A Grand Performance

Wow, it seems as if we’ve barely gotten over winter and last week I filled out the forms to enter my needlepoint Christmas stocking in the State Fair. It hasn’t come back from the finisher yet, but she’s very experienced and should do a great job. I’m going to enter it in the Senior arena – I’m more than eligible – and hope to do well competing with fewer entries.

Meanwhile, I’m working on a witch riding her broom across a full moon, and no surprise, it’s taking longer than I thought. Next, I’ll finally begin that magnificent but complex big Christmas stocking for Ellen.

Work on Tying the Knot has stalled again. I wonder if kick starting it might not include an actual kick, as in the pants!

Sunday evening I went with my sister-in-law and a new friend from Aquila Commons to a special event at my church. It was called “Opera Familiare,” and it presented famous arias from operas. Ten professional singers took part, accompanied by a baby grand. No mikes. I’m not a grand opera fan; in fact, I’ve never been to an actual grand opera. But almost every aria was familiar to me. The performers were all young, though I think their voices could be called “mature.” They sang arias from Magic Flute, Carmen, Marriage of Figaro, Madame Butterfly, and others. None of the sopranos had that painfully piercing voice that is one reason I don’t go to the opera. All were trimly built except one man, who was enormous. He also had the chest development you sometimes see in male opera singers, so his clothing fit him oddly. Then he started to sing, and you could feel the heart of everyone in the audience warming. His first number was “la donna Mobile” from Rigoletto, and it was gorgeous.  Carmelita sang a brilliant version of “Summertime” from Porgy and Bess; Don sang “Ol Man River” from Showboat; we were assured they were American operas, which I had never thought of before. Just before intermission all of the singers came out to sing “va pensiero” (Chorus of the Slaves) from Nabucco by Verdi. Members of the audience were invited to join them in front of the altar; more than twenty people came up. We were told that when Verdi died, and his coffin was paraded through the streets of Milan, 300,000 citizens followed it, singing this aria, which had become practically Italy’s national anthem. What a touching story!

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On Thursday members of the Northwest Coin Club are going to tour the Ninth District’s Federal Reserve Bank, headquartered in Minneapolis. I think I’ve heard about the Federal Reserve Bank almost all of my life, but I didn’t – and still don’t – understand what it is. That is, I’ve read about it, and recently looked up the Wikipedia entry on it, but I’m still not sure I know what it’s for or how it operates. It seems to be a private enterprise and at the same time a US Government entity. I’m hoping to come away from the tour with a better understanding.

As usual with Minnesota, we seem to be jumping directly from winter to summer. On Sunday, the temperature rose to 82 degrees – yet there are still protected corners of the Twin Cities where piles of snow lie. Tulips and daffodils are blooming and there are buds on the lilac bushes. Golden Dandelions dot the lawns. Yet north of here, the lakes are still iced over. I’m wearing shorts and a sweatshirt. Weird Minnesota

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Money, Money – Brains!

I am newly in possession of a coin I’ve been looking for for many months: a silver English coin minted in 2016. So now I have both ends of my coin collection that covers one thousand years, beginning with Canute and ending with Elizabeth II. The coin was sent from England at the request of a local friend to Barnaby Wilde, who writes a mystery series. So now I have to look him up and buy an example of his writing, then post a review on Amazon. The coin, by the way, is beautiful, a bi-metallic with the usual portrait of Her Majesty on the obverse, but a gorgeous reverse: a crown with a Tudor rose, a thistle, a shamrock and a leek rising out of it. Take a look:


There are still eleven coins missing from the collection. It’ll take me awhile to get all of them; the Harold II, for example is rare and costly, so unless it turns up at a price someone absent-mindedly sets too low, it will probably come last. Meanwhile I’m in the market for a William and Mary or perhaps a George IV.

Looking for a story idea? Remember those spooky (and sometimes unintentionally hilarious) old movies about human brains being kept alive in big, bubbling glass jars? Well, scientists at a university report keeping pig brains alive in glass jars for up to 36 hours. Whether the pigs are conscious is unknown, and the scientists seem curiously reluctant to try to find out. They do admit that their success means that any brain, including a human one, could be kept alive with this treatment, though any attempt to place the brain in a body would very likely be unsuccessful. At least at this stage of experiment. Spooky.

