29 June 2008

The Berry Patch

Time for a wholesome family activity: strawberry picking! We got an early start and headed up to Pine Tree Apple (Strawberry) Orchard in White Bear Lake, where I discovered that yes, the minivan will off-road in a cornfield. Good to know.

The perhaps best part about this particular berry patch is that you ride a tractor to get out to the berries. It's really not that far, maybe 1/3 mile, but I suspect they prefer you don't walk through their pumpkin patches that lie inbetween. Either way, everybody patiently waits for the tractor rather than hiking out.

Tractor

Tractor Ride

Then we are assigned a row, bursting with strawberries. The rows are well mulched with soft, clean straw, so it is a pleasure to kneel and get busy filling our boxes.

Ready for picking

Strawberry

Bella was a very conscientious berry picker, UNTIL she saw the boys in the next row munching on some strawberries. Then something dawned on her. And all she did the rest of the time was slowly stuff berries into her mouth.

A good picker!

Two strawberries!

Strawberry Picking

I wasn't much better myself, I must admit. And the sky was so perfect for photos, and the berries were posing so prettily, that I was more than a little distracted with taking pictures. But we managed to take home 12 lbs of strawberries.

Strawberries

They were quickly transformed into loaves of Strawberry Bread, strawberry jam, and vacuum sealed frozen berries for later use. Brent read me Twilight while I hulled and jammed. (Although I have since finished the book on my own, since once it was apparent it was a romance novel, he wouldn't read another page.) And I attribute this year's being the Best Jam Ever to Brent's excellent berry-mashing skills. I usually use the food processor, but a potato masher and a strong man seem to be the way to go. Oh! I almost forgot Bella's favorite part of our berry picking adventure! The strawberry donut at the end.

Strawberry donut

23 June 2008

A Great Evening

So the Mr. and I went on a date (a real date!) this weekend. With dinner and a movie and everything. We thoroughly enjoyed sitting on the lovely patio of the newly opened Grand Avenue Salut, where we laughed at other couples trying to control their toddlers and sampled the "city's best french fries," (not bad at all). Brent got a steak, which was really delicious, I got a salad, which was quite delicious, and we shared some soup, which was not delicious at all. But that was quickly and politely taken off of our bill, so overall it was very pleasant. I had my heart set on eating outside, which is a dangerous expectation on a beautiful June evening. We were there very early so hardly had to wait at all. But when we left around 6:45, the place was jammed. A family was wedged into the waiting area, balancing drinks and pizza on their laps, and I heard the dad say, with false brightness, "It's like we're having a picnic!" Which for some reason I found hilarious and embarrassed myself by laughing out loud.

We went to my wonderful old neighborhood to see Get Smart at the Grandview Theater.

Grandview Theater

It is strange and sweet to drive around near my old apartment, the apartment I still dream about, the one I would rent if I had a million dollars, just so I could walk into it and smell it every now and then. It is not that close to our neighborhood now, so it was an impractical frivolity to have our date on Grand. But Brent said so many times, "No YOU pick what we do." That I got flustered and blurted out what I wanted to do. New French restaurant, old cozy theater. So there. See what you think of that date idea. That'll teach you to pressure me into making decisions. Everyone knows I prefer to let others make decisions and then complain about it later.

But, it turned out to be a great evening (much better than last time I picked, when we ended up at Lowe's looking at faucets).

Bella, by the way, was busy at daycare having a Mexican Fiesta and dying herself blue with Dairy Queen Rocket Pops.

19 June 2008

Hoarding

I avidly read Yarn Harlot, and her recent Stash Toss this spring (apparently "toss" in Canadian means a good going-through. What I would call a "yarn fondle." But anyway.) was highly amusing. I don't have much of a stash because I am very careful (cheap) and only buy yarn for specific projects. I have always been secretly proud of myself for this organization and frugality. Why hoard? It's just silly. I mean, why would you stockpile?

Coffee canister

Coffee in the counter garage

It just doesn't make sense. I'm so glad I'm much more practical than that.

Coffee hiding

Coffee Stash

What is the urge to hoard? So primitive! I am much more highly evolved than that.


Coffee up on top

Coffee in the bedroom

Whoops, is that 13 lbs of coffee in the house? And is one of those pounds in the bedroom?

