Baby, It’s Cold Outside

Yesterday, I arrived home from work at the usual time. It was one of the coldest days of the year, with a high of only 16°. Accordingly, I was bundled up. Sweater, jacket, scarf, gloves. I parked my car in the garage and went to check my mail. Even that short walk chilled me, it was just cold.

I stepped inside my house, anticipating that rush of warm air that would blast me.

Nope.

Freezing air hit me in the face. My first thought, honestly, was “is there a window open?” Which is stupid because no one opens windows when it’s below freezing. Unless someone broke one from outside, that would have done it. But, before I could work up a concern about that, my brain jumped to, “oh God, what if my furnace went out?”

I darted up the stairs, still wearing all my winter gear and ran to the thermostat. No display.

No display?

I pried that sucker apart and checked, it takes 2 AA batteries. Luckily, I pretty much always have batteries in house, so I grabbed two, replaced them and popped it back on the wall. Immediately, I could hear the whoosh as my furnace roared to life. I rechecked the display.

48°

It was FORTY EIGHT DEGREES inside my house. Yes, fine, that is still more than 30° warmer than outside, but that’s cold! I was shivering in my house, trying to calculate how long it would take to get back up to a more reasonable temperature. Eventually I settled for, a long sleeved t-shirt, a sweatshirt, leggings and yoga pants, and fuzzy winter socks over the socks I was already wearing.

Layers, baby!

I started making dinner, spending a lot of time in front of the sink, where the vent is in the kitchen, just to feel that hot air blowing across my feet and legs. Cooking helped, the “hot stove” effect, but it was still very cold in my house. When my dinner was finished, 45 minutes later, it was up to 55°.

That’s still very cold for indoors.

I sat in the living room, under a blanket and I was still cold. It was 7:30 and I actually considered driving over to my mom’s house for a couple hours just to be warm. But then I remembered it’s never really warm at mom’s house, so I stayed put.

Finally I remembered that I have a space heater in my garage. Genius. I grabbed that, plugged it in, and aimed it right at my spot on the couch. Aaah, blissful warmth.

For just a second, I thought to myself, “this is like living in pioneer times” until I realized that pioneers didn’t have electric space heaters, electric lights, laptop computers, or, in fact, electricity. Good for me.

My house was up to its usual temp by the time I went to bed, and I slept like a baby. But I have to say that today it is going to be 34° for the high. The damn thing couldn’t have waited ONE DAY for those batteries to fail?

Parks and Recreation

This weekend was family weekend. We all got together on Saturday (Mom, Dad, Me, Simon, Em, Chad, and Arionna) with the intent of spending the day together, outside. It wasn’t a goal, but a nice side benefit, we didn’t spend any money.

We met up Saturday morning and started our day with lunch at The Nook. If you like burgers, try this local joint. One highlight of lunch was the old school Skee ball machine in the basement (which also has a bowling alley) and Simon is in love with Skee Ball, which he plays on my phone and played for the first time in person at Christian’s 4th Bday Party. He was all about this.

And all about teaching his cousin how to play.

Could they be any cuter together?

It was chaotic, but they had so much fun doing that while we waited.

After lunch, we drove to Hidden Falls Park in St. Paul. My dad had gotten directions off Google Maps, but somehow we got slightly off-course. Simon asked to follow the route on the map–which is the GPS on my phone. He discovered this a while back and he just loves it. He was looking at our route and he said to my dad, “Pa, you need to take a left”. My dad, of course, ignored the 5-year old. Sure enough, moments later we’re making a u-turn and turning right where Simon said we should.

I was laughing because he’s a smart boy, but no one believed he could read a map! It’s impressive how well he’s figured that out and how much he enjoys it. He asks for it every time we’re in the car together and stares at it constantly. Never bored. He’s awesome like that.

After a few mishaps, we did end up at the park. It was Arionna’s first time visiting the Mississippi, which she can now proudly say.

First steps. It was not too chilly. Suprisingly warmer than the kiddie pool in my sister’s yard (more on that later).

Here’s a sweet shot.

