One thing leads to another

A weekend snowstorm seemed like the perfect opportunity for me to dig out the Christmas decorations, set up the tree and sprinkle the rooms of my home with the holiday spirit.

But, here it is on Sunday afternoon and I have the tree half-assembled, the boxes of ornaments at the top of the stairs and the Christmas lights a jumbled up mess inside a series of plastic bags.

It’s my own fault, about the lights, I mean. My impatience at getting the holiday décor disassembled in mid-January mirrors my impatience at putting everything up in mid-November or early December.

So why do I bother?

Well, I guess it’s because the one year I didn’t decorate my house for Christmas was the year it seemed to take forever for the holiday season to return. It just isn’t Christmas without a Christmas tree in the corner, adorned in twinkling lights, blinking lighthouses and ornaments — both the handmade variety and those collected over the years.

I still have enough hours left to at least get the lights on and the ornaments dangling from the branches before the end of the weekend. If not, I guess I’ll just have to follow the walking path through the living and dining room for a few more days.

My problem with putting up decorations — or really anything involving relocation of furniture — is that one thing leads to another.

It all started Saturday morning, when I decided I better get to work clearing space for the tree. A tote in the middle of the living room, filled with the sweaters I’d been pulling out one by one last week, first had to be moved.

I carried it to my home office, where another, empty, plastic tote sat. The empty tote led to an idea — go through my closet and dresser and clear some space for the sweaters. By the end of the evening, I had one tote filled with clothes for Goodwill, and the other tote still filled with the sweaters. Progress? Well, maybe not.

As I cleaned out the closet, I was overcome by dust bunnies, which led to a dance with the Swiffer Sweeper. In the midst of my merriment, I looked up to find a layer of dust on the top of the picture frames. Out came the spray can of furniture polish and a rag. My bedroom is now clean.

Next up, I had to move my tri-fold photo stand and rolling tower of needlework supplies into the home office. Before I could do that, I had to move a year-round pencil tree out of the way. In doing so, I discovered it really needed a dusting. One by one I plucked off my grandpa’s fishing lures, Old Salts ornaments and bobbers, followed by the lights. I shook the tree outside and then, for good measure, took the Shop-Vac to it.

Now, the tree is on top of a table, the ornaments on top the tote of sweaters and I’ve decided to put a different string of lights on the little tree before moving it to its new location on top of my cedar chest. Just a couple of problems, though. I need to pack up the stereo system, which means I need to find a box to put it in. Oh well, the lights are still a tangled mess inside the plastic bag anyway … I’ll get a box from work on Monday!

Since the dust rag was already damp from the furniture polish, I thought I should clean the rest of the furniture in the house. And I will … someday. (I can’t spend the entire weekend working, right?) Besides, I wanted to stitch a little more on my latest needlework project before I had to rearrange the living room.

At least the laundry is done; and I washed the dishes.

I fully anticipate by the time Christmas is here, I’ll have three trees decorated in my home, the Christmas village will be lit and the aroma of apples and cinnamon will mask those created this weekend by household cleaning products.

And some people think it’s too early to decorate for Christmas!

The day has come

Is anyone out there as happy as I am that today is Election Day?

I should be thrilled that I can once again let my voice be heard in this democracy that allows any American citizen — age 18 or older — an opportunity to cast their vote for the man or woman they believe will be the best person for the job.

Will the candidates remember us and represent us, the taxpayers, when they take their seat on the city council, the county board, the Minnesota House, or the U.S. House or Senate? Well, that remains to be seen.

I guess I’ve become a cynic.

I cannot honestly remember a time when there wasn’t bickering between candidates, when there wasn’t a steady stream of complaints about the people seated in office; or negative opinions on the work they’ve accomplished and the work they haven’t yet completed.

I’ve heard so many negative television ads from candidates complaining about their opponents that I don’t have any idea who or what to believe in anymore.

If you want to campaign for public office: tell me — tell your voting public — what you stand for; not what your opponent has or hasn’t done.

I know it’s a little late to be saying that today, on Election Day, but this is nothing new. Voters complain every election cycle.

What I find unfortunate is that the bickering taking place leading up to the election carries over to the work they do once they achieve public office. Now, I’m not talking about our local city and county representation — they put in a lot of time to make sure they represent the citizens of Worthington and Nobles County. I’m talking about our state and federal legislators who seemingly can’t come together for the good of the state — the good of the nation — on important issues.

Yes, I realize everyone has to fight over the same piece of pie, but when it comes down to basic issues like water, our state and federal leaders have failed us here in southwest Minnesota. At some point, common sense needs to return to our political parties.

I applaud those who are willing to run for political office — it’s oftentimes a thankless job, a job where you are never going to make everyone happy.

