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Archive for August, 2011

2011-08-22 18.02.04

MN State Fair Button, MN State Fair, St. Paul, Minnesota, August 2011, all photos © 2009-2011 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.


The Minnesota State Fair kicked off last week and for the first time since 2007, I am writing my annual State Fair piece after attending the Fair. That means I can speak from the voice of experience (that, and the fact that I spent 11 solid hours tootling around the fairgrounds last Saturday). 2011-08-27 13.50.14This year there are over 80 foods on-a-stick; I recommend the Teriyaki Chicken on-a-stick from Chan’s, a new vendor for 2011. Liz and I shared the combo and topped it off with The Original Minneapple Pie smothered in cinnamon ice cream.

Of course, the Minnesota State Fair is about more than food, or the debut of Peach Glazed Pig Cheeks On-A-Stick, so our State Fair posts are always chock-full of history. Last year we covered F. Scott Fitzgerald’s A Night At The Fair, Ye Old Mill, and artist Debra Frasier’s debut of the Alphabet Forest at Baldwin Park. Debra is back again this year and you can read more about her work at her official website. Or check out red Ravine dressed in her State Fair alphabet (yes, that’s me standing a letter behind).

In 2011, the Minnesota State Fair celebrates its 100th Fine Arts Exhibition (over 2300 pieces were submitted in 2010). In the past, I’ve written about the history of Princess Kay of the Milky Way and the Butter Queens (2011 marks the 40th year sculptor Linda Christensen has carved their likenesses out of butter); Minnesota State Fair poster artists; mascots Fairborne and Fairchild; and the 2011-08-27 14.24.13 autotradition of Tom Thumb Donuts. To change it up this year, I’m going to focus on the integration of the Smartphone and digital technology into the State Fair’s 150-year-old traditions. When the past meets the present, you get a gleaming new Minnesota State Fair Smartphone App and the Minnesota State Fair History Tour on your mobile!



Minnesota State Fair Smartphone App & Mobile Web Site


I was thrilled to download the new Minnesota State Fair Smartphone app on my Droid this year (also available for iPhone) a week before I attended the Fair 2011-08-27 15.57.58. All the information I needed was right at my fingertips. The Food Finder is organized alphabetically (or you can search by food item). When you click on a vendor, all details of that vendor are listed, including a Show Map feature that pins their exact location on the2011-08-27 14.14.49 auto fairgrounds. Other tabs include Merch Search, Fun Finder, and a colorful digital map. We used the app constantly during our 11 hour visit. Oh, and if you don’t want to download the app, you can visit the Minnesota State Fair Mobile Website with Google Maps integration. I’m grateful to Liz for pointing me to the new app. If you have a Smartphone, I encourage you to go paperless!



Minnesota State Fair History Walk & Cell Phone Tour


Liz and I had a blast listening  to sounds of the Minnesota State Fair’s past on the new 13-stop cell phone tour. By calling (877) 411-4123, you can hear recorded history narratives from your cell phone (or any land line), or use your Smartphone to locate QR codes, and brush up on State Fair trivia while you shuttle to the Fair’s 2011-08-27 15.11.44 autogate. We downloaded a bar code scanner app on our Droids, scanned the QR code (Quick Response code for Smartphones) at each information board, and Whoosh!, we were jetted right to the history page for that stop. (If you press the Like button at the bottom, a link is also added to your Facebook page so family and friends can follow your tour!).

The Minnesota State Fair History Walk & Cell Phone Tour offers a fun 2011-08-27 14.57.03 and engaging way to learn about State Fair history and explore all corners of the grounds. When you complete the self-guided tour, you receive a prize (I won’t say what it is!) at the J.V. Bailey House or (before 8pm) at the Minnesota Historical Society’s booth on the first floor of the Grandstand. Tour brochures are available at information booths and the 13 tour stops. The tour is presented by the Minnesota State Fair Foundation and the Minnesota Historical Society.



