Category Archives: Minnesota

Mid to late spring in the twin cities

Ready for another photo tour of what’s been blooming the past couple of weeks? Note: I started this about three weeks before I published it and now it’s summer! Better late than never though eh?

While working from home (due to the pandemic) and ever since the weather got warm, I started a new walking routine. I try to do either two walks or a walk and a bike ride each week day.  I have a few routes that I take from my house.  My favorite is the walk to Willow Pond. If I walk on the Willow Pond path all the way to the brown house  with the interesting garden, that’s 7-8 minutes, so round trip it’s nearly a mile. It’s a fairly quiet path in my neighborhood with occasionally one to three other walkers.  I enjoy photographing the flowers as well as the reflections in the pond when it’s calm. I included one other photo with reflections from our local park in this gallery.

I took a lot of photos of lilacs this year! I never tire of them.

And iris too.

When we walk to the park we either walk there and back, circling around the amphitheatre, or we go all the way around the lake.  The latter takes about 40 minutes and it’s a good hike. And if you’re lucky, you’ll see some wild life. The other day I saw an egret as I rode my bike around the lake.

Several of my neighbors have rain gardens and they’re between our house and the park, I’ve taken photos of these too.  I thought my neighbor said that the city helped them with theirs. So I was curious and found information about their purpose and benefits as well as the Ramsey-Washington County Metro Watershed District. I’m thinking my neighbors may have benefited from the Stewardship Grants program.  The gardens in my neighborhood are all a bit different and it’s fun to see their progress throughout the season. My neighbors to the south have the largest on the block and it’s full of flowers! Here are some rain gardens on the way to and from the park.

We also have a vegetable/fruit garden. During the winter we had some wood delivered which was stored in this garden space. We haven’t had a garden in that spot for a couple of years so the first project was moving the wood.  In the next gallery are photos of this garden when it was first planted and then a little later and it’s easy to see the difference. We planted basil, green pepper, cucumber, cherry tomatoes and another, regular size tomato but I forget which variety.

And of course there’s the monster rhubarb plant. It’s since been pruned.

time to harvest! this was before the wood was moved.

This year I also took photos of the cottonwood trees and their blossoms. I was on a walk by myself and yep, it’s that time of year where you keep your mouth shut so as not to collect cottonwood blossoms in your mouth. Yuck. But I realized that I didn’t know what a cottonwood tree looked like.  So I followed where the blossoms were coming from and finally I know what a cottonwood tree looks like.

To close here’s a gallery of a few more things in my garden. I have columbine that grows in the cracks of the patio. I now have three of them! Other photos are of lamium which is a nice ground cover and it pretty much blooms the entire season. But beware, it will take over if you let it!

I hope you’ve enjoyed this tour of spring in the twin cities. I’ll be back soon with summer blooms!

 

 

 

 

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Early spring blooms, pandemic version

I know, the pandemic has nothing to do with spring blooms but I felt that since this is the year of the pandemic, I could designate this year’s posts to it? Instead of the boring year like I do most of the time. Must think of more creative titles….

But back to the point of my post. The pandemic news is just awful so I’m taking you away from it if momentarily to share what’s been growing and blooming here in the frozen tundra in the past month or so. I managed to capture my rhubarb plant just as it started poking through the ground. That plant is so hardy, comes back every year. And we’ve already had our first rhubarb crisp. I have another recipe for pork tenderloin with a rhubarb chutney that we just made for the first time this season and it is yummy.  I always have more rhubarb than I need and in years past I would bring a lot of it to work for people to use. I guess I can’t do that this year huh? The awful pandemic :(

The bleeding hearts just started to get going last week. They are so lovely and unique. And they grow likes weeds in my yard, no joke!! They are also very hardy and every year it seems I have a few more plants than I had the year before. The next gallery contains bleeding hearts and others flowers in my garden.

We’re planning to have a vegetable garden this year. Hubby got most of the firewood that was stacked over the winter in the vegetable garden space stacked in the garage. There was a small pile left so we had our (hopefully) last fire of the season last weekend to use that up. Yes, it’s still been a little chilly around here of late so the fire was really nice. But back to the garden.  We always have tomatoes, so probably a cherry and a regular sized tomato. Perhaps cucumbers. I would like fresh basil and we have room for one more veggie. What will it be?

I also wanted to share a few photos of snow on Easter because these are the only photos I have of the “purplies”. That’s what we call these early blooming delicate little bells. Their real name is scillia and they are so lovely and such a delight every spring. It turns out that the only photos I have of them was the day it snowed. Please enjoy ducks ducking for food with one duck’s butt in the air :) Obviously the ducks have nothing to do with plants and flowers. We just found them amusing so I thought I would share.

