Saturday, January 30, 2010

Still January

The street in front of my house is still covered with packed down snow and ice. It takes a sustained warm spell to rid the surface of its irregularities, and that hasn't happened yet. There is a kind of stark beauty to a clear January day with the blue sky and the naked trees. The ice covered sidewalks are treacherous and demand respect for those of us approaching geezerhood and I can see the wisdom of Florida and Arizona. The grocery bags in the photo are being used to contain recyclables for St. Paul's ongoing recycling program.

I took my creaking body to the Wooddale Tennis Center this morning and played a couple of sets. I wasn't really on my game, but I managed to get the ball over the net more times than the friendly opponents and eked out some victories. The club was not so busy this morning so we were able to play an extra half hour before quitting and calling it a successful day. We sat around a bit and discussed Serena's win in Melbourne over Justine. I remarked that the tale of the tape in this morning's Strib listed Serena at 5'9"" and 150 pounds, and that I was pretty sure that they must have been measuring someone else. I think she must have another 20 pounds on that frame - she can't possibly be smaller than me. That's my just opinion.

I fixed Santini's "famous yams in the oven" recipe from the experimental blog to eat for the evening meal. The yams, veggie burgers and steamed mixed veggies filled the menu. I was joined in a hearty repast by Herb and the princess.

The radio informed me that the current full moon is the brightest full moon of the year. I'm not sure how they know that or why it matters, but it was a high point of my daily input of usually useless facts that sometimes aid in solving a crossword puzzle later in the month.

Not much January left.

Thursday, January 28, 2010


I'm back from Thursday night tennis at Wooddale. We played two sets, and the hardcore girls were scheduled for another match at 8:30 in their USTA women's doubles league. These ladies are serious about their hobby. I stopped at Yang's for Singapore Rice Noodles, mostly mildly spicy. On the way home through the tundra, the guy on the radio announced that the temperature in St Paul was two. A positive two to be sure, but a very low even prime number. The sun is down and whatever heat that remains is sliding away.

Earlier in the day I walked up to Grand Avenue to get away from encroaching cabin fever. The sky over my neighbor's tree was a rich blue, so I took this photo. It's not much to brag about but demonstrates the day was cold and getting cold.

PP had skating lessons in Minneapolis this evening. A few of her young charges actually showed up for the activities, but they were reportedly less than happy about their situation and pouted through the lessons. I thoroughly understand.

SO. I spent some of the day searching the Internet for heirloom tomato seeds. I think I could start my own plants inside this spring and grow some non-hybrid plants and see how tomatoes used to taste. There are several sites selling seeds from a variety of sources, and they aren't very costly. They just need to be planted inside about six weeks before they are to be transplanted outside. It's gratifying to think about heirloom tomatoes on a day like this.

A great Australian women's final will be played in the middle of the night tomorrow between the Mutt and Jeff of pro tennis - Serena and the recently rejuvenated Justine. It could be a lot of fun. I'll be watching a taped replay the following day. Don't call early and tell me the results, please.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Wherein I walk on water

After four straight days of the tennis wars, I had the day off. I think I needed it, although I spent a lot of yesterday being a couch potato - watching the Vikings lose the NFC Championship to the Saints, and later watching a lot of Australian Open tennis on ESPN2. I watched a couple of sets of Nickolay Davydenko, the Russian ghost, trading ground strokes with a Spaniard, Fernando Verdasco. Much later, in the wee hours, Davydenko won in five sets to advance to the quarters against Federer.

This afternoon I got a little restless and took a trek down to the big river to see how the storm was coming. The western part of Minnesota is shut down today by blowing snow, but the Capitol City is functioning. I walked along the river, actually on the surface of the ice where the cross country ski tracks were, until I saw an object in the middle of the stream. I walked closer.

It appears to be an easy chair that someone dragged out to the center of the river and allowed to be frozen to the surface. It'll likely be there until spring.

I continued down the river past the end of Pike Island and back, then made a trip inland to Upper Lake. The snow grew some in intensity and the sun was nearly obscured and a little spooky over the lake. I was pretty much alone for most of the walk. The dock on Upper lake is shown below.

Two of the three people that I saw on the walk were carrying shovels, the pointed kind for digging trenches. It's odd to see anyone carrying a shovel down there, so it's kind of a mystery. I suspect it is related to the St Paul Winter Carnival Treasure Hunt, which I think is currently in session. I should look it up, but I know the ice sculpture contest was injured by the January thaw that hit over the weekend, so it is Winter Carnival time. Whoever finds the Winter Carnival medallion wins a nice cash prize

There will be more tennis to play again tomorrow.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Another B&W photo

This photo came in email today from Carla, my cousin. It had been displayed with other photos in the church in Yellow Lake during Aunt Sue's funeral. Although I appear in the photo, I don't think I've seen it before. Aunt Sue is in the foreground. It seems to be have taken by Uncle Marvin from the driver's seat of his car in about 1950 in an unknown location. I'm guessing that it was taken in Webster, Wisconsin, in the late spring based on some cues in the photo. (The bush near the center looks springlike to me. There is part of a sign over Dad's shoulder.) I find it interesting that Tommy, Jimmy and Gene are dressed in nearly identical shirts - possibly homemade. Very cute. Jimmy is wearing suspenders, not a common occurrence these days.

