{ Minnesota State Fair 2019 }

My husband saved his tips from driving Lyft so we could do the fair this year. ❤️

0After cruising up and down St. Paul streets and finally nabbing a parking space, we noticed the 1-hour parking sign. So we moved the car a few blocks away. Now, we needed a potty stop and we still had a one mile walk before we actually got to the Fairgrounds.We ducked into the nearest coffee shop for that potty stop, which ended up being the Finnish Bistro. 

 

 

finnish

While we were in line to order, a man came up to us and said, “Whatever you order, it’ll be good. Everything’s good here.” I had a Pulla latte, laced with almond syrup, nutmeg and cardamom. It was the most flavorful coffee drink I’ve ever had. 

 

St-_Anthony_Park_Branch_Library_2013-09-30_23-41-19We passed the quaint St. Anthony Park Library.

(Note to self: when you have time to spare, come back to the Finnish Bistro and check out the St. Anthony Park Library. What a cute little corner of St. Paul.)

After hiking east, we discovered that in the two years we’d skipped the MN State Fair, they had relocated the pedestrian entrance. More hiking.

(This sounds like a lot of hassle, but it’s always worth it. The Minnesota State Fair feeds, spins and entertains more people per day than any other state fair in the U.S.)

We bought our tickets, got our bags checked and finally added ourselves to the 2019 first-day-at-the-fair record attendance number of 133,326.

We joined the crowd-stream and landed at the Farmer’s Union, where Blueberry Key Lime Pie was a newcomer on the menu…but I just couldn’t pay $8 for this teeny tiny pie.

blueberry key lime pie

Did I mention we didn’t have a lot of cash? This can be a challenge at the MN State Fair. It’s taglined: The Great Minnesota Get Together, but another apt subtitle might be: The Great Minnesota Smorgasboard, because it’s. food. galore. here. 

And ya know…it’s kinda pricey.

There’s a brighter side of forced frugality: it makes you think: Do I really want this? before choosing. 

Though I ended up saying no to the blueberry key lime pie for $8, later on I ended up saying yes to the deep-fried bacon-wrapped-cream-cheese-filled olives for $9.

state fair mn olives

 

 

And it was worth it.

 

 

 

roasted corn2We stopped off for my husband’s go-to annual pick: roasted corn.

Roasted corn, held by its natural wrapping, earns points for frugality ($5).

Plus it’s nutritionally sound. (yawn.)

My husband had the best deal of the day: The Boss Man sandwich at The Hideaway, a cute little nook tucked inside the Grandstand. With shaved prime rib and hearty egg topped with melty white cheddar on ciabatta, $9 seemed like a steal. 

And then we did the cheap stuff:

  • Got our glucose levels checked, ate ice cream samples, and exchanged our personal information for free carabiners and shaker bottles. 
  • Sat and listened to music.
  • Watched people, people and more people.
  • Browsed the Creative Activities building for free beauty and inspiration. 

We also took in the amateur talent contest semifinals, the  #1 essential thing we never miss at the fair. Our favorite act: MKDC. They are an energetic, talented, charismatic K-Pop group who wowed the crowd, took first place, and advanced to the finals. 

21,588 steps later, we left the 2019 Minnesota State Fair with some cash still sitting in our pockets! 

 

 

 

big wheel
One of the tallest traveling giant Ferris wheels in North America is coming to the Minnesota State Fair! The Great Big Wheel carries riders to a height of 156 feet, offering breathtaking views of the State Fairgrounds and beyond! The 15-story-tall Great Big Wheel is equipped with 36 enclosed gondolas each holding six people. Don’t miss the spectacular lighting display as the sun goes down!

 

 

 

 

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{ About August }

In the life of an aging year, August is the cheerful-going-gray-stage. Decay is in the air and birds are empty-nesters. August’s garden is full of hearty thorns that cannot be rooted out easily — and she is too tired to try.

June works hard to stay attractive, but August knows better. She’s seen the storms and wind and hail and hungry insects. She shrugs and makes do. She’s got beauty: the below-skin-deep and low-maintenance kind. It’s easy-care and comfortably hospitable; visitors pop on by for a nibble, then fly to new homes.

