2017- Musical Themes for a New Reality:

Well, here we are— 2017! It’s here! Really, this is it! I guess. I would say the event was anticlimactic but that would mean I truly believed something grand would happen, but it didn’t, and really, I had no expectations. I know that very little ever happens on New Year’s Eve but there is often a feeling associated with the coming of the new year (especially after the Longest December ever) and that feeling was missing this go-round. New Year’s Eve didn’t feel like a new dawn or a new day; it felt like the coming of a new school year…if you’re the student who spends more time hiding from bullies, looking for quiet places to read, and coming up with new sicknesses so as to escape the drama that awaits. It was—well…it was an eve.

Having spent the past month thinking about the possibilities that exist for the coming year (which is a weird exercise in positive thought process while remaining cognizant of the current realities), I’ve come to the conclusion that this is not the best use of time and is most certainly one way to drive oneself mad. Therefore, as a way to think about 2017 in different terms, sort of non-political, politically-motivated-(in most cases)-musical terms, I’ve figured out which songs will end the year as the Top 17 most played tracks (and a few more that will console, humor, and assuage the dark thoughts). They span a variety of musical styles and eras, and they will definitely get a lot of “air time”. Whether listening to Ryan Seacrest and friends, Pandora, I-pod, I-cloud, or spinning vinyl on the turntable, here’s the must-have list of music to get you through 2017 (and probably a few more years). And if you’re wondering how this ties into policy, consider these songs as a catalyst to define “the problem”. Formulate ideas about how to address the problem. Implement the “solution” to said problem. And, then, after some time has passed, evaluate your outcome (and don’t feel the need to tell everybody about the results; most of the time, nobody will read your findings, and those that do will question your graphs and say they are irrelevant and/or hard to understand (this is not your fault, graphs can be hard)).

#17) PatienceGuns & Roses: We will count on many virtues to get through this stretch of instability, weirdness, cockamamie, tomfoolery, downright inane ideas, & more, and patience may be the most important of these virtues. Keep a paper bag handy for those times when you are completely out of patience and just need to breath deeply, in a personal space. The melancholy of November Rain will also be popular, especially after a good deep breathing session.

#16) UglyFishbone: If I had to choose one word to sum up expectations, this is it. And so it goes in the world of politics, policy, public affairs, personal vendettas, polarizing platforms, patriarchy, & people who are predisposed to prideful displays of dopiness. As somebody kind of famous probably once said, “it is what it is”.

#15) The Revolution Will Not Be TelevisedGil Scott-Heron: The revolution was not televised in the ’60s & will not be televised this time either; the revolution takes place in the mind. Once we, collectively, get on the same page, the revolution will happen through the will of the people. Just remember what the crow says, “CAA” (not all crows enunciate the “w”), Communication, Action, Advocacy. Communicate with everyone, not just those you agree with. Don’t simply discuss what needs to be done, MOVE on those ideas. Advocate, advocate, advocate; if elected officials “don’t know” something is a problem, call, email, write a letter, visit your leaders at their office, get their attention somehow.

#14) The Times They Are A Changin’Bob Dylan: It’s true. And, it’s happening at rates of speed much greater than we’ve ever seen. Change: political; social; economic; demographic; linguistic; industrial; religious; and even the ways we think about change; is moving at light speed, or faster. We might be overwhelmed by the rapidity with which this is happening, but if we focus on those items that we can exhibit some sort of control/influence over, together we’ll get through. It’s Alright Ma (I’m Only Bleeding).

#13) Wake UpRage Against The Machine: A group that never backed away from making a political statement, Rage produced a lot of music that made people stop and think about what was happening in the politics of the day, with historical references to add weight to their argument. Their music has awakened many a young person to injustices that are happening in their own backyard. Killing in the Name is another piece that provides added effect for those who are having trouble getting the sleep out of their eyes. When an unusually ridiculous event occurs and you need to let loose on the punching bag, crank up some Rage.

#12) ChangesTupac: The changes we’ve seen in our relatively short history, are immense. That said, we have a long way to go before we reach an equitable society. Listen to Tupac’s words, then listen to Sam Cooke and Billie Holiday. Reflect on the struggles, the realities, the lives— fire yourself up, and get moving.

#11) True ColorsCyndi Lauper: This has a “punchers chance” of being Song of the Year as we will constantly be reminded that the True Colors of some Americans were on display & “This” is exactly what was requested on 8 November 2016. Now is not the time to shake our heads and hope for the best, we need to talk to people; people we don’t know, people we think we have nothing in common with, people who are—people. The urban-rural divide has always existed and it’s gotten more intense as our politicians have exploited it for their political gain. We’ve gotta call them out (the politicians) and discuss civic matters with our fellow citizens that live in “those” places. Sure, it will be uncomfortable getting to know folks who you feel you have nothing in common with, but I assure you (as a person who spent the 1st half of my life in a small farming/blue collar/industrial community, and the 2nd half of my life in a variable mix of metropolitan areas in numerous locales around the country, working a variety of restaurant, retail, & education jobs) we have far more in common than you think.

#10) Follow Your ArrowKasey Musgraves & Details in the FabricJason Mraz: (it’s a tie) When the going gets tough, it’s hard to remain true to the person you are. Surround yourself with good people, good food, good energy, & constantly remind yourself of who you are, how you got “here”, and where you’re headed.

#9) Wolves in Wolves ClothingNOFX: Released in 2006, this song is as relevant today as it was a decade ago.

We are Rome, Aztec Mexico, Easter Island paradigm 
We are followers of Jimmy Jones, cutting in the kool-aid line 

We are Animal Farm Pigs, we are a Terry Gilliam film 
We are fear Oligarchy, we are wolves in wolves' clothing, 
We are this planet's kidney stones 

In the process of getting passed, metamorphosis from first to last 
A system breaking down beyond repairs 
A product of three million millionaires, a hundred million easy marks 

We are Marie Antoinette, we are Joseph McCarthy 
We've finally become the divided states 
A nation built on freedom, fear, and hate, the denotation of Irony 

We all want a Hollywood end, but we're getting a foreign one 
The script has already been penned, and titled, "the epitaph of a drowning nation"

#8) Take a MinuteK’naan: Time has to be made to give thanks for what we’ve got; recognizing all the people who have provided for us and played a role in our continued existence. Some of those people are truck drivers, farmers, factory workers in Detroit & Elkhart, artists in Oakland & Baltimore, teachers, service industry personnel, health care professionals, contractors, artisans of fine cookware and china, musicians, law pros, activists, brewers, dockworkers, academics, poets, saleswo/men, athletes, and volunteers, et al; they are all important to our daily lives. Thinking about our fellow Americans as being a necessary component of life allows for greater appreciation of our shared experiences, joys & sadness, and our reason to progress. We have differences but we are not so different.

