Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Cash for Clunkers Execution

Here are a few more photos from the garden tour I went on last weekend. This first one shows a "cook house" in the middle of the garden. As beautiful as this yard was, I really didn't much like the layout; this yard was "built" in about 3 years, and the cook house does have this really cool option of being able to cook in it even when it's 20 below zero. I don't know; you still have to get from the back door, across the patio, through the snow, and into it! I think I'd be more inclined to use the jacuzzi in that weather! (Jacuzzis are actually amazing when it's extremely cold; you actually do stay quite warm in the middle of the ice cube called "North Dakota." This, I wish I had in MY back yard!The trip TO the jacuzzi is a challenge; the trip back to the house is usually very comfortable--unless you hit a snow drift.)

This next photo was from another house on the tour. Ha! Finally a use for all those humongous shoes and boots left behind by my children!

And now for a not-so-pleasant thought following yesterday's obituary for our Dodge:

Here’s how the car dealership is instructed to destroy the clunker’s engine:

"THIS PROCEDURE IS NOT TO BE USED BY THE VEHICLE OWNER Perform the following procedure to disable the vehicle engine.
Since the vehicle will not be drivable after this procedure is performed, consider where the procedure will be performed and how the vehicle will be moved after the procedure is complete.
1. Obtain solution of 40% sodium silicate/60% water. (The Sodium Silicate (SiO2/Na2O) used in the solution must have a weight ratio of 3.0 or greater.)

2. Drain engine oil for environmentally appropriate disposal.

3. Install the oil drain plug.4. Pour enough solution in the engine through the oil fill for the oil pump to circulate the solution throughout the engine. Start by adding 2 quarts of the solution, which should be sufficient in most cases.

4.CAUTION: Wear goggles and gloves. Appropriate protective clothing should be worn to prevent silicate solution from coming into contact with the skin.

5. Replace the oil fill cap.

6. Start the engine.

7. Run engine at approximately 2000 rpm (for safety reasons do not operate at high rpm) until the engine stops. (Typically the engine will operate for 3 to 7 minutes. As the solution starts to affect engine operation, the operator will have to apply more throttle to keep the engine at 2000 rpm.)

8. Allow the engine to cool for at least 1 hour.

9. With the battery at full charge or with auxiliary power to provide the power of a fully charged battery, attempt to start the engine.10. If the engine will not operate at idle, the procedure is complete.

11. If the engine will operate at idle, repeat steps 6 through 10 until the engine will no longer idle.

12. Attach a label to the engine that legibly states the following: This engine is from a vehicle that is part of the Car Allowance Rebate System (CARS). It has significant internal damage caused by operating the engine with a sodium silicate solution (liquid glass) instead of oil.

I prefer Maria's suggestion of a jazz funeral procession through town. We're still waiting for word on whether the Cash for Clunker deal went through, but this makes me not so eager to rush things along.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Good Bye, Good Old Clunker Car! Obituary for a Dodge

Doug and I are in the process of trying to get a new car through the Cash for Clunkers deal. It seems like such a shame, in some ways!

I'm not complaining, mind you. It's pretty exciting to get to look at new cars, with all kinds of new doo-dads (probably each with their own dreaded owner's manual), (and God only knows where they've hid the gas cap.) But the new car won't really get that much better mileage than our 1996 Dodge Caravan.

I wish I could call it our "trusty" minivan, but really, it wasn't. And believe me, it looks much better in this photograph than it does in real life! And the fact that the odometer stopped working many years ago, along with the speedometer, is not exactly a selling point for it, either.

Still, this behemoth has seen a lot of life with us. We never wanted to buy it in the first place. Our equally frustrating, unreliable, challenging Red Dodge Caravan had been leaving us stranded by the side of the road in way too many places. The final straw for the red Caravan was when we took our kids from Grand Forks, ND to Texas to live for a few months with my brother and sister-in-law, literally escaping the flood waters of 1997. Our little Daitsu was totalled in the flood, and the red Caravan proceeded to break down (predictably) all the way to Texas and all the way back. We knew we'd never make it back to Texas in the beast, to get our children, and we really kind of wanted them back!

