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A Trip Advisor summary.

31 Jan

[A Trip Advisor summary.] I write this from my usual spot on the left side of the couch at the ROG parsonage; Mabel curled up to my right.  Paige and I de-trained in St.Paul this morning around 7:30 after – I can say – a pretty great ride home.  We upgraded to a sleeper car; the best $55 spent.  A sleeper car room meant that not only were we able to lay down flat at night but all meals and a wine tasting were included.  [That’s a $55 value right there.]  Along with that, there was a roomier and cleaner bathroom and our own porter, Darryl, who referred to himself in the third person and helped us with anything we needed.  [Darryl’ll do that, he told us about putting the top bunk down.]

It wasn’t easy getting on the train to come home; both Melissa and I started crying.  It’s been a year and a half since I’ve seen them; it was so great to be together again. I miss them and their little girls already.  It’s been a long time since I’ve spent so much time with babies and I loved it.  I am so grateful I had the chance to hold and rock and play with Hannah Grace and Harper Joy.  Grateful.

It was a great vacation and like all great vacations, it deserves a glowing review on Trip Advisor.  Do you know Trip Advisor?  It’s a website that reviews and shares information about hotels and getaways.  If I were to write a Trip Advisor summary for this vacation, it would sound like this:

Escape to rural Montana for a week of snow, good food, and wonderful friends.  Travel by train; experience luxury and wine tastings in the sleeping cars or suffer a miserable night in coach.  You will be greeted at the train station by Rev. Joel, Melissa, and their beautiful babies.  While in Montana, excursions to historic fort cities and underground passageway tours are available and recommended.  Much of your time will be spent comforting crying babies, feeding babies, dancing with babies, and holding babies [but that’s a big part of why you went in the first place].  Time will also be devoted to church-going, Bachelor-watching, and scone-eating. Cocoa Puffs, coffee with peppermint creamer, and hand-whisked orange juice are always readily available for guests.  Private rooms.  Laundry facilities available on-site.  A welcoming, loving, and reasonably-priced destination for your next winter vacation.

I give it five stars.

Here are the rest of the photos from the journey westward.  Photos include our Havre Under the Streets tour [Chinese laundromats, opium dens, bootlegging ghosts, oh my!], one last photo of the baby girls, and adventures on the train ride home.

a british sunday.

7 Jan
It was all scones and tea for us last night as we gathered to watch the two hour premiere of Downton Abbey last night.  As with most Sunday evenings, we – the pastors, Charlie cat, & Charlie person – joined forces and spoke in British accents.   On Sundays past, we have gathered to watch Once Upon a Time but so sorry, crazy fairy tale characters and crazy plots, Downton Abbey is a trump card.
Do you watch Downton?  Check out this fun summary of the first two seasons whether you’ve seen them or not.  It’s fun.
In other news, I was kickboxing in my living room tonight and accidentally side kicked Mabel in the side of the face. I apologized but I’m not sure she’s forgiven me yet.

my contribution.  i was just excited to use my two-tiered serving tray.

homemade christmas/epiphany crackers.

an open letter to raspberries.

21 Dec
[Open letters are cool.  Everyone is writing them now.  I tend to address mine to food.  Check out my apology to hamballs here.]
Dear raspberries,

I’ll be honest.  You know me – I’m not afraid of honesty.
I used to not like you.
When someone offered me raspberries,  I would politely decline.  No thank you.  When raspberries were on a fruit platter, I would kindly pass over for the strawberries, the pineapple, the anything-but-you.  I don’t want your seeds in my teeth, raspberries, I would tell you.  Seeds.  Gross.  You’re gross.
It was this past summer I learned how … delicious you are.  I learned to live with your seeds, but yet, at the same time, avoid chomping and seed-in-teeth-severe-lodging.  You were my favorite fruit to mix in yogurt and oatmeal.  I would grab a handful of you to snack on.  I was constantly buying you at the store.
I found a new use for you this weekend.  I had some of your frozen friends in my freezer.  I had a bottle of clear soda left over from the confirmation party.  And then Marilyn gave me this for a Christmas present –

She knows me so well.  Wine and chocolate.  Throw one of those mini bottles in a glass with a touch of clear soda and some of you, dear raspberries, and it is utterly delicious.  You make my lame Friday night of the treadmill, laundry, and Lars and the Real Girl a little more exciting.  
And for that, raspberries, I thank you.  I take back anything I may have said ill of you in the past, and I profess my love for you, seeds and all.  That’s what love is, right?  Loving as the fruit is; faults, seeds, and all else.
Thanks for being there for me, raspberries.  Thanks for not giving up on me.  Because, as it turns out, you’re delightful.

make lefse, not war.

