Archive for the ‘Family’ Category

Welcome to the World, Josephine Claire


We eagerly anticipated the arrival of my niece Heather’s baby, Josephine Claire, who arrived on March 29th, 2012, just in time for Easter. (And seriously: Who would not love that middle name, which also happens to be my own?) It goes without saying that she is a beauty; surrounded by eager family members who  have loved her since they first heard she was expected!

Josie already has a big sister, Gabriella, who is nearly 2. Here is a photo that is probably the first family picture showing all four of them:

Heather, Gabby, Mike and Josephine Claire

Imagine the fun those girls are going to have together! My sisters (one older, two younger) were always my best pals, and remain so today. It’s a family tradition.

Here’s the proud dad and his girls:

Mike always reminds me of Sean Penn. But I digress.

Here’s Heather, just home from the hospital:

So welcome home Heather, and welcome home Josie, for whom “home” is the entire world. We love you and we eagerly anticipate watching you grow.

Last summer the aunties and nieces and great-nieces Gabby and Madison took a little trip up the shore for lunch and sightseeing, which is when Heather announced she was pregnant. This summer’s trip will include Josie, and we hope the tradition will carry on for many years to come.

That’s what family’s all about, isn’t it?


PS: It’s an odd day when I get up early to update my blog, but life has been hectic. So happy belated Easter to all of you, and have a look at my concoction which turned my fingers blue, and which wasn’t really very tasty after all. But pretty!

Don’t hate me because I’m clever!

(My friend Kim would of course say “That’s not the reason.”

How was your Easter? Got pictures to share?

Well, I’d better get dressed and off to work. No time to proofread, but my fingers are crossed. (Not literally.) More to come!

Stay In Touch.


My friend Jill called this morning, much to my surprise. I like to think of her as my friend, but I haven’t been a very good friend in return.

Just as I was thinking of updating my blog with some vague, un-gelled thoughts of Uncle George’s funeral, the phone rang, and there was Jill, just calling to chat. Without meaning to, she managed to focus my entire thought process for this entry.

Jill and I worked together at HBJ, which then became Edgell Communications, which then became Advanstar Communications, which is now partly Advanstar and partly HCL. (But I digress.) We always had an easy friendship, partly, I think, because we both understood the absurdity of most things, and we both liked to laugh. We were each laid off during a downsizing event in 1992, and since she lived in my neighborhood at that time, we stayed in touch by phone, or going for walks, or wandering down to Lester River to sit on the rocks and discuss all matters large and small. Those were fun times.

Once, while looking for some distraction from unemployment, we decided to attend a court hearing. I’m not sure how we chose the particular case we ended up viewing, though I remember it involved a lot of young men in prison garb, and one in particular who caught our eye. Not sure who started the giggling, but I’m going to blame it on Jill. Of course I couldn’t resist, and the quick telling of the story is that common courtesy demanded we leave the courtroom immediately (before the bailiff threw us out) and I remember walking out with my hand over my face. I’m pretty sure some people thought I was someone’s distressed parent in tears. It was my first and last court appearance.

But then Jill got a job, and I got a job, and she moved to another part of town, and our lives took different paths again. I missed her, but I was too lazy to do much about it. We became Christmas card friends. After a few years of “we should get together for lunch” notes, I felt guilty about my inaction, and wrote “You could do a lot better in the friend department.”

We once ran into one another at the Duluth Clinic, though not literally, which is a good thing. I was going in one door with a broken arm, and Jill was going out the other door with a broken ankle, so of course we had to stop and laugh about that, too. (It’s wonderful to have a friend who doesn’t see you for a few years at a time, but then you can catch up on stuff in about 2 minutes.)

So, my point. (And I really do have one.)

Stay in touch.

Stay in touch with the people who matter to you. Call them or write them or go to their homes, but make time to stay in touch with the people who matter to you. Don’t assume they will always be there, because they won’t.

This past weekend I attended the visitation and the funeral for my uncle George. I saw so many relatives that I no longer spend any time with. People who meant so much to me at one time (and who still do, of course) are now relegated to the occasional wedding, funeral, or Christmas card note. I heard stories about my uncle that I’d never heard before, and wished that I’d talked to him about them, but of course it is now too late. And that’s just how quickly everything is over.

My uncle, it turns out, kept all the cards and letters and photos that were ever sent to him. Imagine that treasure. (And I’m so glad I’m still a letter writer, at least, and kept in touch with him by sending occasional cards with family news.) He kept in touch with his friends and neighbors, and he kept in touch with his church, despite an alleged disagreement that kept him away for many years. The number of people who showed up for both services was overwhelming to me. Uncle George understood the importance of keeping in touch.

