December 25, 2004
After a bountiful Christmas Eve meal featuring flaming ham, Joe picked up the string bass he is borrowing from the Fertile school for a time and started thumping. We took turns at the piano, with Mom and Joe doing particularly well at making up cabaret versions of old hymns. Eventually, we stood around the piano singing just like a picture out of an ad for EZ Learn piano lessons in Reader's Digest.
Gifts: Good books, good socks, some food, home-made note cards, a scarf. Nice things, thoughtful gifts, nothing excessive.
Today, six of us loaded up in Mom and Dad's van and headed to Detroit Lakes to Aunt Pam's place. A major spread. Fun visiting.
Tonight: A sense of disorientation. Actually turned on the TV. Tomorrow is Sunday. Nothing scheduled. I think it is a good idea to have Christmas on a weekend, but even still, this most major of holidays at this chilly time gives me jet lag.
December 24, 2004
Once you get the car warmed up, driving during a cold snap is kind of beautiful. Such was the case last night as I trapsed to Fargo as the sun set. The sun dogs were nearly as bright as the sun.
Shopping took two hours. Bought too much, but it's fun.
Found myself in downtown Fargo after shopping, needing some food. Wondered where to go. Don't like to eat a long drawn-out sit down meal if I am by myself.
Got to the north end of downtown on Broadway, took a right, and there in a little strip mall was Alladin's deli, a Mideastern place, the only place with a light on in the whole lonely mall.
So, I went in for a gyros sandwich, which was delicious. I was the only customer, so had a nice chat with the proprietor.
As I was eating, Dennis Wallacker walked in to get some takeout. The name might ring a bell for those of you from around here: Dennis was head of the Fargo flood-fighting effort in 1997, and he got to be something of a folk hero due to his laconically calm statements to the press during the crisis.
He's also a nursery customer and a fellow Ford Ranger owner, so we had a nice chat. His daughter studied in Crete last spring and has maintained a interest in Mideastern cuisine, thus his trip to Alladin's.
Well, when Dennis said he had traveled to Crete, I right away wanted to ask him if he had seen any Minoan ruins. I learned of the ancient Minoan civilization on Crete while teaching this fall, and you always want to flex your new knowledge.
But he beat me to it, saying, "and we saw the Minoan ruins," in the same manner one might say they say the drawbridge in Duluth. I was kind of thrilled not to have to ask what the Minoan ruins were, as I would have had to do a year ago.
Wallacker is a mountain of a man, well over six feet and well-nourished--and he hinted that he stood out in Greece. I can only imagine. When I was with a group of Americans in Poland, we had a couple of tall, big people along, and people pointed and stared the whole trip. We stood out.
I'll never forget when we walked into a restaurant in Poland after we landed. It was a bustling place, very large, very crowded, and as we worked our way through to our table, the whole place fell silent. The silence was broken only by one man who reacted to our presence with what must have been one of his few English phrases: "Oh for cute!"
I think that sums up how the Poles saw us. Sloppy, big, bumbling, cute. Poles are quite pro-American, at least they were at the time, so there wasn't the sense of condescension you get in Western Europe. "Oh for cute!" probably summed up their attitude quite well.
Wallacker had another experience in Greece which was similar to ours in Poland: He and his wife took his daughter and her professors out to supper. They had a big meal, lots of wine, desserts, appetizers, the whole works, and it came to $30. He figured a $10 tip might be appropriate for such a feast, but the waiter wouldn't take it. They settled at $3.
December 23, 2004
Am getting going late on the Christmas shopping. Late in the season, and late in the day. It isn't a big deal because I have in mind what I am going to buy. It is just to go get it all. I don't understand this getting one's gifts in November.
The heat is on in the garage of the house. The Kronsch boys are frantically insulating to keep it inside. However, once the wood stove gets hooked up, the house will basically have free heat, so I don't mind a few kilowatts going through the cracks for the next few days if it keeps the guys warm.
Once the heat goes on, I can spend some time grinding the dirt off the big beams with the wire brush. Also, there is a lot of painting and sealing which can be done.
The weather the past couple of days has been very cold--below zero--but not so windy. It is bearable until you start feeling your feet freezing up.
All of my utilities, including a boiler, a hot water heater, all the piping to the floor heat, electric, and so on, are hanging from the back wall of the garage. Dean pointed out today that I won't want to slide into the back of the garage--could be costly.
Man, I hope that doesn't happen!
December 21, 2004
When the wind turned from south to north last night, it didn't take long for things to cool off. It looks like we're in for a cold snap until at least Christmas.
Makes it tough on the carpenters out at the Swamp Castle. They put the garage doors on today. They had the big Nepco heater in there, which took the edge off. Brian, the plumber/heating/electricity man was there as well, getting the boiler ready. Tomorrow, he will fill the floor heat tubes with anti-freeze and water. Later in the week, the woodstove will be filled with about 120 gallons of antifreeze and water.
A FEW DAYS ago, I booked a connecting flight to Dallas to meet up with my tour group that is going to Mexico City at the end of January. With the air miles on my credit card, it was easy. I always assume they are going to black out the flight times I need, but it worked out.
So, while I was on the phone getting tickets to Dallas, I inquired about tickets to Tucson for my friend Lance and myself. I love Tucson, and it is fun to show somebody around who has never been there before.
Well, I could get two tickets for free, plus
free car rental. So, I jumped and did it. We leave New Year's Day. I cannardly wait.
IT IS A BIT TOUGH to figure out what to do with the evenings now that I don't have to prepare for classes. I am glad to be done teaching school for the forseeable future, but it was an awful lot of fun. I learned a whole lot as well. I had never even studied most of what was in the World Civilization textbook, so I got a real education preparing for class.
What a day! The wind blew, the temperatures were below zero, and it was cloudy. I drove around the valley running errands, and couldn't resist stopping along the highway to take some shots of the dirt/snow drifts in the ditch.
December 20, 2004
Went to Red Lake Falls this morning to pick up more parts for the wood stove. The sun came out about half way there. Today is supposed to be beautiful, and then things are going to deteriorate in a hurry again, reverting to yesterday's form.
At Tilden Farms, just south of Highway 2, I saw this scene. I like the colors of the willow (orange) and the dogwood (deep red).
Then, in a Red Lake Falls yard is this Flame Willow, grown as a specimen tree. Grandpa introduced the Flame because of its neat shape and deep orange branch color. I think this one has been trimmed a bit, but this is representative of its shape. It is full of Christmas lights, but it makes a show during the day as well.