Monday, August 31, 2009

If the Previous Posts haven't convinced you about Como Park . . .

. . . look at these, and maybe you'll be convinced.

Late summer is when the Northern Plains really come into their own.

More Como Park Conservatory

My yard is not looking nearly so glorious as Como Park Conservatory, so here are some more photos from my visit several weeks ago. Unfortunately, I was so swept away by everything around me, that I did not write down the name of the plants and flowers. Anyone know what these are?

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Butterfly Party! Como Park Conservatory & Zoo

Butterflies are like winged rainbows! If you should tire of the water lillies at Como Park, just head over to the Butterfly Exhibit.
Even though the butterflies seem frantic in how rapidly they move their wings, there's something hypnotically peaceful about them. Sinister, almost. Look how they've captured these two women under their spell:

And then one of the women was turned into this butterfly, (or maybe my eyes deceived me):

These butterflies were having an identity crisis and were uploading butterfly information into their databases:

And this last shot was a bit challenging. I was determined to take it, but while I pressed the camera shutter, a butterfly decided to hurl itself at me and sit on my shutter finger, not budging through 6 or 7 shots:

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Como Park Zoo & Conservatory: Water Lillies

Oh bliss! We're getting to do the stuff that's the perogative of every empty nester; wander to our heart's content through a conservatory! While Brian was at work or in school (translation: we weren't packing food into him or helping him move), we headed over to Como Park Zoo & Conservatory in Minneapolis. My shutter finger was so so happy!

I believe my nephew managed to be the person who registered as the 15,000th view of my blog; John, if you're reading this, check your mail for a gift certificate for $20 to!

Monday, August 24, 2009

Frog & People-Watching in Mall of America

In between seeing Brian, Doug and I were free to wander Minneapolis, anywhere our little Garmin would lead us. And like the zombies in "Night of the Living Dead," we returned to the place we knew and loved: the Mall of America.

Brookstone always appeals to us, because of all the massage machines you can sample. But this display really caught our eye:

Imagine! Being "called" when your grilling food reaches the perfect temperature! It just made us laugh! And could someone look any dorkier?

Next, we checked out the wall of frogs:

And then we headed to what is now one of my favorite restaurants: Crave. The food is wonderful, but if you luck out, as we did, and are seated in a corner, you have the perfect spot for people watching on two floors at once.

I thought this little interaction, that I could spot from the floor above, was very entertaining: two exhausted shoppers taking a little break from one another.

I wasn't quick enough with my camera to catch two little girls lapping up water from the fountain (not a drinking fountain!) before their mom intervened.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Transgenerational Transmission of Data

The day after we dropped Dianna off at the airport, we went out to lunch with Brian. One wonderful thing about now having adult children is that they can introduce you to all sorts of interesting restaurants and features of their city.

And it gives you a chance to engage in the necessary function of feeding them mass quantities of food, as well.

We also got to engage in the other delight associated with newly launched offspring: helping them move. There was one really scary moment in which Doug and Brian were bringing down a very narrow set of steps an old, heavy, 40 inch TV. Several times, I saw them slip, and just couldn't watch. I like to photograph just about anything, but photographing this was the furthest thing from my mind. Fortunately, his new apartment had an elevator!

Saturday, August 22, 2009

So Much Wonderful to Look at in the St. Olaf Library

Everywhere you look on the St. Olaf campus, there is something beautiful. Look at this bulletin board in the library; it's a work of art all in itself!

These are government document files in the library--not something you normally think of as beautiful, but look how the file holders are decorated! I'm going to start adding photos to my tax form files after seeing this!

We were on the campus this past weekend as Dianna finished up last-minute tasks before catching her flight to India Wednesday evening. Driving to Minneapolis involved navigating our way through the tornado warnings, from Grand Forks, to Minneapolis, with our new car.

As "parental units", we were called into duty to assist with the last minute tasks (driving, photo copying, picking up prescriptions, you know the drill. . . ) and that heart-wrenching task of seeing your baby off to a foreign country for four months. I love her independence; I'm jealous of the opportunity; and I want it to go well and her to be safe!

Then it was off to see our son, and help him move. . .

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Admiring Facial Hair

It was a rainy weekend, so I pulled out a photo from June, with Doug picking up a few grooming tips from one of the fine citizens of Walker, MN.

If you get a chance, check out Barb's comment on Friday's post. She was one of the Zoo Entourage and she adds her memory to the "experience."

Friday, August 14, 2009

Praying Mantis and my Super Cool Sister

You've seen this photo before, but it warrants another post. And you all know how over-the-top I can be about my various and sundry relatives, and so I'm sure you'll indulge this post about my little sister, Rina.

