Saturday, December 29, 2012

ComicCon New Orleans

 Tom recently took a road trip with friends to New Orleans to go to Comic Con.  Most of the pictures are of his friends--he doesn't have any costumes.  But the pictures sure look like they had a great time.  I don't know much about this phenomenon.  I recognized the Star Wars costumes but that was about it.  I had to ask Chris about what everything else represented.  He had to point out the Slender Man, Battlestar Galactica, Star Trek and Umbrella Special Forces costumes to me.
His friend, Mike, paid to get an autograph from Jonathan Frakes of Star Trek: The Next Generation and talked to "Data" who was sitting at the next booth so that was pretty fun to have a brush with celebrities.  They also went to eat at the famous Mother's Restaurant in New Orleans.  I didn't realize the history of the place until after he said that he went there.  But it was a hangout for Marines and they have a lot of military photos hanging on the walls.  Tom captured that in the photo of his three buddies all looking at the menu in line together although it is too small for you to see here.

Fun road trip to another world.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Merry Christmas

Tom couldn't come home for Christmas.  He used his leave in October so he didn't have enough to come home for Christmas.  Plus he has the time off of school to enjoy down there.  Maddy will be joining him tomorrow to celebrate the New Year together.  I was disappointed on an emotional level but understand intellectually that it is part of him growing up and being in the military.  After all--I haven't been home for the holidays myself since 1984.  I guess I know what my family must have felt all these year.  Still hard not to have your whole family together for Christmas.

We have never Skyped before with him or anyone else for that matter.  But one of my Christmas wishes was to Skype with Tom for Christmas.  Three of his classmates were also staying in Pensacola for the holidays.  One of them with a wife and children invited him and the other two to Christmas dinner last night which was really nice for him.  So we arranged to Skype at a time when we could do it with Grandma on Christmas Eve.  Chris got a kick out of Grandma discovering the wonders of video chat and was really happy to "see" Tom as were the rest of us.  We got to get a little bit of a tour of his room via his new iPad that he bought for himself for Christmas.  It was fun to see what his living space looks like.

I had a wish to go to Christmas Eve Candlelight Service this year.  It has been a really long time since I have been to church on Christmas Eve.  It was always a big part of my family's Christmas celebration.  It has never been a priority for Bill or Beverly so we just have never gotten around to going.  Chris went by himself last year and he was going to go to the 11:00 candlelight service at his church so I decided to stay up past my bedtime and join him.  It was a beautiful service.

Another Christmas wish was to get my computer moved out of Chris' bedroom so that I can give him more privacy.  We cleared out a spot in the living room for one of the desks Bill had at his office.  Chris and Bill set it up for me on Saturday.  Thrilled to have my new space.

I was originally thinking we weren't going to have any presents to open Christmas Day.    I gave Tom his present in October and Chris got money to go to a conference in St. Louis this week.  Bill and I never give each other gifts--we buy what we want as we want it.  It has gotten to be a minimalist event in recent years anyway with fewer and fewer presents to open.  But I was definitely feeling like such a big part of Christmas was going to be missing.  So my final Christmas wish was to go to the movie theater as a family for Christmas Day to make up for the "no gift" part.  We went to see "Skyfall" which was very exciting.  Enjoyed it a lot.  We went to Cinetopia to see it.  I have to say "I LOVE CINETOPIA!".  Bill and I have enjoyed our couple of visits to the original Cinetopia in their living rooms.  The living rooms are smaller and more comfortable rooms with ottomans and they have waiters to order food and drink from the in-theater restaurant.  There is a brand new Cinetopia at the mall with 23 theaters--with regular auditoriums, extra large screen auditoriums, living rooms and movie parlors.  We were able to take Chris with us to the movie parlor because it was one  that did allow the under 21 set.  I was pleasantly surprised at how much more beautiful and comfortable the movie parlors are than even the living rooms.  It seats only 24 people.  What is even more surprising is that even though it is so much more comfortable and smaller, the tickets don't cost that much more than a regular theater.  I think they probably make up the difference on selling food and alcohol though.

