Try A Staycation

How often have we said, “We should take a week and just explore our own town.” Well, this summer we finally had a chance to do exactly that. Our friends from Europe came and stayed with us for a week. We were able to take a week off and explore the Twin Cities with them. We did a number of fun activities every day – but there is so much more that we never had a chance to do. Nevertheless, here’s an itinerary of the things we did do. Many of the activities were outside because we had perfect weather, but we had a list of indoor activities for rainy days too. These included museums, movies, theater or day trips to other nearby towns. Some of these ideas cost no money. Others had a small fee. Some were more expensive. Choose ideas that fit your budget. I hope you find it helpful or that it sparks other ideas of things you could do if you decide to staycation in your town.

Monday we took a bike ride around Lake Nokomis. We picnicked by the lake and then headed over to see Minnehaha Falls.

Image result for lake nokomis bike riding

Image result for lake nokomis bike riding

 

Tuesday we headed to Lebanon Park. We went swimming and kayaking on Schulz Lake.

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Wednesday we took an informal tour of historic St. Paul including a Mississippi River walk, the James J. Hill House, the Cathedral, photo op of the Capitol followed by lunch at Café Latte on Grand Avenue. We did a quick walk around Mall of America later in the afternoon. That evening we enjoyed local produce, live music and a picnic dinner (food trucks!) at Eagan Market Fest.

Image result for historic st. paul

Image result for eagan market fest

Thursday we followed Mark Twain down the Mississippi River on a paddleboat ride. Beautiful scenery and you may even see large hawks or eagles. A summer salad, grilled pears topped with feta cheese and honey along with wine on the deck made a great atmosphere for conversation late into the evening.

Image result for mississippi paddle boat ride

Friday found us at the Minnesota Zoo. We enjoyed lunch there too after are walk around the exhibits. The evening found us at the City Center Park in Burnsville listening to more live music and enjoying the fountain plus a sunset view of the Twin Cities – all free.

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Saturday we got up early for a quick walk around scenic Blackhawk Lake. The afternoon was reserved for swimming and chopstick painting. Dinner was spring rolls and easy fried rice in Chinese takeout containers eaten with – of course – chopsticks.

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Sunday everyone made their own omelet-in-a-bag. Boil a pot of water. Everyone takes a sandwich sized zip lock bag marked with their name. Break 2 eggs into a bag. Add veggies of your choice (mushrooms, green onions, peppers, basil) and shredded cheese. Be sure the bag is sealed. Squish to combine the ingredients and drop into the pot of boiling water for 6-8 minutes. Remove the bag, open and roll out your omelet onto a plate. Add melon or other fruit, coffee and serve. Everyone can eat their own custom omelet at the same time.

Sunday afternoon it was time to take everyone to the airport. Their vacation continues but we had a great staycation while they were with us!

You may also like Be a Tourist in Your Own Town, Virtual Vacation and Vacation Break.

Slice of Slovenia

A Slice of Slovenia

Slovenia was not a country I expected to visit, but thanks to a grant from Mary’s Pence I attended the international educators’ conference “To Teach is to Build” at the Biotechnical Center in Naklo, Slovenia in October. Educators participated from Austria, Italy, Germany, Norway, Serbia, Slovenia, Spain and the United States.

My paper entitled “Curriculum Development: Political, Subversive, Dangerous,” explored the social justice implications of designing school curricula. It also included fast, easy classroom exercises to help students develop more compassion and empathy. After submitting my paper, the conference organizer Professor Sandra Žvagen, invited me to be a plenary speaker and conduct a workshop. Meeting with other educators and attending their workshops taught me so much!

The Biotechnical Center is a holistic school that fosters curiosity and a safe space for over 600 students from various backgrounds – both rural and urban. Students can learn how to run a dairy farm in a way that is organic and cares for the environment. Other students focus on forest, wildlife and wild animal management. Many of the products students make such as cheeses, dairy products, produce, juices, local teas, floral arrangements and more, are for sale in their store and used in the school’s cafeteria.

Andreja Ah?in, principal of the Biotechnical Center with twenty years of education experience at the school, explained that she and her staff worked to design a curriculum that fosters a holistic integration of the student. This means integrating students’ values with their education and life work while understanding its impact on the environment and the community. This is the same reason I teach theology – to help students explore these fundamental questions; Who am I? What is my purpose? How will I make the world a better place?

My experience also included meeting with instructors and with students in the classroom. English class students were designing their own crossword puzzles, art students were using refurbished typewriters to create amazing pictures with meaningful words and other students were baking cakes and breads to use at school events.

Demonstrating their reputation for hospitality, school faculty drove us to the Lake Bled area in northern Slovenia near the Alps. We toured a green hotel, Garden Village, where all the landscaping was beautiful, edible and used in the hotel! Teachers Sandra Žvagen and Simona Zabukovec took me hiking in scenic southern Slovenia by the Adriatic Sea. Tina Križnar, who oversees adult education at the school, gave me a tour of the capital city of Ljubljana, existing since Roman times. Prior to working at the Biotechnical Center Tina was a tour guide for Russian and English speaking tourists so she knew well the city and its history.

The conference was an unexpected and amazing experience of another people, country and culture. Thank you, “hvala” in Slovenian, to the Biotechnical Center, conference participants and to Mary’s Pence for making it possible.

My Health Insurance Makes Me Sick

HellmannsOliveOilMayoWow. Unbelievable. Today I received coupons in the mail from my health insurance provider –  Blue Cross Blue Shield. The coupons were for fat-loaded, sweetener-filled junk foods that should not be part of anyone’s healthy diet: Sweet Freedom Ice Cream Bars, Fudge Lites and Ice Cream, Weight Watchers Ice Cream Sandwiches,  C&H and Domino Sugar Blends and Hellmann’s Mayonnaise Dressing with Olive Oil. Really?? I should be loading up my diet with sugary snacks, processed food and olive-oil-fat-filled mayo?

Why isn’t Blue Cross promoting healthy hummus instead of mayo? Or frozen vegie-fruit smoothies instead of ice cream junk food?

Because Blue Cross is in bed with big food corporations and the $$$ that mailing coupons for these corporations produces. Further, as a healthy person I don’t generate much income for health insurance companies (healthy people have lower premiums), health care services, or the drug industry. To increase their profit margins it is much better for me to be chronically sick, taking diabetes, blood pressure or cholesterol medications – ideally for the rest of my life.

How best to do this? Promote bad health, of course! Junk food coupons – here we come! Worse, I’m paying the cost for this unethical marketing with my insurance premiums.

Don’t assume your health insurance or health care providers are even remotely interested in maintaining your good health. Always ask, “Who benefits?”

You may also like Lunch To Go and Mango Delight.

Lunch To Go

Photo: AptTherapy Grab and Go

Photo: AptTherapy Grab and Go

Maybe you’re looking for ways to make lunch more interesting. Or maybe you’d like to be able to pack a quick picnic in the evening. If so, here’s a post from Apartment Therapy’s The Kitchen – Grab and Go lunch using canning jars.

Canning jars don’t leak, clean up in the dishwasher and they allow you to cook or bake safely in a microwave – without the lid of course.

The article lists five fun and unexpected ideas for lunch: layered salad, miso soup, chili with cornbread that bakes in the jar, vegie sticks in hummus and a crustless quiche – 3 ways from the blog Krista and Jess. Check it out, then try it out!

You may also like Picnic in a Jar, Walking Chicken BBQ and Salad in a Jar.