26 December 2011

Christmas Eve 2011 - Chaska Minnesota

We celebrated the beginning of Christmas Day at the midnight mass at Guardian Angels Church in Chaska. This is a family tradition of the past ten years or so. Wherever we are we have managed to find beautiful midnight masses in St. Louis, Columbia SC, Little Rock and the Twin Cities.

This one I will remember for the soloist with the beautiful voice singing Gesu Bambino.

"Again the heart with rapture glows to greet the holy night
That gave the world its Christmas Rose, its King of Love and Light.

Let ev'ry voice acclaim His name, the grateful chorus swell
From paradise to earth He came, that we with Him might dwell."

My Perfect Smoked Turkey - Christmas 2011

Poultry is about the easiest type of meat to smoke. Very hard to get it wrong and a few cheap chickens are perfect to practice on when first starting out. Still, smoking the Christmas turkey is a serious matter since the whole meal depends on you pullng this off right. This year I smoked turkeys at Thankgiving and Christmas. While both turned out well, the Christmas turkey got a lot more raves and I'll admit it was a piece of art. I did a few things differently this week, not intentionally so, just the way it worked out. So until I find a better method, this is my way of smoking turkey.

One 15 1/2 lb turkey ( all the recipes say you shouldnt smoke anything bigger than 14 lbs. They are wrong)

Soaked the turkey in brine for 24 hours. Brine is 2 gallons of water, 2 cups salt (cheap generic table salt), 2 cups brown sugar, 2 tablespoons of black pepper, one or two cups of apple juice, two oranges quartered. Mix all this up in a clean bucket or trash can.

Since this time of year it is below freezing in my garage, I simply leave this in the garage. In warmer places I'd keep it in the fridge.

Smoked it with hickory wood. Stuffed the cavity with an apple and an orange, sliced in half. Used about two thirds wood, one third Kingsford charcoal. At thanksgiving I think I used a little more charcoal and cherry wood. Put it on at 7am and kept the temp between 250 and 350 most of the time, though it did dip down to around 200 while I fell asleep on the couch. At about 1:30 it reached the magical 165 degrees internally, so about 6 1/2 hours to smoke. So tender and smokey and moist, just about perfect.

23 December 2011

Our White Christmas 2011

Ah Christmas, the best time of the year. Except this year, the white Christmas we take for granted in Minnesota is not to be found. Here is a picture of the patio and backyard, taken today. A few flurries this morning dusted the patio but that's about it. But we'll keep the lights burning in January and perhaps have snow in time for the Orthodox Christmas.

06 December 2011

St. Paul - Ice Fishing Show 2011

These people are crazy over ice fishing. Simply too packed to enjoy. Like a baseball stadium on opening day, you have hoards of both fanatics and wannabes.

17 November 2011

Shakespeare and King James

About three days a week, on average, I take the bus to work. One year ago today I started reading the complete works of Shakespeare and the King James version of the Bible on my commute. A few pages from each in the morning and evening. I'm about 15% through Shakespeare so at my current pace it will take me 5-6 more years to finish, about two years to finish the KJV.

I have finished Shakespeares Sonnets, As you like it, All's well that ends well, Antony and Cleopatra, A Comedy of Errors. Currently in The Tragedy of Coriolanus. In KJV I am at I Kings Chapter II, where King David is dying. The Bible is clearly more readable.

16 November 2011

Texas finally gets rain and I get a night at the Ramada Inn

How I got here is not a long story, but I'll skip it. It's 9pm on November 15th and probably one of the last sticky nights of the fall. I'm standing in the lobby of the Ramada Inn West, about a mile from the Houston airport. I have just concluded a two hour fight with United Airlines over who is to blame over my missed connection. I finally convince them that the weather is their fault and they book me on a Delta flight early the next morning.

Here at the Ramada they have turned off the air conditioning in the lobby way too soon. Thunderstorms rolled in and I am one of thousands of travelers stuck somewhere they did not intend to be. Most of those around me are upset and tired, which seems to put a governor on my own temper and help me make it through the rest of the evening.

I am in line for an hour trying to get a hotel key. The lady in front of me, Karen, is from Louisville. She's here helping a son through cancer treatments. He's going to be ok but her flight home was cancelled. She tells me most of the people in line are from the cancelled Louisville flight. Like me she has a son in St. Louis. So we talk Cardinals, the World Series, Ramada Inns, Cancer, and colleges. The son with cancer lives in Chicago near the DePaul campus, which creates another round of things to talk about. Karen does not have a reservation. I suggest she call Ramada reservations while she is standing in line. I give her the number and take notes for her while she talks to the voice on the phone. She thinks I'm being helpful be really I don't want to give her my room if they run out, since I am confirmed and she is a mom with a kid with cancer, I know that's what I'll do. She gets a reservation just before they run out. The hour goes by in about an hour, but fortunately does not seem like three hours. One by one people get room keys. One by one they come back with stories of rooms that are already occupied or keys that don't work.

After finally getting my key, I head to a restaurant recommended by the hotel staff, the 7-11 next door. A burritto, pack of cheese crackers, and a bottle of blue Gatorade 2 later i'm in my hotel room. Surfing channels with my finger since the TV remote is broken. Doesnt matter since only two cable channels are working, ESPN and the Animal Channel. I choose sports and fall soundly asleep.

If the South has a pulse, you can feel it in Covington, Louisiana

The distinctiveness of southern culture is not what it was years ago. I grew up there, lived that soul when I was a kid and wade in it often as an adult. It's not dead, that is certain. You can still find it thriving in places like Covington.

Clips of conversations from a table of ladies overheard during lunch yesterday....

Suzie was going for surgery, they had a big prayer meeting for her at church. Surgery has been postponed, those prayers must have worked....

That dressing makes the whole dish...

for Thanksgiving I"m making the Peanut Butter pie, the coconut creme is the one I gotta stay away from....

Here's your check, God bless you guys....

They were gonna buy a house until the agent got real smart with 'em....

Does Joey go to ya'lls church...

I owe you sixteen cents....

He's on a waitin list for a liver. Brother Carl says you can get one out of state, but not here....

how you doin today ladies....

you might find one of those old nutcrackers there.....

you know who makes the best Almond Joy candy? Shirley...

do you remember Maria? She's a preacher now. She carries a pistol with her and says Jesus wants her to....

31 October 2011

Christmas - Stage 1

The outdoor lights are up. Most of them at least. A weekend project the day before Halloween. Seems weird if you don't live this far north. I'll finish the project this coming weekend. After that it could be too cold to do it right and give it the time the work deserves. The basement is scattered with bins of Christmas decorations as we gather the few that need to go outside. For some reason they werent all packed together last year. I'm falling down on my re-packing duties. Here in Minnesota the leaves are brown and mostly on the ground.

You can smell Christmas in the cold morning air.

