A Splash of Spring’s Colorful Flowers

These splashes of color provide hope and beauty that Winter is waning and Spring is going to burst forth.

Bluebonnets, the Texas State FlowerTreating you to a Splash of Spring . . .

. . . with these pictures from East Texas. These flowers presented themselves in March and/or April.

No matter where you live, I think everyone reaches that point in late Winter when they are ready for the next season — Spring. These splashes of color provide hope and beauty that Winter is waning and Spring is going to burst forth. Pink flowering tree in the woods.

Pink flowering tree in the woods.

 

 

 

Blue pottery bird bath on tree stump with yellow flowers in background.

 

 

From shades of pink and purple . . .

Purple flower in sand with minimal foliage

 

 

 

 

. . . with golden cat, aka Frank, strolling around, and yellow and white flowers too.

Gold cat with pink flowers with green foliage.

 

Bluebonnets abound as you drive along highways and backroads alike. Bluebonnets along country road with large tree in background.

 

 

Bluebonnets flowers up close

 

The Texas state flower, bluebonnets, are pretty at a distance and close up.

Dainty purple flower

 

 

Dainty purple and white flower.

 

 

It is a nice surprise to find patches of color in the yard or woods.

Clump of purple flowers.

 

 

 

Dainty pink flowers and green clover like foliage.

 

 

 

Dainty pink flowers and green clover like foliage. Agave plant in terra cotta pot in background.

While not a flower, you’ll see my agave plant in the flower pot behind this beautiful clump of dainty pink flowers and green, clover like foliage.

Hens and Chicks "hen" in sand with rock and glass electric insulator in garden bed.

 

 

 

Hens and Chicks are a succulent that are easy to grow and beautiful in their own right adding shades of color to the garden.Hens and Chicks "hen" in sand with rock and glass electric insulator in garden bed.Dainty yellow blooms with lots of green foliage.

 

 

 

Dainty flower probably in daffodil family. Two large rocks behind and log background.

 

 

 

White Iris blooms with succulent in flower pot behind.

White Iris with block pillar in background.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wishing you a joyful Spring Season with lots of colorful moments and flowers in your life!

Field of bluebonnet flowers with trees in background.

Grand Portage 2 in 1 Northshore Minnesota Vacation

Rendezvous Days is one of our favorite events. Between Pow Wow and the Encampment there is plenty to do, see, and enjoy. Do be sure to wear comfortable shoes, check the weather, and come prepared for lots of fun.

Looking for a picturesque, relaxing, and educational vacation rolled into one where you set the pace? Front of the Great Hall at Grand Portage National Monument with Mt. Rose in the background.Sound too good to be true? Check out Rendezvous Days in Grand Portage, Minnesota.

Rendezvous Days is the second full weekend in August each year. The Grand Portage Anishinabe Nation hosts the annual Rendezvous Days Pow Wow while the Grand Portage National Monument re-creates a historic fur trade era rendezvous.

Pow Wow is a celebration of culture and family. As you approach the Pow Wow grounds, you may see several tipis and lots of tents from dancers and their families gathered to celebrate. Tipis and tents at the Pow Wow grounds.Walk around the outside of the Pow Wow stands to enjoy crafts, souvenirs, and food vendors.  People walking around vendor area of Pow Wow.You will definitely want to be seated in the stands for one of the three Grand Entries. A beautiful, energy charged atmosphere is present as the dancers enter the arena wearing their regalia. Veterans are highly honored and celebrated at this Pow Wow. The opening ceremony is respectful, sobering and thought provoking. After Grand Entry is concluded, the high energy Sneak Up Dance often occurs. Dancers in the Pow Wow arena with the MC stand in the background.Be sure to stay at Pow Wow awhile and grab some fry bread and an Indian Taco. There are a variety of dances and drum songs you can enjoy. The beat of the Drum represents the heartbeat of the earth and permeates this celebration. You have to be present to fully appreciate the Drum’s impact. Two male traditional dancers with their bustles.

 

 

 

 

 

Before attending Pow Wow for your first time, I recommend you read about Pow Wow etiquette. You can find some good information online. There are ways to respectfully ask questions of dancers, and definite do’s and don’ts. Do be sure to wear comfortable shoes, check the weather, and come prepared for lots of fun.