_____________________________________________________________

Spaghetti & Meatball Dinner On-A-Stick, Fried Fruit On-A-Stick, Macaroni & Cheese On-A-Stick, Bull Bites, Deep Fried Tater Tots On-A-Stick, Grilled Shrimp On-A-Stick, Vintage Kids & Fair Food!, Leprechaun Legs, MN State Fair, St. Paul, Minnesota, August 2008, all photos © 2008-2011 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.



MN State Fair – Foods On-A-Stick


Our Minnesota State Fair post wouldn’t be complete without the annual foods on-a-stick list. Here’s the 2011-08-27 17.43.36lineup for 2011 (the Sweet Corn Ice Cream really hits the spot). If you are looking for the location of specific foods at the Fair, here’s a link to their FoodFinder with a map of the Fair (0r use the Smartphone app I wrote about above!). The Minnesota State Fair runs through Monday, September 5th. 2011-08-27 17.49.10 autoAnd if you happen to eat just a little too much, feel free to visit the brand new 5,500 square foot restroom with 51 sinks and 75 shiny white toilets where many of the 22,000 rolls of toilet paper are used up at the Minnesota State Fair. Above all else, ENJOY!

  1. Alligator Sausage on-a-stick
  2. Baby Potatoes on-a-stick
  3. Bacon (Fried) on-a-stick
  4. Bananas (chocolate covered) on-a-stick
  5. Beef Kabobs on-a-stick
  6. Bologna (deep-fried) on-a-stick
  7. Bomb Pops on-a-stick
  8. Breakfast Lollipop
  9. Butterscotch Cake on-a-stick
  10. Candy Apples on-a-stick
  11. Candy Bars (deep fried) on-a-stick
  12. Caramel Apples on-a-stick
  13. Caramel Apple Puppies on-a-stick
  14. Catfish on-a-stick
  15. Cheese on-a-stick
  16. Cheesecake (chocolate covered) on-a-stick
  17. Chicken on-a-stick
  18. Chicken Teriyaki on-a-stick
  19. Chicken Bites on-a-stick
  20. Coffee (frozen) on-a-stick
  21. Corndogs on-a-stick
  22. Cotton Candy on-a-stick
  23. Custard on-a-stick
  24. Espresso (frozen) on-a-stick
  25. Fruit (fresh) on-a-stick
  26. Fruit (fried) on-a-stick
  27. Fry Dog on-a-stick
  28. Fudge Puppies on-a-stick
  29. Gyro on-a-stick
  30. Hot Dago on-a-stick
  31. Hot Dish on-a-stick
  32. Hot Dogs (wrap) on-a-stick
  33. Jerk Chicken on-a-stick
  34. Key Lime Pie Dipped in Chocolate (frozen) on-a-stick
  35. Kufta Kabob on-a-stick
  36. Lamb (leg of) on-a-stick
  37. Macaroni & Cheese on-a-stick
  38. Marshmallows (Chocolate-dipped) on-a-stick
  39. Mashed Potatoes (deep-fried) on-a-stick
  40. Meatballs (porcupine wild rice & ground pork) on-a-stick
  41. Meatballs (Greek) on-a-stick
  42. Meatballs (Scotch) on-a-stick
  43. Meat Kabobs on-a-stick
  44. Northwoods Salad on-a-stick
  45. Nut Roll (chocolate-dipped) on-a-stick
  46. Pickles on-a-stick
  47. Pizza on-a-stick
  48. Pizza Kabob on-a-stick
  49. Poncho Dogs on-a-stick
  50. Pork Chops on-a-stick
  51. Pretzel Dog on-a-stick
  52. Pronto Pups on-a-stick
  53. Sausage on-a-stick
  54. Sausage and Cheese Stuffed Jalapeno Poppers on-a-stick
  55. Scotch Eggs on-a-stick
  56. Shrimp on-a-stick
  57. Shrimp (grilled) on-a-stick
  58. S’mores on-a-stick
  59. S’mores (deep-fried) on-a-stick
  60. Spaghetti & Meatballs on-a-stick
  61. Spudsters on-a-stick
  62. Steak on-a-stick
  63. Taffy Pops on-a-stick
  64. Tater Tots (deep-fried) on-a-stick
  65. Texas Steak Dinner on-a-stick
  66. Texas Tater Dog on-a-stick
  67. Tornado Potato on-a-stick
  68. Turkey Tenderloin (bacon-wrapped) on-a-stick
  69. Turtle Puppies on-a-stick
  70. Vegie Fries on-a-stick
  71. Vegetable Kabobs on-a-stick
  72. Waffle (Belgian) on-a-stick
  73. Walleye on-a-stick
  74. Wild Rice Corndog on-a-stick
  75. Wonder Bar (chocolate-dipped ice cream) on-a-stick