#7) What Do You MeanJustin Bieber: Along with Sorry, (Lo Siento) and Where Are Ü NowBieber will be lauded for his unintentionally written future-present political masterpieces. With each new Trump-Tweet aimed at “guiding” foreign policy, we will hear people, the world over, screaming, “WHAT DO YOU MEAN? HOW IS HE IN CHARGE OF ANYTHING?” And millions of people in Los Estados Unidos responding “SORRY! We didn’t really think it would get this bad; it could be worse…right?”  Knowing full well it really couldn’t be that much worse but practicing self-delusion as a means of self-preservation. After a brief moment of reflection, the phrase, “Where are you now will replay in our minds until we are snapped back to reality. 

#6) Yes We CanJohn Legend & will.i.am: We can. We will. We must. Remember that it’s about the long game. Short-term gains at the expense of long-term foundational achievements is neither prudent nor practical in the “business” of nationhood. We’ve done it before, we can do it again!

#5) Man In The MirrorMichael Jackson: “If [we] want to make the world a better place, take a look at yourself, and then make the change” None of us are perfect (shocking, I know). So put in the time, make those changes and then start having those hard conversations with your frenemies and others with whom you experience unpleasantries. Tell them, The Way You Make Me Feel, is not ok. And if that doesn’t work and you get the sneaking suspicion that They Don’t Really Care About ‘Us’, focus all of your energy on Getting Out The Vote! Some of the folks we’re going to be hearing from are Smooth Criminals and the only way to get rid of them is to vote out the Head Tweeter.

#4) I Hold OnDirks Bentley: It’s the message we need to hear everyday. Times will get tough (if you think we’ve already experienced the worst of it, Hold On!). The key is to remember that unless the world ends via nuclear holocaust (and I’m not denying the plausibility of that), this too shall pass. In the meantime, it’s going to be a rough ride; so buckle-up, find a little liquid courage if needed, and forge a path forward.

#3) No Woman No CryBob Marley: Considering it took us nearly 150 years (in this country) to figure out that a woman’s vote was just as important as a man’s vote, we shouldn’t be surprised that it will take at least 100 years to see the first woman elected President. 2020 would be a fine time to make that happen. We might think of it as a Redemption Song.

#2) What Goes Around…Comes AroundJustin Timberlake: JT will likely have several selections that make the year’s end Top 50 list: Cry Me A River (this will get more play as we approach November and buyer’s remorse really starts to kick in); Sexy Back (this is the song that will be put on repeat as we come to terms with the lack of class, dignity, and general civility that will be on display, from Day 1). As for the #2 hit of 2017, WGA…CA will be played by millions to remind the anti-Obama crowd, especially those who took delight in every obstruction put forth by the House and Senate, that the Golden Rule means what it says. 

#1) Fight The PowerPublic Enemy: Every Day All Day; use your “Voice” to bring attention where needed. This may come in the form of art, science, math, writing, history, sport, or just showing up and doing what you do, everyday. Fight for what is good. Fight for what is right. Fight for what is necessary. By Any Means Necessary.

In addition to those hits, several more songs will help us through this coming period of uncertainty. Additionally, make sure to take care of yourself in order that you may do your best to help get this country back on track. It’s going to take a real team effort and I know we’re up to the challenge.

Talkin’ Bout a RevolutionTracy Chapman:

Not Ready To Make NiceThe Dixie Chicks:

HurtNine Inch Nails or Johnny Cash

PepperButthole Surfers: (Listen to the lyrics and try to imagine different members of the 45th President’s administration in place of the fictitious figures. Not hard to envision these scenarios).

Happy New Year!

 

 

Lefse Making in Ladysmith

Minnesota & Wisconsin lefses, oddly, have an essence of tater-hot dish and cheesecurd, respectively.
Minnesota & Wisconsin lefses, oddly, have an essence of tater-hot dish and cheesecurd, respectively.

It’s lefse making time all across the Nordic and near-Nordic scapes. From Hamar, Norway, to Portland, Oregon, to Ladysmith, Wisconsin, and beyond, the aroma of griddled potato flatbread fills the air. The annual tradition signals the beginning of winter, the coming of the holidays (Christmas to Easter), and the realization that one’s weekly exercise routine may need to be doubled, or even tripled, if there is any hope of keeping the svelte figure that was chiseled summer last.

The grand old Gerard Hotel keeping watch over the Majestic Flambeau
The grand old Gerard Hotel keeping watch over the Majestic Flambeau

Lefse can be made year-round, if the humidity levels are low enough (or if you’re willing to add additional flour); but it is often affiliated with the winter months as a companion to dinners of lutefisk, and/or some type of Northern European meatballs, and/or rakfisk, smoked trout or salmon. The history of potato lefse dates back two-and-a-half centuries and flour lefse might go back before the age of the Vikings (not Bud Grant’s Purple People Eaters). If you’ve never tried this Scandinavian staple, and you’d be willing to dedicate parts of two days to crafting this treat, then the recipe below will guide you through the process.

A few items that help immensely: potato ricer, Christmas bread (for sustenance), mixing bowl, and old fashioned food mill for making fruit butter, etc. to accompany the various breads.
A few items that help immensely: potato ricer, Christmas bread (for sustenance), mixing bowl, and old fashioned food mill for making fruit butter, etc. to accompany the various breads.

First, gather the ingredients for making the lefse:

Beer: I prefer a darker style: Stout (Dogfish Head, LynLake), Porter (Dangerous Man, Smutty Nose), Belgian Quad (Brau Bros, Boulevard) or, if not dark, at least with more heft: Barleywine (AnchorLift Bridge), Imperial Red (Fulton, Lagunitas), Scotch Ale (Steel Toe, Dark Horse) or a robust Brown Ale (Mad Tree, Freehouse). And, seeing as though the beer is not for mixing into the potatoes, you can substitute wine or a nice cordial, whatever you like to sip on.

(1) 5 lb. bag of Burbank Russett potatoes (if you can’t find burbank, see what your grocer offers that is the driest potato—less moisture = better outcomes); this should yield 8-9 cups of riced potatoes, adjust following ingredients by pinches or smidgens if you end up with more or less; recipe will make approximately 2 dozen pieces

(2) sticks of unsalted butter – room temperature; do not substitute margarine and if you want to use lard, that’s fine, just go 80% lard, 20% oil, equivalent to 2 sticks butter (1 cup) (having never tried this, I’m going with what others have said)

(1) Tbsp, or thereabouts, salt (I use kosher—no iodine, and larger surface area means increased contact (with less salt) resulting in greater absorption of moisture, think geometry and chemical reactions); additionally, add at least (2) tsp of kosher salt in the water when cooking potatoes

≈ (1)Tbsp white sugar

(3) cups white flour (again, keep humidity in mind)

This recipe does not use cream or ½ & ½, as many others do, which does create a different, though not necessarily less authentic, version; it’s just our particular take (it’s more about the Love you bring into the kitchen). As an aside, The Sons of Norway don’t use cream either.

