Thursday, December 31, 2009

Please, Not Dick Clark!!!


I recall sitting around the television with close friends at a rental beach house in Cape May, New Jersey on December 31, 1999 watching the ball drop in Times Square on “Dick Clark’s Rockin New Year’s Eve” special.  We were all quite vocal in wishing the same thing a decade ago—Dick Clark really should pack it in! He looks terrible! Now 10 years later, he’s still at it at the ripe old age of 80. Being 80 doesn’t bother me, but the after-effects of his stroke a few years ago renders him unwatchable for me.
I’ve seen the trailers for tonight’s ABC programming and “Dick Clark’s Rockin New Year’s Eve” is on the docket (With Ryan Seacrest in fine print). I hope that Ryan does the bulk of the show tonight. I don’t think I can stand viewing poor Dick Clark mumble and stutter his way through forced dialogue. He is an all too vivid reminder of my own mortality. It’s time to pass the torch to the image of youth and vitality seen in Ryan Seacrest. Please Dick, step aside this year or I’ll be flipping the channel!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

God vs. Hockey. Who Wins?


So far hockey is ahead.
This is my battle and no doubt a battle raging in many households here in Minnesota and elsewhere. When are all of the Sunday morning and Wednesday night practices and games TOO MUCH???
It is hard enough to drag the kids out of bed and into the minivan for the journey to church on a frosty November Sunday morning without the temptation of a much more fun and easier diversion of hockey or ballet or basketball (or pick your sport) practice. A battle always ensues. When did Sunday’s become fair game for coaches to schedule practices, rehearsals, and games?
I grew up in a town where the basketball or football coaches would have to answer to the resident Lutheran pastor (Missouri synod), who was equivalent to God, if they dared to dream of scheduling a practice on a Wednesday night or God-forbid a Sunday morning. It was grounds for excommunication!
Standards have changed in 25 years and living in a metro area that thrives on hockey and football. I have a hockey player, a ballerina, and a basketball player. I teach Sunday School and Wednesday night Confirmation classes. It is really a tough call. I sympathize with the parents of my students. In the past, church easily trumped sports and ballet practice without a doubt. But now that the Lutherans have decided it is okay to ordain gay clergy amongst their ranks, I now have an advocate on the side of Sunday sports. (Perhaps the Lutheran issues are a blog in itself and not worth touching with a 10-foot pole.)
So what does a church-going mother do? I believe in keeping Sundays for family. But as the kids get older and their activities more involved this gets more difficult with each passing year. I hate to admit that Sunday School has been skipped for a basketball game or hockey practice but Wednesday nights for Confirmation are sacred for the moment. 

When does it become too much? A child’s faith and lessons taught on Sunday mornings stays with them their entire life. Can you say the same about their chances at playing professional hockey or becoming a prima ballerina?

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Escape to Hudson


Thank you so much for bearing with me on my H1N1 hiatus . . . I believe that we are swine flu free now and life has returned to our normal insane pace. So insane that I had to escape to my favorite town on the banks of the St. Croix river—Hudson, Wisconsin. Home of some of my favorite shops in the Twin Cities.
The main drag in Hudson is Second Street, and it is loaded with art galleries, clothing boutiques and handbag shops, restaurants, and jewelry stores. You could easily spend an afternoon wandering around, exploring all of the different stores. I’ve picked out a select few shops that you shouldn’t miss when visiting Hudson, Wisconsin. And tossed in a few restaurant recommendations in case hunger strikes during your Hudson shopping experience.
La Rue Marche
513 Second Street    www.laruemarche.com
The jewel of Hudson shopping . . . La Rue Marche offers an eclectic mix of women’s clothing, handbags, and jewelry for the young and young at heart. Owner Lisa Shortridge has an eye for unique pieces and her personal style shines through at La Rue Marche. I’m partial to the array of shoes—which are so beautiful they look like museum pieces but are so very comfortable and stylish you can wear them anywhere—and dresses ranging from cocktail gowns to cozy sweater dresses. 
Women of any age or pant size will easily find something trendy to fit into their wardrobe that is also easy on the pocketbook. Shortridge stocks a wide assortment of jeans of all sizes; a bounty of ballerina flats, wedges, gorgeous heels, and boots; and a rack of the cutest winter coats around. Bargain racks at the front and rear of the store also offer deeply discounted items. Lisa and her staff are incredibly attentive and will work with you to find the look that you seek. Lisa Shortridge also offers exclusive, private parties and wardrobe consultations at your home.
La Rue Marche never disappoints and always brings me back when I’m looking for something truly unique and fun!

