Friday, July 31, 2009
(Do you remember having read this?)
Blogger Scott Rosenberg has written a book about blogging. In Say Everything: How Blogging Began, What It's Becoming, and Why It Matters (see the book's Web site and/or Mr. Rosenberg's blog), he chronicles the development of blogging since its beginnings 15 years ago. When one considers the oxymoronic nature of a blog (e.g., maintaining a private journal and then making it public, accessible by the 1.5 billion users of the World Wide Web), it is quite remarkable that the form has proliferated and become so commonplace.
But commonplace it is; and you, Dear Reader, are part of the phenomenon. It is very likely that you're reading this blog because you are either a relative or a friend who checks out Pensive? No, Just Thinking for updates on my family and our goings-on. It is also possible, however, that you are a stranger to me who has stumbled upon this blog by accident, the result of a search engine query or a click of some other site's link. (In either case, "Welcome!")
As an aspiring Web maven myself (and inveterate 'Net surfer), I have stumbled upon many a worthwhile blog in my day. There is a wealth of blogitude available to you, and I have chosen to create and share with you next month a catablogue.
catablogue: combination of "catalogue" and "blog," a term I just now made up to mean a list of blogs with descriptive information about each
Daily throughout August, I will create my catablogue with a daily post to this blog that describes, and links to, another blog--one that I have found worthwhile and can recommend to you. You may find the wealth of blogs on the Interwebs to be overwhelming, so allow me to give direction to your browsing by pointing out a few blogs of note that just may amuse, educate, or edify you.
Ready? My first recommendation is coming up tomorrow!
Wednesday, July 29, 2009
The first one went to . . . Random Dude on Bicycle!
Susan, the girls, and I were out running a few errands this afternoon, one of which was to refuel the Explorer. As we sat at the stoplight of a busy intersection waiting to turn onto the street with our destination gas station, Random Dude was riding his bicycle down the sidewalk toward us from the opposite direction. Little did we know that he was about to make two potentially fatal errors in judgment:
- There were several flash downpours throughout the afternoon, and it was sprinkling at the time of Random Dude's approach toward the intersection. He failed to account for the detrimental effect that wet sidewalks and streets would have on his bike tires' traction, and he did not reduce his speed to compensate.
- Random Dude disregarded the traffic signals, probably thinking that they didn't pertain to him since he had chosen to ride his bicycle on the sidewalk instead of the street. While those of us in motor vehicles were stopping or moving according to the lights, he barely glanced up and certainly couldn't have noticed what the changing lights were telling us motorists to do at the same moment that he decided to drive off the end of the sidewalk and onto the street, taking a wide arc right to continue his journey down the same street onto which we would soon be turning.
When the left-turn arrow turned green for me, I turned just as Random Dude on Bicycle was shooting out onto the street from the sidewalk . . . directly in front of our oncoming vehicle! Worse yet, he lost control of his bike on the slick asphalt as he was trying to execute a wide curve to the right, and he biffed it, ending up lying on the road . . . directly where I was about to drive!
I used my keen eyes and spry reflexes to apply the brakes as soon as Random Dude on Bicycle crashed to avoid driving over him. I also turned on my hazard lights and waited as he shook himself back to awareness of his situation, got up, remounted his bike, and started on his way. He happened to be headed for the same gas station that we were going to, and once we got there, Susan was able to find him inside and check on him. He said he was okay--just a little wet. Yes, Random Dude on Bicycle, you were wet instead of dead. My treat? The gift of life. You're welcome.
The second one went to . . . our family!
Did you know that today is "Waffle Cone Wednesday" at TCBY? Susan knew it and suggested that we make a stop there once our errands were done. (It was no accident that I chose to patronize the gas station that is directly adjacent to TCBY.) TCBY's waffle cones are huge and hold a lot of frozen yogurt. They normally cost over $3 apiece. On Waffle Cone Wednesdays, however, they're 99 cents! Yep, for just over $5, our family walked out of there holding large, crunchy, sweet waffle cones overflowing with our choices of creamy chocolate, golden vanilla, or white chocolate mousse frozen yogurt--a treat that would have decimated a $20 bill any other day of the week. Thank you, Susan, for knowing about it; and thank you, TCBY, for offering this special deal!
The third one went to . . . me (and, now, to you)!
It was still lightly sprinkling late in the afternoon as I drove home from the office. As I approached our block, I noticed the girls out on the driveway, skipping around while wearing brightly colored raincoats. I had phoned Susan before leaving to let her know that I would soon be home, so I figured that the girls had timed it to be outside to greet me as I arrived. But they weren't merely skipping while waiting for me. I rolled down my window to greet them as I neared our house, and I could hear them singing! (What must our neighbors think?!) Faithful Reader, here is the treat that they gave me upon my return home this afternoon . . . a treat that I am now sharing with you! Enjoy!
