Monday, March 31, 2014

1958 - It really is a long time ago!

We have two friends here who do some work for a company that comes into peoples' homes to help them organize their remaining belongings in preparation for an estate sale.  Usually people are downsizing to a smaller living space or perhaps it is the family clearing out a house for their deceased parents.  They always get a front-row seat on some interesting items for sale.

Most recently they worked in two different places that had LOTS of books to sell.  After the sale was over, they agreed to take all of those books back here.  We would go through them one last time, bring anything good to the public library, and sell the rest at our Historical Museum Flea Market sale this summer.  Yes, there are now 60 boxes of books in our garage, but not for long...I'm sure...

What caught my eye today was an old issue of Ladies Home Journal from August 1958!
I love seeing things like this to get a small glimpse into how we lived back then.  I was 5, almost 6, how about you?  This would have been a couple years before those early 1960's years from the TV show, Mad Men.

Right away in the first couple of pages was this ad for "Avon's popular in spray cologne."  Persian Mist, Cotillion, To a Wild Rose, and Here's my Heart.  I think I remember the last two on my mother's dresser.  

And this ad?  It's hardly changed a bit since 1958!  Just the baby has changed.

Even Norman Rockwell got into the ad game back then.  

I don't think we ever had French's Barber Pole Franks at our house.  Those "barber poles" are made with biscuit mix (Bisquick), back before we had Pillsbury crescent rolls to do about the same thing.

Yes, look what gas IS doing now!  A gas refrigerator and it makes ice??  First of all, I didn't know you could have a gas refrigerator and I never had one that makes ice until just two years ago!  

Some 1958 styles...

And you, yes you, could make ALL FIVE of these stylish outfits from one Vogue pattern!  

A slice of cheese and pimento ham loaf...on white bread - so 1958!

This might be why I'm not a big fan of marshmallows to this day!

One of the feature articles was about the very young Rev. Billy Graham, written by his mother-in-law!

In case you can't read the recipe, the ingredients include: lime gelatin (gelatin, not Jello!), tuna fish, cottage cheese, celery, onion, radishes and mayonnaise.  Now where did I put my jello molds!

This one really surprised me!  Who ever thought there would be the father in an ad for diapers? But on a closer read, it's because the father is the one who built the baby's world and he would ONLY choose the best diapers for him/her.

And here's actress and dancer, Cyd Charisse, selling us Lustre Cream shampoo.  I always wanted to make my hair look just like those ads!

And, finally, this was a little 2x2 inch ad in the far back ad pages of the magazine.  Maybe if we had all been using more olive oil in the last 56 years, we would all be a lot healthier!


And I'd call this two inches of progress!  And maybe it's even more progress that it's pouring down rain now.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Chickens are roosting but no eggs for sale!

Back in my college days at Illinois State University in Normal, Illinois, I had a friend, Marie, who I came to know in my German classes.  I was majoring in German and she was a German minor, English major, so we always had two or more German classes together every semester.  In all our classes our German teachers referred to us as Fräulein Larson (me) and Frau ______ (her last name--she was married), and to this day we still call each other by these names.

As I said, Marie was married and lived in a big farm house in a little town a few miles north of campus.  I went to visit her once sometime just after we graduated and by then she had a son and...chickens!  And we went out to her chickens and collected eggs, and I was hooked.  I wanted chickens!  

Now for 35+ years I've been mentioning to anyone near and dear to me that I want to have chickens.  So for Christmas I opened up a big box to find...chickens!

Using gourds that Leann's sister, Kristi, had grown out in the Red River Valley of western Minnesota, Leann cleaned up the gourds and painted them into all sizes of chickens for me.  The wattles(?), combs and beaks are made out of baked Sculpey clay.

And then the chickens needed a "coop."  Sometime last fall we had dragged an old funny-color-green kitchen-type cabinet out of the basement of the old house.  Back in the day, 1940's and before, my grandparents and family did much of their day-to-day living in the basement.  The dining room and the "parlor" were only for company or church meetings.  So my grandmother had a cook stove down there, and this cabinet with a matching long table and benches, most likely homemade.

Leann cleaned up the cabinet, reconfigured it a little, painted it up white and now it is a chicken coop on our front porch.  She had to devise a way to attach the chickens to their straw nesting material or the first big wind would blow them away.