SHEER ADDICTION (formerly known as Tamara)
513 Second Street    www.sheeraddiction.com
Located in the back of La Rue Marche is the fabulous SHEER ADDICTION jewelry shop. Tamara Schafhauser creates an amazing line necklaces and bracelets for her Junk Jewels collection. She mixes semi-precious stones with unique pieces of metal collected from markets around the globe. (I have some of her creations with bits from Paris as well as Dallas Texas.) She also has her signature metallic initial necklaces, which are simple yet incredibly stylish and can be paired with any of her other pieces. No two creations are exactly alike. For an eclectic range of jewelry designs, check out SHEERADDICTION.

Et Cetera
507 Second Street    www.etchudson.com
Looking for an interesting hostess gift, wedding present, or Christmas gift? Et Cetera is the place for you. This shop offers a mix of paintings, candles, baubles, and housewares that anyone would love to receive. A favorite of my daughter and I is the Sid Dickens memory tiles that line one of the walls of the shop. Although it was early November when I last visited, Et Cetera had pulled out all of the Christmas trimmings and gorgeous glass ornaments.
Lavender Thymes
512 Second Street   
This trendy boutique offers an array of somewhat spendy girly tops and stylish jeans with price tags to match. Half of the shop offers the Thymes line of skincare products, Crabtree and Evelyn soaps and lotions, greeting cards, gourmet food, and jewelry. A fun little shop to poke around in.
Knoke’s Chocolates
216 Locust Street    www.knokeschocolates.com
This confectionary is just north of the main shopping street in Hudson. Owner Dave Knoke, who can usually be found behind the counter of his shop, offers hand crafted chocolates including truffles, caramels, English toffee, mints, and turtles. I’m a huge fan of the boxed truffles that are delicious and make great little gifts for teachers. Knoke’s is definitely worth a stop!
Élan Clothing and Gifts
218 Locust Street    www.elanofhudson.com 
This is a grown-up woman’s store by far when compared with La Rue Marche or Lavender Thymes. The clothing sold at Élan is also beautiful but more geared toward work and with a more conservative feel. The sizes and cuts are much bigger, and they don’t carry petites. They also have a wonderful bargain rack on which I’ve found a gorgeous red strapless gown that fits like a glove. They have a nice selection of wrap dresses, sweaters, and boots.
Dilly Dally in the Alley
218 Locust Street    www.elanofhudson.com
Behind the cash register at Élan lies a staircase. Follow that staircase down and you will discover a sweet little gift shop at the foot of the stairs—Dilly Dally in the Alley. This shop is well stocked with fun wine glasses, earrings, local T-shirts, journals, and fun odds and ends. I think it’s a great place to find a baby or wedding shower gift or something special for your best friend or a favorite sister-in-law. Plus the ladies who work down there are super nice and very helpful.
San Pedro Cafe
426 Second Street    www.sanpedrocafe.com
My favorite reprieve from shopping is the San Pedro Cafe. This restaurant is straight out of Belize in more ways than one. Their zesty Caribbean menu offers a selection of wood-fired pizzas, sandwiches, and fresh fish. You can’t go wrong with a selection from their rotating Chef’s Specials. San Pedro Cafe doesn’t take reservations so plan on a short wait unless you arrive early for lunch.
Pier 500
500 First Street   www.pierfivehundred.com
In my opinion the summer is the best time to visit Pier 500 simply because you can eat 
al fresco on their patio and watch the boats sail by on the St. Croix. Unfortunately the outdoor eating days are over for awhile. Luckily the vast inside bar and cozy dining room surrounding the fireplace is very inviting with excellent American cuisine and an extensive wine menu. 
I hope that you will get a chance to explore some of my favorite places in Hudson Wisconsin. Happy shopping!



Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Duck Hunting . . . Why?


