Thursday, October 30, 2008

Somebody's watching!

cat eyes

Happy Halloween!

Visitors -- large, canine and perhaps small

Helen and Jay are coming by tonight to drop Buddy the Dog off on their way to Milwaukee for the weekend. I have a beef stew in the crockpot, and I made an apple dump cake for dessert. Buddy the Dog will have to be satisfied with his Pedigree for older dogs. I am the one who will be dogsitting -- Tom being very busy with political shenangians at the moment -- but Helen says he (Buddy, that is) doesn't do much but sit around these days.

I mistakenly had thought that Helen and Jay were planning to help her folks with Halloween tomorrow night in Chicago. Helen's parents live on Harper, a street that is locally famous for its Halloween decorations, and tons of kids come from all around to trick-or-treat there. Because it is such a mob scene with lots of parents milling around, people feel quite safe. George and Sarah are about 80, so family members and friends usually come over to assist them for the evening.

I went over in 2005 (I think) to help pass out the candy, and even limiting it to one piece per child, we gave away over a thousand pieces of tooth-decay-accelerator before closing up shop. That was some time before the kids stopped coming, but we had run out of candy. Tom had gone to try to get more, but even the stores in the neighborhood had been pretty well stripped by then. The rule of thumb was that kids did not go to houses that did not have the porch lights on, and what with the parents still milling around, there was little risk of any pranks. Not totally risk-free, of course, but pretty much so.

It being a Hyde Park neighborhood, there were also a fair number of University of Chicago students in costume. My favorite was a group consisting of one guy and six women, dressed quite nicely as Henry VIII and his wives. The poor wives curtsied very nicely after getting their candy.

Here on Berry Road, on the other hand, this is our third Halloween and we have yet to have a trick-or-treater come to the door. Of course, this is a rural road and there are only a couple of very young children who live here. Maybe this year, their parents will bring them along to show us how adorable they are, dressed like pumpkins or peas.

Although we live between two largish golf resorts, most of the people living there are retired and grandparents, and their grandchildren live elsewhere. Nonetheless, I laid in a small supply of Snickers, just in case.

I did see some cute costumes for small dogs, and I thought one that included an ermine cape and a royal crown would have been appropriate for either Sundance or Cassidy. It would fit their feline self-image, anyway. Or even better was one that looked like a wiener in a bun. A cat disguised as a hot dog. What could be better?

Tom, for some reason, saw no reason to waste money on such foolishness.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

And on and on and on

I remember once the preacher at a gospel meeting in Huntsville was describing hell as "going on and on and on and on and on." Freddie Kramer leaned over to me and said, "Just like this sermon."

If you are like me, you are probably more than tired of the campaign. My new definition of eternity is an American electoral campaign. By comparison, that sermon was a nanosecond of bliss. (No fault of Calvin Klein, but some kinds of eternity just stink.)

Mama asked me the other day if I plan to vote. I told her I always vote -- even in local things about schools and state supreme court judges. I have missed only one presidential election since I became eligible to vote in 1971, and that was due to an unscheduled trip that took me out of town too late for me to arrange for an absentee ballot.

On this blog we intentionally do not do politics. As Linus said, he had learned not to discuss three things with people: religion, politics and the Great Pumpkin.

Anyone who wants to discuss the Great Pumpkin, go at it.

The rest of you, get out there and vote, if you haven't already done so.

And that's my final word.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Cat stare

Tom says they used to call the bird feeders he and Helen had in Hyde Park "cat TV" because the cats stared at them so intently.

Lately Sundance and Cassidy have been staring at the walls in the house or at the ceiling -- not because of birds but because of the Asian ladybugs that are such a a nuisance around here. They manage to get into the house through the tiniest cracks, flit around the light fixtures and walk along the walls. Last night I thought Sundance was trying to climb the wall near the front door, but I think she was just trying to reach one of the beetles. They stink if you crush them, so I doubt she would have liked the taste had she been successful.

