And so begins our next adventure together

I wanted to see the sun rise over the ocean on my birthday which also marked the start of my retirement. I have anticipated this for a few years and took the countdown seriously. Luckily, the weather was beautiful. As soon as my other half retires in a few weeks (fingers crossed) we will have more time for friends, for enjoying each other’s company, our garden and home and to explore this great country of ours.This trip made me very happy and always true to our frugal lifestyle, it didn’t break the budget!

The search for artist Ken Haag: a rabbit hole adventure

haag trays
souvenir Haag trays
Two souvenir trays with illustrations by Ken Haag.
ken Haag trays
Detail of trays showing Mr. Haag’s signature.

I have a penchant for vintage USA road trip souvenirs. These two 1960s round metal trays caught my eye at the local thrift, two retro lovelies nestled in with the ubiquitous Norman Rockwell and other collectible plates. And lovelies they are: Hawaii and Virginia trays in good condition with enthusiastically colorful art and something else I’d never seen on a travel souvenir, a signature. Ken Haag.

I am familiar with Hawaii and Virginia. But who is Ken Haag? And why did his signature rate inclusion on a travel souvenir? Assuming he must be someone of note, I was pretty sure Google would give me an answer in less than a second. I was wrong.

Google was full of images for things Ken Haag illustrated, mostly small decorative state and wildlife trays, but void of biographical information. This seemed so unlikely. How can a man who turns up an unending number of results for people selling things with his illustrations not have a Wikipedia page? Or any biographical information? You can find anything on the internet. Information about Ken Haag had to be out there…

It was at this point that my to do list got shoved to the side and I, with a quizzically wrinkled brow and stubborn determination, went diving down the  internet research rabbit hole. The hunt was on.

Initial searches like “Ken Haag artist” and “Ken Haag illustrator” turned up nothing. Except a Google book excerpt from Catalog of Copyright Entries: Third Series for giant gift tags printed by Peck Inc with illustrations by Ken Haag in the 1960s. Knowing he was an established artist working in the 1960s made me wonder if he might at this point be an older person. Or if he might have already passed away and there might possibly be an obituary. Nope. The only obit result was for a gentleman in Iowa who was clearly not the Ken Haag I was looking for. 

Peck Inc. was a possible lead. The Vintage Recycling blog had a post about a vintage 1950s salesman’s sample book of gift tags from Peck Inc., located in Minnesota.

Minnesota. Hmm. I searched “Ken Haag artist Minnesota” and got a second Google book except, this time from The St. Paul Saints: Baseball in the Twin City. The highlighted reference is for the Johnson High School Hall of Fame where inductee Ken Haag is described as a sports artist.

Searching “Ken Haag sports illustration” resulted in an Ebay listing for a 1992 Lou Gehrig baseball card, with that Ken Haag signature big as life on the bottom. 

At this point, I felt like I was surrounded by snips and snaps of info about Ken Haag but I still hadn’t found anything comprehensive. I knew it had to be out there. I just knew it. Translation: I’m too far into the rabbit hole to quit. Onward.

Next tidbits of info, a Worthpoint listing for a Vegas metal ashtray with this bit in the description: “Artist and illustrator Ken Haag was a Minnesota graphic artist, and his pieces are collectible for the way he combined evocative images of famous people and places.” And multiple Amazon listings for The Minnesota Conservation Volunteer magazine from the 1960s with Ken Haag as an author. Minnesota again!

Ken Haag
Artist Ken Haag, 1960s photo from the Minnesota Historical Society.

And then, jackpot. A photograph in the archives of the Minnesota Historical Society of Ken Haag. Love his smile, love his jaunty tie. And really love the sign behind him, Haag Bureau of Artistry. Surely that will yield some…search…results…oh…none? Really? 

Here’s a guy who was a prolific artist. Who signed everything as big as life. And I can figure out NOTHING about him? I kept plugging away with different search combinations based on what I knew and finally things started going my way.

