Monday, October 15, 2012

My Weekend In Pictures: Backus, Mn

The Trail to the Meadow Clearing

Trail Cont'd
The pond near the Meadow Clearing looking NW.  There are swans in the distance!

The pond looking towards the SW.

The Meadow Clearing Staked with Pine Trees.

Mom and Dad working on Protecting Pine Trees from Deer.

Baby Pine Trees after!
Found some strangers in the woods..aka Aunt/Uncle.

Looking at Pond from Meadow.

Uncle Jerry took a brake and wondered at the BLUE CLEAR SKY!

Another Trail leading out of the Meadow onto Uncle/Aunt property.

The Dollhouse...aka the playhouse.

Uncle Jerry made it all using scrap lumber.  One of the season flower boxes...spring.

Lake Ponto's West side.

The end of Mary Drive that leads to our property.
I missed the fall colors but it was nice to get out of the city and into the woods this weekend.  Helped mom and dad tag over 200 pine trees they planted 2 years ago.  Most are over a foot tall now and the top sprigs have little buds on them.  We covered the buds (they looked like giant peanuts) by stapling over them with strips of plastic tablecloth.  This will prevent deer from eating the new growth and the tree from dying.  Dad hopes to grow the trees so that deer with find shelter and food, thus populate the woods for Deer Season.  Will take many years though before he reaps the reward.

The Dollhouse is my aunt/uncles.  It's made out of wood from my grandpa's old granary.  There's a board stamped with K.Kapsner.  He was the original owner of the wood.  Uncle Jerry thought that stamp was unique so he kept it on the front side for all to see.

The wagon wheel used to be Grandpa's too.  The Dollhouse sign was from my uncle's mother's house.  She collected DOLLS!  And there's a note box by the front door.  That was her's too.  She had that by her door so that people could leave her notes if she wasn't home. 

There are 4 window boxes, each with flowers from the four season.  I didn't get a picture of the back, but it's a two-story loft and the upstairs loft has "The Lover's Box"....roses.  The inside curtains have hand-prints of the kids and grand-kids...very clever.  It's tall enough that a 6 foot adult can stand comfortably.  And it included working electricity with miniature ceiling fan.  Who wants to "camp" when they can stay in this little B&B?

Monday, July 23, 2012

Meyer Cousing Get-Together...for Joey

On Sunday, we had a Meyer cousin get-together.  (Sorry we missed you Joey! )  Uncle Ronnie and your parents were there too, of course.  We should have taken a picture of all of us, but thought of it too late after Missy and Aaron had left.

A couple of cute things happend...all involving Paul.

When Missy and Aaron first arrived, Fritz, Kelly, Jean and I were finishing a round of Rummy.  Dad was sleeping in the recliner (his usual place and activity), Mom and Darlene were watching us from the couches.  Missy and Aaron were tired from the drive so "Aunt Mary" was asked to play " Lightning McQueen ".  Mom didn't know what that was.  Missy explained that it meant playing with cars.

Mom did her best but she kept getting lapped around the couch.  And with the hardwood floors, the cars really flew! Way better than Missy and Aaron's tile.  She got pooped out after 20 or so minutes and said that her cars had to go in the garage.  One had a " flat tire " and the other had a " hot radiator and needed to cool off ".  Paul didn't really understand all that, but continued to play by himself.

When we finished our hand of Rummy, I wanted to play " Lightning McQueen ".  But Paul said... "No. Flat tire. " 
Julie: "But we can get that fixed at Luigi's."
Paul:  doesn't say anything.  Just looks at me.
Julie:  "Isn't Luigi's the place that fixes cars?"
Paul:  still quiet
Julie:  grabs Paul's neon green Croc, sticks Paul's car with the " flat tire " inside, makes some weird air gun/bolt remover noises that everyone hears in a mechanic's garage, takes Paul's car out..."See, all fixed up."

And we proceed to play " Lightning McQueen ".  Mysteriously, the one with the over-heated radiator is all better too!

After we got tired of playing cars, I thought it would be a great time to introduce my favorite thing as a kid....building forts.  Since the card table was out, we threw some blankets over the top and put some pillows inside.  Paul wasn't quite sure what to think of that, but once he saw me crawl "inside", he crawled in too.  I didn't really fit...just my torso as you can see from the picture below.  He thought he could stand up in it and ended up hitting his head a couple of times.  Ouch!  Only cried a little bit the first time he did it.  But not the other two. 

Joe:  Great pic of Missy's growing bump! Looks bigger in person.
Mr. Paul smiling from his fort.

Joe:  Thought to include this one too so you can see "Mike" and Kaitlyn.  Did you know he's Mike now?

Friday, May 18, 2012

Got Gas?

Being a homeowner has been pretty easy.  Especially living in a town-home.
The lawn gets mowed and the snow gets shoveled by someone else.  That's what association dues are for. 
I don't have to worry about the shingles or siding. 
The only headache I have to worry about is appliances.  I've had a couple in the past but that was more just coordinating installing the new and getting rid of the old.

But Tuesday morning was a whole different kind of headache.

Monday I had to do laundry because I was out of clean scrubs.  I also did the dishes.  I had hot water for those chores.  Now it's Tuesday morning and I wanted to wash my hair before heading to work.  Ice cold water in the shower on the 3rd floor.  I checked the kitchen sink with my hair dripping.  Only lukewarm to slightly cold water.  Usually I can get scalding hot in the kitchen. 

Great.  My hot water heater is probably the original so that makes it 17 years old.  I know they only last something like 20 years so I'm thinking I'm gonna need a new one.  Cha-ching$$

I have a magnet on my fridge for a discount appliance repair company.  I used them before with the dryer escapade with Lowe's a couple of years ago.  I told them what happened and scheduled an appointment for a repairman to come out for the next afternoon.

Wednesday afternoon a nice guy named Mike came and looked at the water heater.  Thinking about my situation, I told him maybe the pilot light went out.  That happened to me my first winter in my townhouse.  But it's been good ever since. 

He was in the basement for 10 minutes.  I heard him come back up, go outside and then come back inside and that's when he came and talked to me.  He said it's in relatively good condition but I do need a major cleaning and a potential replace of the thermometer.  The problem was that he couldn't test anything because he couldn't light my pilot. He said I had no gas flow.  He went outside to look at my gas meter and I'd been locked out.  I asked him to show me, and sure enough, there was a lock that looked like a brass shotgun shell locking the valve into the off position.

Huh?  Why would Center Point Energy turn off my gas?  My bill flashed through my head.  I was all paid, wasn't I?  I looked at my stack of bills due and sure enough, my bill wasn't due until next week.  It took me a while through my speech-less-ness to make the connection.

My next door neighbors moved out last fall before they were able to sell their place.  Meaning they had two mortgages and let this one slide.  Thus they were foreclosed on.  I've seen and read the signs on their front door that their home has been winterized and if vandalism has been noticed to report it to some 1-800 number.  This information led me to believe that the gas company turned off my meter instead of theirs.

Right after Mike left I get on the phone with Center Point.  I talked to 5 different people, kept getting transfered to different departments.  They kept saying that according to their computer my meter was active.  After 40 minutes on the phone, the lady said she would have a van out to look at the meter.  This was at 3:30 and she said they would be there anywhere between now and 11 pm.  Well that narrow's it down!

Some guy ended up coming at 7:30 and concurred with what Mike had said and what I had thought.  My meter was locked out and they had turned off the wrong meter.  "I work with idiots"!  Gotta love that quote.  Some person turned off the gas meter in front of MY house; with a deck full of flowers and a welcome sign hanging by the front door.  Not the one that looks like a ghost-town. They're side-by-side, but REALLY!?  He also was kind enough to relight the water heater pilot.  Thursday mornings shower was much appreciated.  We take for granted society's amenities.

The kicker is that I paid $90 for Mike to come out to tell me the gas company made a mistake.  I called back Center Point yesterday and spoke with the same lady from Wednesday.  This morning I faxed over the bill and will hopefully get a Good-Will reimbursement.  After all, it was their fault.  If they hadn't shut off my gas, I wouldn't have had to dish out $90.

One good thing came out of this though.  I never knew or thought to get a maintenance check on the water heater.  I get my furnace checked every other year but never the water heater.  As soon as I hear back from Center Point about the reimbursement, I'm going to call back Appliance Repair, Inc and schedule that cleaning and possibly replacing the thermostat too.

