Saturday, February 25, 2006

New winter species planted

Virg reports from Tucson:
It all started because I noticed a number of drip endings that had no plants to water, usually because the plant had died and been removed. And I thought we might as well use them by planting new plants. I also noticed that several plants were in poor condition or being overgrown by larger plants. So Steve and I headed down to the Home Depot and Target garden centers. These centers had recently filled up with all kinds of non-Minnesota interesting plants as the spring season has come to Tucson. We sought plants that could be of interest in the winter here, since that is when we will be here.

Corroded ends
I had noted that of the three drip ends that were to water the new tree, only one was dripping water. Apparently they just hooked them up without testing them. In addition, the older drip endings had never been touched since installed years ago and many were closing down from corrosion. That seemed to correlate with some plants appearing to suffer while others that still had good openings from their drips were doing well. I also noticed that there was an area where water was draining to from excess water at one large palm frond plant. So we found product at Home Depot to fix these lines and endings. I opened up corroded ends where I could and replaced unfixable ends (especially where we did new plantings) with a new style of seepage tubes. And I added extensions to reach new areas of plantings where we had to move them away from larger plants. In the future we should do testings of these drips on a regular basis. I think Norwegian gardeners are more diligent about these things.

The total cost of plants, about $100. Tools and supplies (including new floaters in the pond), about $40. Seeing your brothers doing manual labor, priceless.

The bouganvillea are coming back. We looked at the long range forecast and saw no temps below 40 degrees so we went after them with clippers. Cut them well back as they are vigorous growers. Already showing nice new blooms. Next year we will have to try to cover them on freezing nights to avoid the unsightliness that they had this winter. Are there any of those old bedroom muslin drapes/sheets left that we could use?

The flower on left is simply new rabbit food, the one on the right we moved to make way for a newer, better plant. It may not do well with its roots in water all the time, but we figured it wasn't doing well where it had been so what the heck. No need to extend the drip system here. This was the hardest digging as there were lots of rocks underneath.

We also moved a similar plant that was being overshadowed by the palm frond plant on the south side. We moved that one to replace a smaller one of the same species that was doing poorly. We increased the drip flowage to it so maybe this one will do better. We will find out if it is the water or if it prefers more shade than it was getting.

At right is the new Tucson Blue Rosemary plant. It is similar to the Rosemary already there that is healthy but has no flowers on it. The new one is supposed to have blue flowers year around. Steve fertilized one that he guarantees will bloom forever.

This is the gardenia plant that is advertised as "everblooming." Please note that it is not presently blooming. Given its height, it would appear to be rabbit-proof. This is planted to the left of the rock path. Its white flowers should be a nice offset to the bouganvillea growing behind it.

Stephen's romantic "Pink Breath of Heaven" are a nice contrast to the large pink flowers behind it. There was this little inset in the front patio that had housed something else at one time. Possibly a nice rabbit food plant like this one. Hope it survives. It softens things up a bit.

Ta Da! I finally get a palm! This is a sago palm that replaces the spoon plant that died this summer. The dripper on the spot was barely functioning and may have had something to do with the spoon's demise. Anyway, this plant should grow to a significant size in time, perhaps 10 feet. However, we are unlikely to see such size as property owners. But our hope is that in a couple of years at least this one will be a nice specimen. The deep green gives Minnesota boys a warm feeling, in contrast to the cooler, starker shades of cacti.
The leaves look soft but are sharply-pointed and that is a sign of a good chance of survival.

Visiting the Axelsons

Steve relaxes with Dave and Debbie Axelson and his new best friend, Will, on their back patio off Heritage Highlands. Virgil took this picture. (Forensic note: Virgil was sitting on the chair in the foreground where he consumed two beers, probably domestic. Virgil is not only two-fisted, but righthanded as well, as evidenced by the position of the chair.)

At right, Virgil with Dave at the Heritage Highlands course.

Friday, February 24, 2006

We've Got Mail!

This email from Steve arrived tonight:

Steve writes: Virg and Steve, trying to keep up with Stan and Kathleen, but not having the talent for interior decorating, instead added the following plantings to the landscape--Pink Breath of Heaven, Sago Palm, Marguerite, Gardenia, and Rosemary.

