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Right Out of a Story Book

Traveling from Interlaken to Lucerne

How lucky we were to be able to travel along and have each step of our trip be more beautiful than the last. Now, even a short time after our travels, while looking at pictures, it’s like every photo was taken straight out of a story book.

As you can see from the pictures above, the countryside is quite beautiful. We traveled by train from Grindelwald back to Interlaken and then to Lucerne.  Lucerne was the biggest town we visited, yet we were able to see a lot on our walks about town.

City of Lucerne

One great find was Lucerne’s parish church, the Church of St. Leodegar. It was built in parts during 1633 to 1639.  There certainly was a lot of detailed work to appreciate here.

A very nice day of weather greeted us when we went on a boat ride on Lake Lucerne. Guests can listen to an audio tour where they learn about the castle, dragons, and some interesting legends.

Lake Lucerne

We enjoyed our stay at the Wilden Mann, a historical hotel that has been in business since 1860. The other hotels where we stayed had been around for a while too, but those rooms had been updated and modernized.  This hotel kept its historical flare.

Lucerne Wilden Mann Swiss Restaurant

Lucerne Wilden Mann Swiss Restaurant

The Wilden Mann has two restaurants: French and Swiss.  We had dinner at the Swiss restaurant with traditional Swiss furnishings.  The waiter took our order and then delivered bread and a tiny salad with fresh tomatoes and cheese.  I also had the asparagus cream soup, which was not super thick, and came with a bit of mango salad.  The meatloaf was served with a red wine sauce, mashed potatoes, and asparagus.  My husband had the sausage with shoe string potatoes, and onions wrapped in bacon.  We topped it all off with a chocolate cake dessert which was served with strawberry “soup” and topped with whipped cream and carmelized sugar.

Though it looked like our trip was straight out of a story book, the best part was exploring all these little towns and going on an adventure together. It was a great way to celebrate a special wedding anniversary.  🙂

An anniversary is a time to celebrate the joys of today,
the memories of yesterday, and the hopes of tomorrow. ~Author unknown

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Jell-O Soup

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When I was a little kid, Mom used to take me to the Forum Cafeteria in downtown Minneapolis for lunch. Sometimes we would meet one of her friends or it would just be the two of us.

“Mom, I want a hamburger. What do they call it here?”  I would always ask, my nose barely reaching the counter while I pointed up at the tray of patties.

“Tell them you want ground beef,” Mom would say. It was a deliciously seasoned patty that came with mashed potatoes, gravy, and a vegetable.

“Make sure you order the Jell-O, too,” Mom would remind me. The Jell-O came in evenly cut squares, shaped like a brownie.  They put the Jello-O in its own separate bowl.  We carried our trays over to one of the little tables close to the cafeteria line and were able to see the front entrance.  The place was always abuzz with clanking dishes and echoing conversations.  It wasn’t only a good place to eat; it was a great place to visit to look at the Art Deco decor.  The floor was black and white checkers, the lights sparkled down towards us, and the decorative mirrors surrounded us.

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The Saxe Bros. of Milwaukee built the bulding in 1914. The Saxe Theater was intended to be the best theater in the country to watch motion pictures.  By 1916, the theater name changed to Strand.  Then by 1929, the Forum Cafeteria Co., of Kansas City, signed a lease and converted the space into a restaurant.  The Forum Cafeteria was in business from 1930 until 1975.  It re-opened under many different names after 1975, as a disco or other restaurants.  An article in the StarTribune gives a good history of the places that tried to make a go of it after the Forum Cafeteria closed.

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This photo was taken after a renovation.

Even though I appreciated the Art Deco at an early age, the best part of the experience was when Mom and I acted silly when we were eating lunch. It was the only place where we took mouthfuls of Jell-O squares and swished it around to make Jell-O soup.  Even though the giggles escaped while we swished, we kept all that Jell-O inside.

Mom and Me Picture

Little memories like that can make your day a happy one.

Mom, when thoughts of you are in our hearts, we are never far from home.
~Author Unknown

The Gifts and the Memories of the Money Jar

Great Grandma VG with her Great Grandchildren (Left)
Great-Great Grandma with her Great-Great Grandchild (Right)

A year ago in March, our family got together for a Sunday meal. Five generations ranging in age from 103 years old to the new little one who was born the month before.  My husband’s grandmother had become a great-great grandma, and others got new titles too, so there was much to celebrate.

I made Great-Great Grandma’s (aka Grandma VG) favorite salad that day, one that I had made many times before. Grandma VG loved that cabbage salad and always raved about how delicious it was.  Grandma VG named the ingredients one by one with each bite she took.  The sunflower seeds were at the top of the list.  The salad is full of flavor and doesn’t get boring probably because of all the butter, oil, and salt it contains!  On that Sunday in March though, Grandma VG didn’t comment about the salad and that was a sign to me that she wasn’t feeling like herself.

