Saturday, December 26, 2009

Christmas at Heartbeet Farm

Gary in recent years had observed, with plate tectonically cumulative anxiety, that population was continuing to flow out of the Midwest and toward the cooler coasts.... Gary wished that all further migration [could] be banned and all Midwesterners encouraged to revert to eating pasty foods and wearing dowdy clothes and playing board games, in order that a strategic national reserve of cluelessness might be maintained, a wilderness of taste which would enable people of privilege, like himself, to feel extremely civilized in perpetuity.

- The Corrections by Jonathan Franzen

Gary, we stayed right here in SE Minnesota and joined Anita out at the farm where she was staying while Joe & Becca were away in South Carolina visiting her family for the holidays. We also played games for hours.

And Gary, was our Christmas dinner pasty enough for you?

Shepherd’s pie

Glazed Carrots

Granny’s white dinner rolls with lemon curd and strawberry jam (homemade)

Cranberry wassail

Don’t you love the colors, too, Gary? I used blue potatoes (grown here on the farm) but when you cook and mash them they turn a pale pinky-purple shade. The red plate, the orange carrots? Perfect match. (We glazed the carrots in cast-iron on the Beast.)

P.S. I agree. Although the pie tasted great, it looked pretty icky.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Bambi come home

The most recent issue of Notes From Toad Hall and Critique should be in the mail to people on our mailing list (getting on is no more than a click away)

On the last page I said I would post some photos Anita and I have taken of lawn ornaments around Minnesota this fall and winter. But I’m not sure how to post them here along with my rambling comments, so if you care to see more you’ll need to go to Facebook.

Here’s one pic along with my remarks from the last page of Notes:

Final Notes (Holiday Issue 2009)

If you exit a city or town anywhere in Minnesota and drive through the countryside on a slow road in minutes you’ll spot cement cows lounging in a front yard, or deer poised watching the field, or black silhouettes of bears climbing trees. I guess I’ve seen some in town, too. I ridicule lawn ornaments: What? You need to be reminded of what lives in your back yard with tasteless inferior imitations? The same with Christmas decorations. That aesthetic violation is everywhere. Blow up Santas and elves, garish flashing, pulsing lights. While I’m in full-lung cry, I ignore the small exceptions I make for myself: Margie, why the white terns in your garden? Where’s the shore, anyway? And what of that concrete toad sitting among your hostas?

While reading The Architecture of Happiness (see Gift List) I recomposed myself in a way I hope leads to more generous acceptance of rampant yard ornamentation.

Botton thoughtfully observes: “…at its most genuine, the architectural impulse seems connected to a longing for communication and commemoration, a longing to declare ourselves to the world through a register other than words, through the language of objects, colours and bricks: an ambition to let others know who we are – and, in the process, to remind ourselves.” “Breadth of choice leaves us free to determine that particular works of architecture are more or less adequate responses to our genuine psychological needs. We can accept the legitimacy of the rustic style, even if we question the way [tenants of a certain complex] attempted to inject it into their homes. We can condemn the gnomes while respecting the longings which inspired them.”

Applied more broadly, don’t these embellishments tell us that people want to remember that deer are graceful and cows nourish, that they’d like to believe and celebrate a story with a happy ending?

I think I know what’s wanted – the real story with true connections. So this year I’m gonna let my neighbors be and not say a word against their cows or lights. So Peace, Come Emmanuel, Glory and all that beautiful lasting stuff. You’re welcome.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

In the spirit of the season

I was shopping the other day and overheard a woman on her cell. I was intrigued enough to listen for a minute:

"…you should lock them in the bathroom. Chain both of them to the toilet until they’re potty trained.”

"… TORTURE! They’re torturing you. What goes around comes around.”


I was in a fabric store.

I live in Minnesota.

I don't think this is related to anything specific?

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

2009 Gift List from Toad Hall

This just went up today. It's a tough job picking the books (mostly) that meant most to me in 2009. Lots of good ones left out. I AGONIZE over choice. Denis always tells me to keep a list and work on them throughout the year. Much easier, he says. But I say, why do that when you can leave it until mid-November and then stagger to the office with a mile high stack, and be frantic about scanning covers and writing succinct helpful summaries that aren't pathetic repros of jacket blurbs and give yourself migraines?? No question there.

Saturday, December 5, 2009


Am wondering why I’ve broken or damaged so many things lately and when this unusual trend is going to stop. When we were in Chicago on one of our last days there, I went to see Aunt Ruth who was only three days into her new life at the memory care center. (see a previous post) It was dark by the time I drove home through rush hour traffic. And in my defense, I think I was a little teary and a little dreamy thinking about old age and all, and probably not paying as much attention as I should. At one point everyone was gridlocked and stopped at a railroad crossing, I was about three cars back from the track, but still behind the yellow line. Suddenly they all rushed forward and the red lights started flashing and the bell started ding-dinging and you could see a commuter train coming and there I was sitting alone at the head of the line. I thought, “Okay, I’m safe, I think. I’m okay. I’m okay. I’ll just sit here” when I heard a thunk - the gate had come down on my rear and I swear I was BEHIND the yellow line. So what corrupt little official from the IDOT thought up THAT little traffic plan? I sat there and sat there, sweating and writhing, expecting some brutal cop to arrive any second, with the gate resting on my trunk afraid to do ANYthing and thousands of people behind me laughing and looking at my license plates. “Ooooo, she’s from Minnesota. What a moron! Don’t they have TRAINS in Minn-eh-so-da? Could that be Brett FAVRE!” The train looked like it had stopped and I couldn’t stand it any longer so I hit the accelerator and rocketed across in front of it. So, okay, there was a little bump and a scrape. But I didn’t care. I fled hoping I could turn the corner and never see that stupid track or all those stupid people again. When I got back to Marsena’s I snuck out with the flashlight to check the damage. Is it soooo bad if all you did was put a scratch down to the metal that’s maybe, oh, eighteen inches long that can easily be repaired with a little clear nail polish, plus it’s the only scratch you’ve ever put in your fairly new car, not counting the time I backed into a cement girder and tore off the front fender? I don’t think so. And besides, the LAST person to do damage was someone ELSE who won’t be named who backed out of the garage and BROKE OFF the side view mirror. I haven’t done that. I rest my case. And although I was going to confess other things in this post, I’ll just say that I did break my new glass teakettle, which I only had four days, and which I secretly spent a lot of time finding online but not THAT much money, and which looks like I shot it with a tiny bullet, because it’s getting late and I need to go to bed.