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Off to the park

We’ve recently moved across town and happen to live closer to nieces and nephews. You know what that means. We’ve been added to the speed-dial sitter list.

Last weekend was our maiden voyage.  A full day with the 3-year old twins. As you might imagine, we had no trouble sleeping that night. We had a lot of fun and enjoyed the girls, but they certainly kept us going all day.  To any of you who have children or nieces/nephews, this will come as no surprise, but we came away from the day having been reminded of some important things. These are lessons I gained from a day with three-year olds:

1: SLOW DOWN. Normally, it takes Brent and I about four minutes to get to the park on our bikes. Not so with three-year-olds. No, it was a 45-minute walk each way. The trip to the park wasn’t my brightest idea on a 95-degree day. But they were troopers and never complained. Yet it was a slow, deliberate pace the entire way. There was no rush, no sense of needing to get to our destination quickly. No wonder it’s only adults who deal with things like high blood pressure. We’d all do well to slow down our pace a notch or two!

Stop & Smell the Flowers

2: STOP & SMELL THE FLOWERS: One of the highlights on the trail was to stop and smell the flowers. If we’d been in a hurry, the beauty of the landscape and wildflowers would have been missed. It was sweet to see one sister want to share her flower experience with the other. What a great lesson. Stop, take a look around. Be present in the moment, enjoy what God puts in your path and share it with those around you.

Quack Quack!

3. INJECT FUN INTO ORDINARY THINGS. The girls knew we’d be having a cold treat when we got home, but we kept the fact that it was smoothies a surprise. Unwilling to allow an unnamed treat, the twins decided to refer to the surprise as “Quack Quack.” Silly as it was, it brought us all lots of laughter for the rest of the night.

4: KINDLE THE JOY OF READING (no pun intended!). I’ve always loved books. Most of my life I’ve been a voracious reader. But, for some reason, recent years have drew my attention elsewhere. Watching the girls bring me book after book after book to read was contagious. I think we put away about 20 books before the night was over.

5. REMEMBER THE SNEETCHES. One of the many stories we read was Dr. Seuss’ “Sneetches.” It’s a book I’ve had since I was a child and it shows by its well-worn corners. It made an impact on me as a child and I often recall its lessons even as an adult. The basic message is not to get caught up in the latest trends or judge others just because they’re not caught up in them. I think about how our society is so influenced by the latest

Sneetches

hot gadget, fashion or topic. Too often we’re judged by what toys we have or what we wear or how informed we are about the current trending Twitter feed. Yet, being on top of those things has nothing to do with strong character, kindness and living a godly life.

Isn’t it amazing what God shows us through children? What lessons have you learned lately?

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Looking for a roughly 20-mile bike ride with plenty to see and eat? We spent this 4th of July enjoying the gorgeous day and getting some exercise as we looped the Minneapolis lakes area. We took well-marked, nicely paved trails with very few steep hills as we made our way along Minnehaha Parkway from Lake Nokomis heading toward Lake Harriet, onto Lake Calhoun and then circled Lake of the Isles before cutting across the city on the Midtown Greenway to the West Mississippi River Parkway. We “put in” on the north side of lake Nokomis and circled clockwise, west on the parkway.

Punch Pizza (near Lake Calhoun) made a fabulous half-way point to stop for lunch. That worked for me since it’s one of my favorite summer spots to grab a bite to eat. It was fun to see the city from a new perspective with great people watching opportunities. The lakes were buzzing with activity and Minnehaha Falls was roaring.

We came home in time to put a couple steaks on the grill to accompany some sauteed brocollini, a caprese salad and iced tea. It was an excellent, low-key way to spend Independence Day! We hope you found a fun way to celebrate as well. Happy 4th and thanks to all who serve our country. We appreciate you!

Minnehaha Falls

Bike Trails
Midtown Greenway
Minneapolis Trails

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The weekend before last, there were four of us middle-aged white faces that set out in two canoes on a 2 day overnight camping trip in northern Minnesota. We had 3 rivers to choose from depending on water flow. We ended up putting into the Whiteface River at County Road 52 about a mile west of the town of Cotton. The river originates in the Whiteface Reservoir and flows southwest finally feeding the St. Louis River. We did not put in

Breakfast

These guys know how to make breakfast in the woods!

at the reservoir, although the fastest water runs between there and County Road 52. The main thing is that we were 4 middle-aged guys who packed to travel in comfort. We had 2 aluminum canoes, 2 large tents, 2 large coolers, 4 captains chairs and 4 backpacks. We just wanted to paddle, camp, eat, mix Jeremiah Weed lemonades and enjoy the outdoors for 36 hours. And believe me, we ate like kings!

Our drop in site on the Whiteface River near Cotton, MN

The real adventure began when we started about an hour late putting into the river. As it turned out the only other people we would see for the next 36 hours happened to come floating by as we arranged the boats under the county bridge. They were 3 guys, 2 in a canoe and 1 in a kayak…and they were traveling LIGHT. They had the real-deal equipment: light weight canoe, small packs and a water proof pack for food and tent.

They smiled, waved and gave us words of encouragement as the 4 of us loaded our gear like we were at a private campground and not sparing the luxuries.

Off we went, and I must say that once you’re on the river, it’s quiet, full of wildlife and peaceful. There were several class 1 rapids to navigate and we did pretty good. Although the flow coming out of the reservoir was reported less than optimal. So in several places we had to get out and push the canoe through rocky, shallow spots. There are very few county road crossings along the way. Much of the stretch has long expanses of state-owned land with no access, so there’s literally nobody around. There are spots with private land, a few houses with barking dogs and many hunting shacks buried in the woods. We saw mostly deer, geese, wood ducks, mergansers, beavers, song birds, and otter and raccoon tracks. This river is just one of 32 waterways totaling 4,400 miles designated by the Minnesota DNR as “water trails”. If you scout the DNR website, you’ll get references to books and online materials that provide phone numbers for water flow rates from dams and reservoirs that would affect your experience. If you go to the Whiteface, you can dial for discharge readings: 218-720-2777. A discharge of 150 cfs is enough to get by with a bit of scraping on the bottom of your canoe.

Most of the trees are maple, cedar, conifers, aspen, birch and pine. Most of the pine is gone. It was logged long ago, but you’ll spot the occasional red or white one standing tall amongst the rest. The forest is mostly made of large ferns that look like something from the forests of

Mark stuck

Mark learns that the shore isn't as solid as it appears!

Avatar. There aren’t any official campsites along the way. So part of the adventure is making your own. However that can be a bit tricky because you must respect the private property and then you must find someplace where you can access the river bank easily. And that is where the challenge is. Other than the rocky class 1 rapids, the rest of the river is mostly a weird mixture of charcoal colored sand and clay. This stuff sticks to you like putty and if you’re not careful will suck you in down to your knees. This leaves you wondering how you’ll extract yourself without loosing your shoes and not falling completely into the river.

Oh, if you go, beware, there are mosquitos. They fly faster than you can paddle. However, I was prepared. I had doused my clothing in permethrin before the trip and we all sprayed clouds of deet on ourselves. Amazingly, I didn’t have a single insect bite. They buzzed me incessantly, but I never itched from a bite.  And once the campfire was going, the bugs simply stayed away. I only had one tick find the palm of my hand as I was out gathering firewood, and he ended up in the fire.

Earlier I told you that you might see beavers on your trip. If you don’t see any, you’ll certainly run into their handiwork. Mother Nature does her best to add to the fallen trees through wind and erosion. There is a stated log jam about 3 quarters of the way toward where County Road 133 crosses over the river. This is a HUGE log jam. The maps list the portage around the log jam as 50 rods, but it is MUCH

Portaging the canoe over logjam #1

bigger than that. At a minimum, I’d estimate it to be 200+. The kicker is that you think it is the only one on the trip. Not so. We ran into 3 log jams. And the only way around most of it is by portaging through ferns and stinging nettles. The copper colored waters of the river feel really good after burning your legs on the nettles! Originally we intended to exit another 7 or 8 miles south of County Rd 133, but the log jams slowed our progress and we were thinking one of us would have to hitchhike a ride from someone to our van. But as luck would have it, the 3 guys that had passed us the day before

A collection of 2 groups gives each other a hand!

ended up behind us on the following day. We had set our earlier and they eventually caught up to us at the 3rd log jam. They rescued us as they had a ride waiting for them at County Road 133. In exchange we shared our 2 coolers full of food and we all exchanged stories of our trip and spent a few minutes enjoying God’s provision for us all.

Brent and Mark

Brent and Mark

Getting ready for supper!

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At the old flour mill waterfall.

So the stay-cation hasn’t exactly been what we were envisioning. Still it was good to have a week break from the office to do some relaxing and accomplish a few home projects. The less-than-desirable weather made sure of that. In some ways, the timing may have been just what the doctor ordered. Literally. Brent ended up in the cardiac unit of Urgent Care which led to an atypical number of naps and a few doctor’s visits. So, when Thursday came along with its long-awaited beautiful weather, we were more than ready to do something more “vacation-like.”

I ran across an article in last Sunday’s “Dakota County” section of the paper. It named the Hastings bike loop “one of the best-kept secrets in the Twin Cities.” After hitting this trail on Thursday, we agree.

One of the things we enjoyed most about the loop was the variety it offered. We rode through neighborhoods, countryside, nature parks and the small historic town of Hastings itself.  And we saw horse farms, fish jumping left and right in the Vermillion River, a lock and dam at the Mississippi, several bald eagles and a roaring waterfall at an old flour mill. We had no idea this bike gem existed until a week ago.

