Thursday, December 31, 2009

The Louvre visits Minneapolis

As a homeschooling mom of three in this economy, I am fairly certain Paris isn't going to be an option for a while. I was thrilled to hear that the Minneapolis Institute of the Arts had gotten an exhibit from the Louvre. The world's best known museum selected a selection of pieces that represent the evolving understanding of a masterpiece. While we have gone to regional art museums before, we have never explored the halls of such a fabulous one. Despite the massive snow and ice storm that hit us over the Christmas holiday and left a half an inch of glare ice over everything, it was worth braving both the roads and the sidewalks. With help, my mother was able to accompany my family. The best part of the experience was that we were left wanting to do so much more. The MIA is an enormous museum. My family has gone to the building for performances of the Children's Theatre Company, (their main stage is located off the lobby of the museum) though we have never spent any time in the museum itself.

The first room included many sculptures of Antonie-Louis Barye. Many were based on the Lion and the Serpent. The sculpture was able to reproduce and sell many pieces based on the success of the original in his time. It also had the Lion and the Medusa, a painting by Theodore Gericault. The painting was based on an historical event--the shipwreck of the French frigate, Medusa. Of the 147 men placed on the raft, only 15 survived the 13 days until rescue.

I heard people discussing merits of pieces and just a couple of others being extremely critical. I loved listening to some of them, but the others made me cringe. Legitimate critiques of a piece are valid, but it can go too far. Okay, you didn't like a piece--got it. However, debasing a piece (or those who like it) just to inflate your own ego is, well...not nice. Ah, what do I know? When it comes to art--I know precious little. As a history major I didn't need to know much, but I do know what I like. One of my absolute favorite pieces was The Astronomer by Johannes Vermeer. Loved it.

I also really loved Da Vinci's drapery drawing. Presumably used for a study for future work, the drawing was stunning. It was definitely outside most images conjured at the sound of "Masterpiece." Michelangelo Buonarroti's quotation, "Who would have ever said that I made this with my hands?" was a great addition to the display of his drawing,Virgin and the Child with Saint Anne. I also enjoyed Guillaume Voiriot's, Woman holding a booklet. It was a wonderful painting, but I love how the Louvre originally scoffed at it. Ironically, now it is the Louvre's possession and being displayed. Perhaps part of the appeal was the story behind it. I so root for the underdog. The story of the painting below also gave me the warm fuzzies. In Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres' piece, Portrait of Ferdinand Philippe Louis Charles Henri de Bourbon Orleans, Duke of Orleans 1810-1842 he painted a man who died at 30 in a road accident. The man fought a cholera epidemic without resorting to violence. This magnified his contemporary popularity.

As much as people could appreciate art--there was ample history. There were many sculpted pieces representing thousands of years including cylinders from Mesopotamia. Some reflected poorer work likely made in a provincial workshop while others may have been made under the Akkadian Kings. One part explained that art appreciation was a combination of acquired knowledge and personal taste. The more people view masterpieces, the faster they recognize it.

However, with appreciation come the increased likelihood that someone will fake others. Fakes are often intentionally lesser known works because they are less documented and recognized. Some fakes represent great art in themselves and become very famous in their own right. Other pieces exemplified how ordinary objects not intended as "art" are truly beautiful. I was saddened by the first century grave marker for a young boy. Depicted with his mother playing with him, time and culture were transcended to touch the hearts of those viewing it. The exhibit touched on definitions and the evolution of the idea of a masterpiece and works, how those artists who defy the traditional norms can expand art, fraud, re-attribution, and displayed art from around the world. I thought the exhibit was wonderful. As my kids want to come back too, I would say it was an enormous success.