It was a warm, sloppy day in Minnesota. The ice on the streets is puddling. I went to Fort Snelling this afternoon and played some tennis with Dennis, Prof Bill, and Brad. We finished a single set and got to 4-2 in the second before running out of time. I also was running out of energy due to my lack of lunch, I think. I came home and ate the leftovers from Yang's Chinese restaurant. Phoenix meal. Yum. My energy level has improved.

Kim Clijsters lost yesterday in the Australian Open, 6-0, 6-1, leaving a single Belgian woman in the draw - Justine Henin. Both of the American Williams sisters are still in contention.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Stay Off the River

I hadn't been to Crosby Farm for several weeks to check on the beaver lodge, but today (a cold and cloudy, rainy day) I ventured down the hill to Crosby Farm and went to have a look. Not much is going on there. The beavers seem to be resting securely in their lodge - no tracks to be seen. There has been human activity in the area, however. Crosby Farm is a pretty good place within the city to do some cross country skiing and there are tracks all over the place to indicate the presence of skiers. They ski on Upper Lake and also along the edge of the mighty Mississippi in spite of the signs. The "thin ice" sign below is next to the river. (The ice on the lake is thick enough to ski on, maybe thick enough to drive a truck on, too.) The sign by the river is relevant. A real danger exists because the river is moving water and the ice unpredictable. I ventured as far out on the ice as the ski tracks, but only briefly. The skiers stay close to the banks.

This is the Mississippi River in winter by Crosby Farm. This photo attempts to show how the river is used by the cross country skiers, There are no tracks going across the river. And there is no evidence of anyone going through the ice, although somewhere in this great state there is usually one or two instances of people falling through the ice sometime in January because they have underestimated the predictability of river ice.

There was tennis tonight again at Wooddale with Jerry and the hardcore girls. We managed three sets and had some good points. Becky was playing well as my partner and we had quite a few long competitive points, sometimes decided by net cord shots.

The Aussie Open has begun in Australia. Justine Henin is playing again. She came out of retirement this year after seeing the success enjoyed by her countrywoman, Kim Clijsters, last year at the US Open. It's nice to see the Belgians back in the draw of the major tournaments. I hope they stay around and play at Roland Garros in May.

One last item. I have a vague memory of a kid's song whose lyrics have been mangled in my mind for some time. I wonder if any one knows where these lyrics came from, or did I dream them up myself. Have these lyrics been copyrighted?

"Oh where, oh where has my little dog gone
Oh where, oh where can he be
Away down south with his tail in his mouth
And his hind legs up in a tree."

Monday, January 18, 2010

A Day in Northern Wisconsin

I went with my brother to a family funeral today in Wisconsin. It was a bittersweet occasion, sad to see my last aunt pass into history, but also sweet to visit with my maternal side cousins. My Aunt Sue, who was nearly 88, passed on January 11, 33 years after the passing of her husband, my uncle Marvin. I am posting their wedding photo from August 23, 1943, which was just a month after the birth of my sister, "Santini". Sue was 21, Marvin 27.

As the funeral program says, "She delighted in birds and animals, flowers, small children, politics, and travel. She had a wonderful sense of humor and her laughter will be missed."

Mt brother, Tommy, and I spent a summer in about 1954 living with Sue and her family when my mom was ill, and because of all that time together we knew each other well. She was a dear soul.

It was a sunny day today with a clear blue sky in northern Wisconsin. The oak trees and the pine trees were respectful as they waited for spring to return.

Friday, January 15, 2010


January is almost half gone. The ides passed without so much as a "beware." The weather has mellowed considerably, but still stubbornly remains below the freezing point of water. The benches in today's photo are obviously not suffering from overuse. They stand along the walkway along the Mississippi River on Harriet Island. I go there once in a while to get a view of downtown River City and to exercise the old bones.

I've been staying in the tennis wars, but lately some of the geezer guys have been getting injured, Tennis Dennis pulled a back muscle on Sunday and is out of action. I, myself, took a minor tumble and left some knee skin on the courts. Luckily there were no twisted joints and I was able to continue swinging the racket. It's the time of year when indoor tennis begins to lose its luster and I start to think how nice it would be to be outside on a clay court smacking forehands. The place that I play most is the bubble at Fort Snelling. It's roomy and the ceiling is high enough to lob decently, but it's a little bit chilly there on January days and I always have to change clothes and shoes before and after I play. I'd like to show up at the court again and just begin playing and sweating. Maybe I should go see the old retired coach.

PP has been vacationing in the warmth of Hawaii and returns tomorrow afternoon. She'll be pleased to see that the average temperature has gained about 25 degrees, but irked that it is still about 45 degrees colder than the big island. That's just how it is.

