Archive for the ‘Family & Friends’ Category

Congratulations, Mike and Amber!


Amber and Mike Brostrom

My favorite (and only) nephew and his fiancee Amber were married last Saturday in a beautiful ceremony at St Paul’s Episcopal Church in Duluth.

Weddings always choke me up, so a great moment of comic relief was provided by Madison, my 2 year old great-niece and honorary flower girl, who dumped her basket of flowers at the back of the church and hurried down the aisle, arms swinging like a roller derby queen, as if to say “Let’s get this show on the road!” And so they did.

The lavish reception was held in the Harbor Room of the Duluth Entertainment and Convention Center (DECC), providing a gorgeous backdrop of the harbor and Aerial Lift Bridge, especially enjoyable to out of town guests.

The lovely bride is also owner of Cake Occasions in Duluth, and must have worked for weeks preparing the many cakes that guests were invited to sample. (We did!) The choices included Red Velvet cake with cheesecake center, dark chocolate cake with Kahlua filling and a chocolate ganache icing, white cake with fresh raspberry filling and almond butter cream, Lady Baltimore cake with lemon filling and buttercream frosting, and rainbow cupcakes. She also baked their wedding cake, along with creating paper dolls of the bride and groom for the little kids, gift bags for the children, a bride & groom coloring book with crayons for the kids, baskets of personal items in the women’s bathrooms, firestarters for take home gifts, and a bucket of slippers by the dance floor for those who might dance their feet off. She thought of everything.

It was fun to reconnect with relatives I hadn’t seen in a long time, and fun to watch the groom dancing with the little girls at the party. (I don’t think Madison missed a dance, even if she had to dance alone. She was in party mode all night!) Here’s the flower girl taking an energy break before hitting the dance floor.

Another great-niece, Gabriella, was in the bathroom with her mom when the bride entered. Later she told us that she had seen “Cinderella” in the bathroom. I guess she really did!

Here’s my favorite photo, which is either the result of too many free drink tickets, or else I was planning to create one of those “insert your own head” photos:

The party was wonderful and everyone had a great time. I wish them many many many years of wedded bliss!

I leave you with these random photos.

The Best Man delivers a revealing speech.

Madison and Gabriella enjoy the view

Niece Katie with her husband Eric

3 Princesses: Amber with Gabby and Madison

Best “Little Free Library” on Earth


When you love what you’re doing, it shows. And when I saw Rob and Toni Morse’s home a few weeks ago, I knew they both loved what they do (especially sharing a love of home) and I knew Rob would be the best person to build a perfect Little Free Library for my yard. And I was right!

Rob and I worked together at HBJ years ago, and he’s someone that could always make me laugh. Even years after he left the company, if I heard his name, I’d start laughing, just thinking of some of our past conversations. Husband, father, designer, sign maker, stand-up comedian and all-round good guy, Rob taught himself the basics of carpentry, I guess, and his talent and love of creativity shines through in anything he builds.

So we discussed options for the Little Free Library that I’ve wanted for so long, and came up with a few rules (Not too outlandish; must be recognizable to the general public, should have at least one shelf and glass doors) and I knew the project was in good hands. In less time that it took me to simply write about it, the thing was done.

It is beautiful. I love having it in the yard. I am so pleased to see how many people use it. The original supply of books and movies has been replaced with more books and magazines; notes from passers-by, and a few other surprises. I especially love seeing little kids and their parents perusing the stacks, or people on bikes who saw it from the Lakewalk and decided to investigate.

The thing has been registered but I haven’t received the official plaque yet. When it arrives, the Little Free Library will be on the national list of LFLs, and appear on the online map so people will be able to find it. But for now, traffic is not a problem!

Everything's gotta start somewhere, doesn't it?

Rob Morse, Builder of Anything.

Lakeside clay. Gardeners hate it.

Tools of the trade.

Don't forget the concrete!

Leveled and allowed to set up for the night. Caused some gawking from passersby.

A thing of beauty! Official unveiling: June 25, 2013

Take a book. Leave a book. Or don't!

The Unveiling Party: Toni, Kay, Jerry, Jean, Dave and Rob

First visitors arrived 1 hour after unveiling. Happy to see them!

Come and visit! Get comfy… there’s good reading to be found.

Dr Evermore’s Forevertron, North Freedom, Wisconsin


This is such an amazing place. You could spend hours walking around and being amazed at this person’s creativity and wit. It’s free to visit, and I think were were almost the only ones visiting on that particular day. Go! See!

Not sure why this was there, but the sad clown sort of reminded me of Krusty.

Exotic Birds

Ancient Warriors?

