November 29, 2020

Glow Holiday Festival at the Minnesota State Fairgrounds


Glow Holiday Festival at the Minnesota State Fairgrounds
Todd Swank's Diary Entry for November 29, 2020

 It took a lot of stressful conversations, decision making, and a pile of negative Covid tests for this picture to be possible.  In the end, though, we were so happy Luke and Avery were able to come home from college and spend Thanksgiving with us. 

Normally we spend the holidays with friends and relatives, but this year the only way we were able to see others was via Zoom Video Calls.  We had a bunch of them including this one with my sister, Tammy, and her family.

We also had a ZoomsGiving with my sister, Tracy, and her family.

We even hooked up with Uncle Cliff and joined him while he smoked a turkey.  He had to have an awful big pipe to fit that turkey in there!

Since we were short on things to do with our boys while they were home for the holidays, we thought we'd check out the Glow Holiday Festival at the Minnesota State Fairgrounds.

It was touted as a drive-thru holiday light experience featuring a one-mile drive with a dozen seasonal scenes and more than 1 million holiday lights, illuminated trees, icicle and art installations, a festive gingerbread house, and other attractions.  We were excited to check it out.

I was impressed with the number of cars lined up to enter.  I guess we weren't the only ones sick of being stuck in the house.

In Minnesota, pretty much every festival has at least one night with a Prince theme.  We happened to be there for this one which was a little bit cool.  Basically we heard a couple Prince songs played at various spots along the drive and saw a couple video screens with his concert footage which was hard to see.  And this Symbol which never did make much sense to me even when he changed his name to it.

I still can't decide if seeing Santa with a face-shield was a festive thing or a depressing thing.  He was a nice man, though, so I'll go with festive.

In some ways, I liked how they brought in elements of the fair in a fun way.  The facemask on the pronto pups guy was pretty clever.

Some items seemed a little forced.  I'm not sure what a cowboy lassoing something has to do with Christmas, but let's get it in there.

The gingerbread house looked interesting at first until I looked closer and saw the scary looking barbed wire fence protecting it.  I guess the person baking the gingerbread does NOT want to be disturbed.

I'm not sure if there were a million lights or not, but some of the displays were nice and others didn't look any better than what you'd see driving through someone's neighborhood.

I'm pretty sure this was the first year doing this, so I'll give them an A for effort since I'm sure it takes a lot of work to create this many displays.  It will be fun to see how it evolves if it becomes an annual tradition.  I could see how this could turn into a really fun event if we could actually get out of our car and be around people.  We can dream of being able to do that for Thanksgiving 2021!

The boys stayed home for a few nights and have now returned back to college.  It's only a couple more weeks before we'll look forward to them coming home again for Christmas.

In the meantime, we'll keep taking boring nature photos on our daily walks.  It's a good way to pass the time.  Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

This Week's Tik Tok Videos


A muskrat on thin ice. ##muskrat ##priorlake ##animals ##thinice ##cute

♬ Ice Dance (From "Edward Scissorhands") - Ashton Gleckman

Glow at the Minnesota State Fairgrounds. ##Minnesota ##Glow ##christmas ##lights

♬ Winter Wonderland - Dean Martin

Christmas light show on a building at Glow. ##Glow ##minnesota ##christmas ##lightshow

♬ original sound - Todd Swank

Prince Night at Glow at Minnesota State Fairgrounds. ##glow ##minnesota ##prince ##purplerainchallenge

♬ original sound - Todd Swank

Glow Christmas Light Show. ##minnesota ##glow ##christmas

♬ All I Want for Christmas Is You - Mariah Carey

November 22, 2020

Back to Lockdown

Back to Lockdown
Todd Swank's Diary Entry for November 22, 2020

The virus has been running rampant in Minnesota so our governor, Tim Walz, announced a new statewide lockdown that started Friday.  No more indoor dining or bars.  No more  in person school or high school sports.  No more fun.  They haven't yet banned Blue and I from going to the lake so he can swim which keeps him pretty happy.

I don't think the ducks who were congregating  peacefully in my neighbor's backyard were quite as happy about it as he was.  He eventually cleared them out of the area.

The lockdown hasn't affected our friendly neighborhood albino squirrel from stopping by for a visit.   Although sometimes I have this weird feeling that he wants to be more than friends.  Either that or he's some kind of Flasher or something.

We saw this bald eagle hanging out on some thin ice on a weekend drive we were having.  We pulled over to get some pictures and see if he'd fall through.  Apparently he's pretty lucky or pretty lightweight because we didn't even see the ice crack underneath him.

