“Surely, you’d like some fresh-baked cookies!” “Oh, yes, ma’am — and don’t stop calling them Shirleys!”

Life as we know it

Happy Medium: “Winter was a special time for us. Hills, high and low, surrounded the farm where we lived — perfect for sledding. Ice ponds were perfect for skating.

“The best place to ice skate was the lake on our property. My siblings used clamp-ons, but I didn’t have skates at the time.


“One day when Mom and Dad went to town, we were bundled up for the walk to the lake to skate. In snow pants, boots, coat, scarf and mittens, I walked as fast as I could. My steps were heavy, and I lagged behind. Tired, I plunked myself in the nearest snowdrift and began to cry. My mittens were wet. My fingers and toes were cold. And my braided hair had come undone. A tangled mess fell over my tear-streaked face.

“What was I to do? I couldn’t catch up with the others, and I couldn’t go back to the house.

“I had an idea. I needed a ribbon for my hair. Our neighbor, Mrs. Bloom, would have one for me. Smiling through my tears, I stood, brushed my hair from my eyes and snow from my coat and pants. I would walk to Mrs. Bloom’s house.

“Puffy cattails got in my way. A mouse scurried out of its hiding place. I watched it go under cover among the cattails. I frightened a fat white rabbit who quickly hopped away. I crossed a frozen brook and came upon a barbed-wire fence. I carefully crawled under it to the road.

“When I came to the farmhouse, I tapped lightly on the door. A tall, stately lady with a shocked look on her face opened it. This ‘Les Miserables’ creature standing before her caught her by surprise.

“I remember her words of greeting. She said: ‘Well, who do I see here, and where have you been, my dear girl?’

“I told her who I was, and she nodded as if she already knew.

“All I could think of was to ask her if she had a ribbon for my hair. She said she only had a son, hence no ribbons, but she beckoned me in where it was warm while she helped me remove my coat and mittens. She even brushed my hair out of my face and sat me at the little table in the kitchen.

“‘Now Shirley, would you like a glass of milk and cookies?’ Of course I nodded yes.

“Mrs. Bloom placed a glass of milk by me and one on the table for herself. She removed a yellow cookie jar from the top of the tall white refrigerator. I watched closely as she took S-shaped cookies from the cookie jar. I recognized the S — the first letter of my name. I looked at Mrs. Bloom.

“She smiled and said: ‘These are “Shirley” cookies I baked this morning.’ I was so surprised to learn a cookie was named for me.

“While we enjoyed our milk and ‘Shirley’ cookies in the warm and cozy kitchen, I told Mrs. Bloom about my adventure in the woods.

“It was years later that I learned the ‘Shirley’ cookies were the well-known Spritz cookies. However, to this day, our family calls them ‘Shirley’ cookies.

“Footnote: I never learned if my brothers and sisters were concerned about my disappearance that day. When I asked them about it, they didn’t recall the situation. Selective memories.”

Our theater of seasons

Mounds View Swede: “Thank you to the contributors of the recent bird photographs. I rarely get to see these birds in real life, so to see the eagles along the river like that was a treat.

“I thought Monday’s snow was beautiful and was curious to see what things looked like the next day. Our large evergreen shrub in one corner had pretty much become a pile of snow. Not much shrub showed anymore.


“But the snow on the south side of the entryway roof had provided a new look to the eaves. The snow was wet enough to stick together and be able to grow like this with the help of the wind sculpting it. Snow art?



“My view through the frost-free front-door storm door showed this aspect.


“As I took one last look Friday morning before heading to exercise, I wondered how the ‘art’ would look as it warmed up later in the day. When I got home around noon, it was all gone.


“Wonder answered.”

Our theater of seasons (responsorial)

Rock Doc from River Falls: “Thank you, Mounds View Swede, for posting those excellent images of frost.

“These growths are called dendrites, and they form when liquids are undercooled (stay metastable as liquid below their normal freezing temperature), then suddenly get disturbed and go ‘Hey . . . maybe we need to crystallize’ and do so.

