Colossal Cafe, Minneapolis, MN

After 7 years in the Twin Cities, I still hadn't visited this place. Luckily, I've know about it almost the whole time I've lived here, and wanted to get it "under my belt". Well, a recent, rainy weekend day provided the perfect opportunity to do just that, and I couldn't have been more pleased with the place, people, or food. 

If you've been to this location on 42nd, you know there's not much room inside to take great photos, and I tried, but the one above is probably the best and only shot one needs to see. 

My only regret now is not having gone sooner. 


Krueger's Christmas Trees, Lake Elmo, MN

Like any red-blooded American, I've had visions of cutting down and hauling home a Christmas tree of my very own since I watched the movie National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation, among others, as a youth. Maybe Clark W. Griswold has modeled proper American holiday behavior for many of us. Discuss. 

When the opportunity arose to visit Krueger's Christmas Tree farm in Lake Elmo, MN, to help pick and cut a Christmas tree, I jumped at the chance. 

After an easy, relatively short Saturday morning drive, we found ourselves surrounded by all kinds of conifers to choose from. Though Krueger's has trees pre-cut and ready to wrap, we chose the traditional method of grabbing a saw and sled, finding our own tree (only the tagged ones, never the flagged ones), cutting it down, hauling it back, having them process and wrap it, and even driving through their pick-up line and having them tie it right to your roof. 

(my favorite, hundreds of pine needles... ever dig those out of a canister vac's hose as a kid? Oh, no, me neither)

Though I'd always thought this kind of adventure would be a day long slog in a  cold, wet, windy forest with grumpy family members (Griswold!!!), it turned out to be a pleasant outing with two other fun people... and really not that physically taxing. Phew. 

Finding the tree was the most arduous part, and even that was rather pleasant as we were able to see what we liked, toss some snowballs, and even "snowboard" on some of their back hills. 

Once found, the cutting of a relatively young, small diameter tree trunk took all of about five minutes, and that's with a hand saw. Plus, tradition of the friends I went with dictated that all of us had a hand in the cutting. So while I started it and got about halfway through, the others finished the job. Done. 

Now, all that's left is to haul it back to the processing and payment area. Once there, they place the tree on a "shake stand" to help remove dead/weak needles, and then send it through the "netting" machine to allow it to be tied down on your car (and frankly, brought into your casa... oh, Mexico). You hand it off and go pay, then jump in your vehicle for pick-up. It's a slick system that they seem to have really dialed. 

They also have things set-up well for kids, big and small. Many had fun around the main out-buildings. There's a teepee, photo areas, and just a general holiday vibe that was nice to be around. Plus, who doesn't like the smell of pine in the morning?


I would wholeheartedly recommend this establishment to anyone in the market for a fresh-as-they-come Christmas tree and a family adventure for the ole memory book. 

Clark W. Griswold would approve. 


Museum of Science & Industry, Chicago, IL

A rainy, cold, dreary fall day are the perfect reasons to see one of Chicago's great museum offerings. The Museum of Science & Industry (MSI) is one such offering, and I don't think I'd been to this place in about 30 years. Time to go back I suppose.  

While there was just so much to see, we had only planned to stay for a couple hours as we had an eager 3yr old in tow. He wanted robots, so that was on our list and whatever else we wanted to find. 

Finding stuff was no problem, but to me the museum seemed a bit thrown together with no real rhyme or reason to it. That's not to say it wasn't fun or interesting, because it is, it just seemed a bit pell mell. 

Here are some highlights:

An entire U-boat, nuts. 

A tornado. Fun. 


And some kind of smoke wall. (maybe hard to see)

The nice part is you can always go back and take a closer look at one section. I would also imagine that students on field trips would get a lot out of it, if they prepare in advance. All in all, a good way to spend a rainy day. 



Do you remember this?

Like about 10-feet tall and veiny. 


Puerto Vallarta, The Boardwalk

If you don't see some of the local sights when you travel, then what, pray-tell, are you doing? I think you're missing out. We had a chance on the last night to find a new restaurant and see the local sights. So, let's get dinner up in the hills that look out over the marina and then head down to PV's boardwalk on a bustling Sunday night for some people watching, shall we?

The resort concierge hit the nail on the head with the recommendation of Vista Grill for a place with excellent food and a beautiful view. 

The best part was probably sharing four items off a special "guest chef" menu that this business was participating in all week, along with many other PV restaurants. 

We started with a wonderful, simple poached pear salad. Pear, greens, goat cheese, peanuts, vinaigrette. Chomp!

Then a velvety creamed corn soup with truffle foam, niblets, and a little, what I'll call, crab croquette. Slurp!

Poured table-side too...

Even on a hot PV eve, it was delicious. Then, on to an amazingly fresh, look-so-good-someone-that-doesn't-eat-fish-will-try-it tuna tartare. Gulp!

I believe it was torched on the top-side, raw on the other, with an excellent balance of avacado, onion, tomatoes, and a touch of vinegar. We tore through that in anticipation of our main course, a melt in your mouth steak, a smash of huitlacoche, seasonal veggies, on a bed of corn purée. 