 

Canoe in foreground with white canvas awnings in mid ground and Lake Superior in the background with evergreens and a blue sky.As you enter Rendezvous at the Grand Portage National Monument, you’ll experience yet another energy charged atmosphere. A myriad of reenactors of all ages are enjoying the re-creation of the fur trade rendezvous at an actual historic rendezvous location. In addition to the primitive camps, campfire cooking, and the hauling of water and wood, there are opportunities for demonstrations, workshops, and games you won’t want to miss. Park staff work hard to make this event a fun and educational one for the public and reenactors.White canvas tents in green field with evergreens and blue sky in background.Be sure to look at the Rendezvous Days schedule to plan what you want to do. Some of the workshops fill up quickly, so scope out the sign up rules. Some workshops are open to visitors and some are only for reenactors.

 

Long wooden table inside the Great HallWalking through the encampment and historic grounds, there is much to see and experience. The Great Hall offers a covered porch where you can sit and relax as you gaze out on Lake Superior.  Look at the events to find a time when you can also enjoy some music. Bagpipes are often heard during the encampment, and Over the Waterfall is a group of period musicians you won’t want to miss. You’ll also find displays, artifacts, and monument staff available to answer your questions. Reenactor cooking in open kitchen fireplace.

 

Cross the covered walkway from the Great Hall to the kitchen to see food being prepared.

Hat making display in Grand Hall

 

 

Campfire with fish being smoked over it, birch bark lodge, and birch bark basket.

 

Continue meandering around Grand Portage Monument to the Canoe Shed and then on to the Native Encampment.Wild ricing display

 

 

 

Three Sisters Garden with scarecrow

Be sure to see the Three Sisters Garden.  You will also want take in the Heritage Center to gain a historic perspective of the fur trade. While there, learn about Grand Portage via the park film. Both local residents and reenactors are featured in the film.

 

Rendezvous Days is one of our favorite events. Between Pow Wow and the Encampment there is plenty to do, see, and enjoy. To top all of this off, the location of these events is picturesque with Lake Superior’s presence.View of Pete's Island and Lake Superior over Grand Portage stockade fence

Great Hall porch looking through the doors of the Great Hall toward the Kitchen door

Grand Portage National Monument Sign with Great Hall and white canvas tents in background.

 

 

 

Looking out over Lake Superior from Grand Portage National Park shoreline with island and shoreline off in the distance and rocks and bushes in foreground

 

Grilled Cheese Day – April 12 – Create a Custom Build

Grilled Cheese is a comfort food, childhood menu staple, and . . . lots can be done to give this icon a “make-over.”

Grilled cheese sandwich cut in triangles on a plateRemember having grilled cheese sandwiches as a kid? Well, April 12 is Grilled Cheese Day and you can create a custom build version.

My mom always bought Sunbeam white bread. Growing up my grilled cheese sandwich was made from white bread, margarine either spread on the outside sides of the sandwich or premelted on the griddle, and Kraft American Cheese slice singles. Oh, and once it was cooked, I topped it with grape jelly—yuuuum! We also called this sandwich a “cheese toastie.” I still remember the old griddle, probably aluminum, with its stuck on discoloration from years of pancakes and cheese toasties.

Grilled Cheese is a comfort food, childhood menu staple, and is offered on many restaurant menus. Lots can be done to give this icon a “make-over.” Change up bread and cheese choices to create custom sandwiches. Rye bread and Swiss cheese, sourdough bread and vegetable Monterey Jack Cheese, and whole wheat bread and your choice of two cheeses are a few combos to get your creative ideas going. Be sure to use real butter instead of margarine and real cheese instead of processed. Another change is the add on’s you can put in or on your grilled cheese. Anyone for bacon? Add a little pizza sauce and/or pepperoni for a pizza cheese toastie. Add some sauerkraut to the rye & Swiss toastie along with some mayo. Think about your favorite sandwich and what flavors you want on your own custom build. Oooh, Texas Toast Bread would be a great building block for a grilled cheese. What ideas do you have?

