Swedish Christmas Celebrations

Julmarknad at the American Swedish Institute

I love the holidays. One of my favorite holiday traditions is a new one, it’s visiting the American Swedish Institute for Julmarknad.  The Best-Good Friend and I buy treasures made by local artisans in the craft market and then take our time exploring the Turnblad Mansion. During the holiday season, the mansion’s rooms are decorated to celebrate the holiday traditions of Iceland, Denmark, Norway, Finland and Sweden. This annual Christmas Rooms celebration is truly the “Only in Minnesota” holiday experience they strive for.

It was easy to get in the holiday spirit walking the rooms. Norway’s design screamed of holiday cheer:norway christmas display

And Iceland’s made me want to curl up by the fire with my knitting (do you see the sweaters in the picture?):
iceland christmas display

Sweden’s room made me think of the fairytale “The Ice Queen” that The Mother used to read me:
sweden christmas display

And I tried to figure out if anyone would notice if I took one of the straw animals home with me, aren’t they cute?
straw animals

The Turnblad Mansion takes my breath away, don’t forget to look up because there’s more to see than the Christmas Rooms:
ceiling lamp

This tea set by Minnesota artist Marnette Doyle was on display in the sunroom. Isn’t it beautiful?
marnette doyle tea service

We wondered if we could recreate this look in our dining rooms:
denmark christmas display

I love a display where squirrels are king:
christmas squirrel king

What are your favorite holiday traditions?
sweden christmas display

A Closer Look: Wood Lake Nature Center

Wood Lake Nature Center was one of the first nature centers built in the Twin Cities.
wood lake

Dedicated in 1971, it was once a recreational lake surrounded by homes.
wood lake

The lake was drained of most of its water in the 1950s.
wood lake

Friends of Wood Lake (FOWL) was formed in 1991 and thanks to their advocacy and fundraising efforts, Wood Lake thrives in Richfield, Minnesota.
wood lake

Approximately 72,000 visitors enjoy the 150-acre area annually.


The Most Beautiful Urban Marathon in America

It’s the time of year when I find myself pondering the question… could I run a marathon?

The Twin Cities Marathon is dubbed the Most Beautiful Urban Marathon in America and is one of the Top 10 U.S. Marathons. The 26.2 mile course runs through beautiful scenery (right past my house) and finishes at the state capitol.
marathon runners

This year, 8,858 runners finished the race with an average time of 4:18:34. Spectators lined up along the street to wish them well. I wondered how Asha and Chelsea felt when they passed the 14-mile mark; were they kicking ASSphalt or wishing they were drunk?
marathon fans

It was 35 degrees when the runners started out this year, I was still in my jammies and snuggled up in my robe. I wandered out to the race route late after spending a leisurely morning over my breakfast. When I watched the man run past barefoot holding his shoes and socks, I was once again reminded that being a spectator is more my  style.
marathon runners

Calling All Fire Trucks!

I love fire trucks. And I love parades. What could be better than a parade of fire trucks?firetrucks

In the late 1970s, Roger Jackson, a Burnsville resident and fire equipment collector started displaying his collection with the help of his friends. A great source of entertainment for local kids, it included a short parade of equipment down Nicollet Avenue.
firetrucks spraying kids

It was such a hit, the Burnsville Fire Muster & Community Celebration became an official city event. Its first Fire Muster parade was held in 1980.
antique firetrucks

It has grown to include more than 100 fire trucks from around the Midwest from antique horse-drawn hand pumpers (circa 1900) to the latest in firefighting technology.

In 2004 it earned a place in the Guinness Book of Records for holding the longest Fire Truck Parade in the World when over 120 trucks were present.
firetruck parade

For more information, visit The Burnsville Fire Muster.

Where’s the Fire?

Who doesn’t love a fire truck? How about a hundred fire trucks?  It was a lovely day for the Burnsville Fire Muster Parade!

The Mother and I have been attending this parade for longer than I can remember, it has always been a highlight of the fall season.

This year had new surprises, like the Ames Horses leading the trucks down the route!horses

And my absolutely favorites, the Zurhah Motorcycle Corps at the end of the pack!motorcycles

I even had a front row seat for their figure eight formation!

New Labor Day Traditions

We celebrated the Labor Day weekend with a brand new tradition, The Van Heel Family Fish Fry! The Mother and I headed up to the family farm for an afternoon of fun and merriment.

I heard that the fish was fantastic but I was there for the other Van Heel tradition – the sweets.

It was a beautiful day to be out on the farm.
farm land

The Van Heels came from Holland and settled in Minnesota in the 1870s, this farm has been in the family since 1935.

I grew up hearing stories from my dad about his childhood days visiting the farm. He loved talking about the family gathering to play bluegrass music but I think his favorite memory was daring his brother to pee on the electric fence. He would laugh so hard telling that story, tears would come to his eyes.
farm land

By the time I was visiting, there was no more music making and I didn’t dare my brother to pee on the electric fence, but I have plenty of my own great memories too. Most of them involve the animals.

And I hope there will be a lot more memory making to come.