To make sure that they got it right, the "Sage of Saddlebrooke" aka Leno Masolini (see photo at right) instructs Steve in the proper planting of a Sago Palm.

New pool, party
By the way, Leno and his bride, Carolyn, celebrated their 50th Wedding Anniversary over the weekend. Their family gave them a new swimming pool for a wedding anniversary gift. Party at Masolinis--bring your boom box--everybody in the pool.

Over the past five days, Rod Meyer, Steve Kleinschmidt, Virg and Steve played Arizona National in Sabino Springs, The Pines in Marana, del Lago in Vail, Crooked Tree in Tucson and Francisco Grande in Casa Grande. Steve K., the precise one, thought that it would be fitting to end his 90 holes of golf with an on-in-regulation par four--so that is exactly what he did, as well as take some beautiful pictures of the environs shown in this blog.

Rod "The Rocket" Meyer steadily banged out exceedingly long drives--and wore bermuda shorts every waking minute of every day--including the flight back to Minneapolis, apparently hoping to bring along the sunny weather.

Virg, of course, shot low gross every day, with Steve R., who is undoubtedly saving his best golf for later in life, serving as the humble, hospitable host.



Thursday, February 23, 2006

Our Norwegian Gardeners in Tucson

Signs of industry arrived at the blog by email today in the form of these photographs purporting to prove that there is more going on at the clubhouse this week than golfing, drinking, eating and golfing. In the top photo, Steve appears to have outbid the local labor market for a ditchdigging task intended to divert rainwater away from our neighbor's house and into the street.

It is hard to think of this project as having any kind of a priority since there hasn't been any rain in Tucson for way over 100 days, but Steve must have his reasons for digging it out of the job jar today. Appearances are good but actual photographic results are promised for tomorrow, which is a good thing because all of this could very well have been faked five minutes before a tee time. Trust, but verify.

Meanwhile, Virgil assumed a humble position on his foam kneeler, perhaps sensing divine intervention may be needed to get whatever he is working on to prosper. Or perhaps he's just repairing the ubiquitous Arizona drip system which provides fallback moisture when the heavens don't cooperate. This photo is suspicious as well. Note that the fair-skinned Norwegian isn't wearing a hat. How long do you think he lasted on this job?

All this is speculation, of course. These photographs arrive with virtually no explanation, obviously Steve and Virg trust that the captions will be fair and balanced when they are created by their brother in Shakopee.

Monday, February 20, 2006

Arizona National tests our foursome

Steve and Virgil are hosting golfers Rod Meyer and Steve Kleinschmidt of Mankato this week in Tucson. Virgil took these pictures when the group took on the Arizona National. Steve, Rod and Steve are seen on the Par 3 No. 4. The picture with the clubhouse in it is from the 18th tee (a steep downhill par 5) taken as dark descended. Steve K. elected not to tee off, instead taking pictures of nearby cacti in the gathering darkness. We hope to feature these photographs in a future blog post. Meanwhile, Rod loved his tee shot so much he picked it up so as to leave the course in a good mood, and avoiding a perilous shot across water to a distant green. Steve R. loved his tee shot as well, but then promptly ruined it by dumping his second shot in the water and quitting in disgust. Turns out, Rod made the better choice. Virg loved his tee shot AND his second shot, a 4 iron across the water to 20 feet from the pin, to finish with a birdie. But then, we've come to expect that, even when guests are present.

We were warned. . .

Arizona's critters are legion and so are the horror stories of the ways they will find and eat your dog. Everywhere we turned, it seemed, there was a threat: javelina packs, cougars, hawks, backyard bobcats, rattlesnakes, fence-leaping coyotes. Every resident has a tale, it would seem, and they relish telling it, capping each legend with a headshake and a word to the wise: "Don't let your little dog off the leash or leave her alone, not even for a minute." We were grateful for the warnings, even neighbors Masolini and Krueger added to them, and believe me, they were heeded. But then comes this story about the careful couple who were walking their dachshund and a big owl came swooping down and snatched away the yelping pup, taking leash and all. My God!

We are just grateful to have our dog home safe and sound, where, when she goes outside for business, the biggest threat is mild frost bite to her little bottom.