However, if you can find success in discovering a middle ground, more power to you. We will be watching.

Falling leaves and eagles’ wings

A couple of extra vacation days and a forecast for sunshine sent me to Minnesota’s eastern boundary last weekend to admire the beauty along the St. Croix and Mississippi rivers.

Spectacular fall color.

I know I’ve said it before, but I just love this time of year. The variety of maples, combined with the river bluffs, made for spectacular views on a journey that included my parents and eight-year-old niece, Katie.

My Kindle was charged and ready to keep the little girl happy on the road trip, and Greta Garmin was programmed to lead us northeasterly to my favorite needlework shop on the western edge of the Twin Cities. From there, we wove through traffic across the metropolis to Stillwater.

Along the St. Croix River.

The premise for the trip was to visit a little shop in one of Minnesota’s oldest towns — Kathe Wohlfahrt. My mom and I visited the Christmas shop by the same name while in Rothenburg ob der Tauber, Germany, in July. Little did we know then that there is one Kathe Wohlfahrt shop in all of North America, and it’s just a few hours’ drive from home.

While the Stillwater shop is much smaller than the one we spent more than an hour in while in Germany, it was neat to see so many of the same ornaments. Still, Mom and I found extra-special trinkets that will garner prominent placement on each of our Christmas trees for years to come.

A view on Lake Pepin.

Day two took us through a couple of Wisconsin towns — including Ellsworth. Since Katie attends school in southwest Minnesota’s town by the same name, we had to snap pictures of her standing by the city’s population sign, boasting nearly 3,000 more residents than our Ellsworth; along with another sign declaring Ellsworth, Wis., as the Cheese Curd Capital of the World. Unfortunately, we did not find any cheese curd shops on our brief jaunt through town.

A quick stop at the Red Wing Shoe Factory back on the Minnesota side of the river left Katie in awe as we admired a giant leather boot — Size 638.5 D — to fit a giant of a man, the sign exclaimed. We also strolled along the riverfront at Red Wing before getting back into the Buick and heading toward Wabasha.

Another view at Lake Pepin.

While you may remember the Grumpy Old Men movies were filmed here, the town is also home to the National Eagle Center — a new addition since the last time I visited this Mississippi River town.

The view outside the National Eagle Center at Wabasha, along the Mississippi River.

The center’s exhibits and programs held appeal for all of us — the greatest being our front-row seats to hear about the center’s five eagles, the wing injuries that have left them incapable of being returned to the wild, and the habitat and environment that draws them to the river at Wabasha by the hundreds each winter.

The featured eagle for the program we attended was Angel, but we learned the favorite among frequent visitors to the center is Harriet, the eagle who suffers from a bad hair day every day due to the injuries she suffered when she was struck by a vehicle.

Harriet was the model for Minnesota’s Support our Troops license plate. Thanks to a little airbrushing, she will always have a good hair day for the people who see her outside of the center.

I will think of her, and our great little get-away when I see that majestic eagle on license plates from now on.

Angel, one of the eagles who resides at the National Eagle Center in Wabasha. She’s dining on some rabbit meat in this photo.

With a forecast calling for warmer temps through next week, here’s hoping you have some time to get outside — perhaps take a little road trip — and enjoy these wonderful fall days.

** Click on the photo to enlarge the image.

On the hunt for pheasants

My blurry pheasant in flight photo. :)

If there was a dream shot to be taken during this past weekend’s Minnesota Governor’s Pheasant Hunting Opener in Nobles County, it wasn’t to be done with a gun.

Nope. I had a camera.

My dream shot was to get a hunter perfectly poised, aiming his gun toward a beautiful ringneck pheasant as it took flight over a field in its attempt to escape.

Leave it to an award-winning photographer from the Mankato Free Press to burst my bubble (or perhaps take the self-imposed pressure off!). John Cross — a graduate of Worthington High School who worked at the Daily Globe early in his nearly 40-year career as a newspaper photographer — told me it’s easier to shoot a pheasant with a gun than it is with a camera.

Nevertheless, I tried my best. (That’s all the Chief asks for, right?)

Congressman Tim Walz (right) watches for a pheasant to flush.

Clad in a bright orange sweatshirt that made my eyes hurt, blue jeans, a worn-out pair of walking shoes and an awesome pheasant-adorned, blaze orange cap courtesy of Runnings, I set off with my hunting party minutes after Saturday’s 9 a.m. Pheasant Opener start.

Pheasant hunter and habitat promoter extraordinaire Les Johnson served as our hunting guide, and U.S. Rep. Tim Walz was among those carrying the guns. Cross and I followed along with our camera gear; and Johnson’s dogs, Darby and Brandy, led the hunt as they sniffed out and spooked up more than a dozen pheasants, albeit mostly hens.