Arionna wouldn’t smile, but it is still a nice mommy/daughter shot.

I couldn’t resist a nice shot of their little family while we were there:

I wish Chad and Em had taken off their shades, but it is a great summertime photo, for sure.

Meanwhile, this little boy was all about climbing.

I took that and he said, “Livia, you’re going to want to wait until I’m all the way at the top”

Oh, am I?

Guess so. Look at that goofy face.

I don’t know why, but I really like that photo. You can’t see it, but there’s a cigar in his left hand. It’s just my dad. That must be why I like it so much. Then, little missy came by and said she wanted to be with Grandpa!

They are so sweet together.

Then, the little climber dragged Uncle Chad over to climb a tree.

As we were watching them, my dad casually said to me, “that is how much the shore has eroded. Dirt used to cover all those tree roots and the river used to be that high.”

Wow. Kind of mind blowing. Even though my mind naturally accepts things like that, I rarely think about it. I’m more aesthetic. I look at that tree and think  about how interesting its gnarled roots looks. I wonder how it gets enough to drink through those twisted passageways. Then I wonder what my veins and nervous system would look like if someone eroded my skin…and then I shut myself down.

Either way, it was a cool tree.

We cut our stay a bit short, because it was so overcast and threatening to rain. We wanted to get to the next destination before the skies opened up.

On the way, I gave Simon the phone and he was playing with it when, suddenly, I hear him say. Today is May 19th. What? How does he know today’s date?

He had accidentally opened my calendar app and was intensely studying it. He would touch each day on the calendar and say its name. May 20th. May 21st. May 22nd. Et cetera. I sat there and listened as he went day by day until August. How can a calendar be that fascinating? Kids are sure interesting.

After a few more missed turns (Chad, who was following us, thought my dad was bonkers, with the number of u-turns we did) we finally arrived at Minnehaha Falls. The kids were both excited to see a waterfall. That’s a big deal for kids. Me, meh, less than impressive.

Simon, contrary to appearance, loved it. We’re at the top of the falls.

On that little bridge above the water. Then we hiked down to the bottom. Simon’s idea:

That doesn’t begin to capture the massiveness of that staircase. Halfway down, I caught Simon and my dad and I said, “the fun part is…we have to walk back up.” Simon thought a moment and said, “I really don’t think I’ll make it.” I replied, “don’t worry, dude, Pa will carry you”. And Pa jumped in, “no, he won’t. He can walk”. Sucks being five I guess.

Big difference between 2 and 5…

Then, Simon wanted to walk out to the falls…there is a sign on a fence that says KEEP OUT, but the fence has HUGE gaps on either side, it wouldn’t stop anyone. And it didn’t. Everyone was walking out there, so we went.

No zoom. We were that close. They’re much louder!

And then I remembered that I was there, too, and we should probably prove it:

Self portrait at the falls (yep, that’s from my iPhone, can you tell?)

As we wandered around a bit, I caught this little family moment.

What I noticed upon uploading this photo is not that Chad, Emily, and Arionna are in it….but…my dad unintentionally got into the picture. Upper right, blue shirt, tan hat, behind the fence. I never knew he was there.

Then, I asked Simon, “will you sit on the bridge and let me take a nice photo of you with Grandma and Pa and Arionna? And, shockingly, he said yes!

So we tried. 6 attempts. Either Arionna wouldn’t smile or Simon wasn’t looking, or THIS GUY was causing trouble.

The best of the lot. Sigh. Really, dad?

Then, naturally, it was time to cruise back up those steps. I counted. I always count steps when I go up them, its an OCD habit, but this time, I really wanted to know. Simon and I started out together, then he outpaced me until the first landing. He said he “needed a rest”. I laughed and kept going. By the time I hit the top, I was panting and my legs were weak. 108 steps to the top.

Then we headed back to Chad and Ems house for the kids to play in the pool. We took the scenic route through St. Paul, even winding past my friend Muffy’s house, so my folks knew where she lived. (Hi, Muffy!)

