Thursday, March 29, 2012

Another winner!

What a great read! The Maid of Fairbourne Hall, by Julie Klassen, was a wonderful book from beginning to the end. I fell in love with Margaret early on and was pulling for her all the way. Talk about a strong woman! With so many obstacles, I never lost faith in her.

The setting of this book made me think of my English ancestors. What did they do for a living? Were they ever in a similar situation? Sometimes I wish I knew . . . Since I'll never find out, I tried to imagine one of them as one of the characters in this novel - Mrs. Budgeon, for instance. Who knows? She could have been one of my relatives.

If you're looking for good novels, in the style of Jane Austen, you should give Julie's books a try. She's an excellent writer.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

An Unexpected Turn of Events

This morning I woke up and did the usual Sunday morning things in preparation of going to church and singing in the choir. I was running a few minutes behind so I broke the law and sped a little - not a lot. Reaching the parking lot, I hurried out of my car, rushed to the building, put my purse in a locker, and proceeded to the choir loft for the warm up. I had barely sat down when the choir assistant motioned for me to come down to talk to her — not in the sanctuary, but she wanted me out in the hallway. I thought for sure she was going to tell me I couldn't sing today because I wasn't wearing the mandatory black hose. (I stand in row 3, off to the side, so I figured no one would even notice!)

Lori lead me to one of the upholstered benches where our choir director was lying flat on his back. She told me he was too ill to direct the service and wanted me to direct the choir and the congregational singing at the Eden Prairie and the Edina campus. Oh, my! Had they asked me to give my faith story, I would have been prepared for that. I always carry a copy in my purse and in my choir folder. This was something else!

I told them I would do it and then proceeded to get my choir folder to refresh my mind as to what we were singing today. I hadn't looked at it since our rehearsal Wednesday night. I walked to the stage, took my place on the podium, and tried to scan the program to see what I had gotten into. Then I asked the choir to pray for me!

Fast forward, things went okay. I made a couple of blunders at the first service (knocked my glasses off the music stand. One of the musicians surreptitiously picked them up and returned them to stand. Minutes later during the pastor's prayer, I knocked both anthems on the floor, I was able to pick them up while he prayed. Hopefully God is the only One who knows I bent down to pick them up.).

The choir and string quintet followed me extremely well, as did the organist and pianist. I enjoyed the experience of directing the choir and the congregation. Thinking back, it has been 20 years since I have had this privilege.

Update on our choir director: He spent some time at the ER and was sent home with some new medication. Having just had surgery two weeks ago, this was a very scary time for him.

Lesson learned: be prepared for just about anything.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Happy Saint Patrick's Day!

Crowded downtown Dublin

Bunratty Castle

I'm not Irish, but I've been to Ireland, so each year I celebrate this special day. I love the cheery music, the 40 shades of green, the Belleek china and fisherman knit sweater I bought there, and the wonderful memories I have of the time I visited there in 1982 with my dear Aunt Liz, my brother and sister, my cousin Patricia (sounds Irish, right?), and our dear friend, Tiny.

We spent a full day in Dublin, including a morning visit with Ina, the mother of our Irish friend, Gemma (I'll never forget that Ina served each of us a glass of whiskey - at 10 am! I gave mine to my brother; Tiny poured hers in a houseplant when Ina had her back turned.), shopped in downtown Dublin, and met in an Irish pub before going to our B & B. The following morning, a Sunday, we had a quick breakfast at a Mc Donald's, where we had the special treat of seeing about a dozen little girls all dressed in their white dresses and veils - in preparation for their special day of receiving their First Holy Communion.

Later that morning we parted from Jerry. He had to return to his military duties in Scotland, and we boarded the train to cross the beautiful country where we would fly back to the USA from the Shannon airport the following day. The train ride was very pleasant. Though after 30 miles or so, a conductor came through our car and upon checking our tickets, he informed us we were seated in a First Class coach. (Our tickets were for economy.) He graciously told us we should stay put and enjoy our ride. We had wondered why we were the only ones in the car!

Late that afternoon, we arrived in Shannon, Ireland, and checked into our hotel room. Looking over the brochures in our room, we discovered we were really close to the Bunratty Castle, so we decided to have our dinner there. This castle hosts a medieval banquet and we were treated to the Bunratty Castle entertainers, upon entering, while being served our feast and afterwards. Prior to eating, servants wrapped "bibs" around our necks. For our place setting, we each had a wooden plate, wooden spoon and a knife - similar to a steak knife. That was it. Oh, and we each had a small, clay mug of mulled wine. It seems there were about 60+ diners and many servants and singers. During the course of the evening, we chose an Earl and Lady. Talk about a memorable experience!

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Peaceful lunch time — not today!

I'm fortunate to live close enough to work that I can go home for lunch, which is very nice. It gives me a chance to turn on some music, play with Nels for a few minutes, prepare my lunch, and sit down to eat while looking at a magazine or reading a book.
Not today!! I came through the door and was doing my usual thing. My lunch was in the micro wave, and I was getting out my table service. Then, out of the corner of my eye, I spotted a big, brown stain on the dining room carpet. What on earth?! Nels had thrown up his breakfast — all of it from what I could tell.
So, leaving my lunch preparation, I fixed a bucket of soapy water and a cloth, got down on my knees, and wiped, and scrubbed, and scrubbed. I replaced the dirty water with a new bucket of the soapy stuff, and worked and worked at it. Checking the clock, I noticed half of my lunch period was gone, so I gathered my supplies, washed the bucket and cloth, and returned to my lunch, which was "over-cooked!" The tuna and cheese on an English muffin, was stuck to the plate. All I could manage to do was scrape some of the tuna off to eat - that and some carrots and blue corn chips with my glass of milk. I felt agitated and irritated as I cleaned up my lunch area, then brushed my teeth and headed back to the office. THANKFULLY, this is a very usual lunchtime for me. Now I appreciate what I have taken for granted.

Thursday, March 08, 2012

Princess Diana

Tonight a friend and I went to the Princess Diana exhibition at the Mall of America. This is on loan from the Spencer family, and includes Princess Diana's wedding dress and many, many more of the dresses she wore. We saw one of her diamond tiaras, and many exquisite pieces of jewelry - including antique pieces of her ancestors. Cameras were not allowed, except at the entrance, and by the exit, where sits a replica of her wedding cake. I'm happy we went on a quiet week night, since there were no crowds, and we got up close to everything, and had plenty of time to read the commentary and watch the videos.

Did you know it took one entire room to display the bound books of the notes of sympathy the family received following her death? 1 billion people watched her wedding to Prince Charles in 1981. 2.5 billion watched her funeral in 1997.

The exhibition will be at the Mall until June 10. If you cannot go in person, you can see some of what I saw here.

Speed Scrabble

Friends (clockwise): Ellen, LaVonne, Nancy, yours truly, Whitney, Jennifer, and Jo

At 3 pm each work day, most of us take a 15 minute break. There are several group activities in which one can participate. For instance, some take a short walk outdoors - even in cold weather. There's a table of gals who play cards — various versions of the card game, "golf." At another table, you will find folks playing speed scrabble. All of these activities give a nice chance to visit with co-workers.

For the past few years, I have opted to play cards. It's really fun, and uses your mind a bit. Then a couple of weeks ago, I went back to playing speed scrabble - just to change things up a bit. Sometimes there are only two of us at the table playing, but today we broke a record. We had 7 players!! Our puzzles were small, but I think we got in three games.

I wonder what other offices or places of work do at break time.

Wednesday, March 07, 2012

Found: the snake!

A few weeks after I got Nels, a friend showered him with a basket of goodies – food, kitty litter, and a few toys. Nels fell in love with a long, brown fleece strip which has a black plastic handle. I have called it his snake, for that’s what it brings to mind. During the night – on those occasions when he’s allowed in my room, using his teeth, he brings the snake up onto my bed and burrows under the covers next to me. I never feel this toy in my bed while sleeping, but find it when I make the bed the next morning.

A couple of weeks ago, the snake went missing. I looked high and low – in all the usual places. I even looked in some unusual places. Where could this toy be? I knew it couldn’t be behind my TV in the cottage, since he is no longer allowed in my cottage unless I pick him up and bring him in to sit ONLY on my lap. [He has a history of chewing electrical chords, and I don’t want to give him a chance to chew through my TV or computer cables.] There was a time he had deposited the snake behind my TV and for days I fought him to stay out of that area – only to reach back behind it one evening to discover his snake.

This noon it got the better of me. I got out my flashlight and began searching the "unusual" places in my home: above the upper kitchen cabinets (Yes, he has been up there.), under the sofa, behind the piano and breakfront, behind the cabinet in my laundry room. No luck. Then I decided to check behind all the furniture in my bedroom. When I was coming up empty handed, it suddenly dawned on me: Nels goes in the corner of my bedroom every evening, behind the rocking chair, and stays back there for a bit. A week or so ago, I had shoved my mattress up to the wall as close as I could get it. Then I moved the night stand close to my bed to keep him from getting at the lamp and telephone chords. Could this snake possibly be lodged between the wall and front of my box springs? Today I pulled out the mattress. YES! There it was. The lost snake has been found!

Saturday, March 03, 2012

Happy Birthday, Jan!

The hotel was giving a cookie decorating class so Jerry and I sat in on it. It was kind of fun.

Aurelia created this lovely hat to wear to the party.

Peder, Felix and Aurelia at the water park

Felix and Aurelia going down the slide in the water park

Keith, Deborah, and Annika gave Jan this lovely carved bird ornament. It was made in Africa.

Both Felix and Aurelia thought it was fun to pay with Annika (she's 8 years old).

Today my family celebrated my sister's birthday by going out to lunch here in the twin cities, followed by an afternoon and early evening at the Water Park of America, which is attached to the Radisson Hotel and about a long block away from the Mall of America. Oh, my, what a place! This giant indoor water park had 750 patrons in it this afternoon and apparently they weren't at capacity!

Everyone had a very nice time. And it was so fun to see Jan's son, Keith, and his girl-friend, Deborah and daughter, Annika, plus Jan's grand kids, Alex, Chad and Cassie. It was Deborah's birthday yesterday, so we were celebrating her, too.

Jan's birthday is actually next Saturday, March 10.