Weird Contests Weekend

img_20190126_115916742

Puzzlers puzzle at the Landmark Center, downtown Saint Paul

Sometimes, during the Minnesota winter, it can be difficult to find the motivation to drag yourself out of your house into the freezing temperatures and treacherous icy streets of the city. It doesn’t take much time to start feeling the claustrophobia of a self enforced hermeticism, though. For us, it’s important to get out.

Last weekend, there were a couple of interesting and challenging competitions, each featuring a very different theme, that popped up around town, and we had a lot of fun participating in them, staying warm and staving off that seasonal depression.

The first was Fair State Brewing Cooperative Giant Pasty Stout Mix Off last Friday evening. Fair State is one of my favorite breweries in the Twin Cities so I was intrigued by their competition, celebrating the imminent release of a variant of their Giantsbane American Double Stout, a pastry infusion they’re calling the Duke of Bakefordshire.   

My wife, Lindsay, was not really that into beer before I met her. While I myself enjoy drinking a pint now and then, she’s been perfecting her cocktail making skills. Over the years of being dragged to breweries, though, she has found that stouts and porters, especially those heady imperial varieties (double the malts, and alcohol, of a normal brew) appeal to her. So much so, we’ve made a point to check out the various infusions announced at various local breweries and when she saw this opportunity, she jumped on it with gusto.

Mixers would infuse their Giantsbane with a pastry theme of their choosing, and Lindsay wasted no time in concocting the perfect flavor combination. I, being true to myself, frittered away my time. Fair State provided a number of ingredients to choose from, but also allowed each contributor to bring their own home brewed secret ingredients. The resulting mixes were judged on taste, presentation, creativity, and of course, the name (every beer needs a good name, after all). It was a fun, social event as beers with all manner of interesting adjuncts were presented and shared. The results will be released on February 9th.   

img_20190126_101449560_hdr

Arriving at Landmark Center on a frigid morning

 

On Saturday, we were invited by a friend to participate in the Winter Carnival Puzzle Contest held in the Landmark Center in downtown Saint Paul. We’d never participated in something like this, but after Lindsay introduced me to the cozy winter fun of working on a puzzle while watching comedy or under blankets on the couch, I was intrigued with what a contest would be like, and felt like it was a perfect match for a more relaxed Winter Carnival event, especially as the temperature plunged so much that other Carnival mainstays were being cancelled.

8996258291391216478

completed!

Arriving at the Landmark Center as snow was falling, the cavernous main room was packed with tables ready for contestants to start obsessing over puzzle pieces. I have never before witnessed such devotion to the jigsaw puzzle as dozens of teams worked together to put together a 500 piece jigsaw puzzle in the two hour time limit, each with a twist in how the final product differed from the cover image. It was interesting to consider what events led to the banning of such useful puzzle solving cheats as spatulas and flashlights. It was quite serious, though also laid back and, while were weren’t exactly running with the top dogs (who completed their puzzle within a half hour), we did finish ours before the first hour was done.

All in all, a successful weekend and the feeling of accomplishment will help us through some more frigid weather.

Advertisements

MSP Reading Time: Pioneer Endicott Building

 

1216769933515269867

view of First National Bank Building from Pioneer building apartment (courtesy of Lindsay Cameron)

My wife and I changed our addresses two times last year, which was a bit of an adventure by itself. Among the places we inhabited was the Pioneer Endicott building in downtown Saint Paul, which was fun place to live for a bit. It’s a great base to experience the other downtown, or as my wife calls it, the “real” downtown!30227599

As I was moving out of the building, I discovered this recently published book, Heart of Saint Paul by Larry Millett, discussing the history of the place, and I really enjoyed reading it!

 

A concise but informative work, Heart of Saint Paul is packed full of interesting factoids and lush period and contemporary photos of the Pioneer and Endicott buildings, one of the historic landmarks that have been revitalized in recent years in downtown Saint Paul. Now housing the newly renovated Minnesota Museum of American Art and a brewery, we may perhaps being seeing life in downtown Saint Paul after so many jokes of being “dead” after 4:30. As a former tenant, I appreciated the detailed research and background info provided by Millett on this historic dwelling. Taking the glass fronted elevators up through the atrium as I arrived home each day, for instance, it was interesting to learn how rare this once common feature of 19th century office buildings is to have survived.

