Our Minnesota Christmas

Did I say we were renting a cabin? In truth, this place is more like a Mcmansion. It’s so huge that I’m embarrassed to post a picture. But on a family vacation like this, too much space is generally better than too little. There’s privacy when it’s wanted. For example, Meredith (David’s long-time girlfriend) has brought her bagpipes so she could practice for an upcoming competition (really – she’s a competitive bagpiper). Amazingly, we can hear her only faintly when she plays at the other end of the house.


Also, the location has more than met my expectations. We are on a hill on the Minnesota side of the Mississippi River. There are lots of big picture windows giving a view of the river and the Wisconsin hills on the other side. No other houses are visible from up here. The only town of any size in the area is Winona, which is about 10 miles up river.


So far we’ve had four Bald Eagle sightings. Unfortunately, we’ve only seen them swooping for a few seconds from one end of our field of vision to the other, without giving us time to grab a photo. There are plenty of other birds around, though, and Judy’s gotten some nice pictures.


But they are all birds that we see at home – Woodpeckers, Bluejays, Nuthatches. Still fun to watch, though. And we’re able to watch them through the picture windows, which is good because the daily highs around here have ranged mostly from 4 above to 3 below (Fahrenheit, that is, or about -19 Celsius).


We can also watch the trains down below, which is fun for all of us, but especially Daniel, who retains the train fixation of his childhood, though it has partially evolved into an interest in urban transit.

Otherwise we have spent our time reading, playing board or online games, and watching silly television shows. I’ve finished Chernow’s biography of Grant plus Ann Tyler’s Patchwork Planet. I like to read a more serious book and a lighter book at the same time.

In general, our observation of the holidays is casual in the extreme. We’ve given up on Christmas presents, so opening them is not one of our activities.

Eventually we will venture outside, but we’re hoping the temperatures will become a little bit more reasonable.


Judy grew up with a tradition, which we have continued, of eating pizza on Christmas Eve. David and Meredith made this year’s pizza from scratch, including the dough. (Sadly, Beckee had to go to work at her new job and couldn’t join us.)


The pizza came out very well indeed.


For our Christmas dinner, Judy made a roast beef and Daniel made some excellent popovers. Here’s the popover recipe he used.


David and Meredith made the vegetable, and Judy cooked the roast. Doing her research, she discovered that the roast should be seared after it is cooked through, not before. Apparently, it’s a myth that searing first locks in the juices. Here’s an article she read on the topic.

Anyhow, the roast was excellent, as was the rest of the dinner.

Since we never had a chance to celebrate Hanukkah together this year (since David and Meredith live in St. Paul, MN), at some point this week we will make a dinner of latkes.

My main complaint about this week is that it will end too soon.

That’s all for now.

69 Comments on “Our Minnesota Christmas

      • Well, although pizza has been around for centuries, the modern pizza as we know it was invented in Brooklyn. That is the joke among my people, that white people always think that they can improve on something, yet they are always so surprised by how good real Italian (or Italian American) food can be.

      • Are you familiar with cavatelli? My sister makes it for Christmas because it it traditional. I do not know why. It is made more like gnocci, with potato added, instead of just finely ground flour alone, but we have always known it as cavetelli, or cavetells. Although it is Italian, it may have become more traditional at Christmas in Colorado. I really do not know. It is funny that, just like in Italy, ethnic traditions are regional even within America.

  1. Chag sameach AND Merry Christmas. Oh yeah, Happy New Year, too! It looks beautiful there, if oh so cold!

  2. You can see that the prime rib got a fine crisping on the outside, but let me say the inside was a lovely and delicious bright pink (medium rare). First prime rib I think I’ve ever cooked, but it was pretty easy, and I’ll do it again.

  3. Your McMansion in Minnesota looks like a very good choice, lots of space & time with family… Love your roast & popovers ( are they similar to English Yorkshire Puddings?) .. Not sure of the name of the bird in the second photo? The swooping eagles sound amazing but I’ve never been able to get a good photo of a bird in flight. Enjoy your short holiday!

    • Red-bellied woodpecker (it has a small red spot on its belly, and another woodpecker was already called red-headed).

      Yorkshire pudding is cooked in the beef fat, right? Popovers are with butter. Otherwise, very similar if not the same.

  4. It sounds like a lovely family get -together with views. Great bird shots. But my goodness, that’s cold.
    A great Christmas feast but I have to take issue with you about this popover business. Popovers? These are Yorkshire puddings and I should know I come from Yorkshire. Repeat after me: ‘Yorkshire puddings’. You remind me of a Frenchman I met who insisted that apple crumble was a traditional French dish. Only he called it: ‘cromble’ with much rolling of rrrs.
    Yorkshire puddings all right?

