Tag Archives: #DPchallenge

A great day


Oh, that face.

I’ve watched that smirk blossom from the cherub-like visage of a 12-year-old boy to the masculine features of a 21-year-old college graduate.

Congratulations, Adored Stepson.

He officially passed through the portal of adulthood today when he graduated from the University of Wisconsin-River Falls. (He did it in three years, folks. Count ’em, three. No one graduates with a college degree in three years. OK, some people do, but it took me five. So I’m impressed. But thanks to PSEO which helped him earn college credit in high school and a nose-to-the-grindstone approach to earning credits that meant something, he earned his degree in business administration in record time.)

Back to the face. The one to Caswell’s left.

While we were taking celebratory pictures this morning near the river where River Falls gets its name, we passed this brick wall spray painted with a mugshot. Like a Rorschach test, the viewer assigns its meaning. Stepson saw George Bush. The one with the W.

I see Lyndon Johnson. And I can’t read the hashtag.

But for the sake of conversation (and an ending to this blog post), let me quote from George W.’s commencement speech last year at Southern Methodist University:

It is a glorious day when your child graduates from college — and a really great day for your bank account.

I’m kidding. He really did say that. But he also said this:

To those of you who are graduating this afternoon with high honors, awards, and distinctions, I say, “well done.” And as I like to tell the “C” students: You, too, can be President.

Funny guy, that George W. OK, enough goofing around. Bush also said this, and I share this to encourage my Stepson, who somehow became a bit cynical since the first day I met him when he recounted the entire plot to Eragon by Christopher Paolini while sitting across from me in a booth at Space Aliens cafe (he was so cute telling me all the details of a boy who finds a mysterious stone in the mountains). Maybe this commencement quote from Bush will encourage you, too.

Today, some doubt America’s future, and they say our best days are behind us. I say, given our strengths—one of which is a bright new generation like you—these are not dark days. These are great days.

This vibrant comfort dish started with a fresh lemon and a couple of leftover sweet peppers

When I think Italian food, I think red.

Tomatoes. Spaghetti sauce. A nice glass of Chianti.

It’s a limited vision. But it doesn’t have to be so.

It could be yellow.

Or orange!

I conjured up the following recipe after a friend gave me some fresh lemons. I wanted to make some comfort food (and icy cold lemonade wasn’t gonna cut it), so I thought of linguine with lemon sauce. But I had some yellow peppers I wanted to use up, the inspiration for which brought me to a bunch of red pepper sauce recipes. Thus was born my Pasta with Lemon & Pepper Cream Sauce.

peppers before

I liked it so much, I made it again a couple of days later with some vibrant orange sweet peppers. And a couple of carrots. ‘Cause I’m just a wild and crazy gal (who likes to sneak veggies into everything).

The result had all the atomic orange goodness of a bowl of Kraft macaroni cheese without any of the scary dyes or preservatives. The half-and-half (or cream, if you’re really needing it) speaks of comfort. There is a ton of natural, delicious flavor here, but don’t skip over the fresh lemon juice or the red pepper flakes.

peppers finished dish

Pasta with Lemon & Pepper Cream Sauce


  • 2 orange (or yellow or, if you must be conventional, red) sweet peppers, seeded and cut into eighths
  • 2 carrots, peeled and cut into sticks (skeptical? You won’t even taste these — but they’re orange! and good for you!)
  • 4 cloves garlic, smashed and skins removed
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • about 12 cherry tomatoes, halved (I used red, but I really wished I had orange on hand — these are for garnish)
  • zest of 1 fresh lemon plus about a tablespoon of lemon juice
  • 3-4 tablespoons half-and-half
  • 1 tablespoon dried parsley
  • 1 teaspoon dried basil
  • A pinch of red pepper flakes
  • 4-6 ounces of your favorite pasta (I like angel hair, but you have my permission to be unconventional)
  • 2 tablespoons shredded parmesan cheese
  • Salt and lots of freshly ground black pepper


  1. peppers cutArrange peppers, carrots and garlic on a cookie sheet. I tucked the garlic cloves into the pepper pieces so they wouldn’t get burnt (though a little browning just adds yumminess). Drizzle with oil. Add salt and pepper. Roast in a hot 400 degree oven for 25 minutes, stirring once or twice. Add the cherry tomatoes and roast for 10 minutes more (35 minutes total).
  2. peppers roastedAllow roasted veggies to cool slightly. Reserve the cherry tomatoes for garnish later. Now’s the time to start your salted water a boilin’ for your pasta.
  3. peppers blendedCombine lemon zest, lemon juice, roasted veggies, half-and-half and dried spices in blender (I used a smoothie glass) and blend until smooth. It will be thick, like a smoothie. Taste it and add salt and pepper as necessary.
  4. When your noodles are done (al dente if you must, or a little mushier if you’re more like me), drain and add back to your hot pot. Dump your blended veggies into pot and mix well.
  5. To serve, divide between two bowls (or, if you’re really hungry, dump into a single big bowl). Garnish with parmesan, your roasted cherry tomatoes and freshly ground black pepper. Serves 1 or 2.

peppers after

Seven things I’ve learned in seven years of blogging

Congratulations to me! Today is the seventh anniversary of writing a blog. I posted my first entry exactly seven years ago today when I wrote rather plainly about a visit from Mom and Dad and the end of autumn.

blogging lessons

On this auspicious occasion, I’m sharing seven things I’ve learned from this exercise:

1. Think hard about your brand before you begin.

I spent a lot of time in the month before beginning my blog settling on a name. I finally went with the blog title you’ve come to love because I thought it vague enough to permit me to write about a lot of topics, yet specific enough to describe my world view. And thus was born Minnesota Transplant.

