Category Archives: House and Home

Donut resuscitation. Thank you, Pick ‘n Save.

flowers and donuts I appreciate good customer service, and service recovery when it’s needed. Today I was pleasantly surprised when I received a followup to my customer complaint email to Pick ‘n Save after I purchased a bakery item there that … well, it just tasted funny. Strange, because I usually am quite satisfied with the products there at the north side store. The director of the store called to apologize and asked what he could do to make everything right. I expected perhaps the $4 replacement price. He was soon at my door with a smile, a dozen of my husband’s favorite powdered sugar donuts (they really are good), a gift card and a bouquet of flowers. It does pay to complain. I believe it helps us to be alert consumers, get value for our money, and helps the stores improve their products and processes too. Thank you, Pick ‘n Save!


A Thanksgiving Serving of Stories

Along with the turkey, mashed potatoes and gravy this Thanksgiving, we’ll have a generous serving of family stories. Many of those stories revolve around food, just as the old kitchen table (not a TV tray) was the hub for family roundups and daily debriefings.

My Dad, Mike, (he married my mother, a widow, when I was 19) grew up in a big family of 12 children raised by immigrant parents, including a strong-willed, persevering Croatian woman everyone knew and loved as “Grandma Ogee.”

In one of the charming family books prepared for reunions and remembrance, Mike remembered some of the “loaves and fishes” miracles a18e87749a0db9e048328226bdc9e1f3 mother had a way of creating for her struggling family.

“I remember when Ma would send the children to the meat market to ask for some bones for the dog (which we didn’t have). Invariably the butcher would put in some nice ‘bones’ with an ample amount of meat on them. From these she made delicious soup.”

He recalled that she always blessed the bread when she put it into the wood stove on large wooden paddle. And blessed it again when she cut the large, round delicious loaves into pieces for her family. She also had an “uncanny” way of making a whole pot of egg drop soup with only one egg, my Dad remembered.

So thankful was my Dad and all of his family for growing up in a home, not with a lot of meat, nor with a lot of eggs, but with so much love. These are the riches we pray for this Thanksgiving.

What family stories will you tell? Which ones will you make?

20140718-123254-45174598.jpgBottle trees are often found growing in backyard gardens in this area. Their colorful leaves, while rigid in structure, pick up the sunlight at various times of the day, sending sparkles of color through the atmosphere.

The species originated in ancient times after the invention of glass bottles. People heard eerie sounds rising from the bottle’s opening whenever the wind blew across it. These sounds were identified as evil spirits who became trapped in the bottle. Today, bottle trees help protect homes by trapping the spirits inside their colorful glass and keeping them from entering the home.

Bottle trees grow in almost any soil and are hardy in any climate. They need little if any water. And they are lovely.

We watch as fledglings leave the nest

IMG_4212We had been watching the nest for weeks, ever since I nearly chopped it from its moorings at the end of our privet hedge. I cut the power to my trimmer and parted the branches of a little maple that had invaded the old hedge. There, four feet above the ground, was a robin’s nest, stitched with brown mud, twigs and string and inside, a fuzzy head with its beak wide open begging for food. Papa Robin flapped in circles overhead warning, “Get away! Get away!”
I retreated and watched as the robin flew into the bushes to his baby. There may have been even two nestlings in that rough shell.

We’d have to be vigilant now. There’s a bird-stalking cat in the neighborhood. More than once, we’d seen the black-and-white meanie with moist feathers hanging out of his mouth.

IMG_4227 Bird on window sillWe watched the birds in the days ahead, taking a minute here and there to check on them. We saw the mother bird sitting on the nest. We’d see the red-orange breasted dad reeling in wiggly worms from the front yard. We peered in the nest and saw little feathers sprouting among the fuzz. Both parents kept watch and provided food, dive-bombing potential predators as needed.

On Saturday, July 5, the nest was empty. But a mini flurry of activity sounded in the
back yard. The fledgling, in his junior feathers, was hopping about, testing ground-level rain gutters, window wells and railroad ties for launching pads. He wobbled and teetered as he tried to fly, now and then catching air a few inches from earth. Papa robin was constantly nearby, circling overhead or perched on a post, chirruping encouragement, nature’s original “helicopter parent.”

