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Wednesday, December 31, 2014


As we wait for the ball to drop in Times Square, welcoming in the new year, it's important to reflect back in gratitude for the many gifts of this past year, and to look ahead with anticipation of the gifts to come in the new year.


***How are you welcoming in the New Year?

Tuesday, December 30, 2014


Well we are once again approaching the new year, and our sub-zero temperatures have arrived in Minneapolis right on schedule.  Currently it is 5 degrees outside with wind chills hovering around -15.  It’s definitely time to pull out the warm clothes.

As I stay inside to beat this cold weather, one of my standard pieces of warm clothing is my L.L. Bean Slipper Socks.  I mentioned last year how much I love these slippers.  They have been a staple in my wardrobe since my college days – which is longer ago than I’d like to admit to.  Let’s just say I’ve been wearing them for a long time.

I’ve never been a big fan of the “shoe” styled slippers, so for a good piece of my life slippers were never part of my winter wardrobe.  That all changed when I discovered the Bean Slipper Socks.  They have the comfort of socks yet offer the sturdiness of slippers - a win/win situation in my book.

This fall L.L. Bean opened a store at the Mall Of America and I couldn’t be happier.  I stopped in there a week ago and picked up a new pair of the Slipper Socks, and I’m really glad I did, because just few days later our temperatures took a nosedive, and we entered “frigidland” once again.

Kicking back on a cold winter's night. (Photo from our archive)

As our temperatures remain cold throughout the winter, I know I can rely on my L.L. Bean Slipper Socks to keep me warm as I hunker-down inside.

***What are your favorite slippers for the cold weather?

Sunday, December 28, 2014


The end-of-the year holidays are my favorites, and Christmas has always held a special place in my heart.  Growing up it was a time surrounded by family, friends and wonderful celebrations.  A time filled with happiness and joy.  That same happiness and joy is still found around my dinner table at Christmas today.

The table waiting for the guests to arrive.

Making sure everything is ready for dinner.

I host all of the holiday dinners for my friends at my place, and Christmas is one of my favorites.   I love to entertain and decorate my apartment, so this becomes a time to shine.  I’m fairly known among my friends for my tables, and while last year's was quite elaborate, this year I chose to go much simpler, in bold holiday colors of red and white.

Guests arrive phones in hand.  Welcome to the 21st Century.

All of the guests minus Tommaso who took the photo.

Entertaining my friends at Christmastime is always very special for me, and I try to make everything really nice for them.  While Christmas is the smaller of my holiday dinners, it’s non-the-less splendid.  Nothings fill me with more joy than hosting friends around my table for the holidays.

What I wore for Christmas:                  
               White Shirt:  Jos. A. Banks
               Red Cashmere Vest:  Macy's              
               Bow Tie:  Brooks Brother Green Signature Tartan
               Pants:  Lands End Green Corduroy
               Shoes:  Bostonian Cordovan Cap Toe
               Christmas Socks:  Vintage
               Boxers:  Brooks Brothers Green Signature Tartan
               Watch:  Timex
               Watch Strap:  Brooks Brothers


(My friends Tommaso and Jim contributed photos to this post)

***Who all shares your holiday tables?

Thursday, December 25, 2014


One of things I like most about Christmas is decorating my home and the trees.  I especially love decorating the tree in my dining room as it contains not only ornaments that I’ve collected over the years, but also many that have been handed down in my family from generation to generation.

These six ornaments belonged to my grandparents and great-grandparents.

When I was young, I told my parents that this ornament had to go at the 
top of the tree because it was Rudolph's nose.  I still place it there today.


***Do you have any special ornaments that have been handed            
     down in your family?

Wednesday, December 24, 2014


My holiday activities are never complete without attending The Rose Ensemble's annual Christmas concert.  It’s an event I look forward to each year.  This year was a bit sad for me, though, as I usually attend this concert with my friend Donna, who shared my love for this choral group.  Donna passed away suddenly last summer, and this was my first Rose Ensemble Christmas concert without her.  However, with that absence there came an opportunity, and I was able to take my friend John, who was experiencing the Rose Ensemble for the first time.

The doors of the Basilica welcome us.

The concert begins.

The concert was once again held at the Basilica of St. Mary, in Minneapolis.  I love this space for it architecture, which beautifully blends and balances grandeur and simplicity in an amazing way.  The acoustics are also wonderful, and the combination of both elements make the experience highly enjoyable.

A quiet reminder as we enter the final week of Advent.

This concert, “Bow Down, Good Cherry Tree:  A Garden of Medieval Music for the Nativity,” was a lovely collection of songs reflecting on the birth of Jesus.  I love how each year the Rose Ensemble is able to offer a new perspective on the season’s music, and I always find myself leaving the performance feeling refreshed, nourished, and re-grounded – a much appreciated feeling during this hectic time of year.

The Basilica altar in Advent splendor.

The Rose Ensemble’s next performance will be their Candlelight Concert in February which I never miss.  If you haven’t had an opportunity hear them, I encourage you to attend this concert.  It’s always quite spectacular.

