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About Ruby Girl

Grand Forks Herald Staff Writer for 23 years now a free-lance Herald "In The Spirit" columnist. Column appears the second Saturday of each month. Born and raised on a farm near Newburg, N.D. Married, mother of two sons and grandmother of four. Loves to read, sing, dance, play drums with my worship band at church, garden and ride my ole Schwinn bicycle. Plus, shovel snow in winter and mow lawn in summer.

Grab the rake; batten the hatches

Out the window, I look – north, south, east and west. Leaves, everywhere golden leaves, floating down like tiny parachutes to their green grass landing strip.

I go outside and look up. Millions still cling to the branches of our tallest tree, But a girls gotta start somewhere and so I do. And while I rake I reminisce.

I love every season of the year and even though fall is perhaps my favorite, it does conjure up some sadness. It’s hard to see the moss roses, petunias, impatiens, alyssum, pansies and geraniums bite the dust. They have been especially beautiful this year. As I tended and talked to them over the last few months they became an extension of the friends in my life — always more beautiful than I deserve.

It’s been a summer of many very good hours on the deck with family and friends – grilling, fellowshipping, talking, laughing. The space is too quiet now and much too spacious since the furniture has been stacked, covered and arranged along the west wall under the overhang. The grill and air conditioner have been outfitted with their winter garb secured with bungee cords and the decorative bricks that always hold two containers of geraniums on each side of the big garage door have been stacked under the work bench.

Makes everything look too barren for my liking!

The very hardest thing to see go, however, is the spray of American Beauty Rose impatiens that fan out beneath the mailbox out front. I’ve had such an arrangement hanging there every year for many. I get them in the spring from either All Season’s Garden Center or Shea’s Nursery where they are planted in skinny green plastic pouches. They never, ever let me down with their beauty, but now they are gone, too, and in their place hangs a fall welcoming arrangement all in orange.

It seems to get harder and harder each year to say goodbye to summer and fall, but because we know what’s coming, we must rake and batten down the hatches. As we anticipate the upcoming winter, however, here at our house we will keep a little bit of summer ever before us.

When its all white outside and freezing cold, we will simply have to cast our gazes upon the garage and at least our hearts will be warmed, for in the garage windows we have transplanted two things that always adorn our deck in the summer.

Guardian angel and little lady watch over bed of moss roses that have seen better days

One – an amber glass guardian angel with wings; the other, a little hatted girl holding a sprinkling can and shading her eyes from the bright sun. I suspect both will stay toasty warm all winter on the other side of those panes via solar heat. For sure, just by being so visible, they will pass some of their warmth on to those of us in the house.

I know for a fact, though, that the angel and the little lady will hit the deck again in the spring.

Ah spring! Is it here yet? .

Until Soon

This day in the year 2000

I would not want to be in a small plane flying over North Dakota today. It’s much too windy. But that’s what I was doing 14 years ago on this day.

On that October day, I had an exciting and most welcome phone call that brought about a never to be forgotten day. I wrote about the adventure I had with my nephew, Tom, in my Grand Forks Herald “In the Spirit,” column. Allow me to run it by you one more time for old time’s sake.

Come back in time with me and  think about a beautifully still fall day as the wind whistles outside. It was a Sunday and it began like this:

Our phone rang at 7:45 Sunday morning.

It was my nephew, Tom Hall, calling from Fargo.

“What are your plans for today? he asked.

“Church and Bible class,” I said. “That’s about it. Why?”

“I was thinking of renting a plane and flying up to see Grandma,” Tom said.

In other words, Tom was asking if I’d like to fly along.

Would I?

Tom, (27 that year) is a design engineer at CNH Global N.V., a company formed from the merger of Case Corp. and New Holland.

He’s also an ace pilot, who took my husband, Jim and me and our friend, Gary Euren, up to circle our Grand Cities during the Flood of 1997.

Tom’s mentioned flying to Minot to see Grandma before, but so far, we hadn’t been able to coordinate our schedules.

On what was to be a gorgeous day, what could be better than being with Tom in the heavens over North Dakota, seeing God’s glorious earth below and surprising my mother?

By noon, I was headed to Fargo, where I found Tom and a Piper Warrior waiting at Vic’s Aircraft Sales.