August weeds are reckless vines, unruly thistledown and flyaway milkweed. Her ready-to-drop flowers are barely holding on to dried, patchy blooms.

August grooms herself casually — if at all — and without a mirror.

She lays back, tanned and wrinkled, as she watches summer’s finale with a satisfied, tired smile.

 

{ The Wizard of Oz Made Me Cry }

I asked my husband out on a date.

I told him, “We’re going somewhere special. I’m treating.”

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So, I brought him where he could eat his kind of food (keto)

at my kind of price (Chik Fil A).

Next, we drove to a high school production of The Wizard of Oz. 

Tickets were free (also within my budget)…

…but the performance was priceless.

~~~

Theater For All was started at a local high school by a theater arts teacher and a special education teacher.

They teamed up to offer theater classes and performance experience to

students with special needs.

Each actor or actress in The Wizard of Oz was paired up with a non-disabled counterpart. They did their parts together, with the assistant dressed in black “shadowing” the actor who was disabled.

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The Wicked Witch of the West in her wheelchair, paired with her counterpart.

Dorothy, carrying Toto in a basket, was dressed in a blue gingham dress.

The counterpart Dorothy was dressed in black, shadowing the other Dorothy with a face full of encouragement and a posture that gave her partner center stage.

What made me cry?

  • Hearing Dorothy belt out “Over the Rainbow” from her heart, gripping her partner’s hand, and glowing when the audience whooped and cheered. (The audience clapped and cheered throughout the play — for each song, group number and solo.)

 

  • Watching the earnest Tin Man in his wheelchair beg for a heart. He was clear, sincere and charming.

 

  • Seeing Glinda (the good witch) ad-lib with her counterpart. While Glinda only mouthed her lines, she watched her partner speak them loudly. Suddenly Glinda, with her braids and pink chiffon dress spilling over the wheelchair, leaned over and gently touched her partner with her star wand, insisting:

I love you!

I love you!

I love you!

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The standing ovation was well deserved. We applauded the courage and enthusiasm of each actor with special needs.

We were deeply moved by the servant-like support of each non-disabled actor.  It was clear they were up on stage simply to make the other actor successful.

The event was an visual of loving others without seeking personal glory.

~~~

Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves…Philippians 2:3

Thank you, Theater For All & Edina High School Thespians

 

 

Wicked Witch photo by S. Magnuson

Glinda image from Pinterest

 

{ Graduation Open House }

jello

Rain delayed.

Volleyball played.

Pasta prolific.

Helpers terrific.

Talkers lingered.

Cake samplers fingered.

Colorful jello.

Balloons golden yellow.

