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Special Edition

DSCN7506 - Version 5The Good News 

The good news
They do not print.
The good news
We do print.
We have a special edition every moment,
And we need you to read it.
The good news is that you are alive,
That the linden tree is still there
Standing firm in the harsh Winter.
The good news is that you have wonderful eyes
To touch the blue sky.
The good new is that your child is there before you,
And your arms are available:
Hugging is possible.
They only print what is wrong.
Look at each of our special editions.
We always offer the things that are not wrong.
We want you to benefit from them
And help protect them.
The dandelion is there by the sidewalk,
Smiling its wondrous smile,
Singing the song of eternity.
Listen! You have ears that can hear it.
Bow your head.
Listen to it.
Leave behind the world of sorrow
And preoccupation
And get free.
The latest good news
Is that you can do it.

The Good News by Thich Nhat Hanh

Problem Solving

2_Abraham_Leon_Kroll_American_artist_1884_1974_The_ConversationIs there anything more satisfying than solving the world’s problems with one’s hands cradling a warm cup of traveling steam – and whatever floats inside it?

I am one of the fortunate ones. I have friends and family who are ready and often waiting for a good sit-down chat, whether it be at the kitchen table, in a coffee shop, lunch in a quiet restaurant, or on the ether pages in this modern world.

I think, these days, with family and friends oftentimes far away, or too busy to catch their breaths, that the internet has become a virtual clothesline. We hang our laundry up to dry and hope that, perhaps, a neighbor or two will wander by for a spell while we clip the clothespins on.

While I am writing, I often have a cup of tea or a mug of coffee at my side, and I think about you, dear reader. Do you read with a favored cuppa nearby? Are you in business attire, your pajamas, a pair of jeans and a sweatshirt? Do you chew on a cookie or a piece of fruit as you turn your virtual pages with a click that comes as sure as your next breath, traveling here and there around the blogosphere?

I am a “people person”. I love to strike up conversations with my best of friends – or the librarian checking out my latest read. You never know what you will learn on these verbal forays. For instance, the cashier at Walgreens, who recognizes me as the lady who sometimes comes in to buy their dollar molasses cookies, shared with me that a local fast food/ice cream stand purchases the very same cookies to make the ice cream sandwiches they sell. The gals and guys at the Jewel always take the time to ask how I am – and care.  Once, my address visible while paying with a check, a cashier asked me if I knew Jim and Connie who live on my street. Indeed, I did. It was their house we bought. I swear, if there had not been other customers in the queue,  we would be talking still about what nice people they are.

Well, the kettle is whistling and I need to ice my old knee, so, I guess it is time to stop.

Thank you, forever and always, for wandering by for a spell. I always enjoy our chats.

On bended knee

Well, not really on bended knee; just a short while before my knee wouldn’t bend. It sounded like a catchy title, so, here you have it. I blame it on the pain medication.

DSCN7478We often stop in the Ginkgo Restaurant and Cafe at the Morton Arboretum for a cup of coffee or chocolate, sometimes breakfast or lunch, depending on what’s on the docket for the day, and we’ll sit at one of the tables, looking out the long expanse of windows that afford a view of Meadow Lake, with its mile or so walking path.

In summer, there are baby strollers – and those who stroll – taking the footpath around the lake, looking for sunning turtles and enjoying the lush colors of the season as the prairie plants reach a crescendo.

In spring, grackles may be nesting. They dive-bomb those walking along the path, especially those wearing red. I always want to jump up at shout “take cover” and bang on the windows, warning walkers of eminent attacks. I don’t, of course, and the birds are just warning passers-by.

In fall, there are the magnificent colors that remind me of why we must suffer the cold of winter, in a “to every season” sort of way. The Morton is ablaze in the brilliance of nature come fall, and the cafe is just the place to stop and catch one’s breath.

In winter, there is a coating of snow and a sheet of ice on Meadow Lake. Whiteness and quiet and the hush-a-bye beauty of snow in its more peaceful mood lend a perfect hand to reflect on through the windows.