**Cameras were prohibited in the gallery so I did not take the photos pictured in this blog posting. Since the images above are in the public domain, I have used them here.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Titanic--nearing a century later

The Science Museum of Minnesota has a temporary exhibit on the Titanic. My daughter--a little Titanic nut around here, has wanted to see this exhibit since she heard it was coming a year ago. We finally went to see it on Sunday with my mom and a friend of my daughter. We once saw a Titanic exhibit at the Hampton Roads Marine Science Museum in Newport News, Virginia. I anticipated the exhibit to have much of the same materials. It was missing a deck chair discovered in an attic and verified years ago and a lifeboat. In many ways it did mirror the other--especially the large model and the cards assigning each visitor a person on the ship that left you wondering if you survived til the end. However, there were additional items that I thought were very noteworthy.

As a former museum archivist, I understand the need to preserve artifacts. Light and camera flashes can be very damaging to materials. In this respect, the museum's policy on no cameras makes sense. However, as a visitor, reporter and blogger--it was killing me. I LOVE my camera and taking photos. There was an opportunity for people to stand in front of a green screen and have a photo taken. Of course, the picture was available for purchase at the end of the exhibit where a special gift shop had been set up. People could pay six bucks for a single photo or get four for twenty five. I purchased four pictures. Merchandising may be inevitable, the photos a tad cheesy, but to an avid scrapbooker, it seemed totally reasonable. There was no way I was walking out of there without something for the scrapbook.

The exhibit shows the lavishness of the ship with a reproduction first class cabin and a dining room nook. People walked through stands of artifacts that were recovered from the site. For me the best part was a darkened room that had a backdrop of lights set up to resemble the night Arctic sky. In front of the lit cloth set an enormous block of ice that people could place their hand on. It was cold. Everyone knows ice is cold. As Minnesotans, we grow up throwing snowballs if we have gloves on or not. But to hold your hand on this enormous block of ice was an intimidating experience. Even more so when the fact that salty sea water freezes at 28 degrees--lower than the 32 degree freezing point of fresh water. Most of the people who died in the catastrophe did not die from drowning. Hypothermia was the major killer.

The exhibit discusses the tragedy of the deaths and the futility of the half empty life rafts. It also explains the miracle of the Carpathia radio man getting the plea for help at all. It speaks of the tragedy of how so many died--how horrible it was for people to say goodbye and ripped from loved ones. It speakes of the testament of love when the founders of Macy's refused to part. Mrs. Strauss refused to leave--"so they lived, they would die: together." Nearly a century after the great tragedy, the event was still powerful and moving. A section of the exhibit explains the rescue role the Carpathia played and the devastating wail of widows. The Carpathia shared the fate of the Titanic, sinking a few short years later during the first world war. The science behind the recovery is remarkable. Many times, iron, protected and destroyed by the sea simultaneously, can explode if exposed directly to the air when retrieved.

We finished the visit with a viewing of the omni movie: Titanica. My daughter really would love to go to the Titanic museum in Branson, Missouri; the museum at Nova Scotia and of course, the those in Liverpool and the Southampton. There is an online museum, (a search will bring many good ones) that has some interesting photos in case St. Paul is too far from you. We look forward to the upcoming exhibit on the Dead Sea Scrolls and the Science Museum's annual Omnifest where many films are played during a few weeks. This year's films include: Africa's Giant Elephant, Into the Deep, Van Gogh: Brush with Genius, Greatest Places and Ski to the Max.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Winter break cramming...

The last time I posted--sometime in August, my family was excited to be participating in the fair. My kids did well--bringing home many blues (and a few honorable mentions--the pink ribbons right behind the champions) both for 4-H and the Open Class. It was an exciting time for them. It was also a time of great change in my home. My daughter prepared for her first semester as a PSEO student at the local college.

PSEO--the Post Secondary Enrollment Options program is a dual enrollment option for juniors and seniors. Only public school students were allowed to enroll years ago when I participated. However it has been opened to include all students now. It is nice--she can go to campus and do all the college things. It should not be confused with Advanced Placement classes taken at school. She is currently a full time student at the college. It is most wonderful because the state covers all tuition, fees and books. What a blessing that is!!

The downside to that is a major time commitment. We have had a major change in our lives this past fall that coincided with other issues. It has been a challenge and we have experienced growing pains--but I would not say that the past several months have been bad even in the slightest bit. We have been able to do more fossil hunting, see a good football game, attend some classes and see a dance performance. We have not done many of the traditional things we have grown accustomed to doing in the fall--but I think the change might be a great thing.

