Saturday, October 31, 2009

Tennis Bubbles in Sunlight

This month of miserable weather is ready to end. Too much rain and too much gray dominated. Therefore when the sun shines a little it's a good idea to have your camera ready. These are the twin bubbles at Fred Wells Tennis Center at Fort Snelling where I play twice a week, most weeks. The blue stuff between the clouds is the sky in its natural color.

We played two and a half sets, finished on time and with a satisfying percentage of decent back and forth points. Tennis continues even on the last day of the rainiest October on record in the People's Republic of Minnesota. And since it's Halloween and the candy requesting children of the republic are out and about, it was nice to see a mostly dry day. I'm not sure how this custom of giving candy to other people's children got to where it is, but it seems like it might be a good idea to curtail it a bit. Halloween has always inaugurated the eating season, followed by the other big food holidays, Thanksgiving and Christmas. A later start to the season might cut into our national obesity epidemic. Who knows?

Because October acted like November, is it possible that November will act like a normal October?

World Series action in Philadelphia is scheduled for tonight. To me, at least, baseball should be played in warm weather. November in Philly for the Series just feels wrong. Maybe they should hold it on a neutral field in the South somewhere, like they do the Super Bowl. That'll never happen.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Takeout Chinese Food

I was sorely tempted to put this photo on the Family Cooking Blog but thought better of it. Takeout food, even from Yang's is not cooking, at least not by me. The instructions - unpack food, dish up on plate, chow down - are pretty simple and need no exposition. But it sure was tasty. It was Singapore Rice Noodles made with just enough curry sauce to make sleeping a bit uncomfortable for your standard geezer.

I stop at Yang's nearly every Thursday night after mixed doubles at Woodbury Tennis Club with Jerry and the hardcore girls. Tonight was no different. Even with a rainy night, there were customers at Yang's and good food to be had. The tennis had been good. We played and split two good sets before quitting for the evening. All of us will be visiting Tucson in a few weeks for the USTA national 8.0 mixed doubles tourney and we're getting ready. It's not formal training, just playing a lot of tennis and trying to get better. We don't want to embarrass ourselves.

Earlier today I caught Unky Herb doing yoga in the living room. He took the week off from his labors and was hoping to get in some outdoor activities before winter closes in. Unluckily, it's been gray and rainy most of this week. Today was the worst, so Herb decided to get his exercise doing yoga to his P90X CD. He's been doing this exercise program for several weeks and seems to be thriving and getting in pretty good shape. This is one of his exercises.

If October were the Civil War, the Confederate states would be winning. There have been a lot more gray days than blue days. Today would have been a massacre.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Fade to Gray

One nice day doesn't make a nice month, and today we reverted to the month's norm. Gray. It's been a blue-gray game most of the month with the rebs winning most of the battles.

I had lunch over near Macalester College, a private liberal arts college near here, and near and dear to the heartstrings of some reader(s). Lunch at the Italian Pie Shoppe. They have some good pie, and a nice lunch special. On the way I encountered an "art car" parked on the street near what was once Ace Hardware. I have encountered several of these the last few months, including in the Grand Old Day parade, and I'm starting to suspect that there may be some sort of movement afoot. Perhaps a conspiracy. There was, in fact, another similarly festooned auto on Grand Avenue near the shoppe. I always wonder what the redecoration of these autos does to their resale value, but the autos are usually on their last owner. I've included an informative video of a Minnesota art car parade from earlier this year. Just the thing for a gray day.