No more papers

No more books

Lots of teacher’s

Happy looks

My son

Got it done

By God’s grace

Now? Finish the race.

~~~

© Lisa M. Luciano 2019

 

{ Closed Doors and Open Windows }

Life is a series of closed doors and open windows. And open doors and closed windows.
Then, there are doors that you thought were open that shut abruptly in your face.

On the other hand, doors you thought were locked can be surprisingly easy to kick open.
And occasionally, a tightly closed window will fall open, unhinged, enrapturing your soul.


Why write this?
In a desire to avoid a traditional Christmas letter, I still want to look over the year thoughtfully and learn the lessons I’ve been given. That’s what you do when you are fifty-plus. You learn that it’s worthwhile to spend 30 minutes reflecting, so that you can avoid months of making the same mistakes.

Or to be more honest, if I don’t write it down, I will forget.

January 2018 began with some confusion and a closed door. It brought the opportunity for us, as imperfect parents, to seek wisdom from the Wisdom Giver and use it to give sage advice. It’s a humbling tightrope to tiptoe upon, but asking, seeking, knocking and walking in faith will always get you to the destination God has for you.

When a door slams, the breeze it creates can heal and cause growth.

June brought another graduation, which means pasta and purple-frosted sheet cake. I leafed through old photos, amazed at how God closes precious doors at the same time He offers those looming, open windows. They lead to who-knows-where and it’s a little scary. But He is holding our hand as we slide our way through them.
Summer 2018 days were traditional and new at the same time:

  • Swimming lessons in a different pool.
  • Beach trips to new local shores.
  • New project ideas at the same old county fair.

The garden was stingy with tomatoes, but generous in zinnias, bees and butterflies.

Then came a wide open window, a chance to see an old friend after many years. That meeting was unexpected & sweet.
Summer ushered us gently into fall, so we basked in apple-bounty and we crafted on a shoestring. New doors opened for my husband and his job shook up our schedule, but it also gifted us with new stories and opportunities.
In November we celebrated Turkey Bowl #19. My husband is almost 60 and runs around a football field with such agility that his fellow amateur athletes think he’s 35. I will continue to thank God for my husband’s good health, even as I get out the Tiger Balm and Epsom salts.
And shortly after we hosted new friends for Thanksgiving, I looked at my kitchen with fresh eyes:

We have lived here for 20 years. It’s time to give this place a face lift.

  • I am shutting the proverbial door on those faded chicken curtains and poultry art in general.
  • I am ready to toss threadbare towels and lose that bright yellow bathroom.

(These are the types of Home Decorating Mission Statements that I hope will propel me through 2019.)
So, paint chips have been secured, walls stripped bare of rooster paraphernalia and Pinterest has been feverishly scanned. I hope next year’s recap will include some home decor success stories.

Still in 2018, we have a son who is following an idea, a dream, a possibility. It’s progressing; it’s full of many little steps. And if — after all the steps — this son finds a closed door, it will be okay. The hallway he walked down has been worth it.

Sometimes a closed door gives you the oomph to scale a ladder and pry open a window, where you find something better.

And sometimes, you just pivot, re-trace your steps, turn the corner and look for another inviting door to try.

Oh, I forgot the books.

Books and audiobooks (new & old favorites) inspired and entertained us in 2018:

In 2018, we saw new babies born and sick marriages die. People entered our lives and our church, and people exited. A dear family moved miles away and started a new chapter and we are happy for their open window…but it looks a little like a closed door on our side.

And still in 2018, our peers became in-laws and grandparents and we were reminded that we are all getting older. This happens slowly–and never in our hearts — but always in the mirror.
Well, I’ll end here for now — unless I God opens a window in my brain and reminds me of something important I forgot.
© Lisa M. Luciano

Photo credits:

white infinity doors:Filip Kominik

colored locker doors:moren hsu

blue windows:Paul Fleury

{ Substitute Babysitter }

The Hillstroms from church needed a babysitter and my daughter couldn’t do it after all. She wouldn’t export her runny nose and annoying cough into the already stressed Hillstrom home.

Linzy was going to meet her husband Matt for marriage counseling, and their six active kiddos needed energetic supervision.

So I approached their country home, not knowing what to expect. I had never been there; never helped out. I was a little sketchy on all their names and I was out of my comfort zone.

First, we plunged into backyard hide-and-seek. Between games, we paused for show-and-tell breaks, like when Riley showed me his recent bow-and-arrow injury and Jojo pointed out the onions poking up in the garden. Then we returned to our crouched positions under the pine tree or behind the bikes in the shed. I huddled with the little ones, who squirmed and rustled and ruined the hiding places. Then we started all over again.

Suddenly, everyone grabbed their bikes, trikes and scooters and soared freely along the dusty, rural road. I strolled the baby, ready to redirect the parade if a car came along.

