May 122014

Mother’s Day has come and gone, and for the third year I met up with Nichole and her munchkins in Eau Claire for a mini-day of lunch and shopping.

It’s fun to see the changes in the grandkids each year.  They age just a little bit and their temperament for being with us older folk while we chat over lunch and browse the stores gets better.

A couple things, however, I am sure will never change.  One of which is Nichole and I finding goofy stuff that make us crack up like teenagers.


The piece de resistance this year goes to the Dammit Doll.  This masterpiece was found on display in a Hallmark store with a picture of Betty White clutching one to her chest.


Had. To. Have. It.

And you can bet it will get plenty of use when I take it to work.

The second thing that the girls look forward to is the picture taking session.  We actually have two of them, the first taking place in the mall photo booth with us making all sorts of silly faces.  The second shoot comes as we exit the mall and find our designated locations for the outside shots.


Here is where I really get to capture some memories.


And those girls sure do love their Momma!


And they like to do some serious model posing.


Being goofy is fun too.


Then we let the kids have our cameras and get a Mother-Daughter shot for posterity.


Apparently one of the dolls didn’t care too much for the moment.

I don’t think that one is invited next year.

May 082014

My life is made up of routine.  When you have a good routine, you hardly ever have to think about what you are doing because it just happens because of repetition.  It is like the air that I breath.

But when that routine is interrupted, I’m like a guppy out of water.  Spring causes me a lot of stress because it has so many instances where it snaps that routine in two, forcing me to actually think about what I am doing.

Case in point:  Daylight Savings Time.  Twice a year I have to adjust to either an extra hour in a day or one hour less.  Do you know how much that screws up my system?  It’s like having jet lag without having to get on a plane.  It takes me a good week to feel like I don’t have vertigo anymore.

Spring is also the time when I break a seven month relationship with the woodburner.  I no longer have to haul in wood and feed the hungry belly of our main source of heat in the cooler/colder/frigid months of the year.  It’s like a double whammy of Daylight Savings Time because I now have an extra hour in the day that I don’t know what to do with.  By the time I’ve figured out how to use that time and get into a decent routine, it’s Fall again and the cycle starts all over.

The latest tail spin to my life is the bathroom remodel.  To save major bucks, we (as in Rick) are doing all the work ourselves, starting with building the vanity.


People, this thing is a piece of work.  Rick’s talent with building things is beyond words.

However, there are a few bugs that we are working out… slowly.  First off, the drain in the sink isn’t exactly right.  When he designed this masterpiece he wanted it to be unique (like everything else in our life) and have one of those above counter basins.  None that we looked at tripped our trigger so the only option was to find a bowl that could be turned into a sink.  Simple enough.  Just seal the crap out of it and you’re done.

The only difference between these types of sinks and the “drop-in” ones is that there is no overflow safety, which means you have to get a drain to match.  Follow where I’m going here?  Yep, the drain mechanism we got had two huge holes on the sides for overflow.  So in order to actually use the sink until the new drain came in (one minus holes) was to wrap a bunch of tape around the holes and pray to the sink gods that it wouldn’t leak.  Well, that sorta kinda worked for 6.2398 seconds.  But that’s what empty ice cream pails are for, right?

Where the routine part of this little story comes in is that the design of this piece is so far out of normal that I can’t seem to get my barrings around it.  I stand in front of the thing and have a huge counter where a sink should be.  I get up in the middle of the night and blindly reach for the glass to get some water and grab my deodorant, because that is where a glass has been for 13 years.  It takes me twice as long to brush my teeth because I have to remember that the sink is on the right and grabbing things are not the same distance away anymore.

Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely love the new vanity, it’s just going to take a while to get used to it.  I’ll eventually remember where my water glass is and learn how to control the water in the new faucet.  It will become second nature to brush my teeth again and get used to the new arrangement under the sink.  Life will get back to a blissful routine.

Now, if we ever move the toilet there could be a real problem.

Apr 262014

Sugarbush 2014 is finally over, and I have to say it was very exhausting.

While we only boiled two times, the second batch was a doozy!  We pulled an all-nighter last Sunday boiling 93 gallons in 25 hours straight.  It has taken 6 days for my body to recover from that, and I’m still not back to normal yet.

Whatever normal is.


That second boil yielded  just under four gallons of syrup, bringing our cache for the season to five gallons.  We broke our previous record of sap collected to 133 gallons.  My arms still have phantom aches from carrying those buckets.

But it’s over and done now, so we can start working on other things around the homestead, such as cleaning up the debris in the yard caused by the Winter storms.

And also getting rid of some troublesome trees on the property.

We had six that had to come down – pines and oaks – that were dying either due to age or critter damage.  One tree in particular was leaning against a power line that was coming into the house.  Every time we had a storm or strong winds, that thing would swing and sway, causing my anxiety level to skyrocket, hoping it wouldn’t take the line down.


Now I can rest easy because that troublemaker is going to be chopped up for heat for the house.