Total Number of Foods-On-A-Stick: 75*


New Minnesota State Fair Foods In 2011
(including *6 new foods on-a-stick not on list above)


• Breakfast Lollipop (sausage patty dipped in corn muffin batter, deep fried and served on-a-stick with a side of maple syrup)
@Axel’s, located on the southeast outside corner of the Food Building
• Carnitas Asian Fusion Taco (pork carnitas served on a flour or spinach pepper, and topped with Asian sauces)
@San Felipe Tacos, located in the Food Building
• Chocolate Covered Jalapeno Peppers on-a-stick (a hot and spicy confection)
@Andre’s Watermelon, located on Underwood Street next to Ye Old Mill
• Coushari Rice with Lentils (rice and lentils with Holy Land sauce, served with a side of pasta or fried onions)
@Holy Land Deli, located inside the International Bazaar, southeast corner
• Crab Fritters (crab meat, Caribbean herbs and spices with veggies all rolled and deep-fried into a fritter, served with a side of southwest dripping sauce)
@Ollie’s Crab Fritters, located on the corner of Underwood Street and Murphy Avenue
• Deep-Fried Cookie Dough (fresh cookie dough coated with a sweet batter, deep-fried and sprinkled with powdered sugar)
@Sonny’s Spiral Spuds, located in the Food Building
• Dirt Dessert (Oreo cookies, vanilla pudding, whipped cream, cream cheese and gummy worms)
@Spaghetti Eddie’s, located on Cooper Street and Dan Patch Avenue
• Fresh Fruit Wrap (sliced fresh fruit wrapped in a soft tortilla shell with a sweet and creamy cheese spread)
@Fried Fruit, located in Carousel Park east of Grandstand Ramp
• Grilled Yankee Apple Pie & Chocolate Sandwich (Minnesota grown apples sauteed with spices and topped with chocolate, grilled in Brioche bread)
@Moe & Joe’s, located on Judson Ave. by the CHS Miracle of Birth Center
• Jamaican Jerk Fries (french fries dusted with Harry’s own Jamaican Jerk seasoning)
@Harry Singh’s Caribbean Restaurant, located in the Food Building
• Mexican Horchata Beverage (cold drink made of rice, almonds, cinnamon, vanilla and sugar)
@El Sol Mexican Food, located on the southwest outside corner of the Food Building
• Minneapple Pie (homemade deep-fried apple pie served hot with vanilla or cinnamon ice cream)
@The Original Minneapple Pie, at the corner of Judson Avenue & Underwood Street, north of the Dairy Building
• Northwoods Salad on-a-stick (a caprese salad-mozzarella cheese and grape tomatoes on-a-stick with dressing and served over a bed of Minnesota wild rice)
@Giggle’s Campfire Grill, located on Cooper Street and Lee Avenue in The North Woods
• Pizza Kabob on-a-stick (three individually flavored Green Mill Pizza rolls served on-a-stick)
@Green Mill, located near the Baldwin Park Stage
• Pretzel Dog on-a-stick (a hot dog baked in pretzel dough, served on-a-stick)
@Der Pretzel Haus, located on Liggett Street, in front of the Horse Barn
• Sweet Corn Ice Cream (cream-based ice cream with blended sweet corn kernels, served in a waffle cone with a choice of wild blueberries or caramel bacon topping)
@Blue Moon Dine In Theater, located at the corner of Chambers Street and Carnes Avenue
• Teriyaki Chicken on-a-stick (served with fried rice, egg rolls, and spring rolls)
@Chan’s Concessions, located on Judson Avenue near the Dairy Building
• White Razzie Puppies on-a-stick (Belgian waffle with white chocolate baked inside, then dipped in dark chocolate and drizzled with raspberry sauce)
@Granny’s Kitchen Fudge Puppies, located on the outside west wall of the Food Building


