Sunday, January 31, 2016

Howling at the Moon

Here are some lovely counter tiles, handy to use in the kitchen for hot things. The image is baked on. Did we buy these in some fashionable home goods store in California? Nope. They're made in Minnesota. by our granddaughter, Emily. We ordered two for here (one is a surprise for Kathleen's sister. Don't worry, she doesn't read this blog.) The other we'll leave here at Hotel California. If you just have to have one too, we can order some more.
Not sure why Emily chose this subject matter, we'll have to ask. But we love the body configuration of the wolf, tilting back, you can feel the energy of the howl. And such a fluffy tail for cold winter nights. (Are we being too grandparentish???)

Saturday, January 30, 2016

Year round leaf blowing! Yippee! Tell the neighbors. Oh, they heard already.

Hai's brand new Super Duper Toro Ultra Electric Blower/Vacuum (quieter than most) made quick work of the patio today. Should be a cool down tomorrow, there are leaves blowing around and possible rain showers forecast. While no one says the drought in California is broken, it's looking green where it used to be brown. The tender ones on a drip system in the flower garden are starting a comeback too, there were a few sub-freezing nights in December that wrecked some things... but not the gardener's spirits. Hope abides.

Friday, January 29, 2016

They Rock

Eleanor stands exactly the same height as Kathleen so we bought two matching recliners from her. They’re covered in a soft but durable “sea spray” tint finish, you can spill red wine and wipe it up! 

The chairs recline, swivel and rock so they are perfect for two active seniors living it up in The Hotel California.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Road Warrior

St. George, Utah. Final leg today.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016


Uneventful journey today from Rock Springs to St. George. Scenery, of course, is fantastic, you begin to not see it, numb to the stunning beauty all around. Drove Utah from top to bottom, mostly at a legal 80 miles per hour. Took the scenic route through Heber Valley instead of the interstate, then cruised the Provo Main Street, dodging students from BYU. Worth it. Going through Vegas tomorrow, then on to the Inland Empire.
Nice dinner at the local Outback tonight where the entire room was filled with 65 plus diners -- some elderly ladies clad in classic furs, even though the outside temp was a pleasing 55 degrees. St. George is definitely a retirement town, and we were there amongst our people.
Evening rush starts at 5:30 p.m. We were seated immediately.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Almost a Ten. Almost.

Caught. Fined. Released.
When compared with yesterday, today was almost perfect.

Heading west and alone on a dry sunlit road, the miles flew past as we gently changed altitudes, curving undisturbed through pristine landforms, occasionally gasping at a vista so wide it seemed to reveal the curvature of the earth.

We drove softly into a day spread with sheets of blue and white so clean you’d think God was making his bed for a stayover in Wyoming.

The Silver Fox Steakhouse website says their highly-recommended restaurant in Casper opens at 11 for lunch. Today two prompt seniors had to shake the front doors a bit to get them open on time, but were glad they did. Kathleen chose a wonderful homemade chicken pot pie and Stan the tenderloin salad; they shared the hot fudge sundae that lured them in the first place. It looked just like the picture on the web site.

Don't know if it was the stunning view or the whipping wind...
but reliable Birdie failed to perform here.
Speed limits can vary widely in this sparsely populated state, ranging from 65 to 80 per. Driving 80 is fun and can be habit forming, especially when you have the road to yourself. There’s a gorgeous stretch of two-lane highway south of Casper that eventually rises to the Continental Divide. Just east of Muddy Gap  a section of spreads out as flat and wide and straight as the Salt Flats. For some reason, it is clearly posted at a mere 65 miles per hour.

With snowcapped mountains to gaze at it was easy to let the big old Lincoln out of the barn a bit. Didn't notice the actual speed. Trooper Mike of the Wyoming Highway Patrol, tooling along in the opposite direction, did. He adroitly performed a textbook reversal of direction — a skillful move reluctantly appreciated through the rear view mirror by the Minnesota miscreant.

Yes, it was almost a perfect day.

Pleasantries and information were exchanged. Stan will be sending $67 to the State of Wyoming. Which is about how much he has saved on gas so far.

January 26. An almost perfect day. “Did you remember that your mother died exactly a year ago today,” Kathleen reminded?

“No I didn’t,” Stan responded ruefully, still thinking about the ticket. “Darn. I should have used that.”

We came for lunch and stayed for the Sundae.


