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!
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:
Dan was kind enough to combine all of our photos to create a video montage on youtube. Some photos are blurry and there is talk of creating another video without the blurry ones. When that happens I will amend this post and add it here. This video contains many of the photos shared here but there are others that I don’t have so it’s a nice addition to this post. Nice job Dan!! And thank you so much 👍
There were many stories shared and tunes played over our three-day long weekend. If any attendees reading this want to add comments, please do as it would be lovely to have others’ perspectives.
It would be fun to do this again next year. Put your thinking caps on and let’s plan it. It was great to spend time with old friends and getting to know others better. And in the end a good time was had by all!
To close, here are some photos of the gorgeous sunsets we experienced. Such a beautiful and peaceful place on 11th Crow Wing Lake.
Quick, before autumn is over!! I’ve been meaning to post some autumn photos and I’m finally getting to it, in the “ta da” nick of time. Just a quick gallery of different autumn scenes from around the Twin Cities that I hope you will enjoy.
And one beautiful autumn sunrise. I had just gotten to Target and saw this gorgeous color in my rear view mirror so naturally I had to take this photo.
Last summer we finally travelled to the North Shore of Lake Superior. Neither of us had ever been before and we loved it so much that we went back this summer. Both very different but very fun trips. Last year we stayed at a place right on the shore of Lake Superior and every room had a lake view which was quite nice! We decided to try a different place and spent four nights at the Cascade Lodge in Lutsen. It is also on the lake but the highway is in between so one has to be careful when crossing highway 61 to get to the lakeshore.
We did a similar first day as we did last year lunching at the Black Woods Grill in Duluth, a nice halfway point. We then made another stop at Kendall’s Smokehouse for some smoked fish to enjoy as a picnic in our room our first night. This worked great last year and it was another success this year. Huzzah!
We even found Castle Danger Brewery. We drove past it without knowing it last year so I made sure we found it this year. After a short break with beverages we headed on to our next destination before getting to our accommodations. Our plan was to go to both Gooseberry and Split Rock State Parks but we spent a bit more time at Gooseberry than planned so we didn’t have time to go to Split Rock Lighthouse. Since I didn’t get to the spots for the iconic views of the lighthouse we added it to our trip back. Except that didn’t work out because it was raining the day we left the North Shore, same as last year. Next year then!
Our first full day we opted for breakfast at the lodge. The restaurant was one of the enticers to stay at the lodge and the food is pretty good. After breakfast we headed out behind the lodge and along a creek where we each had a small mishap. No big deal either of them and we used both as a reminder to watch where we were going. That hike on the Cascade Creek Trail was a bit more treacherous than we had anticipated. The next gallery contains photos from our hike and others of the lodge.
We had a nice lunch at the Gunflint Tavern in Grand Marais. Afterwards I got to shop at the Lake Superior Trading Post where I tried on some jackets and purchased some early Christmas presents and Reed’s butterscotch candies to boot! I really enjoyed that store.
We hiked in Cascade River State Park and found some waterfalls that afternoon. There was a small parking lot and trails right off highway 61 about 2 minutes from the lodge. Another nice hike! We had dinner at the lodge restaurant and our order got mixed up somehow. A big misunderstanding with the order taker. Once it got sorted out we enjoyed our meals. The salmon was delicious.
Our next full day started with breakfast at South of the Border Cafe and we did not time this well as all the tables were occupied when we arrived. We waited about 5 minutes and a couple of retired gentlemen invited us to sit at their 4 person table. We thanked them and sat with them. Such nice men and what a nice gesture.
After breakfast we headed to Grand Portage State Park on the Canadian border. It’s a fairly easy hike to the tallest waterfall in Minnesota. And if you’re lucky, you can see Canadians checking out the waterfall on the other side of the river and we saw some! They have a nice visitor’s center as well.
It was a short drive from Grand Portage State Park to Judge Magney State Park where there is yet another waterfall, The Devil’s Kettle. So of course we had to check it out. Oh but wait, there’s 192 stairs to get to it? Which means 192 stairs back up….oh what the hell! That was the reason we chose to take that hike and it was worth it!! Yet another beautiful waterfall. But all those steps down and back up again took a toll and my legs were a bit sore for a few days. Still worth it!! And I can’t believe I took no photos of any of those steps!
