Discovering the North Shore

It was good to get away for a few days. To leave the city far behind us for a quieter world. We hiked rugged paths to see waterfalls, stuck our feet into the painfully cold water of Lake Superior, and relaxed on the shore by the light of the fire in the evening. For many Minnesota families, north shore vacations are long-standing traditions that have perhaps become a bit “whatever” as the sights have been seen over and over again. But for us, it was a first. It was an adventure. Everything was new to us, and I can’t help but dream of a time—years down the road—when we’ve been so many times that we’ve discovered all the hidden gems that are waiting for us to find. Something about that feels like a Minnesota badge of honor that we’ve yet to achieve.

On this trip we collected several firsts: The first time we toured the Split Rock Lighthouse; the first time we saw the view from Palisade Head; the first time we rode the gondola up the Lutsen Mountain. And the first time we trekked out to Wild Country Maple Syrup.

It was our first full day in the area, and we had so many possibilities for our To Do list that we almost skipped it. We’d already stopped at Caribou Cream, a small store where syrup and other giftable items are sold on the honor system as there are no employees there working the shop. We were charmed by the shop and its contents, so we bought some syrup and headed on our way wondering if another syrup place was worth our time.

“Why not?” we decided and drove down the country roads that twisted and turned into the woods. The paved roads became dirt and every time we wondered if we were lost, a sign that pointed the way to Wild Country Maple Syrup kept us going. Soon, we could see the syrup lines running through the forest, and eventually the road ended at the headquarters of the operation. We headed straight for the small store to find that it was much like the one we’d seen at our previous stop. But we were quickly greeted by one of the owners who offered to show us around. He took us into the sugar shack and walked us through the process of making the syrup. We got to see where they bottle the syrup and sample the different types. Everyone we met was so friendly; we ended up chatting for quite some time.

We left with more syrup, of course. Because how could we resist after getting the grand tour and the nicest welcome we could have asked for? Note to self: check out the recipe section of their web site because we have a lot of syrup now.

Back at work a few days later, I was pulling books for my library’s Family History Month display, and I happened across a picture book about a family with a tradition of making maple syrup in the spring: Taffy Time by Jennifer Lloyd. The story centers on the youngest member of the family who wants to help, but keeps getting in the way and making mistakes. The little girl’s father explains the process of making the syrup as part of the story, and it was fun to see a smaller version of what we saw at Wild Country depicted on the pages of the book.

If you happen to be in the Lutsen, MN area, consider stopping in at Wild Country. For those who can’t get to the North Shore anytime soon, there are always picture books. Taffy Time is one of many picture books about making maple syrup. Rhoda’s Rock Hunt by Molly Beth Griffin is another title with local interest—though the story of a child collecting so much that they can’t carry it all extends far beyond the Minnesota borders.  Rhoda’s solution to her problem is one that will please both young rock collectors and their parents–much like our vacation to the North Shore. ;)

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The Great Minnesota Get Together

A few days ago a Facebook friend of mine posted the question “Why do you go to the State Fair?”

Some said that they go for the food.  Others said it’s the rides.  I like those things, but for me the Minnesota State Fair isn’t about food or rides.  It’s the energy of the fair that gets me, that makes a trip to the fair a priority every year.  I love that we’re all there to celebrate the talented people, hard work, and creativity of our state.  Some say it’s too crowded or too expensive, but it’s worth it to me to battle the crowds and pay the money to soak up that feeling of celebratory pride in the efforts of fellow Minnesotans and to explore the best of our great state.  

I wouldn’t miss it for the world.

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More photos from our day at the fair here

Past State Fair adventures:

My Summer Wonders

We ushered in our summer with a busy weekend that was full of sun.  After several days (weeks?) of rain, it was much needed sunshine–at least, it was much needed by me.