My main exercise today was a long walk past the new rain garden that PP and her MCC cohorts installed at Linwood, then around the block, up the big stairs, north to Summit and past the Guv's Mansion, and back home. About an hour. I plan to revisit the tennis wars tomorrow come blue or come gray.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Luce Line Trail

It was one of the nicest October 27ths in the history of October 27ths. The sun came out and then the clouds went completely away, leaving only blue. Unky Herb is taking a few days off from the rigors of work and he was free to explore a state park. It's actually on his list of things to do on his free days. So. Yesterday PP did some buckthorn homicide on a state trail, Luce Line, in Wayzata and Plymouth and recommended the area for a hike. UH and I spent a couple of hours there walking along a trail that was once a rail spur into Minneapolis. It was fairly wild, but near residential property and well used by bikes and walkers. Here's UH on the ground readjusting his aching hip muscles, or something, and it was so cute I had to snap off a picture or two.

We spent a couple of hours enjoying the colored leaves and the blue, blue sky. The sunlight makes a very big difference in the quality of photos and the quality of my mood. It was a nice day to be a retired older gentleman, taking a walk in the country. I'm not so sure about the gentleman part.

I have this photo from the weekend taken by UH's camera. He emailed it to me yesterday. He and I were at the end of Summit Avenue in St Paul where the large monument to "the Great War" stands. The war to end all wars didn't end all wars, as we all know, and the Great War is now known as World War I, but it's still an impressive monument. I digress. While we were at the site, overlooking the Mighty Mississippi, we encountered quite a few photographers. This group seemed at least semi professional, with a model that posed multiple times with multiple costume changes. I asked UH to take a photo and this resulted. You can perhaps see why they choose this spot for photos. The trees were nicely colored and the view quite impressive.

No tennis to report. A day off from the wars and a well earned day off, I maintain.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Blueberry Pie

There has been some talk about blueberry pie lately and today there was action in that direction. PP baked a pie from a variety of frozen blueberries that were gathered for the purpose. Some were wild berries, little sweet blues. Some were big luscious berries left from our Michigan adventure. Mixed together and baked in PP's famous pie crust, they made a pretty sight. The first shot was taken partially through the process, before the top crust was affixed.

And then the final product just as it was exiting the oven, golden brown and smelling of something wonderfully tasty. We haven't actually cut into it yet, but be assured that it will be consumed with great appreciation. Thanks for the recipe, Santini. I guess it's pie season.

Yesterday Herb and I went to the end of Summit Avenue in search of beautiful and colorful leaves to photograph. The lighting was less than optimum, but there were a great lot of very pretty maple and oak and sumac leaves, as well as other species that were maybe not yet of optimum color. This is Herb as he sat among some leaves, just after taking some shots, and caught nearly unaware by his tousan, but alert enough to smile at the camera.

There was also tennis today at Fort Snelling with the gang of geezers, undeterred by the cold. We had some good competition and exercised enough to be about the right state of fatigue. My slump has abated a bit and I played well enough, and ended with some energy to spare. We missed the last part of the Vikings first loss of the season, but there have been enough replays and reporter pieces about the game that by early next week I'l be thinking that I saw the whole game.

Friday, October 23, 2009


It snowed pretty hard today, and when it wasn't snowing, it was raining. I guess this will end sometime, but I hope that it's soon.

I played a little over two sets of tennis at the Fort Snelling Tennis Bubble. As I played I was able to see the white of the snow falling out the front windows of the club. It was cold inside, but we were still able to play a pretty reasonable game of tennis. That's the miracle of indoor tennis. When I was in high school there were no indoor tennis facilities to be found. We waited out the winter, until the snow melted on the outdoor courts. We even helped out Mother Nature by shoveling the snow off the courts, but the spring season could always be interupted by a snowstorm. It was almost like having to relearn to play every spring. We didn't mind, because it was the way things were.

More indoor tennis tomorrow. I'm in a kind of slump that I need to work out of in the next couple of weeks before the Tucson tournament. But there is time and indoor courts to get it done.

These posts are starting to look like weather reports.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

It rained the live long day

There's not much to say when it rains all day. I looked out my back door this morning and the maple leaves, although showing a nice pastel shade, were still wet and stayed that way the rest of the day.