“The weather looks good for now and later in the evening,” Tom said.

He ran his finger over the propeller. No nicks. He checked the fuel tanks and bounced the plane to check the shocks. He did a few more things before jumping onto the right wing.

“I’d say ladies first,” he said, “But I have to sit on the left.”

Buckled in, Tom went through his checklist, primed the fuel pump, started the engine and told the Fargo tower the Warrior was departing for Minot.

I sat on a cushion, and still I couldn’t see over the dashboard. As we ascended, I lived the words to a song: “And He will raise you up on eagle’s wings . . . . . . and hold you in the palm of His hand.”

“We’re going up to 4,500 feet,” Tom said. “Not bad, huh?”

Oh no, it was awesome.

Except for an occasional bounce, I hardly could tell we were moving.

“The bumps are caused by uneven heating in the ground by the sun,” Tom said. “On a cloudy day, typically, the ground temperature is a little more consistent, so it may be smoother flying on a cloudy day.”

This was the most crystal clear afternoon in some time.

Below I saw a fall patchwork quilt of beautiful squares: greens, golds, rusts, black. Above were strips of cottony clouds that I imagined would make perfect batting for that quilt.

Tom had maps and pointed out two TV towers. We were 2,000 feet above them.

As we passed over Page, N.D., I learned we were 47 degrees north of the equator and 97 degrees west of Greenwich, England.

Tom pointed out Lake Ashtabula north of Valley City, N.D., and dipped the plane’s nose so I could l see railroad tracks and swans in front of us.

“It’s interesting to see the change in the terrain after you get out of the valley,” Tom said. “There’s more grass and pasture land. The valley is square and more orderly, like it’s been arranged. The valley looks like it has a mother.”

What a beautiful concept. What an insightful young man.

Some fields looked paisley, others mosaic and still others pinstriped and tie-dyed. We saw lines in the fields that looked like ripples in a living room carpet, and you could see different planting and harvesting directions.

About the same time, we saw the outline of the Turtle Mountains to the north, Tom spotted Fallkirk Mine near Washburn, N.D., to the south.

“That’s amazing,” he said. “I’ve never seen that before.”

We spotted Lake Sakakawea, then Minot, and soon we were down to earth.

My mother was thrilled to see us. Tom’s parents, David and Margaret Hall, came from Newburg, N.D., with a pie made from apples from Mom’s tree. We ate, talked fast and 90 minutes later, boarded the Warrior for an equally wonderful flight back.

In was dark as we neared Fargo. In one fell sweep of our eyes, we saw the lights of Cooperstown, Fargo, Grand Forks, Hillsboro, Jamestown, Mayville-Portand, Valley City and Wahpeton, N.D.

In both his Minot and Fargo landings, Tom set the Warrior down like it was a western meadowlark lighting on a wild Prairie Rose bush.

No sooner were we out of the plane than Tom’s eyes lifted back to the sky.

“Look at the Big Dipper,” he exclaimed

“Being in the heavens,” Tom says, “puts things into perspective. The size and the vastness of the earth God created makes you realize how small a part of it you are. You realize there’s a lot more to life than just the little details”

His aunt couldn’t agree more.

______________________

All these years later, thoughts of that memorable day bring about a peacefulness within as the wind of today rips the leaves from the trees.

 

Until Soon

Happy sewing machine day!

I see in the Herald’s Red River Valley calendar titled, “The Spot,” that on this day (Sept 10) in 1846, Elias Howe patented the first sewing machine.

(From Wikipedia)

Because I so appreciate this pioneers’ efforts and creativity and because I dearly love my old Singer, I googled Elias only to learn that he and I have something in common.

We both are 9th of July babies.

Not long after Jim and I were married and while living in Cheyenne, Wyo., he bought a Singer sewing machine for me. When our sons were little and I was a stay-at-home-mom, I sewed up a storm. Made most of my own clothes and even sewed sport coats for father and sons. The ones I made for Jim came complete with lapels. The boys I made lapel-less.

Below is a photo of Jim and our oldest son, Troy, sporting their fall plaid sport coats in the year 1967.

The time came when I thought I wanted one of those new fangled do-everything Singers on the market, so one day Jim and I took my Singer and went to the Singer store to look at them. I was quite surprised when the sales associate actually talked me out of trading in my old Singer because what I had, he claimed, was the best one could get. He said that was so because mine is all metal with no plastic parts.

So we took my Singer back home.

Many years have since passed and I still have my trusty ole Singer, thanks to Jim. That machine and the boxes that hold every story I’ve ever written for the Herald were the last things he brought up from the basement the day we evacuated our home during the 1997 flood. Below is my Singer machine, a far cry from Elias Howe’s first machine shown below mine.

 

(From Wikipedia)

Here’s what I learned online about Elias Howe:

He was born in Spencer, Mass., on July 9, 1819. After he lost his factory job in the Panic of 1837, Howe moved from Spencer to Boston, where he found work in a machinist’s shop. It was there that he began tinkering with the idea of inventing a mechanical sewing machine.

Contrary to popular belief, Howe was not the first to visualize the idea of a sewing machine. Other people had formulated the idea before him, one as early as 1790, and some had even patented their designs and produced working machines. But, Howe originated significant refinements to the design concepts of his predecessors, and on September 10, 1846, he was awarded the first United States patent (U.S. Patent 4,750) for a sewing machine using a lockstitch design. His machine contained the three essential features common to most modern machines:

1. a needle with the eye at the point,

2. a shuttle operating beneath the cloth to form the lock stitch, and

3. an automatic feed.

I no longer have a box full of Simplicity patterns and I haven’t made something from scratch in years, but my trusty ole Singer never fails me when I need it. That’s because every so often it gets a tune-up at Dietrich Sewing Machine Co., East Grand Forks.

I must sign off now as I have a new pair of jeans to shorten.

Until Soon

We were and remain a corny bunch

Ever since I discovered Lyle Rose’s home grown sweet corn, my freezer and I will have no other.

I happened upon it a few years ago when a sign by the sweet corn in the produce department of a Hugo’s store stated: Locally grown by Lyle Rose, East Grand Forks.

I had never met Lyle Rose until this summer and now I’ve made three trips to his farm which lies not far out from my end of East Grand Forks. He’s a very gentle, kind and friendly soul living in a beautiful place.

On my second trip to the Rose farm, my grandchildren Elyn and Ethan, and my daughter-in-law, Sheri, were with me. We were setting out to have a corn-filled day.

Several years ago, I showed and told all four of my grandchildren how to can peaches. This time Elyn and Ethan and their mom were eager to take part in all that’s involved in freezing sweet corn. There’s nothing like freshly frozen sweet corn on a day in the dead of winter. No one knows that better than all of us.

At the Rose farm, Elyn and Ethan eagerly emptied a gunny sack of corn into our big red tub.

When we got home we set our system in place: a circle of chairs just outside the garage, a red tub in the middle holding the corn, two garbage cans at the end of our elbows for the husks and tunes coming from the radio on the work bench. A motto handed down to me by one of our sons is this: “all jobs are made easier with tunes.”

So, we set the dial on Christian station 97.9 KFNW and husked-away.

When all the cobs were free of their husks and silk, we moved inside to blanch them in boiling water for about 2 minutes in my big speckled canner. Next, with tongs, each cob was placed in a cold water bath followed by yet another cold water bath followed by a plunge in ice water. Then the cobs were placed on towels to drip dry.

When all the blanching was complete and the cobs cool enough to handle, Elyn and Ethan observed me cutting the kernels from the cobs with a sharp knife over a large kettle. When the cutting was done, we scooped the corn into 1- quart freezer bags, flattened the bags and pressed out all the air before zipping them shut. When bags are flattened they take up much less space in the freezer.

Before going to the freezer, however, Ethan thoroughly enjoyed labeling each bag.

One thing I’ve observed while toiling with my grandchildren is that they love to work. They love being given jobs whether it’s in the kitchen breaking eggs to scramble, setting the table for dinner or around buckets of corn to husk by the garage. Seeing them work and making it fun for them makes all of our hearts happy. I hope they one day will pass all this on to their children and grandchildren.

Yes, the corn is ready, but I do hope the dead of winter is a long way off.

Until Soon.

 

You can’t beat beets and their leaves are delectable

Why some people don’t care for beet greens is beyond me, But, I’m OK with it. Just leaves more for me.