I was woken up at sunrise on Saturday morning to the echo of gunfire. I briefly was confused and wondered why in the world guns were going off around our chain of lakes. Then I remembered . . .  silly me, it’s the start of duck hunting season. That lovely season where hunters—boys and girls as well so I’m told—are out waiting in the water and on the edge of lakes and ponds to take aim, fire, and shoot at ducks. Ducks. Why do we still have duck hunting in Minnesota? 
Maybe the bigger question is why do people still duck hunt in Minnesota? Do we have such an abundance of ducks that their flocks must be culled? I haven’t noticed masses of ducks floating on the lakes or flying in the air. I understand deer hunting with the masses of deer that will starve unless the herds are thinned out, but duck hunting perplexes me. I don’t think many families around here are starving and in dire need of duck meat. Is it really fun rising well before dawn on a cold, wet Minnesota morning to stake out your place in some marshy bog to shoot down little ducks? 
As a runner and dog walker who uses the trails around the lakes and through the woods, the start of these hunting seasons always puts me on edge. I don’t like guns going off around me or the warning signs that bow and arrow deer hunting season has started so watch out! I feel like I should don my blaze orange (if I owned any) to take the dog on his morning walk.
I’m certainly not a hunter, nor is anyone in my family, that’s why I’m hoping someone will enlighten me on the joys of duck hunting. In the meantime, I’ll wear my earplugs so the gunfire won’t wake me up too early in the morning on the weekend.


Bono Loves America


I am a suburban Mom who needs her morning coffee and her fix of U2 to get through the day. Now I’ve been listening to U2 since the mid-1980s and have never had the opportunity to see them live in concert—until this week!
In this century, I have successfully managed to miss both the Elevation and the Vertigo tours so I was thrilled when Mr. Incredible managed to score two tickets to the U2 360° tour at FedEx Field in Landover, Maryland last Tuesday night. So what if we had to fly to Washington, DC; we actually had tickets the U2 concert!
On the night of the concert, we left plenty of time to drive from Chevy Chase, Maryland to FedEx Field in nearby Landover. Yes, it was rush hour on the Beltway and although the sun was shining and the pavement was dry, it still took us 2 hours to drive 20 miles. (For you U2 fans out there, that’s listening to No Line on the Horizon twice back-to-back.) But never mind as it was U2, and we had finally arrived along with 80,000 others packing into the stadium. We slid into our seats with our concert tees, drinks, and dinner just as Muse started playing Knights of Cydonia.
I know a lot of you are Muse fans, but I’m a novice and will admit I recognized maybe one of the nine songs they played. I found them incredibly loud which really distorted the sound and made it sound less than musical (for my ears at least). I’m sure I was in the minority as the crowd was very enthusiastic.
Now I’ve seen my fair share of rock concerts, but nothing has ever come close to this show. U2 is a band that is difficult to upstage, but their own stage design nearly overpowered them. A huge spider-like or spaceship apparatus with a stage below and a huge 360° monitor in the middle is the stage design for the 360° tour. It was awe-inspiring throughout the show and made you feel like you really were experiencing the pinnacle of U2.
As the lights went out, the spire on the stage/spaceship/spider-like apparatus lit up, and U2’s drummer Larry Mullin, Jr. drummed his way onto the stage and led the band out to the strains of Breathe off of their latest album. As U2 rocked on with more songs off of their current CD as well as the old favorites; you couldn’t help but get caught up in the sheer momentum of U2. Bono would direct the crowd to move their arms one way or sing part of the song and they did!
Is U2 always this “over-the-top” live? Highlights (for me at least) included:
  • Mysterious Ways played live as it is one of my personal favorites.
  • The incredible light show emitted from the set for the notorious pop songs Vertigo and Beautiful Day. Perfectly in-synch with the spaceship stage
  • Bono and Andy—a 10-year-old boy that Bono pulled out of the crowd to run around the circular catwalk part of the stage at shoulder height of the crowd below.
  • My Blue Room was just so odd and out of place. I’m adding it as a highlight because the song was so obscure and almost out of place from the rest of the show. A Russian astronaut on the space station??
  • The Sikh in a turban who Bono pulled up onto the stage with his American flag for part of Sunday Bloody Sunday.
  • Bono’s explanation of why he loves America. His political banter ranged from Iran to Burma to dedicating Beautiful Day to Eunice Shriver and New Year’s Day to Teddy Kennedy. Given the amount of time Bono spends in the States, he truly loves America, or at least loves the money our government gives him to support his worthy causes.
  • The six song encore that ended with With or Without You and Moment of Surrender.