As it turns out, we did have a few gifts to open.  Bill and I found some Taylor Swift items at a silent auction a few weeks ago.  Bill really wanted to play a trick on Christopher by seeing what his reaction would be to opening it as his Christmas gift.  Chris really HATES Taylor Swift.  I couldn't give him a gag gift and not follow it up with something that he really might like to have so I got him some jeans and socks that he needed, a DVD and a gift certificate to our favorite bagel place.  Bill got his wish by getting exactly the reaction he was hoping for when Chris saw that he got a Taylor Swift gift.  Maddy sent me a vase she bought in Macau.  So we had a little bit of gift opening anyway even though I originally didn't think we would.

Our Christmas ended with a wonderful prime rib dinner.

So I missed my Tom terribly but we made the best of it and even though I didn't get much in the way of physical presents, I got my four wishes that made my Christmas a wonderful one.  I hope that you were all able to enjoy the joy of being with family as well.  After all, that is what Christmas is really all about.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Christmas Party Season

Bill and I always keep busy during December attending various parties that we get invited to.  This year was no exception.  As per usual--some are ones that we have attended in the past and others were new to us this year.

On the first, we attended the Rotary Festival of Trees Gala as we usually do.  On the 8th, we went to the Army-Navy Football Game Party in Beaverton and then headed out to LaCenter to attend the Van Dinter's Christmas Lighting Party.  It was pretty amazing with an eclectic collection of lighting--heavily weighted toward Disney characters. 

On the 9th, we went to our friend, Karen Stanley's, home for a fundraising party for the Legacy Salmon Creek Foundation to raise money for the Child Abuse Assessment Team.  A group of high school students collected items for the silent auction as part of their senior volunteer project and we heard a presentation by the physician that runs the program.  As part of the evening, Karen invited a professional dancing couple to do Argentine tango demonstrations.  Karen has a ballroom at her home instead of a living room.  It is a beautiful room with parquet floors, mirrored ball, state of the art sound system, balconies overlooking the ballroom, etc.  She loves to dance and host dances at her home.

On the 14th, Bill and I went to represent The Children's Center at the Portland Air National Guard Base.  The Combat Operations Group hosted their 2nd Annual Chili Cook-off and Toy Drive.  They collected money and toys to give to The Children's Center.  It was kind of fun to go.  There were about 15 kinds of chili to taste with a little bit of rivalry going on and sharing of secrets.  And there were prizes for the best and the hottest chili.  It has been a long time since I have been to that kind of informal military get together but it was a fun lunch time.

On the 15th, we had our annual Columbia Aviation Association Christmas Party.  It was a pleasant evening--mostly spent visiting with our friends, the Oerdings, but others as well.

On the 19th, the Rotary club hosted their Christmas Ships Party at The Quay.  Unfortunately, we were there an hour and still no ships.  I wasn't feeling very well so we decided to leave before they arrived.  We did drive home along the river and did catch a glimpse of them although there was no place to pull over and take pictures.  Plus it was really windy and rainy--so not sure how good they would have turned out anyway.

So that was our holiday season in a nutshell.  Always fun to connect with our friends during the holiday season.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Another Manger Party--1969

Well--this is a blast from the past.  I created this layout for a challenge to scrapbook a childhood memory.  This is a picture of my sister, brother and me along with a couple of friends that my mom babysat.  The year was 1969.  We decided we were going to play out the nativity scene.  Darren played Baby Jesus--probably a little bit too old at age 3.  But it definitely shows the imagination of children in turning a cardboard box into a manger and baby blankets into robes. 

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Army-Navy Game 2012

Ever since Bill and I started hosting the Army-Navy game parties at CAA years ago, the Army and Navy alumni groups have watched the game together.  It was really fun when we hosted them as there was a lot of ribbing going on between to two groups.  It wasn't so fun for Bill and I--lots of food for me to cook, sometimes running out of food and having to go to the store to buy more, the sewer backing up one year and the In-Focus projector overheating another year.  We finally decided to call it quits and started looking for sports bars to have the parties.  We've been at four different ones in the past several years.  I think we have finally landed on Big Al's in Beaverton as being the best place--enough room and centrally located for most people.  Unfortunately--the gathering has lost the intimacy of our club where there was more give and take between those attending. 