Because of our busy schedules, we missed several museum exhibits. It was a delight to see my kids' excitement when they discovered that each got a gift of a museum membership and exhibit visit. This winter break will be filled with many wonderful days--a cramming of sorts that we have been putting off for quite some time. I am excited for the new year. We have another schedule that will once again allow us to have "field trip Fridays" and allow me to return to my blogging. I look forward to chronicling our visits again--with Titanic, the Louvre and Sue the T Rex, I hope our visits will excite others as well.

Monday, August 10, 2009

4-H at fair time...

I must admit...I am not a fan of fairs. County, state--you name it. It is far too crowded for me. I hate the overwhelming sense of insignificance, the fear that my children will get lost, and the twenty pounds you can gain by just smelling the fried food on a stick as you hurt your back and feet walking everywhere. The Minnesota State Fair, also known as "The Great Minnesota Get Together," takes place the last two weeks of August through Labor Day. Our county does it near the middle of August--and this week is it.

We have never exhibited at the fair through 4-H or Open Class. I never did it as a kid, though I was a 4-H member and it was my favorite building to go to. I have tried finding a group for my kids a couple of times--it wasn't until this year that we all really clicked with one. I knew the kids were going to want to show, so we set the goal pretty low this year. Each did three projects--photography, space models and scrapbooking. I was fairly confident we could accomplish all that. Last weekend I was disappointed to be working on things so late--but they all got turned in today. Each person gets interviewed by a judge for each project. How daunting that must be to little ones! Great practice for grown up life. I learned this afternoon that we are not the only ones--apparently 4-H parents are all familiar with this.

After a member determines to do a project, they must register right after the hog roast in the spring. They really just sign up for everything they think they MIGHT even want to do just a little. There is no penalty for not doing it--but if a member signs up too late--they are not allowed to win a state fair trip with that project. Can you imagine what a bummer that would be? So we got ours in, even if at the very last moment.

My two older children got two blue ribbons and one red each. My youngest brought home three blues. I am really proud of them. We have to wait until tomorrow to see who brought home the grand and reserve champion ribbons of the county. We will also have to submit our things for open class. My daughter, husband and I are all submitting exhibits. We are really excited!! Who would have ever known? I am still not a fan of crowds or the wafting smells of fried foods, but maybe it will have a new perspective for us.

It was funny, when we got home the kids were already chattering and I explained that if they wanted to do vegetables or baking we could actually do it if we weren't stressed about getting other projects done that could be done at another time. Maybe it would be more fun for them too. I think that showing at the fair is more than just ribbons. Oh, I don't kid myself into thinking that it isn't a motivator for them. I just think that the payoff is encouraging them to do the work in the first place.

Even my husband got into the spirit this weekend by helping make 4-H symbols for the GPS hunt that is new at the fair. I think the spirit may become contagious. My youngest asked why we never showed stuff when my husband and I were kids. I guess I never even thought about it--I think I knew it would never happen. The thought of showing never crossed my mind--not once. My husband grew up in the cities near the fairgrounds and he went every year, but showing wasn't one of the things kids around him did. I think open class is kind of our chance to join in the fun. My children have asked repeatedly to go to the state fair and I have never relented; perhaps it would be a chance to be inspired for next year's projects.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Summer in the cold

July had some unseasonably cool temperatures.We saw summer arrive late in the month of June with some temps in the mid-90's (Fahrenheit). Those temps have disappeared.

When my boys started the morning with their last day of swimming lessons for the year, it was nippy! It felt more like Halloween time than it did time for taking a dip into the water.

We had lunch and decided to go for a hike at Nerstrand Big Woods State Park. It was chilly, but we were okay. We tried to do the GPS geocaching-really the childhood game of searching for pirate's treasure gone high tech. We have enjoyed doing it, but we also find it frustrating. The ranger suggested trying to use the unit with a traditional compass. I think we will do that next time. We did find some blackberries and raspberries in the park and stopped periodically to pick some for a great snack. It was great ! When we were driving home, I noticed that the car told me it was 59 degrees at 3:00 in the afternoon.

