happy birthday, dancing mandolin player!

She’s the life of every party.

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She’s an Extreme Gardner.

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A charismatic singer and musician.

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She has a gift for flower decorating.  You can ask my daughter about her wedding decorations!

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And she has a forgiving heart, because I have talked her into many, many adventures that she regrets having participated in.  There was that Mountain Man Rendezvous…and several Boat Regattas…and the rum-soaked week at Bluegrass Camp.  I’m afraid to list any more, because she might have forgotten some of them and I don’t want her think badly of me.  Because then she wouldn’t give me any more raspberries and strawberries and pears and plums and green beans from her garden.  Ellie makes sure I eat healthy all summer long.  And I don’t know what I would do without her.

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Party on, girlfriend! I love you!

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Posted in friends | 3 Comments

easter past


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Easter in Hope, 1978

Posted in lake | 4 Comments

jungle terminator: river monsters recap

RIVER MONSTERS:  Season 6, Episode 2:

Banjo Man would not watch it with me, but he actually drifted in and out of the living room and then couldn’t help watching the last 15 minutes.

Meanwhile I was firmly cemented to the couch.

Okay, here we go….

Jeremy, as you know, is in the “Ammuhsson” (Amazon), which is the size of 2/3 of the United States and the Ammuhsson River is bigger than all the other rivers in the world put together (or something like that).


He is spending the year (A YEAR) in the Ammuhsson and if you’ve read his book, you know he loves it there.  The man **really** loves it there, though I have yet to identify with that emotion.

To me, the Ammuhsson looks like the last place on earth anyone would want to visit, never mind spend an entire year.  I mean, really, have you seen that murky, filthy, brown water????


Brown Amazon river photo by Andre Bartschi.

Anyway, Jeremy is there and he has a new mystery to solve:  he’s heard about three unsolved deaths in the Ammuhsson River.  So he goes to the site of the first one, which happened ten years ago when a teacher was found floating in the river.  His soccer team found him, and there were black marks on his chest.

“What would create burns like this on a man’s body?”  Jeremy asked the camera.

Me:   “I know, I know!  Electric eels!!!

“Not electric eels,” Jeremy said.  He went on to give an explanation as to why the electric eels he’s seen before wouldn’t leave marks like the ones on the teacher’s body.

Then he asked one of the former soccer players what he thought.  The man said something in Portuguese that translated into “electric eel”.


He then goes to another place where a young man died after his father sent him out to check the fishing nets.  His family, perched in their stilt-house on a river, finally realized he hadn’t returned and sent out his brother to find him.  Well, there he was, floating (like the teacher) and dead, with those same wide black burns on his chest.

Jeremy:  “What could electrocute a man and leave these kinds of marks?”

Me:  “Electric eels, Jeremy!”

A local doctor, who actually saw the burn marks for herself, agrees to talk to Jeremy about it.  He asks a lot of questions and scribbles in his notebook (I love his notebook).  The doctor says something in Spanish that translates into “electric eels” and shows Jeremy a youtube video of electric eels attacking and killing a caiman.

This is a caiman.

This is a caiman.

These are caiman boots.

These are caiman boots.

Jeremy wonders if there is a kind of electric eel that he has never seen before!  That no one has ever seen before!

Except for a certain tribe in a remote section of the Ammusson that catches them with their bare hands.

“Huh?” asks Jeremy.  “How is such a thing possible?”

A young man from the tribe, conveniently in town for the week, says something like, “We do it all the time.  No prob.”

“I have to see this,” says Jeremy, his blue eyes lighting up with excitement.  “I don’t believe it’s possible because fifty gazillion bolts of electricity can easily kill a man and leave big black burn marks on his chest.”

He begs the young man to take him to the tribe so he can film the hands-on eel catching skills.

“Uh, not so fast,” the kid says.  “You have to get tribal permission.  And you have to get checked out by a doctor, in case you’re carrying a disease or have a head cold, because our tribe has almost been wiped out before by crazy white people like you.”

But nothing stops Jeremy, and after he’s given a clean bill of health he and his film crew load up a prehistoric boat with barrels of gasoline and mosquito repellent and head five hundred miles down the Ammuhsson to see if they can get permission from the head of the tribe.