So contact someone you care about. Write a letter or make a phone call or do whatever you have to do to let them know you are still out there, still thinking of them, still caring. They will be gone way too soon.

If you are too busy to keep in touch with the people who matter to you, then you are simply too busy. Rearrange your schedule. Remind yourself of what matters.

And Jill, if you’re reading this, let’s REALLY have lunch some day soon. Really! I miss you.

R.I.P. Uncle George


My uncle George Swor died yesterday afternoon in St Luke’s Hospital in Duluth. He was 88 years old, my mother’s youngest brother, and the last survivor of her immediate family.

That hardly covers it. My uncle George was a one-of-a-kind family treasure.

I have a photo at my desk showing the Swor family in 1954, which includes my mother and her sister Katherine (my beloved Auntie Kay, whose recipes I sometimes publish) and their six brothers: Sam, Jack, Mitchell, Nick, Henry and George. I imagine in their youth, the Swor kids were a force to be reckoned with. When I was a kid, they were a happy, boisterous bunch, gathered at Grandma Swor’s house every Sunday for chicken dinner. I thought my uncles were marvelous. They all seemed strong and capable, with swarthy Mediterranean good looks, and they seemed to be joking and laughing all the time, which made us kids feel safe and protected, and part of Something Big.

All those people grew up and married, raised families, and then most of them died way too soon.

Uncle George and Aunt Betty raised four sons, while my parents raised four daughters. For some years our families lived across the street from one another on Fern Avenue in the Kenwood area. My sisters and I spent some time with our cousins, especially with Aunt Betty, who loaded up her navy blue Cadillac (she always drove a Cadillac) with all 8 of us, taking us swimming at Park Point or to a cabin at Lake Minnisuing in Wisconsin. While I remember her large metal Red Dot cans filled with peanut butter and chocolate chip cookies, I also remember Uncle George burying silver dollars in the sand for us kids to find.

I remember being in the car with my cousins when Uncle George would say “Hey, kids, let’s have a contest to see who can keep their eyes closed the longest!” I always wanted to win that contest. We only found out years later that he did this any time we were in the vicinity of a Dairy Queen. Other times he drove us over Superior’s “singing bridge,” always telling us to put one hand on the car’s ceiling and make a wish, because bridges were good luck.

Uncle George owned a Texaco station on Sixth Avenue East for many years, and during childhood I spent  happy hours there with my sisters and cousins, picking apples from the huge apple tree and throwing them (ineffectually) at passing traffic, or playing in the creek behind the station, into which my cousin Barbara was known to toss her much-hated eyeglasses. I can’t see a red Texaco symbol without thinking of my uncle in his dark green attendant’s uniform, running out of the station to clean windshields, check oil and fill gas tanks. (The man who wore the star is now among the stars.) Years later he opened a motel across the street from the station, which soon went from a regulation motel to a sort of shelter for local misfits. I doubt he collected as much in rent as he “loaned” to others, but he helped so many with housing, transportation, food and protection from the elements. Despite his happy association with more than one snarling rottweiler, he was robbed at least once, and perhaps more than that, but he never lost his faith in humanity, and he never stopped helping anyone with a sad story.

My uncle never forgot his nieces. He was especially close with my cousin Barbara, sharing a love of adventure and gambling with her. They often traveled to Vegas together, and I’m sure each trip was memorable. Every Christmas my sisters and I received gifts from my uncle, even though we hadn’t spent much time with him, and in our later years there were always Christmas gifts of cash. Family meant the world to my sentimental uncle, and he never wavered from his love or loyalty.

Depsite the death of his brothers and sisters, and the early and unexpected death of his son Greg, my uncle soldiered on. He and my aunt separated in the late 1960, but never divorced. Though he lived alone, he was never really alone. He always had a smile for every person he met. Though I’m sure they must have happened, I can’t remember a time when I didn’t see my uncle smiling.

I didn’t see my uncle much in the past few years, a fact of which I am not proud. He was always accessible and I was not. The last time I saw him feeling well was at the last Swor Christmas party at the Depot in December. He always made you feel as if you were the very person he wanted to see at that very moment. His health was failing, but not his generous spirit, his wonderful smile, or his love of family and tradition.

