Winter Fun

Winter = the coldest season of the year.

At least that’s the summary portion of the first dictionary definition.

This year it happens that “coldest” is even more chilling than usual. Still we have days of sunshine mixed among those of cloud. And at the latitude of St. Louis a day of above freezing does a lot to shrink the remains of the most recent snow.

Most years the ski, sled, snowman season is short. The regional commercial ski area depends on snow machines and the owners cross their fingers that temperatures stay on the cool side.

This year they are in luck. The snowstorm from early in the month has melted and compacted, leaving only modest dirty lumps where plows pushed giant piles. A little work from nature. Timely use of technology. A drive. A rental fee.




Place to plunge on a snow tube.

Prefer to curl up and read by the fire? Check out Starr Tree Farm.


After the Storm

Part of the adventure of living in the center of the United States is the weather.

Winds and weather fronts approach from any direction. (Okay, from the East is rare.) During the winter cold arctic air attacks from the North. Then it’s pushed away by some warm air with Gulf moisture. Add a system from the Pacific after it’s shed moisture over the Western mountains. You have a virtual stew of weather — a place where on one day you can have snow, ice, rain, and sunshine.

A few weeks ago we had a snow storm — on of those that went into the record books as one of the top five. Since then we’ve had a mix of warmer sunny days, another ration or two of snow to remind us of the season, and rain to hasten the snow melt. Only remnants of the snow and ice linger in the shady places. I found this example on a popular hiking/biking trail.

Reason to stay alert!
Reason to stay alert!


A sunny winter day calls “come out and play”.

A little preparation is required. Coat. Hat. Scarf. Gloves. Skates.

The days of a group of boys gathering to practice hockey on the local pond are gone. They’ve scampered away with the girls at the other end of the pond practicing turns, twirls, and spins on figure skates. It’s a safety issue — don’t trust the ice in Missouri — it’s just not dependable.

All is not lost. Several recreation centers have rinks. That’s fine unless you need a sunshine fix and a cool breeze on your cheeks.

Check this out. A winter open air rink. Exercise and fun for all ages.

Exercise made fun.
Exercise made fun.

Which one???

It’s a popular activity page for young children. Three or four drawings or photos are shown with a question. Which one does not belong?

Sesame Street does it to music.

It can be reversed. Which two (or three) are the same?

This example showed up during a recent morning walk.



From my vantage point I’d say that the wind has already removed the gift wrap from one of the new automobiles. Are they post-Christmas presents? I hope they are near the end of their journey.

Are you looking for a post-Christmas read? Try Starr Tree Farm set in the cool climes of January Wisconsin. Available at and


Practice makes…

Excellence.      The Best.      Winner.

Be honest now. You want to hear one or more of those accolades applied to you or one of your accomplishments.

How to get there?

Practice. Practice. Practice. Whether its music, sports, or cake decorating you need to practice. The same music scale over and over. Free throws or catch or running to build strength and muscle memory. Flower petal after petal until the right pressure and time of release comes natural.

And you need tools. The musical instrument. Sports equipment. Decorating tips and frosting. At times a person needs to substitute, use an alternate piece of equipment due to space or other obstacles.

December 2013_419

These hockey sticks wouldn’t do on an ice rink. They are made for practice — outdoors — on parking lots and driveways — while wearing in-line skates.

Do they belong to a future Olympian? Practice, practice, practice is the road to excellence.


Cheerful Couple

This couple stays outside and welcomes winter visitors.

Many of their December companions are gone now — stakes pulled from the ground, electric cords wrapped, and all put into a box for the next eleven months. But this pair can stay a little longer.

January needs a few bright spots. Perhaps it’s new clothing received at Christmas. Red candles can add a dash of color and a cozy scent to a room. And my personal favorite — comfort food. Chili? Soup? Mashed potatoes beside grilled meat?

Let the welcoming committee greet you, invite you to come inside to warm your toes and nose and enjoy one or more winter pleasure.

Winter Welcoming Couple


Using Abundance

Work with the tools you have. Make the best with what’s at hand.

You’ve all heard them. The little proverbs, sometimes twisted from the original, that elders use with the younger generation.

Children growing up in the northern tier of the United States experience winter. A winter that contains ice, snow, freezing temperatures — and yes — the temptation to lick cold metal. (Not recommended.) My generation and many others were encouraged (forced) by our parents to “go play outside”. This accomplished several things.

It gave the adults a few moments of peace and quiet plus an opportunity to do some of their own work without small supervisors.

The children burned off energy (and excess Christmas cookies) playing tag, experimenting on sleds and skis, shoveling out the sidewalk or driveway, and building snowmen. These same children returned hungry and a degree more docile an hour or two later.

College students do not lack for energy. Our campus celebrated a Winter Carnival each year. This included several activities such as a talent show, a formal dance, and snow sculpture contest. If the material on campus ran out other neighborhoods contributed the raw material for these temporary works of art.

The Great Race
The Great Race

After an afternoon in the winter outdoors curl up with a good winter story such as Starr Tree Farm. Available from or Barnes and


Retired with Dignity

The camera was a pre-wedding gift from the groom. At times I like to think it was in lieu of the diamond ring he couldn’t afford. It certainly saw a lot of use through the years.

At first it was the only camera. And mother took clear outdoor photos. She was fussy about where her subjects stood in relation to the light and selected backgrounds with interest — lilac bushes, porches, or everyday farm items.

Twenty years into the marriage the camera was joined by newer technology. Dad gave mother a “flash camera”. The photo album now had indoor photos – family beside the Christmas tree was a favorite topic – alongside the photos of summer visitors taken outside with the dependable, older model.

Time continued to pass. Technology continued to progress. No longer was the film used in both cameras popular and easy to find at any corner drug store. The mail order labs stopped processing exposed “Verichrome Pan 620”.

In the early 1990’s I gifted my mother a roll of film and processing from Kodak (the only lab still accepting the film at that time). She appreciated it, took a complete roll of quality photos. And asked me not to repeat the gift.

My fingers are too stiff. I had a difficult time loading and advancing the film.

The camera went into retirement. Into the plain case, next to the instruction booklet. Exactly as it was gifted in 1936.

Thanks for the Memories
Thanks for the Memories

Past Presents

Contrary to first glance — the title of this post is not a new English grammar tense. Rather it’s a brief exploration of the memories prompted from a local winter decoration.

Imagine a little girl growing up in 1950’s Wisconsin. What would she want for Christmas? A outside toy — one that would let her follow her big brothers for fun in the snow.

The year I received my sled — I’m sure that Santa, my parents, and any adult that inquired knew what I wanted that year — we lived at the bottom of a steep, wooded hill. It was the best sled run in the village. Pull the sled up as far as your courage and legs permitted. Then plop down on the hard pack and follow the trail. Follow the trail! Steer! Ooops! Missed the turn and rolled off in time to watch the sled dart under the barb wire fence and stall.

Fast forward a few years and we live on a farm. Geography is different here — no good slope for sleds or the antique skis in the shed. But the neighbor has a pond. The year my mother thought my feet were done growing I got my skates. Prior to that I experimented with family cast offs and multiple pairs of thick socks.

Walk down to the corner. Cross the road. Duck under a fence, tramp across a field and navigate a second fence. The pond sat within a woodlot. The sheep that resided during summer months were gone now — in a shed near their owner. Snow on the ice didn’t present a problem. Neither did rough patches. A lone girl skates in a circle. Tries going backward. And dreams of gliding like the Olympic hopefuls on television last week.

Memory Prompts
Memory Prompts