Friday, December 30, 2005

Great help

Ian's children Alexandra (16) and Peter (13) are visiting with us until Wednesday, We'll be sending them home to Ottawa with callous on their hands and a great sense of accomplishment. Their assistance with ripping up the tongue-n-groove kitchen floor has been invaluable. Thank you, thank you, thank you!

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

A horse, of course

We went to the local horse auction on Saturday and came home with an Arabian yearling stud colt. He is a purebred, but isn't registered with papers. We have named him Cairo. He is chestnut color with one ankle-high white sock, with a white strip on his nose and half moon on his forehead. At a little more than one year old, he stands 13 hands high to his withers (there are 4 inches in each "hand"). He could grow as much as another eight inches and weigh up to 1000 pounds as an adult horse. We will have him gelded sometime next summer, as we don't want to run a breeding horse farm. Besides, without papers and a competition-winning history what's the point? Cairo will be old enough to ride in 2007, but there is a lot we can teach him in the meantime.

Cairo has been raised in a heated barn and does not have a winter coat. He must wear the horse blanket he is pictured in 24/7 until he grows enough to withstand the cold Minnesota days and colder winter nights. I'm not sure that's he's ever been out in a pasture on his own, as the Sunday afternoon he was out he looked like he wasn't quite sure what to do. Cairo is very friendly, comes when he's called and seems to have been handled a lot. He has been allowed to nip without being corrected, so that's something we need to work on. He does stand quietly when being brushed and will allow his feet to be cleaned. Of course being an Arab he carries his head and tail quite high and has lovely foot action.

Our neighbor Donna, who owns three horses, suggested we borrow her 17-year-old Thoroughbred mare as a stable mate for Cairo. It has been so cold the last two days with a fierce north wind blowing that neither horse could leave their box stalls. We're up at the farm doing renovation most days, so we share the horse care duties with Donna. We're on schedule to relocate to Stanchfield this time next month. In fact, soon, we'll be able to spend some nights there and work longer hours getting the farmhouse into shape.

Now old Macdonald has a horse... E-I-E-I-O.

Monday, December 05, 2005

One dumpster filled

We've just completed our 13th work day at the Stanchfield farm since signing the mortgage papers on November 1. We taken out 30 cubic yards (about 10 tons) of demolition waste from the house, e.g., drywall, wood paneling, wallpaper, wainscoting, door, window and baseboard moldings, ceiling tiles, faux ceiling beams, etc. Soon we will begin the rebuilding phase with laying in the wiring, insulation, the framing and plumbing for the 2 new bathrooms and plumbing for the kitchen dishwasher and drywalling. The room framing, drywall and plumbing we will contract out. The electrics must be inspected (of course) and we'll have an electrician upgrade the current 60 amp fuse box to something more suitable. It's certainly an education.

The living room was covered in wood paneling and about five layers of wallpaper and is now stripped down to the boards. On the exterior walls we will put a 2 x 4 (inches) piece of wood vertically floor-to-ceiling every 24 inches and after the wiring is done, we will fill the 24 inch gaps with rolls of insulation. After the vapor barrier, drywall is placed over the studs and insulation and bare boards on all four walls to create a new wall for painting.

Stripping the ceiling tiles in the living room revealed beautiful wooden beadboard ceilings. We hope to restore these and make them a feature. There are similar ceilings in the kitchen and upstairs bedrooms.

We filled the first rolloff and had it collected today and replaced with an empty one waiting for us to begin filling this Friday.

Ian installed our mailbox, which was no small task. We were told by our mail carrier that our box, which sat atop a fence post, was not properly mounted and that we needed to by a contraption that allowed the snowplows to clear the road without knocking down the post. We bought the "swing away" from the highway department, bought a larger mailbox to accommodate the various packets we routinely get, and Ian cobbled it all together. We're officially able to receive mail now. Some magazines take quite a while to do changes of address, so I've gotten a jump on them. We're at the farm every weekend so we won't miss anything.

Our neighbor Donna asked if she could bring her horses over to feed on our very grassy pasture. I said sure. There are three altogether; 2 mares (one thoroughbred, one quarter horse; both 17 years old) and 1 three-year-old gelding thoroughbred.

Another interesting fact: Donna and I graduated in the same high school class, but did not know one another. I'm sure in future discussions we'll find some people we knew in common.

Sunday we had lumber and insulation batts delivered. Soon we're going to rip up the kitchen floor, back to its joists and level it. Walking on it now makes one feel a bit drunk. We've begun looking at lighting fixtures and have already chosen our kitchen from the IKEA catalog.

The weather is chilly this week with temps in the teens, making it below zero Celsius!