(Pictured above is Kathleen in a $2 Meade, KS, museum. We stopped there on the way home because we couldn't stand the long, straight road any longer without taking a sanity break.)

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Personal note to Steve and Virg:

Dear Steve and Virg:

We are pleased that you approve of the changes we made to the clubhouse decor.

Now that you are in Arizona and we are home in Minnesota, it is your turn to get something done on the house. Now I know you are busy golfing and eating and drinking and golfing, and I am happy that you enjoyed the Arizona National yesterday.

I am sorry that the course didn't live up to some of its reviews. But please do keep an eye out for some art work for that wall in the family room.

Use your imagination. It will take big pictures, small pictures or both. To help you visualize all this, I am attaching a variety of possible art layouts for the wall.

As you know, Sosie Shearer and Lorlee Bartos have offered alternative suggestions as to how these walls might be covered. So if you are too busy golfing, drinking, eating and golfing, well, don't say you didn't have a chance to do it your own way.

Perhaps your foursome's official photographer can submit some possibilities.

Your queer eye,


Standing on the lip, she got it

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We skipped the Interstate and went cross-country on our way back from Tucson this weekend. Cut 250 miles off the journey, as we sliced diagonally across Arizona, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Texas and Kansas. Mostly the route was fast and as flat as a pancake, but it had its diversions, like the Salt River Canyon, above, where we paused for some drama. Kathleen loves reading a good murder mystery, often the husband offs his wife in some diabolical plot made to look like an accident. So it wasn't too big a stretch for her when the photographer teased, "Kathleen, please, just a little more to your right."

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

On the road again. . .

 Posted by Picasa

We leave tomorrow; Boys here Friday

Preparations under way
Kathleen and Stan will depart Arizona bright and early Thursday morning, hoping to make Shakopee by 8 p.m. Saturday. We'll stop tomorrow night in Albuquerque, New Mexico, stay at the La Quinta Inn, and have dinner with Harland and Carolyn Hoffland, Stan's high school classmates. We'll pass through the Arizona petrified forest on the way. It is very windy right now. We hope it calms by tomorrow.

Harland and Carolyn are big New Mexico advocates, so we'll be comparing climates with a some difficulty: We hear it is cold and dreary right now in Minnesota. Oh well. At least we have water there ... when it melts. There is no water in New Mexico.

Then it is on to Wichita, KS, for no particular reason other than that is about as far as we can go in a day. Then a day's trip to Minnesota.

Here in Arizona, we are preparing for the next shift. Stan injured his back (conveniently) lifting furniture and pottery and valances and playing too much golf. He has been restricted to light duty and Advil. Kathleen, interestingly, has greatly improved her delegation skills, finding plenty of tasks he can easily handle without bending. Steve and Virgil will be here with friends late Friday. We hope everything, including the paint job, is to their liking.

If it is, there are plenty of next steps to consider. We have a notebook.

In the photo above, please note Virgil's new (unused) mop being given its Trial on the Tile. Success, says the operator, in a blur of motion. Notice, in the middle photo, Kathleen's right foot, where a bristly scrub brush has been employed to eradicate those stubborn stains.

Meanwhile, exercising a refined skill for delegation, Kathleen has assigned Stan to shelf and mirror detail in the bar, where he won't have to stoop or bend, and medicinal whiskey is handy to ease pain and suffering.

Valentine's Day in Arizona

An overcast sky made the sunset a little different tonight. Kathleen shot this from the patio, as the sun dipped behind the houses across the way. There was an apartment fire tonight on Oracle Road, but we're sure this is not it. Posted by Picasa

Monday, February 13, 2006

Helpful reference for hunters

These are
Quail on our fence

This is a crooked-fingered Lawyer

Saturday, February 11, 2006

We learn all about kokopelli

In our ever-widening search for appropriate art for the southwest clubhouse, we've been confronted regularly by a curious image. A humpbacked flutist. You see it in people's yards, garages, on switchplates, truck bodies, everywhere. Galleries stock them beside their sunshines, cacti, rugs and pots. Old business to them, it was new to us.

