Friday, February 27, 2009

"Vintage" was once "New"

To my children, I've always been old. At least "older." To them, I've always been the responsible and capable one who took care of their needs. My life revolved around them; my fun was whatever they were doing. In other words, I never had a life!

But that's not true. Though it's hard to believe, I was young once. In fact, much of the "vintage music" my kids listen to is really just remakes of the songs that came out while I was in junior and senior high. I'll never forget how my daughter hushed me at a coffee shop to listen to "Stairway to Heaven."

"Isn't that song cool, Mom, " she said.
"Yeah, it was the theme song for our prom," I replied.
"Eww! You just ruined this song for me," she whined.

The other night after watching a family movie we flipped through the channels looking for the evening news. We came across an infomercial in which Tony Orlando was selling a set of CD's of 70's music. My husband and I were captivated. Somewhere in the recesses of our memories were stored the melodies and lyrics of these songs. Between the two of us, we knew every song and artist showcased.

Our youngest children were begging us to change the channel, but we wouldn't. The Commodores, Helen Reddy and Paul McCartny were singing our songs. Roberta Flack, John Denver and Barry Manilow were reminding us that we weren't always gray and wrinkled. Anne Murray, Bread and Linda Ronstadt had us singing out loud with them in the den (much to our children's dismay)

When Tony Orlando came on the screen offering us an incredible deal on this "once in a lifetime collection of the world's greatest music" we briefly looked at each other. Don't worry, we didn't seriously consider dropping almost $200 to bring the past to our own CD players. However, for a brief moment that quick trip down memory lane made us young again for a few moments .....

Wednesday, February 18, 2009


A sweet date for my husband and I is a quick trip from Northfield to Minneapolis to one of our favorite places ... Half Price Books! We know each store in the Twin Cities. One afternoon we actually hit all of them.

Even though we're on a date, we walk in the door together only to separate and go to our favorite sections. I check out the mystery and classic fiction sections, education and parenting books, Christian books and usually end up in the clearance section. Since this sectionof books is more haphazardly organized, I browse more slowly and carefully. You never know what $1.00 gem you'll find with all those other books. Half Price Books also has a great children's section. What a wonderful way to indoctrinate your children into the used book culture!

Used book stores have a unique aura. Unlike an upscale store with it's gourmet coffee and leather stuffed chair most second hand book stores have uneven piles of books here and there amongst the shelves. People slowly scan the shelves looking for that treasured, unusual book tucked in with a number of other obscure titles. Less conversation happens in these stores.

Used book stores don't draw the half-hearted non-readers. In other words, people who walk into the store aren't thinking, "I don't really like to read, but maybe if I got a really cheap book I might give it a try." People who come into Half Price Books are usually pretty serious readers. Often, they're quirky, too. What would you expect of a store with large sections of vintage comic books and vinyl records; with obscure titles on history and science; with every L'Amour or Christie book; with a large section on D & D and paranormal studies? It's a magnet for the out-of-the-ordinary.

Granted, not every couple will see an outing at a book store as a "hot date" which I guess could qualify us as quirky. But give it a try. On your next date, skip the movie or the mall and hit a used book store. You never know......

Valentine's Thoughts

Some people go all out for Valentine's Day. Flowers, candy, expensive gifts and a nice dinner make for a romantic event. If you're dating, your hopes are high on this day. If you're married it's a chance to get out of the house and remind each other why you're together.

Here's how we spent our Valentine's Day:
My husband got up early for a men's prayer group, worked with the computers, prepared a sermon and went for a run. I slept in a little and then cleaned all day with the kids. Late in the afternoon I walked and finished the laundry. All of this happened apart from one another. After a light supper we put the kids in front of a movie and we watched Inspector Linley, a British detective movie. No flowers, no gifts, nothing fancy. Very low key.

I have mixed feelings about this holiday. If you look to Valentine's Day to be the be-all-and-end-all of your love and affection for your significant other ... then you're foolish. Flowers on one day are nice, but how you live the next day is even more important. Romance is sweet and necesarry to marriages. However, open communication, serving one another and enjoying one another's company moves the marriage along and keeps things healthy.