A football weekend looms, and the Minnesota professional team is still in action. I consider it my social responsibility to watch how they do and be able to converse about the action when necessary next week. Vikings against the Cowboys in the dome on Sunday at noon.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Eldon on the radio

Eldon Nelson, the Fat Cyclist (link to his blog), was on Public Radio tonight. I stumbled across the broadcast as I was getting some of that delicious Yang's Singapore rice noodles after tennis tonight. The program, The Story, was an interview with Fatty. He talked about his ride with Lance Armstrong and his Radio Shack team, among other tidbits. Fatty is a darn good story.

I am posting a photo from the poinsettia show at the Conservatory yesterday. It was a good day for the show yesterday and as good a day today. We got some more snow, I got to shovel a couple of times, and it got cold again. It's going down below zero again tonight, so the poinsettia's are meant to cheer me up.

I drove to Wooddale in the snowfall for tennis tonight. I left early because I knew it would take a long time to get there. As it was, I was a few minutes late, but had to wait a while for the hardcore girls to arrive. They had been held up by traffic slowed by an accident - caused by real iffy roads. The tennis was pretty good, however. We finished , and split, a couple of sets. Jerry noticed that the club was busier than usual. There are a lot of people acting on New Year's resolutions by showing up at the health club and working out. I think the population on the exercise machines will dwindle before February ... probably. Especially the guys who show up in dark socks. They are the ones who don't have enough resolve to even buy new athletic socks - or so Jerry says. He could be right.

Then I went to Yang's for Chinese curry and stumbled across Fatty on MPR.

January still is not my favorite month.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Fern Room

It's been a wintry January and cold. The streets of St Paul are rutted with ice, and more snow is on its way tonight. Even on cold January days it's necessary to get out and about, see the winter environment, and perhaps to search out some life. I went to the Como Conservatory in search of the poinsettia show. PP was available so she went with me. There were people there, not as many as on weekends, but a good representation of the populace. They were perhaps, like me, looking for proof that plant life still exists in the land of Woebegone.

The fern room is usually pass through territory for me, but PP noticed several ferns that are related to native Minnesota ferns, so we tarried a while. There is a dark water pool in the room which provides dark reflections of the structure of the room and the ferns themselves. Instead of flowers, today we show a picture of rocks, water and ferns. Ferns are ancient plants dating from an era before flowers evolved on the earth, but they held on and are found all over the planet.

After I came home, I was looking through some of the old, old photos that I have in my possession. This one was in bad shape, cracking and continuing to turn dark with age. I scanned it into my Mac and used iPhoto to restore some luster and definition to it. It was taken in 1917 and shows Grandma Hansine Anderson with her three oldest children, Lillie, Marvin, and Leona. The writing on the back says that it was taken at the Anderson family farm. Hansine was 22 in 1917. Lillie, my mom, was about 3 and a half.

No tennis today. I played two sets yesterday at Fort Snelling and I'm on again for tomorrow night at Wooddale. My play yesterday was less than perfect, but I had good moments and my racket seemed to have a mind of its own at times. It was nice to have a place to be in out of the elements and to be able to run around like a young buck. The temperature outside the bubble was in the low single digits, not warm enough by quite a bit to be able to melt ice.

January is not my favorite month.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

White Elephant Party

The usual suspects for the annual Christmas related white elephant and pie party. Much laughing and joking around occurred before this photo, The photographer, BB, was the only attendee to not make the picture. Next time. The Papa Murph's pizza was good and there are leftovers for breakfast.

It was 14 below when I left for tennis at 8:30 this morning. It seemed life threatening enough, but all went well and I made it to Wooddale in time to get in three sets. At the end of the session we were all even in total games, but not in sets. 1-6, 6-3, 7-5. It was only five below when I left for home at 11:15. I left my car in direct sun, so it was warm enough to start easily. The sun makes a big difference in surface temperature even in the more frigid of air temperature.

January is what it is.

Friday, January 1, 2010

Loose Change

I know it's a cheap joke, but I couldn't resist. The theme for the first day of 2010 is "change." I've been accumulating pennies in jars for a long time and I should probably roll them up and take them to the bank. The jars made for a pretty good photo on a very cold day. [If I had taken the photo outside, it would have been "cold cash."] I have heard that penny hoarding is rampant in America and I can see why. The country should call in all the pennies and round off purchases to the nearest nickel. There would be far fewer holes in pockets if that were to come to pass.

It's minus one degree, going down to minus 15 to 20 over night. Very definitely the coldest night of the new, new year. I went for a walk in the cold this afternoon - mostly to the drugstore and for a chance to see the blue sky again. The bonus for days when it gets this cold is that the sky is always clear, exhibiting the cold blue that defines the sky. The snow on my house is good contrast for the blue. It sort of "ties the room together."

Pie party for white elephants tomorrow night at the "maison de tousan."