Thanksgiving

Be thankful for what you have; you’ll end up having more.  If you concentrate on what you don’t have, you will never, ever have enough.
– Oprah Winfrey 

Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays… fun with family and food!  What’s not to like?  We have so much to be thankful to God for!  Hopefully we are thankful every day!

We were graciously hosted by Steve and Jeanne in Lincoln, Nebraska. (Jeanne is Cherryl’s sister). With kids and grandkids, great grandmothers, and five other guests, we had 18 or so for dinner.  It was fabulous, and I focused on eating rather than focusing cameras.  So you don’t have to look at our food!

Except for one fun part… Becky, our daughter the chocolatier, is very adventurous and loves trying new exotic dishes.  She had showed us a video about making an Apple Cinnamon Roll Cake.  Basically, you prepare a bunch of apples, place them in a pan, and then make the world’s biggest cinnamon roll and place it on top of the apples and bake.  When you turn over the finished product, you have nicely arranged baked apple pieces over cinnamon roll base.  Fantastic!  But on Thanksgiving day, the oven was always busy with lots of other good stuff, and the only pan we had available was a bit too small.  Whatever… So it had to sit out waiting for oven time, rising, longer than the half hour rising time recommended.  And when it did get in the oven, the oven had been broiling something and it got the temp settings changed, but not the “bake” option.  So instead of baking, it just kept rising!  It grew so large it overflowed the pan and kept going!  But it wasn’t cooking!  We finally diagnosed the problem, but by then it looked like Jabba the Hutt. We had to carve out the pan!  But it tasted great!  Below right is with all the extra carved off…

 


 

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Between Omaha and Council Bluffs are two huge locomotives placed nose to nose overlooking I80.  We’ve driven past them countless times, and I’ve always wanted to investigate, but we’ve always been on a mission, in a hurry.  Guess what? I’m retired!  We stopped.  They claim to be two of the world’s biggest locomotives, one coal/steam powered, the other diesel/electric.

The “Big Boy” steam locomotive, #4023, was built in 1944.  It is considered the longest, heaviest and most powerful of the steam locomotives.  1.25 million pounds, 7,000 horsepower, it could move about 70mph.  This Big Boy was commissioned by the US government to help the shift from war in Europe to war in the Pacific.  It was used until 1959, after logging 829,295 miles.

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These are HUGE!  No way to capture the immensity of these machines.  If you look closely you can see a little me beside a drive wheel.

Locomotive #6900 was built in 1969 for the Union Pacific Railroad, commemorating the 100 year anniversary of driving the spike that completed the first trans-continental railroad.  Hence they are called “Centennials”. #6900 had 6,600 horsepower, and could run at 85mph.  Her first mission was to be at Ogden, Utah for the Golden Spike Centennial Celebration.  She logged almost 2 million miles before retirement.

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Another highlight of the trip was getting to see one of my former Dental Hygienists teaching!  Angie is now on faculty at Iowa Western Community College, teaching in their Hygiene program.  She said nice things about me, and had me do a Q & A with the class.  I felt very honored, and I think Angie is doing a great job!

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We not only escaped doing any shopping on Black Friday, we escaped from a locked room!  Becky and Kevin are fans of escape rooms, as we are.  When we arrived, we saw a team being prepared for their escape room by being handcuffed together and then blindfolded, then led away!  That increased our heart rates a bit!

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So then the four of us were locked in an escape room with a musical theme (no handcuffs, no blindfolds).  We had to solve many puzzles, find many keys and combinations, and even play the piano (one finger worked fine),  finally finding the last code to get out of the room.  We solved the puzzle with 8 minutes to spare!  Great fun!!

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Mansions, Castles, Cathedrals and Crack

Mill City Museum

Above are machines to take dust from the air in the mill

Minneapolis was the flour milling capital of the world from the mid 1800’s.  It was perfectly situated to get grain from all the open lands west, and power from a wide waterfall on the Mississippi.  Rail lines could then take the processed flour to destinations all along the east coast.

