The Splendiforus Life

Oh, Christmas Tree!

This year's balsam was fresh and very fragrant! Every year Softey zealously guards the gifts!
This year's balsam was fresh and very fragrant! Every year Softey zealously guards the gifts!
Our ever-faithful Christmas gift watch cat ...
Our ever-faithful Christmas gift watch cat ...

Ode to the Christmas Tree

OK, maybe this isn't really an ode - but in the recesses in my heart, the Christmas Tree is one of the greatest social icons. There are many stories how the Christmas Tree became a part of the holiday traditions and, quite frankly, I believe all of them. Heck, it was too long ago to really matter.

What really matters are the feelings that a brightly lit conifer fills my heart with every Christmas. My first recollection was stumbling on Santa as he put up the tree in our living room my fourth Christmas. My parents shooed me to bed as soon as I exited the bathroom. Man - was I excited!

For several years, Santa was responsible for putting up the tree and piling all the presents under the tree. There are old family movies of we tikes sleepily bumbling our way down the stairs in the blinding light of the camera's light bar.

We finally graduated to taking over Santa's job and would head to the tree lots to select our own annual tree. In the frenzied joy of the task, we never wanted to find a tree right away but reveled in reviewing every tree in the lot, much to my father's disconcertion. As we got older we discovered if we shopped earlier we could get a taller, prettier tree. Again, my father was a bit of a procrastinator and there were a few terse confrontations as to when we would shop.

Once we were included in the buying of the tree, we were also included in the decorating. I would feel like I was in a magical world of Christmas wonder as I would ask my mother the origin of each old world glass ornament, each one a treasure. Of course, then there was the long, dull hanging of each strand of tinsel. A drudgery that was totally necessary to get that awesome shimmer when the lights were finally plugged in - which had to wait for Christmas Eve.

By the time I was a teenager I was usually the only one who took the tree decorating on by myself. It would take eight hours as I meticulously hung each shiny orb, each icy silver strand. I would have loved to start a business decorating trees but it just took me too long and I needed to do it right!

In college I had a small tree each year to tide me over until I got home to put up the real tree. After college, my roommates and I always had real trees. Sometimes we would merge ornaments, sometimes we would make ornaments. One year while I lived in California, the tree we put up died - dead as a doornail - and we put up a second tree on Christmas Eve.

I did a considerable about of traveling after college with my jobs and each trip I would find a Christmas store to add to my growing collection of Christmas ornaments. Putting up the tree was like a living memory book as I recalled the origin of each bauble.

The collection continued a healthy growth when I opened a travel agency after I had been married a few years. Despite my love of cats, none of them ever attacked the tree, though one cheeky feline found out how to pluck feather ornaments off the tree - which she would present to me as captured prey.

All of these thoughts raced through my mind as I took down this year's pretty entry. A tree is more than a decoration, it is a symbol of a lifetime of Christmases. This tree was particularly fragrant and as the ornaments were removed, the piney scent wafted into the room.

I could never be happy with an artificial tree. As is very evident, the Christmas Tree is a very sacred icon in my life. Every year I am still that 10 year old waiting to get to the tree lot - though I am MUCH less picky now - perhaps because most of the trees up here are very beautiful. But I always celebrate the purchase with Doug and steaming mugs of decorated Peppermint Patties!

This is always a sad day for me when the tree leaves the great room. It does comfort me some when it moves to the deck to become a bird sanctuary and feeding station. At least it comes down in a fraction of the time it takes me to put it up - and I abandoned the tinsel years ago and added bright red bows and scads of candy canes!

The peak of summer beauty

These coneflowers get more beautiful every day - so does my life!
These coneflowers get more beautiful every day - so does my life!

Aging and Stuff

Doug has been teasing me a lot lately about being "old". He does it in a good natured fashion - as is our style. But the truth of the matter is I AM going to be 62 and in some genre's that IS old! I really don't give a rip about the years one accumulates - life is all about attitude. I have friends from their 20s and well into the "golden" years.

Yeah, my knees are shot and most 100 year olds walk better than me. Someday that will be fixed and then I can really get about the business of not acting my age. It comes as NO surprise that I have been relishing the countdown to my retirement. I have 18 work days remaining and it is a rapidly diminishing number - thank heavens! Hmmm - talk of retiring and bad knees does sound like elder-speak. Well the knees have been bad since I was 13 and early retirement it a GOOD thing.

The best part is the opportunities that are opening up for me. Of course I have my job with the Illinois Snowmobiler taking the forefront. And I have decided I will tackle L'Bri and also getting back into the cruise business.

But today I decided I do need a break - the last several years have been an employment night mare for the most part and I need a mental break from "earning" a living. I need to do some travel, get my house back into shape and pursue wine-making and other life sustaining activities. I love to cook and I will be able to create some great meals using some fantastic recipes I have accumulated.

Last night in the hot tub we shared a spectacular evening watching Perseid's light show. What an incredible night - velvet sky and billions of stars were the background for stunning "shooting stars"! I found many of my wishes were for friend's and family's health concerns - another notch found in the aging pole. This is one facet I wish would just disappear, but, of course it won't and can't. But, a "girl" can always wish ...

Doug and I have really enjoyed the rock concerts we have been to in the last few years. We are extremely proud to be a part of the generation that said we would never grow old and in spirit this certainly had proven more true than not.

The "younger" generations have no perception of what life is like in your 40s, 50s and beyond. Even in my 60s I find it hard to perceive what it will mean to be in my 80s or even 90s. The ability to dream, set goals and have a fulfilling life are as much a part of me as when I was in my 20s and I think no differently about my ability to achieve. It all feels the same.

What feels differently is there is a much more serene feeling to my life. The not knowing what is going to be has been replaced by knowledge and experience. Its a pretty great place to be!

We are so looking forward to the next few decades together. It promises to be an extremely bright future!

The perennial garden is a bit wild looking but we are giving them a year to really establish themselves - pruning will happen next year!
The perennial garden is a bit wild looking but we are giving them a year to really establish themselves - pruning will happen next year!

The last day of July 2013

I knew this summer was going to go by fast! It started late and we had so much to do once it did arrive. Doug's garden has really exploded this year. The plentiful rain and great sun this month did it's job. One thing about the northern climate - things don't take long to grow!. We have had several salads, BLT's, herbs and a few veggies already from his bounty and this fall I am going to be reeling from all the canning I will be doing.

It really has been a great month - I took a ton of vacation time in the advent of my retirement - which is in 38 days! I had a fantastic 4th - had a blast at the International Snowmobile Congress - then there was the 5 days at Rock USA in Oshkosh which was a totally fabulous time.

This week we got a good start for our firewood for this heating season. We picked oodles of Juneberries and I got to do some decent cooking for a change.

This afternoon I am meeting with a gal named Laurie who is going to fill me in on L'Bri - a skin care company that has an impeccable reputation as far a being a quality product and a good organization to work for. I am no fan of pyramid marketing but I was so impressed with the product, I think I will overcome my revulsion and give it a try! So far I have not seen ANYTHING negative about this 14 year old company. Working for employers up here has been one disaster after another, with the exception of Harley Davidson (my DREAM job) and the Vilas County News Review - they were a good organization - just the pay was horrible. The rest all should burn in hell. Selfish and cruel ownership - very reminiscent of the sweat shops at the turn of the 19th-20th century.

