Weekly Photo Challenge: Change (Northern Lights in the Night Sky)

Edited 10/7/15 ~ Thank you, to The Daily Post, for including this post and photo in Photos We Loved: Change!  I learned the slideshow may not play on mobile apps, so added a gallery of the same images at the end. 

Aurora Borealis …. the Northern Lights …. magical, mystical changing skies.

Northern Lights in the Minnesota Sky

Early in the morning of September 20, the dark skies were dancing.  I was up late talking with friends who had joined us for a leisurely dinner.  At about 2:30 a.m., we were ready to call it a night.  I heard something that sounded like racoons or other nocturnal critters “arguing” outside, so I went out to investigate.  As I stood in the front yard and looked down the street, I noticed a faint glow illuminating the tree line — a telltale sign that the Northern Lights may be out.

I pulled up my phone and checked my Aurora Forecast app — the visual forecast and Kp Index were extremely promising! A Kp Index of 4 or more in northern Minnesota is reportedly sufficient for observing the Northern Lights, and all indications were that my region was experiencing a Kp Index of 5 with strong activity.  I then took a look at the Great Lakes Aurora Hunters Facebook group and one of the other photography groups I follow, and noticed a few members buzzing about the aurora activity that night.

After saying good-night to my friends, I packed up the camera bag, grabbed the tripod, and headed away from the city lights.  The funny thing about the aurora borealis is that it can disappear as quickly as it appears, and while there are forecasts available, it’s just like the weather, with no promise or guarantee.  I knew that as soon as I found a spot to set up my camera and watch the horizon, the skies could very well go dark on me.  It’s always a gamble, but when it pays off, the rewards are priceless.

I found a promising location with an open view of the northern horizon, and interesting treeline.  The sky was cloud-free, and the stars were out in full force.  From 3:00 a.m. until 4:30 a.m., I watched in awe as the sky shimmered and pulsed, pillars of light periodically shooting up from the horizon, as an undulating green band hypnotically formed above the tree line and began emitting spikes of green and purple.  While the camera captures far more than the human eye, the wee hours of that morning (or late night, depending on your perspective) yielded a spectacular show that also was visible to the naked eye.

I packed up my tripod and started the car to go home on two different occasions, but as I sat and watched the ever-changing lights, the display drew me out again to appreciate the wonder just a bit longer.   Finally, the thought of getting at least a few hours of sleep outweighed the temptation to stay until the sunrise would overtake the mesmerizing images in the northern sky.

Play the slideshow and watch the lights dance and change to experience the beauty of the aurora yourself.

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Gallery viewing (click on any of the individual images to view full-size), if your mobile app is unable to play the slideshow:

Ciao! ~ Kat

This post was in response to the Daily Post’s Weekly Photo Challenge.  “Change” is this week’s theme.  Everyone is welcome to join in the Challenge; further details on how to participate and links to others’ responses are found here.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Monochromatic

Ice and snow are beautifully monochromatic.

Beautiful monochrome on Lake Superior

As beautiful as it can be on Lake Superior, hoping that winter is still a few months off!

Ciao! ~ Kat

This post was in response to the Daily Post’s Weekly Photo Challenge.  “Monochromatic” is this week’s theme.  Everyone is welcome to join in the Challenge; further details on how to participate and links to others’ responses are found here.

Honoring Their Memory on 9/11

Kat at travelgardeneat:

Never forget …

Originally posted on Travel. Garden. Eat.:

“I wish it need not have happened in my time,” said Frodo.
“So do I,” said Gandalf, “and so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.”
― J.R.R. Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring

911 memorial 9 12_25_12 The 9/11 Memorial in New York City

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Great Minnesota Get-Together (Connected)

Weekly Photo Challenge: Connected

The Great Minnesota Get-Together is a classic opportunity to feel connected with fellow Minnesotans! Just a few of the sights from this year’s excursion …..

My first attempt at using the new “Mesh” app in response to this week’s Weekly Photo Challenge, Connected | The Daily Post https://dailypost.wordpress.com/dp_photo_challenge/connected/

Ciao! ~ Kat

Minnesota State Fair 201: An Advanced Fairgoers Guide

That red-letter day is almost here – our annual trip to the Minnesota State Fair!

fair calendar 2015

I have written before of my love for the Great Minnesota Get-Together, in my post “One in 164,694 (People): A Day at the Minnesota State Fair.”  As my boys became teens, and now with one now in college and the other poised to leave the nest next year, I have treasured this tradition of quality mother-son time that is often hard to come by!  Recognizing that we may not have the chance to keep up our tradition attending together every year as they pursue their studies and whatever life holds for them beyond, we make sure to maximize our visits to the Fair — the food, the bargains, the exhibits …. you can’t see it all, but you sure can try.  How do you pack it all in?  Follow me, friend.

Minnesota State Fair crowds, 2014

1.  Do Your Homework.

MN State Fair website

The Minnesota State Fair website is your go-to resource for daily event schedules, entertainment options, logistics, and more.  We map out exhibits and any special music or culutural shows we want to watch, in addition to annual standards.  Key sections of the website to check out?

