Friday, July 31, 2009

so long South Dakota

Today we spent the morning relaxing in our cabin, and getting a leisurely start to our day- another achingly beautiful day in the Black Hills of South Dakota.

We headed to the Crazy Horse monument, and it was an incredible experience.

The man responsible for it all was really quite a character. He was asked to sculpt this monument by the Lakota, and arrived in the Black Hills with $174 in his pocket. He lived in a canvas tent for the first 7 months, and in that time built a log cabin for himself to live in. He worked on the monument by himself for several years, eventually his wife and 10 children helped him.

I can't go into all of the details here, you really must go see the site yourself to be inspired by this amazing story. His wife, 83, still works every single day, and keeps things going. Seven of his ten children also work in the business, and the dreams and plans he had for this site will definitely be realized some day.

It is completely privately funded, they have twice turned down large amounts of government money, that would have allowed them to complete the work much faster. Just last week, a woman donated $5 million to the operation. An elder of the Lakota, who is on the board of the Crazy Horse organization, matches all donations made. Every purchase made in the gift shop, or the restaurant, or the gate admissions, helps to keep the work going. When it is completed, it will be the largest sculpture in the world, bigger than any skyscraper, or even the pyramids. You can get a small idea of the proportions, by finding the tiny excavator working in the photo above-taken by Charlie this morning. And it was all started with one man, and some hand tools. A man with an enormous vision, and the character to keep a dream alive.

Pretty darn inspiring. And a great way to end our trip to the Black Hills!
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we still haven't seen it all!

A really chilly morning in Hill City, it was in the low 40's when we woke up today! Thank goodness our cabin had a little heater. Is this really July? Thank goodness for polar fleece.
We were back at Mount Rushmore by 8:30 in the morning, for breakfast with George, Thomas, Theodore, and Abe. The skies were cerulean blue and it was a perfect day for exploring the mountain. It was starting to get quite crowded about the time we were ready to leave, so we jumped in the Ridgeline and headed out to Custer State Park.
Lunch at the Game Lodge (used by Calvin Coolidge as the summer White House, back in the day) was delicious, and fueled us up for an afternoon of exploring the vast prairies of the park. We spied prairie dogs and antelope, and finally came across the promised numbers of buffalo. The winding hills were such fun, Mike loved the pigtail turns (wishing he was taking them on his motorcycle), and the views were beyond spectacular. The best driving and most breathtaking scenery was found along the Needles Highway, and after 'threading the needle' we made our way to Sylvan Lake Lodge for a sumptious dinner. We had the outdoor stone patio to ourselves, and Frank sang to us in the background while we enjoyed the last bits of sunshine.
A fitting end to another wonderful day in South Dakota. If you haven't been, you really must plan a trip out here.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

livin' it up in the Black Hills

Due to painstakingly slow internet connections out here in the west, I was unable to fill you in on yesterday's fun until now-here's day 3-try to control your enthusiasm.

Wednesday dawned cool and rainy, but when you are in the Black Hills, you have so many options that the weather can't bring you down. We packed up and left the casino, happy to have taught Charlie the lesson at a young age that casinos are quite unglamorous, and downright depressing when you come right down to it. We scorned the breakfast buffet at our hotel, and instead found some dandy family dining on the edge of Deadwood, where we joined locals and in-transit bikers for a hearty breakfast. Journeying out of town, we encountered a great antique store that deserved an extended stop (and offered great photo opportunities:) Charlie is quite a trooper when it comes to antique stores. (wahahahaha)
And just down the road a piece, the Chubby Chipmunk, home of the world's finest truffles (anyone who uses 'edible magic' in their chocolate gets my vote), fulfilled our chocolate requirements for the rest of the trip. And if they hadn't been open, we could have simply used the Chub-O-Matic truffle machine, found right outside the store, where you can get your chocolate fix 24 hours a day. I love clever business owners.

