Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Still with us

We sit by my mother's hospital bed in shifts. We often wonder whether she will take another breath.
It has been eight days since my mother made her decision to terminate medical care. We thought she would leave us sooner. But she lingers on, with intermittent and often labored breathing. She knows we are by her side.
Music plays in the background. Her favorite CDs on her Bose. Rod Stewart, Mary Beth Carlson. Wintersongs, Lakeside Retreat. Soothing for Mom; soothing for us.
The hospital offers gentle massages and music therapy. We are so appreciative of their care. They ask if there's anything they can do for us. They bring us pillows, food, offer us coffee.
The days pass. Friends and family call for updates. There are none. Still sleeping, we say. Not responsive, merely breathing, pulse steady.

We have been taught that God's timing is perfect, but still we find ourselves questioning. She is no longer with us but in another place, an in-between place, it would seem. We have all told her to go in peace; that we would be okay and her work is done now. We'll take over, we reassure her. We have thanked her for the character and virtues and values she has given us.
Then trust takes over. It is not our journey, but hers. Not our moments with God, but hers. We have had our turn having her with us. We are not in control. A hard lesson for us, but we acquiesce.
We continue to be amazed at her grace, beauty and courage. And we are so grateful to be here to share Mom's last days.
We are blessed.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Christmas past

Christmas was a very special time for our family of eight growing up. We were involved in a number of festive activities throughout the season.

Since Dad was very active in the American Legion, there was always a lively Christmas party at the Legion clubrooms on Selby Avenue, with Santa Claus making an appearance and passing out bags of candy, apples and popcorn balls. We wore our best holiday garb to this event. Swishy dresses, petticoats and black patent leather shoes. A bowtie for my little brother. New hats and furry muffs.

Then there was our Sunday School program at church, requiring us to memorize and recite our “pieces” - portions of the Nativity story as recorded in Matthew, Luke or John; and singing “How Glad I Am Each Christmas Eve.” We were rewarded for our efforts following the program when we would each get a red mesh stocking filled with hard candy.

Our wrapped Christmas presents were kept in Dad’s den, off the dining room. Only once did I sneak a peek at one with my name on it, carefully loosening the cellophane tape from a gift sent through the mail by Aunt Loretta (who always sent us walnuts from their Oregon orchard, along with my gift as her God-daughter).

I slid the little box out from its wrapping very slowly so I could return it without looking like it was ever disturbed. Imagine my disappointment to discover a book to record birthdays in, with a cross and Bible on its plastic cover.

Now, at ten years old, what did I care about recording people’s birthdays? I was crushed that it wasn't something amazing that I really wanted.  But, it cured me, and I’ve never peeked at another gift in advance since.

Our Christmas Eve family celebration began with dinner, served in the dining room, not the kitchen. Rice pudding was served first, a Scandinavian tradition. Served warm and topped with cream and a cinnamon-sugar mixture, what made it really special was that it contained one almond, randomly hidden in one serving. The randomness of this was called into question as we grew older and wondered how winning the almond seemed to rotate so evenly among us from year to year.

But with great anticipation, we quickly dug around to inspect our serving of rice pudding. When the nut was found and the lucky recipient shouted out, a prize was awarded, usually a small toy or candy. Those of us who didn’t get the nut that evening somehow knew there would be another year and our turn was bound to come around.

Then it was time for gift opening.

The nut recipient was awarded the honor of doling out the gifts under the tree. Wrapping paper flew, ribbons were broken, and I don’t remember a time when we were disappointed. Mom always knew what each of us wanted.

There were dolls, games, skates, Tinker Toys, doll furniture, doll dishes, cars and trucks gleefully opened and exclaimed over. One year, the doll of the season was “Tiny Tears” and you could actually feed this doll water from a baby bottle and it would wet its diaper. Then there was the "Ginny" doll.

One year, my sister, Christine, and I each got a doll that looked like a little girl, not a baby doll. As we searched for names for our new dolls, I decided on Linda.

But as Tine was still pondering a name for hers, she noticed a wrapping around the dolls head that said it had genuine saran  hair. So her doll became Saran.

Mom and Dad always allowed us to take one new thing, but only one, to bed with us on Christmas Eve. My mother laughed as she checked us all sleeping in our beds. One of us would be curled up with a doll, another with a cash register, one with a toy phone, another with ice skates, and my brother a Tonka truck.

To this day, there has never been a Christmas gathering without the traditional rice pudding being served, and there has never been a Christmas without our family gathering together.

This year, we'll have rice pudding in a hospital room as we're gathered by my mother's bed, speaking in hushed tones so as not to disturb her resting and slightly irregular breathing nearby.

And we'll remember Christmases past, with joy and gratitude for the rich memories we share.

Silent Night, Holy Night. 
     All is calm. All is bright.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Christmas tears again

Last year, on December 21, to be exact, I wrote "Christmas Tears" - a story of losing my sister-in-law, Mavis, only days before Christmas.

Doris (Roed) Steffen
Who would know that one year later, I would be losing my own mother. Christmas tears, once again.

We sit beside her hospital bed, my sisters and brother and I, gently rubbing her hand, offering her sips of water, watching her sleep. Taking care of her as tenderly as she cared for all of us in days past.

Each of saying goodbye in our own way.

A New Year's Eve baby, Mom was born almost 88 years ago in New York City, the youngest of three in her family and the only daughter of immigrants from Denmark and Sweden.  After a World War II-era romance with my father, stationed in Brooklyn with the U.S. Navy, she moved with him to Minnesota to start her married life. Children soon followed.  Six, in fact. Thus began her motherhood career.

It was a role from which she never retired. She has taken care of all of us through good times and bad. She planned weddings, rocked grandchildren, great-grandchildren, and even one great-great grandchild. Buried her beloved husband of over 60 years.

I sit and gaze at her hands resting across her blanket on the bed. I think of the work those hands have done in 87-plus years. And the exquisite needlework those hands have created. And the tears those hands have wiped.

But mostly, how often those hands have been folded in prayer. Blessing, asking, giving thanks, perhaps even sometimes pleading.  But always trusting.

And those hands are trusting now, that soon they will be stilled and she will know the joy of the great reunion she will have in heaven. Perhaps they will clap as she sees the face of her Lord and Savior.

We wish her a safe and happy journey and don't deny her right to make her exit now.  Our sadness is all about us, of that we are clear.

