Monday, February 28, 2011

Pirates 6, Rays 5

Baseball broke out over at Charlotte County Stadium and Santini and I were there early enough to see some good Major League baseball and some early season screw-ups by the scrubs in the later innings. It is really too early in the year for a guy from the Saintly City in Minnesota to be watching outdoors baseball. There is just too much snow on the ground yet. But, with the miracle of jet travel, baseball was on the agenda. The Rays have a good baseball team. They won the American League East title last season and have added a couple of interesting players to try to win again: Manny Ramirez and Johnny Damon to name two.

I took this photo from our seats in section 213 early in the game. The batter is 12 time All-Star Manny Ramirez in one of his three plate appearances today. He played left field and had two base hits. The pitched baseball is visible in the shot. Evan Longoria is the runner leading off first base.  We had pretty good seats to watch the game, and actually stayed for most of it.

This was taken late in the game from the first base side after we walked around the field for the second time. By this time the substitutions were coming fast and furious. Notice the moving baseball in this photo, too.  The Rays used nine pitchers in the nine inning game, for instance. It was the third game of spring training, so not unexpected.

It was a beautiful day. The temperature was 83 and the sky blue. And even though the soft drinks were $3.50 a bottle and the beer $5.75, the experience was positive. (Santini called those Disney World prices.)   I kept score through the first five innings until the card filled up with team substitutions and then I abandoned the process to view the game from other angles.

Another beautiful day in southwest Florida.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Hibiscus revealed

It was at least 83 degrees in this part of Florida today. As Santini has been saying, with tongue firmly planted in cheek, "I've got to get out of this hellhole."

The warmth has caused the hibiscus flowers to sprout. This one is contributed by the neighbor to the east, the same people with the brightly colored lawn chairs.

Our annual trip to the Peace River Wild Life Center was today. They take care of a large number of injured raptors, including some hawks and two American Eagles. Regal birds all.

Tomorrow's activity is a spring training baseball game between Tampa Bay and Pittsburgh. Baseball season has begun in Florida. Can spring on the tundra be far behind?

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Not Ollie's Pond

There was a trip to Ollie's Pond, but that was reported elsewhere today, "coots" and all. The photos below were taken earlier in the day, all within fifty feet of the house on South Waterway. Beauty is where you find it, and the early morning stillness and heavy overnight dew had some gems. Santini's neighbor to the east has colorful chairs sitting next to the waterway and in the morning dew, they glistened and stood out like colorful jewels.

The ibis who gather on the dock were active today, flocking up a time or two, and walking to the front of the house at one time. This ibis made it nearly to the road in his quest for nutrition - insects or seeds, I guessed. Ibis have knees that bend the opposite ways from human knees. Santini wondered aloud what a chair designed for creatures with knees like that would look like.

The hibiscus bushes on the west side of the house have begun to bloom. They are largely unseen in the north country, and add just the right splash of color on a Florida morning.

The dock on the waterway in the morning calm casts an intriguing mirror image on the water. It's hard to spot where the water begins in the photo, and it's a little disconcerting. As the morning progresses, the water gets a little ripple on it and the image fades and distorts, then goes away.

The trip to Ollie's Pond was nice, too. Twice around the mile circumference trail made for a nice afternoon's exercise, and the coots were out in force on the pond and hiding behind the alligator warning signs.

Another beautiful day in southwest Florida. Eighty-three frumious degrees.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Ponce's Park

A slower day today.  Santini and I strolled through Ponce de Leon Park in Punta Gorda on a beautiful Florida afternoon.  There were a lot of old looking people about, enjoying the breeze and the warmness, including a visitor from Minnesota.  Fisherman's Village at the end of the park area was filled with shoppers, a hopeful sign that the economy is improving.  I took a picture of the park's namesake statue.

And later a photo of my hostess by the park's aging tennis courts, sitting on a park bench, a recurring theme in this space.  I didn't play the sport today, but was thankful for yesterday's activity on the courts on Gasparilla Island.

There was another pretty nice sunset on the waterway by Santini's place.  I took this photo after dinner and another stroll around Sunrise Park across Edgewater from here.  Not a bad day for recuperating from the nasty virus I toted down here from the north.

Another nice day in southwest Florida.

Thursday, February 24, 2011


I played some tennis today. The haze of the virus has lifted somewhat, and I went to Gasparilla Island to play a couple of sets of singles with my friend, John, from Minnesota who is vacationing there. He's a good host and supplied some good competition, plus he fed me a great lunch and went walking on the beautiful shell filled beach that is pictured below. I'm still in my tennis duds and bare legged outside in the sun. If that isn't nice, what is?

