Saturday, March 29, 2008
Friday, March 28, 2008
Thursday, March 27, 2008
After our exciting arrival in Minneapolis the day before, Andrew, my mom and I were eager to jump right in and explore the city on our first full day in the city. The convention actually didn't start until 4 p.m., so we had the whole day to explore the city. We had poured through brochure and identified several places we wanted to visit, and we set out bright and early to begin our adventure.
The first place on our list was the American Swedish Institute. It was housed in a castle! We were really excited to check this place out. It took us a while to find the place, being unfamiliar with the city, but before too long, we found ourselves in front the lovely museum. Just as we were circling the place to find a parking spot, I- the ever observant librarian- happened to look at the brochure we had for the museum and notice when itty bitty little problem. It was 9 a.m., and the museum didn't open until 12 p.m. Whoops!
Quick change of plans! We quickly consulted our list of places to visit, and decided to visit the Minnesota Center of the Book Arts. A place dedicated to books! Perfect! What a way to spend a book-centered vacation. Once more, we navigated our way to the Center, which was on the other side of the city. Once there, we quickly found a parking space and made our way into the Center.
The first thing we noticed when we entered was that the place was quiet- almost too quiet. There was a little cafe in the Center off to the side with only one person working the counter, and one customer sipping a drink inside. Interesting. We looked to the other side of the Center, and saw that the place was dark. It seemed that while the Center's Cafe and Lobby were open, the actual Center was not.
Quick change of plans!
We were quickly realizing that exploring Minneapolis might best be a thing done on a weekend, not a weekday morning. But we were out and about, and we wanted to do something! Once more, I scoured our list of things we wanted to see and do in the city. This time, I paid attention to the opening times of places we wanted to see (Third time's a charm!). Everything we were interested in opened late except one place, so we decided that it would be our destination.
The place: The Cathedral of Saint Paul.
In a word, the Cathedral was beautiful. It stood high atop Summit Hill in Saint Paul, with breathtaking views of the city all around. It's Renaissance inspired architecture took my breath away. Inside was a peace and calm that truly did make one feel closer to heaven. I found the place so lovely that honestly, I don't think my words only can describe what I felt, and only my pictures can provide a half way adequate description of what I saw. Please enjoy!
When we were finished enjoy the enchanting Cathedral, we decided that rather than try our luck at another attraction, we were in need of some retail therapy. We went downtown and started to explore the area.
Of course, book lovers that we are, we did manage to find the city's bookstores, including a delightful used and antique bookstore. There, despite the fact that we would soon be scouring the aisles of the convention center for free books, we did find one gem of a book we couldn't live without: the special edition of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. Andrew and I are huge fans of the series and have taken to collecting various versions of all seven novels, from special editions to foreign volumes.All along the shopping district were sculptures that really brought life to the street.
I was particularly captivated by this one:
Andrew, however, really was inspired by this statue of Minneapolis's own Mary Tyler Moore:
After shopping, all three of us were starved! So, we looked around for a place to eat. One place in particular called out to us, or rather to Andrew: The NBA City Restaurant. Andrew is a huge basketball fan, so this place was like nirvana to him. My mom and I could care less about sports- particularly basketball- but seeing Andrew's face when he saw that NBA City was a restaurant was too much to resist, so we decided to check it out.
It was a fun place that really embraced its theme, but not in an over the top way, as a matter of fact, it was quiet tastefully decorated and had a gourmet menu. I was particularly enthralled with the actual menu from the place- it's cover was made from a basketball! Even though I'm not a fan of basketball, I couldn't help but enjoy myself!
After our tasty meal, it was time to hit the convention center. The exhibits were opening, and we wanted to be there when the doors opened! We weren't the only ones, however, the place was swarming with librarians eager to hit the stacks as the exhibit hall was called. To keep us occupied, there was an om pah band playing which created a, shall we say, interesting, atmosphere.
When the doors opened, the stampede began! Librarians literally swarmed in the doors, rushing to get to their favorite booths. Some booths had sent out fliers and coupons, offering special prizes and giveaways to the first 50 people who showed up to their booth, so there was a lot of mad rushing to the desired booth. Not one to be left out, I, too, had a desired booth to hit, craving to be one of the first 50, and I was! My reward for my efforts? A nifty little tote bag filled with candy, a paperweight, and a slinky! Yes- it was definitely worth it!
After that, the floor passed by in a blur. There were so many booths! Among my favorites was Harper Collins, a publisher that really goes all out for librarians. They always have fantastic authors visiting and lots of free books! I also really loved the Romance Writers of America's booth. Although I am not always a fan of romance novels, this association goes all out for librarians and always has the nicest and friendly booth in the stacks. No matter when you stop by there is always an author there, signing books for free, and lots of other books- signed as well- for the taking. You are always assured of a warm welcome and a fun conversation. And you know what? The books they were giving away? They were awesome! Romance novels have come a long way from the days of Fabio covers.
The stacks were only open for 2 hours, but we sure made those most of those two hours! We had bags of books and made many trips out to the car to drop them off! By the time the stacks closed, we were wiped, but there was still more to do!Andrew has an aunt and uncle who live near the Twin Cities, and we went to meet them for a lovely meal out. I absolutely adore Andrew's family, so it was a fun time. They took us around the city and showed us some places we might not have otherwise seen, like a beautiful park with waterfalls! Andrew and I could have spent hours gazing at the beautiful surroundings.
