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Downtown Minneapolis

Downtown Minneapolis BuildingsThis summer has gone much quicker than any other I've previously lived in my short 30 years. Okay, so that's my excuse for neglecting my blog when there have been so many photo opps the past few months.

Clouds Reflected in BuildingIn July a friend and I ventured to downtown Minneapolis for a free comedy skit at Brit's, lunch on The Local's patio, and some wandering about looking like tourists during downtime. I've never really acted like a tourist in Minneapolis (or St. Paul, for that matter) so it was fun to have an excuse to be down there with my SLR snapping shots.

While I have no clue of the names of the different buildings (other than the IDS tower), I like shiny, reflective surfaces on big buildings and the lighting was good for it that day. We had great food at The Local - along with good chats - and the show at Brit's was funny and free. Well, what we could hear of it was funny...we were trying to stay cool in the shade so ended up at the back of the audience but a good time was had nonetheless.

Old ManI'm especially proud of my shot of The Man. While strolling through a plaza near Brit's, I glanced over and happened to see an old man sitting on a concrete step looking at a waterfall. There were some girls nearby and I had to take 3 or 4 images before I finally got the winner. I did crop the image to look like this, but think it works very well. The judges at the Crow Wing County Fair thought so, too - this shot took 1st in the Black & White Adult (1) category and 'Champion' for the overall category (B&W and color together).

SparrowAt first glance a sparrow we saw on the ground seemed to be injured, as it turns out I think he was begging for food because he ended up flying off after we didn't deliver. I'm not a huge fan of birds, but that's probably the closest I've ever been to a non-injured wild bird before.

The afternoon's activities were coming to a close and as we were heading back to the car we ran into a 16-year-old girl who was lost. After guiding her to Hard Rock to meet her friends, loath to end the day we decided to head to happy hour.

Seville Strip Club SignWe chose O'Donovan's and as we were waiting to cross the street, we ran into a couple VERY drunk guys who were looking for a strip club. While we didn't know where the establishment was, we had fun BSing with them and a nice police officer ended up walking them to some other strib club. After sitting down on O'Donovan's patio, we discovered The Seville - the club the guys were looking for - was right next door.

It was a great day - beautiful weather, lots of talking, good food. Hopefully I'll find the time to venture to Minneapolis again this summer to play tourist!

Zada Goes to Work & Happy Hour

Zada at the OfficeThis past Thursday Zada - my German shepherd - had a typical 'working day': she came into the office to hang out with me and afterwards we went to happy hour. Hey, if you're going to work like a dog, there's nothing quite like a cold beer (or in her case, dish of water) to wrap up the day.

When I first got her as a puppy, I knew that living in the cities with a high-energy dog would be a challenge but I also wanted to have a dog that I could take literally anywhere. Since she was young, I've made her tag along with me to numerous places: kickball games, parks, houses of friends and family, dog parks, camping, 5K races, work and even bars.

Zada Chewing on a Bone at the OfficeBelieve me, when I first became a dog owner down here I had no idea I'd be bringing my dog to patios to drink beer and eat appetizers - but let me tell you, the idea is not only brilliant, it's become a favorite of mine. But it was always a dream of mine to be able to bring my dog into work with me, and thankfully in my current position as Search Marketing Consultant at Linnihan Foy Advertising, I sometimes get that opportunity.

While some of my other co-workers do bring in their dogs from time to time (one of the bosses regularly brings in our "mascot") I do have to admit none of them get as many compliments or praise as my Zada. Everyone is amazed that she stays in my office with me - the door's always open - and is content to lie in her corner by the window to watch everyone at work or chew on her bone.

