Friday, December 30, 2011

New bulletin board

We got permission to hang a big bulletin board in the hallway of our department. We got the biggest we could possibly afford, 4 by 8 feet, the size of a sheet of drywall. It was installed this week. I decorated it with a border of printed out medical terms and a big banner that reads THIS IS WHY WE ARE CALLED MEDICAL LANGUAGE SPECIALISTS.

Then today one of the staff was complaining that she had a disease that hadn't been identified yet, so I thought, "Smith syndrome." (Her name isn't Smith, but it starts with an S.) And then I thought, Stahl solution. And we have a Murphy, but Murphy sign is already taken, so she got Murphy maneuver. Pretty soon we were all thinking up crazy medical terms for the board. It was fun and pretty silly. And now we all have a medical term, a disease, procedure, or instrument named after us. :)

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Wedding ring

I went to the jeweler and had my wedding ring cut off yesterday.

Don't worry, it doesn't mean anything other than that my hand is bigger. Or maybe the ring shrank. Anyway, though the tightness of the ring did not bother me, it has driven Barry crazy to see it looking tight and uncomfortable. I last took it off a few months ago. I have tried since, but it has not been possible and it hurts to try.

Anyway, Barry really wants me to get it resized for the next 25 or so years, so I went to Rose Jewelers today and the jeweler cut it off. I was envisioning something like a pair of wire cutters, but really it's a neat little thing that fits over the ring and he dials it down to cut through the soft gold. It was with a pang that I saw my ring with that hole in it. I know, I know, just a symbol. But I take that "unbroken circle" business pretty seriously.

Okay, so now the ring is in an envelope for awhile. The jeweler told me it'll be at least 6 months before my "dent" fills in enough that he can get an accurate new size for the ring. Last time I had the ring off, it was off for a good month and a half and didn't change much. I hope it is different this time.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Term of the Day: Panje voice button

The Panje voice button allows patients status post laryngectomy to speak once more.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

A post a month, wow

Sorta forgot I had a blog there for awhile, heh.

We had a lovely Thanksgiving celebration with my parents driving down from the Cities, all three of our children gathered at our table, and two good friends of Barry's, Ron and Carolyn, whom I had never met before but who completed our gathering beautifully. Carolyn is a musician and so she and my parents had plenty to talk about.

Okay, so now that I'm sort of emerging from my triptophan-induced stupor, I have some exciting news to share: In a moment of insanity last month, I applied for the MBA with health care emphasis program at Viterbo, a cohort beginning this January, and yesterday I received my acceptance letter in the mail. Should all go well, in 2 years and about $16,000, I'll have an MBA with emphasis in health care administration.

If Kieffer indeed decides to go to Viterbo as he originally planned, next year 80% of the family will be Viterbo students. Poor Lil Miss A will be the only one left out.

When I look back at maybe 6 months ago, my life has changed so much. For the better. I have loved every stage of my life, and am prepared to love this one too. It's just very, very different!

PS - Just for fun, I thought I'd post my admission essay here:

