Tuesday, June 18, 2013

The North Shore

Last Saturday morning, BRIGHT AND EARLY, Duane and I met my sister and her family and my mom and dad in South Minneapolis, and headed to the north shore for a celebration of mom and dad's 50th wedding anniversary.

The trip originally started out as a journey to Cape Cod...then somewhere down south...then Galena, Illinois...then finally the Grand Marais area.  I'm glad we ended up in northern Minnesota.  I'd heard GREAT things about the north shore area, and have been as far north as Two Harbors, but had yet to experience the "true north".  It was AWESOME!!!!

My sister found a cool rental "cottage" near Schroeder (kudos to Robin for taking care of lodging and planning our day trips...TOTALLY fun!!!).  It ended up being a five bedroom geodesic dome with two decks, a private beach, and a really awesome, sunny kitchen.

Our first excursion was Duluth...

We had lunch at the Northern Waters Smokehaus...I had the most AMAZING sandwich...The Big Dipper...described on their website as "smoke-roasted MN Berkshire porketta (made with plenty of fresh parsley, garlic, and red pepper flakes), provolone, pepperoncini, green olives, and butter on stirato. This shop favorite is served with an amazingly zesty 3-Pepper dipping sauce."  REALLY tasty!!!

We did a little shopping (I found a couple of AWESOME Christmas presents at a gallery across the street), then went to the depot and rode the Lake Superior & Mississippi Railroad train to the north edge of the city and back.  It was approximately a 90 minute ride...very scenic, and very cool!

After the train ride, we toured the train museum, then continued the journey to the cottage.  We arrived in the late afternoon, and spent the rest of the evening unpacking, grilling hamburgers, and exploring the property...
This was the point in the trip where mom started picking up lake rocks...
and picking up lake rocks...and picking up lake rocks. 
SERIOUSLY...I think the north shore is about 50 pounds lighter
after our visit.  TOO FUNNY!!!!
 To end the evening, we made a campfire on the beach (complete with s'mores!)...
...and, after everyone went inside, I sat on a rock in the lake watching dusk turn to night...SOOOOO beautiful!!!
If I had to choose TWO things I liked LEAST about the trip, ONE would be the crappy beds...I slept on the TOP BUNK of a bunk bed (SOOOO too old for that!).  TWO would be the crappy shower...it started strong-ish...then became a slight trickle.  If you had PATIENCE...it WOULD eventually get back up to a stronger spray, but IT WAS TEDIOUS!!!!
Those things aside, however...after a night of tossing and turning, and worrying that the top bunk was going to fall to the bottom bunk and crush Duane...we groggily got up, and started preparing for our first day on Lake Superior.
It started sunny, then ended up rainy and cold (I felt like we were in Hawaii again...except without the warmth and palm trees...).
I took more pictures at the beach.  If you know me at all, you know that I'm CRAZY about water.  I'm SCARED of it...but I LOVE it.  A vacation isn't a vacation for me unless there's a large body of water nearby...
After a leisurely breakfast, and a slow "get ready", we headed to Beaver Bay.  We'd seen a "flea market" on the way up the day before, and wanted to explore. 
Second Hand Rose had tables and tables of glassware out front, but, by the time we got there, it was already starting to sprinkle, so everything was secured under plastic tarps, so...even though it wasn't as much fun as it could have been, we still managed to find some MAJOR scores...dad found the last Zane Grey, leather-bound, western that he'd been looking for.  Robin found a teaspoon to complete her "grape pattern" silver, and I found a crock that had "Louden, Fairfield, Iowa" stamped on it.  I even got it for 25% off!!!
Here's what I did with it...
After the flea market, we headed to a cool cliffside area that Davey and the girls knew (they camp the north shore a couple of times a year).  Very scenic...very windy...very cold...!!!
After the "cliffs of insanity", we headed into Beaver Bay to do some shopping for classy clothing and souvenirs...
...and had a lovely lunch at the Lemon Wolf Cafe...
I had the "hand cut pork loin chop" with baby red smashed potatoes, gravy, and their home made bread...REALLY tasty!!!!!!
After lunch, we headed to Split Rock Lighthouse.  I love Split Rock, but not so much when it's rainy...it was still fun, and they have a lovely new visitor's center, but walking around the grounds was a little bleak and drippy.
We didn't go down to the shore, because it was raining harder, but we DID move on to Gooseberry Falls.  Lovely...!!!
After getting soaked at the falls, we headed back to the cottage to make dinner and relax.  It was Duane's turn to cook, and he made his AWESOME "mock Pizza Hut" cavatini...
This isn't his EXACT recipe...but it's pretty close...!!

Pizza Hut Cavatini


1large green bell pepper, diced
1large onion, diced
2ounces (½ stick) margarine
1teaspoon garlic powder
1pound assorted pasta (wheels, shells, spirals, ziti)
½pound pepperoni. sliced thin then cut in half
8ounces mozzarella cheese, shredded
½pound hamburger, browned
½pound Italian sausage, browned
1(16 ounce) jar meat flavored sauce


Melt margarine over medium high heat in a skillet. Add onions, peppers, and garlic powder. Sauté for about 4 minutes. Meanwhile, cook pasta according to box directions. Heat sauce and combine with cooked hamburger and cooked sausage.