So if you will help us all through this journey with her, we will remain strong and keep our focus on the joy that awaits her soon.

Praise God, from whom all blessings flow.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Christmas and cactus

Since this is our first holiday season in Arizona, we were wondering what it would be like.

No snow. No icicles. No Parkas. No winter boots, mufflers, and fleece-lined mittens. Surely it would be so different.

Well, we've discovered it is....and it isn't.

People are out decorating their houses in grand style. Icicle lights, twinkle lights, wire reindeer, Santas, angels and snowmen, all lit up at dusk. The evening news on television features houses not to be missed when you're out and about at night looking for dazzling holiday light displays.

Malls are decorated with giant Christmas trees. Holiday music is playing everywhere from grocery stores to department stores to post offices. Shopping specials are offered everywhere.

Eggnog is on the grocery store shelves, along with red and green sprinkles for cookies, candied fruits, pecans, specialty bread mixes and holiday cookie cutters in star, reindeer, gingerbread men and tree shapes.

Toy drives are being held. The Nutcracker Suite ballet is performing at the Mesa Arts Center. Holiday baking is going on in kitchens everywhere.

Just like home in Minne-snow-ta.

Except the twinkle lights are wrapped around palm trees. Wreaths are draped around Saguaro cactus plants. Holiday shopping is done in short sleeves and Capri pants. Christmas trees are all artificial. Outdoor decorating is done leisurely, with bare hands.

Neighbors are greeting one another stringing outdoor lights, without frost coming out of their mouths. Baking is done with patio doors open so all the aromas drift into your house, providing inspiration to get going yourself.

On our block, each house has a wooden Santa standing in front. So when you drive down the street, you are greeted by twenty Santas waving at you.

This is our own Santa.
And our snowman sits in our rock alongside our home.

So you see why Christmas in Arizona is at once the same and then again different than Christmas in Minnesota.

It is still the same special, magical time of year when spirits are kinder and gentler, and where the birth of the Newborn Babe of Bethlehem is celebrated.

Let it begin. Both here in Arizona, and wherever this season finds you.

Monday, November 21, 2011

A win-win

One of my favorite things to do here in Mesa, Arizona is to visit the local Goodwill thrift shop.

And all day Saturday is half-price day.

This is amusing to me because the prices are so low to begin with that offering things for sale at half price seems almost silly. And besides, the whole effort is to employ people and provide goods to those who can't afford department store prices.

However, being a thrifty shopper, of course I go on a Saturday.

The fun of thrift store shopping here in Mesa is that I find items that fit into my Southwestern decor. The shelves and racks are so full that you often have to move things around and dig a little to find the real treasures.

Last year, buried in the middle of a rack, hidden from view, I found a matching creamer and sugar with the Kokopelli image hand-painted on them. Kokopelli is the image of the god of fertility, an influence of the Anasazi Indians. I later found two large canisters and a smaller canister of the exact pattern.

Well, yesterday I found more Southwestern treasures.

The lovely tissue holder and soap dispenser will go into my newly-redecorated bathroom. The hand-painted basket is for my friend, Mary Kay's screen porch.

The crystal dish isn't Southwestern, but has a Christmas angel design on it. After I remove the hardened wax candle from the inside and clean it, I'll use it as a candy dish.

The vessel will be displayed among other pots on my kitchen cupboard soffits. And the hexagon-shaped wooden box with a counted cross stitch design will be cleaned up for the bedroom.

I also found some things for outdoor display:

Won't this clay pot look great sitting among our various cactus plants
 and the white rock all around our house?

And this little gem was from a waterfall-type ornament.
It has a hose in the back that was attached to a water supply.
The water then runs down each of the three pots. 

Are you ready for the grand total of all my purchases?

Twenty-one dollars.  And ninety cents.  No tax.

Check out your local Goodwill store. Or any charitable thrift shop. The workers are either volunteer, or are employed and disabled, or are just employed when so many aren't.

Your purchases have been donated by others with charitable hearts. Some come from estates. Some items are obviously brand new. All can be cleaned, polished or otherwise spiffed up. 

To my way of thinking, this is a win-win.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Head of steam

Many years ago, my then father-in-law wrote our family a letter when we lived several states away. It was a newsy letter, many pages long. He ended by saying, “I better quit while I’ve still got a full head of steam."

I had never heard that expression before, but I now use it myself occasionally.

This morning, I had a head of steam. I breezed through many household chores, got completely caught up with cleaning, laundry, ironing, and baked Woody’s bran muffins besides, bringing some to a winter neighbor who just arrived in Mesa yesterday.

Then I sat down and paid bills, balanced the checkbook, and took care of some cards and correspondence. It is now 1:50 in the afternoon.

That’s what a "head of steam" is, I suppose. Sometimes I wish it would hit more often, but then again, I’d walk around totally exhausted if it were a daily routine.

Since arriving in Mesa, Arizona, where we will spend the next six months, escaping the pain and agony (albeit, the beauty) of a Minnesota winter, I’ve adopted a new routine. I love it.

With my freshly-brewed morning coffee, I sit and sip in a leisurely fashion. Catrina, the cat, stretches in front of me. The television is already on to the morning chat and news program from Phoenix, and I enjoy learning about all the local goings-on.

Maybe a half-hour passes and I might pick up my knitting for a few rows, or my Kindle for a few pages of reading.

Nowhere to go. No place I need to be. No certain time to be anywhere or do anything.

After another fifteen minutes or so, I can feel the caffeine in my bloodstream, like a junkie.

Ahhhh, yes, now I’m awake, ready to greet the day.

An avowed list-maker, my day is already mapped out. But I long ago learned the hard way, after being burned out on my job, to approach my to-do lists a bit differently. Instead of dictating to me what has to be done, I use it as a menu.

Choices. Pick and choose.

Now after the third cup of coffee and an hour of relaxation, still in my pj’s, I am eager to get dressed and dig in.

With a full head of steam.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Greetings of old

Since my bachelor uncle passed away in August, family members have been cleaning out the old farmhouse, homesteaded by my great-grandfather in White Lake, South Dakota.

The farmhouse is a museum in itself, containing rich treasures of the past. My grandparents and my uncle threw away very little. It's all still there!

Although lamenting the large task that it is to go through everything, I was the recent recipient of pieces of history and stories through a very large box packed full of hundreds of old letters, Christmas cards, and assorted greeting cards, wedding and birth announcements, and photos that haven't seen the light of day in years.

