Thursday, June 30, 2011

personal space

I love my backyard this time of year.  I spend as much time in it as the weather will allow.

In the early evening it's loud with softball games, but when everyone leaves, I can enjoy the peacefulness as the sun is setting.  And the colors are so beautiful.

Most nights will find me here, in this chair, with a glass of wine and my book.

When the light has faded, I light candles and turn on my booklight.  It feels so magical.  Especially when I am reading Alice Hoffman, my very favorite author of all.  I am currently re-reading "The Probable Future".

And I stay out until the bugs chase me in.

Where is your favorite summer spot?

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

budget lessons

As the countdown continues to Minnesota government shutting down on July 1st, because our leaders can't agree on a budget, it happens to coincide with Mike and I teaching Charlie about his own personal budget.

This summer, we have opened a Paypal Student Account for him.  We give him a monthly allowance, more than he used to get, because now he is in charge of spending his own money.  If he wants to join his friends at a movie, or get his haircut, buy a new pair of shoes, or a video game, it needs to come from his account.  He has the opportunity to earn extra money, by doing additional chores (he already edged all of our sidewalks) or working for us doing ACES related jobs.

I think 13 is a good age to learn about needs versus wants, and working hard if you want more.

If only our government had learned some of these key budget notions:

1.  If you have $100 in your account, and you want to buy something that costs $150, you can't just ask your 'wealthy' parents for more.  (Well of course you can ask, but don't assume just by asking that we will agree-unless it is warranted.) Because next time it won't be $50, it will be more, because it has now been established that there is no ceiling on asking.  But you are welcome to find an extra job you can do to make more money, or figure out how to live within your means.

2.  If you currently get $100 a month, and you ask for an increase to $150, and we decide to give you $120-we HAVE NOT CUT YOUR BUDGET.  You didn't get what you asked for, but it's not a CUT.  If get $100 a month, and we decide to drop it to $80, now THAT would be a cut.  (Having worked on many a budget in my former life at Target and the fabric store I ran, I happen to know that you ALWAYS ask for more than you think you are going to get.  But it shouldn't be considered a reduction unless you are actually going to receive less money than you are currently receiving. )

3.  Be creative in your budgeting, and learn to cut costs where you can.  Don't assume that your first choice is always the best choice-do some research and shop around to see where you can find savings.

4.  Do you really need a $90 pair of shoes?  Is there a pair for $60 that you can like just as well?  (And can you get it through Ebates and is there a coupon available?)  That $30 you saved can go for something else.

5.  Always save for the unexpected.  You never know what tomorrow will bring.

The difference between Charlie's allowance and the money we send to our state government is he EARNS his money.  He works hard for it.  The money we send to our government is money WE have earned, that we expect them to use wisely, but they should never feel they are entitled to it, to support their agendas.

Now I am off to get my fishing license, before the government shuts down on Friday, because these simple budget lessons appear to be very hard for our state to grasp.

Monday, June 27, 2011

technically challenged

Or shall I say, technology challenged?

I have had no access to the internet on my laptop for nearly a month now.  It amazes me how such a seemingly small thing can have such an impact.

No longer can I check email whenever I want, or plan a blog post, or download pictures.  I can't retrieve my favorite bookmarks, be they blogs or shopping sites.

I never realized how much I relied on my laptop, until I tried to log in to all the sites I use to do my job for ACES.  None of them are saved on Mike's laptop, accessing accounts and paying bills took far longer.

I can't just grab my laptop and sit outside and browse the library catalog, or sit on the couch and do my job.

Mike can't email me sales info from the store to download, we have to do it all manually.  I can't monitor my Etsy shop as often as I normally would.

Ugh.  Mike thinks we just need a new computer, I just want to fix the one I have.

In the meantime, I am forced to share our one computer with the whole family, which means less blogging.  But in a nice way, the time I do spend on the computer is very focused.  Others are waiting for access, so you won't find me leisurely looking for interesting blogs to read, or catching up on Facebook.  And I gave up on Twitter a long time ago.

So please excuse my lack of blogging, I am currently challenged.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

yard sale etiquette

The thrill of the hunt.

It starts on Wednesday morning, when I begin to scan the newspaper, section 360.  I make note of any sales starting on Thursday, although that is rare.  I tend to stick to Mac-Groveland, Highland, and Summit neighborhood sales.  This year I have started scanning Craigslist as well.