MN State Fair mobile app

Download the free Minnesota State Fair mobile app.  You can flag the food, merchandise and fun things you want to do while at the Fair, and then scroll through the list of marked items while at the Fair.  The app’s map feature  is particularly useful at the Fair, as it has a feature that allows you to follow the blinking blue dot marking your location to the food, merchandise or fun items on your list.  And if you are craving a certain food item at some point during the day, pull up the app, and use the proximity-based search tool to view the options near you.

Star Tribune's State Fair Guide

The Minneapolis Star Tribune publishes a guide to the Minnesota State Fair the Sunday before it opens.  Then once the Fair opens, the newspaper has helpful and entertaining updates in their Minneapolis Star Tribune online edition.  Rick Nelson, the Star Tribune’s restaurant critic, is always spot-on with his food recommendations (on Twitter @RickNelsonStrib).

Another Minnesota foodie worth following is Andrew Zimmern (on Twitter @andrewzimmern), who outlines his “Top Picks” for the Minnesota State Fair, as well as previewing new foods each year.  And be sure to bookmark Zimmern’s Instagram Scavenger Hunt to join in some photo fun.

2. Park & Ride is the Only Way to Go.

Entrance to the MN State Fair from the public transit parking lot

Parking on the fairgrounds can be a reasonable option if you arrive early in the day and are willing to pay $13.00.  The convenient and free options at any time of day, however, are the Park & Ride lots.  Park your car in one of the many lots scattered around the Twin Cities and hop a shuttle bus to the Fair.  Some lots are popular and may fill by noon on busier days, but a short distance away you are likely to find an alternate option.  Buses run from 8:00 a.m. to midnight.

3.  Support the MN State Fair Foundation and Enjoy a Cool Drink, Air Conditioning, and Clean, Uncrowded Bathrooms!

MN State Fair's J.V. Bailey House

Supporting the Minnesota State Fair with a donation to the Minnesota State Fair Foundation provides multiple benefits — not the least of which is helping to perpetuate the Great Minnesota Get-Together!  Become a “Friend of the Fair” and stop by the Foundation’s J.V. Bailey House when you arrive at the Fair to pick up your Blue Ribbon Bargain Book, calendar, supporter ribbon (contribution level may determine eligibility for different Fair gifts), and enjoy the old-fashioned setting and hospitality of the old groundskeeper’s house.  Contributions made after early August will go toward the following year’s Fair, so make your donation now and look forward to that clean, uncrowded bathroom option next year.

4. Don’t Miss the Crop Art.

Crop art can be found in the Agriculture Horticulture Building, as can the display of fantastical scarecrows. What is crop art?!  I provided some background information on this fascinating creative display in this earlier post.

Scarecrows at the Minnesota State Fair

5. Pet a Piglet.

While the avian flu concerns have emptied the poultry barns of the noisy array of chickens and roosters this year, the animal barns still have plenty to keep you entertained.  Baby farm animals have that universal “aawwwwww” factor, and the Miracle of Birth Center is aptly named.  Seeing a newborn lamb or piglet always invokes a sense of wonder.

Lamb at the MN State Fair

Piglet at the MN State Fair

2014 Poultry Barn, MN State Fair
I’ll be back …..

6.  Prioritize Your Food List — You Can Try, But You Simply Can’t Eat It All.

MN State Fair crepes

Saving the best for last:  At its heart, the Minnesota State Fair is all about the food!  Any regular fairgoer has a list of food favorites, and everyone’s list is different.  We have our favorites, but always try a few of the new foods for the year (see #1 above, with research resources for scouting new foods before you arrive).  With our trip looming, here’s our food plan — the key is having several people to share some items, so you each get a taste without getting so full you can’t sample the next selection.

Our tried-and-true?

  • Fruit and whipped cream crepe from the French Creperie ~ we each get our own to kick off our day at the Fair, no matter what time our day starts.
  • Cheese curds ~ from the Original Cheese Curds
  • Corn Roast ~ roasted ears of corn dipped in a vat of butter, with big composting bins nearby to collect the cobs
  • Mediterranean lemonade smoothie at Holy Land Deli at the International Bazaar ~ THE most refreshing drink on a hot day!
  • Pronto Pup
  • A new favorite after the 2014 Fair?  The Blue Barn’s Blue Cheese & Corn Fritz with Chimichurri Sauce and their Blueberry Basil Lemonade

We often share a shake from the Gopher Dairy Bar or a treat from the Dairy Goodness Bar in the Dairy Barn , after viewing the Princess Kay butter head carvings, of course!

Blue Barn's Blue Cheese & Corn Fritz with Chimichurri Sauce

And, finally, the new foods (either new to us or new to the Fair) we intend to add to the list this year!?

  • Butter Queen Coffee Ice Cream from the Hamline Dining Hall
  • Chocolate-Dipped Cherry on a Spoon from Jonny Pops
  • A Salad Named Soo at the Rabbit Hole in the Midtwn Global Market ~ a watermelon, basil, mint, and arugula salad with chili honey lime sauce
  • Minneapple Pie
  • Maple Bacon Funnel Cake from Funnel Cakes

What are your Minnesota State Fair favorites?  Share your tips and Fair traditions in the comments below.

Ciao! ~ Kat