I only brought my Palm Pre with, down to watch the Minneapolis Red, White, and Boom celebration last night.  We were treated to about 19 mintues worth of pyro-mania.   They utilized a variety of different altitude levels for a cool show.  We’ve never seen so many low-level fireworks, but they were pretty sweet.

After reading a few tips about how to capture fireworks displays on the camera, including the iPhone (I can’t seem to find it in the article now), I thought I might get some quality shots with the Pre. Below is one of the best shots, it didn’t do well with getting rid of excess light and lack of a zoom makes for lots of wide angle shots.


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We had a great weekend at “our farm” – Harmony Valley Farms. We road tripped down the Mississippi River to find our farm nestled in a valley in southwest Wisconsin. Here is a quick synopsis:

– Camping with other members in the meadow
– Chatting with Richard, the owner, around the campfire
– Watching the fog lift off the valley in the morning
– Potlucking with even more members, meeting bloggers Heather and Lee
– Picking strawberries in the rain and eating lots of them!
– Getting a wagon tour of the fields
– Eating Sugar Snap Peas we picked from the fields
– Talking with one of the “professional” growers and hearing his passion for organic produce and this farm

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Over the holiday weekend, Christy’s sister came to visit us.  Her style of visiting family isn’t going out to see a ton of sights.  She enjoyed just hanging out together – sitting on the front porch swing as opposed to driving frenetically around to see lots of places.  Last year when the rest of her family came, we hit up a bunch of places from this list.

So with Sarah we visited the

Franklin Street Bakery an awesome neighborhood bakery with $1 stimulus bread,

Maria’s Cafe a neighborhood Colombian Restaurant with great pancakes,

an Oromo Wedding luncheon/adventure which included a stop at Holy Land Deli where we all got to see lamb heart, goat feet, and many other “delicacies”,

the Mall of America the symbol of American consumerism,

Ikea the symbol of high quality low cost furniture and accessories,

Seward Church and their Memorial Day cook-out,

Famous Dave’s BBQ a great place for all-types of barbecue and excellent service,

Minnehaha Falls pretty every time of year and always something new,

Downtown Riverfront walking the Heritage Trail – including Stone Arch Bridge, the Guthrie, and St Anthony Main,

Tuggs Tavern great burgers – mine had a fried egg on it and Sarah’s had hashbrowns bigger than her burger patty,

Midtown Global Market another neighborhood gem with great food and stores,

watched me race the Brian Kraft 5k,

hung out at the Landscape Arboretum lots of flowers and trees, especially iris and lilacs,

a relaxing walk on the Midtown Greenway yet another neighborhood treat,

lots of Killer Bunnies and the Quest for the Magic Carrot (thanks Hoovers for introducing this great game to us),

and much more!

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We made it pretty clear that one of the things we were most excited about in moving to Minneapolis was the large African/International population based here.  With over 70,000 Somali refugees there are plenty of opportunities to talk and learn about Africa.

We have tried really hard to connect with and engage this population.  One way we did this was by connecting with a group that is teaching English to primarily Somali adult women.  This has been a great way for us to learn about the culture while providing a valuable service.  It has also given us, especially Christy, the opportunity to build friendships.

This resulted in us being invited, with some friends, to a student’s son’s wedding.  She is actually Oromo, which is a distinctive Muslim culture within Ethiopia.  On a side note, many of the local Oromo people have learned to speak and understand Somali. In part because they are often lumped together – even though traditionally there is an underlying conflict between the two people groups. So back to the story.

We were told to arrive at a banquet hall around noon for the wedding lunch which would go from 12-2.  Knowing the culture we showed up at 12:30 and were still the first people there.  We waited around for awhile and finally one of her son’s came to open the hall and he said we could come back at 6pm.  We questioned that and then he said between 2 and 3.  Long story short we ended up coming back to the banquet hall around 2:30.  There were many women around finishing up the food preparation.  They said, “She is coming, she is coming.”  So we waited…

We tried to be patient and the banquet hall was filling up.  We had almost given up (we did have other commitments) and were told that she was almost here, “maybe even in the parking lot.”  A few minutes later we decided to leave and almost missed her.  She came and was very excited to see us which was great – but she wanted us to sit and stay and eat.

Her English is very limited so we thanked her and tried to explain that we needed to leave soon. She kept insisting on us eating, but we didn’t want to be singled out to eat before everyone else.  We finally had to leave at 3:45 and were able to say goodbye, but everyone kept insisting on eating!  I finally realized that this was a HUGE deal for them and said we would go into the back room and eat. We had some great food. Injera, rice, chicken, and other special sauces. Yummy.

