Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Oh, be still my beating heart, tis only Lisa. . .

Panic seized the darkened household as the clock struck nine times tonight. Look, oh horror of horrors, only three candy bars remain on the serving platter. What, oh what, will we ever do if evermore beggars rap, rap, rap on our chamber door? (Quoth the Raven, Nevermore!)
Yes, another record-breaking year on Abbey Point has strained the confectioner's budget yet again. Last year there were 19 assorted trick-or-treaters. This year, if you don't count adult neighbors with long crooked noses, we had 22. We blame the rising overage on climate change -- it was, after all, a really warm night out, just perfect for Halloween. Or maybe the horde was drawn to the tasteful pumpkin decorations carefully set out by the mistress of the house.
So mysterious. So very scary.

A phone call to the Florida son . . .

Virg got out of the shower in sunny Florida this morning in time to check on the newly-opened markets and take a Skype call from his Mom in Minnesota. After a brief exchange about the scientific wonders of today and Virg's high-tech home office array, they discussed alligators sunning themselves on golf courses, the weather, upcoming holiday plans and the possibility of Mom's roast beef sandwich being delivered from Kell Avenue to Virg's Florida home. (Chef Marcia said she'd gladly make him one if he promised to eat it when it got there.) The Skype connection was clear and the pair resolved to make it a regular occasion before ringing off.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

About cats and envy

It is good to have a nice thing, it is even better when others want it too.
This little story was written today by Sosie for her mother. It has a nice feel to it and an allegorical spin, and very bloggable. So enjoy it, as we did.
Hi Mom,
Snowball is curled up in her "winter cave" for a mid-morning nap. It is lined in black velvet and has an electric heat pad under the pillow. I bought it for her two years ago when we first took her in as she is old (her converted cat years equaled mine at that time) and deserves some softness and warmth, especially on dreary, rainy days when Mr. Shearer sees no reason for turning on the central heat!
For whatever reason, last year she stopped using it so I put it away on a shelf. Samuel found it and started using it so I brought it out again. When Snowball saw Samuel in it, she suddenly remembered that it is HER cave and she LOVES her cave and she has been using it ever since. She looks good in it, don't you think?

Monday, October 29, 2012

"Be afraid. . . be very afraid."

(Ronnie, in The Fly, 1986)

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Click to pick your favorite cookie. (They're going fast.)

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Cookies, exactly as Grandma still bakes 'em

Emily and Grandma are stirring up a batch of Halloween cookies!
They are Ethel's Sugar Cookies direct from Betty Crocker's cookbook. Emily's Mom has banned our mischievous first grader from all computer games until she focuses better in school . . . but cookies and puzzles and reading and chutes and ladders and color crayons are still allowed. . . so it's going to be a very busy, creative evening for all of us.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Friday finale

The pumpkin placemats were out tonight, for good reason. If you've got pumpkin placemats and you don't use them in October, just when would you?
Our old family friend, Laurie Hartmann, dropped by after work for a pork roast dinner and a chat and we all enjoyed both, especially the finale, a slice of homemade chocolate layer cake, the remnants of which are displayed above by our cake model.
Laurie's engaged in a host of projects, managing the ever-challenging newspaper business, particularly challenging now during the silly season surrounding elections and their political advertising hijinks.
Good stories, good times.

Manpowered extraction action

It was 37 degrees, damp and windy. The perfect day to be IN a hot tub.
The hard part was going to be pushing the dang thing up the hill. Everybody knew that. The head ramrod from Premier Spas asked if he could just drive his truck down the hill and onto the back yard. Stan said No. They didn't use a truck when they moved it in, didn't need to tear up the sod getting it back out now. There were five men here, he continued, and that should be enough muscle to do the job and if it wasn't enough, we could always ask "the wife."
That settled it.
After about seven years of not being used hardly at all, we decided we'd let the hot tub go. Tried to give it away as a wedding present to a reluctant couple; tried to trade it to the local golf superintendent in exchange for helping Stan to break 80. Two unsuccessful schemes.
Then along came Richard and Cheryl, friends of a friend, who thought a hot tub would be just the thing for the grandkids at their Orono digs. The win-win deal was consummated in our basement, a demonstration arranged, and a date set for tub extraction.
Today was the big day, right on time three fellows from the tub company arrived with a heavy-duty trailer that looked like it weighed more than the tub. We tugged and strapped the tub in place and the load looked very heavy.
But once we got our momentum up, five guys pushed the whole shootin' match up the steep hill onto the road. Bam. There was never a doubt.
"The wife" served hot coffee and took these dandy pictures.
Richard, the proud owner in white sweatshirt, stood at the top of
the hill with his extraction crew. (Photos and coffee by Katie)