2. Know why you’re writing.

I haven’t gotten rich in seven years, at least not in terms of financial windfall. But like a true writer, I can’t not write. I am compelled to create. And this is the forum in which I can be creative.

The purpose of my blog, first and foremost, is to record my daily doings for the people I love who now live two states away, primarily my parents and sister. Writing a post is a little like writing a letter, and I know my long-distance family gauges my well-being by what I post. Fortunately for me and my ego, a lot of other friends and acquaintances have found a place in my audience, too (see those stats over there in my sidebar? 1,813 followers and 127,318 hits and counting to be precise).

3. Playing small ball pays off. Eventually.

In seven years, I’ve written 1,845 posts here. Plus, I wrote 116 posts on Monica Lee, my author and writing blog, and another 116 entries on Clickago Storywerks, the blog about my photo organizing business (not subscribing to those? get thee over there to remedy that situation). On average, that’s 299 posts a year, or nearly six posts a week.

Pretty impressive. At least to me.

In order to write that kind of volume, I subscribe to the motto “Showing up is 90% of success.” I know that not every post is stellar literary fodder. But once a week or so, I write something really great, and I do that by trying to write something really great every day.

 4. Don’t conform.

This is a personal blog, not a business blog, so this lesson definitely doesn’t apply to you money-makers out there. But one rule I break every day is staying on point. I write about literally everything from books to fitness and recipes to aging. Even when I participate in WordPress’s weekly photo challenges, I write a lot of words to go along with my photography. Because I can. I’m in charge, and I enjoy thinking outside the box. And that freedom is what keeps me coming back to the keyboard.

5. There’s no accounting for taste.

I’ve written some amazing bits in seven years — stuff I love for the writing and the meaning. But my popular posts have been a book review of In Sheep’s Clothing: Understanding and Dealing with Manipulative People, a recipe for Who Hash and an analysis of what teachers are paid at my stepson’s high school.

Apparently, those posts have answered big questions for people living with covertly aggressive people, cooks who are also fans of Dr. Seuss and taxpayers (or possibly student teachers).

6. Be nice.

I know some angry bloggers might get a lot of attention, but I don’t need any more meanies in my life. Early on, I posted something depressing and pissy. My father encouraged me to rethink that attitude. The world is filled with enough pissiness without me adding to it. So when I’m angry, at least I try to be clever. But most of the time I try to count my blessings, and an attitude of graditude makes my blog — and my life — richer.

7. Blogging preserves time.

If there’s one life change I’d like to experience from writing my blog, it’s a book deal (I mean, who wouldn’t?), but I’ve already gotten a gift. The very act of thinking about a topic cements it into my memory banks. I rarely feel like time is slipping through my fingers.

Like a diary or journal, I can look back on blog posts and remember small events in my life. And that’s what life is made up of: Small things.

So, there you go … seven years of blogging, seven lessons. And today marks the beginning of another seven years. Yay, me.

Boundaries make good neighbors

Suburbs have a multitude of boundaries, both physical and socioeconomic. Setting apart the obvious societal lines between inner cities and suburbs, let’s discuss those physical boundaries today in honor of the WordPress weekly photo challenge.

There are streets, of course. Then curb and gutter (two boundaries if we’re counting). Boulevards are nice, and for dog walkers like me and the adorable schnauzer, sidewalks are useful. 

Now we’re at the property line. We’ve got a nice, usually green buffer in the yard. An upscale suburban house certainly has landscaping around the house — bushes, usually, and maybe pretty flowers, as here in this tony Detroit suburb’s clear signage at the subdivision entrance (we’re visiting a friend here in Motor City). Don’t forget the rocks or mulch, and if you’re very particular, plastic edging between the mulch and the grass.

Finally, we get to such boundaries as siding, walls and doors.

Whew! After reading a novel set in 19th century London where the protagonist finds himself poverty-stricken and grateful to find a job that includes housing in the form of a cot with a blanket in a dormitory, I’m pretty grateful for modern boundaries. I’m glad I can’t hear my neighbor snoring.

A workation’s symbol of freedom

horses back yard

The view out the back window of my camper.

Horses have been something of a theme on this workation I’ve been experiencing since mid-June.

Yes, I’ve been traveling, thus the spotty schedule of blog posts which I hope you’ll forgive. Our camper has made a cozy home in six different locations the past three weeks which means three laundromats and six sewer hose hook-ups (lest you think a workation is all fun and games, though it’s been that, too, what with a Fourth of July parade (how much fun is a parade!) and a Twins baseball game in Kaufman Stadium (when they say “not a bad seat in the house,” they’re not kidding)).

