First Impression of Jeff Johnson – Candidate for Governor in MN

When I first saw Jeff Johnson, Republican candidate for Governor of Minnesota in 2018, these two words came to my mind – Courteous & Nice! Yes, Minnesota Nice! No, he did not have the flamboyance of President Trump (though from the same party) or spell binding oratory skills or intriguing personas of renowned personalities but what struck me most was he sounded honest. An honest politician? The perfect example of an oxymoron!

The ‘Meet and Greet with Jeff Johnson’ was hosted by my jovial friends Johnson Madamu and his amazing wife Vishali – the most warm and good natured couple I have ever met. Their house always exudes an aura of abundance and cheer.

I mostly try to be apolitical but last Sunday I jumped over the chance of closely observing a politician at the meet. I’ve had a chance to observe many politicians while in India ( I am a former journalist) but in the US, this was my first occasion. I’m glad I went because it was an informative and memorable event.

It was a pleasant day and the aroma of mouth watering Indian delicacies filled the backyard of our generous hosts. Vishali was making sure everyone felt at home. Here and there people stood in groups waiting for Jeff.

He arrived with his wife, Sondi Johnson and running mate Donna Bergstrom ( If elected, will be the first Native American lieutenant governor). Affable and friendly, he mixed with the crowd without any airs. There was a substantial number of persons from Indian community, all waiting to know his take on immigration, school system and several other topics of their concern.

In his welcome speech, our genial host, Johnson Madamu, thanked Jeff for coming over and underscored the politician respects and values people from all races. His presence at his house was a perfect example of his respect for Indians as well as all communities. He also talked about Jeff’s support of legal immigration. Johnson Madamu’s sincere and jolly words made everyone feel settled and ready for more.

I watched intently when Jeff Johnson took the mike. He thanked the host stating that they had struck friendship recently at the state fair. Sans glamour or sugar coating, he stated plain truth backed by facts – Minnesotans are looking for a change and he has a different vision to bring about that change. He stated that he has met tens and thousands of people from different walks of life – women, child care providers, farmers, laborers, small business owners – all demanding change.

He also talked about the unprecedented enthusiasm of the public regarding the upcoming elections in November, where he would fight against leading Democrat candidate Tim Walz. He looked hopeful regarding his win.

Amidst other questions, the question on immigration was raised. To which he replied that he does not want Minnesota to be safe haven for illegal immigrants otherwise legal immigrants are welcome here. He also explained that most people in America are immigrants and his forefathers were from Norway.

Jeff also stated that his style is different from President Trump, because they have different approaches, may be because he is from North Minnesota. He agreed that some people will not vote for him because of President Trump and some may vote for him because of President Trump, but people should consider him as a different individual. The session ended nicely after great many rounds of questions and answers.

I have not seen or met his opponent Tim Walz and do not know what his ideologies are. Before Sunday, I did not have any idea about Jeff too but after observing him, I feel goodness can come a long way too. How further he’ll go? I do not know. All I know is Jeff Johnson looked like a man of integrity.

I can only wish the best for Minnesota. May the best man win!

Warmth After the Storm

Yesterday, the Twin Cities had largest single day snowfall recorded since 2010. About 12.4 inches of snow covered the grounds and the authorities sought help of the National Guards for rescue purposes. But our family experienced unexpected warmth despite the savage, stormy blizzard.

We have moved to a single family home, which means fun but little more hard work. I usually find shoveling the driveway a happy task but yesterday after the storm, it seemed Gargantuan. My husband, who was working from home, wore his winter gear (no less than a space suit) to begin. But when he went outside, a warm surprise awaited him. Our American neighbor was already at it. He was already blowing away the snow. And had almost cleaned our driveway. My husband thanked him profusely.

After a while the continuous snowfall filled our driveway again. My husband once again got ready to go outside. But this time, our Russian neighbors were blowing away the snow off our driveway.

So, an American and a Russian helped an Indian on a stormy day! The beauty of this democratic country!

Also yesterday, I realized why residents here are called Minnesota Nice. The weather here may be bitterly cold but people are extraordinarily warm! Such unexpected gestures of warmth keep the spirit up. No wonder, the Sun is shining brightly today.

Yes, It’s Freezing!

It is that time of the year again when venturing out becomes a Herculean Task in otherwise nice Minnesota. In January, the beautiful state turns frigid, harsh and difficult. Here are some pictures as the temperature continues to tease and freeze the residents. Today, it is down to -24 degrees centigrade, but the golden Sun is shining, extending much needed cheer and warmth.

‘The Minstrel’s Bazaar’ – Offering Fresh, Untouched Music!

