America the Beautiful

Today is the last day of Macy’s annual flower show in downtown Minneapolis.  This year’s theme is America the Beautiful.  There are displays of flowers or plant life from every region of the United States.  As usual, the scenes were beautiful.

Bachman’s replaces some of the flowers, such as Daffodils, Hyacinths and Tulips, to keep the flowers looking fresh.  Each year, more than 65,000 people visit, and it’s always on my list of things to do in the spring.  Seeing the flowers gives us hope for our gardens as we wait for flowers to bloom.

Earth laughs in flowers.  ~Ralph Waldo Emerson


No Crumbs Were Left Behind


For Christmas, my husband surprised me with a gift of a weekend getaway for both of us at the Ann Bean Mansion in Stillwater. As the temperatures dropped, my vision of wandering around Stillwater to shop sunk like the rapidly decreasing temperatures. We knew it was going to be a hibernating sort of weekend, and we decided it would be a great time to hang out in a mansion instead of being cooped up at home.  Besides, it gave us a reason to be lazy and just relax, which is always nice.

Before we went to the mansion, we stopped at Pub 112 in downtown Stillwater for dinner.  To warm my bones, I had a Sunburnt Nutty Irishman which is made with Tullamore Dew, Frangelico, Bailey’s Irish Cream, River Moon Coffee and topped with whipped cream.  I also ordered the Guinness Beef Stew.  The beef was tender and accompanied by root vegetables, peas, mushrooms, fresh herbs and topped with baby red mashed potatoes.  The green stuff that adorned the plate tasted like kale.  When I asked the waitress what it was, she confirmed my suspicion and said it was deep-fried.  The crisp kale was different prepared that way, and I wondered if all the nutrients got fried away too.  As I savored each bite, hubby enjoyed his burger.  After we cleaned our plates, we were off to find the mansion which was just a short trip away.


When we entered the place, it felt warm and cozy even though the entryway is quite large.  We were greeted by Jeremy, the innkeeper.  Jeremy and Erin, a husband and wife team, have been innkeepers since 2004.  Jeremy told us that the mansion was built in 1880, and he escorted us to the Hersey room.  Mr. Hersey was part owner of Hersey, Bean and Brown Lumber just when the town of Stillwater was getting settled.  To read more about the history of the mansion, click here.

Jeremy brews his own beer and told us about the never-ending supply of warm chocolate chip cookies that can be found in the dining room.  After we got settled, we ventured off to find the cookies with melted chocolate chips.  We had to restrain ourselves from visiting that room too much, but we did go there a few times!

We explored the living room, and I took these photos.

I enjoyed looking at the antiques and the beautifully carved woodwork that surrounded the rooms.

Mr. Hersey’s room, below, was quite large and is heated by a fireplace.

Looks like someone forgot their shoes!

That night, besides eating cookies, we lounged, watched TV, and I browsed through the History of Stillwater where I discovered that Mr. Hersey was quite the lumberman. It was very quiet even though we heard other guests come and go every once in a while. I was surprised that the old windows in the building didn’t make the place too drafty, but closing the shades helped a lot.  The still night turned into a peaceful morning.

We had breakfast in our room, but guests do have the option of eating in the dining room, if they’re feeling social that is!  Somebody knocked at our door, and left a sumptuous tray of food without being seen.  No crumbs were left behind at this meal either!

Merlot Poached Pears with Yogurt and Granola
Cheddar Gougere with Tomato Jam
Buckwheat Blini with Dutch Apple Compote and Sausage
Peach Mango Crumble

St. Michael's

Thankfully, our old van turned right over even though the temperature was still below zero.  We visited the Church of St. Michael for mass a few blocks away.  We got to explore another beautiful old building that is one of the oldest parishes in Minnesota that was built in 1853.

