Archive for the ‘Family’ Category

Minnesota State Fair: Before and After


Some people say a picture is worth a thousand words, so maybe I ought to start taking more pictures since words seem to fail me these lazy days. Here are two photos that tell a great story.

My sister Be and her husband went to the cities and took the grandkids to the State Fair. I think these Before and Afters tell the story:

State Fair2017_2

That’s all for now!

The Death Box.


Every month when I pay my mortgage and insurance and utility bills, I ask myself: “Who’s going to take care of this stuff when I’m gone?” Lacking a husband or children, the answer seems to come back to my family, which means my sisters. As if they didn’t have enough to do.

Though I am organized with paperwork and bills and household matters, it does not follow that the rest of my family will know where things are kept. And thus, The Death Box.

I probably won’t call it that, except to myself. I’m going to go to Michael’s and try to find an appropriate memory box to store this project. Which I think is utterly brilliant, and will be helpful to those left behind. Immediately helpful, I mean, unlike a last will and testament or other “legal” instrument.

Knowing that none of us will get out of here alive, I’ve started a collection of papers that will help my family clear up my personal business as quickly as possible. Social Security card, names of contacts at my financial institution, information about and title to my car, birth certificate, marriage license, keys to the safe deposit box… it’s all gonna be there. In The Death Box, on the dining room table.

I think it’s a great idea. It’s been a good feeling to get this done. I have a long way to go, but each day I go through certain file drawers and gather information and business cards that will be helpful. Also going to add passwords for my online accounts, and the name of my financial advisor who will be so helpful to my family.

Seems like a good thing to do, especially this time of the year when skeletons and the Grim Reaper are in almost every store window, reminding us that we’re not going to be here forever, but that pretty soon we can shut off the porch lights and enjoy some fun size Snickers bars.

So that’s my story. Taking care of business, I guess you’d call it. I may even write my own obituary in due time. I think it will be appreciated.

That’s all for now!


Oh, Baby.



The newest addition to our family arrived Saturday night, around 10:30. She’s a beauty! Her name is Olivia Lauren, and we’re so happy she’s here.

Mom and dad are doing fine, and so is baby. She entered the world surrounded by people who loved her ever before they saw her… a big family just waiting to hold her and show her everything there is to see and do.

We love you, Olivia!



Babies, Babies, Babies.


Well, really just “baby, baby,” though the other was more fun to write.

Our family seems to be growing by leaps and bounds, which is a wonderful thing, and no thanks to my efforts. (Sad saga for another page.) Niece Katie and her husband Erik are expecting a baby girl later this month. We recently held a baby shower for her, and I managed to take a bunch of not-so-great photos (my specialty) that I’ll share here. It’ll keep me from having to write much:

Mom-to-be Katie opening presents with help from her nieces Josie and Gabriella:


Katie with Josie, in space boots!


Last days of spike heels?

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERANieces Courtney and Amber ought to be in the party-planning business. They did a fabulous job of decorating the hall and keeping all guests busy and engaged.






And what’s a shower without good food? A fabulous brunch was served, along with slushy drinks and frozen fruit cups. Good stuff!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERANiece Amber, from Cake Occasions, provided a beautiful (and delicious) cake in the colors Katie chose for the baby’s room. The shoes on top are edible! Edible shoes. What a concept.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAA fun time was had by all. At least by me. I hope everyone else enjoyed it as much.

Later that evening, my sister Be hosted a family pot-luck to celebrate the holidays and Katie’s shower and the fact that Heather and Mike and the kids were in town. We had such a great time. The highlight of the evening came when nephew Mike (not Heather’s Mike, but Amber’s Mike) made a sly announcement about Amber’s pregnancy. It took us all a while to figure out what he was hinting at. But what a joyous day!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWhat great parents they are all going to be. Next Christmas, we’ll have six tiny tots chasing after dogs and screaming around the house. Isn’t that what Christmas is all about?


Happy New Year, dear readers.