Then it was pool time. I was the first one in the kiddie pool that had been out there for two straight days of nearly 90° weather and was still freezing cold. Like I was sweaty and hot and I still felt a chill. But, the kids suited up. Strangely, neither would sit down in the pool.

In one of my favorite pictures of the day, Arionna unsuspectingly sits on the pool’s slide. Simon, with the devil inside, is about to dump a bucket of ice cold water down her back.

Oh, the cuteness.

But, before he could do it. She moved. Got off the slide and walked away. He wisely waited for his moment.

Unfortunately, I was laughing so hard I nearly missed the picture, but you still get the gist.

I wish I hadn’t cut her out, but you can tell her expression is priceless. He’s wet, too. I think Auntie Emmy threw a bucket on him simultaneously.

From that moment, no one was safe. Didn’t matter if you were in clothes or not. Buckets of water were flying everywhere. I got hit twice. Fortunately, kids running with a full bucket of water will spill 3/4 of it before reaching the target, so I didn’t get too wet, either time.

Uncle Chaj…IN a bucket. (Yes, that is full of water).

Then, to try and distract the kids from throwing water on others, Uncle Chad demonstrated how much fun it is to throw water on YOURSELF. Here’s the aftermath:

Can you see the water all around him?

But, that doesn’t look that cool. I made him do it again and again until I had a shot that truly captured what he was demonstrating to the kids.

How awesome is that? You can see the water in motion, it actually goes out of the top of the frame. I like Arionna with her head tilted in the foreground. It was really cool to watch how high he could throw it. And, hands down, one of the coolest pictures I’ve ever taken.

All in all, this was an amazing day as a family. Outside all day. Warm weather with intermittent sunshine, taking advantage of the incredible resources our cities have to offer. I can’t wait to do it again. Next time, I’m thinking picnic lunch!

Snowstorm

About a week ago, the weather was predicting this HUGE snowstorm. People were talking about it for a week in advance, predicting feet of snow, closed schools, bitter cold, yadda yadda yadda.

I never really gave it much thought. It’s hard to think of a snowstorm when this is such a mild winter.

The day of the storm, I woke up and looked outside to see if the damage had started.
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Not so much. A powdery dusting of snow. It wasn’t even snowing when I took that picture. By the time I got to work, the sun had come out and it was warming up. So much for that.

Out of curiosity, I checked the weather online and saw they were still predicting a huge storm, they just downgraded it from snow to rain. It didn’t start raining until the late afternoon. Let me tell you, rain is one weird occurrence in February in Minnesota. When I left work that evening, it was still raining, but it was still also about 35°, so it was pretty mild. It smelled like spring. I headed off for my evening plans. (Dinner and shopping with Elena).

When I finally got home for the day, about 9 pm, things had changed. The temps had dropped and the rain was starting to freeze. As a matter of fact, this was the mirror on my car as I pulled into the driveway (ignore the fact that it’s broken, please).
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As you can see, frozen solid, with icicles dripping from the bottom. This does not bode well for morning driving. A few feet of snow is easier to drive in than an inch of ice.

When I woke up in the morning, I turned on my tv. I never use my tv. The last time it was turned on was to watch the ball drop on New Years Eve. But I excitedly flipped it on, hoping to see if I got a snow day. The ticker showing the closings was so long, I was worried I was going to be late for work trying to see if I had to go to work. It rolls alphabetically, I turned it on when it was in the Rs and I needed the Gs. It took 25 minutes to get back around! Meanwhile, practically every school in the state was shut down. I kept watching…and nothing. I checked my work email…nothing. Every school in our area was closed, but, we were open.

I hurriedly got ready and headed outside, to find that the world looked like this:
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As you can see, it is not much more dramatic than the morning before. At some point in the night, the rain had turned to snow, but only barely, since the entire world was crusted with ice. Ice is actually particularly beautiful. The tree over my head looked like this:
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Can you see the ice crystals formed on the branches? It looked cooler in person. How about a close up?
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That is all solid ice.

I started my drive, and as I thought, it was treacherous. I almost rear ended a guy at the first stop sign. I had to drive into the bank on the shoulder to avoid it. I learned and avoided following anyone closely at all.

