Sunday, January 30, 2011

Anybody else hooked on Downton Abbey?

We watched the finale of the PBS Masterpiece Theater "Downton Abbey" tonight and loved its twists and turns to the very end, sad now to have to wait for next season's series to pick up on this wonderful story set in an Edwardian manor house. It's been great fun:

By Sarah Seltzer
Secrets, blackmail, gossip, sex scandals, mysterious deaths, rivalry and scheming mark PBS’s latest period costume drama mini-series, “Downton Abbey”. At times, the show has as much in common with a prime-time soap as it does with an Austen adaptation — though it still features the requisite talk about marriage, property and class.
“Downton Abbey” is an original drama penned by “Gosford Park” and “The Young Victoria” scribe Julian Fellowes and set in the titular Edwardian manor house. The show covers the lives of the aristocratic family “upstairs” and all their servants “downstairs,” who have their own histories and agendas, and who can sway the fate of the wealthy folks above them.


We enjoyed breakfast this morning with the newly-betrothed Mark and Vanessa. After a seven-year romance, the pair plans June nuptials in Victoria, followed by a hoop-ti-doo at the KC Hall in Shakopee, a stumbling distance from our door. Mark is the distinguished and respected editor of the 150-year-old Chaska Herald, a position held by Stan back in the 70s for about five years. We met Vanessa for the first time today. She has roots in Guyana, has worked in New York but is now employed in Lakeville. She and her brother live in Farmington. Mark, who hails from Thief River Falls, will see his extended family enlarge considerably as Vanessa has almost a dozen brothers and sisters and others living and working near here and in Canada. Breakfast talk included wedding plans, of course (three flower girls and a maid of honor at the Lutheran church), and catching up on the
Chaska cast of characters known to Mark and Stan. Stan explained to Vanessa that Mark's innocence and resemblance to Mayberry's Ron Howard has earned him the nickname "Opie." (See his third grade photo which was among a mix of pix we dug out to fill her in a bit on Mark's past.) Stan and Kathleen like Vanessa a lot, but she especially endeared herself by insisting on taking multiple photographs of our dog. She promises to email the best one . . . and we'll post it here, of course.

And here it is: Thanks Vanessa!

Friday, January 28, 2011

Bon Voyage, Jeff and Marsha

Our neighbors, Jeff and Marsha, are heading to Florida soon. (Can't imagine why) We dropped over tonight for a bite and a fun time was had by all, including Stan and Joe, who are not pictured. The couple will be driving home and stopping to see relatives on the way. But they will arrive in Florida by Sunday for sure to be in front of the big tv. These diehard Packer fans have their priorities straight.

Winners as usual

It's been five years since Stan has attended the annual Minnesota newspapers blowout at the Sheraton Hotel in Bloomington. We've been wintering in Tucson in January until this year. So at 9 p.m. last night Stan headed to the convention to join all the funseekers after their annual banquet and Better Newspapers Contest. It was great to see that some things never change.
We grabbed the same table at the same bar in the same hotel we went to for 30 years; the faces have changed a bit, but mostly it was familiar names doing familiar things with the same old stories. Stan's long-time friend and fellow publisher in Hutchinson, Matt McMillen (right photo), collected the prize for publishing the best newspaper in the state; he'll take over as the Minnesota Newspaper Association president next year.
The grinning gang above is from the Prior Lake, Savage, Shakopee and Chaska group. That's their boss, Mark Weber, back right. Next to him with the big grin and looking like Opie is Mark Olson, editor of the Chaska Herald. (Stan had his job in the 70s). His big news: he's getting married soon. We'll meet her at our kitchen table Sunday morning.  And then there is The Ranger, who makes a comment from time to time on this blog when time and his inclination permit. He's claiming he's earned a 25-year gold watch from the company. So far no one has paid any attention to his whining.
The ladies in the front row are among the finest in writing and editing that the state has. They are all carrying documents to prove it.
So congratulations to all for the best reporting, best features, best. . . It was great seeing it all again, like some big giant time capsule.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

When on Passion Island, should you be reading?

