Monday, December 30, 2013

Life on a Cold December Day

The Arctic cold rolled back into Minnesota with a vengeance last night. I woke up this morning about 8:45, apparently tired out from both moving and the Christmas holiday time.

The first thing I did was make bread pudding. I had made some white bread that I really didn't like for sandwiches so went looking for a bread pudding recipe. That's always a good thing to do with bread. I got this out of the oven in time to have it with a bit of lunch.

At 1:00 I went over to my old apartment to meet with the property manager and verify the apartment was cleaned to the required
specifications. This took all of about 2 minutes. Turned in my keys and now I'm all done there except for paying for the gas and electricity for another 15 hours or so, as I write. Paying for heating in two apartments these past two weeks has not been fun due to the extraordinary cold weather.

From the old apartment location I headed to the far eastern border of Saint Paul to a library branch there. This branch had some books I wanted as I thought it would be just as easy to go get them as to go to closer branch and go through the song and dance of having them sent to a different place. I headed down White Bear Avenue when done to Byerly's and got some groceries to making a supper on New Year's Eve and then a luncheon on New Year's Day.

Got back to my apartment with enough time to put away the things that needed the refrigerator or freezer. Then I headed to far western side of Saint Paul to the Highland Theater.

I wanted to see Saving Mr. Banks, and after reading the reviews of this film decided it would not be one that my daughter with special needs would truly enjoy. This is a terrific film. Go see it!!!!

After the film I walked down the street to Panera and had a sandwich and then headed home. This travel was all done in light snow with a temperature of around 0 (-18C) all day.

What a joy to come home to my fireplace on a day like this! Love the new place but it still feels more like a place I'm visiting then where I live.

Friday, December 27, 2013

A Walk Around the Block

After a day of shopping for storage items and other things to decorate my new apartment, my daughter and I decided to take a walk around the block to see what's happening in the front of the building (I live on the "backside" along 11th Street while the main entrance and official street address is on 10th Street).

I thought I had glimpsed that light sculpture in front is done. Below is a video of it. The snow looks a funny color because of the effect of the street lights about. Maybe someday I will know more about the why and how of this; right now I'll just enjoy it. Sorry that this has annoying noise. Perhaps traffic going by.

 The other view we enjoyed in our short walk is of the Capitol dome.

More exploration to do on another day. Right now the Capitol will not be big on my list because it is under major renovation.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

A Christmas Evening Walk

When I was in graduate school I met a guy who had grown up and lived his whole life in Los Angeles and was now here in Minnesota.  As the weather began to get colder he asked us at dinner one evening with all seriousness, "Surely when the temperature goes to 32 (0 C), you don't go outdoors?" Well, we had a good laugh and told him that yes we did. That memory came to me when my older daughter and I went out the door about 5 PM this afternoon for a bit of walk to look at lights.

There had been snow overnight and the temperature was about 15 (-9 C) with a rather cold wind in our faces.

We turned the corner on Minnesota Street and headed downhill.

In the next block we saw the door decorations on the condo tower that is a neighbor to my building.

We admired the tree in the lobby of the Wells Fargo building.

 We got to 7th Street and took a right where we encountered some decorated trees and also a snow plow.

We got over to the triangle on St. Peter Street and found these trees

I thought there might be some people at the skating rink by Landmark Center. It was well lighted but absolutely closed.

We enjoyed a view of lights in Rice Park.

Sorry this is so blurry.

We headed up Wabasha Street on our way back to my apartment. The sign in the window of the candy shop said it would be open from 10 -10 tomorrow, so I told my daughter we would be back tomorrow to check it out.

Also discovered the location of a small grocery store. It needs to be checked out too.  And a Walgreen's is there too for items one might want from a drug store. Found one can't drive down a street around the Minnesota Public Radio building, but one can certainly walk through there and save some steps.

So I've begun the process of exploring a new neighborhood. And yes, we do outdoors even when the temperature is below 32!

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Moving Adventure #3 -- Creating Christmas at Home

By working 12-16 hours for nearly the last week, I have managed to get mostly unpacked and most things put into a new places. My younger daughter wanted to do Christmas with her family on Sunday and I almost fainted with the news -- we put it off until Monday evening. My older granddaughter came and helped me again on Monday. She did the decorating while I continued to unpack interesting things such as tax papers and find a place for them.

I did go off on Sunday afternoon to do some grocery shopping, too, for I had planned to let the cupboards get very bare and not have to move much food.

So here's how the kitchen looked by the end of Monday.

Yes, the computer is on the island and may be there often. Wireless makes it easy to "work" anywhere, and now I have a new printer up and running too -- another thing I did this week -- that allows wireless printing -- oh, what a luxury.