We had such a nice and relaxing time, we’re thinking about going back again when the weather gets warmer or maybe we’ll go when it’s below zero again…

Kept Me on My Toes

Bauer 11-20-15

Bauer’s nose was causing trouble when he stayed with us a few weeks ago. That nose was pointed up high in the air and steered him to a couple of adventures. Bauer has stayed with us before while his master was away, and those times went pretty well, but this time, Bauer seemed more hyper than usual. I just thought he was hungry, but I later found out that wasn’t the case.

We’ve known Bauer for about three and a half years now. The first time my husband and I met Bauer, we were visiting our son Matt at his apartment. Our son found Bauer at an animal shelter in a small town in northern Minnesota. Bauer was very happy to meet us. He wagged his tail and jumped up to greet us, but there were times when he growled at us too. The first time he growled at me was during our visit when he was sitting on my lap. I tried to change the way he was sitting because it was getting uncomfortable. He growled when I held his front legs and put them in a different position. I growled back, but that didn’t scare him like his growl scared me!

As the years passed, we’ve found that the more Bauer gets used to us, the less he growls. Now, Bauer only growls at our dog Lila when Lila gets too close to Matt or me. I guess he likes to have us to himself. Lila has slowly gotten more used to Bauer too. Lila just moseys along like she didn’t hear anything. She doesn’t hide in other rooms when Bauer’s around anymore and doesn’t lose lots of fur like she did when Bauer first started visiting us.

Bauer is very attentive when I cook. As I worked to get things ready during this last visit, he patiently sat close just waiting for some morsel to drop. When dinner was over and the dishes removed from the table, Bauer hopped up on a chair and onto the table to help make sure no messes were left behind. While the dishes were being cleaned off and placed into the dishwasher, Bauer watched carefully to see if anything fell where it shouldn’t. Just as everything was cleaned up and I thought I could sit down to relax, I heard Bauer clawing away at the cupboards where the garbage can is stored. That’s when I figured out that Bauer could break the rubber bands that held the cupboard closed and that the chopstick that I placed in between the handles didn’t work too well either.  The next day, I bought a childproof lock that worked so well I didn’t want to bother with it every time I had to throw something away. Instead, I used a temporary garbage can in the garage, and Bauer found out how to get into the Tupperware cupboard instead.

Bauer is a Beagle and Blue Heeler mix.

One night, Bauer was going crazy after our daughter Katie came home from work. Katie brings home lots of bags with papers and books and things to help her prepare for her next day as a teacher. Bauer kept sniffing at one of those bags. Katie said there wasn’t any food there, so I believed her. When I was getting ready for bed, I looked to see if Bauer was where I last saw him.  He wasn’t, and I heard funny noises coming from the dining room.  When I found Bauer, he was clawing and chewing away at a granola bar. Half of the granola bar was gone by the time I got there, and I sat and watched him enjoy the rest of it. I learned from previous experience not to get in the way of a dog and his food – especially Bauer’s.

Thankfully there was no chocolate in the granola bar, and Bauer seemed so happy to go to bed after he found that treat. Except his stomach told a different story the next morning when I found a puddle of something dark had soaked into my comforter. (No other dog has been allowed to sleep in our bed, except this one!)  Bauer threw up the following morning too, right on the sheets. All the bedding got a good washing those two days. I think the second mishap occurred because I fed him too much the day before. I thought with his nose going 60 miles an hour everyday trying to find more food meant he was hungry, but I was wrong. Too many treats from me caused that last unexpected outburst.

After those two unfortunate incidents, Bauer wasn’t so hyper any more. I was happy about that because if he was going to keep up those shenanigans, it was going to drive me crazy with the way he kept me on my toes all the time. It seemed like we were getting used to each other until the next day in the kitchen. Bauer gave me another surprise when he jumped up and grabbed onto a white container with his paws. The container dropped to the floor. Inside was a piece of lasagna that was supposed to be my dinner. I watched as he gobbled it down, licking the container clean. I wondered if lasagna would cause another upset stomach, but it didn’t. The only one who was upset was me because I didn’t get to enjoy the lasagna.