Our neighbors have been gone for two weeks. Not that noticeable, of course, since we are on Snow Lockdown and leave the house only as survival demands.
Not to be missed, Tom and Sandy have kindly sent a note and photos congratulating themselves for choosing the absolutely perfect two-week period to be gone from here.
Greetings from Cozumel.
We are getting ready to head north in a day or two and are hoping the mounds of snow we left a couple weeks ago on Abbey Point are melted. Yesterday we stopped at the local golf course for lunch and decided to send you a photo so you could see what a real golf course looks like ... its been a while since we've seen ours. This one has crocodiles hanging out by the water hazards.
Top photo is Tom relaxing on Passion Island.
Hoping all is well on Abbey Point. We have been watching the temps ... sounds like we picked a good week to be gone. See you this weekend.
Sandy & Tom

p.s. Looks like I need to fix the date stamp on my camera.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Pineapple sweeties

Stan's sister, Linda, and her husband, Ron, just safely returned from their extended trip south. Check out Pastor Ron's blog at the right for a fuller summary. Above is a picture of their hosts, Becky and Al, at the Pineapples Restaurant in Venice, FL. Linda and Ron explored beaches on the Panhandle, Venice, Sanibel Island and the Boca Grande. 
Beaches. . . now tundra. Life has its turns. Welcome home.
(Wonder what fantastic idea is going on in that creative brain of Becky's in the photo above? That light bulb over her head is burning very brightly!)

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Wayne & MaryAnn's Japanese guest report

The Obamas entertained Asian guests from China; our International Falls friends, Wayne and MaryAnn, entertained Asian guests as well, from Japan. . . on the coldest weekend of the year so far. Here's Wayne's report:
Stan & Kathleen,
Last night we entertained my nephew Jeff, his girlfriend and her parents. The parents flew in from Japan last Tuesday. There were nine of us with one interpreter. The guests of honor finished their plate of roasted and fried (marinated) venison and hot dish. Salad and wild rice soup preceded the main course. The cherry scoop of sherbet with a wafer was also a new experience, they said. We think they liked the food but Japanese are so polite we may never know.

Left to right  starting with head of the table.
Misao (mother of Kumi from Japan), Kumi (daughter now living in Vancouver, B.C), Jeff (our nephew from Vancouver), Ichiro (father of Kumi from Japan), Andy (brother in law from Ranier), Laurie (Sister from Ranier), Jeremy (son of Laurie and Andy from Alaska).  Hostess MaryAnn is standing behind Ichiro. (Photo by Wayne)
The discussion was about the weather and culture. The mother thought it interesting that the Man of the House cooked. Although MaryAnn did much of the preparations, they noticed my presence in the kitchen. We had much fun telling them who really rules the roost in this country.
We also talked about how we fix everything ourselves. They were in awe when they learned that MaryAnn fixes toilets, etc. And laughed when I told them that I will call someone AFTER I fix something.
My brother-in-law and I asked several questions about the women's roles in their culture. We told them at the end of the evening that somehow the men of Japan got it right and we didn't.
We talked (communicated) for several hours, but didn't cover as many topics as I would have liked.
On their way out the door there were hugs from my nephew and his Japanese girlfriend and another discussion on how hugs are not part of Japanese culture. She (Kumi) has never hugged her father. 
I had to restrain myself to not give him a big hug.
The last thing I did do was hand her mother (Misau) the dog leash to rein in the husband (Ichiro) for the two block walk to where they stayed in Ranier. She got the message, looked at him laughing, took a step toward him and he scampered out the door.
 They all fly out of the Falls to Vancouver on Monday for another week with the daughter. My nephew will get back to his upholstery shop.
Well, MaryAnn is up, the dog wants out and I need to check my lottery ticket. If I win, I'm off to Japan.

Katie's line

Packers 27, Bears 24
Katie went with the Vegas oddsmakers today, predicting the outcome of the NFC championship. We're awaiting her AFC decision.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Danger! Wind chill advice for our Florida families

This is an honest-to-goodness actual official posting from the National Weather Service, warning any foolish Floridians who would dare to "venture out" tonight in the Tampa Bay area! We just hope our snowbird relatives don't forget to layer up!

Tampa Bay/Ruskin, FL 
2:38 pm EST, Sat., Jan. 22, 2011


Lemons and lemonade in International Falls

We are happy to report that our search for Wayne and MaryAnn, who experienced a minus 46 degree day yesterday, has yielded this report. They live in Ranier, on Rainy Lake, next to International Falls. They're OK, making the best of it.