Friday we went to Tubac, Arizona, home to a community of artists, just north of the Mexico border. They were having and art festival so it was just the place to ask. We found a Native American artist (see bottom photo) who sounded quite knowledgeable about the little image of the humpbacked flute player. He said they were Kokopelli and then, not impolitely but with some resignation, handed us something to read -- he's apparently been quizzed by tourists before. Here's essentially what we learned, taken from an internet search:

Kokopelli is a prehistoric deity depicted hundreds of times in rock art, some of it over a thousand years old, located in numerous sites in southwestern United States deserts and mountains. Often depicted as a humpbacked flute player, this mythic being has survived in recognizable form from Anasazi times to the present. There is something appealing about Kokopelli which fascinates all kinds of people, even in our modern technological age.

The Anasazi or "Ancient Ones" were primarily farmers, growing corn, beans, and squash in the Four Corners area on the Colorado Plateau. Both the Basketmaker Period (dating at least from about 200 B.C.) and the Pueblo Period (dating from about 700 A.D.) include the humpbacked flute player among their deities or supernaturals.

Long-distance trade networks and migrations from Mexico apparently helped spread cultural and religious elements, so that by 1500 A.D. fluteplayer images were also included in the Hohokam, Mogollon, and Fremont cultures, in petroglyphs (rock carving), pictographs (rock painting), kiva murals, ceramics and baskets. Today, Kokopelli is one of the Hopi kachinas, and is in many traditional stories and songs of Native Americans of the desert southwest.

In Kokopelli, Flute Player Images in Rock Art, Dennis Slifer and James Duffield mention "...widely held beliefs that Kokopelli was a fertility symbol, roving minstrel or trader, rain priest, hunting magician, trickster, and seducer of maidens..."

"In Pueblo myths, Kokopelli carries in his hump seeds, babies, and blankets to offer to maidens that he seduces. In upper Rio Grande pueblos, he wandered between villages with bags of songs on his back. As a fertility symbol, he was welcome during corn-planting season and was sought after by barren wives, although avoided by shy maidens."

There you have it, folks. Kokopelli. Authentic to the Southwest. We haven't purchased anything yet. Got my eye on an arc-welded handmade kokopelli mobile made from reused auto and wash machine parts that would be perfect for planting next to the prickly pear in the front yard, but haven't pulled the trigger. Shiny now, it should eventually rust down to a fine copper patina. Under $100. Got to run it by the board first.

Our Kokopelli mentor, above right, was very helpful, but probably more interested in the novel he was reading than educating innocents from the North. The other photo depicts a live performance by a native American flutist. The music was hauntingly beautiful and set a tone for the afternoon. Meanwhile, Kathleen and Hoover admire a $4000 woodcarving of a southwest landscape -- perfect for the big clubhouse wall.

Friday, February 10, 2006

Solveig submits ideas for artwork

Sister Sosie writes from Sunol, CA. She is working under a severe handicap, recently having rolled her bike while birdwatching and smashing her wrist and thereby losing the use of her typing thumb and other digits. She is also said to be taking a variety of painkilling drugs and may or may not be mixing them with alcohol, we don't know. Nonetheless, she has courageously submitted her response to our questionnaire, which sought public input in our choice of wall decoration. Please ignore any typos and abreviations in her message. She's doing the best she can. And remember, it is not too late to submit your own thoughts. We need them.

here are my well-considered comments (all the long night)
Forget the market themes. Stop shopping. You must have Original Art based on the Spirit of the House.
In the front room, you need a 4 ft by 6 ft oil painting of Virg's golf swing. It tells the guest everything. If you don't have asnapshot to give the artist, I have one I took some yrs ago in No Dak.
In the tv room, a 4 ft square painting of Steve talking with his crooked fingers, li ke in the Big Thunder and Leno pic, cut out Leno and add tennis racket in background. Title in lower right is "Loquacious Lawyer" (or "Effusive Attorney")
In a room that faces east or west, a 2 ft by 6ft oil painting of Stan with arms straddling window sill of 2 ft by 6 ft window and looking off to setting/rising sun in favored landscape. Title: Visionary.
To represent what makes a house function as a home and the true decoration and only necessary decoration of the house, a ceramic-tile portrait of the Board of Directors in the kitchen. For starters, picture that snapshot painted on 8 inch square tiles, 5 tiles across and 3 tiles high. You can take artistic license with the color of their sweaters.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Would everybody just take it easy?