So my next lifesytle change is early retirement. With working at the Illinois Snowmobiler and L'Bri, life should be all grins! Counting down until Sept. 7!

Even this little fella had a close encounter with Oxy Clean
Even this little fella had a close encounter with Oxy Clean

A trove of treasures

I was folding my laundry this afternoon, realizing that it was actually a trip down memory lane. One thing that is awesome about summer is the lack of bulk in the clothing. I had two weeks of laundry and took about about half the space of winter clothes. And my tee shirts. Oh yeah tee shirts.

When I moved to California more than three decades ago, I purged dozens of tee shirts from my wardrobe. As I folded each one today, it brought back a vivid memory of a time, a place, a person. My Harley shirts are a treasure from a time when the job at the Tomahawk plant was my dream job. The 2007 Fall Ride seems like it was only a couple of years ago. I guess sweet memories seem more recent.

Then my Lynyrd Skynrd shirt bought at their Lac du Flambeau concert in 2008 that I could NOT find when I saw them at Rock USA in 2011. I WILL wear it at Rock USA this week!

My US flag shirt is created out of little snowmobiles that I bought at the sled show in Grays Lake a zillion (ok - maybe 10 years) ago.

My Bears Happy Camper shirt that was a gift from an ex BF who was there with his new girlfriend. ?????????

OK enough of the trip down memory lane.It's amazing the treasures you can find - even when you are just doing the laundry!

Dreams coming true

I was sitting on the deck right after breakfast on yet another drippy morning. Doug and I reviewed the progress on all the "crops" around the gardens and deck, pleased with the ever abundant growth. He gave me our daily kiss good bye and I settled back. Looking at the treetops I thought back to a much younger time when I was doing the same viewing, sitting next to the dillpidated gazebo at Sunset Point where I was a counselor the summer of 1971. I fell in love with the Northwoods that summer, wishing with all my heart someday I could call it home.

My memories drifted back even further to a little Dierdre who loved reading her Golden Books. Mr and Mrs Rabbit were in their cozy cabin nestled in rocking chairs in front of the roaring fire, their kitten and puppy curled up on the hearth-side braided rug. She resolved that one day she, too, would live in the woods, sharing her home with the forest inhabitants.

My home is a more modern, updated version of that forest- dwelling abode but has many of the same charming appointments. Yes, there is a rocking chair in front of the fireplace and Doug and I love snuggling in front of a blazing fire on a frosty evening, Softey curled up in his lap.

Simple dreams realized after a sometimes bumpy road. It has been more than 20 years since we built our cabin up here. A flash of time so fast. Retirement is a heartbeat away - mere weeks left.

Life is reality that can be built of dreams. I am living mine. Rock on!


A question asked over and over again - what is love? REAL love. But I do know the answer - from the bottom of a heart so happy. Love is watching a movie that I wanted to see and he doesn't say a word. Love is watching his wide smile soften as he falls asleep on the pillow next to me. Love is a gift of a fine pistol - then the ring! Love is quiet observation and then a second walker that is much lighter. Love is hurrying home from work to make a party for him. Love is cereal and milk and making sure there is leftover milk for our kitty to finish. Love is the steps we excitedly take together to build for our future that we are on the brink of discovering. Love is celebrating each others victories and support during the disappointments.. Love is two independent individuals that find growth in challenging each other to make each stronger.

Love is like all living things, it needs to be nurtured, plenty of attention and to know how much it is needed and appreciated. After decades of trying to figure it out, I now know it. I have it - real love.


Isn't it pretty? Even more beautiful because Doug picked it out, sized it and it means the world to me!
Isn't it pretty? Even more beautiful because Doug picked it out, sized it and it means the world to me!

Good Bye 2012 - the best ever!

I think this the first time - ever- I am sorry to see a year end. So many great thing happened and it is all setting the stage for 2013 ... which should be even better!

Christmas this year was the pinnacle. Without working so much overtime, I had a chance to decorate a bit more. bake a bit more and shop a tiny bit more. I was finally able to buy Doug nice presents and he thrilled me by giving me my "stuck" ring. I love it to pieces!!!!! Oh, and a 22 Smith and Wesson hand gun. Softey did her usual fuss over her Christmas present - a scratching post. She is soooo amazing!

But it was more than the presents and the Holiday bling, it was the way Doug looks at me, the pure joy in my heart! We will be in our fifth year together - and it astonishes us both how fast time has flown by! We are sooooo very HAPPY!

The weather looked just like Christmas weather should. We spend the day in our robes, went in and out of the hot tub a few times, watched Scrooged and had a really tasty ham dinner. Totally perfect!

Things look very good at the magazine. After covering the Convention, I finally got to meet Dino, Danielle and Megan. Really like them all a LOT. Talked to Dino on Friday and it looks like we will be picking up one or two more state association magazines!

Our home gets better and better and we are becoming more self sufficient all the time. I can't wait for retirement in 8 months so I can do more to make this the home even more comfy!

Well it looks like the bird train just pulled in and I need to get some seed out there.

Happiest of New Year's to all!

Sleep, baby, Sleep!

How is this for a ridiculous topic? I love my bed! Yup, always have and it just gets better.

It is old by mattress standards, almost 30 years! From the first night in it, this Verlo mattress was sooooo comfy. This was before the pillow top craze but there was just enough padding on top to make for a delightful "Aaaahhh" whenever I slipped under the covers.

In those days I was traveling a lot and it was always such a relief to come back to my own bed. For years I never found any bed that was as comfortable as mine. That was until I spent the night at a friend's home and slept on a memory foam topped bed.

I was haunted by the feel of the give and skushiness of that mattress. I thought it was time to start shopping for a new mattress. Given the state of the economy and personal finances, that was a dream that was best left in the clouds.

Then I remembered sleeping on a feather bed. Hmmm... time to hit Ahhhhhh! What a great idea! It was the perfect solution. Heavenly!

Once Doug moved in, the feather bed was even better as the weight was more evenly distributed and the fluffiness lasted longer. The addition of velvety soft flannel sheets was the crowning touch!

But there was one more problem. I had tossed my old electric blanket for safety's sake last year. The chilly weather set in early this year and getting into a chilly bed wasn't all that appealing. So it was back to bed improvement shopping. I found a cushy electric mattress pad that fit magnificently over the feather bed. This was even made better with the digital control with an automatic turn off time feature - as well as a preheat so the bed is toasty at crawl in time.

Good grief! It's a wonder I ever get out of bed at all! I suppose someday I will have to buy a new mattress and I will have another chapter to write about. Sweet dreams!

My Wood Nymph fountain

Hot Summer Days

Well the heat across the country has finally caught up with us. I am on vacation this week and temps have been in the 90s and heading to over 100 today - YUCK! The forecast has been all over the place so I guess we will just take it day by day. At least there are thunderstorms in the forecast and HOPEFULLY we will get them.

We had another early and SPECTACULAR spring that started the first of March. Doug started planting the second week of May and we only had a couple of freezing nights after that. He added more improvements and the "Garden of Eatin'" is truly a paradise. Man, am I going to be busy canning later this summer!

Countdown to early retirement continues and a little over 420 days to go! I am going to be VERY antsy once I hit the one year mark!

Kudos to Jenny's Hair Design - I finally found someone who gets how I want my hair done!

I have two more days of vacation left and I think its going to be sushi for lunch ( well, my version of it) and some nice chilled chardonnay. With the heat the way it is, I think I will be staying in the house. Yesterday it hit the mid-90s and we sat most comfortably in the hot tub almost all day, cooling the water temperature down by adding cold water. Man, it felt great! But Doug is off to work soon and I get bored out there by myself.

I should have been writing in this all vacation - it has been so long since I have taken the time to write - well, next year I will again find time to sit in front of the keyboard.

I did accomplish a project I have wanted to do for a couple of years and I am very happy with the outcome. Picture included!

Moving on ...

Aahhhhh - how sweet it is!


So here I am dropping in for a quick update - the keyboard on this puter doesn't work very well and it's really irritating for prolonged typing.Plus,I am VERY anxious to get out in the hot tub. Winter has been very slow to arrive and I LOVE it in the snow.

LIfe continues to be awesome - I have NEVER been this happy for this long and I am cherishing every minute. There are a few hurdles I want to overcome - unfortunately I can barely walk and I need to use a walker. Lousy knees ~ but Doug has been soooooo supportive and has helped me in so many ways!

I am counting down the days until early social security. Unfortunately my age seems to be a major stumbling block to get into the Creative Department at work, so I am going to liberate myself from the work world as soon as I can.

There is so much more so I will be back soon...


IT's SO good!

Happy TGIF! And I am off today! If anyone ever disgrees with the idea that time off doesn't repair the soul - they need to get a new life! I have arranged my vacation time and holidays this summer to maximize my days off and it has been a WONDERFUL summer! The good weather had a late start - we were so spoiled by last year's fabulous spring. But for the last 6 weeks the weather has been a perfect summer mix of sun, heat and rain. Doug's new project this year, building a terraced container garden, has been a consumate success and there are plans for expansion for this fall! I couldn't be prouder of him!

I went whole hog on planting flowers on the deck and things seem to be coming to a peak this week. Delicate pink lilies opened last weekend and the Gazinias couldn't be more spectacular! I also added some Latainia and the sweetest mini yellow Daisies.

But the best addition of all to the deck is the new hot tub. After Ric looked at the old one I realized I was going to be throwing good money after bad at it. In the meantime, my new bank had been calling me to do a re-fi on my house. The light went on - the perfect time to add a new hot tub!

After extensive research, I decided on a Nordic Impulse DP hot tub. I couldn't be more pleased. I truly wanted a deep tub with as few jets as possible that had an emphasis on energy efficiency. I also was able to buy i locally, a big bonus if something ever goes wrong. The price was right to boot! Needless to say, we grab every opportunity to luxuriate in our new piece of heaven. That was the longest eight months without having a tub! The best part is I am walking much better wih less pain.

Hope your summer has been a blast, too! Only 761 days until early SS! And it damn well better be there!

An albino fawn - isn't she pretty?
An albino fawn - isn't she pretty?
Female Pileated woodpecker
Female Pileated woodpecker
A Downy Woodpecker. We didn't know that this is a very rare sighted bird.
A Downy Woodpecker. We didn't know that this is a very rare sighted bird.

Spring startup 2011

How the heck did a whole year go by already? It just seems I NEVER have a 30 minute chunk of time to sit and write. If I do sit I fall asleep! How sad is that?

Every time I start to write what I have been up to is sounds like a whiney mess - so I am just going to skip it. I know we all are in hard places.

Despite it all, I have never been happier! Doug and I have been together for two years now and things are even better. I have learned a lot of new skills that have augmented our lives. Doug works very hard and has an amazing range of skills and knowledge. For poor people we are living pretty well!

The hot tub was shutdown all winter. Apparently, Steve AGAIN cobbled some repairs that have screwed up the thing. I had a guy who specialized in hot tub repair said it was irreparable and the filter needs replacing.

We have really been blessed with the critters that have visited us this winter. See for yourself. Pretty cool, huh? This place truly is heaven.

OK time for me to get back at it!

I am soooo lovin' this!
I am soooo lovin' this!


Can I say HECTIC? What a spring! I have been working overtime since the end of January and it hasn't left much time for writing. Today I am off and I am just taking it easy today. There have been a couple really big changes in my life, the biggest change is Doug moved in a couple of weeks ago. I think this is going to be really good for both of us. We are sensible, good people and really need lives that are happy ... and joyful.

Now the second change is my cabana for this year. It's my dream one and I am sooo thrilled! We have also transformed the deck into a container garden paradise. All I want to do is sit out there veg out! I am really hoping we have some time to do a bunch of fun entertaining out there this summer.

I was right on target about the early spring. It has been FABULOUS! We only had one snow event since everything melted in March and we missed it coming back from the Fineran/Fickel wedding the first weekend of May. We have just started getting some BADLY needed rain this month and it looks like this weekend will continue to be wet. Doug and I both work so we are like - WHO CARES? Let it rain! HAHAHHAHAHAHA!

I am hoping to be able to start up a cruise biz again, having met a very nice woman who is anxious to have me on board ( so to speak). All I need is a few spare 10 hours or so and I can get it up and running.

OK I am going to get busy here again. I HOPE I can get this Hub thing going again.

Hope you are all happy and finding your own JOY!

This is how we spent Christmas - and New Years after midnight for that matter - Hot tub and champagne (OK, sparkling wine)- it just does't get any better!
This is how we spent Christmas - and New Years after midnight for that matter - Hot tub and champagne (OK, sparkling wine)- it just does't get any better!
OK well we aren't this thawed yet - but it's not far off!
OK well we aren't this thawed yet - but it's not far off!

Lubbin hot tubbin

For some reason the tags on my Hub page keep saying "hot tub" so i guess that will be my topic today. If you have ever had a hankerin to buy a hot tub, all I can say is  DO IT! They are a breeze to maintain ( at least both of mine have been) and not expensive to run.

My ex husband and I started talking about hot tubs from the first time we met. I had recently moved from the San Francisco area where I had made my first encounters with hot tubs in the late 70s when they roared into popularity.

Sorry, I don't have any racey stories about my experience in them out there - just good friends who liked to share a relaxing evening. Vern and Patti had the original old wine vat tub, while Don and Pam had the inground fiberglass type.

While I preferred the wooden variety, for sanitation sake, we went with the fiberglass tub. We purchased the 500 gallon tub for an inground installation. After cutting through a concrete wall, we installed the tub outside the swing patio door, only a couple of steps from the inside.

At that time there were no remote thermostats and to adjust the heat on the tub, Steve would have to drop into the skuttle hole and adjust it on the pump. Yucko.

Our second tub came about 9 years later when we built our cabin up north. We opted for a 350 gallon tub with the filter in the tub and a remote thermostat. Much more convenient. This tub heated twice as fast as the larger one, very desirable for our winter use in the frigid up north climate.

When we moved our primary residence up north, we installed the larger tub at the new house. We eventually rented out the cabin and moved the hot tub to the back yard. When we divorced, he wanted the larger tub - he never liked the smaller one because it had a light in it. Go figure.

