Wednesday, February 26, 2020

Visiting the Como Park Zoo in Winter

 In last week's travel post, I shared how our spirits were rejuvenated by a visit to the Como Park Conservatory.    But the rejuvenation of our spirits didn't stop with the flowers, but it continued on with the zoo.  The St. Paul, Minnesota  park also has a small zoo right next to the conservatory.

Visiting a zoo in winter is always a fun experience.  The past couple of years I was in Illinois in the winter and I visited both the Lincoln Park Zoo and the Brookfield Zoo.  Most people don't think of visiting zoos in winter but it can really be a nice experience if you pick a warm winter day.  Some benefits of visiting the zoo in winter is that it is less crowded, admission prices are cheaper or even free, and the animals seem to be more active.

Like the Como Park Conservatory, the Como Park Zoo is free but they do ask for a donation of $3.00 per adult.  Most of the animals are still available to view, and usually you can see them a lot closer than you can in summer because they are in tighter quarters.

Here are some of the highlights of our visit to the Como Park Zoo:  first up, these arctic foxes.  Oh my, aren't they beautiful?  I just wanted to take one home with me so bad.  They had an arctic fox pelt in the educational area that you could touch.  You would not believe how soft his coat is!

These little guys are so sweet!  And they really seemed to enjoy the snow and cold.  Their white coats blend in with the snow so well don't they?

My husband and I probably had the most fun in the primate house.  Oh, these guys had us laughing in stitches!

The apes and monkeys were wide awake and very playful when we were there.  We watched them swinging from tree limb to tree limb.

But this orangutan had us laughing the hardest.  He picked up this piece of cloth and was doing the funniest things with it:  putting it over his head like a scarf and/or wrapping it around himself like a cape.  He was quite the fashionista!

Winter is the best time to see polar bears as they are more active.  In the summer, they like to take it easy and sleep in the shade, but in the winter they are definitely out and about.  Just look at the size of this guys paws!

Even though we just saw tons of buffalo in the wild when we were in South Dakota, I never got this close to one before.

 The rack on these reindeer was astounding!

We saw lots of mountain goats when we were in Zion National Park, but these look like they are more suitable for colder mountain temperatures.

The giraffes had one of the best displays in the zoo because we could get so close to them.  I love giraffes.  I find them such fascinating animals.

 A baby giraffe.  We were told by another zoo guest that they have way too many baby giraffes so they are now separating the males from the females.  Poor guys!  We saw the male looking through the window of the fence at all the ladies.  I hope he wasn't lonely.

While we were at the zoo we saw they were building a new seal exhibit that will be open in the summer of 2020.  How exciting!  I hope it's open when I take the grandkids back!


Penguins are always so fun to watch.  How is it that God made a bird that can swim?

This zebra looks sad, but he actually was sound asleep.  It always amazes me how horses sleep standing up.

And finally, the kings of the jungle:  the lion family!

I love the sweet expression on this cougars face, although I always pray I don't see one when I'm hiking!

A snow leopard.  I just love his big, thick tail!

And a sleeping tiger.  Isn't he beautiful?

I hope this post encourages you to visit your local zoo this winter!

Have a Great Day!  Amy

Linking Up with these Fabulous Blogs HERE!

Tuesday, February 25, 2020

A Farmhouse Tiered Tray

 When Valentine's Day weekend was over, I took down all my Valentine decor.  I looked at my now empty tiered tray and thought "Now what?".  Even though Easter is only about seven weeks away,  I wasn't quite ready to pull out the Easter bunnies and eggs yet.  I would have done a winter themed tiered tray but all my winter florals are packed away with the Christmas decor and there is absolutely nothing left in the stores;  they have all moved on to spring already.  So,  even though it doesn't make a whole lot of financial sense as the decor in this tray will probably only be up for a few weeks, I decided to go with a farmhouse theme for my tiered tray.  And I'm so glad I did, because I actually think this is my favorite theme ever!  Even though my house is kind of on the "grand scale", I do live in a farm land area and I see cows and other animals almost on a daily basis;  so I think my farmhouse theme fits in quite well!

EVERYTHING you see in this tray, including the tray itself, I purchased at Hobby Lobby.  It is all part of their spring collection, usually located in the front of the store.

So let's begin the tour of my "Farmhouse Tiered Tray" shall we?

The top tier of the tray features a galvanized sign that I hung from the top of the tray.  I also placed a little ceramic house.  I didn't realize until I got it home that the little house also lights up, which I think is super cute!

To the left of the house I put a ceramic cow and to the right I set a stone bird on top of a cupcake holder.

On the lower level of this side of the tray, I placed a ceramic pig and a miniature milk can.  I always use painted wooden blocks to lift items up in the tray.


