Monday, December 31, 2012

Authentic Lake Andrew Maple Syrup served

Jennifer poured homemade maple syrup, tapped from the trees around our old homestead on Lake Andrew in Alexandria. Danny, our sweetness specialist, approved the fine product for his Christmas  brunch waffle. The syrup was a gift from Mr. and Mrs. Rollie Fernholz, who have managed the little farm since buying it from the Rolfsruds in 1979 -- and grow a wide range of produce there, including grape varietals for the nearby Carlos Creek Winery. Enough of the prize syrup remains from Christmas Day to sweeten Sosie's breakfast when she arrives here late in January.
The Fernholz partners display one of their many products from
the little farm in rural Alexandria.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Today's NFL winners

These are Katie's picks in today's Canterbury Park Perfect Pick contest -- $1000 purse goes to a perfect prediction of nine winners, plus the over/under on an unknown game.

Noon games
Famed prognosticator
St. Paul Katie
Atlanta over Tampa Bay (wrong)
Buffalo over NY Jets (correct)
Cincinnati over Baltimore (correct)
Chicago beats Detroit (correct)
Tennessee over Jacksonville (correct)
Houston beats Indianapolis (correct)
New Orleans bests Carolina (wrong)
NY Giants over Philly (correct)
Pittsburgh beats Cleveland (correct)

Two wrong, seven correct.

Vikings at 3:25 today so they're not
in the contest. (They will win, Katie says)

Saturday, December 29, 2012

A borrower and a lender be

Henry and Stanley exchanging books
Neighborhood librarian Bud Osmundson hurried over yesterday to deliver the third volume of Winston Churchill's five volume "The Second World War." He kindly stepped into the war room and exchanged them for the first two books, without commenting on Stan's snappy World War II era boiled wool house jacket. Bud's books are much more fun to read than an old dog-eared paperback. Bud also brought along a dandy Christmas present to show off: A 4-amp hedge trimmer, still in the box, just the thing for keeping the neighborhood tidy. We've been borrowing the Anderson's hedge trimmer for the past 10 years. Now we've got Bud for backup. :)

Friday, December 28, 2012

Winter project

Now isolated on a wind-swept tundra, Stan plans to kill the winter by re-reading the magnificent five-volume epic "Second World War," completed by Sir Winston S. Churchill. Stan doesn't actually own the prestigious out-of-print cloth-bound set, he owns a mere handful of mis-matched paperbacks from assorted thrift store accidents.
Stan's neighbor, Bud, who haunts the second-hand book market, has recently acquired a rare set and has magnanimously overlooked Stan's envy enough to loan him a tome from time to time.
Stan has just completed a re-read of his second volume, -- 750 pages of Churchill's prose entitled "Their Finest Hour," and was about to exchange it when the Christmas break intervened.
Lo and Behold, beneath the tree was the newly-released hardback titled "The Last Lion -- the final volume of William Manchester's masterful account of Winston Churchill."
An armistice has been declared, a pause in the winter campaign to re-read Churchill's five volumes in order to first read the last installment of a biography of the great man himself, who once said:
"History will be kind to me, for I intend to write it."
Manchester died before he finished his final Churchill volume, it was actually completed by another writer. It's an enjoyable, compelling read, filled with the minutia that nourishes good historical narrative.
There's a local twist.
The newly-elected prime minister needed to address the empire over the BBC in the solemn hours as France fell.
"After forty years in the House of Commons, Churchill instinctively swung his head from left to right."
This would never do in front of the fixed desk microphone in the small radio room. So actor Tyrone Guthrie stood behind him and held Churchill's ears firmly as he spoke.
We note that Churchill went on to lead the nation to victory, while his talented ear-holder went on to found the famed Minneapolis Guthrie Theatre in 1963.
See. It's a good book. A bound, first edition. Thanks, Kathleen. Maybe Bud will want to borrow it.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Not the official photo. . .

This is not our official Christmas family photo, because it
does not include Max or Kathleen. (Kathleen took this picture.
Max is on a computer somewhere else.) The official inclusive Christmas
family photo is still locked in Jen's camera, (she knows how to do a time delay)
which was left behind in all the excitement of packing up Christmas stuff.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

So what did ya git?