Second, gather the necessary implements

(1) pot for cooking 5 lbs of potatoes

(1) potato ricer or masher and forks if no ricer is available

(1) mixing spoon

(1)  1-cup measuring cup

(1) Large mixing bowl

(1) flour sifter if you want, not entirely necessary

Day 1 – peel potatoes, quarter potatoes, and cook as for mashed (until a fork easily pierces the flesh)

  • drain potatoes and then rice the entire batch (in the same pot); if you don’t have a ricer, use a masher, and then two forks to ensure you’ve removed all the lumps
  • once riced, transfer to larger mixing bowl (you may want to transfer by packing the measuring cup and counting so you know how many total cups you’re working with, or not)
  • add both sticks of butter (or lard & oil), salt, & sugar while the potatoes are still warm, and mix until well married
  • cool uncovered for 1½ -2 hours then cover with paper towel and then over the paper towel place a clean cotton dish towel and let potatoes rest over night, on a counter, not refrigerated (don’t tuck the towel in)

Day 2 – Prepare for lefse making by staging the following items: (here they are)

  • set up the lefse griddle/flat top grill (make sure your chosen surface heats to a minimum of 450°, 500° is optimal) 
  • lay out towels for steaming: 3-5 towels should be laid down for the lefse to rest upon, depending on thickness and ability to retain moisture (at least two towels should be akin to a flour sack dish towel-100% soft cotton, these are the towels that will contact the lefse, top & bottom) and another 2-3 towels should be placed on top to cover the lefse as it comes off the griddle, this is done for the steaming process
  • (1) wood pastry board, round is preferable but if you have another shape and it’s large enough to roll out the lefse (at least 20″ x 20″) you can use that, the lefse should roll out to a circular-type shape approximately 12″-14″ in diameter
  • (1-2) pastry cloth(s) that can be secured in a taut fashion over the wood board (having a backup is handy; if you begin to experience excessive gumminess or it is generally being disagreeable, change your cloth)
  • (1) good basic rolling pin with 2-4 covers → (“lefse cloth”/pastry cloth material)
  • (1) corrugated rolling pin (this is for finishing/design purposes)
You may use the corrugated rolling pin for everything, just make sure it is sheathed in the pastry cloth for the primary dough rolling
  • (1 or 2) lefse sticks; if you are employing multiple helpers, it’s nice to have an extra stick but don’t allow for any light-saber battles, they are rather delicate
  • (1) vessel of white flour (at least (2) cups) for dusting the board and the rolling pin
  • (1) small clean cloth stationed next to the griddle for wiping off excess flour in-between each flatbread
  • (1) ¼-cup measuring cup
  • (1) designated location to place your beverage(s)

Day 2 – Procedures

  • divide bowl into half, be as exact as possible but don’t buy a scale just for this, do your best
  • set aside one bowl with half of the potatoes, cover again with new towel
  • add half of the flour to the first batch and mix by hand, this is very important as you are kneading the flour into the potatoes until smooth, because you’re making bread, not potatoes (this will be repeated with the other ½ , post completion of 1st ½—hence, beverage preparation)
  • fill a ¼ cup measuring device (packed but not smushed) and then form the dough into a spherical-like shape and place it onto a plate or board (has to be able to fit in the fridge) allowing it to rest in fridge for at least 30 minutes

Commence with the lefse making

  • preheat griddle to 500° and reduce to 475°ish a few minutes prior to first round hitting the grill (continue to monitor/adjust heat as needed, older grills can be finicky)
  • work 2-3 Tbsp of flour into the pastry cloth (by hand) where the dough flattening will occur (this must be done to sufficiently minimize adherence of dough to cloth)
  • prior to every precious nugget of dough being placed on the board (including the first), lightly dust the rolling area with flour (approximately a Tbsp that is slightly heaping should be enough but adjust as necessary)
  • place dough onto board and give a pat, then turn over and push down slightly, this gives both surfaces an initial coat of flour to help keep the dough from sticking to the rolling pin or board
  • start rolling out the dough in short quick strokes of the pin (make sure the cover is on the pin), do not use too much force, just enough to get the dough spreading evenly; here (at the 5:30 mark) is a good example; and pick up the pin as you reach the edge or the fringe will be thinner than the rest of the “disc” making for an overly crisp outer ring
  • keep rolling into a roundish shape until quite thin, a millimeter at most (a dime is 1.35 mm, so thinner than a dime is the goal); if during the rolling, you find the dough sticking to the pastry cloth covered rolling pin, scrape the cloth clean and rub a little flour on the soiled spot, then determine if you need a little more flour on the dough/board or if you’re using too much force (easy, Arnold; repetitive bouts of scraping and flouring means you should replace your rolling pin cover); also, if you find that you’ve completely mangled the now defunct dough ball, just roll it back up, throw it in the fridge and come back to it, just try not to do that more than once to the same lump as the addition of too much flour will give you something that tastes more like a flour cake—no eggs, no butter, no vanilla, no bueno

This is a good time to point out that the most difficult part of the lefse-making process is preventing the dough from sticking to the board, or pin, or both.

  •  once the proper thickness has been achieved, give a quick 2-3 wisp-like rolls with the corrugated rolling pin (with or without a cover, for decorative purposes) very carefully slide one lefse stick under the flattened dough, pretending that you are following a diameter line (maximize surface area for even weight distribution) and gently lift the lefse and transport to the grill
  • gradually unfurl the lefse onto the grill by twisting the stick, don’t try to rush this, it’s not going to help if you’re picking at it to get it flat after tossing it on in a heap
The unfurling of the lefse
The unfurling of the lefse
  • allow lefse to cook for as long as it takes, you’ll know it’s ready to flip when you see smallish bubbles forming and the edges browning nicely; if this is taking more than 1 & ½ minutes, or less than 45 seconds, the heat needs to be adjusted to a warmer/cooler setting (485°/460°)
an exemplary piece of lefse
an exemplary piece of lefse
  • using lefse stick, again gently slide your saber under the mid-section of the half-done bread and using the same technique (twisting motion) place uncooked side down and wait another minute +/-, check it by peeking at underside, before taking it off
  • when lefse is done, remove with lefse stick and lay (still folded in half) on the bottom cotton towel and cover with top towels (& don’t forget to dust off any flour left on the griddle)
lefse laid out on the steaming towels, under the watchful eye of a Dangerous Man
lefse laid out on the steaming towels, under the watchful eye of a Dangerous Man

 

  • Continue to layer each lefse on top of the last, with about one inch showing on the top of the previous piece
  • When you are close to reaching the end of the towels, about 12-15 pieces, move up the first 10-12 so that they are almost entirely on top of each other, about 1/4 inch overlap, and then continue with the layering, moving up more as necessary; and don’t forget to keep the lefse covered, it needs to steam in the towels to retain moisture
  • Once you’ve finished the batch, allow them to steam for another 20 minutes before putting away (if it hasn’t already disappeared); Lefse keeps best in a sealed bag in the refrigerator. It’s good for a few weeks but we don’t usually wait to see how long it will last.

