Greetings all! Today’s collaboration is about one of my favorite subjects. It’s about friends.
When anyone we know asks us about living in Minnesota, and questions our sanity in terms of the stout winters we have here, we just say “This is our home now. We made the best friends we’ve ever had here. It’s priceless.”
Yesterday was Barbara’s birthday. It was a big “landmark” birthday, too. The kind that ends in a zero. Yes, she’s finally 30 which means we got married when she was six. Well, she sure as heck still looks and acts like a 30-year old.
We talked about what we would do, and whether or not we’d play it low-key or do something big. It was pretty clear she just wanted to do something low-key. So I booked a table for us, out on the patio at Crave (one of our favorite restaurants here) and I bought her a nice gift. And then one of her “gang” of Woodbury women texted me about stepping it up a notch. A “surprise party” concept was hatched.
Barbara had a spa appointment in the late afternoon with our friend Kristy, and the spa is right across from Crave, so it all fit together well. Between Kristy and friend Annette, they put the word out to the whole group from the old neighborhood and we ended up with two tables. The original one for just Barbara and me, and a table for six of her best friends ever. She was stunned, confused, and overjoyed.
We’re all vaccinated now, although we still practice all sorts of care when it comes to being together. Everyone still had their masks on when I took the original group photo, but then we took another one of all the friends without masks. Barbara had her eyes closed, but it was all pretty much “spur of the moment” stuff so we don’t care. It was the photographer’s fault.
That’s Barb in the middle, of course, and her dear friends Nichol, Kristy, Annette, Barb, Lynn, and Mary Beth from left to right.
As the only guy there, I got a great taste of what it’s like when these crazy ladies all get together on their own. The word “hilarious” defines it pretty well. At one point I said “If you all came along to a get-together of my buddies and me, I think you’d be sadly disappointed. We’re not this nuts.”
It was really fantastic. And it just felt so great to be out and about while feeling pretty safe about it. This is life. This is friendship. This is caring. It’s all good.
And here’s Elon Werner with his take on neighbors and friends. Once again, we illustrate just how much we have in common despite living in totally different parts of the country.
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Barbara and I are off to the North Shore of Lake Superior with Mary Beth and her hubby Joe tomorrow. We’re feeling quite a bit of normalcy. I just hope more people get their vaccines.
I know, from reading Bob’s blogs, he has made some amazing friendships with his neighbors over the years. I can relate, since almost ten years ago my family moved into a neighborhood with, hands down, the best neighbors ever. When we had the house under contract we drove the streets surrounding our house and saw so many people out working on their landscaping while kids played in front yards. Once we moved in we quickly got to know the families that lived directly beside and across the street from us, as well as families one or two houses over. It was an amazing group of people that has only gotten better as a few new neighbors have moved in over the past five years. The current neighbor line-up is stocked full of all-stars when it comes to being supportive without being nosy, while also being up for anything when it comes to entertaining and having a good time.
Each family has taken ownership of a holiday or a special event throughout the year. I wrote about my family’s Christmas party and cookie extravaganza. In addition to our holiday event, families have annually hosted a July 4th party, Memorial Day Bar Be Que, Cinco De Mayo/Kentucky Derby celebrations and most recently the annual crawfish boil.
My neighbor Dale is from Louisiana and it is no secret. He is a diehard LSU and New Orleans Saints fan. During college and pro football seasons he puts out signs, inflatables and banners in support of the Tigers and Saints. There are Texas A&M fans, Michigan fans, Mizzou fans (yours truly) and University of Texas fans along our street so when the LSU Tigers are playing against one of those teams Dale ramps up the rivalry even more. It is all in good fun but needless to say Dale loves Louisiana and he loves to boil crawfish.
Last year we didn’t have the neighborhood crawfish boil because of COVID, obviously, but this year just about everyone in our neighborhood has been vaccinated and we still keep our distance when we are outside. Dale asked a few weeks ago how interested and comfortable the group was with the idea of him doing a big boil. He said he would keep it just to our group and spread out more than in past years. He would still have to sling the grub on the long tables but we could set up two so we could spread out.