I heard my husband listening to some fresh,  authentic music. Generally, our music tastes do not match. But the composition of this particular CD made me stop and listen. And inadvertently, I began to absorb and enjoy the breezy, entertaining and enchanting music that flowed through my apartment like a dream.

My husband informed me the composition was a part of the very recently released The Minstrel’s Bazaar by Karl Swartz, Chris Chelgren and their band of finest musicians in our Minneapolis- Saint Paul region of Minnesota, US.

Swartz, a guitarist and instructor, is a popular name in music. He has around 40 years of achievements and performances to his credit. Do check out his website here to know more.

All the compositions in The Minstrel’s Bazaar (guitar, bass, viola, drums, keys, mix) have a delightful feel coupled with old world charm – in my layman’s terms. I am sure aficionados would find layers of nuances in it to talk about. 

The artistic cover of the CD, depicts a world of magic realism. Look closely and you will find caricatures of the musicians as well as ingenious symbols that contribute to the idea of The Minstrel’s Bazaar. Interesting names of the 11 compositions add to the fun! My personal favorite is the immensely spirited ‘Scottish Fair’. I bet you would be forced to dance to this tune!

Therefore, do visit the realms of this bazaar  to experience “World-Flavored” Progressive Rock and Acoustic Style music at its best. An evening filled with entertainment and relaxation is guaranteed! 

(This is my honest opinion not promotional.)

Reliving History by Lake Superior!

No wonder the French named it Lake Superior! It took me two days to know the reason. When I first observed the Lake from the historic Glensheen Mansion this Fall, it looked serene, innocent and breathtakingly beautiful…as docile as an angel!

There was no trace of secrecy, aggression or passion, which it has been accused of for centuries.

However the following day, the Lake revealed it’s wild, stormy side… threatening us with its power and supremacy like a treacherous woman. The Lake certainly displays a superiority complex, hence the name!

Nevertheless, the charm of this largest lake in the world, which holds incredible history, mysteries and stories within and around its shores, is infinite. I am sure it exerts certain power on onlookers…I found it hard to look away from its bewitching presence!

Not far from its majestic shores stands the historic and hospitable Glensheen Mansion! It is filled with stories and anecdotes of the illustrious Congdon family of Minnesota, that once lived here.

The house museum presents the lifestyle of the rich and famous in early 20th century, America. Its antiques and artifacts are admirably preserved. (Portraits – Chester and Clara Congdon, the owners of the mansion).

Even the rugs, clothings, towels and tid bits have been taken care of. Ah, how great it would be to live in a mansion like this one with 39 splendidly decorated rooms, artistic gardens, boats and carriages…and a view to die for!

The present decor of Glensheen is almost identical to what it originally had been. We were first escorted by our lively guide to tour the Congdon boys’ rooms on the third floor and then we moved on to explore the girls’ chambers on second floor. The ground floor was the most magnificent, furnished with exquisite valuables everywhere. The sunlit Lake peeped at us through most of the rooms.

Every nook and corner of this mansion is worth a deep study!

The luxurious bathrooms were attached to most of the rooms and had stylish fittings.

We also met Evelyn, the almost 100 year old doll (with goat’s hair), belonging to one of the girls in the family.

The servants had their own rooms and dining space. The formal dining space was gorgeous and so was the breakfast room. I even pictured myself as one of the ladies of the mansion, wearing an embroidered gown, sipping tea from a carved silver cup in the breakfast room!

We went up to the attic with the guide and learnt more about Chester and Clara Congdon’s rare arts and book collection.

It is important to mention that an unfortunate incident happened here in June 1977. It involved the murders of Elisabeth Congdon, the youngest daughter of Clara and Chester Congdon, and her nurse Velma Pietila. The tragedy is not discussed during the tours in honour of the Congdon family legacy. However, several books have been written on the suspenseful murders.

As we strolled outdoor along the trails, landscaped gardens and water bodies surrounding the mansion, the morning air filled us with delight. My kids loved exploring the ‘castle’ while dear husband took some gorgeous pictures.

 When it was time to bid goodbye to the lovely mansion…nostalgia for the bygone era filled me. I felt hard to tear myself away from romance and history and come back to present. I felt as if we had become a part of the history!

We moved on to view other jewels in and around Duluth along the shores of Lake Superior – The Split Rock Lighthouse, Gooseberry Falls, Aerial Lift Bridge, Maritime Visitor Centre.

On our way back home to Minneapolis from this memorable trip, the unpredictable Lake Superior took on the role of a gracious hostess, meandering with us for a while to keep us company…before disappearing out of sight…!