So now I have chickens.  And I don't have to worry about coyotes or wolves or eagles carrying them off either.  Trying to get eggs will be a challenge, however!

So how are things here in way-north Wisconsin?  This is the view looking our front door...just over from the chickens.  That's a snowdrift and that thing sticking out of the snow is a yardstick.

Zooming in to the yardstick we see this:

And we are supposed to get another 6 inches or more of snow tonight.  

NOT April Fool's!

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Lake Superior on my mind

Last week I mentioned here that US Coast Guard cutters were starting to work at breaking up the ice in the harbor and out into the lake to open water.  That activity has continued since then and this past Wednesday, the cutters left the Duluth harbor leading a caravan of cutters and one big laker, the Presque Isle,  out of the Duluth harbor and on east toward the Soo Locks which were opening for the season.  They were going to try to follow what little open water there was which meant hugging the shore and taking the LONG way to get to the Soo Locks.

Unfortunately, that plan ground to a halt yesterday when the 4-5 foot ice chunks severely damaged a couple of the cutters and the laker.  So yesterday they all turned back and limped into Duluth again.  The cutters returned first but the Presque Isle had to offload some of its iron ore cargo to lighten the load a little before coming back for repairs.  Here's a link to a KDLH-TV report that may tell it better than I just did.

All this is happening as I'm reading a Kindle book on my iPad, So Terrible a Storm: A Tale of Fury on Lake Superior, about a catastrophic 3-day storm at the end of November in 1905.  That was back before Split Rock Lighthouse or any other lighthouses at the west end of Lake Superior.  In Part I of the book the author, Curt Brown, presents a short history of the lake and how it developed to the major industrial port it was in 1905.  Then Part II begins on the 3-day ordeal experienced by several ships that wanted to make that one last trip to get through the locks before winter set in.

Right now I'm on Day 2 and reading about the Mataafa, a laker that was towing another barge.  The weather forecaster had posted the red flags warning of bad weather coming, but the captain got antsy and took off with his crew of 24 men.  He needed to get up to Two Harbors to load up, but soon realized he'd better turn back to Duluth.  The storm was so bad and the waves so high, he knew he was never going to get his ship and the one he was towing safely into the ship canal.  So he cut the tow line, but then the winds and waves buffeted him so badly and the ship ended up straddling the north side of the pier and eventually splitting in half.  The fifteen men who were able to make it to the front of the ship lived; the nine who were working or tending the engines in the back all froze before being rescued.

I hear strains of Gordon Lightfoot singing in my head!
The legend lives on from the Chippewa on down
of the big lake they called "Gitche Gumee."
The lake, it is said, never gives up her dead
when the skies of November turn gloomy.
With a load of iron ore twenty-six thousand tons more
than the Edmund Fitzgerald weighed empty,
that good ship and true was a bone to be chewed
when the "Gales of November" came early.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Tapping our way into spring

Our spring break excursion was over and we came home to eight inches of pretty, new snow.  The town plow had cleared our driveway but there was still lots of snow up by our house and garage.  I and our trusty little Toro snowblower made quick work of clearing that away and we were all settled in again.

Since it was a beautiful, sunny day, and since the temperature is supposed to be quite warm tomorrow and Sunday, we hiked out on our snowshoes to a couple of maple trees right up close to our house.  Because of her eye surgery, Leann isn't supposed to do anything crazy--like drilling holes in trees with a hand drill--so she stood by to offer encouragement to me and take pictures.

I drilled holes for two taps on each of these two trees.  

And then we hang our modified milk cartons on the taps to catch the drips.  When I reached into the holes I had drilled to fish out all of the extra wood chips still in here, I could feel how warm it was in there and it also felt a little damp.

Imagine my surprise when, as soon as I pushed in the tap in the last hole, sap started dripping out right away!  Listen to this sound and imagine being in the midst of several maple trees all dripping at once.  Listen...

Getting the maple sap routine started today was really to help us feel better after hearing today's news from Leann's sister, Kristi, whose cancer is back again.  It seems like the circumstances surrounding her previous experience with colon cancer and now again with this next phase have all been unusual.  Now the cancer is in such a strange location that they say it will be really difficult to get it out.  And it needs to come out.  

