Thursday, April 12, 2012

Best Song to Play When Traveling

You have to play this when or before taking a trip, especially if you are driving to your destination! Holiday Road 

Prairie Bells

Rural Linton, ND

It's been a crazy week with the Reynolds play coming up this weekend (Come see me handcuffed to a lampost!) but I promised myself I would write a little something once a week so I figured I could write a quick little something I know a little bit about.

Literally in the middle of nowhere, as you travel down Highway 13 between the towns of Linton and Wishek, you will notice to the north a stack of bells on top of a hill.  Prairie Bells Grotto has three bells from old churches that once existed in the area many years ago.  Church bells our ancestors used to hear when they came to weekly masses, funerals, or weddings now ring out once again on a 50 foot tower on top of a hill and can be heard for up to 10 miles on some still nights.  I have easily heard these bells from my farm that was about two miles away as the crow flies. They are beautiful sound and it is a neat feeling to know someone has taken the time to stop and spend some time at this little place.

Built over 20 years ago (has it been that long already), the Vetter family built the grotto of the Holy Family from canola, wheat, and rock from nearby fields.  It was built and ready in time for one of their own to hold his very first mass after being ordained a priest.  It was a time for celebration and having these bells were the perfect way to pay homage to God.  Since that time, people from all 50 states have visited the bells as well as a number of people from various foreign countries as well.  It is a peaceful place that allows people a place for quiet prayer for their family.  I know if you stop at any of the neighboring farms in vicinity of the bells the people that live there would be more than happy to give you a little more of a personal tour and tell you more about the bells and how the grotto came to be.  They are good people and are proud of what they built.

If you are driving down the road, keep your eye open as you never know what you may find.  Pull over, spend some time, I think it'll be something you remember years from now if you do.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Arrowwood in Alexandria, MN

Alexandria, MN

Our family recently took a trip to Alexandria, MN where we stayed at the Arrowwood Lodge and Conference Center. We met another family there from the Twin Cities area. Friends of ours from when we used to live down there. They have three children, same as us, and all the ages match up fairly close so each one of them has a little friend to play with.  Perhaps the only problem is the poor middle children. All three of my children are girls, their middle child is a boy, but they still got along just fine with their middle-child care free attitude they both have.  The problem may come another 10 years from now when they once again want to sleep with each other.  It’s a great place for us to meet for a little “spring break” action as it is almost half the distance from our place to theirs.  Love this family.  We all get along and I hope they realize how much they mean to us. 

Arrowwood is an awesome little resort.  I will say it is a little spendier then most places in the region, but compare this place to what else is around and I think you will find it is fairly priced.  This place has plenty of activities to do for people of all ages…and all seasons!  This place has an indoor water park, a separate indoor AND a separate outdoor pool, an 18-hole executive golf course for those who pretend to play golf like me, the townhomes have a fire pit along with forks to cook hotdogs and marshmallows, a swimming beach, boat rentals, executive putting course, basketball and tennis court, large decks that overlook the lake, a spa, and a place for kids to go to watch movies, create crafts, play games, and eat popcorn.  I mean this place had it all that we decided to stay an extra day longer than what we originally planned.  Boy are we glad we did that. 


