Music Under Glass


So, last Sunday, I tried out a new event, one I had never been to before; Music Under Glass, at the Como Conservatory. Now, it is true that the Como Conservatory is among my favorite places in the Twin Cities and I love any excuse to visit, but a free indoor concert seemed particularly appealing and it turned out to be well worth a visit.


Transitioning from Minnesota February to Music Under Glass

It seems as though the event has been going on for the last few winters, but this was the first year I had heard of it and I quickly put Music Under Glass on my to-do list, it just seemed like such a fun winter “staycation.” Music Under Glass 2014 offers a lot of folky, bluesy bands and musicians from eclectic backgrounds to perform Sunday afternoons from 4:30 to 6:30 in the sunken garden wing of the Como Conservatory. The series started on January 5 and last week I managed to attend for the first time to hear the local bohemian group, the Café Accordion Orchestra play. The Orchestra, who has appeared on the Prairie Home Companion, seemed a particularly apt introduction to the event, which packed every inch of the conservatory, the French infused music reverberating throughout the lovely greenhouse. Setting foot into the conservatory, the misty, warm, earthy odor of the plants and moisture inside made one think of a pocket of spring in this frozen, arctic land and the music made the interior almost ethereal. Even the shoulder to shoulder crowd packing into the sunken garden, and the rest of the conservatory, could not detract from the music.


Upon first arriving, a little after 4:30, the conservatory was really packed, standing room only. In the future, I would recommend getting there early to claim a little space on a bench or ledge. In spite of the crowd, the vibrant, fun tunes of the Café Accordion Orchestra made a really romantic ambiance in the lush, tropical escape of the greenhouse. So close to Valentine’s Day, I would imagine it would make a really nice destination to bring your SO for a romantic, intimate experience. As the light faded from the wintry sky above the conservatory and the palm trees were silhouetted against the crystal panes of the ceiling, the music drifting through the lush, tropical plants with the perfume of spring flowers, it was easy to think we were far from the middle of winter. It is just  the that all of this was being offered free of charge! Tonight, the band appearing will be the Ericksons and next week, the last Sunday in 2014, Jack Klatt will be appearing. I may not be able to see another this year, but I am definitely putting on the list for next winter and recommend that you do too!


Something to Do With 8 Inches of Snow


Winter wonderland at Carver Park

As we in the Twin Cities and greater Minnesota are digging out from Thursday’s lovely “snowpocalypse,” we now find ourselves with a lot of snow to work with, perhaps even more snow that we know what do with! Adding to an already snowy year, I think it is safe to say that a lot of people are probably a little of sick of it all by now.

Time flies, though, and it will feel like no time at all before late March or early April begins to turn all of this snow into a wet sludge, exposing all of the road grit and trash that it has hidden over the winter, and that is no fun at all. So, take advantage of the soft, billowing drifts now, while you still have a chance, I say! An easy, not too difficult, fun way to celebrate the plastering we got is to do a little snowshoeing. Find one of the Twin Cities’ great bits of nature and take a leisurely stroll through the woods, your feet rising above the layers of snow laid down over the winter. Even if you do not have your own snowshoes, there are plenty of places to borrow or rent them for moderate prices.

A few weeks ago, back in January, I organized a trip out to Lowry Nature Center, at Carver Park Reserve, part of the Three Rivers Parks District, to do some snowshoeing. My sister and I scouted it out last February and have been a couple times this year, it is a really fun way to pass a lazy sunny winter Sunday afternoon. Lowry Nature Center, the oldest public nature center built in the Twin Cities, was one of the main field trip destinations for my elementary school, so coming back was extremely nostalgic. Not much had changed superficially, it was still a great ‘70s vintage building filled with stuff I loved as a kid; bones, strips of fur to touch, aquariums with local fauna, and miles of trails, winding through marshes, bogs, hardwood forests, and prairie. Buried under inches of snow, the place looked majestic, even with the happy cries of kids and their families from the nearby sledding hills. The Nature Center also offers a variety of programs and activities, particularly for school age children.

9:00 AM-5:00 PM Mon-Sat; Noon-5:00 PM Sun
Phone: 763.694.7650

7025 Victoria Drive
Victoria, MN 55386

Snowshoes can be rented for the modest fee of $5 or you can bring your own, of course . Just make sure to bundle up and it should be a great way to get some winter exercise. The trails are also great for cross country skiing and you can also rent sleds for the kids or the nostalgic (perhaps we’ll try that next time).


Or, adult children. Whatever!

50 Things to Do in the Twin Cities Before You Die

Maggie LaMaack compiled a list of “50 Things to Do in the Twin Cities Before You Die,” in today’s City Pages, which seemed like a fun, comprehensive collection with a lot of good ideas and things to do. As I am a sucker for these kinds of lists, I thought I’d pass it along. So far, I’ve done 17 items on the list, which is a good start, but I’m eager for more. I would particularly enjoy getting in a Northeast Brewery tour, bike the entire greenway, or go on an ice cream crawl (what a great idea!), not necessarily in that order. How many have you done?