On the way to the ferry that took us to the island, I saw my first alligator in the wild in Florida. At least the first that I've seen this century. It wasn't an eight footer, actually probably a juvenile waiting patiently in the water for the unwary. He was in salt water, which isn't usual, but he seemed comfortable. I kept my distance.

It was another beautiful day in the eighties in southwest Florida. Santini cooked a great chicken dinner, the recipe for which is on the family food blog.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Making the gods laugh

If you want to see the gods laugh, tell them your plans.

I made it to the land of summer in the winter, but not according to the original plan. There were two canceled flights and a bout with a winter cold. My planned tennis session with my high school coach had to be canceled, because of the cold and accompanying misery, but I'm pretty much okay again. I felt good enough to go to the Stone Crabs home stadium to watch the Tampa Bay Rays engage in spring training. Today it was mostly pitchers and catchers working on fielding bunts and throwing to the right base. I went with Santini, seen below at the ball park (on a bench), and we were able buy some pretty good tickets to the second Rays' spring training game on Monday against the Pirates, who train in Bradenton. It was a warm day in the eighties, a far cry from the day I left MSP just after the second snow storm of the century this winter. Pretty nice.

Back at Santini's resort, we were treated to a wild life sighting. A dolphin swam up by the dock and surfaced briefly and repeatedly. I managed to get the following photo from the shore before it disappeared across the lake, looking for its supper. This was the first dolphin sighting this year for the hostess, and the first lifetime by me in these waters. It was a cool sight to see the dolphin swim free in its native habitat.

We also had a two mile walk and a meal at the Greek Restaurant, Olympia, served by their homey, friendly waitresses. They serve a nice Greek salad.

It was 86 degrees today, the warmest of the year thus far, and the warmest in the country - according WINK news.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Forty-six frumious degrees

"Twas brillig and the slithy toves did gyre and gimble in the wabe ..."

A brillig day in St Paul.  The warmest day in the last 94, and everything is melting.  It's great.  My ice dam has melted and slid off the roof.  And it's still 43 degrees at 8:30 pm in the largest Minnesota city east of the Mississippi.

My morning walk stretched out to two miles and about an hour on the wet streets of the city.  I even stopped down by the Mississippi at Harriet Island to get a picture of the big river as it flows through the city.  It will be up over its banks in a month or so and we'll be talking floods in the Red River Valley.  The paddle wheel tourist boats are still iced in by the island, waiting for the next season.  Today was calm and bright and just really nice.

It has been a hard winter for the varmints. A bunch of rabbits burrowed under my Asian lilac bush, the one with the beautiful purple spring flowers. The rabbits, and maybe the horde of squirrels that are feeding at the bird feeder next door, have augmented their winter diets with the bark of the lilac bush. Notice in the photo the bare white branches that they've stripped of bark. I'm predicting that it will be a bad year for lilac blooms in my own back yard.

I could use one of those vorpal blades that was used to slay the jabberwocky. I could put a little snicker snack on those lilac eating, evil-doing creatures.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

A thaw in the Saintly City

My photographic slide scanning project is still going on. I'm using a photo that I took in 1987, almost 24 years ago, on the eastern shore of Lake Michigan as today's exhibit. The small children are mine and the large ones belong to Santini. Unky Herb was seven and the Prairie Princess, four. Tempus fugit.

My week of tennis finished this morning at Wooddale, the fourth day in a row on the courts. The combatants today were John, Jerry, Bob and I. We played almost to a standstill, each team winning about the same number of games over the nearly two sets. Some days on the court are like that. Every player seems to get into the competition and some of the points are almost magical. There were plenty of reflex saves and winners, plus good strategic plays and shots. Again it was a pleasure to play and to be able to run from side to side, and still be able execute an overhead or two. I think I'm about ready to play on clay in warm weather. It isn't likely to be warm enough here yet for a couple of months, but we had a nice long stretch today of thawing temperatures and it felt really nice.  Tomorrow is expected to be even warmer with a shot at a lofty temperature in the 40's.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

It started at minus thirteen

It started out as one of the coldest days of the year. Thirteen below zero is cold. It did warm up enough by late morning so that I was able to rally myself to a little outside activity. It was actually reasonably pleasant in the sun by early afternoon, especially if one was wearing enough clothes and limited the amount of exposed skin. Since the Prairie Princess has been teaching skating outside in Minneapolis and I didn't want to be scorned as a wimp, I went to look at the skating surface at Linwood and a get a blog photo or two. The ice surface is clear and ready for willing skaters, but while I was there, no skaters were skating. This is as close to a self portrait as you're going to get today.

The rink is large enough for a bunch of skaters, and probably on nicer days there will be crowds. Today? Not so much.

