Tryorama: Grown Up Club

Back in January, Lindsay and I attended a really fun monthly event in Minneapolis, the latest activity organized by the Grown Up Club.  Really a genius idea, the people behind Grown Up Club have been putting together fun, nostalgic things to do hoping to “inject fun and adventure back into adult life” since 2013. That’s definitely a sentiment I can get behind! Obviously… I don’t need much excuse to indulge in youthful shenanigans in spite of that slowly creeping maturity that one is forced to take on after a certain age, and it seems that I am far from alone, there!

How had I not heard of them before Lindsay signed us up for their latest awesome extracurricular, Tryorama: A Diorama Fair for Grown Ups? I recall making dioramas (dinosaur centered) in my own elementary school experience, so it was really fun to get into this with the full command of adult faculties! The theme for this one was fascinating in particular, creating a vision of “American Lyfe: 50 Years in the Future.” What good can come of the horrifying present we find ourselves in? Will the year 2067 be a desperate hellscape or a technological wonderland. Will we even still be around? It was up to the participants of the fair to express their hopes and fears of the future in a 3d display, as well as vie for the coveted prize ribbon of Empress o’ Effort (or at least the title of Official Trier?). Not to mention the $100 prize or the complimentary tickets to the Minnesota Zoo’s adult night for the winners. The competition was on.


Our completed diorama! 


Lindsay and I pooled our talents and built a Library of the Future to describe what the library will be like in half a century. Of course, in my professional opinion the profession will be more important than ever in guiding a lost public through the vast seas of information, especially when private interests make it more difficult to access this info, but as can be seen, we took it to some new places, too! After much cutting, gluing, and scribbling, we got it all together and lugged it on the bus to Minneapolis!   



Held at Sisyphus Brewing, a cozy little brewery near Dunwoody (and a short walk from my old stomping grounds near Loring Park), the tap room was soon filled with all manner of elaborate dioramas and cool set ups. Along with Sisyphus’ rich and delicious beers, the participants were free to scope out the competition, play shuffleboard, and color awesome extreme coloring pages just like when you’re parents dropped you off at one of those kids care places when they went to see a movie. Except with beer!


Photo from Grown Up Club

In the end, in spite of some really fierce competition, our diorama got third place, which came with a prize of two free beers! Hey, at least it was something! The next Grown Up Club event sounds fun, too! On Tuesday, February 28th, they will be hosting The Singles Exchange, “Offline Online Dating via Proxy,” at Bauhaus Brewlabs in Northeast Minneapolis. Here, participants will prepare a powerpoint presentation on one of their single friends, being sure to point out their prospective dater’s strengths and weaknesses. The subject is banned from attending. In any case, watching such a display sounds fun, though neither Lindsay or I know any single searchers we could spotlight, but maybe you do?


Lindsay shows off our winnings! 

Minneapolis Reading Time: Jazz Music at the St. Paul Public Library


Rice Park’s statue of F. Scott Fitzgerald on a snowy spring day not unlike today. You know, Fitzgerald hated snow!

[Cross post with my Reading Rainstorm blog segment, Land of 10,000 Pages]

I attended a very interesting little event at the St. Paul Public Library a few weeks ago and have just gotten around to writing about it! Music of the Jazz Age was a relaxing, casual Sunday afternoon event held at the ornate Magazine Room on the third floor of the George Latimer Central Library. This was one of the first events by a new literary group in the Twin Cities, Fitzgerald in St. Paul, a nonprofit dedicated to celebrating the achievements of classic American author F. Scott Fitzgerald in his hometown of St. Paul.


George Latimer Central Library, St. Paul

This is particularly interesting to me as I prepare to move in with my sweetheart into Fitzgerald’s very own neighborhood in St. Paul! Yes, I’m crossing the river and moving into the other Twin City! As was mentioned by the librarian in the introduction to the Music of the Jazz Age program, we were walking in the footsteps of Fitzgerald in at the George Latimer Central Library, and in my own daily life too! Of note, the Magazine Room also houses the F. Scott Fitzgerald Reading Alcove. It was a superb space to listen to some of the music of his time. Fitzgerald and his wife Zelda Fitzgerald themselves coined the term “the Jazz Age,” to refer to the era they lived in, and some very talented musicians were invited to perform some examples of the jazz that inspired the moniker.

