Tuesday, December 31, 2013

The Brewery Village

This year, I added a beer wagon to my Christmas Village.  I really enjoy seeing the brewery, maltings, grist mill and bierstube lit up.  It's a fun homage to my career at Coors and really looks festive.
This year I tried to take a few quick photos, but eventually I'm planning to do a proper photo shoot of the village and experiment with that kind of photography.

Beer wagon arrives

Brewery, Grist Mill and Maltings
It's a good way to end the year, thinking of my Coors pals and all the fun we had working in the beer business.  The brewery was a festive place during the holidays with Winterfest beer and good friends.

Monday, December 30, 2013

I love Thank Yous! but sometimes it isn't easy

My best friend from Colorado, Roche, visited Rice Lake in November for a few days.  It was fun but I was sick with a rotten cold and for most of the visit, I had no voice.  But, we managed to get around and look at a few of the local sights, eat out a few times and get to a college basketball game & the Mall of America.  
As a surprise to me, after Roche went home, she went on line and ordered a thank you Christmas centerpiece to be delivered.
About that same time, our weather got nasty here.  About a foot of snow, ice and really cold temps.
On a Wednesday, I got a call from a local florist (who will remain nameless here) and he told me that he had a delivery for me, said he should have delivered it to me already but the order came on the internet and there was a problem with the computer and on that day, the roads were ice ruts.  Then he told me that his delivery guy is 85 years old, & he didn't want to send him out into the weather and I concurred.  He wanted to bring the arrangement the next day.  He talked so fast, I could hardly catch what he was saying.
Well, Thursdays I play cards, so that would not work.   
I asked if I could just pick up the flowers on Friday since I needed to do an errand near his shop anyway.  He was delighted that I didn't mind doing that, so that was the plan.
I arrived at the flower shop Friday, mid afternoon.  It was about zero outside, but I had been running errands so my car was warm for the pick up of something pretty.
When I walked in the shop and told the man my name, he paused, and looked at me funny and said, "gee that name is so familiar to me".  So, I explained the story to refresh his memory.
Much to my surprise, he said "oh I haven't made that arrangement yet".
So, I asked if it would be ready the next day if I came back.  
(By now I'm thinking that this is really a nightmare.)
Then he said, "why don't you just pick out something else, besides that arrangement is really not that nice".
Quite the salesman for tele-flora, eh?
So, I said okay, let me look around.  He gave me an idea of the value.  He had some huge poinsettias but I don't think the cats would leave them alone, and then I'd have sick cats.
He suggested a couple of orchids, and that pleased me.  I love orchids and have good luck with the cats ignoring them, whereas the cats like to eat any fresh flowers or corn husks or grass or any other live things.
So, I came home with two lovely pink orchids, in nice pots.
A breath of spring in a very cold winter

One has some spotted leaves and a little different shade of pink.

So pretty, what a wonderful gift.
As it turns out, this was a better gift than a live arrangement as these orchids will last me for a number of years if I am a good orchid mother.
Thanks Roche for the great thank you gift, even though it was kind of confusing getting it.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

When does the tree go?

I've been wondering how long to leave the Christmas tree up, 
it is pretty,
 it doesn't take much space
 it is pretty simple to put away
 (it lives in the closet in the off season, under a trash bag, complete with ornaments attached).

My Aunt Johanne sent me a note recently and mentioned that my grandmother used to leave her Christmas tree up until January 6th.  I've decided that date works for me as well and it will be my new custom to leave the tree up until that date each year.  Using Google to investigate the significance of the date, I found that the Danish traditions, which include celebrating Christmas the night of the 24th; celebrating first and second Christmas on the 25th and the 26th; also includes celebrating The Epiphany on January 6th.

I'm not particularly religious, and my knowledge of religious traditions is often lacking.  
Actually, I'm not much for worship and other 'churchy' activities.
I guess I would say that I am spiritual - in a way, but for me, church is about community and friendship and caring for one another.  The fact that my grandmother left her Christmas tree up until January 6th may have been mostly to recognize The Epiphany.  It may also have been so that friends and family, who visited after Christmas, could enjoy the joy of her decorated tree.