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On Sunday, with a pocket of time in our schedule, an unplanned moment, we decided to drive out to the Arboretum after church. I needed to be home by noon in order to meet up with a friend to see her young granddaughter’s art in an exhibit. As we drove through the Piney Woods, all dusted in snow with the ascending trunks reaching toward heaven, it felt like a cathedral. My unsung prayers drifted upward as we slowly drove about.

You know the rest of the story, from my previous post, so, I won’t repeat it here. I am relieved to say that my knee seems to be healing, I’ve made progress in mastering the cane, and am hoping to slowly resume activities and begin to look to what more I made need to do. All that knee jerking activity is what it is and what will be will be. Thank you all for you kind words, thoughts, and prayers.

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Before I turned on a dime (so to speak), while enjoying refreshments in the Cafe, the world outside seemed to glow in possibilities, large and small. The lake before us, just outside the glass. A couple, one with cane and the other helping him along, slowly made their way around. A premonition?

Between the lake, the glass, and me, was the back of a chair with the signature cutout of a ginkgo leaf, just waiting for me to gaze through it, to share a different view of the world.

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Caning

dowager-countess-downton-abbey-s4Lady Violet makes it look so easy, walking and talking, exchanging wisdom and wit with whomever is at her side, all while walking with a cane in hand, which she uses like a pen, scripting exclamation points with a flourish here and there. She leans on that cane as she graciously rises from a chair and knows right where to put it when waltzing with Branson; after all, he knows how to steer a car.

I’m no Lady Violet. I might have a bon mot or two, but, I usually remember them an hour after the conversation has ended.

As for brandishing a cane, well, let’s just say that I gave the technician in the ER something to talk about during his break. He wrapped me up with a compression bandage, then velcroed me into a stabilizer, and handed me my weapon, er walking aid, as he released the brakes to the chair. He looked at me in shocked surprise as I tried to walk two feet to the wall. Tom was trying not to laugh as he watched, but, in the end, we all had a good chuckle. Remember, dear one, I’m the gal who can’t walk and chew gum at the same time.

Okay, Penelope, let’s try this again. Put the cane in your left hand. Use it to take the weight off of your right knee as you stand. “ .

I’m fine, just having a bit of a bother with my knee and some pain medication that has me more than a little drowsy.I slept all afternoon.

My Antler Man and I were at the Morton Arboretum, enjoying the view of the lake, while sipping on coffee and munching on muffins. We had stopped there after church, something we like to do on a Sunday morning. As we walked back to the car, my knee suddenly gave out, with a hearty helping of pain. I nursed it back home, while Tom nursed me; you know the routine, Advil, a bag of frozen vegetables, and elevation. As time went on, it became apparent that I needed more than a frozen bag of peas, so, off we set to the ER. After a few x-rays and a lot of questions, I was released to go home to rest, with some pain medications, an elastic wrap, a bulky stabilizer, and a cane.

With a bit of arthritis in the knee and some fluid, I should be fine after a spell, but, have a plan of action of I’m not; a bridge to cross with cane in hand if need be. The realities of the aging process, and a car accident some years ago where my knee and dashboard met are the culprits. I don’t even have a Perils of Penelope story to tell,  just a reality of life.

In-the-meantime, I’m really quite fine, just having a bit of bother and a crash course in caning. My own reality check after photographing this couple walking around the lake at the Morton from the view of the cafe.  They were walking, arm-in-arm, ever-so-slowly in the cold, bundled up and determined, one of them brandishing a cane.

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Dreaming in Green

I’m dreaming in green; lush, mossy, magnificent green and longing for those first, tentative tips of spring bulbs and pussy willow blossoms.

Soon. Very soon.DSCN7326

While the sun hasn’t shown her rays very often lately, here along the Cutoff the days ARE growing longer and the seed catalogues are tempting us with old reliables and new introductions.

