Monday, June 9, 2014

Minnesota Week - You Betchya!

(Kristi takes a brief moment to do small dance, pat self on back and breathe a huge sigh of relief that she successfully navigated (and made interesting for her kiddos!) Montana last week.  She thinks she may be in the clear until Nebraska.  And now back to our regularly scheduled blog!)

So we did manage to have fun making our way through the “Treasure State” of Montana last week and now we head back East a ways (but still in the very chilly North) to “The Land of 10,000 Lakes” or as it is called in its official state nickname, “The North Star State”, the one and only, Minnesota!  Aren’t you excited?  (If you’re from Minnesota you may have answered with “oh ya, ya sure, you betcha” as Minnesota has a language all its own.)  So whether you’re a fan of the common loon (the state bird), “Peanuts”, Targetshopping, Lucky Charms or Paul Bunyan I guarantee Minnesota will have something right up your alley.  So eat your Wheaties, grab your scotch tape, put on your Vikings helmet and join as we explore Minnesota this week!

As we put up the wall – I started with one big fact - Water plays a key role to the history, settling and lifestyle in Minnesota.  Most people know that Minnesota has a whole lotta lakes, 11,482 to be exact (that are 10 or more acres, the true measure of a ‘lake’ in Minnesota), the most of any state besides Alaska.  The most famous lake is mostly likely Lake Itasca as it is the true source or headwaters of the Mississippi River.  It is also home to the Boundary Waters, the vast area separating the United States from Canada.  Historically, this area was well traversed by voyageurs (French for travelers).   Voyageurs were people who engaged in the transporting of furs by canoe during the fur trade era.  As I explained to the kiddos, these guys were no lightweights!  Voyageurs often paddled their canoes for 14 hours or more a day, including having to carry (or portage) their loads over marshy areas of land.  As part of Voyageurs National Park you can visit the Grand Portage National Monument where they work to preserve the heritage of the fur traders.  I showed the kiddos some pictures of how you portage a canoe and they decided fur trading and being a voyageur was not for them.

I decided to maybe introduce them to some more modern Minnesota attractions they might enjoy.  I have been waiting since we kicked this whole project off to tell Mikayla all about The Mall of America.  I knew my little fashionista would be enthralled.  Plus, when I told Noah it had its own theme park with roller coasters he said he ‘may’ be up for a trip.  I had plenty of fun blowing their minds with some Mall of America facts, my personal favorite being that it would take you 86 hours to see the whole mall if you spent just 10 minutes in each store.  They wanted to go right then and there.   I told them that even if we couldn’t make the trip to Bloomington where the mall is located, we could patronize Minnesota founded and based stores Target and Best Buy from right here in Michigan!  Best to start closer to home and with 1,683 Targets  and nearly 1,000 Best Buys in the United States, I think it’s a safe bet we’re sure to have a few nearby for us to check out.

Since I for sure had Mikayla hooked, I told Noah if he was up for a trip to Minnesota we could maybe make a stop at the Paul Bunyan and Babe the Blue Ox statue (which Kodak claims is the second most photographed statues in the United States, behind only Mount Rushmore) or visit Paul Bunyan Land.  While the birthplace of Paul Bunyan is up for debate, as there are many different versions of his story the reason he is so important to Minnesota is that legend has it that his and Babe’s footprints are responsible for forming many of Minnesota’s lakes.  (Paul’s dragging his axe handle is also rumored to be the way the Mississippi River was formed).  If a tall tale wasn’t up his alley, I told Noah that the creator of one of the most iconic comic strips of all times, Charles Schulz was born in Minnesota and grew up in St. Paul (the capital and half of the states’ famed Twin Cities).  Schulz used his family and childhood in Minnesota as inspiration for Snoopy, Charlie Brown and the rest of the gang!  Noah seemed interested but I wanted to make sure it ‘stuck’ so I told him a trip to the 3M Headquarters in Maplewood might be in order.  While working for 3M, engineer Richard Drew is credited for the invention of both masking tape and scotch tapeAs the story goes… “The use of the term scotch in the name was a pejorative meaning "stingy" in the 1920s and 1930s. The brandname Scotch came about around 1925 while Drew was testing his first masking tape (for auto bodyshops to use to make clean lines) to determine how much adhesive he needed to add. The bodyshop painter became frustrated with the sample masking tape and exclaimed, "Take this tape back to those Scotch bosses of yours and tell them to put more adhesive on it!" The name was soon applied to the entire line of 3M tapes.”  I told him if all that wasn’t enough maybe we could catch a Minnesota Twins baseball game or a Minnesota Vikings football game depending on when we were visiting.  Both kids are now clamoring for a trip to Minnesota.