State Fair photos on Flickr.


-posted on red Ravine, Tuesday, August 30th, 2011

-related to posts: double Ferris wheel haiku, MN State Fair On-A-Stick (Happy B’Day MN!), On-The-Go List Of Must-Haves (MN State Fair), Nightshot – Carousel, MN State Fair On-A-Stick II – Video & Stats, food on-a-stick haiku

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2011-07-17 18.56.13 yes

World’s Largest Sandhill Crane – 29/52, BlackBerry 52 — Week 29 Jump-Off, Steele, North Dakota, July 17th 2011, photo © 2011 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.



On a July trip to North Dakota, we exited off I-94 to fill up with gas in Steele, North Dakota. Across the street, next to the Lone Steer Cafe (formerly a bustling Greyhound bus station), a 40-foot sandhill crane stood grazing in the grass. Sandy, the World’s Largest Sandhill Crane, was built in 1999 by Arena, North Dakota resident James Miller. The sculpture weighs 4.5 tons and is constructed of rolled sheet metal welded onto a steel inner frame. It was built in three separate sections — the body in one section, the neck and head in another, and pipes fitted to make the legs.

Residents of Steele, North Dakota erected the giant sandhill to call attention to the fact that Kidder County is one of the best birding destinations in North America. The Coteau Rangeland of North Dakota, commonly known as the Prairie Pothole Region, is an area of glacial potholes located in the direct path of the migration flyway making this area a favorite spot for migratory nesting birds, including the Sandhill Crane. To the west, Chase Lake National Wildlife Refuge, established as one of the country’s first wildlife refuges in 1908 by executive order of President Theodore Roosevelt, is the largest American White Pelican rookery in North America, where thousands of pelicans nest each spring.

North Dakota artist James Miller, creator of the World’s Largest Sandhill Crane, died October 17, 2002. According to his obituary in the Bismarck Tribune, Jim and his wife farmed north of Arena from 1955 until retiring in 1991. He created metal work sculptures in his shop and invented his own version of “Miller Bilt” hydraulic presses, along with everything from two wheeled trailers and wheelchair ramps to yard ornaments, docks, crystal radios, and even a steam engine. His art live on in 26 states throughout the country.


-posted on red Ravine, Monday, August 22nd, 2011

Lotus and I will continue to respond to each other’s BlackBerry Jump-Off photos with text, photography, poetry (however we are inspired) for the 52 weeks of 2011. You can read more at BlackBerry 52 Collaboration. If you are inspired to join us, send us a link to your images, poetry, or prose and we’ll add them to our posts.

