We’ve always had pets in our house. Sometimes having indoor pets requires a little adjustment – or a lot. We have oak floors all through our house, except the kitchen and bathrooms - they have tile floors. We find it’s easier to keep the hard surface floors clean and we prefer their look to carpet. To avoid scratching the hardwood floors, we don’t wear shoes in the house.
Not everyone likes hardwood floors. I’ve heard many people complain, “They’re too cold.” They would say. “I grew up on those cold floors, I like carpeting – it’s warmer on my bare feet.”
Personally, I find our oak floors are usually warm to walk across barefoot, but will admit to telling family and friends, “we are a slippers house” and advising them to bring a pair when they visit. Especially if they are coming in the winter months. The hard floors can be cold in the winter; particularly the tile.
I got up from the couch. Since I was going to bed soon, I opted not to put my slippers on. Besides, I was wearing a pair of thin socks. I let our dog, June, out the front door to potty. There are wolves and other such critters around our place, so I walked out on the front porch to keep an eye on her. The wooden floor was cold, but not as cold as a concrete porch would be. June did her business, then continued sniffing around the bushes, “Come on Bugs. Let’s go inside.”
I made sure the front door was locked, then strolled across the wood floors to look out the east windows to check the driveway. I don’t know why I do it, but it seems like checking the drive is something I need to do every night. That end of the living room is over our unheated garage and those floors are chilly in the winter.
With the driveway secure, I walked through the dining room and into the three-seasons room. It has quarry tile floors and that room is open below. Those floors get really cold in the winter. I looked out the windows and made sure all was well in the backyard. The sky was clear, so I walked out onto the deck; June accompanied me. The wooden deck boards felt warmer on my feet than the cold floor in the three-seasons room.
I looked up in awe. It was a new moon and stars glittered, twinkled and danced about. The Milky Way was really bright against the dark sky. It’s such a beautiful scene, I could just gaze at the heavens for hours. I looked for satellites and planets, spotting just a few. Each time I exhaled, a puff of steam came from my mouth and disappeared into the night. I was getting chilly. My socks felt damp, like they were drawing moisture from the deck boards and my feet were getting colder. I went inside to the kitchen.
The kitchen floor is ceramic tile and most of it is also over the cold garage. I stood on the throw rug at the sink and drew a glass of water. The rug felt good under my cold feet. As I took a drink, I remembered there was laundry in the washing machine, that I needed to put in the dryer.
The basement floor was ice cold. I wasted no time getting the clean items transferred from one machine to the other. I closed the door, turned the knob, and pushed the button turning the dryer on, then quickly made my way to the steps. “Darn it.” I turned around, went back, opened the dryer and tossed in a couple dryer sheets, then high stepped it across the cold concrete floor to the steps going upstairs. June was waiting for me at the top of the steps.
In the bathroom, I stood in front of the sink, brushing my teeth. Again, the tile floor felt like standing on ice. I shuffled from one foot to the other. “I wished I had remembered to put the laundry in the dryer earlier when I was supposed to.” I told June, “The bathroom throw rugs were in that load.” I chuckled as I spoke to my dog, “I guess I should have put my slippers on when I got up from the couch.” June didn’t laugh. I looked down and she was no longer with me. Apparently, the floors were cold on her paws and she headed for her warm bed.
I walked through the dark bedroom, removed my dirty socks and slipped under the covers. Melissa had been in bed sleeping for over an hour. I pulled the covers up tight to my chin, rubbing my left foot vigorously on top of my right, then my right foot over my left. I was trying to warm them the same way one would warm their hands by rubbing them together. When your feet are cold, your whole body feels cold. I shivered and rolled over on my right side and curled up with my back toward her. I was trying to get warm.
I could feel the heat on my wife’s side of the bed and started to scoot a little that way. I wanted to take advantage of the warmth but was careful not to let my cold body come in contact with hers. I rubbed my feet together again then all of the sudden, it happened. Desperate times call for desperate measures.
It was as if my feet started thinking on their own – without me and without using good judgement. They couldn’t resist the warmth. They migrated her way and planted themselves firmly against her warm, bare calf. Ahh… The gratification was short lived. Very short.
The screams were incredible - first hers, then mine as she quickly and forcefully launched my feet and the rest of me, back to my side of the bed. “What are you doing?” She demanded, while pulling away. “You don’t come to bed and stick your freezing cold feet on my leg. What’s the matter with you?”
“You do it to me all the time.” Was my only defense.
“No, I don’t – and besides, that’s different!” She scolded, “My feet are never as cold as yours.” Then she questioned, “What did you do? Stand outside barefoot or something?” I was in no position to argue.
She went back to sleep and I curled up on my side of the bed, rubbing my feet together, still trying to get warm. After a few minutes, my feet, with a mind of their own, thought they had warmed up some and returned to the scene of the crime – this time trying to mingle with her warm feet. “Are you crazy? What’s the matter with you?” She blurted out.