How to eat your culinary delight:

buttered, rolled, ready to eat
buttered, rolled, ready to eat

My preference is a modest spread of butter, rolled up, that’s it. However, many folk prefer a little sugar, brown or white, along with the butter. It’s also perfectly delicious solo, smeared with fruit butter, nibbled with cheese, or filled with meatballs, smoked salmon or gravlax. There is really no wrong way to eat lefse. It tastes delicious any-which-way you nosh it.

Additional information/tips for the artisans attempting this feat:

The import of dry arctic-like air from the region around Oslo, Norway (or Ladysmith, if their bottling line is up and running) can help artificially create conditions that are favorable for a successful lefse making venture (similar to what some bourbon drinkers do (importing limestone filtered water to supposedly enhance the experience). However, you run the risk of getting a package that was not properly sealed and has no return address, and then you are left with nothing to attenuate the humidity in the cooking area.

Rusk County's Dehumidifying plant responsible for much of Western New York's snow
Rusk County’s dehumidifying plant is responsible for much of Western New York’s snow

Ladysmith (and Rusk County more generally) is lucky, when it comes to lefse-making; with the semi-arid Flambeau River enveloping the village, and the dehumidifying plant that is situated neatly on the river’s edge removing even more moisture from the big drink in the Heart-O-The-North, much of the remaining pine forest dampness is removed and the resulting steam is sent off in the general direction of Syracuse, New York (so now you know why Western New York gets so much winter precipitation). This all adds up to create a near-perfect micro-climate for the lefse experience (much like Santa Barbara’s wine regions).

The Mighty Flambeau
The Mighty Flambeau

And for all those kitchen craftswo/men attempting this feat in-between Palm Beach County, Florida (from Belle Glade to Boca Raton) and St. Martin Parish, Louisiana (either region), you may need to seal off your workspace, install some dehumidifiers, and crank up the heat, in addition to importing the more arid form of atmosphere. Moreover, if you don’t have the World Champion lefse-maker (a.k.a. my Mom) helping you out (because she’s busy crafting lefse and other heavenly confectionery, in Fall Creek (which has it’s own semi-arid micro-climate, if less intense), Lefse Time and many many other useful sites/videos have you covered.

Good Luck with the lefse-making venture and let me know if you have questions: 26.3andbeyond@gmail.com

Skol!

 

 

 

 

Ideas, not-Resolutions, to Make 2016 Great!

Resolutions come like waves upon the shore, at this time of year. There are endless ideas of what to do, how to do it, how to make it last, and how not to give up, give in, or give out. I’ve never made a New Year’s resolution; I had a sneaking suspicion I wouldn’t make it to the gym after a couple of weeks, wouldn’t want to live a life devoid of donuts, ice cream, and beer, or couldn’t contemplate writing down all of the things I wanted to accomplish in the coming year—knowing it was an exercise in futility. What I do enjoy is reading other people’s lists of favorite things.

Watching the State of the Union with bubbly is always a good idea.
Watching the State of the Union with bubbly is always a good idea.

Top 10 lists (or top 20, top 5, etc.) are one of my favorite things to peruse when I have a few moments of spare time. Occasionally they are titled wrong (maybe, My Favorite Craft Beers would have been more appropriate) or seem way off base for a variety of reasons, and sometimes they are (in my opinion) spot on; but most often, I know far less about the list than the person/people who compiled it and I just enjoy learning about other folks’ favorite: restaurants/bars, state parks, tailgate traditions, music, bicycles, scenic drives, wines/beers, bad t.v. et al.  I’m sure that New Years resolutions and lists of things to: accomplish, avoid, start, end, learn, unlearn, and whatever else we can think of, will be read by millions of people over the next month. So as a kind of tangent to a “Best” list, I offer you 50 ways to make 2016 Great.

