Weekly Photo Challenge – Friend

For this week’s challenge I present my interpretation of friend.


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Spring 2017

I better get a post in before May ends! My poor little blog.  I’ve neglected you so….. Without further ado, here are some of my best spring photos.  Included in my gallery are my first and second rhubarb crisps this year with two different recipes.  My rhubarb plant always does very well.  I hope you enjoy!!


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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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Orchids at the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum

Dag nab it! I missed the orchid display at the Marjorie McNeely Conservatory this year.  I guess I never saw a notification for this year’s display.  Bummer!  But never fear, I was alerted to another orchid display at the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum, about a thousand miles away from home!  Yea, that’s a bit of an exaggeration.  It’s about a 30 minute drive southwest of home. And it’s a lovely drive with lots of open spaces and many, many lakes.

We arrived to a very full parking lot so we wondered what else was going on at the Arboretum.  Other than the orchids there was a farmer’s market in the Oswald Visitor Center so that must be what the rest of the visitors were doing there. There weren’t that many orchids in the visitor center so we found our way to their conservatory. A warm, sunny room full of colors!  Before you get to that room there is a walkway full of succulents including many cactus plants. Naturally I took a bunch of photos, the nicest ones are displayed below.  I hope you enjoy!!


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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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