Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Summing up with photos

This must be the last post of the year for me. I decided to try to pick out my favorite photos of the year as a kind of summing up of an eventful year. It was harder to do than I expected. Eventually I limited myself to photos with people in them, although there were plenty of landscape and vegetation shots that I was quite fond of. The four I picked are below.

 1. This was taken just after Adam and Ying's wedding ceremony on August 17, 2014. Part of why I like it is that Andy, the best man, is wiping the head of the groom. The wedding also was the highlight of the year for me. The photo was taken at the Arboretum in Chanhassen. The outdoor wedding was forced indoors by rain, but the sun reappeared for the photos.  Photo by Tennis Tousan (me).

2. This was taken July 28 in Michigan on the beach by Lake Michigan. It was unseasonably cold and the subjects were taking a evening trek to Tunnel Park, probably to see the sun go down. I've been visiting this beach nearly every year since 1983 or so (31 years). Photo by Tennis Tousan.

3. This was taken February 25 on the shores of Ollie's Pond. [I love Ollie's Pond.] NCW and I were on a vacation visit to the sunshine state, a traditional February site for the last few years. There's an alligator in that quiet water, somewhere.  Photo by Santini.

4. This was taken June 15, which was Father's Day, at the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden. The garden is our traditional destination on Father's Day when the weather is good and we are all in town. That rock-like looking thing is actually a sculpture.  Photo by NCW.

The new year has begun in New Zealand and it's racing towards the USA. We'll be ringing in 2015 in about ten hours. So, to all my readers, "Happy New Year."

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

A visit to the Marjorie McNeely Conservatory Winter Flower Show

It was cold again today. Cold's expected, but never completely welcome. It's nearly the end of the year and maybe I should be doing a "best of" list or something, but instead, to fight off the cabin fever December blues, NCW and I went in search of flowers. The conservatory at Como Park has been pictured here often enough that it seemed like a good place to sum up a very busy year. And the Christmas poinsettia show is still in residence (until January 4), colorful leaves on display. The sunken garden was filled with mainly poinsettias and a lot of other people who were looking for color and perhaps some humidity. The sun through the glass ceiling was welcome.

The pink poinsettias photograph well. The reds are quite dramatic in person but don't translate that well to digital photography - the reds seem to cause the detail to get lost. These pinks were especially nice ones. The process of getting the leaves to be in full color around Christmas, I guess, is complicated, but the Como gardeners seem to have the knowhow.

When you walk through the conservatory there are lots of tropical plants and quite a few statues. This is one of my favorites - St Francis of Assisi looking out over a small pool and surrounded by green growth.

It was cold outside, about 2º when this photo was taken outside Marjorie McNeely Conservatory at Como Park. The snow woman is NCW wrapped up against the chill.

I didn't think that I'd get to 100 posts on the blog this year, but this is number 100. It's the fewest posts of the years I've been blogging. This is my eighth year beginning in 2007. The BEDFAMM marathon got me into range to make the goal this year. And with a day to spare, one in hand the Brits might say, I'm there.

Sunday, December 28, 2014

White elephant party

As is our usual custom, the siblings who live near here, their significant others and some of the children gathered for some pizza, quite a large apple pie, and lots of good cheer. We ate and drank and caught up with the goings on of the families.  New marriages, new babies and retirements.   Time scrams.  The pizza from Papas Murphy and John, along with the usual varied salad a la Peggy, went well and the apple pie and ice cream topped it off.

Then we opened some surprise gifts, some jokes and a few nuggets. I went first and by the end of the gift opening I was the proud owner of two Duck Dynasty bobble heads and some duck calls. I was able to trade one to Peggy for a Boggle-like game that I promised to bring to the New Year's shindig.  NCW scored tickets to the Gophers women's hockey game in January. There was chocolate, a wind up flashlight, and a santa claus hat that Ying had to have for her 100 year-old grandfather.

The group near the end of the gathering, missing only the guest photographer, Mrs. Smith.

The white elephant party without the photographer - moi.

Christmas season is nearly done. There is yet to occur the New Years Eve bash at the Smiths and the Flaherty Christmas celebration next Saturday. We're having fun.

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Snowed overnight, shoveled this morning

A strange sight appeared in the sky today. After an absence of some weeks the sun reappeared. It does wonders for one's spirits to have some sunshine - even for the meager eight and a half hours that are possible this close to the solstice.

The white Christmas snow came two days late. It was a light fluffy snow about four inches deep on my sidewalks and the street. I play tennis on Saturdays over to the east in Woodbury so I had to shovel early to get to the courts. My fractured fingers are nearly healed so shoveling is doable and I was about two thirds done by 8:30 when I had to leave. There were only two vehicles which had spun out on the way to Woodbury and the highway patrol was there to help out. As usual, after two weeks of no snow, an appreciable part of the populace forgets how to drive in snow. Quite a few drivers seemed to be going too fast for the conditions, at least to my way of thinking.

