Monday, July 6, 2015

Our Fourth in the North

We spent the weekend of the 4th in the North. NCW has a big gathering of her family every year and this was another in a long series. There is always lots of food and a good fireworks display offered up voluntarily by one of her sons. It's a tradition and every one eats well and watches a very good display of the best fireworks that Wisconsin has to offer. For the first time, both of my kids came to enjoy the weekend.

Unky Herb (UH) and Mrs. Herb (MH) posed on the lawn near the lake at the NCW B&B. It was her first time to the Iron Range and first stay at the B&B. She commented on the piles of reddish rocks adorning the sides of the road that she saw on the way north and the trees that seem to grow out of the side of the rock piles without any visible sign of soil.

Here's the hostess with the mostest. NCW and Sherrie (with some other help) made eggs benedict on the morning of the fourth for about 20 family and friends at her B&B on the shore of Swan Lake. This photo was taken on the deck looking down towards the lake.

We were all together, my kids and me in Hibbing. The wild flowers are not native, but arguably wild and growing near the Hull Rust Mine as PP leans on the sign. It was a nice afternoon in Bob Dylan's hometown. Zimmy's is still closed by the way.

Unky Herb and his spouse near the edge of the Hull Rust mine in Hibbing. It was a place that we have visited before, but the first time for the MH.

It's called Swan Lake, but Loon Lake would be a better name. There were quite a few of the big birds around when we took a boat ride on Saturday, and they were used to boats by this time, because the lake was filled with boaters and water skiers. Near dusk they sang their plaintive song for all of us.

NCW's youngest grandson was doing some fishing as the sun began to set. The smoke from Canadian fires made the sun red and the rest of the sky murky.

Unky Herb has a fireworks setting on his camera and used it under the home grown display on NCW's beach.

We're back from the north and only photos and good memories remain.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Last night in Pengilly

The last night before the Michigan family went back to the east, Unky Herb made the trip to Swan Lake. He made it in time to spend some minutes by the fire and to sample a s'more before the deluge arrived complete with both Lightening and his loud buddy, Thunder.  Paula Bunyan had left for the big city and missed his arrival.

We're back in the saintly city and a new week is in view.

Friday, June 26, 2015

Paula Bunyan

Who knew that the Prairie Princess was really Paula Bunyan in disguise?

Paula posing before splitting another log for the fire.

From the shores of Swan Lake where the loons are singing in the dark.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Best Father's Day/Solstice Ever

It was Father's Day and the solstice all wrapped up in the same day. Adam and Kelsey took me to the Arboretum in Chanhassen for a nature walk and to visit the place where Adam and Ying were married in August of last year. NCW came along, of course, and we had a nice time viewing the flowers, the herbs and the trees. It was warm and sunny and it made for good photography. I, for some inexplicable reason, left my camera at home so am relying on Adam's photography skills. Mad skills indeed.

Kelsey wanted to see some prairie. There is prairie at the Arboretum. We walked in the prairie and I'll be checking myself for ticks later on tonight. We had some photo opportunities. One below.

Another shot at the Arboretum taken by today's photographer, taken near one of the statues that the park has installed.

Then we went to dinner at the Grand Szechuan restaurant for tasty Chinese vittles. Ying joined us there and helped enliven the dinner group. We ate and drank well and then went back to Adam's to celebrate the day with cards and good wishes. It was a great Father's Day - the longest daytime of the year.

Saturday, June 6, 2015

The Author Dennis Herschbach

It's Saturday and a pretty nice one at that. We're well into June and the weather is pretty darn nice. I played tennis in a significant wind this morning, but played well enough even with the breeze to enjoy the experience. The interesting event of the day for me was the book signing at the Once Upon a Crime book store in Minneapolis. NCW and I discovered that one of our classmates, Dennis Herschbach, has been writing a series of crime books set on the North Shore of Lake Superior. He's already at book four in the series, so I guess it's going pretty well. I haven't read any of them ... yet ... but plan to now. We decided to go to the book signing and see if we knew any of his fans. Dennis was there and was glad to see us. Carolyn (nee) Booth and Libby (nee) Nordstrom were there, too. We chatted a bit and caught up with some news of the class of 1961.  It was good to talk to Dennis again. We saw him about a month ago at Bill Hachey's funeral, a sad event, and this was much more pleasant. I told him that I hadn't read any of the books, but that I had a lot of time and would like to give his books a try. He autographed the four books in the series and I brought them home to read. I'm starting "Convergence at Two Harbors" this afternoon.

