October 14, 2022: First snow. Pretty early for that. 33 degrees F. this morning.
Angela Lansbury died this week. I spent years watching endless murders in small northeastern towns with her solving every single one of them. She was very good at it.
I’m reading a Dan Brown book – Inferno. You know Dan Brown, he wrote the DaVinci Code. Tom Hanks starred in the movie. I think Tom Hanks was in Angels and Demons as well. As I read the book, I picture Tom Hanks racing around looking for clues. But the thing I really love about the book is that the first half is set in Florence and then they move on to Venice. He races around Florence through the Boboli Gardens to the Pitti Palace and across the Ponte Vecchio and out into the Piazza della Signora. Then he works his way over to the Baptistery of St John next the grand Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore. All places I have been to and remember fondly. I’m right there with him. And then to Venice where I remember standing in the middle of St Mark’s Square and a pigeon landed on my head. I hate pigeons to this day.
The New York Times had an article this week – 36 Hours in Stockholm. I read it with interest because I am toying with the idea of going there for just a couple of days. The article seemed reasonable enough. Museum, gallery, food, night life, shopping, parks, food, parks, more food. I always like to read the comments. A lot of them were not complementary. They listed all the things left out. The blandness of the country. The immigration problems. The crime. The lack of crime. And of course, the article failed to mention the Abba Museum. How could that be? I must admit none of it really lured me in. But I do live in Minnesota, so…. Probably not all that different. I might fly to Malmo and take a train across the 16 km ØresundBridge to Copenhagen. Now that sounds like fun.
Speaking of food, I have my favorite Indian restaurants around town but last night I tried a new one called Spice and Tonic. I love pakoras so we ordered some vegetable pakoras to start with. They brought us paneer pakoras by mistake. They let us have the paneer pakoras for free and brought the vegetable ones a bit later. A pakora is like a fritter. The vegetable is mixed into a batter of chickpea flour, spices and water and then deep fat fried so it is crunchy on the outside. My friend kept calling them critters. But the paneer pakoras were not a hit with me. Paneer is the home-made cheese often used for Indian dishes. This was a long tube of paneer, battered and fried. It was just too much. Maybe if it had been made up into smaller pieces, I would have liked it better. We ordered Chicken Makhani, Chicken Tikka Masala, Vegetable Curry, and Garlic Naan. They were all delicious.
Above are three vintage postcards from Watkins Glen, NY that appeared on my Postcardbuzz blog this week. I am quite fond of them. You can read a bit more about them on the blog.
The State Fair started yesterday. I love going to see the animals and the seed art. And of course a big attraction is all the weird food. A couple of new ones this year are Soulsicle: Fried chicken on-a-stick topped with candied yam sauce, cornbread crumble, mac-and-cheese seasoned cheddar cheese, hot sauce and green onions. This year’s twist on the pronto pup or corn dog: Tot Dog: all-beef hot dog dipped in corn dog batter, rolled in a mixture of minced tater tots, cheddar cheese and onions, then deep-fried. Plus there is deep fried ice cream on a stick, and pickle pizza. My go-tos at the fair are cheese curds, Sweet Martha’s Cookie Jar, Tom Thumb mini donuts, and a chocolate malt from the Dairy Barn. Although those Tot Dogs sound pretty good….
Haha, Japan again…There was an article in the New York Times this week about the efforts of Japan to market and implement the 17 Sustainable Development Goals as laid out by the United Nations in 2015, to “provide a shared blueprint for peace and prosperity for people and the planet, now and into the future”.
The logo is a colorful rainbow wheel with 17 colors to represent the 17 goals. The logo and theme have been used in Japan on lapel pins, board games and comic books, playgrounds, and a music video with over 940,000 views on YouTube. The pins cost $7.99 and can be found here. They also have lanyards, postcards, and other things.
Japan made the goals part of National Policy and have set up an aggressive marketing campaign to raise awareness. Where three years ago nobody knew what it was, today it has become common knowledge. In 2015, Japan ranked number 13, on the annual Sustainable Development Solutions Network report, a nonprofit under the United Nations. It then dropped to 19th. One area it needs to work on is gender equality. Even though they aren’t achieving all the goals, the first step is awareness and they are doing a pretty good job of that.