2244347709253925315From the architectural history and designs of both the Pioneer Building (built in 1889 to house the Pioneer Press newspaper and the tallest building west of Chicago for a few years), and the connected Endicott Building (designed as an indoor shopping arcade by a young Cass Gilbert), to some of the tenants who also called it home, like Northwest Airlines and Ecolab, there was a lot of fun info here. The most interesting to me were the personal perspectives of the elevator operators, office workers, and shop owners who worked there during its century long history (especially the story of the young women who hid from the rather disturbing actions of rampaging Vulcans during a 1940s era Winter Carnival). While perhaps most interesting to tenants (current or former) of the Pioneer Endicott, Heart of Saint Paul definitely has something to offer anyone interested in the architectural history of the Twin Cities.

Now that we have finally gotten to visit the new Minnesota Museum of American Art after months of seeing its construction, we’ll look back on our time downtown with nostalgia. I’d recommend checking out MMAA (aka The M), too, as they are going to be displaying some of the museum’s interesting, and long unseen, collections, and it’s always free! After the tour, you could even stop by 12welve Eyes Brewing in the Endicott. for a pint commemorating one of local sculptor Paul Manship’s works, Group of Bears. 

 

1804489082960899850

elevator atrium, Pioneer Endicott building (courtesy of Lindsay Cameron)

Keg and Case (and the Final Entries of MSP Adventure Time)

 

7620804146572944297

We’re going on an indefinite hiatus here at Minneapolis-Saint Paul Adventure Time, so there will be a few last entries to go out on in the next week or two. 2018 was a busy year with a lot of changes, as can be seen by the sparse updates during the last few months.

It has been a fun four years exploring some of the many things that you can experience in these vibrant and changing cities, whether you are just visiting or spending a lifetime here. During those busy times in life, when time or budget keep you home, it is nice to know how many experiences you can have without leaving your city. And there’s always something new happening, as well.

IMG_4743

Living in Saint Paul, this seems to be particularly the case as the capital city begins to challenge its reputation as the boring twin, where the streets are dead after 4:30. There was quite a bit of fanfare, for instance, regarding the Keg and Case Market, finding a home in the old Schmidt’s Brewery Complex on West 7th Street, and when we heard that it was doing a soft open, my wife and I managed to make it over.

 

I’ve loved visiting and eating at the Midtown Global Market in Minneapolis for years, so I was excited to see something similar open in Saint Paul as well and I was not disappointed. During our first visit, and subsequent trips it was hard to decide what to check out first, and upon returning with my family and wife’s family visiting from California, we still have not sampled everything the Keg and Case has to offer. In the meantime, more stuff has opened!  

IMG_4745

A view of Forest and Fork’s mushroom farm from Clutch Brewing

It is a pretty cool place, all of these storefronts bustling in the guts of the one of the old Schmidt warehouses, where once cases of beer were packed for distribution. There is a mix of established Twin Cities businesses and entirely new ideas. Local mainstays like Bogart’s Doughnuts, Pimento Jamaican Kitchen, and Revival, here opening a counter 5349277419558532630specializing in smoked meats (for us vegetarians, they even offer a delicious barbequed jackfruit) opened branches here. At the same time, such unique new ideas as Forest to Fork Wild Food are growing wild mushrooms on premises! I can’t wait to try out some of their chicken of the woods in a recipe.

 

Upstairs, Clutch Brewing revives the building’s beer roots, allowing patrons to enjoy a pint or two with their meals. My favorite was the Barnstop, a biere de garde, a quaffable, malty style I don’t see too often and always enjoy.

IMG_4742

enjoying some Sweet Science!

Our favorite is, of course, the first year-round physical location of Sweet Science Ice Cream. After checking out a few of their pop ups, it’s great to have a place to grab their delicious, innovative ice cream.