Book Count of the Day: 100
Wednesday, March 26, 2008
So where did I decide to go to get away from it all?
To Minnesota... For a library convention- the Public Library Association (PLA) to be exact.
Yes, my idea of getting away from it all is to spend my free time at a conference devoted to my profession. What can I say- I really LOVE my job!
I happen to find library conferences to be quite fun. There are always interesting programs, fascinating people, and terrific events to attend. And, my absolute favorite thing about library conferences is the exhibit floor. Aisle upon aisle of vendors with books- lots and lots of books. The best part about all those books? A vast majority are free! Yes- FREE! It's heaven for a book lover!
As I'm not the only book lover in my family, I was joined on vacation by Andrew and my mom (where do you think my love of books came from?). Yet, right away, we were aware of a problem. Three adults, all book lovers, traveling together to a convention where lots of books will be given away- for free!- and only itty-bitty cars to our names. What to do, what to do?
Our answer: Rent a massive SUV to travel in!
Isn't it pretty?
Sure, we felt a little silly at first, driving that big SUV in the hopes of returning home with a ton of books, but we got use to it. The SUV was actually fun to drive. It provided great views of the road, handled awesomely, and had really cool features, like a CD player you could control from the steering wheel! We made full use of that CD player, but listening to John Irving's Until I Find You on the long drive to Minnesota.
Questionable tastes? How so? Well, basically, our hotel room was the most clash happy hotel room we had ever seen. Leopard print curtains and checked carpets, crazy art deco mirrors and tan-colored laminate furniture. Let your eyes burn on these images from our, um, charming room- oh, and yes, these patterns were all side by side in all their garish glory:
When our eyes had finished adjusting to the room, we decided to run over to the convention center to pick up our registration packets for the conference. These packets are like gold to me- they contain the keys to the conference: your badge, your programs, your tickets to special events, and sometimes, if you are lucky, some sweet freebies. This was one of those occasions were the registration packet had some really sweet freebies in it- namely, two books! They were James Patterson's first two Maximum Ride novels- a series I found to be a fun and addicting ride, great for a quick read.
It was a hip sort of cafe, that lived up to its name by having you, its customer, fill out your own order and bring it up to the counter to the cook. The walls were filled with images from old B movies and comics, and the booths were retro looking red and black numbers. They made a mean hamburger- really delicious!
Tuesday, March 18, 2008
Well, actually, our little trip to Japan is to a charming little Japanese mall about 45 minutes away from where we live. It has a large grocery store, a bakery, a food court, video store, liquor store, travel agent, and a book store. We love to wander in and out of the various sections, seeing what we can find. Every time we go, we make it a point to try something new, along with picking up some of our favorite treasures (like Pocky and Curry- yum!).
We just took a mini-vacation a few days ago, and I thought you all might enjoy seeing the souvenirs we brought back with us, sharing in some of the strange and unique things we found on our trip.
These are a trio of tasty fruit drinks that Andrew and I love. On one of our visits to the shopping center, they were having a sample fest and these were some of the items we tried, and we fell in love with them. The green one is a grape juice, which has a light taste and, surprisingly, is filled with whole, peeled grapes. It creates a delicious combination. The orange can is a Mango juice, also with pieces of mango in the juice. The white can is a mystery- it simply looked to good to pass up!
On a sale table, for $1.25, we found these interesting treats. They are mini jelly cups! The jelly is a little like Jello, but with a slightly bitter taste to it, just a hint of seaweed, no matter the flavor. The cups, slightly bigger than a quarter, come in apple, peach, cherry, strawberry, and pineapple.
These interesting snacks caught me eye. They appeared to be a thin rice cake with a sweet frosting on them, and interesting combination. However, when I bit into one, that sweet frosting was actually salty! These treats need a healthy dose of water to wash them down with!
Andrew saw this snack, and couldn't resist trying it. It looked like frosted flakes, a favorite cereal of his. When we tried it, however, it proved to be quite different, but very tasty. It had the texture and consistency of a fortune cookies, with a little bitter bite of ginger in it, with a sweet frosted coating. Yum!
This is one of our favorite treats, found in the bakery portion of the mall. It's the Japanese equivalent of a hot dog. The hot dog is baked into a sweet roll coated with mustard and ketchup on top. It is a perfect combination, the salty hot dog, balanced by the sweet roll, and with a bit of a tang from the ketchup and mustard. Your taste buds will sing trying this out!
No visit to the mall would be complete without a visit to the bookstore. Granted, I can't read 99% of what's in the bookstore, but I love looking. This time, I couldn't resist picking this magazine up. It's huge! The spine is literally 4 inches thick. Wow!
I can't read the magazine, but I like to imagine what the pages say. I wonder what's going on it this panel. The girl looks angry- maybe she's yelling at me for spending money on something I can't read? Or maybe telling me its about time I learned Japanese?
Included with the magazine was a little gift. Apparently some magazines, particularly comic ones, come with gifts. So, you get something fun to read and a present! I recieved a cell phone strap with interchangeable decorations. They're from a popular Anime series called "The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya." I think they're rather cute.
That's it for now! I hope you enjoyed our mini-vacation to Japan!