So we had to find a new car. Fast. In the middle of devastating flood clean-up, and with our dyfunctional flood-brains, we made the same mistake twice and bought another used Dodge Caravan.

And you know how it goes with a mini-van with 3 kids; they get packed full with luggage and friends, and the dog, and very, very sticky (and stinky) things. I'm sure if I look now in Scott's compartment in the back seat, I'd find gum wrappers and gum. Brian would probably have superballs and track cleats in his. Dianna would have hair bands and little notebooks with strange messages to her friends. No one wants to know what all the stains mean. We've hauled all of Scott's belongings, and Dianna's, to Washington, DC , with dorm refrigerators and computers--and then back again. We've taken Brian's things to Missouri, with the dreaded last 200 miles of the trip interrupted by the Missouri State Police, accusing us of being $12 worth of gas-runners, and making us drive 150 miles--back to pay a second $12.

We've rushed to ERs with the minor stuff of childhood; we've searched out birthday parties and friends and sporting events and gone trick-or-treating. We've headed to Chicago to see the relatives, braved more blizzards than I care to remember, and gotten totally lost in cities and woods.

And now we're going to crush it. Drive a stake through its heart. Really, it doesn't seem right. Even though we seem to be constantly replacing some other major chunk of this clunker, and it has practically no Blue Book value (not that anyone would ever buy it, because of the recalcitrant speedometer), it does seem like it should get some kind of funeral. Not exactly a Thelma & Louise push off a cliff, or polluting any waters or anything, but maybe one last drive through the city, blasting Kenny G from its cassette player (wait! that doesn't work anymore, either!)

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Hell's Kitchen Peanut Butter

It's a good day when something like this comes in the mail! Mmmmmm . . . peanut butter! Brian took me to a place in Minneapolis for breakfast, back in February, and the peanut butter was so incredible, we each took home a jar of peanut butter. Brian ate his in about a week; Doug and I slowly doled out tastey little rations of it over the last several months. But alas, we also eventually depleted our supply.

Brian is much too busy with work and school to make it out to the restaurant to pick some up for us (he lives in Minneapolis; we live 350 miles away in Grand Forks), so I finally took matters into my own hands . . .

. . . and had two jars sent to him, and one sent to us. (I also sent him a crock pot in the mail this past week, but I have much more confidence that the peanut butter captured his attention more than the crock pot.)

If you ever get anywhere close to a Hell's Kitchen, buy the peanut butter!

Friday, July 24, 2009

The Farm in the Garden

I wish my photos could do justice to the stretch of color and blooms in the garden in Tabor, MN. As I stepped into it, I had the sense of being on the yellow brick road in the Wizard of Oz; you know the moment--it's when everything changes from black and white to color!

This shot gives you a peek of the farm just beyond the garden. Irene Larsen is very careful not to plant ornamental grasses because she is afraid of the grasses seeding or spreading into the farmland fields. She also says that her gardens are "nice, but not spectacular." Ummm-- she's wrong; they're spectacular.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

More of the Tabor Garden

Everywhere I looked, until I was practically drowning in them, were lilies and deliphinium.

I think if I ever need to run away from home, this is where I'm going (only in summer!) You'll find my lying on my back, arms stretched out, breathing it all in. Hopefully, I can do this discretely and won't be noticed.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Tabor, MN

This past weekend, Doug and I also participated in our local Garden Tour. Our final stop was outside of Grand Forks, near Tabor, MN. Irene Larson has been planting her gardens, adding to them and modifying them, for some 30 years. You'll see more photos from this garden in the coming days, but here are a few of her gorgeous perennials. To get to her farmland/garden, we took flat, desolate, roads across the countryside, and for the last 1 1/2 miles on a gravel road, followed this vehicle:

Don't you just hate bumper-to-bumper, congested traffic?

An especially nice touch at this stop was the young woman playing classical music on a clavinova in the garden gazebo. And the homemade cookies and lemonade weren't bad either!