The final photo is a close-up of buds of a cranapple tree in the park down the street. We walk and bike there frequently and this was on a walk last weekend. Stay safe out there and enjoy your spring.

 

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Winter Carnival Orchid Show

Every year the Marjorie McNeely Conservatory located in Como Park, St. Paul, has an orchid show during St. Paul’s winter carnival, typically the third weekend in January. I try to make it every year even though it’s very popular which means it’s very crowded. I thought I was being smart by getting there just a few minutes before it opened at 10:00.  Um, not!! As we approached the conservatory on Estabrook Drive cars were already parking on the street.  I thought for sure we’d get a spot in the parking lot as we always have before. Wrong again! The parking lot was completely full this time so we went back to the beginning and parked even further down the street than when we first passed it a few minutes earlier.  Next year we’re going 30 minutes early and we’ll wait in the car! It worked out, obviously, so without further ado, below are some galleries of not just gorgeous orchids but other beauty contained within the conservatory.

I’m going to split the galleries up a little bit. First, some photos of plants and flowers other than orchids.

Next, some photos of “general” orchid views.

Finally, some close up photos of the exquisite orchids that I photographed. I couldn’t capture them all, there were just too many people. But, as always, it was so worth it just to feel a bit of the tropics on a winter day and to view beautiful flowers.

And my favorite of the group, nice and large.

 

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Caffe Biaggio, St. Paul, Minnesota

Yes, another restaurant review!! I’m not sure why I’ve never written one for this place but no time like the present as it’s said. Oh! I’ve got to post an update because I HAVE previously written about it! Here’s a link to my other post.

This is another favorite of ours for dinner.  The food is great and we always leave satisfied. It’s on the busy thoroughfare University Avenue which stretches between both Minneapolis and St. Paul.  And Caffe Biaggio is on the St. Paul side fairly close to Highway 280. The Green Line goes right by it and the Raymond Avenue Station is close by. There is also a bus stop right in front. So many ways to arrive there!  They also have a parking lot with plenty of spaces but get there before the dinner rush to get a spot.  The restaurant is in a row of buildings so if you blink, you might miss it.

We’ve mostly eaten dinner at Caffe Biaggio but two summers ago when hubby had a day off he picked me up for lunch and we ate on their patio. It’s nice but a tad noisy due to the busy University Avenue. But it’s fun to see the world go by through the latticework that surrounds the patio for privacy.

Our most recent visit started off with a nice bottle of red wine and  deep fried olives. Wait, what? We ordered their fried calamari and the waiter delivered these fabulous olives. We got his attention and he was about to take them away but decided to give us a bonus.

I didn’t realize they had a grilled calamari option until our waiter asked which calamari we would like. It’s been a while since we had the fried calamari and it was even more delicious this time. It’s served with a mayo type sauce which is different than the usual marinara type sauce that we’ve typically had elsewhere. When the waiter removed our empty plate he commented that they had changed the breading. Aha! So it wasn’t our imaginations that it tasted even better than we remembered.

Next came our main entrees.  Hubby had one of the specials that night, a lobster tail risotto with langostino and I had their spinach gnocchi in tomato sauce, something new for me. Everything we have had there has been great and this meal was no exception. Here’s a link to their website for more information.

Small fun fact: Hubby worked for a very short time at Breakfast at Mama’s when he previously lived in the cities during the 70s. In the “about us” section of Caffe Biaggio’s website they mention Mama D’s. Mama is the mother of the owner of Caffe Biaggio and she ran both Mama D’s and Breakfast at Mama’s.

If you like Italian food and you’re in St. Paul, do stop by Caffe Biaggio.  Great food and great service and several ways to get there.

They adorn their tables with a small vase of fresh flowers. Nice touch!!

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Thanksgiving at the M Street Cafe

I didn’t get a chance to post this last year because, holidays.  But since I just posted a restaurant review of the St. Paul Grill I remembered that I had intended to do the same for the Thanksgiving brunch that the M Street Cafe had this past year. The M Street Cafe is another restaurant at the St. Paul Hotel. It’s only open for lunch and I had never been there before. I wasn’t sure if I was going to be able to handle making my usual Thanksgiving feast that we do every year because I was still recovering from my shoulder injuries, so I made reservations at the M Street Cafe.  They have an amazing spread with various stations all lined up. I didn’t get good photos of the meal courses because it was so crowded and I didn’t want to butt in line to get photos. The meal was good but I think my favorite part was the dessert room.  Yes, there were so many desserts, it needed its own room!

