Holly Jolly Adventure 2010

I tried to instigate a round of caroling Saturday afternoon on the light rail train in the Twin Cities, but my fellow passengers just weren’t in a singing mood.

Being stuck for two hours in extremely close quarters with a hundred other weary shoppers evidently doesn’t induce merriment.

But the forced confinement of the light rail was all part of what I’ve dubbed Holly Jolly Adventure 2010, (heretofore referred to as HJA2010).

For the past several years, we have planned a pre-Christmas weekend excursion with friends to see the Holidazzle Parade and engage in shopping and other merriment in downtown Minneapolis. This time there were just four of us — Hubby Bryan and me and friends Craig and Paula — and we were determined to forge ahead with our plans despite the weather forecast.

Our itinerary went as planned on Friday, but Saturday morning, of course, we awoke to what was indeed a winter wonderland when viewed from the comfortable confines of the Minneapolis Skyway system. We did some shopping using the skyway before boarding the light rail for the Mall of America. Despite the weather, we were determined to stick with our HJA2010 plans.

A couple of hours into this shopping expedition, we noticed that stores were beginning to close their doors due to the bad weather outside. After a quick debate, the four of us decided it would be prudent to head back downtown.

So we got back on the light rail and … waited ….. waited … and waited some more. Due to another stalled train on the tracks somewhere between MOA and downtown Minneapolis, it was more than an hour before the train was able to depart the MOA station. Because people were anxious to get back from whence they had come, we had all crowded in to the car like cattle, standing in every bit of available space. Three of the four of us were lucky enough to find seats, not together, but still we were sitting down, while valiant Craig stood the entire time.

I was unsuccessful in my caroling efforts — at this point nobody wanted to sing “The weather outside is frightful, but the train is so delightful … Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow,” which were the only lyrics that would come to mind— but when the train finally started to move, a hearty cheer arose in our car. Alas, the jubilation was a bit premature, as we soon we found ourselves waiting again at the next station, this time for about a half an hour while they tried to resolve issues with the doors opening and closing.

Almost exactly two hours after we boarded the returning train, we finally arrived back at our hotel, but there was no time to dawdle. An employee at the restaurant where we had a reservation for the evening — timed for after the Holidazzle Parade, which was cancelled — had called to say the establishment was closing early — could our reservation be moved up? We scurried through the skyway, taking to the snow-packed streets for a block or two and hurtling a few snowbanks along the way in order to eat supper at one of the few downtown restaurants that was still open. (We later learned that many of our fellow snowbound travelers resorted to room service that evening.)

I’ll spare you more details of HJA2010, except to say that through it all our small band of travelers maintained a positive attitude, choosing not to look at the weather as an inconvenience or source of frustration, but as a chance for a bit of adventure. It may have snowed on our parade, but HJA2010 is one we will always remember.

Whether you’re planning a holiday gathering or just staying home and celebrating with family, here’s a spread/dip recipe that goes together quickly and is a crowd-pleaser. You might want to pick up the ingredients early and have them on hand, just in case another weather system snows us all in.

Ranch Cheese Dip

Combine one 8-ounce package lowfat cream cheese, softened, with 8 ounces plain Greek yogurt (regular plain yogurt will work, too, but I like the consistency of the Greek variety). Add ½ package Hidden Valley ranch dry dressing mix and 1½ cups finely shredded sharp cheddar cheese. Mix to ensure dressing is thoroughly incorporated.  Refrigerate for a couple hours to let the flavors meld.

Spoon into a decorative bowl and serve with wheat crackers.