Thursday, February 28, 2008

Are you hip to the 1950s?

The Minnesota Historical Society is sponsoring a series looking at the elements of 1950s culture that shaped the art, music, and design standards of that era and how those influences exist today. The "History of Hip" series as it's billed, will be held at the Turf Club on University Avenue, and the first program will be on March 4th looking at the Beat Generation. On April 22nd, the series will focus on the art, furniture and architecture of the period (which I plan on attending!) and May 6th will be the last night of the series looking at Jazz. All programs start at 7:30 PM and are 5 bucks for MHS members and $6 for non-members. Who says you can't learn something in a bar?

Image: German Historical Institute.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Home to the Nation's 2nd Oldest Rose Garden

Random piece of Minneapolis trivia. Lyndale Park Rose Garden near Lake Harriet is the second oldest public rose garden in the US. It was constructed 100 years ago in 1907/1908 and is outseated by a garden in Connecticut that was built 4 years earlier. The garden has 3000 plants, representing 100 different varieties. Ah sweeet spring...just around the corner.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Midway's Inland Port

I'm a sucker for train whistles. I've also been mocked in my professional life for my interest in freight and how to move and store goods efficiently. So it's a sort of funny coincidence that my neighborhood is home to one of the larger urban intermodal (i.e. mix of trains and trucks=2 different "modes") terminals in the area. The Burlington Northern Sante Fe Intermodal Terminal is a 50-acre site, nestled right alongside of the Pierce Butler Route near Fairview Avenue. There are several train tracks that carry freight trains with scores of shipping containers that have Chinese characters and names imprinted on them. At the the terminal, some of the shipping containers are off-loaded and put onto trucks for local distribution. The others stay on the trains going to who knows where.

I love the mystery about the whole thing. Where did these containers originate? What's in them? Where are they going? I also love the fact that this port-like facility is chock full of shipping containers with no water in sight. You sure don't expect to see it where it is. I'm not blind to the fact that this can also be a nuisance to nearby residences, but I'm happy to see our city, that isn't on a coast, play a part in the global movement of goods.


Monday, February 25, 2008

Start Seeing Art

Thanks to Metroblogging Twin Cities for highlighting Start Seeing Art, a great interactive website with a map and linked photos identifying public art all over the Twin Cities metro area. You can contribute to the website by helping to identify unknown artwork. And it's more free cool stuff to check out on your next drive to wherever in the metro.

image: Stella Salon mural in Columbia Heights by John Grider.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Best Subs in the Twin Cities

It's crazy I know, but my brother has convinced me (along with my tastebuds) that the Gopher staple, the Big 10 Restaurant and Bar, makes the best subs in the area.  I hadn't had one in probably 12 or more years and there's definitely something in that secret sauce.   Next stop, Bewiched Deli for what I'm sure is an incomparable overall sandwich.     

Friday, February 22, 2008

Winter boating

The other day on another St. Paul driving whim, the child and I took a spin on Water Street along the Mississippi on the west (south, geographically) side of downtown. After a quick drive-by of the park at Harriet Island, we passed the St. Paul Yacht Club(established in 1912) and we checked out all of the dry docked boats. Then I remembered a story this summer about liveaboards, who use their houseboats as a primary residence. Surely, folks aren't doing this in the winter? Alas Google has informed me that there are indeed some hearty souls who brave the freezing temps and hunker down in their poorly winterized vessels. Now those are some Minnesotans for ya.

Image: Joel Koyama, Star Tribune.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

150 Things to Do in Minneapolis

The folks at Meet Minneapolis (the official visitors and convention bureau) compiled this major, seasonal list of things to do in the city. See all 150 items here.

Minneapolis has an official Artist in Residence

I stumbled on this the other day and thought it was really cool. The Minneapolis Community Planning and Economic Development Department hired Seitu Jones as the city's Artist in Residence for a 12-14 month term that started last year. His job is to design public art for the city's major transit corridors. I'm not sure if any of his design ideas have been implemented yet, but you can check them out in this presentation, here.

Image: Larry Kanfer.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Why Minneapolis is Great: Reason 1

As I was falling asleep last night, quasi-dreaming of summer, my mind turned to one (well several) of Minnneapolis' major assets. The Chain of Lakes. Folks, if you don't live here, you need to understand how remarkable it is to have lakes in the city limits, with views of the skyline and trails flanking the banks (over 13 miles of trails!), that you can actually SWIM in. I admit, it is a sad state of national affairs when one's amazement about being able to swim in a body of water is as profound as mine. But really, there are few urban bodies of water out there where you can safely submerge your sweaty summer self.

For the uninitiated, the lakes I'm talking about in Minneapolis are: Brownie Lake, Cedar Lake, Lake of the Isles, Lake Calhoun, Lake Harriet. The ones in blue are the ones that have beaches. Lake Nokomis, which is just to the west of the Chain of Lakes is also a popular swimming lake and home to an annual triathlon. This map gives you a sense of how connected these lakes are and check out the photos to see how close to downtown they are (depending on the lake, they're 1 - 3 miles from downtown.)