MSP Reading Time: Twin Cities Noir

Twin Cities Noir

While there are adventures enough in the Twin Cities in “real life,” there are plenty of books and movies that exist that allow one to explore them without leaving home, whether you are living over in Falcon Heights, or somewhere further afield. Perhaps it is our strong local arts scene, our commitment to higher education and libraries, or just something to do on those times when the wind chill does not go above 0 Fahrenheit for a week, but I’ve always noticed a deep interest in books and reading around here. As a librarian, I approve! Just this week, both Minneapolis and St. Paul were again praised for our literacy rate, which pleases me. So, as part of MSP Adventure Time, I will also include MSP Reading Time!

Over at my book blog, ReadingRainstorm on BookLikes, I review some good Twin Cities books. Check out it!

Also, this afternoon I will be checking out the Music Under Glass concert at the Como Conservatory, another of my favorite Twin Cities spots. I will be reporting on this in the next day or so as well. Should be fun!

Hot Tea and Cold Ice

There are very few things more Minnesotan than an ice house. When the lakes freeze solid enough to drive a pickup on, across the state  you can find small cabins popping up on the ice, solitary or in close groups. These are ice fishers, a particularly obsessive group of fishing aficionados, who drill holes in the ice to catch perch, walleyes, or even eelpout. Some are hardy enough simply squat on a bucket out on the lake, undefended from the driving wind or snow. Most, if they can manage it, prefer an ice house, from spare shacks to heated, opulent cabins complete with TVs . At least, so I’ve heard, I’ve never actually been. However, another group of people endemic to the Twin Cities has, for the last ten years or so, also been making the ice house their milieu; artists. The Art Shanty Projects has come to be one of the things I really look forward to in February.  Moving from its previous home on Medicine Lake in New Hope, this year the Art Shanty’s have set up on White Bear Lake.

February 1st, 2014 was a perfect day, at least for February in Minnesota. Temperatures approaching a balmy 20, sunny in that Minnesota midwinter way, glare off of the ground covered in snow. We have had our share of both cold and snow this year, which I guess I find comforting. What better way to celebrate the snow than with a hot cup of tea and hanging out in ice houses? I could not think of anything better, so I set out for Verdant Tea on Franklin Avenue and the Art Shanty Project 2014, currently camped on White Bear Lake.

I was visiting my parents and we decided to take advantage of the fact that everyone had Saturday off to head off to the Art Shanty Project’s current home at White Bear Lake. Just like childhood, my sister and my mother and father left their house on the far edge of the western suburbs and piled into the mini-Van for a day out. On the way to that far flung suburb, we started with breakfast and tea at Verdant Tea at 2111 East Franklin Avenue. In spite of Mom and Dad’s long time coffee addiction, both my sister and I rebelled by becoming total tea snobs.

We’d been meaning to check out Minneapolis’ newest tea venue, intrigued by  capitalizing on the local craze for craft beer by offering tasting flights of tea, and were not disappointed. I have been a loyal customer of the TeaSource (a later topic) for years,  but I think that Verdant Tea is a worthy addition to the Twin Cities tea scene. The “tasting room” offers some good food in addition to a wide variety of loose leaf tea varieties.  We were there for the “morning happy hour,” offered daily from 8-10 am, in which one can have a bowl of congee and a bottomless cup of hot tea, along with snacks, for less than $10 a person.  The congee, a satisfying rice porridge, was delicious. Both gluten free and vegan, it is offered in both a gingery, coconut infused sweet version and an equally good savory version with plenty of shiitake and green onions. The tea, though, that was great, a rich black Chinese variety which tend to be my favorites. They offer such a wide variety of teas that I only just scratched the surface of on this visit and I will definitely attend one of the tea tasting events in the future. The location was open, airy, and comfortable and it looks just perfect for a book or writing group.

I have lived in the West Metro for most of my life, so I have rarely made the trip out past St. Paul into the eastern suburb of White Bear Lake. I think I can recall visiting only once before, at least 20 years ago. It seems like a nice town (in my experience, a bit like Hopkins) with a historic downtown featuring various shops and restaurants. But we were here for the art shanties.

The Art Shanty Projects 2014 was, as expected, great. We visited it in its last two years, 2010 and 2012 at its last location on Medicine Lake; an outdoor art installation celebrating the joy that is Minnesota in the winter. I know, I know, right? It’s great! Each shanty is put together by a different group of artists or other creative types, with a different theme or activity attached, from the profound to the absurd. There is so much imagination on display, suspended above a lake on a shelf of ice. The best part, they are totally hands on, inviting the visitors to interact and create as well, leaving their own marks upon the snowy little village. Walking up the plowed road to the art shanty village, it was hard for us to decide which direction to take on the circle of little houses, each promising a different idea or activity. While we did not get a chance to visit each of them, we experienced a lot of fun and interesting ideas.


