Archive for September, 2012

Falling For Color, A Pictorial

Summer is giving in to fall.  The last of the flowers are blooming, getting ready to call it a year.  We decided to take a hike and check out the beauty of northern Minnesota before all the color was done.  This unique flower was in Enger Park.

I can’t imagine living somewhere that doesn’t get to experience this time of year.  To see a bright green leaf turn red or yellow is a true testament of nature’s splendor.  It’s no wonder that many in our area say this is their favorite time of the year.

Peering through the woods now you can still feel the warmth of the sun.  It won’t be long before this is blanketed in white.

This is the side view of Enger Tower located at the top of the city of Duluth, MN.  It’s not the end of the world—but I think you can see it from here!  This is one of the greatest places in the Twin Ports to look out over the cities of Duluth and Superior, Wisconsin.

This is another view of Enger Tower.  You can see there is a great deal of rock situated around the tower.  This is just one of many rock formations you’ll find located “on the hillside”.  There is a winding scenic highway that goes through town where you can stop and see many of these formations.

This is the view from the top of the hill.  It looks out over Lake Superior, the largest freshwater lake in the world.  Boats like this are frequent visitors to the international seaport.  The Aerial Lift Bridge—connecting downtown Duluth with Canal Park– raises up to let boats pass through to the docks.

This view is beyond the Lift Bridge into the Park Point section of Duluth.  It stretches out for about four miles into the harbor.  It is lined with houses on both sides and a handful of businesses are mixed in.  There is an airport at the end along with the public beach and boat launch.  This is a great place to put a boat in and putt around the harbor.  You can get very close to the big boats and Canal Park or head the other direction and wind along the St Louis River Bay around Superior, WI or the western Duluth area.

I loved the look of this lone leaf.  It was kind of like the last one on that branch trying to hold out.  Maybe it thought if it didn’t fall it could hold off winter (and heavy snow!) for us.  Hey, a girl can dream!

Just as sure as that lone leaf is going to fall, this little guy has to prepare for winter.  It will be a long time with no readily available food.  Lucky for him there is an abundance in the Minnesota autumn woods.

Pizza and Cupcakes and Texting Oh My!

A funny thing happened over dinner the other night.  (No, it’s not the start of a joke, this is a true story!)  We were out with a group of family members celebrating the 71st birthday of my Godfather.  The pizza was gone or boxed up and most of us had pushed away from the remaining cupcakes.  I saw this as a good time to check the new text that just dinged in my phone.  For less than a minute I was engrossed in reading about a boating accident in the Mediterranean that took the life of a well-know local person.  Suddenly I heard my Godmother comment about how everyone always has to be on their phones and no one has verbal conversations anymore.  Given the age of the crowd, there was no point in trying to sway the opinion.  I just silently went along with consensus; that internet thing will never catch on.

Seriously?  Yes, I swear, true story.  What my elder family members do not understand is that the internet—and social media in general—is definitely here to stay and it is crucial to doing business.  Whether or not a company is selling tangible products/services online, they still have an online reputation.  If that company is not onboard with current technology and managing their online reputation, it is still going to be out there.  Except now it is unchecked, accepted as truth, and running wild.  We live in a time of immediate gratification; now is not soon enough.  If you think an unhappy customer will call or email you and wait for a satisfactory resolution to their problem you are living in a dream world and it’s called 1950!

Today’s consumers are online contributing to the reputation of businesses.  They know what issues other customers have had and whether or not those problems were resolved in a reasonable manner.  They also know with whom companies do business and where their charitable donations are going; just ask Target and the Susan G. Komen executives how that works.  Not to mention these social media patrons have access to current events every second of every day.  No longer is the news on at just six and ten or on certain websites; it’s available through constant updates like Twitter feeds around the clock.

I know a lot of people don’t like to try new things, but change is your friend.  Change is the only sure thing in life besides death.  I’m certainly not advocating for spending all your time in front of a screen; I actually believe much of our country’s polarization is due to loss of normal conversational ability.  But that doesn’t mean you can’t balance the online realm with the real world, or catch up on current events when you have a minute of down-time.  As with pizza and cupcakes, everything in moderation.