Probably like many Americans, I’m spending some time today thinking about the things that make me thankful, like the joy of living in this country, living in peace,  being able to go outdoors without fear of bombs or shootings or hurricanes or mudslides or sinkholes or rattlesnakes or black widow spiders. Sometimes it’s the small things we’re really thankful for. (Like the absence of aforementioned spiders.)

I am thankful for my two cats, my electric blanket, my own washer and dryer so I don’t have to hang out in creepy laundromats, and my car that quite often gets me from here to there. I’m thankful for music and good radio programs and a safe home and grateful that I am healthy and mostly retired with an adequate income. I’m grateful for Wisconsin auctions. Bliss!


I’m grateful for the bigger things, too. On Saturday evening I went to a family potluck dinner and was thankful to have so large an extended family, and that we all get along (or if we don’t, we don’t make noisy issues of it) and thankful for my four beautiful and sweet great nieces, Gabriella, Josephine (JoJo), Madison and Harper. Grateful that two more are on the way, too!

Of course grateful for my sisters and for my wonderful friends, whether near or far. Grateful for the little surprises that life hands us, almost always on a daily basis if we’re willing to look for them. I’m thankful for turkey and sage dressing and mashed potatoes and gravy. And pie and coffee.

Here’s one of my favorite Thanksgiving photos, taken last year at the home of now far-away friends. I call it gravy fail. It makes me laugh every time I see it. Thanks, Jerry, for sometimes being klutzy, but also for always knowing how to save the day.


Thankful, too, for my few but loyal readers. Happy Thanksgiving to you all!


                                                                                            Let us know.

And The Winner Is …


Congratulations, Glenn from New York!

I think Glenn is the first male to win one of the auction boxes, so maybe more of you will enter the drawing now that you know it’s not just for the girls!

Given what I’ve got to work with (a huge box of auction leftovers), I always try to tailor the prize to the recipient. I don’t know too much about Glenn, so he’s in for a big surprise. And I hope it will be a fun one. Glenn, the box will go into the mail on Monday. Hope you enjoy it.

* * *

Speaking of winners, here’s a picture of my great niece Josie, who has won my heart. She’s celebrating her first Valentine’s Day, and she looks pretty happy with Valentines that arrived in the mail. (Just wait till she learns about chocolate!)

Couldn’t love her more if I tried.

*  *  *

Bright and early tomorrow morning, I’m headed to another auction in Wisconsin. (Auctions: The reason for long weeks of work.) Get your name in for the next drawing, which will be held the end of March. You can win more than once, and if you’ve sent in your name, it’s on the “every month” list, so don’t worry. If you haven’t, send me an Email at, like Glenn did, or leave a request in the message section on this page. Good luck to you!

I think we cover all bases here:

Long Time No See.


This little fellow has sat on my bookcase for years; a leftover from childhood. Corny though he may be, he originally belonged to my mother, so for me has become a treasured object solely on the basis of sentimentality.

Originally, he had a small set of eyeglasses, which I remember well. They were brown and round and had actual glass in them. Kinda like this.

During childhood (mine, not his) the glasses were broken and thrown away, a confession I heard from my sister Kim last week. I suppose it was one of those childhood things you just have to do, like the time I poked pinholes in the nostrils of my mom’s Southern Belle painting.

Satan. It’s the only logical explanation.

Over the years, I’ve occasionally tried to replace those glasses. I would find doll glasses at yard sales, or wire glasses in craft shops, and bring them home and try them on, all to no avail. The very last pair I tried was so ridiculously wrong that even the gnome laughed. But he wore them for a few years, uncomplaining as gnomes are, I guess.

The wrong glasses:

Maybe it wasn’t all that important. If you are on the same page for 50+ years, perhaps ill-fitting glasses are not your problem.

But to get back on point: Last weekend Kim and I were at an auction, where she purchased a box of Christmas junk on one of those “end of the table” sales. She had her eye on one thing, and when she retrieved that, she sent the rest of the stuff home with me.

So I was meticulously going through the box (because you never know what you’ll find in one of them) and there, among the garlands and plastic flowers and a knot of ornament hangers, there at the very bottom of the box, I found them. The gnome glasses. I couldn’t wait to see if they’d fit him.

They did!

