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'The Big One' of 2018

Dear Diary,
If close to 2 feet of snow falls on your property and you didn't take pictures for a blog post, did it truly happen?

I (wo)man-handled my husband's beast of a snow thrower to cut a path for our escape.

The kids had a scheduled day off on Monday, then the school district closed on Tuesday, so we were a little stir crazy.

(Lady was beside herself with the snow banks that she disappeared in.)

What struck me, was the deafening silence that followed this snow storm. Weather reports stated 1-2" fell an hour, and the onslaught continued for nearly the entire day.

MinneSNOWta earned its nickname.

January Thaw

Dear Diary,
As I write this, we are preparing for an incoming storm that is predicted to dump over a foot of snow. The irony of titling a new post to include the word "thaw" was certainly premature on my part.

These pictures were taken during an earlier snowfall, resulting in 3" of fresh powder.

We were visited by a deer overnight, as evidenced by this line of tracks.

Madelyn's skill with our 4-wheeler's manual shifting is greatly improving, and she can ride by herself now.

We found another grouping of stones, and this one is obviously a den of some sort. What's strange to me, is how the stones are stacked. I could be wrong, but unless it's a raccoon den (or some other animal with opposable thumbs), I can't imagine an animal constructing this as so.

Snowball fight!

And apparently, we're now "those" people who burn things in the snow.

Trails For All Seasons

Dear Diary,
This is what cabin fever looks like.

Minnesota has been experiencing a bitter, sting-your-face, burn-your-nostrils, below-zero cold snap as of late. 

It wasn't as bad as the one we experienced a few years ago, when the -60* temperature prompted the governor to close every school in the state.

But it was cold, just the same.

Recently, the snap broke.

We enjoyed a near 50-degree rise in the daytime high and this is going to sound pathetic, but the ensuing 30* felt damn near tropical.

We had to get out of the house.

To the trails!

We received snow shoes as a family Christmas gift, making the enjoyment of our property possible in all seasons.

Our backyard was a winter wonderland.

A frozen masterpiece.

With plenty of animal tracks to study and try to identify!

Trust that winter remains my least favorite, but I've loved seeing what Mother Nature does to our land in all of her seasonal glory.

"We're out to discover!" 

Maddie: "I step, but I don't sink. This just blows my mind!" 

And of course, a frozen pink sunset ...

Twin Cities Miniature Street Art A Polite Disruption

Dear Diary,
Across the Twin Cities, these miniature scenes are popping up at random.

(I am not certain if this is the work of the artist I have tagged in this post, even though it's very similar to what is shown on @Mows510 Instagram. How many Twin Cities-based street artists are creating Mouse Doors and miniature displays such as this?)

These “mouse doors” are said to be the work of an anonymous Minneapolis street artist. Some appear then disappear rather quickly, but this scene near the Bloomington Central light rail station has remained for some time.

Though it’s small, it makes a big statement – and one that makes me smile as I walk into my office. These ordinary utility boxes are transformed into something much more appealing, thanks to a creative imagination.

Who the street artist is remains a mystery, and though he (or she?) made an official statement to the local news station, he insists on remaining anonymous. Street art isn’t exactly legal. He curates an Instagram account under the username @Mows510.

The intention was to create something people could interact with. The “mouse doors” are installed at ground level, so passersby can focus on something other than their cell phone and take in life happening around them.

From my perspective, such a whimsy scene has proven successful. My instinctive reaction is always positive, and it’s truly becoming a bright spot I look forward to passing. While I see this nearly every day of the work week, I have yet to find the other such scenes that reportedly dot the metro.

He hopes to expand across the river into St. Paul. These creative, polite disruptions to the cityscape are a welcome sight in a world filled with so much uncertainty and upheaval. I hope it never ends.

Does your city embrace street art?

2018 Minnesota Bucket List

Dear Diary,
2018 will mark our 7th year as Minnesota residents, and I hope to see more of what this state has to offer. Though each winter I question why I live where the air hurts my face, the gorgeous summer months certainly relieve the sting.

Last year I started exploring a few of the sites around the Twin Cities (linked below) and am feeling inspired to add to my experiences.

1. Collect agates along the shore of Lake Superior at Good Harbor Bay.

2. Stay in Cabin 26 at the Burntside Lodge in Ely.

3. Attend the MN State Fair, boasted as one of the best in America.
(We will miss the 2018 Fair, as we will be traveling to/around Sweden.)