12 Dec
I still haven’t told you about our lefse night here in southeastern Minnesota!  Watch me blog loudly about it.  
Paige, Lauren, and I each followed Belva’s lefse recipe and made a batch of lefse one Thursday evening, each in our respective kitchens.  On Friday, we gathered in jD and Lauren’s kitchen to turn the potato flakes, butter, and flour into rolled and grilled circles of Norwegian goodness.  Lauren had decorated for the occasion and Paige brought Grace Lutheran’s classic kitchen aprons.  [The one jD chose to wear even had a kleenex in the pocket.  Yummy.]
Once we got the hang of it, the three batches of lefse went quite smoothly.  We each naturally migrated towards places of rolling or mixing or grilling, each with our hands steadily coated in flour and our feet growing tired after hours on them.  We found one of the most rewarding parts to be taking the cooled lefse from between the towel sandwich and folding them into bags.  What a sweet reward for our hours of intense Norwegian labor.
Another rewarding part?  The lefse quesadillas.  Incredibly delicious.
Make lefse.  Not war.  Destined to be another southeastern clergy-group-of-awesome tradition.

hi.

13 Oct
As you well know, I went to an open casting call for MasterChef today with my saran-wrapped plate of the Holy Trinity of cakepops.  I showed up, I auditioned, and I left.
That’s all I can say about that right now.
Then I went to Target to buy a surge protector.  [Who knew a treadmill should be on a surge protector? The woman whose treadmill was fried in an electrical storm did and she told me.]  A surge protector. I walked out with a surge protector, a yellow zip-up hooded sweatshirt, some dollar spot items, and a starbucks drink.  Let’s call it the Target curse.  Or my lack of willpower.
Now?  Wine, Alias, writing snail mail, and basking in the joy that I don’t need to go to church tomorrow.  Hallelujah.  [Even pastors need a Sunday morning break and I’m so ready for one.]

the fair.

18 Aug
It’s the week of the Steele County Free Fair.  It’s known as quite the fair in these parts and all week I’ve had people tell me what kind of food I should eat while there.  Paige and I went Thursday night with high expectations.
I think I’ve decided that I’m just not a fair person.  I used to go to the county fair every year in high school with friends.  We would meet up with our friends who would show animals, grab a quick burger from a stand, and then spread our blankets on the grass for whatever concert was in the grandstand that evening.  That was fun.  I was a that-kinda-fair person.
But the kind of fair person who goes to try as many things on a stick as they can or the kind of fair person who goes to eat their way down rows – that I am not.  I think some of it has to do not only with my non-existent goal of fair-going-and-eating, but with the amount of people too.  Paige and I started walking to the fairgrounds and I almost wanted to turn around as the streams of steady people flowed through the gates.  I don’t know.  I’ve just learned once more that fairs are not my ideal source of fun.
Now that I’ve been a complete downer and probably caused fair-going-and-loving types to feel bad …

That’s not to say that Paige and I didn’t enjoy ourselves at all or that we frowned the whole time.  We ate dinner at the Aurora Diner – a restaurant on site that is ran by one of jD’s churches.  Then we walked around.  At a political booth, we inquired about how to get vote no tshirts for the upcoming MN amendment vote.  [Not that we could wear them except out of town …]  And Paige ate shortcake.  We laughed at the llamas.  And then we walked around more.  And we ate nitro ice cream and played BINGO for a quarter a game.  And then we walked around more.  Then we left.

We did make a game out of it.  The game?  Who could spot the most church members.  Paige saw and greeted something like seven members.  I greeted a person twice and, not going to lie, it was the same member both times.  [I did see a couple I know from the church in Blooming; they said I could count them.  So three.]  Paige beat me out, over double the members I saw.  Seven times the members I saw.  [There is something to said about size of church and location of church and members but we did not take those factors into the equation.]
Will I rush to the State Fair?  No.  Will I be in any hurry to go again next year?  Probably not.  Did we win Bingo even once?  Nope.  But the gravy was good.  It’s been a long time since I’ve had gravy.

saturday soliloquy.