Let's see. This week we've learned that Sosie tumbled off her bike while birdwatching and put an arm out of service; Ron lost the use of his foot for a few months. Tonight our Jennifer was hit by a car while she rode shotgun in her ambulance in St. Paul. Marcy says Jennifer is okay. She was buckled in when an elderly couple blew a stop light and hit the side of the ambulance. Her vehicle is mounted on a heavy truck body, so the couple got the worst of it. Jennifer now complains of a sore neck and she'll be on crutches for a while. The accident was a block from the home base so the scene was flooded with paramedics. We're waiting for a call from Jennifer to see how serious this is, just in case Marcy soft pedaled the story so Mom and Stan wouldn't worry down here in AZ.

Please. Would everybody just take it easy for a while?

A good place for breakfast, lunch

This unassuming storefront in the Catalina Plaza marks a home cooking restaurant with tons of personality and a menu to match. (The retired guy wearing the Stetson and running shoes while relaxing on the park bench isn't part of the decor, but he could be.)

Claire's Cafe? You betcha!
Many national restaurant chains shamelessly boast of being a neighborhood or family restaurant with home cooking, but here in Catalina they've got the real thing. It's called Claire's Cafe. Big menu, warm personality, reasonable prices. You can see the cooks making things from scratch through the front window, the servers have names like Andy and Fawn and Birdy, and then there's Claire, herself, (below, in blue apron) visiting with customers and carrying on like she owns the place.

She does, actually, along with her husband, Steve Johnson. He's Swedish and last night they watched "Fargo" again so they were reminded of exactly what Minnesotans talk like. The couple have seen a lot of Minnesotans since they opened in 1986, which is also about the same year Saddlebrooke started taking down payments from snowbirds wanting a warm place in the Arizona sun.

Catalina is the small town just outside of the Saddlebrooke entrance where the Ace Hardware man can be found, along with Darlin's Flowers, Sunset Interiors and myriad other services and shops that might be useful to "active adults."

On our second trip to the cafe, we asked to see the boss.
Stan: Hi, are you Claire? We just love your restaurant.
Claire: Thank you. I love it too. Where are you from?
Stan: We're from Minnesota. We just bought a place in Saddlebrooke.
Claire: You look too young to be retired.
Stan: I REALLY love this restaurant.

The restaurant opens at 6 a.m. and closes at 2 p.m. "Have you ever been open for dinner?" we asked. "Oh, yes," the former executive chef shrugs with a sigh, "But we weren't able to have lives . . ." Right away you get the idea that Claire is a hands-on kind of manager not given to a lot of delegation. The walls are covered with objects of art and that's Claire's work too. It's an art gallery. There is so much detail on the walls you think about keeping all that clean, but the white glove test came up with nary a smudge, so somebody's keeping the place scrubbed.

The breakfast menu has all the variety you'd expect. The pancakes are light and fluffy; the bacon crisp, eggs and omelets to order. Stan had oatmeal with cinnamon and brown sugar, could have had it with apples and raisins. There's English muffins, home fries, hash browns, whatever. Kathleen (left with server) had a yummy Belgian waffle.

For lunch you can have brown rice with veggies; there's plenty on the menu for a vegetarian, or for a finicky eater. They use no beef tallow, only canola and olive oil. Stan enjoyed the Catalina Special, a toasted turkey sandwich with swiss cheese, a bit of bacon and a big slab of avacado. Then there's the burger routine, soups and salads, as well as the daily specials posted on a scribble board.

When you do come to Claire's Cafe, don't just stand around and wait to be seated like some bashful Norwegian. Just go ahead and find a comfortable spot and act like you've been out to eat before. Soon you'll have your favorite booth and your favorite items, and you'll be ordering like a local without your bifocals.