Monday, January 25, 2016

A simple plan, shredded

SCENIC VIEW PULLOUT -- Looking west at Milepost 280. Enjoy.
It was a simple plan:

Take a smooth eight-hour drive to Mount Rushmore, enjoy a leisurely bite in the Carver’s Cafe and watch ‘em light up the Presidents at dusk. Then on to Hotel South Dakota in Custer.

All of the good parts are stuffed into one little corner of the state. The rest of it should be passed through as quickly as possible.

Sharing the Road. Snowplow is passing on the right.
To accommodate this, the South Dakota highway department has posted 1-90 at a generous 80 miles per hour, helping ease the misery of enduring what may be the dullest stretch of interstate in the country… unless you consider 1-80 in Nebraska.

Alas, icy spots and blowing snow created a devil's mix of too fast and too slow from one end of the state to the other. Though we had prudently studied the public forecasts for weeks, this untidy dangerous condition had escaped our notice until it was too late, and Luverne was in the rear view mirror.

The stressful mess added four hours to our drive — ironically making it absolutely the most exciting Dakota crossing we’ve ever made, owing to our white knuckles, the bouncing semi trucks and the horror of being overtaken by a Chevy Silverado sliding sideways on a bridge deck.
Photo by Kathleen, passenger window

The delay totally shredded our simple plan. By the time we got to the Black Hills the first sun we have seen in three weeks blasted our dirty windshield as it set in the West, making it impossible to read critical signage and discern any of nature's glory in the famous hills.

When we finally got into the shadows at the monument, the restaurant there had closed, and the nighttime illumination would not begin for an hour. Just perfect. Sheesh. We did enjoy touring the abandoned site normally crawling with tourists. We stopped in the middle of the road to get our requisite snaps and appreciate some of the bold mule deer strolling past.

Exhausted, we found Custer pretty much abandoned as well, with a single pizza joint and subway shop representing the sum of our dining choices. Felt a little like "The Shining" with huge motels shuttered for the winter. We wondered if Jack Nicholson was about.
There is no plan for tomorrow.

Driveby shooting from Highway 242

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Note to Sosie

I see that you folks live 21 miles from the Super Bowl. Do you have tickets? You could rent your big party house for Super Bowl fans! Big bucks.


Right. We have Super Bowl tickets. Got them when we thought you and Harold might road trip this way. Then you said you'd come in the Spring so I traded them in for Jesse Cook tickets Feb 4. Wow! I was surprised how easy it was to make the trade!

Anyway, yes, we are very aware of the Super Bowl and our proximity to it. We are meeting friends Tuesday at the Asian Art Museum. Normally, we would drive. No can do with Super Bowl traffic. We will take Bay Area Rapid Transit, but can't get parking at the BART station. All the hardware stores that Bill has magnanimously supported for decades have signs that scream NO BART PARKING. Never mind you are a Member in Good Standing of that hardware store. So we have to travel backwards and then take a bus to BART to get to an art museum Tuesday.
Yes, please pity us.
As for renting our house. I have worked hard to clean the woods behind our house, the wild cyclamen and hellebores and early bulbs are dancing in the garden to the cheery burbling of the babbling creek running under our bridge. The deer, fox, quail, and hummingbirds have bathed in our gentle rains and are wearing bow ties. Never mind. Zach admits he has let his garden go, but he Is Within Walking Distance of a BART Station! If you want to make some bucks sub-letting your relative's home, rent out his!
This too shall pass,

Friday, January 22, 2016

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

The best part

The best part of swimming laps at the Dakota happens just one lane over.
Every other afternoon a few severely handicapped kids are wheeled into the shallow end and turned loose on their guardian. The spasmodic yelps of joy and screams of excitement are unrivaled anywhere in the building. Simple games and rowdy play keep the water churning in a frenzy of fun stuff geared to their needs.

These kids don’t know it, but while they splash and flail about, they’re teaching the able guys huffing and puffing nearby a lesson in life -- that happiness comes not from what you have, but rather what you do with it. Everybody smiles when they’re in the pool. You just can’t help it.

On the way out through the lobby today, as usual the complainers and victims were broadcasting on big screen cable tvs -- but mercifully the sound had been turned off so there was absolutely no buzzkill.

Still feeling good.

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Show Me -- "The Bachelor!"