At one time, more than 20 stone flour mills got power from the falls.   The largest, the Washburn A Mill, exploded so violently in 1878 that it killed all the workers inside at the time, and leveled the west side of the river.  It broke windows all over town, and is said to have been heard 7 miles away!  It was rebuilt and opened 2 years later, as the largest and most sophisticated mill in the world.  At peak production, it ground enough flour to make 12 million loaves of bread per day. This was at a time when most mills were small, serving only the towns where they were located.

From their website:

In the industry’s early days in Minneapolis, almost all sales were of “family flour,” used in home baking and sold in 196-pound family barrels. It wasn’t until later that the barrels were replaced by 100-, 50-, and 25-pound cotton or jute sacks.

Home baking declined, however, as more people moved from farm to city. But as they did, the commercial baking industry grew. In 1900, only five percent of bread consumed was bakery-made. By the time the US entered World War I in 1917, bakeries were making 30 percent of the nations bread.

The tremendous capacity of all these mills raised some problems.  Early on, folks just went to the local grocer and asked for flour, and took whatever was offered.  Now with many mills producing so much flour, all from the same area’s wheat, all processed with the same falls’ power in similar mills, how do you distinguish your own product?  So marketing came to the flour business.  Companies raced to find new ways to sell their goods, with competitions, games, and new products.  Cake mixes and breakfast cereals were pushed.

One chef at Washburn dropped some wheat bran cereal on a griddle, and it fried into crisp flakes.  He tasted them and approved, but it took three years of research to make flakes that didn’t fall apart in a box.  A naming competition resulted in “Wheaties”, Which was probably was better than the original “Gold Medal Wheat Flakes”.  Wheaties started broadcasting local baseball games, and that proved so popular they were soon doing over ninety locations.  At one point, they had a competition for the best baseball announcer, which was won by a young man named Ronald Reagan.  His prize? A trip to Hollywood! Who knows where Wheaties can take you?!

Washburn merged with many others and became General Mills.  Betty Crocker was created to answer the ton of questions stemming from a competition that the advertising men didn’t feel qualified to answer.  She has become one of the best known female names in the world, even though she is fictitious.

Eventually, electricity replaced water power, so a location at the falls was not needed, and mills moved elsewhere.  The mighty General Mills plant closed in the 60’s and fell into ruin.  The Mill City Museum has been built to preserve some of the structures and tell of their history.

A museum guide demonstrated how explosive fine dust, like in a mill, can be.  He had a model mill, with a tower at one end.  He covered the open top of the tower with several paper towels, and used a frame to screw them down tightly.   He then put 1/2 teaspoon of corn starch in the mill, pumped air in to disperse it into the air, and touched off a spark.

The resulting explosion was really fun!  Flour dust is 30 times more explosive than gunpowder!

The view from the top of the museum was great.

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A steam engine used to power farm equipment.

 

James J Hill House

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James J Hill was called the “Empire Builder”.  He started as a shipping clerk for a company on the Mississippi River, and worked his way up into management.  Then he opened his own shipping company, eventually expanding into railroads.  He bought a failing railroad, and by wise and careful expansion, not only made it profitable, but eventually took the northern route all the way to the Pacific.  People loved and admired him, or hated and feared him.  It all depends on one’s point of view!

When he was in his 20’s he met a waitress in a hotel dining room, and fell in love.  He was not wealthy at the time, but had great ambition.  So he scraped money together, and sent his new fiancé away for three years to finishing school!  As bizarre as that sounds, it was probably a good move, because he eventually amassed a huge fortune, built this 36,000 square foot home, and owned 4 other homes in places like Jekyll Island and Paris. She had to manage the homes and domestic staff, like the 15 or so who took care of this house.

So on to the house…

The house had electric lights throughout, but since electricity was new technology, and could not be depended upon, the light fixtures had gas piped to them as well in case of power failures.

IMG_8126This is not the music room, it is the gallery.  Hill had it filled with his favorite paintings.  It was all the rage to have an organ in your house, so he had to have one… with over 1,000 pipes.  The irony is that neither Hill nor any of his family could play it, so it was only heard when organists were hired for parties or concerts.  The air for the pipes was supplied by bellows pumped by servants in the basement, when they got a signal from the gallery.