On the other hand, the USA placed 41st in 2022. And most people are not aware of it. Finland came in at number one. South Sudan comes in at number 163. There are 30 countries not accounted for (most of them very small).
The 17 goals are:
Good Health and Well-Being
Clean Water and Sanitation
Affordable and Clean Energy
Decent Work and Economic Growth
Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure
Sustainable Cities and Communities
Responsible Consumption and Production
Life Below Water
Life on Land
Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions
Partnerships for the Goals
The goal is to achieve this dream by 2030. Sounds like a pipe dream, doesn’t it? Even though Finland comes in at number one, it’s score is not 100%. It has a score of 86.51%. The USA comes in at 74.55%. The disturbing thing is that there are no achievements for the USA, only yellow and red with some positive achievement in Clean Water and Sanitation and Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure. Anyway, not good. You can take a look for yourself.
To more cheerful moments… My bathroom re-do is done, except I’m still waiting for the rug but never mind. Have a look.
Cloquet, Minnesota is about 20 miles west of Duluth. Part of it is within the Fond du Lac Indian Reservation and is one of three administrative centers for the Reservation. As you pull into town you will see the R.W. Lindholm Service Station. Frank Lloyd Wright designed Ray Lindholm’s house in 1952, and since he knew Lindholm was in the oil business, he offered to design a gas station as part of Broadacre City (Wright’s urban planning concept). Wright completed the design and the station opened in 1958. It later became a Phillips 66 station. The station was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1985. It is still a working gas station.
Another Cloquet attraction is Gordy’s High Hat. In 2015, the drive in diner was featured on Guy Fieri’s Diners, Drive-Ins & Dives.
Gordy and Marilyn Lundquist opened their door in 1960, to serve “hand pattied hamburgers, hand-battered Alaskan fish, homemade onion rings, and fresh blended malts” and they are still going strong. We stopped in for burgers and fries and they were yummy!
Duluth is about a two and a half hour drive north of the Twin Cities. We had hoped it would be cooler up there but on the day we left, the temperature was the same as it was in St Paul — over 90 degrees F.
Just outside Duluth there is a large rest stop with a spectacular overlook. There is also a sculpture by David von Schlegell done in 1976 called The Gate. Von Schlegell was from St. Louis, Missouri. His father was an American Impressionist painter, William von Schegell. The plaque says:
“The Stainless steel sculpture functions as a metaphor, tying the horizontal lines of the land and Lake Superior, which are both very visible from this location, together at the point of intersection with the City of Duluth. The Gate serves to recognize the importance of Duluth, as not only a gateway to Minnesota’s north shore, but also to the world through the Great Lakes St. Lawrence Seaway that extends 3700 kilometers (2300 miles) east to the Atlantic Ocean.“
On the way into town we stopped at the Duluth Grill located a 118 S. 27th Ave. W. The restaurant is open daily from 8 am to 3 pm and serves fresh, local, organic food. Their salads and sandwiches were delicious. Plus they serve breakfast all day.
Our next stop was to check into our hotel right on the lake. We stayed at the Canal Park Lodge at 250 Canal Park Drive. It was very comfortable and the view was spectacular. Breakfast was included.
The first day I walked along the shore all the way to the lighthouse and back. It was kind of a mistake since it was so hot but I did get to see the bridge go up and got a close up view of the light house.
The Duluth Aerial Lift Bridge was completed in 1905, and was upgraded in 1929. In 1973 it went on the National Register of Historic Places and is one of the most photographed sites in Minnesota. In the busy seasons, it averages 26 lifts a day and operates 24 hours a day. It has a clearance of 180 feet when completely raised and is very similar to a bridge in Rouen, France. They are the only two of their kind in the world.
A couple of big ships had just gone out when we arrived but I was lucky enough to see the bridge go up to let the tug boat back in.
Another important bridge is the one that connects Duluth, Minnesota with Superior, Wisconsin. The John A. Blatnik Bridge is 7,975 feet (2,431 m) long and rises up nearly 120 feet (37 m) above the St. Louis River which is a tributary of Lake Superior. The bridge was completed in 1971 but has been widened and strengthened since then.
