Category Archives: Blog

Taliesin West


While in Arizona we visited Taliesin West. Frank Lloyd Wright‘s winter home.

Taliesin West is a national historic landmark nestled in the desert foothills of the McDowell Mountains outside of Scottsdale, AZ.  It is also the home of the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation and Taliesin, The Frank Lloyd Wright School of Architecture.

Wright’s beloved winter home and the bustling headquarters of the Taliesin Fellowship, Taliesin West was established in 1937 and diligently handcrafted over many years into a utopian world unto itself. Deeply connected to the desert from which it was forged, Taliesin West possesses an almost prehistoric grandeur. It was built and maintained almost entirely by Wright and his apprentices, making it among the most personal of the architect’s creations.

Butterfly Wonderland, Scottsdale, AZ

On Tuesday, my folks, Bruce and I went to the Butterfly Wonderland in Scottsdale. We had been to the butterfly exhibit at Desert Botanical Garden several years ago.  This place had a wonderful movie called “the flight of the butterfly” it was all about the unbelievable migration of the Monarch butterfly.  The movie was in 3D and it was SOOOO cool.  Here are some photos I took.

If you click the slideshow below, you can make it full size by clicking the arrows in the lower right corner.

Here is a link to the trailer for THE FLIGHT OF THE BUTTERFLIES

Train, Minnesota State Fair – August 29, 2013

We got to the fair about 3ish.  It was HOT, and HUMID, and all the fat people who were too big to walk and had to use a cart but then had a  big pail of cookies or a ginormous ole turkey leg in their hand they were “gobbling” down just gross me out.  Between that and the heat, i didn’t really even want to eat! Anyways…when we got there it was not at all crowded, in fact i think it was the least busy i have ever in my life seen it.  So that was a bonus. 
The concert started at 7:30 with Michael Franti, who was really good. Super upbeat, great music, and he went into the crowds like no performer i have ever seen.  he kept right on singing but was walking between rows of people on the floor, up on chairs, hugging people, he even came all the way up to the section where we were sitting, which was row 49, and i think it probably only goes to row 60 or something, but we were WAY up there.  So far away that i couldn’t really even see them on the stage, and just watched the big screens.  A camera man followed him everywhere, so you could see him interacting with the people in the crowd. it was very cool and he seemed to be having a great time.  i think he probably played 3 or more songs while in the crowds. I will definitely be buying his CD.
After he was done, they changed over the equipment to Train’s stuff. We were patiently waiting for them to start.  The first song was “calling all Angels”
train 01…during the 2nd song, 2 people walked ALL THE WAY up to the area where we were sitting (again, i am talking NOSE BLEED SEATS).  The girl stopped and asked Bruce a question.  I thought they maybe had seats in our row, so we were going to have to move a bit to let them in.  Nope…she said “is it just you two?” Bruce said yes.  Out came 2 tickets and she asked if we wanted them.  “WHAT???” We didn’t quite understand.  She said, we were in the 6th row/center stage and we came for Michael Franti, do you want these seats?”  OMG!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  We ended up in the 6th row, i couldn’t believe it.
view from 6th
pat 01
pat from 6thPat Monahan (lead singer) came into the crowd and sang too, and Bruce and I each got to hi-5 him!  The show was awesome… WHAT A TREAT THAT WAS! I wish I knew her name so i could thank her.  We have no idea why she came up to us, but were super happy that she did!  i took a ton of photos, but haven’t looked at any of them yet…but i do believe they will be better than the pictures i got at Matchbox 20!!!
Before he started singing MERMAIDS he called for all the mermaids in crowd to join him onstage to sing. mermaids 01
mermaid 02
pat on sax
I have never seen a performer do this…the girls ranging in age from 5 to 35 looked like they were having the time of their lives!
It appeared that one of the mermaids did not make it onstage.  They must have cut the line before she got up there.  She must have been quite sad, because she was even dressed like a mermaid.
Then he said “our new single is called Bruises, it is a duet.  Is there anyone who could come up and sing it with me?” There was a mom frantically pointing to her daughter.  Pat said “does she know the words?”  He was assured that she did.
luckiest non-mermaid
bruises duet
She never cracked a smile, but i bet deep down she was doing back flips!! and she did know EVERY word to the song!

