Monday, March 31, 2008

The Prime Minister speaks. . .

"I may be drunk, Miss, but in the morning I will be sober and you will still be ugly."
-- Sir Winston Churchill
as quoted by my neighbor, Tom Story, (right) when asked if he knew anything at all about the great Prime Minister of Great Britain. This quote is often mistakenly attributed to the lesser W.C. Fields, so it turns out that Story does indeed know something about Churchill, after all.
Incidentally, it was W. C. Fields who said: "T'was a woman who drove me to drink. I never had the courtesy to thank her."

Confessions of a dumpster diver

"History will be kind to me for I intend to write it. "
Winston S. Churchill

Derek and Elaina asked for this.

The young, attractive couple built a beautiful home a couple of years back at the entrance to our development. He's in banking, she's a schoolteacher. Last year they had their first baby. (We believe they are still our neighbors, but we don't actually know because no one has yet emerged from hibernation after this lovely winter. Let's just say that they were our neighbors when we left in January.)

In front of their place there is now a big red dumpster, which is intriguing, because they have a new home, which is certainly not ready for remodeling. Anyway, one day, set forlornly beside this big, red dumpster was a used, smallish, round-top dining table.

The big handwritten sign on it said "Free." I have learned from my daughters (left) that such items are the best things in life.

Nobody was at home when I grabbed their table and tossed it in the back of the Rendezvous, so Derek and Elaina still have no idea who it was who scarfed up their old dining table that day. One wonders who they think it might be. Perhaps some nice young couple, down on their luck, now enjoying hearty family dinners on their newly-acquired round dinette? Sorry to disappoint. Here's my story:

I have been reading the works of Sir Winston S. Churchill. He was not only a great leader, but a skilled writer as well. I hope to own some of his prized hard-bound original works someday. Right now it is mostly from weathered pulp paperbacks that I read his splendid accounts of The Finest Hour, The Blitz and other achievements by what has come to be known as "The Greatest Generation."

In Arizona, we scoured the Golden Goose and other thrift stores and came up with a few books written by others about Churchill and his era, (his buddy, FDR, etc.) but so far little from his hand. Please examine your holdings. and if you have any such dusty tomes, we can deal.

I would like to shelve my modest collection appropriately, adjacent to a portrait I have of Mr. Churchill that I got off the internet and framed. The bookshelf should be substantial and of good character, befitting its burden.

And so, the table becomes a bookshelf.

My thanks to Derek and Elaina. Your dining room table has been dismembered, and its smartly-turned leg is now a useless garage artifact. But the solid top has been sawn in half, portions of it quartered, then joined with some dentil molding, sanded and smeared with a reddish old-world stain. It is a work in progress, I present early photos here and will follow up with the final mounting.

My readings have shown how Churchill valued innovation and invention and encouraged citizens to sacrifice and make do with scarce and limited resources. No matter what others may think, I'd like to believe this wise statesman would cheer my dive into the neighbor's dumpster.


No place like home. . .

Seven or eight inches on the way, it is said

We wintered in Arizona to avoid the cold and snow. We hurried home in mid-March because one of us did not wish to miss seeing the snow. When we arrived home, it was green, or actually sort of brown, dirty and barren. No snow. Sort of a disappointment for one of us. That was the first day. Since then, it has been white. Intermittent snowfalls. Cold. Windy. Dreary. Messy. This weekend, startled by the first 50 degree weather forecast of the year, eternal optimists opened the nearby driving range and freaks from around the metro area arrived to slug muddy golf balls onto a frozen pond. Today there is a barricade on this sad place stating that, if you must, you can get tokens for range balls in the main clubhouse. At noon, no one had taken them up on the bargain. There is more snow to come, of course. Last possible date for snowfall is sometime in June, I believe. Hope you didn't come here to get cheered up. Oh well. You can always watch Twins baseball in the dome. At least for now.
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Friday, March 28, 2008

Rock of Ages

Church Rock
on Route 191

Not in My Backyard

Route 191
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Thursday, March 27, 2008

I don't believe I've met this Mr. Wayne

But he seems like a very nice man.

(Yes. That's a little egg on my face. Click on it if you don't believe me.)

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Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Stirrings from the mighty Northland

The publisher of the International Falls Daily Journal contacted us today. This is a sure sign of spring. Soon their local bears will awaken and begin tipping dumpsters; ice houses will slip into ever-widening cracks on Rainy Lake and the glories of the north woods will flower in abundance.
Wayne says to get ready.
He is the aging newspaper executive trusted with organizing the managers' annual pilgrimage to the Canadian wilderness, timed to coincide with the earliest possible day that an eager bush pilot dares risk his float plane to the icy waters of Lake Otukamamoan. Don't ask why this is done: it has always been this way. It is Wayne's appointed task to predict precisely when "ice out" will occur and then purchase slab bacon, canned oysters, macadamia nuts and Vidalia onions. Don't ask why: it has always been this way.
Wayne writes: I have visited your blog. Not too much to interest me, seems like a lot of old people and something about a duck. Fortunately, you have photos of your beautiful granddaughter to intersperse so that must keep your readership up.
Wayne may be no diplomat, but he is an excellent woodsman, hunter, fisherman, camp cook and birch bark flute musician. A gifted poet, he cunningly matches words like "Seattle" with "paddle" and "skedaddle" and distributes his clever couplets on the internet. He's fried many a shore lunch for us and shows serious promise in the kitchen.
Today he sends this recipe on the chance that Kathleen and I might enjoy a delicious seasonal asparagus soup. We would enjoy a delicious seasonal asparagus soup, but just don't know if we'll create a batch for ten. Our hope is that one of you will, and then invite us over to share. In that spirit, we offer up Wayne's submitted recipe, taken from a radio show he enjoys. Once you've prepared this, please contact us at
We'll bring the wine, and the camera.

The Splendid Table from American Public Media
March 26, 2008
Asparagus, Potato, and Herb Soup
Copyright 2008 Lynne Rossetto Kasper. All Rights Reserved
Asparagus is to spring what apples are to fall. Both unmistakably signal the change in season, though the effect is somewhat diminished now that they have become more available year-round.
Makes 8 to 10 servings
2-1/2 pounds asparagus, washed and trimmed
3 tablespoons butter
3 whole cloves garlic, peeled
1 Spanish onion, peeled and diced
2 ribs celery, diced
1 bulb fennel, diced
6 medium Yukon Gold or red bliss potatoes, peeled and roughly chopped
6 cups vegetable or chicken stock
1 cup white wine
8 fresh basil leaves, chopped
6 sprigs fresh dill, chopped
1/4 cup chopped fresh tarragon leaves
1 tablespoon dry mustard
2 cups light cream
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
2 hard-boiled eggs, sliced for garnish
1. Cut the asparagus tips and set aside. Using a food processor fitted with the slicer blade, cut the asparagus stems into small slices. This will help break up the fibrous threads that could make the soup stringy. Don't try to use a knife - it won't be effective for this job.
2. Melt the butter in a stockpot over medium-high heat. Add the garlic, onion, celery, and fennel. Saute for 7 minutes. Add the sliced asparagus and potatoes. Saute for an additional 3 minutes. Add the stock and wine. Bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium and simmer until the potatoes are soft and tender, 30 to 35 minutes.
3. Remove from the heat. Add the basil, dill, tarragon, mustard, cream, salt, and pepper. Puree the soup in the pot using a hand blender or working in batches with a regular blender until smooth.
4. Bring a small pot of water to a boil. Add the reserved asparagus tips and cook for 2 minutes. Drain and add the tips to the soup.

Spanish onions are similar to the widely available yellow onion except somewhat sweeter and larger. They are in season from August until May.
Substitutes are yellow onions, red onions and Bermuda onions. You could also use some of the newer onions occasionally showing up like the Stuttgart, cippoline, or even shallots.
Use a decent white wine such as Sauvignon Blanc here. A moderately priced one will be fine. Chill the rest of the bottle and have it with the soup.
Light cream is sometimes labeled "table cream" or "coffee cream." Its milk fat content is usually around 20%. If unavailable, substitute half-and-half (10 to 12 percent milk fat) for a slightly less rich soup, or light whipping cream (30 to 36 percent milk fat) for more richness.
Check the label of varieties available in your market and choose one depending on how rich you want the soup to be.
If you make a lot of soups consider investing in an immersion blender. It makes pureeing much easier and safer than pouring hot soup into a blender.

On the Radio: Find broadcast dates and times for a station near you.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Bachman's Indoor Garden Center picked

Katie likes to say she loves the winter and she says the recent snowfalls have been thrilling after her winter of desert sun and cactus. That may be true, but what was the venue for today's Ladies Who Lunch outing with lifetime chum M'liss Switzer? Bachman's Indoor Garden Center on Lyndale Avenue, where the promise of an end to winter and a new season is everywhere. There has been a brief hiatus in the monthly meeting schedule, owing to snowbird Kathleen's absence. Today's meeting was relatively brief, compared with some others. Although minutes were not kept, reportedly plenty of New Business was covered. Also, the usual Old Business: Chuck and Stan.
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Monday, March 24, 2008

Seated there, among the ruins. . .

Ordinarily, you'd just plant a bush and some cactus and put out a few pots. But when you're possessed of a creative mind and you've got utility boxes to screen, what do you do? Why, you build a "ruins" around them, of course.
Carolyn and Larry Veeder have a winter home in Cornville, Arizona, in a region where remains of ancient civilizations abound. Larry is a noted artist from Red Wing, Minnesota, where the couple has made its home since the 60s. Four years ago they settled into this winter home. Carolyn did the interiors, Stan's Cousin Larry handled the ruins. Confounded neighbors, peering through windows with binoculars, understandably observed the construction with apprehension. What the heck were the Veeders up to now? Eventually, the Desert Sunset Drive and Juniper Winds neighborhood approved the unusual screening and one neighbor even encouraged expanding the ruins onto his property. They're a hit, now. Who knew?
Larry has painted much of the landscape around the Sedona area over the years. A favorite subject are some ancient pictographs (or is it petroglyphs) that he has located and accurately rendered. (Look closely in his painting, above. The massive, spectacular work hangs in the couple's living room.) Painting these objects has stimulated an interest in the subject and ultimately led him to design his own pictograph... in the family dining room.
This fine example of modern ancient art actually tells the family story. If you look closely, you'll see marriage, births, other important family events, and a buffalo. A buffalo? "I like buffaloes," the artist smiles.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Happy Easter!

Missy and Emily got all dressed up in their Easter Sunday best today. First stop was Aunt Marcy's kitchen on Knox Ave for brunch. Ki sch, strawberries, pancakes and more greeted them and Grandma and Grandpa as well, who stopped on their way to help get Danny released from the hospital (more on that later).

There were Easter baskets, of course, and pictures to be taken. (Please be sure to notice the coordinating purple shoes. And please click to enlarge the photo of Emily in the chair, below. It is so dang cute.)

Then Emily and Mom headed back to Shakopee for Mass at St. Mary's, and then down the road to Grandma's computer to do that other traditional, seasonal task: income taxes.
Kathleen's brother, Danny, put himself into St. Joe's in St. Paul last Wednesday when he got suspicious of some heart pain. The front desk guard in his building tucked him into an ambulance for a bumpy ride to St. Paul. Since then, he's been tested, probed, drained, intubated and diagnosed. They released him today and his prognosis is good, so we're all very happy about that.
We immediately celebrated with Easter dinner downstairs in the hospital cafeteria. We laughed because we ate Thanksgiving Dinner at the same cafeteria in 2005 when Dan had his first cardiac scare. I would like to say that we all selected heart-healthy foods in the heart hospital cafeteria, but I can't. It was, after all, a CELEBRATION, you know.

It's all good. Dan was cheerful as we returned him to the condo this afternoon. He looked good, weighing less than 200 pounds for the first time in a while.
If Dan is really up to his old form, the guards can expect donuts tomorrow.
Thanks for breakfast and for doing the dishes, Marcy.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Jennifer is housesitting in western Colorado

Here's the house....

Here's the view...

Jennifer Kathleen is Stan and Kathleen's youngest. She's watching cats and the household for the homeowner.

Friday, March 21, 2008

E is for Emily! (R is for Rolfsrud)

Emily knows E and A and I and O and sometimes Y! Plus she knows M and other stuff. This is all new since grandma and grandpa headed to Tucson for a couple of months. Now we're back and it's more fun than ever.

Missy mixes up the blocks and Emily can pick 'em and say 'em. She can also pick out her picture on the blog.

Missy is going out for dinner tonight, so we get Emily. She'll sleep in her crib in our bedroom and Missy claims Emily now sleeps the whole night through. We'll see.

Gotta go. We're going to read the Little Red Hen again.

Mmmm... Artist at Work

Larry Veeder doesn't like burned chicken with bloody centers, so long ago he perfected the Veeder outdoor grilling technique. Fellow barbeque-ist Kathleen Rolfsrud (above) got some tips from Larry last Friday night. He precooks the chicken on the grill in tinfoil, before exposing it to the fire. The sauce goes on in the final stages. The result? Delicious, cooked, juicy chicken.

Stan and Kathleen joined Cousin Larry and his wife, Carolyn, at their Cornville, AZ, home for an overnight in the beautiful country south of Sedona.

The couple lives in Red Wing, Minn., but winters in their beautiful new home filled with Larry's artwork, hung on Carolyn's colorful walls.

Primary subjects are the natural wonders of the area, landscapes and more. Larry has spent a lifetime refining his craft. The colors and shadows offer life-like interpretations of the myriad formations in the Arizona high country. We're quite proud that this creative yet practical man shares our grandparents. Larry's the son of Agnes and Sydney Veeder. Agnes was Erling's sister and they grew up on the North Dakota prairie. Agnes adored her son's creative gifts and often spoke quite pridefully of him in our presence. Norwegian Christians aren't supposed to brag, but there's an apparent, occasional exception in the case of one's children, particularly if they can't overhear the comments.

We stayed in the bunkhouse guest room surrounded by magnificent original paintings of cowboys and their gear. A photograph of Stan's late cousin, LeRoy Veeder, bucking little brothers Larry and David on a fat-tired prairie bike, hangs by the door.

Larry suffered a heart attack last fall. He's doing great now. Carolyn has him climbing mountains (within reason) and he's as slim and wiry as the cowhands he paints.

More on this couple later. We still have to tell you about the family petroglyphs and the ruins and show you Carolyn's favorite morning chair. Meanwhile, we snapped a ton of Larry's paintings and present a few here. Click on them to enlarge. Computer colors aren't always true to the original, but you'll enjoy them anyway.

Thursday, March 20, 2008


We were warmed by a campfire Sunday night high on a bluff over the Gunnison River, near the south edge of Grand Junction, Col. As night shadows deepened, far below we heard a coal train straining around the 180 degree turn it makes delivering empties to a strip mine far away. There was plenty of wood to burn at our fire high above, Bud had seen to that. We sat and visited with this kind and fascinating gentleman Sunday night. A pal of our host, he had delivered and chopped kindling as a contribution to our Irish feast that day. Bud is single, of unknown age, and a long-time resident of the area. He owns business property in town, has sold timber, real estate, metals and seems to have wisdom and perspective on anything. He once thought it would be a great idea to winter in Carlsbad, New Mexico, and parked a camper there, just in time for record snowfalls and a torrent of below zero weather readings. Bud is sharp and regaled us with tales of his youth. Our Jennifer often follows the road not taken. For us, the result is a panoply of experiences and unforgettable characters enriching our lives. We're most grateful for that.

Big News from Yuma!!

Our grand niece won first place in the science fair!
Evelyn is the daughter of Tony and Yvonne Brewer of Yuma, Arizona. Tony is Stan and Kathleen's nephew, the only son of Kathleen's sister, Mary Lou.

Yvonne writes:
I just wanted to let you all know that our Science Girl won first place in the science fair today! She will now compete in the county science fair in April or May!
We are so proud of her. She was so excited she wanted to scream!

She compared three major brands of batteries to test which would last longer in her Dad's Mag-Lite's for work. It's important to have reliable batteries when he's out working a night shift! [Tony is a deputy sheriff]

Energizer Max really made a difference!

Love to all,

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Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Notice to all Rolfsrud heirs and assigns:

The family fortune has taken a turn.
Word has been received from an anonymous internet source that the Mallard Drake pottery piece, heretofore proudly considered to be produced by the noted Joe Messer and therefore the cornerstone of the family inheritance package, is actually Rosemeade produced in Wahpeton, South Dakota.
The impact of this discovery on the net worth of the family trust has not yet been determined. Anxious curators are presently digging into the provenance and estimated value of the Rosemeade piece at auction. The Drake, secured under lock and key in the Rolfsrud Relics depository in Tucson, is available for inspection by authorized family members.
This reputed loss of the Messer label may shift the bulk of the inheritance expections for great wealth and riches to vague mineral rights in the North Dakota Bakken Shale (see treasure map below) or, failing that, a pair of really good tickets to the weekend Powerball.