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Art in Public Places

This is a garden at the Myra Museum in Grand Forks, ND. This water feature is in front of the original Grand Forks post office, built in 1868, the oldest building in the city. The garden is the newest garden at the historical museum. It features primarily prairie plants and grasses.

Vacationing in Place: Grand Forks, ND

Monday, July 20, 2009

Beautiful (and Handsome)

Art & Wine Walk

Art in public places! The Art & Wine Walk would definitely quality, with this fine play (featuring my husband's former department chairperson) in a public place (The Blue Moose bar & grill.)

You've heard of vacationing in place? It can actually feel that way in Grand Forks in the summer, if one partakes of all the quirky ventures & venues . . .

Sunday, July 19, 2009

More Summer Show-offs

In some ways, this fits in with the theme of "Public Art", because these Hollyhocks are at a small, local museum. (I thought they were "foxgloves", but Pat is definitely our floral expert!)

Saturday, July 18, 2009


The research may not be supporting that echinacea does much for colds, but isn't it beautiful? I drove around Grand Forks today, intoxicated by how beautiful all the plants and flowers are right now!

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Angela & Doug Watercolor

Using the watercolor tutorial at this link, I took a photo of Doug and I and "watercolored" it. It was fun to play with, but there are other treatments that also incorporate watercolor brushes, and I think I might like that approach better. But guess what! I'm on theme!

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Photo Editing LAB & Honey

Two versions of Doug. The first photo is a SOOC shot, converted from RAW to jpeg.

In this version, I selectively increased the exposure on Doug. Then I ran an action I created in which I convert to LAB mode, increase luminosity and color contrast, sharpen & edge mask for high frequency images (images that are generally considered not portraits, even though this does include Doug. It's when there are less smooth transitions and more abrupt and sharper transitions (which skin usually hopefully isn't.) High frequency treatment is good for city scenes, objects, etc, and I wanted to highlight the glass windows more in this shot.

I also then ran Jess's Honey action (thanks, Jess!) to both slightly mute and warm up the image a bit more.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Not Exactly Our Front Porch

But we were really, really tired! And waiting in Lowes for the window-writer-upper to finish adding up the massive amounts of money we would owe for our new windows. We wandered off to wait, and discovered, tucked away in a corner, rocking chairs under the shelves! The perfect resting spot instead of randomly looking at doorknobs or paint samples!

Sunday, July 12, 2009

The LAUNDRY was outside!!!!!

This is not the most exciting photo in the world, but I needed an Exhibit A. And I used "shape blur" in photo shop to try to blur Doug's underwear to try and reduce the "too much personal information."

But we're replacing our windows in our house--partly because of the vicious cedar waxwing attack of days gone by, and partly because the IRS is allowing this nice energy tax deduction. Anyway, the installer from Lowe's came out to do the detailing, the measuring of our windows before ordering them.

Imagine my horror, after he left, when I realized I had my own underwear on the clothes line in the yard! (Remember, our clothes drier has given up the ghost, but we haven't replaced it yet--the drier, not the ghost.)

Well I certainly couldn't compound MY mortification by posting a photo of MY underwear, as I pondered my error, could I? And Doug is such an agreeable sort. . . .

By the way, if you check out the last comment of my post on July 1st, of another of my confessions in which I shamelessly stole Scott's words, you'll see that I've been busted. He tells me to prepare to meet him in court.

You know what this means, don't you? It means, I'm going to see my son!!!! (I can't wait!)

Wednesday, July 8, 2009


If my husband is willing to let me post photos of him gamboling and cavorting, then I should be willing to post this highly unflattering photo of me.

Anyone know of a lens with A LOT of vibration reduction for when you're ROTFLMBONTBP
(Rolling On The Floor Laughing My Butt Off Next To Bird Poop)?

Because when Doug cavorted and gamboled, he made me laugh so hard, I didn't care where I was lying, trying to take his photo, and then he took the camera away from me and shot me!

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

All Right, Already! Take 2: Cavorting & Gamboling in a ND Fountain

Oh, you are a tough crowd to please! But you've got to understand: here in North Dakota, we tend to be fairly restrained in our cavorting and gamboling. We are an under-stated people.

