A Guest House of Artistic Inspiration

I am woefully overdue in publishing this post … perhaps it is because, subconsciously, I don’t want to share this delightful retreat in Galena, Illinois, for fear its two rooms will both be occupied the next time we return to the area! Abe’s Spring Street Guest House is special lodging located just a few blocks from the historic district.  While we found Abe’s to be the perfect spot for an overnight visit, we left wishing we could stay the entire weekend.

Abe's Spring Street Guest House historic plaque
Historic plaque at Abe’s Spring Street Guest House, marking its spot as the icehouse for the city’s old brewery.

Abe's Spring Street Guest House ~ Galena, ILWe stayed in “Albert’s Glen” — the room named after the owners’ St. Bernard, whose likeness graces the spacious bathroom.

A bust of Albert, in the bathroom of one of rooms at Abe's Spring Street  Guest HouseThe unique, artistic touches throughout the large apartment-like suite create an ambience unlike any bed and breakfast we have stayed in.

Statuesque Four-Poster Bed at Abe's Spring Street Guest House

Each post of the king-sized bed in the bedroom area of Albert’s Glen provides a base for elegant sculptures made by the owner, whose studio is located next door.

Cozy gas fireplace at Abe's Spring Street Guest House

While you may think of exploring a historic city like Galena only in the warmer months of the year, the gas fireplace in Albert’s Glen would make for a cozy retreat.

Unique fireplace surround at Abe's Spring Street Guest HouseNot only are the tiles surrounding the fireplace a feast for the eyes, but as you sit next to the warmth, looking up you appreciate the hand-made metal light shades hanging from the ceiling.

Metal foliage makes light dance, at Abe's Spring Street Guest House

No detail is overlooked — from the local candies at the bedside, to the exquisite door handles and bathroom fixtures.

Doorway to the bath in Albert's Glen, Abe's Spring Street Guest House

A clawfoot soaking tub, tiled walk-in shower, and more of the owner’s imaginative accents greet you as you enter the brightly-lit bathroom.

Artistic touches throughout Abe's Spring Street Guest House The other room offered at the Guest House is just as inspired and full of creative energy.  Since we were traveling through Galena with our college-aged son, he enjoyed the other private suite — “Rudolph’s Retreat” — and then joined us for breakfast the following morning.

Breakfast at Abe's Spring Street Guest HouseWalking up the hill behind Abe’s, guests are welcomed into the owners’ kitchen where hot coffee, juice, and a gourmet breakfast is served — along with friendly conversation as the aromas of the day’s morning menu fills the room.

French toast breakfast at Abe's Spring Street Guest House

Abe’s Spring Street Guest House has all the desirable features of a bed and breakfast, with the added bonus of spacious, private accommodations (even a spa hot tub and sauna for use by guests in the building next door).  Hoping to return again soon!

For more on Galena, Illinois, revisit my post from a few year’s back, Charming Old Galena.

Ciao! ~ Kat

Weekly Photo Challenge: Door

The door to a charming setting for a pottery sale, with artistic inspiration galore!  I shared with you an afternoon at the Rustic Road 13 Pottery Event in this blog post.  Save the date for the 2015 sale this fall and explore the charming grounds yourself – September 19th and 20th!

Doorway to charm at the Rustic Road 13 Pottery Event

The pottery event’s website with schedules and directions to the show in Hudson, Wisconsin, can be found here.

Ciao! ~ Kat

This post was in response to the Daily Post’s Weekly Photo Challenge.  “Door” 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.

Pottery on the Rustic Road

Every fall, a picturesque farm on the outskirts of the river town of Hudson, Wisconsin, hosts a pottery show and sale which is a feast for the senses.

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Once inside, the talent of this event is evident.

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The pottery is displayed inside a rustic and lovingly restored barn.

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The diversity of styles and creativity is inspiring.  You can’t help but leave with something carefully wrapped and packaged for the drive home.  The fact that a portion of the sales is donated to Second Harvest Heartland, the Upper Midwest’s largest hunger-relief organization, only provides more incentive to loosen the pursestrings.

