Admiration for the lovely tulip

Tulip neighbor

Their season is short but their days are filled with glory.

I admire the neighborhood tulips every spring. I’m always astonished at how gardeners plan ahead. And trust! They trust those dirty bulbs will erupt some months later with loveliness. I soak in the unique beauty of every color. Red, of course …

tulip red closeup

Yummy yellow …

tulip yellow closeup

What a maroon!

tulip burgundy

Pretty purple …

tulip purple closeup

And variegated varieties …

tulip verigated purple

And I appreciate them in every form. A single bloom …

tulip single

In a bed …

tulips in a bed

In a circle …

tulips in a circle

And in a row …

tulips in a row

They don’t last long, and I’ve learned they malinger, rather than linger, when they’re cut and brought in the house. Don’t harvest the mighty tulip but take in its magnificence.

Travel Tuesday: Yuma Proving Grounds

We’re going to try something different here on Minnesota Transplant.

By we, I mean the Imperial We. (I hate it when my Beloved uses the Imperial We: He says “We should buy some snacks next time we go grocery shopping,” but he means I should pick up snacks next time I go grocery shopping. Don’t say we when you’re only giving me orders. Just give me an order.) Here at Minnesota Transplant, you are only involved if you want to be. I will be doing all the heavy lifting here.

We’ll be doing Travel Tuesdays here for a while. I’ll be reviewing some of the places I’ve traveled, particularly some of the places I’ve seen in the past four months, the lion’s share of which was spent in Yuma, Arizona. (Before you get too excited, one of the places I visited was Needles, Calif., which wouldn’t come close to the top of anyone’s list of amazing places to visit. So there’s that.)

As I explain on my About page, I think a Minnesotan views the world through a particular prism. The truth is, we all do. We know what we know, and everything else is a wonder. Or just plain weird. So these little side journeys on Tuesdays come from the perspective of a Minnesotan who transplanted herself in Illinois.

Today we’re looking at one of Yuma’s claims to fame: Yuma Proving Grounds. That would be YPG to insiders.

Yuma is set in the middle of the Sonoran Desert. Without irrigation, all you get is creosote bushes and sand. Which is perfect if you’re the U.S. Army and you need lots of room for military maneuvers exercised in extreme privacy.

YPG is north of Yuma and comprises about 1,300 square miles of sand and secret stuff. According to Wikipedia, “The proving ground conducts tests on nearly every weapon system in the ground combat arsenal. Munitions and artillery systems are tested here in an area almost completely removed from urban encroachment and noise concerns.” The General Motors Desert Proving Grounds can also be seen from Highway 95, and it’s apparently operated in conjunction with the Army.

While we were there, we witnessed a strange white dirigible, also known as an airship or a blimp. Talk about an unidentified flying object. A quick google search reveals it’s used by the U.S. Border Patrol, but I distinctly felt like it was watching me, to make sure I didn’t cross over any fences and see classified things.


Just off Imperial Dam Road (on the south end of the grounds), there’s a visitor’s center of sorts with about a dozen tanks on display. These massive machines are impressive, even if you have no interest in munitions or arsenals. (If you’re interested in — or irate about — how your taxes are spent, a standard tank nowadays costs upwards of $4 million. And there are 10 of them just sitting here in the desert.)

There is a museum on the grounds. I didn’t visit it because I’m not so interested in munitions or arsenals, but I can imagine some folks might be.

In general terms, the sprawl of the proving grounds is yuge (as is the in vogue way of saying huge), and you have to give props to the U.S. government for putting a lot of empty desert to good use. Or, at least, to some use.

Next Travel Tuesday: Quartzsite



Spring cleaning on steroids

Question: How did you spend this fine Sunday?

A. I drank too much sake with my sushi last night so I slept in and spent the day dozing on the couch while binge-watching Chopped.

B. I read the Sunday paper cover to cover and spent the afternoon working on the crossword puzzle while half-listening to the baseball game.

C. I went to church and spent the afternoon shopping for potted plants to hang in my porch. When I got home, I discovered a May Day basket hanging from my front door knob.

