Dear Friends & Family,

Once again it’s time for my annual year in retrospective or the “all about me” letter. I do live alone after all…except for my cat, Morris and all the wildlife that come to visit. If you’re reading this online, you will find several clickable links (underlined) to photos, some of which you may have seen before if you are a Facebook follower. There will also be way too much text, but you can skim over that and just look at the pictures if you want. If not online, you won’t see the photos and, consequently, will miss the best part. Best get thee to a computer and visit my web site at Just click on the Holiday Newsletter graphic (like the one at the top of this page).

I began the year with new resolve and participated in a local 5k run/walk on New Year’s Day; I walked, of course! Since I retired from the army I don’t run unless someone is chasing me. I decided to take charge of my life and started losing weight last fall and continued with that project this year until I had lost 77 pounds. I’m not trying to lose any more weight, just working hard not to gain it back. That requires pretty much the same routine: move more, eat less (1200 calories per day plus whatever extra I can get away with). I have been walking every day, usually with a delightful new walking partner I met walking in the New Year’s Day event. It is excellent therapy for me, both physical and mental, and makes the time fly by.

While in the process of reforming my eating habits I developed a passion for epic salads. They have provided a great excuse for me to eat some of my favorite foods: Craisins, walnuts, mangos, peaches, pineapple. pomegranate seeds, sugar snap peas, grape tomatoes, mini English cucumbers, avocados, blueberries, Feta cheese, occasionally shrimp or lobster, and whatever other tasty produce I can come up with to put on Romaine lettuce and top with Newman’s Own Lite balsamic vinaigrette dressing. As with everything I do, I have gotten a little carried away and my salads seem to get bigger and bigger!

Of course I had to buy many new clothes as I lost weight and in the process learned to love jeans (I’m wearing jeans that my great niece who just turned 15 outgrew) and I developed an obsession with Happy Socks! A Swedish company (though of course the socks are now made in China and Turkey), it sells wild and crazy fun socks for both men and women. No, my feet didn’t get smaller (well, maybe a little); I just discovered that that company made socks for women as well as men so I had to try them. As with everything I do, I went a little overboard in stocking my closets!

I almost forgot about the Women’s March in Madison, Wisconsin on January 21st. It seems so long ago now. I felt compelled to get out and express my concern for the welfare of our country. Along with a local women’s group called DAWN (Driftless Area Women’s Network), I participated in the walk down State Street from the Library Mall to the Capitol and did my part to save us all! I guess it’s going to take a little more than that.

In February I worked on a new carpet mural in anticipation of moving one day. It is a landscape that includes some of the things I would miss about my property in Richland Center: fruit trees and animals that browse under and around them. I also finally came up with a design for a saxophone quartet carpet mural! I have wanted to create one for years with that theme but the inspiration didn’t strike until this year. Remember, Aaron? It was during your saxophone lesson! I plan to spend some cold winter days working on that one as soon as I decide on the color scheme.

After a rather mild Wisconsin winter, early spring warmth got me outside to repair winter damage, mostly from snow plowing and other big equipment in my yard. I also planted 8 new fruit trees to replace old ones. It’s always exciting to see everything come back to life. I was entertained by a bumper crop of blue jays and sightings of a yellow-bellied sapsucker and a pair of bluebirds. both species I had not seen in my yard before. I also saw a real red-headed woodpecker, but I had just returned home and was not prepared with my camera so I have no proof. I have yet to see a pileated woodpecker in my yard but I know they are out there; I hear their distinctive laugh.

I tormented myself all spring and summer with the decision to sell my property and move or stay where I am. In the end it finally became very clear to me that I could not leave my little piece of paradise in this beautiful part of the country and I am very happy to be staying here, even with all the upkeep and maintenance it demands. Truth be told, that is part of what I enjoy about it: mowing my giant saxophone into the front yard, planting and nurturing fruit trees, and communing with nature and all her creatures. There is never a shortage of beautiful sights out here in the country, including gorgeous sunsets. I also am very attached to my friends and students here and the groups I play (saxophone and clarinet) in. So, for now, I’m staying in my little shack in the woods!

