Barbershop Competition – The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

The Good? That’s easy. Two or three hotels filled with men who love to sing barbershop harmony! Everywhere we went, we saw or heard singing. We were in the right place at the right time to hear a singing telegram serenade for a birthday. The quartet sang well, the recipient was so surprised she cried, and barbershop harmony sounded great in the large atrium lobby of the Mayo Clinic. Later on, we were making arrangements for a to-go order  when we heard another quartet singing “Let me call you sweetheart” to the restaurant hostess.

To follow in the “Good” category were the many short but wonderful conversations we had with other barbershoppers. (Get used to it, spell check. In my world, that is a real word, so knock off the red squiggles.) It was hi, which group are you with, did you sing already today, how did it go, have you been singing long, and more. Barbershoppers are a friendly group.

But then, the bad. We had one bad experience that put all three of us in near-anxiety mode. We ordered from a pizza-type restaurant, getting assurance that the food would be ready to eat soon, and we’d be on our way to hear one of our quartets. Our order wasn’t ready, we were getting tense as we watched the clock, so we decided to ask for it to go and eat later, after seeing the quartet perform. Amigo and I hit the pavement (the Skywalk) and headed for the auditorium while Chuck changed our order and complained heavily to the manager. To make a long story short, we all made it to the performance, but not without some stress on the way. We informed the rest of the chorus of our experience so they wouldn’t be stuck in a similar tough spot. Barbershoppers? They stick together.

How about a little more “good”? We decided to make the long weekend a family vacation of sorts. We didn’t rush to get to Rochester, we relaxed in our hotel room when Amigo wasn’t singing or watching other groups sing, and there was a Starbucks down the road. Er, hallway. I’m a morning person, where Chuck’s second shift work puts him firmly in night owl mode most of the time. When I woke up Friday morning, I showered, dressed, and strode down the hall to get coffee and a breakfast sandwich. I spent a while relaxing (there’s that word again) and reading the morning paper.

Oh, well, the ugly. We forgot swimsuits. That was okay, though, because we really didn’t have time to swim in the hotel pool. What else – oh, yeah, the Chinese restaurant was never open when we wanted it. That’s not too bad, though, because there were so many other options. Ugly? Amigo’s tux pants are too short. But he stands in the third row, so that’s not serious, either. We can get that fixed later. Maybe there weren’t any truly ugly moments. Maybe music, as they say, soothes the savage ugly. Or something like that, anyway.

As for more good, the chorus placed 4th out of 18 groups. They sang very well, and even went home with the award for Most Improved – it could have said Well Deserved, too.

Ah, barbershoppers. They’re a great bunch of guys. So spell check, get used to it. Barbershoppers is a real word.

Signs and Trails

I took a walk while Amigo went fishing with a friend. It was a nice trail, part of the rail to trail system in Ashland, Wisconsin. According to this sign, horses can’t use the trail and neither can riders on ATVs. But what is the one in the middle?

It's a rail trail.

It’s a rail trail.

Dune buggy? Tractor? I don’t recognize the symbol or the vehicle. Readers, can you help?


Cupcake Mix; in the corner, rice

Cupcake Mix; in the corner, rice

I like souvenirs that we can use and enjoy. The cupcake mix was simple to bake, and it included the frosting, too. I dug way back into the kitchen cupboards and found out I did, indeed, own a batch of cupcake papers. I usually bake muffins without these.

Amigo liked the cupcakes and remembered hanging out with a cat under a shade tree while I shopped.

I bought a coffee cup, too. Picture will come later – when I remember.

Alien or Native?

No, this is not a post about immigration woes. It is a post about invasive species – plants and animals that sneak into an ecosystem and disrupt it. Zebra Mussels. Purple Loosestrife. Hogweed (not Hogwarts, silly people).

I saw this on a walk near Ashland, Wisconsin. It looks like dill, but it doesn’t smell like dill.



It doesn’t appear to be the evil garlic mustard. Ideas, readers? Is this a plant native to the Great Lakes area? Or not?


When La Petite was in school, we saw her friends a lot. We made them welcome at our home, and they came over in large groups to hang out and drink our lemonade and sodas.

It’s a little tougher for Amigo. His best friends are scattered all over the state of Wisconsin. He met them at the state school for the blind, which serves the entire state. Luckily, Amigo and I enjoy road trips. As soon as we set up our trip to the Great Lake Superior area to see a Big Top Chautauqua show, he mentioned that one of his friends lives in a tiny town close to our destination. Amigo (who is showing major skill in arranging visits – future party planner, perhaps?) got in touch with his friend’s family through Facebook and made all the arrangements for us to stop by and visit.

The next day, they went fishing together.

"Chuck" helps the two young people bait their hooks

“Chuck” helps the two young people bait their hooks

Canes do not do double duty as fishing poles.

Canes do not do double duty as fishing poles.

I’m not much of a fan of fishing, but it was fun to go along and be a spare sighted guide from the car to the end of the dock.

Neither caught any fish — just algae — but it was fun. Her family sent us home with a package of their own home-made Polish sausage. Mmm – it was delicious. We left a thank-you of a few of my own homemade jams and pickles.

Readers, what do you like to bring along for getting-acquainted gifts? Since I started canning, it’s been easy. How about you?


Signs of a Good Vacation



We were close enough to the U.P. that a sign in Yooper language made sense. But what is the last word supposed to be? I can translate Mmm, dat coffee! but THO? I’m lost.

Starbucks in the lobby and in the breakfast cafe: what do you think was in the hotel room coffee makers? Close, and if you’re a coffee aficionado, you might know that it’s from the same company.

Seattle's Best, in regular and decaf

Seattle’s Best, in regular and decaf

I made some in the room on the second day — the day we all slept late and actually missed breakfast hours! We’d had a fun and full day, and we really, really needed the extra sleep.

Every mug, new or ancient

Subtitle: To Have and to Hold

Here’s a classic. These are souvenirs from our trip to celebrate our 25th anniversary. Thermos from Starbucks (the first! In Seattle! At Pike Place Market!), mug from the Amtrak train that took us there. Oops, that sounded wrong; it sounds like I absconded with a mug when we reached our destination. Nope! Not at all: we bought it in the dining hall at our last breakfast on the train.


There’s a map for that – or an app

Sometimes I wonder if I seem like a diva-type to the folks in the main office in Baltimore. Whenever they ask if I’m willing to be “author of record” on a blog post, I insist on having input into the post before my name goes on it.

This one was no different. The research was already done by someone in the main office or the agency that works with them. I reworded several awkward phrases, inserted some simple explanations to define terms, and made it sound more like me. Since one of the reasons the office calls on me is because my posts are supposedly full of personality, I think I can add my personality if they want to add my name.

Anyway, they managed to link to two of my previous posts (Flat Stanley and Pop Culture),  so I tweaked the rest to make it mine.

Here it is: Navigating the Summer with Family-Friendly Apps.

Don’t get lost now.

Iron Chef at the O.K. Chorale

One of the many advantages of having Chuck home on vacation- he cooks. And I mean he cooks. If I’m Rachel Ray with my thirty-minute meals, he’s the Iron Chef.

Full Points for Presentation!

Full Points for Presentation!

The Main Dish: Swordfish

The Main Dish: Swordfish

Side dishes and Beverage

Side dishes and Beverage

Dessert: crowned with Door County cherries

Dessert: crowned with Door County cherries

Eat your hearts out, people; he cooked all week.