Happy Bastille Day (yesterday)! The French stormed the Bastille on July 14, 1789. It was the spark that started the French Revolution. Ten years later it ended in a coup with Napoleon at the helm as “First Consul”. They were able to end feudalism, kill their king, come up with the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen, draft a new constitution, but in the end they could not agree on how to rule and those in power fought between themselves to the point where the military stepped in. Napoleon went on to conquer most of Europe. Today Bastille Day is celebrated in France and around the world as National Festival Day to symbolize harmony. I find that a little confusing but hey, it’s an excuse to each yummy French food.
I watched the first couple of episodes about Patagonia on CNN this week – “Patagonia: Life on the Edge of the World”. What I have seen so far is animal conservation. They are concentrating on species native to the land who are being threatened by the changing environment and humans in general. It is good to know that there are a lot of people out there doing good things to help our planet. I don’t think we hear enough about those things. It is a six part series. You can learn more about it here.
The new version of Jane Austin’s “Persuasion” just came out on Netflix. It did not get a favorable review in the New York Times so I am a bit mixed about it. I will probably watch it since it is one of my favorites. My favorite version is the one from 1997 with Fiona Shaw, Amanda Root, and Ciaran Hinds.
In the news – arrrgghhh. Seems like so many horrible things are happening right now it is hard to take it in. I lived in Russia during both of the Chechen wars and the one thing I remember vividly was the mass killings of civilians and children. What is happening in Ukraine is nothing new.
I made a pretty good casserole last night. The prep was a bit time consuming but it came out yummy.
Chicken Pesto Casserole
Boil 3 medium russet potatoes for about 20 minutes. Set aside to cool. Two chicken breasts, cubed (I cut them up and cooked them with some shallots and garlic, basil, tarragon, and a little bit of chili powder) I made a pesto with about a cup of frozen spinach, half cup of sun dried tomatoes, and a small jar of artichoke hearts. (Whizzed in the food processor) Then I made a white sauce with salt, pepper, basil, tarragon, a little garlic powder. (2 tbsp. butter, 2 tbsp flour, 2 cups milk.)
I added the pesto into the white sauce to combine. I peeled and thinly sliced the potatoes.
I greased a pyrex baking dish with avocado oil and placed a layer of potatoes in the bottom. Then covered the potatoes with half the pesto mixture, then all the chicken, then another layer of pesto, and topped it off with a mixture of cheeses (about a cup). I used parmesan and a Mexican mix.
Throw it in the oven at 350 degrees F for about 35 minutes. I made everything but the white sauce the day before.
I’m heading to Duluth and a spot right on Lake Superior next week. I’ll let you know how it goes.
The Island Sash & Door Company was constructed on Nicollet Island in 1893. Nicollet Island sits in the middle of the Mississippi river between the east and west banks of downtown Minneapolis, Minnesota. The Island Sash & Door Company continued its operations until 1899.
Minneapolis’ flour and grain milling industry flourished at the beginning of the 20th century and the building that was the Island Sash & Door Company became headquarters to several milling companies. Then from 1913, to about 1973 it was a men’s shelter started up by the Salvation Army. The building and much of the land on Nicollet Island was sold to the Minneapolis Park and Recreation District in the late 1970’s. From there, the structure became the Nicollet Island Inn.
Architecturally it has gone through several transformations with the interior consisting of timber and beam construction and windows presenting beautiful views. The bar with original stained glass is over 150 years old and originally belonged to a drugstore in a small New Hampshire town.
Today Nicollet Island Inn is a small romantic hotel with an excellent restaurant including an intimate bar and patio seating. They serve a good Sunday Brunch with mimosas and excellent Bloody Marys.
I recently returned from visiting old friends in San Francisco. I had a great time visiting old haunts and exploring new ones.
First stop was Golden Gate Park and a walk around Stow Lake. We saw lots of turtles. Stow Lake is located between John F. Kennedy Drive and Martin Luther King Jr. Drive – west of the Japanese Tea Gardens.
Somehow it had never registered with me that San Quentin maximum security prison is located right on the Bay. It must have a fantastic view. It is the oldest prison in California opened in 1852. It sits on 432 acres and houses about 3,776 occupants. It is easily seen as you cross the Richmond bridge from the East Bay to Marin County.
