Lens-Artist Photo Challenge – Spring

As most people know, I live in the frozen tundra of the twin cities. As such you might also know that even though the calendar might say it’s spring this week, you sure cannot tell when you look out the window. We had a record-breaking amount of snow this season and, well, it’s still everywhere! At least a foot of it is still on the ground, except for the huge piles in parking lots. But the sun is shining today and I’ve always said “whenever the sun shines in Minnesota, it’s a nice day!” And, temps for the next 10 days are predicted to be above freezing! Whee!! But, enough about that. We’re anxiously awaiting spring and this week’s challenge poses a nice option to engulf myself in photos of spring. Here’s a gallery of some of my favorite spring photos from past years that I hope you will enjoy. My cover photo is the waterfall at Nerstrand Big Woods State Park from last May.

If you would like to jump in or to view others’ posts, do check out Sofia’s post about this week’s challenge.


Filed under Challenges

The American Swedish Institute, Minneapolis

I’ve been wanting to visit the American Swedish Institute for many years and finally the stars aligned and hubby and I went this week shortly after they opened in the morning. What an immense house with beautiful woodwork, stained glass and many beautiful and unique fireplaces. It was once owned by and built for Swan Turnblad, owner of the largest Swedish-language newspaper in the U.S. According to ASI’s website, there are 11 tile stoves that were imported from Sweden. Each one is a different color and style and they are just beautiful. A volunteer told us a story about a picture in one of these stoves. It’s of Carlos V (or Charles the 5th) of Spain with the king of Sweden making some sort of deal. The king of Sweden is tossing a paper into the fire to indicate their oral agreement, that they didn’t need to sign a contract. A very beautiful fireplace, and especially due to the picture. Look for it in the gallery below.

Apparently there isn’t a whole lot that is known about the Turnblad family. Not many mementos were left in the house. Here is some of what is known. Swan Turnblad and his wife Christina immigrated to the United States from Sweden when they were children in 1868 and 1876. They married in 1883 and had one child, Lillian, who was born in 1884. Swan was the owner of Svenska Amerikanska Posten, the largest Swedish-language newspaper in the U.S. But one of the volunteers indicated that Swan couldn’t possibly have made enough money from the newspaper to afford building his mansion on Park Avenue in Minneapolis. This volunteer suggested he may have been involved in some under-the-table type dealings which made him more money.

The mansion was built between 1904 and 1908, designed by Minneapolis architects Christopher Boehme and Victor Cordella. The family only lived there a few years before donating it in 1929 to become ASI. It is believed that their apartment above the newspaper’s offices was their main residence, despite having owned the mansion for 20 years.

If you park in the free lot at 27th and Park, you enter a modern building, the Nelson Cultural Center, and that is connected to the mansion. In front of the counter where you buy entry tickets is the Fika Cafe where we had a nice lunch after touring the mansion. There was a glass exhibit, Fluidity, with displays throughout the house. You’ll see a few of these in my photo galleries. You could start the exhibit in the Nelson Cultural Center and continue throughout the house. We enjoyed both the mansion and the many glass exhibits and I’m so glad I finally got to the American Swedish Institute! It was a fun adventure to the other side of the river.

Below is a gallery of some photos that I took with some captions. I hope you will enjoy! First, a gallery of the house and a separate gallery for the glass sculptures will follow, though you will see some sculptures in my photos of the house.

A smaller gallery with some of the glass sculptures we saw.

I had hoped to visit during the holidays as I understand the decorations are wonderful. Perhaps we’ll make it for 2023’s holidays. Something to look forward to! If you’re in Minneapolis, do pay a visit to this beautiful place. Pretty sure you won’t be disappointed. Here’s a link to their website for more information:

American Swedish Institute


Filed under Minnesota

Nature Photo Challenge: Pink

I’m entering another photo challenge and this time it’s Denzil’s weekly challenge and the theme is Pink. He’s in Belgium with gloomy weather and he thought a bit of pink would cheer us up. I’m in Minnesota with gloomy weather and I hope this cheers me up. I found a lot of pink in nature. Come have a look see.

