Monday, December 17, 2012

50th and France, Edina

Walking around 50th and France, a popular neighborhood in Edina, Minn., just south of Minneapolis, is a bit like looking back to what many neighborhoods may have looked like in Minneapolis years ago.

There’s the corner drug store (Walgreen’s) just off the corner, a grocery store a couple blocks down the street, a post office nearby, coffee shops, restaurants, boutiques and more. Quaint neighborhoods surround the area.

The Edina Cinema, which draws passersby in by the enticing smell of the popcorn outside, shows independent films.

                                                                    Edina Cinema

Just past the corner of 50th Street and France Ave. sits the 50th Street Cafe. 50th Street Cafe offers a wide selection of breakfast and lunch entrees, including pancakes, waffles, sandwiches, salads, soups and more.

50th Street Cafe

The restaurant previously located in this building, Pearson’s Edina Restaurant, had a long history of offering dining to locals and visitors. 

Phil Pearson, a manager at 50th Street Cafe, has grown up in the restaurant business. His family owned Pearson's Edina Restaurant, until it closed in 2011. Pearson's was well known for its Scandinavian home cooking. People made a point to come for Swedish meatballs or even lutefisk! 

At the 50th Street Cafe, Phil has carried on some of Pearson’s Restaurant’s popular items, including the Pearson’s Big Burger and the original pancakes. His three-year-old daughter calls the restaurant “Daddy’s Pancakes.”

And the pancakes are excellent! I had apple streusel pancakes, although the pineapple upside-down pancakes looked quite tempting too!

                                          Apple streusel pancakes, 50th Street Cafe

After filling up on pancakes, my friend Melissa and I set off to explore the neighborhood. It was a great day to walk around the area; it was an unusually warm, sunny day in November.

We popped in several shops. One store, Gather, had many Christmas items and other gift items to choose from. And they even had cookies and apple cider for guests who stopped in the store!

                                   Cookies and cider at Gather, Edina, Minnesota

We took a peek in the Edina Creamery, known for its variety of ice cream.

                                                                     Edina Creamery

But, we couldn’t resist going into the Sweet Retreat Cupcake Boutique and trying a cupcake. I had a mocha cupcake with coffee, and Melissa tried a red velvet cupcake. The variety of cupcakes and cake balls made it difficult to choose a cupcake.

Red velvet cupcake and mocha cupcake, Sweet Retreat Cupcake Boutique, Edina, Minnesota (above)

We stopped in a small flower store, Garden Gate Flowers, admiring the colorful flowers available.

Flowers at Garden Gate Flowers, Edina, Minnesota

Later we explored cooking shops in the area, Sur la Table and Cooks of Crocus Hill. Cooks of Crocus Hill offers wine tastings and cooking classes on a regular basis. I would have loved to buy the vintage-looking red espresso machine at Cooks of Crocus Hill. But for now, that will stay on my wish list.

Our sense of smell was awakened as we arrived at Lush Fresh Handmade Cosmetics, a bath and body shop offering bath balls, shampoo bars, a variety of soaps, face masks, lotions and more.

Soaps at Lush in Edina, Minnesota photo

At Athleta, we admired the mix of athletic gear, pretty athletic tops, comfortable yoga pants, fashionable hoodies and sweaters, and more. The staff was very helpful about sizing and color options as I decided on a purchase.

On our way back, we stopped at the Pig and Fiddle, a pub in the back half of the building previously part of Pearson’s restaurant. The dark woodwork in the walls and ceiling remain, with a large stone fireplace along one wall, and creative paintings on the walls.

By now, the sun had set and our day at 50th and France drew to a close. Until next time, 50th and France.

Events at 50th and France Throughout the Year
June- Edina Art Fair, an annual art fair featuring more than 300 local and national artists, food, music and more, May 31-June 2, 2013
July- 4th of July parade, July 4, 2013
October- Pumpkin Festival, including trick or treating, face painting and more
November- Tree Lighting Ceremony, with a visit from Santa, music and more, November, 2013

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Minneapolis: A City by the River

I’m a Minnesotan, always have been, always will be at heart, no matter where I end up living in the world. And Minneapolis is one of those cities that makes me proud to be a Minnesotan - it’s arts, culture, food, biking trails, river and kind people continue to draw me back to Minneapolis, several years after I moved away.

