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*this* John W. Hays' take on things and experiences

Posts Tagged ‘Cyndie

Kitchen Aromas

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Honestly, I don’t feel worthy of the aromas that greeted me from Cyndie’s kitchen when I walked in the door after work yesterday. She pulled me all the way into some of my fondest November memories with a robust batch of fresh Chex mix roasting in the oven.

Threw me back to Thanksgiving day parades, afternoon football games, and my dear ol’ mom.

I don’t know which came first. Did my love of cereal lead to an overwhelming attachment to Chex mix, or did my fondness for Chex mix lead to my mind-boggling passion for cereal?

No sooner does the mix come out of the oven and Cyndie puts in a pizza crust to pre-bake.

Not one to avoid a challenge, she was working her magic on an untested recipe for an adventurous fresh cranberry balsamic white pizza.

I can sincerely say that this did not bring back a single memory or aroma from my past. I can take, or leave, an arugula salad on my pizza, but ricotta cheese in place of a good salty tomato sauce left this experiment lacking.

It looked tantalizing, though.

Just needed more sauce and maybe a heaping crown of mozzarella cheese for my tastes. And bacon.


That was Cyndie’s idea. We read somewhere that the most common ingredient in contest-winning recipes happens to be bacon flavor in some shape or form.

We both got a chuckle out of that.



Written by johnwhays

November 14, 2018 at 7:00 am

Problem Solved

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Look! No leaves!

Just in time for Cyndie’s return from Guatemala, 3 or 4 inches of snow have covered up the leaves in the front yard.

She flew to Atlanta last night and texted me from there to bring her a jacket. I grabbed a scarf and mittens, too. The flight from Atlanta left over an hour later than scheduled. It was a middle of the night drive to the Minneapolis airport and back.

Small price to pay to have my baby home again!

Despite a few scares, I kept all the animals alive while she was away. I must say, that’s a welcome relief.



Written by johnwhays

November 10, 2018 at 7:00 am

Simple Feasts

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Eating alone this week while Cyndie is out of the country brings back some memories of the year she lived in Boston and I stayed home in Eden Prairie. Cooking for one is always a bit of a trick, but doing so when I’m not the person who does any food prep in this household adds some challenge.

Although, it only becomes a hassle if I happen to venture very far from the few simple choices I tend to produce with embarrassing regularity. Warming already prepared food in a microwave falls right in my wheelhouse.

One task I am pretty handy with in the kitchen is, melting cheese. There aren’t very many leftovers in the refrigerator that I can’t enhance by melting cheese over the top when reheating.

My lovely wife was unnecessarily thorough about providing me with many meal options before she left. The freezer was well stocked and the refrigerator held a variety of delectable leftovers.

Last night, I assembled one of my favorite reworkings of leftover meatloaf.

I toast a slice of bread while heating servings of meatloaf in the microwave. (Doing two things at once in the kitchen! Look at me go!) Place meat on the toast, cover with a slice of cojack cheese, add a little salt and course-ground pepper, then broil until the cheese is bubbly.

It’s a leftover delicacy.

Plus, clean up is a cinch. No pots and pans.

Monday and Tuesday was reheated homemade chicken chow mein, per Cyndie’s suggestion I eat that right away or toss it, as it was approaching an expiration date. Between that and the meatloaf, of which there is still enough remaining to last for days, I might never get to all the things she stocked in the freezer.

I think there may still be some grilled bratwurst patties somewhere in the fridge, too. Add in fresh “homemade” eggs and I will have no problem assembling simple feasts for myself until she gets back.

I certainly won’t have to worry about going hungry.



Written by johnwhays

November 2, 2018 at 6:00 am

Sixty Years

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Sunday evening was definitely the grand finale of the weekend family celebration of Cyndie’s milestone birthday. It would have been easy to confuse the occasion with a Friswold Christmas dinner for a number of reasons, most noticeably, the inclusion of the artificial tree (left up all year in the rarely used basement these days).

Cyndie’s parents and brothers planned, prepared, put together, and pulled off one heck of a spectacular customized evening to give the birthday girl exactly what she wanted, and more.

With tie-dye patterned flags and a “peace” banner adorning the tree, they presented a basket filled with a wide variety of crazy photos of Cyndie in every stage of life. Family members took turns selecting photos to hang on the tree, presenting each with a personal message for the girl.

Love overflowed. The tree and Cyndie glowed.

Fred offered readings from some ancestors’ letters providing fabulous historic perspective, followed by a powerful statement written recently by brother Ben, addressing present-day issues. The profound meaning of this sharing was perfect for an occasion to honor and celebrate Cyndie, especially with honorary “adopted” sister, Rabi, from Kenya present (who surprised Cyndie by flying in from out-of-town for the event).

There was also a light-hearted reading from Marie, ala the custom-composed candy prose she masterfully wrote and designed. I didn’t see if Cyndie, or nieces and nephews, ended up with the haul when it was deconstructed.

Marie set out well-loved appetizer choices and Carlos enlisted assistants to put finishing touches on place settings for dinner. Truly works of art that lifted the evening to out-of-this-world (and incomparable) levels.









The meal was some of Marie’s best beef tenderloin ever, garnished with just the right compliment of potato, vegetables, salad, and bread. Of course that was finished with Norwegian Cream and some obligatory birthday cake.

It was truly a wonderful evening. The best of everything family. There is no questioning the Friswold’s ability to put on a special birthday party.

The entire weekend was an absolutely perfect way to celebrate sixty years of Cyndie’s amazing life.