This Week's Tik Tok Videos


The Mandolorian Puzzle! ##mandolorian ##puzzle ##starwars ##babyyoda

♬ The Mandalorian - Nstens1117

Sweet Drops ##jackpot ##bonus ##slot ##slotmachine ##gambling ##candy ##sweetdrops

♬ Sweet Drops - Cennet Jönsson

31 degrees out and all he wants to do his swim. ##golden ##dogs ##swim ##coldasice ##bestfriend ##puppy

♬ Ice Dance (From "Edward Scissorhands") - Ashton Gleckman

November 15, 2020

Normandale Lake Park in Bloomington, Minnesota

 Normandale Lake Park in Bloomington, Minnesota
Todd Swank's Diary Entry for November 15, 2020

Our quest to spend every Saturday visiting a new place where we can explore while safely social distancing brought us to Normandale Lake Park in Bloomington, Minnesota.

It's starting to get cold again so we had to bundle up pretty good.  The temperature read at 28 degrees as we readied ourselves to walk.

It's a pleasant 1.9 mile stroll around Normandale Lake.  It was pretty busy for as cold as it was in my opinion.  I guess Minnesotans are a pretty hearty bunch.

We started seeing ice forming on some parts of the lake, but we have a ways to go before they're totally frozen.  Still probably a bit too cold for swimming, though.

When we first moved to Savage, Minnesota some 25 years ago we visited this park with our first golden retriever, Rudy.  This was our first time back and we brought our 3rd golden retriever, Blue.  Our 2nd golden retriever, Sunny, never experienced the joy of this place. That kind of makes me feel like we are really bad people.

We walked by a really nice bandshell that I never realized was here.  Guess we'll have to come check out some bands here sometime.  Or maybe some shells.

The park is right next to Hyland Hills Ski Area.  I've always found this place unique because it's the only ski area I've seen in Minnesota that has an actual Ski Jump.  I've always wondered how you know if this is something where you have skills.  I'd hate to be one of those people who have tried it and then figured out pretty quickly that it wasn't something they had a knack for doing.

We discovered that it was much warmer while walking in the woods than out in the open where the wind was pretty chilly.  I don't think that's a unique quality of Normandale Lake Park, though.  I guess we will have to do some further testing before coming to a conclusion on that hypothesis.

When I worked for Oracle, I was based out of the building all the way to the right.  I remember sitting in the office there and looking out the window at this lake and thinking about walking here.  Now I was walking here and looking at the building thinking about when I worked there.  Crazy how that works.

 Winter is coming.  I guess in some ways it's already here.  It's probably going to be a tough one with all the Covid isolation we still have in front of us.  I was excited by the news on Monday of the positive results from the Pfizer vaccine, but it still seems like it's going to be quite awhile before we're back to normal.  

Our neighborhood Albino Squirrel was in our yard a lot this week.  I like to think that he's bringing good Karma to help us all avoid the virus.  It's also quite possible he's here because we have lots of tasty acorns.  However, that doesn't make me feel nearly as good so I'm sticking with thinking it's the former.  Stay safe, everyone!

This Week's Tik Tok Videos


More snow in Minnesota! ##minnesota ##snow ##winter ##bang ##switch

♬ Bang! - AJR

I wasn’t expecting that to happen! ##minnesota ##snow ##winter ##wonderland ##snoopdogg ##pitchperfect

♬ this is our dance give credit lol - kara

November 8, 2020

The Landing in Shakopee, Minnesota

The Landing in Shakopee, Minnesota
Todd Swank's Diary Entry for November 8, 2020

Luke and Avery came home for a couple of nights this week which is always happy times for us.  On top of that, we had unseasonably warm weather in Minnesota as well, so lots of fun outdoors time was in store.

We had thought about voting via absentee ballots due to the virus, but then said screw it, "We can risk it."  Turns out we had nothing to worry about.  Our polling place wasn't busy at all and we were able to get in and out in 15 minutes.  Probably because everyone else did the absentee ballots.  Thanks for that, everyone.

We have a lot of big trees in our yard which keeps Miss Sheri pretty occupied in the Fall.  It seems like a never ending job to get all of the tree litter out of here.

On Saturday, we went to the Landing in Shakopee, Minnesota.  It's only a 15 minute drive from my house and I really can't believe I've never visited this place before.  It's a really cool blast from the past.

It's basically a series of old buildings from the local area that have been re-located to make it seem like a small town straight out of Little House on the Prairie.  When Miss Sheri worked for the schools, she used to come here on field trips with the kids.  She says they have people here dress up as folks from this era and they explain to the kids how things used to work back in the old days.  There weren't any of those people here today so we just had to figure out things on our own.