Cards win the World Series

As much as I love baseball, I watched more of this series than any other.

Baseball can be boring to watch, both in person and on TV. If the Cardinals aren't in, I dont watch that much, perhaps jumping in when it gets near one team clinching. I was traveling on business for much of this one. However, I still managed to catch most it, either at home or on the road. At least twice I listened to Mike Shannon call the game on KMOX. During the playoffs while driving through Virginia and during game 6 of the series while driving from Waco to Dallas. That night I got to my hotel room near the end of the 8th. I imagine I was one of the few people in the hotel rooting for the Cards.

In the end they won and I am not even going to attempt to write much about that. I can't add to what my daughters have written in their blogs. It's a great feeling when your team wins. It's even better when you can share it with family. We skyped Caroline through the 9th inning of game 7, and traded numerous phone calls and text messages among loved ones as they sealed their 11th WS victory.

I watched game 6 again last night online. what a series. what a game. LaRussa has now retired. Thanks Tony for all those great times.

23 October 2011

One Night in Baseball Heaven - St. Louis, Missouri

I went to the World Series this week, for the first time. The St. Louis Cardinals are back.

Some years they come storming in like they own the National League and all other teams are mere pretenders. This was not that type of year. This year it was almost embarrassing how the Braves collapsed in September and the Cards finally got hot. When the the dust of summer finally settled at the end of 162 games, the Cardinals were the wild card team. The fans were thrilled, but surprised.

Even more surprising was the way they took care of the Phillies. Less so, how they put the Brewers away.

What all this meant to me was that last Thursday night I found myself in the middle of a long-time dream. When I was a kid the dream was of me playing in the World Series, with Mickey Mantle and Pee Wee Reese. As an adult it was simply one of being there. So pinch me, I'm in Busch Stadium with my son, my brother, my daughter-in-law, and its the World Series.

Our evening included the Budweiser Clydesdales, dogs, brats, peanuts, Lou Brock, Ozzie Smith, Stan Musial and Albert Pujols. The greatest coach in the game, Tony La Russa. The redeemed hitting coach, Mark McGwire. A beautiful ballpark with fans passionate about the game. Some of them, like me, had been following the Cards for decades. Others grew up with them, like Rob and Laura, and being at a game is ingrained in hundred of memories and some of their earliest ones.

Like any big sporting event it included a fair number of people who knew nothing about the game, but were simply there to lay claim to being at the event. Unfortunately I felt obligated to explain to them, particularly the brunette in the middle of our row, that you don't get out of your seat when the ball is in play. After all, this was the World Series and baseball protocol must be followed. I was wrong of course, this game was too big to limit to purists. My suggestions to neighboring fans was obviously more annoying to my family than the traffic flow in our aisle. Somewhere around the 5th inning I realized it and shut up.

I began following the Cardinals in college. I grew up in Florida miles away from a pro baseball team. But I went to college in Missouri, where baseball matters, and spent many night when I should have been studying listening to the Cardinals or the Royals. The last night of our honeymoon was spent in St. Louis, at a Cardinals game. Weird, I know, but it helped start this bond with the team. My second visit was about ten years later when we drove up from Arkansas on a family vacation and took Rachel and Rob to a game. She was eight and he was three. Two years later career opportunities moved us to St. Louis and our love affair with the game and this team went into full swing.

Over the years, usually in October, I often thought how wonderful it would be to attend a World Series, especially with my family and especially if the Cardinals were involved. The Rangers were never in those dreams but perhaps should have been. The first baseball game we took any of our children to was with Rachel and to see the Rangers around 1987. Rob was a baby. We left him behind and spent a weekend in Dallas that I'm sure included a lot of family events, zoos and the like. But the only one I remember is going to see the Rangers. Rachel got a free glove and we saw the "wild thing", Mitch Williams, pitch.

This week, when I sat down for the first pitch at Busch stadium, this flood of baseball memories just overwhelmed me. All of them good ones. Not a single one involved an argument, tears, or hurt feelings, like some family gatherings. They are all perfect. Rachel keeping score while adorned with peanut earrings, Rob with his cap turned backwards, Robin digging into a backpack for one more thing to keep a toddler occupied, Caroline with a lap full of nachos. All the kids at some point giving Fred Bird a high five. Waiting in line in the blazing heat for some giveaway trinket of the day. Our kids and their little league teams parading around the field. My dad waving his fist into the air as Todd Zeile hit a game winning homer against the Expos. Watching Ted Simmons hit two home runs against the Mets on June 22, 1979 with my new bride. 

On this night of the World Series, the Cardinals lost. The good thing is that the loss will soon be forgotten. Time will pass and the cold of that night will turn warmer. What will be remembered is being there, with family, and it will all be good. Specifically with my brother, my son, my daughter-in-law. But in my memories I was joined by the whole family, especially my children, and it's mid-July, hot as blazes, we're somewhere lost in the cheap seats, and the Cardinals are leading by three runs in the 9th. 

08 October 2011

I am throwing away all my 8 track tapes

I have been hauling around some 8 track tapes since the 70's and 80's. It's what's left of a larger collection that has just vanished over the years. As I looked at them, stacked here by the pc, it's an odd group of leftovers. Some of them old favorites, others simply something I pulled from the discount bins at a music store. I have no means of playing them. Although I hate to see them go, I know that they will only sit in the basement, accumulating dust until the day when I am hauled off to the nursing home and my kids come to clean out the house. Whether it is today or years from now, the next destination for these is the landfill. So Goodbye....

Abraham Martin and John - Dion
Isle of Wight - Atlanta Pop Festival - Vol II
Road Food - The Guess Who
A Song or Two - Cashman and West
Dark Side of the Moon - Pink Floyd
Tapestry - Don Mc Lean
Rite of Spring - Stravinsky
Stars and Stripes Forever - Nitty Gritty Dirt Band
The Best of the Newport Folk Festival
Liberty - Gene Cotton
Machine Head - Deep Purple
Untitled - Don McLean

Funny how my tastes in music today are still so similar to back then. I still listen to Pink Floyd and occasionally Deep Purple. I like story songs from people like Don McLean and American roots music from groups like the Dirt Band. I like symphonies but find them hard to listen to more than once or twice. A couple of these were played only once or twice. But they all had the honor, I think, of being played in my 1969 Ford Fairlane in high school and college. Some of them went on long road trips home from college, on dates, to and from various jobs of the young unskilled laborer. I guess I need to stop reminiscing or I won't throw them out.

29 September 2011

The greatest night for baseball this year

Last night was one of the best nights for baseball drama in years. Two teams in each league tied for the last playoff spot, the Cardinals and Braves in the NL, and the Rays and Red Sox in the AL. For a good part of the evening it looked like there would be two more games today to determine the wild card winners. In the end the Braves just ran out of gas while the combination of a Rays run explosion and Baltimore's hitters clicking in the 9th sent the redsox packing.