I’m writing to apply for Viterbo’s Master’s in Business Administration with Health Care Emphasis. I began a new job a little over a month ago with Mayo Clinic Health Systems (MCHS) here in La Crosse, as a supervisor. This is a different management experience for me than any in the past. It’s a different company, certainly; no past employer I have had has ever talked about and lived Franciscan values or servant leadership! It’s thrilling. I, too, am different. I have a deeper desire to serve my staff than I have ever felt before. I want to be useful to MCHS for a long time. One way I can do that is to get more formal training in leadership, specifically leadership within a healthcare organization. I also have some particular challenges in this job, specifically managing a team of 35 direct reports, all but about 5 of whom work from home offices. My communication with them is by email or phone, with very little face to face time.
Viterbo’s postgraduate program seems exactly right. Mayo Clinic Health System’s mission, vision and values statements are based in those of the Franciscan sisters who founded Viterbo. I appreciate Viterbo’s emphasis on servant leadership, even in other academic programs. My husband and our eldest daughter are attending Viterbo right now, and our son is accepted for next year. We are turning into a Viterbo family. It just seems like the obvious choice: If I am to pursue this degree, Viterbo is the place. If I waited three years into my employment, MCHS would help pay for it, but I want the training now.
I have had quite a bit of leadership experience, both through work and my personal life. I served on the city council for a couple of years. I have been church treasurer and presented financial reports to the congregation. I have held officer positions in various professional and community groups, all of which required public speaking and behind-the-scenes coaching. I ran my own medical transcription business for several years, which included personal interaction with clients as well as supervision and coaching of employees and contracted staff. Through the years I have mentored many medical transcriptionists in the various stages of their learning processes. I was a transcription supervisor with a past employer, and now I am one again, with MCHS. I’m serving on the board of a local non-profit organization, The Way Station. I helped revive our local town summer festival, New Albin Days, after it had been in hiatus for over 10 years. I even volunteered briefly with Rudy Guiliani’s brief presidential candidacy. (I was not the reason he was not nominated.)
The most rewarding leadership position of all, however, has been as mother to my three children. They have not always been the most cooperative of followers, but we have taught one another a great deal. They are my joy.
As for what I can add to the team at Viterbo, how I could fit into a cohort group, I would offer my strengths of compassion and empathy. I am not by nature an outgoing person, but have made a point of cultivating traits that don’t come easily to a shy person, and now I don’t think anyone can tell that they are not natural traits. I am a big networker. If I am given a problem to solve, my first inclination is to query people I know and draw on their experiences. Working in a cohort group is how I prefer to work all the time, so it will make perfect sense to me. My bachelor’s degree is in theology. I have wide-ranging interests and enjoy many different types of people from many different backgrounds. I’m a good writer. I work hard at organization, as that also does not come naturally to me.
I have a specific area of concern that I am hoping I can address with my graduate education at Viterbo: The problem of human workers being replaced by technology, rather than assisted by technology, with a loss of jobs and also of quality. My profession, medical transcription, has been hit hard by technology and also by financial pressures that have encouraged outsourcing of work to workers in other countries. As a result, many US-based transcriptionists are unemployed or underemployed. I hope to find a way to make US-based, human-powered transcription the best option: Using technology as a valuable tool, but not allowing it to replace human workers, making the US-based worker the highest quality, most truly economical choice.
The job is going to change; that’s inevitable. I want to find a way to make it change to provide the best possible product using the talents of US-based, US-trained human beings. The thing is, I am running out of time. Health care as an industry is changing extremely quickly. Everything needs to be faster, cheaper, and more secure. Changing the process to capitalize on human strengths is not going to be the easiest solution, but I’m a firm believer that a human brain, human reasoning power, human intuition, can contribute to the telling of a patient’s health story more accurately, in a more nuanced fashion, than the smartest speech recognition computer. I also believe that a US-based transcriptionist, bound by US laws of confidentiality and a carefully cultivated sense of personal ethics, is a better choice than a transcriptionist overseas, who may be a fine person, yet lives under different laws and perhaps an entirely different code of ethics.
I’m convinced that this way is better. Yet it must also be competitive in pricing. That’s where it’s a very hard sell. Our old ways of doing the job are not cheaper than the machine, cheaper than outsourcing. We have to change to compete. Our talents are not in fast fingers, our talents are in our minds, our breadth of medical knowledge, our attention to detail, our reasoning skills that allow us to catch potential errors, our concern for protecting the patient’s record from confidentiality breaches. Part of my puzzle is how to put value on these talents and skills that will be measurable. When reimbursements are dropping and costs are rising, nobody wants to put money into the transcription department, which looks like a big blot of red ink on the balance sheets. I need to find the best way to prove its value to maximal reimbursements, to effective record-keeping, and ultimately to excellent patient care.
I’m passionate about this. Passionate enough to seek out the tools that I can use, including this master’s program.
I appreciate your considering me for the Viterbo MBA with Health Care Emphasis. I’m anxious to begin working with you and with my cohort group to see what all we can accomplish together that we never could achieve separately.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Scoring big at The Way Station

I love my new job. I LOVE my new job. There is one teeny little drawback, though, and that's not getting to go to The Way Station any day I want to. So I went this morning. They recently remodeled, enlarging the store with the former theater space, and it's airy and welcoming and not claustrophobic anymore. It's great.

