Friday, September 18, 2015

A New House in Minny

Hello from the suburbs! I've spent the weekend in Minneapolis with Sarah and Erik, mainly to get away from my lonely house while Lee is out of town, but also of course to hang out with my daughter and son in law and their adorable dog Mika. And to see their new house!

I flew into Minneapolis Friday afternoon. Sarah picked me up at the airport and from there we went straight to her house. I had seen pictures but I was very curious about this new abode. I knew it was an architect's dream home, but I was still very impressed. They were very lucky to get it in Minneapolis's hot housing market.

When we walked inside the first thing I thought was "wow, I could be walking into one of my aunt's nice houses in Saint Louis County back in the 1960's". It's very mid century modern, and it's funny to think that for them this style of house is their grandparent's style, much like a Victorian house would have been OUR grandparent's style. It gives me a new appreciation for the suburban houses of the 60's with their clean spare lines.

Sarah showed me around and then it was time to get ready to go out to dinner and then go see The Music Man at the Guthrie Theatre. Suzanne, Erik's mom, picked us up. Sarah now lives around 5 minutes from her mother in law. I envy them both!

We met Erik and Chris, Erik's sister, at 112 Eatery. We shared a bunch of very delicious appetizers and a few main courses AND a slice of Tres Leche cake, and then we were off to the Guthrie.

I love the Music Man, and so does Sarah. It was the first musical she ever saw. The acoustics at the Guthrie are excellent, and the cast, for the most part, was very good. When you have seen it as many times as we have, and listened to the cast recording 1,000's of times as well, it can make for a fairly critical viewing. So, I thought the chorus was excellent, both the old ladies (Pick a Little Talk a Little) and the kids (Shipoopee was very well done). The barbershop quartet was wonderful, except for one A Capella entrance that was initially out of tune. Little Winthrop lisped his s's adorably, but it's very hard to compete with a 6 year old Ron Howard from the movie! Marion had an absolutely fantastic voice, but wasn't as drop dead gorgeous as Shirley Jones (see I told you there was a very high bar).

The only real disappointment was Harold Hill. The guy that played him did a perfectly okay job, but that part carries the show and demands a charismatic actor. They need to be funny, a little sleazy, and ultimately romantic and sweet. That's a lot to ask of any one person. This Professor Hill was adequate, even good, but he wasn't fantastic. Oh well!

The drive back to the suburbs after the show seemed endless. I thought that by now I knew Minneapolis pretty well, after all Sarah has lived there over 10 years. But they are out in the Western suburbs and I'm pretty lost right now, plus Minnesota is in the middle of construction season and several highways are closed, making it difficult to find a direct route anywhere.

For some reason, although I didn't go to bed until after midnight I woke up at 5 and couldn't get back to sleep, so Saturday was a pretty sleepy day. Sarah and I took a Pilates class in the morning. I do some Pilates-type exercises, but this class used something called a reformer, which is a padded platform with moving parts connected by springs. You can make the exercises easier or more difficult by the strength of the springs that are attached between the different sections. I was able to do at least a modified version of most of the exercises, and I wasn't very sore the next day, except for my glutes, which is kind of great since that's a difficult muscle to work on. It's fun to try different workouts!

We had a pretty lazy afternoon, but we did take Mika to a park for a short walk. Boy it was hot, at least for Minnesota. I think it hit 90F, and I'm just not used to that kind of weather any more. We tried to get Mika to get in the water and cool off, but she wasn't very enthusiastic about that idea. Sarah stood in the water up to her ankles and Mika went in then but I think it was just to get Sarah to come back out. 

We went for an early dinner to a place called Hola Arepa, a place that makes amazing Venezuelan sandwiches They also make yucca fries and really nice watermelon mango white sangria. We stuffed ourselves silly and I was in bed asleep by 9 pm. I slept almost 9 hours, unheard of for me.

In the morning it was cloudy and cooler and I was glad because it was time to go for a run. Sarah had said I could take her car to go run by a nearby lake, but she has a manual transmission. I don't think I've driven a stick for over eight years. I wondered if I would remember how, but it really is just like riding a bike, I had no trouble at all. Once I parked the car I decided to run on an attractive bike trail that I found. Minneapolis has the most amazing bike trails. Sarah and Erik live probably five miles outside the city but they could easily take a bike trail into work without having to share the space with cars. It was a nice run too, mostly flat. I'm glad it was cooler though because even in the low 70's those 8 800 meter repeats were pretty tough!

After cooling off and taking a shower we headed to the St Pauls' farmers market. My sister-in-law Cathy and her son Andrew were manning (and womaning) their stand. They have a farm south of Minneapolis where they raise grassfed cows, pigs, chickens and turkeys. Andrew has a great blog - - where you can read all about the ups and downs of running a small family farm. 

