Archive for June, 2012

The Business of Business

There are certain times in everyone’s life that they will always remember.  For our new business we had one of those momentous occasions this week.  We received a call from a nationwide television show hosted by a very famous person.  I’m not going to reveal the person, but let’s just say you know who it is and he wears suspenders.

We were approached to do a segment on this particular show because of our business, Fresh Air Lodging.  It would have been a huge deal for us.  I’m talking going-to-prom-with-the-captain-of- the-football-team huge.  We did a quick interview on the phone; we discussed what the program is, who benefits from participating, and other specifics.  Everyone agreed that our program was a good fit for this show.  And that is when the rug was pulled out from under us.  It turns out there are huge production costs that we would incur to do the show.  That translated into tens of thousands of reasons why we couldn’t do it.

We started to get a little bummed out.  It would’ve been the perfect place for us to strut our proverbial stuff.  We could’ve gotten the attention to the program that it deserves.  We would have rocked that show.  But now the option was gone.  No more date for the prom.

After a small mental pity party, I returned to the office and went back to the business of business.  Thoughts of what-could-have-been swirled in my head, not to be spoken aloud.  We did say things to each other like what an honor it was just to be asked; but it was of little comfort.  And then the phone rang.  Someone calling from Ohio said they wanted to interview us for a nationwide newsletter.  They wanted info, pictures, logos, the whole shebang.  The clouds lifted, the sun shone, and I danced after all.


Duluth’s Flood of the Century

Many of you may have heard about the recent flooding in our city, Duluth, Minnesota.  If I had not seen it with my own eyes, I would not be able to wrap my head around what happened.  We are a city on a fairly steep hill on the shores of Lake Superior.  We are used to water, but nothing like this.  Here are a few pictures I took the day after the flood–yes, the water had started to subside by this time. 


This is Regent Street at about 42nd Avenue East in Lakeside.  This was a road and a yard.  Now it is a huge sinkhole.  Just one of many Duluth will have to repair.  There was a tiny creek that ran along side and under this road.  It turned into a lake in Washington Square Park.

This is the Lester River that feeds into Lake Superior.  On a typical day you see mostly large boulders and clear, shallow water when you look over the rail of this bridge.  The powerful current of the clay-filled water was sweeping trees from the shoreline out into the lake.

This is a street near the University of Minnesota Duluth.  People were kayaking down the main drag to get in and out of their homes.

Thanks to the quick action of the staff here, most of the vehicles from this car dealership were saved.  This would be the neighborhood typically considered “Up On the hill”, not where you would expect to find extreme flooding. 

Now we are left to fix what is broken.  The totals are already over $100 Million for streets and infrastructure alone.  But we will rebuild.  We will come together as a community and help our neighbors.  The loss of countless personal effects and a dozen zoo animals is a tragedy.  But thankfully we got out alive.  Duluth, land of the Fresh Air, is still open for business.

Summer 2012

Summer 2012

Duluth, Fresh Air Capital of Minnesota!

Shops and Lift Bridge in Canal ParkWilliam A. Irvin Ore Boat Museum

Summer is here!  Okay, maybe if you’re looking on a calendar it’s a few days away, but in northern Minnesota, the weekend of Grandma’s Marathon is the kickoff to the summer season.  Hotels are feverishly checking and double-checking reservations, restaurants are rolling out new summer menus, and activities are popping up everywhere.  In our house, we like to run the half marathon.  We register a whole team (the Lakeside Limpers) and we are for the most part…pathetic.  We do have a ‘serious’ runner or two, but mostly we do it because we love the atmosphere.  And we know around mile nine there are people handing out beer!!

But why is everyone else flocking to Duluth?  I can’t speak for everyone, of course, but I think there are a number of ideas that are quite plausible.  First of all, we have quality lodging in the Twin Ports.  Whether you’re looking for a downtown location like the Holiday Inn or right on Lake Superior like the Hampton Inn or Solglimt Bed and Breakfast, there are many great options.  But it’s not likely that people come north just to stay in a hotel.  So what are they doing here?

Besides a world-class marathon, Duluth boasts numerous other festivals and events.  We have a blues festival that spans three days on multiple stages.  And if that isn’t enough for one weekend, when the actual festival disperses for the night, many larger hotels and bars have live entertainment until the wee hours of the night.  Then there’s the multitude of other gatherings in Bayfront Park like (July) Fourthfest, concerts, Octoberfest, art fairs, etc.  And let’s not forget, in the winter you can walk through Bentleyville, an outdoor park filled with nearly three million lights, bonfires, and Santa.  If you time your vacation right next summer, you can take in the Tall Ships festival put together by Visit Duluth, it will be huge!

So if you’re looking to take a trip, whether it’s a long weekend or an extended stay, there’s something for everyone in Duluth.  Walk along the miles of paved trails adjacent to the world’s largest freshwater lake, or maybe cross the bridge to Superior (Wisconsin) for an Anchor Burger.  You don’t need to be a runner to love Duluth.  But I think the tens of thousands of marathon participants that just pulled in would agree, Duluth is the Fresh Air capital of Minnesota.