“Similar structures can form iron- and manganese-rich growths from groundwater seeping along rock surfaces, as seen in the attached photo.


“These are often mistaken for fern fossils, which they are not. Here’s a link explaining ice dendrites, with ways to encourage their formation:  http://www.sciencebits.com/frostdendrites.

“Winter definitely has its beauties for those who seek it — even when scraping them from car windshields. What Minnesotan can forget Bill Macy’s ice-scraping scene in the Coen brothers’ ‘Fargo’?”

This ‘n’ that

IGHGrampa: “Mall Walk:

“I forgot my phone today, drat it all. The phone is my watch, pedometer and whatever else I think of. But no matter; I coped. I don’t know how far I walked. I must have gotten a good hour of upright time. That’s one of my primary objectives, right? I never knew what time it was. Some shops have wall clocks way in the back, but they’re hard to find.

“I’ve started to park in a higher ramp level: the New York level. It’s easier to find spots closer to the entrance. Today there was a car parked right in the driveway. It must have been some ‘out-of-towners,’ although it did have a Minnesota plate. When I left, I thought it would be gone, but it was still there. Not only that, another ‘out-of-towner’ car was parked next to it. The roadway was almost blocked.

“They’re getting set up for the Super Bowl. On the north food court, third level, they’re setting up a big area full of tables, chairs and large-screen TV monitors. That’s for reporters, I’d guess. One might think the Super Bowl is a big deal.

“There is a sign in the court just outside Nordstrom on level one. It advises people: ‘In accordance with Minnesota law, MALL OF AMERICA BANS GUNS IN THESE PREMISES.’ The bottom half of the sign has some other notification in which people are advised: ‘Don’t Leave Home Without One.’ It’s an interesting juxtaposition of messages. Funny, I’ve looked at that sign any number of times and never noticed that until today.

“Stupid Time:

“I’ve mentioned ‘upright time’ before. There’s another time us oldsters experience that can only be described as ‘being stupid time.’ Say you’re in the den watching TV and get up to go to another room for something. When you get there, you have completely forgotten what you came for. That’s what we’ve named ‘stupid time,’ in which you’re just standing and being stupid. What did I come out here for?

“If it’s the kitchen, we usually decide it must have been for something to eat, so we go find something to eat. Maybe that’s not the best thing to do, but I don’t know what else we’d come out to the kitchen for.”

On the bright side . . .

The Gram With a Thousand Rules: “Subject: There is always a bright side.

“I cleaned my dining-room china cabinet this afternoon. It was long overdue. Meant to do it before Thanksgiving, but got too busy with Christmas preparations. For sure was going to do it before our family Christmas party — which didn’t happen because we cancelled it due to flu. Today was the day of no more excuses.

“I was so thrilled when we received a five-piece silver serving set on our 25th anniversary . . . and I am less thrilled every time I polish the blasted thing. I am eternally grateful that I was not doomed to spend my life as a scullery maid.”

Joy of Juxtaposition

JS the Willard: “Our normal evening, following dinner in our garden-level Stillwater condo, would find the Mrs. watching her silly sitcoms in the bedroom and me watching TPT, sports or cooking shows in the living room.

“Tuesday evening for some reason, we were together in the living room. I asked her what we were watching. She said ‘This Is Us.’ A person brought a crock pot to this couple’s front door. They seemed very happy to receive this item. A short time later, there was a closeup of the pot sparking and starting a small kitchen fire. (Remember, I’m only half-watching this show I’ve never seen before.) I was bolt upright in my recliner yelling at the TV: ‘Where is the fire extinguisher? Why isn’t the smoke detector going off?’ Sure, I knew this was a TV show, but my anxiety level continued to rise. Suddenly, the show was over. Come back next week and see the exciting conclusion.

“This morning, on KARE 11, there was a segment about numerous people posting on social media that they were throwing out their crock pots.

“I’m comforted in knowing the BB adage ‘You’re hardly ever the only one’ proves true once again. Could this be as big as ‘Who shot JR?'”

