Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Trick or Treat

Initially, after coming to the window to see who was ringing the doorbell, Ray turned to Nancy, his wife, to say she needed to get the candy for a bunch of kids at the door. He wondered who the crazy kids were who came a day early. "Trick or Treat," we chanted, as the surprised Ray opened the door! Then that he recognized us and began to welcome us in. Ray and Nancy are in choir with most of us, and five weeks ago he had major neck surgery and is restricted to wearing a collar for 12 weeks. Secretly we had cleared this with Nancy. We told her our trick was to come the night before Halloween; our treat was that we were bringing dinner. She totally kept the secret from Ray!

Laurey and Arlene

Nancy C preparing the salad

Judy stirring the soup

Nancy C and Bonnie

Judy and Max

Ray and Nancy D

Our fun group!

Nancy D, yours truly (Red Riding Hood costume) and Ray

Our history with meeting at Ray and Nancy's is rich. They have graciously hosted us in their home for The Truth Project, and Doing the Right Thing. Both of the sessions were wonderful, though I feel like I benefitted more from The Truth Project. 

Ray and Nancy are wonderful friends, and they were so happy we surprised them tonight - especially Ray. It was so much fun!

Monday, October 29, 2012

Happy Birthday, Nels!

Today I am celebrating Nels' 3rd birthday. Was he actually born on October 29? No one knows. Annika and I picked him out from other cats at the Humane Society on December 23, 2010. When I took him to my veterinarian a week later, they estimated him to be 13 or 14 months old, and said I should chose a date for his birthday. October 29 seemed like as good a day as any.

I really like having Nels in my life. Oh, there are challenges: electric cord chewing (I have solved that problem to some extent by painting the cords with Tabasco sauce.), getting into cabinet doors (had latches installed), hair - lots of it - on my clothes (purchased many packages of lint rollers and have one in my car, in my work desk, in my coat closet, in my work bag), finicky eating (I haven't solved that one yet.). Nels and I both love being out in our screened porch. He goes out for a few minutes even when the temperature has hovered around freezing. His fur is so chilly when he comes back indoors.

Happy Birthday, Nels!

Sunday, October 28, 2012

You Can't Take It With You

I'm a fan of classic movies. I love old movies and old TV shows, too, for that matter. Tonight I watched a perfectly delightful film, You Can't Take It With You. After the conclusion, I decided to Google it to see in what year it was created (I'm not too fond of the Roman Numerals method.). I was pleasantly surprised to learn not only the year–1938, but also that it was a two time Academy Award winner—Best Picture and Best Director. While watching it, I discovered many of the actors in this film  also acted in It's a Wonderful Life. Frank Capra, the director, was really a gifted individual.

This film is light and funny, clean and clever, and ends with a good lesson. It was very good, and I plan to watch it again before returning it to Netflix.

I really enjoy films with Jean Arthur and James Stewart. This film also included Spring Byington, another favorite of mine.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Like a kid in a candy store!

Today two of my friends and I toured Regina's Candies in St. Paul, Minnesota. This is a family owned and run store that has been in business 86 years. The owner is the grandson of the original owner, and two of his sisters work there as well as their kids. I have been a patron of this store over the past 20 years. I first learned about it when I moved to the twin cities. I had just left a job in the food industry and though we didn't allow public tours, I decided to see if one of the big candy companies around this area had tours. Going through the Yellow Pages (The Internet wasn't part of my life yet.), I was told the two big candy companies - Pearson's and Fanny Farmer - didn't give tours. But calling Regina's, I was happy to learn they give one tour a year— one Saturday in October. They told me they would send me a post card closer to the date. Well, I went on that tour and have been a fan ever since!

✿ڿڰۣ(̆̃̃ღ ♥ ღ(̆̃̃ڿڰۣ✿

Jo, posing for me.

A granddaughter of the original owner is telling the history of the candy store.

This worker, who has been employed there 25 years, is cutting caramels.

A sister of the owner explained to us how their famous candy canes and thin, delicate ribbon candy are made. I have bought many of these candy canes over the years. They are really beautiful – no two alike. Surprisingly, they gave samples of the caramels and ribbon candy.

There were 45 in our tour! It was so much fun watching the children.

These men are stirring peanut brittle (the owner is on the left). Each batch makes 35 pounds.

Pouring the 300 degree brittle on the marble table. The table was original to this candy store.

Spreading the hot brittle. The recipe has 7 pounds of raw peanuts in it. This is a family recipe. 

