Monday, August 31, 2009

Catablogue: Mangled English

For the final catablogue entry of the month, I offer you a veritable smorgasbord of blogs all related to abuse of the English language. I realize that it can seem elitist to revel in the speaking and writing errors of others; after all, nobody's perfect--and the English language's usage rules are constantly evolving to reflect our changing world and the inventiveness of people who enjoy playing with language for effect. But ignoring the rules of grammar, usage, mechanics, etc., for no apparent reason is a different matter altogether. When the rules are broken egregiously or ignored so inexcusably as to constitute an affront to the sensibilities of the general English-speaking populace, then one of these bloggers is likely to point it out:

Literally, a Web Log: An English Language Grammar Blog Tracking Abuse of the Word "Literally" -- Someone who says, "I literally died of laughter!" but who is not speaking from beyond the grave is a person who doesn't understand how to use the word "literally."

Apostrophe Catastrophes: The Worlds' Worst. Punctuation; -- Oftentimes a reader can figure out the meaning behind a poorly punctuated sentence, but should he/she have to? And let's review: except in the case of lowercase letters (e.g., "dot your i's and cross your t's"), the apostrophe is not used to form plurals. Stop inserting apostrophes in phrases such as "music of the 1980s" (not "1980's") or "apples are on sale" (not "apple's")!

The "Blog" of "Unnecessary" Quotation Marks -- When a reader sees quotation marks, he/she judges from the context whether the author is directly quoting someone or being ironic (e.g., if my car comes back from the garage just as inoperable as when I brought it in, I could write that the mechanic "fixed" my car). That ironic effect is achieved unintentionally by businesses that toss in quotation marks randomly on signs or ads or menus (e.g., the breakfast special suddenly sounds suspicious when the menu lists it as a breakfast "special").

GrammarBlog: Mocking Poor Grammar Since 2007 -- The sidebar of this blog asks, "Do you think people who don't know the difference between 'your' and 'you're' should be strung up by their gonads? You do? Welcome to GrammarBlog." That says it all.

(What is a catablogue?)

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Guess Who Came to Dinner

Friday night when the phone rang, the caller ID showed a Dickinson number, so I certainly wasn't expecting to hear the voice of my aunt Rose on the other end of the line! She and my uncle Elton live in Colorado Springs, CO, but they happened to be calling from their hotel room here in Dickinson! They had decided at the last minute to accept an invitation to attend the wedding of one of Elton's relatives here. After checking into their hotel, they phoned us to find out if we'd be free to see them while they were in town. What a terrific surprise!

Rose laid out their plans: my aunt Penny (her sister) would drive down from McGregor Saturday (yesterday) to accompany them to the wedding in the afternoon and reception in the evening. She would stay overnight and then go with them to the Medora musical Sunday evening (tonight). That meant that they'd have this morning and early afternoon free, and Rose wondered if they could come to church with us and afterwards stop by our house to see our home and visit. We happily agreed!

As it turned out, our family was already scheduled to provide "special music" at both church services this morning, so I suggested that Rose, Elton, and Penny come to the second service, after which we could lead them to our house. They got to hear the five of us singing an arrangement of "Hymn of Promise" (melody: the daughters; harmony: the parents), which went very well. Afterwards I gave them a brief tour of the church and then hopped into their vehicle with them so that I could talk them through a little driving tour of Dickinson, showing them points of interest related to us (the girls' schools, the university, etc.). Susan and the girls took our vehicle home, and the girls were waiting patiently at the end of the driveway when Rose, Elton, Penny, and I finally got home.

When we stepped into the foyer, a wonderful aroma washed over us, and it was clear to them that Susan had prepared dinner for them. Rose, Elton, and Penny had planned to look around our house and then ask us to join them for brunch at a restaurant, so they were pleasantly surprised to learn that we wanted them to join us for a home-cooked Sunday dinner. (On the phone Friday, I hadn't mentioned that we would cook for them today, but I thought that that just went without saying. After all, we're Mobergs; that's how we roll.)