And so last Wednesday, when he wasn’t feeling well, he had the presence of mind to call an ambulance for himself, and to call my cousin Barbara (my mother’s namesake) to let her know something was wrong. At the hospital he suffered a heart attack from which he was unable to recover, despite vigilant medical care and the love and prayers of family.

It is sad to know he is gone. But I think we are all relieved that he did not have to linger in a bedridden condition for days or weeks on end.

I wish I had a scan of a photo to post here so you could see his smiling face. But I don’t. I do have memories of him that will last the rest of my life.

Rest in peace, Uncle George.

We love you.

You can trust your car to the man who wears the star...

Road Trip! Or, 235 Miles of Adventure.


I can’t think of many things I enjoy more than a good road trip, and for me, anything short of a head-on collision is a good road trip. There are always things to see, people to meet, local restaurants to sample. What’s better than that?

Yesterday I was on the road to Gordon (Wisconsin) to pick up my sister Kim who had graciously invited me to another auction, after I begged her to let me come along. Our usual meeting place is Gordon’s  ICO station on Hwy 53. I arrived there before Kim and bought a few newspapers and some nutritional road food, Hershey’s chocolate and a bag of cashews. My purchase rang up at 666 on the cash register, and after our initial surprised glance at one another, the cashier and I agreed we would not let it cast a pall on our days, although I did consider buying a pack of gum to change the number.

Got a chance to talk to the very nice man who gets up at 2:30 AM in Trego every day to deliver newspapers around small towns in Wisconsin. Every single day. I don’t even get up at 2:30 AM to toddle to the bathroom, so I don’t know how he does it, but I’m intrigued by people who drive places for a living, even when the roads are icy and treacherous. Hats off to them. (Though I hope they keep their hats on in winter.)

Our destination was a large auction house in Webster, Wisconsin. Kim figured how long it would take us to get there, but she forgot to factor in my lead foot, so we ended up with plenty of time to look around. “Show, don’t tell,” my writing instructors always advised me, so if you’re ready for more bad photography, I’ll show you what we saw first.

Was this my lucky day or what? A garage sale? In February? YES!

Kim bought a clarinet or flute or piccolo, or some shiny silver instrument in a beautiful blue velvet lined box. (What do I know? I was always in chorus back in my school days.) My find, which fit very nicely into the back seat:

ONE DOLLAR, people. No kidding. Score!

I bought this lovely brass headboard, for which I have no use. I think it would look great in someone ‘s garden next summer, so I will probably end up selling it. For one dollar, I could not pass it up. Frankly, I would not sit in a chilly town hall all afternoon to make one dollar for this lovely items, but that’s just me. I think it’s gorgeous.

After the sale, we followed another sign down a country road to find bison in a frosty field in Rusk, Wisconsin. This guy in the front couldn’t take his eyes off me, or else he was considering making a lunge for my big red car. Either way, we were both kept our manners, and I didn’t stay long enough to fully annoy him. But I thought he was a beauty.

It was still early in the day, so the frost hadn't burned off yet, and I think it added a lot to the photo.

On to the auction. It wasn’t a very good one, according to my serious-buyer sister (whose husband had gone to a separate auction in Amery, Wisc.) but for me they are all good ones, because I never really have a purchase in mind, but like to be surprised by what I find. This one was crowded, and at first we sat way in the back, but later walked up to the front for serious bidding. (Kim’s, not mine.)

You can barely see the auctioneer way up front, but he was there. Favorite auctioneer line of the day when the bidding slowed down: “Anyone else have the miserable winter cold? Raise your hand.”

I did see one thing I wanted, and my sister managed to get it for me for just $8. It is a Japanese salt and pepper set on a tray, with a little pot in the center that probably could hold preserves. Or M&Ms, at my house.

Isn't this gorgeous? I love it so much. Not a chip on it, either. Would love to know its history.

The day was gorgeously sunny. At one point I was standing at the car wrapping pieces of china in some of my 666 newspaper, and realized it was February 6, and the temperature was about 45 degrees. Amazing. One for the books. (In case you’re writing a book about weather. You can quote me!)

We didn’t stay too long at the auction, but decided to drive other places to see stuff. We were close to the town of Siren, so we went to have a look. This sobering sight was the most serious moment of the day:

I can not imagine a force so strong to have created that scene, nor the strength that wrapped it so tightly that it has stayed there for 11 years. I imagine there are happy days for Siren residents that are suddenly sobered by the memory of that storm. I don’t remember seeing any trees along Siren’s main drag, either.

But another “sign” quickly took our minds off the tornado.