Note: Photo retrieved on April 12, 2018 from: https://www.google.com/amp/s/nationaldaycalendar.com/days-2/national-grilled-cheese-sandwich-day-april-12/%3famp

Jesus was No Fool

Wishing you a thoughtful Easter . . . Easter wouldn’t be Easter without the miracle of Jesus’ resurrection — his victory over death and sin.

Easter falls on Sunday, April 1, 2018 which is also April Fool’s Day. But, make no mistake about it, Jesus was no fool.

Jesus knew who he was and what he was about. In Luke 19:10, Jesus says, “For the Son of Man came to seek and save the lost.” Jesus saved “the lost” when his ministry on earth culminated in his death on the cross, burial, and resurrection 3 days later.

Easter celebrates the amazing love and sacrifice of Jesus dying a horrendous death by crucifixion to pay the price for all the wrongful things you and I do (sin). BUT, Jesus didn’t stay dead. Easter wouldn’t be Easter without the miracle of Jesus’ resurrection — his victory over death and sin. This is why and what we celebrate.

Wishing you a thoughtful Easter as you ponder what you will do about what Jesus did for you and me. Do YOU know who Jesus was and what he was about?White Iris flowers with potted succulent in background.

Tredegar Iron Works Worth a Tourist Stop

During the Civil War, this was the largest iron works in the Confederacy.

Museum display with Confederate flag and U.S. flag.Are you a history buff, like to look at interesting stuff, and/or appreciate old buildings? Then be sure to put Tredegar Iron Works on your schedule.

Located in Richmond, Virginia near the riverfront, it has been designated a National Historic Landmark.

Historic Tredegar sign

 

 

 

 

 

 

In addition to the historic displays, you will find a little gift shop as well as a hands on children’s area are inside the iron works. Overshot water wheel for millYou will also want to walk outside on the grounds and check out the outside displays. If you’re curious about this site, you can learn more at The National Park Service (NPS) webpage on the iron works. Equipment used for power generationDuring the Civil War, this was the largest iron works in the Confederacy. “In 2006, a private nonprofit museum opened in the cannon foundry, now called The American Civil War Museum at Historic Tredegar.  “Covered in Glory, United States Colored Troops” displayThe museum tells the story of the Civil War from Union, Confederate, and African American perspectives,” according to the NPS site: https://www.nps.gov/nr/travel/richmond/tredegar.htmlAssortment of artillery projectiles

Statue of Abraham Lincoln and child sitting on bench

Brick arched, recessed window well inside museumRichmond Falls, The War Is Over poster

 

 

 

 

 

 

Read-style 3 inch shells produced at Tredegar for field artillery

Read-style three inch artillery style shell produced at Tredegar.

Opportunistic Animals’ Winter Eating

Enjoy the showcase of animals’ opportunistic winter eating! Do be sure to click on the video and hear all the noise from the woodpecker.

Squirrel on top of snow covered wood pile with peanut butter breadOpportunistic Animals’ Winter Eating

 

Everybody’s gotta eat right? Animals are no different and are often opportunistic eaters — especially in the winter.

Winter provides challenges to animals trying to stay warm and eat the calories needed to survive. Eating opportunities can present themselves via due diligence on the animal’s part and are sometimes provided by humans. Enjoy the showcase of animals’ opportunistic winter eating!

Red headed pileated woodpecker pecking at base of pine tree with wood chips littering snowFirst up is a red-headed Pileated Woodpecker. This bird has found a tree root above ground not covered in snow and is working very hard to find food. Shown is the tree next to a wattle fence we built, then closer up pictures of the many holes so diligently hammered out. Wattle fence by pine tree with woodpecker shavings on snowI’m not sure the tree will survive the winter feed. We’ll have to wait and see. Do be sure to click on the video and hear all the noise this woodpecker is making. We couldn’t get too close to video as we didn’t want to interrupt meal time.Woodpecker holes in pine tree root on top of ground.