I found a bunch of career blouses in my size. Somebody must have been cleaning out a closet. This was NICE STUFF! I'm so excited! Also someone with large feet must have gone through her shoe collection, because I got two lovely pair of leather loafers, one brown, one cordovan. The brown ones are size 12s but still fit me nicely. The others are 10 M and also fit me. I usually buy 11s. So this was a little out of the ordinary. Anyway, great shoes for work! For two bucks a pair!

I also scored some terrific old dress patterns. Look at these babies.

 Can't you see Betty  Draper wearing this little number?

I just love that #1 view blouse with the pleats on the collar.

I want a dress like this. I really do.

I never find patterns that will fit me without a ton of alteration, so I usually just scan the covers and then sell the patterns. I do keep a few.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

B&A: Vintage Milk Glass and Wood Table Lamps

A few weeks ago, I went to an estate sale and bought two matching table lamps for three bucks. Here's one of the two, before. (Click on any of the images to get a closer look.)

They were made of milk glass and wood pieces. Only one had a shade. They needed to be rewired, the wood parts had lost most of their finish, and the milk glass was really grubby.

First off, I took the lamps apart, gave the milk glass parts a bath, and rubbed the wood parts with paste wood refinishing stuff (I can't remember what it's really called, but it looks like brown shoe polish, and probably is).
Then I reassembled the lamps with new wiring.

I tried to find two shades that were of the same size and shape as the one remaining original that I had. (It was not in great shape.) No good. I could have had them custom made, for a fortune. They just are not selling drum shades that are of that size and dimension anymore. So I went to Wal-Mart. There I found two matching shades that were okay, though quite different. I took them home, fully intending to return them if I did not like the look.

Here's my "after" picture. I love these lamps. I really do. I didn't expect to LOVE them.I know that shade is not authentic to mid century design, like the original, but I just simply like it.

These lamps go great in our bedroom.

Of course they now cost a lot more than $1.50 apiece. The shades were $15 each, the wiring maybe another $3 each. Still, they were under $20 each. I think they were worth it.

I'd much rather fix up something old and make it useful again, than buy something new.

I'd love to know who made the glass. It could be anybody. The glass is not of particularly high quality mold, so I doubt it was a "name". Still, it would be cool to find out it's Westmoreland.

Thursday, September 29, 2011


Very stormy evening. The sun broke through just long enough to show us this.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Work wardrobe

"Come over, I have some clothes I want you to try on," wrote Angela by e-mail this afternoon. I wasted no time in popping over to her house. "Some clothes" turned out to be pretty much a complete work wardrobe! Plus some simply lovely jewelry that she and her daughter Amy made themselves! I'm serious! Angela blessed me with some gorgeous, quality clothes. And they FIT ME.

She commented that she had held onto the clothes for reasons she did not know, but now she could see why: It was so that she could bless me with them. And I need them. My work wardrobe is 20 years and about 40 pounds out of date.


I opened a letter from our vet's office while at the post office while talking with my fellow dog-lover and friend Deb the Postmistress, and when I took this from the envelope, we both burst into tears. It's a print from Bo's paw, taken after his death.

They meant it kindly, but it was just a shock. I wasn't expecting it. I'm glad to have it, but it was hard to see it nonetheless. They took it after I left the vet's office that day. Hard to think about them taking it after he was dead.

Things are changing so fast around here...

... that I'm behind on processing it all mentally, never mind blogging about it.

I worked my last day with Webmedx/Nuance on Tuesday. It was bittersweet, logging out for the last time; I have enjoyed the work, and especially enjoyed the people with whom I worked. I was pleased to work with one of the finest supervisors of my working lifetime, Dina Joseph. She's a fair minded, highly intelligent and hilarious person who is amazingly adaptable and rolls with punches that would leave most of us sniveling in a corner. I'll miss working with her. The Webmedx platform, when combined with M*Modal, was excellent for transcriptionists and I will be hard pressed to be convinced that anything else can beat it. Anyway, I leave on good terms, and have no beef with that company at all.