I can honestly say, I still get the same charge out of getting into the tub today as I did for the first time 27 years ago. The key to easy maintenance is to start with soft water. With that, all ya need is a jug of bleach and you are good to go! I drain mine about once every couple of weeks in the summer with a pump. During the winter about 2 or 3 times depending upon when the temps go above freezing.

In the spring and late summer, after the tub is drained I suck out every bit of water and give it a good scrubbing. I also wash out the filter at that time. That's about all there is to keeping the tub going year 'round.

In addition to the regular hot tub cover, I also use a thermal blanket of blue bubble tarp. It really helps hold the heat in!

It has been a real godsend during this economic melt down. Neither Doug nor I have the spare funds to go out. But we sooooo look forward to heading to the tub whenever we can. Then cuddling up in front of the fire afterward - what more could you ask for?

Yesterday I spent the entire day out on my deck. I spent some of it chopping away at the remaining frozen snow and ice. I set up a comfy chair, my outdoor dining table and an umbrella so I could set up the TV and hook it up to the satellite while I watched TV from the hot tub.

Yeah, poverty sucks - good thing I was set up for it ahead of time!  HAHAHHAHAHA!

This GORGEOUS weather continues and it getting better every day. I better go clean up the kitchen so I can get back out there today!

Enjoy a WONDERFUL  pre-spring day!

Is spring springing?

The signs are there - snow is melting - a week with temps above 32 and into the 40s well into the following week. We were EXTREMELY lucky to have a very moderate winter and all along I said it looked like an early spring. This ROCKS!

Even further proof of the demise of winter is a week from this weekend is DAYLIGHT SAVINGS time. Yeah the politicos played with the calendar again a couple of years ago and shoved this forward. I am SOOOO glad I don't start work until 12:30 p.m. This time shift and I don't do well. I HATE losing an hour of sleep! (laughs)

This is a real win-win situation. If the weather had stayed wintry I'd be snowmobiling. Warm weather - gearing up for spring. What a deal!

Also a spring thing - my publisher called with a last minute assignment. Fortunately, it was with one of my favorite tourism businesses and we were able to get it done quickly. I have been writing for "Fun in Wisconsin" magazine for several years. The magazine is a tourism publication showcasing accommodations, restaurants and businesses - all part of the second biggest industry in Wisconsin. (Government is first - gee - what a surprise.)

This weekend is an open book. Doug works all weekend and I think I am just going to take things as they come. Looks like it may be a good weekend to get some grilling. Things are going to be pretty quiet with the deterioration of trail conditions. As much as businesses really need the traffic - its always nice to come into this season on the quiet side. Kind of like we residents get our Northwoods back. But then again, lots of places shut down so there are limited choices on what is open. Like I go out anyway! HAHAHAHAHA!

I need to get into the kitchen and finish spiffing it up.

Have a great day - only one more day till the weekend!

The weekend

Isn't the weekend lovely? You may still have a zillion things to do, but its YOUR choice to do them or not. I just love that.

First on the list this weekend was to straighten up my messy house. When I work a weekend - especially when there is also overtime, this place kind of goes to hell. Now that I am snowmobiling for a short while, even less time to purty up my fav place in the world.

So much for excuses. I did go snowmobiling yesterday. It was a warm day for that , but the trails were very rideable as long as you stayed off the roads. I doubt I will take another long ride until (or if) we get a good dumping. I paid good money to get this baby going again and I'm not going to mess it up.

After I got home from my ride to get soup at Murmuring Waters ( bean and ham -YUM! - Rick makes the BEST soups - except for the cheese soup at Golden Pines) I finished tidying up the kitchen, opened a bottle of wine and headed for the jacuzzi. A delicious glass of cabernet and the warm jets of the bathtub had me snoozing. Nothing like a short nap in bubbling water. My arthritic knees loved it!

Then back to the kitchen to make some penne and tomatoes with lots of onions, Italian seasonings and fresh romano cheese.

By the time I finished Doug came online after a long day at work. The warm fire and the outdoor air and the Jacuzzi were way too relaxing and I fell asleep on him a couple of times. OOOPS

Today is cook for the week day. Have a large pot of stew going as well as some venison in the slowcooker to make shredded meat for tacos and BBQ.

Best part of today, Doug is coming over after work and I am making Chinese. Have had SUCH a craving for it. Plus I promised to make him some caramel nut dreams - one of my Christmas cookie recipes. So good! I want to hook up the TV outside so we can watch the end of the Olympics in the hot tub.

Oh yeah, weekends are the BOMB! Then six weeks until vacation. So who is counting.

Hope you are enjoying your Sunday!

It was an incredibly beautiful morning - glistening diamonds were spilled all over the woods.
It was an incredibly beautiful morning - glistening diamonds were spilled all over the woods.
Lynn and I made an ordinary day extraordinary on our breakfast ride this morning
Lynn and I made an ordinary day extraordinary on our breakfast ride this morning

St. Germain magic

One of the best things and a major factor in selecting St. Germain for my home, is the ability to ride a snowmobile anywhere in town. My girlfriend, Lynne, and I set our alarm clocks early this morning for a short snowmobile ride and to have breakfast before I had to work.

Yes. it was a cold morning, but the strengthening sun was in full force as we headed out for an incredibly beautiful ride. We were the only snowmobiles on the trails as we glided down the ever-familiar trails. The rays of the sun illuminated the frost that kissed the woods with a glistening spray of diamonds making for a dazzling landscape.

This is why I fell in love with snowmobiling. Its not the speed or the power, its the ability to explore nature up close and personal at a time of year that holds incredible beauty. As I started out to meet Lynne, a parade of deer scrabbled across the road in front of my sled, the youngest pushing itself to the limit to catch up with its elders. They had probably just left the corn scattered in my yard and were moving on to the next feeding station.

My trusty sled, with almost 12,000 miles to its credit, and I have shared many spectacular moments. Nestled in the duct tape wrapped seat, its as comfortable to me as my favorite slippers.

Yes, I am very blessed and continue to count all the ways living here has made my life so rich.

Happy Thursday! And Happy Birthday, Dad and Tom!

I'm Back in Black Again!

It finally happened! This past Monday after a grueling weekend of work and overtime, I jumped on my newly-spruced up snowmobile and spent the day cruising the woods in St. Germain. What a feeling!

I realized how much of me had been missing these past few years. I had pushed down my love of the sport and my favorite season because I was unable to participate. All the old feelings flooded back and I was surfing a tide of pure delight as I skimmed along the smooth trails drinking in the familiar scenery I missed so much.

The BEST part of snowmobiling always has been the people you meet and befriend. Monday was almost overwhelming with the welcomes I got from people I had not seen in a few years. When I was writing for the magazine it was not uncommon at all for me to ride alone. As a safety instructor this is seen as a poor decision. But with my work schedule, few people can ride when I can so I made the ride short and kept the speed low to be extra safe.

From the bottom of my heart I thank Don and Dwayne for making it possible for me to get out on the trails again. Thursday morning before work I am meeting up with Lynne, Dwayne's girlfriend, and riding for breakfast. And I am SURE I will log a few more miles this weekend, too!