But because you all seem to be so NEEDY and begged me mercilessly, Doug agreed to really loosen up and be absolutely WILD in his cavorting and gamboling. I, of course, had to stay completely dry with my precious Nikon D40.

Here, throwing all caution to the wind *, Doug approaches the sprinkler. (* not completely without caution; that's not in the North Dakotan lexicon. A fire extinguisher and ShamWow! are standing by in case of emergency.)

Here, you can see that my dear husband has become absolutely wild in his cavorting and gamboling.

And now he has given in to total abandon. . .

. . . . . . dare I say, rapture? . . . on the Northern Plains . . .

But this really was all a bit much, and he needed to retire to the lounge chair for recovery. . .

Aided, of course, by our trusty ShamWow!

Monday, July 6, 2009

Angela & Doug Cavorting in a Fountain

Gambol-- leap playfully: to leap or skip around playfully.

Cavort--leap around: to behave in a physically lively and uninhibited way.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Patriotic Guy

I like this guy's style in proclaiming his patriotism.

4th of July Festivities

I was particularly amused by the last two little fellows in the train-parade. Happy Fourth!

Friday, July 3, 2009

Our Little Sentinel

Here's to good old half-deaf, half-blind, demented, 14 1/2 year old geriatric dog, Bonnie, still taking her guard-dog duties seriously.

Here she is, standing guard over some waving petunias, a statue of angels with broken wings, and the palm tree that my brother-in-law Bill gave us. (Bill patiently grows a huge collection of palm trees, under grow-lights, in Chicago over the winter. He gifted us with this sweet little palm tree this year.)

Bonnie especially likes to face the fence, in case anyone happens to walk past it, and then she can bark like a maniac at them. They say a dog will live longer if it has a job to do, and apparently, Bonnie sees this as her job--guarding the petunias, angels & palms, and barking.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Before the Storm

A couple of photos from last Friday, just before the storm started in earnest, giving us 5 tornado touchdowns (no damage) and a few hours downstairs, (with me in a closet for some of it, separated from my computer!)

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

NewsFlash: Mom Steals Son's Work While He Defends the Motherland

Really, when you think about it, what's so wrong about plagiarizing your kid's words? I think my son, Scott, is a wonderful, funny, writer, and I like his descriptions of North Dakota, so I'm just going to steal them and pass them off as my own. (After all, he's never sued me for anything as far as I can remember.) On his Facebook page, Scott says:

"I'm from the great state of North Dakota. Let me just answer quickly some questions you may have about it:

"So do people actually live there?"
No, no one actually lives in North Dakota. Everyone who works there lives just on the other side of the border with either Minnesota or Montana, and commutes to work each day (but not South Dakota since no one lives there either). For those working in the middle of the state in such places as Bismark, the commute can take upwards of 4 hours each way.
"Does it get pretty cold there?"
No, this is a little known fact, but North Dakota is in a subtropical climate due to the Mannitoba current which keeps the range of temperatures in the state from an average high of 97 degrees F in the summer to an average low of 44 degrees F in the winter, so most years we'll go without any snowfall at all!
"Isn't that in Canada?"
Yes. The US established the 49th parallel as the border with Canada in 1818 following the Louisiana Purchase, with the exceptions of North Dakota and 3 counties in South Carolina which technically remain within Canada.
"Is that where Mt. Rushmore is?"
Yes. Mt. Rushmore is located in a warehouse 5 miles outside Beulah, North Dakota and is projected into South Dakota via a highly sophisticated holographic display.
"What do you do for fun there?"
Most days are spent around the camp helping out with communal chores and arranging hunting parties, but if we get lucky, on Saturday night we'll have a squirrel hunt or a box social to attend. Also binge drinking, copious amounts of binge drinking."

Besides, Scott is on some boat, somewhere near South America (not in South Dakota),defending our country apparently from Peruvian sherpas, so he'll never know I'm stealing his words.

(Kids, this may be another reason not to let your parents be your "friends" on Facebook. But not you, Scott.)

I thought this photo from somewhere in ND would be fitting for this post. I used the Dirt Bag action, at full strength, from RAD to add the texture: