Monday, April 30, 2012

It's May -- Almost

This past weekend was Work Weekend. I think it was the best one we ever had. Naturalist John took a group to put out the furniture around the grounds and on the patio. They finished by weeding gardens everywhere. Ronnie Smith is going to be thrilled with the job they did on the gardens. Below is their picture. Katie from the front desk took two couples to clean the new canoer cabins in preparation for painting. Getting all the bits of garbage and sawdust out is a huge job. At the end you feel like have the sawdust settled in your hair. They never stopped even for a picture. Next weekend these units will all get a paint job inside and outside. The large group as shown in picture number two worked cleaning the grounds around the new cabins. They built rock walls and gardens. They hauled rocks into piles and filled bags with those little pieces of paper that accumulate around building sites. The one ton truck was totally filled with branches and roots. Finally they celebrated with the first fire in the pit.
Reservations are still coming in. We have some openings May 6-11 that needed to be filled. Bruce has a special up for them. If you can get away, it is a really good price to visit us before the summer rush. This afternoon, Don, Marilyn, Bruce and I are off to Duluth. It is the annual Upper Lakes food show. We will be viewing all the new food items to possibly put on the menu. Last year this was where we bought the cone-shaped dishes for ice cream. Tomorrow morning there will be no breakfast for any of us. There are enough samples of food to keep us well filled. Next weekend is Green Up. Once again people will spread out to plant trees in places burned by the Ham Lake Fire. There will also be a big effort up at the Chik-Wauk Museum and Nature Center. The historical society is working to re-establish the trail to Gneiss Lake. This year they are working on the section to Blueberry Hill. I must admit that I am not to sure exactly where that is. Next week I will be able to give you more information. On the May 13th work starts on the canopy/zip line project. We are all excited. Yesterday I got a driving lesson on one of the new Polaris 6-passenger ATV’s that will be used to take people up to the start of the canopy tour. I will most definitely NOT be one of the guides on the tour. I think I will be a much better chauffeur. Of course, I will still have to take one run down the line. Looking over my shoulder from above will be Bruce’s mother, Justine. The horses arrive tomorrow. Mandy and Betsy, her new wrangler, have been busy working at the stable to get everything ready. Jason Merrill hooked up the water line. I also use that line to water my garden. It seems like everything is beginning to pick up and get busier. Even with all the snow gone early, April is not a month that has a lot of guests. As a result, it is most cleanup and preparation. It will be good to be filled with guests.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

April Showers

Another sign of spring has appeared. Yesterday there was a loon swimming just off our dock. I haven’t heard any calling but this one was sure big and beautiful. It is warm enough to have our bedroom windows open so we will start to hear the loons calling soon.

With the ice off the lake, the deer have disappeared into the woods until next November. Bruce and I filled our bird feeders since there are no deer to empty them overnight. Right away yesterday we had purple finches, chickadees, and pine siskins all over. These little birds can empty the feeders almost as fast as the deer. Now I am looking to see if any of the American goldfinches are starting to turn into their summer yellow feathers.

I talk about April being slow but we have actually been very busy for April. This is not a lot but each year we seem to get a few more people who come up to just relax and hike before the summer crowds hit us. This weekend we have a bunch of dog lovers staying with us. The dogs enjoy walking in the woods without leases. Actually they run and smell all over.

We spent Saturday night in Duluth with Lee, Eva, Grant and Mae. The event was going to the water park at the Edgewater. It was a big success. For a 2-year old and a 4-year old, this water park was overwhelming. It took four adults to be with them all the time. By the time we left after pizza, all six of us were tired out.

Next we went to the park at the end of Park Point. The day was so beautiful that no one wanted to go in. So we spent the rest of the afternoon walking along the shore by our hotel. Grant climbed all the big rocks. Mae picked up the pebbles and threw them two feet. Tucker strained at his lease to keep us moving along. You could tell it was a wonderful Saturday afternoon. There were people wandering all over the lake front.

Sunday morning the weather had done a 180. It was overcast, misty and cold. We still went for a little walk. Just as we started a big ore ship was coming out onto Lake Superior. You should have seen Grant run to see the ship. What fun he had!

Bruce and I drove home and managed to get here before the rain and snow of the evening. On Monday morning we had 4” of snow with ice beneath it. It is slowly going away and may be gone today. We are set for more rain/snow. My garden is calling me but there is no sense in being out in this mess. The good news is that we need all the moisture we can get.

There is no picture today. Gray and rain does not leave much exciting for a picture. For that we need sunshine. Maybe it will happen next week.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012


After our time in Morocco, we flew to Lisbon for a week. There were six of us on this portion of the trip. Bruce leased two 2-bedroom apartment right in the center of town. It felt really good to be staying in modern apartments. He found them on VRBO (Vacation Rentals By Owner). We spent the next few days leisurely visiting Lisbon.