Joy of Juxtaposition?
Or: Then & Now (responsorial)

Gma Tom: “Don’t know if these coincidences in life actually qualify as a J of J or just plain coincidence, but here is the latest.

“I had just finished watching the movie/documentary ‘California Typewriters,’ starring Tom Hanks (and a guild of others), when yesterday’s BB contained the submission by Little Sister re: typewriters. My thoughts after watching the movie were how often (nearly always) seeing someone type in a movie, they are using the ‘hunt ‘n’ peck’ method rather than the standard formal keyboard method. In wondering about it, I surmised that while we were always taught to look at our copy, never at the keyboard, when one is composing as do authors and editors, etc., there is no copy to concentrate upon. Thus, one looks at the keyboard. Apparently the ‘hunt ‘n’ peck’ method is faster and more accurate for those kinds of writers. This certainly seems to be the case when using the old-fashioned manual typewriter. I do remember how hard it was to use the keys designated for the little & ring fingers with the manual keys. And the one quirky habit I formed was to always hit the space bar with my left thumb even thought I am right-handed. Still do.

“The other issue I had with the movie was the premise than anything written on a PC was not permanent, as if it couldn’t be printed and saved just like a piece of typewritten paper.

“As an aside: I still have and use a typewriter, albeit an electric one, for tasks such as addressing envelopes or, more often, making labels for my photo albums.

“Anyone remember photo albums?”

Farm living . . .
Leading to: Ask a serious question . . . 

DebK of Rosemount: “The recent storm treated our corner of Rice County very unkindly, unloading, we’re told, 17 inches of snow, and executing some impressive drifting, as if to ice the cake. The sheep-barn doorway is the site of one particularly daunting drift. Today, four days after the deposit of said drift, the sheep are still unwilling to leave the barn. Taxman ought to dig a path for them — and he would, but for his entirely reasonable fear of Clarence, the ram, who tolerates absolutely no interference with his 14 ewes, all of whom are growing ‘great with child.’

“This confinement poses no danger to the animals. Still, mindful of the barn’s rapidly increasing untidiness, Taxman and his brother hatched a plan in which I would distract Clarence long enough to allow Taxman to maneuver the John Deere (equipped with snow-removing apparatus) into the sheep yard. While Clarence has been my particular favorite since the moment he entered this world as a seven-pound, knock-kneed delight, his transformation into 200 pounds of surliness argues powerfully that I maintain a strict avoidance policy. Therefore, I have declined Taxman’s offer that I become bait in his snow-removal scheme and am making myself as scarce as road conditions permit.

“Yesterday, I escaped all the way to St. Paul, where I enjoyed the company of my godson, who was eager to make his first visit to the James J. Hill House. We booked a noon tour, which put us in the company of home-schooling mom and dad and their four young sons. Chemistry happened. Happily, the docent assigned to our little group had extensive experience with and tolerance for small boys and was able to (as they probably say in the docent business) go with the flow. I, for one, wish our entire tour had been taped for broadcast, though one incident stands out.

“We were gathered in the bedroom of Mrs. Hill. By way of setting up an entertaining revelation about the Hills’ lives, the docent asked the boys to speculate as to why Mr. and Mrs. Hill would have slept in separate rooms. The answer came quickly and confidently: ‘Because they were RICH!'”

Now & Then
And: In memoriam — plus: Fun facts to know and tell


John in Highland: “2019 will mark the 100th anniversary of the American Legion. It is the nation’s largest veterans service organization, with membership of more than 2 million in more than 13,000 posts worldwide. It advocates patriotism and honor, and sponsors numerous community programs. American Legion baseball is one of the nation’s most successful amateur athletic programs.

“Our own St. Paul Christie-DeParcq post was named after two local WWI heroes. John Christie died on the western front in 1918, just a few weeks before the armistice was signed on November 11. John DeParcq died in basic training in 1918.