When I go to Allard’s vegetable stand at the Home of Economy I almost always come away with free beet greens. That’s because some people ask to have the leaves removed from the beets they buy and the gals at Allard’s save them for me. Lately I’ve been encouraging people to try the greens, too. If you like spinach, if you like Swiss chard, you will LOVE beet greens.

Beets and their greens have long been a favorite of mine. This week I consumed some of both and they consumed me.

Our good friends, Jeannette and Harold Tanke gifted me with a big black garbage bag full of beets and greens gleaned from their lovely Grand Forks garden. I was going to preserve the beets by canning them in pint jars until two people told me they freeze their beets. Online I also learned you can freeze the greens as well.

I’m happy to report that as this week nears its end, all those beets and all those greens are in bags tucked away in our freezer just waiting for winter.

Here’s how to prepare beets for the freezer:

 

 

 

 

 

1. Trim all but 1/2-inch off the top of the beet. Leaving that ½-inch prevents the beet from bleeding its redness. Also leave the root intact. Wash with a vegetable brush or a cloth.

2. Sort by size and put beets in a large kettle. Add water to cover and bring water to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer until beets are tender; about 20 minutes for small beets, 45 minutes for larger beets. They have cooked sufficiently when you can pierce them with a fork.

3. Drain cooking water and place beets in ice water for about 10 minutes or until they are cool enough to handle.

4. Slice off the top of the beet and by rubbing your hands against the beet slip off the skin.

5. Either slice or dice the beets. Do not leave whole as I’m told whole beets don’t freeze well.

6. Place beets in quart-size zip-lock freezer bag and label content and date.

7. To avoid freezer-burn, the air inside the bag should be expelled. I don’t have a vacuum sealer so I inserted a straw at the end of a bag, sealed it up to the straw, sucked the air out through the straw then quickly sealed the tiny opening. Works like a charm.

Now for those yummy greens:

I was so delighted to learn that beet greens freeze beautifully as they are a great addition to soup, stews and omelets.

I cut the stems off the leaves, gave them three washings in cold water and watched them perk up right before my eyes.

I blanched the greens in boiling water one to two minutes, drained them, tossed them in an ice bath and swished them around a bit. Then I squeezed the water from the greens and put them in freezer bags once again expelling all the air with a straw.

The greens hang onto their vibrant green color. They have a wonderfully earthy flavor that is hard to describe. I like to serve them with a bit of bacon grease (adds a smoky flavor), salt, pepper and vinegar. My husband, Jim, loves vinegar on many things. In fact, he puts vinegar on his hot buttered beets and imagines them as beet pickles, which we also love.

Here’s what they say about beets and their greens:

Beets contain valuable nutrients that may help lower blood pressure, fight cancer and inflammation, boost stamina, and support detoxification

Beet greens are equally, if not more, nutritious with nutrients that may strengthen your immune system and support brain and bone health.

Just so you know — if you only eat beets and chuck their greens you may be doing yourself a disservice. Research shows that the greens also may help ward off osteoporosis by boosting bone strength and they may fight Alzheimer’s disease.

Yes, the beets, the greens and I consumed each other this week, but I’d take another big black garbage bag full any day.

Until Soon

Rejoicing with family in the beautiful land of life

At nightfall the 10 of us bedded down under one roof. It capped a two bedroom, one bathroom cabin with a living room large enough for a futon and an air mattress. It was cozy of course, but then, we are family.

During the light of each day, we were on the pontoon casting our lures and pulling Northern Pike, bass and Sunfish (sunnies) from the clear and cool waters of Mudhen Lake near Siren, Wis. When the rods and reels needed a rest, the four grandchildren, one mom plus the dads (including the granddad) jumped from the pontoon into the refreshing water to swim.

The week of Aug. 3-8 was the second time our entire family has vacationed together on the banks and on the waters of this 530-acre crystal clear lake. Back in July of 2012, we had such a good time here that we wanted to go back. Grandpa Jim made that happen by again being the top bidder on this vacation spot during Concordia Academy’s fund-raising banquet. CA is a Christian high school in Roseville, Minn., where our son, Dean, is a faculty member.