I am told there are more boxes of the same, and I am itching to get my hands on them. Everyone else seems glad to let me have at it.

Anyway, as I opened greeting cards from the 1950s yesterday, it struck me how wonderfully cute and innocent they all were, and the stark differences between cards of then and now.

No obscene cards in the bunch, no off-color jokes. Just ridiculously sweet with corny, sappy verse. Absolutely delightful.

Many of the cards are embellished with glitter, ribbon, and other decorations that you don't see anymore.

This one featured fluffy, tickly feathers on the angel's wing,
and glitter on the stars.

On a birthday card, a woman is holding a plastic rolling pin on her  arm.
Real plastic!

This little charmer has a real black net veil.
Believe it or not, it is a birthday card.
Another thing that struck me was the sheer volume of letters back and forth from aunts, cousins and friends.

Letter writing was expected and an almost everyday occurrence. Either a message was scribbled and dropped in the mailbox at the end of the farmhouse driveway, or a newsy letter from Aunt Hattie would be received. My Grandma even noted the date it was received and the date she answered it.

But think:  No e-mail, texting, Facebook, or phone calls. Long distance was very expensive, and it wasn't until the 1960s when they even had a dial phone on the farm. No instant messages. Rarely even a typewriter to make the job a bit easier.

No, letters were scrawled on sheets of linen lined paper, sometimes pages and pages long. I have saved the ones from my great-aunts and -uncles because after I put them in chronological order, I'm convinced there's a story that weaves itself together. 

I can hardly wait for the next batch to arrive. Stay tuned!

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Thrift shopping

How many of you like a bargain? Okay, okay, I see all of you are raising your hands.

So how many of you love to snoop around in thrift shops?  If you have never done so, you just don't know what you might be missing.

Forget garage sales.  You have to drive around to find them, park two or three blocks away, and then discover all they have are dirty children's clothes, odds and ends of dishes, small appliances that may or may not work, or puzzles with pieces missing.

But at most thrift shops, donated items are cleaned, tested, and tend to be in sets, like dinnerware or kitchen canisters. Really gross stuff gets rejected as this gives a good thrift store a bad name.

My friend and I ventured to the charming town of Cambridge, Minnesota, one day last week. This was a half-way meeting point for both of us, she from St. Cloud and me from Lindstrom.  Our purpose in meeting was to catch up on our lives as we don't get a chance to visit very often, and to treat ourselves to lunch and a good visit.

We accomplished our goal with a two-hour lunch at Hermann's Bakery and Cafe on Main Street that was absolutely wonderful. A cozy table by the window outlined with lace curtains and looking out on Main Street decorated with yellow autumn mum plants provided the ambiance for a yummy spinach salad, freshly baked cinnamon bread, and creamy Chai tea.

But our minds during lunch were fixed on the view directly across the street: the Shalom Thrift Shop, which beckoned as we ate and demanded our attention. Neither of us were about to resist.

Like most thrift shops, it is staffed totally with volunteers. One of the nicest thrift stores I have seen, it's more like a department store - neat, clean, spacious aisles, well organized, and with professional-looking displays.

The shop started in 1981 with a ladies' church group offering free clothing in a parsonage basement one day a week to those in need. It quickly grew from the basement to a grocery store parking lot, to space in an entire house, to a shoe store, to its present location, an old Ben Franklin store on Main Street.

All items were spotless. Dishes sparkled, clothes were clean, books were categorized, and Halloween costumes and decorations were prominently featured.

There was even a quiet library sitting area where you could take a break and peruse the books on the shelf before making the decision to purchase a book.  Hmmm, a paperback for 35 cents? Or a hard cover book for a dollar?

Greeting cards were ten cents each. Again, categorized by occasion and neatly lined up with matching envelopes.

Entertaining as it was, and notwithstanding the wonderful time spent with my dear friend, I approached the checkout line with a full cart. A tissue holder in a southwestern design for our home in Arizona, a cake pan, a pair of slacks, a book, a Tupperware picnic set, a wooden salad serving set, three boxes of hardware for our Arizona bedroom, and nightlight bulbs.

Grand total?  Seventeen dollars!

The real value, however, came from realizing that my purchases were a vehicle for helping someone in need in the local community. All donated, with pleasant volunteer staff that sort, clean, fix, stock, and ring up a sale, that $17 might go into a gas tank for someone searching for a job, buy a clean blanket, pay for bus fare, or furnish a child with school lunches.

Next time you see a thrift store, check it out. Bargains abound for you, and benefit a neighbor as a bonus.

Spending an afternoon with a friend?  Diane and I can attest to the fun an afternoon of thrift shopping can provide.

Monday, October 3, 2011


Last evening, I had the most wonderful experience when I attended a breathtaking performance of the beautiful musical, Kristina från Duvemåla (Kristina from Duvemåla), held at a local church with local talent.

You would think you were at St. Paul's Ordway Theatre, or Orchestra Hall in Minneapolis, or London's Albert Hall. Or even in Stockholm. It was that good.

The musical is based on Vilhelm Moberg's epic, The Emigrants, a suite of four novels written to commemorate the arrival of Swedes to the Chisago Lakes area of Minnesota. The novels' main characters are peasant farmers, Karl Oskar, his wife, Kristina; Karl Oskar's brother, Robert; and a friend, Ulrika.

Famine, rocky soil, and religious persecution brought them from their home, Duvemåla, in Småland, a province in southern Sweden. Landing in New York after a 10-week voyage, they slowly made their way by boat to Stillwater, Minnesota, and then up the St. Croix River to the landing at Taylors Falls, and finally on foot to Lindstrom, Minnesota where they settled, enjoying rich soil to farm.

The musical, written by former ABBA members Björn Ulvaeus (Swedish lyrics) and Benny Andersson (music), is magnificent and emotional. Last evening's performance did them proud.

In 1996, my mother and I were fortunate to attend a performance of musical selections from Kristina, with Björn Ulvaeus and Benny Andersson in attendance with members of the original cast.

This was offered at our local high school during the Swedish Jubilee year and was one of many events held to celebrate our area's Swedish heritage and the arrival of many Swedish immigrants to Lindstrom in 1856.

Last night's performance was another commemoration. It also brought to mind loving memories of my Swedish grandmother, Ragnhild, who emigrated from Gavle, Sweden to New York in 1912.