They fit!

And doesn’t he even look happier? (True, somewhere along the line his face was broken and poorly put together by someone else who probably needed glasses, but nonetheless, the glasses fit. Let’s try to stay on topic.)

And by the way, here’s what he’s reading:

It just goes to show ya: You never know what you’ll find at the bottom of a box of auction junk.


So what are you going to find at the bottom (or middle or top) of your auction box? Don’t forget to sign up for the drawing, so you can win some treasures of your own. Obviously it won’t be the little pair of gnome glasses, but it might just be something you’ve been trying to find for many years.

Here’s hoping!

Spanikopita Recipe


My grandma made spinach pies quite often, but no matter which recipe I try, none of them match my memory of the ones she made. Maybe it’s nostalgia or wishful thinking, but I’d love to have just one more of Grandma Swor’s dinners again.

This recipe came from America’s Test Kitchen, and it’s pretty close to what Grandma made. (Where did she get phyllo dough back then? I wonder if she made her own, or used a different crust recipe? I wish I knew.) You can watch a video of this at their website, free. My complaint about America’s Test Kitchen is that you have to sign up “Free,” meaning you have to leave a credit card number. You know what that means: unacceptable charges on your card, eventually. Somehow the video is free, though.

This one is fun to make, and tastes pretty darned good.



Ingredients you’ll need:

20 oz fresh spinach (which amounts to 2 bags of fresh spinach leaves, though I imagine frozen would work just as well.)

1/4 cup water (won’t need this if you’re using frozen spinach)

12 oz crumbled feta cheese (I thought this was too much; will only use 8 oz next time)

3/4 cup plain Greek yogurt

Small onion, chopped

2 eggs

2 Tablespoons dill

A pinch of mint flakes

A little lemon zest

1 teaspoon nutmeg

1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper

salt and pepper to taste

7 Tablespoons butter, melted (I used nearly an entire stick)

1/2 cup pecorino or grated parmesan cheese

16 sheets phyllo dough (1 roll of phyllo is 16 sheets. Freeze the second roll for your next recipe.)

2 teaspoons sesame seeds (optional, but pretty)

Steam the spinach in 1/4 cup of water in the microwave for about 5 minutes. Drain well, using a spatula to press out excess water. Chop the spinach up. (You don’t need to remove stems.) Squeeze spinach in an old kitchen towel (“old” because it will stain) to remove all moisture.

In a large bowl, mix the spinach with the yogurt, feta cheese, onion, 2 eggs and the spices, stirring well.

Place a sheet of parchment paper on a large cookie sheet. (If you use a 9×13 pan, you’ll have excessive moisture in the recipe, making a soggy crust. A cookie sheet and parchment allows moisture to drain off.) Butter the parchment and then begin stacking 10 phyllo sheets, buttering each sheet after you add it to the pile. Don’t worry if they break up (you can move them back in position) but phyllo tends to dry quickly, so work fast. When you have 10 sheets of buttered phyllo, spoon the spinach mixture on that, and distribute evenly, leaving about 1/4 inch of space around all 4 sides.

On top of the spinach mixture, butter the remaining 6 sheets of phyllo. Sprinkle pecorino or parmesan cheese evenly between the last 2 sheets. Pat the layers down gently with your hands.

With a paring knife, score gently through the first 3 layers, marking off about 24 squares, or less, depending on your preference. Sprinkle the top with the 2 teaspoons of sesame seeds.

Bake in a 425 degree oven for 20-25 minutes,until golden brown. Allow spanikopita to rest about 10 minutes before cutting. Serve warm or at room temperature.

I think Grandma would approve!



Fabulous view of one fabulous city. Come and see us!

I love Duluth. Not just because it’s where I was born and have lived most of my life, but because it is a beautiful city. Nestled on the shores of Lake Superior, surrounded by hills that are currently glowing with autumn leaves, it’s simply a beautiful place to live. (Except in winter, when I hate it. But that’s another story for another day.)