Whenever Grandma VG came over before she turned into a great-great grandma, when our kids were little, she always brought along her money jar. We’d have our same routine.  Grandma came into the house, took off her wrap, greeted all of us (even Music, our dog, who loved her too), and asked us how we were doing.  We visited for a while, ate dinner together, and when we were done, Grandma went to get her purse.  She asked all the kids to gather around our kitchen table, and she pulled out a little jelly jar filled with coins.  The kids’ eyes lit up and she told us how she went shopping, and this was her leftover money.  Grandma VG loved to shop and liked to look at the new styles.  Most times she had a story to share about something she found interesting or new with the mall or something she found.

The kids would remember whose turn it was to count out the coins. The coins got divided up into three even piles with even amounts.  If there was anything extra, it went back in the money jar.  “We’ll save that for next time,” Grandma would say.  I always thought this was a great way for the children to learn how to count money and how to share, and I bet that was Grandma VG’s plan too.

Around this time last year, Grandma VG passed away. After her funeral, Matt, our youngest, inherited the money jar.  It only contained a few coins, but it held a lot of memories.  Grandma knew how to make people feel special.  One thing that always made me feel special was when she introduced me to others as her granddaughter, who I was by marriage, but she rarely mentioned the marriage part.  We miss her and her stories.  We still love her, and we’ll hold that love close and guard it, just like we’ll hold close the gifts and memories of the money jar.

Death ends a life, not a relationship. ~ Jack Lemmon

And now, here’s the recipe:

Cabbage Salad

2 packages of coleslaw mix
bunch of green onions, chopped
2 packages Ramen noodles (chicken base), broken up
½ cup sunflower seeds
1 small package slivered almonds
½ cup butter

Brown chopped green onion, noodles, sunflower seeds and almonds in ½ cup of butter on low heat.

Dressing:

1 cup salad oil
3 teaspoons soy sauce
packets of chicken base from Ramen noodles package
2/3 cup sugar

Mix dressing ingredients, pour over coleslaw mix and onion, noodles, and nut mix. Can be prepared ahead; mix with dressing just before serving.

Leave a Trail

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A couple of Saturdays ago, it snowed about six inches, and the thought of walking the dog on Sunday seemed like a challenge. I knew the sidewalk to the park was not plowed yet, but I put on my boots with the yak tracks and set off with Lila by my side.  As we walked along the snowy path, there was only one set of people tracks made by a person with smaller boots than mine.  It looked like the person marched through the snow lifting their knees with each step.  I tried to follow the footsteps because it would be easier than making my own.  The person who had gone this way before me did not appear to drag their feet.  I tried to do the same.

Lila didn’t worry about following someone else’s tracks. She walked and ran along and made her own path and didn’t care about ruining the blanket of pristine snow with her scattered trail.  Every so often, she stopped and put her nose straight in the snow in search of whatever had caught her attention.  When her snout was out from underneath the pile, her face was speckled with white flakes, and I wondered how she could tolerate that cold up her nostrils.  It didn’t bother her because she continued to do that all along the way.

Traveling was easier when we finally got to the plowed part of the park. Lila stayed to the side to walk on a tiny path of snow.  A lot of people were walking that afternoon enjoying how the fresh snow made everything spotless.  The clouds were light and fluffy too, drifting by like a summer day.

Lila was excited when we got back to the snowy path leading us on our way home. The path I’d followed about 45 minutes earlier was still there, but someone had walked over the tracks I made.  Even though we walked farther along the same way, I did not see the crisscross pattern of my yak tracks.  Every step was covered by someone else’s, but Lila’s tracks were where she left them.

Even if a path has already been made, we don’t have to follow it, even though it might be easier. Sometimes we have to make our own new tracks.  Be like Lila, and make your own trail.

Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where
there is no path and leave a trail.  ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

The Right Amount of Sweetness

Every Saturday when I was a kid, my mom made pies – two pies of the same flavor – to be exact. The kinds of pies Mom made were blueberry, apple, cherry, rhubarb, pumpkin, or lemon meringue. She used the same two glass pie pans. As she rolled out the dough on the wooden board in our kitchen, I watched sometimes, but didn’t quite get the knack of making a crust like Mom made. It was flaky on top and crunchy on the edges. When my fork dug into a piece of Mom’s apple pie, tiny flecks of cinnamon could be seen in the juice of apples that had baked away. Each remaining apple chunk was the same size and each bite melted in my mouth. The rhubarb was just as nice as the cherry and blueberry.

