Tuesday, December 30, 2014

We're here!

Photos by Kathleen Rolfsrud, co-pilot
The Beeline Highway into Phoenix never disappoints. We chose the scenic route for the final 200 miles and didn't regret the wild, spectacular ride. When we eventually spotted our first saguaro beside the road, we knew we had arrived. That kind of cactus grows only in Arizona and then only at lower elevations.
We had started the day in Santa Rosa after a restless night, thanks to too much salsa and whiskey. It was 10 degrees with a wind whipping snow in from the East and weather forecasters were admitting the 20 percent oversight.
We hit the road at 7 a.m. to try to get ahead of the mess, slid into the entry ramp and onto I-40 to begin a white-knuckle drive in nasty elements we have so much experience with up north. It helped having a tail-wind as we dodged other drivers on the spectacular red cliffs route through Navajo country. The snow never had a chance to stick to the pavement, it stayed cold and dry, so we were good to go.
The Beeline highway has some amazing engineering:
There's a helix where the northbound lane
crosses under the south bound. Very cool and unusual.
We eventually outran the storm, by the time we descended from the high plains down into Albuquerque's ten-lane rush hour, we had blue skies and temps in the 40s.
We turned south from Holbrook, our $2 gas got us to Scottsdale by 3:30 p..m. It was sunny there and 63 degrees, a huge change in a mere eight hours.
The condo looks great. We figured out the wifi. Figured out the DVR and cable. Figured out the water valve. Figured out how to change the thermostat from cool to heat. Found Costco, Target and Basha's.
More later.


There's talk about winter weather warnings here this morning. Not sure how to take that. Winter? Weather? What?

Monday, December 29, 2014

Road report, Day II

You can wear your opinion on your sleeve, or on your house,  for that matter. This is America. It is also Texas.
We found this display just beyond the trash bins at a filling station in a little cattle town.
We briefly passed through the Texas panhandle, where, according to this resident, world problems stem from (in this order) Blue Blood Republicans, the Carlyle Group, Clintons, Obamas and a nefarious world-wide organization simply known as "They," who, after they get your guns, are going to take your pension and your kids.
Those are trash bins in the foreground, house in back.
Blue skies, no leaves. We don't care. It's warm.
We arrived in Santa Rosa to a fine 53 degree greeting way ahead of schedule, but with no swimming suits, were unable to take full advantage of the amenities. We're parked on the famous Route 66, but, alas, the 50s restaurant next door is closed for remodeling.
Our diagonal shot across Kansas went without a hitch. It's mostly two-lane with no traffic, but the final stretch seems to have been discovered by a bunch of retired baby boomers with RVs that can't keep up with the speed limit.
We met a couple in the lobby from Golden Valley, Minnesota, who cashed it in after last winter in Minnesota and moved permanently to Las Cruces. You can't get much farther south in New Mexico without crossing the border. They love their college town. That's where Stan's ex-editor Jim Rosenthal lives with his wife, the nurse, whose first name has escaped into the ether. The Golden Valley couple didn't care.
Tomorrow morning we'll break from I-40 for the Beeline Highway that will take us to Indian School Road and our home away for the next couple of months.
When I-40 came through Santa Rosa it just about wiped out the Route 66 town. But with some relocation and hard work, family businesses like "Joseph's" have staged a comeback.
If you're looking for Asian or French food in Santa Rosa, you're out of luck, but we found Joseph's to be a great authentic family restaurant. . . even if the salsa was too hot for a Swede and we had to sit in the bar area because so many snowbirds showed up tonight the place was swamped.
The food was excellent, Sandy served it with a smile as we read up on the history of the place, which started up on Route 66 in 1956, the dream of Joseph's late father, Jose.
Kathleen ordered a taco salad, Stan had something called Don Jose's Mexican Dinner No. 1, which seemed like a good place to start.
On our way out, as a public service, we warned any waiting Minnesotans about the hot sauce.
The only disappointment of the evening was Birdie's, when she discovered that there is precious little grass to be found anywhere in Santa Rosa.