Isn't this pig the cutest?  I just love him!

To the left of the pig I placed another galvanized miniature, then I filled it with ivy and pink flowers to match the pink pig.

In the third and final section I have a blue and white ceramic dish that also has a cow image on it.  I placed an antique jello mold that I already owned inside the dish and then filled the empty spaces with ivy.

On the top level of the third side I placed a galvanized metal bucket and filled it with ivy and white florals.  It sits right next to the bird on the cupcake stand.


 You can find all these items, except the antique jello mold, at your local Hobby Lobby store.  The lace tray that the tiered tray sits on is from Ikea.

  Every time I walk into my dining room and see my farmhouse tiered tray I smile.  I'm so happy I spent the money to decorate my tray during these gloomy final winter months before Easter.

Have A Great Day!  Amy

Linking Up with these Fabulous Blogs HERE!

Monday, February 24, 2020

How To Wear Camel with Red and Leopard Print

For this week's fashion post, I am sharing a  top that will be "new" to you because I haven't shown it on my blog yet, but actually it's "old" because it has been hanging in my closet for almost a year.  I bought this top when our local "Younkers" was going out of business.  I only spent a few dollars on it, and I haven't worn it much because it kind of has a boxy fit.  It does have lots of other redeeming values like the beautiful embroidery and the pretty flutter sleeves, so I keep it around for those cool/warm transitional days.

I've always been a fan of camel, red, and leopard print together so I thought this new/old top would work well with that color print combo.

 I paired the pretty embroidered top with some other new/old items from my closet.  A classic red pea coat, colored brown denim, a brown hobo bag, and leopard flats.

A classic pea coat can be a great investment because they never go out of style.  I bought mine years ago at JCPenney.  I don't wear it much because our winters are too cold for pea coats (we really need long down-filled parkas here) but it's nice to have around for when the temperatures are a bit warmer.  It was in the 40's the day we took these pictures!  That's a heat wave for us in Wisconsin!

The pants are by Style and Co. from Macy's.  I turned the cuff in so I'd have a shorter length to wear with flats:  that is a trick one of my readers taught me and it has been a lifesaver.  If you just cuff your pants the usual way (to the outside) it makes your legs look shorter and heavier, but if you cuff the pants to the inside, it does not.  They really do stay up and do not come undone.  A shorter, ankle length pants looks so much more flattering with flats than a longer leg length;  so if you wear flats, I highly recommend cuffing the pants to make them shorter.

The top is a thin knit and is see-through so I wear a beige camisole with it.  It's longer in back than it is in front and it has a slit on the sides.  I love the length of this top.


The embroidery is just beautiful in this top and I love the unique flutter sleeves.  It's a great top to wear during the transitional months.

My earrings were a Christmas gift from my daughter.  I had them on my Amazon wish list and I will link them below.  They are so well made and very inexpensive.  What I love about them is that they are as light as a feather so they don't pull my ear lobe down like a lot of other heavy statement earrings.  You also get several different styles with your order!

My leopard flats are super old, I purchased them from Target.  The bag is also a new Christmas gift (from my son) off of my Amazon wish list, and I linked it up below.

Large Hobo Purse - Amazon,  Rattan Boho Straw Woven Earrings - Amazon,  Brown Jeans - Macys,  Red Pea Coat, old, similar - Macys,  Leopard Print Flats, old, similar - Macys,  Top, old, similar HERE and HERE, 

Have A Great Day!  Amy

Linking Up with these Fabulous Blogs HERE!

Wednesday, February 19, 2020

Como Park Conservatory and the Tropical Encounters Exhibit

This winter, like most winters, I've been feeling a little cooped up and longing for some warmth and flowers.  So when hubby asked me what I wanted to do for Valentine's Day, I suggested we go to the Como Park Conservatory in St. Paul Minnesota.  The conservatory, like the Lincoln Park Zoo in Chicago, is also attached to the zoo.  And like the zoo in Chicago, it's also free but they ask for a donation.

I will cover the zoo also, but I'm going to do that in next week's travel post otherwise this post will be way too long.

It was a beautiful, sunny 33 degree day when we visited the conservatory.  Now I know my warm weather blogging buds will think "33 degrees!  That's freezing!  How did you walk outside in that weather?".  But trust me, 33 and sunny is a warm winter day for us northerners.  The park was packed  with hikers, and the zoo and conservatory were so busy it was hard to get a photo without a person in it.  Everyone seemed to really be enjoying the warm weather.

The conservatory is made up of three sections:  the Sunken Garden (flower shows which change seasonally), the North Garden (tropical plants), and the Fern Room.  Connecting the three rooms together is a beautiful dome called "The Palm Dome".  In addition,  there is also a Bonsai Garden and lots of outdoor gardens as well, but I will have to cover that another time as it was winter when I visited.