We like to invite our friends, Jeff and Julie, to join us every year.  And Rollie has joined us a few times as well and he was able to come this year.  Army has lost ten years in a row.  So we have been pretty disappointed for years now.  We were really hoping for a win this year.  And the Black Knights came so close.  They were getting ready to score in the last few minutes of the game to go ahead and win but they fumbled on the 14 yard line and lost the ball.  That ended it for their hopes for this year.  I felt so badly for the Army quarterback who didn't get the ball into the fullback's hands. 

We always say--maybe next year.  Although it hasn't come true for a very long time. 

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Manger Party

The kids at church took this fun picture of the Nativity.  Always good to remember that the real reason for the season is Christ's birthday.  And it was a fun way to celebrate!

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Festival of Trees

 Festival of Trees always kicks off our holiday season.  It starts the day before Thanksgiving for Bill.  He is in charge of the tree judging and tallies all the judging and votes to award the winning trees.  The festival starts on the day after Thanksgiving and runs through the weekend.  The Gala to sell the trees and various other fundraising auction items is the next Saturday.  As usual, the trees were beautiful.  The first place awarded by the judges is in the layout with the picture of Bill and me.
But the real crowd pleaser and the one that won the most awards including second place by the judges, the Mayor's Choice, the Rotarians' Choice and the People's Choice was a tree decorated by our friend, Karen Stanley, called Christmas in Paris.  It had lighted Eiffel Towers and French fans etc.  It was very nice.

It is fun to see the trees and fascinating to see how much they sell for.  The highest bid was about $2700 for a tree and the lowest was about $400.  But it all goes for great causes and charities.

Friday, November 23, 2012


This was the first major holiday that we celebrated without Tom being here.  I missed him a whole bunch.  But we had a wonderful meal with Beverly yesterday--just the four of us.  And tons of food left over for probably at least a couple more days. 

Tom called a couple of times.  Earlier in the week, I asked him what his plans were and he didn't have any.  I reminded him that there were plenty of people in his situation and that he should try to celebrate with friends by either going out or cooking in.  When he called yesterday, he announced that he was going to celebrate with two of his buddies and one of their girlfriends was flying in to spend Thanksgiving with them.  So the four of them had a dinner plan and they all divided up what each other was going to be responsible for.  Tom was responsible for making the pumpkin bread and cooking the corn.  He was also in charge of dessert and bought a frozen berry cobbler.

So even though I missed him a whole bunch, I know that he had a terrific holiday with his friends.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Museum Date Day

Bill really wanted to see the King Tut exhibit before it left Seattle.  We were getting down to the wire with it leaving North America altogether in another month and a half.  This weekend was free so we took advantage of spending the weekend up in the Seattle/Tacoma area.

The weather was really rainy and difficult to drive up there--at least for the first portion of the trip.  We were glad it improved as we traveled north.  Still wasn't fun being outside in the cold and the rain.  We got to the Seattle Center about an hour early so we tried to find some places to sit inside waiting for our turn.  We went in the Armory for awhile. Then thought we might try to see the Chihuly Garden but the tickets were really expensive--and it was spending more time outside so we decided to pass.  Bill asked if I wanted to go up the Space Needle.  Not worth it on a day like that--wouldn't have been a very good view so passed on that.  So we went to see the rest of the Pacific Science Center until it was time to line up for the King Tut exhibit.

The King Tut exhibit was wonderful.  Lots of statues and jewelry.  I liked the reliefs with the carvings and hieroglyphs best.  We spent about an hour looking at all the wonderful artifacts.