Meanwhile, no snow today despite the cold, and we may not have any more precipitation all week. Next week, on the other hand, is looking like plenty of showers.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Dear deer

With a few snow flurries and short periods of sleet this morning, it has begun to feel like winter. Or at least like November, which it will be in just a few more days.

A couple of deer were in the backyard again today, this time around noon. Deer hunting has also sorts of permutations in Wisconsin. This is the chart from the DNR for 1008:

Bow - Sept. 13 - Nov. 20, 2008 and Dec. 1, 2008 - Jan. 4, 2009
Gun - Oct. 16 - Oct. 19, 2008 (in select units only). Only antlerless deer may be harvested by gun and archery in units with the Oct. 16-19 gun hunt
Gun - Nov. 22 - Nov. 30, 2008
Muzzleloader - Dec. 1 - Dec. 10, 2008
Youth Deer Hunt - Oct. 11 & 12, 2008
Statewide Antlerless Hunt - Dec. 11 - Dec. 14, 2008
One of the issues around here is CWD, chronic wasting disease, which has been spreading in parts of the state. A few deer have been found in Sauk County with it. Needless to say, there is controversy about how to respond, and I don't know enough to be able to have an informed opinion. Since I don't hunt, seldom eat venison (which doesn't seem to be dangerous even from infected deer, as long as one doesn't eat eyes and brains and spinal cords), I will leave this battle to those most concerned.

I do keep an eye out for deer on our property in case they exhibit symptoms of the disease -- staggering, head and antlers carried low, an awkwardly wide stance when standing still, generally sluggish movements. This is supposed to be reported to the DNR for investigation.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Sunday news (Or, "Where there's a Will ...")

Kirstin and Jason got married yesterday, and although I haven't heard any details, I assume it was lovely, and I hope they and their new family will be happy.

We had three deer in the backyard this morning. It was bright and sunny then, but now (about 5:00 p.m.) it is gray, windy and raw. It is sleeting a little, and it looks like the predicted snow flurries for tonight may materialize.

Oh, joy!

Today was the last steam train of the year at the railway. From here on in -- which is just weekends into the beginning of December, when we expect the weather to render it impossible to take the trains out again until next spring -- we will be running the diesel.

One of the volunteers (who is an MD in his regular life) showed up today to act as conductor. He brought his son, Will, who comes dressed up as a miniature conductor and helps his dad out. Here is a video of them from a year or so ago. I had found this online, but Will had never seen it. So I got in on the computer in the store so he could watch it. You should have seen him light up.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Vole control

A vole is a small rodent resembling a mouse with a stouter body, a shorter hairy tail, a slightly rounder head, and smaller ears and eyes. Cassidy brought a pretty mauled one in this afternoon and dropped it on the carpet. Then she went over to her cat food and had lunch. If we could only get the cats to eat what they catch, we could probably cut down on the commercial stuff.
If the stock market drops much further, we may have to do that anyway. I told a friend of ours who is a retired butcher that we were fattening up the cats, just in case. It really is, as you no doubt know, "the OTHER white meat."
Voles -- I don't know that I had ever seen one before, or if so, I thought it was a fat mouse -- apparently love the area around the septic system where the ground was all disturbed when the work was being done over there. So there may be more voles in our future ...

A Lutheran minister friend dropped in this morning for a chat. She and her husband co-pastor a church in Baraboo. At least Cassidy didn't bring in her catch during that visit.

In other critter news, the pileated has been around the last couple of days, at the suet boxes and just hammering away on the cherry tree out back.

Gobble and winterizing

Since a group of geese is a gaggle, I am going to say that a gobble of turkeys was prowling around the backyard this morning. There were ten of them, all adults or near-adults and all not particularly lovely in the rainy light.

The wild turkey hunting season in Wisconsin began in September and extends up until the week before Thanksgiving Day. I don't know if the turkeys were here because they know it is safe from hunters or just because they remember from last year that the ground around the bird feeders is covered with fallen seeds.

I wanted to get a photo of them, but they are skittish and could hear the deck door opening. For ungainly birds, they do run pretty fast.