A little robin will be able to sustain flight about two weeks IMG_4228 - Version 2after he has fledged–acquired the kind of feathers that will allow him to fly. He’ll have to watch out for cats, hawks, cars and lawn mowers on his own and forage for his own worms and berries.

Oh no! Now the little guy was hopping into the street, faster now, with dad right overhead. He made it across, hop-flying into the neighbor’s bushes and from there they both disappeared.

The robins still sing constantly in our yard midsummer but our little family is not among them, for all I know. The nest is empty. More robins will build new nests and settle them with pale blue eggs, beginning the cycle all over again.

Who's looking back at you?

This morning’s interlude staring out my kitchen window in a fit of distraction I saw a huge, rugged face staring back at me. So many years I looked at that tree, yet I had never seen it. Nature’s personality — it’s out there. Say Hi!

Waiting for spring in Wisconsin

Sometimes, the mind’s eye takes a snapshot that captures a mood, an event or even the weather. This winter, and  it still feels like winter,  has been way too cold too long, even for Wisconsin.

Driving home through an older neighborhood last weekend, I saw a family gathered in front of their home. The air was damp and chilly, and the sky hung like a permanent grey tarp above their heads. The family stood in the semi-shelter of the wide porch that fronted their two-story house, a narrow strip of grass in front of it. In the instant I drove by, they looked like statues without expression, a portrait of flannel shirts, hats and jackets. One or two had a can of beer in their hands as they stared ahead. A pink plastic trike sat untouched on the sidewalk. And there on the grass was the focus of the family’s stoney attention. A small black Weber grill sat on its tripod in cold insolence. There would be not brats today. No burgers. No happy children playing barefoot under a sunny sky. No T-shirts and shorts and laughter spilling off the porch. This was Wisconsin and they’d have to wait like the rest of us for spring.


Remember these?


Finding community in the Apple Store

Every week or two, I pack my MacBook Air into its protective sleeve, pop it into my backpack and head out of my small town to the big city mall and the bustling, alternate universe known as the Apple Store.

Every appointment with one of the blue-T-shirted Apple experts has a technical goal. How do I put a different color shadow on a line of words in Pages? How do I fade out the background music in my iMovie? How do I manage all those photos? And how the heck does iCloud really work?

A blue-shirted sentry checks me in on his iPad and escorts me through the curious crowd to one of the blond wood, or faux wood, tables toward the back, just before you get to the Genius Bar. I pull out one of black stools and release my laptop from its case onto the table. Christian has already greeted me by name and asked what I want to learn today.

As I answer, I look around the table. To my right is a woman my age (not telling) putting together a slideshow of family photos.  Across from me is an older woman who has toted in a huge monitor along with a scanner and lots of questions. Other days at these one-on-one sessions, I’ve met teachers, retirees, marketing pros and people of all walks, each wanting to go deeper into their devices. Including the professional accordion player in his 70s or 80s who was making dozens of YouTube videos of his music. And the grizzled outdoorsman with his own TV show and social media to go with it.

The Apple Store is more than a store, and that’s the way Apple wants it. It’s been called an interactive museum. All the gleaming white and silver devices are live and internet-connected, ready to touch, explore and play with, or even buy. The store is busy with people of all descriptions and beyond description. Some wear suits or flip-flops, baggy jeans or what look like pajama bottoms. They have babies in strollers, kids in arms, backpacks and Dr. Dres.  I am surprised at how many are well over 60 or 70. All have questions and all are welcome. And blue shirts are everywhere, directing the organized chaos, iPads in hand.

Amidst all of this humanity, a small-town citizen looking for tech tips may feel overwhelmed, especially at first visit. But all the people, the smiling, on-task experts and their mandate to calmly engage and teach makes the experience quite bearable and even rewarding. All this human questioning and answering—and occasional well-modulated banter—is Apple’s way of solidifying brand loyalty, building a following that not only wants to buy, but belong.

Community is a word that means “a feeling of fellowship with others, as a result of sharing common attitudes, interests and goals.” I guess you could say that there is, indeed, an Apple community. For better or worse, it’s my kind of town.