Sensing the impending doom, potential injury and possible loss of limbs, my feet quickly retreated to my side of the bed. I justified their actions, “You said not to touch your leg and I didn’t – I touched your feet.” My defense was weak and I knew it.
She went back to sleep. A few minutes later, I was still rubbing my feet together. They were resting right on the edge of the warm area. I started wondering, “They might be warm enough to try again…but I don’t know about possibly waking her a third time…”
“What’s an ice cream social?” I asked my mom, who was busy getting all the kids ready to go. She explained that people just get together for ice cream. They talk and sometimes play games and such; it’s a social event. Ice cream? That was all I needed to hear.
I attended my first ice cream social a long time ago. Mom took us to a fundraiser sponsored by the St. Joseph’s Hospital Ladies Auxiliary Club. It was held on the lawn by the circle driveway at the front entrance of the building in Ottumwa, Iowa.
The ladies brought their own ice cream machines. A few had old fashioned hand churns. Most had electric motors that turned paddles in stainless steel tubs. All of the tubs were immersed in wooden buckets of ice. The homemade vanilla ice cream was still soft and creamy, being served right out of the ice cream makers. They had Hershey’s chocolate syrup in a can, if you wanted it. There were games for the kids to play while adults sat at little round tables on the front lawn, socializing. I remember it was a lot of fun and I’ve been to many such events since then – I even helped plan one.
Myself and a few colleagues from the local media met with Connie, a friend who worked at Evans Middle School. Her students were looking for ideas for a community service project. They wanted to raise money for the local fire department to purchase batteries and smoke detectors. The firemen provided and installed detectors for elderly people and anyone who needed them. They also went out annually to change batteries for people who needed assistance doing so.
I suggested holding an ice cream social in the garage at the central fire station. Surely people would come; they’re always curious about firetrucks and what’s inside the fire house. A second meeting was held with the fire chief who loved the idea. Another person from the media suggested a name for the event, and just like that, the first annual “Fire and Ice,” was underway.
The kids worked with Hy-Vee, a local grocery store, and several sponsors who provided the product. They took in donations from people who came for the ice cream and played games. Everyone was offered a tour of the fire station and a lot of kids (adult kids too) had their photos taken sitting in the driver’s seat of a shiny red firetruck. I couldn’t even guess how many people came sliding down the brass fire pole. It was a real fun time and the students raised a good amount of money for their cause.
Fire and Ice was a successful event for several years to follow, but coming back to the day at hand, ice cream was the furthest thing from mind.
We now live along the north shore of Lake Superior in Minnesota. It was cold with temperatures in the single digits and wind chill values well below zero. There was five inches of fresh snow on the driveway and no matter which way I turned the chute on the snow thrower, the wind blew the white stuff right back in my face. Snow stuck to my coat, hat and gloves as well as my goatee and eyebrows. My cold, wet cheeks were bright red. It felt like someone was poking my face with needles and my fingers were going numb.
I wasn’t just clearing the driveway, I was on a mission that involved digging through banks of previously piled snow. I called it quits for the day and put the snow blower in the garage. I would come back to this project tomorrow.
It took me several hours to cut through the three-foot-deep banks, then clear a path down the left and the right sides to free our little snowbound Scamp trailer. It was time well invested.
As we prepare for road trips, more and more we are finding “pet friendly” lodging, means dogs only – no cats. Even after telling them up front that we travel with a dog and a cat. Melissa had booked a few accommodations, only to be called the next day and told, “Sorry. We don’t allow cats.” We decided to take the camper where our dog, June, and our cat, Edgar Allen, are always welcome - with no additional pet fees or deposits required.
We made our way south to Gulf Shores, Alabama. The milder temperatures were a nice break from Minnesota’s March climate. We set up camp for a few days at the Fort Morgan RV Park. Our days were spent leisurely walking sand beaches along the Gulf of Mexico, looking for seashells and treasures. Our favorite restaurant had changed hands, so, we were also searching for a new place serving the best grilled shrimp and handmade hushpuppies. At night we relaxed around the campsite.
Each night I went for a brisk, two-mile walk. On our final evening, at dusk, Melissa and June wanted to go for a walk with me. We strolled down the lane toward the road. That’s when I spotted it; a yellow Schwann’s truck was pulled over at the end of the drive. It was like hearing the bells and music, faintly making their way through the neighborhood on a hot summer’s day – and then spotting the ice cream truck. We had to rush before it pulled away. I grabbed Melissa’s arm, “Come on, we have to hurry!”
“We don’t need ice cream!” She protested, dragging her heels in the rock. I had an idea and insisted we had to hurry.