Sandy apologized for running out of guacamole sauce. Kathleen substituted french dressing.

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Abilene, Abilene

We followed the Dwight David Eisenhower Interstate System to Ike's hometown of Abeline today. Abeline definitely wasn't the prettiest town we've ever seen, but it did have the best-looking gasoline sign we've seen in quite a while, it said $1.91 a gallon. We filled for less than 30 bucks.
By far the prettiest thing that we saw today was the massive sunset over Ft. Riley, Kansas. A light evening cloud cover cloaked the far western edge of the Great Plains, and as we crested another hilltop, the brilliant orange sun backlit the fluffy quilt in a generous array of pink with bright yellows stabbing through a pattern of cracks. We had been gliding along a perfectly smooth freeway at an almost legal 80 mph, so we felt a glorious illusion of flight as we topped the hill, then dove into the broad valley below.
We arrived at our destination in Salina in good spirits tonight after 9 hours and 600 miles and then we spotted an even better-looking sign. Gas is $1.89 here.

Shut out at Granite City

All sunshine in Clive Iowa. Clive is a suburb of West Des Moines and the summer home to Stan's sister.
Your road warriors made it to Clive, Iowa at ll:30, in time to dine on Laurie's Granite City Gift Card that she gave us for Christmas. . . but unfortunately we got elbowed out by a horde of Viking and Chicago fans intent on a noon kickoff.
After giving Birdie a run, we went down the street to a more sedate Panera Bread, where we enjoyed A Chipotle Chicken Pannini and a SW Chicken Flatbread. . . with baguettes and chips of course.
We're back on the road again, Kansas City here we come, then on to Salina for an overnight.
Driving conditions are ideal, fast and smooth, but the rare sunshine is a bit troublesome. Would have been nice to have had a look at Old Sol last week.

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Hey Look Honey! There's John and Mary on the tv!

That's John and Mary Gerken on the far right, standing in line at the airport with other Gopher fans.
Closeup of our delegates
Die-hard Gopher fans John and Mary Gerken left Abbey Point early this morning to catch a Sun Country charter to the prestigious New Year's Day Citrus Bowl in Orlando. We know that our good neighbor Tom Story got them to the airport on time because we just happened to see them on the six o-clock news tonight, preparing to board with a bunch of other rowdies.
(Look closely at the screen grab. Best we could do. We can't believe John and Mary weren't pulled aside for an on-camera interview. John could have told them about the time he saw the last Gopher Bowl game played on New Year's.  It was in 1962, when he was an eyewitness to the Gophers victory over UCLA in the Rose Bowl in Pasadena. That's a true story, if we have the facts right. He's waited a long time for this.)
Our locals made it through the five-inch snowfall, our hats (and gloves) are off to Tom for the successful delivery under difficult conditions.
Now if they can bring home a victory.

John and Mary with guests at the beginning of the season.

Intelligent traffic in Alexandria, who'd a thunk it?

Thanks to my old high school chum Karl T., here's a real-time camera fixed on Broadway in Alexandria, where Stan and Karl and friends stomped about long ago.


The street looks about the way it did back then, actually. And, truthfully, not all that interesting. But hey, it's our hometown.

The intelligent traffic lights are always green on Broadway these days --- unless somebody comes in on the side street, the newcomer triggers a brief red.

Back when we cruised Broadway, seems like we were always waiting on that light.

Friday, December 26, 2014

Christmas stockings

Grandpa Al has been in surgery so many times recently he has taken home 11 pairs of non-slip surgical socks. So in solidarity with Grandpa during the Jerdee/Underwood Christmas festivities in Florida, the family wore his collection of hospital sox. The photo was put together by Grandma and shot on the new IPhone she found under the tree.  

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Loonshine under the tree

Produced in Minnesota by Loon Liquors, the handwriting on the label says Batch No. 9, Bottle No. 31. Thanks Jen.
Our healthy, buy local, foodie daughter had a special organic treat for Stan's Christmas tonight: A bottle of Northfield, Minnesota's newly-released Loonshine, a sturdy jug of hometown whiskey produced from all-natural ingredients in a locally-owned still. Just the thing for an old boozer concerned about his health.