Dennis with NCW at the Once Upon a Crime book store in Minneapolis near Lyndale. (Traffic on Lyndale sucks.)

The books in the series and in order left to right:

Grand Old Day is tomorrow so we in this part of the Saintly City will be staying home and ignoring the outside visitors.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

A cardinal lives around here somewhere

A cardinal has taken up residence in the neighborhood. I waited for him to land in the yard and I took his picture. I hope he and his friends stay for the summer.

As you can see, it's nearly summer here already. The dandelions are taking their time in the sun.

I missed commenting on Star Wars day by just a single day.  May the fourth be with you.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Trekking through Bruce Vento Nature Sanctuary

It was a pretty nice Saturday. NCW was off to GR to a funeral and to check on the lake cottage. I stayed in St Paul to play tennis and try to recover some energy from my weekly tennis activities. The Prairie Princess was home and we decided to take a stroll or maybe a mosey through the Bruce Vento Nature Sanctuary, a place where she'd worked at one time, planting trees and flowers as part of its restoration. And I was once again in search of the elusive marsh marigolds. The sanctuary is a pretty place as spring starts to emerge from the brown of last fall's fallen leaves and old grass. Some of the old vegetation in the area has already been burned off and the terrain is getting green already. The trees are just beginning to get tiny light green leaves popping out of the branches. The sun was out, it was in the lower 60's, and a great day to be alive.

We encountered this snowy egret next to one of the ponds. It was surprisingly unstressed and hung around quite a while so that I could get a few photos of its activities. This is my favorite of the several I took. It never flew away. I think it knew the pond was its territory and wasn't about to leave for a couple of transient humans.

The first sighting of marsh marigolds this year. I'd looked on previous outings to other wild areas, but it was too early, I guess.

A closer look at some marsh marigolds. There are plenty of them in the wet areas of the sanctuary.

In one of the three ponds at the sanctuary there were some turtles sunning themselves. They were the first I've seen this year and a harbinger of the season to come.

It's still April and summer is on its way. I haven't been outside to play tennis yet this, but next week may be the beginning of outdoor tennis. There'll be the cry, "Hurray, hurray, the first of May, outdoor 'doings' start today."

Friday, April 10, 2015

The Prairie Princess has a birthday

She and her brother have birthdays just 5 days apart. They have been a huge part of my life for nearly half of mine. She has had a lot of different personas over the years. Photos bring a lot of them back. She started as a very athletic and fit little girl and continues to be very much an extension of what she was as a tot.

The young lady with an attitude and my hat, probably in Florida.

The Prairie Princess as a successful fisher person in her youth. She actually caught that monster fish.

A more recent shot of the adult Miss Prairie Princess.

Tonight we went out to an Indian restaurant and ate together - Unky Herb, PP, NCW and I. The food was good, the company excellent. Another birthday season is nearly done, but there will be more and we'll celebrate them as they come.

Happy Birthday, Prairie Princess.

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Adam has a birthday

It's Adam's birthday. He's 35 and I can hardly believe that time has flashed by so rapidly. He was here today to celebrate his new age a bit and to help me do some chores that I'm getting too old to do. Like go up on the roof. He and his little sister were here for a few hours and we had some fun just hanging out. Life sure has changes, slow but steady changes, and they sneak up on a guy. I was happy to have a few hours of his busy life.

Here is the young guy in about 1984 at a zoo in San Diego. The kiddies' zoo and all he wanted to do was to ride a composite material turtle.

Adam at about six years old. One of many of my favorite years.

Adam and Ying in 2014 on their honeymoon in Kauai. A long way from 1980 in Minneapolis where he was born.

Happy birthday young guy. And many more.