Uff da.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

18 holes with the Saddlebrooke Ranger

Photo by Kathleen Rolfsrud
Senior Saddlebrooke golf ranger Leno Masolini took a break from his strenuous duties as golf cop to escort Stan around the Catalina and Saddlebrooke courses today. The pair were joined by a man named John and together worked skillfully through the day's challenges. The weather was perfect, no wind, and Leno knew the course well and may have used his knowledge to cut a stroke or two off Stan's usual score. After 18 holes in Leno's cart, Stan came away with the following:

1. Stan probably pulled the trigger too soon in an earlier post stating that the fairways would be a lusher hue by the time Steve and Virg get here on Feb. 17. That was a bit optimistic, Leno says, the green will be here in March. Stan was thrown off by some chemical treatment that gave off a greenish hue.

2. Leno quoted his wife, Carolyn, who advises him that he should take a normal full swing when you're in the bunker. That information, coupled with Leno's own tip that you should keep your head absolutely still when standing in the sand, may have contributed to a magnificent out by Stan on No. 21.

3. Leno was stunned to learn that Stan's game is no where near as bad as Steve says it is. Stan's skills are way beyond Steve's detailed descriptions of Stan's futility on the golf course, Leno said.

First dinner on the new table

Photo by Kathleen Rolfsrud
What better way to finish a hard day on the course than with a T-bone steak with your best friend? Stan and Kathleen got steaks to order from the back grill -- perfect. The table stayed level throughout the entire experience. Here's to many more happy meals on the new table. Posted by Picasa

Please take this quiz

We are seeking some southwestern artwork for some of the terra cotta, teal and Claire de Lune color schemes in the house. As we go from showroom to showroom, shop to shop, it all blends together. Please take this quiz to guide us. Some of the choices below may seem absurd, but make them anyway. Then add your comments at the end and email it to

The more participation, the better. This includes family members and any others who happen to see this page. The more the merrier. Here's the quiz, we're going to Claire's Cafe for lunch.

Which do you prefer:
Landscapes or sunsets?
Mountains or suguaro cactus?
Dried skulls or lariats?
Parrots or butterflies?
Bullfighters or cowboys?
Rock formations or desert flowers?
Geckos or rattlers?
Roadrunners or quails?
Tapestries or metal work?
Fruits or vegetables?
Boots or saddles?
Golf holes or waterfalls?
Sombreroes or sleeping Mexicans?
Incas or Aztecs?
Barrel cactus or prickly pear?
Adobe mudhouses or shimmering skylines?
Horses or javelina?
Blues and pinks or terra cotta and teal?

Of the categories above, choose your top three.

Thank you for your help.

We get delivery. . .

It was 9 a.m. Mountain Time.

Kathleen had left to get a newspaper, Stan was squeezing paste onto a toothbrush and Hoover was signaling hurry up, hurry up, it is time to go out, when the doorbell rang.

The fellas hauled the stuff in, Stan checked for dings, signed the paper and they were on their way. Kathleen returned in time for coffee and a newspaper on the new kitchen table.

We're thinking Virg and Steve did a good job picking this stuff out. It's a bit heavy in the leg, which is
good for that southwest clubhouse feel.

Not sure what we'll do with the temporary IKEA tables. Might spray 'em Copper Mountain and locate them such that Steve can rest his beer while watching Boston Legal.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

We're waiting for the kitchen table. . .

The wood table (featured in a previous post) is due to arrive tomorrow morning. The delivery company computer has been talking to our answering machine so we aren't sure of anything right now.
Today we finished touching up the Claire de Lune kitchen, totally wiping out the Alexandria Cardinal red and black and white. Last night we extended the dustboard to meet up with the mirror in the kitchen. We're particularly proud of the pattern match we got in the seams of the the dustboard. (see photo) Too bad Herman (see previous post) isn't here to see what we did with his fabric.

Stan is Kathleen's hero today because she checked and YES, Stan painted behind the refrigerator. Kathleen just can't stand to have an unfinished area behind a mirror or appliance, so either Stan has to quickly cover and lie about it or just take the time to do it all in the first place.

We'll finish bragging about our window wall work tomorrow night after the delivery comes and the sun goes down. Too hard to shoot windows with the Arizona sun streaming through. These pictures will have to serve as your sneak preview.

Incidentally, the grass is turning green on the fairways so when Virgil and Steve get back here on Feb. 17 there should be a whole new look. Up until now, only the greens and tees have been verdant.

A final note: Adhering to the conservative mantra held by younger brothers, we carefully saved the used masking tape and reused the good sides, getting double value from the product.