Friday, February 29, 2008

A cafe in the sun

There's a little place on the corner of Rock Crest and Stoney Ridge where the petunias are loving it this year. Perched high and away from the bunnies (unlike the backyard snapdragons, alas), and tucked among the cacti, they thrive in their cedar boxes at Cafe Del Solveig. The fair-skinned Kathleen has faithfully watered them, and even she is picking up a hint of color. (Click to enlarge photo)

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Breakfast guest is published author

Cynthia Dennis, left, with friend, Nancy MacKenzie, enjoying Katie's waffles at last week's poker breakfast.

Cynthia Dennis, our breakfast guest last week, is the author of "Sunflower Sinner" an expose of politics in Kansas. She's a member of the notorious Saddlebrooke Ladies Adventure Club (SLAC) and shows great promise as a poker player, Kathleen says.

Her book is about her father, whose greatest ambition was to become governor of Kansas, but hitched his wagon to the wrong political stars. Her reminiscence is a tribute and indictment of her politician father, according to Roy Bird, of the Kansas Center for the Book. "Her book offers a true life literary coming-of-age story, and a bittersweet memoir of a forgotten time in Kansas," he said.

If you check the Cynthia Dennis web site, you'll find that she "is an award-winning journalist, and graduate of the University of Kansas. She spent nearly two decades as a feature writer and columnist for Wisconsin’s largest newspaper, taught journalism while obtaining a master’s degree in mass communications at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, and has written for magazines, radio and television." All this, and now, my gracious, a soon-to-be poker maven.

THE SUNFLOWER SINNER is available for purchase by mail. For the best value, order it for $16, inclusive of shipping plus any applicable taxes by sending your check payment of $16, payable to Cynthia Dennis, to: Cynthia Dennis, 4105 Stonewood Ct, Brookfield, WI 53045

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Ladies find passion in downtown Tucson

"When you dine with us, expect attentive efficient service. Be assured that every dish is infused with passion...using the freshest ingredients, hand-selected every morning. And all of this within the streamlined inviting atmosphere that is Cafe Poca Cosa, Tucson's number one choice for authentic Mexican fine dining."

Just perfect for the Saddlebrook Ladies Adventure Club(SLAC).

Yesterday morning eight determined ladies boarded their mini-vans and headed south to 110 East Pennington Street for another adventure. Most of the members had never been to Poca Cosa, but it had been scouted by the Kelly Girls, Brenda and Sue, so expectations were high.
Poca Cosa did not disappoint. The menu changes constantly, the only public record is a chalkboard (above) which is amended at will. Kathleen ordered the first item on the day's menu, Pechuga Tlalpena, and pronounced it beautiful and delicious. It was a bold combination of avacado, pineapple, yellow pepper, beets, carrots, chicken, and greens. Dressing, beans and rice were on the table, of course. Everything on the chalkboard was either $13 or $14. If you want to try your Spanish, click on the chalkboard above and have at it.
We don't know what the bright red item, right, featured on a previous post was called, but at least three of the ladies selected it. An absolutely gorgeous presentation, they agreed.

Ladies in the group photo, below, are Nancy, Sue, Mary, Brenda, Cynthia, Judy, Kathy and Katie. Mary is the daughter of Brenda and Dick Robertson; Sue Krueger is her aunt. Mary is a veterinarian and will be purchasing a home soon in southern Minnesota. The hardest part of that?
Leaving her beloved St. Paul. Upon hearing this, Kathleen bonded immediately with this young lady. It is Katie's dream to someday live in St. Paul again.

(Photo: Sue Kreuger, Mary and her mother, Brenda Robertson)

Cafe Poca Casa has a full bar and boasts exceptional margaritas.

The ladies finished lunch in two and a half hours, including dessert, which is about as long as it takes their spouses to golf nine holes and grab a sandwich at the turn.

Natalie on the homestead

Got a nice note from our cousin's son, Nathan Kirmis, of Austin, Texas, today. Nathan is a branch manager for Volt Workforce Solutions there. He is the grandson of the late Halvor and Martha Rolfsrud of Keene, No. Dak.

Greetings Stan,
I am Karen Rolfsrud Kirmis' youngest son, and I read your blog from time to time and think it's great! I have attached a neat pic that I took out on the Rolfsrud homestead outside of Watford City of my daughter, Natalie Kirmis. Thought you might enjoy the scenery!

Thanks so much, Nathan. We love getting pictures and notes from family and friends. Your photo is so reminiscent of the many priceless historical family photos pasted into scrapbooks by our parents. How old is Natalie?
Nathan replies: She is five and loves the prairie. The picture is from last summer's annual trip out to my parent's place. Perhaps I can muster up a picture of my brother's two kids, Walker (4) and Scarlett (1) for you - Keep up the great work!