The trip began in Kentucky, and what’s Kentucky known for? Bourbon, fried chicken and the Kentucky Derby, right? Miles of white fencing line the pastures of Kentucky’s rolling landscape, and behind those fences beautiful horses graze on what I can only imagine is Kentucky bluegrass.

Then, quite by chance, we had the opportunity to witness a horse finding a home in a new Iowa pasture when we arrived a bit early at a colleague’s house for a dinner party. His son’s girlfriend trucked her new thoroughbred to his house to be stabled with his 22-year-old horse who, our colleague insisted, still mourned her stablemate who died five years ago.

horses free

Though you can barely see the equine beasts in this shot, their appreciation of the meadow at sunset was breathtaking.

We expected fireworks of the snorting and whinnying variety, hoping there wouldn’t be biting and kicking (I had, heretofore, been unaware that horses can be mean biters). Instead, the two horses took to each other like best friends. After a few hours of get-to-know-you sniffing and nickering, the horses were freed into the pasture together. To see those beautiful animals galloping after each other in the meadow was a beautiful sight.

During one of our stops in Minnesota, I had the opportunity to run (twice!) on trails marked as “shared use,” where I was instructed to announce my presence upon encountering riders on horseback. I only imagined giving such a beast a wide berth, not actually seeing any on my early morning jaunts.

Arriving in Wisconsin, we made camp at a site only 30 yards from a pasture where two chestnut beauties spend their days munching on grass made lush by lots of rain. My 8-pound miniature schnauzer spends her days on the back of the couch growling warnings through the camper window.

And the book I’m reading now? Well, among the characters in Jonathan Kirsch’s The History of the End of the World are the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse.

What meaning should I draw from this strange repeating coincidence?

Well, based on a quick Google search (what better place to find meaning nowadays than Google, right?), horses symbolize power, grace, beauty, nobility, strength and freedom (WhatsYourSign.com). My journeys have taken me through the heart of the Midwest, so perhaps I should draw on the beliefs of the original residents: “The horse has long been honored as helper, messenger and harbinger of spirit knowledge to the Native American.”

Beauty? Nobility? Freedom? Harbinger of knowledge? Sounds like a message to which I ought to be listening.

Stop and smell the lilacs on the way

lilacs vert

Few flowers have the power to capture my attention like lilacs. It’s their scent, I’m sure. As I was running around town yesterday morning, I literally stopped to smell the lilacs on the way.

My sense of smell is not exactly exacting. Sure, I can smell strong odors, but nuances elude me. Roses? Pretty. But their fragrance is weak.

There’s nothing nuanced about the scent of lilacs. Their heady perfume pervades even a hypnotic run. I’ve jogged by this home at least a hundred times, but I don’t recall ever seeing lilacs there. Obviously, I was exercising elsewhere in past late Mays.

Clearly, I have a thing for lilacs. I’ve waxed nostalgic for them more than once on this blog (201020112013). I’m always transported to the house I consider my childhood home, where a phalanx of lilacs grew in the alleyway, sweetly scenting the garbage cans for a few weeks every year.

I didn’t have my iPhone with me on my run yesterday, so I went back today on a soggy Saturday morning to capture this image.

The lilacs still smelled fragrant.

lilacs with saying

Evidence of spring

Early bird

Early bird

The neighbor’s willow tree is sporting a delicate veil of green buds unlike every other deciduous tree around here, still nakedly winter looking. Between the slates of my backyard fence, the gentile willow glowed in yesterday morning’s early sunshine.

Small wall, big background


Kudos to the campground maintenance guy (or girl) in Alabama who chose to paint the bathhouse wall with a beach scene.

As well intentioned as might be, God’s artistry at dusk shines brighter in the background.

Noble color, noble intentions

On the theory that seeing warm colors warms you up, I present this gallery of beautiful flowers on the warm side of the color wheel.

(There is no theory that viewing warm colors warms you up, but I think you’ll enjoy these images that make the most of the Rule of Thirds more than pictures of yellow snow.)

yellow flower

coral flower

red flower

fuscia flower

purple flower

Wherever men are noble, they love bright colour; and wherever they can live healthily, bright colour is given them—in sky, sea, flowers, and living creatures.

~ John Ruskin (1819–1900)

Sun sets Sunday on a sundae

While waiting in the drive-through for the wizards at Culver’s to create my custard sundae topped with peanut butter sauce and Reece’s Peanut Butter Cups (because one kind of peanut butter isn’t enough), I looked out the truck window and the crescent moon cast a spell.


Behold, twilight. I can’t type that word without thinking of Kristen Stewart, the starlet of the movie series based on the books, but there’s no other way to describe it. Beautiful, pink-and-lavender-bathed twilight.

It’s not nighttime, technically, but it’s a lot more evocative than the shot I captured Friday of the camper.

The chill in the air reminds me the leaves on that tree won’t be there for much longer, but this was an evening when an ice cream treat was still appropriate for the season.

“Without ice cream, there would be darkness and chaos.”

~ Charles Baxter