 

 

 

 

Woodpecker holes in pine tree root on top of ground with glove for scale.Close up of woodpecker holes in pine tree root on top of ground with glove for scale.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Two eagles in bare tree branchesNext, eagles are feasting on some sort of kill beneath the trees. Not sure if it was roadkill or them finishing off what another creature started. It was interesting to spot this from the state highway in Minnesota.Snowy ground with red blood stain from animal kill with Lake Superior in background and trees sprinkled in.

 

 

 

 

Three eagles in high, bare tree branches with evergreens on each side

 

 

Trees and snowy ground with red blood stain from animal kill with Lake Superior in background.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Squirrel on top of snow covered wood pile with peanut butter bread

 

 

This little squirrel is taking time to enjoy a little peanutbutter bread to supplement his winter food stash.

 

 

Moving a ways south, the pictures you see here are from wild hog damage. Rooted up dirt and dead leaves from wild hog damageHard to capture by picture, but the disturbed earth is where hogs rooted around looking for food. The “churned up” look is from their foraging. This damage is minor compared to what they can do.

This empty turtle shell found by our pond is evidence that some faster moving creature caught this turtle unaware and took advantage to enjoy a tasty meal.Empty turtle shell

 

 

 

 

 

It is fascinating to watch birds feed and their antics with one another. Ahhhh, cardinals bring us hope Spring is on the way.

Three cardinals on free standing bird feeder with one in a nearby tree

 

Winter’s Ice and Sunshine Elegance

It feels warmer when the sun is shining and I love seeing the reflections of sunshine off the lake or through ice.

Sun shining through evergreen trees and naked trees in background with icicles hanging in foreground. Lake Superior is in distant lower back left and blue sky in upper right corner.Hanging out with winter and trying to make the most of it! How about you?

While winter offers challenges and sometimes bitter cold in the north country, there are opportunities to enjoy nature’s beauty and dazzling sunshine.Snow dusted tree trucks at angle in foreground with evergreens and sun shining on Lake Superior in background.

 

 

To me, it feels warmer when the sun is shining and I love seeing the reflections off the lake or through ice.Lake Superior in the midground with snow and ice covered tall grasses and a short crop of trees shrouded in ice. Distant mountain in background.

Lake Superior waves in the midground with a misty spray and snow and ice covered tall grasses and distant mountain in background.

 

 

Watching the waves and spray of Lake Superior work their artistry is amazing. Sometimes it takes awhile for the final product to be appreciated as with these spray covered iced grasses.Snow covered stark lilac bush with stone house behind it and sunshine peeking over rooftop along with other tree branches.

Springtime is when lilacs are at their best, but this 80 year old lilac offers winter charm with her snow covered adornment.

 

 

 

 

Stacked fire wood to left against Balsam Fir tree with a large burl. Wood and burl and snow dusted.

This Balsam Fir with burl also showcases a handsomeness complimented by the firewood and snow dusting.

 

 

Snow covered old truck with sign above it saying, "Village Ice Cream Hand Scooped." Street on right of picture.

While I enjoy the beauty and elegance Winter showcases, it is nice to have reminders of warmer weather like this vintage looking ice cream sign and truck. Do you enjoy any parts of Winter? Feel free to share in the comments section.

Stunning, Ever Changing, Superior Shoreline

Whatever the weather brings she turns to her advantage, like a true beauty! She always looks beautiful and never disappoints.

In our neck of the north woods in Cook CountyMinnesota, the Lake Superior shoreline is ever changing her look. We never know what fashion whims she will plan to sport. Lake Superior shoreline with snow covered beach with lake on left and evergreens back right.Sometimes it is the trendy Winter White look and other times she adorns herself with ice jewels. Icy pebbles on top of Lake Superior beach rocks

Large, lazy waves to barely there white caps coming ashore — she always looks beautiful and never disappoints.Long beach view of Icy pebbles on top of Lake Superior beach rocks with small white capped waves on right.

 

Icy pebbles on top of Lake Superior beach rocks and rocks on beach with lake slightly in background.

 

Long, wide stretch of Icy pebbles on top of Lake Superior beach rocks and rocks on beach with lake in left background.

 

 

Frozen sand formation with snow on top and iciciles underneath on top of cobblestone beach with white capped waves of Lake Superior in background.