What a headache! 

Monday, April 16, 2012

Ode To Aunts

I have many aunts and uncles.  Some I see a lot, some not so much.  Some I like, some...when let's not go there.  That's another story.  I'd like to talk about two of them.  One story happy, one not so much.

Aunt Esther.  She's my dad's brother's wife.  They live in the same town as my folks, just down a couple of blocks.  Aunt Esther and Uncle Herbie have felt more like a second set of grandparents versus aunt/uncle.
And neither of them have aged.  They look now just as they did 20 years ago.  Maybe a hip replacement or broken ankle, but just as vibrant and spunky as ever. 

April 6th was Aunt Esther's 80th birthday.  Saturday was her grand party.  I attended with my folks and sister.  Saw many familiar faces and many that I haven't seen in years.  Probably not since my high school graduation. 

I remember a party for her long ago.  It must have been her 60th??  So that made me around the age of 9.  Now you'll have to understand that I went to a private Catholic K-8 and we didn't get sex education until 5th or 6th grade.  Well, she opened up one of her gifts and it was a gag gift.  It was a plastic see-through/clear bikini.  I didn't know where she was going to wear that.  Turns out....there are plenty of places!!!!

Her mother lived well into her 90's, maybe even hit 100.  Hope she's around for many more years to come!

Debbie.  I think of her as an almost-aunt.  Technically she isn't but technically she might.
She has been my mom's brother's girlfriend for many years.  She might even preempt me!  She and Uncle Ronnie were engaged for a while but called it off and never got married.  They might be considered having a common-law marriage.

She was always the fun, crazy one.  Born to be a hippie and never stopped.  Brown fringe vest, baggie blouses, baggie pants, yellow round sunglasses (think John Lennon), long! straight hair.   She liked to talk about politics...."why can't we all just get along man".  And I adored how she called my 3 aunts "sis".  "Oh, let me get that for you, sis."  "You did a great job cooking, sis."  And she was a hugger.  Hugs to say hello.  Hugs to say good-bye.  Hugs for anything.

Well, she's had back problems on and off for years, but something made her go to the doctor this past February/March.   She was diagnosed with Stage 4 Lung Cancer.   With treatment, she could live maybe 5 months.  She decided to not have chemo or radiation and live out her last days at home surrounded by her family.  She has two grown sons and they both have families. 

This afternoon she passed away at the age of 55.  She's now in a better place where there's no more suffering.  She will most definitely be missed.  OOHugsOO.

Chico's Bail Bonds Softball Team

It's that time of year again that I look forward to.....softball season.

My league starts next week.  Same place, same people.  Different night.
The last two years I played with "Chico's Bail Bonds" we did bi-weekly Sunday night double-headers.
This year will be weekly Tuesday nights.
Still the same amount of games though.

The fields are still down by the airport so that's a 40 minute drive one-way but this year I will be carpooling with Nicole and Jackie from work.  So at least it won't all be my gas and mileage.

Hopefully this weekend I can get out and get some swings in.  There's been talk of getting together to pitch/throw some balls around but I know I'm going to need to hit the batting cages.

In the past, I've played with many different types of groups.  Church leagues, bar leagues, community leagues.  This has been the best group of people that I've had the opportunity to play with.  They've made me feel like one of the team and not an outsider filling a spot.

Church leagues (as a kid)....more emphasis on fun.
Bar leagues (as adult)...more mean people.  Because they're drunk.  And way too competitive for me.
Community (as kid and adult)....very much clique-y.

Chico's central people consist of Nicole and a couple of her high school friends from Melrose.  Each has brought their own set of friends along for the ride.  Beside myself, Nicole has brought friends from college and another girl we work with, Jackie.  We all get along.  We all are able to joke around.  We have fun and look good while doing it.  And we're not all that bad.  I think in the last two years, we've only lost 2 or 3 games.  We Rock!!!!

If you wanna catch us in action, let me know!!!  The fields aren't that far away from The Grand Ole Creamery!!!  I'll take you out for ice cream.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

St. Croix Casino; Danbury, WI

Yesterday I had the opportunity to go to a casino for the first time.  Yes....I said it.  I've have been to casinos before (Las Vegas to party, Mille Lacs for the buffet,  Mystic for Josh Blue) but not to gamble.  Not even when I turned 18!

A lady I know from the Y is fundraising for the Breast Cancer 3-day.  This will mark her 4th year.
She invited me to come along and to bring a friend if I wanted...of course, I brought my sister.  She's never gambled either.

We met the bus and were off my 9:30 heading towards St. Croix Casino in Danbury, WI.  On the bus there were raffles and bingo (both going and coming home).  I won on both raffles.  I got a coffee mug with instant coffee packets and a photo mat (it's one of those cardboard/batting wrapped with fabric and cross-crossed ribbon).  Jean won a bingo round =$10!  She's always lucky with bingo.  The games made the hour-and-a-half trip fly by.

When we got there, we were given player cards.  Being that I never played before, I had no idea what this player card was for.  I though I brought my $20 bucks to the cashier and I got a roll of nickels.....LIKE IN THE MOVIES!!!   The $10 that I paid for the bus I got back on my players card plus an extra $5.  We found a slot machine and weren't really impressed.  I wanna pull a handle; not push a button....LIKE IN THE MOVIES!!!    And I want tokens to come flying down on me; not a gas station-type receipt....LIKE IN THE MOVIES!!!  Our money was gone within 20 minutes.  We tried to find someone to help us with trying to get more money on our cards but the staff couldn't explain how the machines worked to my satisfaction so we stopped playing.  They didn't get a single dime from us. 

We were hungry so we headed to the buffet.  That was mediocre too.  Old Country buffet in Coon Rapids has a way better selection.   Better salads, better meat, better desserts.  It was cheap so I guess you get what you pay for.

We had 3 hours to kill so first we visited the gift shop.  Boring!
We decided to leave and explore the little town.  There was a gas station and a log cabin store.  They had lots of knick knacks...stuff I would consider junk in my home.  We ended up buying a deck of cards (ha!) and some magazines.  We went back to the casino and ended up sitting on some benches probably meant for smokers.  We sat in the sunshine reading up on the latest celebrity gossip and played Rummy and Fire.

Speaking of smokers, I was caught off guard to walk in and see people lit up.  I forgot that we had crossed the state border.  It wasn't over-powering and our clothes didn't reek of the smell...thank goodness.  We did find a spot set aside for non-smokers, but was lack-luster.

The time crawled by and were happy once we saw the bus come through the parking lot to pick us up.  We were more than ready to go home.  We got back at 5 pm.

I would never go back again...ever.  Not unless I had nickels, tokens and a lever.  And maybe a friend to show us what the heck is so fun about slot machines. 

We ended up braking even and had more fun on the bus ride.  At least that was for a good cause.  The up side: we didn't waste our own gas and wear and tear on our vehicles.  We now know that as far as addictions go, we more likely to become alcoholics than gamblers.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Car Woes

Wow.  I haven't blogged anything in a month.  I just haven't had anything happen that worth's writing about.
But today...something did that I wanted to share.

Last Friday, my car starting making a squeaking noise.  It sounded like it was coming from my driver's side front tire.  It would be constant noise once I hit 50 mph but would go away when I applied the brakes.
This morning, I made an appointment at the dealership in Anoka for some diagnostic testing.
They said my front brake pad was down to 2mm (the others are at 8mm) and I needed new rotators.  They also found my coolant bypass hose was leaking and a running lamp was burnt out.

The cost.....$38 for the diagnostic testing and $550 for parts and labor to fix everything.  FIVE HUNDRED DOLLARS!  My 2001 car's not even worth that much.

Up North where my parents live is a gas station/ mechanic garage that's been around for years and years.  I remember when I was a kid, we would walk the mile or two from my grandparents farm to go play the jukebox and have a sub sandwich and dill potato chips here.  This was back before we knew a place called Subway.  It's been remodeled over the years; but they still have a short order cook there.

Getting back on topic, my sister and I have had our oil changed here a couple of times and some other car maintenance visits too.  They're friendly and affordable but not always convenient because we live in the cities.  I called Red's to see how much they would quote me and to see if I could get in this week on my day off. 

Are you ready?  Are you sitting down?  $200 INCLUDING labor!  That's a $350 difference.
That savings is worth  the time and tank of gas to drive Up North.