We lunched at Fisherman’s Daughter for fish and chips and they give you options of shrimp, whitefish or herring. We sat outside and really enjoyed our meal and the patio. Hubby chose shrimp and chips and I chose whitefish which came with cole slaw. Yum!!
For our last full day we took the scenic drive on the Gunflint Trail after another trip to South of the Border Cafe for breakfast. We saw the nice retired gentlemen again and waved to them. This time we got our own table. Sure is beautiful and peaceful on the Gunflint Trail. We stopped at some scenic overlook spots and could see the Canadian border again at Gunflint Lake.
I had written a bunch of notes about where to stop and our best chance to see moose but we didn’t feel much like hiking anywhere that morning likely due to all those steps to The Devil’s Kettle waterfall the day before. So we changed up the plan. Instead of hiking a half mile uphill to Blueberry Hill for some awesome views, we skipped it after we read the handwritten sign and no information (not even the name of the trail) about the trail. The handwritten sign said it was very steep and that the views were obstructed? We didn’t feel like doing anything steep so we moved on. We did do the small hike to the moose viewing area further up the road, which was nice but there weren’t any moose.
We decided to go all the way to the end of the Gunflint Trail and check out the museum that’s there, Chik-Wauk Museum and Nature Center. But we skipped the museum as it was starting to feel like lunch time so we headed back to Trail Center Lodge where we had another delicious lunch.
We had dinner at the Bluefin Grille and had a table with a lake view. We ate here last year and really liked it so decided to make another visit. Another delicious meal in a lovely setting.
It was another successful trip to the North Shore this summer. Now, where shall we stay next year? This might become an annual trip! It is so beautiful and there are so many great hiking options. I definitely recommend a visit to Minnesota’s North Shore!
It’s been another different year at the fair. We have gone to the fair on opening day since before I can remember. And then we’ve always gone at least one more time, sometimes more. Last year was the first time we didn’t go more than once due to Covid. Okay, 2020 too but there was no fair then. I’m glad that I went last year but didn’t feel very comfortable and wore a mask on the bus as well as in the buildings. This year’s opening day was so crowded! From the moment we entered I could tell it was going to be a very busy day. One reason we like going on opening day is because it’s typically calmer. But I guess since we haven’t had a “normal” fair in three years everyone was excited to go this year? Maybe.
It was so crowded that we weren’t able to view the crop art in the Agriculture building, one of my favorite things to do at the fair. We checked twice and both times the line was out the door to the crop art room. And I didn’t want to wait in the crowd. Bummer. But we enjoyed what we did see: the animal barns, the great art in the fine arts building and a trip on the Sky Ride. And I got my pronto pup as well as a chocolate malt from the Kiwanis stand outside the fine arts building. Best malt at the fair! I have no idea if they’re any different than the malts in the dairy building but I’ve always liked the Kiwanis malts. This first gallery contains photos from opening day:
We decided to go back on the second “seniors day” a week after opening day and wow, what a difference! It was so nice and calm and oh, so much more pleasant! We have always started our day, on opening day, with breakfast. This year our plan was foiled because, did I mention the crowds at the get-go? Oh my gosh. I wasn’t prepared to not have breakfast! We planned to have breakfast at the Hamline Church Dining Hall, the last church dining hall at the fair. Previously we went to the Epiphany Diner but that went away several years ago. Hamline was already packed with a line of about 20 people out the door when we got there about 8:30. Okay, regroup and this was a first: we decided on pronto pups for breakfast! Yum! On seniors day we had breakfast at The Peg, something new for us. It’s the only full service restaurant at the fair and it was great!! One difference I noticed was when the food comes, it is hot! As opposed to the dining halls where you put food on a tray and make your way through the line, find a table and by the time you eat, the food isn’t hot. Perhaps we’ll make The Peg our new annual breakfast spot.
And I may have been the first one in the Agriculture building when it opened at 9:00. Well, I certainly was the first one in that door. And I headed right to the crop art: no line!! There were maybe 3 or 5 of us checking out the crop art. Now this is the way to do it! We perused the flower displays in those rooms of the Agriculture building as well. They rotate every two days so these were different displays than opening day, and we didn’t even venture into the flower rooms on opening day. Just too many people for my comfort level.