 

 

 

 

Lake Superior beach with sand, rocks, ice pebbles and white capped waves on right. Tree line and sky in background.

 

Lake gently rolling to rocky beach shore with sand and ice formations on right. Long view of beach area.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Her natural elegance is strategically framed by the skyline and evergreens on the shore. Whatever the weather brings she turns to her advantage, like a true beauty!

Lake with splashing waves rolling to beach shore with sand and ice formations on right.

Lake with splashing, rolling waves rolling to beach shore with sand and ice formations on right.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Snow covered Lake Superior beach with lake on back right and evergreens in distant background.

What do you find charming about this glamorous Great Lakes gem?

Beautiful Winter U.P. Drive Discoveries and Tips

Be prepared to encounter picturesque snowy forest scenes. The aroma of wood burning stoves can be noticed as you drive along too.

Lake Michigan snow covered beach and brown grasses blowing in wind with cloudy skySixteen degrees, blowing snow, and evergreens flocked with snow make for a beautiful drive along US Highway 2 in the Upper Peninsula. Lots of beautiful scenery. Between the Mackinaw Straits and Epoufette you can enjoy Lake Michigan shoreline here and there. Frozen ice pushed up and piled high against the shore. Sand dunes covered in snow with the contrast of brown grass long dried.

Keep your eyes peeled as you head west on Highway 2. A ways before you hit Manistique, you’ll see this fuel tank cow and his farmer. Cow made from a fuel tank and "farmer" in a snowy fieldIt’s fun surprises like this that add to a road trip. Also, you may notice the aroma of wood burning stoves as you drive along that will bring back good memories of campfires in warmer temperatures.

Keep in mind it is very helpful to have de-icer windshield washer fluid for winter road trips. It makes easy to get rid of windshield ice quickly.You’ll find the highway road crews spreading sand instead of salt in low temperatures to promote some traction on the road.

As you drive through Manistique, keep your eyes open for the Moose statues. We saw a Moose in a tuxedo and another in a Big Boy uniform.

As we approached Gladstone, we saw the ice fishing houses out on the lake. Ice fishing houses on park lakeTaking a detour through Van Cleve Park we were able to capture a few pictures. We also saw this pirate ship."Pirate" ship in Van Cleve Park in Gladstone, MI

 

 

 

 

You know how towns decide on a “decorating” tourism theme? Some towns have painted corncob statues around town (Normal, IL) or theme painted pianos on the sidewalk around the square (Fairfield, TX). We saw two fish around Escanaba. Just wondering if fishes are their thing.Fish Figure on short pole in Escanaba, MI

Quinnesec is home to The Pasty Oven. Great food by the way. I’ll be sharing our lunch experience in a separate blog. They do have a website – Pastys.com. You can also check out Pasty.com to “Browse ‘n Shop the U.P.” and check out a variety of web cams. We discovered this last website by accident when looking up the first and leaving off the second “s.”The Pasty Oven business sign

You will drive out of Michigan into Wisconsin and back to Michigan in a matter of minutes in Mastodon Township on US Highway 2.

Be prepared to encounter picturesque snowy forest scenes as you drive along. Gently rolling terrain adds to the feel of this adventure too. You may also see deer on the side of the road in person or on the buffet for other critters in the circle of life. Either are a reminder to drive carefully in the north country. One rule is that if one deer runs across the road be sure to look for additional deer to follow.

This is a snippet of our UP journey to Ironwood, MI.  We have taken various routes in getting to Ironwood, and whatever the season beauty is abundant. We enjoy tripping across new sights, eateries, and just enjoy the drive. Think back over your road trips. What areas have you especially enjoyed discovering? Do you have other winter driving tips to share?Back and side view of logging truck piled high with logs on snowy highway from vehicle window

 

Seasoning Cast Iron Cookware

There is a much easier way to season cast iron that doesn’t go rancid or get a greasy build up on the iron.

When I was a kid we cooked a bunch with cast iron. I remember my folks saying never wash with soap. Top of Griswold Dutch oven lid No 8, Tite-Top BasterThey also would heat the oven up and rub olive oil or lard on the cast iron, then bake it in the oven to season the iron.