Stan and Kathleen,
Good morning from the tundra. At this time yesterday (Friday) we were saying to Mother Nature, "Bring it on and get it over with." We sacrificed not having a garage to be on the lake in Ranier when we moved from our place two miles further up the lake. We gained city water and a location closer to MaryAnn's cottages.
So we rely on head bolt heaters to keep the pickumup truck and cars going. However, some damn fool, through all the snowplowing and shoveling this season, buried the electrical outlet on the outside of the house with several feet of now hard-packed snow.
I didn't bother the vehicles for the first few hours of the morning. However, life must go on and I needed to run errands. The Saturn would not even turn over. Truck would not stay started. MaryAnn's Chrysler LHS started right up.
Menard's, Kmart, drug store, bank deposit, post office and grocery store were on my list.
That complete, I stopped at the newspaper for a free cup of bad coffee and chat with a few of the staff. Immediately Christina approaches me and tells me that Bob (her husband, who operates a feller-buncher in the woods for a local logging company) just called her and said the reading in all three machines in the woods said 49 below. They got them all started, but didn't want to run them because he thinks it's too cold for the hydraulic hoses. The crew left the machines running and went to town.
Several people asked me why I was out and about. I said I needed groceries to entertain my nephew from Vancouver BC and his girlfriend and her parents. The parents arrived a couple days ago from Japan. We had met them and learned that they wanted to experience the cold and deep snow. Yesterday was their LUCKY DAY!
We also learned they wanted to taste venison or fish. We are preparing venison (two different dishes), fish, wild rice soup and a Minnesota hot dish this evening.
My nephew also spotted our sauna down by the lake and he and MaryAnn convinced them to sauna and roll in the snow tomorrow. I said I would join them after the Bear's/Packers game. (I hope the damn game goes into four or five overtimes.)
So when you have lemons you make lemonade and all that.
MaryAnn checked on her cottages where people were gone and there were no frozen pipes anywhere. I have two out of three vehicles running now and after today we will focus on our two-week trip to Playa Del Carmen in 10 days, 11hrs and a few minutes. But who's counting?
That's all from the tundra for now. MaryAnn is up, the dog wants out, and I have to check my power-ball number.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Frostbite Falls hits all-time low

-46 degrees
The city known as the nation's icebox registered its all time low temperature today. Minus 46 degrees. That's not a windchill, Brian Williams of NBC said tonight. That's an actual air temperature. It would require 78 more degrees just to melt ice.

Wayne! BUTTON YOUR COAT AND REPORT IN. Are you and MaryAnn alright? Got firewood? Is the insulation holding? We know the car won't start. We'll standby.

One year ago Wayne was making pasta as our guest in Tucson. Temperature was 70 degrees. Let's see. That's a swing of 116 degrees!

We've created a snake-handler monster

Ever since Stan's sister Sosie learned that the wobble of the earth has readjusted the zodiac signs, she has taken her new life's role seriously.
Turns out that Sosie, formerly a Sagittarius, is now an Ophiuchus (pronounced Ooh-FEE-yew-kus). If you've never heard of the sign of the Ophiuchus, you should know that the Babylonians, wanting a nice even-numbered zodiac, tossed out the 13th sign long ago.
It has been revived, however, by Sosie and others who have an appreciation for astrological accuracy and things that crawl on their bellies. Sosie has researched her new sign and has learned that, among other things, she's a born "snake handler." 
Today, by U.S. Mail, we received our "Easy Field Guide to Common Snakes of Arizona," with illustrations. It came from the newly-minted snake handler in California, who is obviously thrilled, if not overcome, by her new-found authority. She's just trying to help, we suppose.
We've wintered in Arizona for five years. Seen a lot of varmints and roadkill: rabbits, skunks, opossum, road runners, javelina, deer, porcupine, fox, coyotes, wolves --- but nary a snake. It's too cold, the locals tell the snowbirds. That's just fine with us.
Before we stayed there in 2006, we had read that there were an average of 5,000 calls to the city of Tucson each year to deal with rattlesnakes, prompting some anxiety and the photograph and caption below.


Upon hearing of Aunt Katie's fear of the Arizona rattlesnake, Ford and Jen Rolfsrud stopped by Sunday and helped lace up her new Timberlines, the first line of defense against against the diamond-back bastard. Ford and Jen have never even been to Arizona, so no one actually knows if this approach will work, but it is probably better than snake venom innoculations. Hoover is being fitted with similar protection.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Emily's Public Relations Manager

Yesterday, after Melissa saw Emily naming the Twins lineup on our YouTube video, there was only one thing left for a proud mother to do: This morning she sent a link to the top management of the Minnesota Twins.
She got back a couple of responses immediately:

First, from Carl Pohlad's grandson,
From: Pohlad, Joe [
Sent: Thursday, January 20, 2011 10:37 AM
To: Blethen, Melissa (GE Capital)
Subject: RE: 4 yr old knows every position / player - 90 seconds of fun

Very cute.