Bret Amundson shows off his two roosters as four excited dogs surround him.

I’ve always considered myself an outdoors person, so to be walking through tall stands of prairie grasses like Indian Grass and Big Bluestem that towered over my 5’8” frame, I was as happy as a lark … or perhaps more appropriate for this adventure, as happy as a pheasant hen.

We’d traversed more than a quarter-mile of land before we saw our first action. I was in awe as Darby bounded through the grass, his nose seeking, then finding the scent. The faster his tail wagged, the more imminent the potential for a bird to flush, I learned.

I was so mesmerized by the dog that the first pheasant to fly out from under cover flew off into the distance without so much as one click of my camera’s shutter. I think I forgot what my job was to be on this hunt!

I’ll be ready next time, I declared, as visions of blank newspaper pages flashed before me. Yes, I must get a shot — a good shot.

We kept on walking through brief clearings and thick brush as Johnson and Walz talked about government funding for habitat and the array of wildlife on the land, mixed in with occasional praise of the hunting dog.

After joining other hunters in our group, we divided up again. Johnson and Brandy walked through the cornfield, and I trailed behind Walz along the field’s edge. Hunters to our right had four working dogs to help scare up the birds.

We hadn’t walked far when Johnson shouted that a deer was on its way out of the corn field.

The thought of being pummeled by a 10-point buck immediately interrupted the serene feeling I had about connecting with nature.

A pheasant hen safely flies away after being scared up by one of the hunting dogs.

While I missed any photo ops with deer, I captured a few shots of pheasants in flight — and missed the closest opportunity of all. A hen flushed about two feet from my walking shoes, scaring me enough to elicit a scream. Walz laughed at the surprise encounter and said we were close enough to feel the breeze of the flush.

Yep … that wasn’t all I felt!

All in all, it was a successful hunt — the gun-toting members of our hunting party bagged three beautiful roosters; the photographers had opportunities aplenty; and our First District Congressman experienced a hunt on some amazing Reinvest In Minnesota prairie ground in Nobles County.

Kudos to all of the people who made the 2014 Minnesota Governor’s Pheasant Hunting Opener not only happen, but one to be proud of. It was well-organized, educational and fun, and Mother Nature did her best to provide perfect conditions for a hunt … whether we carried a camera or a gun.

In search of stitchers and knitters

WORTHINGTON — I was probably about six or seven years old when my Grandma Elizabeth taught me how to hold a needle and thread and stitch along the pink lines imprinted on a cotton dish towel.

I remember trying to speed up the intricate work by making long stitches — stitches my grandma would rip out — only to have me do the work again, this time with smaller stitches. She was trying to teach me the right way to do embroidery work.

A couple of years later, as a 4-H member learning from expert needleworker and patient 4-H leader Jean Weness, I learned how to cross-stitch. Like my grandma, Jean has certain standards. I eventually learned if I couldn’t do it right the first time, it was all the more painful to rip it out and redo it.

It sort of applies to everything in life — if you can’t do it right, it isn’t worth doing at all.

Anyway, because of those patient women and their willingness to share their talents, my life was set on a course to stitch.

Bad day at school? I’d go home and stitch. Good day at school? I’d go home and stitch.

When kids my age were partying on Friday nights, I was home with a needle and thread, creating works of art for family, friends and eventually the walls of my own home.

Stitching has often been my refuge — a way to relieve stress in this stress-filled, deadline-filled career that pays my bills.

I can’t imagine how boring life would be without my needlework stash.

Anyone who does needlework, whether knitting, crochet, quilting, embroidery or what have you, has a stash — a stack of patterns, a pile of fabric, a collection of threads — they hope to use up “some day.”

My stash, having grown in recent years thanks to donations from local retired stitchers, now makes me feel sad — sad that there are so many projects waiting to be completed at home.

Some might say my needlework hobby is an addiction, and I’d have to agree. I map out needlework shops on vacations; and I will drive three and a half hours to buy a special scissors for cutwork.

If anyone ever saw my stash, they’d probably also call me a hoarder. Yes, that would be accurate as well.

So, with the encouragement of some other local stitchers who are working to reduce their stash, we are establishing a Stitcher’s Group in Worthington. (I’m so excited!)

On the second Tuesday of each month, all area stitchers are invited to bring their projects for stitching and socializing from 6:30 to 9:30 p.m., at the Center for Active Living, 211 11th St., in Worthington. Our first Sit-n-Stitch is next Tuesday.

Over the next few days, look through your stash, pick out a project and bring it Tuesday night to the CAL. Who knows, maybe with some dedicated stitching time and encouragement, we’ll be able to finish some of those projects in our stash.