Basilica Block Party, Matt Nathanson, ZZ Ward

We got to the grounds about 5:15 or so.  It is general admission, so we wanted to get their early enough that we would get a decent place to stand (correct, no chairs) Kerri and David were running late, so we decided to just meet them there.  They were parking their vehicle in the parking ramp Kerri parks in daily for work and then riding their bikes to the Basilica.  We met up and then walked around to the other stages, got some food and beverages and hung out.  It was a really awesome crowd, very mellow, polite, and holy cow – it had been a while since I had seen so many “pretty people” all in one place!  Bruce even commented that only 1 in 10 people was unattractive, unlike the normal ratio of 1 good looking person in 10!

We were back to the stage in time to see the last part of ZZ Ward’s performance; she was really fun and we all enjoyed her music.

ZZ Ward and Matt Nathanson

ZZ Ward and Matt Nathanson

Matt Nathanson was up next – and he was wonderful!  Played a nice mix of old songs, new songs off his forthcoming CD which was coming out in 4 days, and some cover songs…he even played a bit of Prince and Amazing Grace!! He was funny, and talked quite a bit between songs.  It is part standup comedy as well as awesome music.  He is a great performer.

I brought my Canon 40D thinking I could get some great photos of Matt….well…reason number 257 that I should have an iphone… all the people with smart phones were getting better shots than me.  With mine, most of the images were too dark, plus it is hard to take a photo with the viewfinder up to your eye when there are so many people in the way.  The smart phone users were able to hold the phone over their head and snap away.  I didn’t think there was a reason to bring the camera back on Saturday night. Bruce did get a few good shots…because he is so dang tall.

matt nathanson

When the show got done, we all left out the side entrance that led right to where our bikes were locked up.  All 4 of us biked back downtown.  That is the first bike ride I have been on with Kerri in DECADES!! There was another concert in downtown that evening; Kenny Chesney at Target Field, so there were people everywhere.  Biking was definitely a great idea!

Back at our hotel, there were many people who had been at one or the other concert.  A party must have been going on in the hallway on the 8th floor, where our room was, you could hear music playing all the way down the hall, which made it feel festive even after the show, and we weren’t ready to go to sleep anyways.

So far…loving our first Basilica Block Party experience.



Our Friday Field Trip – Adopt a Hen

Friday, I took a half-day off work.  We had an appointment at 1:00 with Matthew Willenbring, to adopt a hen.  We were going on a field trip!!

The girls were already throwing around names they thought would be good for a hen!  We explained that the adoption process was a little different, in that the hen is  going to stay at the farm with all her sisters; but we can visit any time we want.

We got out to the farm, and Matthew was right there to greet us.  He brought us around took a look around at all the chickens roaming around behind the little white fence.  Matthew has 300+ hens, and they are pasture-raised…so they eat grass, insects, plus a very nutritious blend of
ingredients that Matthew grids up for them. Most of those ingredients too, are grown right there on the farm.

He had three hens separated in a smaller fenced in area.  Those 3 were available for adoption today.  Matthew kneeled down and picked up one of the  hens. We all got to pet the hen – who knew it would be like the softest kitty fur?  The girls each got in the fenced in area and started checking out the feathered girls.

Matthew shared so much information with us about the hens.  Do you know what the comb and waddle are for?  It acts as a radiator to draw the heat away from them, and keep them cool.  Did you know that chicken’s have tongues?  Yep, it looks like a little triangle inside their mouth.  Their eyelids go from the bottom up, opposite of ours.  They each have over 8,000 feathers!  He is so knowledgeable about the species, And so kind and patient, he was fantastic with the kids!  Did you know that the shell of the egg isn’t formed until the last day.  I could only
hope to recall a small portion of the info he told us about cholesterol, LDL and HDL, it was like speaking with a scientist.  Bottom line – these eggs are actually REALLY good for you!

For the price of the adoption ($36) Matthew gives you a punch card for 12 dozen eggs, to pick up whenever you want, and however often you would like.  You can pick up a dozen farm fresh eggs and visit you hen! Did you know that eggs will last for 5 weeks in the refrigerator?  They should be stored point-side down.  There is an air-pocket on the rounder end of the egg, keeping that side up helps in keeping them fresh.

Lydia and Rachel each named their hen.  Lydia’s is Lexis Jeanne and Rachel named her’s Hailey Lynn.  Matthew took a photo of each of the girls with their hen.  And soon they will get  an adoption certificate in the mail.

We decided to take home 2 dozen eggs, so we went in the farm house for the next stop on this fabulous adventure.  The girls needed to help Matthew candle and sort the eggs he had gathered this morning. They got to see each egg go over the spot where the light illuminated
the shell and you could then see if there were any cracks or imperfections in the shell.  Then the eggs get sorted into size by their weight; the girls then put them in the cartons.  They just marveled at the stacks and stacks of empty egg cartons he had!