It is now March and while March can certainly be a snowy month, I’m starting to think we missed our chance at having a snowstorm this year. It’s going to be 55° today and the 10-day forecast has those numbers holding steady (through my birthday! – only 9 more days…)

That’s my short weather story. Not very exciting, I know, but the pictures are pretty. And, I wanted to take a moment to teach a little something as well. A while back, Kelly wrote this story on her blog. At the bottom, she appeals to her favorite librarian to tell her why the frost looks like that.

The answer is it is called hoarfrost. Hoar is just one of the three main types of frost. Hoarfrost is formed when the air is damp – containing water vapor – and the vapor touches an extremely cold surface, such as plants, trees, branches, even cars. The air must be very cold (around freezing or below) and when the water vapor hits the cold surface, say a branch, it freezes instantly, often forming gnarled, or spiky fingers. That is exactly what Kelly saw in her blog post.

That’s a photo of hoarfrost I snagged from Google Images.

For the record, the other two types of frost are rime frost and fern frost. Rime frost is created when a damp, icy wind blows over things and it leaves a trail of frost which makes things look like they are frosted or have icing around the edges. Rime frost looks more like this:

Just a bit of frosting around the edges. Rime frost also looks like this:

I think, in MN, this is the most common type of frost that we see, because rime frost can only occur in very cold temperatures, far, far colder than hoarfrost. But, this winter has been so mild, that’s why Kelly saw a terrific example of hoarfrost.

Lastly, the final example is fern frost. Fern frost forms on windows. It happens when dew drops (moisture in the air) hits a cold window. They freeze into ice. But then more moisture freezes on top of the ice and eventually they form what look like icy patterns on the windows. If you live in MN I know you’ve seen this.

That can form on your car, your windows in your house, really any smooth cold surface. (all frost pictures are from Google Images)

A couple other things to note. The term hoar comes from the Old English and is used as an adjective to describe something showing signs of old age. It comes from the frost making trees and plants look like they are elderly, with white hair.

Frost is always white because the crystals contain air.

According to folklore, Jack Frost creates frost by running his icy fingers over windows (and plants I suppose).

In order for frost to form, the surface (on which the frost will form) must be colder than the air. This is why frost forms most readily around cracks in sidewalks, walls and doors and also on the edges of windows. It also explains why a car will frost more readily than concrete or the ground itself.

Think that’s everything you ever wanted to know about frost? Me too. But, I promise, the next time I notice frost, I will inspect it closely and see if I can determine which type it is!

That is your cold weather edition of TYNKYNK. Thanks, Kel!

 

GCOP

Have you seen blogs posted GCCP? GCBP? Gratuitous Cute _____ Photos? (Couple, Baby, etc.)

Well, today is Gratuitous Cute Olivia Photos!

I know, it’s weird to post pictures of yourself. Still, I have a somewhat rational reason. On Monday, it was beyond gorgeous outside. 49° in February! I went out in the middle of the day just to wander around and soak up all the vitamin D goodness I could get.

When I was out there, I didn’t know what to do with myself, just walking around, I was trying to avoid thinking about work, because I was on a break, so I decided to take a picture. First, my thought was just to capture the gorgeous day, but the expanse of endless blue sky, with nary a cloud in sight, needed something to break it up. Enter Olivia.
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Yep, that is one blue sky! And you can see my skin soaking up all that vitamin D goodness.

Then, I kind of got in the spirit.
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How about a backlit photo, showing those beautiful rays of sunshine?
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This one made me laugh because that one ray of sunshine is slanting across my mouth, giving me that oh-so-classy gold tooth look.

I managed to track down what remains of our illustrious snowfall this season…
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Impressive, right?
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Full on sunshine, and a great shot of my shadow taking a picture of me. What I like about this is…how happy do I look in that photo?

But then, but then… I thought…shadow!
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And wouldn’t it be weird if my legs were really that long? But kind of cool. I’d be a WNBA star for sure! (Okay, maybe not, having long legs and being tall do not guarantee exemplary hand/eye coordination–and in that department, I am soundly lacking).