Warm and sunny yesterday, light rain this morning. Grass is greening, new grown everywhere. Ahhhhhh . . . spring.

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Weather or Not

Ah, changeable Minnesota! On Sunday the temperature hit seventy warm, sunny degrees, and I put on shorts, sandals and a sleeveless top to sit out on our south-facing balcony soaking it in. There are still patches and swaths of snow on north-facing slopes or where protected by trees and houses but elsewhere the grass has a green tinge and the buds on trees are swollen. I expect a crocus at any moment – or a dandelion, I have witnessed them coming up through the snow!

Of course, today the temperature is only supposed to hit sixty-three at its best, but that’s still better than the city shut down because over a foot of snow is blowing sideways down the streets. In either case, I’m sitting at my desk, struggling to get into the next chapter of Tying the Knot.

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Let It Snow

We are still digging our way out from under a big blizzard that started late Friday, exploded on Saturday and continued most of Sunday, dumping over sixteen inches of wet snow that came down horizontally in a wind that at times blew over forty miles an hour. I went to the funeral of a good friend late Saturday morning in a light snowfall that barely coated the streets. By the time it was over, including a lovely catered lunch, there were whiteout conditions on the streets, and I crept home leaning forward over the steering wheel, barely able to see other cars on the street. Church services on Sunday were cancelled, I watched television and stitched and worked on Tying the Knot – which has a blizzard in it, so that was appropriate.  Work on TTK is starting to move along – hurrah!

The forecast says tomorrow, Wednesday, will be either lots of rain or some more snow. This is not exactly unprecedented for April in Minnesota, it often snows in April. But we did set a record for the amount of snow this past weekend. And unless it all melts by Wednesday – it’s trying to do that, but temps are hovering between twenty and forty degrees, so it’s slow going. The snow is cooling the air, which keeps the temperatures low, so I suspect Wednesday is more likely to see more snow or at best a rain and snow mix.

Perhaps we’ll see daffodils and tulips some time in June, and lilacs by the Fourth of July.

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Another Mad Hatter’s Tea

Just as a casual aside, during the Mad Hatters Tea on Saturday, I put out a sheet of paper and asked the guests to name words for hats: topper, helmet, bonnet, etc. I was amazed at how many there are. Here’s the list:

And here’s a recipe for really delicious cucumber sandwiches:

A loaf of cocktail bread
A brick of cream cheese
An 8-oz container of sour cream (or plain yogurt)
One envelope of Italian salad dressing
One tablespoon of milk
One big, fat cucumber, peeled and sliced
A jar of pickled ginger

I fancy-peel the cucumber, leaving green stripes, before slicing it.

Blend the cream cheese, sour cream, salad dressing, and milk, and spread the mix on the slices of cocktail bread (I like the rye). Top each with a slice of cucumber, and top that with a couple thin slices of ginger. The dark bread, pale mix, green and white cucumber and pink ginger makes an attractive display. And a delicious treat.

We served it with a selection of hot flavored teas, lemonade and cookies.

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Mad Hatters

The robins are back in force, singing their hearts out – and it’s snowing like this is the last chance it’ll ever get. Which is probably true, at least for this winter. After all, it’s April and even in central Minnesota it should cease and desist by April. What this probably means is that spring will be even shorter than usual, as in blizzard, then crocusdaffodilstulipslilacs for a week, then whew, it’s hot!

Easter was lovely. I served at the altar without tripping, or losing my way in the readings, or pulling a big candle down on my head while snuffing them. Dinner was excellent, but more, the company was also excellent. I love it when a gathering jells, when everyone talks and has something interesting to share. Because of all the walking and standing I did on Friday and Saturday, my knee had me nearly in tears, so Elizabeth, who has the gift of healing, laid her hands on it and in about twenty minutes the pain just slipped away – and is still mostly gone this morning.

And now I’m working on this coming Saturday when the women of the building I live in will gather for tea, cucumber sandwiches and cookies – and hats. I have a very large collection of hats to bring out and a surprising number of residents also have hats and we will dress up, and try one another’s hats on and act like sweet and delicately-bred ladies for a few hours.

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