You just talk to the tv. It listens. Then. . .
You know the drill. Three remote controls, confusing directions, too many channels, can't find what you want, can't remember where anything is at. Been there. Still there.
Our neighbor Joe is doing something about it. He rang up the cable company and told them that for 10 bucks a month he'd upgrade to a package that includes a voice command remote that combines with other functions, eliminates a couple of remotes and promises a menu that ends the confusion.
This is just one of the pages of channels Joe
commands. Andy Griffith, Bonanza, HBO,
soccer, business, movies, Spike, HGTV. . . it's all there. Joe
thinks he'll be able to find what he wants now.
He's not sure what he'll do with that WIFI hookup.

Oh. And you also get more of those lovely channels. Our 85-year-old widower is up to 200 channels now, but who's counting? He barely has time for lunch any more, there's so much compelling tv to watch. :)
He was happy to demonstrate his new command skills to a curious neighbor this afternoon, who has yet to master his own remotes and can't remember where anything is, or how you switch to the DVD player that nobody supports anymore.
"So Joe," the visitor asked. "How did you learn how to do all this stuff?"
"Oh," he smiled. "I've had 'em back four times to explain it to me. No charge."
Interesting. There's a certain justice at work here.

Joe is down to one remote and hundreds of channels.

Stay indoors!

What do you do when it is 18 below zero overnight? You go indoors to watch ice hockey.
On our way to breakfast this morning, the car thermometer counted down to minus 10. That's as far as it went, we were grateful, a warming trend is apparently on the way. After eggs and bacon it was still cold, so we dropped by the official home of the Prior Lake Lakers to cheer on the locals. They needed it, they'd fallen behind Rosemount by 3 goals.

Watching the Zamboni can be fun too.
You do what you can.
We positioned ourselves behind the home net, Kathleen enjoys the crashing and board action back there, but our presence did little for the home cause.
Earlier, we chatted briefly with old friend Kathy O. Tomorrow she departs with Tom for Florida and a Tuesday morning tee time. It will be sweater weather in Florida by then, she said a high of just 57, but they'll take it. Together we calculated that was 67 degrees warmer than here.
We told her we intend to make our way to the warmth of Hotel California one of these days, not exactly sure when. Soon though. Tomorrow we'll get Danny to an appointment or two. He's got a nasty cold or something, don't know how that could have happened. Need to find out in the morning.
We're sure it will be much warmer by then. . . :)

Friday, January 15, 2016

Yo Adrian!

“Life's not about how hard of a hit you can give... it's about how many you can take, and still keep moving forward.” ― Sylvester StalloneRocky Balboa
Trying to do the Rocky Balboa pout.

Less than a week after winning his Golden Globe for "Creed," Sylvester Stallone dropped by the Stonebrooke Clubhouse for a beer and a chat with old friends.
Yeah, right.
Actually, here's Pete Holzer, 49, sort of a poor man's Stallone look-a-like, jaw-jacking with his old boss, who hasn't seen Pete much since he left the company about 15 years ago -- with an excellent work record. He sold advertising for the newspaper company.

We easily recognized  Pete tonight after all these years, the resemblance to the actor was still striking. We took some time to catch up. Pete still lives in Jordan and now works for Oracle. And he's the dreamer that he always was. Fun to see him -- still looks better than the actor, don't you think?

Rock and Roll is here to stay

Rockin' the Clubhouse. Old guys do it best.
When we saw the bald heads on the old rock 'n rollers tonight, we just knew they'd play something we like.
They did.
Iko Iko, Nick of Time, Nobody Loves You When, Stir it Up, you know, the good stuff -- Bonnie Raitt, Dr. John, some Reggae, great licks, non-stop.
These veterans have a repertoire that reflects a life time in the music scene. Aimee Lee, the lead singer, carries a torch. And when they jammed, uff da.
They are good friends, this is for fun, and that's why the group comes out to our tiny venue in the boonies.  Kirby the keyboarder could name only one "responsible" job he's ever had. . . and that was selling pianos.
We had just come by for a burger, what a nice surprise.
We stayed for a second set.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

For the record. . .

Kathleen's mother died 10 years ago this January. We didn't have this blog at the time, so we'll post this eulogy now, to put it on the record for future reference. We enjoyed re-reading it, you may as well.

Florence with her Grandson, Tony Brewer
Florence Neilson was born at home in St. Paul, July 30th, 1906, the sixth child of William J. Gander and Mary Sullivan Gander. She was baptized Florence Mary Veronica Gander. She died Jan. 2, 2006 at St. Anthony Park Nursing Home in St. Paul at the age of 99, just shy of 100 years. She witnessed much during her lifetime.

