Category Archives: Business

How Cozy

Normally I don’t pick up the BookPage supplement that the library sets out every month.  More ideas about what to read are NOT necessary in my life.  I have lists and lists.  People suggest books to me all the time.  This isn’t a problem, it just means I don’t need to go looking. 

Last week, while the kitchen project was happening, I spend all day every day sitting on the sofa, so that I could be available if needed.  I wrote blogs for the trail, looked at Facebook, read a lot.  When I picked up a couple of books from the library, I grabbed not just the regular supplement but also a “Looking Forward to 2023” special edition as well.  Seemed like a good project for a week of sofa-surfing.

It was surprising to come across a page devoted to “Cozy Mysteries”.  Believe it or not, I have never heard this phrase before, although in reading through the blurbs, I knew immediately what they were talking about. Protagonist (99.9% women), mostly small town settings, a murder that only the protagonist can solve. I spent over a year reading tons and tons of cozy mysteries; I couldn’t get enough.  I’m not sure what was driving this but after about a year, the desire to read more of them simply vanished.  But I never realized that these stories had garnered a genre all to themselves.

When I was in the bookstore, it was pretty straightforward.  Fiction, nonfiction, children’s.  Fiction was split into fiction, science fiction, romance and mystery.  Non-fiction was historical, self-help, cooking, biography/memoir.

Now we have debut fiction, historical fiction, science fiction, fantasy, dystopian fiction, mystery, cozy mystery, horror, thriller, literary fiction (this one slays me), young adult, graphic novels, biography, autobiography, memoir, true crime.  I could actually keep going but….

I guess all this micro-categorization can be helpful to folks when they are looking for something to read but since I tend to read across a lot of genres, it doesn’t matter so much to me.  I do still read an occasional cozy mystery; I can’t stay away from Susan Wittig Albert.  Knowing that this kind of work now has a name of its own name seems charming.

Anything in your life that you like to micro-manage?

It Snuck Up On Me

The cabinet guys come on Monday so I’ve been slowly but surely emptying the kitchen and breakfast room so they can do their work.  In the breakfast room, along the windowsill, I found one of those temporary hooks filled with face masks.  Various designs, although a preponderance of black.  This kind of “put up a hook and hang stuff of it” is right up YA’s alley so the only surprise was that I hadn’t noticed it earlier.  This is in addition to various other places we have masks, including a little pocket of them in my car.

Then later the same day, an Amazon package got delivered and YA came up stairs with two boxes of covid tests (I almost typed COVID-19 because that was the protocol at my job but now I don’t have to, do I?)   When I asked YA why she got them she said “we’re running out”.  There was a lot of testing around here when YA had covid in July and then we were seriously exposed the end of August, and then the first weeks of December to make sure my cold was really a cold. 

In the last two weeks I’ve been to the theatre and to a concert.  The concert required a mask and the theatre recommended (and I complied).  YA and I mask on planes. 

The new normal feels like it has snuck up on us, although considering we’re 3 years in, it’s kind of a silly way to think.  But if you stop to think about it, most new normal do sneak up on you.  I could never have imagined today’s technology and medical advances when I was a kid.

Anything you never thought you would ever get used but eventually did?

Who Knew?

People ask me a lot about my opinion of Hawaii. I suppose I do know more about our 50th state that the average person.   By luck of the draw I had almost 25 programs to Hawaii during my years in the travel industry.  I didn’t travel on all these programs but I have been to the islands a whooping 17 times, most of those times to Maui. 

What I tell people about Hawaii is that every island has a different topography and a different personality.  I usually talk about the difference between Hawai’I (the Big Island) and Kauai.  The Big Island is the largest, the youngest and the most volcanic.  If you haven’t been to Hawaii, then the picture you probably have in your mind is Kauai.  It is much older and encompasses the lush green image we all carry around.

But I don’t talk about Oahu very much; Unbelievably with all my Hawaii programs, I never had a program on Oahu.  No particular reason, just luck of the draw.  This means that almost every time I have been on Oahu, it’s because I’m in the Honolulu Airport, transferring to an interisland flight.  While my brain knows what Honolulu and Oahu are about, it was still a surprise to be there for three days.

We stayed in the Waikiki area because we didn’t have a car so needed to be in a walkable part of the city.  This is part of Oahu that has earned the name “concrete jungle”.  It is block after block of tall buildings, very high end shops and restaurants and traffic.  It could almost be any big city IF you can ignore the beautiful blue sky and warm weather as well as the folks on the streets.  It’s an amazing amalgam of business folks, obvious tourist (YA and I) and the huge number of surfers and counter-culture types.  Waikiki is right on the water so you can walk along the main thoroughfare and look right onto sandy beach and blue waters.  There is even a zoo (who knew)… we were actually able to walk there as well. 

One fun thing we saw in Honolulu that I’ve never seen on other islands – people putting leis on statues.  Most of the statues along Kalakaua Avenue and Beach each have at least 10-12 leis placed around their necks; all the leis are in various stages of decay, so it’s clear that people are adding them, not some program of prettification by the city.

So now I have good experience to describe Oahu and Honolulu the next time someone asked me about the islands.

Tell me about a place that surprised you.

Sweet Conundrum

My father loved buttermilk.  Unfortunately my mother did not.  This meant that my father didn’t get buttermilk very often because my mother just didn’t purchase many things that she didn’t like, even if someone else did.  She was in charge of the kitchen, the shopping and the cooking and there just wasn’t room in her cart for things she wasn’t going to consume.  Fish, liver, brussel sprouts, mushrooms – none of these ever saw the inside of our fridge.

So my father would often order buttermilk when we ate out.  This got troublesome occasionally.  At Perkins in particular, he always asked for buttermilk and was always told they didn’t have it.  He would immediately point out the buttermilk pancakes on the menu and ask for buttermilk again.  It didn’t matter that every single time the waitstaff explained that the pancake mix already had the buttermilk in it, he just couldn’t understand how you could have buttermilk pancakes but not have buttermilk. 

I was thinking about this a few days ago.  I had a morning appointment up in Robbinsdale and the doctor agreed to an 8 a.m. time slot even though the office didn’t normally start taking appointments until 8:30.  To thank her, I stopped at a bakery/coffee shop up the street from the office to pick up coffee for both of us (and a doughnut for myself, who are we kidding).  It was quiet in the bakery; I was the only customer.  From where I was standing, I couldn’t see the cream/sugar nook so I asked the guy behind the counter.  He pointed out a table in a corner but then said “but we don’t have sugar”. 

I was sure I had heard him wrong so I said “you don’t have sugar?”.  Nope, they had sweetners, but no sugar.  I started to suggest that you can’t have 20 kinds of doughnuts and pastries along with cookies and cakes and not have sugar but then I remembered my dad always haranguing waitstaff about buttermilk and I decided to zip my lip.  But five days later, I’m still wondering about it.  No sugar in a bakery?

Any little mysteries bugging you this week?

Resume Refresh

Photo credit:  Markus Spiske

There’s been a lot of resume talk at our house as YA has recently moved to another job at her company.  She hasn’t actually shown me her current resume but I know she updates it regularly so that it’s up to date all the time. So it’s ready at a moment’s notice, if the need should arise!

Last week when we talked about sheets, K-Two said

“I got really good at making up mattresses for isolettes, bassinets, and cribs during my career – a skill no longer needed. And if really pushed, I could probably still change the sheets of an occupied bed.”

This got me to thinking how imminently practical (and refreshing) it would be to see solid skills like bed-making show up on a resume, instead of the boring vanilla stuff that you see on most resumes these days.

I started to think about the very practical skills that I could list on a resume.

    1. Can organize errands based on opening times and order efficiency
    2. Can coax almost any grumpy person into a smile
    3. Can get a pill down even the most recalcitrant kitty
    4. Can make 15 pies in one day

Any good skills for your resume this week?

Pastry Fusion

When I was in Nashville, my friend Pat and I had a list a mile long of things we wanted to see and do.  Pat is not a Tennessee native, so she was as eager to explore as I was.  Last  year I saw some cooking show that featured a bakery in Nashville that looked splendid.  Unfortunately I didn’t write down the name so we ended up googling wildly to try to find something that rang a bell.  Nothing.

We did find Five Daughters Bakery which came up over and over again in searches for the best bakeries; they have three stores in Nashville so we decided they would be our bakery of choice. 

