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 will be updating this letter and adding a few new photos in December as new events happen…so stay tuned.

I completed three new carpet murals this year: one is a saxophone quartet that I had intended for years to do; another is 5 cats in tutus, a commission from a local art teacher who rescued the litter of kittens from the A.D. German Warehouse in Richland Center; the third was a commission from my old college saxophone professor’s son, and features the two of them playing. This is a rather unusual medium I created about 24 years ago, using carpet scraps on hand. It has become progressively more sophisticated and complex over the years. Each project presents new challenges and opportunities to learn techniques I hadn’t used before. It is very gratifying to complete a major work and have its new owner be happy with it.

In the spring (April 10-20) I treated myself to the fabulous “English Masterpiece Tour” sponsored by Wisconsin Public TV. The trip included visits to Highclere Castle (where Downton Abbey was filmed), Port Isaac (where Doc Martin is filmed), London’s Windsor Castle (site of the royal wedding), Cornwall (my ancestral homeland), Stonehenge, and many other interesting stops. This was the first time I’d gone anywhere overseas since my career in the U.S. Army Field Band. I had an ideal roommate and a fantastic British tour guide, Peter French. Obsessive as I am, I took hundreds of pics and will share a few here. Since you can see all the sights in a book or online, I made an attempt to put myself in with some of the highlights…just to prove I was there!

We had some crazy spring weather in Wisconsin while I was gone: major snowstorms and golf ball-sized hail in the middle of April!  On the other side of the pond we were lucky to have mild and pleasant weather throughout our tour. We still had some unseasonably cool weather at home when I returned, followed by record rainfalls. The birds were as eager as we were to get to our real spring and they graced my feeders with some spectacular colors!

As is usual in the spring, I replaced several fruit trees that succumbed to the ravages of my beloved but naughty deer and to Wisconsin’s unpredictable weather. I also planted a garden after a long lapse at least 16 years. In keeping with my life’s motto of “everything before its time and in excess” I planted everything I could think of! I prepared to do battle with garden pests by posting howling wolf head and owl decoys and planting lots of marigolds…in hopes that the deer and birds would get the message. Of course, that didn’t deter the culprits a bit, at least not the first round of invaders! Eventually, I relented and put a fence around the entire garden: just a 3-foot high plastic grid but I thought it would be another deterrent to all but the most industrious small mammals. Well, the rabbits soon chewed through the plastic grid to access their favorite crucifers (broccoli and kohlrabi), so I added chicken wire around the entire perimeter! Eventually, they began chewing holes above the chicken wire, as it was only a foot high, so I added another foot of chicken wire! I finally ordered a trail cam to install on a garden fence post too see what critters I could catch in the act. Other than the occasional deer walking by, I got many pics of myself working in the garden or mowing around it! By that time, I had reaped some impressive harvests so was not so concerned about any possible invaders, but I saw that some uninvited guests still managed to gain entrance! Despite having to do battle with the critters, I thoroughly enjoyed having a garden!  It was like a magic show watching all the produce grow into beautiful and tasty specimens and I delighted in going out to my playground every day to see what surprises awaited me. It probably was also the source of some painful muscle injuries but I managed to get through them.

I continue to get great joy from music: playing, teaching, and adjudicating. I am so thankful that I eventually regained my embouchure after last year’s surgery. I still love playing in a saxophone quartet, though our group doesn’t get together nearly often enough. 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. We will be playing several holiday programs in December at SW Wisconsin venues. 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 in our local UW-Richland college campus/community band. In August our quartet played the grand finale to the opening concert of our brand new, beautiful bandstand in the park. In September I played there again with the first edition of our community band. We hope to have many more such concerts in this lovely new concert venue!

As is my usual routine, I attended half a dozen plays at American Players Theatre in Spring Green: Garson Kanin’s “Born Yesterday” (Colleen Madden was hilarious as the ditsy Billie), Eugene Ionesco’s “Exit the King”, G.B. Shaw’s “Heartbreak House”, Timberlake Wertenbaker’s “Our Country’s Good”, John Morogiello’s “Engaging Shaw” (absolutely delightful!), and Bill Shakespeare’s “As You Like It. Of course, I also indulged in the Fat Jack’s Barbecue picnic dinner and the Hot Chili Finale! 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! With the addition of the indoor venue, the Touchstone Theatre, the season of plays extends from June to November! In early December I attended the opening night performance of “Souvenir” at the Overture Center Playhouse. It’s a 2-person play about Florence Foster Jenkins, world’s worst opera singer. Sarah Day, a veteran APT actor, was fabulous and outrageous as Florence and regaled us with a dozen or so costume changes, each one more spectacular (or outlandish) than the last. Thomas Kasdorf, a very talented pianist, vocalist and actor, was brilliant in his role as narrator and Flo’s long-suffering accompanist. It was a thoroughly delightful and memorable evening! Photography is prohibited during performances, both at APT and the Overture Center, but here are a few “before and after” the performances pics.

I also attended 3 operas and a half dozen Madison Symphony Orchestra concerts during the year. Highlights from the MSO concerts include the magnificent classical guitarist, Sharon Isbin; Olga Kern, Russian pianist; Elgar’s “Enigma Variations” with APT actors setting the stage; and the wild and crazy organ solo in Janacek’s Mass (that was so fantastic that I bought tickets to the first two organ concerts of the season)! The operas included Mozart's “The Abduction from the Seraglio” in February and Catán's “Florencia en el Amazonas” in April. “Florencia” was the first opera I had seen/heard in Spanish. The singers were excellent, the story was interesting, and the butterfly gown worn by Florencia in the Finale was magnificent! In November I attended the double header of Mascagni’s “Cavalleria Rusticana” and Leoncavallo’s “I Pagliacci”. My Aunt Marion Davis sang the lead role of Santuzza in the Mascagni opera in 1946 so it was particularly meaningful for me to see/hear this one.

As always, I wish each of you 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.

Here’s a little year-end family Christmas bonus!


Carol Kramer & Morris