IMG_2009IMG_2012 IMG_2014We celebrated the solstice on Friday evening at our Unitarian-Univeralist church, caught a puppet show on Saturday morning at the library (highly recommend catching one of the many performances of Molly and the Magic Boot this summer; my daughter is still singing the “hootenanny” song–though perhaps that’s not a selling point. . .), and joined ten thousand other music fans for Rock the Garden on Saturday night.

While Matt and Kim stole the show for me (even though I was not previously familiar with them), Best Coast deserves a mention for singing “Why would you live anywhere else?”  Of course, they were referencing California, but on the first day of a Minnesota summer, there is no better place to be.  Why would you live anywhere else right now?

Our summer has just begun, of course.  In the weeks to come we will be camping, swimming, grilling, and more.  What will your summer bring?

If you need some inspiration, try a picture book: Summer Wonders by Bob Raczka is a good place to start. It celebrates summer with simplicity and ice pops.  What more could you want?

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Perhaps at the end of the summer we will be able to make our own book of wonders.

Waiting for Spring

redhatLast weekend there was a collective sense of glee in the Twin Cities as we got our first taste of nice weather after months of seemingly endless winter.  We were all mischievous little bears borrowing hats with a shout, metaphorically speaking.  Of course, I always think life is like a picture book, and in this case, it’s like Red Hat by Lita Judge, in which there are no words–only sounds–to tell the story of some animals having a lot of fun at the end of winter.

We were right there with them.  No hat stealing that I saw, but the sounds of spring were in the air.  The park near our building was packed with families playing, grilling, smiling.  It felt like we lived at the park all weekend, and it was glorious.

This week has been decidedly less glorious outside, and the general glee has dulled as we debate whether we need winter boots and coats now or if spring jackets will do.  As we faced a snowy forecast on Wednesday, I tried to avoid complaining, but even my bright-side nature can only go so far against snow in May.

In the end, the snow missed us to dump record-breaking amounts to the south and east of here.  I stuck with my sneakers and spring jacket with only a slight sense of regret as I waited for my bus at 7 a.m. with a sharp wind chilling the air.  A winter coat might have been a warmer choice this morning, but I very happy to be leaving my boots in the closet.  Not exactly a “Roweeeee!” kind of happy, but I’ll take what I can get.

We just need a little more patience, and the cold, rainy, brown will turn to green, wonderful spring.  Actually that reminds me of another picture book:  And Then It’s Spring by Julie Fogliano.  It’s a quieter book than Red Hat.  It’s more about the waiting, but the spring, when it finally arrives, is no less wonderful.

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Discovering Maud Hart Lovelace

I never read Maud Hart Lovelace’s books as a kid, but I couldn’t not read them with my daughter.  After all, Maud lived in our neighborhood.  Before it was Mueller Park, it was where Maud lived with her husband.

We’ve passed by the rock with its plaque many times as a reluctant-to-leave-the-park last stop, and since Betsy and Tacy are four-years-old at the beginning of the first book, it seemed appropriate to introduce my daughter to Minnesota of the past with Betsy-Tacy.

I’m excited for Ladybug to meet the heroines of my youth–Anne Shirley, Laura Ingalls, and Ramona Quimby.  But I’m happy that we are meeting Maud Hart Lovelace’s Betsy and Tacy together.

   

What childhood heroes are you excited to revisit as an adult (with kids or just for fun)? 

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It’s Minnesota Museums Month!

I didn’t realize how few local museums I’d been to until I read that there are over 600 museums in Minnesota.  More fun facts about museums are on the MN Museums Month web site, but I thought I’d highlight a few of the museums that have been on this blog over the past two years.

Reading to Peter Rabbit in Storyland

 

 What are your favorite museums (local or otherwise)?

Monday Morning Music with North Shore Sessions

This video of Holly Newsom of Zoo Animal (who I have mentioned on this blog before) singing on skates was going around my social media, and I had to share it too.  It is lovely.