No major purchases, but always fun to look at other people’s castoffs. I bought a movie whose name I’ve forgotten, and I’m too lazy to walk to the living room to look.

We visited another thrift shop, but came away empty-handed, and headed for lunch. We found this really good sports bar, Adventures, and the daily special was a fabulous patty melt sandwich, so my life was complete. The sandwich was served on marble rye bread with fries, and was so large that I took half of it home for dinner. Yum!

On the way out of Siren, we turned around to photograph this very tall cowboy with a stick that may explain why some cowboys walk the way they do. It’s a very tall cowboy, and I told my sister that the photo would be more impressive if she’d go stand by his feet, to which she replied “Why don’t you trot across that snowy field and I’ll take your picture?”, and so of course it never got done. But trust me. He’s tall. He should also be holding something, like a lasso for Rodeo Days, or maybe a very large basket of kittens. Though it’s hard to improve on a tall cowboy, most everything looks better with a basket of kittens.

I rest my case.


On the road again, our next stop was the charming little town of Spooner, where Kim has friends who have antique shops. Walnut Street in Spooner contains a two block stretch of interesting shops, and if you love antiques, you must stop at The Red Door Antiques and More Shop, which sort of reminds me of Vic & Sade’s Little Tiny Petite Pheasant Feather Shoppe, but that’s another story for another day, though it, too, is an antique.

I didn’t take a photo of it, but The Red Door is not hard to find, and is surrounded by other interesting shops. The greeting from Kim’s friends Carla and her husband, Joe, was so friendly and cordial that you want to pull up a chair and settle in for a chat, but there wasn’t time. The shop is filled with floor to ceiling treasures from various sellers who like the same kind of stuff I do, and I could have spent hours wandering around there. Even if you didn’t buy anything, the wide assortment is sort of like a museum tour of your personal history, where every dish and tin evokes things from your childhood that you didn’t forget after all. I loved it. And I bought something that I love.

This charming old cookie cutter has a slightly off-kilter handle, which makes me think it had been used a lot. I love it’s fluted edges, and it’s deep and large enough to be used for baking scones or biscuits. It’s perfect. I like to imagine a farm wife using it for Sunday breakfasts.

Carla has the kind of job I’d like to have if I ever reach retirement. I’d love to go places to buy things to bring back to that lovely shop to sell. I’d love to spend some winter afternoons surrounded by the memories of past lives. Carla seems pretty happy to be doing it. So would I.

After reluctantly leaving the shop, we headed back to Gordon, where I dropped Kim off at her car, and made my way back to Duluth, completely forgetting to give her the $8 I owe her for the Japanese pieces. Got home while the sun was still shining, and had a lot of fun going through the day’s treasures, which also included a loaf of home made bread and some chicken stew from Kim. A delicious end to a lovely day.

Get in the car and go somewhere soon. Take pictures and tell us about it!

And say hello to the bison.

The Lettmans and Other Roadside Attractions.


Oh, the Thanksgiving weekend was such a blast! It’s taken me weeks to get over it, so now is a good time to update my blog, and this time I won’t put any tomatoes in it, as someone requested today.

I was invited to spend Thanksgiving weekend with the Lettmans at their new home in Thief River Falls, and I was eager to get on the road with my shiny new car. (New in 2004, anyway.) The weather was perfect (no coat required, which is always a good thing in Minnesota) and Highway 2 winds its way through some interesting little towns that I hadn’t seen before.

There are some great road signs on this trip, too, and places I didn’t know we had: Savanna River and Swan Lake, for instance. In Minnesota? Who knew? I also liked Pin Cherry Road, Schoolcraft Park, Gosh Dam Place, the Big Fish Supper Club (attached to a really big fish!) and, in the land of casinos, an aptly named Sucker Bay. One I particularly liked was Lost River, and I tell you, it isn’t lost at all, but right there under that bridge.

I was listening to Simon and Garfunkel’s “Bookends” album on the trip, and “Hazy Shade of Winter” seemed especially appropriate, with that ending line, “Look around — there’s a patch of snow on the ground.” And so there was.

Where’s my friend Jean when I need her? Roadside animals aren’t nearly as much fun if she’s not there to be bitten by a lion, kicked by a stag or swallowed by a big fish. (Or lying in the grass to look up the tunic of the Jolly Green Giant, but that’s a whole other story.) But use your imagination!

Okay. So I didn’t practice cropping photos in my spare time. Sue me.

And hey: Thanks to the wonderful folks at Cass Lake who maintain a clean, well-lit and welcoming roadside rest area.  (No photo necessary.)

Highway 59 winds around lots of wide open spaces before it brings you to the town of Thief River Falls, which seems to be a small town with lots going on. But my goal was to spend time with the Lettmans, and here they are:

Let me say they are not actually that formal at home. They’re a lot more casual, and I don’t think any of them actually sit still for that long, so I’m not sure how the photographer did it. But what a great picture. And here are the 3 kids, Henry, Mahalia and Lydia, who are silly and smart and thoughtful, and fun to be around. Mahalia (in the red sweater) gave up her girly-girl room for me while I was there, and I appreciated the cozy bed and the curtains with little jewels in them that looked like stars shining in the night sky. Lydia (in the red scarf) is now a very special young lady who spent much of her time drawing; a talent those kids no doubt inherited from their folks. Henry is a bundle of boyish energy (where do they GET that?) but a good break-dancer, too.

These beautiful Lettman photos were taken by Sara K. Callavin of Two Harbors, MN, who does some very nice work. Credit where credit is due.

As soon as I arrived, I learned we were heading out to a local animal shelter to pick out two nice cats for the family. I don’t think I even took my coat off! I wanted to be screeching down the driveway before Mr L changed his mind. (Of household pets he is not a fan.) It took a while to find two that seemed absolutely right, so we brought them home, after a stop along the way to buy litter, a litter box, toys, food, dishes and a brush. Even felines require some of life’s little necessities.

The cats didn’t “settle in” so much as one of them taking over the entire house like he’d always lived there, and the other immediately hiding behind the washing machine. Your yin and yang deal.

A nice surprise at dinner was the Badger Shrine, set up in the corner of the dining room, complete with candles and an offertory. I might have missed it, but I was happy to see it as I’m pretty sure that may be the only plaster cast of a badger in the entire state. (For those of you who refuse to shop at Salvation Army, this is what you’re missing.) I did leave an offering, though I’m not sure badgers like gum.

On Saturday we were off to East Grand Forks, ND, for a day of thrift shopping. What fun! I found some wonderful treasures, including books, clothes, old embroidered dish towels, Christmas decorations and other stuff too numerous to mention. What a blast to peruse junk in another state. (SO much different from junk in Minnesota.) Just kidding. Seemed odd to me that a big college town like that (home of UND) didn’t seem to have any bookstores, or at least none that I could see. No lack of fast food places, though. (Not a complaint. Just an observation.)

I left on Sunday, enjoying a leisurely drive back home through Bemidji and Grand Rapids, and stopped often to check out shops or walk around for a bit. What’s more fun than a road trip? Nothing.

Thanksgiving comes close, though. It’s like Christmas without the presents, and this year my sister Be fixed a fabulous dinner for all of us. I didn’t take a picture of the family together, but I did take a picture of the beautifully set table before we were seated.

My creative sister Steff made this vegetable turkey, which made me laugh. I couldn’t bear to eat any part of it. I hope she still has it. Maybe she could freeze it for next year.

Here’s a Thanksgiving picture of my great niece Gabriella with her mom and auntie Katie:

And here’s a picture of my other great-niece, Madison, who could not be sweeter:

So that was my wonderful Thanksgiving weekend, reminding me again how much I have to be thankful for: a wonderful family, wonderful friends, thrift shops and badger statues, and Minnesota roads to explore. I hope yours was just as happy!

Halloween, Road Trips and Cookies. Oh, My!


It’s been a while since I’ve updated my blog, and I’m sorry about that. Life is hectic! But as you will soon see, I did not waste one precious minute of my free time honing my photographic skills. I figured if I threw a pretty dish towel under objects, they would look 10 times better. So I’m pretty happy with that! Too bad I didn’t iron the towel first, but hey: Life is busy!

But happy Halloween! I celebrated by making these darling little chocolate cutout cookies that are high in the cute factor but not so high in flavor. Though they contain nearly 2 cups of sugar, they taste salty to me, so the recipe’s in the trash. But hey: Cute is cute. And even cuter under a yellow dish towel with some artfully arranged gourds, don’tcha think?

Saturday was the last hurrah for the Duluth Farmer’s Market for this year. I’m sorry to see it shut down for now, since it was such an enjoyable visit every Saturday. I liked the homey, old fashioned feeling of picking out produce fresh from the farm, talking to the growers, and seeing crowds of other people enjoying the day. It’s not a feeling you get at a supermarket, though they do have their place. (And I’m usually in one of ’em.)

