Caffe Biaggio, St. Paul, Minnesota

Friday night we had dinner for the second time at Caffe Biaggio located 15-20 minutes away from our house.  We decided to splurge for a change.   Another new favorite of ours, to be sure.  I can’t say enough good things about this place.  We asked for the same waiter that we had the first time we had dinner there.  Adel is a fine waiter indeed. After asking for a wine suggestion, he asked what I liked then offered a wine from northern Italy called Valpolicella. It was exquisite, I had two glasses!  I don’t always do that but this wine was soooooo good! And the food is delicious.  Hubby had their special, a Sardinian paella but substitute the rice for cous cous.  He looked to be in heaven eating it.  I got their lamb shank, the meat easily fell off the bone and it was served with an orzo pasta and a tomato sauce.  Oh. My. Goodness. It was luscious!!! So delicious, out of this world delicious.  I did not eat it all and had the leftovers for lunch the next day. It was just as good as the night before.  Wow. We also had the calamari appetizer and we split a Mediterranean salad, complete with arthichokes, two different kinds of olives and an Italian dressing.  Delish, all of it!!

I love the welcoming atmosphere of this outstanding Italian restaurant.  The food is fantabulous. It’s conveniently located on University Avenue in St. Paul close to Highway 280.  You must go.  Check out my gallery of photos and enjoy!!

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My 5th blogoversary!!

Wow, really? Five years ago I started this blog and I’ve learned so much and I have new friends, all great things!   Once again I’m sharing some of my favorite posts from the last year followed by a photo gallery from these posts.

Last year was an up and down year but it started off great with our two week adventure in Spain the highlight in March.  I created no less than twelve posts about the trip.  If you missed any of them, not to worry as I’m relinking them here.  My first post was a quick peek into the several cities we visited.  We started our trip on the southern Mediterranean coast in the town where we plan to retire, Málaga.  One of our favorite spots, the alcazaba really shouldn’t be missed. If you happen to be in town on a Sunday, it is free.  But it is worth the very small admission price to see this fortress from so long ago.  Beautiful architecture and views of the city and the sea. We spent an afternoon touring urban art with a fellow blogger and had a nice meal at El Pimpi too.  And one last one about Málaga with other things that we did and saw.

One post from our trip to Spain was completely devoted to food.  Check it out, I bet you get hungry!  We had one day trip from Málaga and visited the small town of Córdoba which is only an hour train ride.  We enjoyed touring the mezquita, the sinagoga and even El Corte Inglés.  We stopped into Spain’s largest department store on our walk back to the train station that afternoon.  We had some time to kill so looked around a little before catching our train back to Málaga. I love Córdoba and can’t wait to go back.

From Málaga we headed north to another of my favorite cities: Madrid, where I spent my junior year of college.  It holds a special place in my heart due to that year abroad.  I fell in love with Spain then and knew I had to return. I have only one post for Madrid but it also appears in the food post, referenced in the previous paragraph.  We took another day trip, this time from Madrid to Toledo.  I spent many a weekend in Toledo while living in Madrid all those years ago. This town is also special to me, many happy memories, including the trip we took that Friday in March 2016.  Come have a look at La Judería and one other post I created with other things we did and saw.  It’s a short 30 minute ride by train from Madrid and well worth a day trip.

The last 4 days of the trip were spent in Barcelona.  We seem to always cut Barcelona too short.  I again felt that we didn’t have enough time to see all that I had hoped to see.  But the weather had something to do with that too this time.  We did have a great time in a fabulous city that I can’t wait to see again.  I had posts about Sagrada Familia, the Palau de la Música Catalana and one other that includes other things that we did and saw.  The Palau was another highlight of this trip. We only saw the outside in 2010 and I was determined to see that famous, gorgeous dome.  If you only look at one Barcelona post, please make it that one. I can almost guarantee you won’t be disappointed.

The year had much sadness with my beloved and spunky cat Fritz dying unexpectedly then two months later my brother died.  I’d rather not dwell on the sadness in this post.  I’m still dealing with both losses.  Grief takes a while to work through.  Click on the links for more information and get the kleenex box.

It turns out that I did a lot of travelling last year.  I already mentioned our trip to Spain in March. In April I went to the D.C. area for my nephew’s wedding.  I also got to go to D.C. with my daughter, my sister and my nephew. We had a wonderful, quickie trip and saw many things.  What a great day that was!  I was so happy to travel to northern California for my brother’s wedding over Labor Day weekend.  It was a perfect day and everyone had a marvelous time and love was in the air!  We also got to tour Benziger Winery which is 30 minutes away the day after the wedding.  Another perfect day spent with family in a most beautiful setting.  One more post about another quick visit, this time to San Francisco, the city by the bay.  It is as beautiful as the photos you’ve seen. We were lucky to have another warm, sunny day to walk around Fisherman’s wharf and take selfies in front of the Golden Gate Bridge. We had such fun that weekend. Memories that will last a lifetime.

As likely most of you know, we never miss the fair.  And I never miss the chance to create a post about our visit.  Such fun!!  One other, sort of travel related post was about our visit to the now closed Bell Museum at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis, the east bank campus.  Their new building on the St. Paul campus is under construction and will open in 2018.  What a fascinating and educational place!! I’m looking forward to visiting the new museum.

I did only a couple of restaurant reviews.  I see that department is a bit lacking. I will have to remedy that and go out to eat more often this year.  Ha ha!  I wrote another review of Hell’s Kitchen, always a great meal and a good time.  This post includes photos of the famous Schmitt music mural which is right across the street from the restaurant.  One other review was of Muffuletta, a new place for us. It’s been there for a while and we finally tried it and we give it high marks.  I can’t wait to go sit on their patio this summer.