Note to occasional readers: If you want to see the Don and Karen Kirmis place, type kirmis in the little "search blog" box above left. You'll see all stories with kirmis in them.

Keeping warm in Minnesota

Anja Erickson, Stan's grandniece, has a bunch of new shots on her blog. Check the link, below left.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Do you like pina coladas?

Exactly what is this dish next to the half-finished pina colada? Apparently it was Kathleen's lunch today. When Stan came home from his rounds at 6 p.m., he found the camera with this picture in it, but no Kathleen. A note said she loves him and it's poker night at the Lariat. Earlier today, Kathleen drove away with the SLAC (Saddlebrook Ladies Adventure Club) in a big silver van headed downtown. If you'd like a restaurant review on the Pico Pokey or some such Mexican restaurant they invaded, stayed tuned. She'll get home eventually and then we'll write it all up. Lunch looks good, though, huh? Yum. FYI, for supper, Stan had toast and grape jelly with Barack and Hillary.
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Monday, February 25, 2008

Sure could use some help about now

Where is Grandpa's helper when he needs her? This wall job is getting a little long without a boost from his little partner. We do miss our granddaughter, but Missy says she's doing fine. She is singing now, but nobody knows what song she is singing just yet.
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Our representatives in Esna, Egypt

Stan's sister, Becky, reports that her son and his wife are safe in Egypt.
Here's the note she posted:
Kim and Adam reported in from an internet cafe yesterday. They want everyone to know the trip is excellent and the sites are as wonderful as they had imagined. They also want you to know they are well and SAFE. Information in the note is scant, they had but a moment to stop. Becky will pick them up at the airport next Sunday.

Ah, that's more like it. . .

The door handle was installed upside down, Bev K. quickly pointed out. Who knew? Steve R. picked up on it too. We seniors like these easy-to-grasp door handles and they are much more comfortable in the hand in this configuration. Bev was wrong, however, when she guessed that the carpenter had locked himself into the room and now was in need of a key to let himself out. Wherever does she get these ideas?
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Sunday, February 24, 2008

What is wrong with this picture?

The window is installed, the insulation stuffed, the sheetrock is screwed on both walls, the electrical is hot, the door locks. Final inspection tomorrow. Life is good on this beautiful day as we watch Tiger Woods finish his work early about 10 miles from here. But something is amiss. A sharp-eyed Katie caught it. Can you?

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Another job Americans just won't do

While sipping evening cocktails a fortnight ago, brothers Steve and Virgil agreed that the new wall in the Tucson house should have some soundproofing, some insulation in it. This refinement added $50 in materials to the job, but, miraculously, has not increased the labor cost. The trick to making this an easy job is to keep all your studs on 16 inch centers. But when you have openings for doors and windows you end up with odd-sized spaces. So the scissors and the little tiny fibers come in to play. An evening cocktail does sound like a fine idea, a much better idea than a senior citizen balancing on an eight-foot ladder.
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Friday, February 22, 2008

Classes under way at Katie's Poker School

Following a healthy breakfast this morning, members of the Saddlebrooke Ladies Adventure Club (SLAC) continued their studies of the rudiments of poker. At this, the second session of the winter curriculum, host St. Paul Katie discussed the finer points of the game, instructing players when to hold 'em and when to fold 'em.

It turns out that Katie is a natural teacher, as the women raved about her easy-to-follow instructions and abiding patience. (Yes. Two pair beats an Ace. Don't touch anyone else's chips. Don't light up like a Christmas tree when you get a good hand.)
Laughter abounds as this post is made.
Cynthia, Nancy, Katie, Judy and Brenda. Photo above left is Brenda's sister, Sue. Their maiden name is Kelly, so, of course, at the table they are the "Kelly Girls."

Well hung

The door connecting the bedroom with the new room has been plumbed and hung. The trick to hanging a door is making sure the frame is straight up and down. Shims and clamps and trial and error. Fortunately, Kathleen got a new red level for Valentine's Day this year and she let Stan use it. The door swings true with a tight seal and will stay in whatever position you leave it.
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Thursday, February 21, 2008

Randy's poker haven in LA

Dishes clatter as Kathleen prepares for tomorrow's special breakfast. The prestigious Saddlebrooke Ladies Adventure Club (SLAC) will gather at our Tucson house tomorrow for Katie's waffles and Poker Lesson No. 2. Besides chat and poker rudiments, there will doubtless be frequent references to our weekend pilgrimage to the Gambler's Garage in Los Angeles, where the senior pastor of the Church of Good Poker hosted Kathleen and all the regulars in his weekly No Limit Texas Hold 'em services.