Speaking of Turkey Trots, I ran in the one at St. Louis University back in 1984 when I was studying there. It was only three miles as I recall, but I made it alive and in one piece.

PS -- I received a Hallmark e-card that will not open. So if one of you sent it, thanks for the thought but I don't know who it was. I'll keep trying. (See, Mama, you're not the only one this happens to!)

PPS -- Yesterday I got my teeth cleaned and my flu shot. I need to make an appointment with my regular doctor soon for a check-up and prescription renewals. I need to get the oil changed in the Vibe soon, too. Just getting all winterized. Tom brought up his winter clothes from the basement yesterday. I have the master bedroom with the big walk-in closet, so I don't have to store things downstairs.

Tom also put the guidepost thingees out along the driveway. The little orange posts indicate where the drive and parking area are when the ground is covered with snow. We may get some snow this weekend, although it shouldn't amount to anything.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

It's a mystery!

(The title of this post is the punchline of a Catholic joke that would take too much explaining to the Dodd clan for it to be funny, so we'll just move on.)

For many years I have been a mystery fan. I have read all 80 (yes, eighty) of the Agatha Christie novels, most of them several times. I have also read lots of Ellery Queen, Elizabeth Peters, Ngaio Marsh, Dorothy Sayers, Ellis Peters, Peter Tremayne, Stephen Saylor and on and on and on. At one time I probably read two mysteries a week. And, as most of you know, I even wrote a mystery novel myself that no one seems interested in publishing.

Lately, though, I have noticed that I check mysteries out of the library, read a chapter or two and then turn them back in. I just don't find them interesting. I trust it is not sour grapes because no one wanted to publish mine. I think I am just no longer attracted to them.

I do continue to read a lot, but more lately in the nature of history of cultures and of religion, often indistinguishable. I listen to lots of audio-books, particularly when I am driving, and for those I tend to choose classic novels by Jane Austen, Mark Twain and such, or else some of the Barnes & Noble series of undergraduate-level lectures on history and philosophy.

The other day I processed a book-on-cassette at the library that consisted of 42 tapes and lasted 58 hours. (By comparison, the unabridged Gone with the Wind is only 28 tapes, or a bit under 39 hours.) It was just a novel, by someone I have never heard of, and I wondered if the person checking it out were planning to drive across country alone and needed something to listen to along the way.

Fifty-eight hours! Tom's ex, Helen, records books for the blind in Minnesota for some state agency. Often these are textbooks or other unusual requests not readily available in commercial audio format. I can't imagine reading something aloud for 58 hours. It would be bad enough to have to listen to something that long.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

The Great Huntresses

Although the Roman goddess of the hunt, Diana, is usually depicted with dogs, at some point along the way she became associated with the moon -- possibly because the shape of her drawn bow looked like the crescent moon. Since cats are thought of as night creatures, they are also associated with the moon, and because they are hunters, there is some connection with Diana, the Huntress.

Besides checking the cat's food dish and their toilets, I try to keep an eye out for their hunting trophies. After a flurry of mice -- whole and dismembered -- a while back, the floors have been relatively clean of their residue.

At lunch today, though, I noticed some grasshopper legs on the carpet, letovers from a mid-morning snack, I suspect. Later when I returned from shopping for dinner, I came into the kitchen and Cassidy was sitting on the dining room carpet in a place she does not normally stretch out. I looked around and found a small garden snake under one of the chairs. Since it was still alive and appeared unharmed, I picked it up behind the head and let it go in the front yard. Tom doesn't deal well with snakes in the house, even ones small enough to pass for an agile earthworm. Cassidy saw me pick it up and carry it away, but she continued to sniff around for it for a few minutes, eyeing me balefully from time to time.

Who knows what they will bring in next?

Seasonal signs

Another sign of cold weather arriving is that the cats have begun using the litter boxes. There is one in the laundry and one in the garage, and I don't know if each of them uses one or if they just use the one nearest when the need arises. Since I am the one who mainly makes sure they are fed and who scoops the poop, that means I have to add a quick look into their toilets every morning from now until next spring.

