Monday, January 28, 2013


I have referred to a "social event" in some previous blogs for I didn't want to bore people with what's been going on. My younger daughter is getting married on Wednesday, so I've been dealing with details, details, details.

Yesterday we had a bit of a wedding rehearsal. Suddenly there was a big detail that was a surprise. When planning weeks ago with the venue the question emerged about whether the ceremony would include a Unity Candle. My daughter and her intended both said no. Yesterday in the middle of snowstorm and also a big Winter Carnival event at the venue for the wedding we had a bit of a rehearsal. The pastor handed me a rundown of the ceremony and there was Unity Candle.

So this morning  while the world looking this:

I did some Internet research and then "let me fingers do some walking" until I found a store that had a Unity Candle in stock.

I went to work today for a 1:00 meeting only to discover the correct time was 12:00!

After the "meeting" I went to the store I had found, a place in Woodbury, MN, where I've never been -- not Woodbury, but this particular location within Woodbury. Got the candle and special holders and I must say the price was a surprise too, and that means because it was quite high, not pleasantly low.

But in this same strip mall I found one of my favorite restaurants.

Outside I found Peanuts!


Similar statues are found all over town. Charles Schultz was born in Minnesota, educated in Saint Paul, and did some his first drawing for the St. Paul newspapers. For several years these statues were fabricated and there was a show all over town. At the end of the summer they were auctioned off to raise money for scholarships and a permanent bronze sculpture honoring Schultz.

Back to the restaurant. I really enjoyed a nice coffee break. Yesterday I ordered a book for my Kindle and it wouldn't download so I asked for a refund. Today it worked! Another surprise. And I couldn't finish a piece of pie. Guess I have modified my diet over the past year.

Life is definitely not dull, even though the colors outside are black and white!

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Ice Sculpture 2013

Yesterday I wimped out on seeing the ice sculptures. Then overnight the forecast changed to rain for this afternoon, and if that comes true the ice sculptures won't last too long. So after breakfast my older daughter and I took a walk to Rice Park.

One little sculpture connects to the Crashed Ice event.

Here's the sculpture that received first prize.

This is the first time I've ever seen an arch made with ice, and surely with any warm weather it will come crashing down.

Close to this is a torch of ice with real fire.

The myth associated with the Winter Carnival is that King Boreas is in charge of winter and eventually loses a battle to the Vulcans who use a torch as their symbol. In the "old days" the Vulcans would grab women and kiss them, but with the awareness of the early 21st century about relationships between women and men the Vulcans are now primarily 'decorative.'

Near the torch is an ice throne. Here's my daughter enjoying a couple moments as Winter Carnival Queen.

Above is the sculpture that received 2nd prize. This has a unique feature too. The figures are puppets and if you look closely you can see the strings, again made of ice, coming down from the frame. Amazing work!

Today there is a contest underway for what a sculptor can make out of one ice block. Here's a view of one doing his work.

Hope you enjoy ice in the warmth of your living room, office, or coffee shop while viewing it on your  computer or Ipad!

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Adventures Out the Window

Oh, January is a dull month, but it's getting busier this weekend. It's the start of the St. Paul Winter Carnival.

One of the first events is a race -- yes, a race. For many readers this may sound quite crazy. Who goes out and runs in January!?!

It goes right by where I live.

This kept me at home most of the morning due to the street closure. And then I looked out the window immediately below and was surprised to see this.

In Saint Paul the firefighters are also the first responders for emergency. The ambulance seems to come in this area about once a month and goes to another building quite routinely. My guess there is someone in that building with an uncontrolled medical problem such as asthma. But today the ambulance stopped for my building. What puzzled me is that there were  no sirens. Maybe they didn't do that because the race on the street they needed to use to get here.

My older daughter is spending the weekend with me. We decided to go to some of the Winter Carnival events, but after running an errand I decided the wind was raw and cold, and being outdoors for a couple of hours didn't really sound like fun. Tomorrow may be better.

So my daughter is happy, because we found the U.S. Figure Skating national championship is on TV -- all afternoon and all evening. This is her favorite sport.

Getting tired of clouds and gloomy weather, but the forecast for tomorrow is rain! Rain in January!  And in five weeks I leave for Romania and for sure the weather will be different there -- at least I hope so.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

It's Still Cold

I haven't written much for these winter days are not very interesting. There is a very little amount of snow, which in some ways is a good thing because it makes getting around, either walking or driving, easier. And we've just been caught in a bit of deep freeze.

This is what the thermometer in my car showed this morning about 11 AM, but on other days I've seen -8 and -9 some mornings, and that's in Fahrenheit, not Celsius.

The coming weekend is the start of the St. Paul Winter Carnival. And the Red Bull Crashed Ice is to start tomorrow. Funny thing! Today the news is that the weather is too cold for Crashed Ice. The first runs today were postponed, for the ice was brittle and not good for skating.

In case some readers haven't heard about Crashed Ice, I've inserted a You Tube video from last year.

I'm ready for the "January thaw" even though there isn't much snow to thaw!

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Yes, We Go Outdoors!

When I was in graduate school -- at a time my kids call the dark ages -- I had a friend from Los Angeles who came to study in Minnesota. This was his first experience in a place that had real winter, as opposed to driving for a day up into the California mountains to ski.

One evening at dinner he said, "But surely when it gets to be 32 (0 C) you don't go outdoors." All of us who had lived in the Midwest really laughed. (ROFL -- Rolling on the Floor Laughing had yet to be invented.)

I thought of that today when I looked out the window and dog park very busy with walkers and also saw the tree trimmers.

 The tree trimmers appeared just at sunrise and were at work at 8 AM when the temperature is a balmy 29 (- 1.6C)!

My day includes a bunch of errands, walking to library to check out some CDs, and then later meeting my older granddaughter for tutoring on her anatomy-physiology course. Yes, we go outdoors in the winter!

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Walking Around EPCOT

On Saturday I did a 10K walk at a mall in a northern suburb. At home, my car is parked in an underground garage and it is easy to forget what temperature the real world really is. It was a shock when I got out of the car at the mall. Yes, the weather forecast was correct. A stiff west wind was blowing and the real temperature was only around 13 (-10C). I was glad to step into the door to the mall. I've not been to this one before and didn't find it very interesting. It was more fun to think about a walk through EPCOT earlier this week.

Last Tuesday started out as a beautiful day -- bright and sunny, one of the best I'd seen during my stay in Florida. I decided to spend the day at EPCOT, primarily in the World Showcase. I decided to take the bus to Hollywood Studios and then take a boat over to the Boardwalk for coffee and then continue on to the World Showcase when it opened at 11:00.

When I got off the bus I was right beside a sign that indicated the sidewalk to the Boardwalk and since I'd never walked that before I took off. It is a very pleasant walk. Soon the Swan Hotel was showing up.

And then the Boardwalk shows up looking lovely in early morning sun.

I headed for the Boardwalk Bakery only to find it closed for renovations. There was, however, a tent along the Boardwalk that had beverages and pastries. I got a coffee and a muffin and found a table along the water. It turned out to be an exciting coffee break. Twice, while eating my muffin, the brown bird showed on the chair in the photo below landed on my hand trying to steal the muffin!

Soon it was nearly 11:00 and I took the boat to the International Gateway for EPCOT.

My first stop was in the UK area where I took some photos. Then I headed back through France for more photos.

Next I went into the department store associated with the Japanese pavilion. I was looking at hair ribbons and ornaments for one of my granddaughters. When I turned one over to see how it fastened into the hair, I got a surprise.

Then to Morocco, where I spent time in the exhibit area. During this visit the exhibit is titled, "Personal Adornment," and particularly features the Imazighen culture.

(At home I did a search to learn more about the Imazighen group. I learned there are an indigenous ethnic group located in North Africa west of the Nile Valley. The majority of this group now live in Algeria and Tunisia, but some obviously must also live in Morocco.)

One part of the exhibit was labeled Fantasia. The signage explained these were horse events connected with major holidays. The photo below shows how the horses are all decked out for a Fantasia.

 Another part showed henna paintings.

Here the exhibit signs explained that a bride's hands and feet are adorned the night before her wedding. She is not expected to do any work until all the henna has disappeared. Sounds like a nice custom!

I continued wandering around and ended up in Norway. I did the Maelstrom ride here. Then I continued walking down to Mexico and took the boat back across the lagoon to the Germany area. I walked down to France again. I wanted to have lunch at the Chefs de France restaurant. This restaurant has a wonderful Prix Fixe menu. No problem getting in without a reservation. The crowd size now is quite manageable.

My lunch started with lobster bisque. That was accompanied by a baguette right out of the oven, too hot to even break apart for a few minutes. My second course was a wonderful quiche accompanied by a green salad. Then came dessert.

Oh, so very lovely.

After luncheon I walked back to the American pavilion. I sat down and simply relaxed for awhile and put my nose into a book on my Kindle. At 4:15 the fife and drum group appeared.

Following this I went into the pavilion to attend the show there. This is always preceded by a singing group, The Voices of Liberty. Their song collection is quite patriotic, but below I have captured a lighthearted folk song, Skip to My Lou.

After this presentation the audience moves by escalator up to the second level to enter a huge auditorium. The escalator passage is lined with copies of all the flags that have flown over the United States.

Following this show I took the boat back to the Future World area and walked past Test Track and the Space rides to the Universe of Energy. I was ready for a long sit, and this ride is perfect for that.

