Archive for August, 2013

Adding to the Bucket List


At one time or another, everyone in my family has gone to the state fair, some more than once.  Sadly, I on the other hand have never attended.  Oh, it’s not for lack of trying.  Every year I make the same impassioned pleas to go.  Alas, each year passes and I move into September with a feeling of missing out.

Minnesota State Fair 2010

I realize it’s not a big thing, but it’s kind of my bag:  the midway, the barns, the entertainment, and of course the food.  Where else can you find just about everything fried and on a stick?!  It’s like an invitation to be nutritionally naughty.  So that was all it took, the Minnesota State Fair is now on my bucket list.

Corn Dog

I started to do some research and even figured out where I would stay, the Best Western Plus White Bear Country Inn in beautiful White Bear Lake.  They have Rudy’s Redeye Rooftop where I can sip a post-fair “Rudytini”.  If it’s too hot, I can swim in their pool and enjoy my libations indoors.  For less than a hundred dollars I could get a room with a discount coupon for the fair and catch a free shuttle at the mall just down the road.  In fact, I’ve heard a rumor that the historic Cup & Cone has the best soft-serve ice cream around.  Sounds like a challenge to me.

Rudy's Rooftop

I think I’d have to spend two days at the fair, you know, to make sure I see (and taste) it all.  Farm girl that I am, I would like to wander through the barns and look at all the projects people have entered in the competitions.  After a ride or two I’d eat from one end to the other.  Maybe I’d play a couple of games, eat some more, then take in a concert.  I’m sure by the time I got back to the Best Western I would deserve that Rudytini!


It’s been said before, but it bears repeating, I’m a simple person who enjoys simple things.  However, even if you are…fancy, you should look into this vacation idea that has made its way onto my bucket list.  With over two million visitors each year, it’s clearly called the Great Minnesota Get Together for a reason!

State Fair Midway


Power Down for Your Best Vacation Ever


So you say you need a vacation, eh?  You need to get away and recharge those batteries?  Well, I know a few days floating around in a canoe may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but hear me out.  This could be just what you need.  With a little planning and organization, you can really unwind in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness (BWCAW, or as we call it, The BDub).

Portage up Heart Attack Hill

If you’re unfamiliar with this area of the country, it’s a pristine million-plus acres of wilderness between Minnesota and Canada.  It’s rustic and the terrain is very rugged, requiring campers to get out and “portage” their canoes over trails and islands to get to the water on the other side.  Where we go, it’s one of the few places where a handy dandy set of portage wheels slips nicely under the boat and it can be walked across.

Ron, Fish, and Fritz

There are lists available online to help you pack, because you’ll want to take as little as possible.  Remember, the idea is getting away from it all, not having it all stuffed into a canoe that you have to paddle.  Oh there are a few areas in The BDub where you can use a small motor, but if you want to go where it’s peaceful and the fish are plentiful, you’ll want to opt for manpower.  And if you need guidance, businesses like Canoe Country Outfitters in Ely, MN are wonderful.

Gilligan's Latrine

As hardcore as we like to think we are, we do still have the luxury of a latrine.  It’s a very spacious bathroom, yes, but private?  No.  Hey, it’s better than a log, so I’m not complaining!  We do have a running um…discussion about how much toilet paper is really necessary on the trip.  I’ve learned to quietly hide an extra just-in-case roll in my pack.  Don’t tell.  Another luxury is small bottles of water frozen solid.  They do double duty, acting as ice in the cooler then drinking water when melted.  Genius.


We also stick extra rope in the bag and clothes pins to dry our gear.  When it gets hot you could swim several times a day for relief.  But no one’s complaining as they dive into the cool, clear sparkling waters.  The kids like to paddle over to the falls to swim and hike to the top of the nearby peak.  On a clear day you can see forever, I swear!

Mike msrng fish

Never opting for the dehydrated pouches, The Hub and I make out a menu, figuring breakfasts and dinners but leaving lunch-time munching to meats, cheeses, and crackers.  Dinners like steaks, fajitas, and spaghetti are cooked in advance and frozen solid to help keep the cooler cold.  The final dinner of fish tacos is caught there.  Nothing better than walleye right out of the lake and into a tortilla!  Breakfasts like pancakes, eggs, oatmeal, bagels, and of course sausage and bacon are sure to get the kids up out of the tents.

The sunset from campsite 68, AKA Gilligan's Island!

The sunset from campsite 68, AKA Gilligan’s Island!

Two of my favorite things about camping up there are early mornings and watching the sun set.  We build the fire after supper, everyone grabs a mug and a treat, and we watch as the sun slowly slips behind the horizon.  You won’t be bothered by phones, computers, or televisions.  You’ll have time for conversations with the people you have chosen to share your experience.  You will recharge like no other vacation.  You may not want to leave.  But remember to plan ahead; there are no stores or room service in The BDub.

How to Win a Presidential Election

Newseum Animals IP

We already have a negative ad running in northern Minnesota; yes, it has begun, election season.  It’s no surprise that people are speculating who will be in the Presidential candidate pool.  I saw an interview with The Donald and it was an eye-opener.  He said that if he opts to run for President, he is willing to spend whatever it takes to win.  Trump is worth about $10B, yikes.

So, in the spirit of playing nice and on the behalf of all Americans, let me lay out a positive plan to help you win the election.