But first, the girls and I gave Rose, Elton, and Penny a very detailed tour of the house, narrating extensively as we walked from room to room. They seemed to like our home, complimenting us on our decorating choices and remarking how fortunate we were to find a house so perfect for us in size, in proximity to our schools and workplaces, and in terms of the quality of our neighbors. (And we concur!)

Then we sat down to eat. Susan planned the menu, bought the groceries, and started preliminary food prep yesterday afternoon; and last night, Hillary and I set the table with a white tablecloth and cloth napkins with napkin rings and china from Susan's mom and silver flatware from my mom and candles and stemware and a crystal water pitcher. For dinner today Susan served chicken baked in a garlic cream sauce, mashed potatoes with the cream sauce as gravy, steamed fresh asparagus, wheat bread with butter, and a fresh fruit salad. She baked a lemon meringue pie this morning and served it for dessert with coffee. (It was her first lemon meringue pie, and it turned out great! Juice and zest from fresh lemons in the filling with a splash of limoncello to boost the flavor, and a sweet and fluffy meringue on top.)

It was so wonderful to have my aunts and uncle as dinner guests! It brought back many great memories from my childhood of meals with extended family during gatherings for birthdays, anniversaries, weddings, and holidays. It was nice to visit with them over a leisurely meal with phenomenal food. The time came too soon when they had to leave for Medora (in order to take in a few sights before the musical), so we whipped out the multiple cameras for the multiple poses in multiple configurations--just the little girls, just the aunts and uncle, now the girls with the aunts and uncle, now me with them all, now Susan with them all, now just the girls with Susan and me, etc. (again, we're Mobergs; that's how we roll).

For the indoor set of photos, Elton was the photographer. Left to right: Rose, Suzanna, Penny, Abigail, me, Hillary, and Susan. (I think Rose looks a lot like my grandma [her mom] in this photo. Family, do you agree?)

Before they left, Rose thanked us for the opportunity to see our home. She said that, from now on when she hears family news about us, it will be fun for her to be able to picture our house in her mind and imagine the girls' playing in their bedrooms or our making food in our kitchen, and so forth. Then it was time for hugs, kisses, a few more photos, and lots of waves from our front steps as they backed out of the driveway and drove off. Their visit totally made our weekend! Thank you, Rose, Elton, and Penny!

For the outdoor set of photos, Susan was the photographer. Left to right: Elton, Rose, and Penny. The weather is beautiful today with a comfortable breeze, so I'm sure they're enjoying their time outdoors in Medora.

Three generations of Mobergs! (Rose and Penny are my dad's sisters.)

Catablogue: Free-Range Kids

Free-Range Kids: Giving Our Kids the Freedom We Had Without Going Nuts with Worry

This blog has a mission: to reduce paranoid parenting and increase children's autonomy. Its sidebar proclaims that free-range parents "do NOT believe that every time school-aged children go outside, they need a security detail." Instead, what kids need is instruction on how to keep themselves safe and then opportunities to practice those lessons. Teach them how to cross a street, how to respond to a threatening stranger, how to wear a bike helmet, how to read a bus schedule, how to use a telephone, etc.--and then let them walk to school, bike to a friend's house, hop a city bus to the library, and so forth.

One could get the impression from news stories and radio show hosts that the world is a foreboding place for our children--full of danger at every turn in the form of kidnappers and sex offenders lurking in the bushes, or poisons and allergens in school cafeterias and city park sandboxes. However, Free-Range Kids seeks and shares facts regarding the dangers that children face (many of which are statistically quite improbable) in an effort to convince contemporary parents to go ahead and let their kids out of their sight once in a while.