Next stop, milking cows! There again, we learned the process of how the cows get milked, what temperature the milk comes out at, and just a bunch of other cool things.  He makes it all so interesting, the girls were having a great time!  My favorite fact: the cows go out to
pasture two times a day.  When they return to the barn, they always go back to the same exact stanchion, EVERY. TIME.  There is no fighting about who gets to park where; each one has its own spot and always returns to it.  Looking into the bulk tank of fresh milk, waiting for the milkman to come and pick it up and transport it to the next step in the milk-making process, WOW, that was neat.  The look on Rachel’s face says it all!


On to giving the baby calves water.  These little things are sooo cute!  They really latch on to the bottle.  It was funny because the calf that my dad was giving water to must have been taking her old sweet time, because we moved on without him!  We got to see calves (twins actually, which is rare and very difficult for the mama) that were two days old.

I mentioned to Matthew that the girls were not sure they wanted to have chicken for dinner tonight.  He so beautifully explained the cycle of life;  Before leaving to go home for happy hour, we had to go say goodbye to our newly adopted kin.During our visit to the farm, each one of the girls told me how much fun they were having.  Last night, after a wonderful, fun filled day, when I was tucking in the girls and kissing them goodnight, they each thanked me for taking them there and for getting them each their own hen!  They really had a wonderful time; I would highly recommend going out to adopt a hen, and meet Matthew.

Every hen needs a home…adopt a hen!

Farm Address – 25113 Co Rd 50 ~Cold Spring MN 56320 ~250.1624



SIDE NOTE:  I made  French toast with the eggs this morning, the yolks are nearly orange!  Like little sun shines.  I am anxious to try them scrambled!

Model Shoot

When I got home from work on Thursday, the girls were waiting for me.  Let me expound on that a bit…i drove around the back side of the house first, and everyone was out on the patio.  They all waved, and the girls were jumping up and down.  I drove around to the front of the house and pulled in the front driveway.  I could barely get far enough into the drive way to be clearing the street…before I was bombarded with hugs and kisses.  They where jumping up and down and could hardly wait to see me…you can’t get a much better greeting than that!

After I was able to escape my car and make my way into the house, the girls announced that we were going to play dress up, and they didn’t bring any dress up dresses, so they would have to wear mine, as well as my shoes!  So away we went.  I don’t remember which one said it, but one of them said, susie can take pictures of the model shoot.

We had a blast, them looking for dresses to wear, and me finding enough safety pins to hold the dresses on!  After dinner, Lydia asked if we could curl her hair, so she could pretend to be Taylor Swift. 

We used my hot rollers, so it didn’t work so well with Rachel’s new, shorter hair do.  Believe me, now that i know that they think this is “so awesome”….i will be planning many more shoots, i may have to pick up a few things, just for playing dress up/model shoot with them!  More boots…definetly more boots!

Christmas 2011

We went to Sandy and Karl’s for Christmas Eve again this year.  Unlike last year (2010) when we had about 3 ft of snow already – this year we have NONE!  No complaints from me or Bruce though!!

We went to the 3:30 church service.  Both girls were in the choir and at the last minute, Lydia had to do a solo as Kira didn’t show up.  Lydia did excellent and didn’t seem the least bit nervous! 

Shopping Spree for Rachel

Because I knew we were getting Lydia an ipod touch for Christmas, we had to do something extra special for Rachel so she wouldn’t feel left out.

Bruce and I picked her up Saturday, 12/10 and we went to Maple Grove area to do some NEW CLOTHES shopping. Being the youngest girl (older sister and 2 older girl cousins) Rachel doesn’t get much new – mostly hand me downs and we wanted her get new clothes that she picked out.

We shopped first at Old Navy. As soon as we walked into the store, sweet little Rachel said “my mom would really love a vest!” I had to explain that we were shopping for HER. She was pretty reluctant to commit to any of the things we looked at until I said to her “you better start selecting things, or you will end up with NOTHING!” She said we could put everything in the cart that she likes and then she would go through it at the end and pick what she REALLY wanted. I left the store with Rachel, and Uncle Bruce purchased everything that was in our cart!

