Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Par for a Guatemala cook stove volunteer

Greg Johnson returned from a week in Guatemala yesterday and today joined his classmate Stan for a round of golf and a debriefing. Greg and his church group regularly go high into the Central America mountains to build cook stoves for impoverished Mayan families. It is hot, dirty work a mile above sea level, but after a week of this, Greg was still fresh enough to run up an impressive string of pars on the comfortable Creeksbend track.

Here's a rationale of the cook stove project from a website on the subject.

"Globally, nearly three billion people use polluting, inefficient stoves or open flames to cook their food. Exposure to cooking fire smoke kills approximately two million people worldwide every year.
Click for Photo credit

"In Guatemala, as in many other countries, breathing in the toxic fumes while preparing tortillas and frijoles puts Mayan women and children at risk for respiratory illnesses, blindness and burns on a daily basis. It is estimated that 77% of Guatemalan families use wood as their main fuel source. 2% of Guatemala’s forests are lost annually, mainly due to the need for fuel for cooking fires. Precious family resources and time are spent on gathering or purchasing wood.

"The Guatemala Stove Project helps alleviate these problems by building vented stoves that are adapted to Mayan cooking methods. These stoves are made of cement blocks on the outside and fire-bricks inside, filled with sand and pumice for insulation and held together by mortar. The design of the firebox can reduce wood consumption and pollution by about 50%. The ‘plancha’ or stove-top is made of shiny, bright steel. It is an ‘improved cooking stove’ and while most of us would find it rudimentary, Mayan women much prefer it to cooking on the floor over an open fire."

Photo by Pierre Fortier

A sweet end to Matt's lamentation

In the scheme of all things important, this may not seem to you like any big deal.
But the topic has been brought up so often during their daily walks, that it has taken on a dimension heretofore reserved for the Iran Nuclear Deal, gay marriage and the price of corn.
We're talking Sour Cream Raisin pie.
Stan's walking partner, Matt Drees, loves Sour Cream Raisin pie. As they circle the track, he regularly laments its absence from his life and from the menus of restaurants he frequents, and the fact that his wife, Anne, just doesn't bake much anymore. Matt's unending search for a slice of Sour Cream Raisin pie comes up more often than you would think.
Stan, who has never tasted a Sour Cream Raisin pie nor would ever think to try one, found it hard to empathize with his partner and sought professional help from a pie counselor at Martha's Eats and Treats in Dundas, Minnesota. Martha got out her big book and promised she would give it a try sometime soon. "Money is no object," she was told.
But Martha's busy and is only open on weekends, so it appeared Matt would have to go without for a while. That's when Stan, Googling "Sour Cream Raisin" pie, hit the Baker's Square site, where, after an unknown hiatus, the item has reappeared on its menu of the popular and arcane choices of its pie-eating demographic.
Stan ordered one immediately, Kathleen picked it up, and this morning the pie was rushed to Matt's breakfast table, where he promptly cut into it.
Matt got suspicious when Stan called yesterday to reserve a mysterious 9 a.m. appointment, so he had skipped breakfast in anticipation of a possible rich and tasty treat.
(Matt is trying to work off the eight pounds he gained during a two-week fishing trip to Canada earlier this month. This gift will not be helpful.)
When the pie arrived unboxed, Stan lied and said he had baked it, but Matt just figured it came from Dundas.
It is true that the pie wasn't homemade, wasn't made by Martha, and it wasn't made with the same ingredient mix Matt favors. It is, after all, a commercial product designed for a finicky mainstream and devoid of anything risky. This is simply a stop-gap measure. Matt will have to continue his wait for the real thing. But he wasn't at all disappointed, he was delighted with the commercial substitute, got his fix, and happily slid the remains into the fridge.
Maybe now they can talk about something else.