Next stop was to go back to Tacoma to see some things there.  Bill wanted to see the Chihuly Bridge and perhaps the Museum of Glass.  I've been there before and wasn't all that impressed with the museum.  But the Washington State History Museum is right across the bridge from the glass museum and it is wonderful.  I took the boys and Beverly there when we went to see the glass museum years ago.  Bill hadn't been there so we decided to see it.  It isn't a very big museum but it is beautifully done.  And the Chihuly bridge is quite impressive with one section mimicking being under the sea with all the sea creature-like glass above you.  Then there are blue crystal towers in the middle of the bridge and a wall filled with 109 of Chihuly's glass sculptures. It would have been nicer if the sun had been out.  That is what really makes it impressive to see.

Ended out day with a date out at The Ram in Lakewood.  It was a favorite spot when I lived there.  It isn't exactly the same--they have built a new restaurant and the atmosphere is really different now.  But it was a wonderful meal.  And then we met my friends, Suzi and Terry, for breakfast before we headed home this morning.  It was a wonderful weekend but it went way too fast.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Veteran's Day Dinner at The Bomber

We celebrated Veterans Day with our friends Jeff and Julie Oerding and other veteran friends on Saturday night.  We at in the museum at The Bomber restaurant complex in Milwaukie, OR.  It has been years since Bill and I took the boys to The Bomber for breakfast to see the B-17 bomber that they have there.  And we had never been to their museum.

The program was the Lacey family talking about their quest to restore the bomber to its original glory and maybe even make it flyable again.  And they told many stories about their father/grandfather and how he came to bring the plane from Oklahoma to Oregon.  It is quite a story.  They also talked about some of the veterans that they honor with exhibits in their museum.

Our friend, Ernie Wakehouse, is a WWII and Korean War ace fighter pilot.  He turned 90 on Thursday so we celebrated his birthday with cake.

It was a very nice evening and fun to see a new spot honoring veterans.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Game Day at West Point

 Game day always starts out with a parade.  West Point parades are so impressive.  On this day, it was First and Second Regiments that participated in the Pass and Review.  The cadets march out onto the Plain through the sally ports in Central Area. 
 In addition to the Class of 1982, the Class of 1977 was also there.  Whenever there is a reunion, the alumni are the reviewers.  They "march" out onto the parade field to take their positions in a much more casual way than they would have as cadets--ambling out and joking around. 

We had an early lunch at 1000 because the game was starting at noon.  We ate in Washington Hall which is the Cadet Mess.  Since we were eating in their mess hall, they were having tailgate parties at their barracks.  Washington Hall is absolutely beautiful.  There are cut glass and stained glass windows all throughout the building.  There is also a mural in one wing of the hall.   Lots of flags too--they are everywhere.  The hall seats the entire Corps of Cadets--approximately 4400 students--all at the same time.  They eat family style and have jobs assignments.  We played out some of the roles like table captain and gunner although not in the same way that the cadets would have.  I was the gunner cutting dessert.  For instance--I think I would have got in a lot of trouble if I was a cadet because my cake portions weren't anywhere near even.  And I didn't do the announcement and inspection of my job to the table captain like I would have had to as a cadet.  I read that this is what they have to say--"SIR/MA'AM, THE DESSERT HAS BEEN CUT. DESSERT TO CADET _____ FOR INSPECTION PLEASE, SIR/MA'AM."  And the cold beverage server and the hot beverage server has to say something similar.

 The guys always like to go to their old barracks to check it out.  It is a little strange.  We're not always sure we are allowed to be there.  Although someone at our table this year said that if we wanted to see the barracks, we had to be out by 1100.  So I guess it is okay during a certain time.  When the guys lived there, it was called Central Barracks.  It was named after Omar Bradley after he passed away.  The plebes were calling the minutes to football formation while we were there.  They were droning them out--apparently doing them much differently than the old guys did it while they were there.  So they had to give them a bit of a hard time.  Nothing like being harassed by middle-aged Firsties.