I was curious about the video, so I looked into North Shore Sessions.  Turns out, it is a group of people from Duluth who have been producing videos since 2010 “featuring local and regional artists performing in unexpected locations — barns, shopping centers, train cars, railroad tunnels, former orphanages, and eventually the moon.”  They have some of my favorite local musicians in their archives.  Check out Lucy Michelle and the Velvet Lapelles in an attic or Cloud Cult in a foyer.

Connect with North Shore Sessions on Facebook, Twitter, or YouTube.

My Minnesota

Last spring my husband wrote about sharing an aspect of his childhood with our daughter when Porky’s closed. This past weekend, it was my turn to revisit my childhood with my family in tow as we followed the roads north for hunting season.

I am not a hunter.  I’ve never shot a gun or even went out to the deer stand to keep someone company.  For me, hunting season memories are about time off school, playing outside (wearing blaze orange) until it got too cold, then coming inside to warm up with hot chocolate and movies.  Of course, I was just a kid.  My family moved away from Minnesota when I was still young, and hunting season stopped having much meaning to me beyond the age of eight or nine.  I hadn’t even been back to my home town in northern Minnesota since I was a young teenager despite having moved back to the state almost eight years ago.

My Minnesota has shifted from childhood memories of the rural north to my everyday world of city buses, apartment buildings, and lots of people.  My Minnesota hums with excitement.  It is busy and active–full of life, people, and heart.  There are so many reasons to love my Minnesota.

As we drove north, it was hard not to look back anxiously.  It felt like we were leaving everything behind.  We passed through towns that seemed to be made up of one or two businesses and maybe twice as many houses.  My dad’s long dirt driveway twisted and turned through the trees before it opened up to the house.  As we sat around the kitchen table of my childhood home, my grandma commented at was a great location we had: “You can’t even see the road from here! Or the neighbors!”  I had noted this as well–not quite as positively.

Being back “home” meant old family pictures and convincing my kiddo that the little babies in the pictures were me or her uncle.  It meant watching out the window as my dad and my little one played outside (wearing blaze orange), and it meant curling up in front of a nature documentary with my honey after dinner.  It was just what I remembered.

It may be a bit quieter up there than I’m used to these days, but it’s no less full.  There’s always something to be done (even if it’s just remembering where you come from).  You can’t see your neighbors from your window, but they are sure to stop by.

I guess my Minnesota can stretch from here to there after all.

HandmadeMN Market: Some highlights

Ladybug and I stopped in at the HandmadeMN Market this past Saturday, and we found so many lovely things.  Here is a shot of what we bought:

The hair clip for Ladybug is from Tauna Lane Design.  If you like cute & girly for kids, this is the shop for you.  In addition to the hair clips, she also has Lollidoll cake toppers and frilly aprons that little girls will love.  At the market, she had vintage children’s books re-bound into blank books.  I think they would make great journals for kids.

The brooch in the photo above came from KellyBot.  Her shop contains all sorts of cool creations from vintage buttons.  We also bought a bar of handmade soap from Bath n Beads, etc.

I love upcycled crafts.  These altered wall plates from Unique Art Pendants are very cool.  The shop also has art prints made from vintage dictionary pages, which I love.  While you’re checking out her shop, don’t miss the jewelry.  I love the cuff bracelets.

The photo pieces from Allison Marie Designs remind me of picture books like Minnesota’s Hidden Alphabet.  She will personalize the pieces with a child’s name too, which would be a great gift along with the book.

Speaking of kid stuff, Ladybug loved the crayons from Earth Grown Crayons.  Not to mention, it was nice to have a kid-friendly place where she could try  something out.

The Farmers Market Crayon Box Set would make a great gift with To Market, to Market by Nikki McClure or Rah, Rah Radishes by April Pulley Sayre.

These tiny prints of local icons are from Red Shoes 26 Design.   I’m a sucker for all things local, so these are perfect for me.  I also love this typewriter card: You’re my type.

These are just a few of my favorites.  See more local artisans from the market here.