Monday, June 2, 2014

Retirement Vacation

I'm sorry for not posting the last couple of weeks. Besides forgetting to alert you all, I packed wrongly for my trip - way too many warm clothes, anticipating cold weather. Which didn't occur. I retired 4 months ago and so was in desperate need for a vacation. Retirement is HARD! Well, okay, that's not really the story, but it did catch your attention, didn't it? I did go on a vacation and it was fabulous.

I started out with a trip on Amtrak from Tacoma to St. Paul, Minnesota. I almost always travel in a sleeping compartment, so even though my train there was 6 hours late (oil trains in North Dakota), I had a book and my knitting and I didn't care. The trip there was the beginning of my vacation. The trip began about 1:30 PM on Thursday and I got to Minnesota about 11:00 Saturday morning. Lovely and so very relaxing. I always meet interesting people on the train too - it's part of the dining car experience.

First on my agenda was a slumber party with two of my oldest friends; seriously, we've known each other since we were 5-6 years old. They are part of the Fancy Five mentioned in earlier blog posts. We had lunch at Tucci Benucchi at the Mall of America; my spaghetti bolognese was delicious. It was rich, meaty, creamy, and made with fresh basil and oregano. They finished it with thin shavings of parmesan cheese. My friends had baked spaghetti and pronounced it delicious as well, with a very thick and slightly chunky tomato sauce. We spent the afternoon and evening and into the wee hours talking and talking. We never run out of things to talk about! It was so good to spend some time with them.

The next thing was to spend some time with my sister Nancy. As we sat on her sun porch chatting, I re-bonded with her doggies. And we ate Ol' Piper Pizza. It's not the best pizza in the world, but it is good and it's traditional in our family. We've been eating Ol' Piper for decades; plus, they cut it into squares, which I contend makes the pizza taste better. We then stopped at Dairy Queen on the way to visit my niece, nephew-in-law, and my 2 great nephews. Not sure if they were more excited to see their grandma or the ice cream, but we had a lovely visit  and they are so adorable. Then it was on to another niece, nephew-in-law, and their newborn son. He is adorable and the new parents are so thrilled. He was a preemie and his birth created a compulsion in me to knit preemie and newborn baby caps. I've knit 27 so far and am still compelled. I gave him a couple and have donated the rest to our local hospital.

Nancy dropped me off at my other sister, Joyce's, house where I was FORCED to eat Ol' Piper pizza again.  Though I managed to eat several pieces, it was under protest - except I think I forgot to actually protest. I spent the night there and repacked a little for the next leg of my journey.

I was headed up north with some girlfriends from high school. I met one of them in second grade; she was also the one who introduced me to my husband on a blind date, so we all go way back. As an aside, in Minnesota, people say that they're going "up north," to "the lake," or to "the cabin." Only if someone asks specifically do Minnesotans say which city or lake they're referring to. It is an odd thing, but is typically Minnesotan.

We stayed in friend Nita's hunting lodge - a log cabin lodge. We stayed on the main floor that had a living room, dining area, kitchen, bathroom, and 2 big bedrooms. There were 6 of us, 3 beds in each bedroom, and luckily, 3 of us like freezing cold rooms and the other 3 like warm rooms to sleep in, so it worked out perfectly. During the week, we talked, shopped, talked, ate, talked, had a pontoon ride, talked, and played Dominoes (specifically, Mexican Train Chicken Foot) until the wee hours of the morning. It was a new game for most of us and we quickly got hooked. Minnesota was beautiful - sunny, 72 degrees, 40 degrees overnight, and too early for mosquitos, the state bird. Our timing was perfect. I had some excellent food with wild rice - one was a chilled salad with wild rice, craisins, apples, celery, pecans, and a light dressing. As soon as I recreate the dressing, I'll post the recipe here. I'll also post a recipe for cranberry wild rice bread which was also delicious - I had that for a roast turkey sandwich - was perfect.

After returning from up north, I stayed with sister Joyce and got to see my other niece and nephew, both home from school. So, all together, I saw ALL of my nieces, nephews, and grand nephews except for one, who lives in Oklahoma. Molly - come home!!!!! Plus, my brother John stopped by for dinner and a boat ride; it was good to get caught up with him too. And to continue my perfect timing, my sister and her husband bought a new pontoon and had it delivered the day I was there, so we all got a ride on the new boat. My brother-in-law got a humongous motor for the pontoon - Until then, I had not known that a pontoon could go 30 mph! We had a gorgeous sunset cruise.

The next day, we slept in, showered, lazed around, played with their dogs, and drank a lot of coffee on the porch overlooking the lake. Then Joyce drove me to the Amtrak station. There's a Greek restaurant there, which has gotten very good reviews, so I had dinner there. Excellent pork chops (that made the edges of my lips tingle), pita bread, rice pilaf, and excellent merlot. I got on Amtrak, tucked myself into bed, and had a very lovely ride back home. We were on time coming back, which is too bad - I wanted to extend my trip - but I was so happy to see Randy again. When I got home, my cats sniffed me and then went back to their napping.

Recipes from this trip to follow in future posts . . .

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