Chicken and Artichoke Bake

(For our carb-load meal the night before!)

6 oz (dry) bowtie pasta                                               1 T butter

1 small onion diced                                                     1 C mozzarella cheese

2 cooked chicken breasts, diced                               1-2 T fine-chopped cilantro

1 T minced garlic                                                         1 tsp lemon pepper

1 14 oz can artichoke hearts                                      ½ C shredded parmesan cheese

⅓ C Reisling (or other white) wine                          ½ C Panko bread crumbs

1 tsp Cayenne powder                                                 1T + 2T olive oil

Put pasta cooking as directed.  In a large pan sauté 1T of the olive oil, onion, garlic, and chicken.  Drain, rinse, and chop the artichoke and add to the pan.  Stir in wine, cayenne, butter, and lemon pepper.  When the pasta is done, drain and add to pan.  Toss with mozzarella and cilantro and spread in a greased deep-dish pie pan.  Mix together the parmesan, bread crumbs, and 2T olive oil.  Sprinkle evenly over the top and bake at 375° for about 20 minutes.  Great served with toasted baguette or garlic bread.

Fresh Air, Food, and Fun in Puerto Rico!

El Yunque Rain Forest Puerto RicoOld San Juan, Puerto Rico

I’ve said it many times before, and I’ll say it again; I am a very lucky girl!  Last week we had the good fortune of traveling (again!) with another couple with whom we are friends.  We were staying at a resort in the Luquillo/Rio Grande area of Puerto Rico.  It is near the base of El Yunque rain forest and our room looked out over a nature preserve.  It was awesome to watch the huge turtles and iguanas from our balcony, and the facilities there were nice and quite socially responsible.

We had done some research for food and activities ahead of time, but the best tips came from our usual ask-the-employees-where-they-eat/drink routine. We piled into the rented Toyota and drove to El Rincon Del Sabor in Luquillo.  I have to admit, three of us were nervous as we got out; but my husband (the adventurous researcher) never flinched.  We were definitely bowled over.  The owner was our server, his wife cooked, and their granddaughters helped clean.  The fish and seafood were out of this world.  The place was clean and the owner even came out and did a shot with us after our meal!

Another highly recommended place was the strip of kiosks near our resort.  The one we ate at, La Parrilla (a family-run place known as kiosk number two) was so good we went twice.  We don’t get a lot of Mahi Mahi in northern Minnesota, so we were all over that.  I loved the rice and beans and we also discovered we love mofongo (a dish that consists of cooked, mashed plantains combined with seafood, meat, or vegetables).  It is delicious, and I admit I’ve already been scoping out plantains locally!

We couldn’t go to this neighborhood without hiking El Yunque.  It was beautiful, rugged, and still had tons fairly accessible paths.  They had picnic areas with grills and running water—you don’t see that every day!  It made for a nice half-day adventure, but you could easily spend an entire day there.

I do wish we would have had more time for Old San Juan.  It reminded me so much of southern Spain.  In fact, Mike and I stumbled onto a neighborhood watering hole called Rosa de Triana that made me feel like I was back on the Costa de la Luz!  We had great company in the owner, staff, and a local gal as we watched Spain win a soccer game on the TV in the bar.  It’s the little places like this that have the most interesting stories.  We also found a cigar shop, el Galpón, where we bought outstanding cigars grown and hand-rolled by a local man.  Wow.

All this being said; I can’t stop thinking about what a great trip it was.  And a huge shout out and thank you to Four Winds Photography for the guest post last week.  The pictures were great!  In honor of all the great food we had on our trip, here is my rendition of Puerto Rican Rice and Beans.  Enjoy!

Puerto Rican Rice and Beans

1 chipotle pepper in adobo sauce (if you like it spicy, add a little of the sauce)

½ diced onion

½ diced sweet pepper or green bell pepper

2 tsp minced garlic

1 tsp cumin

1 can (about 15 oz) small red beans drained and slightly rinsed

8 oz tomato sauce

2 cups cooked brown rice

Olive oil, salt & pepper to taste

Heat the oil in a large pan over medium heat.  Add onion, peppers, garlic, salt/pepper, and cumin, sauté until tender.  Add beans, tomato sauce, rice, and enough water to ‘loosen’ the mixture—about a cup.  Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low and simmer until desired consistency—it should be creamy, not a fluffy appearance.

A Light Study


These three photographs were taken with a Nikon D700 and an AF-S Micro Nikkor 60mm 1:2.8G ED Nikon Nano-Coated lens at the UWS greenhouse. I used only natural ambient available light without a flash and minimal post production work. The strength of these pictures is in the light, which is the key strength in all good photographs. I sought out these specific flowers because of their beatiful natural light, I did not take pictures of all the flowers and try to make them beautiful photographs. Poor lighting will flatten an image and make it boring, however, if you observe the light around you and use it to your advantage, the photo will pop. Light is as important to photography as it is to life itself. Without it, neither would exist.


Jeremy  Robinson

Four Winds Photography, LLC