First up is my favorite garden (and probably everyone's favorite...who am I kidding?). the Sunken Garden.  Oh, stepping inside this garden anytime is so refreshing to the spirit, but it is even more refreshing in the middle of winter.  To feel the warmth and see and smell all the flowers that have been absent from our lives for so many months, is a wonderful, rejuvenating experience.

They change the flowers out with the seasons.  When we there I saw lots of azaleas, a few miniature daffodils, cyclamen, snap dragons, violets, and amaryllis to name just a few. 

One thing that struck me about our visit that day was how everyone was just taking their time and soaking it all in.  I could tell how hungry everyone was to experience the sensual pleasures of flowers again.  People were either walking very slowly looking at every detail, or they were sitting or standing still for long periods savoring the moment before they had to venture back outside in the cold, barren wasteland.  I said to my husband "Flowers make people happy."  I've never met anyone that didn't like flowers.

I love the contrast of all the pretty pinks with the purples and whites.  There was lots of green filler plants to balance it all out.

The amaryllis was beautiful and they smelled like heaven itself!

I spotted a few early blooming miniature daffodils.

This red amaryllis was truly stunning!

The stone retaining walls really add to the beauty of this room.

Como Park Zoo and Conservatory is almost a two hour drive from my home.  Although I had been there before, it's been years since my last visit.  I was amazed at all the new buildings they added to both the conservatory and the zoo.

One of the buildings I don't remember is the Fern Room.  This is a beautiful room.  It's very moist and I had to watch my camera lens as sprays of mist are shot into the air constantly.  This room features a pond, waterfall, hanging gardens, and many different species of ferns.

The other part of the conservatory is the North Garden where the tropical plants are held.  This area also has a pond with a water feature.

There is color in this green garden as well with lots of blooms on tropical plants and of course everyone's favorite:  orchids.


In the palm dome is a gorgeous path leading to a fountain.  I felt like I was back in Savannah, Georgia when I saw that fountain!

 All the orchids are truly unique and stunning.

 You will also find many common houseplants here too!

 I couldn't believe the size of these banana leaves and I had to put my hand in the photo for reference.

This is quite a large statue in real life, and yet it looks dwarfed in comparison to the banana leaf plant.

 Now the last building I'm going to show you is also in this area.  It opened in 2005 (gosh, has it really been THAT LONG since I've been to Como Park?) but is new to me because it wasn't here the last time I visited the conservatory.  It is called the Tropical Encounters Exhibit and it was one of my favorite experiences of the day.

The park website describes this exhibit as such:  "Tropical Encounters takes guests on an adventure through a Central and South American rainforest through the eyes of experienced Minnesotan field researchers and hundreds of plants and animals. Guests will encounter freshwater stingrays, river turtles, frogs, toads, fish, free-roaming birds, an anaconda and Chloe the sloth. They will also view rainforest trees and plants including strangler fig, kapok, cecropia, annatto, mahogany, peach palm, balsa, ice cream bean and more. An integral part of the natural ecosystem is the insects that are essential to its survival, including the leaf-cutter ants that will be featured in Tropical Encounters."

I was absolutely giddy with excitement over the exhibit because it combined two of my favorite things in life:  plants and animals!  And the best part is, some animals like the birds, turtles, and even a sloth, were not in cages!  They were freely roaming the building and you could get so close to them!

Now I know most of you don't like snakes, but I thought this one was beautiful!  I was surprised he was not poisonous and the staff person could hold him.  Usually the colorful snakes are poisonous.

They had lots of beautiful and large fish in this exhibit.  This yellow one was one of my favorites.

But perhaps what brought me more joy than anything was seeing all the birds!  They were freely flying about the building.  They were so pretty and their song was enchanting.

This anaconda was huge!  I find it so interesting that anacondas live in the water.

 The turtles seemed so interested in human attention.  They came right up to the glass, like they though we would feed them.  I thought it was so cute the way one turtle rode on another turtle's back.

 The pond was only a few feet tall and the top was open, so we got a really good look at them as we could get so close.

And finally, the biggest surprise of them all, a sloth!  Oh my goodness, I would have missed him if there weren't all these people standing below this tree looking up.  How exciting to get so close to a sloth.  They are such funny creatures.  They move like they are in slow motion.  God had a sense of humor when He created this creature!

I had such a fun and refreshing time visiting the conservatory and the Tropical Encounters Exhibit, but we weren't done yet, as we still had lots of animals to see at the zoo!  Be sure to come back next week to hear about our experience at the Como Park Zoo.

Have A Great Day!  Amy

Linking Up with these Fabulous Blogs HERE!