Kids must develop in their youth the skills needed to live independently later in life. They require a degree of freedom in order to test their boundaries and explore the world in which they live. Although parents must, of course, take steps to ensure that their children are relatively safe, they need not live in perpetual fear. Unfortunately the paranoid parents most in need of reading Free-Range Kids aren't likely to. Instead they're too busy escorting Junior to every single soccer practice--or walking him across the street on his way to a neighbor child's house--or laying out his toys so that he needn't face the psychological dangers of having to make up his own games (or his own mind) during playtime--or contacting a lawyer to initiate a frivolous law suit against some entity or another for failing to prevent some harm that has befallen Junior but that could not have been foreseen or that was a natural circumstance of Junior's own actions.

But if you know any people who are only moderately over-protective parents, there may still be hope for them yet! Take them to Free-Range Kids and read through some of the posts together. Their children will probably thank you!

(What is a catablogue?)

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Simply Scandinavian

It has been a while! August 8 was the most recent ethnic meal that I made for our weekly Scandinavian Saturday. August 15 we ate Scandinavian foods at the Ethnic Festival instead of at home, and August 22 we took the week off since we were out of town for a family wedding. And although I was back in the kitchen today, it wasn't a typical Scandinavian Saturday; I usually prepare an ethnic supper, but today I prepared dinner instead (because Susan has an event to organize and attend at church this evening). So I kept it simpler than some of the suppers I have been making, and lemme tell ya: this one was a keeper!

This recipe is called Scandinavian Salmon Cheddar Pie. First I baked the pie crust and let it cool. Then I filled it with eggs, milk, butter, chopped fresh parsley, chopped scallion, fresh lemon juice, Worcestershire sauce, ground mustard, sharp cheddar cheese, and smoked salmon, and I popped it back in the oven. When I sliced it, I served each piece with a dollop of this sauce: sour cream, minced cucumber, chopped fresh parsley, dill weed, fresh lemon juice, and ground white pepper. The pie itself was delicious; the sour cream sauce itself was delicious; and together, they were a savory combination. We all loved it.

I served the pie with a salad dressed in a Danish bleu cheese dressing. The dressing includes cider vinegar, Dijon mustard, olive oil, crumbled bleu cheese, and capers; and it is drizzled over lengths of romaine lettuce. It was full of flavor but felt light enough when enjoyed atop the crispy lettuce. The salad really was a great accompaniment to the salmon cheddar pie.

P.S. While I was cooking upstairs, Suzanna was running a beauty salon downstairs, plaiting Hillary's hair in several braids that ran in unusual patterns across her head. Here's Hillary modeling her new hair style, courtesy of Suzanna:

Back to School

Yes, we are all back in school. Classes began at the university late Monday afternoon (August 24) and at the local schools Wednesday morning (August 26). At the beginning of the week, while Susan and I were preparing our work spaces and getting ready for the return of students, our daughters were laying out their first-day outfits, organizing their school supplies, and chomping at the bit to return to school!

In Dickinson, there are four public elementary schools, each housing grades K through 5. There is one upper-elementary school for everybody in grade 6, one junior high school for grades 7 and 8, and one high school for grades 9 through 12. Suzanna started grade 6 this past week, meaning a new school building with unfamiliar staff and a whole bunch of new classmates, most of whom she had never met before (and they were all in the exact same position as she was). I figured she'd be pretty nervous, but she was more excited than worried. At her school's open house Monday evening, we met Suzanna's teachers and saw not only her classroom but also the school itself--Suzanna gave us a tour! (She had been given a tour, too, toward the end of grade 5 when she and her classmates came over to check out the building.)

Ready for sixth grade!

Abigail started grade 5 this week and Hillary grade 3, so they're still in the same elementary building as last year. We attended their open house on Tuesday evening (August 25) so they could choose their desks, put away their school supplies, and meet their teachers. Hillary's teacher this year was Abigail's grade 3 teacher as well as Suzanna's grade 3 teacher. Abigail's teacher this year is new to the building . . . and is a man (in a building of otherwise female teachers)! That peculiarity alone immediately had Abigail's interest piqued.

Hillary found her locker already labeled with her name.

Abigail has her desk stocked with supplies, and she's ready to learn!

The requisite morning-of-the-first-day photo on the front step.

Wednesday morning I had the privilege of taking the girlies to school on the first day of the school year. I walked Abigail and Hillary to the front door, where they gave me hugs and kisses (reluctantly--I think they were aware that their friends were watching from inside the school's foyer nearby) before turning to join friends whom they hadn't seen for a few months. I figured that Suzanna--in a new building with new kids to meet and impress--would be even less enthusiastic about receiving hugs and kisses in public, so I was prepared to play it cool if she sent me the signal to back off. However, she had me walk inside with her all the way to her locker, and she held my hand the whole time. When we met up with a couple friends from her school last year, I suggested that they all walk together out to the playground, and that seemed to relieve a little stress . . . in all of them! Suzanna gave me a huge hug and kiss, too, before I left!

So week one (a three-day week for Susan and the girls) of this school year has ended, and we're getting positive reports from all three girls: this new friend, that new friend, this good thing about the teacher, that fun activity from the day's classes. It has been difficult for Susan to get her library up and running because the people in charge of technology replaced computers and upgraded software in the library but did not return things to working order before the start of the school year. I've got a good feeling about all my classes (so far), but this first week was a hectic one, and I am plumb tuckered out. Perhaps a Sunday afternoon nap will be in order?

Davis Meets His Uncle Kevin (and Attends a Wedding)

Quick review:
  1. In March Susan's sister Cassie and her husband Nick had a baby, whom they named Davis.
  2. Susan and Cassie's cousin Traci invited us all to her wedding held just last weekend in Fargo.
  3. Cassie and Nick planned to travel to Fargo from their home in SC so that they could attend the wedding and let the extended family meet Davis.
  4. Because Nick's parents live not far from Fargo (Detroit Lakes, MN), Nick and Cassie arranged to arrive in Fargo a week early and spend that extra time at Nick's parents' lake home before the weekend of the wedding.
  5. Cassie, Nick, and Nick's parents invited Cassie's family (Susan and Cassie's brother Jerrett, their dad Roger, and us) to the lake home for the week, too, for some extra time with Davis (and with Cassie and Nick, of course).

You probably knew that already from this, didn't you? You have figured out, then, that although Susan and our daughters spent the week at Detroit Lakes, I stayed behind in Dickinson. I had to work, attending workshops and meetings in preparation for the start of the fall semester at the university. However, as soon as I could leave work on Friday (August 21), I drove myself to Fargo and headed for the hotel where all the relatives were staying for Traci's wedding. So I missed out on time at the lake, but I knew that I would see Cassie, Nick, and Davis in Fargo instead--not to mention all the aunts, uncles, cousins, and cousins' kids who gathered there for Traci's wedding.

It was very much past Davis' bedtime by the time I arrived in Fargo, so I didn't get to meet him until the next day. Our daughters were swimming Saturday (August 22) morning, and Susan and I were sitting poolside when Nick came in carrying Davis toward me. The moment I had been waiting for had arrived . . . and then Susan's aunt Audrey intercepted him! Dang it! I played with Davis' toes and talked to him as he sat on Audrey's lap, and Nick sat on Audrey's other side realizing that we had both been foiled. Then suddenly Nick got up and, without saying a word, picked Davis up out of Audrey's lap, walked around her, handed him to me, and then walked out of the pool area, leaving me to get to know my new nephew. Yay!

Davis is a great little guy--good-natured, not at all fussy, friendly, quick to smile, comfortable with strangers (or perhaps he could sense that I was his relative when he first came to me), cute as a button, cuddly . . . in short, he's so much like me that it was like looking in a mirror. (Ahem.)