It's just that... *insert sound of trumpet fanfare here* I got a really GREAT JOB with Mayo Healthcare in La Crosse! I'll be one of two transcription supervisors. Yep. Back to middle management. I said I'd never do this. So here I am. It's the right time. I'm at the point in my career where I need to make a change. This particular opportunity came along at the most perfect moment that it had to have been God-sent. They created this job just when I was reeling at the thought of adjusting to a new management style with Nuance, plus my pay had dropped significantly over the past year for a combination of reasons and we really needed for me to be earning more. I applied for this job, got an interview, fussed and fidgeted for three weeks after that interview, nearly gave up, then got called in for a second interview - and then was offered the position.

I finished out my 2-week notice period on Tuesday. Mayo only starts people on Mondays, so that gives me a few days to catch my breath and get organized for a new adventure. Barry and I are planning on commuting together at least some of the time: Viterbo University is literally across the street from Mayo, and whenever we can coordinate our schedules, we plan to drive together. And maybe even have lunch together. Britta and I are already planning to meet for coffee after my first day of work. No more home office, no more working barefoot (I'm taking a lot of teasing around town because I'll actually have to wear SHOES to work from now on). Excellent insurance. AWESOME insurance. That alone was worth making the change.

I can't wait to meet the transcriptionists with whom I'll be working! Most of them work from their homes, so it may be awhile before I find out what they actually look like. I hope that, having been a transcriptionist for so many years, I can empathize with them and help them problem-solve in a way that increases their productivity and their job satisfaction, and serves everybody: Patients, physicians, the hospital's bottom line, and the transcriptionist team. It's exciting. My thoughts are just racing, my head full of ideas.

Okay, so, three days off, one and a half down already and I'm barely scratching the surface of my to-do list (which I admit was really unreasonable). But one thing that I did get done was to make a messenger bag for Lil Miss A. She needed/wanted something to carry her music to her piano lessons in. She helped me pick out a beautiful batik fabric of black on white in a piano keys print. I was going to just make a simple tote, but you know how these things go: I had a neat pattern for a messenger bag, and one thing led to another and I basically spent most of yesterday making her a messenger bag to carry all her music stuff in, for piano AND percussion. I figure since I made it non-kiddish-looking, and strong, she can probably use it all through high school.

The drumsticks slip into sleeves just under the flap.

Hard to see here, but the inside has 
pockets for her cell phone, a pencil,
 and a little notebook to keep track 
of assignments and practice time.

I've gotta get hopping here. I think the next thing to tackle will be the last of our ripe tomatoes.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Giving thanks for our dear dog Bo

I just returned from taking our dear Bo to the vet one last time. We adopted Bo on January 1, 2002, from Turbo Kees Keeshond Rescue in Chicago. He filled the huge hole left by the death of our Prissy. I liked to think that, rather than our rescuing him, Bo rescued us from being a family that had no dog. Our children had never known a home that did not have a dog, a Keeshond, in it. There had been Keeshonden at their cribs, begging treats from their high chairs, soaking up tears, listening to secrets, all their lives.

Bo was barely a year old when we met him. He had been a pet shop puppy, probably as cute as can be, as there's not much cuter than a Keeshond puppy. His first family was an older couple. The woman had diabetes, and it got much worse shortly after they brought their puppy (then named Lobo) home. She had to have both legs amputated and was in a wheelchair. Imagine trying to adjust to that with a wild halfgrown puppy in the house! Little Lobo spent a lot of time in his crate to keep him out of trouble. His paws were his main toys, and he chewed on them, a habit that lasted his entire life. Thankfully his owners realized that this was not a good situation for Lobo, and they turned him over to a breed rescue group - just not a Keeshond breed rescue group. He eventually was passed along to Lysa Bea at Turbo Kees, and joined her happy pack at her home outside of Chicago.