First, a link to St. Paul’s Eastside Heritage Park. On the “They Came from the Eastside,” a huge leap forward. 

Ken Haag (1932-1996) was a talented and prolific sports and wildlife artist, writer and newspaper and magazine illustrator. He was a frequent volunteer for Eastside projects. The preservation of Minnesota wildlife, especially birds and their habitats was an important focus of his adult life.

And then the breakthrough, a Facebook post by Minnesota’s Angling Past with a decent amount of biographical information. Including the fact that Mr. Haag passed away unexpectedly in 1996 at his Eastside home. And that Rep. Bruce Vento spoke warmly about Mr. Haag’s contributions to his community from the floor of the US House of Representatives a month after his death.  From the record of that speech with the appended obituary, I finally found out just who Ken Haag was. “Ken was a constant and joyful volunteer. He lent real meaning to the role of citizenship, working as an artist, but deeply involved in music, education, environment and housing activities. He was a modern day renaissance man.” So said Rep. Vento. 

His obituary listed his affiliations. He served in the Navy. He was a member of the St. Paul Swedish Mens Chorus. He was the president of the Minnesota Bird Club and the local elementary PTO. He was dedicated to education and the enviroment. He was the father of four daughters and a son. He was a husband and a grandfather. And, he was a talented creative illustrator.

So how does knowing this make me better able to sell Ken Haag’s souvenir trays. It doesn’t. But it does give me the satisfaction of finding out just who Ken Haag was. From now on, when his work passes my way, I will smile knowingly and say, “Ah yes, Ken Haag. He was quite a guy.”

 

 

The St. Patrick’s Day Tradition Continues…

Happy St. Patrick’s Day! While our family is not Irish, it’s always been a fun day for my kids and me, mainly because of the “green” and the idea of a Leprechaun.

When my three boys were younger, the Leprechaun would come into our house at night and hide gold coins filled with chocolate around the house for the boys to discover. They had green milk with their breakfast, shamrock shaped green sandwiches for lunch, and a special green punch would be served at dinner.

The special bucket of all green LEGO bricks was taken out and we’d build shamrocks out of them. The bucket also contained a few gold LEGO bricks, and if you were lucky enough to find one of them, there was a green iced shamrock shaped sugar cookie waiting for you.

While every St. Patrick’s Day was filled with fun adventures and plenty o’green throughout the day, the highlight of the day was going to McDonald’s for the green Shamrock Shake! Come on! Who can resist green ice cream?!?! Getting that green Shamrock Shake on St. Patrick’s Day became a family tradition, and a tradition that my, now teenage, boys still enjoy. When my boys first woke up this morning, the first thing they asked is if we were going to drive to town for our annual Shamrock Shake – you can guess what we will be doing later this afternoon! I’m glad they still like this tradition – maybe it’s one we can continue for many more years to come.

For each petal on the shamrock
This brings a wish your way –
Good health, good luck, and happiness
For today and every day.

Do you have a special St. Patrick’s Day tradition that you and your family enjoy? Share in a comment below!

Enjoy Some Turnip Trivia and Tips for This St. Patrick’s Day

Much maligned but beloved by turnip and rutabaga eaters the humble root vegetable!

This humble root vegetable is great winter eating. It would have been used in a boiled dinner for generations because it is not only easy to cultivate but is also an excellent winter keeper. Late winter meals in New England, Europe and Great Britain were often some sort of preserved meat boiled with root vegetables. I LOVE turnip but my husband doesn’t like it or the “disturbance” it creates in my digestive tract. When I was employed at a living history museum as a historical interpreter, I worked in a farmhouse kitchen with one of the best cooks and good historians that I have ever known. Everyone who came into the kitchen when we cooked turnip or rutabaga would make a thinly veiled joke about the gaseous emissions they would experience after eating it. This is what I learned from her and will pass on to you. Indigestion etc. comes from trying to break down the fibers close to the skin of the turnip. Here’s how you fix that. Cut the top and bottom off the top of the turnip and look for a line that is in about 1/4″ from the skin. If you cut that well away before you cook the turnip you will not get that indigestion!  So, don’t use a vegetable peeler on this but over cut it generously to remove this offender with a knife, which will also save you time. Cook in salted water until tender and mash with butter. 