The lines can be a bit intense, but worth the wait. If you happen to be able to visit during the day on a weekday, it’s a lot easier. Also, parking can be limited as well. It is nice to live within walking distance! Especially by spring, this will become a regular stop for us, and I’m looking forward to trying the pizza and the halwa. I’d definitely recommend checking it out!

 

IMG_4748

Twin Cities Time Travel: 1800s

7923375495073467611

Fort Snelling at night: photo courtesy of Lindsay Cameron

Last fall, I had the opportunity to explore a few remnants of the Twin Cities’ early nineteenth century history, survivors of more than a hundred years of urban renewal and change the dynamic region has experienced as it enters the 21st century.

A history buff with a master’s degree to show for it, I appreciate the changes that have led to a world where we might question the appropriateness of naming one of our most popular natural landmarks after one of the nineteenth century’s foremost proponents of white supremacy, restoring it to the name given it by the region’s original inhabitants, the Dakota. In the mid-nineteenth century Minneapolis and St. Paul were beginning to come to prominence as a major agricultural hub, feeding the world. At the same time, they relied heavily on investments obtained through the buying and selling of human lives and planned the wholesale destruction of the people who already lived here. Also the region became the destination for thousands of immigrants who would bring their own cultural and political ideas here, making it among the most heavily immigrant states in the country. As these tensions and contradictions became untenable and the continued presence of slavery in a nation founded on equality led to Civil War, Minnesota was fast to join the Union cause in spite of taking in so much slaveholding investment to found various state institutions, in particular the University of Minnesota. The relics of these times that still exist can provide a little time traveling to these fraught and interesting eras, and I do appreciate the chance to delve into the past.

IMG_4108

Waldmann Brewery

One such survivor was recently brought back to life in the up and coming West 7th neighborhood of St. Paul. Waldmann Brewery and Wurstery is housed in the oldest commercial building in Minneapolis-St. Paul, originally built in 1857 as one of the city’s first German immigrant lager saloons. Established by Bavarian immigrant Anton Waldmann, the saloon operated until 1863, and survived the next hundred and fifty years as a rental property before being completely renovated as one of the St. Paul’s most interesting new breweries. The drinking culture of German immigrants was, at the time, a controversial and dangerous aspect of these foreigners, though people did take quickly to the new German innovation of lager beer as it was thought to be a less alcoholic alternative to the Yankees’ ubiquitous whisky. So Waldmann Brewery’s authentic

4330749898228237214

Some artifacts at Waldmann Brewery: photo courtesy of Lindsay Cameron

recreations of 19th century German beer styles is particularly intriguing as they are both “old fashioned” to our current brewing techniques while being a “cutting edge” technology to the period.  A new innovation from this culture which was beginning to influence the current culture of the Twin Cities, and yet are also emblematic of the fears of immigration that always strike the country.

Visiting last fall, the little stone saloon was packed with people enjoying the painstakingly restored architecture and ambiance. With the wood burning stove, the flickering oil lamps, and the period decor, it really does feel like going back in time. It is quite a cozy place to enjoy some beer and comfort foods such as wurtz and smoked fish (if you are a meat eater), or pretzels and cheese, if not.

7538840000337832223

enjoying our beers at Waldmann; photo courtesy of Lindsay Cameron

 

Just down West 7th Street is another nineteenth century survivor, the impressive home of Alexander Ramsey, first territorial and second state governor, completed in 1872. Ramsey was at the heart of the contradictions present at the founding of the state, being the first governor to pledge troops to the Civil War while also advocating the genocide of the Dakota people in response to the US Dakota War, started as a result of Ramsey’s and other white elites enforcing fraudulent and exploitative treaties against them.

Ramsey’s ornate home definitely reflects the Victorian splendor of the gilded age elite, with technologies that would be the top of the line at the time, including both hot and cold running water and steam heated radiators. Ramsey’s family willed the mansion to the state, along with ninety percent of its original furnishings, and it is maintained as a museum by the Minnesota Historical Society. Today, the MNHS hosts many educational and entertainment events in its lavish halls.