Vocalist Connie Evingson, accompanied by Dan Chouinard on piano and Chris Bates on bass, performed some elegant renditions of some popular pieces from the 1920s, including some mentioned in a few of Fitzgerald’s stories. Three O’Clock in the Morning, one of the songs sung by Evingson, was mentioned in The Great Gatsby, for instance. A few excerpts from Fitzgerald’s works were read and one felt almost as though one had gone back in time, to when you were actually allowed to smoke in the library! Although Lindsay and I were among a handful of people under age 50 in the audience, I would recommend people of all ages keeping an eye on Fitzgerald in St. Paul, which will be offering a monthly series the first Sunday of every month at FitzFirst@Four. The next one, at Common Good Books, discusses Fitzgerald’s story The Rich Boy on April 3rd at 4 pm. Similar stories appear in one of the books I mentioned in my entry My Twin Cities Reading List, The St. Paul Stories of F. Scott Fitzgerald.


153518Next, I think I’ll be reading this book, A Guide to F. Scott Fitzgerald’s St. Paul.l Perhaps, as I walk in the footsteps of the great writer, I’ll share more of my discoveries!






A January of Music



Interior of George Latimer Central Library, Loud at the Library

During the dead of a Minnesota winter, whether during biting subzero temperatures, dreary winter thaws, or majestic but disruptive blizzard is to take advantage of some of the Twin Cities’ venues for live music, listening to bands both local and visiting our cities. Over the past month, Lindsay and I have seen some pretty awesome shows, in some pretty awesome and intimate settings. In all of them, it felt like we were just hanging out with the bands! Here are a few highlights from a January of music!


The Anonymous Choir, at Icehouse

Probably my favorite show of the month (and the year so far) was the Anonymous Choir Sings Leonard Cohen, a beautiful and romantic interpretation of Cohen’s classic songs by Anonymous Choir. Nona Marie Invie of Dark Dark Dark’s fifteen person women’s choir, . The venue, Icehouse, was a particularly apt place to experience the dulcet vocals and piano the choir specializes in. This was made even more enjoyable as Lindsay and I enjoyed a few of Icehouses’ heady, delicious cocktails at the site of our first date! Wow, romantic!


StoLyette at the Nomad World Pub

Another of my favorite local bands I found out about a year ago at the Cedar Cultural Center, StoLyette played a few weeks ago at the Nomad World Pub, part of Bones and Beeker’s Minneseries, held there every Thursday night. The Nomad is a great, relaxed pub with a pretty strong list of craft beers and cocktails (in both senses of the word) and is a great place to experience some live music. Dosh had some interesting and hypnotic tunes, mixed live, and again StoLyette entranced me with their ethereal, eerie sound and modernized Russian folksongs sung in Russian! Pretty cool.

When seeing shows at First Avenue, I think I prefer the 7th Street Entry which, while a little cramped, always seems to be a cozier, more intimate space for listening to bands. Earlier in January we went to see one of Lindsay’s favorite bands, Lower Dens, an indie pop band from Baltimore on their return to the Twin Cities. The group performed a lively and energetic show for a packed audience eager for their dreamy but upbeat sound.


Straining to see Lower Dens through the crowd at 7th Street Entry

The last music event we experienced in January was one of the most interesting. Celebrating the reopening of the historic, elegant George Latimer Central Library branch of the St. Paul Public Library, this year’s first Loud at the Library concert was awesome. Featuring local sibling singers The Ericksons and the headliner, folk rock singer Reina del Cid, it was a great location for some awesome, upbeat songs, like this one!

In between sets, a DJ played selections from the St. Paul Public Library‘s own, awesome vinyl collection (which are available to check out!) Thanks to sponsor Summit Brewing, another local St. Paul institution, bottles of free beer were provided. I will definitely have to pay off the fines I owe to the St. Paul Public Library so that I can make use of their collections (in particular their vinyl) in the future!