Thanks for sending.
And then from the Twins vice president of marketing:

From: Klinger, Patrick []
Sent: Thursday, January 20, 2011 1:37 PM
To: Blethen, Melissa (GE Capital)
Subject: RE: 4 yr old girl knows every Twins player.....see short video
Thanks so much for sharing the video!   We love fans of all ages but especially youngsters like Emily.  It’s humbling to see the impact we can have on kids.  She’s obviously a very smart young lady who is passionate about the Twins.

Warmest personal regards,

Patrick Klinger
Vice-President, Marketing | Minnesota Twins Baseball Club
Target Field | 1 Twins Way | Minneapolis, MN 55403

If you missed the video of Emily and her flashcards, her mother would like you to click here.

Meanwhile, baking in the sun. . .

Ron and Linda are in Boca Grande on Gaspirlla Island in Florida with Linda's sister Becky and her husband Al. "It was an enjoyable day there with them," Becky reports. "Lunch in the railroad depot, four hours on the white sands near the lighthouse at the state park, 73 degrees with a light wind. Lovely day."
We're very happy for ya'll. Now don't burn anything. . . especially the bottoms of your feet.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Official portrait: 2 year old with parents

Here's Jennifer, Ford and Kaia. Monday Stan saw Jenn and Kaia at the Shakopee Community Center. "Can you say Hi to Uncle Stan, Kaia?" Jenn prompted. The center is a great place for cold weather play time, for ALL ages. Today's topic? Big girl underwear.

Northern exposure

Got an email from early-riser Wayne Kasick today, subject: "Enlightened."
He writes from a suburb of International Falls:
Rather than go to the Strib, WSJ or Minnpost for my morning dose of news, that I don't need, or read explanations and observations of why our economy is screwed up, I went right to your blog.
At your recommendation, I then went to read all about me, now a Libra.
My element is air...ok but not very revealing.
My planet is Venus...Now that's revealing. Can't wait for MaryAnn to come down for coffee. She thinks I'm from Mars.
My symbol is scales...I would like more specifics, fish scales,bathroom scales or what. No help there.
My stone is opals...notice it is plural. I should have lots of them. Maybe my birthday.
My pursuit is to be consistent...absolutely, golf, fishing, picking stocks
My vibration is unsteady...true! Most every day just after cocktail hour.
And my life desire is an easy uncomplicated life...right on. Now she nailed it. This woman is so insightful, so intuitive and stimulating I may sign up for her personalized session.
I just read details how to sign up...that would be complicated and not easy.
I'm gonna go wake MaryAnn up (it's almost 7) and tell her we are from the same planet. That will make her day.
Wayne, center, with patsies Steve and Matt, playing poker in Canada after a day of fishing.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

...and to the Republic

Stan writes:
We were all little patriots at Oak Grove School, maybe just a little scared. Back in the early 50s, when we heard aircraft droning overhead late at night, our wiser older sister speculated that it just might be the Russians coming to bomb us. Billy Graham was no help either. He always sounded like the jig would be up in just a year or two. There were many signs, he said.
It was a special duty every morning to run the flag up the pole in front of our one-room schoolhouse. You had to be at least in the fourth grade to qualify for the week-long assignment. Much better than hauling water for the drinking fountain. One day somebody screwed up and hung the flag upside-down without noticing and it drew a motorist off of Highway 29 to ask teacher what the emergency was. International distress signal and all.
There never was an actual emergency at Oak Grove, unless you count the time teacher forgot her high-blood pressure medication and scared the hell out of everyone as she huffed and puffed her way to the phone in the back of the room.
Mostly we weren't that scared though. Every morning, right after teacher led us in song and we got down to business, we stood to recite the Pledge of Allegiance. Never missed. It was sort of reassuring.
These memories were stirred today by a $100 question on the Discovery Channel's Cash Cab, which is a favorite game show of ours, especially during low wind chills and high snow drifts.
Ben Bailey asked a question something like this. "After a campaign led by the Knights of Columbus, what change was made to the Pledge of Allegiance in 1954?" Sure enough, I remembered the answer. Back then we called it the "New Pledge."
I don't remember that there was any explanation given at the time, only that instead of saying "One Nation, Indivisible, with Liberty and Justice for All," you were now to say "One Nation, Under God, Indivisible with Liberty and Justice for All." It felt awkward at first, of course, and if you didn't concentrate you would stumble, but young minds incorporate swiftly.
But for a while, reciting the New Pledge gave you the same kind of odd sensation you got when you'd hear the Catholics say the Lord's Prayer on the radio. They didn't say "For thine is the Kingdom and the Power and the Glory Forever and Ever" like we did. They just cut straight to "Amen." How could that be? We did get an explanation for that.
Wonder if it will ever come up on the Cash Cab.