Apr 202014

Sugarbush 2014 started out pretty slow, but finally the Maple trees are letting their precious liquid flow.

Last weekend was our first boil of the season.  It was a cold, rainy, blustery day so Rick put together a canopy of sorts to keep any unwanted drops of moisture our of the boiling pans.


It wasn’t the most attractive contraption, but we use what we got and as long as it does the job, that’s all right in our book.

I think this year marks the earliest that we’ve gotten the fire going .  By 8:30 am we had a roaring fire and both pans in position and filled with sap.


Before the clock could strike 10:00, that sap was boiling and we were in business.

We processed 40 gallons of sap that day which got us 1 gallon, 2 pints, and one 1/2 pint of sweet, sticky syrup.  Nummmmmmm.

Unbeknownst to us, our sugarbush was not over yet.  This last week was pretty chilly and we didn’t pay much attention to the taps and buckets.  When Rick went to check them on Thursday after the snowstorm, he was surprised to find that the trees were still running and collected 16 gallons of sap!

I checked the trees Friday afternoon and hauled in another 16 gallons.  3 hours later Rick made the rounds when he got home from work and brought in another 13 gallons!!  Wow.

Saturday’s yield was 23 gallons bringing our 3 day total to 68 gallons.  Holy crap!!!

Our Easter Sunday will not be spent eating ham and gorging on chocolate, instead we will be keeping a roaring fire going and boiling sap well into the night.

I much prefer tasting hot maple syrup from the fire than processed chocolate any day.

Apr 192014

Today marks 15 years since the passing of the one of the most remarkable women I knew.

As I tell others who have lost loved ones, it does get easier as the years go by, but that loss is never gone.  Neither are the memories, because those are what I draw on in life.  Sometimes they keep me grounded and other times they bring about a goofy laugh.  However they affect me, I know that they are there to keep me moving forward, striving to be the best that I can be.

On April 19, 2011, I wrote the following post and have featured it each year in remembrance of a woman of tremendous love, strength and humor, and who I am proud to call my Mom.


This time of year is always hard for me.

Not just because I’m so sick of winter that I could puke and crave the warmth of the sun and the fresh spring air.

No, it’s another reason that brings about a lot of memories.  I wish that I could say that these were good memories, but they are not.  They are reminders of an event that was very painful for me, and others in my family.

You see, 12 years ago today I lost my best friend:  my Mom.

This picture was taken when she finished nursing school in the mid-1950s.

As I’m sure you have guessed, today is not the only day that I think about her, but it is one of several days a year that I miss her the most.

When she quietly passed away, she was finally free from the pain that she had endured from Rheumatoid Arthritis for 7 years.  For those years, she was unable to do the things that she loved the most:  garden and crochet.  She had to end her nursing career early on in the disease because her entire body became affected, and at the time there was no medically known way to deal with it.  She became a guinea pig to the medical establishment, whose doctors were the best in the world.

I was looking back at some old files on my computer the other day, and found something that I had written around this time 8 years ago.

A real keepsake does not need to be a piece of jewelry or an item that is displayed in a home.  I feel that it can be something that a person carries with them in their mind and heart.  It has special meaning; a presence.  For me, it is my hands.  I look at my hands and see my mother, and the gifts that she gave to me.

She taught me that my hands could make meals that would feed my family.  They could dig the ground to plant seeds that would grow to can vegetables to store for future meals.  They would work the land, feel the dirt and pull the weeds.  They would also nurture delicate flowers to blossom and grow; to show beauty.

Her love for playing the piano that she passed down to me with lessons, encouraging me on with her words as my fingers played the notes and listened from the audience as I played in concerts.

The patience and time my mother would take to teach me how to knit and crochet… to create beautiful slippers, potholders, and afghans.  The blankets that I make, asking for her guidance as I work each stitch, hoping that they will turn out as beautiful as hers always did.

My hands look older than their 38 years.  They have planted many gardens, crocheted blankets for babies and families. Blazed trails and built bridges.  Flipped burgers and cleaned tables at restaurants   They have wiped tears and nursed cuts.   I look at my hands and see a lifetime.

My children often ask me what my mother gave me that I cherish the most.

And I tell them about my mother’s hands.

These are just a few of the things that come to mind when I think about her.  There are many other wonderful memories, like how we always used to spend our birthdays together (since they were a day apart) either getting our hair done, going out to eat or meeting up at a casino to gamble (one of her favorites).

One thing I never do is make this a sad day for myself, because there are so many wonderful things that I have in my life because of her.  The many things she taught me that I am able to pass down to my children and grandchildren.

I have to tell you I am not a fan of these kinds of posts.  I do not like to talk about sad things.  So instead of this being something sad, I would like to think of it as the remembrance of a truly remarkable woman and all of the good and happy things that her life represented.

Thank you for allowing me to share this with you.

Phyllis Mary (Papenheim) Larson

October 22, 1935 – April 19, 1999