When we were kids, Mom used to mix mashed turnip with mashed potatoes and called it “root moose”, a funny name to us which we thought she made up. It is one of Sweden’s national dishes, pronounced the way we said it but written as Rotmas. I was told by a friend who lived in Sweden that you can buy this pre made in the frozen food section of any Swedish grocery store.

 

Enjoy your St. Patrick’s Day boiled brisket and root vegetables and make certain that you listen to some great Irish Music!

 

Gardening Inspiration

Hi folks!

Last weekend we took a jaunt to the other side of the county to attend the Pasco County Fair. The skies were sunny and just perfect for walking around! I love visiting all the animals and watching the judging but my most favorite spot is the greenhouse where they display the entries from the various 4H students. What wonderful inspiration! I thought I would share a few of the photos. You may find some inspiration for your own garden!

***disclaimer – I don’t suggest using an antique radio as a part of your garden but it did make for a cute backdrop. 🙂

~ Enjoy ~

 

Dance By The Light of… a Planet

Since a very young age, I have always loved looking at the night sky. Watching the stars, moon, planets, and comets is something I will never tire of.

On February 16 through 17, Venus will light up the night sky. It will be so bright, in fact, you might be able to see your shadow by it’s light – how cool is that – your shadow, cast from a distant planet?!  I’m looking forward to spotting my shadow, and if I see it, I’ll definitely be dancing! I challenge you to test this out with me, and then report back here to let me know if it worked for you.

To see Venus at the brightest it’s been in 5 years (at least as observed from Earth), look toward the western sky just after sunset. You won’t be able to miss Venus – it shines at magnitude -4.8, making it ten times brighter than the evening sky’s second-brightest object, Jupiter. At this magnitude, you’ll be able to see Venus even when surrounded by city lights.

To see your shadow by the light of this planet, you’ll need to be in a rural area, far away from city lights. If you stand with your back toward Venus, look on the ground for your shadow. If the ground is covered with snow where you are, it will be much easier to see your shadow. If you have no snow, hold a sheet of white paper with one hand and position your other hand between the paper and Venus to see if you can see a shadow on the paper. 

Venus via GIPHY

If the skies are clear where you are this Friday night, make sure to look up and to the west… and don’t forget your dancing shoes!

BONUS TIP: Look to the southwest sky during the night of the 17th and you might be able to spot an iridium flare! Check Heavens Above to pinpoint exactly where to look in your neck of the woods.

 

For more details about spotting Venus in February, check out the EarthSky website.

 

Strawberry season is here!

I love February! Not just for Valentines day but for the strawberries! We have always eagerly awaited the coming of strawberry season – I remember growing strawberries as a child with my Granny. So much fun! So delicious! Imagine my surprise (and joy!) when a friend recently brought me a basket of strawberries fresh from the field! 

Basket FULL of yum! Look at the size of these berries!

Now wouldn’t it be lovely if that photo was a ‘scratch n’ sniff’! 

 

When It’s Winter In Minnesota…

Yesterday here in Minnesota, we enjoyed 8 fresh inches of snow on the ground. The trees are covered in the white powder and the stark contrast of the black of the branches against the white of the snow is quite beautiful. And this snow is the STICKY kind! The kind we love! Perfect for making snowmen. 

While I do love the snow, when it’s winter in Minnesota, you can’t help but dream of warmer days ahead.

Tomorrow is Groundhog’s Day. I’m hoping he doesn’t see his shadow. Time to put my huge vintage golf umbrella to work…

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