Category Archives: Travel

A visit to southern Florida

Florida is not my number one destination but I was there the first week of January for my mother’s burial.  She died in December and my sister, our sister-in-law and I traveled to Hollywood, FL to bury her beside her husband of 21 years(my stepfather).  The weather was not the best due to the “bomb cyclone” that was heading up the east coast. But it was still better than remaining in the frozen tundra where we were experiencing a deep freeze with temps below zero.  It was nice to get a break from that!  It was raining the day we got there and the day of the graveside burial it was very windy.  We were grateful that the funeral home offered to us to have our service inside.  Mom was 94 and had dementia for many years, I think it started in 2010.  She had a great fall the day before Thanksgiving and never recovered. While I am sad that she’s gone, I am grateful that she is no longer in pain. We’re having a memorial for her in Clifton, VA where my mother lived with my sister for the past nearly 3 years.  I will be writing something to say for the memorial and I’ll post that here when it’s done.

I decided to extend my trip to southern Florida to visit with my good friend Bev, who I have known since 10th grade. She lives in Boca Raton. We met in band, we both play the flute and by 12th grade we shared first chair because our director couldn’t decide who was better. We have kept in touch and have had a few chances to see each other over the years.  The last time was when she and her older daughter came to St. Paul to see a play.  We met them for dinner one night just over five years ago.  I needed a break from the frozen tundra and lucky for me Bev was in town!

Bev and I have many things in common, one of which is that we’re both very organized.  Before I arrived she had given me ideas of things to do while I was there but I had no idea she was going to create an agenda for us.  When she showed me to my room, there on the bed was our agenda with a big “Welcome to Florida!” on top.  It was so cute! And she did say we didn’t have to do everything as planned.  She made me breakfast every day and she had picked out a few places of interest for us to visit and all were loosely scheduled.  I switched two of them because of the weather and it all worked out great!  We had so much fun visiting the Gumbo Limbo Nature Center, Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden and Morikami Museum and Japanese Gardens.  We went shopping in Del Rey Beach and had a nice lunch too. I of course took photos so I hope you will enjoy a photo display of these three great places to visit in southern Florida.

We went to Gumbo Limbo Nature Center first and it was a chilly day so we didn’t see everything there.  We looked at and admired the beautiful fish in their outdoor tanks, peeked into the research area and checked out their gift shop.  It’s too bad it was too chilly or we’d have taken a walk on their boardwalk and checked out the many varieties of plants and animals. I did enjoy the fish tanks and Bev was particularly fond of the parrotfish whose excrement supplies a large percentage of the sand on the beaches of southern Florida. Bev brings everyone who visits her to Gumbo Limbo and she knows so much about it that I suggested she volunteer there. It seems like a win/win to me.

The next day we visited Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden. This was the one place I absolutely had to see.  As most people know, I love flowers and the chance to visit a tropical botanic garden while I was in southern Florida was a chance I did not want to miss. It was my favorite of the three places we visited.  I enjoyed all three places for different reasons.  I loved learning about the turtle rehabilitation and research going on at Gumbo Limbo.  And visiting it with Bev, I learned so much that I never knew! But it doesn’t compare to Fairchild.  Wow! It’s near Miami so it was at least an hour from Boca Raton and you get to drive through some gorgeous neighborhoods.  More wow.  And this was our best weather day so that really helped for just a fabulous day. You have to take the tram tour.  It’s so interesting and you learn about all the plants and what goes on in all the buildings as well as some history about the place.  The tram driver and tour guide stopped along the way for photo ops.  After the tram tour we walked around, ate lunch and visited the butterflies. The first gallery are some photos from the tram tour and others that I took when we were walking around.

The next gallery consists of the butterfly building.  So many beautiful and delicate butterflies.  At certain times of the day they will place a butterfly on you so Bev did that and while I was taking a photo of her with her butterfly one landed on me!  They tell you to watch where you step as they land on the ground as well.  We did see a few on the ground.

Next are some photos of the art exhibit, The Art of Balance.  These were all up in the air throughout the gardens. They’re all part of a temporary exhibit and they were  so interesting!  I tried posing as one of them and you’ll see the photo that Bev took of me in the next gallery.

My last gallery from Fairchild consists of the handful of Chihuly sculptures that are there.  They are all so beautiful.