If U2’s 360° tour and spacecraft stage land anywhere near you, what are you waiting for? Get out there and buy tickets to experience this phenomenal show! U2 is truly at the peak of their career and pack an amazing amount of energy into a 2 1/2 hour set. I’m hooked and would see them again if they came anywhere near Minnesota.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Pay Up for That "Free Ticket"


My bank account got a rude surprise yesterday—another hidden fee by Northwest/Delta Airlines. So here I am scrolling through the screens to book a flight to Washington, DC in a couple of weeks and am planning on cashing in on some of my frequent flier miles for the flight. I find my flights and seats but just before I think I’m done what pops up onto the screen but a little red box. This box is informing me that I must now pay Northwest/Delta (or whatever they are being called since the merge) $75 plus $5 in tax for the privilege of redeeming my frequent flier miles. Since when are you charged $80 when cashing in on your WorldPerks (frequent flier) miles to book a so-called “free” ticket? This is ridiculous!
As I see it, I’ve already paid for all of those miles logged into my WorldPerks account; miles accumulated through purchasing tickets to fly on Northwest Airlines. This is what the new WorldPerks Award Redemption Fee has done. Not only are you limited on your flight choices and seats on the airplane when using a WorldPerks mileage redemption ticket, you now have to pay up as well. I’ll add this Award Redemption Fee to the list of new fees that force travelers to shell out even more money to the airlines. 
Let’s see, off the top of my head, we now have checked baggage fees of $20 for 1 bag and $30 for 2 bags; extra baggage fees if you pack 3 bags; extra weight fees so don’t try to cram everything into one massive suitcase; buying meals, drinks, and snacks on the flight; and paying extra for an exit row, aisle seat, or a “premium” coach seat near the front of the plane. This doesn’t even include all of the other odd fees tacked on here and there when you purchase your ticket or check in for your flight at the airport.
I understand that airlines are going bankrupt, but this is a bit too much. What will they charge us for next? An excessive body weight charge? Maybe they will set up scales for Body Mass Index at the check-in kiosks. Anyone who doesn’t fall within the “normal” range will pay more for their seat. A small child charge? Any child age 2 and under will be charged an extra $25 on the off chance that they will cry and annoy the passengers around them. They would make a fortune off of that one. I’d better stop here before I give Northwest Airlines any additional fee ideas.
Given Northwest’s mediocre service and constant flight delays and cancellations, the least they could do is let their customers use up their frequent flier miles for free.  

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Farewell Summer



Somehow the arrival of that first school bus on the day after Labor Day heralds the end of summer. Within the space of three hours, I have put all three kids on three separate school buses. The experience is always bittersweet for me. I’m thrilled that the kids are finally going back to school after what seemed like an eternal summer holiday. But at the same time I almost am sad to see them go. They seem so small standing in the bus line and climbing the steps onto that big yellow school bus. But at the same time, so independent and confident. 
For me, I feel much older as I mark the start of another year back to school. That passing of a year never really hits me until today. Perhaps it is seeing the excitement in their faces at the prospect of starting off in a new grade, meeting new friends, and catching up with old ones. Maybe it is because I so vividly remember my first day of 7th grade. It doesn’t seem that long ago but it was back in 1980!
First day of 6th grade 2009
First grader 2009


Entering 7th grade 2009
To all of you Moms (and Dads) out there, enjoy these first few hours of peace and quiet. I know I will. Before you know it, those buses will be back in the neighborhood dropping the kids back at home. 

Sunday, August 30, 2009

The Great Minnesota Get Together




What else does late August in Minnesota mean except it is time for the annual Minnesota State Fair. As you can tell, we love fair food and made a day of eating our way through the exhibits, midway, and animal barns. 