Reina del Cid, Loud at the Library

Loud at the Library will be continuing to bring live music to the George Latimer Central Library in February and March, so definitely check that out!



Blizzard 2016 Adventure


Blizzard on Nicollet

So, over the past few days the local media around here has been buzzing about the first real blizzard to hit Minnesota in 2016, and this time around, they weren’t just talking. We got a lot of snow!


Snow on Hennepin, from Teen Central, HCL Minneapolis Central branch

Yesterday, I worked at the lovely Minneapolis Central Library branch, watching the wind and snow through the expansive windows of the building while helping those patrons brave enough to come in that day, tromping snow and happy for the cozy feeling inside the library. Watching snow accumulate through a window is one of my favorite winter experiences in Minnesota. Of course, it helped that I did not have to brave the roads to get home, living a conveniently walkable distance away, so I got to experience the blanket of white down Nicollet Avenue and into the Loring Park neighborhood. I only slipped and fell in the snow once! I’m looking forward to heading out into the fluffy, frozen stuff for some skiing, snowshoeing, or hiking soon!

(As an aside, I can’t believe it’s taken me this long to add a “Weather” tag to my blog)


A snow muffled sidewalk…

Club Book at Stillwater Public Library: Emily St. John Mandel


Front entrance of the Stillwater Public Library, on a chilly Monday night in October

Monday, I attended one of the Twin Cities many author events, listening to the Canadian author Emily St. John Mandel discuss her book Station Eleven at the Stillwater Public Library, in the Washington County Library System. I do not often make it out this far east, sadly, so I had not yet been to this impressive library building before. A beautiful, impressive Carnegie Library building updated to serve the modern world, I would love the chance to explore the stacks and resources at my leisure in the future. Hosted by Club Book, one of the many free literary events hosted by local library systems, courtesy of the Legacy Amendment! Check out those writers coming up in the next few weeks!

The evening was a grey and chilly one, the historic town nestled into the St. Croix river valley under hazy clouds and quickly changing autumn leaves. Perfect for the approach of Halloween and a discussion of the end of the world. As I wrote recently in my book blog, I have been reading a lot of post-apocalyptic literature lately and Station Eleven was by far my favorite, and one which generates a lot of discussion, as I discussed here. When I heard that Emily St. John Mandel herself would be in Stillwater to talk about it, I was there! Listening to her discuss her writing process and reasons behind writing about this topic was inspiring. Why are people so interested in stories of the end of the world? Some of the theories Mandel has heard include the continued reality of economic inequality, divorce, or a longing for redemption. For us impermament beings, perhaps, it just feels like this “fraught world we lie in always seems like its ending.”

She chose to write of the world after the Georgian Flu and the end of the modern world in order to reflect upon her sense of awe at this world we live in, one in which we can talk to people on the other side of the globe instantaneously and travel there in a matter of hours. For a lot of people, myself included, much of this world seems so precarious, yet of course we always take it for granted the internet will still be working in the morning. As Mandel said, “every season brings a new wave of absolutely disastrous narrative.” It appears that, just last week, some weirdoes were predicting that last Thursday would be, for real, judgement day. I just saw a new article discussing which American cities would be totally underwater in a century or so. Whatever your background or belief system, it seems that the end of the world is a perennial interest of many of us; I know that I find myself pondering what the coming years will bring.

In Station Eleven, the cause of the collapse of the age of electricity is the Georgian Flu, a virulent epidemic that kills an estimated 99% of the population. Mendel said she chose an epidemic due to the apolitical, timeless nature of the threat- unlike a nuclear war, the political climate will not become dated. Plagues and epidemics are among the scariest threats, like earthquakes, it is not a matter of if, but when. People might dress themselves as the walking dead and drink a lot, as in the upcoming Zombie Pub Crawl this weekend, but the fear remains- not of zombies, but of germs.  

