Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Highlights of Trip to Branson

Where to begin? With four fun-packed days, it’s hard to condense my thoughts, but I’ll give some highlights.

I loved spending time with my dear friend, Lil and her husband Jim. They are wonderful friends! And no matter how many months we are separated, we pick up right where we left off. First of all, they are the perfect hosts. They have wonderful accommodations. And Lil is a great cook! We had fabulous meals, including one of my favorite dishes – Apple Pancake. Lil and I used to order this at my favorite restaurant when they lived up here. She and I would split the apple pancake, plus an order of thick sliced Hormel bacon, and tomato juice. She and Jim put all of their jobs "on hold" and spent the time showing us the sights of Branson.

We attended 4 shows, which were wonderful!
The Kitchen Band (Jim plays saxophone in this band)
Doug Gabriel
The Branson Belle (a dinner showboat)
The Dutton’s

Lil taught us a new card game called "Canadian Salad." At first we were skeptical because it sounded too hard, but after playing a trial hand, we were hooked. We stayed up until 11:30 Friday night and until 11 on Saturday night to play this fun game. Sunday morning, before leaving at our target time, 7 AM, Lil asked if we wanted to play one more round. It was tempting, but we denied ourselves.

We drove around the area and saw gorgeous new developments, beautiful fall foliage. Branson is a "happening" place – not a settlement for old, white-haired retirees that it once was.

Eating at the Smith’s Berry Farm Restaurant in Collins, Missouri. We’ve eaten there 3 times so far, and I’m sure we’ll make it in there again, if possible.

Quality time driving to and from Branson. These are times when good conversations occur. We reminisced over the days when we were much younger and talked about the struggles and joys happening in our lives now.

I’m back home doing the usual things now. I haven’t hung my bittersweet around the house yet. First things first.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Trip to Branson

Seven years ago my best friend Lil up and left Minnesota and moved to Branson. Oh, how I hated to see her go so far away. Well, it isn't really that far. She and her husband can make the trip in about nine and a half hours. But for me, well, I don't care to drive that much and have never driven down to see them by myself. Rather, I travel with my fun relatives, which I really enjoy! Consequently, I don't get to see her as often as I would like.

Thursday my Aunt Liz and I left my home at 7 am and drove to Owatonna where we met my sister (thanks for driving her over, Jerry), and the three of us headed south in my Aunt's new van. Wow! This new vehicle has all the bells and whistles, some of which we have yet to figure out how to operate!! We drove to a Des Moines suburb where we picked up my Cousin Linda who had driven over from Chicago. Linda has never traveled with us before and was very anxious to join us.

At half past noon, we set out for Branson. Things were fine until we came to Kansas City. I hope I don't offend you, Lil, when I say that Missouri (especially Kansas City) has the most confusing and misleading highway signage of any place I have ever traveled. We mistook a sign for the Interstate and got off on a 4 lane state highway that had stop lights about every mile - this was at four o'clock in the afternoon. Picture lots of cars and lots of red lights and you'll understand why it took us over an hour to meet up to the highway we needed.

Our mission - other than arriving at Lil and Jim's home, was to stop at our secret bittersweet find (If you think I'm going to mention the exact location here, you are mistaken.) to clip some small branches of the beautiful fall decoration. We were happy to get there before the sun set. We clipped a few bags full, and also managed to pick up some Osage fruit (hedge apples) that had dropped to the ground. These big, textured green balls are being marketed as cures for keeping spiders out of garages and basements. I'm not sure they work, but our Cousin Pat asked us to bring some back for her.

After our mission was accomplished and the sun was setting, we were on our way and stopped to eat at a very good restaurant - Smith's Blackberry Restaurant, a great small-town, family run restaurant with excellent "down home cooking." They feature home-made rolls, pies, cobbler, real mashed potatoes, huge servings of fried chicken, hot roast beef sandwiches, etc. We've eaten there twice before and probably will stop there again for breakfast on Sunday morning.

We pulled into Lil's driveway at 9:50 pm, almost 15 hours after leaving home. It doesn't matter if we make good time - just so we get there.

Sunday, October 15, 2006


Changed. Have you ever read Webster's definition? Oh, there are many entries - - my dictionary lists 32. Some of the definitions describe change for the better; some are substitutions; others refer to the transfer or removal of something or things. The change I witnessed yesterday was in my dear friend, Cassie, who has been stricken with the hideous disease: Alzheimer's. Oh, she seemed to know me and was happy that I had come to pay a visit, but she couldn't communicate on the level I have been accustomed to hearing. She viewed the photos I brought along of my grandchildren and told me over and over, "My, they are so cute. I just love babies." But when we looked at her photo album, there were many dear friends and relatives of hers that she no longer knew. She even asked me how old her first husband was when he died.