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Wandering again outside, homegrown fiddles and country strings fill the air, while artisans work their magic.

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The farm features outdoor raku firing demonstrations, smoke and fire joining forces with the artist.

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And children are mesmerized as one of the artists magically brings to life a pot or vase from a lump of clay.

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The original farm cottage is open for wandering, and only adds to the charm of the setting.  You may end up visiting and never want to leave.

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You have until 5:00 p.m. today to visit this once-a-year event …. otherwise, be sure to mark your calendars next year and enjoy a classic fall day on the Rustic Road.

Ciao! ~ Kat

For more information on the Rustic Road 13 Pottery Event & Sale:  http://www.rusticroad13pottery.com.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Extra, Extra

The Room of the Segnatura in the Vatican Museums contains amazing 16th-century works by Raphael.  The School of Athens was one of my favorites.  I think it is because of the “extra” person in the scene.

Raphael's Room of the Segnatura, School of Athens fresco in the Vatican Museums

Raphael painted a self-portrait in the lower right-hand corner of the fresco – he is the one in the black beret.

Raphael's self-portrait in the School of Athens fresco in the Vatican Museums

The Vatican’s website so nicely captures the story behind this panel of Raphael’s, I could not restate it any better:

School of Athens

The most famous philosophers of ancient times move within an imposing Renaissance architecture which is inspired by Bramante’s project for the renewal of the early Christian basilica of St Peter. Some of these are easily recognizable. In the centre Plato points upwards with a finger and holds his book Timeus in his hand, flanked by Aristotle with Ethics; Pythagoras is shown in the foreground intent on explaining the diatesseron. Diogenes is lying on the stairs with a dish, while the pessimist philosopher, Heracleitus, a portrait of Michelangelo, is leaning against a block of marble, writing on a sheet of paper. Michelangelo was in those years executing the paintings in the nearby Sistine Chapel. On the right we see Euclid, who is teaching geometry to his pupils, Zoroaster holding the heavenly sphere and Ptolemy holding the earthly sphere. The personage on the extreme right with the black beret is a self-portrait of Raphael.

Ciao! ~ Kat

This post was in response to the Daily Post’s Weekly Photo Challenge. ”Extra, Extra” was 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.

One in 164,694 (People): A Day at the Minnesota State Fair

The Minnesota State Fair is called “The Great Minnesota Get-Together” for good reason. All walks of life come together in St. Paul during the two weeks leading up to Labor Day — Minnesota’s last summer hurrah. It seems that Minnesotans either hate or love the Minnesota State Fair. My husband falls in the former camp and I in the latter. Thankfully, my boys have adopted my point of view, and we gladly deal with the crowds in order to enjoy our annual pilgrimage to this great tradition.

Entrance to the Minnesota State Fair

Planning our annual trek to the Fair requires careful research into the newest foods, attractions and exhibits. We have our Fair food favorites, many of which we share to maximize the diversity of our unhealthy diet throughout the day, but we also enjoy trying at least one new food every year, too. Personally, I cannot leave the Fair without at least one order of cheese curds. Mind you, not just any cheese curd will do — for me, it has to be the cheese curds from the “Original Deep Fried Cheese Curds” stand, located on Dan Patch Avenue.

The Original Deep-Fried Cheese Curds at the MN State FairThe Original Deep-Fried Cheese Curds at the MN State Fair    The Original Deep-Fried Cheese Curds at the MN State Fair

The crepes from the French Creperie have become one of our return-to favorites, as well – freshly-made crepes, still warm and wrapped around your choice of fillings. The strawberries with whipped cream were refreshing after deep-fried veggie fries and cheese curds.  Note the posted instructions regarding how to properly eat a crepe, the last one most important of all: “Ask yourself if you can have another one!”