Decided to go the Seas pavilion next. Enjoyed my time especially in the small aquarium area. I love watching the sea horses.

Next I went back to the Fountain View cafe and had an ice cream sundae. It was so pleasant sitting out there at sunset in warm weather. Then the fountain went off doing a show. Hang in here with this video. It's gets most interesting around the 30 second mark. 

Then I found a bench to sit on for a bit until it was time to find a spot for the fireworks. Again the Kindle was a great thing to have. And this is my first visit to WDW since WI-FI is readily available. Even three years ago, no WI-FI in the parks and in the hotel the charge was $9.95/day. I knew Disney would have to cave on this issue sooner or later.

Here's a video of some of the fireworks. The show is called Reflections of Earth. A major piece is a globe onto which images are projected until all the fireworks start and fill the sky.

Then it was across the sparkling sidewalk to the exit. It is always fun to watch the little kids when they get to this place. This is the only place to my knowledge that has sparkling sidewalk at night.

It's amazing I have the video above at all because I was having problems with my camera batteries.

Then it was off to the bus and ride back to Saratoga Springs. A long, but very good day at EPCOT.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Monday at the Parks -- Another Disney Adventure

I got a good start on Monday, arriving at the Magic Kingdom before it opened. In fact, my original plan was to go to the Polynesian Hotel and have a good cup of Kona coffee until the park opened. However, after getting off the bus, cast members told me the park was open, so I proceeded, until I found I was all the way to walking through the train tunnel and then prevented from going any further. That's when I'm glad for the Kindle. I found a wall to lean upon and read a book for awhile.

You can see there is a crowd and I'm not the only one staring at something in my hand!

A few minutes before 9:00 a musical group appeared and began performing. You can see them a bit in the center of the photo -- perhaps see a man waving his hat.

Then the first train of the day arrives carrying all of the major Disney characters, and Mickey Mouse opens the park.

A nice part of getting to the park early is that one gets to see things that only appear then.

Here is the omnibus that carries guests up Main Street towards the castle.

And an old car --
or even a fire truck.

I wandered up Main Street towards Cinderella's Castle.
The passageway was full of families ready to go have breakfast with Cinderella. This passageway is very beautiful with mosaics on the wall illustrating the Cinderella story.

I walked past the carousel to the new gates for Fantasyland.

This takes one into an area called Belle's Village. Because it was early in the morning I was able to take a look at the new restaurant in the Be Our Guest restaurant.

It looks spectacular! I didn't eat here this trip. Dinner requires a reservation, and by 10:00 AM the lunch line was long, long, long. I wasn't about to wait in a line more than a hour to order a sandwich! Next time!

I kept walking and exploring and decided to go on the Under the Sea ride. The sign said it was a slowing moving ride. I didn't understand where the entrance was and found a big sign for Ariel's Grotto. The line was short. After a bit I became puzzled. The line was moving one family group at a time about every 30 -45 seconds. Boy! it must be a slow moving ride. Only at the very last minute did I figure out I had gotten into the line for a photo with Ariel.

A nice mistake! When I put this picture on Facebook, one person asked me if Ariel was a statute. I replied, "No, she told me to put my bag behind my back!"

Got back into the right line. Under the Seas is a great ride. Everyone can enjoy it.

By now the oatmeal I had eaten around 7:00 was disappearing. And as I've noted above Be Our Guest wasn't going to be an option so I went to Gaston's Tavern.

 I got a coffee and cinnamon roll.

Oh, this isn't a cinnamon roll! It's half a loaf of bread! Every bite was good, and every bite showed up on the scale, too, when I got home. It was nice to relax and enjoy this new space. The crowds had disappeared. Learned a lesson. If I take my older daughter next year at this time, we will go just a few days later.

When I had been in the Magic Kingdom on Saturday night, the line was long, long, long for Peter Pan even at 10:30 PM. So I headed to get a Fast Pass for that ride.

A surprise Fast Pass bumped out as well for Mickey's PhilarMagic. This show is a 3-D cartoon set to classical music with parts from the legendary film, Fantasia.

Then off to Peter Pan.

One travels in a pirate ship over scenes from this classic story.

Now I was ready for the activities that could take large crowds. I headed towards Frontierland. The day had been hot and cold, rainy and sunny. I kept putting on and then taking off my coat. I found some two-legged visitors who were keeping warm in feathers.

I boarded the Liberty Belle for a ride around the river.

 On the boat one gets a great view of Thunder Mountain.

Then to the Hall of Presidents for the history show.

This show concludes with a presentation of animatronic figures of all the U.S. Presidents. Lincoln gives a short speech. Later in the day I went over to Hollywood Studios to see an exhibit there and found a model that shows the technology inside the Lincoln figure.

Country Bears was next.

Then I went to the Frontierland Train Station and took the train around to Main Street Station. Then I took a launch to the Polynesian Resort.

