Saturday, September 24, 2011

Little House

Growing up, I was a huge fan of Laura Ingalls Wilder. I read all the Little House books, watched the series and did as many book reports as I possibly could on her. Total nerd. :) So, it's a no-brainer that I would want to visit Walnut Grove, MN and see the museum.

Now, the town of Walnut Grove is home to 534 people--give or take. It's small and, unfortunately, there isn't too much to do besides visit the museum. That aside, the museum itself is fun, especially for kids.

It's set up like a little town with a handful of buildings to explore. There's even a room filled with interactive stations for kids--like learning to wash clothes using a washboard. Fun, right? There's a covered wagon that can actually be climbed on and a room filled with memorabilia from the television series.

The well-stocked gift shop has everything from peppermint sticks and bonnets to books and series DVDs. What else does a prairie fan need? :)

If you do want to make the drive to Walnut Grove, my main recommendation would be to pack a lunch, because I'm serious when I say there isn't much else. They do have a Nellie's Cafe, but it seems to close early (at least it's was closed when we went). Besides, it might be more fun to have a picnic along the banks of Plum Creek.

sod house replica

schoolhouse replica

a letter written by Laura Ingalls Wilder

Monday, July 18, 2011

I Spy: Adam Turman Prints

Minneapolis-based graphic artist Adam Turman captures the best aspects of Minnesota with his striking illustrations and prints. I love walking around the Cities and seeing his work pop up everywhere. Whether it's his cityscapes, cycling prints or retro pin-up girls, his work charms me with its vibrant colors and captivating images. It also has the ability to fill me up with all that warm and fuzzy Minnesota pride.

Below is a small taste of his work (I also put a few more prints on my other blog) and make sure to check out his website too!

© 2011. All rights reserved.

© 2011. All rights reserved.

© 2011. All rights reserved.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Red Jacket Trail

We went on our first official bike ride of the season this weekend.

We parked next to Mount Kato, which is the local snowboarding/skiing/mountain biking hill and tried out the The Red Jacket Trail that runs from Mankato to Rapidan. First, we rode into Mankato and then turned around and went for a bit in the other direction. The ride was great--lots of trees. We went over the Le Sueur River too.

Only one problem--we didn't bike over the river in the fashion I'd have liked. Instead, we crossed it by biking alongside a regular old road. Booooooring.

The way we should have crossed it was on a giant 80 foot bridge. Unfortunately, it's going through some repair work.

An entire chunk is currently missing. Personally, I think I could have made the jump. ;) EXTREME!!!

My favorite part of the ride--the lemonade. There were all these makeshift lemonade stands thrown together by wee wandering peddlers. It was Lemonade Day, doncha know? All along the trail kids had set up booths at strategic points to lure unsuspecting cyclists in for 50 cent lemonade and chocolate chip cookies.

They didn't stop at just drinks and sweets either--they also sold items like homemade bracelets. Shrewd marketers, I tell you. They set up persuasive little billboards along the way that said things like, "Thirsty, yet?" and "You're almost to Crazy Cat Lemonade!" I really liked the Crazy Cat kids because they even drew a crazy cat on their billboards. Jonathan and I only had a dollar on us, otherwise I think we'd have been completely taken in by those gypsies.

Monday, May 30, 2011

What I Want To Do

Sitting here in our humid, windswept apartment on the prairie (we have no central air conditioning), I've been daydreaming about what kind of fun and/or illuminating experiences I want to have while we're living in the The Star of the North.

So, here's the beginning of the list I've been dreaming up:

1. Kayak down the Mississippi River

2. Visit the Laura Ingalls Wilder Museum in Walnut Grove, MN--because why wouldn't you?

3. Go to a Twins Game (better yet, BIKE to a Twins Game)

4. Do the Tweed Ride

5. Take classes at the Minnesota Center for Book Arts--I really, really love this place and the attached Coffee Gallery sells yummy brownies! So, it's definitely a win-win. :)

6. Participate in workshops at The Loft

7. Bike on as many trails as we can find

8. See something at MPR's Fitzgerald Theater in Saint Paul

9. Go to the St. Paul Winter Carnival

10. Explore the Boundary Waters

11. Visit lots of museums, like the Mill City Museum or the MIA, as much as possible

12. Find Paul Bunyan and share some s'mores

13. Get strong enough and crazy enough to do the Muddy Buddy

14. Eat just nibble a small piece of lutefisk and then move on to the lefse--Uff da!

15. Hang out with Sven, Ole and Lena and eat more lutefisk. :)

Phew, that's it for now.