There were three main areas we all enjoyed. By train we visited Belem just on the outskirts of Lisbon. It is a large area with museums, monasteries and located where many of the voyages to the world by Vasco De Gama, Magellan and others started from. We spent quite a bit of time wandering around the area.

One day we took a tour to Sintra. Located just outside Lisbon, this is a small town with two castles, both of which we toured. The town itself is filled with winding streets and small shops. Naturally, we found a few things we could not do without. Our guide that day was just excellent and knew the histories well. Since he had lived in the States for several years, he also spoke English very well.

The most unexpected place we visited with the Oceanario in Lisbon. It is the second largest aquarium in the world and has live exhibits of all the various ocean areas. We spent probably three hours exploring it. The sea life they showed was amazing.

Of course, our favorite activity was just exploring and walking the streets of Lisbon. There are many outdoor cafes where we had tea and pasties and watched the traffic flow by. Just around the corner from our apartment was a wonderful ice cream shop. We visited it several times.

As you might expect, finding good restaurants was high on our list. One night we ate in a restaurant that specialized in presently traditional Fado music. Another night we ate in a monastery that was now a restaurant. There was also a good restaurant just around the corner. Another night we ate in an Italian restaurant. We even had take-out pizza for dinner.

What kind of food did we like best? It started with breakfast in our apartment with fresh pastries from a nearby shop and strawberries from a street vendor. Lunches were just pickups depending on where we were except for the day we were in Belim. Here there is a restaurant that has been making custard tarts forever. We all over ate there along with the lines of people who buy tarts and sit outside eating them.

My favorite dinner entrée is actually an appetizer. I just love baby clams steamed in wine with cilantro. I ate it three times for dinner. Of course, what makes it the best is how fresh the clams are. Salmon was another great favorite in our group. Lamb was always available. As you might guess, we ate too much but the choice was wonderful. Sometimes we were able to get a table that overlooked the dining room. Bruce and I love to watch the operation of a dining room. I am sure that comes as a great surprise to all of you.

Now that we are home, it is good to look back on this wonderful trip and to start planning our next trip.

Sunday, April 01, 2012


Bruce and I just returned from a trip to Morocco and Portugal with 9 friends. I forgot to let you know we were going in the rush to get everything finished up. I’ll tell you a little about Morocco today and then Lisbon next time.

After 24 hours in transit we arrive at our riad (b and b) in Marrakech about midnight. From the airport it was a 20 minutes drive through narrower and narrower streets and then a ten minute walk through the really narrow streets.

The next morning we woke early to the sounds of Muslims being called to prayer (5:00 a.m.). Breakfast was on the porch. Our day was a guided tour through parts of the old city. Just walking around was an adventure as we competed for space on the streets with other walkers, bikes, motorcycles, cars and donkey drawn carts. It is all fascinating and so unlike what we have at home. The souk is like a rabbit warren of streets and alleys.

Our guide showed us a tannery, rug stores, metal shops, etc. But the best part came in the evening at the main square. There each day a small city of about 125 temporary restaurants is set up. Locals and tourists combine to frequent the restaurants which accommodate about 25-50 people each. The food is all made on site quickly. Bruce ordered a bunch for us and we ate until we were stuffed. Then it was time to wander the square with its venders and entertainers. I tried to avoid the snake charmers.

After another day in town, we headed for the country. The first day was fine. After that our three 4x4’s and head guide were into country they had never been before. That second day we tried to cross a pass that was clogged by snow for 100 feet and no way around. It was back down a one-way, rocky road and then the long way to our hotel. We got there about midnight. The next two nights we spent at a tent camp on the edge of the desert but the guide and drivers didn’t know how to get there so it was another late arrival.

Our day in the tent camp revolved around a camel ride. Again directions seemed to be a problem but at least it was daylight and not over a mountain pass. We only had to go back a short distance to meet up with the camels. Here I am on my trusty camel. Our final day in the Sahara was another day of getting lost. We drove about 30 miles past our camp and then had trouble finding it on the way back. That night we stayed in huts built of one foot thick mud. They had beds, one electric light bulb and a door held on with wire hinges.

The food was surprisingly good but very repetitive. For one or two meals each day we ate their national food – tangine. Cooked in a clay pot with a cone shaped top, this is basically a pot roast with meat (beef, chicken or lamb), vegetables, potatoes, olives, prunes, and nuts mounded inside and cooked until very tender. The most outstanding food was the fresh oranges which were in season. They were served peeled and sliced with cinnamon. Tree ripened fruit is much better than what we get.

Our homecoming surprise was open water and no snow. Bruce does not ever remember ice out this early. Jason brought the dock over yesterday on March 31st. It is good to be home.