Rina works in the forests in Chicago. It's the perfect job for her, because she's always had a biologist-naturalist heart. (One year, she nursed, over many months, an abandoned, injured, baby bird back to health, and then convinced an entire contingent of my relatives to accompany her to the zoo for a Freedom Ceremony to release it into their protected-from-the world aviary. Except it turns out that it wasn't protected from the gorilla. So when the bird panicked, and hit a post in its first seconds of freedom, it fell, and while plummeting, was plucked out of the air by a gorilla, who promptly ate it. A 30-second story, start to finish.)

Last November, Rina came upon praying mantis casings. I guess these are like praying mantis eggs. They usually spend the winter outside, and hatch around the end of June.

Rina wanted to see what baby praying mantises and the hatching process would look like, so she brought the casings indoors and decided to duplicate their natural conditions--except indoors.

She put them in a refrigerator, and every day before work she went outside and checked the weather. If it was cold, she reduced the temperature. If it was raining, she sprayed them with water. If the day had 6 hours of sunshine, they got 6 hours of light. Eventually, she moved them to a window box planter. And she photographed the process with her new Nikon D40.

By the end of May, when nothing happened, she was ready to toss them. But by mid-June, while she watched, and shot away with her camera, they hatched! Some 30 little itty bitty perfectly formed praying mantises!

She said that if they didn't scatter, the mother would eat them. . . so they did! But one continued to stick around for a few days, visiting Rina.

Rina showed her photographs to the forest rangers, and now they've incorporated the photos and her descriptions of the process, into a brochure for distribution to the school district. How cool is that?! Unfortunately, my sister is not a high-tech person, doesn't have a computer, so can't email copies of the photos. But once I get to see them, or the brochures, I'll be sure to include a shot of them.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Weather Pixie is Hot!!!!

Look at the temperature in Grand Forks today! It's an incredible 97 degrees and the clothing that Weather Pixie is wearing is absolutely scandalously SKIMPY! I truly can't remember the last time it's been 97 degrees here, and it was rare this summer for it ever to get above 75 degrees. We North Dakotans MELT in this weather. We need asbestos clothing to deal with it.

And look! I'm on theme with part of my hand. . . because I want to show off the bracelet I got for my birthday on Sunday. I am pleased to be 56 years old and Bonnie (at almost 15)along with me revels in the "oldness", or the appreciation of getting to have our life experiences. Early on my birthday, my sister Rina called me and told me an incredible story about her praying mantis adventure (a future blog post.) Doug and I celebrated by driving down to Fargo (the big city), riding a funny little neighborhood train (that's another blog!), wandering through a Barnes & Noble (oh, bliss!), going out to eat, and then going to see "Julie and Julia."

I loved "Julie and Julia"! I especially enjoyed the birthday references in it, but also the blogging! Julie blogs about her experiences of making Julia Child's recipes over the course of a year. She talks about the "narcisism" of blogging, but also the addictive nature of it and how much it can insinuate itself into your life.

Sound familiar, anyone?

Oh, and that narcissism thing? So what! A little narcissism is good for having passion about life (and yourself in it). And here's a quiz if you're trying to figure out if you are or aren't one (I'm normal, says it!): test

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

The Beautiful Ms. Bonnie & Traveling Funeral

The Beautiful Ms. Bonnie felt compelled to review this book and warn all potential readers to avoid it! She borrowed the book from me, as I was reading it for my book club, and then she did me the splendid favor of throwing it in the trash. Bonnie said that I should not even donate it to a thrift store as it would be almost criminal to inflict this drivel on someone else.

Annie Freeman's Fabulous Traveling Funeral by Kris Radish LOOKED like it would be a funny and woman-empowering read. The premise is that a "funeral" is arranged by a woman, just before she dies, for 4 of her friends. They've never met each other, and Annie leaves them instructions, tickets, money, sending them off to visit 4 cities of significance to her while she was alive.

Sounds like it could be a two-week adventure and Bonnie thought she'd come to be very involved with the quirky characters throughout the trip. But Bonnie made horrific gagging noises and said that if Annie hadn't already "died", she'd want to kill her herself, along with her martyr-like friends.

Bonnie thinks the biggest problem with the book is. . . well. . . the writing! The author has this maddening habit of taking a sentence (like "She wondered if. . . . ) and then using it like a sentence completion stem, filling in the blank about 10 times, until you wanted to stab the book with an ice pick.

(This would be a typical style, especially the last segment: She wondered if this book was secretly a plot to make everyone pluck out their eyeballs and swear off reading for all time; she wondered if the author's word processor had an obsessive compulsive disorder and had to repeat the same phrases over and over again; she wondered if the sickening silver of the shiny moon would infuse their hearts with the love they felt toward Annie and make them howl in unison at the crack of dawn every day.)

And the worst thing, the absolutely worst thing, about the book was that you really, really didn't care about the characters by the time you get to the end. Except to maybe wish foul things upon them and then have to feel some guilt for that. The Beautiful Ms. Bonnie thinks we all tend to feel enough guilt in life, without having murderous-thoughts-toward-fictional-characters guilt and life is just way, way too short to waste on crappy books.