On the way up to Michie Stadium, we made a stop at the Cadet Chapel to take a breathing break.  There are a whole lot of steps going up there from Central area and it is only half way up to the stadium.  I was glad we stopped there for a bit.  We usually have the memorial service there but it was at the Catholic chapel instead this year.  Again--another wonderful example of Gothic architecture and stained glass windows the whole length of the chapel.

 The game was against Ball State.  There is a lot of pageantry that surrounds an Army football game.  Third Regiment did the March On.  The mules have been part of Army tradition forever.  The cheerleaders are called "Rabble Rousers" and the Rocket cheer is the most traditional one.  And every game ends with singing the alma mater.  Unfortunately, the skydiving team didn't make the jump into the stadium because of weather.  The West Point band did a fun Halloween half time show in costume which was different.  Not their usual squared performance.

There was a new twist that I had never seen before.  Several of the players prayed in the end zone before the first and second half of the game.  Unfortunately, it didn't help.  Ball State won 30-20.

The next weekend Army beat Air Force at West Point.  I was a little jealous to miss them beating Air Force but I am not certain that we would have enjoyed being in New Jersey and New York in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy.  We were so grateful that we were able to leave before the storm and get home safely but certainly prayed for the people left behind that had to endure the weather and destruction.  As I write this, I know there are people who are still suffering and trying to pick up the pieces of their lives.  Prayers their way!

Exploring West Point

Now that my travels are over for a bit and my scrapbooking is caught up, I think I will update you with what I have been up to the past few weeks. 

Reunion schedules end up being pretty predictable now that I have been to three of them.  Friday is always reserved for walk around time at the academy, a memorial service, and two class meetings--one taking care of class business and one to update the alumni on the state of the academy by the Superintendent, the Commandant and the Dean.  Then we head back to the hotel and have dinner together.

We took the early buses into West Point with our friends, Rob and Mindy Croskey and Fred and Mary Shambach.  Rob and Fred were in Bill's company and they were roommates.  Fred and Mary just got married in May and it was our first time meeting her.  We were so pleased to see Fred happy again and with such a wonderful woman.  So we set out exploring.

 Most of the places are familiar to all of us but it was all new to Mary.  We went down to Kosciuszko's Garden which was built in 1778, Flirtation Walk, Trophy Point, and various other monuments and locations.

 I love the look of Central Area at the academy.  Everything is built with military Gothic architecture in mind--gray granite, arches, and other castle like features. 

 And there are monuments and plaques at every turn.  We found a lot of ones we had never seen before on this trip--and they have been there for 11 years--on every other reunion trip we have been there for.  We have just never gotten that far down the street the other times. 

 And we were so pleased that the autumn leaves were still there for us to see.
 The new location that we were excited to see was the new library.  It was built in 2008--since the last time we were there.  It is a beautiful facility.  It is a mini-museum with some museum quality pieces from Thomas Jefferson, Omar Bradley, and Alexander Haig.  And also has an art gallery.  The views from the study areas and six floor patio are spectacular looking out onto the Plain and the Hudson River.

 Every time Bill and Fred get together, they have to reminisce about the time they almost killed each other over Bill's Patton poster.  Fred hid it so Bill hid Fred's textbooks--which he needed a lot more than Bill needed his poster.  They did a little reenactment for me so I could document it in my scrapbook.

 At the class meeting, our friend, Steve Croskrey announced that the class had raised $1.3 million to donate to the Superintendent's Endowment Fund.  In turn, the stage in Eisenhower Hall is now called the Class of 1982 Stage.
 Now it is back to the hotel to party.  All the women grads got together to get their picture taken.  And I took the picture of Debbie Hinton-Pawlowski and Margaret Burcham together.  They were in Bill's company.  I admire all these women so much.  They were not the first class of women at West Point but they came two years later so they endured the same struggles in trying to assimilate in to a traditionally all male school.  The guys were hard on them and isolated themselves from them a lot so it wasn't easy being there.  I remember watching the movie "Women at West Point" when I was in high school.  It was about the first class and a lot of the cadets were extras in the movie--including Bill.  He was in a parade scene.  Margaret was just promoted to Brigadier General so she has done the class and the company proud.