There is much talk these days about "Keeping Christ in Christmas".  
I always wonder about that statement, and now I've seen some folks wearing buttons on their winter coats displaying this demand.  If one observes Christmas as a time of wonder, joy, celebration and love, whether it be because of the birth of a Christ child, or because they love the spirit of giving and sharing and coming together with family and friends, can it really be so bad? 
And really, can anyone make anyone else "Keep Christ in Christmas"?  I think not, it has to be in your heart and mind if you want Christmas to be about Christ.
I am tempted (but never have) to say to those who promote the 'Keep Christ in Christmas' slogan:  "You celebrate Christmas for the reasons you feel are important and I will do the same."  
Until I see no one shopping in preparation for the holiday, 
I will assume that gifts, giving, sharing and friendship are still part of why we feel Christmas is a magical time of year, regardless of your religious viewpoint.

And just as my parting comment, I wish you all Happy Holidays.  
Happy for you might mean observing the religious significance of Christmas or it might mean appreciating the company of family and friends, or it might mean decorating and enjoying solitude in your home, or it might even mean a day off from work and time to sleep in.  
Whatever makes you happy, that is my wish for you this holiday season.

I'll be happy enjoying seeing my Christmas tree in the living room for another 8 days.
I love my little tree  - 12.27.2013
Happy Holidays to all!

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Sunshine and warmth is nice

We had a very nice sunny day today with temperatures near 50.  What?
I worked on shoveling off the front deck and managed to clear about 2/3 of the area.  I also scraped at the driveway, clearing about 1/3 of the snow off the asphalt with the help of the sun.  I trudged through the deep snow to the blue spruce in the back yard and shoveled out the solar charger for the lights that are on that tree, and I retrieved the trail cam from the backyard as well.  
The birds have really been enjoying the suet bags I hung for Lille Jule Aften.
While I was outside today, one Downy Woodpecker seemed to be willing to have a photo shoot.
His head feathers are so sleek and shiny.

The red cap so distinctive

They close their eyes when they hammer into the suet and then their little tongues grab the treat.

The fine white feathers around the eye really show

Eventually he thought I was creeping a little too close for comfort.
 Just after the Downy Woodpecker flew off, I was treated with the Red Breasted Nuthatch.
He didn't stay as long but gave me a chance for a quick click anyway.
Red breasted nuthatch
It's fun to watch the birds in the yard, makes filling the bird batch, filling the seed trays and hanging the suet bags well worth the effort.

Friday, December 27, 2013


I've had a very nice birthday so far.  Lots of cards in the mail from friends and family,   Many greetings on Facebook.  One wonderful phone call from Camilla and a birthday song sang by many great nieces and great nephews.  Another surprise call from friends Rick and Mary, Rick played happy birthday on his saxophone.  Calls from family and friends have kept me busy most of the morning.  Here is a photo of all my cards and some gifts.  Also a photo of card from Laila, the message is Have a fun day, hang around in your underwear if you want to.  I loved it.

I'm lucky to have so many greetings from near and far.

Meeting Glenn and Kathy for fish fry tonight, looking forward to a tasty birthday supper.

Life is good.

Supper was excellent, turns out the VFW in Almena (Pop. 677) has a really good fish fry.  I am always on the hunt for really good fish, and I think this one is a winner.
I really enjoyed the evening with Glenn & Kathy and having time to visit with them and catch up a bit.

I really can't remember having such a nice birthday.
It was filled with so many nice connections with family and friends.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Christmas Day 2013

Lotsa folks working today..some plowing our roads, police, fire and ambulance in case we need them, medical folks caring for the sick & elderly, miscellaneous and many others who mind other businesses that are open for travelers and hungry folks, and very dear to my heart, the brewery workers, some who are watching over the brews-in-progress that we will enjoy later on 2014.  I am grateful for each and everyone.  Cheers! & Merry Christmas.


Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Christmas Eve 2013 and An Ode to Peace

An Ode to Peace – December 2013

This ode is quite different from those in the past,
A single topic instead of the normal ‘year in review’ blast.

I’m trying to push Peace as often as I can in life, it seems a good thing to do,
Whether it is in a bit of jewelry, how I vote, a sign on the wall, or in this note to you.

Many concerning events around the globe, or in the lives of friends, cause me to reflect,
And appreciate that my retirement life is, most days, filled with Peace and close to perfect.

Dad and Ev enjoy a quiet life most days, and no major health issues as their ages they cheat,
They look forward to weekends like most of us, finding a bit more Peace and quiet, and that is treat.

A great-great niece born in November, with both Mom and baby healthy and happy, is a load off my mind,
One more added to the family is a treat, although for a new Mom, Peacefulness might be hard to find.

And more babies are coming, two more ‘greats’ are expected in the coming year,
The addition of these babies of my peaceful life will be held very dear.