On the other side of the apartment, here's how the living room looks.

The wall looks unusual because of how a lampshade on a lamp in the room diffuses the light.

I'm rather amazed I managed to move and to create something that looks like Christmas.

Near where I live, well real near -- a one block walk, is a wonderful restaurant, Black Sheep Pizza. It is named that because the ovens are unusual, at least for this part of the country. This restaurant uses coal-fired ovens and produces pizza very much like what I find in Europe. I already have a favorite -- fresh tomato, green peppers, and kalamata olive pizza. It is yummy.

Because I knew I really couldn't pull off a family meal in the midst of a move I suggested going there. Here's three of my grandchildren at the restaurant.

After pizza we walked the one block back and enjoyed Christmas cookies and a gift exchange.

Today I finally got the dining table empty. There are still "desk" things that need sorting and put away somehow, but at least the remaining work looks possible.

I have the console table somewhat organized too.

My new lease prohibits the use of real candles. So all the candles now have LED lights. I had rather moved in that direction anyway when my younger granddaughter was born and there was again a need to be very cautious because of little ones around.

Many cultures and countries have traditions that happen every Christmas. The US is so multicultural that it becomes hard to know what traditions to celebrate. And I have learned to enjoy holidays by not expecting anything and just enjoying what seems to come along. But when my family was leaving on Monday night I asked my son-in-law if we had started a new tradition with Black Sheep Pizza and he said, "It works for me."

For sure next year should be easier -- at least I won't be moving. Looking forward to having a quiet Christmas Day with my older daughter. The weather outside is a bit frigid as I write, but supposed to be a bit warmer tomorrow. Nice to be here in my new warm apartment.

Friday, December 20, 2013

This Christmas at Mall of America

On Wednesday I took off from unpacking to walk down the street towards the bus. Walking gave me a good view of the outside of my new apartment.
The first full balcony on the top floor of the North Tower (pictured) is my balcony, and now I even know how to open the door to walk out there. The type of lock puzzled me and a maintenance man helped me figure it out. Turns out the door wasn't locked, but it is now!

I also noticed the new fence that recently appeared around the swimming pool area.

I think it is beautiful and at the same time it brings security for any small child being able to get his/her head or limbs through the fence, and it's high enough small children can't climb on it and fall off.

My walk continued to Drivers' Services down the street where I filled out an application to get the address changed on my driver's license. Then I took the escalator up one level and enjoyed a nice cup of coffee at Caribou.

From there I walked through the skyway finding my way to the bus stop on 6th and Cedar. It didn't take too long for a 54 to arrive and I was off to the Mall of America. Being able to take public transit is one reason I moved. How nice to go to a crowded mall during the holiday season and not to worry about where to park!

I found the Mall of America has very subdued decorations this year. In the rotunda there are two large silver trees.

In the hallways there are hanging twinkle lights.

In the corner by Nordstrom's I found large Christmas ornaments.

Nordstrom's itself has more traditional decorations.

Got my shopping done quite quickly, grabbed a bite of pizza, and then made my way back to the transit center and bus to return to St. Paul. Figured how to easily do a transfer which brings me to bus stop within two blocks of where I now live. Great afternoon away from unpacking.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Moving Adventure 2

On Monday the movers arrived at my apartment at 12:30 and we all left there about 2:30. Everything was moved in and the bed set up, etc by 5:30. After that I walked over to the nearby Keys Restaurant and really enjoyed a burger with sweet potato fries. Usually I can't eat a whole meal like that, but I'd really not had anything since an 8 AM breakfast of yogurt and a muffin from the freezer, since the movers were originally scheduled for 10 AM. Snow came on and off that day which made their earlier job that day slower.

Came back and crashed out in my new apartment. First thing I noticed is how quiet is in here -- no more traffic and train noise, although it really didn't annoy too much --but honestly did drive my crazy for about two weeks when I returned from living in Pecs, Hungary where I had a very quiet flat, too.

Yesterday I got up very early and started tackling the boxes for about two hours. Then I walked over to Keys again for breakfast. After that I headed back to my old apartment and moved everything left in the freezer as well as most of the things left in the refrigerator.

Came home expecting Comcast to arrive, and the technician did arrive at about 1:00. He is a terrific technician. Had everything hooked up in about 10 minutes, including putting the key for the modem onto my computer so as soon as he was out the door I was ready for wireless Internet. He also had a the great idea of putting a picture of the key on my phone, where I can enlarge it and so don't have to have to read the fine print!

My younger daughter and my baby grandson then were on their way for a short visit. After they left I tried to rest for a bit, but was hungry, so headed out to find either what was a very late lunch or an early supper. That all disappeared too! But the good news this morning is that I finally found the coffee pot and the carafe and could actually made coffee at home.