We’ll never know why Bauer seemed so out of sorts at the beginning of his visit, but it might have been because he had a little separation anxiety.  When Matt came back from his trip, and I told him about our adventures, Matt just said, “He’s smart.” Matt and Bauer spent another day with us, and the next day, the two of them got ready to head back to their home.  I watched the car back out of the driveway like I always do. Matt waved good-bye, and Bauer stood on the front passenger’s seat with his front paws leaning by the bottom of the window. He waved his farewell by swinging his tail back and forth while looking my way, and I thanked God we all survived!

Even though that little creature and his nose kept me on my toes, I think it’s funny how I can’t wait for both of them to come back for another visit. I hope it’s soon.  🙂

Helping Us Celebrate Christmas

Flexible Flyer

It was only a short ride, and after we got out of the car, Dad pulled the sled along. When we got to the edge of the hill, the hill going down looked huge to me.  There was a lot of snow, and many people were sliding down the hill while others were walking up the side to go back down again.  Everyone looked like they were having fun.  Dad sat on the Flexible Flyer, and I sat in front of him.  I wasn’t scared because Dad was holding on to me very tightly.

“Are you ready?” he asked. I must have nodded my head which was covered in my little white cap.  The cap was as fluffy as a lamb and had a little doll’s head sewn to one side.  I wore my red boots that were wide opened at the top so my snow pants could fit inside.  Dad pushed the ground with his hands and we slowly went over the top of the hill. Suddenly we were flying down the snowy path.  Dad still hung onto me while steering with his feet by using the wooden bar in front. Little flecks of snow hit me in the face, and the ride gave me a feeling I didn’t like and never felt before.  It seemed like something was fluttering around in my stomach.  Those butterflies were trying to catch up – they bounced up and down with each bump in the hill, and I wished they would disappear.  I held my breath and decided to just look at my boots until we got to the bottom. I thought if I focused on something, I wouldn’t get even more dizzy.

“Wasn’t that fun?” Dad asked me after we got off the sled. He bent down to look into my eyes.  “Do you want to go again?”

“No,” I said. I didn’t cry, and I know I didn’t think it was fun, and I told Dad.  He was disappointed I didn’t want to go again.  Scary rides or feelings of butterflies in my stomach were not for me at the age of four.  As I followed Dad back up the hill while he pulled the sled along, I was so glad we weren’t going to use the sled again. Now, when I think back, it’s a wonder we flew down the hill as fast as we did. Those old Flexible Flyers are made from solid wood and steel and probably weigh at least thirty pounds. Those sleds are antiques now.

When my brothers cleaned out my parents’ garage, neither one of them wanted the Flexible Flyers. I took them mostly because I couldn’t see us getting rid of them for sentimental reasons.  Luckily, a friend of mine told me how she decorates her old sled and sets it out on her stoop as a Christmas decoration.  After I found a picture of a decorated sled on Pinterest, I went to the craft store and bought some fake foliage, ribbon, and bells.  I used a bunch of floral wire to keep the decorations in place.  When I finished the project, I was pleased how it turned out, but I couldn’t figure out where to put it without having to rearrange the entire house!  Eventually, the sled ended up sitting in our entryway.  Now that big old sled decorates a corner of our home helping us celebrate Christmas while bringing back some fun memories.

Next year, I might decorate the other one with gold ribbons and bells. I’ll just have to figure out where to display it!

Merry Christmas!


They Think I Dressed Them Weird

Christmas Picture of Girls

It seemed like such an easy plan, but the process completely wiped me out. The idea was to take a trip to the mall to get the girls’ pictures taken. The baby was only a month old, and I didn’t think it would be a big deal to get both children ready all by myself. The pictures had to be taken in time to be given as Christmas presents and sent out as Christmas cards. Well before that day arrived, I decided the outfits should match and that Laura would wear a dress. Since we didn’t know the gender of our baby before she was born, I made Katie’s outfit using one of my favorite patterns – a one-piece ensemble. I used a red, stretchy cotton fabric for the bodice and cuffs and booties to match. The rest of the outfit was red, blue, and white plaid.  Laura’s dress was the same plaid material with lace added to the hem and with a frilly collar sewn to the top.