We parked at Jaycees Park along Lake Rebecca and headed west along the trail, circling the city for a 12-mile ride. With gradual inclines and very few steep hills, it makes for a nice leisurely pace. A fun ride with a fair amount of exercise without threatening to put either one of us into the hospital. We’re glad to recommend this biking option and it looks like there are plans underway to connect it up to the regional system.

Our only real disappointment was in hoping to find a cute little lunch spot. We drove around town with no luck. We’re weren’t overly impressed with the options unfortunately. We went so far as to make it to Prescott, Wisconsin. If you’ve got recommendations, we’d love to hear them since we came up empty handed. Lunch turned into a dinner of brats on the grill at home. Not a bad option after all.

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We’re getting home late from a long, wonderful day that felt like the first real taste of summer in central Minnesota. In order to do justice to our adventure, we’ll have to  insert some follow-ups to this initial post.

The adventure began with an email from Lisa’s friend, Peggy, a couple of weeks ago. Paraphrased, the email simply said, “I saw this and thought of the two of you. This seems like something you both would like.” Lisa started describing it and at first I wasn’t sure I understood what it was about. The bottom line is it was an open invitation for members and non-members to this year’s first Slow Food Minnesota event.

Focccacia bread fire baked with herbs and wild flowers!

What is Slow Food Minnesota? Good Question!

Slow Food MN is the local chapter of Slow Food International – [Slow Food USA Facebook]. In short, Slow Food was created as a protest against the ubiquitous nature of fast-food. The idea is predicated on how our accelerated lifestyles of western culture have separated us from our roots; our choice to live fast has severed cultural connections to land, nature, agriculture and the traditions derived from our local environment. Eating processed food and fast food while demanding it in our grocery stores has further disconnected us from where our food comes from; and it has changed our taste buds so that we don’t recognize what real, honest whole foods from our own environment taste like. Consequently, our demand for packaged and branded tastes not only affects our health, but affects our personal economy, knowledge and  appreciation for the people who grow food locally. This means that our choice to eat fast affects not only local growers, but the whole world. Slow Food is a grassroots effort to bring attention to these ideas and build a network to regain what we’ve lost, retrain our taste buds to accept, appreciate and enjoy local, sustainable, small-scale production of choice edibles. It’s a way of living and eating that seeks to build commitment to communities and the environment.

Samples of the wild edibles served at the meal including: Morels!

Let us whet your appetite for the follow up’s to this post by telling you that the meal we had was prepared by the owners of Broder’s Cucina Italiana and

Slow Food Minnesota Style!

Pasta Bar in Minneapolis. [Broder’s Facebook]. All ingredients for this fabulous meal were locally obtained. The meal featured a pig from Pastures A Plenty, foraged greens, flowers and mushrooms (fiddleheads, asparagus, garlic mustard, nettles, morels, violets, cress and other tender greens, depending on what’s in season). Shortbread dessert was included, as was local beers from Flat Earth Brewing Co., wines including the Frontenac variety.

In the follow ups, we’ll tell you about the wild mushroom discussions, farm tours and eco-tours of the land prior to the meal.

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Is it really mid-October? Last weekend, you wouldn’t have known it without the help of a calendar. All across Minnesota people came pouring outside in droves.  We saw more smiles, laughter, ice cream and motorcycles than you typically expect on an October day. These kinds of unseasonably warm, fall days that come out of nowhere seem to transform the entire Minnesota population. Like squirrels gathering acorns for the long winter ahead, it’s like we’re all storing up sunshine, hoping it will get us through the weeks, sometimes months of grey, cloudy, cold days ahead.

Just caught the weather report – it looks like fall is finally here now. Cloudy, 60s and downhill from there. Glad we made the most of last weekend’s final hurrah.

Last Saturday started with my one-year old nephew’s birthday party. He probably won’t remember what may be one of his few 80-degree birthdays, but he’s one of the most smiley kids around and seemed to have a good time anyway.

 

Biking Elm Creek Trail

 

ELM CREEK PARK
Since the festivities were in the northern suburbs, we had decided to throw the bikes on the back of the RAV and tackle the Elm Creek Park trail after the party. And we were so glad we did. What a gorgeous trail for a beautiful fall day. The golden hues seemed to glisten throughout the lovely rolling hills and landscaping. We did nearly the entire 20 miles of paved trail. Nothing overly strenuous, but enough gradual inclines throughout to feel good about getting some exercise.

We cross-country skied that same trail last winter, but it sure looked like a different place back when it was covered in snow. Hard to believe we may be strapping on those skis again before we know it. Let’s not go there yet, right?