  • Make a monetary commitment to do good in all 50 states
    • Instead of the attack ads on TV and radio that people hate, or printed mailers that people throw immediately into the trash, invest your funds proportionately amongst the 50 states
  • To discover how to spend that money, make a time commitment in each state of 2-3 weeks
    • Hold town-hall meetings
    • Meet with those who work with the poor and homeless—understand their needs and how you can help them
    • Meet with those in local governments—what are their desperate issues being ignored
    • Meet with the business community—what can you do to help them expand and hire more people
    • Meet with teachers, not administrators, and find out how you can help them—set up some scholarships
    • Meet with medical professionals—how can you increase access to doctors in rural areas
  • Come up with a platform that focuses on the real issues of our country, let’s give the social issues a break just for a while and really fix the economy and the population here
    • Put your platform online and try to maintain an electronic presence that doesn’t waste paper
    • Communicate personally as much as possible instead of passing everything off to staffers
    • Don’t just tell us what you want to do, tell us how you’ll actually accomplish these things and what the realistic timeline would be
  • If you’re using your own money, skip the major parties and run as an Independent.  You’ll have more control over your platform and your actions when you’re not beholden to delegates and social issues.
  • Make a commitment to help stock food banks.  Rather than buying centerpieces for events, use decorative baskets on each table filled with non-perishable food to be donated after the event.  Insert hats, mittens, and scarves in cold-weather states to be donated, too.

Decorated Tables IP

Romney and Obama each spent nearly a billion dollars in 2012—think of what could’ve been accomplished by putting 30-40 million into each state.  Trump could multiply this fivefold.  And a lack of political attack ads; priceless.

Is Technology Sustaining Our Seniors?

Arlene (Janzig) and Stuff Smith

Arlene (Janzig) and Stuff Smith

I have been sort of interviewing my friend over the last few weeks in anticipation of a project about her and her late husband, jazz legend Stuff Smith.  She will be ninety on her next birthday and she is sharp as a tack.  She told me she wanted to purchase an electronic book reader or tablet.  At first I couldn’t believe that she even knew what those were, let alone that she wanted to buy one.  But then it clicked, she is extremely intelligent (having worked for NASA at one time) and this was a great way for her to stay connected.


Looking into electronic usage amongst seniors, I was surprised at the numbers.  In the United States of Aging Survey this year, 83% of seniors said it is important for them to use technology—mostly cell phones and computers.  It gives them the ability to be in contact whether at home or away, therefore enabling them to be active.

Happy Guy

One other benefit of technology use by seniors is that engaging in social media sites such as facebook leaves them less lonely.  They say they feel less isolated and don’t have the same fear of deteriorating health that is higher in those not participating in social media.  They look forward to seeing pictures and chatting online with friends and family and see it as their way of staying connected.

Enter Key

What else could be contributing to the happiness of the tech-savvy seniors?  Maybe an increased sense of independence.  By using devices like readers or tablets, they can borrow books from the library without leaving home.  They can increase the font size of the publications to make reading more enjoyable again.  And many others like to go online for research and financial information.

Duluth Area Manuscript Club

Duluth Area Manuscript Club

Whatever their reasons for using technology, it helps to keep them sharp and maybe even learn new things.  So although I agree with last week’s post that too much screen time is not good for young people and balance is the key, it looks like an increase in electronics usage is helping to sustain our seniors.  And there is no denying that fact when I see Arlene watching an old video of her husband online.

Is Technology Killing Our Kids?

Father and Son at Sunset

Is technology killing our kids?  Absolutely.  We are raising the first generation to have a lower life-expectancy than their parents.  Yes, I said lower, as in they’re expected to die at a younger age.  With the advances in technology coming by leaps and bounds, very few people live in “real” time anymore.    When’s the last time you watched the sun set?  I mean actually watched it, live, with your own two eyes as it was taking place.  If you can’t remember, you’re helping to prove my point.


The PBS documentary Outdoor Recreation in Decline featured a round-table discussion with representatives of each generation.  The attitudes of nature and technology were predictably present, but what was interesting were the deeper discussions about how and why.  The population is moving to a gotta-have-it-now, no delayed gratification, fast forward world; perceivably the link to the huge increase in attention deficit diagnosis.

Ron, Fritz, and Fish

When my generation was growing up, a grand holiday to someplace like Disney was something for which parents saved and planned for years.    The annual family vacations often included camping or trips to cabins.  We played outside, learned about nature, hunted and fished.  We looked up at the stars and used our imagination.  In a big city, kids might not even see the stars, and gaming has replaced dreaming.  Instead of “what if”, many people live in a world of “what’s next”; and that is unfortunate.

Room with a View

I’m not advocating for a complete abandonment of structured activities or technology, but maybe we can incorporate some free time.  Today’s youth don’t understand quiet time.  One of the best things about camping is waking up to see the lake out my window.  It’s peaceful and quiet, soothing for the soul.  If our children are constantly being shuttled from one practice to the next, how do they learn what it’s like to really unplug and recharge their batteries?

Steaks on the Grill IP

We are raising a generation who spend the majority of their time sitting in front of a screen.  Some may learn about nature online, but for those who learn by doing, they will never have an appreciation of the natural world.  They work on computers at school, go home to play electronic games, and grow up to rely on phones and tablets.  They are less active and more sedentary; therefore fighting weight and health battles throughout their lives.  What is the antidote?  Power down the electronics and get moving.  Take baby steps like rent a canoe for a day, camp for a weekend, cook a meal outside.  Your kids’ lives depend on it.

Island Trees IP