Archive for April, 2013

Relax…Unwind…Slowcation!

Turtles Tanning

Big turtles and iguanas sunning themselves in Puerto Rico

Normally in the morning I read the paper and get right to work.  But last week, since we were out of town, I took the opportunity to do some relaxing and morning television viewing.  I came across a segment on Good Morning America on vacation trends.  Apparently the fad of “Staycations” has passed.  The hot new vacation is the “Slowcation”.  New?  Huh, I never knew we were so cutting edge in my house.  In fact, my husband is pretty sure he invented this!

Since we are in the hospitality business, we do a lot of traveling for work.  Many times we are attending meetings and conventions where our time is scheduled for us.  If you’ve read any of my other posts, you know what a control freak I am, so this letting-someone-else-plan-my-day obviously drives me a little nuts!  When it comes time for our vacations and brief getaways, slowcation is exactly what we do.

The picture of the turtles and iguanas is from a trip we took with some friends to Puerto Rico.  We made sure we had very few things scheduled.  With just a little research, we found the best meal of our whole trip at a tiny restaurant called El Rincon del Sabor.  We hiked the El Yunque rainforest and explored Old San Juan.  It was relaxing and rejuvenating and just what we needed; all at our own pace.

Ben with his walleye on Mille Lacs Lake, MN.  Fishing opener 2012.

Ben with his walleye on Mille Lacs Lake, MN. Fishing opener 2012.

Another favorite slowcation we take regularly is to go fishing.  There is no better way to get kids “unplugged” than to take them away from cell towers and put them in a boat; especially when the title of Biggest Catch is up for grabs!  We have a rule when we are camping, all the technology stays behind.  There are no phones or electronic games/tablets.  We make our own fun and (believe it or not) have live conversations!  It’s amazing how that happens when the screens get left behind.

Fritz looking over Lake Superior towards Spirit Mountain and West Duluth, MN.

Fritz looking over Lake Superior towards Spirit Mountain and West Duluth, MN.

Looking for some ideas to plan your own slowcation?

  • Find a destination 300-500 miles from home.  Locate two or three places on the way there to spend a night or two.
  • Plan minimally!  Book lodging and very little else; gather info on activities and restaurants, and put them in a folder so you can decide as you go.
  • UNPLUG!  Yes, that’s right, everyone.  Go old school for a few days and reconnect.  I promise, you can do it, and even teens will begin to speak…eventually!
  • Have plenty of activities for drive time.  Remember the old games we played on those family trips before there were cell phones?  Now you’re talking!  Don’t forget travel board games, too.
  • Have rewards for good behavior.  Maybe let them pick the next activity or restaurant.
  • Go multi-generational.  There are too many benefits to list, and frankly, kids tend to be a little better around grandparents…usually!
  • Of course, don’t forget your pet.  I know Fritz, our Miniature Schnauzer, loves to go boating, fishing, and in general, slowcationing.

 

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Sowing Seeds for Earth Day

This is what we woke up to today, April 19th.  Welcome to the snowiest April in history...Springtime in Duluth!

This is what we woke up to today, April 19th. Welcome to the snowiest April in history…Springtime in Duluth!

It’s hard to believe that next week is Earth Day already.  We are still getting dumped-on regularly with a foot or more of snow, and there doesn’t seem to be an end in sight.  But, cock-eyed optimist that I am, I know eventually spring and summer will come.  So, we figured we better get some seeds started for the garden.  Hopefully it will go to the right of this snow-covered treehouse, hidden by the thickened branches.

Soil... seeds... pods... check!

Soil… seeds… pods… check!

Since these tomatoes, peppers, and flowers need to have an indoor start, we opted for plantable pods that can go right into the ground…hopefully…if it ever stops snowing!  If you look carefully, you’ll see a small zipper bag amongst the peppers; those are Mexican Midget tomatoes.  We got some seeds from a friend of a friend last year and planted them in our garden.  Unfortunately the flood-of-the-century in June washed away most of our garden.  Or so we thought.  Suddenly we had these crazy little tomatoes sprouting all around the garden–even a couple of plants showed up in our potted plants by the house!  Ah, nature.

We assumed these were pretty hardy seeds, worth trying again, so we saved some.  We squished a couple of the small tomatoes, soaked the seeds to remove the "slimy stuff" (yes, this was a very technical operation!), dried them, and then stored them in a tiny zipper bag.  Now it's time to sow again, ta-da, circle of life.