I had never visited the Ramsey House until last October, when my wife and I saw an MNHS “History Happy Hour” focusing on historical hoaxes, including nineteenth century “fake news.” Arriving after dark on a rainy evening, the old mansion definitely had a spooky ambience, an atmosphere not harmed by the oppressive Victorian opulence. It was definitely an interesting discussion, touching on historical falsehoods that, in the past as well as the present, reach fever pitch in the popular culture. The Happy Hours are held the last Thursday of every month, and are a good way to experience the house and learn some information about the Victorian period and other historical topics, along with a drink or two.  

2369398463734390347

Fort Snelling; Photo courtesy of Lindsay Cameron

Of course, the most infamous and prominent historical building in the state is across the river at Fort Snelling, ground zero of these themes of oppression and site of many of the atrocities the state and federal governments were privy to; the genocide of native peoples as well as the enslavement of people throughout the United States. The site where Dred Scott was brought as a slave by an army surgeon who leased his work, leading him to assert his freedom only to be ruled against by the Supreme Court, and where hundreds of Dakota were imprisoned in squalid concentration camps before being driven from the state, it symbolizes much of the injustice of American history.

The fort was built in 1819 at a prominent and sacred location for the Dakota, near the confluence of the Minnesota and Mississippi rivers by United States forces to consolidate their power over the indigenous population of this formerly French territory, sold recently to them by Napoleon in order to fund his wars of conquest. It is an interesting example of how the confluence of global history can converge on a single location, and emblematic of the Euro-American quest for domination of the continent. Interestingly, and perhaps in part because of this conflicted history, by the 1950s only a few vestiges of the old fort survived, notably the Round Tower and the South Battery. By 1960, the MNHS performed extensive archaeological and reconstructing work, restoring the old fort’s appearance to that of the 1820s, making it one of their flagship historic sites. The site of many school trips and events, traditionally emphasizing it’s military history.

The MNHS is, however, currently working on a major revitalization project at the Fort, hoping to better serve the “many voices, many stories” that exist there, but there is still a dark, ominous feeling at the place. Not that I believe in ghosts or anything!

This feeling was heightened when Lindsay and I visited the site one late autumn evening after the sun had already disappeared, the moon was hidden behind dark clouds, and the winter cold had just begun to set in. I had not been since I was a kid, but we visited to experience one of the MNHS’ “CSI: Fort Snelling” events for the Halloween season, an interactive mystery based on a historical crime that actually took place in the fort. A crime unrelated, of course, to the matters of slavery and genocide that are centered there.

As someone who has been known to engage in a roleplaying game or two, and drawn to the idea of time travel, the idea of this event appealed to me. Time travel is, of course, a much more appealing thought for someone who needs not worry about their safety in the past. In spite of my knowledge of the horrors that took place here, it did not occur to me, in my privileged place, how inappropriate such an event in so fraught a place might be. As I discovered later, there was some controversy regarding the CSI: Fort Snelling event as people called out its insensitive nature and, in response, the MNHS will no longer organized the event in the future as they strive to serve a more inclusive mission with their revilization. Even when one is primed for such awareness, it is all too easy to forget, which is why it is so important to increase the acknowledgement of these aspects of our history. As it was, we set out to the fort curious about what this story might entail.

In this scenario, “The Musician’s Secret,” set in 1827, we would be portraying members a crowd of Scottish and Swiss refugees from the ill fated attempt at at settlement in the Assissinobine territory, near where Winnipeg exists today. It proved to be an atmospheric but crowded event. We arrived with a large group of tourists, bundled up for the cold, and were handed info sheets to get us caught up with who we were and the various personages we would encounter. Entering the walls of the fort, we found quite a few people milling around bonfires drinking beer and cider while listening to period fiddlers. Most were dressed in in street clothes, though a few came dressed as time traveling vampires.

