Whirlwind Visit to Virginia

On Friday we headed into Denver and took a plane to Richmond Virginia. We were on a mission. My father-in-law was having a special birthday and his family was hosting a surprise party, and we were part of the surprise. We flew in Friday and had homemade barbeque while staying at Chris’s grandparents’ house. Saturday we went to Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens and waited for the birthday boy.

Sure enough, he was surprised!

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There were no grim reapers, but there were some crazy hats and a couple walkers, and lots of friends and family. A good time was had by all! Afterwards we wandered around the botanical garden; I was especially mesmerized by the orchids. That night we went to another party that Chris’s dad had planned and met some of his pals. Then on Sunday we flew out. So… definitely a whirlwind trip!! We really enjoyed the Virginia weather while we were there – 30s-50s, sunny, NO SNOW. Oh, it was fantastic.

Getting home from Virginia was a little more difficult. While we were waiting at the gate in Richmond, Chris found out that our flight from Chicago to Rochester had been cancelled. We found out with enough notice that we could switch our flight to Minneapolis and take the shuttle back to Rochester, but many were not so lucky. And the amount of time and money it took to get home was exasperating.

Of course then we found out that the guy next to us had been waiting to get back to Minnesota for 3 days. And they’d lost his luggage so he hadn’t been able to change clothes, shave, or any of that good stuff. Our trials paled in comparison.

Next post: I do something else daring! Well, daring for me. Normal for everyone else. 🙂

Colorado Adventures!

We flew out to Colorado this week to visit my family. Because I worked both Christmas and New Year’s, there was really no good time to make the trip west… and of course now school is starting and work is ramping up. But we’ve had a WONDERFUL time. First, we had a great visit with my grandparents – a real holiday-style ham dinner! I don’t feel so bad about missing the Christmas and New Years’ feasts after enjoying some home-cooked green bean casserole.


Please note the girls’ side ponytails!!! 


Then we took off to Glenwood Springs and the best ski resort ever, Ski Sunlight. “What is this Ski Sunlight?” you may ask. “I have heard of Vail, Beaver Creek, Keystone, Breckenridge… but Ski Sunlight?” You haven’t heard of it because it’s Colorado’s best kept secret (and, unfortunately, no one is paying me to say that!) The lower slopes are gradual and perfect for beginners, but there are also some great intermediate and expert slopes higher up. And at night, when you drag yourself home, you can head to Glenwood Springs hot springs for a soak in the medicinal waters. (Note: we never actually hit the hot spring this time…. but we did hit the hot tub!)

I decided to be adventurous. I have skiied for over 20 years of my life and I can get down the mountain without much trouble. So I decided to branch out, push myself:




Yes, I learned how to snowboard!! In perfect powder conditions which were great for spending lots of time on my behind (fallboarding)! I actually found snowboarding pretty fun because it is so much about core and balance. The not so fun part: you can’t hike easily with a snowboard. The second day I did a pretty flat green run with my family and ended up hiking up hills 4 times because I either fell or ran out of speed (hikeboarding). 

Except for the first time, I also fell every single time I got off the lift. Every. Single. Time. Let me know if you have any tips!

But all that time spent sprawled in the snow was worth it for the feeling of drifting like a falling leaf down the hillside. No poles. No crossed skis. No baggage. Just me, my board, and the mountain. 

After two days in the hills, we had to head back to real life.  Chris, my brother and I headed to Golden for a day and met my grandmother at Ali Baba for lunch – delish! Then we visited some friends from medical school and their baby in the Stapleton area.


Those babies grow up so fast!

Yesterday my mom brought me along to observe her work as a school nurse. She works at a school for kids with past attendance or disciplinary issues, and I was so impressed at how their school works to accommodate the kids and families. They are working hard to help people and making a difference at a critical time in these kids’ lives. 