I compromised, “If we get there before the truck leaves, it was meant to be. If not, then we weren’t supposed to have ice cream tonight.” June pulled hard on the leash in my left hand, I latched onto Melissa’s hand with my right. I leaned toward June; with the two of us pulling together– Melissa was coming along, like it or not.
We reached the truck and met Vicki – the driver. “How much is a box of ice cream sandwiches?” I inquired.
“Thirteen dollars,” Vicki replied, “plus tax…it’ll be fourteen-twenty-nine all together.”
“How many are in a box?” I asked.
“Twenty-four.” She said.
I quickly did the math. “That’s a little less than sixty-cents each.” Melissa asked about other options; drumsticks, fudge bars or cones with sprinkles, but I quickly decided, “I’ll take one box of ice cream sandwiches.” After some brief paperwork, we were on our way back to the campground.
“What are you going to do with all this ice cream?” Melissa wanted to know.
“I’m going to hand them out to people at the campground.” I said with excitement. Melissa was skeptical about my idea. It was now after dark and we were going to walk up to people, offering them ice cream from a stranger. “It will be fun; like reverse trick-or-treating.” I assured her.
At the first camper, I announced myself plenty early from the road. “Hello,” the people were friendly in greeting us. “We just scored a box of ice cream sandwiches from a Schwann’s truck at the end of the road.” I explained, “and we’re sharing them with all our neighbors.” The people seemed leery at first, until the first man spoke up in a thick southern accent.
“Ice cream sandwiches? Heck yeah, I’ll have one, thanks y’all!” The other three people each took one, too, and they were all peeling off wrappers before we left.”
At the second trailer, the people were very receptive, welcoming our unexpected treat. “I’ve got a big freezer in my RV,” the man offered, “If you need a place to keep the extras, I’d be happy to help.” We shared a good laugh about that, then moved on to the next couple. Melissa was adamant that I was not to knock on any camper doors. I could only give ice cream to people who were outside. We finished making our way around the campground and headed back to our campsite.
Another trailer had just pulled in and I was looking their way. “Leave them alone.” My wife advised, “You’ve had your fun for the night, let’s just go home.” We took the last six treats back to our Scamp and put them in the freezer. While Melissa went up to check on our clothes in the laundry room, I snuck over to the newcomers with my box of treats.
“Ice cream? Really?” The dad said, while unplugging his trailer from the truck. “This has been such a crappy day - I’d love some ice cream.” His wife quickly snatched up the four bars, thanked me and said she would put them in the freezer for their kids, until after they finished setting up camp.
It really was a lot of fun and I have to say, fourteen bucks and some change sure bought a lot of smiles. We shared treats, good conversation and plenty of laughs with people whom we’d never met before.
When Melissa came back from the laundry room, she ate her ice cream, leaving just one in the freezer. Guess who it’s for? Not me. I gave up desserts for lent. I just bought the ice cream for its social value. So, if you’d like to stop by the Scamp, I’ll give you my last Schwann’s ice cream sandwich. You can pull up a camp chair and we’ll chat for a while – it will be just like an old-fashioned ice cream social.
It’s happened to everyone I know; you’re running late for work or an appointment. You dash to the dryer to grab a particular pair of socks…but you can only find one. You quickly throw all the laundry in a basket, run to the bedroom and dump the clothes on your bed. Frantically, you search through the static-charged clothing to find the other, but it is not there. Immediately, the washing machine gets blamed for eating another sock. You probably left the house wearing socks that look ridiculous with the pants you had on or maybe even an unmatched pair.
Ever since mom traded her red and white Maytag wringer washer for an automatic machine, socks have been disappearing in the laundry. But washing machines aren’t the only untrustworthy appliance in the house.
When Melissa and I were married, we received dishes as a wedding gift. Dinner and salad plates, bowls and cups – a setting for ten. Our mismatched collection of silverware did not look good with the new dishes, so Melissa bought new. We kept the old and to this day we have two silverware drawers.
Day to day, I prefer the old knives and forks, but when company comes, we break out the good stuff. The new flatware came in a setting for eight. Since we had dishes for ten, Melissa bought two sets of the silverware. It has a hammered pattern on the sturdy handle. It looks really nice, especially with our plates, but I think the handles are too heavy.
The other day I was emptying the dishwasher. It seemed the silverware count was off, so I took an inventory. We have fifteen dinner forks and nine salad forks; fifteen small spoons, nine soup spoons and twelve table knives. We originally had sixteen of each. Where did the rest of the silverware go?
I checked the dishwasher, as one would check the washer for a lost sock; there was nothing there. I checked the other drawer to see if some of the new was mixed in with the old. Nope. I looked in the cooking utensils drawer and struck out again.
Pondering the whereabouts of the missing silverware, I began thinking of likely suspects. I began reciting that old nursery rhymes: “Hey, diddle, diddle, the cat and the fiddle, the cow jumped over the moon; The little dog laughed to see such sport, and the dish ran away with the spoon.”