-related to posts: WRITING TOPIC — ROADSIDE ATTRACTIONS,   dragonfly revisted — end of summerfirst dragonfly, Flying Solo — Dragonfly In Yellow Rain, Shadow Of A Dragonfly, Dragonfly Wings — It Is Written In The Wind, Dragon Fight — June Mandalas, sticks for legs and arms

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By Sandra Vallie



It’s hot, pushing 100, and I have to wait until it’s cooler to water the heat-sapped garden. Until it’s cooler, or dark, or 7 pm, the time the city allows watering – whatever measure I decide today is the tipping point where the amount of water soaking into the sand is greater than what the bone-dry overheated air is sucking up into itself. In the house, safe out of the sun, I’m anxious looking at the heat-limp plants across the yard. Corn leaves curled into points, drooping tomato plants and cucumber leaves flat against the ground. I know the plants are well-watered; some of what I see is self-protection and some a part of the taking up and giving off of water. As soon as the sun moves further toward the west and I carry water to the plants through the hose, the leaves and stems will fill with water and this limp spread of green will become plants again.


I’m from Michigan and this is my first year trying to grow vegetables in New Mexico. I pretty much planted the garden twice because I hadn’t learned that we can still have below-freezing nights even when the temperature in the day is 80 degrees. How much water is too much and what is enough. Why, when I asked the woman at the nursery about gardening in New Mexico, she told me to not even try. Half the plants I put in my son’s yard last fall didn’t make it through the winter, falling to the cold and what I haven’t learned yet.


For 20 years, I watched peonies, lilacs, tulips, hosta, coneflowers, azalea, iris, daylilies and butterfly bushes grow tall, wide, and fragrant. Lush. Luxuriant and juicy. Moisture in the air reflected the hundred greens growing around the yard and the air glowed. Lettuces, green, red and purple, came in the spring, followed by peas and beans that reached across the raised beds to share the poles supporting plants and pods. Tomatoes grew so fast and heavy they kicked away their cages. Cucumbers ran across the garden to the corn and climbed high enough I could pick the fruit without bending over.


I exaggerate. A little. Lush it was, very different from my yard here, each plant holding to its own space, as if each one feels it deserves only so much water and so many nutrients from the spare soil. I’ve never seen plants grow so slowly; at first it’s almost as if each morning they decide whether or not to push up, out, forward, just one little bit. As if they know that growing higher will put them closer to the sun and they’ll be hotter. My plants in Albuquerque work harder than plants in Michigan. In this place where there is so much space, where I finally feel I can be as big as I am, exuberant, joyful, expansive and – well – lush, my vegetables appear so tentative and afraid.


Cactus spread, although I don’t know that I’ll ever call them lush. There are several in the neighborhood I’m drawn to, even a couple I’m lusting after for their deep, almost hallucinatory red-purple blooms or their improbable flowers, yellow and ten feet above the plant their stalk grew from. Cactus, though, and weeds like the silverleaf nightshade, the most prolific plant in my landscape cloth- and gravel-covered yard, are what led me to write a few years ago after a visit: “Everything green here bites.” I know I’m never going to embrace a cactus or walk barefoot across the goatheads and foxtails to get to them. I yearn to load my arms with heavy-headed peonies and stargazer lilies that are deep enough to serve soup in, although I’m afraid I’d have to drain the remaining water out of the Rio Grande to do it. Before I moved here I asked a friend if I could grow roses in Albuquerque. “You can grow anything you want in Albuquerque as long as you can afford the water.”


The roots of my grandmother’s peonies I carried south are in pots out back, not growing. Soon, not yet, I’ll have to admit what I know and stop watering. I didn’t have time before we moved last fall to lift lilies or divide a few coneflowers. The rose bush by my bedroom window, though, is the same as the one that died in my Michigan garden a couple of years ago, my grandmother’s favorite. There are green tomatoes on the plants and sooner than I know they’ll be full and red enough for dinner. Lush is changing, from the huge bushes and plants that grew in the Michigan rain to the sound of water rushing through the garden hose, the sight of it spreading around the watermelon plants and at the feet of the raspberries, the corn leaves unfolding as the still skinny stalks draw up water from the soil, and the gratitude I feel that I have water to grow food with. The air may not be green from the plants, but the sky is crystal blue. While I’ve written this, it has become late enough to head outside to water and the first flowers on the cucumber plants have opened today in the heat.