To salvage some sanity I decided to see if there were any pretty flowers at the Como Conservatory. I drove over to the area and found a lot of places to park. Everyone was taking a rain day, I guess. They always have something blooming in the big glass greenhouse. This daisy-like fandango flower is representative of the fall flowers displayed in the Sunken Garden. Pretty, but not dramatic.

So I walked around outside in the rain. I was wearing a pretty good raincoat, so I didn't get very wet, and I was pretty much alone on the walking paths. There were some nice maple trees along the paths, but they are missing the bright sun that makes the leaves really stand out.

The sun may return tomorrow. It's been a gray month, man.

Just a few minutes ago PP posted her pie crust process on the family experimental food blog. I can vouch for its golden goodness.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Park Closed for Deer Hunting

The morning was nice enough to take a walk. The forecast for afternoon was possible rain, and it did rain, so I was right to do my trekking in the a.m. PP had a late start at MCC this morning, but she was committed to going for a run, so I decided to walk around a lake alone. There are a couple of lakes in the Crosby Farm Park by the Mississippi - Crosby Lake and Upper Lake. I'm not sure that I've ever seen a sign announcing Upper Lake, but google maps shows its contours, and I decided that that would be just the right mixture of forest, bog, and exercise. I set out. But my plans were thwarted by the sign in the photo encountered at the entrance to the Park. The city or maybe the county has declared open bow hunting on the deer herd that resides in Crosby Farm and they closed the park. As I stood to take the photo a jogger swept by me into the park, but as she passed the sign, and read it, she stopped and asked what was up. I expressed my own reluctance to enter the park and she apparently agreed with my judgment. She asked what was at the top of the hill. "Shepherd Road," I said. She turned and ran up the hill.

I guess that qualifies as interaction with the public.

I took my new plans further up the river to Hidden Falls and walked along the mighty Mississippi. I had trepidations of errant arrows from careless archers, but that soon passed and I had a nice trek up the river. I met a few amblers walking their dogs and themselves but not much excitement. A barge went by and I was able to see people with their dogs across the river at the Minneapolis leashless dog park. I walked along the river for a while and observed the river's effect on trees, even big trees that grow too close to the water. This big tree has had most of the soil eroded from around its roots, leaving it high and dry when the river is low. And a photo worthy image.

I came home for lunch. I stopped at Trader Joe's for some fixings and ended up with a "toasted" cheese sandwich along with a bowl of tomato soup. I did not, however stick to the "old time" lunch plan - the cheese was colby and feta, the bread, spinach feta from Great Harvest, and the soup, a much fancier non condensed version of tomato without high fructose corn syrup. Quite satisfying.

No tennis again today. Two days in a row without smacking forehands and I'm beginning to feel the effects of withdrawal.

Monday, October 19, 2009

October Progresses

As I was at Fort Snelling, I saw these two red kayaks enjoying the day. That's the Mississippi River that they are paddling down. It seemed like a nice way to spend some free time.

I had the day off from tennis. It was nice to have a day to rest up. My exercise was a walk by the river and trying to recognize the variety of bushes and trees. This time of year the buckthorn bushes are very recognizable and as PP keeps telling me, they are an invasive species and very hardy. They bear berries which are ripe and black this time of year and, when close to walking surfaces, are quite messy.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Substantially nicer day

The sun came out and, although it never got very warm, it was a nice day, and inspired better moods all around. This is almost the same photo as yesterday, except that this time the sun is shining. It makes a better photo, too, don't you think?

My theory about my tennis slump seemed to be right. I switched back to my duct taped racket and played three sets and a tie breaker at Wooddale. Suffice it to say that I now have a couple of won sets since my last birthday. It didn't really feel like I was playing better, but the results were much better.

I walked over to Linwood Park at about noon. I knew that PP would be working there today. She and her MCC cohorts were digging up a flower garden in front of the main building and changing it into a rain garden. She was well along in the process when I arrived, but I stopped and met her crew and a few of her coworkers - Alyssa, who I had met before, plus her supervisor, John, and her co-team teacher, the infamous Sean. They all seem nice, and all very young. The whole organization is composed of people younger than 26. Not a gray beard to be seen, at least until I arrived. They were respectful and actually seemed to be enjoying the work and the sunshine.

Feta fish for dinner and thanks to Santini's food blog posting it turned out acceptably delicious.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Marginally Better Weather

October has been a cold month, but there are signs that we may get some warmth this weekend. It didn't rain much this morning, just some mist now and then. I was able to get out into the open air for a while before my Friday afternoon tennis contest. I took a picture of my red maple tree. The leaves have turned, but without good light, it isn't very dramatic. But the season is changing. I hiked around Harriet Island for a while, too, but it wasn't a day for photography.

Then there was some tennis at Fort Snelling. I seem to be in some sort of slump. I have played four sets of tennis since I crossed over into the world of 67 year-olds, and I have yet to win a set. Two were out and out losses and the other two were interrupted by the end of our assigned playing time with my side in dire straits. I'm blaming the slump on my insistance of using my second string racket. I switched because I'm saving what's left of the first stringer for my trip to Arizona, and there is that issue of duct tape holding it together. Tomorrow, I'm going back to the one with duct tape to break the slump.

I made turkey fried rice for dinner tonight. My friendly wait person at Yang's Chinese Restaurant told me that it was quite important to use cold rice in the recipe - or the rice sticks together - so that's what I did. It came out well and PP, Unky Herb and I had it as part of a varied menu for dinner. Herb did a salad, and PP prepared an appetizer of bread, hummus, and feta cheese. And cantaloupe to finish. Check out the recipe for fried rice on the family food blog.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Sixty-seven dawns

T. Tousan is 67 and begins his 68th year. Yoohoo.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

The first snowman

It feels a lot like November, but I went walking with Unky Herb this afternoon for a bit. He was working from home today, and was on a break, so we didn't venture too far from home. Part way down the block we encountered the remnants of a snowman, the first I've seen this season. It hasn't completely melted away as you can see, but its features have lost any sharpness that they may have had. Herb for scale.

Gray days are not much fun, but they apparently bring on a hankering for ring bologna. As Gino's blog lately has expressed, ring bologna was an important part of our childhood diet and this family food blog seems to have ignited some nostalgia for that diet. Why bologna? Why not meatloaf? Who can say? But I was at Cub Foods, topping up the larder, when ringed sausage seemed like the perfect food to celebrate my 24,472nd day on the planet. And my 500th post on this blog. All in one day. Yahoo. Unky Herb made pancakes and we had ring bologna and pancakes and a nice spinich salad (without wine). Guys have to have their greens. I'm having a real bologna sandwich tomorrow.

October seems to rearrange sensibilities. The endless summer is not really endless, and the sun doesn't always shine. But the weekend is coming and the sun is very likely to shine again.

Happy Birthday

It's your birthday, Tousan.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Ten year old tennis racket

I've been gazing at my tennis racket and wondering when it will be time to buy a new one. I've had this Wilson ProStaff for at least ten years and it's starting to look a little ragged. I have used duct tape to protect the frame and the strings from wearing away when I inadvertently scrape the frame on the court while hitting low forehands. In fact, I have tried at least twice to upgrade to newer rackets in the last five or six years and always went back to this one. It seems like an upgrade is in order soon. I used this one again today at the Fort Snelling Tennis Club and managed to get through nearly two sets in an hour and a half of doubles with the increasingly competitive GTA.

The high temperature in Fairbanks, Alaska today was 47 degrees. We may have topped at 40 here in St Paul. The global weather patterns are currently topsy-turvy.