Organized by the Scottish Lord Selkirk, the colony was plagued by disasters, flooding and locusts, and many prospective squatters, including “us,” who had plodded down the Red River ox cart road in an attempt to return to Europe. Stopping at the fort, hoping to board a steamship at St. Paul to return to the coast, we were supposed to have become entangled in the story of a musician and fellow former Selkirker who, it was said, stashed some gold nearby only to have been murdered by person or persons unknown. Given the information we were presented as we were guided around the fort, we were tasked with unraveling the conspiracy, identifying the culprit, and assisting with the trial.

The actors, costumed in their historically accurate garb and portraying various soldiers, servants, travelers, and professionals, were exuberant and earnest in that community theater sort of way, through the large group of people being led around did not really lend to too much interactivity, or much investigation or questioning as it was difficult to make sure everyone heard everything. While I did figure it out in the end, it was more my knowledge of the tropes of the genre than any clues I managed to garner over the course of the investigation. As an RPG aficionado, it also would have been better to have had more of a motivation in our “roles” as well.

However, none of this even acknowledges the stories of pain and injustice that took place at the fort, centered with its function as an outpost of the will of the invading colonial forces. As the MNHS struggles to make this surviving bit of our past reflect all of the viewpoints and tragedies that it’s existence created, taking stock of such uses of its history is important. In the end, I am not sad to see the end of CSI: Fort Snelling, though it remains to be seen how the stories of the cruelty of the state and it’s government will be told.

Look forward to more time travel adventures in the future as I write about some places in the Twin Cities that will bring you back to the 1920s and ‘30s and the 1950s and ‘60s, two interesting periods of 20th century history here.

This will be my last update of my adventures in 2017, and I’ll shortly be recounting some of the adventures of the first few months of 2018, including why updates have been so sparse around here of late!

2017 Highlight: Night in the Children’s Museum

This was a new experience!

Last September, Lindsay and I were playing our weeknight trivia down at Emmett’s Pub on Grand, one of Trivia Mafia’s many locales. We’ve kind of gotten a little obsessed with them over the last year, but that’s a topic for a future entry in MSP Adventure Time. That Tuesday, we happened to win third place and claimed our prize; two tickets to the first ever 21 and over night at the Minnesota Children’s Museum!

I have vague memories of visiting the Children’s Museum in St. Paul as a kid years ago, though by this time, I was more into the dinosaurs at the Science Museum of Minnesota or the dioramas at the Bell Museum than the early childhood hands on educational activities at the MCM, so I never really thought much of them over the years. As a childfree adult, there was no reason to, I guess.

22089416_10155723047559322_1693943889041471595_nHowever, the museum recently expanded and built up a lot of cool stuff, like cool interactive firetrucks and multi story climbing towers and ball launchers that would appeal to the grown ups as well. Perhaps by putting together this Adults@Play: 21+ Museum Takeover Event, they wanted to share these new amenities for play with a greater audience. What better way to get the word out about all this new stuff than to allow adults to tromp through the place without feeling self conscious? Maybe next time, they will bring their kids!

 

It was a very fun evening, in any case, and I really appreciated the chance to see the vibrant, cool space in downtown St. Paul, from it’s cozy outdoor play area to the rooftop, and just run around like I didn’t have anything to worry about, while enjoying some adult drinks, of course.

22008168_10155723047464322_4397243947429054531_n

Throughout the museum, there were cool things to look at, and it seemed the grown up, or maybe “Kidult” attendees were having a good time, thanks to such activities as a fun improv game from the Theater of Public Policy and arts and crafts brought to you by Can Can Wonderland (see previous entry). Lindsay and I definitely had a lot of fun with the latter, crafting our own really cool magnets we totally have on our refrigerator.

Keep an eye out, ‘cause they’re planning another one for this spring. Or you could take your kids any day and miss out on having as much fun yourself!

22045858_10155723047274322_3607062457531092101_n

Some cool magnets we made from vintage books and magazines!