I found this photo online of two cats named Sundance and Cassidy. This is what ours would have looked like in their younger days, without that blue-eyed glare.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Financial fun

Today I got a Kohl's bill. I checked online and see that I already have a payment scheduled that will cover it, so that is cool.

I also got a letter from CitiBank saying they were going to cancel a Visa card I have with them. The reason? I never use it. In fact, I cut it up some time ago and had forgotten I even had the account. So it is good that they are keeping their records up to date and clearing me out of their system.

I almost always use my Discover card, but I do have a MasterCard on hand for those rare places (which include the R&GN Railway, BTW) that do not accept Discover. The credit limit on my Discover is about $15,000. That is because it is the card I used when I did all the shopping at Sam's Club and Costco for the Carmelites. That meant big bills every month that were always paid promptly and in full. So in some ways my good credit is not due to my own inherent stinginess but to the Carmelites being so responsible.

Thanks, guys!

Sad news

I learned this morning of the unexpected death yesterday morning of Sr. Mary Margaret Yascolt, one of the nuns from the monastery in Barrington, Rhode Island where I lived during my sabbatical back in 1993-1994. She was only 60, and her death shocked everyone. Mary was a gifted musician and had been performing at a concert down south. Afterwards, she visited friends in Atlanta and began to complain of a fever. The doctors started treating her for an infection, but she died within 48 hours.

Please keep the nuns in Barrington and in Reno, Nevada -- where Mary had been living recently -- in your prayers at this time of grief.

Mama and Daddy met Mary when we visited the community some years ago. They probably don't remember, but during that visit, one of the nuns complained that the local supermarket had closed and now they had to drive a long way to shop for food. Mary smiled and pointed out that only in Rhode Island would someone say it was a long way to drive two miles.

Wisconsin in Pre-Winter

It is a damp and chilly day, and tonight it is supposed to go below freezing. The rest of the week may warm up a bit, but right now they are predicting rain showers from Thursday through next Monday. That won't be good for the railway. In the summer, rainy days are good for us because people look for things to do besides hit the waterparks. Once it is damp and chilly, though, they think twice about taking small children out on a train ride in open cars. Maybe the crew will decide the time has come to put in the Plexiglas windows. The cars will still be open at the doors and unheated, but it would make a difference. People were already wrapping up in blankets to ride this past weekend.

This morning the possum showed up to scavenge around the bottom of the bird feeders. Last year he didn't make an appearance until the snow had fallen, if I remember correctly. Hope this is not a sign!

If it is a sign, maybe the good part is that the possum (assuming it's the same one) survived last winter with all its snow. He looked pretty pathetic back then with a messier than usual mangy back, and he (or she) left bloody tracks in the snow. But we have only seen the one before, so I am guessing it's the same animal.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Wisconsin in Autumn

The peak for fall foliage colors around here was last weekend in my opinion, and things have now begun turning brown. A lot of golds and reds are still around, including a few brilliant red burning bush plants in out yard.

The video below is of scenes from the Devil's Lake area near Baraboo, not far from us. Click on the arrow and enjoy.

WARNING: It loads in bits and pieces and is annoyingly slow, but the views are good. If it is taking time to load and stopping and starting, just leave it running and go do something else for five or ten minutes. When you come back, hit the replay arrow on the screen and it should play straight through.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Distant Dodds

Our distant cousin -- back several hundred years, I guess -- Tim Dodd (who took that picture of me that now graces this blog) was here this weekend to take some photos at the railway for Tom to use on the web page and for other publicity stuff. He and Tom had a good day following trains loaded with kids out to the pumpkin patch at Camp Siding, while Roberta and I huddled over our registers selling tickets and toys as fast as we could.

Later after disocvering that our friends who run our favorite Italian place were on vacation and their restaurant was closed, Tom, Tim and I went out for Chinese in Baraboo to a little place that has good food. I warned Tim, though, that the service tended to be slo-o-o-o-o-o-o-w. So, naturally, the service was prompt and excellent, as was the food. Since we had a guest, I was glad to be proved wrong this time.