According to City Pages, micro-distillery spirits seem to be flooding out of local stills. The Northfield spirit is an un-aged or white whiskey that has a sort of whiskey/rum/tequila finish and works well in many different cocktails. Owners are Mark Schiller and Simeon Rossi.

Schiller claims that the whiskey is light, making it a good fit for classics like Old Fashioneds and Manhattans. -- and thereby making a good choice for Stan, who favors the latter.

Barlean's fish oil
Thank you Marcy
The pair, who "stumbled into the idea of a distillery," through their love of homemade cocktails, pride themselves on local ingredients and sustainability and aim to make their facility a zero-waste operation. They are currently the only micro-distillery in southern Minnesota.

To balance Stan's organic Loonshine, daughter Marcy contributed a chilled pint of fish oil.

Christmas 2014

Merry Christmas from our gang.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Ho Ho Ho! (cough, cough)

Christmas 2010 with the grandkids next door.
Mr. and Mrs. Claus both got colds for Christmas. Not flu, just some old--fashioned sniffling, coughing, probably caught them at the Christmas party Friday. They'll be wearing surgical masks and gloves on their rounds tomorrow night, in hopes they will just be handing out gifts, not germs. In the meantime, lots of fluids, etc. etc.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Nephew scores "Battle of the Bulge" documentary

The Daily Mail, UK
German forces overwhelmed the Americans and their allies exactly 70 years ago this week during the World War II "Battle of the Bulge." The bloody setback lasted almost a month. The massive German counter-offensive smashed through the Ardennes -- including the town of Clervaux in Luxembourg.
A documentary memorializing events in Clervaux from Dec. 16 to Dec. 18, 1944, called "Alamo zu Cliarref" (Alamo in Clervaux) is in final production there. Our nephew, Steve Letnes, was hired to compose the musical score. (He'll be paid in Euros.) The movie will be released in theaters in January/February this year.
Steve says, "It is almost completely in Luxembourgish -- yes that's a real word, I had to look it up -- and German. Thankfully the well-prepared script and storyboard given to me were in English."
Steve is composing the score in his Lake Street studio in Minneapolis, where he shares a condo with Kathleen's brother Dan.
Later in January, Steve will fly to LA to put the final touches on the Christmas movie he's been involved with for the past year or so.
Here's a link to Steve's web site. You can listen to some of his stuff there.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

The party's over. . .

Carolyn, Katie and Mary

John, Stan and Gary
We didn't think of taking the usual pictures at our Christmas party last night until the very last minute, we were lucky to get these. The Gerkens and the Lindstams were still there, but most of the dozen neighbor folks had walked home by then. Not that it was ever late, mind you, nobody had to miss the 10 o'clock news. It was a nice evening, good times, good friends.
The Storys missed the party, and then their flight from Florida was delayed this afternoon, so plans to come over and eat leftover meatballs  have been scrubbed.

Escape Route

The shortest distance between two points is a straight line. We've applied this principle of geometry to planning our upcoming drive to Scottsdale and came up with 1610 miles. Shortest route ever, and it includes a scenic sojourn over Wolf Creek Pass for a stop at Kathleen's sister's house in Durango.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Thanks, now we'll have something to talk about. . .

Our neighbors dried off long enough at their new Florida condominium to send along this note. They will be back here in Minnesota tomorrow, just in time to stop any rumors that get started at the party tonight.