    • Is it Yorkshire pudding if it’s cooked in butter, not beef fat? The Yorkshire pudding I had ages ago was much less puffy, more crispy (lots of fat) and very yummy. It was cooked by people with absolutely no claim to expertise, so it may have been totally inauthentic. Either way, it’s all delicious!

      • Oh no, Yorkshire puddings shouldn’t be cooked in butter, but if they are properly made they are puffy. Your dinner looks delicious.

  5. I agree with Chloris – those are definitely Yorkshire puddings! LOL! Enjoy the rest of your week – looks lovely and quiet up there, and that pizza looks fabulous! ๐Ÿ™‚

  6. Birds are amazing creatures. Imagine being so small and yet surviving in such cold weather. They certainly must come better equipped than we do; I would freeze within a few minutes. Glad to hear your holiday home has worked out so well…love those views.

    • I know, I feel terrible for them. They’re so little, how can they survive our deep freeze? Hope you had a wonderful Christmas, and wishing you the best for the new year.

  7. All those years of searing meat to “keep the juices in” wasted … wasted. Ha. Bagpipes in the distant reaches of the house must have given a certain Highland feel to your holidays. It looks like you had good views, good food, good wine, and good family time. Nothing else is needed.

  8. Nothing better than family time. Having space for several adults to spread out is great. The views from the McMansion are lovely. Where I used to work we had a client’s house that sat up on a river bluff overlooking the Wabash River. Below there was a train track with trains that passed by occasionally. It fulfilled the idea I have always had of having a train in my garden. Especially nice since there would be no maintenance of said train.Bagpipes playing in the background. Nice. I love most any kind of live music. Merry Christmas to you and Judy.

  9. Daniel made good-looking Yorkshire puddings. We had those too, with prime rib, gravy, potatoes, Brussels sprouts, horseradish sauce. All the ingredients for a proper British Christmas (here in Kentucky)! Happy New Year!

  10. Haven’t seen it getting warmer, but you all seem cozy and having a grand time of it. You are having and seeing a lot of what I miss from living on a river in the “middle of nowhere.” Nature in it’s finest. Enjoy and safe travels.

  11. Sounds like a fabulous time together! I know that area well and some of the scenes of the river and the railroad tracks are very familiar. My daughter attended St. Mary’s in Winona, so we traveled that way many, many times. It’s a beautiful, underappreciated part of the country. Glad you all are having a great time!

  12. Sounds like a wonderful time is being had by all! Those popovers look amazing – I haven’t made them in a very long time, but now I’m inspired.

  13. What a marvelous holiday. Fabulous was my first choice but it was already taken. It’s nearly as cold at home but where you are is much prettier. Bagpipes, wow. The pipes have always seemed very complicated and difficult to me, I am impressed, and what a special audial backdrop they must render to the whole experience.

  14. Great views from the house! Great-looking pizza too. It must have been exciting to see bald eagles. We used to see them when we went to Jordan Lake in Durham. Such magnificent birds.

  15. Hello Jason, Daniel’s popovers look identical to Yorkshire Puddings (lots of other people appear to have said the same), he’s very good at them too (I’m not). The pizza-from-scratch looks scrummy, we make pizza (including dough) from scratch occasionally too, but we’re yet to find a good pizza dough recipe, can I ask for the details of the one you used here?

  16. It all sounds wonderful, family, good food and a beautiful location with the wildlife as a bonus. Hope the week doesn’t go too quickly.xxx

  17. I gave Richard a trumpet for Christmas. Maybe what we need now is a McMansion. Oh well, a mute (used) will have to do.
    Happy New Year to you and yours.

  18. What an amazing place to spend your holiday with family all around. Sounds like my ideal. I wish I’d been there to have a bite of the pizza though! Looking at Chloris’ comment above – The popovers do look a bit ‘yorkshire puddingish’ to me too! Happy new year to you all!

  19. Sounds like a lovely and relaxing vacation! And how wonderful to spot Bald Eagles! I do hope it warms up for you so you can venture out a bit. I wish you and your family a wonderful 2018!

  20. What a wonderful Christmas! And youve reminded me that I totally forgot one of our Christmas traditions – I made neither the Yorkshire pudding or the popovers!

  21. Belated Christmas and Happy New Year wishes. Looks like a great celebration.

    ….and now I’ve got to try that popover recipe! ๐Ÿ™‚

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