A warm and lemony visit

As I write this blog in mid March it is Spring Eve and the weather has been fluctuating wildly in Colorado over the last several weeks. Just a few days ago it was approaching near 80 degrees and just a couple of weeks ago it was in the teens with fresh blanket of snowfall. It was during those frigid days that I took a somewhat impromptu trip to Sacramento, California, and within a matter of hours left the dead of winter and stepped directly into early summer.

I have traveled to California a number of times over the years, including both for business trips and personal visits. I have visited San Diego, San Francisco, Lake Tahoe, Santa Monica, Monterey, Long Beach and probably a few places I am forgetting. I had traveled through Sacramento on one occasion but had never spent any time there. And on this particular recent trip I spent just shy of 24 hours, however it was just enough to embrace the sunshine, green grass and trees and blooming flowers – which proved to be an almost indescribable breath of fresh air. I can’t remember the last time I jetted off in the dead of winter to embrace summer like weather. I know many people routinely take off each winter to Mexico, the Caribbean or some other tropical locale. Not me. I cannot fully describe the pure joy of going from sub zero, bone chilling temps to a balmy clime and being surrounded by so much greenery and blooming vegetation in an array of gorgeous colors – pure plant heaven.

lemon treeI stayed with my aunt in Sacramento, whose house I had never visited. When I arrived there at night it was dark, however the first thing I did the next morning was roll up the shade in my bedroom window to find a gorgeous leaf filled tree with lavender flowers. Her front yard was filled with a colorful array of flowers – both in the ground and in pots scattered around the porch – I wish I had taken note of the varieties. The backyard had several HUGE lemon trees, both the traditional yellow variety and Meyer’s greenish lemons – both of which were filled to their branch brims with lemons. I can honestly say I have never been been so up close and personal with such lemon trees in all their glory! Also in my aunt’s back yard were enormous bushes of blooming rosemary and several other herbs, of which I had only seen grown in small pots. We picked them off and took in the aroma and talked about the many ways to use them in a variety of dishes.

In addition to enjoying a little early summer toward the end of winter, I spent some one-on-one time with my aunt, a first for me, particularly special since she just celebrated her 80th birthday. My aunt has always been an active and energetic person, and she is still 80 years young and an inspiration and aspiration of years to come. She is my mom’s sister, and my maternal grandparents owned a small grocery store in the teeny tiny town of Oberon, N.D., population back in the day of maybe 500ish. My aunt talked about how she was unhappy with small town life growing up in Oberon and how she found escape through reading via a small impromptu library a woman in Oberon set up in the back of Grandpa’s store. My aunt asked me if I remembered that library, which I did not. However, now I do, and it’s just one of those nuggets of information you gain about your family in those kind of visits with family – just the two of you.

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Pickleball, and oh Corned Beef

Brush CO St. Paddy's Day Fun Run 2013.

Brush CO St. Paddy’s Day Fun Run 2013.

I recently wrote an article for the newspaper I work for about its annual St. Paddy’s Day Run, which is coming up this weekend. The poster for the event said proceeds would go to benefit new tennis courts and pickleball. That’s all the poster said was “pickleball,” which intrigued me as I had never heard of pickleball and also the fact that I am huge fan of pickles in all forms, so of course any reference to pickles is bound to attract my attention. So I did a little research and it turns out the pickleball sport has been around for quite some time, but has recently become extremely popular among the over 50 set. And having recently had a birthday that moves me further into the 50 set I had to do a little pickelball research. So if you also are not familiar with pickeball and would like to learn more you can google it of course or read my article, which provides a brief description of pickeball and also the upcoming St. Paddy’s Day race in Brush, which last year featured some killer corned beef and cabbage, this coming
Killer corned beef and cabbage.

Killer corned beef and cabbage.

from a person who is not particularly fond of the dish. I will have to find out who is the St. Paddy’s Race corned beef chef in little old Brush.


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A comfort home fix via the movies

The Academy Awards just wrapped up over the weekend, and once again I failed to see any of the movies nominated this year. It’s not because I don’t enjoy watching movies. I do. Very much. Next to reading a good book, watching an engaging, engrossing movie is right up there with one of my favorite things to do. Especially on the big screen in a darkened theater.
However, I also enjoy another kind of movie watching. Repeat comfort movies at home. It’s like comfort food, only a comfort movie. It’s the kind of movie I might want to watch if the weather is snowy or chilly. Or if I am not feeling well either with a nasty cold or a mean case of the blues or I’m feeling a little lonely. It’s the kind of movie that gives you a you fix like a bowl of homemade mac and cheese or chili or whatever your comfort food fix. It fills you up, satiates a need and leaves you warm inside and extremely satisfied and fulfilled. And it makes you smile.