Emily got this signature chair and ottoman for her bedroom from her Auntie Jennifer.  Emily gave her Aunt, who is setting up in her new house in Northfield, a wished-for crock pot to cook while she's away at work. Emily's mom, Melissa, who loses her car keys from time to time, got a clapper key ring. (Just kidding. That sounds like a great idea. Actually she got a very nice, shiny key ring combination, alas, no clapper to it. Don't think they've invented a clapper key ring yet. But they should.)

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

He stopped at the neighbors. . .

Sandy Story sends over this photo and writes:
11 years of visits from Stanta. Thank you! (Didn't realize Mrs. Claus was out of the photo.)
Our good neighbors, the Storys, keep adding names to Santa's list. (see the full page of notes in Santa's right hand) Their newest grandchildren, Cameron and Lucy, still haven't made up their minds about the loud, oafish gent. They made this year's photo (above), but only in the arms of their good parents, Jason and Erin.

Meanwhile, their cousins are old experienced hands, accustomed are they to this annual interruption to Christmas Eve festivities at Grandma and Grandpa's house.

Finally, a good hot shower

Thermometer at zero this fine Christmas morning, work is done, enjoy the day.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Christmas Eve at Kell Avenue

When she selected the yarn last November, Beverly had no idea it was part of a secret Santa conspiracy. Mom chose "Majesty" from the dozens of samples presented, and we had a little chuckle because we sometimes call her "the Queen of Kell Avenue" because of all the royal attention she gets at her new Bloomington castle.
Historically, Rolfsruds open gifts on Christmas Eve, so it was with a good deal of anticipation that we joined Mom and Jill at Kell for some festive gift opening.
Mom just happened to be wearing a matching blouse today, so when we tried on the custom-knit cape, she looked stunning. Jill remarked that the armless design would make it easy to slip on and off to ward off the chilly air. Sosie put it all together from California, using the skills of her neighbor and friend, and shipping the finished cape to Shakopee for her co-conspirators to wrap. Enclosed was this note from Sosie:
Bird feeder and PJs
Now that the box is open and the cape/poncho is out, a picture or two will be much enjoyed!
The knitter is my yoga instructor, good friend, and neighbor. She created the pattern based on my vague description and the yarn you chose. We hope it is warm and comfortable for you.
Merry Christmas!

Earlier, Mom had opened thoughtful gifts from her caregivers: a swell bird feeder to hang outside her window, and a pair of snuggly PJs, just her size. There were more gifts under the tree, delivered by Mom's great granddaughter Milla, from the extended Letnes branch, a trifecta of lovely outfits, one of which has already been selected for her big Christmas Day Dinner appearance at Virg's tomorrow.
Mom's spirits were very high in her new home and we felt very Christmasy on the snowy ride back to ours.
Merry Christmas everyone, from Kathleen and Stan!

Anticipation. . .

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Christmas Past

Plans are afoot for another family Christmas celebration. This is last year's
Executive Committee, who have been reappointed to carry forward
the traditions of another exciting Christmas Day.
(The secret Santa rule has been discarded, in favor of a more extensive
shopping and gift-giving protocol. Something for everyone!, the new rule.)

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Critter cage complete!

It has been three Saturdays of planning, painting, gluing and nailing, but today the Critter Cage is complete. We now have a safe home to capture, hold and transport any stray critters that should come our way.  Emily demonstrates the clever screw hinge that closes the little door over the entrance hole. All this was done without damage to school clothes, thanks to the smart smock Emily borrowed from Grandpa's tee shirt drawer.

Streamers herald Christmas visitors

Our snow-stunned Iowans are heading to Florida soon for their annual Christmas retreat to Grandma and Grandpa's house in Venice.
Every year the West Des Moines unit migrates to those sandy, warm beaches for a festive frolic, only this time with a twist: They've got the keys to Uncle Virg's estate in Fort Meyers, the better to fully enjoy the get-a-way, while Good King Virgil is far away, celebrating a White Christmas with the Minnesota guard.
Here's Stan's sister Becky's exuberant note as she prepares for the arrival of her loved ones:
Hi Stan,
Sharing a little streamer joy...we always hang up crepe paper streamers in anticipation of our Christmas visitors. The Underwoods will arrive here tomorrow late in the afternoon and the celebrations will begin. A little comfort supper in the lanai and for an after-dinner desert drink, it'll be Mothers Chocolate Peppermint Patti recipe :)

Here we come a'caroling

We have no idea who they were, but last night our evening was broken up by the melody of carolers outside. A hearty group, they, as temperatures were in the teens. That's perhaps why their visit was cheerful but brief. Just one carol and they were off -- before we could invite them inside for figgy pudding.