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Renovation gets serious

Ian and I are having a lot of fun renovating the farmhouse we bought at the beginning of the month. This two-story, three-bedroom, 1 bathroom house built in 1895 sits in 10 acres near Cambridge, Minnesota. When we are done with our renovation and addition it will have four bedrooms, three bathrooms, an eat-in kitchen, formal dining room, a study, living room, wrap-around three-season porch and an attached three-car garage. If all goes as planned this should all be done by this time next year.

Ian is taking down the plastered meringue-looking plastered ceiling. It was whipped up onto drywall, set in stiff peaks and now comes off in heavy chunks. We are removing this ceiling from almost every ceiling in the house except the living room.

Ian spent most of the day last Saturday dismantling a two and a half story chimney that was no longer being used. He began taking it apart brick-by-brick in the attic, then in the bedroom and, finally, in the main floor kitchen where he uncovered an old bird’s nest! Having this chimney gone will give us flat useable wall space in both the bedroom and kitchen.

Son Richard came to help us on Sunday. He and Ian made short work of getting the huge pile of refuse out from the living room and into the hired dumpster sitting in the front yard (its dimensions are 10 long x 2 wide x 2 deep yards).

I wrestled with an oak wood doorframe that was winning until I got a good foothold. Wisely Ian stood well out of the way so he’s not on the receiving end of all that momentum!

The house will be ready for us to live in around mid-January 2006. We will have the new kitchen installed and working, the upstairs bedrooms livable and have a full bathroom installed on the upper level. We are spending every weekend doing the work we can. I think paid help will come to join our ranks in a week or so when we begin to put things back together, e.g., re-wiring the house, roughing in plumbing for three bathrooms, installing insulation and drywall.

Even though we are not there fulltime until after the holidays, we are beginning to receive mail there. It's smart to do this as far in advance as possible because some magazines take a long time to do change of addresses.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Work begins

We've begun ripping out things at the farm in Stanchfield. It's a lot more fun than I expected ... using a crowbar is very cathartic! We're spending the next several 3-day weekends (Friday-Sunday) to get the place livable. The pile of garbage (about 4 feet high and 10 feet across) is from two rooms and there are three more to go. We will have a large trash container delivered this week and begin getting the old stuff out of the house. There is a scary nest of wires that is the fuse box!

Tuesday, November 01, 2005


On November 1, 2005, Ian and I bought a 10-acre farm. Built in 1895, the 3-bedroom farmhouse needs updating so we won't move from our rented apartment in Minneapolis until February 2006. The farm is an hour's drive north of Minneapolis (55 miles) and is located near the village of Stanchfield, just north of Cambridge, Minnesota. The farm has two barns and a detached double-car garage, 2 acres of lawn and garden with eight acres of fenced pasture (no horses yet). In Spring 2006 we plan to build an addition (family room, dining room, study) with a breezeway to an attached garage.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Back in Minneapolis

Ian and I are back in Minneapolis. We arrived yesterday (Tuesday) afternoon and were welcomed by Richard with open arms. It's nice to be home in our own bed and familiar environs. It was so special to be at Michael & Natalia's wedding. I hope they had lovely days in Paris.

Our drive from Ottawa was so beautiful. On Monday we drove through the Ottawa valley and crossed back into the States at Sault Ste. Marie in Michigan's upper peninsula and yesterday's drive took us through the northern part of Wisconsin across the Lake Superior bridge into Duluth and down highway 35 to the Twin Cities. The fall colors were beautiful and it was interesting to watch the changes from when we began in New York on October 3rd. Our Mazda drove wonderfully and now needs a good car wash and vacuum.

Ian telephoned Ottawa last night to let the kids know we'd made it back home.

Even though we've been working while on the road (thanks to laptops and good Internet connections) being back in the office means noses to the grindstone!

I'm looking forward to Halloween and Thanksgiving. Euorpe doesn't do Halloween trick or treating. We plan to return to Spain on December 4th for about 10 days. On Friday, December 23rd (the last day of the school term) Alex and Peter will come to Minneapolis to spend Christmas and New Year's with us.

Monday, October 10, 2005

Canadian Thanksgiving

This three-day weekend visit with Alexandra and Peter has been lovely. Today is Canadian Thanksgiving Day! After we take them to breakfast, Ian will drop them off at home and then he and I will begin our drive to Minnesota. Today, we will drive about eight or nine hours to Sault Ste. Marie (pronounced: Sue Saint Marie), cross the border into the US and check into the Hampton Inn.

