This week in Saint Paul: Monday, December 22–Sunday, December 28, 2014

We are halfway through Chanukah, on the verge of Christmas, and peaking at Kwanzaa around the next calendar corner, not to mention the other thirty-odd holidays that my friend Mooks tells us fall in December. If you have been looking at the Almanac arts calendar, you know how busy this world has been.

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Lucia Day: Of cats and saints

For the first time since this little blog began I skipped St. Lucia Day. No scent of citrus and saffron wafted from our oven throughout the house. No sweet buns shaped like S’s found their way to our breakfast table. Not a single home-made, IKEA-bagged, or bakery-baked Lussebulle or Lussekatt eaten on this most awesome of holidays.

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Review: "Life on the Edge of the Forest: Russian Traditions in Wood" at The Museum of Russian Art

(Photo via Museum of Russian Art website)

Minnesota’s forests helped to build the state we know today, but the forests we see today are far smaller than what used to exist.  In 1858, over half of Minnesota land was covered in deep sha

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This week in Saint Paul: Monday, December 15–Sunday, December 21, 2014

The days are getting shorter, but only for another week. In the mean time, taking in some festivities will help brighten the brief days. If you look at the Almanac arts calendar, you might get a little dizzy with everything that is happening. If you need some help choosing, here are some ideas.

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Christmas blessing

I was not born into a handy family. My dad never owned a power saw, router, grinder, etc. (the best I've done so far is acquire a sawzall) so we didn't work on any do-it-yourself labor intensive home improvement projects growing up. The biggest annual "handy" project that my dad had to do every fall was put up and hammer nails into boards to cover the screens in the screen porch that was attached to our detached garage back in my hometown of Duluth. That was always a big event and a big deal. To his credit my dad never once complained about having to do it. When I was a teenager I realized that my dad didn't care for this task very much but he knew it was something that had to be done; just like he knew that it was better for the life of the driveway to shovel down to the pavement and breaking through the inch or so of ice that would sometimes build up on top of the driveway. This is something that my dad always did and always wanted us to do even if my brother and I didn't always want to do it. Keeping the driveway as clear from snow and ice as is possible in Duluth, MN paid off because the blacktop on the driveway never needed to be replaced in the 14 years that I lived in the house. My dad did all of this with basic metal and plastic shovels. Maybe he used an ice pick every once in a while but it wasn't very often. Who says you need expensive tools to do certain jobs right?

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Review: "Winter Holidays in the Soviet Era" at The Museum of Russian Art

(Photo via Museum of Russian Art website)

I’ve always thought of December as a glittering month.  Twinkling lights appear around buildings and swirl around trees, while festive music is played and coffee drinks mixed with eggnog or pe

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The River Bench series: Garden encounter

The Cherokee Heights Garden Club has celebrated seventy-five years of service. They have faithfully beautified and tended the flowers on Smith Avenue at the High Bridge for years. Returning from a walk in Cherokee Park, I pass by the High Bridge flowerbeds. A seventy-something woman is tending the spider lilies and bachelor buttons, deadheading a few and weeding between the plants. She has brought a minimal set of tools in a basket. I nod as I walk by, giving her a thumbs up for her work and continue on my way north toward the river bench.

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What's German for 'bah humbug'?

So it seems our little Holidazzle Market has some critics. Apparently, it’s not stroller or kid friendly enough. Apparently it’s outrageous to stop offering the same old free entertainment the patronage for which was insufficient to induce downtown businesses to continue supplying it. Apparently it’s just uncouth to ask visitors to contribute a small amount of money to cover the costs. Apparently the organizers are supposed to be thankful if people just browse for free.

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Lefse day!

We began as a hodgepodge of lefse-loving Minnesotas with Lutheran-church-basement-ladies-envy who wanted to learn the art of potato flatbread. Through the years we've each developed an important role in the day, contributing our skills to the balling, rolling, lifting, and griddling. Those skills have progressed and we are now Masters. This is our 7th year together, and we are an awesome, dangerous, motley crew of self-taught lefse makers.

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Globäl Gröceries | Chef Marcus Samuelsson shares his secret lutefisk recipe

(Photo by Stephanie Fox) Left; photo of Marcus Samuelsson courtesy of himself. Right; lutefisk in all its glory.

The obligatory bite of lutefisk at a Winter Solstice/Christmas celebration is one of two yearly traditions for thousands of Scandinavian Americans. The other is to complain about having to eat it.

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