You can’t really compare a Thanksgiving meal out to a home cooked meal. There were lots of choices and I wish I had kept the menu of all those choices, alas, I did not nor can I find it online. But, there was something for everyone. If you didn’t like turkey, you could have ham, for example. Unfortunately I don’t remember all the food that was offered. But it was worth it not to have to worry about re-injuring my shoulders by preparing the feast, however, there were no leftovers and they didn’t allow us to take home our desserts.  Oh well. It was a nice meal nonetheless.  Following are galleries of the photos that I took. I’ve created a separate gallery just for the desserts. I think you’ll see why.

And now for the desserts:

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The St. Paul Grill

I love celebrating  at this restaurant. It’s one of my favorites. We decided to continue our Christmas celebration last year with a night at the St. Paul Grill.  It’s a restaurant on the main floor of the St. Paul Hotel and it’s a great spot for any celebration. We went all out and it was so worth it!!

We started with their shrimp cocktail. Oh my, best cocktail sauce ever!! But oops, I didn’t get a photo of it. There’s currently a photo of it on their menu but I’m not sure if it will remain there. Miss M and I shared a strawberry spinach salad described thusly: Baby Spinach topped with Sliced Strawberries, Creamy French Brie Cheese, Candied Walnuts and Raspberry Poppy Seed Dressing.  It was the perfect combination and delicious. And hubby had their French onion soup. There’s no description because it doesn’t need one. Ha!

On to the main courses. Miss M had their 6 oz. filet mignon, I had the scallops (Pan Seared Scallops over Butternut Squash Puree with a Root Vegetable Fregola and a Red Wine Glaze) and hubby had the crab cakes (Sweet, Tender Colossal Blue Crab with Citrus Tarragon Aïoli). We also had sides of mashed potatoes, asparagus and onion rings. Everything was amazing! And the service, always impeccable.  The two reasons I love celebrating at the St. Paul Grill. It is a bit spendy (that’s Minnesotan for expensive) but, to me, it’s so worth it because you get to feel like royalty and eat delicious food at the same time.

bread basket

filet mignon

scallops

crab cakes

To finish up we all shared a 7 layer chocolate cake. It’s not on their menu currently but I did get a photo of it! My last gallery here includes the dessert as well as a view of the wine list with some very expensive wines that we did not indulge in. And a couple photos of us enjoying the evening. If you’re in St. Paul and want to celebrate, do check out the St. Paul Grill. You’ll leave satisfied, I can just about guarantee it!

 

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Walker Sculpture Garden, Minneapolis – Autumn 2019

Back to a local treasure, the Walker Sculpture Garden. It’s been a long while since we’ve visited and I’ve been wanting to go since it reopened in June 2017 after a renovation. We went on a sunny, early October day a little over two years since its reopening. Hey, at least we finally got there!

I enjoyed our walk about but I’m not so sure I like the changes. It seems that it’s not laid out as well as it previously was and that’s hard to describe. Sculptures are mostly arranged in various squares with other sculptures surrounding the squares. So, you enter one side of the square to get a close up view of the sculpture in there.  When you exit you only get to see that side’s sculptures making it a long walk to see the other sculptures on the other two sides?  Yea, like I said, hard to describe.  There is one Alexander Calder mobile on the western edge that felt like it took a long time to walk to. There also used to be a green house and that is gone.  There are, however, nice gardens that probably looked better in spring and summer but I tried to capture some of those. There still was some beauty to behold gardenwise and several flowers still blooming.

The Walker Sculpture Garden opened in 1988 but the history actually goes back to 1906 when the land that would become the sculpture garden was donated to the Minneapolis park board by Thomas Lowry. Lowry was a real estate magnate and head of the Minneapolis Street Railway Co.  His home was where the Walker Art Center now stands, adjacent to the sculpture garden.  There is the Lowry tunnel as part of interstate 94 close by and now I know who that tunnel was named for. Interesting!  The gardens contain more than 40 works of art on 11 acres and is the largest urban sculpture garden in the country.  I learned most of this from the Minneapolis Parks website.  Check out more interesting stuff at this link.  At the Walker Art Center’s website is a page containing photos of all of the sculptures as well as the layout. I grabbed the names of the pieces and the artists’ names from this site.

I was also curious how the Walker Art Center got is name.  Instead of summarizing here I will direct you to this link for some interesting history of Thomas Barlow (T. B.) Walker, a Minneapolis lumber baron who loved art.

I hope you’ll enjoy this photo tour of our day in the sculpture garden. I didn’t capture all of the sculptures but I’m happy with my samples. And it was a perfect, sunny day with gorgeous blue skies.

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