We had contacted Turbo Kees because we knew we needed a Keeshond again. Lysa looked for the perfect dog for a family with three children, one of them a toddler. As she got to know Lobo (renamed Bobo), she realized he was the dog for us - or probably was the dog for us, as no adoptions were done sight unseen. So on January 1, 2002, we packed up the kids, left early in the morning and drove to Chicago, where we walked into a house full of Keeshonden, happy balls of grey fur. The largest was Lobo. He was a tall, rangy, rather thin youngster with huge ears. His reaction to us was interesting. Lysa commented that he obviously knew we had come for him, as he quickly attached to us and began to warn the other Keeshonden away, especially if they tried to approach baby Lil Miss A as she walked around and around the coffee table. I think he was worried they might knock her down. Evidently he was going to be the only one allowed to do that. :) He quickly made friends with Barry, and Barry thought at last we would have a dog that liked him best.

We were approved for the adoption, and allowed to take Bobo home with us that day (rather unusual, but Lysa was sure this would work out). So we drove back home to Iowa. On the way home we discussed changing his name, as everybody thought Bobo was a silly name (though Lobo was worse). Trouble was, Lil Miss A could say Bobo quite well, and she said it, a lot, from her car seat, talking to him the whole way home. So by the time we got home, he was Bobo. Or Bo, as I usually called him, as I thought it was slightly more dignified. He answered to either, as well as Baby Boy, Sweet Doggie, Wingnut, You Crazy Keeshond, Kissy-Dog, and any number of other silly names.

Bo stitched himself into our hearts. He was not accustomed to being hugged and it made him nervous, but he realized that we wanted to hug him to show our love, so he learned to accept and eventually like being hugged. He was never a lap dog, but he would put his chin on a foot or a knee and sigh deeply and go to sleep. He was a protector of his pack, defending us from the Evil UPS Man and from the Evil FedEx Lady Until She Started Carrying Dog Cookies In Her Pocket. He loved cats and tried valiantly to make friends with neighborhood cats, unsuccessfully; when we finally adopted poor little stray scrap Beckham, he was delighted, and played with Beckham very tenderly, growling ferociously and pretending to bite Beckham while really tucking him under his chin, making it really exciting for a young cat who longed to attack a great huge furry dog.

He loved the little animals in the family, warning me when the cats were pestering our bird or guinea pig. He never much liked it when Beckham and our second cat, Briggs, would wrestle, and he would bark at them to make them stop. He would alert me when the chickens gave an alarm, as he could hear it when I could not.

He loved camping and picnics and the farmer's market. He loved fresh snow. He loved water. He loved helping me hang the laundry on the clothesline. He learned the sound of the television powering down and would leap up from a sound sleep when he heard it, to lead us up to bed. He enjoyed digging nice cool holes. He adored rides in the car. His favorite place in the car was the front passenger seat, with his chin resting heavily on the right arm of the driver. Try changing gears with about 15 pounds of Keeshond head/neck resting on your arm. Not easy.

This summer he started dropping weight. I became alarmed in late July and took him to the vet. Laboratory tests revealed that he was in liver failure, a terminal condition, as the damage was not reversible. Beth Wohlert, DVM, our vet, encouraged us to try supplements to help maintain what function was left, and as long as he was not uncomfortable, to love him and enjoy him and let him enjoy life. She warned us what the signs would be that he was nearing the end. She told us there was no way to know how long it would be, days, weeks or months.

Thanks to her advice, we had 5 more good weeks with our dear dog. I learned just yesterday that when we found out he was ill, Lil Miss A had asked God to let him live at least till her birthday. He made it a week past that date. When he became acutely ill, it was very rapid; I posted on Facebook just this past Monday that he was doing so well. Two days later he was throwing up his food, tottering around on weak back legs, and whimpering little whines as he lay at my feet. Yesterday I realized he was turning yellow. We made the decision, made an appointment for this morning with the vet, and began our final goodbyes.

Britta and Amadeus drove home to visit with him one last time. We all loved him up. The other two children hugged and kissed him as they left for school, and asked me to text them when it was all over. I drove him to La Crescent. He was in his usual seat, but he was very uncomfortable, and did not put his head on my arm as usual; he hunched over and stared into space. In the morning light, I could see how much his jaundice had advanced. The whites of his eyes were bright yellow. Even the insides of his beautiful, sensitive ears were yellow.