What I wore to The Rose Ensemble's Christmas concert:                  

               Yellow Shirt:  Jos. A. Banks
               Red Cashmere Vest:  Macy's              
               Custom made Bow Tie:  The Bow Tie Shoppe
               Khakis:  Tommy Hilfiger
               Shoes:  Bostonian Cordovan Cap Toe
               Socks:  Polo Ralph Lauren
Watch:  Timex
               Watch Strap:  Brooks Brothers

***What are some of your favorite holiday concerts?

Tuesday, December 23, 2014


Minneapolis made the decision that last year would be the final year for the annual Holidazzle Parade, which was started in 1992, the year that the Mall of America opened, as a way to keep holiday shoppers downtown.  The parade ran between two and four evenings a week in December, and was viewed annually by more than 300,000 people.

The city felt it was time to re-imagine the event, and to offer something new and fresh that would take in more of the downtown area.  That fresh event took the form of the new Holidazzle Village and Market.  Cities throughout the country offer Holiday Markets, and now Minneapolis has joined their ranks.  I had the opportunity to stop by the Holidazzle Village and Market over the weekend and have mixed opinions.  

The Market stage waiting for  the next performer.

First, where the Parade ran the length of Nicollet Mall, the Village is confined to a two-block area, which doesn’t seem to encompass a broader stretch of the downtown.  It is also split into two components – the Village, which is free, and the Market, which is not.  I’m not sure this split was very well advertized.

There seemed very little to do in the free area, which only came to life in the evening.  It contained a couple of repositioned Parade floats (one used as a photo opportunity and the other whose appearance was a mystery), a storyteller stage, a small ice rink that seemed to be new this week, and a pen of reindeer.

This beautiful star was used throughout the Market area.

There was an admittance fee to get into the market area where food and beverages were sold, along with a few vendor booths.  The admittance fee seemed odd.  Granted it was a one-time fee, and you were given a card that was good for free re-admittance for the duration of the Market, but you were still spending money in order to be able to spend more money.

The Market was designed to resemble Little German shops, and the food was very good.  The other vendors in the Market offered a variety of products, that seemed a bit hodge-podge and expensive, but still nice to see.

This maple syrup was amazing and came in several flavors.

On the whole, the event wasn’t great and not very family friendly.  Things seemed to be very spendy in the Market, and a family of 4 or 5 would easily drop over $100 on just sandwiches and beverages.  There also didn’t seem to be much for kids to do there.  Much of the entertainment, like the storyteller, was only offered in the evening – not real convenient for smaller children.  There was a carrousel in the market, but that didn’t appear to be very busy when I was there.

I found it humorous that the reindeer pen . . .

. . . Was located in front of Caribou Coffee.

On a positive note, I must keep in mind that this is its first year, and it will take a couple years for the Village to find its stride.  I think there is some excellent groundwork that has been laid here, and that can be built on and improved upon as it goes forward.  The Holidazzle Village and Market has the potential to be something pretty awesome, we’ll just need to sit back and see what city learns from this inaugural year.  The Event runs through tomorrow so you still have time to visit.

(Cynthia Markey contributed some photos to this post.)

***Does your city offer some form of a Holiday Market?

Monday, December 22, 2014


It just wouldn’t be the holidays without my annual Christmas visit to the American Swedish Institute.  Located on Park Avenue, it is housed in the former Turnblad home, a beautiful Chateau styled mansion that is a Minneapolis icon.

One of the 11 imported Swedish tile stoves (one of the largest collections in the country)

Tomtes playing in the courtyard.

As many of you already know, the ASI is one of my favorite places in the city, and I attend several events there each year.  The Christmas visit has become a holiday tradition for my friend Cynthia and me, and we rarely miss it.  During the holidays, the mansion is decked out in yards of green garlands and wreaths finished with beautiful red bows to celebrate a “Nordic Christmas.”  In addition to the greens, each of the rooms is decorated to depict Christmas in a different Scandinavian country.  The finished product is spectacular.

Swan Turnblad was the son of a farmer who rose to the status of millionaire through his investments, and Amerikanska Posten, the Swedish language newspaper that he owned.  Eventually he would need a house worthy of his new wealth, and so in 1903 architects Christopher Boehme and Victor Cordella were contracted to design the beautiful French Chateauesque mansion they would later call home.

The two-story entrance hall.

There was entertainment throughout the day.

The Thor fireplace is my favorite . . .

. . . complete with elves . . .

. . . with attitude.

The Turnblads moved into the mansion in 1908 but only lived there for twenty years.  They moved out in 1929 after Christina Turnblad’s death, and the house was donated as a museum to house the newly formed American Swedish Institute, which was established by Turnblad to preserve Swedish customs and culture. 

We were there on Santa Lucia weekend so there were processions and programs.

"Santa Lucia" leads the procession.

The ballroom exhibit included movies . . .

. . .  and photos of past Lucias.

The Winter King?

Just your average gift shop lighting fixture.

Through the foresight of Swan Turnblad this beautiful mansion as been preserved rather than torn down to make way for newer buildings.  While this home is truly a gem, it is at Christmastime that it especially shines.  A “Nordic  Christmas” will be featured at the ASI through January 11, and I encourage you stop by.  It’s a yearly celebration not to be missed.

*** What are some of your favorite local Christmas attractions?