She gives this book two paws down and the BackYard Cleanup Award.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Look Who's Happier Now!

Doug is home from the mission trip now with his Sickie Van. He brought the group home a day early because everyone but one person (the person who had the DUI and got them detained at the border) was sick.

And this is what he looked like as he opened our garage door:

Remember what I said he was going to see?

The brand new, bright red, Toyota Venza! Maybe "stuff" doesn't make you happy, but it has its little moments!

This car is strange. Our old car certainly didn't have the Venza's features. . . .like a working speedometer or odometer. But a 600-page owner's manual is quite daunting!

And believe me, we're really needing the manual! Take this, for example. See that little "start" button? This car doesn't have a key, as I've known keys in my lifetime! You keep this little transmitter thing in your pocket or purse and as long as you're "in the Zone" (keep "Meet the Frockers" circle of trust concept in mind), you can open the door by touching its handle, push this button, and the car starts. Spooky, huh?

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Clunker Deal is Done

It begged; it pleaded; it flung itself down in the driveway and clung to the concrete.
It wrote letters to the governor arguing for a stay of execution.
And then things turned nasty--it implied that it knew birds in high places and I might never want to sleep with both eyes shut again.
In its final days, it tried what it thought was its ace-in-the-hole. . . the speedometer mysteriously started working again (I'm not making this up!); I turned a hard heart and drove the poor thing off to its fatal injections at the Toyota lot.

I turned the poor old gal in for a flashy floozy of a bright red trophy model. The Venza is now sitting like a high-priced diva in the middle of my garage, not too close to the snowblower on one side or the lawnmower on the other, taking up two spaces, eager for Doug to come home and fawn all over her.

And believe you me, I don't intend to drive it, thank you very much. I'll be driving my nice, reliable, unassuming 1998 green subaru. And Hoighty-Toighty Ms. Venza just better move over to one side of the garage, once Doug moves it, because I was too freaked out about parking it just right). And the subaru is outside in the driveway. Alone. In the dark. And cold. .. . Eating the leftovers. . . . (and it's all Doug's fault.)

Oh. Yeah. Doug doesn't know about the Venza in the garage (won't HE be surprised when he gets back rom the mission trip????)

And holy, moly, you guys are goooooood! I thought I'd get away with that last line in the post yesterday. Every once in a while, I sneak a line or two past you, buried in the narrative, but apparently not this time!

There's really not much to the story. The 21 year old "adult" leader had a DUI in March and didn't mention it; nor did it turn up in the background check. But, given the new Homeland Security scrutiny, it turned up at the border. All the kids were kept in the van for an hour and a half, and questioned by border patrol, while Doug and the very nervous young-un were brought inside and questioned. The girl fell into the category of "Inadmissable felons" because of the DUI. This was a good 8 hours away from our home town. Either the whole group would have to return, or her mother would have to drive out and get her (and she couldn't reach her mother). Eventually, Border Patrol said she could pay $200 for a one time permit (charged to our credit card because she didn't have one), but would not be admitted again without filing more petitions to the Canadian courts, and paying more fines. Doug is actually having a rough time on this trip, with kids getting sick and now he doesn't feel well either. He'll be very glad to get back, I'm sure! I would have a hard time arranging the time off from work, so don't go on these trips.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Northward Ho!

My sweet husband took a group of kids up to Canada this week, on a Mission Trip, to work in homeless shelters and with alzheimers patients. Here he is working on last-minute paperwork at his high tech, expensive, well-equippped, desk:

6 am and the van is packed, ready to roll:

And one of the volunteers, also ready to roll. Note the blue hair (not a color cast!) peeking out from under his hat. You never know when you might be called in as a subsitute for the Blue Man Group!

And note to self: in the future make sure all the adult leaders are up-front about any DUI's BEFORE you hit the Canadian border.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Landscape of Parental Angst: I hate you, Facebook!

Yesterday, my son, Scott's, facebook update said:

"Scott got a face full of pepper spray today."
A few months ago, it was:

"Scott's warding off scurvy."

And then there was the photo of him 2 years ago where he was in some dimly lit Chinese hospital getting his head stitched up in Bejing by an ancient gnome.

These are the stuff of mother's nightmares, all brought to me on my google home page, courtesy of Facebook status updates!

Scott did, however, respond rapidlly to my inquiry as to whether he was now caught up in some riot in South America. He said that it's just something the Navy does to its. . . uh. . . employees.

????? WHY? To keep them from eating too much of the ship's food? For entertainment purposes? So they'll know what it feels like? What's next, feeding them to sharks?

And since I have no current photos of my dutiful Navy son, here's a picture of him from our trip last September, in Crater Lake, Oregon. I loved the lighting and I love my son. Following this, he served as our hood ornament for the next of the trip.