Today we went to the Denver Art Museum and saw the Passport to Paris exhibit. It was great to see such a variety of styles and times – my new favorite is British artist Sisley. They had a great Pissaro section with paintings from each decade of his art and it was cool to see how his style evolved and mellowed, from sharp geometrical shapes and “wild-urban interface” pieces to more abstract nature scenes. They also had some cool juxtapositions – a scene of Montmartre when it was all country, and a couple scenes of the wild nightlife there a few decades later. While we were at DAM, we also admired some of Thomas Moran’s watercolors and chromolithographs from Yellowstone. We finished our time downtown with some wine and cheese across the street. 

Lest you think that all we do is travel fun places and eat, Chris also made Mario Batalli’s baked ziti last night and in the process discovered that the pipes around the garbage disposal were clogged. Dirty dishwater was pouring everywhere; buckets, towels, flashlights were produced. But nothing could faze the Bugoshes! My dad ran some diagnostics, my mom snaked the pipes and upon discovering that it was beyond our level of expertise, we turned to Music Man to help Anna practice for the school play.  The new Music Man (2003) is pretty good, I must say, especially since we live so close to Iowa.  And the plumber is on the case right now. 

So it’s not ALL fun and games… but we usually end up having fun anyway!


Visit to Omaha

Last week I drove down to Omaha to visit my brother and sister-in-law, Mic and Morgan. I had a FANTASTIC time. The ride there and back was enlivened by listening to my Kindle read me a great fluff YA book, Tempest Revealed.  It’s the third in a series about a girl named Tempest who discovers she’s a mermaid and is torn between her human boyfriend and a handsome selkie prince.

Of course listening to it brought out different things than reading it would have. After the first few hours I wanted to take the narrator by the shoulders, shake her, and yell “Stop feeling guilty for everything! Own your decisions!”

But I digress. When I arrived in Omaha, it was in the forties!! It hasn’t been that warm here for weeks!! Mic took me to a few of the places he’s picked up work over the past few months (doing prescribed burns and now ski instructing) and then we checked out some local shops downtown. The most beautiful was Mangelsen Photography; he has some stunning images from around the West, and Mic used his panoramas of the Tetons to show me which mountain was which! Afterwards, Morgan joined us at Blue Sushi for supper.

Aren’t they cute?!! That’s our giant selection of tasty sushi in the foreground!

Then Mic made us some super-tasty “special” hot chocolate for dessert, and I captured this Christmas-card worthy shot of the family, including their kitty Otto.

Mic also regaled me with exciting tales from his fire season adventures. 

The next morning, Mic and I had a delicious breakfast (wildberry stuffed French toast, yum!) at Lisa’s Radial Cafe. Crispy bacon, scrumptious French bread, hashbrowns, and bottomless coffee…  Then Mic and I hit up the mall, the Memorial, and the Joslyn Art Museum. Here we are in front of a eye-boggling sculpture.

The Joslyn has several stunning works by Thomas Moran, a painter who worked up in the Tetons (actually one of the mountains is named after him!). Between Mic, Moran and Mangelsen, I think God is encouraging me to visit Wyoming. 

We had tasty burgers at a local pub and then I took off back to Rochester. I finished listening to my book on the way. Thank goodness, I was getting tired of Tempest! That’s the danger of listening to a first person narrated book I guess, it was like a 5 hour monologue by a whiny teenager… albeit one with a really good story…

I can’t believe there’s only 4 days til Christmas. This month has flown by. I will miss being with family this year but I am so thankful for them. I am so glad I got to visit Mic and Morgan and saw Chris’s side of the family in November, and I am looking forward to seeing my family in Colorado in January.

To close on a serious yet joyful note… my grand-grandmother passed away recently. Although I will miss her, I am glad she is with Jesus. “And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes, and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain; for the former things are passed away” (Rev. 21:4).

Here is a picture of us together 4 years ago.


Godspeed, Gram!!


I heard about the Spam museum soon after we moved to Rochester, but I never could get anyone to visit with me. It doesn’t help that most of my amazing friends are fabulously healthy and wouldn’t stoop to eating “mystery meat in a can.” (Some wouldn’t eat meat at all!)

But last week, my grandparents came and they thought the Spam museum sounded like fun. So we made the 45 minute trek to Austin, MN to Hormel’s free and very interactive SPAM museum. We walked into the fabulous blue and yellow building and found… a great museum! A wall of SPAM cans, a movie about the history and marketing of the product (it really is pork and ham!), a cooking corner with chefs from around the world preparing the product, a place to try on the heavy metal mesh gloves that factory workers wear… Pretty fun! Plus it pulled up some great memories. My grandparents reminisced about eating fried spam during the war days when the meat was rationed and my grandmother recalled her mother heating up Dinty Moore stew.

For me the most intriguing part was a video about the Hormel Girls, an all-girl band/singing/dance troupe that did publicity for Hormel in the early 50’s. This article tells the story. I can imagine how interesting that must have been. The travel! The music! The drama! (Can you imagine the PMS?!)

By the end of the museum, after looking at pictures and movies of food, we were ravenous. But there are no free samples at this museum. So we took a picture:


Then we headed across the street to Olivia’s. While it doesn’t say so on their menu, you can substitute spam for any meat. (Spam burger… Spam ‘n eggs.. Spam, spam, spam and potatoes… )

I really enjoyed this visit. Whether you love it or loathe it, spam is part of our American food ways. So don’t be a judger. Put on your cultural relativism hat and give it a try!

Note: they do have lite, reduced sodium and turkey spam for those of you who want to be a little healthier. For the gourmands there are garlic, black pepper, jalapeño, bacon and probably many more.

Coming soon: will Ariel master her new musubi maker? Stay tuned to find out…


Last weekend we left our doggies for the day (in the hands of a capable dog-sitter) and road-tripped with our friends to Wisconsin Dells. There was a Mayo deal and none of us had been to a water park for years so we decided that we had to do it.

We arrived soon after the park had opened and waited 45 minutes to ride a rickety wooden roller coaster. Chris got to ride it twice and our only question after we rode it was… “why did you do it twice?!” Oh, the jerking and the whiplash! Then we set to work on the water slides. We rode pretty much all the different kinds of slides. We took a break for lunch and of course at a Greek-themed park I had to have a gyro.

Here is a picture of us in front of the slides before we plunged back in:

As the day wore on, the clouds covered the sun and it grew downright cool. Of course, this being Minnesota, no one was deterred. Children were still scampering around and spraying each other in the water park area. There was still an extremely long “queue” to ride the rafts. We kept up as long as we could, doing mat rides and tube rides and cross-arm rides and “eeeeeek!” rides (aka wedgie rides).

When we were chilly enough we retreated to the indoor water park where we joined throngs of others in the hot tub. We did a couple more tube rides and then we decided we needed some fat ‘n sugar to warm up, so we headed to funnel cake world. It took 45 minutes to get to the front of the line and order our funnel cake. Then Chris thought it was hilarious to blow powdered sugar on me:


We rode one more ride, a jerky indoor roller coaster, and headed home by way of Cracker Barrel. I had never noticed how meat-oriented the menu is there until I went there with vegetarian friends. Still a delicious bite of nostalgia!

Never too old for water rides!

Wild Goose Chase… And Other Attractions

Last week my sister Anna visited us for a few days. We had a great time seeing the Rochester sights. On Tuesday we visited Niagara Cave, about an hour south of Rochester. This underground system was discovered when a couple pigs fell into a sinkhole about 80 years ago. We climbed down a long, long staircase into the damp depths and followed our guide to the waterfall, then along a circituous route to see some living cave rocks. Carlsbad this is not, but for a cave in the middle of a field in Minnesota… it’s neat! Warning: lots of walking and stair-climbing involved.

Adjoining the cave is the basic putt-putt course, which Anna and I also tried out.