I can’t wait to see these bloom this year, pink crabapple:

My neighbor’s coneflowers:

my neighbor's coneflowers

Another neighbor’s hibiscus:

Some pink cosmos:

A pink morning glory:

A pink cactus flower from the United States Botanic Garden:

A pink orchid also from the United States Botanic Garden:

And one of my all time favorites, the Minnesota state flower Showy Lady’s Slipper:

I’m sure I can find more but I think this will suffice. And yes, that did cheer me up!


Filed under Challenges

Lens-Artists Challenge – Finding Peace

It’s been a while since I’ve participated in photo challenges but since this is the year that I’ve decided to get back to my blog, this seems like the perfect challenge to start with. Following are some things where I find peace.

Our cabin in the north woods of Minnesota is so peaceful and we are treated to fabulous sunsets, as long as it’s not cloudy.

Here’s one that hubby took that I just love, a mixture of clouds with the sunset and some great reflections:

One more sunset from the cabin that I especially like:

I’m always looking for wildlife on my daily walks from spring to fall and I see great blue herons as well as egrets on ponds and lakes near my house. I managed to capture this egret before he flew away.

One other place I find peace is our local conservatory, the Marjorie McNeely Conservatory in St. Paul. We always try to take a trip there during winter to get a break from the cold. It’s so nice and warm in there and feels like the tropics. And so many lovely things to photograph! Here are a couple from this winter’s trip.

And while I’m not a big fan of winter, we’ve had some amazing sunrises this season. I will leave you with this image of a sunrise. I feel peaceful whenever I see a great sunrise:

Waiting for spring in the frozen tundra…….


Filed under Challenges

My 2022 in photos

Time to reflect on the year that just passed. This was the year I retired again. I semi-retired at the end of 2020 after the University of Minnesota offered a retirement incentive. I went back to the U in January to help my old department with their budget as the person who replaced me in 2019 moved on in November 2021. It worked out great and I was able to retire fully in March. I also went back to help them out in June after the gal that worked for me in that job for 4.5 years also moved on. My old boss contacted me to see if I would help out until they filled the open position. It was easy money for an average of 10 hours a month. And then I was done, again, at the end of October. Whew!

In March we were able to attend the Van Gogh exhibit that’s been traveling around the country so I’ve included some of those photos. Some friends had extra tickets and they invited us. Yay!

We visited the Minneapolis Institute of Art for their annual (or not so annual due to the pandemic) Art in Bloom in April. We saw many of our usual favorites but also many other pieces we wouldn’t normally see due to the flower displays throughout the museum. Such a fun thing to do in the spring!!

We went back to Nerstrand Big Woods in May to see the wildflowers and especially the endangered trout lily. Looks like I didn’t create a blog post for this so I’ll include some of my favorite photos from that excursion.

To celebrate my birthday and retirement, we took a trip to Washington, D.C. in May. We’re not quite ready to travel back to Spain. We both love D.C. and it worked out great! We had a fun-filled week, saw lots of stuff and friends and family too. I made a separate post for each day so do please check them out if you’re so inclined. Here is the first day’s link.

We took some trips to the cabin in northern Minnesota. We saw our state flower, the showy Lady’s Slipper, at the end of June at Lake Itasca State Park. And we had a reunion of old friends in the middle of September at the cabin too. I didn’t create a post of our trip to Itasca in June so I’ll include some photos here.

I met my sister in Chicago at the end of July and we had a great time visiting the Art Institute and many family members while we were there.

And of course we went to the Minnesota State Fair! We took another trip to the North Shore in September. It was another beautiful 4 days of hiking, eating fish and chips and searching for waterfalls. It is so beautiful there. I can’t wait to go back!