  1. Use common sense. This may be obvious in thought but that doesn’t always translate in deed. See # 2.
  2. Dress for the weather. This is unsolicited advice for anyone who is too cool to wear a hat when it’s -6° with a windchill of -23° (this applies to adults as well as teens).
  3. Try a new cuisine. Be it Indian, Ethiopian, Thai, or Mediterranean, try it, you’ll probably like it. And if you don’t, well, at least you won’t have to wonder anymore.
  4. Be really nice to a complete stranger. It makes them feel good—and nervous, simultaneously.
  5. Exercise your brain. Engage in civil debates/conversations with those who hold views with which you disagree. Try to understand why they feel the way they do and then explain your stance and how you’ve come to believe it. You may be surprised to find you have much more in common than you thought.
  6. Exercise your heart-Part 1. Walking, biking, swimming, x-country skiing, skateboarding, movement of some sort for some extended period of time at least a couple of times a week. And a glass of red wine each day doesn’t hurt.
  7. Help raise a generation of girls that are more concerned with wavelengths than weight, more interested in philosophy than hair styles, more connected to their community than to glorified images that are too often not representative of reality, and more invested in their social well-being than they are in the misinformation provided by the “experts” in the media and magazine trades. Girls’ obsession with body image and appearance is not healthy for them, psychologically, physically, or emotionally. Praise girls for their intelligence, strength, curiosity, independence, courage, determination, forthrightness, astuteness, wit, cunning, and perseverance. And tell them they are beautiful; not because of outward appearances but owing to the fact that they are wonderful & amazing & kind, & compassionate, & thoughtful. Reinforce, daily, the attributes that are truly the most important in the grand scheme of life.
  8. Laugh. You may need the assistance of Wanda Sykes, Richard Pryor, Aziz Ansari, Amy Poehler, or other comics, but don’t let that stop you. Laughing is an excellent stress reliever.
  9. Exercise your heart-Part 2. Love unconditionally. Don’t ask for or expect Love in return, just Love for the benefit of giving Love. It feels good.
  10.  Splurge on something you really enjoy. This doesn’t require the expenditure of hundreds or thousands of dollars. If you love coffee, grab a cup of Dogwood (Minneapolis), High Grounds (Baltimore), or Deeper Roots (Cincinnati), sit, relax, and savor it; be present for the experience.
  11. Jump around. You don’t need to be at a Wisconsin Badgers football game to do this. Just don’t do it in the middle of a really important meeting.
  12. Make fun of yourself. Nobody has ever achieved perfection (not even the Holiest of Holy figures) so why not make light of something you did that was not very bright. We are human, therefore we occasionally screw up. So long as you learn from your mistakes, it’s easy to look back and laugh.
  13. Spend a day, or three, without a screen. This includes p.c.s, laptops, phones, nooks, i-pads, kindles, apple watches, t.v.s and everything else. It’s quite interesting to suddenly notice the everyday events that you’ve been missing for years.
  14. Play a game. Even if you don’t particularly care for games or competition, find a few friends and play a game of Yahtzee, Scattegories, or Sheepshead.
  15. Meet a neighbor. This is happening less and less as we become more and more polarized and concerned with privacy. We isolate ourselves from anyone we don’t meet at work, church, or school. Who knows, you may live next to a brewer (bonus), baker (bonus), or Marine (double bonus).
  16. Go to your local bookseller (not Amazon) or library and ask an expert for a recommendation. Reading exercises the brain and provides the reader with new ideas and new ways to view the world.
  17. Shop small & local. Skip the superstores and get to know the business owners, and employees, at the little quaint/quirky places that make a community what it is.
  18. Make something delicious and drop it off at the Police Station or Fire Department. They work hard for the good of the community and don’t often receive accolades for their daily grind. Additionally, our society tends to forget that for every misguided act by a First Responder, a thousand outstanding acts are accomplished without any acknowledgement. Whether in Farmington, New Hampshire, Minnesota, or New Mexico, or anyplace not named Farmington, show them some Love; and while you’re there, get to know them by name, they’re part of your community.
  19. Volunteer at a school, nursing home, homeless shelter, animal shelter, or on a community project that is providing hope to all those who are experiencing difficulties.
  20. Dance. Fast or slow, the Whip/Nae Nae, the Dougie,  choreographed, or free-style, Celtic or Krump, two-step or Step Up (2). Don’t worry about looking foolish, just have fun.
  21. Make a card for someone. Birthday; Get Well; Congratulations! Whatever.
  22. Learn something new. The options for on-line learning are seemingly endless. Many are free or low cost and learning helps exercise your brain. Other options include: read a “how-to” book; volunteer at a business; or take up a new hobby; and once you learn the basics, practice, practice, practice.
  23. Make a plan to incorporate better work-life/school-life balance into your schedule.
  24. Go to a gallery opening or art museum. If you aren’t sure that you like art, google something that you like and add “art” to the end. Like, “fishing art“. Use the results to find an artist or gallery that is nearby or coming to your area.
  25. Learn about the issues & candidates for the 2016 election. If you choose not to vote, you give up your voice in the process (which is one way to communicate your belief that the politicians don’t connect with you). It’s not simply whether your chosen candidates/ballot measures win or lose, it’s about engaging with society and keeping democracy alive and well (even if we still use the electoral college for the top office).
  26. VOTE.
  27. Donate to a food shelf. There are organizations that supply human food (Baltimore, Minneapolis, Cincinnati, Kansas City, Orange County, Tyler, Lexington, Albany, Honolulu, Jacksonville, & Rusk County), to name a few, and places that supply pet food; do what you can to help.
  28. Help create and/or change policy. Engage with your elected representatives. Write a letter or email, call, advocate for a cause, help raise money, engage others in conversations and make your case.
  29. Teach someone how to do something. While much of our nation seems to have forgotten the importance of passing on information via individualized learning (apprenticeships, coaching & cultivation, guidance, training, whatever one chooses to call it), it’s hasn’t yet been erased from our collective memory. Help someone, young, old or inbetween, learn how to do the basics of a job. Look at it as an opportunity to carry your legacy forward.
  30. Thank Service Women & Men and Veterans, whenever the opportunity presents itself. If you’ve served, you know the deal. If not, be thankful for those who have.
  31. Find out the history of your community. It’s good to know why your city/county chose the figures they did, for commemorative statues and plaques. It’s also fun to learn about the immigrants/groups that first called your locale home; and learn about the events that have since shaped that place.
  32. “Barn’s burnt down, now I can see the moon.” Mizuta Masahide (Japanese Poet: 1657-1723) was telling people to find something good in whatever tragedy comes upon us. This doesn’t apply to every bad thing that happens. Some events have no upside—none. But many do.
  33. Don’t text or use social media et al. while driving. (refer back to # 1)
  34. Sports should be undertaken as a means of improving: physical fitness, discipline, hand-eye/foot-eye coordination, working as a team, camaraderie, & building character. Vince Lombardi’s adage about winning not being everything… only applies to athletes who get paid to play the game. When it comes to youth sports, specifically the highly organized type, try to remember that your child’s odds of making it as a pro are 1 in a really big number (#s vary depending on the sport). So encourage children to have fun, learn, and most importantly, understand the realities of competition (some kids are bigger, faster, stronger—due to genetics, drive, opportunity, & access). Likewise, parents should know when to back off and let their kids focus on other activities. It’s just a game.
  35. Don’t “Just Do It”. Think about the potential action and the consequences of said action, before engaging in it.
  36. Keep everything in perspective. Our world has enough drama. The person who didn’t clean out the microwave, make a new pot of coffee, or unjam the copier, didn’t do it to spite you personally. They are just not thoughtful or may be pre-occupied with a deadline, a family emergency, financial uncertainty, medical difficulty, etc., etc.
  37. Keep “context” at the forefront of every situation. Context is the main idea that is missing from so many highly charged arguments. If two people are talking about social security, one being a retired teacher, the other being a 30 year-old investment banker, they may talk in terms of “benefits” and “entitlements”, respectively. If they were to clarify why each uses the language they do, their conversation may be less heated and more productive. Politicians and each party’s base are often guilty of not understanding (and not caring about) the context before engaging in rhetoric.
  38. Rock the boat—just don’t capsize it. When you encounter situations that are obviously not in keeping with maintaining civility in the workplace or society at large, or are undermining the public’s confidence in the company/org/gov’t/partnerships, point it out and work to right the wrong. This is not easy, but then, what worth doing is? Recruit friends, co-workers, like-minded folk, to help (strength in numbers). Whether it be a loudmouth who is always injecting their thought into “a-to-b” conversations, equity in funding schools and programs, or gross negligence on the part of upper management, Do[ing] the Right Thing will make the community more civil, the organization more trusted, and the day-to-day routines more manageable.
  39. Re: -build; -use; -new; -cycle. Until we come up with a better way to use trash, we should try to cut down on it. Environmentalists shouldn’t be the only ones concerned with the long-term viability of our planet.
  40. Do things right the first time. When we half-ass a project, in order to spend time on another project, we often end up with two half-assed projects. This is: a) non-sensical; b) not efficient; & c) ends up creating additional work because we have to fix both projects.
  41. Strengthen your spirit. This might mean doing something you’ve been avoiding, because it’s not fun, or really time consuming, but once it’s done, your spirit is likely to feel a boost because the “job” is no longer hanging over your head.
  42. Support a local non-profit/charity. You might only have a few dollars to spare, or you might have a few thousand, either way, help out a charity that speaks to you. Lots of smaller charities are doing great work on budgets that are a fraction of what the United Way has.
  43. Love Yourself. This can be really difficult when things aren’t going well personally, professionally, spiritually… but remember, nobody is perfect. Give yourself credit for what you are accomplishing for self, family, work, and move forward with a renewed passion for life.
  44. Be nice to everybody (until they give you reasons not to be nice). Even people that are a-holes most of the time like it when someone is nice. We don’t know what others are going through so try to be nice for as long as possible. When you can no longer be nice, try to walk away and/or ignore the rude/hateful/angry/demeaning/childlike behaviors. If they persist, a quick splash of ice water in the face usually shuts them down.
  45. Be somebody’s “bootstraps”. The fallacy of pulling one’s self up by his/her bootstraps is alive and well. The problem with it is two-fold: 1) Nobody has ever gotten from “here” to “there” entirely via solo effort; 2) Some people don’t have “boots”, let alone the straps to pull them up. Bootstraps, in real terms, are the people that provide the education, opportunities, and access required to do anything in life. Parents/guardians, teachers, mentors, employers, co-workers, friends & extended family, and sometimes perfect strangers, play a role in helping us achieve success. The amount of success we achieve is determined by two connected notions: 1) our individual idea of success; & more importantly 2) the circumstances into which we were born. If you have the opportunity to help a person in any way, do so. Be a part of somebody’s “bootstraps” and see the difference (R.W. Emerson) you can make.
  46. Consider others’ feelings. The owner of the NFL team from Washington refuses to change the name/mascot of his team. He says that the term is used out of respect for Native Americans. And while it’s true that some First Peoples may not take offense with the name, many do. If you still aren’t sure about this and think it’s just being politically correct, imagine this scenario: People start calling your spouse/partner “ass-face”. Not because s/he likes the name, just because said people think it’s fitting. Some even say, “it’s a term of endearment and said out of respect for his/her smart-ass comments” (which doesn’t make any sense to you or your spouse). You really hate the name but can’t convince others to stop using it because they think it’s ok. The situation in Washington D.C. is different in-so-far as it pertains to several million people being offended, as opposed to one.
  47. Eat healthy. A lot of healthy foods can be expensive (almonds, wild-caught fish, extra-virgin olive oil, fresh cherries) or kind of expensive (granola, coconuts, blueberries, leaner cuts of meat, chia seeds, olives) but many aren’t (avocadoes, broccoli, peppers, onions, garlic, oatmeal, spinach, brown rice, bananas, sweet potatoes, milk, apples, eggs, fresh pineapple, ginger, & legumes of all sorts).
  48. If ever you are occupying a space that sits more than 10 feet off the ground and you overhear someone remark that they believe the “structural integrity of the edifice may have been compromised…” make your way to the nearest exit as quickly as possible, especially if they look like they know what they are talking about.
  49. Support efforts to end domestic violence
  50. Hold your own, know your name, & go your own way. (Jason Mraz-Details in the Fabric). If you don’t know who you are or what you stand for, figure that out. Don’t let others determine the arc of your existence. Some pretty wise Greeks told us to “Know Thyself“. If we spend our lives constantly conforming to others desires/beliefs, we are not truly living, we are merely surviving. I’m not saying “grab life by the horns and take control of everything around you”, rather, understand the person you are and embrace that being. Work on improving the aspects that you are unhappy with but don’t attempt to make sweeping changes to the self that resides within.