Here’s Farmer Doug, pressing apple cider with some little kids. The apple scented air was pretty nice! I don’t know how I managed to snap a photo just as that little kid was bending over, but I hope some day he’ll laugh about it. (I already am.)

Also went back to Delta Diner a few Saturdays ago with friends Tracy and Jessica. Those girls know how to do a good road trip! We stopped at every yard sale, thrift shop, and gift store along the way. Between Duluth and Iron River, there aren’t that many, but we didn’t miss a one.

Had to wait half an hour to get into the diner, but the weather was beautiful and we waited at a picnic table outside. I think we all had cameras with us, but not a photo was snapped. Just how it goes.

I ordered a mushroom and Swiss cheese omelet, and it was fabulous. The toast was dripping with butter, which is the way toast should be served. Do they make their own bread there? I don’t know. It was awfully good, though. So here’s some free advertising for a diner that deserves it:

So back to the road trip. At one of the yard sales, where the guy selling stuff hadn’t market any prices on any of his junk and in fact walked away as soon as we drove up, ka-jackass-chooo!, I was stung by a bee or a hornet or a yellow jacket, or some yellow flying insect that landed on my shirt, followed me to the car, and took a bite out of my back to let me know he was there. I hope he died quickly.

But the sting was taken away, so to speak, at the next sale we found, in someone’s huge garage on Highway 2. Along with a new book of matches from the Duluth Athletic Club and an old book of linen photographs of the Pennsylvania Turnpike System (for friends Cathy and Pat in Pennsylvania) I found two little things that go along with one of my favorite big things.

Here’s the big thing that is sitting on the hutch in my kitchen. It doesn’t have a lid, but I don’t care. I couldn’t love it more. It was a gift from my sister Kim, who can always spot things she knows I’ll treasure.

And here’s a picture of the two little things sitting next to the one big thing. They are not all made by the same company, but don’t they look like they belong together? Who could resist that smiling tomato face? Not me! “Would you like more salt in your tea, Aunt Alice?” Perfect!

The salt and pepper shakers twist open at the bottom, and the twisty part is china or plaster or whatever these things are made of, so it would be very easy to break them. And yet, over the years, nobody did. Amazing. If you had a salt and pepper shaker collection, you’d covet these.

In other social events, one of my friends named Marilyn came over for lunch yesterday, which was a lot of fun. We worked together back in the 70s and 80s, and recently reconnected. (In one of those supermarkets!) Turns out that aside from our mutual love of tuxedo cats, we’ve read many of the same books. We spent a great deal of time combing through my bookshelves and talking about authors and good reads. What fun!

Marilyn is on the search for an adult airedale to replace her last one who recently died. Airedales, apparently, are not as abundant as tuxedo cats. So if you know of one up for adoption, give us a jingle!

This Wednesday is a chili cookoff at work, so tonight I am updating my blog and making some prize winning chili, which should win me one of those snazzy tote bags that was leftover at one of our fashion or auto shows. Ha ha. Well, a prize is a prize, and I think I deserve one. But I’d better get going. As my friend Quinn would say, That chili isn’t going to cook itself.

Sad but true.

How’s everything in your life?

Fall Weekends.


Fall is here. I concede.

Doesn’t mean the weekends can’t still be fun, though, and when you are young and beautiful and wealthy, as I would like to be, the sky’s the limit.

But even beyond that, you can still have fun. In fact, in some ways it’s easier, but I’ll save that story for another time.

Last weekend my sisters and I ventured out to Delta Diner, since we’ve heard so much about it and wanted to try it for ourselves. (Highway 2 to Iron River, turn right on Hwy H, drive about 10 miles, Bob’s yer uncle.

It was a beautiful fall morning, and the colors were brilliant. The menu at Delta Diner is limited (only on weekends, perhaps?) to about 5 breakfast items and a Blue Plate Special, but it all sounded really good to us. I found it a bit disconcerting to be eating something called a “Dutch Baby,” but it was in fact an oven pancake with strawberries and whipping cream, and no babies were harmed in the making. They do need to call it something else, though. It made me think of battered fish fingers, which we saw on a menu in England years ago, and we alternately wondered whether fish even had fingers, and if so, how many would you have to eat?

Here’s a dopey photo of me and my sisters. I’m the one with the sun shining through the back of her head. I’m not sure why the waitress didn’t find a better position from which to take the photo, but she probably gets asked 1,000 times a day to snap a photo, and maybe by now she doesn’t even pay attention. Ho hum.