This was a great cross cultural learning experience.  I think we all wished we could have spent the whole day and actually gotten to enjoy the wedding and take part in that experience.  But it is so great to be able to have this experience within our city.  We drove 10 minutes and got to experience a part of Africa.

While we were waiting we discovered the Holy Land grocery store. There is a small one at the Global Market, but this was much larger and included random things like lamb heart, goat’s feet, beef tongue, and much more!

Another quick story that makes me happy and reminds us of our great life happened at work the other day.  You might recall that many of the students at the school  I work at are East African (Somali, Oromo, and Ethiopian). We also have a significant African-American population.

Last week was the last day of after-school classes, so for the last 15 or so minutes I took my group of kids outside to have some fun.  They mainly played basketball but there was also a girl’s soccer group outside playing soccer.  While standing around watching the kids I felt like I was back in Africa.  All of the kids (and other adults) were black, some wearing flowing multi-colored burqa’s or hijabs.  It was a great feeling.

Another really random story! I was taking a group of students that I work with to work a banquet for the volunteer department of the school district.  Again most of them were East African and inner-city students.  We got on the bus and started driving when the kids asked for the driver to turn the radio on.  They should have known better since the driver was wearing a cowboy hat.  He turned on country music!  The kids didn’t like it at all!  They kept yelling at him to turn it off and he would give them the thumbs up and turn it up! It was really funny to me since I grew up on a lot of country.

So there you go, a few stories about the great life we lead here in Minneapolis.

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This past weekend we went camping with our good friends the Johnson’s.  You may recall that we did this last year as well and it might become an annual tradition.  I don’t quite have the time to make collages like I did from last year’s pictures (1 2 3 4, but it is really hard to choose only a few pictures to post from just over 300 that I took.

We had a good time exploring some new parts of Gooseberry and also just re-experiencing some of the old, including Split Rock Lighthouse.  The waterfall is such an amazing thing to see, all the power and glory of the rushing water.  It is also amazing to watch Lake Superior.  This year it was cool and misty for most of Saturday with a little splurt of flurries for a bit.  This makes for a dark and wavy lake.  On Sunday it was sunny and calm which brings out a whole new set of colors and experiences on the lake.  See if you can see the contrast in the pictures!

Our only real mishap this year was that our camping stove had a gas leak in the valve which  made for a slow cooking process and an interesting torch experience!  We are now more equipped for “cool” camping and enjoyed the warmth of our zero degree sleeping bags!

Now for some of the pictures:

We had a great time.

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Last year you may recall that we had a brief encounter with cold weather camping – unexpectedly and wholly unprepared.  Since then we have acquired more appropriate gear and were eager to test it out.  We just had to wait for a free weekend that wasn’t going to be below 0 degrees (our sleeping bags are only rated above 0). Well we finally got it on Feb 28 and March 1.  We started planning on Monday before and at the last minute decided to throw in some cross-country skiing lessons first thing in the morning.

So we drove to Elm Creek Park Preserve and took a 2 hour lesson on classical skiing (you know the one in the grooves).  This was a lot of fun! It was windy but the sun was out and the temps felt good.  After learning the basics the instructor took us out on a short loop so we could experience some real skiing.  It was interesting to watch everyone in the group catch on – fall over and enjoy themselves! He took us to a very small hill and had us practice going down and then coming back up.  I fell each of these times on the way down – the grooves were worn out at the bottom and my stopping ability was a little shaky! We survived the lesson and then were told we could do any of the trails in the park without the added price of a trail pass.  Not being too confident we did the same small loop and enjoyed every second of it (and for the record I didn’t fall on the hill this time). We did about 5k of skiing which isn’t a lot but was good enough.  For those who know the park we did the Northern Lights Trail.

Following that adventure we drove clear across the Metro to Afton State Park for the camping part of our adventure.  This was our

first time here, but knew they had backpack only sites about a mile to a mile and a half from the parking lot.  So not too far if we had to ditch.  We had an enjoyable walk in, except for a set of shoveled stairs – we didn’t see the snowshoer’s sign that followed the incline.  We shared much of the trail with the cross country skiers so we had to be careful not to walk on the groomed trail if we could help it. From the parking lot it is pretty much straight downhill then flat for a little bit and then straight up hill to the campground area. It made for a little work but we appreciated our rented snow shoes from REI – they kept us out of the deep snow and gave some needed grip on the uphill.