Our favorites: pronto pups and deep friend cheese curds. Food we were afraid to try: alligator on a stick and big fat bacon on a stick. We managed to see the parade twice, witnessed the birth of a calf (birthing chains, OUCH!!), took in the view on the Sky Needle, petted fluffy bunnies, counted newly hatched chicks, gazed at Princess Kay of the Milky Way carved in butter, ran into friends and family, slid down the Big Slide on burlap bags, watched the judging of a country western style horse show, and rode rides on the Midway for an hour without anyone losing all of that food they had consumed. I think we are all worn out for today, but the Minnesota State Fair runs through Labor Day. We may be back!

Friday, August 21, 2009

Misguided Compassion

On behalf of all of the American exchange students whose lives were cut short on 21 December 1988, I am compelled to write in outrage about the Scottish authorities decision to release the Libyan terrorist who planted the bomb on Pan Am Flight 103 that exploded over Lockerbie Scotland killing all 259 people aboard and 11 on the ground. Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al-Megrahi, who has terminal prostate cancer, was released from a Scottish prison yesterday on grounds of compassion. His return to Libya after 21 years prompted a  celebratory hero’s welcome and a warm embrace from  the son of Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi.
All on the grounds of compassion. Mr. al-Megrahi showed no mercy or had any thoughts of pity for his victims when he loaded Pan Am Flight 103 with a bomb. He will get to say goodbye to his family before he dies. The Lockerbie victims never said goodbye to their loved ones. Where lies the sympathy in Mr. al-Megrahi’s actions? He showed no compassion in December 1988. This is not compassionate move on Scotland’s part; it is an outrage! A victory for the terrorist community.
Yes, I realize he is an old dying man and is no longer a threat. I caution you. Look back at the spectacle that took place on the tarmac in Libya yesterday. Therein lies the threat. A seed of dissent planted in a young Libyan mind upon seeing Mr. al-Megrahi’s jubilant return. A hero in the minds of Libyans.
Mr. al-Megrahi is no hero. Neither is Scottish Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill who made the decision to free this terrorist. The heros are the parents, husbands, wives, siblings, and friends of those innocent people who perished. They have had to live all these 21 years with a gaping hole in their lives. We must live with the aftermath of the release of Mr. al-Megrahi. I believe this decision will impact all of us. Not now perhaps, but in the future.
Why should I, a suburban Mom living in Minnesota, care so deeply about all of this?
I held a standby ticket on Pan Am Flight 103. 

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Back-To-School Blues


I have a feeling that I am not the only Mom out there counting down the days until the kids return to school. The boredom of the long summer days has set in now that it is August. The random arguments and fights between siblings has escalated as well. I believe it is time to return to school. 
Now I realize that some of you are fortunate enough to have an abundance of patience and knowledge to homeschool your kids. I commend and highly respect your decision. As for me, entering the 10th week of our 14-week long summer holiday from our public school, I give up. Mrs. Incredible is ready to hand them off to their teachers for 8 hours a day. Teachers, are you ready? Readers, please tell me that I’m not alone in my desperation to get my children back onto an organized Fall schedule. 
We have started already . . .  the back-to-school shopping trips. All three kids have grown at least one size over the summer which makes most wardrobe items obsolete. I have not really tackled the boy’s clothing issues but have gotten a jump start on my daughter’s wardrobe. Such a start that we are nearly finished!
This year we ventured to The Mall of America (MOA), otherwise known as The GREAT Mall due to the abundance of stores. As you may know from personal experience, MOA has nearly every store imaginable but we still had trouble finding the right clothes for a slender 12-year old girl. 
H&M was a hit for all three kids. Cheap, trendy, and the clothes wear really well. Nordstroms for jeans and shoes. Aeropostale for T-shirts and sweaters. We found Urban Outfitters way overpriced for the cheaply constructed clothes adorning the store. In an effort to find a denim skirt that would fit my skinny girl, we mistakenly ventured into Justice. It was a flashback to 1984 complete with neon leggings, zebra striped high-tops, and Flashdance inspired sweatshirts. Scary! My daughter can blame me but I refuse to enter Hollister and Abercrombie & Fitch. The stench of the perfume at the door is enough to keep me away. Is that intentional to keep the parents out of the store? I wonder.
Now all I have left is the boys and all of the school supplies. Best of luck to all of you other back-to-school shoppers. Maybe you will join me in wishing you had bought stock in Target a decade ago. Only 33 more days and counting . . .