On the day that I was scheduled to go home Bev took me to Morikami Museum and Japanese Gardens.  My flight was departing in the late afternoon so we had time for another tourist stop.  Another fascinating place! We got there when it opened and it was so quiet and peaceful.  We headed out to tour the gardens on foot.  There are rock gardens, bamboo gardens and I especially enjoyed the bonsai display. There is a museum about how the Japanese came to southern Florida and how the gardens were formed. They recreated a typical Japanese house complete with food containers in Japanese and an example of a grade school class.  We saw a bird that was a cross between an egret and a peacock that was swimming in the water as well as an alligator.  Towards the end we saw coy and other fish and one turtle in another body of water.  We enjoyed a lunch of salmon and rice and visited their gift shop.  You have to visit the gift shops.  So many beautiful and interesting things to buy!

I am not a huge fan of Florida mostly because of things that I dealt with while my mother still lived there.  And it occurred to me after this trip that I never really spent time visiting any sights.  My sister and I (and occasionally our brother) would fly into Ft. Lauderdale and head to Mom’s place in Pembroke Pines. We were there to visit Mom, which was always fun.  So it was nice to see some of the wonderful things southern Florida has to offer.  I’m still not a big fan.  Too many strip malls and it’s way too crowded for my taste.  But, if you’re visiting southern Florida, I highly recommend any of these three fabulous places.

I’ll close with a couple of photos from the plane. The coast of Florida and Chicago at night.  Enjoy!!

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Minnesota State Fair 2017

Woo hoo! It’s time for my annual post about the Minnesota State Fair!

We always go to the fair opening day and it seems every year it feels more crowded.  I checked out the fair’s website and found some interesting numbers.  I wasn’t imagining it. Each year on opening day for the last two years the attendance increased.  Between 2017 and 2016 it was almost 6,000 higher!  There were three record-breaking attendance days this year, the most record breaking days in three years.  Plus, this year’s total attendance is the highest ever, another record broken.  So, yes, there were lots more people at the fair this year.

No matter, we still enjoy it and this year was no different. I went twice.  Opening day was fun but by 1:00 it was getting too crowded so we called it quits early.  For my second visit, I met hubby there one late afternoon from work the following week. I park my car like I’m going to work and walk on over to the fair.   Very easy!

On opening day we headed over to Minnesota Public Radio after breakfast and were treated with a handshake from our governor!  He went one by one in the small crowd and shook each of our hands. He commented how brave Miss M was for wearing short sleeves as it was in the upper 50s at that moment.  So that was fun!  We also saw Al Franken posing for photos with a constituent.

The agriculture building is a must for me for each visit.  Some of the exhibits change every other day so it’s worth it to see other types of flowers when you can.   First some crop art:

In the next gallery is a little bit of everything else that I saw in the ag building:

And then some other scenes at the fair:

I hope you’ve enjoyed this year’s tour of the Minnesota State Fair.  I’ll be back soon with a few more travel adventures. I hope you’ll come along!

 

 

 

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The Art Institute of Chicago

We spent spring break week in Chicago looking at schools for my daughter and visiting family.  We also managed to do some other fun things and one of those was a visit to the Art Institute.

The Art Institute of Chicago is hands down one of my favorite museums on the planet.  It seems to have grown since the last time I was there in 1996.  There is absolutely no way to see the entire museum in one day.  Did I mention it’s immense?  Boy howdy.  We had only a few hours to see as much as we could before they closed, so we headed up the grand staircase and  we were greeted first with some Frank Lloyd Wright architectural remnants from torn down buildings.   There’s a nice Rodin sculpture just before you go in to see the Impressionists, the first of many rooms with impressionist paintings.  I think the Art Institute of Chicago may have the largest collection of impressionist art that I have seen.  There were full rooms of Monet and Renoir.  Heaven on earth for an impressionism fan.

We also visited the modern art wing and found more eye candy there.  Warhol and Picasso and Dali, oh my! And plenty of other interesting art that enriched me even more having seen them that day.  I was sad that we didn’t have time for the miniature rooms.  You just cannot see everything.  But we thoroughly enjoyed what we did see and I’m providing a snapshot in my gallery below for you to enjoy.  This museum is a must for art lovers. The collection is so vast and displays many types of art such that I think there is something for everyone here.  Click on any photo to start the gallery and enjoy!

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Chicago, still an excellent town to visit

Hello! I’m back after a week in Chicago and ready to tell you all about it.  Wow.  I’m still in awe of this great, great city.  It’s hard to imagine, but I feel like I love it more and more with each visit.   Our week started off by hubby taking Amtrak from St. Paul to Chicago.  Amtrak warns you that trains might not run on time.  Oh, I guess this isn’t Spain huh? I’ve ridden trains all over Spain and they always leave on time.  His 8:00 a.m. train left about 9:45 but they made up time and his expected 4:00 arrival actually got in at 4:45.  Not so bad but he said lunch was pretty disappointing. But, he arrived safely and checked us into the Kinzie Hotel in the north loop of downtown.