Monday, July 27, 2009
We knew that we'd be serving leftover herbed potato/pea/bacon salad from the previous night's supper. What would go well with that?
Grilled hamburgers! After a recent delivery, there is plenty of hamburger in our deep freeze, so it was no problem to thaw a package yesterday morning to be ready for last night. Suzanna grated some Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese to add to the hamburger meat, and I chopped some yellow onion and fresh parsley to mix in. Suzanna added some Smoky Bacon Grill Sauce, and I got my hands dirty mixing the hamburger and forming patties. Suzanna buttered the buns and sprinkled garlic salt on them. I fired up the grill and made the hamburgers, toasting the buns on the grill at the last minute. I topped each burger with some grated Mexican cheese, a couple slices of peperoncini, and some extra sauce before I put each hamburger together.
While I was tending to the grill, Suzanna was tending to the beverages. She wanted to serve malted milkshakes; however, thinking that we had no vanilla ice cream (but we did), she decided on what she called "melted milkshakes": milk with chocolate syrup and malt powder stirred in! She also got the kitchen shears and came out to the flower bed beside the grill and asked my permission to clip a few fresh flowers to put in a vase for a centerpiece on the table on the veranda.
For dessert, we thawed a Chocolate Lover's Cake that we had gotten with a shipment from Omaha Steaks awhile back. We set it out with the flowers to further beautify the table while we ate.
When the hamburgers and potato salad had been gobbled up, we served the chocolate cake with vanilla ice cream from Schwan's. It was a pretty delicious meal, I must say. Brava, Suzanna!
Sunday, July 26, 2009
First off, one must know that "the traditional meal" is different depending on whether the lutefisk is being served in Norway, Sweden, Finland, or in a North Dakotan Lutheran church basement (although in all places, lutefisk is usually a winter food, not a summer one). In Norway, the boiled lutefisk is often covered in melted butter and served with boiled potatoes, mashed peas, bacon, and lefse. In Finland the melted butter is replaced by a white sauce seasoned with allspice, and potatoes are sometimes the only other item on the plate. In Sweden the white sauce is either supplemented with, or replaced by, coarse mustard.
That was a far easier de-/reconstruction than the lutefisk, cod soaked in lye until its texture is changed from the firmness that we all identify with fish to a mucilaginous goo that we usually associate with gelatin or phlegm. Sometimes overzealous ND Lutheran cooks compound the problem by overboiling the lutefisk until it's a completely translucent block that jiggles back and forth on the plate, sometimes tough as a rubber eraser, other times dissolving into a puddle of fish glop floating in a plateful of melted butter. Nothing I could do would restore the natural fish texture to the lutefisk, but I tried firming it up by soaking it in cold water overnight and then in salt water for several hours before preparing it.
Then I drizzled the lutefisk with olive oil, sprinkled it liberally with a lemon/herb grilling seasoning, and cooked it in a perforated pan on the grill. Instead of melting butter to pour over it, I mixed fresh dill and parsley, minced garlic, and the zest from a fresh lemon into some butter Friday afternoon and chilled it overnight in the fridge, serving each portion of grilled lutefisk with a pat of the savory butter. To be honest, lutefisk on the grill wasn't a vast improvement over lutefisk prepared any other way. The flavors from the lemon/herb seasoning and the seasoned butter were a welcome addition, making the lutefisk taste more like regular cod when it's grilled. However, there was no getting over the rubbery lutefisk texture--and with no mashed potatoes and gravy in which to hide the lutefisk before swallowing it, we had to face the fish head-on. With my permission, everyone left a little lutefisk uneaten on her plate.
To further emphasize the summertime twist to this meal, we drank pink lemonade with our supper and ate supper on the veranda, enjoying the shade and the breeze while we ate. Then we cleared the dishes, and Susan, Suzanna, and Abigail played basketball on the driveway while Hillary and I went inside to prepare dessert (which, when it was ready, we ate on the veranda, too):
We would have gobbled up a more standard "pears in caramel sauce with whipped cream," but we took our time with this version in order to experience the additional flavors. The juniper berries and chili powder added just the slightest zing without being outright hot-and-spicy; the plump chunks of ginger were little bursts of intense sweetness with their own kind of spiciness; and the caraway seeds added a touch of savory that highlighted the dairy-ness of the cream rather than the sweetness of the sugar and the honey.