 The rest of the pictures are mostly from the Friday night dinner but also other parts of the weekend when I could manage to take their picture.
 I love going to the reunions because not only are they fun for Bill to reconnect with his classmates, friends and comrades, it is fun for me as well.  I have gotten to know many of his classmates and their spouses over the years in various ways--mostly from when we were stationed together.  And have enjoyed meeting the others at the reunions as well.

 So we had three days of wonderful times remembering old times and catching up with what is new.
Can't wait for 2017 so that we can see them again!

Monday, October 29, 2012

New York New York

 Bill and I just got back from a trip to New York for his West Point class reunion.  The first event we attended was a lunch cruise in New York Harbor.  It was really fun.  Fortunately it didn't rain the whole time we were in NY.  Unfortunately it was cloudy the whole time so pictures are so-so.  But we had a great time.
Highlights of our trip into the city were seeing the Freedom Tower under construction which replaces the Twin Towers.  We also could spot the Empire State Building, the Chrysler Building, the Brooklyn Bridge, Governor's Island, Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty.  It is always fun to see those well known landmarks in person.

Lots more ahead as I get up to speed on scrapbooking my pictures.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Christmas in October

 Tom is in Washington on leave this week.  He flew into Seattle Monday night and will leave on Sunday.  His plan was to come home on Tuesday and spent just one night with us.  I was consoling myself to the fact that it was only one night with the assumption that he would be able to come home for Christmas and I would be able to see more of him then.  Monday night I found out that Maddy is flying to Pensacola for the holidays so it became obvious that he wasn't going to be coming home for Christmas after all.  He doesn't have enough leave and it was pretty expensive to come here for this week.  So I made an impromptu decision that Tuesday night was going to be his "Christmas" with us.  Luckily--I had gone Christmas shopping for him on Saturday so I had his gift all prepared.  He wanted Thai food since he hasn't been able to find a Thai restaurant in Pensacola and he opened his present from us--a new camera--so that he can take pictures of his adventures in the Air Force and so that I can scrapbook them.  Totally selfish on my part but hopefully he will enjoy the ability to take pictures now too.
 Christopher was really happy to see him.  He has missed him being gone a lot.  They faced off on some computer game most of the night.
 Grandma was happy
as well as Mom and Dad.  It was a really short visit but as always we love seeing our Air Force guy!

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Honoring Those Who Have Served

Tomah has been raising funds to build a veterans memorial for awhile now.  They dedicated the memorial about a year and a half ago now but this was my first visit back home since it was built.  And it actually isn't completed--there is work going on now for "Phase II" to add more names.  During the fundraising campaign, we decided to donate money to have a tile placed with Dad, Sherrill, Darren and my name on the tile.  I had fun looking for old pictures of all of us from when we were in the military.  I used pictures of Dad with his buddy, Doug Maas, taking a break from cooking at Ft. Lewis; a picture of Darren working on the flight line with the F-16's somewhere in Japan I think.  He was stationed at Misawa but I think this was taken at another base.  No exciting pictures of Sherrill and I doing nursing but I had pictures of our families.  I had Tom just before Bill and I got out of the Army and the picture of Sherrill is with her family at her promotion to Colonel.
Dad and I stopped to see the memorial while I was home and took our pictures by our tile.  I took pictures of lots of friends' and relatives' names on the wall.  A few of them are represented in my layout but there were too many to include.  We have ties to so many names on the wall in one way or another--family, friends from high school, fellow guardsmen, our physicians, customers at the gas station, etc.  Being from a small town, you know or know of practically every one of those names. 