Monday, May 23, 2011

The Search Begins

Spring has sprung from its icy trap and Jonathan and I can finally wander about in search of adventure. One of the "must-do-soon" items on our list is dropping our poor, dusty kayaks into some refreshing waters.

We started our investigation of the local waterways at Rapidan Dam Park.

The Blue Earth River runs along the park.

It looks both scenic . . .

. . .and tranquil.

The park has a canoe launch and a Dam Store (that's just fun to say). Apparently, the Dam Store is famous for its delicious homemade pies. We'll have to try them some time and see.

And as the name suggests, there's also a dam to walk across--which we did.

This looks like a promising place to start paddling. Hopefully, we'll get a chance to wet our toes soon!

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Springtime: Some Antics (and Semantics!)

Spring arrived in Minnesota last month and the mid-March backdrop was not a pretty sight. The landscape wakes up, bringing to mind a hung over party goer waking up after a big night out on the town. The melting snow is a runny mascara that leaves blotches of gray grass like bags under the eyes. Barren trees evoke images of unshaved chin stubble, a five o'clock (am) shadow. As one can imagine this imagery doesn't leave much to report on aside from making tabloid-fodder of the countryside's morning walk of shame.


Fortunately with the thawing of winter's snowy blanket comes the Spring floods, like a refreshing shower that washes away the dirty salt and pepper piles of plowed snow, road salt, and sand used for winter traction. The lawn's once brown and barren pallid appearance became flush and green thriving after the first rainstorm. As the temperatures heat up rural life returns to normal: farmers take to the fields, trees sprout leaves and gardens start to grow, ready to start the cycle anew.

...and after.

With the snow gone the landscape has changed, revealing new things. A recent drive to the cities unveiled a lake in the middle of what we thought was just snow coated farm land. Likewise, on my way home from work I noticed a golf course that I had driven by every day without recognizing it for what it was because of the snowdrifts atop it. Like a gopher sticking his head out from the ground after a long winter nap, we've been poking around exploring the nearby countryside making exciting discoveries (more on that another time).

Another note we've made over the Winter season are the little differences in language from home. Just as some areas of the country call carbonated beverages "soda," "pop" or even "Coke," rural Minnesota has it's own quirks and preferred word usage. For instance, at work the term "punch list" is used in place of "check list." "Dinner" is the meal you eat on your lunch break, and more often than not trash or garbage is referred to as rubbish.

In the weeks ahead we're looking forward to learning what else has thawed out and is waiting to be discovered.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Let it Snow...

When we announced our impending move to colder climes, we were met with a lot of shock and disbelief from family and friends.

"Are you aware what happens up there in winter?" one uncle asked.

"Is there life in Minnesota? I picture the White Witch's Kingdom with everyone frozen in place....." another friend commented.

Here's the thing... some people like snow. Gasp! The horror! I admit, cold weather isn't for everyone, but you may as well make the best of it when it's around, something Minnesotans excel at with equipment like this:

They even plow the greenway so cyclists can bike all year long.

I always wanted to invest in some cross country skis for some outdoor exercise but it didn't make sense in the Black Swamp region, where even a little thaw turned the ground to muddy mush. Combined with the lack of hills, NW OH is very unwelcome to winter enthusiasts. Enjoying winter was an uphill battle, not unlike a practice session for the Jamaican Olympic bobsled team.

Here in Minnesota outdoor activities abound all year, especially winter:

Skiing, snowboarding, sledding and tubing are only part of the fun. As we get settled in we hope to take in some ice fishing.

Perhaps we'll attend the Winter Carnival next year. Featuring ice carvings, snow sculptures, a giant frozen maze, frozen go-kart racing and more, this festival proves Vikings up north know how to have a good time in every element.

Come to Minnesota in the cold season and embrace your inner snowman. I guarantee you'll have more fun than Clark Griswold had on his Christmas Vacation.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Sweet Treats

So, after lunch at the Cheeky Monkey we walked about a block down the road for a piece of cake.

We took it upon ourselves to fill a pink cardboard box full of goodies to take home. Why? Because somebody has to do it and we were willing to make the sacrifice.