A few weeks ago, I spent a day wandering around Minneapolis with an old college friend, Melissa. With a few plans for the day, and room for lots of spontaneous plans to add to our day, we set off from the suburbs into downtown Minneapolis.

We parked near the Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis. I highly recommend the Guthrie Theatre, which has many excellent productions performed there each year.

Then, we headed over to the Mill City Farmer’s Market, just next door to the Guthrie, to tour the farmer’s market, just as the sellers were packing up their stands at the end of the morning. We smelled fresh lavender, sampled bee lotion and lip balm, checked out fresh, colorful produce, and bought some fresh pastries.

Then we stopped nearby at the Mill City Museum, located where a large flour mill once stood. Minneapolis’ Mill District by the Mississippi River is named after all the flour mills that used to line the river.

Walking along the river, we walked past many buildings that used to be mills in the past, many of which have been remodeled into high-rise condo or loft buildings with amazing views of the Mississippi River.

After a walk across the Stone Arch Bridge, which was busy with walkers, joggers, bikers, and rollerbladers, we found ourselves in St. Anthony Main, an area along the river in Minneapolis with cafes, restaurants, theatres and more.

We stopped and had drinks (some really good berry cocktails) and cheese flights (yum!) at the Aster Café. It was a beautiful day, so we relaxed out on the patio. The food and drinks were excellent. I thought it was great that the café allowed people to bring their dogs into the patio area- a couple collies nearby looked content lying under their owners’ table.

Later, on the way back to the car, we took a quick stop at the Guthrie Theater, which offers some great restaurants and areas to sit, as well as a fantastic lookout of the Mississippi River and the Stone Arch Bridge. As the lobby areas are public spaces, anyone can come and enjoy these spaces.

We took a quick trip over to St. Paul later on, to finish off our day. We visited friends in St. Paul, did a little shopping and ate dinner along the popular shopping street Grand Avenue in St. Paul, and ended our day with some dessert at Café Latte, one of the best places to get dessert in St. Paul. What a fun day!

*Photos courtesy of Melissa Johnson

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

London- England Trip 2012

London. I arrived in London early on a Saturday morning, hopped on the metro (usually called the tube) and found my way to my hotel near Russell Square. I studied in the United Kingdom years ago in college with a group of students from my college, and we traveled all over the United Kingdom and France studying British literature, drama and travel writing. This trip was a bit of a reminiscent experience, going with other alumni to many places we had visited back in college.

After dropping my bags at the hotel, I walked through Russell Square, which hadn’t changed much over the years. I remembered arriving in London with my classmates years ago, and trying to find our way around this area of London. I made a plan for the day, thinking of the things I didn’t want to miss seeing in London, and grabbed the tube to head into central London.

After buying theatre tickets for the evening (Wizard of Oz), I wandered through Leicester Square, stopped in the active Piccadilly Circus area to people watch for a bit, and walked over to the National Gallery. In Trafalgar Square, lots of people walked about taking photos, but I also noticed a lot of policemen (often called bobbies). I asked a fellow tourist if something was going on, and she said it was something to do with a parade for the queen’s birthday nearby. A bobby directed me to where the parade would go through. Within a few hours of arriving in London, I joined the spectators lined up with their British flags along the Mall and saw the queen’s carriage and a carriage with Princess Kate, Camilla and Prince Harry. So cool!

Later, I walked through the National Gallery, seeing amazing paintings by Monet, Renoir, Pisarro and more. Then I headed back to the hotel for a bit as I was beginning to realize I had been up for well over 24 hours… But I soon had more energy and I went down to the Thames River, walking along the South Bank and seeing the London Eye, Houses of Parliament, Big Ben and more.

Later, I went up to Oxford Circus, to the theatre where I’d be watching the Wizard of Oz. Some of it was good, and the songs were decent, but the humor was cheesy and not my style. But I was still happy to be sitting in one of the old classic London theatres watching a play for half-price! A couple down the row from me had a plastic bag full of snacks and soda from the convenience store. And vendors came down the aisles with Ben and Jerry’s ice cream. Things I'd never seen in an American theatre.

I ended the day meeting several members of the group I’d be touring with for a couple weeks, and we all shared stories of royal sightings and other fun stories from the day.