One last side note before I end today's entry. I had a TERRFYING experience last week I don't think will ever take lightly. I went out to add some chlorine to the hot tub right before I went to bed. I leaned over to check the thermostat and lost my footing and cartwheeled into the tub - fleecy robe and slippers and all. THEN, the lid flopped over, trapping me underwater! It took me a bit to gain some footing so I could push up on the cover and when I did - it wouldn't budge. YIPES! I had been holding my breath for some time at this point and it flashed across my mind there was a very real possibility I might drown.

My scuba diving training kicked in and I knew that panicking was what caused most drownings. I repositioned my self to the end of the tub where I fell in and gave one last heave as my air got preciously short. I exploded to the surface and did that huge Hollywood-esque gasp for air.

I am sure that if this event had been observed it would have been hysterical. Hot tub eats woman. I called Doug as soon as I got into the house and stripped off the heavy soaked robe and all and wrapped up in a towel. I was in a little shock. The one thing that had been a real life saver (literally) was that the water was not cold. At least I didn't think it was. After I crawled under the covers I couldn't stop shivering. Funny how the body can trick itself into a survival mode.

Just think - something I had done literally THOUSANDS of times, in a split second, turned into a life and death situation. I am working on my will this coming weekend - FOR SURE!

OK time to get on with the day! Have a good one all!

I was up a few sleds from this shot but this is what we all saw crouched down on the other side of our sleds.
I was up a few sleds from this shot but this is what we all saw crouched down on the other side of our sleds.
Wyoming 2002. I am on the far left sitting on my ole trusty snowmobile.
Wyoming 2002. I am on the far left sitting on my ole trusty snowmobile.

Good News!

Yes! Dwayne picked up my snowmobile yesterday! Looks like I will be riding before long ... bring it on!

Fingers crossed

There has been an element of my life that I have not yet discussed here. Something that played a very major role for more two decades that for the last two years I have had to set aside.

A very good friend of mine dropped by yesterday to show me his new 2010 snowmobile. It was at the very least to say, a stunning piece of equipment. A highly styled design, it almost resembled a rocket ship. As he showed me its many amazing features, I looked at my beloved sled buried in snow at the end of the driveway.

Snowmobiling is one of the casualities of my current financial condition and I miss it soooooo much. I have always loved winter and once I was introduced to this delightful sport I ached for winter to come and mourned its end.

Not only did my snowmobile transport me to breathtaking places I never could have seen without it, it also was the cornerstone of my social life. I met literally hundreds of fabulous people who with whom I shared the love of this sport. People who deeply cared about making this sport fun and safe for the hundreds of thousands of people who ride the trails in this state and the millions across this country.

Let me tell you, you will never forget the tightness in your chest as you are crouched down next to you snowmobile when a massive buffalo bull lumbers within a few feet of you. Then there was the magical moment when an eagle swooped down out of the trees and flew in front of my snowmobile - so close that I could have reached up and touched him. I saw every outline of his feathered frame and the flesh-colored feet.

For fifteen years and the last five of which I made my living from, I wrote for Wisconsin Snowmobile News, the official publication of the Association of Wisconsin Snowmobile Clubs, an organization 32,000 families strong. Comprised of 600 clubs across the state and thousands of volunteers, a network of 27,000 miles of snowmobile program funded trails was grown mile by mile. It's a terrific organization and for 25 years I was very active in it.

I do miss it a lot and hopefully someday I will rejoin the active ranks. But for now, I have an immediate need I have to fill. While Don was schooling me on his snowmobile, he urged me to join he and his girlfriend on a ride. I told him to turn around and see my buried sled. I explained that it was going to cost me a few hundred dollars to get it running again, something that there was no room for in my already stretched budget.

I did tell him that a friend had offered to fix it for me if I could get it unburied. Without hesitation Don went for the shovel while I started the car and brought out the snatch strap. A few minutes later my frozen chunk of fun stood in my driveway. Don, a skilled mechanic, also offered to get it running if my other friend was unable to get to it.

So, by hook or crook, I may be riding my sled within the week. Even more motivation to do so, Doug said he would like to ride this winter - I am sooooooooooooo ready. Especially after today. It was one of those magnificent days. The strengthening sun in a deep blue sky set off by brilliant white snow was the perfect day to ride. Talk about inspiration!

Hopefully, I will have further updates on this story in the VERY near future. This will be one way to make the end of winter come soon and get on with a very welcome spring. Oh do I have plans for that!

Happy Valentines Day!

Early morning

This is not my usual get up time. I decided to get up at 3:45 AM, sick of tossing and turning in bed. I went to the kitchen and finished up my tidying from the day before and then decided to catch up on online correspondence. It's now 5:15 AM and I am hoping to catch a couple of hours more sleep so I don't fall asleep on the phone at work today. Not cool.

As usual, my thoughts were couched in money matters and I am sure that was the catalyst to my wakefullness. But I also think it's part of my age thing. It doesn't happen too often and my poor kitty must think I am nuts to wander around in my chilly, predawn home. She tries, in vain to cuddle in and sleep and I just keep moving around.

Hey, what did ya think of the Super Bowl? The game was SUPER, especially the second half and I was delighted for the Saints. I think that is one of the best Super Bowl games I have ever watched.

The downside was I THOUGHT I recorded it and much to my dismay, when I tried to play it back yesterday, all I had was a blank tape. I DID a trial recording to make sure everything was hooked up right and played it back - all was A-OK. But I must have screwed something up when I went to record the game. :( Not good - wanted Doug to be able the first half he missed while working,

Of course, I wanted The Who's performance, too. Once again, I am amazed by the energy of my co-mid lifers who keep the rock scene vibrant and alive. I thought Roger and Pete did a great job of rocking us back to when these songs were just released. Great times and memories. Loved the half time show. Hope I can find a decent version of it - You Tube's sound quality sucks.

Well, I think I am going to grab a cup of brew and try to catch a few zzzzzs. Have a great day!

Picture time

I sent some pictures to work today for an employee pet blog and thought my entry today would consist of these pics - the pictures are of Softey (with the black bow on top of her head) and a couple of Crystal (the bigger kitty). Enjoy!

Crystal and Softey
Crystal and Softey
Softey loves to keep me company in the bathtub - she was about 9 months old here
Softey loves to keep me company in the bathtub - she was about 9 months old here
Deer meets Softey - or is it vice versa?
Deer meets Softey - or is it vice versa?
Softey and her fav toy from Christmas 2008
Softey and her fav toy from Christmas 2008
Crystal and Softey played together all the time
Crystal and Softey played together all the time

A decade of learning

I drove past the old social security office in Rhinelander yesterday - which moved into NEW government digs ( I thought the social security program was going bust) and I thought back to 10 years earlier when I made a bee line to this office. It was the first stop I made after my divorce hearing so i could get my maiden name back on my SS card. This past Monday marked a decade that I started life over - again.

For the most part it has been very hard. The mild winters back then cost me the job I was relying on to make my living and the downhill slide of the economy forced me to take jobs that either I would have never considered taking or grabbing something just to have an income.

Despite everything, I consider myself to be VERY lucky. I am in the home I designed an built and love dearly. I live in the loveliest town in the world surrounded by some of the nicest people I have ever met. I have made many friends from diverse backgrounds and areas that have allowed me to continue to grow.