Finally, a review of the seasons is in order.  I love taking photos of the seasons and last year’s autumn colors were especially brilliant I thought.  Take a look at this post and you’ll see what I mean.  I created a spring flowers and plants as well as a summer blooms post.  I had great fun photographing the four gardens that I got to tour last summer.  And one last post from the cabin from last summer.

Thanks for coming along for the ride and here’s to another year of blogging!  I hope you’ll enjoy a gallery of just a handful of last year’s photos.

 

 

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Weekly Photo Challenge – Solitude

In response to this week’s photo challenge, I present photos that evoke solitude.  Click on the link to view other entries and enjoy!!

And I’ll finish with one of my favorites from our trip to Spain in 2010 when my little girl was still a little girl…….seemingly all alone on that beach…..

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Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, MN

The Walker has a “free first Saturday” which is a great deal because one adult ticket is $12.  Oh, interesting current update. I went to their website to make sure it’s actually $12 and they’re having free admission until February 7.  Come in from the cold and see some art, says their site.  We might have to go back soon!

I didn’t see a whole lot of art that I liked on this visit but it was still fun to go and look. Plus, we stopped in at the new bar/cafe/bistro Esker Grove and had a yummy snack that I forgot to take a picture of.  Duh. We both had a beer and our snack was hummus toast and then we called it a day.  The Walker changes their displays frequently so it’s always fun to go back and see what’s on display every so often. Check out the Walker’s website for more information.  Please enjoy some photos from our visit earlier this month.

 

 

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Muffuletta, St. Paul, Minnesota

I have wanted to try this restaurant for many years.  The biggest thing it had against it is the parking.  I thought that the only place to park was on the street but I recently discovered there is a parking lot behind it, thanks to my employee.  When going west on Como Avenue, turn left onto Carter Avenue, the parking lot is on the left. We did that our first trip and it worked great. We got there at 11:30 just before the lunch rush begins.

We’ve been there for lunch twice now and the trips were about three weeks apart.  Hubby enjoyed it so much the first time he wanted to take me to lunch on another day that he had off.  We sat in a cute and small corner booth the first time we went there and that added to the charm for our initial visit. Both times they served us a free appetizer consisting of a garlic puree along with a bread basket.  YUM!!! The food is great here!

On our first visit I had the beet salad which looks small but it turned out to be just the right portion.  Hubby had a ham and cheese sandwich but the cheese was on the outside of the sandwich? He had to eat it with a fork but he said it was delicious.  The second visit I had their three course meal.  You can see most of the menu from my photo below.  It was great too but I didn’t have room for dessert so took it home with me. And hubby had the Muffuletta described thusly on their website:  Smoked pit ham, Italian meats, pepper-jack and provolone cheese, olive relish, sesame bun.  Except it looks like ciabatta bread and not a sesame bun. Either way, he loved it!!

The staff is very friendly and quick.  I recommend this restaurant highly. Come have a look see at the photos I took of the restaurant and our food.   We both loved this place so much, we will definitely go back.

Here’s a little ditty from their website:

Winter at Muffuletta
Let our heartiest cooking sustain you on these cold, dark days. Now is the time to crack a bottle of red, rediscover our classic beer-cheese soup, and cast your eye to our daily specials, beckoning with winter stews, roasted root vegetables and Minnesota game.
Located in Milton Square
2260 Como Avenue
St. Paul, MN
Reservations 651-644-9116

 

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Weekly Photo Challenge – Ambience

This photo came up in my alternating wallpaper on this computer and immediately I thought of the photo challenge.  The quiet, peaceful ambience of a street near the Picasso Museum in Barcelona.  In the early morning hours before the hustle and bustle that is surely about to take place.  Enjoy.  Click here to see other entries in this challenge.

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The last day of the original Bell Museum, U of MN, Minneapolis

Ever since hubby talked to a U of MN employee at the fair last summer about the Bell Museum, we have been planning to go before they closed on December 31, 2016.  A couple of times our plan was foiled by the weather, but New Year’s Eve day was our very last chance and we made it!!  To say I was impressed is an understatement.  I had no idea there was this gem of a museum at the University of Minnesota.

Before you get into the building the antiquity of the place hits you.  The front doors look to be original to the nearly 145 year old structure.  The James Ford Bell Museum of Natural History opened on March 1, 1872 after the Minnesota legislature approved this:

“An Act to provide for a geological and natural history survey of the state…” and in turn, that “natural history and geological specimens be prepared, and a museum to be established at the university.”

You can read a little more about the museum at this link  although I’ll warn you that I’ve tried to play their video about the history of the museum twice and it’s not there.

There are two floors with the world famous  3D dioramas that depict scenes of typical animals in Minnesota. They are so realistic and in looking at the photos, they look like portraits but those are life-size imitations of real animals.  There is a mezzanine that displays other exhibits but we skipped it that day.  There is an auditorium on the lower level and a room with items you can touch, the Touch and See Discovery Room.  And I was surprised to see a Rainforest Gallery with live plants and trees.

I had no idea there was so much in this museum and I’m so glad we finally got there.  Hubby actually had been there as a child so it was fun for him to relive some of his younger days.  He said it looked exactly the same too.  The new museum will be on the St. Paul campus, where I work, and is scheduled to open in 2018.  One day I happened upon the construction webcam.  It’s fun to watch the time lapse movie.

Below are some of my favorite photos from our visit:

 

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