Memory aid

We have enlisted help in our endeavor to drink more tea and less Diet Coke.
The problem: these days, by the time a saucepan of water begins to boil, you've totally forgotten your original intent, and are now blissfully attending to another equally compelling project. Danger looms as the water boils on.
This old-fashioned kettle with its whistling spout has ended that.
How fortunate that Kohl's happened to be having a sale.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Happy Anniversary, Sosie and Bill

Huntington Gardens, photo by Stan Rolfsrud
Forty three years today. It now appears there will be more. Our best.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Mom's Christmas Open House

Afternoon guests greeted Mom at her Kell Avenue digs, part of an Open House arranged there today by Home Instead, the good folks taking care of Mom.

Some of the office personnel joined the caregivers, celebrating the season with laughs, a good visit and a nice festive spread put out by Marcia -- under Mom's supervision, of course. Some of the party-goers gathered for a photo under the Christmas tree.

Yes, that's Virg, back from Florida for the holidays and (lower photo) making himself useful by holding on the phone, waiting for help in attempting an address change for his mother.
That's a good son, Virg, thank you for waiting. Your call is very important to us. 

Yippeee! No school in Iowa

Hunter and Blake's Mom posted evidence of a deep snowfall last night in Iowa.
Nine inches of new snow shut down the West Des Moines school where our grand nephews live. We got virtually nothing here in Shakopee, happy to see our Iowa kin getting their share of the White Christmas. Check their blog below, right for more details.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Der spritze

The crush of preparations for last Saturday's party meant that The Spritz had to be left out of our cookie tray offerings. That oversight was repaired at leisure tonight, we happily report, with the production of these dozens of the classic Christmas treats.
Spritz is German for squirt or spray. . . and that's apparently what the baker does when she turns the crank on the dough-filled tube, squeezing the product onto the sheet with a variety of delightful, wavery shapes.

 Frohe Weihnachten! - 

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Drawing from memory. . .

When you're a gifted artist and you've lost the cat, what do you do? You draw up a quick portrait of the missing feline and post it around your St. Paul neighborhood. The late Mike Bolin dashed off this compelling plea for assistance in scouting up Ditto.  It was displayed (right) at last week's memorial. The rescued cat is pictured with her Mom. As you can see, Mike's visual memory of his lost cat was right on. 

Back yard secrets betrayed. . .

Location of hidden vault revealed!
Stark outline emerges, exposing 
site of underground repository!
Experts uncertain if today's snowfall will destroy evidence of septic tank location.

Monday, December 17, 2012

From the children of Shalom

First and second graders at Shalom Lutheran in Alexandria created a batch of Christmas Greeting cards and mailed them to Beverly Rolfsrud, who is one of the church founders.

Beverly, 92, has moved to Bloomington, but remains an important part of the Shalom community, as these little testaments prove. This morning Beverly gave each colorful message a first read, but they'll come out again and again, whenever she wants a day brightener.
She's most gratified to see her efforts continue to bear fruit, as new generations bring the church mission forward.
Recent national events add to the poignancy of this sweet gesture.

Alex -- have a good one!

Happy Birthday to our godson Alex!

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Naughty? Or nice . . .

Hmmmm???  Da Professor queried his host at last night's do.
Merrymakers from near and far converged on Abbey Point for
some Christmas cheer and tidings of great joy.
Last call. This cheerful group of fun seekers closed down the party
last night. Despite dire predictions, the weather cooperated and roads remained
 relatively safe. Weather wouldn't phase this gang anyway. They're all
good neighbors living within easy stumbling distance.
Bartender Teresa can mix your holiday libation,
or rewire your fusebox. She's a licensed electrician.