And with my grandmother came her Swedish customs and culture, passed on to our generation to appreciate. How rich we are in our Swedish heritage, and how fortunate I am to live in this area where it is celebrated.

Tack så mycket (thank you) to Trinity Lutheran Church in Lindstrom, Minnesota, and to our very own talented local musicians for bringing us this historic and emotional remembrance in such beautiful form.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

More farm treasures

While in South Dakota recently to attend my Uncle Marvin's funeral, my Aunt Lois, Aunt Norma and I spent a day cleaning the old farmhouse.

We barely scratched the surface, but it gave us a chance to look through some old farm treasures in the house. Reminiscing as we went from room to room, we uncovered one object after another, each with wonderful memories attached.

I remember Grandma having a crocheted and starched teacup and saucer on her coffee table. I assumed she made it, since she did crocheting.

As a farm wife, Grandma awoke when the rooster crowed to announce a new day, and I am certain she didn't sit down until dinner was served, dishes were done, cows were milked, cream was separated, chickens were all in their coop, children were tended to, and the house was in order.

Then I can imagine her relishing a few moments of contentment to sit in her rocker, crocheting on her lap.

My aunts and I discovered the teacup and saucer I remembered, along with a delightful pair of crocheted high-heel shoes, upstairs, put away with other trinkets. A bit dusty, but oh, so charming.

But, said my aunts, Grandma did not crochet them.  Aunt Johanna, Grandma's sister, did.  Grandma crocheted more practical things like towels, pillowcases, and some decorative throw pillows.

They must have seen the look of longing on my face, and said I could have them.  I was thrilled!

When I returned home, I gave the high-heeled shoes to my sister, Joan, and decided to keep the cup and saucer, which were slightly out of shape from years of being put away or just being handled. I wondered if I could gently wash them and re-starch them.

I remembered Grandma telling me they were starched using sugar water. So I Googled.

Voile! I found a recipe:
Old-fashioned starch used for crocheted pieces
1/4 cup water
3/4 cup granulated sugar
Mix water and sugar in a small pan. Stir the mixture over low heat (do not boil) until clear and not sugary. Remove pan from heat, and let mixture cool.

Dip pieces into mixture. Gently squeeze out excess starch, then shape and allow to dry.
So, I used a lingerie wash and gently moved it through the water; then placed the cup over a small china cup, and the saucer over a small glass bowl to dry.

I then made the sugar mixture and let it cool.  Holding my breath, as I could well imagine this being the ruin of these cherished pieces, I cautiously dipped them into the mixture, and placed them back on the china cup and glass bowl to mold them back into shape.


After brushing off some of the excess dried sugar, I now have a much cleaner cup and saucer, a remembrance of my beloved Grandma, crocheted by my Great-Aunt Johanna.

Little could these two women know then how their pieces of art would become heirlooms, and how much these would mean to me someday. 

Treasures of the heart.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Farm treasures

If you recall my farm series (May 2011), you may remember reading about my Grandma's garden, her preserves and canned goods, and her sauce spoon (Taste a little of the summer).

I mentioned I would love to have a sauce spoon like hers. It was unique to Grandma's era and you just don't see them used anymore.  Grandma would empty a jar of home-canned peaches (or plums or pears), stored in her fruit cellar, into a glass bowl and serve them with this silver sauce spoon.

A sad occasion, the recent sudden and unexpected death of my Uncle Marvin, brought me back to the farm in White Lake, South Dakota.

Uncle Marvin, a bachelor, bought the farm from my grandparents when they retired and moved into town in the early 1960s. But what was unique is that the farmhouse remained furnished with all of Grandma and Grandpa's furniture, dishes, silverware, utensils, pictures, wall-hangings, doilies, decorative items and linens. My uncle replaced very little and moved nothing from its designated place. So a visit we made there through the years was like a trip back in time. 

All that was missing was Grandma and Grandpa.

After Uncle Marvin's funeral, I stayed for several days to help sort through things, do a little cleaning, and be part of setting a plan in motion for what was left. His Will set forth legal direction for disposal of assets, but not all the furnishings in the house, barns and out-buildings.

These are not just furnishings. They are our treasures from the past. Dividing them among two surviving sisters, a sister-in-law, and nineteen nieces and nephews is a daunting challenge. Though not a materialistic family, these treasures represent the love we feel for our grandparents and we would each like a memento or two, irregardless of its value to anyone else.

Like the sauce spoon, for instance.

When I mentioned this to my aunts, and told them how a simple sauce spoon linked me to my grandmother, the memory creating a warm place in my heart, they presented it to me, saying, "From Grandma with love." 

It was found way in the back of an all-purpose utensil drawer with potato mashers, assorted knives, ice cream scoops, meat forks, and pastry cutters all heaped on top of it.  It was dirty, dusty, and black. I am certain, without a single doubt, that my Grandma was the last to use it.

After several attempts with Hagerty silver polish, I decided to seek out a professional silversmith to try to restore it to its former lustre.

So as I stood there creating a scene with my profuse gratitude and tears, my cousin's husband went to the fruit cellar in the basement and produced one of Grandma's fruit jars to complete this wonderful gift. The jar had a zinc cover on it and some very old dirt inside. Although I even treasured the very old dirt, it did get washed.

All of Grandma's canning jars are still in place in the fruit cellar. I liked this one over the old blue Ball jars because of its waffle pattern on the outside.

I am so happy to have these two treasures. They are all I need. My Grandma  resides in my heart, but I will use my jar and sauce spoon to honor her memory.

Thank you, Grandma.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Bless or blessed?

Our local Christian radio station (KTIS) sponsors a campaign called the "Drive-Through Difference."

They encourage you to pay for the person's order in the car behind yours as you're going through a fast-food or coffee-shop drive-through - a random act of kindness.

I did this once. I only had time to very briefly see the reaction on the young woman's face as she pulled up to the window to pay for her order. She looked into the back of my car as I pulled away, her eyes wide with astonishment.

I hope it made a difference in her day. I hope it touched her heart. But if it did, it surely paled in comparison to the feeling I received. It changed MY day.

So did I bless, or was I blessed?

Yesterday was laundry day for me. Living in a condominium, the ten units on our floor share a washer and dryer in a common laundry room. It's kept neat and clean by all of us, and often serves as a great visiting place. We have no set schedule, no reservations; it's more or less "first-come, first-served."