St. Paul Katie pretty much just donated to Sunday's collection plate, but she did meet more than enough genuine Angelino characters to heartily regale her ladies tomorrow morning.

Fast Eddie, (left) for example, was the first to show. His job is to set up some side proposition bets (first person to get two aces, first person to bust out and picking the ultimate winner) to add some interest to the day. Kathleen happily won three of those prop bets so she was able to at least cover her entry fee. Not enough for $3 gas back to Tucson, but a nice amount, nonetheless. Eddie's the "joke a minute" guy. He's got the sharpest wit at a very witty table. Sort of the Shecky Greene of the Church of Good Poker.
Doc aka Dr. Phil (above) actually IS a doc, a psychologist who composed, sang and strummed a birthday ditty to ex-Minnesotan Mark Rikess (aka Reckless, shown getting his Bday hug) celebrating his 59th. Doc's an aggressive, cigar-smoking poker player and always a favorite with the ladies.

Reckless probably wasn't the oldest player at the table. That distinction may go to Larry, (left with Randy) a retired screenwriter known as Notorious Chips, who alternates at the felt with his wife, Joyce. She cut and dished the Reckless cheese cake Sunday. Joyce's handle is "EPG", which stands for El Pistolero Grande. She never backs down from the boys, never afraid of a "showdown."
Reckless not only got a song and a cheese cake, but some very sexy Joe Boxer house pants, replete with snappy poker sets and phrases boasting that he's got "quite a pair." Remember, he's not sixty yet. Mark Rikess is dubbed "Reckless" , because he plays so many marginal to weak hands and makes many "loose calls," which he announces as such, and never lies about it.

Then there was 42nd Street, (Sandra) a dance instructor, duh. One of her dance students is EPG (Joyce). Her non-poker-playing husband had a lot of problems with her disappearing for hours at the poker palace...UNTIL she started bringing home money. She recently won a casino tourney and made $1200.
Buyback (Michael Schaffer) plays poker professionally and has no other job. But he doesn't ease up, plays it straight, even among his friends. He was a winner Sunday. He and is wife recently gave birth to a baby girl, MacKenzie.
You JAG fans will probably recognize Karri Turner, (aka Momma, right) a regular at Randy's table. She had a lead role in that hit TV production for 11 years. Now she has done multiple USO tours to Iraq. On Sunday, she wore the t-shirt: "Momma needs a new pair of Choo's." (Jimmy Choo's are expensive women's shoes, if, like me, you didn't know.)
Randy's house was built in 1927, allegedly by Hollywood producers who wanted an after-hours trysting spot. Not sure if that is apocryphal or what, but each of the bedrooms was built with an outside exit. The home has been owned by a number of stars, including Barbara Stanwyck.

Randy rented the house, then bought it a number of years ago, and it makes a wonderful bachelor pad as well as a great investment. For most of those years, the garage served as a, well, garage full of junk. Bitten by the poker bug a couple of years ago, Randy pulled out all the stops and created a carraige house suitable for classy poker rendezvous.
(Believe it or not, Randy has dial up, no high speed line, so these photos are presented intentionally in a small format. The rest of America, with high speed lines, should double-click to enlarge these photos and see all the glorious detail of Randy's room and friends. In the meantime, Randy, you better hurry up and read quickly, as you might be missing an important phone call.)

The richly-appointed poker den continues themes set up in the house and includes a 3/4 bath, wet bar and a classic queen-size Murphy bed; and of course, there's a custom-made burgundy felt poker table that can seat 10 under a massive stained glass fixture. The garage doors swing like old-fashioned carriage doors, letting California weather into the game.

Randy loves the Pre-Code Hollywood era (1927-1934), when movies were hot and uncensored...just like the poker games at the Church of Good Poker. His art-deco room reflects that with selected movie posters honoring his regulars and his period memorabilia. The vaulted ceiling accepts a huge overhead bookcase and a wall system displays tons of movies and music.
Much of the money that paid for the "poker palace" came from Randy's late father, Oscar, who named his fledgling congregation at Bad Medicine Lake in the early '60s, "the Church of the Good Creation." Hence, "the Church of Good Poker." A photo of of the Rev. watches kindly over the proceedings.
Randy's poker name is "Hat Daddy", because he started it all and at first always wore a porkpie hat to the games.
When the gamblers went home, the bed dropped down and Kathleen and Stan spent three wonderful nights in the garage. A fine host and friend, that Randy.
Maybe next time we'll bring along the Saddlebrooke Ladies Adventure Club. The ultimate road trip and the perfect venue for their new poker skills!

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

We visit the Brewers in Yuma, AZ

Yvonne and her daughter, Evelyn, 11, were heading for a Girl Scout weekend adventure at Balboa Park in San Diego, so we just visited a bit, gave hugs all around and waved them goodbye.