I drove slowly. I thought it was a writer's cliche to drive more and more slowly to a place one does not want to go, but I learned it is not; I kept finding myself dropping my speed, letting cars stack up behind me. The day was cold and cloudy. It suited.

We arrived on time for our appointment despite all I could do to delay. The staff at La Crescent Animal Care were sweet and empathetic, as I expected them to be. Dr. Wohlert was not in, so another vet whom I had not met helped us. Everyone agreed that it was time. One of the staffers commented that she always felt it was important to make this decision while the animal still had the dignity to walk into the clinic, rather than waiting so long that one had to carry it.

We left Bo on the floor, as he never felt comfortable lifted onto a tabletop. They shaved the fur over his vein and injected the anesthetic. He whined softly in my arms. Out loud, I thanked him for being such a Good Dog. In my heart, I thanked God for giving us this beautiful dog to be our own. The anesthetic took effect, and Bo relaxed, stopped whining, and eventually stopped breathing. He was gone.

I cried loudly on the way home in my empty Jeep that was full of dog hair and always will be, as it never comes out of the upholstery. When I got home I could not even get out of the car at first, as the idea of facing that house with no dog was just too much for me.

Now I'm here. The cats are concerned about me and are being very cute. Jack-Jack the cockatiel is making kissy noises from his cage. We will be okay. But we are once again a family without a dog.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

US Army Chaplain School

It's quite likely that someday we will have a US Army chaplain in our family. CNN did this piece recently which I thought you'd enjoy watching.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Home from church

The service today at St. Peter's was full of zingers. First the congregational prayer zapped me:

I have struggled to walk faithfully with You and I have not made friends with the foolish, nor do I socialize with the deceitful.... You ask us to love one another and show each other honor. You tell us to be zealous, faithful and serving You in all things. But You know me, O God. You have heard my spiteful words, my judgment of others but not myself. You know how selfish and stingy I have been with money, time and talents. 

And then the second lesson was from Romans 12.
Let love be genuine; hate what is evil, hold fast to what is good; love one another with mutual affection; outdo one another in showing honor... Contribute to the needs of the saints; extend hospitality to strangers.... Live in harmony with one another; do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly; do not claim to be wiser than you are.
More ouch.

And then the sermon, which you can hear for yourself if you want to here.

And finally the hymns. Like Jesus, Keep Me Near the Cross and Rock of Ages.

I felt like the whole thing was meant to grab me by the scruff of the neck and give me a little shake, because I am not accomplishing these things. I'm so glad I went to church. I'm not glad every week. Sometimes I feel dragged down, not by the service but by my conflicts with a very few of my fellow church members. Today's sermon turned me back toward looking at what I am doing wrong, rather than what they might be doing wrong. I needed that.

In other news, over at Christ Community Evangelical Free Church, our friend Rinda (name altered slightly to protect the guilty) drove the church car on a ladies' outing. And bumped it. Just a tiny bit. Anyway, this week, she opened her bulletin and followed along with the printed hymn lyrics in the bulletin - and then came to this neatly printed addition:
Our pastor drives a beat-up car
Just an old tin-canner.
Worse today than yesterday
Thanks to Rinda Danner.
In closing, I'd like to ask you to pray for my cyberfriend Felisol. Last I heard (which was last night our time), she was waiting at her mother's bedside, as her mother completes her days in this life and moves into the next. She has faith that her mother is saved and will move right into the arms of the Savior, but goodbyes are still hard, and she needs strength for the vigil. May God bless Felisol and her whole family.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Potato Crop Failure

Underwhelming, isn't it? This is all the yield in potatoes from our 4 barrels. I'd love to know what I did wrong. There were lots of cutworms in the barrels, for one thing.

These potatoes we did get are delicious, and they will make (one batch of) nice potato salad. Still, I was really hoping for, like, 150 pounds of potatoes.