She was confirmed at St. Luke's Catholic Church. She attended St. Joseph's Academy. Her father was a printer, a lithographer by trade. Two of her uncles were St. Paul firemen. She recently shared memories of great white horses harnessed to a coal-fired water pump, hooves clattering, bells clanging and smoke and steam streaming as they charged past this little girl down the cobblestones to a St. Paul house fire.

In 1937 she married Leonard Neilson in St. Paul. This union brought four children, Mary Louise, Daniel Leonard, Kathleen Ann and James John. Their marriage was interrupted by World War II when Leonard served in the Pacific Theater. Their love letters are reread and cherished by her grandchildren and others to this day. After Leonard's return from the Philippines, the couple reunited at 1142 Marshall Ave in St. Paul, sharing residence in the Gander family home, where Florence had been caring for her widowed father.

Florence managed the household, raising not only her own children, but caring for members of her extended family who lived there as well. She cooked three square meals a day, every day, usually feeding eight, including her brothers, Uncle Willie, Uncle Dan and family friend, Frank Fahey. Frank was a professional baseball scout and object of considerable family pride. He was a regular visitor to Florence's table and often left a dollar with her to help pay for groceries. This traditional family unit gathered at the same mealtimes every day, said grace together and shared conversation. They were bound by necessity, habit, family ties and good food. It was Florence who made it work.

Family style, home cooking, whatever you call it, it meant chicken ala king, roast beef, tuna hot dish, macaroni and cheese, pumpkin pies, and, of course, big turkeys on Thanksgiving and Christmas. After school, hot rolls or fresh-baked cookies often greeted the children coming in from the cold. She scrubbed their clothes in a wringer washer next to the basement coal furnace, then hung them out to dry in the back yard.

Florence cooked everything from scratch on a tight budget. Leonard often told a story of shopping with her at the old Golden Rule department store. He once wandered away to a bakery nook and naively returned with a special treat --- beautiful finished brownies, ready to eat. His lesson in such extravagance was swift, he would laugh, much later: Florence kicked him a good one in the shins.

It was this kind of leadership that earned the diminutive but feisty matron of Marshall Ave the nickname "Big Shorty." She never stood more than five feet tall. She served as the neighborhood yardstick for growing kids who would check their height against hers in hopes of accelerating their progress to adulthood.

Twenty-nine years ago, Florence lost her husband to cancer, ending their partnership but not his enduring memory. Faithful to the end, Mrs. Leonard Neilson always spoke fondly of "Pa" as though he had just left moments ago. In 1994, she bore the loss of their son, James, to a sudden heart attack. He succumbed while mowing the front lawn. He was only 49.

During her 99 years, Florence was blessed with excellent health, a particularly notable achievement since her food pyramid favored meat and potatoes and gravy……..and the occasional "tako" from "Tako Johns."  She had no regular doctor. In 1995, she suffered a heart attack, but it was no big deal, apparently. She phoned Kathleen because she had a stomach ache. But she couldn't depart for the hospital until her nails were cut and her makeup applied. Eventually they got to the emergency department. But Florence looked so good in the emergency room, that, despite pleadings, no one paid serious attention to her. Fours hours later she was finally diagnosed with a heart attack and then hospitalized for five days. Her remarkable health continued. Even during her last years at the nursing home she didn't have much use for the country's new drug plan. Her medication regimen was simple.  Tylenol whenever needed.

Florence loved her St. Paul newspaper and read it daily. She was a publisher's dream. She never traveled far from home, but every day the world spread out before her as she turned the pages and read the stories on her kitchen table. She held a stunning command of local and world events and often surprised listeners with her insight into arcane and novel subjects.

She followed her beloved Twins and Golden Gophers on the sports pages, on radio and television. Her favorite team, of course, was the Fighting Irish of Notre Dame. The science of rosters and records and her home team's chances came easily, naturally. Her boys played baseball in their youths and she loved to follow the action.

Florence had a goofy streak. It is a genetic characteristic that has been carried forward by her kin. She loved to confound her daughters when shopping. Florence could slip away and disappear easily because she was too short to be seen over the clothes racks. And since she was a little hard of hearing, it forced her adult daughters, in a wonderful role reversal, to wander from aisle to aisle, calling out loudly, "Mother, mother, where are you?"

She never lost that goofy touch. She was loved at the nursing home for her dining room antics. I joined her there once at a table with three strangers. One was a dignified elderly gentleman whose stoic demeanor was at odds with the white bib tied around his neck. Florence opened him up instantly with the question: "Are you a Republican?"

