A rainbow of pretty Southern plants

Minnesota Transplant has been traveling around the southern United States, lo, these past few days, and she’s discovered some interesting plants she never sees in Minnesota:


I found these little peppers in the Victory Garden at the World War II museum in New Orleans (it’s a very good museum, as far as wars go —  I definitely recommend beginning with the 4D movie narrated by Tom Hanks — it deftly compresses four years of U.S. involvement in the war to end all wars into about 35 minutes).

pink grass

Grass is green in Minnesota and Illinois. Or maybe blue if you’re a fan of Kentucky bluegrass. But it’s never pink. I found this ethereal pink ornamental grass in Gulf Shores, Ala. Wow. I felt like a fairy standing in the midst of these waves of cotton candy.

dragon flower

Though it wasn’t snarling, I found a flame-haired dragon in the garden at my husband’s uncle’s place in Tampa, Fla. This tropical beauty spoke to me: Take my picture, please. I complied.

Exercising … my rights

Monica Lee:

In honor of Election Day tomorrow, I bring you the second post I ever wrote for Minnesora Transplant — six years ago (wow!). I voted early this year; if you haven’t voted, consider doing so. It’s a privilege.

Originally posted on Minnesota Transplant:

On a normal day, I wake up and immediately dress for a workout. Sometimes I run. Sometimes I walk the dog. Sometimes I do yoga in front of the TV.

This morning, instead of getting dressed for exercise, I awakened excited. Today, I got to exercise my American rights. I got to vote for president.

In fact, all three of us got up early to vote; Tyler and I actually cast ballots, Cas observed. I thought it would be a good educational opportunity for Cas to see how the whole voting process works. He will, after all, be 18 the next time the nation votes for president, and he spent as much time as I did watching the presidential debates. What’s better than preparing a child to be a good citizen?

We arrived at the polling place at 6:57 a.m. Cas was the only kid in line, and I was almost…

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Halloween psychology test

Halloween costumes are a little like Rorschach tests: You choose a costume that reflects some secret aspect of yourself and what you see in others’ choices says something about you.

Take, for example, my Beloved: He dressed as a king last night when we were trolling the French Quarter in New Orleans. It’s a retread — he dressed as King Henry VIII in the past — but this time, he called himself King of New Orleans.


Does my Beloved see himself as a king? Yes, of all he surveys.

What did other people see?

Some — the well-read ones — saw King Henry. Some bowed down, tipped their hat or professed their allegiance (serfs in past lives, no doubt). Some saw the Burger King (the hungry ones).

Lots of werewolves, zombies and biker chicks asked for pictures with the King (groupies). Vain King Tut recognized a kindred spirit; he put his arm around my Beloved and summoned his entourage to take several shots (“were my eyes open?”).

How did I dress? As a faux jewel-encrusted queen. What did others see?

My king.

Dishing spicy details on ‘the finest condiment in the world’

Family legend posits that my brother once marveled about the business model of Tabasco pepper sauce: “I don’t know how they stay in business! One bottle lasts a lifetime!”

My family of origin doesn’t have a taste for hot capsicum peppers. I remember the Tabasco bottle in the fridge, the label faded and the top ringed with a dried spicy sludge.

We are outliers it appears.


A tour of the Tabasco pepper sauce factory puts the fallacy of the rare need for the sauce to rest: Up to 700,000 bottles of Tabasco a day are manufactured here at Avery Island in southern Louisiana and shipped to 110 countries around the world. The stuff is even sold in gallon jugs! Among facts I learned on the tour was that residents of Guam are the highest per capita consumers of Tabasco in the world: “Islanders use it on everything: Corn flakes, popcorn, beer and local dishes.”

Hmm. Corn flakes. That’s Crazy Town. But then I have the taste buds of a Minnesotan, not a Guamish breakfast eater.


I began to understand hot sauce had flavor not just heat when I moved in with my Beloved and Adored stepson a few years ago and learned we had to stock at least three brands of the stuff, some of it good for wings, some for Chinese food and some (lots) for scrambled eggs. My Beloved found six different flavors of Tabasco he couldn’t live without in the factory store today. We also tried Tabasco ice cream, and I discovered a cold food that left a hot sensation in the back of my throat.


The factory tour was fascinating, if not complimentary to all things Tabasco. “It excites the appetite, promotes digestion and is pronounced, by connoisseurs, to be the finest condiment in the world.” But make no mistake, you of bland palates, Tabasco “is not a luxury” though it has a place on every dinner table: “A bottle lasts a long time. It is not intended to be poured on like ketchup–neither is salt to be used like sugar.”

Ode to Shout Wipes

Why, oh why, does the universe exact its revenge on the day you wear a white shirt — the day you must wear the white shirt — by serving you at lunch a delicious, lightly roasted cherry tomato that squirts wildly when you fork it and at supper, a supremely savory plate of saucy angel hair spaghetti that whips pesto in every direction when you slurp it?

October magic


St. Louis is a bit quieter than the baseball fans around here might like. Instead of the Cardinals in the World Series, it’s the Giants and Royals. Can you say, “Go Royals”?

This time of year is a magical time for baseball fans even if your team isn’t playing. I love the Cinderella stories, the unlikely heroes and the tense moments broken by wild cheering.

If I happen to be traveling during the Series, there’s nothing better than watching a game over a plate of nachos and a beer in a local pub where the bathrooms are filthy and the menus are greasy. That’s where the character is (and the characters are).

Cheers to the thinking woman’s fame, baseball.

Fields of orange

Did you know Illinois is the top pumpkin-producing state in the nation?

pumpkin field

My little burg on the outskirts of Chicago is surrounded by pumpkin fields, like this one above. Or as Linus might say, pumpkin patches. Literally thousands of orange orbs fill that field.

That’s a lot of jack-o’-lanterns. Or Great Pumpkins.