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Summer Diversions


What’s not to love about summer here in Minnesota? It’s warm, but not too hot. There are an abundance of lakes for boating and fishing, 10,000 so they claim. Restaurant tables spill out onto their patio for patrons. Neighbors gather for a bonfire. The kids are out running around playing kick-the-can with their friends until it is too dark to see the can. Golf courses are packed. Farmers are selling sweet corn off the back of a pick-up truck. Lakeside cabins are full of family and friends creating new memories. If only a Minnesota summer would last just a bit longer.
WA Frost
The past few weeks have presented some of the best Minnesota summer activities for me. The Cathedral Hill neighborhood of St. Paul really comes to life in the summer with outdoor dining at Moscow on the Hill, and W.A. Frost. Moscow on the Hill offers a wide array of vodka selections as well as delicious and authentic Russian food. (Sorry but I cannot post their website link as it gave a warning that the link would destroy my computer. Do not want that to happen!)  W.A. Frost  is probably the most notorious and most pretentious Cathedral Hill eatery. I love the drink menu served under the canopy of trees in the outdoor garden/patio, but I’m not crazy about the food at any time of the year. Overpriced and just not very satisfying in my opinion. If you are interested in seeing their menu go to: http://www.wafrost.com 
Just down Selby Avenue is the Cheeky Monkey Deli (http://cheekymonkeydeli.com) which offers tasty and inexpensive sandwiches and salads for lunch. Forepaughs Restaurant is also nearby with an excellent new American menu, cozy bar, and outdoor seating on the verandah and upper balcony. For more information on this St. Paul classic, please visit their website at http://www.forepaughs.com.
Also worth a try is the Barrio Tequila Bar with locations in St. Paul’s Lowertown and on Nicollet Avenue in Minneapolis. Having tried both Barrios, I do prefer the food at the Minneapolis locale.  The newer St. Paul location has much more space but feels a bit too light and open and lacking the in dark, gothic details that the Minneapolis location offers. You will just have to try them both out for yourself. For more information on either Barrio Tequila Bar, check out their cutting-edge website at: http://barriotequila.com.
Nicollet Avenue in Minneapolis is a blog in itself as it offers numerous bars and restaurants as well as Sommerfest at Orchestra Hall with the Minnesota Orchestra’s free concerts (http://www.minnesotaorchestra.org). Having lived in the Twin Cities, I am almost embarrassed to admit that I had never been to Brits Pub until this past weekend. If you love English pub food, outdoor lawn bowling, or sitting on a rooftop patio sipping Pimms and Lemonade,  you will love Brits Pub. For more information, http://www.britspub.com.
Then there is modern art at the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis. I guess that I appreciate modern art because it makes me appreciate most other forms of art all the more. The permanent collection houses works by Yoko Ono, Andy Warhol, and all sorts of other modern artists whose names I cannot remember. I love the building design of the Walker and stumbled upon some really interesting bathrooms on our last visit. 
However, I am a true fan of the outdoor Minneapolis Sculpture Garden which is adjacent to the Walker.  What a great place for a picnic and an afternoon stroll around the park scattered with works by Henry Moore and Claes Oldenburg. Plus it is FREE!  For more information about the Walker Art Center and Minneapolis Sculpture Garden, visit http://www.walkerart.org.
And finally here at home. The backyard firepit has seen lots of use as the edges are splattered with dribbled marshmallow from many rounds of smores. The side yard has taken a beating from all of the kickball, baseball, and football games that have been held on its turf. Even taking the dog for his morning walk has been a joy given all of the birds, snakes, and other critters along the path.
I realize that I have just scratched the surface of summer fun in the Twin Cities. Let me know some of your favorites. Happy summer! 