Lake Calhoun, below:

Lake of the Isles, below:

Images: Lake Harriet,; Lake Calhoun, destination360.c0m; Lake of the Isles, urbanplnnrdad42's Picasa web album.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

City on Seven Hills

The other morning I was struck by the sun casting itself off of the gilded cross on top of the St. Paul Cathedral. The cross, illuminated by the sunlight, pierced through the snowy, foggy clouds of the morning commute and I was reminded that I had once heard St. Paul referred to as "The City on Seven Hills." And surely Cathedral Hill, graced with Archbishop John Ireland's masterpiece must be one of hills, but what could the others be? I found the answer in a book aptly titled "City on Seven Hills: Columns of Oliver Towne" (Oliver Towne, a clever pseudonym of Gareth Hiebert's, was a backpage column first in the St. Paul Dispatch, then the Pioneer Press. It ran from 1954 to 1986 and shared with readers people and places in St. Paul that they might not have otherwise experienced.) Well readers, cue the drum roll, the Seven Hills of St. Paul are....
  • Baptist (which is now home to Mears Park, and not really so much of a hill anymore)
  • Capitol
  • Cathedral
  • Ramsey
  • Dayton's Bluff
  • West Side; and
  • St. Clair
So the next time someone remarks that Rome is the City of Seven Hills, you can casually claim that that your own saintly city is too.

Image: David Brewster.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Why do they call them Parkways when you Drive on them?

This was one of the "101 Questions To Ponder During Humanities Class: Volumes 1 and 2" that fellow Stillwater High School classmates and I scribbled into a notebook that I would love to find! As far as the answer to the question --I think I have a pretty good idea why they call them parkways here in the Twin's because these spaces are practically parks that happen to have roads going through them. Mature trees create canopies over the street, grassy medians separate lanes of traffic and sometimes have benches and paths that encourage pedestrians to be in the middle of the road. They force you to slow down and take in the lovely natural and residential surroundings (it's no surprise that nicer homes are built along the parkways--who wouldn't want their street to feel like a park?!?)

As usual, I have none of my own photos to show you my favorite parkways in the Twin Cities. But the University of Minnesota Design Center did a regional parkway compendium in 2003 called "Community Parkways: An Urban Design Survey of Green Streets in the Twin Cities"
that includes illustrations.

My top 5 favorite parkways:
  • Minnehaha Parkway (Minneapolis)
  • East and West River Roads (Minneapolis and St. Paul)
  • Midway Parkway (St. Paul)
  • Stinson Boulevard (north of 35W in Minneapolis)
  • The Chain of Lakes portion of the Grand Rounds byway (Minneapolis).

Minneapolis has this handy parkway map of all the roads and portions of roads that are classified as parkways.

There's also a YouTube video of someone driving on the Minneapolis Parkways. It makes me nauseous to watch, but you can get a feel of what these roads are like.

Images: Top, Summit Avenue, by Tim. Bottom, Minnehaha Parkway, by R. Bunney.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

The Walker's take on the suburbs

Ever since I got the postcard in the mail the other week with this incredible photo advertising the Walker's new exhibit "Worlds Away: New Suburban Landscapes" I've been itching to attend. I love this image--the Suburban queen holding forth at her personal estate tucked away on a cul-de-sac in Sudden Valley. I can almost see a moat around the McMansion and I keep waiting for Carmella Soprano to pop out of one of the doors too. The exhibit opens this weekend.

Image: from the exhibit, Angela Strassheim, Untitled (Elsa).

Monday, February 11, 2008

You're never too old for a diorama

In my years as a Gopher, I never ventured inside of the Bell Museum of Natural History (on the East Bank of the U of M campus.) Well, during yesterday's Arctic freeze, we decided to check it out and it was awesome. The museum is over 125 years old. It's got two floors of taxidermy encased in these great retro landscape dioramas. Although the child was making it difficult to read the accompanying material, we found ourselves laughing out loud at some of the great descriptions (e.g. "The Feisty Rodent.") There's also a really extensive "Touch and See" room where you can touch all kinds of horns, antlers, bones, furs, and living reptiles. I don't think I've ever seen so much stuff that kids are actually encouraged to manhandle. And for all of you fellow freeloaders, Sunday's are free at the museum.

Friday, February 8, 2008

From the bluffs to the banks

This morning the baby and I took a little motoring excursion.  We took Kellogg Blvd. out of downtown St. Paul, heading NE to Mounds Blvd, where we headed toward Indian Mounds Park. I haven't spent anytime here before and the topography is stunning.  Through the swirling snow we climbed up steep hills that would fool you into thinking that you had left the state.  To our east, the hills were dotted with lovely older homes and to the west a commanding view of the river, skyline, and the banks below.  As we drove further east/south, the view became more surreal--with the wide expanse of railyards and the curve of the river making me feel far from home.  We flipped back around on CR10 to Warner/Shepard/Great River Road.  We descended down to the river flats, traveling alongside the gorgeous beige limestone bluffs encrusted with ice waterfalls. All the while I thought that this would be a ride more appreciated at a bicycle's pace than at 45mph.

images: Mounds Park, from the Margaret Marriott Collection. Shepard Road, from Twin Cities Daily Photo.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

A place for the arts

Minneapolis and St. Paul are really great places if you are an artist. There's great foundation support out there (McKnight and Jerome in particular) and plenty of affordable studio space. There are also lots of opportunities to find places where you can live affordably and while also having studio space to do your art. In my neck of the woods, the Carleton Place Lofts on University Avenue near Raymond, are home to a couple hundred units where artists can live and work. I was also thrilled to discover a couple of years back that Artspace, a non-profit real estate development organization with projects all over the country, was a Minneapolis creation. Artspace creates affordable live/work units for artists, usually by reusing older buildings that once served some other function. They've got lots of properties here in the Cities, from the Grain Belt Studios in Minneapolis to the Northern Warehouse Artist Cooperative in St. Paul. It's great to live in a place that shows its support for the arts in such fundamental, but often overlooked, ways.

image: grain belt brewery, mississippi river field guide.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Another Electoral Aside

Just as my post on the lack of voting rights in DC was a bit off topic for this blog, this post too wavers from my blog's purpose. But as someone who truly cherishes her right to vote, I feel compelled to say that the caucus system here in Minnesota blows. While I love the idea of a caucus being a grass roots way to get motivated citizens involved in the affairs of their political parties, I hate the fact that it makes it impossible for everyone to attend (or even meaningfully participate.) Take our household, someone has to stay home with the child (whose bedtime falls at the caucus start). So the lucky individual heading over to our caucus site found that it was so crowded and there wasn't enough space at the site to even hear what was being said, so straw poll votes were cast and no caucusing took place. Since I can't even claim to understand what exactly happens re: the nomination of our candidate for U.S. Senate, that too seems to be a problem. C'mon folks, a straight up primary (one now for Presidential races and one later for our Congressional seats), is the easiest way to allow everyone who wants to vote a better chance at making it to the polls.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

MK's What Makes for A Great Neighborhood Now.

  1. Sidewalks
  2. Mature trees
  3. Homes that greet the street, rather than garages
  4. Proximity to the following:
    • a park
    • a library
    • a "third place" (e.g. coffee shop, book store, other hang out)
    • a place to buy milk in a pinch
5. Easy opportunities to meet your neighbors
6. Calm enough streets so that an older child can safely cross them
7. Houses in many different architectural styles
8. Feeling of safety and pride in the neighborhood
9. Ability to use transit if I want/need to.

While I think these features will always be hallmarks of a great neighborhood in my book, I can also see how at different stages of life, new characteristics will rise on the list.

Sunday, February 3, 2008

City of Lakes & Lights

Last night we got a sitter and headed to Uptown to do the Caribou Coffee Luminary Loppet. It's a ski tour around Lake of the Isles, illuminated by ice globes filled with candles. It was positively festive. The next best part of the evening was seeing people all decked out in their XC ski gear, carrying skis and poles, crossing Hennepin Avenue at Lake Street. What a mix of Saturday night party people and skiers. The event is part of the larger City of Lakes Loppet weekend--with races, skijoring (skiing with dogs), and kids events.

I love this town!

Images: left, City of Lakes Loppet. right,

Friday, February 1, 2008

Don't let the chain link fool you...

It is true, the best croissants in Minneapolis St.Paul are at Trung Nam French Bakery at 739 University Avenue (housed in a former Popeye's Chicken restaurant.) Get there before noon or else you will miss out on the flakiest, loveliest croissant this side of the Seine. Delish.

Image: from Cool on the Hill (you should start blogging again!)

The best things in life are free

I always figured that no place could compare with DC when it came to free admission to tons of interesting places--all of the Smithsonian Museums, the National Building Museum, all of the monuments, jazz in the National Gallery of Art Sculpture Garden...

Then I started paying attention here. You can always go to the Minneapolis Institute of Arts or the Weisman for free. Then there's the free Thursday night and first Saturday at the Walker. Of course there's Como Zoo and Conservatory. Then there is my most favorite thing of all, the Museum Adventure Pass that you can check out from any Metro area library.

You don't have to have kids to take advantage of this either. We're talking free admission for anywhere between 2-4 people to places like the Minnesota Zoo, the Walker, the Minnesota History Center, the Bell Museum of Natural History, and others. It's such a steal that you can use it, go to a place for 30 minutes, and not feel guilty. Thank you to all of the generous corporate sponsors out there and the venues who are opening themselves up to freeloaders like myself!