For me the greatest thing was that the Cardinals won, obviously. They just smoked the Astros, one of the sports teams I always despise. Don't know why, but I think it started with those orange striped uniforms in the 70's. The redsox, for reasons documented many times on this blog, are also on my bad list. For the Cards to be in the playoffs means all is right in the baseball world. Things are as they are supposed to be.

By the way, the stupidest thing of the evening was a little celebration that you would only see if you were watching in Minnesota. The twins beat KC last night and managed to escape the season with only 99 losses, not the dreaded 100. They actually celebrated on the field as though this was something to be proud of. I think it is the most idiotic thing I have ever seen on a baseball field and an embarrassment to the few twins fans on the planet. A picture of the celebration, from the twins website, is below.

But I guess even stupid things like this from the twins will soon be missed as the leaves fall and the snow begins. It won't be long before we will be wishing for a trip, any trip, to a ball park. Last night was a bit of what we love about baseball, the way that the highs and lows of the season can drag out to the last hours of regular season play. When it does, all the previous 161 games cast a shadow over the field. It didnt have to end this way, down to the wire of pain and elation. Change the outcome of one game in April or May and this night means nothing. On May 22nd the Cardinals blew a six run lead at Kansas City that sent the game into extra innings. They put runners on the bases in the sixth, seventh, eighth innings and loaded them in the ninth but didnt bring any of them home. Finally the Cards scored two in the 10th, off back to back bases-loaded walks. That never happens, but it did that night. The Royals added one more run and lost. Odd way of winning, odd way of losing for the Royals. Perhaps a game the Cardinals should have lost. But they didnt. Had they done so, no celebration in Houston, no post season.
Go Cards!!!!

21 September 2011

Top Five Hikes

Hiking in the Black Hills of SD this past weekend caused me to think about the best hikes of my life. Here are the top five.
1) Pinnacle Mountain - Pulaski County, Arkansas. Not the most scenic but the hike I've done the most with my family. A store of good memories.
2) Sunday Gulch - Black Hills, near Lake Sylvan. Fresh in my mind, hard not to put it on the list.
3) Blue Mountains - Katoomba, NSW, Australia. Echo Point, near the Three Sisters formation. Like being in another country. (I know this sounds pretentious but its my one and only hike outside the US and really is beautiful)
4) Carver's Gap - Roan Mountain, Tennessee. You can just bury me here.
5) Crabtree Falls - near Steele's Tavern, Virginia

Other great ones that my wife says are not hikes because they don't go up and down... Exit Glacier in Seward Alaska, The Grand Canyon - south Rim, Central Park to Times Square, the refrigerator to the couch, Mackinac Island loop.

20 September 2011

Weekend in the Black Hills

If it wasn't for the monotonous drive across South Dakota, I could spend every weekend in the Black Hills. Except for a sidetrip to Deadwood, everything was worth another visit. Most of our time spent in and around Hill City. This picture is from Sylvan Lake. Behind these boulders is a steep trail down Sunday Gulch, one of the most scenic hikes of my life.

16 September 2011


On every flight there is a seat kicker. Delta puts them behind me. I think it's in my Diamond Elite profile.

Sometimes it's a kid 1) with legs too short to hang down but just long enough to kick my seat and 2) a parent who does not care and probably shouldnt be a parent in the first place. I bet Charles Manson's mom let him kick the back of airline seats, Marilyn Manson's too.

More often it is an adult who thinks that by kicking me I will return my seat to the upright position. It aint gonna happen buddy.

30 August 2011

The Minnesota State Fair - I had to go

I realized over the weekend that I have lived in this state too long. It's growing on me.

There is an attraction to the Minnesota State Fair that is hard to explain. I suppose in every region there is some activity that people go a bit overboard. Some good, wholesome activity that people seem to take in just a bit too much. But if you don't do it, you somehow don't fit in with the natives. In St. Louis it had something to do with restaurants in the Italian section of town and/or grilling pork steaks, in Arkansas it was football. Here, it's the state fair.

Everyone goes, and I'm only exaggerating a bit. It is a topic of conversation at church, the beauty shop, bars, baseball games, business meetings. The questions is not "are you going to the fair this year?", it's "have you been to the fair, yet?"

I went this weekend, early, and watched the crowds roll in. I suppose in many ways it is like any other state fair, full of home baked pies, eating contests, 4H kids with prize animals on display, sideshows, junk food.

What's different is that the people here are some predominately Minnesotans. Few from out of state would come to this for a vacation. Only the toddlers are here for the first time, the rest of us have been coming year after year after year. Mom and Dad have baby in a stroller and you sense they are here not just for the fun but almost out of a sense of obligation. They have to bring junior to the fair, even if he can't hold his head up yet. They have to immerse him in this Gopher State stuff, and the fair is a big part of that. Somehow they might get in trouble if they don't. The state police will show up at the house, bag of cheese curds in one holster, a few rolls of lefsa in the other, and start asking questions, dontcha know.

My junk food foray this year was a simple one. Lefsa and butter, followed by an ice cream cone, and then about an hour later another ice cream cone. Speaking of butter.... all my trips to the fair have included a stop by the Dairy exhibit which includes the butter sculptures of the fair princess, Princess Kay of the Milky Way, and her court. This year I actually got to see a sculpture in progress. You hang around Minnesota long enough, you see people do all kind of things with butter that you wouldn't have thought possible, or necessary.

27 August 2011

The essential pork shoulder

This is the barbecue cut that is hardest to mess up. There's great pork shoulder and there's good, it's hard to make it bad as long as you keep it cooking low and slow.

Today's shoulder is for my youngest brother, who is the biggest fan of my smoking. Hopefully he'll share it with some of the others in the family. I put the meat on about 7 am and will take it off around 8pm. Prepped it with a dry rub last night that was fairly simple, salt, pepper, some paprika, that's about it. I have learned to keep the lid closed on the smoker and only opened this a couple of times during the day, to cut off a sample or two.

Thirteen hours with the temp between 200 and 250. Low and slow. Slow and low.

The finished product looks black, but it's not. It'll be beautiful when pulled. If I did it right it won't need any sauce or anything else. It'll stand on it's own.

24 August 2011

Pondering Waco

Twenty years ago if you asked most people what they knew about Waco, you'd get a blank stare. The knowledgable few would know it as the birthplace of Dr. Pepper and the home of Baylor University. It's much more than that, but for a city its size being known for two big things is not so bad. Then came the situation in 1993 and Waco took on a new meaning.

I was there last week and visited Mount Carmel. The David Koresh, Branch Davidian, Janet Reno stand-off, Mount Carmel.

What was really fascinating is that for a few minutes last Thursday afternoon I was the only person in the whole world who had an interest in this place. No one else was there. No media, no tanks, no self-proclaimed Messiahs, no troops, no lost souls looking for an answer. There is no sign that anything important ever happened here, except for these markers.