Monday, January 17, 2011

It's a jungle in there. . .

We stopped across the hall on our way to a resident's association meeting tonight and found our neighbor Aaron with his girlfriend. . . and a horny mountain goat. It may be cold and nasty outside in Minneapolis, but it was quite tropical and downright wild on the tenth floor. Stan has agreed to help Aaron mount the goat head to his condo wall. Aaron inherited the trophy from a grandfather or something. Every bachelor pad should have one. Mecca, Aaron's pit-bull-border-collie rescue dog, isn't so sure, but is trying to make an adjustment.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

I'm liking the new me

Stan Writes:

As a life-long Cancer, a "Moon Child," I've never appreciated being described as moody, eccentric, hard on the outside, soft on the inside. My sign is The Crab. Uff Da. Not much in the detailed descriptions of me and my birth mates seemed particularly desirable. Cancers sound like jerks with plenty of room for self-improvement. Where would you begin?

Thank goodness for the story about moon wobble in today's Sunday paper. Drop all plans for character building and self-improvement. Science has come to the rescue. Turns out, it's all a mistake, I am a Gemini. That's right. It seems the tug of a wobbly moon has restructured the earth's relationship to the zodiac. It's time to catch up.

I have Googled the Universal Psychic Guild web site, and much to my satisfaction, have learned that I am now:  "Terminally curious and sometimes even mischievous, a multi-faceted soul who enjoys knowing a little bit of everything but generally not too much about one particular subject. Variety is the spice of life!"

That's more like it. Much better. I like the new me. You, too, can make this adjustment to your character. Find your new sign, then get started at

Here's a couple of summaries taken from the web site.
The old me, Cancer:
"Those born under the sign of Cancer, ruled by the mysterious Moon, are one of the zodiac's enigmas. It is fair to say that most Cancers are a bundle of contradictions. Compassionate and caring with friends, family and lovers, yet they can cut to the bone with their jealous remarks and ever-changing moods. Endearingly eccentric on one hand, and on the other, insecure about how others see them. Like their astrological symbol - the Crab - Cancers can appear hard and insensitive on the outside. However, for those of us who know and love a "Moon Child", we understand that deep below lies a softness and sensitivity that makes them so very special...

The new me, Gemini:
"Terminally curious and sometimes even mischievous, Geminis are multi-faceted souls who enjoy knowing a little bit of everything but generally not too much about one particular subject. It's just that variety is the spice of their lives!

"In Astrology, Geminis have also gained the reputation of being the incessant talkers of the zodiac. Those Twins that don't have the 'gift of the gab' are usually talented writers or have a special interest in foreign languages. In love, they look for a partner who can keep up with them mentally and physically! And, to quote Oscar Wilde, "there's one thing worse than people talking about you, that's people not talking about you." Whether Geminis like it or not, people are usually "talking about them". Together with Scorpio and Virgos, they are a sign that is often discussed, dissected and sometimes even put down by the other signs of the zodiac. Sometimes this is a subtle form of jealousy by others, because Geminis do lead very unique and unusual lives. The Gemini personality can appear mysterious or detached to others and therefore they are often misunderstood and unappreciated for the talents they offer to the world at large.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

This could be it. . .

After Mom sang Stan the Scottish song (see the post below), Stan called her back to see if he could get some words from the song to Google and find out exactly what it was. When he called his mother back, she couldn't remember a single word of it. We laughed about how common this is, when you WANT to remember something, you can't.

Anyway, sister Solveig had a subsequent visit with Mom and somehow got a string of words long enough to spring something from Mr. Google. Here is a result of Sosie's search. You can do the same if you'd like versions of it. She's not sure it is the one, we can confirm that later when we open Grandpa's song book.