It’s scary on the river.  There are warring tribes in this region.  Jeremy, under a cloud of mosquito netting, can’t sleep.  He doesn’t mention the Rockefeller incident, but I would guess he’s rethinking the whole “gotta see these eels” thing.

The next morning they arrive safely–thank God–on the river bank where the tribal children and the tribal chief are waiting for them.  Everyone looks very serious.

Jeremy:  “This isn’t what we expected.  Obviously there is tension.”

Uh-oh.  I suddenly am very afraid for Jeremy, but I remind myself that Jeremy survived, because he has been on every U.S. talk show two weeks ago and did that really cool live show on Animal Planet.

Turns out that the young man (the one who invited Jeremy to the eel-catching) is given some bad news:  his mother is dying and not expected to live through the night.  Jeremy gets very emotional over this.  I feel badly for him, as it is obviously bringing back sad memories.

“This is no place for guests,” he says.  You can tell he hates intruding.  Jeremy never likes to intrude–he’s polite like that.

But he is invited to go fishing by another family, so off to the river they all go.  While a young mother breastfeeds her baby and tries to stay out of the way of the fishing lines,  Jeremy catches two enormous red-tailed catfish right away, but the old man he is fishing with shakes his head and says nobody really likes to eat those.  Back in the brown water they go!  Jeremy was trying to catch a fish for his host’s dinner, but he’s typically happy to release the giant catfish.

redtail catfish

At last the tribe beckons him back and prepares for eel-catching.  This means they all go to a hut and the medicine man prepares a ceremony for the fishermen.  Jeremy is told he can’t participate; since he is not a protected member of the tribe, the eels can and will kill him.  Or at the least give him a heart attack.

The future eel catchers are burned with hot sticks and treated with mysterious concoctions and then start vomiting all over the hut.  There is some talk of frogs and how it’s better to be electrocuted on an empty stomach.  The vomiting continues.  Jeremy looks like he’d rather be in England.

It doesn’t get any easier the next day.  Jeremy scurries through the jungle in a harried attempt to keep up with the tribal fishing guys, who have recovered from a bad night of food-poisoning-by-frog-entrails.  It takes a long time to get to the murky little pond.  Some of the guys jiggle sticks in the water to fool the eels into thinking that an injured animal is getting a drink.

And then something really strange happens:  a pregnant woman splashes in the water.  There is some tribal rule about “pregnant woman splashing” that also attracts the eels and is a crucial component to the fishing trip.

I don’t get it.  Neither does Jeremy, who no longer wishes he was back in England but is now mesmerized by all this weirdness.

I feel very badly for the pregnant woman.  Did she draw the short straw this morning or what???!!!

Suddenly the brown mucky water goes crazy with thrashing, wriggling eels.  The fisherman grab one of them and hold onto it with his bare hands.  You can almost see the electric shocks radiating down it’s slimy back.  It’s huge.  And scary.  And Jeremy gets really close to it, because his director told him to.

No one gets electrocuted.  The pregnant woman is nowhere to be seen (hopefully she’s sitting on a tree stump a hundred yards away and eating a fruit cocktail and leafing through the latest issue of Claudia).

Banjo Man yells, “Get that thing away from your face, Jeremy!  God, is this guy crazy???”

Jeremy, the eel two inches away from his attractively high cheekbones, says these eels may or may not have caused the massive black burns and the deaths he’d heard about, but it will remain a mystery.  For now.  Because he is going to be in the Ammuhsson for a whole year and HE WILL BE BACK.


This is an electric eel.

This is an electric eel.

These are eel skin boots.

These are eel skin boots.


Posted in River Monsters, television | Tagged , , , , , , | 3 Comments

if it’s april, it’s sew expo

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This little girl loves fabric. And notions. And quilts. I think it’s genetic! She always loves Sew Expo…even when she was a one-year old in a stroller she loved touching the fabric.

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“Aunt Pat”, Kayla and Harley Chick.

We don’t buy much, but we spend hours looking at everything.
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These photos were taken from last year’s trip. The weather was terrible, with rain coming down in buckets. But today is supposed to be clear and dry, so I’m out of the house early, with my coffee, camera and wallet. Last year I bought sewing machine needles and a magnifying lamp. Who knows what gadgets are waiting for me today???!!!

Posted in friends, quilting, rhode island | 1 Comment

i think we played too hard

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Image | Posted on by | 2 Comments

welcome to the room

Remember this little quiz?