Once the whole world was watching the tragedy unfold. For weeks and weeks. Now it's only me. I'm the only person who is watching what is going on at this place.

For a while this was home to a band of people who lost their way. There is a church on the property, I assume it is where the old compound stood. I think the final chapter in this story has yet to be written.

20 August 2011

Big Road Trip

We took Caroline to college this week. While it was hard to say goodbye it was also wonderful to watch her say hello to her new world, Baylor University. It took us two days to get down there, but after a taste of the 108+ heat, only one day to get back. Here's how our drive of 1060 miles went. The one day drive back included 15:02 hours of driving time and 54 minutes of stops. Multiple cups of coffee.  Not bad.

Monday August 15th                 Wednesday and Thursday - Orientation and move-in
7am left the house                        Friday August 19
8 Faribault, MN                           5am Waco
9 Clear Lake, Ia                           6  Burleson, TX
10 Story City, Ia                          7  Sanger, TX
11 Des Moines                            8  Ardmore, OK
12pm Leon, Ia                             9  Norman, OK
1 Pleasant Ridge, MO                  10 Orlando, OK
2 Liberty, MO                             11 Wellington, KS
3 Ottawa, KS                              12pm El Dorado, KS
4 Emporia, KS                              1 Neosho Rapids, KS
5 Wichita, KS                               2 Overland Park, KS
6 Blackwell, OK                           3 Cameron, MO
7 Guthrie, OK                              4 Lamoni, IA
8 Oklahoma City                          5 Jewell, IA
Tuesday August 16                     6 Clear Lake, IA
930 am - Left OKCity                  7 Owatonna, MN
11 Davis, Ok                               8:55 pm home.
12pm Gainesville, Tx
1 Fort Worth
230 Waco

10 August 2011

The Rehearsal Dinner

Rob and Laura's wedding was this past weekend in St. Louis and it was my role to say a few words to the crowd at the rehearsal dinner. This was really a difficult speech. What I wanted to do was talk for hours about my son and his sisters and his mother. How beautiful they all are and how great it will be to have Laura join our family. How he had made this stunning leap from a 16 year old showing the occasional glimpse of responsibility to grownup in what seemed like a flash. How proud we were of him. I wanted to tell them all about him and the side of him they did not know. Unfortunately I was only given about three minutes. I took what I could get and my comments follow...

Thanks all of you for coming. Rob told me to be short and funny and to bless the food. I promise you son, I will be as obedient to you as you were to me.

You’re here because you are part of Rob and Laura’s inner circle. A relative or a very good friend. Somewhere along the line you played a part in these two little kids becoming adults. You were the uncle who took them to a ballgame, the aunt who put a band aid on a skinned knee, the high school or college friend who kept them out of trouble, or got them into it. Most of you were a very good influence on these two. We have parents and grandparents that we all owe much to. And for both Laura and Rob there are family members who have passed that we cannot help but remember on a night like this.

We are so glad to have Laura as part of our family. I know the Oeltjens feel the same way about Rob. We are still getting to know Laura. When Rob told us about her, we knew we wouldn't get an objective answer if we asked about what type of person she was, so we asked about her family. And as we heard him talk about this uncle and that aunt and brothers and extended family we felt very good. We asked about her parents – married forever was the reply. We all want Rob and Laura to be a strong family, and we are grateful for all the wonderful examples she had and he had from their first days toddling around Christmas trees.

Laura, you have a hint of what’s in store in joining Rob’s family. As you know, it is a very strange and wonderful American casserole. As I know is true of the Oeltjen family, our faith in Christ, more than blood ties is the common glue that hold us together. And it will hold you together as well. Because when you look beyond that, Rob’s extended family is a real murderers row of knuckleheads and goofballs. It's a circus, its a human zoo. We have tea-sippers and teetotalers, liberals and libertarians. We’ve got poodles on the couch and coon dogs on the front porch. Vegetarians on one end and lifetime members of the NRA on the other. We even have an actuary. We like our peppers hot, our gravy thick, and our people warm.

Once you get past the normal people like Rob, you find one of the oddest collections of human beings that genetic ties ever brought together. Some saving souls, some saving the planet, others saving the leftover cole slaw for breakfast. Laura, it's a family in desperate need of someone like you.

So Laura, good luck. We're glad that you trusted Rob when he asked you to spend the rest of his life with him. While he's always been rock solid on important things, sometimes he's on a different plane than the rest of us. He did not start life with the a real good sense of where his make believe world ended and the real world started. When he was six the checkout girls at Schnucks knew him as the kid whose dad played for the Cardinals, or so he told them. In second grade he insisted to his teacher that a weekend trip to Springfield included not just visiting Lincoln's tomb but also digging him up and playing with his bones. Tucking him into bed at night always included the plea, "hey dad, talk to me like I'm Robocop".

That kid is now a very good man joining a very good woman and we are hear tonite to let you know that we are all on your side.

Those are some funny stories, and there will be a lot of them told this weekend. But the best story of all will be the one that Rob and Laura start this weekend, the one that begins... "we were married in St. Louis on August 6th, 2011..."

Closing prayer went something like this.... Lord, thank you for calling Rob and Laura to life and for the circumstances that brought them together. We believe, as they do, that they should spend their lives together as man and wife. Keep the love they have burning strong -- make it stronger. Help us to be there when they need us and to stay out of their way when they don't.

28 July 2011

Brand Loyalty

A recent post by my daughter got me thinking about brand loyalty and brand aversion. I realized there are only a few brands that I am really loyal too. Price and convenience drive a lot of my purchases. So far I have only thought of three companies that I am so loyal to you will never see me using a competing product. Asics running shoes, Weber charcoal grills, Rain-X.

There are a few I go out of my way to avoid. You will never see me patronizing products or services of  Dr. Pepper, Holiday Inn, Dillards, Arby's, the NBA.

Still the world's worst coffee

Captain Jacks snack bar, Helena Montana airport. I have mentioned them a couple of times on this blog. I've had the coffee at least three times on a 6am flight back to the Twin Cities. It is always bad and tastes like it was made days before. I guess not even Big Sky country is perfect.

27 July 2011

An evening in Montana

Last night I arrived in Helena around 6pm. A gorgeous day just too beautiful to waste watching TV in the local Hampton Inn ( though they are very nice people ). I took a long, hundred mile drive up into the Helena National Forest, doing a long loop that took me past a stray cow wandering on the highway, through the town of Lincoln, and past the pristine trout waters of the Blackfoot River.

As I mentioned in an earlier email to my mother,  Helena reminds me in many ways of my ancestral hometown of Elizabethton, Tennessee. A small city, mainly of lifelong residents. A combination of pretty older homes, tacky shopping areas and a nice downtown, nestled in the middle of the mountains. Not a bad place at all to spend a life.