Thursday, October 25, 2012

The tenth anniversary of a good man's death

Ten years ago our good friend Tom Lapic died in a plane crash while serving his boss, U.S. Sen. Paul Wellstone. Tom had worked for Stan for six years before being recruited to Wellstone's Washington staff. He was the editor of the Chanhassen Villager, columnist, and unabashed dreamer.

Minnesota Public Radio wrote:

Tom Lapic, 49, who was known to many as Paul Wellstone's right hand man, had worked with the senator for nearly 10 years. Two weeks ago, he quit his job as deputy director in the Senate office to join Wellstone for the final hectic weeks of the campaign.
Wellstone wanted Lapic with him every step of the way, because Lapic's tranquil demeanor steadied him.
"He had the ability to be in command and yet be in the background. He was a very calming influence," said Lapic's friend, Chaska police chief Scott Knight. "He was one of the most unflappable individuals, and that was all on top of a very, very sincere foundation. He genuinely cared about people and issues. And when he took interest in someone -- and that was just about everyone he met -- it was from his heart."
Coworkers described a man who would tell his office mates that they didn't have to worry -- he'd worry for them.
They also called him a great writer who wrote many of Wellstone's speeches, and praised his ethics.
Here's what Stan wrote for the Southwest newspapers.

By Stan Rolfsrud
General Manager

Eloquent leaders and others have praised U.S. Senator Paul Wellstone for his decency, his “bone-deep devotion to political engagement and service.” They’ve called him a sincere and good man, whose principles led him in life, one who cared deeply about and worked tirelessly for the people of Minnesota. They said he’s a believer, an ordinary guy, a passionate fighter for the underdog.

Add gentle, supportive and soft-spoken and you’ve also described his loyal aide, Tom Lapic, who died with him.

We know this about Tom because he worked for this newspaper company. He was a columnist, an editor and an administrative assistant during his four-year association. He was a problem solver, a fixer, a reliable “go to” guy.

An unabashed liberal who once studied to be a priest, Tom relished his role as the counterpoint to our conservative columnists. Bleeding heart, pointy-headed, and idealist were labels he wore with pride and a grin. But Tom didn’t just write it, he believed what he was writing and lived that way.

Tom prized a collection of dusty typewriters as well as a vintage Ford Mustang. He took his pride and joy out of storage in the early 90s and obtained a set of classic car plates. He discovered that the cost of the plates was significantly less than for an ordinary vehicle even though he intended to use it regularly on the highways. In his mind, he, and others like him, enjoyed an unfair tax advantage. To the astonishment and dismay of some readers, he argued persuasively for a change to the law.

Although Tom served for a brief time as editor of the Chanhassen Villager, he much preferred support roles. He didn’t need a title, he loved to pitch in to help and support others. This he did with great energy, tackling special projects, filling in where needed – reporter, receptionist, computer hacker, network administrator, hand-holder – anything to move the organization forward. Mostly, he wanted to be close to the action. Bright and flexible, his biggest demand was that life be interesting.

Generous enough, he loved being thought of as cheap, in a Jack Benny sort of way. And he was full of surprises, this seminarian, ex-chimney sweep, this junk-food vegetarian. When I mentioned I was taking up golf, he said he’d teach me. Who would guess he knew anything about the game? But teach he did. Turns out he had played daily as a youth in New Ulm. His first lesson: Don’t ever buy a bag of tees. You can always find a perfectly good discarded one if you look sharp in the tee box. That way, he explained with a wink in his whimsical self-parody of values, you can be cheap and recycle too.