On these particular days I am drawn to movies set in what I find to be incredibly comfy, cozy, homey homes, where the home is a key, central part of the movie. It’s a home that is not extravagant , not a mansion, just something really comfortable – warm and inviting with just the right decorating touches. For example, I was feeling really run down one one recent Saturday, and I did a little channel surfing and found the movie “It’s Complicated” and watched it for a second time. If you haven’t seen the movie it features Meryl Streep, Alec Baldwin and Steve Martin. The crux of the movie is set in the home of the character Streep plays. I find every part of this home so appealing, a home you would walk into and feel instantly comfortable, including the kitchen where Streep’s character whips up an impromptu gourmet meal for Martin’s character, her architect. She entertains her friends in the living area and shares her frustrations and indiscretions. The home also is where Streep’s character is given a joint by her ex-husband, Baldwin, while she is soaking in the claw foot bathtub. Who doesn’t love a claw foot bathtub?

Steven Martin also made two “Father of the Bride” movie set in cozy, homey homes. Memorable scenes include George wanting to have a barbecue wedding in the backyard and eventually settling for a wedding reception in the house, and George and Nina having a little fun on the kitchen floor and ending up with a baby on the way in their middle age years. After finding out about the baby on board and knowing the nostalgic value of a family home George buys the home back in “Father of the Bride II” after impulsively selling it.
“Driving Miss Daisy” is another movie set in a gorgeous, gorgeous home this time in the South. One visually impactful scene is where Miss Daisy is sitting in a white wicker filled sunroom with sun streaming in multiple windows framed in white curtains. Just gorgeous.

If you add an ocean outside these homey homes, I love the movie even more. Think Diane Keaton and Jack Nicholson in “Something’s Gotta Give.” They stroll along the beach with the waves breaking and sending up white spray, and Nicholson’s character contemplates climbing up a flight of beach stairs after a heart attack to gain strength to be “ok back in that department.” Later the two meet up in the kitchen in the middle of the night in their pj’s to make pancakes.

One of my favorite movies combining a warm, meandering older home and the ocean, plus a great story, is “Rich in Love” with Albert Finney, Kathryn Erbe and Jill Clayburgh. It’s set in South Carolina and it has Erbe’s character, a teenager, trying to figure out why her mother has abandoned the family. The house is huge and inviting and has giant wrap around porches. The house and the movie are truly treasures and will give you the ultimate homey home movie fix.

I have lived in 15 different places in the last 30 or so years. This Victorian apartment in Wisconsin was one of the most homey homes.

I have lived in 15 different places in the last 30 or so years. This Victorian apartment in Wisconsin was one of the most homey homes.

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An Ode

One of my Devils Lake Central High School Class of 79 classmates, Brad Blazer, recently passed away after a hard fought battle with cancer. The day one of my other classmates, Roger – one of Brad’s very close friends – posted on Facebook that he was gone I was incredibly sad and I found myself thinking a lot about Brad and my high schools pals. The thing I remember most about Brad was his smile and infectious sense of humor and laugh. It was a Jack Nicholson worthy smile that encompassed his entire face – big and toothy with an ever present mischievous twinkle in his eyes. I remember Brad as being one of many guy classmates who were incredibly funny and were also collectively part of the close knit Class of ’79.

The thing about growing up in a small town the size of Devils Lake – population 7,000ish – is you have some kind of connection to so many of your classmates, especially if you live in the same town your whole life. Maybe you went to kindergarten together like I did with my friend Stuart who I walked to and from our kindergarten teacher Mrs. Laber’s house. I remember we took a nap in the half day class, and I thought it was such a waste of time. Or maybe you were in the same first grade class like I was with my friend Donna and you remained best buds through grade school, high school and beyond. Or maybe you remember sitting with all of your classmates in the second grade wearing your first pair of glasses and fortunately nobody made fun of you – at least that you remember – and you went sledding behind KDLR. Maybe you went to your first slumber party and played Truth Dare Double Dare Promise to Repeat for the first time and you got your ears pierced without your mother’s permission, or were involved with some “Harriet the Spy” high jinks with Jennifer. Or maybe you experienced new school in the sixth grade with Mr. DeLapp with friends like Maren, JoNell and Jane where you created your own newspaper and collected beer cans for charity. Maybe you went to Bible Camp at Red Willow. And then all the grade schools converged and you met new people in the 7th grade and girls like Shelley and Shurette and more became your friends. You went to your first boy girl dance. You worked at the Barrel Drive –In and made notes about cute boys. Maybe a guy named Richard became your best guy friend and dated your pal Jane. You cruised Main. You tried your first cigarette, took your first drink and smoked your first joint with your friends and went to keggers at the Halgrens and camped by the lake. You had classes together and countless fun times with your pals like Brad and everybody else. You went to sporting events and the state hockey tournament in Grand Forks. The list goes on and on. And then you graduated and there is a lull. You went off to college. Some people remained friends, some didn’t. Then came Facebook many years later, and you reconnected with a whole bunch of them and you became a collective unit again.