Well, there is a much easier way.

Secure a chunk of pure beeswax. Anything as long as it is pure and no paraffin. If you have a rusted up piece of cookware, take a wire brush to it and clean it off. You can also plop it is a campfire and burn the rust off. Just make sure you let it cool slowly so it does not crack.

 

Place your clean cast iron on a stove top burner. Turn the heat to low and start warming up the iron. As the iron heats up, the pores in the metal open up. Once it is warm enough to melt beeswax on contact, rub the iron inside and out with the beeswax.  You may wish to use a pair of leather gloves to minimize burning your self. You can also use a folded paper towel to rub the wax around. Let the cast iron cool.

 

You now have a super seasoned piece of cast iron. The seasoning will not go rancid as others do. It will not build up as is common. While I may wash it using soap, if I do, reseasoning is so easy.

 

Blacksmiths often use beeswax to finish iron. I can take a piece of iron finished in this way and leave it outside. It will often have no rust even after a year. Beeswax is a fat. There have been times when we are at reenactments and have needed fat to fry. We just cut off a piece of beeswax candle and have at it. You don’t have to worry about spilling oils.

 

When cleaning cast iron, I usually use hot to boiling water and no soap. Always dry off your cast iron. I do this by putting it on the heat for a bit, take it off the heat, and rub dry with a towel. Be careful not to burn yourself. It is good to use an old towel as some black may transfer from the iron to the towel. Once dry, I will heat it back up and rub the inside with beeswax. Remember, it does not build up. I keep a tightly folded paper towel that has had much use with beeswax to do this.

 

By Pete Avery

Up North Winter Celebrated in Pictures

Look for the beauty and grace of nature — even in Winter!

Snowy Gunflint Trail road with tall evergreens on each side dusted with snow.More beautiful pictures celebrating Winter up north.

Close up of small pine tree in snowy forest.

 

 

 

 

 

Featuring pictures from Cook County  Minnesota’s Gunflint Trail.

While the weather was quite brisk with a -13 inland, the beauty was worth bundling up to brave the cold.Car rearview mirror thermometer showing -13 degrees

 

 

 

Tracks across a lake up the Gunflint Trail. Ice fishing tent on the frozen lake.

Tracks across a snow covered lake with evergreens in distant background.

Orange tent on frozen snow covered lake for ice fishing. Tall evergreens in background.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The evergreens in the foreground are actually on an island.

Snow dusted evergreens with low mountain in background and ground covered in snow.

 

Very tall, old growth pine trees viewed from driving down road.

This old growth pine forest is a favorite spot of mine as you drive up the Gunflint. Majestic trees in any season!

A snow covered marshy spot.

 

A snow covered marshy area.

 

 

Snowy winter road scene with evergreens on each side of road.

 

 

Know matter what Winter delivers in your part of the world, look for the beauty and grace of nature.

What do you like about Winter?

Lake Superior Wears Winter Well

Celebrate winter by checking out Lake Superior’s beautiful waves and ice formations. You can choose to do it from a warm distance or up close and personal.


Lake Superior Beach with iced formations and good sized waves in background

Lake Superior ice formations on beach with dramatic white capped waves in background with far shoreline of evergreens

 

 

 

 

 

Here’s to celebrating Winter and all her beauty!

Lake Superior ice formation with white capped wave in background

 

Lake Superior ice formation with wave splashing in background

 

 

 

 

 

As Winter works, beautiful waves and ice formations adorn both the Lake and her beaches.

Lake Superior icy formation with rocky beach in foreground and evergreens in background View of Grand Marais, MN harbor and Lake Superior from a distance

View of the Grand Marais, MN harbor and Lake Superior from the Pincushion Mountain overlook. The sea fog makes it look even more cloudy.

 

Harbor pictures a bit closer.

Grand Marais, MN harbor picture with breakwater and lighthouse in distance

Grand Marais, MN Harbor with cracks on surface of iceWant more winter? Try checking out these webcams in Cook County Minnesota. How do you like to enjoy winter?

Grand Marais, MN Harbor with ice stones sitting on edge and waves splashing upMultiple rows of white capped waves on Lake Superior.