Is it Politics or Religion?
Ignoring the usual prohibitions of dangerous topics, the 
newly-acquainted Chuck and Ron were fearlessly
 engaging in either one or the other last night.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Birthday girl

In all the bustle of pre-Christmas activity, please don't neglect to remember Sosie's birthday. And don't say that her birthday present is wrapped into her Christmas present.
Happy Birthday Sosie -- this message was pre-written, scheduled and will be posted automatically on the 15th by computer. We're busy with Christmas party preparations on Saturday and can't be bothered with too many details. So have a good one on your day with Bill.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Our pinwheels have chocolate outsides

White cookie dough is much harder to handle than chocolate dough.  Its looser consistency makes it difficult to smooth out, flip and control, and therefore it isn't easy to lift it into position to marry with the chocolate base layer.

But that's what you have to do to achieve the preferred handsome dark edge.

So remember, Christmas cookie fans, whenever you sample a yummy pinwheel with the chocolate on the outside edge, please know that you're eating an icebox cookie baked by an expert.

We proudly present this year's batch:


(Yes, those are Russian tea cakes in the background.)

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Mothers Holiday Treat

It is 12/12/12 so tonight we celebrated by testing out our featured drink for holiday entertaining, and it's a winner! This year we are going with, (drum roll) the Peppermint Patti.
It's hot, it's chocolate, it's lightly alcoholic, with just a breath of peppermint. What's not to like? Oh yes. It's topped with a lovely shhoosh of whipped cream and chips of crushed candy cane. Yum.

Mortar and pestle for
crushing peppermint
canes. (Optional --
you can use a hammer and
a plastic bag.)
Here's the recipe:
  • Eight ounces of hot, hot water in a festive mug
  • Stir in three tablespoons of Swiss Miss Chocolate Mix
  • Add one half shot of Mothers Peppermint Schnapps
  • Squirt on a generous swirl of Reddi Whip
  • Top with candy cane, crushed and sprinkled

This was so good, we made two more. We've got a full canister of Swiss Miss and a fifth of Mothers Peppermint Schnapps so we're good to go for the entire season, even if the Mayans got it wrong.

The best part is that we have finally figured out a way to use that big gift bottle of Mothers Peppermint Schnapps some thoughtful soul had re-gifted to us a few years back, since then long forgotten on the liquor shelf. Its seal remained unbroken . . . until tonight, 12/12/12.

Katie bought our first Waechtersbach
Christmas cups from Dayton's 30 years ago.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Monday, December 10, 2012

All is calm on the cliff. . .

All the familiar characters have returned this year to the traditional Nativity Scene, taking their parts in recreating the story of the birth of Jesus. Our rustic shed sheltering the manger was hand-built 20 years ago and survives today, probably because it is rustic and a few dings don't really matter, you just jam the shingles back on when they fall off.
(The homemade wooden toy trains put together in the early 80s haven't fared as well. The half-life of Elmer's household glue means their wheels keep falling off and the smokestacks get lost somewhere in the tinsel.)

New addition to the nativity scene this year (ta dah) is the rocky cliff (above) carved out of a sandwich of blue house insulation foam and painted brown. Whether or not Jesus ever lodged near such a precipitous ledge, with all the worry about the looming cliff the country may fall over right after Christmas, it seems we could use any divine help available in that regard.

Trash Day

Monday morning on the Tundra

Sunday, December 09, 2012

Our annual tribute to Robert Frost

Stopping By Woods on a Snowy Evening
Whose woods these are I think I know.
His house is in the village though;
He will not see me stopping here
To watch his woods fill up with snow.

My little horse must think it queer
To stop without a farmhouse near
Between the woods and frozen lake
The darkest evening of the year.

He gives his harness bells a shake
To ask if there is some mistake.
The only other sound's the sweep
Of easy wind and downy flake.

The woods are lovely, dark and deep.
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.
Robert Frost

Sunday snow

The first serious snowfall of the year fell on a Sunday, not a school day, a fact not lost on Mackenzie and Joey, down the street. They took full advantage of the steep backside slope of the No. 17 tee box, standing like bold surfers on their snowboards, taking their spills before reaching snow-covered Fairhaven Drive.

A faithful neighborhood newspaper volunteer took his turn through the overnight snow to the central distribution point at 7:15 this morning. Alas, he got to the boxes before the Sunday paper did, so he trudged back home disappointed, empty-handed. New snow has blanketed the state. Looks like we got a couple of inches, enough to make a White Christmas, but certainly not enough to delay the newspaper, we thought. Aargh. The snowplows did their work, but we do miss the paper. A morning paper should always come in the dark.
More snow all day Sunday. The Wild Boars rejoice.