We were on our way to Point Reyes National park about an hour and a half northwest via Sir Francis Drake Blvd. The road took us through Roy’s Redwoods Preserve and Samuel P. Taylor State Park.
We stopped at the visitor center at the entrance to Point Reyes and headed towards the lighthouse. The lighthouse itself was closed off but the views were spectacular.
Next day was dedicated to The City. We spent the day wandering around the neighborhoods and enjoying the energy. We strolled through Chinatown, stopping to look at all the treasures to be found in it’s small crowded shops. We stopped for lunch at a restaurants where everybody spoke Chinese and shared large dishes.
After cutting through some familiar places in North Beach…
…we ended up at the Ferry Building, a large commingling of many foods-cheese, chocolate, meat, bread, baked goods, produce and dry goods.
We took a trolley from the Ferry Building to the Wharf and wandered down to Scoma’s for a few drinks. Scoma’s is a restaurant located at the end of Pier 47 that has been around since the 1960’s. The waiters wear white coats and black ties and the menu consists of fresh-off-the-boat seafood. Plus they make a good cocktail.
My brother is currently in Ireland and posting photos. It made me think back on my trip to Ireland in 2019, just pre-pandemic. Ireland is a beautiful country full of friendly people and enchanting castles. Here is a re-cap of my trip.
Dublin – highlights:
Tour of the Castle National Art Gallery National Archeological Museum – very cool Trinity College – must see Chester Beatty Library
There is plenty to see in Dublin, several churches, and parks, and some shopping. Pubs and tourist attractions. Guinness does a tour. We did a lot of walking around town. We found a great Italian pizza place and a nice pub, and other good restaurants in our neighborhood. Our hotel was very centrally located.
I think most first time travelers to Ireland take the southern route through Waterford, Cork, Killarney, Limerick. There is a lot to see in Ireland and I picked a northern route because there were certain things I wanted to see. I saw everything I set out to see. Next time, I would like to go to Northern Ireland, to Londonderry. But this is what we saw on this trip.
We picked up our car at the airport in order to avoid Dublin traffic. We were heading north to County Monaghan. Our first stop was Brú na Bóinne. This is a Neolithic period World Heritage Site comprised of Knowth, New Grange, and Dowth. We spent three hours touring Knowth and New Grange.
The Knowth site has one large mound and 18 smaller ones. We were shown a film of the interior and were able to look down the passageway but could not enter it. However we could climb on top of it and see a spectacular view of the surrounding farmlands.
Highlight of the trip:New Grange consisted of one large main mound. Everybody who visited had to join a tour with a guide. At New Grange we were led into the mound for a demonstration of how the Winter Solstice lights up the cave-like structure. I’m sure the real thing is much more impressive but it was very cool. I am not a fan of small tight spaces and almost didn’t go in but luckily we weren’t in there very long so I didn’t have time to panic.
Both places were built 5,000 years ago, before the Pyramids of Egypt or Stonehenge in England. It is an incredible display of engineering, not to mention beautiful and kind of eerie.
Our next destination was Ballybay. This was the place my family listed as their home when they boarded the ship for America back in the early 1800’s. Since I had spoken with a genealogist in Dublin, I knew they had probably not come from the town itself but the general area, I was really more interested in the countryside. The area was lovely with farms and rolling hills. We drove through the middle to town, took a couple of pictures and kept going north.
We spent the night in Monaghan which is almost to the border with Northern Ireland. We were there in October and I was a bit surprised to see our hotel all decked out with Halloween decorations.
Monaghan – Westenra Arms Hotel The Diamond, Monaghan Town, Monaghan, Ireland. Phone: 047 74400
There was a small interesting museum in Monaghan and an impressive church. Monaghan County Museum, 1-2 Hill Street, Monaghan, Ireland – 11 am to 5 pm
After spending the night in Monaghan, we headed west. The road took us into Northern Ireland several times along the way. We could tell because the road signs looked different, otherwise there was no indication.
Monaghan to Westport (3 hrs)
We stopped at Turlough – Castlebar on our way. National Museum of Country Life – 10 am to 5 pm Traditional Folklife collections
Across the street from the museum was the Turlough Round Tower from the 9th century – one of the most complete and best-preserved round towers in Ireland. Round towers were built as places of refuge for the occupants of important Churches or Abbeys against the Vikings. It was one of my favorite things.
