Sunday, February 27, 2011

Lincoln house

It was the early 1950s.

We had long outgrown our little duplex on Minnehaha Avenue that my parents had bought as an investment. Seven of us lived downstairs, and the upstairs quarters were rented to a newly-married couple.

During the summer of 1953, we moved to Lincoln Avenue in the Macalester-Groveland neighborhood of St. Paul, Minnesota.

The big white house looked like a mansion to us.

Built in 1913, it had three stories and a full basement, plus five porches. There were two large enclosed screened porches, one off the living room that became our playroom in the summer; the other off the master bedroom.

There were flower patterns everywhere: in the carpeting, the wallpaper, the drapes, and the hallway going upstairs.

There was one pattern for the carpeting, one pattern for the living room wallpaper, a different pattern for the dining room wallpaper, and yet another pattern for the drapes. Though perhaps fashionable then, it would be HGTV's nightmare today.

Our green nylon frizee couch, moved from the duplex, now stood amidst pink and rose colored flowers.

The kitchen had black linoleum flooring in a square tile design. We had a white chrome table, usually covered with oilcloth, and a defined seating pattern that never changed: two children on youth stools either side of Dad; three on a green bench on the other side of the table; Mom and me on each end.

A white Gibson refrigerator sat in the entryway of the back door. The back door was never locked, even if we were gone from the house for a week on vacation. If we ever had keys, I doubt that we even knew where they were.

The dining room had a built-in buffet that held everything from the telephone and phone directories, to combs, brushes and curlers, to Sunday School books and offering envelopes, to Mom's china dinnerware and silver. The phone was the only one in the three-story house, and we were on a party-line.

One phone, five teenage girls, a shared party-line.

The dining room had a pair of window seats that you never see anymore, but should. They were ideal storage places for Mom's fabrics and sewing supplies, since her sewing machine was also in the dining room.

When weddings approached for five girls, our just-received gifts were proudly displayed on the window seats.

The top of the window seats provided a great play space for my little brother's Tonka trucks and matchbox cars. He must have worn a path along those window seats as he ran his toys up and down the wooden surface.

An upright piano was on the opposite wall of the dining room, and, of course, there was a big dining room table and chairs in the center. On birthdays or holidays, we ate in the dining room, a real treat.

I'm not sure how my parents found the house, or their criteria as they were house-shopping, but they couldn't have chosen a better neighborhood than Mac-Groveland, as it was, and still is, called.

I can't imagine growing up in any other area of St. Paul. The neighborhood's proximity to private colleges and schools made it academic-rich and was comprised largely of professionals.

Of course, the decor of the house changed over the years, thank goodness. The flowery carpeting was replaced by beige plush; the wallpaper removed and walls painted; the green frizee couch went out with the 50s, along with the white chrome table.

But even an extreme makeover couldn't erase the many years of warm memories in our Lincoln Avenue abode.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Gone to the dogs

Here I am in Minnesota, just me and the dogs.

I flew home from Arizona yesterday to watch my three grand-dogs while their masters (son, Steven and daughter-in-law, Julie) are off to a vacation in Hawaii.

Am I crazy?  Let's just say that only for a son who is very loved would one do such a thing.

So the house is quiet, all three dogs are napping, and I'm getting set up for a quiet little retreat of my own.

Rest assured, I arrived fully equipped with stitching, knitting, books, a photo book project, and my iPod. I will not lack for things to do.

A bonus was seeing my little granddaughter, Ava.

Sporting her little backpack on wheels, containing fruit snacks, games and airplane toys, she told me all about what she plans to do and see in Hawaii... dolphins, whales, seeing fish under water... so much awaits her there. She assured me she would tell me all about it when she returns.

I have no doubt. A very verbal and animated 4-year-old, she will have many stories to share.

Another benefit of coming home is being able to visit with my mother, recuperating in a transitional care unit from a fall a couple of weeks ago. No broken bones, just an injured foot which is benefiting from physical therapy and a big boot.

We have already planned a hamburger-chocolate malt dinner together tomorrow evening, a welcome break from the institutional fare she's been enduring.