Then Tom and Tim came home and worked over the photos for most of the evening while I petted cats and tried to ease my aching joints. I am beginning to realize that although I am staying quite young myself, my body continues to age steadily.

Tim heads back to Chicago tomorrow, after Tom feeds him a hearty breakfast of blueberry pancakes and bacon, and Tom and I will both head back to the railway for another round. This is Harvest Fest weekend in the Dells, and the weather has been brisk and sunny. So I imagine another busy day with the pumpkin trains.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Who would have thought?

I try to avoid controversial topics on this blog, especially politics. But when I found this, I had to share it with the rest of the family.

Click on this link to find out what's going on. I think you'll be surprised.

This takes a minute or so to load, so give it time to start. Once it loads, you will be given instructions on how to make it play.

Kristin tells me she is just getting a blank page, but this link is working on my computer and Tom's. If you have no luck even after waiting a bit, email me and I will see if I can help you find it.

BTW, this is probably SO not worth the effort!

Saturday, October 11, 2008


I am pooped. We did an incredible amount of business at the railway today, what with great weather, free pumpkins and something of a holiday weekend (Columbus Day on Monday). I won't say how much exactly, but we did more than twice what we normally consider an excellent day, ran 14 trains instead of the normal seven and had only one empty seat the entire day.

This after a long day on Friday,driving to the Hill and back -- a bit over two hours each way -- having a great lunch with Jude and catching up on the Carmelites. Then I had a nice hour and a half visit with an elderly friend who is remarkably upbeat despite the beginnings of dementia. I was saddened to learn that she feels pressured politically in her home parish, though, to vote contrary to her own sense of what is right. I understand how she feels, so we condoled with one another.

Tom's daughter Lucy and her roller derby friends came in last night in time for dinner, and today they did well in their first round of the tournament. They had to go back to play again tonight, and they may make it into the championship round tomorrow afternoon. If they do, Tom will go to Madison for that. I will be at the railway all day, and probably on Monday, because we will be open because of the holiday. Monday I will also be helping train a new volunteer to help in the store.

Tonight we have to go over to Rich and Peggy's to get final instructions on how to handle the house-sitting while they are in Canada for the next month or so.

And then I really am going to collapse!

Thursday, October 9, 2008

And you thought your church had some problems?

The following story is from today’s Wisconsin State Journal, and it speaks for itself. Necedah is about 40 miles away from here. When I was working at the law office, I had dealings with the Judge Roehmer mentioned towards the end of the article, but, of course, it had nothing to do with anything this strange. The photo is of some of the statues for sale. I have put in italics below a reference to the nut who stole, among other things, two statues from the Carmelites' parish in Milwaukee back in the 1990's.

Oh yeah, this is not a recognized Catholic church.

NECEDAH — As sure as the galloon matches the stole, tongues are wagging here about the auction Saturday of the contents of a home-cum-chapel formerly occupied by Alan A. Bushey and his flock, members of the tiny and shrinking Immaculate Conception Community.

And no, that is not the place where a follower of that group died on the toilet, but it is close.

Bushey, 58, aka Bishop John Peter Bushey, is out on bail, awaiting trial on charges stemming from the discovery last May of the corpse of a devout supporter who died of natural causes and was left to decompose on a toilet in a one-bathroom rural Necedah home, just a few blocks from the chapel.

The body of 90-year-old Magdeline Alvina Middlesworth had been there two months, and the smell eventually alerted inquiring authorities.

Auctioneer Ray Miller said he and possibly two more auctioneers will sell everything at N10314 Queen's Way — including the real estate, the steeple and 19,000 plastic-packaged communion wafers — to the highest bidders.

Miller has been taking calls from far-flung people interested in the religious items that, for the hard core, include a closet full of colorful, exquisitely sewn vestments and more than 50 robelike "chasubles" with matching stoles (scarf-like decorations that are garnished with "galloon," or embroidery).

Worldwide attention

Bushey has been evicted from the home, which was, depending on which end of the pew you are seated, either given to or leased to him and his church in 2001 by an Iowa farm family trust. That trust has now legally retaken possession of the property and given Bushey a month to remove his belongings.