I think to back then how scared I was - the plans for my future were in shambles. I knew I had to take it one day at a time and being the survivor I was - I was sure things would be fine in no time. I was a little bit overly optimistic - I overlooked the fact I was in my late 40s and not my mid 20s.

Thank heavens I did. This past 10 years I think I have grown up, finally. I have made some heart- wrenching mistakes that led me to take a realistic look at life. It took me a long time to get over seeing myself as the victim and make the conscious decision to make the most out of the blessings I did have. That was the smartest decision of them all.

As a result and with a load of tenacity, my life is getting to where I really want it to be. Life has true joy and even the littlest things make me burst with happiness. Its a really good feeling.

One thing that rings in my memory of my Dad, were his parting words when ever we were together. Be happy - and he would say it with all his heart. He said that was something his mother said. Its all that really matters, isn't it? Fancy words, fancy presents, fancy lifestyles don't mean a thing on their own.

So Dad, you were ever so right and thank you for helping me find my ultimate goal - I am a very happy person.

Love you all!

Ain't it so?
Ain't it so?

Uh ohhhhhh!

I'm not sure why I was poking around back there, but I found a hole in one of my molars last night. I KNOW I need to get it fixed, but I am not sure how to go about it. Once upon a time the knee jerk reaction would be to call the dentist first thing Monday morning. That was in the "good old days."

The last time I had a dental situtation it ended up costing me $1000, a lawsuit, most of my jewelry and a bladder infection I battled for 3 years. Such is the life of people in the US these days without health/dental insurance. Oh, and I lost the tooth anyway because it was a poorly done job.

I knew one of these days I would write a soapbox blog. Believe me, these are only MY opinions and I don't want to preach. This is more an outlet because the frustration level is so high and there is NO solution in sight.

Even right out of college with a starting wage based on no experience, the basic needs of life were woven into our value system. No, not everyone was protected by this far reaching umbrella. But,if you got an education, landed a job, and worked hard, items like health care, heat, food and a decent home were part of the natural order of life in the USA.

I almost puked when I heard Conan got $45 million dollars for getting out of his contract with NBC. I am livid at the press focusing on Haiti. I do feel bad for those poor people. But we have a fiscal disaster right here in this country that is just festering and growing worse every day.

No doubt, now that the media has gotten into bed with big business and the corrupt money- grubbing nay-sayers in DC, we will never hear how horiffic life is becoming for the majority of US population. We heard for decades the middle class was disappearing. It's all but gone now. Perhaps wages may have escalated, but now there are so many possisbilites for a total wipeout of one's assets and no way to lock in a way to protect them.

I am laughing a little here. Yes, this all started because I found a cavity. So now what I am going to do is try to find a reputable dentist, call and find out how much its going to cost to fix it and start a savings fund to pay for it. I am thinking it will take about 3 months to save enough.

The recessesion is over. Bullshit!

Softey and her Christmas present
Softey and her Christmas present
Holy Moly - venison on the hoof!
Holy Moly - venison on the hoof!

Rockin' Kitty

I doubt if there is a pet owner out there that doesn't think they own the most special animal in the world. I am not sure how special my Lil Softey is, but she enriches my life in so many ways.

I was lucky enough to bring home this ultra petite kitten when she was 11 weeks old. A friend of mine introduced her as her soon-to-be new family member. As luck would have it, this woman's landlord put the kabosh on that plan. So I asked the woman who raised this little ball of white fluff if I might be her new mommy.

Stacy said yes and within two days I made the three hour plus drive to retrieve her. As I met Stacy online, I thought I'd use my chat nom de plume for my newest family member. As it turned out, Lil Sofety was the perfect choice.

At 11 weeks she should have lost a lot of her new kitten look, but she was the size of four-week- old. I reluctantly put her in the cat carrier and she fussed as wee ones do when confined. I put on some soothing nature music and it didn't calm her at all. So I went back to some good ole classic rock and she drifted off for the next two hours plus of the trip. A rockin' kitty - right on!

The motivating force behind my acquisition was to find companionship for my stunningly handsome Angora cat. Crystal ( yes, and he was a HE cat - another story - another day) immediately found just what he needed when he caught his first glimpse of the tiny creature I dropped at his feet.

She lost no time in letting him know, despite her demur size, she wasn't going to let anyone push her around. There was no transistion period - they bonded immediately, much to my delight. She was a true cuddler and it was clearly evident no day would ever be dull without this jokester around.

It has been more than three years since I was blessed with her arrival. Sadly, we lost Crystal to a tragic accident a couple of years ago. After a couple of weeks, Softey adjusted to her status as the single feline resident. To fill the void, she claims ownership of humans who capture her fancy.

She is selective - for some reason that to this day still eludes me, there is only one person that she truly disliked. But for the most part, she is a very social creature who is sure that people arrive here solely for her entertainment. She is friendly and affectionate to almost all my friends and becomes an equal participant at each party.

She and Doug have grown their own relationship. She follows him around like a puppy and loves to curl up in his blanketed lap when we watch TV. She truly is unhappy when he leaves after a short visit. Christmas morning was a total treat - she went from present to present and dove into the wrapping paper - it was like having a kid here! Her favorite toy was Ricky Rodent - a cat nip stuffed toy she loves to drag and toss.

I was gone for a few days this week due to my work schedule and a party. Since arriving home, she has been my little white shadow for the past couple of days. It's so endearing to see her ice blue eyes looking so intently at me - it gives me a warm glow to think I mean so much to this beautiful, enchanting creature.

So she was my muse this morning as she used her paws to dig my hands out of the covers to play with her. She always seems to come up with something new to catch my attention. And I love it!

So I wanted to introduce you to my Lil Softey- my deer stalking, door-opening, sink-drinking, endless-source-of-laughter kitty cat. I am so lucky she decided to let me be her mom!

A manic Monday -

And believe me - it was a GREAT one! I "kidnapped" Doug on my way home from work Sunday night and for once Monday was a day we didn't have to do anything. Somehow one thing led to another and it was a fabulous day to investigate new ideas for his business as I shopped for items I needed. Doug made me a walking stick for Christmas and it was the subject d'jour at the grocery check out line. It's a gorgeous piece of artwork that he crafted out of an oak from my land. It truly is a treasure.

We ran into some of my old friends and that was pretty great. Then we went into some store neither one of us had been in before and came up with an inspiration for my great room - it will be an ongoing project and more details on that later.

Once back at home, we opted to try to break our previous hot tub endurance record and made a good run at it.

All in all, it felt like a vacation rather than a plain old Monday. This morning was equally delightful and I was reluctant to return my "prisoner" and head to work. The lyrics to this particular song, (thanks to Doug's editorializing ) - " I don't wanna work, I just wanna bang on de drum all day", or a version thereof, kept popping into my head - hehehehe!

Life is so good! ... nite!

We also have a huge aquarium dept at Drs Foster and Smith. I met this lil fella on a tour during training.
We also have a huge aquarium dept at Drs Foster and Smith. I met this lil fella on a tour during training.

Post Holiday January

Me and my wild dreams. Don't get too excited - i keep the really "good" ones to myself. I dreamt that I was in Iraq (of all places) and wasn't too happy about it. But then I met a bunch of really nice merchants and realized how much I genuinely liked this country. Pretty bizarre - no, i haven't been there and have no plans EVER to go - still its kind of interesting I came away with a pleasant experience. Must be a result of all the traveling I have done.