The Great Minnesota Get Together

Minnesotans love a fair. The first official state fair was organized in 1859 after Minnesota became a state, but territorial fairs had already been held for four years.
state fair sign

Eventually known as “The Great Minnesota Get Together,” the Minnesota State Fair moved from location to location in the early years. The first celebration was near the area that is now downtown Minneapolis. After that it traveled to Rochester, Red Wing, St. Paul, Winona and Owatonna.cheese curds

After the extensive efforts of civic groups, the Minnesota State Fair finally found its permanent home in 1885. Its current space was donated by the Ramsey County Board of Commissioners and has grown from a 210-acre farm to 320 acres.sheep

In its long history, there have only been five years when it hasn’t been held: 1861 and 1862 due to the Civil War and Dakota Indian Conflict, in 1893 because of scheduling conflicts with the World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago, in 1945 because of the fuel shortages during WWII, and in 1946 due to a polio epidemic. The Minnesota State Fair is now one of the largest state fairs in the United States by attendance, attracting nearly 1.8 million guests annually.
fair crowd

The Minnesota State Fair was a primary source used in this blog post.


Celebrating Little Moments: Beaver Lake

In honor of my birthday, this week’s posts will be all about celebration. First up, a lovely morning spent with The Best-Good Friend. We had a delicious breakfast in her private oasis – we almost forgot we were still in the city:
landcaped backyard

We were steps away from Beaver Lake:
beaver lake

While Minnesota is known as the Land of 10,000 Lakes, there are actually 11,842:
beaver lake

I remember fishing with my dad and asking him what the pretty flowers in the water were called, I have loved water lilies ever since. Many birthdays have passed since I asked that question:
water lily

We saw a solitary Cedar Waxwing and his yellow tail and belly glowed against the overcast sky:
cedar waxwing

We were sorry to have missed the thistles in bloom:
purple thistles

We found the cattails, which are a favorite of mine. It made me smile to learn they are “cosmopolitan,” which actually means you can find them across all or most of the world, but I like to think of these simple plants as being sophisticated:

It was a lovely morning, full of moments to celebrate:

A Walk in the Oldest Public Garden in the Country

You don’t have to go far in Minneapolis to find a quiet retreat. The Eloise Butler Wildflower Garden and Bird Sanctuary is the oldest public wildflower garden in the country.

Eloise Butler was among other botany teachers who petitioned the Minneapolis Parks and Recreation Board in 1907 to protect local flora in the growing city.

The Wild Botanic Garden opened on April 27, 1907 to protect three acres of bog, meadow and hillside gardens. Now 15 acres, it is home to over 500 plant species and 130 bird species.

A gem in the city, they offer classes and volunteer opportunities – or just a quick retreat into nature on busy day. But if you want to get the most out of your escape, don’t forget your bug repellent.

Sunday in the Park with … Danny

Minnehaha Falls is one of the most popular parks in Minneapolis. It’s so busy in the summer that I usually avoid it, but I had to see my frozen waterfall thawed. It had to be marvelous right now if someone would actually take a kayak over it.

It was a beautiful morning, Danny and I took our time. We enjoyed the trees:

These shrubs that look like they are covered with stars:

The wildflowers blooming:

This Catbird gave us a private concert, he knew a lot of songs:

I wondered if this Song Sparrow felt like he had the world to himself:
song sparrow

My favorite park statue had me thinking about The Song of Hiawatha by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow:


Hand in hand they went together, Through the woodland and the meadow….

And then I wondered what would compel a person to take a kayak over this?
minnehaha falls

To say that The Falls are raging right now would be an understatement:
minnehaha falls

It’s no wonder this park is one of our most popular with sights like these:
minnehaha falls

Honoring All Veterans

I knew nothing about The Honoring All Veterans Memorial in Richfield, Minnesota until The Mother said she had added my dad’s name to it. Their Memorial Day Ceremony was my first visit and it won’t be my last. We have always put flowers on graves for Memorial Day but this was my first official event celebrating veterans and honoring their memory and service. It was a powerful experience.
minnesota veteran

The Honoring All Veterans Memorial was originally envisioned by Richfield artist Travis Gorshe in 2005 but it wasn’t until 2008 that the centerpiece featuring Charles W. “Chuck” Lindberg was placed. Chuck, a former United States Marine, was part of the combat patrol that climbed Mount Suribachi and raised the first of two U.S. flags on the summit during the Battle of Iwo Jima in World War II.
Honoring All Veterans Memorial

Originally from North Dakota, Chuck spent most of his life living in Richfield. The last surviving member of the Iwo Jima flag-raising events in 1945, he insisted that the memorial be focused on honoring all veterans and the planning committee has done that well. Surrounding the bronze of Chuck Lindbergh are giant granite slabs etched with the names of veterans from all over the country who have served in war or served in other parts of the world. According to Len Gudmunson, president of the Memorial Board, it is a way to honor ALL veterans. A new slab was revealed on Monday to bring the total number of names inscribed over the past 5 years to 799:
veterans wall

The City of Richfield considers this to be a living monument because it will continue to grow as new names are added. Giant pillars surround the granite slabs representing each branch of service: Air Force, Army, Coast Guard, Marines, Merchant Marines and Navy.
marine song

As they say so eloquently on their site, “Just as our military branches continue to live, so will this Veterans Memorial.” If you are interested in learning more, visit the City of Richfield Honoring All Veterans Memorial page or call 612-861-9388 to request a brochure.
honoring all veterans memorial