Saturday, November 30, 2013

Lighting Up the Christmas Tree

On the Saturday after Thanksgiving, Saint Paul lights a Christmas tree in Rice Park. The tree is always a donation, coming from a place where it had to be removed for some reason.

My older daughter and I set out around 3:30 walking up the street, then waiting for a train to cross, and then around the Science Museum and up 5 levels in the elevator there and then out the door to the nearby Central Library where I returned four books, renewed a couple and checked out two more.

We then went across the street into Rice Park. Music attracted us.

We learned later this was the Choo - Choo Bob band, obviously to entertain visitors a bit younger than we are!

Nearby I noticed a toy soldier figure.

 On the right in the photo in front of the toy soldier is a young man dressed in a formal Hmong costume. It is New Year's for the Hmong culture and the nearby Xcel Center was holding that festival. I later learned that about 30,000 Hmong were expected to take part in the New Year's festivities.

And of  course there are some angels heralding a new season.

From here we walked over the skating rink which is opening the first time this season. My daughter loves to watch figure skating so we stood for awhile. The performers were from the Saint Paul Figure Skating Club.

After this we walked into the Landmark Center to see what might be happening there.

We found a toy train exhibit.

 We were enjoying it when a woman standing beside us asked her children to pose for a picture. We stepped aside a bit, and I'm glad we did. One of the children stumbled and fell down backward bringing down the protective ropes around the exhibit and knocking the train off the tracks. The woman never did take a picture; the family just crept away. 

A big chess board took my eye.

Our next stop was the lobby of the Ordway Center where we got a cup of hot cider.

Then we walked over again to Rice Park, thinking the tree lighting was at 5:00. Well, no 5:30. A lot of speeches and some performances promoting various shows at the Ordway.

 I noticed the candle on the side of the Lawson Building was now lighted.

And as it got dark we could see the outline of the Saint Paul Hotel.

It has become a tradition in Saint Paul to outline buildings with the white lights. These stay in place until the end of the Winter Carnival in early February.

At last it came time to throw the switch and 15,000 LED lights glowed and the fire works started going off.

And here's a view of the tree.

A very nice late afternoon up in Rice Park.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Pipedreams at the Science Museum

Today at last I finished a very hard research paper that I'm doing as part of my volunteer research efforts. I decided it would be good for my mental health and physical health to get out for a walk, so decided to return some books to the Saint Paul Public Library. This is about a 10-12 minute walk from my apartment.

The sun was shining, but oh my! It was a wicked wind that was blowing. I should  have worn a hat. I stopped at one of the condo buildings down the street and went inside the entry area to fix the hood on my coat up around my ears. But I made it to the library, picked out some new books and then walked back across the street to the Science Museum and stopped there for coffee.

I was seated by the kinetic sculpture called Pipe Dreams.

 The colors at the top are actually reflections from a nearby exhibit.  And the yellow on the left is a dinosaur foot, part of a huge poster announcing a new exhibit opening in the Science Museum in March.

The information by the sculpture, which has been there since 1999, explains it works off a computer program somewhat analogous to a printer driver.

The above photo is blurry because it is taken through the plexiglass surrounding the lower area of the sculpture area.

The computer program, using the 1 and 0 of all computer programs, opens a valve in each of the pipes and turns water on or off.

The video below shows this just a bit better.

Other interesting designs captured my viewpoint today.

Behind were I having coffee are the ticket booths, with an interesting curved wall over the top. The afternoon sun helped to make the design interesting.

Soon I had to "bite the bullet" and myself walk back home in the cold wind.

The afternoon sun was lighting the housing area in which I live in an interesting manner, too.

The sun was lighting the windows in the historic elevator structure and making the apartment and condo buildings glow. It was quite beautiful. The above photo was taken around 4:30 in the afternoon. By 5 PM it is now dark here this time of the year.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Full-Time Volunteer

On Monday I met another retired colleague for coffee at the Swede Hollow Cafe.

Click on the link above to see the interior of the cafe. As we were walking to our cars at the end of the coffee conversation, I said I didn't miss work a bit, but that I have seemed to have turned into a full-time volunteer.

Last Saturday afternoon I did a two-hour shift at the World Jubilee Sale held at Colonial Church in Edina. That's the experience I wrote about in a previous blog entry.

Meanwhile I'm still working on working on agricultural research for Mano a Mano.

On Tuesday evening I helped make supper at Jeremiah House. Jeremiah House is a large apartment building that provides support for single moms and their children. It provides those with the dream of higher education with the support they need. See the link for way more info.

On Tuesday and Thursday evenings many of the residents must attend a life skills class. Volunteers cook the evening meal, so the moms can come home from school and work and have a good supper with their children and their friends and then make a 7 PM class.

Here is a start -- cheese and crackers and some grapes. There is bread, peanut butter, and jelly in case someone doesn't like the entree which was lasagne.

I brought salad makings. Another volunteer brought pies for dessert.

During the evening I washed a lot of dishes-- not my favorite activity, but this kitchen doesn't have a commercial dishwasher.

This morning I was back at Bancroft School in Minneapolis for my first try as a math tutor. I had only one student this morning, and probably good thing for the online math program, Xtramath, we use wasn't behaving very well. When we get organized I'll have two for sure and perhaps a third one.

This school building is over 100 years old with a "new" addition that is 50 years old!

When I walk on the stairs I can see the footprints from the last 100 years.

Notice the hallway is named Integrity. Values such as Compassion, Cooperation, and Communication are all over this school.

One thing I've never before seen in a school building is a mailbox.

This is no longer in use. I wonder if once upon a time it was a community mail box.

Maybe these aren't the most exciting pictures but I wanted to protect everyone's privacy and not have pictures of others in the photos.

For my international readers--I would love to receive comments about what volunteers do in your countries. 

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Retirement is Tiring!

What does a retired Minnesota woman do on a November Saturday? Well, first of all I woke up at 6:30 ready to get back at doing some of the volunteer research that's on my plate. Read a couple of articles with a cup of coffee along side.

Then a few minutes after 8:30 I left for church and a pancake breakfast. I sat down at empty table and was soon joined by a couple that I have seen many times but never talked with. They turned out to be so interesting and we spent a good half hour talking about our various travels, our former careers. I really enjoyed myself.

This all preceded the annual meeting of the church. And this meeting didn't have anything that was contentious -- a lot of celebration actually at what has been accomplished over the past year.

When done, I headed for Baker's Square for lunch. Then off to the Colonial Church of Edina which was hosting the World Jubilee Sale. I was asked to be a 2 PM volunteer for  the Mano a Mano sales table. I got there about 1:15 actually and helped those volunteers so they could have a bit of break. Then it was all mine from 2:00 - 4:00.

 On the table there were table coverings, finger puppets, sweaters, scarves, coin purses, all sort of things, all from Bolivia.

A few minutes before 4:00 another volunteer arrived. When the sale was officially over, we packed up what wasn't sold and then had to carry one tote box after the other through a long hallway and then out the door.

On my way home I stopped at the airport post office and sent off a package to friend in Atlanta.

I got home ready to put my feet up. This was a great day, but I'm tired!

Remember readers -- it says at the top of the blog things can be mundane adventures, too. And I decided to write this because I have so many international readers -- thank you, thank you. Just wanted you to know how we live -- at least in Minnesota.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Music From Peru

The Friends of the Saint Paul Library sponsored a program by the Rose Ensemble called the Portraits of Peru. I like the Rose Ensemble very much and was excited to find a performance for free at a library.

When the program began, the master of ceremonies told us none of them were with the Rose Ensemble. Well, we should have figured that out because the Rose Ensemble is a choir group. We learned these were the instrumental musicians helping the Rose Ensemble with the programs they are doing in the next few days. As the program developed we learned the musicians specialized in music from Spain and Latin America. They come from Pittsburgh, New York City, Atlanta, Boston, and Melbourne, Australia.

We learned the Peru program is based on the Trujillo Journals. These journals come from 1780. At this time the bishop in Trujillo, Peru was ordered to do a "visita" around Peru. Among the people who traveled with him was an artist who did 7 watercolor journals.

The master of ceremonies, who is a faculty member at Wellesely College, showed pictures from the journals to help us understand a bit about the culture of that time, but primarily to help us see musical instruments from that time. The particular scene below was something about devils trying to scare a saint, and is only one piece of a much larger picture. Primarily the speaker wanted us to see the instruments.