Traci and Tori's wedding was at Gooseberry Mound Park in Moorhead, MN on Saturday afternoon. The weather was just perfect, and the park provided a beautiful setting for the ceremony. In this photo, the ring bearer is coming down the aisle. Nope, neither of the boys is the ring bearer; it's the dog! Not even kidding.

Traci's parents Pat and Kathy escorted her down the aisle. Kathy is Susan's mom Sue's sister.

After the ceremony, we all walked to another area of the park for supper: salads and barbecued meat sandwiches and cupcakes and sodas under a picnic shelter near a pretty fun play area for kids . . . something for everybody! Susan asked the girls and me to pose at one of the statues in the park.

The wedding dance was in the Fargo Civic Center just across the street from our hotel. Here are Tori and Traci having a first dance as a married couple. Awww! Suzanna had a neat opportunity after we returned to the hotel from the dance: she got to babysit Davis and another baby (Susan's cousin Kelli's new baby)! Cassie and Kelli got their babies to sleep and laid them down in Cassie and Nick's room, and Suzanna slept in there with the babes while Cassie and Kelli rejoined the festivities across the street. Suzanna was so honored to be asked to babysit!

The next day (Sunday, August 23) we helped get Cassie, Nick, and Davis to the airport for their return flight to SC. Before we were overcome with tears, we had to have some final photos. I love this one of Davis. We're going to miss you, Davis, until we get to see your cute little face again!

Little guy loves Aunt Susan! (Und ze feelink iz mutual, dahlink!)

Nick, Cassie, Davis, Susan, Hillary, Suzanna, me, and Abigail

At some point between my ladies' departure from Dickinson and my reunion with them in Fargo, they had acquired a large amount of extra cargo that wouldn't all fit in their vehicle (they had gone back-to-school shopping). Good thing I had the Explorer so that we could get all their purchases and their clothes back home! Susan and I both had to be at work the next morning (Monday, August 24), so we all crawled into bed at a pretty reasonable hour and left the unpacked Target bags and baskets full of dirty laundry to be dealt with in the next few days. It was great to see all the relatives at the wedding but most especially wonderful finally to meet Davis! Good job, Cassie and Nick. Keep up the excellent work.

P.S. The hotel where we all stayed for Traci and Tori's wedding just happens to be the same hotel at which Susan and I lived for a few months following The Flood of '97! The bank at which Susan worked back then relocated many of its Grand Forks staff to its Fargo office and housed them in that hotel until they were able to get back into their homes and return to some version of normalcy in Grand Forks. It was while we were living at that hotel, as a matter of fact, that we learned that Susan was pregnant with Suzanna!

Davis Meets the Moberg Ladies

First of all, pardon the delay and thank you for your patience, Faithful Reader. Ever since I told you that Susan and the girls were on their way to Fargo to pick up Susan's sister Cassie, her husband Nick, and their five-month-old son Davis at the airport, you've been checking Pensive? No, Just Thinking daily just waiting for some photos or videos of our new nephew, haven't you?

Well, first of all, Susan and the camera and the video camera were there while I was here, so the blog had to wait at least through that first week. And then I traveled there on the weekend to be with them all and meet Davis myself, but of course it was all about spending time with family (mostly Davis!) while I was there rather than tending to the blog. And when we all got back here, the craziness of the start of the school year was upon us, making for a week too hectic to allow time for blogging.

And then our wireless Internet signal adapter died--you know, the device that provides us with Web access from the computer in our office . . . the computer upon which we store our photos and videos for uploading to the blog. You're understanding the delay in posting photos, yes? However, as you can tell, I have replaced (and, by the way, upgraded) the adapter and am now in possession of all our cameras, too, so let the blogging begin!

Having first learned to knit in June of this summer (at Norwegian camp), Susan has already made her first knitted afghan! She worked like a Turk to get it done before leaving for Fargo on Sunday (August 16) so that she could present it as a gift for Davis. She knitted each blue block individually and then sewed them together with green yarn. Isn't it nice?