D. I moved every last winter coat, used tennis shoe, spaghetti noodle, kibble of dog food and bottle of laundry detergent out of the pantry, swept the room three times, scrubbed the nooks and crannies of the shelving and got on my hands and knees to clean the baseboards in preparation for an epic paint job.

Most common answer is A (because nothing says Saturday night like drinking too much). Lovely ways to spend the first day of May? B or C. But if you answered D, you’re on the same wavelength as me.

We’ve lived in this house nearly nine years, and it’s finally time to makeover the pantry.

The room comprises 128 square feet, and it’s also home to the back entryway and the laundry room. The multipurposefulness of the room contributes to a schizophrenic decorating vibe. A cute “welcome” message hanging over the door complements the cluttered food containers bursting out of their shelving. A duplicate of nearly every kitchen appliance (slow cooker, blender, hand mixer, coffee grinder — we might need them someday, after all) fights for space with tin foil, refrigerator water filters and cleaning supplies. A functional laundry center sits next to closet filled with sandals and boots, coats and jackets for every season.

One cannot fully fathom one’s tendency towards hoarding until one consolidates the contents of one’s pantry and realizes she has more than two dozen light bulbs, over 20 pounds of pasta in every shape and at least eight pair of running shoes. Nine jumbo rolls of paper towels? Check. Seven kinds and flavors of nuts? Check. Five different kinds of pancake mix (regular, buttermilk, heart-smart and two brands of gluten-free) and five types of oatmeal (old fashioned, minute, Irish, steel cut and single-serving packets)? Check and check.

Once my Beloved and I removed everything (including the washer, dryer, shelving and quarterround), the formerly crowded room looks cavernous and echoes like an empty warehouse. I replaced the 60 watt bulbs in the light fixture with 100 watt bulbs, and now every scuff, flaw and stain on the walls stands out like neon advertising reminding us why we undertook this project, which will include painting the ceiling and closet in addition to the walls and installing new flooring to replace the, ugh, linoleum.

As with every room makeover undertaken at Minnesota Transplant’s house, a paint job blossoms into so much more. We’ve already invested in baskets to spruce up the pantry shelving and we’re thinking about installing cabinets above the washer-dryer. Dad is working on a new shelf with coat hooks, and I’m going to paint the foot locker. Oh, and new rugs. Of course. Who, I ask you, puts old rugs on new flooring?

I’m exhausted as I recount this, but oddly invigorated. Nothing inspires like clearing away years of dryer lint and filling one’s trunk with items for Goodwill. Even as I slouch at my computer, I feel so much cleaner and lighter.

A perfect project for celebrating the first of May. Hope however you spent it was equally as satisfying.

1984 memories of Prince

September 1984

Remembering a show: Purple Rain with Prince — wow!

The Dear Diary I kept through high school was created by author Judy Blume. At the end of every month, the pre-printed book prompted me to reflect on the best and worst of the month and to remember a book, a show and a feeling. In September 1984, the show I remembered with a “wow” was Purple Rain.

I saw it with my on-and-off boyfriend whom I’ll call The Dentist’s Son on a Wednesday night, September 5. I was 17.

“Prince is so neat,” I wrote. Ah, the descriptive abilities of a teenager.

We got back together for the umpteenth time after the movie, an event which got more attention in Dear Diary:

I said, “I guess I shouldn’t assume anything. I guess I shouldn’t assume that you’re going to take me back.” We were driving around after the movie, and he screeched to a halt and kissed me. He did want me back!

I wasn’t going to write a tribute to Prince because I wasn’t sure I had all that much to add, and to be truthful, I don’t have much to say about his towering talent other than what I described so succinctly in my diary in 1984: Wow. Still, I have strong feelings of nostalgia for Prince, and his passing makes me sad. The songs from his Purple Rain album never fail to bring me back to memories of high school and The Dentist’s Son so Prince’s impact on my echoic memory is strong.