I want to try something similar next year, only with a cylinder of chicken wire instead of a barrel. I'm thinking with more air to the sides, it may do better. Am I wrong or right?

Friday, August 26, 2011

Houston County Fair Entries 2011

Here are two garments I entered in the fair. The black apron I'm proud of, and it won a blue ribbon. The eyelet blouse I entered because I said I would enter a blouse and I did not have time to make a better one. It's okay. It won a red ribbon, and probably did not even deserve that much.

The apron has a little story behind it. Last spring, when Lisa Fruitful were making costumes for The Sound of Music, I quickly made a black half apron with colored rickrack trim for one of the older von Trapp girls. It was very striking from a safe distance, not so great close up because I was in a huge rush by that point and it was, after all, just a costume. But the drama coach Tammy Manning just loved it. So I redid the idea, taking my time and finishing seams and putting the rickrack on for keeps this time, and now that the fair is over, I have given it to Tammy to keep. I took a picture to keep with the blue ribbon it won.

On Sunday, when Lil Miss A and I drove back to the fair to pick up our stuff, we passed a pile of free stuff on a curb. Caledonia has a lot of garage sales during fair days because of all the added traffic. I had not gotten to go to any of them and was sad. Yet here was a lovely pile of garage sale leftovers with a big FREE sign on them. Even better! Look what I got:

It's an old suitcase with real travel stickers on it, mostly from Europe, though I see Florida on there too. I'm very excited. Can't believe nobody bought this at whatever price they were willing to take for it rather than leave it in the free pile, it could not have been much.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

I am so going to win this.

The Houston County (MN) Fair is going on right now, and this afternoon is the Ugly Purse Contest. I'm pumped. I'm stoked. I've got THE purse. I'm going to take this thing.

That's right. This is my time to shine. And yes, that IS a baby alligator, stuffed, on an alligator skin handbag. He has ruby-red glass eyes and he is quite scary.


I'll let you know how it turns out, but I'm feeling pretty confident right about now.


Well, to my surprise, there are 2 purses uglier than mine in Houston County. I came in third. I did notice the judges seemed afraid to touch my purse; they picked up the others and checked inside, but two of the three gave mine a wide berth.

To answer Carol's question from the comments, it's pronounced the same as Houston, Texas.

First day of school 2011-2012

Kieffer, entering his senior year in high school. Lil Miss A, entering 6th grade.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Cute haircut, obscured by cat

I wanted to take a picture of Lil Miss A's adorable new haircut (she got about 6 inches cut off), but she insisted on holding bad Beckham during the pictures, and he did not cooperate at ALL.

Monday, August 15, 2011

The weekend's work

I got some canning done this weekend, some stuff from our gardens, some from the farmer's market, and some (the corn) a gift from our neighbors.

The tally, if I remember right:

  • 5 quarts sweet corn
  • 2 quarts yams in syrup
  • 7 pints dill pickles
  • 4 pints green beans
  • 6 quarts Italian seasoned tomato sauce
I need to step up the pace here. I'm doing pretty well, but we need more.

I added 4 gallons of drinking water to our stores today, bringing us up around 60 gallons. These are gallon juice jugs. I save my own, and I have a couple of neighbors who put theirs in their recycling complete with the lids. (Everybody else throws the lids away separately, so I cannot use them.) I rinse them out well, add a couple of drops of liquid bleach, and fill them up with tap water; label them with the date, and stash them in the cellar. I'll be at my goal of 80 gallons at right about the time the oldest jugs are a year old, and I can start rotating them out.

In other news, we escaped Sunday evening to the same campground we camped at last month. It was a lovely day, not hot, not buggy. We took a supper with us and cooked it at over an open fire, and then Lil Miss A and I headed back home, while Barry and Kieffer backpacked into a pack-only campsite and spent the night. Really a lovely weekend. The kids start back to school on Thursday, so I'm glad we got to do one neat thing together before that happens.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Dawn dish soap to the rescue

I showed you how eaten up our cabbages were getting in this post. I was washing out 7-gallon plastic jugs that had once contained cooking oil using Dawn dishwashing detergent to cut the oil, and got to looking at those cabbages, and in total disgust, dumped the oily, Dawn-y suds on the cabbages.