I want to tell you that I have not been blogging because:

(a)  I am busy eating pie.

(b)  I am two-stepping at the Continental Club every night.

(c)  Cindy Cashdollar is my new best friend and she has been giving me lap steel guitar lessons while we drink margaritas together and share stories of life on the road with our bands.

(d)  I have been shopping for vintage Tony Lama boots.

(e)  Emmy Lou Harris told me who does her hair, so I’ve been at the salon.

(f)  Delbert asked if I’d make gumbo for him.

(g) I’ve been online buying a new vintage lap steel that Earl Scruggs’ grandson told me to get.

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Before Suzy Bogguss’s show at Opa’s last month, Chris Scruggs let me take a picture of his lap steel (I am endlessly fascinated with who is playing what), which led to a really nice conversation. Chris asked me questions about my lap steel (1950′s Supro) and what tuning I was using (C6). I told him I was looking for a lap steel I could use for a blues tuning. He suggested I look for a Rickenbacker Electro (pre war, with the bigger horseshoe pick up) and told me to use the blues tuning on my Supro and keep the Rick as a C6 (country sound). Because I’d bought video lessons from Troy Henninger this winter, I actually was able to understand what Chris was asking and I was able to sound halfway intelligent.

It was a thrill. He was such a nice young man.

Chris Scruggs with a Fender lap, about to accompany Suzy Bogguss at Opa's.

Chris Scruggs with a Fender lap, about to accompany Suzy Bogguss at Opa’s.

In an Austin music store I was able to play (I use the term “play” loosely) a post-war Rickenbacker and though it wasn’t the super expensive guitar that Chris had recommended, it was light years above anything else I’d ever tried. It was a second-generation Electro, not a first. And it had some issues with the control knobs.

I didn’t buy it, though. Chris had given me an idea of what I could find one for, so I resolved to go on the hunt. I found one at a great price on a guitar forum and it arrived Friday.

My ears are so happy.

Posted in austin, music | 3 Comments

11 hours and counting

The new season of RIVER MONSTERS begins tonight.

River Monsters S6 Final

I am so excited.

The show is from 9-11 PM and afterwards Animal Planet will host a LIVE interview show with Jeremy Wade and his producer. At 11:30 PM the interview will continue online until midnight.

This means I can tweet/twitter questions directly to the show.  Directly to Jeremy.

I am trying to think of questions. I’ve asked Banjo Man for help, since he is so good at asking questions about everything, including things he doesn’t need to know, but he hasn’t come up with anything.

So I’m working on it….

Would you like to come to Idaho and fish off my dock?  I will provide Wheat Thins and artichoke dip and peaches.  Banjo Man will fill a cooler of beer and wine.  It’ll be fun.  Really.

Do you eat catfish?

How did you keep from laughing during the “ball cutter” interview with the tribal chief?

I am going to fill the long hours ahead by baking a birthday cake and preparing tomorrow’s birthday dinner for my mother.  I have a tablecloth to iron.  Music to practice.  Tax info to organize.  Banjo Man wants my help in the yard:  he has asked if I will pick up sticks.

That should kill some time.

river monsters with jeremy wade001


Posted in lake, River Monsters, television | Leave a comment

wish i’d heard her

This obituary was posted on the Steel Guitar Forum by Minnie Ann’s devastated son.   Minnie was performing on stage up until shortly before she died.

I’m so inspired.  Hopefully I have at least twenty-three years left to learn how to yodel and get a standing ovation.

“Minnie Ann Renn, age 85, of Brainerd, MN, passed away Tuesday Jan 7, 2014, at 4:50 pm. 

Minnie is survived by two sons, Ernie (Tracey) Renn of Brainerd and Wayne Renn of Brainerd, one brother, Kenny (Maxine) Petersen of Nisswa. One grandson Steve Renn of Alexandria and two granddaughters Lyla (Brandon) Martin and Julia Renn of Brainerd, twelve Nieces and Nephews, many great nieces and nephews, and one great-grand-daughter on the way. 

She was preceded in death by her husband Harland W. Renn, father and mother, Dan and Minnie Petersen, two infants, George Petersen, and John Petersen; and three sisters, Alice Paetzel, Gladys Petersen, and Lyla Petersen. 