The big event was last Saturday and the buzz in the neighborhood, in anticipation of filling our bellies with crawfish and all the fixin’s, started on Friday. Throughout the day on Saturday Dale began his set up and everyone chipped in to help. As we got closer to the event the group text string began to light up with people updating everyone with what desserts they planned on bringing or what snacks we could munch on before the main event. I looked at all the items and tasty treats on the horizon and it made my heart swell. I also began planning my strategy to get the maximum benefit from the event.
Dale did three rounds of crawfish. The first boil came out at 5 p.m. with crawfish mixed with potatoes, corn, garlic bulbs, onions, mushrooms and multiple types of sausage. Dale mixed it up this year with Earl Campbell sausage, Andouille sausage and pecan jalapeno sausage. He covered long tables with plastic wrap and cardboard and everyone gathered around to get their fill. We ate in waves again to spread out the people. The second wave dropped at 5:30 p.m. and this was just like the first wave only no mushrooms. Dale knew we had a couple people are allergic to mushrooms so he did a special boil for them. The final boil dropped on the tables at about 6:30 p.m. and his batch was not for the faint of heart.
The final boil had three times the spices and was heat level of 11 on a 10-point scale. The corn on the cob really sucked in the heat and lit up your lips with true Cajun heat. All the sides had a little extra kick but it was so delicious. I ate my weight in crawfish and enjoyed many of the sides. My favorite was the garlic bulbs. They popped out of the skin like butter and tasted amazing.
The event lasted about four hours and by the end of the night half of the neighbors were in a food coma in Dale’s front yard. If you didn’t leave with a full belly you weren’t trying hard enough. Dale and his wife also made goodie bags with leftovers for anyone that wanted to take some grub home. It was an amazing event and a nice reminder that things are starting to get a little better.
On Sunday we gathered again to rehash how delicious all the food was and also we celebrated Dale’s culinary skills when it came to boiling crawfish. The big winner of the event was the pecan jalapeno sausage. It was a new addition and got unanimous support to make a strong return in 2022. Next up is the Cinco de Mayo/Kentucky Derby party.
I was able to recover from the weekend to get some work done this week and the highlight was reconnecting with five-time Super Bowl champion and NFL Hall of Famer Charles Haley. After his playing days with the Dallas Cowboys wrapped up Haley made his home in Dallas and has been involved in all sorts of events and appearances. We have worked events together for a variety of clients including Beckett Media, Panini Trading Cards and various Dallas Cowboys events. On Wednesday we hooked up to talk about one of his new passions, collecting classic cars.
I heard he had some nice rides that he was working on getting restored and he had some finished cars that were in nearly mint condition. He was kind enough to talk about two of his favorite cars for the Milwaukee Area Technical College virtual car show which gets started May 12. I met him at his house and he already had his cars in his driveway. He also had his dog King, a sizeable Doberman Pincher, in front of his house. I took my time walking up to Haley’s house because I did not want to become King’s chew toy. I was greeted with a big hug from Haley and that gave King the alert I was not to be gnawed on.
Haley had his latest acquisition out which was a classis Lincoln Continental that was purple and featured suicide doors on the driver’s side. This car still needed a lot of work and it was obvious King was very comfortable in this car. The other car Haley had out was a near mint condition silver Mustang that was a thing of beauty. He had originally bought the car for his dad and after his dad passed away he gave it to his daughter who was studying at Stanford. I could just picture this convertible cruising around the Stanford campus as well as the California coast.
I wanted to get a two to three minute video of Haley describing his cars and also talking about the importance of students pursuing a degree in auto tech. I gave Haley a run down and then asked him if he was ready to go. He said he was all good so I hit the record button. He immediately started talking about how much he loved his cars and described all the elements he was going to improve. He also really got into talking about the importance of education in general as well as the need for auto technicians. It was amazing and he went on for almost five minutes of video gold. I could not have been happier with the finished product.
I thanked him for his time and then we chatted for about fifteen minutes about different speaking engagements he had done spreading the word about getting an education. His bottom line message was knowledge is power and no matter how old you are you can still pursue your dreams. He told me his mother dropped out of school in the sixth grade but at the age of 53 she went back to school and got her GED diploma. I could tell his mom’s accomplishment was just as impactful to him as winning a Super Bowl. It was a great way to get over hump day and motivate me for the rest of the week and beyond.
Thanks for reading, everyone. See you again soon!