Duluth!

March 17, 2009 at 7:57 pm | Posted in Minnesota, Photography, Travel | 4 Comments

In an attempt to show Jason more of Minnesota before he moves 3 states away, we headed to Duluth on Saturday.

Duluth is about 2-2.5 hrs drive north of the Twin Cities, on the south side of Lake Superior.  (Here is a map for those of you who have no clue what I’m talking about: View Larger Map)

We arrived around lunchtime, and headed to Burrito Union, home of delicious southwestern food, unusual-flavored margaritas (hibiscus?  ginger?), and one waitress who kind of gave us the evil eye.  We’re still debating whether the cause of the evil eye was Jason’s cell phone conversation while we were supposed to be ordering or my incessant picture taking.  Or maybe a combination of the two?  Perhaps.

Anyways, we ordered – I tried the hibiscus margarita and Jason opted for a taste of a local microbrew.  For lunch, I snacked on some seriously. amazing. nachos and Jason opted for a burrito.  Just thinking about it makes me salivate a little.

Moving on.  The Bar was insanely cool, decked out in old metal ceiling tiles.  I also loved the orange stools in front of it.  Sort of a fun juxtaposition of old and new.

The ceiling also featured a mish-mash of old metal ceiling tiles.  I love the chandeliers (reminds me a little of my own dining room chandelier).  If I ever own a bar/restaurant/coffee shop, I think I will copy this idea.

After lunch, we headed down to Canal Park.  It was an amazing day – 55 degrees and sunny.  So we enjoyed the beautiful weather while strolling down the boardwalk along the shore of Lake Superior.  Online reviews we had read prior to our trip suggested that the boardwalk was similar to that found on the Jersey shore.  I beg to differ.  But we did see this cute little lighthouse, and it looks sort of New England-y.

After walking around for a while, we decided to do a little shopping.  We found a little antique store and Jason let me wander around for a pretty long time, despite the fact that he was overwhelmingly bored.  I’ll share my findings with you tomorrow.

After our little shopping spree, we headed back to Fitger’s, a local brewery (and maker of the beers that Jason drank at lunch).  I wasn’t all that impressed with the Brewery, to be honest.  I was expecting something a little bigger.  Also, the bun on my hamburger was not delicious.  Jason agreed – the buns sort of tasted like cardboard.  And we were seated in the kitchen.  And our table neighbors were so close that when they started up with the PDAs, their elbows nearly knocked Jason out.  Jason’s take: “mmm, it was okay.”  So clearly I am the pickier of the two of us.  But that is not a surprise, is it?

After dinner, we got in the car and drove back to Minneapolis.  With the seat heaters on.  Because we could.

Also, it’s amazing how dark night is in Northern Minnesota.  I forgot how many stars you can see when you don’t live in the city limits.  Perhaps this will be another perk to our Michigan migration?  Guess I should start looking into telephoto lenses for the camera…

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An open letter to mother nature

December 21, 2008 at 8:00 pm | Posted in Holidays, Silly, Travel | 3 Comments
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(warning: this post may upset snow-hating people in the Philadelphia area)

Dear Mother Nature,

It has recently come to my attention that the weather in Philly is going to be in the 30s-40s this week, sporting a mix of rain and slush.  We are in Philly for the holidays, and in my book, this is not Christmas (or New Year’s) weather!  Can you help a girl out?  Please?  Pretty please?

I really, truly feel that I have earned a white Christmas.  For one, I have cheerfully coped with the freezing cold weather you’ve thrown at us.  That one day it didn’t even warm up to 0?  I didn’t complain once!  I just threw on an extra pair of gloves and jumped around at the bus stop to keep warm.  Even though it was 7am and I looked like a crazy person, all bundled up and jumping around.

I would also like to point out what a good little snow shoveler I’ve been.  You’ve dished out quite a few inches of the fluffy white stuff, and twice! I’ve gone out, early in the morning, before work and cheerfully shoveled away.  Earlier this week, I even shoveled two of our neighbor’s sidewalks, in an attempt to “pay forward” the swell sidewalk shoveling that we received from a neighbor last week.

