The Last Post of the Year

Not with a bang, but a whimper. I guess I should have saved a couple of really amazing images for my final post of 2017. I didn’t. What I have left is just a couple of dead plants from the Minnesota Zoo. Nothing special, nothing extraordinary. I’m tired and my creativity is at a low ebb right now. I feel like I should be doing something.

And yet I’m bored out of my mind. I’m speed reading novels and binge watching Netflix. I haven’t worked out for almost four months. My stress level is through the roof and I’m back to the weight I was at before I started working with a trainer over five years ago. Our new home is scheduled to be on a tour in just over five months and a ridiculous amount of work remains. I feel like I’m losing my mind on a daily basis.

I have a cat that alternates between sleeping on my lap and trying to take a chunk out of my arm. I’m eating junk and drinking alcohol as a form of self medication. I have no one to blame but myself. End rant. Begin new year.

Last Black & White for 2017

As 2017 draws to a close, I’ve got just a few more images to share from the year. Today it’s some black and whites from the Como Conservatory. My mom and I never did get back for the holiday flower show, but I looked at the description for the winter flower show and it sounds interesting. So we may need to hit that later in January. Right now it’s just too cold to go anywhere.

I’d really love to get out and do more winter photography, but I’m not ambitious enough to face the bitter cold temps. What I need is a fresh coat of snow, followed by 25 degrees and sunshine. Is that asking for too much? Right now, apparently yes. The overnight low was -14 and the “high” is supposed to be -4. Tomorrow’s forecast is the same. I’m not planning to set foot outside until the temperature is back above zero. Brrrrr.

Every Day I’m Shovelin’

Yesterday we woke up to a little fresh snow. We’ve only had about six inches of snow so far this season and typically less than an inch has fallen at a time. Our biggest snowfall was only two inches. It hasn’t been enough for our driveway to get plowed, so I’ve just been shoveling it. And shoveling it. I think yesterday was my fourth time so far.

Looking on the bright side, the normal snowfall total by this date is about twenty inches. I’m trying to convince myself that I’m getting fresh air and exercise and saving money. We only get charged when we get plowed, which is surprisingly rare. Most services charge a fixed price for the season. The pay per plow deal has definitely been working in our favor over the past few years.

I did get my butt out of the house for a short photo op in the backyard yesterday afternoon. I can’t say it was anything spectacular, but I guess dead plants covered with snow is better than nothing. We are getting more snow this afternoon and the forecast is brutal, with high temps staying below zero for the weekend. We ran out for groceries and liquor this morning, so we are well stocked for battening down the hatches. Cue the Netflix.

 

Minnesota Zoo Roundup

This is the last of my zoo photos for the year. Unfortunately, it looks like my image queue is going to dry up within a few days.

This is the adorable red panda. He loves to stick out his tongue.

I think I have more photos of the panda with his tongue out than in. Still cute every time. Next is a white-cheeked gibbon. I loved the expression on his face and the way his little paws were crossed over the branch. I had to do a lot of cropping on this photo, because even with a long lens, he didn’t fill very much of the frame. Fortunately, that’s not a big problem for photos that are only going to be shared online. I can’t imagine ever printing any zoo animal photos.

I’m rounding out my animal trio today with an American bald eagle.

We got some fresh snow today and there’s more in the forecast for tomorrow. I guess I’m going to have to brave the cold and get outside with my camera. I just haven’t been feeling very inspired lately.

Thinking Warm Thoughts

On Christmas Eve day, the temperature topped out at 22 degrees. That’s the last of the double digits we’re going to see for a while. Yesterday it barely managed to squeak past zero. Ah, winter in Minnesota. So today I’m revisiting San Diego for just a bit. Can you blame me? We managed to have a lovely Christmas, despite the cold, mostly because we watched Netflix and didn’t leave the house on Christmas day.

We made a traditional Thanksgiving dinner, my husband’s favorite meal. This time we stepped it up a bit, cooking a turkey breast and making mashed potatoes from scratch, instead of relying on Whole Foods for the entire meal. Okay, the stuffing was Stove Top and I bought pre-made gravy , but baby steps, okay? We had enough to make a second dinner yesterday. Next time I might try my hand at stuffing. Brave girl.

Just a Baby Tiger

At one of our fall visits to the Minnesota Zoo, we saw a baby tiger. These aren’t particularly good photos, but that tiger cub was so cute.

The baby tiger in our household (aka Ripley) made me think about the one at the zoo. My feelings about being a cat “guardian,” as the politically correct like to say, vacillates wildly from day to day. Last week, on the day I had my mini meltdown, Ripley served as a tipping point. His pitiful crying as I was trying to eat my breakfast (outside of his designated space) literally brought me to tears. I just wanted a few minutes to eat in peace and he wouldn’t even give me that.

Then, the next day, he laid down in my lap and napped for over two hours. He hasn’t spent more than 20-30 minutes in my lap since he was a kitten and he usually ends up biting at me before he leaves. This was a full on, sprawled out, totally relaxed nap. My legs were numb before he got up, but it was totally worth it.

Moments like that give me hope that Ripley might yet settle down and become a more affectionate cat as he matures. As of now, he’s clingy and wants to be around us, but doesn’t really want to be touched. If he just wanted to keep to himself, I would respect that, but the clingy/bitey behavior is super frustrating. I think he needs more turf to roam. He’s probably as anxious as us to move into the new house.

Random Images for Christmas

And now, the end (of the year) is near, and so I need to post some random images. First up, a reflection of a boat mast on Lake Calhoun.

Then I have a beautiful little girl with a pouty face on a train.

An abstract composition from the tide pools near La Jolla, California.

Next is some grasses against the background of Lake Harriet.

Finally, a dead plant on a neighborhood walk and some ferns in black and white at the Como Conservatory. True randomness at last!

Orchids for Christmas

It’s Christmas Eve and I’m celebrating with some orchids. Because, why not? These beauties are from the Como Conservatory.

My mom and I didn’t get back there to see the Christmas display, but I still have a few images to share from our trip in November.

Speaking of Mom, I have a funny story to share. I was visiting her a few weeks ago and she asked me to look at her cell phone. She was having trouble hearing when she used it and wanted to see if the volume could be adjusted. After taking a look at it, I quickly realized her problem. The plastic protective film was still covering the display.

So she was listening through a piece of plastic, which doesn’t make for the best acoustics. I laughed pretty hard, but, to be fair, my mom is a real Luddite when it comes to technology.

Sorry Mom, but it was just too funny not to share. And, just to out myself, I only recently removed the plastic film from the display of my two year old pressure cooker. Oops. Merry Christmas everyone!

Really Great News, Finally

On the darkest day of the year we received some really great news regarding our new home. After an eight week wait and a lot of back and forth, we were finally issued a new permit for our revised stormwater management plan. This new plan eliminates the giant underground storage system and gives us credit for having a green roof, something the watershed district has never done in the past.

Beyond the (hopefully) cost saving of not having to bury a bunch of giant storage pipes, we will have significantly less maintenance involved with the new system, which will trap/filter stormwater in a more natural fashion by leveraging permeable materials under our artificial lawn and the gravel overflow parkingĀ  parking area. It also eliminates the need for a rain garden, which ate up a lot of space.

Now that the plan’s been approved, we can start developing a more detailed landscaping plan. The engineering firm will do the functional/structural components and then turn it over to our landscape designer to detail the material finishes and plantings. We’ve got all winter to work on it and get estimates. Fingers crossed we get a warm, dry, early spring for installation.

Just Keep Breathing

Yesterday was the shortest day of the year. On Wednesday I had a small meltdown. I’m not positive those two things are related, but I’m guessing my mental state had an aspect of cabin fever to it. It wasn’t one big thing, just a bunch of small stuff that overwhelmed me.

Mostly, it’s the house, of course. We haven’t been able to go inside it since they started the spray foam insulation on Monday, but we’ve been assured that the process is going well and they are ahead of schedule. That would be a first. It would be nice if they finished before Christmas, so the drywall can start in January. Bitter cold weather is predicted for next week and we really need the insulation to keep the house tolerable.

The stucco is done and it looks great, which is a huge relief. We really didn’t want to use stucco, but the metal panels that were our preferred choice proved to be outrageously expensive, so it was a compromise. We still have a few sections of circus tent remaining, which will eventually be covered with Hardie lap siding. Apparently, there is a lot of hail storm damage in western Minnesota that is driving up the labor rates for roofing and siding.

Consequently, our builder is having trouble getting someone to do the rest of our siding for a reasonable price. We may be keeping the circus tent look for a while. Meanwhile, we are anxiously awaiting for the utility work that needs to be done before power can be run to our house. The shortest day of the year is now over, so things have to start looking up, right? The photos of Nola playing on the splash pad at Legoland are here to help me keep things in perspective.