 I ended my drive at the minor league ball park and watched the Helena Brewers faced the Casper Ghosts (gotta love that name). The Brewers lost but time at a ballpark is always time well spent.

01 July 2011

My email to the TSA

Dear TSA

I suggest your web content editors pass 7th grade english before you turn them loose on your website.

From the TSA website

"Expensive reels or fragile tackle such as fly's should be packed in your carry-on baggage."


I guess I should be thankful that they are not flying planes. Those details can be a mess. http://www.tsa.gov/travelers/airtravel/assistant/editorial_1188.shtm

Independence Days Remembered

The thing is, they're not. Remembered. There are only a handful that I clearly remember. July 4, 1976, 1981, 1982, 2010.

In 1976 most people were doing something really big, it was the bicentennial. I was stuck in Strafford, Missouri with the family of my on again - off again girlfriend. We heard some politicians, pastors, soldiers and other civic leaders speak. Somewhere I still have the program. I remember thinking, "what am I doing here?".

1981 and 1982 I remember because I helped shoot the fireworks for the city of Pine Bluff, Arkansas (another "what am I doing here" experience) I was a new dad. Both years our daughter, a toddler, cried at the sounds. By the second year she was 18 months old and enjoyed looking up in the sky. I was in the Jaycees and we sponsored the fireworks. Not a lot of regulation back in them days. Just a dozen guys standing in a field by the convention center, drinking beer and launching coffee cans of chemicals high into the air. The fire chief did come by to check on us, if I remember right.

Last year I was in Buenos Aires on the 4th. The only reason I remember it is because it was last year and it was the first time I was not in America on Independence Day. Went to a great restaurant, Las Lilas. That was about it. It was just another day in Argentina. In another ten years I will have completely forgotten about it because absolutely nothing special happened that day.

There were of course others but they all run together. The ones near our neighborhood in St. Louis. The ones here in Minnesota. Good times with family and friends that run togther to form one big Independence day memory.

27 June 2011

Remnants of a City

I had lunch here today, at First Bridge Park. First bridge over the Mississippi. I went to watch the river and get out of the office on a nice day. The river runs a bit faster here than in Missouri, or Arkansas. There it is wide and brown. Here it narrow, with a rust color that comes from the iron laced streams of northern Minnesota.

I noticed on my walk how many remnants there are of parks, plazas and statues in my ten minutes walk to the river. Plaques and markers that someone once thought important, something that might help revitalize a declining area. I passed an empty fountain labeled "1948" and an obscure marker honoring George Washington, unveiled on July 4, 1917. There were assorted steps that once led somewhere and many sculptures and parks that are still too young to have been forgotten. 

I had lunch at the site of the first permanent bridge over the Mississippi. Once upon a time someone thought it very important that the people remember this. In an earlier time people simply thought it was important to get across the river.

23 June 2011

Street Preacher

In this photo you will see a young man preaching on a street corner in downtown Minneapolis. He is standing on a stool. This is a common sight in the summer. I was not aware of the One Way sign when I took the pic, but it is fitting.

On this particular day I stopped for a moment to listen to him. Most people walk by with heads down, chuckling or shaking their heads. No one looks him in the eye and listens. The message either is too disturbing or they do not want to be seen listening.

I stopped for a moment last week and listened. He preached mainly about judgement and how sins grieve the Father. He also spoke about the Christian message of redemption. He did not use the code language of the church today, such as calling sins "bad choices". He was very blunt and straightforward about what God has done for us, what He expects of us and the consquences for those who ignore or reject the message. While the delivery is from another time, I was at a loss to hear anything I disagreed with or that wasn't right out of the Bible.

17 June 2011

The end of the line

Yesterday I took Rocko to the vet to have him put to death. He was almost 17 years old and a great family pet. Rob was about eight when he got this little puppy, Rachel in early days of highschool and Caroline was a toddler.

In the past year he had lost most of his hearing and eyesight and was spending most of his time sleeping or getting sick. This picture was taken a few minutes before our trip to the vet.

He was well behaved on the drive over, just sitting in the front seat, enjoying the air conditioner. When we got to the vet I let him roam around outside for a bit as he smelled the scent of other dogs on the bushes, rocks and grass.

I told myself that since I didn't cry at my grandparents funerals it would be really weird if I cried over the loss of an animal. But still, we all hated to see him go and this was not something anyone would look forward to. The vet was nice and I could tell he really loved animals and did not enjoy this part of his job. We held him down and he wimpered slightly as he was given an injection. This was followed by a nice long sigh, as he laid his head down and closed his eyes.

I took him home and placed him in a hole I had dug in our back yard under some trees. I covered him and packed the soil down firmly. I placed a nice sized rock over the spot to mark where he was and to keep any curious racoons or dogs from digging there. I walked out to the spot this morning and everything was fine.  It has been good to have a pet like this one.

16 June 2011

A Dog, A Darling, A Daughter

June 16, 2011. Today is my 32nd wedding anniversary. On this blessed event I take a look at my calendar and note that...

...my youngest child has left for Guatemala.
...my wife is boarding a plane to spend the weekend with her mother.
...i have to take Rocko, our dog of 16+ years to the vet to put him to death. (Dads always get the fun stuff)

I've had better days. But hey, at least the market is up and when the market is up I can tolerate a lot.

14 June 2011


My youngest daughter graduated from high school three days ago. The ceremony included what was her last performance on a public school stage as she raised her voice high with her choir singing the spiritual "Beulah Land" and "Bridge over Troubled Waters" (a version much better than the one that came out in the 70's). It was a fitting end to thirteen years in the Missouri and Minnesota school systems. Caroline always seems happiest when singing and you could tell by the look on her face the joy she felt that evening. As I look back it seems that she emerged with a stronger and warmer soul at the end of each year than at the beginning, which is as it should be for all of us. Her senior year set the stage for many good things to come.
High School is full of academic and personal struggles and it is so easy to forget this when you are decades removed from it. I found the period of life from 16 to 26 to be the most trying, tiring, stressful thus far. This is true for many people. So many big decisions are made during that time, decisions that need to be right, or close to it. She is about one-third through that stretch, and handling it much better than her father. During the past year I watched her labor over classwork from the morning until late at night. On any given day she worked much harder than most people I know.

Like most parents, I'm proud of all my children, equally so. Each had accomplishments and obstacles to overcome that made me so thankful to have been their father. Caroline has creative gifts that could come only from God, as nothing in that area could have been inherited from me. How she will use them remains to be seen but the view from the high school launching pad looks most promising from these biased old eyes.

I am glad that this young woman, who as a little girl would tell me, "it's my world daddy, but you can play in it", is building her world with an eye not on her daddy, but on her Father above. The toddler who would place her hands on my face and force me to look in her eyes when she spoke to me, will soon have other messages and will be just as determined to be heard. Cars, trains and planes will now take the little bike rider, who feared the slanted part of the sidewalk, to places not yet on her mind. The kid who was afraid of scary clowns at Six Flags will face a new set of scary stuff during college years. Regardless, she is a descendant of pioneers with their blood in her veins, and if it doesn't show yet, it soon will.