Turns out that they make a version of cronut which they call the “100-Layer Donut”.  I’ve never had a cronut before, although I have heard of them.  They were “invented” in 2013 by a French baker, Dominique Ansel at his bakery in New York; made with croissant dough and pastry cream, cronuts LOOK like doughnuts but are similar to croissants in texture.  They are bigger than most doughnuts and considerably more expensive; we cut them in half and saved the second half for the next morning.   I remember these pastries making a big splash at the time with people standing around the block for ages to get a crack at them and now I know why!

I haven’t done a thorough search but so far I haven’t found anyone making a cross between a doughnut and a croissants!

Do you have any favorite mash-ups?

It’s November!

The weekend Farm Report comes to us from Ben!

Have you noticed the price of dogfood lately?? Hokey Smokes. I’m sorry dogs, you’re not getting the fancy stuff you used to get. Partially because it’s not even available, and partially because I’m not paying $60/ bag for dog food. Jeepers. I was shopping and the dogs end up with more treats than we get.

Egg production is coming up! The new ladies are laying eggs. The eggs are a little small yet, but that will improve in the next month or so. And the girls don’t seem to have figured out *where* to lay eggs. Some on the ground in this corner, some over there in that corner. A few in these nest boxes, a few in those nest boxes, and three more back in that corner. At least they’re laying.

I put the back wall on the pen the other day. I take it off for air circulation in the summer. Back on to stop the drafts in winter.

The weather has sure been good for harvesting and making corn stalk bales (for bedding. See header photo.) Haven’t gotten my corn out yet; I read a report that said about 85% of corn is harvested in SE MN. Yeah, driving around, there’s not much standing out there yet. And not much I can do about it. Corn isn’t so sensitive to moisture and weather changes (barring 60mph winds or hail) but snow on the ground is OK. So, the neighbors will get it when they get it. They have a bunch to get on the farm next to ours too and once I see them there, that will take 2 or 3 days, then they’ll get mine in a day or two. If the weather is still holding, I’ll have the co-op spread more lime on the fields that need it and if the weather is STILL holding, I’ll get some chisel plowing done.

A lot of corn got hit with a fungus called ‘Tar Spot’ this year.

You can see it as the black spots on the leaves. From what I’ve read, excessive moisture this summer caused the corn plant to become infected with crown and stalk rots, which then made it susceptible to tar spot. The tar spot affects photosynthesis, and the plant dies before the kernels reach maturity. There are fungicide sprays for it, which I may have to use next year, but that’s another expense, too. And I’ve been saying my corn ears look pretty good this year, so until it gets harvested and I can see what the yield / acre is, I’m not sure how much damage it caused.

When I had the beans harvested, I asked the co-op to mail the check to me. Took 2 weeks to go 25 miles! They told me it went in the mail on October 11th. I didn’t receive it until the 27th. And it was postmarked the 11th, and it didn’t show up in my ‘USPS Informed Delivery’ email. So where was it for 2 weeks?? You can believe I won’t ask them to mail the corn check. I got approved for a loan for next years crop inputs. I haven’t even paid off this year’s yet and I’m ordering stuff for next year. That’s how it goes. We’re not rich, we just have good credit.

Rosencrantz and Guildenstern have begun to mingle!

They were out drinking water when I went to do chores and when they saw me, they went back in the pen (I thought). I was gonna chase them back out and force them to be mingling, but they weren’t in the pen. And I found them out back on their own! And they sort of crossed paths with the older ducks but didn’t actually interact. The next day they almost seemed eager to get out of their pen and they were hanging out with the big boys. Atta way kids!

One of the new guineas spent a night in the coop with the chickens.

The chickens and guineas spend most of the daytime over in the lilac bushes.

I don’t know where the ducks go at night. We used to have a bunch that laid right behind the house. That was OK as there was shelter and you’d think protection from varmints. But this batch hasn’t done that.

Remember the time changes Sunday!

What have you stopped buying? Why? Which item do you miss the most?

Aldis Alone

It’s been quite a while since I last set my alarm clock but yesterday was my annual trek to Aldis.  This is the third year that I’ve headed out in the wee hours to get to the closest Aldis that sells their wine advent calendars – in River Falls!  No wine sold in grocery stores in Minnesota!