I still had the Kona Cafe on my mind. I found it easy to get a seat for lunch and truly enjoyed a grilled tuna sandwich. After lunch I took a bus from the Polynesian to Hollywood Studios.

My first stop was at American Idol.

I arrived when one of the producers was doing a warm-up for the crowd. Soon we were seated. I heard someone say, "Oh, they even have the cool steps."
 There were three contestants. Two were young women who somewhat semi-professional singers. The third was a young man from North Carolina, who explained he was at Disney on a senior class trip. It was easy to hear the nervousness and fear in his singing voice, even though he sang quite well. Much to my surprise he ended up winning this session. I think it was because everyone of his classmates voted for him. This was a fun show and I do it again.

I also went to the exhibit, One Man's Dream, to recall some of the history of the building of the Disney theme parks.

I had been on the go since for 10 hours and it was time for a rest. I took the bus back to Saratoga Springs, picked up a sandwich from the restaurant and went back to my room.  A good day.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Lovely Sunday at EPCOT -- Another Disney Adventure

After the 9 AM- Midnight day, I slept in a bit. Great -- sunshine at last. I was ready for a change from cloudy, rainy weather. Took the bus to EPCOT.

The Future World area is arranged with a center area surrounded by three pavilions on each side. To get from side to the other one walks through the Innoventions area.

 I found an exhibit called Think to be very interesting.

What are the tall pillars?

They are tablet computers. What a cool idea! I could envision how these would be very helpful particularly with preschool and elementary age students.

My next stop was the Imagine building.

One thing that often puzzles children is how this waterfall runs backward.

I did the ride there and enjoyed watching kids make music as they ran around.

Next I went to the Land pavilion.

I was on a hunt for breakfast and the food service area in this pavilion is quite good. I ended up with Greek yogurt and croissant berry pudding -- a version of bread pudding. Enjoyed this for breakfast very much. 

Then I did the ride. This ride is about careful use of the land and food production. 

 I was puzzled about why so many people were in the pavilion and then I remembered the Soaring ride is here. I went over to get a Fast Pass -- it was for 2:00 - 3:00 PM. 

I headed to the Seas, only to find the ride was down. Decided to head then to the World Showcase. 

 I took the boat across the lagoon.

France was looking lovely in the sunshine.

Went to the film, Impressions of France. This is one of my very favorites. It shows beautiful scenes of France underscored by music from French composers.

Scene from the movie
It was obvious the crowds are gone. On my previous visit to EPCOT, the line for the French bakery was at least 30 people deep outside the door. Today it was a walk-in.

I wandered around the various pavilions and ended up at China.
 The film shown here about China history and culture is also very interesting and beautiful.

I continued wandering around until is was time for my Fast Pass ride on Soarin', back at the Land pavilion. Can't take photos on this ride. Everything must be stowed below the seat.  One feels as if you are taking a plane ride over California. It is a version of an IMAX film with enhancements. When in a forest, one smells pine trees. Around the orange trees, one can smell the blossoms, and when flying over a river watching the rafters, you are sure your feet will be wet.

Once this was done I wandered back to Canada and watched an Off Kilter performance again.

I then took the boat over to the Boardwalk, still thinking about eat at Kouzzina, after I found myself too late for breakfast there earlier in my stay.

I found dinner started at 5:00, so I wandered around Boardwalk a bit and then went to the restaurant. Oh, the food is wonderful.

Not a very photo -- sorry. My entree was a pastitso, sort of a Greek lasagne, but unlike anything I've ever had before. The meat sauce has cinnamon flavor and the sauce is Bechamal! I asked for a wine from Crete since I have a friend there. Unfortunately, that wine was not available, but what I got was very good too. Because there was no wine that evening from Crete, I was served olive oil from Crete to go with the wonderful bread. Just a great meal! Got me thinking about going to Greece so I could eat like this for two weeks!

It was nearly dark when I left the restaurant. The Dance Hall was looking lovely.

The dolphin behind and above the Dance Hall is on the top of the Dolphin Hotel.

I took a bus to Downtown Disney and then did a short walk to the Lego store. On my first evening I had taken a night photo of the Lego sea serpent, but somehow deleted it. So the walk was to replace the photo.  I'm going to use some of these photos to teach English in Romania and Poland during the coming months.

Got the bus back to Saratoga Springs and then explored the TV a bit to find the public television station. My goal was to see the start of the third season of Downton Abbey. When my waitress at the restaurant asked me about the rest of the evening, I told her about this. She said, "Never heard of it, " so apparently Downton Abbey isn't bit in Florida!

I found a program that highlighted various things about the Orlando area, then a program about Highclere Castle which I really enjoyed, because I had read the book about the real family. Then enjoyed the first two hours of Downton Abbey.

A very nice Sunday!