The boys had a softball game with their 4-H group at 7:00 in the evening. I am happy the boys have been able to play with 4-H. We aren't sports fans around here. I have to tolerate a football game every now and then in the fall, but that is pretty much it. It was a nice pace for the boys--the parents don't get silly with their obsessive behavior. If more sports were like this, I might be more inclined to do them. They are really looking forward to next year!

There were blankets, jackets and a baby even had a stocking cap on. After sitting on the ground an hour, we were ready to get home. We actually turned the heat on it the car...can you believe it? JULY and we turned the heat on? Minnesota is considerably warmer in the bottom half of the state. The warmest recorded temperature was in Moorhead (on the border with Fargo, North Dakota) on July 6, 1932, with 114 degrees. I learned that and thought of my grandmother, pregnant with my father--she would have to wait two more weeks before delivering in that heat wave. UFF DA!!!

The coldest temperature in Minnesota was recorded in Embarass, Minnesota (far north) on February 6, 1996 with a low of -60 (Fahrenheit). This was actual temperature and did not include windchills. For a few years, I lived in Fargo and remember it getting -40 below and speaking to a person from California and she was utterly amazed. I remember her asking how we lived like that. In northern Minnesota engine block warmers for the car are essential. However, the record colds set this month aren't that dire.

June brought highs in the mid-90's in Southern Minnesota (usually warmer) to the low of 23 degrees in Tower. Tower and Embarrass are close to each other and are routinely the coldest place in America and frequently have colder temps than many parts of Alaska even. Northern Minnesota has a lot of mining. Can you imagine working in winter temperatures like that? My husband is a mechanic for agricultural equipment, that can double for snow removal in winter, and I know how cold he gets. Today he went to work on a piece outside and had to return to the shop for a jacket. For all the people who have been shocked by the temperatures, there has been an upside to all of this. Last night was only the second time I have killed a mosquito this entire season. Minnesota, like so many other places, like to think of the pest as a state bird of sorts. Such a strange year. I think I should fix my back door so it is more energy efficient--I thought it was going to be a bad winter a while ago. I am getting concerned over heating costs this year--never know, maybe it will surprise us and be a nice mild winter to match the mild summer.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Across the Mississippi...

Last year I took my mom and the kids up to Big Bog State Recreation Area--a beautiful park, minus the spring bugs. This year my mother wanted to go again and we went to Maplewood State Park. We waited too long to get reservations in the camper cabins so we were happy to see the one here open. It was an older cabin and lacked electricity, but in the summer time that isn't too much of an issue.

We got to enjoy a couple fires and roast some marshmallows. The second night we ran in a little before planned because the raccoon that had been at our site the night before was back. He made it clear he wanted us out of there. We decided to comply and hit the sack since it was getting late anyway.

Maplewood is a beautiful park, great for hiking. However, my mom really isn't up to a lot of steep climbs anymore. Her balance never has been too great, but it has gotten worse over the years. Itasca State Park was a couple hours away, but it was worth the drive. There is an incredible amount to do there. We saw an old sawmill, we crossed the Mississippi at its headwaters, visited the old and new visitor centers, replica of the original store there when the area was being settled and an old sled used to haul logs during the timbering days. It is a beautiful park and we really enjoyed going back there.

Mom just stayed by the river. It is about a quarter of a mile hike each way and we were sure to take pictures. The headwaters marker they are standing by has been there for a while--visitors have been taking pictures here for decades. It is a great place to feel connected to the past.

We also climbed the fire tower--well my oldest son and I did. Mom stayed down with my other two kids. It is an intimidating experience--but what I am willing to do for a picture!! We returned to Maplewood. Getting back there was almost as much of an experience. We returned the way we came to avoid the we thought. The road crew had moved further down the road, closing the entrance to the park from the direction we had come without detour signs. All the roads at the closure were dead ends because of the lakes in the area and we had to call the sheriff to get help. Thank you Otter Tail County Sheriff's Department!! On the way we also had to call back because there were cows out of their pasture. We did find the poor woman who was house sitting and let her know too. Never know what excitement camping in the backwoods will find!