Once spread, it was cut into thirds and the still hot brittle was hand carried to a metal table to be pulled thinner and thinner (makes it easier to chew) and broken into pieces. The owner told us they make 11,000 pounds alone for an accounting firm each year for their clients' Christmas gifts!

This very sweet lady on the tour is 102 years old! She walked with a cane, but managed going downstairs for that part of the tour as well as coming up the stairs. I loved meeting her!

They purchase blocks of dark and light chocolate from the same company their grandfather ordered from 86 years ago. They have never tried any other.

This is my very favorite candy being made. They are honeycomb chips. Regina's buys the bare honeycomb chip already made and puts them on this special conveyor belt to cover them in chocolate. The belt on the left is warmed to allow the chocolate to stick.

When the candy comes out of the chocolate part, one of the sisters makes a family design on each piece, and then the candy moves into a cooled area of the conveyor belt to cure.

Cooled and cured honeycomb chips being boxed.

English toffee going through the chocolate machine and the crushed, toasted almonds are being applied to the outside. This is delicious candy, too!

Honeycomb chips (in foreground) and various other candies being boxed.

These turtles are ready to be covered in chocolate. 

While the store has saved all of the original chocolate molds, they now use plastic ones.

 ✿ڿڰۣ(̆̃̃ღ ♥ ღ(̆̃̃ڿڰۣ✿ 

There aren't many companies that have such a rich history. It seems these days so many have gone by the wayside. I love it that this store survives, and is actually thriving. When our tour ended, there were another 45 anxious people ready to start theirs. This was really enjoyable! Oh, and all candy today was 20% off!

Saturday, October 20, 2012

A Visit with the Amish

Today three of my friends went with me to visit the Amish in southeastern Minnesota. Specifically I wanted to see Lovina. She is an Old Order Amish whom I have known since 1988 or 1989. I first got acquainted with her when another Old Order Amish directed me to the little general store she runs on her farm. Since they have no phones, I wrote to Lovina a few weeks ago to let her know I was hoping to come down today to see her and was bringing my friends. A few days later I got a note from her in which she said she would be home and my friends would be welcome to come along. And then she mentioned, "I had a stroke a year ago, you know. But we'll talk when you come." I was so shocked and saddened by this news. Arriving in her store today, I immediately noticed her right hand was swollen, and that she wasn't using it. She proceeded to tell me how the incident happened - she fell out of bed and lay there for four hours before anyone came to check on her. They had a cell phone and called 9-1-1 and she was taken to the hospital. She told me she is doing a lot better now. She is such a sweet lady. I hugged her a few times when it was time to leave and told her I love her. 

Inside the Amish furniture store in Harmony. They have beautiful things!

We had a nice lunch at the Branding Iron in Preston. Seated L to R are Nancy, Julie, Sharon and I.

Once back to the twin cities, I couldn't resist taking a photo of the many beautiful leaves that have fallen in Sharon's yard. We still have some lovely fall foliage, though it is going quickly.

Friday, October 19, 2012


I was lucky enough to look outside yesterday morning just in time to see this wonderful sunrise. The sky was ablaze with color!

A couple of weeks ago when my cousin Linda came up from Chicago, she gave me this mixed chrysanthemum plant. It was all buds at that time. I'm pleased to show how it looks today. It's just beautiful! Thank you, Linda!

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Good Advice

Many years ago, I was a faithful reader of the Dear Abby columns. While some of the time the letters seemed petty or even ridiculous, there were often those of real substance, people really in need of sound advice, searching for workable solutions. One particular column stood out to me—so much so, that I cut it out of the paper and for many, many years, have had it posted on my refrigerator. I have gone to it more than once for encouragement and direction. I give it to you here:

Things you can't control

• the age or stage of development your children are in

• whether the stoplight turns red or green

• the number of hours in a day

• other people

• the timing of your teenager's mood swings or your toddler's temper tantrums

• your age

• the way you were raised

• when work or a project takes much longer than expected

• waiting for your doctor 30 minutes after your scheduled appointment

• a death, illness, or accident in the family

• the calendar and approaching holidays

• being laid off from a job

• messes made right after you have cleaned the house

Things you can control

• your reaction to others

• your to-do list (and the number of items on it)

• how your day is spent

• your goals

• how much time you're willing to spend on a particular project

• your self-esteem and self-worth

• how you treat others

• your exercise and eating habits

• the communication of your needs to others

• telling people when you're stressed out and need time alone or help with projects

• whether or how much you smoke or drink alcohol

• how old you act

• the way you raise your children

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Happy 3rd Birthday, William!

