuff? What sparks joy in your life?

Burger & Fries

Once a month, after I volunteer at Loaves & Fishes, I drive east on 98th Street on my way back to 35W to get home. Imagine my excitement to see that the Denny’s there has been sold and will be a new Snuffy’s coming spring.  While the Edina Snuffy’s isn’t actually that far from me, it’s not convenient to get to so I don’t think about it often.

But a Snuffy’s where I have to drive right by it? I’m thinking I’ll be having Snuffy’s take-out once a month from now on.  Veggie Burger, fries and a malt – either Oreo or Brownie or the Dreamsicle.  I’m drooling just thinking about it.

Do you have a favorite take-out place or meal?

Snow Days

I read an article yesterday that reported that increasing numbers of school districts are doing away with school cancellations due to bad weather by providing on-line assignments for students when they can’t get to school.  Teachers can also be available by computer for lessons, resources, and support. They can do video conferencing for group assignments.  These districts have to provide all students computer notebooks so they can access their homework when the weather keeps them at home.  I loved snow days when I was a child. I don’t know how I would have felt if I knew a snow day just meant doing school work at home.  A snow day always felt like a gift.

What are some memorable snow days (or other bad weather days) that you remember? What do you think of this new trend? 

RIP Stan Lee

I’m not a huge comic book or graphic novel fan. Not sure why since I AM a super hero fan; probably  because super heroes have special powers, not unlike wizards and witches.  The last several years have been a real boon for super hero lovers and Stan Lee was behind a lot of that:  Spider Man, Iron Man, The Hulk, Captain America, Thor, Black Panther, X-Men.  It was fun to see Stan Lee in small cameos in all the Marvel movies, a little like seeing Alfred Hitchcock showing up in the films that he directed.

Stan Lee passed away on Monday at the age of 95 from pneumonia. I’m sure his characters and movies will live on but it won’t be quite the same.  I’ll miss you, Stan.

What super hero would YOU like to be.

Lest We Forget

I thought about my paternal grandfather this week leading up to November 11. In December, 1916, at the age of 19, my  grandfather enlisted in the US Army.  He was one of the younger offspring in a family of 12 children. His father had died two years before.  His next older brother, Albert, had enlisted in June, 1916 and was in the 136th Infantry.  (Albert was reportedly chasing Pancho Villa around the Southwest with General Pershing.)

Grandpa was sent to Fort Logan, CO and assigned to Company C, 4th Regiment of Engineers, and on April 30, 1918, he sailed for France on the Martha Washington. He was stationed in France on the Western Front, sometimes at the US camp at Allerey sur Saone.  He sent home postcard photos of the camp.  The header photo is of the Allerey camp, too.

Here is a photo of his unit. He is the second one from the left in the back row.

Grandpa was involved in the Second Battle of Aisne-Marne (Summer, 1918), the Battle of Mihiel (September, 1918), the Second Battle of Meuse-Argonne (Fall, 1918) and Alsace-Lorraine (November, 1918).  According to one source I read, The Engineers were in charge of repairing the devastation of the war to expedite troop movements such as surveying, bridge and road repair, constructing buildings, maintaining communication lines, removal of land mines and “booby” traps, digging trenches and constructing shell, gas and splinter-proof shelters, providing clean water and constructing or removing barbed wire. They also launched gas attacks, built hospitals, barracks, mess halls, stables, target ranges, and repaired miles of train tracks. Their extensive and time consuming duties left them little time for rifle practice and drills and they were not relied upon for frontline combat, but the success of the Allied forces depended upon the support of the Engineer Corps.

When he wasn’t digging trenches or building bridges, he was chasing women. He is the man on the left. I have no idea how this photo has survived for 100 years, and why my grandmother never threw it out!

Once Germany surrendered, the 4th was marched into the northern Rhine as an army of occupation. He was near the Mosel and sent this postcard home

He sailed back to the US on July 21, 1919, on the von Steuben, a German ship captured by the US.  He stayed in the army until June, 1920. He was a sergeant. He lived until 1980.

Grandpa had several studio portrait photos taken in France, and it is interesting to see how he changed over the course seven months.  Here are some early ones. He looks so young.

Here is a later one.

Oh, the questions I have after putting this together! I doubt I will ever get them answered.

How did the First World War impact your family?  After reading this, what questions would you have for my grandfather?




Hot Dish

Dorcas Reilly, the creator of the famous and loved (and also loathed) green bean casserole died this week. She was 92.  Perhaps she attributed her longevity to the casserole.

Thanksgiving is Daughter’s favorite holiday. She isn’t coming home until after Christmas, and she made me promise that I would cook Thanksgiving dinner for her then. The green bean casserole will be on the menu. It is one of her favorites. It has to be the traditional one Dorcas developed using cream of mushroom soup. Daughter also informed me that Brussels sprouts with bacon will be on the list. She has the whole meal planned, and will email the recipes to us. We will, of course, cook it to her specifications. Life is easier that way.

The favorite casserole, however, is the one printed below. We will also make this for Christmas/Thanksgiving dinner:

Butternut Squash Casserole
    • 1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
    • 1 pound thinly sliced onions
    • 2 1/2 pounds butternut squash, peeled, seeded, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
    • 1 teaspoon sugar
    • 1/2 teaspoon salt
    • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
    • 3/4 cup canned low-salt chicken broth
  •  2 cups fresh breadcrumbs made from soft white bread
  • 2 cups (packed) grated sharp white cheddar cheese
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme

Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter 13x9x2-inch glass baking dish. Melt butter in heavy large skillet over medium-high heat. Add onions; sauté until onions are light golden, about 8 minutes. Add squash; sauté 4 minutes. Sprinkle sugar, salt and pepper over vegetables; sauté until onions and squash begin to caramelize, about 5 minutes.

Spread vegetable mixture in prepared dish. Pour chicken broth over. Cover tightly with foil and bake 45 minutes. (Squash mixture can be made 1 day ahead. Cool, then cover and refrigerate. Reheat in 350°F oven until heated through, about 10 minutes.)

Increase oven temperature to 400°F. Mix breadcrumbs, cheese, rosemary and thyme in medium bowl. Sprinkle over gratin. Bake uncovered until top is golden brown and crisp, about 30 minutes.

What is your favorite hot dish? Which is your least favorite? What would you like to be remembered for?

Cheap Dates

I read this in the local paper yesterday:

According to an article from USA Today based on findings from 24/7 Wall St., North Dakotans are the second-cheapest date in the U.S.

The recent report found the average date cost for each state, including a bottle of wine, two movie tickets and a restaurant dinner for two. North Dakota had the second-lowest average of $42.43, bested only by South Dakota at $38.27.

Minnesota, meanwhile, had the nation’s 23rd-highest date night cost of $109.81, while New York topped the list at $297.27.

Well, I guess there are some advantages living out here!   The article goes on to make suggestions for one of a kind, cheap excursions like going to the Minnesota State-Moorhead planetarium,  corn mazes, pumpkin patches, and an adult only Halloween party at the Red River Zoo in Fargo including a  costume contest, concessions, dance party, a cash bar and zookeeper talks with critters ($10 for advance tickets).

Think up a cheap date excursion in your vicinity. Tell about some memorable dates from your past.