It was fun to deconstruct the traditional wintertime lutefisk supper and reconstruct it as a summertime meal outdoors--although I think once is enough when it comes to preparing lutefisk on the grill.
Saturday, July 25, 2009
Hillary's camp session ended midday Tuesday with a final church service, which parents were invited to attend before taking their kids home. We have photos and video of Hillary leading a prayer during the service and standing with her cabinmates to lead us all in singing a song and acting out the actions for it. We took her out to dinner on our way home at Trapper's Kettle in Belfield, where we had excellent food (including homemade "zesty tomato soup") and very friendly service.
Hillary and her cabinmates posed for several photos. They asked permission to pose with "goofy faces," and here's the result. (Can you spot Hillary?)
In a video clip below, Suzanna refers to their having hiked to a cross on the butte. This is it. Pretty, huh?
And here it's easier to see the height of the butte and the distance of the cross from the camp below. That's quite a hike for all those wee campers!
Hillary was an only child at home until yesterday, when Abigail and Suzanna's session ended midday with a final church service. We have photos and videos of those two, too, singing and doing the faux-reography for the songs that their cabins led us in singing. We drove home from camp via the same scenic route that Susan and I took Sunday night (remember?) so that the girls could see the sights while sharing tales from their week. Again, on our way home, we ate dinner at Trapper's Kettle (they make wonderful hash browns, by the way).
Suzanna during her cabin's song.
Abigail during her cabin's song.
Sully Creek Road (the scenic route that we took home from camp yesterday) runs through open rangeland (there are many, many cattle guards on the road to rattle one's teeth while driving along). At one point I slowed to a crawl in order to give a calf on the road time to amble off the gravel and back onto the grassland. While we waited, we rolled down the windows and talked to the cattle while Susan snapped a few photos. If I were a cow, I think I'd enjoy the opportunity to graze in a pasture set amidst the Badlands of southwest ND. (It might take my mind off the impending slaughter.)
Once we got home yesterday afternoon, Hillary and I headed to the grocery store to buy ingredients for tonight's Scandinavian Saturday meal (more on that tomorrow) while Abigail and Suzanna unpacked at home. I waited until this morning, however, to sit down with each of the girls and ask them to share some of their Bible camp experiences with you, Dear Reader. Fill your coffee cup, get comfy, and enjoy:
Wednesday, July 22, 2009
One of our children is home again after being away at Bible camp (more on that forthcoming), but the other two are still gone and won't be back until Friday. Missing our daughters has got these songs on my mind:
"Daughter" -- Loudon Wainwright III
"Daughters" -- John Mayer
Monday, July 20, 2009
Yesterday afternoon Susan and I drove the girls to Badlands Ministries south of Medora. They attended Bible camp there last summer (remember?) and had a blast (chronicled here, here, and here), so they've been looking forward to returning for camp again this summer. The length of time that one is allowed to stay is determined by one's age. Suzanna stayed five nights last summer and will again this week. Abigail stayed two nights last summer but will stay the whole week with Suzanna this time. Hillary couldn't stay overnight last summer (attending for a few days but requiring us [well, Susan] to drive back and forth dropping her off each day and picking her back up each evening); however, this summer she will stay two nights (the same session that Abigail attended last year).
For us to get to the camp, it's a quick half-hour drive via Interstate to Medora and then just a few more minutes south via gravel roads surfaced with bright pink clinker/scoria, driving past the Bully Pulpit Golf Course and alongside the winding Little Missouri River. The camp is surrounded by the rugged Badlands of southwest ND and features lots of trees and, of course, the river just a few yards away--it's a terrific setting. And all the people there were so friendly and welcoming, from the camp counselors standing beside the road waving at cars as they drove in to the staff members helping campers with their bags and leading them to their assigned cabins.
When we arrived, we went to Bethlehem (the camp's dining hall) to check in, and the camp director told our daughters, "I'm so happy! We've been waiting all summer for you girls to get here!" (He also happens to attend our church, where he has told us that he hopes our daughters will someday be camp counselors themselves. They must have made quite an impression on him!) As we walked around the grounds getting the girls checked in, hauling their luggage and sleeping bags to their cabins, avoiding slithering snakes (which freaked out a counselor far more than our daughters, whom she was leading to their cabins), taking photos, and saying goodbyes, our daughters kept stopping to greet and hug counselors and fellow campers whom they met last year or whom they know from our church or from school. I have the feeling the girls are going to have fun at Bible camp again this summer!