The one that always touches me the most is Joe Kube.  He was one of my dad's friendsl.  I might have this wrong but I think there were in the National Guard together at one point.  But he was an active duty infantry and special forces officer.  He served three tours in Vietnam and was killed a month into his third tour at the age 31.  His wife was pregnant with their third child when he died --a son who was named Joe as well.  When Joe was killed, his family lived on an Army base in Georgia but after his death, his wife returned home to Tomah with their children to raise them.  I grew up knowing his kids--we were close neighbors and we played with them all the time.  My brother is still friends with Joe Jr. and his family.  And his wife still lives in the same house by my dad.  When I went to visit The Wall in Washington, D.C., I made sure I found Joe's name and took an etching of it to send to his wife.  She had never been there and appreciated the gesture.  Dane came across a picture of him on the internet a few years ago posted by one of his buddies in Vietnam.  It was one that the family wasn't aware of and were happy to learn of as well.  Since Joe in particular never knew his dad, he is always anxious for pictures or information that will give him a taste of what his dad was like.

Veteran's Day is a month away yet--but it is always appropriate to think about our military and our veterans and the sacrifices that they make for our country so that we can have all the freedoms that we enjoy.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Visiting the Aunts and Uncles

 This visit I made a point to go see all my aunts and uncles.  I always try to make sure I see my mom's brother and sisters when I go home.  We were always so close to them growing up.  I don't see my dad's sisters very often though.  It has been almost 10 years since I saw them and with Aunt LaVerne turning 91 this year and Aunt DonnaLee turning 84, I thought I had better make the effort this time.  They have both recently moved into assisted living situations.  Bill wanted to go hiking in the LaCrosse area so Dad, Shirley and I went to see her in Holmen while we waited for Bill to get done with his hike--at least that was the plan.  We would do our visiting and then go pick him up.  He was ready to be picked up before we even left LaCrosse to go to Holmen.  So he had to wait a bit while I did my visiting.  So good to see her and catch up.

That evening Bill and I were in downtown Tomah looking for someplace that he could connect to WiFi and get some work done.  We lucked out that a coffee shop was staying open later that night for a grand opening of a photographer's art show.  So they let us in and we bought some coffee and dessert and while Bill was working, I went to look at the pictures.  I caught up with a friend from high school and then in walks Aunt LaVerne with her daughter-in-law, Joann.  As it turns out, the photographer was Joann's niece so she came down from LaCrosse for the showing and brought Aunt LaVerne with her.  It was quite the surprise.  I certainly didn't expect to see her there.  Dad and I visited with her the next morning for awhile in her apartment just before I headed up to Wausau to see my other aunts.

Bill, Dane and I headed up to Wausau to see Aunty Joanne, Aunty Carolyn and our cousins.  We had a nice visit and it turns out they planned on it being my 50th birthday celebration as well.  Aunty Carolyn made me an angel food birthday cake--just like my mom would have--and brought out the "Happy Birthday" musical cake holder.  Brought back a lot of memories.  Haven't had a birthday like that in over thirty years.  Part of the visit was going up to the top of Rib Mountain as a family.  Pictures and blogging about that a few days ago. 

I almost didn't get to see Uncle Raymond.  I waited until Sunday afternoon to see if he was available.  He was sleeping because he had to work all night Sunday night.  So Monday was going to be out too--to see either him or Aunty Karen.  But they decided to come to Dane's to watch the Packer game with us.  So didn't get to visit a whole lot--but we got to cheer the Packers on to their win together anyway.

Always good to connect with my family.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

The World's Largest Cranberry Festival

For my non-Wisconsin readers--I am from Tomah, Wisconsin which calls itself the "Gateway to Cranberry Country".  Wisconsin isn't just known for its dairy farming and cheese production.  We are also known for our cranberry production.  At least 1/3 of all cranberries produced every year are grown in Wisconsin.  Massachusetts seems to get a lot of publicity about their cranberries but Wisconsin actually produces twice as many as Massachusetts.  Some of the cranberry growers in Tomah and Warrens have been producing for 150 years--back to the mid-1800's. And the number of bogs in the area just keeps on growing.  My sister-in-law, Tess, works for Ocean Spray at their plant in Tomah.  She makes Craisins.  They make juice there as well.

