Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Wildlife in the Cities

Just a few animal sightings from different parts of the Twin Cities...

Albino Squirrel
in the parking lot of a Bloomington library

Art imitates life (or vice versa)
Silverwood Park, New Brighton
Resident Crane
Central Park, Roseville

Seals at Como Park
St. Paul
They love an audience.

Bold Turkey waiting for the bus
43rd and Minnehaha, South Mpls.
Curious Pigeon
Nicollet Mall, Mpls.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Past Seasonal Celebrations

Here in Minnesota we've been enjoying amazingly gorgeous weather.  Even for those of us who are not All-Stars fans, we treat such days as jewels because they are so rare.  Body temperature weather, sunny days, blue skies, sandals, and not too many mosquitoes.  These are all things to celebrate.

I didn't blog much in the winter because I was doing other writing, but in some ways I'd like to give winter its fair shake.  So, here's a brief look back about six months ago at the jewels (aka, coping mechanisms) and things celebrated in the months of January - March. 

Finding creative ways to keep warm...

Time lapse photography:

Going on a Sweater Binge at Marshall's...

Hanging out at the library or coffee shops with fireplaces...

Home-made granola and Red Velvet Coffee (from WorldMarket)...


Watching the entire Foyle's War series...


God bless Tiksi

With several days below zero, I must have been getting desperate because I started looking up weather reports in places that would be colder than Minnesota.  No one permanently lives in Antarctica so I couldn't use that.  Instead I found a nice little city in Siberia called Tiksi.  Tiksi, Russia has a population of about 5000. 

On Jan. 28 Tiksi got down to -42° F and had only 4 hours of daylight.  (The sun rose at 11 a.m. and set at 3 p.m.)  At one point the temperature was 50 below.  "God bless Tiksi," I would say as I put on my long underwear, listened to or became part of the traffic reports, shoveled wet snow or inhaled bitter cold dry air. 

But then there was the one day when Tiksi got up to 19° F.  They were warmer than Minnesota.  "See, that's what you get for comparing," a friend of mine teased me.  

In the short summer months Tiksi doesn't get much above 34° F, but today Tiksi's high is supposed to be 64° F.  And at this point in the year, they're at almost 24 hours of daylight, although it's mostly cloudy and rainy.  God bless Tiksi.

Winter vacations to Florida... 

(In March my spouse told me he'd booked helicopter tickets to Tiksi for our vacation.  Since I had shown so much interest in the area he figured I really wanted to go.  NOT!!)  

And my favorite for this year:  

Winter Tomatoes

Last summer the squirrels nabbed most of my nurtured and prized red ones.  I brought the plant in for the winter and ended up harvesting a whole bowl of tomatoes that I used for either gazpacho or salsa or spaghetti sauce.

This humble and abused tomato plant thrived all winter, and, though scraggly and sun-deprived, it produced at least half a dozen more tomatoes. 

This summer, the squirrels are gone.  We had major repairs made to our retaining wall so they removed the nearby trees (squirrel homes).  Results:  The tomato plant lives on!

March 2014
July 2014

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Mill City Farmers Market

The first time I went to the Mill City Farmers Market was in February last year at the Winter Market.  Housed in the Mill City Museum, the market is packed with food vendors, arts and crafts booths, clothing, gifts, and live music.

Mill City Winter Market

The market was founded in 2006 by Brenda Langton of Spoonriver Restaurant.

For people with food allergies there are lots of surprises like gluten free products, muffins, pasta and sheep cheese and yogurt.  Organic produce, local farmers, art, and live music in a historical setting.  What more could you ask for?  Besides, it's a great place to go on a cold winter day. 