_________________________




About Sandra:  My fairly recent move from my job and life in Michigan to Albuquerque, New Mexico, has opened up the opportunity (for which I’m gut-wrenchingly grateful) to write in spans of hours instead of stolen minutes. Although I’ve written mostly poetry in the past few months, I’m enjoying the process of exploring different forms for different subjects. I’ve been fortunate to have a community of encouraging and creative writers in the Albuquerque Ink Slingers, a local Meetup group, and my husband’s graceful willingness to live and work in 100 degree temperatures.


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DRAGONFLY cutout 2011-08-10 17

Dragonfly Revisited – 33/52, BlackBerry 52 — Week 33 Jump-Off, Golden Valley, Minnesota, August 10th 2011, photo © 2011 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved. Medium: Original Droid snapshot of a dragonfly on our front window at the end of Summer, August 2011. Altered in Photoshop Elements.






A month ago Thursday, a road trip West, dragonflies swelled the North Dakota skies. Hundreds of dragonflies, one place. Everywhere—
we stopped; winged clouds of a prehistoric past.

Another Full Moon, a long day at work. Head bowed, walking toward the door. There, in the wind, completely still. Dragonfly, tucked under the lip of the window eave. Inside, outside, everyside. Luck follows Dragonfly. Dragonfly follows the dreamtime.

In time, I dream.






-posted on red Ravine, Tuesday, August 16th, 2011

Lotus and I will continue to respond to each other’s BlackBerry Jump-Off photos with text, photography, poetry (however we are inspired) for the 52 weeks of 2011. You can read more at BlackBerry 52 Collaboration. If you are inspired to join us, send us a link to your images, poetry, or prose and we’ll add them to our posts.

-related to posts: first dragonfly, Flying Solo — Dragonfly In Yellow Rain, Shadow Of A Dragonfly, Dragonfly Wings — It Is Written In The Wind, Dragon Fight — June Mandalas, The Sketchbook Project, haiku 4 (one-a-day) Meets renga 52

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MANDALA 3 2011-08-06 15.54.26 TRIM c

Labyrinth Mandala At The Aquarius Full Moon – 30/52, based on a Yantra from 18th Century India, BlackBerry 52 – WEEK 30, July 25th, 2011, photo © 2011 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.


Medium: Drawn by hand with a black Staedtler archival pigment ink Fineliner on Canson Mix Media XL Series 98lb drawing paper. Colored & collaged with Caran D’Ache NeoColor II Water Soluble Wax Crayons, Sharpie Medium Point Oil-Based Opaque Paint Markers, Sharpie Fine Point Marker, archival photo corners. Photograph taken with a Samsung DROID.


I am sitting still with the Full August Moon at my back. She is high in the sky and refuses to yield to darkness for the the annual Perseid meteor shower. I am undaunted. I know the light from these stars, guessed to be fragments of Swift’s Comet from 1862, will shoot across the heavens, even if I can’t see them in the night sky. As above, so below.

Aquarius the Waterbearer seems like a good sign for a Full Moon (progressive and objective with a crystal clear antenna-like reception of universal intelligence). When I opened the Boundary Waters calendar I bought at the LilyPad Picnic this year, it said that the August Moon was called Miinike-Giizis by the Ojibway — the BlueBerry Moon. The August Full Moon is also known as the Drying Up Moon, the Grain Moon, the Green Corn Moon, and the Yellow Flower Moon, depending on what part of the world you may live.

The Sabbats Almanac claims that the seasonal Lammas Full Moon in Aquarius reflects back to us our relationship with the collective. It is a good time to focus on community, groups, and our hopes and wishes for the future. Aquarius is also the sign of the rebel or iconoclast, so themes may arise that focus attention on unusual issues or people. At the individual level, it’s an auspicious time to notice what we have to offer to our communities and what we might release in order to fully participate.