Yesterday as I carried in my basket of laundry and headed toward the washer, this is what I saw:

I floated through my laundry with a warm, fuzzy feeling in my heart. It changed my day.

I don't know who the giver was.  I have a suspicion but I won't ruin it by asking.

Those little random acts of kindness pack a lot of power in their punch. I urge you to try it sometime. Something as simple as a load of laundry.

So, what is your conclusion? Do you think that my kind neighbor blessed? Or was she blessed?

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

We day

You've heard about my "Me Days."  I've written about them before.

(Which reminds me, I haven't had one in a very long time.)
Well, my husband and I have occasional "We Days."  Only not often enough, we decided.

They're like other couples' date nights. Only we're not ones for going out at night, so we have "we days" instead.

We had one last Sunday. A perfect-weather, lazy Sunday afternoon. Cool but sunny; great light, fresh breeze; no traffic into downtown St. Paul.

We started on a mission to purchase tickets to the Ordway Center. It was the first day that open ticket sales (versus the subscription series) were offered and I wanted to make sure I got the best seats for seven of us - my daughter, daughter-in-law, granddaughters and great-granddaughter. We go every year. It's my Christmas gift to the girls.

This year is the first year we've added the 4-year-olds. The performance is Cinderella.  How we could not include our little ones for Cinderella?

Tickets in hand, satisfied with both the seating and the prices, we strolled from the Ordway, past the historic and grand St. Paul Public Library, across Kellogg Boulevard to be delighted with the new landscaping at the Science Museum.

Or new to us, as we don't get there very often.

In addition to beautiful gardens in full bloom, they've added a lookout platform which affords a wonderful panoramic view of the Mississippi River.

From the platform, I could see my friend, Carol's, houseboat, bedecked with bright geraniums facing the river. A few years back, she put her house up for sale and moved there full-time. A professional writer, she added a second story studio. No stranger to the river, sailing is her passion.

Below the platform, on the ground walk-out level of the museum, is a wonderful labyrinth. We watched, mesmerized, as a young woman was making her way through the lush green maze.

I wondered if she was pondering or praying, or simply enjoying the beautiful Sunday afternoon, as we were.

Leaving the Science Museum, we strolled back along Market Street, admiring the gardens at The Saint Paul Hotel, with its doormen with top hats greeting guests and passers-by.

We headed around the corner, down Fifth Street, topping off our late afternoon with a soothing glass of wine and scrumptious wood-fired artisan pizza at Pazzaluna, dining outdoors on the street patio.

It was dusk as we headed home.  A bit heady from the wine, perhaps, but mostly feeling the glow of the simple time of an afternoon spent together.

Our We Day. We really must do it more often.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

My memory log

Being a woman who enjoys writing, I've kept a journal for many years. Every so often, I might read some of my earlier entries. For the most part, though, they remain untouched.

My journals are my memory logs.

On the rare occasions when I do re-read them, bygone events, heartaches and joys are all recalled. I relive the happy events of weddings, babies born, perfect weather days, lunches or walks with friends...and just everyday, simple joys.

And I realize how challenges and obstacles have been overcome, some with the mere passing of time; others with healing tears; and some with the willing, but uncomfortable, effort to change.

We are all creating memory logs. They may not consist of words in a journal, but they are all there, safely stored in our minds, ours for the taking when we wish to pluck them out.

Sometimes I like to even remember (and write about) smells and sounds to accompany my memory log. The fuzzy head of my newborn daughter, the fragrance of the first spring tulip, the rain lulling me to sleep, the crack of the bat at my son's T-ball game. They're all there, in my memory log.

So what we do with today...the activities we'll engage in, our response to adverse events, how we celebrate the joyous ones, our encounters with others, simple acts of kindness given or received, how we acknowledge people we meet, how we express our love, listening, speaking and learning...these are the things building our memory logs. These are what determine what we will recall later.

I realize that much of what I've written and re-read in my journals are things that seemed mostly insignificant at the time, but mean much more to me now.

So as I start my day today, I'll be aware of those seemingly insignificant things that are all being stored away for later.

In my memory log.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Bowtie chicken cranberry salad

Chicken Cranberry Salad

Following my last post, I received requests for the chicken salad made for my Book Group luncheon gathering at my house.

This picture was taken after the group left and shows only the remains of the salad. The bowl was heaping as this recipe makes a large amount.
Bowtie Chicken Cranberry Salad
3# bag of frozen chicken breasts - bake on cookie sheet and allow to cool; then cut into pieces or shred.
1 package (16-oz) bowtie pasta - cook, drain, toss with a drizzle of olive oil
Combine pasta, chicken, and the following:
1 cup chopped pecans or toasted walnuts
1-1/2 teaspoons salt
3/4 teaspoon pepper (I use lemon pepper)
1 package (5-ounces or more) Craisins
3/4 cup chopped celery
1/2 to 3/4 cup chopped red onion (adjust amount to your taste)
Prepare the dressing:
2-1/4 cup (or 22-oz. jar) mayonnaise (I use part Miracle Whip)
1/4 cup vinegar
2/3 cup (or to taste) sugar
1/2 cup milk
2 tablespoons poppyseeds (I use a bit more)
Combine all and toss gently. Chill before serving.
I made the salad the day before, and served it with brandied cranberries, homemade Grainery pickles, freshly baked dinner rolls, strawberry-infused lemonade, and sugar cookies.

Bon apetit!

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Curled up with a book

Tomorrow my Book Group is meeting at my house for lunch and a review of our current selection, Island Beneath the Sea (Isabel Allende).

I am the discussion leader.  I have not yet finished the book.

So this morning, I made chicken salad, cranberry relish, homemade rolls, and lemonade. Cleaned the kitchen, dusted and vacuumed. Put odds and ends (junk) away that were sitting around where they never should have been, but you know how that goes. Or maybe you don't.  Maybe you put things away in their proper place right away.

Yeah, right....

So now I am ready to curl up (I wish I had a box of chocolates) and finish the book. Why do I always have to have everything in order and all my chores done before allowing myself to sit and read or knit? Maybe it's a Lutheran thing.

Besides being my favorite author, Isabel Allende has outdone herself with this book. I almost hate to finish it. Then it's done and I will miss it. It's just that good.

Set in the late 1700s in France, Haiti, Cuba and New Orleans, it contains a rich history of the settling of Louisiana as a colony of Spain, then France, and finally America.