That’s echoic memory, not erotic memory, but in this case, I probably mean both. Echoic memory, as in echo, is a very brief sensory memory of some auditory stimuli. “When Doves Cry” instantly carries me back to the couch in my parents’ living room where I enjoyed long, mostly first-base make-out sessions with The Dentist’s Son.

(There are songs like that for several of the boys I loved as a teenager.The Church Drummer is “Jack & Diane” by John Cougar (later John Mellencamp). The National Merit Semi-Finalist With the Snake is “Money for Nothing” by Dire Straits. The Two-Timing Pianist is “One More Night” by Phil Collins; I wore out Collins’ album No Jacket Required on my Walkman while pining for that guy. But I digress.)

It is Prince’s music that echoes as most sensual to me. Which I’m sure he intended (among other things; Prince was nothing if not deep). Wasn’t that the whole point of “Darling Nikki” (he said “masturbating,” heh, heh, heh)? It took me years to understand the double-entrendres of “Little Red Corvette.” Now I comprehend the musicality of Prince’s work (and the lyrics), but in the ’80s all I understood was the raw eroticism.

Quite a feat for a man who called the Twin Cities home. His last name, Nelson, couldn’t be more quintessentially Minnesotan. But most of us natives would rather choke on a hunk of lutefisk than say “masturbating.” Let alone sing it.

Not Prince. A man who liked wearing ruffles and looked sexy doing it. He was an original. And with his death, I mourn for him. And for my sweet youth.

Let me try to summarize … (summerize?)

We’re ba-ack.

My Beloved and I have returned from low and dry places, and I’ve just now caught my breath to bring my faithful readers up to date.

Minnesota Transplant was retransplanted for the winter. Or would that just be replanted?

I didn’t reveal much about my whereabouts since Christmas because, well, creepers. We didn’t need wide-eyed internet creepers pinning down our absence and pulling off some sort of caper on the house we left behind in northern Illinois. But we’re back now, so nah, nah, nah-boo-boo.

our rig

We spent three months in a camper in Yuma. Don’t know where Yuma is? Well, it’s pretty much as far south and west as you can get and still remain in the contiguous United States. We’ve gone south for the winter before but never to Arizona. We got what we were looking for: Sunshine by the bucketfuls. Sunshine every day (except three — it rained three days in three months; and we were told even that much was unusual — thank you, El Nino). Bright, unyielding sunshine. So much sunshine we got tired of the sunshine.

That’s a lot of sunshine.

For a girl who grew up in north-central Minnesota and lives most of the time in northern Illinois, Yuma’s winter weather was Glorious with a capital G. (Now its summer weather is not so nice unless you’re fond of 120-degree temps along with all your endless sunshine.)


big sky

If Montanans think their state is Big Sky country, they don’t know the Sonoran Desert. This is the view from Yuma.

Yuma is in the Sonoran Desert (did you know there are four deserts in North America? Arizona is the only state in the United States where parts of all four can be found). It’s drier there than a popcorn fart, as my Beloved would say. But the dry air is good for one’s joints and lungs, and it makes 95-degree days (like we enjoyed in late March) downright pleasant.

Home base was a 55+ resort with two big pools, a shuffleboard league and happy hour every day at 4. Though we were working through the winter (thanks to unlimited minutes and data), most of the rest of the residents of the park were lounging (retiring is where the word retirement came from). A hard-driving Minnesota native feels a little guilty hanging out in such a place, but I got used to it pretty quick (if the number of posts on my blog here is any indication).

But in any case, we’re back. The camper has been unloaded of its cargo (I still don’t know why my Beloved packed so many shirts and why I packed so many books). I’ve caught up on the mail and mailed our taxes. We’ve complained about the chilly temps back here in Illinois. And life returns to normal.

And that’s just fine.

These eyes couldn’t stay open for Amber Eyes

Raise your hand if you’re the sort to quit reading a book if it’s not so interesting to you.

There are a fair share of you out there, as evidenced by the way Amazon pays authors of Kindle Direct Publishing (quick summary: authors only get paid by the number of pages read in a book, not by the number of books downloaded; apparently a lot of readers download books they never read).