Up again very early this morning, and enjoyed seeing the sunrise while sitting along the floor to ceiling window that overlooks my balcony. Even on a winter day it's warm right by the window -- obviously good windows put in.

The building is LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certified so I had been expecting that windows would include insulation to prevent transfer of heat in the summer/transfer of cold in the winter.

I have tried out all the new appliances except for the stove. The cook top is so beautiful brand-new as it is. -- I hate to mess it up. I read the manual for the stove and it said to heat the oven to 400 degrees (204C) and let it run like that for 30 minutes before using it the first time. --oh my! did the smoke pour out and that's how I found that the exhaust fan works quite fine and isn't too noisy.

Love the morning sun that pours into the apartment during the morning. And the sun should rise enough by summer that I get light only and not the sunlight then. With the huge windows the sunlight flows through the whole living room and kitchen. And in the bedroom the floor to ceiling window lets the sun flow through the closet, across the hall, and all the way to the end of the bathroom.

Pictures of some of this later when I have disposed of most of the boxes!

Friday, December 13, 2013

Basketball Adventure

My older granddaughter, who is a senior in high school this year, asked me this morning if I would come to her basketball game this evening. So I set off at about 6:15 PM for the 7 PM game. The school parking lot was really crowded. I found my way to the place to buy a ticket -- oh, sticker shock! I don't truly think I have been to a high school basketball game since I was in high school. I think then the price was 50 cents. Tonight I paid $5.00!

I was surprised to see a game in progress and thought she had given me the wrong time. But then I figured out it was the junior varsity. In a bit of time that game was over and the varsity teams came out to warm up. I thought the evening was going to be long, since my granddaughter's team shot about 10% during the warm-up exercises.

Soon the game was ready to start.

My granddaughter's team
The other team really dominated the first few minutes of the game, with one of them starting the game with a 3 point shot.

I later told my granddaughter I was probably a prejudiced grandmother, but I thought the whole temper of the game changed when the coach put her in. Her hustle as a point guard upset the dynamics of the other team and finally the score became tied.

In the second half of the game my granddaughter's team pulled away to the lead. There were two boys sitting close to me that kept cheering for my granddaughter. I thought I would probably scare them half to death if I introduced myself as the grandmother.

Here's how the game ended.

Flowers in December

Recently I got an electronic holiday letter from former work colleagues. We've not seen each other for years. I replied saying we should get together for coffee sometime. Then I sent another message suggesting we meet for coffee at the Como Park Conservatory so we could see the flowers--definitely a plus with the recent winter days we've been having.

I arrived a bit early and enjoyed the scene of the Como Park Zoo outside the windows of the Cafe at this location.

Soon my friends arrived and we enjoyed coffee or hot chocolate while visiting for awhile. They have kept up with my activities because  read the blog frequently.

We walked through the Conservatory area.Here are two pictures of orchids from the palm area.

The sunken garden is covered with poinsettias this Christmas season.

In what is called the North Room we observed a holiday tea going on as a fund-raiser for the Conservatory. Indeed it looked elegant.

Then we went to the Bonsai Room associated with a Japanese Garden found in this area.

 This fig plant is about 24 inches  (60cm) high. A sign beside it said it has been in trainings since the year 2000.

This particular bonsai shows up better since it is placed against a wall rather than a window. The sign below it helps one to understand the size of the bonsai. The sign identifies this as a narrow leaf fig and explains it has been in training since the year 2006.

While we were enjoying this room, my cell phone rang. I became rude and took this call. It was the moving company calling me about plans for Monday.

 We then wandered back to the exit and my colleagues made their way to the parking lot. I wandered through the gift shop and found some things that would be good for teaching English next summer, but I resisted. That box is already packed!

A lovely afternoon. Spent the evening with a less than pleasant smell as I ran the cycle on the stove to clean the oven! Another thing off the list.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Oh! The Weather Outside is Frightful!

Autumn lingered into the Thanksgiving weekend, and than bang! slam! Winter arrived. It's not just that snow arrived, but how it arrived. It came down on warm streets and then the weather in about 12 hours changed to sub-zero Fahrenheit scale. This means the salt and chemicals that go on the streets wouldn't work due to the low temperature. And the physical principle of cold air taking less volume than warm air went well into operation in the car tires.

This morning I went out to the car garage and entered through the Express door. When I said I needed air in the tires, the young woman at the check-in desk had the air compressor right there and I was out of there in about two minutes.The thermometer in my car said the outside temperature was -3 Fahrenheit ( -19 Celsius).