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We turned off the gravel to drive through the sleepy town of Fryburg and then took old Highway 10 into Belfield before returning to the Interstate to head back to Dickinson. We picked up a few items at the grocery store* to make a light supper once we got home: crab and shrimp salad on a bed of mixed greens, beer cheese soup, crackers, pomegranate blueberry margaritas (that we already had ready in our freezer), and lemon sorbet for dessert. We cuddled up on the couch in the family room and caught up on some of our television viewing, snacking on popcorn and emptying our DVR of programs recorded way back last autumn (not even kidding)!
After sleeping in this morning, we picked up some tasty coffee drinks at Serendipity Coffee House and then went shopping. For dinner, Susan made turkey avacado BLTs, which we ate with watermelon. For supper, she has made Swiss steak using some of the venison that I had thawed for yesterday's Scandinavian meal; with it, we'll eat more of the potato/parsnip/sweet potato gratin left over from yesterday, and for dessert we'll have fresh blueberries atop the blueberry cobbler ice cream that we bought at the grocery store last night. Supper's not ready yet, so we're each enjoying a glass of rosé with crackers, some topped with seafood salad and some with artichoke parmesan dip. Tonight we may watch a movie. Woo-hoo!
Much as we love our children, it is nice to have the house to ourselves for a couple nights. Stay tuned to Pensive? No, Just Thinking for post-camp updates from the girls.
* At the grocery store, we visited with two women (sisters) whose daughters were my sister Sandy's classmates in high school. One of the women still lives in Tioga and was visiting her sister, who now lives in Dickinson. When they asked how we like living in Dickinson, I mentioned how much friendlier we find people to be here than in the last place we lived, citing grocery store check-out clerks as one example. Sure enough, as we were paying for our groceries just a while later, the store employee engaged us in small talk, asking us about the sorbet that we were buying and recommending another flavor that she likes. Where we used to live, we were accustomed to hearing nothing more from a store employee than the price that we owed. This is a change for the better.
Sunday, July 19, 2009
I usually prepare supper for Scandinavian Saturday, but today I made dinner instead so that the girls could eat with us. You see, they're headed off to Bible camp south of Medora this afternoon (having loved their stint at Bible camp there last summer--refresh your memory here, here, here, and here). I also usually prepare an appetizer as well as the main course and dessert, but today I skipped the app so as not to send them to camp too full to enjoy their supper and snacks there. Here's what I made:
This recipe comes from Norwegian chef Andreas Viestad. I sliced potatoes, parsnips, and sweet potatoes (one could substitute rutabaga for sweet potato) and baked them in a creamy sauce (heavy cream, whole milk, garlic, bay leaves, nutmeg, grated Jarlsberg cheese), topping them with more cheese toward the end. It was a bit like scalloped potatoes but with more flavor.
We still have plenty of venison in our deep freeze, thanks to Susan's hunting father and brother. I made use of it with this recipe, which went nicely with the vegetable dish above. Venison seasoned with juniper berries is pretty Scandinavian, but juniper berries are hard to come by in local grocery stores. However, we found that ingredient at Le Gourmet Chef when we were in Bloomington, MN for the family reunion earlier this month. I dredged the venison in flour seasoned with juniper berries, salt, and pepper and then fried the steaks in butter and olive oil. Then I made a sauce of red onions, red wine, beef bouillon, marjoram, and bleu cheese and spooned it over the steaks. Very bold flavors!
Saturday, July 18, 2009
Here's the entire troupe, including the two MCT staff, Josh (standing farthest left) and Danny (standing farthest right). As they travel from site to site with the show, they take turns acting and directing. In Dickinson it was Josh's turn to play Patches, a character whose purpose is to keep the plot moving along throughout each scene; and it was Danny's turn to direct. Anyhoo, can you spot the three Mobergs in the crowd?
Here, I'll zoom in to help you out. Now do you see all three of them?
Suzanna played one of the beggars. Compatriots of Patches, the beggars have several song/dance numbers with him, do most of the scenery shifts during scene changes, and ultimately have to beg outside the king's castle the night of the ball that Cinderella attends.
Hillary played Cleo, the cat. Cleo mostly fights with/runs from Fido, the dog; but both are transformed and put to use when Cinderella needs a proper staff to get her to the royal ball.
Abigail played one of the town criers. They make announcements for the king and assist the prince as he goes door to door after the ball, looking for the owner of the glass slipper left behind the night before. And they cry continually, whether making sad or happy announcements. (Get it? Town criers who cry all the time?)
P.S. While we were eating at DQ, a group of teenagers came in with a few adults to eat. They caught our attention for a couple reasons: one, we overheard them talking about their being in town for a mission trip (perhaps to help victims of the tornadoes?); and two, one of them carried with him a life-sized cardboard cut-out of President Barack Obama!