So, if all of you who read this blog could keep Kristi and her family in your thoughts and prayers, we would all really appreciate it.  And if you have any quick thoughts from your own experiences or people you know on how she can get her mind and heart ready for the long haul ahead of her, please email me directly [] and I'll pass it on to her.  And thanks so much!

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Celebrating Spring Ashland, Wisconsin...

It's not Florida, or South Padre Island, or Mexico.  And it's not for snorkeling, gathering sea shells, or enjoying margaritas on the beach.

Our "spring break" destination is Ashland, Wisconsin and below is the view from our hotel.  That is Lake Superior (we aren't far from home), that's Chequamegon Bay tucked into a corner of the lake and that's Washburn over across the bay.  We could see the lights of Washburn last night. is it's own way.

But below is the view we have today, and the weather is the reason we are "celebrating" here in Ashland.

We've known for a few weeks that they had scheduled Leann for cataract surgery on her eye on March 27th and she needed to be at the hospital here in Ashland, 45 miles from where we live, at 6:45am this morning.  So, about a week ago we started checking weather forecasts for these few days.  As luck, or something, would have it, it was supposed to start raining/sleeting last night and switching over to snow today, with Ashland getting up to seven or more inches of snow.  And it's coming to pass pretty much as was forecasted.  

Now surgery is over, everything went fine, but she needs to be back at the clinic again tomorrow morning for a post-surgery checkup.  And THAT'S why we are vacationing in Ashland, in a room with a view of exactly the same snow we have at home.   

And Leann will say it's not a very good vacation!  And I don't think a margarita will help.  But maybe watching Wisconsin beating Baylor in the NCAA tournament will!  Go Badgers!

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

A good idea catches on fast!

Earlier today we took these (yummy) peanut butter rice krispie bars with chocolate frosting to church for a dinner later today.  
In our little town, our students in junior and senior high are in school until about 3:15.  If they are in sports like basketball, they might not have a game until 7 in the evening.  So if it's a home game, they have several hours with no dinner and not really any places in town to eat.

So last year one of our members came up with the idea of having late afternoon meals for them at our church on game days for boys and girls basketball.  Our church is just a couple blocks from school so it was an easy walk for them there and back to school.  

And the idea took off like gangbusters!

The original idea person and her assistant came up with a schedule of all the games and planned menus for those dinners.  People in town, and not just church members, volunteered all kinds of food items based on her menus, and also donated money for other things they'd need.  The response was overwhelming.  And the parents were so pleased.

Best of all, the kids love it, too.  The average number of diners has been about 25-30, with some nights up to 40 if the drama kids were there, too.  That might not sound like a lot of kids until you know that there are only 200+ kids in the whole K-12 school, with classes of about 12 each.   Small but mighty!

So tonight's dinner is the last of the season.  Plans are already in the works for next year!

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Seduced by stats

Stats for this past week
An unexpected little "zing" I get from doing this blog every day is checking on the statistics that Blogger maintains for me.

On the back end "admin" side of my blog, it shows me a few different things:
  • the number of times my blog has been accessed per day, week, month and all-time
  • how many views each individual post received per day/week/month/all-time, so maybe it's the title that might catch a reader's eye.
  • information about who my audience is
  • in what country they are reading it 
  • what site they used to get to my blog (Facebook, an RSS feed like Feedly, other blogs, etc)
  • which internet browser they are using (Explorer, Firefox, Safari, etc) 
  • what type of computer operating system they are using (Windows, Macintosh, iPad, iPhone, etc).  We used this last piece of information a few years back when I was doing webpages for our school and we realized how many people were accessing our site using mobile phones.  That showed us that we needed to also be making a mobile version of our website available to our parents/visitors or the information on the small phone screen is too small to see.
Make you nervous?  Sound like NSA is spying?   Maybe but every website you go to gives out that kind of analytics information. It's how they know what to try to sell you.  That didn't help, did it?

Here's how it looks for me:

But the source of statistics that really caught my eye - literally - came from my blog mentor's sidebar.  I don't know if she realizes she is my mentor, but I found this Flag Counter widget on her site.
Of course her blog has been going for seven or eight years so she has LOTS of flags with thousands of visitors, but it's just so cool when a new state or country shows up.  Right now I have 16 states, 8 countries, and Norway just showed up as my "New Flag" this morning!  