We only spent two nights up there. I don't think my mom could handle much more than that anyway. We did stop at Glendalough State Park and look the lodge there. It is used as a conference center now, but it once was the summer retreat for the Minneapolis Star Tribune owner. Both Nixon and Eisenhower hunted there. The area across the lake had now defunct resorts. Since the lake has never been developed it is restricted to historical fishing and camping activities. I have considered camping there before, but always thought it wouldn't be worth the hike in--as it is not a traditional campground. Even after visiting it last time, I wasn't sure. We had to find a fire ring for a picnic and the rangers allowed us to use the first site for an hour to have lunch because the picnic grounds were reserved for an art group. Both the art and the campgounds were beautiful--I am sooo ready to camp there now...Can't wait!

We also stopped by Cuyuna State Recreation Area right before bringing Mom home. It wasn't too far from her house and she had never been to the mine. The old mines have been allowed to fill with the water that naturally seeps out. It is truly beautiful. The water is so deep that there are scuba divers that go down there. The lakes have also been stocked with fish. A rustic campground has been developed, but I am unsure if they are going to do more or not. Still a great view and worth the effort to get there!

Friday, July 17, 2009

Framing up at art

The boys had an art class last Tuesday--an art class at Autumn Moon, a scrap and knitting store a few towns over, that I forgot about. We were very fortunate, the owner of the scrapbook store allowed us to come in later in the week and make one of the projects. She would have let us make paper decoration (hanging in the photo below) but I was really really tired. I can't imagine how this woman works so much--think she might be superwoman in disguise. She was great with the boys. The project was pretty independent and only needed them to paint the picture frame and then decorate it with paper cutouts.

They spent an hour creating a picture frame. I was glad they had a chance to do some stuff, just them. Sometimes Mom is helping or we are tagging along with their older sister's stuff. This was an opportunity to do some stuff with just the two of them without a lot of stress or rushing. Though my youngest managed to get paint in his armpit despite the t-shirt. Don't ask me how; go figure. Life in the past weeks have been extremely hectic and I was grateful for their project and some slower time.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Driving from a box

Under Minnesota Law, full time homeschooled children can take the classroom driver's education at home with approved an approved curriculum. We chose to use Driver's ed in a box. It does what it needs to do--at least it wasn't filled with meaningless hours of gore mandated with other classes. As my daughter said to me, the gore only scares the people who are already aware of the importance of safety. Teenagers that think they are invincible and laugh at the gore on television will not benefit from it.

My daughter should have had her license long ago. She could have had her permit at 15, her license at 16 under regular law, but as a farm employee--she could have had it earlier. Though insurance costs were a factor anyway. I worry about really young driver's--even ultra responsible ones. I failed to file the paperwork when she was eligible. She has her learner's permit now and is working on getting her license--she will still get it before her birthday. This picture was taken when she first took the wheel early in May...well first time on the road legally anyway. She has moved my car in my yard if anyone cares to know.

I spared her the public posting of other photos near the end. For all the excitement and reminding she did, I think the end of the drive home really did distress her. She was extremely relieved when I drove over the local expressway--relieving her of the congested area until we got to a country road where we weren't being run over by passing traffic. We have since driven back to Rochester and the Twin Cities both, but she did great. I think it will still be a while before she is truly comfortable because I have noticed that I almost have to force her to drive when we are going anywhere near the metro area. I guess I am safe in my chauffeur position for a little while longer.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Volunteering on the farm at the Minnesota Zoo

I have missed my blog friends the past couple weeks. We have been extremely busy cleaning and dealing with some house issues. It is nice to be able to come and spend a few moments and reflect on more positive things in my life. I've missed you. :)

This is the third year my daughter has volunteered at the Minnesota zoo as a zoo teen. It is an incredible honor to be chosen. It is highly competitive--the year she applied I believe there were over a thousand applicants for the 50 or so spots. It has been a great experience. She used to work during the zoo camps, helping the instructors. She also helped in the kids den--a play and exploration area for visiting tots. This year, she is able to occasionally help on the farm.