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Top Ten Things I Learned While Tent Camping


I have not gone tent camping since I was about 3-years old and camped out in Banff National Park in Alberta, Canada. (Is the location correct Mom and Aunt Marilyn?) Suffice it to say, I don’t remember anything about the experience except that it was cold. Now so many years later, I have tried tent camping again. Here is what I’ve learned:

  1. Don’t put gin in a water bottle. It is too easily mistaken for water by a very thirsty 10-year old boy rooting through the cooler looking for water. That first gulp was quite a surprise!
  2. Bacon grease acts as an excellent flame enhancer. Draining off the excess bacon grease into the campfire really boosted those flames. Who needs lighter fuel?
  3. Bring extra blankets. Even if it is 90 degrees when you are loading up the car and setting up the tents, it gets cold at night. This is Minnesota after all. I learned my lesson after sleeping curled up in a ball under a very thin blanket.
  4. Ban all kid electronic devices. Somehow those Nintendo DS games made it into the tents. No more! Although the kids did have fun out fishing, playing football, and chopping wood.
  5. Portable iPod speaker are a good thing. Bringing along your own tunes worked out well. Plus the speakers aren’t so loud as to disturb the other campers. (Our band of rebel children did that all on their own.) It provided some late night campfire entertainment when the 6-year old boys decided to show us their dance moves.
  6. Pit toilet technology really hasn’t changed much since the 1960s. Enough said.
  7. Bring lots of firewood. Who knew that we would burn through so much wood? We ran out twice. The late night wood raid was very stealthy and resulted in lots of wood but the breakfast raid in the brilliant sunshine was a bit more difficult.
  8. Smores are essential for dessert. How can you go wrong? This is probably why we needed all of the extra wood. Also, don’t let one of the Moms be in charge of the chocolate as it tends to disappear rather quickly.
  9. Good friends and good food can override most negative camping experiences. ny bad experiences that we might have had quickly disappeared into laughter amongst friends. This trip was all about the food and wine. We ate a delicious dinner cooked over the fire and then spent the evening sitting around the campfire. The kids and the birds woke us up bright and early to yet another scrumptious meal of pancakes, bacon and eggs.
  10. Stay for two nights, not one. Camping is a lot of preparation even before you’ve left your driveway. Then setting up camp takes a few hours. This is not even counting all of the laundry and clean-up once you arrive back home smelling like last night’s camp fire. Next time we are staying for two nights given the amount of work that goes into a tenting excursion. 





Will I tent camp again? There is talk of another tenting trip in the end of August so stay tuned!


If you are interested, we camped out at the Rice Creek Campground which is in the Rice Creek Chain of Lakes Regional Park Reserve located about 25 miles north of St. Paul, MN. There are bike trails, a swimming beach, golf course, and a boat launch. For more information, see their link at:  http://www.anokacountyparks.com/camping/rice_creek.htm

Thursday, July 9, 2009

A Night at the Dome


This falls under that broad category of summer excursions for all of the suburbanites out there. I realize that it is July already and this is only our first Twins game of the season. Pitiful I know! I chalk it up to the economy. Let me tell you that it is not cheap for a family of 5 to take in a Twins vs. Yankees game at the Metrodome in Minneapolis. It did not help that the Yankees are considered a “premium” team which means they can jack up prices on EVERYTHING, and they did. This is why we only venture to the Dome a couple of times a year but it was money well spent for an enjoyable family night out.
The bulk of our spending money easily went toward food. We arrived early for batting practice, but were extra early and the gates had not yet opened. So what to do? Eat. We started off with corn dogs and deep-fried cheese curds at the food tents outside of the Dome. A beer thrown in as well. An hour of watching batting practice and catching a foul ball off the bat of Yankee 3rd baseman Alex Rodriguez worked up our appetites. So more food. Brats and “Dome Dogs”. More beer, a glass of wine, some lemonades. Do you see what I mean about the money slipping away?
Once the game started the vendors came out carrying food and drink up and down the steps. Our seats were right on the aisle. My Jack Jack wanted everything that passed by. He didn’t care about the game. It was all about getting more snacks. 
Unfortunately the game was very, very slow with minimal outfield action which resulted in boredom and the need for more food. M&Ms, a burrito, peanuts, Cokes. We did draw the line at cotton candy and snow cones. I did get a good chance to work off all of that food with at least 10 trips up and down the stairs to the bathrooms with various kids. Too bad the Twins lost 10-2.
Next time, we will eat before we arrive at the Dome.
A brief side note here . . . I grew up listening to the Milwaukee Brewers on the radio and maybe once a year taking a road trip to County Stadium in Milwaukee to watch the Brewers. I remember sitting out in the bleachers with many a drunken Brewer fan hoping that the Brewers would hit a home run and someone would get to slide down into the massive mug of beer in the outfield! Now those were the days!