Another view of the rink from a little further away. Still no skaters. I guess they were inside somewhere. Maybe at school, or maybe playing video games.

Thursday night tennis with Jerry and the hard core girls went pretty well.  We managed to play two complete sets and half of a third before giving up the court for a women's USTA match.  I played well enough, but it seemed to take a while to get warmed up, possibly because it was still only five degrees when I arrived at Wooddale.

Monday, February 7, 2011

February appears to be a slightly brighter January

February started out a little warmer than last month, but the next few days are dipping back into the deep freeze. Tomorrow morning is predicted to be about fifteen below zero. Brrrrrr. So because today was a warmer day and since I have the day off from the tennis wars, I decided to hike around down by the big river. It was about ten degrees when I got to Harriet Island, but the sky was very blue and there wasn't much wind. I decide to go out onto Raspberry Island and get another view of downtown St Paul, including the central steam heating plant smokestack, the heating strategy for quite a bit of the downtown area. It was pretty, but also pretty cold.  The picture is of the band shell structure on the island, in front of the Wabasha Street bridge, and behind that the smoke stack from the heater.  All against the deep blue February sky.

I didn't blog yesterday, mostly because it was a busy day and I ran out of energy at the end of the day.  My USTA mixed doubles team had a match at Baseline Tennis on the U. of Mn. campus in the afternoon and I was hoping to end my longish winless skein in the league.  With a little luck and some good contributions from my partner, we won and ended the drought.  One of the team's other duets also won and thus we won the team contest 2-1.  We are about in the middle of the standings with little danger of winning the league.  We're having some fun, though most of the time.

After the match I hurried home to change so that I could get to the Moohoo Super Bowl party.  The Prairie Princess and I joined Unky Herb, Wireless, Andy, and the Moohoos along with a fine assortment of snack foods, to watch a pretty good football game along with a mediocre half time show.  I enjoyed the game and the friendly banter, and didn't even mind that the Packers came out on top.  After all, I was born in Wisconsin, and football fandom is a granfalloon of a high order.  I guess they're having a rather large party in Green Bay tonight and probably the rest of the week.  The Super Bowl party was super.  And the pork sandwiches were exceptional.

A little more about granfalloons from the Book of Bokonon.

Friday, February 4, 2011

January thaw comes in February

A warmer day produced a thaw in the city today. It was nice to see the liquid water in various places between the still tall walls of snow lining the streets.

I had a visit to the Como Conservatory this morning. They are having their winter flower show and it is one of the few places to find flowers in February this far north. There are pools of water and tropical trees in an atmosphere so moist you can smell it. There is a statue of a saint standing in the foliage near the edge of a pool near some cinnamon trees. I wonder which saint he is. I'll look for a sign next time I'm there and try to report back. [Ed.  St. Francis of Assisi.]

The flower show had a lot of pretty flowers, most of which have Latin names. I don't know even their English names, but they are very attractive especially after coming inside from the black and white landscape outside. These are pretty blue flowers.  [Ed.  Cineraria]

And a view of the sunken garden where the flower show is taking place. It's a familiar place and I've used photos from there many times before. I'm using one again.  Notice the Harriet Frishmuth sculpture at the far end of the reflecting pool.

Tennis broke out again this afternoon at Fort Snelling. I was somewhat off my timing today. The ball was not going where I wanted to go all the time, but at times where it went was a better spot than what I had planned. It was that kind of day on the courts, and I was happy to be able to hit the ball and actually run back and forth on the court without once falling down. Always a good thing when you're past 65.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Theme day requires a fountain

Theme day comes on the first of the month in this blog world. This month I find that the theme is fountains. I know where one is and I have multiple photos of it. It's in the sunken garden of the Marjorie McNeely Como Conservatory, which is also a good place to go on days when snow emergencies are called and the temperature is a little too brisk to spend much time trekking around outside. This photo is about a month or so old, but I think the fountain is still there. The sculpture, "Crest of the Wave," was created by Harriet Frishmuth (1880-1980) in 1925. She apparently spent some time studying with my favorite sculptor, Auguste Rodin (1840-1917).  At the expense of self referencing, I reported on my visit to the Auguste Rodin Museum in Paris in a blog entry in May of 2010.  Rodin was also fond of sculpting his subjects in the nude condition.

Outside in the city it was cold. The sun was out, but its warmth was hardly perceptible. For any readers in the warmer parts of the world, this is what the streets of the Saintly City looked like today. I had a walk around looking for the snow plows. They eventually came by my house and plowed the snow back into my freshely shoveled out sidewalk opening to the street - the dreaded "push back."

Apparently we just finished a January wherein the temperature climbed above freezing for just three hours all month. It's not a record, but also not a pleasant month.