I didn't plan my vacation around Cranfest but that happened to be the weekend that I chose to go to Wisconsin.  It was with mixed excitement that I wanted to go.  I have heard stories about how much it had grown from its humble beginnings 40 years ago.  I was there when it first started.  I marched in the parade every year while I was in junior high and high school.  Sherrill and I participated in the talent competition one year.  It was a wonderful small community celebration.  So it was with great curiosity that I wanted to actually see it first hand but didn't want to experience the huge crowds that I had heard about.

Dane wanted to go to the pancake breakfast at the Catholic Church so Dad, Shirley, Darren, Dane, Bill and I got up bright and early to take the bus out to Warrens at 0700 to get there early.  The women of the Catholic Church make cranberry syrup for the pancakes so that was nice to get to have a bit of a different taste to breakfast.

To give you some perspective--the population of Warrens is 360 people.  It is a very small town.  There were vendor canopies everywhere.  There were over 1200 vendors that came to sell their crafts, antiques, food, etc.  It was pretty overwhelming and there was no way you could possibly look at everything that was there.  I enjoy looking at a few things but am not really into looking at a bunch of crafts and definitely didn't want to buy anything that I had to bring home with me on the plane--so I wasn't super interested in that portion of the festival although that seems to be what brings most of the visitors there.  Over the course of the three days of the festival--over 140,000 people attended.  We got to see a couple of celebrities.  We saw Miss Wisconsin--the guys were really wanting to get their picture taken with her LOL.  Darren spotted Gilbert Brown--a former Green Bay Packer--and said I should try to get my picture taken with him.  He was out shopping himself and wasn't at his "booth" so he had to refuse.  I did sneak a picture of him talking to some of the vendors though.  The guys and I didn't want to stay that long so we were only there a couple of hours--just long enough to get a taste.  So I didn't see the huge crowds.  But I saw a picture on the internet and the number of people in the street could have rivaled New York City.  I don't know how anyone could possibly move or see anything there with that many people.  Dad and Shirley decided to stay for the parade.  It would have been nice to see that as well but decided to go home with the guys.

So I can now say that I have been to the Cranfest and seen how Warrens transforms itself into a big city every year at harvest time.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Fall Foliage in Wisconsin

 Bill and I traveled to Wisconsin last week for vacation.  We spent a couple of days in Wausau with my family there.  Got to see almost everyone there at least for a short time.  Knowing how much Bill likes to hike, Tracy suggested that he hike up Rib Mountain.  I can't remember the last time I was on Rib Mountain.  I am sure Aunty Carolyn took us up at some point as kids but it has definitely been a long time ago.  So a few of the group--Tim, Tracy, Dave, Dane and Bill hiked up while the rest of us drove up.  Being able to see for miles and miles and see God's beautiful palette of fall colors from up there was wonderful.  We were in Wisconsin at just the right time to enjoy the colors.
The kids enjoyed climbing on the rocks on top.  And most of us got to the top of the observation tower to get a better look too.  I decided I could hike down the hill so I joined Tim and Tracy on the way down to visit a little bit before we headed back to Tomah.

Always fun to see my aunts and cousins.  Had a great time!

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Shannon Five-0

 I decided that I was not going to stress over turning 50 this year.  I was going to embrace it and decided that I wanted to do a bigger than usual party and celebrate with some of our friends.  I planned a Hawaii Five-0 themed party.  A friend threw one for her husband last year and I thought it was a great idea.  I love Hawaii Five-0 and what a fun way to celebrate your 50th.

My birthday was actually on Thursday but we celebrated on Saturday.  Since it was my friend Denise's birthday on Saturday, I decided to include her in my celebration and put her name on the cake.  The bar even gave us Birthday Cake shots to down together. 

 We had dinner at Tommy O's--a Hawaiian restaurant in downtown Vancouver.  I didn't do a whole lot of decorating, but I did buy leis for everyone and put some crime scene tape on the table to carry out the theme a little bit.  I invited the people who have been a part of our lives almost as long as we have lived here.  I have never celebrated my birthday with this big of a party before.  Usually just with one or two girlfriends for dinner one night and with the family.  But it was actually really fun.