That’s me in the corner with the halo I can’t seem to lose, and my sister Kim is sitting next to me, wearing glasses. In the yellow shirt is my sister Be, and behind her is my sister Steff. We also have one more sister, the very youngest, who lives in Minneapolis and so we don’t get to see her too often. But these sisters and I have been getting together for Saturday lunches for about the past 30 years (I know, we don’t look much older than that) and it’s always fun.

After consuming the Dutch Babies, we drove through the countryside to our destination, Rice Lake. We wanted to shop at Bargain Bill’s, and so we did. What a great place, if you like schlock. And really: who doesn’t? There are acres of stuff from grocery items to dishes to hardware to rugs to party supplies to craft supplies to yard ornaments and still more. Who wouldn’t love Bargain Bill’s?

We also went to an estate sale (Lord, please remind me that I do not need 17 toasters, and that I do not want to end up like that woman!) and Rice Lake’s wonderful Goodwill store, the St Vincent de Paul place, and some other thrift/consignment shops. We gave the mall a pass. Had lunch at a pretty good Mexican place, and stopped in Trego on the way home for pie and coffee. Found a roadside pumpkin stand, too, where I bought the perfect pumpkin for the front steps for a mere $2. You can drive past my house and look at it. (Please drop the  $2.00 “looking fee” into the mail slot. I bought the pumpkin on the honor system, and I wish to uphold the tradition.)

So that was one beautiful day. The weather was gorgeous, the company was fun, we relaxed and laughed and felt happy to get away from it all for a while. My sisters are lots of fun, most of the time, which is something I hope they say about me, too.


Meanwhile, on the homefront, some kissing has been going on. Winston and Mittens can now meet face to face and do that face-sniffing thing, without coming to blows. I call it “kissing,” but I think it’s that perfunctory kind that they do in movies:

Winston: “Nice to see you tonight, my dear. You’re looking lovely.”

Mittens: “You old darling.”

Kiss, kiss.

I do not have a picture of said affection. But trust me. It’s cuuuuuute.

Summer Weekends.

It’s 10:00, Wednesday night, October 5, 2011, and in Duluth that’s autumn. But I just came in from outdoors, where the air is still warm enough that I didn’t need a jacket. That’s my kind of autumn… not the frosty, bundle-up kind of weather that will be coming all too soon.
I love summer weekends. I’m trying to drag them out as long as possible, like I do with my birthdays. They’ve been so fun. Beautiful weather, beautiful Duluth scenery, getting together with family and friends, lunches with my sisters, yard sales, drives up the shore: I couldn’t love Duluth more than I do in spring or summer.
One of my favorite weekends this year took place about 3 weeks ago, when an impromptu lunch date developed with my two of my sisters (I have four of ’em, so that’s 50%!) and my three beautiful nieces, two of whom have beautiful babies. The third has a beautiful puppy, but that particular baby stayed at home.
We congregated at my sister Be’s house, and took a few photos there:

Heather, Madison Olivia, and Madison's mom, Courtney

Gabriella points at Madison's feet. I'm not sure why.

Our destination was the new Lighthouse Restaurant, now relocated at the old Emily’s place at Knife River. Of course we would have to stop at yard sales on the way up there, but there weren’t many, and since we were in two cars, we managed to all arrive at the same time. It was one of those gorgeous summer days; not too hot, not too cold. Just right, proclaimed Goldilocks.
Lunch was pretty good. The Railroad Museum in Duluth was running old engines that day; the steam engine that everyone loves, and a few other relics. One of them stopped right on the trestle outside the restaurant, and Be and Gabby went out to see it, so that Gabby could wave at things. That is her favorite pastime these days: waving. She’s good at it!

Niece Katie, sister Be, and Gabby at the restaurant. Part of Courtney at the end of the table, feeding Madison

The best part of lunch for all of us was Heather’s announcement that she is pregnant again, and will have a new baby in March. Such happy news. She was teary-eyed when she told us (from happiness, I’m pretty sure) and I felt sort of choked up, too. As far as I’m concerned, we can’t have too many babies in this family. That was better than dessert! I wish I’d snapped a photo at that moment, but I was slow to react, a fact which shocks nobody.
For dessert, we walked across Hwy 61 to the Great Lakes Candy Kitchen, a wonderful confectionary shop run by friendly, interesting folks who take the time to tell you about their creations, and let you watch how some of it is made. Here’s a great photo of Gabby, enchanted by her choices. (Just like Great Auntie Patt!)
Outside the store is a small picnic area with swings and hammocks strung between trees, probably for those who find themselves in some kind of sugar stupor after shopping at the store. We sat outdoors and talked and enjoyed the air and the scenery. A perfect day!