There is a dream of buds swelling here and there. With a hope that is buried and waiting in this long winter, the daffodils and hyacinths are waiting, their tips of buttery yellow and grape are the epitome of patience under the ice and snow.

With our heads bent to the wind, we will brave the gusts and the cold and the snow and whatever else this season may still throw at us. We will layer on extra clothing as the car warms up. Once home again a cup of freshly brewed coffee or a piping pot of tea. Soup is often simmering on the stove, and now that it is Lent, pepper and egg sandwiches are the fare of choice on a Friday afternoon.

I’ve been enjoying tall cups of hot, Mexican chocolate now and again, with my dear friend Kathryn or with my daughter 9781444730302-1-4Jennifer, at a new coffee house that recently opened not far from here. Tom and went there for an afternoon treat on Valentine’s Day. La Fortuna’s owners are third generation coffee producers. Isn’t it amazing how fast a new establishment can become a favorite?

Books, of course, are always at my side. I’ve been reading “The House on an Irish Hillside” by Felicity Hayes-McCoy, and I’ve been pulling out old issues of Victoria Magazine for inspiration . . .

. . .  and I have ben hopping about, chasing sunbeams with my camera – whenever the sun pokes through.

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What are you reading these days?

What are you sipping on?

Where are you going – or where did you just come from?

What are the signs of your season beginning to change?

Will you watch Sunday’s episode of Downton Abbey, the Oscars, or both? Neither?

Are any of you watching in Grantchester?

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Grumpy Old Men


Anderson Hotel:Grumpy Old Men

The Hotel Anderson

Katy and I were on a road trip scoping out colleges. We drove north, through Wisconsin to LaCrosse, then west, over the river and through the woods to our first college visit, a night’s rest, then onward and upward to the Twin Cities. It was October 12, 1998. There was already snow on the ground along the river road route we were taking, winding around the hills that follow the Mighty Mississippi. While Katy had a driver’s license, she couldn’t drive with her leg in a cast, so I plugged along, steering us to our next collegial destination.  There were light snow flurries; nothing dangerous, just bothersome in that always dirty windshield with the intermittent wipers sort of way. It was a gray afternoon.

I could sure use a cup of coffee“.  “Doesn’t pie sound good right now?” So, the conversation flowed for several mid-afternoon miles, then we passed a huge billboard.

Whoa, Nellie, slow down!

Did you see that?” “Yes, I did.”  “Wanna go check it out?” . . .

. . . and so we did. We turned the car around, seeing the sign once again as we backtracked. The sign touted Wabasha, Home of Grumpy Old Men.

Have you seen the Grumpy Old Men movies?  Grumpy and Grumpier? Their capers and escapades, ice fishing and love interests are endearing, in a slapstick, sophomoric sort of way. Walter Matthau and Jack Lemmon had us giggling and guffawing time after time and, well, it was the perfect time on our road trip of serious educational exploration to take a time out.

We followed the signs to the Hotel Anderson. A magnificent relic of times gone by, and a bit of a cat house to boot.

Yes, I took my daughter to a cat house.

I ordered a coffee. If memory serves me, Kate had a hot chocolate. We both ordered pie. Mine was all-American apple. Heavenly, warmed, delicious pie, à la mode, no less, in an old, still operating, historic hotel that was filled with antiques and attitude. On the historic register, the Hotel Anderson was established pre-Civil War, and it is still in operation. Katy and I inhaled our pie and soaked in the charming atmosphere in the hotel’s dining room, glad for a bit of a respite, and a story to tell once we got back home.

My pie devoured, I walked down a narrow, squeaky hallway to the ladies’ room. As I walked back to our table, I perused framed photos, newspaper and magazine clippings on the hall’s wall. Some were signed by movie stars and dignitaries, with more than a few mentioning cats!