Minnie Ann was a Brainerd area Musician, known for singing, yodeling, and playing the accordion or electric bass. She played at many area night clubs, dances, and nursing homes in her many years of performing. She started publicly playing music at 3 years old with her Dad and sisters, playing at school PTA meetings. As an adult, Minnie and her two sisters Lyla and Gladys formed “The Petersen Sisters” in the late 1940’s and played many area barn dances, weddings, and night clubs. At that time Minnie worked at Akre’s Quality Bakery in Brainerd. After marrying Harland Renn in 1956, the two of them started a country music trio with Harland’s brother, Clyde Renn that they called “The North Stars”, long before the sports team. 

After the loss of Clyde to a car crash, Minnie and Harland played at Dale Ryan’s Town Tavern for 11 years as the house band. They called themselves “The Renn’s +1” with Gilbert Pence playing the bass guitar. For the last two years of that gig, they added their oldest son Ernie, 12, who played lead guitar. Minnie went on to play the bass guitar every week-end with local band, “Sonny and the Royals”, for 15 more years. Following that, she played with numerous area bands at night clubs and senior centers well into her 80’s. 

After retirement Minnie was involved with yearly reunions with her Class of 1946, and a member of the Eagles Club. She also traveled with her son’s band “The Wayne Renn Band” playing fairs and shows all over Minnesota and North Dakota for a few years. She was always famous around the Brainerd area, for her family of musicians. She also performed on many of the Shotgun Red shows and even performed at the Minnesota State Fair. 

Minnie didn’t have an easy life. When her two boys were little, her husband hurt his back and she was the only provider for her family of four for many years. She worked at Rexall, Elvig’s and Nystrom Drug stores in downtown Brainerd over the years. She worked hard and came home tired, yet, she still did all of the yard work and supplied her family with whatever they needed. Her husband passed away at age 50, she never remarried, but stayed true to him even after his death. She was an amazing woman, and the most giving selfless person you could ever meet. Anyone who knew her could tell that she was a kind hearted woman and amazing mother to her children. 

When her two boys started bands of their own, Minnie and her sister Lyla were always sure to be in the audience. Everyone loved when Minnie would join the bands on stage to sing a few songs and Yodel. Minnie Renn was blessed with many, many, many standing ovations. 

As a grandmother she stayed very involved, passing on her amazing love and tenderness to all. She will be very missed by her family. 

Minnie loved fishing and once was on the front page of the Brainerd Daily Dispatch doing just that. She got to live out her lifelong dream of seeing both oceans, and then making a visit to Washington DC, Arlington Cemetery, and John F. Kennedy’s Grave. 

After a heart attack, and major heart surgery, Minnie spent her last year of life in the Bethany nursing home, of Brainerd, MN. Even in the nursing home, she kept entertaining. She played the accordion almost every week for her friends there, and was invited to sing with other bands that came to the home to entertain. Every Sunday Minnie’s son Ernie would take her with him to the Bridge Tavern where he and cousin Mark Petersen play Classic Country Music with the band known as “Wanted”. Minnie was a big hit with crowds everywhere she went, right up until the weeks before her passing. 

Minnie gave more than she ever received in her lifetime. She has truly built her kingdom in heaven. The world has lost an amazing, humble, wonderful person, and she will be missed by everyone who had the honor of knowing her.”


Posted in a more pie opinion, music | 1 Comment

i wish…

i wish someone had told meI love this.  I found it on Pinterest this morning and it certainly applies to writing.  Looking back after writing many, many books, I know this is true.

But I wasn’t looking for writing inspiration on Pinterest this morning.  I needed something to boost my “flagging musician” spirits.  Stiff fingers, aging brain, hoarse voice…how will I learn this new instrument, this new song, these new chords?

This is such a good reminder.  It worked for writing.  It will work for this.

I’ve just gotta fight my way through.

Posted in a more pie opinion, music, personal female whining, the band, writing | 2 Comments

never too old for oreos

My darling daughter turned 34 today, so for her birthday party Sunday I made this cake, from a blog called Inspired by Charm.

I saw it on Pinterest and it looked so good I had to try.  I have zero cake decorating skills, but I could break up Oreos and pile them in the middle of a cake!

Here’s my finished product:

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Posted in family, food, rhode island | 4 Comments