Westport – We stayed the night at the Westport Coast Hotel right on waterfront.
Next morning we headed out – Westport to Clifden – 1.5 hours
Our first stop was Kylemore Abby. Originally built by a wealthy doctor from London for his wife, this has been home to the Benedictine nuns for 100 years.
The nuns ran a girl’s boarding school out of the Abbey from 1923 to 2010. They currently offer Residential and Day Retreats. The grounds included a Gothic Chapel and Victorian Gardens. The whole setting was very impressive.
Our next stop was just to the southwest of the Abbey at Connemara National Park. Much of the park was part of the Kylemore Abbey estate up until 1980 when it opened to the public. It was a mountainous area with almost 5,000 acres of land. On the way up one of the paths we saw some of the Connemara ponies. It was a good area for hiking.
On the way to Clifden, right on the coast in County Gallway, we opted for a small detour along the Sky Road Loop, a very narrow strip of road that follows the winding coast. The views were spectacular.
We stayed at the Ardagh Hotel that promised to provide us with a top rated seafood dinner. It did not disappoint with oysters and lobster. I opted for the lamb which was also very good.
After spending the night in Clifden, we stopped to buy a couple of sweaters and headed for Ballyvaughan. On the way we took a very narrow, small dead-end road along Lough Corrib. We parked at the end of the road and had a picnic. Sheep were grazing below us, it was drizzling, and the lake was beautiful and eerie.
Clifden to Ballyvaughan – 2 hours
Ballyvaughan – Hazelwood Lodge +353 (0)65 707 7092 Bed and Breakfast
We stayed at Hazelwood Lodge in Ballyvaughan, a comfortable bed and breakfast with a lovely couple who ran it. They were happy to share lots of information about the area. Ballyvaughan itself was not much but it was located in easy driving distance to many things. We planned to stay for four days and take trips from there. Our first outing was to the Cliffs of Mohr (obviously a must-see).
We were lucky it was a beautiful sunny day and not too crowded. From there we drove to Kilfenora to see the Burren Center. We learned about the geology of the limestone covered area, the fossils of sea creatures to be found, and the wild flowers that grow in abundance. At the Burren Center they show a film and there is a small exhibit. Next to the center was the Kilfenora Cathedral dating back to 1200 AD. It is known for its ornate and interesting crosses. Another thing we learned about Kilfenora was the television show Father Ted was filmed there in the 1990’s.
Out in the Burren National Park we took in the desolate landscape with tufts of green pushing through the cracks in the rocks. We stopped at Poulnabrone portal tomb that dates back to neolithic times, between 4200 BC and 2900 BC. It sits in the middle of a large field of rock.
The following day we continued our day trips from Ballyvaughan and headed down a small narrow dead end road onto private property in search of Gleninagh Castle. It was one of the best preserved tower castles we saw. The tower was built in the late 1500’s by the O’Loughlin family and they lived there off and on until about 1840. Next to the tower is a small well which provided them with fresh water. We saw many of these towers up and down the coast, some of them just rubble.
We headed south down the coast road to Loop Head Lighthouse right at the tip of Loop Head peninsula. The first lighthouse on this spot was built in 1640 and there has been one there ever since. In 1971 it went electric and became automated in 1991. Now the house acts as an Inn where people can stay in holiday apartments. The view from up top is spectacular.
On another day we took a boat from Doolin to Inisheer Island, the closest of the three Aran Islands. It was a pretty smooth ride and took about forty minutes. On the island we wandered around the ruins, the farmland, the town, the coast. It was beautiful in a kind of eerie way. I saw more farm animals than people. The islands were known for the Aran Sweater which is usually off-white in color with a cable design and pure wool. We decided the sheep must live on the other side of the island because we didn’t see any.
The boat ride back was another story. It was a rough ride and many were sick or at least looked green. The waves came up well above the windows and we would go up in the air and slam down hard onto the water. I was even a bit uncomfortable and I have never been seasick.
The boat took a different route back because we were to see the Cliffs of Mohr from the sea as well as the cave where Harry Potter was filmed looking for horcruxes. It was definitely impressive but difficult to really enjoy in the moment.