We are still enjoying a relatively mild winter. Tomorrow night we are supposed to dip below zero and fortunately I'll be all wrapped up in my honey's arms so I'll be all toasty warm. I am working this weekend and Sunday will be a 12 hour day so I am staying at Doug's so I can get up in daylight hours for work.

One word for those of you traveling up north, don't worry - we still have plenty of Holiday reminents so you can enjoy a real holiday feeling up here. It usually lasts through most of January. I tell you, it is soooo hard watching my sports counterparts slip along the trails - my sled is still down and I am seriously contemplating selling some jewelry to get it going again. I miss visiting all my winter stops - then again - there is no money for that either. Time will tell ...

We are busy as hell at work - no one knows exactly why but we are loving the job security such activity brings. For those of you who don't know - I am working at Drs. Foster and Smith - a pet supply mail order business. We stock an amazing 16,000+ items for all varieties of household pets. Visit our website ( for a gander of every imaginable toy, food, clothing and SOOOOO much more. This company was started by two veterinarians up here in the great north and has grown to be the largest mail order pet supply business in the country.

OK, I do work today so I better get going. Hope your day is SPLENDIFORUS!

Back to work

Sighs - back to work today. It was such a great break - having two four-day weekends in a row. It really let me get into the Holiday spirit. At least I have my mornings so it's not a rude awakening.

I have been diligently trying to pare back my monthly expenses. One of the things I have been working on is TV programming. I know that is pretty trivial - but when you spend as much time at home like I do - it's a pretty important connect.

If you are looking to do the same I'll tell you what I am doing. I did cut back my DISH subscription to the basic of $19.99. Then I am getting a $3 a month discount for an overpayment I made on my last subscription. PLUS I called and complained about what a lousy package I now have ( LOADS of infomercials and home shopping) and wanted the deal new customers are getting. The guy then offered me $10 off for the next 5 months. There are about 5 channels I do watch on DISH so I thought it was a pretty decent deal now - $8 a month.

Then to fill the entertainment void I have turned to my laptop - hooked up to my TV. I was on the $4.99 a month Netflix and bumped it up to the $8.99 to get unlimited online viewing. Then there is Hulu - a great free site for finding old favorite TV series. I am delighted to be watching Coach, The Bob Newhart Show, Mary Tyler Moore and soooooooo many more. The hookup is a snap and I even have it hooked up to my surround sound.

For those not up here, we are enjoying a fairly decent winter up here so far. Plenty of snow on the ground and not on the highways. Temps continue to be on the moderate side up here - very liveable!  Thank HEAVENS!

Ok time to get somethings done around here before work. Have a great day!

Sunday morning

Well since my entry yesterday I managed to give my Christmas tree a hip shot - and you guessed it - down she went. Only lost 3 ornaments - none that broke my heart. That is a little bit of a miracle considering most of them are found treasures from vacations, gifts or rememberances of a past time.

So I am going to take advantage of the accidental deflowering and get it out on the deck where it will serve as a food station for the birds and the ever-ravenous squirrels. A flock of finches found me a couple of weeks ago so the strain on the bird food budget is on - I actually backed off a couple of days hoping to discourage them - the chickadees always come back and they are my fav.

We were supposed to get bitterly cold last night but the clouds rolled in and saved us - was 5 above this morning instead of the -15 that was predicted. This winter has been a lot more liveable than the last two when we had week after week of below zero nights and bitter days.

Despite the warmer temps, when I went to turn up my hot tub NYE, there was a very thin layer of ice floating on the top. YIPES! I went to the heating/pump unit which blew a breaker after I turned up the heat on the remote thermostat. I upped the temperature on the unit's thermostat and got it going again. By the time I got upstairs the water was circulating again and (another miracle) it was OK. Doug came over early to make sure it was still running and all the water hadn't leaked out. It was fine and about lukewarm when I called him while I was on break.

Needless to say we enjoyed our post midnight dip even more knowing it could have not happened at all. I insulated the heater area FULLY yesterday and all should be well. I have had a hot tub for 27 years and this is the first time I almost had a freeze up.

I am off today and tomorrow then will work six days in a row. It's great to have some wind down time and will spend a chunk of it today cleaning. I also want to pick up a S video cable - I have discovered Netflix and Hulu have some pretty decent instant feed programing where you can hook up your laptop to your TV. Its pretty awesome.I also can hook it into my Bose surround sound so its a great deal! I disconnected a few cables to try it out and it works GREAT.

So I think I am going to get a move on. Hope the glow of the Holidays is still with you - it sure is here!

Fa la la la la la la lala

The Merriest of All

This time of the year I usually am a little sad. But this year I am just danged pleased. It was a WONDERFUL Christmas season. So many of the things I have dreamt that my perfect Christmas would be, actually came true this year.

So that is why I have been so absent from writing. Working a lot and trying to get ready for the Season doing the things I love to do ate up every precious second. It was worth all the effort.

I have always been the type to have lofty expectations for the holidays. For the most part, the reality fell far short. This year, it was all right on the money.

The weather was perfect. Not too cold and the snow made for a brilliantly white Christmas. I took a vacation day for Christmas Eve when I realized I'd make more money taking vacation than actually working that day.

Doug arrived that evening and we dined on my traditional chili and champagne - we took the balance of the champagne and spent the rest of the evening in the hot tub.

Christmas Day was a hoot - Softey, my delightful kitty, was like a kid that morning - playing with the gifts that Doug and I gave her - she was into everything! Too funny! We watched TV, I made a delicious ham dinner and more hot tub time. It was ultimately relaxing. I loved every moment of it.

New Years, too, was all I could have ever wanted - I have never been happier. Maybe I was a bit selfish - Doug was sooooo accomodating and kept a glistening smile plastered on my face the whole time. I am so lucky!

We are both Virgos and the outlook for 2010 looks very promising! I am just very content with how 2009 ended - it sure was a shakey start! I am so looking forward to making this year as happy as this past one turned out to be!

Pass it on

Man - do I have a buncha stuff to do today! One day off and then I work the next seven - only one day with overtime so it won't be too rough.

I was cleaning my bathtub this morning (how's that for inspiration?) and was using a cleaner I purchased from a deeply discounted grocery store. Not earth shaking - but I looked at that bottle and it reminded me how far we have slid as a country and our standard of living for the VAST majority.

This cleaner only cost me a buck - but I had to wait three weeks to afford to buy it. It was a non-name brand and unlike the product I used to buy, I really needed a lot more effort to clean the tub. Ten years ago I would have never thought about how glad I was to finally have a cleaner to do the job - I would have had exactly the right product to do the job right. I wondered as I bent over and scrubbed and rinsed and scrubbed more if I was killing germs or just spreading them around with this product.

I was thinking about the other things that used to be a part of a "normal" life. The open enrollment for health insurance (which is way out of my reach) is the end of this month - talk about a luxury item! My tongue fell to the gap in my lower jaw created by a tooth that fell apart due to a bad piece of dentistry. That gap is going to be there for a LONG time.

I left my bathroom cleaning activities and went into the great room to turn up the thermostat from 54 degrees to a luxurious 62 - thank heavens for the drop in natural gas prices. I went to make coffee, using part of yesterday's grounds and the little remaining fresh ground beans I had left.