When it's time to play, she's got a beat-up small basketball that the colleagues throw down the hall for her. She always obliges in a perfect game of fetch, and has gotten to the point where she'll perform simple cues ("sit" or "down") for my co-workers. She's also starting to OFFER some behaviors in order to get someone to throw the ball for her. I'll be honest and say it's much harder to train people than it is to train dogs! But my co-workers are pretty cool with me telling them what to do where Zada's involved :)

Clint & Zada at Nomad Pub, MinneapolisAnyway, one of my lovely colleagues told me earlier this week about a bar she went to that was dog-friendly. Excitedly I asked her which one, where, etc. It's the Nomad Pub near 7 Corners in Minneapolis, and she said not only is their patio dog-friendly, so is the bar itself! Obviously intrigued, I decided it was my next must-go-to destination so Clint, Paul and I headed there for a couple of cold beverages. True to their word, the bar allowed us to march right in, up to the bar, and even offered her a big dish full of ice-cold water.

They don't serve food - obviously there'd be a code violation with the presence of canines in the establishment - but they allow you to bring your own. With a couple deli-type restaurants nearby, I don't see the problem of having a MYRIAD of good beers on tap and your dog at your side.

It wasn't busy but I actually prefer that for the insides of bars at happy hour. Think about it: you get attentive service from your bartender, there aren't a lot of other patrons being loud, and you can actually hear the music playing. While Zada's been to dog-friendly patios several times throughout her 3 years of life, this was her first venture into an actual bar and she was great. Of course, it didn't hurt that some other patrons came up and wanted to pet her and chit-chat about her - she loves people and I call her the "Golden Retriever of Shepherds."

All in all, we had a good day together and we will definitely be heading back to the Nomad Pub for more doggy happy hours!

Floral Images from Mission Narrows

Hosta LeavesI didn't make it up to Mom & Dad's at all this summer 'til June, which is odd since normally I try to get up there at least once a month in the summer (starting in May). I'm making up time now, but thought I'd post some pictures I took of the flora around the property and lake.

Bleeding Hearts & Egret Garden StatueIn the biological sense, according to "floral" means pertaining to or consisting of flowers: floral decoration; of or pertaining to floras or a flora. "Flora" means plants, as distinguished from fauna; the plants of a particular region or period, listed by species and considered as a whole. Interesting.

Lily Pistil & StamenThe reason I'm mentioning this is because I was recently involved in an email debate with a woman from the Crow Wing County Fair board who insisted the "Floral" photography category should only contain images of FLOWERS. According to her, my fern fiddlehead photo shouldn't have been included...guess she wasn't the judge since I ended up taking 'Champion' in that category with the image :)

Daisies: Focal Black & WhiteAnyway. The parents' property is an excellent source of flora-type pictures and even though Mom's not an avid gardener, she still produces some great flowers. The in-ground water sprinkler system - pumped directly from the lake - keeps the majority of the flower beds and plants along the house well watered and healthy.

While the hostas, bleeding hearts and lily close-up are self-explanatory, I'd like to note that the daisies are more special: they are growing wild upon my horse's grave in the pasture. My old boy, Kamell, was put down in the fall of 2006 at 27½ years of age.

Black & White Hosta LeavesMy mom purchased him as an untrained 5-year-old, he's my first memory of horseback riding (I must've been 6 or 7, since he was only 6 months younger than I), and I also ended up using him as my 4-H horse for several years. He was a good boy and will be very hard to replace :)

Running Aces Harness Park

Trotting Standardbreds at Running AcesOn the evening of August 1st (after a day of antiquing with my friend in Anoka) Clint and I met his parents out at Running Aces - the relatively new harness racing track near Forest Lake, Minnesota - for dinner and races. I haven't been to a track for so long it was good to "get to the races" again!

Many people wonder about the differences between harness racing and 'normal' horse racing. At Canterbury Park one sees Thoroughbred racing where jockeys ride astride the horses at a gallop. Sitting behind Standardbreds in sulkies, the jockeys at Running Aces race their horses at a trot or a 'pace' where the lateral legs move in unison in a two-beat gait.

Pacing Horse with MoonWe started with a nice dinner overlooking the track. The service was a bit slow, but the food was pretty good. Immediately upon finishing, the first race of the night was starting, so we hustled out to find a place along the rail to watch the ponies come sailing by. It was a gorgeous evening for it, nice and cool and with a slight breeze.

Clint did some betting, I enjoyed a couple of cold beverages and we all had a great time. I'd never seen sulky racing before, and it was really neat to watch. The horses, although "only" trotting or pacing, were nonetheless very quick and from what I understand they're almost as fast as Thoroughbreds at a full-out gallop.

Trotters Coming to the Wire at Running AcesSince we were right on the rail, we also got to chit-chat with the gal on the lead pony quite a bit as she headed back and forth from the stables to the final turn between races. Evidently, all she did was apply to do that...wouldn't be a bad job!

Although the track is shut down until next spring, I'd say there's a very good chance we'll be heading up to Running Aces next summer to watch the harness racing again.

Nieces at the Fair

Amy Points Out Sophia in Her Class to CharlotteThis past Saturday (August 8th) was the last day of the Crow Wing County Fair. It was also the day of the open horse show (the 4-H horse show is held earlier in the week) so of course we were all in attendance.

Both my nieces were extremely good. Sophia rode in her first show while Charlotte, Amy and the rest of us looked on. Then for the rest of the day both kids sat on the sidelines and watched Amy, Dani, Max, Tasha and me ride our horses under the sweltering sun.

Amy Takes Sophia Down the Slide at the FairAfter an entire day of seeing horses tramp around a hot arena, my sister and brother-in-law took the girls into the fair to see the sights. They started out in the petting zoo and moved on to the malt stand (both of which I missed) and then headed to the midway for the rides.

Charlotte Watches Rides at the County FairSophia LOVES to go on the slide, so Amy took her up - twice - while Charlotte toddled around, agog at all the rides, lights, and sounds. After spending an afternoon in her stroller she had as much fun walking and running around as Sophia did on the rides.

Little Girls Riding CarouselThey also rode the merry-go-round twice. It was Charlotte's first time on the ride and she had big sister beside her all the way (and of course her dad firmly anchoring her in place!). She seemed much more interested in the inner workings of the carousel than waving to us, but judging by her big eyes I think she had a couple of good rides.

Michael with Charlotte on the Fair Merry-Go-RoundRiding the carousel was always my favorite when I was a kid...if the animals were bigger I'd have gone, too, but I wasn't sure about the integrity of the ride for "big kids"! Instead Amy, Dani and I rode the Scrambler. Nowadays, that's my ride of choice - I always giggle the entire time (as did the other two!) plus like the leg workout I get from fighting the G-forces.

Amy & Dani Ride the Scrambler at the FairAll three of us couldn't fit into one car, so Amy & Dani had their own while I shared with some poor kid named "Sam" who tried to have a good time but was probably scared stiff of this random, giggling girl with a camera trying to take pictures of her friends in another car.

Shot Taken of Fair Ride While in Fair RideWhile most of my high-speed photos failed, I did get one good shot of them and a couple random, abstract shots which I'll never know which candid photography images will turn out to be winners :)

Toddler Looking Over ShoulderAll in all, it was a great day for the whole family, with lots of entertainment, good food, hard work and a couple of tired kids. A day well spent at the Crow Wing County Fair!

Sophia's First Horse Show

Mom & Sophia Heading into Lead Line at Crow Wing County FairEveryone is so proud of Sophia and how well she did in her first ever horse show. She's come quite a long way since the first time she rode Lacey, the little Quarter Horse my mom bought for her this summer. Mom took her into the lead line class at the Crow Wing County Fair this past weekend (August 8th).

Sophia's Sparkly Shirt for Lead Line ClassBefore starting this whole endeavor, my sister had to get her daughter's approval of course. Obviously she didn't want her to get into the ring and freak out at being in a big place with a bunch of other kids. According to Amy, Sophia's only concern was she wanted a "shirt with sparklies on it." Easy enough :)

Sophia Waves to the Crowd During Her Lead Line Class at Crow Wing Co. FairParticipating in a horse show was a big step for Sophia, who'd only ever ridden a horse on the Bernier property inside a smaller arena. At the fairgrounds, she competed with about 9 other kids (plus handlers) in a huge arena and a bunch of spectators. Mom says she chit-chatted the entire time about the rides on the midway, the horse in front of her, the people in the stands, how they both had sparkly shirts, etc. etc. etc.