One of the things that I liked most about Station Eleven is its realism, but also its hope, whatever comes, humans will survive, and more than survive. The novel’s arc words, “Survival is insufficient,” reflect this, as the members of the Traveling Symphony continue to travel the Great Lakes region performing Shakespeare. As a librarian, this is always the crux of my thoughts; how will we keep up, preserve, the cultural, artistic, and scientific achievements of this and earlier ages? Throughout Station Eleven, aside from the works of Shakespeare, one of the leading remains of our world that reminded was the small press graphic novel of Miranda, which was read and absorbed by surviving generations in very different ways. I am sure that, in coming centuries, this confluence of the St. Croix, Minnesota, and Mississippi Rivers will continue to remain a hub of human activity, and I hope that we can make it better and continue, not just to survive, but to thrive. 

Before I left, of course, I had to purchase another of Emily St. John Mandel’s novels, which I look forward to reading soon!

Here are a novels that depict a post-apocalyptic world in the former Twin Cities; check them out at any of our local libraries! Let me know if you discover any others!

River Rats, Caroline Stevermer, 1992– a young adult novel set after a nuclear war, following a group of young traveling musicians as they travel up and down the Mississippi. The silent and empty ruins of Minneapolis and St. Paul are among the most haunting portions of the novel.

Bone Dance, Emma Bull, 1991 – An interesting cyber punk, post-apocalyptic urban fantasy (how often do you see one of those, especially in Minnesota?), Bone Dance doesn’t go right out a say it is set about a century after a nuclear war devastated North America, but there are plenty of hints to show where it is, including a climatic scene in the remains of the IDS Tower.

Minnesota Cold, Cynthia Kraack, 2009– This interesting novel depicts Minnesota after an another nuclear event, as an orderly but tyrannical rogue state, which I can describe only as North Korea as run by Target. It is interesting that I can still recognize aspects of the state in the author’s descriptions.

Cifiscape Vol. 1, The Twin Cities– This intriguing anthology of local speculative fiction has a post-apocalyptic bent. Most of the short stories and comics collected here depict the Twin Cities after some kind of collapse or dystopia. The cover image, from Ken Avidor’s Bicyclopolis is one of the most atmospheric images of an apocalyptic Twin Cities I’ve seen.

The Floating Library 2015


The Floating Library

On Saturday, I went on yet another new adventure, one of my favorites of the year so far.

After the fierce storms of the night before, which knocked out power across the metro (and which I completely slept through except to note, hey, there’s lightning), the day opened sunny and warm, with a stiff, refreshing breeze. My internet was down. A perfect day to head up to Silver Lake at Silverwood Park and visit the Floating Library.


These open topped kayaks were a little funny.

The Floating Library is an experimental public art project organized by Sarah Peters, a library of art books set adrift upon an urban lake, one the Twin Cities most prized summer locales. Also, as a librarian, I find it awesome to see how the ideas of the profession are reflected through the lens of art; Peters’ collection of unique and bizarre, lovely and thought provoking books, zines, and other mediums which expand what can be thought of as a book and what can be thought of as a library.

It is a great melding of Minnesota’s geological landscape with its wonderful cultural resources, the natural and the made coming together. On its third year, the Floating Library has traveled to Silver Lake, in St. Anthony, which seems a great place for the project. Silverwood Park is the designated “art park” of the Three Rivers Park system, and one I had never been to before. The lake is a small but picturesque place, with a couple of wooded islands, all bright green under the blue skies of the Minnesota summer. A perfect backdrop to enjoy some art books and zines.

Renting kayaks from the park facilities, my sister and I paddled out to the Floating Library, we found ourselves the first visitors to this years library. We pushed through the wind, moored to the cute library raft with its fluttering flag and shelves of materials overlooking the water and learned about the project and its history from Sarah. The collection includes circulating materials, which you can take anywhere in the park to peruse at your leisure, and return in some of the book drop receptacles scattered throughout the park.


Library Ahoy!