On Thursday morning, I check for new additions and formulate a plan.  Most Friday mornings will find me driving my little red Fit through the leafy green streets, scanning to see if the sale is in the front yard or alley.  My Fit is the PERFECT rummaging car, my back seats can fold down, I could fit an entire dining room set in there if I had to.  It's small enough to fit into nearly any parking spot.

I have rules.  I rarely ever park in an alley, as most of the time our city alleys are narrow, and garbage trucks still need to get through to do their jobs.  And it doesn't kill me to walk from a cross street.  I even enjoy checking out people's backyards, and seeing beautiful alley gardens.

I won't go to a sale on the second day.  I won't randomly stop at a sale that I haven't seen an ad for, I figure if they don't take the time to advertise what they are selling it generally isn't worth going to.  I bring coffee to keep me fueled between stops, and lots of change.  And reusable bags.

When arriving at a sale, I always figure out who is in charge and give them a warm smile and hello.  Later on, if I want to negotiate a price, they will remember me as the happy person who actually acknowledged them.  I look for something I can comment on "That's a beautiful milk glass dish, my grandma had one just like it."  Even though they are selling their things, it's nice to know someone else appreciates their belongings.

I rarely ask for a lower price, unless it is warranted, and then I do so kindly.  "Would you be willing to take $10?"  I have rarely been turned down.  And then I always thank them for giving me a reduction.

Upon leaving, I always wish them luck.

I adore the thrill of the hunt, and meeting new people.  It's a wonderful way to spend a sunny summer morning.  (or lately, a very wet one....)  And on top of that, I have collected some wonderful things!

Monday, June 20, 2011

farewell, Big Man

I read it in the paper Sunday morning, and the tears started coming.  Clarence Clemons had passed away.

Danny Clinch

Now, you may think it silly for me to shed tears over a musician, but Clarence has always been there, in the E Street Band, providing the soundtrack for the relationship Mike and I have had for nearly 31 years.

On Memorial Day weekend, Mike set up a movie theater in our driveway and we watched the 1978 Springsteen concert in Houston, Texas with some dear friends.  As usual, when the first notes of "Jungleland" began, I got goose bumps.  And when Clarence and his saxophone played their solo, I nearly wept with emotion.

Here is what Bruce had to say about Clarence's passing (borrowed from, as was the above photo):

It is with overwhelming sadness that we inform our friends and fans that at 7:00 tonight, Saturday, June 18, our beloved friend and bandmate, Clarence Clemons passed away. The cause was complications from his stroke of last Sunday, June 12th.

Bruce Springsteen said of Clarence: Clarence lived a wonderful life. He carried within him a love of people that made them love him. He created a wondrous and extended family. He loved the saxophone, loved our fans and gave everything he had every night he stepped on stage. His loss is immeasurable and we are honored and thankful to have known him and had the opportunity to stand beside him for nearly forty years. He was my great friend, my partner, and with Clarence at my side, my band and I were able to tell a story far deeper than those simply contained in our music. His life, his memory, and his love will live on in that story and in our band.

As always, Bruce knows how to tell the story of a life better than anyone I know.

I am so very glad that Charlie got to experience two Springsteen concerts with all of the E Street Band together-before they lost Danny, and now Clarence.  A moment in musical history I hope he will never forget.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Lucky girl

Here is my adorable dad, 20 years old at the time. There he is with his Chevy, I think he had brought me out to my Grandma and Grandpa's home on the river, as he and my mom were going to a wedding. I don't think I wanted him to go!

Thanks for all the times you took me fishing, showed me how how to pick a duck and wrap venison, taught me the joys of gardening and how to correctly put lights on a Christmas tree.  Because of you I could change a tire, or my oil (if I had to).  I can appreciate a good neck soup, and I know there is not much better than the smell of homemade bread baking (unless of course it's an apple pie).  I have loved all of our adventures in the woods, whether it was hunting elusive morel mushrooms in the spring, looking for partridge through the leaves of fall, or trudging through the snow to cut pine boughs and pick bittersweet.  My mind is full of memories, my heart is full of love.

Happy Father's Day weekend dad, I wish I could be spending it with you, fishing.  I am pretty sure we would catch some blue racers!

And Happy Father's Day to my sweet hubby, here is the tribute I wrote to him for Father's Day in 2009, when he would be racing at Stone Lake, just like this year!

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Wednesday, June 15, 2011


I think it only fitting, that today, which is my 800th post (seriously!!!) that I announce this:

Mike has been working so hard on this, and now Lockheed has seen fit to share it with the world.

How cool is that?  Now we are just hoping to build these for someone.