The family food blog has been fun. The participants have supplied info about some interesting and sometimes historical foods. Mr. Moohoo has been revisiting the foods of our childhood, and I await further surprises. Santini and Tommy have posted useful current and probably tasty dishes and I'm likely to try them at some point, and Wireless has some tasty goodies to share, too. The foods I remember from my childhood - meatloaf, macaroni and eggs, roast beef and boiled potatoes, sloppy joes on home made buns, liver and bacon, roast chicken with stuffing, corned beef hash with eggs, egg salad sandwiches, and other things I don't remember at the moment. I expect some of these to show up on that blog. I'm not so sure that sugar sandwiches will make the cut. And I didn't expect ring bologna to make it this soon.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Snow Again

It doesn't seem like October. I awoke this morning and went out my back door to find this scene on my patio. The pots recently held growing lettuce and flower plants, but were transformed overnight to snow containers. The weather people reported a record amount of snow for October 12 of any year. Today.

I stayed inside today. I had a trip to the grocer and bought some ingredients for the recipes that I'll be trying now that the family food blog has begun to hum. I made some cole slaw and pea soup, essentially from scratch. I may post another recipe, but I'm keeping some of my powder dry for a while yet. GZ suggested last night that he might post his recipe for boiled ring baloney.

I hear by my radio that there will be a deer hunt at Crosby Farm Park this fall. It's a place that I spend quite a bit of time, so I'm a little familiar with the deer herd there. I guess they are going to close the park and allow a limited number of bow hunters to trim the herd. I hope that if they field dress their kill that they keep the intestines off the bike path. I guess the deer have become somewhat of a nuisance in Highland Park, nibbling people's gardens to nubs.

The Minnesota Twins season is done. The Yankees did them in in three straight games, so now we can concentrate on the Vikings and old number 4. Old number 4 (Favre) had his 40th birthday on Saturday.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

A Birthday Celebration

It never got out of the 30's today. I guess we're in for a long winter. But, it was GZ's birthday and we got together with our families at the Crimson Crustacean, a favorite sea food eatery. The food was good and we had a good time. Happy Birthday, Gino.

Earlier in the day, I played some tennis indoors at Fort Snelling. It was a trifle chilly inside, but there was no wind, nor wind chill. The outdoor tennis season appears to be done. The weather prognosticators are predicting 1-3 inches of snow tomorrow. I hope that they are wrong, but fear the worst. PP's biking plans for tomorrow are likely to be postponed, too.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Snow Ends the Tomato Growing Season

I went out to fetch the morning paper today on my city street in St Paul and was greeted by a white surface that wasn't there last night. I knew then that my tomato plants were dying in the backyard. The season is over. I guess the ash trees in front thought so, too, because in the photo below, you can see that the ash tree on the boulevard has discarded a good proportion on its still green leaves on top of the layer of fresh snow, Ash trees are quitters.

But I played tennis anyhow. I play inside this time of year and the temperature is controlled and there is no wind. The indoor courts are getting a lot of use this month. Players have moved back inside and it is getting harder to reserve a court during the hours when most people work. The other three people on the court today are all members of the still working class, and were happy for the opportunity to play a couple of sets inside. 7-6, 6-4. Two close sets. And Jerry, my partner for the first set said that he had fun. It was my fifth consecutive day of doubles action, and I had fun, too.

I came home and picked a few of the green tomatoes from the frozen plants by my back door with the intention of having that old delicacy that my dad loved, fried green tomatoes. I have entered into a blogging partnership with some of my family members [you know who you are] and I invite my readers to have a look there for my green tomato recipe and some other delicious recipes. The blog is named an experimental food blog and is the source of the recipe for the oven baked sweet potatoes in the photo. The credit for the blog goes to my favorite sister who blogs under the pseudonym Santini.