This past Saturday we went to the summer outdoor market.  I thought it would be just a narrow corridor in the space between the museum and the Guthrie Theater, but it was much bigger than that.

between the buildings
around the corner

Solomon's Bakery

gluten free, dairy free muffins at Crepes at Spoonriver
Gorkha Palace

Sunrise Market
located on Pierce Butler in St. Paul
working on getting a dedicated space/equipment
for producing gluten free pasta

Stone Arch Bridge behind the market
Mill City Market
Saturday mornings 8:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. May 10th through Sept. 27.
Oct. hours 9:00 a.m. until 1:00 p.m.
Winter Market runs once a month from Nov. to Apr. 
Sign up for the Mill City Beet newsletter on the website to receive information on featured products and vendors.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Distractions - Of Cupcakes and Cellphones

I realized today one of the reasons why I write this blog is to provide myself with rare opportunities to start and complete projects in a small period of time.  Another reason is to show the positive and artistic benefits of living in the Twin Cities.  But really, if I'm going to truly represent "Slices of the Minneapple Life" then I have to accept the tart and bruised slices along with the sweet ones.

Maybe that's why I didn't really write much during the winter.  It was a cold, bitter pill, this past early 2014, but I can save that story for another day.

Today I set out at 9:00 a.m. for the local library to do research and edit some novel chapters that are fermenting and turning into science projects, at least in my own brain.  The biggest distraction for my writing is research itself.  You think I'd know by now that I can't always find the essence or historical details of my story's setting with a simple Google search.  And of course every sentence that I write this morning seems to be overworked and underachieved, not quite hitting the mark that I so desire. 

So, I'm spinning my wheels and it's getting toward 11:00, and all I can think about is - I WANT A CUPCAKE!  And this is a big deal.  It's been a while since I've had a cupcake.  At parties and weddings I can only admire these treats and fend off my cravings by tasting a dab of frosting from my spouse's plate.  

So I weigh the options - the nearby co-op might have gluten free cupcakes, but they usually have eggs and/or dairy.  My gut's already tore up from something I ate over the last few days.  And they're probably out of cupcakes by now anyway.  I could make cupcakes at home, but that would take some time.

And while I'm sitting there, someone's loud cell phone rings.  And rings.  And rings.  It's sitting plugged in but unattended on the table ahead of me.  The security guard picks it up and looks around for the owner.  There are no takers.  So, he asks the kid across the aisle if it's his, and then quietly tells the youngster not to leave his phone unattended, besides there are plugs right next to his work station. 

An hour later, a guy across the aisle and farther in front of me is watching some sort of reality video of someone's morning routine - getting out of bed, getting up, going into the bathroom - and I'm thinking, oh, I hope this doesn't go into some porn thing.  But it doesn't.  The guy watching the video, wearing headphones, takes them off and has that wigged out look that I can relate to - of spending too much time on the Internet and getting nowhere. 

He gets up, goes over to where the phone was.  The phone's gone, the kid's gone, and in the end he and the security guard are standing at the front desk discussing his loss.

PEOPLE, do not leave your personal electronics unattended in a public place!!

For me, the story has a happy ending. After all, I finished my daily blog.  I also went down to the co-op and found one last package of gluten free cupcakes.  They have eggs, but eggs have lesser consequences than gluten or dairy.

Happy Monday, everyone!

Canyon Bakehouse Cupcakes
GF, DF, contains eggs

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Musings on 4H and Four-Leaf Clovers

The other day I found a four-leaf clover.  It's been awhile, and at one point when I was about nine-years old I found five of them in one year.  I don't know if I felt particularly lucky that year, but it was something I liked to brag about at the time.

There's an old song my dad used to sing:  "I'm looking over the four-leaf clover that I overlooked before..."  (Don't know the rest of it.)  And then in 4H camp we sang a spoof to that song of which I remember every word:

I'm looking over my dead dog Rover that I overran with the mower.
One leg is missing, the other is gone,
The third leg is scattered all over the lawn.
There's no need explaining the one remaining, it's hanging on the kitchen door. (2, 3, 4)
I'm looking over my dead dog Rover that I overran with the mower.  (More?)  I'm looking over...

(You get the idea.)  Rover was not a very lucky dog.

And then there's 4H which I joined in 7th or 8th grade.  The four H's stand for Head, Heart, Hands, Health.  (For some reason, I always want to add Home to that.)  Here's the 4H pledge:

I pledge my head to clearer thinking,
My heart to greater loyalty,
My hands to larger service,
My health to better living,
for my club, my community, my country and my world.  

