Saturday, February 22, 2014

Beautiful Snow

In my February 20 blog I complained about yet more snow. Today was my first trip out since that snow arrived. The driving is probably characterized as fair, certainly not good driving conditions. One had to be careful about where to stop on an incline so there was a chance for moving again, for example, after the light turned from red to green. The streets are bumpy too with compacted snow, although the snow plow services have been valiant. However, there is only so much one can do in 24 hours after 10 inches of wet, wet snow.

But oh my! Did it ever create beauty. Trees, fences and buildings are covered with snow.

My first destination was a meeting at my church. Once inside I was intrigued about how the windows in the meeting room framed the outside views.

 This is a side view of the front entrance to the church.

The window over the book stall framed more views of the beautiful trees.

Hope you enjoy these views of winter, especially if you live in a place where snow is novel.

And speaking of beauty, here's a view of the Crashed Ice area.

This picture comes from the web site for the Pioneer Press but there is not credit for the photographer. The course winds in front of the St. Paul Cathedral and then heads down a long hill towards the business area. The course is about 400 meters long. Please see the posting below about Crashed Ice if you have not already done so.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Crashed Ice Weekend

It's Crashed Ice Weekend in Saint Paul. This is the third year one of these events has been held here. The video above is from 2013. I'm close enough to almost walk to see it, but the temperature is now falling again below 0 and I mean 0 in Fahrenheit. So I'm simply trying to remember that the streets I normally drive are closed this weekend. It's too cold to stand outdoors and watch this.

And I just heard on a local TV segment that this is definitely a "severe" winter here. It's the ninth coldest since records started in 1873 and the coldest winter in 35 years, so perhaps I'm not a wimp.  We've had 44 days when the temperature did not reach 0 and we may add a few more in the coming 10 days. Also this same segment showed a map which showed the rest of world is having the warmest January on record! We are undoubtedly unlucky with the polar vortex!

While my daughter and I were at Disney World we overheard a woman who lives in Virginia say on a bus that her husband would not go outdoors if the temperature was 40 degrees or below (easy conversion to Celsius --that's 4). Right now I'm studying and writing about climate change and one important thing to understand about climate is that people in different climates have different ideas of acceptable climate.

So let's just Crash Ice!

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Snow,snow, snow!

Oh, will this winter ever end? What we've missed is a January thaw. Without that the snow is really piling up. Now we are getting more, and after this snow has ended the temperature is about to go to single digits or even below zero again for a few days.

I had a medical appointment this morning and took the bus to and from, not knowing exactly when the storm would roll in. Also this was an appointment for my eyes and I didn't know for certain how much my vision might be compromised. The last time I did this I sat there in the waiting room for about an hour allowing my vision to return to normal before attempting to drive a car. This time all I had to do was walk across the street and hop on the bus.

I returned about 11:30 and the weather was turning to light rain. About 4 PM this afternoon it turned to snow.  I just looked out the balcony door and decided to try for a photo which appears below.
The balcony railings, fence, and support cable are coated with this wet snow. The slightly brown red cast comes from the neon red 1 which is on the top of the 1st National Bank Building. What looks like a vertical light in the middle of the photo is actually a billboard, set to display on the nearby freeway.

A friend reminded me this evening I will soon be out of the snow. Yes, in about two weeks I'm leaving to spend a week in the Southern Hemisphere.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Walking at the Mall of America -- Again!

The temperature for yesterday, February 18, was to be somewhere around 40 degrees ( 4 C). That's like 50 degrees warmer than some recent days, and I wanted to get outside and do something. However, the day before we had received a rather substantial snowfall and I thought the walks and trails might be quite snow covered or else with the temperature very slushy, and I didn't want to do a long walk wearing boots. So I decided to do the walk at the Mall of America.

The walk box for this is at the Country Inn and Suites across the street to the south from the Mall of America. When I pulled into the parking lot I was amazed at the amount of snow -- the area to the west of us had received even more snow. Right now for snow fall, the Twin Cities are lagging just a bit behind New York City, which I assume makes New York City quite a mess with more than 50 inches of snow this winter.

I walked into the Mall about 11:30 and was amazed to see some many little children. Then when I got around to the rotunda I figured out why-- it was Toddler Tuesday.

The rotunda had tables set up for craft projects for little ones. Never had seen Toddler Tuesday before.

My goal was to do 7K on this walk. My distance book was sitting at 828 kilometers and I wanted to even it out for easily adding 5 or 10 K for a number of future walks. Walking in malls is not my favorite activity; I find it rather boring, even though one can window shop or really shop at the same time. And since it was lunch time and I was hungry walking was even less delightful.

I noticed how easy it would be to stop at Ruby Tuesday, since there is an escalator right beside it that takes one between the second and third levels. So I finished a round on Level 2, went up to Level 3 by the rotunda and then came down the escalator at Ruby Tuesday. I had never eaten there before, which was another reason for picking this restaurant.

When I saw the menu I thought perhaps I had made a mistake, because it leaned towards many dishes with shrimp, not my favorite. Then I noticed a dish with sirloin steak which sounded good...

and it was!!!

On a walk by Columbia sporting goods store I found interesting signs.

First I noticed the company supports the Canadian Freestyle SkiTeam. Then in another couple steps I found this sign..

support for the U.S. Freestyle Ski Team and finally...

support also for the Russian Freestyle Ski Team.

Around on Level 3 I found this VW

This is part of an exhibit for Barbie House, which I made no effort to find.

Looking up I found an airplane.
 This is part of the decor for a restaurant on Level 4. This picture doesn't give one much for reference as to the size. This is not a toy airplane. I think it could surely fly outdoors.

So I did find a few new things at the Mall of America.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

A Day of Errands

Well, the information about this blog mentions the word mundane, and today was mundane, a day of errands. I first went to the Metropolitan State University Library and checked out a number of books related to a research project I'm doing for a wonderful non-profit agency, Mano a Mano, located here in the Twin Cities as well with counterpart organizations in Bolivia.

Next I went to the credit union to deposit some checks and to get some papers notarized. I am the guardian for my older daughter and have to annually file a report with the probate court. Some of the papers require my signature to be witnessed and that is what notarization is all about. I've become aware through my travels that notary is used differently in other countries.

My next "errand" was what would be called in Poland, second breakfast.

Then I went to a nearby T-Mobile shop and got my phone plan changed so that I have international service on it. I later sent a text message to an individual in Poland and I'm waiting to see if was received. I will give the phone a good text, too, when I go to Bolivia next month. I told the shop attendant I was wise enough, however, not to expect the phone to work from on top of an Andes Mountain! Then I begged for them to do something about Lincoln, NE, which is a dead place for T-Mobile.

I then went to my hair salon for a re-do. The humidity of Florida made to realize I had too much hair!

My next errand was to a nearby grocery store. Only three months to wait until the grocery store opens in my building, and I can just go downstairs and walk across the parking area and be at the grocery store. I'll probably go everyday!

My final errand was to the car insurance office. I received a phone call about two weeks ago about coming to a defensive driving course on a certain date, but realized later there was no mention of where or what time of day.

Back home to relax and enjoy reading one of my mystery novels, and then back to reading about the Little Ice Age, a climate change in the 13th-15th centuries that seems to have missed most of our attention.

And I'm enjoying bright sunshine now nearly at 5 PM, when just a month ago it would have been darkness now. Spring will come. With a south facing set of windows I can watch the sun move through different areas of my apartment. Waiting impatiently for the snow to melt off the balcony so I can finally walk out there -- perhaps next week when we have some days with a forecasted temperature in the 40s.

So here's to mundane. Have to do some these things sometimes so the other days can be fun and adventurous!

Monday, February 10, 2014

Disney Adventure 2014 -- Day 7

The weather forecast wasn't good for this day either. It was cool and quite rainy. We decided to have breakfast and then see what the day would bring. Below is the breakfast omelet which became of our favorites. Here is mine with Swiss Cheese and tomatoes, potatoes, and a southern biscuit.

We did go to the Magic Kingdom. The first thing my daughter wanted to do was to ride the train, so we up the stairs to the train station.
Well truthfully, I like the trains too. What I miss now is that train no longer stops at Fantasy Land to add water to make the steam. That whole process must be done elsewhere now. We did get off in Fantasy Land. Our first stop was as Fast Pass + station where we got three fast passes for the day. Then we noticed another circus tent and found it was a place for pictures with characters. In this one, the characters are performers in a carnival sideshow.

Here's my daughter with Minnie Mouse who has a poodle act in the circus. Notice the poodles on stands behind Minnie.

 Then we started towards Adventure Land making a stop first to ride Small World again. We arrived at the Jungle Cruise for our Fast Pass time. Because it was raining, the cast members did small loads to the boats so that everyone was under the roof of the boat out of the rain. This is always a fun ride.

Our boat captain was full of "bad" Disney jokes. Example: Why is Cinderella so bad at soccer (futbol as most of the rest of the world calls it)? Answer: Because she always runs away from the ball.

Our next stop was Pirates of the Caribbean.

I always enjoy this scene of the prisoners trying to convince the dog to bring them the key which it holds in its mouth.

We went to the Tiki Room show, surprised to see there isn't any longer a pre-show outdoors. We also rode Aladdin's Magic Carpet.
 This ride is fun on a hot day -- then the camels spit water. On this day, when the temperature was in the low 50s, the camels were quiet and well-behaved.

We then tried to have a bit of food break in the Pecos Bill restaurant. Never again! This one is too big and too unorganized. It took us five minutes of wandering around from room to room to find the place to order food. Then when we had done that, the attendant wanted other customers ahead of us to pass back the order to us -- without a tray even!

By now we were up to time for a Fast Pass for Dumbo, so across the park we went. After that we went to the Laugh Floor.

We did another round on the People Mover -- yes, I know it has another name, but it used to have this one!

Then we did a long wait to ride the Winnie the Pooh ride one more time.

My daughter wanted to ride the Carousel and the line wasn't long. This happy face says it all about being at Disney.

  We wandered back to Peter Pan to use our last Fast Pass.

By this time we were interested in having a good meal. It had been a long time since breakfast. But to keep the adventure going, we took the boat to the Wilderness Lodge. We asked about having supper at the Whispering Canyon Cafe and they told us it would be a wait of 2.5 hours. That wasn't on our agenda, so we went down to Roarin' Forks. Each of us had a very good sandwich.

Then we took a boat back to the Contemporary Hotel, where we caught the resort monorail around to the Magic Kingdom and then walked over the bus area. Our Old Key West bus arrived in about 30 seconds. Great timing. We were soon back in our room watching the Olympic Opening Ceremony -- the first Olympics I've seen since 2008, if one doesn't count trying to watch the 2012 opening --which was a little bit hard to understand, particularly with only commentary in Polish!

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Disney Adventure 2014 -- Day 6

We awoke to cool weather -- at least for Florida-- and with threats of a rainy day. We moved slow and finally got to the bus stop and went to Olivia's for breakfast. Our waitress looked at my daughter and said, "Omelet plain with cheese?" She remembered us from another day, and she was right. My daughter had found the omelets to be her very breakfast favorite.

We took the bus to Animal Kingdom and walked slowly toward to the Asia area. For the first time I saw the Green Lady. Yes, she has a better name, but what it is escapes me.

Look carefully and you will see this is more than a vine crawling up a pole. 

Our goal this morning was the Finding Nemo- Musical. I had never seen this show and wow! the puppet work is absolutely amazing. 

 The above is actually a puppet.

This show is being done because Disney has closed down Lion King for six months while that theater is being relocated somehow to the Africa area. The area where Lion King has been presented is being turned into an Avatar area. 

After this we walked into Dinoland and did the tricerptors ride. 
 We were headed to Asia again for the bird show when we got sidetracked to go visit Pooh again. 

When we finally found the bird show we had 45 minutes to wait -- and since it was a bit rainy, standing around didn't seem like a good idea. So we went to It's Tough to be a Bug show. 

In this line we became a worker for Disney for a few minutes. Several times we've been handed a tag like this to give to the very last cast member we see in a queue for a ride or attraction. This person scans it and that updates the wait time for the attractions.

After the bug show we went to try the safari again. On the way we enjoyed these musicians. 

I wondered if we would see animals on a rainy day, but we certainly had some luck. 

I like the giraffes and they were wandering all over the road. The safari truck has to stop for them and one can get some good pictures. 

Saw the white rhinos quite well too. 

The rain seemed to be coming down more seriously, so we headed back to our resort and had a late lunch there. My daughter was wanting salad so she chose that with spicy chicken soup. A good lunch for a cool, rainy day. 

 We went back to our room for a rest. Then my daughter wanted a milkshake and that wasn't on the menu at Olivia's. So we took the bus to Downtown Disney and went to Ghiradella. 
We looked in the World of Disney show and then headed back to the bus stop. This particular bus stop serves about five different resorts and is confusing the first time one uses it. Also there were people at this stop from several other countries. Mobile phones are a blessing. They could pull up the name of their resort and I could show them the line to stand in or gather information for them. 

We watched a bit of the first Olympic broadcasts in our room. A nice day at Disney.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Disney Adventure 2014 -- Day 5

While we were waiting for the EPCOT fireworks, I asked my daughter what she wanted to do the next day. She said to come back to EPCOT so that is what we did on Day 5. Elena had eaten some doughnut holes and drank some orange juice in the hotel room while I had nothing.

Disney is implementing a new system -- Magic Bands. This serves as our park ticket and I can also use it for any food or souvenir purchase. If we get Fast Passes they also are on the Magic Band, and anyone who uses the Disney photo services can also the photos somehow that way as well.

We have had problems with the Magic Band every time we enter a park. For awhile mine would work, and my daughter's would not. Then yesterday my daughter's worked, but mine didn't. When this happens the gate attendant raises his/her arm and someone comes with an I-pad and scans the Magic Band and then we can enter the park. Yesterday the person with the I-pad said something like, "Oh new technology, which we really love." You have to hear a bit of sarcasm in her voice.  Coupled with this all is a new phone app which I can make work for maps and finding waiting time for attractions, but can't make work for doing our own Fast Passes or making meal reservations. I have complained about the fact that all I see on the computer whether it is morning, noon, or night is that the "server is too busy." One cast member told me Disney is building more server farms, and I expect over time the kinks will work themselves out.

Just inside the park we found the Jammitors.

Our first stop at EPCOT was the Universe of Energy. The attraction features Ellen DeGeneres have a nightmare that she is on the Jeopardy game having to answer questions about energy.

So in the course of the ride we all learn about energy, but I think what most people like best is going back to the time of the dinosaurs.

 After this attraction we went to the Plaza Cafe and had coffee and very good breakfast sandwich.

We walked to the Land pavilion and did the Listen to the Land Ride.

Part of this attraction shows how food is grown. This time I noticed two people cleaning the tanks in the aquaculture area.

Someone had left us a joke in the green house area.

 From the Land we went to the Seas building and did the Finding Nemo ride. Then we went to the Crush show. This show features Crush, from the Finding Nemo movie, talking to guests in the theater. By talking I mean carrying on conversations with guests. I enjoy this show very much and still haven't figured out exactly how it's done. Crush is an animated figure, but his facial expression changes as he speaks to match the conversation.

My daughter had spotted the monorail going above EPCOT, and since the monorail is one of her favorite things at Disney she was ready to be done with EPCOT. So we rode the monorail over to the Ticket and Transportation Center. I was planning to then transfer to the Magic Kingdom monorail and go to one of the resorts in this area for lunch. When coming down the ramp, a cast member was there telling everyone that the fastest way to get to the Magic Kingdom was to ride a bus since one ferry boat was also down. I asked about the resort monorail and it was still down for maintenance. So we took a hike to place that provided us a bus to the Polynesian Resort.

We went to the Kona Restaurant.

My daughter had fish tacos (above) and I had a plate lunch (see below). The plate lunch really made me think I was in Hawaii.

Then we splurged on a chocolate fondue for dessert. We got strawberries, pineapple, and kiwi on a plate, along with a couple of yummy cookies. Then the waiter brought us another plate of coconut cookies to use with our chocolate. It all was so good and so much fun.

From the Polynesian we grabbed a bus back to the Ticket and Transportation Center, got the monorail back to EPCOT, and then a bus back to our resort.

We took a bit of rest and about 7 PM headed up to Olivia's again for supper. My daughter had chicken with mashed potatoes and gravy. I had a fish plate, corvina fish, a new variety for me. Very good.

Then accidentally we went on another adventure. I asked the bell service if the Downtown Disney buses would go to South Point (the bus stop for our room) before leaving the resort and was told yes. So we boarded a Downtown Disney bus and much to our surprise were taken directly to Downtown Disney. We got off and went to the bus stop for Old Key West and waited for a bus back. Glad the weather was pleasant!

Tonight we actually went to Downtown Disney intentionally. Coming back we went first to the Hospitality House, which surprised some riders. A woman on the bus explained, "The Downtown Disney bus runs backwards from the others, except once in awhile for when it doesn't." Well, we certainly found the once in awhile bus last night!