With one eyebrow raised, I looked at my dog June, with suspicion. She looked at me declaring, “I didn’t take it. I don’t eat with silverware.” She was innocent and the dish couldn’t have run off with the spoon, because all the dishes are present and accounted for.
I’ve concluded, either the dishwasher eats silverware like a washer eats socks, or, we need to start having our dinner guests pass through a metal detector on their way out the door. Maybe I should check the utensil drawer again. There’s a lot of stuff in there.
Speaking of utensils, when visiting Duluth, Melissa and I frequently go to Father Time Antiques, in Canal Park. I always look at the old kitchen stuff. Some of my favorite kitchen tools are antique; my pastry and biscuit cutters, measuring cups and spoons and more. Those old utensils are better than what you can buy today, especially my potato masher.
A thick wire sweeps outward from the contoured wooden handle. It makes a squiggly line across the bottom of the masher then arches back up into the handle. It’s larger than most potato mashers – a real beast!
The other night, while fixing dinner, I called to my wife in the living room, “Honey,” I bragged, while smashing those Idaho spuds, “my potato masher is a beast - a real monster.” I wasn’t sure if she didn’t hear me or was just ignoring me. “Honey, I’m mashing the potatoes.” I said a little louder. No response. “Honey, do you know what I’m doing?”
She finally answered, “You’re mashing potatoes with your monster potato masher.”
“Yeah,” I laughed, “you might say I’m doing the Monster Mash!” I started singing, “He did the mash. He did the monster mash. He did the mash. It caught on in a flash. He did the mash. He did the monster mash. Ow-oooo…” I danced with the pan in my left hand and sang into the utensil in my right, like a microphone covered with potatoes, “Whatever happened to my Transylvania Twist? It’s now the mash…” From the living room, I could hear the volume on the TV increase – substantially. Oh, the fun I have entertaining myself in the kitchen.
Well, I don’t know if I’ll ever solve the mystery of the missing silverware - or socks, for that matter. On a brighter note, the sooner the rest of this silverware disappears, the sooner we can get some new – with lighter handles. For everyday use, I still prefer the old silverware anyway.
It was a beautiful Sunday, mid-morning, on the North Shore. The skies were bright blue, the sunshine was warm and the temperatures, mild. We were heading into town to run some errands. At the intersection of Highways 1 and 61 there were five deer feeding. A little further down, in the same yard, three more, and then four more. All the way to Duluth, we kept seeing more and more deer along the road.
With the mild weather, snow was melting along the sides of the highway, leaving occasional bare patches of grass. In the woods, you could see the ground was still well covered with snow. Food for the wild animals can be hard to come by in the winter; the deer were taking advantage of an easy meal. Seeing them out offered a promise of spring.
Passing through Beaver Bay, there was a line at the car wash. As a matter of fact, every car wash we passed throughout the day had a line of cars waiting. It was a good day for cleaning the car and people were anxious to get rid of the white chalky look left by road salt and see their cars shine brightly again.
Turning left on Park Road in Two Harbors, we drove past Burlington Bay Beach. There were couples holding hands, strolling along the beach. Families gathered for a day of fun in the sun. A group of people sat near the water’s edge, all wearing light coats, but stretched out like it was July.
Little kids were throwing handfuls of rocks into the water to see the splash – some were skipping stones over the smooth surface. Others just leaned back to take in the sun. Not far off the shore a man was standing in his fishing boat, anchored in the calm Lake Superior water. He would cast his line, then slowly reel it back in. I didn’t see him catch anything, but it sure looked like fun.
The sidewalks in Two Harbors were busy as well. People were walking dogs, some were pushing baby strollers while others were out for a healthy walk, or getting in a run.
We stopped to give a friend a slice of mixed-berry pie. It was made with fresh strawberries, blueberries, raspberries and blackberries. All the fresh berries made me really feel like summer. A few blocks from his place, we turned north on Sixth Street, driving back to the main drag through town.
At the intersection, we hit the red traffic light. Dairy Queen was open on the corner. This particular DQ doesn’t have a dining room and people were lined up at the outdoor windows to place their orders. Some teenage boys, wearing shorts, were standing in a group, enjoying ice cream and conversation with friends. It was good to see so many out and about.
People were really enjoying this mild weather. All around, they were showing signs of spring fever; ourselves included. Melissa and I were going to get something to eat while in Duluth, but decided to go back home after running our errands. We would fire up the Weber grill and take advantage of this nice weather, cooking out on the deck.
On the way home I noted the temperature. It was only thirty-six degrees, but the sunshine made it feel much warmer. I smiled and reminded myself to not be fooled. This is only March first – we still have a good chance of seeing more snow and winter weather. I do love the winters in northern Minnesota, and welcome more, but it was sure nice to enjoy a spring like day, today. March came in like a lamb, I wonder how it will go out?
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