2017 Highlights: Can Can Wonderland

20841900_10155607656054322_2396896164258206283_n

Hitting the links at Can Can Wonderland: Photo courtesy of Lindsay Cameron

Just opened in 2017, Can Can Wonderland was one of the most fun, weird, and wild nights out I have gotten the chance to experience over the last year. Buried deep under an old can factory in the industrial zone in the Midway area of St. Paul, it is one of those new uses for decaying industrial infrastructure that is making the city so interesting.

After hearing about it early in the year, Lindsay and I were excited to finally make it there with a group of friends for my birthday last August, and it was definitely worth the wait. In this case, literally, as the place was so popular we had to wait several hours to get into the much anticipated artist-designed mini golf course the place is becoming most well known for.  From what I’ve heard from others, arriving the earlier the better is advisable to get checked in for minigolf, as we discovered as we were the very last group to make it through the links late one Thursday evening after getting signed up before seven.

On the other hand, there is plenty stuff to of keep you occupied while you’re waiting, including vintage arcade machines, a variety of tasty comfort food (I recommend the grilled cheese), and delicious, bizarre cocktails. The blue cheese infused gin “Sailing the Seas of Cheese,” for instance, was a refreshingly creamy mix served in the gaping maw of a shark shaped mug, complete with fake blood. Wow! And, it is was quite tasty as well. Of course, Lindsay ordered me a wonderful Happy Birthday cocktail as well, a delicious birthday cakey drink which was served with a sparkler and a party popper let off by the bartender.

20915309_10155607655839322_4914428719637327909_n

Receiving a birthday sparkler from the bartender at Can Can Wonderland: Photo courtesy of Lindsay Cameron

In addition, another new 2017 brewery, BlackStack Brewing, shares the same location, in on old warehouse upstairs from Can Can’s subterranean factory space, allowing you to sip a few pints of Punch Press Belgian ale or Spare Parts dark lager while waiting for your queue in the Can Can line. The comfy, low key brewery offers plenty of seating and board games, too.

As for the mini golf, it was well worth the wait. Now, I haven’t played much mini golf for a number of years, so I was a fair bit rusty when the time came to hit the course. To be honest, I ended up swinging wildly at the ball and didn’t get very far in terms of progress. Maybe the beer and the cocktails had something to do with that, but the elaborate and innovative backdrops certainly made even losing fun. In addition to the cool surroundings, the whimsical holes allow for any number of strategies for getting your ball through the obstacles- attempt a delicate maneuver to roll it right up the tongue of the Blue Toad, or try to knock it over the pond? Take the bridge or brave the tornado in the Natural Disaster? My favorite was trying not to get the ball lost under the couch in Gramma’s Living Room, packed full with kitschy bric a brac and vintage knick knacks. After all eighteen holes, I was pretty tired.

20882198_10155607655789322_7166907749324969951_n

Taking a rest on Gramma’s Couch at Can Can Wonderland: Photo courtesy of Lindsay Cameron

Thankfully, we were responsible and came via Lyft, though on a less hot, muggy day, Can Can Wonderland is a convenient fifteen minute walk from the Fairview Avenue Station on the Greenline. I’m looking forward to making another expedition here.

Holiday Cheers

 

1702285126018576224

Having a merry Christmas at Lawless Distilling

It’s back to work for many of us Americans on Boxing Day, MSP Adventure Time included, so hopefully everyone has had a warm and cozy holiday season so far. Now that the big ones are over and a subzero cold has settled over the metro, I’m going to reflect a little on some of the fun things we got up to this busy holiday season.

There’s always the crop of local craft fairs and markets, as I’ve written about every year, great for picking up a few last minute locally crafted gifts. A new one we checked out this year was the Hoppy Holidays Makers Market at Urban Growler Brewing Company in St. Paul’s St. Anthony Park neighborhood, one of my favorite local breweries. Along with checking out some cool local craftspeople, we picked up a bottle of the Bourbon Barrel Imperial Porter, one of Urban Growler’s limited releases. Not as much of a beer drinker, Lindsay has discovered a tolerable liking for the rich, sweet, heavy stouts and porters. That’ll be a great, heady libation for our New Years celebration.

2017-12-26

Urban Growler

Along with the craft fairs, we had another fun, energetic evening down at the Eagles Club in Seward, as I wrote about earlier this year. The 7th Annual Kinda Kinky Holiday food raiser was, again, a good time. The same Kinks hits performed with joy and energy by a roster of guests, it is always a cheery experience.

The highlight of the holidays was definitely the Miracle at Lawless, Lawless Distilling’s hosting of a holiday themed pop up cocktail bar idea originating in New York. Here, they’ve transformed their cosy and intimate but elegant space into a Christmas lighted extravaganza complete with themed drinks and the comforting, nostalgic scene of pine. It was packed when we arrived but we quickly got a couple of tasty drinks, a Gimlet Who Stole Christmas and a Sipping Hot Chocolate infused with fragrant Bittercube bitters. This has come to be one of our favorite spots in the cities for cocktails and it was a great way to get a break from the stressful holiday season. They’re continuing the miracle until New Years, so I’d really recommend stopping by for a festive and stimulating beverage.

 

2017-12-26 (1)

Miracle at Lawless

Hmm, I notice that a lot our holiday outings involve a drink or two…

In any case, for the new year, we will be writing a little about some of our favorite distillers here in the Twin Cities!  

 

 

 

Urban Growler, 2325 Endicott Street, St. Paul

Miracle at Lawless, 2619 S 28th Avenue, Minneapolis

 

2017 Highlights: Capitol Restoration

 

 

19225737_10155408175754322_1525215945000357689_n

June 2017

Last summer, to much fanfare, the Minnesota State Capitol building completed its long standing renovations and reopened in a cool celebration.

Lindsay and I had spent quite a bit of time gathering with large groups of people to voice our discontent with the way things were going in 2017, assembling before the impressive marble dome encased with scaffolding and trying to show that the people of Minnesota do not support the policies being enacted in our national capital or our state, from misogyny, to environmental destruction, to the white supremacy endemic in our state and nation. As “the people’s house” the Minnesota State Capitol is a natural location for protests, demonstrations, and other examples of the people making their voices known, even if those inside on occasion don’t see fit to listen.   

IMG_3779

So, after four years, when the $310 million restoration of the iconic Minnesota landmark was completed, the state invited the public to a weekend celebration with a lot of fun events scheduled. In spite of the busy summer, we made it down on the first evening as the sun set on the city of St. Paul, walking across the capitol grounds and checking out the festivities. There would be music performances celebrating Minnesota artists, local craft breweries sharing their products, and fireworks, but I just wanted to get inside.

20729439_10155590866479322_4458450447497533408_nAs I had not visited the interior of the dome for ages, the opportunity to explore the ornate interior of the capitol building excited us, and we took advantage of one of the free tours of the government edifice. The docents led us throughout the maze-like, expansive building and we enjoyed awesome behind the scenes views of the state senate, house, and supreme court (including the justices’ retiring room, rarely viewable by the public, which Lindsay was pleased to note had the exact same phone as the one in her state worker cubicle).   

 

IMG_3783Along the way, we learned many interesting facts of the 1905 Cass Gilbert designed building, including the fact that the Minnesota State Capitol’s unsupported marble dome is the second largest in the world, after St. Peter’s in Rome. Pretty impressive.

It was nice also to see the state responding to the concerns of people and relocating some artwork with stereotypical, historically inaccurate, and hurtful depictions of indigenous Americans  inside the capitol and, both the guide and the literature discussed the reasons for this change. In the end, we climbed up the innumerable stairs to stand on top of the capitol building, where we could observe the gold Quadriga sculpture up close as well as the skyline of both St. Paul and Minneapolis. It was a majestic end to a cool exploration.

20768192_10155590866719322_2063989923589127049_n

MSP Reading Time: 100 Things to Do in the Twin Cities Before You Die

25449651

The bucket list, all that stuff that one should experience in life before one, well, “kicks the bucket” seem to be a pretty popular format to base local travel books around currently. Perhaps due to its slightly morbid nature, I find it a fascinating concept, having browsed through various lists before, 1000 albums, 1000 books, etc. I am a bit of a list junkie, I must admit, as I write about over on my other blog, Reading Rainstorm. It looks as though this one is only one among many books detail the essential one hundred things citizens should experience before dying (or moving?) So, of course, I was eager to check out the list of must do activities in my home metro of Minneapolis, St. Paul, and their various suburbs. All in all, I found 100 Things to Do in the Twin Cities Before You Die to be a pretty solid list.

While it might be a bit more of a stretch in a medium size metro area like the Twin Cities, I feel that compiler Tom Weber put together a very nice list of some of the most awesome things to do around here, including museums, annual festivals and events, famous local cuisines, and our well known performing arts venues (oh, and sports). It was quite fun going down the list with my fiancee, a transplant from California, tallying off all of the things we’ve done. Even with all of my activity in the course of writing this blog (and my 34 years in the area compared to Lindsay’s 4 years), she’s beaten me out. I’ve only accomplished 42 of the suggestions in, while she’s gotten up to 46. Almost half! I guess we locals occasionally take the wonders held in our neck of the woods for granted while people seeing them through new eyes get through more. I have certainly had a lot of fun adventures with her over the last year.

Of the ones I can check off, a few of my favorites from the blog appear in the list, though I’m definitely looking forward to getting through even more of them with my love, and there are quite a few that I have yet to experience that seem pretty interesting. Of course, as is true for any such book published two years ago, it is not quite up to date. There are a few on the list that, if you haven’t accomplished them already, will be impossible (eating at the Oak Grill at the Macy’s in downtown Minneapolis, for instance).

Of the entries that remain, though, there is plenty of exciting inspirations. I really enjoyed the lists taking advantage of the extreme seasons of the Twin Cities, not forgetting to neglect all of unique experiences to be had in the dead of winter, from ice skating to art sled racing. Over the course of the next year, I’m hoping to check off a few of the more interesting things I haven’t done yet and write about them here, one for each season.

Specifically, I’m hoping to do #27 and experience Powderhorn Park’s May Day Parade for spring, check out a free summer movie or concert in one of Minneapolis’ park (#25), finally get to #23, one of BareBone’s Outdoor Puppet pageants for Halloween, and hopefully next winter they’ll be enough snow for next year’s #31 art sled rally.

Also, regardless of season, I’m looking forward to #64, touring the Capitol with my state worker sweetheart this year, as well. In any case, we’re well set to check off half of Weber’s list in the next year.

This is a cross post with my book blog, Reading Rainstorm.

 

 

Union Depot Holiday Bake Sale

img_3377

In the weeks before the holidays, one can certainly find oneself encountering all manner of treats and goodies, whether at holiday potlucks or family cookie exchanges. It can all be a bit overwhelming, especially as one is also scrambling to find those last minute gifts, if you happen to be or know people celebrating Christmas.

Popping up across the Twin Cities in November and December are a large number of holiday craft shows, a few of which I blogged about during the last few years. This year, Lindsay and I went to the St. Paul Union Depot for it’s European Christmas Market. Due to icy wind and snow on that afternoon, though, we soon went inside the depot to check out another event; the Union Depot Holiday Bake Sale. The 4th Annual sale, it boasts drawing the top Twin Cities bakeries to peddle cookies, candy, and other sweets. There were definitely some delectable and tasty treats on sale, in particular the T-Rex Cookie Company and Heavenly Treats’ toffee. We were able to get some shopping done, too! Unfortunately, I’m not sure I’d come back- the admission fee to get in to even browse the treats ($5 with a commemorative tote) seemed a little much, especially since so many other craft and food shows are free (including the Depot’s Christmas Market, itself). Only a handful of our favorite bakeries were represented, so it was definitely lacking quite a few of the best bakeries the Twin Cities can offer, and curiously, several non-baked good merchants were also on hand, almost as if the selection criteria had little to do with merchants offering the best desserts in town. There were some music and cookery demonstrations, but nothing was happening while we were there. May be best to plan ahead before visiting events with admission fees.