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Posts Tagged ‘MN’

Fall Show – Young Potters in St. Paul

Posted by deborahmclaren on November 12, 2011

Driving home from the Northland Pioneers conference this afternoon I spotted a “Pottery Sale” sign on the side of the road. Not one to miss a local pottery sale I followed the signs to a little clapboard house on Palace Street in Saint Paul, MN.

To my delight it was a fall sale organized by four or five young potters from the area. And their work and designs were very diverse. Not the usual pottery show stuff! For example, the painting/sculptures made by Kelly Cox and her husband Eric Mullis.

Potters William Cook and Phillip Schmidt + fan

Tiny ant sculpture by Eric Mullis

Deer painting/plate by Kelly Cox

Beautiful Handmade Bowl

I am excited to see young artists in the neighborhood! The functional pottery and sculpture is affordable and they are a fun, welcoming group. It’s a beautiful weekend. If you stop by they are also serving up some fall goodies and hot cider.

2011 Fall Pottery Show and Sale, Sat Nov 12 – Sun Nov 13, 1792 Palace Avenue, St. Paul MN 55104
email williamcookpottery@gmail.com

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Posted in art, Buy-local, entreprenuers, microenterprise, Minnesota, Saint Paul | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Quirky places to stay in Minnesota

Posted by deborahmclaren on February 12, 2011

I’ve been around the world and stayed in a lot of funky places – tree houses in Thailand, a palace in India, a boat hotel in Amsterdam – so I decided to seek out the unusual in Minnesota and the upper Midwest. Here’s some things I’ve found so far (although I haven’t stayed at all of them).

Northern Rail Train Car

There are several train inns. The Northern Rail Train Car Suites is in Two Harbors, on the North Shore of Lake Superior. It’s set on 60 forested acres just off Highway 61 (near Betty’s Pies). The rooms are housed in actual train boxcars and connected by a charming enclosed platform. The depot-style main building includes check-in, lending library and the continental breakfast area. You can rent a partial car (Porter room) or a full car. Rates vary with the seasons but are between $100 and $200 per night.

Main Lodge at MapleLag Resort

My all-time favorite place to stay in Minnesota is MapleLag Resort on the White Earth Indian Reservation (western Minnesota). It’s in the middle of a great forest and is very Scandinavian-Minnesota-like. There are lots of cabins, including some 100 year old log cabins that were relocated there and several train cars that have been renovated into cute little guest houses. Rates include skiing, equipment, a giant hot tub (seriously-it can easily accommodate 20!), and great food. There’s a huge lodge with several fire places, libraries, seating areas, beautiful stained glass windows collected from around the world, and their homemade cookies are always available.

The Switch Yard at MapleLag Resort

The Whistle Stop

Out on the west central prairie you can find The Whistle Stop in New York Mills that offers authentic train cars built at the turn of the century: dining and railroad executive cars. Cars rent from about $125 to $200 a night. There’s a cottage, Victorian Inn and tea room as well. New York Mills has an amazing little Regional Cultural Center and is home of the quirky “Great American Think-Off.

The Dreamcatcher at Ludlow's Resort - like a bird's nest!

Amphibacar at Ludlow's Resort

At Ludlow’s Resort on Lake Vermilion, the entire resort is on a Northwoods island. And they don’t have cookie-cutter cabins. Their cottages have been hand-crafted and continually improved over seven decades — and three generations of the Ludlow family. There are 20 cabins tucked away beneath the birch and pine and all are different. The Dreamcatcher, designed by SALA Architects, is unlike anything else in Minnesota. This fantastic four-story treehouse provides views of the lake and makes you feel like an Eagle in the top of the trees. They also have an Amphibacar (Northwoods 007?)! Ludlow’s is rated one of Minnesota’s top resorts. They charge by the week – starting at about $2500 and up in the summer peak season. In the spring and fall you can rent a cabin for about $250 per night (no week-long rental is required in the off season).

The "Grotto" room at the Park Street In

The Park Street Inn in Park Rapids gets a mention for their “Grotto,” which they describe as garden-level (basement) room that boasts a huge water-jet tub, a king-size bed, air conditioning, and a private bath with a waterfall sink. The grotto is completed with plants and a large stone waterfall. I have stayed there in the middle of the winter and didn’t get to see the upstairs. It truly reminded me of a place where the Flintstone’s might vacation. Rates vary from $95 to $135 for the rooms and include breakfast.

Tree House Retreat, Long Prairie, MN


Tree House Retreat

The LaVoie Tree House in Long Prairie is a hexagon shaped cabin in a tree! Set among 16 acres of wooded land owned by the LaVoie family, they built this unique guesthouse themselves. I have no idea how much it costs. I know about it through Nancy Leasman who owns the nearby Leatherwood Vinegary. By the way, if you like wineries you will be pleasantly surprised to learn that vinegar can also be as variable and tasty as wines. Leatherwood is one of the only locally-owned vinegaries in the US. You can stop in for a tasting.

Thayer's Historic and Haunted Inn!