It's the story of Zarité, known as Tété, a young slave purchased by a wealthy sugarcane plantation owner, Toulase Valmorain, as a concubine for his own pleasure and whims.

Against a merciless backdrop of slavery in the sugarcane fields, their lives become more intertwined and interdependent over the years. Though battered and treated cruelly, Tété survives with her strength of character, and her voodoo beliefs, which are later mingled with Christianity.

The island beneath the sea is a place where "rhythm is shakes the earth, it cuts like a lightening bolt and rises toward the sky." Such beautiful prose. Typical of Allende's style.

Isabel Allende wrote two of my favorite books, Daughter of Fortune and Portrait in Sepia. Now I have a third favorite.
So if, tomorrow, I am to lead the discussion, I better finish the last twenty-seven pages....

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Queen for a day

How many of you remember the bizarre 1950s show, hosted by Jack Bailey, Queen for a Day? 

Four women were selected for each show, requesting a prize, such as a washer and dryer, to help them overcome some personal tragedy. They would elicit support from the audience by telling their sad story. Hankies in hand, they would sob as they recounted their misfortune.

The audience would then decide, via an "Applause-O-Meter," which story had affected them the most, and the winner would be deemed worthy of the title "Queen for a Day."

The winner won her prizes, and was bedecked in a sable-trimmed red velvet robe and a jeweled crown.

This was the most pathetic, ridiculous show of the 50s. It was also extremely popular and ran for fourteen years, into the 1960s.

Imagine, sharing your personal tragedies with the public, trying to outdo other contestants with your story, hoping to produce enough sobs to win the prize.

My younger sisters produced a fabulous and hilarious take-off on this show in our neighbors, the Bergs, basement. They invited parents and other neighbors to come view their show, complete with popcorn and chairs set up in theater-fashion.

My sister, Edie, played the role of "Mrs. Myron Tashisky," a fictitious name. Since "Mrs. Tashisky" was from the south, my sister adopted the appropriate drawl (Miz M-a-hron Tashi-sky).

Mrs. Tashisky had the most horrible sob story you could imagine. All she hoped to win on the show was a wringer washer for her eighteen children! Of course, her heart-wrenching story went on and on with great drama.

To further emphasize her distress, she unrolled and unrolled a giant roll of toilet paper (she couldn't afford Kleenex) to dry her tear-filled eyes as she recounted her distress, until there was toilet paper all over the stage.

Of course, Mrs. Tashisky won. Just to put your mind at ease.

Thankfully, we've come a long way since I Love Lucy (still one of my favorite shows, by the way) and Queen for a Day

But we have lost a lot, too.  My all-time favorite show, Andy Griffith, depicts a gentler, more sensitive time in Americana. I wish we had that back.

I watch very little television, preferring my own select DVDs to entertain me as I'm knitting in the evenings.  With two TVs in the house, my husband watches the other one, almost drowning out all other sounds with shooting, swearing, or engaging in....well, you know...

He likes action. The louder, the better, apparently.

I, on the other hand, wish for the 50s back. At least for the more tame television.

But definitely not, Queen for a Day.  That can well be buried in the past and stay there. Right along with The Newlywed Game.

Thursday, July 28, 2011


My mother first learned the art of Hardanger embroidery when she was almost 50 years old. The daughter of immigrants from Scandinavia, she had long admired it and wanted to learn.

But until then, she was raising six children and sewing some of our clothes, leaving precious little time to pursue needleart.

She started by buying a book and following written instructions. Then she saw that a class was being offered at the International Institute in St. Paul. There she not only learned the art, but her teacher, Mona, became a best friend and "daughter" to her. Mona has since moved back to her home country of Norway, but is still a part of our family's lives.

So today I thought you might enjoy seeing a few pieces of my mother's exquisite stitching. If a piece is done correctly, you can scarcely tell the right side from the wrong side. As I was photographing these pieces, I had to be very careful to portray the correct side.

At almost 88, her days are filled with creating lovely pieces like these.

Her hands are shaky now, her stitches a bit slower and more deliberate, and she often needs to correct a mistake or two.

But she is happiest with the day ahead of her with her Hardanger embroidery on her lap.

Still putting her heart into making her works of intricate needleart. ©

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Then you let go

A few weeks ago, while visiting my mother who lives in a lovely room at a heath care center nearby, I was asked to help her mail a package to the White House.

The White House. On Pennsylvania Avenue. In Washington, D.C. Where the President lives. That White House.

Knowing my mother as I do, I wasn't at all surprised. She has long been an Obama supporter; indeed, an ardent admirer.

But although she agrees with President Obama's politics, it is not he who has won her admiration as much as our country's First Lady, Michelle Obama. And it was to Mrs. Obama that she wanted a package sent.

Upon the election of President Obama, my mother sent a hand-written note to Mrs. Obama, congratulating her family, wishing them well, and assuring her of her continued prayers for their family.

My mother knew hers would be among hundreds of other well wishes. So when she received a letter of appreciation from the White House, personally addressed and signed by Mrs. Obama, she was thrilled. It was unexpected.

The treasured letter has been framed, and now adorns her room at the care center.

The package she wanted me to mail for her contained a lovely piece of her exquisite Hardanger embroidery, stitched in white. She explained that one day, as she was stitching, it was "laid on her heart" to send this piece to Mrs. Obama, as a token of esteem.

Hardanger embroidery is my mother's passion. She does exquisite stitching, involving hours and hours of delicate work.  If you have a piece of Hardanger she has made, you have the highest gift she can give. It is a part of her, and her Scandinavian heritage.

Although I did not take a photo of the elegant piece sent to Mrs. Obama, it is similar to this one, stitched with white thread on white fabric, as is characteristic of Hardanger.

We enclosed a note to accompany the piece, explaining what it was, and that it was stitched and sent with my mother's very high regard for the First Lady.

Now we are wondering about the process the gift will undergo before ever arriving before Mrs. Obama's eyes. Scrutinized through layers of security: radar, perhaps sniffing dogs, chemical analysis of the fabric, verification of its authenticity as Hardanger, verification that Hardanger is Scandinavian needle art, as we have claimed, and on and on.

We get ridiculous as we wonder what stage it is at today, and if Mrs. Obama has yet actually received it.

But we both agree:  It was a gift sent with love, freely given, and my mother enjoyed the creating and the giving.

Then you let go.

And isn't that what true giving really is?