I hope you are able to take away a few ideas for the upcoming year and those acts/concepts make the day-to-day better in some small way.

May 2016 be Healthy, Happy, and filled with Wonderful Surprises.

Salute!

Woo-Hoo New Years!
Woo-Hoo New Year’s is here!

Minnesota Holiday Policies et al. etc., etc.

Employees of the Great State of Minnesota;

It has come to the attention of the Minnesota Total Management Team (MTMT or M²T² or 2M-2T)) that numerous organizations, firms, corporations (tax inverters, avoiders, & the rest), L.L.P.s, L.L.C.s, 501(c)(1-19, 21-23, 25-29),521(a), 527, governmental offices, and other outfits posing as legitimate businesses (forprofitnonprofits etc., etc.)have engaged in Holiday promotions and celebrations that do not adhere to the Holiday Codes of Minnesota (to include Hudson and La Crosse, WI & Fargo, ND) (established 15 December 2014) which read, in part, as follows:

Let it be known that all manner of Holiday celebration and/or promotion, both official (sanctioned) and unofficial (unsanctioned, and not encouraged by MTMT) to include parties, gatherings, get-togethers, happy-hours, luncheons, cocktail soirees, black-tie formals, cookie exchanges, neighborhood shindigs, affairs, bashes, wingdings, raves, and after-parties, and not excluding religious assemblies, meetings, conventions, rallies, turnouts, convocations, or any other reason for crowds, audiences, or throngs, to gather and engage in the gaiety of the holiday spirit as it relates to Hanukkah/Chanukah, Kwanzaa, Christmas, New Years Eve & Day, St. Lucia Day, Fiesta of Our Lady of Guadalupe, St, Nicks Day, and any other reason you may find for celebrating (promotions, raises, marriages, engagements, birthdays, births, anniversaries, bonuses (be they monetary, edible, or just good advice), Vikings above .500, Packers & Bears lose on the same day, et al.) shall be planned and carried out according to the Holiday Celebration & Promotion code book (2014)(hereafter referred to as HCPCB), chapter (3), paragraphs 1-74, to include all sub-sections, amendments, addendums, riders, attachments, and all other additions approved by M²T².
Oh Tannenbaum, Oh Tannenbaum; How lovely are thy branches.

General Holiday Festival Guide

The HCPCB was produced to ensure we remain vigilant in our efforts to ensure maximum profitability and fiscal responsibility for our most important stakeholders (Board Members and Shareholders (as opposed to steak-holders)) so that they may continue to move our economy forward. The past year is proof that these job creators (Board members and Shareholders) are having a substantial impact on our broader economic indicators (sales of: Yachts; Ferraris; Rolexes; 10+ carat rings with matching earrings, necklaces, & tennis bracelets; Lobsters (in Minnesota); and six week vacations to Las Vegas (please don’t judge them, these stakeholders are extremely important to a very small segment of our economy) have all increased between 0.05 and 2,500 percent) and the 10’s of 10’s of American jobs that have been created because of these sales increases are worth our pandering to their not truly substantial efforts.

Furthermore, the HCPCB covers appropriate apparel for both sanctioned and unsanctioned festivities. This is done in the best interest of employees as we do not wish to have coworkers attempting to show-off too much individuality as that can lead to further creative ideas and free-thinking which tends to lead employees down the road of anarchist tendencies (not to mention it goes against everything that standardized testing has prepared you for); and we all know what happened to that free-thinker, Sid Vicious.

One modification that will be inserted into next year’s printing and has been authorized for the 2016 Holiday season is the addition of green and gold patterns on sweaters (because that team kind of sucks right now). After much debate and reasoning with the CEO, CFO, COO, and CAO (Chief Apparel Officer), it has been decided that as long as the green and gold garb does not display any signifiers that would give the appearance of being supportive of the football team from Eastern Wisconsin, it will be allowed. As of this time, we are still not allowing anything that could be mistaken for supporting the following: Chicago Bears, Blackhawks, White Sox, Bulls, (Cubs are still OK, it took 108 years) NHL teams from DallasPittsburgh, and New York or NFL teams from Kansas City, Miami, Pittsburgh (we really don’t care for Pittsburgh athletics), and Oakland.