The building on the left was the old general store.  I'm guessing the one on the right was occupied by circus performers from back in the day who practiced their balancing act at all hours of the day by living in a house balancing on these old logs.  I'm sure they were very good at their craft.

I tried to explain to Blue what it was like living in a town like this back in the old days, but I'm not sure he was appreciating the education.  All he really seemed interested in learning about is if there were any kitties in there.

This is the Bloomington Ferry Church and it was built in 1868 by the Methodist Episcopal congregation.  It was actually ferried across the river twice, once in 1900 and once in 1970.  That had to be pretty scary attending church while the church was sitting on a boat on the river.

The Landing is nestled right next to the Minnesota River, so we thought it would be fun to take a walk along the river bank.

Many of the paths were well groomed which make for pleasant walking.

There were a lot of leaves in the woods.  I'm glad Miss Sheri didn't bring her rake or we would never have gotten out of there.

I've always suspected her of being a tree hugger, but I had no idea.

I felt like a kid again getting my senior photos taken.  I used to have more hair back then, though.

On Saturday night, we hooked up with our buddies, Sue & Ron Korkowski, at McCoy's Copper Pint.  A good time was had by all.

This Week's Tik Tok Videos


Exercising my civic duty to vote. I’m not a strong jumper. ##vote ##election ##jump ##america ##2020

♬ Where Is The Love? - The Black Eyed Peas


The Landing in Shakopee, Minnesota. ##landing ##shakopee ##minnesota ##littlehouseonthepairie ##livinghistory

♬ The Little House on the Prairie - Orchestra International Manhattan

This MTV Commercial Makes Me Nervous. ##thepurge ##staycalm ##mtv ##anxiety

♬ The Purge - Demetrius X

November 1, 2020

Hidden Falls Regional Park on the Mississippi River


Hidden Falls Regional Park on the Mississippi River

Todd Swank's Diary Entry for November 1, 2020

Lately, we've been staying mostly isolated, but still try to get together with friends at least once each week.  If I didn't, I'd probably be insane by now.  On Friday night, we had dinner with our friends, Tom & Kellie Wolf.  Tom is running for re-election for Scott County Commissioner in District 2.  For all of my friends in Scott County, please consider voting for Tom on Tuesday.  He's a good guy!

On Saturday we continued our mission to explore places around Minnesota that can be safely visited while social distancing.  We went to Hidden Falls Regional Park in St. Paul which is on the Mississippi River.

This sign made us pretty nervous at first.  Then I started thinking I might really enjoy the opportunity to face off against a pack of coyotes.  I mean it's not like they're wolves, right?  They're pretty small from what I understand and I'm a relatively strong kicker.  I think I'd fare pretty well against them.  

We walked along the banks of the Mississippi and explored the woods trying to find the Hidden Falls.  Unfortunately, the falls ended up being dried out so it was more like a Hidden Wall of Rocks.  Still pretty cool, though.

I found this structure pretty intriguing.  Miss Sheri thought it was some kind of an aqueduct where I was more of a believer that behind the gate is where Pennywise the Dancing Clown lives.  Not sure if either one of us is right.

There actually seemed like quite a few interesting places to explore on the Minneapolis side of the river.  We may have to make another visit here one day and park over there to check it out.

Eventually we reached the edge of the park and decided to walk through the woods on the way back which was along this fence.  We wondered why they had barbed wire on the other side of the fence and exactly what or who it was they were trying to keep out.  Then we came across this part of the fence that had been knocked down and were wondering if that meant the creatures had entered the park and we'd be facing them soon.  Since it was Halloween and there was a blue moon scheduled that night, I figured for certain this was the start of our nightmare.  Turns out we didn't encounter anything, not even the stupid coyotes.  In the end I kind of felt let down by it all.

We did see a lot of graffiti and carvings on the rock walls.  My best guess is these are thousands of years old and were left by natives of the land and this represented some of the animals that must have been roaming around this  area.  I should have been an archaeologist.   I think I have a real knack for it.

Eventually we re-entered our vehicle and drove along the river some more.  We found Ford Dam and decided to check it out.  This is a Hydroelectric Dam which used to be used by the Ford Motor Company to power their nearby assembly plant.  I was thinking about getting solar panels for our house at some point, but this would be so much cooler!

This is one of the original turbines used in the dam from 1924-1994.  This thing weighs 15 tons and produced over 1.3 billion Kilowatt Hours of electricity in it's lifetime which is the equivalent of burning 286,000 tons of coal.  I found this really hard to believe.  When I leaned up against it I would have sworn it didn't weigh more than 12 or 13 tons max.  

This Week's Tik Tok Videos

Albino Squirrel Twerk! ##albino ##squirrel ##cute ##animaltwerkchallenge ##showupshowoff