"Actually, I've been dealing with some people in California who put up the money for his bail," said Miller, a friendly man of many talents — a farrier, he wears a cap advertising horseshoes.

Bushey, as leader of the group, is accused of harming a child by predicting financial doom to two children and threatening to send the children to public school if they revealed there was a corpse in the bathroom. In a trial set for April, he also faces charges of hiding a corpse, and, in connection with the dead woman's financial affairs, theft.

The mother of the children, Tammy Lewis, 35, faces similar charges, and a hearing in her case is set for Oct. 17. The explanation for the long wait for the bathroom was that everyone was waiting for a miracle, a prospect that grows dimmer.

The story got worldwide exposure, and Necedah once again placidly repositioned itself as a refuge for religion-related fringe groups, a niche unappreciated by established religions.

In the 1950s, a local woman's claimed visions of the Virgin Mary — still a tourist attraction at the Queen of the Holy Rosary Shrine — drew tens of thousands of the hopeful to Necedah. In the 1990s, investigators tracked down a museum's worth of stolen religious items to a Necedah-area storehouse, gathered by a thief who was convinced communists would take over the world and burn all the Roman Catholic churches.

Bibles, bunkers for sale

Miller, the auctioneer, wasn't aware of the story last June when a woman dressed as a nun — light-blue habit with ivory trim — approached him in a parking lot in Adams and asked if he could run an auction for her church.

He said yes but didn't hear from the group again until last month, when Bushey and the Immaculate Conception, which reportedly has fewer than a dozen members, signed on to empty their sanctuary of chalices and religious costumes, pews and vestments, beds and bibles, furniture, even the flashlights and farmer matches found in two hidden corrugated-iron bunkers. (The bunkers go with the property, which will also be auctioned.)

The religious items for sale number in the hundreds, even thousands if you count the communion wafers still packed in the shipping cartons from MOS (Mother of Our Savior) Inc. of Pekin, Ind., a purveyor of religious items.

Religious statues — arms outstretched, hands folded, faces frozen in a woozy docility — fill a table. Hundreds of books sit on shelves that contain not one novel, though a pristine copy of "The Devil and How to Resist Him" beckons. There are empty gallon jugs marked "Holy Water" and cartons of plastic rosaries, two paper bags filled with brand new white clerical-collared shirts (15 ½ and 16 ½, 32-33 sleeves).

The wood-heated house itself is clean-floored throughout and dirty-walled in the old part. Square and rectangular marks clearly show where pictures once filled the walls. Bushey lived in the home's newer addition that was also a church.

A snooper would find in the rear of the seven-pew chapel three tiny closets, the "confessional," the smallest about three-feet by three-feet square, with shag-carpeting attached to the floors, ceilings, electrical outlets and walls.

'Thanks for understanding'

Miller, who speculated that the building was being outfitted to be a small monastery or convent, found no big surprises, though the existence of the bunkers was a revelation. In the basement, there is a composting toilet, and in a large storeroom a couple of boxes of booze, good brandy and whiskey, dust-covered. Those can't be sold, and there are some things that probably just won't sell, such as the cartons of cassette tapes of religious talks.

The short steeple and bell also might be a tough sell, as they have to be removed from the building, but there has been great interest shown in the religious clothing. Some of the items typically sell for more than $500.

Miller said Bushey, who lives in a friend's home on nearby Shrine Road and has claimed he made a vow of poverty, has been over once to pick up some personal items, but there has been no contact other than that.

"He seems to be pretty passionate about religion," Miller said.

On Shrine Road, a woman responds to a knock at the door. She says politely that no one there will comment about the auction, and "thanks for understanding."

A clue to Bushey's thoughts on Saturday's end of a world might be found in an Aug. 11 hand-written letter to Juneau County Circuit Court Judge John Roemer concerning the trust's attempt to evict him from a home he claimed was given to him and his church in 2001: "If they (the church) can retain the property that was donated to them, they stand a better chance of attracting a new pastor should I be forced to be absent."