Monday, June 29, 2015

Prey break

Mother Wood Duck stood at her post as her ducklings took a break, blending in to the foliage on Turtle Island. The kindly painted turtle didn't seem to mind the brief visit, sharing his sanctuary with the fuzzy visitors. When the flock eventually departed, we couldn't help notice there just aren't as many ducklings as there once were. We blame ourselves, and our inability to trap the wily snapping turtle -- who has apparently been lunching on the little ones.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

These ships have sailed

Still available. Matted, framed, gorgeous. Give Laurie a call, but hurry, the yachts are going fast.
Company policy says that salesmen may not solicit employees at their desks. About 20 years ago, the general manager got a call from the receptionist reporting somebody loose in the building, who was trying to sell artwork to employees at their work stations against company policy.
Stan jumped up immediately to 86 the miscreant.
As he firmly informed the unlicensed solicitor of the no-soliciting policy and urged him out the front door, the persistent huckster slowly backed away, valiantly holding up his samples, doggedly displaying the framed artwork with a broad grin and repeating that these slight irregulars were only $25 each, even less than that for Stan if he would take more than one.
As Stan pushed the back-peddler out the door, the graceful racing yachts caught his eye. Hmmm. Very appealing, actually. Relaxing, calming, he thought. And there was a huge blank wall in the conference room. Before long, Stan was out in the parking lot, choosing six professionally matted and framed prints from the open trunk of the never-say-die salesman's car.
Business Manager Laurie Hartmann just rolled her eyes as she cut Susceptible Stan a check to pay for them. The beautiful framed prints were first hung on the conference room wall, and years later were moved to a new location in the front desk area.
Alas, there's no place for these gorgeous classic renderings of The America's Cup competition at the new "Google-plex" office, so on moving day last week the entire fleet was left behind for disposal at the company garage sale and giveaway.
A mischievous Laurie set them all aside for Stan … who swallowed hard and passed on the opportunity to take them home.
Laurie just wasn't as convincing as the original salesman.

Goodbye to her corner office. She's got a new one, but apparently already has enough artwork for it.

Friday, June 26, 2015

Time for a boat ride. . .

Wayne writes from International Falls, where he has been rebuilding his dock:

The bumpers and cleats are installed. The Dock is officially finished. Time for a boat ride.


Congratulations Wayne! Looks good. 

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Organizational Outing today for Rough and Ready Golf League

Associate Club Secretary Hoi Tong tells Kathleen exactly where to put the beans on his plate so that the juices don't
commingle with the bratwurst and make his bun soggy.
League membership relaxing
in the clubhouse after today's round.
Creeksbend National in New Prague played host to the first meeting of the Rough and Ready Two-Man Golf League today. The golfers kept up a blistering pace on the freshly-mowed 18-hole masterpiece, both carding respectable tallies. . . considering everything.
Besides the Meaning of Life, cart topics today included an insightful discussion of mutual friends as well as Stan's Grandson Maxwell, who is also Hoi's Hamline University son, who also, incidentally, has a summer job that pays money.
Mr. Tong continues in his successful career at Seagate.
After the round, the pair called in from Hoi's Big New Lavish Ford Explorer to Katie's Klubhouse in Shakopee and ordered beer and a round of brats and beans, which were plated upon their arrival and delivered, hot and steamy, to an appreciative membership.
League goals were set for the season. The assistant club secretary will develop software and algorithms to record, average and project league scores, and make them available on-demand, on-line to the USGA.

Wary lunch crowd

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Not your father's newspaper office. . .

Photos by Kathleen Rolfsrud
"Is that Homer Simpson in the lobby? Tell him we're closed."
This is not your father's newspaper office, no ink-stained wretches found here.
This week, after 32 years in that location, the former Southwest Newspapers abandoned its downtown Shakopee offices and moved to a purpose-built space in nearby Savage. . . along with its new name - Southwest NewsMedia.
A guide could have explained this space. Perhaps.
With the company's emphasis now on social media and digital enterprise, the sleek, open, splashy warehouse could be mistaken for the digs of a hopeful Silicon Valley startup. It was a sight to behold for the retiree, who once led a newspaper that had covered the Civil War and printed with technology familiar to Johann Gutenberg.
That's my Boy!
Global. Connected.
As part of the august duties of the eternal Publisher Emeritus and Guiding Light of the Shakopee Valley News, the old man took a private tour today, without guidance -- other than an occasional nod from a solitary Asian-looking technical priest, preoccupied this Sunday morning with reconnecting the firm with The Heavens -- or did he say The Clouds? We still don't get it.
The aging publisher spotted a few relics from his 35-year tenure that ended in a 2008 retirement. The occasional chair has survived, as well as some (gasp) paper-filing cabinets and the big wall-sized hand-painted map of the territory still proudly covered by six stalwart community newspapers and their affiliated publications. But everything else was new, smelled new, was new. . . and different too. Some things were very different.