I stayed for a couple of hours. We had run out of little things to talk about. She could no longer focus on any subject. In fact, she fell asleep right in the middle of telling me something.

I love her dearly and it hurts to see her change.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006


It is definitely way too early to deal with S*N*O*W - but that is exactly what has happened tonight. Oh, we had flurries off and on today, but tonight, while I was at choir rehearsal, we had the four letter word. The temperature only warmed up to 36 degrees today, with a wind chill of 22 degrees - and that was bad enough. So, while still in the church building, I activated my "automatic car starter" so I could get into a warm, cozy car. To my surprise - while walking to my car, I discovered my car was totally covered in the white stuff! At least I had had the foresight to put my scraper/brush in the car yesterday. I just didn't realize I would be using it so soon.

I took it easy driving home, since the roads were icy looking in places. Part of the way I was behind a sanding/salting truck. I'm not sure everyone was as lucky as I was to get to their destination safely because just one exit before mine, all cars were stopped. I was able to take that exit and came the remainder of the way on surface roads. I sincerely hope everyone is okay. The 10 o'clock news report is that some roads are going to be closed due to icy conditions. Unless it warms up again, it is going to be a looooooooooong winter!

Monday, October 09, 2006

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Brian Visits Grandma D

This weekend I have done something brand new to me - - I had my daughter and son-in-law's dog come to stay with me. He is a beautiful Golden Retriever who behaves wonderfully! I picked him up yesterday morning at Chad's parents' home in Hudson, Wisconsin. He had his over-night bag packed and was ready to go. We drove along the St. Croix River to Stillwater, then crossed back over into Wisconsin over the historic bridge so Grandma could try to take some nice photos of the fall color surrounding Stillwater. Well, I drove around a bit, but could not find any public place that would give me a vantage point. Come on, Wisconsin! Why don't you set aside a little place across from Stillwater where folks could park and appreciate the first town settled in Minnesota so many years ago?!

Before driving to my home, I had a couple of places in mind where Brian and I could visit a bit and get in some good walking. We stopped at my Aunt Liz's first. Brian was so excited to see her, that his wagging tail hit one of her decorative plates on a shelf and knocked it over. It didn't break, and Aunt Liz just laughed. She thought it was cute and wasn't worried about her plates. I took him for a little walk around her home and we came upon some wild raspberry bushes. We walked back to her home, picked up an empty cup, and returned to pick ripe raspberries. Yum! Did you enjoy them, Aunt Liz?

Next on my agenda was the beautiful 1.9 mile walk around Lake Normandale in Bloomington. Brian loved it. And I enjoyed it too. The leaves were lovely, and we saw many geese swimming and feeding. It won't be too long and the trees will be bare, the geese will have flown south, and the lake will be frozen. Ugh!

My home was foreign to Brian, and the sounds of the people living above and beside me brought many barks from him on Saturday. But during the night, he only barked once. Today he is much more relaxed about the sounds. He and I have logged many miles in the past two days. I'm sure Heidi will be considering getting me a dog so I will exercise more - not a bad idea, except for my allergies to dogs.

Brian, I have enjoyed having you come to my home. I hope you tell your mom and dad about the fun we have had. Come again!

Sunday, October 01, 2006

What a Beautiful Fall Day for a Drive

Leaves are beginning to change color here. Many have fallen. It was a lovely day for a drive along the beautiful Mississippi River - you know, from south of Red Wing down to Wabasha - in my opinion one of the most gorgeous parts of Minnesota. My friend Nancy agreed to go with me, and we had a wonderful time. We stopped in Lake City, where the Mississippi widens and for a little ways becomes Lake Pepin, and watched some of the many sail boats that were out enjoying the breeze. Then we headed down to Wabasha and spotted an eagle at the "eagle watch" dock - next the the site of the new National Eagle Center which is under construction. Next we crossed the Mississippi River heading for Nelson, Wisconsin. Our intentions were to get an ice cream cone at the Creamery. But once inside, we lost our enthusiasm when we saw over 50 people standing in line.

Across the street we spotted a pumpkin stand, so we crossed over and each of us found a darling little pumpkin and some squash. Talk about a bargain: squash - $.50; small pumpkins - $1.00! I'm positive they cost a lot more here in the twin cities. Since we hadn't had a snack yet, we walked down the street to the Twin Bluffs restaurant and had an apple dumpling and apple pie. Yummy!

I'm sure there will be more intense color in the next couple of weeks, so if you have time, I'd suggest you take a drive - - either along this route, or one of your favorites. It's a real treat for your eyes.