I arrived at 6:15 a.m. and was happy to be #5 in line.  If all you want is wine/beer/seltzer calendars, you probably don’t need to be quite this early, but the other advent calendars (cheese, Legos, cat, dog, Star Wars, etc.) go like hotcakes and they don’t stock all that many.  Two women who were #1 and #2 in line took seven cheese calendars between them. 

As I was sitting and reading (and chatting, who are we kidding), I was thinking about our psychology discussion on Tuesday.  I have never even hinted to YA that I would like her to come along on this trip.  It’s hard to imagine she would be interested, but I realized this morning that I like to do this by myself.  There aren’t too many things that I really like to do on my own – the biggest is opening day at State Fair.  That is absolutely my day to be on my own.  (A couple of years ago YA talked about going on the first day and I emphatically told her that we could drive over together but at the entrance we would be going our own ways.  She decided not to go.)  I also like to do the arboretum a couple of times a year all on my own and I usually head to the zoo once a summer by myself.  These are days where I go wherever I want and completely at my own pace. 

Of course, sitting in a stadium chair for 3 hours doesn’t involved any going or pacing myself, but it is my own little adventure every year.

Do you have anything that you really prefer to do all on your own?

12 South

Photo credit: Nashville Convention & Visitors Corporation

On one of the afternoons I spent in Nashville with my friend, Pat, we went in search of a bakery that was listed online as “one of the best bakeries in Nashville”.  We used her car’s GPS to find it; the area was quite busy as it was Sunday but we managed to find a free parking spot and Pat maneuvered into it.  It was a beautiful day so we were looking forward to walking a couple of blocks to the bakery.

It was a really interesting neighborhood and Pat told me it was called 12 South – about a half mile stretch on 12th Avenue South – filled with restaurants, clothing stores, vintage clothing stores, an outdoor market, jewelry store, donut bakery, art gallery and a cookie shop.  Lots and lots of folks were walking about, shopping and sitting in outdoor areas of the restaurants.  Lots of dogs too.

The only problem was that the median age of everybody in the neighborhood appeared to be 30-25.  Tops.  I’m not kidding; Pat and I were the oldest people walking around.  It certainly didn’t feel unsafe (and I did enjoy petting a lot of dogs) but I did feel a little out of place.  I commented to Pat that maybe we needed passports to be in 12 South.

Have you ever felt out of place anywhere?

Looking Forward and Ahead

Today’s post comes from Ben.

Been nice, sunny, warm-(ish) weather this week and looks nice into the coming week. Good time to get all those outdoor summer projects finished up.

We ended the growing season with about 3000 GDU’s, +200 above normal. Last year was +511.

Rosie and Guildy are fine, but they barely come out of their pen, and they’re not mingling with the others, and it will certainly complicate winter chores if those two keep being so anti-social. In a slight attempt at unification, I moved their water buckets a few feet further away and took the fence down. We’ll see.

This week was all about getting the college show up and running. It opened Thursday. It was mostly ready. Set was finished (well, to a point) and the paint was dry. Costumes… well… we made do. And it wasn’t for lack of ambition or determination by the costumer, it’s just that, well, life happens. So, it wouldn’t do the director or I any good to get mad; we know she was trying. And we had a good laugh about how we would have handled this 20 years ago. I said I would have had to take his clipboard away. (The joke is he used to throw it across the stage. Course now it’s an iPad) Now we sigh, and we laugh, and we know it will work out somehow.) And we go home and complain to our spouses.

There’s always one set piece that’s a challenge. I have a ‘ball of fire’ that the Fire Troll pulls. (That joke was “Fire BOWL?” or “Fire BALL?”)  A wood frame, some plastic tubing wrapped around it, muslin soaked in paint covering it all. Painted yellows and reds.  And then inside some fans blowing streamers up to be flames. I can’t imagine why that didn’t work. Sounded like a good idea! Evidently there is a lot more physics involved in air movement than I imagined. This was my ‘do-fer’ one night.

I walk past these photos every day.

The farm in about 1930 something.

An arial view of the farm in the mid to late 1950’s.

My Grandparents, before my Dad was added to the mix so this is about 1924.

And then this family, my grandparents and uncles. Don’t know who they are, but I can’t get over how tiny the mother is! Eleven kids!

Ever had a ‘Tiny Grandma’?  

Have you mellowed or gotten feistier in the last 20 years?