The next day I had just enough time to go to the British Museum and see all the great artifacts there, like the Rosetta Stone and the Parthenon Frieze. It was crowded with people and tour groups. But I stopped when I saw a man lifting up a young girl to let her touch the face of one of the Egyptian sarcophaguses. At first I couldn’t figure out why he would lift her up to touch the face. Then I saw the little white cane resting against his leg. She was blind, and he was helping the little girl experience the museum, beyond what his words could explain.

Next, I went down to see the Houses of Parliament and Big Ben once more, to see Westminster Abbey and to walk down Whitehall, past many government buildings and the Horse Guards and down to Trafalgar Square. Trafalgar Square was packed with people and tents, and as the smell of curry reached me, they were apparently having an Indian food festival. I hopped on the tube, met the group back at the hotel, and we drove to our next town on the itinerary, Oxford. It was a quick visit to London but a good one!

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Goodbye Old Car, Hello New Car

Everyone remembers their first car.

Everyone remembers their first car. The red Ford Focus wasn’t my first car, but it was my first brand new car. Mom and I picked it out at a Ford dealership in Wisconsin, where my uncle worked, almost 11 years ago now. It was summer, and I had a weekend off from the summer camp where I worked. I met Mom at the Ford place, and I could barely believe she was really going to buy me a new car. And I was going to get to decide which one I wanted! I kept thinking I wanted a red car. Maybe a Mustang. Or a Volkswagon Bug. Or a cute little car…

Mom and Dad always had given me cars to drive and get around in since I had gotten my driver’s license when I was 16. First I drove about in the little white Ford Escort, which they had owned for several years. In college, it was beginning to rust around its edges and struggle up hills in town.

Then, they surprised me one day by meeting me near college with a used brown 80s Cutlass Ciera for me to drive, which had a gigantic trunk and big backseat, and AM/FM radio. That got me around pretty well for a few years.

But I still hoped someday, maybe, I could get a new car. I’d just graduated from college. A few months later, my dad suddenly passed away, after many years of battling heart disease. He used to like taking drives on a weekend afternoon. I think it relaxed him. He didn’t often own a new car, but he drove whichever car we owned at the time. And we sure did take a lot of family road trips with our cars around the U.S.!

One day later that year, Mom said it was time for me to get a new car. She was going to get a new car also. Both of our cars had many years and miles on them, and they were starting to have mechanical issues.

So I met her at the Ford dealership. I tried driving a couple different cars. But when I drove the Focus, I knew it was just the right car for me. Later we installed a sunroof, which I opened as much as possible in the summer!

I had that Focus for almost 11 years. It got me around the Twin Cities and Rochester, down to Chicago, through Iowa and down to Missouri, up north to the lakes, through many cities, home from college, and on to many adventures.

Now it was time for a new car. I saw an ad for my new car, the Ford Edge, online one day... I went and checked it out, and drove home with it later that week.

Leaving my Ford Focus with the dealer, I thought of all the places it had taken me, of my dog sticking his head out the window, of getting lost in neighborhoods and finding my way about some of the big cities I’d lived in, and of always finding my way back where I belonged. I’ll miss that Ford Focus – it was a good car.

Time for a new adventure. Hello, my new (used) Ford Edge! Let’s take off on the highways and explore! 

Sunday, January 22, 2012

The Lion King- The Musical

Last weekend, I had the opportunity to see the Lion King at the Orpheum Theatre in Minneapolis. First of all, if you have a chance to see it, go see it! I think you’ll enjoy it! Even if you aren’t a big fan of all things Disney, this isn’t just another Disney movie. It’s so much better than that!

The opening scene is a showcase of puppets and headpieces, portraying a wide variety of animals from the African desert and jungle. Giraffes, zebras, wildebeests, jaguars, lions, a dodo bird, an elephant and other animals sang and danced to the music. The actor controlling the jaguar puppet moved as if an extension of the puppet, and he focused completely on the puppet. Each puppeteer controlling each of the animal puppets, or wearing headpieces, completely focused on their characters.

The set and lighting had many interesting concepts. The musical used background lighting to backlight small stick puppets behind screens or cloths in a creative and interesting way.  Also, several pieces of the set, including the elephant graveyard, the cliff the lions climbed, etc. all moved as the characters moved on the set pieces, creating a sense of a journey. The set and lighting was so detailed, it’s difficult to describe!

This production also did an amazing job of incorporating the African culture through music and dance.

So many details in this production, and it was very well done!

Hakuna Matata!

For more information about the Lion King, check out the website.

Opinions are my own.