Sunday, July 5, 2009

An Anoka County 4th of July


Happy 4th of July! Nothing quite compares to an all American 4th of July now does it? I’ve spent every July 4th celebrating with family and friends for as long as I can remember. I’ve watched fireworks going off over Norfolk, Virginia; Gills Rock, Wisconsin; the National Mall in Washington, DC; over the Potomac River in Mt. Vernon, Virginia; and at the fairgrounds in Neillsville, Wisconsin. Last night’s celebration on our cul de sac with good friends ranks right up there as a grand celebration. I can safely add our Anoka County celebration to my list.
We decided the best way to make this a true Anoka County 4th of July was to sit in our lawn chairs in front of the open garage enjoying a pitcher of homemade mojitos with the music cranked from the garage stereo while the kids lit sparklers, snakes, and other relatively “safe” fireworks. (Is there such a thing?!)  To top if off, we moved the fire pit onto the driveway and set it ablaze with a blowtorch. Why even bother with matches when you have a blowtorch handy?
As soon as the sun set and the mosquitos swarmed around us, we set off the first of many illegal fireworks brought into Minnesota from that rebel state of Wisconsin. The kids lit their sparklers in the dark and ran as fast as they could when a projectile went off. We were very lucky this year as only one firecracker tipped over and spun madly about shooting off flames and fireworks into the assembled crowd. Sort of a Russian roulette effect added an element of drama and terror to the evening. Luckily no one was hurt. Now we know how those careless adults always end up in the ER  with burned fingers every 4th of July!
As I write on the evening of the 5th of July, I can hear the neighbors shooting off the remnants of the arsenals. Gotta love the 4th!

Friday, July 3, 2009

Ephraim Revisited


Do you have a place where you can escape and time just seems to slow down to a crawl? I do and that place is Ephraim in Door County, Wisconsin. I’ve been visiting Door County since the early 1980s and have always loved the beauty of Eagle Harbor, Lake Michigan, and all of the state parks that are found in Door County. 
Ephraim, however, is the true gem of the peninsula. This historic Moravian town was founded in 1853 by the Reverend Andreas Iverson and has many historic buildings dating back to the 1800s that are still being used today. Ephraim is nestled alongside Eagle Harbor and offers gorgeous views of the bluffs of Peninsula State Park, Horseshoe Island, and the harbor itself. White clapboard houses and church steeples are clustered along the hill that runs through the village.
Ephraim offers an abundance of activities for families. The entrance to Peninsula State Park is on the south end of town. The park lies between Ephraim and Fish Creek with plenty of camp sites, bike trails, hiking trails, golfing, swimming, and boating. One of our favorite park activities is climbing the observation tower that rises high over the waters of Green Bay and offers a spectacular view of Ephraim and the outlying islands. A challenging hiking trail lies just below the tower and takes you along the base of the bluffs. The American Folklore Theater puts on nightly musicals in the outdoor amphitheater. Nicolet Beach is excellent for swimming and picnics. It also links you to bike trails within the park.
Ephraim Beach is one of our favorite beaches. It is also on the south side of town right on Highway 42. The water is very shallow and the beach is clean and sandy. The parking lot is small so arrive early or come later in the afternoon once the crowds have left. While in Ephraim, be sure to take in one of the spectacular sunsets. The end of Anderson Dock is a great place to watch the sunset and go fishing off of the dock.
Luckily, my parents happen to live in Ephraim so my family and I always have a lovely place to stay on our visits. If the Boock hotel is full, you can easily find accommodation at one of the many bed & breakfasts or hotels. 
Ephraim is full of shops and restaurants. Our favorites are Wilson’s Restaurant, Leroy’s Coffeehouse, JoJos Pizza and Gelato, Good Eggs for breakfast wraps, and the Second Story Restaurant for carryout perch. Note that Ephraim is a dry town (no alcohol served), but you can bring along your own bottle of wine for dinner if you’d like. 
For more information on Ephraim, go to http://www.wistravel.com/cities_in_wisconsin/ephraim_wisconsin/ .