I came home really appreciating an underground garage!

I looked at the Updraft Blog on the web site for Minnesota Public Radio (MPR). This is prepared by Paul Huttner, a meteorologist for MPR.
According to his blog, right now 66.9% of the United States is snow covered.

Huttner's blog reports that last year at this time only 26% of the continental 48 states were snow-covered.

Still packing for my move next week, and this afternoon decided to carry back the dry cleaner bag to the office along with the gift I had purchased for the Toys for Tots project with which this property is cooperating. Slipped on my shoes and set off. This route is down the hall, turn left, walk to the elevator, take it down to the ground floor and exit the building there, walk across the street to the other building where  the manager's office is located, and replicate the walk in that building. That's when I realized I hadn't really made the mental switch to winter -- I should have had boots on for walking through the snow as I crossed the street!

Here are some views out the door this afternoon.

Everything is snow-covered. Officially we've had 7 inches (17 cm) of snow. What is unusual is to see the river snow-covered. There is enough ice on the river to hold the snow.

Looking upstream I see the electricity generating plant.

The setting sun is lighting up the steam plume from the plant. The bridge span is the north end of what is called the High Bridge.

Looking downstream one can see a view of the city center and the district heating plant. The heating plant supplies much of the downtown area of St.Paul.


Thursday, December 5, 2013

Good things on the Internet

In the past two days I've found myself using or learning about some good Internet resources.

First I tutor math at an elementary school and that program uses Xtramath for program. It was new to me when I started this experience. This can be used by schools or can also be used by parents at home. And kids seem to find it fun. Amazingly, this was put together primarily by volunteers.

Then last evening at a church meeting I learned about VoteSmart. This is almost done by volunteers, too. The primary staff are young adults who work for not much more than minimum wage for two years, supplemented by college age interns who work for only room and board, if I understand correctly. This is a good web site to explore and learn about those who hold political office or are candidates for office.

And then today I attended a lecture at Metropolitan State University about the holocaust presented by Fred Amram, a professor emeritus from the University of Minnesota. Professor Amram was born in Hanover, Germany in 1933 in a Catholic Children's Home. His family is Jewish and when he was born Jewish parents were forbidden to deliver a child in any hospital in Hanover, so the Catholic sisters who ran the Children's Home made that site available to Jewish parents. His whole presentation is quite powerful. He explained he does this type of presentation to give voice to those who died. Look at his web site for more information.

Wow, it's amazing what one can find on the internet these days!

Monday, December 2, 2013

Moving Adventure #1

Today I got into the building where I am moving for the very first time. Here's the view I saw as I approached.

Am I moving into a construction zone? Well, for awhile. This building is being completed in phases. This is a view of what is called the South Tower and I am moving into the North Tower. The old looking facade is the front of the former Saint Paul Police Station.The rest of the building structure is very modern.

I found the door on the north side and had the instruction to call when I arrived. A construction worker was there working on what will be the call box for entry on that side and he let me into the foyer.

Wow! I had no idea the building would be European modern in style.

The representative of the property manager met me and we whisked up the elevator to floor 6, which is really floor 7 because to continue with doing things European style, ground floor is 0!

And here's the elevator foyer on the sixth floor.

My apartment is not too far from the elevator.

Here's the kitchen with about twice the storage space of my present kitchen. Behind where one would be standing here is a very large coat closet, also about twice as large as the one I have now.

The living room area is about the same size.

Should have taken the picture from a different angle. The window light confused the camera, but this makes it possible to see the big door with a lovely balcony outside. The balcony overlooks the courtyard with the swimming pool and green space. I'm looking forward to sitting on my balcony in the spring and watching all the landscaping come together in the courtyard. I figured out today that I can access the courtyard by going down to the second level and then going through a door there.

To make best use of the space the doors to the bathroom and the walkin closet are pocket doors, and the door to the bedroom from the living area is a translucent barn door that slides into the wall. The floor length window in the bedroom was a surprise too.

When leaving I decided to go down to take a look at the garage. I took the elevator to  -1 and then went through the door to the garage, hearing it clicked locked! And I had no key to open it!

Well, here's the picture of the empty garage.

No cell service in the garage to call the office and ask them to rescue me. I stood there for a bit and decided to see if the exit door would work from the inside. So I walked up the driveway and yes! the garage door slowly opened. In fact, it opens enough ahead of time that one won't have to sit and wait for it! But truly I was relieved to get out of this pickle so easily.

Walked around the corner to the Keys restaurant. How convenient to be able to walk out so easily to a good restaurant, most any time of the day!

Meanwhile the place I live looks certainly like someone is moving. It's hard to pack out of a small apartment. Where does one put the boxes?