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Spring begins to creep back to the tundra

After a morning of some tennis and then lunch, it seemed like a good idea to go a-walking at Crosby Farm. We hadn't been there in a number of months and there was hope that green sprigs were emerging from the brown base. It was a bit more hopeful than realistic, but a day that's pleasant enough to hike is a good April day. So NCW and I walked down along the big river. The Mississippi is very low for this time of year. Our lack of snowfall this year means that we are emerging from winter in a drought. We're not as bad off as California yet, but the park by the river is lacking green vitality. We walked by Upper Lake, too. Also low and the foliage around it drab. We saw a lot of other hikers, all using the weekend to get out and quell the winter cabin fever blues with a walk in nature.

I have a selfie from yesterday that wasn't good enough to cause a blogging event then, but today, a cloudy, grayish day, it seems better. I think the blue sky in the background is the decider.

We stopped at Cecil's deli for a reuben sandwich for dinner. It's a busy weekend there, what with the convergence of Passover and Easter. They actually have a reuben on a popover as an option and matzo ball soup on the menu. We stuck with the traditional reuben on rye. It was a tasty way to ease into the evening.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

It was 83º and that's no April fool's joke

It was a rare, in fact a record day in the saintly city. This was the warmest April first on record. It's a one day event, however, since tomorrow's high is expected to stay in the 40's again. Weird weather.

I've been watching the bridge in Como that used to be used for Lexington Avenue back in the days when we had street cars. It's being renovated and will be used for bikes to go over the top of a different bike path. Now that spring seems to be here, work has begun on shoring up the crumbling concrete and making the span useable and safe. NCW and I walked by it yesterday - after circling the lake on foot - and found that they are progressing nicely.

I played tennis today at the Fort Snelling Tennis Center (actually named Fred Wells Tennis Center, but no matter). The wind was gusting outside at about 40 mph at times. The tennis center is composed of a pair of large bubble structures made of some kind of tarp material - anyway soft in texture. The bubbles have light fixtures hanging from the ceiling. They hang down perhaps five feet from the top. Those light fixtures began to sway back in forth in rhythm with the the wind and whatever resistant force the bubble could provide. It was sort of eerie playing with the lights and shadows moving around and the soft walls of the bubble rippling in the wind. It was unnerving for a while, standing under those massive fixtures, but we persevered. I guess because the bubble stayed up all winter through whatever blizzard winds we had and we just didn't want to quit while we were having fun. The bubble made it and, I think, still stands out there on the edge of the airport.

Chinese food for dinner from Golden Chow Mein. PP joined us for the feast. The vegetarian egg foo young is my favorite.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Ambient snow and tennis advice

There's not much snow left. This remnant of a snow fort still exists at Linwood Park, but not very much else. Early this afternoon NCW and I had a stroll around the park, up the St Clair stairs, and north to Grand Avenue. There's some wind and a temp of 43º, but bright sunshine makes it seem like spring is coming soon.

There is not yet much color in the grass. Next week promises to be a break out week for fans of spring.

Tennis was on the agenda again this morning. I finished the four straight day marathon with a bit of energy left. The idea of getting a new racket has faded and instead, I'm getting new strings in my back-up racket and perhaps promoting it to the A team. The strings are brand name Dual made by Babolat, the tennis racket company. It's the same string as in the racket that I'm currently playing with, and it has pretty good "feel" to it. And as Fred Stolle said, "If you're winning with a racquet, don't switch."

The full quote from Fred Stolle (Australian tennis great): The most valuable advice I can give to anyone is do not change racquets unless you know the racquet you are switching to can definitely help you. The money for racquet endorsements is not huge anyway so it's not really worth it. I played with a Dunlop from age 12 until I turned pro in 1967. Then I changed racquets and back then there was only like $6,000 in it to play with a Spalding and Dunlop, who I had been with, couldn't match that offer. So I changed racquets and it was probably the worst decision I made in my entire career because I did not play well with the Spalding. You thought the racquet was the same, it was about the same weight, but you played with it and it was not the same. That happened to a lot of players. When Laver switched from Dunlop, even Laver struggled. He was winning every event, he switched from Dunlop and it hit the fan. He took those aluminum racquets and tossed them into a lake in Louisville and then went back to Dunlop with the new logo painted on, which as you know still happens to this day. If you're winning with a racquet, don't switch.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Icy necklace on the falls