It really doesn't take much to keep me entertained!

Monday, March 24, 2014

"Whatever gets you through the n---", I mean, winter!

I can't help but get John Lennon singing in my head when I think about today's blog post, just changing one word from his version.

Whatever gets us through the winter comes under the heading of "Winter Therapy."  Something caused me to think today about winter therapy - things we do in winter to get through until REAL spring arrives here in the North.  One friend in an email today said writing is his path to sanity.  That and setting a date on the calendar for putting the heavy winter clothes away.   This is important, because if you didn't put them away, you could easily creep back into them on a cool-ish day in June or July.  I have never considered myself to be a writer, but I actually think writing this blog has occupied my brain a good part of this winter, so I will agree with writing as a prescription.  (What will happen when summer comes?)

And I realized today when the UPS truck came that I know a few people, me included, who kind of enjoy those periodic visits from the UPS guy.  You see, in order for the UPS truck to come, there has to have been some retail therapy carried out on a site such as the website or something similar.  And we can justify this because the nearest city for shopping is 50 miles in any direction, so we're just saving time and gas, right?  Just hop on Amazon and that object of our desire can be here in two days!  So far they haven't delivered anything to us via drone, but we're happy with UPS...or FedEx...or the US Post Office!

And a huge form of winter therapy is practiced by Leann in her Craft Room - Quilting!  I've posted about her conversation quilts before, but she has done so many more since then.  For a while she was doing some using a paper piecing method.  Here are some of her birds:

And lately she's just been using up scraps from her "stash" on some nature-themed lap quilts.  Below we have fishing, another bird quilt, and a wildlife/hunting theme.  Lap quilts, anyone?

But I suppose my biggest form of any-time-of-year therapy is time spent doing things on the computer--finding new cool apps, learning new programs, working on websites, organizing my life to perfection (NOT!), and just trying things out.   I could spend hours!

So as the days march on toward spring,  I'll just take John Lennon's affirmation that whatever we're doing to keep sane, "It's alright, alright."

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Mary's Motley Minutiae

Today I'm celebrating 32 consecutive blog posts!  Yay me!

So perhaps that's why I calling today's blog "Mary's Motley Minutiae."  And to me that means this is a mixed group of small, trivial topics that I'm gathering into one post.  Here goes!
This afternoon I sat down to read in the living room.  The sun was streaming in the windows and everything was perfect for reading.  And then I heard a sound - a ticking, clacking sound that I couldn't identify but yet couldn't ignore.  And this is all pretty unusual since I'm pretty much deaf in my right ear. (I blame the Army!)  But my left ear was taking up the slack, so I went in search of "the sound."  I didn't have to go far because this is what I found basking in the sunny windowsill:
It's a little solar-powered cute thing that Leann's sister, Sandy, sent her for her birthday.  Leann says just looking at it makes her happy!  So that was the sound!  Mystery solved!

A couple weeks ago our church here in town asked me and another member to create a Facebook page for our church.  And now here it is:

So, do a search on "First Lutheran Church in Port Wing" and then "Like" us so we can spread the word!
And finally, one of our favorite out-of-town restaurants to go to in our area is The Pizza Parlor in Iron River, Wisconsin.  The decor is so comfortably "northern Wisconsin" and the pizza is really good.  We send guests there as a dinner choice and they often mention it in our guest books.

And we went there this afternoon for a late lunch.  We learned one thing though - ordering a pizza with half "Pizza Parlor Deluxe" doesn't really go with the other half as "Mediterranean Pizza."  Feta and artichokes don't go with sausage and tomato sauce, even if they are on their own sides!

Note to self!

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Living on the Lake Superior Clay Plain - Possibly TMI*

Several years ago, probably 25 or more, I remember that my parents were talking to some friends who were interested in buying some land across the road from where my parents' house was located.  It didn't interest me very much back then because I had other things going on in my life, but I remember that the sale didn't go through because the soil on that piece of land didn't "perk."  Huh?

Fast forward to about six years ago and we were starting some preliminary plans for building our house here.  We knew that one of the first things we needed to do was to have the soil tested before we ever did any excavating for the building site.  The man doing the testing didn't even have to think about it - our soil was all clay - it doesn't "perk" or drain like other types of soil, so rather than a drain field septic system, we were going to have to have a holding tank.