Our family consists of son Troy, his wife, Sheri, and their children, Elyn and Ethan; Dean and his wife, Jyl, and their daughters, Amelia and Grace. And of course the matriarch and the patriarch

Albert Einstein once said, “Rejoice with your family in the beautiful land of life,” and that’s exactly what we did during those six days. When one pauses to consider life on this side of heaven, you realize that the greatest of happiness is family happiness.

We caught lots of fish but also threw lots back so they could grow bigger. We’ll get them next time. All in all we had 40 keepers.

See this sunnies beautiful colors?

A stringer full of fish

When we weren’t fishing we did other fun things.

Having a kayak date with my one and only grandson, Ethan

When we weren’t on or in the water, we played such things as Catch Phrase, and Bananagrams, a word game that, wouldn’t you know, was invented by a man with the help of his family.

One night we played what Grace calls, “a silly camp,” game that she learned this summer at camp. The living room was filled with frolic as we stood in a circle and acted so silly movin’ and shakin’ that two among us actually went to the floor in a heap of laughter.

This silly camp game is a fast paced/mind boggleing/memory taxing/changing places game where so many people mess up that you can’t help but be in stitches. That evening was one none of us will soon forget.

We shared cooking and kitchen patrol duties. The first dish washer among us, and the first outdoor shower taker didn’t happen to mention the fact there was no hot water at the kitchen sink or the outdoor shower for the first day and a half. But, there WAS hot water in the bathroom.

I sent a txt message to the cabin owner and learned there’s a separate water heater for the kitchen/outdoor shower. The owner said she could call their plumber OR, if our guys wanted to brave the storm shelter where the second hot water heater is located, they could check to see if it was plugged in.

The boys jumped into action. We moved the kitchen table off a braided rug, opened a trap door in the floor and Troy and Dean descended the steep steps to check the water heater below. Alas, it was not plugged in.

When that problem was solved, Troy called from below: “Elyn, Ethan, Amelia, Grace, come down here. You need to experience a storm shelter.”

Kids are always ready for an adventure so the four came running and one by one lowered themselves below deck. As they explored the shelter they decided it was a pretty neat place to be. I was glad they could check out a storm shelter while there was no storm.

Ethan, Elyn, Amelia and Grace peering up from the storm shelter

Mudhen Lake is eight miles from Siren, a neat little Wisconsin town about one hour mostly north of St. Paul. We went into Siren a couple times for groceries, bait and to return to a gift shop we found and loved in 2012.

Another highlight of the week, for all of us, was driving to Grantsburg, Wis., about 8 miles in the opposite direction of Siren. There we visited Burnett Dairy, a cooperative owned by farmers since 1896. In 1988, Burnett Dairy Cooperative earned the title of World Champion Cheesemaker. Their yellow cheese sample of the day was indeed delicious.

Get this: Burnett Dairy brings in just under one million pounds of milk per day from farmers within a 60-mile radius. It takes approximately 10 pounds of milk to make one pound of cheese, so that’s 100,000 pounds of cheese per day.

The dairy also has a Bistro and an ice cream shop. Some in our family prefer hard ice cream and some love soft serve. We hit the jackpot because Burnett offers both.

A novelty new to us also caught our eye at the dairy. It was a cob of popping corn that pops right off the cob while in the microwave. Each family took a cob home to try it out. We discovered it holds true to its claim and one cob fills a good sized bowl with delicious and crunchy popcorn.

Every day of our Wisconsin stay was perfect in every way. We had great family time, the weather was perfect, the water refreshing and the fishing fun.

Added pleasures were watching an eagle soar through the air, dive down to snatch a fish from the water and fly away to its nest. All this as well as listening to the beautiful call of the loons.

We are 10, but we also are one and together we do love to rejoice in the beautiful land of life – wherever it may be.

Until Soon

You ought to meet organic farmer Ronny Reitmeier

NEAR CROOKSTON, Minn. — Being a farm girl, there’s almost nothing I enjoy more than going for a drive in the country. Recently I ventured out to a lovely spot near Crookston to which I had never been before.

The beauty and anticipated forthcoming bounty of the fields along the way nearly took my breath away. Then it was for sure gone when I gazed upon Ronny Jaeckel Reitmeier’s high tunnel tomatoes.