I seriously, seriously love snow on Christmas.  There’s just something so magical about the snow covering twinkling Christmas lights, something so great about freezing your butt off as you head out to church in your Christmas dress.  So if there’s anything you can do to deliver some beautiful white snow to Philly before Christmas, I would be oh-so-grateful.  I would even forego any other weather complaints this year – including my usual March complaint that it’s spring, and should therefore NOT be snowing or cold, in exchange for some Christmas snow.

So, please?  Pretty please?

Love,

Jen

Home Again

November 18, 2008 at 10:24 pm | Posted in Travel | 1 Comment
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We slept in on Monday and then headed to the National Zoo. I think it’s one of only a few Smithsonians that I hadn’t been to, and Jason hadn’t been there either. So we decided to go. JT was especially excited to see the Kimodo Dragons.

We took the metro to the zoo. The DC metro is amazingly clean, and it was quick and easy to figure out where we were going and how much the fare would be. I suspect this is only one of about a million reasons I think I could live there. I love the hustle and bustle of the city, the history, the free museums, the adorable brick row homes. Not to mention the variety of cuisine and the multitude of things going on.

Anyways, the zoo. It was a cold (by DC standards), but reasonably sunny day, and most of the animals were out. We saw the Pandas and read all about how they were unable to conceive naturally, but scientists were able to help them out. There were all sorts of graphs and whatnot, and being sciencey-types, JT and I *heart* that sort of thing.

The panda!


We saw the rest of the big animals – the cats, the hippo, the monkeys and oragutans – and even a bunch of the smaller guys thanks to Jason’s insistence that we visit the small mammal house. I am not a fan of small mammals. Except those little golden monkeys – they’re pretty cute. Of course, we had to visit the reptile house so that Jason could impress me with his knowledge of reptiles and amphibians. And that he did. Only, by this point in our relationship, we’ve been to lots of zoos and I’ve heard most of it. So I was only minimally impressed.

JT poses with some big cats.

We went inside one building and were surprised to see this sign:


The entire building was an exhibit on “animal thinking” – there were brains from different animals, signs that asked, “what is thinking? how do you measure thinking?”, and a video about chimps choosing between one grape or two grapes.  It was interesting to see how the concept of “thinking” was presented to the lay public – this is something that I’ve not seen a zoo exhibit on before.  And now, a survey question: can (nonhuman) animals think?  How do we know?  What is thinking anyways?  Kind of makes your head hurt just to think about it, doesn’t it?

After a few hours, it got cold and a little rainy, and we decided to leave. But! We hadn’t seen the Kimodo Dragons. So we asked a zookeeper where we could find them and he told us… only, when we got there, they were not on exhibit. Jason was even more disappointed than he was on Sunday when he couldn’t find popcorn! This was the 4th zoo we had visited that had Kimodo Dragons (Louisville, Honolulu, Cincinnati, and National Zoo), and 3 of those zoos (Honolulu, Cincinnati, and National Zoo) didn’t have the dragons out when we visited. Jason was bummed.

The rest of the evening was spent walking around in search of something to eat, then heading to the airport.  We again experienced the wonderfulness that is warm chocolate chip cookies on our flight home, I managed to get my ipod back during our layover in Milwaukee, and we made it back to our house sometime after midnight.  All in all, an excellent trip, a good mix of business and fun.  But I’m pretty happy to be back home.

Away

November 16, 2008 at 10:56 pm | Posted in Travel | 3 Comments
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We’re on vacation! (or business, depending on how you view things.)

JT and I made the trip from the cities to our nation’s capital (and birthplace of JT) yesterday, and we’re pretty psyched to be here. We had a great trip, filled with chocolate chip cookies thanks to the awesomeness that is Midwest Airlines. We had a stopover in MKE for lunch, so Mom and brother Trevor met us. It was so fun to see them and catch up on the gossip (Trevor had some SERIOUS gossip to share about his 5th grade class. It’s so funny how quickly he’s growing up all of a sudden). Even if we will see them in a week and a half for Turkey Day. And, yes, Mom, I am DEFINITELY holding you to your offer to help peel wallpaper and paint!