St Paul has a nice farmers market. Everything is locally raised and grown so there were lots of veggies but not much fruit. We decided to see what we could get at the market and determine our dinner from there. We bought meat from our family farmers, veggies and flowers from the other stands, and we did find some rhubarb, so we bought that as well. My niece Nicole was in town so she was coming over for dinner. She is in the nursing program up in Duluth and just happened to be in the Twin Cities this weekend. 

After eating brunch with Cathy at a nearby restaurant we headed back to the suburbs to plan our dinner. We decided we would have grass fed skirt steak, grilled veggies, couscous from Trader Joe's and for dessert a strawberry rhubarb crisp. I volunteered to drive to the nearby Trader Joes for the strawberries and the couscous. I had been there earlier in the weekend with Sarah, and I was having fun driving a stick. How difficult could it be?

Just to be safe I searched for Trader Joes on Google Maps. I chose what seemed to be the closest one and I was on my way....or was I? The Trader Joes I went to with Sarah had been five minutes away, this one was farther, much farther. Oh well! And they didn't have fresh strawberries either so I had to get frozen. I still don't know what happened, but I managed to get there and back, eventually.

While Sarah and Erik grilled steaks and veggies and cooked the couscous, I volunteered to make the crisp. I selected a recipe and started gathering the ingredients until we suddenly realized that Sarah didn't have rolled oats, just steel cut, which are great for breakfast, not so much for making a crumbled topping.

I went back online and googled "strawberry rhubarb crisp no oats" and up popped a recipe from Smitten Kitchen, one of my favorite recipe sources anyway! If you've never heard of her she's great, delicious food made in a tiny New York City apartment and tested thoroughly so every recipe is not only delicious but trustworthy. The crisp came out great - thanks Deb!

Monday was my last day in Minny. Sarah took the day off and we had a good time accomplishing errands, eating lunch and window shopping. I made it almost the entire weekend without buying anything but finally succumbed to a sweater and pajama pants on sale at Anthropology. Well I always need more sweaters for the boat, and some of my pjs need desperately to be retired so they almost fell into the category of need. Almost.

We drove by Dogwood so I could get some of their coffee which I love, and then it was time to take me to the airport. Because of the time change I didn't get into Boston until 8pm that night, and the heat wave that graced most of my trip to Minny had landed on the east coast. I actually had to turn on the air conditioning! Oh well my tomatoes liked it, but I had to get up early to run for a few days.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Nova Scotia

On July 27th we drive to St. John, New Brunswick. We cross the border with the dogs; their rabies certificates are all in order. The guard asks "Do you have guns or pepper spray?" OOPS! I blink. We carry pepper spray on the dog’s poop bag clip. “No,” I say confidently. The guard continues down her list. "Do you have alcohol?" I start to answer no as well but Lee's conscience gets the better of him.  "A box of wine,” he admits. "How many liters?” asks the guard. Well it turns out we’re legit after all. We’re allowed 1.5 liters apiece and the box is three liters. We hide the pepper spray in the glove compartment for the remainder of our trip and we’re good to go.

St. Johns is very foggy. We go downtown, which may be very nice but there’s no way to tell, we can’t see a thing. Somehow we end up having sushi. I guess we thought fresh seafood = good Japanese food, but no. Bad sushi. Don't get sushi in St. John!

We wake up on Tuesday and its still foggy, really foggy. Today is our day to drive the Fundy Trail and enjoy the views but we can’t see a darn thing. The people in the interpretive center are super nice, however. We watch a short video, where we can see what it would look like if we could see. We take a short trail to a suspension bridge and then walk along the Salmon River. Then we drive to a waterfall but we have to take turns going down the cable steps to see it; its too steep for the dogs. I play with the shutter speed on my camera and smooth out the water. 

After the Fundy Trail its a long drive to the Hopewell Rocks, where we can experience the incredible tidal range in this part of the world. The fog lifts and we eat ice cream at a quaint little shop. All homemade, the guy has been making it there for 30 years. A grand piano sits next to the wash room and the ice cream is delicious.

The rocks are just plain amazing. The 52' tidal difference means that when the tide is out you can take a walk on the ocean floor, and when the tide is in the ocean covers where you are currently standing about 25’ deep. We get there at low tide and the ocean is a big mud flat. At high tide you can't go down to see the rocks. It would be fun to go back at high tide to see the difference. Maybe some other time.

Our destination for the night is Moncton, New Brunswick. We stay in a nice hotel, the Delta Beaujour. We decide to eat dinner there, at the Windjammer Restaurant. This is old school fine dining: oysters, ceasar salad made at the table, rack of lamb, Dover sole.