The Hill family lived here for about 30 years, raising 10 children.  Four of them were married in the house, several grew up and built houses in the neighborhood.

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The head woodworker (over his team of 15) had a tradition of “signing” his work with a self portrait.  Here is his “selfie” in the wood carved entryway.

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Cathedral of St Paul 

James Hill knew the bishop who was in charge of the cathedral construction just down the street from his mansion.  He politely requested that they limit the height of the cathedral so it wouldn’t spoil his view!  The bishop, of course, ignored him, and built anyway, so this is the view Hill ended up with.  Too bad…  But better than a storage unit!

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The cathedral was finished in 1915.  It is imposing inside and out…

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Turnblad Mansion / Swedish Castle

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Swan Turnblad moved from Sweden to Minnesota in 1868.  He was a farmer and a printer.  He turned his typesetting prowess into the largest Swedish newspaper in the U.S., and built this mansion to show the folks back home how well he had done in the “new world”.  The house is incredibly beautiful, and has exquisite woodwork inside, maybe even nicer than the Hill house (Don’t tell Hill!)

I felt the house in general was warmer and more livable than the Hill house… but apparently the Swan and Christina Turnblad didn’t share my opinion.  They only lived here for about 7 years, preferring instead an apartment they had downtown.  Christina had been a hotel maid, was uncomfortable having servants, and employed only a married couple to help out around the place. They were “new money” in a neighborhood of “old money”, they were not well educated, and didn’t speak the language well.  They didn’t fit in, and were not well received in the area.

The house was designed for entertaining and had rooms for the many domestic staff expected.  But the Turnblads never entertained, and ate most of their meals, not in the magnificent dining room, but on a small table in the corner of the kitchen.

When Christina died, Swan and his daughter moved into an apartment building nearby.  In his will, Swan donated the house to a foundation to preserve Swedish history and culture in the area.  He also left an endowment to enable the upkeep of the house.  The ultimate irony is that the snotty neighbors’ houses are mostly all gone, and this “outsider’s” house is beautifully preserved.

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We went to a special program for 2-5 year olds (We took grandson Peter so we could get in).  They had stories, a turkey hunt and crafts.  Then the whole castle was ours to explore, for an hour before it was open to the general public.

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The castle was decorated for Christmas, with several rooms representing different Scandinavian traditions.  Many had tables set for Christmas dinner – one with fancy silverware which I  noticed was subtly stitched to the tablecloth.

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Here is a “Christmas Tree” without the tree!  Just glass spheres floating in space.

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On the eve of Svaty Mikulas Day, the Bishop (Svaty Mikulas), Angel (andel), and the Devil (cert) visit children.  The Bishop talks to each child, and the Angel rewards good children with a treat.  Meanwhile the chain-rattling Devil stands by to put naughty children in his sack and take them back to hell with him.  Not to worry though, the Angel stops the Devil and protects all the children.

The ballroom was huge, and featured a stage with special lighting, backstage entrances and rooms.  It was only used once, as a fundraiser during WWI!

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I enjoyed this whimsical woodcarving of art, art enthusiast, and less enthusiastic.

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Crack Cream Puffs

Ok, maybe the highlight of the week was helping Becky make these AMAZING Crack Cream Puffs! Supposedly they are named for the  Crispy Cracked Sugary topping.  But I know it’s because when you add creamy filling inside the crispy puff, it is crack like addictive!  Fabulous!

 

 

 

MIA in MOA

Just before we left Lincoln, Steve introduced me to his friend Terry, who is a car guy, and has a pretty awesome Camaro.  He said he’s a little bummed because it only puts out a bit under 800 hp now.  But he’s working on it!

 

On our way back to Minneapolis from Lincoln, we had planned on stopping somewhere for a 2-3 mile walk.  But where would we find a nice place that seemed rural and wasn’t just along a highway?  After we drove through Omaha, we found a great spot – Iowa Western Community College.  They have a pretty campus and lots of room to walk and explore.  And the next day we found out that is where Angie, a hygienist who used to work for me, is now teaching!  How cool!

