Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Gone, but Not Forgotten

Look! Winter is almost gone. Not completely. . . . we have this little patch of snow left:

I went for a walk around my neighborhood, looking for a hint of green, and I found this:

. . . a little patch of chives, growing right next to my house! Nothing else green in the neighborhood, but this--ready to ward off the rabbits once tulip bulbs begin to make their appearance alongside them.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Cherry Blossoms

Being in DC without my Nikon was agony, but it was softened by the beauty of the cherry blossom trees!

I was in DC for a conference, and had very little time to wander about; I would have loved to go along the tidal basin and see the trees. My conference was at the Omni Shoreham and these trees were within walking distance from the hotel.

By the way, did you know that on the DC Metro, the trains can open, pouring a huge mass of humanity out on the platform, but then close before any people are allowed onto the Metro, but long enough for the doors to close on and grab your jacket? It helps to have a few strong hands among fellow passengers who pried the door back open while I did this little tugwar maneuver pulling my jacket back, or I'd have had to return to North Dakota winter-jacket-less. Just thought you'd like to know.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

The Final Five

It's been years since I've attended a hockey game, but this one was so much fun! University of North Dakota played against St. Cloud University's team, at the Excel Center in Grand Forks. Coincidentally, the Excel Center is connected to the RiverCentre, where Doug and I attended a conference on Alzheimer's.

St. Paul, Minnesota (Minneapolis' "twin") is a beautiful city, and this is just a view looking out from the parking garage!

The hockey game was such a fun "circus." I liked watching the game, but LOVED watching the fan behavior, weird fan behavior.

A lot of passion for a little puck.

If you don't hear from me again for a few days, it's not that river waters have swept me away, but I have another conference I'm going to in DC. Sadly, to deal with the luggage issues, I'm not bringing my Nikon; Doug's lending me his point-and-shoot.

I'm trying to brace myself for intense withdrawal, and hyperventilating.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Big F******* Deal! Grand Forks Style & DC Style

Remember my bet with Doug? I bet that we would finally see the Christmas lights this past Sunday. These are the lights on Sunday. . . .

and these are the lights today! Actually, they were visible 3 days before my deadline, and 2 1/2 weeks before we reached Doug's date. So. . . . I WON! I WON!

And some of you asked what it was that I would win, if I won. I won the Grand Kahuna, the best-thing-of-all in a bet with your spouse. I won the ultimate pleasure of. . .

I WAS RIGHT AND HE WAS WRONG!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

And when dealing with dear husbands, that always counts for a lot. Unless we want to change the terms of the bet and let me win a Nikon lens. . . because THEN we'd be talking!

But a real Big F* * * * * * * Deal today was this:

Monday, March 22, 2010

River Crest in Fargo, ND

Doug and I took a little trip to Minneapolis this last weekend, to attend a conference, see a hockey game, and see two of our kids. (It was great!)

The route took us past Fargo Friday evening, south on I-29; and on Friday, there was no problem with this drive.

On Sunday, returning to Grand Forks, driving north on I-29, this is what we saw for miles on miles, in the southbound lane of I-29:

I assure you, I was very happy to be going north, in a dry lane, rather than south, on a river-like road. Having driven through flooded roads in the past, I hope to never have to do it again!

Fortunately, the water is now going down in our corner of the world. And hopefully, Fargo will be a few steps closer to getting permanent flood protection as we now have in Grand Forks.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Rising Temperatures; Rising Waters

That was fast! Just since Sunday, the river has risen 22 feet. I thought I'd take a drive over the Sorlie Bridge today, from Grand Forks, into East Grand Forks, before 2 of the 3 bridges close tomorrow.

Fortunately, the situation seems much more contained than last year, or previous years. Last year tested Grand Forks dikes. . . . and they offered us good protection. We're expecting to be safe this year. All those years of property tax assessments to pay for these walls is definitely paying off!

Fargo, ND, also seems less concerned this year than last year, although their situation could change, negatively, very abruptly.

Grand Forks now has what's considered "permanent" dike protection, and we now only have to put up small flood walls across bridge areas when the water rises.

Fargo never experienced what Grand Forks did in 1997, and so is still in the situation of using more temporary flood protection measures. . . . sandbag dikes, and some of the newer Corps of Engineer flood walls.

This is the same river that I was walking around on a few weeks ago, waiting for the sled dogs to arrive, and practicing with snow shoes. Hard to imagine taking steps out on this now!

We got up to 43 degrees today! Unfortunately, the temps may drop back down to 13 degrees in the coming week--this is good for flooding, but horrendous for our longing for warm weather!

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

This is a Bet I'm Going to Win!

Spring, I'm keeping my eye on you! Doug said it would be 3 weeks before we'd see the solar candy cane Christmas lights along the driveway, put out before Christmas.

It's 36 degrees. I say a week before they make their appearance from under the snow! And I'm waiting for it. . . .

I should run back in the house and get my stopwatch. . . .

Friday, March 12, 2010

Saving CeeCee HoneyCutt , the Nook, Amazon, Apple & ebooks

There's something about this gadget that has made it so much more fun to read--even if it did cause me to fall off of my treadmill, again!

I just finished reading "Saving CeeCee Honeycutt", by Beth Hoffman, on the Nook, and this is another book that I thoroughly enjoyed. It's about a 12 year old girl's life in Savannah, Georgia, after her early years alone with a mentally ill mother.

From the very first pages, this book made me want to cry. CeeCee is living with something that is just bigger than her, bigger than a child should have to go through. Early in the book, though, there's that glimmer of hope of resilience, possible when someone throws a child a lifeline through acts of kindness, and CeeCee is embraced by a circle of loving, quirky, women.

In many ways, this book is very much like "The Secret Life of Bees", a fairly common theme in women's literature, but well-worth re-visiting. And like "Bees", there's a transformative process that occurs for CeeCee, as she makes peace with her past, and is able to come to appreciate the positives of her mother as well as to bear the pain of thinking about and remembering her childhood.

A few people have asked my opinion about the nook itself. It still has some glitches, given that it's a newly released gadget (Nov, 2009). Barnes & Noble is not good at all at communicating with its customers on its message boards in dealing with the problems, and I wonder if it's some kind of corporate stategy; scramble like crazy to fix the problem but don't actually TALK about the problems so that you can maintain some kind of plausible deniability.

The nook has had several software updates, and its latest (early February) greatly improved issues with registering the nook through WiFi, maintaining bookmarks on the nook, speed at which pages turned. The only problem I've run into has been in trying to open one book which just would not load ("Animal Dreams", by Barbara Kingsolver) When this happens on an infrequent basis, the issue seems to be more of a problem with the formatting of the ebook itself, rather than the nook, but still, the book was purchased through B&N!. My fix was to load the book in the file "My Documents" rather than the file "My B&N downloads", but having to figure out a fix for the little glitches can be annoying!

Falling off my treadmill wasn't exactly a nook glitch, though. (Although wait! Maybe it was! Because I was trying to get the "Animal Dreams" book to load when it happened!)

I'm finding that the nook is absolutely excellent for reading on my treadmill or exercise bike. You can hold the nook one-handed, and with this little, smug, practically twitch-of-a-movement of your thumb, turn the page. (One time I was sitting on a plane with an unfriendly fellow passenger, reading my nook, while he read his Kindle, and swear I won the Page-Turn-Contest through my thumb motions. I'm not sure he noticed, though I was indeed feeling smug about it.)

Today, I read in the Atlantic Monthly an article asking whether Apple can beat Amazon in the e-book competition. The nook was not mentioned at all. The author was fairly critical of the Ipad, claiming that it "does a bunch of things, but none of them especially well. You can't read it in daylight, and its battery life is much shorter than the Kindle's" It said the ipad doesn't have a real keyboard, ability to multitask, no phone, no camera. And it's just one more thing to carry.

To me, that would be huge; I wouldn't want another BIG thing to carry in my purse; the nook is the perfect size for portability (and my dangerous treadmill!) I'm also a big fan of the ability to go beyond Amazon's books; only Amazon books can be opened on the Kindle. I can get books (epub format) from dozens of other sites for the nook, and my library just said that they are looking into an Overdrive subscription for ebooks!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Yeah, I'm pretty happy with the nook. Not Barnes and Noble, but with the nook. Oh, and there's that thumb thing. . . .

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Why, Yes! I DO Measure Progress toward Spring by Wine Corks!!!!

Don't you? Because soon I'll want to soak these wine corks in rubbing alcohol to more easily get a fire started in my fire pit. It's been 34 degrees here for the last several days--34 glorious degrees!--which means the snow has been melting and the hint of an outline of the firepit in my yard is beginning to surface!

I know this isn't the fire pit. It's actually a diffuser spreading the fragrance of lavendar oil in my living room; to add to the il(de)lusion of spring in the air.

And look! The path to my car from my front door is no longer treacherous! The ice is receding and I don't have to waddle-shuffle/stretch my arms out sideways to make it down the steps and to the car!

I'm thinking that any day now I'll get to see the solar candy-cane Christmas lights I foolishly lined along my driveway, two days before Christmas. . . . and never saw again:

10 more days to spring!

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Morning Glory Muffins

It's my wonderful friend, Sheila's, birthday!

I took a cue from Celine and made Sheila these Morning Glory Muffins.