Anna and I by the putt-putt course

After the long drive home, we curled up and watched Men In Black 3. The next day, Anna and I did what I call the Wild Rochester Goose Chase, taking photographs with the various goose statues around town. Back in 2009, the Art Center sponsored this brilliant project called The Goose Is Loose and now there are “art geese” at important Rochester locales all over town. Here is our first stop at the Olmsted County History Center:


We took pictures with about 6 of the 18, so there are a lot left to go. One of the most beautiful is located in the patient cafeteria in Gonda, made with the help of the Mayo engineering department and with glass taken from Mayo construction site work. The “Goose Chase” a great way to spend a day and you can drive all over the city (though many are within a reasonable radius of downtown). We were so dedicated that we went all the way to the airport for a picture. The map for goose locations is here. (Note: the RCTC and UCR geese are not where it says they are. Also, the Custom Alarm goose is outside.)

I had a great time with Anna and look forward to completing the photo Goose Chase with my next willing victim – I mean, visitor. Who’s with me?!!

Black River Falls

Last weekend we went to visit Chris’s mentor, a family physician in Black River Falls, Wisconsin. As usual when we visit them, we had an AMAZING time. It’s basically like going to a resort, between the fun activities, amazing food and good conversation. I’m so thankful for these friends.

We had an amazing night-time horse ride to start off the weekend. Early the next morning, a few of us went to “Boot Camp” and rode bikes up and down some fearsome hills. I haven’t ridden my bike for a month and I’m out of “bikeshape” but I still had a blast, especially when the trainer rewarded us all with some coffee at the end. She knows how to motivate… We went for a kayak down the Black River and then cooled off by splashing in a shallow creek at the take-out. Then after quesadillas and margaritas, we took another horseback ride.

20130710-172015.jpg Riders!

After a late night playing bridge and other card games, we ate waffles for breakfast and then went to a top secret rope swing in an undisclosed location. Along the way we picked up trash (or were ready to, anyway) and fended off ticks and mosquitoes.




The trash collectors in full gear

Wow, what a weekend! I deeply enjoyed our time there. Black River Falls is beautiful – rolling green hills, deep woods, the striking tea-colored water of the river – and there is so much to do, especially when you’re with someone who knows the area.

We didn’t visit Lake Wazee this time, but if you happen to be in the area that’s another great place to go – a quarry turned gem-like lake set among sheer gray cliffs. Stunning.
Thanks again to our wonderful hosts, you are the epitome of hospitality.

A Visitor!

Last week, my amazing grandmother visited our new house. She was the first occupant of our official guest bedroom. No longer do our visitors have to sleep on a couch, a sleeping bag, or a deflating air mattress. Now they get a full size bed, a dresser and side table. In fact, they get their own floor with a bathroom. Visit away!

The night that she arrived we listened to the Carillon concert – they happen 3 times a week and are very impressive. We also showed her the gorgeous Plummer building in downtown Rochester. On Tuesday, we headed for Lanesboro. Granny is one of the few people who have read my novel and Lanesboro is a partial inspiration for the fictional setting so I showed her this beautiful town, nestled in the bluff. We ate at Pedal Pushers – Granny had liver and onions and I had a delightful fish taco. (I tried liver for the first time and must say I don’t think I’ll ever be a fan!) Unfortunately the hodge-podge history museum was closed but the art center was open. What a talented community!

We had planned to visit another winery in Spring Valley but due to roadwork decided to visit the Fillmore County history museum instead. It was excellent; a lot of great period pieces. I’ll admit the mannequins were faintly creepy. But it was certainly worth a visit!!

In the evening I mowed the lawn all by myself and did a respectable job as Granny cheered me on. It was actually kinda fun in a purposeful task-oriented way but don’t tell Chris I said that 😉 Then we took Granny to the Honkers game for some hot dogs, beer and baseball. Of course Granny and I HAD to get a shot with the Honkers’ mascot Slider.

I won’t discuss the game because it was a heartbreaker but the Honkers (and their fans) are always fun to watch.