Written by johnwhays

June 12, 2018 at 6:00 am

All About

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Cyndie. This Weekend, it’s all about Cyndie as we celebrate the milestone of her 60th birthday. With Jackie tending to animal chores at Wintervale, Cyndie and I are submersed in the loving energy –and I do mean energy– of the Friswold family. We are staying at her parent’s house in Edina, MN, but have twice in a row found our way to downtown Minneapolis.

Last night, it was dinner and music at the Dakota, where we ate like royalty and swooned over Shawn Colvin‘s very personal solo guitar song performance.

This morning, Cyndie is sleeping in. My brain is busy trying to process the onslaught of activity, memories, and emotions –not to mention distractions of mental and physical preparations for my biking and camping trip that starts on Friday– conspiring to confuse me over whether it’s all about Cyndie, or all about me right now.

I had the great pleasure of starting the day yesterday riding bikes with Cyndie’s brother, Ben. He rode over from about a mile away just as a rumble of thunder rolled over us.

We took pause inside to watch the radar long enough to see we would have a perfect window of opportunity after a very short wait. The tiny disturbance sliding south of us was just a precursor to the precipitation that would arrive in the middle of the day and hang around for the afternoon.

While the sky was watering the earth, more of the Friswold clan gathered for lunch at Jimmy’s restaurant near our old Eden Prairie stomping grounds.

After a little nap before heading out for the night, attention turned to a gift brother Barry presented to Cyndie. Her jaw dropped when she saw her younger face on the cover of a memory book of pictures he had spent many loving hours to produce.

Just as she finished a first pass through the overwhelming collection of memories the images trigger, we stood to witness Justify run for the triple crown. Then eleven of us headed out for dinner and the concert.

With noted local musician and song-a-day YouTuber, Zachary Scot Johnson opening the show for Shawn Colvin, we were treated to a range of guitar-accompanied stories, providing me with a second recent prompt to wonder whether I am still a guitar player, or not.

A variety of reasons have combined to allow months to pass without my spending time with fingers on frets. I am inclined to blame my yet-to-be surgically treated arthritic left thumb as the primary culprit for the hiatus, but deep down, I have a sense I may be giving that more credit than is due.

Somehow, while distracted with too many of my own concerns rarely focused on accomplishments, I have been granted the chance to flutter around the bright light that is Cyndie for 44-some years.

It makes for a tangled web that isn’t so much all about her or me in the end. It really has become all about us.



Written by johnwhays

June 10, 2018 at 8:35 am

Speaking Easy

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No time to write on and on about absolutely everything we’ve already done (yesterday) that was incredibly fantastic to celebrate Cyndie’s big birthday (that actually transpired last Monday), because I am heading out early this morning to put on more bike miles with her brother, Ben.

But… I must at the very least mention the superb speakeasy in Uptown Cyndie picked for a first-stop before the spectacular dinner in downtown Minneapolis that we enjoyed with Barry and Carlos last night.

In classic form, the entrance is virtually invisible. We reached the appointed address on Lake Street, but made the rookie mistake of hunting inside the front door of said address. A charitable resident recognized our obvious “searching” mannerisms and gave away the secret.

Of course. Walk through the alley to the back side of the building, go around the dumpsters, look past the HVAC unit for a metal door with a covered slit for a window. Rap on the door and the cover slides open to reveal two eyes asking if we are there to look at their hats.


The door opens and we step inside, where our ID’s need to be checked to find out our “hat size.” Then it is down the stairs into the ultimate destination for some drinks and eats in a perfect atmosphere depicting our perception of what a speakeasy of yesteryear might have been like.

The only other thing they could have added to enhance the experience would be a police raid with us scrambling out a back way to escape.

A beautiful night, great food, and precious company celebrating a special birthday girl.

It couldn’t have been any easier than that.



Written by johnwhays

June 9, 2018 at 6:00 am

Core Four

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Well, I’m glad that’s finally over. We got all that crazy birthday celebrating out of the way for Cyndie yesterday with a dinner out for the core four –us and our two adult children. That takes care of that for another year.

Oh, have you met Cyndie’s family of origin? Last night was far from the end of birthday festivities for her. There still remains almost a week of planned events, including family coming in from out-of-town, more dinners out, music and dinner at the Dakota downtown, a dinner in, and who knows what else they have yet to reveal.

Yesterday, Cyndie treated herself to a spa/massage session in the morning and topped off her day with the core four dinner at the very trendy “Young Joni” restaurant in North Minneapolis. It was too popular to get an open reservation, so we settled on sitting at the bar to eat.

I would say the popularity is deserved. We had an excellent experience.

After we got home, we learned the restaurant was a product of our friend Mike Wilkus’ architectural firm. No wonder it felt so comfortable to us.

While walking Delilah when I got home, I remembered to tend to a tree that caught my attention when touring the property on Sunday with the DNR Forester.

Don’t be this guy: Five years ago we had a wicked spring snowstorm that dropped 18 inches of snow on the 2nd/3rd of May. Many trees were damaged. To save one pine, I tied a rope to secure it to another tree to keep it from tipping all the way over. Then I forgot about. For five years.

In an attempt to save the tree, I girdled it by neglecting to check and adjust the support.


Never mind.

That’s not what I meant to do.

At least the birds appear to be getting something out of the tree, but I guarantee you, they are not getting anything close to the fine cuisine the four of us enjoyed for Cyndie’s birthday dinner last night.



Written by johnwhays

June 5, 2018 at 6:00 am