4. Photograph the "Gold Medal Flour" sign from the Guthrie Theater's Endless Bridge at sunset.

5. Finally witness (and hopefully photograph) the Northern Lights.

6. Tour the Wabasha Street Caves in St. Paul - I've read that ghost tours are popular in October since the caves have ties to the mobsters of the 20s.

7. Support the Minnesota-based businesses like Faribault Woolen Mill (I have my eye on a handmade blanket) and of course, Minnetonka Moccasins.

8. Take my kids on an expedition to Northfield, a city close to our house with ties to Jesse James and the demise of his crime spree. Blog post, here.

9. Let my taste buds decide which restaurant serves up the best Jucy Lucy. The 3 contenders (based solely on personal choice) are Matt's, 5-8 Club and Buffalo Tap.

10. Take part in the activities surrounding Super Bowl 52 in February, hosted at US Bank Stadium in Minneapolis. Blog post, here.

11. Hike Minnehaha and take (more) pictures of the Falls, especially when they're frozen. (Here)

12. Walk across the Mississippi River at Lake Itasca, MN.

13. Finally tour the Winehaven Winery in Chisago, where my favorite cranberry wine is made.

14. Visit/Tour the Mill City Museum and Mill Ruins Park to learn about the Washburn A Mill explosion in the 1870s that devastated the milling industry here.

15. Walk across the Stone Arch Bridge, and witness St. Anthony Falls on the Mississippi.

16. Shop at the Junk Bonanza flea market, and Minneapolis' Farmer's Market.

17. Secure tickets to see the Minnesota Wild and Timberwolves play.

18. Visit the Walker Art Museum and walk through the Sculpture Garden.

Other, long-term MN-focused goals:
-I've heard that once you're scuba-certified, you can gain access and permission to dive with the sharks at the Sea Life Aquarium at the Mall of America!
-Run the Twin Cities Marathon
-The Guthrie Theater offers acting classes ...

Boston Common - Boston, MA

Dear Diary,
My modus operandi seems to be; we travel to a new city, we go for a walk, I take pictures, and then, I seek out information about what I just saw.

In this instance, as I research the history and founding of America's oldest public park, I find myself hanging onto every word I read.

Boston Common was founded in 1634, and consists of 50 acres of land. During the 1630s it was used by many Puritan families as a cow pasture.

The Common, as it's referred to, was also once a camp used by the British prior to the Revolutionary War. Furthermore, it was used as public gallows until 1817.

Pope John Paul II and Martin Luther King, Jr. gave speeches here, and this was the site for a couple of protest marches in 2017. Additionally, prehistoric sites were discovered here, indicating the presence of Native Americans for over 8,500 years.

Located on the Boylston Street side of the park is the Central Burying Ground, which is the final resting place of artist Gilbert Stuart and composer William Billings. Also buried here are Samuel Sprague and his son, Charles Sprague, one of America's early poets. Samuel was a participant in the Boston Tea Party and fought in the Revolutionary War, but unfortunately for us, the gates were locked. All that stood between us and such notable influence on our country was a wrought iron fence.

Able now to connect what I saw to what I've learned, I find myself wondering if our first leaders and founders imagined this park would celebrate the kind of longevity it has.

I wonder if they could imagine the public transportation that would evolve over the centuries, not to mention building progress and fashion of dress.

As I review the photographs I took, I begin to imagine all that these grounds bore witness to since the early 1600s.

Perhaps this is why history fascinates me. With each ensuing sentence I read, the mind and perspective-broadening teachable moments are abundant. The result? Gratefulness. Grateful to know where we came from, how we got here, with the modern medicine and technology that we have today. I'm not certain this kind of appreciation could be gained elsewhere.

Who else walked where I have as I crossed those grounds?

In the end, though this was my first time to Boston and a quick visit at that, I feel like I've received a worthy introduction. One that has motivated me to continue this with future visits, historical tours and museum strolls. In fact, I've developed a travel theme of "next time," repeated after each brief exposure to a new city with an excitement to see what else there is. Had we had more time, I would have loved to walk The Freedom Trail and Beacon Hill, and visit the Tea Party Museum. Landen, ever the sports enthusiast, has also added stops at Gillette Stadium and Fenway Park (one of the oldest ballparks in the country).

We all have a list of "must return to" destinations. Europe, Hawaii, New York City to tour Ellis Island and now, Boston, are all included on mine.

Until next time!