Before we left the west coast we stopped at Corcomroe Abbey built originally in 1182. Monks kept it up until the mid 1500’s when the English Reformation came about and closed Catholic monasteries. It was a beautiful place.
Ballyvaughan to Dublin – 2.5 hours
Dublin – Drury Court Hotel Address: Drury Court Hotel, 28-30 Stephen Street Lower, Dublin 2 Phone: +353 (1) 475-1988 E-mail: email@example.com
Our last stops in Dublin included Christ Church Cathedral (Dublin’s oldest building), and St. Patrick’s Cathedral. Of course we spent some time walking through the Temple Bar area, and we ended our visit at the Hairy Lemon pub eating the most delicious bread pudding I have ever had.
Last weekend I drove up to Morris, Minnesota, population 5,000, which is about a three hour drive north of the Twin Cities.
On the way we stopped in Glenwood for a DQ ice cream and spent a few moments enjoying the view of Lake Minnewaska. It was a beautiful day and the lake was inviting. That night we dined at the Bella Cucina in downtown Morris.
It has an extensive menu and very good food. We enjoyed artichoke dip with grilled ciabatta as an appetizer and then dug into such things as lasagna, Tuscan rigatoni with goat cheese, lobster mac and cheese, penne Corsica with shrimp and artichokes, and chicken scallopini. All were delicious although probably too much because we were all stuffed.
We couldn’t find a bed for the night in Morris due to some track meet so we had to drive another half hour to Benson. Benson is a town of about 3,000 people, how hard could it be to find our hotel? We got lost, drove all the way through town, turned around, got out the phones and finally found our hotel. By this time we were ready for a nightcap. We headed to the bar attached to the hotel. It was packed, not a free seat in the place, and the DJ was a maniac with loud, loud music. It was time for bed instead.
The next morning we headed back to Morris and Don’s Café for breakfast. Don’s has been around since the 1940s and serves good homemade slow cooked food. The bread is made on site every morning. On the wall above us was a plaque presented by the local CBS affiliate to Don’s for having the best grilled cheese sandwiches in Minnesota. We decided it must be the bread.
Morris’ main claim to fame is the University of Minnesota – Morris which was founded in 1960 as a public liberal arts institution. About 1,900 students enroll each year. The campus is on 130 acres and is part of the state university system. In the Liberal Arts College category, Morris ranks in the top 20 along with three other Minnesota colleges, Carlton, Augsburg and Macalester as LGBTQ friendly campuses. Morris has a long standing commitment to fostering diversity, intercultural competence and environmental stewardship. The campus is a national leader in green initiatives and on its way to becoming carbon neutral.
My brother gave me an electric crockpot and my son was begging for some lamb so this turned out to be a great marriage. If you don’t have a crockpot, simmering on the stove would probably work just as well.
Once I got into the recipe I discovered I didn’t have any coriander so I threw in some cinnamon instead. Of course, I must have just gone brain dead because obviously coriander is cilantro and I always have cilantro. In spite of it all, it turned out to be a tasty dish.
1 lb lamb shoulder chops, trimmed and cut into smallish chunks
Mix together and toss with the meat:
1 Tbsp olive oil
4 tsp cumin
1 Tbsp coriander (cilantro)
¼ tsp cayenne pepper (I would put a little more)
¼ tsp salt (don’t really need it if you are using the full strength chicken broth)
Several turn of the pepper mill
1 large onion, chopped (I used a red one)
28-oz diced tomatoes
¾ cup chicken broth (I used half a cube in boiling water)
4 cloves minced garlic
1 can cooked chickpeas (garbanzo beans)
Mash about ¾ cup of the beans
6 oz fresh spinach, chopped
Put the spiced up meat into the crockpot, top with chopped onion.
Heat tomatoes, chicken broth and garlic in a saucepan and bring to a simmer.
Pour the tomato mixture over the meat.
Cover and cook 3 hours on high or 5 hours on low, until meat is tender.
Mix in the mashed chickpeas, whole chickpeas, and spinach
Cook an additional 5-10 minutes until headed and spinach has wilted.
Serve over rice.
Leftover note. We had this the next day as a sauce for gnocchi and it was really pretty good.