Hard to get a great pic without a washout flash, but easily one of the best steaks we'd had in a long time. Double Chomp!

And though we didn't order dessert, they gave us a complimentary dessert amuse buche in the form of two small spoons of black sesame gelato. It was very thick and so unique...a good unique. 

Muchas gracias, Vista Grill y Martín. 

Once dinner was complete and we'd had enough time staring out over the city, we decided to walk all the way back down the high hill to the marina and boardwalk below, maybe ~2 miles. It was a lovely night with a great person to walk with. A person who helps me see the city at a slower pace, pointing out things I might not have noticed otherwise. Gracias mucho. 

Like this little street decorated with its own "streamers"...

And this mural right over old pay phones...

And once we found the boardwalk, I think we also found half of PV's populace spending a nice Sunday night on the boardwalk. It was bustling!

They were busy strolling, listening to music, getting a bite to eat, and, it seemed, just enjoying the night. 

Once past the throngs listening to live music, we found a more calm stretch of the boardwalk, well-lit and with more interesting things to see...

More detail...

Also more detail, all made of sand...

And finally, as we walked along, we couldn't help but notice a strange "pan flute" playing in the distance. As we got closer, we noticed something in motion high above the boardwalk. We investigated further and found men dangling from ropes high up in the air, and arrived just to see them touch down. We then sat down on the boardwalk and realize they would do it again, but when? We had to wait to find out. And lucky we did because it was very interesting to watch them set up and to perform the stunt. I'll try to show it below. 

As we walked up:
Just a guy waaaay up at the top. 
And their ropes still hanging low. The ladder is easily a twelve-footer. Then they all climb up a pole, must be 60' in the air at the top. 

Setting up:
One person on top, one more coming up to help "wind" the ropes...
2 people up

Now adding 3 and 4...

The Action:
All four on top, ropes wound around their waists and the center pole, waiting to drop over the edge and let gravity float them down...
They begin...
And the continue to wind all the rope out back to the ground, playing the pan flute and a simple drum the whole way, upside down...

They made it safely back. It was a unique display of talent that I for one was happy to witness. 

After the boardwalk, we walked a bit further but finally broke down and got in a cab to head back. I'd estimate we walked about halfway back the the hotel. For me, it was a great final night in Puerto Vallarta. Me gusta mucho.  

Puerto Vallarta, The Wedding

Ever thought of a destination wedding? I've missed my fair share over the years (sorry!), but this time I was welcomed at the last minute with open arms, pretty much literally. And was I ever glad. I couldn't think of a more perfect night with a more perfect group of friends and family (of which I didn't really belong to either group). They mentioned during one of the toasts that due to the expense of the weekend they trimmed a guest list down from 300+ to 60 people, and made damn sure they kept the 60 people they knew would have lasted the whole night as if all 300 were invited. They nailed it. 

For me, it did at times feel like I was barging in on a private event, but not ever due to others, just because I'm my mother's son and we don't go places without invites. 

To set the scene for the night, think of a movie-like private cove, set-up and staffed only for you, your soon-to-be, your wedding party and those sixty close guests. 

It was idyllic, secluded, and romantic all at once. And of course, it could only be reached by boat...

Nope, not this one. 

This one neither. 

We gathered in the PV marina by late afternoon, waiting for the charter boat to arrive. It would hold the entire group, and hand out drinks for the entire ~45 minute ride to the destination. Lots to see in the marina, plus some small shops.

With the boat docked and all of us boarded and accounted for, we set out for Las Caletas (The Coves). Plenty to see while we watched the waves go by too, plus a hearty breeze in our faces. 

As the ride came to a close, we all got a good look at the place we'd spend the evening at, it was jaw-dropping...

Once docked, we made our way off the boat and up the paths to the end of the coves. We would have the last cove all to ourselves all night long. Ceremony, reception, beach front dance floor, it was bananas. 

Due to the time of year, sunlight went pretty fast, but the staff had set-up candles and torches all over the cove. I don't think most of of thought it could get prettier at night, but it did. 

I will refrain from sharing details and people pics of the couples' night, but suffice it to say even more tequila was drunk (a fitting word) and everyone one had an amazing night. 

Two surprises of the evening:
1. Our waiter was pretty cheeky as soon as we sat down for dinner, and at one point said to me, "Hold out your hand?"  Thinking he was going to put a gold doubloon from Goonies in my hand, I did it. Well, no gold for me, just the most active hermit crab we'd ever seen. We dubbed him "Sebastian" and he hung out with us for ~30 minutes or so. 

2. Caletas arranged a pair of fire dancers for a late night treat, which started about 10:30pm. They were legit. 

Soon after the fire dancers, the last song was played, and our hosts invited us to get back on the boat for the somewhat shorter trip back. We made our way in the dark, lit by candles, back onto the vessel. All of us were tired (fine, maybe just me), but extremely happy. And on the boat they had more drinks. Yikes!!!

What to do when you get back to the hotel? Midnight ocean swim of course. 

The Boardwalk night is next. Be ready. 


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