For me, it’s all about the food.  One of the largest food company’s in the world, General Mills, originally formed in Minnesota in 1856 as the Minneapolis Milling Company.  (I found this really cool timeline if you want to know all about General Mills and its subsidiaries)  The company markets many well-known North American brands, such as Betty Crocker, Yoplait, Colombo, Totino's, Pillsbury, Green Giant, Old El Paso, Häagen-Dazs, Cheerios, Trix, and Lucky Charms. Its brand portfolio includes more than 89 other leading U.S. brands and numerous category leaders around the world.  There are too many to even begin to list, but trust me I am going to be using quite a few of them this week.  I guarantee, as I told the kiddos as we put up the wall, from the bottom of my cooking loving heart, you’ll be hearing plenty about General Mills this week as I have quite a few recipes that use or are inspired by its products this week.

There was just so much about Minnesota I wanted to tell them about.  We did discuss briefly the Mayo Clinic which was founded by William Worrall Mayo in Rochester 150 years ago.  Known for treating difficult cases and its research initiatives (on which it spends over $500 Million per year), it has been at or near the top of numerous “best hospital” polls as well as being on Fortune magazines “100 best companies to work for” list.  We also joked about what it means to be “Minnesota nice” and one of my favorite all-time examples of it, Rose Nylund from The Golden Girls.  I also told them Minnesota was the setting for two of my favorite book series John Sandford’s “Prey Series” and Joanne Fluke’s Hannah Swensen’s Mysteries and Thrillers.  Apparently authors aren’t fooled by “Minnesota nice” and they think plenty of murder goes on in the big state.

All this promises to only be the tip of the Northwest Angle this week, so hang with us at any of these lakes this week, cozy up to your favorite Little Red Haired Girl and consider renting Fargo or A Prairie Home Companion to brush up on your Minnesota language skills since it’s all about “The Gopher State” this week, dontchya know!

I started us on our culinary journey tonight as well with the most of all Minnesota food the “Hotdish”.  Pronounced ‘hoddish’ it is an easy one-dish dinner often served at large Minnesota gathers such as church suppers, potlucks and family reunions.  A Hotdish typically contains a starch, a meat and canned and/or frozen veggies mixed with canned soup.  Minnesotans take their hotdish very seriously, going as extreme as the fact that four years ago, Minnesota Senator Al Franken created the annual Minnesota Congressional Hot Dish Competition where he  invited the members of the Minnesota congressional delegation to a friendly hotdish-making competition, to come together in celebration of the state before the beginning of the legislative session.  Tonight we sampled a recipe simply called Hotdish (Tater Tot Casserole).  If all dinners in Minnesota are this easy to make, I’m considering a move, because believe it or not, my favorite little cheflette helped me assemble most of it, donchya know!  Oh ya sure, bless her heart!

For dessert, as we put up the wall I wanted to have something fun, but Minnesota inspired to me.  To me, I think Minnesota and I think lakes.  If I think lakes, I think campfires by the lake.  If I think campfires I think ‘smores!  So I went to Betty Crocker’s website (a General Mills subsidiary) and simply typed in ‘smores’ to come up with something fun.  After wading through a TON of options, I settled on Smores of A Stick.  They were easy, fun – Mikayla actually helped me put them together!  I have a feeling this might be a go-to dessert around here from now on.  (If you want to try these out, message me because I have a few helpful tips that may make it easier for you based on ours today)

Tomorrow is going to be really exciting – Noah’s end of the year celebration is at school tomorrow and both Grant and I are going to be able to attend.  I can’t wait!  I thin Kayla and I are also going to hit up musical storytime in the morning and a playdate with some of my MOPS gals at Shiawasee for a bit.  Should be wonderful!  I’ve got a cool Minnesota project in mind for this week, but not sure if we’ll work on it tomorrow or not.  We’ll see how the day plays out!  So until then…

Minnesota Fun Fact of the Day: The skyway system in Minneapolis allows people to live, eat, work and shop in nearly five miles without ever going outside. 

One cool chick taking Sandy for a ride today

Taking her aggression out on the graham crackers

Yep, so easy the Bean can do it!

She did better with rolling one made especially for her
Smores on a stick!

Helping make the Hotdish (she was so diligent about spreading the veggies)

Taste testing the smores

Finishing up the hotdish with the tots

Ready for the oven

The Minnesota wall is up!

Mikayla's finished Hotdish

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