4 Aug
Windows are open.  Breeze is blowing.  Life is good.
I wish I could bottle the feeling one gets after exercise.  I feel one-hundred-million-twenty-seven-thousand-and-seventy times better afterwards.  [If you’re keeping track, that’s a lot.]
I finished a quilt top this morning.  Onto a second matchy-matchy one later tonight.  Subtly and not so subtly, one could say they will be like twins … perhaps like their future babies …
This is my absolute current favorite.  Zucchini squash oven roasted.  It’s nearly an every night staple for me.  Throw in some sweet potatoes or some broccoli and I am set for dinner.
I spread grass seed and filled my water softener with salt this afternoon.  I cleaned a clogged shower drain yesterday.  It was gross but I feel very domesticated and home-owner-like.  
Have you checked out Steeples and Stilettos lately?  I’ve been a terribly horrible blog partner but Megan has been posting some really great stuff.  
I’m almost done with my sermon and it’s not even 6pm.  [Who am I?]
I have three weeks of vacation to take before the year is done.  Where should I go and what should I do?  Maybe visit you?  I welcome suggestions.
Mabel and her large mouth says hello.

please, sir –

29 May
– may I have another rhubarb margarita?
aka the farmgirl margarita.
aka deliciousness.
aka this farmgirl’s perfect drink for a monday afternoon.
aka a memorial day treat.
aka the day when we celebrate france.  [I think that’s right.]

I spent memorial day proper hanging out with the peeps in Owatonna.  
We ate grilled food, held a baby, and played bocce ball.  
It was just what the doctor ordered for this tired, stressed and burned out girl who is hanging on by a thread until vacation begins. 
Exactly what I needed.

another world.

29 May
Paige and I went high class last Thursday night.  We wined and dined at the Four Daughters Winery in Spring Valley, MN.  And, boy, were we out of our league.
We had driven past this gem of a place on our way to a meeting at Good Earth Village a week prior.  Intrigued were we and we signed up for their Thursday night tour and dinner.  It wasn’t cheap but we splurged. 
We joined a whole crew of people who apparently do things like this for a living.  You know, expensive dinners of grilled watermelon salads and smelling their wines.  “Tell me more about your barrels.”  “This one time, we flew to DC for the day …”  “When I climbed Kilimanjaro …”  “This lamb is superb.”  “Can you smell the sulfur?”  “Actually, creme fraiche is …”
Except the lady next to me.  When our strawberry soup dessert arrived in front of us, she made some comment about her young son.  “It’s like a smoothie he left out too long.  It’s melted smoothie.”  Thems my kind of people.
It was fun despite the one-upping all through the table and the noses in the air.  And the fact that we all sat at one table and thus they could charge us 20% gratuity.  Don’t worry – we grounded ourselves and lowered our noses once we stopped at Culver’s for ice cream.  [Strawberry soup is not proper dessert in our books.]  It was the perfect escape for this girl after a real crappy and long Thursday of work.  

My, what nice barrels you have.

Because who doesn’t love grilled watermelon and chive blossoms? 

thai chicken enchiladas.

25 Apr

I don’t think you understand the awesomeness.  Heck, I don’t even know what you’re thinking but I know that it’s not enough excitement, mouth watering, and belief in the pure feast of heaven this could be.  Could be.  I haven’t had them yet.  But you can bet your you-know-what that these will be made and devoured at some date in the very near future.
But seriously – I don’t think you understand.  This is the marriage of the always delicious enchilada, a Mexican food staple, and the Thai flavor that I love with a deep, deep passion.  Together.  As one.  Please.  Get in my belly.
I never liked Mexican or Thai food growing up.  Living on a beef cattle farm, we were meat-and-potatoes with salt-and-not-too-much-pepper kind of people.  With a side of carrots.  Or maybe peas.  But never the aspargus or rhubarb that grew in oodles in our yard.  It wasn’t until much later that I discovered I loved both of those too.  So my taste buds were late bloomers.  Get over it and let’s move on.
The Mexican food was a whole other story.  I remember going to Aunt Peggy’s for dinner one night.  Aunt Peggy and her house went global in their cooking once in awhile and I believe it was burritos on the menu that night.  I ate them.  I liked them.  And then I got sick.  I don’t blame the burritos.  I blame influenza.  But you try and eat again what you once saw coming in the wrong direction.  [I will never ever eat spaghetti-o’s.  I never liked them but seeing them in reverse from my brother’s mouth is a reoccurring nightmare.]  It took many years of healing before the spanish step came back to my palette.  
As for the Thai side of things, I don’t remember having Thai food until I was in seminary.  See, I was often fearful to try new things.  [I credit my culinary pal, James, for getting me over many hurdles.  And teaching me how to cut things with large knives.]  I was in Seattle and out with the gals for my friend, Kari’s, bachelorette party, the night before her wedding [which I flew out to be in].  We went out for Thai food and I loved the pad thai on my plate.  A love affair began.  The peanuts.  The cilantro.  I’m drooling at my computer.
Thai chicken enchiladas.  Now do you understand?  If not, come over.  We’ll make them.  We’ll eat them, and we’ll fall in love.  With the enchiladas.  Not each other.  [Though that could be negotiable if you drive a truck and are funny.] 
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