Friday, December 23

Happy Holidays - 2016

Happy Holidays! Joyful Solstice! Merry Christmas! Happy Hannukah! Best Wishes! Joyeux Noël! Feliz Navidad! Kung His Hsin Nien bing Chu Shen Tan! Glædelig Jul! Gajan Kristnaskon! Hyvaa Joulua! Buorrit Juovllat! Gledileg Jol! Nodlaig Mhaith Chugnat! Buone Feste Natalizie! Natale Hilare et Annum Faustum! Pozdrevlyayu s Prazdnikom Rozhdestva is Novim Godom! God Jul and (Och) Ett Gott Nytt! År Ruumsaid Juulup! Season's Greetings! Peace!
I hope this holiday greeting finds you well. It does us. And our little family of four will once again be together for the holidays! The house is decorated. The new painting that Kate and I bought for our holiday present to one another has been placed above the fireplace and the stockings are hung as well.
I am glad that I don't have to report on any significant health events this year. 2016 was pleasantly uneventful on that front. The travel report for 2016 is also a good one. Winter in Minnesota is fun but a bit long. A trip to Florida with our friends Dan and Francine was the perfect way to take a few weeks off of winter.
We spent ten days communing with birds and dolphins and manatees and reading novels and eating fish (and perhaps sipping on a few wines) in the sleepy but lovely village of Cedar Key, Florida. Just an amazingly great time.
Then it was on to Fort Myers Beach where we basked in the sun and the amazing hospitality of our friends Don and Phil. More laughs and fun were had in the sun and the sand.
And there were more amazing birds.   
Peter and Erin came to the Midwest to celebrate Peter's birthday. Who can resist the joys of balmy April days in Minnesota and Wisconsin?
In June we headed to France with our friends Tom and Kathy.   
The Dordogne area was just amazingly fun. Ancient cities, meandering rivers, great food, lots of laughs, an amazing VRBO host and just a great time.
Our friend the peacock, looking good in an amazing Dordogne garden.  
And of course, some time in Paris. This was as close as we chose to get to the Mona Lisa. But there was no shortage of great art, great food, and lots and lots of "short walks" - which weren't all that short.
Prior to heading to France I worked hard to improve my French, which has lots of room for improvement. I had so much fun trying to communicate with this lovely woman in the garden of the Rodin Museum. I thought I was doing pretty well. But she gave me an odd look when I told her that "my French wasn't good but my husband spoke French quite well." Fortunately, Kate arrived shortly thereafter and clarified things a bit. Still, it's one of my favorite memories of a great trip.
After Tom and Kathy returned to the USA, we spent a wonderful week in Brittany with our French friends Chris and Val, and got a chance to meet their families and see the part of France they are originally from. Yet another great experience. We stayed in a chateau, a gite that was kind of like a home for hobbits, and a pigeonere (a lovingly modernized pigeon rookery).
On our return to the Minnesota, Kate quickly put the gardens in order.
The Train Party once again marked the halfway point of a wonderful year. It was great to spend time with our immediate family and our Train Party family as well.
We found a way to get some quality time at the cabin. The "Tuna" once again plied the waters of Cranberry Lake. 
An enormous rainstorm and a burst dam 40 miles from the cabin caused what we hope is a "hundred year" flood in July. The water rose at least three feet in a day or so. No real damage (at least for us) and it actually was kind of a fun experience.
The big news for Madeline is her wonderful new house in Madison. She becomes more handy on a daily basis. And I enjoy having a family member who now likes to discuss toggle bolts, lawn mowers, pipe draining and other joys of home ownership and maintenance. She's teaching first graders this year (another new grade level!), so calling Madeline busy is quite an understatement.
Kate and I made a trip west in the fall, starting with a Light Up the Night Walk in Denver with Peter and Erin to raise money for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. For me it was quite a moving experience. It's a joy to still be "vertical" eighteen years after my cancer experience.
We followed the LLS walk with some hikes in the mountains near Steamboat Springs. Magical.
We did run into some traffic jams on our way back to Minnesota. But it was more than worth it.
Kate and I get shined up once in a while (in this case for a wedding). But we spend lots of time lounging around Saint Paul. Feel free to visit any time. We leave once in a while, but when we are home we never close! We'd love to see you.
Have a great holiday season and a great 2017!

Stan (on behalf of Kate, Madeline and Peter - none of whom should be blamed in any way for the contents of this greeting)