This is a shanty on Medicine Lake, 2010. My phone sadly went dead this year.

At the Curling Clubhouse Ice Shanty, we tried our hands at some curling, first time I ever attempted this archetypal northern sport. I knew it involved pushing large, heavy rock like things across the ice, but I did not know how fun it is to do that. You wear a little slick shoe covering to make your foot slide on the ice even more smoothly, and then you launch yourself onto the ice in an attempt to hurl the weight towards a target, while another person attempts to smooth the ice with a little stick to quicken its journey. I am probably doing a bad job explaining this, but you can learn a lot more by trying it out here.  I actually enjoyed it a lot and may have been inspired to try out it more seriously in the future.

The Jigsaw Shanty was also really fun, featuring walls made out of huge, foam board puzzle pieces; inside the heated shanty, you can take a break from the chill by painting bizarre, whimsical scenes which will be the next day’s giant jig saw, which visitors can endeavor to piece together in the snow next to the shanty.

Like most years, the Dance Shanty is a great way to work off some of those winter blues, and they play some great music too, I heard some Air while I was there. It is also a great place to warm up as well, as a bunch of people jumping around in a small, enclosed space dressed in snowsuits and jackets heats the place up nicely. The Elevator Shanty was just fun, pure surreal weirdness. I particularly loved the little lobby set up in front of the shanty and the elevator attendant uniforms worn by the operators. My favorite was definitely Ice Ice Maybe shanty, a “boutique” offering a variety of random kitsch for “sale,” each frozen in a little block of ice, from plastic dinosaurs to a ninja throwing star. In order to purchase the merchandise, one must explain to the proprietor just how this piece fits into your life, and it is not a sure deal. I did manage to talk my way into a vintage Minnesota State Fish postcard, owing to my love of the state, travel, and bizarre desire to accumulate postcards as a kind of way to prove to myself I was really there.

I also enjoyed the Mailroom Shanty, a shiny cube that, when entered, reveals a charmingly tilted floor with a tiny desk at the back, which actually gives the illusion of walking down a long hallway. At the desk, visitors can write letters and stuff them into one of the many little shelves or read what others have already written.The Creep Shanty, developed by the same group who brings you the Soap Factory Haunted House every October (I will brave it this time, I swear!) looked really interesting as well, but unfortunately was still under construction while we were there. As we got ready to leave, the vibrant scene was capped off by a parade that was, to me, the very image of Minnesota creativity. While a wind band played ska-tunes, the many polar bear bycycle contraptions of Pedal Bear patrolled about the art shanties. It was a great last image of the festivities.

The Art Shanty Project 2014 will be staying around each weekend for the rest of the month, so check it out soon! It is located just off the shore from White Bear Lake County Park. I was told that they will be returning to a yearly schedule so that art shanties will be reappearing on a frozen Twin Cities lake next February and we will not have to wait until 2016 for more, which is a good thing. I highly recommend checking it out as soon as possible!

Welcome to Minneapolis-St. Paul Adventure Time!


Spoonbridge and Cherry at the Sculpture Gardens, a favorite location of mine and inspiration for my online moniker.

We are fortunate to live in such a dynamic, vibrant metropolis, but it seems the secret is not quite out yet. There’s a lot of fun, cool stuff to do in the Twin Cities. I’ve known this for awhile now. In fact, the other month I was marveling at all of the fun, cool stuff there is that I haven’t even tried yet, let alone the things that I have and want to do again. Why, I thought to myself, why don’t I compile some of these things for the benefit of people who live here and visitors alike, throwing light on some of the odd, the wonderful, the beautiful, the inspirational aspects of our Minnesota metropolis. Seemed like a good idea at the time…

So, here we are!

I have lived in the Twin Cities area for most of my life, and I am still discovering fun and new things to do. Minneapolis-St. Paul may not be London, Paris, New York City, or Tokyo but we do have a quirky charm all our own and the rewards of delving into the hidden secrets we have to offer can be just as adventurous. Minneapolis, St. Paul, and even our surrounding suburbs (from whence I come), hold weird and wonderful secrets and discoveries hiding in plain site, and I will do my best to document them for fellow adventurers.

My common procedure here will be to experience some fun and interesting location or event in the Twin Cities and maybe pair it with a complimentary or nearby restaurant, hand out some of my favorite recommendations and advice on taking advantage of the best the Cities have to offer. I will also be keeping expense in mind and aiming for value- though on occasion, I may splurge a bit! I may also travel a bit further afield into the Minnesota hinterlands as well. When it’s adventure time, MSP is a good place to be!