Um. Yeah.

16 June 2008

Grizzly Coast: Recap

Bella and I recently trekked down to the Minnesota Zoo to check out the new Grizzly Coast exhibit.

Russia's Grizzly Coast

We were so excited for this new exhibit! We told Bella there was a NEW BEAR at the zoo. She was pumped. She immediately began roaring (like a bear). For like 2 days. The night before we went, I told her it was time to get in the bed and she said, "No! No! Not quite yet! I need to roar a little more."

We started out by effortlessly navigating our way directly there, maybe a first for me. Bella was cheering in the backseat, instead of her usual, "Is the zoo hiding? Zoo, where are you! We're looking for you!"

We met up with two of our playgroup friends and decided to go straight to the 10 am dolphin show. The dolphins were in top form, none of this training performance crap for prime time grizzly coast audiences. Time to get your bottlenose on and kick some grizzly butt. (I can hear the underwater locker room pep talk now). They were blasting I'm Walking On Sunshine with leaps and fast swims and ball throwing and I, for one, was impressed. The girls were a little distracted by their constant need for snacks and seat re-arrangement, but I think they liked it too. Bella was quite interested in the fact that one of them was a daddy dolphin. "A daddy dolphin? A daddy dolphin? A daddy dolphin?"

Next, we filed out of the dolphin show and out into the sunlight, roughly heading in the direction of the Grizzly Coast. Squint squint, shuffle shuffle. As did, I believe, everyone else at the zoo. Shuffle shuffle. Shuffle. What's that up there? It's an otter? I can't see. Shuffle. Shuffle. Yes, an otter.

Otter

And so on for the six or so animals that are in the new exhibit. Bella became a bit of a cling-on, due to the crush of the crowd. So although it was hard to get up close and see the animals, we did manage to get up close and personal with some other cool features. Like a steam geyser!

A steaming geyser

And a boiling mud pot!

In front of a mud pot

And Bella was able to hold her overwhelmed-self together enough to wait in line to roar at the highly anticipated BEAR.

Bear

So by now we are getting tired and hungry. Time to loop around back to the cool new Central Plaza and get something to eat. Wait a minute! There's no loop! WTF. Seriously people. I mean, walking back through the entire exhibit? The other option is to walk the 1.4 mile Northern Trail around the horn back to the plaza. But really. Screaming hungry toddler. 1.4 mile walk. Nuh-uh, not gonna happen. It was kind of like this:

Big wet nose, shaggy soft fur, long sharp teeth... IT'S A BEAR!! Back through the cave tip toe tip toe, back down the boardwalk clip clop clip clop, back by the restrooms (which are very nice) tinkle flush tinkle flush, back through the mudpot boil plurp boil plurp, back by the sea otters push shove push shove, AHHHH we're back in the Central Plaza. We're not going on a bear hunt again!

Once there, we visit the Grizzly Coast Cafe for lunch. Oh how cute, I love theme food! Soviet slaw and comrade kabobs all around! But no. It's actual Russian food. Or at least it's actual Russian gas station food, which is probably not the same thing at all. And to my shock, there appear to be actual Russians working there, as I discovered when I was trying to ask for dip for my carrots--she still didn't understand even when I boiled it down to "DUH-iii-PUH," accompanied by carrot poking motions. Poke poke. But no deal. (This turned out to be quite fortuitous, since it led me to discover that both Bella and I enjoy dipping our carrots in ketchup. Delicious!) So huh, real Russians! Who'd a thunk.

After lunch, we let the girls loose on the new 'splash pad' in the Central Plaza. One of the moms had smartly alerted us to all bring extra clothes. Brilliant!

Bring dry clothes!

Bella disintegrated shortly after this, inconveniently in the middle of a meerkat tunnel. An older girl came out, "She's CRYING in there." "Can you go back in and tell her to come out?" [climbs in climbs out] "She said she wants her MOMMY." So yes, mommy in a meerkat tunnel.

And that was the end to our fairly successful zoo day. My advice to anyone going is to sacrifice the poor dolphins dancing their heart out and go straight to the Coast, unless it is not that busy. Then you'll get to see more of the animals and maybe even have enough spunk left in you to go around the horn on the Northern Trail. Happy Trails!

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