This was my dinner, basil tomato soup, fried green tomatoes, and the sweet potatoes. I may have overdone the tomatoes - I even used catsup on the potatoes.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

American Coots on Lake Como

In preparation for my usual Thursday night mixed doubles encounter with Jerry and the hardcore girls, I decided to stretch my legs the 1.6 miles around my usual lake of choice. 3200 steps it says on the sign that announces the circumference of Lake Como. For most of the last month, the lake has been been sporting a lot af algae on the surface, a condition some might call scummy. The wind of the last few days has blown most of the green layer to the downwind end of the lake. These American Coots found the algae to constitute a feast and they congregated in large numbers to eat. Unless I counted wrong - a definite possibility considering my spotty short term memory - there are 51 coots in this photo. PP's "Birds of Minnesota" field guide has the American Coot on page 12. It notes, "An excellent diver and swimmer, often seen in large flocks on open water. Not a duck, as it doesn't have webbed feet, but instead has large lobed toes. ... Also called Mud Hen." And thus a segue to baseball.

The Toledo Mud Hens are a minor league baseball team affiliated with the Detroit Tigers, the team the Twins nipped in the recently completed American League Central Division regular season playoff. The Twins then lost in the first game of the divisional playoffs to the Yankees last nightt in the new Yankee Stadium. This set of facts "really ties the room together" (after the Dude in "The Big Lebowski").

Enough digression. Tennis with the hardcore girls was challenging as usual. We managed a couple of hard fought sets with some interesting points. The players look ready for the national tournament coming up in about a month and a half. We had at least two occasions when we had to stop and try to determine the score of the current game that at least one of us thought was completed. It's amazingly difficult to remember points that were played in just the previous five minutes. And these people aren't really that old. Except maybe for me.

I made three bean salad again today - wax beans, black beans, and garbanzos. I skipped Unky Herb's addition of carrots slices. That ingredient can be his trademark. I'm also considering whether it might be all right to add green peas to the mixture. I wonder if they are close enough to beans to be allowed into the mix.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

The sun returns to the north land

It was sure nice to have a sunny day again. The rain has cast a pall on the week, but sunshine does wonders for one's soul. My two tomato plants have not yet felt the sting of a hard freeze. The ripening process has slowed and I'm left with a bumper crop of green tomatoes. Today I fried green tomatoes for the third time in a week. They are really pretty tasty, but even if they were my dad's favorite color of tomato, their presence in my diet could get old pretty fast. I'm looking for other recipes for green tomatoes on the internet to round out the season and to use up the surplus. It seems a shame to discard the end of season surplus. As you can see, my photo of the fruits of the tomato features only greens.

I had a couple of sets of tennis at Fort Snelling this afternoon. I changed rackets to my back-up racket, partly because my main racket is looking a little ragged - the duct tape is getting worn off from scooping the ball from court level and catching fabric. I guess I should look into getting a new racket.

Unky Herb has delved into the three bean salad creative process. We started the three bean salad preparation after our trip to blueberry country this summer. We had some fine three bean salad then although at times it was six bean salad, as I recall. UH added carrot bits to his bean concoction to personalize the product. He also varies the number of bean varieties. His last was a four bean creation.

A quote from public radio that made me guffaw. It's about Roman Polanski, "the original five foot Pole that I wouldn't touch anything with."

The Twins won the Central Division last night, but are having more than they can handle in New York and their Yankees. But, there will be at least one more game in the dome.

Monday, October 5, 2009

It's still raining in the saintly city

The weather continues to be quite fall-like and wet. I have been outside, but the lighting is not conducive to good photos. I have also been playing my usual schedule of tennis, but it's all taken place inside lately - it has been raining outside. Today was my first day off the courts since last Tuesday and I needed the rest. I have been wearing a racketball glove on my racket hand for about a week, off and on, to protect my middle finger, which has some sort of bone bruise, from further damage. Playing with a glove seems to whet the curiosity of some of the players that I've been competing with. I've been saying that I am the Michael Jackson of geezer tennis (because I'm wearing a single glove). I'm also thinking of finding some sequins to attach to the glove for a little more pizzazz. But I'm mostly just talking.

I'm scheduled for some mixed doubles tomorrow to stay conditioned for the nationals in November. We are expecting rain and we are playing inside a large building in Woodbury.

How about those Minnesota Twins.