We picked out a campsite on the side of the hill away from Afton Alps and that provided some wind cover.  We proceeded to stomp down the snow around the site (as instructed during a winter camping class at Midwest Mountaineering), setup our tent, and then headed up to get firewood.   Setting up the tent was a little tricky since the ground was frozen, but I had thought about that and bought some pouches that are used for snow and sand camping.  There wasn’t quite enough snow for them to work so we just put pieces of firewood in them. Yes, Afton offers two saws and a huge pile of leftover pieces from making lumber for you to cut up and use for your fire – they also provide trash cans full of kindling!!  While mentioning the amenities they also have pit toilets, picnic tables, fire pits, and water available to campers – roughing it with some provisions!  Christy proceeded to setup the fire and we realized our first major mistake – our matches weren’t strike anywhere and we didn’t have the striker pad. Luckily, we knew there was another camper and he gave us a lighter to use.

Crisis solved.  I got some more firewood and Christy got the fire going.  Now time for dinner.  Second major mistake. When I bought new fuel for the backpacking stove I bought the right mix – but didn’t check the coupler.  This one brand doesn’t have a screw on coupler and I couldn’t get the stove to work.  Ugh.  So we had to boil water over the fire.  It takes a lot longer that way but we enjoyed our Mountain House Lasagna w/ Meat Sauce Freeze Dried 2 Person Pouch eventually.

Look closely,
it might say
2 above
(not counting
wind chill).

Climbing in to our cold sleeping bags wasn’t pleasant but they warmed up fairly quickly.  I went to sleep feeling toasty warm – almost perfect.  Christy was a little cold – despite wearing countless layers.  I awoke in the middle of the night because my toes were freeeezing.  Wiggle, wiggle didn’t help.  So I got dug around and struggled to put on another layer of socks – didn’t help.  For both of us the rest of the night was one of haggard sleep trying to keep blood moving to the toes.   As the sun started peaking up I arose as well to get a fire going and try to warm things up.  Despite being buried in the snow our water bottles had frozen so I began the even longer process of melting snow on an open fire.

The fire helped marginally to keep things warm (though my toes didn’t warm up until after almost 20 minutes in the car).  Now I was struggling with my hands turning into blocks of ice and trying to keep the fire going as hot as possible and keep it cooking able.  I scarfed the hot oatmeal – Christy was too cold to be hungry and we started packing up.  Everything – the tent, our sleeping bags, packs, and sleep rolls were either frozen or had a layer of frost on them, making it harder to pack up and get everything nice and small like it is supposed to be!

All loaded back up we began heading out, the hiking helped warm us up and put us in a better mood. We did a little exploring around trying to enjoy the beautiful scenery. We were glad to see our car unload ourselves and get into some semblance of warmth.   Our fingers and toes hurt but we are always happy to survive an adventure!

I don’t think we’ll be doing  anymore camping in Minnesota during February!

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From Art Shanty Projec

When you take art and throw in some ice or snow you get a fun-filled afternoon or in our case 2 afternoons!

This past weekend started with a trip to nearby Powderhorn Park for the 2nd Annual Art Sled Rally. But first we had a stop at the Midtown Global Market for some Holy Land buffet! Excellent Middle Eastern food at an affordable price.

Then the next day we ventured out to Medicine Lake, near Plymouth, MN, and explored the Art Shanty Project.

Yes an absolutely wonderful weekend. The weather was perfect each day too which made it even better.

From Art Sled Rally

As you can imagine I took a lot of pictures, too many to even attempt to post here!

The Art Sled Rally was simply a sledding extravaganza where individuals and groups got together and made creative sleds.  Some were simply cardboard over a plastic sled while others were elaborate like that Star Wars Landspeed racer!  We got our spot at the bottom of the hill and enjoyed watching successful sledders make it to the bottom, some crash into the crowd, and some fly into pieces crashing at the bottom!  This is a link to my Picasa Album, here is a piece with video from MPR and a YouTube video of the beer explosion.

From Art Shanty Project

The Art Shanty Project was not quite as cool as the rally but was still very interesting and well worth the drive.  Basically when you ice fish, you want to have some type of shelter to help keep you warm and to help block the wind.  These can be called ice houses, but for this instance they are ice shanties!   Add some creativity and a little art and you have a nice little festival on the ice.  Some of the shanties were quite unique like the 3 story tall tower or the live theater shanty.  Others involved physical labor like the Peace Coffee making shelter where you pedal powered the radio and coffee maker or the shanty on wheels that you could pedal around the area.  Another highlight was the confessional shanty where you could write your confession and send it off to the fishies (or have it hung on the outside wall).   There was a lot of publicity about this project in it’s sixth year so you can visit their site for some great information and see pictures at my Picasa Album.

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