It's not exactly spring and not exactly still winter, but we're somewhere in transition. I guess it got to 36º today, so there was melting and some half hearted puddles. NCW went to work, so I had some free time to get out and visit the various places I walk when the weather is more cordial. Minnehaha Falls is always interesting. I thought that the ice would have melted and fallen into the creek by now, but it's still hanging tough. I walked down into the creek's gorge and approached the falls from below. It's 100 steps on the stairs to get down to creek level and the same back to the precipice level. The walk along the creek was snow and ice covered, mostly because it doesn't get much sunshine down there. There weren't many folks around today. It just wasn't nice enough. The falls are still pretty, even on a day like this.

I had tennis again tonight with Jerry and the hard core girls. Since my experiment with demo rackets last week, I thought my game would be a little off kilter, but I played pretty well and we had two full sets of competitive tennis. They're fun to play with.

Monday, March 23, 2015

25,000 day birthday

Another kind of birthday today. Since I have this spread sheet, that allows me to calculate the number of days between two dates, I've been calculating the ages of people in days. Today, my brother reached a milestone of sorts - 25,000 days on the planet. It's not a celebration that has traditionally been celebrated - partly because of the previous difficulties in calculating and pinpointing the exact date. It's not exactly a leveling up, but it's an opportunity to look back and remember some of the old days. First a couple of photos that he probably hasn't seen in decades.

About 1973 at a football practice for one of the kids' teams he coached in those days.

Sometime in the late 70's with his girl friend at the time. Most of us know her and remember her fondly.

I've known him his whole life. I remember his childhood days when he played simulated baseball games with baseball cards and a statistically based game we had at the time. He kept stats for the players and standings of the teams.

There was the baseball game we played as kids by throwing a rubber or tennis ball off the front steps of the house and designating certain length rebounds as singles, doubles and home runs. I think there may have been stats for that game, too.

When he was at Macalester and I was at Hamline, there was the time at Mac's homecoming when a bunch of HU freshman were planning to prematurely light the traditional bonfire at the Mac football field, and I called him and told him of the plans so that he could organize a welcoming party for the HU miscreants.

Lots of other good and memorable time. Happy birthday. I wish you 25,000 more.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

First full day after the vernal equinox

Spring has sprung.
The grass has riz.
I wonder where my lawnmower are.

The new season is with us and as is usual, it seems, this means we'll be getting some snow tomorrow. The weather creatures say 1-4 inches possible.  Today, however, was pretty nice. Not real warm, but bright for much of the day.

I've been thinking about buying a new tennis racket lately. I've tried three of the 2015 models over the last four days. I played 90 minutes each with two Wilson rackets and one from Babolat. In the end I decided to stay with my 10 year old Wilson Prostaff 6.1.   I returned the demos to the tennis store on Sibley and promised to try again maybe next week, but that may have been an empty promise. In exchange for use of the free demo rackets I bought two cans of fancy schmancy tennis balls. They charge $5.00 a can at the tennis boutique. I usually buy near identical quality balls at Target for $2.19 a can. I'm okay with the higher ransom at the tennis store because they have free demo rackets.

The trees have not yet leafed out much. My backyard maple tree has some little buds and the squirrels are feasting on them. Those pint sized vermin can eat a lot of maple buds.  This tree is a Como Park tree and is still pretty naked.

March has been mild so far, but I'm really hoping for a early spring. Outdoors tennis may begin soon.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Thin ice

The good weather here may be on the way out for a while. I had some time so I went for a walk around the lake at Como Park. There is a dock by the pavilion and it's used a lot in the summer. Not long ago someone put a "thin ice" sign up to ward off the unwary. Today, it seems redundant. The ice is so thin in many places that it's liquid. The lake could soon be free of ice, but for today it's just soft slush and crushed cubes.

The ice varies quite a bit on the lake. This bit looks like crushed ice that might be useful in a Super America Icee.

It's 1.6 miles around the lake. I had a side trip to look at the reconstruction job on the old Lexington Avenue Bridge which will be used as a bike path when it's done. They promise Spring 2015 completion. I'll be watching. I walked about two and a half miles - a little short of a π.

Anyone for corned beef and cabbage?????

Sunday, March 15, 2015


Beware. Things go bad sometimes on the Ides of March. I have an Apple TV that I got from Adam to watch netflix content and espn when it has good sporting events. It failed today. Or last night. Anyhow, it is in a reboot loop. It starts to boot up, changes its mind and reboots, and reboots and reboots. Anyway it suddenly began to fail and now I have to go to the genius bar at the Apple store to figure out if I need to get another one. The next opening is Tuesday.  Bummer.

I spent some of the day watching hockey and some of the day doing the NY Times Sunday crossword puzzle - which, surprisingly enough - had a π theme. "3.1415926" was the title and three of the answers were a mnemonic for remembering the first eight digits of π. I had to figure that out and let everyone know. "How I wish I could calculate pi easily." Not bad. A new mnemonic to go with HOMES (the names of the Great Lakes) and Every Good Boy Does Fine.

PP bought takeout dinner at Grand Szechuan and brought it here to share. Ginger fish and Kung Pao chicken were the toppers.

There are some Rodin sculpture pieces at MIA in Minneapolis, not only at the Rodin Museum in Paris. This one is called "The Cathedral." I took this photo at MIA last month and hadn't posted it yet.

What a string of "important" days - Friday the 13th, π day, the Ides of March, St Pat's Eve, and green beer day.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Another π day

Here it is again, pi day. Or π day. It's a fairly new "important" day, only being around since about 1988, at least according to Wiki. It's a math geek's holiday and maybe one for scientists, too. It's also Albert Einstein's birthday. He was born in 1879 in Ulm, Germany, 136 years ago. I bet he would have enjoyed the excitement surrounding our favorite Greek letter, π.

I decided that I'd make a key lime pie to celebrate the day and went off to Cub Foods to find the necessary ingredients. They have key lime juice, sweetened condensed milk and graham cracker pie crust ready made. That's really all that you need to make a key lime pie. I made one once, but today, it didn't happen. It was too nice a day to even do that much, besides I was tired from four days of tennis, and Cub had ready made key lime pie in the frozen pie section. And who doesn't like ready made frozen π. I bought one and it's sitting in the kitchen thawing out and I'll be having a piece for dessert.

There is a move on the inter tubes to celebrate tau day. Tau is defined as 2π and the ratio of the circumference to the radius of a circle. Tau is equal to 6.28, so tau day would be June 28. Something to keep in mind for those slow blogging days in June.

Instead of baking (or mixing up) a pie, NCW and I went to have a look at Minnehaha Falls. I haven't been there in a while and haven't followed the big build up of ice, or the recent melting of the ice as the winter lurched towards spring. It's a unique sight and one only seen for a week or two in the spring. Lots of people were there to enjoy the 61º temperature and walk outside on a nice weekend. There was a lot of pale skin on display, too.

The falls still has a large ice appendage that probably will fall into the creek sometime this weekend.

There was a big crowd below the falls checking out the state of the ice melt. There were, of course, a few daredevils climbing up close to the face of the falls to get a better look. We stayed above the falls and enjoyed the view and the lovely weather.

As an aside, I was reminded this morning of one of Dad's dadisms - things he said often enough that I remember them fondly and attribute solely to him. He used to say that he wasn't born, that he'd been " kicked out of a stone wall by a mule." I bet I'm not the only one to remember this bit of blarney.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

March is getting friendlier

It's still March, but the weather took a decided turn towards summer about a week ago. We've had a couple of days in the 60's, and today was supposed to get into the 70's, according to the weather wizard, Paul Douglas. My favorite St. Paul weather site said that 61º was the high reading for the day. Plenty good enough. It's still March.