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I employed my former public school teacher’s voice and relied on 20+ years of motherhood to cope with minor scuffles and occasional sibling rivalry.

“Linzy is a good mom,” I thought as I served the meal on the stove to her happy, helpful kids. The able dish-doers scaled a wooden bench to reach the sink and finish the cleanup.

Next, Annie informed me of the house bedtime rules with a serious, spaghetti-stained face:

“You read us stories. And we can snuggle with our blankets. And then we brush our teeth.”

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As we wrapped up the bedtime routine, I thought:

“When was the last time I just played and read stories with my own children for 3 hours?”

It had been a busy, but pleasant evening.

When Linzy arrived home, I thought it was over.

But the next Sunday, I was assaulted with warm embraces and surrounded with sparkly smiles.

I was suddenly the famous, beloved babysitter of just one evening.

I had run around barefoot in the backyard.

I had read books and given hugs.

I had learned their names and the house rules.

And for these small things, I would be paid with loving looks for the rest of my life.

That’s a pretty good deal for a substitute babysitter.

(c) Lisa M. Luciano

Photo Credits:

Country Scene — Julian Schöll

Books — Robyn Budlender

{ This Week in Pictures }

 

Bowls cover breakfast eggs, lovingly scrambled by a repentant Mama. (She had barked at her little boy when he asked her three times if she remembered her promise to make him an egg in the morning.)

Ms. Road Construction looked so fetching in her hat and trousers that I had to snap a photo.  What else was there to do for ten minutes while we waited in line?

My dear daughter is celebrating her 23rd birthday tomorrow. “Where has the time gone?”

We invited some dear little people to play with us last week while their Mama went out to lunch.  Back when I had my babies, I didn’t have such an awkward time getting up & down off the floor. Back then, I didn’t have to grab my reading glasses to see what the puzzle looks like. I have missed these little happy little folks who give you the opportunity to get down on the floor and make animal noises.

 

{ Summer Thoughts & Quotes }

Summer, in essence, is gone and it was packed with whimsy, struggle and adventure.

Road construction started on the very first day of swimming lessons on the very road we needed to take to get there.  We reached our destination through other dusty byways.  We met a family, made new friends and the young swimmers learned how not to sink in deep water.

Our power went out only once.

My older son discovered fishing and it became his new addiction hobby.

We didn’t go to the State Fair.

We were poor this summer and it was good. We found cheap food and visited the library, where you can always feel rich.

God sent work.  And He sent helpers, like people we know from college that are now employed in an appliance store and they are willing to give you free advice and discounted parts to fix your 10-year-old dryer so you don’t have to hire a handyman.

Gifts like these were real and we were grateful.

A daily summer job meant the boys made their own lunches every night, left in the early morning and sometimes forgot to tell Mama they had plans for the evening.  Dinner sat smoldering and so did Mama’s countenance as we plowed through these and other minor challenges.

We talked, we compared calendars, we conquered.

The growing of adults and the path to maturity doesn’t happen in one, exhilarating swoop. It happens in all the teeny tiny day-to-day ways.

It helps to have the attitude of love and patience toward one another. When I look back over my lifetime, I hope I will see a steady — if sometimes detoured — path of growth, maturity and the stripping away of petty, unimportant expectations of others.

As a parent, I can’t make everyone do right all the time.

But I can, by God’s grace, make it a goal to be a good example and ask forgiveness when I’m not one.

Beyond that, I just need to pray for my growing ones. As God poured patience on me in my young adulthood, so He will with my young adult progeny, who are pilgrims on their own pathway.

A few quotes from Summer 2018:

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“I like to smell the runners as they go by.”

– Jonny said it at the August 2018 half-marathon in St. Paul

 

corn field

“All this corn everywhere….it’s so depressing.”

– Gino said it on a late summer drive through Wisconsin

tofu

 

Hanna, my vegan daughter, said: “Where’s my other tofu?  I know I bought two.”

I said:  “Keep looking – it’s there.  Nobody would snitch that.”

 

Photo Credits:

Runners:Mārtiņš Zemlickis

 

 

{ 7-Green Summer }

IMG_20180830_145116Summer was dewy mornings and mossy smells and strident cicada songs. Its scenery was a scrim of seven different greens.

Hot and slow days became beach days. We sifted sand through content toes, then raced into the lake again.

Steamy, sweaty work and walks alternated with trips inside chilly stores and brain-freezing smoothies.

Now, tomato plants are curled up in the fetal position, but the zinnias are gaudy in their prime.

Their tiered blooms offer fast-food to uninhibited hummingbird moths.  I watch their straw-tongues sip, then zip! They are gone.

Weedy tree-fruits tangle together and creeping vines shroud the trees.

The sun sinks into a humid horizon and crickets lullabye summer to sleep.

He has made everything beautiful in its time. ~ Ecclesiastes 3:11

Photo by Gino Luciano