Though the breeze on occasion made browsing a bit duct over the next couple hours, we browsed many titles from the stacks, both from the circulating materials and the reference collection, being recommended many interesting materials by Sarah and the other volunteers. There were examples from all over the country and the world, but my favorites were of course the local pieces. The little purple zine recording all of Princes’ lyrics that mention food, or the book that detailed the bodies of water from all of Minneapolis’ sister cities throughout the world. The breathtaking stereoscopic photos of miniature ships in their little box with the viewfinder like viewing glasses was particularly awesome, but those were among the tip of the iceberg of the things kept in the library. Speaking of that, the iceberg book, made of biodegradable ricepaper printed with images of icebergs patrons were encouraged to set adrift in the lake was also a really fun project. Of course, I have to mention the folding collection of water themed postcards, being a postcard fanatic.


Duck Rabbits, accompanied by an art book available from the library.

I was really inspired by the innovation and creativity illustrated by these items; so many different styles, subjects, and ideas. You really have to see them to appreciate the diversity of the offerings. I have come to be very interested in zines and other physical self publishing, especially after the work my cousin accomplished in the medium, and I just need a little push, I hope, to start putting together more of my own. My goal next year is contribute something to the library, which is made from the donations of artists, bookmakers, writers, and other creative types.

In addition to the books and zines, we enjoyed the natural denizens of the lake as well, the turtles, purple martins, dragonflies, great blue herons and egrets that inhabited the banks.

The library will be setting sail again next weekend, July 25-26 11 am to 5, and on the evening of August 1st, for a moonlight paddle and poetry reading closing event at 8:30. Visiting Silverwood Park and the library is free, though you can rent canoes and kayaks from the park for the reasonable price of $5 an hour, if you can’t bring your own.

Another great place to check out zines year round in Minneapolis is the MCTC Library Zine collection; a few that I’ve collaborated on in the past can be found here, along with a lot more.

Silverwood Park, 2500 County Rd E
St. Anthony, MN

Minneapolis Community & Technical College
Library Zine Collection
1501 Hennepin Avenue


Book Return Box, Silverwood Park

Northern Spark 2015


Mill Ruins, just before the beginning

Another ethereal, crowded, thought-provoking night of art and wonder in Minneapolis, here are a few highlights from my adventures this time around. This year, the weather held and the night sky began to clear out into the early hours of the morning. I wandered, by foot and by bike it from Mill City to Downtown, taking in the sights and the people watching. It was the first NS I traversed downtown Minneapolis, and I really enjoyed how downtown seemed to have been all but taken over by bicyclists and pedestrians. I certainly did not experience all of the , but that is part of the fun, as you never know what kind of scene or idea you’ll stumble into next on your exploration. I just chose a few must sees and let the rest of the night unfold as it happened, an open feeling that, I feel, enhanced by the free admission to all the night had to offer, though there were still plenty of food trucks on hand to choose from; it was hard to decide, and I ended up having a delicious wood fired pizza from Wild Earth Mobile Pizza Bakery, made in an oven pulled by a refurbished school bus. Here are a few highlights from my night in 2015.


Images of Syrian refugees nestled in the American ruins.

Starting out in the Mill City ruins, I roamed around the riverside parks, with their crumbling remains of former industry, watching the crowds gather and trying to decide which food truck to visit.


People prepare to brave the Night Library, to confront the horrors of censorship

I, of course, had a lot of fun in the Night Library, the Hennepin County Library’s first project at the Northern Spark, it proved very popular with a line backing up all the way up to the Stone Arch Bridge. Fortunately, I arrived early among many other librarians and library workers from the metro- delving into the maze proved a fun challenge- I’m excited to see what the library offers next year!


Images of attendees projected onto the Mill City silos, ghostly and comical giants towering over the festivities below.

After biking downtown, among posses of cyclists, I explored what was going on in Peavy Plaza, Orchestra Hall, and the Convention Center. Everywhere you looked, people were doing amazing looking things, music was tinkling through the air, and celebration was under way, even at 2 am.


Downtown at 2 am. Still awake!