Happy characters

Another happy character: Jean at Forevertron

Big Bird

Road Trip! (Part One)


Is there anything better than getting into the car and taking off to see the world? Or even just 2,000 miles of it?  I don’t think so.

My friends Jean and Dave and I set out for Pittsburgh on May 16, eager to see the sights. They had been planning on driving their new car out there to visit their daughter Molly, and I begged them to take me along so I could visit my friend Cathy, who lives in that area. They readily agreed. (I hope they are not kicking themselves today.)

Just for the record, I kept track of gas prices along the way, because the day we left, Duluth was at its highest price to date, a cool $4.17 a gallon. Turns out it was the highest on the trip, with Smithfield, PA, being the lowest at $3.43. What gives?

Anyhow, our first stop was Chetek, Wisconsin, where we visited a very cool antique store whose name I’ve forgotten. On to Osseo, where we stopped for pie (Coconut, one of my favorites) at the Norske Nook. We visited another antique store there, where we were cautioned to not pet a very friendly cat. What the heck? We did anyway. We all lived to tell the tale.

It looked kinda like this one. Who wouldn’t pet him/her?

Later that day we reached one of the highlights of the trip, which I highly recommend if you like oddball stuff made from wild imagination and probably lots of money: Dr Evermore’s Forevertron, in North Freedom, Wisconsin. It was a little difficult to find, since the folks we asked hadn’t ever seemed to hear of it. If you need directions, just ask for “that monument place.” That’ll get you there.

Here’s Jean going into the post office to ask for directions, which they didn’t seem to know. There’s Dave going in to double check!

I’m going to post some photos of Dr Evermore’s in the next entry.

After the self-guided tour around Dr Evermore’s park, we drove to Baraboo, Wisconsin, which used to be the winter home of Barnum & Bailey, or maybe Ringling Brothers, but I don’t think it is anymore. Looked like a great little town, and we had dinner at a silver diner, which sounds like a line from a song.

I loved the toll roads (except for the paying part) and the Oasis stops with large clean bathrooms and lots of little shops and maps. We’ve come a long way from Stuckey’s, though you can still buy chachkes if you need ’em.

We spent the night at a hotel in South Bend, but got there just as every restaurant in town was closing. (And it was Notre Dame’s graduation weekend, so what the heck?) We ate a late dinner at the Steak and Shake, and went to our separate rooms and slept like dogs. At least I did!

In the morning he drove through Elkhart, Indiana, and on to Toledo, Ohio, stopping for Starbuck’s coffee and caramel corn. You gotta have that on the road. We listened to a beautifully poetic short story called “The Distance of the Moon,” by Italo Calvino, and read by actor Liev Schreiber. I want to read it or hear it one more time. I thought it was a perfect bedtime lullaby for adults and children alike. Gorgeous.

Near Sandusky and Norwalk, we stopped at an Oasis where Jean and Dave wisely ordered lunch, but I opted for Hershey’s ice cream. Think about it (which I did when I saw the sign.) What could be better than ice cream made by Hershey? Turns out, just about anything would be. The ice cream was marginal (they only offered about 3 flavors) and when I asked for hot fudge, they said they didn’t serve that. They had sprinkles, though. So I had a cup of grocery-store quality ice cream, for a mere $3.69, and that was that. I also bought a bottle of water for the road, only to discover it was actually sugar-free Sprite, or something like that. Foiled again!

We arrived in Pittsburgh around 5:00 and were directed to “The Strip,” which was a fun touristy area of town where I discovered Lidia Bastianich has a restaurant, which might have been fun to visit. (The short haired lady from the Create channel’s “Cooking with Lidia.”) We visited the public market which seemed to be closing up, and tried to buy a drink somewhere but nobody would acknowledge our presence (take THAT, Public Market!) and visited a wonderful antique store where we didn’t buy anything but the friendly owner gave us a lot of tips on what to see and where to eat.

My cheap TrackFone apparently does not work outside the confines of my car, so Jean had to use her phone to call Cathy and Cathy’s husband Pat, to give them directions on where to find us in the seemingly busiest section of Pittsburg on a Friday night after work. One of my favorite memories of the trip is Jean on the phone, walking down a busy street waving and guiding our friends to a parking place. Had it not been for Jean, I’m not sure how we’d have found each other. Are there public phones anywhere anymore? I never saw one.

So, part one of the trip. Part two to follow. Pictures of Dr Evermore’s Forevertron on the next page. Go there. You’ll love it. Take a lunch and have a picnic. They’ll let ya.


PS: Three more auction boxes to give away, so sign up now and get yours before they’re all gone. Leave a note here, or send me an Email at It’s fun!