Sophia Got 5th Place at Her First Horse Show (Lead Line Class)She did well and Lacey even backed up - barely! - in the line-up. Of course I'm biased and I think she should've won, but she ended up with fifth place...which is perfect since her absolute all-time favorite color is pink! She was ecstatic and grinning like mad, waving the ribbon for the entire grandstand to see. It was pretty darned cute.

Sophia & Her Pink Ribbon from Lead LineDuring the rest of the riding classes, she happened to notice that a first-place win was accompanied by a trophy. She informed her mother, "Next year I want a trophy. But I need a blue ticket in order to get one of those. So next year, I want a trophy."

Looks like next summer she'll be practicing for her comeback!

My First Time Antiquing

This past weekend a friend of mine asked me to hit the antique shops with her. I said 'yes,' not really knowing what to expect – I'd never been antiquing before! While I didn't need anything before going, I figured the odds were pretty good I'd return with SOME sort of purchase. Little did I know!

The first gem-stone find was this leather steamer trunk. Steamer trunks (sometimes referred to as 'flat tops') were the luggage style back in the late 1800s to early 1900s. Technically this could be a cabin trunk - which Wikipedia says differs from a steamer trunk in that it's smaller, with "inner tray compartments" for storing items. While it's hard to find exact data on them, I did find out that the earliest models sported wood & leather (which this one does), while in later years they covered them in tin, paper or canvas. Another indication it's old is the original Yale & Towne Manufacturing Company lock.

Antique Glass Bottles I've always liked old bottles. My granny had a huge collection of antique bottles she often used in her floral arrangements, for which she often won grand champion at the Ramsey County Fair, back in the day. My sister also had found some old bottles on our parents' property and had kept I've inherited some cool glass jars and bottles. When I ran across a couple glass canning jars and an old liniment bottle I figured they could either be used for fresh flowers or just as a simple arrangement up on some shelves in the kitchen.

Vintage Books Another love I have is of old books. Again, I inherited some oldies from Granny, but also my family has been wont to keep EVERY SINGLE book purchase ever made...not in the latter years (with all the paperbacks and novels), but my parents still have many original hard cover books. Of course, if Pottery Barn has taught us anything it's that antique books look super-cool fashionably arranged throughout the house. While I think that's neat, I personally just like the look and SMELL of old books!

Everyone who's anyone in my life knows my love of photography. My first camera was a gift at the age of 7, and some day it'll be considered an antique perhaps. The last few years I've been playing "keep up" in regards to the quality of my SLR and lenses. Who knew I'd fall in love with antique cameras I randomly found at an antique store!

The first 'find' was an antique camera box. I found 2 of them but this one I purchased because it had more character (and was cheaper :). Again, I can't find exact information either on the camera itself or in Wikipedia as to which year it was made, but we're thinking 1940s or 1950s. Kodak came out with the box camera in the year 1900 with the idea that anyone could purchase and use a camera. Since it's hard to read anything on this model, I'm not sure if it's a Kodak Brownie or an Ansco.

And, finally, the pièce de résistance: a 1908 Kodak 3A Folding Pocket Camera. This one I can barely find the words to describe! I never thought I'd be 'into' vintage cameras, but now that I've got this beauty (along with the camera box, still a good find) I think I might try to find other old cameras to have a little collection of antique cameras for display.

This folding camera's in pretty good shape – the leather case is a bit worn, but the lens itself is in great condition and while it might not win any pageants I think it's just neat.

All in all, a GREAT time was had in the antique shops...I'll be returning again soon to continue the hunt for great treasures.