Outside the candy shop: Courtney and Madison, a pregnant Heather and Gabriella

Courtney and Madison, niece Katie and the waving Gabby. So long, folks!

Tomorrow I’m leaving for an annual “Sisters Day Trip,” in which four of us will enjoy breakfast at Delta Diner, assuming we can find it, and then off to Rice Lake, Wisconsin, for shopping and fun. But that’s a whole other story, and another set of out of focus and poorly-cropped photos.
Bet you can’t wait!

For Sister Kim and Mr Lettman!



… And it only took 22 years!


PS: Come and see us!

A Truce and a Fiesta


This is not a picture of my two cats, but it’s as close as I could get without taking an actual picture of them and showing you how messy the front porch looks.

Friendship between Mittens and Winston would have been too much to expect in this short time, but they have reached a truce, wherein they can be in the same room without the hissing and posturing, so I am content with that. This afternoon they were both asleep in the sun porch; each stretched out in a separate chair, but they could stand to be that close without coming to blows. We’ve come a long way in one week. Nobody has to be in lockdown during the day or night; they are sniffing around one another without slapping, and I think they’re getting the general idea of how things are going to work in the future. They both get treats from auntie Jean, which they love. Especially the little brown fish-shaped ones.

People got treats, too, on Saturday, when I made a quasi-Mexican dinner. Earlier in the week I’d found a recipe for a Mexican ice cream dessert, and figured as long as I was making that, I’d throw together an entire Mexican dinner. Apologies to a certain member of our family who is actually of Mexican descent, and whose mother would probably laugh out loud if she had been here. But I’m a midwesterner, and this was the best I could do. (And Joe… it was good stuff!)

Here’s the easy menu: Chicken and black bean enchiladas, Mexican salad with avocado dressing, and not-fried Mexican ice cream.

For the enchiladas, buy a can of Carlita mild enchilada sauce and follow the recipe on the can. It’s in the ethnic food section of any store.I could write it all out here, but I’m telling you the easy way. (And don’t forget to buy flour tortillas!)

Mexican Salad:

Bibb lettuce leaves, cleaned and dried

(I could not find Bibb lettuce when I was shopping, so I bought red leaf lettuce and mixed it with some iceberg lettuce, and that was pretty good.)

3 medium tomatoes, cut into wedges

1 medium sized red onion, thinly sliced. (Chop up 3 Tablespoons to use in the dressing recipe)

Arrange salad ingredients on a large plate.

Salad Dressing:

1 ripe avocado

Juice from 2 lemons (strain out the seeds)

A handful of fresh cilantro leaves

2 Tablespoons water

3 Tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

(I’m tempted to say something here about “extra virgin,” but I’ll let that go for now.)

Cut the avocado in half, throw out the pit, and scoop the flesh into the blender or food processor. Add the lemon juice, 3T of chopped red onion, cilantro leaves, and water. Grind or puree until the mixture is smooth, and then drizzle the oil into the dressing and continue to mix. Pour over the salad, and serve. (You can refrigerate the dressing for 3 or 4 days in a jar.)

Mexican Ice Cream, from the Taste of Home website

(You know it’s going to be an easy ice cream recipe when the first ingredient is “2 cups vanilla ice cream.”

2 cups vanilla ice cream

1/2 cup frosted cornflakes, crushed (I used plain corn flakes and a little extra sugar. I recommend not crushing them too fine… a little crunch is better.)

1/2 cup sugar

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/4 cup honey

(Whipping cream is optional)

Place four half-cup scoops of ice cream on a waxed paper-lined baking sheet. Freeze for 1 hour or until firm. (I used more than half a cup, and I formed them into snowball-sized globes, using two plastic bags over my hands. Brrr!)

In a shallow bowl, combine the cornflake crumbs, sugar, and cinnamon. Roll the ice cream in the crumb mixture to coat. Freeze again until you’re ready to serve them. Drizzle each serving with 1 Tablespoon of honey. Add whipping cream, if desired. (Who would not desire whipping cream? I could eat some right now!)

I bought beer for the guests, and we had plain coffee with dessert. Later we watched “Night Shift,” which cracked me up. Favorite movie line: “That Barney Rubble! What an actor.”

Happy new week to all!