Checking out the Como Zoo

A cancelled camping trip led to a trip to visit friends in Minneapolis – St. Paul earlier this summer. Though we’ve been to the Twin Cities several times during summer, we have covered Lake Calhoun and Lake Harriet, but we hadn’t been to the Como Zoo.

We started out pretty early and found parking in nearby lots.  We decided to check out the animals in the morning, enjoy a picnic lunch in the park by a playground, and then try some rides after that.

Como Zoo really is a lovely free zoo! There is a suggested donation at the entrance followed by many gift shops, rides, food and other opportunities to spend money. We made it out with two stuffed animals for our kids!

The zoo has a nice variety of animals and it’s small enough to walk through with kids quite easily.

We spent the most time at the Primate House, watching the mom and baby gorilla munch lettuce. They were positioned so close the the glass and just looked so comfortable, hanging out in the shade. I love how the mom is cradling the head of romaine like a baby too – it’s hers! It looked like such a sweet, domestic glimpse into their gorilla family life.  Meanwhile the silverback gorilla was out pacing the yard. The gorilla forest was a really cool exhibit, housing seven gorillas in total.

apes and monkey at Como Zoo

Emperor Tamarin and Mom & Baby Gorillas

After checking out the gorillas, we kept walking through the primate house. I really liked watching Como Zoo’s Tamarin climb and leap from branch to branch in their exhibit. The mustaches gave them a distinguished sort of look.

As a member of our zoo since our kids were babies, I’ve been going to zoos a lot over the last six to eight years, though it seems to be less and less frequent as my kids get older. Still, it is a treat to see endangered animals up close, showing off their normal behaviors, such as eating a head of lettuce with her baby or effortlessly jumping from branch to branch.  I / we may never have the opportunity to see these animals in the wild. While that would be preferred, we will enjoy zoo visits and learn the conservation stories the animals and their habitats around the world.

Thanks for a great visit, Como Zoo!

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Fresh & Flavorful Straight from the Cheese Maker

I have had this post sitting as a draft for sometime now, and I’m FINALLY going to put some meat on it’s outline bones it and push it out of the nest to fly into the wide wide web world.

Writing this post reminds me of a blogging friend – the Do Gooder Mama – someone whose awesome blog hasn’t had much to say as of late.  I hope all is well with her and am including links to her blog for you to enjoy.

One of her posts Shop Small. Buy Local. Do Good. helps explain my reasons for buying cheese straight from the factory as part of our Cheese Ventures across this beautiful state of Wisconsin.  Some of my loved ones who shall remain nameless have yet to understand my cheese obsession. With our latest visit to Cady Cheese, I realized that it is simply enjoying the BEST quality food straight from the manufacturer, while taking short, delicious breaks on our family road trips.

If you’re ever along Highway 94 past Eau Claire and heading towards Minnesota, I would highly recommend a short jaunt to Cady Cheese.  Just follow the yellow brick road to the front of the store past the lovely landscaping.  We were greeted by several friendly and knowledgeable employees, who offered us samples (YES)!  We enjoyed freshly made colby cheese that squeaked as we chewed it. Amazing! And to think that I assumed only fresh cheese curds could squeak! We settled on three cheese: Golden Jack (picked by my 3 year old), 6 yr old Cheddar, and roasted tomato monterrey jack.  Pairing these cheeses with Capital beer – also purchased along our road trip – made for a delectable combination of Wisconsin’s finest for our dear Minnesota friends.

The Benefits of Shopping Small

Recently I’ve been noticing a remarkable difference in the quality of food purchased locally instead of from the supermarket. We’ve picked and purchased apples from farmers and have enjoyed a lot of produce from our local farmer’s market.  Food just seems to last longer and taste better.

Case in point – Daddy O. critiqued an asparagus and tomato side dish I made using grocery store produce, saying the tomatoes lacked flavor.  And sure enough, a farmer at our market explained to us that tomatoes you buy in the store are typically picked when still green, leaving them to ripen during transportation. The longer they stay on the vine, the more they develop their flavor.  (We’re hoping our tomatoes will ripen before the frost comes, so they’ll taste better!)

A few stats from Do-Gooder Mama’s post from E-Local:

– Throughout the United States, only about 33.6% of the revenue from national chains is reinvested into the community, which is very low compared to the 64.8% return from local businesses. (2009)

– If the people of an average American city were to shift 10% of their spending from chains to local businesses, it would bring an additional $235 million per year to the community’s economy.

In addition to great taste, the economic benefits are truly felt in your own community.  Being employed by a small business myself, I plan on shifting some of my buying to local stores – especially to all of the amazing cheese factories!

Have you frequented farmer’s markets or bought straight from the producer / cheese maker?  How do you support small business?