Then I saw this bare tree. It seemed odd that trees should be that bare when it felt like spring (even though it is still resoundingly winter) so I posed.
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And I thought that was particularly cute.

After my wonderful walk, laughing like a loon at myself for taking all these pictures of myself, I headed back to reality and indoors to finish my work. When I stepped inside, I passed a coworker and she said, “oh, your cheeks are so rosy”, and so, natch, I had to take a photo of myself (after she’d left, of course) to capture the rosiness that was my cheeks.
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It’s a little hard to tell, because the lighting was wonky…in the stairwell…but I definitely look all shiny, happy, healthy in that picture.

That was going to be it, the sum total of this blog (lots of brain food here), but when I left work that night and it was still 40° outside, the moon was just rising in a twilight sky and it was so beautiful I stopped to capture it. I figured it would make a nice ending to this beautiful day.
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Sigh. Of course, that was the highlight of the week. Right now, it is currently 19° headed for a high of 30°, which is still fairly warm, but nothing like Monday. And Friday we are headed for a high of a whopping 14°. I might have to dig out my coat for that one.

Happy February!

Scaring the Weather

I mentioned, in an offhand manner, something about the nice weather, to Elena. She said, “Sssh! You’ll scare it away.” Aside from that being funny, it makes me wonder.

Is this weather permanent this winter? Or is this just a weird prelude and we’re about to get smacked in the face with a “real” Minnesota winter?

I don’t know. Honestly, how could I, but I refuse to pussyfoot about. It is what it is. If the weather gets cold and snowy, then it does, it isn’t like that would be unexpected. However, for those who don’t know, we have almost zero snow on the ground. It’s snowed twice. The first time was about 0.5″ and it was melted in a matter of days. This last time (New Year’s Eve) it snowed about 1.5″ and though much of it has melted there are mini-snow drifts left to admire.

The temps have been so mild that I’ve only worn a coat twice this winter. (We had a two day span where the high was in the teens). So far, in 2012, I’ve yet to wear a coat. Today, January 9th, it is 41°. The average high for this day? 24°. Our overnight low tonight is predicted at 28°. That is higher than the average temp!

As an example, Thursday night is the night my recycling goes out. I showered that evening and I had bare feet. It was so warm it sounded like it was raining outside, but it was just snow melting of the roof. I went to take out the garbage and recycling in bare feet and flip flops. (I was also wearing pants and a t-shirt). Since it was so nice out I decided to scrape at some of the ice clumped at the end of my driveway.

So, in flip-flops, I grabbed a shovel and started scraping. That has never happened before. I doubt I’ve ever worn flip-flops in January in my entire life, much less outside, while shoveling snow! What a strange and wonderful winter this has been. I’m glad my Alabama relatives didn’t pick this year to come up in winter, can you imagine how disappointed the children would have been? No snow or cold at all. Just a shade colder than their daily lives. (Right now, it is 64° in Tuscaloosa–we are shooting for a high of 46. Granted that is 18° of difference, but that is not much, considering what it should be!)

Speaking of 64–on Friday, when I came to work, I parked in the sun. When I got done, four hours later I got in my car and it was so warm in there. I turned it on and the temperature gauge said:

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(I’m tickled that this is also the current temp in Alabama. How fortuitous!)

Granted it was only 38° outside, but the sun was so warm it made the car think it was almost 30°warmer! It’s wonderful and I am sure enjoying this anomalous weather. Also, it makes other things spectacular as well. There has been sunshine every single day, so no January depression or doldrums, and the other night, driving home, I saw this.
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Rarely do we ever even see sunsets in January, the gray, heavy, leaden clouds are usually blocking it, and in my recollection, it is never that gorgeous. Sometimes, Mother Nature is kind to us in her blessings. I’m very grateful. Hopefully, she’ll appreciate that and not allow me to scare away this goodness. (It is supposed to get down to highs in the teens by the end of the week–and snow–so I am blogging this now, in case I need to remember)

Happy January!