I didn’t take a vacation this year, but spent most weekends at auctions (are you yawning?) and then my dear friend Cathy from Pennsylvania visited in early September, at which time Duluth’s weather cooperated by not being too cold or too hot or too windy or too rainy. It was perfect. PERFECT. I couldn’t have been happier if I’d orchestrated it myself, which I will be doing when World Domination kicks in, though the handbook isn’t quite ready yet.

Not to digress too far off point, but is our airport EVER going to be finished? Didn’t they start reconstruction a few years ago? How long could this take? The whole thing isn’t much larger than my house, so it seems like you should be able to leave on a flight without having to wander through quonset huts or the basement parking lot just to get to the main desk. Is it just me? Hurry up, airport people! The escalator doesn’t even work anymore. Yeesh.

On Friday, Cathy and I headed to Delta Diner, one of my favorite places on earth. Stuck in the middle of the woods on Highway H outside of Iron River, it’s a happy destination for sightseers and those with not much to do but get in the car and drive out in the country. You can stop at the Garlic Man’s place, too, if you aren’t going 85 MPH as some of us might tend to do. We didn’t actually stop there, but here is a free plug:

The folks at Delta Diner are wonderful. They look like they’re having a lot of fun while they’re working. The menu is simple (though the menu explanations are extensive) and the coffee is good. And so’s the Dutch Baby, which is also about the size of my house, and good for about three  breakfasts beyond the first!

The Dutch Baby... As big as the plate! You'll never finish it.

Here’s Cathy, looking pretty happy with her French toast or whatever it was.

While we were there, the baker who supplies Delta Diner with their bread showed up with some loaves that apparently were not up to par, and the chef gave free loaves to everyone in the diner. (Try to get there on Free Bread day!) That was very cool. As we were leaving, the hostess gave us two “I Heart Delta Diner” bumper stickers, and later came out to take a photo of us in front of the place. What great service! No wonder people love the place.

Does that Dutch Baby make me look fat?

Later we went shopping at a few thrift stores in Iron River, and a very nice gift shop with unusual items where the uncaring proprietor refused to bother with my purchase as she was more interested in selling scarves and jewelry to another customer. So feh on her! She’s not the only store in town with crow decals on dishtowels, I would like to add.

Stopped at an antique store in Allouez; it seemed to go on for miles. I was actually tired of looking at old stuff by the time we made our way back out. I probably didn’t see half of it, but I do know that if you’re in the market for postcards, you should go there. In Superior, we shopped at Goodwill, Salvation Army and Earth Exchange. Fun stores, all.

On Saturday we visited one of the Little Free Library locations just around the corner from my house (how I want one of those in my yard!) and walked to Serendipity, a great little gift/antique shop just around the corner. Didn’t realize until then that the neighborhood was celebrating Lakeside Days, so we visited the shops and bought some treats at Johnson’s Bakery. Ran in to my sisters, so had coffee and tea with them, took photos of the steam engine, and went to the park to watch a dog show, which was a lot of fun. (Probably not for the dogs, though, what with all the noise.) Later we headed up to the mall, stopping at Bixby’s for soup and a warm up.

Dinner was at Duluth Grill, where you simply must take all out of town visitors, and whose food is delicious. And whose vegetables are home-grown right in the parking lot! What’s not to love?

In the evening, we pored over photos of our lost youth. Amazing to see your friends in their formative years. What surprises! What fun! And what great conversations ensued.

On Sunday Cathy went to church on Fourth Street to hear a speaker whose book she was reading (Randy Alcorn, I think, but she’ll correct me if I’m wrong) and later we ventured out onto the Vista King for a spectacular view of the city. The weather was absolutely perfect: warm and sunny, not blazingly hot, but not cool enough to warrant a jacket. Perfect!

We began at the DeWitt Seitz Marketplace, and since we had some time to kill, a drink at the courtyard of Amazing Grace Cafe:

Does this moose make me look fat?

A beautiful day for tourist-watching.

Cathy and friend at Rocky Mountain Candy, Canal Park

Some views from the Vista King:

Former Coast Guard Cutter Sundew, now a private "party boat." Would love to go to THAT party!

Blatnik Bridge, under construction. Just like our airport.