CPK
We built up quite an appetite, just in time for dinner. And all that exercise put us in the mood for something healthy. “Where can we go for a really good salad?” We took a chance on something new. I thought I remembered The California Pizza Kitchen had salads. It turned out to be a good bet. The salads were fabulous. Brent had the Moroccan Chicken Salad and I had the Thai Crunch Salad. We’ll definitely be back.

 

Brent & his Dad in Prague

 

RED WING
Day two of the final perfect weather weekend of the year led us to a trip down to Red Wing. It happened to be the local Fall Festival of Arts. Our favorite booth at the fair featured the paintings of Olga Krasovska. Brent had received one of her prints a few Christmases ago from his dad and family. It was especially meaningful because they had visited the old town square in Prague (the subject in the print) while traveling in Eastern Europe together.

ARTWORK
We both love the style, medium, colors and subject matter from this artist, so it was fun to meet her and talk about her work. She paints on cotton fabric, using her own specialized technique of blending watercolor, ink and gouache. I love the combination of these materials and hope for time and space to one day give them a try myself. Watercolor holds some unique challenges and Olga does a lovely job of using it to convey an old world feel with warm, rich tones.

Our walls at home are already quite overloaded, but when we move one day we hope for a little more wall space and the opportunity to buy one or two more of her prints to create a set. Olga was very friendly and invited us to visit her home in St. Paul to see more of her paintings. We look forward to doing that one day.

FELTED HATS
Another booth at the art fair was full of felted hats. We were also taken aback by the large clamor of women trying them on. It caught our attention because, Patty, Brent’s mom is a master fiber artist and creates at least as big of stir when she has shown her felted/knitted bags and hats at art fairs. Recently we commissioned her to create some hats for our nieces. They are beyond adorable (the hats and the nieces!) and we can’t wait to see them in the hats at their birthdays next month!

Brent and I love to be creative and look forward to one day having more time and perhaps even a studio to be able to paint, draw, shoot photography/etc. Wouldn’t that be fun!

Well, I guess, with the cooler weather setting in it might mean it’s time to stick around home and get some projects checked off our list. One thing we learned recently at a home owner’s association meeting was that you can bring your screen door into the local Ace Hardware where they’ll re-screen it for you. Call me strange, but somehow I’m quite excited to tackle that one.

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The first full work week since the 3rd week of August went by in a flash. It was a little tough yesterday knowing we had one more day before the weekend, but we made it. It seems like we had quite the adventures to wrap up our summer. It has cooled off considerably since the beginning of the MN State Fair. In fact, it feels like we skipped September and moved right into October.

I’m sure we’ll get that extended “Indian Summer” – I don’t know if it’s politically incorrect to refer to that last pitch of warm weather that way. It doesn’t sound right to refer to it as “Native American Summer”…so I’m sticking with the traditional term. I’ve got plenty of those last ditch household chores to do before it really gets cold: garage floor needs to be patched, container garden needs to be put away, cars need to be winterized, etc.

Well, whatever the number of chores that I’ve got to do in the fall, the thing that makes one say, “Oh H-E – double hockey sticks!” are frozen roads, snow and freezing temperatures at the bus stop. But the promise of cold weather does hold one positive thing: Hockey season. We’ve heard the MN Wild probably won’t be very good this year, but hockey is fun to watch and it’s Lisa’s favorite spectator sport.

But the one thing that probably won’t go over very well with Lisa is allowing the team signed hockey stick to linger any longer on the shelf ledge in the TV room. I wrote about this a couple weeks ago. At the Fair, I signed up for some raffle prizes at the sports building. The next day I got a call from the MN Wild home office telling me I’d won the daily drawing for a team signed hockey stick. I thought, “Cool! I never win anything!”

I picked up the stick in St. Paul at the Wild HQ and brought it home. But once I got it in the door, and really looked at it I realized that the thing is about 5.5 feet long. Where would I put this thing? Standing in the middle of the TV room, I spun around and spotted the ledge shelf. Seemed like a good spot. I put the stick on top and went about my business.

Some time later I heard, “Hey hon!”            “Yeah? What’s up dear?” I asked.

“Um, is this where we’re going to store your raffle winnings?”               “Yep.”

“Huh. Okay.” <pause> “For how long?”                      “I dunno….awhile.”

“How long is that?”   “Um, until somebody tells me how much it’s worth and buys it.”

Lisa looked at the stick, then at me, then back at the stick, then back at me.  Like the Old Spice commercial. Sadly, I’m not a famous hockey player, I don’t even play broomball. Bottom line: The stick has to go.  Soon.

So if you know what these things are worth and who wants to buy it. Let me know. I may not look like a famous hockey player, but I’ll be an instant hero if I can figure out what to do with the darned thing. Let me know. Soon.

MN Wild signed hockey stick - it's gotta go.

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