4H club was fun.  Since I didn't grow up on a farm, I wasn't raising chickens, a piglet, a cow, or a prized squash.  As a city kid, my projects were in Creative Arts and Photography.  One of my photo projects was a storyboard with pictures about the Sears Tower.  It won a red ribbon (2nd place) at the county fair.  I also had another storyboard with sunset pictures of that great bluffs region along the  Mississippi River near Trempealeau, Wisconsin.  and the captions were taken from "Taps."
Day is Done
Gone the Sun
From the lakes, from the hills, from the sky
All is well, safely rest
God is nigh.   
"Taps" won a blue ribbon in the Ramsey County Fair and then got a purple best-of-show ribbon which meant it went to the State Fair. 

I'm not sure what happened to those photography storyboards.  I think I dismantled the Sears Tower and they're in a shoebox somewhere.  As far as I know, the Taps project was still permanently glued to my bedroom wall when my parents' house was sold.  A interesting task for the new owners to undertake.

As I looked around the house today, I actually found two of my Creative Arts projects.  (A little dusty, but still in good condition after all these years.)  This Creative Arts categories never went to the State Fair, but I always got blue ribbons at the county level.   

One year I made a parfait candle based on the DQ treat and an idea from a Jell-O commercial about tilting the dessert in your fridge to get that nice angle.  I used up all my brown and white crayons to color the paraffin wax.  The red cherry on top has been gone a long time.

Another year I made a root beer candle.  (It was always a treat going to dinner at the A&W, eating in the car and getting the glass to take home.)  I made a whole tray of wax ice cubes, and got more brown and white crayons.

It was funny - my sister is very creative, but when I put together the first part, the brown section of the candle, filling the glass halfway, sticking in the ice cubes, she didn't get it.  After waiting a few days to let the brown solidify, I mixed up the foam, whipping the white wax in the melting pot and adding a bit of brown.

As soon as I poured the foam on top of the brown part, my sister got all excited and offered some suggestions:  
"Put some more ice cubes in!"

"Hey, stick a straw in it!"  

Over time, it looks like the unlucky straw had the same fate as one of Rover's legs.    

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Sculpture Gardens

Spoonbridge and Cherry
Speaking of the Walker, if there's a line for mini-golf, you can put your name on the waiting list, and while you're waiting, check out the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden.  It's been many years since we'd been there, and it was great to see some of the old favorites as well as the new installments.

Though I enjoy abstract art, I've never been one to understand it fully.  I usually have my own interpretation or emotional response to a particular work and I'm sure others share this experience.  But what really helps is that you can go to the Walker Website and browse through names of the sculptures to read about the artist, their intent and the materials and ideas that they work with.  Check out:  http://www.walkerart.org/collections/ and use the search engine on the far right side of the page.

Of course I've always enjoyed the signature piece of the garden, the Spoonbridge and Cherry, and for me, I like works that bend reality, have movement or defy gravity.  I always forget how large this piece is until I'm actually there to see it.  (I've included the chairs in the picture which are several yards away to give a proper perspective.)  The spray of water from the tip of the cherry stem falls across the fruit of the cherry and then drops down into the spoon and then the pond surrounding it.

The atrium is a pleasant passage through a small glass building with some nice features, including the huge glass fish in the middle.

walkway through atrium
flowers along the sides
air plants on the wall

Standing Glass Fish

One of my all-time favorites is Woodrow, the horse sculpture.  The work is really bronze - individual pieces cast to look like hunks of wood.  (It fools a lot of observers.)  I like how each piece emphasizes the musculature of the horse and also the slight turn of the head gives it a sense of being alive.

Some of the other sculptures are pictured below.  If you haven't been to the Sculpture Garden in a while, go check it out.  It's a great outdoor activity for a summer evening, it can be rather inspirational, and best of all, it's free.

Hare on Bell on Portland Stone Piers
- classic stationary bell casting juxtaposed with the whimsical balancing rabbit

Standing Figure:  Knife Edge
Reclining Mother and Child

Without Words
(The artist is a former clothing designer.)
Bronze Woman IV
(I didn't see this until I looked at it from this particular angle.)

Ordovican Pore
-suggesting themes of both cellular biology and nuclear technology

For Whom...
The bell swings but has no clapper.