Susan and the girls met Susan's dad Roger and her brother Jerrett at the Fargo airport Sunday evening in order to greet Cassie, Nick, and Davis once their plane landed. I'm sure there were embraces for Cassie and Nick, too, but Susan's first priority: get ahold of our cute new nephew and smother him in hugs and kisses!

Davis met his cousin Suzanna . . .

. . . his cousin Abigail . . .

. . . and his cousin Hillary. Actually he met her Sunday night at the airport, too, but the first photo of her holding him is from Monday morning (August 17). After leaving the airport, everybody caravaned to Nick's parents' lake home at Detroit Lakes, MN. Tim and Kutzy (Nick's parents) bunked with friends for the week, allowing Nick, Cassie, and all of Cassie's invading family members to use Tim and Kutzy's lakeside home themselves. That was pretty nice of Nick's parents, I'd say!

Tim and Kutzy's house is just a few footsteps from the lake, and they have a dock from which Jerrett and Roger--and anyone else who was interested--fished throughout the week. The girls enjoyed the special time with their uncle and grandpa! In the photo above: Jerrett, Hillary, Abigail, Suzanna, and Roger.

Cassie, Roger, and Jerrett

Beautiful sight!

In addition to fishing, the girls swam, played in inflatable water toys, and explored the shoreline.

I think it's safe to assume that Davis received lots of affection throughout the week.

On Tuesday (August 18) Susan took the girls to a nearby fun park where they played in bumper boats . . .

. . . and played miniature golf . . .

. . . and drove go-carts. Woo-hoo! (Susan, you used to go to this amusement park when you were a child, right? Readers may wish to know more about that, if you'd kindly elaborate in the comments.)

Abigail, Suzanna, and Hillary displayed their sisterly love.

Nick took Davis for a dip in the lake.

Tim took the crew for a boat ride Tuesday evening (August 18) during which Davis cuddled in Susan's arms and wore her sunglasses. Cool dude!

Nick and Cassie: parents for five months now and loving it!

Cassie and her daddy!

Roger and his kids: Susan (with Davis), Cassie, and Jerrett.

Nick with his dad Tim . . .

. . . and his mom Kutzy.

Back from the boat ride, Davis got into his pajamas before heading outside to hang out by the fire pit and enjoy the sounds of nighttime on the lake.

Nick, Davis, and Cassie--such a nice family!

Speaking of nice families, here is mine joining Susan's for a pic: Jerrett, Roger, Cassie, Abigail, Suzanna, Susan, and Hillary.

Hillary and Abigail joined Nick to look at the stars and listen to the water lapping against the shore and to the fire crackling nearby. I wasn't even there, yet I find this extremely relaxing!

Roger and Jerrett returned home Wednesday (August 19) and so had to have some final moments with the SC relatives, whom we don't get to see often enough.

I love these photos of Davis with Jerrett--especially this last one. Davis looks like he's saying, "Uncle Jerrett, I'm just going to miss you so much, man!"

Roger with his grandchildren: Suzanna (11), Davis (five months), Hillary (8), and Abigail (10).

Wednesday's weather was chilly and overcast, but look at the beautiful photos Susan captured of the lake as a result.

This is looking at Tim and Kutzy's house from the end of their dock.

On Thursday (August 20), Cassie, Susan, and the girls went to Zorbaz for pizza . . . and later told me that I have to try their pizza sometime because it's the best!

On Friday (August 21) Hillary, Abigail, and Suzanna posed in front of the pop-up camper in which they and Susan slept all week just outside Tim and Kutzy's house. Not long after this, Susan, the girls, Nick, Cassie, and Davis bid adieu to Tim and Kutzy and drove back to Fargo to check into a hotel for the weekend. Check the next post to Pensive? No, Just Thinking for more details on that!

Here are some video highlights from the week at the lake getting to know Davis. (He tried mashed peas while there, which should explain the footage of his reactions to the green stuff going into his mouth.) What a cutey pie!