Morning Glory Muffins
1/2 cup raisins
1/2 cup cranberries
2/3 cup(s) hot water, boiling
1 3/4 cup(s) white all-purpose flour

1 1/4 cup(s) rolled oats, old-fashioned
1/4 cup(s) sugar
2 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp table salt

2 large egg(s)
1 cup(s) buttermilk, low-fat
3/4 cup(s) packed brown sugar
3 Tbsp unsalted butter, melted
1/2 cup pecans, chopped coarsely

Preheat the oven to 375°F. Spray an 18-cup muffin tin with nonstick spray, or use muffin liners.. In a small bowl, combine the raisins, cranberries and boiling water.

  • In a medium bowl, whisk the flour, oats, granulated sugar, baking powder, cinnamon, and salt. In a large bowl whisk the eggs until frothy; whisk in the buttermilk, brown sugar, and butter. Stir in the raisins, cranberries and the water. Add the flour mixture and stir to just blend (do not overmix).

  • Spoon the batter into the muffin cups, filling each about three-quarters full. Sprinkle pecans on top.

  • Bake until a tester inserted into the center of a muffin comes out clean, 20–22 minutes.
If using mini muffin tins, bake 12 minutes.

Remove from the pan and cool on wire racks.

Try not to eat all of these yourself all at once. Some say it's nice to share, but I wouldn't know.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Alice in Wonderland in E. Grand Forks & on the Nook

Follow the White Rabbit! It's on the Nook (Thanks, Barnes & Noble), in the form of a free screen saver. Actually, it's more than just the White Rabbit (various views); the screen saver actually rotates between the White Rabbit, the bad Knight, Alice, the Cheshire Cat, the very popular Mad Hatter (aka Johnny Dep), and the Red Queen.

And then head over to the Red River Theatre in East Grand Forks, buy a ticket and some cappucinno , and mingle with the White Rabbit.

And then head down the Rabbit Hole to see Disney's 3D Alice in Wonderland:

Doug and I saw this movie this past weekend, and I really liked aspects of the story line, in addition to the fun 3D aspects of the movie. I liked that there's a young 20-year-old female on a quest, being the heroine, and making strong identity choices for herself, rather than just doing what she's told to do. She has to find her own way, a create a self that will work in her world, true to her own vision. (She does stay on plan to fulfill the destiny written in the scroll, but as she repeatedly says, it's HER dream, and she actively makes her own choices, rather than waiting for rescue for from some prince.)

I wish the ending, outside the rabbit hole,in Victorian England, was just a tad stronger, but it's a great way to spend an hour and half! I have to admit, I'm probably going to be on the lookout for real life Tweedledums, and Tweedledees after seeing this, but hopefully there won't be many! Enjoy! Oh, and have fun watching the Oscars tonight.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Now You Bloom??????

I've had this Christmas cactus for several years. And it's never wanted to bloom. No matter what. So I sort of forgot about it, and stopped watering it.

And then it produced one single bloom, right in the middle of all our March bleakness!

There's hope for us all, after all! (except for maybe the weather pixie.)

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Spring is in the Air!

It's almost too exciting for words! It was 38 degrees above zero here today!

I thought it would almost be enough to revive the dead Weather Pixie, but alas and alack--she still appears to be dead!

Last year, during the winter, she also collapsed, but this heat wave should certainly be enough to revive her, don't you think? (Maybe she's gone to the Igloo Bar?)

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Red River of the North: Is this Springtime?

As I mentioned yesterday, we headed down to the river on Saturday, walked around on it, and waited. . .

Can you see them? Also, notice the bridge in the background. In a few more weeks, once the snow melts, it's quite likely that the water will cover this bridge. It would be best if we got OFF the river before then!

Here they come! The first dog sled team and their musher!

These bad boys were part of a 164 mile race, from Halstad, MN, to East Grand Forks, and back to Halstad, on Saturday.

10 dog sled teams were entered, and first prize of the Red River Sled Dog Derby is $1500.

And you thought we didn't know how to party around here! Friends tell me that northeast of here is a bar called the Igloo Bar. It's on a lake or river in the Lake of the Woods area. Lots of people do ice fishing in that area, putting a little ice house directly on the ice, heating it, cutting a hole in the ice, and. . . . well. . . fishing! Apparently, sometimes they like to also hit a local bar, also on the ice.

I'd like to see how they get electricity out to it.

In another couple of weeks, all the houses, bars, and vehicles have to be off the ice, by law. Good law, huh?

Monday, March 1, 2010

Waiting on the Red River

On Saturday, Doug and I headed down to the Red River and waited. We waited ON the Red River.

And it's not every day that, while you're waiting on a river, you huddle close to the fire to keep warm.

I thought the sunset was particularly beautiful from the river.
Tomorrow, I'll show you what we were waiting for.