I looked at the GPS to see what other stores were in the area and I found a listing for TWEEN BRANDS. Never heard of it…but figured we should check it out. Turns out it was the Justice store! Rachel was delighted! As soon as we walked in the front door, a sales girl said “Hi, who are you shopping for today?” I said Rachel. She said “Rachel, what is your favorite color?” PINK… “should I find you a cute outfit with pink?” SURE… Rachel got so much attention in the dressing room – and the sales girl treated her like a VIP, which was awesome.

We had lunch at Arby’s and then back to Sandy’s. When Lydia got home from her hockey game and she asked Rachel…”where did you go shopping?” When Rachel said JUSTICE, Lydia was really bummed. I explained to her that we had already purchased her Christmas gift, but if she didn’t like it, I would return it and buy her ANYTHING SHE WANTS FROM JUSTICE! She was fine after that, until Christmas Eve when she say Rachel’s huge stack of presents from us.

Balloons Take Detour on their Way to Heaven


Above, Jodi Rajkowski looks up happily as she watches balloons rise to the sky during her late husband’s birthday party.

Inset: Attendees released 45 balloons in honor of Ron’s 45th birthday. Relatives, neighbors and friends express delight as 45 balloons are released into the air during a 45th birthday party for Ron Rajkowski, who was killed in an accident Oct. 16.

His St. Joseph family (wife Jodi and sons Chase and Blake) and all the celebrants were amazed when the released balloons floated back to hover over their home. Ron Rajkowski would have loved his 45th birthday celebration – with 45 signed balloons rushing halfway to heaven and back again, hovering over his home before drifting off as if waving goodbye. Rajkowski died Oct. 13 near the Twin Cities while he was on the job. He was working in a ditch when a car veered from the road and killed him, along with co-worker Craig Carlson. He left behind a wife, Jodi, two young children, Blake and Chase, and countless relatives, neighbors and friends who loved him very much.

Jodi decided to hold a 45th birthday for Ron because he absolutely loved celebrating birthdays and Christmases. So she bought 45 helium balloons. Shortly before noon on Friday, Nov. 25, about 50 people gathered at the Rajkowski home, about a mile north of St. Joseph. After socializing, those who gathered wrote messages to Ron on the balloons. And then, outside in the yard, they let them loose to hurry toward the sky. People cheered and sang “Happy Birthday” as the balloons flew south in a colorful cluster.

And then, the strangest thing happened. Suddenly, the balloons did an about-face and began to drift back south. The balloons then came to a virtual stop in the sky right above the Rajkowski home. There they stayed, bobbing in the air about 200 feet above the house, for at least two minutes. And then, the balloons drifted again, in a northwesterly direction until, one by one, they disappeared into the great beyond. When the balloons returned, mysteriously, to hover over the house, the birthday celebrants let out expressions of awe. “Look at those balloons,” many of them said with disbelief. “They are hovering right over the house!” Ron’s children, Blake and Chase, were also astounded. “We love you, Daddy!” they yelled, waving at the sky. “It was just the strangest thing,” Jodi said. “It’s as if Ron was telling us all that it’s OK, like he was smiling down on us and waving goodbye. We were all just stunned by it and don’t know how that could’ve happened. It was such a beautiful day. We had such a good turnout, and it was so happy.” Later, the people all went to El Paso Bar and Grill where they enjoyed birthday cake and a light lunch. Since Ron died, Jodi has had some days that are hard to bear. “Thanksgiving was tough,” she said. “I didn’t think I could get through it.” But Jodi has been buoyed up by the waves of support the family has been receiving ever since Ron died – even from people she has never met. The cards keep coming in, as well as offers of support. It helps ease her sorrow just to know so many people deeply cared about her husband. The company Ron worked for, Egan Co. in Brooklyn Park, Minn., has ordered a limited amount of hardhat bands to sell internally to commemorate Rajkowski and Carlson. The company is selling them for $5 each, and the proceeds will go for an account for the four children – Rajkowski’s two and Carlson’s two. The bracelets are inscribed with: “In memory of Ron. R. and Craig C.” The company will also accept donations toward the Rajkowski Carlson Memorial Fund. “The Egan Co. has been so wonderful,” Jodi said. “And the unions, too. We still get such kind support from Union Local 292 (Ron’s union) and other unions from all over. People have been so supportive, it’s just overwhelming.” Jodi takes Blake and Chase to the St. Joseph Cemetery to visit Ron’s mausoleum. The two boys insist they go visit him every day so they can kiss the monument. “We love you, Daddy,” they always say. When Christmas comes around, Jodi and the boys will reveal a big surprise present – one just for a special husband, a loving daddy. Attachment