Additionally, in our commitment to providing Minnesota’s workforce with the Happ, Happ, Happiest Holiday season, we are pleased to announce the creation of a frequent flyer card (not to be used at any airline—anywhere—ever). Every time you go to any of the aforementioned Holiday functions, both sanctioned and unsanctioned, you can earn points by using your MN-HO-PA card (which stands for Minnesota Holiday Party Animal, not “Michael Nouri, Home Office-Panama“).

Points are accrued in multiple ways and we have come up with incentives to help you spend money (great for the State, and local, economy); Therefore, you can feel good about running up a big tab for overpriced drinks. Upon entering each event, points will be awarded (multiple entrances to the same event will not result in additional points—smokers, vapers, and scammers). Black Tie events, and those reserved for upper management will be worth 10-20 points more than other events (we think this is fair as upper management gets more stressed out making decisions), unsanctioned events will be worth only 1-2 points as they are unsanctioned and probably not very fun.
Food and drink purchases will also be worth various points but you won’t know how much each item is worth until after you buy it, just because. And finally, you can earn points by not driving to the events. Those that ride public transit of any sort will get five points per ride, those choosing to take a taxi will get 10 points, and anyone who can afford a limo will receive 50 points. We thought this was fair because if it costs more it must be better and we’re all about being the best we can be.

And, we didn’t forget about our valued employees who choose to live outside of Minneapolis & St. Paul proper (to include those in St. Cloud, Rochester, Austin, Brainerd, Duluth, Moorhead, International FallsMarshall, and Western Wisconsin). Because public transit is less convenient for you, we have made a transit waiver available. If you want to drive to & from events and still receive transportation points on your MN-HO-PA card, just fill out the online form and complete the short survey monkey questionnaire (shouldn’t take more than 45 minutes) so we know how many points to add to your card (based on year, make, model, color, and how many passengers you carpooled to the event; Think Green).

What do the points get you? Well, that’s the coolest part—nada; zip; zero. You just get to brag to your friends about how many points you’ve accumulated by going to 13 events in 14 nights and spending nearly $1000 on $10 egg-nog bombers (mixed with equal parts Kemps HollyNog & Karkov vodka, & finished with a sprinkle of a nutmeg like substance that may or may not be responsible for the rash on your tongue), $2-buck Chuck that ran you $11 a glass (yep, that really happened), and Kahlúa Christmas cookie shooters for $9 that didn’t taste like Kahlúa or Christmas cookies (nobody can actually describe the putrid taste but everybody orders more).

IMG_3739

Guide for the Holiday House Party

For those bashes taking place in the comfort of a coworkers home, we have provided guidelines on which comestibles are appropriate for Holiday snacking. Swedish meatballs, lil smokies, jello-salad shooters, tater-tot hot-dish mini-muffins, Wisconsin cheese (but say it’s from Stearns county, nobody will check), summer sausage, Old Dutch chips & dip, 1 or 2 (or more) varieties of Spam, crudités with extra ranch (and bleu cheese for “that guy“), olives (both green & black) the cracker trinity (Cheeze-Its, Ritz, & Goldfish) deviled eggs (but call them “execrable” eggs at religious gatherings and say it’s a Hebrew word for “Awesome”), beer nuts (only at events taking place in homes attached to bars, taverns, or public houses); and for our friends who like to get a little adventurous with their hors d’oeuvres, the following international treats are recommended (i.e. sanctioned): Pollo enchilada cream-cheese wontons (knock out two countries with one amazing dish), Hawaiian MeatballsMinnesota sushi (almost like the real thing, but not really… actually not even close, but if you don’t put it out until guests have 4-5 cherry-ginger whiskey sours, they won’t know the difference), Doro Wot (which can be picked up from several Ethiopian restaurants if you’re in/near the Metro), smoked salmon or trout (the Canadian variety, eh), lefse (the unofficial-official flatbread of Minnesota Holiday festivals), lumpia, and nachos. Any other international dishes must be approved by your HR (Holiday Relations) Holiday Sergeant (HRHS) (Do Not Mess with The Sergeant Major).

For dessert options: Bûche de Noël (don’t try to make this yourself, you’ll cry a lot, and drink a lot, and everything will be ruined), krumkakes (let your grandmother make these for you), Kolachis, gingerbread cookies, gingerbread cake with peppermint stick ice cream, gingerbread donuts, cutout cookies, chocolate covered pretzels, Holiday M&Ms, Hersheys Kisses, Mint brownies, mini pecan pie, and nutmeg B-52s for anyone not driving (clove cigarettes may be offered to pair with this drink).

Approved beverages consist of: Non-alcoholic: water, sparkling water, Coke (must be Mexican Coke if you are serving any of the approved international foods), Diet Pepsi, Squirt, Tab, Mello Yello, orange, cranberry, & cherry juices, egg-nog, hot cocoa, coffee, and Clamato. Alcoholic: Tom & Jerry’s, Grasshoppers, Holiday punch, Red, White, & Rosé wines (no Cold Duck or Boone’s Farm), Michelob Golden Light, Miller 64, Moosehead, and Coors Banquet (Minnesota brewed beers will be allowed, however, if any pictures of or references to said beers are placed on social media, we will revoke all future holiday party privileges from the host as our major sponsors, AB InBev, Molson Coors, & Moosehead have spent more than $300 million combined to monopolize market their brews to Minnesota’s Holiday Party industry, for the next 30 years) and brandy or rum, not both, for mixing with egg-nog or cocoa (not coffee).

You may make slight alterations to any of the approved recipes, however, you should check with your HRHS (The Sergeant Major will keep a list of who’s bringing what, how much, recommended serving size, caloric values, sugar, fat, protein, carbs, and whether or not it qualifies as having enough nutritional value to act as a substitute for dinner; Please, Do Not Mess with The Sergeant Major) prior to adding any spice as we don’t want to have an event with eight very spicy dishes and only one non-spicy or mildly-spiced dish. That wouldn’t be very neighborly. Moreover, the idea of a Holiday party is to experience the variety of the season and eight spicy dishes isn’t very variable.

Henceforth, the HCPCB should be consulted prior to any planning of any Holiday function. If an employee is unable to find an answer that is clear and satisfactory, we will have an 800 number staffed Monday-Thursday from 8:00 – 4:00 (read: 8:40 – 3:30) and Friday from 9:00 – 3:00, or thereabouts. Also, if partygoers arrive at any gathering and are confronted with a scent that has not been approved for Holiday events (douglas fir, frankincense, patchouli (only at head-shop parties), bayberry, gingerbread, buttered rum (must be serving the drink in addition to burning the candles), cinnamon, myrrh, woodsmoke, and cranberry clove) they may call the 800 number and leave a message and the host of the party will have points deducted from their MN-HO-PA account. We will not tolerate any sort of maverick-like antics.