We spent most of Friday afternoon with Kathleen's only nephew, Tony Brewer, and his son, Andrew, 5, at their comfortable Yuma, Arizona home.

We had great fun listening to Tony tell his sheriffing stories. He patrols a huge portion of the Imperial Valley and gets involved with everything from domestics, to sand buggy mania to retrieving the occasional human leg from the water reservoir.

We saw all the nonsense in the sand dunes. There is major industry hosted by the Bureau of Land Management which centers on driving four-wheelers up and down the sandy hills, and racing around in circles. Thousands of campers and RVs inhabit the area during the winter months, scooting around in random patterns up and down the hills.

"What if they meet somebody at the crest of the hill?" Kathleen asked incredulously. Well, they do and that's one of the things the deputies have to look after. That, and all night parties inside circles of RVs that rival the Mardi Gras in ribald antics.

Tony and Yvonne are doing a great job raising their children. Yvonne is in school now, soon to become an English professor. Evelyn is as pretty as Andy is mischievous.

We're rocking now

This morning we started early on the wallboard. In LA, Stan had a neck ache and a back ache. Hanging sheetrock loosened all that up and so the 60-year-old senior -- who does the jobs that Americans won't do -- is feeling pretty good right now, waiting for his chicken dinner and a glass of Sam Adams. We delivered the solid-core door last night, so maybe after dinner we'll see if it fits the opening. (Hope it does.)

Pick your fave

It's school picture time at Maxwell's Lake Country school in Minneapolis. Time to choose the official annual photo. Help us by commenting on your favorite, below. Maxwell is Stan and Kathleen's grandson, Marcelline and Hoi's son.
Ain't he cute?
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Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Job One: Fresh-squeezed Orange Juice

Kathleen has a weakness for pulpy orange juice, squeezed fresh. She haunts Lund's and Byerly's where she can get her special elixer, unpasteurized and full of things floating around in its orange stickiness.

Our host, Randy, has an orange tree in his LA backyard, so just about the first thing we did when we arrived Saturday was pull down a bagful of big ripe ones, bring them inside and squeeze the goodness out of them.

A half-gallon of fresh squeezed costs $8 to $10 at Lund's or Byerly's. Randy's is free for the taking, although Katie did get a bit of a workout with her right arm. But when her job was done, the entire house (below) smelled like orange zest.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Safe in LA

The excitement mounts in LA.
We came in on the 10 this afternoon and found Randy's house with no problem. Tomorrow, the games begin at the Church of Good Poker.
St. Paul Katie will bed down early tonight in anticipation of two tables of No-Limit Texas Hold 'Em. The guests begin arriving at the Poker Palace at 10 a.m. Tonight we picked oranges from Randy's tree and Katie squeezed them into a delightful pulpy drink. She's ready for breakfast and Mamosas for the guests.
Randy's a wonderful host, but he's a bit old-fashioned. This posting is being done from his 1927 house on a dial-up connection. He also has the orginal plasma tv in his beautiful living room.
Kathleen briefly watched Steel Magnolias on it tonight but had to flip channels because the movie is too sad and emotional. Certainly not proper fare for a player on the make. Then she read "Harrington on Poker" but dropped that immediately to read Paul Levine's book that says some nice things about Randy in the foreward.
As we drove into LA today, we kept scanning the skies for helicopters, hoping to see one of the many chases featured so often. No luck.
We'll sleep in Randy's new guest house out back tonight. We've got plenty of photos of it to share, but, sorry, Randy's just got dial-up, and of course, no port for our photo chip. So standby for pictures.
We'll let you know how poker goes tomorrow.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

We'll be in Yuma at 3:10 tomorrow

We leave at Oh Dark Thirty tomorrow morning for a trip to Yuma to see Kathleen's only nephew, Tony. He's married to Yvonne and they have two younguns, Evelyn and Andy.
Unfortunately, Yvonne and Evelyn will be heading to San Diego tomorrow afternoon for a Girl Scout event, so we'll only see them for a minute, if at all.
We'll be tracing the absolute southern border of Arizona, so naturally we'll be on the lookout for those illegal immigrants we've been hearing so much about lately. The countryside is a lot like what you see in the movie "No Country for Old Men" but it goes through the Organ Pipe National Monument so if we get bored, we might swing through it.
Tony's a deputy sheriff and has worked for the D.E.A. We hope he's seen the movie so he knows how dangerous it is to be in law enforcement in these parts.
We'll spend the night in Yuma, then on to L.A. to celebrate the end of the writer's strike as a guest in Hollywood of old friend Randy, now back from the picket line.

We note that the strike may have taken its toll. Buy-in for Sunday's big poker game is $20, marked down from the usual $50.