Sunday, January 24, 2016

Thanksgiving in Minny

Lee and Mika

We fly to Minneapolis on the Tuesday before Thanksgiving. We arrive in town before Sarah gets off work, but we grab our rental car go ahead and go to their house. Her sweet little rescue dog Mika is flat out terrified to have unfamiliar people in the house without mommy there. She trembles and shakes and won’t be consoled. As soon as Sarah arrives she's fine. She’s a funny little dog, and she just adores my daughter. 

Soon Cathy brings Joanne, Lee’s mother, who has been visiting them in Zumbrota this week.  She is supposed to celebrate Thanksgiving with us but she is having an attack of something awful called cluster headaches. She's so tough and capable for an 85 year old lady. Its just not normal to see her with an illness of any sort, and its terrible to see her in so much pain.

We leave Joanne at the house to rest and go pick up Daniel at the airport. Then its out to dinner at a restaurant called Kyatchi that serves sushi and hotdogs. I know that sounds strange but you can read all about it on their website. We share a Kimchi hotdog and an Avocado dog. The dogs are amazing and the sushi isn't bad either.

On Wednesday we try to help Joanne get in to see a doctor to get some help with these horrible headaches. Lee finally finds an urgent care clinic where the doctors are really wonderful. They give her an anti inflammatory injection and oxygen. Nothing seems to really help however, although she thinks the oxygen might be helping a little. The headaches happen mostly at at night so she can't sleep.

In the meantime we are cooking. I make two pies, pumpkin and pecan, using vegan recipes that Sarah has found online so Kris can enjoy them too. They are good, but different. The pecan pie has bourbon in it so of course it's great! The pumpkin has maple syrup in it and is also yummy.

I also am making the rolls, for the first time. Normally Joanne does it but she's not up to it this year. The roll recipe is in the Schnell Family Cookbook. its an old recipe so some details are missing, like how long the roll should rise, how large to make the rolls, how long to bake them, etc. I use my new found bread baking knowledge, let them rise for 90 minutes, folding twice. They are basically a brioche type dough with eggs and milk as well. They are crazy rich and delicious. Then I form the rolls but here I make a mistake; the rolls are way too big. I put them in the refrigerator to retard overnight but they rise some anyway, filling the pan and then some. Next year I'll make them smaller.

Snow Thanksgiving Morning

Thursday morning we wake up to light snow and I go for a run. I find an easy one mile loop in Sarah’s neighborhood, use that to warm up, then run up and down the hill in front of their house five times and do the one mile loop again. Its a good workout and I need it because there’s a lot of food to eat! The turkey (heirloom from Green Machine Farm) is small so it only needs to cook for a couple hours. The dressing is made, just needs to go in the oven. The rolls are the last thing to cook and because they are so big they take longer than they would normally.

Our Festive Table!

But everything is really delicious. Afterwards we go for a little walk around the neighborhood. The snow has stopped, the wild turkeys are still hanging around, it's colder. Minnesota winter coming on. Later we play Taboo and get the giggles. It's another fine thanksgiving.

Kris Mika and Otis

Friday it's time to make Lep cookies. We go to Cathy and JA's new house in Zumbrota. They are almost completely solar powered, off the grid. The house is light filled, not very big but with a full basement. The battery pack is impressive! There are two toddlers and a newborn, lots of farm dogs. Mika is intrigued with all the amazing smells and the toddlers are intrigued wth Mika. She s little and fluffy and more their size than the bigger rough and tumble farm dogs. They follow her around making up toddler games and she is quite tolerant of the little ones, even giving the baby a sweet kiss.

Lotsa Lep Cookies

This is a big batch of cookies. They have been working on them all morning so we take over some rolling and baking shifts. It's fun, we get in a rhythm. Sprinkle a bunch of flour, grab a hunk of dough. Roll, cut, place on a baking sheet, into the oven for 12 minutes. Out of the oven, onto the newspaper covered table. Add them to the cookie count before any get eaten. Repeat, repeat, repeat. We make 564 cookies this year, not counting the gluten free ones for my sister in law. 

Lee Taking a Cookie Shift

We take a short walk around the farm, but its cold and windy so we don't go very far. Sarah and Eric buy some of their meat; they sell grassfed beef, pork, chicken and eggs at the St. Paul's Farmers Market.

Cathy and Mika

Back in Minneapolis, we eat leftovers for dinner, plus some hotdogs from the farm. We seem to have a hotdog theme going this year. Joanne has stayed at Cathy’s. We decide its not a good idea for her to try to fly back to Missouri by herself with these headaches so Cathy is going to drive her on Sunday. That’s a very nice daughter! 

The radio station that Eric has playing in the background is playing obscure songs from various years. They announce " the next five songs are from 1988!" (Or some such year) and we make a game of trying to guess the artists before they tell us. It's pretty hard at times although Eric is really knowledgable and Daniel isn't bad either. Lee and I would have been good back in the day, but not anymore. Lee guesses a John Prine song correctly and I get a point for guessing that a song is from a Keith Richards solo album. Mika is so tired she can't keep her eyes open. We eat a little ice cream, a little chocolate and go to bed.

Saturday afternoon we head to the Surly Furious Brewery in St. Paul. This is a relatively new, somewhat famous brewery here. They are very popular so we go in the middle of the afternoon hoping that the wait won't be too bad, and it isn't, only an hour, and we order beers to pass the time before we get a table. The men all like hops, but Sarah and I don't and since she is married to a serious beer lover she has discovered beer types besides thin American beers that an anti hops person can enjoy.