Our travels continued, and we happened upon a shop that made both Mike and I happy-they sold Filson clothing, and Brown Sheep Company yarn (my favorite yarn in the whole world). The only thing that prevented it from being perfect was that they had no weapons for Charlie to purchase. But he was still a good sport:
Our travels continued as we headed south down 385-passing through Hill City, Custer City, and Hot Springs on our way to the Mammoth Site. We took the tour, and saw the amazing work they are doing there, recovering nearly 60 wooly mammoths (so far) that were discovered several years ago. Really fascinating stuff. I have a secret wish to go on a dig some day, guess I better get my back in shape first.
We stopped at an adorable little cafe on our way back through Custer, and enjoyed some buffalo chili while giggling over old "Far Side" cartoons, before heading back to Hill City to check in to our cozy old (1940's era) cabin.

Mike and Charlie picked up snacks for dinner at the local grocery store, and before dark we drove to Mount Rushmore for the evening program. It was moving, and beautiful, and makes one remember how lucky we are to live in America. The night was very cold, but the amphitheater was full to bursting with people from all over the country, and all over the world. Really incredible. We were one of the last families there, snapping pictures of the monument in the moonlight. (photos I will share once I can get them from Mike's camera). More to come!

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

blackhills adventure, day 2

Yesterday was a whirlwind trip through the Black Hills, we started out with a little retail therapy in Rapid City, they have a wonderful downtown and I found an amazing bead shop (the owner offered me coffee, and told me I should just stay at her store all day and bead while the guys went exploring!) Mike and Charlie found a 'cool' hobby store, and an 'unbelievable' gun shop, but since it was such a gorgeous day we decided to check out the rest of the shops on our way back through on Friday.

We jumped in the truck and headed north to Lead, where we explored the Homestake Gold Mine, and the tiny downtown.
The drive through Spearfish Canyon was beyond beautiful (I will share shots of that when I can pull the pictures off Mike's camera), and Spearfish itself was worth an extended stop. I explored an antique shop where I found buttons and books and old sewing notions, while Mike wandered through a book store and Charlie checked out a bike shop. After a coffee break, we journeyed to the circus that is Sturgis.
Even though the rally doesn't officially start until Sunday, people are already pouring in to the little town, and the vendors are busy setting up. People watching was very interesting, Charlie got to see his first public drunk, who wound his way across the street on a red light, the bikers just wound there way around him.
Our final stop was Deadwood, we checked in to our room at the Mineral Palace Hotel and Casino, then explored the streets and gambling halls.

We had dinner at Diamond Lil's, in Kevin Costner's Midnight Star Casino. Charlie was hot to gamble, and was trying to figure out how to split all of the money we would win. We agreed to spend $20, and after a few small wins, we decided to quit while we were ahead!

Today, we travel south to Hot Springs, where we will check out the Mammoth Site, and explore Wind Cave National Park. It's raining, and cool, so we are going to do the inside activities today.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

western adventures

We have been wanting to do a South Dakota vacation for years, we are making time this summer to explore all this state has to offer.

Monday dawned bright and sunny, we were on the road by 8 am, and drove through the farm fields of southern Minnesota. The corn was tall and abundant, and our lunch at the Taystee Drive In, in Luverne, was the perfect stop.

We encountered thunder bursts all afternoon, sometimes the rain was so hard we could barely see. Being able to watch the storms approach across the horizon was beautiful, and we watched the lightning dance in the distance. The combination of the wheat fields next to fields of emerald, with dark blue stormy skies, was gorgeous. Our most unique stop was at a gas station in an actual ghost town (not a simulated tourist trap). So desolate, I can't imagine living there.
The Badlands did not disappoint, the formations look delicate, as if they would melt in a big rain. The colors were muted, as it was mostly cloudy on it's way to rain, but still spectacular. Charlie loved climbing, and getting some exercise. It proved to be a very popular spot-we saw license plates from Georgia to Maine, California to New Jersey. Even a busload of Asian tourists! You have to love the American landscape.
We made the obligatory stop at Wall Drug, Charlie was happy to add to his arsenal.
Rapid City was our final destination, we are staying at the very nice Grand Gateway Hotel, and plan to head to Sturgis, Spearfish, and Lead today, ending up in Deadwood. Thank goodness Charlie has a new rifle, as I hear the area is full of gambling and outlaws...

Sunday, July 26, 2009

dirt bike update

Charlie survived another race, and even seemed to enjoy this one! (love the helmet hair) Note the proud papa....
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Saturday, July 25, 2009

oh baby!

Astrid Michelle (pink is definitely her color):
Proud mommy:
Tracy, thanks for letting me share this with you! Such beautiful girls.

save it for later

"Lyrics as Blog Titles Week" ends with this, from the English Beat.

And it refers to preserving the fruits of summer, clearly not the original intention of the song.
Blueberries, raspberries, cherries and strawberries are in abundance right now, whether you pick them up at the grocery store, or go to a farm and pick your own. (Which I hope to do when we get back from vacation, I have a favorite blueberry farm in Maiden Rock, Wisconsin that has been calling out to me to come and visit.)
They are easy to freeze, so you can enjoy them in January and remember what summer tastes like. Simply place them on a cookie sheet, in a single layer, and throw them in the freezer until they are frozen, then toss them in a ziploc, label with the amount, if you wish, and the date, and toss them back in the freezer! Don't wash them until you are ready to use them, and obviously pick out the yucky ones before you freeze them.
On another note, Congratulations to Jed and Tracy on the arrival of their beautiful daughter number three, Miss Astrid Michelle. She arrived at 12:22 p.m.on Thursday, and weighed in at 6 lbs. 11 0z., 20" long. (rest assured I plan to post baby pics once I have them) I spent yesterday afternoon at the hospital, and she slept sweetly in my arms the entire time. Tracy asked if I would like to take her home with me, as that was the most she had slept since arriving in the world.

Does anything smell better than a fresh new baby? My insides ached. Charlie quit smelling like a sweet little baby a really long time ago.
On still another note, Tracy borrowed me her dandy little Canon Elph to take on our trip, so I can test it out and see if it is the model I want. I love our giant Canon camera, it takes great pics, but now and then you just want a small little model to tuck in your pocket. I played with it a bit this morning, look at these fabulous shots! And I did these completely on auto, so imagine what I can do when I play with the settings.

Charlie is off competing in an enduro this afternoon, Mike has his race tomorrow afternoon, and Monday a.m. we head out to the Black Hills of South Dakota. I will be wired up, so I hope to post from the road, and tell you the story of our journey, along with photograhic evidence of all the fun we plan to have.

Friday, July 24, 2009

help, I need somebody

Turns out I could use song lyrics for blog titles forever.
Today I ask for my dear readers help in the horticultural realm.
I LOVE delphiniums. Their graceful beauty has been nurtured in my garden, almost yearly. With plant clutched in my eager hand, I pay for one at the garden center every spring, with hopes high and dreams of blooms. And each spring, they refuse to pop back out of the soil to be enjoyed for another year.
This photo shows this year's candidate riding home in my truck, on it's way home from the garden center where I snagged a very mature plant for half price. Visions of a blur of giant delphiniums, like the ones blooming at Summerhill Farms every year, dance in my head.
While I like to pretend that I know what I am doing when it comes to gardening, my beds don't reflect much knowledge. My containers and window boxes are usually lovely, but my beds never achieve that whole cottage garden look I am shooting for.
I tend not to follow the rules of smart planting, I rarely buy more than one of anything (which may explain why I have never had a delphinium make it through the winter), and while I try to pay attention to heights and blooming times of perenials, I end up moving things a lot, and have a whole garden full of foliage at one point and then a whole garden full of blooms at another.
I am learning. I think.
Although I still only bought one delphinium. But I figure this is the oldest one I have ever planted, so it has a good head start.
Does anyone have any delphinium survival tips for me? (and can anyone tell me why blogger won't work right when I import pictures from Picassa? as this whole margin and spacing deal is driving me insane...)

Thursday, July 23, 2009

she's having a baby

At 10 am this morning, no less.
Is she the cutest pregnant 40 year old ever?
I am picking up Eloise and Esther later this morning, for lunch at my house. They have requested watching "Mama Mia" while they wait to go and visit their mom and new baby sister.
I need to plan something fun for lunch, and perhaps a craft activity....
Good luck Tracy!
(photo courtesy of my sister Heather's fabulous photo shoot-you can hire her too! You can see more of her work at

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

it's my job... be better than the best, and that makes the day for me...(who knows the singer of this one?)

This job of motherhood is full of joy, and also a tough one on many days. When they are babies, tough is not getting enough sleep, and worrying over a fever. As toddlers, you hope they don't fall and break their nose, or ingest something dangerous, or run into the street the one second you aren't watching them. As they enter school, you hope that other kids will be kind to them, and that the teacher will know what they need, and that they won't miss you too much when they are gone.

When they are eleven, going on sixteen, you want them to branch out, test their wings, and try new things. And push them a little when they want to quit.

This has been a challenging summer for Charlie. He has now competed in two enduros and a hair scramble on his dirt bike, and has decided he really doesn't like it. There are only two races left, and we are encouraging him to finish out the season.

He started guitar lessons in June, and yesterday asked if he could quit, as it is much harder than he expected, and "really isn't any fun". I just paid for lessons through August yesterday, and we are encouraging him to stick with it.

He did his first whole week of camping in the great outdoors this year. He wanted me to come and get him on Weds., and I didn't, and he made it through the week.

He is at football camp this week, there at least 1oo boys out there playing, and he doesn't know a single one of them. But he loves football, and wants to learn, and is getting through it. He hasn't asked to quit, but I can tell it is kind of tough on him, and he confided that some of the kids laugh when you miss the ball, or trip during an exercise. I advised him, in my best mom imitation, to just ignore them. He will survive, and will have learned a lot.

This is my job, and every day I still question whether I am doing it right. I want Charlie to be strong, and independent, and be able to make good decisions without his parents telling him what to do. I want to be there when he needs advice, or a shoulder to cry on, but I want him to rely on himself, and his own judgement.
I think we all just need a vacation, and to make sure the rest of the summer is fun, and not full of obligations. We are heading to the Black Hills next week, I am thinking all of that open country and fresh air will give us all room to breathe.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

raindrops keep falling on my head

I guess this is the week I use song lyrics for blog titles (who knows the singer of yesterday's title?)

It is finally raining in St. Paul. Not that fast, dump on us and be done kind of rain, but the extended, coming straight down and nourishing our gardens for hours kind of rain. And boy do we need it. I just read in the paper the other day that St. Paul is the driest city in Minnesota for the third straight summer in a row. My water bill can attest to that.

Charlie has football camp at Cretin all week, today they will hold it in the gym-so I won't be able to watch out my window to see what they are doing. Shoot. I am wondering how long his current obsession with football will last.

It's a wonderful day to spool up the Ipod and get some work done in my office, as I am sure sunny days will be back soon enough, enticing me into my backyard and away from my piles of statements and reports.

Monday, July 20, 2009

these are the days we will remember

Oh how I love the time I get to spend with my sister... We can sure pack a lot into a four day weekend. We started on Thursday at the Half Price Books tent sale, where we loaded up on bargain books and cds and dvds. The weather was unseasonably cool, so we took advantage of it and whipped up some chocolate cake to enjoy with our late afternoon wine (served warm, of course...)
That evening we all went to Pop! for dinner in downtown St. Paul (accordingly, they have the world's largest pop menu...)followed by a stop at Candyland and a quick tour of the beautiful state capital building.
Friday we headed out early, leaving the boys to their video games while we searched for treasure at rummage sales. Treasure was found, (favorite item? 1939 movie poster from the "Wizard of Oz"), next it was time for Heather to enjoy a relaxing pedicure at Juut salon on Grand Avenue. That girl was in desperate need of some pampering, what with dealing with an ex-husband, building a new home, and living with our parents. With pretty toes, we looked for new jewelry ideas at Bead Monkey, then headed home to pick up the boys for an afternoon at the Mall. (yes, that one....)

A quick stop at ACES to deliver payroll, and we found a table at the unbelievably crowded food court (cold summer weather drives people to the mall in DROVES) for some Thai food. We let the boys choose where to shop, so we spent time at Legoland and the Apple store, ending up at Beadniks (we bribed the boys with the other stores so we could have our time there) then back home.

It was pasta night, so I cooked up an extra large batch and we had a wonderful dinner together, all gathered around our dining room table. Then Mike took Riley and Charlie to Vertical Endeavors, for a little climbing action on a Friday night, and Heather and I watched "Doubt" and played with beads. We usually get a round of Scrabble in when Heather is here, and channel our Grandma Betty, but we just didn't get around to that this time. At least my plates stay on the wall that way. I will talk more about those ghostly occurences in another post....
Saturday dawned still cool, and cloudy. Heather and I shuffled off to Buffalo, while my sweet hubby spent the day with the boys. (Is he a great guy, or what?) They spent most of the day at Grand Slam, playing mini golf, laser tag, bumper cars, and arcade games. Boy Heaven!
Buffalo is such a unique shopping town, we explored Yesterday's Charm, The Porch, the Barn Chix, and even the drug store was full of interesting finds. We had lunch at a little deli, and found a garden shop that was selling everything half price, and giving away all of their remaining vegetables and herbs. With a very full truck, we headed home. Trader Joe's provided the makings for a great dinner, and we ended the day watching Jim Gaffigan, and giggling ourselves to sleep.

Did we spend our last day sleeping in, and lounging in our jammies? Heavens no!

After a trip to Farmer's Market for breakfast and veggies and flowers, we drove up Lexington Avenue to Como Zoo. The giraffes were there to greet us, as were the lions and orangutans. Okay, they weren't exactly THRILLED to see us...And of course, it was very important for the boys to act tough, and pretend they weren't loving spending time at the zoo. They did cooperate with all of the pictures we took, (mostly):
It finally felt more like a summer day, with sunny blue skies and a soft breeze. No laundry to do, no bills to pay, all of our everyday cares tucked away for another day. Sadly for all of us, it was far too soon time for them to head back to Bemidji.

I hope that Riley and Heather had as much fun as we did, we can't wait for them to come back!

Thursday, July 16, 2009

let the fun begin!

Heather and Riley arrive today for four days of giggling, resting, shopping, playing, and relaxing.

She called me last night to let me know they were leaving at 5:30, when the sun came up, and riding in their jammies. That is how badly they want to get here and start the fun!

Rummage sales? The zoo? The Science Museum? Picnics at the barge park? Ikea? Trader Joe's? The Bead Monkey? Bike rides? Soccer in the field? Or just sitting in the back yard drinking wine and eating cheese????

So many options, so little time.
I will report on all of the frivolity next week!

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Birthday Wishes

  1. -to my sweet Grandma Doris. (it's birthday week for the Gulsvig girls!)

My grandmother (my mom's mom) turns 88 today. She has never been very interested in celebrating her birthday, as on her fiftieth birthday she was at a class reunion with her husband. Archie had just gone up to the band and asked them to play Happy Birthday to his wife. He returned to his bar stool, and collapsed from a heart attack, and never woke up.

So you can see why her birthday does not exactly bring fond memories for her. Her husband was taken from her far too early, and she was left on her own. Not long after that, she battled colon cancer, and won. She has buried infant twin daughters, lost her mother when she was just a teenager, and cared for my mom while her husband was off saving the world from tyranny in WWII.

Being a good Scandinavian, she has never been one to be emotionally expressive, but her wonderful letters and birthday cards to me over the years have become increasingly sentimental. I gather her in my arms, on the occasions when we get to visit, and squeeze her tightly. She has learned to accept my effusive hugs with quiet grace.

She cleaned homes for people in Bemidji for years, always baking them treats to deliver on cleaning day. When her arthritis got the best of her, she retired from cleaning, and still lives in the tiny house where she and Archie raised their children. She has developed diabetes, and lost sight in one of her eyes more than 10 years ago, and struggles daily with arthritis, but she still uses a wringer washing machine located in her basement, and hangs her clothes outside on the line as "they smell better that way". She still adheres to the a schedule found on those days of the week dishtowels: Monday is for Washing, Tuesday is for Ironing, etc. Her house is impeccably tidy, and you would never find an old item in her cupboard or refrigerator (clearly, I did not inherit that gene...). I am pretty sure she still irons her sheets. She has finally given up driving, and lets her grandchildren mow her lawn. We can count on her to bring decoratively sliced carrot sticks and white chocolate covered pretzels to Thanksgiving dinner, and she makes the world's best date cookies at Christmas time. (This photo was taken the last time we were able to be in Bemidji to celebrate Christmas, circa 2003-four generations!)

While she has never had much money, she still found a way to send me small bits of cash, tucked into loving letters while I was putting myself through college. Even today, the sight of her perfect penmanship on a letter addressed to Mrs. Kristi Pohl warms my heart.

Happy Birthday dear Grandma, even though you will never see this post (as you were quite reluctant to give up your rotary dial wall phone), I hope you know how much I love and admire you, for everything you have been, and are today. Perhaps I will go sit down and write you a letter, telling you so.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

summer breeze...

...makes me feel fine...(wish I had musical notes on my keyboard to put in here....)

We are halfway through July, and the rhythms of summer move through our lives at their languid pace. This morning the sound of car tires in the rain is music to my ears, as we have not had a good rainfall in quite a bit. A respite from watering today, what shall I do with my extra time?

The johnny jump ups and arugula have bolted, and are ready to be replaced in the garden. Smooth green tomatoes grow daily, encouragaed by the sun. The dahlia bulb I purchased at a yard sale seems almost nuclear, overtaking the small spot where I planted it, and nearly ready to burst into bloom. The clematis are almost done flowering, the spiky flowerheads left in their wake are pretty in their own way. The Boston Ivy and grapevines are winding their way along the fence, and the Hyacinth Bean is gracefully winding its way around the iron dress form in the back garden.

The lawn has mostly recovered from it's earlier near drought condition, and is happy that Charlie gave it a good trimming yesterday. The robins will be swooping down today, finding earthworms in abundance on this rainy day. Speaking of birds, they no longer wake me at 4:30, now that the sunrise is a little later each day.

Softball season is now in it's final days, we will no longer be serenaded by screaming girls and their families several nights a week, and will be able to hear the sound of the crickets and cicadas as summer moves into August. August brings with it early morning football camp in the field across the street from our house, yet another song in the rhythm of our summer.
For now, the sound of the sprinklers at night remind us that there is still time, plenty of time, to enjoy all that our brief summers have to offer us.

Monday, July 13, 2009

time flies, camping edition

Dear Charlie-

You are home safe and sound from your first full week at Scout camp. While I was able to deliver you there, and join you Friday night for the family dinner, and Court of Honor, you were without one of your own parents for a whole week. It was a tough one for you, in some respects, but you really learned from this, and it will help you grow in so many ways. (photo from scout camp 2005):

Your stomach started causing you trouble early on, and progressively got worse through the week. While I was 2 and a half hours away, fretting about it all, you pulled through. It was a combination of homesickness, and a different diet, and maybe not being a big fan of an outdoor latrine.

I remember your first scout camp, just four years ago. You loved archery:

which you did again this year. You were a big fan of shooting:

-another thing you got to do this year, although instead of BB guns you have progressed to shotguns and rifles. You fished, you swam (even taking part in the Polar Bear plunge at 6:30 one morning!), you earned your Woodcarving, Geology, and First Aid merit badges, as well as doing a lot of hiking. You saw all kinds of wildlife, performed community service, learned how to care for a campsite, and get along with other boys.

You had some really long days, that ended at the campfire, and then cuddled up in your tent on the shores of the lake, with your good friend Alec as tentmate.

(photo circa 2005)

I can't believe how time has flown, and I am really proud of you for sticking it out. I don't dare ask you if you are going back next year, not quite yet...(and I promise NOT to mail you a letter next year, as that may have sent you over the homesick edge when it arrived on Weds....)

Love, mom

PS: A huge thank you to the all parents who gave their time to camp with the boys, and help them through a really amazing week, especially Mike Lane, Scoutmaster extraordinaire, who was Charlie's adopted dad last week. Blessings upon you, for giving of yourself, so selflessly (and keeping a worried mom updated...)


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