After the girls were in their outfits with their shoes and baby booties in place, winter coats, hats, and mittens all where they belonged, I remembered the red bows. One bow was attached to a barrette for Laura’s hair and the other was a ribbon to get stuck on top of Katie’s fuzzy head.  I attached the bow to Katie’s hair with some sort of gooey stuff that was invented for just that purpose!

By the time we got to the mall, I was feeling less stressed and happy to be among the crowds of people. We hung out there for a long while on our first of many shopping trips together.  Luckily the bows and everything else stayed on for the adorable pictures.

Sometimes when our three kids look at old photo albums together now, they tell me that they think I dressed them weird. Doesn’t every older kid say that? Isn’t it because the fashions change? Probably it was because I didn’t dress them most of the time. I let them wear what they wanted . . . (Just saying!)

Anyway, luckily Laura and Katie think this picture is a cute one!  Looking at it brings back a lot of great memories, and I’m especially thankful I remembered the bows!

Hiding Among the Trunks of Towering Trees

The minute my husband walked into the door last Monday night, I could tell something was wrong.

“Lila really got into something,” he said. He did not look happy. They had just come home from their walk, and according to my husband, Lila, our dog, was covered in something disgusting.

“It can’t be that bad,” I thought to myself because Lila’s not one to get into too much stuff.

“We have to give her a bath. She couldn’t go back in the van. The van is still down by the park. She’s covered with whatever it is she got into.”

Lila can get into a bit of something small in the yard, and she rubs her neck into the offending odor. Like that’s not good enough, she turns to rub the other side of her neck into it too. Usually, it’s not that bad and we can’t even tell she’s trying to smell like something else. This little routine usually happens after a bath, but it’s been a few weeks since she’s had one.

Since the hoses are tucked away for the winter, and we didn’t want to drag them outside, turn on the outdoor faucets and freeze the little girl into an ice cycle, I opened the basement window while my husband attached the hose to the laundry tub. We pushed the hose through the window out into our backyard. While my husband went to get Lila from the front yard, I went to turn on the flood light in the back and then went to the linen closet to grab some towels.

Once I saw both of them in the back yard, I couldn’t believe what I saw. I was surprised to see the entire side of Lila’s beautiful black coat smeared with something orange. We’ve never seen her get so covered with anything before.

After I got the thumbs up sign from my husband, I ran downstairs back to the laundry tub, and turned on the water. Lila didn’t mind getting a bath outside even though it was cold out. The water was warm, but I wondered if she was confused as to why we were washing away the treasure she found. She must have been disappointed that we didn’t like her discovery.

20151011_072854Lila after a bath at Lulu & Luigi’s
a few weeks ago.

A few days later, my husband and Lila went down to the park in the light of day to see what it was that Lila had gotten into. Our suspicions were confirmed when he saw two rotting pumpkins sitting in the park hiding among the trunks of towering trees.  We know she likes pumpkin because we give it to her as a treat either frozen with plain yogurt in her Kong or just straight from the can into her food bowl. We were surprised she liked it enough to glide through it with one side of her entire body – especially when it was rotten.

“That’s okay, Lila,” I said. “You needed a bath to be ready for Thanksgiving company.”

Perhaps she just wanted to be a part of all the festivities!

We can only be said to be alive in those moments when our hearts are conscious of our treasures. ~Thornton Wilder

Hanging On . . .

While on walks at the preserve with Lila our dog this fall, I snapped a few pictures.  Seeing some of the leaves still hanging on during mid-November was quite a change to what we’re used to in Minnesota – our fall weather was so nice this year.  Now that Mr. Frost has visited us, almost all of the leaves are resting on the ground waiting for the snow to fall.

In autumn, don’t go to jewelers to see gold; go to the parks! ~Mehmet Murat ildan