I may also experiment with a few recipes while here, so I'll pass along my results, unless they prove to be disastrous.

So stay tuned for a few Minnesota adventures.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Olives and peaches

Our granddaughter, Heidi, and husband, Chris, drove from their home in Las Vegas to Mesa for a President's Day weekend visit with us.

Last winter, when we spent a month in Tucson, they came for three days, as well. We couldn't believe how much exploring we could do in such a short time.

Saguaro National Park and the Arizona Sonora Desert Museum were covered from one end to the other. The weather was gorgeous and we were outdoors the whole day long, from sun-up to sun-down.

Not so this past weekend.

It was rain, rain, and more rain from the time they arrived. Accompanied by gusty winds and cold temps.

Of course, as they left this morning, the sun was shining and it was warming up. Why is it that's always the way of things?

But, in our usual style, we managed to cover lots of territory, despite the chilly rain. We simply darted from place to place, unbrella in hand as we emerged from the warm car.

Our first stop was the wonderful Queen Creek Olive Mill, about 25 minutes away. When we were in Tucson last year, we discovered Queen Creek's fabulous Mexican Lime olive oil at a great outdoor Farmer's Market. We brought some back to Minnesota with us, but quickly ran out, so I ordered more online.

So living nearby the olive mill itself is a treat.

Chris and Heidi survey the selection of olive oils.
On better weather days, they have outdoor entertainment and tours of their olive fields, but, needless to say, that wasn't the case this weekend. We enjoyed it all the same and came home stocked with a variety of different oils.

From there, we discovered a great peach orchard. The peaches won't be ready until May, but they had oranges, a variety of lettuce and herbs ready for picking. We passed on heading out to the field to do that, but not to worry: they had everything for sale indoors, including a gigantic cinnamon roll with peace slices baked into the dough. To die for.

In between, we hit all kinds of stores: AJ's Fine Foods, a gourmet delight. We left a few dollars behind at Trader Joe's, Best Buy and Fry's, and almost had to take out a loan in order to leave Costco.

Another nice thing about a rainy weekend was getting set up with wireless Internet access and the installation of a network media player on our TV...thanks to our techie-wizards, Chris and Heidi.

Heidi also revamped my original blogsite, an endeavor I had previously attempted and totally messed up.

The house is a bit lonely now that they pulled away, headed back to home and work, and the reality of the daily routine.

But we are left with more beautiful memories of another visit, and the anticipation of more to come.

We feel so blessed by their visit.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Just a-beading

An afternoon of beading. With friends. So delightful.

Now, I am not into beading. At least, not until last Wednesday. Now I am "hooked."

"No!" I protested. "Beading would just cut into my stitching and knitting time. I don't have enough hours in the day as it is."

But that was before my good friend, Barb, came to Arizona to spend a week with her cousin, Judy.

Judy is a first-class jewelry maker. She has even made her own exquisite glass stones.

Equipped with all their tools, beads, the proper beading lingo, and wearing beautiful evidence of their work, the two came for a visit with my friend, Mary Kay. We wanted to know a little more about it, I had told them in advance.

A wonderful afternoon was spent on Mary Kay's screen porch in Mesa, visiting and learning how to bead. Judy was the perfect teacher: patient, kind, praising our every move, starting with the design and finishing by affixing the magnetic clasp.

By the end of the afternoon, Mary Kay and I were inquiring about beading stores in the area, and planning a visit to buy some of the Czech beads Barb had bought there. We were hooked. Gone-ers. We completed succumbed to the craft.

And I had actually designed and finished a necklace!

It's never too late to embark on a new craft or project. We all have creative instincts that just need a little prodding (or jolt, in my case) to come alive. A bonus is having a friend to teach you.

And I think using your time and energy to create something of beauty is time well spent.

If you can do it with friends, how much better can life get?

Thursday, February 10, 2011


Many funny confessions were heard after my last post, Bundle up.