Music should be tasteful and merry for the enjoyment of all your guests. Nothing that is too depressing (ex. Sting: If On a Winter’s Night), too Jazzy (ex. A Charlie Brown Chrismas), too light (ex. Barry Manilow: Because It’s Christmas), or too religious (ex. Sidewalk Prophets: Merry Christmas to You). To be safe, just enter “ABMolMH” into your Pandora account, and our musical guru (d.j. HO-MN-PA) will make sure your guests never ask “ummm, like, who picked that lame song?”.

In conclusion, we would like every Minnesotan (and their approved guests) to have an exceptional Holiday season that is filled with chic & classy seasonal decor, sensational scents and sounds that are reminiscent of your childhood Holiday galas, and spectacular food and drink that don’t result in acid reflux, scalded tongues, or excessive vomiting.

Happy Kwanzaa, Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Joyeux Noël, Feliz Navidad, & a Terrific 2017 to All!

Warmest Holiday Wishes!
Warmest Holiday Wishes!

 

 

Sincerely, & With Warmest Winter Wishes,

The Management of 2M2T

The Great Minnesota Get-Together—a.k.a. The Greatest Fair on Planet Earth!

Updated: July 2016     Links to State/County Fairs in all 50 States

The Minnesota State Fair is, by all accounts, one of the great Fairs worldwide. With an average attendance of nearly 2 million visitors, it ranks near the top for major expositions in North America and beyond. The spectrum of entertainment and attractions ranges from top-flight musical groups to hundreds of different varieties of flora and fauna (including the amazing renderings of crop art), food in jars, on plates, in bowls, and of course, on sticks. There are games & rides, specialty events/days that highlight various sectors of the State’s economy & heritage, and booths that provide insights on: gardening, art, installing a hot tub, brewing beer, wind power, Spam (a national treasure), and so much more. The fair has something for everyone.

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The famous Grumpy Cat.

Fairs are an important piece of what is known as Americana. Our state, regional, and county fairs, help remind us whence we came—as a society, a country, a rural-agrarian community that placed a high degree of importance on tradition; not simply for the sake of tradition, but because it provided a historical remembrance of how things were done, in the name of survival. And furthermore, it provided the learning that was needed for succeeding generations to improve on the way things had been done traditionally, giving rise to the advances that brought us hitherto.

Chicken-in-a-waffle-cone
Chicken-in-a-Waffle-Cone and Blue Cheese and Corn Fritz

These extravaganzas celebrate all things agricultural; and while every state has one or two products they are known for: (dairy in Wisconsin and New York, wheat in Kansas & North Dakota, swine in Iowa & North Carolina, rye in Georgia & Oklahoma, turkeys in Arkansas & Minnesota, grapes in California & Washington, beef in TexasNebraska, etc., etc.) it is common to see hundreds of different plant and animal varietals at the larger fairs. Agriculture is, of course, every fair’s raison d’être, but these gatherings have often attracted the ladies and gentlemen who are pedaling their wares, ideas, and technological advances that are going to “change the world“, and sometimes do. 2016 attractions include: green energy exhibits; water efficiency, sanitation/filtration, and sustainable management practices; and in Minnesota, the Eco experience.

Jars and Jars of preserved goodies.
Minnesota's finest Maple Syrup specimens
Minnesota’s finest Maple Syrup specimens

Minnesota’s state fair is not the oldest (started in 1859), that Blue Ribbon belongs to New York’s State Fair (1841), nor does it have the largest total attendance (Texas claims that title, however, the Texas shindig runs nearly two weeks longer), but Minnesota does have the largest average daily attendance. “So [its] got that going for [it], which is nice“. Furthermore, the MN State fair has Ye Old Mill, a non-vomit inducing ride that, in 2015, celebrated 100 years of floating Young, Old, and In-between, through the Tunnel of Love.

A short list of more amazing attractions at the Great Minnesota Get-Together includes: The Miracle of Birth Center; a cornucopia of free music and dance offerings; Food—a panoply of fried, non-fried, frozen, and, fluids (beer & wine & milk) for quenching one’s heat & salt induced thirst; Coliseum shows featuring horses, cattle, and dogs; the Northwoods Lumberjack show (drawing Lumberjacks from ArcataFlagstaffLadysmith, Nacogdoches, and Muskegon; the Agriculture/Horticulture building with everything from crop art to craft beer (and maybe the best ice cream in Minnesota (Sonny’s and Pumphouse are in this conversation as well)); Creative activities and animal competitions show off the best needlework, baked & canned goods, poultry, steers, sheep, landscape construction and much more original handiwork (K-12 & Visual Arts) and livestock showmanship (4-H & FFA); and the Midway rides and games (because no carnival is complete without vomit inducing rides and jumbo-sized stuffed-animals.

Somewhere at the Fair: post rain storm, pre-repacked street
Somewhere at the Fair

America’s State Fairs are an iconic symbol of our country’s agrarian past, present, and future. Our agricultural landscape has changed immensely in the past 239 years. Technology has allowed for the massive scaling up of farm operations and therefore the massive decline in the number of families engaged in farming. This mechanization was also undertaken in the processing/manufacturing of food. As the size of farms increased, so too did the size of the corporations buying the farmers’ wares. It is basic economic theory in action.

Crop art featuring the McNeely Conservatory in Como Park
Crop art featuring the McNeely Conservatory in Como Park

Economies of scale allow for more efficient use of manpower, physical space & machines, and capital. This production model has been the major contributor to the dwindling number of artisanal producers. However, with the resurgence of restauranteurs, small grocers, and school districts, across the nation, increasingly working with local small and medium size family farms, the artisanal method of handcrafting in small batches is returning. Add to this trend, the growing numbers of millennials who are taking interest in where their food comes from and how it is made and we can see the beginnings of a movement that will in some ways bring us full circle.

The Fair is a chance to interact with the members of our larger community whom we don’t see on a regular basis. Those families who engage in the practice of animal husbandry, horticulture, and agriculture, as well as the artists, vendors, politicians, and performers, who make our lives better by perfecting their craft and rewarding us with the products of their labor.

Get out to your State Fair, wherever you live; and if you want to take a trip to the Greatest Fair on Planet Earth, the airport code is MSP and Southwest just might have a deal.

Sweet Sweet Martha
Sweet Sweet Martha

A few more State/County Fair sites to check out

   Maryland                  South Dakota          Pennsylvania (Allentown Fair)

New Mexico                    Missouri                        Kentucky

      Ohio                          Mississippi                       Oregon

South Carolina           Bangor,Maine                    Arizona

    Florida                         Montana                          Illinois

Tennessee (Valley)           Utah                         New Hampshire

 Rhode Island                Wyoming                        Vermont

  Colorado                      Louisiana                      Connecticut

  Alabama                  Massachusetts                   Michigan

West Virginia        Idaho East & West                  Indiana

   Hawaii                         Alaska                            New Jersey 

  Virginia                     Delaware                             Nevada