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Dog days

I learned from the weather news last night that the phrase, Dog Days, derives from the stars.

The brightest of the stars is Sirius, referred to as the "dog star." It happens to be the brightest star in the night sky, and the ancient Romans thought that the earth received heat from it.

In the summer, Sirius rises and sets with the sun, and it was believed that its heat, added to the heat of the sun, created a stretch of hot and sultry weather. And so, “dog days” was named after the dog star.

Okay, that's academic.

All I know is that it is unbearably hot and humid for so early in the summer. I thought we started "dog days" in mid-August.

So is this another effect of global warming? Some scoff at the idea of global warming, but I don't see how it can be denied. So many changes in the atmosphere lead me to be a believer.

Webster's secondary meaning of "dog days" is: a period of stagnation or inactivity.

So that explains it!

My husband and I are sitting around in a funk today. Now I know why. It is to be expected. That is reassuring.

I can proceed to do nothing today. Absolutely nothing. This is going to be a good day.

Except it's hot......

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Summertime trouble

We heard the sounds of the fire engines, my neighborhood friend, Jill, and I, roaring through the neighborhood on a summer evening.

It was about 1956.

The sirens were louder than I’d ever heard them, and suddenly I realized it was because they were so close. In fact, careening down Howell Street towards our alley.

When I wondered aloud where they were going, Jill joked, “Maybe to your house!”

I felt numb as fear overtook me. It had been my evening chore to take out the trash and strike the wooden match against the barrel. One of the rules associated with this task was waiting to see that the fire started properly and watch it until the fire slowed down.

But, of course, I was in a terrible hurry that evening. In a rush to resume playing with my neighborhood friends, I dumped the trash into the barrel, struck the match, quickly threw it in, and rode off on my bike.

How could such a sweet little thing get into so much trouble?
(By the way, this was my favorite sundress. It was pink and blue.)

Turning up my street and approaching the fire truck parked in the alley, I knew I was in very big trouble. My first thought was to stay on my bike and ride away, but knowing I’d have to face the music sooner or later, I opted to face it sooner and get it over with.

My mother gave me a stern and rather frantic look as I approached. If I recall correctly, Jill rode away. The fireman on the scene gave me a lecture, explaining some of the trash fell over onto the brush along the alley fence, and could have quickly spread and been much worse.

Then my mother pretty much repeated everything he said, but in a much less friendly tone.

I am quite sure; in fact, I'd bank on it, that I had consequences that have somehow been blocked from my recollection.

But the worst consequence of all was seeing my younger sisters and brother all looking at me, as only siblings will, fully realizing the drama of the whole episode.

And very glad it wasn’t them in trouble this time.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

On a summer evening

Last summer, I wrote about our town's Harmony in the Park concert series, held on Wednesday evenings under the bandshell in Lion's Park during June, July and August.

And this summer, they have resumed and are better than ever.  Attendance has soared and the series has gathered quite a following. Organizers are volunteers from the community, and the series is sponsored by the Park Commission who garners funding support from community businesses.

Last night's concert, attended by some 600 people, was absolutely delightful. A picture-book summer evening with a gentle breeze, it started with a local (and award-winning) group of folk dancers, The River City Cloggers. Clogging is the official state dance of Kentucky and the perfect segue into the feature performance by a Minnesota group, Monroe Crossing.

This amazing group is widely sought-after. Since they tour internationally, recruiting them to our little Swedish town year after year is a real coup.  This coming week, they are touring in Ontario, and from there, the east coast for an international folk festival. Their schedule is full, and here they were, just like they belonged, in our little corner of the world.

They entertained with selections from their newest CD album, songs written and recorded by Bluegrass pioneer, Bill Monroe (1911-1996), from Kentucky, "the father of Bluegrass."  Monroe Crossing named itself after the famous artist.

They also performed songs they have written themselves, like In the Fire, and many others. Their own version of Purple Rain would surely make Prince (also from Minnesota) proud. It was Bluegrass at its finest, for two solid hours.

There wasn't a foot in the crowd that wasn't tapping the grass, or hands that weren't keeping time on their knees, or just plain clapping aloud. A few brave souls got up to dance, but most of us were too mesmerized by the fiddling to actually get out of our chairs.

Warm and personable, Monroe Crossing visited with folks between sets and invited requests.

Our Harmony in the Park concert series is such a treat for our small town. Fifty miles from cultural events offered in the Twin Cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul, the series offers a variety of entertainment, from Rock 'n' Roll (yes, Elvis even appears), to orchestra, to Dixie, for families and folks of all ages.

And, in this shaky economy, there are no ticket sales, thanks to local merchants and businesses.

Oh yes, there are vendors offering popcorn, root beer floats and frozen novelties. Or you can bring your own treats from home.

Now, who can beat that for a perfect summer evening?

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Living our own lives

I recently learned, or should I say, re-learned, a most valuable lesson.

After spending several days brooding over a hurtful remark, I was gently reminded to live my own life and leave others to theirs.  Their misery does not need to be ours.

This is a basic premise of Al-Anon. This group wisely teaches that we are powerless over another person. We cannot shape them into something of our own design, but rather our focus needs to be on ourselves, our own behavior and our own thoughts.

This is not to excuse bad behavior on the part of another person; it just means allowing the offending person to take responsibility for themselves, and deciding for ourselves our own course of action.

I tend to need to learn this over and over again. A slow learner, perhaps.

But it is never too late. My young nephew very indirectly set me back on course and reminded me to stay to stay positive. He is a wonderful living example of this with his helpful and cheerful demeanor.

I heard once that resentment is like taking poison and waiting for the other person to die.

I often suffer much more than anyone who offends me because of my tendency to withdraw and "suffer in silence," rather than confront or address the problem directly.

The particular issue for this instance is behind me and well on its way to being forgotten. But the "teacher appeared" to remind me of a valuable lesson. And so I share it with you....I pass it on and leave it to your pondering.

It is a beautiful day today in Lindstrom, Minnesota. Baby sparrows nest in the birdhouse as their mother flits about overhead to watch over them.  A light breeze, sunshine and a variety of birds sweetly chirping their contentment all lend to a positive spirit.

If you have any burdens today, I hope your day is made lighter by choosing a positive path.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

An unusual gift

This was a recent gift from my sister, Joan:

She knows I love, love, love pottery. But isn't this the most unusual thing you've ever seen?  I mean, it looks like a bowl, but I can't imagine what one uses it for. 