A party began late that afternoon on the very farmstead Ronny’s great-great grandfather purchased in 1919 for Ronny’s great grandfather and his new family. Ronny, the adopted son of John Reitmeier, is the fifth generation caretaker of this land. He says absolutely everything done there is with sustainability as the No. 1 goal.

John Reitmeier threw the party for two reasons: To celebrate his son Ronny’s graduation from the University of Minnesota, Crookston, with a degree in agronomy, and so that all extended members of the Reitmeier family could meet Michael and Debby Terry who were visiting from Charles Town, W. Va.

It may all sound somewhat complicated, but it really isn’t. First of all you should know that adoption is in John Reitmeier’s blood. He and his sister, Jane Reitmeier, were adopted by Willard and Grace Reitmeier now both deceased.

Two years ago I was blessed to be able to help John find his biological roots. We learned his biological mother, Virginia Terry, died in 2001, but that he had a brother (Michael Terry), a sister-in-law (Debby Terry) and two beautiful nieces, Megan and Meredith. In fact, I traveled to Charles Town in April of 2012 to be with John and his sister Jane when they met Michael and Debby for the first time.

Unforgettable.

Now, Michael and Debby were in Minnesota and with Ronny’s graduation it was time to rejoice with good food, beverages and celebration cake on the patio.

Seated from left: Michael Terry and John Reitmeier. Standing left: Debby Terry and John’s sister Jane Reitmeier

 

As an organic farmer, Ronny is in his glory. And, does he ever have a story to tell.

From Berlin, Germany, Ronny was orphaned as a young child. “I grew up very very poor,” he said. After their parents died, he lived with an older sister. Some years later, John heard about him from a former foreign exchange student. After learning that help was needed on the Reitmeier farm, “God decided it should be me,” Ronny said. “There are no random acts. I had to be brave, too, and I feel so blessed. I never realized my life could turn this way after being orphaned at 11.“

Ronny thoroughly enjoyed showing guests his organic gardens where he is growing carrots, squash, potatoes and corn. He has a high tunnel hot house chock full of tomato plants and is selling his produce to Sanders 1907 restaurant, Grand Forks, and at area farmers markets.

Tomatoes in a high tunnel hot house

Check out Ronny’s website at: http://ronnysfarmtotable.com

It surely was nice being out at the Reitmeier farm and meeting members of John and Jane’s family on both their mothers’ and their fathers’ sides.

I loved seeing Michael and Debby again, too, and I came away totally impressed by Ronny.

Until Soon

Of birthdays and sunshine

Another birthday has come and gone for this Ruby Girl. I’ve had lots of them, for which I’m very grateful. I hope to have lots more.

I think of birthdays as the fruits and veggies of life keeping in mind what was printed on a card I received some years back. It says, “Birthdays are good for you. Statistics show that people who have the most live the longest.”

For reasons I can’t pinpoint, the one I celebrated earlier this week was just fantastic. It began with many wonderful well wishes that came to me on face book. More greetings trickled in during the day by way of emails, phone calls, cards in the mail and some hand delivered.

I’m way beyond 30, 40, 50 even. Those birthdays bothered me a bit, this one did not. Who knows why this one was and remains “peaceful,” to me?

For starters on July 9, I donned my ruby bracelet and earrings and had lunch at Paradiso with my friend Vickie. Free I might add complements of Paradiso. Secondly, Gemini (Jim and I) had dinner at Mamma Marias’s in East Grand Forks with more dear friends. Free I might add complements of Mamma Maria’s. I think restaurants that serve a free meal to the birthday girl or boy are very thoughtful and kind.

At Mamma Maria’s, we happened to be seated at a table next to Bonnie and Loren Abel who were celebrating their daughter, Emily’s birthday with other family members. Emily and I share the day. Bonnie (her mom) baked and brought cupcakes for their group and just happened to have four extra, which they passed on to us. We brought them home to share with friends over vanilla ice cream and coffee. They were scrumptious. I must get Bonnie’s frosting recipe to share with you.

Among my birthday gifts is this charming little ice cream dish from another dear friend who found it at the Hallmark store.