And then fast forward to now. Brad was a little late to the game in joining Facebook. But there he was just a few months ago on FB. In the hospital. Sense of humor totally intact, making us all smile and laugh again via cyberspace. His friend Roger posted updates, and we all collectively prayed. And then he was gone. Heartbreaking. But even in death his uplifting spirit was intact. He didn’t want a funeral, instead a celebration of life.

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2014 in review

Some interesting stats here, including that I have some readers in Russia and other countries. I wish I had more time to spend writing my blog and promoting it! May of this year will mark four years writing my blog.. Thanks to my followers and readers for, well, following it and reading it! Here’ wishing everyone the best in 2015!!

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2014 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 1,100 times in 2014. If it were a cable car, it would take about 18 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

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Young Love Leads to a Starr Christmas Wedding

Happy Holidays Blog Readers!

jackandvirginiaI wrote this story for the newspaper for this week’s Dec. 24th edition. I got the idea for the story on a Facebook page called the History of Brush (Colorado). I have been profiling historic buildings in Brush in the newspaper, and I saw an old photo on the site of a Methodist church. An FB follower had commented that her parents had been married there on Christmas Day in 1940. I called her and her sister in California, and after talking to them decided to do a story about their parents Virginia and Jack, who had passed away in recent years. I interviewed the sisters’ cousin, who still lives in Brush, who was the ring bearer in the wedding (yes ring bearer) and a woman named Miriam, who knew the young couple when they were in high school. Miriam is my go to person for Brush history and is a vibrant, funny lady full of energy. Virginia and Jack’s story was, as Miriam said, beautiful love story, and as the sisters said of their parents who were married for nearly 70 years “they were totally in love to the very end.”


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Bedtime at Grandma’s

My grandparent's house. I took this picture several years ago, however it looks much like it did when they lived there.

My grandparent’s house. I took this picture several years ago, however it looks much like it did when they lived there.

I have wonderful memories of both sets of my grandparents, especially from around the holidays. We typically spent Christmas Eve in Devils Lake, N.D., with my paternal grandparents who tended to have a little louder, looser and larger gathering – think a fair amount of booze being consumed – than my maternal grandparents. My mother’s parents lived in a very small town called Oberon, N.D., about 30 miles from D.L., where we went for Christmas day, much more sedate and smaller affair, often including only our immediate family, as my mother’s two sisters had moved away. My sister and I also spent a week there each summer, which we looked forward to with great gusto every year. Even though my grandparents had a television I don’t remember ever watching it those weeks – although my grandparents would sometime listen to a baseball game – the Minnesota Twins – on the radio. Mostly we spent our time in this teeny, tiny town doing outdoorsy stuff such as riding horses with the neighbor girl or indoors helping my grandmother bake or cook, looking through volumes of old comic books (the Archie series), playing dress up in my mom and her sister’s old prom dresses, playing games, playing the piano – you get the idea. I vividly remember the room we slept in upstairs and my grandmother reading us bedtime stories. The room was long and narrow and we slept in twinphoto (5) beds, each on opposite ends of the room. I made decoupaged plaque for my Grandma one Christmas about those memories. Since it’s a little hard to read, here is what it says.

Grandma and Grandpa’s House

“It’s time for bed,” says my Grandma to my sister and I. “Give your Grandpa a kiss good-night.”

The wooden steps are cold on our bare feet as we walk to the bedroom where we always sleep when we come to visit Grandma and Grandpa. Grandma opens the wooden door and my sister and I scramble onto the twin beds in which we sleep. My bed has a steel headboard with a turquoise night lamp on it. My Grandma sits down on a wooden chair between our two beds. She opens an old brown book and begins to read us a story. I snuggle between the covers and lay my head on the big soft pillow. I always love coming to Grandma and Grandpa’s house. I especially like sleeping in this room. The pillows are filled with feathers and the covers are quilts.

A lamp from my Grandma's house - not the one with the sheep, but very similar.

A lamp from my Grandma’s house – not the one with the sheep, but very similar.

Grandma looks up and smiles at us when she is done with the story. She tucks my sister and I in and we each give her a hug before she goes downstairs. She lets me leave the turquoise lamp on. I look up at the scene on it before I go to sleep. Little Bo Peep and three fluffy little sheep smile down at me.

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