Okay, let’s get really quirkly! Thayer’s Historic Bed n’ Breakfast in Annandale is haunted! The owner, Sharon Gammells has been an internationally known psychic for over 45 years. Sharon claims that “yes, we have ghosts, yes they visit, but, remember I live here so, NO the ghosts aren’t mean, and they are not scary, and they are not stuck, and they are not creepy.” Apparently a “Miss Lily” spirit from room 306 actually helps out during some of their paranormal classes. There are also ghost kitties.

A 2 Night Paranormal Package is $387 and includes breakfast and a one hour Psychic Reading. Most rooms are about $100 a night and if you participate in one of their scheduled Murder Mystery Dinners add another $50 per person.

Jail House Inn, Preston, MN

The Jail House Inn, originally the The Old Fillmore County Jail and Carriage House, is a National Historic Place in Preston, MN. It was built in the 1870s. The “cells” start at a very reasonable $69 and the Sheriff’s Master Bedroom and other rooms can run up to $150. It’s near the fabulous Root River – great for tubing. The Root River bike trail runs close by.

"Cell" room at the Jail House Inn

I’ll continue to find quirky little treasures and post them here. Wherever you go – snuggle in and sleep tight!

Posted in family travel, Minnesota, quite unusual, travel | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments »

The Commodore Hotel writers and gangsters

Posted by deborahmclaren on September 8, 2010

Opened in 1920, the hotel and its elegant art deco bar attracted literary figures F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald , and Sinclair Lewis as well as gangsters Al Capone and Fred Barker. The hotel was renovated in the 1970s but still looks much like it did when Ma Barker met her son Fred’s girlfriend here.

1st Mondays at the Commodore, 79 Western Ave, 4-8pm. Cash bar, music, and conversation in the historic Art Deco Bar with unique, exotic treasures from world travelers, artists, designers, collectors and antique aficionados.

Fore more information: The Commodore Hotel, part of the University Club of Saint Paul
http://www.universityclubofstpaul.com/

See you there!

Posted in food and wine, Minnesota, Saint Paul, Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Twinkle Twinkle Little Stars

Posted by deborahmclaren on January 27, 2010

There is nothing more beautiful than skiing under the stars and the northern borealis. In Minnesota our snow is fluffy and squeaky. The air is cold enough to make you gasp. Luckily, we can cross country ski under the stars at several places around the Twin Cities metro area. My favorite is Como Park. With Theodore Wirth Park a close second. Check out the St. Paul Park and Rec Winter Site — For details on skiing in Saint Paul, including trail maps and racing information, check out the Park and Rec web site.

Not too far outside of “the cities” as we say here in Minnesota (and some people actually say “the sin cities”) there are lantern lite trails as well as plain old starlight guiding you across the silver iceland. Mora, Minnesota is only 75 miles north of St. Paul and is the home of the area’s finest cross country night skiing. The Vasaloppet Nordic Skiing Center provides access to 10 kilometers of groomed trails. The Center features a wax room, men’s and women’s changing rooms and sauna, a small kitchen and plenty of room for ski gear and events.

The Lantern Loppet in Mora, MN will take place this coming Saturday January 30th. There is over 5km of Lantern Lit trails with three cabins to warm and refresh yourself. This is a very unique experience for skiers old and new. The Lanterns are lit at dusk with many families bringing hot dogs to roast over one of the fires, for dinner.

I love night skiing in Minnesota. Almost as much as dogsledding (although I DON’T do dogsledding at night!).

Posted in Minnesota, Night Skiing, Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Destination: Ely Minnesota

Posted by deborahmclaren on January 14, 2009

Recently I traveled “Up North” to Ely.  This little village could be described as the “Cicely, Alaska (re: Northern Exposure)  of Minnesota” due to ts quirkiness, interesting people, and since it serves as the gateway to the 1500 lake and river entries of the Boundary Water Canoe Wilderness Area (BWCAW). However, it is not fictional,  its a real town, with real people, glorious nature and its own Great North Woods culture.

And yes, they even have a distinctive little radio station – WELY, the “end of the road radio show” that broadcasts to the BWCAW  and the communities of Northern Minnesota’s Arrowhead region.  The community radio station provides news, music, a wide variety of entertainment and personal messages to the hardy people of the Boundary Waters.  A wild polka jam and a reggae hour maybe followed by a message for Miss Ann on Little Bass Lake to remind her to bring back a 5 lb. sack of sugar when she heads home from town.

My sister, Maria, and her husband, Karl, were visiting from New Zealand. My husband, Rob, and our 8-year old son Anil and I were determined to show them some great Minnesota winter fun.  We made arrangements to stay at a comfortable cabin at the Garden Lake Resort about three miles outside of Ely on part of the Kawishiwi River chain of lakes directly connected to the BWCAW. Can you say Kah-wishy-wee?

The two-bedroom cabin overlooked the lake and offered easy access for snowshoeing and winter hiking. A nice couple own the 4-cabin lot and use green cleaning products that, because we all have allergies, was greatly appreciated by our family.  Since they mentioned their dedication to eco-friendly on their website when I first checked them out, I hope they continue to work on becoming more environmentally sustainable.  And, if you ever decide to stay there, consider yourself warned about the religious literature placed prominently in the living area.