This friend knows how much I love ice cream and also how much I love riding my bike. With her gift came this card with a drawing of a bicycle on the front and the words, “The secret to life is enjoying the ride.” On the inside it says, “Ride On.”

That I am definitely doing!

Yes, I had a birthday on Tuesday and today (Friday), I reached the halfway mark of my goal to ride “Sunshine,” my pretty yellow Trek Cruiser 3,000 miles during 2014.

ME AND MY SUNSHINE

I rode 3,000 miles in 2012, 3,000 miles in 2013, and this year can be no different. People ask me “why” I ride so much. I say, “Because I can.”

As the birthdays come and go, this Ruby Girl may one day have to permanently apply Sunshine’s brakes, but until then, I will eat ice cream in my new dish and – “Ride On.”

Until Soon

Frost Fire tradition just happened.

One summer, many years ago, Gemini (Jim and I) planned a day trip with good friends and neighbors, Richard and LoAnn Stallmo, to see a production at Frost Fire Theater near Walhalla, N.D.

We enjoyed the show so much, not to mention the breathtaking beauty of the Pembina River Gorge, that we went again the next year and the year after that and the year after that.

In fact, we’ve never stopped.

We’ve come to realize that our annual trek to Frost Fire has continued for nearly three decades. We were there again last Saturday night to see “Smokey Joe’s Café,” learning that this is Frost Fire’s 30th season. Looking over the list of past performances, we believe we’ve been going there for 27 years.

That’s a milestone!

Every show we’ve seen has been stupendous: Big River, West Side Story, Shenandoah, Paint Your Wagon, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dream Coat, to name a few. Same goes for every single cast member who has ever graced the stage. The majority are local/North Dakota/Minnesota talent.

David and Amy Jo Paukert have directed the show for most of those 30 years. This year, however, they took a break and Darin Kerr, a cast member, also serves as director.

In case you haven’t heard me mention this, Darin Kerr is probably my favorite local actor.

Smokey Joe’s Café is a Tony Award-Nominated and Grammy Award-Winning tribute to legendary songwriters Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller. It’s a song-and-dance celebration of nearly 40 of rock n’ rolls greatest hits. This powerhouse of music was the longest running venue in Broadway history and features nearly 40 of the best songs ever recorded.

The nine singers and dancers virtually go from one song to another without stopping except for a 15 minute intermission. We heard such hits as: Young Blood, Ruby Baby, Dance with Me, Searchin’, Kansas City, Poison Ivy, On Broadway, Saved, Yakety Yak, Charlie Brown, Hound Dog, Jailhouse Rock, and many more.

Kirsten Crockett singing “Saved.”

 

 Justine Pulec singing “I Keep Forgettin’ “

Besides Darin, cast members are: Justine Pulec, Ruben Flores, Kirsten Crockett, Daniella Lima, Jordan Thornberg, Heather Williams, Luke Hoplin and Ryan Jones. Luke is another favorite of mine because he is the grandson of friends, Tom and Marge Gabrielson.

The pit orchestra is made up of Farren Rowan, keyboard; Spencer Black, bass; Miles Uhrich, guitar; Alex Huther, drums, and Josh Frey, saxophone. It was great fun to learn that Miles is the grandson of my Newburg, N.D., hometown friends/school mates, Judy and Darwin Hunskor.

If you’ve haven’t been to Frost Fire, I dare say you are missing out. It takes less than two hours to get there from East Grand Forks/Grand Forks, and the North Dakota farming landscape is so beautiful all along the way north on Interstate 29. It stays that way after you turn west on Highway 5 then north again on Highway 32. Be prepared for a whole new picturesque and wooded scene when you enter the Pembina Gorge.

Showings of Smokey Joe’s Café continue at 2 p.m. Wednesdays and Sundays, and 6 p.m. Saturdays through July 30. Call (701) 549-3600 for tickets.

As for Gemini, summer would not be complete without our day at Frost Fire with Richard and LoAnn.

Until Soon

Grandchildren remember Grandma

It’s a beautiful thing when someone who’s been gone for years always is fondly remembered. Especially on her birthday.

On this day, July 1, that someone is my mother who was and remains dearly loved by her 11 grandchildren. Mom died at the age of 98. Today she would have been 109.