My daughter and I took an evening flight so that she could go to her music rehearsals that day.  We would have loved to join the husband on the train, alas, it was not meant to be.  Our plane was only one third full!  I’ve never seen a more empty plane but this worked out great since we needed to put Miss M’s viola in the overhead bin.  It couldn’t have worked more perfectly!  Hubby met us at the airport and we took a taxi to our hotel. I didn’t want to deal with suitcases on the L and then walking with them late at night in downtown so this worked nicely.

Our first day was spent having lunch with family and then the fabulous Art Institute (a separate post on that coming soon!).  Two of John’s cousins live in the area and they met us at Hub51 near our hotel.  It was so fun to see everyone and catch up a little.  Then it was on to the Art Institute, about a 20 minute walk from our hotel just across the Chicago River. I consider this museum a must for any traveler to Chicago.  It is extremely vast and it seems like it got bigger since I was there in 1996. You are greeted by two lion statues and a grand staircase on your way into the main doors.  And then some more steps up into the museum. We spent about 3 hours there and didn’t see everything.  More on our visit in my post.  All I can say is: Wow. That place is awesome!!

On Monday we toured the University of Illinois at Chicago.  This was our first train ride and we got help from a nice guy who was selling something on that corner.  He directed us to the correct spot, we thanked him and we got on our way.  UIC is a nice school but it’s apparently out of the running now. Afterwards we went to the Museum of Science and Industry.  We didn’t have much time to spare since the museum closed at 4:00 and instead of spending time on public transportation we opted to take a taxi to the museum. It didn’t cost much more than public transportation and better to use the time at the museum. Note the photo of the pendulum. We waited several minutes to see it knock over two pegs.  Fun times :-)  We did many of the interactive exhibits and I especially enjoyed the film about how they installed the United Airlines Boeing 727 plane into the museum.   I was hoping to feel a bit nostalgic as I went there on field trips as a child. Alas, one cannot go home again.  Too much had changed and I barely recognized anything.   This is another huge museum where it is difficult to see everything.  We enjoyed what we saw and I’d love to go back again.  By the way, did you know it’s the only building remaining from the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition’s “White City”?

On Tuesday we had a visit at Loyola in the morning and at DePaul in the afternoon.  Both are excellent schools and very impressive. Love the social justice theme.  Both are close to L stations and Miss M is an expert at public transportation.  She is favoring DePaul big time since they have the music program she is seeking.  We shall see what happens!

The rest of the week was spent in the western suburbs at my cousin’s house. My cousin told me of a train to take from downtown to the town she lives in.  It was about a 40 minute ride and my uncle picked us up. We spent that afternoon and evening with my aunt and uncle.  Hubby went home on Wednesday and this train ride was much more pleasant.  It left on time and he had a delicious dinner. I’m so glad at least one of those train trips was nice.

Our last college visit was on Friday so we hung out with family, went shopping and Miss M practiced a little.  We even polished up and sent in her essay for a music scholarship too!  We had two appointments at Wheaton College Friday, a tour in the morning and meeting with the music department in the afternoon.  I knew within 10 minutes of the tour in the morning that this was not the college for Miss M.  A bit too religious and you need a pastoral recommendation to apply and oh yes, chapel three times a week with assigned seats?  And they take attendance.  We could maybe get my old college friend who is a pastor (and who married us!) to do a recommendation but…..no, not the school for her.  So we cancelled the afternoon meeting.  Why spend time on our last afternoon in Chicago if you know you’re not going to apply? Instead we had a nice, leisurely lunch at Egg Harbor in downtown Wheaton (photos below) and had a relaxing afternoon.  We had shabbat dinner at my aunt and uncle’s house complete with matzoh ball soup, oh yum!! Miss M really wanted to go to synagogue with my aunt and uncle and we spent our last night in Chicago doing just that.  It was a nice service and a great way to end a wonderful week in one of my favorite cities.

We absolutely loved our location at the Kinzie Hotel.  It was centrally located and within walking distance of the Art Institute and shopping on State Street and two L stations.  We had great meals at Hub51, Mercadito, Lou Malnati’s and Yolk and you’ll find some of those photos below.  I didn’t take photos of all the food but I’ll guess you’ll be drooling when you see what we ate :)

The week went by too fast as it usually does when you’re having fun.  Chicago has something for everyone with its renowned museums and great food.  The people are so nice too.  From the bus driver who drove us to the bus stop after our visit to the Museum of Science and Industry to the older gentleman who sat next to me on the L to the excellent staff at Mercadito who comped us for the dessert because we went back a second night.  Yes, Chicago is still a great town to visit and I can’t wait to go back again!!

