Monday, December 29, 2008

Hey, Look At That!

Recently I posted a blog about a bunch of eagles that I had seen while driving to Prairie du Chien. I (mildly) admonished folks for being in too big a hurry to enjoy the wonders all around us. I thought, that in all fairness, I should not just preach what I practice. It was time for me to separate the pudding from the proof. So, I conducted this little experiment which I documented on film (really in pixels). The experiment was simple. I would drive (fast) up Route 18 to Prairie only watching the road ahead. Here is what I saw on that trip.

Then I drove the same route, taking my time and observing the world around me. These are a few of the things that were right there for the seeing along the scenic roadside.

Although the surroundings were very exciting the thing that really caught my eye when I looked ahead was....................

All in all I feel that the experiment was fairly successful but, a little more attention to the highway might make it a bit more enjoyable.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Twas The Night Before Christmas...

...and all through the house not a creature was stirring 'sept this one little mouse!

Saffron chugged Santa's milk while gramps grabbed the cookies (a job done best by a pro not left for those rookies). The stockings were hung on the stairway with care (nary a fireplace in this house, anywhere). The presents were strewn neatly under the tree, the dogs were so restless for as you see it was that time when they had to go . . . outside. When out on the lawn there rose such a clatter I jumped from my bed to see what was the matter. I threw open the blinds and what did I see? Two little dogs taking a . . . run at the newsboy. From the porch he did scamper and into the night I heard him exclaim as he fled out of sight, "you'll hear from my lawyer about this dog bite". Saffy did chuckle to see such a sight, she giggled and gurgled with all of her might. "It's time to get up and go under the tree, I think Santa has left some good stuff for me". Ribbons did fly and wrappings were torn and laughter rang out on that crisp winter morn. We took a quiet moment to savor the time and said a small prayer that next year I wouldn't try to rhyme.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Look at that newsboy run.
He's as fast as a reindeer!

Oh boy!
Grandpa told me to take it easy on the egg nog!

Friday, December 19, 2008


In an effort to avoid the paparazzi, Saffron covers up on the way to her stage debut.

A Star Under the Star - Last Saturday night little (getting bigger everyday) Saffron made her first stage (actually stable) appearance. She was called to portray the Baby Jesus in "What Child is This?", the Christmas program at Christ Lutheran Church in DeForest Wisconsin. The performance went off without a hitch. Mom, Dad and the entire Grandparental gang occupied the front pew in case of emergency and a vinyl stand in was on hand for major emergencies like feeding, burping and changing. Saffie performed like a pro and is possibly going to be up for a Obie Award later this year. She has already started work on her acceptance speech. Although Saffie was The Star, a truly outstanding performance by thirty or forty preschoolers ranked right up there in the annals of fine theatre. Unfortunately I had neither my still or video camera with me and missed some of the best photo opportunities of the year. (At least Jo had enough foresight to bring her camera and get a few shots) A front row boy busily tucked his shirt in and meticulously checked (and rechecked, and rechecked) to make sure his fly was zipped (or unzipped). A few kids down a little boy complained that his shirt had been broken when one of the teachers lifted him on to the bleacher seat. There were a number of "waving to grandma" kids and, of course, the little girls making sure that everyone saw their pretty new dresses. Somewhere during midsong a face making and lip sync contest broke out among the older boys. The face makers were quite accomplished but the lip syncers each synced a different song. As usual, while boys acted up, the girls concentrated on singing. The only thing the girls did other than sing, is chat among themselves about the usual girl things, other girl's hair and dresses and those boys.
I meant to post this sooner but I got hung up on my eagle thing.

What an actress! Look at that emotion!

This is the most incredible ventriloquist act I've ever witnessed.
Saffie doesn't even move her lips.

All together now!

A few costars

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Joy to the World and Other Season's Reasons for Joy!!!