I am so proud.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

back to the garden

Enough dirt bikes, right?  My camera and I had a little date in my yard.

But first, I post this picture from last year, in honor of flag day.  Fly them proudly!

Nifty nasturtiums, can't wait to throw them in a salad.

Beautiful begonias,

sometimes white is the perfect color (or lack thereof....)

Crafty coleus-this new addition is "Gnash Rambler".  I kid you not.  It's a sun lover.

Perky pansies (prior to the heat wave last week....)

"Pinstripe" petunias-did you know that they, along with tomatoes and tobacco, are all part of the same plant family?  I just finished another China Bayles mystery, "Nightshade" by Susan Wittig Albert.  I really enjoy them, and I usually learn something along the way too.  You can find out a little more about them, here:

And to end today's romp through the garden, a zesty zinnia.

How is your garden growing?  I would love to hear about your favorite plants this year.

Monday, June 13, 2011

logs and mosquito bites

Mike and Charlie were off with their dirt bikes again last weekend, this time at Stone Lake helping get some trails prepped for an upcoming event that their club is having.

The place they stay is one of the prettiest spots, I am now using this shot for my screen saver!

I love Wisconsin.

Charlie had lots of fun.

He also had an ATV accident.  I tell you, dirt bikes are so much safer!  He got banged up a bit, but nothing serious.

He complained more about his mosquito bites than anything else. (The above picture is from the previous weekend's race at Huntersville, he rode really well.  And Mike, who was finally able to compete after major bike troubles all season, won his class.  Not bad for his first time out this year-the old guy has still got it....)

Charlie even took some time behind the camera, and got some great shots of Mike.  Must be in his genes!

Friday, June 10, 2011

peony season

In all of it's glory!

In the yard:

In bouquets:

They survived our giant temperature swing, from 103 Tuesday afternoon to 53 by Wednesday night.  Only in Minnesota...

Happy June weekend!

Wednesday, June 8, 2011


January: below zero, snow piled high everywhere. Icy sidewalks, the sound of cars muffled by the snow. We stay inside, it's too cold to go out. The field across the street is deserted, visions of the Arctic float through my head as I imagine sled dogs crossing it's icy surface.

Mike heads out to shovel last nights new layer of snow, donning a down filled jacket and warm gloves. The snow in the back yard reaches halfway to the bottom of the windows, piled in drifts. He crunches across the path to the garage, trees bare, white and gray as far as the eye can see. A feeble sun hides in the gray skies.

The oven is on, creating something warm for dinner. I will leave it open a crack, to help warm the kitchen. I add extra layers, and cuddle up with a hot cup of tea and a good book.

June: the temperature hits 103, heat shimmering off the road surface. Sidewalks dry, some heaving in the heat. Cars drive by with loud mufflers, windows rolled down, the bass of stereos thumping. The field across the street is full of softball players, and the cheers of their family. Sweat rolls down their faces as they walk to the bench for cold water.

I head out to water my thirsty plants. In a light cotton skirt and tshirt and flip flops, wishing I could shed it all. The backyard is a vibrant green jungle. My peony plant, nearly 4 feet tall, just about ready to burst into bloom. Our neighbors yard obscured by the lushness of plants and shrubs. I brush away bugs as I make my way to the garage for garden gloves. The sky is blue, the sun a red ball as it starts to sink toward the horizon.

The air conditioner is on, struggling to cool the house in the stifling heat. We pull a cold tuna salad out of the fridge for dinner, and slice cool slivers of watermelon. We stay inside, it's too hot to go out. I wear the lightest clothes possible, and stretch out in the air conditioned coolness with a glass of iced tea and a good book.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

woot woot!

My nephew Kaleb graduated from high school on Saturday in Bemidji.  What a handsome young man!

My parents were so proud.

Here he is with his little sis, Savanna.  ADORABLE.

And here he is with his sweet girlfriend, I am just waiting for them to be discovered as models.  Holy cow.

I wasn't able to go up and help him celebrate, as the party was the night before he graduated.  Dang! 
But I am sure he knows how proud we are, and we will celebrate with him when we head home for the 4th of July.

A big thanks to my sis for sharing the pictures. It's nice to have a photographer in the family!

Monday, June 6, 2011

time flies, middle school edition

Today is Charlie's last day of seventh grade.  He is quite relieved.

Do you remember 7th grade?  Ugh, what a horrible time of life.  Awkward, stressful, difficult.  Here is Charlie on the first day, last August.

Charlie had a good year, his teachers are wonderful and know just how to handle these beings who have one foot in childhood, and the other straining towards being a teenager.  We let him fail along the way, and watched him learn from it.  There was laughter, and tears, and good friends to share them with.

He has physically changed more this year than any I can remember.  He is now our young man, with the voice to prove it.

My little boy is most definitely not a little boy any longer.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

inaugural farmer's market visit

I am quite sure this is the very latest my first trip to the farmer's market has taken place.  I am usually there the first day, clad in polar fleece and blissfully browsing the aisles.  No need to tell you that this year the weather has been ugly on the weekends-and I felt no urge to make my way to downtown St. Paul.

But today?  The day dawned a beautiful clear blue.  The birds cheerfully woke me early, and after a fresh cup of coffee I started out.

It was a charmed morning, I found a spot just a block away. The minute I stepped onto the sidewalk of the market block, I felt it.  A deep sense of calm, and joy, and wonder.  I have a tradition of slowly strolling all of the aisles first, soaking it all in.  Today the tables were lined with perfectly trimmed rhubarb, their stalks lined up like soldiers.  I brought some home, but haven't yet decided what recipe I will try this year.

Jewel green asparagus, tight buds and slender stalks.  These will be roasted with olive oil and balsamic.

Fresh bunches of mint, laid out in bouquets.  I am going to mix them with lily of the valley from my yard for a fragrant arrangement on my table.

Happy bundles of watercress, so fresh and green.  I will use these in a salad, or to add some fun to a sandwich.

Something I have been longing for all winter and spring, the first spring rolls of the season.  The family who owns this food cart are so kind, and always serve smiles along with the yummy veggies.  This will be my lunch.  (Not all of them....they are a favorite of Charlie's so I bought some to surprise him on his return home tonight.)

Tiny bok choy, for a new recipe I want to try.

And then there are the flowers.  Oh, the flowers.  Good thing I am 'mostly' done planting, or I would get into trouble here.  Beautiful flowers, laid out like a giant glorious carpet.  I needed another yellow begonia, to replace the one ruined by a squirrel digging for a misplaced nut.

Some 'Glennis' coleus, for my shade window boxes.

'Rustic Orange' coleus, for my front sunny window box.

'Golden" Swedish Ivy, more color for my shade window boxes.

'Carneval' reiger begonias, these will go into the kitchen window box, so they are the first thing to greet me in the morning while I make coffee.

There is just something about the farmer's market.  The happy faces of the vendors, the hustle and bustle of the bagel spot, the lively sounds of whatever live music they happen to have on that day, the colorful displays of gorgeous flowers, all locally grown on farms and in greenhouses.  I never fail to feel incredibly calm, and so very happy, as I walk up and down each row filled with the bounty of our little piece of Minnesota.  From honey to soap, chocolate to bread, fresh beef to eggs, herbs to vegetables, it's a spot not to be missed on beautiful summer morning.  And on a bright Sunday, it is very nearly a religious experience.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

welcome June!

May flew by far too quickly, I feel I didn't take the proper time to enjoy the new green as it emerged, or the unfurling of the tulip blooms. 

The crabapples seem to have bloomed and gone almost overnight, and my lilacs have finished their show.  Shriveled and brown, the spent blooms still hold a tiny wiff of intoxicating fragrance.  They have said farewell, and we must wait another whole year for their performance, when they will again waken our winter stuffed noses to the wonder of spring.

But now it is June, and I have thirty more days to appreciate all that is around me!  To celebrate the month, I share with you the photos Mike took when we were at Stockholm Gardens last week.

It is nestled along Hiway 35 in Wisconsin, perfectly suited to catch the breezes off of Lake Pepin that give it it's very own microclimate.  The old barn welcomes you.  Inside where chickens once roosted, you will find trellises and pots and garden delights.

The sweet little house is where you bring your purchases to have them tallied, after lingering a moment on the porch to take in the sweep of beautifully planted lawn.

Perennials not easily found at other garden shops can be found here, tucked in amongst favorites.

It is peaceful, and soothing to the soul.

Perhaps you will wander up the hill a bit, to the greenhouse where herbs and vegetables await.

You may spot a young new tree, or a shrub to take home to grace your yard.  The family dog may stop by to say hello.

And you will always be greeted with a smile, and will leave basking in the glow of Wisconsin hospitality-your beautiful new plants beckoning to you from the back seat of your car, eager to be placed in their new home.

How will you celebrate June?  Planting something new is always a good way to greet a summer month.


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