Monday, October 6, 2008

Travels with Charley

Okay, not travels with Charley (Steinbeck) or with a donkey (Robert Louis Stevenson) or anyone at all. But later in the week I will hit the road for a short trip to Holy Hill and environs. I have a meeting with Jude for lunch and to discuss the work I am doing on the history booklet. Afterward I will visit Hilda Weber, a woman who worked for us when I was prior at the Hill. She and her husband live in nearby Hartford, and she has been in touch from time to time. Recently she emailed me to tell me she has been diagnosed with incipient dementia and would like to see me. She is a remarkably sweet woman who has dealt with a lot of suffering in her family. It will be good to see her.

The illustration is of The Fool, a card from a modern tarot deck. (Tarot cards are the kind fortune tellers use. Regular card decks developed out of the larger tarot decks.) The Fool, in traditional tarot decks, is depicted starting out on a journey, usually accompanied by a dog (as was Steinbeck in his book), optimistically looking up and often taking a step out over an empty space. The card does not represent a foolish person so much as an innocent one, and the step out over the space does not necessarily mean the person is heading for disaster. It just means he is stepping out into the unknown.

I identify with The Fool for a number of reasons, not least being that the last few years, leaving the monastery and then moving to Wisconsin, have felt like I am stepping out into the unknown. But, as I have often told people, whenever I have taken a step forward, something (Someone's hand) rises to hold me up.

I hope Hilda finds that Someone supporting her as she steps out into a frightening journey at this point in her life. Indeed, may we all!

Train wreck

For some reason I have taken to reading all the news about the bailout and the ongoing credit crisis. I don't have much interest in economics, and I don't have any particular knowledge about macro- or micro-economics. I have nothing in the stock market, and it doesn't affect me directly like it does some of you (including Tom). I am sorry that you are seeing your resources cut so drastically, and I know it is not a joke.

I suppose it is like watching a train wreck. It is a terrible thing, but you can't help watching in fascination. (I picked a video that is pretty bloodless to illustrate this.)

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Some days

There's an old John Denver song -- I forget, all John Denver songs are "old", since he died in 1997 -- with a chorus that I find descriptive of much of life:
Some days are diamonds, some days are stones;
Sometimes the hard times won't leave me alone.
Sometimes a cold wind blows a chill in my bones;
Some days are diamonds, some days are stones.
The railway was that way this weekend. Saturday was a diamond. The weather was glorious, cool and sunny, the foliage was turning colors and the crowds for the pumpkin trains were steady all day long. Normally the train runs once an hour for a 35-minute trip. Yesterday they ran the train, filed it up again and took off at once -- so about every 45 minutes all day instead of every hour. Lots of kids, lots of fun.

Today, Sunday, we woke to cloudy skies and the rain started about the time the first train left at 10:00. Pretty much rainy and chilly all day. People still came, but it was nothing like yesterday. When you do something in the fall, you are at the mercy of the weather, of course. Maybe next weekend will be another diamond.

Another way of looking at this is that all days are geodes -- rocks that are rough and ugly on the outside but that are filled with beautiful crystals when broken open. The secret is getting to the inner reality.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Chill out!

Well, folks, it's our first frost advisory for the season. It is supposed to dip to 29° tonight.


Well, when the frost is on the pumpkin and all that. Tomorrow the railway starts its annual Pumpkin Trains. All the kids who ride the train during October get a free pumpkin, and I understand the weekends get pretty hectic. So I will fight my way through the frost tomorrow and see what I can do to help. Maybe I should take some blankets along!

Divinity Part Two

Cynthia is a divinity fan, too, and she sent me a link to an "easy" divinity recipe, reproduced for you here:
Easy Divinity

This is a great no-cook divinity, perfect for holiday treats or year round enjoyment.

Serving: 60
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 15 minutes
Total Time: 30 minutes

1 package of fluffy white frosting mix
1/3 cup light corn syrup
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup of boiling water
1 16 oz. package powder sugar (4cups)
1 cup chopped nuts

1. Combine dry frosting mix, corn syrup, vanilla, and boiling water in small bowl and beat on low speed until blended. Beat on high speed about 5 minutes or until stiff peaks form.