I am not one of those people. Almost always, I subscribe to the Clean Your Plate Club in books as well as, well, plates. Even when I get a box for my leftovers, I almost always eat the leftovers.

The last book I couldn’t stomach finishing was The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach, and that was three years ago. March must be the month for unfinishing because I read three chapters last week of The Hare with Amber Eyes: A Hidden Inheritance by Edmund de Waal before returning it to the lending library.

HareIt was exactly the sort of book I should have enjoyed. It’s non-fiction, it’s about a family’s history told through a collection of Japanese netsuke ornaments they collected, and it’s filled with beautiful descriptions. It came highly recommended by a librarian I once met when I asked her, “Read any good books lately?”

But after yet another description of a building, or world history at the time of one of the long ago character’s lives, I couldn’t take it anymore. The poor man couldn’t find enough actually stories about his ancestors, so he wrote about their homes, their belongings, their context. Too many times in the first 50 pages, I had to return to the beginning of a paragraph to figure out what I was reading about because I had gotten lost in the individual words.

Also, I could tell where the story was going: The Jewish family lost their riches in the war. Except the beautiful netsuke collection. Which included a rabbit with yellow eyes( I guess. I didn’t get that far). Tragic, yes, and poignant, but I wasn’t up to reading about poignant tragedy.

It’s a well-reviewed book (just as The Art of Fielding was), but it’s not for me. As I maintain a to-read list on Goodreads that is more than 200 books long, I am realizing all the more that I won’t be able to read all the books I want to read in my lifetime. There are just too many good books. So why slog through the not-so-good books just to finish them?

It’s obviously a fact a lot of other readers have already figured out.

Latest work based on O.J. Simpson case succeeds in enlightening, entertaining

True confession: My latest guilty pleasure is “American Crime Story: The People v. O.J. Simpson.”

Every Tuesday night the past two months after I absorb the fallout from the latest U.S. presidential campaign primaries and caucuses (because nothing creates an opportunity to rubberneck like bunch of politicians in a car accident on CNN), I turn to FX for my fix on the trial of the century.

As much as I resist watching murder stories, as I call my Beloved’s favorite nap time snoozers–the true-life murder documentaries aired by Dateline and others–I can’t get enough of “The People v.” I guess I don’t want to admit to being entertained at the expense of victims of murder. But as described in The New Yorker, “It’s a tasty Proustian cronut that makes you remember the events of not only 1995 but 2015.” (That would be a “brief, vivid, sense memory” of a lighter than air but delectable croissant-doughnut pastry, for those of you outside The New Yorker’s realm.)

Back in 1995 when Simpson was being tried for the murder of his ex-wife and an ill-fated waiter who may or not have been involved with her, I was a daily newspaper copy editor who read nearly every story written about the farcical circus as it came across the wires. I distinctly remember putting a say-nothing story about some minute detail of the trial on the front page one Friday night for publication the next morning because there was no other news. “What a waste of newsprint,” I thought. The world, me included, was glued to the goings-on of the courtroom even when nothing was happening.

I bought the hardcover of prosecutor Christopher Darden’s “In Contempt” when it came out a year later because I was fascinated with the behind-the-scenes dilemmas he described in his memoir.


The defense team/FX Network

“The People v.” casts light on many elements of the case I hadn’t realized even though I was following it so closely 20 years ago. Like who would have assigned such empathic soul to Simpson friend and attorney Robert Kardashian, played masterfully by David Schwimmer in the TV series? (I love him in this role!) The amount of evidence against Simpson was monumental, yet the defense team deftly overcame it. I witnessed but hadn’t understood the racial strategy they employed that played on the sympathies created with the Rodney King riots. Yesterday, the series explained why the jury all wore black one day in court. And I had forgotten such juicy details as Faye Resnick’s tell-all and the dancing Itos.

There are two episodes left in this “American Crime Story,” and I won’t be missing a single minute. If you haven’t given it a try, check it out.