In embarrassing news, I left my ipod on the plane. This marks the second thing I’ve left somewhere in the last 4 months. Shortly after we landed, I received a phone call saying that they had found the ipod and I can pick it up in the MKE airport on my return trip. I suspect this has to do with the fact that a) it’s a first generation model, b) my name is engraved on the back, and c) midwesterners are nice.

Anyways, we made it here. I ran into 2 people I knew from grad school on our flights, so it was nice to catch up with them for a bit. We grabbed the metro and headed to our hotel (yes, a taxi would have been paid for, since I’m technically here on business, but, hey! we *heart* public transit).

We got a little lost on our way from the metro station to the hotel (it was a 4-block walk). I had my spidey senses out, and they were telling me where to go, but JT insisted we were lost. When I offered to ask someone on the street which way Vermont Avenue was, he looked at me, HORRIFIED, and said in a hushed voice, “you don’t do that here.” I’m all, “what? You think we’re lost, why would we NOT ask a local for directions.” But, according to Jason, a native East-coaster, you most certainly DO NOT ask other passers by for directions. Even if the humidity is at 98% and it’s just been raining. Even if it’s dark. Even if you’re hungry and toting a suitcase around. I wonder if other East-Coasters will agree with his assessment (because I don’t buy it). Feel free to comment and end our debate.

JT stomping around the city with a suitcase.

Anyways, we got in around dinnertime and called our friends to meet us for dinner. We ended up roaming the city for about an hour looking for somewhere to eat… the city was overrun with neuroscientists and ACDC fans due to a meeting and a concert, respectively. It was probably one of the strangest combinations of people ever. Ahh… DC is a melting pot. Right?

After walking for a bit and passing several very cool but uber crowded restaurants, we stopped at Harrys. It looked like a decent enough pub – dark wood, pool tables, tvs, and (most importantly) there wasn’t a line. Imagine our surprise when the hostess paraded us through the entire restaurant, out the back door, through a dingy hotel lobby, and then into an entirely different restaurant. Harriett’s had blue vinyl booths, bright lights, and small children. “Same menu” the hostess explained before leaving us alone and completely dumbfounded.

I sat there for about 30 seconds before deciding that I had just traveled all day and was. not. interested. in eating in a glorified Denny’s. Snotty? Yes. But I’m on vacation! I want to check out the local cuisine. So I made everyone get up and go somewhere else. And we ended up at Ella’s woodfire pizza grill, and it was amazing. At Ella’s, we had delicious gourmet pizzas, an amazing waiter, and drinks! Good drinks! Lots of drinks (and by “lots of” I mean “more than 2”)! So we sat there and chatted for about 4 hours. And then met up with other friends and had more drinks. And by 3 am, we needed chips and gatorade, so we headed back to the hotel (which conveniently houses a CVS). And the reason I’m telling you all of this is so that when I blog at 9pm on a Friday or mention that I can’t stay up past 10pm – even on weekends, you will remember this one time when I stayed out past midnight and was social. Like, with real people. Fun people.

At Ella’s

JT and our awesome waiter.

Anyways.

This morning, Jason’s parents and aunt and uncle drove down from Philly to spend some time with us. We hit up the old Ebbett Grill, which was delicious. I had some awesome pumpkin french toast with maple syrup and just thinking about it now makes my mouth water. Mmm.

JT and the Jims

After brunch, we headed to the mall and checked out the Museum of Natural History and the American Indian Museum. A good time was had by all. Even if I don’t quite understand the relationship between CO2 emissions and the pH of the ocean, even if JT made me look at tarantulas and centipedes, and even if the popcorn cart closed before he could purchase any.

We saw this on the way to the mall. Can you see the yucky-ness here? Here’s another hint:

Yep, it was a rat! First city rat I’ve seen in a while…

JT and I in front of the capitol.

JT angry about the closed popcorn stand.

Awesome view of the capitol at sunset.

This cart has a nicer kitchen than our house. We were a little jealous.

After our mall adventures, we said goodbye to the fam so that we could get ready for a business dinner (the reason we’re here). Dinner was a bit awkward at first, as we didn’t know anyone else in the room, but we quickly started talking with a few others and were served an amazing Louisiana-inspired seafood meal, so all went well.

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