Here's how we spent the day after Valentine's Day:
After church we left the kids and went to the cities. We drove a more scenic route to our favorite book stores and shops. We didn't buy much. We chatted, held hands and laughed a bit. We ate at the Good Earth and watched a romantic movie (if you can call Disney's Wall-E a love story between 2 robots romantic.....)

Ahhh ... married life!

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Movie Review: New In Town

While I was in Florida visiting my daughter and I went to see New in Town, a pretty formulaic story about a city girl who moves to a small town and falls for the guy in the flannel shirt.

It’s a cute movie starring Renee Zellweger and Harry Connick Jr. and supposedly takes place in New Ulm, MN. Zellweger’s character plays an executive from Miami who goes to New Ulm to help refit a company where Connick’s character is the union official. She arrives in the middle of winter with her high heels and short skirts to find a small town in a bit of a time warp. The hairstyles, outfits and d├ęcor of the ladies are circa 1980. The leading man is a “red neck” complete with scruffy beard, plaid flannel and a pick up truck. Personalities clash, the company struggles, enemies become friends, and you can predict the outcome…..

I’m a bit of a purist when it comes to movies. If it’s taken from a book, I want it to follow the characters and plot closely. In this film, I wanted to see New Ulm. Other reviewers noted the lack of authenticity in the film. The film was not shot in New Ulm but in Winnepeg because of production costs. Though it’s cold and snowy and could be taken for the Midwest, it is too flat and tree-less for the region surrounding this small community proud of its German heritage. We don’t see Herman the German, the Glockenspiel, the Schell’s beer factory or the cute German restaurant that I visited with my high school class. Though rural Minnesotans may not sport the most recent Paris fashions, we’re not as “hick” as the movie portrays us. And the accents…. well, as a Minnesotan they were close, but a bit “over the top” even for me.

New Ulm, a close-knit friendly Minnesota town, chose to enjoy their bit of notoriety with and apropos opening night celebration: A Potluck Premier Party complete with a “tapioca bar.”

If you’re from Minnesota, go see the movie. You’ll need to be informed for the sake of disabusing others of any misinformation.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Haute Cuisine

Every region in our country has food items characteristic to its culture, growing seasons and heritage. I once read an article stating that the highest per capita consumption of Jif peanut butter and jello was in Des Moines, Iowa. The Midwest is not known for its exotic or spicy foods. Minnesota has its own quirky favorite foods:

Tater Tot Hotdish
Green Bean Casserole
Corn on the Cob
Everything on a Stick (at the MN Fair… snickers, corndogs, donuts, etc)

While I was in Florida, I made 2 key epicurean delights: chocolate chip cookies and jello with fruit. We enjoyed our jello in martini glasses!

Visit to SoFL

I grew up in rural Iowa, where "traveling" meant a car trip to South Dakota to visit relatives. Or possibly Minnesota to see old family friends. I vaguely remember Dad flying out of the small Sioux City airport. Except for an out-of-the-ordinary trip to the west coast when I was 7, the midwest was my stomping ground.

I've traveled a bit with my husband, even overseas, but last week was my first trip away on a plane by myself. (I know, I'm a "late" bloomer as far as worldliness is involved.) I flew to south Florida to visit my daughter who teaches in a private school.

My oldest daughter is teaching Latin and Ancient History in a private boarding school in Florida. As a loving and caring mom it was important that I go and visit her at her school. Especially during the deepest winter in Minnesota.

While my youngest daughter was in record breaking low temperatures north of Duluth, I was looking at the beach and palm trees. Though the temperature in Florida was unusually low, I didn't mind wearing my jacket to walk in the sand.

Wolf Ridge Extravaganza.

Every year in February, the Prairie Creek 5th graders go for 5 days to the Wolf Ridge Environmental Learning Center. This is a sort of right of passage for these young students. Since the camp is in Finland, MN, the kids get on their coach bus at 6 am Monday morning in order to be there for afternoon activities. During the week, the kids sleep in a dorm with teachers and chaperones, take classes and engage in challenging outdoor activities. They’re snowshoeing, wall climbing, tracking animals, and can even sleep outside in an igloo. A report from one of the teachers is that ALL of the kids made it across the ropes course. Hurray for them!

For many of the children, this is their first time away from their families. For my daughter, this is her first time without any of her family. She was a bit nervous at first, but also extremely excited. I look forward to hearing all of her stories!