I’m going to create a couple more galleries to make it easier to compile. Here’s the next one from our trip to D.C.:

One more gallery from my trip to Chicago, the Minnesota State fair and the North Shore:

A few photos of the Showy Lady’s Slipper, Lucette (Paul Bunyan’s girlfriend) in Hackensack, an egret and a great blue heron. When I take my walks, I’m always looking for wildlife and managed to capture some. These are some photos that didn’t make it into a post for 2022:

To round out the year, here’s a gallery of the Akeley reunion of old friends, some autumn photos, the holidays and ending with a few photos from our end of the year visit to the Marjorie McNeely Conservatory in St. Paul.

It was a pretty good year filled with travel, fun experiences and photographs. And lots of happy memories. Happy new year everyone!!


Filed under Year in photos

A winter visit to the conservatory

It’s one of my favorite things to do during winter! We haven’t been to the conservatory since before everything shut down in early 2020. And naturally, things are different now. Advance reservations are required. Oh wait, now I remember that we made reservations at one point in the last almost 3 years. But something came up and we weren’t able to make it. You can make reservations the day of, which is what I did. There were plenty of openings throughout the day about 3 hours prior to opening.

We’re over our 10 plus days of deep freeze and I thought it would be nice to visit the conservatory while it’s relatively nice. Highs are in the 30s now which feels absolutely BALMY compared to what we’ve had since before Christmas. So I ditched the winter coat because I didn’t want to be carrying it around with me. I wore a bulky sweatshirt with my down vest which was nearly perfect. Hubby also wore his vest. It was a tad chilly between the car and the building but we did okay!

We used to enter at the doors to the conservatory where you used to be able to hang your coat. Those days are gone, at least for now while they require reservations. You now enter through the Visitors Center where they scan your bar code for your time slot. And because we entered at a different spot than what used to be normal, our first room was the fern room.

We then wandered around to the different areas of the conservatory. It’s so warm and tropical in there and it smells divine! You feel transported to the tropics in the middle of winter. Ah…….

Next up: the sunken gardens. It was beautiful but neither of us expected it to be all white. The room was also filled with the aroma of one of those flowers, probably those smaller blooms on long stems. I believe they are paperwhites.

Various photos from other rooms.

We ended at the Tropical Encounters Exhibit where many beautiful birds were flying around. There is also a huge fish tank with many varieties to peruse and other containers with snakes, frogs and a tarantula! At the end of this exhibit is a sloth. He tries to camouflage himself but I found him!!! And he moved a little bit while we stood there.

If you’re in the twin cities area, do pay a visit to the conservatory. It’s such a nice break from winter!! There is also a zoo but that is mostly outdoors and we didn’t venture over there. But many kids with their parents were checking it out. Here’s a link to their website in case anybody is interested.

I’m working on my “year in photos” for 2022 so stay tuned for that post coming soon!


Filed under Minnesota, Travel

A reunion of old friends in the north woods

Over a long weekend in September we had a reunion of old friends at our family cabin in Akeley, Minnesota. The idea came about when our friend John wanted to attend his high school reunion in Duluth. So, the Akeley reunion was arranged around John’s reunion. In a few short months we all put together ideas and plans to enjoy the north woods of Minnesota and play a few tunes too.

In his younger years my husband was involved in bands in Bemidji and many of these people have remained friends. Some bandmates were high school friends in Bemidji and others he met in his various bands. It was a combination of Bemidji high school friends and bandmates from the early 70s as well as two valley girl friends from the same time period. John’s wife Sue and I have also known each other since the early 70s. She was in my sister’s grade, and they were both in band together. That is how we met, and we’ve been friends ever since. John and Sue’s daughter Paris came along too.