09 June 2011

The morning walk

This is the summer route from the bus to the office. About seven blocks. I work in one of the buildings on the left at the end of the street. In the winter it's a bit painful to walk these streets, even to the skyway entrance two blocks from this intersection.

On summer mornings I pass an array of the homeless doing their morning business.... smoking, drinking coffee, talking to the voices, recycling trash, texting the governor, etc. I also walk by a tv station, numerous restaurants, an art gallery or two, drug stores, Macy's, the Target headquarters, the Mary Tyler Moore statue (someone please take it down), the IDS tower. On Thursdays there is the "farmers market" which only means that it was grown by a farmer somewhere. No way those tomatoes were grown in this state by June. I've never had a bad walk down this street, it's always a good way to start the day.

07 June 2011

Punk Landscaping

My attempt to trim back our crabapple tree took on a life of it's own over the weekend. My punk landscaping turned this twenty foot tall orb of lush green leaves into the humble totem you see before you.

I have been known to take out trees from our yards over the years, usually because they are too close to the house. I hate for trees to touch my house, which is like installing an escalator and red carpet for squirrels.

On Sunday I started out by trying to take out some of the higher branches that were squeezing up against the roof. I thought I might be able to actually trim it, like a shrub. Deep down inside, I knew this was impossible, and that the tree would eventually end up as shown in this photo. Anyway, this was how I spent my afternoon, chain saw in one hand, tree limbs in the other. I filled 15 lawn waste bags and also got assorted knicks and scrapes on my legs, head and arms. I am betting that by August it will be looking somewhat like a tree again. My spouse is skeptical.

Also a photo of the house in June as we enter our brief, but welcome, summer. New landscaping in and starting to come alive. Eventually those electical boxes will be hidden, at least that is the plan. It was 102 in Minneapolis today, though with the windchill it only felt like 99. Nice to have a little taste of true summer, which is rare here.

03 June 2011

Have a good day at school

"Have a good day at school" is a phrase I have repeated each day to my children since around 1985. In the past year it is something I have done almost fanatically, never missing a day. Sometimes I would get in the car, realize I had forgot, and headed back into the house. I have three school days left to say this to my youngest daughter. A week from now she will be out of high school and getting ready for her high school graduation ceremony.

Her reply is often a simple, "Thanks". It's probably evolved over the years. At one point it may have been, "I'm going to have a great day daddy, cause we're going to the zoo and having a picnic and riding the bus! Mommy's coming with us!" But there is something in that "thanks" that is uniquely hers, a way of saying it that is distinctive. Each morning send-off has been preparation for bigger ones to come. This week, which once seemed so far off, is now here. Soon it will be August and college.

"Have a good day at school" has been as much a prayer as anything. A mutual wish by parent and child that the day would bring good things and that evil things would be kept at bay. I am sure there were times when she dreaded the day ahead and thought, "if my dad only knew the kind of day awaits me". But there were also days of victory that belong just to her. This prayer has been answered many times over. I hope that all of my children look back on their time at home and in school as a very special, almost magical time, when all their needs were met and almost all their battles were won.

This journey started with Rachel at David O. Dodd Elementary in Little Rock and continued with Rob through Wren Hollow Elementary, Hanna Woods Elementary, Parkway Southwest Middle, Parkway South Middle, and Parkway South High in St. Louis, and on to Oak Point Intermediate, Central Middle and Eden Prairie High School in Minnesota. Three cities, three decades, several schools, numerous teachers and classmates.

Although it is not easy to see this time pass, it would be even worse to have things remain as they are. Like her older brother and sister, she is ready. Not quite ready for her own home, but ready to leave this one. And ready to spend four very special years become more and more like the type of person God would have her to be.

17 May 2011

They eat a lot of popcorn

In 2003, after a few months in Minnesota, I was asked how the people differed from those in other parts of America. "They eat a lot more popcorn" was the first thing that came to mind. (confirmed just moments ago in a stroll by our trading desk) Other things....

They are very polite and obedient ( it is their defining trait )

They do not understand Southerners, as they are prone to make statements about the south that would puzzle any of us. They speak of us as though we don't really exist, but were some sort of made for TV oddity.

Johnny is "going away" to school means attending college in a different county.

They believe a government can solve personal problems.

They are trusting.

They have a sense of superiority to the rest of the nation. Not smug, but a simple belief that they are indeed better.

They are fans of cold weather sports, hockey primarily, and football. They like baseball but it is more of a passing summer interest, rather than an obsession.

They are Democrats, but not reliably so. They never exhibit the burning passion over political issues that folks elsewhere do.

They eat fried cheese with ketchup.

They hate the heat and will spending silly sums on cabins in the North Country.

As neighbors go, they are difficult to get to know, but are generally helpful in a pinch.

As drivers, they are slow to react to change, such as the light turning from red to green. (They never seem to get that "green arrow thing" at intersections)

They never honk their horns in traffic. Anyone honking is obviously from out of state.

In the end, all this is trivial stuff, funny little things. As people, they are about as good as we get.

14 May 2011

big people

I've met a few famous people over the years. I met one in Omaha a couple of weeks ago who is known for his wealth, more than anything else. None have I ever wanted to trade places with, but it is interesting to observe them. To think about what their life is like. I suspect some of them might want to trade places with me. Usually they are forgotten soon after they are gone.

Our Home in May

May began with freezing temps and snowflakes, but it is beginning to look like spring around here. The grass is green and leaves are coming out on all the trees. We had some landscaping done the past few weeks and took out a lot of the shrubs.

Smoked a few ribs for the third time this spring. Though the temp was in the 50's there is something about firing up a smoker and a grill that makes it seem much more like summer than it actually is. "You smell like smoke" is something I never tire of hearing.

30 April 2011

Chicago to Minneapolis

Caught the 1:15 flight from O'Hare yesterday on United. Normally I pay no attention to the people around me on planes. I don't chit chat and really don't care whether they are going home or leaving home. But every once in a while someone will say something that gets my attention. Such as the rare exchange where the stewardess comes across as normal and the passenger as some sort of annoying fungus....

Stewardess: Would you care for a beverage before we take off?

The human seated next to me: I'll have a White Russian

Stewardess: What is that?

The human: I don't know. Ginger Ale please.

Stewardess: That I can do.

02 April 2011

My running life

On January 1 1998 I ran four miles. I don't recall the run but I imagine it was in our neighborhood in St. Louis. I haven't missed a day since and have run 31,643 miles, an avg of 6.5 miles a day. In 2007 I ran 4015 miles, which still amazes me.

I rarely write about running. But obviously it's a big part of my life. I don't enjoy it as much as I did when I was younger though I still love it very much. I can't remember a day when i've had what i'd call a bad run. It is just harder now. I have pains in my knees that usually subside around mile 3.

The closest I ever came to upsetting my streak was a couple of times when I got to a hotel room around 11pm and immediately headed outside or to a fitness room to run a couple of miles.

Today I ran 12 miles downstairs on the treadmill. It caused me to think about how fortunate I have been to have stayed healthy all these years. I ran while watching Pirates of the Caribbean 3 on DVD. I've been going through all our DVDs this last month. I've watch classics like Yankee Doodle Dandy and Guys & Dolls, along with more forgetable flicks like Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants and the Lizzie McGuire movie. Some people hate running on a treadmill, i've come to love it. I run in the privacy of a room in our basement. It's me, a treadmill, a tv, the heater, and assorted household items we cannot bear to get rid of, such as a crib, playpen, kiddy cars, and an almost lifesize Barbie. In the room i'm not too fat or too slow and I always have the perfect gait. Barbie looks at me admiringly and I return the favor by cleaning the cobwebs
out of her armpits from time to time.

I don't know how long I'll keep this streak going. I suppose as long as my health permits. It's been good. It's added some order and discipline to my life. I'd like to think I set a good example to my kids, or at least a better example than I would have otherwise. Running is a time for thinking and often for not thinking. Sometimes I pray while I run or think about what I should be praying about, only to forget later. Running is solitary. Moving my body down the road and keeping atuned to the aches and pains and sounds that remind me i am still alive.

Ribs 2011

Today for the first time in quite a while, it feels like Spring here. I uncovered the smoker, checking to make sure no animals had made a home inside during the winter. I'm here alone this weekend and decided to smoke the first ribs of 2011. Ribs are hard for me to get right. Real frustrating. Why I can smoke a pork shoulder to perfection almost every time, but continually spoil ribs is a mystery. Don't know what i'm doing wrong but will keep trying.

The picture is of our house today. One last pile of snow in front of the porch, big enough that I still cannot get all the Christmas lights off the bushes. There is still a few strips of snow in the back and front yard that will likely be gone by morning. Wandering around the yard I find mementos of the fall and winter that have been buried for months. The girl next door's lacrosse stick, a piece off the snowblower handle, used firecrackers from New Years.

After taking Robin and Caroline to the airport early this morning I took our dog, Rocko, for his first walk of the year. We're not bad dog owners, its just that he is so old he can only go to the end of the block and back and most mornings it has been too cold. He was glad to be out but got tired before we passed two houses and we turned around. Aging is taking its toll on our 16 yr old dog. After that and a twelve mile run I went out to Costco to get the ribs. Turkeys crossing the road near my house have an irradescent sheen to their feathers that I have never noticed before, jade, blue, red. Birds are back, including a few of the pesky canada geese that will soon infest our town. Neighbors are cleaning out the garage and draining gas from the snowblowers. We'll have more snow, just not enough to worry about and not enough to need a snowblower.

Back to the ribs... finally, a decent batch. Really good. I think part of my problem has been cooking them too long. This time I used an approach I saw on the Food Channel. Smoke with a dry rub for four hours at 250. I used just a little salt and pepper. Follow by grilling with a vinegar based mop. I grilled for about a half hour, turning about every five minutes. Good hot flame. Work really well. Given my general incompetence in the rib category, i'll probably use this method from now on.

26 March 2011

Ten Places to See

I read an article today listing the top ten places every parent should take their children. It had the typical places, Grand Canyon, Niagra Falls, etc.

Here's my list, in no particular order

The Ausable River, Upstate New York
Palo Duro Canyon, near Amarillo
Sedona, Arizona
Carvers Gap near Roan Mountain, Tennessee
Jackson Square, New Orleans
Cathedral Basilica, St. Louis
St. Andrews State Park, Florida
North Shore of Lake Superior, Minnesota
The Black Hills, South Dakota
Times Square, New York

25 March 2011

Daydreams in Houston on the 56th floor of some building

I was in a meeting today and started daydreaming. This is dangerous when it's an important event but I managed to get by. Sometimes I get a version of highway hypnosis in these things. 15 minutes go by and I don't recall much of anything that was said. After a few decades in my field, the dialogue tends to all run together and it is rare to hear something memorable or unique.

Anyway, while daydreaming I had this thought about how my daylife is so different from my home life. I find myself in settings during work that are completely removed from my real life. I talk about things that I am truly interested in, and passionate about, but that would never come up at home. Debt covenants, liquidity traps and portfolio optimization just aren't topics of kitchen conversation where I come from. I guess it's that way in every field. There is the language of trade and commerce and there is the language of hearth and home. I find myself seeing things and being in places that remind me of the old Talking Heads tune Once in a Lifetime, since every line applies to some part of my life.

And you may find yourself living in a shotgun shack
And you may find yourself in another part of the world
And you may find yourself behind the wheel of a large automobile
And you may find yourself in a beautiful house, with a beautiful wife
And you may ask yourself-Well...How did I get here?

Another thought I had was the number of people I meet in my career who are really important to me in the moment, in the current hour. Then they vanish. Or I vanish. I'll run into them 7 years, 2 months and 13 days from now and what we did on this day will be idle chit chat. "Well how is that deal going?, has it been seven years, seems like just yesterday, time flies, hows the weather, blah, blah, blah. "

Perhaps I'll wake up soon and find I'm late for my paper route and forgot to study for an Algebra test.

15 March 2011

My bracket

It's college basketball tournament time. Before it was "March Madness" or "The Big Dance" or other marketing lables it was simply "the tournament" at my house.

I did not grow up in a sports family. My dad had a passing knowledge of sports. Some from his days as a HS football player, some from being a casual observer, but no one would have ever called him a sports fan. I cannot recall him ever asking me to watch a game with him on TV, or to go to a sporting event (oops, he did take me to a Yankees White Sox game when I was 6). Nothing wrong with that I suppose, just a little weird. Dads are not perfect. Whatever sports skills we three boys picked up was due to our own interest, as this was simply an activity our parents neither encouraged nor discouraged. I played little league baseball in elementary school and somewhere around the seventh grade put on a team uniform for the last time.

But I always loved sandlot baseball and football, and as I grew older basketball. In college I played intramural football and once landed the job of coaching the intramural basketball squad of our dorm. Somehow we won the school championship. I have a memory of a game when a bounce pass landed sweetly in my hands and I launched a jumpshot that went straight for the rim while I hung motionless in mid-air. The trophy is in our basement, in two or three pieces. My college team was in the NAIA and because admission was free I was at almost every home game, watching us play UMKC, Evangel, William Jewell, or archrival Drury.  I also coached a third grade boys basketball team in college. When my wife and I brought our first child home from the hospital, she headed to the bedroom to rest. I laid on the floor with my new daughter and watched an Arkansas Razorbacks game. As a father I spent hundreds of hours playing basketball with my kids, usually my son, on our driveway. How many times did one of us yell, "...from down-town" and throw a bomb from the far side of the driveway? How many cheers did we get from Caroline, playing cheerleader on the sidelines. These and tons of other memories contributed to an interest in college basketball that has stuck.