It will take a while for the hundred or so employees, young and old, to adjust to their new headquarters. Change has never been easy.
But it is a Brave New World that faces Old Media and the folks at Southwest seem to be embracing it with gusto.
We wish them all the best of luck, most grateful that they are the ones doing the heavy-lifting now. 

Meanwhile, there are nails to sort out in the garage.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

He didn't get the memo

A Friday night meeting of young ladies at a neighbor's house drew five white SUVs to the driveway. The lone red car is Hai's rental. He's with us for a couple of weeks to help move the newspaper office . . . and was not part of ladies night.

Friday, June 19, 2015

We rock

Quitting time on Thursday. (The feet belong to a curiosity seeker who dropped by late afternoon.)
Half-inch wallboard now hangs in the great room at Jen's Old House in Dundas. Behind some of the wallboard are sheets of plywood, recommended by an engineer to strengthen the wide-open south wall of the 110 year old edifice.
Thursday morning.
Outside walls with insulation, plywood, then sheetrock.
Lots of mickey mouse cuts.
Sixteen penny nails secured the fresh plywood into the thick-cut century-old wall studs, giving a satisfying sense of strength and durability, perhaps good now for another 100 years.
Work on the Dundas home slacked off during the winter months. Jennifer has real jobs and lives in the small half of the building while the other half waits.
Now the goal is to sheetrock and finish off a kitchen and living area this summer. She's tired of  cramped temporary quarters and wants some of the finer things: like an oven. Stan spent the last week on the job in splendid isolation, time to think and contemplate life's meanings, while Jen tended to work and other important matters. And now he's won the bid to mud and tape the big room.
One good thing. He won't be able to complain about the quality of work performed by the guy who hung the rock.
Should keep him out of trouble and off the golf course for a while.

Thursday afternoon.
Retirees last longer when they arrange to sit on the job as much as possible. This handy chair has been put to work on
many projects over the years. It was donated by a friend, Al Furie, in 1984 when he  moved into a new office.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

School's Out! Emily is having fun!

Where do you get a sombrero that fits on your chin?

We received these two pictures of our granddaughter today, took a while to figure them out. That's Emily's smile alright -- upside down.
It's a long summer. Looks like Emily's got a good start on it.

You should see the video, she talks and laughs as her Mom laughs at her.

Emily is nine. Does she have braces in her future? Her dentist says she takes good care of her teeth and it is too early to  tell if she'll need them straightened. (Grandma and Grandpa have started a fund, just in case. Donations gratefully accepted,) 

Sunday, June 14, 2015

This time, we're on HER list. . .

Photo by Sandy Story
Over the years, scores of pictures have been taken of this group and saved in scrapbooks.
But this may be the first time Stan isn't wearing a beard and can be recognized.
Every Christmas Eve for the past decade the extended Story clan has gathered next door. As the designated Santa and Mrs. Claus, we've seen new members join the family and watched the little ones grow up, in precise annual increments. Tom and Sandy bring over a bag of toys and a script and we take it from there. It's fun to see the changes in the children as they grow, exactly one year at a time.
We've seen fear turn to courage, then confidence to casual familiarity, but always gentle movement, always something new.

2002, the first year Santa and Mrs Claus visited the Storys.
Mrs Claus, Jane, Santa, Ella, Michael and Andrew.

From the Story archives.

Today the eldest granddaughter had her high school graduation party and Mr. and Mrs. Claus were on the guest list . . . as civilians.
Jane has grown to be a fine young adult, a friendly, confident hostess with a bright future, who will be attending the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul next year to study mathematics. She was surrounded today by family, friends and neighbors at her parents' lovely Chanhassen home. We enjoyed a nice brunch buffet spread by a support team of parents, grandparents and others.
Before we left, we just had to ask. Does the new graduate still believe in Santa Claus?
You bet she does.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Getting her ducklings in a row

Ten ducklings seem like a lot to tend, but our wood duck brought the full complement out for a swim around the pond on this rainy, drizzly day. . . which is perfect for ducks, of course.
The colorful drake hasn't been seen for quite some time, (an absentee father we suppose), but the misses seems to be managing quite well without him.

Tuesday, June 09, 2015

Tadpoles, polywogs, newts galore

This tadpole will have four legs and a croaker soon. How does that happen?