We especially loved a midnight star gazing trek on our snowshoes – the sound of our thffft, thffft, thffting through the trees, laughter as we fell into moonlit snow drifts, and spectacular stellar scintillation (stars twinkling brightly) from horizon to horizon. 

We rented our snow shoes from Piragis Northwoods Company for $25 a day (children’s snow shoes were $10).

The deep winter weather was challenging. The morning we were scheduled to go dog sledding we woke up to -27 degrees!  We still managed to get in a  ride with Jake Hway, the owner of Chilly Dogs Dog Sled Trips.  Jake is an experienced dog musher, guide and instructor who introduces hundreds of  kids every year to dog sledding through his work at a nearby Boy Scout camp.

One of the best parts of dog sledding is meeting the dogs. Jake keeps them tied up next to their own little houses in a large lot at the edge of the forest. A bunkhouse stands within the lot and someone stays  there every night to watch over the dogs. The Hways consider each pup a member of the family. You can see the dogs on their website by clicking on “employees lounge.”

Jake  encouraged us to get to know the furry creatures so we tried to individually pet all 57 of those barkin’ chilly dogs.  They are Alaskan Huskies and love to run as much as they love to bark… and couldn’t wait to get hooked up to the sleds. A couple of  dogs tied up near the back of the lot wailed so loudly they convinced me to tiptoe through over some frozen Husky poop in order to give their necks a good rub.

We enjoyed how Jake’s entire family came out to help orient us and encourage us to connect to the dogs, the snow covered forests, and winter trails.  Jake is about as laid back as a surfer in Malibu – except its -27 degrees and he’s wearing lots of long undies and fleece. He’s tall, lanky, strong, and takes a zen-like approach – concentration, tranquility and mindfulness – to his work and his dogs.

Jake and Murdoch (permission from Chilly Dogs)

Jake and Murdoch (permission from Chilly Dogs)

One of the first things we learned is that “Mush!” is NOT the term used to get the dogs moving.  “Hike” is the preferred term. Personally, I thought the most important word to learn was “whooaaa!”  Anil and I sat in the basket of one sled while Jake drove the dogs.  Maria was in the other sled basket as Karl learned to drive the dogs. We were bundled up in some serious winterwear, then covered up and zippered in under the sled’s canvas. I highly recommend ski goggles and mukluks for anyone interested in dog sledding.

Jake and the dogs took us on an exhilarating ride on special trails that have been created just for dog sledding – through heavy forest, across beaver ponds and swampy areas, and over small wooded hills.

Chilly Dogs Dog Sled Trips (used by permission)

Chilly Dogs Dog Sled Trips (used by permission)

Anil’s description of the ride:  “Fun, cool, trees, snow, doggy bottoms, people yelling, the sled, falling asleep on the snow ride while watching blue sky and bumping along on the wooden snow sled while its hitting one hundred thousand bumps in the forest…  My mom shaking me until I started talking and feeling my toes again.” [Editor’s note: This is testimony from a hyper child who has not taken a nap since he was 4 years old. I can’t imagine what happened on that bumpy ride to put him to sleep. Maybe Minnesota winter magic?]

Kiwi Karl summed it up like this, “Dashing through the snow, on a six-dog open sleigh! It was an amazing experience to drive the sled, whizzing by trees, with beautiful Minnesota countryside all around.”

After the ride Jake’s mother, Donna, had fresh baked cookies and hot chocolate waiting for us next to the fireplace. As we sat  thawing out in their rec room we got to see and learn about the family’s mounted animal collection on the walls,  including a surprisingly large beaver, foxes, and several deer.

I  saved one of the most special things about Ely, a visit to the Jim Brandenburg Gallery, for last.  Brandenburg is one of Minnesota’s most loved nature photographers. His extensive career includes over ten years as a newspaper photojournalist,  over 25 years as a contract photographer for the National Geographic Society, and commissions from such groups as the U.S. Postal Service and the BBC.  His daughter, Heidi, who manages the gallery, generously gave me permission to reproduce  his  photo ‘Snow Forms’ here on my blog. Enjoy!

Snow Forms by Jim Brandenburg (permission from Brandenburg Gallery)

Snow Forms by Jim Brandenburg (permission from Brandenburg Gallery)

The beautiful gallery in downtown Ely is warm, open and welcoming. It was designed by Jim and expertly crafted by the same award winning team that constructed his studio, Ravenwood. We learned quickly that the ordinary becomes extraordinary through the camera lens of Brandenburg. The gallery is full of panoramas and prints of the Arctic, wolves, the Inuits of Alaska, Africa, Ireland, and the woods and prairies of Minnesota. The still images are complimented by a high definition video that plays constantly in a state-of-the-art  mini-theater.

Our Kiwi relatives are now as much in love with Ely as we are.  However, we’re looking forward to sharing a down-under experience with them next Christmas when its summer in New Zealand. That’s another trip I’ll look forward to and will share here on the Travel Momma blog!  Stay tuned.

Posted in green travel, Kiwis, travel writing, Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

 
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