Tom’s feet bothered him a lot but that didn’t keep him from exercising. We walked together around Staring Lake often, trying to think big thoughts and solve our small problems. One spring day Tom confided that he’d been invited to join Paul Wellstone’s regular staff and wondered about the right thing to do. Wellstone had been campaigning the previous summer and Tom had spent some time with him then, but I was surprised he had gotten so close to the organization. I shouldn’t have been.

Tom first served in Washington and then in the senator’s office in St. Paul. He never set out to serve two full terms, but like his boss, the job must have grown on him. Tom was  where he wanted to be, solving problems, supporting constituents, staying close to the action. During the brief conversations I had with the senator during those years, we didn’t talk politics. He’d just light up and joyfully relate his latest Lapic story. The senator had clearly come to rely heavily on the steady judgment, clear thinking and loyal support of this kind and gentle man. None of us are surprised.

We’re proud to have known these hopeful dreamers, these believers in the best of America, whose greatest achievements are to be found in the happiness of others. And now that they’re gone and can’t do it anymore, we’re all going to have to try harder to help each other.

Kathleen voted for Paul Wellstone whenever she could... and she told him so when this photo was taken at the Eden Prairie News office in 1998.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Getting by on her good books

Besides being a drop-dead good mystery writer, there's another reason New York Times Best Seller John Sandford intrigues Kathleen: He's meticulous about his settings, and loves to put the action where Kathleen feels at home.
Take the current Virgil Flowers novel, "Mad River." (Please don't try to take it from Kathleen) The action moves along the Minnesota River valley and the locations range from Bayport to Minneapolis to Windom, with stops like Cecil's near St. Kate's University in St. Paul, the Fleet Farm in Owatonna, or the post office in Marshall.
She's read all of his work, would love to run in to him sometime near his home in Stillwater. She has a voracious appetite for his work, won't put it down. She started the 387-page "Mad River" Sunday; she'll finish it tonight. Which is good. Perhaps then there will be time for a hot meal.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Run, Will, Run!

With Mom

Cousin Arnold Rolfsrud's grandson, freshman Will Sheeran, shines at Brown College, getting A's and running well on the cross country team for the Brown Bears. His mother (from near Seattle) and aunt (New York City) attended a recent race (Will finished second in a five-team event) and proud Grandpa Arnold passed along their pictures of the event. Aunt Erika, who lives a 2-hour train ride away from the Ivy League school, had two sweat shirts made up: "Proud Mother of Will Sheeran" and "Proud Aunt of Will Sheeran." Based on the photos, Will is a good sport about all the attention. 

With Aunt Erika

In a blaze of glory, Texas style

In this favorite photo by Lorlee, Big Tex appears to be
bouncing the moon in his left hand.
 A sad note has been received by these offices from our correspondent in the outer reaches of our coverage area, Dallas, Texas.
Lorlee Bartos ruefully reports the fiery demise of Big Tex, the iconic figure towering over the Texas State Fair. Big Tex has been a regular subject of Lorlee's photographic endeavors over the years. The Alexandria farm girl is a regular visitor to her adopted state's annual agricultural exposition, and she never failed to give Big Tex a nod. But now he is gone.
Big Tex was outfitted with loudspeakers and would address fairgoers with cheerful, jaunty messages. We're unaware of any conversations Big Tex has had with Lorlee, but doubtless she now regrets not saying more to him the last time they were together. You just never know.
In her final photo of Big Tex
the day before his demise,
Lorlee shows him pushing the
Texas Tower.
A complete autopsy has yet to be turned in by the fire department, so the cause is to be determined, but his end was swift and public, observed by stunned fun seekers left shaking their heads over how unexpected it all was. Now only memories and millions of photographs remain, as well as a video or two taken of Big Tex in his final hour. His charred remains were borne away in a canvas sarcophagus, and he is with his maker in Plano, Texas.
Our sympathies, Lorlee.
For her part, Lorlee is taking the loss philosophically, she quips:
"Every year they have a contest for the best new fried food at the State Fair -- this year they went just a little too far."