[For more about our clay, left over from glaciers, that makes up much of the soil in this area, check out this site about the Lake Superior Clay Plain.  Interesting, but I find just about anything geological to be interesting.]

So, the first two things we ever had installed in planning for our house, both done on a cold weekend back in October, 2009, was the geothermal field for the heat and AC, and this 2500-gallon holding tank.  Why not install a larger one as long as were doing it, you might ask?  Because the truck that needs to come periodically (relative frequency depending on number of people in the house!), to empty the tank only holds 2500 gallons.  So before it's installed, it looks like this:
2500 gallon septic holding tank
Installed, covered, and a PVC line coming from the holding tank into the house, although the action usually goes house-to-tank!
From that weekend on, any decisions we made that had anything to do with water usage - toilets, bathroom fixtures, dishwasher or not, even what kind of toilet paper we buy - was made knowing we had only a 2500 gallon capacity tank out there in our yard waiting to receive what we send out.  And BTW, it's why we only have showers in our guest bedrooms and why only one person--our nephew--has ever used the one bathtub we have in our house.  But we have REALLY good showers!

And again, fast forward to last night.  We had friends here and after one of them used our guest bathroom...and flushed..., an alarm went off.  Rather disconcerting, yes?  It's not very loud until you get out to the mechanical room to turn it off.  But we are used to it and know that alarm means that the tank out in our yard -- under two or more feet of snow -- needs to be pumped out.  We have a couple hundred gallons of wiggle-room, so to speak, so we have a couple days space before total capacity, but we knew we were going to have to call our septic man.

Making the call to the septic man also takes some advance planning on our part.  First, the road back to where he needs to park must be plowed.  And that was done earlier this past week, but then it snowed another 5-6 inches yesterday.  So the road is not plowed as well as we'd like.  Then, we usually try to shovel out a path from where he parks over to where the tank is.  So that needed to be done by us today.

We start with where the tank is: - that's it, sticking out of the snow.  Those are deer prints in the snow.

And we had to clear out around the tank opening, and clear a path over to where he parks near that big spruce tree in the middle.  Those are also deer prints in the snow.

Below is the opening to the tank after we dug it out.  In the winter he usually has to bring a blow torch to get the lid off.  And he also needs the torch to make the connections between all the parts of the hose that connects to the truck.  Not a fun job - none of it!

So then we needed to make some kind of trail over to his truck.  The problem is that, at this point in the winter, the first foot or more of snow is like cement and really hard to carve a path into.  So on our snowshoes, we went back and forth several times until we thought it would be solid enough for him to walk on.  Here's our path:
We'll give him our snowshoes if necessary, but we think he's probably run into this problem already with his other rural customers this winter.

And a word about "rural," Port Wing does have a regular sewer system, but it stops about a quarter mile down the road.  We could have had it extended up to our house, but for a pretty steep price, and we thought we could pump a whole lot of you-know-what for that price.

And now I can look down just over the hillside to Larson Creek that is flowing somewhere under all that snow, or will be soon, and know that nothing we are doing is hurting that tiny tributary leading into Lake Superior.

*TMI - Too much information, but it's too late now!  :-)

Friday, March 21, 2014

Keeping things in perspective - even the weather

The tag line on my blog says, "Points and perspectives as innkeepers and inhabitants of Port Wing, Wisconsin."  Today's blog will be in the form of a "perspective" on the relative importance of weather.

It's snowing again today.
And like most people in the Midwest, we're all pretty sick of snow and cold.  But, even though it's very bleak and gray outside, from my perspective here - safe, warm inside, don't have to go anywhere - I just can't get too down about our "spring" weather.  It's still so pretty.

And it provides us fun things to look at outside our windows.

And what completes this perspective on the weather for me are all the other bigger concerns out there that don't come close to weather worries.  Just like everyone else, I'm sure, we have people in our lives who are dealing with various stages of cancer treatment.  We're waiting for word today from Leann's sister, Kristi, whose cancer we now know has returned, and another friend is having a new treatment today for breast cancer that has spread.  And we think about the other people in our lives with other health problems and concerns going on in their lives.

So when you balance it all out, yucky weather is just that - yucky.  And it will pass.