Far from home I wander, but still my thoughts return,
To my own folks over yonder, in the little barn by the valley.

As we look over the words, we imagine our grandfather leading hundreds of uniformed Scotsmen singing a chorus about their homeland as "joy and sadness mingles."

My Ain Folk
Far frae my hame I wander, but still my thoughts return
To my ain folk ower yonder, in the shieling by the burn.
I see the cosy ingle, and the mist abune the brae:
And joy and sadness mingle, as I list some auld-warld lay.

And it's oh! but I'm longing for my ain folk,
Tho' they be but lowly, puir and plain folk:
I am far beyond the sea, but my heart will ever be
At home in dear auld Scotland, wi' my ain folk.
O' their absent ane they're telling, the auld folk by the fire:
And I mark the swift tears welling, as the ruddy flame leaps high'r.
How the mither wad caress me, were I but by her side:
Now she prays that Heav'n will bless me, tho' the stormy seas divide.

(Meaning of unusual words:
shieling=hut used by people looking after animals high in the hills.
auld-warld=old world)

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

O Canada, we honor thee

Tonight's guests for Vegetables au Manoomin Jumbo Wild Rice. Joe, Jennifer and Kathleen. Bachelor No. 1, Danny Martin, dropped by briefly, but left before he could be asked to take this picture so that Stan might be in it as well.
Dear Wayne,
Thank you for the generous present of Canada's Manoomin Jumbo Wild Rice that you left with us last August as a parting gift after our golf outing. The bulging plastic bag has been stored in the canned goods section of the pantry since the day you drove away. We've been puzzling over it ever since, not sure just what to do with it or when to tackle it. The helpful information sheet tucked in the packet says that the wild rice, when roasted properly, can be stored indefinitely. This was important when wild game was scarce, the note says, as it could often mean the difference between life and death for the Ojibway people. So we didn't worry. We did finish off the lovely can of Canadian blueberry jam that you left. We know what to do with that.
But the Wild Rice is a bit of a project. It says to wash it first. Anything that says to wash it first will generally get put back on the shelf in favor of something that doesn't need washing first.
Fortunately, our youngest daughter, Jennifer, said she was coming over tonight. She's no hippie, but occasionally she does dabble in foods that sometimes seem to be more bother than they are worth. Your Wild Rice seemed just the thing. I called yesterday to alert her to this opportunity and she jumped on it.
Wayne, you gave us two and a half cups of Manoomin Jumbo wild rice. This was most generous. Upon careful reflection, we felt that it would be unlikely that we would ever tackle this project again in the near term, so we elected to prepare your entire gift at once.
First, may I say that the Canadian wild rice was delicious. The two hours of preparation time yielded a marvelous bed for a variety of colorful vegetables, complemented by two bottles of German-sounding wine from Joe's private stock. The thing is, during the hour or so of preparation, the wild rice expands to over three times its original size. We knew this was going to happen, but were powerless to do anything about it once our lot had been cast.
So we happily gorged ourselves on a product that has no cholesterol and more protein and fewer calories than brown or white rice. Jen's colorful vegetables disappeared as we watched the president's wonderful memorial speech in Tucson.
But now we have leftovers. Jen has agreed to take a generous portion back to Nisswa where it will doubtless reappear in a healthy meal.
We're sure it will keep a few more days and would look great as a bed for Beef Burgundy with red wine. Would you and Mary Ann be doing anything this weekend?
Your fellow retiree,

Wayne writes:
OK....Now that the hard part is completed, try adding wild rice to your next batch of pancake mix. Byerley's wild rice soup is excellent too.
And, yes, we do use Canadian rice in Chinese stir fry with French bread, German wine and throw in a Polish joke for good time.

Mother's song

Stan writes:

Mom sang to me this morning.

It was a light Scottish melody, and she remembered all of the words. Kathleen listened to it too, while I held the speaker phone. 
Grandpa Brown taught the tune to Mom long ago. As an officer in the Salvation Army, he led Scottish troops in song during The Great War being fought in France. It was a favorite with the men and the hearty, booming sing-a-longs boosted spirits. 
This morning Mom, now 90 years old, said that Grandpa had remarked to her that the Scots were industrious soldiers and seemed to get more things done than the others. Grandpa, like many Americans, had relatives on both sides of the trenches. 
The song talks about being back home with family, of course, and she sang it so sweetly, apologizing after she had finished for her voice cracking a bit, but, she explained, "I didn't get a chance to warm up."
We got on the topic after I mentioned that a distant relative in Scotland had been corresponding. That seemed to please her a lot.
She has another song, she said, but wanted to save it for next time.
If you'd like to hear my mother in full throat, click on one of her video clips on the right margin. Her rendition of J.S. Bach's "My Heart Ever Faithful" has over 9,000 hits -- 
Mom may not exactly be a rock star to YouTubers, but she is to me.