We assumed these were pretty hardy seeds, worth trying again, so we saved some. We squished a couple of the
small tomatoes, soaked the seeds to remove the “slimy stuff” (yes, this was a very technical operation!), dried
them, and then stored them in a tiny zipper bag. Now it’s time to sow again. Ta-da, circle of life.

Time to get Dirty!

Time to get a little dirty!  The soil goes in the pots…

Seed in Hand

Future peppers…right there…in my hand!

Planted!

All the seeds, resting nicely in their new pods.

Tucked In

After a little drink of water, the tops will be closed and they’ll nap in front of the window.  In a couple of months they’ll be transplanted to the garden with the rest of the direct-sow vegetables.  Sleep tight, my delicious little friends!

If you want to learn more about gardening, surf around or check out your local library.  Many cities offer classes and instruction on how to grow your own food.  Don’t have room?  Look into renting a plot in a community garden or perhaps some container gardening.  You can grow peas, cucumbers, or tomatoes for example, in containers on your stoop if you have the right amount of light.  Some libraries even go as far as letting you “check out” seeds, returning new ones after harvest.  Now that sounds like a good idea every day, not just for Earth Day!  Now if it would just stop snowing…

When Winter Won’t Let Go, a pictorial

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Believe it or not, this is the scene on Lake Superior before the storm!
This is Thursday, 11 April 2013 in the Canal Park area of Duluth, MN.

 

I think everyone in town agrees that this looks more like the Gales of November, not spring!

I think everyone in town agrees that this looks more like the Gales of November, not spring!

 

The largest freshwater lake in the world, Lake Superior.

The largest freshwater lake in the world, Lake Superior.
Note the icicles hanging off the bench!

 

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Curlers over the pier.

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Waves and whitecaps as far as the eye can see.

 

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The shoreline looking toward the hospital area and east side of town.

What else would you do after a spring storm?

What else would you do after a spring storm?

 

Lost my steps!  After (during?) the storm.

Lost my steps! After (during?) the storm.

Two days ago this was grass.

Two days ago this was grass.

 

Someday our spring will come...I hope!

Someday our spring will come…I hope!

 

Greening Your Spring Cleaning

Green BoyI heard a rumor that spring has sprung.  We’re in a winter weather advisory until tomorrow evening, but we did have a week of great weather and a lot of melting.  So, in honor of Earth Day on the 22nd this month, I thought I’d pass along some natural spring cleaning tips.  Feel free to chime-in and give some feedback if you’ve tried these or if you have some new ones!

  • For a natural disinfectant, mix up two cups of water, three tablespoons of liquid soap, and 20-30 drops of tea tree oil in a spray bottle.  Shake well before each use.
  • To clean your windows and mirrors, nothing beats vinegar!  We have a ton of windows and this is excellent.  Add a splash of vinegar to a gallon of water.  You can apply with a rag out of the bucket, or put some in a spray bottle.  Use a squeegee to wipe off and finish with a micro fleece rag.
  • Deodorize your carpets.  Remove all throw rugs and shake out/wash as able.  Vacuum carpets, sprinkle with baking soda or cornstarch, and let sit for about a half hour.  Vacuum the powder.
  • For hard wood floors, mix 1/8 cup of white vinegar and two cups of warm water in a spray bottle.  Mist over floors and wipe up with a cotton mop or micro fleece rag.
  • To clean small appliances or your stainless steel, use a paste of baking soda and water.  Rub it in a little and let it sit for a bit.  Remove with a damp cloth and buff dry.
  • To clean your wood furniture, think salad dressing… yep, one part white vinegar and three parts light olive oil!  Dust the furniture, shake the spray bottle with the mixture, and spray into a micro fleece cloth.  Rub the cloth over the wood, buffing it clean.
  • Spring clean your washing machine.  For a top loader, turn it on the largest, hottest setting.  Once full, add three to four cups of white vinegar and let it agitate for a minute.  Add a half cup of baking soda and agitate again to mix in.  Open the lid and let it sit for 30-60 minutes.  While you’re waiting, use a rag and the vinegar/soda solution to clean the surface and seals.  After an hour, close lid and finish the cycle.  For a front load, run a wash in hot water with a cup of vinegar.  When complete, wipe down seals and exterior with a 50/50 vinegar and water solution.
  • Now that your washer is clean, wash up your winter clothes and get ready for summer.  Divide them into three groups
    •  Keep—store for next winter
    • Donate—bring to a local drop-off
    • Upcycle—store until you’re ready to use, great for items not fit to donate

There you have it, a more natural way to spring clean.  Now if we could just convince Mother Nature that it’s April…oh well, looks like I’ve got a snowy weekend to do some cleaning!