Above are pictures of campus walkways.  They have a stadium dedicated to the “Reivers”.  So I had to know what a Reiver was.  I had to look it up… the short answer is a river pirate.  So I learned something at the college!

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We spent some time at the Mall of America in Minneapolis.  MOA is supposed to be the largest mall in America, but I guess it depends on how you count… MOA has 2.5 million square feet, where the King of Prussia Mall in Pennsylvania has 2.9 Million.  But the King mall has only 450 shops and MOA has 500.  Aren’t you glad to know that?  Both have far more stores than I need, but we spent most of our time in the amusement park in the center.  Being a weekday, it was all but abandoned!  No lines, and some fun stuff.  One coaster goes straight up 3 stories, then straight down and inverted several times.  Gotta Love It!

I know I’m just a big kid when it comes to Lego… an almost life sized helicopter, a three story robot thing, and many other huge sculptures.  Amazing.

This life sized girl was wearing an “I voted” sticker.

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My favorite was the huge Saber Toothed Tiger.

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So here’s a quick video tour of the park…

 

Just north of the Mississippi River I saw a nice looking old building dusted with snow:

Then time for a bit of internal architectural work…

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Becky told us about a little Swedish Bakery, so we met an interesting baker and relieved him of some sourdough bread, Limpa bread (aka Swedish Rye) and several pastries!

So I’m pretty sure we’ll eat well this weekend!

Quilting!

Would you believe I went to a quilting museum?  The International Quilt Study Center and Museum, in Lincoln, Nebraska.  The building is supposed to represent the layers in a quilt, the bricks in the walls are in quilting patterns, and even the landscaping is arranged in quilt-like patterns.

A long time ago, quilts were made from scrap cloth that the owner was reluctant to throw out.  Cloth was expensive, and one didn’t want to waste it.  So these everyday, ordinary scraps were turned into something useful, even beautiful.  After cloth became more affordable, fancier quilts were made with new material and colorful imaginative patterns.

I have decided we all are quilt makers.  Our personalities are composed of thousands of scraps, memories, of life events.  Some we are stuck with, but for the most part we choose which scraps we want to feature prominently and which we choose to downplay. Our choices, whether we do it consciously or not, color our lives.

So here are some quilts…

The first one told me this museum would be more interesting than I’d been afraid it might be.  It was made entirely of pencils!  New, old, long, short, fancy, plain, ordinary and beautiful.  Fun to look at and maybe adds to my view of everyone’s life being a quilt…

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I’ve always liked these mosaic type images inside images, and here it is in a quilt.

After a few modern quilts, as above, most were from the mid 1800’s.

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In the early 1800’s they started using Cadmium as a dye for cloth, making the bright orange color very popular for quilters.  These “Cheddar Quilts” featured lots of bright oranges, and were bolder and more interesting than had been possible with the vegetable dyes previously available. They were all the rage until the 1870’s when synthetic dyes made other vibrant colors available.  Cherryl particularly liked the one below, circa 1890, a pattern called “Around the World”

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There were also little quilts for doll beds…

In the 1800’s many quilt makers were women, who did not have the right to vote, and expressed their political views in their quiltings.

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On our morning walk, Cherryl and I saw a garage door open revealing an interesting old car.  The owner was cleaning the gutters of his house, so I asked him to tell me about his car.  Cherryl knew what was going to take place, and decided to continue with her exercise walk while I exercised my ability to talk cars with perfect strangers.  He told me it was a 1940 Buick Super, straight 8, all original except for a new paint job.  It was bought new by his wife’s grandfather, and has been in the family since then.  Beautiful!

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Another museum that is more in tune with my usual interests is the Speedway Motors Museum of American Speed.  If you don’t like pictures of beautiful or interesting or rare old cars you might as well skip over the next bit…

The first area had lots of what I called midget racers and dirt track cars.  Many of these were from the 40’s or 50’s… I’m not so interested in them, so you don’t get too many pictures.  But they were beautifully presented!