“The Christie-DeParcq-sponsored baseball teams have won more state championships than any other post in Minnesota. Jack Morris is probably the most recognized name of the people who played for the post through the years. Jake Mauer, Joe’s father, also played for the post. Jack Palmer was a star pitcher for the Christi-DeParcq team in the early 1960s and pitched for Cretin High School when it finished second in the state private-school championship. Palmer was drafted by the Twins, but instead opted to pitch for Dick Siebert’s Gophers as they won Big 10 championships in 1968 and 1969.
Morris and Palmer are remembered as the best right-handed and left-handed pitchers, respectively, who have played for the post.”

Then & Now

The Retired Pedagogue of Arden Hills: “Subject: They don’t make ’em like that anymore.

“From a recent Twins Page-a-Day calendar:


“‘Don Sutton never missed a scheduled turn in the rotation in his 23 seasons as an MLB pitcher.’”

Now & Then
Popular Music Division (cont.)

Kathy S. of St. Paul, re: ‘Silver Threads Among the Gold’:

“Folks have been discussing this song, which sounds pretty uncheerful nowadays. I remember it because Grandpa E.C. sang it at a party circa 1956, along with ‘When You and I Were Young, Maggie’ — because Grandma was a Margaret. The party was for their wedding anniversary.

“It was the kind of afternoon party where everyone dressed up. The women wore hats and gloves, and those stoles made from fox pelts. The mouth of one fox clamped on the other end of another fox. I found them fascinating and creepy.

“Grandpa was an Irish tenor and a people person. Our Aunt Edith accompanied him on the piano, and his singing was applauded. He had obviously been a fixture at gatherings over the years. But I don’t remember any other time when he sang like that.

“Both of Grandpa’s parents were born in Ireland, and came here due to hard times. I think John McCormack’s singing was popular with Irish immigrants and their kids, as nostalgia for the homeland. Most Irish immigrants never went back, even for a visit.

“Here in the U.S., both Grandpa and Grandma grew up quite poor, and remembered the NINA signs — as in No Irish Need Apply. Grandpa removed the ‘O” from his surname, at the suggestion of his brother Mike. Mike said that Grandpa would go further in life and make more money if he removed the O’. At the end of his life, Grandpa said Mike was right.

“Grandma wanted me to learn the piano well enough to play one at parties. But we Boomers used guitars for singalongs — back when people often made more of their own music.

“In 1980 I went on a tour of the British Isles. In Wales we had wonderful local singers entertain us in our hotel. It felt as if I had gone back to pre-WWII time, and reminded me of Grandma.

“Grandma’s favorite song was ‘Galway Bay,’ which describes visiting there. It includes the line ‘And see the sun go down on Galway Bay,’ which is inaccurate. In October 1995 I stayed one night by the bay, arriving toward sunset. And I saw that the sun was setting over land, not the bay. The hotel manager said that it never sets over the water, at any time of the year. Oops!

“I still enjoy the song and thoughts of Grandma, but now I can’t hear that song without ‘correcting’ it.”

Our birds, ourselves

Mary of Eagan: “We have loved watching this guy coming to our feeder every day. Even he needs to eat during a blizzard.”


Our pets, ourselves

Cheesehead By Proxy, “back in Northern Minnesota”: “I got a kick out of the pet name story. We did actually have a cat named Kirby in the 1980s.

“Our current neighbors have a Blue Abyssinian cat, so he’s extremely skinny. His name is Hasselhoff, after the ‘Baywatch’ television character. We often hear her out calling for him at dusk, and it makes us laugh.

“I have a friend who named her dog after the cough-drop Ricola, so that she could stand up on their hillside and call out ‘Ree-co-laaa!’ like the Alpine mountaineer in the commercials.”

BULLETIN BOARD SAYS: We are remembering the early days of Bulletin Board, when a contributor told us of a dog whose owner liked to wander the neighborhood calling for him: “Guilty! Guilty! Guilty!”

Band Name of the Day: Fascinating and Creepy


Website of the Day: 


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