A couple of the Game Lounge games

Inside Orchestra Hall, the UCLA Game Lab had set up a variety of innovative, bizarre, and challenging video games, designed to “test the limits” of the art form. From the nostalgic rampaging of Burn and Turn, to the “refuge in audacity” parody of Perfect Woman, a motion capture game prompting players to craft the perfect woman’s life, from childhood to old age, from Child Worker or Princess to 7-11 Employee or Whale Hunter to Woman Angry About her Daughter Becoming a Man or Tribal Matriarch. Happily, everyone dies as an old astronaut at the age of 115, though trying to imitate the movements of the characters on screen is a fun and difficult trick.



The constructed skylines of Mini_Polis, described by a passerby by as “A little baby Minneapolis!” invites viewers to wander among the tiny, but familiar, streets and leave messages of their love of the city on the buildings with chalk.


Rival writers take on the weight of the Canon as they attempt to respond to a nautical, Moby Dick themed prompt in the dry pools of Peavy Plaza.

Write Fight, Revolver’s on going competitive writing event was a pretty awesome way to end off the year, as rival writers stepped up to prove their wordsmithing under the crushing weight of the seminal works that came before, while an audience hungry for blood and similes stood by waiting to lend their approval to one or the other contestant. Moby Dick was described, entertainingly, as “a Wikipedia article sandwiched between two short novels,” and there was much discussion of the thoughts of mermen. Next year, I pledge to attempt the rather medieval looking apparatus, and the formidable skills of Revolver writers, myself.

Free Stuff to Do in the Twin Cities: A Short List of Favorites, including Northern Spark!


Dinkytown at night, near the Kitty Cat Klub. Free concerts offered frequently at this elaborate bar and lounge.

Some time ago, a young visitor to the Minneapolis Central Library, in town for a few months but low on funds asked me for my recommendations for the best free places to go in the metro. I listed off a few of my favorites, but I had to think for awhile. Do you remember a few years ago when the local metro libraries unveiled the Museum Adventure Pass program? I recall having a lot of fun with that, as, courtesy of MELSA, the regional library system, libraries offered brochures with cool checklists for planning your exploration of local museums and other attractions, which, if you were lucky, you could visit for free. Sadly, the program was discontinued but I still receive periodic questions about it, so people definitely remember it fondly. I certainly do. Now, when someone asks me what are some free places to go and things to do in the Twin Cities, I have to think about it. Here are so of my favorites!

Music: A new thing I discovered recently, the Kitty Cat Klub in Dinkytown, presents most of its roster of local and visiting bands, from a variety of musical backgrounds, free of cover. I saw a show a few weeks ago and was pretty impressed. The food and drink are not too badly priced, so this is a great place for the visiting student’s budget to see some unique and up and coming sounds. The atmosphere in the cavernous space, especially the basement restrooms, is worth checking out, too. I’ll definitely be back, and I’m a little depressed now I never went back in my U of M days. Here is their calendar.

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The ornate stairs inside the Minneapolis Institute of Arts

Museums: Some of the Twin Cities most awesome art museums are always free, at least for their permanent collections. The most prominent, and my favorite museum, is the Minneapolis Institute of Arts, a place you can definitely become lost in for a whole day. Celebrating it’s hundredth anniversary this year, they have a lot of stuff planned. Even without the awesome special exhibits they continually have coming through, there is enough in the collections to keep you coming back for years, especially with the shifting exhibitions showcasing various themes. Another fun thing they offer is tours, with the Book Tours being my favorites, a great idea for book clubs. Each month, the museum choose several books for adults and children and makes a special tour based on its themes and period. A few years ago, I took on based on the Picture of Dorian Gray, and it was extremely thought provoking and a great companion for the novel.

Also, the University of Minnesota’s art museum, the Weisman, in its idosincratic metallic walls, is also always free, all the time. Perfect for college students to take a break between classes, as I often did. There are also always new things being showcased here, too.

Over in downtown St. Paul, the Minnesota Museum of American Art is another great place to check out. Hidden away in a downtown office building, MMoAA has a lot of great local flavor. The other year, I saw their awesome exhibit on zines and DIY printing, and it inspired me to start up some of my own, as well. It’s been some time since I last visited, so I’m planning a trip to check out their speical exhibit this season, celebrating Summertime.

Also, museums like the Walker Art Center and the Bell Museum of Natural History offer free days as well, Thursday nights and Saturday mornings in the case of the Walker, Sundays in the case of the Bell Museum. Check it out!

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One of my favorite little parks in Minneapolis, Gold Medal Park in the Mill District.

Parks: Of course, there are loads of great parks to enjoy the weather and the glories of nature, both in the Twin Cities and in the suburbs. These just may be the crown jewels of the Twin Cities. Now that spring is turning into summer, the best months to enjoy them are coming, so take advantage while you can. Of course, I’m partial to September and October, but those go so quick!

Theodore Wirth Park, as I explored last month, is one such great place offering plenty of hiking, biking, and picnicking opportunities, such as the mysterious Quaking Bog, which seems amazingly wild to be so close to downtown. That is just one of many of Minneapolis’ well known nature oases; Minnehaha Park and its breathtaking falls, Mill Ruins Park with its legacies of Minneapolis past, and of course the iconic Lake Calhoun, to name just a few, all offer places where you can relax, maybe go swimming, or just do some people watching. Over in St. Paul, there is the incredible Indian Mounds Park, showcasing some of the last surviving archaeological relics of the great Hopewell Culture which lived in the region for millennia. Some of the mounds are thousands of years old, as ancient as many relics in Europe. With its great view of downtown St. Paul and on clear days downtown Minneapolis, it is definitely a place to check out.

The Three Rivers Park district, across suburban Hennepin, Scott, and Carver counties, also offer a lot of awesome opportunities for adventure. Referring to the Mississippi, the Minnesota, and the Crow rivers, the various parks in the system offer a lot of stuff to do, such as I explored in one of my first entries last year. Camping at Baker Park (for just $15 a night), kayaking, biking, hiking, winter activities, disc golf,  I have yet to experience everything they have.

Of course, one has to mention Como Park and its Zoo and Conservatory as well, which remain free to the public; I always enjoying visiting the Conservatory and Japanese Gardens, both in the summer and in the dead of winter. I’d recommend it to families as well as those who just like experience tropical conditions and verdant greenery in January.

Libraries: Can’t not mention the area libraries, which offer almost all of their services free; check out the metro alliance of area library systems, MELSA, which has oft updated lists of programs offered throughout, such as the Bookawocky summer reading program, in which kids can participate to score free books. Makes me nostalgic.

Events: Finally, there are a host of awesome free events, artistic and entertaining, that occur throughout the year, including tonight’s much anticipated annual Northern Spark, as I wrote about last year. Northern Spark 2015 is promising a new cavalcade of innovative, intriguing, mysterious events, taking advantage of the beauty of the urban space at night. Throughout the wee hours, downtown Minneapolis and the University district will be transformed into a venue of diverse adventures and surreal sights. The prominent band Cloud Cult will be playing the Convention Center, Mill City Museum will have live opera, and the Mill Ruin Parks will host the Night Library, the Hennepin County Library’s really cool sounding interactive maze, among many other wonders. I still don’t know exactly what I want to do. I urge everyone to take the chance to visit; it’s worth being a little tired tomorrow! It’s looking like a good time!

Other free events to keep on the calendar are the Ice Shanty projects in the winter, this summer’s Floating Library, and the Art Car Parade; I’m sure I’m neglecting a lot of them, but I’ll report on them later! I’m sure I’m neglecting a lot of stuff, that perhaps further explorations will unearth.

Last Call for Book Deals


Mivera at Minneapolis Central Library’s cookbook collection, the TX600s to 800s, on the 2nd Floor!

A few weeks ago, for National Library Week, clues were hidden at various library branches of the Hennepin County Library to find Minerva, the bronze statue housed at Minneapolis Central Library; here she is with some of the exhaustive cookbook collections at Minneapolis Central, which you should definitely check out. That’s not the only reason to make a stop soon at Minneapolis Central, the metro’s flagship public library building.

I think I might have spoken before about how much I love library book sales, maybe. At some point. Helping to support the mission of the library system, while getting great deals on hidden treasures, of course I love it. Even as I now work “inside the system,” as it were, I still can’t get enough (so much so that I’m running out of space). One of my favorites has always been the permanent Friends book store housed in Minneapolis Central . They always have some very interesting stuff, and I love stopping by to see what they’ve got- I have always had good luck there, and the prices are great. So it came as a sad surprise recently to learn that the Friends of the Hennepin County Library Bookstore at Minneapolis Central will be closing permanently at the end of the month, after having been a fixture of the library since it’s opening a decade ago. For the next few weeks, until May 30th, the bookstore will be having a closeout sale, selling off all sorts of goodies, books, audiobooks, CDs, magazines, and vinyl records for two dollars a bag! It seems more stuff is being added (or uncovered), but there is quite the frenzy going on. So, for some pretty good deals on all sorts of stuff, they will be open again tomorrow. Found some unusual comics there yesterday. Best get there while you still can! The end of an era, I guess. There will still be a permanent book store selling used books at the Ridgedale Library. They’ve had some pretty good stuff, too.


Events at the Library!

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It may be a bit of busman’s holiday, but I often find myself going to the various branches of the Hennepin County Library system and other local systems, even when I’m not actually scheduled to work there. What can I do when the library offers so many different programs and events throughout the year, all for free! Often cooperating with groups and businesses in the metro, its a great way to learn some new things for a very low prices.

While I’ve mentioned my love of the library book sales, of course, and there are always book clubs, writing groups, author talks, and other bookish activities, there is also a surprising variety of interesting community programs. I took an awesome zine crafting session a few years ago at the Nokomis branch, for instance. Learned some innovative, simple, and cheap techniques. A couple of months ago, the Eden Prairie branch presented a very interesting seminar on tea, in conjunction with the Tea Source. A great introduction to what has been called the world’s most affordable luxury! And what goes better with tea than books?

It is still surprising to me how much tea culture has started to take off in the US. I recall being introduced to tea drinking by my sister, back when I was rebelling against our coffee drinking parents. The loose leaf teas we discovered introduced us to a whole new world of flavors, and the information provided by the Tea Source to library patrons was invaluable, and also fun. It was a great way to introduce friends and family less well versed in the tea techniques; my parents, for instance.

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Tea blending ingredients are set out.

Divided into groups, we were each given a job at our tables to begin to learn the ways of the tea, including a person to measure the loose leaf tea choices, prepare the water, and set up the timer. We sampled three different types of basic black teas, Assam, Grand Keemun, and Ceylon, learned about the origins and the biology of the camellia sinensis plant, the only plant from which real “tea” is derived, the production of tea. There are six main varieties of tea, white, yellow, green, oolong, black, and puerh or “dark” tea. We were given pointers on the proper temperatures and steeping times, and other essential pointers on making a proper cup of tea.

We then were given the opportunity to experiment with our own blend of tea, mixing the base black tea varieties other teas or herbs like lapsang souchong (the smoked tea that tastes like a campfire, an acquired taste I quite enjoy), dried mint, ginger, among others. I mixed my Keemun with a little dried ginger and some lapsang souchong.

It seems that there is always something happening. The next week, I happened to be working up at the Northeast branch, for an energetic and exciting family orientated Asian New Year event, featuring interactive drumming, dancing, and arts, and it proved popular with the local families. Today, working at the East Lake branch, I was lucky enough to see a local group teach Aztec dancing for the branch’s Dia de los Niños event, a vibrant and exciting program. I really like that our libraries are such great venues for such community learning opportunities and entertainment, and it always amusing to see passersby find themselves listening to musical performances in the library. So unexpectedly cool! Coming up are some interesting looking bike maintenance workshops and even some 3D printing classes that look interesting; check out the current schedule here!