It is a good experience for her. She has been able to incorporate her work on the farm and at the therapeutic riding place. She really loves working at the zoo and the animals. Sometimes its goats, pigs, calfs and little chicks!

We drive enough to get to the zoo, we really cannot just go back home. We are in the cities with her while she works. That can make for a long day for my boys, but they have chances to fun things too. We have really enjoyed the Russian bears and the giraffes in the African exhibit. It has been a great time. In this picture, they had just been able to feed them. Morning is definitely a better time to feed them crackers because otherwise they get full and less interested in the interaction. We can't wait for the new playground to be finished--it will be a great place to burn some energy while waiting.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Move over Nascar!

I heard of an opportunity for children to drive race cars from a homeschool posting, right after I posted a note on a blog, Pizza and Potatoes, that it wasn't my thing. (That's what I get for being so sure...) I had the moment of hesitation, but it passed quickly enough--it was an opportunity to try something definitely outside our normal comfort zone. Nascar may not be my thing, but letting my kids try new things is right up my alley. Apparently kids drive the pint sized cars all the time and my kids didn't hesitate.

The race was through the Minnesota Quarter Midget Racing Association; they have an annual try it day in Elko, Minnesota--a small town south of the Minneapolis-St.Paul Metropolitan area and about an hour northwest from us. It cost $25 for each child to register for the event that was scheduled for Saturday and Sunday. A $3 discount was applied if people registered online prior to race day. I has signed the kids up the week before and we had planned on going on Saturday so that both my husband and I could go. We planned on going during the afternoon session so we would both be done with work. As luck would have it, it rained. I had to cover graduation the next day so, I had to bite the bullet and miss something my kids were doing. It is usually my hubby that misses out, so it turned out to be a special day for them. His only order was to take lots and lots of pictures.

They first had to take a small class on driving basics, safety, and some racetrack language. They registered in one trailer and went to another for a fifteen minute class. The hard part came when the class was over and the kids had to stand, and stand, and stand in line for their turn.

After a while, they got to suit up. My daughter was at the upper age cutoff so she barely fit into the kid suits, but it worked. They also got gloves and helmets. Then they were all set...for more waiting.

They each waited for the right sized car, then for the track to clear. They got to drive ten laps around the pint sized track. It was over far faster than they would realize, but they really had a good time. The boys asked about racing, but the cars cost thousands each--I was grateful they understood. It still made for a good time.

Each child got a certificate when they were done. My hubby got pictures and video...always a good thing. Unfortunately, my brand new hard drive camcorder was broken when it was knocked over by the wind. I will have to find someone to fix it soon. I hope they can do it again next year and that I can go with them!

Friday, June 12, 2009

When firefighters burn houses down...

I try to keep my work from my blog--but this was an important lesson learned, equal to anything we study. My husband brought my children to view the charred remains of a home that had been burned down. However, I had had been there when firefighters from five different rural departments burned down the house that had been donated to them for training purposes.

I was surprised to not only be welcomed, but invited to witness ignition from the inside of the home. I was a little nervous, but I had a dedicated instructor by my side and an escape route planned out. I watched as the firefighters prepared to light the house on fire for the first time that day, but nothing prepared me for the smoke that came so quickly.

Smoke took seconds, seconds, to obliterate the view of the firefighters from upstairs. The smoke wafted downstairs making the lessons learned about dropping so obvious. The smoke that escaped into the lower level clung to the ceiling. It is this smoke that kills so many in fires. The departments' personnel made their way and broke a window for ventilation. Just as quickly as the smoke filled the upstairs, it dramatically cleared and allowed light to filter back into the level. This took minutes, but the fire lacked the fuel of everyday things we have in our homes. Can you imagine how much more quickly the petroleum based products would fuel the fire or how much more toxic the smoke would be?