Yesterday the four of us went by car into neighboring Quebec and drove through its Gatineau Park. We also visited the city of Wakefield with its covered bridge and learned during lunch that there is a steam train that runs between Wakefield and Hull (across the Ottawa River from Ottawa). During the non-winter months it runs several times a day back and forth and has a popular dinner train. After lunch we drove further east to the village of Montebello and visited the Chateau Montebello, which is a large hotel complex. Its main building is the world's largest log cabin. We also drove along the road that winds through its 18-hole golf course. The fall colors were spectacular. I am sure there are more to see as we drive back to Minnesota.

We will see Alex and Peter again on December 23, when they fly to Minneapolis to spend Christmas and New Year's with us. They will return to Ottawa on January 4, as school restarts for them the following Monday.

We should be back in Minneapolis tomorrow (Tuesday) late afternoon or early evening.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Post-wedding note

Just a quick note to let you know we arrived JFK last night safe and sound. We will begin our drive to Lake Placid, NY this morning as soon as rush hour slows down. We'll stay there tonight and then make our way to Ottawa on Wednesday. Our yellow sunbeam Mazda sat waiting for us in the long-term parking lot.

Being in Spain for Michael & Natalia's wedding was GREAT! We really loved being there to witness the ceremony and meet the new in-laws. Having Michael and Natalia come to Riumar for two days was icing on the cake! We look forward to seeing them again when we return for a visit.

We also enjoyed spending time in the renovated chalets. There are still some projects to do, but they are SO much better and the money we spent was well invested.

Our route here took us through Amsterdam and we bought eight dozen Dutch tulip bulbs at the Schiphol airport. We did have to declare them and stop to be inspected by an agricultural US Customs inspector at JFK (which took all of two minutes). The bulbs come with special certificates to clear US and Canadian Customs. We're hoping to plant these at the Stanchfield farm in early November.

We're back in Minneapolis next Wednesday after we enjoy this weekend with Ian's children Alexandra and Peter in Ottawa. Looking forward to that too!

Saturday, September 24, 2005

Rice harvest

The Ebro River delta (Delta del Ebro in Spanish or Deltebre in Catalan) is where most of Spain’s rice is grown. The village of Riumar where we own two 3-bedroom chalets is on the tip of the delta where it meets the Mediterranean Sea. September is harvest month. The rice paddies are planted and flooded in late April or early May. As they grow they look very much like wheat fields, except rice grows in flooded paddies. Combines harvest the rice and afterwards the fields look like bad haircuts. Trucks take rice from the paddies to collection areas around the delta. The rice is dumped into huge mountains then spread out in flat to dry.

After it has dried trucks come from all over Europe to these collection areas. The truckers drive up onto a scale empty, are weighed and then each truck is filled up with rice, the bad is covered and the filled truck is weighed again. Then they are off to their various processing plants. At harvest the rice is brown because it still has a tough husk on the outside. Later it will be a creamier white and used most often in paella.

Sunday, September 11, 2005

A note from London Heathrow

We have just had a traditional English breakfast at one of the Heathrow restaurants and are waiting for our 11:00 a.m. flight to Barcelona. The flight over was OK, although it was bumpier than I care for. I watched two movies; The Interpreter and Sahara. It's overcast here (surprise!) and I am hoping for sun in Spain.

We should be in Riumar around 6 p.m. The flight from here is two hours and the drive is two hours and we need to stop along the way and grocery shop. Gee, I should be truly exhausted by then! Ian always does better than I do on these international flights, as he can sleep soundly, turbulence and all.

I am looking forward to taking new photos of the renovated chalets and posting them on the sites we advertise on.

Saturday, September 10, 2005

New York, New York

Yesterday we went into Manhattan and spent all day. We left in the morning at 9 and returned around midnight. We´re staying in Queens which has a subway line that makes its final stop at The World Trade Center, so we went to Ground Zero first. The area remains fenced off and is still a hole in the ground that causes the heart to ache, but it is much more of a
construction site. There were seven buildings that made up the WTC and unbeknownst to me three have been rebuilt. I took time to look at all of the buildings on the periphery and noted that several are still being repaired. It was decided this week that the building formerly occupied by Deutche Bank was too contaminated, could not be salvaged so it is now shrouded and will be dismantled piece by piece over the next year at a cost of $25 million. More than once I looked up into the blue sky from different vantage points knowing that four years ago today I could not have seen it.