Sounds of great exuberance are once again heard in the Blume bedroom. No, it's not due to satin sheets, aroma therapy, Kama Sutra for Dummies books or the installation of side-by-side claw foot bathtubs. Let's back up a little, every night at bedtime, Ron clamps on a pair of headphones (to keep from disturbing book reading Jo) and giggles himself to sleep watching serious shows like Two and a Half Men, Scrubs, Corner Gas and Reno 911. Recently Ron's trusty remote control started pooping out and we all know, without a remote, Satellite TV is worthless and sleep arrives with great difficulty. A quick call to Dish TV and within a couple of days a smiley guy from UPS delivered a remote replacement. Once again a warm glow beams from the upstairs windows into the late night Fennimore skies.
Now that I'm well rested I can move on to some items of lesser importance. The day after I posted the Hystorical item about Prairie du Chien I thought it might be a good idea to check out the progress of the preparations for the "Carp Drop". As I crossed the bridge to St. Feriole Island I noticed a small patch of open water that was populated with a bunch of ducks. Suddenly a large black and white image swooped down from a tree along the shore. With one graceful scoop its talons grabbed a fishy snack out of the icy waters. After I pulled over to get a closer look I realized that there was about a dozen or so Bald Eagles sitting in the trees on both sides of the stream. I found a place to park, grabbed my trusty Canon, walked back to the bridge and started shooting. Unfortunately my limited photo skills didn't do a very good job of capturing the scene. Possibly I was so intrigued by these wonderful birds that I didn't pay a lot attention to photo technique. Many of you who know me are aware of my fascination with Bald Eagles so you can understand the pleasure I get just watching them. I wish that I was a better wildlife photographer so that I could share more "gooder" photos with you. The birds were more interested in lunch than they were with me standing nearby so I watched them until I realized that I was slowly freezing to death. During the walk back to my car (a walk that reminded me of the winters when I walked barefoot to and from school, twenty miles, uphill both ways, in six or seven foot snow) I noticed that the people in the cars that drove past were completely unaware of the beautiful performance nature was putting on only a few yards away. Maybe I'm more observant of the things off the road than the road itself but it's truly amazing how much wonderful stuff you can experience when you take time to look around. I'd like to think that I may be partly responsible for the fact that JoAnne and all my kids have become sharp-eyed wildlife spotters. (this allows me to pay a little more attention to my driving) My new year wish for all of you is that you might slow down a little and take an extra minute or two to look for the wonders all around us. There's really a lot going on out there, you just have to watch for it. And, you don't have to be out in the "country" to see cool things. There's plenty going on in towns and on citiy streets. I've tried to slow or stop or turn around and go back to take another look or, if possible, take a photo. I'll try to pass on some of the more interesting ones in my posts. Not everyone carries a camera with them at all times like I do but a mental picture is just as wonderful (and you don't have to worry about good or bad lighting).
Wisconsin #3 - I Got the Blues - Driving back from my eagle viewing I ran across still another Wisconsin Hystorical site. I'm sure you've all seen little kids with blue tongues sticking out between their little blue lips. This is usually (hopefully) occurs after they devour a berry flavored Slurpe, Popsicle or sno-cone. I've always wondered how these frozen delights came by the bright blue color. No real fruit is even close to that color. Then, WHAM, right next to me, just off the road, there it was "The Fountain of Blueth". I'm still researching this but I think that I've discovered the source of the world's supply of all icy berry flavored things. Just imagine in the matter of a month or so, because you read these postings you have learned the origin of two of the most important commodities in the world, Pepto-Bismol and Icy Blue Stuff. You don't get this kind of knowledge on Wikipedia.
One last thing. Last year JoAnne hid a Christmas gift from me. As a matter of fact she hid it so well we didn't find it until July. Not be outdone by mom, Sally hid some gifts this year. Yep, she couldn't find them. I guess she's not quite as good a hider as mom because she found the stash in time to get them under the tree.
So there it is, Seasonal Joy in the form of a new remote, frolicking eagles, a blue fountain of ice
and found gifts. I'm sure we're bound to have many more joyful events and things to report before the end of the year.

A bunch of the boys checking out the lunchtime seafood selection

This guy seems is in the smoking section.
He's waiting for Lox.

That Blagojevich hairdo is catching on everywhere

I just don't know how little branches can support such big birds

This guy is either the maitre d' or the "early bird"

Here it is folks, "The Fountain of Blueth"!