I am not an expert. I cannot explain team matchups. I cannot argue the merits of a zone defense or under what circumstances you switch from to man-on-man. I cannot remember from one season to the next who the players were on my favorite team (Missouri). I can barely remember the coach. But I love to watch the game.

My interest in this tournament was generated largely by a guy named Rick Pitino. I watched him on late night ESPN reruns as his teams in the mid-80's began exploiting the new three-point shot as full game weapon. Most other coaches were using it only in desperation. He took a little school named Providence to the final four in 1987 and I think and I was hooked from then on. These were the days when you had to tune to ESPN to catch the early rounds as CBS didnt start coverage until the last 16 teams were decided. There are tons of other memories around this game. Going to my first Final Four in 1990 in Denver and watching UNLV school the nation. The fans of the other three teams, Arkansas, Georgia Tech, Duke, were mere sideshows. In 1999 I was getting ready to watch the championship game when I got word that my father had passed away. Duke vs. UConn. Funny that now whenever I see one of those teams on the court I think of the man who probably never attended a basketball game in his life. In 2005 I took my son to the Final Four in St. Louis and it was weird because neither of us lived there anymore. He was in college and I was in Minnesota.

So when the tournament rolls around my bracket seems to fill up my head. By the time of the first tipoff, it is all that is there. I stare at the pairings, drawing on every game I've ever watched to pull some insight into which team will prevail. During March I see the world through a 64 slot diagram. Investment decisions, menu options, routes into work, relationships.... all fit neatly in a bracket. I have dreamed about the tournament bracket. There is a mathematical beauty in the seemingly endless combinations (in a 64 team bracket there are 2^63 or 9,223,372,036,854,775,808 different ways of completing the bracket). With each game I am either a sports genius or idiot as my bracket looks less and less like actuality with each tick of the time clock. 

There is something about that ball and that hoop that set the rest of the world aside. If you have never had a gym all to yourself, just you a ball and the echoing thump of rubber on hardwood, you have missed one of the best treats in all of sports.

I dread someday going to a nursing home. But if it has a small spot where I can throw a baseball to my great grandkids, or better yet some asphalt and a chain net, I'm there.

06 March 2011

Adventure of the Week

On Friday night Rachel and I went to the Shakopee Auction Center . This was one of the first auctions I've been to in a while, maybe ever, if you don't count charity events. It was interesting. The audience was a wide ranging collection of locals, onlookers, and regulars who had their own assigned metal folding chairs. (Snobbery comes in so many forms). Jerry, a regular who was sitting in front of me, gave us some good advice and helped us understand the code language of this particular auction house. However, he was a talker, and I don't care much for talkers. When he started telling me what I did and did not want to bid on, it was time to escape to a nearby Chinese restaurant for dinner. Writing this on a Sunday afternoon, it has just started snowing again. Nice thing about snow, it always makes my yard look just a good as my two next door neighbors.

Our yard in March

Looks the same as in December, January, February. The last neighbor turned off Christmas lights about ten days ago. I have not been able to get the strings of lights out from around the shrubs and it is starting to bug me now.

23 February 2011

More snow and more snow and more snow....

The weekend that started with a forecast for a few flurries turned in to one of the biggest storms in our time in Minnesota. All told almost 20 inches fell before it finally subsided. It came right in the middle of Katie's visit which ended up changing all sorts of plans for the weekend. But all in it was a great time and we had a wonderful visit with our niece/cousin. So we missed the day trip to Stillwater and the search for some memorable new restaurant and substituted with a Sunday afternoon at Mall of America and dinner at Santorini, our local Greek restaurant. There were six of us and we were probably half the crowd in the restaurant. We still have several weeks of winter to go but this is already the biggest of our tenure here, at 80 inches thus far. Typical for us has been 45-60. So things are back to normal and after a few days last week of actually seeing grass, we are now back to deep piles of white everywhere. Sunday night was spent by both Katie and me killing time at the airport waiting for our flights to take off, she heading back home, me off to Newark. I finally crawled into bed at a hotel in Princeton NJ around 3am.

18 February 2011

I saw my yard today

For the first time since last November I saw part of my lawn this morning. Ugly sight. A snowman that was built back in November and toppled in December, has been uncovered by the melt.

It was 50 degree yesterday, unseasonably warm. Today it is back to normal, 20's. Not much snow ahead though. Spring training cranks up this week. Albert, stay with the Cardinals, take whatever offer you get. Cardinals, give him whatever he wants.

Niece Katie is coming today, bringing some more of the right kind of warmth to our home in winter.

13 February 2011


I missed this and could have done more to stop it.

07 February 2011

Six more weeks, or so, of winter

Annual ice fishing trip was this weekend to a local lake. Ice was about two feet thick. Robin and I caught about six small walleye total. No pics from that expedition. Here's the house in Feb. Still too much snow around the bushes to get the Christmans lights and wreaths down. Maybe by next month.

30 January 2011

Three memories of Argentina.

Just got back from Buenos Aires with my wife. Blah blah blah, wonderful city, blah blah great art and crafts and all the like. Weather was wonderful. The memories I will take away could not be more diiferent. Three stand out. The restaurant Las Lilas was one of the few expensive restaurants I've been to that lives up to the hype. Blah blah blah steaks, blah blah blah octupus, dessert, all were great.Probably what I will remember most ten years from now. Second, my wife spending a grueling night with a stomach virus ( no photo available ). Third was Evita's tomb. Modest by the gaudy standards of this cemetery. You have to hunt for it. Hundred and hundreds of crypts.

22 January 2011

Our home in January

It was 2 degrees this morning. Cold, but 24 degrees warmer than the 22 below of yesterday morning. Snow is mailbox high everywhere and the snow mounds at the end of driveways are 4-6 feet high. It is a little hard keeping the house warm but nice just the same.

Wisconsin Farmland

I've never been one to take pictures out of airplanes, but this scene the other evening was really special. Wisconsin from the air. Taken on a flight between Minneapolis and Milwaukee. Just after sunset, full moon.

01 January 2011

Burning the Red Sox hat

We started the year off right with the ritual burning of a red sox hat. The tradition has been previously documented in this blog.

Snow Mountain

This is the pile of snow at the end of our street. When the snow plow comes they push it all here. There is a band of grade school age boys that stand guard over it, reshaping it to fit the latest make believe battle or other adventure. Since we have lived here the mound has never made it to April.The rising temperatures of early spring turn what's left of it into a small pile of dirt in the last days of March.