We took the subway uptown to the Metropolitan Museum, which sits on Fifth Avenue at East 82nd and Central Park. We walked many of the galleries and enjoyed every hour. We walked through Central Park toward its south side, ate hot dogs in transit, bought an 8 x 10 pen & watercolor of three Mongolian horses and then caught a double-decker tour bus. It was nice to see various sites and architecture (Broadway, Madison Square Garden, Times Square, The Empire State and Chrysler Buildings, The United Nations, Greenwich Village, SoHo, Chinatown, Little Italy, the East Village) while hearing the guide's patter. When we got to Battery Park we hopped off and rode the Staten Island Ferry roundtrip. It took about an hour, was free of charge and gave us beautiful views of the Statue of Liberty and Lower Manhattan. We hopped back on the tour bus and rode it back up to Central Park South. We wanted to eat Italian food for dinner and went back to lower Manhattan by subway to Mulberry Street in Little Italy. We had a nice dinner and then took two subways back to Queens. It was a good day.

I'm not sure what we'll do today. We don't need to be at JFK until around 4 p.m.

Tomorrow we'll be in our beloved Riumar! More from there.

Thursday, September 08, 2005

12 hours driving

We drove from South Bend, Indiana, across Ohio and Pennsylvania into Queens, New York today. It took us about 12 hours. The drive was really beautiful, especially the Appalachian Mountains.

Tomorrow, we´re sightseeing in Manhattan. Our flight to Spain doesn't leave JFK until 7 p.m. Saturday, so maybe we'll find something fun to do during the day before we leave.

So, in short, all´s good.

Coming to Spain for a wedding

Ian and I are on our way back to Spain after spending the summer in Minnesota. The weeks just flew by. We arrive in Barcelona on Sunday and will then drive the two hours to Riumar on the Delta del Ebro. We rented both chalets all summer after we had renovated them this spring. We´ll be in Spain until October 3.

My son Michael (28) is marrying his Catalan girlfriend Natalia on September 30 in a civil ceremony in Barcelona. Exciting, no? Her family has really embraced Michael, which makes it very nice. Michael now runs his own kickboxing gym near the Joanic metro stop. His students are mostly women and they are very loyal. The gym is on the street side and their apartment is in the back. He advertises in The Metropolitan.

When we return we will sign papers on a 10-acre horse farm we made an offer on last week. It is about 45 minutes drive north of the Twin Cities (Minneapolis and Saint Paul). It was built in 1895 and needs some updating, so we won't move in until January.

We plan to be back in Riumar for the first two weeks of December. Our plan continues to be to split time
between the two places. This is doable for the time being as there are no horses on the farm! I'll spend the winter months doing research and putting together a business plan. I must decide which type of horses I want to buy and, more importantly, which aspect of the horse business I really love and want to be in. Life is too short not to do what we love! I can't see giving up the Spanish side of life and I expect to find a comfortable balance.

My mother and father both turned 81 this summer and we were with both for their birthdays -- Papa's in Managua and Mom's in Minneapolis. Both are very happy, healthy and very busy with their lives. My 25 year-old-son Richard is now living with us in Minneapolis and is holding down the fort while we travel. It´s nice to be near my mom and son.

After our trip to Spain, Ian and I are visiting Ottawa. Ian's children have repatriated there after 10 years living abroad! It must feel like yet another foreign country to adjust to! I am hoping we hit the area during some beautiful leaf-turning weeks. We will visit them over the Canadian Thanksgiving weekend, then head back to Minneapolis.


We left Minneapolis later than we wanted to, so we only made it to South Bend. This is the home of Notre Dame. We have a room booked and paid for at the Holiday Inn Express in Jamaica Queens this evening, so we will drive until we get there. Another good reason for leaving soon. I suppose we've got 12 hours of driving today. The scenery will be lovely. New York
is a pretty state.

We listened to talk radio (NPR & C-SPAN) all day yesterday and really are well versed on the Katrina disaster. I tell you, what a bunch of crap. We will see a lot of finger pointing and I will tell you there is PLENTY of blame to go around. While people were sitting in DC and watching the storm unfold and hit the Gulf, people were dying largely due to bureaucratic inaction. And, we are still in hurricane season! Today's nonsense with the debit cards and people NOT being issued them as FEMA said just yesterday .... gee, dumb! These screw ups could surely sow the seeds of revolution. People will only suffer so much!

Monday, August 08, 2005

Me and Peter Jennings

When thinking about what I missed from the states ABC World News Tonight with Peter Jennings was always on my list. Sure, we had Sky TV from Britain in Spain and had the fabulous BBC news, but for me TV NEWS was sitting down at 5:30 p.m. CT weekdays listening to Peter and learning from his many news specials. I know they say you cannot go home again, and surely the United States and the Minneapolis I left behind in 1998 when I moved to Europe no longer exist, but on visits stateside Peter was always there helping me to be informed and to make sense of the world. And now he's gone too ... much too soon. And I am very sad. God bless you, Peter. I will miss you.