Sandy and Tom write:

We are sad to miss the Abbey Point gathering tonight. :( :(
We are coping the best we can.
Hello to all!
Tom & Sandy

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Back by popular demand

Missy and Kathleen sampled a Peppermint Patti in 2012
We'll be serving Peppermint Patties again tomorrow night. We've invited the neighbors in for a Christmas Party and we've dug out the recipe for this popular hot chocolate drink: Swiss Miss hot chocolate, a shot of Peppermint Schnapps, a schwoosh of whipped cream topped with crushed candy cane and stirred with a peppermint stick. MMM. P. Patti beat out Tom and Jerry 2 to 1 last time.
It was Christmas 2012 when this photo was taken.
We've also laid in a good supply of red wine, as the neighbors seem to favor this over beer or white wine or spirits.
Everybody will be walking home.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Historic document

Above is a photograph of the original copy of the first Bachelor's Degree ever awarded by Concordia College in Moorhead to a married woman.
She happens to be Stan's mother.
The sheepskin, signed by President J. N. Brown, was presented to Beverly Brown Rolfsrud (no relation to the prez) on May 29, 1944.
We ran across it this weekend, going through some of Mom's stuff.

Snow plow on morning patrol

It hardly seemed necessary, thank you, it's the thought that counts, but snowplows were out and about early this morning with little to push around as winter suddenly returned to our parts. It rained heavily yesterday afternoon, but temperatures plunged overnight and snow was forecast.
It's cold, (23 degrees) the melted pond refroze alright, but we didn't get much snow. That's okay, there appears to be just enough for a White Christmas if this dusting holds up. The Storys' tree next door with its old-fashioned light bulbs looks even cheerier on its new blanket of snow.

Monday, December 15, 2014

The Great Gatsby

Virg is in Florida and he couldn't make tonight's Birthday Burgers at the Lion's Tap in Eden Prairie, so it seemed like the perfect time to present his girlfriend, Kim, with an early Christmas present.
It was a big hit. The photo was taken at a party around 1977, got filed away in a photo box, and will now reappear in various settings, we're sure. Kim flew in from a weekend in Chicago early this morning, went to work and then drove directly to The Tap, where she was met and grilled by Stan, Kathleen and Sosie.
Solveig got a hankering for a Lion's Tap burger a week ago while flying here on Sun Country. She had ordered a burger with "Lion's Tap Seasoning" from the airline menu. . . but the guy in front of her took the last one on the plane.
Solveig finally got her Lion's Tap cheeseburger with mushrooms and grilled onions tonight, followed by a serving of petit fours from Lund's that had been carried to the table on this rainy night inside Kathleen's purse.

Birthday shirts for Solveig

After hearing a short lecture on the history of the Minnesota Gophers Football team struggles, the trials of the much-loved Coach Jerry Kill, and the invitation to the Citrus Bowl on New Year's Day, Sosie was in proper mode to receive her Birthday Gift this morning.
Kathleen selected a pair of Gopher t-shirts for Solveig and Bill, with the expectation that they would be pulling for our boys from their California tv room on the first day of the year, when the Golden Gophers take on the Missouri Tigers in Orlando. Stan and Kathleen expect to be viewing the event from a sports bar somewhere in Gallup, New Mexico, while on their final leg of their winter trip to Scottsdale. They will pack appropriate Gopher garb themselves for the Gallup afternoon bar scene.
Historical footnote: In the summer of 1969, Stan, Solveig and Bill were all enrolled at the University of Minnesota, Stan in his fourth year of his unsuccessful five-year program to avoid the draft. Solveig and Bill were in summer school grabbing credits so that they could graduate early from the University of Kansas and the University of Miami respectively, thus finishing their degrees in a money-saving 3 and a half years.
The last time the Minnesota Gophers won a national championship was in 1960.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Another of life's mysteries. . .

Mild temperatures (46 degrees this afternoon) melted the snowman Grandpa John Gerken rolled up for the kiddies after a recent snowstorm. One round snowball and scattered remains offer the only clues to Frosty's mysterious disappearance.
Down the road, the Lake O'Dowd ice-fishing brotherhood stands undeterred by the melt, industriously revving power augers to drill a new scattering of hot spots. Others lounge on lawn chairs and up-turned pickle buckets, monitoring lines and tip-ups. Trikes and four-wheelers splash from site to site on essential errands, some secret, others perhaps in the public interest. A few early adopters have already pulled their bulky houses onto the ice, staking early claims on the future winter village plat.
Today's hum of lake activity was reflected in wide pools of standing water and observed by a photographer who remained on solid ground. He made no judgments about the wisdom of playing on melting ice, all human activity has inherent risks, certainly any that are associated with ice and snow. Most winter accidents happen on the way to the mailbox after a sleet storm, he reasoned.
And of course these sensible Minnesotans know what they are doing, or at least until they are compelled, once again, to request immediate assistance from the town rescue squad with its underwater experts and fleet of specialized equipment developed for plucking, dead or alive, our luckless nimrods and sportsmen from the depths.
So why do they do it? And, while you're at it, just where does Frosty go?

Friday, December 12, 2014

At the Concordia College Christmas Concert

Here's the Letnes family with Emma at the far right,  the foreign exchange student from Barcelona being hosted by Shana and Erik. She's 16, speaks English fluently, takes senior classes at Spring Lake Park High School. She won the Most Valuable Player award in soccer this fall. She came last August and will leave in July. "She is very much part of the Erickson/Letnes family," Linda writes, "as we see a lot of her and we will certainly miss her when her year is over. She's lovely in every way."

Stan's sister Linda reports that the annual Concordia College Christmas Concert at Orchestra Hall continues to be a stellar performance.  
The choir is known for its precision and exquisite timing and discipline. The loyal audience knows this and anticipates it and is a model of self-discipline.
Linda writes: "The audience knows you don't clap until the end, no one makes a sound (even the only five year old in attendance). No one knows how many tiny cameras and videos are operating. No one got taken out, but then Ron left his equipment at home."

That last comment is a reference to the oft-told tale of a long-ago performance when her husband Ron lugged a bulky video recorder to this event. . . and was asked to stop recording, didn't, and was ultimately taken to see the head usher for disciplinary action. :) It all makes for a great Christmas story.
(Legal photo of choir from Minnesota Public Radio archive.)

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Hangin' in Vegas

Our granddaughter Emily is back in school (third grade already) but the photos from her trip to Las Vegas with her mother just got here. We like this one best.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Christmas Crab

Photo by Stan Rolfsrud

Our Flowering Crab bedecked for the season. Last year we put lights on it. Doesn't seem necessary this year.

Tuesday, December 09, 2014

Angel still on High

For years Stan lobbied Kathleen to exchange a Star of Bethlehem or something easy for her blessed angel at the top spot of our Christmas tree. Kathleen's favorite ornament is dreadfully top-heavy, its head is solid porcelain and for years Stan always had a devil of a time getting the dang angel to sit straight and tall atop the tree. Unchristmasy words were often spoken during sweaty episodes on a step ladder. An "unfortunate accident" for the falling angel was considered.
The Dickens Village found a new spot on the
mantel this year. Much easier to take down.
We're making a quick exit after Christmas.

That's all in Christmas Past.

The lovely Herald angel now dangles securely in heavenly heights from a cup hook screwed directly over the tree a couple years ago. The tiny hook remains in the ceiling the year round, so each Christmas, quick as Santa's twinkle, Stan easily slips the ungainly angel into position atop the tree . . . and there is Peace on Earth, and Goodwill Among Men.

Monday, December 08, 2014

Friday night after the game. . .

Here's what Osterberg's Cafe in Alexandria looked like every Friday night after the ball game for many years. The Douglas County Historical Society posted this. No date, but it sure brings back memories for old Cardinals. This is only half of the booths. There was another row of booths against the wall on the right, and above them was a balcony, lined with even more booths.
It was mostly dime cokes and malts and such for this crowd.. . but there was a full menu at this popular restaurant on Broadway. It closed in 1984.

Sunday, December 07, 2014

Detective Virgil Flowers

Kathleen loves reading John Sandford, she reads everything he writes. And why not? He's a renown murder mystery writer who never disappoints.
But an additional reason Kathleen so enjoys his work is all the local and personal references in his murder settings. For example, this morning this paragraph on page 294 of "Deadline" brought a chuckle:

"If you're lying to us, we won't be talking about jail -- we'll be talking about the women's prison up in Shakopee. You stay away from him," Virgil said. "If he calls, tell him you ran away in the woods and had to walk home. Or hitchhike. Yell at him a little."

What fun.

Saturday, December 06, 2014

Introducing the Fairhaven Singers

We pass by these folks every day on Fairhaven Drive but never knew of their singing talents. 
Christmas Carolers rang the doorbell tonight, gave us a tune and before we could serve the figgie pudding, they were off.
Nearby Fairhaven is populated with a lot more youth than the staid 55-plus Abbey Point, so we appreciate the excitement and energy they bring us . . . at least on the holidays!

Buttoned up

You're facing the south wall upstairs. Good solar and good insulation should make this a cozy aerie.
Now let Mr. North Wind blow. We'll laugh heartily!
Foamers sprayed R-34 insulation into the nooks and crannies of Jennifer's Old House yesterday, giving the roof and supporting areas a firm, tight seal of closed cell foam.
Stan finished the north face of the kitchen wall with conventional fiberglas insulation today and it's feeling very tight and right. Meanwhile Jennifer and Tasha pulled more electric cable in anticipation of imminent drywalling.
Why are we doing this in December you ask? Don't ask.

At left is the 110-year-old quarter-ton, hand-hewn beam salvaged from the basement and upended to become a principal support for the upper level. This massive beam will provide a focal point in the new kitchen, honoring the home's pioneering past.

Photo below:
We're getting tired. Jennifer's usually meticulous housekeeping and attention to detail generally means a well-maintained and organized job site. Not so much today:

Friday, December 05, 2014

Rolfsrud Revival! Plots, but not glue, still holding up

Got this note today from Suzann Nelson, the authorized distributor of the remnants of Dad's prolific career as an author.
Still selling.
Erling N. Rolfsrud died in 1994 and by that time he had written some 30 books.

There are still nine titles available, she says. Unfortunately, our dear bookseller has had some complaints because the glue in Dad's Old Books isn't holding up. Suzann, a "Church Basement Lady" humorist in her own right, has a rejoinder for that. Read on.

On Dec 5, 2014, at 10:31 AM, Suzann Nelson wrote:

Rural Route Bookstore  http://www.ruralroutebookstore.com/ )  is having somewhat of a Rolfsrud Revival. (Of course, many books are returned because the pages fly out. Old glue is rather silly stuff. I just tell the customers that’s what page numbers are for. Not!)

See our Facebook page, and tell your relatives.

God Jul og Godt Nyttår til deg og deres.

Suzann Nelson
Co-Author of the books on which the Church Basement Ladies Musicals are based
Rural Route Bookstore:  http://www.ruralroutebookstore.com 
Orders:  1-800-494-9124

Wednesday, December 03, 2014


Gary was on a reconnaissance mission today. That's his story and he's sticking to it.
When Stan got home from his VA appointment today he heard laughter coming from the basement. Upon investigation, he discovered his wife down there with a strange man.
Identified as Gary from Quality Heating and Air Services, he said he was here to check out the Air Exchanger. A few years ago there was no such thing as an Air Exchanger. Now they are a required piece of equipment with moving parts that eventually go bust in the night.
Our Ven-Mar Solo 2.0 US Air Exchanger will get a new motor and squirrel cage for $550. Installed. Gary was here this time, he said, just to check and see if Stan's earlier diagnosis of the problem was correct. It was. So he'll come back later with the replacement assembly and slide it in. "Easy peasy," snorted Stan. Gary had to admit it would be.
And while Quality Heating is at it, they'll perform a Peace of Mind $86 checkup of the furnace weak points. With temperatures plunging the way they have been, you can't be too careful.
Gary asked who would be at home for his next service call.
"Both of us," Stan said firmly.

Monday, December 01, 2014

Again, the first one. . .

As usual, our very first Christmas Card of the season arrived on Dec. 1 from our dear friends the Switzers. M'liss is Kathleen's childhood chum and they lunch, laugh and play together at least once a month.