Photo credit: Krista Kalla

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Today's winners will be . . .

Posted at 11:20 a.m., Sunday.

Following are the winners in the noon NFL games today, according to St. Paul Katie. These picks were duly recorded this morning at the $3000 Canterbury Park Perfect Pick contest.

Green Bay
New York Giants
Tampa Bay

Good luck to us.

We renewed our tradition of the Sunday morning El Cheapo Breakfast Feast in the Card Room (Two eggs medium, hash browns, sausage links, bagel and cream cheese, orange juice, $6), still served up by our favorite waitress, Melissa. Then we rode to the third floor Racebook to make our hopeful entries and to see if Katie's faithful from St. Paul were still at their Wasted Days reserved gaming table.
Sure enough, we haven't checked on them for a year now, but there they were, still seeking riches and fame by investing in the nation's thoroughbred stock. As an additional bonus today, Bob Lange, a classmate Katie can't remember from St. Paul Central, was also seated at the special table.
They chatted enthusiastically about old times. Now Katie is back home with her yearbook, trying to figure out who the hell he is.
We wrote a post about this profligate gang one year ago. Nothing, it seems, has changed. So we're not going to write anything new. Here's our post from October 2, 2011:

Most every day, these learned gentlemen ride the escalator to a third floor work station dedicated to their personal use by Canterbury Park management.
Toiling like brokers in gritty financial pits, they plot the day's investments, carefully assigning value to the nation's thoroughbred racing stock.
On Sundays, these professionals pause from their ordinary labors to enjoy a special treat: The Perfect Pick contest sponsored by Canterbury Park. It costs nothing to enter, so you can't lose. Just pick all the winners in the noon game schedule and the house will award you $500.
This enticement brings Stan and Katie to the establishment for breakfast each NFL Sunday. After hash browns and eggs in the ground floor card room, they ride to the third floor betting parlor to enter their picks, then greet this work-a-day gang, always at table, always at work, always smiling and commenting on world events with a mixture of skepticism, dry wit, and the guarded optimism of those living in constant pursuit of the next big score.
We greet these old hands every week, as part of our Sunday gaming ritual. So far, this has brought us no luck whatsoever.
Don Kieger,  the handsome gent embracing Katie in the photo above, is an old family friend from St. Paul, who spent many a scuffling day playing and talking baseball with Katie's brothers, Dan and Jim.
Two weeks ago, as is his habit, Don paused from his labors handicapping the nation's ponies, to apply his considerable skill to the challenging Perfect Pick. He won the $500 pot that day, naming the winners in all eight games and getting the over/under in two.
This remarkable achievement gave rise to a nasty rumor circulating on the third floor that, given his special status as a house whale, management has allowed Don to submit his picks late in the third quarter. This advantage has been denied, of course, but somehow the story persists among the less fortunate.
Today's prediction from The Don? The Vikings will lose again. He faults the QB for the Viking's woes. Can't win with McNabb, he says.
We shall see.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

About butter, embarrassment and all

Our hard-working daughter Jennifer is now a buyer at the Just Food store in Northfield, giving rise to some occasional foodie chats. Yesterday over lunch at Panera Bread in Burnsville we learned a bit about local salsa, and then we turned to buttermilk, giving rise to this morning's email, copied below.
Hi Jen,
Our brief discussion about buttermilk was interesting and brought up some good memories. I had forgotten a bunch of stuff about it -- I had participated in the hand-churned butter-making process as a disinterested, reluctant child -- so now it is fun to review it and analyze what was going on back then.
Google Images
I looked it up and now I remember something: Butter is made, of course, from the cream that comes from whole milk BUT if you separated the milk using our hand-cranked cream separator, that resulting cream was no good for making butter. No, to make butter, you needed to just let the whole milk sit a while and allow the cream to naturally rise to the top. Then you would skim the rich golden cream off the top of the container and into the butter churn. This (I learned today) is because the extra time allows a bacterial process to take place that lowers the pH in the cream, making it easier to beat it into butter. 
Our homemade butter came out of the churn in big chunky globs and would appear on our dinner table in an odd shape. This caused us some embarrassment in front of guests because it lacked the "proper" rectangular shape of the more sophisticated, store-bought butter stick that city kids and more progressive farmers trusted.
Google Images
To avoid this humiliation, some housewives would squeeze their new butter into molds for a more modern table presentation. Your grandma Bev didn't bother.
Dad would drink up the leftover butter-making liquid, known as traditional buttermilk, always proclaiming it to be delicious. We children disagreed vehemently. I think our word for it then was "icky." Fortunately, there wasn't a lot of this by-product left over, so we were never required to drink it. We just let Dad think it was a luxury.
Cultured buttermilk is a different milk product, but similarly named. Given my history with the traditional stuff, I have never had an urge to experiment with cultured buttermilk.
Thanks for the memories,