So what in the world is it?  ....I'll tell you later.

But first, let me tell you about my sister.  She loves to shop. I mean, LOVES to shop.

This most often works to my advantage as I consider shopping a big waste of time. I let her know what I am in need of, and sure as can be, she produces a bargain price. She once went to a sale at Herberger's and bought me a complete winter work wardrobe. Pants, blazers, sweaters, the works,

Joan and her friend, Janet, who lives five hours away, consider shopping a favorite pastime. They often drive approximately halfway between them to meet in a different town each time, their sole purpose being to discover all the little shops the town has to offer. I must say, they find some unique treasures.

I took a notion to join them once.  Janet came to our area for the weekend, and the three of us went off for a day of exploring in Stillwater, Minnesota.  Stillwater, a charming river town, boasts gift shops, antique malls, coffee shops and book stores galore. 

We started at one end of the town, intending to work our way up and down the streets on either side.  Such fun to browse among the goodies: hand-dipped candles, unique notecards, wall art, homemade fudge, and more, more, more.

By early afternoon, I figured we'd have covered the town and would stop for lunch.

But not at their rate,  After I had finished my browsing, I went outside to wait for them.  And discovered I was in for at least an hour's wait. At each shop. They went at a snail's pace, picking up each item to closely examine.

By 4:00 (we did at least stop for lunch), I had had enough. They couldn't understand how I could possibly be ready to go home, but they gave in and we left Stillwater behind.

However, they then wondered how late in the evening Target and Wal-Mart were open in nearby Forest Lake.  Until midnight, a telephone inquiry revealed.

And off they went.  Needless to say, I didn't join them, and haven't since.

Back to the bowl.

On this occasion, they met in LaCrosse, Wisconsin, for the weekend.  They saw this bowl and Joan just knew that, being a knitter, I would love it!

Yes, it is a yarn bowl

Perfect for the large skeins of yarn I use to make prayer shawls for our church to give someone in need of comfort. I use it all the time and you can see how handy it is keeping the yarn together with the end coming out in a single, neat strand.

So I am really glad my sister loves shopping. Most of all, I love her for her thoughtfulness and generosity.

Thank you, Joan.  You and Janet just keep on a'shoppin....but without me.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Midsommer Fest

It is dark in Sweden much of the year, and their summers are short.

But the middle of June brings the summer soltice: the longest day, when the sun shines through the night. I was there once during this time, and it is indeed light all night long.

It is also cause for celebrating in almost every Swedish town.  

Midsummer Day, a celebration of summer and the season of fertility, was originally celebrated on June 24 to commemorate John the Baptist. In 1953, it was moved to the nearest Saturday.

And so, in a town settled by Swedish immigrants, and in true Swedish tradition, Midsommardagen was celebrated last Saturday in Lindstrom, Minnesota.

Dancing around the maypole
It starts early in the morning with the building of the maypole by some trusty, hard workers, who must first gather freshly-cut branches to wrap around the large pole. These are carefully woven around and across the pole. 

Flowers must be gathered and assembled in and around the branches to decorate the pole. Wreaths are also made of fresh flowers and branches.

After colorful ribbons are tied on, the Swedish flag is placed on top. 

It is then raised by several strong hands and placed in a well-dug hole in the ground.

In our town, we are fortunate to have a long-standing Swedish Club, and a dedicated instructor for teaching young people traditional Swedish dance. They performed for the crowd, dancing around the beautiful maypole, as is done in Sweden, and then inviting the rest of us to join them.

Food, of course, is the other feature of the festival. Swedish sausage, riced potatoes, herring, crackers, and many delectable dishes and desserts are served. Everybody brings something to share. It always amazes me that no two dishes are alike. Such a wonderful variety!

They say it always rains or at least drizzles for a while in Sweden on Midsummer Day. And sure enough, it sprinkled enough for umbrellas to be raised as folks began to gather together. But the sun came out and the skies cleared for the remainder of the evening.

Varma Midsommar Hälsningar!  (or Happy Midsommer Day)

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Fun at the festival

"Grandma, this is a fun day!"

When two little 4-year old girls say that in unison, you know it's a hit.

We were having this fun day at the annual Flint Hills International Children's Festival. Held in Rice Park in downtown St. Paul, it is sponsored by Ordway Center for Performing Arts.
The day is all about children (and learning, but that's a secret).

Together with performing artists from around the world, cultural music and dance events, international cuisine, demonstrations and hands-on crafts, children become aware of the world around, and beyond, them.

 The two girls enjoyed a live Ordway musical performance by Dala, a wonderful, young singing duo from Canada.

They not only entertained children and adults alike with their beautiful music, but they invited the children to come to the stage floor to dance and twirl.

They started the performance by emphasizing "this isn't a shush show." Clapping, singing along, and snapping fingers were all encouraged.

Many craft tents offered children the opportunity to use paper, glue, sparkles, beads, pom-poms, wooden sticks, and markers to use their imaginations and create to their hearts' desire. Paper hats, rockets, flowers, and even buttons the children drew themselves were seen, with the children proudly wearing or carrying their objets d'art. 

Two granddaughters (mine) working on their projects.

The outside of the nearby Lawson Building served as the dance floor for Project Bandeloop from California. A 20-minute, amazing performance involved the two dancers being suspended by wire rope from the roof of the building and dancing in mid-air, pushing themselves off with their feet from the side of the multi-story brick building.

Latin American culture was interpreted in dance. Performed by a local St. Paul group, their colorful costumes and lively dances were energizing and interesting to watch.

An exhibition of children's artwork from schools and community organizations across Minnesota was displayed throughout storefronts and skyways in downtown St. Paul. You could see these signs on every sidewalk surrounding the festival.

Crafts, face painting, outdoor performances, exhibits like the butterfly garden, take-aways for children, the is all free.  No admission charge. No tickets to buy. No rides. No carnival atmosphere. No charge for face painting.

International and local food is available for purchase, but picnicking is encouraged, and seating is provided for all, right in front of the Flint Hills World Stage...where performances are, of course, free.
It is Ordway Center's gracious gift to Minnesota, and a generous gift to our community. 

I know two 4-year old girls and their Grandma are very grateful. My son and daughter-in-law agree as together we joined in the celebration of children around the world.

I can certainly see why my little girls considered it a "fun day." 

And I'd be hard-pressed to say who enjoyed it more.