A lot of amazing engines on display…

Now we got to the good stuff!  The Corvette and I share a birthday, so I have a special bond with them… So this is one as old as I am!

The more well seasoned of my readers may remember the name Hedy Lamarr.  I knew she was a gorgeous actress from the 50’s, but didn’t know that much about her.  She was born in Austria, and married a Nazi sympathizer who sold armaments to Hitler.  She grew to hate the Nazis and Hitler and her husband, divorced and moved to the states.  She was very brainy as well as beautiful, and she and another guy created a torpedo guidance system that was used by our navy.

More relevant to this museum, she purchased a 1958 Cadillac Sixty Special from a dealer in Hollywood, coincidentally the same day that Clark Gable bought one.  Her car is displayed here in perfect condition.

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Many land speed record cars are displayed here, including this “World’s Fastest Flathead”

Three cars from wacky designer Ed “Big Daddy” Roth… He drew and actually built many bizarre vehicles in the 60’s, mostly in the “Rat Fink” genre.  Below is the Boothill Express, probably the fastest hearse ever developed. (But doubtfully ever used)

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This little bug replica is all engine!  Yes, those are dual superchargers stacked on top of a huge V8.  I could not find a place for a driver… maybe the world’s fastest remote controlled car??

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I love the Tucker.  It was Preston Tucker’s attempt to create a very innovative car in competition with Detroit’s big three.  It was supposed to have a flat 6 rear mounted  aircraft engine, 4 wheel independent suspension, disc brakes, seat belts and padded dashboards.  These were all way ahead of the times in 1948. The cars are probably most remembered for the central headlight that turned with the steering wheel to light the way around corners.  Tucker couldn’t manage to produce the cars on time and within budget, and folded having only produced 50 cars. So here is a very nice, and rare, car.

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Now we get to what is probably my favorite car of all time.  Duesenberg.  Made by a couple of German brothers in the United States, they were among the most advanced, most elegant, most powerful, most sophisticated and most expensive cars in the world.  Ok, Rolls Royce were pretty cool too, but the “Doozy” was in a class by itself.  Most were sold as chassis only, with custom coachwork added by a separate company.  This meant it would be almost impossible for anyone to have a Duesenberg just like yours. So here is a 1930 Duesenberg.  When it was new, it probably sold for between $13,000 and $19,000.  When the average American income was under $1,300 per year, that was a lot of money! That would be over $700,000 today!  (I’ve seen some valued at 2-3 Million dollars now!) But what an imposing, magnificent car!

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In addition to the quilt and car museums, I took a few pictures of Union College.  Our daughters both attended here, and I love this school.  I’m a little late for peak fall colors, but the area still looks good.

The Clocktower is the focal point of the campus:

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Nearby is a life sized sculpture of Jesus, who is the real focal point of the college.

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On one corner of the campus is a Carnegie Library building. Between 1883 and 1929 wealthy philanthropist Andrew Carnegie created more that 2,500 public libraries in over a dozen countries.  About 2/3 of these were in the United States.  He was very interested in helping communities help themselves, so he required their help in locating and staffing these libraries.  The architecture was always beautiful, and the buildings themselves inspired an investment in learning.  Broad doors reached by an significant stairway represented elevating knowledge available to all.  Lincoln’s Carnegie Library  building is now used for some college offices.

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Today was a visitation day at Union College, and my brother-in-law Steve got out the 1967 VW bus that acts as somewhat like a Union Mascot.  He does most of the photography for the college, and he loves the beautifully restored bus.  After the visiting high school seniors were photographed in front of the bus, they went for a little tour of old downtown Lincoln.  Six students rode with us in the bus.

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The Haymarket area of Downtown Lincoln is picturesque and trendy.  I had a mango smoothie in a cute place called The Mill:

Fun decorations included model airplanes above and a rusted old Vespa in the window:

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Here is R2D2 during his younger days as a barista…

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The old Union Station has been revamped and has an old steam locomotive outside.

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