The indoor pool is kinda cool.  I liked the water slides the most.  Many indoor water parks you go to has some lame ass slide, maybe two.  You go up, you go down, and everyone crowds onto the one good slide and it take for frickin ever to go down on a busy weekend.  At Arrowwood, there are three decent slides, one you have to go down on a tube and they do have single and double sized tubes.  All three are completely covered and go outside and have some cool twists so I actually going up and down them with my girls, especially the non-tube slides cause I am way out of shape and I hated carrying that damn thing every time because my kids are too young. So the other two I really liked.  The tube slide is fun but only for a couple of times and I got nervous going down with my six year old who can just barely swim because if we shoot out of there wrong, we could flip.  We never did, but I had seen others. 
The rest of it was nice and served it’s purpose.  There was a shallower pool for the younger children which also had two smaller slides. Actually, the one slide was a straighter drop and if you came down with your feet pointing up, once you hit the water below it would spray out and get the people standing beside the slide.  I laughed pretty hard when a new mom watched with her (about) 18-month old son at the bottom of the slide watching the new dad come down.  Of course dad comes down feet up and totally drenches mom and kid.  Now the baby is crying, mom is pissed at dad, and the poor dad is sitting there as the innocent bystander once again wondering what they hell he could have done.  I was sitting on the side laughing.  ANYWAY….The other pool has three basketball hoops which was fun to use until you got hit in the head when you weren’t looking.  Then there was what the kids dubbed as the “WINTER WIPEOUT” zone.  A rope going across the pool with some floaties underneath that the kids had to navigate across without dropping into the water.  That was fun for most kids but it sucked to have to go over and hold the floaties for the younger kids who couldn’t reach the rope.  But they had fun anyway and that is what is important I guess.  The one thing I would complain about overall was the temperature of the air and water in the park.  It felt great when we got there on Thursday but after that the one day the water was cold but the air was warm, then the air was cold and the water was warm, then later in the day both water and air was cold.  Not sure what the hell was going on but you didn’t always feel comfortable there.

The two other pools outside the water park were OK.  Just a basic 5-foot deep pool for both the indoor and outdoor one.  The best thing about the indoor is half of it was encased in glass and facing south so it felt nice and warm on a cold winters day.  

Winter Zone

I mentioned a place to go do crafts, watch movies, etc.  This was actually a nice place to bring the kids.  Many of them on day three opted to do crafts rather than swim which amazed the hell out of me but hey, who was I to complain.  They had a popcorn machine there and had cookies waiting there for kids to decorate.  The person running the place would put icing on it and they could decorate it with M&Ms, Gummi Bears, Reeces Pieces, and something else that I am forgetting but you get the point.  A bunch of games and movies to pick from and crafts that the kids can choose to do which is all free except if you want to decorate a shirt or handbag, those are $5 apiece.  They would also have a bonfire for those who didn’t stay in the townhomes so that others could come and make smores if they wanted to.  In this same building is where you can rent cross country skis, snowmobiles, and sleds for the sledding hill.  They also offer sleigh rides and have a horse stable nearby. 
Other Areas

We didn’t check out the spa but from the brochure it looked pretty nice.  The executive putting course was nicely kept up. I believe they provide putters and balls but I for the life of me could not figure out where the hell it was. Other people were finding it but apparently I am putter challenged.   There was a large area for just running around, a playset and a beach.  I will say, it looked like that beached sucked though. Granted we were there in early April which is too soon for Minnesota but it was an unusually warm winter and the lake was open and snow had melted and the beach looked very small with not much sand so don’t expect too much in that regards.  They also had volleyball nets, hoops, and the golf course which I would love to try out sometime when I have more money. 

So this got pretty damn long and I haven’t even put pictures up yet.  If your still reading, good for you.  I would have checked out after the first sentence but I think I have ADD.  Seriously, if you are in the North Dakota/Minnesota region, check this place out.  There is lots to do and the rooms are very nice.  Ah crap, the rooms, I didn’t even talk about those… time. Trust me the rooms are nice but there is too much to do to worry about spending time in the room.  

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Reynolds Play

Reynolds, ND

Community plays are fun to attend and just as fun to be in.  Local actors from around the area with little acting experience get on stage to have a good time and entertain the people in their community.  While not professional they are still certain to entertain even the ficklest of theater goers.  The plays are often picked with the actors in mind.  The parts they play often reflect their real personality in some way.  This allows these amateur actors to shine. 

The actors feed off of not only laughter but whooping and hollering too!  Often times with these types of small town productions, most everyone in the audience personally knows most everyone in the play.  The actors feed off the people in the audience and the audience feeds off the people on stage.  Afterwards you can give your favorite actor shit about how goofy they looked or how good they did, either way they will take it as a compliment!  Sometimes the actors will find ways to get the audience involved in the play.  This is a great give and take that only makes you feel like part of the cast.  Even better, especially in Reynolds, you can go to the Beehive Bar across the street and bring your drink of choice with you, then afterwards, go back and enjoy a few with the cast.  Under 21?  You are more than welcomed to come and the cast loves to mingle in the hall and chat with whoever wants to talk to them.  