First we try a Porter. It is rich and delicious and can be sipped like wine. It tastes a bit like berries, a bit like chocolate. I like it! The brewery is a large room but not too noisy. There are heaters and firepits outside, but it is in the 20's and Eric can't convince the non Minnesotans to try them. We go upstairs where it's a little quieter and we can stand around a table. Before we know it our table is ready.

We want to get a bunch of things to share, so we do. A charcuterie plate, loaded French fries, lamb sausage, pulled pork, roasted squash, roasted cauliflower. Sarah suggests another beer for us to try. I can get a 4 oz glass so I'm game. I can’t remember the name, but it is a bit like a spicy sparkling wine. I'm enjoying these new fancy beers that don't have that nasty bitter hoppy taste!

Daniel and the Newly Discovered Delights of a Rubics Cube

Once we are back home we end the night with a game of Trivial Pursuit, 80's version. My goodness we are bad at this! But not surprisingly each of us (except Sarah who would only nominally participate) had areas in which we could get some answers right. Eric knew some of the music ones, of course, I got some current events and a movie or two, Lee knew about cars, and Daniel knew music and TV. It was really hard though and I got awfully sleepy.

Joanne and Mika

Sunday morning I run along the nearby rail trail, the same one I ran on in August, but Sarah has discovered a way to get to it without getting in the car. I only have 4 miles to go today, but its pretty cold. I'd be fine if it wasn't for my hands. Now turkey soup is simmering on the stove and there is a football game on the tv. Mika was curled up by my side but has gone off to find Sarah.


We had a fine visit in Minneapolis. Now we are back in rainy New Hampshire where winter is having trouble getting a foothold.  Although it is dropping into the 30’s at night we are still getting highs in the 40’s and even the 50’s occasionally. We’ll have a week at home and then its off to New York City for a few days and then its on to Christmas. 

Sarah Mika and Otis

Monday, January 4, 2016

Kancamangus Highway

Ever heard of the Kanc? Well unless you live in New England, you probably haven’t. I hadn’t anyway, not until last year when we went zip lining up in the White Mountains. The Kanc is highway 112 in-between Lincoln and Conway New Hampshire. It is a beautiful road, winding between mountains, small rivers and waterfalls, and in the fall it turns into a riot of color. People travel from all over the world to see the fall in New England, and Columbus Day weekend is usually the peak fall color. We decided that we wanted to see it too!

We picked Sunday, hoping that the traffic between the White Mountains and Boston wouldn’t be too bad in the middle of the weekend and for the most part that was true, until we got to Lincoln. All through Lincoln the traffic was bumper to bumper and we were afraid it would be that way the entire time but once we got out of town it wasn’t too bad.

There was one strange thing, however. There were a lot of people, and I mean A LOT, of Indian ethnicity (Indian Indians, not Native Americans). We had no idea why, but it seemed pretty strange. They weren’t all together either, just a lot of different families. It either was some Indian cultural tradition or some holiday. I even tried to look up Indian holidays online but couldn’t find anything significant. Diwali isn’t until November this year so that’s not it. Its a mystery!

Our plan was to meet our friends Carol and Joe at Sabbaday Falls. They live in the White Mountains, outside of Conway. They have a couple of Westies too, and we could take all of our doggies for a little hike together.

Sabbaday Falls was crowded of course. We parked along the road, and pulled into our parking spot at exactly the same time as Carol and Joe pulled into theirs! First we had a little picnic in the woods because it wouldn’t do to have Lynn be hungry and cranky while we were hiking. Then we headed up the trail to the falls.

 Five happy little Westies marching along pretty much stopped traffic all along the trail. Little kids, grownups, everyone wanted to stop, take their picture, pet them, ask about them. The dogs all took the attention in stride. Harper really really wanted to GO! But there were too many people to let her off leash so she basically pulled Lee up and down the trail. Cosmo had to mark everything in sight, and Heather of course was right underfoot the entire time. Ruby walked very nicely, and Pia did too, except she doesn’t do stairs and has very very short legs, so periodically Princess Pia had to be carried by Joe.

After viewing the falls and hiking back to the car we followed Carol and Joe back to their house. They live waaayyyy out in the country. Their house and land are beautiful and I can see why they chose to live where they did, 35 years ago!

Pia is such a funny little dog. When we went upstairs Carol carried her up with us but we forgot and left her up there when we came back down. She stood at the top of the stairs and barked demandingly, “Come get me!”  Same thing when she was sitting on the couch with Lee and we all went in the other room, “Hey! Come back!” She cracks me up.

Can We Have a Treat? Please???

We went for another hike, this time from their house to the small ski resort nearby. One of their neighbors has a very large black lab named Thompson. Thompson came along on our hike, which was fine with us, but we kept Cosmo well away from him while he was on a leash. Thompson is just a big galumphing friendly dog, and we sure didn’t want him getting bitten on the nose! Harper wanted to play with him, but when he came up to Heather she SNARLED right in his face! I’ve never heard such a fierce noise out of that gentle little dog! We came out at the top of the mountain and sat on the lift chairs and enjoyed the view while the dogs ran around happily. Once they were off leash our dogs paid Thompson no mind. Its funny how leashes can bring out strange behavior in dogs.


Before too long it was time to say goodbye to Carol and Joe and make our way home. It was fun going up north and seeing the leaves. We were “peepers” for the day. We wouldn’t mind doing it again next year, but maybe it would be better to try it in the middle of the week and avoid the hordes.


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