Enjoying Mother Nature’s Peace and Grace through the lens of my camera I love,
Many photos of birds and flowers and more are something I am proud of.

Continuing to appreciate the seasons with the extreme temperatures that this Wisconsin climate holds,
Is some days challenging but overall, the peacefulness & beauty of this state is something to behold.

So, I hope that this holiday season finds you enjoying whatever moments of Peace you can find,
I’ll be thinking of you and wishing only the best, my family and friends are never far from my mind.

So, as we look forward to a prosperous new year and as 2013 comes to a close,
My wish for you is that you find a few Peaceful moments in each of your days, and so ends my prose.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

A nice Christmas outing

On Friday night, I went with friends Pete & Carol to Eau Claire to see a concert by George Winston.  We ate at a restaurant in downtown Eau Claire before the event.  Houligans has a pub atmosphere and the food was really delicious.  They have their own candied garlic sauce and on beef, that was out of this world.  The show was really enjoyable.  George Winston plays most of his own compositions, so for my friends Pete and Carol, who had never heard of him before, it was enjoyable, but for me it was great.  I have most of his CDs and love his folk style piano playing.  His hands just fly on the keys.  He included a couple of songs on the guitar and also one on the harmonic.  He has a quiet, informal style of performing.  Once his fingers are on the keys, the theater is filled with the most beautiful music.
Our drive home was a little snowy, but I rode with my friends so only had to manage the 10 miles home from our meeting spot.  It was a little slick, but I made it safely.
It was a nice Christmas evening and George Winston did play a couple of familiar tunes in his performance.
I was reading his bio after I got home.  I loved that it said that George Winston plays Steinway pianos.

I could not really get much done today after both cats piled on my lap.

On a related note, I met with my piano teacher this week to make a plan for my lessons.  I've been feeling a little stuck and not very motivated.  After a good chat, I decided to set my goals on learning more songs that I can play for others and to slow down on the theory learning.  By focusing on playing for pleasure, I think it will increase my desire to practice.  I'll continue to work on learning new theory, but it isn't going to be job one each week.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Winter is here

Monday morning was snowing and windy and cold.  Temps in single digits, wind chills in the negative column.  All this blustery weather, made for busy times at the bird feeders.

I love a blue jay in the snow.

 I'm not sure if this guy was loving the snow.
He looks cranky.

White breasted nuthatch grabbing a snack.
 This new suet bag has really brought the woodpeckers.
I watched several downy woodpeckers waiting in the queue to have a snack, but the red bellied woodpecker as the boss.
Waiting his turn.

Sneaking a bite

 Finally the downy got brave enough to sneak a peck at the log.
Getting braver
 I'm going to have to grab a few more of these suet bags next time I am at the grocery.

Red breasted nuthatch...he's a new addition to my regular birds this year.
Nice day at the feeders for sure, and glad I can be toasty warm in the house while I watch and take photos!

Monday, December 16, 2013

You know I believe

Yes, you know, if you read this blog, that I believe in thank you notes.
I try to be sure to write them and I love to get them.
Here are two I received recently from my great nieces after I sent them a birthday card and a little cash.

It's fun to see the kids grow up, address their own envelopes, sign their names, etc.
And it's really nice to see they learn to write a good thank you note as well.
Life is Good.

Sunday, December 15, 2013


Recently the Humane Society where I adopted the kitties about 5 years ago, asked if they could use their picture and story in their monthly newsletter. 
 Of course, we were flattered.

With Facebook as a good help in communications, this local Humane Society places many of the animals that they receive in forever homes.  None more important than my two though.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

A drink with friends

One of my little pleasures on a cold winter day is to watch the activity at the heated bird bath.
The little finch really are thirsty and seem to gather there as friends do at the local watering hole.

Minus 11 here this morning with wind chills predicted to be in the -25 to -40 range, the weatherfolks say that this is abnormally chilly for December.  While it looks like a white Christmas is a no brainer, it would be good to have a few more degrees to ease the stress on furnaces and people & little birds.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

2013-14 Winter has begun

This past week has been cold and snowy.  It seems like we jumped from Fall into snow covered, below zero weather.  The transition has caused me to be whiny.
The birds really have it tough in this weather.
The downy woodpeckers love the suet and also the finch sock.

These little finch drink from the bird bath and spend most of the day on the finch sack.

I feel badly that these little birds have to sit on ice covered branches.

The red breasted woodpecker really makes short work of the suet block.

White breasted nuthatch perched on the snow.