Most of the musical instruments of this time came from Europe and primarily Spain. But each musician took the time to explain how their 18th century instrument was different from the modern one we would see in an orchestra today. 

The instruments that didn't come from Europe were primarily percussion. These came from the indigenous people -- for example, a shaker or what we call a maraca in Mexican music. Peru had African slaves, and, just like in North America, the drums which had become important in many African cultures were forbidden. So the African slaves made percussion instruments out of other things. In the watercolor above the musician on the right is tapping rhythm on a small wooden box.

An unusual way to do percussion is to use the harp.

In the photo above the harpist is playing the melody by plucking the strings, and the percussionist makes a rhythm by tapping on the wooden base of the harp with his knuckles.This is not made-up in the 21st century. Indeed the watercolor journals of 1780 show someone doing this exact same thing.

Below is a video of one musical selection. It features only two members. The flute type instrument is played by the master of ceremonies/professor. He explained that while traveling in Peru a couple years ago he recorded the song on his I-phone and then came back to the United States and transcribed it.

The video below shows the entire group playing together.

What a lovely splendid time we had!

Monday, November 11, 2013

Celebrating St.Martin's Day in Saint Paul

I happened to check the web site for the Landmark Center this past week and learned that there was to be a St. Martin's Day celebration there on Sunday. I've been curious about St. Martin's Day's for two reason. First, people I know in western Poland talk about this celebration and people in eastern Poland tell me they've never heard of it.

Then when I was in Hungary, I was asked to attend a scientific conference in Sombathely. We arrived there in the late afternoon and by the time the evening meal was done, darkness had fallen. The university staff took me to my "accommodation" Walking inside it appeared to be a small hotel. But as I walked to the hallways, I noticed all the pictures were religious. When I opened my door I found only a small bed and crucifix on the wall. I thought I had landed in a convent! The next morning, in daylight, I got out for walk and discovered I was in a hostel used for the St. Martin's pilgrimage tour that wanders through Germany, the Czech Republic, Austria, and Hungary -- and maybe some places I don't know about.

Sunday started out beautiful.

 This lovely view from my living room window on Sunday morning.

So I was off to the Landmark Center in the late afternoon. By then the clouds had rolled in along with some wind. This was my first trip for this approaching winter season with a winter coat, and I was glad I had chosen to wear that. I stopped first at the public library by Rice Park and checked out some paperbacks. Then I walked across Rice Park and into the Landmark Center. I found everyone scurrying to get things set up-- the gift shop tables and the food booths.

The space, even though very large, got crowded very quickly. I think most in the audience were the proud parents or grandparents of students who attend the Twin Cities German Immersion School. This school, along with the Germanic-American Institute, were the day's sponsors.

The mistress of ceremonies explained she came to the United States from Dusseldorf and was determined to get a St. Martin's Day celebration started here. She went on to say that in Dusseldorf about 50,000 people would be expected in the city center for the celebration. And that this celebration was now being held at Landmark because the previous celebrations had now outgrown the school building.

I saw dancing.

The one immediately above involved dancing with some wooden swords. Then the group made a square with the wooden sword and one girl climbed up and stood upon the structure. It made me think of a Finnish dance that I had seen while living in Pecs.

The second graders sang some songs and acted out two legends about St. Martin. The first was based on the story of his sharing half his clock with a beggar. The second is about St. Martin hiding in a goose coop to avoid being found and declared a bishop. Certainly second graders can make a lot of noise when they are supposed to be geese!

Lanterns seem to be a prominent part of a St. Martin's Day celebration in Germany. Some older girls did a lantern dance.

 This dance featured the music of John Lennon's, "Imagine." Thought that a wonderful choice for a cultural celebration.

 The program closed with an adult choir singing some songs. Then everyone was preparing for a lantern parade. That sounded great until I went outdoors and met the stiff north wind. It was cold! I started to walk back home, stopping first at Caribou along the Mississippi River to warm up with a cup of coffee.

Recently I had visited my younger daughter's family and my son-in-law was talking about going sledding soon. My younger granddaughter said to me, "You have to get me a new snow suit. I got too big for my pink snow suit." I thought it was funny how she said it, because usually we say the clothing got too small. But she was absolutely right, it is the humans who change size, not the clothing!