Peter Jennings, Urbane News Anchor, Dies at 67

Peter Jennings, a high school dropout from Canada who transformed himself into one of the most urbane, well-traveled and recognizable journalists on American television, died yesterday at home. He was 67 and lived in Manhattan.

The cause was lung cancer, said Charles Gibson, who announced the death of his colleague on television in a special report just after 11:30 p.m. Mr. Jennings had disclosed that he was suffering from lung cancer on April 5, first in a written statement released by ABC and later that night on "World News Tonight," the evening news broadcast that he had led since September 1983.

In brief remarks at the end of that night's program, Mr. Jennings, his voice scratchy, told viewers that he hoped to return to the anchor desk as his health and strength permitted. But he never did.

It was a jarring departure for someone who for so long had been such a visible fixture in so many American homes each night. Along with the two other pillars of the so-called Big 3 - Tom Brokaw of NBC and Dan Rather of CBS - Mr. Jennings had, in the early 1980's, ushered in the era of the television news anchor as lavishly compensated, globe-trotting superstar. After Mr. Brokaw's departure from his anchor chair in December, followed by the retirement from the evening news of Mr. Rather in March, Mr. Jennings's death brings that era to a close.

For more than two decades, the magnitude of a news event could be measured, at least in part, by whether Mr. Jennings and his counterparts on the other two networks showed up on the scene. Indeed, they logged so many miles over so many years in so many trench coats and flak jackets that they effectively acted as bookends on some of the biggest running stories of modern times.

Mr. Jennings's official ABC biography notes, for example, that as a foreign correspondent, he was "in Berlin in the 1960's when the Berlin Wall was going up," and there again, as an anchor, "in the 1990's when it came down." Similarly, he was on the ground in Gdansk, Poland, for the birth of the Solidarity labor and political movement, and later for the overthrow of the country's Communist government.

In addition to reporting from nearly every major world capital and war zone, Mr. Jennings also managed to report from all 50 states, according to the network. He seemed to draw on that collective experience - as well as his practiced ability to calmly describe events as they unfolded live - not long after two hijacked planes struck the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001. Over the course of that day, and those that immediately followed, he would spend more than 60 hours on the air in what Tom Shales of The Washington Post , among other critics, praised as a tour de force of interviewing and explanatory broadcast journalism laced with undisguised bewilderment.

"This is what it looked like moments ago," Mr. Jennings said at one point that first morning, as he introduced a piece of videotape recorded moments earlier in Lower Manhattan. "My God! The southern tower, 10:00 Eastern Time this morning, just collapsing on itself. This is a place where thousands of people worked. We have no idea what caused this."

The coverage of all three broadcast networks that week underscored a maxim of the television news business: that however much the audience of the evening news programs might have eroded in recent years, viewers usually return during moments of crisis.

"He was a man who came into the anchor chair absolutely prepared to do the job, from years and years of reporting in the field, which is precious and not easily duplicated," said Tom Bettag, who competed against Mr. Jennings as executive producer of the "CBS Evening News with Dan Rather" and later worked with Mr. Jennings as a colleague as executive producer of "Nightline."

"He established a level of trust with the viewer that would be difficult for anyone else to match going forward."

At the peak of his broadcast's popularity, in the 1992-1993 television season, Mr. Jennings drew an average audience of nearly 14 million people each night, according to Nielsen Media Research. He reached that milestone midway through an eight-year ratings winning streak, during which his audience sometimes exceeded those of both Mr. Brokaw and Mr. Rather by two million or more viewers. (For nearly a decade since, to his periodic frustration, his broadcast had lagged behind that of NBC's, even after Mr. Brokaw yielded to Brian Williams in December.)

Though the audience for the evening news has fallen precipitously in recent years - a casualty of changes in people's schedules and the competition offered by the cable news networks and the Internet - Mr. Jennings's broadcast and those on CBS and NBC still drew a combined audience of more than 25 million viewers this past year.

And however much his audience had aged - the median age of a Jennings viewer this past season was about 60, according to Nielsen - advertisers still spend in excess of $100 million annually on each of the evening news programs. Like Mr. Brokaw, Mr. Rather and now Mr. Williams, Mr. Jennings was well paid for his efforts: he earned an estimated $10 million a year in recent years. His most recent contract with the network was due to expire later this year , but at least until he became ill, the network was preparing to extend Mr. Jennings's time in the anchor chair for "several years to come," according to David Westin, president of ABC News.

Mr. Jennings's broadcast training had begun at an astonishingly young age, a function at least partly of his family background. Peter Charles Jennings was born July 29, 1938, in Toronto. His father, Charles, was a senior executive of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation and a pioneer in Canadian radio news.