Friday, October 19, 2012

Making the Final Cut

Three two-cycle engines roared in a familiar cacophony heard two neighborhoods away as our efficient yard crew made quick work of the grass while chewing up the fallen leaves and sticks in the back yard, leaving behind a fine mulch to rot, then nurture next year's growth. It's all very progressive of course, not at all like gathering leaves with a big, floppy, broom rake into a pile, jumping in them and then lighting the crispy mounds afire. Gone are the days when a 10-year-old could be entrusted with a box of strike-anywhere Farmer Matches to light up the back yard with little smokey blazes you could smell two neighborhoods away.
Meanwhile, below, Mom's new back yard took on a distinctive golden crust. We've been invited to join Chris in an old-fashioned raking bee. Honored, we declined.

A lollipop for Katie

Powerful quadriceps have
emerged, due to consistent
exercise routines.

It's been six months since Katie got her steel knee. She brought it to the doctor's office for a routine exam, some X-rays and a brief talk about the future. She has no pain, but still has some stiffness. On the way there, we dropped off our borrowed cane at the American Legion, hoping we never need to get such a loner again. Now we are thinking about our brother-in-law in Florida, looking ahead to the same operation, all our best to him. Do your exercises!

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Great Grandma, here's Tazar

Great Grandma meets Tazar.
The patient, gentle creature is twice as old as Emily, but, Emily observed,
he's not as old as Great Grandma! Mom admired Tazar's markings. He'll be back.
Marcia's chocolate cake frosting quickly
caught Emily's eye. After a couple of
hints, there was a mixing spoon to lick.
School holidays brought a wealth of visits and activity to Mom's home on Kell Avenue today. This morning daughter Linda dropped by with two grandchildren; then Stan arrived with his granddaughter, who brought along her best cat, Tazar. As soon as they had left, Mom ate lunch, then her hair dresser, Mark, arrived for a quick set, just in time for the birthday party for Ruth's daughter. And that was all before 2 p.m.! Phew! Good thing there was some time left in the day for a nap.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Photo by Katie Rolfsrud
Our household helper brought her own helper today. This is Katy with her four-year-old daughter Genesis -- as in the first book of the Bible, the beginning. Gen mostly helped out with Birdie, who tried to play nice. Often little ones are put off by Birdie's playful, pushy behavior, but not Genesis -- she kept coming back for more, eventually winning the dominant role.

A Monster in the Woods

Over the past couple of weeks, a massive two-story walkout with a four-car garage has emerged from the woods bounding Shakopee's Fairhaven Drive, -- just down the street from a suite of modest townhomes on Abbey Point.
A gorgeous, complex roofline soars over a pond-side setting ringed with mature trees, just a three-iron from Stonebrooke's No. 17 fairway. (Does this sound like a real estate brochure?) Hustling, skilled workmen will have it shingled and buttoned up by the end of the week. They poured the ample garage floor this morning; idling Redi-Mix trucks waited for a chance to disgorge their gray slop into the forms as we strolled by with dog and camera at hand. The pace of construction is astounding, it's doubtful the dining room will be set for Thanksgiving, but a yule log looks like a strong possibility. Who's going to buy this glorious edifice? No worries. It's already sold.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Oh no! Not again!