Now, I'm about to show you some of the contents of that box, so you may experience uncontrollable desire and a need to rush to the nearest bakery. :)

Red Velvet Valentine Cupcake

Valentine Sugar Cookies

Peanut Butter Chocolate Cupcake

Cherry Tart

Oh, and they taste good too.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Restaurant Review: Cheeky Monkey Deli

Monkey see, Monkey eat! We trekked up to the Twin Cities this week to enjoy the neighborhoods we miss so much. This time around we mainly visited the St. Paul area, specifically the Cathedral Hill neighborhood. If you have a fondness for historic communities, then you'll love Cathedral Hill. And if you like sandwiches and soup, then you should stop in at the Cheeky Monkey Deli.

A giant three panel menu greeted us at the door.

For some reason Jonathan and I both gravitated to the meatloaf sandwich (must have been the subzero temperatures outside). We decided to share a sandwich and a bowl of chili. We ordered, took our designated number and sat near the fireplace. Unfortunately, a few moments later we were told (very apologetically) that they were out of chili. Oh no! The horror!! They suggested a turkey/vegetable soup instead and we acquiesced.

While we waited for our order, we looked around at the decor. Three colors dominated--red, black and white. Besides the expected prints of monkeys placed here and there, they also had framed album and comic book covers decorating the walls. Some albums made sense--The Monkees. Others not so much--Barry Manilow. As for the comic books, they needed more Gorilla Grodds, Monsieur Mallahs, Detective Chimps and Gleeks gracing the covers instead of those pesky super-humans. ;)

The uncomplicated chandeliers also caught our eye because the light bulbs looked like they came from another century.

When our food arrived we couldn't wait to dig in and enjoy. We weren't disappointed. The spices in the soup created a savory base that boosted the flavors of the large pieces of shredded turkey and vegetables.

And the meatloaf sandwich? Moist. Tasty. Spicy. More, please.

If you ever check out the Cheeky Monkey, get the Meatloaf Sandwich. I'm serious. Unless you don't eat meat. Then stay away from it, but don't fret because they have some delicious-looking options for the veggies out there too. Like the pressed swiss cheese, grass-fed gouda, provolone, caramelized onions on ciabatta sandwich or the grilled seasonal vegetables, hummus on ciabatta sandwich.'re hungry now aren't you?

Well, put on your coat, head out the door and get over to the Cheeky Monkey Deli. It's easy to find, just look for the monkey...

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

A New Home (on the Prairie)

Hello, and welcome back to Minnesota or Bust. The first thing you may notice is that we're no longer calling ourselves Minnesota or Bust - we threw the "bust" out the window last month because we succeeded in what we set out to do. We've changed the header accordingly to reflect our status as citizens of the loon state,

Minnesota, our home.

In an interesting twist of fate, we've settled near the land that the Ingalls family (see our Little House on the Prairie post for more details!) put up their first sod house, just down the road from Walnut Grove. We've had fun watching reruns of Little House and noticing the references to the local communities in the show, like one storyline which refers to nearby Sleepy Eye as a lawless town full of gamblers and bandits.

Johari and I are more familiar with Sleepy Eye from the pottery her grandmother used to acquire there on vacations years ago. Now we're starting to think grandma didn't just go for the ceramic mugs and plates, but perhaps to play blackjack at the town's secret casino. She probably liked to square dance too. Oh Sleepy Eye, you den of sin.

Like many communities that go from one extreme to another Sleepy Eye has come a long way as evidenced by one blurb I found while researching the town -- a story which noted that the citizens tried to ban MTV in the 1990's. So fear not friends, the residents of Sleepy Eye are now a bastion of morality and civility, where the only gambling happens at the church's Bingo night and fish fry.

Stay tuned for further updates from up north!

Thursday, January 20, 2011


So sorry for the absolute neglect of our blog. Between the move, the unpacking, the trying to find our feet in our new surroundings, the crazy new work schedule, the almost weekly snow storms and the living in farm country, we haven't had time to explore and report.

Do not worry, though! We are gearing up to start exploring again (although it probably won't be with the same frequency because a.)we have to drive almost everywhere and b.)the weather tends to shut down roads out here).

Speaking of roads shutting down, I really wish they had a rail system out here. I dream of a system that can take us to the surrounding small towns as well as the Twin Cities. That would be soooooo nice...*sigh*.

Until the next post, here are three cheers to finding a little adventure every day!

Cheers! Cheers! Cheers! :)