Just a pretty picture
A branch of the Wisconsin River up stream from the Mississippi

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Wisconsin Hystory* Part Deux

May I start by blatantly stealing lyrics from a favorite holiday song . . . "Maybe it's much too early in the game, but I'll ask the jackpot question just the same,What are you doing New Years, New Years Eve?" If you're a real Wisconsonian (Wisconsonite?), you'll be on St. Feriole Island on the Mighty Mississsipi with a couple of thousand other nuts, I mean celebrants, welcoming in the new year watching "The Dropping of the Carp". More than 1,000 people attended last year's midnight ceremony, a mayoral speech, fireworks, and, for the children, the breaking of a carp pinata. The festival began modestly in 2001 and has since grown to include an afternoon football game, the Carp Bowl, on St. Feriole Island, between Prairie du Chien firefighters and McGregor/Marquette, Iowa, firefighters. The organizer of the event has contacted the office of the governor of Iowa seeking special permission for Iowa residents to "cross the border for at least three hours" on New Year's Eve to join the celebration. "I could tell a few of them snuck over last year," she said. The carp, aptly named Lucky, is dropped 100 feet, or so, ala the "Big Ball" in Times Square. A queen and king, who lovingly place a kiss on lucky's chilly lips before he (or she) is raised its perch (no pun intended. yeah, right), are chosen and clothed in the royal robes of the position. At any rate, if you're tired of the same old laughing, singing, dancing, eating and drinking your way into the new year, put on your warmest winter attire and wander over to Prairie du Chien and whoop it up Wisconsin style. (Wow I got to use 6 Ws in one sentence) And, who knows, maybe a local will take you ice fishing for your very own carp after the celebration. Because of the extreme cold and the crappy lighting, photos of the event are hard to come by. I managed to steal this one from our newspaper.

This is Lucky the 7th a large frozen carp,
prior to being lowered before a frenzied crowd in

Prairie du Chien last New Year's Eve.

*Hystory - Sometimes Historical, sometimes Hysterical.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Thanksgiving Leftovers

Got sidetracked doing our Christmas message so I haven't had time to finish up the tale of our Thanksgiving journey.
Saturday - Harrison and I started the day with a hardy "Breakfast of Champions", pie! Jo opted for the more conventional buttered toast while Jr. downed a big dish of leftover potatoes and gravy. After a hasty cleanup of the cabin, the car was packed and it was time to head back north. There was a round of "fond adieus", "Wanda" was programmed and we were off. Next stop, cheap gas in Missouri. (we actually saw one station with unleaded at $1.35 a gallon)
I have a few unrelated remembrances of the long ride home that I will relate in no particular order.
• Towns in Missouri have no shame when it comes to naming themselves. You can find town names copied from every state in the union as well a lot of foreign countries. We passed Paris, Mexico, Cuba, Lebanon and even Beverly Hills (not a movie star in sight).
• Towns in Missouri have no shame when it comes baring their fetishes. (see water tower pic below)
• Industrial areas of Missouri display a good sense of humor. (see pic below from St. Clair)
• Missouri tends to overestimate its ambiance. Saw a cemetery named "Grand View". There was a burial in progress and not one person seemed to be enjoying the view.
• Missouri has an abundance of passing lanes on their highways. Although they only occur on straight, flat stretches and never on curves or hills, the places where passing is the most difficult.
• It seems that the Missouri highway department has chosen to economize by limiting the number of kinds of road signs they print. Near the end of ALL of the passing lanes mentioned above there are signs stating, "Road Narrows Merge Right". If you follow this advice, you will either end up in a ditch or down a deep gully. At least 9 out of 10 times, the right lane ended or merged into the left lane.
• An interesting pastime that Southern Missouri and it's neighbor Arkansas share is making stuff out of roadkill, mainly Armadillos (or is it Armadillae?). If you're lucky enough to run across (not over) a freshly hit Armadillo, you have the opportunity to turn it into a useful personal appliance. Like, a purse, sewing basket, ash tray or (ugh) candy dish. So, when traveling down southern roads be watchful of the ever present "Army" army cruising the shoulder looking for their next garage sale treasure.
"Wanda" got us home safely and I'm sorry to say I've forgotten most of the really funny stuff that I thought of on our ten hour drive. Now that I have finished my 2008 news roundup (Christmas letter) I'm waiting for the snow to let up so I can fire up the old snow blower for the fourth time this week. See ya'll on the far side of the drift.