In the morning we are moving slowly. We barely get out the door in time to see the tidal bore on the river. The bore is a wave of brown water that curls up the river as the tide suddenly comes in. So strange! People actually surf it.

We have crepes for breakfast at a sidewalk cafe, then walk the dogs down to the river one more time before we leave. Now it's full, a normal brown river, gleaming in the sun.

We spend the day driving to Cape Breton and experience all sorts of weather: sun, rain and in between. At one point a rainbow appears between us and the car in front of us, a fleeting apparition. The Sea Parrot Cottages where we will spend the next few nights are right on the ocean. Our cabin is pleasant and we are happy to be going nowhere for the next few days.

Thursday dawns bright and sunny. I go for a run along the road (there is really only one road) and then we hop in the car and drive north on the Cabot Trail. the car climbs Stanley mountain and we are treated to spectacular views. We choose the Middlehead 6 mile hike. The view are lovely but I take a tumble hiking in my running shoes on the rocky trail. I’m bruised but okay. The dogs are troopers enjoying all the smells and attention from fellow hikers. Warm sun, cool breeze, waves, rocks. After our hike we drive up to Neil Harbor for ice cream, light houses and more views. 

We stop for lunch on our way back at the Coastal Cafe. Because of the dogs we have to get carry out and eat in the car but the food is great. We have local crab on a ciabatta roll, and a burger that we share. We stop for more views here and there on the drive back. We both agree that the Cabot Trail is as beautiful as anything we have seen anywhere in the world, and that’s say quite a lot!

After relaxing for a bit we drive back down the Cabot Trail and have dinner at the Lobster Gallery. On the way there we take a wrong turn and almost end up taking a one car ferry, oops! It would have been fun, but I was hungry. I get a whole lobster and with help from the instructions on the placemat and a motherly waitress crack and eat the whole thing myself. I’m feeling quite proud of myself! Usually I make Lee do it for me.

We drive home in the light of a  glorious full moon. The moon path lights the ocean and fills me with awe.

On Friday the rain and fog return but we've planned for it. This is our day to visit the many artisans along the trail. Here is a quick summary of what we found. Glass: too gaudy or expensive. Wood: beautiful intricate  boxes and carvings. I buy a wooden hummingbird. Leather: boring. Pewter: mostly jewelry. I buy earrings made in a Celtic knot. Iron: interesting stuff. The owner is a lonely talkative guy. Lee buys starfish iron hooks for our someday bathroom remodel. 

Dinner that night is at the Chanterelle Country Inn. Hummers buzz around the screened porch. The weather clears and we eat our dinner to lovely misty views. The food is very much like home cooking, local, fresh. I have a salad with beets and blueberries; Lee has wild mushroom soup with mushrooms found on the property. 

On Saturday its time to bid farewell to Cape Breton and drive to Halifax, Nova Scotia. We loved Cape Breton and there is a lot more to see. Its not very far from where we live so I hope we go back someday.

In Halifax we are staying at the Prince George, a nice hotel at the top of the hill. We go down to the river and walk the dogs on the carnival-like boardwalk. We have dinner at the bar at the Foggy Goggle. The Lobster bruschetta is fantastic. Its fun to talk sailing with the guy next to us at the bar. I can sound like a Sailor anyway. I have a concoction made with vodka, St Germaine and ginger beer. I think its good enough to have two so I do.

Sunday is hot, with a high of 83F. It was very sunny and it really did feel hot, honest! I do my 800 meter repeats in a run around the Citadel . Then we eat a Turkish lunch and go on a tour. We observe the huge cannons lining the fort walls and I admire the kilts on cute young men, but I have to go put my feet up and get out of the sun. Later we have dinner at Chives, a foodie place. Another delicious meal; sea scallops and gnocchi and lots of nice fresh veggies.

On Monday it time to start on our way home, but we are not in a hurry. First we drive south of Halifax to the little village of Peggy's Cove that boasts a very cute lighthouse. Then its on to Lunenburg a town of colorful buildings. The Magnolia Grill is famous for their fish cakes and allows us to bring the dogs on their back deck. 

We drive across the interior of Nova Scotia so that we can take the car ferry from Digby back to St John. This is a new experience for all concerned. It takes about 3 hours, not counting the time to embark and disembark the boat. Its very comfortable and relaxing. The only drawback is that the dogs must stay in the car. Neither of us like leaving them there very much but at least we can check on them periodically and they don’t seem to mind. As we make our way back across the Bay of Fundy the fog socks in again. We never really do get to see what St. Johns looks like when its not buried in murk. I guess we’ll just have to go back some other time so we can see!


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