Above: Duluth skyline from the Vista King, and the very reason I am not a professional photographer.

Later that night we came home and made dinner for friends Jean and Dave, and watched “So Long and Good Luck” before dessert. A great day!

On Monday morning, considering the sunlight and perfect temps, we enjoyed an impromptu breakfast at Brighton Beach. We had the place to ourselves, and it was lovely.

Well, almost to ourselves, until we began feeding the lone gull on the rocks, who called his five million friends to join him. We were lucky to make it out of there unscathed. (If you know what I mean.)

(Again: NOT a professional photographer. Or even a very good photo editor.)

We drove to Two Harbors and visited the shops, drove through the Silver Cliffs tunnels, and enjoyed the scenery.

Dinner was at Gordy’s Hi Hat in Cloquet, where it was still warm enough to eat outside on the patio. Good food, good company, good weather. Can’t ask for too much more than that, although I do wish I’d ordered a malt!

Only in America.

So a good time was had by all (I hope) and if you didn’t plan a vacation this summer, I highly recommend getting out in Duluth and seeing the sights through fresh eyes. Pretend you’re a tourist. See Canal Park, Two Harbors, the drive up the shore, Skyline Drive, the many great restaurants, Enger Tower … all of it. See it again for the first time.

But it’s early October … wear warm clothes!

Your Life For Sale.


That’s what I think when I’m walking through the crowds at outdoor auctions, looking at other people’s stuff, once important and now being sold for pennies on the dollar. Not sure how I’d feel about that, but I know if my stuff ever gets auctioned off, I won’t be there to see it. That would be too heartbreaking. From the standpoint of a veteran buyer of other people’s stuff, though, I gotta say I love it.

My sister Kim and I got up early and headed to Frederic, Wisconsin, for a marvelous outdoor sale. The weather was perfect. The crowd was huge. I spotted something I wanted the first minute we were there. I was lucky that nobody else seems to like what I like, because after standing at the edge of a trailer among high bidders and cutthroat competition, not one person bid against me. (Oh, what a metaphor for one’s life, eh?) I got exactly what I wanted: These dear little ducks, hand painted in Japan. They are not in perfect condition, but what is? Who wouldn’t love them?

"Come over for coffee," they seem to be saying.

We spent most of the day wandering around, buying stuff, filling up the car, eating canteen food and enjoying the crowds. It’s a great place for people watching, but the “stuff” is fun to watch, too.

Here are some photos from the day.

What to buy? What to buy?

I wanted the little frogs you can see near the center bottom, but we left long before they even came up for bidding. I wonder where they ended up?

You can't see it, but in front of this crowd is a player piano that sold for $5. They had to throw in a box of piano rolls to sweeten the deal! Five dollars. Five.

There were trailers and trailers of stuff. Everything from household items to linens, furniture, books, farm implements, and even a car or two for sale. There were two auctions going on at once… I lost Kim several times, but we managed to find each other eventually.


Some guys checking out comic books.

Never too early to start thinking of Christmas!

We filled up the car, but not so much that we didn’t have time to stop at several yard sales, or at a Dairy Queen for something cold and white! (Not snow.)

SCORE! Two cartons for piano rolls for $20. Some really good ones in there, too. (I do have a player piano, lest you think I'd gone off the deep end.)

Kim's stuff, in the back of the car. We're just getting warmed up!

Sometimes you just gotta sit.

Specialties of the day? Hard to say, but I liked these:

Goofy photo of JFK.

Can you ever have too many sock monkeys? (Answer: NO!) And hey... notice my red car in the center of the photo. Sometimes a gal just has to make her own parking spot, you know?

It was a marvelous day. Every time I’m leaving Superior to head to Kim’s house, I pass a billboard on Hwy 2 that reads “A day of play beats a day of work,” which is actually an ad for a casino, but you know what? It’s true of auctions, too.

I think this sleepy guy summed it up for most of us:

Catching a few Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzs

I hope the camera flash didn’t disturb his slumber.

Next stop (for me) is an auction in Eau Claire on Tuesday. More pics to follow, unless I forget my camera. (Of course I could always bid on one.)