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San Francisco in less than two hours!

Sounds crazy, doesn’t it?  Well, I lived it!  And it was the most fun four people could have in less than two hours.  This was the same weekend of my brother’s wedding in northern California.  Our flight home wasn’t until Monday evening so we had several hours to play with.  One thing we absolutely had to do was eat at an In ‘N Out Burger.  More on that shortly.

We got to San Francisco about noon and parked near Ghirardelli Square and that was a must for my niece and what a fun place that is!!  So many different types of chocolates.  You could choose from already arranged items or you could build your own with samplers. You pay by the pound and your bag is weighed at the register.  We stopped in a card/book/post card shop as well and found a few treasures then headed off to Fisherman’s Wharf. We looked around about 10 minutes, took some photos then headed back to the car because by this time we were all getting hungry.  The line at the In ‘N Out at the wharf was way too long so we got into our rental van and went in search of another one.  My niece and her husband worked together with their GPS and soon we were (almost) pulling into the lot of another In ‘N Out.  Oh, except that there was nowhere to park!! I noticed the line was out the door.  Wow these places are popular!  We ended up at one that was about 5 minutes from the airport.  Perfect, then we could take our time.  We had to park in the back 40 because, again, there were lots of people wanting an In ‘N Out burger! This time our timing was perfect.  When we got inside there was nobody in line!!  But as we sat and ate our food I noticed the line eventually going out the door again. Wow.  Check out my photos:

I’ll close with a photo of San Francisco from the plane. It’s not the best photo but it tells the tale:

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Benziger Family Winery, Glen Ellen, CA

While in northern California for my brother’s wedding over Labor Day Weekend we had the wonderful opportunity to visit the Benziger Family Winery.  And here’s the winery’s site but I should mention that I had to key in my birthday before I could view their site. Benziger winery is only a 30 minute drive from where my brother lived and we managed to get on the last tour of the day.  We arrived in time for the penultimate tour, alas, there weren’t enough spots on the tram so we had about a 30 minute wait.  While the rest of our group waited near the tram stop, my sister, my niece and I headed down the hill for wine tasting! So. Much. Fun!!!!

Our tram took us through the vineyards and stopped at particular places giving us wonderful views of the countryside and to give us more information about the Benziger vineyard and how wine is produced.

The tour guide talked about the use of biodynamic farming at the winery and we stopped at an example of this where native plants are used.  Here’s more information on biodynamics from wikipedia:

Biodynamics has much in common with other organic approaches – it emphasizes the use of manures and composts and excludes the use of artificial chemicals on soil and plants. Methods unique to the biodynamic approach include its treatment of animals, crops, and soil as a single system; an emphasis from its beginnings on local production and distribution systems; its use of traditional and development of new local breeds and varieties.

We saw holding tanks and finally the caves where the wine is stored in mostly oak barrels.  This was my second favorite thing from that day, the first being the wine tasting.  I wish I could reproduce the fantastic aroma once you step inside the caves.  Imagine being surrounded by the smell of old oak.  It was divine!!

It was a gorgeous day full of sun and warmth and family.  It’s a day I will never forget.  If you’re in northern California do take the time to visit a winery, I was so glad I had this opportunity.  If I’m in the area again I’m definitely going to go the Benziger winery.

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Minnesota State Fair 2016

Guessing most of you know that we always go to the state fair. Every year, without fail.  And now that I think about it, this is one thing I will really miss when I leave Minnesota.  A wonderful treat every year.  Although this year we noticed it was a bit more crowded.  The attendance numbers seem to go up each successive year. Hubby went to the fair while I was in California over Labor Day weekend and he said it was the most people he’s ever seen there!  Indeed, that was the record breaking attendance day this year with just over 260,000 fair goers. I’m glad I missed it.

Coming up are this year’s favorite photos from the fair.  I hope you enjoy!!

First up, various scenes at the fair.

We always visit the agriculture building:

This year’s crop art had many Prince tributes.  I think the Prince crop art overtook the political art this year. We sure miss our native son rock/pop star:

This last gallery displays something that I imagine has been at the fair the entire time we’ve been going (about 25 years).  We decided to take a short cut and ended up going through this very interesting log cabin.  It’s directly across from the agriculture building and it never beckoned to us.  And now I’m at a loss a little bit to explain what this is exactly since it’s been almost 3 months since I took these photos. As near as I can remember this is a replica of a type of cabin the earlier pioneers in Minnesota would have lived in.  It’s a museum with items from daily life from those days.  These are the folks that lived in Minnesota before it became a state in 1858.  Oh, ah, I did find this link with a bit more information in case you’re interested.

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