 

Banana Flip Cupcakes

24 cupcakes made from yellow cake mix, baked and cooled

8 oz cream cheese, softened

1 C powdered sugar

1 tub whipped topping

1 T banana flavoring

 

Beat the cream cheese and powdered sugar together until the lumps are gone.  Add the banana flavoring and about a third of the whipped topping and beat until smooth.  Fold in the remaining whipped topping half at a time.  Put in a large zip-top bag or pastry bag fitted with a long tip.  Insert the tip into the middle of the cupcake and squeeze a generous amount inside.  Repeat for all the cupcakes, using about half the frosting, and frost the tops with the rest.  Store in the refrigerator, enjoy in moderation.

Back Away From My Bevie!

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg got his way yesterday as the Board of Health passed his ban on extra large sweetened beverages purchased from businesses that receive inspection grades from the health department.  The Bloomberg-appointed board was unanimous in voting for the highly criticized and unpopular law that will take effect next spring, with fines being issued to non-compliant establishments beginning in June.

The Mayor’s belief is that if these beverages are not available in such a large size, it will help to reduce the sweeping obesity epidemic in the city.  With over half of the population falling into this category, yes, something does need to be done.  Is restricting the size of your soda the answer?  Not in my opinion. Almost 40% of the students under fourteen in New York’s public schools are overweight.  I agree that sweetened beverages are a large contributor to this problem, but let’s look a little deeper than just a jug of soda.  A peek at the lunch calendar on the city’s website reveals options like the deluxe cheddar burger, mozzarella sticks, processed deli meats and white-flour-laden thick crust pizza and bagels.  Students are encouraged to be in front of screens and do not have physical activity daily in school.  Is soda the real culprit behind obesity?  Not entirely.

One of the things I find perplexing about this ban is the logic behind it, or lack thereof.  Once in place, New Yorkers will no longer be able to go to the movies and enjoy popcorn and a large soda.  Now, if you’re not eating this every day, where is the harm?  And if they really wanted it, they could just order two sodas and get the same amount or more.  Make sense?  Nope, not to me, either.  Fast food patrons will still have access to refills…wait, what?  Basically you just get a bit more exercise walking up to get your remaining drink.  And if you’re really jonesing for a large pick-me-up, you can head to a convenience store where they are exempted from the ban altogether because they are regulated by the state of New York, not the city.  Hail the Big Gulp!

Now, I’m not a sweetened soda drinker; I prefer an occasional diet soda and drink a lot of water.  But wouldn’t it be wiser to teach our children that no food/beverage group is totally off limits?  Whatever happened to everything in moderation?  My kids enjoy a “full-test” soda once in a while.  And even though I heckle them a little, I let it go because I know that is an exception and not the rule.  They are also subject to minimal screen time and extensive physical activity.  Perhaps more education and living by example is the answer, not more government restriction.  If you feel like a real rebel, skip the under-300-calorie twenty ounce soda and opt for a large, nearly 1000 calorie milkshake; for some reason those are still legal.  For now.

BWCAW Camping Pictorial

We’ve been in the hotel business for several decades.  When we go on vacation, we want to get away from the hustle and bustle.  So where do we go?  To the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness on the Minnesota/Canada border.  It is a beautiful chain of lakes, many of which are only accessible by paddling a canoe and walking some trails.  There are no motors, sparse accessibility to cell towers, and a whole lot of peace and quiet.  Take a peek at what our vacation is like.

We load our gear up into a seventeen foot canoe.  Here’s what it looks like on the beach.  We start out in a lake that is zoned for small motors.  But we do end our 14 mile journey in a paddle-only zone.

The scenery is amazing.  Trees shoot up out of rocks and the ripples in the water shine like diamonds in the sun.

Here’s where we live for the week.  It’s about 8’ X 8’, just big enough for a queen-size air mattress.  Hey, we’re roughing it but we’re not roughing it!  Just behind the big rock on the right is the path to the latrine.  You can see all the rocks sticking up from the ground; they make that latrine walk a little tricky at times!

This is the view we wake up to every morning.  Sure beats looking at a bunch of traffic zipping around on a freeway!  We leave our door/flap  open all night to enjoy the fresh air and the unbelievable light of the moon.  Sometimes it’s like daylight it’s so bright.  And, without a bunch of city lights around, the night sky is overflowing with stars.

We rarely see other people while we’re in the Boundary Waters.  I found this a bit ironic and had to capture it in a photo.  The island we stay on is technically campsite 68.  Most of the people who frequent Basswood Lake call it Gilligan’s Island.  Now look at the man in the back of this canoe heading into Canada…I couldn’t resist!

And this is of course what we’re doing here…fishing for the big walleye.

Mmm, tasty.  Thanks, G-Loomis.