In "The Century" (Doubleday, 1998), one of two history books that he co-wrote with Todd Brewster, Mr. Jennings recalled an early exercise that his father put him through to sharpen his powers of observation. "Describe the sky," his father had said. After the young boy had done so, his father dispatched him outside again. "Now, go out and slice it into pieces and describe each piece as different from the next."

By age 9, he had his own show on Canadian radio, "Peter's Program." He dropped out of high school at 17, and by his early 20's, was the host of a dance show similar to "American Bandstand" called "Club Thirteen."

His rise to the pinnacle of Canadian television news, and later its far larger counterpart to the south, was swift. In 1962, at age 24, he was named co-anchor of the national newscast on CTV, a competitor of his father's network, a job that he held until 1964.

That year, he moved to the United States to begin work as a correspondent for ABC. Barely a year later, the network named him an anchor of "Peter Jennings With the News," then a 15-minute newscast, which put him, at age 26, head-to-head with Walter Cronkite on CBS and the formidable tandem of Chet Huntley and David Brinkley on NBC. Though he would serve ABC in that capacity for nearly three years, Mr. Jennings said in an interview last year that he was ill-suited for the job and unhappy in it.

"I had the good sense to quit," he said.

What followed was more than a decade of postings abroad as a foreign correspondent for ABC, during which, Mr. Jennings said last year, he got an on-the-job introduction to the world with a tuition bill effectively footed by his employer.

"I have no formal education to speak of," Mr. Jennings said. "ABC has been my education and provided my education. ABC has enabled me to work everywhere in the world and has ended up paying me beyond handsomely."

From 1968 to 1978, Mr. Jennings traveled extensively, including to Vietnam, Munich (where he covered the hostage-taking and killings at the 1972 Summer Olympics) and Beirut (where he established the network's first news bureau in the Arab world).

In 1978, he began his second tour as an anchor for the network, serving as one of three hosts of "World News Tonight," along with Frank Reynolds and Max Robinson, in a format devised by Roone Arledge, the sports programmer who had added the news division to his portfolio. Mr. Jennings was the program's foreign anchor and reported from London until 1983.

Three weeks after Mr. Reynolds died following a battle with bone cancer, Mr. Jennings was named the sole anchor (and senior editor) of the broadcast, titles that Mr. Jennings continued to hold at his death.

As an anchor, Mr. Jennings presented himself as a worldly alternative to Mr. Brokaw's plain-spoken Midwestern manner and Mr. Rather's folksy, if at times offbeat, Southern charm. He neither spoke like many of his viewers ("about" came out of his mouth as A-BOOT, a remnant of his Canadian roots) nor looked like them, with a matinee-idol face and crisply tailored wardrobe that were frequently likened in print to those of James Bond.

Though his bearing could be stiff on the air (and his syntax sometimes criticized as being so simplistic as to border on patronizing), Mr. Jennings was immensely popular with his audience.

During a trip last fall through Kansas, Pennsylvania and Ohio in the weeks before the presidential election, he traveled at times aboard a coach customized by the news division to trumpet its campaign coverage and frequently received a rock star's welcome when he decamped.

For example, in the parking lot of a deli just outside of Pittsburgh, where he had come to interview a long-shot candidate for Congress whose threadbare headquarters was upstairs, Mr. Jennings found himself on the receiving end of several hugs from loyal viewers.

"He's so handsome," one of those viewers, Vilma Berryman, 66, the deli owner, observed immediately after meeting him. "He's taller than I thought. He speaks so softly."

"I feel like I know him," she added. "He's just so easy."

Like all of the Big 3, Mr. Jennings was not without his detractors. Some critics contended he was too soft on the air when describing the Palestinian cause or the regime of the Cuban leader Fidel Castro - charges he disputed. Similarly, a July 2004 article in the National Review portrayed him as a thinly veiled opponent of the American war in Iraq.

The article quoted Mr. Jennings as saying: "That is simply not the way I think of this role. This role is designed to question the behavior of government officials on behalf of the public."

Mr. Jennings was conscious of having been imbued, during his Canadian boyhood, with a skepticism about American behavior; at least partly as a result, he often delighted in presenting the opinions of those in the minority, whatever the situation.

And yet he simultaneously carried on an elaborate love affair with America, one that reached its apex in the summer of 2003, when he announced that he had become an American citizen, scoring, he said proudly, 100 percent on his citizenship test.

In a toast around that time that he gave at the new National Constitution Center in Philadelphia, he described his adopted home as "this brash and noble container of dreams, this muse to artists and inventors and entrepreneurs, this beacon of optimism, this dynamo of energy, this trumpet blare of liberty."