So come to Reynolds, ND and see yours truly in one of the one-act plays.  I play the lead character in the play called Cuffed by G Sherman H. Morrison.  When "Jerry" (that's me) gets handcuffed to a lamppost in the middle of the night by an unlikely person in the park, he's bound to come across some crazy people and that's just what happens.  These people will make you laugh, aroused, appalled, or all three!  

The second play is called Lip Service by Bradley Hayward.  When Charlie made his reservation at
the trendy restaurant to ask for Laura's hand in marriage, he had no idea that his proposal would be repeatedly thwarted by a revolving staff of cuckoos. Among them are a waitress obsessed with conspiracy theories, a bus boy with a cabaret act, a chef with an accent thicker than his gravy, and a violinist that doesn't even know how to play. As Laura flits from disaster to disaster, Charlie tries desperately to make heads or tails of the nonsense spewing from everyone's lips.

Please come support a great community and see some fun, loving characters.  If you can't make it to this one, please go see one in your community.  These people are giving their time for free in order to entertain you!  With that sort of commitment, you know you'll have some fun when you go and you might even consider being part of the cast next year! (we can always use more suckers people)

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Marilyn Hagerty Effect

Grand Forks, ND....

Normally when I watch The Travel Channel, I get frustrated with all the shows on there that are about places to eat.  If I wanted to know more about food, shouldn't I turn to the The Food Network? I get it, when people travel they want to know where the best places to eat but it would also be nice to at least occasionally know about other things to do when on vacation.  We are not constantly eating on vacation. I don't need to know every place Anthony Bourdain has eaten.  That's been my beef, my soap box, my pet peeve and it's one I am going to freaking swallow in this post mostly because I have been inspired by our local "food critic", Marilyn Hagerty.

If you haven't heard about her, she became an internet sensation virtually overnight when her Olive Garden Review received much attention.  One person replied to the write-up saying it was pathetic but with that, many more came to her defense (including Anthony Bourdain).  This 85 year old woman was swept up by national news organizations from Good Morning America, the Today Show, The New York Times, and Anderson Cooper.  She ate at a couple of the finest restaurants in New York including Dovetail and Le Bernardin (thanks to Bourdain once again).  On top of that, Cooper is sending her to Italy so she can taste some real Italian food.
Now inspired by this little old local lady, I've decided to write about some of the better places to eat right here in Grand Forks.

Hungry for Italian?  Grand Forks/East Grand Forks not only has The Olive Garden but two other restaurants that are little more locally owned.   Giuseppe's Italian Ristorante is a small, quaint bistro in downtown Grand Forks that serves excellent classic Italian dishes from spaghetti and meatball to tortellini Alfredo.  For an extra treat, try the penne & sausage and you wont be disappointed (or hungry).  Sorry, no reservations and they are only open from 5pm to 9pm so arrive as early or as late as you can.  Another good place to try on the east side of the river is Mamma Maria's.  From classic Italian to sandwiches to pizza, this local eatery has something for everyone to enjoy.  I would particularly recommend the Mammarita but I don't think you can go wrong with any of the pizza choices or the classic dishes for that matter.

The Forks also offers a surprising variety of Asian food as well.  I am a big fan of teppanyaki grill and Fuji's does not disappoint. Their prices for lunch are surprisingly affordable considering you get a show along with you lunch.  I went after only three days of operation and while the wait staff was a little slow at the time, the chefs provided and good, fun loving show that filled us with great food in the end.  They also offer a great variety of sushi items.  You will not walk away hungry from this great place.

A new place on the map in East Grand Forks is the The Drunken Noodle.  Offering a variety of Asian style dishes with egg noodles or rice with a few dishes on the spicier side of things.  I particulary loved the dish called, of all things, Drunken Noodle.  Don't be fooled by the little flame warning of spiciness.  If you are a fan of some spice, you will not need a fire hydrant to cool you off but it does have a little kick to it.  This dish comes with flat rice noodles stir fried with basil, broccoli, tomatoes, iions, garlic, bell pepper, jalapenos, and hot Thai chili.  Very good food.