On Wednesday we arrived at Plummer House and discovered it was open just on Wednesdays for a self-guided tour. Finally some scheduling luck!

We had a great visit and I worked on a hematology floor the next couple days. I had the same patients and really good floats. Our floor overlooked the fireworks on Silver Lake, and I caught a couple glimpses of the spectacle. Yay America!

Granny and me by “Silver Falls”

Granny and me with Slider

Top 5 Things To Do in Maui

We went to Maui for a week and it was amazing. Afterwards I had a little bit of a Hawaiian hangover, like “why am I not moving to Hawaii?” (I believe this is a very understandable reaction to staying in a tropical paradise for a week after a long cold winter-spring!) I had been to Oahu and the Big Island before and I have to say, Maui and Hawaii are about tied for “favorite island” status. I mean, Hawaii has a (usually) active volcano, but Maui is just spectacular in so many ways. It’s like a mixture of Hawaii and my parents’ descriptions of tropical garden-island Kauai. No wonder it’s honeymoon central!

So here are my top 5 things to do, plus a bonus. They are similar to every guidebook’s top 5, but with a twist.

1. Hang out on a beach! Maui has splendid beaches all over the place. There are beautiful, sunny, dry beaches on the “south” shore. They’re great for sunbathing (or “under-umbrellla-basking”), paddleboarding and snorkeling in the morning, and boogie-boarding in the windier afternoons. In Makena State Park, you’ll find Big Beach, an enormous classic sliver of sand with no resorts. Adjoining is Little Beach, a skinny dipping haven. Across the volcano near Hana, there are red sand and black sand beaches. Whether you want to lie on a blanket or take a walk with the sand squishing between your toes, or just take lots of pictures of beach sunsets, nothing is more relaxing than a good beach.


2. Get under the water! Our family took a snorkeling tour to the steep-walled islet of Molikini, spying some dolphins racing under the boat on the way, and also to a “turtle city” where we saw a few of the slow moving sea turtles. Chris and my dad also got scuba certified. Yes, it might be a little cold, but it’s so cool to see the amazing world under the waves… if only for a few hours.

3. Go to a luau! At least once in your lifetime, anyway. Held in a variety of venues, all of them are fun, spendy celebrations of one interpretation of Hawaiian culture (that’s a whole anthropological post in itself). We attended the one at the Grand Wailea and enjoyed a meal that satisfied my desire to taste poi, the Hawaiian staple made from taro (it tastes like tangy, runny, purple mashed potatoes). There were many dishes more attractive to the non-Hawaiian palate. The hula and fire dancers put on a fascinating show and we received beautiful shell leis and looked at souvenirs made by native craftsmen.


4. Check out Haleakala, Maui’s local volcano. Apparently it’s really awe-inspiring at sunrise, but guess what… it’s also really awe-inspiring in the afternoon! And not nearly as frigid!

You drive up from sea level into this barren volcanic wasteland (similar to Mars) with a sparse population of the beautiful native silversword plants. It’s a nice change from the beach. If you’re really into riding downhill fast on a bike, you can do that on your own or with an outfitter.

I enjoyed the car ride down just fine.


5. Go to Hana and explore the nearby coves and waterfalls. Everyone raves about the Road to Hana and it is great… if you like sinuous, convoluted narrow roads that frequently disappear to one lane (particularly over bridges) and have thousands of blind curves where you play chicken with fearless locals. No, really, the waterfalls and ocean views are stunning.

Hana is a quiet town but “still waters run deep.” I’d love to spend more time there. We flew back from Hana and got some amazing views of the craggy coastline and the silver sparkle of inland waterfalls.


6. Read The Parrot Talks in Chocolate by Everett Peacock. A tiki bar, mai tais, a surfing bartender and a beautiful Tahitian dancer… it’ll put you right in the Maui mood.

I really enjoyed Maui. The only downside was coming back. Of course, now that I’m back I can actually get unpacked.

Well, aloha to all of you, and I can’t wait to hear about your summer adventures!