Other photos from our second trip to the fair:
One fun thing from our second day was the Sky Ride. We did some shopping at the Grand Stand and we were just about done so decided to take the one way Sky Ride to get us closer to the entrance for our bus home. As we waited I spotted and photographed the Hippie (or Flower Power) car and as it happened we got to ride in it after we made our way through the line! En route inside our fun hippie car we heard a young girl yell out “Flower Power!!” and hubby yelled back “Peace, Love and Ringo!” Too funny. One of the best Sky Rides ever!
We stopped at the DFL booth and a nice volunteer asked if we’d like our photo taken, so there we are with President Biden and Vice President Harris. We were each given a soy bean to vote our most important issue this year. Abortion Access was winning at the fair as well as across the country! The last photo in the next gallery is hubby discussing issues calmly with a volunteer at the Republican lieutenant governor candidate’s booth. This is the way to do it, calmly discuss. Neither could change the other’s mind and they ended their chat positively agreeing that it is important to vote.
All in all, it was a great two times at the fair. Until next year!
A decade ago this month, I started this blog with a brief welcome post:
Life is a wonderful journey.As we reflect, our favorite memories confirm that the best things in life truly are not things, but rather experiences:travelnear and far, the simplicity of nature found in the garden and great outdoors,and good food with family and friends. Sit back and enjoy — you can always clean tomorrow!
Ciao~ Kat B.
Over the years, my blog contributions and creative energies have ebbed and flowed … but one thing has not changed over the last 10 years, and that is my enthusiasm for the Minnesota State Fair. It checks all the boxes — travel (near), celebrating the abundance of harvest and Minnesota’s great outdoor offerings (garden), and SO. MUCH. GOOD. FOOD (EAT … with a couple hundred thousand of your friends)! With over 300 acres of animals, attractions, entertainment, and food to…
Every year, except for 2020 and 2021, the Minneapolis Institute of Art holds Art in Bloom. I think it’s the same weekend each year, and this year it was held the last weekend in April, beginning on Thursday, April 28th and ending on Sunday, May 1st. Artists send in applications to be chosen to interpret one piece of art with flowers. It is fascinating and inspirational to see how well the floral arrangements match the work of art.
Since I just retired I planned to go the first day at opening time, rather than on the weekend when it would be more crowded. I guess I should have known that since Art in Bloom hasn’t been held in three years that it would be busy. But I had no idea we wouldn’t be able to park! Their parking lot was full and all the spots on the streets were taken. They were offering valet parking for $20 but we thought we could just come back later. And that ended up being the next day after lunch.
We were driving towards the museum looking for street parking when we saw a man about to open his car door and he was pointing at his car. We drove past him but since there wasn’t anyone behind us we backed up then asked him if he was motioning to us and he said yes! And that our timing was perfect. Excellent! I have not approached the museum from this direction before and I noticed a sculpture of a head lying on the grass outside the north side of the museum. Check it out in the second gallery below. I also chose it for my featured image above. So cool!!
The museum was still pretty crowded but we managed it okay. I’m not a big fan of crowds and there were tour groups that we had to maneuver around, but it wasn’t too bad. We typically don’t spend many hours at museums and my husband describes what happens as “my eyes are full”, meaning you can only see so much art all at once. But we sure enjoyed what we saw. We didn’t have a plan other than to start on the third floor then work our way down. And we just wandered from gallery to gallery looking for floral arrangements. We saw so many pieces that we had never seen before, and all because there were flowers next to them.
We usually see our favorites when we go to MIA and by the time we’ve done that, it’s usually time to go. On our last visit I chose a gallery that we had never seen before and I think I will continue to do that on successive visits. It seem like a good way to try and see everything there because you can’t possibly see it all in one visit.
Most of the photos that I took were the pieces of art where there was a floral arrangement. But since we were in galleries we had not seen before, we perused other artworks too. So, for my photo galleries the first one is for the artworks with floral arrangements and the other with other pieces that tripped my fancy on this visit to MIA. I hope you will enjoy!!
And here’s the gallery of other pieces of art that I saw along the way: