Archive for the ‘Weather’ Category

Off to the park

We’ve recently moved across town and happen to live closer to nieces and nephews. You know what that means. We’ve been added to the speed-dial sitter list.

Last weekend was our maiden voyage.  A full day with the 3-year old twins. As you might imagine, we had no trouble sleeping that night. We had a lot of fun and enjoyed the girls, but they certainly kept us going all day.  To any of you who have children or nieces/nephews, this will come as no surprise, but we came away from the day having been reminded of some important things. These are lessons I gained from a day with three-year olds:

1: SLOW DOWN. Normally, it takes Brent and I about four minutes to get to the park on our bikes. Not so with three-year-olds. No, it was a 45-minute walk each way. The trip to the park wasn’t my brightest idea on a 95-degree day. But they were troopers and never complained. Yet it was a slow, deliberate pace the entire way. There was no rush, no sense of needing to get to our destination quickly. No wonder it’s only adults who deal with things like high blood pressure. We’d all do well to slow down our pace a notch or two!

Stop & Smell the Flowers

2: STOP & SMELL THE FLOWERS: One of the highlights on the trail was to stop and smell the flowers. If we’d been in a hurry, the beauty of the landscape and wildflowers would have been missed. It was sweet to see one sister want to share her flower experience with the other. What a great lesson. Stop, take a look around. Be present in the moment, enjoy what God puts in your path and share it with those around you.

Quack Quack!

3. INJECT FUN INTO ORDINARY THINGS. The girls knew we’d be having a cold treat when we got home, but we kept the fact that it was smoothies a surprise. Unwilling to allow an unnamed treat, the twins decided to refer to the surprise as “Quack Quack.” Silly as it was, it brought us all lots of laughter for the rest of the night.

4: KINDLE THE JOY OF READING (no pun intended!). I’ve always loved books. Most of my life I’ve been a voracious reader. But, for some reason, recent years have drew my attention elsewhere. Watching the girls bring me book after book after book to read was contagious. I think we put away about 20 books before the night was over.

5. REMEMBER THE SNEETCHES. One of the many stories we read was Dr. Seuss’ “Sneetches.” It’s a book I’ve had since I was a child and it shows by its well-worn corners. It made an impact on me as a child and I often recall its lessons even as an adult. The basic message is not to get caught up in the latest trends or judge others just because they’re not caught up in them. I think about how our society is so influenced by the latest


hot gadget, fashion or topic. Too often we’re judged by what toys we have or what we wear or how informed we are about the current trending Twitter feed. Yet, being on top of those things has nothing to do with strong character, kindness and living a godly life.

Isn’t it amazing what God shows us through children? What lessons have you learned lately?


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A Tasty New Soup Recipe

It’s soup season. I can somehow “swallow” that a bit easier than admitting it’s the season that starts with a “w.” Besides, officially, it’s still fall. But the white stuff on the ground makes that point irrelevant. Why must we be over-achievers in Minnesota?

I like soup a lot. It’s on my list of what’s good about the “w” season. A few years ago I posted this list in my office to help me maintain a better attitude. I think it worked. There were actually a few dozen things on that list. Maybe I should dig it up again. 

With the chill in the air and the roads icy on the way to church, I knew it was time to bring out some real ammunition. So, we found a new soup recipe to help beat the chill and the tendency to complain.

It was quite yummy. On one of those upcoming cold, blustery days I recommend “Italian Lentil & Sausage Soup” to warm you up.

Italian Lentil & Sausage Soup


  • 1 cup lentils
  • 1/3 cup pearl barley
  • 1 cup carrots, chopped
  • 1 cup celery, chopped
  • 1 cup onions, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 3 1/2 cups broth
  • 2 1/2 cups water
  • 14 1/4 ounces Italian-style tomatoes (crushed or diced)
  • 1/4 cup fresh parsley, finely chopped (optional)
  • 2 tablespoons cider vinegar
  • 1 pound ground Italian sausage (crumble and cook over medium) Remove this ingredient for a great vegetarian option.


1.     Sort lentils to remove debris and shriveled beans. Rinse good beans.

2.     Add lentils to crock pot, along with barley, carrots, celery, onion, garlic, dried herbs and bay leaf.

3.     Pour in broth, water and tomatoes.

4.     Cover and cook on low heat for 12 to 14 hours or on high heat for 5 to 6 hours.

5.     Discard bay leaf and just before serving stir in parsley and vinegar. (The vinegar is a key ingredient.)

6.     As soup begins to cook add in cooked sausage.

 7.     A lengthy cooking time is needed unless you like fairly al dente veggies and beans.

8.     Serve with salad and crusty bread.

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Our evening temperatures have been dancing around the freezing mark as of late. Today was cloudy, rainy and a bit dreary as I pulled out the leather coat for the first time. There’s no escaping. We must be venturing awfully close to that “less-than-loved” season. (I’m afraid I have a hard time even uttering the word yet.) I certainly don’t want to jump ahead, but I know w_ _ _ _ _  isn’t far away when I begin searching for recipes like the one I pulled out today.  Looking for consolation, I busied myself in the kitchen with all the makings of Shepherd’s Pie.

It’s not the quickest meal to prepare, but it’s worth it. There’s something about pouring myself into the creativity of cooking a tasty meal that can be relaxing and peaceful, at least when I have a rare, lazy afternoon like I fell into today.

It’s baking even as I type. The lovely scents of nutmeg, rosemary and sage are wafting through the house, making the chill outside somehow less daunting. I’m not ready for what’s ahead, but I’m content.

Which comfort foods help you get through the season I’m not quite ready to mention?

Lisa’s Shepherd’s Pie

Serves: 6
Prep time: 1 Hour
Cooking time: 45 minutes 

1 pound potatoes, peeled/chopped
3 T butter
¼ C milk
Ground nutmeg

1 pound ground beef or turkey

Onion Mixture
1 T oil
2 medium onions, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 green or red pepper, finely chopped
1 T paprika

1 (20 oz.) pkg. of mixed frozen vegetables (or chopped fresh)

3 cubes chicken bouillon in a cup of boiling water (I use 2 “Not Beef” boullion cubes by Edward & Sons: No MSG and less salt.)
1 tsp. dried rosemary
12 oz. tomato sauce
2 T Worcestershire sauce
2 T soy sauce (I used Bragg’s Liquid Aminos: less salt.)
4 large tomatoes, coarsely chopped
1 pinch dried sage
1 pinch salt (optional)
1 pinch ground black pepper
3 T tomato paste

1. Boil potatoes until tender. Whip with milk and butter until smooth and creamy. Season with nutmeg, salt and pepper. Set aside.

2. Cook meat until it is browned. Drain if needed. Set aside.

3. In a dutch oven, sauté the onions with the paprika in the oil. Add the garlic and green pepper. Set aside.

4. Combine the cooked meat, onion mixture and sauce mixture.

5. Blanch frozen vegetables for five minutes in boiling water. Drain. Add to meat mixture.

7. Spread a thin layer of the meat mixture into large casserole dish. Top with thin layer of mashed potatoes. Repeat until a thin layer of potatoes is on the top.

8. Dot with flakes of butter, nutmeg, paprika, salt and pepper.

9. Cover and bake at 400 degrees for 30-40 minutes. Uncover for an additional 10-15 minutes or until golden brown.  (You may wish to place it under the broiler for the last 5 minutes. Serve with crusty bread.

Hint: Make a double portion of everything but the potatoes. It freezes well. I’ll be glad I did the next time I have a busy evening and not much time to cook!

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Ever since the jet stream turned course and started sending Canadian high pressure over the border into Minnesota, the relentless tornado sirens have seemingly been more quiet, the humidity has lifted for a couple weeks and Lisa and I have found ourselves coasting into late summer gear.

And that is to say, we have ignored blog updates for almost 2 weeks as we’ve reveled in some glorious Minnesota summer days that are priceless. Priceless because we seem to get so few of them and because the pain of last year’s long winter can still be felt. The local cadre of weathermen/women in the Twin Cities were happy to announce these last couple of weeks as they’ve born the brunt of bad news for months, either too cold or too humid or too stormy or too rainy. Some friends and co-workers just say things like, “I’m not going to complain after last winter, I’ll take anything as long as it doesn’t have anything to do with snow or freezing temperatures.”

I have the sense that they believe somewhere in their heart that if they say anything negative, the spell that is holding our momentary relief will be broken and Mother Nature will hurl us into an early fall and winter as punishment for a display of ingratitude.

Reality is sometimes best left unspoken, if not to hold onto our current spell of perfect days then at least to cherish these moments that will get us beyond the Holidays and through the three months that follow into another spring.

Gary's Cessna 180 sea plane

I will cut this post short so you can get outside and enjoy these moments as much as you can. We’ve kept some notes to build on the last couple of weeks. Here’s what’s been keeping us from spending time at our keyboard:

  • We flew with a pilot friend in his Cessna 180 on floats to a wonderful small town cabin festival.
  • We took time off from work to spend precious time with my sister and her family visiting from Billings Montana – last Friday I went to the Science Museum to see the King Tut exhibit. (You’ll like it if you enjoy history).
  • We’re volunteering at the church picnic today – stop by for free BBQ, kids games and a terrific jazz band.
  • We’re planning a trip up north to a cabin in the woods.
  • We fixed our first blown bike tires – all by ourselves! (Reveling in the small victories)
  • We’ve got tickets for Twins games in the hopes of seeing Thome hit #600!

Now get out there and enjoy the day – because the reality is that we’re losing 2-3 minutes of daylight every day. Ignore the last half of that sentence if you must !!

My sister and me!

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This Easter seemed to shine as bright as any that I could remember. Perhaps the long winter finally giving way to a bright, warm day contributed in large measure to the overall experience. On the news people are quoting the same word, “Finally”! Yes, that about sums it up.

The entire country has battled severe weather recently, especially in the 2 weeks leading up to Easter. The floods and twisters left a path of destruction over these last days. In Minnesota, the bad weather down south forced cold temperatures to remain locked over the midwest and turn rain into snow deep into April.

Lisa in her new Easter Dress! Beautiful!

A month ago, I’d encouraged Lisa to buy a new dress for Easter, just getting ready this morning promised that the day was going to be the turning point we needed to get us into spring.

Resurrection Sunday started out by attending Good Friday service. On Friday our hearts were tuned towards a somber reflection of what Yeshua came to do for us. On Saturday we spent the morning and afternoon with family enjoying a wonderful meal and marveling at how big the kids had become just since Christmas. Saturday night Lisa and I went to the Penumbra Theatre and saw the new play “I Wish You Love” written at the Penumbra workshop, produced by Lou Bellamy and performed by Dennis Spears.

The show is a tribute to Nat King Cole, the music and the man. If you have a chance, you should try to get a ticket before the show moves to the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington DC. Dennis Spears makes you believe that he IS Nat King Cole. He is truly amazing. The play tells the story of the troubles that Nat Cole had keeping his TV show on the air as he fought against NBC executives who were afraid to stand up to advertisers who threatened to drop their support for Nat’s TV program in the face of the civil rights movement and segregation in the South.

We left the show remembering the costs to so many brave Americans who stood up for the rights of all Americans in the face of segregation. We couldn’t help but think that no matter how horrible that history is, no matter how much suffering was inflicted, it didn’t compare to the suffering that our Lord endured on Good Friday for us.

The play at the Penumbra on Saturday night really helped us remember the salvation that has been offered to everyone:

“That if you confess with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved.” Romans 10:9-10

The music seemed louder, trumpets blared, voices sang, drums rolled and we rejoiced that the stone is rolled away and the Lord sits at the right hand of the Father. Does your heart long for peace? Does your soul cry for justice? Does your very identity cry out for a personal, approachable and close relationship to God?

If you have asked any of those questions, then remember the words of Jeremiah 29:13:

“And ye shall seek Me, and find Me when ye shall search for Me with all your heart.”

He is Risen! Happy Resurrection Day!

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Britt, MN - in the Superior National Forest

My first annual men’s snowmobiling weekend is in books and upon returning home, I kissed Lisa and asked where the bottle of ibuprofen was. And that means the weekend was a great success. We arrived at Lake Leander around 6pm last Friday night and noted that St. Louis County Minnesota had as much or more snow than the Twin Cities. It took us a couple hours to blow out 3 feet of snow from the driveway, clear a path to the outhouse, unload the van and begin starting the snowmobiles so they’d be ready for Saturday.

One pesky cold start forced us to postpone the Friday evening ride, but we eventually got the machine started. Of course it didn’t help that it was -14 below zero F. But according to the locals, this was the most snow they’d had in years. So the sledding was perfect.

Let’s get one thing straight, snowmobiling in Minnesota is a whole culture where the trails are groomed and posted with street signs (stop signs, curves, slow, etc). But the most important signs are the ones telling you how to get to the next bar and lounge.

Our machines took us on a ride that landed us at Liquid Larry’s, The Oasis, The Voyageur and Britt’s Lounge. Honestly, we never got cold even though by Saturday night after 12 hours of riding, the temperature was -20 F on it’s way to -39 F.

My Facebook check-in’s helped to confirm for Lisa that the Man’s Snowmobiling weekend is mostly about male bonding and she was glad to allow me to experience it. She’s doesn’t like the cold, nor the idea of riding a loud smelly machine, nor the thought that trips to the outhouse are not heated.

I also want to give a call out for the folks up on the Range: they are good people. A guy named Jim had gone over to the cabin in the afternoon and fired up the gas space heater before we arrived to warm it up. Another guy loaned us an extra machine so all 4 of us could ride together. Another guy opened up his repair garage when we needed to store a machine with a broken suspension arm. Everyone was glad to see us and helped show the best of a real Minnesota winter.

All of this helped me enjoy a couple days with some special friends. I’ve known Gary since 5th grade & Mark since 3rd grade; and Chris is one of Gary’s co-workers. He has had all of us over for grilling and is one of the funniest guys I know. It isn’t often we get the chance to be goofy,  eat steaks, have a couple cocktails and crack jokes at each others’ expense AND drive snowmobiles around. Livin’ the dream! Thanks guys!

Gotta dig 'em out first!

Revin' the engines!

Chris & Gary


Yours truly!

Entering Narnia

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You heard me right, this weekend in Minnesota is going to be “butt chappin’ cold”. And when people in Minneapolis tell you it feels cold outside, you should sit up and take notice. For a humorous reflection on that notion, check out our friend Sank’s post on a trip up to Fargo/Moorehead.

The reason I bring it up is because this weekend I agreed to go to a lake somewhere in the Minnesota Iron Range in the northern portion of the State. The purpose of the trip is to go snow-mobiling. This is an annual adventure trip for several of my friends and they’ve been inviting me to go every year. I’ve been fortunate enough to have real excuses to turn down the invitations over the years, but not this year.

From what I understand, there’s one bar about a mile down the road from the cabin. The cabin itself will not have running water as the plumbing isn’t winterized. Meals and trips to the W.C. will be to the bar down the road. Planning out my meals at the bar is okay, but planning W.C. trips to the bar is not something that appeals to me. Especially when it’ll be about -25 below zero outside.

I plan to bring a couple of really good books. If it’s too cold to ride through the woods, I’m going to make as many friends in the bar as possible. I’ve heard they do Karaoke on Saturday nights. That ought to be fun. I’ll bring a camera and share  the adventure on what Minnesotans living on the frozen tundra actually do when it’s butt-chappin’ cold out.

Stay tuned.

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