Below is a photo of one of those bands, Open Flow. Three from this group were at the reunion:

The weekend was labeled Bemidji Boyz Music Camp since everyone involved are musicians and this was mainly a group of Bemidji friends. Magnets were made with everyone’s names and phone numbers and apparently John got a deal if he ordered a bunch of these magnets. This became a joke by the end of the weekend with nearly everyone saying “Hey, do you need a magnet?” We left a couple on the fridges at the cabin. I have a photo of one of the magnets but I’m not posting it here for the world to see all our phone numbers. And I don’t know how to block all of the information out of the photo.

John, Sue and Paris arrived in Minneapolis Wednesday evening and had plans to dine with other friends that night and then headed north Thursday. I texted them from the highway on Thursday and they were about 15 minutes behind us en route to Akeley. We had planned to stop at Morey’s (which just became Rich’s) in Motley to get some fish, so we just waited a few minutes until they arrived and Paris took this selfie:

The list of invitees got to about 15 and the actual count was 10, but not everyone was there for the entire time. Most of us arrived at the cabin on Thursday and then departed on Sunday. One was only able to be there on Thursday. One missed his flight, so he arrived Friday, and another wasn’t able to arrive until Friday. The rest weren’t able to come for various reasons. There is talk of doing this again next summer so hopefully more will be able to come as long as we get our poop in a group and plan ahead!

The cabin sleeps up to 7 people and we have plenty of ground space for anyone that wanted to camp. A couple of the guys rented a cabin in the area, another pitched a tent at the top of the hill and the rest of us stayed in the cabin. It worked out rather well and we only had rain overnight one night.

Considering we were on the cusp of autumn in mid-September, the weather was absolutely amazing! I was keeping an eye on the weather forecast leading up to our long weekend, an exercise in futility to be sure because the forecasts were mostly wrong, lucky for us!! We were able to have a campfire, hang out and dine on the deck, as well as take the pontoon out a few times. Temps averaged in the low 70s during the day and into the 50s overnight. I brought extra blankets in case all the blankets at the cabin were used up, but we never needed those extra blankets.

I have to admit that we were a bit nervous about this get-together. We don’t usually host big parties like this and there were so many details to be arranged for the music, like music stands and power cords and drum machines and I don’t even know what else because I wasn’t too involved in all the music discussions. Dan offered a PA system and various drums and since he wasn’t able to stay, Larry returned all of Dan’s equipment on his way home. We even ordered a porta potty since the cabin only has one bathroom. It was awesome how everything worked out! Well, the porta potty got a little goofed up. We were supposed to call them when we got to the cabin and then they would deliver. Instead, one friend arrived before we did and he was there to meet the porta potty guy. Thanks Larry for handling that for us 👍

We only planned dinners for the three nights: Thursday was taco night, Friday was pizza and Saturday was brats, wild rice and my apparently famous baked beans. The three gals also went to the Super One grocery store in Walker to get food for lunches, drinks and some snacks. We all chipped in here and there and everything worked out well.

During the prep in the months beforehand Sue and I decided that we three gals would go to Itasca on Friday so that we’d get “girl time” and we left the boys to entertain themselves with their music. Sue and Paris had never been to Itasca. I had never been to Itasca at the end of summer and there were many autumn colors starting to show and was so beautiful. I love that park! And lucky for us, Douglas Lodge restaurant was open, and we had a great lunch. Here’s a gallery of photos from our day at the park, a combination of mine and Sue’s photos. Click on any photo in this gallery to see larger photos and scroll through to read comments:

There was also a lot of prep for the music that all of us participated in, some of us more than others. Sue and I had small parts playing flutes on two songs. I don’t remember all the details of that prep but there were lots of emails back and forth. The guys set everything up in the garage since that is the biggest sheltered space in case it rained. In the emails everyone was deciding which songs we should all practice. There were Jump In The Line, Yellow Bird, and Yellow Submarine in the mix.

Following is a gallery of other photos from the weekend. It’s a combination of mine, hubby’s and Sue’s photos. Click on any photo in this gallery to see larger photos and scroll through to read comments: