I'm not sure the Cheshire Cat was smiling with excellence in mind, but he was my personal favorite from the Saint Paul ice sculptures this year. This picture is just a vignette from the entire larger sculpture depicting Alice in Wonderland.
Last year's Saint Paul Winter Carnival melted before the Carnival was done. To add insult to the injury of the melt, the medallion was found almost immediately preventing the die hard enthusiasts from scrounging and digging throughout the city parks. This year is different. Six degree days make perfect weather for snow and ice sculpture preservation. A few extra layers of clothing make the traverse through the cold actually comfortable! I missed the photo op of the man (or woman?) clad in orange ski mask and dark snowmobile goggles complete with head to toe gear. The unisex uniform had to be warm although the strangers walking alongside had no clue as to the true identity of the person within! If you missed the sculptures, here are a few for your enjoyment.
There are two additional holidays in Minnesota beyond the normal national holidays. Minnesotans celebrate the deer hunting opener in the fall and the fishing season opener in the spring. Blaze orange screams from the cars as the city empties and the woods fill.
Am I going? Yep, you betcha! Will I get buck fever preventing me from shooting? Not a chance. Am I excited! Oh, yea! Having spent many years as cook, bottle washer and bed warmer while my family grew and hunted, this will only be my third year in the woods. Being a newbie hunter and a committed carnivore, the hope is I'll bag my first deer!
Saturday is for sport and orange is the sport color of the season in Minnesota.
Many years of my life were devoted to being cook, bottle washer, and bed warmer for the loving husband as he patiently stalked the elusive white tail deer. Our children have grown old enough to now care for themselves on hunting trips affording me a new freedom on hunting weekends. My reward for care giving during their tender years is to finally, in my old age, learn the fine art of climbing into a tree to precariously perch on a seat barely large enough to support my mature back side so hours can be spent hoping to spot a beautiful brown eyed beastie before my feet freeze to uselessness!
It all sounds rather gruesome but there's something about hunting that draws me. Whether it's the silence in the woods which magnifies even the smallest chipmunk's walk to monstrous proportions or having all forms of wildlife come close enough to see "the whites of their eyes", the weekend alone in a cold tree has its benefits. Maybe, just maybe, the attraction is the lack of cell phone and complete peace and separation from the daily grind.
As to the deer . . . they're safe. The pictured target was mine. The two shots were mine. My husband was thrilled when he saw the bull's eye and the first ring shots. "Wow, look at that!" The problem? That wasn't the target I was aiming for. I missed the one I was aiming for by a foot. I'd say my goal right now is to hit the broad side of a barn. Once I accomplish that, we'll narrow it down to a smaller area. Until then the deer have nothing to fear from me!
My attempt at spying on those who write about Bonnie Erickson through my Bloglines' feed, was filled today with references to the creator of Miss Piggy. For many months, references to Bonnie Erickson were only those referring to me. Slowly a famous social worker moved into place on my searches for Bonnie Erickson. In the last month Miss Piggy's creator has obviously taken the spotlight in the media with a multitude of references filling the feed.
Of course, the decrease in references to me might be the result of my month long vacation from blogging. One really does have to write something in order to be noticed. Life, however, got in the way of blogging in October. My hours were filled with work and coffee: many long hours seeking the perfect St. Paul houses for less than $80,000! Between work squeezed a major rehab project, a home rehab project, preparation for hunting (Yes, I admit to the blood lust of hunting!), contractor interviews for a major retaining/support wall project in a rental, more house showings, more coffee, another birthday (Perish the thought!), market doom and gloom avoidance, family member caretaking, research on real estate issues, more coffee, pre-list appointments for next year's listings, new marketing material creation, etc. Oh, and an occasional evening crocheting an afghan in the few minutes before drifting off to sleep in front of the TV. And did I mention, more coffee?
Now that contractors are in place, the loan is closed, the purchase agreements accepted, inspections completed, title work cleared, listings entered in the MLS, and winter soon to be burgeoning, it's time to get back to blogging. It's been fun to take a break, but it's fun to come back refreshed and full of ideas.
I had a bike, a very nice bike, one the salesman 4 years ago said would be just perfect for my needs. Falls from a bike were not part of my life experience prior to that time. Knee surgery changed my range of motion, however, which precipitated the purchase of my four year old bike. The former salesman assured me the cross bar was low enough to get over with my limited range of motion.
After the surgery and former bike acquisition, falling became a scary part of my biking experience. Prior biking experience had been fun, but falling created a torturous apprehension. I LIKE to bike so didn't like this new fear. The increase in gas, St. Paul's bike friendliness, and my desire to bike into my old years precipitated a trip to a different bike shop to buy an "old lady" bike, the bike of my childhood years!
Bobby and Cubs, salesmen at Now Bikes and Fitness, 75 North Snelling, had my solution. They allayed my embarrassment saying these bikes have become very popular (Is that because baby boomers are getting older?). The goal is "to get you moving" according to Bobby.
That flashy green thing in the picture is my new new bike (a Townie 21). Same price tag as the former new bike, but what a difference. Here's what I learned about this bike vs. my hardly used old one:
The seat is behind the pedals instead of over them.
This allows upright posture and the weight to be on the seat providing better
balance. (Not to mention being easier on the hips because I don't have to fold in half to ride!)
The pedals are "flat foot" which means
they don't have those funny pokey things that keep catching on tennis shoes
so old ladies can't keep their feet on the pedals.
The handle bars are not "racing" style, but higher. The rider's center of gravity is over the seat providing more control over steering for those who don't steer with their bodies! This design also makes signaling turns and shifting easier as hands are not supporting any of the rider's weight.
The cross bar is very low and a person with limited range of motion can get their foot over it without a struggle. Starting is seldom an issue to someone "stuck" on their bike. Emergency stops or stops on a grade can be a problem when one can't dismount because the cross bar is too high.
Should the seat be mentioned? Wider, cushier, and better support for that upright posture?
The color is so bright, lights may be unnecessary.
Now with the addition of a sidecar, showing houses should be more economical!
We made it to the headwaters of the Mississippi along with a few hundred other people. This photo shows what is called the origin of the Mississippi today, but it's really a dam built by man in the 1930's to prevent erosion of Lake Itasca into the river. The true headwaters (according to signs posted along the way) is a spring in the weeds that isn't clearly marked. It can be found somewhere in the following picture.
I couldn't help but compare this end of the great river with the southern end in New Orleans. Yes, the headwaters is smaller, narrower, and can be forded by even young children. The thing that most impressed me was the pristine clarity of the water. Even with dozens of people tromping around in the river above this picture, the water was clean and totally transparent. In St. Paul, the water already has a murky color caused by things being carried in the water. New Orleans . . . The best description of the New Orleans Mississippi was coffee with lots of cream in it.
Here are some fun facts about the Mississippi (click on the picture to enlarge it):
A surprise bit of information about Itasca State Park was that a young woman, Mary Gibbs, in 3 short months as park commissioner stood physically and philosophically against armed lumber jacks to prevent the destruction of the Lake Itasca area due to logging. Single-handedly this woman made a huge difference in the ecology of Itasca State Park and managed to preserve a beautiful area for future generations. All this happened in 1903, long before the feminist movement! I couldn't help but smile at the contrast of Mary in her Victorian dress reading in the rustic log cabin she called home.
The Ojibwe culture sees women as sacred keepers of the water, and although Mary was not Ojibwe, she certainly fulfilled the woman's role of keeping the water pristine and renewable for future generations.
The Loving Husband, ever the prepared man, made our reservations long before the gas prices skyrocketed, so we've got to go. Besides, it's Minnesota tradition to camp in the summer!
It will be my first experience seeing Minnesota's Itasca State Park where the great Mississippi originates. They tell me I'll be disappointed. I disagree! Having been to New Orleans to see the end of the great river will make the trip all the more impressive for me as I compare the beginnings to the massive end.
However, I'm trying to tell myself I'll enjoy the trip enough to compensate for the pain of feeding the gas hog that's hauling our camping trailer to the nether reaches of the state! Maybe, just maybe, we'll get by with less than a commission?