Monday, July 28, 2014

A visit to see where Laura Ingalls Wilder was born

Saturday I went along with Peder, Aurelia, Felix and Leo to the Laura Ingalls Wilder museum in Pepin, Wisconsin. I believe that route is the second prettiest part of Minnesota – down highway 61 from Red Wing to Wabasha. No matter the time of year, it is always a gorgeous sight.

After stopping at McDonald's for lunch and the Nelson's Creamery for dessert (ice cream cones), we made it to Pepin. First off we found a park where the kids could run around a bit.

Leo and Aurelia on the merry-go-round

Next to the park there was a railroad museum. Since it was free, we opened the door and were very pleased to see a sweet, little old woman who was the volunteer. Her story of how the little depot was rescued was really interesting. She is the lone survivor of those who saved it. I think she thought my grandkids were pretty special because she gave each of them a baggie full of tootsie rolls. We spent a nice amount of time looking around and then headed out for the Laura Ingalls Wilder museum. 

(Double click on this photo to enlarge it)

Aurelia looks so sweet in a Laura Ingalls hat.

Part of the museum had an interactive area. This was the one room schoolhouse. I pretended to be the teacher and asked if anyone had a question. I was pleased to see them participate. 

Leo in the museum kitchen. This reminded me of my Great Aunt Ett's kitchen.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Aunt Ett and Uncle Johnny

One of the great memories from my childhood was visiting our Great-aunt Ett and Great-uncle Johnny Owens who lived in Butternut—a tiny community of 3 or 4 houses and a creamery. These were our "Laura Ingalls Wilder" relatives because they didn't have electricity or running water, and yet Aunt Ett made the most delicious meals with her wood-burning cook stove. It was always an adventure going to their home.

Groundcherry sauce
I remember coming into their house from the back door, entering the kitchen and seeing Aunt Ett pumping water from the little handle on the island in the center of the kitchen. She was elderly and stooped over, with deep creases in her face. Her gray hair, which was probably very long, was wrapped into a bun at the back of her head. She would be wearing a print dress with an apron and walked with the aid of a walker. A home-made pie would be sitting on the counter. Often she would ask my sister to pick out a jar of pickles from her pantry to go along with our lunch. There would be canned jams, jellies, and ground cherry sauce in there, too. Next to the pantry was a gun cabinet. My Uncle Johnny once let me shoot his BB gun at his pigs. I suppose he had no worries because the BBs couldn't penetrate their thick skin, and I probably had rotten aim.

Uncle Johnny was a short, thin man, with a generous smile. I don't remember his occupation, but I know he raised a few pigs. He had an old car - a model A or a model T, which was usually stored in the garage. We kids would peek in the garage window to have a look at it, but had to be careful where we stepped because there were times when snakes were spotted in the ferns that grew around the outside of the building.

One of our favorite things to play with was the two steel-wheeled cart. My brother pulled us around the yard on its flat bed. In their living room there was an upright piano and a typewriter which sat on a typewriter table. They let us play with both of these. What a treat that was!

The bedroom had a thick curtain which served as a door. We were allowed to put our coats on the bed, but then we were told to come out. I think there may have been an upstairs, but that was out of bounds.

These simple, dear relatives are no longer around, but oh, how I wish they were. My kids missed out on seeing how these hardworking folks lived and loved. By the way, one of their grandsons went on to become one of our Navy's admirals. He is retired Admiral William Owens.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Happy Birthday, Heidi!

I'm home now—got in this afternoon—after a wonderful time with Heidi and her family. This was an unusual time for me in Seattle since Heidi and Chad were in the middle of a move to a new house when I arrived. It worked out well, however, because I was able to help with the kids so that Chad and Heidi could do some things at the old house.

I really enjoyed playing with Marshall and getting to know Corinne better. Here are some of the photos I took.

This was Chad's birthday dessert: a strawberry/rhubarb buckle. His birthday is July 11.

Heidi created these beautiful blown glass bowls. The fur tree was carved from a large chunk of a sequoia tree. She asked for the chunk after the homeowner took the tree down. It was on her walking route. 

Family photo of Heidi holding Corinne, Marshall, and of course, Brian. 

Marshall enjoying Heidi's chocolate birthday cake.

Tuesday, July 01, 2014


I can't recall a time when so many people were moving—many of them "down-sizing," leaving a home with several bedrooms and multi-levels, to homes with only a couple of bedrooms and all on one level. Most of them are in my age bracket, and thus have accumulated years of "stuff." Like me, their closets are stuffed, their dresser drawers are stuffed, the garage is stuffed, the kitchen cabinets are stuffed. When did we gather so much stuff?

Last year, when my cousin Pat was going through my Aunt Liz's stuff, my cousin Linda, my sister and I sat in chairs as she opened box after box, deciding what to keep; what to discard. At that time I went home with some "stuff" – really nice things, but where was I going to put them? Then a couple of months ago, at another "cousins weekend," Pat brought out more boxes and bins of "stuff." Again, I brought things home. Do you want to know the truth? I have yet to unpack these treasures because I have no room. My closets and hutch are stuffed.

In early May, my girlfriend Bonnie's dear 94 year old mother passed away. Bonnie, whose home is already stuffed, had to make big decisions about what to do with her mother's things. By the way, her mother's home was also stuffed. Bonnie offered her mom's TV to me. I thought about taking it, but felt so guilty about having more than one TV. Well, I took it and now have 2 TVs - one in my cottage and one in my bedroom. I'm actually enjoying it. I also took a beautiful china plate, a darling figurine w/music box, and a beautiful pear paperweight. These latter items I was able to put to use right away.

So now my friend Laurey is moving to a smaller home – she's downsizing. A few weeks ago she gave me a beautiful bird bath. I had no problem using this since it sits outside my porch. She also offered me about 40 movies—some still in the original wrapping. Well, I took about 25 of them. I know, my movie library shelves are already stuffed, but I couldn't resist! This past Saturday I went to her home to help her sort through things. Again, I came home with more stuff: pastel chalks, a couple of children's books, a darling bedroom lamp, and a teddy bear. I could have had more. She offered me a treadmill that has hardly been used. I declined. Where would I put it? She also offered me a GORGEOUS hard rock maple bedroom set. It has two lovely dressers, a beautiful maple framed mirror, a night stand, and a matching head and foot board to a double bed. I couldn't use the head/foot board, but the others pieces would have been beautiful in my bedroom. That was Saturday. I had to let her know by Monday night and move the furniture out by tomorrow. The decision was overwhelming to me: how would I be able to empty my dressers, arrange for a truck to pick up my pieces and deliver them to charity, and then go to Laurey's home to pick up the furniture and bring it to my home? I declined. Someone is going to get a beautiful bedroom set. Lucky them!

Now my brother has bought a new house—all on one level. Prior to moving, he and my sister will have to get rid of a bunch of "stuff." Lord, help me so I am not tempted to bring home even one thing from their home!

Seeing what my family and friends are going through, I have begun to get rid of some of my stuff. So far, I have cleaned out three dresser drawers. I threw some things away, shredded some paperwork, and have a bag of things to take to charity. It's a start!