The memory messages concerning Freda Hall began flitting from state to state this morning about 8:30. It started with Lynda in Illinois who emailed Freda’s other 10 grandchildren saying:

“Remembering Grandma on her birthday and thanking God for the blessings of family and the faith that has been passed down through ours.”

Lynda’s message went to Florida, Colorado, Wyoming, Montana, Minnesota and North Dakota.

Soon we all (including my brothers and me) received this message from Sue in Montana:

“Yes, it is an incredible blessing for me to have grown up living so close to Grandma and having vivid memories of her throughout my childhood. Whether it be watching grandma at the table knead bread in the big bowl on her lap, the smell of her caramel rolls baking, cutting apples and making pies or watching her stab the box of cereal on the top shelf of the cupboard with a large butcher knife! We were so fortunate to have such amazing role models.”

We chuckle as we recall how Mom would stab a cereal box on the top shelf because, being a shorty, that was the only way she could capture it and bring it down.

Then came this message from Myrna in Mandan:

“I remember our choke cherry juice days. Grandma always said that we needed to grind the pits and then squeeze the juice because that’s what would give the juice the great almondy flavor!   Everyone working together made it a fun day.”

Our son, Troy, agrees: “My best memory was making choke cherry jam with Grandma and all the cousins.  For me, her best line was, “Doesn’t anybody just serve meat and potatoes any more?” – spoken at my birthday dinner at the Emporium of Jazz, a New Orleans style (cajun) restaurant in Mendota, MN.”

Then came this from Steve: “I remember spending lots of time with Grandma and Grandpa prior to my first days in school. I remember walking out to the shop with Grandpa after lunch one day. Before leaving the house, Grandpa got a lengthy earful from Grandma about a variety of topics. His replies to her were “Yes”, and “OK”.

Steve continues: “She was pretty harsh with him, so as we were walking out I asked him if everything was OK. (I was 5 and feeling bad for him) He said, ‘Oh yes, everything is OK. Sometimes it’s important for Grandma to be right, so I let her.’ Then he smiled at me, letting me know that everything was OK. Bottom line, Grandma was very strong willed and a very tough lady . . . which I always greatly respected her for; She needed to be in her life. And Grandpa . . . he was very kind, and he wanted a happy Grandma.  This was a very good memory for me, along with the pork chops, potatoes, milk gravy and kraut that he had dozens of times for lunch.”

July 1 is special for another reason. One grandson, Chuck, was born on her birthday, which tickled Grandma to no end.

Each summer all 11 grandchildren, some now in their 50s, would gather at the family farm in north central North Dakota to visit their grandparents, Freda and LeRoy Hall. It’s where their bond began and remains strong to this day even though they are hundreds of miles apart. My dad, LeRoy, was loved every bit as much as Grandma was. He died in 1988 at the age of 85.

1961 photo of Freda and LeRoy Hall

“I remember Grandma having a fake glass ice cube with a fly in it that she would put in someone’s glass thinking she was so sneaky,” our son Dean said. “I also remember when we had our basset hound Henry. She loved Henry and called him Hank. One day when we were visiting he had gotten out of the house and she looked out the front window and just said, “Hank’s heading East. Looks like he’s going home.”

Dean and his family visited us in East Grand Forks this past weekend. He spotted his grandmother’s old white, worn and weathered prayer book that I keep on the dresser in the guest bedroom. He was moved by the things his grandmother had kept and pressed between the pages. He also found the evening prayers she faithfully prayed to be priceless.

From Kirsten in Florida came this: “One thing I always think of when I think of Grandma is that her hands were always so shiny. I guess because of the oil from the bread she seemed to always be making.  I remember too how she used to get so many birthday cards and how much she liked that and knew how many she got. And, her expression, ‘Oh! Forevermore!.’ ”

As for me, to commemorate my Mom’s birthday, I wound the carousel music box that once was hers and listened to the song “Memory,” which she loved. Hence, I could not help but sing along:

Midnight – Not a sound from the pavement. Has the moon lost her memory. She is smiling alone. In the lamplight, the withered leaves collect at my feet, and the wind begins to moan. Memory, all alone in the moonlight, I can dream of the old days, life was beautiful then.

Yes, life was beautiful when she was with us and remembering her helps to keep it that way.

Until Soon