I heard stories from people who grew up in the same era I did who related to going to school in sub-zero weather, clad only in a short skirt, sweater, fashionable jacket, and nothing on their legs or feet but a pair of slip-on flats.

The dress code of our day did not allow for girls to wear slacks to school. Only once in four years of high school did I wear slacks. That was the day our home ec class was practicing first aid and Mrs. Cuthbert said those who acted as patients could wear slacks. I volunteered to be a patient.

The first confession came from Evelyn: "Mom used to make my sister and I wear our boots to the bus, but we switched to our flats before the bus came and hid our boots in the snow bank."

Then I heard from Sonia: "I remember my mother insisting on cold winter mornings that I tie on my scarf--the heavy kind we folded into a triangle and tied under our chin--it was cold out, she said. And scolding me to button my coat--all the way up--even the top button. I'd argue each day, then finally do as she ordered. But as soon as I was down the block and out of her sight, the scarf would come off and the coat would be unbuttoned. I'd have died of embarrassment, I was sure, if my friends saw me bundled up that way!"

But what my friends don't know, or perhaps never suspected, was the secret I've carried with me all these years.

My mother took me to a podiatrist to check my feet. Why, I don't know. There was nothing wrong with my feet.

But good old Dr. Leibold said I really should be wearing "wedge" shoes. The type that old ladies wore. The type I would not wear, even today, much less be caught dead in them in high school. Horrors!

But my mother took me to an orthopedic shoe store and bought me gray "wedgies." And insisted I wear them. To school. To school!

And no amount of crying did any good to break her resolve.

So I would put them on in the morning, stuff my flats into my bucket purse, head out the door, remove the gray wedgies, hide them in the bushes in our front yard, change into my flats, and carry on with my day.

Of course, returning home, I'd have to sneak back into the yard, retrieve the ugly gray shoes and put them back on. Noone the wiser.

Only my sister, Christine, shared my secret.

Now I thought my mother was very cruel to make me go through all that. The truth is, I'm now mature enough to realize she had my health at heart and, despite the gray wedgies, I love her dearly.

And we all knew our mothers loved us when they insisted we tie those scarves, suggested we wear leggings (gasp) in the cold, or boots, mittens, and so on.

But weren't they just so out of touch with reality, though?

With the dress "code" - or lack thereof - today, what can a mother say?

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Bundle up

Listening to the weather report yesterday,
I heard the announcer report cool weather was coming to this area for a few days.

"And so," he said, "be sure to bundle up!"

Now bundle up in Mesa, Arizona, means something like, "Put on a sweater." It most definitely means something different than to us in Minnesota.

Bundle up in Minnesota means layers of clothing: sweatshirts, lined pants, Parka jackets with hoods, wool scarves and mittens. Oh yes, and boots. Preferably fur-lined.

I remember when "bundle up" didn't mean a thing, even in Minnesota. That's when a teenage girl's ears heard those words in the 60s.

Out we would go to catch the bus several blocks away, or even walk to school, wearing a skirt and sweater, a fashionable jacket, and flat shoes with nylons. Never, ever would anything cover our legs or feet, and unless we were very desperate, we wouldn't be caught dead in boots.

When I was a little tot, I remember a red one-piece wool snowsuit my mother would dress me in...itchy, itchy, itchy...but very warm.

While most of the country is being clobbered with snow storms and ice, we are apparently setting records in Arizona as well. The cool weather here in Mesa this week is very unusual and we're told it's the coldest it has gotten in decades.

It is having the most peculiar results.

For instance, the Waste Management golf tournament was delayed for hours this morning as frost covered the greens. Unheard of.

I was shopping yesterday and stores were experiencing computer issues: cash registers not working, credit cards not being accepted, and so on. When I asked what the problem was, the clerk said, "Oh, it's this cold weather."

It affects electronic devices here as cables and wiring aren't prepared for the "cold." Our cable TV goes out at night and doesn't come back on until about noon (when it warms up!).

Strange, indeed.

Wherever you are, I hope you are staying safe, warm, drinking cocoa with a peppermint stick or candy cane in it, and eating hot oatmeal.

And bundling up!