Mr. Jennings's personal life was at times grist for the gossip pages, including his three divorces. His third wife, the author Kati Marton, whom he married in 1979 and divorced in 1993, is the mother of his two children, who survive him. They are a daughter, Elizabeth, and son, Christopher, both of New York City. He is also survived by his fourth wife, Kayce Freed, a former ABC television producer whom he married in December 1997, and a sister, Sarah Jennings of Ottawa, Canada. Having prided himself on rarely taking a sick day in nearly 40 years - and being dismissive, at times, of those well-paid colleagues who did - Mr. Jennings had missed the broadcast and the newsroom terribly in recent months.

In a letter posted on April 29 on the ABC news Web site, excerpts of which were read on that night's evening news, Mr. Jennings described how treatments for his cancer had proven more debilitating than he had expected.

"Yesterday I decided to go to the office," he wrote. "I live only a few blocks away. I got as far as the door. Chemo strikes."

"Do I detect a knowing but sympathetic smile on many of your faces?" he added.

About a month later, Mr. Jennings did make a rare visit to the ABC News headquarters on the Upper West Side of Manhattan. With a gray sweater draped over his shoulders, and his feet clad in thick wool socks and moccasins, Mr. Jennings held court for about a half hour late one morning from his desk, in what is known as "the rim," a newsroom one floor below the "World News Tonight" anchor desk.

His voice soft and his body as much as 20 pounds lighter than usual, Mr. Jennings told several dozen staff members who had gathered around his desk about the doctors and other patients he had been meeting and of a first-time radiation treatment that he had just received, according to one veteran correspondent who did not wish to be identified so as not to offend Mr. Jennings's family.

Mr. Jennings brought himself and many of his colleagues to tears when he turned to Charles Gibson, one of his two principal substitutes on the program, and thanked him for closing each night's broadcast with the phrase, "for Peter Jennings and all of us at ABC News." Mr. Jennings then put his hand over his heart and said, "That means so much to me," according to his colleague.

But whatever maudlin feelings were in the air quickly evaporated, Mr. Jennings's longtime colleague recounted, when the anchor brandished a familiar black calligraphy pen and began marking up the rundown for that night's broadcast. "No, that's not a good one," he could be overheard telling Jonathan Banner, the program's executive producer, about one segment. Of another, he added, "You want to move this higher up."

For his closest colleagues, the reassuring sight of the anchor-as-editor provided a fleeting moment of normalcy in what had been a disorienting and heartbreaking few months.

Copyright 2005 The New York Times Company

Monday, August 01, 2005

South Dakota -- gotta see it!

A quick note with highlight photos to say that we are back from our long weekend in South Dakota. We had a lot of fun. Our stops included a visit to the Corn Palace in Mitchell, The Badlands, Wall Drug (where Alex rode the jack-a-lope), saw a double rainbow on our way to Mount Rushmore and we visited an 1100 acre wild horse refuge with its herd of 700 horses.

Thursday, July 28, 2005

Bought car, must travel

We bought a 2003 bright yellow Mazda Protege 5. It's very comfy, hugs the road well and we've decided to take a trip. Ian, Alex, Peter and I are taking the new yellow "sunbeam" (as my Mom calls it) to Sioux Falls for a long weekend trip. None of us have ever been before and we'relooking forward to it.

We're reachable via our cellphones, although who knows what the coverage is like in the Black Hills! We're back on Monday afternoon.

Saturday, July 02, 2005

In stitches!

To add a bit of excitement and remind me how blessed my life is, I accidently stabbed my left forearm with new kitchen shears last night and needed to have Ian rush me to Hennepin County Medical Center (HCMC) for stitches! Like 4 or 5 (I forgot to ask). My girlfriend Sandy had come by about 9 p.m. to say hello and to help us put the house together (she loves doing this stuff and will come back today to do more). I was helping her take plastic wrap off of our mattress and box spring when the shears slipped -- slice -- it was just that quick. It looked a lot worse than it was ... I'll spare you the gory details LOL. HCMC is only minutes away and is the regional trauma center. I got excellent service and nothing hurt. Ian never left my side, despite my asking him several times to wash the blood that had gotten on him. Sandy stayed behind at the house and put the rest of the house together and watched TV. We called at regular intervals with updates. Gee whiz, we were REALLY tired when we got home just after midnight. While I drove Sandy home Ian prepared salmon and tossed salad for our much delayed dinner.Yum!

I'm fine and slept well. The site is a bit tender and stitches must come out in a week or 10 days. I told HCMC I would not be returning for that as I have friends and family who are medically trained and surely someone will volunteer. When the discharging ER guy heard this he smiled and gave me a sterile sutures removal kit.