So I shopped and was delighted to find something perfect, first on a 50% price reduction sale, and then I applied a 30% coupon and got a good deal. I had planned this for a Christmas present, but my daughter said it would be probably be needed sooner.

This morning I checked the Weather Channel on my phone and found it was 24(-4 C). Brrr! And a few minutes later a text message arrived saying they all would like to pick up the coat today. So they arrived soon. Perfect! A new warm coat for St. Martin's Day.

Background is messy because I'm still working on a paper that I'm writing as a volunteer researcher. And starting to sort and pack to move at the same time.

My daughter asked me about a storage container that I don't want to move. She took it along with her, and then a few minutes later came a text message saying she had loaded the kids into the van and was in hurry and left the container sitting on the grass. I went downstairs and looked both along the front and side streets, not knowing where she had parked, and it was gone already. I hope in the spirit of St Martin's Day it has found a good home.

So that's St. Martin's Day in Saint Paul. 

And now I'm off to donate 5 pairs of eyeglasses that "don't fit me" anymore. Amazing how things pile up. Moving it good!

Saturday, November 9, 2013

It's Beginning to Look Like Christmas

During one of the recent warm November days I was driving down Summit Avenue here in Saint Paul and noticed people and equipment for holiday decorating in a yard. I thought that the warm November would probably produce a lot of holiday lights this year. It's much more fun to decorate outdoors when it's 45 (7C) than when the temperature is 0 (-17C) and one is wading in snowbanks!  But I was even prepared for this when driving down the same street after an evening meeting.

Took a video too. Watch the tree.
Continued on to the grocery store and discovered the area that a few days before that was decorated with gourds and pumpkins now featured pine boughs.

When one enters this store, the first things seen is a florist area and then sort of a gift shop area. The gift shop had certainly turned over from Halloween to Christmas. Good luck finding anything decorative for Thanksgiving!

While thinking about all this, I ran across a story on the internet about how people is London began complaining that the Christmas decorations were coming out too early -- in 1912! So I guess this is nothing new.

Yesterday I made a trip to Target and yes, it's Christmas there too.

But I must confess I've been waiting for Target to change over from Halloween from Christmas. In preparation for my move next month, I've been wanting to get a storage contained for Christmas things, in Christmas colors, so that when I arrive at the new place, I'll know immediately which box to look in for decorations or gifts. And I got it.

But this morning I did some preparations for Thanksgiving pies!

Monday, November 4, 2013

Walking Lake Nokomis

 Last Saturday was such a beautiful day and since it's November, the time is being limited to sunshine and temperatures nearly 50 (10 C). I decided it would be a good idea to get out for walk. I decided to go the Lake Nokomis walk again, one I did in September 2012. Driving to the start showed I wasn't the only person with the idea to get outdoors. There were many people walking and biking around the lake, and I saw, too, quite a few dogs walking their people -- that's what I call it when the dog is on a leash about 10-15 feet ahead of his/her human!

This walk starts from a Caribou Coffee shop is a pleasant residential area. I asked for the Walk Box and was given it quickly, but obviously it had been in area where coffee on it -- some of the papers inside were wet! I enjoyed a coffee and piece of cinnamon bread while I did the paperwork for the walk and reviewed the map.

It appeared this coffee shop was a place that dads in the neighborhood enjoyed on a Saturday afternoon. They were enjoying their time and some little girls were having a fine time playing in their "princess" dresses.

I laughed too at the napkins which invited us to have "fancy" coffee.

The detail on the napkin made "lace" around the coffee cup.

At last I started out walking east along Minnehaha Creek.

I like how the angles of the sun in autumn help to create reflection images. The creek depth looked like my ankles might wet, but not my knees, but I surely didn't try for real. When I got to 22nd Street, I crossed over to the path along Lake Nokomis.

This year I learned the original name of the lake was Lake Amelia. When the Minneapolis Park Board purchased area around this lake to create a park, the lake was renamed to Lake Nokomis after the grandmother in Longfellow's poem, The Song of Hiawatha.

The day was beautiful for pictures of the lake.

The dock looks lonely because the Park Board has pulled in the part along the shore to store it for winter. The Park Board is also warning us.