2. Transfer to large bowl. Gradually beat in sugar on low speed. Stir in nuts. Drop mixture by teaspoonfuls onto waxed paper. Let stand about 4 hours or until firm.

3. Turn candies over. Dry at least 12 hours. Store in airtight container. Makes 5 to 6 dozen.

Cook's Notes: Because mixture is extremely stiff, use a stand electric mixer only, not a hand held beater.

As I told Cynthia, even this easy recipe seems hard to me, not because it is complicated but because it is so time consuming. I want to be eating the divinity, not waiting twelve hours!

At any rate, I will have to borrow a stand electric mixer from a neighbor before I can try it.

Another hint from Cynthia, from her mother: Don't try to make divinity when it is humid or it won't set up right. You might have to eat it with a spoon

That reminds me of the days when Daddy made fudge, using the old ball of candy in a glass of water method of testing for readiness. He usually got it perfect, but sometimes it was more like a thick fudge sauce than candy. Still pretty nummy, though!

Wednesday, October 1, 2008


For some reason -- I suppose because the family orientation of Dells attractions means lots of children -- Wisconsin Dells is full of candy shops and fudge places. Sometimes when Helen visits, we stop at one of these places and get some fudge. I asked her once if she had ever had divinity, one of my favorite childhood party treats, and she was not familiar with it. Since then I have looked for easy recipes -- pretty much NOT happening -- and asked in the stores, because I never see it among the many taste choices. I assumed it was just a southern thing.

Today one of the people at Grandma's Homemade Fudge told me that they can't make it there because it gets stiff too fast. They used to order it, but since Katrina, they haven't been able to find a supplier.

So I guess it is a southern thing after all.

I did find a recipe online that I will give a shot. The problem is these things make like five or six dozen -- and I really don't know what I will do with sixty or seventy pieces of divinity! Maybe I'll hold off until Christmas, and if it turns out okay, I can add it to the boxes of homemade candy we give to the neighbors.

You know, maybe Kristin is right. It is a quaint sort of life.

Mouseacre at the OK Corral!

This morning there were three mice in sticky traps. Yesterday I disposed of two mice the cats brought in. This morning there was something that looked suspiciously like mouse remnants under the dining room table.

Because the mouse traps we use are effective but have to be disposed of along with the mouse, we have now run out of traps. I have been checking WalMart the last couple of days, but they are out, too. I guess with the cooler weather, everyone is being overrun with mousies and having to stock up on traps. Today I go into Baraboo for a meeting and to pick up some mail from the District mailbox, so I will check the WalMart there to see if they are supplied.

Meanwhile, Tom took the fountain apart to bring it in, and he discovered there was a small hornets' nest in the base. We have been bothered by them all summer, but we couldn't figure out where the nest was. He zapped it thoroughly and we hope that is that. Fortunately it was so cool they were not active when he opened the fountain up.

Signs of the times

We were up at Firehouse Pizza the other night, and the manager came over to chat. (It's not that we actually eat out that often, but we only eat at a few places and they get to know us.) It was a coolish day, and he told us that he had heard we may get 160 inches of snow this winter. He was not the first person I have heard report this. Now I have no idea how "they" figure such things out (given the fact that this summer they were wrong about 80% of the time with their predictions for rain around here), but -- 160 inches of snow?!?! That is over thirteen FEET of snow, several feet above what we had to contend with last winter. I choose to go into denial on this one.

Tom, on the other hand, decided it is time to service the snow thrower and make sure he is prepared. He has also started stocking up on soup and canned goods, like a squirrel hiding away acorns for the winter. I have actually been wearing sweaters the past week and sleeping under two comforters, and I guess all the nights we have now in the 40's indicate that we need to dismantle the Zen fountain and bring it inside. (UPDATE: Friday night is supposed to dip into the upper 30's.)

Oh, yeah! Happy birthday, Ted!

And for Kristin, today is the feast of St. Therese. (That's the statue that DID NOT MOVE ...)