Monday, December 9, 2013

2013 Hunting

A couple of hunting photos that I got in text messages during the 2013 hunt.
Gus, Glenn, Kyle
Gage, Jack
Andy, Alyxis
Dead deer

Kyle and son Jack
I had breakfast with Gus this past week and got updated on how much fun was had during the hunt.
I'm always glad when the hunt is over and everyone is safe.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

And so it begins

Our first real snow for the 2013-14 winter.  
About 6 inches of heavy snow, but it is very pretty. It was time to get the ground covered.

Wanda Johansen
from my Note II

Friday, November 29, 2013

To be continued

It's been a busy couple of weeks with a trip to Alma to spend a day at Anders' school and having friend, Roche, visit from Colorado for a week.  Add in a rotten chest cold and my blogging has been delayed.  
I did manage to get my Christmas Village set up this week, and as you can see a large cat is causing havoc for the villagers.

Barley frightens the villagers

More to come soon with photos and story about the had over the last couple of weeks.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

A visitor from the West

Roche and I have been friends for over 40 years.  She has only visited my home in RL for lunch once when she drove up with her Mom for a short visit.  We have a mutual friend who is assistant coaching the Loyola (Chicago) Women's Basketball Team and I had noticed that Loyola would be playing the Minnesota Gopher girls in MPLS in November, so we hatched a plan.  Roche flew in on Friday, 11/22 and I picked her up at the airport in MN.  A long drive home, but time to visit and catch up.  That evening we met my Rice Lake friends, Carol & Pete, at The Elks for fish fry.  It was fun to have new friends and old friend all together.
The weather was cold but the roads were good, so on Saturday, we took a drive up to the Sandcastle.  It was opening weekend of the 9 day rifle deer hunting season, so there were hunters at the cabin.
Dana, Andy, Rochelle, Glenn & Wanda
Thanks to Alyxis for taking our picture for us!
I had made a couple of orange scarves for us to wear so we would be safe from the hunters!
We stayed long enough to chat a bit and use the outhouse and then headed back to Rice Lake.
Back in Rice Lake we stopped in at a shoe close out sale and each picked up 3 new pairs of shoes for a bargain!  Then we had some dinner and headed home.
By this time, I had started to have a full blown chest cold and was feeling a little puny.
Sunday, we hung out at my house, watched football, ate snacks and visited, although when I woke up that morning, I had almost no voice, so I whispered most everything I wanted to say.
Monday we took a drive over to Glenn's lake cabin and picked up our Sandcastle generator and instant water heater.  Roche got the tour of the cabins!
While we watched Monday Night Football, I put up my Christmas Village and tree.
Little brewery village up and running.
Tuesday, we headed to MPLS, stopping for lunch in Baldwin and then checking into a hotel close to the Mall of America.  That night we went to see the women play basketball at William's Arena.
The usher was more than happy to snap our photo.
We were all decked out in Loyola colors (which also happen to be Gopher colors).

Team intros...head coach Sheryl Swoopes and assistant coach Jeanine Wasielewski

Assistant coach Was with head coach Swoopes

It was very fun to see Jeanine and to see her doing something she is so passionate about, even though was a tough loss for the Loyola girls and one of their starters got injured.

Tuesday night in the hotel I was a mess, coughing all night, but the next day we headed over to the Mall of America to look around.  Just before we went, through the magic of Facebook, we hatched a plan to meet one of Roche's college roommates for lunch.
So, we hung out at the mall for a bit.
 These LEGO displays are amazing.
My great nephew Jackson loves LEGOS and I hear he has been to this store more than once.

The PEEPS store was amazing.
Pretty crazy how many flavors and colors were available.

We ate lunch at Bubba Gump's with Lynn.  Roche & Lynn had been college roommates at Eau Claire.
I had met Lynn once briefly, it was a nice lunch and since my voice was gone, I mostly just listened.

 I ordered a cocktail for medicinal purposes, and got to keep the glass.

Our plan had been to stay overnight again Wednesday night, Roche's brother Paul would join us, and then the 3 of us planned to go to the Nuggets vs. Timberwolves game on Wednesday night.
I couldn't make it.  I felt awful and decided to head home while it was still light.
Roche and Paul went to the basketbasll game and then flew to Denver the next morning to spend Thanksgiving in Colorado.
I was home in my jammies and cold medicine and hot tea, with no voice, for Thanksgiving.

It was great to have Roche here, it's a shame I felt so crappy but she put up with me 
and we made the best of it.


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