I asked our waitress, who proceeded to tell us that, are you ready for this?, guests of the hotel could choose certain appointed rooms and pick out a cat to join them for the night. She invited us to go up the stairs, look into the room where the cats resided and were on view for one’s choosing, so, we did.  The felines were on view from the half-door; all groomed and well-fed, purring and preening and napping – and not the least bit grumpy. We checked out the rooms that were unoccupied, the doors being opened to look in. They were charming and old; good for a simple night’s rest.  All-in-all, it was a most side trip, and one that Tom and I took some years later when the fall colors were abundant.

Several years then passed before I discovered the Ford Treasury cookbooks, which depict famous restaurants I have begun chronicling here on the Cutoff, I was pleasantly surprised to find The Hotel Anderson depicted.

Grumpy Old Men, and the Grumpier sequel, are always a hoot to watch, especially in winter. There are some hilarious ice fishing scenes, love scenes, and an inordinate amount of “potty talk”, all in the Minnesota town of Wabasha.

Across the river from Wabasha is the town of Pepin.  Pepin is where Laura Ingalls Wilder was born and where she and her family crossed Lake Pepin, in winter, to begin their journeys across the prairies. One of these days, I need to visit Pepin.

Have you seen either of the Grumpy Old Men movies?  Do you have a favorite scene? Do you have a favorite pie?

 

 

Cantore, Collins, and me

2-blizzard-of-1888-nyc-grangerimage from here

I awoke to another gray morn here on the Cutoff.

 I bit my tongue, tried not to complain about the cold, felt mightily for the folks on the east coast; especially Boston.

I remember our winter of ’78/’79, with snow piled so high it bested Tom’s 6’4″ frame. Having “dibs” on parking space even floated out to the burbs that year with folks shoveling snow off their rooftops and the deepening worry of flooding if snow melts too fast.

I will admit to laughing out loud with weatherman, Jim Cantore, who jumped around with unbridled glee at the thundersnow in Boston. Alison of Apple Pie and Napalm recently remarked about weather, that “I never worry until Cantore shows up” in a comment on a recent post. It took me a moment to figure “Cantore” out. I finally remembered.  He is the meteorologist from the Weather Channel who comes out in the worst of storms.

Jim Cantore was enjoying the thundersnow, which is a rare and potentially dangerous phenomenon not often witnessed.  I experienced it for the first time in 2011, and wrote about it here.

But, I digress. . .

. . . as I tickle the keyboard,  snow is sneaking around, barely visible. I knew it was snowing before looking outside, for the room darkened as gathering flakes shaded the skylights; white upon gray upon winter.

I turn to Billy Collins to bring some smiles on yet another colorless, wintry day, where he, too, writes about the sound of snow – and other things.

Snow Day

Today we woke up to a revolution of snow,
its white flag waving over everything,
the landscape vanished,
not a single mouse to punctuate the blankness,
and beyond these windows

the government buildings smothered,
schools and libraries buried, the post office lost
under the noiseless drift,
the paths of trains softly blocked,
the world fallen under this falling.

In a while, I will put on some boots
and step out like someone walking in water,
and the dog will porpoise through the drifts,
and I will shake a laden branch
sending a cold shower down on us both.

But for now I am a willing prisoner in this house,
a sympathizer with the anarchic cause of snow.
I will make a pot of tea
and listen to the plastic radio on the counter,
as glad as anyone to hear the news

that the Kiddie Corner School is closed,
the Ding-Dong School, closed.
the All Aboard Children’s School, closed,
the Hi-Ho Nursery School, closed,
along with—some will be delighted to hear—

the Toadstool School, the Little School,
Little Sparrows Nursery School,
Little Stars Pre-School, Peas-and-Carrots Day School
the Tom Thumb Child Center, all closed,
and—clap your hands—the Peanuts Play School.

So this is where the children hide all day,
These are the nests where they letter and draw,
where they put on their bright miniature jackets,
all darting and climbing and sliding,
all but the few girls whispering by the fence.

And now I am listening hard
in the grandiose silence of the snow,
trying to hear what those three girls are plotting,
what riot is afoot,
which small queen is about to be brought down.
Billy Collins, “Snow Day” from Sailing Alone Around the Room: New and Selected Poems

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