Certainly the ice is not safe; right now we call it water!!

Along the lake, too, I saw some geese.

Actually there were hundreds.

The walk continues along the lake until one reaches CedarAvenue. Across the street, the path continues along an area called a lagoon.

It wasn't until I got home and did a internet search that I found a reason for this. The lagoon was designed in the early 20th century as place to store water in order to keep Minnehaha Creek flowing when the weather is dry, so that water is always moving over Minnehaha Falls.

The trees were giving us all a red carpet for our walk.

Eventually the path crossed over Cedar Avenue again and I walked along the southeast corner of the walk. Altogether without the detour along the lagoon, the path around the lake is 2.7 miles.

On the southeast side, too, I became close to the MSP airport. Planes were taking off about every minute.

It's a bit unusual for departures in this area, but I've surely landed over this area many times.

I noticed a grassy area that was covered easily with 200 geese. Then a car stopped and two young boys got out and started out to chase them. I had mixed feelings about that. I didn't think it was nice to chase them; on the other hand, I don't much like the geese. There are way too many and they an awful mess with their droppings all over the place. 

Turning towards the north I enjoyed this view of  willow trees along the lakeshore.

When I got around this area I found a sign explaining this was part of a Shoreline Habitat Restoration Area. The idea is to turn the lake shore from being an area that looks like a lawn for a house back to native shoreline plants. This has purposes such as controlling erosion and protecting water quality, but I laughed when I saw the last line, "As a bonus, discourage nuisance Canada geese."

Walked back to the coffee shop, had another cup of coffee while I rested a bit. A very nice walk on an autumn day.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Beautiful November 1

After a couple days of rainy, cloudy weather, this morning dawned with beautiful sun. That in itself is great, but better yet-- it's November 1 and the temperature in the afternoon is around 50 degrees (10 C). I've seen freezing weather and snow on this date in some years.

I had an appointment in the morning and found the drive there beautiful. The sun and the light this time of year is special. I went to D'Amico's for lunch after my appointment and then got a few groceries.

When done I decided a few pictures were definitely in order to mark this day.

First I stopped along Summit Avenue, a street I am privileged to several times during the week. Summit Avenue is part of two National Historic Districts because of the beautiful homes there with outstanding architecture.

I first stopped to take a photo of this lady:

She is made out of a tree trunk. It is not uncommon for something like this to be done with a large tree trunk when a tree must be removed, for example, due to wind damage. If I remember the story right, the home owners here knew that was what they wanted to do, but the tree service got it wrong and removed everything. The home owners had to recover the trunk and bring it back home. That's why this lady is set on a pedestal, rather than being rooted into the ground. I enjoy seeing this lady as I drive along Summit. Sometimes in the winter she even puts on a beautiful coat!

Near the lady is the Minnesota Governor's Mansion. This house was gift to the state of Minnesota by Clotilde Irvin Moles and Olivia Irvine Dodge in memory of their parents, Horace Hills Irvine and Clotilde McCullough Irvine. This mansion is used for official events held by the Governor. One I recall is when Governor Perpich invited Gorbachev to Minnesota. Sometimes the Governor lives here and sometimes the Governor chooses to live elsewhere.

Here's a view of part of the house; it's so large it's hard to get a good photo.

As I was walking towards the mansion, I noticed how beautiful is the Minnesota flag against the fall red tree.

 Here's a view too of how the trees appeared across the street.

Here are pictures of other houses along Summit. In total there must be at least 100 so I simply chose a couple of nearby houses to show a sample of what's along the street.

Not all the houses are stone. Below is a wooden one.

I took a bit of swing too into Irvine Park. Yes, it's the same Irvine family as mentioned in the Governor's mansion. Before Summit was developed, the large houses built by the wealthy families were in Irvine Park.

This all looks different from the view on my blog you may find on the December 6, 2012 date.

And then I drove down the Eagle Street hill and parked in the Upper Landing Park area. I walked across Shephard Road trying to find the view I had seen driving up the hill earlier in the day. Couldn't see if from the sidewalk. Thankfully, the traffic was very light this time of day and I was able to run across the street and stand in the median and get this view of the Saint Paul Cathedral bordered by fall trees.

Enjoy, enjoy!