Mom, with her "Pop" -- that's Auntie Kaye peeking around Grandpa.
(Late thirties)

Monday, January 10, 2011

Florence and Bubbles at LAX

Five years ago today we laid Kathleen's mother, Florence, 99, to rest. As we remembered her today, this favorite family story came to mind:

Years before 911, Florence and her older sister, Auntie Bubbles, were in the Los Angeles Airport, awaiting their flight home after a lovely week with Kathleen's sister. The two little ol' grey-haired ladies had checked their bags, but had kept out a shopping bag. They tied on a distinctive bright bow to mark it. Bored, they got up to take a stroll around the concourse to see the sights and absent-mindedly left the shopping bag behind.
They enjoyed a nice lunch, and continued to make their way about the busy airport, eventually passing by their original location.
They spotted the shopping bag.
"Oh look!" Bubbles exclaimed. "Someone has a bag just like ours!"
Of course they soon realized that neither of them was carrying their shopping bag and so came to a quick and fortunate conclusion. The retelling of the story gave them and many others laughs for years to come and reminds us today of two delightful old ladies and a very innocent time not so long ago.
Sept. 27, 1980: Sisters Bubbles and Florence and their sister-in-law, Kathryn, attended Stan and Kathleen's wedding reception. They arrived before the hosts did.

Saturday, January 08, 2011

Tragedy in Tucson

Our thoughts are with those affected by the senseless tragedy today in Tucson. We're amazed that the Congresswoman is still with us; saddened that the deceased judge was just dropping by; stirred by the innocence of the slain nine-year-old girl. The personal impact to us was heightened as we watched the coverage. Kathleen and Stan have shopped at the Foothills Mall, site of the shootings, on numerous occasions.

Friday, January 07, 2011

Emily: Who's On First?

Cabin fever strikes early in January. It's cold, can't play outside. It's a long time before there will be baseball. Emily is here, practicing her reading, learning important words, concepts and possible starting lineups for the Minnesota Twins. Clip is one and a half minutes.

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

One is a member of The Greatest Generation

The other one is still contributing to his Social Security

We always have a good time at the Abbey Point Night neighborhood dinner party. It's held the first Wednesday of the month so that Civil Defense Sirens can remind us that tonight is the night. This evening only a dozen residents gathered for cocktails and dinner. Attendance is always down in January. We've got two snowbirds in Florida and two in Arizona; Mary and John are vacationing in Hawaii and we had a couple of no shows, but what was left was a hearty group of folks happy to break trail through the snowdrifts for a good sit-down dinner and bull session at the clubhouse. Kevin the bartender (right) not only mixed drinks but waited our table as well. (We are, after all, his very favorite group, we like to believe.)
Jubilant that Bert Blyleven has finally made the Hall of Fame, certified Twins nut Mina Daly, who knows Bert personally, promised she'd invite Bert to a neighborhood salute and celebration in the Rolfsrud's basement this February, as the Abbey Point tarmac (like the metrodome) will be unavailable for group events.
(Top photo. That's WWII Merchant Mariner Joe Daly with soon-to-retire Bud O., our association president and general good guy. Bud owns a working table saw and is therefore somewhat of a neighborhood hero. The group photo below does not include Kathleen, because Kevin was too busy serving dinner to take the picture.)

Two Reunions and an Anniversary

This afternoon's selection from the vintage video vault was a single tape containing three hours of a 1990 Rolfsrud Family Reunion, a 1990 Brown Family Reunion, and Mom and Dad's 50th Anniversary -- which featured perhaps a hundred Lutheran senior citizen celebrants in August of 1991. Despite what digital experts say, the videotape has held up very well, and it is 21 years old. We plan on bringing it up to Alexandria soon to regale mother with its contents. Above, our cousin Sandy visits with Stan's sister Linda at the Brown (Mom's family) Reunion in 1990. We would put together a spiffy collage of the frame grabs, but it's Abbey Point Night tonight so we're off to dinner with the neighbors. Toodles.

