Friday, June 24, 2011

Lions and Tigers and...Oh My!

Things you can learn at the zoo:

1. Never attempt to have a staring contest with a gorilla. He will win.
2. Even more abundant than flies at the zoo are little kids with yuppy names like Mason.
3. Polar bears play with a steel barrel like its a tennis ball. In other words, it's a very good thing that there's a thick panel of glass between the two of you.
For Father's Day last weekend my dad and I went to Como Zoo. I thought watching baby animals misbehave would remind him what an exemplary daughter I am. Just kidding. Regardless of my motivations for going to the zoo its always a good animal and people watching experience. Besides watching ostriches mistake a fence for food, you can also find little kids mistaking the ostrich for a duck.
Ostrich versus duck. You decide.

Sometimes I wonder if the baby orangutans are more evolved than human children after eavesdropping a few too many ridiculous conversations at the zoo. That's not the only area in which animals and humans are scarily similar. For example, see the depressed looking zebra below. Although he may be pictured alone, he is actually one of three zebras in this exhibit. His specific role is third wheel as I observed last Sunday. While attempting to hang out with the zebra couple, he was angrily chased away by the other male. I think we're all familiar with that situation. The animals at Como Zoo never cease to surprise me even though I've been going there since age eight. As a little girl I wasn't one for canoeing and crafting at summer camp, but learning. (I've always been a nerd.) So instead of swimming in the lake at summer camp, I went to zoo camp where we learned about the animals and did several disgusting activities to do so. My favorite was reconstructing a mouse skeleton from an owl pellet, a "craft" that I had the good fortune to do several times throughout my childhood. I even have a mouse skeleton laminated on to a bookmark made out of construction paper somewhere. Why, Minnesota educators, why?

[Probably the most accurate view of animals.]
Before I told you that charmingly gross anecdote, my point is that the zoo has always been a consistent part of my life. Even after basic biology courses tried to ruin the fun of animals by learning about every species nervous system and despite the potential ethical concerns of zoos, I still love them and so does my dad. Going to the zoo has been a consistent father/daughter bonding activity since the time he took me to the Minnesota Zoo at age five even though I had the stomach flu. Since then we've been to the two Twin Cities zoos too many times to count as well as the Seattle, Dublin, and DC zoos.

Como Zoo has also been a consistent staple of St. Paul since 1897. However it was more significant during the 1930s when it was given federal funding by the WPA (one of FDR's Alphabet Programs) to construct Monkey Island and other prominent zoo buildings. Today's visitor center used to be the main attraction with cages equivalent to those seen on a Nabisco animal crackers box. The animal exhibits are a lot larger now and overall the Como Zoo has a much better reputation for animal safety than the Minnesota Zoo. Did I mention its free too? Definitely worth a visit if you find yourself in St. Paul.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

This Little Bloodhound Went to the Market

Everyone enjoys the Lancaster Central Farmers Market and when I say everyone I mean even the teenage bluegrass band (pictured below) and the bloodhound. Even though seeing a bloodhound outside of the police force is a rarity, please don't stare at him for he would like to enjoy his coffee in peace just like the rest of us.
The fact that the rare canine makes it out to market shows just how popular it is. Everyone from our relatives to the hotel staff recommended we stop by last Saturday morning. All the produce is locally grown in the fecund farmland the area is known for. Hey, my cousins don't have a cornfield in their backyard for nothing. There's fruit and fruitful conversation. While my dad and I waited in line to get some homemade dog biscuits for Gatsby, two woman swooped in with their lattes to harangue the baker about the nearby bikram yoga studio in exchange for a bone-shaped peanutbutter dog treat. Who needs twitter when you have these women chirping away about the town happenings? Clearly the market is the place to go if you want to be seen.
For our part, my dad and I scoped out the market for breakfast and found dozens of donuts to choose from. With pretzel shaped glazed donuts or chocolate creamcheese muffins, you could've tried a new one every week. I would gladly go back just to sample all of them, but since we were only in Lancaster for the weekend I settled for an amazing peanutbutter frosted donut.
[My dad's chocolate creamcheese muffin]
Besides seeing my family, the market was the highlight of my trip to Lancaster and would be for any foodie! Expect to see more farmers market posts on this blog throughout the summer for I haven't even made it out to my staple, the St. Paul Farmers Market yet!

Monday, June 6, 2011

In A Penn State of Mind

This past weekend I found myself watching a TV special about the Amish of Lancaster, Pennsylvania while in that very city. Although I find it a little ironic that the program proclaimed, "Please do not ask the Amish to pose for photos for it is against their religion" while they filmed them, I found a lot of other amazing things to take photos of in Lancaster.
My trip to Lancaster came only four days after I officially touched down on the Minnesota tarmac. I hadn't quite gotten over my jet-lag, nevertheless we hopped a plane and a timezone forward for a mini family reunion of sorts to celebrate the graduation of my two cousins Emily and Laura from high school and college respectively.

In between the festivities we explored historic downtown Lancaster. The oldest inland city in the country and traditionally a farming community, now the city is full of colonial buildings that house hip ethnic restaurants and the flannel wearing hipsters (in the 80F heat!?) that frequent them. It's a city where you can find the devout aforementioned Amish in their horse and buggies (the local Costco has hitching posts) heading off to their church and 20-somethings swing dancing in another church. Lancaster is the perfect combination of the traditional and modern and great for a weekend visit.

As it turns out, we came on the right weekend. June 3rd was the beginning of First Fridays, a community event when all of the art galleries are open late. As you walk between the galleries there is live music and food vendors making for a charming welcome to Summer. My cousin Laura and I wandered around and sampled local burritos while my parents bought a painting- a fun and fruitful night for everyone. Congrats again to Laura and Emily who are both moving on to bigger and better things, but with their sense of humor intact (see cake, below). I have another Lancaster post coming up featuring my favorite discovery, the famous farmers market.