I jiggled the handle on my 13-year-old faucet ( that was never really installed correctly) hoping to get another day out of it as I battled the increasing drip. The sprayer (also part of the bad installation) was only half force and I let it snap back into place. I cleaned out the sink where the broken disposal ( for the last 9 months) was and wondered when I would ever have full use of this sink again.

I went to the bathroom and sat on my new toilet seat I had put on a couple of days before. The old one had snapped off and I had to dip into money set aside for the utility bill to pay for the $10 item.

I mentally reviewed my latest paycheck that had my new raise, weekend differential and overtime pay. Even with all the extras it was still less than I was making 5 years ago and FAR less than I was making 30 years ago. With any luck I will be on the overtime team at work and be able to squeeze a little more income into my checks.

Yeah - I know I said I was more a half-full person, so here is the other half. Last night as I drove towards the private road that I live on I held my breath. Would it be plowed - if not - would my bad tires be able to plow through the snow to my driveway?

I heaved a sigh of relief when I saw the mound of snow on the road and the wide, plowed road I turned onto. Then the next question - would there be a pile of snow blocking my driveway entrance that I could bust through? I blinked several times when not only was there no snow pile - the driveway was actually PLOWED.

I could only guess as to who did all of this work. Bottom line - it was done and it saved me a lot of time and pain. It also left me with a HUGE smile wondering who the good samaritan was that reminded me, that, despite hard times and disappointments, there ARE good people out there. If we help one another we CAN lick this. Maybe life will never be as easy as it was - but maybe we will rediscover the value of what is really important.

And I will "pass it on". OK, back to cleaning the kitchen ...


Last night we headed out to enjoy a rare opportunity to dine at one of the local restaurants. I selected The Golden Pines not only for the superb quality of their food, but the classic Northwoods atmosphere that has never grown old with me.

It was a pretty gloomy evening, a heavy, damp mist hung in the thick air after a dark, chilly day. We decided on an early start, and arrived in a fairly empty parking lot. This was Doug's first visit to this establishment and I knew he would love it.

We settled at a table set back from the gas fireplace and soon old friends began arriving. I introduced Doug - in the several months we have been dating fiscal limitations kept most of our socializing at home.

As we purused the menu we talked about the various local options that we could have chosen. I have always been highly impressed with the variety and food quality at Golden Pines and the last couple of meals had been especially stellar.

I knew the pan seared Ahi tuna with wasabi dipping sauce would be the center of my meal. Doug was drawn to the Thursday special German menu. He selected the braised pork shank. For his sides he selected hot germain potato salad and the cheese and potato soup - which I pounced on immediately. A salad liberally laced with plently of bleu cheese rounded out my evening meal.

OH YUM! The soup was one of the silkiest conncotions ever to find its way into my mouth.The soup was almost the consistency of a delicious cheese sauce. Perfectly cooked potato chunks were appointed with a generous amount of chopped, smokey bacon. it was utterly delicious.

Then came the seared tuna and exquisite dipping sauce. My mouth danced as the individual flavors exploded in my mouth. The anticipation was exceeded by melt-in-your-mouth delicate texture of the rare fish. The cool, crunchy salad loaded with plenty of blue cheese was the perfect accompaniment to the tuna. Top it off with a glass of Cabernet Sauvignon - I go with my palate and not the wine "rules", it was another memorable dining experience.

Doug was equally pleased with his German fare and opted to view the desert tray. My weakness for over-the-top chocolate desserts caved in my resolve to resist and he picked out the Key Lime pie. As light and refreshing his pie was - mine was a decadently rich mind-blowing chocolate celebration.

In a small town whose sole industry is tourism, St Germain is rich in excellent dining establishments. I have been friends for years with owner Sharon Piske who is now managing the restaurant solo. Long time business partner, Chuck Barthel, passed away this past August. The duo took over the restaurant in 1995 making structural and menu improvements - elevating this to what I feel is the finest place in the area.

A note to oenophiles - Golden Pines features a respectable selection of varietals and vintages at prices well in line with the menu - a bit of a rarity up here. And the wine is served in generous stem ware - something I haven't seen since I left California.


A tip of the hat to little things and big memories

I was on my way to work yesterday - a long drive and plenty of think time. Doug had come to stay for a couple of days and my thoughts turned to the hat he had been wearing earlier in the month. It had been his dad's and it was pretty evident by the glow in his eyes that this was an item he treasured.

I thought about the Cossack hat in my closet that, for a short time, had been owned by my father. I had given it to him after I had returned from my dream cruise to Russia in the mid 90s. I had purchased it on the dock at a vendor's booth in St. Petersburg. It was a used hat - and that made it all the more precious to me. With perestroika in the very recent past, the opportunity to garner a relic of a once-feared comrade ranked very high on my short list of purchases in this magnificent country.

It was with a great deal of pride and love I gave this warm hat to my dad - a tall and very handsome man that made the most of any hat. Sadly, my mom gave the hat back to me when Dad died a few years later. Now the history of this hat had been enriched with another life.

I perched the fleecy prize on the shelf of my closet where I would see it every day. Eventually, I decided I wanted to make a gift of it again, giving it to the man I was dating at the time. Blinded by the love gods - I shrugged off his rejection of the gift. Had I been more savvy about the relationship, I would have seen he was not being kind and wanting me to retain a piece of my father, rather, it was his rejection of a close relationship.

So the hat again returned to the shelf in the closet, now buried by the clothes hanging over it.

It's just a hat, a well-constructed piece of military clothing. But who knows what that hat saw before it came into my possession? Was it on the head of a soldier during the Russian-Afghanistan conflicts? Or perhaps hung on a nail in a lovely dacha as its owner worked up a healthy sweat in the toasty sauna.

For me it had been a gift to two men I loved and lost - and now a cherished keepsake - a reminder of a magical voyage of immense palaces - a royal ball, and an endearing band leader who spied me on the veranda of my cabin suite and made a sweeping bow. The hammer and sickle that once upon a time embodied evil and fear, is now just an icon of another era.

My hat will now reoccupy its visible spot in the closet and will remain there until perhaps on a frigid day when I don the hat and create yet another chapter in its so very colorful history. And now when I see Doug in his dad's hat as he heads out in fast-approaching gun hunt deer season, it will remind me I, too, have a link to my father - the strong, kind man that I loved and respected.

The richest moments come in the smallest things you hold

Isn't he lovely? That's a five-week old cub I am cradling
Isn't he lovely? That's a five-week old cub I am cradling


Well, doesn't this look like a great idea! I have been a journalist and feature writer for several publications over the past 25 years. While I have always enjoyed the challenge, the creative environment was frequently deconstructed - such is the world of print publishing.

When I was given the list of topics to choose from I realized I really couldn't select one - after accumulating a vastly rich and varied lifetime of extraordinary experiences - I wanted this to be a venue of the how passionately one can live life and the never ending choices we all have.

Yeah, there have been PLENTY of rough times but it all boils down to keeping your head screwed on and pushing forward. We may share some of those. But for the most part, I am a half-full and not half-empty kind of gal. So expect to see lots of upbeat content - interjected with a few rants sparked by the state of the state.

Hope you enjoy this!

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