Monday, January 03, 2011

Erika Rolfsrud in Wall Street Journal review

Virg, now safe in Florida, was paging through some old Wall Street Journals today and came upon this review of "I Capture the Castle" in the Dec. 10 issue.  Critic Terry Teachout was "much taken" by our cousin, Erika Rolfsrud, who is seated in the photo above. The show closed yesterday.
Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey, F.M. Kirby Shakespeare Theatre,
36 Madison Ave., Madison, N.J.
By Terry Teachout
Part of what makes "I Capture the Castle" so fine a novel is that it is written with a Jane Austen-like grasp of the complexity of human motivation. Not only are Cassandra and Rose wholly convincing personalities, but so is James (Matt Bradford Sullivan), their father, a hopelessly blocked writer who published one near-masterpiece, then succumbed to depression and now spends his days reading mysteries. His depression, which has plunged the Mortmains into a poverty that is quite a bit less than genteel, is portrayed with sharp-eyed realism, as are the pretensions of Topaz (Erika Rolfsrud), his second wife, a former artists' model whom Cassandra and Rose both consider to be "bogus" (though Cassandra knows her to be rather nicer than she seems).

It's impressive how much of this Ms. Smith has managed to get onto the stage, just as she succeeds in suggesting the precocious wit of Cassandra's first-person narration. Though the stage version is lighter in tone than the novel, it works on its own terms, and if the 14-person cast were smaller, I expect that it would be taken up at once by other regional theaters, given its natural appeal to those who can't watch "Pride and Prejudice" often enough on TV.

I've concentrated on the play because it's unfamiliar, but I could have written at similar length about the production. Each member of the cast catches the exact tone of his or her character, above all Ms. Mozo, who brings off with sweet grace the tricky task of showing us Cassandra's discovery of the hurt of romantic love. I was also much taken with Ms. Rolfsrud, who makes Topaz both absurd and lovable. Mr. Watson's staging is admirably subtle, though that doesn't stop the members of the audience from laughing uproariously at every twist in the plot, as well they should.

Sunday, January 02, 2011

Alexandria weather report

Our Alexandria correspondent Tom Obert, 63, reports:
We Won!
We survived the blizzard(s) of '10! I don't know if there was an official count as to the number of them - they just kept coming. We haven't been able to leave the property since Thursday morning. Snow amounts weren't humongous - seemed about 6 inches every day according to our decks. But the blowing and white out conditions closed I-94 between Alex and Fargo for three days. And travel wasn't recommended anywhere. So, even if we could get out, there was really no place to go.

This morning, in 25 below windchills, the missus and I went out to see if we could "escape." I know most people think us weird, but we both like to shovel snow. It's such a feeling of accomplishment when you're done. Here's Ruthie holding up the shovels in triumph as we completed the task - worked up a good sweat out there! You may notice the little markers on the side of the driveway? Minnesotans put them up to mark the driveway boundaries for shoveling and/or plowing purposes. Ours by the house has just about disappeared!

So now we'll head out to Jimmy Johns for lunch and survey the local area for photo ops. The sun was out for a while this morning, which would have been great, but we're overcast again now. Lots of other snow and/or sports photos to come - may have to go to a different format because of the volume.

We also picked up this weather report from the Korkowski blog, below:
I just got off the phone with a friend in northern Minnesota. He said that since early this morning the snow has been falling heavily and it is nearly waist high. The temperature is dropping below zero, and the north wind is increasing, and his wife has done nothing but look through the kitchen window....he says that if it gets much worse, he may have to let her in!

Birthday Boys

In all the bustle of Christmas doings, we forgot Alex's birthday this year. But then, we suppose that kind of thing has happened before to the poor lad, who arrived in a load of early Christmas presents on Dec. 17, 21 years ago. His brother, Aaron, has a birthday today. Happy Birthday to the Nephews. Now, get off of Santa's knees, please.

Katie's picks

Predictions for today's noon NFL games follow. Winners are in red.:
Miami at New England
Buffalo at New York Jets
Cincinnati at Baltimore
Pittsburgh at Cleveland
Oakland at Kansas City
Vikings at Detroit
Carolina at Atlanta
Tampa Bay at New Orleans

We'll rush these over to Canterbury Park for a last chance shot at the $250.