Tennis went well enough. No one fell down.

The city fathers declared a snow emergency beginning tonight. It'll be too late to keep the residential streets from turning icy, but it'll make people move their cars from the streets or get them towed. It's a revenue generator for the city. I took a photo of the snow and the sky shortly after I finished shoveling and using the roof rake on my abode. It was a beautiful day in many ways.

"You don't need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows."  Bob Dylan

NCW and I, mostly her, did some touch-up painting in the kitchen. It looks pretty good.

 It's almost dinner time and we're going to eat some roast chicken. PP is staying for the evening repast.

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Christmas lunch at Herb's

It's Christmas on the tundra, a brown Christmas at that. NCW, PP, and I wrapped some presents, loaded the car and went to Unky Herb and Ying's place for a holiday brunch. I guess brunch is an American thing, but it fit our aims exactly. We had some new foods, some eggs and sausages prepared in different ways, some beet soup, and açai juice, among other goodies. This was our first Christmas at UH's new place and the first Christmas since he and Ying were married. Here are the other brunchers just before the eating began.

We opened presents and socialized for a while. There were new decorations gracing the abode. Ying did some painting on canvas that they have used to decorate the walls, and they have a new piano. The paintings are water colors and show how talented Herb's new wife is.

The brunch group standing in front of Unky Herb's Christmas tree, in front of the fireplace.

Earlier in the week NCW bought new duds for Eli G., the giraffe in the window - a Christmassy hat and scarf. He seems to be adjusting to his new environs.  You may notice the complete lack of snow in the yard.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Christmas Eve Eve

Will the sun never shine again? Today again the sun remained behind the clouds, and the clouds sprinkled flurries and a light mist on the land.

Christmas is nearly upon us. Almost all of the last minute things are done or will be soon. For everyone, family and friends, that I won't see on the holiday, I hope your day is merry and bright and that you have a joyous celebration.


Monday, December 22, 2014

Gray is the new white.

The light should be appearing soon. Today, however, was dreary, nearly murky. Not quite desolate.  It rained almost all day. It was too warm to snow. White, the color white, is preferable to gray in this season of celebration.

NCW was working at the loan company. I went to Como and parked looking for a representative photo for the day after the solstice. What appears below was not taken in black and white. It's a color photo without any color, looking north on the lake.

I'm starting to realize that the soon to arrive Christmas will not be white, but instead this lovely shade of gray.

Joe Cocker died today at age 70 from lung cancer.  Here he is in 1969 at Woodstock, "With a Little Bit of Help from My Friends."

Sunday, December 21, 2014


The shortest and darkest day of 2014 is today, but it's unseasonably warm today for Minnesota at the solstice; 36º at the moment. This morning we went out to do some shopping and the heavens opened and treated us to a mixture of snow and rain, I guess slush.

It being my long ago departed mom's 101st birthday, I'm posting a photo of her when she was about four, sitting in a chair, musing about who knows what. I like the old fashioned shoes and leggings, and, of course, her fancy little girl dress.  Is that a necklace around her neck? It looks like a silk purse on her lap.  And a bow in her hair.  Easter?  I posted a long tribute and history last year on this date.  She is still remembered and her memory treasured.

My exercise today was just a bit of mall walking at Har Mar during the brief shopping excursion. There were lots of mall walkers making the rounds there this morning, probably more mall walkers than shoppers when we were there. We also stopped at a couple of stores and spent a few dollars. We ended at Cub Foods so that we could buy the elements of dinner. I think we're having some comfort food, long cooked in a crock pot, featuring chicken thighs, carrots and sweet potatoes. PP, and perhaps Unky Herb, are joining us for the eating.

Saturday, December 20, 2014


Only one more day until the solstice - 5:03 p.m. tomorrow in Minnesota. The darkest day in a month that has been getting darker every day, lightened only by the Christmas spirit and the knowledge that after tomorrow it's going to get lighter and lighter. But probably colder, too. I was 32º today at the temperature apex.

NCW and I took an afternoon walk to the avenue - Grand Avenue - to visit our drug dealer - CVS - and to try to wrest some cash from the ATM on Grand. It was cloudy and a bit murky, but as we walked along Lincoln we encountered a Little Free Library. They've been sprouting up around St Paul lately. I like the concept, although I've yet to borrow a book from one of them yet. NCW has, however, a time or two, and has returned the book or replaced it with another later on.

This is about the dreariest photo I've ever posted here.

The winter solstice in 1913 was on December 22, a day after Lillie's birth. She'll be 101 tomorrow.

I managed to play tennis again this morning at Wooddale. Not much to report. We played 25 games, two and a fraction sets, and I was both a winner and a loser. I have a log of my tennis activity since January, 2011, but I seldom go back to see what happened, but today I checked to see when it was that I fell and broke my left hand pinkie and ring finger - November 29. That's three weeks, so I have only another week until I can deep six this cast/splint that's been slowing me down. Not soon enough.

NCW lost her mittens this a.m.  She was afraid that it might mean, like it did for those naughty kittens, that she "shall have no pie."  But luckily, she found them this afternoon.  We're going to Baker's Square for dinner.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

The clouds again

It was one straight day of some sunshine and then back into the closet. In fact, there was a bit of snow flurry activity this morning. After a walk to do some Christmas buying, NCW and I ended up at Pier One imports. She has had her eye on this giraffe for a while. It looks a little like it may function as a hat rack, but I think it's mostly decorative. They had three of them left and they were on sale, so, in the heat of buying frenzy, we bought one. NCW is pretty enthusiastic about it. It has a name now - Eli - and a scarf for his neck. I guess we're going to find a nice hat to go with the current season and put it atop the skinny critter.  He's confined to his corner for now until he's house broken.

Meet Eli G.

I'm back from a night of tennis at Wooddale with Jerry and the hardcore girls. We split sets and the competition over 90 minutes was pretty fierce. But it was fun and it got me to a state of hunger and fatigue. I came home to a late dinner of Iron Range sloppy Joe's on whole wheat buns and country potato salad.  A nice night all in all.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

The sun again

After ten straight days (and nights) of clouds in which the sun was entirely absent from the sky, old Sol made a brief appearance today and so did the blue sky that in December seems so pure. It was nice.

Just a little snow graced the patio behind the house. The sun shining made the scene a little lighter, but it was still only about 20º. The hope for a white Christmas relies on the weather staying cold enough to keep this thin layer of white from disappearing.

It was a tennis day at Fort Snelling. I got some exercise and spent some time chatting with the other geezers that I play with. We seem to be having trouble getting four of our regulars there this time of year, and we had a sub for Tennis Dennis. Dennis was under the weather. This time of year some of the old guys opt for some time in warmer climes. All of them are retired so they go when they feel the need for warm sun and a chance to see blue sky and green grass.

PP came for dinner. NCW and I were off at Lowe's trying to buy window coverings and ran into delays. The guy who was selling us the shades was having problems dealing with "upgraded" software on his computer and we spent about an hour trying to pick out and pay for the process. Luckily PP had dinner ready for us when we got home and we had a nice meal. And a nice chat about her last week at her current job before she moves on to a better paying job in another, completely opposite, field - sheet metal. But that's another story for another day.

Saturday, December 13, 2014


The air was bad again today.  Temperature inversion.  There were signs on the freeway asking motorists to limit their idling.  I'm not sure if they were recommending that people turn off their engines while they waited at red lights, but that seems like what they meant.  I thought about it a little but mainly drove on the freeways where there are no semaphores.  The high today was 46º and tomorrow we glide into the 50's for a day.

NCW and I went to visit NCW's grandson, Kelly, at his new house this afternoon where he has decided to raise a couple of new puppies. The puppies are pretty cute and cool as most puppies are. They are about six weeks old and have huge paws. They are a mix breed - Great Dane and Mastiff - so they are going to be huge. They are brothers from the same litter. Kelly says that Merle, the grayish one, is expected to be 160 pounds as an adult. Harlo, the slightly smaller and darker one, will only get to 140. That's a lot of dog. I calculate 300 pounds of canine.

Joey (left) and Kelly with the pups.

I played some tennis again this morning. I'm finding that some weeks four days in a row are pretty difficult. It went badly score-wise this a.m., but I did not fall down or re-injure my left paw. Tomorrow is a day off, followed by another day off. A welcome respite.

Friday, December 12, 2014

A joke

A thaw today, but the air was declared unsafe to breathe for old people, children and squirrels.

An old guy goes to the doctor. After an exam the doc says, "I've got two pieces of bad news for you.
  The old guy listens.
  The doc says, "The first thing is that you have cancer."
  The old guy frowns.
  The doc says, "And you have Alzheimer's disease.

  The old guy smiles, "Well, at least I don't have cancer."

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Same again

This blog sometimes just serves as a weather report. Today was 28º and overcast, pretty much a duplicate of yesterday.

I had a fairly long walk to Ace Hardware on Grand near Dale. NCW was helping with Santa preparations at LendSmart and I needed to get some exercise. Our vegetable peeler somehow snapped off a couple of days ago during some extra energetic peeling of potatoes by the aforementioned NCW, and although it is a much smaller appliance than a refrigerator, it is one that gets a modicum of use here around dinner time. I tried Trader Joe's this morning, but they don't stock small appliances like that. Ace was a better choice, although I may have to get a fancier one later on. The one I got was stainless steel for under $3.00, but without any padding or paint on the handle. Pretty much bare bones.

I'm off to play some tennis at Wooddale soon. Since the incident November 29, when I broke two fingers on my left hand, I've played three times. The casted hand seems to be just a minor inconvenience, but I'd like to get those fingers back so that I can more easily tie my shoes. And peel vegetables with that new peeler.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Drab day

But things are looking up for later in the week. The temperature held steady in the teens until afternoon and topped off at 21º. I was outside some, starting this morning when I dosed the sidewalk with some cherry stone, commonly referred to as grit, to alleviate slippery footing. The skies stayed gray all the live long day. We might get 50º on Sunday on our way to a beige Christmas.

Even the fat little squirrels were unimpressed with the day.

The high point of the day? Dinner. NCW and PP fixed scalloped potatoes and sauteed vegetables respectively. I made a salad. I guess that might be called comfort food.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

The Christmas tree went up

This is about as early as we've put up the Christmas tree, but it seemed to be the time to do it. Both Unky Herb and the Prairie Princess were here and they were ready, too. It seems as though it's been winter for a long time and it's still pretty early in December. We rousted out the faux tree from the attic, put it up and decorated it - the kids, NCW and moi. Unky Herb took a couple of pictures of NCW and me in front of the tree. The pictures of the chillun weren't up to spec so this will represent the day. You can't see much tree, but it's back there somewhere.

Unky Herb helped me with some curtain rods for the new kitchen and then went to Drew's to help bake cookies.

I spent a bunch of the day working the NY Times Sunday crossword puzzle.

Friday, December 5, 2014

A rabbit lives under a canoe next door

Twenty days until Christmas. The weather seems to be moderating and it's just in time for the holiday festivities and frivolity to begin.

I took a day off from my tennis schedule. There were a few chores to do: recycling the recyclables, getting a flu shot, filling the gas tank with $2.50+ per gallon fuel, and a walk though the neighborhood with NCW. The houses around and about are sprouting decorations for the Yule. I liked this snowless snowman a block or so away. It almost looked real from a distance until the lights told me it was artificial.  Even the carrot nose is not a carrot.  Nor the eyes coals.

My new neighbors stored their canoe next to the fence by the backyard. It provides shelter for a rabbit, but when I walk past the canoe on the sidewalk the rabbit always gets spooked and runs away. There is a fence to separate us, but the rabbit is unaware of its protective qualities. However, I suspect it'll spend the winter there and I'll be catching glimpses of it every time I pass by, unless, of course, it gets consumed by some predator or another.

The rabbit that lives under the canoe.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

That plastic splint works amazingly well

I gave it a go at Wooddale Tennis Center tonight. The hardcore girls were there and tennis progressed pretty much as it always does. The major difficulty was getting tennis balls out of my tennis shorts pockets for the second serve. I'm maybe a little more tired than normal for Thursday night. I'm skipping tomorrow's session, but I'm back on the court Saturday.

Unky Herb was by tonight on his way to indoor nighttime soccer. He's been playing on Thursdays for a few weeks and he stops by on the way to visit and sometimes play some Skyrim.

This is what the street looked like today. It hasn't been plowed this winter, so the snow pack is building up. It may melt yet, but there is no guarantee. A warm front is reportedly on its way to the tundra.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Space age plastic

It was below zero Monday night in Pengilly. I know because I was there. NCW had to visit her new great-grandson in GR for the first time, and then go to the dentist on Tuesday. The great-grandson is really tiny and really cute. He was born on Thanksgiving so he's not even a week old yet.

We came back to St Paul for my appointment with the hand doctor for my two broken fingers. Dr. Schubert didn't think an operation would make any sense, and I was able to convince him that I should be able to play some tennis soon. Possibly tomorrow. So he sent me to the splint maker to make me something that would satisfy my mobility needs. This is the end product of a quite interesting process.

There is this plastic material that is hard at room temperature, but that is very pliable when soaked in hot water for 5 minutes. It also can be cut with a scissors when it's pliable. So they formed it to my hand, cut it to shape a useable splint, attached velcro straps and now I'm ready to roll. The splint gives me latitude to hold a tennis ball and toss it up for a serve. That's all I need the fingers on my left hand for. I think I'm playing tennis tomorrow at Wooddale.

Maybe that guy in "The Graduate," who thought the wave of the future was "plastics," was right.  I know that I'm plenty impressed.