Use cooking spray to lightly grease a 13 × 11-inch casserole dish or your individual pasta dishes. Place 1/2 of the cooked pasta in the dishes, followed by 1/2 the vegetables, 1/2 of the pepperoni and 1/2 sauce. Repeat another layer. Spread mozzarella cheese over top.

Bake at 350 degrees F for about 45 minutes or until cheese is melted.
We spent the remainder of the evening sitting around, watching DVD's, reading, and relaxing...VERY nice!!!!
On Monday, we got up, got ready, and headed north...to Grand Marais.  I've heard a lot about Grand Marais, but have never had the opportunity to get there.  It was a nice little town.  Had it been sunny...and warmer than freezing...and less windy...it would have been delightful.  As it was, it was still very nice.
We shopped...
Had lunch at The Crooked Spoon Cafe (BEST chicken sandwich ever..."char grilled chicken breast, bacon & feta cheese, mayonnaise, leaf lettuce, tomatoes, ciabatta roll")...
After lunch, we shopped a little more (they had a Ben Franklin!!!), then search out a pie place that Robin found that was supposed to be really good.  Here's the pie story..we'd heard GREAT THINGS about Betty's Pies in Two Harbors, so we stopped to pick up a couple on the way to the cottage.  We got a strawberry rhubarb, and a blueberry, and...they were mediocre at best.  The filling was very "filling-y", and the crust was not good. 
ANYWAY...Robin found a place called The Pie Place Cafe, so we gave it a try.  SOOOOO glad we did.  MUCH better crust.  MUCH better filling.  VERY tasty.  If you are in Grand Marias, I HIGHLY recommend it!!
After the cafe, we headed further north to see a hotel called Bananabubu...or Nanapoopoo...something like that (Nanabijou Lodge).  It was built by Babe Ruth and some other baseball biggies just before the stock market crash.  It was supposed to be a "getaway" for all of them, and there are rumors the mob was involved.
It was kooky...and colorful...and quite beautiful.  They serve "high tea" in the afternoon.  Had we known, we'd have made the effort to attend!!!
After looking around the hotel, we walked the grounds...
After the tour of the hotel and grounds, we headed back to the cottage to cook dinner, and spend another evening relaxing by the lake.  It was Robin and Dave's turn for dinner, and they made their AWESOME chipotle chili in the crock pot...very flavorful and TASTY!!!
On Tuesday, we were all on our own...some chose to take a hike to a waterfall, I stayed at the cottage to make lunch for everyone.  I made my pastitsio...which takes forever.  It was a nice, relaxing, morning in the kitchen. 
I also explored the property a little more...
After lunch, some of us decided to hike up to Carlton Peak, near Tofte.  On the way we stopped at a waterfall near the cottage...
After the hike (which was WAAAAAY more grueling than we were led to believe!), we headed back to the cottage, and recuperated from the hike.  Dad and Duane broke out dad's newly purchased "toilet lid" cribbage board...the girls read on the beach, and Davey and I started preparations for the "50th anniversary dinner"...steaks on the grill, and my rosemary scalloped potatoes.  It was a GREAT meal, celebrating a WONDERFUL couple!!!!!
After dinner, we had one last campfire (with s'mores) on the beach, and called it a day!
Yes...that's a marshmallow wrapped in bacon on my s'more!!!
On Wednesday, we packed everything up, and headed home.  OF COURSE we didn't drive directly home...still stuff to do and things to see!!!!
We tried to shop at a few places near the cottage, but nothing was open yet (SERIOUSLY missed opportunities north shore shop keepers!!!), so drove around Two Harbors for awhile, THEN hit some of the stores once they finally opened.  I was "souvenir-ed" out by that time, so didn't buy anything...UNTIL...we hit the Great Lakes Candy Kitchen...
SERIOUSLY yummy homemade and "nostalgic" candies...rocky road fudge, dark chocolate buckeyes, coconut caramels...YUMMY!!!!!!
After a bit of time at the candy store (and a really scary stop at a place called Tom's Logging Camp)...
...we went to our final dining stop...the New Scenic Cafe...

The location was lovely, and it was a really cute cafe, but, of all the lunches that we ate out on our trip, this was probably the least impressive.  Several of our orders got messed up, and my prime rib french dip, although quite good, had no "au jus" in which to...dip.  The french onion soup was also really salty. 
After lunch, we continued south, back to Duluth, and had one final tour...the Glensheen Mansion.  We had an "extended tour", which included places not seen on the "regular tour", like the attic and the basement. 
Gleensheen got it's fame (or rather, notoriety) from a couple of murders in the mid-20th century, but it started out as the home of the second richest man (at the time) in Minnesota, Chester Congdon, and his wife Clara.

Apparently, the ghost of Clara Congdon haunts the place (as seen in the photo below from Yahoo! images...)...
Glad I didn't know that before we toured!!!!!
After the tour, we got back in our vehicles, and finished the journey back to the twin cities.  Mom and dad stayed at Robin and Dave's one last night, then finished their additional 5 1/2 hours back to Iowa the next morning.
An AMAZING trip...with an AMAZING family, and some AMAZING memories of our time on the north shore.
Here's hoping YOU were able to spend quality time with family recently too!!!
Note:  Keep checking this post...as I get photos from Duane and Robin, I'll add them to the "photo album" here!!!