Two good questions to ask at this time:

1) How do we allow our own need for space and independence
to not hold us back from connecting more with the group?

2) What can we do to create more space and independence
for ourselves so we aren't sacrificing too much of our
individuality for the sake of the collective?


The Full Moon shines the light of awareness on the answers and helps us to understand patterns and dynamics that we may need to release during the dark Moon cycle to come. To celebrate the individual within the group, it is a time to show gratitude for the qualities that each member brings to the table. How does each person in your community shine? Maybe they have a generous heart, excellent communication skills, clear boundaries, or a good sense of humor. Tell them in an email. Call them and leave a voice mail. Mail them a card. The three-day window around the Full Aquarian Moon creates space to show gratitude for the intricate pieces that make up the circle’s whole.

Circles within circles. I created this mandala last weekend after a full and busy month of July. Some days were filled with joy; others pushed me to the limit. All are necessary to grow beyond who I am. I have been studying the circle archetypes of the labyrinth and the mandala for years. A few weeks ago, Liz bought me a birthday present, a book of Sacred Symbols edited by Robert Adkinson. I was immediately drawn to the chapter on the Mysteries and a mandala from 18th century India, a Yantra for the cosmic form Vishnu.  The script around the circle is from the Dhammapada and states:




In the light of her vision
she has found her freedom:
her thoughts are peace,
her words are peace,
and her work is peace.




Peace. It’s right there, yet just beyond our reach. On a final note, if you follow skylore, there is a tidbit about Perseus at EarthSky: the Perseid shower commemorates the time when the god Zeus visited the mortal maiden Danae in the form of a shower of gold. Zeus and Danae became the parents of Perseus the Hero – from whose constellation the Perseid meteors radiate. Perseus, you are beyond sky worthy, a flying, not fallen hero — I’m counting on you.



-posted on red Ravine at the Full August Blueberry Moon, Saturday, August 13th, 2011, with gratitude to Lotus for her labyrinthian inspiration

Lotus and I will continue to respond to each other’s BlackBerry Jump-Off photos with text, photography, poetry (however we are inspired) for the 52 weeks of 2011. You can read more at BlackBerry 52 Collaboration. If you are inspired to join us, send us a link to your images, poetry, or prose and we’ll add them to our posts.

Labyrinth Mandala At The Aquarius Full Moon (Detail) -related to posts: Ears Still To The Lonely Wind — Mandala For RabbitFlying Solo — Dragonfly In Yellow Rain, Shadow Of A Dragonfly, Dragonfly Wings — It Is Written In The Wind, Dragon Fight — June Mandalas, EarthHealer — Mandala For The Tortoise, ode to a crab (haiku & mandala), Eye Of The Dragon Tattoo

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I’m staring at the leftover box of Mrs. See’s chocolates. When I lift the lid off the pure white box with the gold script, I see there are five pieces left. Well, make that four and 3/4, one with a bite out of it. One of the three of us must not have liked the flavor. Now I’m thinking of my mother-in-law who boarded a plane for Wyoming this morning. The See’s was a gift from her the first night she arrived in Minneapolis. If I remember correctly, she has three layovers and may not be home until very late. She flies into the Twin Cities once a year to see Liz. Her brother flies in, too. I look forward to their visits. We go out to eat, a play at the Guthrie, watch a few movies. It feels like a vacation for me, too.

I’m wondering what flavor Mary See has left in the box for me. I just took a nibble. Hmmmm, chocolate flavor bursting on the tongue. It is nutty, minced nut with a hint of almond? Creamy, and milk chocolate, my favorite. I run my tongue over the back teeth to grab every morsel. There is a patch of chocolate stuck to a filling. A nut wedged between two teeth. I have maybe three bites left. I’m one of those people who savors. As a girl, I was the type to keep my Easter basket around for weeks. I’d take little bites off the rabbit head, nibble away on an ear of white or milk chocolate. Some used to say that white chocolate wasn’t real chocolate. But I disagreed. I went through a white chocolate phase around junior high age.