The happy campers stuffed and ready for launch

Don't know if this means you're in store for a good whompin'
or treated mighty kindly.
Didn't stick around to find out.

A little water tower humor

Pull over this un looks ready for craftin'

Thar it be. One fine lookin' critter basket
You don't get this kinda stuff from Ronco!

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Thanksgiving Ronnings 2

Black Friday - There is no better way to spend a day after driving hundreds of miles and eating hundreds of pounds of food, than to have a couple of big meals and go for a long ride in the car. So, Friday morning we downed a hearty breakfast of waffles and sausage and hit the road for some sightseeing. Although it's not at it's best this time of year, North central Arkansas is actually quite beautiful. It sports a National forest and two huge (man-made) lakes, Bull Shoals and Norfork as well as the White River and don't forget it's nestled in the Ozark Mountains. Our destination that day was Blanchard Springs Caverns. Once again we turned "Wanda" loose and away we went. Other than Harrison and I betting on how fast I could take the Honda through the curves along the scenic road, the ride was uneventful. One thing that always amazes me is the way Mistletoe grows in the trees down there. Mistletoe is very visible this time of year after the trees have shed their own leaves and the "balls" cling to the bare branches. I'm not sure if it's true or not but Jr. claims that the Mistletoe is "Harvested" by shooting it out of the tree. (I have my own idea of how it was done while Clinton was Governor.) A quick lunch at a place that boasted their "Monster" burgers and off to the caverns. The cave was one of the prettiest caves I've ever toured. It was full of fantastic formations and the one hour tour went by too fast. As I understand, we toured the upper level of three. The middle level is much more strenuous and requires stomach crawling, hard hats and a lot more money and the lowest level is restricted to Federal employees. After the cave tour we did some unsupervised touring on our own. We found the spring where the water that runs through the cave flows out of the rock walls forming, I guess, Blanchard Springs. A dam downstream creates, not only a lovely little waterfall but a beautiful lake (Mirror Lake) which I hear is stocked with some fine, hungry trout. A little farther downstream we found the remains of an old mill. We started getting hungry again so we rapidly negotiated the windy road home to a tasty pot roast which had been simmering in a crockpot all day. (Heaven forbid that we should go without a meal.) Because we seldom see Jr. on her birthday which is in December, we decided to have a surprise early birthday for her. (also a good reason to have cake) Seeing as how it was a month before her real birthday, the surprise was successful. Here are a couple pics from the day.
My next blog will be about the interesting places and things we ran across on Saturday's long drive home.

Mistletoe growing in a tree. Pretty tempting for a good shot.

Holly Bush.
Prettier than Mistletoe and you don't need a gun to pick it.

A few cave photos

Blanchard Springs

The dam waterfall

Mirror Lake
(How'd they ever come up with a name like that?)

What's left of an old mill

Birthday cake. Oh, and Jr.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Random Ronnings

Wow! Whatta weekend! It all started with a fully loaded Honda heading south late Wednesday afternoon. Our final destination was punched into "Wanda", our trusty GPS, sandwiches, candy and drinks were stashed in the back seat cooler and we were off. The plan was to travel as far south as possible Wednesday, find a place for the night and arrive in Mountain Home by eleven a.m.
"Wanda" had different ideas. She took us to and through some interesting but relatively unpopulated portions of Missouri. We passed signs for names of exotic places around the world. This only added to our confusion. (Hopefully that last sign was for St. Paul Missouri not Minnesota and we aren't seven miles from Mexico, the country) We were completely at the mercy of "Wanda" for, as we discovered, we failed to pack a map. We had a corkscrew and stalks of celery but no map. It got later, it got darker and the towns got smaller. Not only was there no "chain" motels, there were no motels period. At one point Rick, my West Coast son, called to say Hi. In short order he had his kids pouring over their Atlas trying to figure out where we were. Ah! Just as suspected, in the middle of nowhere. But, just ahead was Jefferson City, the Missouri capital. One wrong turn and we were back on the edge on nowhere. Westphlia, Freeburg, Vienna, Vichy Nothwye (Vienna being the largest with a population of 611) and finally Rolla and motels. The bad news was, this late at night, only the most expensive motels had vacancies, the good news, we had traveled so far that we only had a two hour drive left the next day.
Thursday morning (Thanksgiving Day) started as Thanksgiving should, eating. The good part of staying at an expensive place, they usually provide a pretty good breakfast. After eating our share of the buffet we hit the road for the final leg of our journey. We passed into Arkansas and, with "Wanda's" assistance, we arrived at the cabin that we had rented for the weekend. Within minutes Jr. and Harrison arrived. Harrison was completely surprised by our presence. The rest of the day was spent the way Thankgiving is meant to be spent, cooking, eating, watching TV, eating, playing board games, eating, snacking anbd eating.
This has the danger of getting awful long so, let's continue the weekend tomorrow.

Jr. and Harrison

The guest of honor.
To think that it traveled all the way
from Wisconsin to end up like this.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Over the River and . . .

It's been a busy week at the old Blume homestead. This afternoon Jo and I are setting out for far off Arkansas to visit daughter Jr. (Veronica) and grandson Harrison. Needless to say JoAnne has been packing, baking, packing, wrapping, packing, shopping, packing, directing, and, did I mention, packing. Actually Jo has become an expert packer over the years thanks to our many adventures. (Thank God for luggage on wheels) This will be our first visit with Jr. and Harrison in quite a few years so it hopes to be a cheerful reunion. Jr. has been known, in the past, as the keeper of the dogs. Presently, I believe that she's down to only four or five of them. Trying to keep up with Harrison has probably cut into her dog time. Fortunately they live on several acres overlooking Norfolk Lake near Mountain Home providing plenty of room for Harrison and the other animals to romp and play. I'm sure that I'll have some great stories next week chronicling our trip. (If not I'll make up a few.)
In spite of the business of preparation I found time to take advantage of hunting season by getting out and shooting a couple of bucks this weekend. Yep, I grabbed my weapon, set it on automatic, checked the calibrations, quietly hiked across the street to my neighbors yard, took aim and got off four or five good shots. (Shutter speed - 1/125, Aperture - 3.2, Focal Length - 12.1mm) I have to admit, deer look a lot nicer out among the pines than they do hanging from them. I guess my neighbors will be going to their freezer for meat this winter while we will have to go to Piggly Wiggly for ours.
I hope you all have a Happy Thanksgiving. (next week I'll probably be sayin' y'all)

Old shot of Jr. (on the right) and her Masstif puppy Ben.
Ben was about 2 years old at the time.

(Honestly, no trick photography or PhotoShop)

Results of my "Deer Hunt"!
In a couple of weeks I'll be heading out for some live "shots".

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Red This, Red That and The Red Army

Just hanging around on a Sunday afternoon dreaming up some dreams to pass on to you folk. The biggest news in the Blume household this week is the arrival of Luci the KitchenAide mixer. The KitchenAide mixer has been the object of lust in my (cooking) heart for years. I guess a little moaning, whining and some subtle hints like taping pictures of KA all over the kitchen finally paid off. Amazing as it seems, all of the sudden, JoAnne came up with the idea of getting a new mixer as an anniversery gift to each other. At any rate Luci has joined Garr (our new red trash can) in our kitchen. I gave Luci a quick test run by whipping up a cake on Thursday and Jo made a couple of batches of cookies in her last night. The down side of Luci and Gaarr joining the family is, because of their lovely red color, the kitchen will have to be redecorated to coordinate with them. Seeing as how Jo gave in on the mixer I guess it's time for me to give in on the redecorating. (After all she's been moaning, whining and hinting for years.) Progress reports will be posted as work goes on.

Luci (on the right) and Garr (left)

Jo putting Luci through her paces.

On the more entertaining side, I'd like to share a musical experience with you. Some of you may have heard or heard of this group and not all of you will agree with my taste but, I like 'em. They are The Leningrad Cowboys, a weird group from Russia who occaisionally perform with the unweird group, The Red Army Choir. To give a listen click here The video and the audio are typical YouTube quality but you can see and hear enough to get the idea. The song that this link will take you to, Delilah, gives a fairly good taste of the group. A couple of other tunes that I particulaly like are - My Way, Sweet Home Alabama, and Always Look on the Bright Side of Life.

Them Crazy Cowboys!

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Wisconsin Hystory* - Lesson 1

As a public service, I have decided to post an educational series about events, people and places in Wisconsin Hystory*. I hope to pass on some useful, if not humorous, facts, lies and illusions that I have encountered in my travels around the state. Our first lesson involves a place that has been overlooked in our history books, the "Original Pepto Bismol Mine". Legend has it that sometime around 1919 an immigrant Wisconsin farmer, Peppy Bismollya, was digging a pit for his new outhouse when his shovel punctured a hole in a thin layer of stone and out gushed a thick, creamy pink substance. He ran to his wife Lucy, who at the time was in their cabin comforting their baby Poopy, who was suffering from a stomach disorder. In his wild excitement, waving his arms and shouting about his discovery, he splashed the liquid that covered him all around the room. Some of the pink fluid got on little Poopy's face and ran into her mouth. Much to Peppy and Lucy's amazement, little Poopy's discomfort seemed to abate. As the news of the healing qualities of Peppy's discovery spread through the valley everyone, with the crappiest little illness was knocking on the Bismollya door seeking relief. Peppy capped off the "well" and built a shed over it which remains to this day. It's hard to believe that billions of gallons of that "miracle" pink liquid has continued to flow from this location since 1919. In spite of the success of the stomach settler the Bismollya family still resides at the location of the original discovery. They prefer to live modestly, but they have recently added another mobile home to house big screen HDTV. The pink color of the buildings in the complex (or as they like to call it, "The Crampus") is not painted on but rather the results of the flood of '27 when the Pepto pipe popped and coated the countryside with a comforting coating of the soothing pink juice. The depth that the flood reached is visible on the side of the shed which houses the well. I would prefer to keep the location of this hystoric* site to myself thus protecting the privacy of the Bismollya family. If you feel the need to learn more about this phenomenon check with your local pharmacist.

The Bismollya "Crampus".
(Actually the hill in the background is man made
and houses a huge bottling plant.)

*Hystory - Sometimes Historical, sometimes Hysterical.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Martha, Rachael and Betty

Ah! I think I smell Cavkis baking.

That's Martha Stewart, Rachael Ray and Betty Crocker. Yep all three gathered in the Blume kitchen this weekend. The occasion? The Annual Christmas Cookie Bake. This tradition started centuries ago in an ancient Teutonic cave. Fire had just been discovered and cookie dough, which had been discovered many years before that, was starting to go bad. Isa Gudfurduncin, a distant relative of either Jo or Ron, accidently dropped a spoonful of her dough onto a rock at the edge of the fire. Voila*!!! the first cookie was born. Isa gathered all of her female relation together and started dropping stickfuls of dough on the hot rocks. (Only Isa had a spoon so the others had to make do with whatever was handy - some hands even) The men of the tribe were busy in nearby fields watching the exciting entertainment of the time, a game of "Kikemindanutz". Each woman hoping to attract the attention of a guy, decorated her "Cavki" with nuts and berries and even colored sugar from the local Piggly Wiggly. Enough of the history lesson, on to this weekends cookie bake. There isn't too much to tell that can't be seen in the well captioned photos below. The women, along with baby Saffron, took over the kitchen, Ron and Derek took refuge in the living room while the dogs, Tina, Snoopy and Sammy went wherever they thought they might pick up a wayward morsel. The results were, not just tasty but but very attractive. Isa would be proud of the latest "Cavki" bakers.

Saffron gets her first exposure to "Cookie Madness".

With Saffron a safe distance away, the activity reaches full force.
To the real Martha, Rachael and Betty - Eat your hearts out.

Sammy to Tina - "Did you hear something hit the floor?"

And there they are!
Not bad for some old dough and a few hot rocks.

* Voila - probably the origin of Ron and Jo's mothers' name which in a later translation of this story was misspelled Viola.