I had a walk around the neighborhood this afternoon to take in the warmer air. There isn't much green to be seen, but the snow is nearly all gone, at least for now.

We have a new addition to the breakfast nook in the area of decoration. When Adam and Ying came back from China they brought a book of the water colors that her grandpa did in the last ten years of his life. He was a plenty talented guy, and one I probably would have liked if we could have spoken a common language. I liked one of the paintings well enough to get a copy of the jpeg from Ying's mom that was used for the book, and to have it printed on a board suitable for hanging on the wall. I think it looks good in the breakfast area near the back door.

I played some tennis tonight, part of my usual schedule. It was competitive and fun, but I seem to be in a bit of a slump. The sets were 7-5, 6-4, but I was on the short end of the score. It's doubles and I'm a level seven, so I'm pretty glad that I was able to play and that there was no falling down to be done tonight. I came home and NCW and PP were both home waiting. Adam had been here and went off to play in his indoor soccer league game. I missed him, but he'll be back and plans to spend the night here, so I'll see him in the morning. 

This somehow reminded of an old Richard Brautigan poem that PP used in one of her classes and one that always made me chuckle a bit. Here it is:

Albion Breakfast

                           For Susan

Last night (here) a long pretty girl
asked me to write a poem about Albion,
so she could put it in a black folder
that has albion printed nicely
 in white on the cover.

I said yes. She's at the store now
getting something for breakfast.
I'll surprise her with this poem
 when she gets back.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Two benches

I promised another bench and after looking at the photos, I realized I have photos of two benches.

 They were encountered on the day we drove from the west sea to the east sea across the big island of Hawai'i, a distance of 77 miles between the big mountains Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa. We started at sea level, rose to 9000 feet and back to sea level. And then returned along most of the same path. The target destination was Rainbow Falls, a multi-falls water falls in the city of Hilo. We had a problem or two finding the site, but stopped in a school parking lot to look at the map. A school security guy came up to the car and asked what we were looking for, and we told him Rainbow Falls. He told us the way, but warned that here may not be any water flowing over it, because it had been dry lately. When you live in Hawaii, I guess you don't visit the tourist attractions often, because when we arrived at the falls there was plenty of water flowing over the precipice. Just up the river from Rainbow Falls there is another attraction - Boiling Pots. It's a canyon with rocks over which flowing water seems to bubble and roil in a kind of Hawaiin rapids.  In the parking lot by the Pots the lava benches sat - unused.

There was another similar bench at the same site. Lava rocks and some sort of fungal growth or lichens, perhaps, are evident.

A map of the trip across the big island to visit Hilo looks like this.

Back in the land of icy streets and wind chill, it was another day considered life threatening. It was -9º F. this morning, but has risen to 1º F. I ignored the danger and went off this afternoon to smack tennis balls at Fort Snelling. I had not completely lost my coordination and it was quite satisfying to crunch some forehands after 18 days of self imposed rest.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Orchids and rainbows

The wind chill is below the zero mark and I'm feeling a little cabin bound again, so I'm posting some of my favorite unpublished shots of places seen on vacation. It doesn't take long to get back to normal routines and begin to miss the green and flowering plants of the islands.

Before we left Minne-snow-ta, I promised the Prairie Princess that I'd do a little pool cleaning at Larry and Anne's, as a kind of remembrance of her time there a year ago. There was talk then of pool cleaning being a boring job and not much fun. PP said that she remarked that life must be pretty good if the main complaint is having to clean the orchids off the pool surface. I'd like to be doing that task right now.

An orchid was growing on the façade next to the pool. It seems alone, and not much of a threat to clog the pool drains.

The retired sugar plantation on Kauai that we walked through was very nice and very green. It looks a bit like I picture the garden of Eden - without the snakes. There no snakes in Hawaii.  Or alligators for that matter.

Hawaii is known as the the rainbow state for a reason. There were many days on Kauai when the moisture in the air produced a beautiful rainbow, in this case a double rainbow.

This is what happens when you get too close to the surf on a windy day. A camera full of splash. This was taken on the big island, near the town of Captain Cook.

I guess now that I can revert to blogging about how hard the winter is going.