Today my 5th grandchild, William, turned 3 years old. He's a sweet, little boy, who is fun and energetic. I haven't seen him since April, but have gotten to talk to him on the phone a few times. Thank you for calling today, Hans, so I could sing to William and wish him a very Happy Birthday!

Monday, October 08, 2012

Ah! What a fun surprise!

This afternoon while watering my office plants, I was surprised to see my cactus is blooming! This cactus was given to me from LaVonne, my former supervisor, who dug it out of the ground in Arizona about five years ago, or so. I left it in the sand from which it came and merely put it into one of my old pots. It sits on a window sill in our office and I water it a couple of times a year, or so. Last year it surprised me with three blooms.

If it follows the pattern from last year, the blooms will last about 2 days. I'm so happy I spotted it today.

Sunday, October 07, 2012

Cousins' Weekend

My cousin Linda lives in Chicago. At least a couple of times a year, she drives to Minnesota so she can be with her cousins. This is an especially nice time for us! We all have shared many experiences over the years, and I'm so glad it continues.

This morning Linda and my sister came to my church (Well, it's not MY church—I know better, but I think my readers know what I mean.), which I really appreciate, since our service is early = 8:30. After church, we went to my cousin Pat's where we enjoyed a lunch of "booya," a delicious chicken vegetable soup. Pat and Pudge actually stood in a "soup line" with their big kettle and brought it back home for us to eat. The booya was made in a huge pot by the fireman of North Saint Paul, and stirred by canoe paddles. It is sold by the bowl full. We also had some dark, hearty bread, delicious sharp cheddar cheese, and apple dumplings.

Pat demonstrating the stirring as Pudge and Linda watch.

My cousins, Pat and Pudge

Linda, standing by the beautifully decorated table. My cousin, Pat, has a gift for decorating.

Before heading off to an apple orchard, we helped Pat undecorate her "Patty Wagon" that was used at her friend's wedding yesterday. It really was pretty!

Driving to the orchard, we went by the two homes in Mahtomedi that suffered a catastrophic fire this past week. The house on the right was totally destroyed. The owners were away in New York.  (Double click on the photo to enlarge for better detail.)

Linda, bless her heart, offered to pick some prairie grass for me.

I'm thankful for the times our family gathers together. From what I hear, not all families have this closeness. We have been, and still are - blessed!

Thursday, October 04, 2012

Being Neighborly

This morning while working at our reception desk, 2 women came into the building and told me they were from the building next door, and that due to a fire in their building, all the workers (600) were evacuated. They had been standing outside in the cold (it was 47 degrees outside and very windy), and needed to use a restroom. I told them it was perfectly fine and pointed the way to our ladies room. A few minutes later one of my friends and our office manager walked outside to a big group of the stranded workers and invited them into our lobby. By the time they all filed in, I estimated there to be somewhere between 150 and 175 people - all talking at once. We had people everywhere - in the dining room, library, on the stairs, and in the lobby. They were so thrilled to be inside where it was warm. Soon I noticed coffee was being served to them. Many of them took turns to visit with me and asked me about the books we produce. They told me they make computers for government contracts. Such nice people.

While they were there, one of my friends emailed me and asked if I thought it would be okay if we ordered a bunch of pizzas to feed them, since lunch time was approaching. "Sure, I'll go in on them," I replied. She ordered 10 large pizzas to be delivered, but before the pizzas arrived, our neighbors got the "all clear" sign from the fire chief and returned to their building. We were able to have the pizza delivery person drop them off at their office. It felt so good to help out in their time of need.

Tuesday, October 02, 2012

Please, hang on!

It's probably because I know what follows autumn, but I'm trying desperately to hold on to fall—to take in as much of the beauty as I can. Just yesterday we had terrific winds and many, many of the beautiful leaves on the trees in my yard fell. Leaving for work, for a minute I thought it was raining and considered going inside for my umbrella, but then I realized it was the falling leaves.

Today this tree is barren of leaves. The ground is covered with a gold carpet. It's really sad. Oh, how I wish they would stay on the trees longer!

I have lived in my present home over 14 years, but for some reason, I seem to forget the "scenic" way to places to north. But in the past two weeks, I have made it a point to take this route so I can enjoy the sights. It is truly beautiful,