He's back. Joe the Auto Glass Man returned to our driveway this
morning to fill a ding in the VW. Still no Box of Steaks.
Kathleen couldn't possibly be this unlucky. She couldn't possibly be driving that close to gravel trucks. This is the third time in about a year that we've called the insurance company for a new windshield. And still no free box of steaks.
LA job.

Tom Swirtz, our long-suffering State Farm agent for umpteen years, relieved us yesterday when he told us that, statistically, the VW Beetle is accident prone -- to windshield strikes. Huh? Yes, the airfoil design, the bubble, the angles, whatever, stop more rocks than your average auto. Really? Gee, what an honor.
Today's ding.

So this morning, when Joe rolled up again in his familiar City Auto Glass truck, we greeted him like an old friend. He remembered being here before, it's only a year ago last August, to fix the blue Beetle.
We had the windshield replaced on the yellow Beetle last winter, while we were staying in Los Angeles.
Now the LA windshield has been patched with a compound covering the ding in the right photo. We agreed to the inexpensive 20-minute invisible fix this time, even though we are actually entitled to a new windshield.
What the heck, we'll be replacing it in six months anyway.
Joe the Glass Man. August 11, 2011. File photo.

Sunday, October 14, 2012


Mrs. Murphy's Rolled Date Cookies, double batch
Smudged recipe card reappeared this afternoon, helping take the
sting off a tough gridiron loss.
After devotions this morning, Kathleen approached Mom to say her goodbyes.
"Are you coming tomorrow?" her 92-year-old mother-in-law asked.
12x3 = 36 cookies
"No, I think I am going to get a haircut tomorrow and there's something else I wanted to do but I can't remember what it is," Kathleen said.
Remembering that Kathleen had mentioned three days ago that she was having a crown put on soon, Mom helpfully prompted: "Is it your teeth?"
"No, that's next week," Kathleen said, hiding her shock that Mom would recall the small detail. "I just can't remember what it was."
Mom laughed. "Oh, it's alright," she said, patting Kathleen's forearm, "That happens to me too."

These will be tested today, delivered tomorrow.
Are you on the list?

Friday, October 12, 2012

Tool Time

Somewhere in this wood pile are two Malm dressers
After all the moaning and fussing, the two IKEA dressers slipped together as easy as pie this afternoon. We took our time, looked at the helpful pictures and didn't jump ahead. When we were all done, only two washers and a couple of nails remained in the baggie, all the screws and pegs were used up, so it must have been done right.
It was a bit chilly in Mom's garage, but there were plenty of tables and benches to use, which was good, because nothing is worse than doing IKEA on your knees. This was also a grand opportunity to take full advantage of the spiffy new Christmas 18V Ryobi power drill.
Seven drawers total
Half-way through the project we remembered to engage its adjustable clutch, which makes it nice because with 18V of torque you could accidentally power right through that IKEA cheapboard. Plus, it makes that really great grinding sound when you've got 'er screwed down to the max.
Chris, who owns Mom's place along with his wife, Cher, dropped by for encouragement, but little else, until it came time to help move the completed pieces into the bedroom for the grand reveal. Chris had his own project today. . . it was quickly noted that he uses a bigger, even more powerful drill.
It was just warm enough for a brief roll down Kell Avenue for Mom and Jill, so they wheeled through the garage for a look-see and offered approving nods and sounds, making the whole project most worthwhile.
Meet Chris, owner, house handyman, with a truck full o'tools.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

IKEA Redux

We lugged two heavy boxes of boards and their wordless directions out of IKEA today -- a couple of Malm dressers in need of assembly, $189, labor not included. You'll see the finished products here soon enough, assuming we possess the skills, tenacity and patience to make the dream come true. Our all-time favorite trip to IKEA was a few years back, however, when we took our own little Swedish meatball on a field trip and she grinned her way through lunch, sporting an official IKEA bib.
If you've ever assembled an IKEA product, you'll appreciate these instructions:

IKEA instructions from