PPS: I’m not proofreading this, just so you know.

What Is It?


Well, it’s a mystery to us, anyway. My sister picked this up at an auction recently, and we’re both puzzled. We know it’s a telephone, of course, but what kind of phone has a lever instead of a dial?

Anyone have any clues?

That center circle is where you’d put your phone number, but it’s becoming detached and has slid down. Otherwise the phone seems to be in great shape.

It looks heavy, doesn’t it? Imagine holding up that handle for 10 minutes.

Discuss among yourselves. (But tell us what you think!)

And The Winner Is …


Sharon from Ohio!

I drew Sharon’s name when I got home from Easter dinner last night, but was too tired to write an entry. So now I’m writing it on April 1, but this is not an “April Fool,” because I’ve never been good at practical jokes since I gave one of my my job-hunting sisters the number of the Duluth Zoo and told her to ask for Mr Fox. Talk about lame, huh? Anyway, a box of auction stuff will be winging its way to Sharon later this week. Don’t forget to sign up here or at my Email address, You could be next!

Sharon and I “met” through letters many years ago, long before home computers came about. I can’t even remember how we found one another, but when you have a lot of prolific letter writers in America, they’re bound to cross paths at some point. Over the years we’ve gone through a lot of things together, through our letters and phone calls. Several years ago I drove through her home town, and though I know I could pick her out of a crowd, we have never met in person. Life is funny, isn’t it?


Auction treasures this week include a giraffe cream pitcher, a Mother Goose figurine (at least that’s what I’m calling it) and an old tin from an Addressograph ribbon.These things are not going into the auction treasures raffle, but it’s amazing what a gal can find for one dollar!

Note to self: Look up "Addressograph."

Mother Goose? That's what I'm calling her.

Sweet little giraffe pitcher. I imagine there is a sugar bowl out there somewhere.


Hope you all had a wonderful Easter, which started out looking more like Christmas as it snowed in Duluth. The day never really did warm up, though I have photos of Easters past where my nieces and nephew wore shorts and hunted for eggs in the new spring grass.

Here’s our own little Easter bunny, Madison, who kept us charmed all through dinner.

And here are some of the fabulous cupcakes we had for dessert, compliments of the fabulous Amber at Cake Occasions in Duluth. Amber is a sweetie, and will be the newest member of our family in July of this year.

And now let us turn our thoughts to spring. Please!

My Amazing Friends.


Duluth, My (lovely and amazing) Home Town

As someone who started out in life as a shy dimwit, I somehow got incredibly lucky in later years and developed marvelous friendships with amazing people. How did it happen? I do not know. But everyone should be so lucky.

Two of my best friends (Jean and Dave Kirwan) happen to be married to each other, which saves me a lot of time and energy, another plus. Try to get married or living-together friends. It cuts down on phone calls and holiday presents.

I like to call them the Kirwinians

But I digress.

"Where are the largest indoor ports and the greatest outdoor sports?"

Talented, creative, humorous and modest (so they’ll be embarrassed that I wrote this) the Kirwans recently created a wonderful video about Duluth, which won first place in a short film contest the other night. Brilliant! I want you to see this immediately. Whether you live in Duluth or visited Duluth or just need a good laugh, check this out! The video and song are both called “Duluth, My Home Town,” and you can find it on You Tube, or right here:

The song is an old radio tune from 1961, when I was a hapless teenager, and I remember it well. Though I probably haven’t heard the words since 1961, I somehow remembered each one, which is amazing when you consider I can’t remember what I wore yesterday.

Among their other talents, Jean and Dave have raised three talented and gorgeous kids, have an abiding love for movies and film, good books and good food. They’re funny and affable and they’ll eat anything. And though she says she hates to cook, Jean is one of the best cooks I know. Dave makes margaritas that will knock you on your ass. In a good way, though. One will do it.

Pre-margarita, I think.

So go look. The more I see it, the more I catch on to the jokes. And while the guy in jail (“…for a lifetime, or just a day…”) is my favorite, though each viewing reveals more amazing things.


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Don’t forget to sign up for this month’s raffle for a small box of leftover auction treasures. (A gal can’t keep everything, can she?) Although each piece is from auction purchases, I also try to tailor the winnings to the recipient. What have you got to lose? There may be valuable things you can keep, or pass along to others, or fling out your car window as your cruise Highway 61 at 100 MPH. Like someone I know recently did.

Just send me an Email ( or leave a note here, and you’re in like Flynn. You can win more than once, too. Take a chance. I did!

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PS: I didn’t know that link was going to show up as the old postcard of Duluth from the video. How amazing! The less you understand about technology, the more incredible it appears. You may now roll your eyes.