Guess what? Whatever was eating them, is gone! And the cabbages are doing okay! All but 2, which seemed not able to rebound and start to make a head. So I yanked those two out and the others are doing quite well.

Kieffer has a new job. He is now a CNA at Thornton Manor Nursing Home, the same place where Britta worked for 5 years, then Barry worked too. There's another Stahl there, too, Emily, one of Kieffer's classmates (a very distant relative possibly).

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Tom Klein, Irish Piper

I went through high school with Tom Klein. He just launched his website, featuring his music on the uilleann pipes. Check it out - and click on the Music tab to hear samples of his music.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Interesting scoop-shaped basket

I bought this interesting scoop-shaped basket at The Way Station. Have any of you seen anything like this? It's old, and it's well made. It's not just a larger basket that got cut off at one end, the ends are neatly woven into the basket. It's about 14 inches long, 13 inches wide and 5 inches deep. It fits nicely in the hand for scooping loose grain (though tightly packed grain would probably wreck it), yet it also works nicely for gathering produce. I am no basket expert, but it feels Native American to me.

Any thoughts?

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Gladys Richards auction

This morning my late neighbor and fellow church lady Gladys Richards' estate was auctioned off, pretty much across the street from us (down a couple of doors). They sold her little house, which was on a nice-sized lot but not a particularly interesting house in my opinion, plus most of her belongings. I popped in and out throughout the morning while getting other things done.

I bought a bag of wooden clothespins, some canning stuff (lids, rings, a few jars, some wax and a couple of funnels), a photograph of our church building that I believe dates to soon after the dedication of the current 1950s structure, a vintage Hamilton Beach roaster oven (church lady staple), and an Enterprise tabletop meat grinder. I accidentally bought a couple of air mattress floatie things, making a certain young lady very happy, as well as a stack of afghans (not sure what I'll do with those) and one of those glass ceiling light shades with the three holes for chains. Some of this I know I'll sell, some I'll keep; I'm still figuring out which is which. It usually goes like that.

It was awfully hot out, but lots of fun, as it was a good, friendly crowd AND I wasn't stuck there and could run home to air conditioning every time I felt like it. One thing I found amusing was the gentleman who showed up with his van. He parked, then placed a tiny electric air conditioner in one of the back windows of the van, then pulled out a gasoline generator to power the air conditioner. Wow.

Friday, July 22, 2011

A few pictures

Remember our other robin family? - Both babies died, so our robin parents decided to try again, in a new tree. Here is their second family.

This morning I was up at 5, and witnessed this glorious sunrise.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Camping! We're wimps!

Click on that for a panoramic view of our campground in the Yellow River State Forest after Sunday at about noon. You'll see one crazy family camping amongst the blazing heat and humidity, mosquitoes, and rabid raccoons. (That's us. Right in the middle, at the end of that dirt driveway.) Everyone else was wise enough to head home.

More pictures:

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Garden update (lots of pictures)

"Black" hollyhocks (actually they are deep purple). A heritage variety we don't know the name of.

Horseradish which I just started from rootings. In a barrel so it doesn't escape.

These tomatoes are in the former chicken pen and are very, very happy
 to be rooting in a deep layer of old chicken poop. Lots of nitrogen.

Hops, taking over the garage as usual for this time of year.
People sometimes think we're growing cannabis. It's not surprising;
marijuana and hops are both closely related to hemp.

Wee little eggplants!

Potatoes in barrels.

More tomatoes, this time in the garden proper.
Lots of tomatoes setting, but look at all those yellow leaves.
Big difference from the chicken poop ones.
I have sent Barry out to buy fertilizer.

Sunflowers, growing tall. Barry planted them
rather randomly all over the yard.
He loves sunflowers. So do the birds.

Some nasty creature is eating all our cabbages.

Something new this year: Black beans!
Mostly just for fun; they are cheap to buy and you
have to grow a LOT of them to feed one person.

I was sprouting some black beans from the store
and decided to plant a few and they took right off.