The young man carrying the President displayed absolutely no embarrassment and behaved as though it were the most natural thing to be hefting him around. He tried to get the President to sit in a booth or in a chair at a table, but neither option worked because of the President's lack of flexibility. So the teen propped the six-foot-tall President atop a table and leaned him against the corner. The young guy's this-is-completely-ordinary demeanor, his groupmates' ongoing jokes about the cardboard cut-out, and the general ridiculousness of the situation overall had us laughing throughout the evening. How bizarre--and perfectly wonderful!
Before they left, the teen announced, "The President has to use the facilities"; and as he lugged the cut-out down the hallway to the restroom, I had visions of his taking photos of the President in front of a urinal. Inside the restaurant, he took photos of the President's taking a bite from a burger and taking a sip from a soda. Outside, he took photos of the President's posing near a tree and standing at the "May I take your order?" speaker for the drive-through window.
Who knows why this teenager had a life-sized cardboard cut-out of President Obama or what compelled him to lug it around Dickinson. But it was so silly and unexpected and harmless that we were grateful for the levity!
Tuesday, July 14, 2009
If you've used the Internet enough to be familiar with Web sites such as Pandora and Facebook, and if you know anything about the story and/or music from the American musical West Side Story, then you'll appreciate an online video parody called Web Site Story. It's hilarious! Read about it--and then watch it--here.
- Riverbend Plantation of Saskatoon, SK sells juneberry pie filling (to make your own crust and bake your own pie), but that product is listed as "sold out."
- Three Sisters Pies of Calgary, AB sells juneberry pies for delivery in the Calgary area or for sale at various sites in the Calgary area. The 1,600-mile drive round-trip is a little too inconvenient, though.
- The Berry Barn of Saskatoon, SK seems to be a retreat at which one could eat a piece of juneberry pie or pick one's own juneberries from their berry patch. However, there's no indication that they would mail me a pie and save me the 1,000-mile drive round-trip.
- Amberland Foods of Harvey, ND sells juneberry ice cream topping, juneberry syrup, and juneberry jam, but no juneberry pie.
- Berry Dakota of Jamestown, ND sells juneberry jam, juneberry jelly, juneberry syrup, and juneberry wine jelly, but no juneberry pie.
- Dakota Hills Winery and Vineyard of Knox, ND sells nothing juneberry-related, but with rhubarb wine, crabapple wine, honey blueberry wine, raspberry wine, apricot honey wine, peach wine, and apple wine on their product list, don'tcha think they could concoct a batch of juneberry wine?!
- Karen's Kuchens of Cavalier, ND sells juneberry kuchen (a German coffee cake with a custard-y center); and because kuchen is cut and served in slices like a pie, this may be the closest thing available. Not a bad substitution, either, because kuchen itself is delicious.
- Maple River Winery of Casselton, ND sells wines made from aronia berries, elderberries, plums, pears, sand cherries, apples, dandelions, apricots, crabapples, chokecherries, pumpkins, strawberries, lilacs, rhubarb, cranberries, and honey . . . but no juneberries?!
- Pointe of View Winery of Burlington, ND is similar to Dakota Hills and Maple River in that it sells a variety of wine flavors (including Viking Deed, a blend of honey and apple wines--sounds intriguing) . . . but not juneberry.
- The Juneberry Patch of Velva, ND has no online presence; but I gather, from comments made about it on other sites, that it is a supplier and distributor of juneberry plants--more for those who'd like to plant their own juneberry bushes (or come and pick their own buckets of juneberries) than for those of us who want a ready-made pie to slice and eat.
- Mrs. Wellman's Homemade Juneberry Pies of Cavalier, ND has no online presence, either; but I have eaten Adrienne Wellman's juneberry pies before, and they are delicious! She sells them at local farmer's markets--local to her, that is, not to me. And, unfortunately, a trip to Cavalier, although shorter than one to Saskatoon or Calgary (see above), is still an 800-mile drive round-trip.
Aack! Can you, Faithful Reader, help me?! If so, please e-mail me at juneberry@iMoberg.com.
Monday, July 13, 2009
He's got great facial expressions, no denyin'!
Here, Davis is too cool for the pool. Of course, so are his parents, Cassie (Susan's sister) and Nick. Check out this video for more of Davis' aquatic studliness:
Sunday, July 12, 2009
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So, curses upon you, Lund's Landing, for false advertising that inconvenienced and disappointed us. We'll look for juneberry pie elsewhere, I guess. But, in a way, thank you for causing us to take another scenic route through beautiful western ND.