Strawberry-whipped creme crepe from the French Creperie at the MN State Fair

While the Midway is not the primary focus of our visit, we always pick a few rides to round out our Fair experience. Since I have one son who inherited his father’s “I hate spinny ride” genes, that leaves me as the ride companion of last resort for my other son. Amazingly, my stomach stayed strong after our first few rounds of Fair food, as we spun round and round, stuck to the wall of the “Area 51” ride, followed by Crazy Mouse and another roller coaster. We bypassed the swings this year, which in the past years have been at a humane height to enjoy the overhead views of the Fair as you spin somewhat reasonably high above it all. This year, the Stratosphere was the featured swing ride and I could not even make out features on riders’ faces with my naked eye as the ride lifted the double swings to a height that made my stomach churn from far below. Reading the week before how the swings had multiple occasions of stalling and leaving riders 100 feet in the air, I vetoed swings as an option this year.

MN State Fair Midway  MN State Fair Midway

In addition to the food and the rides, we always look forward to walking the animal barns and gazing at the variety of cattle, horses and more. This year, we discovered llamas but missed getting to the poultry barn.

Outside the Horse Barn at the MN State Fair  Cattle Barn at the MN State FairLlama at the MN State Fair  Llamas at the MN State Fair

In the Swine Barn, no petting the piglets this year due to the threat of swine flu. But, fair goers could still gaze at this year’s biggest boar, Cornhog — all 1200 pounds of him!

MN State Fair  The Largest Boar at the MN State Fair

We also stopped by the Miracle of Birth Center, where calves, piglets, lambs and other farm animals enter the world during the Fair. It is touching to see a calf just minutes old struggle to get to its feet as its mother continues cleaning it and encouraging it to stand. Maybe it is the mother in me that left me lingering on the scene . . . because when I turned to find my teens, they had long since disappeared to wait on a bench outside the building, ready for our next food stops.

Miracle of Birth Center at the MN State FairMiracle of Birth Center at the MN State Fair

We continued to graze on our favorite Fair foods, along with a few new nibbles, throughout the day. An original Pronto Pup and the Corn Roast — classics that never grow old! Falafel-on-a-stick was something we tried last year that required a return visit this year, along with Mediterranean lemonade (we decided it edged out the fresh-squeezed variety this year in terms of flavor).  Among the new tastes for us this year, a camel slider (which we all agreed was relatively non-descript and not worth a return visit), Hawaiian-style Mexican torta from Manny’s Tortas (my son gave that a thumbs up and the enthusiastic torta crew encouraged a return trip next year!), and my favorite new food, a wine slushy (incredibly refreshing toward the end of a hot day at the Fair)!

Pronto Pup at the MN State Fair  Manny's Tortas at the MN State FairThe Corn Roast at the MN State Fair  Wine Slushy at the MN State Fair

After the animal barns, time to visit the Agriculture and Horticulture Buildings, walking past an eye-catching pond garden by the Minnesota Water Garden Society. In the Ag-Hort Building, Crop Art is one of our favorite creative exhibits. Categories include wearable crop art, although comfort did not appear to be a relevant factor in the design!

The scarecrows were equally imaginative in their design and use of materials.

Scarecrows at the MN State Fair

Scarecrows at the MN State Fair

Despite groans from the boys, I insisted on the annual visit to the Dairy Building to visit the butter heads. How often do you get to view 90-pound blocks of butter carved into the likenesses of Princess Kay of the Milky Way and the other dairy princesses!

Butter Heads of the Dairy Princesses at the MN State Fair  Butter Head of Princess Kay of the Milky Way at the MN State Fair

Crowds?! Yes. Hot, sticky weather?! Sometimes. And, since it is Minnesota, cold, miserable weather?! Perhaps. (The last year we went during that weather we ended up viewing more of the horse show than we ever had before inside the arena to stay warm!) But, is there any better event that combines the interests of travel, garden, eat?! I think not. Until next year . . . perhaps we will see you there?

Crowds at the MN State Fair

Ciao! ~ Kat B.