I was in the house for a very short time, but I had to try to evade the smoke as it wandered around the room. I stifled some coughs, fully aware that at the first sign, I was going to be removed. I had a scratchy throat, but was okay the next day. The firefighters ignited the house specifically to extinguish the fire as many times as they could to allow each team the practice. Instructors helped explain ways to better their efforts.

They managed to get about five practice runs, before the house finally could not support any more. As they had prepared for another attempt, flames broke through the upper story and smoke billowed from the attic vents. Eventually, after confirmation that the flames had not been of the intentional kind, the incident commander gave the order for preparation for final burn down. The heat generated topped a thousand degrees and could be felt for a ways around the home.

Even after the decision to burn down the home came, fighters doused the flames at strategic points to maintain control. The black smoke is the house burning, the gray is steam from the water. Crews worked hours to safely burn the home. Homeowners are able to use the value of the home as a deduction from their taxes and in this case, allowed them to remove the home easily. It was kind of sad for me to see such a historic, limestone home taken down, but time marches on. Please review fire safety measures with your children and check your smoke detectors.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Behind the scenes at Underwater Adventures

We have enjoyed going to the Underwater Adventures. I hadn't really planned on going again this summer, but an opportunity to go behind the scenes with some kids we know from a homeschool group prompted us to plan another trip. It was really nice to have a guided tour--people can learn a lot of interesting facts they may not know if they just do a self guided walk through the aquarium. We got to visit the lab where they care for the smaller animals and do water quality testing. We also saw the kitchen where they prepare the food for the animals. Under Minnesota law, the food given to animals cannot be garbage. If you have ever eaten at Red Lobster, you have eaten food from the same source as the animals there. It was funny to see the kids scrunch their noses up and comment about the smell and their "need to clean it." Our tour guide explained that they have the cleanest kitchen in the entire Mall of America. I've heard that on the really is the cleanest kitchen in the Mega Mall. Fish heads anyone? Hmmmmm, yummy.

The kids got to hold a dried egg pouch. The pouches are nicknamed the mermaid's purse because the egg pouch has a handle that allows it to hang from rocks in the ocean. The aquarium has live ones hanging from hooks in the tanks that will eventually hatch. Well, some of them will. The aquarium will then use them for other zoos and aquariums.

Many of their animals are rescued animals. The areas of fish are more noticeably divided than they appear in the tube. We went through the exhibit after the tour. It was a different experience. Since tours were still being held when we were in, it was the first time we had seen the water completely lit up. It has been darker when we have gone before--you would not think it would be that noticeable, but it was. Near the end of the tube, we saw some of the fish getting fed what had been being prepared. We saw several stingrays eating. I always thought the face of the stingray reminded me of Face from the Nickelodeon network.

The aquarium changed the exhibit at the end and has opened a touch tank for crabs. The kids played with the crabs, careful to not get their fingers near the pinchers. We ended the trip with some iced coffee and chocolate from the mall.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Agricultural and small town historical interpretations

The county I live in has several organizations dedicated to the preservation of our history. The town I work in is no different. They have been working for years to get a building and succeeded in doing so. Sunday they had an open house--even with its limited resources it was way cool.

In addition to its community holdings, the museum has several pieces or historic equipment used in farming. During its open house, the museum had volunteers that shelled corn (both popcorn and field corn,) spinning and rope making. Some of the equipment hasn't been used in daily life for a very long time, but the volunteers both estimated that the rope making and sheller where probably used into the 50's. The rope maker was purchased by one of the volunteer's father 75 years ago for 49 cents. It is hard to imagine something we see as so simple being such a time savor and so essential on a farm.

Both were also described as tedious and frustrating. The gentleman who had been working on shelling the corn showed us his fingers from manual shelling--the dry cracks looked like they hurt. Even as slow as this simple sheller was, it sure looked better than doing it with fingers! My daughter had come with me and we both got to bring rope home--it was neat to have. My boys both regretted not coming with...hope they think about it next year!