Finally, on the Asian side of style, is the Little Bangkok in East Grand Forks.  Mostly known for it's sushi and Thai food, it is a neat little place with nice ambiance.  As one person put it, they didn't care for fish so they tried the steak and it was mistake. Go and be adventurous and try the dishes they are good at, namely the varieties of sushi.

For the more "American" type of food, I recommend three other places. If you are in the mood for a good steak that includes a baked potato, soup AND salad and a bread basket for affordable prices, stop at the Bronze Boot Steakhouse and Lounge.  They boast over 50 years of "fine dining" and if you are lucky enough to sit up near the grill you can watch them cook your steak right in front of you.  Of course they offer seafood, ribs, and chicken which are all very good but like I said before, I recommend sticking with what they are good at, steak!

For some more "off the cuff" type of cuisine, you might want to try The Toasted Frog.  It is a bar so you have to be over 21 but they serve some unusual eats such as Wood-Fired Open Faced Pheasant Melt, Crabby Patty, or the Moroccan Spiced Lamb Burger.  They also have a wide variety of martinis.  I never was a martini snob until I had one there and now I love going back for their martinis.  In fact, when I do go there, I go for martinis and Fried Cheesy Pickles off their appetizer menu.  Seriously, the pickles are the best thing on the menu and would almost just as soon eat those as a meal for itself they are so good.

Finally, some excellent "Cajun" type of cuisine, go to the Parrot's Cay.  Again a little hole-in-the-wall bar so you have to be 21 to enter, it offers po'boys, lavosh, crawfish, jambalaya and OOHHHH their award winning buffalo wings that come in heat ranging from 3-15 but if you are really daring, you can try their heat that they rate as 40.  It comes complete with goggles, gloves, and a stomach pump.  Many people also love their french fries.  They have good drink specials with an abundance of good beer but all the locals know about this little place so you may have to wait for a while until a seat opens up.  With that said, it makes for good atmosphere because you can roam around and meet people that way.

So there you have it!  Coming to Grand Forks and need some food ideas, I would definitely try the ones mentioned to start.  Yes we do have plenty of the chains like Olive Garden, IHOP, Green Mill, as well as plenty of fast food from Wendy's to the Subways that are in every little corner of the town. If you care for any more advice, give me a shout.  Or better yet, if you know of another good little eatery, clue me in!!!

Friday, March 9, 2012

Day Travels

Hague, ND

I love to travel. I mean, who doesn't? I get tired of seeing the same walls at work, same walls at home, same scene to and from work, daughters dance lessons, etc. It get tiring and mondane and I like to step out of the ordinary. Even if it means traveling to areas near by that we don't really get to experience much less our children and lets face it, we have a narrow window in our little life in which we get to spend quality time with them. Granted they graduate when they are 18 (God willing) but I know kids start to drift away from their parents much sooner and suddenly it's not quite as cool to hang with mom and dt me and my parents.

Growing up, Sundays would be especially boring with only three TV channels and nothing on. So my dad would occasionally just take us out and drive around the area. It was nothing over the top but I got to know the area.
We once traveled to the sleepy little town of Hague, ND to visit this gem of a church. How or why such a small town of 71 people has such a beautiful, large church is beyond me, yet here it is. No more than a 45 minute drive from our place. The stone and detail that went in the alter is very awe inspiring with what appears to be granite (I don't know my geology). As you look from the back of the church your eye scans along the arching ceiling the beams seem to criss-cross each other. The lighting along the sides of the church is quite different from what you see in most where all of the lighting hangs from overhead. These lights showcase the stations of the cross along the sides.

As beautiful as all this is, your can't help but be drawn to the front and the alter. As if a beacon is pulling in towards God's graces, showing you the way home, and you can get lost in it. It's a quiet town so when there isn't a mass you will likely have the place to yourself and you can sit and reflect for a while.

Just a small example of something you can find when even just taking a short trip to somewhere near by.  I remember those times fondly.  We didn't always know where we are going but we found something interesting and it was some good bonding with my parents.  Trips don't have to be to some far off, expensive location.  Try to find something close to you and make the most of it.