Disney Adventure 2014 -- Day 4

Our Day 4 adventure began at Hollywood Studios. We walked first to the Beauty and the Beast Show. We arrived around 10:00 and the weather was almost hot. I was glad we waited less than 10 minutes in the sun before we could enter the theater.

Here are a couple pictures.

From here we walked to the Voyage of the Little Mermaid.

Our next plan was American Idol. We had a Fast Pass for this attraction, so we entered the theater area early. We were part of group that shot a fan video for one of the contestants. Later we saw this video within the show, and we really looked quite good! With a Fast Pass we were able to sit in the second row and we ended right at center front. There was on open space in front of us for the camera men. I found it interesting to watch how they shoot the video for a show such as this and then to compare what I could see on the camera monitor with what is shown on the screens in the theater.

Here is my daughter on the "set." This is a fun show. The winner in the session we attended was a man who owns a recording studio in Nashville. He is an excellent vocalist.

After this we found a place to get a cold drink. Then we began to walk to the Great Movie Ride. We were surprised to meet Donald Duck in the street. He doesn't make a lot of appearances at Disney World.

We waited for what seemed like forever for the movie ride, standing in the group that would be the very next. I don't know what went wrong. The cast members kept peeking inside the ride area, but didn't tell us why we couldn't load. I think we stood there at least 15 minutes. I know the movie video that runs while one waits repeated itself three times!
After the movie ride we headed for the Indiana Jones Stunt Show.

Following this show we went to the bus and returned to our resort for awhile.

As it became dark we left for EPCOT. It was great time to see the fireworks. The temperature was about 80 degrees (26 C).  We didn't even have to put on our jackets the whole evening, including walking back to the bus later. What a change from the below zero temperatures in Minnesota.

Here's a bit of the EPCOT fireworks.

Monday, February 3, 2014

Disney Adventure 2014 -- Day 3

On day 3, also known as Pooh Day, we wandered back to the Magic Kingdom. My daughter came to Disney for the first time when she was 4 years old. At that time it was very unusual to see characters. One day right by the train station at the Magic Kingdom we ran into Pooh, and Pooh has been her favorite ever since.

The most guaranteed way to see Pooh is to go to a meal at the Crystal Palace in the Magic Kingdom, so we made a reservation for 3:20 PM.

We arrived at the Magic Kingdom around 10 in the morning and went to a FP+ kiosk to make some fast passes. Our first ride was through Buzz Lightyear, one of my favorites. I didn't make a very good score, but we had fun.

Next we rode the People Mover.

Then we did the Carousels of Progress Show.

By this time we were ready for a coffee break so we walked into Fantasy Land to Gaston's Tavern. I remembered the cinnamon rolls from my visit last year. Certainly one was enough for the two of us. Take a look at the size of it in the photo below.

After this it was close to the time for our Fast Pass for Dumbo so we headed in that direction. My daughter loves elephants and so Dumbo is necessary.

We then went back to the Under the Sea ride where we saw Ariel and Ursala on the walls.

Our next stop was the Liberty Belle boat ride.

From the boat one gets a great view of the Haunted Mansion.

Here is a more typical river picture.

After this ride we went to the show in the Hall of Presidents.

When leaving we saw ropes up, looking like a parade was coming. I didn't think there was an afternoon parade, but a cast member told me it would be at 3 PM.  Then about two minutes later I asked again, and another cast member told me it was "more like a celebration" and would be along around 2:20. So we decided to wait. Finally an announcement came explaining it would be the MVP from the Super Bowl -- you know, "So and So, what are you are doing next? I'm going to Disney World. "

Following the parade we walked over the Crystal Palace. We were a bit early, but they gave a buzzer and we waited and we seated about 3:00. We had hardly sat down when my daughter's wish came true.

We also got photos with Tigger, Piglet, and Eeyore. And we had a fine lunch, too. One thing I had was kielbasa with red cabbage -- a taste of Poland!

Leaving the restaurant we stumbled into a Celebration Street Parade.

Every character you can think about is this parade except for the Disney Princesses. Hope the video gives you an idea of the energy of the parade and street celebration.

From this parade we walked to the Winnie the Pooh ride, where we had to stand in line for bit. The new FP+ system which is supposed to be better actually made us stand in more lines than the former system. After that we did Small World again, and then used a Fast Pass to ride Peter Pan.

We were getting tired and headed back to the resort for an evening of rest. A great day at the Magic Kingdom!