Throughout her life, Florence never had much money, always cutting corners and looking for bargains. Purchasing the new oilcloth for the kitchen table was a special event. That changed late in her life, when pension money and an inheritance from her sister accumulated in a brand new savings and investment account. But she never really got used to having all that comfortable cash on hand, try as she might. Concluding one shopping trip to Penny's, she signed her check with a flourish and announced loudly to her daughter and anyone else within earshot, "There's plenty more where that came from!"

The world is a little bit smaller today. The Pioneer Press has lost a loyal subscriber; the Fighting Irish a loyal fan; the St. Paul Fire Department has lost an advocate; St. Cecelia's Catholic Church has lost a devout member and the St. Anthony Park Nursing home has lost some of its sparkle.

If heaven is where all the best things happen whenever we want them to happen and the love we share on earth lives forever; if it is a place where happiness has no bounds,

If heaven is where Leonard, and James, and Bubbles and Uncle Willie, Auntie Gertrude, Frank, and so many other dear ones are just waiting on us, then it is time for them to slide the table out from the wall, put in the leaf, push up the chairs and gather around, because mother is home and she's making everyone dinner tonight.


Delivered by Stan Rolfsrud, her son-in-law at services held on January 10, 2006, at the O'Halloran and Murphy Funeral Home in St. Paul. Burial followed at Fort Snelling. Lunch was served at the Holiday Inn.

Saturday, January 09, 2016

Jack is back

The big dip last night brought out a famous window artist to leave creative examples of natural wonder on our frozen glass.
Cold air continues in the forecast. We're inside and cozy, making plans. Sub-zero tomorrow on exposed Viking arms -- Kathleen says they're preparing special clothing for both teams. What would Bud Grant say?

High of 5 degrees in Shakopee today, 9 below tonight.

Photos by Stan Rolfsrud -- "No two designs are ever alike."

Friday, January 08, 2016

Friday morning

Photo by Stan Rolfsrud

With all this gorgeous scenery it's hard to believe we're planning an escape, but we are. It's been mild the past few days, then a polar plunge into sub zero starting this weekend when the SeaHawks invade for their coldest game ever. We'll get motivated.
After the constant rains, the West Coast should be warm and green in a couple of weeks, perhaps a leisurely road trip there through Utah's glory?

Route 128, 2008

Wednesday, January 06, 2016

Are you sure that's what it says Grandpa?

Photo by Briggs Wilson
Another delightful post from our niece Briggs detailing a visit to Grandma and Grandpa's house in Arizona. For details, open blog at right.

Tuesday, January 05, 2016

Parting Gifts

With his beloved Packers falling to the Vikings and the mercury about to plunge precipitously, our neighbor Jeff declared "I'm outta here!" -- and he's taking Marcia with him. A limo has since picked up the dashing couple for a flight to Florida and a winter in their San Marcos Island home. Jeff kindly dropped by this morning to bid us farewell and thoughtfully leave us with a parting gift: two days worth of household garbage.

Monday, January 04, 2016

Red, White and Blue. . . thinking green.

Morning fog frosted the neighborhood into a winter wonderland, but with friends writing from Cozumel, others posting from Florida, and Hai beckoning from California, it is hard to ignore the Garbage Man's advice, below. Meanwhile, Stan got a clean bill at his annual checkup at the VA today, we've got a few other details to tend to  . . but we're thinking, no doubt about it.

Photos: Flowering crab, flocked and bedecked with ornaments, more spectacular than when we light it for Christmas. Icy shards melted by afternoon.
Below, trash day, the neighbors are in sunny Florida, their daughter came to take out their trash.

Saturday, January 02, 2016

Florida Photos

Our neighbors are enjoying a break at their Florida condo, Sandy spotted some wildlife and sent along this photo today. She writes:

"Spotted our first Roseate Spoonbill (at least one that was sitting still for a photo). We've been looking since we learned about them in the spring. He was hanging out with the ibis."
Like the American flamingo, their pink color is diet-derived, consisting of the carotenoid pigment canthaxanthin. Another carotenoid, astaxanthin, can also be found deposited in flight and body feathers.[9] The colors can range from pale pink to bright magenta, depending on age and location. Unlike herons, spoonbills fly with their necks outstretched. They alternate groups of stiff, shallow wingbeats with glides. --- Wikipedia