Nope, never been a gobbler. Always a savorer. Hmmmm, last bite of the piece with the jagged dip out of it. It’s gone. And now there are four pieces of See’s chocolate left and Mrs. See is staring up at me from the edge of the box. She’s got glasses like John Lennon’s, gray hair, a kind smile. She’s wearing a knitted shawl. The photograph is tinted brown and shaped like a cameo. Did Mrs. See live in San Francisco?

Liz will be home from work soon. I want to see which piece she chooses from the box, her next to the last. It’s not like the boxes of Whitman’s chocolate where they print each type of candy on the inside cover so you can see what you are choosing. Do they still do that? I’d rather have the surprise. Last night, I bit one, and then asked Liz if she wanted it. Tasted too rich for me, too much like licorice. I don’t like the flavor of licorice all that much.

Chocolate reminds me of all the good things in life. It’s sweet, creamy, something to be shared, something that people are happy to share. We’ve got a bag of bite-sized Snickers in the fridge. I like them frozen. Liz has a bag of Dove almond dark chocolate, silky smooth promise next to the Snickers. A piece of chocolate lifts the spirits. A box of chocolates makes me feel rich, nectar of the gods. What is it about chocolate that is so satisfying?


-related to Topic post and practices: WRITING TOPIC — CHOCOLATE, PRACTICE — CHOCOLATE – 15min, PRACTICE –CHOCOLATE – 15min

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By Teri Blair

This is the first time I’ve done a timed, 15-minute write on my Royal Deluxe manual typewriter. I bought this green machine in Amherst, Massachusetts—Emily Dickinson’s hometown. The man at the shop told me it was the model Hemingway used. Did Emily like chocolate? She like ginger-tasting things like ginger cookies and ginger cakes if memory serves.

My first strong memory of chocolate were the Mr. Goodbars Mom had hidden in her purse. We were allowed pretty easy access to her purse (she wasn’t private about it) and she always shared pieces of her Mr. Goodbar. There was an unwritten understanding if we didn’t ask why they were always hidden there, we’d always get to have pieces. Sometimes she’d shake up the mix and have a Hershey Bar with almonds, never plain. Even now, when I want to buy her a treat she is delighted to be given either.

She told us the story of the Milky Way incident during her childhood, a guilty memory that still taints her love affair with that particular brand. She grew up in Hawick, a tiny town in Minnesota. There was one general story, the type that had the post office in one corner. Her parents would send her to the store for supplies from time to time, and she was always instructed to charge everything to John Everson’s account. Once a month her father, the town blacksmith, would get his itemized list of charged groceries. These would only be the necessities his family of nine needed. There was nothing extra to throw around during the Depression. After Mom charged the Milky Way (and stole away to a private place to eat it), she lived in mortal fear of the impending grocery bill. They’d know then. She’d lied and wasn’t worthy of their trust.

But when the bill came, not a word was said. It wasn’t until Mom was about 50 that she told her dad about it. I remember it. Even though he was a kind, gentle man, she still didn’t want to disappoint him. He smiled, I suppose, and told her in his thick Norwegian accent that it didn’t matter. Knowing him, he probably went right out and bought her another one. He was sorry he couldn’t give his kids more. When they asked him for money when they were children, he’d turn his wallet inside out to show them it was completely empty. After he died and they cleaned out his house, she found that old wallet. She keeps it on her dresser.

They were broke. It was the Depression. They lived on potatoes, headcheese, and lefse. Maybe an occasional chicken some farmer paid his welding bill with. There were bums who came to their door begging for a meal. Her mom made them a plate of their starchy food. Surely no chocolate on the plate.


NOTE: WRITING TOPIC — CHOCOLATE is the latest Writing Topic on red Ravine. Frequent guest writer Teri Blair joined QuoinMonkey in doing a Writing Practice on the topic.

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