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 (or iPad or iPhone) and visit my web site at http://saxchick.net. Just click on the Holiday Newsletter graphic (like the one at the top of this page). Stay tuned for possible updates. It will be online until next December, when it will be replaced with a new letter.

I began the New Year religiously adhering to my resolutions of eating more chocolate and wasting more time! I spent the rest of the year trying (and failing) to kick those habits. I saw Santa today at our local library and he said I was on his Naughty List.  I vow to do better next year.

Our record January and February snowfalls here in Wisconsin provided the perfect opportunity for me to create a new carpet mural. Since I was snowbound much of the time, I had ample time to spend hours out in my shop working on “Octavia’s Opus, completed on 2/19/2019. After a month of recovery, I began another carpet mural: “Fine Feathered Friends”, completed on April 8. I exhibited both in the June WRAP (Wisconsin Regional Art Program) show and in August displayed Octavia at the state WRAP exhibit in Madison. Octavia now resides in the home of a dear friend. In the spring and summer I was busy keeping up with growing grass and weeds but I did design a few more carpet murals to work on in the winter months. I currently am working to complete “Songbird Soiree’”, reminiscent of some of the beautiful birds that frequent my feeders.

In early spring I had the humbling experience of playing clarinet and a wee bit of saxophone (soprano) in the pit orchestra for “Showboat”, the musical at our local university campus. I played alto saxophone in our community band in the spring and fall. I do what I can to keep from forgetting how to play entirely!

Our saxophone quartet, Burlap Sax, had a fairly active year of performing…considering how infrequently we get together to rehearse. In March we performed in a benefit concert at our historic downtown Richland Center auditorium. In May we played for an awards banquet at our local University of Wisconsin campus. In August we played at one of our favorite venues: Harvest Guest Home, a local assisted living establishment where we are always treated like royalty. In November we played for a private party. In December we spread Christmas cheer playing holiday music for Walmart shoppers and at Harvest Guest Home.  At least we played often enough to wear all three versions of our Burlap Sax polo shirts!

With so much snow over the winter the deer had little to eat so resorted to eating all the small branches from my fruit trees, currants bushes and anything else that wasn’t covered in snow. Most of it recovered and kept growing but I did have to replace a few little fruit trees. Fast forward to November, 2019: the rutting bucks ravaged about a dozen of my fruit trees – breaking branches and rubbing off the bark! I will have to replant in the spring and wage a new war on those dastardly deer! They are beautiful to look at but they surely are destructive...mostly the males. The Jane does are more genteel in their destruction, choosing to nibble off the fresh growth on newly planted fruit trees. The bucks specialize in mayhem – tearing the trees to pieces in the fall!

Speaking of destructive deer…I planted a garden in May…and it was doing well, even with the unusual weather conditions. After a few good pickings of beans, however, the deer realized what they were missing, hopped the fence, and trampled and ate all the bean plants! They also nibbled at a few squash and generally had their way with any plants in their path. I’ll try again next year…with a renewed battle plan!

Though my garden was not as prolific as I had hoped, my prairie/weed patch virtually exploded with beautiful wildflowers…without any help from me! Mother Nature truly is the master gardener! She even covered my lawn sax with Queen Anne’s lace!

A rainbow of beautiful birds visited my feeders during the month of May, many staying long enough for a photo shoot! I find them inspiring and have included some of them in my latest carpet mural…mostly in actual poses I have seen at the feeders. Orioles were plentiful but I was especially excited to see real red-headed woodpeckers…and have them stay long enough for me to capture their exquisite beauty with my camera.

I also bought a new vehicle during the month of May: a 2019 Subaru Forester! I kept my 2006 Chrysler Town & Country minivan because it’s just too practical to part with. I still use it for hauling trees, music stands, and anything else that is too big or too dirty for my new Subaru.

In the fall I had cataract surgery on my left eye (I had the right eye done four years ago). I couldn’t be more pleased with the outcome!  My distance vision is excellent and I really need glasses only for reading music and closer work. I generally wear glasses all the time anyway rather than deal with taking reading glasses on and off all day long. Progressive lenses allow me to see all distances with amazing clarity.

Soon after that…the chainsaw saxophone player I ordered a couple of years ago was delivered. Mr. Toad now resides in front of my music and art studio, were he stands and greets my students when they come for lessons. It isn’t the work of art I had hoped for but it’s still fun. I may dress him up or stain him olive green in the spring.

Just before the wicked cold weather we got in early fall this year, I decided that my LP tanks needed a good scrubbing and touch-up. Because of the short window of good weather remaining, I did a rather hasty re-painting job on the watermelon and touched up the weeds/wildflowers on the big tank.

As is my usual routine, I attended half a dozen plays at American Players Theatre in Spring Green: and the 40th anniversary party! This summer’s fare included Tennessee Williams’ “A Lovely Sunday for Creve Coeur”, George Bernard Shaw’s “The Man of Destiny”, Oliver Goldsmkth’s “She Stoops to Conquer”, Henrik Ibsen’s “A Doll’s House”, followed by Lucas Hnath’s “A Doll’s House, Part 2”. The last play was a great finale to the season, with lead actors Colleen Madden and James DeVita rolling around on the floor in a hilarious row! 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

I also attended 3 operas and a half dozen Madison Symphony Orchestra concerts during the year, though I missed some of the best ones (that featured pieces with saxophone parts) due to snowstorms and rehearsals. In the operas: Sarah Day was magnificent in her role as the crusty Madame Armfeldt in Stephen Sondheim’s “A Little Night Music”. Dvorak’s “Rusalka”, essentially a high-brow version of “The Little Mermaid”, was most entertaining, and Verdi’s “La Traviata” was excellent, as expected. I always enjoy these performances with dear friends, making the experience especially delightful!  Before each performance is an opera talk, which proves to be both informative and entertaining, always ending with an appropriate operatic scene from the Muppets!  I waited too long to recall all the highlights of the MSO concerts but a couple of recent memorable ones featured violinist Rachel Barton Pine and the annual Christmas spectacular. Soprano soloist Michelle Johnson is a force of nature!

Our little town of Richland Center continues to provide an oasis of fine classical music on occasion. The Richland Concert Association brings top-notch performers here for six concerts each year. This year I was particularly impressed by oboist Andreas Oeste and bassoonist Marc Vallon from the UW Madison faculty. They are as fine as I’ve heard anywhere! We were also treated to world-class organist Greg Zelek, a young virtuoso who is the organist for the Overture Center in Madison.

I didn’t do any significant traveling this year but I do have a new destination on my bucket list: Dinant, Belgium, the birthplace of Adolphe Sax, inventor of my favorite instrument. As you’ll see in the photos, the charming little city is a celebration of its famous son, with photo ops just waiting for my arrival! I haven’t been able to find an organized tour that includes Dinant, so I will probably have to look for one with enough time in Brussels to take a side trip. I can explore the musical instrument museum and the exquisite chocolate factories while in Brussels. Dinant is very close to France, so I may just have to include that on the same trip. In the meantime, I have plenty to keep me busy and entertained right here at home!

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.

Bonus addition: family Christmas in Sun Prairie and Marshall…lots of cats and cookies!


Carol Kramer & Morris