I’m still playing and teaching. Our saxophone quartet, Burlap Sax (a little rough around the edges), played a few times at a local assisted living facility where we are always served a bountiful feast for our efforts. It is a joy to play for the appreciative residents and staff.  Playing sax quartets is one of my very favorite things. It is great to get together with other like-minded saxophonists and make music…as well as regale each other with our stories. I also played clarinet in our local UW-Richland college campus/community band as there was a glut of saxophones! It is such an asset to have this great little university campus right here in RC!

So. I guess it’s time to reveal the little vanity surgery I had in the fall. After my big weight loss my neck resembled that of the wild turkeys that frequent my property so I had the excess skin removed. It was my first experience having surgery with general anesthetic. Now I can mark that off my list. In the week following I was pampered by my sister at her home in Marshall. I considered that my summer/fall vacation. Unfortunately, post op I could not play my saxophones or clarinet without air leaking out of the right side of my mouth. That, to say the least, was a huge disappointment but I am determined to correct that situation. I have been working to strengthen the muscles on that side and have been struggling to play for any length of time. Of course, I am hoping that eventually all will be back to normal. I am reminded that progress following this type of surgery is measured in months, not days.

As is my usual routine, I attended most of the plays at American Players Theatre in Spring Green: Yasmina Reza’s “The Unexpected Man” (masterfully acted by Sarah Day and Brian Mani), Jean Genet’s “The Maids”, George Feydeau’s “A Flea in Her Ear”, Anton Chekhov’s “Three Sisters” Arthur Miller’s “A View from the Bridge”, Edmond Rostand’s “Cyrano de Bergerac” (James Ridge was spectacular in the lead role), and August Strindberg’s “Creditors” (James DeVita was evil personified in this powerful performance). I feel so fortunate to live close to this little gem in the woods; the actors are world-class and the ambience can’t be beat!

I also attended 3 operas and a half dozen Madison Symphony Orchestra concerts during the year. “Yardbird”, the story of Charlie Parker told from the perspective of three women in his life, was an interesting one - not at all what you might expect. There was no jazz saxophone but rather a modern classical music score with lush solos for bassoon and other instruments (not saxophone). I enjoyed it, though I think many were disappointed that they didn’t get to hear the old familiar Charlie Parker tunes. Mozart’s “The Magic Flute” was the April feature, and I enjoyed hearing the “Queen of the Night’ aria sung by a very capable soprano (unlike the Florence Foster Jenkins rendition). In November I enjoyed Bizet’s “Carmen” – always an exciting work. Hearing Olga Kern, renowned Russian pianist, perform with the orchestra was a highlight of the MSO’s concert series.

Many of my fruit trees were loaded with tiny fruit babies this spring. Unfortunately, a raging storm with high winds toppled over several trees, including three big apple trees and a plum tree. I managed (with lots of help from some very handy men and a huge tractor) to upright two of those. The other two apple trees are on my burn pile. Still, the rescued trees produced plenty of delicious fruit and I had plenty more very productive, including the walnut and butternut trees that can create a lot of extra work! With so much bounty I had to come up with some new options to preserve the fruit – other than giving it all away to the deer and other friends. This year I tried my hand at dehydrating some peaches and apples, and what a wonderful result! They are unbelievably sweet and delicious, though of course require a fair amount of preparation before sitting in the dehydrator for 10-12 hours. Even my lone rosebush grew to gigantic proportions and produced dozens of beautiful rose hips! The prairie also brought some beautiful surprises this spring and summer with huge expanses of colorful wildlowers (weeds).

In November I signed up for the Wisconsin Public TV’s English Masterpiece tour, an 11-day trip that includes visits to Highclere Castle (where Downton Abbey was filmed), Port Isaac (where Doc Martin is filmed), London’s Windsor Castle, Cornwall (my ancestors’ homeland), Stonehenge, and many other interesting stops. It will be my first overseas travel on my own – at my own expense and without being handed a stack of per diem $$! It seems the perfect starter: no foreign language required, the convenience of being transported to and from O’hare Airport in Chicago for the overseas flight, a connection to my mother’s ancestors, and an ideal roommate (a retired music teacher friend). Stay tuned for next year’s letter that I’m sure will include lots of photos and memories from this trip.

I wish you all a holiday season filled with people who appreciate and adore you, music that stirs your soul, pets that love you unconditionally, food that’s worth the calories, and health good enough to enjoy it all.


Carol Kramer & Morris