If this morning's discovery is any indication, we've got a massive batch of frogs developing in the pond. Hai, seated on a rock across the way, observed the busy tadpole hatch darting about this morning as he finished his breakfast drink.
The tadpoles aren't particularly photogenic, but we teased a couple of images for you to see. There's still no snapper in our live trap, so we consider these young to be relatively safe, and should be croaking us awake by midnight in July.
We're pleased with a healthy hatch of frogs, it means we've got the pond reasonably balanced.
It's a beautiful, warm June day, temps in the 90s. The lazy painted turtles don't bother to get on the island where they would fry, they just float about in the warm water, poking a nose out once in a while for a breath of air. We don't think they'll bother the newcomers.
We've been asked many times "How deep is that pond?" and we've never had an answer. Now we do. Yesterday Gary and Carolyn took out their sit-on-top kayak and loaned it to Stan for a spin around the pond. Soundings were taken from one end of the pond to the other and the answer is: Six feet. Which apparently is deep enough to overwinter creatures… and to hide them as well. Kathleen took plenty of photos for the record and would have been right on the story if Gary and Carolyn's kayak had tipped.
It did not, so we offer this tranquil photo instead.

Monday, June 08, 2015

Pedicures at Nails Lovely today

Kathleen's grateful for Stan's first time.
Monday is trash day and the lawn gets mowed, so it's also the perfect day to get your toenails trimmed. Besides, there's a residents' association meeting tonight and we want to be just right for this important annual function.
Stan's been working out a knee and foot issue, so a pedicure and massage seemed just the thing. And by the way, Lu wears a mask for protection from everyone's feet, not just Stan's, who was treated to a trim, buff and massage. . . no clear coat.

Saturday, June 06, 2015

It was a Triple Crown Day!

Martha came out of the kitchen for this photo op. From left, Tasha, Mary Lou, Martha, Kathleen, Jennifer.
Note the collection of dish ware on the walls.
Kathleen's sister Mary Lou joined us for a trip to Dundas this morning to see Jennifer and her friend Tasha at the famous Martha's Eats and Treats, then an inspection of Jen's premises and a tour of the Northfield downtown and the college campi.

Enough already, Kathleen's birthday month continues
with three candles: past, present and future.
Laurie hosted four. Hai took the picture.
Returning to Shakopee, the pair went out to Canterbury to place their bets on the Belmont, then it was on to Laurie's in Prior Lake for a postponed birthday dinner with a special guest appearance by Hai Dang.
A lovely day indeed for our Colorado visitor who returns to her Rocky Mountain home tomorrow. The only thing to make it better? Winning that Exacta pick. They boxed American Pharaoh with a couple of losers and have nothing to show for their wager.

Friday, June 05, 2015

Grandpa's going fishing!

Wes, Caden, Shirley
Wes Anderson's new fishing boat was expertly backed into the garage this afternoon by his grandson. Accompanied by his wife and grandson, Wes went out and acquired the craft today and now we're all looking forward to a neighborhood fish fry soon. :) Shore lunch on the cul de sac? MMM. American fries, baked beans and beer-battered walleye! You go, Wes!

Thursday, June 04, 2015

Sister Act

Kathleen's sister Mary Lou is in town from Colorado. She's been partying with classmates in St. Paul and now she'll stay with us for a bit. Birdie was thrilled. We're heading to Northfield on Saturday to see her niece.

Returning for a closeup

Tuesday, June 02, 2015

International Space Station seen over Shakopee

It was a perfect night for watching the International Space Station traverse overhead tonight at 10:22 for a six-minute passage. Brightly illuminated by the sun, it was easy to spot, given its size. It was brisk too, but not easy to photograph so instead we took this shot of a full June Moon as seen through the trees.

Ugly Bastard

Photo by Kathleen Rolfsrud, (angry and disgusted)
The painted turtles have no choice but to tolerate this rare visit to their island. Note that most of the seven have tucked their heads inside their shells. Clearly, the big snapper is not trusted, even by its civil  cousins.
What nice thing can you say about an unwanted creature of the deep frequenting your pond and the prime suspect in the murder of 24 beautiful goldfish?
You'll forgive our intolerance as we bait a live trap with Stan's athletic socks stuffed with stinky offal in hopes of capturing and removing this curse. The trigger has been adjusted to ignore the lightweights that are sharing the island with this interloper, we still love the little painted ones… they live and let live.
Not so the gross snapping turtle with its voracious appetite and prehistoric manners.
Just swim this way, sir, just a bit closer, come on now. . .

Monday, June 01, 2015

Enough said

AL Central