We are all wired with cable TV and Internet with phones working too. I need to program the voice mail, but otherwise we're good. We've still got some running around to do today - more errands and last things to buy, so best get to it.

Alexandra and Peter arrive tomorrow evening and we are really looking forward to seeing them.

Thursday, June 30, 2005

In Minneapolis

We began our day at 5 a.m. in Nicaragua. We flew from Managua to Houston and then to Minneapolis. We have already been to pick up the keys for the house and now have a rented garage too. Now we just need to buy a car! Meanwhile, we have one rented for a week.

The phone (and Internet) will be connected at home tomorrow.

We're off to buy a telephone and TV, then back here to the Holiday Inn Metrodome to relax and sleep. We must meet the various techinicians at the house by 8 a.m. tomorrow.

All´s good.

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Hello from Managua

This is our last full day in Managua. My father's 81st birthday was yesterday. We had a good time together at his house. During this trip I met another brother, Agustin (junior/hijo), who is a doctor. We also visited with the brothers I have already met - Elmer, Cristian, Miguel - plus Elmer's son Miguelito, who we met when we all went to Granada during the last trip here. My brother Miguel and his wife Ruth have a 2 year old charmer named Michele. She is quite friendly and was very curious to meet her "tia (aunt) Janetita" .

This trip we also visited the north of Nicaragua and the part of the family that runs the various coffee plantations. We were given a huge bag of ground coffee and a smaller bag of coffee beans. Naturally, I have taken tons of photos.

Ian and I arrive in Minneapolis tomorrow afternoon and are counting the days until Alexandra and Peter arrive (July 3) for their summer weeks with us!

All's well. More from Minneapolis.

Saturday, June 25, 2005

In Newark

WOW, what a LONG day! We arrive at zero dark thirty last night into JFK. The ride was bumpier than I liked, but movies were good.

We fly to Houston and then to Managua today, arriving at 9:30 p.m. CT. Back in US on 30th, staying at Holiday Inn Metrodome in Minneapolis for that night.

Thursday, June 23, 2005

One week from today!

One week from today - sometime in the late afternoon or early evening - Ian and I arrive in Minneapolis. We will spend that night in a hotel, then move to our home on Wentworth Avenue the morning of July 1. The phones, Internet and cable TV will be connected in the morning and the rented furniture will arrive at lunchtime.

Tomorrow (Friday), we fly on British Airways from Barcelona-London Heathrow-JFK. We spend the night in Newark, New Jersey and continue to Managua via Houston aboard Continental Airlines on Saturday. My father is picking us up at the airport Saturday evening and we will stay at his home.

Happy trails!

Sunday, June 19, 2005


Living abroad in a culture that is not familiar and trying to function in a language that is not my mother tongue can be stressful. After living in Spain for three + years I speak Spanish grammatically as well as any local 4 year old! I will say that my accompanying nonverbal communication is must more advanced. However, despite the occasional frustrations and cultural disconnects, there are things in this laid back land of 'manaƱa' that work quite efficiently. Earlier this week Ian and I registered with the provincial socialized healthcare named Cat Salut (Cat = Catalunya and Salut = is Catalan for health). Because we are local residents within the province of Catalunya we are eligible. We had carried private medical and dental insurance, but because we're going to spend more time in the States we decided to cancel that and register for the free stuff. Oh, yes, I meant to say Cat Salut is FREE and it covers everything --- medical, dental, glasses, prescriptions, hospitalization, treatment (shrinks, drug dependencies). Basically, it is publicly funded health insurance.

To register we had to bring a form from city hall that shows we are local residents. Regardless of citizenship, all you do anywhere in Spain is walk in to your nearest city hall and ask to be registered as a local resident. You provide a copy of a rental contract or deed and, voila, you're registered and therefore entitled to the provincial coverage. I'm not sure of the ins and outs of how it works yet (all information is in Catalan) but my understanding is Cat Salut gives us free access to all healthcare-related services throughout Catalunya. Our local Cat Salut facility where we registered is in La Cava, which is 8 km or 15 minutes drive from the house here in Riumar.

The process to register took us 15 minutes, which was basically "firme aqui, por favor" ("sign here, please"), plus the receptionist filled in the forms for us and patiently answered questions. We came away with temporary cards with plastic ones to follow in the mail. As we returned to the car I asked Ian, "Why can't we have something like this in the US?" For Ian, being British, this coverage is normal. For us to have basic medical/dental coverage in the States WriTech will pay at least $10,000/year in premiums and that will not eliminate co-pays, deductibles, and other related costs.

I suppose I could begin to find the answer to my hypothetical question in someone's doctoral dissertation, as no doubt it's not just flipping a switch, waving a wand or following a "Make it so" directive. Too bad, really.