The fruit and pumpkin pies were Mom’s specialty, and then she experimented by making lemon meringue. The lemon was tart and made my mouth water and pucker up underneath my cheekbones. The meringue reminded me of clouds floating up to make mountain peaks, and the taste was just the right amount of sweetness to blend with the lemon and chase the tartness away.

It would be nice to get a taste of any one of those pies today because no store or restaurant can top the flavor of what Mom used to make. I never became good at it myself because it seemed like such a chore. A pie crust needed to be made, and it had to be an even thickness and in a circle to fit a pie pan.  Apples needed to be peeled or pumpkin had to be cooked (yes, she really made it from scratch), and an entire hour would have to pass by before the pie was done baking. Mom would always laugh and tell me it was so easy to make a pie crust! To me, the entire process seemed like so much work and the pre-made crusts at the grocery store weren’t the same.  Plus, what had been created disappeared faster than the effort.

I wonder if I ever really appreciated that labor of love when I was making Mom’s creations disappear. Even if I forgot to thank her for the pies, I bet she knew we loved the treats by how fast we made them vanish.  If I can drum up a little patience, I’ll bake a pie and hopefully it will taste just as good as Mom’s. I just have to remember to use the right amount of sweetness.

I think careful cooking is love, don’t you? The loveliest thing you can cook for someone
who’s close to you is about as nice a Valentine you can give.
~ Julia Child

America the Beautiful

Today is the last day of Macy’s annual flower show in downtown Minneapolis.  This year’s theme is America the Beautiful.  There are displays of flowers or plant life from every region of the United States.  As usual, the scenes were beautiful.

Bachman’s replaces some of the flowers, such as Daffodils, Hyacinths and Tulips, to keep the flowers looking fresh.  Each year, more than 65,000 people visit, and it’s always on my list of things to do in the spring.  Seeing the flowers gives us hope for our gardens as we wait for flowers to bloom.

Earth laughs in flowers.  ~Ralph Waldo Emerson

Helping Us Celebrate Christmas

Flexible Flyer

It was only a short ride, and after we got out of the car, Dad pulled the sled along. When we got to the edge of the hill, the hill going down looked huge to me.  There was a lot of snow, and many people were sliding down the hill while others were walking up the side to go back down again.  Everyone looked like they were having fun.  Dad sat on the Flexible Flyer, and I sat in front of him.  I wasn’t scared because Dad was holding on to me very tightly.

“Are you ready?” he asked. I must have nodded my head which was covered in my little white cap.  The cap was as fluffy as a lamb and had a little doll’s head sewn to one side.  I wore my red boots that were wide opened at the top so my snow pants could fit inside.  Dad pushed the ground with his hands and we slowly went over the top of the hill. Suddenly we were flying down the snowy path.  Dad still hung onto me while steering with his feet by using the wooden bar in front. Little flecks of snow hit me in the face, and the ride gave me a feeling I didn’t like and never felt before.  It seemed like something was fluttering around in my stomach.  Those butterflies were trying to catch up – they bounced up and down with each bump in the hill, and I wished they would disappear.  I held my breath and decided to just look at my boots until we got to the bottom. I thought if I focused on something, I wouldn’t get even more dizzy.

“Wasn’t that fun?” Dad asked me after we got off the sled. He bent down to look into my eyes.  “Do you want to go again?”

“No,” I said. I didn’t cry, and I know I didn’t think it was fun, and I told Dad.  He was disappointed I didn’t want to go again.  Scary rides or feelings of butterflies in my stomach were not for me at the age of four.  As I followed Dad back up the hill while he pulled the sled along, I was so glad we weren’t going to use the sled again. Now, when I think back, it’s a wonder we flew down the hill as fast as we did. Those old Flexible Flyers are made from solid wood and steel and probably weigh at least thirty pounds. Those sleds are antiques now.

When my brothers cleaned out my parents’ garage, neither one of them wanted the Flexible Flyers. I took them mostly because I couldn’t see us getting rid of them for sentimental reasons.  Luckily, a friend of mine told me how she decorates her old sled and sets it out on her stoop as a Christmas decoration.  After I found a picture of a decorated sled on Pinterest, I went to the craft store and bought some fake foliage, ribbon, and bells.  I used a bunch of floral wire to keep the decorations in place.  When I finished the project, I was pleased how it turned out, but I couldn’t figure out where to put it without having to rearrange the entire house!  Eventually, the sled ended up sitting in our entryway.  Now that big old sled decorates a corner of our home helping us celebrate Christmas while bringing back some fun memories.

Next year, I might decorate the other one with gold ribbons and bells. I’ll just have to figure out where to display it!

Merry Christmas!